open thread – March 26-27, 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.

{ 1,146 comments… read them below }

  1. Liv*

    Hi all. I’m quite depressed and overwhelmed at the moment so any help & comments are appreciated.

    I started my current job 2 years ago. It’s a very small company, we’re 9 of us and no HR.

    In my very first day, my coworker who I shared an office with gossipped about absolutely everyone, going as far as calling people’s kids ugly. She also said she didn’t like ‘girls’. I’m in my mid-20s and she’s 22 years older than me by the way.

    In my first month she was being hot and cold with me. I shrugged off her mood swings. She wouldn’t put phones coming for me through but I never made a big deal out of it. 

    A month or so into the job, she went ballistic on me. I will spare you the details but basically she said that I had a problem with her and that I bullied her… by talking to other coworkers but not to trying to talk to her when she was giving me silent treatments. She swore a few times and when I told her that it was not acceptable, she goes ‘well I’m (insert nationality), it’s the way we talk’. I’m the only person that is not same nationality as my colleagues. So this comment made me feel excluded.

    At that point I found out that she was with the company for 8 years and there have been 7 people in my position during this period working directly with her and sharing an office. To me it was incredibly fishy, but when I asked about this to others they were like ‘yeah, they all left for various reasons though’. 

    Around January 2020, where she was completely ignoring me leading up to this, I made a horrible mistake and opened up to another colleague about it asking for advice as I thought he was neutral and would share his objective opinion. 

    A couple of weeks later, I was pulled into my boss’ office. She was crying. Apparently the colleague I confided in told her that I’d talked to him. As I didn’t badmouth her, my boss wasn’t angry with me. He said there’d been a lot of misunderstandings between us, we needed to grab a cup of coffee together and talk this through. She absolutely refused it. And since January 2020 she hasn’t spoken to me. I heard her calling me names, laughing at me, mocking me etc. back in the office. I overhead her referring me as Chucky due to my acne scars. I ignored all these.

    Shortly after in March 2020 we started working from home (blessing in disguise for me…) but she still freezes me out in virtual meetings. She is friendly with everyone else. Overly friendly with the colleague who snitched me, calling him lover etc. Now he treats me with absolute disrespect too. He turns my piddliest suggestions at work into hostage negotiations and picks holes in my projects.

    I was promoted during all this chaos so I don’t want to walk out of this job I’m otherwise very happy with. I tried finding other jobs but due to pandemic it wasn’t very successful. Please let me know the best strategy in tackling this toxic and demoralising environment without losing my job or my sanity! Thanks a lot.

    1. Elementary Fan*

      Probably not what you want to hear, but look for a new job! That sounds like a dysfunctional environment.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Yes. When people unite as a group over some common bond, it can be hard to get around.
        If you don’t react and try to ignore being baited, sometimes someone will escalate, as happened to me. She was literally screaming by the front desk and having a meltdown. No idea why, but it was directed at me.
        So that made the point that they needed to get rid of her.

    2. ES*

      Honestly, I don’t think this is something you CAN tackle. I would try to take the silent treatment as a blessing and just stay focused on doing your work. If any of your colleagues cause actual work issues for you then you should run that up the chain to your boss, but otherwise let it be. If you do have to talk to your boss I would keep it strictly focused on work as he obviously isn’t interested in getting involved in the social dynamic. If that seems untenable then I put your would focus back on that job search!

      1. OhNoYouDidn't*

        I agree with everything ES said. 7 office mates in 8 years. Everyone else seems to like you. They know what’s going on.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I used to work for someone who blew through assistants like tissues. There were reasons for that. I bet you $100 that they gave professional excuses for leaving but it was mostly her. Something I would request is a different office when you return – make someone else share with her. Even if I had to have a cubicle vs an office, I would take it to get away. While you look for a new job, document everything. Practice being assertive re: these meetings with Mr. Snitch. It’s been a year and if she’s refused to clear the air with you, she never will. I’d bring up to the boss anything where her treatment prevents you from doing your job. “The Teapot Painting project is in danger of running behind schedule. I sent this request for the Pantone color on March 3, but as of today, Coworker has not provided it and refuses to speak to me. How should I proceed?” Make it his problem to manage her like he should.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I had a boss who blew through six different accountants working directly for her in ten years (though she finally did find someone who could read her mind there at the end).

    3. Sandwiches*

      Ohhh no. I’ve been in this situation before. I don’t have a lot of constructive advice because I never found a healthy way to deal with the situation. Just take care of yourself first. If it means ignoring this bully, going above her head when you have ideas, asking for a new desk placement when you return to the office, even keeping a file of proof that she’s treating you poorly, so be it. Your mental health is more important than your coworker.

    4. Zephy*

      I swear I’ve seen this exact letter published on the site before.

      If this IS a real post, get out get out get out, this situation sucks and isn’t going to change.

      1. Liv*

        I did post it here before and started looking for a new job like I mentioned in light of comments to no avail. As I’m still stuck in this, wanted to hear more opinions. I added few more details this time for clarity. I do apologise if posting again wasn’t allowed.

        1. Zephy*

          Oh, okay, thanks for clarifying. I’m sorry you’re still dealing with Jane and her bullshit, I hope you can get out soon.

        2. Rainy*

          I had a coworker like this that I had to share space with, in a small family owned business with no HR and an entirely absent manager. Before me no one had lasted in my job more than 9-10 months, and the person who replaced me when I left quit via sticky note on the desk inside of six weeks (my ex-boss called me up to berate me for hiring someone who would do that!).

          I stayed 3 1/2 years, and by the end, I had 12 separate facial tics and a stutter from the stress of working with this woman. It took me over a year to recover. You’ve got to get out.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      You can’t fix this. You can’t tackle a situation when everyone else is unreasonable. Start looking for a new job.

      1. StudentA*

        I learned this the hard way. Sometimes you just have to cut the cord. I hate to say this, because that is probably exactly what Jane wants. For you to leave :( But as others have said, your mental wellbeing is more important. You will find something. It will happen. In the meantime, take satisfaction in the fact that Jane is so miserable in her life, she has to take it out in the world around her. How miserable must she be?

    6. I am not the Lorax*

      I’ve worked with folks who didn’t like me. I’ve also worked with folks who didn’t like me when I was in my 20s. I’ve learned some lessons, the most important of which is to defuse the drama. At some point it no longer matters who is causing the drama. (And it sounds as though you may have discussed your colleague with another member of staff, which just escalated the issue) The best thing you can do is treat your colleague professionally and maintain the space around you as an emotion free zone. Do not engage in the fluffy pleasantries or slights that occur. Do the work. Do the work you need to do with her. Go home at the end of the day.

      1. irene adler*

        This is good advice. Be professional at all times with this co-worker. That includes talking about her to other co-workers. If her moods are adversely affecting the work, bring it straight to your boss.

        Do not take her moods/comments personally. Work to steel yourself against her moods. Otherwise, she will use your emotions to manipulate. Keeping your emotional “cool” takes away some of her perceived ‘power’ over you.

      2. aiya*

        yes, do your job as well as you can. only engage with her professionally when it’s necessary, but please do address the part where she’s locking you out of meetings (essentially preventing you from doing your job) – this part needs to be fixed. Talk to your boss or the owner if necessary. Other than that, don’t give her another inch of your mental space.

        There’s nothing much you can do, when the entire environment clearly is enabling her behavior.

      3. Malarkey01*

        I know this sucks because in general I like to be liked and anywhere Im spending 45 hours a week should be pleasant, BUT that’s not what you have and you need to reframe it so you’re okay with having people not like you. Like others said, find a way to not care (I think back to high school where there were people I liked and didn’t like but was still able to sit in class together even if we didn’t talk otherwise.) I’d ignore her right back, only interact for work, and if you hit roadblocks where work is considered send an email stating I need x for y project and if she doesn’t respond forward to boss for assistance. This is only to preserve your sanity while you look for a new job (even if it takes a year or so).

        Honestly though she will always be miserable to you and sounds like the office is with her so it’s a who is willing to outlast who. Sorry you have to deal with petty adults as if we don’t have enough to do in 2021.

    7. Liv*

      Thanks for all comments so far and for any more to come in advance. Your comments are invaluable and make me feel less lonely. Although the situation doesn’t seem salvageable…

      1. Juniper*

        I had a job once with an incredibly toxic manager that pushed me to the edge of a breakdown. The situation wasn’t salvageable and fortunately I was able to leave, but towards the end something that helped me immensely was complete detachment. I just… stopped caring. He was such a ridiculously awful human being that something in me flipped and I could look at the situation from a remove and almost laugh at the absurdity of it. These people are ridiculous. They are treating you terribly, and people who are so wildly out of line are not worth your time or consideration. Treat them with professional courtesy, as another person said, but that’s it. You will look so, so much better in comparison to these clowns. And then get the heck out of this place as soon as you can.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Remember that someone like this is the problem. It is not about you. It is your place. She is threatened by you somehow.

    8. New Mom*

      I’m sorry you are going through this. I do think you should look for another job. This job is not just bad because of this woman, it’s also bad that the higher-ups are aware of how you are being treated and they are okay with it and will allow it to happen. Do you really want to work somewhere where some people are blatantly nasty to you and everyone else is okay with it happening?
      Sometimes an effect of working in a toxic place is feeling like it’s a really great place to work, or that you would not be able to get a better job somewhere else. My first real job I had a really horrible boss, he would really mentally and verbally break me down and I thought I just had to take it. After he was let go, I felt like I was released from a mind-control situation. When I was in it, I thought it was just how things were for me but once it was over I saw how bad it was.
      Looking for work during the pandemic is hard but you should still keep your eye out. There are better places out there, and you should not have to deal with that woman.

    9. chickia*

      There’s been a lot of advice here about how to handle this and she usually says to bring it to your boss. I know your boss hasn’t been helpful in the past, but I would still bring the boss in on anything she does that is objectively impacts your work. “jane didn’t put through this phone call and as a result this was the impact on my work”, “jane isn’t speaking to me and as a result (xxx didn’t happen on time)”. Yes, your boss should have something more to say about all this besides “talk it out”. OMG SO AWFUL. your boss should be telling her that this isn’t acceptable behavior and enforcing consequences. She doesn’t have to like you (or you her), but silent treatment and gossiping isn’t acceptable. You already know that she is not going to change. And hopefully you already know that this isn’t about you at all right? (Since she’s been through how many other office mates!?!?). And you already know that co workers can’t be trusted . . . so the best you can do if you are staying there is to be absolutely above reproach in how you behave towards her. And bring absolutely everything that she does that affects your work output to your boss – and do it in a very calm, problem solving manner. Probably best if you can be specific about what you need: “I need Jane to respond to my emails within 24 hours to get the report out on time” or whatever. Maybe eventually your boss will do something about it? I’m so sorry you are going through all this!

    10. Not So NewReader*

      This is not a cohort problem.
      This is a boss problem.

      This woman is:
      Freezing you out
      Badmouthing you
      Lying about you
      Messing up your work
      Cussing at you
      Calling you names
      Mocking you
      Making fun of your physical appearance

      There have been 7 people in your position in 8 years.

      And your boss says to go have coffee together.

      “Oh is that on paid time, Boss? And shall I save my receipt for reimbursement?”

      This is what bad management looks like, OP. Right here.

      You are saying you have no choice but to stay.
      So next options are:
      Ignore this toxic cesspool of a person.
      Or
      Submit weekly reports to the boss of what has gone on this week until something radically changes.
      Your boss is not going to do anything until you make it painful for him.
      Have you even told him that she refused coffee with you? If not you need to start there in your update to the boss.

    11. Sharrbe*

      She’s actually trying to get a rise out of you because manipulation of you is her goal. It’s her sport. Don’t let her get a rise out of you. THAT’s what she wants. The best you can do is to act like what she’s doing doesn’t bother you.

    12. Kitten Caboodle*

      I’m in this position now. I wish I had advice for you, but I’ve been caught up in the same emotional spiral of more than one employee here because I didn’t react to their bad, attention seeking, unprofessional behavior. I too, was accused of avoiding these certain people (because I do) but they tried to spin it as I was trying to bully them by not participating in their hate circles. (that’s what I call them) They are some of the most miserable people I have ever worked with in my entire career and I’m just looking to get out asap. During COVID I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and they make fun of my hair loss, have accused me of faking cancer and complain that I get to leave a half hour early one day a week (for chemo, btw) and claim it’s not fair.

      I just keep telling myself that I’m probably going to find another job, I will fight and beat this cancer, but they will still be the miserable a-holes they always were. Trust me, I don’t get it! It takes a lot of negative energy to be that miserable and I don’t know why anyone would want to be so unhappy all the time. (not to mention so cruel)

      I don’t know if it makes you feel any better – but you’re not alone. I’m getting calls by headhunters daily, so hang in there. Jobs are coming back, but not all of the furloughed and laid-off employees are! There’s a good job with kind people out there for the both of us!

      1. Binky*

        That’s awful. Do you have an HR? Because that sounds like discrimination on the basis of health status.

        Best wishes on your treatment!

      2. Juneybug*

        Wow, those people are horrible! I see in your future a healthy body, new job, and those toxic morons lose their jobs (karma).

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Have you told your boss that this person has been continuing to ignore you? And that this person has escalated to personal insults? That is the first place to start. Assuming that you report to the same manager?

    14. Kathenus*

      I don’t have suggestions to help solve the problem, but some to consider for how you deal with it. We can’t control anyone else, only ourselves, so focus on what you have power over. It sounds like you have little or no power to control this coworker and some of the other personalities in your company – so accept that you can’t change this because trying to do something you have no control over is just an invitation to frustration. There are suggestions to engage your manager more on this, so this may be something in your control you can try.

      You mention that you weren’t successful finding another job, I’m not sure if you’re still trying or not, but if you aren’t I’d definitely suggest you continue to work on this – since looking for other opportunities is an area you can control (to a point, since you can apply but can’t control the outcome past having a strong cover letter and resume).

      So if/while you have not yet found another job, or if you’ve made a decision to stay due to your promotion and areas you are happy, then you’re left with one area of control – how you respond to the situation. If you have no power to control the behavior of the other people, and you have decided to stay or until you find another position, you can make a conscious choice to stop letting it affect you so strongly. I know that’s easier said than done but right now your coworker has a lot of power over you mentally, so the best that you can reduce that and shrug off her (and others’) behavior, the less control they have over you. It’s not easy and it takes conscious effort, but remember that you are in full control of your response so work really hard on not letting their behavior make you unhappy. Realize they are probably unhappy or insecure, which causes them to act like this, and be glad that you are a better human being.

      Long story short – control what you can, and let go of the things you can’t. Good luck.

    15. Toxic Waste*

      Is your environment laid back or is it more formal? I ask because I’ve been in your situation before and humor and sarcasm are great defense tools if you can master it. Also, playing along with what they say/do is also a powerful tool.

      Example: Jane said, “Liv looks like Chucky.”
      You: “I was actually in the last 2 movies!” or something to that effect.

      Someone once told me that I had “huge eyes”. The old me would either not say anything or mumble something. Instead, I told them, “All the better to see you my pretty” and cackled like a witch. They started laughing and never messed with me.

      This is what has helped for me being in this type of environment. It still hurts and I have gone home upset many times, but from 9-5 I am stone and (try) to show no emotion. No one is getting to me. My goal is to do the best job that I can do.

      They make fun, I laugh/play along. A coworker was making fun of my appearance and I said, “Darn. Guess I won’t win Miss America this year!” Another time, “Fergus” called to ask me why I didn’t do something or I missed something. I started talking about myself in the third person. “That darn Toxic Waste! What is their problem!” To my surprise, Fergus started laughing and thought it was the funniest thing.

      Again, it all depends on your environment and the people around you. The goal is to deflect their comments back to them and walkaway unscathed. Also, it stinks being in a pandemic, but if you can plan things to look forward to outside of work, that would give you something to focus on. (ie: Having dinner with friends, watching a good movie, taking a long walk, going to the store to try a new recipe.) The goal is to shift your focus so that you’re not dwelling on the situation. Best of luck and I hope things either improve or you can find an awesome new job with nice people.

    16. Llama Llama*

      What are the power dynamics now that you have been promoted? Are you still in a roll where you and she are on the same level? Have you talked with your manager directly about it? IMO telling the two of you to “get a cup of coffee and talk” is terrible management. If you haven’t already: 1) document everything 2) set a meeting with the manager to discuss how this is effecting your work. Focus on work, not feelings. I know that sucks but a reluctant manager is going to react more to “I can’t do x, y, z task because coworker is doing a,b,c” than to deal with hurt feelings even though hurt feelings and bullying are completely valid. 3) since you have been promoted, someone obviously thinks you’re doing a good job so in your meeting with your manager maybe there will be a way to leverage that. You could maybe go so far as to say that you can’t work with her anymore unless things change and you definitely don’t want to share an office when you return to work. Make a big enough deal out of it that the manager knows this is a REAL PROBLEM but don’t go so far as the manager can think “this person has too many feelings/weak/soft/sensitive whatever and it isn’t my job to deal with people’s feelings, this is work.”. Make it about untenable work conditions and use that promotion as a bargaining chip in this negotiation of your work environment 4) keep looking for jobs 5) there is a lot of good advice here on how to not react to these bullies. I would continue with that but also practice advocating for yourself. If you have an idea, defend it. Don’t let these shit heads pull it apart.

    17. AccountingNerd*

      I had a colleague in the HR Manager role who hated me, absolutely hated me. At first I engaged my boss in dealing with her. Apparently she was too and it was perceived as two women who hated each other and needed to figure out how to be professional. I was expressly told, in a performance review, to “eliminate the perception of disharmony between yourself and Jane.” So I did. I no longer said there was a problem. I had responsibility for Payroll so I ran effectively a shadow HR for payroll. I would matter-of-factly tell people they were welcome to ask me any questions about information on their paystub. I kept things accurate in the background and didn’t fuss about it. The more I stayed calm, the worse she got. But at that point only one of us was fussing. Mgmt got harder and harder on her and it eventually exploded & she left.

    18. Pennyworth*

      I’d just like to say I am impressed by your resilience in the face of a hostile workplace. And to get a promotion, too! Keep job hunting, and good luck. I’d love to read an update soon that you have escaped to a new position in a supportive environment.

    19. Owler*

      You said you are one of nine people there, so if coworker and colleague are both treating you poorly, that’s 25% of your coworkers. No wonder you are depressed and overwhelmed. Any way you can shift your hours (like 7-3pm), so you don’t overlap with the offending coworkers? Asking for a schedule change could be the opening to having a real conversation with your boss about the bullying. And I see your comment about wanting to stay to enjoy the promotion, but maybe with a few free hours in the evening, you can revisit the job search. Good luck.

    20. Dimity Hubbub*

      That sounds like a dreadful environment to be in all day long. A thought: humans are very social beings, and being surrounded by people who insist that up is down and you are wrong is incredibly tiring. Maintaining a different perspective to the groupthink will take you a lot of energy. Please be kind to yourself if you can’t seem to get much done. All your energy is focused on coping in this mess (source: job that went bad a while back).

    21. Blindsided Team Player*

      Keep looking for another job, keep your head down as much as possible and leave. If boss asks why I’d tell all of it.

      1. LogicalOne*

        I did the same thing at one of my part-time retail jobs in college. I kept quiet and eventually after dealing with some of the toxic assistant managers for a while, I went to the store manager and told her that I am putting in my two weeks. She seemed shocked and didn’t want me to leave. When she asked why I am putting in my two weeks, I flat out said that some people are not making this job and environment enjoyable and that I wanted to leave. She asked if there was anyone that was being mean or disrespectful to me and I hesitated and of course that hesitation was a flat out giveaway. She said, “Who is it?” When I told her that two of the 3 store managers were micromanaging me and mistreating me than other employees, she took it seriously and talked to her assistant managers. They fortunately left me alone and not long before that, one of the gruesome twosome managers left and then things calmed down. So it looked like the “ringleader” left.

        I am hoping this toxic employee that the OP is dealing with gets a similar fate and leaves or quits in the near future. All the best of luck to OP!!

  2. Should I apply*

    The seven year work itch? I am approaching seven years are my current company, and am desperate for a change. It isn’t specifically related to my job or coworkers just the desperate feeling that I want something different. This happened to me before, at my first company (after 6.5 yrs) and I ended up relocating across the country.

    Have you been desperate for a work change but didn’t know what you wanted to do? How did you approach it? I am currently job searching and have applied to a few positions, but I haven’t been very inspired by the opportunities.

    1. Sleepy*

      I am in a similar place. No great advice but commiseration. I was already a bit bored with my job when I got a new boss a year ago. He’s probably the best boss I’ve ever had, so it’s making me even even pickier about looking for something new.

      I’ve been taking community college classes at night, one at a time, in the hope of eventually making a career change. They give me something to tackle that’s more challenging than my work.

    2. Jenna Webster*

      This has come up more than once in my career – you’re settled in, you know how to do the work even when it gets complicated, and you just feel ready for something new. Sometimes a new job is just the thing, but I had a great discussion with a friend about this when I was thinking about looking for the next thing, and she asked me what I was doing to make work fun. The answer was nothing – I was just doing the job. For some reason, that really clicked with me, and I started some new projects, joined an interesting committee, and started revising our procedures. It was kind of like having a new job but without all the headaches. Now, whenever I get bored and start thinking about moving on, my first step is to see if I can find something fun to do. So far, so good!

      1. should i apply?*

        That’s an interesting framing. I can’t say that I am actively doing anything to make my job fun. I am starting a new project, which should be interesting, but I can’t seem to get excited for it.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          I have been working on a collaborative team project across the university. This has been a lot of work, but also a tremendous amount of fun/joy to see the project getting positive response/recognition. It’s not strictly part of my portfolio, but I have been feeling underutilized and/or in a rut lately, so it’s been sort of great to stretch myself, connect with new people on campus, incorporate aspects of my work in new creative ways, etc.

          For me, framing things as “how will this help students/the institution/the bottom line” is also helpful because that bigger picture (not just a discrete project) is a way to feel like I’m contributing more broadly.

      2. veronica*

        This happened to me too. I started the process of job searching. I made up a job description of my “ideal job.” I couldn’t find anything that was even close to my current job. So I sat down and figured out ways to make my current job more like my ideal job. It does involve some new projects and treating it like a whole different position.

    3. Overeducated*

      Yes, except my itch was three years :/ The office I used to work with as an entry level employee invited me to apply for my old boss’s job upon her retirement, and then offered it to me; it was a lateral move, but an opportunity to gain some experience I can’t get in my current position that I felt was limiting me, so I took it. Honestly, now that I feel I need to stay put here for a few years, I’m not sure if that was a good idea, or if I should have stuck around until I had clearer goals in mind. I don’t know what to tell you except this may be a situation where staying and leaving can both be good or bad decisions, it’s very much up to you what you want to make of them.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Well, I finally solved the “I’ve been here too long” issue by going to a consulting firm. Every project was different enough that it was like getting a new job every few months to two years, without the downsides to job-hopping. But I had a profession I did NOT want to give up.

      Earlier “itchy feet” transitions, I just looked for something in that same functional area, but a different industry. It provided adequate variation without throwing away the experience and expertise built up previously.

      A similar job in a very different location might have worked, too, but I sadly never had the nerve to move out of my greater metro area. Good for you for having done that.

    5. Quinalla*

      Figure out what you enjoy most about your job, what is the most fun or what are you the most passionate about? See if you can find ways to do more of that at your current job – and if you are looking for opportunities, you are more likely to see them as well. If that isn’t available at your current job, think about what kind of job that would be a part of and go look for it.

      Not talking about dream job here or anything, but just making your job/career more enjoyable and fulfilling.

    6. cabbagepants*

      You have probably considered this, but you might look and see what your company has for internal moves. The job itself might be significantly different, but your experience with the company, its clients, its systems, etc could really count in your favor in an internal move in a way that it would not for a similar position at another company.

    7. ChangeItUp*

      This may not be quite the same, but for myself, I’ve been dissatisfied with my job for multiple job moves. I kept thinking it’s just the job, or the company. And I did have a couple legitimately bad jobs where I was mistreated. But a year and a half ago I found a good job at a good company that cares about its people, where it’s stable, and the people I work with are generally really good. But once the training period had passed, I found myself still dissatisfied. What’s more, after putting in a LOT of time and work to get my personal life better and more stable too, I’m still dissatisfied.

      What the time and space and stability I have now has afforded me is the capacity to realize I’m tired of this industry, tired of working in a lab, tired of being data-focused instead of people-focused, and tired of perfectionism being a requirement for the job. It’s just not a good fit for me anymore because of the ways I’ve grown as a person.

      Reading AAM’s recommendation of “Working Identities” has been helpful. At the moment, I’m planning on going back to school to become a counselor. And while I’m still working on figuring out next steps, but it’s a relief to finally know the source of the feelings and have a direction.

  3. Sunflower*

    Can anyone recommend a basic, inexpensive app to make digital illustrations for a side hustle?

    I’m starting a little side hustle and need to create some pretty basic stuff for my social. Key word being basic so I don’t need tons of bells and whistles – I’m planning for the logo to be no more than 2 colors and basic font wording and I’d like to create some branding for posts.

    1. ghostlight*

      Canva is super user-friendly and free to use (there is a premium version, but I can’t speak to that). I used it a lot for student orgs and presentations in college. They have a lot of different formats, fonts, pre-designed things, etc.

      1. IEanon*

        I second Canva! My best friend started her own side hustle recently, and she used Canva for all of her assets.

      2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        Seconding Canva – I use it to do all the marketing materials for my books and I think they look very polished!

    2. JJ*

      Backing up everyone who says Inkscape. I’m creative professional and use Adobe Illustrator in my work, but have fiddled with Inkscape and i seems to have most of the features you would need to create the types of assets you’re looking for!

    3. TWW*

      Not the question you asked, but if you’re willing to spend a little money, consider hiring a graphic designer on Upwork or a similar site.

      The difference between what a good graphic designer can do versus someone with less experience is often worth the price, especially for a company logo.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        True, but with something like Canva, their logo templates were designed by professional graphic designers anyway, so that would probably be the better (and cheaper) route to take for a basic logo.

    4. nep*

      I’ve got nothing to compare it to, but Canva is quite user-friendly and I’ve liked what I’ve been able to create there.

    5. Sunflower*

      Thanks to everyone for suggestions! I am highly considering hiring a graphic designer but I’d like to play around with some ideas and get a vision of what’s possible myself so these are great!

  4. Student Affairs Sally*

    I am struggling at my new job because it has turned out to be an extremely dysfunctional institution, and I’m basically not being allowed to do the job I was hired to do. My boss and team is great, but we’re basically being set up to fail by some of the most powerful people on campus, and then they act like “Why did you fail at that? You must be incompetent.” There’s also a pervasive culture of misogyny. Instead of being able to engage in high-level planning of new institutional programs, I’ve been effectively “demoted” to being an academic coach. I don’t mind being an academic coach and actually enjoy it, but I know it’s a bandaid solution to the real retention problems on campus and I’m being blocked from doing things that would actually help on a much larger scale. It’s very frustrating. I’m trying to focus on the fact that the move to our current location (which couldn’t have happened without this job) was overall much better for my family and my mental health, and remind myself every day that it’s the institution that’s dysfunctional and I actually am very smart and competent. I have to stay for a year to not have to pay back the relocation expenses, but I’m already getting my resume ready and trying to think about how I can spin this disaster into “accomplishments” for my resume – and explain why I’m leaving without trash-talking the institution.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I’ve had two jobs like this. Remember that it is not your job to fix the problems with the institution. Plus, you actually have an easy and completely true reason for leaving after a year — you aren’t doing the work you were hired to do. Focus on the relationships with your boss and the team, do what you can with what you are allowed to do, and get out with your head held high after a year. After 25+ years, the friends and contacts I made at those two “hell” jobs are still good friends and professional contacts.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Plus, you actually have an easy and completely true reason for leaving after a year — you aren’t doing the work you were hired to do.

        This. This is a very understandable reason for wanting to leave a job.

    2. cat lady*

      This may not be what you’re looking for, but I’ve worked at a few places where the campus-wide mantra re retention was “just one student,” meaning that if everyone on campus helps just one student succeed, that’s a retention win. So focusing on the individual students you’re helping as an academic coach may help you feel less dissatisfied?

      Honestly, I’m in a job now where I’m working on student retention from a college-wide/programmatic perspective and I no longer really get to coach students one on one, and I’m really struggling with missing that feeling of regularly making a tangible difference for an individual.

      1. Student Affairs Sally*

        I truly love working with students, and one of my favorite parts of what this job was *supposed* to be was that I would have the opportunity to do BOTH working directly with students and also leading larger-scale projects. It’s a very small school so most people wear several hats. I get intense satisfaction out of helping individual students, but I also want to be able to provide more proactive support. Our campus doesn’t have an FYE course and first-year advising is a MESS. I was hired to fix those things, but now they’ve been determined to not be institutional priorities for at least the next academic year. So instead I’m working with students who are already struggling and already failing classes, and helping them course correct. It’s still very rewarding, but I just feel like it would be so much more impactful if we could help students get these skills when they first come in the door rather than when they’re already failing.

        Also I have TONS of downtime because the students that my institution serves aren’t always the most likely to reach out to help, especially from someone they don’t know well. I’m working on building relationships but it’s hard when half of our students are remote. Most of the students I work with are required to meet with me because they’re on probation. I just feel like I’m being underutilized – which is a big part of why I left my last job.

        1. kbeers0su*

          Ok, so with this additional context and knowing the general way higher ed is operating these days, my guess is that this comes down to one of a few things.
          1) It’s possible that due to COVID impacts on faculty the institution can’t add additional work to faculty loads right now. Faculty need to be involved in course development (or at last chairs/provost) and it’s probably not in their bandwidth. That’s not to say that everyone hasn’t had to adjust, but faculty have specific contracts and when they have issues they usually get to move to the front of the line.
          2) It’s possible this is a territory issue. I’m not sure if you’re housed in student affairs or academic affairs, and even if you’re in academic affairs you’d need to report to the provost and have their support. Many universities see failure in their FYE area because faculty think they should design the courses and teach them. But when faculty design them and teach them, they aren’t true FYE courses. And faculty don’t want the extra work. Nor do they want non-faculty impeding on their territory and teaching courses. So basically if they can’t do it their way, then no one gets to do it.
          3) Was there a major change (other than COVID) at the university since you were hired? There has been a lot of high-level turnover in general at universities in the past year. Add to that COVID exposing other weaknesses at universities. So it could be that whoever championed the development of FYE courses left, or that the university generally had to pivot because other things did become priority.

          All this to say that if you’re not hearing from your higher-ups that this is going to be a priority at this moment, I wouldn’t necessarily lose hope yet. If you can, read minutes from your Board of Trustees meetings or other high-level meetings. That can help you figure out what they see priorities and where the university’s resources and efforts are currently being funneled. Also, you might find out (if you go back through old minutes) where the support for FYE came from, and when it disappeared. That sort of thing isn’t developed within a department- it’s a cross-campus change that would require top-level support and discussion.

          1. Student Affairs Sally*

            The problem is actually the provost. He’s a nice man but he refuses to lead. We had a plan to have the course taught primarily by staff (including myself) and only a few faculty, and faculty actually broadly supported the proposal (there were a few dissenters, but they weren’t the major players so it probably would have passed without their approval). But the provost decided not to put it to a vote for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to anyone I’ve spoken to about it, other than a fear of change I guess. He also took another significant part of what my job was supposed to be and re-assigned it to a man (even though it much more closely aligns with my background than his, and I had already done significant work on it). There’s an overwhelming culture of misogyny at the institution – this month we actually started a women’s group for female faculty and staff to come together and discuss the misogyny we have encountered and to strategize ways to change the culture of the institution.

        2. Blackcat*

          Do you have institutional data on the introductory courses with the highest DFW rates?
          If so, can you reach out directly to those faculty?
          I’m thinking, as a faculty person, if someone in your role reached out and said, “Hi, I’m X. I do Y supports for students. What can I do to help you?” I would like…. send you a virtual hug and have you drop into zoom class to introduce yourself to my students.
          As long as you wouldn’t get in trouble for this, I could see partnering with some of the folks who teach tons of freshman as going well. One semester, I had 200 freshman, and it’s just so. darn. hard. to identify, let alone support, all of the freshpeeps who need extra help. Unless there’s a bad culture at the institution, I think you’ll find some people who would love to work with you directly.

    3. Artemesia*

      Sounds awful. I once didn’t take a job that would have moved my family and uprooted my husband’s career because of a vague spidey sense — turned out the CEO of the org had embezzled and the whole thing crashed and burned for the friend of mine who did take the job, I didn’t. Really feel for your situation.

      Your words will need to be something like ‘the program I was hired to run was cancelled by the institution before I arrived and (fill in your accomplishments that you managed anyway) and so I am looking for (the kind of challenge you are looking for.). I hope you can emotionally distance yourself from the mission that can’t be accomplished, take pleasure in what you CAN accomplish and find something better on the 367th day. Meanwhile take care of your own head.

    4. Sherm*

      I think you’ll be fine if you’re matter-of-fact about the problems while interviewing, but keep it brief and focus on the positives of the job you’re applying for. (Your interviewers will want to know why you’re “for” the new job, not just against the old job.) I was part of a group interview panel, and the interviewee explained that one reason she was job searching was that her boss wanted her to do something ethically sketchy. No one was shocked that she dare say something critical of her current employer. It was actually an interesting situation she was describing, and after she left we had a thoughtful conversation about it.

  5. Estimated Salaries*

    Does anyone have direct experience with the accuracy of estimated salaries on sites like Glassdoor/Indeed? Like a posting listed $X, but you applied and found out it was actually $Y?

    I know that it says “estimated,” but salary is driving my search process, so any data is relevant. BLS/industry data is not matching reality for me.

    1. should i apply?*

      They were really large ranges and somewhat off for my field and location (engineering / Seattle) so I personally would view them with skepticism.

      1. ilikecoffee*

        I find that GlassDoor seems to mostly code by job title, not actual responsibilities or duties, so if you have a somewhat generic job title then GD will be really inaccurate. e.g. “electrical engineer” can be anyone from an entry-level cable guy to someone doing civil infrastructure planning to someone designing circuits and pay anything from $12/hr to $250k/year or more.

    2. Catherine*

      Hi! I work in HR in these are definitely estimates, but how off it is will depend on the industry. At my non-profit, candidates get really snippy when I share our range is lower so definitely check with the org. Especially if you’re looking at a low paying industry, it’ll group the role in with higher paying industries. The company doesn’t set them or approve them.

    3. Hawkeye is in the details*

      I’ve found them to be very inaccurate. The variables that go into the calculations are so vast. Location, industry, job title with varying meanings and duties. It’s not helpful.

      You’ll be much better off talking to people in your location and industry. Contact a local association that hosts networking events for your field. Reach out on LinkedIn, even if it’s cold contacting, or an old contact who had a similar role. Don’t ask for THEIR salary, but explain that you’re trying to nail down a reasonable range, taking into account your experience and the specific duties of the job listing, and ask for their opinion. You’ll get much closer to reality that way.

      1. should i apply?*

        I did this with old co-workers who had similar jobs but had left my current company. I was surprised how many of them responded.

    4. Drago Cucina*

      I have no idea how they estimate the salaries of librarians, but they are so off that I stopped looking at them.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yeah, for librarianship, I recommend just using the fact that there are enough state and city and uni librarians whose salaries are public, so you just work from those lists and do your own math. Glassdoor and Indeed are both super way off in my experience.

    5. irene adler*

      I’ve found them to be very ‘off’- especially when the cited salary range is very wide (like $42K to $95K). With several I found the lowest cited figure is the accurate figure (ouch!).

  6. Jellyfish*

    What’s your personal definition of success at work?

    We can’t all be massively wealthy CEOs, and I usually don’t aspire to that anyway. This week I’m feeling like I’ll never be enough in a professional context though, and I’m trying to come up with some personal ways to combat that.

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

      For me it’s about doing work that I’m pleased with or proud to have done. Some of the things I’ve done that feel like success to me include delivering a presentation that I think is clear and effective, or writing some content that gets good customer feedback, or giving feedback to one of my reports that they take and that makes their work better, or helping one of my reports do something they want to do, like getting them onto a project team that is of interest to them. So the metrics of success can vary depending upon the different hats I wear, but the common thread is “I did something that I felt good about, and it made a difference, big or small.”

    2. JJ*

      I feel like, at least in the American workplace, we put WAY too much emphasis on the idea of “advancement = success”. I’m sure I’ll never be a CEO or the “head” of anything, but I’m not particularly interested in the work of a CEO or high level manager.

      I suppose I feel “successful” when I know I’ve done my job well, when my manager is pleased with my work and I’m pleased with my work, when I’m still actively learning and stretching myself, and when I feel I’m being compensated in a way that reflects the amount of effort I put in.

      1. Just no*

        I totally agree. In my field, advancement/promotion means that you stop providing direct services and take on a lot of administrative/bureaucratic tasks that I would never, ever want to do (nor would I be any good at them). But I still find myself thinking about “moving up the ladder” because that’s what you’re supposed to want.

      2. Sled dog mama*

        Yes, too often advancement = success! I have been in my career for 10 years, the only difference in title between now and when I started is that I am no longer a Junior Llama Groomer, I do the exact same things I just have fewer questions on what exactly to do when the purple Llama comes in and their owner wants them groomed like a poodle. In 10 years or so, if I’m lucky I might feel comfortable being called a Senior Llama groomer (not really a title in my field more of a recognition of time in field and breadth of experience) but probably not. I am in a field where I will have the same title for the rest of my career. The only way to take on more reports or more responsibilities is move to a larger company (which I hated) where there are more people in my field. The only way to get a “higher title” is to change professions and become c-suite management.
        I love what I do but promotion is not part of success in it.
        On the other hand getting a “no violations identified” see you in 2 years letter from the state board at my biennial program review, that’s success!

      3. Liz*

        Agreed. I’ve been with my company for 20+ years. basically doing the same thing, although my job has changed with the changing of time; less paper, more electronic, etc. about a year and a half ago, I got a promotion. to my bosses job. I do a few more things that i took over from him, but everything I did before, as we went from 3 to 2. But we have a new boss, who is so much better than the one that left. He is good about giving praise, and when things needs some “help” he’s not at all nasty, but frames it in a way “this was good, blah blah, but I think we need to add this to it to make it better” and so on.

        No one leaves here either as the benefits are amazing. And I’m not exaggerating. I also have maybe 10-12 years until I retire, so i have no plans to go anywhere unless I don’t have a choice because I’d never get anything close to the benefits I have here.

        So success for me is much the same; even if my job isn’t the most exciting thing in the world!

      4. Diahann Carroll*

        I suppose I feel “successful” when I know I’ve done my job well, when my manager is pleased with my work and I’m pleased with my work, when I’m still actively learning and stretching myself, and when I feel I’m being compensated in a way that reflects the amount of effort I put in.

        This is my philosophy as well.

    3. snack queen*

      – are my coworkers / team leads / project managers happy with my work? do i get requested to be put onto projects that require my set of skills? do we all have good working relationships to solve the inevitable problems without any of the bad behaviors often shown on this site? is my opinion seen as valid & taken seriously?

      – i’m in the design field so many parts of my job are subjective. do the clients respond well to my presentations and do they go forward with my ideas? can my designs actually be built successfully (even if they have to be adjusted here and there?)

      if yes to all this, then i think i am doing a great job. sure, i could be on magazine covers and earning 6 figure commissions. however i see work as something i do to fund my hobbies and leisure time so knowing i give it my best in exchange for money and 40 hours a week is good enough for me. the extra stress and time commitment of a high profile / high paid position isn’t worth it.

    4. LDN Layabout*

      That I do good work, am seen as a go-to within my team, my work has a positive impact and I earn enough to support myself and live comfortably.

    5. Sleepy*

      I work a nonprofit and I make a pretty low salary compared to a lot of my friends, but I get a lot of satisfaction from the feeling that I’m making a positive impact on the world. I don’t think charity is the only way to get that feeling; plenty of businesses have a positive impact too. I also highly value integrity at work, the feeling that the way we sell our brand and our programs matches their reality.

    6. starsaphire*

      Being able to go home (well, pre-Covid) at the end of the day not feeling sad or angry or miserable. Being able to hit a stride in my work where I’ve got good music on my headphones and I’m lost in my work, and I look up and two hours have passed. Getting positive feedback from my supervisor and being able to believe that I deserve it.

      1. Twisted Lion*

        +1 this. Have a job you dont think about in your off hours because there isnt anything to think about lol.

    7. Tiger*

      Personal definition? So I’m an “admin 1” type job. According to HR, my job title is admin assistant 1. According to my department, I have a different title, but I’ll work off the HR titles for this comment.

      I’d consider myself successful if, over the course of a year, I learn something new about my department or overall company and can apply that to my job successfully. I do basic clerical work, but learning about how we operate at a basic or big level is helpful, and those conversations are ones that the admin 2’s and folks with other titles are usually included in. I also feel successful when I’m secure enough that I feel I could get an internal department job (like an admin 2 job) if I applied. This also falls largely into “personal definition of success”- but I feel successful when I leave at 5pm and don’t have to think about work until 8am the next business day. That’s largely why I took this particular admin 1 job: it pays well enough that I can live the life I want, and work remains “at work.”

    8. Overeducated*

      I’m not sure about a definition, but I have noticed I feel most fulfilled and excited when I’m able to work with others to build something. It can be anything – new guidance for programs, a data management system, an outreach strategy – but I think both the collaborative process, and being able to look back and realize I’ve left some kind of mark, make me feel successful on a daily and then annual basis.

    9. Schnoodle*

      Giving an honest 40 hours, decent coworkers, easy commute, good benefits to include matching for retirement.

      That’s it. My career and job is not my life. As you said I’m not looking to be CEO.

      I’ve paid off my home in my early 30’s and look forward to “retiring” early, working at Trader Joe’s or something part time for a while, low stress, hanging on til I get healthcare otherwise, and cruise on.

    10. CatCat*

      Get to the top of the level where I am now (almost there! the only move up from there is management, and I have no interest in management). Maintain respect of supervisors, peers, and clients. Drop down to a part-time schedule.

    11. Green Goose*

      For me, it’s more about interest in the work and salary increases than about advancement. I have moved up in my company, but the next level up from me would be such a massive increase in responsibility that I’m just not interested in that. I’m not willing to give up any more of my small and precious family time even for a big bump in salary.

      My partner is similar, he has held the same title for about 6-7 years but his company has amazing benefits and gives him a generous raise every year so he is happy with that.

    12. Asenath*

      Being able to keep a roof over my head and getting satisfaction from doing my job well – even when the work in question isn’t particularly respected or of interest to others.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      There’s small successes such as streamlining a process or successfully assisting someone with a problem.

      The larger successes include watching my own progress and “knowing that I know”, as in “I got this one.”
      Another sense of larger success is when others who do not work immediately with me, seem to think something of my work or my thoughts on things.
      In an odd thing, I feel successful at work if I have learned who does what. When X goes wrong, ask Bob. When Y goes wrong talk to Sue. I know who is good at what.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Another sense of larger success is when others who do not work immediately with me, seem to think something of my work or my thoughts on things.

        Same here. I have regional directors and VPs coming to me for help with something they need written, and that makes me feel pretty cool that I’m the one they look to for these things. It’s a pretty big deal where I work.

    14. HigherEdAdminista*

      Because of the institution I work for, I am unlikely to ever be promoted. Positions above me that I am qualified for seem to be scarcer than hen’s teeth, and would definitely require a big change to obtain. However, the benefits here are very good and I like my coworkers and my work, so I don’t feel like a move is something I am planning on right now.

      I try to focus instead on how well the things I am working on work out. Are my projects successful? Do I take new opportunities when they arise? Am I working with integrity to what I want to do? I also try to look to the things my job facilitates in my life and see if I am keeping up with those. Am I able to receive the healthcare I need? Do I feel like I have enough time for leisure/family/friends because of a decent work life balance? Am I paid enough to feel I am comfortable with my expenses and able to save for my wants, as well as for the future?

      We tend to be presented with a pretty narrow vision of success, and often monetary rewards are tied to it, but for me success is about having a life I am comfortable with as a whole, and if my job is facilitating that and I can feel like I’m doing good work at the same time, that is success enough for me.

    15. Mimmy*

      I don’t love my job and am hoping to move on within the next year, but here’s my definition at this point. For context, I am an instructor with blind and visually impaired adults.

      – When a student thanks me when they “graduate” from my part of their program
      – When I have a discussion with another instructor and/or the supervisor about a student issue and I feel like my input was valued
      – When management recognizes me for specific knowledge beyond my teaching discipline and invite me to present on it to students or staff

    16. Sugaree*

      Something I’ve realized after 20+ years of professional work history is that there is no joy (and rarely lasting success) in being aimlessly ambitious.

      The idea of getting a raise or moving into my boss’s role being the only marker of professional success doesn’t speak to me anymore. My goals are focused on the type of work vs. the title or promotion which makes it MUCH easier to feel successful. It’s a bonus/by product that doing that has lead to promotions, etc.

    17. Lizy*

      Mine’s changed, for sure.

      A couple of years ago, my definition of success would have been much more tied to how I changed things/improved things/got a promotion… now? Bills are paid, I’m confident in my role, and that’s it lol. I’m successful.

    18. Momma Bear*

      Doing something I like reasonably well/am reasonably good at with people I can respect as professionals who respect me in return, with good benefits and a healthy work/life balance.

    19. Wordybird*

      My idea of success at work is being in a role that uses my skills & abilities while still allowing me the opportunity to learn new skills/techniques/software, recognizes me as a person with a life outside of work and compensates me accordingly (at- or above-market salary, benefits, PTO, etc.), involves working with an ethical organization that makes a difference in the world, and employs kind intelligent hard-working people that I can count on and collaborate with effectively and efficiently.

  7. E.N.*

    I have a friend looking for a career and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions. He has no degree and a background in retail/waiting tables with nursing assistance. He’s a very active person who doesn’t like sitting around, he is ALWAYS looking for the next thing to do to keep working and keep moving. He is very charming and loves to help people.

    The most important thing for him is that his hard work is recognized, preferably financially. If he works harder than everyone else, he wants title, money, and responsibility to follow that hard work. For better or worse, he’s big on “fairness”. His original career plan was nursing, but he wasn’t satisfied in the field when it turned out that (to his mind) those doing less than he did got more recognition. I have been talking to him about adjusting expectations because I think some of this is a “him” problem, but if anyone has a field that seems fitting please let me know!

    1. Sunflower*

      It sounds like sales would be a great fit or possibly hotel operations. I think more people in sales have degrees than 20 years ago but it’s definitely easier to break into without a degree than other areas.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Along the lines of Hotel Operations, I was thinking of luxury Senior Living. He could start on the service side and make his way into management/operations/leasing.

        1. Artemesia*

          I would be surprised if the upper level roles there would not require a degree. But this guy is flying a lot of red flags. ‘Fairness’ is often code for belligerence and that doesn’t win friends.

          1. E.N.*

            You’re not totally wrong about the red flags, but to his credit he does make friends easily. He’s fiercely loyal and incredibly charming. He often has the support of management and his coworkers very quickly. I know all this to be true because both myself and my fiancée have worked alongside him in the past.

            He is a little lost right now which is why I’m trying to help. I’m just hoping to help connect him with something that fits his strengths! On the flip side, if I were a stranger on the internet reading this I’d be 100% sure he’s bad news.

            1. Momma Bear*

              I had an exBF who was a little like that and was his own worst enemy because he refused to put in time in office. He wanted to skip straight to what he thought he deserved, and didn’t talk to his bosses about how to get from A to B. Didn’t help that he quit college and was trying to compare himself to people with 1. more experience and 2. a degree in the field.

              So maybe have that conversation with your friend – with the nursing thing, was he one and done, or did he try another organization? Did he try variants like being a home health aide vs working in a facility? Would he go back to school to get another level of degree? Would he be happier in some kind of healthcare management vs patient treatment?

              As far as I am aware, my ex is still busy shooting himself in the foot with his ego, which is a shame because he really is smart and good at what he likes to do…if he would only get past his perception of what he/others “deserve” he would do very well for himself. Happiness is not found looking at someone else’s plate with envy. It is learning how to put what you need on your own plate.

      2. E.N.*

        You’re right, I haven’t recommended that to him because it’s so so NOT me, but it may work better for him.

        I should also have said that he would be willing to go back for a degree or certification, he would just want to be reasonably sure the career path would work for him.

        1. I am not the Lorax*

          Sales is a great suggestion. I would imagine if he’s working on commission, then the more successful he is, the more $$$ he would get.

        2. Artemesia*

          There are no guarantees. He sounds like the kind of guy who makes a big deal on the third date about having been ‘hurt before’ and wanting a guarantee that you won’t dump him. Yeah, life doesn’t work like this.

          He is smart to not do a random degree at this point but he needs to at least work with bosses about how to get from A to B to C and then complete the certification he needs as he puts in his time. I had an uncle like this whose career was characterized by quitting one thing after another because they weren’t fair and he deserved better and someone else always got the promotion he ‘should have had.’ Sounds like some therapy focused on personal management would be useful.

    2. Zephy*

      Sounds like a lot of it is a “him” problem, but it’s not your job to adjust his expectations or manage his feelings about it when the world doesn’t work the way he believes it should.

      But yeah, sales or hospitality is probably a good place to start.

      1. E.N.*

        No, it’s definitely not my job but I like to help my friends when I can. Not to the point it drives me crazy, of course, but a gentle nudge here or there can sometimes help and rarely hurts. Sales is making a ton of sense to me. Thanks!

      2. AcademiaNut*

        The issue I see with his attitude is that he’s using hard work as the metric, and in jobs with strong performance based incentives, it’s not the hard work but the results that get rewards. So someone could work fewer hours than he does, but get a bigger bonus/higher salary/promotion because they are more experienced and more efficient. It’s particularly difficult when he’s new to a job and is still mastering it.

        Sales rewards results, but doesn’t directly reward effort.

        Maybe something that has good overtime options. Then working longer hours correlates directly to more money.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          All of this. I don’t work nearly as hard as other people (and never have in any of my past positions), but I get shit done and have historically been rewarded for it even if outsiders didn’t think I deserved it since I appeared to work less than they did. That’s what being efficient gets you.

          1. Artemesia*

            My daughter is like this and once got reamed out for leaving at 6 when ‘poor Sally had to be there till 2 getting the job finished.’ She had done three quarters of the job before leaving and Sally just had a couple of small things to do — not even her own ‘half’ of the task, but managed to dither around the office late doing her tiny share.

            Offices are filled with people who dink around all day and then ‘have to work late’ — I have always assumed they didn’t have a life or were avoiding being at home for family responsibilities.

    3. Sleepy*

      He sounds like a great fit for sales, something where interpersonal skills are important and there’s a concrete measurement in $$ of how well everyone is doing. He sounds like he would do well somewhere where people aren’t on just salary but get a bonus per sale, so his direct contributions would be rewarded. Maybe real estate.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Sales, or other commission based work might be a good fit, as it would mean that he would earn more if he was performing better than others.

      He could also look at whether it would make sense for him to think about studying part time to get a degree, if he feels that that would enable him to move further up in whatever profession he wants to go into.

      He might also look at trades – skilled tradespeople can earn well, and he could potentially look at long term plans of being self-employed and running his own business, once he had the relevant skills and qualifications, which would give him the opportunities for more responsibility, and (if he were successful) financial rewards.

      Obviously he might need to take an initial dip in income because he would be learning a new trade, and depending on age might need to consider how long he could continue in a physically demanding role, but it may be something to consider.

      1. Pond*

        I definitely recommend getting an undergraduate degree just to have the piece of paper, even if it’s done part time over several years. I know people who were great at their work but couldn’t advance because they didn’t have the piece of paper, so they eventually went back to school (part time while working full time) to get it.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is one of the few reasons to get an on line degree or patch together something in night school. The piece of paper is sometimes a requirement for advancement even when it is nonsense that it is.

    5. bunniferous*

      Ordinarily I would say real estate would be a perfect fit but right now would be a very bad time to get into the field in my area, anyway. But in general he sounds MADE for it.

    6. Squidhead*

      I’m an RN. In many parts of the country, nursing is a solid path to a middle-class salary with just a 2 year degree plus the licensure exam. It is not, however, common that nurses get performance-based financial awards. You don’t get a bonus if you had fewer patient emergencies or the most on-time med passes or whatever. Overtime is usually easy to find, though, especially for off-shifts, so increasing your income is definitely possible!

      Nursing school is a challenge, especially if he bristles at every perceived unfairness. (There are many nursing forums he can check out to read about nursing school.) If he wants to be a nurse he has to get into and then get through nursing school and pass the exam, no two ways about it. I have a liberal arts degree and a nursing degree and the two experiences were NOTHING alike.

      As to his previous experience as a nursing assistant–he might not be wrong, or he might be wrong but not understand why. On a busy unit, the NAs (at least the good ones!) do a lot more physical work than the RNs. They bathe patients, take vitals, feed people who can’t feed themselves, do incontinence care, answer call lights, transport patients, etc… It’s on-your-feet all the time, often with several people wanting your attention or help at once. The rift between NAs and RNs can be wide in some places because the RN is actually responsible and accountable for all the care provided to the patient, but the RN delegates the types of tasks I described so that the RN can do all the *other* tasks that are within their purview (medication, wound care, discharge planning, dealing with a change in patient condition, education, lab work folllow-up, etc…). So it’s not uncommon that the RN might be at the desk on the phone or reviewing a chart and the NA might be running from room to room. The RN’s job is simply different than the NA’s, and this can play out in ways that are appropriate OR that are unbalanced. So I can’t say that his perception was wrong but he may not really have understood the scope of the jobs around him. (NAs who go on to become RNs often say they had no idea how busy the RNs were.)

      Best of luck to him–I hope he lands in something he enjoys and finds rewarding! (And we need nurses, so maybe he’ll give it another look!)

    7. Sleepless*

      If it paid better, I would suggest going to vet tech school. It’s a 2 year associate’s degree, and licensed veterinary technicians are in HIGH demand right now. It’s physically active, rewarding, and has an endless number of skills to improve. But there is pretty much no chance to move up or make more money.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      Sounds like he’d enjoy being some sort of fitness trainer, or physical therapist (degree)

    9. Torrance*

      I don’t have any advice but I wanted to say that it’s a really kind thing you’re doing, looking for advice to help a friend. He sounds like a really great person & this world isn’t always kind to people like that. Expecting fairness shouldn’t be seen as a problem but that’s the way the world works (unfortunately).

      He’s lucky to have a friend like you to help him along his journey. :)

  8. Neko*

    I’m a relatively new manager and have a situation I’m not sure how to deal with. One of my direct repots, Kasey, recently came out as nonbinary, and uses they/them pronouns. My department, and our company in general, is supportive of LGBT+ people and we don’t tolerate misgendering or transphobia.

    Another one of my reports, Jane, works closely with Kasey. For a few weeks, Jane refused to use they/them pronouns, frequently “forgot” or misgendered Kasey when they weren’t around. I had several talks with Jane, told her that she cannot continue to misgender Kasey under any circumstances. After a few of these talks, Jane actually ended up apologizing to me and Kasey, and said it wouldn’t happen again. It hadn’t, and everything seemed fine.
    However, a few weeks after this, Jane- who identified as female before- suddenly came out with an… ususual gender identity. Think something like naturegender or flowergender, and Leaf/Leafs/Leafself pronouns. I know I’m not using these pronouns here, but it’s because I’m fairly certain that Jane is mocking Kasey with this new gender and pronouns. I asked her in a private meeting if this her real identity and if she’s being honest. She got defensive, told me yes, and how dare I accuse her of making something up, etc. Many others have come to me complaining that Jane is transphobic and doing this to prove a point of some kind.

    Other reasons I’m skeptical of Jane: she still presents quite feminine, has not changed her name, and also doesn’t seem to correct people outside our department using she/hers as much (including clients). She came into work one day, loudly announced to everyone her gender identity, and to anyone who had questions regarding her pronouns etc, she’d assert that her gender is not to be questioned. (She also won’t accept they/them)

    I don’t know what to do. Jane has threatened to report us to HR for transphobia if I don’t respect these pronouns, and most of my reports are tiptoeing around her, trying to avoid using any pronouns at all. She is very adamant about correcting me and the rest of my team if we don’t use “Leaf” pronouns. What do I do here?

    1. Web Crawler*

      I might be missing something here*, but I’d use Leaf pronouns. You know she’s acting in bad faith, but it’s not a good look to try to police who’s gender should be respected. Definitely do something about the transphobia though. That’s a separate issue.

      * I don’t know a whole lot about work stuff, but I know a lot of trans and non binary people (and am one). That’s how I’d approach it in any other context

      1. Ya Girl*

        I agree. If she’s acting in bad faith then her best case scenario is that everyone makes a big deal about not using these pronouns for her so she can use that against Kasey. If everyone cheerfully uses these leaf pronouns and acts like it’s no big deal then she has no ammo against Kasey and she’ll likely give it up if she is acting in bad faith.

        But do keep an eye on her, you can’t police what she calls herself but I would be looking out any signs of transphobia that may pop up. And if you haven’t already, document all of your previous conversations with her about Kasey, I have a feeling you’ll need it later.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I agree. Use it , take it totally seriously and instruct the rest of your department to do the same.

        And, separately, deal with the concerns others have raised about transphobia. Make sure that people are clear on how and to whom to report them, liaise with HR to determine how to deal with that issue – i.e. whether / when you make it a formal disciplinary issue with Jane, whether additional training for her is appropriate etc.

    2. Homo neanderthalensis*

      Ok so yes- she is clearly doing this for attention/transphobia reasons and she sucks. BUT here’s the thing- the solution is quite simple. Accept what she’s doing at complete face value- and use those pronouns- and since she’s not insisting on those pronouns with people outside the department? You need to talk to the bosses outside your department, and talk very strongly about how you need Jane to not be misgendered. Loudly tell the people outside your department about how seriously this must be taken and that you wont accept Jane being referred to as She/her etc. she’s expecting you to blow off her bullshit and that gives her leverage for a bad faith lawsuit. So don’t blow it off! (I would inform Kasey what you’re doing and why- they need to be aware and able to protect themselves) I suspect after the first couple of emails to other department heads that CCs Jane about how important it is that the company respects leaf- Jane will realize she’s only shooting leafself in the foot. (Root?)

      1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

        Thank you for the laugh this morning, it was much needed! Shooting leafself in the root…. *snickers*

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        I wonder if management needs to do anything around updating Jane’s gender with the company, including for purposes of health insurance, as appropriate.

        1. Homo neanderthalensis*

          Omg yes. Like find every goddamn form that would need to be changed if leaf was earnest (I haven’t even gone to the trouble of changing my ID since it’s such a goddamn pain, and where I live I can get the NB or X on it) and spend a spare hour or two going over exactly the documentation you legally require and then like for bonus offer to help leaf with non-work required paperwork for changing legal gender (let me help contact you with services etc etc) see how fast leaf drops it.

          1. Actual trans person*

            No one is obligated to update their documents when they come out. I understand trying to use bureaucratic means to get Jane to drop it, but this is bad advice. It took me a year to update my DL/insurance and two to update passport, and in the meantime my new pronouns/name/identity was no less valid. Don’t further gatekeeping and transphobia yourself while trying to fight her transphobia.

            OP, treat Jane like you would any other person who told you about new pronouns. Don’t out Jane if you wouldn’t put others (and I sure hope you wouldnt), give Jane the same help of “you can update your email signature, email HR, how else would you like me to support you?”, replace pronouns with her name if you can’t remember to use leaf (I notice when people are doing that and it makes me chuckle. And appreciate that they are trying). If it’s not real she’ll drop it soon enough, and in the meantime you’re normalizing treating people with respect even when you don’t understand them. You can give teammates a heads up.

      3. Nell*

        No, please do not tell people outside the department no matter how tempting. I’m taking the OP at their word and accepting that Jane is likely acting in bad faith. Even then, acting in good faith is important for the OP’s position and loudly publicizing someone’s preferred gender identity and pronouns is not acceptable when the person is genuine. It’s forcibly outing someone and not acceptable. The OP does not want to get a reputation for it, especially considering the grapevine is unlikely to have the full facts surrounding the matter. It could be exceedingly damaging to the OP and anyone non-straight, non-cisgender in the company who hears about it.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, treat it in every way as you did Kasey’s situation when they came out. Change how you address Leaf, make sure that other people in the department do the same, make clear to leaf that you will support them as and when they wish to come out to others in the wider company, remind leaf of the options to update pronouns in e-mail signatures, on internal documents etc,

          Don’t ‘out’ Jane without permission, and if necessary ask leaf what terms / pronouns you should use if speaking to someone outside the department / outside the company .

      4. Artemesia*

        This is what I would do. Make her own the nonsense. The benefit is that, if it is real (which we know it isn’t here) then she has been shown appropriate respect; if it is not real and embarrasses her outside the department, she will have consequences for being a jerk to Kasey. I mean, it would have to be part of any recommendation letter if she moved on and needed a reference.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Adding: She should be sure to add it to her signature block on all emails so that everyone is properly reminded of her preferences. She will need to have her personal file, insurance plan and driver’s license updated also. (If the company keeps DLs on file, that is.)
          Just generally, have her do whatever her cohort has done.

      5. Lizy*

        Yep – let Kasey know what you’re doing and why, and accept Jane’s new pronouns and use the heck outta them.

        If she’s faking it, she’ll get pissed and (hopefully) eventually give up, at which point you can explain how incredibly wrong/hurtful/rude/everything it was and that this has given you serious pause to her judgement and blah blah blah.

        If she’s not, well, you’ve shown how you support your employees even if you don’t agree with them and you’ve lost nothing and possibly gained a lot of respect and admiration.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Yes. Clue in Kasey. And HR. Encourage others to go to HR about what they have experienced with Jane.

          But I agree to go all in with this. If she shows other aggressions re: Kasey or anyone else, call leasfself on it. Regardless of what someone refers to themselves as, they still don’t get out of being terrible to others. This is not a get out of being respectful to Kasey card. I wouldn’t go out of my way to declare it to other departments, but I would refer Jane this way and not worry if someone else is listening. If someone says, “What is that about?” You can tell them what she told you. Let them determine from there what they think. My guess it that this childish behavior will stop eventually.

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

        Yes! The most effective way to disarm any kind of passive aggressive behaviour (which leaf’s (?) definitely is) I’ve found is it treat it exactly at face value…

    3. Intermittent Introvert*

      Can you just take her at her word? Insist she change her email signature. Make a general announcement to the company. Correct everyone who “misgenders” leaf. Change her info on the company website. Do it all as a concerned boss and with a straight face.

    4. ladymacdeath*

      Okay, well first I want to kinda challenge you on some assumptions you’re making about trans/non-binary people; mainly, that even if Jane is messing with Kasey, trans/NB people can still present as feminine, not change their name, and not correct people on their pronouns. This happens all the time.

      That being said, regarding how to handle Jane… take Jane at leafs word and essentially call leafs bluff. Earnestly use the pronouns Jane has given you. Leaf may drop it. It’s going to get old.

      1. Web Crawler*

        I want to second everything in your first paragraph. Trans/NB people can still present as feminine, not change their name, and not correct people on their pronouns. Trans/NB people can also be transphobic (unfortunately).

      2. Sylvan*

        Yeah, that’s all true. I call myself a woman 99% of the time and accept she/her because it’s just not worth the trouble.

        That said… “Leaf may drop it.” Just wait until autumn?

      3. TWW*

        I agree with everything you said, but I’m not convinced that Jane is bluffing.

        Is it possible Jane is struggling with leafs identity? It wouldn’t be the first time an LGBT person has acted transphobic while coming to terms with who they are (not that that’s an excuse). It also wouldn’t be the first time a trans/NB person has experimented with unique pronouns before (perhaps) settling on something more conventional like they/them.

        Yes, it’s possible Jane may get tired of being called leaf/leafs and go back to she/her (or they/them). But it’s also possible the entire office will get used to it and genuinely accept those pronouns as part of leafs identity.

        1. AE*

          This is probably getting too far into the weeds (leaves?) but is “leaf” (or whatever nonhuman organism/object Jane is identifying as) actually a gender identity, or would it be something more existentially encompassing? Like, technically, yeah, plants can have different genders, but can you gender-identify as something that doesn’t have a gender? I realize this is not germane to this particular discussion and probably way above the pay grade of a career advice board, but I’m just curious if anyone has insight or experience with this type of thing.

          1. Pascall*

            In a lot of LGBT+ circles, leaf’s pronouns would be considered “neopronouns” or “neogender” which encompasses more unique or individualistic pronouns. It has less to do with the tie to plants and more to do with the individual’s feeling of how they want to express themselves and their identity. The use of neopronouns, however, doesn’t always necessarily tie into the individual’s gender.

            Similar pronouns include things like Xe, Ze, Fae, or pronouns that resemble objects, items, or other things from the environment such as Leaf, Star, Bun, etc. Some also have roots in other languages.

            Hope that explains the use of neopronouns a bit more!

          2. Queer Earthling*

            “leaf” isn’t the gender identity but the pronoun that leaf associates with leafs identity. Neopronouns and xenopronouns are a thing, and people use them for many reasons; there are also xenogenders and noungenders, and while they may not resemble gendering the way you’re familiar, that doesn’t make them less of a gender identity.

            It isn’t out of the question that Jane is BSing, but using leafs pronouns can’t hurt and might help. (I actually googled for leaf as a pronoun and Jane didn’t invent it, so…who knows? Maybe something resonated with leaf. Maybe leaf’s taking the piss. Only time will tell.)

            1. CatWoman*

              It’s my opinion that Jane googled pronouns too, and that’s where leaf came up with it. Treat Jane’s and Kasey’s pronouns the same and, as suggested, document, document, document.

              1. Sylvan*

                Thing is, neopronouns are a pretty niche subject. Putting together her transphobia towards Kasey and her knowledge about neopronouns, I’d guess she’s gotten into more than Googling.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Call her Leaf. Even if she’s doing it to prove a point, that point ends up being “we respect people’s pronouns even if we don’t understand them and regardless of any personal feelings we have about them.”

      For the people who think she’s mocking them, tell them this. Whether that’s true or not, if you enthusiastically accept her pronouns the way you want other pronouns accepted, then you have created the environment of acceptance you want. What has she achieved except helping to prove your point that acceptance is possible for everyone regardless of anything else?

      1. Littorally*

        “We respect people’s pronouns even if we don’t understand them and regardless of any personal feelings we have about them” — EXACTLY. Very well said.

    6. Burnout Phoenix*

      I’d take her at her word on this and use the pronouns. If she’s doing it to make a point, let her point be that your org will respect people’s stated genders.

      (I personally think she’s doing it to make a point, and she thinks her point is “it’s ridiculous to use pronouns other than she/her or he/him.” But fighting her on this is not going to result in anything good.)

      Continue to speak with her and address any new instances of unacceptable behavior towards trans/nonbinary colleagues as they come up.

      1. Burnout Phoenix*

        And I just realized I didn’t use the leaf pronouns myself above! I set a poor example of how to do it, because I don’t believe Jane. And if I were in your place, I would absolutely have to work with myself on using leaf pronouns regardless of what I believe about Jane’s motivations.

        1. High School Teacher*

          I don’t beleaf Jane either, but in my professional capacity as a high school teacher I have had similar issues with students/colleagues and I agree with everyone who’s saying take leaf at leaf’s word and earnestly treat Jane as if leaf’s completely serious.

          It’s possible that Jane is being an ashole, but taking leaf at leaf’s word deprives leaf of oxygen.

          And it’s also possible that part of Jane’s strong reaction to Kasey’s transition was disbelief that someone *could do that,* which led Jane to question leaf’s own gender and come to terms with it. Yes, that’s vanishingly unlikely… But if it’s true, mishandling Jane’s gender is crummy.

          1. Littorally*

            Last paragraph is a great point.

            Like, I agree the most likely explanation here is that Jane is trying to be nasty. But you lose nothing by treating leaf like leaf’s being genuine. If leaf doesn’t mean it, then time will tell. But if leaf does, then you don’t have the pall of having been the one to draw a line of what gender identities your job will or won’t accept as genuine.

            (also, I see that pun!)

    7. should i apply?*

      Use the pronouns, in fact use them in front of everyone, including outside your team and state that Jane has said that this is Jane’s preferred pronoun.
      If she is really doing it to make a point, then by using the pronouns you will be making the point that you are taking her at face value, the same courtesy that you hopefully apply to any of your other co-workers.
      I don’t see the downside of using her stated pronouns even if she doesn’t really believe it. Unless there is something weird in the pronoun that is insulting to other people?

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I feel like there is a need for more pronouns than just “leaf”. I mean, there needs to be a first person, second person and third person pronoun, with plural versions, as well as subjective and objective pronouns (equivalent to she/he and her/him), not to mention possessive pronouns (his/hers/theirs).

        Perhaps set Jane an assignment to come back with all the correct pronouns, so that people can address leaf in a way that respects leaf’s gender by being grammatically correct.

        1. linger*

          If leaf wants to use a special differentiated 1st-person pronoun, that’s up to leaf (moreover, it only affects leaf’s own usage). But 2nd person should be left alone. English 2nd-person pronouns don’t encode any feature of personal identity at all, only the addressee role, so insisting on a differentiated 2nd-person form imposes a grammatical change on everyone else for no reason related to identity. If leaf actually were to insist on that, it would pretty much prove that leaf is acting in bad faith.
          By contrast, in other languages with number variation in 2nd person, sometimes also marking solidarity or status differences, there may be more of a live issue. So … are there any other languages in which OP’s company conducts business in which a fitting translation might be needed?

    8. Noncompliance Officer*

      This is pretty obvious transphobia. There is a difference between switching your gender and pretending to be a vampire and insisting everyone call you the Dark Count Nosferatu, or that you are actually a dog, or whatever. This goes back to the, “If men can marry men, then I will marry my dog!” kind of arguments people made, god, only like 15 years ago. Homosexuality and bestiality are not comparable, just as being transgender and being a tree(?) are not.

      I would say to Jane, “Gender identity is a protected class under the law. You must respect your coworker’s gender identity.” (This is true as of the SCOTUS Bostock decision in June 2020) “Being a leaf-person is not a protected class. I am insisting that you do not bring this up at work anymore. It is not professional and will not be tolerated, as it seems you are doing this to mock or undermine your coworkers.”

      1. Full acceptance*

        Naturally, leafs request ought to be observed when providing future employment references. Leaf might not have thought of it and might need it pointed out to leaf.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          The consensus here is that we should treat Jane’s request as genuine.
          If you have a genuinely trans employee who uses they/them pronouns at work, but asks for she/her pronouns in references to protect themselves against discrimination, you should respect their request. So I don’t think threatening to treat Jane differently is actually conducive to demonstrating your workplace is trans-friendly.

      2. Littorally*

        The thing is that there are some people who are doing this with gender, and in a way that isn’t meant to be parodical. It’s mostly kids online exploring the boundaries of what gender identity means, but it isn’t like this is a transphobic meme like the attack helicopter “joke.”

      3. Malarkey01*

        Yes! Yes! Yes! I know we are having a laugh thinking up ways to teach Jane a lesson, but what she is doing is transphobic and wrong.

        You wrote she’s threatening to report you to HR, BUT this is exactly who you should be calling right now. You have an employee being openly hostile to a trans member of your staff. This is the exact thing you need HR’s help with. HR will provide guidance on your company’s approach and position much better than the commentariat (even though we are awesome). Your trans employee also may be in the process of reaching out to HR as well. This is most likely going to end in HR no matter what you do, so proactively reach out to them and your boss now. If HR and management prove unhelpful by all means reach back out for advise, but start there.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, 100% HR needs to be in the loop on this; it’s not something a manager should be deciding how to handle on their own without HR being aware it’s happening.

      4. Tired of Covid-and People*

        I agree, leaf person is ridiculing trans people and should be shut down. I’m surprised at all the comments to go along with this nonsense.

    9. Thorny*

      That’s very frustrating, I feel for you. Even if it wasn’t in bad faith (which I trust your reading that Jane is not being honest about this), it can be pretty hard to incorporate neopronouns into your lexicon. I had a friend back in high school who started going by Fire/Fireself and it was SO HARD to remember to use those in casual conversation (and we were pretty sure this was in good faith so we didn’t want to misgender!) It can be hard to remember to use pronouns that are less common than the person’s actual name… My advice to you if you don’t want to actively call Jane on this bs, would be to just say “Jane” in place of any pronoun whenever you can. (ie. “Jane is going to work on Jane’s project, we can expect to hear back from Jane in a few days”). It will be easier on you than trying to incorporate “Leaf” as a pronoun when it really doesn’t make sense to your ears.

    10. Nell*

      I can’t comment on the managerial aspect, but as someone involved in the LGBTQ+ community I want to note that presenting as female or not coming out to certain people, especially those the person sees less and doesn’t know as well, doesn’t make a gender identity less valid. The question that comes to my mind is what type of gender identity and pronouns Jane uses, as the specifics matter in this case. If it’s “I always thought Jane was female, but Jane now insists on only being referred to with the pronouns zhe/zhir and Jane was very forgetful (and maybe negligent) when recognizing another coworker’s gender identity,” it’s one thing. If it’s “Jane made this gender identity up after repeatedly misgendering their coworker,” it’s another.

      I would also go back to your reports who said that Jane is transphobic. Trans isn’t the same as nonbinary, so I would ask them about it. Are there more instances or comments Jane has made that you weren’t aware of?

      1. Neko*

        I didn’t include all details because my post was getting long, but Jane has shown transphobia in other ways and to other employees in the past. I like the suggestions to take the Leaf identity at face value and use them regardless, I think it will show Jane that whatever point Leaf was trying to make didn’t work, and will tire of this. Jane has openly made disparaging comments about trans people in the media, etc. Kasey is also not the first person Jane has misgendered, from what I’ve heard, but they do both work more closely together so it was more obvious hence the complaints.

        1. Homo neanderthalensis*

          Ok so you have a bigot problem and while I think there’s a very good chance following the “mass leaf acceptance spam” will solve some of your problem- Jane needs to go. If she has a history of misgendering and transphobic comments that is not an environment I as an NB would feel safe working in, and depending on how bad leaf got in her treatment of multiple (!) trans employees, leaf not getting terminated could open up your company to a lawsuit.

          1. HigherEdAdminista*

            This. I also do agree with Noncompliance Officer above. I understand where everyone is coming from with honoring this change of identity, but given that she has a history of transphobic behavior and misgendering people, I think she is definitely doing this to be mocking and also to make a case for herself in case she is on the path to getting fired for her behavior.

            Do you have or could you contact an attorney who is LGBTQA allied to figure out how to navigate this situation?

            1. Littorally*

              No one’s disagreeing that leaf’s almost certainly doing it to be mocking. The point is that once you start going down the path of deciding whose gender identity is legitimate and whose isn’t, you’re heading in a very directly transphobic direction.

              1. Tired of Covid-and People*

                But this isn’t a gender identity issue. The slippery slope is a logical fallacy.

                1. SnappinTerrapin*

                  If you read “slippery slope” to mean every person approaching a slope will fall down that is indeed a logical fallacy.

                  If you insist that there is no more risk in approaching a slope than in walking on familiar level ground, that is an equally illogical position to take.

                  When treading on unfamiliar terrain, it is always prudent and logical to watch one’s step.

          2. Nell*

            Absolutely this. HigherEdAdminista’s suggestion about hiring an LBTQIA ally lawyer to address the specific issues that crop up is also a great idea. Addressing individual instances of a problem may make the latest issue stop, but in the end keeping Jane on will negate all your other efforts on being LBTQIA friendly in your department, at the very least to your reports if not more of the company.

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          My suggestion is to use the leaf and leaf’s and leafself as requested, but do it as matter-of-factly as possible. Don’t emphasize the words, don’t even explain. If you hear someone else saying she/her/etc., just say “Oh, that should be leaf/leaf’s/leafself” in a very low-key way and immediately resume whatever the conversation was, maybe with “As I was saying…” Comply with what Jane wants but not in a way that gives Jane ANY attention. There’s an extremely good chance that Jane wants attention and is trying to make a nasty point. Don’t give Jane the satisfaction of making this a Big Deal.

    11. Sylvan*

      Honestly, I think Jane might be very deep into some online community with an axe to grind about trans people, or maybe nonbinary trans people in specific. There are groups like that. She’s using neopronouns to make a point (in her mind) about her problem with they/them pronouns. Go to HR before she does and describe what she’s been doing and her previous transphobic behavior.

      1. Knit-T*

        I don’t know anything about the existence of such groups, but I’d be hesitant to follow the “leaf her pronouns” advice. It feels like she is trying to make some sort of mocking point and I’d really not want to feed that. I’d definitely want my organization through HR to decide how this will be dealt with.

    12. Littorally*

      Treat Jane in good faith.

      If leaf is doing it to mock Kasey, then leaf mockery isn’t going to get very far when people accept leaf request on face value and act normally about it.

      As to your “other reasons” you’re skeptical of Jane — these aren’t good reasons. They’re pretty normal for a lot of trans people, actually.
      – Presenting quite feminine — nonbinary people, which is the umbrella leaf ‘s falling under, can be any kind of “feminine” or “masculine” they want to be. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a clear gender neutral look in current society, so you’re likely going to reflexively, at least in your mind, categorize anything leaf wears as either masculine or feminine.
      – Not changing leafs name — this is a massive pain in the butt, and plenty of nonbinary people don’t.
      – Not correcting people outside the department — Hell, I’m full blown trans and I have never corrected people at work. Whatever they call me, they call me, and I don’t want to kick up a fuss about it, especially with people I don’t work with on a daily basis. It’s 100% understandable that someone would want their immediate team, whom they work with every day, to gender them correctly but not want to waste the effort with more occasional contacts. Doubly true with clients.
      – Not accepting they/them – plenty of people don’t. Do you?

      Maybe this is mockery. Maybe it’s about trying to create material for a lawsuit or HR report. Maybe it’s just a manifestation of “I am uncomfortable when we are not about me.”

      Fundamentally, this is one of those places where you are going to be best served by not worrying about motivations and just acting on the request made. You would do this without hesitation if you felt Jane was making a genuine request — so call the bluff. Treat leafs request as genuine.

      If nothing else — think of it this way. Compared with Jane’s request, Kasey using they/them pronouns will be very unremarkable.

    13. NerdyPrettyThings*

      Use the pronouns, and insist on everyone using them, the same way you did for the first employee. This will make your other employees feel comfortable that their gender identities will be respected even if they are unusual, which can only help make your workplace more inclusive. Forgive me for being gleeful about this part, but using the pronouns will likely have the added benefit of slowly enraging Jane, who, if leaf’s really transphobic, will find it very wearing to lose leaf’s female identity at leaf’s own request. It may even lead Jane to an epiphany of realization about how it feels to be misgendered.

      I also like Homo neanderthalensis’s suggestion to loop Kasey in.

      1. Homo neanderthalensis*

        Well speaking as a NB I would have a pretty negative reaction to leafs nonsense after a month of misgendering like, oh what fresh bullshit is this! But if my boss took me aside and explained the plan I’d not only feel like my boss respected me enough to be perceptive that this is bad faith but also I’d probably also find the over the top correcting for pronouns outside of the department hilarious because of how twitchy it would make Jane. AND it would have the added bonus of highlighting how serious my boss took my pronouns.

        1. Old Admin*

          “But if my boss took me aside and explained the plan I’d not only feel like my boss respected me enough to be perceptive that this is bad faith but also I’d probably also find the over the top correcting for pronouns outside of the department hilarious because of how twitchy it would make Jane. AND it would have the added bonus of highlighting how serious my boss took my pronouns.”

          *slow clap*
          Very well said. OP has the possibility of turning this mess into a win-win situation:
          – Either Jane truly is leafgender, then OP did the right thing AND defused any issues with Kasey, or
          – Jane’s BS is called with Kasey fully informed.

          I really like this.

    14. PolarVortex*

      Treat it cheerfully and relentlessly like you would anyone else who changes their pronouns. Many LGBT people are LGBT-phobic before we come out. It’s a weird, vicious self hate thing. It could be the case with Jane here. If she is for some awful reason lying, she’s going to regret that long term as everyone will know to call Jane leaf/leafs and leaf’ll have to decide if leafself wants to backtrack to feminine pronouns which leaf’ll assume that everyone will realize leaf is transphobic with that backtrack because Jane thinks that leafself. (Which again you’ll treat the transition to feminine cheerfully and relentlessly like you do anyone else who changes pronouns. Identity can be fluid!)

      That being said: If others of you are coming to you saying Jane in transphobic, you need to ask them what they saw/heard. If it’s about the leaf thing, you cheerfully and relentlessly update them that “No, Jane has every right to be leaf’s trueself here at X Company, please support leaf in leafs transition”. And then assure them if they see/hear anything transphobic by anyone to please continue to share with you. If it’s not about the leaf thing, follow up on that immediately.

    15. Twisted Lion*

      Im just here to add that maybe you should loop HR into her transphobia and the current situation.

          1. Sylvan*

            You’re right, sorry. I was thinking of avoiding outing Kasey to the broader company if Kasey doesn’t want that to happen.

            1. Artemesia*

              If someone is publicly requesting use of new pronouns there is no ‘outing’ issue. They have chosen to out themselves. You can’t somehow be using the pronouns in your department but have it be a secret to the larger organization (doesn’t mean an ‘announcement’ has to be made — but the pronouns should occur in their normal public records)

    16. The teapots are on fire*

      Take it at face value, use the Leaf pronouns, and make sure everyone else does. Treat other behavior problems as they come up because those are the real issue. If Jane gets a secret joy from Leafs ability to make others use made-up pronouns, as long as Leaf keeps it to Leafself, let it be. If Leaf displays documentable anti-trans behavior, fall on it like a ton of bricks.

    17. TWW*

      Just go with it? What’s the harm in calling Jane leaf/leafs?

      A few other comments:

      Having a “no tolerance” policy on misgendering is unrealistic. People imperfect. I have two friends who I originally knew as she/her, but have since transitioned to they/them. People, including myself, sometimes accidentally call them she/her. If you hear someone make a mistake, you can correct them and more on.

      You are being transphobic in expressing skepticism of Jane’s gender because leaf hasn’t changed leafs name or appearance. What, in your opinion, are nonbinary people supposed be named? What are they supposed to look like?

      Jane choosing to correct coworkers but not clients when they use the wrong pronouns is also not a reason to be skeptical.

      1. Momma Bear*

        It’s often easy to figure out when it’s malicious misgendering or not. I agree to correct them and base your opinion on how they respond. Someone who is being deliberate will behave very differently than someone who made a mistake.

    18. HR Exec Popping In*

      Use Jane’s pronouns and assume Jane is acting in good faith. If you question Jane, you are validating the believe that it is ok to question someone’s pronouns. Also, you should talk to HR and explain the situation and that you are encouraging everyone to use Jane’s new pronouns. Also let them know you have had difficulty with Jane not using Kasey’s pronouns correctly. They might be able to give you some good advice and also just in case Jane continues to misuse Kasey’s pronouns or decides make some sort of complaint.

    19. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

      Personally I think this would make a great lever for dealing with Jane’s continued misgendering of Kasey. Use leaf’s new pronouns sincerely, solicit leaf’s preferences in dealing with others, and in all ways treat this as a very serious issue for leaf. If leaf continues to misgender Kasey, have a heart to heart about how you know leaf would be very upset to be misgendered and that leaf needs to extend to leaf’s coworkers the courtesy leaf expects for leafself. Make sure you are documenting every complaint leaf makes going forward about honoring pronouns- that is what is going to provide you with solid evidence that Jane is acting in bad faith. Good luck!

    20. WellRed*

      This reminds me if the letter where someone came dressed as her coworker and said she wasn’t dressed as coworker. But she was being cruel and I think coworker quit. Jane is a bitch.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Yeas, a mocking one at that. Why do these kinds of people always get their way?

    21. Save the Hellbender*

      This is an incredible and complicated (and awful for Kasey) story and I hope Alison weighs in, but while I like a lot of the suggestions below, if I were you I would just let HR make the decisions here, otherwise this could get .. thorny.

    22. Maggie*

      I would go directly to HR immediately and explain the whole situation! I probably would have went to HR as soon as she raised the “leaf” thing. Let HR handle that!

    23. nice is different than good*

      I don’t have any advice that’s different from what other’s have said, but….wow. That’s a whole new level of transphobic commitment.

  9. GigglyPuff*

    How do you actually phrase an email when contacting an old department head about a job opening at their new department?

    There’s a job opening in another govt dept that is parallel to the work I do now and is a step up into a supervisor role. I can’t answer all the questions “yes” on the application, only about half. Like I haven’t supervised full time employees (only a couple interns), or written/been leads on grant work, only done the work for grants. But still going to try!

    But the department head of this new job used to be the department head of my current job. It’s been about 4 years since we’ve spoken in any real way. They were only my dept head for about 1.5 years but I don’t think they had any issues with me.

    So how do I actually phrase an email to them letting them know I’ve applied to the job they are supervising and most likely on the interview panel for? I mostly just want a chance to be reviewed beyond the basic HR screening, and I’m nervous since I can’t answer “yes” to all the questions I’ll be screened out by HR. (Though hoping already being a govt employee in the same state agency will help.)

    1. Hillary*

      Do you have a close enough relationship to call them? This might work better as a conversation.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        I’d say no. I rarely talked to them outside meetings when they were my dept head. Plus I’m totally an overexplainer, so I can see a phone conversation getting awkward if I get nervous. Also I have no idea what their in-office schedule looks like right now.

        Mostly I’m just looking for some help with some sentences without overexplaining. Something like “I hope everything is going well with you. I wanted to let you know I applied for X position……” but I have no idea what to say after that.

        1. Hillary*

          Gotcha. How does this sound?

          Hi boss. I hope everything is going well with you. I wanted to let you know I applied for X position. I don’t meet all the qualifications, but I’m excited about the opportunity to challenge myself and work with you again. I think my experience supervising interns and …. will translate well to the role.

          if you want, you can close by asking if they have time to talk or if they’ll put in a good word. Otherwise you can just close with a thanks!

          1. kt*

            I might write,

            Hi (boss),

            Hope all is going well with you. I saw X position on your website and applied; it would be great to work with you again and I’m excited about (this and that). The application requires answer re: a few qualifications like “managing three people” and I wasn’t able to check that box because to this point I have managed interns rather than permanent employees. If you don’t think that’s disqualifying, I’d love to be considered for the position — let me know if you have any advice on this. (then closing, thanks)

    2. All Het Up About It*

      My one caution, and maybe it’s just me, is be careful about saying “I don’t meet all the requirements.” I’m not exactly sure about the application checklist, but I would look at it the things mentioned here as “managerial experience” and “grant experience” in general. And in my email to the boss I would highlight what my accomplishments in those areas are without drawing attention to the fact that they are not 100% what was listed in the job description/checklist. Because they know that.

      This could just be because I have learned so much about how women don’t apply for jobs because they don’t meet all the qualifications and so I have internalized not selling myself short, that I’m seeing this in your language. (Not assuming your gender, just the attitude.) I’m just suggesting a shift in your language from, I’m not perfect, but please still consider me, to: These are the skills I bring and how I think they fit what you are looking for or I’ve worked to build these skills and I’m ready and excited for a role where I really get to put them to use.

      Good luck!!

      1. KeinName*

        I agree! You shouln’t lead with what you do not have, but with what you bring to the table and your motivation for applying.

  10. Collie*

    I’ll almost definitely have to take a significant pay cut (even adjusting for COL) to make a lateral move out of my current employer. There are reasons I want out but I can stand waiting a bit. But, eventually, I’ll have to take a cut. I can’t and don’t want to stay here forever. I’m not interested in higher level positions at this point in my career.

    Negotiating, benefits, etc. are either not options or things I’ve already considered. I’m not interested in switching fields. It solely comes down to managing my frustration around how salaries are structured in my field (libraries).

    Any advice on reconciling myself to a cut?

    1. should i apply?*

      Is your problem the implied lack of recognition from the pay cut or budget? If is lack of recognition, maybe look at other careers that you respect, but that you know are paid less than you are? Unfortunately valued work doesn’t necessarily equal pay.

      If it is budget, to mentally prepare for it could you act like you have already taken the cut? For example if you know your budget is going down by 10%, put that money in a separate bucket and make sure that you are okay with living on the new amount.

    2. Combinatorialist*

      I haven’t done this, so this advice is somewhat theoretical, but I would start living on what you think the new salary would be now. Put the excess money in some sort of long term goal. That way you can see just how different your standard of living, you have a period of adjustment where you can use the money if you need to, you can bank up a larger emergency fund, and decide accordingly.

    3. Knit-T*

      Are you planning to leave your current system or are you asking for a demotion in your current system? I think if you are leaving a system for a new experience, you can tell yourself that you are gaining a new experience. You are going to stretch and grow and challenge yourself by learning new things, and that’s very good for you mentally. It may open up new opportunities that you can’t even predict yet!

      If you are planning to stay in your current system…that’s harder. I’m saying that as someone who is in libraries at the manager level. I personally would not be able to step down in my current system. We aren’t structured well for it for one reason, but also because I think my co-workers wouldn’t let me not be in charge, honestly. But, if in some world that did/would happen, I would relish each and every time I got to say, “I don’t know. Let me get the person in charge.” I would just revel in the joy of that…

    4. All Het Up About It*

      Physical reconciliation: Can you try living on the salary that you will most likely make when you take a cut? I’d recommend setting up a second direct deposit so part of your pay check goes directly into a savings account. Then you live on what comes into your checking. And of course if you have to, you can dip into your savings, but you try not to. You might find that it’s easier to do than you expected and therefore, it will help you emotionally accept the cut. Or it will help you decide what is going to take priority when you do.

      Additional emotional reconciliation: Hardcore pros and cons list. Why do you want to leave your job? Write down every single negative thing period. There might be a few other pros other than salary as well. Then think of all the pros, or possible pros a new job is going to get you and write those down. Start thinking about what you are gaining with this move and focus on the why you want to make it to begin with.

      Also, I’ve found that as “the reasons” you have become larger and you feel like you are no longer fine waiting to move on, it’s often easier to reconcile yourself to less pay, etc. Because by then all those cons have gotten so big and weighty it’s obvious that salary does not balance them out any longer. Also, know that by the end of “awhile” you could change your mind about taking on bigger roles, or discover a different industry that you want to pivot to. Don’t be afraid of working on this reconciliation, but also the one thing I’ve learned in my career is don’t look too far down the road either, as there are likely unseen obstacles or new paths and opportunities between where you are now and where you think you will be.

    5. Green Goose*

      I can really relate to this question. I’m paid well in an industry that pays poorly. I know that if I were to move to another organization, I’d most likely need to increase my duties while also taking a pay cut. So, when that time comes I will look at the things that could make my life better. For me personally, I hate being stuck in traffic so when I make my move I will choose a company that is closer to my home. I want a 20-minute commute tops for a salary cut. It’ll increase my overall daily contentedness. I will also prioritize a company that has strong work-life balance culture, and one that does not expect people to stay after 5pm.

      It’ll be hard to take the pay cut, but if you can use it as an opportunity to make your life better in other ways hopefully the financial dent won’t hurt as much.

    6. HR Exec Popping In*

      Instead of thinking it as a pay cut, reframe it it as what you will be getting that you don’t get now. Today you are paid X for your job – all the good and bad parts. Tomorrow you will make W for the new job and hopefully there are things you think will be better with this new job. For example, more flexibility, shorter commute, more interesting work, etc. Those have a value to you. You need to decide if that value off sets the change in salary.

    7. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think to take a salary cut and be comfortable with it, you have to feel that the trade off is worth it. What would make it worth it for you? And only you can answer that question.

      I took a pay cut for my current position based on cost of living. I left a very low cost of living state (one of the lowest) and moved to a high cost of living state. However, I got out of a job that bored me senseless, that was a dead-end, and I got closer to my family. For me, the trade off was worth it, even though I am making less money now. Only you can answer if those trade offs are worth it to you.

    8. JRR*

      Pay cuts aren’t the end of the world. When I left my previous job due to burnout, my salary was $70k, I started my current job at $35k. After 3 years, it’s up to $48k. At age 45, that makes me comfortable, but far from wealthy.

      I sometimes feel a little regretful when I think what my lifestyle (and retirement prospects) would be had I stayed in the old job, but the reality is I have plenty.

      It turns out that my 900 sq ft apartment in a no-so-great neighborhood is more comfortable (and less work) than my old 1500 sq ft suburban house. And my cheap hobbies of today (playing/writing music) is more fulfilling that my expensive former hobbies (travel, cycling, woodworking, etc.)

      I’m lucky to have a variety of friends who are both poorer and richer than me, so I feel no pressure to keep up with the Joneses. The person I’m dating gets by on cash assistance and SNAP befits, so our dates tend to be super cheap–walk on a local trail, then home to play music and cook pasta. Many of the younger people on the local music scene who I hang out with are in a similar boat. On the other hand, I have other friends who are wealthy and generous so I have plenty of opportunities to go their big houses and experience a little luxury without having to spend much money.

    9. Collie*

      I appreciate everyone’s comments. They’ve really helped reframe how I think about it, and I think got me started on being more comfortable with a potential change.

      One of the more difficult parts for me is that you can’t know for sure that a new job will be better than an old one. Too bad there isn’t some sort of reverse probation program where your old job would take you back if the new one isn’t what you anticipated! Ha.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I tell myself that life is all trade-offs. We give up X to have more Y.

      You are probably can think of a few times where you gave up something to have something else.

      Each fork in the road we meet offers us a new chapter in life. A new chapter usually has something to offer that the previous chapters did not. My suggestion is once you are settled in your new gig, look around. What opportunities do you see that you can take advantage of? What have you been wanting to do? This can be anything you can think of- hobbies, volunteer work, taking free online classes, eh, maybe you’d really like a good night’s sleep for a change that, too, is a starting point.

  11. Carrots*

    Any advice for dealing with coworkers that treat you like an outsider? I’m the youngest female in my department, but they treat me like I’m an intern or something. They also talk down to me like I’m stupid, but I have the most degrees out of anyone in the department. (I’m not trying to sound smug. I don’t talk about my education, but my boss will bring it up to people.)

    Is there anything to do about this?

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Following. I was treated like everyone’s child in a former company though I was in my mid-20s. Never figured how to change that image.

      1. Web Crawler*

        I did figure out how to change that image, but my solution is not replicable. Basically, I went 95% remote before covid and my new coworkers only know me by my name and voice (and both of those read male now, but when I started, most people gendered me female).

        Before my gender transition, my best strategy was to get respect from people one at a time, by openly knowing my stuff. It sometimes worked.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          I hope remote work helps too. Have you considered writing about that perspective of your professional experience? It’s super interesting as you’ve been able to view professional treatment from different angles and I think your insights could benefit others who strive to make the workplace more equitable.

          And, I’ve heard of women creating email addresses for imaginary male assistants just so they can get things done with less hassle, and eventually gain enough confidence to handle things directly. But for some people, it doesn’t matter how direct, or professional, they’re determined to marginalize others to make themselves feel important.

    2. cat lady*

      I suggest a two-pronged approach. 1) if they ask you to do anything that would be an intern’s job (fetch them coffee, make copies for them, etc.), politely say “My hands are full with X project, but perhaps [intern] could help!” 2) continue to do really good work, and eventually your reputation for competence/excellence will overtake your youth in your coworkers’ perception of you.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        . . . they shouldn’t be asking interns to do that stuff for them, either. Interns are there to learn about the business/discipline, not do drudge work and wait on people.

    3. should i apply?*

      Can you politely call them on their bullshit? Sometime people make assumptions about your age or experience and don’t realize they are wildly off base. Not so much bragging about your education, but dropping basic information like it isn’t a big deal. Statement like, oh yes I learned that in my last job, or I studied that when getting my XXX degree.
      Also, how do they treat you like an intern? If you are the newest employee you might be getting the crap jobs that no one wants, but there also is lots of advice on this site about how to push back and set boundaries. Also you might just have crappy co-workers

    4. Artemesia*

      I was once upon a time the new young thing — only ‘girl’ and by far the youngest. Only thing I can suggest is having a strong sense of appropriate role and resist being tasked with anything that is assistant like or intern like if those are not part of your role. Never fax or copy anything for anyone else (even if a middle aged man might do it from time to time) ‘I am crushing on a deadline and can’t drop what I am doing.’ Never take notes at a meeting if you can possibly avoid it: ‘my handwriting is terrible, not something I am good at’. or ‘I will need to be there late because I have an important call at 10, so it is best to have someone else do it.’ Go above and beyond on tasks that are professional and make you shine and avoid entirely routine tasks that are assistant to someone else. If someone dumps something on you — a mailing, or filing or looking up information about clients, just don’t do it and when challenged ‘I might be able to do that later this week but I have some priority things to get done’. If you can avoid it complete do that. e.g. drop it back on the desk of the guy who tried to fob it on you with ‘I can’t get to this, I am stacked up’ or ‘I am prepping for a meeting with a client.’

      Make tasking you with ‘intern jobs’ as difficult and unrewarding as possible. And don’t ‘recognize’ that it is your job because you are the ‘girl’ — ‘I am stacked up with the TPS reports but Fergus is good at that and might have time.’ Make getting you to do it a PITA so they stop fobbing their stuff off on you.

      1. Hillary*

        Adding to this – don’t bring baked goods and never clean anything that isn’t yours. Don’t do anything your bro-iest dudebro from college would do. Don’t volunteer unless it’s a good project for your career growth.

        Mentally – try to assume positive intent (for the benefit of your mental health, not theirs). Subconsciously you remind them of their daughter/granddaughter and they may not realize they’re talking down to you. My experience was they mostly get better about it as they get to know you as a professional. I try my best to not let any of them take up space in my head.

        Also, take as much enjoyment from it as you can. There’s nothing quite like watching an older guy crumble as he’s politely chewed out by a young woman. Those are still some of the most entertaining moments of my career. You can even leverage this in negotiations – they cave fast when faced with disappointment.

        1. Artemesia*

          Although I came of age and entered the job market in an entirely sexist period when it was still legal to discriminate and then even when not, was common to do so, I had fairly little problem with this because of the way I carried myself and was purposefully oblivious to those expectations. Feigned ignorance of what someone is trying to do to put you in your place works pretty well in many circumstances and then being very mindful of volunteering for things that advance your career — building curriculum, the new marketing campaign, new product design, project management and not the diversity committee, the party committee or planning the retreat. At some point you become a woman professional whom the guys wouldn’t think of treating like an assistant.

    5. PolarVortex*

      Two options for the intern crap just because you’re young/female:

      Cheerful Boundaries: That means when they ask you to do intern style work, you cheerfully tell them you’re busy with X project or Y important thing and that admin/intern/etc can do that or you’re unable to. It’s the less confrontational way of getting around these tasks.

      RBF Boundaries: You just tell them “No.” full stop. “No, I can’t.” “I’m unable to.” “Is there a reason you’re unable to print that yourself? I can teach you how to use the printer if you’re unfamiliar with the technology” (The latter is useful because it’ll make them look like they’re too dumb and they’ll self correct without realizing it.)

      A few other tips:
      -Never apologize for saying no to the intern work. Don’t say “Sorry, I can’t I have X” because it makes it sound like you’d do it if you didn’t have X and you won’t have X on your plate forever but next time you will.
      -Never do the typical shunted to females tasks in the office jobs – make coffee, tidy the breakroom, etc beyond basic expectations. (Make the coffee if you use the last of it, clean up your own messes.) You’re going to have to hold off on that until they treat you like a peer.
      -Gods I hate saying this because I think one should be able to be their full selves at work but: you could choose to police what you wear/talk about interests/etc to remove anything that makes you sound young. Talk about your love of Fleetwood Mac but not BTS. Your weekend remodeling your basement not x hobby they’d stereotype as young/female.

      I admit I’m relentlessly blunt, and I am biologically female with an eternal baby face, and prior to really feeling comfortable being transmasculine, I had no problem starting my careers doing the cheerful refusal and later shifting to the RBF refusal, occasionally with one raised eyebrow going “why did you ask me to do that”.

      As for the outsider situation, look for other people on the fringe, they’ll be the easiest people to get into regular casual conversations with and the people who likely give less of a crap about the social clicquing going on.

    6. Ali*

      I do not have any good advice on this, except to call out really egregious statements as they come (something I find really hard.) But I will be keeping my eye on this thread, and I want you to know it’s not just you! I was so excited to get my first full-time academic job several years ago, and it was so dispiriting for the chair to treat me just like a TA.

    7. Spearmint*

      Is your boss part of the problem here? If not, I’d try to talk to them about what you’re experiencing and ask for their support in shifting the dynamic. A good boss wouldn’t want you to be treated that way or being pressured to do intern-type tasks.

    8. AnotherLibrarian*

      There’s always a certain amount of learning curve/settling in to a new job. So, make sure you are not just dealing with some of that. I know that I used to think people were talking down to me when I was new in my field, but really they were just trying to give me heads up about things that they didn’t know if I knew. There were a few jerks in the group, but mostly people were assuming I didn’t know things, because I was new. Beyond that, I recommend, as others have suggested, be sure not to do things that tend to be identified as intern tasks. Don’t copy for others. Don’t make coffee. Try to avoid taking notes in meetings.

      The other thing I would suggest, and this was something I had to do in my early career, is dress older. I looked like I was 15 until I was in my 30s, so I dressed super formally. I found that if I was wearing a blazer, people tended to treat me like I was a grown-up.

    9. Old Admin*

      I’d like to add my reaction (which I learned on AAM) to gendered jokes – be relentlessly confused, and put the awkwardness back on the “joker”.
      A personal example:
      I was in the company’s newly remodeled kitchen heating some food in the microwave, getting a dish etc. when an older coworker walked, looked at me in an amused way and went: “Haha! Look at you! You had better work hard at keeping that kitchen clean!!” (This was an IT company, and I was a technician.)

      Rage instantly boiled up behind my eyballs – but I had read AAM, and I controlled myself.

      My answer: “Now why would you say that?”
      He: *fumble* “Why… because the kitchen… and you…you know…. clean!”
      Me, very earnestly: “But I still don’t understand, is there a reason why you would say that to *me* of all people?!?”
      He, very uncomfortably: “Butbut… you know…”
      Me, very intently:”But you need to help me understand why you said that!!”
      (insert a few more repetitions with my being ever more earnest in my confusion.)

      In the end, he fled from the kitchen, and I finished my lunch quietly laughing.
      He never cracked another gendered joke at me again, although he did glare a bit when we met. That soon went away, too. :-D

      1. Artemesia*

        Feigned ignorance in action. Perfect. Also useful in not picking up on a hint that you do assistant things.

    10. I've been doing this awhile*

      My approach to this has always been to be highly matter-of-fact and polite.

      “Hey Jane, go get me a cup of coffee, willya?”
      “No thanks” with a pleasant smile.

      “So, the thing about the TPS report you invented and taught the rest of us to use is…”
      “Oh Derek, did you forget I invented that report?!” with the same laugh and “ah, ya big goof” tone you’d use to gently give a friend a ribbing over something mildly silly they’ve done.

      “I was reading an article about 18th century shipping manifests, pretty obscure stuff, you wouldn’t get it…”
      “Well, since I did my PhD in 18th century nautical history, I probably would, so I’d love to hear what you found interesting!”

      Don’t use that fake-polite-but-obviously-mad tone or over-the-top phrasing that the internet loves to think is clever. Be genuinely polite and act as though they’re being a bit weird but you’re not too fussed over it. Your goal is not to make them feel bad for treating you badly, even though you’re justifiably mad about it. Your goal is to demonstrate that you are too calm and competent to be bothered by their nonsense, and to create an environment that will facilitate their realization, all on their own, that they’re being dickheads.

    11. Girasol*

      Anytime I’ve run into this behavior it’s been among people who divide up “us” and “them” along lines of gender, race, or age. I have seen the targets use stern responses, cheerful responses, “give them the benefit of the doubt” responses, “show them I’m a good sport” responses, and I’ve never seen any of them change the behavior. There are some good tips here on how you might respond, but consider adding a job search. If you stick around in hope that it will get better if only you do the right thing long enough, the environment can wear you down, and that can make it harder to put a confident smile on your face when you decide you really need to move on.

      1. Anonnington*

        I agree with this. OP needs a strategy other than tolerating it.

        I have had some luck with respectfully calling people out. I’ve also had luck with earning respect over time via my work and just getting to know people better.

        But, usually, people who talk to you like you’re stupid have issues. “Getting along so we can work together,” is a good goal, but these are not people you want to be friends with.

        I second the job search suggestion. And I would detach myself emotionally from that job and find a side hustle or hobby that involved more intellectual output and a friendly community.

      2. Artemesia*

        I don’t agree. You can shape the behavior toward you until you become a woman that they don’t treat that way. Worked for me. And I have watched other woman manage it. It takes a lot of self awareness and willingness to tend your boundaries. If you are a relentless people pleasure and everyone’s best girl, it will be hard, but if you do the things suggested in this thread you will often change the behavior TOWARDS YOU.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure how helpful this is. Whenever a new person joins a group there is no real way of knowing what is in their knowledge pool. (I can’t justify their behavior because it’s not okay. But you are looking for a way to bridge this and I do have a suggestion, bear with me.)

      Tell them to ASK you, instead of assuming you are not familiar with something. If need be you can present it as, “It’d probably save a lot of time and energy, to just ask if I am familiar with X or Y, rather than explain all of X or Y to me.”

      What I like about this is that there is some underlying message reminding them to treat you like an adult. But on the surface it has the practical component of setting up how to work with each other until everyone gets used to you.

      I had a situation just recently. I have new boss, I really like her and she is very smart. She is about 15 years younger than me. But I don’t know her that well yet. I was working on a spreadsheet for a person we both work with. I did not know if I would finish before I had to leave. The person reeeally wanted this spreadsheet. I simply said to my boss, “Do you do Excel?” She said she did. I said, “So if I get the numbers in you can do the totals?” Yep, sure thing.
      Asked/Answered/Done.

      Of course, for my part in this I now know she does Excel and I don’t need to ask again. And I now know a tiny bit more about what is in her knowledge pool. Eh, I guess she knows a tiny bit more about my knowledge pool also. Inch by inch we will get to know each other.

  12. LTL*

    Can volunteer or unpaid work violate a non-compete agreement? For example, if I’m doing something for free* or volunteering for a competitor.

    *I don’t want to go into the specifics, but you can think of this as consulting for free, providing services to individuals that would essentially compete with my old employer.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Yes, it could. The purpose behind a non-compete is that you have access to special information/training/customer lists etc and they don’t want competitors (or you) using that information against them. It doesn’t matter whether you are getting paid. In fact, not getting paid makes it look a bit more like you are sharing information or working for the competitor for the specific purpose of harming your former employer.

      That said, many noncompete agreements are not enforceable, so you may want to consult with an attorney about the enforceability of the noncompete.

    2. CTT*

      I think it depends on how the non-compete is worded, but the issue that a non-compete is getting at is helping the employer’s competitor, which can be accomplished through volunteer work.

      1. CTT*

        (And by worded, I mean “you could get out on a technicality because the non-compete uses language that limits the covered actions to paid work”)

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Depends on the text of the agreement.

      Note that a lot of non-competes are not valid. However, you can still get sued over them and spend a lot of time and money defending yourself in court, even if you win in the end.

      1. LTL*

        Given how broad this non-compete is, I suspect it is invalid. But the contract also included a note on following the laws of Deleware (the most employer-friendly state), which makes me worry a bit that they know what they’re doing.

        It also stated that if there ever was an issue, it would go through the process of a specific organization. Gosh I forgot the details, but essentially, neither side could rack up fees.

        Honestly, this was somewhere I worked part-time for less than a month before I had to leave due to life circumstances, it’s not anywhere on my LinkedIn or resume, so it’s also unlikely that they’ll ever even find out.

    4. Lucy McGillicuddy*

      It definitely could, but you should go back and look at what your agreement says.

      There’s also a giant difference between sharing proprietary information with competitors (big no) and say, helping your friends with your taxes when you used to work for H&R Block (I can’t imagine they’d ever press charges) – consider where you fall on that spectrum.

      1. LTL*

        I think the most apt comparison would be if I volunteered with an organization that provided free tax services.

        1. Anonnington*

          Can you ask your employer? My past employers have been very supportive of employees doing volunteer work in their field. They might offer guidance on how to do this work without violating the non-compete.

          I know there’s a good chance you’ve already thought of this, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.

  13. straws*

    We recently reorganized a department, resulting in a position being eliminated. We’re very small, but we put together as good a package as we could. We gave 2 weeks notice, he could interview on the clock if needed, we paid severance & earned PTO (not required in our state). We normally have a longer notice period, but he had a baby on the way, so we built in our normal parental leave to the transition/notice time so that he wasn’t still working when the baby was due. This was all spelled out, etc. I was recently informed that he’s told other employees that he was fired (not true) because we didn’t want to pay his parental leave. I’m completely shocked. The employee who told me didn’t believe a word of it but wanted to let me know. She didn’t know if he’d told anyone else. If someone comes to me, I can definitely reassure them that what he said isn’t true. But what if they don’t? Is it reasonable to put out a message about rumors circulating? And if so, how much is reasonable to share to set the story straight?

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Question: when you say “we built in our normal parental leave to the transition time” what does that mean? Does that mean you made the timeline such that he would leave before parental leave would start? Or that you pay the full amount of parental leave but with him just not returning at the end?

      1. straws*

        We set his last day based on when he was expected to start leave, and he was free to leave sooner (with pay) if the baby was early. Normally we would have a longer working/transitioning-out time, but since we knew he’d definitely be out on a specific date, if not earlier, we wanted to make sure the final goals (handoffs, documentation, etc) were met before that date rather than making him come back. So the parental leave was assumed and built into the timeline. I’m struggling to phrase this for some reason. The end result, pay-wise, was the same as if he didn’t have the parental leave. He just worked less because he was out for the leave.

        1. Unfettered scientist*

          Does your company normally pay for parental leave? Maybe that’s what’s confusing here. The way I’m reading it, it sounds like you *did* terminate an employee earlier than usual because you wanted to avoid paying parental leave… I’m not saying there aren’t legit business reasons for wanting to plan the end before the leave, but isn’t that actually how it played out? What if the employee had not told you about the pregnancy? You would have had to pay leave and then transition out. This is perhaps another reason not to share medical information with an employer because it appears the employee was pushed out earlier than they would have liked.

          1. straws*

            We do pay for parental leave. Our normal transition period is 6 weeks (unless they find a new job before then, and they are allowed “free leave” to interview, etc). So if we hadn’t been aware of the pregnancy, he would have worked 2 weeks, out for 2 weeks leave, and back to work for 2 weeks. Our timeline for the restructure was project based, so there wasn’t a lot of flexibility to delay for a month. And again, the amount of money in the end wouldn’t have changed by the last check received. But, as the commenter below pointed out, there’s some defensiveness to wanting to set the record straight with everyone, so I’m going to let things go and reassure anyone who brings a concern to me.

            1. Unfettered scientist*

              Ah I see. For some reason I was imagining a much longer leave. That makes sense.

              1. Unfettered scientist*

                Actually read some later replies and I’m confused again. When he went on leave, were you still paying him? In your 6 week example, you ended up front loading thing so it was a 4 week transition instead of 6, but did you still pay for 6?

        2. sequined histories*

          I’m not sure if I fully understand what you’re saying here. I believe you when you say you did NOT get rid of him because you wanted to avoid paying for parental leave. However, it sounds like he lost his job right around the time he would otherwise have taken parental leave, and that you did not employ/pay him when he would have otherwise have been taking parental leave.

          Again, taking you 100% at your word—I think it’s just unrealistic to expect him NOT to believe that the timing of his departure was coincidental no matter how transparent you were about the reorganization or anything else. Most people losing their jobs right when they would otherwise been taking parental leave are going to believe that that was one reason—if not THE reason—they were let go. And, frankly, a lot of third parties would draw that conclusion as well. On a practical level, I don’t think you can really do much more to prevent that suspicion from crossing people’s minds. I understand why it would be upsetting to know people might be thinking that; on the other hand, it’s a terrible time for this guy to lose his job, so maybe just try to feel compassion for him in that regard without worrying too much about this rumor. If you are generally fair to your employees, this one rumor is not going to destroy the overall impression that you are a decent employer.

          1. straws*

            We did pay him during that time (or rather, we paid the time out, but the amount was the same as if he’d stayed).

            You’re right though, I need to trust that our staff can see beyond a single situation if he reaches out to them and if they even believe what he says. I was partially caught off guard by our discussions all being fairly positive and this feedback being so negative.

    2. I am not the Lorax*

      Let it go. Let him go. If staff have questions, answer them honestly. But, sending out a note to address rumors that may or may not have occurred could be considered defensive and bullying. Once he’s gone, staff will assume their own assumptions and you can dispel those assumptions by treating them fairly.

      1. straws*

        Good points. I think I probably am feeling a little defensive, because so much time and effort was put into considering how to balance moving the department forward and his personal situation. The change was made with a change in project focus, so the timing was not very flexible. And the very thing we were so carefully trying to balance out is being used to indicate that we were being unfair. So that’s something I need to let go on my own and not try to drag everyone else into. Thank you, this comment was very helpful for some perspective on my end!

        1. New Mom*

          I understand that you put time and effort into making it as good as possible, but it was still a terrible thing to happen to him. He is about to have a baby, which is stressful, life-changing and expensive. We had a baby recently, and the scenario you describe is a nightmare scenario for new parents. The mom also may either be receiving reduced wages or none at all on her leave, so now on top of taking care of a new baby they have a very real stress of needing to find a job and get healthcare. And now looking for a job during a pandemic when he would have otherwise be spending this time bonding with his new child.

          I’m not saying this to make it out like your company is horrible, but I just want to put into perspective how truly awful it is for someone to have this happen to them and they are not going to be grateful for being let-go in a slightly better way. I think that is unrealistic to expect of someone in his situation. It’s easy to say that the decision was not personal when you are still with the org, but to him it is personal. I really hope he finds another job soon, and hopefully, people at the org can help him find one during this difficult time.

          1. straws*

            Yes, I understand all of that. I have 2 children and my husband lost his job shortly after having the first. That doesn’t justify lying to our employees that he was fired without compensation when that wasn’t the case though? If it helps, he was well aware that the position was going to be transitioned out at some point soon and had been job searching already.

    3. TWW*

      Even if it wasn’t your intent to avoid paying for his parental leave, that was the outcome.

      Why didn’t you let him take his paid leave as scheduled and terminate him on the day he was scheduled to return?

      1. Malarkey01*

        I agree with this, you normally have a 6 week transition but that means 6 weeks of getting paid to work, you also normally have 6 weeks paid parental leave.
        He got 6 weeks pay which means you gave him the benefit of 2 weeks pay for non-work which is better than a straight fire, BUT he missed out on 4 weeks of paid parental leave where he’s paid for no work.

        So, he’s a bit right that he was fired right before getting 6 “free” weeks as part of his benefits. I think staff would have understood more if he’d gotten 10 weeks-the shorter 4 transition+normal paternity leave.
        It is pretty crappy losing a job 2 weeks before your partner had a baby (hopefully she has paid leave or they are really hurting).

        1. straws*

          I’m not sure where the 6 weeks paid parental leave came from. We have 2 weeks. I’d love if we could offer 6! But right now it’s 2.

          And yeah, separate from my “work concerns”, I do feel for him. My partner lost his job shortly after our first child was born, so I’ve been in a similar situation.

          1. Malarkey01*

            Sorry I think I was getting confused by a few different numbers thrown around by other posters too. So basically the most he would have gotten from each category is 8? (6 weeks of transition work and 2 paid parental leave?) So he got 4 work and 2 parental?

      2. straws*

        Well, we did pay for the time he would have been on leave as part of the final check. His leave wasn’t actually scheduled yet though, so we didn’t have a return date. We were assuming he would take the full time off consecutively for planning purposes, but he would have had the option to flex some of that time if he wanted.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can speak to co-worker reactions — layoffs suck but are a fact of life.
      HOWEVER. I once saw an org chart with a blank position listed as “the new Bob”
      less than 6 months after “Bob’s” position was eliminated. That company lost all credibility with me.

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

      The employee who told me didn’t believe a word of it but wanted to let me know. She didn’t know if he’d told anyone else.

      Unless he and she are “work bff’s” or something of that nature, I’d bet dollars to donuts he is telling anyone he perceives as ‘receptive’ the same thing.

  14. exhausted frontline worker*

    WRT yesterday’s networking question: business cards. Does your field actually use them? (Or did people use them in recent history pre-COVID?)

    I work in homeless services, so many clients who don’t have consistent phone/email access do carry around my card so they can get in touch with me when they have access to a phone. But when I receive business cards from other people in my field, they always end up floating around my backpack for a few weeks before I recycle them. My field is small and collaborative enough that if I don’t have someone’s number I can usually send a group text to my team and someone will have it. Answering calls from unknown numbers is pretty expected in my field as well (we all have company-provided work cell phones, as we should), so I’m never weirded out when someone cold calls me. But my field is unique in so many ways, so curious to know norms about other fields!

    1. SnapCrackleStop*

      I’m in health tech and I really only use them at tradeshows. I find them useful there! You meet so many people and it is awkward to enter info into your phone as you get it (carrying stuff, no place to put anything down). Follow up conversations are usually via email.

    2. snack queen*

      I’m in the arch/interior design field and we tend to keep business cards on hand to give out at industry events and to potential clients. We have a lot of product reps that we work closely with on projects so it’s always good to have the contact info. Typically if I meet someone I know I want to work with, I will send them a follow up email so I can easily search the info later in case I lose the business card.

    3. Here we go again*

      Commission sales, I use mine to write info on the back for clients. Usually dimensions and ETA dates. So they have what they need and my info if they have questions.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Sometimes. I don’t because I’m not in a role that faces the public, but my superiors do. We’re actually a bit miffed right now because our employer made the backs of the cards a dark color and we can’t write on them to remind people why they wanted our card in the first place.

    5. OyHiOh*

      I use business cards. When I get them, I put them in work contacts, then toss in the recycling bin. I’d rather take a card from someone and enter their information later, on my time, than have my face in my phone entering it while talking with them. Slightly old fashioned but works for me.

    6. Bagpuss*

      I often use* mine to give to clients and reception uses them as appointment cards (i.e. if someone books an appointment in person with me, they get one of business cards with the details of the appointment on the back

      I am a lawyer working in family practice, so clients are typically not business people (or at least are not interacting with me in their capacity as business people)

      Mostly with other lawyers by the time I meet them I’ll have been emailing or speaking to them by phone for a while so it would be unusual to exchange cards, but sometimes if I’m on a course I might end up exchanging cards with another lawyer or related professional such as financial advisers, in which cases I’ll keep the card until I’ve had a chance to put their details into my contacts.

      (*used, in the Before Times)

    7. AnotherLibrarian*

      I used them at academic conferences (before the Covids), because I have no memory for names what-so-ever and I need a visual reminder. However, I know not everyone uses or carries them in my field.

    8. Grace*

      I’m in information services/SaaS – I think the sales and account management team use their business cards a reasonable amount, but everyone gets a box of 250 when they join. I work in the data side of things and never see a client in my life, and haven’t handed out a single business card besides jokingly to friends when I got this role (first job out of university, so it was a big deal).

      I think my coworker used her business cards as an easy way of giving her number to people she liked at bars and social events, though.

  15. Anonymous At-risk*

    I posted a few weeks ago about the ethical dilemma of lying to get a vaccine when you’re legitimately medically at-risk but your state doesn’t prioritize you. Came back to say I did it (said I was medically eligible) and got the vaccine this week! I was worried about being questioned on my medical eligibility, but that didn’t happen at all and I feel so relieved now. My coworkers are still saying they’re healthcare workers to get the vaccine (I am one of the last to get the first dose), but I don’t have any resentment anymore since I’m finally on my way as well.

    1. Here we go again*

      I was going to ask a similar question. But the opposite, I work retail and I have had a couple customers harping on me about getting the vaccine. I’ve been able to push them off because I’m in my mid 30s and healthy, so I’ve been saying it’s not my turn. Problem is I probably won’t get it because I have a blood clotting disorder and there is little to no information about the US vaccines being safe for people with this disorder, and with what’s going on with one of the vaccines in Europe it’s extremely concerning. It puts me in an awkward spot, when someone asks me about it and they get pushy. I’m commission so I don’t want to offend them but I also don’t want to be on the spot and give personal info that’s not their business. What should I say, without getting into a debate about the vaccine and giving too much information? (I’m not looking for medical advice please don’t give it. I’ve also had 3 close relatives die from blood clot related deaths. So please don’t call me paranoid either.)

      1. Anonymous At-risk*

        If people inquire, I’d probably say something like “I’m not medically eligible to get the vaccine now” or “Unfortunately for medical reasons I can’t get the vaccine.” There are plenty of people who can’t get the vaccine (allergies come to mind) and I think keeping it non-descript is the way to go. You would get it if it were safe.

        1. OtterB*

          Seconding this. “Unfortunately, for medical reasons I can’t get the vaccine. But I’m glad so many other people are since that helps protect me too.”

      2. Jellyfish*

        For customers especially, I’d say to keep it as simple and uninformative as possible. “That’s between me and my doctor” or something similar. You don’t owe them any explanation of your personal medical history no matter how pushy they get.

          1. WellRed*

            Nope. This invites questions and arguments. I don’t understand why this topic is even coming up with customers(!) but I’d smile, say “I’m all set! Did you want to see this tuxedo in persimmon velvet?” And move on.

            1. Here we go again*

              They’re proud that they got the vaccine. Or I’ll have to adjust my mask or I’ll sneeze from seasonal allergies and they’ll ask if I had my vaccine. This is nothing compared to the customers who asked rude and invasive questions when I was pregnant. Such as if I planned on circumscising my unborn child. Or the lady who found out that I didn’t know the gender of my child if I was one of those “gender neutral freaks”.

      3. PollyQ*

        “I wish I could get one, but unfortunately I can’t due to medical reasons. Now, about the teapot spouts, should they be red, crimson, or cardinal?”

      4. a librarian*

        Depending on if you see these people again or not / will have to answer follow ups, you could also give a non-answer like “Of course everyone who is eligible should be getting one!” which they might hear as “Of course [ I got my vaccine ]” when you actually mean “Of course [ I agree with the sentiment that]” , then immediately change the subject.

      5. Lizy*

        “Oh I haven’t gotten it yet – what about these beautiful pink curtains?”

        I’m in an area where people have pretty strong opinions. My boss and at least one coworker are (or have gotten) the vaccine, so and another coworker routinely takes Fridays off to volunteer with distributions. But I also had a conversation with someone the other week who basically wanted me to admit that the people on Jan 6 were right. I love Allison’s standard change-of-subject tactic. I also often will say “oh I don’t even talk with my husband about that – I just don’t talk about *whatever subject it is I don’t want to talk about*”

      6. KR*

        I would probably go with, “My doctor has asked me to hold off for now.” or “I am working with my medical team on when I should get my vaccine.” Blame it all on some invisible doctor/medical team. If they push, you could say “I appreciate your concern but I’m in close communication with my doctor and will get it as soon as I am able.”

      7. allathian*

        It’s none of their business, so why not just lie to your customers and say you got the vaccine? Or else just say that you’ll get it when your turn comes but it hasn’t yet, which basically is the truth. You don’t need to tell them your turn may never come.

        People are often simply too honest when there’s no need to be. Boundary pushers like some of your customers definitely aren’t entitled to any version of the truth, so feel free to answer in any way that will get them off your back, even if it’s a lie.

    2. Anon Lawyer*

      Honestly, I guess I don’t agree that your coworkers lying justifies your less egregious lie. I’m a little frustrated at how many people think it’s ok to lie to the public health system even if they think they should have been prioritized. We’re not all epidemiologists, guys.

      1. Anonymous At-risk*

        Not sure if you followed a few weeks ago, but I’m only unable to get the vaccine in my state due to a totally arbitrary rule. If I lived in several neighboring states, I would have already gotten it by now. I do have a disease that increases my risk of hospitalization and death with Covid. My state had allowed me and other patients with rare disorders fall through the cracks but I’m not trying to go against science or epidemiology. Those are both clear and clearly state I should be prioritized (doctors have even written medical journal articles saying as much). I’m not saying their lie makes mine ok. I’m saying I should be prioritized but I’m being failed by the system and I no longer feel bad for taking it into my own hands.

  16. JJ*

    I posted last week about going to my boss’s boss to express a need for better upwards feedback in my office, as I know a lot of non-managers on my team feel like they’re not being heard and aren’t given enough opportunity to express their ideas.

    I was thinking an actionable thing I could suggest to management to begin with would be some sort of employee satisfaction survey. We’ve had these company wide but never on a team basis.

    Does anyone have any experience creating something like this, or have any tips on how to go about it effectively?

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Make sure you provide options in the survey as well as a blank feedback section. Otherwise just asking about satisfaction could go either way and just stir up feelings without anyone feeling like anything will be done about it. So, “Given X or Y option to complete ABC common work task, which would you prefer and why? Or do you have a better method?”

    2. BlueBelle*

      If there is a company-wide engagement survey every single one that is created is able to be sorted by department, maybe not team- it depends on the size of teams. this is done to protect anonymity. The other option is to have management take 360 reviews, these are not always popular .

    3. Ex Federal Middle Manager*

      For a smaller cohort, these are VERY hard to make anonymous, especially if you include comment sections. I run a team of 17 people, and can identify most people’s by their writing style within a sentence or two. If they include any specifics about recent events or issues I’m aware of, I can accurately name the person in a single sentence most of the time. People should be very careful giving feedback in this manner.

  17. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I need to travel to another city (about 2.5 hours via public transport) to pick up a computer for my new job from headquarters (I will be working from home). The cost of travel each way is about $20 which isn’t much for most people but finances are so tight till my first paycheck (we are paid monthly here). Should I ask the company to reimburse this cost, because in non-covid times they pay for bus tickets for all employees.

    1. kicking_k*

      I think you can ask. They can only say no, and I don’t think you’d be making a major faux pas if they did. $20 is almost certainly much less to them than to you.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Thanks for the reply! I was worried it would seem like a weird thing to ask for.

      2. Juniper*

        They should do more than ask; they should take it as a given and politely inquire about how reimbursement works. This is straight-up a legit business expense and it would be weird not to expect payment.

    2. Wine Not Whine*

      Ask! “BTW, this trip is going to cost me a fair amount in transportation. How would I go about submitting that for reimbursement?” As Allison often says, do it with the attitude of “of course this is a normal question in this situation.”

    3. RandomITguy*

      They can’t mail the computer to you? My company mails computers and other essential equipment to new hires since our offices aren’t currently open. And yes, I’d ask the company for reimbursement if in normal times they’d pay for bus tickets for employees.

    4. Reba*

      Yep, absolutely this is definitely a work task, and they should pay! Seems likely since you say they are already accustomed to paying for employee transit.

      If your transit system uses reloadable cards, any chance they could load your card and save you being out the cash up front? (In my situation, it would be possible, although with our setup for transit benefits it wouldn’t be done in time… just thought I’d mention it.)

    5. Artemesia*

      I would push on the company to have it shipped to you. We once had a computer shipped to France for work so I know it can be done. They should have it shipped by a delivery service like UPS, insured rather than expecting you to do this on public transport. I’d push hard on that before committing to this hellacious trip in a pandemic.

      1. Reba*

        That’s a great point! Unless there is like, paperwork or something additional that must be done on site, which I doubt. The courier may be less than transit and less risky for the equipment.

        1. English, not American*

          I know our new starters are required to visit the office to collect their equipment because HR need to verify their right-to-work documentation anyway, so that’s entirely plausible.

          1. Reba*

            Oh yes, I understand it’s a standard process, at my org to… but I also know plenty of people who have started new jobs completely remotely, so I know it’s possible!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you are being paid for the hours of travel time also.

      I’d like to encourage you to ask the boss. I had a situation one time where the boss needed something and asked me to drive it to him. He paid me cash out of his own pocket for gas money plus I was on the clock.

      Hopefully the idea of shipping it, works out.

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

      Ask if they can ‘advance’ you the money (with the intent that you’ll repay it). Very likely they will offer to just pay it.

  18. Anonymous for This*

    I need some advice on … re-engaging, I guess.

    For the last several weeks (maybe 5 – 6), I’ve easily arrived *at least* 2 hours late to work. We can work remotely or work in the office. I have found that unless I have a very specific thing to do (like a report or project that has an upcoming deadline), working remotely is not something I’m effective at, so I go into the office.

    But for these last few weeks, I wake up, and I lay around for an hour or so, or hit the snooze button for an hour or so, then piddle my way to the office, then sit for two hours, realize it’s lunch, come back after lunch, and THEN I start really working. It’s like my brain doesn’t start functioning until 1:30 or 2pm. Then I’ll work until 7 or 8, then go home, then can’t sleep because my brain is focused on my being lazy, and then the process starts all over again.

    I’ve got a doctor’s appointment for a physical coming up, and I’m also working on getting a psychiatrist that I trust, but until then…I gotta do something to get better, because although our office is a ghost town, there is always at least two people staffing the front, so it’s pretty freaking noticeable that I’m strolling in 2 – 2.5 hours after my work start time.

    The thing is…I’d say I was burned out, but I don’t “feel” burned out. I like my work and I enjoy it when I actually DO work…so why is it so dang on difficult to get out of bed in the morning????

    1. Oaktree*

      This may sound unkind, but it’s genuine and meant in sincerity: can you tell yourself other people would get fired for doing what you do? I work remotely and have regular hours (though I’m salaried), and if I were regularly more than 15 minutes late, my boss would want to know why I wasn’t, you know, doing my job.

      1. Julianna*

        But other people aren’t the OP.
        If they aren’t at risk of getting fired over it, why would knowing someone else at a different company in a different job might be fired over this matter?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I do agree with the overall idea of finding a way to give oneself a good scare. Sometimes it was the only thing that would work for me. I had to threaten myself with some horrible thing- real or imagined- to make me move along.
          That time in my life was happening for more than one reason. Eventually things calmed down and I went back to being my usual self.

    2. Solitary squirrel*

      This sounds close to my problems with concentrating (see elsewhere in the thread) and I wonder if you need more external accountability too. Like, do you have a friend (not necessarily a colleague) you could check in with to say you had got to the office? Or to say you’d done X amount of work before lunch? I would consider this except I don’t really have someone I feel I can lean on this way.

      It sounds like an executive functioning problem to me and I’d ask your doctor about that – is there any possibility you have ADHD or ASD and have been compensating in other ways until the stress of having all your routines upset meant that you just couldn’t any more? I mean, you _know_ this isn’t what you’re meant to be doing, and it isn’t fun for you.

    3. Joy*

      There are so many possibilities here!

      1) You don’t write like depression is a possibility, but are there other things going on in your life that might indicate that?
      2) Is your work slow? Do you not have enough to do in a day?
      3) Or are you overwhelmed and this is avoidance?
      4) Are you sleeping enough? It sounds like not because you’re stuck in a cycle of guilt?
      5) What are you physically doing when you’re in the office before lunch?

      Depending on the answers, I’d probably come at this from an angle not of trying to fix your work output, unless you’re at risk of being fired, but try fixing your morning routine. Get up and get dressed right away, but then do something you enjoy — drink coffee over a book, do some yoga, go for a walk — and then go to the office. And then use the morning to tackle tasks that don’t require much brain power, like organizing documents, clearing out your inbox, etc. Hopefully a new routine that gets rid of the “sitting around avoiding doing anything” parts will help and naturally lead to more engagement and less guilt?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        ^^ Re: #1 ^^
        The pandemic has messed with sleep schedules for many many of us!

        1. Weegie*

          Agreed. This is a common covid issue. Nothing is normal right now, and it has thrown our sleep and rest cycles out of whack. It won’t help your immediate situation, but hopefully as things return to normal (when? when?!) so will your work patterns.

          In the meantime… my brain doesn’t start working until 2pm either, and never has. I finally stopped trying to make it do anything else last year, and so I just mentally changed my working hours to accommodate it. Fortunately my job lends itself to anytime working, and it sounds like yours does too, OP. I pretty much skip the mornings, start around lunchtime, stop when the work is finished, have had no complaints at all, and everyone’s happy. Call it shift work, if it helps.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, I think this is all good advice. I would add this, there is a lot of stress and anxiety floating around- thanks to the pandemic. As someone whose been managing my mental health for a while, I can say that the cycle you are describing sounds a lot like how I feel when I’m in a depressive episode. Not to say you are in one, but just to say that I wouldn’t dismiss burn out or depression too quickly.

        I would also not worry to much about work output, unless you are worried you might get fired. Instead, I would focus on getting to work on time and seeing how you build in accountability to get that done. For a while, I had a very dear friend who I would text every morning when I was on my way to work. If she didn’t hear from me, she would reach out and check on me. It was really helpful for a few weeks. Do you have someone you trust to let them help you?

    4. Spearmint*

      Are you still producing quality work? Is your boss happy with your work? Are you meeting deadlines and responsive to coworkers and clients (as applicable)?

      If the answer is ‘yes’ to all those questions, then maybe you’ve simply outgrown the job. Perhaps you don’t feel enraged because you can put in half-effort and still do a good job. Going long periods without being challenged or learning new things can lead to a lack of motivation. You may need to look for a new job to fix this problem, however.

    5. bunniferous*

      The obvious thing is we just went through a time change. It happens to me every year, my body clock is confusticated and my schedule is out of whack.

    6. Grumpy, Sleepy, and Sneezy, LLP*

      I don’t work from an office right now, but let me tell you — I have *exactly* the same problem trying to get out of bed in the morning and get started on my work. For me, I think it’s a combination of burnout and lack of purpose. But then again, you say you like your work, and I really don’t like mine, so perhaps it’s something else? Maybe there’s nothing urgent to get done lately, and your psyche is just kind of lulling you into a slower morning?

      Anyway, tough spot, and I don’t have much in the way of solutions, but I can relate.

    7. irene adler*

      One suggestion: Before you leave for the day, schedule a task for the next day that must be attended to first thing.
      One thought is to schedule a meeting -with someone(s)-first thing in the morning. That way you have to get to work on time.

    8. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      Maybe like me you’re a night owl rather than a lark – so you naturally function slightly better later in the day? Im much happier working late and im pretty productive and sounds like you could be similar?

    9. Workerbee*

      Is there a way to pilot changing your work hours for real? It sounds like others aren’t dependent on you getting things done at the same time they are.

    10. Anonymous for This*

      I just wanted to let everyone know that I *truly* appreciate each and every comment here. I’ve been reflecting on them in my mind and trying to figure out which will work best for me.

      Just to address some concerns, I will say that I’m not in danger of getting fired, I’m not missing deadlines, I’m definitely not producing the quantity I used to produce, but I’m not behind either.

      Also, aside from the front-line staffers that are in the office from 8 – 5, the other members of our office will often come in for 1/2 days and work from home for the remainder of the day, or come in for a couple of hours at various times during the day to deal with things that require hands on work, then work the remainder of the day from home. There is no required schedule for anyone to be in the office. However, at least these people are available on our internal chat lines…I’m definitely not showing as available, nor am I answering emails during that time, and until I walk in the office, the only way for someone to reach me if they need me is by phone.

      So yeah, this behavior can’t continue.

      Again, I truly appreciate the comments and suggestions, and I thank everyone for taking the time to respond.

  19. FromIndy*

    I’m wondering if anyone has advice on how to negotiate WFH. My company was pretty against it for most people pre-COVID, but now we’ve been working from home for a year and, honestly, I love it. I never want to go back. However, like most companies, they’re talking about phasing everyone back in by the end of the year.

    To make matters worse, or at least more difficult, I guess? My manager is pushing a promotion for me with higher ups, he’s made sure to get me a bonus the last two years. I feel like if I ask for WFH privileges on top of all that, I’m taking advantage, which is probably silly. But I also know that I will be miserable going back to the office and will undoubtedly look at leaving ASAP for a WFH position.

    1. Artemesia*

      As with any negotiation for work accommodations you focus on the productivity advantages for the company. You are getting more done. You are working longer hours without the commute. It is more productive for the company.

    2. CatCat*

      It’s a deal breaker for you so it makes sense to ask! If they have a goal to retain you and promotions and bonuses aren’t going to cut it, you should make your case and ask for what you want. “Boss, since I’ve been working from home for the past year. This has resulted in X and Y benefit to the company. I also realize that I prefer to work from home. Is permanent full-time work from home a possibility at the company? I know there’s talk of bringing people back in, but is there any talk of offering telework in the future?”

    3. ten four*

      You know, if you’ve gotten bonuses for the last two years and are up for promotion that suggests that they are very motivated to keep you on board! And lots of companies are trending towards remote-first work. I’d try to mentally reframe it from “WFH privileges” to “remote-first work.” The WORK is the important part there, not the privilege.

      From a tactical perspective, you don’t have to make an official request to WFH right off the bat – start the conversation by saying your productivity has gone through the roof and you’d love to discuss options for continuing remote. Depending on the job/role they might not be able to accommodate full WFH, but perhaps there’s a middle ground (2 days in, 3 days out). If you try for a conversation instead of an ask you might be able to co-create a solution that works for everyone.

      I’ve worked remote-first for years, and my husband’s organization has decided to go remote-first in the wake of the pandemic. I hope things go well at your current place, but I bet you’ll be able to find a job that fits the schedule you want!

  20. Catherine*

    I see a lot online about how to tell your boss you’re pregnant. But what about your team? I have a direct report and am hiring another. The team is lean and overworked already so it’s going to be tough for them. I’m also planning on taking an extra month beyond what we’re provided (which is kind of generous for America, but still bad in comparison to other wealthy nations).

    When and what do I share with my team? Especially the new hire? (currently interviewing for this)

    1. Weekend Please*

      I think you should share when you are ready and not worry too much about what your team would prefer. If you are in person rather than remote, you may want to tell them before it is super obvious you are pregnant since knowing you are pregnant (or at least highly suspecting it) and not being able to talk to you about the plan for maternity leave may be stressful.

      How helpful is telling them earlier than you prefer anyway? Unless you expect them to come up with the coverage plan, there is really nothing productive that they could really do with the extra time. I’m assuming you have input into the hiring decisions, so if possible prioritize hiring someone who can be relatively independent quickly and won’t require a lot of training.

      1. Artemesia*

        With my first, I was not obviously showing until 5 or 6 mos — you can certainly wait till then to share especially if you are still working from home. Do it as it is comfortable for you; it is small beans to everyone else in spite of it being the most important thing that has happened to you yet. At 5 or 6 months there is plenty of time to plan transitions for your time off. And congratulations.

    2. Generic Name*

      I would suggest that you do at least tell your team personally (can be email or whatever, doesn’t have to be a big announcement), because it will seem weird to your team if they find out from someone else that you are pregnant. At least that’s my opinion.

      A coworker on my small team handled her pregnancy by telling very very few people, and I heard about it when I suggested putting her on a project some months in the future and my other coworker was like, “oh, she’ll be out on maternity leave then” which was a surprise to me. If this had been a coworker on another team I didn’t work closely with who didn’t tell me personally, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but since we worked together, and I had a reason to know for work scheduling purposes, so it seemed very strange that I found out she was going to be out within a few weeks of her actually being out.

      I think our boss was the one who actually mishandled it, as she could have said to the project managers that Employee would be out starting on Date, and will be out for X months, so don’t put her on proposals for a while. She didn’t need to state a reason if Employee wanted it to be kept secret for some reason.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I think you really need to dump this on your boss. It’s her job to find people to cover your work while you’re out.

      Tell your team as cheerfully as you would anyone else, and of course work with your boss to make the transition smoother. But ultimately it’s not your fault if everyone struggles while you’re out. If you feel like she’s not making any progress towards finding a temporary replacement or redistributing your work, you can pressing her for an update. But once the baby is here there’s nothing you can do.

      So when you tell your team, do it assuming everything will be handled well.

    4. MrsPeaches*

      I think when is really up to you. Ideally you want to give them adequate notice if they’ll be taking on additional responsibilities. For the new hire, I don’t think you need to explicitly say you’re pregnant, but you can say you’ll be taking a leave of absence that will require them to cover X, Y and Z for several months.

      As for how… If there’s any possibility that your employees might be struggling with infertility, it’s a kindness to give them a heads-up via email before you have a phone or in-person conversation. The conversation can focus on the logistics of your leave, no need to go into personal stuff. What day you anticipate going on leave, how long, how your tasks will be covered, who they should report to, etc.

    5. Malarkey01*

      My experience from both sides of this, try to get the plan nailed down with your boss so when you tell them you have details like they will be doing a temp promotion to fill my job when out or hiring a temp to assist with workload or getting help from x department, who they are reporting to because that’s the first thing your team wants to know- how will this affect my work.

      After that, in general, making sure they are looped in on things that might come up when you’re out and having documentation in place in case your baby arrives a little earlier.

  21. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    How do you guys schedule things? The most important part of my job usually only can be done in the late afternoon/ evening. Sometimes travel time can be up to one hour one way. They don’t want me to do this on Friday, actually.
    Scheduling too many on top of each other might have me get back really late at night and often people don’t like late evenings. Another problem is sometimes meetings start at 9 am.
    And also this month I had new work with tight deadlines added and I hadn’t done my old work which is due on the 30th because I had 12 hours of training. ( with breakout rooms and role plays) . A coworker needs help with his work but I’ve been pretending I don’t hear him. Help AAM people I am dying. ( a note: I don’t work weekends unless they specifically put me on call)

    1. Bagpuss*

      Is the issue having too much work and trying to get it all done, or trying to work out when to do specific tasks?
      Or having other people put stuff into your schedule that makes it hard to get to the things where you need travel time?

      I think a lot depends on how our employer / coworkers schedule things which affect you. For instance, the 9 a.m. meetings – are you asked or told?

      As an example, we use Outlook calendars. Mine is set so all staff can see what I have going on, but only my assistant and I can add things, anyone else has to send an invitation so I can accept or decline.

      For things where I nee to be out of the office, I block it out as an apointment including the travel, so if I need to attend a meeting which is an hours drive away, at 10 a.m., it will be in my dairy as “10.am. meeting with [name] at [location]” but it will be blocked out in my calendar from 9-12, to cover the travel time.

      I also block out time if I know I’ll need it, so I may have a calendar appointment which is ‘drafting’ or administration’ , basically to keep that time available for what I need to do, and to stop anyone putting other meetings or appointments at those times (at least without asking first)

      If the problem is that you have too much to do and not enough time you need to look at prioritizing, and if necessary speaking to your boss to ask which things they want you to do and whether the other things get passed to someone else , or just don’t happen.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        It’s mostly too much work. Certainly told to go to these meetings.. And people from other companies will want meetings – like today someone scheduled a 3 o clock and I just now got out. I can usually schedule them now that they all want virtual meetings but it used to be a big problem.
        I guess I’m supposed to be working during these meetings and the training but I’m scared of missing important information or being called on to talk. So every time they do a meeting or a training I’m working at 1/2 to 1/4 efficiency.
        Another problem is that I’ll have a block to do things and my boss will text me to chase a piece of paper down or my coworker exploded, help them. And things take me a long time to do- if it’s a report that requires a lot of information, it will take me a good 30 minutes to an hour.
        I try to schedule everyone’s appointment with me for when they are available- but it’s always afternoon to evening and then I get home at 6 with tons to do.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Ok, maybe they didn’t literally explode but some crazy thing happened and can I help, I’ve worked here a long time ( almost 2 years) and..

        1. linger*

          Sounds like your entire cohort is overworked, so the only long-term solution would be to use the workload to make the business case for new hires.
          (Admittedly, even if team expansion is possible, in the short term it may not feel like much of a solution because training and documentation tasks are going to be added.)

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      It sounds like it’s time to talk with your manager/boss about prioritizing and shuffling responsibilities around. A couple of workarounds in the meantime:

      *Put travel time on your calendar for your priority tasks, to signal you aren’t available during those times.
      *Block out times on your calendar that says “working on [high priority task], do not schedule”, so you can get your highest priority work done. It sounds like you might be in a regulated field (or at least have internal reasons work needs to be done by a specific time).
      *Track how long different tasks take, so you have realistic ideas of what your capacity is (maybe use a service to help you track time on specific tasks, like Toggl, to give you realistic timeframes).

      These all need to be discussed with your manager, though, since they need to be on-board with you doing this.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yes my tasks certainly take much longer than they are scheduled for. Like 5 reports that take me 45 minutes each are supposed to take 3 hours. I call someone and they spend 20 minutes telling me about thier trauma. One appointment I have trouble with not scheduling on Fridays has a two hour round trip and I spend an hour there.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Are people often in trauma?
          These are clues that no one is doing well with their jobs.

          I did work one place where time was always such an issue. The thing I noticed is that huge amounts of time were lost standing around talking about the incredible amount of work. I timed these conversations they were an hour or longer. I concluded that we can either complain about the workload or, you know, work.

          I just told someone this week, “I am buried here. You know I luv ya, but I GOTTA go!” She understood. Other people might hear, “Okay, sorry to be short with you but I am backlogged. I need x and y from you then I can do ABC for you. I have to go now, I’m sorry! I will watch for your email with ABC.”

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            It’s not usually my coworkers although in meetings sometimes they give way too many details of every super crazy thing that happened., but I usually do not talk to my coworkers.
            It’s the clients. The questions I ask to do my work ” how is x process going? Do you need any help?” Reminds them of the Upsetting Thing That Happened. I personally did not do the Upsetting Thing, but everyone associated with the Thing are grouped together so they are like So and So did This Thing! And Nobody Helps With That Thing! And before I know it, 30 minutes has passed.

  22. Clara*

    I’m so sad I missed the post about networking yesterday – I had a breakthrough about it this past year and would love to share.

    Especially coming out of college where we were told to network all the time, I definitely found it slimy and artificial. However in the past year I’ve been doing contract / freelancing work ,so I had to make an effort to find new gigs.

    I started off by talking to coworkers at my old job and who I knew in the past about what I was doing, and got some great help from them. Afterwards I joined every slack group, email listserv, etc I could find in my field. I participated when appropriate, and if not I got loads of leads and saw job descriptions that were posted in the group. I got one job because I posted a little message introducing myself in a slack group, and people responded. If I wanted to reach out to someone I had an easy connection – we were in the same group!

    I also did small volunteer events or panels whenever I could. It got my name out there and it made me seem like I was part of the community. I also did reach out to speakers who I thought were particularly interesting, and either dropped them just a complementary note or asked to pick their brain – and did both. Even when this didn’t immediately lead to something, the next time I do actually want to reach out to them we have some shared experiences.

    I agree that it is better when you have something to give them as well, no matter how small. I also think this advice is hard to implement straight out of college. My field is also one where people are very network-y, and once you “break in” people are willing to chat and connect and all that.

    TL;DR – hated networking, did some in ways that I didn’t think counted as networking, it went great, I will keep doing it

    1. Spearmint*

      I think you make a good point about networking being more effective once you’re established. Personally, I think networking should be emphasized way less in career advice to recent grads. It’s not helpful to tell them fake facts like “80% of jobs are never posted online and secured through networking”.

  23. anonvermonter*

    I’m starting to wrap up my current position after almost 10 years at my current company (though I have switched roles/been promoted a couple times). I am listing out all the documentation I need to update and/or create and it is a bit overwhelming to think of all the tasks I need to wrap up while also combating a mild case of senioritis. I keep getting excited thinking about my new position and projects and am just having a hard time concentrating on the administrative buttoning up I should be working on,

    1. Graciosa*

      I have this problem before vacations (smaller version) and I get through it with what seems to be a mix of professional pride and fooling myself.

      I mean this along the lines of thinking, “I have to get this in great shape before I leave (professional pride / avoiding embarrassment) or I won’t be able to go do Fun Thing (fooling myself into thinking I can’t go unless it’s done, but if it is done I’ll be rewarded).”

      It’s amazing how much I can get done with the prospect of imminent departure.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I feel for you. I’m retiring in a couple of months and, like you, I have a list of documentation that needs to be done and little appetite for doing it. But there’s an internal candidate to fill my position, and she happens to be someone I like. So I’m trying to leave things in reasonably good order, in case she gets the position.

      How much notice have you given? Even if it’s just the standard two weeks, I recommend not trying to do too much at once. I’ve made a list of those jobs that have the least documentation and that only I have been doing and writing those up first. If somebody else has at least some experience with a task, I’m just making a note that says, “See Lydia about this.” If there’s vendor-supplied training for something, I make a note of how to find the tutorials.

    3. TWW*

      How much does it really matter? People leave companies all the time (either voluntarily or not) without updating/creating documents.

      It might be a slight pain in the neck for your coworkers and successor to figure stuff out in your absence, but that’s what they’re paid for.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It will probably go faster than you think.

      One thing to consider is to not make everything an A-1 top level priority.
      There are things that MUST be conveyed.
      There are things that are nice to convey.
      And there are things that a super thorough person would worry about and convey.

      Get the first level done and see where that puts you.

  24. IEanon*

    I second Canva! My best friend started her own side hustle recently, and she used Canva for all of her assets.

  25. urgh*

    Tips for shutting down political talk at work: I’m the manager of team that’s currently remote due to COVID (new-ish to managing the team, but not new at all to the team itself). There are seven or so of us, including me and Bigger Boss. We all have a group Teams chat that we use to talk about work and sometimes non-work stuff. 99% of the time, this isn’t a problem…except that the talk occasionally turns vaguely-to-blatantly political with 3 or so of those team members, including Big Boss herself once in a while. I didn’t care for talk turning to politics at work, but since most of my team members are on self-described “flaming liberal” side, and I’d describe myself as more “moderate,” I thought perhaps I was just being sensitive. However, recently, a team member (Sara) who I know actually agrees with my team members politically asked me if I could find a way to shut down political talk at in the group chat- Sara finds it distracting in the worst way, “even when I agree with them.” I definitely think she’s right: since is is the group chat we use for a ton of work-related functions, I’d compare it to asking team members to stop loudly discussing politics right outside your cubicle…and while she’s the first one to complain, I know she’s not the only other team member besides me that doesn’t care for it. But, what’s the best way to do it? Do I wait for politics to come up in the group chat and ask people there to politely cut it out? We do have virtual team meeting once a week…should I bring it out then (“Hey, so I noticed the talk in the chat turns to politics occasionally…)? And, finally, should I give Big Boss a heads up that I’m going to ask people not to discuss politics in the chat?

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      I’d make a new chat channel (if you’re using a service like slack) for off-topic random discussion. We did this when we had a coworker who loved to post political memes and that allowed for everyone else to just mute the channel.

    2. Reba*

      I think an OT channel is a great idea AND resetting expectations about political chat is good too. Encourage the politics junkies to start their own chats for that

      I think you should announce it preemptively at your virtual team meeting — “Y’all, we need to make a change to keep our channel effective for work. Please start threads in the new OT channel for chit chat, and keep the main channel for collaborating on projects. I also want us to tone down the political aspects of these conversations. People who want to share links and current events can do so in the [thread in the OT channel OR a whole other chat/channel, whatever you think is appropriate]”

      My organization has a general chit chat “just for fun” channel, a “useful links and relevant ideas to discuss channel” and then all the functional, doing-work ones.

    3. Snark No More!*

      You actually have the option in Teams to remove yourself from any established chat thread. It’s either I right click or three dots in the list of chats.

  26. Eleanor Knope*

    Any tips/suggestions for pumping at work? I’m lucky enough to still be working remotely until June, then I’ll be pumping in the office until about November (if I can make it a year like I hope).

    I naively thought I’d like the breaks throughout the day, but I find myself absolutely dreading every session. I try to eat enough and drink enough, but I still sometimes feel lightheaded/off after a pumping session because I can get so engrossed in my work that I forget to drink water/eat snacks.

    I block the time on my calendar, but I still get meetings that run over so I have to push my sessions back. Or my son will eat 45 minutes earlier than expected at daycare, so I can’t adjust to his schedule that day and it messes with my supply. Even when the timing works out, I just hate the interruption to my workflow. Plus, I don’t have lunch breaks to make time for the 3 pump sessions throughout the day.

    I keep my parts in the fridge between pumps during the work day, but it still feels like there’s constant cleaning of bottles/supplies.

    Help! Commiseration welcome also :)

    1. Ann Perkins*

      Hi! I’ve pumped until a year with two kids now. A few tips based on what you wrote:

      -Definitely drink lots of water and make sure to snack. Set visual or calendar reminders if you need to and have things that are handy and require little prep. Trail mix was always a favorite of mine because it’s high calorie and easy to grab a handful.
      -Keep the time as consistent as possible. If you know a meeting might run over and you’d need to start pumping, have your supplies handy so you can turn off your camera for a moment and start pumping during the meeting. If it’s a more pointless meeting where it won’t matter if you leave early, duck out early. “I have another commitment scheduled at 9 am so I’m signing off now, have a great day!” After a while you might be able to drop from 3 pump sessions a day (if that’s what you’re doing now) down to 2.
      -Use the hack of keeping your pump parts in the fridge between sessions. You only need to wash those at the end of the day. You can keep the bottles you pump into in the fridge also.

      It is tedious and a logistical hassle so I definitely commiserate.

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        Thank you so much. Those are all good tips! I think having snacks and water closer to me will be helpful (it sounds so obvious, but things are such a blur right now).

        1. Midwest writer*

          I always kept a special “eat while I’m pumping” snack. I liked Cheez-its. Because they’re salty and greasy and terrible, but also tasty and awesome. ;)
          I pumped for a year with all three of my kids. It is so daunting when it starts out … and then a year is gone in a blink. I drank Mother’s Milk tea every morning, which I always thought helped. And I stuck with more of a twice-a-day schedule. I found that was a little easier than three times.

          1. Eleanor Knope*

            Thank you! I love cheez-its, that’s a great idea. I think having tea each morning would be a nice ritual too :)

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      Honestly…if you are already having issues with it while WFH you probably won’t have a ton of luck while back at work. Several of my friends/coworkers found that the added stress really messed with their supply. My bestie got herself into a decent rhythm where her son was able to “comfort feed” in the morning and evening (she did a formula bottle then nursed him for a few minutes while he fell asleep and in the morning nursed him for a few minutes as well followed by a bottle). The bonus for her was that when she started this, he actually slept through the night better so she found that to be a major win.

      Fed is best and a happy, well fed baby and a less stressed out Mommy is good for everyone. I know that’s probably not what you were hoping to hear, but pumping at work – even in an area specifically designed for it! – is a lot harder than pumping at home. I did it for 6 months in what would be considered 100% ideal circumstances (4 dedicated lockable mother’s rooms with a lounger, desk, and work chair and a sink and refrigerator reserved for nursing mothers) and it was still an incredible relief when I stopped.

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        Thank you for your honesty! You’re right, the stress is more than I expected and making it harder on us at night. I don’t have a good stash in the freezer and I only make just enough each day to cover his daycare feedings. It’s nice to have an external source tell me that supplementing with formula is no big deal — my husband reminds me of that, but it’s hard to let go of what I imagined to start!

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Nothing is ever what you imagine. I made SO MUCH MILK but my son could never latch (I had basketballs for boobs that were bigger than his head). We fought and fought for weeks until he and I were both crying (him from hunger, me from feelings of failure). My husband finally told me I was done nursing – I had been very successful pumping and baby handled a bottle well so that’s what we were going to do. Everyone was much happier although it was a bit more difficult than just sticking him on the boob and zoning about at 2am like all my friends talked about.

          One friend found that when she added supplemental formula (there really are some excellent ones out there!) her supply increase a little because she wasn’t as stressed about making enough.
          I made enough to feed an orphanage and still supplemented with formula for nighttime feedings because he slept better. Experiment over the next few weeks/months and find out what works best for you and your baby (and partner too – my husband really loved giving our son a bottle at night and I got a bit of time to myself). We make a lot of sacrifices for our children especially when they are infants and tend to forget that we matter too.

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          +1 I hope you’re able to figure out something works for you, but you haven’t failed if you decide to supplement or switch to formula. Breastfeeding and pumping can be SO stressful and you truly don’t have to put yourself through it to be a good parent to a healthy baby.

        3. Lizy*

          IT’S OK TO FEED FORMULA!!!!!

          I’ve gone through breastfeeding/pumping with 3 kids now. First one, I breastfed for about 18 months. Second didn’t latch at all, and I was also battling some mental health issues so I pumped exclusively for about 5-6 months. This one I think I did 5 months? He was actually the best at breastfeeding, but I needed to get back on some meds and the doctors won’t prescribe this particular med while you’re breastfeeding so… we nixed it. It was super hard for me, because I make a ton of milk and I like breastfeeding.

          Get a hands-free pumping bra. While at home, if I were you, I’d honestly just mute myself on calls/videos (and take myself off video) and proceed as normal. I routinely made calls while pumping. A couple of times people commented, but only because they knew what the sound was and it was more of a “…are you pumping? ha! that’s cool”. While at work, do the same if you can.

          Good luck!

    3. Another Mom*

      Congrats on your baby^^
      I commiderate. Do you make any “extra” in the evenings? You could pump then and just before leaving to work.

      I’ve been pumping for 3 weeks (4 month old baby). I pump once a day at 1pm and get 8-10 oz. Baby isn’t a big fan of the bottle (he makes up for that eating more at home) so that’s enough for a 9am-5.30pm day. At first i also pumped just before taking him to daycare (5 oz or so), but he doesn’t eat enough to justify it. I couldn’t fit in two sessions with my workload…

      Best wishes and good luck.

      I just rinse with clean water and then sterilize 1x/week. I use eccomum bags to store at work. Parts stay in my bag.

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        Thank you! Congrats on your baby as well :) I tend to feel so exhausted at night that the last thing I want to do is pump again, but maybe I should be more diligent about trying to get even 1 or 2 ounces. That way, I have less stress about supply the next day. I only get enough to get by each day so far.

    4. Purple Cat*

      Commiseration coming! I pumped to a year with 2 kids and hated pretty much every minute of it.
      It sounds like a you have a difficult work structure, but meeting timeliness is key. Pumping is a critical meeting that you can’t miss. You need to confirm with coworkers when the meeting starts that you have a hard stop at x. This is good business practice anyway and they don’t need to know what your conflicting meeting is. Otherwise, just settle into your own routine. I didn’t know what you meant about adjusting to when your baby is feeding, do you try to match up pumping to bottle?

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        Thank you so much! I definitely need to be better about seeing it as a non-negotiable meeting, just like if I had another appointment. And I’ve tried to adjust my pumping times based off when he eats, because otherwise sometimes he comes home at 5:30 needing to eat when I just pumped at 4, so I’m worried he won’t get enough there. I basically only pump enough to cover the 3 feedings I miss while at work, so daycare is the only bottles he gets. But maybe that’s because I’ve been adjusting my pump times! It’s all much harder than I expected :)

        1. Ann Perkins*

          You don’t need to adjust your pump times to when he eats. Stick to something like a 9, 12 and 3 schedule or whatever works for you. If he comes home needing to eat (very normal if he prefers nursing to bottles) and you’ve only pumped an hour before, it might take a little longer to get the letdown, but your body can still make more milk. It’s great for your supply to go ahead and feed once he gets home since milk production relies heavily on supply and demand.

          1. Eleanor Knope*

            That’s great to know, thank you! I will stop trying to adjust as his daycare feeding schedule changes. I think that was adding to my stress, too!

            1. Malarkey01*

              Keeping to a pumping session and doing supplemental feedings on demand may also help with supply. My second would do that and it might mean she’d want to hang out and nurse for longer because she was getting less but it also stimulated supply. If they don’t get enough from that supplemental nurse you can pop open backup expressed milk (or somewhat soon when you start introducing solids a few bites of mashed banana or similar will be enough).

              That said-with my second I nursed for 2 years, my first got 4 months before everyone was in tears and we called it. Honestly my first is far healthier, never sick, and both have good appetites and eat well years later so PLEASE know that whatever works for you and baby is best and there’s no prize for being good at either approach.

              The one thing that helped pumping sessions for me was to make them enjoyable. I saved guilty pleasure TV shows, magazines, and books. Played music when pumping in the office, occasionally called my mom or friend. Looking forward to it as a fun break worked way better than when I tried to review reports/attend conference calls/think about work or the house or whatever.

    5. lost academic*

      I’m on my second pumping period with kid #2, and I found I really have to be organized about hydrating (I was never good at it and am much better now) and snacking. I try to work through my breaks (we have laptops and when I pumped in the office I just took it with me) but I also quickly figured out what I was likely to make useful progress on and what I wasn’t, and gave myself grace to just flip through baby photos or Facebook at least one a day instead (billable hours firm).

      Be firm about meeting end times, or, in my case, I’d go and set up in my pumping space in advance of the call/meeting (mine have always been on Skype/Teams anyway) so I could start pumping when I needed to. I also realized quickly that even though I used to try and pump right when the baby ate, it was easier to try and keep to a semi regular schedule tied to when I fed the baby at home before work.

      I am not comfortable knowing what I know keeping my supplies in the fridge, so I generated even more stuff to wash with a new set every single time I pumped (3-4x/day). (Also we had not enough room in the office fridge and the entire kitchen was gross.) We replaced our dishwasher with one with a sanitizing function and I invested in a lot of spare parts – which since they need regular replacement isn’t really actual extra cost. I have since learned not to put the silicone parts in the dishwasher and it makes them last a bit longer – now that I’m at home, I toss them in a bowl of soapy water throughout the day (at the end of the day when I was in the office) and use a microwave sanitizing bag, and dry them on their own mat overnight.

      It got easier but it also got frustrating and exhausting. It got worse when I got my period back and as baby #2 dropped his feeding and upped his solids, because instead of running a surplus every day, it became a deficit and every pumping session felt like a reminder that I Wasn’t Doing Enough. I was, of course, and I got past a year even before he stopped being interested in nursing. Baby #2 however somehow eats like a horse and I don’t keep up many days, but there is a limit to what I can do about it and we’ve already made it past 6 months. I’m a lot less anxious about it now.

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        Thank you, this is very helpful! I think I need to just set 3 times a day and be firm with it, even when my little guy veers off his usual schedule. It’s so much more exhausting and anxiety-producing than I ever imagined. Congrats on making it past 6 months :)

    6. Irish girl*

      I pumped with 2 kids, 1 up til 11 months old and the other until 14 months old and part of the second was in the office and then home due to Covid. I found for both that I just had to stick to my schedule for pumping and not the baby’s for eating. Otherwise it would mess with my system. When in the office, I would make it a priority to drink water and made sure I filled my cup before and after each sessions and i did 3 a day. My teammates and manager understood that my pumping time was non-negotiable and I could call into meetings on mute from the mothers room if needed and then join in person once I was done. Once Covid hit, I adjusted my schedule a bit but was on that for 6 months and just worked while pumping. I also had the freemie cups and a Spectra S9 pump so I could get up and move around if I needed to while pumping. I found the freemie cups gave me a quicker transition between work and pumping.

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        I appreciate all the tips, thank you! I think I need to be more explicit with my team about pumping. I’ll need to look up the freemie cups too!

    7. Might Be Spam*

      I can’t help you with the pumping because I could never get it to work for me. The important thing is to find out what works for you.

      What did work for me, was a combination of breastfeeding and formula bottle feeding. I was told that it would be too confusing for the baby, but my baby did well anyway. She was happy either way. Even on my non work days we kept to the same schedule. I was surprised that she didn’t want anyone else to bottle feed her if she knew I was there. She didn’t mind that I wasn’t breastfeeding her and accepted the combination style of feeding.

      One thing that really helped, was to hold her the exact same way when she was bottle feeding as when breastfeeding.

      1. Eleanor Knope*

        Keeping to the schedule seems to be key! Thanks for the advice. I’m glad you were able to find something that worked for you and your baby :)

    8. pieces_of_flair*

      Solidarity! I pumped at work for a year with each of my 2 kids. My situation was pretty ideal since I had a private office where I could just close the door and pump instead of having to go to another room somewhere. It’s not clear whether that’s the case for you. I would wear a hands-free pumping bra and just keep on working so it didn’t have to count as part of my break time. I was also very strict with my pumping schedule. I pumped every day at 9, 12, and 3 and fortunately had the option to just not schedule meetings during those times.

      I hear you on the constant cleaning. Such a drag!

      Also if your work situation just isn’t great for pumping, you really don’t have to do it. Supplementing with formula is totally fine!

    9. Work Pumper*

      Can you pump during meetings or do you generally need to have your microphone and camera on? When I was in an open office, a few times I even pumped at my desk (cube in the back) and I’m pretty sure no one noticed. I didn’t like trudging to the lactation room and it meant I could still do work at my computer if I wanted. Or eat/drink!

      Keep snacks at your desk, like little snack bags of almonds or chocolate almonds or little protein drinks or something similar that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or prepared. Keep a big gallon of water or a thermos or similar near you too. The more you can keep near you the more you might remember to grab it.

      I kept everything in the fridge and only cleaned at the end of the day. If you’re at home, can you keep the pump plugged in next to you? Or you could also put your parts in a cooler bag with ice packs and keep them near you.

      If a meeting is running over, excuse yourself and say you have a conflict.

      Don’t feel bad about supplementing with formula! I did both with my second and it was a bigger deal for me than anyone else.

      I saw someone mentioning freemie cups. Another option is a handpump you could use at night — or on one side while your son nurses on the other side. I like the Haakaa.

      I also got my husband to start cleaning the parts in the evenings for me! But then I made sure everything was packed for my commute.

    10. Esmeralda*

      Congratulations on the little one, Eleanor, and please don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t go perfectly or according to expectations.

      It’s been about 20 years since I pumped (!). Lots of great advice from the other commenters. What I will add is:

      1. If you like your gear, cool. If not, spend the money and get a really good and comfortable pump. Extra accessories so you are not worrying about cleaning things while at work.

      2. If you have a personal mini fridge, that is the gold standard lol, even the most supportive colleagues can be surprisingly a-hole-ish about the milk bottles and gear in the staff fridge even when there is plenty of room for it. If not, get a cooler with room for good freeze-packs (or freeze those kid juice boxes) and tupperware-type containters for your used gear. Keep it in your office.

      3. Make sure you have a door that locks from the inside and put a note on the door to ensure you will not be disturbed. This may be a LIE note, such as, “phone conference with client” or whatever works best in your office to keep people from banging on the door or getting the office manager to unlock it…I mean, some places, “do not disturb” will be sufficient but some places it will not.

      4. Set up your online work calendar so that you have a 30-minute no-appointments buffer before your pumping time. Label it with whatever works best in your office to keep people from scheduling over it. If people schedule over it, regretfully decline the invitation…

      5. If anyone at work gives you a hard time in any way re pumping, take it right to your boss and ask for assistance in getting it resolved right away. If your boss is not helpful, go to your grandboss or to HR, whichever will be more responsive to you and help you resolve the issue faster.

      Remember, mama, do what works for *you*.

  27. Luna*

    Hello all, I’d love to get some feedback on a question I am wondering about. I’m HR for a small-ish company (about 10 office employees and 15 warehouse employees & drivers). We are currently wearing masks if we are not seated alone at our desks. People are slowly getting vaccinated (mine is tomorrow – yay!!). However, we have a fairly decent size contingent of folks who are opting NOT to be vaccinated, for various non-medical reasons – mainly political ones. My question to you all is 1) – Are any of you running into anything similar, and 2) what do you feel is the company’s responsibility as far as requiring masks in the office, when everyone has had the opportunity to be vaccinated? I suppose to be on the safe side we should wait until the governor lifts the state mask mandate? Please bear with me and be kind, I’m trying to get a feel for what others are doing out there, since all of this is so unprecedented. Thank you!

    1. Sleepy*

      There’s actually a lot of precedence in health care. My father worked at a hospital. For years, all employees have been required to either get the flu vaccine each year or wear masks at all times while at work. People seem satisfied with this as it respects their autonomy in medical decisions but also protects others.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. The office can require masks on the unvaccinated until the pandemic is over in your jurisdiction. They have a choice.

    2. battlesloth*

      In my opinion, it is the company’s responsibility to create a safe work space for it’s employees. Part of that is enforcing mask use for as long as it makes sense to do so. If you have unvaccinated people, you should keep enforcing a mask policy. Follow whatever the most stringent recommendations are (aka the CDC).

      1. Twisted Lion*

        +1 this. Most of my office is vaccinated but we are still following CDC guidelines for the few who didnt and wearing masks at all times.

      2. Generic Name*

        Agreed. And if the staunchly unvaccinated complain about wearing masks, say “Sorry, we only can remove the mask requirement when Blah percentage of our workforce is fully vaccinated” and let them do the math and decide which they hate more, wearing masks or getting vaccinated.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      My company just released a statement saying that while they aren’t requiring the vaccine, they are strongly encouraging it due to the type of work we do (manufacturing) and the fact that maintaining 6-ft isn’t possible in all areas. They have stated that the mask mandate will continue to be required for all employees until the state mandate is lifted OR over 75% of the department have voluntarily offered proof of vaccination. Once a department as reached the 75% number, those who ARE vaccinated will be allowed to discontinue mask use while at their desk/work station but still asked to wear them in common areas (time clock, lockers, etc…) and group meetings. Those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will be allowed to unmask based only when the state order is lifted.

      My first shot is next week and a happy dance happened.

    4. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      Most of my coworkers are vaccinated (including myself) but we’re all still requiring masks at all times.

    5. Ari*

      I wouldn’t count on a political requirement about masks to come at a time which is completely logical. To me, it seems like mask wearing can stop when vaccines are freely and plentifully available to anyone who wants to get one. Even if your state has opened up vaccines to all adults without conditions, that doesn’t mean it’s possible for everyone who wants the jab to get an appointment yet. Even then, it’s not “anyone who wants one can get one” as the date, it’s the 3/4 weeks until the second dose PLUS another 2 weeks for effectivity.

      I’m really thankful that from almost the very beginning my company has said they will be making decisions about policies and return-to-office decisions based on their own medical advisors’ (we are a big company, so even though we are not in healthcare, there are doctors on staff to make these policies) data assessment. So far they have been more on the “safe side” than the state requirements.

    6. WellRed*

      I’m assuming since this sounds political this is moot but is the company offering paid time off to get the vax? Would that help? Hinder? Just a thought.

    7. TWW*

      Follow the state mandate or CDC recommendation, pay no attention to who is or isn’t vaccinated, and why or why not.

      Even if you had 100% vaccination compliance, you would still have probably 2 employees susceptible to the disease because the vaccine is not 100% effective.

    8. Malarkey01*

      While it is still circulating at high rates in the community and as the ability to get vaccines is still new we are continuing to mask. That is way easier than policing who is or is not vaccinated and whether Bob or Jane should be wearing one and aren’t.

      Honestly as a vaccinated person I’m taking some more risks but I’m still not comfortable being in groups of unmasked people who aren’t (and the CDC confirms we shouldn’t). I would think a lot of your employees feel that way.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      From the CDC website on the page titled “When you have been fully vaccinated”:

      “We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.”

      Everyone, no matter of vaccination status, should all be doing the same thing. There doesn’t seem to be any need to figure out who has or has not been vaccinated.

      This is kind of a sticking point for me. Some of the biggest worriers I know are now saying, “I have the vaccine so I am going to travel all over now.” Huh? I don’t get it. How do you go from a ton of worry down to zero in two vaccines?

    10. Is it tea time yet?*

      I’m getting my second shot next week (yay!), and will continue to wear a mask around other people until the pandemic is over. The only way I’m relaxing any of my precautions is that I will finally be able to visit with my sibling and aunt and uncle who are also vaccinated. Also will be spending a lot more time with vaccinated friends, but we’ll still probably continue to keep most of our meetings outdoors for the near future.

      Maybe I’m too cautious, but the way I think about this is that if I were in a situation where my birth control was 75-95% effective (like estimates for the vaccines), then there would have to be a good back-up method to avoid pregnancy. So continuing wearing masks and distancing in public are my back-ups, and for me the vaccine is a way to not feel so worried about getting sick.

  28. 1234*

    My sibling feels that I should be applying for other opportunities because I currently work at a small business (been there 5+ years) and the benefits are not as good as larger employers. This is true – we don’t have retirement benefits, and our hours/pay were reduced due to the pandemic and that’s Sibling’s main sticking points. The hours/pay is something that will be re-adjusted to pre-pandemic rates once the business generates more revenue and the higher ups have been very open about this topic. 

    However, I don’t actively hate my job but I don’t have passion for what we do either. I can and will do all that I am assigned, be pleasant to co-workers etc. There are also many things I like about the job including:
    – My boss is wonderful! We work well together (I know people say that good people leave but Boss has been there for multiple decades)
    – My coworkers are a great group of people and I truly enjoy working with them. They are also pleasant, kind, happy to help, etc. 
    – Work/life balance. I realized how much I value this, coming from a place that overworked their staff. Before our hours were reduced, we had the benefit of the office closing 2 hours early every Friday, not just summer Fridays.

    Sibling wants me to apply at larger employers where Sibling feels that the pay would be more competitive and the benefits are better. While this is true, I am comfortable where I am right now. I will apply for things I could possibly be interested in/qualified for but is it so wrong to be ok/comfortable with my current job? What would you do if you were at a job like mine?

    1. Sleepy*

      I wonder why your sibling cares so much what kind of employer you work at? It’s totally fine to feel satisfied with a non-prestigious or lower-paying job. You, not they, are the one spending 40 hrs /week there.

      1. 1234*

        Sibling is one of those “rockstar employee” types working at Large Company with awesome benefits. Sibling is worried that I am not making as much $ as needed for retirement/The Future.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          As a former pushy older sibling (I’m no longer pushy… as much lol), I can tell you that ultimately this is sibling’s situation to get comfortable with. They have to learn to accept that you and they have different work lives and work goals, and you may never want to work in the kind of environment they do and that is totally fine.

          However, retirement money is definitely a concern. I presume they love you and want you to have a comfortable future. Since your employer doesn’t offer retirement savings, you might want to look into your own plans, if you haven’t already done so. Even if you are young (especially if you are), starting saving even a little can really help.

        2. Esmeralda*

          Sibling could give you the $ to contribute to a Roth IRA if you do not have one or can’t contribute much to it. I mean, if the concern is, you don’t have good benefits, sibling can help you with that one. Or is sibling one of those people who doesn’t just give you good advice, but makes sure you hear that advice all the freakin time?

    2. Noncompliance Officer*

      I mean, are you happy with your job? Are you desperate for more money or need better benefits? If you’re happy and the pay and benefits work with your life, I don’t see why you need a different job. Not everyone’s life is completely defined by their work.

      1. 1234*

        My job isn’t one of those “I’m super passionate about what we do!” jobs but it is one that utilizes skills that I have/skills that I learned from Previous Job.

        I think almost everyone could use more $. With me, the reduction in pay sucks but it’s not Living In Poverty wages. I can manage for the short term on that salary but I also see things are picking back up with states reopening/planning for larger gatherings.

    3. Jenna Webster*

      If you want to stay where you are, I do think you should consider whether you will be able to put enough money away for retirement. Even if it seems a long way off, the day will come when you want or have to leave and you want to be sure you can be in a position to do so comfortably. If you can’t, it is probably at least worth considering positions with benefits – you can afford to be picky and wait for a great job with a great environment, since you already like where you are.

    4. should i apply?*

      I admit I am curious why your sibling keeps bringing it up. Are you maybe complaining about your job or asking for money more than you realize and your sibling is just trying to help or are they the type who always knows how other people should run your life?

      I totally get that work life balance is important, but there is also something to be said for financial security. If that isn’t an issue than don’t worry about it. If it is an issue, just realize that a larger employer doesn’t necessarily mean a worse work like balance or bad co-workers. Also applying isn’t the same as accepting a new job, its just part of the process to learn more.

      1. 1234*

        Nope, Sibling mentioned “I know that you are very comfortable at your job.” And I have never asked Sibling or anyone else for money.

        I can be transparent. Prior to the pandemic, I made something in the $50-65K range. I am single and have no kids.

        1. Natalie*

          This seems like a great time to tell them to shut it. With whatever level of kind but no nonsense works for your relationship.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Agreed.
            Get an IRA, make regular deposits and tell sib “thanks, but I am good here.”

    5. katz*

      This is not your sibling’s business, unless you often ask them for financial help. If they are saying these things out of love and concern, they probably think you’re underselling yourself. Let them think that.

      Passion is overrated. A wonderful boss, great co-workers, and work/life balance are invaluable. If any of these factors change, you can re-evaluate at that point.

      One point of caution: make sure you are able to set aside some savings for emergencies and retirement. You can set up retirement funds yourself, but the earlier you start, the better.

    6. LDN Layabout*

      If you’re happy and your choices don’t impact your sibling/other loved ones? You’re golden.

      I’ve seen it in my family where a sibling’s choice of job has heavily impacted their sibling in a number of ways, from not wanting their nephews/nieces to be homeless, to taking on the financial burden of supporting their parents without help from the other sibling. But in the majority of situations, that’s an extreme example and your sibling is just being overbearing.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. If it is putting a burden on your sibling then consider a change. If not how about ‘Hey Fred, I heard you the first time. Can we stop talking about how to live my life?’ Then enforce that by refusing to participate in this discussion and if he presses it, get off the phone, leave or leave the room.

        1. 1234*

          I do not ask my family members for $. Sibling will randomly gift me money on my birthday/Xmas but that’s it.

          I do not expect any financial help at this point in my life but I think Sibling seems to think because I don’t make LOTS OF $$ and I have a roommate in an expensive metropolitan city means “You are broke.”

          1. LDN Layabout*

            I do not expect any financial help at this point in my life

            But your sibling is worried about benefits and in particular retirement benefits. So yes, they should leave you alone, but if they don’t see you doing anything about future planning and you don’t seem enthusiastic about changing that any time soon, I can understand why that might worry them.

    7. LuckySophia*

      You and your sibling are both ‘right’: There’s nothing wrong with choosing to value intangibles like “wonderful boss & colleagues, and great work-life balance” to make you comfortable and happy where you are. There’s also nothing wrong with choosing to value tangibles like “much better compensation & benefits” to pave the way to a much more secure financial future.

      The real question is, what’s motivating your sib to urge you to change jobs? If it’s just that the two of you value different things… well, each of you gets to have your own opinions.

      It could be worth having a convo with your sibling to find out where their concern is coming from: Are they seeing that you currently don’t make enough to meet expenses, and your sib — or parents– have to keep chipping in to make up the difference? Does sibling have a legit concern that your company may NOT bounce back from the pandemic, and may NOT be able to restore your pay to previous level? Does sibling fear that with no benefits/retirement, you’re going to end up living in a cardboard box (or have to move in with them) 25 years from now? Is sibling worried that your parents may (at some point in the future) need financial support, and all that would fall on your sib because you would be unable to contribute?

      If you can find out whether your sib has a specific fear that’s motivating their comments…and examine whether that fear is actually realistic, or groundless…it should help you make an informed decision about the benefits and risks of staying where you are, versus getting a different job.

      1. 1234*

        Honestly, I don’t know what is motivating Sibling to say all of this. To answer your questions:

        Are they seeing that you currently don’t make enough to meet expenses, and your sib — or parents– have to keep chipping in to make up the difference?
        Nope! I pay most of my expenses by myself. I don’t ask for financial help. Our parents do still pay our phone bill but that’s because we are on a family plan that is very cost-effective. I can easily pay that myself and have offered to pay our parents back for my portion multiple times but they have always declined saying the amount isn’t very large and they got it.

        Does sibling have a legit concern that your company may NOT bounce back from the pandemic, and may NOT be able to restore your pay to previous level?
        I don’t know. If Sibling does, I don’t have the same concern. The higher ups at my job bring up the topic of full pay at almost every staff meeting and have specifically laid out what has to happen financially for us to all get our full pay. Given what we do, I do see it eventually bouncing back but I don’t know when.

        Does sibling fear that with no benefits/retirement, you’re going to end up living in a cardboard box (or have to move in with them) 25 years from now?
        I think this might be it. I feel like Sibling is expecting me to have to move in with them at some point.

        Is sibling worried that your parents may (at some point in the future) need financial support, and all that would fall on your sib because you would be unable to contribute?
        I think this might be it as well. I would also not be able to contribute nearly as much as Sibling can. Sibling has not brought this up but I know they have thought this.

        1. TiffIf*

          It sounds like your best options here are to either have a conversation about what is driving these sudden concerns (whether is is concern for the future without retirement benefits or parents support or whatever) or just straight up tell them to drop it–“I am satisfied with where I am, please stop bringing it up” and enforce the boundary.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Yes.
            Would your sib be amenable to something like, Hey, Sib, I’ve been thinking about what you said about retirement. So for my birthday/Christmas/gift-giving occasion, would you be cool getting me a session with a financial planner/a [legit] financial planning course?

            I do think saving for retirement is important, and the younger you start, the better (because the money has more time to grow). But it’s hard to do when there’s not much wiggle in your budget, or when you don’t know how to find the wiggle and what to do with it. A session with a planner could help you set reasonable goals, find places in your budget to save/redirect money.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Supporting parents. My first concern with supporting parents is setting the precedent and accidently causing yourself to become responsible for future bills because of paying earlier bills. If sib mentions this tell them you want everyone to talk to an attorney for planning so that everyone is well protected.

          My stance is DO NOT pay your parents medical bills. No-no-no. Decades ago my mother racked up a quarter mil in out of pocket. Ten years later my father easily blew through several hundred thou. If I tried as an only child to cover all that, I seriously doubt I would be here now. It would have plowed me under.

          As far as retirement is concerned, you probably get letters from Social security saying how much you would make if you retire at a given age. You can check these amounts and see what you think. More and more people are opting for very simple housing that is less apt to incur big expenses. And they are actually enjoying their simplified life. Not everyone wants to retire to a 200 room mansion with no one else in it.

          As it stands now, answer the question to the limit it is asked. So saying something like, “I am good here, thanks for caring though.”, should be enough. If it’s not enough and you are correct about these hidden concerns, that will become apparent shortly. And you see my thoughts on these other concerns.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Tell your siblings to butt out.

      I have opinions on my siblings’ work decisions and I’m sure they have opinions on mine but we all just stay out of it unless somebody pointedly asks for input (or if a situation seemed glaringly dangerous/unfair/illegal/etc., but that hasn’t happened).

    9. CupcakeCounter*

      The only reason I would be looking to leave is because of the lack of retirement benefits. That is a pretty big deal for me and over my career has equated to probably 25% of my current retirement fund between the contribution matches and profit sharing. If I continue at my current rate, my guess would be that by the time I retire the companies I’ve worked for will have contributed over $100k to my portfolio (I always max out the match % and put 100% of bonus/profit sharing into my retirement account).

      If I were in a job like yours, I would make sure to have a really good financial advisor to help me ensure a comfortable retirement and enjoy the balance your job allows.

    10. TiffIf*

      Tell your sibling (if you are feeling gracious) “I appreciate your concern, but I am satisfied with where I am right now” or (if you aren’t feeling gracious) “butt out”.

      This sounds like it may be a new thing in your relationship? If so can you ask (if you are interested) why the sudden interest? Maybe they have a friend who is in a similar situation where hours and pay was cut and they recently lost their job instead of being restored to full compensation like the company promised and sibling is worried about the same thing happening to you. Maybe sibling’s father in law was laid off due to the pandemic or forced into early retirement and is now having financial trouble because the job offered no 401k/pension and they’re getting only a small SS amount.

      Or maybe this sibling has just always been the one nosing in your business and this is just their newest hobby horse.

      You know your sibling better than any of us. There is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable in your job even if you realize you could make more elsewhere. But if you generally have a good relationship with your sibling there isn’t any harm in discussing why they think this is so important suddenly.

    11. Bagpuss*

      It’s your job, your life, and your business.
      It’s fine to have different priorities.
      Not everyone is passionate about their job, and not everyone wants to pursue money over other advantages. Working for a smaller employer often means lower salary / less good benefits but equally it can have advantages – it can (not always, but sometimes) be less pressured, it can mean more varied work because you wear more hats and/or cross train in a range of areas, it can give you more choices in terms of location – there are lots of quality of life issues.

      I made a conscious choice about the type and size of organisation I wanted to work in. It’s not prefect, but I have a better work/life balance and more autonomy than I’d have if I’d chosen to go for the ‘better’ job with better benefits.

      Years ago, my dad turned down an incredibly well paid secondment (and then left the employer, because they tried to force him) because the money was pretty much the only good thing about it.

      It’s about deciding what it right for you.
      By all means, think about what you, personally, like and dislike about your current job, and think about the pros and cons of other types of job and whether you feel that there would me more positives than negatives if you made a move, but don’t change just because someone who isn’t you thinks you should.

      Maybe talk to your sister about why she is bringing this up. Maybe she sees it as encouraging you, and thinks you undervalue your own skills ? (or possibly, she isn’t happy in her own job and it’s more about wanting you to follow her lead, so she can feel validated in her own choices!)

      1. 1234*

        Sibling loves their job but admits that hours are long and work piles up. Sibling does see it as encouragement and wanting better for me but I also do not want to move from the environment that I am in to an environment that some of the AAM letter writers work in! Someone else mentioned that there is less pressure in a smaller company and she is more correct about that. I no longer worry about “billable hours towards a project” and just code my timesheet to what’s fair and accurate.

        I also do not want to be at a job working ALL THE HOURS. I’ve done that and it left me no time to do much else. When I worked at OldJob, I made lots of ramen for dinner because it took very little time and effort. I loved the work that we did but there was also so much internal sniping at each other BS that I don’t care for.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          As a parallel, my husband and I bought a modest house. Everything is on one level and the ease of use is GREAT. I am very comfortable here.
          Richer relatives literally LAUGHED at our little modest house. I just smiled smugly to myself.
          The years rolled by, tiredness set in with aging.
          Suddenly the richer relatives were not laughing at our little easy to use house any more. They had to sell their house and get something similar to ours.

          You may see a similar pattern where your sib decides that maybe you were right after all. As the decades roll by and you have less medical problems; less bills because you can do things in your off-hours and you don’t have to pay people; and you seem happier in some ways. sib might start rethinking this a bit.

          Definitely look at retirement planning for your given setting. But otherwise, I’d let the remarks go and smile smugly to myself.

          1. 1234*

            But the funny thing is, Sibling lives modestly! Sibling and Partner purchased a modest home even though they could’ve afforded a much more expensive one.

            Sibling is chronically stressed due to work and to be honest, I feel like Sibling gets “under the weather” more than I do! Idk how many times during the year I hear “ugh my nose is stuffy” or “I’m taking a sick day. I have a bad headache.”

    12. PollyQ*

      First, and most importantly, I would tell Sibling that Sibling is free to pursue their career any way they like, but to please stop pestering me about how I’m pursuing mine.

      And no, there’s nothing at all wrong with being ok/comfortable at your current job. That said, I think it’s worth thinking about your career — that classic “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” kind of question — and consider the possibility of moving into a higher role, different employer, or even a different type of work. Not that you have to! Your current job sounds like it has a lot of good things about it. But as someone who’s now middle-aged, I wish I’d been a little more proactive about my career & the jobs I worked, rather than just being “comfortable.”

      1. 1234*

        I’ve thought about that question a lot. The answer is “I don’t really know.” which isn’t a great answer. I can see myself doing so many different things but nothing is a definite “Yes! This!”

        What makes you say that you wish you had been more proactive about your career and jobs that you’ve worked?

    13. 70C*

      In defense of the sibling, what is your fallback plan if you have a stroke and cannot take care of yourself, much less work? Who will take care of you? I think that is the real issue. If you can demonstrate that you have a plan for that (God forbid), I think they’ll leave you alone. Good luck to you. I am envious of your work life!

  29. Seventeenlights*

    I work part-time and about a year ago took extra hours to support an additional project on a different team at work – it’s in my area of expertise career-wise but outside the scope of the job I was hired to do here. Fast forward a year and the team has some major interpersonal issues and I have some ethical concerns around the team’s work (science/healthcare) so I’d like to remove myself from it and am happy to reduce my hours to take account of not being on this project. My problem is how to do this without burning every bridge in the city. My boss is aware of the issues within the team (they don’t report to him, they’re actually above him in the hierarchy) and knows I’m not happy to continue working with them. I’ve flagged that I want to step back and go back to my old duties/workload but this is being met with a lot of pushback. I’ve never in my career uttered the words ‘that’s not in my job description’ but I just want to scream them right now. How do I exit this and try to salvage my professional standing and relationship with my boss? I don’t want to come across as petulant or uncooperative but I’ve had enough of it.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I would go to your boss, explain that you were happy to help out and increase your hours for what you thought would be a short term, but now that it appears that this is a long-term need you realize that you would want go back to the original reduced hours and duties and say, “how do we make that happen by X date?” Don’t hint, state it as an “of course this is a reasonable request that you will accommodate.” If the answer is that this is your job now, take it or leave it, then you have your information and it might be time to look for a new job.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        +1

        The “I was happy to help short-term” is great framing with the “of course this was meant to go back to normal.”

      2. Slipping The Leash*

        Especially since it’s a reversion to shorter hours — you don’t need to get into your (reasonable!) issues with the other team/project. People can prefer part-time work for all kinds of reasons – family, education, health, whatever.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      Honestly, push back as much as you can but you may just have to leave. I was in a somewhat similar situation in a previous job. I worked full time, but took on a set of work duties for a team. They also had major interpersonal issues, and the group was completely dysfunctional. I made it clear at the point that I was dissatisfied that I wanted out of the work, and my manager knew how unhappy I was but didn’t remove me. I figured out at that point that I would never be taken off of it for various reasons, and I chose to find a new job instead.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Who is pushing back and what does that push back look like?

      Guilt trip:
      “Ohhh they really need you…”
      You can point out that it’s very nice to hear that but you feel you have gone as far as you can go here.

      Threats:
      “Oh the project will fall apart without you…”
      Again, nice to hear such confidence in your own personal efforts, but you sincerely doubt that will actually happen.

      “Well we may not have PT work for you if you don’t do this Project work!”
      Then you point out that you volunteered to take it on and you have done so for a year and now can be someone else’s turn.

      I think I’d say something like, “I feel I have contributed all I can and it would be a more effective use of company payroll to consider other people for my role.”

  30. I am not the Lorax*

    Sigh. I’m having a hard time thinking kind thoughts about one of my direct reports. Every time I answer a question from him he tells me, “I was thinking the same thing.” Every. Single. Time. I provided information twice today and it happened both times. But rather than saying, “hey I was thinking maybe I should do X” he asks “What should I do for X?” I get it. Insecurity sucks. But is it so hard to simply say, “Thanks” and call it a day? And I have told him repeatedly that he should share what his thoughts are. But he won’t, because he’s too scared of being wrong, and it’s not because I’ve created a culture of oppression (I once told him point blank, because it happened so often, that if he didn’t feel comfortable approaching me, he could ask colleagues, and he was adamant that he felt comfortable.)

    1. Graciosa*

      Have you tried asking him what he thinks *before* you give him an answer?

      I would be pushing him for thoughts and options before you answer the question – it’s good development for him to start presenting options, and might help you move past your frustration with the existing pattern.

      1. I am not the Lorax*

        Ahhh, I keep meaning to do that. It’s not always clear to me that he might know something before he asks, but you’re right, there are certainly times when I can ask what his thoughts are.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I’d ask him anyway.
          That way, if he does know but needs validation, then you saying ‘yes, that’s right’ or ‘yes, that’s what I’d start with’ should help him to become more confident in his own knowledge, and if he doesn’t know then hopefully he’ll be less likely to claim he did, if you’ve just asked him and he hasn’t answered!

          Also, it can help him to think it through rather than relaying on you .

          depending on the type of question you can also try breaking it down and encouraging him to find his own answers – so maybe encourage him to think through what he’s trying to achieve, what the steps will be etc –

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I agree. It seems to happen often enough that you can just assume it will happen each time.

            Going in a different direction, you can just decide to hand out fishing poles not fish. If a person is not confident they will not gain confidence by being handed answers. Start doing things such that he has to work it through with you. Especially instances where he is asking the same question in different costumes. “This is like the Jones case. Remember you had to do x and y, this is another instance of where you will have to do that again.”

    2. Sleepy*

      Is it an option to just…take longer to get back to him? I find that can actually really help people get in the habit of answering their own questions.

      It’s not clear if these are things you’ve already covered or that he really should know. I wouldn’t necessarily delay answering someone who has a question that’s truly out of their league. But if you can say “I’m in meetings all day today, please go with your best judgment” that can force people to start to rely on themselves more.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Is there any way you could mentally reframe it as one of his conversational quirks? People frequently use certain filler words and other things as communication tools, whether they realize it or not. Could you maybe mentally rewrite it as “he is agreeing with me and trying to appear competent”?

      I have a colleague who always, ALWAYS leads off a question with “Quick question” – even if it’s the farthest from quick. Whether it’s by text, email, verbally, whatever, “Quick question” is her go-to. I’ve had to mentally rephrase it as “she is asking a question and alerting the team to think about what the solution is.”

      1. lost academic*

        It sounds a bit like a verbal tic – he was thinking that and he was anxious and he’s now relieved that you ahev confirmed his rationale. But while it’s understandable it’s also irritating you and it’s a good thing to work on.

    4. Marzipan*

      Is the problem mainly that he’s doing the ‘yes, that’s what I thought’ thing, or is it how much he’s asking about in the first place? Like, is the number of requests for your input broadly reasonable and this phrase is perhaps just an annoying habit, or is he constantly and endlessly running things past you because he genuinely doesn’t trust his own judgement?

      1. I am not the Lorax*

        I literally once told him that I would rather he ask 100 questions than none at all. Because at one point that was also an issue, he would move ahead on tasks with some assumption that he knew who to ask or what to do and then I would end up with a mess to clean up. He seems to hide what he doesn’t know or overemphasizes what he does know. I’m not even sure if he realizes he’s doing it. Which maybe means I should be kinder. But, while his tone is perfectly collegial, that response is sometimes dismissive of the advice, direction, information I’ve provided. His judgment is not wonderful and I say that without personal criticism. He’s naive and his judgment is also naive, which was a surprise given his experience. I recognize my own limitations as a manager that I will not be the person who can help him improve that, it requires much more skill and patience than I have.

        Sorry, I’m venting. But also hoping for options that are practical and helpful, but won’t drain my patience and energy.

        1. Marzipan*

          Venting is perfectly legitimate!

          When I’m faced with stuff like this, I try to design a process that minimises the hassle and/or changes of things going wrong. (Examples: we learned that to stop one manager from emailing us about every. single. thing. in turn whenever she’d been in leave, we could send one summary email before she got back with all our updates. Or, we came up with a way to stop another department from sending us ‘urgent’ requests that weren’t all that urgent, having promised members of the public that we’d do things for them that we weren’t going to do – basically we designed a form for them to use when referring people to us, that funneled them through asking the right questions and saying the right things.) So, I don’t know the specifics of your work or the timescales in which you need to get back to him, bit I wonder whether there’s a way to come up with a framework to contain his question-asking to make it more manageable and less draining. Maybe like a daily digest summary of where he’s at on things and any questions he needs answering to progress?

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Is he working on a par with other people who have similar time/experience in the job?

    5. Overeducated*

      So, a few years ago in a midyear performance review, my manager actually told me that one of the areas I should work on was taking more of an assertive role in these discussions. She said, “instead of giving a summary of the issue and then asking me what the best course of action is, I’d like you to recommend one based on your experience. Yes, the decision ultimately belongs to management, but someone at your level should be bringing us potential solutions to support our decision making process.” My workplace was very hierarchical and I’d previously been concerned about stepping out of line, but this feedback really reframed things for me and helped me take more of a leadership (but not managerial!) role in our program. Maybe something like that would help your report.

      1. I am not the Lorax*

        I have a few direct reports. I encourage them all to do this, including him. As someone above said, I should reiterate that in the moment when he’s asking his questions.

    6. Distractinator*

      Sure, maybe he was “thinking the same thing”, but how many other things was he also thinking? Would he reply that to basically any answer you gave right or wrong? I’d see his reply not as an indicator that he had it solved and didn’t need to ask you, but that he’s somehow insecure accepting your advice without now pretending like he didn’t really need it.

      Maybe when he asks you “what should I do about X?” instead of replying “you need to do Y” you say “I know how I’ve handled it in the past but why don’t you tell me a few of your ideas first” and you can get a sense of whether your answer really was on his list of thing he was genuinely thinking.

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

      I’ve had a lot of dealings with people like this (direct reports in the past, but also people asking me about this I’m a “subject matter expert” for although they do have a reasonable level of knowledge already)… I’ve found the “what have you already tried”, “what sort of approach are you considering?”, “how do you think is a good way to proceed with this?” etc to be effective. Quite often they have the answers already, or if not I can help clarify their thinking and give the additional needed info if required.

  31. Stephen!*

    I left my job due to long haul Covid. It was a physical job and some of the symptoms made it really dangerous to continue doing it. Now I am to a point where I am ready to start job searching. I was looking to transition fields anyway and have been taking classes to help make the change. My only concern is with answering the question of “why did you leave your last job?” Unfortunately, due to moving for my ex’s career, I have a job hopper-ish resume. I had hoped to stay at my last job longer- I was there for two years. I can also use them for a reference and I was clear when leaving that the issue was my health. But I don’t want to create doubt that I would be able to do any job, especially when Covid symptoms vary wildly. Would something like, “I had to leave last job due to the long haul Covid. Although I enjoyed the job, some of my symptoms made it dangerous to do a highly physically involved job. I had been thinking about transitioning to this field anyway, and Covid speeded up the timeline,” be sufficient?

    1. Stephen!*

      I meant to add that the field I am looking to get into would be largely computer based and would be fine to do with my particular blend of long haul Covid.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      If you don’t want to inspire concerns about your ability to do the job, I wouldn’t mention the Covid. You could say something like “I realized I wouldn’t be able to do this highly physical job for the rest of my life, and I was interested in X field.” It’s not untrue.

    3. JanetM*

      I think, “I had some health issues that are now resolved,” might be sufficient? And then maybe something like, “I had been thinking about moving into this field, and this particular job intrigues me because …”?

    4. Purple Cat*

      I think you can use a more generic “the pandemic made me rethink what I was looking for in a job, and I’ve been interested in this field.” Accurate, without delving into personal medical details.

    5. Pocket Mouse*

      Similar to what Janet M and Purple Cat said, maybe something like ‘Although I enjoyed my previous job, aspects of the work were made more difficult when Covid hit. I’d been planning into this new field anyway, so took it as inspiration to make the move sooner than I initially thought I would. I’m excited about this role because…’

      No need to specify that Covid hit you, specifically! With regard to quitting and any gap it may have caused, I’ve had luck with ‘I’m fortunate to be in a position to spend time preparing for work in [new field]/focus on pursuing roles that seem to be a great fit/etc.’

    6. Temperance*

      I would focus on your training and skills, and why you want to work in a technical field rather than manual labor. Definitely don’t mention the COVID; I wouldn’t want to hire someone who made it clear that they were taking this job as an afterthought because they have significant, ongoing health issues and maybe an infectious disease.

    7. Wendy City*

      I don’t think you need to get that specific. “I had a health issue that made it dangerous to do a highly physically involved job – that I knew I wanted to transition out of eventually.”

    8. 1234*

      I agree with the other comments. Don’t mention the COVID. I would say something along with “I had a health issue that I had to take care of. It is now taken care of and I am ready to transition to ____ for XYZ reasons.”

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Tangentially I just read an article (Washington Post probably) talking about early reports of some people having their long-haul symptoms drastically reduce after vaccination…so fingers crossed for you.

  32. Marzipan*

    I’m getting closer to returning to work from maternity leave and trying to get my head straight and think about how best to approach it. Closer in this context means about 5 weeks to go – I’m very aware I’m in a really fortunate position and that there are people whose whole maternity leave is only a few weeks. The other side to that, though, is that a LOT has changed while I’ve been off…

    – I’ve pretty much skipped the pandemic. There are tons of practical things on site, like twice-weekly lateral flow testing, one way systems in buildings, PPE of varying kinds in various contexts, that are all new to me. I’ll also be working from home some of the time, and a lot of the technological tools involved are ones I haven’t used before.
    – Many of the services we refer into have changed their practices, availability etc due to covid, so I’m not confident I know what’s available to clients in the way I was before.
    – The team reporting to me has been completely restructured over the last year (this was planned pre-covid). I had some involvement in this, but I know very little about the detail. The execution of some of these changes had also inevitably been impacted by covid.
    – The team my team sits within has also been changed significantly. There are roles that didn’t exist before; there are people who were previously in one job who are now in new ones. I don’t really know how all this sits together.

    I also have a new line manager (new to me, and afaik to the organisation). Last week I was feeling a bit fragile because our attempts to connect had gone a bit awry; I’ve chilled out a bit about that now and we’ll hopefully be meeting soon. I’m trying to think about what to ask for in terms of getting settled back in. So far I’m thinking:

    – Shadowing colleagues on casework to begin with
    – Structure charts of all the general new stuff
    – Time with my immediate counterpart to get to grips with the detail of our specific team.

    Anybody got any other tips or thoughts?

    1. ferrina*

      Virtual coffee with your work friends. That’s always my first stop- talk to the folks who have their finger on the pulse and are happy to talk to me. Even if they aren’t directly tied to your work, they can help walk you through the organizational changes and just let you know other things that might be helpful to know. It SO useful- plus just fun to catch up! And it’s a safe place to say “Wait, I don’t get this….”

      Also, love your name! Marzipan is the best.

    2. PollyQ*

      A small tip: When you talk with your new manager, you could say something like, “With all the recent changes, I feel a little like a new employee rather than a returning one.” It might help your manager to understand why you’re asking for things like training & shadowing.

  33. AndersonDarling*

    I’ve been interviewing with a company for 3 months and everything was great until my final interview. The interviewer (male) was gaslighting me (woman) the whole interview. Every time I answered a question, he figured out a way to be offended by my response. I didn’t recognize it as it was happening, and I was pretty much a bumbling mess by the time the hour was up.
    Before the final interview, I was absolutely pumped about the job, and the company is nationally recognized as a “Best Places to Work” company. If the job offer is contingent on that last guys approval, then I definitely won’t be offered the job. But the other 5 interviewers all loved speaking with me, so maybe there could be an offer. But I don’t know if I could even accept the role if it was offered. Now that I’ve had time to review the conversation, it’s really soured my view of the company.
    But geez! I’ve invested 3 months into the interview process!

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Will you have to work with this person? If you are offered a job, was there someone else (preferably a woman) you met who you really clicked with? If so, I would call that person, share that you got an offer and that you are excited but then broach the subject. I’d say something like, “my conversation with Dude is giving me some pause, can you tell me what he’s like to work with?” Their response should tell you a lot. If they are defensive, evasive etc then that is good information to have. If they acknowledge that Dude is an asshat but it isn’t an problem because XYZ, then that’s good information. And if they claim they don’t know what you are talking about, then that is good information too, because it tells you that Dude is good at hiding his asshatery.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I don’t think I would be working directly with the Guy on a regular basis. It’s a project based job and teams would switch depending on the project. The Guy is too high up to be involved on smaller projects, but he may be overseeing larger projects.
        If I do get the job offer, I’m considering asking if I could chat with another woman before I accepted. The recruiter has been very open about the process and I think I could be candid with her. One of the interviews was with a mid-manager woman and I really wanted to ask her about her experiences at the company as a woman in a man’s field, but I chickened out. She had overall positive things to say about the company and her teammates so I didn’t think I needed to prod further.

        1. RC Rascal*

          One thing to keep in mind : if Guy is a senior type manager he may end up moving on up another role sooner rather than later as part of his career progression. This tends to happen with arrogant jerks at a more senior level.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Do you already have a job that you like reasonably well? I’d be really hesitant to accept that offer. If he’s there and allowed to act like that, that says a lot about the company. I think you need to go into expecting to meet others like him. Even though they will be in the minority, it only takes one that you interact with routinely to make your work day miserable. So with that framing and also understanding that there are reasons you are looking to leave your current job, I think you have to weigh whether working with someone like that guy is a better or worse situation than the one you’re currently in.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I’m trying to leave a misogynistic boss at a misogynistic company. So I definitely don’t want to jump into the same situation, but I currently have to tolerate my boss on a daily basis, and I would likely only have passing interactions with New Job Jerky Guy. Four of my other interviews were with men and they all were great conversations.

    3. 1234*

      Is there any chance Jackass Interviewer was purposely doing that just to “test” how the candidates respond?

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I thought that for a sec, but if that was the game, then I wouldn’t want to work there anyway.
        During the interview, I considered that the guy was distracted or busy and was just being off. But when I reflected on the conversation, he was responding to everything I said with a confrontational remark. That makes me think that it’s ingrained into his personality and not just a distracted accident.

        1. 1234*

          I once interviewed with a guy like that who would be my Grandboss. I got an offer and took it because it was a “dream job” at the time and I think he was impressed that I didn’t seem fazed by his approach to interviewing.

          Turns out this guy had the reputation of “not providing people with information they needed to do their jobs because that’s how it was when he was paying his dues” which frustrated his direct reports [my bosses] as well. When I had to work with directly him, I got feedback such as “This is not how I would have done it.” and I would go “OK what needs to be changed?” only to be ignored. (The way I had “done it” was the same way my direct manager “did it”)

          But throughout the years, people have seen that he has “made strides” to be more collaborative and he did eventually get nicer.

        2. linger*

          Maybe Asshole Guy had a favourite applicant, and was being assholey to everyone else? In which case his assholery may or may not persist when interacting with the eventual successful hire. Certainly still a red flag for the individual, but not necessarily for the workplace.

    4. PollyQ*

      It’s possible, though I don’t know how likely, that Mr. Gaslighter was being especially obnoxious as part of his interviewing strategy — sort of a “stress test” — and that he wouldn’t be that bad when he was working. If that’s the case, then you may have done just fine in his eyes and may still be in the running. That said, I think it’s a pretty crappy strategy, and ignores the fact that interviewing is a two-way process, and that employers are supposed to be making themselves look appealing to candidates, too.

    1. MissGirl*

      Yes! I couldn’t believe that level of pettiness especially making sure the pennies were covered in grease. His response was so glassbowl, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.

    2. Ari*

      I was checking in just to see the conversation about this!

      So many people on here write in agonizing about if x, y, or z is “enough” to leave a job over, but I bet this guy has NO problems second guessing that decision, huh???

    3. PollyQ*

      Yes, what a f*ckwad. They’re claiming it’s helped their business, but I think that’s just a plain old lie. I sure as hell wouldn’t bring my car to place with an owner like that.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Exactly! If he treats his employees like that how is he going to treat a customer?
        I originally saw this posted on Facebook so I don’t know if it’s there or was in one of the articles (there’s a bunch floating around) but someone made the comment that if the pennies are coated in breaker fluid couldn’t the former employee call the EPA for dumping hazardous materials onto their property.

        1. tangerineRose*

          ” If he treats his employees like that how is he going to treat a customer?” Yep.

    4. Natalie*

      I really wish the Times reporter had asked the Georgia DOL what they think about this. Just because it doesn’t violate federal labor law doesn’t mean it’s perfectly fine.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Since the currency is not negotiable (usable) in the state it is in, how can this NOT be a failure to pay their employee?

      If I went in and paid for car repair with coins from my cat’s litter box I bet there would be h3ll to pay- I’d be charged with theft of services and a bunch of other things. (Eh, I was inquiring about a coupon at a grocery store and they said they would have me arrested just for inquiring. smh. But they can let kids and pets sit in hot cars and that’s okay. Disgusting.)

      Looks to me like the employee was right on target when he quit that job. As a consumer I’d have to wonder if this employer does not know the proper procedure for paying employees their earned wages, how can I be sure they know the proper procedure to correctly fix my car?

  34. Willow*

    I’m really sad after the last couple of weeks, because I’m coming to realize that I can’t stay in my job if I want to stay sane. I really love what I do, but management is just awful. This week I was reamed out for not lying to the CEO (I was caught offguard whan asked about something and told the truth–apparently I should have hedged and covered up that my department dropped the ball on something). And then a big boss said that they couldn’t see what supporting non-white employees looked like other than “not saying racist things to them.” And after years of doing the job of multiple people, it looks like they’re going to add yet another departing-employee’s responsibilities on to me. I am so tired.

    1. PolarVortex*

      You ever see that thing about how the way to keep a frog from jumping out of a pot is to slowly warm the water so they don’t realize they’re being cooked?

      That’s what life is like in a toxic workplace (it’s also a great parallel for depression too). You’re currently in a pot of water that’s way too hot, and you need to jump.

      Just think what that cool water will feel like once you’re out and you’ll be wondering why you stayed in that boiling pot for so long.

      1. Willow*

        I have this habit of staying in jobs with toxic management because the actual job is really fun and interesting. Unfortunately I think the toxic management is a trait of this profession as a whole, which really sucks.

        1. PolarVortex*

          Ah that sucks. I feel you though, I have the habit of staying with places because I love my work/my peoples I manage too.

          I do hope you’re able to find that needle in a haystack in your situation with a non-toxic workplace.

        2. MissGirl*

          There are great jobs working with fair and kind people out there. One of them is waiting for you to apply.

    2. ferrina*

      Hugs! I hear that! It’s so hard when there are parts you truly love, but the bad parts are worse. I’ve mourned jobs even as I was applying to new ones.
      PolarVortex’s frog in a pot comparison is right on. I’m glad you’ve decided to move on and wish you luck in your job search!

    3. Hawkeye is in the details*

      Willow, I’ve been there. Recently. I loved the work and the people of my department, but the top-down structure of the organization was a hot mess. Projects were added and expected to be completed within 24 hours, but the logistics hadn’t even been fully realized. Poor management across the org left us with far too many poor performers. Expectations were way too high for us high performers.

      I left at the end of January. My new company is amazing. Kind and reasonable, with better pay and benefits, and a culture that treats people as human.

      Start looking. It took me a while to find the right fit, but it’s so worth it.

      1. Dramamethis*

        Hawkeye, I could have written this verbatim, right down to the “left at the end of January.”

        There’s a lot of toxic narcissists out there for sure.

        Willow, don’t give up!!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Time will be kind, Willow. Things will happen to help balance this out- you can get to a better place and find new aspects to life. It doesn’t have to be this hard and it probably won’t be this hard ever again.

  35. PolarVortex*

    So I’ve been stuck in my current position for awhile, but it’s being phased out so I need to shift elsewhere – which I am 100% fine with. However my two options are as follows:

    1) Apply for a position that people want me in, is interesting, and while they say is a lateral move, (and I’d retain my current paycheck) is technically a pay grade below my current one. This makes me nervous for long term growth as any promotion would send me back to my current pay grade (which I am at the top limit of).

    2) Roll the dice and see what other positions come up and apply for them (internal and external to my company)

    I feel like between the recession and the pandemic my career keeps getting set back time and time again. I’m getting a little sick of being behind and I want a career path forward, and I’m terrified that 1 will hold me back long term. (Short term it’ll have me working with some new teams on some interesting projects so if I knew I was going to take it for a year or two and then shift elsewhere I’d feel differently.)

    1. ferrina*

      How much do you need the paycheck? That definitely weighs in with factor 2. If you are considering being between jobs, assume it may take twice as long is today’s environment than it would have a couple years ago.

      I’m wondering about Option 1. Why would a lateral move set back your career? And why couldn’t you take the lateral while also applying to other jobs. If anyone asks, you can say that you took your lateral because your current position was being phased out but you’re really excited to do XYZ

      1. PolarVortex*

        Well, I wouldn’t leave my job without something lined up, but the powers that be expect me to find something internal sooner rather than later.

        But the reason why I’m concerned with lateral is if I take this job, which is a paygrade down but on a different ladder – think I’m shifting from Teapot Analytics (T3 paygrade) to Teapot Lead (T2 paygrade) – if I go up that career ladder, the promotion to Senior Teapot Lead (T3) is the same level as my job in Teapot Analytics. Also if I apply for positions internal to my company after taking the Teapot Lead job, they don’t like people jumping two paygrades, so if I drop down to the lower paygrade (even if I’m paid higher than it) they won’t want me to jump the paygrade I had already been in.

  36. blossom*

    How do I get over the feeling that I’ve failed in my professional career?

    I graduated with my BA in 2015, and went straight to get my Master’s in a niche nonprofit field (graduated in 2017). Since then, I fumbled around in several FT entry level roles within my niche nonprofit industry, and eventually realized that the field was a really bad fit for me. During the pandemic, I was furloughed and used that time to do a bootcamp course, which landed me an entry level role in digital marketing. The new role I’m in is usually filled by recent college grads, so when I entered the company, many of my colleagues just assumed that I am a fresh grad as well. I actually don’t mind this misconception, because for all intents and purposes, my knowledge of the digital marketing field is equivalent to that of a fresh grad, but a senior leader on my team introduced me someone “who is in her first very full time job” at an all-staff meeting the other day. This stung a bit, as I felt like all of my previous years of hard work were basically ignored because they were in a different field.

    In general, I look around my peers who graduated around the same time as me, and I see that everyone has progressed much further than I have in my career. I am basically still in an entry level role while all of my peers are in manager (and some, in director-level) roles. How do I get over this feeling that I’m immensely behind and that I am a failure professional?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Don’t compare yourself to people who found their field earlier than you did. You’re not supposed to be on the same timeline as them.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve been in the same situation, but I had feelings of jealousy more than feeling like I had failed. I didn’t get a degree until recently, but I have been working for 25 years. I was putting in years of work and experience and it stung everytime a new grad was hired into a role above me. I felt like I would never be recognized.
      So I got a new job. And it was the same way. So I got another job. And then I got another job, and that was the job where I was treated with respect and I had managers that recognized my skills and experience!
      My advice is to gain experience from your job and then make a switch in a year or two.
      But honestly, you are still really early in your career. Some people will get the big breaks and land that manager role right out of school, but you are in the boat with the 95% of the rest of us. You will get there, I did.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      You’re only a couple of years out, really. Give it a few more years and see where you land–not everyone who graduated with you will keep progressing on the same trajectory and you’re bound to catch up with some of them.

      Also: It’s pretty normal to have a bit of a setback when you change fields. It’s not personal, it’s just a thing because you are at least partially starting over.

    4. kicking_k*

      Not everyone progresses at the same rate, or smoothly! If you’d asked me 18 months ago, I might have felt the same. Personal circumstances had dictated that I was working at a job where my experience was appreciated and the working conditions were great but there was no possibility of progression or getting experience I could build on – and I was there five years. I had repeatedly failed to get jobs with better prospects. Then I heard through a personal contact about a better job, closer to home, better paid – and I got it, and now I feel I’m back on track, and much more where I hoped I’d be by now.

      I’d take what training opportunities you can, and let your manager/mentor know you’d like more. They might not be able to provide it, but they may be able to advise on what you’d need to be a suitable candidate in future. Mine did.

    5. MissGirl*

      I went back to school at 34 to get an MBA and started over in data analytics. My current manager is ten years younger than I am. BUT I am now making twice what I was making at my previous job, I have job security, and a career trajectory. I do get super bummed that I could’ve been here ten years ago but I can only focus on my future. When I think of the past, it freaks me out to no end. I fill my current life with the things I missed.

    6. Spearmint*

      I know it’s cliche, but everyone has their own career path and it’s best to try not to directly compare your path to others’.

      It’s very common to switch careers, and many do so successfully when they’re far older than you. And you had a good reason to switch careers: you were unhappy. Would you rather be a manager in field that makes you miserable? If not, then I’d say switching careers to something better is a success in its own right.

      And you do have a leg up over recent grads, but it will be more in soft skills than shed skills. But those matter, and if you’re at a good employer they’ll benefit your career.

      I get the lack of recognition for your past experiences sucks. Maybe try to subtly work your previous experience into conversation more? And definitely correct people who explicitly say you’re a recent grad or this is your first professional job.

    7. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      Agree with Dust Bunny. You are only a couple of years out. I know several people including myself who were still trying to find their place in the corporate world. I was 31 before I landed the job that would ultimately define what I did for a living. My daughter was 31. Brother was closer to 35. Sometimes, it takes a few years of ‘entry level’ wandering before you find the one role that works for you. Yes, there are people who get right into a field right out of university and seem to fast track their careers. I’m willing to bet that you are only seeing those people because you don’t really know where people are in their career track same as they don’t know exactly where you are in yours. Hence the comment by the senior leader supposing you were starting your first post education position.

    8. pieces_of_flair*

      You haven’t failed! You’re only a few years into your work life and you’re gainfully employed in a field you want to be in. Not everyone can say that. I graduated 18 years ago and it’s only in the past 5 or so years that I’ve gotten established in my long-term career. Once I figured out where I wanted to go, I got there more quickly than I expected! Career trajectories are rarely a linear progression. I don’t regret the years I spent in random jobs outside my current field (or the useless Master’s degree I got) because I learned a lot from those experiences.

    9. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      I think you’re really smart and brave – you understood one field wasn’t for you and took the brave decision to. trust yourself and do something else – that’s priceless in itself and something to be proud of. Its nice the people you graduated at the same time with have got what appears from the outside to be decent jobs but honestly thats can often be down as much inertia and playing safe as anything else – Your future self will thank you for trying something new.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      How do I get over this feeling that I’m immensely behind and that I am a failure professional?

      Balance things out by looking at the people who think you got it going on and you have your stuff together.

      There will always be people ahead of you and people behind you. Always. And if you are even-handed with your own self you can probably point to times in your past where you were ahead of others. If you read here, you will find that even today you are ahead of others.

      Insist on fairness to your own self.

    11. Incessant Owlbears*

      Meanwhile, it’s very possible that your peers are miserable as managers in fields that aren’t the best fit for them, and would be envious of you! Comparison is the thief of joy.

    12. Small houseplant*

      Whenever I feel like I’m not in the right spot or compare too much with others I remind myself that life isn’t a race. If it were, what would the finish line be, death? There’s no one set path or right way. Lots of people’s careers take a wandering path.

  37. Rusty Shackelford*

    I use surveys to collect information from clients/users, and I’m finding that often, when I use an open-ended question asking for additional comments, people feel compelled to answer even when they have nothing to add. Examples of questions I’ve used include:

    Additional comments
    Do you have any additional comments about our teapots?
    Please share any additional comments or concerns

    And for some reason, I get a lot of answers saying “no” or “none” or “n/a” or even just a period, as if people thought the question required an answer (it didn’t) and they just had to type something to get past it.

    What am I doing wrong? Or is this just a thing people do and I should just ignore it?

    1. Eleanor Knope*

      I’m not sure if this is considered a best practice, but I’ve added (Optional) to the end of questions like that where I truly didn’t care if people answered or not. “Do you have any additional comments about the meeting? (Optional).” And yet, people will still answer it with “no” or “nothing”! I think it’s just something people do.

      1. boo bot*

        I do it, and I don’t think I have a good explanation why. More often I’ll write something like, “Nope, it was great!” or “Nothing, thanks!” but I’m still writing something when I’ve got nothing to say.

        I think it might just be so whoever reads it doesn’t feel like I’m ignoring their question.

          1. Esmeralda*

            YOU know that, but the people answering don’t. Which I’m sure you know…

            Do the non-answer answers slow down or mess up your data collection in a substantial way? You could probably filter them out, if you don’t want to waste time reading them — you know what a typical non-answer answer looks like, so…

          2. t*

            Esmeralda is right, though. When I am taking a survey, and am presented with what you describe, I’ll put “n/a” if it applies so that you know I saw the question.

            Because unless I do so, you don’t really know whether I actually read the question.

            So accept it for what it is: a courtesy on the part of the responder. Besides, if you’re noticing similar patterns among survey takers that you find lacking, maybe your survey design is the problem.

      2. Girasol*

        Yes, this! Some forms require an entry in every blank and will put up an error message if one is skipped, and then dump all the data on the page, forcing the user to re-enter everything from the beginning. So it’s a good idea to mark questions “optional” if they are, not because you’re doing it wrong, but because so many other survey writers do it wrong.

    2. lizw*

      I would ignore.
      1. It’s a quality assurance thing for many people and
      2. Many surveys will not allow you to proceed without entering “something” in the field.

      BTB: Your first example question is literally a yes/no response. If you are looking for more specific answers, you may need to tailor some questions around those topics:
      Do you have any additional comments about our teapots? If yes, please share any additional comments or concerns:___________

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Good point about the yes/no response… I should expect a few people to take that literally and feel compelled to answer!

    3. Reba*

      I think you could add OPTIONAL but it’s just a thing people do.

      I mean, have you noticed how many people “answer” the user-supplied questions about items on shopping websites with “I don’t know, sorry” ?

      Some people, if there is a box, will treat it as something they have to fill.

    4. Bear Shark*

      It’s just a thing people do because so many surveys require that you fill in open-ended questions. They’re probably just trying to save time wasted on other surveys when you submit and it tells you that you have to answer all the questions to get past it.

    5. katz*

      Check if the comments field is marked required in the form set-up/coding. Our local health department COVID vaccine sign-up has a “Comments (Optional)” field at the end. If you leave it blank, it tells you the field is required. *eyeroll*

    6. Mr. Cajun2core*

      First make 100% sure that it is optional.

      Second, I think what Eleanor Knope stated was an excellent idea.

    7. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I might add “Optional” after the question, but it’s just a thing people do. As long as you’re surveying humans, it’s just par for the course.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, make it clear that it’s optional. A lot of surveys don’t let you move on without answering.

    9. OtterB*

      It’s just a thing people do. Just weed those answers out before you do anything with the open-ended data. I put that kind of question at the end of surveys because (a) sometimes our survey design missed the boat and failed to ask about something important, in which case we’ll see it when multiple people put it in the comments, and (b) it’s a good way to wrap up and make sure people feel heard.

      Somebody else commented on the fact that “Do you have any additional comments about our teapots?” is technically a yes/no question. I had a mentor who felt strongly about this, so I tend to lean toward your second framing, but I think people generally understand the intent either way.

    10. Time for Tea*

      Fellow survey professional here (10+ years experience).

      First, check the UI on your survey. Do respondents know when a question is optional or not? Is it predictable which questions are required? Best practice is to have all long-form open ended responses optional (though that’s not always possible).

      If the UI is good, you can definitely use “Optional-” to start the question. Also make clear that you’re just asking for additional thoughts . If your survey is a one-pager, “Additional comments” is fine, but for longer surveys, “Do you have any additional comments about our teapots?” is better. Or “Optional: Please share any other comments or thoughts that you have on our teapots”. Sentence instructions are more likely to get glossed over than questions (some people feel compelled to respond to questions, but not on if given instructions, because instructions are less conversational).

      There will always be someone that says “No” or “N/A” or “.” That’s normal.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        All of the open-ended questions are optional. Some of them are just standard “we already gave you a 1-5 rating scale, is there anything else you want to add” kinds of questions, and some of them are “we REALLY want to give you the opportunity to provide this information, so if none of our carefully worded questions accurately encompasses your experience, PLEASE let us know, in as much detail as you can stand to provide.”

    11. Ari*

      Firstly, I think it’s OK to just ignore, the people filling the survey probably will never give the answers as much thought as you do.

      Secondly, if you were interested in eliminating the knee-jerk have-to-complete-every-field responses, could you “hide” the text box behind a link or expansion arrow? “If you have additional comments, you can leave them /here/” and clicking that link just expands to show the text box? Oh, or a radio button for yes and no, and if yes, the text box appears, if no, no text box appears.

    12. Maggie*

      Thats just what people do on surveys haha. I work with surveys all day every day. Lets say I sell t-shirts. I’ll get a couple surveys a week that say things like “Tshirt” or “Bought t-shirt on the website” or “shirt”

    13. Not So NewReader*

      So why do you want to prevent them from saying “none” or “n/a”?

      I am trying to figure out why it’s a problem if they put these answers in.

  38. Shawn*

    Long story short, but I want to leave my job because the people there are absolutely horrible in all the ways. I’m trying to think of neutral reasons for wanting to leave to give to prospective employers (the jobs I’m applying to are in different industries, but involve similar skills/responsibilities). Are either of these reasons reasonable? Is one better?:

    1) I’d like a more traditional workweek. I currently have off on one weekday and one weekend day, and they can’t be consecutive, so I haven’t had off for more than one day at a time since I started. It feels like I never get a break because I’m always right back to work the next day.

    2) I don’t feel good about the industry. It’s expensive stuff that seems like a rip off to me, and I feel like customers are being taken advantage of. It’s the kind of thing where I took the job because I needed a job but had no actual interest in it. I’d rather work somewhere I can feel good about.

    1. kicking_k*

      I like the second one but would frame it more as “I like your company’s mission and I’d like to work toward something bigger,” rather than anything that sounds critical of your current/former employers.

    2. PX*

      When wanting to leave, less is more. Both your answers to me are too much information, and your second one is definitely too detailed and critical. This is where generic is your friend: “I’m looking for a new challenge/change of environment” – and they key is to transition into why you want THIS job specifically.

      “I’d like a more traditional workweek as my current job has an unusual shift structure. This job appeals to me because it will allow me to use my skills in this exciting new industry of goat shearing which I’ve been interested in ever since reading an article about how goats are much more difficult to shear than sheep”.

    3. Twisted Lion*

      I would try to frame it in the positive and not the negative. Like “Ive felt like I have really reached the point where I have learned and done everything I can in my current position and am looking for ways to grow and learn new things.”

    4. Cat Tree*

      Rather than explaining why you want to leave you current place, try to focus on why you want to go to the new place. I get it, you might be in a position where you’re applying to everything just to get out of your current company. But for every application, there is at least *some* reason you chose to apply other than “isn’t my current job”. So try to articulate what made you interested to apply for that particular position and expand on that.

      1. Reba*

        This!

        Even reason #1, while neutral, is not something that would make me think “Wow this person is really excited to work with me.” Definitely it should be a criteria for you as you look, but I wouldn’t raise it in interviews or letters (unless you need to ask a question about schedule, of course).

        Since you say you’re looking for positions using similar skills in new contexts, that’s a great story to share! “I’m looking to grow and take skills X and Y into the Z sector. I’m excited about the opportunity to _____” — in other words it is focused on where you will be going, not where you have been.

        Good luck!

        1. t*

          >…in other words it is focused on where you will be going, not where you have been.

          Precisely this. Focus on why you are running toward a new position, not on why you’re fleeing your present one.

          And this should be genuine, too. You may run into similar problems in a new role. But there may be those factors in a new job that make enduring those problems more worth your while, like moving to an area that has a lower cost of living, having access to more culture, being geographically nearer to family, a more temperate climate, etc.

  39. Drama Llamas*

    I wrote in about a month ago because my coworker was giving me the cold shoulder because I took a sick day, yet still went for my Covid vaccine. Well, when it was time to get the second dose, my other coworker Fergus was questioning me about it. He then goes, “Oh, right…. You weren’t here that day, but still went for the vaccine.” He then had a smirk on his face and I asked him what he meant. He just smiled and said, “nothing.”

    They do this all the time at my work- sort of a “I know something you don’t know.”

    It’s very frustrating, juvenile, and unprofessional. Do I drop the issue? No one will ever tell me what they meant, so I’ve just given up, but I feel like they’re the ones acting like children.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Someone made a post on the previous thread that suggested “when you say that, it sounds like you think X,” which I think is perfect for this situation. “When you say that, it sounds like you think I was lying about being sick that day.” Just put it right out there, rather than asking what they mean.

      1. Overbooked*

        I think this is perfect too, and I also doubt I’d have the wherewithal to use it in the moment, sadly. Some alternative scripts?
        Alison’s “Thanks!”, as in, “Thanks for remembering that!” “Thanks for pointing that out!”, or just gray-rock “Thanks.”
        Captain Awkward’s “I know, my [thing] is great!” Her context was responding to personal digs, but I can see a version like “I know, our health plan is great!”
        Miss Manners’ fabulous “It’s so kind of you to take an interest.” Period.
        “Sure.” “Okay.” “Uh-huh.” It seems like they enjoy trying to provoke you; be boring.

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      I don’t blame you for feeling frustrated; it is juvenile and unprofessional.

      There are people out there who have a habit of thinking that they have the whole story of something or that their version is the truth, even when they don’t have the whole picture. It sounds like what is going on here. Maybe they have written a story where you are a villain, secretly trying to get away with using unneeded sick time, while they are the long-suffering, hard-working heroes of their tale.

      Honestly, I would just ignore it as much as possible. I would treat the comments as strange, because they are, but I wouldn’t press them for answers. Treat it as unimportant, but make sure your boss is clued in on your work and your schedule, and just let these two think whatever they want.

    3. Workerbee*

      It may not always be possible, but where you can, don’t engage with the conversation after Fergus drops his little bomb. He is waiting for you to catch it. Let it drop. He can keep his smirk for himself.

      And put him on an information diet. He doesn’t need to know what you do when you’re not at work, vaccine or not!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      When he says “nothing”, close the topic.

      Him: “Nothing”
      You: “Great, then we can move on. We are done with this topic.”

      Or
      Him: “Nothing”
      You: “Good. I am glad it’s all resolved for you now. We can get back to work.”

      Instead of trying to figure out more or even thinking of trying to drag it out of him, just respond to exactly what he has said. “Oh good, this is over, we can move on.”

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

        “Nothing!”
        “Oh ok good…for a minute there I was worried you were being juvenile and unprofessional! Hahaha”

        Not really but I could picture myself saying that…

  40. BR*

    I’d love some feedback on a question – this column has been so helpful!
    I’m a recent PhD graduate who was very lucky to get a job almost immediately at the university I just graduated from. It’s a wonderful position, but is completely unrelated to my field and is also semi-temporary/soft money funded, so I’m still actively job searching in my field (which my boss knows about, and is very supportive of. He’s the best.)

    I currently have a second interview scheduled for a post-doctoral visiting fellowship position which is still somewhat outside of my field, but much closer (i.e. I would be teaching some classes and doing research in my chosen area, but not housed in that department.) They have been delightfully transparent throughout the interview process and let candidates know the salary amount (not range, just one number) and benefits before the first interview round.

    My problem is it’s a huge pay cut — 30% less than what I’m currently making, in a place with a higher cost of living! I don’t know if I would consider taking the job or not at that salary (still weighing other pros and cons), but I’m wondering what folks’ take is on the possibility of negotiating, and how I might best go about it. Is that something I should bring up in the second interview, or wait until a job offer? Has anyone had success in negotiating salary (especially for an academic fellowship-type position) where they announced the official number up front?

    Thank you!

    1. Graciosa*

      The first and most important part of negotiating is knowing your own position and when you will walk away. Figure that out first.

      The reason I say that here is that you seem to be hoping that this really transparent employer which announced the salary for the job didn’t really mean it. I can’t speak to that aspect (although I will say that it’s not reading to me like it’s open, but maybe someone in academia will have a different take) but you’re avoiding the fundamental issue and potentially wasting a lot of people’s time (including yours) by not deciding now whether you would consider this job at this salary.

      If you wouldn’t, you should return the university’s candor in kind. Maybe you ask once – “Is there any flexibility in the compensation?” – and if the answer is no, you either bow out or move forward understanding that this is it.

      But know your own mind first –

    2. ThursdayNext*

      If it’s a postdoc position there probably isn’t any real room for negotiation. The salary bands are set by the college/university/funding agency and that’s that. For my postdoc position, I was able to get some moving costs reimbursed but later I found out that it’s difficult to negotiate post-doc salaries because the university doesn’t like having people with the same title and experience getting paid different salaries [which is a very fair attitude to take]. Maybe you’d get a grand or two (I had a friend at another institution who was able to negotiate for about that much), or maybe you could see if your offered salary matched what national funding agencies (e.g. the NIH) pay postdoc fellows in your city. FWIW, nationally postdoc salaries seem to start around ~$50k/year in the sciences, with some variation for location, but since NIH postdoc fellowships start at ~$50k/year that’s what most institutions try to match.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If it’s a postdoc position there probably isn’t any real room for negotiation. The salary bands are set by the college/university/funding agency and that’s that.

        Especially if they’re already providing you one number rather than a range.

      2. Reba*

        Agree with this. Most post docs do pay less than what would be considered a reasonable salary for a “real” position, that’s understood and how they are designed. (I think some universities peg the salaries to equivalent permanent positions or levels of experience, but for a lot of programs, the cheaper labor is part of the appeal and why they created the fellowship.)

        I think you could definitely ask about relocation expenses and the possibility of a research or travel budget. But the salary number won’t budge.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        This. For a postdoc, there is generally no room for negotiation. Either the amount is set by the institution and is fixed, or it was obtained via grant money and any increase in salary would need to be applied for in the next round of grant applications (ie, applied for next year to take effect the year after that). Given that they gave you a single value up front, rather than a range, this is a take it or leave it situations.

        Y0u might have some luck getting a bit of money for relocation. Other things to ask about would be set up for computer (will they provide a laptop, for example), and whether they provide funding for conferences. In general, research postdocs pay less than you would get for comparable experience/education in the private sector, so if money in the short term is a major motivator, I’d recommend staying in the private sector.