open thread – April 16-17, 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.

{ 1,060 comments… read them below }

  1. Miss Ames*

    I plan to resign in the fall and give 2 weeks notice (while basically I am retiring from the regular full-time workforce, I am a few years below what’s considered typical retirement age, and I do not want to use the word “retiring” mainly because I want to leave all options open). Any ideas on what can I give as a reason for leaving the company, since I am not moving into another job as is more the norm? The reality is, my financial status is such that it is possible for me to leave full-time work, and I am ready to move on to the next stage of living. (Note: for various reasons, I can’t give more than 2 weeks notice)

      1. Generic Name*

        This always makes me think of politicians who are leaving office ahead of a scandal. :/

    1. Weekend Please*

      Does your company offer part time employment? If not, it should be easy enough to say you want to step back from full time work. You could say “semi-retirement” if you feel comfortable with that. That is what I have heard other people say when they switch to part time employment as a step towards retirement.

      1. New Mom*

        I like the semi-retirement idea. That’s actually my goal, I’d like to create a financially independent situation for myself so that I could semi-retire at 50. I would still want to work, but reduced hours is how I’d like to spend the time. I think people would understand that want.

    2. londonedit*

      I’d say ‘I’m leaving to explore other opportunities’ or ‘I’m taking a break’ or ‘I want to explore a different pace of life’ or something. Not sure if semi-retirement is a phrase that’s used where you are? In the UK it’s fairly common for people to take semi-retirement and everyone would understand that it doesn’t mean ‘I will not be doing any work for the rest of my life’. People who are semi-retired will still be doing some part-time work.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Could ‘I’m taking a bit of a break and considering my options’ work ?

      That said, you don’t actually have to give a reason at all, certainly not in your resignation letter / e-mail, all you need to say is that you are giving notice and your last day will be [date]. If you like, you can add in something about having enjoyed your time with the company.

      having *an* answer may be useful if your boss is likely to ask for your reasons or try to persuade you to stay, but again, something like “I’m actually in a position to take a bit of a break, which I’m really looking forward to, but thank you”

      1. irene adler*

        yeah- exactly. No requirement to give a reason.
        But if that’s what is wanted, how about “re-assessing career (or life) choices”? Or just “changing priorities”.

      2. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

        That said, you don’t actually have to give a reason at all, certainly not in your resignation letter / e-mail, all you need to say is that you are giving notice and your last day will be [date].

        This. I never give a reason when putting in notice. If my manager asks what I’ll be doing or where I’m going, if I feel comfortable, I’ll tell them, but I never thought it was mandatory to disclose this information.

    4. Yellow Warbler*

      Everyone who retires from my department gets asked to do part-time consulting. To the point that most of them create an LLC before they announce their retirement.

      I would say you’re moving towards self-employment. If you retire and then decide you are bored, you would be leaving the door open to set your own rates and do some PT assignments.

      1. Momma Bear*

        This is a good point. It is not uncommon here for people to put in their minimum required years and then “retire” only to reboot as a consultant or contractor if they feel like it later.

    5. Hi cadence*

      I am going to be in a similar position next year, and I am describing it as moving into a new area of work. Can you say you are exploring new and different kinds of work? People seem to like details, so in my case I have been saying that I’ll be doing more nonprofit and church work.

    6. Generic Name*

      “Early retirement”
      “Independent consulting”
      “Time off to travel for a few years”
      “I don’t have to work anymore so see ya suckers!”

      1. Merci Dee*

        I agree with just calling it early retirement and leaving it at that. Just because OP calls it “retirement” doesn’t mean that they can never go back into the workforce ever again, The End. It’s so very common for people to make the decision to retire, and then a couple of years later to go back to either a part-time position or work in a different field because they wanted more structure to their days/were tired of staring at the same four walls/wanted to feel more productive/(a million other reasons here).

        My dad retired from ministry when he was 72, per conference requirements, and then was called the next year to “temporarily” fill in at a church where the pastor had been injured in a horrific traffic accident during the first month of his annual appointment. Dad ended up staying at the church for the remainder of the appointment year instead of the “couple of weeks” that the district leadership had initially mentioned.

        As a result of his unforeseen return to work, I have taken to calling his first attempt at retirement his “faux-tirement”. The second attempt to retire has stuck so far, and it’s been 3 years.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          My mom retired two years ago and got bored real quick. She now works Sept-May for the same hospital she retired from on a part-time/on-call basis covering maternity leave, vacation, sick call outs, etc… Its perfect because she can still do what she wants 95% of the time and has a fun money fund again.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          My grandpa retired for the first time in the 1980s. His second retirement was probably 15-20 years later, and there was still some definitely work-adjacent activity into his nineties.

          The nature of the work changed enormously in that time, mind you. You can achieve a lot from a computer with a good internet connection even if you should have retired a whole generation ago!

        3. turquoisecow*

          My in-laws “retired” from their full time jobs a few years ago and then both went out and got “part-time” jobs where they worked almost as much as their full-time jobs. My mom also worked with a number of people who had retired from their full-time careers but liked having something to keep them busy.

      2. Ashley*

        Travel / time with family is nice and vague and after all the COVID stuff the timing makes sense because hopefully in the fall it will be a little easier.

      3. Claire*

        Hmmm… as an independent consultant, I’m not sure how “independent consulting” got equated with time off from work. I promise you, it’s a lot of work!

        1. Generic Name*

          Ha, well I wasn’t meaning to imply independent consulting isn’t work, because it definitely is. I meant more to explain why OP isn’t going to work another job. Their employer doesn’t have to know “independent consulting” really means “I spend my days petting my cats” or whatever.

      4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        “I’m going to be too busy with my royal duties from now on. Farewell, commoners.”

    7. LKW*

      How about “Focusing time on some projects you’ve had to put off until now.” Projects include napping, golfing, volunteering , etc.

    8. Momma Bear*

      Leaving to explore new options.

      I basically said that when I was desperate to get out of a job with nothing lined up.

    9. Nears a million*

      I would love to do that. The ONLY thing holding me back is the cost of health insurance. We were paying 1300 a MONTH with an 8k deductible 2 years ago. We are waiting until hubs qualify medicare. I will do COBRA… And expect to pay 800 a month.

    10. tamarack and fireweed*

      “I’m looking forward to take more time for myself and my family, and to step down from full-time work.”

  2. New Teacher*

    I was the one at the beginning of March to ask about my school being disorganized (under the name “New Teacher”). I have an update!

    I was offered a new job at a museum! Full time with better benefits, more pay, and shorter commute than my current job. The museum is in a field I went to school for! Also, 3.5 day work week! I appreciate the support and advice!.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      Code for “I’m jumping before they push me” or, in the case of tv/film actors, “I said something egregious to a journalist/on Twitter and now I can’t get any work”.

  3. Aloway*

    I need advice from people who do freelance work.

    A recruiting agency reached out to me last year about some work for a company in my field of expertise. The recruiter handed me off to the company, and I interviewed with several execs and an SME. They decided it was a good fit, and chose me to do the work.

    There was a snafu with the MNDA, so the company and the agency argued a bit over the details. I was told to wait for them to sort things out. Then Covid happened, and everything ground to a halt.

    Over a year later, the recruiter I worked with has been let go. I don’t know anyone else at the agency. Things in my field are starting to pick back up, and as far as I know, the deal was never actually finalized. If it was finalized, the time period would have expired.

    Is it out of line to directly e-mail my contact at the company itself, and ask if they are still interested?

    1. Emi*

      I would do it.

      I do freelance work, but have one long term client who takes up 75% of my time, meaning I’m not a typical freelancer, so that’s my grain of salt, to go with my perspective.

    2. HereToHelp*

      Yes, reach out to the company. Remember that they may not have a budget for an independent contractor.

    3. notacompetition*

      FT freelancer here. Totally OK to do it; I would probably email under the guide of basic admin/housekeeping and say you were following up on this to see if they’re still interested. You could even say you’re beginning to build out your workflow/schedule for the coming season and want to make sure you can accommodate them if they are still planning to do this work.

    4. Artemesia*

      COVID gives you a free pass here. It would probably be okay in any case, but given the disruption across the board, no one will give it a second thought now. The company can route you back to the recruitment agency if they need to do so, but since you know the company contact, go ahead an touch base mentioning the chaos of the last year and you wondered if they were planning to go ahead with X as things resolve.

    5. T. Boone Pickens*

      Current freelancer and former full-time recruiter here. You are 100% a-ok to reach out. Every reputable recruiting company that I know about specifies a 1 year timeframe where the agency ‘owns’ the candidates. This is put in place to ensure that the agency gets paid if the hiring company tries to do something nefarious like interview the candidate, tell the recruiting agency they aren’t interested in said candidate and then turnaround and hire the candidate at a later date in an attempt to cut the recruiting agency out of their fee. It sounds like it’s been over one year so I think you’re in the clear here. Good luck! I hope you win the business!

    6. RagingADHD*

      Nope! Go for it!

      If they prefer to go through the agency for management reasons, they can put you in touch with their current rep.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Go ahead and contact the company – after a year, the agency won’t likely have any claim to you as a candidate for a placement fee. Even if they did, the company will make the decision about whether to hire or not based on their needs and whether a fee is worth it to them. Nobody at the company is going to take it the wrong way about you reaching out directly, and the search agency doesn’t have any right to feel slighted.

  4. Amber Rose*

    My husband was rejected from yet another master’s program, is not getting any interviews for jobs and his job has become so toxic that he’s having breakdowns and calling me for support so he doesn’t hurt himself. I’m at a loss for how to help at this point. I’ve asked him to make an appointment with alumni services at our university for now to see if they have any input, but things are so dire that it feels hopeless. I’m spiraling back into bad habits myself.

    Someone just tell me… there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t just another train.

    1. Dasein9*

      Alumni Services is a start, and counseling might be beneficial if it’s at all possible.
      The light at the end of the tunnel may need to be kindled, but you can offer support with that.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Does your husband have mental health support? Do you? I have been in a roughly similar situation (no master’s program at play, but husband in a very bad toxic job who started to spiral). You can’t do this on your own. You both need as much professional support as you can get/afford. Also, would it be possible for him to just quit, financially? Could he work part time in retail or other service jobs while he takes a mental health break? Start thinking outside of the box, because clearly this isn’t working for you guys.

      1. Amber Rose*

        No. He gets no benefits for that kind of thing and mine are just enough to cover one appointment per year. I made that appointment anyway, and basically just wasted an hour of my Saturday.

        It’s also not possible for him to quit. We live paycheck to paycheck as it is.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m so sorry. It sounds like he desperately needs a break and you both desperately need more support. I hope you can find a solution soon because you can’t fix him and you can’t fix the situation on your own.

        2. Alex*

          I’m so sorry. It sounds like you both need that support. It’s hard and frustrating, but I’d suggest getting on the waitlist for every free, sliding scale and low-income therapy program available in your area.

          Nonprofits, your local health department, and your local big health system will often have a list. If there’s a large university in your area, you can often get cheap/free therapy from a social work grad student (supervised by a professional).

          You husband can also put the numbers for your local mental health helplines into his phone, which offer phone and text support in crisis, and can help him have more outlets besides you. I’ll be thinking of you, and wishing we had a more comprehensive health safety net for this stuff.

          1. Amber Rose*

            I’ve gone through those. We have access to free services through our PCN. They’re about as helpful as anything free is. I probably get more support from my cat than those overworked paper pushers. They also only work during work hours on weekdays, and in my experience needing to miss work to go sit in a windowless room with someone who doesn’t want to deal with me is far worse for my mental health than anything else.

        3. DietCokeQueen*

          I would see if your state or nearby non profit agency has a “warm line” which is a free service for someone to talk to. You can also call a suicide support line for free mental health support.

        4. Anonymous Koala*

          I’m so sorry to hear that. Does he get any benefits for primary care or preventative care? A primary care provider is not a therapist, but they may be able to assess him and provide some mild medication (if he wants that). A PCP may also be able to advocate for him with his current insurance – sometimes if a doctor insists mental health services are medically necessary, insurance companies will pay for it.

        5. Spearmint*

          If the situation is this dire, would it possible for him to do temp work through an agency, or even take a low level retail/service sector job, as a way to get out of his toxic situation and still bringing in some income while he searches for a more permanent placement? Could you cut back temporarily to make this work, if it would mean he would receive less pay? (I recognize this may not be possible)

          1. Spearmint*

            I say this because job searching is so stressful, and outside stressors can make it that much more difficult to do well. He may find the job search starts going better if he can get into a less stressful situation.

          2. RecoveringSWO*

            If you’re renting, I would also take a look at your local government rules regarding breaking a lease. You may be able to break your lease without penalty and move someplace cheaper if your husband’s employment changes.

        6. Chilipepper*

          There may be free counseling from community orgs.
          If you are in the US try calling 211, it is a community info line and will direct you or him to crisis services.
          “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 24 hour toll-free crisis hotline, 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) can put you into contact with your local crisis center that can tell you where to seek immediate help in your area.

          Those who are uncomfortable with speaking on the phone can text “MHA” to 741-741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line.”

        7. Amtelope*

          I definitely get how hard things can be financially, but do some thinking about “not possible.” What would you do if he were fired, or hospitalized and unable to work? Break your lease and live somewhere cheaper that you can afford on your income alone? Stay with family? Are there any emergency resources you would turn to in that situation? It sounds like getting out of this job (even if that means taking a job that isn’t in his field, or that you need to live somewhere cheaper) and accessing therapy somehow need to be priorities for your husband.

    3. NaoNao*

      It sounds like he’s juggling a bit too much right now between applying for the MA and the toxic job. Maybe he can just focus on finding a new less stressful job for now. Are there certifications or shorter programs he might pursue to become a more attractive job candidate like his PMP or Six Sigma? Maybe that can be something he can look into in the meantime.

    4. Alex*

      I know that this is really hard, but I’d suggest getting on every possible waiting list for sliding-scale cost therapy in your area. Nonprofits, your department of health, and any big local medical system will likely be able to offer suggested places. If you live in the area of a large public university, they also may have a low cost program where you get therapy from a trainee (under the observation of a trained therapist). It sounds like things are incredibly tough, and you both need the support before anything else. Your husband can also input your local crisis line numbers into his phone —-they offer call and text support, and that can help spread out his need to people who are trained for it. I will be thinking of you.

    5. Smithy*

      This likely varies wildly region to region – so may be of no help – but in addition to Alumni Services, I’d see if there are an vocational services nonprofits in your area. I worked overseas for years, and came back to the US while still consulting but looking for a full time job. The Jewish Vocational Services program was a life saver in that I ended up being matched with a job coach who both helped me with the mechanics but also some of my larger anxieties.

      Before going there, I certainly had all sorts of assumptions about what vocational services nonprofits did or who they served. But if you’re in a place that has one meeting the needs of the broader public and not a more narrowly defined community, I strongly recommend it.

    6. Recyclops*

      Most cities offer extremely low-rate mental health services/counseling for low-income individuals. It’s definitely worth the Googling research. Even if you aren’t religious, reaching out to a non-denominational church in your area to speak with a pastor could prove to be better than nothing at this point, as well as garnering support and starting to network for other job opportunities with friends. I would absolutely recommend you and your husband taking another look at the Master’s program he’s trying to apply for- is he sure it’s going to reap the benefits he’s expecting financially?(Ex, a master’s in journalism vs. in nursing) It would probably be a good idea for him to take a break from applying to graduate programs and focus on applying to other jobs at this point. I’m sure y’all have already done this, but now is as good a time as any to re evaluate what you can reasonably cut back on financially in order to save more money.

      1. WellRed*

        I so agree with assessing whether the Master’s is a must have or he’s so desperate to leave the current job he’s trying everything? Especially if money is an issue. (can’t remember if you are in the US so maybe college debt isn’t a concern).

      2. Amber Rose*

        He’s trying for a master’s of public administration or policy, and only because all the jobs he was looking at in the field he’s interested in list it as a requirement.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I would gently push you all to dig a little deeper on the reason for getting that particular Masters if the reason is that jobs he’s interested in require it. It’s true that MPA’s can help make the jump to senior level jobs in that field, but generally the return on the investment for a midlevel or lower job just isn’t there to offset the cost of the program. There are also a lot of people with MPAs that end up working in completely outside industries because it doesn’t always end up paying off.

          I’d gently suggest that he question whether he had the MPA would he have a high possibility of getting those jobs he’s interested in or is he still going to lose out to more experience candidates (and there’s no shame in that it can be hard to move upwards in public policy and administration). Delaying a Masters, especially if he’s having trouble getting into a program, can help clarify some of that and focus on whether there are other better jobs–and really if he’s at the self harm stage I’d put so much focus on getting into any job possible that might get him away from his current situation.
          Really pulling for you guys.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I agree. I think there are bigger/deeper concerns than getting into the program. Disappointment about that or the job can certainly be contributory, but he needs to address the root cause. He doesn’t have to give up on it, but maybe he should defer until he’s in a better place emotionally.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Just doing a quick google I agree that it looks like an MPA would offer him a wider range of opportunities than an MPP. A lot of life is about keeping options open as often as possible.

            His situation now sounds dire, I mean really dire. To me that means drop everything and figure out what it takes to get to a better job that won’t ruin his health. If we haven’t got good health, ain’t nothing else going to happen.
            Think of it this way, if my house is on fire, I am not going to talk about/ or start building a new house. The priority is to deal with the blazing inferno in front of me. It sounds to me like he has a five alarm fire going off in his current job and he needs to focus on a side-ways slide to something comparable before his health is permanently ruined.

            Ya know, I think that life is super tough in this regard. We can’t always go straight from situation A to situation B, we have to take the long, round-about path and go through situations A1, A2 and A3 before getting to situation B. All these extra steps can feel absolutely crushing.

            I’d have to ask though, is taking a different path to the same destination MORE crushing than what he is doing now?

            I see with an MPA that it is supposed to build on real work experience that the student already has. I don’t think he is working in the field at all? Yeah, it can be upsetting to take a smaller position than the targeted position, but is it more upsetting than what he faces daily now? Wouldn’t it be nice to go home each night and NOT feel beat-up and exhausted?

            I think back in my life to times where my own thinking has painted me into a corner. I could cry for him and you, really. Is he willing to attempt a different plan to get to the same end goal? A human being who feels trapped can have awful stuff going on- the thinking can really tank and the physical health can take a nose dive also. At some point self-preservation can be more important than anything else.

          3. Smithy*

            I agree – my sector/career tract certainly has a preference for MA’s, but unlike masters that lead to accreditation, it doesn’t lead to a true professional on-ramp. More likely (and unfairly) they’re used as gatekeeping measures rather than genuinely opening doors to greater professional opportunities.

            I can’t speak to MPA’s, but in my field there are a lot of professional MA programs that are heavily designed to be completed by those working full-time to position them for more senior roles. But, if you were working full time as a junior staffer, after receiving the MA there would be zero consideration of a promotion or raise just for completing the MA. Instead, if you were applying for a new role (internally or externally) it would make you more competitive.

            Overall, I highly recommend with others to take the time to focus on mental health and a professional setting that is a better fit.

        2. Julia J*

          I have that masters degree! Graduated in 2018. I think it depends on what he’s dreaming of specifically, but the most valuable part of grad school was making “connections”, networking, and overall not classes. A lot of positions with public policy nonprofits (LISC, other CDFIs) care more about skills than degrees: I.e. are you good with spreadsheets, are you a good writer.

          I will say that type of masters degree is definitely not something with an amazing financial ROI. I managed to get mine fully funded but that’s rare, and I think if I had taken on debt for it, I would’ve been pretty upset to now be making ~65k in America’s most expensive city. Without debt, it’s doable. With debt, it would be tough.

        3. LDF*

          My friend graduated with a public administration masters almost a year ago and still hasn’t found a full done job. That’s just one data point but I hope he has connections or skills in the area and not just interest.

    7. Rowan*

      There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things are picking back up, and something will come along for your husband.

      In the meantime, to light a small candle, it sounds like you need your husband to have another source of emergency support when he’s having a breakdown, because your well of support is overtaxed and running dry.

      I used to volunteer at a crisis line – you don’t have to be actively suicidal to call, as many people think. You can just call if you’re upset and need someone to talk to. There are also text message versions now if that’s easier than making a phone call (links in reply).

    8. WellRed*

      “Calling me for support so he doesn’t hurt himself” At this point, I think it’s beyond what you can do to help him and you need to call a professional (or at least a mental health line) for advice.

    9. Artemesia*

      If you can get him into some therapy it might calm him down — it is hard to be job searching when you feel like a loser and he is struggling with that. So many people have lost jobs or been displaced this past year that no one is going to judge him for not having a job during this period — He is just one of many cast adrift, but he needs to get some self confidence and recognizing that thse are strange times may help and some counseling might also help. I would do that first. College alumni offices and placement offices differ hugely in quality and so I would not encourage him to see it as a panacea — ‘maybe they can offer some leads and advice, but don’t expect too much there.’ And have him read Alison’s materials on resumes, cover letters, interviewing and putting his best food forward. And a therapist might give him some tools for protecting his soul from the current toxic situation. I personally found a cognitive behavioral therapist really helpful in helping me reframe a difficult situation so I could cope better. Getting a job is important but ‘getting a grip’ maybe even more important at the moment. He has a lot more power over his own head and how he frames and copes than over his toxic boss.

      This is tough and a tough time, but he has a job – he is employable – and as the economy opens up there will be other options, but he needs to be able to reframe and build his confidence in himself in order to put that best self forward as he searches. Hope things get better soon.

    10. Claire*

      There is a light at the end of the tunnel! What helped me the most in my dark days of hating my job (so much so that I thought I wouldn’t survive it) was to do informational interviews. It sounds trite but it made me feel like I was taking ACTION rather than just submitting applications into the void. He should ask alumni services for names and email addresses of alumni working in his field. Have him set up as many Zoom calls as he can with those alumni, as well as people he finds on LinkedIn, existing contacts, etc.

      I found that the process of talking to people outside my current workplace about what I wanted from a job in a positive, but honest, way was really cathartic. (It also helped me a lot when it came time to interview!) Connecting with new people might also help alleviate some of the despair he is feeling–it is proof positive that there are other options out there.

      I think that everyone telling you to seek out therapy is well-meaning and you (and your husband) should definitely seek that out if it’s helpful to you–but sometimes you’ve just gotta focus on making a bad situation better before you have the space to process it.

      And if you guys are already living paycheck-to-paycheck I would think very carefully about a master’s program (even if it is fully funded). They are so often a trap, particularly for people who are primarily looking to get out of a bad job situation.

      Good luck. It will get better!

      1. Artemesia*

        good point about masters programs; these are absolutely NOT tickets to a job (except in fields where they are a requirement e.g. PT or something like that) a business degree or other generic masters just makes you a bit less employable and puts you in debt. Often a masters achieved WHILE on the job will help you move up — but they are likely to do more harm than good as a tool to move jobs. Masters programs are cash cows for universities and most will not actively help you land jobs when you graduate.

        Informational interviews if he can be in a head space to be calm interested and confident may help build that confidence, but getting the misery under control is critical in putting your best foot forward.

    11. MentalHealthcareShouldBeAffordable*

      Just commenting to provide some tips on how to find affordable mental health care.

      In most states, nonprofit mental health providers will take folks who are uninsured or underinsured for low cost. In many states, it’s a requirement to provide care for these folks at clinics who take Medicaid. And while I know many folks have a stigma against providers who serve Medicaid (which they shouldn’t), it’s worth noting here that Medicaid is the only insurance in America that actually provides adequate coverage for mental health (and reimburses providers at rates that are far higher than Medicare or commercial). You can typically find these providers through a search on your state Office of Mental Health or similar.

      You can also look for federally qualified health centers in your area ( These provide some mental health care and will also know other low/no-cost providers. You are much more likely to find affordable mental healthcare from a nonprofit agency than from private practitioners.

    12. Quandong*

      I’m so sorry your husband is in such a state.

      I think you need to seek urgent mental health support as the first priority. Tell husband to set aside the master’s applications for the immediate future and focus on getting him out of crisis.

      Then you both will be in a better position for decision-making including what to do wrt his job and how to improve his work life.

      Please do not let your own experience of therapy get in the way of seeking crisis support for your husband. He deserves care and skilled support to get through this. And leaving it until he gets worse is a path to great suffering.

  5. CMYKorRGB*

    Full time vs. Freelance?! Should I go back?

    (sorry for the long post…)
    I’m considering taking a permanent role back at my old office after freelancing for a few years. Essentially, I left for the flexibility of location/schedule that freelancing offers and the opportunity to expand my career options (graphic design– old office is print work, long term freelancing goal is web design). In reality, Life has meant that my freelance jobs never grew to full time work (in a good way) and most of my clients have been in my old expertise anyway. I’ve been contracting for Old Company for a few months after my previous boss retired and they want me to apply for a permanent role. I have a toddler and am hesitating since I really valued the flexibility of being home with her, although it was exhausting to not have steady childcare and trying to work on the side. We’re thinking of another baby soon and the idea of working full time, even under great conditions (for the US– 12wks paid maternity leave!) is kind of… soul-crushing. We have proven that we can make it on my husband’s salary, but without a reliable second income we can’t afford regular childcare, so I don’t foresee a way to really grow my freelance business and it’ll likely stay sporadic for a few more years.

    I know the office culture and it’s great– generous time off, significant paid holidays, no off-hours work, and decent flexibility for appointments (plus really great coworkers and an amazing, well-respected product). However, from past experience, my only chance to ask for significant accomodations/perks is negotiating during hiring. So, I guess my specific question is, if I am in a position to negotiate the role, what should I make sure I request? The ability to work from home permanently (likely with some sort of hybrid option), a high enough starting salary to comfortably cover childcare, and making sure I qualify for parental leave early enough are the big ones coming to mind. Anything else? Anything specific for hybrid WFH setups? 

    This is probably too industry-specific, but I’m worried about digging myself deeper into a niche hole if I go back to print design. If something changes and I have to leave again, I’ll just be that much further removed from the areas of graphic design that are growing. I’ve enjoyed web work, but most of my freelance clients have been print and I haven’t had enough experience to apply for full time web/UX work with starting salary/growth potential that seemed worth giving up freelancing. What skills can I make sure I develop at this role that will keep me marketable in the future? I don’t want to set myself up to feel like I need to constantly “side hustle” while working full time just so I’m not getting left behind. That attitude is so prevalent in creative industries and I let it guilt trip me for the first decade of my career. Now, in my mid-30s with a small child, it’s just too exhausting… but I also don’t want to limit my entire career trajectory because I’m taking an easier path now!

    1. Similar sitch*

      My husband literally just went through this decision! He’s in a niche creative field and has been freelance for the past 8 years. He got an offer from a company he’s contracted out with for many years, and ultimately decided to not go full time. The top reason why was the NDA. The position would be specific to one type of creation only, and the NDA would make him check with their legal team on any outside creative work (which would likely ultimately lead to a “no” even if the work had nothing to do with the company and did not conflict with anything). He decided this was too stifling for his creative side, and ultimately decided that it’s not worth it since his true passion and interest is not what he would be doing full time for that company.

      (being vague on the type of work he does for anonymity).

    2. Dandy it is*

      Could you negotiate a continuing education component? Understanding that your work and life will be busy, if there are classes/seminars/etc that will help build your skillset in the areas that are growing and could be an ultimate benefit to the company as well.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I’m a former designer who made the jump from print to web to freelance. (And moved on again, to brand strategy / communications.) I’m currently considering a 2-year detour myself, for life reasons.

        1. What jumps out is the word “soul-crushing”. If it’s soul-crushing and you don’t absolutely need this job…think hard about that. Can any amount of remote/hybrid/benefits make it feel good?

        2. The reason to go in-house is to simplify. You give up freedom in some ways but get it back in others — money, no side hustle, no chasing clients, ability to clock out. There’s something to be said for doing that while you have littles, since the hours and flexibility are solid. Does it feel more easy or more soul-crushing?

        3. Yes, it’s a big risk to go back to print. While it will never die, print has been fading for 20 years (that’s when I started my switch). Stepping back is a undeniably a detour from your goal. OTOH, you haven’t really built that client base anyway so you aren’t giving up much progress. You can start over again in a few years when you have more energy for it.

        4. Are there ANY digital opportunities in this position/company? Not just web, but digital in general or integrated marketing where print is just part of a larger system and you can concept across all of them. Presentation design is another digital avenue. (Print transitions well to presos, if you have strong hierarchy/storytelling skills. It pays bank where I am and can be remote.)

        5. How stressful is being self-employed for you? You don’t sound overly stressed by it, just not really into it. If sporadic work keeps you afloat and it’s not keeping you up at night, it does keep your options open.

        6. Maybe there’s a third way, where you aren’t choosing between things exactly as they are vs. FTE. Can you do just a little more on your business — like 10-20% more effort or working on digital skills — to keep growing without killing yourself? Or is there any way to get a part time role or freelance work with this company? Benefit from that flow of work and their business development without all the commitment.

        Good luck!

        1. CMYKorRGB*

          Thanks for this! The “soul crushing” comment is really just the idea of parenting small children while working full time at ANY job– as far as permanent roles go, this one is nearly perfect. Definitely more “easy now but potentially limiting in the long run” than typical “WTF-am-I-doing and soul crushing” if that makes sense. I do find freelancing energizing and empowering, but I’m just not at a scale where it feels sustainable– we could definitely keep going with just one salary and survive but a second one would really make a difference.

          I’m thinking of asking for a 4 day schedule and pushing for a track for senior positions/responsibilities (so, not digital skills per se, but SOMETHING to keep me marketable if I ever end up pivoting). Presentation design is an interesting idea– my skills definitely focus on hierarchy/storytelling and, honestly, rely on a lot of UX principles just in analog form (I work in publishing/book design). I’m definitely paranoid that any digital knowledge gap I already have is going to get wider and I’m paralyzed trying to make decisions now that don’t limit me in a decade (which is a common trap for me and I know isn’t actually productive!).

          Thank you again for your detailed response! It’s really helpful :)

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I was at the point of considering whether to go back in house or not this past year. Actually discussed it with someone who places people in my field.

      For me, the question is whether to take a role that will be somewhat lateral to where I left in-house roles, for a significant pay cut (while times are good) but stability and benefits, and future career growth to senior level positions. OR whether to stay the course with my own business, and make a lot more money when the economy gets better, have work/life flexibility, not deal with a whole lot of politics, and work with people and companies I really like (ie. be able to turn down work with people I don’t want to work with).

      So far, the pendulum is still on the self-employment side of things. Talking to the guy in my industry really helped me see that I was looking at going back in-house because I thought I SHOULD go for career growth. I’d like some career growth, but I need to get more creative about how to achieve it rather than go back in-house to a role that doesn’t excite me.

      1. CMYKorRGB*

        Thank you! Your comment about what separating out the feeling of SHOULD really jumps at me– I feel like I SHOULD be hustling and moving to the digital space because that’s where the action is. I want a fulfilling career (creatively, monetarily) and I want to stop feeling guilty if I stick with what I know and love. It seems like this role will have a career trajectory with some growth, which I think could be great (and is different than how I felt when I worked there before). Thank you again!

    4. BTDT*

      Former freelance designer here! I’m now a UX researcher. (I had to go back to grad school at 37 as a parent in order to pull that off.) I think your concerns about print design are valid. If you don’t want to side hustle (and I don’t blame you at all) then you may need to consider spending your time getting into a new field instead of working FT in print. But if that’s not possible right now then I’d consider asking for continuing education money for training and/or exposure in-house to the skills below.

      “What skills can I make sure I develop at this role that will keep me marketable in the future?”
      In order to transition into web design or UX you need a really good portfolio, so I’d work on the skills necessary to build your portfolio. HTML, CSS, Javascript, Bootstrap, design in popular CMS platforms like WordPress/Shopify. If you’re thinking about UX, coding and bootstrap are still relevant. But instead of WordPress, learn prototyping (Figma, or Adobe XD, etc), the basics of the user-centered design process and some popular research methods like usability testing, user interviews and surveys.

      There are plenty of other paths too. For a while I did freelance marketing that was mainly social media based. I’m sure there are a bunch of other options. But also, if you want to stick it out in print design, go for it! even if you did transition into web design now you’d need to keep up on the latest frameworks/languages, etc etc. It’s a field where you never stop learning, which means you could theoretically learn stuff later and jump in later. GL!

  6. Oh No!*

    So how much obligation do I have to tell a manager that I believe a coworker has been impaired at work?
    Evidence: belligerence, anger over the fact that x hasn’t been created when x is what we’re creating, speaking of the work as though it’s beneath her in a way that seems a lot like drunken bravado, slurring speech.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Focus on the behavior and how it impacts you — do not offer any conclusions or inferences you are drawing. I do think that reporting belligerence, anger over things that are not true/confusion is appropriate, particularly if that is making it difficult for you to do your work or if you feel unsafe. Also, it’s better to approach this as “this is affecting me and I’m wondering how to handle it” rather than “Cersei is being mean.”

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        This! Belligerence and demeaning attitudes are unacceptable, whether they are caused by alcohol/drug abuse or anything else. X is doing *this* and it makes my job harder in *these specific ways*.

        If your manager says “do you think s/he’s been drinking?” I suggest not giving in to the speculation and stick to “possibly, but whatever causes this, I need it to stop”.

    2. Weekend Please*

      I don’t think you have an obligation to say anything so log as you don’t believe anyone is being endangered. For example, I would be pretty uncomfortable staying quiet if they operate heavy machinery or care for children. But I think it is generally the managers job to notice if someone is obviously impaired in a setting where the worst that happens is they don’t do a great job at filing reports. You wouldn’t be wrong to express your concerns but you also wouldn’t be wrong to stay out of it.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Really? Even if the manager doesn’t see what’s going on when you do? Slurred speech could be physiological if not intoxication, the symptoms need to be reported. Especially complaining that what they’re working on hasn’t been done yet. What’s that?

        1. Weekend Please*

          If you are worried about their health, it is better to say something to them directly than tell their manager.

          1. Cancer Patient*

            Agreed. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone if they’re okay. Especially if a simple inquiry is met with a disproportionately emotional or angry response.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think you can raise the behaviour without saying what you think may be causing it .
      i.e. don’t say you think she’s drunk, flag up the specifics of how she is acting towards you / how her behaviour is affecting you /your ability to do your role.

      1. Cancer Patient*

        Absolutely. I’d frame it as a inquiry as to how to better communicate with your colleague. Your manager supposedly manages this person, maybe they have some insight on what triggers negative feedback from her versus how to get her to comply with the assigned tasks. Either way, you come off as a problem solver who plays nice with others.

        Accuse her of being belligerent and impaired and you’re just a snitch. Nobody likes a snitch, even if they have good intel.

        1. RagingADHD*

          If someone is acting as described, I don’t think it’s helpful or necessary to create a fiction about it being aboit “communication” or make a show of taking responsibility. That just obfuscates the issue.

          It’s not OPs job to tiptoe around a coworker who’s acting unprofessional, to avoid “triggering” an angry outburst. OP knows the behavior is problematic. There’s no reason to diminish it.

          Coming up with sympathetic explanations is trying to diagnose it, just as much as blaming it on substance abuse. Just talk about what happened.

    4. Noncompliance Officer*

      If their behavior is negatively impacting their work or creating danger, then you do have an obligation. For example, if they’re driving, etc.

    5. Cold-and-Annoyed*

      It’s probably more an occupational health and safety issue more than anything.

      Is this person putting herself or others at risk, or is she just making herself look like a twit?

    6. Cancer Patient*

      Short temper, bravado & memory loss can be a side effect of any number of prescribed medications like steroids or chemotherapy. Slurring speech is a side effect of some anti-seizure meds sometimes prescribed for chemo patients with peripheral neuropathy. If I were you, I wouldn’t make any assumptions. You might be facing some blow back and you could turn out to be the problem that needs correction.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I agree not to make assumptions but if it is impacting work or others in the office there should be a discussion about it.

      2. anon24*

        I’ve mentioned this before on here, but before I found my current medication my migraines were very uncontrolled and I’ve had people tell me I appear very impaired when I have a bad migraine. I also went through a period years ago where my migraines were occurring in the part of my brain that regulates anger and temper and every time I got a migraine I would get extremely short tempered. I mostly was able to control it because I knew I wasn’t *actually* furious at my co-workers, but occasionally a nasty comment would slip out and I would have to apologize for being an ass.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Belligerence, confusion about the work, and displays of anger are all valid work problems to bring up.

      Slurred speech is valid to bring up as “I think she might not be okay, something is wrong.”

      Bravado/attitude about the work being beneath her isn’t a problem that impacts you unless she’s foisting work onto you or being personally insulting.

    8. Virginia Plain*

      In line with others I’d say describe the symptoms/events but not speculate as to the cause because that’s not up to you. And even if it doesn’t directly affect your work or anyone’s safety, I think it’s ok to say, “I’m telling you because I’m concerned she’s not ok”. That’s just being human.

  7. Help*

    The Admin Assistant hates me. Ever since I started in my position 3 years ago, “Myra” has gone out of her way to give me a hard time, but is nice to everyone else.

    There was a Teapot Order Form that needed to be filled out. Myra has always filled it out and turned it in for the others in the department. I didn’t know if I was supposed to fill one out for something, so I emailed Myra the info and she claimed not to know anything about it!

    Well, I figured out how to access the form and fill it out. I sent it in and Myra rejected it and said that I had to do it over. Meanwhile, she accepted the form that Fergus sent in to her. Fergus told me that she fills in everything for him and submits it- he’s never had a problem with it.

    This happened another time with another form- she did the form for Fergus, but rejected mine. I told Fergus and even he was confused. (He asked me if I had turned the form in or not, so I wasn’t trying to gossip or anything.)

    He then tells me that Myra is mad at me, but when I ask why, he shrugs his shoulders. I pressed him again and he said that he was just kidding and was giving me a hard time.

    I’ve spoken to others who have said that she has an attitude and to not take it personally, but it’s difficult when she is literally nice to everyone else in the department *except me*.

    Myra also became angry when a mass email was sent out and I received it before her. She became all huffy. “My name is before yours!” (Wtf, seriously?) When I went to a meeting, she accused me of talking about her. (I was in a meeting and we were talking about work and not people.)

    My boss coddles Myra because they’ve worked together for a long time and just says to “work it out”, then changes the topic.

    We have to occasionally work together and I sit near her, so I can’t avoid her. It’s also annoying to play, “What mood is Myra in today?” Every……single……day……….

    Any advice would be much appreciated because I’m all out of ideas.

    1. hot priest*

      Oof, Myra sounds awful. I’m sorry you have to deal with her.

      Next time she says or does something rude, would you feel comfortable saying something in the moment — something like, “Have I done something to upset you? Please let me know so we can figure it out as I’d never want to do anything to intentionally upset you.”

      I would also just try as best you can to not take this stuff personally — maybe she’s one of those people who needs to construct an enemy in order to have a purpose.

    2. #toxicenvironmentsucks*

      Time to start looking elsewhere, honestly this place sounds rather toxic. Thankfully my last toxic boss fired me, so another opportunity opened shortly after and it was the best thing that could have happened. Nothing is going to change, Myra rules the roost and probably has no plans of leaving her sacred position, nobody seems to have issue with her attitude, so likely she won’t be fired without blatant misconduct/performance issues…and unless your willing to wait her out till she retires nothing will change. Good luck!

      1. Joan Rivers*

        If you leave a job because the support staffer is rude, that’s pretty extreme. She must be doing something right in her job if they’re keeping her.
        If this is the main way she affects your work, you’re lucky there’s nothing else. Not liking her personality? Be tougher. A new job could have someone over you who’s worse.

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

          It’s not so much that the staff member is rude — it’s that the staff member impedes OP’s work, and OP’s boss refuses to lend support to improve the situation. While I am also not sure it’s worth leaving over, it’s a more serious problem than just a rude colleague.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      Sorry that you are having to put up with this.
      What about if the next time that Myra refuses to fill out the form for you or requires you to fill it out again, you send it to your boss asking her to send it on to Myra to complete (or approve). Do this every time so that the boss is in the middle of each of these silly things and is required to do something about it. Hopefully the continued inconvenience to the boss will impel her to require Myra to do what is needed.
      Of course if your boss is a jerk this may not work. But hopefully it will.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, agreed. Stop worrying about Fergus (who sounds like an immature twit) and focus on how this impedes your job. I mean, that’s only one piece of it, of course

          1. Help*

            Fergus was saying that Myra was mad at me. (He does indeed like to “stir the pot” so to speak.)

      2. Momma Bear*

        I was thinking this – focus on the impact her work has on yours and make it really clear to your boss that you’re just trying to do your job and Myra is blocking you.

      3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Yeah – Alison has mentioned doing things like this before. Basically, you want to make it harder and more uncomfortable for your boss to NOT act on the feedback you’re giving and make it so that he cannot ignore it.

    4. So Anon*

      I work with a Myra. The difference is that she changes her target (think: one day Fergus can no longer get the form submitted, no explanation–but you can). I have watched people tiptoe around her and try to adjust for her moods, and I know people have gone to HR and it has come to nought. I decided that I would treat Myra exactly the same, every day, no matter what. I give her a cheery good morning whether she’s all smiles with me this week or pretends to have never seen me before in her life. I do not react to her moods at all. I don’t act warmer/friendlier when she’s nice nor do I get colder/offended when she’s nasty. She is weather; I am the vacuum of outer space. As far as things like forms or business items, yes, bring those up to your manager. But as for the personality stuff? Don’t waste your energy.

      1. Artemesia*

        I like this — be forever cheerful with her and if she doesn’t do a form, just say ‘Oh I thought it went to you, I will have Manager handle it.’ She may find going over her head something she wants to avoid by getting your stuff done. But yeah go to the manager with ‘Maya usually handles this for everyone but refuses to do it for me and then sends it back when I do it — maybe she will do it coming from you.’ He won’t like that and neither will she and so maybe they will do their jobs. All this in the matrix of course of you being efficient and pleasant and matter of fact about these glitches.

    5. CW*

      Wow, Myra sounds a lot like a coworker I worked with. She would talk down to me like an idiot and scold me in front of everyone. My boss also mollycoddled her just because she had been there for 3 years while I had just started. This was 2019; I eventually had to quit because she was giving me emotional distress.

      I am so sorry to hear. I would say just put your foot down with her and stop letting things slide. Be firm and use a stern tone, but stay as professional as possible. My aunt did this to a coworker who took advantage of her, and the coworker permanently backed off.

    6. Twisted Lion*

      She doesnt have to like you but she does need to acting professionally when interacting with you. Next time she rejects your form, reply to her and say “Myra, I noticed you rejected my form. Can you please tell me what items are missing or what the error is that has caused you to reject it? I need feedback in order to correct it.” and if this happens a lot (or for no reason) cc your boss.

      She might fill out Fergus’ form because he has awful writing or she doesnt mind doing it for him. It could be any reason. But call her out on her behavior. If there isnt anything wrong with your form, she needs to explain herself. If she cant provide an answer as to why its rejected then she needs to accept the form and support it. I wouldnt assume she will do it for you because it might not even be a part of her duty but she does it for Fergus because of his position or some other reason.

      1. Help*

        Definitely- I agree. Again, I can fill out my own forms, no problem. I was just concerned because they were new forms that I had never filled out before. It took me a while to find them.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        This – make it more time consuming for her to explain what is wrong and why, than it is for her to just do her part of the job. Assuming – of course, that it IS part of her job. It’s possible that Fergus has simply made it part of her job and your joint manager is too spineless to tell Fergus off about it. That’s always a possibility for why she’s annoyed… you might be an easier target.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      At some point this stops being a Myra problem and starts being a boss problem. Your boss is spineless.

      Yeah, time to move on. Not because of Myra but because of the lack of leadership going on here.

      Meanwhile a couple things to consider while you look around:

      If Fergus is your sole source of information, then you can expand your horizons and talk with another well-chosen person. If you are a woman, I’d suggest looking for a woman who has been there a bit longer than you and seems wise and kindly. Pick someone who seems to be having success in your company. This is a person who will show you how to overcome Obstacle Myra.

      I am a fan of the idea of being cheerful no matter which way Hurricane Myra blows today. I also like the idea of looping the boss in every time Myra refuses to do her job.

      Keep an ear open for History. “The last person who had your job also quit because of Myra!” This is good information to know because it gives you a bigger picture, and that would be IT’S NOT YOU. This is Myra being Myra.

      Try really hard to understand and hang on to a key fact here: this is a person who is going NO WHERE. Not in the work world and maybe not in life either. She’s stuck, for whatever reason. Her moods dictate her day. You can go on and have a full career and a full life. Myra- not so much. In the end you do win. Please remember this.

    8. Secretary*

      As an admin I have to ask this… how do you treat Myra? Do you say please and thank you? Before you got to know her were you saying hello/asking how she was over water cooler talk? Do you order her to do things rather than ask her to?

      This is probably not about you at all, but it’s worth considering before trying to address her.

      I have a guy that works at my company who has really good charisma, but when he asks me to do something for him it’s often really jarring, because instead of, “Hey Secretary I’m running 10 minutes late for my 9:00, would you mind letting them know?” It’s “I’m running late to my 9:00 you need to call them and tell them *click*”.
      Or he’ll ask me to do something for him that’s actually not my job, that maybe I’d do if I wasn’t swamped but I tell him no, and he gets all upset even though it’s not my job and I’d be doing him a favor. He never asks about my day though I ask about his, he knows nothing about me, and frankly I don’t go out of my way to help him.

      Again, this may not be you and Myra may in fact just not like you for a dumb reason, but definitely make sure you do an introspection first before confronting her.

      1. Help*

        I always say “Good morning” and “Good night” to her. I have complimented her outfits and ask about her family and how she is doing.

        I don’t order her around. (She has seniority. While her title is admin, she is more like the unofficial “right hand of the boss”.

        I know that I’m not perfect, but I’m not sure what else to do.

  8. hot priest*

    Sorry, this is a long one.

    I have been working at my company for about a year and a half. (This is out of necessity — like the letter writer from earlier this week, I have no interest in this work outside of getting paid.) For the first year, I was the project coordinator for a large, communications/events-oriented project with lots of moving parts and many balls to juggle. This was a contract position so when that project was close to wrapping up, my boss — who is generally great to work for, but a bit absent and disorganized — asked me if there were other areas I’d like to learn about so they could try to keep me after the contract was up in January. I said I was interested in learning more about the work we did on, say, llama regulation, despite that not really different from what I had been doing. My intent here was to learn more about that side of the work as I really didn’t know anything about it and thought it seemed interesting.

    Once my contract was up, I was promoted to a new role (with higher pay) where half my time is dedicated to the kinds of things I used to do — event planning, communications, administrative work — and the other half of my time is dedicated to llama regulation. So instead of “learning about llama regulation”, as requested, I have been abruptly thrown into actually regulating llamas. I have some tangentially related experience from school and past work in, let’s say, chicken regulation, but it’s frankly a very different field with entirely different methodologies, practices, terminology, etc. So now half of my job is something that, were I to apply to a job posting for it, I would not even get an interview.

    When I was assigned my first llama regulation project, I was clear that this was my first foray into this area and would need a lot of guidance and training. I was assured that was no problem. But then I ended up having to research and write the first draft of our llama regulation report almost entirely by myself despite frequently raising issues about how I lack the foundational knowledge to complete this project. I have raised this issue with my team members and my boss (who is not in charge of the llama regulation part of my work), and the director in charge of llama regulation, and I am always told “oh that’s tough” and “not to worry about it”. But nothing is ever done to resolve the ultimate issue that this project is not going to meet the deliverables needed for the client because I am not qualified to do so.

    Note that none of the ‘higher ups’ have actually read the draft report; it was not reviewed before submitting to the client. I’m not sure if that’s normal or if people were just busy, but it’s clear from the comments on the draft that the client thinks there are some serious issues—issues that I explicitly said were there and didn’t know how to address. What I would like is for someone to take the reigns on this project and give me clear, specific tasks to contribute, rather than having to try to produce the entire report myself.

    I realize I am the one who said I wanted to learn more about llama regulation, but what I have ultimately learned is that this area is not for me. I am not interested in the work and I’m bad at it. This is not imposter syndrome — I sincerely do not have the knowledge or skills for this type of work and I am no longer interested in learning more about it as it’s not what I thought it was. (Although, maybe if I had been properly trained and eased into the role, this wouldn’t be such a disaster and I wouldn’t have ended up with an irrational hatred of llamas.)

    To complicate matters further, I have been accepted into a PhD program (related to chicken regulation) with a decent amount of funding for four years starting in September 2021 and I am really excited about it as this is what I’m ultimately interested in doing and I now have the financial backing to make it happen. I am basically just waiting to put in my notice for a few more weeks so that I can a) find out whether I’ve won a much larger scholarship (results come in at the end of April), and b) save up a bit more before quitting. I’d like to take the summer to work on some writing projects and brush up on new readings in the field since I graduated from my MA program so, ideally, I’d like to be done by mid-to-late June.

    If I were just doing the other half of my job — the comms/admin oriented stuff — I would be fine to keep working away while I wait to give my notice. But the llama grooming project is ongoing and I kind of want to just quit now so I don’t have to keep doing it. It sends me into teary-eyed panics every time I open the documents.

    How do I manage to keep working on the llama regulation project in the interim? Any ideas for what I can say or do to get the support I need on this? Or is it better to just jump ship now since I’m planning to leave anyway?

    1. Mimi*

      How clear have you been on needing input on the documents? To me the fact that a document written by a newbie that everyone knows has no experience WENT TO A CLIENT WITHOUT REVIEW is huge. Are you saying “it would be nice to get eyes on this” or “I need comments by Tuesday because this document needs to go to the client on Friday and I made up the entire Stall Size section”? Now that you’ve gotten bad feedback from the client, you can name the things that the client was unhappy about in why you need more guidance.

      Depending on the org and your relationships with people, it might be asking your boss how to make the llama department head look at your work, or communicating directly with the llama department head along the lines of “I need guidance/training on XYZ; who will be reviewing my documents and what turnaround time can I expect from them” (assuming it’s not just you and the department head).

      Also, having to do a job with no training is terrible; I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

      1. hot priest*

        I think I’ve been very clear given that I’ve, uh, cried in meetings about this project (which I’m mortified about) and explained the issue to my manager by saying “it’s like asking your waitress to build a house”.

        I think naming the problems the client has pointed out in the draft review so that I can point to areas I need specific guidance is a good idea. Thank you very much for your advice.

    2. Kes*

      I think instead of generally saying that you’re struggling, you should specifically ask for the help you need – in this case I would specifically ask who from the llama regulation team can support you and answer the questions you don’t have the expertise to know yourself. Then if you have someone to work with you can run your work by them to get the feedback and answers you need

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I think this is good advice. Specifics! “The client needs to know about llama vaccine effectiveness, what is the protocol on that?” may get you closer to the right answers instead of a general “I have no experience with llama regulation”

        1. hot priest*

          Yes, good point. I think now that I have comments from the client to point to, it will help with providing specifics.

          I have, for what it’s worth, previously tried to be specific about what kind of help I need. We had a meeting where I went through the draft with other team members and I pointed to areas to say where I needed guidance and what the issues were with the existing draft, but this ultimately turned into the team throwing out various ideas without any specific actions identified. I left the meeting holding back tears and my boss could tell — she messaged me afterwards. Part of the issue is that she can’t really do anything because it’s a different person who manages the llama regulation work; she only covers the admin/comms side of my job.

          Also, there is a person who is supposed to be ‘leading’ this project (who is not very much more senior than I am) but so far all that has meant is that she schedules meetings with the client, shows up and turns it over to me to give updates, and she gave some superficial comments on the draft before it was submitted. But I know she is swamped with other stuff and this project was ultimately the hot potato nobody had time to do so I don’t blame her too much. But yeah, I will be talking to her on Monday about the specifics I need help with.

    3. Reba*

      Congrats on your PhD acceptance!

      Maybe a good approach would be, tell your boss that you are leaving to go back to school, say “I’m thinking about x or y as a last day, here is what exact support/actions would be needed to resolve client issues by that time (or if that’s not all possible, here is what can probably be done before then, and someone with more expertise will be needed, I will do all I can to set up for a good transition to the llama expert you will need to find)

      OR what if you could say you need to reduce your hours until you leave for grad school, you’d be down to keep up the admin and transition the llamas, but you need to wrap up your llama work asap?

      1. hot priest*

        I really like the approach you suggest and I hadn’t considered the idea of requesting to reduce my hours. I think working part-time on the part of my work I actually like/am good at for the summer would be great, and would still leave me time to work on my personal projects.

        Thanks so much for the great ideas!

    4. Momma Bear*

      Sometimes the way to get people’s attention is to meet with them directly. Remind them to their face that you need this information, that you need guidance on how to proceed, that this is not your field of expertise. This might also be your foray into pressing to work with someone else re: llamas where you could then pass the project along when you leave.

  9. Wendyroo*

    I have zero motivation today hellpppp

    The Atlantic had a fantastic article yesterday, “America Has Pandemic Senioritis”. Totally nailed it. I got my second shot of Moderna this week and I’m not sure if I’m feeling fatigue as a side effect or just overwhelming laziness/exhaustion from this horrible no good quarantine.

    1. Miss Ames*

      I can relate, and I think it’s definitely partly physical post-vaccine. I got the Janssen shot last Friday 4/9/21 (days before it was paused) and while (of course) I am terrified of a blood clot resulting (so far am OK – fingers crossed), I have experienced a real lack of energy since then, and this morning my brain seems like it is not working in an “agile” way….it seems to be plodding along!

      1. Forkeater*

        I think the post vaccine brain fog is very real. I got the J&J last Tuesday (and had a wicked migraine yesterday, yay anxiety) and Friday had awful, awful brain fog. Still a bit this week too.

      2. Artemesia*

        Seth Meyers did a thing on the blood clotting that put it in perspective. A comedienne did a bit on how ‘scared she was’ of the one in a million incidence of blot clotting for J&J since the birth control she takes every day has a clotting incidence of one in a thousand and no one seems to think that is a big risk.

          1. Tess*

            Huh? It was a single phenomenon used as a comparison so as to put things in perspective. That’s all.

          2. Violet Rose*

            It’s an apples-to-pomegranates comparison – to oversimplify: the small risk of a very dangerous clot versus the slightly less small risk of a far-less-likely-to-be-deadly clot

        1. kt*

          Yeah, honestly, what that points out to me is the dangers we feel are acceptable for, uh, promiscuous women. (Yes, I know that taking birth control does not equal promiscuity — I was on it for years — but I think that in the US there’s an extreme level of sexual Puritanism, worse than the Puritans ever were, that means that if it’s about women and sex, death is ok because of Eve in the garden. The risk of death we find acceptable for birth control and childbirth in this country is ridiculous. Why are we in the US a-ok with the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the developed and semi-developed world? Well, if you’re having a baby it’s probable you had sex so you probably deserve the risk of death you unvirtuous non-virgin.)

          That’s my hot & grumpy take.

        2. allathian*

          I wonder how many of the women who got blood clots following a vaccine use hormonal birth control? The vast majority of the victims have been women under 50…

    2. Liz*

      That’s me some days. Pre-pandemic, i despised working from home, and was not at all productive. I only did it when absolutely necessary, bad weather, a/c in the building died in the heat of summer, etc. But once the pandemic hit, it was every day! for over a year now. I’ve managed to settle into a routine, and discovered some of my hatred had to do with my setup, which I’ve adjusted and has made a huge difference.

      That being said, there are some days I can barely manage to do the stuff that needs to get done, and other stuff, with no deadlines etc., falls by the wayside. And there are days when I’m super productive, and churn out a ton of work. I’ve learned to accept it for what it is, and just do my best to stay on top of things.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Me too, Wendyroo. Second shot of Moderna yesterday and I probably could have gone to work, but I am feeling a bit flushed (if not exactly a fever) alternating with chills. So I called in sick.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Ugh, I can relate! I’m 5-6 weeks from maternity leave and I have major senioritis. I had a huge project due at the end of March that I spent so much time and effort on. Now that that’s done, I’m so unmotivated to do anything else but it still needs to be done. I have a much smaller project due at the end of April. It will seriously take 3-4 hours to finish it, but I can’t seem to just actually do it.

      I also got an IM from a super needy coworker this morning who literally had her work figured out but needed me to reassure her that it was correct. I almost wished to go into labor early so I wouldn’t have to deal with her.

      At least I’m not the only one feeling this way.

    5. Kes*

      This is me right now as well – between pandemic stress, moving stress and the fact that I got used to meetings and switching between tasks constantly, I’m now finding it really hard to focus back in on tasks needing extended attention. I have one thing assigned to me and progress has been slooww because I cannot make myself sit down and focus on it most of the time. I need a break but I want most of the things stressing me to get done first otherwise they’ll just be still there hanging over my head for when I come back

    6. Campfire Raccoon*


      There has been a few times where I’ve dropped a fork on the ground, stared at it, and thought, “This is it. This is when the hoard starts.”

    7. Yellow Warbler*

      Yup, feeling that vibe. Doesn’t help that I was already mentally checked out of my dead-end job and casually looking before Covid put that on hold.

    8. Momma Bear*

      Most people are reporting that they after getting vaccinated.

      I plan to take some time this weekend for some self-care. It’s been a long year.

    9. Yellow Warbler*

      I’ve never heard it used in the way you’re suggesting. It’s quite well known as a student reference.

  10. ThatGirl*

    My workplace has announced a gradual return-to-office effort starting in May.

    I’m starting to think someone out there is bad at math, because the Word on the Street is that they want my office there 3 days a week, but we’re only allowed 50% capacity. While I think I’m ready to go back to the office (I will be fully vaccinated soon and I miss having a desk), I feel like someone hasn’t thought about too hard about the logistics.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I actually don’t feel that rushed – everyone is eligible for vaccines now and it’s still voluntary. But I do think there are things they haven’t quite thought through yet. More information is still forthcoming.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          “Everyone”…sort of. Testing still brand new for people under 16. Anyone scheduled for J&J is in limbo, and many areas are still underserved, especially outside the US.

          1. ThatGirl*

            What I should have said was all adults in my state are now eligible for vaccines, and health officials are making sure Moderna or Pfizer are available to anyone who had a J&J appointment. But yes, you are right.

          2. Windchime*

            Yeah, we have people in my state who are driving over a hundred miles for a shot because it’s just not available where they are. It seems to vary county by county; I live in a very remote, rural county and yet it seems like we have plenty of vaccine all the sudden and people are coming here from the Big City which doesn’t seem to have much. It’s weird.

        2. jenny*

          Well.. Eligible but definitely not available. Not everyone in my state is eligible yet and for those who are eligible, not everyone who wants it has been able to find it.

      2. New Mom*

        Ours definitely is, and it’s so disappointing. Ours did an about-face and went from, “not for a few more months at the earliest” to “now” and it’s negatively impacting many staff. SIGH.

    1. Ashley*

      It could be a combination of lack of true logistic planning and / or they know several people that have medical (or childcare) exemptions for returning in person. I know some offices have done one team is 3 days this week, two next week and the opposite team is 2 days this week and 3 days next week to split the office. Added bonus of only half the company would in theory be shut down if an outbreak, but they have to sub divide well so all those in person benefits that get touted make sense.

      1. ThatGirl*

        They’re still trying to figure out people’s comfort levels, but there are hundreds people in this office, it’s not a small company. There may well be more behind the scenes I don’t know about – I mostly think the communication has been kind of wishy-washy and unclear so far.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      If not everyone gets assigned the same 3 days, it could still work out to only have 50% of the office in on any given day. (At least I think it’s possible – if gerrymandering has taught me anything it’s that there are definitely ways to spread a majority out to not be a majority, but I could totally be wrong.) That being said, I don’t think there’s any harm in asking how they plan to ensure the 50% mandate, especially since it won’t/can’t be as simple as “pick whatever 3 days you want”.

      1. ThatGirl*

        But there are 5 days in a week – you can’t have 50% on Mon/Tues/Wed and 50% on Wed/Thurs/Fri.

        More info will be coming, and I know that they are trying to be thoughtful. More info is coming; I did bring that math question up to my manager so it’ll get mentioned upward.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        it could still work out to only have 50% of the office in on any given day.

        Only if your facility is a 6 or 7 day per week shop, or your facility is using New Math.

        1. Wehaf*

          Or if “capacity” means “the number of people we have space for” and not “the number of employees we have.”

          1. ThatGirl*

            Nobody’s going to see this comment, but even at full capacity we are running out of space for everyone; it’s not like we have space for 100 but only 75 employees.

    3. Chaordic One*

      For years my workplace resisted hiring much-need additional staff because they didn’t have any place to put them. They also resisted WFH, but finally implemented it for most of the CSRs when COVID hit. After the office was empty, they took advantage of the extra space to hire the much-needed additional staff. Meanwhile they keep postponing having the WFH people come back, because they don’t have any place to put them.

    4. Anon for This*

      We have % based capacity where I work, but it is the number of people in at any given time, as opposed to the number of different people in over the course of a week. So it is possible they are balancing your office with another one or two so that the overall number is at 50%, or that people in your office will take turns so that someone is there on the assigned days, but not everyone.

      Or they could be ignoring the guidance. (Or as someone else pointed out, be bad at math…)

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yes, it’s the number of people on any given day/at any given time – but it’s just the one corporate office where I work that I’m concerned with. We take up 3 floors of the building, so I’m sure it’s 50% per floor. But either way the math doesn’t add up to me. You can’t have (for example) 50 people per floor 3 days a week and the other 50 people per floor 3 days a week because there are only 5 working days per week.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Extended shifts & flex time could do it too, but it would take careful plsnning. I’d push back for details when you get close because ‘every other cubicle’ might not be the regulation–but for places with small workspaces that might be critical need.

        2. Foxgloves*

          This might be different where you are, but I’m in the UK and it’s quite easy to get to 50% three days a week once you factor in illness, holiday, part time workers, and other absences. Here, even when we could have 100% of people in the office, only, say, 75% of people were actually in on any given day, so you actually account for 60% of the team to be in on, say, Wednesday, and you get 50% actually there.

    5. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I used the same recruiter for 3 jobs. They were finance industry specialist and work with all the big players in my area. There was no hint of it being inappropriate at all.

    6. Momma Bear*

      Might they have gotten or applied for a waiver? Gotten more space? I think it’s worth asking your boss/HR how the company is going to handle 50% capacity and see if word on the street is right or not. Some offices are also offering more flexible hours to limit the # of people on a given day.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Definitely not getting a waiver; the email that was sent out specifically referred to 50% capacity. But official guidance has been slim, we’re all just waiting to hear more.

    7. noahwynn*

      We have some people that are Mon/Wed/Fri, some that are Mon/Tue/Wed, some that are Tue/Thu/Fri, etc. By mixing up the various days and removing those who are unable to return due to health or childcare issues, we meet the 50% requirement each day. It is important to remember (at least where I am) that it is 50% and doesn’t have to be every other cubical or anything.

    8. Indy Dem*

      It seems to me that the issue may be that you are thinking of 50% of the company’s workforce, not 50% of the building’s capacity (which I think is usually referred to as Blueprint Capacity, but I’m not in any related field so I’m not sure). So if your building is rated at 1000 people, then only 500 can be there at one time. I will say that your company has to be really good at mandating what days people are at home/in the office, because pre-COVID we were WFH 3 days a week and Fridays were empty and Wednesdays were packed (and an open office, don’t miss it!)

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’m clear on the math, we have 3 floors and even at 100% capacity there aren’t currently enough desks for everyone!

  11. anony mous*

    If I used a recruiter to get my current job, can I use the same recruiter for a new job search? I’ve only been at my current job for less than two years, but I’m looking for a new job due to the way my company is handling bringing everyone back into the office. (I can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons, and they won’t make an exception to the in-person policy.) If it’s ok to contact him, should I tell him why I’m looking? Can I expect confidentiality if he still places candidates with the same company I’m working for?

    1. ThatGirl*

      If it’s an outside recruiter with a staffing firm, absolutely – that’s why they exist. And he should not be telling anyone you’re looking, unless he’s specifically talking about your placement with a potential new company. (Though you can certainly address that with him if you’re worried.)

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        I had one recruiter place me at three separate jobs. The second position involved me leaving the first job he recruited me for. Based on an estimate of the fees he received for my recruiting, I think I paid for his Porsche.

        Sometimes there is an issue for the recruiter if they help you leave a job they recruited you for. But often it is limited in time (say the first year).

    2. Shanananana*

      Was the recruiter someone retained by the company to find you? If so, you can reach out, but I know my company used to blacklist recruiters we had hired who later recruited away our employees, so they may not be willing to work with you if they are regularly retained by your current company, since in most cases they are paid by the company and not the candidate.

      1. anony mous*

        Yes, it was an outside recruiter paid by the company. That’s disappointing to hear. How would your company know that the recruiter recruited away an employee?

        Any ideas on how to find another good recruiter?

        1. Mimi*

          This may be the Millenials Who Are Bad At This method, but what’s worked for me and for friends is letting LinkedIn tell recruiters we’re looking, and then trying to continue relationships with the ones we liked. You could also ask peers in your industry (who you trust to not rat you out to currentjob) if they’ve had good experiences with recruiters, and if so who.

          Also, I’d say go ahead and reach out to the recruiter you worked with. The worst they’ll do is tell you they won’t work with you; it would be really bad practice for them to tell your company that you asked.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        It’s always worth reaching out to the recruiter – at worst they’ll tell you they can’t work with you, but they might be able to recommend you to another recruiter instead. They could also not be held by those rules and you’d get to work with a recruiter you trust! I can’t imagine any downside to reaching out, and as a recruiter they should be very well versed in not telling current employers that you’re job searching, plus what benefit could they gain from sharing that info?

        Oh and it seems perfectly reasonable to tell the recruiter you’re leaving because they’re forcing you to come back into the office, that’s good information and they’ll be better positioned to help you find a remote job/know you won’t take an in-person job.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      I used my same recruiter from a previous job. I had initially reached out to them about another position so I was on their “list” before the job I got was one of their clients so I don’t know if that makes a difference. I was also at that job for 7 years so…
      Either way, it’s worth giving them a call if you liked them and then they can let you know if they can’t work with you because of a conflict of interest (i.e. on retainer for that company, can’t represent placed candidates for 18-24 months from start date, etc…)

    4. anony mous*

      Thanks everyone for the advice. I guess I need to get over my social anxiety and just contact him. I’ve been sick with anxiety over this whole work situation, but I know it’s not going to fix itself. I appreciate all your answers.

  12. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Anyone returned to a former employer as a contractor? My former manager reached out one day and asked if I could come back. Both options to be a FT salaried employee and remote contractor were on the table. For various reasons I had to decline the former.

    Before coming on board I set the expectation that I wouldn’t be able to commit to a lot of hours, maybe 10 at the most.

    In addition to setting that expectation, I decided not to engage with anyone outside of my direct manager and hte team. I had short conversations with 3 people on my first day back that was “welcome back” and kept it at that. (old me would have been chatty and social).

    It’s been 2 weeks now, so far it seems to be going OK. I haven’t had any complaints; I did have to skip work two days this week due to a death in the family but I cleared it with him and made sure he was aware of everything.

    Anything else I should keep in mind to make this a successful thing?

    1. Potatoes gonna potate*

      — if anyone remembers my past posts, this is the job I had for 5 years before being let go in March due to COVID. There was lots of stress and anxiety in the months leading up to it and being let go was a very stressful time for me. I was approached to come back, I didn’t seek this out. I was told that the issues that were there at my time wouldn’t be the case anymore if I were to return in either capacity.

    2. Shanananana*

      Beware of hour creep. I have done this a few times and the biggest thing is being strict about the hours you are willing to work because in my experience they will push for more.

    3. Lyudie*

      I did this many years ago, I was on a time-limited type of full-time role and moved to contracting to stay in the same job due to a hiring freeze. As mentioned, you will probably need to keep strictly to the agree-upon number of hours because you are paid for/charged for by the hour. There might also be differences in how you are treated and what you are eligible for. I was at Huge Tech Company and there is a huge divide between contractors and perms, mostly for legal reasons but also because (IME) perms see themselves above contractors. So you might not get all the same holidays, be invited to certain events or meetings, get swag, etc. Your manager will be able to tell you if there’s anything like that. I’m not sure if you’re doing 1099 or going through an agency, if you’re independent there are some tax considerations involved you might already be aware of. If you’re going through an agency, be prepared to do things twice at times (for a long time I had to submit time sheets to both the company I worked for as well as the agency). I’ve seen contractors be both first and last on the chopping block when layoffs come around…they are cheaper because no overhead, but often they’ll prioritize keeping perms or want to cut the contracting budget, just depends on what bucket they want to save money in.

      Hope this works out for you!!

      1. Peony*

        Yeah- I second the point about contractors being treated differently than permanent employees. That’s how it works to some extent at the company I work for.

        Especially since you worked there before, it could catch you by surprise if you’re suddenly not included in some of the stuff you used to be (unfortunately, sometimes it’s fun stuff like holiday gifts or special activities/parties/events).

        Usually it’s dictated by specific policies, so it’s not intended to be a personal slight, but it can be a bummer if you’re used to those things from when you were full-time and then suddenly it feels like you’re a “second-class citizen” of sorts.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I think if you’re only working ten hours per week, you’re going to be treated differently from full timers no matter what, which seems normal

          1. Peony*

            Yeah, I’d agree with that for sure! Still think it’s worth saying, since the OP had a several-year history with the place before. I’ve seen people leave and return to companies a few times, and if their role is different from how it was before, it can be tricky for them to adjust.

            1. Lyudie*

              Exactly, it can take you by surprise if you’re not expecting it. Same people, same job, but suddenly you are treated differently. My husband saw it from the other side too when he went from a contract IT support person to a perm programmer. Suddenly certain people were nicer to him/seemed to think more highly of him.

    4. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

      My company does this a lot and very successfully. I agree with others: watch hours creep carefully and don’t get sucked into exceeding it ‘just this one time cuz you used to be an FTE…blahblahblah’. And yes, for legal reasons, there’s lots of things you will no longer be invited to that are FTE only. SWAG, parties, lunches etc. This is not, as another poster suggested, because FTEs think themselves ‘better’ than contract employees. (I’m sure there are some who do but it’s not universal thing) It’s strictly legal. That means that you will be excluded from things you were previously invited to and there will be an automatic divide. It might be hard for both you and for your former coworkers who are used to you being an FTE. Those are the two things I’ve noticed are most prevalent issues for FTE turned contract employee.

      1. Lyudie*

        Oh it is definitely not a universal thing, the company I got that treatment at has its own special culture thing going on. Didn’t mean to say it will definitely happen! But it is a thing that happens in certain places.

    5. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Thanks all. Not sure if this changes anything but I’m actually paid per assignment and had made sure to tell them I could only do a very limited amount as my minimum. 

      My company did have a lot of remote contractors, and before I left there I actually managed a few of them, so the divide between FTE and 1099 is not unfamiliar to me. From what I recall, there was always a big effort to make the remote workers feel more engaged with the company, like having daily check ins, weekly video meetings, inviting them to events if they were in the area etc. 

       I hadn’t even considered the socializing stuff, from what I’ve heard there’s very little if none of that due to COVID and restrictions. No idea what will happen in the future. I recall before COVID, the socializing events were dwindling. For personal reasons, I’m not sure I’ll even be able to attend even if I wanted to, so for now it’s not an issue I foresee. I did request if I could come in for a few hours one day (personally it would be a nice change of scenery and pace for me and I’d love to see some familiar faces). But for now, I’m content with keeping myself “isolated” (for lack of a better word) and focusing strictly on my assignments.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It sounds like you don’t have a formal agreement? In a situation like this, it’s not enough to set an expectation– you have to have an agreement in writing. Something agreed to by both parties that outlines hours and rate of pay. Otherwise you run a big risk of having your expectations ignored.

      Sit down with your manager, talk about how it’s working out so far, then ask for a formal agreement. Even an email, written by him, is better than nothing.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Keep the boundaries that you show here as HARD boundaries- not flexible or negotiable.

      One thing I have seen happen is a manager asked someone to work for them (retail). As the years rolled on, tensions sprung up and in the end the manager accused the employee of stealing. The employee had a regular full time, very well paying job. He reminded the boss that, “You were my FRIEND. YOU asked me to come help you! And now you thank me by accusing me of stealing?! Good bye!”

      Watch out for staying too long.

      If tensions start to mount, don’t wait, either deal with the problem head on OR make plans to move on. While it is good that the previous problems are “all cleared up”, it’s important to remember that there was a reason those problems put down roots and grew. Totally eliminating some problems means changing policies, changing procedures and in some instances changing people. Unless you see one or more (ideally “more”) be careful.

  13. ghostlight*

    I had an interview earlier this week at a company that heavily values Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and is considered the industry leader of it in my field (which is currently going through a long-overdue reckoning of abusive and toxic management/workplaces). The position I applied for would heavily contribute towards their action plan, and EDI is something that I’m really passionate about, but I got asked a series of questions that I’ve been mulling over and I’d love to hear some other thoughts on it.

    One of the questions was “In what ways are you privileged? And have you ever used said privilege to be an ally and intervene for someone?” which is a relevant question to the position, but in the following discussion, I basically outed myself as a queer and disabled woman.

    Obviously, this shouldn’t affect the hiring process in an ideal world and especially at a company that values EDI, but we all know that isn’t always what happens. I really felt like in order to answer the question I had to bring up the ways in which I am marginalized and I feel like that is just a very slippery slope. Am I wrong? How would you have handled it?

    1. AE*

      Yeah, not a fan of that question in a job interview context, for the reasons you cite–it pressures members of marginalized groups to disclose their status in a way that is not comfortable or appropriate in that context (unless it’s say, for an advocacy position that works directly with those groups/issues, in which case it would probably come up in a more organic way). It also de facto assumes that the person has ever been in a position to use their privilege to be an ally, which is not the case for many people. There are definitely better ways to gauge a job candidate’s sensitivity to equity, inclusion, and privilege issues.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yikes. I mean, it’s a fair question to ask a man or a white person, but if one is (let’s say) a black lesbian woman’s house grew up below the poverty line, what type of an answer could someone give? If you get that job, I think it would be worth bringing up,how problematic that question is for the exact reasons you gave.

      1. Savannah*

        Its also a signal (to me at least) that the workplace might be into EDI but that the default is still normative, and the author/audience for those questions are presumed white, cis, het etc.

      2. AE*

        Yes, and even if a person *appears* to belong to a privileged group, there may be all kinds of non-visible reasons that they’re not as privileged, like sexuality, gender identity, disability, health status. I wouldn’t ask that question to any job candidate because it would require me to make all kinds of assumptions that I’m not comfortable making.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I mean, it’s a fair question to ask a man or a white person,

        No, it’s not. That means you’re treating people differently based on their gender presentation, race, and sexual orientation, which is wrong.

      4. Tess*

        >I mean, it’s a fair question to ask a man or a white person…

        No, it is not. It’s not a fair question to ask anyone.

      5. Roci*

        It’s not a fair question to ask anyone. Not just because no employer should be considering demographic factors like race/ethnicity or gender, but also because privilege is intersectional and multifaceted. A black lesbian woman could be privileged in being neurotypical or a native-English-speaking citizen. A white man could be a disadvantaged minority as LGBT+, as white Hispanic/Latino, as non-native-English-speaking, as an immigrant, as neurodivergent, or as below the poverty line himself.

        It’s important to remember that everyone experiences privilege in some ways and is sidelined in others.

    3. Language Lover*

      I really felt like in order to answer the question I had to bring up the ways in which I am marginalized and I feel like that is just a very slippery slope. Am I wrong? How would you have handled it?

      I don’t necessarily think you needed to point out ways in which you are marginalized to answer that question. I’m guessing they’re looking for instances of when you might have benefited from assumptions people made about you based on your appearance, race, gender, background….etc. even if those assumptions are incorrect.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Uh, yeah, asking “in what ways are you privileged” is going to get the same result as asking “in what ways are you not privileged” if someone just does the math. I think it’s a bad question. I guess if I were, for example, a queer and disabled woman, I could still discuss my white privilege and give examples of calling out racist microaggressions. But if I were (1) non-white, (2) queer, (3) disabled, and (4) a woman, I might be tempted to say “bold of you to assume I’m privileged.” :-/

      (Well, okay, there’s still socioeconomic/religious/education/etc. privilege, but you get my point.)

    5. Mimi*

      I think you did fine. I wouldn’t necessarily have answered in a way that revealed marginalizations (dunno; I would need to think about my answer a bit), but it’s a personal question, and a personal answer isn’t surprising. Also, while companies aren’t supposed to hire you based on your demographics (in either direction), to my mind, any company that you want to do DEI work for is not a company that will discriminate against you for the diversity you bring.

      Thinking about it further, I would probably have said that I’m white, and well-educated, and comfortable speaking off-the-cuff in large groups, and that in the past I have used that privilege in conjunction with seniority/standing at a company to speak up in staff meetings about issues like “how do llama farms gentrify neighborhoods” or “this policy may have unintended consequences of further marginalizing X group because Reasons” and that I have been able to use that privilege and seniority to continue conversations with senior staff and hold them accountable for following through.

      It is an interesting question because it gets harder to answer the less privileged one is. I’m not sure that it’s a bad question, especially if most of the applicant pool is highly privileged, but if I were asking it I might want to fine-tune the question somehow to make it more accessible to someone who doesn’t come from much privilege.

      1. Tired of it*

        Sorry Mimi gonna disagree with this part right here: “to my mind, any company that you want to do DEI work for is not a company that will discriminate against you for the diversity you bring.” People can assume good intentions when they are job hunting and think that a company working on DEI and hiring for it will not discriminate. *hysterical laughter* Yeah from personal experience this is NOT true. Do you know how many companies tout their DEI work and expect it to be unpaid work from their Black and other BIPOC employees? Do you know how many times DEI work is ignored by the company? Many companies are patting themselves on the back for doing any kind of DEI work, as they lay off Black people, and watch other BIPOC employees flee for better companies, as they don’t reprimand people for saying racist things, as they don’t stop white people for microaggressions, as they continue to have all white company leadership.

        DEI is not my core work, and I have a long career working in STEM, never been hired to do any DEI work. It’s gotten so bad that I prefer to work at a company with a neutral or none or mild stance on DEI work. Will there still be microaggressions, racist comments, and all white company leadership? Yes, but I gotta eat. What I lose working at a place like that is the self-righteous white people calling themselves allies when they don’t do anything. I will lose DEI group meetings where there is constant frustration because of company hesitancy to do anything. I will lose getting punished for pointing out ways to implement pro-DEI actions, since it causes white discomfort and heaven forbid we ever have that.

        1. Mimi*

          Oh, I wasn’t saying that a company talking about their DEI work wouldn’t discriminate. I was trying to say exactly what you’re saying in your first paragraph — a company like that isn’t going to properly support the staff in DEI roles, which sounds to me like a quick route to burnout. I would only *want* to do a job with significant DEI components at a company where I had a lot of confidence that they were putting their money/time/effort where their mouth is. That’s what I meant by “any company that you want to do DEI work for.”

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think it’s possible to answer that question without outing oneself. If I were answering it, I might say “I am a white person raised in an environment where women were expected to be educated and have careers, and there was significant support in terms of both money and role models as I pursued those things.” I might then go on to talk about encouraging and promoting the work of nonwhite women, or recommending a Black friend for a better job, or supporting an Asian-American colleague who got laid off.

      Point is, nothing in my answer revealed my religion, disability, sexual orientation, or anything else I choose not to talk about.

      Now, did you do anything wrong? No. It will likely be a plus in the hiring process, and once you’re hired you can work with the HR and management teams to recommend questions that require less self-revelation.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        That sounds so overly privileged and rather patronizing. What if one came from a blue-collar background in which education wasn’t an expectation? And aren’t those examples of support veering on “one of my best friends is” type of racism? It sounds (to me) more like bragging about privilege rather than using it for the greater good.

    7. MarMar*

      Hello from a fellow queer disabled woman :) As much as I think I could give a stronger, more nuanced answer if I disclosed those things, I probably would have stuck to race and gender when answering the question, since they’re already out in the open (for me).

    8. meyer lemon*

      For a company that supposedly values EDI, they don’t really seem to have thought through the implications of this question. I really can’t see the value in asking job candidates to identify their own privilege in an interview at all. And the question really suggests that their EDI approach is focused on centering the experiences of the most privileged in the workplace. This sounds like the EDI equivalent of showing that you value mental health by forcing employees to overshare about their emotional state.

    9. peasblossom*

      Yes, I hate this sort of thing. My field increasingly is requesting documents that ask candidates to address their own identity position. And while that might sound fine, questions and docs like the one you mention frequently ask marginalized people to perform their identity. In my experience, this often (but not exclusively) happens for a primarily white, straight, cis middle class interview panel.

    10. Reformed HR*

      Yikes! That is an appalling question to ask. I understand the thinking behind it, but the execution is deeply problematic as it is essentially forcing people to share sensitive, private information which is not a good look for a company marketing itself as being dedicated to EDI.

    11. Double A*

      If you live in the US legally, you have some kind of privilege and I think it’s really important to reflect on it. I don’t understand why it would be difficult to answer this question without bringing up your marginalized identities. I would be super annoyed if the interviewee was a man and declined to reflect on his male privilege, for instance, and instead focused on his relative disadvantages.

      Are your cisgendered? Middle class? Housing secure? White? Light skinned? Did you get stimulus money? Have you or will you have access to a vaccine for covid by May, while the vast majority of the world goes without? Are you able to speak standard English? And so on. I mean, most of us who are posting on this blog are more privileged than not so it shouldn’t be difficult to answer that question unless you’ve never thought about your privilege or used it to benefit others.

      1. allathian*

        Sounds reasonable. But when faced with a question like that, it’s much more likely for many people to hang on to the marginalized groups they are a part of. It’s much more probable for most people to think of the ways they are disadvantaged than advantaged, it’s just the way the human mind works.

      2. Roci*

        Totally agree, everyone should be reflecting on this. I don’t think this reflection should happen in front of an interviewer, where there is significant pressure to perform some kind of “wokeness”–apologizing for having privilege, outing oneself to prove they don’t have it, trying to prove they’re a good ally–and I don’t think this is the best way to actually reflect on this, nor would it give good truthful actionable information to the employer.

    12. tamarack and fireweed*

      This is an awkward question in that it probably looks good to some people on paper, but doesn’t take into account how it would play out in an actual interview situation. I would probably start talking about intersectionality, since IMHO the strength of this concept is to help framing exactly this problem. (I’m myself a queer immigrant white non-disabled woman who’s first-gen but had a lot of educational advantages, in a male dominated field, and have in the last year or so involved myself in DEI initiatives without ever holding a job where this is relevant.)

      The second part is to me a little less clumsy since it is a question on the common form “describe how you did [job-relevant thing X]”. I am not a fan of the ally concept though, and might, depending on how the interview goes, go into that.

  14. should i apply?*

    Any tips for a controlling a nervous laugh? I realize that I tend to laugh, even when it doesn’t make sense, in interviews.

    1. ATX*

      The best tip I have for anyone trying to stop a habit like that is to start being aware of when you’re going to do it or when you do it. The more you do that, the more you will notice it and then eventually be able to stop it. It takes time, so it’s not something that happens overnight.

      Other examples:
      – overuse of the word “like.” once you start noticing it, you can start to stop it or minimize it
      – mouth noises while speaking

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Also, be aware that you may present something that looks like a smile or smirk while trying to control a nervous laugh. In an interview, I don’t think that would be a problem or worth drawing attention to. But if you’re receiving criticism or other bad news, I would openly state, “I’m sorry, I a nervous laugher. Please don’t construe my facial expression as a reflection of my thoughts.”

    2. Katia*

      Same here! I try to push my tongue into the roof of my mouth, if that makes sense for you, and deep breathing.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Refocus, perhaps on breathing.
      Stay out of the coffee/caffeine before the interview.
      Sip water.

    4. Chaordic One*

      Yes, focus on your breathing. Instead of a laugh, take a deep breath and inhale deeply. IME most people who do this so come across as looking thoughtful.

    5. Dream Jobbed*

      I was talking to a teenager who like said like like all the time, like you know?

      Three minutes of me with a clicker made her much more aware of saying it.

      Try to do some interviews with friends that use a clicker, or some other attention getter every time you do the laugh, or say like or ummm, or whatever your quirk is. It will help you become aware of saying it.

      And I strongly recommend Toastmaster’s to help work on this! Lots of chances to practice with people whose only goal is to make you a better speaker.

      1. Tess*

        >Three minutes of me with a clicker made her much more aware of saying it.

        Ha ha – would love to have seen that!

  15. Llellayena*

    Anyone else dealing with COVID/WFH/general job temporary burnout? The last few weeks (well…months, but deadlines held it at bay) I’ve been losing focus and am desperate for a solid vacation. Unfortunately with Covid a real go away vacation isn’t feasible and while staycations are nice, they don’t have the distraction that a real vacation does, where you see new things and new places. I’ve got something set up for June (I’ll be vaccinated by then), but I have to get there first. It’s not really helping that my work just hit a slight lull, so the push to *get things done* isn’t there. Not sure if I need suggestions or commiseration to get me to June.

    1. hot priest*

      I can definitely relate!

      Are there any places in your city where you can go explore for the day on a weekend? Like a neighbourhood you’re not familiar with or a provincial/state park not too far? I find that going for walks in new areas has been a nice way to feel like I’ve “gotten away” on the weekends, even as vacations/travel are not possible.

    2. El Camino*

      You are not alone. It’s busy season for my company and the last few weeks have been brutal as far as burnout and the struggle to stay on top of everything. Especially without a vacation or anything on the horizon to look forward to other than work stuff. I’m still trying to get a vaccine appointment too.

      I know staycations aren’t the same and this is dependent on if you have your own transportation, but if you’re able to I recommend even taking a drive or a walk to a town near you but not totally familiar as the other commenter here suggested. I didn’t realize how much I missed road trips until I jumped in my car the other weekend when the weather was beautiful and… just drove for a while. Being on the road with the windows down and some good playlists did wonders for me – even if I was tricking myself into thinking I was going somewhere lol.

    3. Cheesehead*

      Hello! Not sure where you are located, but I actually took a week off and booked an Air BnB cabin in northern Wisconsin. Read the Lord of the Rings, relaxed in the hot tub, the works. It was honestly just what the doctor ordered and pretty cheap ($100/night). Plus I was in the middle of the woods so there was no one around.

    4. ThatGirl*

      If you can get away for a long weekend, even, that can really help – as suggested, an AirBnB/vrbo type situation could be great. Or going to see a trusted friend who’s been taking the same precautions as you. Anything for a change of scenery and a chance to decompress.

    5. ThePear8*

      Yes, I love travel and the inability to just go out is driving me absolutely nuts. As a lot of other responses have suggested though, maybe even a long weekend or just getting out for some COVID-safe local attractions is nice? A couple weeks ago I forced myself to take a Saturday off and just explore some local donut shops I’ve never been to. Forcing myself to not do any work/homework that day and do something enjoyable, and then spending the evening relaxing and playing games, honestly was incredible for recharging my batteries. I think I didn’t realize how much I’ve been in a burned out grind of working constantly every single day until I forced myself to not for one day, and I felt so much more energized when I needed to get things done the next day.

    6. Uranus Wars*

      I agree a staycation where you stay at home comes with distractions but I have stayed just 30 minutes away in a hotel and that seems to lessen the distractions. Also echo going to a airb/vrbo/hotel within a reasonable drive with only a book and no computer/phone!

    7. Niniel*

      I’m struggling too. I also highly recommend a weekend away within a short drive, especially somewhere in nature. Waking up 2 mornings in a row looking at nature really helps me reset and revive myself!

    8. Sleepy Librarian*

      We stayed in an AirBnB one town over from ours (it was a 15 minute drive from our house), in a little house near the (small) downtown area. It was fabulous. We could walk to outdoor restaurants and to grab coffee for breakfast, and the place had a great porch and was across the street from a park so we could sit on the porch and people watch. We just went for two nights, but just being out of my house and in a place that was different for a few days felt like such luxury. If you can do something even that small, I would highly recommend it.

  16. Anonymous for This*

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a general lack of interest in getting moving in the mornings and having difficulty getting to work on time. I’ve been incorporating some of the techniques that were suggested, and although I did have a major slip-up one day (I ended up just taking the day off), for the most part, I have reduced my lateness from 2 – 2.5 hours to 30 minutes – 1 hour. I’m now working on consistently coming in at a set time. I did want to say thanks again to everyone, the suggestions really did help.

    1. ahhh*

      While I am an “on time” person I do have traits I want to improve. I set small goals for myself whether it be cutting down a time frame, doing something different. It sounds like you are on the right path.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not sure if I said this before. My husband was a diabetic. One of the many things pointed out to us, is to have consistent activity levels each day. For example, don’t spring clean at 9 pm if you are usually in bed at 9 pm. Keep activity levels for a given time frame consistent each day of the week.
      I am not diabetic, but I found this really helpful in my own setting. Everything got easier.

      Congrats on your huge progress. I hope I can encourage you that you will actually be happy with the change.

  17. Mimi*

    I’m getting a new manager. I liked oldmanager, who describes newmanager as “more hands-off.” I know that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but my prior two managers were Not Great and both very hands-off. Do people have advice for establishing useful relationships with hands-off managers? Especially remotely? I’m trying to be clear about saying what I want/need.

    1. RecoveringSWO*

      When discussing projects, I like to end the conversation by clearly stating what tasks I plan to complete (and maybe even giving myself a deadline). This gives a more hands off manager the chance to step in an say that they would prefer you to do things another way or prioritize your tasks differently. Basically, I’m trying to make my choices clear and communicated, since hands-off bosses can sometimes create an information-void that can screw up both parties expectations.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      My last manager was very hands off, so I found it important to have a weekly standing meeting to go over updates and anything I needed her input on to move forward. When she first became my manager I sent her a list of everything I was working on/regular responsibilities so she had an understanding of what I did. Honestly, the biggest thing that helped was time. Once we developed trust, it was smooth sailing. She trusted my work, and that I would bring any serious issues to her, and I knew that she would back me up and jump in if I needed her to.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        As a “hands off” manager I would say time is going to be key, and learning the new boss’ expectations/character and asking for what you want. It took time for my team to understand that I trust them to bring me items that need attention and I will always be there for them when they need it. But I don’t need to know every single aspect of every single task.

        It took a lot of time for them to be comfortable that not checking in didn’t mean fully checked out, but we worked through it and are all happier now. And their work is better now that they feel “in control”.

        For OP I’d say give it time, ask for what you need and if new manager is a good manager you will find a compromise that will work for both of you.

    3. Taura*

      “Hands-off” can mean a lot of things, so you might have to wait and see a bit before you can decide what to do. That said, if you can arrange a short (5-10 min) meeting with them once a week, or somehow be assured they’ll answer a check-in type email, that can help. In either of those, you’d come prepared with a list of things you need from them and then they can rattle off answers and go back to being hands-off.
      Ex: Your list would be – 1. I need your signature on project A 2. For project B should we proceed with X or Y 3. Please approve my vacation day next month
      Their response would be – 1. Signed 2. X 3. Approved
      So it would be pretty quick even if you have lots of items on your list. Also, if you do it by email you then have proof of the discussion if you need it.

    4. Nesprin*

      Hands off can range from trusting and supportive to absent, and it’s worth noting that the difference between those is doing the work when you need it. I’d suggest scheduling a routine 1:1 to make sure you have a clear time to raise issues and brief your boss on your accomplishments and figuring out the best channel to keep your boss informed (slack/teams/email/etc).

    5. Mimi*

      Thanks, all. We do have a regular 1:1 scheduled (which is more than I had before, at least); I’m hopeful I can make it useful.

    6. Artemesia*

      Since you are starting with a new person you can frame it as needing to regularly touch base to make. sure you are in sync on work and expectations. Ask for regular meetings and make sure they are used to review where you are on projects and get feedback and what your next steps are. i.e. you structure the feedback you want. It is easier in a new relationship than to fix an old one.

    7. Kathenus*

      In addition to the great advice so far, think about what works well now with your current manager, and what did/didn’t with past hands off managers. Then try to create your communication template around the items that you know from current and past experience are important for you in a manager-employee relationship. Maybe it’s the timing of the 1:1’s, knowing the way they prefer you communicate needs in between these meetings when you have time sensitive requests, checking in not only with what you’re doing but maybe with what they are that impacts you and what they see the next week or whatever looking like, placeholders for what’s working/what’s not, etc. – customize this type of information and use it to format your communications and meetings with your manager from the beginning, that way they know what you want and need from them to be successful, and vice versa.

    8. Tess*

      Watch out for co-workers who take advantage of “hands off” management. My experience has been that those co-workers will try to impose what they think should be, which presents boundary issues. Don’t let anyone who tries that succeed. Hold firm, even if it’s awkward.

  18. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    My boss is going on parental leave in a few months, and I expect to be asked to fill their role during that period (not currently sure how long they’re planning to be on leave, but policy allows for up to twelve weeks paid). I have ZERO ambitions to be a manager (I’m a really great individual contributor and wrangling people is my literal nightmare), but I’d like to do well while in this role — what should I be thinking about as I shadow them and get familiar with the parts of the role that I don’t see in my usual interactions with them?

    1. LQ*

      Who is their peer that will be a good ally for you? And there may be different kinds of allies, one for logistical stuff (hr/payroll/who do I ask about…) but I’d definately try to find out who will be a political ally for you. Ideally your boss’s boss will take care of a lot of that stuff, but something will come up where you step on someone’s toes or you have something that’s a little sticky, and having a peer of your boss you can go to for “this is my instinct with this issue that’s sticky, anything I should know about” will be really good.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Talk with your boss about all the pieces that need to be covered, and what could/should be farmed out to someone else. Since people wrangling is not your thing, maybe another manager could handle supervisory aspects (employee reviews, time off approvals, etc.) while you manage the daily work tasks and assignments.

      Look at the project schedule 3 months out, identify upcoming milestones: big deliverable, employee salary reviews, industry conference, and decide who will track what.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      One unspoken bit of leverage I have found is as a fill-in, I could kind of plead “Please help me, help our boss!” Things actually went much easier than I thought because people were sympathetic to being short-handed and they were really interested in just making things go well. There seemed to be an attitude shift while the boss was out.

    4. Quinalla*

      I did something similar, took over as interim head of my office when we had someone quit and had no replacement for months and it was not a job I wanted either. I didn’t have the luxury of talking with the former boss about logistics before they left, but I would recommend that. I talked with my new immediate boss quite a bit for advice/help/etc., I had a former peer who I was able to lean on for some items so I wasn’t doing the new job and my old job both by myself and with my boss we agreed to let certain things go undone or be more lax while I was in charge. And yes, my former peers we eager to help me as much as they could as they knew I was stepping up to do something none of us wanted to do.

  19. Manon*

    A low-stakes question for you all: a friend, who is enrolled in an undergraduate business program, recently told me that in one of her classes she learned that it’s “weird” to address emails with “Dear [name]”. She was advised that it’s always better to use “Good morning/good afternoon” instead. Is this true?

    Though I think it’s overly formal for coworkers, I usually use “Dear [name]” to address emails to people I’ve never met (ie: the initial email to apply for a job, emails to people outside my organization).

    1. Unladen European Swallow*

      This is silly – I don’t think it’s “weird” to start emails with “Dear [name]” to people outside of your internal organization or to new contacts. I think it’s fine to start emails with a “Good morning/Good afternoon” greeting, but it wouldn’t be detrimental to start the message with “Dear [name].”

      Maybe this is just the personal preference or individual quirk of one professor/instructor and they’re touting it as universal? If so, that’s a disservice to students, but especially undergrads who have little to no experience of their own upon which to rely.

      1. Manon*

        I know some people find “Dear” too personal/affectionate for business emails, but I didn’t think not using it was a universal business standard.

    2. Kitano*

      That’s weird as heck, and I think her professor is trying to push a personal preference rather than an actual business norm. I use Dear during the first couple of emails with a new person, or if i’m speaking to someone senior like a board member, but it quickly devolves into “Hi”, “Hello”, or “Hey” depending on how familiar I am. Sometimes, if the other person has dropped the salutation entirely, I’ll follow suit to match their communication style. Good morning/afternoon aren’t bad by any means, but it’s definitely weird to press them as the one and only correct address when that’s just plain false.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think it is weird, but it does have potential pitfalls.

      For instance;
      ‘Dear Jane Doe’ is clunky, but ‘Dear Jane’ is potentially over-familiar to someone you don’t know, and if you go with the more formal ‘Dear Ms. Doe’ you may irritate someone if they prefer Mrs. /Miss./Mx. (as well as the risk of misgendering someone if they have a gender neutral name or one you are not familiar with.

      I think for a job application, I would probably go with ‘Dear Ms Doe’ rather than ‘good morning’ if I had a specific name and title, as it feels more formal, and it’s less likely to look like a generic ‘form’ letter.

      (I am in the UK so norms around how it would come over may be different to the US)

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. That said, even if the full name is clunky, it’s also the safest option, if you’re not 100 percent sure about name order. Many Asian cultures go by family name first, which many are familiar with, but so do Hungarians.
        “Dear Ro Laren” eliminates that problem, and I’d far rather sound clunky than be over-familiar or accidentally misgender someone I don’t know.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I think what’s weird is having strong opinions on which of a range of perfectly normal greetings is the most acceptable. It doesn’t sound like any explanation was given for this claim. I’d ignore it and merrily continue saying dear, hi, wotcher and to whom it may concern, as I judge professionally appropriate ;)

      1. Reba*

        Exactly! I know the debate rages any time this comes up on here…but…it just doesn’t matter much.

        (For candidates, I totally understand wanting to do everything as right as you can, and it’s worthwhile to know that some potential recipients have strong feelings on it. But I’m fairly stunned by the folks who said they would bin an application that said “hi” or “sirs” or whatever!)

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      I stopped using Dear a while ago for anything other than super formal writing. I usually start me work emails with Good “insert time of day” or Hello or All (if it is a large group email). There are simply a few people at my job(s) that I never want to refer to as Dear.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Same. I actively try to use something else, especially when I don’t know someone well. I wouldn’t think it’s “weird” though. Just personal preference. I also don’t abuse ! in my emails like some people do to appear friendly.

    6. dealing with dragons*

      it feels more formal to address something with “Dear” – I usually do only their name or “hello!” I work in a global company though, so my good morning is someone else’s good night.

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think it’s too rigid a rule.

      If the email is doing the job a letter could do, it can look like a letter. If it’s more like a memo (remember them?) then it probably doesn’t need to look like a letter.

      “Dear Ms [Chief Buyer], I’m writing to tell you about our exciting discounts on piping bags and wooden trellis.”


      “Good morning everyone, please remember to ensure that the cookie jar is firmly closed after you take a cookie. In other news, watch out for mouse traps in the kitchenette.”

    8. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I freely admit this is my personal little quirk, but Dear bothers me when it’s used in (most) scenarios outside of an actual written letter. Like “Dear Grandma, thank you for the lumpy, poorly knit vomit colored sweater. I love it.”

      The only other time I personally use “Dear” is in writing cover letters.

      Business communication gets “Good morning/afternoon, Hey team, Hey Fergus” etc.

      1. Quinalla*

        Also not a fan of Dear in any communication that isn’t personal, but I accept that it is one of the many acceptable addresses. I usually just do Name- to start emails, sometimes Good morning Name, etc. if I want to be a bit more formal. For a group, I usually start with Greetings!

        Also, I had to chuckle about the memo thing – I still write memos LOL.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      This is one of those things that I think it is fine to copy what the group around you is doing.

    10. Chaordic One*

      While I disagree with what your friend was told, since the instructor has clearly demonstrated a preference for how he or she wishes to be addressed, in emails to that instructor your friend should make a point of addressing the instructor as the instructor prefers.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s too much for Skype & other instant messenger apps, but it’s within the acceptable range for emails. (I’m in the Northeast US, co-workers are on several continents.)

    12. RagingADHD*

      Excuse me,
      “in one of her classes she learned that her professor thinks it’s wierd to address emails with Dear (name), and they should address emails to their professor with Good Morning/Good Afternoon instead.”


  20. ahhh*

    Question regarding social media networking……I basically fell into a side gig by accident. I work in finance. I took on a few bookkeeping side jobs. My clients are all very small companies. The biggest one has 10 employees. This somehow led to doing some social media networking for the companies. I really enjoy doing it!

    I have no experience or training in social media outside of my own internet research and reading tons of resource material – books, classes, speaking to those who do this professionally etc. As an ametuer I guess I’ve done ok for myself. Over the years my clients have seen an increase in sales. I’d like to think I played a small part in that. I make my clients aware of my lack of training and make them sign something stating that they realize I have very little experience. Nothing is posted without their consent and review of a online marketing strategy. I think for my clients I’m more an extra set of hands as opposed to a marketing or PR expert.

    My bookkeeping has run it’s course and I am closing up the company, but a few have asked me to continue with social media posting. I guess the problem I am running into is people seem to think I’m an expert. I’m not! I’m learning the same time they are. I don’t know how to explain that from my point of view it takes time to build a customer base – it isn’t going to happen overnight; I understand you have an online store to promote but you aren’t going to wake up one day with $1 million in new transactions. I guess I’m looking for social media experts…. Am I right to think that it will take time to build a following? Sometimes years?

    **Before anyone gets into they should hire experts, stop relying on you etc my clients and I have all had discussions and signed contracts as to the social media aspect of my helping out. I’m willing to walk away if it is best for the company. I’m questioning my thoughts as I never went to school for marketing, social media networking, PR or anything of the sort

    1. Goose*

      I’m in a similar boat re: falling into social media development, and yes, it takes a long time. Take a look at your target market–millennials and gen z especially are looking for authenticity and word of mouth so won’t follow and engage apropos of nothing.

    2. Noncompliance Officer*

      I did social media, online advertising for a while. Here’s my take: no one is an expert. Social media, SEO, etc. all change so much that it is very difficult to stay on top of it. The “experts” that exist are mainly there to sign up for conferences, programs, news letters, etc. etc. If what you’re doing for your clients delivers results, than great.

      1. Why is it snowing in April?*

        I want to echo this. It’s impossible to be an expert in social media. Between the new social media platforms popping up overnight and the strange algorithm changes that no one can account for (today is the day that Instagram has decided that all dog posts will be downgraded! Tomorrow all the teapot posts will be banned), all you can do is continue to learn and a/b test.

        I’d also suggest picking one or two main SM platforms and focus on figuring them out before trying to add any more. Figure out where the audience is for the company you’re supporting and stick to that platform primarily to start with.

        Explain to the companies that it does take years to build a solid customer base since social media involves consistent content production.

      2. ThePear8*

        Nailed it! I never thought about it this way but it’s so true, the fact that no one really is or can be an expert given the ever-changing climate, makes so much sense. I’ve spent 8 years slowly accumulating a measly following for say, my teapot accounts. But my sister and I started a llama wrangling side hustle that has really taken off within just a couple of months, and been rapidly accumulating followers! It’s true building a platform takes time, but how much time, I don’t think you can really predict.

      3. Jstar*

        I work in social media, and I’d agree that no one is really an expert! There’s always something new coming along, and we’re all just trying to keep up and figure out how TikTok works, or talk our managers out of jumping on the latest and greatest platform that doesn’t make any sense for our business.
        There’s some good resources out there for keeping up with social media trends, learning about analytics, etc: the Hootsuite blog, SproutSocial blog, Social Media Examiner, blog are the ones that I visit regularly.

        1. Noncompliance Officer*

          I worked at a marketing agency right out of college. My boss was from the old magazine/TV/radio ad world but desperately wanted to be relevant. Twitter was the new hotness and the boss wanted us to devote tons of time to Twitter (“Why aren’t you guys Twittering more?!” was literally a line they yelled at us). We sold something exceedingly boring that I can promise you no on was using Twitter (at that time and probably now) to look for.

    3. ahhh*

      Thank you all for your replies! I am finding there is no “right way”. I have once client who makes handmade items in a store front that they are looking to expand online. Their inventory takes a while to make but slowly they are building a following. Another client has a popular company but for some odd reason (I’m still trying to figure out) their clients don’t seem to rely on social media.

  21. Nacho*

    My company (WFH atm) recently changed their breaks policy. In addition to our regularly scheduled breaks/lunch, we now have an AFK code for taking short bathroom breaks and what not. We’re allowed up to 6 minutes AFK/day, but if anybody uses 6 minutes AFK/day, they’re abusing the system and we all lose it. There’s no word on how many minutes/day we’re actually allowed to use without “abusing the system”

    Is it worth it to ask for more clarification on how many minutes/day we’re actually allowed to be afk? Or will that just come off as an attempt to abuse the system and make me look lazy?

      1. Cat Tree*

        Oh wow. I’m 7 months pregnant, plus taking a diuretic medication. I’ve become very efficient so each individual break is pretty quick. But it adds up to way more than 6 minutes throughout the day. Sometimes I can’t even make it a full hour between breaks.

    1. Weekend Please*

      Six minutes!?!? It seems very petty for them to punish people over six minutes worth of time.

    2. Goose*

      YIKES. This seems like they have an issue with one person and are taking it out on everyone instead of managing correctly.

    3. Spicy Tuna*

      Umm sorry for the TMI, but it takes ~6 minutes to change a tampon once, let alone needing to do it 3-4 times per day. And they don’t actually want you to take a full 6? This is ridiculous and draconian.

      1. TechWorker*

        Let’s hope no-one has constipation or any other medical issues that might mean they can’t literally run to the toilet. This is a ridiculous policy tbh

      2. Hi there*

        That’s what I was thinking. TMI, but…my periods are very heavy, and I have to change even a super+ tampon sometimes every 30 minutes. I don’t even know how much time I spend in the bathroom on my heavy days each month, but it’s definitely way more than 6 minutes. That is unbelievable.

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      Check you state wage and hour laws…you might be entitled to more (commonly, 2 15min breaks–1 before and 1 after lunch).

      1. hot priest*

        This is my question, too. How would they know you’re not at your keyboard? Are you expected to always reply instantaneously? All of this is wildly unreasonable.

    5. Bagpuss*

      What? They are trying to restrict it to 6 minutes a DAY and still then penalising people for using those 6 minutes?

      And expecting you to time record it?

      I mean , the whole thing is ridiculous. For practical purposes I’d read ‘up to 6 minutes’ as meaning ‘5 minutes’ . Normally I’d say ask for clarification but they don’t like like a very reasonable employer so asking might create the issues you mentioned.

      Also – I am not sure what the rules are in the s, if that’s where you are. In the UK this might easily b seen as indirect sex discrimination as (on average) it is likely to disproportionately affect women, and also as indirect disability discriminations as it is likely to disproportionately affect those with a range of disabilities, too.

      Do they track your keystrikes? Are they going to know if you are away from your keyboard without logging it?

      Do you have to take your breaks and lunch as designated times or can you take a shorter lunch or break to save 10 minutes for bathroom breaks?

    6. Dave*

      I think you have to clarify this but I think the group clarification would be helpful. So basically you have to hold it if you need to pee more then once a day outside of scheduled break times? I hope no one on your team has IBS! I would frame this more along the lines of bodily functions vary and ask them to clarify what they are trying to accomplish.

    7. Schnoodle*

      Oh my. Between my bad bladder and being a woman who bleeds once a month for a week…this can be seen as sex discrimination. (And is it me, or do we women just pee more often than men?!?). Even before having kids, I’d sometimes have to pee twice within 30 minutes. It happens.

      And then they want you to…track it?!?

      this company is wack and I bet has other stupid wacky things, I’d be looking…

    8. lemon*

      Even when I worked at a call center where every single second of everything we did was tracked, we were allowed a 6 minute bio break every hour. 6 minutes for the whole day is impossible. And if people “abuse” the system, those 6 minutes get taken away? Um… nobody can take away your right to go to the bathroom. Do they seriously just expect that people will… not go for 8+ hours a day? That will can triumph basic biology? WTF.

      I’m with others on wondering how this is actually going to be enforced. Unless they can monitor your equipment, there’s really no way for them to truly track this.


      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Do they seriously just expect that people will… not go for 8+ hours a day?

        Sounds to me like the solution involves taking calls on the can.

    9. WellRed*

      You have to officially take a bathroom break? Would they require this if you were in the office? Don’t get me started on what someone (younger male) thinks is an adequate length of time or that people might be considered to be abusing it or that you’ll be punished as though you are a bunch of recalcitrant school children being made to miss recess.

      The fact that you are even treating this as normal is impressive.

    10. CupcakeCounter*

      Ummm…when the washing your hands part is supposed to be close to a minute on its own (rinse hands, soap for 20-30 seconds, rinse thoroughly, dry) that is insane!

      1. Momma Bear*

        Sounds about right.

        Six minutes for a whole day is unacceptable. I guess they don’t pay attention to the news.

    11. Malarkey01*

      This board skews heavily to office jobs that don’t involve constant coverage and always trips up on bathroom questions. Unfortunately for the majority of retail, food service, manufacturing type jobs it’s very common to get schedule breaks and then it be really frowned on or problematic to take additional bathroom breaks.

      I think the reality is your job expects you to only need rare fast time away from your desk outside of the allotted breaks. If you have a personal need for more you need to approach as a formal accommodation. It would be helpful to know what breaks you’re already granted and how it works when in the office.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I guess that might be true, but I’m just wondering what happens when someone needs to poop.

      2. mreasy*

        I worked in food service and retail across at least 6 or 7 employers – many of whom were strict and overbearing – and none of them were like this about bathroom breaks. Maybe you had to have someone cover your station but 6 minutes a day is by no means normal or acceptable.

    12. acmx*

      I would ask for clarification. Can it be averaged over the week or pay period? Say one day you do have 6 min AFK but another day you only have 5. Just say sometimes things vary so you may need extra breaks some days.
      What was the extra breaks procedures when in office?

    13. meyer lemon*

      And if you’re abusing the system, what? No one can use the washroom for the whole work day? They’re just asking people to unionize.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      Is this kindergarten? One person uses 6 minutes and you all lose your bathroom time? Collective punishment does not work.

      First thing I’d do is time the walk to and from the bathroom. I bet it takes longer than one would think. I think I’d be making noises about going to the DOL and I’d be wondering out loud about increased insurance costs due to injury from being forced to hold on to human waste too long.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I skimmed that really quickly and thought you wrote,
        First thing I’d do is … attend meetings from the bathroom.
        Like say, I don’t want to use too much AFK so please wait a moment while I was my hands.

    15. Nacho*

      Ok, I feel like people are being too harsh on my job here. All call centers have codes you need to switch to in order to take breaks, otherwise, how do they know to stop sending you calls? And all customer-facing jobs set reasonable limits on how long you can be away from your desk, with repercussions if you spend too much of your day taking breaks.

      I was just asking about the unclear nature of how much time we can use before it becomes an issue.

      1. WellRed*

        Fair enough and lots of what you cite here is reasonable.m for call centers. BUT. Your company wants to punish the whole class if anyone “abused” the system. I worked retail at one of the busiest large chains in the US. We still weren’t treated like this, even at Christmas.

      2. StripesAndPolkaDots*

        I’ve had plenty of customer-facing jobs, though retail and food service, not call center, and none of them ever monitered bathroom usage to this extent. 6min/hour I could see, but 6min all day is extreme, even for a customer facing job.

      3. RagingADHD*

        I think a lot of folks missed the part about it being in addition to scheduled breaks, and are freaking out at the thought of getting less than six minutes of break time, total.

        If your supervisor is awful, it’s probably not worth asking. If they are a reasonable person, it makes sense to ask – especially since someone could inadvertantly cause their coworkers to lose out. And nobody wants that to happen.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think that even if one accepts the restrictive nature of call center jobs, I think what people are saying is that it is not reasonable to

        a) fail to acknowledge that a bathroom break may well occasionally exceed 6 min
        b) fail to provide you with overall sufficient break time
        c) announce some number (“6 min”) but call it abuse if you actually use the time as specified .

      5. Maree*

        Hey Nacho, it’s been a few years since I was last in a call centre but yeah… this completely gels with what I remember.
        We were allowed 2 x 10 minute breaks a day + 1hr for lunch (lunch was unpaid, the other breaks were paid). We were only allowed 2 mins of unscheduled variance on the sides of each of these breaks (so could hang up the call 1.5mins before clocking off for break for example but not 2.5 minutes before).
        We weren’t allowed any other breaks for any purpose, toilet or not, and we were labour hire so if you took toilet breaks you just had your contract wound up. At least in the office you could have your co-worker watch your phone and transfer a call back into the queue if you were desperate – is that an option for you at home? (if you get caught you will be in trouble but works in an emergency better than the mute key).

        For all the people saying this is unfair – yes it is! It is very unfair but so are many things in low paying jobs. (other jobs I’ve had that didn’t allow toilet breaks – retail, fast food, child care).

    16. Reformed HR*

      Companies like this are the worst. I’d check which laws apply to you so you know your actual rights, but I’d also see how this plays out in practice for a week or two. If your calls come through via a mobile device, this is going to end with someone taking calls from the bathroom.

      Even with scheduled breaks taken into account, this policy is questionable regarding the anti-discrimination laws and general work rights and protections in place across a number of regions, but these can obviously vary quite a bit. It’s also ridiculous.

  22. Returning to Office*

    Advice for discussion about making my position full time remote now that it has been for the past year & our company is making plans to bring everyone back to the office.

    More details:
    I live and work in one city but the team I work with and support are all based in another (ex: NYC vs Chicago) however, my city happens to be where our company’s headquarters is located.

    I personally feel the entire time I’ve been with this company, I have been a remote worker and I don’t understand managements reluctance to allow my position to be 100% remote as not a single person I work with or support even lives in our state?

    My manager and I have discussed it and neither of us understand. Were it in her power to grant, I would be full time remote, but management above her won’t approve it. The clearest answer she’s ever been given is they are afraid of setting a precedent.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      So they’re asking you to go in to work at HQ, even though your team is located elsewhere? A couple of ideas:

      1) Make the business case for your value to the company as a remote worker, using lots of numbers to represent your results, just as you might if you were making a case for a raise or promotion.

      2) Try the HQ out. Who knows? You might like it! Or you might be able to work out a system where you go in two or three days a week. Your team is elsewhere — which might make YOU the key person to interface with other departments and pick up company information that can help you and your boss look good.

      1. Karo*

        Regarding your second point – It reads to me like OP worked out of the HQ office before the pandemic pushed her remote and now she wants to stay remote.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Similar boat here. I used to drive 40 miles to be n the phone with other time zones. I’m starting to push back hard, showing productivity metrics from this year and in the meantime getting mentally prepared to change jobs or take early retirement if it’s refused. (Gathering my list of accomplishmentsfor example.)

    3. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      My husband is in a similar situation. He has team members in another country, has been remote for years, but for some reason right mow upper mgmt isn’t approving remote workers. Because “office culture.”

    4. Reformed HR*

      I’d check if you or a member of your household fall into a protected category which enables you to make a formal request to WFH full time. Depending on which laws are in place, it may be very, very hard for the company to refuse that request.

  23. LTL*

    Not looking for advice, just here to vent.

    I started job searching in July. Got a couple of bites early on in my job hunt, but other than that, by and large last year was all crickets. Since the new year started, my application to interview ratio has skyrocketed. But it’s still the same story every time. There’s always someone they prefer more. People who were in the same boat as me (finished the same data science bootcamp at the same time) have pretty much all gotten jobs. And I spent a lot of time agonizing over why, I know that I’m not a worse candidate or that my application materials aren’t as good, and I’ve come to accept that some of it has to do with my gender and my race and how I look. I also spent a lot of time telling myself that I shouldn’t think that, I know how it sounds to be blaming external factors, but I’m frankly more at peace now that I’m not trying to convince myself that those factors aren’t at play. I can’t help but feel that if I was a white man, I’d have a job by now.

    Anyways, this post isn’t really about inclusion, I’m just tired and waiting for my life to take a new turn. I feel like it’d be great if I was applying at the same rate I was last year but I no longer job hunt for 40 hours a week as of a few months now, I can’t sustain it. My level of effort in the job search has gone down which is a shame. I don’t have to worry about anything financially, which I know is such a huge blessing, but I literally have nothing going for me. It’s been that way for months and the thing is, it’s been that way for most of my life. I only started breaking out of my shell a few years ago.

    1. Violet*

      I just want to send you encouragement. I am job-seeking as well and my Inbox seems extra empty lately. Not even anything from friends! I think the weather warmed up a tiny bit and people took that opportunity to get out.

      I am also not a white man but I know my crickets don’t have anything to do with that because it’s all before they’ve seen me! I do really well on interviews but I haven’t had many. It just really has to be the right role, I think.

      Anyway, enough on me. You’ll get there! If you get interviews, maybe it’s something there? Maybe practice interview with a friend? I think there is a right place for you and if these folks don’t like you, it wouldn’t be the right fit anyway. You have the luxury of time. Maybe also have some other outside interests as well to help fill in the time until the perfect role comes to you.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Reach out to those people from your data science program. The places that hired them might well have openings, and most people like to be helpful. Indeed, if they are Nice White Liberals (like me) they are particularly happy when they can help advance the career of someone who isn’t a white man. That may or may not be a helpful attitude in general, but since it’s there, use it.

    3. Tired of it*

      I hear your vent! That feeling is super real and I can relate. It feels so bad thinking (realizing?) that your gender / race / look are a reason why you aren’t getting the second interview or the job offer. You can only change your look, and even then, why should you have to? (I am also not a white man. Non-Black woman of color here.) Those factors are at play, but we can’t know how much. Is it only hurting you 5%? Or 95%? How on earth can we ever know??

      I swear sometimes I fantasize about large sting operations where crews of us non-white-men catch all these people and companies discriminating and then they actually face consequences like losing their job or some huge fine. Seems like a pipe dream right now.

      (And since it’s Friday- I’ll share that it’s especially frustrating because we’re taught that efficiency is part of capitalism… so learning a super-in-demand skill like data science means you will definitely get a job, right? That’s what the bootcamps all say too. It makes perfect sense. Except capitalism supports racism (and all the other ism like sexism) so it’s actually not efficient all the time. You have skills and are wanting to work at these places. And yet, they mysteriously don’t hire you.)

      TLDR- it’s not you. it’s them. Keep trying, keep putting yourself out there, but it’s not you.

    4. emmelemm*

      Can you go back and ask for more support from the bootcamp you attended? They really want their graduates to be employed to keep their numbers looking good, and they should especially want any non-white-males who attend to be hired because it makes them look especially good.

      A lot of these bootcamps brag hard about their industry connections and *claim* that they can essentially place graduates in jobs. Time to go back and remind them of that!

    5. sherlock holmes*

      Similar boat here! Also been applying for months, have had loads of interviews by now (tiny silver linings) and I’m SO unbelievably ready to be done with this process. It’s been hard to keep up the pace for unemployment purposes.

      I absolutely second having some outside activities and scheduling time away from the hunt. I don’t know if you feel like this, too, but I’m virtually always on tenterhooks during the week when a response could come in at any time and I really end up needing the break by the weekend. I’m very glad you have the financial security, is there anything you’ve wanted to try that you have the space for that might give you some purpose? I’ve just started remotely volunteering and I think even one day a week is going to make a massive difference in how productive I feel.

      This year has been unbelievably hard and it seems all of the negative emotions we’d feel in a normal job search have been piled on by everything ELSE going on in the world, it’s a lot.

      Best of luck! It’s definitely not you.

  24. nep*

    I landed some editing work with an organisation I interviewed with a while back. It’s precisely what I’m seeking–being the on-call editor. I accepted a rate lower than industry standards for this brief job–I don’t love that, but they did acknowledge it’s low and they said their budget on this project allowed for a max of X. I won’t go into all of it here, but after long consideration I decided that after looking to get back to this field for so long, I’m getting much more value from this beyond just the money.
    It will be great to be able to update my resume with some recent work. I continue to apply for jobs, but this is a really nice door that’s opened.
    Thanks to Alison and everyone here. And as always best wishes to fellow job-seekers.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Nice to read good news! It’s also great to see editors finding employment. :-) Enjoy and may it lead you on a longer path in this good direction.

  25. Taura*

    Do I need to correct a coworker on another coworker’s name? One of the contractors that we work with consistently calls my other coworker by the wrong name. Think consistently calling “Anna” “Hannah”. On the one hand, I know for a fact this contractor has heard Anna’s name correctly multiple times, and on top of that Anna’s name is in her email signature and everyone else including our other contractor calls her Anna so it’s not a matter of not knowing. On the other hand, Anna herself hasn’t said anything about it to my knowledge, and I don’t want to start something if she’s decided to let it slide. I don’t have any authority over the contractor where I could say “her name is Anna actually, use it” out of the blue, and we are all remote atm so I can’t catch her in the break room or something and casually mention it as a peer either, which is how I usually handle this kind of thing.

    1. Shanananana*

      Is it possible it is an accent/speech issue? If you are sure its not (as I can tell you in certain accents anna and hannah sound almost alike) then yes, tell them, because Anna is probably low key super annoyed by it. Signed another person whose name is constantly pronounced wrong and people seem to have a block against correcting it.

      1. Taura*

        It’s not. “Anna” and “Hannah” was maybe a bad example. “Emilia” and “Emily” might be better. It’s a name that could be mistaken for a more common name, but it’s spelled how it sounds, and my coworker introduces herself and answers the phone by enunciating it, plus everyone else in the department uses the correct name, so I feel like it should be obvious by now.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      You don’t have to be so forceful as to say “her name is Anna, use it.” Instead, when the wrong name is used you can say “isn’t her name Anna?” or “I thought her name was Anna.” As someone who has completely inadvertently gotten names wrong (or mispronounced them), I would appreciate that little heads up.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        Right, or something like “did you say hannah? I thought her name was anna.”
        Then co-worker could response “i did say hannah” meaning anna. At which point you will know that it is a speech issue and say nothing more.
        Or the co-worker could response “anna, are you sure? i thought it was hannah”. At which point you could both figure it out together, perhaps by reference to her signature on an email.

        1. Taura*

          I know perfectly well what my coworker’s name is. I don’t think I should sound unsure at all about it. The contractor isn’t new anymore, and she gets everyone else’s name right, including mine which is often mispronounced.

          1. Ashley*

            I would go with I think you mean Anna when they say it wrong. If you have a good relationship I think you could just point it out, otherwise I would just correction mid stream and do the did you mean Anna?

          2. ThatGirl*

            Right, but coming at it from a slightly confused tone of voice makes it sound less confrontational.

            That said, I think you could say “hey, I have noticed you keep saying ‘Anna’, but it’s actually Hannah, just wanted to make sure you knew” and leave it there.

            1. pancakes*

              It isn’t overly confrontational to correct someone who repeatedly bungles a coworkers name, though!

              1. ThatGirl*

                I agree – hence my suggestion – but I was clarifying why someone might do it that way in the first place.

          3. Girasol*

            Or you could say “Pssst! It’s Anna!” in the same tone that you might say, “Hey, your zipper is down.”

          4. tangerineRose*

            I think it should be OK to say “Her name is Anna.” and leave it there. Return the awkward to sender.

    3. Kitano*

      I think it’s fair to slip the person an IM or quick email as an ‘FYI’, but after that if you aren’t their manager it’s probably best to let it drop.

    4. hot priest*

      Next time he does it, can you just say, “Oh, I think you mean Anna, not Hannah”, as if you are saying something helpful — think the same tone as if you were saying “Hey, did you drop this 5$ bill?”

    5. Sunflower*

      Just be direct, there’s nothing offensive about telling someone “it’s Anna” or “her name is Anna”

      I’ve had to do this many times with a woman I manage who pronounces her name in the Spanish version vs the English version. Also with another coworker who has an androgynous name, and people think she’s a man.

    6. Bagpuss*

      I wouldn’t agree that the fact people have used the name correctly in the contractors hearing and that it’s in Anna’s e-mail means that it’s not a matter of not knowing.

      People don’t necessarily automatically notice those types of things.

      I think a polite correction – ‘Oh, actually her name is Anna, not Hannah’ would be fine. Saying ‘Her name is Anna, use it’ is a really aggressive way of doing it and would come across as extremely rude.

    7. A Poster Has No Name*

      So, as someone with an unusual name who sometimes gets called the wrong name, it can feel really awkward to correct people after a certain point, so you would be doing Anna a kindness to say to the contractor: “Just so you’re aware, her name is Anna, not Hannah”. If they continue after that, no need to mention it again, as at that point they’re doing it deliberately (I mean, whatever) but some people really are just kind of clueless in that regard.

      I don’t really mind it when people mispronounce my name, and have found it kind of funny when someone gets my name wrong for longer periods of time, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m mad or annoyed about it or whatever.

    8. A Teacher*

      I have a name that isn’t the most common-its got 6 different spellings and can be pronounced a few ways. Please correct the person saying it wrong. It gets irritating to constantly have your name said incorrectly over and over again when its not hard to pronounce it correctly.

    9. BadWolf*

      I’ve had coworkers correct others — especially when my name was incorrect. Think Mary/Martha.

      In this case, I might say “Did you say Anna or Hannah, I am pretty she she goes by Anna. Or I hope so as that’s what I’ve been saying.”

      Like, “I’ll have Hannah go over these numbers.”
      “Oh, did you say Anna or Hannah” — or “You mean Anna, right? I don’t think we also have a Hannah” (depending on the number of people you work with)

      The above works better if you are just talking between the two of you. If you’re in a group meeting with Anna, it might be odd. But I’ve also been on a group meet where my teamlead called out a serial mis-namer for me and it felt awkward, but good.

      For awhile, I was in a Anna/Hannah/Marie/Maria sort of situation — but with the phone/accent of the talker, it was plausible he was saying my name correctly (or trying to). I did not correct it at the time. I recently, accidentally, called him out on possible misprouncing a coworkers name, but it was honestly because I thought he might be talking about a new person (like on the Matt/Nat level — not quite Wakeen/Joquin).

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I like to reference something that they see on a recurring basis. This gives them a nagging reminder when I am not around. “You might want to take a look, I believe her email address says, “Anna”.” So there is some softening language in there and I let the email address do the nagging.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve taken advantage of common names to “ask” for confirmation. E.g. “when you say Hannah do you mean Hannah Montana? Or Anna Wintour? We need to be specific because they don’t work on the same projects.”

    12. Marinette*

      You have reminded me that I need to check on the pronunciation of a coworker’s name. It’s frustrating because we’re in the same meetings but I don’t work directly with him. He’s a new hire on a team I work with “Luis Santiago” and I would assume it’s pronounced in the latino version looEEZ except the others on that team call him LOOiss… which I’d totally go with except this team lead also speaks in slightly accented English so she’s not notmally someone I’d copy pronunciations off of. This is me just fretting, I know I have to ask him directly – which would of course be easier if we ever talked.
      All of which is to say, if there is an obvious well-known truth to this person’s name and pronunciation, you are encouraged to tell somebody who’s getting it wrong.

    13. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think this is something peers can and should (politely! calmly! as a friendly tip! in private!) tell each other. It’s along the lines of pointing out an open fly or any of 1000 other small etiquette transgressions.

  26. Academic glass half full*

    Okay- what now?
    I am a full professor in a well-known humanities specialty with a national reputation. The dean wants the development officer to establish a named chair for my specialty.
    I am supposed to be the support not the principal in this endeavor.
    It has been a year.
    I have been documenting, missed meetings by the development officer, mis-information, no feasibility or project plan.
    I am usually the ambitious, take risks, lets-do-it person in the room.
    I am also not in charge of this process but I am worried about failure of this endeavor, that it is my reputation on the line (because I am the face of the specialty)
    I have asked for a moratorium on the endeavor and was told no.
    I have sought clarity in writing for my role. Hasn’t happened.
    My director who reports to the dean has indicated that I am over reacting, stay in my lane, and the work of this project is not my responsibility.
    I believe that the development officer is in over her head, does not know what she is doing (neither do I, but this isn’t my job) as evidence by the lack of progress. In addition, it seems that most of her plan to date relies on me and any contacts I can produce. (I don’t actually have any prospects in my pocket)
    YET- to date anything that has happened is work that I put in- project plan, content, marketing review.
    Do I stop pushing back and ‘go along.’ and just watch the train wreck?
    I have nothing new to say. I am just tired.
    And I don’t like being the negative one in every meeting.

    1. NaoNao*

      I’m not in academia but every single time I’ve fought for better processes, raised the alarm or otherwise kicked up a righteous and deserved fuss about someone else’s incompetency, it’s me who’s been spanked. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s just one of those Work Laws I’ve observed.

      I would listen to the director who said stay in the lane. You said your bit, let it crash if it’s going to crash. But I would also note that you’re invested in success being and looking a certain way and I’ve learned that for 99% of the working world, unless it’s a literal crash on the launch pad, it’s “successful”. So I’ve had to lower my otherwise high standards to allow for “barely passing” projects fronted by popular and well liked people.

    2. Reba*

      Maybe I’m naive but I don’t think this reflects on you/your reputation. Yes, I would stop pushing and I would try to distance yourself from the effort if you can (it’s the department’s thing, it’s not you). That sounds both stressful and bizarre!

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      You don’t know what the development officer’s situation is. She might already be on thin ice with her boss who is waiting to document a big failure so she can make a case for disciplinary action. She might be sleeping with someone important.

      For now, try letting it go. Do whatever action items you are assigned, and focus on the more interesting parts of your work.

    4. BRR*

      I work in higher ed fundraising and don’t think this will affect your reputation. My two best guesses are the DO is not great at their job or the dean decided they wanted this chair named but there are no known prospects who would be interested/are able to fund this.

      It has always been my experience that the professor is mostly there to talk about their work to the prospect. The ONLY time you should be responsible for the funds is if someone you know comes up to you and says “I have $X and want to endow your chair.” MAYBE you provide the development officer some names of former students who you think might be wealthy.

      1. Academic glass half full*

        Thank you. You are right. From what I have observed the DO is in over their head AND has had personal issues AND there is global pandemic. Sadly I believe the whole endowed chair thing was their idea as there was a misguided assumption that it was low-hanging fruit.
        Most of the why’s are above my pay grade. I can talk about my work. I guess this is where my superpower of smiling, nodding, and saying a non-committal, “that’s something to think about. ” will come in handy.

      2. BAP*

        Also have experience in higher ed fundraising, this is spot on. I’ll add that the DO’s role is also to coach you on how to present yourself in meetings with prospects. Some academics do have connections to wealthy prospects through their work, family, friends, whatever, but most probably won’t. Use any missed meetings to catch up on other work or watch cat videos.

    5. Anon Tech Worker*

      I work in the fundraising office for a large university (not as a front-line fundraiser), and agree that it makes sense for you to back off here. It sounds odd, but depending on the players involved, a year may well not be enough time to fully fund a chair. Oftentimes, there are a lot of political cross-winds in these situations, and it could easily be that the development officer has more urgent priorities from higher-ups, is still developing a relationship with the necessary major donors and does not yet feel on solid-enough ground to make an ask, is working on folding this into a larger strategy, has some concerns about the feasibility of the project, or any number of other things. I’d continue occasionally checking in with both the development officer & your director, but otherwise leave it be.

    6. SoundsLikeMinimumWage*

      On the list of things the development officer is responsible for, creating a new named chair is probably coming in a distant last this last year in favor of just maintaining previous relationships. The most important part of development work takes place face to face with prospective donors and, well, that’s just not happening right now.

      You should also chill out about your reputation- you don’t currently have a named chair and you seem to be doing fine. Your dean just wants to use the money allocated for your salary elsewhere and thinks that your subspeciality is enticing enough to attract outside funds. Cultivating the right person to cough up for that is a multi-year affair.

    7. LaFramboise (in academia)*

      Let the DO fail. Especially I your name is not attached. In fact, I would go so far to say that you don’t want to be associated with someone who can’t complete a project. If it were me, I would busy myself with other committee work, student mentoring, etc., and ignore everything. Eventually the chair will get established, and maybe you will even get it! But you don’t want to try and catch the falling knife of the incompetent DO. And def don’t cross your dean and make them look bad. Best wishes on this.

    8. Chilipepper*

      My spouse is in academia. Its like herding cats.
      I am no longer surprised every time they just back off and let the shit show happen.
      It really will not attach to your name.
      You have got this in writing, have been told to stay in your lane. Let it go.
      This might even be part of the process of managing the DO out.

    9. tamarack and fireweed*

      You’re a full professor. So you have a lot of social capital, and are surrounded by people who have a lot less and wish that people like you would use it. OTOH the people you report into ALSO have a lot of social capital, which can mask this.

      Nothing of what’s going wrong will endanger your position, so I would not make it about how you are being put in an unpleasant situation. Rather, I’d suggest you look at improving project management and decision making processes. Your natural conversation partner would be, I think, your dean. Can you stop being the negative person and see it more as a hard puzzle to solve?

  27. yams*

    I am so happy, I’m so close to quitting my toxic job. I have all my financial ducks in a row, including insurance and some consulting work lined up with a month-long break so I can recover from the burnout. I just need to send the resignation letter today and I’m good to go.

    I feel bad for my team, they really are great people but our boss has made this department a way overstretched nightmare. In the last couple months we have gone down from 12 to 8 people, they have kept piling on useless busywork on top of our unreasonable workloads and everyone is at their breaking point. Ultimately she’s the one who decided to lay off two of my most productive coworkers for appearances’ sake, but I can’t help feeling guilty about how much work this is going to dump on my already overstretched friends.

    1. LTL*


      Don’t feel too bad. Sometimes it takes people leaving for an organization to solve a problem (or to encourage other employees to leave themselves). Regardless, nothing changes if everyone stays.

    2. Blue Eagle*

      No need to feel guilty, you are not the one dumping on your friends, it is your boss who is dumping on both you and your friends and you are taking the intiative to say NO, that is NOT ok.
      Feel empowered to go forth and smell the sweet spring flower blossoms and walk away with your head held high. You got this!

    3. Anonimousse for this*

      I’m with you! I’m quitting soon and I know it’s going to create more headaches & stress for my colleagues and probably erode work-life boundaries even more..but what can I do, it’s my time to go. And I’m SO excited to go.
      I don’t know if this helps, but in my case, I’m trying to remind myself that even if I like my team, staying wouldn’t fix the problems there. And also that all of my colleagues know what the company environment’s like and can choose to stay or go, so they’re either choosing to stay or will be getting out soon themselves.

  28. Hotdog not dog*

    So I’ve been interviewing, and a former employer who let me go in a reorg has reached out to ask me to apply for a new role, which happens to be exactly the job I want! The issue is that there was a fair amount of dysfunction that I’m not sure was limited to only my old department. I have applied and the interview is on my calendar for next week. Since I already know most of the players, I’ll need to be very careful how I word any questions meant to ask about whether the crazy is in this department also. It’s a huge multinational company, so there will inevitably be pockets of greatness and pockets of misery. What questions/wording can I use to help me determine which camp this new department is in?

    1. LTL*

      “If there was one thing you could change, what would it be?” might get you some insight on how this particular team functions.

    2. ten four*

      Can you get specific yet open-ended? For example, if one of the crazy things you want to avoid is a department that never approves PTO can you ask them to share some examples of how the team handled it when teammates took a vacation?

  29. things you bought and liked*

    My team has been given the official heads-up that we’re all expected to return to the office starting mid-June. For those of you that have been back in the office during these times, was there anything you bought or started bringing to work (aside from the usual sanitizer, wipes, extra masks, etc.) to make your in-office life during COVID as safe as possible?

    Thinking I probably need to stock up on ice packs, and dig out my Thermos lunch jar and insulated lunch bag, so I never have to go to the break room. I have a Hydroflask and insulated coffee tumbler which I’ll fill up at home, so I’m good there. I’m thinking about using washable tote bags instead of my usual giant leather purse for my laptop, notebooks and all the rest, so that I can just throw the bag in the laundry when I get home and don’t have to worry about using sanitizing wipes that might discolor my bag. Anything else that might be useful to consider?

    1. things you bought and liked*

      I’d also love to hear from people who have pets! We adopted a kitten (now a 1-year-old demon cat) and a 2-year-old dog during this pandemic. Thinking about getting one of those webcams that can dispense treats so I can continue my current routine of intermittently flinging treats at them, even while I’m at the office. I think being apart from them after a year of hanging out with them all day is going to be tough…

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        WaPo (and I’m sure other publications) published a piece about preparing your pets for your return to the office. Easing them into absences before you go back to work should be helpful. When we were first training our dog, the biggest key was getting him to realize that we always came back home to him. It started with simply leaving the apartment and coming back as soon as he stopped barking/crying with tons of praise. We used doggy daycare and then a dog walker when he was younger and more energetic, but that’s obviously riskier with covid.

        1. Name (Required)*

          To the first part: it isn’t something to buy per say buy be prepared to hydrate far more than you think you need to. Returning to work in a masked environment I tried to drink my normal amount each day but wasn’t enough to not get sick. I have my phone set to give me water alarms now.

          Turns out this happened to a lot of my former coworkers.

          As to the pet…I wish I had eased him back into it more. Definitely get your pet used to more time away from you again. My old dog that used to be content with everyone leaving each day started acting up when it started again.

      2. Campfire Raccoon*

        I work from home (even before the pandemic) and let me tell you: After 14 months, the dogs and cats are SO HAPPY the kids are at school. The cats more than the dogs, obviously – but we’ve also got poultry so our terrier still has ducks and things to herd. If I didn’t work he’d need to be walked each morning & night. Working dog and all.

      3. Twisted Lion*

        I bought some nest cameras and check on my kitty in her usual sleeping spots every now and then.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Just a note – I am all for people doing whatever they need to do to feel safe and comfortable. But surfaces are not a major source of transmission; people are. Poor air circulation and close maskless proximity to people are the key concerns. I would focus much more on indoor air quality and a good mask over making sure surfaces are clean. Maybe a small fan for your desk to circulate more air?

      1. Name (Required)*

        Agreed, if you don’t think there was good air circulation before get something to help that now.

        Good luck on avoiding the breakroom too. It’s definitely a spot to be concerned about (but I like hot lunches so it’s hard to avoid being in there a few min a day).

      2. things you bought and liked*

        Thanks ThatGirl, I guess I’m just focusing on surfaces because it’s one of the things I can sort of control. Can’t do much about the air quality unfortunately, that’s up to our HVAC team who weren’t too responsive even pre-pandemic…

        1. Reba*

          Portable air filters?

          Please note I don’t know what the science is actually saying about these, these days… but adding some plug-in HEPA filtering units is a lot more approachable than renovating the air handling system, so it might be worth an ask.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Some portable air purifiers have UV sanitizing options that are supposed to kill germs, so it might be worth investing in one of those. I bought one for about $80 on Amazon – the brand I got was Guardian. I can’t speak to its supposed sanitizing properties, but it got me through last year’s awful California wildfire season alive!

          2. Chilipepper*

            HEPA filers are where I would spend my time and effort if you have a private office. You can get pretty good ones for around $200.

            Focusing on surfaces and bags seem like things you can control but they really just sap your energy and don’t have much pay off.

    3. Is it tea time yet?*

      I’m temping currently, and refuse to use the break room. It wouldn’t be the greatest place to have lunch even in non-covid times, partly because they have a huge tv in there that cycles company propaganda. I have a folding camp chair in the trunk of my car, and eat outside. They have some grass and young trees around the parking lot, and I can read out of the glare of the sun while I eat. When it rains , I eat in my car.

      1. things you bought and liked*

        Oh, that’s a great idea – I already have camp chairs in my trunk. I used to eat in my car pre-pandemic but during the summer it gets boiling in there.

    4. Mockingjay*

      One thing I’ve realized during the past year of WFH, is that I don’t need 90% of the stuff in my office. It’s all still sitting there waiting for me. I like a comfortable office, but for ease of sanitation, you can probably box up or clear most items off your desk.

    5. Blue Eagle*

      How about a 6′ length of dowel or something to put on the floor to denote 6′ of space away from your chair to keep people that length away from you. As ThatGirl noted, surfaces are not the major issue, people are – and keeping them at a distance is key.

    6. PhysicsTeacher*

      The science is that surface sanitation is basically not a concern for transmission, but sharing air with others is. You’re only going to have so much effort you can reasonably throw at this, so make sure it’s being spent in the most effective places. Don’t worry about sanitizing surfaces. Instead, do things that will minimize your time spent sharing air with others without a mask. The lunch stuff might contribute to that, if your coworkers will be eating at the same time in the break room. Make sure your masks fit well and that you have plenty of them so you don’t have to be rewearing them without washing. I have 14 cloth masks because I wear them all day every day at work. Honestly, sometimes I wish I had more because I think it might be nice to change into a fresh one midday. If you have to be in close proximity to others you might want to double mask anyway, with a surgical mask under a cloth one.

      1. things you bought and liked*

        Yep, I have a crap ton of different masks (a couple 50-piece boxes of disposable ones, over a dozen cloth ones with filter pockets that I made during lockdown, and more fitted ones for double-masking). I plan to have extras on hand everywhere (my car, my purse, my desk) so I’m well covered there…pardon the pun.

    7. Twisted Lion*

      Lotion. Because you will be hand sanitizing/washing your hands more at work and your skin is going to get DRY. I eat at my desk and not in communal areas and for the most part avoid coworkers who dont wear masks (you will run into them). But lotion is a good thing to have lol.

      I used to lysol my bag and stuff when I got home but I dont anymore. Sometimes I will take a shower but mostly I just come in and wash my hands.

      1. Working mom*

        I second the lotion – also one for your face. The constant hand washing and mask literally sucking the moisture out of my face has been tough from the first day I went back to the office (since last July.) I now clean my face with a cleansing oil and use my “winter” moisturizers before and after a day in the office. Plus a good hand cream.
        Plants can help purify the air, so perhaps a nice desk plant that doesn’t require much natural light?

    8. Chilipepper*

      I have been in the office since last May. I don’t think the hand sanitizing or washing bags, etc is so necessary. Fine if they give you peace of mind but the CDC just said surfaces are not the problem. Just wash your hands when you can.

      I have brought my lunch for years and I don’t put ice in the bag or put it in the fridge. I am vegan so no meat but I have never found this to be an issue. Things stay pretty cool in an office and I tend to eat early. But I digress.

      If you do want refrigeration or to heat your food, a quick stop in the break room to get the food from the fridge or to microwave it will not have you in the room for 15 minutes so I think you will be fine to just do that.

      I think the bigger problem is where to eat. I eat in my car to avoid taking my mask off inside. About half the staff use the super large space we rent out for meetings of 150 or more and about half eat in their cars (we don’t have benches outside to discourage gatherings). Most of us don’t have private offices.

    9. Hunnybee*

      Do you have good headphones? Might be helpful in the transition back to an office space….

    10. Llama face!*

      If you want hot food and an option other than just a thermos, I got an electric lunchbox that was really useful back when I was still working in office. I’ll attach the link below since it will go into moderation.

  30. Goose*

    I am three months into my new job as director of llama recruitment and retention. Today I over heard the directors of the our herds talking about a llama we are hoping to retain, but may leave over some sensitive subjects. The directors (and my boss) are scheduling a meeting to speak to this llama, but are not including me in it. I assume it’s because they all have a history that I don’t have… but I would like to be kept up to date. I didn’t even know this conversation was happening until I asked, and I stood awkwardly while they continues to have a furtive (because of the sensitivity) conversation away from me.

    How I would have preferred this to happen:
    “Hey Goose, we are going to speak with Llama regarding next year. As you know they are considering leaving because of X factor. Since you don’t have an established relationship yet, we are going to handle the conversation and keep you in the loop on how things go.”

    Am I being overly sensitive? Should I keep an eye to see if this becomes a pattern, or should I say something? I can’t tell if I’m feeling left out, but like… this is my job.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Maybe quietly ask your boss if there’s anything you can do to be supportive as they head into the meeting with Llama? Then, if the boss seems receptive, encourage them to loop you in on any key conversations regarding retention of existing llamas, that your job involves retaining and not just recruiting them.

      1. Kes*

        yeah I’d probably talk to your boss about it and make it clear that you’re fine if there are reasons for you not to be in the conversation, but it would be helpful to know what’s going on

    2. Kathenus*

      When I first started my current job there was a sensitive personnel situation happening with someone on my team and the powers that be kept me out of it intentionally because they didn’t want my newly developing relationship with this person to be clouded or influenced by it, so it was intended to help me and the ‘llama’ have a better foundation. So this could be out of a positive intent.

    3. Indy Dem*

      If the managers are trying to protect an employees privacy, I think you should say something like “I understand there may be privacy issues, but is there any way I can help support the retention of this employee. It sounds like they are valued and I want to support them, and support you in supporting them. Please keep me updated on this, but again, without damaging the confidence the employee has in us.”

  31. Help for public school teacher*

    This is my first year in a new district. I’m recovering from several years where admin pulled bait and switch type things on the regular (which made truly getting highest ratings on evaluations very hard).

    My end of year evaluation is next week. How can I politely, respectfully, say “Tell me exactly what I must do to be the very best and get the highest ratings possible because I can’t handle any more two faced people lying to me in order to purposefully trip me up, so I’m writing down everything you say so I can hold you to that”?

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      “I’m very happy in this district and would like to do the best possible job to help School meet its goals and serve its students. So whatever goals we set today, please know that I’m going to be giving them 100%. If the goals change, I would respectfully ask that you keep me informed so I can continue to put my energy into the places where it will make the most difference.”

    2. Heidi S.*

      Maybe something like: Can I have a copy of the criteria used in my evaluation? I find it helpful to have an objective rubric to keep in mind as well as to know what you feel needs the most emphasis.

    3. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I hate to ask this, but is it common in your new district to getting the highest ratings across the board? Does having the highest ratings matter to your career growth or pay structure? Where I teach, we use a 4 point scale and most folks seem to get a mix of threes and fours. I think education (especially p-12) is so motivated by ‘life-long learning’ that a lot of admins are reluctant to give anything like a perfect score, no matter how diligent you are about following the latest directives. A few years ago, the school board where I teach took the ‘everyone has something they can improve’ philosophy one step further and (I suspect) insisted that everyone get at least a few 2s (needs improvement). Cue really random low marks and a lot of very angry teachers.

    4. Mari*

      I like Thin Mints wording. Also, be careful not to let your anger and negative experience from your old district lead you to go into this meeting with negative expectations and ready to do combat. It sounds like you’re feeling adversarial, but do you have any reason to believe that’s going to be necessary with the new district?

  32. Saggrl*

    A while ago, I applied for a bookkeeping job for a very small (less than 20 employees) small insurance firm that sells auto, life, health, and other kinds of insurance. The operations director sent me an e-mail to apply for the job with a job application. Then twenty minutes later, the operations director sent me an e-mail telling me that I don’t qualify for the job because they need a bookkeeper with insurance experience.

    I don’t mean to put my foot in my mouth because at that time (before I got the job I have now) I had been irritated after eight months of job searching and dealing with not-so-clear-job-ads and incompetent interviewers and hiring managers (who I don’t know how they got their job). I abhor people who beat around the bush and aren’t upfront with what they want when it comes to writing a job ad, especially if its a make-it-or-break-it experience.

    I wrote an email to the operations director and said thank you for telling me I don’t qualify, and I also told the director that they should’ve put down that they need a bookkeeper with insurance experience in the job ad because it didn’t list it. Also, the job ad stated that the person didn’t need accounting college credits like an associates or bachelors or CPA license. The ad only listed a high school diploma and a starting wage of ($15-17 per hour). I then added that a job applicant isn’t a mind reader, and that if you need a bookkeeper with insurance experience, then say it in the job ad.
    I then got a snippy, defensive e-mail that stated that job applicants should already know that the company is looking for a bookkeeper with insurance experience and that it shouldn’t be stated point blank in the job ad. The operations director told me I’m dumb.
    People, is it true that for a bookkeeper to work at an small insurance company, they need to have insurance experience? Or did I just dodge a bullet?

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I’ve worked at an insurance carrier (the bigger fish behind the insurance company in your situation), and they would often hire people with zero insurance experience. So I’d say you dodged a bullet.

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      You dodged a bullet. If a bookkeeper for an insurance company needs to have insurance experience, how do they manage to get their first job?

      I have been told during interviews that certain qualifications were necessary for the job, and since I didn’t have those qualifications, I was out of the running. When I said that those qualifications were not listed in the ad, I was told, “Oh, I’m sure they were!” To this day, I’m not sure if those qualifications were really necessary, or if the interviewers did not want to hire me (because I’m a woman, because of my age, because of my ethnic group, whatever), so they pulled those qualifications out of thin air to pretend that I wasn’t qualified.

    3. Joan Rivers*

      You were both a bit rude, which is your right under the circumstances, but you ought not be surprised she replied that way. You never know when your paths could cross some day in the workplace, so indulging one’s pique can backfire. For either of you.

    4. Todd*

      Wow yeah, I’d have said something snarky like

      “Oh, that’s a very abnormal way of doing things! Good luck finding somebody with those unlisted credentials willing to work for $15!”

    5. The New Wanderer*

      Your “we’re not mind readers” comment was a bit rude maybe, but given the response you were completely correct in that description. What else would they expect you to just know without being told? Bullet dodged. If they’re not willing to put in the actual job requirements, they’re making lots of extra work for themselves. Worse for them, by putting the bare minimum requirements and matching wage, they’re probably less likely to get the qualified bookkeepers with insurance backgrounds they want because anyone reading that job description might assume they just want someone with basic math skills (and are only willing to pay for that).

    6. CW*

      I would say you dodged a bullet. If you didn’t mention that it was an insurance firm, I would have guessed you worked for the same company I did 4 years ago. I was only paid $15/hr as well and I was not pleased. In case you are wondering, the job did not end well.

      Now, I will have to admit that your email back was not professional and could have been handled better, but as someone else that was on the market for quite some time, I understand how you feel. To be fair, the director should not have called you “dumb”. That was also unprofessional, and rude as well – which is another red flag. My guess is that you have had enough at that point. My only advice is to be more professional in the future.

    7. RagingADHD*

      When you send a snippy, defensive email, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that you get one back.

      I would assume that anyone dealing with a business’ finances should have industry specific experience unless otherwise stated.

      The DO shouldn’t have replied to your note at all, much less called you dumb. But I do wonder what you thought it would accomplish to tell the hiring manager off.

    8. Romulus Rex*

      I think both sides dodged a bullet here. They have unreasonable expectations, so you don’t want to work there, and you’re snarky and rude so they don’t want to hire you. Them rejecting you was the best thing for everyone!

  33. An Nonny Nonny*

    TGIF y’all! I tried to squeeze this question into the speed round, but didn’t make it! So I recently started an Etsy shop selling items ($15-50) from a hobby I started during quarantine; I’ve posted about it on Facebook where I’m friends with a number of folks from work (in both directions – my boss, and higher level folks and other colleagues on the same level as me or below, no one I supervise). Some of these folks have purchased from me – all levels above me. One of my direct reports knows this is my hobby and I launched and has asked about it and she expressed some interest in purchasing something. I don’t know how to navigate this and I certainly don’t want ANYONE to think they should buy something from me but if they like it…? I just don’t know how to navigate this and short of a wayback machine where I’m not FB friends with anyone from work, not sure what to do. All advice appreciated!

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Sounds like you have products they want to buy! You’re not aggressively pursuing anyone to buy anything, so I would take it at face value that they just like your work. With your direct report, you can tell her directly that you appreciate her interest but not to feel obligated (although she likely doesn’t feel obligated; this is just if you feel really weird about it). If you were pushing your shop incessantly on FB or reaching out directly to colleague encouraging them to buy things, that would be over the line.

      1. An Nonny Nonny*

        I do push my shop weekly on my personal FB b/c friends and family referrals are gold. But, I don’t think I do it obnoxiously and like I said, I’m not friends with my direct reports on FB. Thank you for this!

        1. anonymous aardvark*

          It’s been a while since I posted anything on Facebook, but you might be able to create a group for colleagues, and exclude this group from viewing your weekly posts?
          If groups aren’t possible, then you can definitely mark your colleagues as acquaintances and post for friends except acquaintances.

      1. An Nonny Nonny*

        Yes! I told her I’d love to gift her something and she said she’s happy to support local. But I think I’ll go the gift route. Thank you!

        1. BRR*

          Oh I like the gift idea. My original thought was to tell her you want to avoid any pressure at all and won’t sell to her and refer her to another seller if she’s still interested in the product.

  34. MsMaryMary*

    Hi. I actually have two things I’d love everyone’s thoughts on. I’ll put them in separate posts.

    My office is moving to an agile workspace in June. We’ve been remote since last March, and then some of us returned part time starting in August. Some people haven’t come back at all. So corporate decided we could get by with a smaller space and we’re all going to be permanently partially remote.

    A few people, mostly leadership or accounting, will have assigned offices or cubes. Most of us are going to use a hoteling system (still TBD) to book a space. There will be offices, cubes, and conference rooms. It’s NOT a full open plan, sit at a big long table office. Thank god. I think they’re arranging lockers or something so we can leave somethings at the office.

    Anyone have experience with this kind of workspace? Pros, cons? Anything for me to suggest to leadership while we’re still getting everything up and running?

    1. RecoveringSWO*

      I recommend making sure that your house keeping contract is very explicit in what they are required to clean and when (eg. you can’t clean an occupied cubical at noon and consider that acceptable for a different employee the following day). Then, figure out who, from your company, will be in charge of assessing the custodian’s performance and ensuring that the contract is met. Don’t leave it up to the contractor’s supervisory staff/middle management without some kind of forceful backup.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      Also, having leadership with “skin in the game” is the best way to ensure that this works successfully. If there’s a tactful way to suggest it, I would suggest that leaders who aren’t in every day share an office with another person. That way they can appreciate the extra hassle of scheduling in-office work, unlocking items, etc.

    3. Mr. Tyzik*

      I’ve worked in cube farms, open tables, fishbowl rooms, and remotely. Each has its pros and cons. One nice thing about hoteling is the freedom not going into an office everyday. A downside is that you don’t have a consistent place to land. I found the lack of a “home” disturbing when I had to hot desk.

      Don’t leave personal items in your locker or at any of the desks. Don’t take anything in that you can’t bear to part with – paper, pens, post-its – they all walk away. Coffee mugs and water bottles too.

      Save a copy (screenprint, email, etc) of your scheduled seat. There will be interlopers who will try to cover empty desks without scheduling first and will challenge you on scheduling.

      Forget that speakerphones exist. Use the conference rooms. Face to face communication is prized in agile leadership and development. On the other hand, be aware of how often you disrupt coworkers in person vs. IM. Context switching costs time and money – set up times to speak using IM and invites and use drop-ins for urgent, important items.

      Lastly, invest in some comfortable headphones or earbuds (nothing too expensive in case they walk away too, so keep the Beats at home). There will be chatter and distraction in the space with a revolving door of coworkers each day. I found headphones to be essential to maintaining focus.

      Good luck in your new space!

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      As a formerly long term temp worker, I’d suggest you travel in with your own (company supplied) mouse & keyboard & headset. Many people are simply careless about crumbs, dandruff, hairs, and even sugary spills. I took time to clean equipment & surfaces at the start of every temp assignment and that was BEFORE pandemic.
      Also pay attention to your chair & desk height each day to avoid repetitive stress strains, tendonitis, etc.

    5. Dancing Otter*

      Determine in advance how it will be handled when A reserves a space but finds B in it when they arrive. Especially if B develops a pattern of poaching.
      Better to have a policy BEFORE it’s needed.

  35. Undecided*

    I was contacted to schedule a 20 minute “virtual interview” for a job at a university library. Am I better off withdrawing from consideration?

    I’m wondering because I’ve done a lot of phone screens and/or interviews at universities in the past few years without any luck actually getting a job. I fit all the minimum qualifications for this one well, but have none of the preferred qualifications, which are basically experience in a library and working with student records. I’m desperate to leave my current job and would absolutely love a job in a library, but shouldn’t they have a ton of applicants with experience working in libraries who they’d choose over someone with no library experience? (I have an MLIS degree, so I’m wondering if they stopped reading my resume after seeing that and assumed I’ve worked in libraries.)

    The least amount of PTO I could use is four hours, so I’m not sure this is worth it?

    1. TechWorker*

      I feel like only you can answer this question! Companies time is expensive too so they would not bother phone screening you unless they thought you had a chance. Getting interviewed in the past also isn’t necessarily a good predictor for this job… so obviously you do have to weigh the usage of PTO, but if you don’t do the phone screen you have zero chance of getting the job ;) so really depends whether you want to be in the running.

      1. Undecided*

        I feel like universities probably do a lot of interviews just to fill quotas. Some of the “interviews” I’ve gone for were literally just reading over the job description and asking me to tell them about myself and if I had any questions. Maybe that’s why it’s only 20 minutes?

        1. Jellyfish*

          In my experience, university library jobs get a ton of applicants. Even if they have a designated minimum number for phone interviews, it’s likely they still selected you on purpose out of a larger pool.

          If you don’t think it’s worthwhile, of course, that’s a decision you’re allowed to make. But if you’re genuinely interested, it may be worth it to find a way to take the interview. A couple of my initial university library interviews were pretty quick phone screens too (including my current job), and then they moved into the much longer style interviews in later rounds.

    2. Binky*

      Can you schedule the phone screen such that you don’t have to take any PTO? Either before or after you day, or during lunch? Or take PTO for something else that you need to do and combine that with the screen, so you don’t feel like you’re wasting time? You want the job, and you can’t get it without going through the screen. I say go for it.

      And good luck!

      1. Undecided*

        There’s no where private to go at my job. (And my lunch break is only half an hour and changes everyday depending on my workload. I can’t commit to a time or not eat.) :(

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I have known companies to interview after 5pm if applicant requested. Can’t hurt to ask — might be a good look, “we have a tight deadline and I don’t want to cause a delay. Is there any chance of scheduling this outside of (hours)?”

    3. funkydonut*

      Can you just do the 20 minute interview without taking PTO? I would just fit it into a break in my regular workday. (May not be possible if you’re onsite at your current job though).

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      The structure of all university interviews I have ever done are as follows- phone screen/video screen followed by some sort of more extensive interview. Generally, within a hiring situation, they are going to interview 5 to 7 people for the phone screen and then in-person interview 3. I’d also add, don’t take yourself out of a pool. I hired for a job and I tuned down more “qualified” candidates, because I needed/wanted someone with extensive customer service experience. I hired someone without degrees, but 5 years of retail and it was the best decision I made. You never know what they are looking for, but I’ve never sat on a hiring committee where the resumes weren’t carefully read. If you are at all interested in the position, I would sit for the screening. They clearly think you can do the job, or trust me, they wouldn’t waste their time.

    5. comityoferrors*

      If you can afford to take 4 hours of PTO, can you schedule the interview for close to the start of that time and use the remaining time to do something nice for yourself? Reframing that block of time in your mind to be 90% you-time might help it feel like less of a waste.

      I agree with TechWorker that your chance of getting this job immediately drops to zero if you don’t interview, so coupled with feeling “desperate” to leave your job (I very much empathize!) and that this is a job you’d love to have, I lean towards encouraging you to at least try. But even if you decide to skip this job, it sounds like this is a dilemma you’ll face with any potential interviews. It really stinks that you have to take PTO in such huge chunks, but if it’s at all possible, don’t let that keep you from interviewing and leaving somewhere you do not want to be!

  36. Anonanon*

    How to set ‘concrete goals’ for nebulous things – should you even try?

    I was talking about this with my manager this week W.r.t goal setting for one of my reports. They are doing well, but to progress would need to improve in some areas that can ‘feel’ a bit nebulous – Eg communications with other teams (clarity, phrasing to get the best outcome), taking initiative and suggesting solutions/bringing ideas forwards vs letting me do it, reliability in following up vs relying on me to chase. They had asked to set some concrete goals in our upcoming annual review.
    My manager and I came to the conclusion that ‘goals’ here should involve ‘handle this specific area on this specific project’, or ‘be the design lead on this other specific project’.

    I think that makes sense in this case, but wouldn’t describe those goals as particularly concrete (Eg they’re just ‘do the thing’ rather than ‘meet some level of performance’). How do other managers deal with this stuff? Do you always try to explicitly measure performance and make goals against that? Or are there cases where that just doesn’t make sense?

    (We do have explicit quality measurements for the work of the team as a whole, but they’re generally a group effort rather than taken on as an individual goal :))

    1. NotSoAnon*

      My staff have team goals/departmental metrics they have to hit but I also offer “actionable feedback” in the form of strengths and areas of improvement. In the areas of improvement section sometimes these are behavioral changes (I.e. tonality with clients is chasing quality assurance metrics to be lower in the category of professional tone/language. Here are some examples, here is what I would like to see, etc)

      That seems to have worked well and my staff really appreciates the nuances between the metric related goals and areas they can improve to reach those. I work in CX in finance though, so a lot of our feedback is on “soft skills” and is less concrete than say “you were late in xyz report, or we need to have you increase your profit margin on sales by xyz percent”

      1. NotSoAnon*

        Sorry part of that came out super jumbled. Dang small phone screen! “Tonality with clients in verbal communication is not great (provide examples) and it is affecting xyz concrete goal/metric. This is what needs to be done to improve. Not everything can be a tangible performance KPI. Some things are behavioral that need to be improved but IMO should be tied to a concrete goal/example

      2. Anonanon*

        Thank you! Soft skills are super important in my job too (so is the technical side, but that’s a bit easier to ‘measure’ if we want to), especially for this report who wants to progress possibly into management.

        1. NotSoAnon*

          I feel you! My boss is all about the tangible goals (expect with me of course because that would just be too easy) and ensuring people meet them. I found pushing back on it gently with him was effective, but we also have a super solid relationship.

          Soft skills play such a huge role in the day to day for almost all jobs! Obviously when people aren’t meeting the technical requirements that makes it way easier to put those on a performance review, but sometimes the soft skills are the primary issue and it can cause major fallback with clients/peers/other departments. So both are really important.

  37. MsMaryMary*

    Second post!

    In the Freaked Out about Going Back to the Office post, several people said they used to hate working from home or the idea of working from home, but they love it now. If that’s true for you, could you share why? I’m curious. Personally, I’ve always been pro working from home and from the start of my career I worked closely with people in other locations or who worked from home.

    1. Nicki Name*

      I always felt like I needed the context of the work location to stay on task and maintain a separation between work and life. Turns out, having a dedicated working space (just a nook formed by my work table, but it’s enough) where I sit only when I’m working, instead of being hunched over my laptop on the couch on WFH days, was all I needed.

      Most of my exercise pre-pandemic was riding my bike to transit for my commute, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t get a decent amount of exercise otherwise. Well, it’s true that I can’t bring myself to get out there and dodge traffic unless I need to go someplace, but I’ve replaced it with a morning and evening walk around my neighborhood, and I’ve managed to keep it up for over a year. I am astounded at myself.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m easily distracted at home, and appreciate the structure of my old routine (up early, commute, etc.) Even after a year I don’t feel like I have a good WFH routine that helps me ignore all of the distractions and focus on what I need to do. It looks like I’ll be returning to the office 2-3 days a week this summer, which I hope will help me to get back on track.

    3. NaoNao*

      I’m one of those!

      I don’t have many IRL friends and socializing at the office was one of the few times I got to connect with people.

      My office location was downtown and close to shopping and dining and I could easily take the bus or train to errands after work.

      I enjoyed having a morning Starbucks as a treat.

      Working from home feels draining and blah after a few months. You close your computer and then just…open a different computer to watch TV or browse the web, after looking at a screen for 8 hours? Blah. I live in a townhome and my office is a partitioned area of the living room (granted, by our nice sliding doors so I get sunlight) but being in my house and using my home for work feels like I’m never fully engaged or rested.

      However, after a couple months of being able to wake up 1.5 hours later, not having to walk to the train station in all kinds of weather, not having to take the crowded, unpleasant train to work, not having to deal with the transient and unhoused people downtown, actually losing weight due to having more control over my daily intake, and getting a real desk, second monitor, actual work chair, and room divider to separate my office space, it’s more palatable.

    4. lemon*

      The couple of times I was WFH pre-pandemic, I was the only person working remotely. So, there was a sense of isolation due to that. It was hard to build a network, and people just… forgot I existed.

      Now that everyone is WFH, it feels a lot less isolating. It levels the playing field, because everyone at the org is on more or less the same schedule and everyone is reachable via Teams or Zoom. I feel like there’s a better balance between enjoying the autonomy of WFH, while still having some of the social connectedness of in-office working.

    5. JustaTech*

      I used to hate WFH because I really don’t like trying to work only on my laptop at the dining table or couch.

      When we *had* to WFH, I gave over my personal desk/computer to a work setup so I could have a big monitor and external keyboard and mouse and a desk chair and all that jazz. And that helped a huge amount, as did the fact that we were all WFH, so it wasn’t like I was the odd one out.

      I’ll still be happy to go back (and have instant access to all the paper things I couldn’t take home), but it turns out that the physical space was a big part of it for me.

    6. Coffee Owlccountant*

      Pre-pandemic, I had never worked from home and when we started, I HATED it. HATED it and was bad at it. If I didn’t work in a position that has very clearly defined, cannot-be-missed deadlines for the first half of each month, I don’t know that I would have gotten any work done at all. I was completely distracted, had lousy mental health, and was just generally not a good worker. I was also completely miserable.

      We moved to a new apartment and it was a total turn-around. If my experience is common, your WFH setup is a critical part to whether you can be successful at it. I went from an ad-hoc sort-of-desk staring at a blank corner of a dark, windowless room in an apartment I despised to a carefully thought out, fully separate office space that faces into my lovely new great room, next to sliding glass doors onto my balcony. It’s full of light and there is a very definite division between “this is my office” and “this is not my office” based on how we set up my new space. We invested a fair bit of money in upgrading my equipment – new desk, chair, printer, monitor, filing storage, all of it.

      Now I love working from home and I really, really do not want to go back to the office full-time – and I especially don’t want to go back to full-time commuting in Chicago traffic. I like being around my cats all day and my new Keurig that does lattes and being able to throw a load of laundry in the wash whenever and playing my soothing rain-and-ocean-and-birdsong spa music over speakers with no need for headphones.

      Caveat – I’m aware that all of this is because I’m very very privileged to be a DINK with a well-paying job and we could afford to throw money at the problem. I’m very lucky, very very lucky. Throwing money at the problem solved the problem for me, but I know it won’t be the case for everybody (most people?).

    7. Lemon Zinger*

      I never really thought WFH was for me. Even after I got a WFH job (pre-pandemic) I spent a lot of time worrying if I was doing it “right” and thought someone was monitoring my every mouse click. Then I realized that my office doesn’t do micromanaging and my direct supervisor is very hands-off. I now love WFH specifically because of the freedom and flexibility I have. It’s great to walk downstairs and make myself a tea when I’m feeling tired. I can use my lunch break for my weekly grocery run. I can do laundry on my breaks! And most importantly, I can wear whatever I want as long as I’m professional-looking from the waist up. A lot of this comes from my office culture, and I know I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy WFH for every employer.

    8. WellRed*

      I like working at home but find I’ve gotten very lazy about things like grocery shopping. Itstone thing to stop on the way home, quite another to put on outside clothes after being inside for three days just to hit the store. That translates to too much money spent on grocery delivery and takeout. And takeout is often meh, considering what it costs.

    9. hot priest*

      I don’t have a ton of distractions at home (no pets, no kids) and although I lack a dedicated workspace (currently posted up at the dining room table in my tiny one bedroom apartment which I share with my partner, who has been in online classes at home), I MUCH prefer working from home.

      I hate waking up and going to work. My commute was only a 20 minute walk / 10 minute bus ride, but I effing hated it. I think this is largely because I would go to work and then be stuck there for 8 hours, even if I can’t be completely productive for 8 hours. At home, I can take a break to do the dishes or throw stuff in the crock pot for dinner, go for a walk without having to explain why I’m leaving the office (walks were not A Thing at my workplace), do a 10 minute stretch or ride my exercise bike while I’m watching a webinar.

      Before, I would spend all my time at work and then get home and have like 4 hours before I had to go to bed to do all of the things I actually wanted to do or needed to do. Now, I feel like I have way more time to do things that need to get done, like household stuff and even showering, and I have more time for chats with friends, exercise, and just hanging out on the couch watching tv.

      Also, I hate overhead lighting and I am not subject to it at home.

    10. Tess*

      No commute, comfortable clothing (unless a virtual meeting; then I dress professionally), no worries about porch pirates, kitties, being able to do laundry on my lunch hour (or sneaking in a load or two as I’m working), my own refrigerator, my own bathroom, the TV in the background, swimming in my apartment’s pool during lunch, lower gas bill, less wear and tear on my car, no paying for work parking, no getting behind slow drivers in parking garages who drive like molasses (“If there was a space, one of the 14 other cars in front of you would have gotten it!” is what I want to scream), and no more running into the guy who, every. single. freaking. time. we walk past each other at work sings a song that features my first name. Every.single.freaking.time. Make it stop.

      Plus, while I like to socialize, I’m a loner at heart.

      I’d marry WFH if I could!

  38. JMR*

    Does it look bad to submit references from older positions and not your more recent previous positions? I have almost made it to the checking-references stage of an interview process (fingers crossed). I can offer two references from my current position, a manager who has since left the company, and her manager, who has also since left the company. I’m struggling with the third reference. At my last position, I think my supervisor unfairly blamed me for leaving them in the lurch after I moved on to another opportunity. I don’t know that he would give a bad reference, but it might be a bit frosty. And it might be bad, actually! I’d rather not take the risk. I was thinking about providing a reference from the position I held before that. I had a great working relationship with that boss, and am certain he would provide a great reference. However, I worry that it will look like an obvious omission if I skip over a position altogether and provide a reference from someone I last worked with in 2012. Thoughts?

    1. irene adler*

      Two things:
      First, if you think your prior supervisor would give you a poor reference, why not test this assertion? Ask this supervisor to be a reference. Then, ask a friend of yours to pose as a reference checker, contact this supervisor and ask the usual HR-reference check questions. See how he responds. Then you’ll know.

      If he does trash you, can you ask a former co-worker from this company to be a reference?

      Second, if you are limited to 3 references, shouldn’t you select your best three? You’d be smart to do just that. They are not going to wonder right off why you didn’t include your prior supervisor in your reference list. But, if they do ask, you can explain that you offered up your best three-like everyone else does in the hiring process. There are loads of very legit reasons why one prior supervisor is not included in the reference list.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s be much less of an issue because you are also providing two much more recent ones.
      I mean, a reference from someone you haven’t worked with for nearly 10 years isn’t ideal, but I don’t think it would necessarily be a red flag. You could be in a similar position if the former manager had left, for instance)

      Is calling your former manager and asking if they would be willing to give a reference an option? You might be able to gauge from their response whether they are likely to give a bad one and then decide

  39. Keymaster of Gozer*

    A new, bizarre question was asked me at a recent interview:

    “What is the most uncomfortable TRUE thing you’ve had to accept about yourself?”

    They didn’t like my answer of ‘that I’ll never walk without a stick again’ and asked for personality stuff. I bombed the interview because I just flat out couldn’t find an answer (well, aside from ‘I got no tolerance for bullcrap’).

    Has anyone else been asked this? And am I okay in thinking that it’s just weird?

    1. Nacho*

      It sounds like a roundabout way of asking “what’s your greatest weakness”, and should probably be answered in the same manner: A minor but relevant weakness and the work you’ve put into overcoming it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The wording (and the vibe I got) from them seemed to imply ‘something you’ve had to accept’ rather than ‘something you can change’.

        Mind you I loathe those ‘weakness’ questions too. I’ve been in this business long enough to have worked on my major flaws, although I could put my severe caffeine addiction or tokophobia down….

    2. irene adler*

      And this “uncomfortable TRUE thing” relates to the job description -how?

      Should I ever be asked that question, well, we’re not going there. Trust me, it will be more uncomfortable for you, the interviewer, that it has been for me.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Still no idea! I mean, I’m an IT Manager/senior tech. Did they want ‘I get along better with computers than humans?’

    3. RecoveringSWO*

      They suck. Also, your response provides fantastic insight into how you’ve coped with a challenge and I can easily think of ways that can apply to the workplace. I still think it’s a crap question, but I’m also annoyed that they rejected your answer.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Definitely threw me when they said that wasn’t a valid answer! Having to come to terms with not being able to get down to floor level ever again, never sleeping lying down, never going horse riding etc.etc. is a big thing. I thought.

    4. Ashley*

      This sounds like a company that would want to practice group therapy or the name something great during COVID every week. It also sounds like a question loaded with personal emotion – seriously how are they going to respond to someone that says I will never be able to have kids? Or I am an alcoholic? None of these are things you should be sharing in an interview but I have no idea who to answer that in a work context.

    5. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      You’re okay thinking this is weird. And poorly thought out. Asking open ended questions like this means you shouldn’t have an specific answer, or even a type, in your mind – if you want to talk about personality flaws, then ask that directly, rather than assuming people will automatically understand what you wanted.

      Dodge that bullet, and keep looking.

      1. zaracat*

        Yes, it makes you wonder if it also reflects a general workplace culture of criticising workers for “failing” to meet unspecified or vaguely defined goals or standards.

    6. No Tribble At All*

      No that’s a baffling question! “The most uncomfortable” is going to be a hugely personal answer, even if it’s a personality flaw. What do they want, “you were just as toxic to him as he was to you”?

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      > asked for personality stuff.
      …I imagine the interviewer panicking, thinking “uh oh HR said not to ask anything about protected class status, we’d better get an answer we can tell HR!”
      They were doofuses (doofi?) and you taught them quite a lesson.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oooh, evil idea, I could have said about the struggles I’ve had being accepted for being pansexual (yes I’m married to a man, no it doesn’t mean I’m no longer attracted to other genders/non gender conforming people).

        Or that not wanting kids has made some people believe I’m a ‘broken’ woman. Or how I escaped my abusive ex…

        Bet I could have really panicked them!

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I wasn’t clear on this from your original comment, but if they ask a senior technical *woman* such a stupid question and then are not happy with your perfectly reasonable and appropriate answer, it’s really them who have a problem.

  40. Chc34*

    I work in an industry that is very centralized in NYC and had been traditionally opposed to any sort of WFH. I burned out of the city in 2019 and made my peace with the fact that it meant leaving behind the industry I loved. In February I was poking around job websites, saw a posting for my old position at one of the major companies, and went “well, it doesn’t specifically SAY you’re expected to work from the NYC office eventually like some of the others I’ve seen,” and sent in an application, not expecting it to go anywhere (I was very upfront in my cover letter that I didn’t know if they were open to a remote employee and that I was not going to relocate.) And then . . . they called me and this past week I had an interview and now I’m waiting to hear back. This is absolutely not something that would have been a possibility pre-pandemic and it’s really heartening to see some companies shifting. But I didn’t realize how much I wanted the job because I never thought it would be a possibility and now I’m anxiously waiting! Cross some fingers for me :)

  41. L*

    I recently figured out that I’m nonbinary (she/they), right as I’m trying to figure out future career plans! Which was fine, until I realized that I’m not going to be at a company that lets me wear jeans and t-shirts all day every day. I still present as a fairly gender non-conforming woman, so a lot of the suggestions I get are tailored toward more feminine attire (wear heels, put on some makeup). The scope of that really hit me when reading last week’s open discussion, where someone was trying to figure out how to look less “young”.

    I’m going to have to figure out the same thing sooner or later, and don’t know how to go about it. I’m not comfortable upping the femininity of my attire, but there’s not a lot of advice about upping your professional appearance while keeping things gender neutral. And I’m also not comfortable going full menswear, because tech isn’t the bastion of progress it pretends to be. Especially if you’re presenting as a woman, but not one that’s stereotypically attractive.

      1. L*

        You would think! But, at least from what I’ve seen, the implied dress code is different for women than for men.

        1. tangerineRose*

          It may depend on the company. At a tech company I used to work for, a LOT of people including women wore t-shirts and jeans. We had to wear business casual or formal when around customers (most of us usually only dealt with customers on the phone or e-mail), but nice slacks were fine.

    1. Binky*

      I think you can aim for polished, which generally means neat and well-tailored. Simplicity may be your best bet. Solid shirts (either fancier t-shirts or button downs) that fit fairly closely to your body, black/navy/grey trousers. Ankle boots and oxfords can be pretty gender neutral. You can go with plain or cable knit sweaters.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think a non-gender-specific style works well in a lot of industries. Dress pants, button-down shirt, blazer — you’re good in almost any professional field. Add a tie if you’re feeling masculine, change the blazer out for a shrug if you’re feeling more femme. Adjust shoes to suit the mood.

    3. funkydonut*

      I remember that thread, and you’re right, it was very skewed towards femininity. But I think some of the advice still works. For instance, one of the most common suggestions in that thread was to throw a blazer on over any kind of shirt. For you, the blazer might be cut more masculine or andogynous, rather than a curvy/feminine cut, but a blazer will always dress up an outfit and make you look more mature and professional. If you are concerned about going too much towards full menswear with a blazer and pants look, you could throw on whatever feminine touches you feel comfortable with – I don’t know if you like wearing earrings, maybe, or you could go more feminine with your footwear?

      1. L*

        I like the blazer idea! I tend to go for blouses when I don’t wear a plain t-shirt, because women’s button-down shirts are always weirdly form fitted and men’s are way too wide at the shoulder, so I don’t think it would look too masculine. Earrings aren’t my thing, but I love wearing necklaces when I remember that I own some. xD

        Shoes are the hardest bit, honestly. Plantar fasciitis limits what forms of footwear don’t hurt like crazy after a few minutes, and flats are unfortunately in that list. And I hate heels, so I end up sticking to running shoes most of the time. Works fine day to day, but not a great look for an interview. Men’s shoes don’t come in my size 90% of the time (I’m something like a 4 in men’s shoes), and it seems like all women’s dressy footwear has a heel!

        1. Web Crawler*

          I’m a 4 in men’s shoes too. You’re gonna want to look in the boy’s section. They still have formal shoes, but take an extra moment to make sure it’s good quality because there’s more of an expectation that kids will grow out of the shoe before it wears down. Also google “Tomboy Toes” – a whole site for masculine dress shoes in small sizes.

        2. Lyudie*

          Have you looked into Clarks? They have very comfy shoes in lots of styles, and a loafer or gibson type of shoe is fairly gender neutral. I wore a pair of Clarks loafers walking around a city most of the day for two weeks several years ago and they were great.

          1. L*

            I just looked them up, and hoo boy are those some expensive shoes! They do look comfortable though, so I’ll 100% give them that.

            1. Lyudie*

              Yeah they are not the cheapest but they do last a long time. I’ve gotten some on sale at places like Famous Footwear and DSW, definitely shop around.

            2. Skeeder Jones*

              You might look in to Dansko. They are also fairly expensive but they last forever. They have a custom orthotic built in that conforms to your foot. They are great for conditions like plantar fascitis because the orthotic will support that muscle and tendon.

            3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

              I have a heel spur plus other foot issues. I get cheaper-end shoes I like, like low booties or loafers, rip out the insole, and replace it with a Dr. Scholl’s gel or foam insole. If something happens to the shoes, the good insole goes into the next pair.

            4. Piper*

              Clark’s are typically under $100 and i think they are having a sale rn. Hardly expensive shoes for work wear especially if you plan to wear a lot. I have a pair and they are very comfortable!

          1. L*

            Every pair of boots I can find at the store, that isn’t “super rubber and waterproof fabric winter boots” has a heel. And not a heel like the men’s boots have, a proper one. Drives me nuts; I’m likely to fall and break something wearing those!

            1. Janet (she/they)*

              My old officemates were pretty hip and gravitated toward androgynous footwear. There were a lot of chelsea boots, oxford shoes, and wool sneakers. I second the suggestion to shop in the kids’ section for smaller sizes, too, though I’ve had much more luck with sneakers and boots than formal footwear.

              I’m mostly agender but read as a woman–I’m AFAB, not super masculine, and tend to dress for physical comfort. I wear a lot of sweaters (the pullover kind) and button-ups, which are pretty typical in my field. I love a good zip-up vest in winter/cold offices, and I sometimes wear dresses when it’s hot out. I’m okay with getting “she’d” in casual interactions, but always appreciate those who recognize that gender identity and presentation are complicated!

            2. Hillary*

              Try a “comfort footwear” shoe store – they’ll be more expensive, but those things last forever. I regularly wear a pair of Clarks that came from cleaning out grandma’s closet closet seven years ago. I don’t know how long she had them before I got them. There are some good European brands that have more gender neutral options and great quality.

        3. CupcakeCounter*

          Vionic and Abeo for the shoes.
          I have PF (and a myriad of other foot problems) and Vionic/Abeo both have some great loafers and oxford styles that aren’t too feminine and have no heel.

        4. Trip Tucker*

          Doc Marten style boots, maybe? I have a pair like that, they don’t have a heel, and I consider them dressy enough. Then again, my idea of what counts as dressy enough might be skewed by being the sort of person who wears sneakers every day…

        5. The teapots are on fire*

          Leather booties for more dressy can be great. Clarks is a good start. Maryland Square has a lot of options as well (at least in the fall they do.)

      2. RagingADHD*

        Well, it was “skewed” toward femininity because the poster clearly stated that she identified as a woman and suggested flowy blouses as an example of the kind of thing she might want to wear.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      I’ve found that “boyfriend” style button downs are a good compromise – they’re not cut like traditional women’s button downs but are sized better in the shoulders. I wear these a lot with tailored (but not close fitting) slacks or dressier jeans (boot cut or straight leg, not skinny). Blazers and long-line cardigans are good for presenting a less feminine shape too.

    5. Web Crawler*

      I’ve been there. I’m not in the same position anymore because I present male now, but I didn’t always. For context: I’m in programmer who works in finance, and before I transitioned, I had problems looking too young (very short with a baby face). I’ve only worked in business casual environments.

      One thing that I didn’t expect was that I looked older when I dressed up in masculine business wear. I think it’s because I enjoy masculine clothes, and I don’t wear makeup- I think the effort and confidence that I had while dressing “butch business casual” came off as more polished instead of “I’m wearing a dress because I have to and making no other effort”. I know multiple other people who’ve had the same experience.

      As for the actual clothing, I used to wear slacks with high-cut blouses and cardigans. But you have so much room to play with clothing in the business casual space between full-femme and full-masc. It’s kind of overwhelming tbh. Here’s some of the things I tried:

      Shoes: For interviews, I’d go with men’s dress shoes. Google “Tomboy Toes” to find one source of men’s shoes in small sizes, or look in the boy’s section. For everyday wear, I wear plain black tennis shoes now because that’s what everyone in my current office wears (it’s on the casual end of business casual). But I’ve also worn oxfords, boots, canvas shoes, black toms, and nice-looking sneakers with leather laces

      Pants: My current workplace allows jeans, so that’s all I wear. Before that, I wore slacks (I had grey, black, and brown) and khakis. I suspect (based on your shoe size) that you might be short. I am too. Learning to hem my pants was the best skill I ever learned. Every store has my size now- I’m not limited to the “petite” area. If you have no interest in learning to hem and have $5 or $10 to spare, I’ve heard that’s all it costs to take it to a local tailor for alterations.

      Shirts: I wore blouses in nicer materials with high necklines. (Not button-ups because they do weird things to my chest and I am not comfortable with it.) These were probably the hardest thing to find, so every time I shopped, I kept an eye out. Basically, my requirements were that I couldn’t see chest skin when I looked down, it had to be work appropriate, and it had to be a flattering color. If the top looked too masculine on me, I threw on a necklace or light scarf. I usually achieved a look closer to “gender neutral women’s wear” than men’s wear, which is right where I wanted to be.

      Jackets: cardigans and blazers (if you can figure out how to wear them “business casually”- I never figured out how to make them look less formal). Either way, I hope they have pockets. I never did figure out how to wear a parka in the office when they kept it one degree below freezing. Let me know if you figure that one out.

      I learned so much from the subreddits r/femalefashionadvice and r/malefashionadvice. Mostly I just stared at all the pictures and clicked all the “inspo” links, and eventually figured out how to bridge the gap between the two. Last I checked, the r/femalefashionadvice subreddit has some guides specifically for less feminine styles.

      1. L*

        That was *crazy* helpful, thank you! I’m definitely quite short – clocking in at a staggering 5’3. Combine that with a voice that sounds like it belongs to a ten year old, and it can be hard to be taken seriously sometimes!

        1. Web Crawler*

          You’re welcome! I’m just glad the filter didn’t eat my comment- it was in limbo for a while

          Also, that’s such a mood. I wish there was a way to get tech bros to take women seriously in general. I’m also curious how much it was my height and voice vs tech bros being a*holes to all people they see as women. I’ll never know for sure.

          I do know that it sucks for most women in tech regardless of appearance. (Sample size- my friends with various shapes and styles.) The real goal is to find a safe office to work in, with good management and coworkers who aren’t the worst. So if you get disrespect, put your effort into changing jobs before your style. That’s something I kinda wish I would’ve known before I put so much energy into it.

    6. Hillary*

      You’ve gotten a lot of great advice already – I just wanted to give some reassurance. Generally speaking, no one cares what you’re wearing as long as there aren’t holes and you don’t smell. I once did an experiment wearing the “same” outfit (black slacks, blue top) to work every day for a week and no one noticed. The most important thing is finding a look that you feel great in.

      The women in tech I know wear everything from full femme to menswear uniforms. What we think of as menswear right now is straight lines, often a slim fit, and minimal color/pattern, all of which can translate well to anyone. One of the woman senior tech executives I know has worn a button down, slim pants, sneakers, and a boyfriend-fit blazer every time I’ve seen her. A couple really good straight fit blazers will help you bridge the gap.

      I’d also encourage you to think about the concept of a uniform and start building a quality wardrobe that fits you well. It’s better to have one expensive piece you love than three or five that you don’t like and never want to wear.

      1. ten four*

        Hopping in to second the “blazer, t-shirt, slim pants/jeans, hip sneakers” as a tech uniform that works for men and women. It’s been a minute since I’ve been in the full networking swing of tech people in my big city, but since you mention that you prefer sneakers I think you can ABSOLUTELY show up to interviews with shell toe adidas or whatever the latest hip sneaker is. They don’t need to be name brand even – clean, sharp looking sneakers in either white or a bold color do the trick.

    7. Unfettered scientist*

      Hi, that was me last week with the other business casual wardrobe question. I do have some suggestions for more gender-neutral styles depending on your body shape and how much you want to minimize it. For shoes, I’ve had good luck getting boots with minimal heel (less than an inch, comparable to men’s styles) at DSW. The clearance section has allowed me to get very good deals that have lasted a surprisingly long time. Also suede or canvas walking style shoes that are very comfortable and supportive (maybe try Toms?) but not very feminine might also work for you. For shirts, would a sweater or sweater pulled over a button down shirt work for you? That may be out of style now, but when I presented more gender neutrally in college that was a mainstay for me. I also second what other people said last week regarding hair/grooming. I think looking polished and put together with your face/head is probably the first thing people notice. For you, maybe that looks like a good haircut/styling / accessories like a watch?

    8. Skeeder Jones*

      It occurs to me that when I had bad plantar fascitis or was having a lot of knee problems, I had a doctor’s note to wear tennis shoes when needed. Maybe you could get a note for your plantar fascitis and at least be able to wear your comfy sneakers.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A friend with plantar fasciitis actually stumbled across the opposite as a solution for him. Hard sole shoes with side support kept his feet from stretching & flexing sideways, and hurt less.
        And try searching ‘unisex black work shoes”. There’s some nice leather sneakers in there.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Spouse and I were FIZZING about that when it first landed, so thanks! I’ll check it out!

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      Good gracious. Good update! (The mother stuff is sad, though. I hope someone clues her in…)

  42. timesheets*

    IMy part-time staff have to complete timesheets so I can approve them by a certain date so they can be paid (or their pay gets delayed to the next pay period). Every time I have to remind them to fill it out. I care about them and certainly want them to be paid in a timely way but I have to admit I am getting tired of having to remind them. Is it my responsibility as a manager? They’re a great employee but seem to have a blind spot regarding timesheets; this is a professional job, they’ve been in the workforce a while. I haven’t had this issue before, most people are good about filling out their timesheets to get paid.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Could you ask them all to put reminders in their calendars, and tell them that you will no longer be reminding them? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to take responsibility for their time sheets, but give them a grace period to help them transition.

    2. Bagpuss*

      If you can do it without breaching any local laws about pay I’d be inclined to not remind them and let them get paid late, at last once.

      Send a memo round that says that there have been problems with time sheets not being submitted on time / in full and that unfortunately your workload means you won’t be able to take responsibility for chasing / reminding people every week / month , so this is a general reminder that
      – The deadline for submitting the completed timesheet is [date] and that if timesheets are not submitted by the deadline, pay won’t go out and will roll over into the next pay period (I’d set it out as (e.g.) The deadline for submission is the 10th of the month, for payment on 15th. IF your timesheet has not been summitted by 10thyou will miss the pay roll cut off date and will not get paid until the 15th of the following month (subject to submitting a completed timesheet)

      It may also be worth looking at the process – is there a reason why it is not getting done? For instance, is the deadline irregular? (e.g. if it is every two weeks, might a rule that timesheets have to be submitted weekly, even if payroll is only rune every two weeks, work better? )

    3. Ashley*

      Can you setup an auto email? Labor laws get tricky because you have to pay them regardless of them doing the time sheet I think so until you can get through big picture with them I think you are stuck reminding them.

    4. BRR*

      If it’s your company then it’s your legal responsibility to make sure they’re paid for all hours worked, even if they don’t fill out their time sheet. But it theoretically shouldn’t be your job as a manager to remind. I think you either have to accept this or treat it like any other performance issue.

      1. PollyQ*

        I think “treat it like any other performance issue” is key here. Make it clear that this is an essential task and that it needs to be done promptly every pay period. If they keep failing at it, then it may be time Alison’s classic “What happened here?” conversation, possibly followed by escalating discipline if they still don’t do it.

        I wouldn’t not pay them though — that might be breaking the law.

    5. Chaordic One*

      Yes, it is your responsibility as manager, and yes, it sucks. I don’t know the specifics of how your office works, but in my office the employees have stressful jobs and a lot of details to keep track of. They are under constant monitoring of their phone time and pushed to meet production schedules. Filling out timesheets isn’t always a priority when having to deal with customers and everything else and it is something that can easily be overlooked.

      It’s a PITA, but I think you need to embrace this particular suck.

  43. DovBer*

    tl;dr Upskilling in a tech-ish direction? More like data analytics than programming? Where to start?

    I do technical and user support for a small non-profit in the academic publishing and libraries space. I love the organization I work for (like, a lot!) but the day-to-day of my role can be tedious and I don’t think it utilizes my talents to their fullest.

    I feel like my two options are either work towards management (either people management or “product management” which, so far as I can tell, is really just people management but sneaky) or learn some “hard” tech skills. My general personality and temperament and deep introversion point heavily towards the latter. But, I’ve really been struggling with figuring out where to start and vetting the vast array of training options out there.

    Just from observing the various software developers and product managers at work, I’m fairly certain that I want to go more in a data analysis direction rather than in a software developer direction. I know there’s some overlap in core skills, but beyond that I’m a bit at a loss. The most concrete suggestion anyone at my job has had was “learn python, because that’s good for everything.”

    I do not have anything resembling a traditional tech background. I’m in my early 40s and sort of stumbled circuitously into my current job after frittering away my 20s and early 30s essentially being a a hippie dilettante in an emotionally complicated extended adolescence. (I lived on an actual commune, y’all. no joke.) But I found may way to being an earnest grownup, and kinda want to stick it out. If I had no practical constraints I’d go to library school and train to be a systems librarian or digital asset manager, but cost of a library degree compared with the starting salaries for librarians really makes that seem like a bad idea.

    When I search for courses or resources to learn tech stuff I run into a few problems:
    1) The most comprehensive, hand-holding (which I’d like) options seem to be trying to funnel me into becoming a software developer, which I don’t want to do.
    2) There are so so so many for-profit educational companies (including for-profit wings of traditional non-profit universities) that are trying to make a real hard sell with aggressive marketin, which is off-putting and makes me assume they’re all bullshit charlatan grifters. How to know who’s good?
    3) Every distinct tech skill seems to be taught in a bubble without the context of how they relate to each other or are dependent on one another or are implemented in real life, so finding an entry point when starting from scratch is very confusing.
    4) My learning style is way more suited to in-person classroom teaching than self-paced online stuff, but there’s still a pandemic on.

    Has anyone been in a similar situation and found good ways to narrow down and clarify? People to talk to, questions to ask, directions to look into, ideas I’m completely missing? I just feel lost about where exactly I want to go and how I might get there, even though I feel like I have vague ideas and gestures at both.

    1. Data is my Jam*

      You keep talking about tech, but if data analysis is what you’re interested in, Python would only be one step. If you have your under grad degree, take a look at course catalogs for masters’ programs in data analytics and see if what they are talking about excites you. My field corners onto data analytics and you’ll need to understand statistics as a baseline – have you ever had a stats class? If not, that might be a great place to start.

      1. DovBer*

        I have taken a stats class, fairly recently actually. Pre-pandemic, I was exploring the possibility of doing a second bachelors degree in computer science at my local state university, so I started taking a couple prerequisite classes as a continuing ed student, including stats. It was interesting and engaging, but very basic. Maybe finding a mid-level stats class would be a good next step.

        Is data analysis not considered part of “tech” more broadly? I don’t even know what I don’t know!

        Just as an example, this is something I’ve read in the general area I work in which I think would be fun and interesting to be able to do:

        1. Nesprin*

          Data analysis is closer to statistics than to programming- so think MPH or MS in statistics/applied math versus computer science.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Many library schools have pretty good scholarships based on GA positions. I know mine did. I was able to get a 50% GA ship which covered the entire tuition costs and gave me great work experience. I still have to pay the out of state portion, but it meant I could afford the program. I’d just not assume it’s going to be too expensive, depending on your options. Having said that, library jobs are hard to find and will require moving. It’s just the nature of the field.

    3. SoloKid*

      I am in exactly the same pickle in a completely different industry. Think “llama grooming expert that got proficient with llama grooming task management software. And over time got asked to be the expert in the software instead of actual llama grooming.” I’d like to continue llama grooming!

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      I looked into a similar topic back when I lived in the UK more than 10 years ago and didn’t have the money or guidance to see it through. I could totally have done with a mentor/advisor to see me through options!

      Off the top of my head, these are my thoughts:

      1. At this point in time I’d avoid the commercial offerings. There’s too much “trying to extract money with minimal effort and maximum standardization” going on. Also, most programs will either be in-person bootcamps (strongly oriented towards “become a programmer as fast as possible”, which doesn’t fit what you want, and I’m dubious about anyway), or self-paced.
      2. A lot of universities have developed graduate certificates and similar short courses. These are often online synchronous or part-synchronous, but may be harder to find (commercial providers are better at advertising). I have no personal experience with any except the conversations and programs in development by colleagues at my own institution. But would something like UC-Irwine’s graduate certificate appeal?
      3. If this sort of thing (a graduate certificate, or other professional certificate) looks appealing but you don’t know how to get to one, select one, you could call up / email the contact person of the 3-5 you find that look most aligned with what you want. Ask if someone could give you a consultation. Also, contact a handful of universities in your are, starting with the computer science department (if there is no department that sounds closer) and ask for short programs for professionals, and if they don’t have one, ask if they know about another institution nearby that may have one. If they don’t know one, ask if there is someone you could talk to who may be able to advise you. US community colleges sometimes have really fabulously well-designed programs, and they know how to teach non-traditional students.

      Good luck! This sort of thing is definitely out there, but you may have to dig.

    5. Tabby Baltimore*

      I realize you’d prefer in-class options, but for what it’s worth, here are some free resources mentioned in the past by other Ask-A-Manager readers:
      * – Free training
      * Code Academy – It’s free for the lessons and practice, and the stuff there is high quality)
      * Tableau – You can download their free version of Tableau Public, for personal use. They also have lots of free 101 level videos on their site to get you started. Once you figure out the basics, try participating in the Tableau community on Twitter and try some of the weekly challenges like #MakeoverMonday or #WorkoutWednesday.
      * If you are considering a boot camp to get skills, pick one that has a job placement program AND has a good placement rate.
      * Learning SQL – (free but basic);,, and (possibly fee-based)

  44. Quagga*

    I’d like to get better at keeping a work diary or work journal. I mostly use it for note-taking and to-do lists, but I’d like to make some more focused, regular habits. For example, taking some time every Friday to reflect on the past week and making note of anything significant, whether it was a win or a struggle. What other journaling habits have you found useful with respect to work?

    1. Girasol*

      I have found it helpful occasionally to journal for a week or two about how I spent my time. 9:00-9:30 organizing project A. 9:30-10:30 data entry project B… and so on. It helps me to understand how I spend my time. It sounds silly, but every time I did that I realized that while I thought I was spending almost all time on project C, I was really spending it spinning wheels or griping to myself about it because I hated that one so much. That helped me to rethink my attitude and approach. Also, I made a DidIt journal of things that got done each day in a nasty job with lots of roadblocks where I felt like I was making no progress at all. Seeing some progress improved my outlook. I didn’t mean that to be documentation of “when did event X occur” but it turned out to be handy for that too.

  45. LQ*

    Ambush Meetings!

    I’m interested in how often these have come up where you’ve been ambushed in a meeting, especially planned but unplanned too.

    I’m in mid to senior level management (2 layers of managers below me) and it happens at this point like once every 3-4 months. Usually from the same couple of people who don’t work in my agency and the tense relationship long pre-dates me. At this point I can generally tell based on who is invited (they aren’t smart enough to sneak invite people later and the fact that I’m just saying they aren’t that smart tells you that this isn’t a one sided thing, i’m not fans of theirs either) but I’m still occasionally surprised. Or I’ll have a meeting that they think is supposed to ambush me but I’ve got enough of a grasp on all the elements that I’m ready and prepared for. It only happened like twice when I was an individual contributor so I’m still building skills on dealing with it. So I’m interested in what others to do identify, prevent, or manage AMBUSH meetings.

    1. Joan Rivers*

      Since no one else seems to have this problem, so far, and your tone sounds a little bit put-upon, I wonder if you’re seeing this as “ambush” when that’s not their intent. Are they disorganized?

      One idea: Could you tell them you have a personal thing, say, dr. appointment, scheduled? Or make up a work excuse? If they’re trying to ambush you, it would be nice to short-circuit that. When you can short-circuit a tactic it loses its appeal.
      But if they take it calmly then ask yourself if you’re taking their short notice as something more sinister.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        You said “ambushed in a meeting” but it sounds like you mean BY a meeting. Have they literally attacked you in the meeting for not being prepared for questions when you had no notice to be? Then you could explain that if you had more notice you’d have better documentation and suggest it for the future.

        1. LQ*

          Definitely in the meeting. The meetings are always scheduled ahead of time, sometimes the who changes, but the meeting is there. Unfortunately there is a really strong culture working against me on the documentation before a meeting and being able to wing it is really expected. I’ve been trying to change that and I’ve gotten somewhere internally with my group and in some of the places we cross over with this team, but not at all with leadership in the other group, they don’t exactly “oppose” it, but they are pretty hostile to it.

      2. LQ*

        I mean…the one where I was an individual contributor and I was supposed to have a one on one with a member of another team and then leadership 3 levels up from them from the other agency invited themselves and spent the meeting yelling at me about how I was making their staff cry (I said like 10 words the whole meeting, this was the first ambush and really why I call it ambush) meanwhile their staff were crying because they were yelling. (I have fairly decent relationships with mid level and individual contributors I work with directly.)

        Others have included a demand that I make a 3M decision and they physically barred me from leaving the room until I did so. A lot of demands for decisions that I’m not the decision maker on (part of this is they are scared of my boss, who can be kind of an ass himself) which I’ve gotten very good at deflecting, but the ones where they’ve had me trapped in the room I stand by calling an ambush.

        Mostly I’ve found ways to short circut them but they still come up as a last minute invite everyone in and demand LQ do the thing we want and then get mad and yell when she doesn’t. (Online meetings have made this more interesting because I get a lot more side chatter from the other people who’ve been called in to shore up their numbers.) It’s in part because I do like and respect the mid and individual contributors that they keep bringing them into the meetings because I’m not going to say anything really strong while the room is full of union folks, but I’m not, and their boss is railing against me so they don’t have any standing to push back either.

        I mean, I could be just taking this as a personal thing (I don’t actually think it’s a personal attack against me, I think it’s not about me at all, it’s just I’m the one in the role that has to deal with it) but I don’t think so….

        1. ferrina*

          Um….literally trapping you in the room? That’s really bad and not normal. That’s an abuse tactic. And it’s illegal- it’s called unlawful imprisonment.

          Some of this is sounding really toxic. Time for a new job?

          1. LQ*

            I’m absolutely aware that this is toxic and if I was smarter or had any self-preservation instincts I’d absolutely find a new job. The super toxic stuff ebbs and flows, this week’s ambush meeting was a fairly dull one where I feel like I handled it pretty well because about 2 minutes in I was able to go, “oooooo I see what you’re doing here” and just kick back and let them go because being mad at me about this thing is nonsense that doesn’t hurt me but does hurt them. But I’m very interested in how other’s handle or recognize them and prepare. I always try to pre-game the meeting with any friendly folks I know will be there who may have intel, but I feel like there are better pre-game strategies than that that I’m missing.

        2. tangerineRose*

          They sound like awful people. Can you sic your boss on them? If each and every time they tried this, they had to deal with your boss, that might discourage this. As well as this treatment being abusive on their part, I don’t think most bosses would want their direct reports having to spend their time this way.

          1. LQ*

            They are. I can’t unfortunately because that both makes it worse and and because it’s my job to deal with these folks and calling him in would just be like saying I can’t do my job. (Even though they are shitty people, which I did know when I took the job…)

    2. Girasol*

      This reminds me of bully girls from junior high school. Can you manage to take control of the discussion and turn it away from whatever topic they had planned to focus on the ambush behavior itself? “Why didn’t you tell me that this is the concern you wished to discuss? Did you feel a need to keep your real topic hidden? Why? How do you think can we work together to communicate more openly in the future?” I’m wondering if you could change the bullies/target dynamic to a calm adult coaches emotional tweens sort of discussion, and take away the satisfaction they’re getting out of the behavior.

      1. LQ*

        Hm…This isn’t a bad idea. I’ve done the sort of sit back and shut up and let them hoist themselves upon the own petard thing but sometimes it’s a lot of weirdness that’s hard to move forward and I bet that there is a version of this I can use to help with that. Thank you!

  46. Blep*

    The job hopping post from earlier this week has got me feeling a bit down. Like I know my 20s hasn’t been perfect job wise, and now turning 29 I’m transitioning to another role that I am hoping is the right fit for me. Reading that post made me afraid I’ve doomed my whole career with trying different jobs or moving in my 20s.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      “Job hopper” is not a scarlet letter you wear on your shirt or carve into your chest. It’s just something you need to be aware of may be hurting your job search if certain hiring managers view you that way. If you’re able to get the jobs you want, you’re able to get jobs, and clearly your hopping of jobs hasn’t impeded your career in a huge way.

    2. Filosofickle*

      You’re not doomed. Some hiring managers / companies will have a problem with it, some will not. (And without knowing your industry, it could not be a big thing at all. It’s not in mine.) We make the best choices we can at the time. And, frankly, I’m a believer in “life’s too short”. If I’m in a lousy job I’m not going to stay for years just because I don’t want to look like a short-timer. If it’s a matter of sticking it out for awhile to reach 1 year or 2 years, sure that makes sense if you can, but not multiple boring/miserable/underpaid years to get to those 5+ year stints they they’re looking for. Nope.

    3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I am a hiring manager who hires a ton of administrative support people, and I never ding people in their 20s for having only a year or two at their first several jobs. I think that’s normal, as you figure out the right fit for you. I will say though that if it’s clear you are 40+ and STILL have nothing longer than a year or two on your resume, I wonder whether the problem is you. A single short stint I don’t even blink an eye at. Anyone can make a mistake or get suckered by a single job. I would not despair, any experienced hiring manager understands that your 20s are for exploration.

    4. mreasy*

      I had…6? jobs in my 20s, and I am currently 41, and very successful in the same profession I’ve been pursuing since then. You’re not doomed, I promise!

  47. Ready to Move On*

    I have been working at current employer for 2 years; they have been understaffed (partially due to Covid-business pressure, partially due to poor management practices) for most of that and as a result, I fell into extremely bad habits of working all. the. time. While they have staffed up, they have also brought in more contracts and I don’t see the pressure to do this as changing much in the future. I like and admire the people I work with, but I don’t want to keep living like this – working or feeling like I should be working during my evenings and weekends.
    I made it a goal for this year that I would find a new job. I am just about to receive what I think will be an absolutely amazing job offer from a company that I have long admired. It is a position that is right in my wheelhouse and I think it will be exactly what I’m looking for. The pay frame they have discussed with me is also at least a 30% increase over my current salary (yes, I’m currently underpaid).
    What’s the problem, you say? Well, about 3 weeks ago my daughter had an extreme medical event, and I basically had to drop everything for about a week while she was hospitalized. She is still going through follow up appointments. It has impacted my work and everyone has been unbelievably kind and generous with picking up for me while I was out and helping me continue to address gaps as we deal with this family health crisis.
    If I get this job (offer likely on Monday) and offer my resignation next week, I will feel terrible because a) I will be leaving them in a bind on a lot of high dollar projects that are in play and b) they have been so kind to me over these past few weeks of high personal stress. Any advice on how to handle this gracefully and not feel like the worst. person. ever? I’m doing everything I can to keep all my projects in the best shape possible and well documented, and will explain that I’m leaving for a dream position. If this event hadn’t happened, I would have very few qualms and would be leaving on good terms. I plan to give 3 weeks notice so I can hand off projects gracefully. Any other ideas on how to smooth this path?

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      If they truly care about you as a person, then they will be happy that you’ve found something bigger and better! No matter what bind it leaves them in. This is how humans support each other in the workplace and no job is forever. You’ve already gone above and beyond, you’re giving a longer notice, and you’re already thoughtfully preparing for a handover. Seriously, gold stars to you.

      I hope your daughter’s recovery is smooth and wish you and her all the best!

    2. ferrina*

      Go without guilt. You’ve gone above and beyond while working for them, and you are not obligated to do that indefinitely.

      If it helps, think of them responding well to your family’s health crisis as a reward for all the times that you went above and beyond for them, giving up your evenings and weekends to help their business succeed. I think 3 weeks notice is very generous of you, and you seem very conscientious about doing a good hand-off. And a good business will be able to keep their high dollar projects going without you. If you work for good people, they would be mortified to learn that you’re feeling guilty about taking a good opportunity just because they were good human beings while you went through a crisis (I know I would feel terrible if one of my employees was feeling guilty about leaving, because I was kind to them!)

    3. Workerbee*

      Your workplace was happy for you to get to the burn-out point. They deserve not one iota of guilt from you.

      Also, coworkers picking up the slack during an emergency seems baseline normal to me. You say they are being “unbelievably kind and generous,” so I’m wondering if the awfulness of your employer in general is skewing your perception of what a normal workplace does. In any case, you owe them no guilt either. Acknowledgment and thanks, sure; stay in touch with them over the years if you like.

      3 weeks notice sounds too long; I’d recommend just two.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have received an offer that is ‘an absolutely amazing job offer from a company that I have long admired’. But it is not without some bit of sadness that I am handing in my notice now. Everyone here has been ‘unbelievably kind and generous’ in light of my daughter’s medical crisis. I will remember and treasure that for the rest of my life. ‘I’m doing everything I can to keep all my projects in the best shape possible and well documented.’ ”

      That’s it. Done. Less is more.

  48. JustaTech*

    TL;DR Is it better to have a visually attractive resume that’s only a PDF, or to have a plainer resume that’s in a .doc format?

    I’m updating my resume and I’ve currently got two versions, a plain Word version for uploading (when a site specifies a .doc format or when I know the scraping program will have trouble with other formats) and a more visually attractive version that is written in LaTeX (pronounced la-tech, it’s what people use for math textbooks and papers with lots of symbols) and I upload as a PDF.

    The LaTeX version is very pretty, but as I’m not in a design field (or a mathematical one) I’m not sure it’s better than a more standard resume in Word. (I mostly made the LaTeX version to humor my spouse.)

    1. Mockingjay*

      I think it depends on your industry. I have the same boring format – Word and PDF, because that what works in my field. (Government Contracting Motto – “We do not value innovation.” LOL.)

      Remember what Alison says – it’s a marketing document for YOU. Which format is going to catch the interest of hiring managers and get you an interview? Which one will raise eyebrows? “Hey, Marv, look at this resume! It’s got sparkly unicorns around the page border!” If you’re in graphic design, unicorns might net you an interview. In software development, probably not.

    2. ferrina*

      I always pdf, because you never know what kind of wonky things can happen to a Word doc in the application software (but maybe I’m just paranoid about that).

    3. PollyQ*

      1) If you have the choice between a PDF & a DOC, I would always go with PDF.
      2) How pretty are we talking here? Are you sure the design isn’t detracting from the information?

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      PDF suggestion into the void — embed your fonts. (Font substitutions get weird.)

  49. aiya*

    Just venting?

    I made a career change and started a new job in a new field two months ago. I was really excited to join the team, but I’ve found that onboarding remotely has been really difficult. I can’t tell if I am performing well or not. I don’t have regular one-on-one check ins with my manager, mostly because one month into the new job, my manager changed. So the manager who hired me is on a different team now, and my new manager is just starting to get adjusted to our team, projects, and workflow. I’ve mostly been guided by another colleague, who doesn’t actually manage me but is my senior. He trains me and gives me assignments, but since he’s not my manager, he doesn’t really check in on my performance. I also barely have any work to do, because everything I do requires training, BUT my senior colleague is so overwhelmed by his work (he’s doing his job, part of my job while I get trained, and part of our new manager’s job while she gets trained) that he doesn’t even have time to delegate work to me & train me.

    On top of that, it’s just really hard to understand certain office norms now that we are remote. At all my previous jobs, I know from being in the office during the first several weeks who to turn to when I have certain questions, or how to request for certain things (e.g. time off, OT, etc). But I feel like I am just blindly reaching out to people hoping that I am doing the right thing every time.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      You aren’t alone in finding it hard to start a new job while remote. I started a new job in January and am feeling the same way. Some of my fellow new colleagues who also started during the pandemic have said the same. I’ve found that people are pretty forgiving when I mention that I’m new and don’t know how to do X or who to ask about it. I hope that’s the case for you too.

      1. aiya*

        Definitely! I think people tend to give me more slack since I’m new, and I think there’s an unspoken understanding that it takes a lot longer than usual (pre-pandemic time) to get a new hire up to speed.

  50. Culture Change*

    I’m interested in a job at a place that used to be known as a hard place to work. They have been working on improving their image and talking about a big culture change to being more family friendly and less churn and burn. What steps would you take to see if this is true? Asking people that left may not be useful if they left before the culture change. I don’t know if people there will be fully honest about the culture. It would be a big pay raise and at a very reputable place; I’m just trying to figure out if the lifestyle will work for me. Their old lifestyle wouldn’t. Their alleged new lifestyle would.

    1. ferrina*

      Ask what they are doing to make this culture change happen. Do they actually have policies in place? How are these policies enforced? What ongoing challenges have they been facing? If they hedge or offer platitudes- run. If they are honest, well, that’s a good start.

      Also, can you talk to a few people who would be your colleagues? What has their experience been?

      I’d also recommend having a back up plan. These types of changes are really hard, and usually require change at the top (and usually key people need to be replaced). If they start to backslide, how hard will it be to find a new position?

  51. Binky*

    Probably stupid question. I know Alison suggests asking “what separates a good employee from an excellent employee in this role” (badly paraphrased). What do you do with that, after you get an answer? Do you try to volunteer info as to why you’d be excellent? I’ve asked it a couple times, and then just felt like I left it hanging oddly, but couldn’t figure out where to go from there. Am I using it wrong?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “That’s very helpful, thank you!” (or any follow-up questions it raises for you)

      But don’t use your own questions as a way to pitch yourself after their answers; it makes the questions not seem genuine.

    2. irene adler*

      You try to weave into your subsequent responses something that shows you comprehend the expectation of the qualities ascribed to the excellent employee.

      Example: If they tell you the excellent employee is able to multi-task and not lose track of anything, then try to make mention of how you did this successfully in your work.
      Or, if they indicate the excellent employee did something extra that allowed them to shorten the QC testing time, then you might acknowledge this ‘something extra’ and ask how they implemented it.
      Example: if they tell you the excellent employee made sure to monitor what was going on in manufacturing so as to speed up the QC testing order, you might ask, “how did they do this monitoring?”. Hopefully they will explain that excellent employee made a point to talk with the manufacturing supervisor each morning or walked through the manufacturing floor to see what was being built that day. You can then complement this action and indicate you will do similarly.

    3. Littorally*

      When I’ve asked it, I’ve usually used the answer to ask a few more probing questions about the workload or expectations. For example:

      “Well, a really outstanding employee will jump in to take ownership on issues where