open thread – April 9-10, 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.

{ 1,192 comments… read them below }

  1. Jo*

    A fun one today: I imagine some of you may have heard of the Evergreen ship that blocked the Suez canal – one of the most important shipping routes in the world – holding up ~$9bn worth of goods *a day*. Not a good day for the captain I imagine.

    So, lets roleplay:
    – You are the captains manager: what do you say to them at the imaginary end of year review? How does this impact your view of their performance?
    – You are the captain and at some point in future need to apply for a new job: How do you get around this on a CV? Do you address it in your cover letter?
    – You are interviewing them for a job: do you ask about it?

    (I’m now wondering whether the shipping world at this level is more “white collar” culturally when it comes to things like interviews etc, or more “blue collar” and a bit looser with it? Anyone who can give us an insight?! From the news, it seems like it was just a bit of bad luck with everything going wrong at once, so is this just the ultimate bad day at work?)

    1. Corporate Drone Liz*

      I imagine the captain’s manager saying, “Look at me! I am the captain now.” :)

    2. Yellow Warbler*

      Have you heard that they tried to blame a woman who was the first mate of a ship hundred of miles away at the time?

      Search “Marwa Elselehdar Ever Given”.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I did see that – easily disproven, but unfortunately everything travels fast these days, so the accusation went viral.

      2. 30 Years in the Biz*

        Wow! Thank you for the suggestion. A really interesting story. What gall people have.

    3. MissBliss*

      My husband, who is big into ships, told me that there is some belief that somebody was fucking about because the trails the Evergiven was leaving on its route log were, um, somewhat phallic in nature (which is apparently a thing ships will do– like boat graffiti).

      However, I don’t know where he saw that, so I can’t attest to it myself. But I find the idea hilarious. If that were true (or even if not, and the interviewer had just heard it!), imagine how THAT interview question would go.

      1. SoloKid*

        A big ship follower friend of mine said it was basically their version of a holding pattern for airplanes. I wouldn’t read into it too much, but the trail was pretty funny.

        1. Littorally*

          Yeah, it’s easy for a series of loops to wind up looking like that, unfortunately.

    4. Mental Lentil*

      – You are the captain and at some point in future need to apply for a new job: How do you get around this on a CV? Do you address it in your cover letter?

      “Developed and implemented a marketing plan that brought worldwide attention to my company resulting in our company being featured continually on all international news outlets and across multiple social media platforms.”

        1. The Rural Juror*

          If I read that comment in Dan Egan’s voice (character from VEEP) it gets so much funnier!

      1. anonymouse*

        Man, if only they could spin the boat the way you spin the story, there would have been no story.

      2. Square Root of Minus One*

        Along with the cover letter “My angled parking abilities made a full week of Twitter trend”

    5. Kesnit*

      I could be 100% wrong on this. If so, someone please correct me.

      The Egyptian government requires all ships transiting to use a local pilot. IIRC, when there is a pilot on-board, the pilot is in command of the ship. If so, the pilot is at fault, not the captain.

      1. Irish girl*

        That’s not correct, the captain is always in command, they take direction from the pilot about where to go and what to avoid. The captain is still in charge of the engines and moving the ship. I asked my husband who drives big ships this question when this was all happening.

        1. Hillary*

          In the Suez that’s true, but it’s not universal. In the Panama Canal, Houston Ship Channel, and some ports I believe the pilot has ultimate authority.

          This one will be in court for years.

      2. Jo*

        There was an interesting article on BBC while this was happening trying to unpick this. Irish girl is right I think, in that the Captain always has ultimate responsibility, but there is an interesting nuance about how much they often need to rely on the pilot – and who is to blame when something goes wrong. My takeaway was that *its complicated*.

      3. Littorally*

        It’s really complicated, but regardless of who is found to be technically at fault, I doubt it would look good for the captain to pass the buck to the pilot in an interview. Better for them to take responsibility and talk about what they could have done better.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        He could not — my understanding is the dust storm knicked out power so the ship was at the mercy of current & wind gusts.
        That said, the canal authority may want to plan ahead for future dust storms!

        1. Hillary*

          So logistics person here. That feels like a cover story, but since it’s Egypt we may never know. If it were just weather this would have happened before. I’ve read that the ship may have increased speed for unknown reasons (maybe to regain control), which decreases how well the thrusters work. That can increase listing/swerving which ends with what we saw.

          In terms of how the conversation goes, since it’s Evergreen I have no idea. The northern European ship operators behave a lot like militaries and there would be something similar to a court martial. I haven’t heard a lot about how other operators are culturally.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I tend to believe it because the boat immediately behind them posted that they nearly got hit by a third boat that had lost power in the same time period.

      2. Firecat*

        Captain is male.

        There was an attempt to falsely accuse the only egyptian female first mate who was working on a ship 100s of miles away.

        1. Littorally*

          In which case, she really could not have done anything to prevent it!

          He, on the other hand, could probably have done better in some way.

    6. Artemesia*

      The solution is already in the papers. Some woman pilot who was not on the ship and was piloting another ship over 100 miles away is being blamed for the accident in press rumors because ‘what do you expect if women are in men’s jobs’ No I am not making this up.

    7. TechWorker*

      I listened to a podcast (old episode) this week about the Torrey Canyon oil tanker disaster… obviously that was ages ago (60s) but the captain never sailed again (or at least, not as captain). Does seem like this is maybe a similarly bad enough, big enough mistake…

    8. Off shore*

      Working in the marine industry, with vessels waiting for the route to clear during this time, I can say that there is deep investigation, route cause analysis, marine safety and regulatory factors going on to learn from this incident. One this large will be well known for years by anyone contracting senior vessel staff. Marine captains are typically well respected, deeply skilled and knowledgeable. While accountability will rest with them, there are many many factors in play, some systemic. And, my company, while a competitor, is far from having fun with it. They commiserate but more, they are examining all potential root causes and our policies to ensure we are well positioned to avoid anything like this happening. That said, it is an interesting thought experiment but it has been raised before on AAM, where people are interviewing after having been fired related to a very public situation.

  2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    What do you do when you hear if an opportunity but you won’t take it, and you don’t want people to feel let down?
    I heard of a job I could do from a friend, but I’m not applying since in that setting, while I’d be spared scheduling madness( had to make an appointment for 7 tonight- folks just aren’t available during the day) , I might not get to eat lunch and the clients are more difficult and more likely to die( I’ve only had one death on this job nearly 2 years in). I want to sound thankful and not rude.

    1. I edit everything*

      Thank you so much for letting me know, but I don’t think it’s the right move for me right now.

      It’s OK if they’re disappointed, but managing their disappointment isn’t your responsibility. Your responsibility is to be polite, kind, and honest.

    2. Psammead*

      Thanks for letting me know about it – it’s not a good fit for me at the moment but I really appreciate you thinking of me!

    3. ThatGirl*

      Just be gracious about it – “thank you so much for thinking of me, but it doesn’t sound like the right fit. I appreciate it though, let me know if something else comes along!”

      That’s all. No need to overthink it or overexplain.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Is your friend expecting a specific response?

      I think the response can simply be “Thank you for letting me know” or, if they would know whether or not you apply or take it further, or if they are a close enough friend that you want to give them a bit more information maybe “Thank you for letting me know – it’s not quite the direction I want to go in right now but I appreciate the heads-up”
      Or even “thank you for letting me know – because it sounds like the clients are more challenging than in my current role, I don’t think it’s quite what I’m looking for right now, but if you hear of anything [insert specifics you would like] then I’d love to hear about it”

    5. Corporate Drone Liz*

      “Thanks for thinking of me! I decided not to pursue it as it’s not quite what I’m looking for, but I appreciate you looking out for me.”

    6. Momma Bear*

      Agreed with the thank you but no type responses. You don’t need to over-explain to your friend.

    7. Filosofickle*

      I was just sent a lead by a colleague and immediately responded something like: “Thanks, I’ll take a look! Appreciate you thinking of me!”
      After looking, I decided it wasn’t a good fit but there wasn’t any compelling reason to write again to explain why. Sometimes I will but not necessarily.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yes, you don’t have to report back.

        If they ask about it later, you can say truthfully that you looked into it, and it didn’t work out.

    8. Tess*

      I’m curious why you feel responsible for other people’s feelings (“you don’t want people to feel let down”), especially on something like a job in which you are uninterested.

      Does your friend routinely expect you to do what s/he says without question?

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        No, but it’s always better to avoid certain dynamics. Often if someone finds a ” solution ” to your problem, they will be angry if it doesn’t work for you. I’m anxious as a person with non easily solvable problems

        1. PollyQ*

          If this is happening to you “often”, then you need to find better people in your life. A normal, healthy person wouldn’t have strong feelings at all just because they recommended a job that wasn’t what you were looking for.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            It’s not that they are bad people. Think of the chronically ill and how they get told” just try yoga!” People who do that aren’t bad people, they just haven’t been prepared by society for the fact that most people are doing thier best, but problems are complex and sometimes systemic instead of individual. It’s just commonly believed that all problems are solvable individually and if you can’t, it’s because you’re ” lazy ” or bad.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, well, your nick is telling. If you’ve been venting to your friend about how you’re stuck in a crazy job and they offer you this alternative instead as a potential solution, I can understand why you might want to thread carefully here and not just blow the friend off.

              But a very important thing in anxiety management is learning that other people are responsible for their feelings, not you. I was a people pleaser when I was younger, and I’m amazed at how much less anxious I got when I realized that other people’s feelings are theirs to manage.

    9. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I do appreciate the advice and I like having a polite way to discuss it now.

  3. Unfettered scientist*

    Any suggestions for business casual wear that doesn’t read “too young”? I am moving to my first full time job after grad school and while it’s still a lab (and thus a little casual), I definitely want to dress more professionally. I also really want to avoid looking too young. During my interview, I even got a comment that I “seemed very young” and someone asked me how I thought I would fit in culturally. Any suggestions for what reads as “professional” without being too tryhard? Do I do dress pants or dark jeans? Button down shirts or flowy blouses? (I’m a woman).

    1. Sled Dog Mama*

      The number one thing I think makes someone look more polished is well fitting clothes. Make sure your clothes fit you well even if they are a little casual. Accessories can also go a long way but I realize in a lab setting wearing a scarf might be a little bit difficult

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        It is a totally computational lab, so things I was not used to before (open-toed shoes! skirts!) are now on the table and I’m a bit overwhelmed by options.

        1. Sled Dog Mama*

          Then a couple of lightweight scarves can be an awesome addition to your wardrobe.
          Since you said you are overwhelmed by options here’s what I’d do in your shoes:
          Examine everything in your existing wardrobe for work appropriateness and condition (you don’t have to get rid of anything just maybe mentally put things with that aren’t cut appropriately or show some wear into the “not for work” category)
          Check that everything in the work appropriate category fits you properly (pants are the correct length, waist band doesn’t gap etc.) if not get it tailored.
          Look at what you’ve got. Are there things missing you’d like to have (by this I mean styles not just items, for example do you feel comfortable in skirts)

          Start looking for pieces in neutral colors that won’t go out of style quickly.
          Slowly add new pieces and accessories and try items you don’t think you’ll like (I like how super long necklaces look on others but the few times I’ve worn them I found them annoying, I never though I’d like a scarf that was part of my outfit but I really do like them and it’s awesome in the summer when the AC is too high, I don’t get as cold.

        2. Momma Bear*

          Look at what other people are wearing. For example, is it a slacks/khakis and polos/button up shirt office or jeans/nice blouse office? Do women wear pencil skirts (watch the length – too short reads too young) or longer skirts? Swap out sneakers for flats/boots. If you can wear jeans, they should be well-fit, dark wash, and in good shape. I don’t think you need to aim for matronly, but maybe leave the trends for the weekend and aim for classic.

          It may also not be about attire. We have an intern who simply just looks their age. Nothing they can do about their face. Be competent and professional and it may not matter so much to your coworkers (vs the person giving the interview) what your age is. They hired you so they see value. Own it.

    2. funkydonut*

      Definitely not jeans, IMO. That would immediately mark someone as younger to me. I’d just err on the side of dress pants. They don’t have to be old, fuddy-duddy style dress pants, but don’t go with anything too tight or revealing, which would also mark you as young.

      Will you wear a lab coat? I’d go with nicer shirts (to me, the difference between button-down shirts/flowy blouses is not about age, but about body type, so I don’t have any advice there) either under the lab coat or under a cardigan or casual-ish blazer if you don’t have lab coats. Avoid anything low cut/revealing/strappy to avoid looking too young.

      1. CTT*

        I think jeans are okay if they are good dark jeans and paired with a blazer or something similar and dressier shoes.

        1. funkydonut*

          Yeah I think I work in a fuddy duddy industry where jeans are never okay except Fridays as a “special treat.” I’m jealous!
          (Although all hard pants are unacceptable to me now, after WFH for 13 months.)

          1. Mimi*

            If you have a need for pants that look “dressy” but are still soft and comfortable, I highly recommend Betabrand. (Watch the length, though — for some reason they assume you’re wearing 3″ heels.)

            1. TardyTardis*

              Good dress pants for shorter, rounder people can be found at Bonworth; I fell in love with their definition of ‘medium’ alone. Yes, they are advertised for older people, but shorter, younger people can wear them, too, and they look nice.

        2. Caragh*

          I think they’re usually fine, but if OP specifically wants to avoid seeming young they can read a little more youthful. Tailored pants or a skirt is a more “grown-up” look, which seems to be what they are looking for.

        3. Momma Bear*

          Depends on the office. Our CEO has even been seen in jeans and a polo. OP needs to read the room.

        4. AllTheBirds*

          Agree. Jeans won’t automatically say “YOUNG” — it’s how the ensemble looks as a whole. Dark jeans, especially boot cut worn with a heeled shoe, can be very sharp.

      2. Unfettered scientist*

        Thanks! I will not have a lab coat so no worries there. I’m sure it will become clearer once I’m in the job and see how others dress, but I guess I’m also wondering whether I need to compensate for being younger by dressing slightly more formally (if that makes sense) or if that will read as try-hard or out of touch.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          As someone who looks younger than her age & is short (a double whammy), I recommend going for “polished” without looking like you’re playing dress-up. (In my younger days, I routinely was carded when I was the most dressed up.) Well-fitting clothes are important, as is feeling comfortable in them. (For example, if you love scarves, like some suggest, go for it. I fuss with them too much.)

          I have love sheath dresses for years. You can dress them up or down, they’re a classic cut that flatters most figures (I’m curvy & some office wear doesn’t end up looking that professional on my figure), & during the summer heat, you still look fresh & cool with them. I also recommend wedge heels if you need extra height but want a comfortable shoe.

          1. cat lady*

            Seconding sheath dresses. it’s hands down the easiest outfit that’s polished– one article of clothing, add cardigan or blazer, that’s it. And it definitely reads professional, not young

            1. More Pizza*

              Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot imagine anyone in a lab setting wearing a sheath dress.

          2. Rather wear sneakers*

            As someone who wears heels only occasionally, very strongly suggest wedge heels if you want height and comfort.

        2. MissCoco*

          I’m young(ish), and was actually young (and short, and baby-faced) when I started at my first lab gig – not purely computational, but I was pretty front-facing, so needed to be able to pivot if a collaborator stopped by for a tour. Plus looking polished made me *feel* polished, and that is how I want to feel at work.

          I was in a jeans + tee shirt situation, where some of the students were wearing leggings/sweats, but especially when I first started, looking nicer made me feel more confident.
          Also labs can be odd, and I found since I looked like a student, it was extra helpful to dress in a way that clearly read as staff. In essence, my work clothes were one step down from business casual. Dark wash jeans + a work top, or a skirt with a tee shirt and cardigan/jacket.

          I think I threaded the needle for my role: more authority than students, less authority than admins and professors.
          I always felt comfortable, and if I wore something significantly nicer than the norm, I’d style it more casually to fit in a bit better.

          Also, pro tip: if you’re like me, you can claim your unfashionable but comfortable shoes are a choice to make you look older, not because you love your orthotics.

        3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I’m probably hugely out of touch fashion-wise, but I think a good basic polished preppy look at first until you get a chance to read the room would work. Super basic is nice jeans or khakis or navy pants, oxford shirt or very nice plain tucked-in tee, and a blazer, plus flats or a lowish heel and visible but unfussy earrings. It’s inoffensive and kind of invisible until you can figure out what direction you want to go with your clothing.

        4. TardyTardis*

          A little more formal will help. When my husband was a new teacher, a tie was de rigeur to distinguish him from his students, especially in high school (the tie was well covered by the lab coat when doing Chemistry Things and well tacked down during some demonstrations). Once he was older, he abandoned the tie with great glee and a small dance in the parking lot.

      3. Aquawoman*

        I’m surprised by people who think jeans reads young. I’m 55 years old and I’ll wear jeans* on casual Friday. Zoomers are more likely to wear leggings.

        *Untorn, neat, dark jeans.

        1. Clisby*

          I’m 67, and if I weren’t retired I’d be wearing jeans on zoom meetings and occasional visits to the office. Yeah, to me wearing jeans doesn’t signal “young” at all.

      4. Carol*

        I would 100% try dark “dressy” jeans, flats, and a blazer that doesn’t look like it’s part of a 2-piece suit.

        I also always found a couple of pieces of jewelry made me look more put together, and made me read closer to my actual age.

        1. JustaTech*

          Blazers! Blazers are where it is at. They look polished, you don’t have to wash them all the time, they keep you warm if your office is freezing, and they usually have pockets.

          I have some traditional suit-like blazers and then a couple in sweatshirt material that are more casual/ fun-fashion.

          Also you can put broaches/pins on a blazer for more accessorizing.

          1. cat lady*

            Yes, they make really nice, structured blazers now that are still comfy in a ponte knit (that’s your search term)

    3. TurkeyLurkey*

      I have a very young face, so I still get this sometimes after about 10 years in the professional world. My go-to is dark jeans and a blazer. If I’m just around the casual office (tech), I often have a nerdy t shirt underneath. When I want to be slightly more dressed up, I’ll go for a silk blouse underneath.
      I enjoy a colorful blazer, which I can usually get better second-hand deals on that neutrals.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, this is what I always did: dark jeans/pants and a blazer. You can have fun with colorful blazers or fancier shirts under a neutral blazer.

        1. kt*

          Yep, blazer + nerdy t-shirt + jeans = data scientist in corporate. So seems reasonable for a computational lab.

    4. TotesMaGoats*

      Sequins? I think generally looking young is less to do with the actual clothing and more to do with the styling. And what will look “too young” on one person won’t on another. I avoid flouncy things but that’s style preference. I too look much younger than my age. Aim for things that look higher end (not that you have to buy higher end). Well tailored might be the idea to focus on. I bought a bunch of super light weight button-less blazers on amazon. I can wear it over a patterned shell/tank and with jeans it’s like instant dressed up but still professional and casual. Soft blazer plus patterned shell plus ankle length pants were my go to summer attire (higher ed). And I do wear bright colors and jewelry. So don’t assume that you need to be muted in that either.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        I like the blazer-over something patterned idea! I don’t actually look younger than my age (I think). I think the person interviewing me just said I looked young because I actually am young for the job. I’m basically the youngest I could be given the schooling required and the fact that I took no breaks between college and grad school.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          I’m almost 40 and get mistaken for undergrad student. I’m also super short so I’m always in heels. But eventually your wardrobe matters less than your work product. But it’s good to keep it in mind when on a new job! I asked that when I started the job I’m at now. The previous job was so, so casual. Even for higher ed. Our president routinely work shorts and flip flops. I could have worn shorts to work in the summer and no one would care. I had to reset my appropriate meter when I changed jobs.

    5. R*

      I’m not working in a lab, so bear that in mind. But I would suggest solid colors as reading a little older, so no prints, florals etc. H&M have blazers that are a jersey material, so although they read ‘grown up’ they are comfortable to wear, and aren’t as formal as an actual suit jacket would be. Amazon has similar jackets as well. Then you can wear it with a bunch of different items, either flowy camis or button downs, or even t shirts.

    6. Lucy McGillicuddy*

      A “uniform” of mine since I graduated law school (so for a decade now) in business casual offices has been ponte-type material pencil skirts (so that’s it’s thick and stretchy and extremely comfortable) with a tucked in blouse/nice t-shirt/sweater/turtleneck and a long necklace on top. It always looks professional but is comfortable enough that you aren’t feeling too formal. If you wear jeans, I find a blazer keeps it more mature.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Thank you for the outfit idea. This sounds great for me. I’m pretty excited to be able to wear skirts again after years of being in a wet lab.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Also re: dresses, you could try a tailored knit dress (like faux wraps) that would give visual interest to the outfit without being a bold pattern. And they are as comfortable as a tshirt. I have a collection of such, and I swap out jewelry/cardigans/shoes depending on my mood.

    7. SushiRoll*

      I would say skip tennis shoes (if those are even an option) and go for nicer shoes – loafers, boots, flats, etc. Nice footwear can help elevate your outfit. Dark jeans are definitely fine. I also love Old Navy’s dress pants, they have lots of nice styles that are comfortable and aren’t too dressy but definitely office-appropriate and still cute. Especially if you are interested in slim/skinny styles, but they are offering more styles now also.

      We magically have been allowed jeans on Fridays during COVID and I am currently wearing dark jeans, a striped no-wrinkle button down, and a cardigan over, ankle boots. And I wonder why this isn’t appropriate every day. I don’t think you need to avoid all prints or color or anything just make sure everything fits well and is in good shape.

      1. Grace*

        Most labs require shoes that fully cover the foot and don’t have a significant heel, for safety reasons, so no ballet flats. She would also likely be on her feet a lot in a lab. Tennis shoes are pretty much the lab standard, as are jeans.

        I would go with dark jeans or black pants and maybe loafers if you have lab-appropriate ones on the first day and then see how everyone else dresses. “Young” is more about cuts and prints and styling than banning whole categories of clothes. I work in a large global biotech company and senior management wears jeans. Our nicer-dressed folks go for blouses/button downs, darker jeans or slacks, nicer tennis shoes or something else lab appropriate. The younger lab techs wear jeans or even leggings, t shirts and sweatshirts, etc

        1. Unfettered scientist*

          Not sure if this will be different as I will be working in an entirely dry lab this time. In my current lab, no way could I wear dress shoes, but I think that actually will be an option for me at my new job. Still not interested in heels, but boots and comfortable flats that don’t result in blisters are possible.

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh you’re so right on the ballet flats. I don’t wear them now because I need more arch support, but one time I did wear ballet flats (it was supposed to be a no-lab day) and my boss needed me to help him inventory the liquid nitrogen freezers.
          Well, he pulls out one cane and there was liquid liquid nitrogen in the bottom (there isn’t supposed to be) and it spilled all over the floor and I was dancing the flamenco trying to keep it out of my shoes. After that I stood on a box. And the next day I brought in my emergency backup lab sneakers.

          1. MissCoco*

            On my very last day in a wet lab (after 8 years) I had to really quickly check inventory in one of our liquid nitrogen Dewars, and no one else was in, and I didn’t have my spare shoes in the building, and ballet flats are *technically* closed-toe . . .

            Need I say more?
            Luckily no harm done, but after amending “closed-toe” with “AND covers your foot!” for so many years, I guess I got my just desserts for ignoring my own advice.

        3. TardyTardis*

          Women’s oxfords are both comfortable, lab-safe and don’t have much heel. I first ran into them in the military and adopted them with glee instead of those awful USAF heels.

    8. Blackcat*

      “During my interview, I even got a comment that I “seemed very young” and someone asked me how I thought I would fit in culturally…(I’m a woman).”
      This is likely sexist BS. I am sorry.
      In grad school, I did mostly dark jeans with blouses. My male peers wore… whatever, mostly t-shirts with stains.
      Now that you are no longer a student, I’d go for blouses and slacks. If you got the “fit in culturally” comment and the lab is largely or even just half male, I would stay away from skirts/dresses. If there are lots of women, try to emulate their level of formality.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Yeah I was caught off-guard at first. The person who said that seemed very direct in terms of personality and I do believe they meant it as a cultural fit question as they then went on to elaborate that they’re not a group of coworkers that hangs out socially outside of work for instance. The group is actually really diverse in terms of sex, country of origin, race, etc. There will be many women and I can definitely adapt to their style after I start.

        1. kt*

          I’ll just throw this in: I know a woman who interviewed (the 8-hr-type interview + dinner) at my R1 in ripped jeans and an old sweater with a hole in it. She was offered the job. She didn’t take it, because she was also offered another prestigious one. Now, granted, I’m in math, but… there’s wide latitude in academia.

        2. More Pizza*

          That was my question – is this about your vibe/personality in general or what you are wearing specifically. It sounds like it was more personality oriented (“seemed very young” not “look very young”), which is a subjective opinion from one person. Definitely sexist overtones. I’ve never heard of a male just out of school receiving this sort of comment. I wouldn’t read too much into it. Maybe more inclined to write that person off as unhelpful and out of touch.

          Regarding cultural fit comment above from fashion standpoint, I would match what the other ladies are doing while being careful not to outshine anyone, especially superiors, fashion-wise. It can be a tightrope situation and there are still women out there that will try to tear you down professionally just because of how you dress or look. Ridiculous.

          1. Unfettered scientist*

            Oh the comment was definitely based off of my face and personality (zoom interview) and not what I was wearing (regular blouse). Probably more so my face and the fact that I’m in grad school now because I’ve always received very positive feedback on my public speaking/interview skills and Im positive I was very professional in tone. I asked the question about clothes because if possible I’d like to counter this perception (if others had it but didn’t say) when I start the job in person. I’m definitely not reading too much into it though and it doesn’t really worry me.

    9. Grits McGee*

      Could you give us an example of how you dress now, for comparison? In addition to clothes, an overall level of “polish” in your styling can make a big difference too- how you use/don’t use makeup, hair styling, accessories, etc. When I was starting out, I would look at what other people were wearing that I thought looked good, and try out incorporating bits and pieces into my work wardrobe.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Sure! Now I wear jeans (darker in color) and depending on the day, t-shirt if I’m just running experiments or if I’m giving a presentation, a turtleneck or other blouse or sweater with dress pants or skirt+tights. I often wear boots for shoes as they’re more fashionable than sneakers but still closed toe. In terms of clothes I think could maybe work at the new job, I have a number of flowy blouses, which I love that I never have to iron, sweaters for winter, and a small number of button downs (some more formal, others flannel type material). I have dresses but I think they would be too formal for the office.

        1. Violet Newstead*

          I’ve worked in wet labs at mid-sized Biotech for 10+ years now. Your wardrobe basically describes what I wear every day, and I’m probably on the dressier end for scientific staff at all the companies I’ve worked for. Shoe choice can really help dress up a more casual/jeans style. I wear some Oxford-style shoes that are super comfy but look dressy. Adding a blazer or some jewelry for days with presentations or outside meetings help. For a while I used a nicer large handbag, but found everyone else carried a backpack, so I reverted, which was more convenient on the bus anyway.

    10. Haha Lala*

      I was in a similar situation when I started first post-grad school job.

      How do you feel about heels? Not stilettos, but a short stack heel can make you look more impressive and put together. And the sound of heels on a hard floor just gives an air of “take me seriously.”
      (side note– I’ve been eyeing some really pretty, but pricey, steel toe booties that would fit the bill, if that’s needed in your lab)

      Anything well fitting, clean, and well cared for will go a long way, and layers always look more put together. And maybe stay away from primary or bright colors, or any patterns that can read too juvenile.

      My go to “uniform” is a simple blouse or t-shirt, a cardigan, either slacks or jeans, and either booties or pointed toe ballet flats. If I need to dress up, I can swap the cardigan for a blazer and add some jewelry or extra makeup and be set.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Not a huge fan of heels (I’m kind of tallish already) but a small heel is ok as long as the shoe is comfortable. I definitely have a tendency toward incredibly ugly but comfortable shoes. I do have a pair of heeled boots that have exactly the effect you’re talking about. I only wear them on days I’m giving a talk and I always feel they draw a lot of attention (in a good way), though I can only wear them for a few hours or my feet will really hurt the next day.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          I agree that the right shoe can absolutely change the look of an outfit. I’ve gotten so out of wearing heels over the past year, but eve some flats look more dressed up/polished than others. I always pull out my pointy toe Rothy’s if I need a more polished look, but there is no way I can handle the heels that day.

      2. TheAG*

        (side note– I’ve been eyeing some really pretty, but pricey, steel toe booties that would fit the bill, if that’s needed in your lab)

        I would be SO interested to see these if you’d be willing to share. We require steel toes on the floor but fashionable options are so limited for women.

    11. Llellayena*

      This might be too individual, but I’ve found that when I’m wearing flats, I present younger than when I’m in something of a heel. Much of that with me is that a slight heel (.5-1.5″) changes my posture to be a little straighter, I tend to slouch more in flats. The heels are sensible, not 4″ spike heels or anything (I’d fall over!), but the change they make in my posture helps me remember I’m an adult. Beyond that, select clothes that fit well (not tight, but well fitted) for your body type. I’d keep to slacks or khakis (or mid-length skirts if that’s your style) for a while until the initial “she’s young!” impression goes away. I’m not going to get any more specific with styles, I tend to be way more conservative in dress than most of my peers just by choice and I know there’s a range of less conservative than me that is perfectly acceptable.

    12. Tiger*

      Honestly, depends a lot on the culture. I look really young (always have, and hate it. I’m 35, there’s a marked difference in respect I get when people realize I’m a professional vs. a college student). That being said, if I didn’t wear jeans to work, I would stand out. Look at what others wear, and wear similar things. I’d suggest “if a student were to walk in, would someone be able to tell who was the professional by looking at us?” as a guideline. Tidy hair, well fitting clothes (jeans that aren’t faded and don’t have holes, solid colors or tops with “tidy” patterns-flowers or stripes okay, slogans and brands not okay). I have some flowy blouses that I wear, but I work in an office (not sure if those are practical for a lab). It really is a cultural thing.

    13. Eleanorjane*

      Also, think about your grooming i.e. a slightly more formal or grown up hairstyle? Eyebrows done? A bit of subtle make up if that’s your thing? Shoes clean and resoled if needed, handbag instead of a backpack?

      Also, consider the way that you speak – i.e. keep the pitch level rather than going up at the end of sentences. Try to speak with confidence and authority and not use much slang.

      I had this issue as a new teacher – I wore collared shirts, pearls, dress trousers… a bit much for the lab, but still.

      If you do good work, people will generally respect you so I wouldn’t worry too much.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        yes! I feel like I also need to start wearing make up (maybe just mascara) and figure out how to do hair. Right now I have long straight hair that I just part and comb each day or pull back in a pony tail or braid if I’m feeling ambitious. My hair is super fine so I’ve usually had issues with a lot of updo styles (they seem to fall apart when I move my head) but maybe I just need more practice.

        I have definitely worked to change my pitch to avoid the pattern you’re describing, esp during presentations.


        1. ThatGirl*

          this is completely up to you, of course, but you may want to consider a new haircut — even just some layers can go a long way to making you look a little more mature. I think that long, straight hair can read young to people. A good hairdresser can help, as can looking through photos of hairstyles for inspiration.

          1. Unfettered scientist*

            Probably a good call. I don’t mind going shorter, just something easy to maintain/style without products. Layers/shortening is probably a good call, as is learning a few more ways to put my hair up/in a bun.

            1. ThatGirl*

              For the record I have slippery, fine hair in large amounts that I’ve never been able to put up – so I hear you on the falling out of hairstyles. I fixed that with a good stylist. My hair is pretty short now; I do blowdry and style every morning but it takes me less than 10 minutes total with a flat iron and a smidge of hair paste to keep it out of my eyes.

            2. allathian*

              I can manage without products, but it’s because I have thick hair and lots of it. Now it’s just grown too long and I’ll have a covid hairdo until I get vaccinated, but I can get away with basically zero grooming when I’m WFH. I use a cloth headband to keep it out of my eyes or put it up in a ponytail.

              I intend to keep mine longer at least for a while, even when I can get it professionally styled again.

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, I definitely think that having a more adult hairstyle will go a long way in making the OP look less young and more “professional”.

        2. FisherCat*

          As someone else a little young(looking) for my job here’s some low maintenance grooming that’s made a difference for me:

          1) hair half-up in a clip (so the parts closest to your face are in the clip, but the rest of your hair is down). No fuss, no heat/products, and looks put together for any face shape or hair type.

          2) if you’re open to makeup (no shade if you aren’t!) a bit of neutral eyeshadow & mascara takes only about a minute in the morning and really ups the professional factor visually.

          3) if your ears are pierced, a pair or two of decent, nonprecious gem studs look great! Better to buy from a department store or jewlery store so they look a little more adult-like than claire’s or similar, but for ~$30 a decent pair of CZ studs look like diamonds, and since they don’t hang off my ears I find them unobtrusive.

        3. CatMintCat*

          For what it’s worth, my hair is similar to yours and I find it much more work and time to manage when it’s short. It’s short now (not my choice) and I am hating it. Unless I use massive amounts of product, I look like an out of control dandelion by 9.30am, and if I use the product it looks wet and is stiff and unappealing. I spend a lot of time willing it to grow long enough to tie back so I can stop stressing about it. I’m in my 60s but short hair is still not for me and my hair.

          1. Unfettered scientist*

            Yeah when I said shorter I mean more like shoulder length or just above, not a pixie. I’ve done shorter and it always takes styling or requires bangs (no thanks). I can try layers though and see if that looks more polished.

    14. Former Young Lady*

      If you want to read a little older, try for “blander.” Dark and neutral colors instead of brights/pastels; solids instead of prints; pearl studs instead of statement jewelry; streamlined silhouettes instead of ruffles. Err on the side of prim.

      1. Workerbee*

        I would disagree with this based on my own style and that of older women in the various workplaces I’ve been in. I’m in a business professional environment right now, and the oldest woman here looks fab in her wardrobe of colors, patterns, scarves, etc.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          Maybe I should clarify?

          A mature woman absolutely can and should dress in bold colors/patterns/cuts if that’s her style. (I also have worked with a number of older women who felt “youthful” in their jumper dresses, baby barrettes, sequined jeans, and Tazmanian Devil t-shirts.)

          In this case, the asker isn’t asking how to dress the same as older women. The asker wants to know how to dress so that the first thing people think of her isn’t “Wow, she’s young.” Bold choices will draw attention to that, because they don’t wear the same at her age.

          I get it. I’m pushing forty over here. No one’s going to mistake me for a 22-year-old if I pigtail my hair or wear a plaid skirt and knee socks! :) But half my life ago, any attention-getting aesthetic would definitely get me singled out as “young” by older colleagues.

    15. Oxford Comma*

      Even if it turns out that most people in the lab wear jeans, a couple of pairs of dress trousers are probably a good investment. Make sure they are well tailored. Maybe avoid anything super skinny. If it turns out jeans are the norm, there will still probably be times when the pants are the better option.

      Are you wearing a lab coat? If not, maybe something like a jacket or even a cardigan can help dress an outfit up.

      I second all the comments about making sure everything is in good condition. Especially shoes.

    16. Peek-achoo*

      Dickies has (I think in juniors, but seems to fit a lot of women) dark black cuffed shirts-ish denim pants. Super comfortable, reasonably priced but look polished. Seems like that could help looking polished on a budget.

        1. JustaTech*

          My favorite work pants are the 7 pocket dress yoga pants from BetaBrand.
          No one will ever know that they’re “yoga” pants because they look like dress pants and even have a fake fly and button.
          I’ve worn them to scientific conferences and when I had to fly to Europe to inspect a site. I wore that pair of pants on a cross country flight, a red eye, and a three hour train ride and they still looked good in the end (I was a bedraggled mess, but the pants were great).

          I don’t wear them in the lab only because I don’t want to ruin them with bleach, and they’re a bit warm (and I’m already warm in the lab).

      1. Momma Bear*

        I also troll Ann Taylor and Lands’ End sales. I never pay full price for basics.

          1. Petticoatsandpincushions*

            The Land’s End sheath dresses are amazing. Such thick stretch material and so comfortable! You could do yoga in them haha

      2. Business Casual*

        Eileen Fisher has some great business casual clothes. But, expensive. And, does anybody think maybe for older women?

    17. JMR*

      I’m on the West coast, where the culture is definitely a bit more casual, but I work in a company full of scientists, and most of us (I’m also a woman) opt for comfortable but somewhat high-end athleisure. I own like 16 pairs of joggers from Athleta which I pair with tops from LOFT or similar. NOT leggings, and I stick to dark colors, but these read as professional with a nice top and perhaps a cardigan or scarf.

    18. Aquawoman*

      As much as I’d like to say screw-em, coming across as young can be difficult for people, probably especially women. One of the the things I’d consider is the way you speak, which can have a big impact on the perception of your gravitas.* If you engage in upspeak or use too many hedging works (like, I think, maybe, might, etc–some are fine, but every sentence or multiples in every sentence, no) or speak too quietly, those sorts of things.
      *I’m not endorsing the idea that it should matter, just reflecting the reality that it does. It’s a tool of oppression.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Hard agree on all of this.

        Vocal fry, uptalk, and softeners are hardly exclusive domain of young women (my local NPR affiliate seems to willfully seek out male on-air talent with these habits), but young women are inevitably the ones penalized for talking this way.

        Early in my career, I got in the habit of emulating women who spoke with a lot of confidence — mentors, colleagues, public figures, and yes, TV characters. I once talked my way out of a loan origination fee just by doing an impression of a former boss with the loan officer.

    19. Adrienne*

      twin set sweaters with minimal patterning, flats or like penny loafer type shoes instead of sneakers, mature accessories (nothing that’s fashion forward)

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        I have just learned what twin set sweaters are; I didn’t realize there was a specific name for this type of top!

    20. Kir Royale*

      I bought some nice second hand button down shirts and trousers. That way i looked more professional, but did not care if i spilled stuff and could wash them on a hotter wash cycle. Others in the lab wore jeans and Tshirts, but i look young for my age and did not want to look 16.

    21. Box of Kittens*

      Recommending Putting Me Together blog for stuff like this! She has really easy style tips and has expanded into business casual stuff recently (not as much last year obvs bc covid!, but before that she was). She will have lots of affordable links in her archives though and it helps just to look at her outfits and read her fitting tips.

    22. Paris Geller*

      When I’m going for a little more “polished and in charge but still business casual”, I keep the rest of my business ensemble but trade up my frequent cardigans/sweaters for a blazer. I have a navy blazer and a tan blazer that have been my best work wardrobe asset. They’re a little less formal than a suit jacket, but a little more formal than a cardigan. I’m also a woman and I tend to prefer flowy blouses and skirts and things that can often come off a little young (I love a good floral skirt, I have a lot of Modcloth clothes with cute prints–they’re all workplace acceptable, but a little more creative than a solid-color blouse), and blazers help a lot. I’m one of the youngest in my workplace but in one of the most senior roles, so finding a work-appropriate style I like (again, I love fun prints!) that still conveys some authority is something I’ve worked really hard on over the past couple of years.

      1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

        Suit jackets and nice tshirts and a few simple blouses. I work for a very large financial institution that went to a relaxed dress code, modified if you meet with clients etc. I recommend two neutral blazers that fit you really well. When you pair a blazer with a different color pants it reads more casual, and works with a trouser, or a trouser jean. The brilliant thing about jackets is that you can pair them with a t-shirt and you look put together. Like a striped t-shirt or a plain v-neck. And you can take them off throughout the day depending into he temperature of the lab. Seriously- a few banana republic or Ann Taylor blazers will make the clothes you have work. I also limit wearing a fancy blouse under a blazer, but often wear them alone over trousers or jeans. Don’t over think it. Don’t buy skirts if you don’t like wearing them and take your cue from those around you. Good luck! (From a young looking for decades 40 year old. The looking young does come to an end!)

    23. Artemesia*

      Take a good look at hair and make up choices and jewelry choices. I think the perception of youth is driven more by that then by clothes (I am assuming you aren’t wearing unicorn sparkly shirts from the juniors department).

      You might be right about jeans especially if most women in the group are not wearing them. Look at what the more senior women are wearing. The quality of clothing is also a signal although that is more difficult in casual settings. So fit matters — get things properly tailored if needed and tops that look more upscale.

    24. Nesprin*

      Lol- lab compatible clothing that doesn’t look too young has been the bane of my existence for nearly 2 decades- it’s really hard to invest in nice clothes when bleach stains are a given.

      I can’t wear ballet flats anymore, so booties and sneakers+ slacks or dark colored jeans. In my 20’s nerdy t-shirts were the top of choice, and now in my 30’s whbm style dressy blouses are my go to.

    25. Carly*

      I work in a lab (similar to the one you described) and everyone wears jeans with a nicer top / shoes. I tend to wear a button-down, jeans (mid-wash is fine in my opinion…) and sandals / loafers.

      Frankly I enjoy all the “young” people fashions at work and would just go with it. As long as it’s work appropriate, I wouldn’t sweat what wash your jeans are, flats vs. heels, etc. Wear what’s going to be comfortable all day.

    26. New Mom*

      Pinterest helped me a lot when I was in the same situation. I would do searches of “business casual spring” “corporate office clothes” and a whole bunch of outfit options would pop up and then I’d copy that because I have no fashion sense.

    27. Skeeder Jones*

      Well from all I’ve seen in the news about this, it sounds like the best way to dress “older” is to wear skinny jeans and part your hair on the side. (Somewhat tongue in cheek on this one because the wardrobe battles between generations are kind of funny to me, especially since I rarely leave the house these days and am Gen X and so far have found that I don’t much give a crap what I’m supposed to wear anymore. As far as hairstyles go, I have an undercut and parts are nearly irrelevant. Which generation is claiming ownership of undercuts right now?)

    28. Karen Diehl*

      Clothing can get expensive but if you’ve got a thrift store nearby I suggest you look for “fill in” pieces there. One poster suggested you do an inventory of existing clothing, then look for what you’re missing – great start, Thrift store dressier tops, blazers and almost new shoes are available, in addition to basic pants and skirts. This is a great way to experiment with new things. Try a new color blouse and decide it just doesn’t go with the rest of your wardrobe? Oh well, you spent $3 and can take it back to re-donate. I absolutely love the classic and vintage pieces I find at the thrift store, which helps to avoid the really trendy styles that can look young. Also great spot to find accessories like scarves, jewelry, belts to complete your look . Happy Hunting!

    29. Unfettered scientist*

      Thanks so much for everyone’s suggestions. I went on a mini shopping spree at a store that I like that was having a sale and bought a few blazers, solid blouses, and solid color (black/tan/burgundy) pants. Clothes are still $$$ and I wish I could try them on, but I think it’s a great start!

    30. beach read*

      Stacy London always put her WNTW ladies in a jacket/blazer to finish/upgrade even a casual look.

  4. BHB*

    Apologies in advance for how long this is, but I’d like some input into if my feelings on this situation are justified as I’m really not sure.

    So, 3 years ago I started my current job, as the second person on a 2-person team. My colleague Doreen had been with the company for 10 years at that point in various roles, although this team was new and we would have roughly the same job duties between us. Doreen however was obviously more experienced than I was; so whilst I was a Teapot admin, she was Senior teapot admin which made sense.

    In those 3 years, every possible development opportunity has been given to Doreen. She was earmarked to take over our boss’s job when she retired, and her responsibilities grew in line with that expectation. She also took on additional projects and responsibilities outside of the immediate team with our boss’s blessing, and whilst she fulfilled those responsibilities, I was lumped with the mundane daily tasks. I did try to ask my boss for additional projects or even ask what I could do position myself for consideration, but she wasn’t very forthcoming, saying essentially that she needed me to be fulfilling the basic job duties whilst Doreen had higher responsibilities. One time a company-wide project that I wanted to get involved with was on the horizon, but by the time I heard about it and had chance to ask my boss if I could be considered, she was announcing that Doreen would be our team lead for that project.

    I was given one project – however it wasn’t really followed up on; I did what I could but it felt more like busywork than anything of actual value and I had trouble keeping my boss interested in my progress. Eventually, a company-wide systems changeover made what I was working on completely redundant anyway and so it was scrapped.

    Whilst all this rankled, I was still OK with it – it made some sense as Doreen was being groomed for the management role. Recently our boss has announced she is retiring, and the company decided to restructure our department which has meant Doreen will no longer be taking over that role. Instead, we are being absorbed into a larger team with a slightly different focus. On hearing this, I was a little excited as I hoped it meant I could finally come out of Doreen’s shadow and position myself for more development. In the first meeting I had with my new boss, I stressed that I would be eager to help with the transition as much as I could and was candid about the fact I’d felt overlooked previously. I was assured that there would be opportunities for development within the new team and that I shouldn’t feel like I’m in anyone’s shadow.

    Three weeks later however, and it feels like things are going in the opposite direction. Despite being very clear that I wanted to help shape the transition and new team, it has been Doreen who has been the first point of contact for all transition queries by the new boss & grandboss; it’s not even a case of my not putting myself forward, I’ve simply not been told about any meetings or workshops or anything that’s been happening until after it’s occurred. And today I’ve been informed that Doreen has been offered a promotion to team lead.. a role which was not something I was even aware that the new boss was considering, let alone been able to apply for or make my case as to why I could be considered for it.. And that’s upset me more than it probably should have.

    Is it reasonable to be upset at this? On the one hand, I totally understand why Doreen was given the opportunities and the new team lead role – Doreen has a track record of success in stretch projects and increasing responsibilities, as well as a longer history with the company across several roles. Why wouldn’t she be given the team lead role? But on the other, I just feel constantly shut out of any opportunity to grow & develop myself – I had hoped that the new boss & new team/structure would be a turning point and I’d be able to start taking on a few new responsibilities and development projects. And I know it’s only been a few weeks with the new boss so there’s not really been much time for things to shake out properly, but I’m worried that today’s announcement is just the start of the same old pattern of me being overlooked. And I’m not saying that I definitely deserved the team lead role – on paper, Doreen is obviously the right choice – but to not even be told about the possibility or given the opportunity to make my case stings just a little, and on top of the last 3 years of not being given any chance to develop or grow.. I just feel really frustrated, and I’m not sure if that’s justified or not.

    1. ConfusedinCO*

      I think you may be approaching BEC mode here. It absolutely stings to not be considered or told about the opening, but maybe this was a role Doreen was promised in lieu of her not getting your old boss’s position that she was apparently promised before. This situation alone sucks, but it wouldn’t by itself, make me job search. In light of the larger pattern, it is damning. However, this is a new manager, and as you say, it’s only been a few weeks! In your shoes, I would approach this by assuming I would never grow/be promoted with that company and start looking elsewhere. Job searching during a pandemic will probably take longer than it otherwise would, so don’t wait until you’ve completely lost hope to start looking.

      But I would assume you need to go elsewhere and be pleasantly surprised if/when that turns out to not be the case.

        1. introverted af*

          b***h eating crackers – as in, everything they do is so annoying that even that b***h eating crackers is worth griping about

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Past the point of no return. An unflattering Epitaph Eating Crackers being enough to upset you.

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        Your feelings are valid. I’ve worked at places where many people around me were getting promoted and I wasn’t, and my job responsibilities weren’t getting any more interesting. First off, always be searching for new opportunities, primarily at other companies. You never know what’s out there! Second, sounds like you did a good job expressing your desire to grow and not be overlooked to your new boss, and it’s very soon still. Give her a little more time, but also be casually job searching. Just the act of job searching really helps put in perspective that 1. you have value, and 2. you are selling your brand and your talents every day, right now to your current company, but you may soon find a better buyer at a different company. Best of luck to you!

    2. I edit everything*

      It seems perfectly natural to feel frustrated. Have you ever talked to Doreen about it, with something like, “I’m really interested in this project you’re working on. How can I be involved, or is there any way I can support you that will help me pick up some skills?” It’s possible Doreen has a lot on her plate but isn’t delegating for some reason, and making that offer might shake some things loose.

      Or maybe it’s time to job hunt, looking for Doreen roles in other companies. Not having a path for career development seems like a good reason to look for a new employer to me.

    3. Weekend Please*

      I think feeling frustrated at the lack of opportunities is defiantly justified, but the team lead promotion is probably the wrong aspect to focus on. If you look at it from Doreen’s point of view, she was being groomed to take over the manager role and then when it was finally time, the promotion was pulled. The company likely created the team lead position specifically for her to make up for it. Having you apply for a position that they wouldn’t really consider you for would have been worse than just announcing here new position. You were ok with Doreen becoming manager so really I think her becoming team lead isn’t that different.

      The bigger problem is Doreen getting all of the stretch projects while you do the grunt work. How long have you had the new boss? It might be helpful to have another meeting with your new boss to talk in more detail about what career development opportunities will be available to you. Try to get details instead of vague promises. It is possible that the transition was a particularly hectic time and you will feel more included and find more opportunities once it is all settled but it is also possible that you will need to go to another company to get more career advancement opportunities. It is too early to say right now.

    4. Reba*

      I can understand why you’re frustrated! It’s awesome that you have been assertive about your experiences and goals for growth. Despite that, it seems like (even if they haven’t said it in so many words) the answer from the company has been clear — no. But then again, three weeks seems early to make the call on how the new manager sees you and your potential. Raise it again with boss at the next opportunity, not as like a grievance but as like “I see Doreen’s team lead role, I want to get there someday, can we talk in more specific terms about the opportunities you mentioned?” Finally, you’ve been there 3 years and Doreen 13 — do you have a sense of how fast people typically advance in your company or field?

    5. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I think your feelings are legit. It sounds super-frustrating!

      If you are looking for advice, I wonder if there would be some benefit to scheduling a meeting with Doreen to ask her about her career trajectory and how she did it. It might well be that she didn’t do anything special, she was just in the right place at the right time, but as a team lead now, she may have some say in maybe helping you reach some goals. If she’s unwilling/unable to help, then maybe start looking around for other opportunities, but it might be well worth it to start there.

      Best of luck to you – it’s a tough situation knowing that you’re not content and want to do more, but you also know it’s not a BAD job, and there’s nothing really WRONG….but you’re not happy! Hang in there!

    6. Smithy*

      I think feeling frustrated is entirely normal and natural – however I would more encourage thinking about movement away from this specific team where the opportunities for growth that you desire aren’t there or won’t be there for significantly more time.

      It may be that this company values time with them more than time spent on a particular role. It may be that for the past 3 years, Doreen’s advancement has always been desired by the company and your role was deemed necessary just to open up growth opportunities for her. All of that can be reasonable and also entirely personally frustrating for you.

      Three years into a role, I just recommend taking a larger step back and evaluate what you want and whether there’s a reasonable opportunity to get it in your current job. Maybe it means looking for a new job at the same company or a different one? Maybe the sector you’re in allows for movement much more slowly and this is entirely normal?

      Feeling frustrated is entirely justified. However, I don’t see those feelings dramatically changing your current work situation. If that’s what you want, I think you’re going to need to start looking elsewhere.

    7. LadyByTheLake*

      I think also that it would be better to reframe your thinking from “I could so this instead of Doreen” to “how do we position me to better support Doreen and be ready to step into her shoes when she inevitably gets a well-deserved promotion?” In other words, frame it as succession planning rather than “I should be doing this now instead of Doreen doing it now.” And fretting about the team lead position is something that you should drop. Feeling upset that you weren’t given the opportunity to try for a position that makes no sense for you to have shows me that maybe you are devolving into an “anti-Doreen” bias rather than a “pro-BHB” bias. One more thing — three weeks is a non-existent period of time when in the middle of a transition. Give it a little more time, and also reframe the request from “I want to do what Doreen is doing and I want that now” to “I want to grow my abilities to be able to further support the team and Doreen.”

    8. HigherEdAdminista*

      It is absolutely reasonable to feel upset about this. If they were grooming Doreen for a lead or management role, that is one thing, but not telling you about any meetings, not offering you development opportunities of your own. It’s fine if they want to give Doreen the more advanced stuff if she has more experience and they are counting on her to take over, but they should have been working with you on a plan for yourself too.

      The fact that you have asked about it and even explicitly said you want to be more involved and feel like you aren’t, I think this is a signal that you need to consider moving on. If you are directly bringing up that you would like more opportunities and asking to be involved in things to no outcome, it makes it seem like a pattern they can’t or don’t want to break. Is this place cliqueish in other ways? Do you find yourself left out of social conversation? If you are noticing that, it could be a mindset that they have that isn’t likely to change.

      1. TheAG*

        Consider moving on, or consider if your performance is outstanding enough to warrant development opportunities.
        As a manager I have multiple times been asked for development opportunities from people who can’t even perform the duties of the job they’ve been given.

    9. Jaydee*

      I think it’s totally justified to be frustrated. But I also think you’re making this a little more personal than it really is. It’s kind of understandable when there are just two of you. If there were Doreen as Sr Teapot Admin and then multiple Teapot Admins, it would be easier to see the differences as being between the Sr Teapot Admin role and the Teapot Admin role instead of as differences between Doreen and you.

      I think there are two things you can do here:
      – Talk directly to Doreen, if you have a decent relationship with her, and let her know you would like some more opportunities for higher level work. Ask if there’s anything she’d like to delegate to you or any role you could play on Project X.
      – Have a bigger picture conversation with your boss about your professional development to try to gauge whether this is the right job for you long-term. Not an ultimatum or anything, just a “Hey, boss, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career trajectory. I really enjoy X and Y about my work. Now that I’ve been here for 3 years, I was hoping to have more opportunities to do Z and Q as well. I know that for Q I would need [training/certification/whatever] and I’m aware of some upcoming opportunities for that. What do you see my role looking like over the next couple of years, and do you see increasing Z and beginning the trainings for Q fitting in with that plan?” This will give you an idea of whether the advancement you’re desiring is actually likely in this role. If it is, great! If not, then you have that knowledge and can either decide you want to stay in your existing role or else start looking for other roles that would be more in line with what you want to do.

    10. PJM*

      Dear BHB, I feel compelled to give you advice that I wish someone had given me a long time ago. I really understand how you feel because I have been in the exact same position as you. My coworker had about 3 years more seniority. Because of her seniority, she was always given every key project and every single special opportunity, simply because of her seniority. I toughed it out and worked extra hard, sure that I would eventually be recognized for all my hard work and surely be offered similar opportunities someday. It never happened and I toiled at that thankless job for over a decade. As long as she still worked there, it was always justified to offer her the more desirable work and opportunities. And in a lot of ways, I was always treated as if I were the ‘new person’ even though I had been there for years!! Like you, I did speak up for myself to no avail. Any rare opportunity I was given was ONLY, because my senior coworker turned it down. Shame on my boss for not recognizing that seniority should not be the ONLY requisite for benefits and opportunities. My advise would be to find another job and get out of her shadow!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I so very much agree with PJM, OP.

        Let’s pretend everything is on the up and up- line item by line item. You are still in the shadow of this person and for whatever reason unable to get your own spot light. It could be the company. It could be the person.

        See, it really doesn’t matter if something shady is going on or if everything is above board. Your future is dependent on this person getting out of your way. This is called “no room for advancement” and it’s a very reasonable thing to want to move away from it.

        I highly recommend that you move on and here is why: This can do a real number on our thinking. Our focus can shift from doing a good job to “What is [this one or that one] doing?” And this absolutely no way to live or work. (Notice the same thing goes with life. If we base our actions on what cousin Sue or sib Bob is doing, we are setting ourselves up for misery.)

        I think it’s very normal to be jealous/angry/upset/sad/whatever in these types of situations. That’s happening for a reason, OP. It’s because you quietly KNOW for a fact that you can do more and do better. OP, I don’t even know you, but I am willing to bet my last chocolate donut that you are absolutely correct. You can do more and you can do better than this.

      2. Alternative Person*

        This has been my experience too.

        It didn’t matter how much more knowledge I brought, how many strong/relevant skills I had, how much better my results were, how many top reviews I had, I was never going to get opportunities because the company I was working for valued seniority/time served above all else and the senior colleagues would never pass on the (few) opportunities that were going even when they didn’t have the relevant skills (and I did).

        I ended up moving on. My new job isn’t perfect, I’ll probably have to move on from it in a few years because the promotion ladder there is stalled (I have a rant about how the local industry in general is either reorganizing away mid/high-level jobs or not creating them when/where they’re needed) but this job is giving me the room for growth and experience so that I’ll be able to move up the ladder when it likely does come time to move on.

    11. Malarkey01*

      Completely valid to be frustrated with the lack of growth, but I think there was a misunderstanding in how the team was initially structured. It sounds like there were 3 rungs to the ladder (manager- senior teapot- you) and not the 2 that you thought (you and senior sharing a rung with senior going to move up) and that work was assigned accordingly so Doreen was doing the higher level until she moved on and you would presumably move up. Her team lead sort of formalizes what was already the de facto structure.

      You can still be annoyed that 3 years in you’re job is mundane and shows little room for movement but I think it’s the reality of that position. I’d start to plan to move on, discuss options for growth in other areas of the company, etc.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Exactly this. My job was set up similarly, teapot wrangler (department head), assistant teapot wrangler, and teapot wrangler assistant (me). Lots of overlap in our jobs, but ATW served on committees and special projects, and I usually didn’t. It helps to understand from the outset that being in the junior position doesn’t mean it’s an apprenticeship that you’ll automatically get bumped up from (or leapfrog over the more senior position!), but a position you fill until you … don’t.

    12. Littorally*

      Man, I really get your frustration.

      Like, on the one hand, objectively speaking there’s nothing unusual that the big items go to Doreen. If you were getting leapfrogged over her for this stuff, it would be a very pointed statement to her about her inadequacy.

      But on the other hand, constantly being in someone’s shadow and having her get all the high profile stuff has got to be so demoralizing for you. It sounds as though the whole point of the two-person department was to have one person doing the high-level work and one person doing more grunt work, and that’s a tough place to be the grunt in.

      With her moving into the team lead role, is it possible that her work as an individual contributor would be tapering down, letting you pick up more items? What exactly team leadership entails seems to vary widely between companies — I’ve seen everything from “Individual contributor who can steer the ship if the boss is out” to “basically your boss but no hire/fire power.”

      This is something you could have a really frank talk with your boss about. You’ve been on low-level work with little progression for three years, with Doreen moving to team leadership does that mean that some of her old work will be coming to you now? Would it be possible for you to take point on some higher-level projects?

    13. RagingADHD*

      You are comparing yourself to someone with a whole decade more experience.

      If Doreen is team lead, I’d talk to her about ways to get more involved and grow your skills. She’s going to be the one you’re helping, so seek collaboration & cooperation with her.

      Seeing this as you competing with Doreen puts a wedge into your relationship with her, and undermines your credibility with management.

      Teamwork skills come before leadership skills, and the opportunity to develop them is already right in front of you.

  5. Binky*

    Interview attire question. I have an upcoming video interview and I’ve been informed that the company’s dress code is casual, and I should wear whatever makes me feel confident. (I’m coming from an industry that typically prefers business formal for interviewing, so this is unusual for me.) I’m generally most comfortable in dresses, so I was thinking of wearing a dress with some sort of pattern on it – either floral or abstract. And then adding an unstructured blazer on top, or maybe a cardigan. Does that sounds reasonable?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Totally. I would probably check it on camera with your computer just to make sure it looks ok in the lighting, but it sounds completely reasonable.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          That’s a good suggestion. What looks like a nice floral pattern in person might read strangely on screen if you can’t quite make it out…

      1. The Original K.*

        I second the advice to make sure the pattern doesn’t read as distractingly busy on camera. I’ve had a few video interviews and I wore a blouse in one that I won’t wear again (really, it’s probably time to retire it fully; it’s old) for this reason.

        My best looks were a polka dot blouse with a black jacket (although I was overdressed – the interviewer was in a t-shirt) and my go-to interview dress, which is black with pinstripes. Both the dots and stripes are subtle. The dots are less subtle (white blouse, black dots) but the black jacket anchored it.

      2. Smithy*

        Man, if it’s a video interview – that is truly my biggest recommendation. I had one dress that was a perfectly utilitarian job interview dress that had some intentional folds/pleats at the collar. On camera, those folds/pleats just looked like a wrinkled mess.

        All of which to say, if you’re doing layers – I think it’s really helpful to check yourself on camera first. That 3D to 2D image shift with ultimately a pretty narrow strip of clothing at the top really can change how things look.

      3. SomeoneElseToday*

        Definitely test how it looks on camera beforehand! I have a shirt pattern that “rolls” on camera, and while I love it I absolutely CANNOT wear it at all on video.

    2. funkydonut*

      I feel like patterns, whether floral or abstract, can look too busy/distracting on camera? Definitely test ahead of time, but I think I would steer towards a solid, darker color. But the blazer or cardigan over a pattern might be enough to tone down the visual noise!

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        My last video interview I did something similar, I wore a high-necked brightly patterned blouse with a black knit cardigan. I previewed with a few people and they said it looked great. And I got the job, so…

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      The video interview advice that I consulted back when I was doing them recommended no patterns (at all), but said bright colors were better as they pop more on camera. If it helps, the top I wore to the video interview for my current job was cobalt blue and it looked pretty good on camera.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I have a few solid tops in bright or saturated colors — plum, marigold, rust, teal — and they are fantastic on camera. They really brighten up my face and even lead the eye there, which has the side effect of minimizing my background. If I wear patterns it’s best if they are low-contrast.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          If you decide on a fairly intense color, test it on screen with whatever makeup you’ll wear (or not wear) because some colors can reflect up onto your face – some flattering, and some not so flattering. You don’t want to have odd reflective tones turning your skin green or blue!

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      This morning I had a video interview and wore an emerald top under a charcoal blazer – it looked great on camera and felt great to wear. My interviewers were definitely casual (one had a company sweatshirt) but I didn’t feel overdressed. I think it’s still appropriate to go business casual in an interview even if they say the code is casual.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. No harm in erring a bit on formal even though it’s via video. You can be casual when you get hired.

    5. ginger ale for all*

      I had heard that wearing green with a generated green screen background gets tricky so you might want to watch for that.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      I stuck with solids for my video interviews…the more abstract prints didn’t transition well. Dots and vertical stripes do work though.

    7. Skeeder Jones*

      Since they noted that the dress code is casual, I would recommend your “third piece” (which is actually a 2nd piece if you are wearing a dress but this is the term I’ve encountered recently) as a cardigan as opposed to a blazer as a blazer is more formal than a cardigan. There was a post I read somewhere about someone coming off as too formal during an onsite interview so it might be something to consider when you know the dress code is casual.

    8. Mimi*

      For my past several interviews, I’ve worn a long blouse-style dress in a dark-but-colorful solid, with my usual interview blazer on top, and felt really good about the outfit. I know it’s a dress I look good in, and it’s simultaneously fancy-feeling but also enough part of my usual wardrobe that I feel comfortable in it (aside from being a bit warm in the middle of summer). I could imagine wearing it to a more casual interview with an unstructured blazer or cardigan.

      Personally I probably wouldn’t go for a pattern, but I think that’s more because my patterned dresses are all casual enough that I would feel weird about interviewing in them even if I’d been told to wear whatever I want.

    9. virtual backgrounds are great at hiding mess*

      Also if you plan on using a virtual background, sit in your chair and move around a bit to check if the video does any weird clipping with your shirt. I’ve had video meeting with my boss where their arm/shoulder + chair back is randomly clipped or shown depending on how they shifted when talking – it was distracting.

  6. Rosie*

    People managers – how do you communicate/ask your team to do tasks? I’m about to become a new manager and don’t want to say things like “let’s do xyz” or “can you do xyz” but don’t want to order people around.

    1. beanie gee*

      Direct communication is the best, both for you and the people you manage! Be clear about what you need from them. Since you are their manager, they are actually looking to you for guidance, so don’t think of it as ordering people around. Think about it as guidance to do their job well.

    2. Alexis Rose*

      Well, part of your job as a manager is to order people around. But you should modulate how you ask to fit the task and make sure your requests are realistic. Tell your employees what needs to be done while also checking on their workload and whether what you’re asking is realistic and achievable for them.

    3. StressedButOkay*

      For more detailed projects, I approach it like: “Janet, here’s the llama grooming project that I’d like you to take the lead on. Let’s go over what’s required and please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions on this!”

      Basically, I outline the task that I need my staff to accomplish, go over anything that has to be done but also invite feedback. I also will then back off and let them know I’m here to assist and review once done.

      For smaller things, saying “Can someone do XYZ?” / “Janet, can you take care of XYZ for me?” is totally fine!

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, I love it when my manager says “let’s do xyz” or “can you do xyz?” Ordering people around is “do xyz now!” or “I order you to do xyz.” Don’t overthink it.

      1. Higher ed is complicated*

        Yes, this – I’m a “boots-on-the-ground” worker and my supervisor is the coordinator who sees how all the boots are crossing paths. I prefer short and to the point. When they send “can you load this teapot batch, by friday, thanks” it reads to me, if anything at all, as “My boss is confident with my work and doesn’t feel the need to hand hold or over-explain.” A longer more appeasing or detailed message would be a yellow flag!

    5. ferrina*

      As Beanie Gee said, direct is best- be clear who is in charge of the task, what the task is and when you want it done by. So “Can you do XYZ” is fine, as is “I want Dudley to take care of that so you can focus on Y”. You can also add a check in- “XYZ needs to be done by Tuesday. Do you have time to do that?”.
      Make sure you are being clear what is being required vs optional. I sometimes have stretch projects that I let my team volunteer for. I’ll say something like “The kitten herding is going to require a lot of patience and paw-holding. This is something that is completely optional. Are you up for that right now, or would you rather focus on other projects?” Or “I’d like you to try this exercise. I know it’s out of your wheelhouse, but I was impressed by how you handled the Breadmaking, and I think some of those skills may translate well in to this Picklemaking project.”

      The important thing is the culture overall is one where the team can ask questions, make suggestions and come to you with concerns. Truly listening to your team (even if you ultimately decide that you aren’t’ going with their suggestion), sharing information with them when you can, checking in if you suspect someone is overworked/not sure what they are doing will all help

    6. Bagpuss*

      It might be a bit ‘suck it and see’ – s you are becoming a new manager it’s probably worth starting by talking with your reports to get a feel for what they do (so you can see how closely that marries with what you were told / think they do!)

      I find that how you tell people will vary a bit from person to person. – I have come across people who will treat anything other than a direct instruction as a suggestion and assume that it is optional.

      Thinking about it I will use ‘can you do x’ but will often modify it a ‘can you do x first’ or ‘can you do x when you have time – it’s not urgent as long as it’s done by [date]’ . For more urgent stuff it might be “I need x today, can you do that first”

      If you feel you need to be more direct then ‘I need you to do xxx’ could work

      I think part of it is being open to listening if your reports have suggestions or comments, as they have, presumably, being doing their jobs for a while so may have systems or shortcuts you might not be familiar with.

    7. Madeleine Matilda*

      In addition to the sound advice already offered, provide clear timelines and deadlines for work you assign. I like to take the approach of working with someone I supervise to set the deadline. I’ll ask if the deadline is reasonable. If the answer is no then we can discuss if we either need to adjust the schedule or if we need to reprioritize other work or add more people to make this deadline possible.

      I would encourage your to solicit opinions and build consensus where possible. At time you may need to be a final decision maker, but people appreciate really being listened to even if you decide to go another direction.

    8. LadyByTheLake*

      Ha! I misread your post and I thought that you were looking for firmer language because “let’s do xyz” and “can you do xyz” are so wishy washy and aren’t actual directions to anyone to do anything. Suffice it to say, that language is fine, and some people may need even more direct language — “Jane, please do xyz.”

      1. Rosie*

        Yes this. I don’t want to be wishy-washy. I once had a former manager who spoke like that and it was so frustrating because I wouldn’t know if the “let’s” was me or her and me, and she would get defensive whenever I would try and get clarification.

        1. Clara*

          Hah, I think the defensiveness is the big problem there, combined with vagueness! I often may say “Jane, can you do XYZ” or “Fred, I’m hoping you’ll be able to handle ABC”. And the point isn’t that it’s optional – it’s to give them room to say “actually, I’m slammed with project C; will Monday be fine?” or “Sure but where do I find the X file?” I think in a functional team this is usually fine – some people might need more direct language but you’ll feel that out as you go.

    9. BusyBee*

      I agree that direct is best. My boss tends to list out all the tasks that need to happen, without being clear who is leading and who is responsible for each task. I usually have to clarify: “OK, so you want me to do XYZ, you’ll do AB, and Joaquin does CD? Correct?” I sorta just wish he would start with that: “Busy, please take XYZ, I’m gong to focus on AB, and Joaquin please manage CD”. Easy peasy.

      1. Rational Lemming*

        100% agree.
        My manager will email “Can someone take the XYZ Project?” and we have a person on our team who has never once volunteered to take a project! So direct communication would be much appreciated just to ensure the tasks get spread more evenly within the team.

    10. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      PLEASE be direct! Saying “let’s do xyz” or “Joe, can you take on xyz” is respectful yet clear. My boss has a habit of saying “maybe we should do xyz” and it’s really confusing and makes it difficult to get things done.

    11. Incessant Owlbears*

      I haven’t managed people, but speaking from the other side, I *hate* it when managers would email me saying “Can we do X?” when they actually meant to give me task X. The “we” was fiction — they had nothing to do with accomplishing task X, and I knew that. They weren’t asking my opinion on the feasibility of doing X; they were assigning me X. I hated it so much! Just be clear about it!

    12. Anon for This*

      I really don’t like “can you do…” Don’t ask unless “no” is an acceptable answer. Even if they do say yes, this phrasing sound like whatever you are requesting is not a priority.

      You can direct without ordering. But you need to be clear that this is an assignment. And if you have specific parameters, tell them what they are – don’t expect them to mind read.

      E.g., Fergus, as you are the expert on teapot glazing, I need you to write an SOP on how to use this new product. It should be one page, and I’d like to see a draft by Friday. If you have questions, shoot me an e-mail. Thanks.

    13. Distractinator*

      If whether XYZ is the right choice or not has been under discussion, then yes “Let’s do XYZ” is a fine statement; out of the blue that’s sometimes not the right phrasing, but it totally can be. Asking a team to do tasks, I’d say “let’s do XYZ” or “we’re going to do XYZ”, and then get specific “Fergus, you’re going to look into lead times on X, let Jane know. Jane, I’m assigning Y and Z to you, if you need more info on Z check with Rodney.” But in general that task assignment is coming after a verbal discussion at which I explain what we’re trying to do and suggest that X, Y, and Z are the subtasks, and I’ve already set my meeting invite list based on who seemed like the right fit, so it’s generally clear to Jane Rodney and Fergus going in that they’re about to get assigned an action item. And the email/wrapup assignment is just confirming what we’ve talked about. When we haven’t had that verbal conversation, sometimes there is a genuine question – Jane, can you do Y and Z (or is your schedule full or are you unfamiliar with Z). Or sometimes there are questions coming out of hte meeting – Jane, as our Y expert, you reminded us that we’d need to do Z as well as Y, is that something you’re willing to take on or should I find someone else for Z? I think phrasing direction as questions when there’s really no options is annoying, I can see why you’d avoid it, but I’ve found there usually are questions of some sort. But everything around my job is open to discussion, if not what we’re doing, then how, who, when, etc. Even straightforward requests like “Jane, I’d like you to handle Y and Z” get caveats of “so here’s a link to information, check with Rodney about past work on Z, and I’ll be free this afternoon if you’d like to discuss”.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      Okay so if you don’t want to use “can you do xyz” AND you do not want to order people around, you may want to think about what it means to be a manager.

      First there is a whole area in between those two things. Second, there are times where either one of those things are appropriate.
      If I saw smoke rolling off a machine, I would holler over, “Shut it down!”. This is totally appropriate, since it’s MY call and it’s MY responsibility to keep everyone safe. Technically, I ordered them to do something. Reality, they were glad that I wanted them safe. They were happy to shut it down and of course, I was running toward them to help so my intentions were pretty clear.

      Conversely, I faced situations where we were building widgets and I was out of my league. I knew nothing about widgets. So I said to the worker, “Can we do x instead of y so we can prevent problem abc?” Totally appropriate- I know nothing about the widget and the person under my watch knows everything. Yes, I asked a person if they “were able” to do something because i sincerely did not know if that was possible to do with widgets. If they offered an alternative viable suggestion I would talk to them about that new idea and probably we end up do that new idea or a blend of a couple ideas.

      What is missing for you is surrounding context, these things are said as part of a larger conversation.

      If you are delegating work you can:
      -Ask for volunteers if appropriate. “I have task x that needs to be done and I’d like a volunteer for that task.”
      -You can ask a particular person in a conversation between the two of you, “Hey Sue, we got a bunch of widgets coming in for assembly and packing, would you take that on for our group?”
      -You can direct assign. “So, Bob, widgets are coming next week and I want you to take charge of the widget project.” Then you can ask if needs anything right off the bat or you can talk about time frame or whatever other subtopic is appropriate.

      One thought that has helped me is that people want to know what their job is and what is expected from them. I am not their friend. But I could be friendly. I am not “like family”. But I could care about them as people. I am The Person who makes sure they get a paycheck this week, this month and this year. They need me to help ensure they stay employed. This is my number one role in their lives. This means I am responsible for making sure they understand the tasks AND that they understand company policies and company expectations.

  7. DC*

    Is anyone else hitting a rut after a year of unemployment? I was laid off due to COVID and for some reason this week it’s hitting harder than others. I’m looking at job postings and questioning my ability to do them, if I’ll even be able to work in an office/on a regular schedule anymore, etc.

    For others, or other who’ve been unemployed long term as well, any thoughts? Advice? Just need to vent with others in the same place?

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      I am feeling the same way. I’ve been job hunting in earnest since last summer, applying only to jobs for which I am qualified and actually like. I apply to 2 or 3 positions a week but this week, nada. I’ve talked myself out of several jobsI know that I can do. I think I’m just tired. And I’m fighting the thought that I’m competing against so many others for the same few jobs. It’s discouraging.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      I was unemployed for 9 month few years back (not COVID related, the city industry crashed). It does get demoralizing. I don’t really have any advise, just hang in there as well as you can.

    3. Turtle*

      Absolutely. I’m about a year into unemployment/under-employement. I feel like I’ve gone through several cycles “questioning my abilities > thinking about quitting the industry altogether > talking myself out of it by revamping resume, cover letter, portfolio, etc”
      I started by being really selective to what I was applying for and in the last couple months I’ve opened that up a bit to basically anything that I would be qualified for and could do without taking a huge pay cut. I have a pretty good rate of getting to the phone screen and first interview stage but so far no offers. I’ve run out of ways to convey how awful it feels.
      Keeping to some schedule of job-hunting, volunteering and doing personal projects (I’m a designer) has helped me not totally give up. The overwhelming sense that I’m doing something wrong but I can’t figure out what it is, is the worst part.

    4. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I was unemployed for 8 months and I too worried that I wouldn’t be able to snap back into the corporate world. I kinds of lost my ability to focus in quarantine which is a first for me, I’m usually laser-focused but I could not concentrate for more than 30 minutes at a time on anything. Luckily it was an unfounded fear, once I was up and running on my new job it came back like muscle memory. I’m sure it will for you too – don’t give up!

    5. 1qtkat*

      I was unemployed and underemployed for about 2 years (I started my current job just last year). I get that it is tough mentally. I was remember being really depressed about it and having well-meaning people constantly asking about my job search didn’t help.

      What helped me was just talking about it with others who were also job searching, reading this blog for job advice, and occasionally taking a break from the job hunt to go enjoy things I didn’t have time for when I was working. I also used the time to be introspective on where my skills could be transferable to a different industry or career. I really hated my temporary job, so I was really motivated to get out.

      You can get through this. There is a job out there for you.

    6. Skippy*

      Absolutely. I’ve been unemployed for over a year, and while I’m happy to see so many people getting new jobs, I’m starting to wonder if I will ever work again. In my head I know the market in my field is still tight, and I’m getting multiple interviews, but it’s hard not to think there must be something wrong with me.

    7. Is it tea time yet?*

      Covid ended my career when I was laid off last March. After so many months of fruitless and demoralizing job search, I panicked about my unemployment running out and took a very entry-level temp job. I was so exhausted at first from doing somewhat physical labor that I stopped looking for jobs. They recently moved me to a task that is less strenuous, and I’ve restarted the job search. It looks like there are now more positions out there that would be a good fit/lead in a direction I want to go in, so maybe I can dare to hope? They want to hire me when my contract is up, and while I like the culture there, I can’t bear the thought of doing this kind of work much longer, or continue to get by on such low pay.

      So no advice, but yes, this is all incredibly difficult to have to deal with. The ruts/bad weeks are normal. Hang in there, and best of luck.

  8. ThatGirl*

    I started a new job in January, and it was announced at the beginning of the week that we’re encouraged to start more regular work from the office as of May 3rd. (It’s still optional, though, and expected to be part-time.) The details of this are still being worked out, because there have actually been a lot of new hires in the past 12 months and none of us have assigned desks. And nobody is quite sure if we even HAVE enough desks for everyone. I’m actually kind of excited to see people again on a regular basis, but I’m torn on how often I’d like to be in an office. It will depend a lot on whether I get an assigned desk, I think.

    Is anyone else in a similar boat? Have your jobs started “return to office” procedures? (Ours actually has been open for people who need that space to work, but most people aren’t going in regularly.)

    1. JT Rideout*

      I am REALLY nervous about the space like you are when we go back- the company I work for has virtually hired hundreds of people during pandemic WFH, and we were running out of desks to put new people before then.

      We probably won’t be going back for a while, though. I’m super interested to hear if anyone else is in the same boat and how their space challenges have been addressed.

    2. Irish girl*

      I’m in the middle of having a desk moved from one department to another as I changed jobs internally 5 months ago. This isn’t due to a return to office but new hires on my old team needing assigned spaces. We have facilities people and managers handling it all. I think you need to talk with your manager about it. There must be some plan in place for desk space or even a shared desk that people use on alternating days. They probably want to make sure anyone who is coming in regularly is spaced out enough as well so they might not want everyone in on the same days. I would not worry too much about it right now as if they want you in the office they will make space.

      1. ThatGirl*

        More info will be coming from my manager and our larger team, I’m sure. I’m not worried about health concerns or anything – I’ll be fully vaccinated by then and we’ll still be adhering to covid protocols. I’m more curious how it works out from a work perspective.

        1. Irish girl*

          I think it depends on you, your team and your office environment. Half my new team is remote so there will only be 4 of us in the office. I have always been an in office person with WFH when needed for specific things arises. Now that I have a “office” at home I might look at a 2 day a week WFH arrangement once we are back in the office. But i have kids home half the time so i like working in the office and the separation it gives me from my home life. My company is office centric for things but i am not sure how that will change with more people being remote and all the changes in roles over the last year.

    3. Blackcat*

      My partner’s company is working on something like this. Their plan is to have certain teams in Mon/Tues and others in Wed/Thurs, and folks will share offices/desks since no offices will be in use every day.

    4. A Poster Has No Name*

      My office is starting to return, with volunteers. They’ve got protocols and all of that and it sounds exhausting, so I have not volunteered. We’re officially on voluntary WFH until July, but we’ll see how that changes.

      Our office is huge, though, and we don’t have any problems with people not having places to sit (they were just starting to reconfigure from a cube farm layout to a more ‘open’ office format with smaller desks with no real dividers so you get to stare at your coworkers in front of you all day. Those plans have been indefinitely scrapped, though I don’t know what they’ll do with the part of the one floor that had construction started already).

      From what i gather from my coworkers, once things settle down most of us will come in a couple days a week and WFH the rest of the week. Before the pandemic local remote workers were “required” to come in on M/W, for any meetings that are needed F2F, but it wasn’t super enforced. That arrangement would suite me fine, though. I’ve developed a comfy WFH space, but miss the ability to meet in person or pop over the cube wall for a quick chat and that kind of thing.

      1. The cat's wfh pajamas*

        I’m in a similar situation. We have enough desks for our recent hires, for now.

        I’m trying to figure out when I want to go back. I am grateful to have more flexibility in my industry. I was thinking of trying 2-3 days in the office, but didn’t think we’d be able to go back quite so soon…

        I like the *idea* of starting to go back, but feeling conflicted. It feels like going back to school after summer vacation. I’ll still have to get up early, drive in, wear clothes that are not pajamas etc.

        How are people handling lunches? We’re only letting vaccinated people back in the office at this point, but I still feel weird about using the shared fridge/microwave, etc. We don’t have a lot of quick food places nearby and the building cafeteria hasn’t reopened yet.

        1. KAZ2Y5*

          Get a good insulated lunch bag and 1-2 ice packs and you can keep anything cold until lunch. I work the night shift so always bring my lunch. I never use our frig and just be sure to pack an ice pack in my lunch. I don’t worry about our m/w but if you are you could probably wipe it down with some type of disinfectant wipe (and let it dry before using the m/w).

  9. Funny Cide*

    I had a really good chat this morning that was supposed to be an interview and I’m not getting the job almost certainly but I got some networking connections and somehow I’m feeling even more optimistic about things despite not really being in the running for this opening the fact that my last day at current job is May 1 and I have nothing lined up! And it’s weird!

    1. Hawkeye is in the details*

      Not weird at all! Sometimes just a positive step does wonders to boost your morale, even if it doesn’t pan out into a job.

      I felt the same way after an interview late last year. I’d been applying to jobs forever, and never heard back from any of them. Then I got a call, nailed the first interview, but the second interview wasn’t as great. I clicked with one interviewer, but not the other. More importantly, I don’t think they agreed on what they wanted for the role, so I decided I wasn’t going to be upset if I didn’t get it. Who wants to be stuck in the middle like that?

      Sure enough, I didn’t get the job, but from the first interview on, I was still flying high. It reaffirmed that my materials were good, that I was a viable candidate, and that there would be more opportunities.

      A few weeks later I got an interview request from an application I had sent in to a remote company months prior. That interview process was smooth as silk, and everything AAM advocates (two-way conversations, salary discussion/disclosure in the first interview – not listed in the posting, but still open and honest early in the process – small skills test that took no longer than 2 hours, etc.) and I’ve now been in the role for almost 3 months!

      That first interview that didn’t pan out was a real shift in my search though. Before that, I was starting to feel like I was doing something wrong, or there simply were no opportunities. After, I was energized and eager once more.

    2. Message in a Bottle*

      I feel you on the optimism, last day date, but nothing on the horizon. Except you feel there is something on there you just can’t see it yet.

      But it is coming!

    3. Box of Kittens*

      I feel you on this a bit! I am looking to make a move within a year or so and had several interviews in the last few months, but no offers. But the process of talking myself up and learning about other companies in my area has 1) given me a confidence boost and 2) helped me identify my knowledge gaps. Seeing those gaps and what I need to move forward has helped me create a better strategic plan for this year AND the motivation to actually do it, after treading water like all of last year. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk to other people and recalibrate yourself in a wider network outside your current job. Best of luck to you in finding a new position!

  10. Not a black eye*

    On a Teams call this week, a colleague burst out with “Yikes! Where’d you get that gnarly black eye?” when I logged on. I was really taken aback, and my response was delayed and really awkward. I blamed it on my cat, who is a rambunctious Maine Coon that my colleagues know to be a troublemaker. I don’t think it went over well.

    I don’t really have a black eye, I have a small crescent of bruising at the corner of my left eye. It’s from getting Botox in my crow’s feet. It’s barely noticeable in person, but I guess selfie cameras exaggerate facial features? (I also notice that my sunspots look darker on a Teams call.) I definitely am not willing to share that information, for a variety of reasons.

    I should just let this go and pretend it didn’t happen, right? My anxious self keeps churning it, but my rational self knows bringing it up again will make it worse.

    1. ThatGirl*

      It’s really not a big deal, and I’m sure nobody is thinking about it. So yes, try to let it go.

      If anything like that ever came up again, you could just say “oh, some minor bruising, don’t worry, I’m fine” or whatever, but honestly, it was pretty rude of your colleague to say anything!

      1. Reba*

        If anyone *is* thinking of it, they are probably thinking of how your colleague did something weird by blurting out that rude question and putting you on the spot! Sheesh.

    2. Corporate Drone Liz*

      Definitely let it go. I doubt your colleague isn’t dwelling on it, so bringing it up again would be weird. I know it’s generally bad form to comment on people’s appearance (good or bad) but I think it’s human nature to say “you have a black eye, are you okay??” But yeah, don’t let this take up any more brain space. :)

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      If they push it, brush off your awkward response by returning the awkwardness to sender. Tell the questioner, “I wasn’t expecting to be cross-examined about a bruise in the middle of a Teams call; if someone was concerned about my well-being or safety, that was not the way to go about it, and I was caught off-guard by someone asking out in front of a group.” Soften as needed while still leaving it out there that it was massively rude.

      If you really want to push it and you weren’t obviously wearing headphones/are not required to have a private room at all times, you could add that asking something like that out loud when an abuser might be in the background is dangerous to someone who is actually being abused.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I said, if they push the topic, which in itself is awkward and potentially antagonistic. Not if they drop it.

          1. LTL*

            It’s still really antagonistic. If someone’s pushing it, an “it feels strange that you’re still asking about this. anyways, about [work thing]…” would suffice.

            I can’t imagine a scenario where “well if you REALLY cared” leads to anything good.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yeah, try to let it go. I’m sorry, that’s super awkward. If it ever comes up again, your cat story is fine, as is, “Eh, it’s nothing.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I must admit, I would completely deflected it.”Video lighting is so weird, I don’t have a black eye.”

    5. fhqwhgads*

      Let it go and pretend it didn’t happen. If it does come up again (which it should not because that’s rude), blame it on the lighting. Personally, I once had someone concerned thinking I had two black eyes in a video call. I did not. My sinuses were just super irritated from allergies, which can cause purpleness under the eyes. Didn’t look anything close to a black eye in person. If you’d asked before it ever came up, I would’ve suggested using that as an out, but might not work if it happens again in like, 2 days.

    6. Ray Gillette*

      Yeah, let it go. If someone else says something, blame the camera, since that’s actually truthful. “It looks worse than it is, this cheap webcam magnifies every minor flaw.”

      1. kt*

        Honestly I’d go this direction as well. “Wow, I’m actually impressed you can even see anything — it’s really surprising to me what this camera magnifies. I can barely see it in the mirror. I wonder if there are some filters I could use. I mean, look at my sunspots — you know how they look IRL, right? They’re not really that apparent but on the camera they’re really distinct! Have you noticed that?”

        Blather on for three minutes and ask if anyone’s excited about summer sports and no one will ask you again.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I would just let it go. You used the Cat Excuse and hopefully that is all you need to say. If you have a situation like a recent letter writer, keep it to a firm, “I’m fine…about those Teapot Reports…?”

    8. Stumped*

      Side note – Teams is so horrendous from an appearance standpoint. I look 20 years older on Teams and 10 years younger on Zoom. I hate Teams.

    9. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

      Yeah, let it go
      I think you could have said “Oh, I had a minor medical thing, it was nothing” and then moved on from that.
      Cat is understandable for people who know cats but sort of an odd excuse that I can understand people questioning, even though it’s none of their business.

    10. Pond*

      As everyone else had said, don’t worry about it.
      You can look in the Teams settings and see if there is an appearance smoothing feature (there is now one is Zoom, I’m not sure about Teams) which could help. You can also try adjusting your lighting/the angle you sit at/camera position and see if any of those help.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Yes, let it go.

      If it came up again, you could just say it was a medical thing you had attended to, and you’re fine.

      I understand how it’s disconcerting to have people notice something you thought wasn’t noticeable. But it’s normal to react when someone you know suddenly shows up with a visible injury.

      “Oh gosh, what happened?” with a subtext of “are you okay” isn’t rude. It’s empathy.

      And it might make you feel better to frame it that way: it looked like you were hurt. You’re not, you’re fine. Done.

      1. Workerbee*

        Eh, empathy to me would include thinking that perhaps the person wouldn’t welcome a public shout-out like that and it would be better to wait for a private 1:1, if the questioner is so sure it’s their business to ask.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Of all the awkward reactions people can have when they are surprised, this is so common and innocuous it’s hard to believe people are determined to take it as some kind of insult.

    12. Girasol*

      I think blaming it on your Maine Coon was brilliant. A boring injury that you shouldn’t have to explain to anyone deserves a good tall tale and a cat wrestling injury is terrific. And on the spur of the moment, too! That’s a reply to be proud of, not worried about.

      1. Susie*

        I have a black eye from pillow fighting with my son….He over balanced when I was on my knees and fell headfirst into my right eyebrow. It was an epic pillow fight. In my case at least, no one noticed (the bruise is under my eyebrow and looks like eyeshadow when I close my eyes). Given I work with mental health providers who are mandated reporters…definitely gave me pause thinking about injuries we may be missing.

        So, from my perspective, it’s better that the black eye was noticed. It is awkward, but there was no follow up. So I think you can assume your co-worker took your story at at face value.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      FWIW, I’d believe you!

      When my dog was growing up, I’d frequently hold him on my lap. Sometimes he bounce around on my lap. (ouch) Sometimes the crown of his head would smack my forehead and I would go to work with half of a golf ball on my forehead. “Yeah, the pup got me.”

      I think anyone with pets and/or kids knows how stuff just happens.

    14. MissDisplaced*

      Let it go.
      Sure it was rude of the person to say that, but honestly that’s on them. As for the black eye, I doubt anyone would jump to “botox” and lots of things can cause that, from allergies to rubbing to accidents.

  11. Iced Mocha Latte*

    Our company announced people will return to the office in a few months. It will be a hybrid model, though some people will need to be in the office fully depending on their position. Previously we were 100% in the office, although managers and certain others were allowed flexibility work from home as needed. Something was mentioned, though not in the official FAQ, that those choosing to go hybrid will need to take care of purchasing anything these need for their home workspace and there will not be reimbursement. It seems like it’s a way to discourage people from working at home too often, but I’m not sure if this just something that’s standard. For those companies that have switched to hybrid from 100% in-office, is this typical to make employees pay for their own things (outside of their work computer)? If not, how is it handled?

    1. StressedButOkay*

      I work in a nonprofit, so mileage may vary, but for us, this is pretty common. I’ve upgraded everything from my desk to my chair to my keyboard and all of it was out of pocket. We were encouraged to take whatever we needed from our work offices home and are being allowed to keep those items if we stay 100% remote. But anything we’ve purchased is on us.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Same, we were allowed to take some stuff from work, like a monitor, some office supplies, but everything else was on me.
        Including the laptop, we have desktops in the office, and you either stayed in the office (about half of the company never gone WFH), or deal on your own. Private company, although really cheap. I did manage to expense couple printer cartridges, we deal with contracts and have to print a lot. I did have to buy a printer/scanned with my own money.
        Partner’s company allowed them to take monitors, work laptops, docking stations, chairs, office supplies. But they would not reimburse for extra set up after that.

      2. Exhausted Trope*

        Same here. I upgraded my monitor because we weren’t allowed to take the second monitors from our desks. I bought an office chair, too. We are not being reimbursed for anything. Wkll likely return to a hybrid schedule soon but I really think we should have been reimbursed for something… anything.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Not the same situation, but due to budget restraints our department (previously 100% in-office, then near 100% WFH, now looking at a return) has announced that home office reimbursements will have to be drastically scaled back for the next fiscal year, so there was a ‘get your orders in now’ announcement. It might be similar in your situation.

      Unfortunately, non-self-employed WFH writeoffs on US taxes were cut in 2018 through 2025, so Americans are out of luck in that respect as well.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Oh and generally the larger items were limited to borrowing the office’s versions – they would loan you a laptop or chair, for instance, but would order your office supplies for you.

    3. Dana*

      I would expect that to be normal. Any job I have ever worked that has permitted any work from home but not mandated work from home has essentially thought that they provide a work space. If you don’t want to use it, that’s totally fine, but that’s on you!

      1. Stumped*

        Agreed – it’s an option that no one has to take. Office shouldn’t be responsible for creating multiple workspaces just because of preference.

    4. Fitz*

      I’ve always been hybrid (my job cannot be done 100% from home, but my managers have always been flexible), but when the pandemic hit, I majorly upgraded my wfh space. When I told my boss about the upgrade, he told me to get reimbursed, so I submitted an expense report for everything I considered specific to work. Most subsequent purchases were actually completed via IT since they were computer-setup related.
      For other employees that were 100% in-office before, a lot of them had started dragging their things (monitor + keyboard) back and forth, but since I had a conversation with one of them, it seems like some people are beginning to buy things for their wfh setups and getting reimbursed. At my company, a lot of this system depends on manager discretion, but supportive managers will push for full reimbursement of your wfh setup.
      In your case, it sounds like they consider wfh a (likely occasional) perk, so if you don’t have the setup to really take advantage of the perk, then the value of the perk decreases. It seems like a standard policy.

    5. veronica*

      My company has allowed work from home for over ten years as part of their flexibility program. Pre-pandemic you had to fill out a form that stated you will provide certain items, have a workspace free of distractions and you are not the primary person providing childcare. There was no reimbursement as this was considered a perk. They did provide the laptop, keyboard, mouse and docking station and maybe a monitor. It was also assumed that the company was maintaining a workspace for you in an office.
      Post-pandemic this might change, but I think the default will still be that they will provide a workspace if you want one, but if you choose to work from somewhere else there are no additional reimbursements. I don’t think it’s to discourage people from working remotely but more that they don’t want to have to deal with it.
      My company is choosing to invest any money they save in office rent into providing high quality streaming and network services and data security. We suffered a serious malware attack and the entire system was down for less than a day. Having a really strong IT department and flexible managers is more important to me as a remote worker than being reimbursed for my desk chair or internet.

    6. Riffy McRiffed*

      Yes, this is pretty typical, but you should ask for clarification as some workplaces will give you some additional work-computer related equipment, like a docking station or monitor. In those cases they do often want that stuff back when you leave. Places I worked at the procedure was to request through your manager/IT computer-related items and the company would supply them directly rather than reimbursing the employee for a purchase. You’d really have to ask your manager what the procedures are for your company. Some reimburse. Some require you to only purchase through the company.

      Some business will reimburse all or part of the cost of internet, though I know of one very large telecom that stopped doing that some years ago even for the full-time remote employees.

      It is typical not to reimburse for outfitting your home office with furniture, and I haven’t worked anywhere that would pick-up the cost of a printer/scanner. If you need a new chair or desk for your home office, you’re usually on your own.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My department has been primarily remote for years and years, pre-Covid, and yes – if you work from home, any office supplies you need beyond your computer and associated accessories are your own responsibility to provide. That said, we’re a pretty much paperless office, so in six years, the sum total of my office supply expenditure has been approximately two pads of post-it notes and whatever stray pen I had floating around. (Oh, and I bought a binder to stash the records of my continuing education units, but that’s more for my own records than for theirs.)

      1. RussianInTexas*

        My father been grey since his early 30s (when my greys started to show up). After he immigrated to the US at the age of 38, and got his first permanent job at the age of 40, his employer asked him to color his hair. Being a refugee immigrant with a family to feed and not many people hiring him, he did just so. That was mid-1990s., small business.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My husband and housemate both have dark-brown-almost-black hair and have had liberal salt in their pepper since their early thirties, aye. (I regularly have to tell people that yes, he *pointing at husband* has a twin brother, but that this guy *pointing at housemate* is not the twin brother, because they do look remarkably similar while my husband and his twin look completely unrelated.)

          I’ve told my housemate especially that he should try using a crazy color, blue or something, because only his silvers would pick it up and I think it would look super cool :)

    8. Iced Mocha Latte*

      Thanks, everyone! I wasn’t sure since I’ve never been an office that went to hybrid after being in-office. This all makes total sense to me.

      I’m fine with buying all my own stuff since I’d prefer a specific chair, etc. Actually, I already bought everything last year when we went 100% WFH for the pandemic and also created a home office from a spare bedroom.

      1. Iced Mocha Latte*

        Sorry, meant to add that the question was more for when team members ask me.

  12. beanie gee*

    Any advice for communicating surgery to your team? I don’t want to overshare with everyone (who doesn’t love a good hysterectomy chat), but I also want to reassure people that even though I’ll be out for recovery a bit, it’s not super serious.

    I’ve never been out for a long stretch before, so I’m nervous about how much people will want to know. If I just say I’ll be out 3-4 weeks for a medical procedure,” will people pry?

    I had a good conversation with my manager, who knows the details, but we mostly talked about coverage, not about communication to the team.

    1. ThatGirl*

      You could say minor surgery, or a medical procedure, whatever’s comfortable to you. Most people won’t pry, and if they do, you do not owe them anything — all they really need to know is how long you’ll be out and that it’s not a big deal.

    2. Ray Gillette*

      Do an end run around any prying by assuming everyone is just concerned about your well-being and offer some minor reassurance: “Nothing life-threatening, I’m going to be fine.”

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Most polite people won’t pry beyond saying something like, “I hope everything’s okay” or some other expression of concern. But some rude people may pry — in which case the “it’s private, why do you ask?” is always a go to. If they are so rude as to continue, a frosty “it’s private” is all you need to say.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Just say you’ll be on medical leave (so they know you’ll be unavailable and not just out of the office/remote) and clearly designate who will be acting for you. If they pry just say you’re not comfortable sharing medical information with them but that it’s routine and refocus the conversation on the tasks at hand. Most people will take a hint.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Second this ‘Im taking medical leave to take care of something”. The “something” signals you don’t want to provide details and better of worse when you say surgery some people take it way more seriously and want details.

    5. Anne of Green Gables*

      I think “out for surgery” or “out for medical procedure” is enough. Most will leave it there, some might ask and it’s totally fine to say “I’m not sharing medical details” or something similarly mild. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on “it’s not super serious” because if it were, you wouldn’t be obligated to share that aspect. Just I’ll be out for X amount of time and that’s it.

      Part of the reason I say not to emphasis the “not super serious” part is to give cover to those who might be out for more serious things. You don’t want to (inadvertently) create an environment where if you don’t say it’s not serious, it is assumed it is, therefor giving no cover to those who want privacy.

      Pre-Covid, my husband had surgery for something that was pretty serious. He went through the proper procedures with his HR and was approved for 2 months leave. All his manager and coworkers knew was that he’d be out from x date to y date. He’s extremely private with his personal information. I don’t know if anyone asked, but I’m sure he politely declined to give additional information if they did. (I do know that he gave occasional updates like “surgery yesterday went fine” and “I’m home now” to at least one coworker but I don’t think they knew the details of what the surgery was.)

      1. beanie gee*

        This is good perspective, thanks. I don’t want people to worry, but at the same time, if it was serious I wouldn’t want that out there either.

    6. beanie gee*

      Thank you all! This has really helped me not overthink this. “Medical procedure” with the reassurance that everything is fine sounds perfect.


      1. EngineerGal*

        Assuming this is a hysterectomy- for a few close male coworkers who were genuinely concerned, I said “lady problems” – they got the message without detail

        And if it’s a hysterectomy, best wishes! Never regretted it for one second

    7. Pink Geek*

      I used the phrase, “addressing a chronic condition” to make my surgery sound less scary, if that feels appropriate for your situation. I hope your recovery goes smoothly :)

  13. El Camino*

    I left a toxic job 8 months ago because of intense stress, unrealistic workload, and a vindictive manager who posted my job on a hiring site while I was on the only vacation I ever took in my year there. It drove me to therapy because I had crippling anxiety and depression and felt like no matter what I did, I was screwing things up and dropping the many plates I was trying to spin with little support. I regularly worked 12-15 hour days and weekends and was told it was never enough, and when I asked for help, they decided to get rid of me.

    Their MO was to post people’s jobs, bring someone new in to be trained, and then fire the original person. I was able to find a new job before that happened to me, but now this new job is more of the same. It’s similar work with constant deadlines and deliverables, and a ton of project management with different departments throughout our organization. We run like 40 different programs and I’m still learning who’s who and who to go to for x, y or z.

    I’m still in therapy in trying to overcome the burnout from my old job, and while my new team is better with formal processes and working together to help each other, we are swamped with work currently. I am feeling that familiar stress that wakes me up at 3 am, that keeps me tied to my desk without taking lunch and randomly bursting into tears because I feel like a failure yet again trying to keep up with every new task that is thrown onto my plate. I got told in my one-on-one with my boss, who has taken on a lot of work herself because my colleague and I (same title/level) who report to her have overflowing plates, that because we’re “senior llama wranglers” that we should be able to handle the many things we’re being asked to juggle and that she is being pressured to step back and delegate more to us. She asked me why I can’t work faster on certain things, being thorough is essential to the job I do. “Do you want it done fast or do you want it done right?”

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to herd cats in many projects, have people who don’t show up prepared to meetings which throws off my timeline and leads to me working late (against my therapist’s advice) and feeling this increased anxiety and dread. I’m expected to be compassionate to the other departments and their busy schedules, but none of that compassion is reciprocated to us.

    Long term I need a career change, but I don’t know where to start. I’ve been doing this work since college and I wasn’t super thrilled to take this job but needed a life raft to leave the awful place I was working at before. I’m so over it though. I have tried to take this as a learning opportunity because I’m doing much larger scale projects than I did in previous jobs, but I’m miserable and stressed out and feel like a constant failure – and the only reward I see for doing a job well done is getting more work assigned.

    I don’t even feel like I can call out for a sick day just to rest. I’m at a loss for what to do next. These last few jobs have been so demoralizing to me and my self-worth and I don’t know what to do. The pandemic has tripled the workload and of course is not helping the anxiety either.

    1. HYDR03*

      oh, I hear you loud and clear! I’m in a very similar situation you describe: toxic, anxiety-inducing, overworked, bad manager, not enough staff, more projects, etc. I’m seriously considering resigning on the spot. My colleague talked me out of doing it today…but it’s not off the table for Monday.

      I don’t have any advice, but just know you aren’t alone. My self-worth and confidence level is in the toilet, and I’m hopeful some time off will help me mentally, emotionally and physically. Although, walking away from this job is tough as I carry the health benefits for my family (thank goodness for COBRA).

      My colleague told me to have the f-you chip on my shoulder, keep my head down, do what I can and let the rest of it go. Easier said than done, I know. Try to take some mental health days off, although I know that walking back in after days off is even harder and not worth the time off. Hang in there.

    2. Working mom*

      Are you in my head right now? I feel like mine is the exact same story, and I wonder if we worked at the same place. I am facing another need to make a change, but I know that likely means leaving the industry I’m working in and so I’m at a loss for what to do next. One of those rare good coworkers gave me a good reminder when I described my struggles: Nobody is looking out for you except you. You have to champion your own needs and self-care because nobody is going to advocate for it besides yourself. So while you’re looking, put yourself first and take care.

      1. Juneybug*

        I agree 100% with Working Mom – you need to take care of you.
        Alison spoke to author Laurie Ruettimann of Betting On You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career ( and it’s what I wished I had read before quitting my job due to workload, anxiety, stress, etc. I strongly recommend you read that book ASAP.
        Good luck!

    3. JelloTokyo*

      Toxic work environments suck and it makes me angry to see them so glorified and desired in our culture. No one should feel that they can’t even take a single day off because of work — and yet, it happens.

      What helped me get through a toxic environment was to remind myself that my job is just that, a j-o-b. They’ve paid me for an average number of hours each week and that’s all their going to get. I made my hours 9am-6pm and if there was an earlier meeting that day then I would stop at 5pm. Something doesn’t get done? Too bad. Someone didn’t do their part and now you feel like you have to catch up? That’s on them. By setting some actual time boundaries for myself, I began to feel better and in more control of my life. In fact, creating those boundaries enabled me to begin a productive job search.

      And yep, some things got left behind but guess what? The workload was so unbearable and over the top that even if I worked 24-hours straight I still wouldn’t have tackled my to-do list so why was I stressing myself out and crying on the way to work each day? The even wilder thing was that it didn’t impact the business in the crazy negative way I thought it would. Deals still happened, content was still produced, ads were still made (I worked in advertising).

      Your company won’t recognize the thousands of hours and effort you’ve poured into your role so don’t give them all of your joy and heart. Put in what you can and then keep those boundaries tight. If your boss asks you about “X,Y, and Z” tell her that it’s on your roadmap and you’re happy to move it up/down but something else has to be moved around. She might not love it but you have to focus on your needs.

      I hope you find a stellar job that appreciates you. Once you move companies it’ll feel like a cloud has lifted and you’ll realize that all of the madness you feel today was a product of that environment.

      Call in sick Monday and Tuesday — trust me, they’ll live.

      1. Elenia*

        My husband asked for some time off and his boss’s boss said “Why is he taking so much time off?” That really pissed me off. Because it’s part of his compensation, you ass. Because that’s the deal you struck – you pay us, we work, and we get our time off.
        I swear if it wasn’t competitive we wouldn’t be allowed any time off at all.
        And this is the same dude that took a week off out of the country when an important deliverable was due, all hands on deck.
        Thankfully my husband’s boss defended it, but this work till you drop culture is terrible.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      Do we work in the same office? I was recently told that overtime is prohibited, and the work that was impossible to complete in 65 hours MUST now be completed in 40. (I am hourly.) No reduction in tasks, no extension of deadlines. Just work faster. Oh, and there had better not be any mistakes! Of course I’m looking for a new job…I already have my resignation letter done, all it needs is a date. Hopefully soon!

    5. MacGillicuddy*

      If you are a Senior llama wrangler, then you have the knowledge and experience to know how long it takes to do the various llama wrangling tasks. Statistics are your friends. Make a spreadsheet or a billeted list or etc with ALL the items in your plate and the amount of time it takes to do them. Present this to your boss and ask for priorities. Also present options” I can do things A, B, E and F, or I can do D and G because those are involved and take longer.

      I’ve had bosses and coworkers say things like “task D should only take X minutes” and my reply is something like “no, it takes a minimum of X plus Z minutes if I leave out parts 2 and 4, but if you want all the parts it’ll take Y minutes. “

      My attitude is: you don’t need to know what it takes to do my job, but I expect you to believe ME when I tell you what it takes, because I know what I’m talking about”.

      Another option is, after you have explained to the boss how long things take, also be clear about what won’t get done. And then let things drop. The boss won’t stop adding stuff to your plate if you keep doing everything the boss gives you.

    6. beach read*

      Consider taking some time off to recover from your previous situation. Not long ago I too left a really bad situation only to get a new job in the same line of work almost immediately. Things started to spiral again so 3 months in I made the decision to give notice at the new job, spend the summer working on getting healthy, and find a job in an adjacent field. It took more time (and savings) than I intended but I found a job I really enjoy, that suits me better and I have much more hope for the future. I know the timing isn’t great with your new job in the middle of the pandemic, but your wellness is worth it.

    7. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Does your job involve literally saving lives? If not, your industry has brainwashed you into thinking everything you do is emergency status when, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not. I think I was lucky to work (in a pretty low-level clerical capacity) at a hospital as one of my first adult jobs. It was a crappy job, but it gave me an important perspective throughout the rest of my working life. There are commercial deadlines, and there are life-and-death situations, and they are NOT the same thing. If you’re financially able, can you just walk away? Could you live with a really low-level rote, no-pressure job for a while while you assess your career options? I don’t think you can think about your options while you’re living in a pressure chamber. Good luck.

  14. Alexis Rose*

    I’m hiring for a paid summer internship. I got an email from a former employee saying that she wanted to apply for the internship. I’m not comfortable hiring her for this role because she would be taking a lower position than her previous one, and also because I was not that impressed with her previous work. She wasn’t terrible, but I would not be excited to rehire her. (Just as I was deciding if she needed a formal plan to improve her work or not, she left on her own.)

    This person is very connected within niche communities that we work with, so I don’t want to offend her, but I really don’t want her as an employee again and I’m trying to figure out how to be direct but also not generate animosity.

    1. Tussy*

      Can you give her a courtesy interview? Or say that you would be hesitant to give it to her because it is below her experience level and it’s specifically designed for entry level?

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Could you let her know that the position is for people new to the workforce looking to gain experience, so with her experience she doesn’t fit? Maybe add a “…but I’ll let you know if I see anything that might be a good fit for you” – deep down you know that you don’t think anything would be a good fit, but it’s a friendly way to leave the door open, just in case.

      It’s seems pretty unusual for someone in a full-time job to step down into an internship within the same field/company, so I feel like she’d be hard-pressed to complain about it to others in a way that would reflect poorly on you.

    3. Corporate Drone Liz*

      I say let her apply but that doesn’t mean you have to hire here (unless your hiring process is super arduous, like doing a bunch of essays or something; then maybe spare her from that). You don’t need to say anything beyond, “We’re moving forward with other candidates who are a stronger fit for this position.”

    4. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      Perhaps direct her to the hiring “process” and let the process do its thing? Also if possible try to be vague on who the decision makers are? eg hiring committee.

      Failing that killing them with kindness eg great to hear from you, we’re looking for entry level/give opportunities which you’re overqualified for.

      1. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

        Posted same time as a few others so my comment effectively repeats what they say! Possibly you could be to ask if she’d be able to circulate the advert in her niche communities – it shows a type respect to her and demonstrates you see her as overqualified too.

    5. SushiRoll*

      Isn’t an intern usually supposed to be someone basically brand new to the workforce, like someone in school/just out of school, so it’s like yeah they are contributing but also they are mainly learning, and you are kind of conducting a long interview on each other and then you decide whether or not you want to hire them FT after their internship is over (potentially)? I sort of thought that was the point of interns, so then this person in question shouldn’t even be a candidate if they are a former employee?

      1. Momma Bear*

        I would be confused about someone we previously hired looking to take an internship role. We generally reserve those for active students. Does your company do the same? If so, just thank her for the interest but say she doesn’t fit the criteria for your internship program.

      2. Alexis Rose*

        Yeah, exactly. Our interns are not always brand new to the workforce, but they are usually new to our specific field, which is quite niche.

        The funny thing is, when this person was our employee, she actually refused to take on as an intern someone who had a lot of experience in the field because she didn’t feel comfortable having that person as a subordinate, and I respected that decision. So it’s extra weird that she is trying the same thing.

        1. Observer*

          Do you have specific criteria that don’t imply judgement of her? Like if you actually require someone with less than x years of work experience in the field, or someone affiliated with a school you could tell her that, and that should not offend her.

          But as hypocritical as it reads in this case, you really cannot say to her “Well, I don’t want to take you on with your level of experience because you once refused an intern with your level of experience.”

    6. Bagpuss*

      What’s the purpose of the internship? I think depending on that, and on how touchy you think she is , your response could be
      “Thanks for your interest. The internship is really designed for people new to [your field] who need to gain experience, so I’m not sure it would be right for you ” (and you can add “But of course iof you do want to apply the application process is [details] ”
      or just
      “Thanks for your interest. The details and application process are all on the website (or wherever)”
      I don’t think you are under any obligation to interview her but if you feel it will reduce the risk of her being offended then think of it as an hour well spent.

      Is it possible that she recognizes that she didn’t perform well and is looking to get experience at a lower level to improve?

    7. Observer*

      I’m not comfortable hiring her for this role because she would be taking a lower position than her previous one,

      Why is this an issue? Unless there is reason to think that she doesn’t know this, this is her decision to make.

      On the other hand, if she does not know this, then that’s your out. Tell her that this is a lower level position that’s not in line with her skill level.

    8. LTL*

      I would tell her that you don’t think she would be a good fit and come up with a reason. I’m not a fan of the advice of letting her apply or giving her a courtesy interview. Job hunting is hard enough so I wouldn’t string her along and waste her time. I understand that you don’t want to offend her but unless she’s unreasonable, she won’t be offended if you tell her its a bad fit. Maybe just a bit disappointed.

    9. All Het Up About It*

      I agree with everyone that the you are overqualified route is the best way to take with her.

      And remember, even if she does apply, you don’t have to give her an interview or hire her. And if she comes back and asks why, you can come back to the the overqualified bit, or SallySue just being a better fit for the role.

    10. Artemesia*

      I don’t understand why you would ever hire a former employee for an internship in your same organization. I would think this is one to just turn down. The whole point of an internship is to get work experience and to see how an organization functions. She already had that in a job at your shop — hiring her for an internship would waste the internship. And since you didn’t think she was a good worker, it wouldn’t be good for you either. I’d turn her town and if she pushed would say ‘we are reserving internships for newbies looking to become acquainted with our company; former employees already have that experience. I would suggest applying to other companies if you think an internship would be beneficial for your career development.’ Absolutely do not give a ‘courtesy interview’ in this situation.

    11. Anonymous Koala*

      Since this is an internship, can you add a line in the description encouraging students or recent grads to apply, and then tell her that the position is designed for people new to the field/workforce? Worse case I suppose you can always tell her that she’s overqualified but welcome to apply, and then not hire her.

  15. Anon today*

    I watched the documentary on Hulu about WeWork this week. Pretty crazy. Anyone here that worked at WeWork and/or lived at WeLive and willing to share any experiences/stories?

    1. Corporate Drone Liz*

      I hadn’t heard about this doc but I’m definitely adding it to my watchlist!

    2. Bostonian*

      So crazy! I recently read the book (Billion Dollar Loser), but have not seen the Hulu doc.

      I want more stories from the summer camp retreat.

      1. Anon today*

        The camp seemed horrible! And in WeLive where they asked people to stage themselves “casually” having fun for the investor walkthroughs…

      2. WellRed*

        The book was eye opening. I can only imagine what it would have been like had a former employee written it.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      I would also love to hear stories from anyone who survived that debacle. The podcast WeCrashed covers most of the same ground as the documentary and is pretty entertaining.

    4. voluptuousfire*

      Yep! Worked there for 3.5 months back in 2014. It was the worst job I’ve had so far. I guess I was fired–we never really had a formal chat about what needed to be improved. It was an odd atmosphere. I actually brought structure to my department but my workflows and forms were chucked out since marketing deemed wanting all the info from a potential member (things like what offices, when they needed space, how many people, etc) upfront before scheduling an office tour was too much to ask. They wanted us to seem more like we were hanging out, having a beer (my supervisor’s words almost verbatim), waiting for people to call. This would lead to 12 hours days, which I refused to do. I’m all about workflows, efficiency, and doing my job well. IMO, I did well with what I had available to me. I had little training and learned everything on the fly. They also had these obnoxious “family dinner” meetings on Mondays that were just ridiculous. They went on until 9 or 10 pm. Why?

      My role had a lot of unspoken expectations and I was surprised to be held to KPIs that I wasn’t even aware existed. The department had no structure and I was ultimately a victim of “not being a team player” because I wasn’t willing to work 12 hour days or answer emails outside of work hours. I will admit I had a horrible attitude because nothing I did seemed to be right and I was super frustrated and that affected my work.

      I also believe I was dinged for not attending one of the ski tips they had during the last few weeks of my tenure there. I had other plans I made for that weekend before I started the job and from what I remember hearing, there were probably events that occurred that may have made Caligula blush. Definite debauchery.

      1. Anon today*

        That is a lot to have happened in only 3.5 months! Sounds like you got out quick (although maybe not by your doing!). Thanks for sharing!

        1. voluptuousfire*

          Oh, it wasn’t by my doing! I remember sending out resumes like mad while I was there and I got no response to anything. I only accepted the role because my unemployment was due to run out a few weeks after I started. I glad I had the experience because it taught me about red flags to look for! I think we had a sort of conversation about how “badly” I was doing. It was half-assed–something about emails I sent that was full of grammatical errors, typos, and misspellings which I think was just nitpicking about small typos like “teh” instead of “the” or “form” instead of “from.” I was so violently busy, I didn’t have the time to fully proofread my emails. I read it to make sure the info was correct and to correct any typos that were caught by the browser. They weren’t wrong but instead of being a minor infraction, it was blown up into intergalactic proportions and was ultimately the cudgel they beat me with and lead to my being let go. I just think they didn’t like me and they felt they had to have “solid proof” to get me gone.

          I was ultimately That Person in this role–the one people write Alison about! LOL Ordinarily I’m a really easygoing, friendly person who prides herself on getting along well with people and doing her job well but that place brought out the cranky, stressed side of me and that’s not the person I want to be at work. More than once I snapped at my colleagues because I couldn’t out to get lunch because of mountains of work and my blood sugar was low.

          The day-to-day chaos overshadowed the true horror show this place was. Yeah, it was nice being able to drink at work but just not worth anything. The pay was shit. I got a bonus for finishing training (which is odd since I really didn’t actually have training) and I only got like 91% of it. The difference between 91% and 100% was like 9 bucks. Apparently I was only worth 91% of the bonus. LOL

    5. SummerBreeze*

      Someone who worked for me at a different company left to go work there. She drank the koolaid BIG TIME. It was strange to watch from the outside (I’m very fond of her, she’s excellent at her job, so parsing out her enthusiasm for the place was tough). I also know someone who was one of the original hundred employees; she was running entire offices by something like age 25 with no prior work experience!

      Super youth focused, and very long hours, on top of the cult-y vibes.

    6. Windchime*

      I saw the documentary too and thought it was really interesting. It kind of reminded me of a company called Davita. They do mostly dialysis, but a few years ago they bought a medicial center that I worked for and holy cow, they were a weird bunch. The RFID bracelets that were required for the WeWork “retreat” were also required at the Davita functions; they were actually tracking whether or not people were attending. I also heard horror stories of people being made to room with random strangers on these work trips.

      Super bizarre. Makes me glad I work for a boring old university.

  16. Stacy*

    I work on a weekend day, so I have a weekday off, which is when my coworker takes over my one time sensitive responsibility. It’s not a quick task, but I’m off on the least busy day of the week, so it’s not a huge amount of work either. (And my coworker usually spends 2-3 hours a day chatting with various people, so she doesn’t exactly seem strapped for time.) My coworker often makes comments about how busy she was because she had to do my work, but she made sure to get it done so the work wouldn’t pile up and be waiting for me. Or she’ll say my work came in late in that day, but she rushed to make sure to get it done anyway instead of leaving it for me to do. I don’t really respond to the comments because I’m not sure why she’s telling me or what to say. It almost sounds like she thinks she’s doing me a favor?

    I don’t need to thank her for doing the one task on my day off, right? It’s her job to do it, and she has a higher rank than me and gets paid a lot more than me, so I think a little extra responsibility one day a week isn’t a big deal.

    1. Taura*

      Absent any other context for her behavior, it sounds like she’s just trying to rile you up or get you to volunteer to come in for that task on your day off as well. If it’s not escalating to the point where she’s claiming she had to let her own work slide to do this task or something like that, I think you can ignore it. If you feel like you HAVE to acknowledge it somehow, you could say something like “yeah, I’m so glad we have coverage on this task” that’s not really thanking her but pointing out that it’s something that has to be done anyway. But honestly I do think you have space to just ignore her comments.

      1. Artemesia*

        Once a bland ‘well I suppose you could come in on Saturday like I do to get X done like I do?’

        1. Artemesia*

          or. ‘I appreciate you do a good job with X since I work weekends and am not in on Wednesdays.’

    2. fhqwhgads*

      To me she sounds like she’s begging for praise, which is kind of odd. I’d ignore it. I mean, don’t ignore her when she’s talking to you or cold shoulder her or anything, but this doesn’t really merit a response, other than perhaps. “OK”. or “Thanks for letting me know” if she’s face to face. But if it’s via email or IM, no reply necessary.

    3. Madeleine Matilda*

      It sounds like she might be looking for some form of thanks or appreciation from you, which is odd since it is part of her job. You could have some neutral phrases to reply when she does this such as
      – Yep, the work comes in late periodically. Or more specifically: I know, I didn’t receive it until almost X time on Y day.
      – The task keeps me busy, too.
      – (Or if you want to be cheerfully snarky) – Bet you’re glad you don’t have to do it the rest of the week when it takes twice as long (or however much longer it takes?

      And as Alison always advises, said cheerfully and matter of factly.

    4. SoloKid*

      I bet agreeing with her without picking up responsibility will take the wind out of her sails if she sees she’s not getting a response.

      “Yeah, that task sure is a handful! Anyway, see you Tuesday!”

    5. I can never decide on a lasting name*

      I might weave into my response how it is *our* task – a task for the company and we work for the company rather than for ourselves.

    6. WellRed*

      Well, it may be your task four days a week, but it’s hers one day a week. If you dare, you could say, “yes, you’ve said.” Every. Time.

      1. AllTheBirds*

        Exactly. She complains, you say, “Right?! At least it’s only your responsibility one day a week!”

    7. Not A Manager*

      Is there a lighthearted way to remind her that performing this task on your day off is part of her job, and not a favor to you? I’m thinking of something like, “Yep, Tuesday is my day off, and yet someone has to feed the chickens,” or whatever. Explicitly connect the concepts of “day off” and “task needs doing.”

    8. Llama face!*

      It does sound like she considers it a favour and not just part of her job. My current workplace is like this too and it irks me. But I haven’t found a way to change the culture (and this is just one of the minor bees in the swarm) so I go with the flow, politely thank them, and try to let it go. If it’s just the one coworker for you perhaps you’d have better results.

    9. RagingADHD*

      There’s no harm in saying, “great, thanks!”

      Maybe she has some kind of agenda, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to perform some elaborate gratitude ritual.

      Treat it as a routine check-in. She’s confirming the thing is done. Just be courteous. It’s free.

      Little courtesies are social lubricants that keep working relationships running smoothly instead of getting hung up on pointless conflicts over ego and nonsense.

    10. Crazytown Express*

      You don’t need to thank her for doing this task “for you” or expressing deep gratitude, but there’s definitely a workplace-level “thanks!” that just means “ok fine”, so if “thanks” is what she’s expecting to hear, it would be a weird hill to die on to refuse saying it.
      Things you could consider pushing back on are if she explicitly refers to it as your work not our work, you could point out that it’s only yours in that you’re responsible for seeing that it gets done but it’s her task on Tuesdays.
      Or the passive-aggressive version, tell her as you’re leaving that you went to all this effort so her task wouldn’t be backed up and it should be all good to go for her tomorrow, you didn’t leave her anything extra.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yeah, I’d just say a quick “Thanks!” or “Thanks for the update!” She may just be trying to connect a bit or just make conversation, I wouldn’t jump to the assumption that she thinks she’s doing you a favor.

        And while you don’t have to thank people for doing their job, quite frankly I thank people all the time for doing their jobs. I think we could all use a little more genuine gratitude in our days!

  17. Emma Woodhouse*

    I need some resume help and would love feedback. I worked for company A in my job for a few years, left for company B for seven years, and then went back to a job at company A (where I have worked for a few years). How do I list these on my resume? Do I break them up by organization, so that A would list two jobs with a lot of time in between? Or do I list A current job, B job, A old job? Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Binky*

      I’d go with A then B then A. I think chronological is generally best, it might be confusing otherwise.

    2. I edit everything*

      I’d list them chronologically: Current A Job, B job, A old job. Assuming you have a chronological resume.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I’d do them chronologically. Not least because it makes it clearer that job A appreciated you enough that they wanted you back when the opportunity arose!

  18. Teapot Translator*

    My main question is how have you learned to accept mistakes and not feel like a failure every time you make one?
    Context: I work for a big company. My clients are all in-house. One of them complained about my work. When we checked, there was nothing dramatic to it (mostly, it was about the client’s preferences and not actual errors). We’ve spoken to the client. But even though I’m not new to the workplace, every time a mistake is pointed out to me I feel like I’m incompetent and don’t deserve to be here.
    I react professionally to it (I don’t act defensive and show I’m willing to improve), but inside, it’s not pretty.
    So, have you learned to appease the impostor inside? Do I just have to accept this side of me?

    1. Web Crawler*

      I’ve been trying to shift my goal from “make no mistakes” to “don’t make the same mistake more than once”, which is a lot more doable and also a healthier mindset. It does mean accepting that I’ll make mistakes, but it also gives me something to strive for. (I don’t do well when I have no bar to measure myself against.)

    2. Gone Girl*

      I feel this in my bones, lol. I’m a major people-pleaser, so this has been a real struggle for me, too. And coming from a toxic work environment where every mistake was treated like the end of the world didn’t help either.

      I personally started to create a list of self-affirmations to remind myself of my strengths so on days where I felt really beat down, I could read them and give myself a little pep talk.

    3. Ashley*

      In my experience it can be who is pointing out the mistake and they way they do it. I remember on supervisor that obsessed over really minor details and made a big production of correcting them. I hated that job so much. In later positions I have made larger mistakes and they were handled as a ‘hey what happened, how do we prevent’ type conversation and it went much better. When it comes to something like you are describing where it is much more preference and you didn’t tell me how you wanted it, I have learned to let it roll off me as this is about them not me, and once you tell me I can make adjustments but I am not a mind reader and do the inward eye roll.

      1. More Pizza*

        Yes this. I have seen managers choose not to explain how they want something done and then hammer and berate their employees hard when it inevitably does not come out the way they want it done. Those are inward eye roll moments for sure.

        But assuming that’s not what’s happening here… What would you tell a friend that made the same mistake? I do think it’s helpful to accept how this makes you feel and ‘that part of you.’ I think it’s totally normal to have those kinds of feelings. I think this naturally gets easier as you get older and gain more life experience. It’s important to realize that who you are and what you do are separate things. This reminds me of Brene Brown’s work around shame. ‘I did a bad thing’ – guilt. ‘I am bad’ – shame. Can you talk to coworkers that may have been in the same situation? It could be that everyone trips up on the same things and that the mistakes are common. People make mistakes all the time. A lot of high level people did not get into their positions because of merit. Commit to doing your very best and working hard and don’t worry about small mistakes too much. Failure is inevitable to get anywhere worth going. You are in the process of learning a critical life skill – how to deal with failure, even if on a small scale. I think it’s harder for women to fail because we are more likely to be shamed for it than men. You have to figure out how to separate external messaging like that from what you innately know to be true about who you are and what you’re worth.

        1. More Pizza*

          And assuming the feedback you are getting is delivered constructively, at least you are getting feedback. I’m still looking for a job where I get constructive feedback.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Mistakes are normal. And this doesn’t even sound like a mistake! Just that you didn’t read the client’s mind!

      In my view, here are the questions to ask yourself:
      – should I have known ahead of time this was a mistake?
      – has it happened before?
      – what can I do to prevent it from happening again?

      If you couldn’t have known, it’s never happened before, and you know how to prevent it from happening again, you’re good! If it becomes a pattern, maybe you look at the bigger picture and adjust some things, but even then, that doesn’t make you incompetent. Everyone has flaws and foibles. It’s important to look at things in context.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Take people’s reactions at face value. If you find that it was not a Big Deal to anyone else, don’t inflate it in your own head. Anxiety can cause us to think all kinds of jerk brain things that aren’t true. Maybe give yourself a mantra that helps you regain perspective. No one is 100% perfect.

    6. SoloKid*

      If it’s truly a customer preference, you’ll learn to just add it as a data point and use experience to judge if another customer wants it in the future.

      I just say “well, now I know for next time!” and judge myself on how well I learn from the past.

    7. Madeleine Matilda*

      I have two comments.
      1 – In the case you described, it wasn’t a mistake but a matter of the client’s preference (unless you knew the preferences and ignored them). Someone preferring something in a different way doesn’t mean that the way you did was wrong. Reframe the client’s comments as gathering feedback so the final offering is the best it can be. Not perfect because perfection is not realistic. In the particular case of your client, I would have responded along these lines: Client, thanks for sharing your preferred format. We have made the changes to the original format that you requested. Please let us know if you need anything else. (And you can acknowledge to yourself that the client may be an unreasonable or uncolleagal jerk.)
      2 – If you make a real mistake, apologize for it and explain how you are solving it as soon as you can. I’ve found that most managers I have had wave off the apology but really appreciate the offering of a solution to the mistake. I suggest doing this as soon as you can, because I’ve found that the longer I avoid the apology and offering of a solution, the worse I feel. Once I’m working on the solution, I feel better.

    8. Juniper*

      So, I made a whopper one time. A really big mistake that had a not-insignificant financial impact. It came down to a stupid Excel coding error that I should have caught, or at least double-checked the final numbers, but I didn’t. I felt terrible, even when I was met by a really supportive and understanding boss. For a long time after I felt incompetent, like everyone else around me were aces at their jobs and I was an idiot just one-slip up away from another disaster. Honestly, what helped was reading about other peoples’ mistakes at work. I actually Googled it and read tons of entertaining stories of people messing up. It really put my own goof-up into perspective and humanized my image of a “perfect” employee that I had put on a pedestal.

      So on to you. Yes, you have to accept it. This is who you are, and you’ll get much farther working with it than fighting it. Second, embrace the fact that you already handle this really well (on the outside, at least). You are presenting a professional and competent face to the world, and that will really work to your advantage. Third, if you can cultivate some level of detachment, it will even serve you because it will make you a much more conscientious employee. This is the hard part, but hearing about other people who make mistakes will make you realize you’re not alone. It’s also a great way to practice empathy and think about our place in the great scheme of things. One thing that helped me was realizing that my obsession with my mistakes bordered on unhealthy self-involvement — I was attributing way too much meaning and external significance to my actions.

      But rest assured, you’re really not alone in feeling this way!

    9. Sunflower*

      After working in BigLaw for 5 years, I learned pretty quickly you can’t please everyone and some people are just….difficult. I realized I need to change my mindset about it. My biggest recommendation is you talk to coworkers and realize that everyone is probably getting similar feedback to you and they are still regarded as great workers. I was working with a partner/client who was just super all over the place and I felt like I was going crazy because I could never please her and I was always stressed. After talking to other people who worked with her and seeing they felt the same way, I felt SO much better about my own missteps.

      Things I remind myself of that helps:
      1. Everyone gets bad feedback. No one is perfect including the person complaining about you (you don’t even know if the person complaining about you is good at their job/well respected behind the scenes)
      2. You can’t please everyone. Just because someone doesn’t like what you did doesn’t make his opinion anymore worldly accepted than anyone else’s – this one is really key for me!
      3. For every person that doesn’t like your work, there’s someone who thinks it’s awesome.
      4- (For when I’m feeling anxious about getting fired). It’s very annoying and expensive to fire someone. You have to screw up pretty bad and receive several warnings. Also- If your boss fires you, they either have to find someone to pick up the work or pick it up themselves- are you that bad at the job that your boss would rather do it than have you do it? Probably not.
      5. It’s a just a job and it’s not your self worth. Stop trying to be irreplaceable because no matter how hard you work, you never will be. It’s simply not in company’s interest to consider employees irreplaceable.
      6. People are complicated, complex creatures. You have no idea what is going on in the mind of someone giving you feedback. Sometimes the feedback has nothing to do with you.

      It’s taken me a long time to get here but since the pandemic, I’ve just gotten very like…ok. whatever. There’s real world problems happening. If you don’t like how I formatted a PPT slide and wanna throw a fit over it….fine. I put on a happy face but internally remind myself we aren’t saving lives here.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        Yes to all of this!

        My personal life took some very hard hits during the first six months of the pandemic. When I returned to work after a week off that I badly needed to unplug, but spent handling even more health and family trouble, I just had no more patience for the blame culture my higher-ups built over every single piece of feedback a client gives.

        For every time I remind myself I can’t please everyone, there is someone complaining because I manage expectations instead of saying yes to everything – and the vicious loop of feeling like a failure starts again. So I will leave as soon as an opportunity comes up, and hope my impostor syndrome isn’t too quick to follow.

    10. RagingADHD*

      There are 2 ways to be right:

      1) Get it right the first time.

      2) Make it right.

      They are both valid. If getting it right by either method still provides value to the company, then you are doing a good job.

      There are some things in life that you can’t make right, like if someone is maimed or killed. But there are relatively few jobs and few situations where you’ll encounter that.

      Perfectionism always leads to paralysis. I’m not sure how you get over it, other than just being in a lot of situations where you just have to experiment, and focus on the big picture of accomplishing the business mission instead of on the individual task, or on your own performance.

      Kind of like, de-emphasizing the importance of your own task? Your mistake is only going to disqualify you if you let it undermine you mentally.

      Ngl, screwing up always feels bad. But you can hate screwing up without hating on yourself.

    11. Anonymous Koala*

      One thing that makes me feel better is creating an action item out of my mistake. So in this case I might try and put together a short intake survey/form of questions to ask the client when I get a new project to ensure that I understand their style preferences, etc. For the record, it doesn’t sound to me like you made a mistake, and an intake survey may not be feasible at your job, idk. But I personally always feel better when I feel like I’ve taken steps to make sure I’m not in the same situation again.

  19. Moths*

    The question today about teaching employment law got me thinking about how much I wished someone had given me a little more guidance around what is and isn’t okay as an employee. It might have saved me a lot of retrospective embarrassment! I know there have been threads dedicated to this in the past, but I’m looking for some entertaining distractions today and am curious if anyone else has any stories about things they did in the workplace that they look back on and can’t believe they thought that was okay.

    For me, in one of my first jobs out of high school, I started working at a real estate office as an assistant doing filing and such. It was boring and I hated it. After about a week, I got an offer for another job somewhere that would be a better fit and I accepted that. Instead of just turning in my resignation, I turned up to my next shift with a friend who I thought would be great at that job and asked that she work along side me for the day so that she could take over the position when I left. Which she did, so I guess it kind of worked out, but I can only imagine now if one of my employees showed up unprompted with a random person and told me that they were quitting, but that the friend would be taking over for them!

    1. No Tribble At All*

      You subbed in a friend, amazing.

      I had to have someone tell me that my (very sarcastic) sense of humor wasn’t always appropriate. The failure mode of “clever” is “asshole” meaning that you might think you sound clever and witty, but you seem like a huge jerk.

    2. Amber Rose*

      My cousins would sometimes cover each other’s work shifts despite not being employed at the same companies. That was decades ago though, I suspect that wouldn’t fly anymore even in a town as small as theirs.

    3. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Sure, it’s cringey now, but dang, you actually did your employer a favor by providing and training your replacement so they did not have to do anything except the new hire paperwork! I’m not gonna like, I’m kinda impressed!

  20. Millennial PR Pro*

    Just wanted to shout out my team at my company – I’m due in May with our first baby – and my team, whom I’ve never met in person due to being hired during a pandemic and then being allowed to move across the country, threw me a virtual baby shower yesterday afternoon!

    Instead of having a female member of the team plan the shower, my male manager did a ton of research and work to put it together and it was so fun! They sent me gifts to open on camera, and he put together a Jeopardy game. The entire time he was planning he was checking in with me on what I felt comfortable sharing, and we had just the most wonderful time as a team and I never once felt uncomfortable or on the spot!

    1. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I love this!!!!!! This makes me so happy to hear. I am so glad they took you and what you wanted into account, and I am so glad you got a chance to celebrate! Congratulations on the baby, and I hope you and baby have smooth sailing!

    2. ThePear8*

      That’s wonderful! Kudos to your company for doing a great thing for you, and congratulations on your baby!

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      That’s so nice to hear! I had the best experience with a virtual baby shower too – it was a total surprise, they coordinated with my husband (who works for the same org). My boss ordered a cake, my colleague delivered it to my house at a specified time, and my (male) colleague made several games for use to play over Zoom. Super fun and way better than an in person shower. It made me feel so valued!

  21. CollegeSenior*

    Thank you to everyone who has given me advice before, I appreciate it. I wanted to ask about a situation that came up with a friend because I know there are some folks who currently or have worked in museums(I’m not trying to change things for my friend, they make their own choices).
    So a few semesters ago, a friend of mine who wants to work in museums had their advisor suggest they take a marketing class. My friend relayed this later to us, aghast, because of how absolutely awful it would be to have to take a business class and how that wouldn’t have anything to do with what they want to do in museums(museum education). I personally thought this was a mistake because I was under the impression that many museums require people to take on many duties and having a little marketing experience would be useful. What do you folks think?

    1. Ashley*

      I feel like so many jobs having some marketing experience isn’t terrible, so unless your friend was going into highly specialized style work like I will only be restoring Rembrandt’s paintings, I feel like it is a reasonable suggestion.

    2. Taura*

      I think it makes sense, depending on the exact class. Like, I can see where “Marketing 101” might be totally irrelevant and unhelpful, but a class on advertising/promotional materials might make sense, assuming that your friend is meant to apply those concepts to advertising museum events or something. OTOH, sometimes advisors suggest stuff just to suggest it, so if your friend’s advisor it one if those there might not have been all that much thought put into the suggestion.

    3. Reba*

      Well, the field can have a kind of purity culture — like bringing up business concerns is inviting filthy lucre into the galleries. (To be clear, I get where your friend is coming from; I never so much as crossed the threshold of the business school, lol)

      But now in reality, I work with a marketing coordinator in my organization who is a total gem. At its core, her role is to get people to know about our work! It’s great! You want people to come to your events and see your stuff, and comms and marketing makes that happen. And you are quite right that in smaller organizations, marketing is totally something that will be dumped on non-specialists.

    4. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      Recommend museum pros sub reddit for this but tbh its an extremely competitive sector and unless they have a clear idea of the precise museum work they want to do the suggestion to specialise in business functions (marketing, digital) was a very astute one.

    5. Grits McGee*

      For museum education, your friend would absolutely would benefit from a marketing class. The most successful museum education staff I’ve met are ones that tailor their educational programs to the needs of different potential “customers”, and a marketing class can absolutely help build skills to do that.

    6. OtterB*

      I have no museum experience, so take this with a grain of salt, but it seems to me like it was good advice. Museum education is about teaching people, but also about engaging them.

      There are certainly bad business classes out there, but I think it’s a mistake to look down on business classes in general. I finished an undergrad degree in computer science mumble-mumble years ago and took a job as a programmer. I realized that I’d come out of undergrad with an excellent technical education but I knew nothing about business and now I was working in one, so I went back part time for an MBA. I never wanted to get a classic MBA-type job with a consulting firm or financials or something, I just wanted to know more about how business worked. I have never regretted it. Even the parts that weren’t directly relevant expanded my thinking, and more was relevant than I expected. I’m not an accountant, but I know my way around a budget spreadsheet. I’m not a marketer, but I have some idea how the process works and how it interacts with other functions and why branding matters to my current not-for-profit. Organizational behavior and leadership classes were directly related to things I saw at work as I moved into project leader roles.

      Sure there are differences. At a previous not-for-profit with a research mission, we were horrified by a hired PR person who wanted to mine our research results for clickbait-worthy tidbits without regard to any context or any sense of what was important. (Probably we needed a science communicator instead.) But overall, I’ve found that being able to look through a business lens is helpful. It’s not the only perspective, but it’s a useful one.

      1. Observer*

        At a previous not-for-profit with a research mission, we were horrified by a hired PR person who wanted to mine our research results for clickbait-worthy tidbits without regard to any context or any sense of what was important.

        This is someone not well trained in marketing. You need to know your market – ALL of it. Not just the ostensible customers. That includes investors (aka funders, in the non-profit space) and parts of the general public who might interact with you or your customers. And, also you need to understand the overall environment.

    7. Higher ed is complicated*

      Your friend was wrong and the class was a savvy recommendation, but unfortunately a ton of people interested in museum / library / archive settings tend to forget that there’s a lot of business and customer service involved in the fields.

      Source: I’ve been a museum librarian.

    8. CollegeSenior*

      Thank you all for the input! Of course the usefulness would depend on the type/how good the marketing class is, but based on what I’d seen here on AAM, I thought my friend should have considered it. It absolutely is a purity thing lol Reba, you nailed it. My friend wanted absolutely nothing to do with any business classes because that is *gross* and antithetical to everything they’re into. Thankfully I do think my friend is very aware of the necessity of changing museum education for different audience so at least they didn’t miss that potential in a marketing class.

      1. Reba*

        Yeah, a lot of us get into culture work because we believe in its value beyond the almighty dollar. But if you as an anti-capitalist want to work in a museum or other non-profit, well, compartmentalizing is a good skill.

    9. GoryDetails*

      I wouldn’t have thought that a marketing class would be helpful in museum work until I read the book “Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art”, by Danny Danziger; it’s a marvelous collection of interviews with employees of the museum, from the cleaning staff and security people to the acquisition folks, curators, and management. I learned a LOT about the less-obvious aspects of running a museum, and yes, marketing featured rather highly in getting patrons in the door, convincing donors to loosen the purse strings, and even deciding which items to go after to enhance a collection.

    10. Filosofickle*

      Agree with the utility of business knowledge — personally, I majored in visual design and highly recommend this to all artistic folks. Beyond that there’s another angle: Good marketing is audience focused. Who are our customers? What do they want? Why should they care about us? How do we meet them where they’re at? How do we talk to them? Most organizations focus on themselves and fail to switch to the audience’s perspective and put them at the center. When you learn to flip this, it fundamentally changes how you see the purpose and outcomes of your work. It’s transformative. Someone who’s aghast at needing to know business to work in a museum needs this more than anyone! Museum education isn’t for YOU, it’s for THEM after all. Museums are really struggling and have tons of competition. They are always marketing and everyone in the organization needs to have that mindset.

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

      Your friend might have a bit of a naive or rosy-eyed view of what museum educators actually do. (Come to think of it, your friend might also not fully understand what marketing is.) I don’t mean that as a dig; it’s often true of people who want to get into a field that they don’t have the full picture of what the day-to-day work is like. I have a very good friend in the museum education field and marketing principles are extremely relevant to her work. Your friend might give some thought to how museum educators figure out what kinds of programs would be desirable in their area, and how to get the word out about those programs to the appropriate audiences so that they are successful. Spoiler: it’s marketing.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. The way the Met museum funds its Costume Institute with the marketing of its annual gala, for example, or the way MoMA marketed its decision to keep Leon Black on the Board as long as it did, are not without commercial considerations.

    12. AnotherLibrarian*

      I wish I’d taken more business classes before I went into my field. I wish I could read a budget better. I wish I’d done a marketing class. I’m in special collections librarianship, but also have worked in museums. I don’t know if marketing would be my first pick, but I can see the usefulness of it.

    13. Analyst Editor*

      I think your friend’s horror is misplaced. If your friend ever complains in the future about not getting enough practical training in their education, this is one of those practical courses.
      I think in general, it would be very good for people of any major to take a basic economics or business course (not that those are the same of course) as part of a well-rounded liberal arts education, because thinking in terms of constrained resources and opportunity costs and tradeoffs grounds your world-view it in reality and helps frame your thinking on lots of issues, whatever your personal politics.

    14. Chaordic One*

      I’m inclined to agree with the many other commenters who pointed out that there is quite a bit that your friend could learn and probably be able to use while working in a museum. I suppose that it is remotely possible that the class could be a complete waste of time and in that unlikely worst-case scenario they will just have to bite the bullet and take the course anyway. (Sort of like how I got through the mandatory P.E. requirement for my undergraduate degree.)

  22. Always Job Hunting*

    Got a question in a phone screening that totally threw me this week.

    I was long term unemployed before taking my current temp job. During a phone screen with another company, they asked me to tell them what the easiest part of being unemployed was and what the toughest hurdle I faced while unemployed was. I ended up just rambling something about how it isn’t easy to be unemployed, and it was really frustrating to put so much time and effort into applying, doing phone screens, and interviews and then getting ghosted. I realize that’s a bad answer, but how was I supposed to answer? There wasn’t anything easy about being depressed and feeling worthless and using up all my savings and moving back in with my parents. And the toughest thing was to keep applying after years of rejections.

      1. irene adler*

        Agree- terrible!
        Wondering if someone thinks this question is a “sensitive” way to provide the job candidate with an avenue to talk about their activities pursued while unemployed. Thinking along the lines of education pursued, or volunteer opportunities taken, personal growth, etc.

        IOW, not really understanding the reality of being unemployed.


        I admire the response and sincerely hope it caused the interviewer to think a lot harder about ever asking this question again. Good job!

    1. Amber Rose*

      My guess is that the “right” answer is something like “I had so much time to work on projects like home improvement, learning new languages, writing that book and teaching myself how to build computers from spare parts! The hard part was sifting through all the amazing opportunities and picking only the best ones to interview for, which is why I was SO happy to find this company.”

      But it’s a bad question and they should feel bad for asking it so I wouldn’t worry about it.

      1. Chaordic One*

        You left out the part about working to end world hunger and establish world peace.

    2. Ashley*

      I am thinking the easiest part is having flexibility in my day and the hardest part is being broke and being food and housing insecure. I mean seriously unless you are doing some social science survey what are they thinking?

    3. The Original K.*

      That’s a horrible question. Like Amber Rose, I suspect they were looking for an answer like “the easiest part was having time to finish the novel I wanted to write and teaching myself German and to code.” They may have thought your unemployment was voluntary if it lasted a very long time, so you might have been doing things other than job-searching (in their mind), but regardless, it’s really a terrible question.

      1. WellRed*

        Probably true, but then they should have phrased it that way: “What have you been doing?” Still a bad question, but I suspect it was the word “easy” that was the trip as it implies that being unemployed is not a problem. I think, OP, your answer, while probably not what they were looking for, was great and frankly, what they deserved.

    4. the cat's ass*

      I feel that! I’m about 80% gray under the dye and in my middle 60’s. I’ve been working in a clinic the whole time and actually got some comments re my slowly encroaching roots as i couldn’t be arsed at that time to do anything (too stressed and exhausted, yay pandemic), but it did look terrible, I have a public-facing job, blah blah blah. So, I just had a week off and i dyed it all back to my ‘normal’ color. Doing it yourself isn’t too terrible if you get a product that gives you explicit instructions and most of them are designed to cover the gray and are semi-permanent. Start with the roots and work your way out. If you have longer than shoulder length hair get 2 boxes. And i must admit it did give me a little boost- it’s red and cheerful and i like it!

      And I’m sorry your current company sucks. They do sound awful. I hope you find something better soon.

    5. Yellow Warbler*

      Maybe I’m just cynical, but my first thought was that they imagined it to be a creative way to get info they couldn’t directly ask for–like “It was hard because I have three kids to feed” or “I’m the breadwinner so it messed with my identity” or what have you.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Thank you for giving a clear reminder to the interviewer to avoid ghosting applicants!

    7. RagingADHD*

      There’s no right or wrong answer. This is the kind of question that’s just supposed to get you talking and show the way you think and communicate.

      It’s always worth taking a little extra time to think. You can totally say stuff like, “Huh, that’s a good question. I haven’t really considered anything as easy. Let me see…”

      I might say something like, it *would have* been easy to just give up and stop trying, and the toughest part was persevering and continuing to apply, but here we are now and I’m glad I kept at it because (pivot to talking about interest in the job).

      It’s tough to get thrown and it happens to all of us sometimes. The more you can just be conversational, that helps.

  23. Yellow Warbler*

    I really hate that Linked In makes you respond to recruiter InMail messages with either “Yes I’m interested” or “No I’m not interested”. They’re always ridiculously coy. I want the option to respond “I don’t know, need more info.”

    If you ignore too many messages they deactivate your auto-searches, so eventually you have to pick a response.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Huh, I never have to choose one of those . The pop up as easy one-click buttons, but I always have the option to type in a custom response in the field below.

    2. PX*

      Pretty sure those are just pre-populated but not forced – if you want to say you need more info then you can just reply normally? I’ve certainly always had the option – although it might require you to log into the actual website and not use an app/email reply.

    3. Rayray*

      What I hate even more are the ones who demand a response with something like “Please respond so that I am refunded my in-mail credit”

      As if that’s *my* problem.

    4. Haha Lala*

      I’ve been ignoring Linkedin messages for 10 years now, but I still hear from multiple recruiters a month. I wish ignoring messages made them stop coming…

    5. AllTheBirds*

      My pet peeve is recruiters who say, “I have a xxxx job I think you’d be great for; interested?” with NO info on company, role, industry etc.

      1. GrumpyGnome*

        And the number of times that such a lead in turns out to be an MLM. That’s incredibly frustrating to me.

  24. Amber Rose*

    There was a thing last week where I was supposed to train a department on a new system, and they hated it but not like meaninglessly, they had some extremely valid concerns and provided what I thought was incredibly constructive feedback.

    Unfortunately it ended with their manager badmouthing my boss, who built the system, and then my boss hearing all their feedback and calling them lazy shits who don’t wanna work, and I became, once again involved in a tug-of-war as the rope. I have no influence or control on what’s happening but I’m somehow integral to the whole process so I can’t just not participate. Afterwards some chaos happened and I ended up in a meeting with our C-level management over it (not in trouble, just to try to figure out wtf is happening and why.)

    I bit my tongue super hard but what I wanted to scream was “Give me the ability to do these things! I get along with everyone! If I had access and permissions, I could figure out a compromise everyone could live with! Let me do it! MEEEEEE!”

    But that would be super unwise. So instead I yelled that at my husband that night who responded with a Simpsons quote: “Of course I’ve gone mad with power. You ever try to go mad without power? Nobody takes you seriously!”

    Yes. I’m starting to understand why people want to take over the world even though it’s annoying and too much work to rule. At least if you do it yourself, it’s getting done properly. :<

    Can I stage a coup at work?

    1. Binky*

      Could ask your boss if you can help by taking the issue off their plate? Then draft up a plan, confirm it works with the other department, go back to your boss for the specific permissions, and get it done? Would your boss be ok with you being the buffer?

      1. Amber Rose*

        Nope. That would require giving me permissions and access, which is not something they’re willing to do.

    2. SoloKid*

      From the other side of that war – taking on a system and figuring it out yourself is the (hopefully paid) equivalent to business emotional labor unless you’re truly invested in learning a new system. I regret doing it. Let your boss and their boss have their fight for dominance, and just master your own domain. Or if you have an ally on their team that can give you less heated feedback, try to make friends there and come up with a better solution.

      I’ve been on both sides of that issue – people might be “lazy shits” but I would act like one too if I was forced to use a system that made more work for me. Especially if my manager wasn’t on board. TBH the best managers I’ve worked for were ones that pushed back on systems that didn’t make sense/that we didn’t have input into.

      (If by “badmouthing” you mean character attacks, that’s pretty shitty. I am taking the higher road and assuming they are talking about an ill-thought out process.)

      1. Amber Rose*

        There’s no choice. This system is going to be behind our whole business eventually, that’s why we’ve paid an obscene amount of money for it. I’ve been slowly training different departments on various functions in it over the last year and a half. This is my domain. I’ve been fielding the whining too. There’s been a lot.

        Thing is, I have zero sympathy for the people pushing back. Our company has been bleeding money because of all the cowboys around here. It seems like more work and it is on the surface, but it’s still less work than replacing whole systems and losing customers because of our incompetence. Sometimes you do more work because it’s better to do it right than do it fast. :|

        By badmouthing I mean: she never wants to include us, she always wants everything her way, she’s too slow, she’s too hard to work with, etc. Maybe some of that is true. But it has nothing to do with me. She’s my boss, not the other way around.

        1. SoloKid*

          Ah, then I’m sorry you have to deal with a bunch of people dragging their feet. You can lead a cowboy to water but you can’t make them drink it.

    3. OtterB*

      From Cordelia’s Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold, “I don’t want power. I just object to idiots having power over me.”

  25. Free Meerkats*

    What’s the longest you’ve taken off work. I’m on the last day of driving home, ending a 4 week stretch away from the office. And it wasn’t planned, so my ducks definitely weren’t in a row.
    Mom had gone into the hospital over the weekend, looked like a recurring thing she’s had. That Monday morning I got a call from my brother; it was worse. So inside an hour I’d started the 2100 mile drive. Got there in 3 days, spent time with her Thursday and Friday she was transfered to skilled hospice. The following Thursday she passed.
    Since I’m the personal representative in her will, there was stuff I had to take care of along with seeing up the service.
    Her service was Monday,; I started driving back Tuesday, taking it easy. Luckily, I had my work computer that day, so I don’t have an overflowing inbox.
    I’m not looking forward to Monday. I’ll probably go into the office instead of WFH.

    1. MaryAnne Spier*

      Two weeks because my dad was in the ICU and things were touch-and-go for a while.

      I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you’re able to take time to be gentle with yourself here.

    2. WellRed*

      I did just over two weeks last fall when my brother died. We’re still picking away at paperwork and all the details death requires, but luckily, he didn’t have a ton and my retired mom is handling quite a bit of it.

      1. WellRed*

        Agh, sorry for your loss. If you need to take more time here and there or work fewer hours, I recommend it (assuming your company allows it).

    3. Sara without an H*

      One of my reports was out for a month to deal with family health issues in another state. She took a laptop and was able to get some work done, but I told her not to overdo it.

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

    4. PX*

      Sorry for your loss!

      I’ve taken 4 weeks off work, but that was for holiday – so well planned for (and I was at the bottom of the food chain, so no real job responsibilities to worry about).

    5. ginger ale for all*

      I am sorry for your loss.

      I took off two weeks when my father had a surgery that went badly and my mother couldn’t drive.

    6. NoLongerYoung*

      So sorry for your loss. I was off for 8 weeks – PTO and then bereavement and then leave of absence(death and who can take just a few days for that?).
      I had an awesome boss who literally made everyone not email me and handle it; then each person delegated to did a recap of decisions/status and handed it back one at a time. No deluge.
      Sending a hug. be gentle with yourself – it’s not a light switch and back to work full time. Ease in as needed and WFH helps.

    7. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you can be gentle with yourself.

      I’m not in the US so it probably won’t apply to you… I took 2 years and 4 months off work when I was on maternity/parental leave, this is normal in my country. I take at least 3 weeks in a row in the summer, my longest leave that wasn’t a maternity leave was 6 weeks when I was recovering from (relatively moderate) burnout.

  26. Narrow*

    Can anyone tell me of their experience switching jobs that seemed to take them down a different career path and you turned out alright? I am in public health and have an opportunity to switch into a more client-focused role that’s less public health. I have been SO excited to try it. But I got my MPH a few years ago and always thought I’d be working on a program/policy level rather than individual level. I’m a little afraid that trying this opportunity will bar me from going back to the program/policy level later down the road if I decide I want to come back. I want to really devote myself to the role to learn it well, so I wouldn’t likely volunteer in public health for a little while. I think it’s my anxiety talking, as I know people pivot, but in my mind all I can think is “It’s a forever choice…this will forever change your career path…what will your public health colleagues think…” etc.

    1. SomeoneElseToday*

      FWIW, I started in international development with graduate work in political science/policy. My career path has taken me to library work, to finance, to public health, to health research and evaluation for a health org and a professional college, now to housing/social services. The foundation in research, evaluation, and policy has transferred across all of it; I learn the new jargon and priorities in each area but my skill set core has let me take all these different paths. From what I know of MPH work, you’d have a lot of the same skills so I’d say a pivot won’t hurt your future unless you have a REALLY narrow view of that future – and your letter doesn’t read that way to me. Go for it!

    2. OtterB*

      I started in computer science but switched gears for a PhD in a social science field. I thought I was leaving computing behind, but it turned out that (a) coding was still a very useful skill, and (b) even when I’m not actually coding something, it taught me habits of mind that serve me well.

      Also, program/policy level work often benefits from “on the ground” experience, so a different role might actually benefit you if you decide you want to go back. Although that’s not my field – details matter.

    3. Almost Academic*

      If it’s any comfort, I’m doing the somewhat opposite move from you! I went to grad school for a clinical role, really focused on individual-level care provision and basic research. Now I’m moving into a global policy position for a program. I have a lot to learn, but the team I am on really values my background as an individual level provider because I’m able to point out some specific challenges they had not considered when writing policy previously. So, I wouldn’t worry about not being able to transition back – people may have some questions, but there is definitely overlap and ways that each realm of expertise compliment each other!

    4. Calamity Kate*

      I’m in a very similar situation! Also an MPH, currently working in an administrative role for a non-profit while also doing some direct health promotion and education. I just applied for a position that uses the administrative skills I’ve cultivated on the job but would take me away from public health into another industry. The dilemma of taking the time to further develop those highly transferrable (not to mention profitable) skills versus moving away from a field I love has been so tough. If it helps, I think the best part of public health is how versatile and varied it is; so many of my classmates and colleagues have come from other backgrounds, which just makes for more diverse perspectives informing the work. That thought has been comforting to me in that I know whatever knowledge I bring back to public health from this new industry will just help me contribute in different ways. I don’t have any real advice to give, unfortunately, but I’m sending you solidarity and well-wishes!

    1. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

      You can see who views your profile without them seeing if you view theirs, and they do match you with better targeted jobs, IMO. Usually they’ll send you an offer for a 30 day trial if they see you’re applying for jobs. I’d only sign up month-to-month, though, and cancel when you find a new position.

    2. irene adler*

      It also allows you to communicate with more LI members- including the person who posted the ad.

      When I used LI Premium, it included a service that would feature my application above other applicants when I applied via LI to a specific position. I quickly discovered that this made no difference whatsoever in whether I was selected to interview.

      Also, it does show how you rank on up to 10 specific skills the job ad lists, as compared to other applicants to the job. However, that is only for those who apply via LI- not for any who apply directly to the company itself via the company website. So this is a bit misleading.
      Some people think that it will help them find a job. Not really. They have a job seekers group, open only to Premium members, for asking job-related questions. Only, there’s no one of any expertise doing the answering. So you might get some “gumption” responses. Or you might get some useful advice. It’s a crap shoot. Better to post these questions, here and to Alison.

      Try it for the 30 days free and if you don’t like it, be sure to cancel before they are able to charge you.

    3. Bambadjan Bamba*

      Personally, I think it was a waste of money. It really only allows you to see the people who have looked at your profile. Otherwise you can apply for jobs for free on the site without premium.

    4. SoloKid*

      Trying out the free version now. I’ve found it useful if you want to be open to recruiters. It also shows details like # of applicants per role and the level of education they have. (so you can see if you’re up against 30 other people with a PhD.)

      tbh I haven’t found it useful enough to continue the trial, but I’m only one week in.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I did a free trial when I was unemployed and job hunting full time. Agree that the only useful feature is seeing exactly who viewed your profile, not just the list of “these five companies got your profile in a search with whatever random keyword.” I liked that but not for $30/month. I don’t think I used any of the other features, and didn’t notice any uptick in recruiter contacts vs just having a non-Premium profile.

    6. Decidedly Me*

      I haven’t used it myself, but when we advertised a job on LinkedIn, the applicants we got were not great fits, so I’m not sure how much I trust their algorithm to show people good matches.

  27. RussianInTexas*

    Advise needed!
    I am starting to look for a new job (was going to do it last year but *waves hands around*). I am in my early 40s, and my greys are coming out in force (thanks genetics). I have about 2-3″ of growth now since I quit coloring in November of last year. I am at about 80% or more coverage, meaning the new growth is mostly grey. Especially around the face. I am on the fence between growing the greys out or not. Right now the border between the grey and not grey hair is VERY obvious.
    Now, I’ve been working from home for the last year, and don’t really care if I had to go back to the office either, but I am not sure I will be looking professional enough for the potential interviews.
    Cutting the hair really short won’t work due to the hair texture, frizzy and curly. I know, I tried, I look like Jewish Orphan Annie. Stripping the hair to the grey is also a no go, it costs upward $500, and can be really damaging to the hair.
    So what say you all? Do I dye it?
    *my current company sucks. They pay really low (under 40k), give 5 vacation and 4 sick days per year, we’ve had no raises since I started (pandemic was a boon for us due to what we manufacture), so I actually make less money than when I started 4 years ago. And they increase the duties more and more. Really, I just want paid Memorial Day off…

    1. MissBliss*

      If you don’t want to dye it, you could try something like oVertone. I’m actually expecting a package of oVertone Pastel Silver today (my hair is blonde but I’d like it to be silver/grey). It’s a type of conditioner that adds pigment, so if you decide you don’t want pigment anymore (because your roots have grown out enough, or you’ve decided to have it colored) you just stop using that conditioner and it washes out. You could use a natural color to hide the grey, or use one of their silver/grey formulas to sort of do a gradient with your colorful hair and the grey roots, to ease the transition.

      I personally have dyed my hair in the past, and I find it a pain, specifically because the roots. I don’t feel like one should have to go through all that annoyance in their personal time in order to be perceived as “professional” (but I’m also pretty young, so don’t have to deal with ageism on that side of the spectrum). I’m exited to try oVertone because it seems like a solution to that problem.

      Best of luck in finding the best new job for you!

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I think if I was under or just around 30 and going grey I wouldn’t fret as much, but being on the other side of 40…My face is not getting younger either, and I am not skinny. And I have an accent. So all that together just makes me think it’s too much against me.

      2. Anonymous Koala*

        +1 for overtone! My spouse used it to cover greys and IMO it looked completely natural – I honestly couldn’t tell which hair had been dyed and which hadn’t. It’s also super easy to apply, and it washes out in 8-10 washes so you don’t get that stripy effect that can happen with boxed dye. I would be cautious with color selection – I have dark hair and none of their dyes work on me, so depending on your natural hair color the silver may not show up the way you want it to

    2. Firecat*

      Im 33 with a grey strip appearing on the right. My spouse is 35 and is so grey his hair is no longer dark brown but light brown.

      I think folks are embracing the grey more now.

    3. Weekend Please*

      Would temporary hair dye be an option? You could cover your roots for interviews at least.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Also, I don’t personally find grey roots unprofessional and was just suggesting it so you feel as confident as possible in interviews if it is giving you some anxiety.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        Could be! They tend to be super stubborn and wiry in texture so home dye results vary.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          As far as box color goes, L’Oréal Paris Excellence Créme has fantastic grey coverage. I use koleston perfect now, but you have to find someone on ebay to buy it from because it is only available to professionals.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I’ve tried this one before and I liked it, it wasn’t super runny.
            Lately (before I quit coloring completely), I’ve been doing the professional Wella color and developer, you buy them individually and mix. It does a decent job too. It’s just a PITA in general.

            1. AndersonDarling*

              Koleston is the next step in the Wella line. It’s gentler on the hair and it stays brilliant for longer. Once I got past the fear of mixing my own ingredients, I was unleashed!

    4. Taura*

      1. Is there any hairstyle you can wear that would make the line less obvious from the front (for video interviews)? Since it sounds like you’ve just started your search, if you could (for example) pull your hair back in a bun or something so that the hair surrounding your face is all gray, people will probably just think the gray continues on or just isn’t visible in your bun/ponytail and not worry about it.
      2. Is it possible to get some very temporary dye or hair chalk in your current color, if the above won’t work? You might be able to use it to “soften” the line, or make it look like streaks of gray instead. That way you can keep growing out the gray without always having that hard line there.

      1. PX*

        1 would be my advice. Pulling it back, having it braided etc would probably make it blend in much better.

        Alternatively, a wig!

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Since you’re interviewing, I’d color it. That hard line between colored and grey can be more aging than simply grey hair, IMHO, and I know it shouldn’t matter but we all know it does. One option is to get “highlights” (lowlights?) in the grey area that are actually your natural hair color, to help it blend.

    6. the cat's ass*

      I feel that! I’m about 80% gray under the dye and in my middle 60’s. I’ve been working in a clinic the whole time and actually got some comments re my slowly encroaching roots as i couldn’t be arsed at that time to do anything (too stressed and exhausted, yay pandemic), but it did look terrible, I have a public-facing job, blah blah blah. So, I just had a week off and i dyed it all back to my ‘normal’ color. Doing it yourself isn’t too terrible if you get a product that gives you explicit instructions and most of them are designed to cover the gray and are semi-permanent. Start with the roots and work your way out. If you have longer than shoulder length hair get 2 boxes. And i must admit it did give me a little boost- it’s red and cheerful and i like it!

      And I’m sorry your current company sucks. They do sound awful. I hope you find something better soon.

    7. TurkeyLurkey*

      I don’t think I can weigh in on whether it looks professional for interviews (I wish that weren’t a thing, but it is so hard to know).
      Have you looked into getting babylights or highlights to blend the root color without having to strip all of your hair? That might be a middle ground and hopefully less expensive.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        This. I was going to suggest frosting, but I guess that’s an old term for similar results. It’s a great way to hide in-between hair.

    8. LDN Layabout*

      You may have too much grey for this to work, but give the coloured dry shampoos a try first. My friend had a similar issue and gave herself a good going over with brunette dry shampoo and it was good enough for short time periods like interviews.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Tried that, too much grey. The color sprays work, but for the amount of greys to cover, they would look very unnatural and sticky.
        My actual hair (I always dyed it as close to my real color as possible) is a rather dark brown, so it would have to be a lot of temporary dye.

    9. TheMonkey*

      Have you considered using a temporary wash-out dye to transition to grey? Once the grey grows out to a length you’re comfortable with, get it cut and let the last dye wash out. I have some friends that went grey this way and it seemed to work well for them (though I didn’t talk with them in depth about it).

    10. AndersonDarling*

      If your grey looks shiny and healthy, then it may be okay, especially if you go all out with the rest of your appearance. I went grey at 30, so I’m not phased by grey, but you never know how biased your interviewer is.
      I did an interview a while ago with an inch of pandemic-grow-out-grey and I mentioned that I was embarrassed that I wasn’t able to get my hair colored. The interview went fine and I got the job. But, if I had any more growth, I would have colored it.
      If you want to color it, many hairdressers are doing color-to-go. They mix and put the color on and then you wash it out once you get home. My regular $60 color is only $30 when I do the second half of the work at home. But you can only do same color or darker shade, because those can sit on your hair however long without damaging it. If you call around, there may be an option in your budget, if you want to go the coloring route.

    11. JB*

      I would recommend you continue to color it. I was in my mid-50s when I stopped coloring my hair. I stopped because it was expensive and a pain to touch it up every 4 to 6 weeks, and I felt like a hypocritical feminist–altering my looks for societal expectations. But I have definitely had times since then when I flirted with the idea of coloring it again, mostly because of possible ageism at work. If I were as young as you, I think I would keep up the coloring for several more years. I feel like I’m taken less seriously or am invisible because of my gray hair.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        My father been grey since his early 30s (when my greys started to show up). After he immigrated to the US at the age of 38, and got his first permanent job at the age of 40, his employer asked him to color his hair. Being a refugee immigrant with a family to feed and not many people hiring him, he did just so. That was mid-1990s., small business.

      2. WellRed*

        I agree. Color it up! Unless you are a rockstar genius type that everyone wants to hire, looking older will work against you and gray hair on a 40 year old will add years. Get the awesome new job and then do whatever the heck you want with your hair.

      3. Filosofickle*

        I posted here about a month ago with my own question about growing out my gray at 48 and this is how I came down. I gave it a few months to see what grew in. Turns out I didn’t mind my natural color — which I hadn’t seen in decades and thought would be the bigger issue — and even think the white around my face will be pretty. But as much as I love the idea of going dye-free and bucking society, much to my surprise I decided that I’m not ready for the ageism. It’s truly not where I thought I’d end up. Re-dyed a week ago.

        If I continued doing exactly what I’m doing now, which is independent consulting directly for clients or through one longtime partner, I’d be ok. But I don’t know what the next few years hold. I’m toying with some different directions and don’t want to limit my options or even feel insecure at a time I need confidence. My field is wildly ageist — even 30s is old. My resume masks my age due to a career shift plus I look young but I decided I wasn’t willing to risk it. I only want to grow it out once and now isn’t the right time.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I am thinking of gradually lightening my hair so I could possibly incorporate the greys better in some time in the future.

          1. Filosofickle*

            It’s a good strategy. One of the ways I may go is changing to a color that’s really close to my base color. That way I can grow out my red tones and I’d probably have to do overall color less often. Then when I’m ready to grow out the grays it’ll be a more natural transition and I won’t look like a calico cat.

          2. CupcakeCounter*

            That was actually going to be my suggestion…get some high and low lights added to the roots and length to blend the colors so its more of an ombre than a hard line

          3. Hillary*

            I agree with going lighter – I started adding blonde highlights to my dark brown as grays started coming in. They’re now magenta highlights, but that’s a different story. ;-) My stylist would probably say to try ballayage with toner after. It’s a relatively expensive technique because it’s time intensive, but a good stylist can soften the line between gray and dye. It’ll make it look natural and give you longer between appointments.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I’m 46 and lasted about 6 months, when enough gray/white had grown in around my face to give me a sense of what it would look like to go full gray. It does age me enough that I decided to stick with dyeing. In the meantime I used Overtone to try to blur the root line and thought I could do that through the full transition, but while I like the products in many ways (still use the blue-ing conditioner to control brassiness and Vibrant Silver to dull the redder aspects of the brown dye), their version of brown looks too orangey on my white hairs.

          I had also tried the strategy of going a step lighter every few months to make the root line less obvious as my hair color got lighter, but my hair has a real tendency to go orangey-yellow no matter what kind of toner, “cool” or “neutral” blond dye, or other technique I use to go blond. Might still need to find the right product for that, maybe it’s just not a home-dye option for me.

      4. Yellow Warbler*

        You’re not a hypocritical feminist; the choice has consequences. Until women can choose to dye/not-dye and be free of the ageism and gendered baggage that goes along with it, choosing not to dye is still a calculated risk. If your version of feminism requires you to perform a behavior that affects your livelihood in the name of an intangible philosophy, it may be worth re-evaluating.

    12. Engineer Woman*

      I suggest to color it for the interviews. It really shouldn’t matter, it should be all about your skills and what you bring to the role, but unfortunately it could matter. Not that the company or people want to bias against older folks, just that it might would lead me to take the color route for this. I wish my suggestion was different.

    13. Camellia*

      I’m facing the same issues and am seriously considering just getting a great wig. That gives me more options and more time to consider them. Ageism is definitely a thing, unfortunately.

    14. All Het Up About It*

      Is it crazy to suggest a wig for interviews? Yes, you’d want to invest a bit more in a quality one, but you wouldn’t have to go upwards of $500. You could then continue to grow it out and if you get the job you wouldn’t have to wear it every day.

    15. Skeeder Jones*

      You may have more options than you think. I’d recommend talking it over with a colorist if you can. I had a similar problem where I had been coloring my hair red (was a natural redhead as a child and more of an auburn as an adult pre-grey hair) and the roots were so obvious that I basically did my roots every 3 weeks. The pandemic made it so I could just let it grow for a while and I definitely appreciated having less work. I talked to a hair dresser and said that my goal is to have a hair color where it’s not so obvious when my grey roots show. She ended up doing some lightening of the hair overall and then wove in some blond highlights that now blend a little better with the grey roots. I last colored my hair in September and although I can see my grey roots, I don’t mind it! I probably won’t need to color it for a while still.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I had similar hair – really red when I was a child, then a more subtle red as an adult. But due to too much coloring (I stupidly hated my red hair) and other factors, I started greying in my late 30s – just when I started to like the red! I learned that red dyes are the hardest to keep in, and also had to re-dye every three weeks. I finally gave up in my 40s and went light blonde again. During a bout of no-dye laziness, I realized that my “grey” was actually blonde and matched the rest, so I stopped coloring. Yay!

    16. MacGillicuddy*

      I like grey and didn’t color mine for a long time, partly for political reasons, in protest of the “grey is old” stupidity. But when my hair was was mostly grey, I looked really washed out. (I’ve never been able to wear grey either – people would tell me I looked really tired. ) So reluctantly I started using the semi-permanent stuff in a much lighter color than my natural color.
      Can you go lighter on the roots as you grow out the grey? If you’re color is naturally very dark, keeping that same shade can age you as you get older.
      I read an article that said the general public doesn’t have a realistic idea of when people actually go grey because so many women dye their hair at the first sign of grey.
      I have a friend whose hair was completely white by the time she was 28. She said that 70 yr old guys would always try chatting her up.

    17. beach read*

      Good luck with your job search! Here’s a vote for a day of pampering; luxurious color, fabulous new cut, mani/ pedi and one less thing to worry about while trying to find a new job.

  28. Job confusion*

    I’m in my first job after college. I enjoy the cataloguing and archiving part of the job, ensuring that the files are filed in the right folders and that they are named correctly according to system, things like that. I also like to brainstorm and come up with ways to improve the filing system.

    What kinds of jobs that will make a good fit for me?

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Records management, anything that involves informatics, or high level administrative assistant work all come to mind.

      1. Job confusion*

        For records management or informatics, do I need to have a specific degree? I majored in English.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          You know, I’m not 100% sure. I know people who do records management who don’t have specific degrees and I know folks who do the work who did get masters. I’d look at job listings and see what they tend to require.

    2. Erika22*

      My company has an entire department dedicated to archiving and keeping track of our products and versioning, so it’s definitely something you can find a job for if you want to!

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I was thinking archivist. I had a summer job as a teenager working in a historical records department and they would love someone like this!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          “Archivist” is a job title. Similar to librarian but not for books. (Think “the papers of Famous Writer” at the university where the writer got her degree)

        2. Erika22*

          I work at a large education publishing company, and we publish a ton of print and digital titles, so there’s a lot to look after! In our company the dept is specifically called print and digital asset management – maybe those keywords will help in your search?

    3. Higher ed is complicated*

      You might love information architecture and user experience design! I have an actual degree in cataloging so you know I agree it’s fun, and I thought those were the most satisfying courses of my cataloging focused degree. Plus, those paths are common in private sector and more profitable than my library gigs if that matters to you :)

    4. AndersonDarling*

      Quality is one of those fields that you never learn about in school. It’s creating policies and procedures for organizations. Sometimes it’s so companies are complying with laws, and sometimes it’s documenting efficiencies. You make the systems and then run audits to make sure people are following the systems. Your desire to keep things in order may translate into that kind of work.

      1. Job confusion*

        Sounds interesting! Can you tell me more about the possible career paths? It seems like working in policies requires certain degrees and years of experience, or at least the job ads I’ve seen require them.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Some people move into Quality from administrative or performance improvement jobs. And some get degrees in Quality…I know there is one online program in Quality through a state university…maybe Indiana?
          Mostly it comes down to people who enjoy writing very detailed documents. But you do need a thick skin, because no one likes it when Quality shows up to run an audit on their department!

    5. Captain Raymond Holt*

      I’m a Salesforce administrator for my company and I think you might enjoy that. I’ve worked in libraries too, and I found a lot of the skills to be a good Salesforce admin are similar to cataloging and archiving

  29. Asthmatic Annie*

    I’m going to put this in a reply because it is loooong. But I would appreciate advice from anyone.

    1. Asthmatic Annie*

      To make a long story as short as possible my workplace has been absolutely atrocious at enforcing mask usage. My state has had a mask mandate and my company has a mask policy. Unfortunately my boss does not actually enforce it. Over the last year there have been multiple complaints down multiple avenues from multiple employees. Every time a complaint has been brought to our attention it has been because my manager is upset about the complaint and not the employees making it an unsafe environment for everyone. He rants about how complaining “could get the company in trouble and we could be shut down”, about how bad the complaints make us look etc. Once a frustrated co-worker put an anonymous note on the front door cautioning about the poor mask wearing in the facility. Instead of addressing the mask wearing my boss flipped out (something he has done previously) about how unprofessional it was and how he could find out who did it and fire them and so on. The mask wearing was not addressed whatsoever.

      We continued to have meetings with no ability to social distance and one day I walked into a crowded meeting to see a maskless co-worker sitting in the back of the room chatting to my manager who was up front. I left the meeting and sent HR an email about the lax mask wearing saying I was high-risk and had real concerns. They got back to me saying they wanted it to be a safe environment and would address the issues. After that they spaced out the seating in our meeting room and started holding meetings with fewer people but the mask wearing on the floor didn’t get much better.

      While we mostly work more that 6ft apart, I do have to come in contact with my co-workers work stations as I need to sign-off paperwork multiple times a night. My direct co-worker and the person who works the shift before her (John) constantly did not wear their masks. Not just didn’t wear them properly but would take them off both their nose and mouth and I wasn’t comfortable continuing to touch their workspace so I stopped giving them sign-offs. The next day my manager absolutely LOST it. He clearly figured out I was the one who made the latest HR compliant (and I believe he assumed I had made all the complaints) and screamed in my face for a good 10-15 minutes. And I truly mean screamed.

      Fast forward a few months, there have been more complaints from co-workers, and the mask wearing is better, but still not perfect. There are about 5 people who just don’t want to wear their masks but the only one I come in close contact with is John who I consistently saw not wearing his. Multiple times a week I would come in and see it hanging around his neck and then for the rest of my shift would have to make multiple trips to where he had been working to give my co-worker a sign off. One day my lead was walking by so I flagged him down, pointed out John with his mask off and asked my lead to say something. John continued to not wear his mask properly and I spoke with my lead a few more times and eventually he said something to my manger. Manager said he spoke with John who admitted he takes his mask off because “he has asthma” but that wasn’t an appropriate excuse and John was told to wear his mask. He did for a few weeks but stopped again. Last week I walked in and saw him working without his mask. As usual once he noticed me looking at him he pulled up his mask. I again said something to my lead but John insisted he was just drinking water and it was clear to me this was just not going to change so I said I was going to go home at that point.

      When I stopped giving sign offs because I didn’t feel comfortable touching the workspace of unmasked people they ended up mentioning it on my yearly review stating it was “unfavorable behavior which left the company at risk.” Between that and my boss screaming at me I didn’t feel like I could continue to bring up the mask wearing without it coming back on me, and even if I did the company has not rectified the situation at all. I truly do feel unsafe continuing to work in this environment and it was obvious it was not going to change. I did not return to work after speaking to HR who seemed to think there was no real issue. There was some back and forth about what I wanted to happen to which I continually responded I just wanted the company to enforce the mask mandate but they were unwilling to make any changes and HR suggested I take a leave of absence which I accepted as I didn’t feel I had other options. I can’t really afford to be out of work but I can even less afford a hospital stay.

      I did think I could come back 2 weeks after my 2nd vaccine shot when when I should have nearly 100% protection. But that is weeks away for me and in the meantime I am out of work while those who voluntarily choose not to follow the rules are still making income.

      I’m leaving a TON out for brevity’s sake but that’s the gist of the situation. And I am just lost right now.

      1. Collie*

        I know some counties have departments for which you can report unsafe work environments for COVID purposes (although this may depend on the sector?). Is there a local agency to which you could make a report anonymously? I know you said it could still be traced back to you, but I also agree that, short of leaving or giving management an ultimatum, it seems you have few options. That, or publicly shame John, though I feel like that’s probably not going to be productive route, nor one that protects your reputation.

        1. Asthmatic Annie*

          Thanks for the response! Unfortunately reporting them has already been tried twice that I know of and there was no effect on the company.

      2. Firecat*

        I’m sorry you are dealing with this. I had a similar issue with my previous employer.

        They were a hospital so you would think they would be good but… My department was vehemently pro Trump and anti Covid.

        Nothing changed their minds.
        75% of staff got Covid. The response? Punish people who get tested for Covid and get a negative. Bully the long haulers once their 2 weeks were used.

        Sr leadership saw the lack of mask usage and people eating maskless at their desks so they came down hard. Response? Next day the manager was sitting masklesss 6in from someone eating.

        Lots of complaints to HR. Response? Punish the complainers for not “following the chain of command”. Literally overheard this from a discipline meeting “I just feel that I am not being empowered to bring up health and safety concerns because I’m not a clinician” Manager says “That’s correct” literally simultaneously HR says “Not at all”. Then the HR rep says “Well you should follow the chain of command but we don’t want you to feel like you can’t speak up about patient safety”. Chain of command is literally the Mgr who said “Correct”

        Personally Id look for a new role.

        1. Asthmatic Annie*

          Yup, that was one of the things my manager was most angry about. During his screaming fit he berated me for going above his head but… I had already spoken to him and there was no change so? I’m definitely looking for a new job, but who knows how long that could take.

      3. Fitz*

        Your manager is an asshole and isn’t going to change. I would really start the process of emotionally checking out at work and job hunting.
        Regarding mask usage at work, I have noticed that I am by far the strictest about enforcing it. There is a department that is lax about it at my job, but I’ve had a conversation with someone in that department about it, and at the very least, they do mask up when I’m around. I also mandate a strict mask policy in my department’s spaces. In a more supportive workplace, I would have recommended talking to your coworkers about it before taking it to HR, but everyone has already shown you that they don’t care, and you don’t owe them an explanation for why you do.
        Your situation sucks, and I hope things get better for you.

        1. Asthmatic Annie*

          Yeah, he’s absolutely terrible for a number of reasons. I actually had spoken to my coworkers and was met with a multitude of excuses and no real change so I ended up having to escalate it. I have definitely started job hunting and am hoping I find something soon. Thanks!

      4. WellRed*

        Is there a possibility of collecting unemployment until you can go back to the office? And use this time to start job hunting. Bosses should never scream at employees.

      5. pancakes*

        It seems that you’ve sometimes had good results from going to HR, so I would continue to keep in touch with them, and be specific about the retaliation you’ve experienced. I would work that word into every communication you have with them, because you clearly are experiencing retaliation. It isn’t entirely clear from your comment whether they’re fully aware of that or whether your communications with them have focused only on mask-wearing.

    2. Not A Manager*

      This suggestion depends on a lot of factors, but my spouse and I drove from a scarce-vaccine state to an available-vaccine state and got our first shot there. We are prepared to drive back for the second shot if we need to, but things are opening up in our state so we might be able to get the second shot closer to home. Since you are off work currently, if you have transportation you might consider this option.

      I assume you’ve checked on this, but are you sure that your asthma doesn’t qualify you for a vaccine where you are?

      1. Asthmatic Annie*

        Thank you! I was actually lucky enough to get my first vaccine but from what I understand you have to wait two weeks after your second shot for full immunity.

  30. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

    I need to turn down a job offer and I’m woefully out of practice.

    The offer is terrible and the company is toxic, which I realized after I started interviewing. I’m not too worried about burning bridges, as I live in a large metro area, and their biggest competitor is a company I used to work for that is also highly toxic, which also let me see some of the signs.

    Anyway, they told me my range was high, but I said I could negotiate based on benefits (prior to realizing I would never take a job with them under any circumstances). Well, they not only offered me $5,000 less than what I make now, the benefits are terrible. Nothing beyond standard medical/dental/vision that they pay 50% of and NO vacation until you’re there a year, at which point you get 5 days.

    I guess I’m torn between telling them the offer isn’t right for me, at which point I think they’ll think I’m still open to negotiation, or, more likely, say, “you SAID you were flexible” and throw a fit, or pointing them to their Glassdoor reviews…

    1. ThatGirl*

      I know this can seem daunting, but it’s really pretty routine and not a big deal. All you need to say is “I appreciate the offer, but after consideration, I’ve decided to turn it down. Thanks for the opportunity!”

      If they ask for more details you could certainly tell them, but it sounds like it goes beyond bad pay and benefits, so you don’t really owe them anything else.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      “No.” or if you’re feeling generous, “No, thanks.”

      You could be a little more forthcoming with the why, but you’ve already spent enough emotional energy on this place, and it’s probably not worth the blaze of glory.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Thank you so much for the opportunity to meet with the team, but after consideration, I am going to decline. I wish you the best.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      It’s very reasonable to simply say “it seems like we’re too far apart, so I’ll have to decline.” That doesn’t sound like you’re still open to negotiating, but also doesn’t seem like you didn’t mean it when you said before you were. It’s a flat, reasonable, normal way to say no. It’d also be fine to just decline without indicating why, or just saying it looks like it’s not the right fit. If they throw a fit, that reflects poorly on them, not you.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      “That is less than what I make now so I don’t believe this is going to work out – good luck in your search”

    6. Crazytown Express*

      This is a much bigger deal to you than it is to them. Especially as a fairly toxic company, they will not care about your opinions, not much as an employee and even less as a hypothetical future employee. So just let it go. Tell them no thank you, and if they try to give you any grief about your lack of flexibility in settling for their offer, imagine them as the corporate version of that person/archetype on the dating websites who flips the switch from flattery to insults if you turn them down.

    7. Tess*

      I’m not sure why it’s so difficult to just say, “No, thank you, but good luck with your search” to a company you describe as toxic.

  31. PlatypusO0*

    I recently graduated from a job training program through our county government and was hired for an office-type job with our county. We were told our starting wage would be anywhere from $16.50-$21/hr. I was hired at $21/hr because of the type of work I would do and because this office “demands a higher level of professionalism” than the other options I was offered. A few days ago, the county announced they are raising their minimum wage from $15/hr to $20/hr for all employees. In the announcement, they had vague language about looking at the market rate for other jobs at the employee’s yearly performance review.

    This raise is great news for the folks that were making less than $20/hr. However, I am training to do a complex, stressful job, and now I am making $1/hr more than the minimum wage. I have gone to my union; they said they sympathize but can’t help right now. I did ask for advice from the career counselor at the job training program I went through to get this job; her advice was “this has happened to her before, and to get over it,” essentially. I need to say something to my department lead; however, I am new, and I am struggling with what type of language I should use. I value Alison’s advice and the readers of this blog; if anyone has any ideas, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I know this feels awkward and frustrating, but the thing is that others getting a raise doesn’t really mean you get one. I will say in my experience when the floor of pay is raised, often in the next year or so, people get adjustments as things level out. I’d also say, what do you expect to gain from a conversation with your team lead? I can’t really tell what your goal is from your question. Because if your goal is a raise, I might wait a bit and see how things shake out if you’re super new. Your career counselor might not be wrong in the- “These things happen” side of the equation.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      At your performance review, since they’ve already said they’ll be looking at market rates, you might try something along the lines of “I was told this job demands a higher level of professionalism than other positions, which was why it paid $5 more than the county’s minimum wage. It still demands more professionalism, so I hope it’s still worth $5 more than the county’s minimum wage.”

    3. Grits McGee*

      Another argument for waiting it out- you’re still in training and not yet working at the level for which $21/hr is appropriate compensation. Once you’re fully fulfilling the role, you’ll have a much stronger position from which to negotiate, if it comes to that.

    4. PlatypusO0*

      Thanks for the advice, everyone! I do not have anyone in my personal life I can talk about this with, so this is so helpful. Much appreciated.

  32. El Camino*

    Folks who left proposals/grants, what are you doing now? Thinking about a career change. My last few jobs have been so demoralizing to me and my self-worth, and the pandemic and increased workloads certainly haven’t helped. I left a toxic job 8 months ago because of intense stress, unrealistic workload, and a vindictive manager who posted my job on a hiring site while I was on the only vacation I ever took in my year there. It drove me to therapy because I had crippling anxiety and depression and felt like no matter what I did, I was screwing things up and dropping the many plates I was trying to spin with little support. I regularly worked 12-15 hour days and weekends and was told it was never enough, and when I asked for help, they decided to get rid of me.

    Their MO was to post people’s jobs, bring someone new in to be trained, and then fire the original person. I was able to find a new job before that happened to me (was already job searching when I saw my own job posted, so fun), but now this new job is more of the same. It’s similar work with constant deadlines and deliverables, and a ton of project management with different departments throughout our organization. We run like 40 different programs and I’m still learning who’s who and who to go to for x, y or z.

    I’m still in therapy in trying to overcome the burnout from my old job, and while my new team is better with formal processes and working together to help each other, we are swamped with work currently. I am feeling that familiar stress that wakes me up at 3 am, that keeps me tied to my desk without taking lunch and randomly bursting into tears because I feel like a failure yet again trying to keep up with every new task that is thrown onto my plate. I got told in my one-on-one with my boss, who has taken on a lot of work herself because my colleague and I (same title/level) who report to her have overflowing plates, that because we’re “senior llama wranglers” that we should be able to handle the many things we’re being asked to juggle and that she is being pressured to step back and delegate more to us. She asked me why I can’t work faster on certain things, but being thorough is essential to the job I do. “Do you want it done fast or do you want it done right?”

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to herd cats in many projects, have people who don’t show up prepared to meetings which throws off my timeline and leads to me working late (against my therapist’s advice) and feeling this increased anxiety and dread. I’m expected to be compassionate to the other departments and their busy schedules, but none of that compassion is reciprocated to us.

    I don’t know where to start for a career change. I’ve been doing this work since college and wasn’t super thrilled to take this job but needed a life raft to leave the awful place I was working at before. I’m so over it though. The only reward I see for doing a job well done is getting more work assigned. I don’t even feel like I can call out for a sick day just to rest. I’m just so tired and at a loss for what to do next.

    1. El Camino*

      Apologies for the duplicate comment! Please feel free to delete this one, Alison – sorry about that.

    2. Wrangling SMEs*

      Saw your comment above and KNEW you were a fellow proposal manager. I was absolutely in your shoes a few years back. I found a PM role in a different industry that’s significantly less stressful than where I came from. It took me a good two years to recover from the burnout of my last job, and I’m still unlearning some of the emotional and psychological damage. But it *is* possible. It may be worth looking for a safe place to land to recharge and get your head back. Switching industries is actually pretty easy for this work (I guarantee you can make a strong case for why your skills would translate), and some industries are just going to be more relaxed than others. It could be worth looking for a softer place so you can keep working/earning while you figure out where to go next.

  33. Middle Manager*

    Any advice for supporting your direct reports when you have limited power in what rewards you can offer?

    I was promoted to an acting director level and currently oversee a team of 9 — this is a group of people I’ve already worked with for several years, but as a peer rather than a supervisor. A lot has been asked of our department this year, and every member of my team worked long hours and weekends to meet goals with constantly shifting goalposts. If it were up to me, everyone would get a raise at the very least, but ideally a promotion too: We were short-staffed so many more entry-level staff took on higher-level work, and did it well.

    Unfortunately, we work for the state government, so the raise and promotion process is out of my hands completely. The most I can offer is comp time, but our PTO policy is already generous to the extent that everyone has at least 20 days banked already. Morale is low and all of us are burnt out. We all like each other and many of us are outside-of-work friends, and I think that camaraderie is what got us this far, but I think everyone is feeling like we’ve been breaking our backs with no real benefit except to keep the organization running. They know I support them, but they also know that I can’t promise them bonuses or raises or promotions because that is not how our org functions.

    Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

    1. irene adler*

      If it were me, as one of your reports, and I was ‘burning out’, I’d really like if you could arrange the dept calendar so that everyone or most everyone) could take some PTO. Like maybe a two day shut down where all took the time off. Or can you do something with the planning of tasks to make it possible for folks to take a break? Then rotate who gets to take some time off.

      You can write things -good things- that go into their personnel files, attesting to their going ‘above and beyond the call of duty’. That always makes one feel appreciated.

      1. Middle Manager*

        I love the idea of writing personalized good things! Truthfully I’ve been stretched so thin that I haven’t done more than generic “thank you all for your hard work” messages, but I just started personalized notes to each person acknowledging the specific things they’ve done over the past few months that made a difference.

        Sadly I do not have the authority to close down the whole department, but I DO have the authority to tell everyone to take, say, 2 comp days at some point in May, so they can choose when they want to — that could work.

        Thanks for your ideas!

    2. Madeleine Matilda*

      I work in a similar situation and share your frustrations. Are you able to give them small amounts of leave? Our managers can give some a couple of hours off which often comes the day before a holiday but occasionally as a thank you. Also when you thank people for what they have done, be quite specific about why you are thanking them and the impact their work had on the organization. So not: John, thanks for your work on project X. Rather: John, thanks for completing task Y for project X ahead of schedule. It will let us launch the project sooner and allow us to begin offering service Z to clients which will help them do A.

      1. Middle Manager*

        Yes, I replied to Irene above that I have definitely been more generic in my “thank you all for your hard work” messaging, but I’m definitely planning on more specific notes to each of my direct reports to acknowledge exactly what they did and how it made a difference for our team.

    3. ferrina*

      Definitely encourage that folks use PTO! I like Irene Adler’s idea of a PTO calendar. As manager, make sure that you are actively rearranging responsibilities to ensure that people can take time off- often people that are burned out have trouble visualizing what coverage should look like. I actually will tell my reports in our 1:1s “We’ve had a busy time, and it’s really important to me that we all recoop. I’m strongly encouraging everyone to take some time off somewhere in the next two months. I’m more than happy to rearrange whatever work you have going on to make sure you can get some well deserved rest!” At least two-thirds of my staff will usually take time off (if they don’t want to, I don’t push the issue). Use PTO yourself to set a good example!

      If possible, also juggle around assignments. Are people able to do something a little different to get refreshed? Maybe they’ve been doing crisis management for 2 months and are burned out- can they review old documents for a couple weeks? (make it low stakes, make the deadline longer than needed, and you can actually say “I really appreciate how hard you’ve been working- I want you to go at whatever pace you want for this assignment. My priority is for you to take a mental rest, not getting this done by a deadline.”

      If you have the authority, send everyone home early one day. That is always appreciated!

      1. Middle Manager*

        I love your wording to encourage people to actually use their PTO. We had previous leadership who never took PTO themselves, or made staff feel guilty for requesting any time, and I think people still feel that guilt even though I try to make my support of time off very clear.

        Unfortunately we all do the same kind of work, so the busy season hits all of us at the same time. We are coming out of that now though, and I will make sure to loudly encourage everyone to take as much PTO as they want.

        Thanks for your advice!

    4. Tuckerman*

      If there’s any room for flexibility, that can make a difference. Like, if it’s a beautiful day, let people submit last minute vacation requests. Or let people work remotely when possible. Also, when you say the goalposts are constantly shifting, is there any room to push back on this, to advocate for your staff?

      1. Middle Manager*

        Unfortunately there’s not much room for pushback since the directives are coming from top-level leadership. Part of all of our frustration is that other departments, and leadership, don’t seem to have any idea of what we have done and continue to do, which is demoralizing. We have also been leader-less for a few months (there is usually another position above mine) so there’s even less communication between us and the top levels. It sucks, to be honest.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m sorry — this is probably out of your control too. Biggest reward at a company where we got that swamped was when the powers that be finally recognized it and added another pair of hands to the staff.

    6. Anonymous Koala*

      I’ve been on the other side – in a job where raises and promotions weren’t really in the hands of our supervisors. Some of the things I wish our org had done were:
      (1) flexible schedules and ad hoc WFH policies if possible. At OldJob if you wanted to WFH pre-COVID it was like a 6 month process and then IT would give you a 2nd desktop for your home office, and you had to work from home on the same day every week. I wish our bosses had pushed for us to be given laptops and allowed the occasional discretionary WFH day without it being a huge deal.
      (2) if you can swing it, set aside more $$ this quarter for hardware and software improvements and let your team have input on how it’s spent.
      (3) better office chairs if you can, and the option to add/switch to a standing desk.
      (4) could your org provide breakfast or lunch for everyone on a semi-regular basis? I know in my office everyone was always a little happier to be at work when free food was involved
      (5) regular personalized positive feedback. You might already be doing this, but if not, I would definitely try and give everyone on your team written feedback when they finish a big assignment about what they did well specifically and what they’ve done to go above and beyond for the org this year. And maybe even cc a copy to BigBoss if it’s appropriate. This would have made a world of difference to me and my coworkers at OldJob.

    7. Frankie Derwent*

      Used to work in a government office with a similar situation, except that we didn’t get along with our chief as well as we did with our supervisor. Attitude makes the difference. The fact that you’re already acknowledging that they are performing tasks above their paygrade, that they are overworked, and that you express your appreciation will go a long way.

      I think verbalizing your specific praise, giving little perks such as free pizza during crunch time are good ideas.

    8. Tabby Baltimore*

      I’m in fed govt, so I don’t know if this an option for state govt or not, but can you secure for them any *paid* overtime? My agency has fairly strict rules about when that can be used, since it comes out of our office’s budget (I think), so if that hasn’t occurred to you, please look into finding out what hoops you’d need to jump through to get at least some of these extra hours compensated with money.
      Also, if your agency sponsors annual awards, and there’s a team award, think about writing up a nomination for your team.

  34. Wants Green Things*

    My question is really variable and I know it, but I’d still appreciate hearing others’ experiences. I graduated college 2.5 years ago, after switching degrees midway, so I’m a couple years older than my cohert. I got a job with a good company that’s pulled through the pandemic very strongly, and my office is getting more opportunities every month. There’s a lot of growth available to me.

    But… I hate my state! I’ve never liked living here, but there was never a good time to move away that wouldn’t have been disastrous for my mental health. Things are good now, steady, better than I ever expected, and with that has come this constant urge to pack and leave. I want to get away from dirt and heat and back to green and rain.

    But I know that other states may not have the same opportunities and growth that here does. I’m doing my research, but the pandemic has really thrown it all off and it’s hard to predict right now which places will bounce back. Am I stupid for throwing away my opportunities here? Is it better to stay in place I hate with a good job market?

    1. Ashley*

      Travel gets you so far for getting you out of a state you hate, but do you really want to spend 30+ years in a place you hate? I would seriously look to change positions and states. The pandemic has really taught me the importance of state government and what that can mean for my health.

      1. Wants Green Things*

        My state went purple with the election, but our governor and our state senate are doing everything they can to go back to red. It’s definitely been a big part of my issues here.

        I also really want to own a house and property values have shot up in a way that reminds of 2007. Moving to another state gets me that much closer to home ownership.

        1. WellRed*

          “I also really want to own a house and property values have shot up in a way that reminds of 2007. Moving to another state gets me that much closer to home ownership.”

          Don’t stay in a state you hate (that’s fun to say), but I can’t imagine any desirable state where property values haven’t shot up.

          1. Wants Green Things*

            They’ve gone up everywhere, but here there’s high property tax plus people moving in from the West Coast. Property values have been marked up for years because of it. Trust me, the 3 bed, 1 bath trailer home from the 70s without central AC is *not* worth $300k, especially with only minor reno work.

    2. MissGirl*

      Why not just start applying and see what happens? You’re trying to make decision when you don’t actually have enough information to make a decision. A lot of companies are also more open to remote work.

    3. Taura*

      Are there any opportunities within your company to get you back to a location you’d prefer to be in? If not, I’d still go ahead and start looking for a new job – NOT necessarily so you can leave tomorrow but just so you know you’re doing everything you can to make all aspects of your life suit you. A career path with lots of growth isn’t going to make up for being miserable because of where you live.

      1. Wants Green Things*

        Our main office is in another state that I’ve considered. There haven’t been any openings at my level but I do plan to keep an eye out just in case.

        Between you and MissGirl, it sounds like I should start dusting off my resume. And you know what? I think I will. Doesn’t hurt to keep it updated now that I’ve got some finished projects under my belt.

        1. Hillary*

          Do you trust your manager? If yes, start talking to them about this. I really miss green things and rain – how do I start to meet people in other start to talk about opportunities? Also in this environment it doesn’t hurt to ask about remote work, if they like you they may be able to move your job to another location while staying on the team.

          If you’re where I think you are they’ve probably heard it before. The desert isn’t for everyone and people who live there know it.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Good point — there’s a long shot some positions can be moved from one corporate office to another.

        2. Clisby*

          Absolutely! You don’t have to commit to leaving within the next month or two. Start looking. It sounds like you have a decent job, which means you don’t need to desperately take the first thing that comes along.

    4. PollyQ*

      Move! I spent 16 years living in a place I didn’t love, and I wish I’d moved years earlier than I finally did. Your state isn’t the only one with a good job market, and even in a place with a down economy, all you need is one job.

    5. Carol*

      It is so, so much harder to “start over” later. Just do it now.

      I moved cross-country in my late 20s. Even without a spouse/kids/a house to sell, it was still SO HARD and took so much momentum and energy to make the move. I am so glad I did it.

      You hate where you live–the job isn’t going to change that. And it’s much easier when you’re younger to go down in salary, take some interim work in a while if needed, if you end up having to do that to make the transition work. Or maybe you can get some remote work to free up your movements. Save as much as you can. Don’t assume the other place will be perfect

    6. RagingADHD*

      It’s only stupid if you run off and leave with no plan and no prospects, and nothing to go towards

      Take time to research and plan. Save up money. In six months, you could have a lot more info and a financial cushion, and it will be more apparent which areas are bouncing back quickly.

      Use the time constructively, then you’ll be able to make solid decisions.

  35. What's in a name?*

    Can anyone provide guidance or guesses on how mileage reimbursement goes when you normally work from home? My company reimburses for mileage over my normal commute, but if I work from home and sometime have to go to a supplier site, what does that mean for me?

    1. Very Scared*

      I used to do remote mobile work on sites and I would submit for drives from home to sites, and between sites, and the drive home. But it was for a big company that wasn’t trying to penny-pinch. Do you have anyone internal who could give you guidance? I did that on the instructions from my boss.

      1. What's in a name?*

        I can bring it up with my supervisor, I am waiting to hear what is going to happen long term. The deal now is I subtract what was my commute previously.

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

      In the before times, when we had to be reimbursed for mileage, it was from my work address to the off-site location, even if we started from home — which would be a boon for some and a bust for others. I don’t know if that is the IRS rules or my employer’s policy.

      1. introverted af*

        Ours is somewhat similar. If you would normally come to the office that day, then you’re only reimbursed for mileage beyond what your normal commute would be. Lots of staff try to get more out of this policy by going from home to their appointment to the office, and the mileage beyond their normal commute is reimbursable. We also have a standard reimbursement for anyone who goes from our town to the airport in the next town over.

    3. Natalie*

      As far as tax law is concerned, if you normally work from home, that is your principal place of business. Mileage between your principal place of business and a secondary or temporary place of business are deductible business miles (rather than non-deductible commuting miles).

      Many employers just follow tax law when setting their mileage policies because it’s easy. However, they are not *required to* (with the possible exception of California, which requires business expenses be reimbursed) so an employer is certainly allowed to decide that they will not reimburse the # of miles between your home and the main office. You really just need to ask them.

  36. Very Scared*

    Does anyone here have experience working in federal contracting? I work in [specific software] admin/dev and am possibly anticipating a job offer next week from a small consulting company that works exclusively on Federal Govt Contracts. I have a thousand questions. I’ve never worked in consulting, but that’s not my biggest fear – what do I need to know about Federal contracting? (Would I…actually technically be that? I usually think of contractors as direct contractors not thru other companies).

    Are there any good recent blogs I could read about it?

    Do you normally get the background check done and approved first before resigning/is it acceptable to request? [Is it weird to ask what level of background check will be done? I am assuming it will be a very basic one based on the work, but if its for some reason higher, the idea of them contacting now-estranged direct-relatives of mine terrifies me since they’re…not good people.]
    Do you have to obsessively track your hours?
    Is it difficult in specific ways across all small businesses that contract to fed?
    What kind of questions should I get answered before I accept an offer?

    This would be a huge raise and move for me from a currently very underpaid, overworked position where I’m solo. So, I’m excited but terrified and trying to be realistic about whether or not this would be a good move. :) Please help.

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      1. You would be considered an employee at the contracting company and a contractor at the Fed agency to which you are assigned. Your supervisor would be someone at the contracting company and at the agency you would likely have a Contracting Officers Representative (COR) or program manager who would oversee your work.
      2. Definitely ask what level of background check is needed. At some levels of background check they do talk to people whose names you supply such as family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. If someone says something negative about you it isn’t necessarily the end, you should be asked to explain.
      3. Depending on the type of contract the company has with the agency you may need to track your hours.
      4. A company may have won the same contract from the same agency several times (a 4 year contract is then recompeted for a new 4 year contract, etc. I would ask how long has the company had the contract with the Fed (including recompetes).
      5. Each contract as an initial year and then a certain number of additional option years. Ask the length of the current contract including the option years.
      6. If a company loses the recompete for a contract to another company and the agency really likes your work, they can ask the new company to consider hiring you. I know contractors who have done the same job at an agency for 20 years but been employed for three or four different companies.
      7. Be aware that contracts can be ended by Fed suddenly under certain conditions. This doesn’t happen often or without reason, but it can happen.

      Good luck!

      1. Grits McGee*

        To build of off #2- Ask if you will be expected to get a security clearance for this job and what kinds of agencies the company normally contracts with. (I’m assuming you’re in the US.) When I was hired as a Fed employee in a civilian employee, I went through a background check that didn’t involve talking to anyone in my personal life. However, security clearances usually involve interviews with people who can verify the information you submit for the clearance. You don’t have control over who the examiner speaks to, but they usually don’t select people at random- you give the examiner a list of people to contact, and commonly the examiner will ask your references to give further references.
        If you’re doing any kind of work with Dept of Defense, Dept of State, or Dept of Justice, those agencies tend to have more stringent security standards across the board, and are more likely to require clearances.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          When I was up for a high security clearance (this was many years ago and I was actually in the military, so it may vary), not only did the people I listed as personal references get questioned, the investigators dug out people who knew those references and questioned THEM. Plus other people I knew but hadn’t listed got questioned. My parents were getting calls from people wondering what was going on and if I had committed a crime! I never got the clearance level needed for the particular job I’d been assigned, so I was given a different position with a lower security level. I never found out why; possibly my Mom’s relatives (who none of us had ever met or contacted) still living in what were then communist countries. I hope the clearance procedure is more sensible now.

      2. Very Scared*

        Thank you so much! Super helpful advice, my gosh.

        This company I know has multiple contracts with the govt (at least 3 listed on their website) that it seems different agencies can put in “requests” under – they’ve mentioned EPA, VA, DoD, and others in phone conversations.

        If you’re still around – are there any huge red flags I should look out for? And finally….is this kind of position good, or no better than a regular career, or possibly worse?

    2. Fed Too*

      Find out what kinds of contracts they hold and what your day to day interaction is with the fed side. We have contracts with companies that provide us people that we work with on a regular basis to do x task for z years. We also have contracts where we hire a company to provide a product (like an IT system). That company would have a PM and a few technical people that would work with us but the other 10 people back at the office working on design or development are completely unknown to me.

      The type of clearance will depend on how you are used and what you work on. It’s okay to ask what that involves.

      1. Very Scared*

        Thank you! They have a few contracts listed on their website and a couple actually list detailed information. One of them (that I definitely fall under) is till 2025, another only 2022 but has been renewed repeatedly it looks like.

        I would definitely be partially fed-facing doing requirements gathering and training.

  37. Epsilon Delta*

    “I need to talk this offer over with my husband/wife.”

    In the context of a job offer or other business transaction (like hiring a contractor to work on your home or negotiating price on something), does this come off as weak or deferential if I’m a woman saying it? To me, a man saying he needs to talk it over with his spouse sounds like he wants to think it over and make sure he’s on the same page as his wife about something that affects both of them. A woman saying it should come off the same way, but as a woman (and a young-looking one at that) I worry that it would come across as seeking permission or not being in charge of the situation, especially if I were talking to an older man. As a woman should I just avoid this phrase altogether?

    1. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I tend to just say that I’ll need to look it over/consider the offer. What I actually mean is “My Dad, the lawyer, is going to go over this line by line with me” but they don’t need to know that. I think the only information the party you are speaking to know is that you need time, but anything else is just not something they need to have!

    2. ThatGirl*

      Also a woman, though not super young, but I’d probably just say “I need some time to think this over” and leave it there. I don’t think it sounds weak, though – you’re not saying you need to ask their permission, just that you want to talk it through with someone else.

      1. ratatatcat*

        My worry with this phrase is that if you’re young, this might come off as needing to check with your parents.

    3. irene adler*

      I would just indicate that you need time to think the offer over. Then tell them when you will get back to them with a response.
      They don’t need to know how you are going to evaluate an offer (i.e. discuss with spouse, parent, pets, kids, consult with an astrologer, use this offer to counter another offer, whatever). My take: the less one tells someone about one’s personal life, the better.

      Yeah, I can’t help but think some folks look at a woman as not being able to make a decision on her own when she says “Let me discuss this with my husband/significant other.” OTOH, a man is not viewed in similar manner. But that’s just me.

      When a guy came to my door to sign me up for an estimate for window replacement for my entire home, he insisted that my husband be present during the appointment. So he asked me for my husband’s name to put down on his appointment sheet.

      “Beats me, ” I said.

      He suddenly looked up from his sheet and asked me if I was happy, since I was, “you know, not married.” Sure am! Cuz I don’t need anyone’s permission to toss you out of my home!

      Needless to say, no sale was made.
      And I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask any male homeowners if they were happy, given their marital status.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        I have to second/third/fourth/whatever place this comment is in right now.

        We can all wish it weren’t like this, but as a woman, there is absolutely ZERO chance I’m telling a potential employer that I’m going to need a day to talk it over with my husband. Nope. Never.

        I will definitely state that I need 24 hours in order to process and review, but not any personal details.

        My husband always LOVES to wrap up the home improvement estimate consultations with “What do you think honey? Any questions? (To the salesperson) She’s the one with the builder’s license….”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll give you a standing ovation — and that guy a well earned Bronx Cheer.

      3. Clisby*

        Years ago, a vacuum cleaner salesman knocked on my sister’s door to try to sell her a new vacuum. She listened to the spiel, and watched his demo (you can see how many, many years ago this was). She said, “It looks good, but I’ll need to talk to my husband about it.” Salesman: In my experience, the lady of the house decides which vacuum cleaner to buy.”
        Sister: “My husband does all the vacuuming.”

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      In the context of a job offer, I would never say that. I’d just ask for time to think it over. Yes, as a wife, I would definitely want to discuss the pros and cons of the new job with my husband. But I would have done that before the offer, and we already would have decided “this is worth it at any cost” or “this is worth it if it pays $X or higher,” or something along those lines. And even if we needed more discussion, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I was asking his permission or getting his approval.

      For negotiating a price when I’m hiring or buying, sure, I’d say “I need to discuss this with Mr. S.” Spending *our* money is different.

      1. Clisby*

        I think the same. We’d already have hashed out everything (other than some significant last-minute change in the offer.)

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      does this come off as weak or deferential if I’m a woman saying it?

      If I want to, I can read anything I want into anything you say. As a thought experiment, just try to stop me.

      I think the statement makes you sound conscientious, and as a vendor/contractor I want a client who will be happy with the resulting service/product, so getting the other half on board in advance will lead to better word-of-mouth afterwards. Personally, I’d be happy to hear that statement from you.

    6. Irish girl*

      I think you can get different reactions based on different viewpoints so it might be better to leave off who you are talking to. I feel any big financial decision i.e. new job, should be talked about with your spouse as you should be a team.

    7. TiffIf*

      Male or female and marital status or arrangement–I think it would be more appropriate for everyone to say “I need some time to think this over.”

    8. Econobiker*

      “I need to talk this offer over with my husband/wife.”
      As for a job offer saying this typically applies only if there’s a family relocation involved. Hopefully this would have already been discussed by the applicant and family during interviews prior to a job offer being extended. Otherwise, without relocating involved, for job offers then you can say “I need some time to think it over and respond back to your offer.”

      As for home building contractors or sales (car sales especially) it’s absolutely OK to say that statement. These environments understand that both people should be in agreement.

      Caveat: husband/ wife/spouse of same gender.
      I support marriage equality for LGBTQ folks. In employment situations this should not be a problem but be aware some people individually are not as open minded as others. It depends on the industry. Be prepared to document any discrimination.
      As for contractors and sales, Rainbow money from LGBTQ people should be considered the same (and often is more powerful) than from hetrosexual couples. But again be aware of the context and location. A man saying he has to ask his husband about the quoted work may end up playing differently in Sacramento California versus Frankfort Kentucky.

    9. Haha Lala*

      Especially when it comes to home repairs and contractors, I’ve used the “need to check with my husband” line as a way to end an overly persistent sales pitch. I’m a woman who works in construction/design, so typically I’ll make those decisions for our house anyway, but the contractor doesn’t need to know that. (And if it gets to that point, then likely I don’t want to work with that contractor anyway…)

      For work-related discussions I avoid mentioning anyone else. As far as my future employer is concerned, their offer is addressed to me only, and I’m the only one accepting/declining it. In theory, it shouldn’t make a difference, but *patriarchy*.

    10. Girasol*

      “I need a couple days to think it over” is good when you’re going from a day job in one office to a day job in another in the same area. “I need time to discuss this with my family” is more suited to an offer where you’ll be moving to another location, changing your kids’ schools, and/or requiring your spouse to quit a position here and find one there. Not that you wouldn’t consult your spouse about pros and cons when switching from local job A to local job B, but if it’s not clear that the spouse is directly affected, mentioning them might be misconstrued as needing the spouse’s permission.

    11. RagingADHD*

      I think this is a completely normal thing for any married person to say. I’ve used it plenty of times in all kinds of situations.

      The biggest “tell” of not looking like you are in charge of the situation is if you are worried about what the other person thinks of you. That is blatantly obvious to anyone who might be trying to manipulate you or take advantage, and censoring your words isn’t going to make it better.

      It’s not about whether you need “permission” from your spouse. It’s about whether you need permission from the person you’re negotiating with.

      If you are in fact, in charge of the situation it doesn’t matter whether you use magic phrases or not.

  38. Flaxseed*

    My colleague will repeat what I say to my boss because within an hour or so he’ll come over mentioning it. I don’t say anything bad- once it was something as little as wondering if the admin assistant is going to be out on vacation because we have to submit our time cards to her. (She was already gone, so I couldn’t ask her. I didn’t know she was going to be out.)

    It’s annoying because I don’t know why people do this. I don’t know if the boss asks what we talk about, my coworker has a big mouth, or a combination of the two?

    Any thoughts? Has anyone been through this and what did you do?

    1. Ashley*

      Been there. I tend to avoid saying anything to that co-worker that I don’t want my boss to ask me about. It can be helpful in certain circumstances like saying I miss our monthly Friday pizza lunches. I would try to leverage it for good while realizing not to reveal anything to the co-worker that is private.

    2. pancakes*

      Is it more people or just this one person? If it is a pattern with one person, I’d ask them about it directly. “I’ve noticed that [boss] invariably follows up with me about questions I’ve asked you, even minor stuff I wouldn’t think would be of interest to them. What’s going on there?” If it’s more people I suppose it’s the culture of the office, but it seems weird to me, weird enough that you don’t have to pretend not to have noticed.

      1. Flaxseed*

        It’s mainly 2 people. I have followed up with one of them, but she either changes the subject and/or acts like she doesn’t know anything.

        1. pancakes*

          I bet she knows she’s a busybody! Ugh. I’m not sure there’s much you can do because it sounds pretty low-stakes.

    3. Distractinator*

      I’m a relative old-timer in my office and sometimes new staff come to me with questions, or my desk-neighbors ask something. Sometimes, especially if I didn’t know the answer and I want more info, I repeat those questions to our manager, who I talk with more frequently than they do because of hte nature of my job. And I often attribute it either for context (Dave wanted to know about [Dave project thing] and I told him X, is that right?) or because it was a genuinely good discussion that I want them to get credit for (About the lost-llama problem, Jane asked me if we’d ever considered bells for the llamas and that seemed like a nice simple solution, is that something that we’ve tried before?). Sometimes that’s the end of it (what I told Dave was right) sometimes I pass it along (Dave, I talked to Fergus and he said…) or sometimes the right solution is that Fergus follows up himself. So yes that can be a bit weird if Dave wasn’t expecting Fergus to appear. I do often try to say that I’ll ask Fergus when I see him (so Dave can say there’s no need, or volunteer to do that himself), so that’s somethign your colleague could be doing differently. And if your particular Fergus follows up on everything whether they need to or not, your colleague look like an oversharer more than they would otherwise. In terms of what you can do differently, there’s not much, other than when you have a conversation with indeterminate outcome (speculating about how timecards will work) you end it with a definitive statement (“I’m going to ask Sam”, or “Ask Fergus if you talk to him”, or “I guess it doesn’t matter much, there’s never been a delay before whether Amy is here or away”)

  39. should i apply?*

    Career growth (& money) vs. Free time? Have you made that choice, what did you consider?

    I am currently at a cross roads, I am somewhat bored at my current job, and there is limited opportunity for growth at my company. I having been looking for new roles at new companies that would be more challenging & increased salary.

    For my current job I like my co-workers, am relatively well paid (salary), almost never work more than 40 hrs, and often work less. This allows me to spend time on hobbies that I enjoy. The downside is that I bored at work.

    I am starting to second guess my decision to look for a new job as I expect that I will have to work significantly more hours, with more stress than my current position. Not sure if this just cold feet about change or a valid concern.

    1. ThatGirl*

      It’s not not valid, but you can definitely look for higher-paid jobs with growth opportunity that still don’t make you work long hours! In the past 10 years I’ve changed companies twice, both times to a good pay bump, and in neither case did my working hours get longer. You can be a little picky with your opportunities if you’re not desperate, and screen for companies with good work-life balance that still offer career development. It’s totally possible!

  40. SpiderLadyCEO*

    How long do you wait after starting a new job to take any time off – even just a day? I ALWAYS angst over requesting time off, even for things like a dr’s appointment, or going to the DMV.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      If it’s for something like a doctor’s appointment or the DMV, don’t wait at all. Schedule that right away. If it’s a week-long vacation, I’d wait at least a month or two, though.

      1. WellRed*

        If it’s a week-long vacation I’d wait at least six months. Anything sooner than that, and it should probably be discussed during job negotiations.

    2. ThatGirl*

      For me it depends on what the time off is for – a doctor’s office where you just need a few hours? If it’s not urgent, a few weeks in. Same for the DMV. A full day off, I’d probably wait a month or two. You should also be able to ask your manager or coworkers what’s normal for your company.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      People should understand the DMV; put that off too long and you’re going to take a lot of time away from the office.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      For things like a doctor’s appointment or DMV, I would try to push those to the second week — if I really couldn’t then when setting the start date I’d simply mention, “oh, I have an appointment I can’t move that week on Wednesday, will that be okay?” I wouldn’t take a full “optional” day until I’d been there at least a month or six weeks unless it had been discussed in advance, and I wouldn’t take a week until I’d been there at least 6-8 months.

    5. Fed Too*

      I’m going to really side eye the DMV or a routine doctor visit the first month- thats something I’d expect you take care of before you start a new job. If it was something like a regular scheduled dr visit I would expect that to come up before you start (Just a every Friday I have to leave for an hour to get an allergy shot or whatever). Obviously an urgent doctor visit is different.

      Any personal time off the first 6 months should be brought up at the offer stage.

      1. Spearmint*

        That seems really extreme to me. I can understand wanting advance negotiation of a week+ vacation within the first 3 months, say, but any personal time? Even a long weekend? Alison has in the past said to wait about 4 months for long vacations, but that short things like a long weekend can be done earlier.

      2. [insert witty username here]*

        If it’s just 1-2 days or half days, sometimes that can come as a relief with a new hire. It’s often 1-2 people training someone new and sometimes getting a break from the new hire can be a relief. The trainers get to catch up on stuff they may have had to put aside and not have to worry about what the new hire is going to do during that time. So while I’d start to raise an eyebrow at someone taking more than that, life goes on, even when you’ve just started a new job.

      3. Tess*

        “I’m going to really side eye the DMV or a routine doctor visit the first month- thats something I’d expect you take care of before you start a new job.”


        Really? Someone without health insurance who now has it viz. the new job is somehow supposed to take care of a doctor’s appointment regardless, prior to? A person moving from CA to NY is supposed to first travel to visit Town or City, NY’s DMV prior to beginning their new job to obtain a driver’s license?

        You don’t seem the least bit aware of any number of reasons why neither would be possible, and that’s concerning.

  41. UGH*

    My partner has been working night shift at a company and they have told him that he would be qualified for two other positions–one day shift and another night shfit. He’s hated night shift and it’s taken a toll on his body. Unfortunately, the offers came in and they have offered him the lowest base pay. He knows he would be qualified for a senior position because he has 5 years of experience and a master’s, but the company said “well, if you had a PhD and no experience, you’d be qualified for senior.” But he has colleagues who have no degrees and less experience and are in senior positions. It’s so frustrating, and I can tell he is so disappointed. I can’t do anything but be there for him, and his job hunt elsewhere has not been fruitful. I guess if anyone has a partner who’s gone through a rough job search/poor offers, is there anything that’s helped in supporting them?

    1. Econobiker*

      “But he has colleagues who have no degrees and less experience and are in senior positions.”

      He might be able to negotiate about his qualifications fitting into the “senior” position but it depends on both ~how~ these individuals got their positions and ~how~ your spouse knows that they don’t have degrees/have less experience. If the others are family members who got positions of nepotism there’s that. But if it was transparent hiring or hiring under prior rules then maybe some wiggle room. And are their slim qualifications “public” knowledge like on LinkedIn or just from company scuttlebutt rumors? Again “public” knowledge allows your husband to ask HR or hiring managers why he doesn’t qualify. Company rumors doesn’t allow that- maybe they have a college degree from an online school or even a diploma mill type online college that they don’t talk about.

      I worked at a company that said satellite location managers must have a college degree. There was a long term employee who worked up through the ranks (12 years+) to be a supervisor then a long term fill-in manager when a different location manager had chronic illness. He had showed his ability managing so when a full time manager position opened up where his family lived, the rules were relaxed to allow him to be hired as full manager there with the expectation that he’d pursue company reimbursed college courses. Which he did while he worked there. Unfortunately the company later closed all the locations and laid off everyone but he’d already gotten halfway through college for free.

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Other than the usual things: reviewing resumes,practiceing interviews and emotional support, there may not be much that you can do. I understand how rough night shift can be. I had to work 3:00 P.M. to 11:30 P.M. for the first 5 years of my wife and I’s relationship. Two years dating and 3 married. During that time, we didn’t see each other except for weekends and holidays. ( But we did get to talk on the phone during my 30 minute break, so that made up for it…/s/ ) I gained a metric crap ton of weight, we were both depressed, and at times she would tear up on our nightly phone calls. I write all this to say that it can be hard on the y’alls relationship, so the emotional aspect of it may be the biggest way to help and support them.
      On the job front, I get the feeling that your partners employer doesn’t really plan on changing thier shift. They need/want/like them where they are and the only way to get on a day shift is to change jobs.
      I wish you and your partner the best of luck and hope.

  42. Ann O*

    I’m looking for advice for turning business strategies into project plans when the original strategy is nebulous.

    Specifically, my boss operates at a SUPER high level. She shares her vision and then expects her team to translate this into projects. She is hands-off during the project planning stage. When we ask questions, we’re often met with “I don’t know, that’s what I need you to figure out” or “I’ll know it when I see it.” So the team will come up with a project plan, share it, and receive no feedback. It’s impossible to get her to actually review project plans; she’s always busy on other things and I just think she doesn’t operate at a tactics level. So we execute the plan, but often after months of work we are told we missed the mark. The issue almost always goes back to not properly understanding what success was supposed to look like, or improperly setting the scope back in the planning stage. I’ve brought the bigger issue up, and again I’m met with “I don’t know, that’s what I need you to figure out.”

    I realize that this may be one of those “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” But there’s a lot of things I really like about my job, so I’m hoping there’s some magic trick or “managing up” advice that can help me navigate this better.

    1. BlueBelle*

      OMG, reading this reminded me of 2 years ago in my organization. We had a new head of global HR who was a nightmare. She would have these big ideas and then never communicate anything, never answer a question. I would spend time making a project plan and then executing it, only for it to be canceled part way through or go no where. It was so frustrating. All I can say is keep asking “what is your end goal? What is the problem this is trying to address?” And put it in writing! Good luck.

    2. curly sue*

      I’m having this exact issue with my supervisor right now, and it’s so frustrating! I have no good advice, but I’m hoping others do so that I can piggyback on it. You have my sympathy.

    3. PX*

      Oooh this is tough and I feel like my answer will depend a little bit on what kind of industry you are in perhaps. A couple of things:
      – Are there any higher level objectives or goals you can tie her projects into? For example in my old company, you could have overall company goals, business unit goals, department goals, team goals and individual goals – and ideally we were meant to only work on things that aligned with the goals of the level above us. So what is your company/business unit etc ultimately trying to achieve? That can help give a better idea of what you should be striving towards.

      – Make more of an effort to define success upfront. When she comes to you with her vision – do you get to discuss it with her? Challenge it? I am definitely a project planner/how will we actually execute this type person sometimes, but if she just likes thinking about the vision – can you ask her questions which are actually about that? BlueBelle’s questions are good ones – try to really understand *what* it is she’s trying to achieve so that the *how* (which it sounds like she leaves up to you) can be executed better.
      But also – if she cant articulate what success looks like or what problem she is trying to solve, I would say you should push back and say you cant start working until that is clearly defined – because that is just a recipe for disaster as you’ve already found out.

      – Getting ongoing feedback is super important, so this is the one I’d definitely be challenging. Its not okay to just dump things and disappear, so if you can escalate this to make sure that she actually reviews what you come up with – I would do that. But again, if her language isnt technical details but high level type stuff, try and present reviews like this as high level as possible – with the intention of making sure that you are all still aligned on what the vision is.

      – Can you do more when it comes to breaking down her suggestions into small work packages and then getting her feedback before proceeding with things? I’m used to the concept of minimum viable products – so the idea is if boss comes to you with new vision, you look at it, break it down into phases or layers, and then only do the bare minimum at first. Get her feedback. If that minimum is still in line with her vision, you go to phase 2. Get feedback etc etc.

      It sounds a lot to me like you have different skill sets and perhaps different communication styles as well (this is where some of those work personality tests that people love to hate actually have a purpose!) – so perhaps trying to adjust your style a little bit (eg only present her with high level updates and overviews) might help.

    4. tangerineRose*

      Are there ways to create models of what the project might be? If it’s a computer program, it might be some drawings of what the screen would look like at different steps. That way she can see it without you having to do so much work first.

    5. Tess*

      Ah, impulsive types who expect you to be a mindreader and pout when they find out you’re not.

      I don’t think there is anything you can do except decide whether you want to stick this out.

  43. yala*

    So. PIP update. I had a large batch of teapots to paint. Generally I paint things, then go back over them after a couple days away to check for flaws and do touch ups. I didn’t know my supervisor was checking them as I was working because for all the other crockery I’ve painted, she waits until I’ve put it in the inspection area to check. I probably should have figured these would be different, but, well. I also kind of thought she’d be checking the teacups I’d painted and put in the the inspection area first, since there were 50 of them in the area just this month, and a backlog of a couple hundred, and those *were* submitted for inspection.

    So my supervisor found a lot of flaws in my teapots. Stupid little ones, like an errant brushstroke here and there. Flaws I should not be making, but also…flaws I’m pretty sure I corrected when I did my check-over of my work earlier this week, before submitting the batch as finished. But either way, I’ve been on the PIP for a month, and the flaws are very much the sort of thing I should not be making in my finished work. So it was not a particularly good review.

    But my issue is…we have *weekly check-ins!* And she said she’d been checking over my teapots for the past couple weeks. So…I don’t know why she didn’t bring this issue up until the monthly review–this is EXACTLY what the weekly check-ins are FOR, isn’t it?
    But, like. Overall, they’re 5 minutes or less. She asks if I have any questions. If I do, I ask them, or I let her know about any issues that have come up. The end.

    And I just…I don’t get it. If she had told me the first week “Hey, I’m noticing a lot of flaws in your painting on those teapots” then I could’ve course corrected right away, instead of a couple hundred teapots later, knowing that my work was being inspected immediately and I didn’t have my usual editing time. I would have taken a COMPLETELY different approach to painting them. So then, instead of having a month of worth with an unacceptable amount of errors, I’d have three weeks of solid work with no errors.

    When I asked why it hadn’t come up in our weekly meetings, she said it’s not her job to tell me every time I’m doing something wrong. And it’s true–she shouldn’t have to still be inspecting my work, that’s exactly why I’m on the PIP. I’m not disputing that. I know I need to improve, and I am genuinely working to do so. And certainly I understand that she is very busy and had a lot of other projects on her plate, and I wouldn’t expect her to ping me for every error. But wouldn’t making me aware of this issue when she first noticed it have been less work? Or at least, surely it wouldn’t take that much to just say, at the weekly meetings we’re already having, “I’m noticing a lot of errors in your teapots.”

    I don’t understand why she wouldn’t do that. Unless the goal is more to see how much I can mess up, instead of seeing how much I can improve.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      A few options:
      1. Your manager may not be a great manager. Some folks just aren’t.
      2. Your manager may have been waiting to see if something was a trend or not. I often do that when I notice a problem.
      3. You manager has concerns about your workflow and wanted to see how it was shaped and structured before she brought it up with you.
      4. Again with, sometimes managers mess up.

      I’d be more concerned that your weekly checkins are only 5 minutes. That seems short. Are you proactively asking for her feedback at those meetings?

      I’d also say that the point of a PIP isn’t to see how much you can improve. The point is to see “can you perform at the level the company needs for the job.” I’m sorry you’re going through this and I hope you’re doing some job hunting. Good luck!

      1. yala*

        For the PIP, I do understand that it’s really about whether or not I can actually perform the work, but the weekly check-ins were something implemented by HR as part of ADHD accommodation specifically to give me a space to ask questions (that was much trickier, pre-pandemic) and for her to let me know if the quality of my work was up to par.

        I never really know how to ask her about feedback, because it’s basically asking her if she’s had a chance to check my work, and she’s always very busy, and I just don’t know how to ask it without upsetting her, or implying that I’m impatient. Earlier this year, I figured it was just best to let her set the pace at the meetings, especially once she said she was going to be too busy to check my work for a while, but with an actual PIP involved it seems like the weekly meetings should have gone back to actual feedback?

        Going forward this month, I know now that I need to be more proactive about asking for feedback, but I’m still worried I’ll upset her by doing so.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          For whatever it might be worth, a good manager shouldn’t be upset by being asked to provide you feedback. If she is, that’s not a great sign. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

        2. Amanda J*

          If the meetings are an accommodation for your ADHD then yeah, you need to be proactive about asking her for feedback, and telling her you’d like to hear about any issues as early as possible. If she is upset by this, then you need to loop HR in that the meetings are not being used for their intended purpose and thus you are not getting the accommodation needed for you to succeed.

          As it stands, you aren’t using the meetings effectively and you are failing the PIP. Something has to change!

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I think you have the right idea with your last statement. People are put on PIPs to help them improve or to usher them out the door. How your manager handles the process will tell you which kind of PIP you are on. If you get the feeling that your manager is working to catch errors instead of supporting your improvement, then they likely are collecting a list of little-itty-bitty mistakes that they can report to HR.
      I’m sorry. I went through this and it was horrible how my manager was claiming every step I took was an error. I don’t know if you would do this, but if I could go back in time with my current maturity and confidence, I would admit that my manager doesn’t like me and ask if they would just like to make a mutually agreeable departure. I would have accepted a month severance and quit to save the emotional damage the whole experience caused.
      Again, I’m sorry you are in this spot. Just remember that this has nothing to do with you personally. You are still great and will succeed when you aren’t under this scrutiny.

      1. yala*

        The thing is, aside from the manager, I actually really love this job. I love what I do and I love where I do it (and afaik, there’s nowhere else anywhere near where I live that I could do this)

        I know it’s going to be excruciating going forward, that I’ll have to check absolutely every produce and action multiple times. And I’m sure she does want me gone–she’s made it very clear over the past couple years that she dislikes me personally as well as professionally (which…yeah, I’ll admit, that stress does not help my actual work-quality). But, just…I really love everything else about this job so much. I’m willing to buckle down, check my work off the clock, etc, if it can just get me past this. I know we’ll never be on good terms, but I just keep hoping that if I can at least do solid, accurate work, that I can at least stay. It’s one of the reasons I was so upset to find out she’d been checking my stuff before it was ready and counting it against me–because I really went through it with a fine-toothed comb and thought it was good work, but apparently too late.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          In that case, I’d document everything as well so you will be ready when all the details are presented to HR. If you boss says there were mistakes in your product, you can pull up your notes “On 4/7, Boss reviewed the teapots on the pre-quality shelf and stated they were not accurate. The teapots on the pre-quality shelf are not perfect because they are waiting final inspection. I inspected those teapots on 4/9 and all corrections were made. This instance does not pertain to the qualifiers listed in this performance improvement plan.”
          Stay professional and confident, and you may make it through. I’ll be hoping for you!

        2. PollyQ*

          If you’re on a PIP and your boss doesn’t like you, I think it’s good odds that you’re going to be let go. So yes, keep trying to do your best, but I would also start job-hunting now. I’m sorry, I know this is not what you want to hear.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      It sounds like you and she are not aligned with what the production process looks like. Have you told her that your process is to do a “rough draft” and then put the finishing touches on it before sending it off? It’s possible she doesn’t realize the work isn’t finished (because a rough draft can often appear good to go), or she might let you know your process isn’t working for the needs of the company for some reason. But I do agree with the other commenter, at this point on a PIP you’d probably need to be demonstrating a high level of consistent success and it’s really not a manager’s job to double check every piece of work you produce. Good luck.

      1. yala*

        Thank you. I certainly don’t want her to have to double check all of my work. I know that’s too much of a burden. I just do wish that she’d said something during our weekly meetings, even if it was just “your work isn’t showing the improvement I’m expecting from you” instead of pleasant small talk and nothing, since we were there. I don’t know what they’re for if not that.

        We did hash out the process she expects from me vs the one I was using, so at least that’s an adjustment I can make going forward. But I could have made it 200 teapots ago, and I really wish I had.

    4. Madeleine Matilda*

      Is it a problem if there are flaws in the initial work but the final work passes inspection? If the answer is yes, then you need to adjust your process to address the flaws more quickly. If the answer is no, which makes more sense to me, then you might want to let your manager know that your process is to do a draft paint job and then edit as needed on the final that you present for inspection since she seems to expect the draft to be as flawless as the final. At the next check you could tell her what adjustments you made after your last meeting and ask what additional improvements are needed based on her inspections, or revisit the conversation where you learned about the inspection of the draft teapots and ask if she was finding similar flaws in your final product (because it seems to me the final product should be what matters).

      1. yala*

        I don’t know if the final work passes inspection yet, because I don’t think she’s been able to check it since I made my final pass on it. I really hope it does!
        I have a second batch to do next week, and I think I’ve worked out a way to…oof, this metaphor is getting belabored, but I guess to keep the drafts as drafts until they’re ready for inspection that should be more appropriate to the process she’s expecting, so hopefully on this next batch, my work will be show-room ready.

      2. Malarkey01*

        Not knowing the actual work product, it can be a case where do a rougher “first draft” and then coming back later and doing an extensive clean up is more time and less efficient than spending a bit more time/care on the first run and using the second as a quick catch. I personally would get nervous if someone’s first drafts had flaws on 80% of them versus 1 or 2 that needed a quick fix.

  44. Super Anon For This One*

    This is long, I’m sorry in advance.

    I have an employee that keeps indicating a “lack of communication” as a source of friction in the department. If this was something that had just started when we went to work from home a year ago, I’d attribute it to the remote work itself – but this is a complaint he had under a different manager for years as well.

    This was something he indicated as a problem while under a different manager, and since I’ve taken over the department, I’ve tried to address it in various ways – MWF we meet as a team in the morning for 30 minutes, I frequently video-call this employee instead of on the phone (we all work remotely now) since he indicated that he wanted more face time, I provide real-time or near-time feedback on assignments, I pass along information I think might interesting and/or essential as soon as I can, etc.

    And he’s still banging the drum of a communication issue.

    My other direct report, my boss, other department managers, etc. all give the feedback – before and after me taking over this department – that one of my best competencies is my communication. Verbal, written – communications skills are always top of the list of what people say I do well. That, combined with him bringing this up as an issue under his previous manager, makes me think it’s not a Me thing, but a Him thing.

    The latest iteration of this was him asking to sit in on most of my meetings. That’s….a no. He honestly felt that was a good idea – to just sit in any meeting I’m in, so that he has the same information I have all the time. I explained that he’s not supposed to have all the information I have (I’m in a position in the company that grants me access to sensitive or not-yet-public information) and I pass along what he should have as quickly as I can.

    He tried to argue and I shut it down. Gently – we ended the conversation on another topic and on a friendly note – but still shut it down.

    A previous idea he had: we open a video call bridge and just leave it open while we work. That’s also a no – but I think he was trying to re-create somehow the feel of being in the office and overhearing conversations others were having.

    I’m at a loss – my other direct report has pushed back about communication frequency already, and quite frankly I feel it’s way too much for me personally, I’m only doing most of this to try to meet this employee’s specific complaints.

    Any other managers have suggestions, anything that’s worked when an employee is saying there’s a lack of communication and there’s really pretty objectively not?

    1. Ann O*

      Maybe he wants a lot more context? That may explain why he’s asking to sit in on your meetings.
      Have you asked him what communication he feels is missing?

      1. Juniper*

        That was my thinking too. The tip-off is him asking to sit in on your meetings and having an open video call. He feels like he is missing some key details, and blaming communication issues is a pretext for feeling like he’s missing the wider context. Is the job he’s doing somehow reliant on different information or feedback than the other people in your department?

    2. Reba*

      This sounds like a pretty vague complaint TBH and the employee’s suggestions are wild. You are already doing A Lot, and I think you can say that X level of meetings and so on is as much as the team can handle, it’s objectively a lot of communication, and he needs to get comfortable with it. He can’t just burden you with more and more calls!

      I’d try to dig into what the actual problem is. Does he not have information he needs to make a decision or execute a task? If so, how often does that happen? Do people not respond to his questions (or does he ask questions that show he isn’t understanding things)?

      To me it sounds like he just kinda likes knowing about stuff that’s outside his actual work needs.

      1. LuckySophia*

        Seconding Reba’s comment! I’d ask him to document “specific examples of times his work performance/output/quality was negatively affected though (allegedly) insufficient communication.”
        If he can’t define a work impact, then it’s probably just that he is blaming “communications” rather than dealing with his own internal insecurities/neediness/excessive nosiness or whatever is really going on here.
        To be honest, when I read he wanted to sit in on all your meetings, my first reaction was: This guy has delusions of grandeur…he thinks he’s entitled to be treated as if he is a manager…your peer, not your subordinate. If that’s at all accurate, then these special accommodations you have made (conducting more meetings than you or your other report feel are strictly necessary!)… are just encouraging his “delusion” that he gets to “manage” office policies & processes…and your personal behaviors. Just my observation and it may not be accurate, but if it is…you may need to slap his behavior down hard.

    3. Binky*

      Oh, this guy sounds like a pain. Is he identifying any work issues stemming from lack of communication? Because it sounds like he’s not, just generally complaining. I’d cut back to your preferred level of communication, and then tell him to raise issues as they come up. You can address concrete issues as they arise, and consider potential ongoing changes to communication when you see a pattern.

      On a broader perspective – how is he as an employee? Cause his judgment sounds seriously suspect, given his suggestions for “better communication.” Is he covering his failures by blaming unspecified lack of communication?

    4. Bambadjan Bamba*

      Maybe it’s not the amount of communication but instead the context of communication?

      Is your team allowing space from other voices than management? If not, communication IS an issue.

      My manager constantly talks AT our team. Ramble ramble ramble, blah blah blah. I wish he would leave space in the meetings for us to actually interject something, instead of constantly interrupting and criticizing, which isn’t really communication but instead is micromanaging and honestly has crushed the spirit of our team entirely.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I have an employee that keeps indicating a “lack of communication” as a source of friction in the department.
      This was something he indicated as a problem while under a different manager
      My other direct report, my boss, other department managers, etc. all give the feedback – before and after me taking over this department – that one of my best competencies is my communication. Verbal, written – communications skills are always top of the list of what people say I do well. That, combined with him bringing this up as an issue under his previous manager, makes me think it’s not a Me thing, but a Him thing.

      You’re right that it’s not a you thing. What jumps out to me is that it sounds like vertical communication is good, but horizontal communication is bad–e.g. Fergus told me to get the teapots, but in a warehouse of 100MM, that’s not specific enough.

      MWF we meet as a team in the morning for 30 minutes

      Are those meetings productive or Festivus?

      The latest iteration of this was him asking to sit in on most of my meetings.
      A previous idea he had: we open a video call bridge and just leave it open while we work.

      That could sound like getting instructions that assume a lot of context and intuition, or it could be a busybody missing ways to avoid work.

      quite frankly I feel it’s way too much for me personally,

      Don’t fall into the trap of substituting quantity for quality. It’s a road to madness and ruin.

      Any other managers have suggestions, anything that’s worked when an employee is saying there’s a lack of communication and there’s really pretty objectively not?

      I’m not a manager, but with a peer I’d just start sending his complaints back to him with instructions to add details about what’s missing. Either it’s legit and you have an agenda, it’s paranoia and you can go the EAP route, or it’s illegitimate and you have proof.

    6. TiffIf*

      I’m curious, what information does he think he is missing? If he feels there is a lack of communication, what is the impact on him–does he think he doesn’t have all the information he needs to do his job? If you can clearly show a paper trail of where he was provided that information then you have grounds to push back “That information was sent on X, please review that communication before bringing up any additional questions.” Or maybe he legitimately does need some more contextual information that you have not provided him–if that is the case then he needs to be more specific about what is lacking instead of being vague about “lack of communication.”

      If this is him just wanting to be “in the know” on EVERYTHING…then no–that’s not his call nor does his job require it. If he is saying he should be notified of things that he has no business knowing then you may need to have a more frank conversation because it sounds like he isn’t getting it when you put it “gently.”

      If the latter is the case, make sure you are being clear and don’t soften this by trying to be friendly. You don’t need to be rude, but you do need to be clear and direct. Address his communication complaint directly–“You have said you feel a lack of communication, but I have provided you everything you need to do you work. The position you are in means you may not be privy to all details and that is normal.”

    7. Not A Manager*

      “I’m at a loss – my other direct report has pushed back about communication frequency already, and quite frankly I feel it’s way too much for me personally, I’m only doing most of this to try to meet this employee’s specific complaints.”

      As you can tell from my user name, I am not a manager and that’s probably just as well. But I’m puzzled as to why this is a problem at this point. Or rather, if there’s a problem, it’s not in your level of communication, it’s that this guy has you tied up in knots trying to satisfy his unreasonable demands AND it’s annoying your other employee.

      I think the next time he beats on the communication drum, you should tell him that the level of communication he’s getting is all that is feasible or needed for your team, that it’s not going to change, and ask him to find a way to work within that structure. You can say it nicely, but it’s not reasonable or productive for you to keep appeasing him.

    8. PX*

      Others have already made some good points about eg context (I am also a big picture person who likes to know the context of any work I get) but also. Do you need to be accommodating him this much?

      Like, sure he’s complaining about it – but is it impacting his work? If it is, try and focus on what the actual impact this is having. If not…you dont have to keep doing this? This might be a case where you are trying to be too accommodating to someone who seems to have a bugbear about this particular issue for no reason to be honest!

    9. ferrina*

      I have an employee like this! She keeps telling me that I need to CC her on emails (and tried the “I need to be in all meetings you are in”) and says that I’m keeping her out of the loop, but when we looked at a specific project, she had been on every. single. email. and still thought I getting communications that she wasn’t.

      The issue wasn’t me or my communication- it’s that she needed a LOT of guidance to do her job. She frequently got confused and wanted more explicit instructions than was warranted for her position. Rather than realizing it was her issue, she would chalk it up to me having information that she didn’t. When I walk her through and give her clear action items and review her work, she’s much more comfortable. (this is also more hand-holding than is warranted for her position, but that’s a different issue)

      Try ignoring the “communicate more” comments and focus on the underlying issues. Ask directly- “what information is it that you feel like you don’t have?” (I’m betting he doesn’t have an exact answer and/or it’s things he already has been told). Say “It sounds like you aren’t sure what the steps in this project should be- let’s talk about that.” Maybe twice weekly touchbases to outline exactly what he needs to do and check in on projects and questions.
      Good luck!

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

      He sounds insecure, controlling and manipulative — sitting in on every one of his Boss’ meetings…wow. He keeps banging the drum because it’s working and given him a sense that he has the power here. There’s no communication problem from what you’ve written. Time to be less gentle in shutting it down and start addressing his overreach as a performance problem.

    11. Undine*

      I think this is one of those where you take the attitude that you have the power and you are going to use it. Basically, it is not your job to hold his hand, a competent worker could get his job done with a lower level of communication, and his constant requests for attention are disruptive. Lay out a reasonable schedule for weekly check ins, remind him that there will be times that you won’t be able to meet that, and say you need him to be able to work without additional supervision. It’s a job requirement that he get his work done without you there to soothe his brow constantly.

    12. BRR*

      If you can’t figure out what he wants, ask for examples of what he’s missed. If it hasn’t actually impacted his work, He might Just have unrealistic expectations and at that point you should tell him that it’s not impacting his work and the level of communication won’t change and he should think If he can deal with it.

    13. Tess*

      >I’m only doing most of this to try to meet this employee’s specific complaints.

      …and letting him run the show as a result.

      You need to shut that down.

  45. Time for Tea*

    I’m applying to new jobs. I get invited to screener interviews, but not beyond that. I’m usually a great interviewer! This is the first time I’ve run in to this- what’s going on? How do I figure out what’s going on??

    1. Juniper*

      I think we need a bit more information! Is there anything different between how you’re interviewing now, compared to before? Are these all happening virtually? Has anything changed in your industry since you last interviewed that would make it a more competitive market?

      1. Time for Tea*

        These are all happening over the phone. The industry has tightened because of Covid (less budget all around), but it generally hasn’t faced mass layoffs. Most places stopped posting positions for most of 2020, and a whole flood of new openings came on the market around January (though that’s slowed to a trickle).

    2. pally*

      How are you determining that you are a great interviewer? By the affirmative responses from the screener?
      The screener interviews are always going to be “positive sounding.”

      Are they discussing salary with you during these screenings? Who cites a figure first- you or they? I found that when I named a figure first, they would acknowledge that it was “fine” and then … crickets. I learned that I’d been citing a figure too high for the position. Stupid on my part, but easy to do when salary figures are hard to come by.

      1. Time for Tea*

        I think I’m generally a good interviewee because in my last few job searches, I always made it past the screener. I usually would make it to the final round and be in the top three candidates. This round has been different.

        Salary is sometimes, though not always, discussed. I usually cite a figure first, but usually the screener then says “yep, that’s right in line with what we’re at.” (I confirmed this via Google searches at specific places/positions that I talked to)

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve been doing a lot of interviews and it seems like the screeners are looking for:
      1. matching key requirements
      2. acceptable reasons for leaving your current job
      3. Do you seem interested/excited about the job or your current work
      4. Are you polite and conversational on the phone
      The screen isn’t really an interview, it’s more like the table of contents of an interview. I make sure I say something to cover all the requirements in the job description, even if I need to redirect their questions. I often get a question about “what at your current job…” and I will reply “Well, my best work was at AcmeJob. Let me tell you what I did there.”
      I get a lot of comments about being enthusiastic, so I’m betting that is important.
      I save the longer discussions for the interview with the hiring manager and just cover the high level points with the screen.

      1. Time for Tea*

        This is a really helpful list! I’ve been vaguely aware of all these, but having this full list is really helpful.

    4. Decidedly Me*

      There are a lot of people out of work, which means their are likely a lot more people that are applying than there would have been in the past. You may not be doing anything wrong, but there are just folks that were a better fit at that stage.

  46. Riffy McRiffed*

    Unemployment question here – I was laid off from my regular fulltime job a week ago. I also have a side-hustle consulting, but it’s maybe max 10 hours/week, usually less, but I just got a new project so it will become more like 10-15 as things ramp up. It’s also not regular. Some weeks I might only get a couple hours. Other weeks are busier. Should I still apply for UI benefits?

    I feel like if I could count on logging 10-15 hours/week consistently, it wouldn’t be worth bothering, but since I’m unsure how much work I would have from week to week, maybe I should apply so I have back-up income for the weeks I don’t have much work. I know any income I make would be deducted from my benefit.

    I work in MA and would be eligible to collect the max benefit. That’s not as enticing as it sounds given the max is less than 1/4 of my income as an employee. At least it’s not anywhere near as bad other states. MA is really generous!

    1. CatCat*

      Yes, apply. I don’t know about MA, but where I am, the UI office will reduce benefits if that’s appropriate for a particular claim period. You would still file continuing claims, just keep the reporting accurate, and they will reduce if that’s what’s required on their end.

    2. Natalie*

      I guess I don’t know why you would bother not applying? It’s usually a fairly easy process, you’re entitled to the money, and you just have to report your contract work so they can adjust the award. What’s the upside to not applying?

      1. Riffy McRiffed*

        I think this is because I’ve never done it before and just don’t know what I’m in for, if it will be really easy or it will be a complicated mess made more complicated by having extra income.

        The reassurance helps, actually. I’ve never been laid off before. It feels weird.

        1. Natalie*

          Fair enough. Every state is different, but I think in MA you have a reasonable chance of their state system being pretty user friendly and straight forward. And online, thank god.

          Read the instructions and rules, keep copies of your paperwork, and opt to have income taxes withheld. UI is generally taxable income (there was a specific carve out for 2020 but no reason to think it will apply in 2021.)

          1. MathMiner*

            Actually, MA is having a lot of problems with their UI system right now. There are issues with identity validation (they had a lot of fraud), claims being put on hold, etc. The system is pretty antiquated, and isn’t very user friendly. That being said, I have not had any problems with my claim, but many others have. There’s a Facebook group called “Unofficial Unemployment Massachusetts Information and Help” where people help each other out.

            1. Natalie*

              Well that’s what I get for making assumptions based on their overall political lean. That’s a bummer, I’m sorry to hear it’s been such a nightmare for people.

    3. WellRed*

      It’s been a while, but I did temp work (unevenly) while unemployed in Mass. Provided they haven’t changed things much, it actually worked well for me. I got to be productive ad occassionally earn a bit more money (you could earn up to a certain amount before they started deducting from UI), but still pay bills and have time to job hunt.

    4. MathMiner*

      I live in MA and recently applied for UI. You should apply.

      Every week you will file a claim, and you will need to specify the amount you make through self-employment. The money you make on your side hustle will count against your weekly benefit, but only if your side hustle pays more than 1/3 of your weekly benefit. Any amount greater than 1/3 will reduce your weekly benefit by the same amount. You should file every week, even if your side hustle means you get no benefit that week. This will keep your claim open, so that the next time you have a slow week you will be paid without having to reopen your claim.

  47. Alfredo*

    I would love to hear others stories of crying in front of their boss? What lead up to it and what happened after? Mainly to make myself feel better as it happened recently to me for the first time.

    1. Collie*

      When my cat first started coughing and we didn’t know how serious it was, I broke down in front of my boss and a coworker, sobbing in the middle of the library. She was really great about it, made an effort to comfort me, and was super understanding about me needing to get to the vet and so on. (Happy news — cat has asthma, but it’s now well under control three years later!)

      I also cried in the public space of my first job (McDonald’s) because a customer was impatient and cruel and I was worried it meant I wasn’t cut out for the job (I’m a high achiever, so any minute failure is a big deal, though I now manage my response to failure much better than I did at sixteen!). The shift manager was reassuring and, while I wish she had moved me to a private space rather than just let me sob behind the counter, all was well.

      I’ve probably done it once or twice beyond these examples, but it happens! No big deal.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Oh, WELL. Do I have a story! Actually more than one, but this one is viscerally the most embarrassing for me so hopefully you laugh and feel better.

      We close at 5 pm, at which point the last person out locks the main door and sets the alarm. At 4:56 pm one day, I desperately needed a quick bathroom, break, which lasted as fast as I could make it. Like 2 minutes. Unfortunately, too long. The lights were out, the door was locked and the alarm was set. I thoughtlessly approached the main door… and set off the friggin security alarm, which I did NOT have a code for.

      With that backstory, please picture this scene: The alarm is blaring. The phone is ringing. My boss drives up, angry at having to return and concerned about a break in since the security company called. And I’m sitting on the front steps just melting down, bawling my eyes out, because I think I’m going to be arrested and/or fired.

      As for what happened after, not much! My boss reset the alarm, I calmed down once the cops didn’t show up, we had a little laugh, and he gave me his cell phone number as a precaution.

      A less ridiculous story involves the time I got into a minor car accident on the way to work and my boss let me cry it out in her office in privacy for a bit.

      Either way, I’ve cried a lot in front of several bosses and nothing really came of any of those times.

      1. WellRed*

        Your boss should have been yelling at the person who didn’t make sure they had the all clear to set the alarm.

    3. Louise*

      I have unfortunately done it a few times:
      Terrible co-worker who just finally got under my skin and in telling my boss I got super emotional.
      Got YELLED out by non boss and then was just left crying and boss caught me.
      I know there was another time, but I don’t remember. The upside of working from home when work makes me cry (it is a terrible environment but the job market sucks for my position) others don’t really know about it.
      If at all possible I prefer to run out of the office for lunch / snack to compose myself.

    4. ThatGirl*

      A couple years ago, my manager left abruptly and the department head, who I was going to be reporting to for the time being, pulled me into a meeting to talk about my role and what, if anything, would change.

      I’d really liked my former manager, and I also had a bunch of personal stuff going on, so the combination of things lead to me getting teary in front of her. And I was so embarrassed! But I pulled myself together, explained that my brother was in the hospital and I was also worried about him, and she was very kind and handed me a kleenex while I composed myself. In the end it was NOT a big deal though I did walk around for a few days thinking “man, I cried in front of her, how embarrassing”.

    5. Nessun*

      When I was working in a volunteer role there was a messy dispute over the treasury reporting (for a non-profit that had about a grand in the bank at the most during the year, which was always all spent by year end). There was some hardcore arguments and someone threatened to walk away – and this was all volunteer work and none of us were accountants. Someone even threatened legal action for criminal activities – this is what I walked into when I started the role. All of that to say, when I had a meeting with my boss to talk about my mid-year review, she asked how my volunteer work was going, since I’m proud of my association with the group and she knew I’d stepped up my role (it was tangentially related to my job, good for networking, and provided learning opportunities I can apply at the work I was paid by her to do). I completely broke down, and had to explain to her why I was so upset. She was utterly mystified why I’d take it so seriously, and then said to me that I should just quit. I felt like I was being asked to abandon a role I’d only just joined and let down a number of peers in the organization, and I got even worse with the crying. Eventually I calmed down enough to tell her that no, I wouldn’t quit, I’d figure it out, and yes, I understood I couldn’t let it impact my actual JOB. The next time I met with her, about a month later 1-to-1, she asked if I’d sorted it out, I said yes, there was no further discussion.

      Apart from offering me Kleenex in the moment, and checking I’d sorted it out, she didn’t involve herself and I didn’t go into it again. It never seemed to impact how she thought of me or my ability to work. My personal opinion is that by choosing to work through it and not abandon my responsibilities to the volunteer organization, I was showing professionalism – she noted that when I pointed it out, but it never went into my mid-year review, so the entire event basically got forgotten almost immediately. I was a little embarrassed, but I just kept doing my job to the best of my abilities (and eventually the whole debacle got sorted out anyways).

    6. NicoleK*

      I shared with my Boss that I recently learned a long term client passed away from cancer. That is the only time I’ve cried in front of a boss. I was employed in a social service field at the time and my Boss also happens to be a social worker. I don’t recall the specific details, but I’m sure she empathized and didn’t treat me any differently afterwards.

    7. JustTooMuch*

      My first time just happened last week! I was trying to get a notoriously challenging manager of a different department to sign off on a piece of work I was producing that involved the okay from several different departments. They were the last one to go over it after months of working with other internal and external stakeholders. I had worked tirelessly (including working late/extra) to make sure it would work for everyone as there were a lot of competing priorities and was really proud of how I managed to balance everything.

      I had a deadline to send it out to our last round of external stakeholders and did not receive anything back by that deadline. I kept asking and asking for it and we got upper management involved. Finally got it back and it was just a sea of track changes. I was just about to hop on a call with my manager and was quickly looking it over and just felt so defeated. We were chatting about the project in my call with my manager and I was upset (and stressed because I would need to turn around this edited document quickly and because of personal stuff) and they noticed and made a comment and I just started crying. And once I stop crying it’s so hard to stop!! Anyways, my manager is just as stressed about their work and the fact that our whole team is under a lot of pressure and they started crying a bit too (and said they’ve cried in front of someone else recently themselves), so I didn’t feel quite as embarrassed :)

      We’re all pushed over the edge at times in our lives and we’re only human! We have emotions! I actually felt better knowing that I wasn’t alone in feeling pushed to the edge and that I had a compassionate manager who understood.

    8. AnotherLibrarian*

      I was on estrogen and my boss came in and I was weeping at my desk. I don’t even remember why. She saw me, asked what was wrong and I managed to gasp out, “I’m on hormones.” And she was like, “Oh, I’ve been there. That sucks. Let me get you a spare box of tissues.” And that was the end of it. Neither of us ever mentioned it again and she never mentioned it as I was a sobbing mess for a week. She was a great boss.

    9. Decidedly Me*

      One of my reports was incredibly difficult – the most difficult of anyone I’ve managed. Any piece of feedback I gave him he would fight me on, any attempt to redirect the conversation would lead him to dig in more, etc. If I gave him a piece of feedback and someone did the same thing he did, he’d be upset that I didn’t correct that person like I had corrected him (which I did, but none of these discussions were done in the front of the rest of the team).

      Anyways one day it was one of those situations where I was giving feedback and I honestly just felt attacked over anything I said. I messaged my boss because I wanted to talk about next steps with this report, as all previous efforts to correct the behavior obviously weren’t cutting it. I just wanted to talk it out and instead broke down crying. My boss was super nice about it. I apologized the next day and he waved it off saying it was no big deal and he totally gets it.

  48. Juniper*

    Calendar visibility: what’s the norm?

    I came from an organization where everyone calendar shared. I don’t believe it was a default setting, but everyone could see the limited details on their colleagues’ calendars. At my new company there’s much more hesitancy around this. As a central admin person I feel like I’m flying blind when it comes to scheduling meetings and it’s making it much more cumbersome to plan effectively. I believe there’s room to advocate for a little more transparency (there’s nothing particularly sensitive about the work we do or clients we have), but I also don’t want to go completely against accepted usage standards. Would be grateful to hear how other companies are handling this.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      At my org we couldn’t see anything on other people’s calendars, but when you used the meeting assistant functions in outlook/ MS Teams, it would show you what times of day people were busy. So you couldn’t see what they had listed for that event, but you could see they were marked as “busy” or “out of office”.

      1. Juniper*

        The problem for me there is that people aren’t great about calendar management in general. Someone might put a week long hold on their calendar as a simple reminder that we will have inspections that week, say, or to remember to submit some documents. Out of offices are rarely used — people just leave their vacations blank or use busy (which sorta works but implies that you are still working). I’m also trying to address this aspect of it, but it’s a ways off.

    2. Ann O*

      We’re super transparent with calendars. HR will sometimes make certain meetings “private,” which hides details but still shows the meeting block. And there’s one manager who has all meetings set to private, which is so out of the norm that people gossip about it.

      My last organization’s calendar tool did not show meeting details by default, and it was a PITA. I often had to email colleagues to ask what meeting blocks were real, what could be scheduled over, etc.

    3. Taura*

      I think everyone at my company has their calendars open for anyone to view. If you want to keep a specific thing private, then you either don’t put it on the calendar at all (and risk being interrupted/scheduled for something else in that time frame) or you put it on the calendar as “private appt” or “out of office” or something like that. Usually meetings just say what they are, ex: “planning meeting”, “workflow seminar”, “quarterly address” and if it’s something like a performance review then it either says that or it’s a “private appt”. Of course everyone can work it out still in that case though, because there’s usually no other reason for our boss’ calendar to be “private – private – private – private” unless it’s review time.

      1. Juniper*

        It sounds like your company practice is more in line with what my previous experience has been. I agree that the “private” designation might provide clues, but the type of events that are private are varied enough anyway as to prevent someone from definitively knowing. I actually stopped making reviews private on my boss’s calendar since keeping up the pretense became too difficult. Thabks for the feedback!

    4. Ashley*

      I use free / busy with people that don’t need my details, but sometimes something I have for 11 means I am not free all morning in preparation. Some of this comes to getting to know the people and the type of work they do. I know someone that uses their calendar as a to do list so there 9am meeting is really I need to call this person today and not really a 9am meeting.

    5. PX*

      Ooh you’re in a tough spot. Personally I’ve always had calendars shared at the very least with Busy/Free, but often with full details (ie you could see what the meeting was in someone elses calendar and open it to see attendees, attachments etc).

      I would be surprised if I found myself working somewhere you couldnt even check availability – its definitely frustrating!

      1. Juniper*

        Sorry, full disclosure I do see free/busy. So it’s not that dramatic, but my frustration is that as a C suite exec assistant I have to ask people to move things around a lot, or schedule meetings with large groups of people, or simply override something they have previously scheduled (though I try to limit that as much as possible). Not seeing anything about what they have in their calenders makes it much harder to manage that effectively.

        1. PX*

          Ah, okay. If you tend to deal with the same people, you can send a request to view their calendar so Outlook will upgrade your access for that person – so perhaps they will feel more comfortable doing it on an individual basis?

          Otherwise I figure just schedule on top of whats there, if it doesnt work – its on them to either decline with a reason, propose a new time or accept the consequences of them not having a visible calendar.

          From your other reply, I definitely hate people who dont mark out of office properly though. Had a coworker who always used busy to mark is vacation instead and it was super confusing – have you considered asking them to use that particular option? As the post on Outlook a few months ago here highlighted, lots of people arent familiar with many things I thought were standard so they may not know!

    6. Elenna*

      Most/all people at my company have their calendars visible but it doesn’t show the details of any meetings – time blocked out for meetings is just marked as “busy”. I think that may just be the default for how our email accounts are set up, I haven’t bothered to look into whether I can change it.

    7. noahwynn*

      I can see pretty much everyone’s free/busy status. The only exception is the CEO and COO, and there is an executive assistant we are supposed to go through to book meetings that include them anyways.

      I can only see details on those on my team, but not if they mark it private. Honestly, I really don’t even need to see that and free/busy is all I care about when I’m trying to schedule a meeting.

    8. OutlookScheduling*

      We have ours free/busy to the majority of the organization, and try to get everyone on our team to shared limited details with each other so I can see if you’re actually in a meeting or if it’s just time you set aside for yourself to do something (or if it’s a less important meeting that I can interrupt you in, like listening to a webinar or a large group meeting where you don’t have to talk much).

      I think the admin assistant for our upper management might have access to at least limited details for our team too, so they can book meetings with us if needed, even if that means we need to reschedule a less important meeting we had that’s in the timeslot that works for upper management.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      Official policy is set your default to minimum free/busy, most do more. The annoying thing is that it’s a posted policy people are instructed to do, when it could be a group policy and happen automatically. So right now it’s “we’re telling you all to share, but that 25% of you who don’t? we’ll never point it out to you or ask you to correct it”.

    10. Cherries*

      My company shifted to everyone’s calendars being visible by default – you can’t click on a meeting and see details, but can see the name of it and if a/which meeting room is booked. We used to just see busy/free and it was a real PITA and I much prefer it how it is. If I don’t want people to see the name of a meeting, I mark it as private, its really not that hard. For example, I have a meeting next week about promotion which is hush hush so that’s marked private, so my colleagues can see I’m busy but not what the meeting is titled. We can even see our CEO’s and sometimes I do like to browse it!

      One of our clients can’t even see when their colleagues are free/busy. Makes it a bloody nightmare and I loathe scheduling big meetings with them (5 of us, 10 of them) as its so hard to find a time. I actually find it pretty unprofessional you can’t see when people are free or not, not to mention disrespectful to the people trying to schedule meetings. For ref I work in a very collaborative industry where 3+ meetings a day isn’t anything to shout home about.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Our work calendar that’s public will sync to various personal calendars, like my Google calendar. I manage my settings so the personal stuff shows up as a “busy” block on the work calendar, with no details.

      I wish everyone did that. The head of our department was screensharing in a meeting last week, and we could clearly see a regularly recurring appointmeng at 6:00 AM labeled “Get That D”.

      I was trying so hard not to snort-laugh, I missed part of the discussion.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. My ex-boss used to keep all of her meetings public, even doctor’s appointments. It made me really uncomfortable for some reason I really can’t articulate. We had just hired a couple new interns, and while I knew she didn’t expect us to share that much info, in one of our 1:1s I asked her to please consider the expectations she was setting on the interns who were in their first or second office jobs. Then I asked her why she did that, she said it was to show that she had a “real reason” not to be in the office and wasn’t just taking a long lunch to go shopping. I asked her a few leading questions like do we have official core hours we’re expected to be at work (no, but we have to let people know when we’re available), does she think the less of me when she sees I’m OOO with the meeting flagged private (definitely not), and couple more I don’t remember. I just told her that as her report I didn’t care if she went shopping, to the doctor, or to get her nails done when she was OOO, when I looked at the calendar, all I wanted to know was when she was available. This was, and is, also the official policy at our agency, so that helped. She’s older, so I did acknowledge that the freedom to set her own schedule was probably pretty new to her and she was used to asking her managers for permission to go to an appointment rather than simply informing people she was out of the office. I think I did a pretty good job of managing up that time, because I got her to flag her private meetings as private without revealing how uncomfortable it made me feel to know all that private information.

  49. pieces_of_flair*

    Some Friday good news!

    I posted here maybe a month ago for advice about whether to make an internal transfer back to my former department after only 1.5 years at my current job. My current team had lost the big project that had taken up most of our time, and I felt I was languishing with not enough to do. My boss kept saying there would be opportunities for our team to take on more work, but couldn’t provide a timeline or specifics. I was worried about burning bridges with my current department and also worried that changing jobs wouldn’t improve my situation because the root of the problem is the pandemic (working from my living room with two elementary-aged kids in virtual school) rather than the specific job.

    Well, I’m happy to say I was offered the job in my former department with a 20% raise, which I absolutely was not expecting! I decided to accept and I start on Monday. My current boss and team have been kind and supportive during my notice period, so hopefully there were no bridges burned. On top of that, I just learned that after next week, my kids will be back in school in person 4 days a week!

    I so so appreciate this community and all the posters who helped me figure this out!

    1. Burnt eggs*

      I am SO GLAD you posted and reminded me there can be department transfers that aren’t horrible :-). Good luck in the new-old role!

  50. Burnt eggs*

    Moving to a new role within same organization.
    Four days for manager to acknowledge.
    + three days to get an email that manager will look at what is needed before I leave.
    Full week after I let her know I would be leaving, we have a 15 minute meeting which was wholly items I gave her.
    Let her know where I am at with stuff throughout, asked clarifying questions in emails which were not answered.
    Today I am told my work phone, laptop, and network credentials will be revoked on my last day with this dept; new dept has never heard of such a thing.
    Also have had a ‘what’s outstanding and stuff I need to wrap up’ meeting rescheduled AGAIN from today to Tuesday. My last day in this dept is Tuesday. I’ve seen them have more organization in the middle of an emergency aptly enough evacuate due to a sewage backup.

    Friends, THIS is why we document everything! This ship may be going down, but not because of me.

    1. Tiffany In Houston*

      My husband had this happen to him. He and his old manager didn’t have the best working relationship but they got the job done. Husband interviewed within his state agency and was hired for a new role.

      His old manager submitted paperwork to TERM HIM out of the system as if he was leaving the state agency altogether, instead of a transfer. Luckily, his new manager caught it, updated IT/HR accordingly and complained to old manager’s boss and to HR.

      Old manager claimed it was a mistake on her part. It wasn’t. It was pettiness.

      I’m sorry this is happening to you, but you will soon be rid of that childish boss. Good luck in your NEW role!

  51. LDF*

    I’m a busty lady and have basically stopped wearing a bra “at work” this winter now that I’m fully remote. During sweater season it’s not a problem since they’re bulky but I’m not sure what to do as the weather changes and sweaters go back in the closet. Any suggestions for shirt styles that I can get away with on camera with no bra?

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Is it worth looking at your camera angle/set-up before clothes shopping? Thinking back on all my Teams calls, I don’t think I’ve seen any of my colleagues at uh…bosom level.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This. I found that putting my laptop on a small “riser” for Zoom calls was a better angle, and showed much less of my body.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I moved in December and…still have boxes about. For the Teams calls where a camera on is necessary, the boxes laptop holder is deployed…

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Mine is an overturned plastic storage box with some textbooks on top. Brings the laptop to the perfect height (and it helps that I have a separate keyboard)

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            My emergency stand for my personal laptop is lightweight & stable and thoroughly amuses me because of its source: it’s one half the bottle-protector insert from a beer of the month club carton. Raises laptop to a good height, and by putting the tapered section down I even have space for my keyboard.

    2. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

      I’m moderately busty and I find that button downs that aren’t tight enough to gap, especially with a shelf tank underneath are usually pretty good. Darker shirts work better for me than light ones, but I deal with “headlights” a lot whether or not I’m cold, keeping my nipples hidden tends to be my biggest issue. Anything that doesn’t require laying directly on my chest to hold it’s shape also tends to work, but hat can be really hard to find, especially in midsummer.

    3. TX Lizard*

      Can you add one of those lightweight decorative scarves to your outfit? Not the silk square kind but infinity style or the kind of gauzy ones.. I have a few in spring colors that I add to any shirts that fall a bit lower than I want. They give you a little cover and I always get compliments from people who (somewhat wrongly) get the impression that I am a stylish person who accessorizes.

    4. Taura*

      I agree about the camera angle, but as for shirt styles: anything with ruffles or gathering down the front might work if you like that style, or something with a lot of drape starting from the shoulders, or one of your regular shirts but with a cardigan or blazer over it assuming you have/can get some that won’t be too warm.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      I’m a 38DDD and I’ve been wearing “yoga bras” from Danskin – basically light support bralettes that put the boobs in the general area of here they are supposed to be but are also really comfortable.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Why not just make sure the camera shows the top of your shoulders and above? Seems like the easiest thing to do.

    7. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Yeah, the camera angle seems the simplest solution to this. If that doesn’t work or can’t be accomplished, aren’t there things kinda like pasties or something that sorta stick on that are made for just such a situation? Or are they more trouble than they’re worth?
      I’m gonna guess that this is more for personal modesty than for worrying what coworkers in zoom meetings think, cuz they shouldn’t be looking any darn way.

  52. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    Does anyone have any tips on working with a boss who is (probably) ADD?

    My biggest concern is that if I ask a single question that is slightly off topic, we will go down tangents and more tangents and the original thing we were doing is now long forgotten.

    1. Louise*

      If you have a good rapport you honestly have to redirect. Having a call / meeting / deadline to help them focus can be good, can we get back to my list I only have 10 minutes. I also use can we circle back to that in a minute. You also learn to phrase questions and wonderings more cautiously. Sometimes when things are slower and you can spare the time let them go down the rabbit hole.

    2. tangerineRose*

      Write down some notes of what you need to know and refer back to them from time to time.

  53. Looking Forward*

    I took a job in February great pay and benefits are good too, But the manager I report to is giving me tasks slowly and then leaving stuff out so I have to redo it a lot(my favorite but now I know I just expect to have to redo things) However she is out of office and I have nothing to do . I am studying for a certification perk for now but I also know myself I can do this for awhile but boredom will make me look. Second wrinkle our owners are in another state and sometimes hands on but mostly hands off. I get frozen out by manager her if I ask them for work. I am sole HR in our office and when they find out stuff at corporate well pretty obvious who told. My manager begged for help now will not give me enough work while she works herself to death. I have talked to her repeatedly and she says just wait ill give you more. Any suggestions?

    1. Louise*

      While she is out of the office I would use that as the excuse to ask someone else for more work or if there is anything you can help with. But this could be your manager doesn’t know how to manager or is having job insecurities and you can’t do much about that so telling corporate to try and fix the issue might be the best option while maybe still doing a soft job search.

  54. WhyNotWhyYes*

    Advice for interview questions for a company going through PR issues?

    So I’m in the middle of interviewing for a firm dealing with a relatively public scandal right now. I’m currently in a safe government job I could most likely ride out until retirement, with leaders whose hearts are usually in the right place.

    I already plan on asking them how they explained it to staff and how they are keeping the lines of communications open.

    However, I also want to ask questions to 1) probe how customers have reacted and whether this is affecting growth or retention 2) get a better sense of whether this was a stupid error / learning experience from a growing company, or indictative of a squishy executive moral compass.

    What’s the best way to approach it without sounding confrontational?

    1. PX*

      Honestly, I think the biggest way to approach it is by having a curious tone and the right words. I’m not the best at phrasing, but as long as your tone is open/friendly, then those are perfectly valid things to bring up. If the hiring manager/HR person is any good, they should expect this to come up.

      1. chopsticks*

        Totally agree with this. I joined my current company while they were in the middle of a very public crisis, and while I didn’t really ask about it when I interviewed (because it was pretty obvious that the job I was applying to was a direct result of their response to said crisis), I have found my management to be generally open and forthcoming in discussing the issues that lead to it. Their response will likely tell you a lot about how they deal with crisis and whether they’re a company you really want to leave a safe gov job for.

  55. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

    I’m looking for suggestions regarding cooling home offices for my husband. He’s required to have a dedicated office with door/blinds since he will be working for the government under a security clearance. We are fortunate to have this extra space, but we live in a location where, for about 4 months of the year, our air conditioning doesn’t keep up well with the temperatures outside. Up until a week or so ago, he able to function by opening windows (while leaving curtains closed), but the temperatures are rising to the point where it’s regularly 85-90 degrees (Fahrenheit) in that room. This will be unsustainable through the summer. Things we have already tried:
    1) Light blocking curtains, since the window faces south
    2) Installing vent fans
    3) Interior ceiling fan and personal desk fan to just move air
    4) Leaving interior doors open as much as possible

    Things that we cannot do:
    1) Window A/C unit (not without heavy electrical work – the circuits will not support the energy required)
    2) Move his office to a different room
    3) Reduce heat generation in the office (his computers are not going anywhere)

    I’m sure we’re not the first to have this issue, so I’m open to other feasible suggestions!

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Can you get a portable aircon unit? They’re not as good as full window units, but theyll do better than the fans.

      1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        Don’t those have to be vented? I’m not sure if we’re able to actually put in that kind of duct work at the moment.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Most of them are through-wall or window, where the heat dump remains outside. You don’t necessarily have to puncture a wall.

          1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

            Understood, thank you! I believe these were the type he was looking at when he said we didn’t have enough power left on the circuit to run the compressor, unfortunately.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              How far away are the other circuits in your home? It’s not the most attractive option, but an extra long extention lead could make the difference.

              1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

                The cord would have to stretch across either two doorways or the top of the stairs. (Or across the ceiling, I suppose). He’d be more okay with that than I would, as long as the door could still shut, if necessary.

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  I think you’d be fine with door shutting if your door isn’t completely flush to the doorway. It’s a PAIN, but it would only be doing work hours and you could experiment with the best way to keep it from being a trip hazard.

    2. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

      Have you thought about a free-standing AC unit? These typically just plug into a regular wall outlet.

      1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        Unfortunately, the electronics setup in the room means that we’re close to tripping circuit breakers with most extra things we plug in. Every portable A/C unit we’ve looked at (unless it’s strictly evaporative) is going to draw too much power for the circuit. Our humidifier, which is being put in summer storage, was about the max it could handle on top of our computers. To compound things, I work from home during the summer, but my location in the house is more flexible.

        1. Ashley*

          I would look at a portable dehumidifier depending on your climate. Decreasing the humidity in a room can make a warmer room more tolerable.
          It isn’t the greatest but with a portable a/c units you could try an extension cord to find what is on a different breaker that isn’t close to tripping and then 3M strip it to the wall so it isn’t a trip hazard.

          1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

            Humidity indoors averages around 30% right now, will going much lower help? The next closest breaker would require crossing either 2 doors or a stairway, unfortunately. The circuits in this house are Weird.

            1. ThatGirl*

              In that case, a swamp cooler/evaporative cooler might be just the thing – they’re good for dry heat. You do not need a dehumidifier!

        2. Riffy McRiffed*

          Good lord that’s bad! You really do need an electrician to sort your circuits out. It sounds like that would be the best investment of any you could make with this house. I can’t think of much else you can try to cool this space adequately without drawing some electricity. :( It sucks to have to weird circuits that trip if you so much as think about plugging something else in. I feel your pain!

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Can he leave his office door open, and point a fan so it draws warm air out of his office? Also, try putting some ice in front of the fans that are blowing at him.

      Is he able to shift his work hours to cooler times of the day?

      1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        We have a vent at the top of the room that he’s now installed a fan into, and it helps by about 5 degrees, near as we can tell. Which is more than nothing! We won’t be able to achieve his ideal 65 degrees at all, for sure, but upper 70s would be nice.

        I’ll see about the ice in front of the fans; maaaaybe I can get him to rearrange his workspace a little.

        Unfortunately, his hours are at the coolest they can be for now. He’s also working a considerable amount of overtime, so unless he works overnight, they won’t miss the hot parts of the day.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          Thinking waaaay back to before my parents had AC, I remember Mom hanging a wet-but-wrung-out towel on a box fan, and clipping it in place near the bottom on the side panels. He could do something similar and keep a spray bottle of water handy to re-dampen the towel as it dries out. It’s easier than and endless supply of ice.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My first thought was basement. I realize that falls afoul of #2, but… typing’s cheap.

      How robust is your ice-generating equipment? Can you produce a bucket of ice every 2 hours and cycle them out as they approach room temperature? It’s tedious, but by using them as disposable heat sinks, that could help some. Would a dedicated icemaker be realistic on a separate circuit in a separate room?

      Is moving the computers out of the room, running them headless (i.e. without a display) and remoting into them an option?

      Is this room on the South face of the house? Would planting arbor vitae or building a partition to block the sun from the window an option?

      1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        Yeah, we don’t even have a basement, so that would be the most expensive option of all.
        I’ll ask him about moving the computers and remoting in. I don’t think it will work with his work-issued laptop, but it might for the desktop. I’m not sure if it would run afoul of regulations, but I’ll ask him.
        The room is on the south-east corner with a south-facing window. Unfortunately, it’s a second-story room, which compounds things and means that shade is hard to come by.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Window awnings, ‘sails’, shutters, exterior rollup blinds — Curtains will help, but you really want to keep the sun from reaching that wall in the first place.

      2. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        I’m not sure how much ice our refrigerator would produce, actually. I’ll have to experiment this weekend.

    5. Thursdaysgeek*

      When I was a kid, we cooled the house by opening the doors and windows at night, so the rooms could cool down. And then closed them and pulled the window shades during the day, to keep the cool in (kind of). That might help (for a few hours), if it is safe to leave windows open at night and it cools down at night.

      Another option is a cooling neck or head band, or a set of them kept in the fridge and rotated out. The computers can probably handle temps in the 90s better than he can, so that would help just him to stay cooler. I live in a very dry climate, so when I drive in my non-air conditioned car, I use evaporative cooling: air flow and water sprayed against my face and arms occasionally.

      1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        We tried this, but it heats up again in about an hour or two, which is not enough when he’ll be working 10-11 hour days.

        I may get him a cooling headband. He doesn’t mind wearing a hat a lot, so that might be useful. Thank you!

        I’m wondering if an evaporative cooling a/c-ish unit would draw low enough power and help from that standpoint, but I’m not sure about driving the humidity levels up in the room like that.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If you own a rooftop swamp cooler is really very effective…not chesp, but effective. (I visited family in New Mexico for a week. The first 2 days the unit was misbehaving and we were very warm. One repair visit and the house was quietly comfortable. )
          And it goes on the rooftop, so humidity stays outside.

    6. Construction Safety*

      Well, it won’t pass the HGTV eye test but Google “confined space fans” you want the little ones with the flexible duct. Suck from the cooler area & blow into his office. Extra benny is white noise. It’ll fit easily into a closet when not needed.

      1. Chestnuts Roasting in My Office*

        I’ll have to look. I’m the one who absolutely despises white noise, but I can move around if necessary, so there’s that. Thank you!

    7. Riffy McRiffed*

      Ugh. I know this issue well. Unfortunately, none of my suggestions are probably easy, and some won’t be cheap, but well worth the investments. I’ve spent my entire life up until now living without central air.

      1) If the room is on an upper floor, getting proper attic insulation helps a lot, BTDT. My last two homes were uninsulated ovens. Insulating duct work help a lot with both cooling and heat. I had uninsulated duct work running through an uninsulated attic. I had central heat only, but can only imagine if I had AC all of that cold air would be pretty warm by the time it hit the rooms further away. It certainly had the opposite effect in winter where one end of the house blew nice and warm, but the far end blew cool.

      2) Consult with a HVAC professional. Your system should be able to keep up with the usual conditions, and for some reason it’s just not doing it. That’s not normal. This could be due to lack of insulation or an issue with the equipment or both.

      3) If the windows themselves are getting hot (like mine in my new place ugh!), you can get a clear film that can be applied to the glass that helps or replace them if they are older. I have south facing windows you could fry an egg on midday. They are double-pained but metal framed, and the metal get hot af! I’ve never had vinyl or wood windows heat up like this. I am definitely replacing these very soon.

      4) Any standard outlet should support a window or portable AC unit just fine. I’ve run them even with the old school knob and tube wiring in an apartment built in 1910 (at least they replaced the fuse box with switches!). You don’t need a huge unit for one room with the door closed. 5,000 BTUs is fine for a small room, especially if it is supplementing your central air.

      If your circuits can’t support a standard window unit operating in one room, you probably want to have that addressed anyhow. Your electrical system is inadequate for your usage or wired up in someway it probably shouldn’t be wired. The answer might be as simple as giving the office its own circuit, and worth the investment in an electrician to fix the problem.

      FWIW, that old apartment I had everything that wasn’t the refrigerator was wired to one circuit. I couldn’t run the AC and the hair dryer at the same time, but a 5000 btu window AC+lights+computer+TV wasn’t a problem. These units actually use a lot less energy than you might be thinking, especially now. I had that questionable apartment nearly 30 years ago. In my last place I was running 3 window units and 4 ceiling fans at once. Each room was on its own circuit.

      1. Econobiker*

        As above- upgrade attic insulation, install or upgrade ductwork insulation, and inst heat reflecting windows films, interior insulating curtains, even interior window foam insulation panels with reflected surface, ceiling exhaust vents like you’re doing, portable a/c unit using heavy duty extension cord specially made for a/c units.
        Extreme change BUT upgraded blown in wall insulation for this room and elsewhere in the house. Another extreme is if the computers can be vented from their own enclosure in the room drawing cooler air in and exhausting hot air out the ceiling.

        And lighting- replacement light fixtures with LED lights in place of incandescent and fluorescent lights and fixtures with ballasts. Even a ceiling fan turned on the correct way for summer cooling can assist.

    8. Mr. Cajun2core*

      Have you tried using fans to blow cooler air from other parts of the house into the room that he is in. It worked for us, though our situation isn’t nearly a bad.

      This might be cost prohibitive but can you put some kind of awning over the windows or something that might shade that part of the house?

    9. Filosofickle*

      Have you looked at A/C window units recently? I have absolutely terrible electric — 110 year old house, and one circuit runs almost every outlet for 7 rooms — and was convinced my system couldn’t take an A/C unit. But after dying for many years, I found a Frigidaire unit for our bedroom that puts very, very little strain on the system. (Maybe around 400W?) It doesn’t take it from 90 to 70 but knocks it down the 10 or so degrees I need to stay sane in our un-insulated, un-cooled flat. If I’m sitting in the airflow it’s freezing.

    10. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I got a portable a/c last summer for my office and had no trouble running it with my pretty limited electrical circuit. I was surprised at how little I needed to run it every day, even when it was in the 90s. I usually ran it for a couple of hours in the morning and then turned it off. With the door shut it stayed comfortable for the rest of the work day.

      1. Lizzie*

        You can put bubble wrap on windows, sticking it on with a bit of water, that insulates well. And there are body chiller vests that you can buy for working in hot conditions which could be worth a look, some you wet (more for outdoor tradespeople) and others use a cooling gel. Like the chiller mats you can get for your pets to lie on. I didn’t do further research, but I expect there are other clothes made for people in hot conditions!

    11. School Psych*

      Blaux Portable AC. I have an older house and we got some of these to use in areas that were too difficult to wire for AC. They charge like an iPhone and can run up to 7 hours. It doesn’t get the room as cold as a window unit or central air, but it definitely helps. Minisplit AC systems are also good for spaces that are hard to wire and don’t use a ton of electricity. It’s more of an investment though.

    12. Anonymous Koala*

      Could he install an external fan for his computers? I have a cheap usb laptop fan for my machine and it’s significantly cut down on heat generation. Also those low tech box window fans can be surprisingly effective even in really hot weather, especially if you live in a dry climate. They’re usually not too power heavy.

    13. Tess*

      I’veopened windows halfway and put a box fan on the window sill. With the front of the fan facing inward toward the room, it draws in cool air and draws out warm air. I still do it and get a room that’s about 72 degrees with moving air.

    14. Smitten By Juneau*

      Start by having your HVAC system inspected/serviced. It might just need cleaning and adjustment to allow it to keep up. If not, then the compressor is probably undersized and replacing it with an appropriately sized unit may fix the entire house. A good HVAC outfit will also look into balancing flow into the various areas of the house — the office and areas that get more sun will need more cooling than other areas, so ideally all areas are the right temp, as opposed to some hot and some cold. Double-bonus if they’re able to zone the office separately from the rest of the house.

    15. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      One more suggestion, though it’s going to be pricey and sound crazy; Solar.

      Check into putting solar panels on your roof, especially over that room. What we’ve noticed since putting solar on our roof is that our upper floor doesn’t get as hot, because the energy from the sunlight is getting intercepted by the panels and converted into electricity instead of heating the attic and radiating downwards through the ceilings.

  56. Message in a Bottle*

    Two Questions

    1. Do you think that hiring folks gather their candidates from the first 100 applicants? I’ve changed my applying strategy to try to apply within 24 hours of a posting, even as I know they may have had a posting elsewhere for a few days prior. I had gotten responses like “We ended up moving forward with our first round of interviews” and “we had hundreds of applicants for this position,” which made me wonder if I was applying too late. I know I applied within an hour of the posting of the job I have and I’ve been here for years. In this pandemic time there are hundreds of applicants and I’m not sure if applicant #503 gets the same consideration as applicant #50. Not spinning my wheels too much about it, just curious what folks think.

    2. Any ideas about getting out of the entry-level at nonprofits? Especially out of operations. Sometimes in the operations/administrative world, you don’t get a lot of experience in other areas which makes it hard to move up. Again, just curious.