should I tell my boss I’m unhappy with my job, being assertive about safety, and more

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

1. Should I tell my manager I’m unhappy with my job?

I work in the nonprofit sector as a middle manager/director level employee. The last year I have been working from home, as has our whole team of 12 people. Working from home has brought to light some issues the org has always had, but they have been made worse by being remote and from budget strains that aren’t pandemic related.

Personally, I feel completely drained by my job. I feel unappreciated and overlooked by the executive level leadership. I often feel ignored, as many people are terrible at getting back to me in a timely manner or at all (no matter what way I ask my questions). I feel that I’m being pulled in too many directions, and that there is no prioritization or planning, especially now as we enter year two of pandemic life. I also have no decision-making power over my own program the way someone in my position should, due to the micromanaging nature of our executive director.

These things aren’t exactly new in this job, but they were easier to deal with when we were in person. My performance evaluation is coming up and I want to know — is this something I can say to my manager? Is being unhappy at my job something I should say or is it safer to be quiet? I could just look for another job but this one pays well, and I am in a rural area without many choices and I don’t want to move right now. Is it better to just keep the unhappiness to myself and keep my eyes out for something else (even though opportunities are few and far between)?

Before you say anything, ask yourself what outcome you’d be hoping for, and what outcome you think is likely. Realistically, if your manager can’t do much about these issues, there’s probably not much point in raising them. Having her know that you’re unhappy won’t usually be terribly useful to you if there’s not something she can do, and it risks you being pushed out earlier than you might want to leave if they need to make cuts. (To complicate this, that’s not true 100% of the time. There are times when knowing you’re deeply unhappy can spur your manager to make changes in your job in ways you didn’t anticipate would be possible. But those situations tend to be the exceptions, especially when the things bothering you are deep-rooted cultural issues that will take significant work to change.)

However, sometimes you can pick one or two things that you do think she could help with, and that could make your life more bearable for however long you’re there. You’re probably not going to singlehandedly turn an org with no prioritization or planning into one that’s good at those things, but you might be able to get some changes around the edges (“I need at least two days notice for X”) or get other things that would help (whether it’s the authority to move X forward on your own if no one gets back to you, or increased recognition of your work, or more time off, or so forth).

2. Can I turn off notifications from my boss at night?

My boss has a habit of sending panicked/angry emails way after hours (we’re talking 11 pm on a weeknight) and on weekends. Never are these emails concerning actual emergencies — he simply doesn’t read his email all day, works his way through his inbox between the hours of 8 pm and midnight, and is understandably completely out of the loop and without crucial context when he’s reading otherwise ordinary intra-company correspondence. He works his way through daily emails backwards, starting with the most recent, and as a result, nine times out of ten he sends an email 15 minutes later, apologizing for flying off the handle, and acknowledging that the necessary context he needed was contained in emails sent earlier in the day.

These panicked/angry emails trigger push notifications to my phone, and naturally, I am compelled to read them. Otherwise — major anxiety. So my question is, can I turn off push notifications after hours and on weekends? Or can I turn them off after a certain hour? Perhaps I’m off-base here, but these emails feel inappropriate and unprofessional, and they trigger a lot of needless stress among me and my colleagues. As I said, the subject of his late-night Internet tantrums tend to clear themselves up with a bit more reading on his part — but I’m anxious that in turning off push notifications all together, I might miss the first real, bona fide emergency.

If it’s a real, bona fide emergency, he can call.

Turn off the notifications. You don’t need to allow your evenings and weekends to be constantly interrupted by angry emails that don’t even have any basis. (Frankly, even if they did have basis, you wouldn’t be obligated to let all your off time be destroyed this way either. You are allowed to have time away from work.)

It’s pretty ridiculous that your boss didn’t figure out after the first couple of times this happened that he needs to read back further before losing his cool, because the info he needs is there if he looks. Is he … not good at drawing logical conclusions and learning from experience? Ideally someone on your team would point out to him that this is happening regularly and there’s a simple solution. (That person may or may not be you; ideally it would be someone relatively senior and/or someone who has good rapport with him.)

3. Being assertive about safety once we’re back in the office

After most employees at my company have WFH for the past year due to COVID, my employer is bringing everyone back to the office very soon, and continued WFH is not an option. The timing is such that anyone who wants a COVID vaccine will have had ample time and availability in our state to be fully vaccinated before returning. Masks are not currently mandated in my state, and my employer is not requiring them in the office, nor validating who is or isn’t vaccinated.

Although I am fully vaccinated, I am hesitant to be in the office (around more people than I’ve been around in over a year), without masks. Some employees are almost certainly choosing not to be vaccinated, and current CDC guidance states that even fully vaccinated people should not be in close proximity of unvaccinated people from multiple households without masks. I will choose to wear a mask myself, but since masks primarily protect others (and others will not be required to wear them), I am at a loss on how to best set, communicate, and enforce boundaries to maintain my own safety. Can you suggest some sample scripts for how to respectfully but firmly: respond to lunch meeting invitations (since eating = guaranteed unmasked); respond to meetings held in conference rooms (can I request a Zoom option even when we’re all in office?), and request that others not enter my personal workspace unmasked?

Lean into the CDC guidance! Scripts:

* “I’m not comfortable doing in-person group meetings yet since the CDC says vaccinated people shouldn’t be in close proximity to people from multiple households without masks unless they know for sure everyone is vaccinated. Can I call in instead?”
* “I’m not able to do lunch meetings until the CDC relaxes their guidance for vaccinated people. Could we set up a call instead?”
* “Could you put on a mask before you come, please?” And if they’re unwilling: “In that case, can I ask that you go back to your desk and we’ll talk by phone? I’m being very careful.”

You could also highlight for your office that its plans are at odds with current CDC recommendations and ask what procedures they’ll put in place to comply.

4. Setting boundaries on requests for help from a significant other’s network

I am lucky enough to have recently fallen in love with a wonderful person. We live in a mid-size city (about 300,000) and both work in human services/education, though for different organizations. We are working to create healthy boundaries between our personal and professional lives and it is important to both of us that we are able to pursue careers independently.

My organization is bigger and engages in some grant-making activities. A coworker of his recently reached out to me for more information on how their organization could acquire funding. I directed her to publicly available resources but she responded seeking a personal introduction to the grant officer, who is not listed on the website. This made me uncomfortable; I’m happy to connect anyone who asks to public information, but it felt like she was leveraging my personal relationship to gain access. Being in the nonprofit world, I know the importance of networking and personal connections but I have no professional relationship with this person and we’ve only met once in passing.

My fiance and I discussed the need for some kind of baseline policy on how to deal with these kinds of inquiries as we see this being a recurring issue as we move forward in our careers. I would love advice from you on how to navigate these kinds of requests.

The way you handled it sounds just fine! When she asked for an introduction to the grant officer, you could have said, “Oh, we get such a high volume of interest in funding that we ask all grant applicants to follow the process listed on our website.” And if she still pushed: “I’m sorry I can’t help. We’re really rigorous about asking everyone to use the process on our website so that everyone is treated the same. Thanks for understanding!”

In other words, not so different from how you’d probably handle it if your fiancé weren’t in the picture. Explain what the person should do, and then reiterate that if necessary. Be warm and friendly, but hold firm on what you are and aren’t willing or able to do.

(My answer would be different if the person had been requesting something different. If she were asking for something like an informal chat about moving into your field — as opposed to this kind of special treatment — I’d encourage you to consider that, like you presumably would consider other similar requests that came through a mutual contact.)

5. Should I address having a different degree than an employer is looking for?

I am starting to seriously job hunt after being with my current organization for about a decade. My field is fairly niche, and there are not a lot of jobs available even in the best of times. I’ve expanded my search to adjacent fields — think libraries when my background is in archives. I’ve come across a few postings that I know I could do well and I have all the qualifications/experience except for the specific degree they are asking for. I still want to apply for these positions, and will of course highlight how my achievements/experience show that I would be a great fit, but I’m wondering if I should acknowledge in my cover letter that I have a field-adjacent degree. I’m thinking something like “I understand that you are looking for a candidate with a Library Sciences degree, but I am confident that my Archival Studies degree, along with my relevant work experience and achievements make me a great fit for the role.” If it matters, both the degree they are looking for and my degree are Master’s, so same education level. Is this a good idea to mention or should I leave it and hope that they don’t automatically dismiss me because I have a different degree?

I’d address it, but with slightly different wording. I’m not a fan of “I’m confident that X makes me a great fit for the role” type wording — that’s just asserting it to be true rather than demonstrating it in a more compelling way. You’ll be more convincing if you instead say something like, “While I realize you’re looking for a candidate with a Library Sciences degree, my Archival Studies degree gives me a strong grounding in X, Y, and Z” and otherwise explain how it makes you a good fit, rather than just declaring that it does. Good luck!

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. anony*

    OP #3 – upgrade your own mask game! Get yourself some N95s or KN95s or AirQueens or similar masks that are designed to protect YOU as much as they protect others, and do your own version of fit-testing (because those masks don’t have the 95-ish% protection in either direction if they don’t fit well).

    Back in the early days of the pandemic, there were major shortages on all these, so we were asked to leave them for health providers and make do with cloth… now the landscape is a bit different and at least some of those are more available (although actual N95s might still be tightly rationed… I haven’t checked in a while), so you actually CAN protect yourself quite a bit with a mask. It’s not 100%… but I have a friend who’s been working throughout the pandemic in the Covid ICU and hasn’t caught it.

    1. Magc*

      I was going to say the same thing. I’ve purchased the KN95 masks here and can get pretty decent fit using the wire over the nose; I believe they’re on the FDA EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) list. This site also sells more expensive N95 masks as well.

      Costco and Best Buy both sell what I believe are KN95 masks. You can buy a ten-pack at Best Buy first to make sure they fit and are comfortable before buying the 100-count box at Costco.

      You can also buy a mask brace to use with a good surgical mask, like this one:

      Another thing to consider is an air purifier with HEPA filters. If you can open the windows at work, that will help as well.

      1. Chinook*

        Be careful about notbuying knockoffs, though. CBC Marketplace did a episode about counterfeit masks via the internet and in Canadian stores (these are big name stores lie Walmart, so I could see it happening in the US too). They did tests that showed that some of them were less effective than cloth ones.

        1. Chinook*

          They also did an episode on effective air filters and how to make a homemade one that tested as well as some expensive store bought ones. These episodes are on YouTube.

          1. JustaTech*

            If you live on the West Coast of North America you’re probably going to want some kind of air filtration system (even a HEPA filter over a box fan) this summer; predictions are looking like yet another bad fire year.

    2. Elaner*

      And if your employer provides masks, they can also provide N95s for voluntary use if they provide you/your coworkers with 1910.134 Appendix D, and you’re legally set.

      Along with that, assuming you’re US based, the OSHA guidelines are available to lean back on as well. The covid emergency standards (temporary laws) have been put on hold, but the guidelines are still kicking.

    3. OP #3*

      Yes, I will definitely look into higher protection masks! I’ve bought a couple in the past and they were fairly expensive ($3-4 ea?), which has been fine for occasional wear (Sam’s Club or the like) but could add up quickly for daily use unless there is an effective way to reuse them.

      1. Natalie*

        You could reserve them for specific situations where you’ll be expected to be around a lot of massless people with unknown vaccination status.

        It’s also worth knowing, just for your own peace of mind, that a well fitting cloth mask does protect you. It’s not 95% or anything, but some of the early messaging really underplayed how much benefit the wearer received. There’s some guidance on the CDC site for how your mask should fit that might be useful.

        1. Threeve*

          And layering a cloth mask over a disposable (even one of the ordinary ones) is actually pretty effective.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        N95s can be reused if you store them in a sealed paper bag for 3-4 days between uses–so you could buy 5 and rotate them, a Monday mask, a Tuesday mask, and so on.

        If you search “N95 cleaning and reuse methods National Institute of Health” you’ll find guidelines. Good luck!

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, this is legitimate and what my Dad (dentist) was doing at the beginning of the pandemic. Masks are more available now, so they are not doing this anymore, but if you get a box of 10 they will last you a long time if you use this method.

          And yes, double masking is not to N95 or KN95 level, but is much m0re protection for you as well.

          I save my KN95 masks for when I’m going into very high risk situations and do double masking for moderate risk myself.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        I got KN95 masks from the outset, and we reuse them. The trick is keeping track of which mask you should use on which day.

        Since I don’t go out all that often, mine stay in the car. It’s always 2 or more days between trips, and that’s long enough for any virus to have died off. So I just re-use that mask until I feel like it’s wearing out.

      4. DLW*

        We put ours in a dated paper bag and then don’t use that mask again for a minimum of five days.

      5. pleaset cheap rolls*

        They are sometimes cheaper on Amazon if you buy in bulk – like 30 masks for 40 dollars. And a source I trust said they can be used for several days if not soiled and allowed to dry out well after each day.

        1. Ruth*

          I would avoid buying on Amazon since there are major counterfeit issues with all product lines on that site.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Not sure about other countries but, yeah, the last lot of masks I tried to buy in bulk off Amazon in the UK arrived and were…labelled as genuine stuff but a half trained eye could see they were shoddy goods that had bad stitching/substandard material. They also absolutely reeked!

            I’m not sure if there is a method on Amazon to confirm the supplier before handing over payment?

            1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              Almost certainly not: Amazon isn’t even well set up to ensure that if company A and company B are both selling things called Number 1 Widgets through Amazon Marketplace, and I buy the company A widget, I will get that and not the company B widget.

      6. Artemesia*

        You can reuse them indefinitely — The key is to get several and then rotate them weekly. You can have one for each day of the week and then let the one you wore Monday (or the two you wore Monday as they do get soggy over the course of a day) rest until the next Monday. This is what health care workers were doing when they were hard to come by — let each mask sit a few days between uses.

      7. Blackcat*

        Here is a link to a reputable source currently on sale! Should bring the cost down to $1/mask.

        It’s the code BLUNA50 on behealthyusa DOT net. Good for Bluna KF94 masks.

      8. Don't Let Your Guard (or Your Mask) Down*

        I’ve been getting KN95s from this (local to me) business, and the prices are much better – less than $1/mask. They’re an FDA-authorized distributor
        I also reuse them, as long as they’re not dirty – I store them in a paper bag after use for several days

      9. Yorick*

        You can also do the “presidential package” of double masking. I’m working from home so it’ll be different for you, but I’m able to make a few short trips to the grocery store or whatever before the KN needs to be replaced.

    4. Annimal*

      This! I am also a big proponent of really high quality filters for reusable masks – the brand Caraa has lightweight, well fitting masks you can wear all day, and they have filters that rate at P99 (they worked to source a material that isn’t used in medical settings so it wouldn’t pull from that supply). I send my kids off to school with them every day.

    5. Public Sector Manager*

      If you have a Costco Business Center near you (all Costco members can go to the Business Center), they have a “flex fold” KN 95 mask. They run about 80-90 cents a piece for a box of 50. They have wire in the nose and before you open it, they lie flat–so my wife and I always have a backup in the car, my wife carries a couple of extra in her purse, and I can throw an extra one in my pocket when heading out the door. Super convenient to always have a good mask or two on hand and they fit really well. Also, I’ve double masked with an Adidas mask on the outside and the KN 95 mask underneath and I can breath just fine.

    6. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      Seconded! I got mine here which I like because there’s a link to the manufacturer’s site for verification of a code on your bag. I feel so much safer in them, and find them more comfortable to wear for long periods because they don’t get sucked into your mouth when you inhale hard, so even now that I’m fully vaccinated I’m still wearing them.

    7. Yorick*

      We’ve been getting KN95s from Office Depot for a while now. I don’t know the exact price since my husband ordered them, but I think they’re pretty reasonable.

  2. Heidi*

    Re Letter 2: I once had a boss that would fly off the handle. They would complete forget that it happened within a very short time. They even acknowledged that they did this, sort of (“people tell me that I was really angry during this high-stress period – I just don’t remember it being that way at all”). So I can totally see LW2’s boss going through this cycle of freakout-context-apology without ever realizing how often they do it. Hard to change your bad behavior if you don’t recognize it in the first place. I would be tempted to save all the angry emails and the apology emails in one place. That way you have the receipts if you decide to confront the boss about this or bring it to his boss.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      That is absolutely frightening. I’m sorry you had to deal with such scary behavior.

    2. PT*

      Be careful if your boss has access to your inbox. I worked somewhere where a boss liked to go snooping through our accounts to check our loyalty. She’d notice a folder like that.

      If I wanted to keep records of emails I printed it out at home.

  3. Artemesia*

    #1. I once got some great advice when I was outraged about a work change that caused me to lose a good office for a closet like office. My partner told me that I should not address it with my boss unless I have a solution to the problem and can explain why it is good for the organization’s goals and productivity to solve this problem for me. He told me that when a boss gets a complaint he can’t solve he has two choices 1. feel bad about it. or 2. hurt you. Guess what he is most likely to choose; no one wants to feel bad about their leadership.

    So I calmly pointed out that the function I was performing for the department required a particular type of space and the new office wasn’t going to let me do that. I was doing a job that most of the rest of the department didn’t want to do, so helping him do it was in his interests. No mention of ‘status loss’ symbolized by office change; it had happened with a departmental merger where he just lazily put our group wherever there was an empty spot rather than re-organizing the whole department. I was then offered a great corner office but pointed out that we needed to reserve that for a new hire we hoped to get (never take an office that makes everyone else jealous unless you are at the top of the heap). He ended up literally doing some remodeling and building me an office that provide the space I needed.

    Don’t whine to the boss about your unhappiness. Figure out what could change to make things better for you. And explain to him why these changes will be good for the program and productivity. Hope you can make some of this happen.

    1. Mongrel*

      This does seem like a work-around for a poor manager;
      “Hi boss, you mucked up and now I can’t do my job correctly. I’ve got some ideas to help you fix it”
      I feel you should be able to take problems to your Manager because that’s part of their job and the whole “Don’t give me problems give me solutions” is passive aggressive horsecrap foisted on us by bad managers.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I hear the advice to present solutions, not problems, but:
        1. I know I don’t always know all the background or behind the scenes stuff (like that a big boss hates x and even though it is a great solution, we are never going to do it).
        2. I have one boss who appreciates hearing options, the one above her, who was my direct supervisor until she was promoted, hates hearing solutions. She, and her boss, only like their own solutions and seem to like telling you why yours will not work or they feel threatened by solutions that are not their own. They prefer to sweep in and save us with their solutions. You have to know your supervisor and it was not clear with the original supervisor at first if they did, or did not want solutions.

        So I have not found, “present solutions,” to be great advice.

        1. Hog Hedge*

          Yes, my great-grandboss is a micro-manager, so whenever I’m working with my boss on something for my boss to bring to him, we have to word any solutions as the gentlest possible suggestions with lots of context and caveats. Anything more direct triggers a “why are you keeping information from me and dictating what I should do?!”. Thankfully I never have to deal with great-grandboss.

          Immediate boss loves solutions because his plate is already overflowing. If I don’t have a solution ready I’m likely to not get an answer for months, because he just doesn’t have time and it’s not a priority. Very much a “know your boss/office” kind of thing.

          1. ceiswyn*

            I had a boss who was a micro-manager – if I brought him a solution I just ended up having to retrace my entire thought process, slowly, with repeated interruptions. It did not help that he wasn’t very wick on that uptake, and tended to get wrong ideas into his head that I COULD NOT then get him to correct.

            Of course, if I just took him problems I then got to spend just as long trying to explain why his immediate ideas wouldn’t work (I was an overworked technical writer without enough time to create release documents – his immediate ‘solution’ was to get our office admin staff to help. Way to make me feel my skill set is appreciated.)

            I eventually just left the company.

        2. Artemesia*

          Let me rephrase that. Rather than solutions (I didn’t tell the boss to build me an office that was his idea) state need rather than unhappiness. I am unhappy; I am so sad; what we are doing makes me miserable. Not effective. But ‘I need X or Y or Z to be more effective’. or ‘when my time is taken up with A I can’t get B and C done which are more critical for the organization’ How can we make that happen? may work.

          Dumping misery just makes you an unpleasant moment in his day; identifying the tools, time, space etc you need to be effective gives him something specific to work with.

          I’m unhappy is not an effective message even with good bosses. I need X may be. And always when you are miserable, it is time to see what options for moving on there are. Sometimes just searching for a job is a morale booster so you know you are not necessarily stuck there forever and that attitude makes you confident and more likely to get what you want where you are.

          1. OhNo*

            Agreed, I think presenting your needs can be very effective. I’ve had good results using this same strategy with my own boss (though she’s a good manager, so I’m very lucky there). Especially if you can make a business case for your needs, it also gives your manager information to bring to the people above them if they need additional resources or buy-in to come to a solution.

            If you do have ideas for solutions, you can also present those in the context of not having all the information, if your boss is the type that is open to brainstorming alternatives or explaining why something won’t work. For example, you could say, “I need X, and I was thinking Y might work, but I don’t know if that’s possible. What do you think?” Then they have a starting point, or some context for what might fix the problem, but you’re not trying to dictate what they should do.

      2. Washi*

        I think it can be more helpful to think about what is most likely to get the outcome you want, less about “shoulds”. Your boss is much more likely to make changes if you have a specific suggestion, or can at least articulate what success would look like. Plus OP sounds like they are fairly high level, and that comes with more of an expectation to take the initiative and think of some solutions.

      3. MK*

        Eh, I would argue that Artemisia’s situation was exactly that; she pointed out a problem to her boss and he figured put a solution. The thing is, sometimes you have to point out the problem, because your manager might not see it as a problem; also, “I don’t like X” does not (necessarily) equal “problem for the company”, so you want to present why it is a work issue.

      4. Roscoe*

        I think the “don’t give me problems, give me solutions” makes a lot of sense. I’m not even in managment and I agree with it. Because even if you don’t have all the necessary info, just saying “I’ve been running into this issue, would we be able to do X or Y to avoid it”, instead of just saying what doesn’t work, just comes off much better.

      5. Lyudie*

        Yes thank you. I had a manager several years ago who told me the whole “don’t bring me problems without a solution thing” and I no longer felt like I could even brainstorm about a problem with her. I’m not a manager, there are probably company rules and guidelines and possible solutions I don’t even know about. And a lot of workplace things are not something an individual contributor can address. If it was something totally out of my experience, I am not allowed to talk to to her about it? I lost a lot of trust in her in that conversation.

        1. Cyrus*

          If you couldn’t bring her problems without a solution, that might be bad management, but I’m not sure. Could you bring her questions? The distinction seems important. “Don’t bring me problems without a solution OR some approach to figuring out a solution” seems like a reasonable request.

          1. Lyudie*

            Some questions were ok but stuff like how should I/how would she like to me handle a certain difficult situation (I was in a role that some team members felt was unnecessary and there was sometimes just-less-than-overt hostility towards me) she would point out I needed to learn to handle things and she never needed to ask her boss things like this…which ok but she was a manager for 10+ years and at a director level at that point, and I had had zero management training and had no real authority. So that wasn’t super encouraging either.

      6. Public Sector Manager*

        But what’s important to you may not be very high on your manager’s list of what’s important. I manage a team of 20, and if I’ve got 10 pressing things on my desk, someone bringing me # 11 about their office assignment is probably going to the bottom of my list of things to do. But if you come in with a solution, 95% of the time you’re going to get a “yes” by the time you leave my office.

        Yes, a lot of bad managers do this. But a lot of great managers do it too.

      7. Greg*

        I use, “Come to me with an issue after you’ve tried to solve it,” or, “What have you tried so far?” I’ve got zero issues helping my direct reports (or their direct reports) solve issues, but I’ve found that the fix is pretty simple most of the time and I would rather they find solutions without needing to rely on me, and I’d rather them make a mistake and fix it if it gives them a solid learning experience.

        With that said, there are often people who bring up problems to bring up problems.

      8. Bella*

        Encouraging your people to proactively solve problems (even their own problems, that even you may have contributed to) is good management!

        1. Seacalliope*

          Eh. I think there are applications where it is good, but as a general rule of thumb, it can’t be. It’s simply too often shoveling more work at your employee because you aren’t interested in doing it yourself.

    2. MK*

      That is a good strategy if you have a) a specific problem and b) your boss has the power to fix that problem. The issue I see with the OP’s situation is that they have a laundry list of concerns, most of which are probably not in her manager’s power to address, not to mention that they are big-scope, organization-side issues. The manager could maybe do something about the people who don’t get back to the OP, if they are below the manager in the hierarchy. But introduce prioritization and planning in an organization that seems content to function without them? That’s something that will have to come from the very top and motivated by something more pressing that an employee’s unhappiness. Similarly, maybe the manager could convince the executive leadership of the benefit of showing appreciation to the OP or the executive director of giving them more autonomy on their project, but more probably not, and, if so, it probably won’t be to the extent that would alleviate the OP’s unhappiness (I am assuming she needs more than a token appreciation and mininal amount of authority on her work).

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It sounds like that worked really well for you, but “come with a solution, not a problem” can definitely veer into gumption-y, depending on the situation.

      If someone doesn’t have all the context, offering solutions can make make things more confusing than they need to be, or engender resentment. I think most of us have had experiences with another department/colleague/boss/client offering a solution (that often means more work for you) instead of expressing their problem.

      If you have insight into what effort goes into the solution (as in this example) great. But if the solution requires work from others, that’s iffier. Given how nuanced and culturally-entrenched some of OP’s problems sound, opening a conversation with her manager and starting to brainstorm might be the best course of action.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Special levels of annoyance for bosses who come with a request, which is completed at great effort, only to discover that request was actually meant as their proposed solution for an issue they didn’t clearly articulate….and their lack of knowledge around the product design means that their solution doesn’t actually address the issue they had in the first place.

        So now their ‘fix’ needs to be undone and the original issue needs to be addressed.

    4. Bookworm*

      Thanks for this reply! I’m not in this spot but appreciate learning how you handled it.

    5. LW #1*

      Hi LW #1 here. I wanted to clarify a few things and also give an update.

      First off I wanted to say that there are two levels above me – my manager is at the VP level and then over her is just the President. My direct manager is fantastic. Unfortunately a lot of the problems I have stem from the way that the president does her job. My manager shares a lot of my frustrations with the organization, and we talk a lot about managing up. I have been doing that for 6 years fairly successfully, but it gets exhausting. Our president has been the president of our org for 25 years, and anyone else who works in non-profits will probably recognize this problem as “founders syndrome”. The president will get down in the weeds, taking over projects because she knows better but making them take twice as long because she already has too much to do. The non-responsive problem existed before the pandemic but was usually solved by popping into her office for a quick in person conversation. Now she is incredibly difficult to get ahold of and when I do I get answers that consist of “I need to think about this more.” Also in March my direct report left us for another job and we will not be rehiring for his position, meaning I will be taking on more work, running a program that I was not hired for and have no interest in because someone has to do it.

      At my last performance review my manger asked me about my long term career goals. I am in my 30’s. My manger pointed out that the president will be retiring within the next 5 years and did I see myself staying on and perhaps taking on a bigger role when she leaves. I said I was interested in more responsibility and moving up in position etc. but that I wasn’t sure I wanted to wait 5 more years for things to change (and how quickly could 5 years turn into 10 knowing our president who is only 61 I believe). This is part of the motivation for voicing my unhappiness, I don’t think I can do this for 5 more years until there is a regime change. If they want me to stay I want more ability to control my own projects, more autonomy, more ability to create my own plans and say no to projects that don’t fit into our goals and objectives.

      So I wasn’t planning on just complaining to my manager about my unhappiness. I was planning on pointing out the specific things that are consistently keeping me from doing as well at my job as I could. My self review was due end of March so I ended up pointing these things out (many of which my manager knows about already) in the permanent record of my self evaluation. I don’t truly know if my manger can do anything about a lot of this. Many of the problems are just stemming from the presidents work patterns and the pandemic keeping us out of our office, but other problems – like an inability to long term plan and scattershot projects – are probably not going to change until the President retires.

      So, in my performance review this is what I did – under the specific questions of “What else would help you to do your job better and provide greater job satisfaction?” I pointed out that the pandemic has made communicating with several staff members difficult (the president and another VP who isn’t my manager), that more effective planning in my department would yield better results (and I do make a plan every year, it just gets ignored), and that with losing a member of the department and not replacing him we need to prioritize projects because there isn’t enough man power to realistically have them all be top priority.

      Then, I made the suggestion that I be given more autonomy/authority over what goes on in the department, moving the bottle neck away from the President because this is where all the work gets held up. I think that would go a long way toward increasing my happiness with this job. Also – I am a director level employee, I am supposed to be directing the work and making the plan, but it keeps getting taken out of my hands. That said, the other thing I asked for is a title change. I’ve been at this company 6 years and had one promotion 4 years ago. My job title only kind of reflects the work I do, since the position has changed over time. A new title would more accurately represent my work, so if I do go to look for another job (a distinct possibility though obviously I didn’t say that in the review) I would have a title that reflects my work. Plus to be honest, it would make me feel good to be recognized in this way, even if the title change doesn’t change my pay or position. A nice easy free way for the company to boost my morale.

  4. Little Debbie*

    OP #2: If you are hourly, you shouldn’t be looking at / answering emails outside of hours without being paid overtime. Also, if you weren’t working from home before the pandemic I would argue you shouldn’t have to be working outside of regular hours now just because you’re at home.

    If it were me I would stop doing any work that wasn’t within regular hours (assuming what I posted above is true of course)

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I have worked from home off and on for many years and many positions so the pivot this time was easy for me. I learned long ago that quitting time is quitting time, whether in the office or in my home office. At 4 pm, my work phone goes on silent and my computer is shut off. And I walk away. But I also have the luxury of a separate room in my home for my office so my computer isn’t always there staring me in the face!

    2. Construction Safety*

      My DND goes on @ 9 PM & off @ 7 AM. I added the boss’ number to my favorites so that if he calls, it’ll ring. Everything else is silenced.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I recently read a dear abby or ask amy about a man complaining about people texting him at all hours of the night and waking him up. He was complaining that these people were so rude and had no manners.

        It was obvious to me that “those people” assumed that anyone sleeping next to their phone would utilize the DND feature so they wouldn’t be woken by alerts.

        DND in addition to allowing you exempt certain numbers allowing them to ring through, you can select either text or phone. Like my parents’ and close friends’ phone calls ring through, but their text don’t alert because I assume an emergency will come through a phone call. And I believe if a number, even if not exempt, calls twice it will ring through the second time because that’s a pattern of an emergency call. So DND works well to keep your phone silent, but does allow potentially important calls through.

        1. DataGirl*

          I don’t know that it’s so obvious- I’d guess a lot of people don’t even think about email notifications going through to phones. Even though I use my email on my phone and I use my phone as my alarm so it is next to my bed, I never put two and two together until this post that an email sent late at night could be disruptive if a phone notification goes off. And I only discovered DND mode like 2 weeks ago, even though I’m considered to be relatively tech savvy and work in IT, so I can see how people would not be aware of it.

          1. pancakes*

            It seems pretty obvious that if someone is irritated by their phone making unwanted noises, they should look into adjusting the alert settings.

            1. Grace Poole*

              One of the first things I do when I get a new phone and have to re-set up all the apps is to immediately turn off almost all of the noises and notifications.

              1. Bella*

                I really don’t think this should be the solution. How about don’t call or text people about work outside of work hours. That’s what email is for?

                1. twocents*

                  The OP is complaining about emails though. Just because Bob works at midnight doesn’t mean they are asking OP to.

                2. pancakes*

                  Why? It’s quick, it’s reliable, and doesn’t require guessing or asking what someone’s “work hours” are.

        2. Don't Pay My Automo-Bill*

          I read that one too. I will never for the life of me understand why anyone puts their work email on their personal phone, and if they do, why they don’t turn off notifications/auto sync/the sound, and if they don’t, why they get upset when they get messages at random hours, and then blame someone else for their anxiety about answering messages. DND, silent mode, ignoring the message are all options that YOU can control.

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes this is kind of like getting mad that someone emailed you while you were at the movies. Plenty of people don’t get push notifications for email, and those who do mostly use DND or turn their phone off during sleep hours and/or times when they don’t want to be disturbed. Basically, you have the power to silence your phone and disconnect from it; it’s the recipient’s responsibility to use it.

        4. Lacey*

          Yes. My family loves to text at all hours of the night. I put a general DND on my phone for the time I typically sleep and I have a couple of numbers that are able to get through, in case of emergency.

          One of my siblings just continues to get angry about it instead of taking a really simple step to save her sanity.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Yes! My answer to LW2 is “yes.”

      Alison did a good job giving a longer answer designed to assuage the LW’s anxiety, but unless you’re on call in some fashion you don’t need to monitor work email at night. it’s not like you’re ignoring an emergency phone call. The boss is clearly not expecting an immediate response when he regularly sends a later email apologizing about the first. Hell, the boss may not even know that an email triggers a push notification to the LW’s phone. I wouldn’t expect that because I don’t have work email on my phone, but if I did I sure as hell wouldn’t have a new email push a notification to my phone. It sure sounds like your boss doesn’t read emails when they arrive throughout the day so he may not even realize the LW is using a push notification for email.

      TL;DR: Sure you can, LW.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes turn off notifications at whatever time you want after/before work hours. I’d recommend turning them off completely – push notifications take you out of focus work, but I get A TON of emails, so I have all notification turned off and check them several times a day. I tell folks if they need something immediate to IM, text or call. I usually see emails pretty fast, but I sometimes go 3-4 hours without checking if I need to focus.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I agree. I only get email on my work computer, but I turned off the new email pop-up notifications because it is extremely distracting to see those popup messages while trying to work even if it’s another email about work.

    1. MassMatt*

      Yeah, I like Alison’s advice and agree with everyone here about turning off notifications but don’t think enough mention has been made that the boss is an idiot. Repeatedly reading strings of emails in reverse chronological order and sending out angry or clueless stream-of-consciousness without doing the very basic work of reading the very email string for context is dumb dumb dumb. It sounds as though he has the attention span of a hamster, and the emotional intelligence of a hyena. I’d seriously question his ability as a boss, or even coworker. I’d put a subordinate doing this on a PIP.

      1. miss chevious*

        Yeah, one way to make this better is for OP to see if they can convince Boss to read his email in chronological order, so that he gets the full story before freaking out. At least that way, OP is only getting emails about ACTUAL problems, not things that were resolved already.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Yeah, one way to make this better is for OP to see if they can convince Boss to read his email in chronological order, so that he gets the full story before freaking out. At least that way, OP is only getting emails about ACTUAL problems, not things that were resolved already.

          If that doesn’t work, try reverse chronological order. It’s harder to freak out about the building being on fire when the email you just read previous was about how the fire was put out with just minor smoke damage to two replaceable ceiling tiles

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yes, this is a clear-cut case of when feedback can help. At my job, we give each other formal feedback as part of reviews. I get to give my grandboss direct feedback about my boss, and thus is exactly the kind of thing I would mention. It’s a straightforward problem with a straightforward so it’s easy for grandboss to handle it.

        Of course, since feedback is already routine my experienced managers rarely have huge obvious issues like this.

    2. the cat's ass*

      Seriously. My boss (generally awesome but short attention span) got in the habit of sending me non emergent texts in the middle of the night. I responded at my usual wake-up time-330am. After a few rounds of that, i went to DND for everything and he stopped his nonsense.

  5. Decidedly Me*

    LW2 – work email is one of the things I refuse (personally, I haven’t been asked otherwise) to have alerts on my phone for. My email is connected, but not synced, so no alerts, though I can get to it easily if needed.

    It’s ok to not have you work email notify you when you’re not working! That’s your personal time. I don’t expect anyone to read my emails (or Slack pings) when they’re not working. I doubt your boss is sending those emails expecting an immediate reply, that’s just when he happens to be doing that work. It can wait until the next day when you’re working again and if truly can’t, I agree that he can just call.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      My work email isn’t even connected to my phone! I do sometimes check work email at home from my laptop, as my job sometimes does require off hours work for legitimate reasons, but I leave the application closed otherwise, and use an entirely different mail program for my personal mail.

      My supervisor does have my id for the common local messaging app, for genuinely urgent stuff, or real time communication on business trips. In practice, I’ve gotten the occasional vacation text about time critical travel arrangements (of the “must submit paperwork by the deadline” variety), and a ping when I had missed the start time of an odd-hours scheduled telecon.

      1. Anonym*

        I totally agree. But if you really can’t stomach this, at least consider setting fetch rather than push notifications so that you only get alerted e.g. once every two hours

      2. Elliott*

        Yeah, I’ve been very firm about not having my work email on my phone and not getting notifications (notifications really stress me out even when they’re not work related). If I need to view my work email on my phone, I use an incognito browser tab.

        We use Google at work, and it’s really important to me to make sure I don’t accidentally access something work-related while logged into my personal account, or vice versa. Data security is also a concern–I don’t want to worry about accessing emails that contain privileged information when I’m not connected to a secure network.

    2. John Smith*

      Totally agree. My manager wanted me to have a corporate mobile (rather than use my own dual SIM phone) to read emails when not in office. I pointed out that if I’m not in the office, I’m either driving to a site, on a site visit (in all cases, phones aren’t allowed on these sites), on lunch or otherwise not on works time, and in none of those circumstances would I be reading work emails. He gave me a corporate mobile anyway which has sat unopened in my locker ever since, but is seemingly content that I am still not looking at works emails in the above circumstances now that I have a corporate mobile that hasn’t seen the light of day!

      1. Thistledown*

        You wouldn’t , for example, check work emails after a site visit and before driving back to an office? Depending on how often you’re out of the office, it seems like it could be really valuable to check in throughout the day.

        1. John Smith*

          Nope. I’ll wait til I’m back at the office (,or home if WFH). The work I do is pretty much set in stone in terms of what happens on a particular day. Office burnt to the ground? Not much I can do. Site wants to reschedule visit? Tough – the visit is statutory, planned for months in advance and is happening. Boss wants me in early tomorrow? He can call (or better still, plan better – early start won’t be necessary anyway). I know that sounds harsh and inflexible, but in 15 years there hasn’t been a single thing that has happened because I didn’t read an email that was sent when I’m out of the office.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Same. The only work-related thing I have on my phone is Authenticator, which I use for personal things too. I could in theory access Office 365 through my browser, but … I don’t.

      It is absolutely ok not to have notifications for work emails on your personal phone at all, let alone out of hours.

      It is absolutely ok to turn off work devices altogether when you are not “at work”. WFH means it can be more difficult to establish clean “at work / not at work” boundaries, but TURN OFF WORK DEVICES UNLESS YOU’RE ACTIVELY WORKING is a good start.

    4. AnonEMoose*

      I won’t put work email on my phone, either. I need to be able to log out and disconnect at the end of the day; it’s important for my mental health. And my boss actively doesn’t want us working extra hours, so it makes sense to not even put work email on my phone. I’m responsive during business hours, and that’s all that’s needed.

      I used to work with someone who would get upset and keep firing off emails without really reading the responses on occasion. I learned pretty quickly that the thing to do then was to just stop responding to him for about half a day. Because if he wasn’t getting emails about whatever, he wouldn’t keep firing off replies. And after that half day or whatever, I could then essentially reiterate where we were with whatever, provide the options I was aware of and my recommendation (he appreciated it when I did that, as it saved him time), and he would respond much more calmly. Once I figured that out, things went way more smoothly.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        I have my work email on my phone now, but it’s buried in an app folder within an app folder, and I set it to give zero notifications. Basically, I can dip in and take a look at it if I want to, but it can’t disturb me at all.

      2. JustaTech*

        I don’t have work email on my personal phone for lots of reasons (strict work/life division) but primarily because if I did I would also have to give my work IT the ability to remotely wipe my phone.

        Yeah, no, it’s my PHONE, like, the place where my life is? I’m not going to risk you wiping it in order to read non-urgent emails 10 minutes faster.

    5. Drago Cucina*

      Agreed. LW2 take your personal time back and have alerts silenced.

      I used to be clear about two things:
      1. If I’m sending an 11 pm email it’s because I don’t sleep until 1 am and do a lot of my work in the evenings. Do Not answer the emails. Don’t have email notifications on.
      2. We had a Bat Signal Slack channel. That was the only one expected to be turned on someone’s personal device. Emergency notifications would be sent out through that channel. Everything else should be on work time/devices. Anyone abusing the Bat Signal channel was in trouble. It wasn’t for donuts, coffee, paper clips, etc.

      Even now I have my phone on Do Not Disturb between midnight and 7 am except for the always call through numbers (family mostly).

    6. ThatGirl*

      Same. Since the advent of smartphones I have never had my work email connected with my personal phone. When I’m off work, I’m off work. If there were some sort of true emergency, my manager could always call me, but I absolutely do not need access to my work email on my personal phone.

  6. I comment a lot and should probably come up with a user name*

    #2 a when I started reading my first thought was that respond to emails at crazy off hours because it’s the time that I have to go through emails, but never expect my team to respond. But then I read more and was like “oh I see we have the same VP.” Personally, I let it go. My VP (two levels above me, as I am a manager reporting to a director who reports to the VP) is always firing off emails in a frustrated way because he isn’t in the weeds and doesn’t understand what we are doing. Personally, I have found it actually beneficial to remain calm and respond to him on my terms in a way. There was one day he was trying to get me first thing in the morning and I could tell he was all worked up and stressed out that a) he read an email from someone else and assumed we didn’t have everything under control and b) he couldn’t reach me immediately (honestly, I was still asleep though did not say this. I could tell he was fired up but I just stayed calm and explained everything I and my team had done To mitigate the situation and he calmed down. Unfortunately being not in the weeds and day to day means he immediately panics when something is escalated and also he is newish (Feb). But I refuse to compromise on my generally calm demeanor and refuse to immediately respond to panicked emails. This might not work with every manager personally, I’m pretty confident in my abilities and also how I do my job bid it doesn’t work for him I guess it’s better to find out now.

    #1 – sometimes I am so happy to live in California. I also have to start going back to the office and I am fully vaccinated but know a lot of people aren’t. But st least we will all go through the motions and wear masks etc etc.

    #5 – I have applied for a lot of jobs that want a BA or BS in specific thing that wasn’t even a degree when I was in school (PS I am actually not THAT old), but I’m like I will take my Masters degree in businessy thing plus my 17!years of experience and say it beats your requirement for 5-7 years and stupid niche bachelors degree. Never had a problem getting interviews. Obviously I do not word it like that. I be clear the BA is in the actual field I have worked in for over a decade. So this might be different. But also I’m like you would rather have me doing this because I’m good at it and better at it than someone with BA and 5 years experience. Never had a problem getting interviews or jobs.

  7. Observer*

    #2 – You can turn off notifications for your email altogether, even though you are getting mail pushed out. If you spend most of your day near a computer where you can see your email, then it’s no big deal.

    Otherwise, you can schedule the alerts to turn off at a certain time. You can do this for just email or for everything. My phone, for instance, goes into DND at 11:00 pm and stays that way till my alarm rings in the morning. If you have a relatively recent phone, it’s extremely easy to set up.

    1. DataGirl*

      I recently found something on my phone called ‘bedtime mode’, it’s under my alarms section and lets me set a bedtime and wake up time. It turns off notifications and grays out my screen during that time to keep me from staying up too late.

    2. Ashley*

      I fullly support DND mode for nights. I also am the type that doesn’t love the email noise notification anytime because it causes other distractions and have never had that enabled and shutting off the ding might help. Emails shouldn’t be urgent matters, and if it is send an email and then call me.
      I am excited to hear you can just turn off notifications for an app though at certain times and need to find this feature!

  8. stumped*

    As a manager, if someone in my department told me they were unhappy and the source of unhappiness is something beyond my control, I’d be stumped as to what I can with that information. If LW1 thinks their manager can address the issues and have enough capital to change policies and implement proper protocols, then yes, go ahead and share your concerns. But things like a micromanaging executive director isn’t something that can be easily changed or cannot be at all.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Agreed. This is a lot of unhappiness to share with a manager if you’re not sure you can get a new job.

      I do think OP *could* raise an unsolvable issue if she does it under the guise of asking for advice/feedback, eg. “I struggle with getting feedback from the Fireworks Department, are there any strategies that you’ve used with them in the past?”

      Even if the manager doesn’t have a specific solution, sometimes talking through those things can be invigorating. But I’d pick only one or two issues to raise, as Alison said.

    2. I comment a lot and should probably come up with a user name*

      Honestly, I would expect someone in a director role to come with solutions. It’s one of those things. Like if you’re entry level I might understand “I am unhappy,” but a director level I would expect more from. Just based on experience and a particular leadership perspective. These are issues and this is how I see fixing them. That’s what I would expect from a director level.

    3. Smithy*

      There was a period in my life where there were many things in my life that were no going well, making me miserable overall. When I was able to fix one of those problems (where I lived), it made the other pain points that had not changed at all easier. Essentially, bandwidth I had been focusing on my living situation was freed to help me better navigate the other issues and to reduce how much all of the smaller issues annoyed, frustrated or depressed me.

      I agree that it sounds like the larger dynamics of how the organization is run are likely not within the OP’s boss’ control. But if there is one thing that the OP’s boss could reasonably address with their time or money – it might be surprising to the OP how that might make the other unchanged frustrating features less frustrating.

      The other part of that, is if there truly is nothing the OP or the OP’s boss can do to change things – then the best the OP can achieve is to find a way to increase their own personal reserves to bolster themselves for what might be a long search for something in the area or full time remote. Sometimes it can be helpful to just emotionally stop caring and divert that attention into a job search. Or if there is another pain point in their life, focus on fixing that and hopefully that no longer being another source of grief may help.

    4. Alexis Rose*

      I don’t know, I agree that solutions should be the goal but there is also value to letting an employee know you are aware of their struggles even when you can’t do anything about it. Managers can’t provide this support unless their employee tells them they are struggling.

      One of my direct reports told me a few months ago that he was demoralized and was on the verge of quitting. In the end, we made a small number of changes to his duties, but the time we took to understand his struggles ended up making a huge difference to his morale. It also made me more aware that I need to check in on his morale more frequently.

  9. John Smith*

    #1 it sounds like we have the same manager! The only difference is that my job is great (as are my peers), it’s just my manager who makes it so hard. He argues about everything, is completely disorganised and forgetful, takes micromanagement to a whole new level, sends at least 5 long winded, snotty, passive aggressive emails to people over minor matters per day, sits on several “expert panels” that have nothing to do with his job but takes up about 50% of his work time, creates new procedures because the old ones don’t work (i.e, he doesn’t follow them himself) and he is never, ever wrong or to blame about anything. Ever. It’s always someone else’s fault (the upside to this is that the Baroquean leaps of logic he uses to blame others can be fairly amusing).

    Many of us have tried, in various ways, to change him. His manager is just as bad and so is his manager’s manager. They’re not going to change, and neither is your manager or your organisation. Do all you can to get out of there asap for your own sake. A job should not make you ill. Easier said than done I know (I’m trying myself)

  10. 'Tis Me*

    OP3, it may be reassuring to know that in the UK, of the ~73,000 people hospitalised with Covid between September 2020 and March 2021, only 32 had received at least one vaccine. The vaccines definitely do provide protection against serious illness at least! I don’t think there’s solid data on whether it protects against all infections and transmissions, but I’m sure radio news has said that there is evidence indicating those are very likely too.

    It doesn’t negate Alison’s advice – people should still be taking precautions – but hopefully it will help provide some reassurance to you.

    1. English, not American*

      The first vaccination wasn’t given until December, mind, so it’s really Jan-Mar hospitalisations we should be using for comparison.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        Yep, not sure if the trials were advanced enough in September for them looking at it from them to make sense, but explaining why they’re looking at that window rather than December to March would be helpful!

      2. Bagpuss*

        I think the trials were fairly advanced. My dad was part of one of them and had his vaccine in late September (although of course he didn’t get to find out that it was the real thing until he was ‘un-blinded’ when he became eligible for the jab via the NHS, in February)

        He’s in his 70s so it was I think one of the later trials where they were specifically looking at older people, and those with some pre-existing conditions

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      The CDC report on breakthrough cases in the US the other day was 5800 cases in 75 million fully vaccinated or 0.0007%. The anxiety is a bit out of proportion to the actual threat.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        These vaccines really are amazing! <3

        My husband was primarily working on acute covid wards; I think my shoulders dropped about 2 inches when he was vaccinated, with the weight of worry removed.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, if people want to keep taking precautions to allay their own anxiety, no problem. None of anybodies business. But if people expect their coworkers to do stuff that has no practical purpose except for helping their anxiety, it’s a bit much. Everybody’s already born enough burden from this pandemic.

        1. Colette*

          Until we have proof not just that someone who has been vaccinated has a low risk of serious illness or death but that someone who has been vaccinated can’t pass on the illness to someone who hasn’t been, taking precautions is reasonable. Here the guidance is very clear that even if you’ve been vaccinated, you should take precautions.

        2. dawbs*

          But that does also only really work if you know everyone’s vaccine status.
          I don’t know which of my coworkers can’t be vaccinated and they don’t know whether or not I can be vaccinated. And having to disclose vaccine status means sometimes having to out some very personal information.
          (And heck, even those who know I got shot #1 are unaware that I”m currently in discussions w/ my doctor about whether or not I should get shot #2 based on a reaction)

          Unless both parties know they’ve had the shots, until a larger percentage of the population is vaccinated, it’s serving an actual purpose

        3. Emilia Bedelia*

          Until everyone is vaccinated, however, the guidelines should apply to everyone in a workplace, because there is no way to tell whether someone is vaccinated or not. Would you rather have everyone wear a mask, or for everyone to have to wear something that shows whether they are vaccinated or not?
          Depending on the business there also may be people coming in and out whose vaccination status can’t be confirmed (eg, delivery people, custodial staff, clients/guests). Conversely, they also can’t confirm whether the people they are seeing are vaccinated or not – so , externally facing people should have to follow the guidelines regardless.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            There’s enough people in my local area that are outright saying that if they have to provide proof of vaccination for anything they’ll just forge it.

        4. Threeve*

          I don’t get this and never will–employers can make people wear ties or name badges. Almost all of them require pants and shoes. None of them are technically “necessary.” Fundamentally a mask is just one more piece of cloth covering part of your body, and your job has always been allowed to have input on those.

        5. Blackcat*

          Continuing to wear masks is highly practical so long as they are a substantial number of unvaccinated people around. It sounds like OP doesn’t expect enough of their coworkers to be vaccinated to make being mask-less safe.

        6. Archaeopteryx*

          The issue isn’t just breakthrough cases. Even if people aren’t getting sick from it, the more “swaps” of Covid passed along from people gives it more chances to mutate. That’s why the CDC guidelines allow for a lot more freedom once you’re vaxxed, but not a total throw-off-masks abandon-all-precautions party.

        7. Keymaster of Gozer*

          You all already know my former career was as a virologist so this comes from a somewhat position of expertise:

          Wearing masks et al is not anywhere near the ‘just doing it for anxiety’ levels. Unless one can confirm that everyone around them has been vaccinated it’s still a high risk situation.

          I’m flipping tired of this pandemic. But wearing a mask for a few more months is really a minor task if it means that eventually I can hug my parents again.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        The problem is that there’s at least one nasty spike protein mutation that’s starting to evade the vaccines more successfully than others; a recent CDC report on an outbreak in a Kentucky care facility has a good breakdown of how it spread among the vaccinated too, though obviously less than in the unvaccinated.* We have to ramp up the vaccination (or keep persuading the unvaccinated to maintain masking/distancing) or else we just give the virus a nice pool to make more mutations among.

        *25% of vaccinated facility residents were infected, 1.4% died. 7.1% of vaccinated staff were infected. That’s compared to 75% of unvaccinated residents infected and 25% died, 29.6% of unvaccinated staff infected.

        1. DataGirl*

          This type of thing is what concerns me. In the US between slow roll out and the number of people who refuse to get vaccinated I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before the virus is able to adapt to the vaccine and mutate to a strain that the vaccine is no longer effective against.

          1. Ashley*

            Yes! This is why even when fully vaccinated certain activities will still be a no go because of the variants. Not to mention even though I am protected children and others who medically can’t get vaccinated are not protected and if I come into contact with them I may not get as sick or die thanks to my vaccine, but they may not be so lucky.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That is precisely why I’ve got no patience anymore for the ‘I’m not wearing a mask’ and ‘I’m not getting a vaccine’ crowd (with the standard proviso that if you medically can’t wear one or medically can’t get vaccinated then I’ll do everything I can to keep you safe).

          Viruses aren’t like bacteria. Using antivirals, vaccines etc. do not create super resistant strains. Having a virus circulating in high titres in the population is what creates variants (okay, and viruses that mutate fast like HIV – hence why there’s no vaccine for that yet).

          So yes, we’re gonna need to wear the masks for a little while yet, and persuade as many people as possible to get the vaccine so we can reduce that pool of live virus down to a level where it’s less likely to create mutant strains. I’m keeping the masks mandatory at work for a while yet, and trying to persuade my more sceptical staff that the vaccine is a great idea.

          (So far I’ve managed to get through to one person that no, the vaccine doesn’t causes you to shed live virus and it hasn’t got pork products in it! So she’s gonna get it :)

      4. Cat Tree*

        Vaccines are great! But frankly, I’ll follow the CDC’s guidelines over some random lay person any day. It’s really that simple. Until they change their guidelines, we all need to take mask wearing seriously.

        1. JustaTech*

          I’m going to follow the CDC guidelines over my biotech PhD VP, who in his eagerness to be “done” and desire for more in-person social interaction has insisted that everyone be back to the office *now*, even though most of us won’t be fully vaccinated for at least another month, and is super snippy about everyone insisting on wearing masks, even though it is required by both the state and our corporate policies.

          And we’re immunologists! We know how long it takes for all the various parts of an immune response to come up!

      5. Esmeralda*

        Well, but a lot of the country is still under some sort of mask and social distancing mandate. I’ll feel more confident about those numbers once we’ve “opened up” and are exposed to the folks who aren’t vaccinated.

      6. Julie*

        As a head’s up, that number for immunocompromised people, those on certain medications or people with a history of cancer or organ transplant is dramatically different. Those who were considered high-risk at the beginning of the pandemic should consider antibody testing. Especially 3-5 weeks post vax and again at 3 months. I’m part of a national study on this because I fall into one of those categories.

  11. Everdene*

    LW#2, your manager clearly doesn’t think emails need to be dealt with quickly or he would make time to look at them during the working day. If he can wait 12 hours to read your email, you can wait 12 hours to read his. Turn off notifications, let him have his rant in peace, read the email the next morning when you start work.

    1. John Smith*

      Well said! (My managers takes weeks to respond btw. Doesn’t seem to like it when I do that!)

    2. uncivil servant*

      For all you know, he likes letting his emails pile up all day and then address them all at night. (If he read them in order, it might actually be a good strategy.) He might get all thrown off if he was getting responses in the middle of the night! Until he starts bugging the OP about not responding in real time, turn off the notifications.

      1. MassMatt*

        Even if he read them in chronological order, responding to individual emails in a long chain in a stream-of-consciousness style 8-12 hours after the fact is idiotic and a waste of time. The very issues he is seeming to get angry about are generally going to be addressed in the very responses he is only now getting caught up on. What is this guy doing during the day that he cannot participate in these emails during the day, yet his input is so essential many hours later?

        It reminds me of a letter we had from someone saying a coworker announced they were only reading emails twice per week. IMO that means you are out of the loop for most jobs.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. Since you also know his pattern is freak out/apologize/not a fire, I would not worry about missing an actual fire. You don’t need to be on call 24/7. Turn off your phone. If he doesn’t get a response one day when there’s an actual emergency, then maybe he will learn to modify his behavior and not cry wolf all the time.

  12. NoLongerAManager*


    Do you have an older, but functional device that you can filter messages from panicked boss to overnight/off the clock? One that is always on silent, with a timed filter for that particular email address?

    It’s almost like an out of office system, but instead of triggering alerts to your main device constantly, it just sits and collects everything all alone until you are ready to deal with it.

    This is a tactic I used successfully in the past when smartphones were just appearing.

  13. Sleepless Away from Seattle*

    For #2: Is it just the boss who is sending these late-night messages, or is there a back and forth with other colleagues/management? If it’s the former, I strongly support turning off notifications and setting boundaries, technical or physical (not checking your phone between certain hours). Pre-COVID for a while I adopted a rule for my own mental health that after a certain hour, I wouldn’t check work email again until physically on the train to work the next morning.

    If it’s the latter, that’s trickier. I once had a boss who would catch up on the day’s emails after the kids went to bed, which meant a regular flurry of activity between about 10-11 pm. But because other folks were also up and responding then, if I went to bed earlier (say 9:30) I’d wake up in the morning and all of these matters would already be resolved—without my input or involvement. I no longer work there, but it underscores how important specific company cultures may be.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I would find this very aggravating if it impacted my job. If the core hours end at 6 (for example) then you shouldn’t be routinely waking up to big decisions made in the middle of the night. That’s bad business and bad work/life balance.

      1. JustaTech*

        My spouse worked with a group for a while where everyone else kept much later hours than him; getting into work after 10 and working quite late at night. Which was perfectly fine and normal in his company, except that several of them would get all excited in the group chat at midnight or 1am and constantly buzz his phone, which then woke me up.
        So we had a conversation about work/life balance and he told his team that they could work whenever they wanted, but they needed to be respectful of time zones and other people needing to sleep.
        (He couldn’t turn off those notifications because it was the same system that sent the alarms when something broke and needed to be fixed right now.)

  14. Myrin*

    Alison, thank you once again for your continued gems such as “Is he … not good at drawing logical conclusions and learning from experience?” – as someone who has to deal with people who are exactly like that surprisingly and annoyingly often, it’s really worth something to see someone sum it up so concisely and beautifully.

  15. Seamus*

    No. 2 — I had a boss for about 6 months who would email staff between midnight and 1 a.m. most nights. We thought she was imbibing during that time, judging by the crazy emails she would send. Not great.

    1. UrbanGardener*

      I used to have a boss who regularly stayed up working until 3AM and all weekend (and announced it regularly, and seemed to expect to be praised for this activity). She had approved one thing I told her I was doing on Friday, and then I came in on Monday in a request for an immediate 9AM meeting. She was “kept up all weekend” by the thought of the thing I was doing and decided to cancel it. But she didn’t email me over the weekend because she decided that cancellation could wait until Monday. I sat there blinking at her for a few seconds before I realized she actually thought the rest of us were obsessively checking our email all weekend too. We weren’t!

  16. TimeTravlR*

    LW #2 – the day I received an email from someone very high up the food chain on Easter Sunday was the day I said I was done looking at my phone on my time off. Now, I put it on silent and leave it in my briefcase. If we go away for more than a weekend, I might take it with me but it stays in the bottom of my purse on silent. If my boss really needs me, she knows she can call my personal cell. In 8 years of working for her, nothing has ever risen to the level of calling my personal number. Set that baby on silent after hours!!

  17. NforKnowledge*

    OP2, that is infuriating, absolutely turn off your notifications when not at work!

    I had a supervisor who would do this IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE while reading through my work: “Why haven’t you mentioned X here??? *reads rest of sentence* Oh nevermind”. People who freak out without bothering to get the context first drive me up the wall.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I had a boss who got a lot of emails and would sometimes skim through them and mis-read (so like, the email would say “Report X got turned in — nothing missing!” and she would interpret it as “Report X missing”). She was very apologetic every time….but still, seeing those panicked messages, even when nothing was wrong, really sends up the blood pressure.

      1. pancakes*

        People who tend to panic in this way almost invariably try to spread it around and make everyone with the misfortune to be in their vicinity panicked as well. It’s like emotional noise pollution.

  18. Bookworm*

    LW1: Geez, for the first few sentences I thought someone from my own org was writing in (but your letter deviates so it’s not someone I know). I am sorry you’re going through that. Thanks to writing and thanks to Alison for taking this up.

    1. LW #1*

      Hah a lot of the problems I have are perennial non-profit problems so it’s not too surprising other people have felt the same way. For myself – I think the pandemic has just amplified the problems to such a point that I am having more trouble dealing with them than normal. That combined with my having been at the same job for the last 6 years and wondering “what now” has got me all tangled up.

  19. Let me be dark and twisty*

    My former boss was like #2, but her terrors came mainly from being out of the office (like on vacation). Two things that worked for me and my team — yes, turning off notifications! We had an email rule that redirected the boss’s email to a separate folder to collect that we’d review later when we knew she was done playing catch-up. When she was done with catch-up, the email rule was turned off.

    The second thing that happened was actually from the lead IT guy. He got annoyed very quickly of her panicky emails and had her reset her email to organize by conversation rather than by date/time received. The panicky emails reduced drastically because now the boss had all the email on a single topic in one place, rather than jumbled all over her inbox. Is sorting by conversation something you can suggest to your boss?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Ooh, I really like that second suggestion. It won’t catch everything, but if IT can set it as “group by conversation, newest at bottom” then Boss will be more inclined to read the whole chain before responding.

  20. Roscoe*

    #4 As always, you should do what you are comfortable with. That said, I’d really consider how strict you want to be about having a hard and fast rule. Because if you guys are in the same field in a medium town, its not unheard of that you or your significant other may need something from this person at some point in the future too. I don’t really know your field, but her ask doesn’t seem THAT outlandish to me. And its very possible, and in fact likely, that your sig other needs something from them that is slightly out of the norm, but not difficult, and this situation affects them. You are essentially acting as if this person is a stranger, which she isn’t. If I’m this coworker, knowing you refused to do somethign that (seems to me to be) pretty simple, would definitely leave a bad taste in my mouth about both you and your significant other. Similarly, I know your org is bigger, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some situation where you’d like to reach out to them, and that coworker may be in a place to “just handle you like a random member of the public” as well.

    1. Deanna Troi*

      I disagree that this is pretty simple. This could be perceived as a conflict of interest. It has nothing to do whether or not they are a stranger. It looks like someone at the fiance’s organiziation is trying to use the fiance’s relationship with the LW to get an advantage in applying for grant funding. If I were the Grant Officer at the LW’s organization, I’d be pretty offended if she/he introduced me to this person. What is the purpose for the introduction, other than the person who wants the intro having access to information that the rest of the grant applications don’t have? That is illegal for many grants, especially some which have federal funding (I am a technical review for grants, although I don’t have anything to do with the actual funding part). You have to tread very carefully in these situations.

      1. Roscoe*

        I think my issue is that it seems that OP would be willing to make the introduction, if she knew her in a different way. But the main reason she won’t is because she knows her through fiance. If its just an unethical thing to do (as I said, I don’t really know this field) then it shouldn’t ever be a problem. But if its something that isn’t really a problem, just that she doesn’t want to because of boundaries with fiance, that to me is a bit different.

    2. Elsajeni*

      Yes, my main question would be: if this person’s connection to you were something else, say she was a former colleague from an old job, would this be a reasonable thing for her to ask? If not, then of course, direct her to the regular public-facing process (maybe with some apologetic “you know, it’s just policy, wish I could be more help” wrapping, if you feel you need to smooth it over). But “can you introduce me to your colleague” seems like it could be a pretty normal request between related organizations where people know each other, and if that’s the case, I wouldn’t refuse to do it for her just because your connection is through your significant other.

  21. Not really a nerd*

    LW#3, I completely understand and would share your concerns. But if you are going to quote the CDC, I would make sure that you are up on their current stance on masks. Namely, that they actually do provide a great deal of protection to the wearer. You might find this report helpful

  22. twocents*

    In the example, she didn’t actually present solutions. She made it clear why this was a problem beyond “I don’t like it” and the boss fixed the problem.

    Which she has a good point for LW. If you’re going to try to get change then it helps if you have an actual business reason to support your request. It reminds me of the recent influx of people wanting to keep WFH… I do too but I made my case to my manager based on how it was good for the business, not just a personal preference

      1. Thistledown*

        Ha! I was surprised not to see this take in Artemesia’s thread above because I really agree that the framing is an important issue. I used to work with college students and always tried to teach them this. Presenting something to your boss as “this sucks and I hate it” is unlikely to get traction. Explaining why the thing you hate is bad for the organization is so much better. If you can tie it into something that’s important to your boss, so much the better. It’s definitely a skill worth developing.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agree – my boss puts it as bring me the problem in context. If you just bring I don’t like this – but with no context she’ll table the issue till you bring context. My manager wants to be sure she has all the information she can before trying to problem solve so that the solution to one problem doesn’t generate another problem down the line.

      For example: I have a problem with new process X. (No context given) This would get tabled by my boss.

      I have a problem with new process X. From what I have been given, there is no way that X will take into account processes Y and Z, and it won’t give us all of the data outputs that I would need to generate the monthly TPS report. (Context given) Boss would be right in the middle of dissecting and problem solving with me.

  23. Workerbee*

    #2: Your boss doesn’t really think what he’s doing is ridiculous, so will not change his behavior; turn off notifications or remove work email from your phone entirely.

    #3: My not-obligated-to-be-vaccinated, lax on guidelines workplace just planned an outdoor company picnic for the last week of May. Buffet style. Cases are rising in our state.

    1. Dave*

      I have to say I would wake up not feeling well the morning of the buffet. At some point you get tired of trying to explain unsafe things and redirect your energy to avoiding the least safe activities.

    2. introverted af*

      My workplace is also planning a picnic for later this year. I said if staff is returning to business travel I wouldn’t be attending.

  24. EPLawyer*

    #4 — Kudos to you and your fiance for discussing this NOW. So many couples ignore the implications of merging their lives until it comes up after a situation like you outlined arises. Then you find out that one of you expects the extra mile on behalf of friends and the other one wants hard boundaries. Better to work it out in advance so everyone knows what to expect. You don’t have to agree just have the expectations laid out. “I will not tell people to go around the process just because they know one of us.” Spouse needs to accept this even if their line is “Sure, send your friends to me, I’ll do whatever I can.”

    #1 — like Alison said, what outcome do you expect here? Your organization is not going to magically change just because you said you were unhappy. Once you accept that the overall culture is not going to change you have to decide for yourself whether you can live with that or not.

    #3 — Since you live in a state with no mask mandate and they are insisting everyone come back with NO WFH option, that tells you everything you need to know about how your company is going to deal with safety issues. Do not be surprised if your requests are met with mocking about “living in fear.” You can do what you can to push back but see what I said to #1.

  25. canary*

    #4 – Using personal connections to get an “in” with grantmakers creates an equity issue. If your nonprofit circle is anything like mine, framing your response that way – “For reasons of equity, we ask everyone to follow the same application guidelines.” – will end the discussion.

    1. Observer*

      It creates an equity issue. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that framing it this way will end the discussion.

      1. Letter#4*

        Letter writing here — what I didn’t mention in the letter is that the grant in question is intended for a BIPOC community and the org my fiance works for is not from that community, though they do have some students that are. I think that’s part of my distaste as well and does create an equity issue.

        1. Observer*

          Part of me is shocked. But part of me is “why am I not surprised”. Just another layer of ick.

          Yeah, just make him get in line with everyone else.

  26. HannahS*

    OP 3, don’t start buying N95s! Acutal N95s also have to be fitted to you to work to the degree they’re supposed to, and there’s a correct, safe way to put them on and take them off. You can’t just guess your size! As a healthcare worker, I have to get re-fit every two years, and even with that, I can tell you that they’re hard to wear correctly, both because getting the seal right is difficult, and because they are mightily uncomfortable. If you’re using one that hasn’t been fitted to you, you aren’t getting the protection that you think you are.

    Personally, I can tell you that in my hospital, unless you’re messing around with someone’s airway or are immunocompromised, our standard PPE is a medical mask, a plastic face-shield, a gown, and gloves. During an outbreak of COVID in our emergency department where 5 (5!) staff members got sick, once we all got strict about wearing a mask and shield around patients and other, there were ZERO further cases among staff. Wear a medical mask (correctly!) and a face shield. To wear a face shield correctly, look in a mirror: the plastic shield should be just parallel to your face and should cover your chin, which for most people means that the band is just above your eyebrows. This is NOT how I see them worn by the public, because it’s less comfortable, but it’s the safest way. Earlier in the pandemic, we sanitized and re-used our face shields. Good luck!

    1. OP #3*

      Thank you for this! I assume you mean the (usually) blue disposable ones? I’ve mostly worn fabric masks so far for my very infrequent/very short forays into indoor public spaces (primarily because the waste of disposable masks pains me, so I’ve just managed by limiting outings), but I need to upgrade before returning to the office.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, the blue disposable masks. In terms of fabric masks, what I’ve read is that it’s best to use ones that are made with three layers of tightly woven fabric (something like quilting cotton). The ones made of knits (i.e. stretchy t-shirt fabric) aren’t as good.
        For what it’s worth, I personally use fabric masks when walking just in the hallway in my building or heading outside, but use medical masks for grocery stores.

      2. Blackcat*

        For times when I will be close to people, I use a very well fitted fabric mask *over* a medical mask. That works very well–the fabric masks closes any gaps with my skin to make sure the medical mask actually filters everything.

  27. medbh*

    #2 In my first “real” job I had a boss who would similarly get to her emails after working hours and address everything one by one. Thankfully, I was young and smart phones were very new so it never even occurred to me to look at emails after leaving work. Every morning I knew I would come in to an absolute roller coaster of emotion in my inbox as my boss freaked out about something and then realized it was handled or made a decision and changed her mind twice. Often the typos would increase as the night wore on. Since I knew it would happen every day, each morning I would just drink my coffee and enjoy the soap opera of her emails before responding to whatever remained unresolved at the end. I think it helped that in general I respected and liked her, so this seemed like more of a quirk than being terrorized. It sounds like your boss is being a bit more aggressive, but if I were you I’d take a similar tact and just wait until the morning to see what issues actually remain to be dealt with.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Lots of people are suggesting to turn off notifications, which is totally fine, and totally works for OP. If there’s a legit emergency, an email is one of the top three dumbest ways to try to communicate about it (I’ll share an example below) because it’s not necessarily an immediate way to reach someone. The bigger issue, though, is that the boss seems to fire off these screamy emails at odd hours, and OP feels the need to have to read and/or respond. I worked for a boss like this, who would send waves of emails on Sundays. They weren’t always bad, but I would feel physically ill just from seeing the fact of the email. It was indicative of larger workplace problems, and eventually I had to go. Maybe OP needs to look at her job/team/department and figure out if the boss’s weirdness is specific to him or if there are larger systemic issues, too.

    Example of failed attempted use of email as emergency communication: a couple years ago I had a client send me an email out of the blue at 6:30 on a Friday evening in the middle of August. It was a beautiful evening, I was done working for the day, and I had gone outside. I didn’t see the email until about 8:30 because…. it was a beautiful evening, I was done working for the day, and I had gone outside. By the time I saw it, the issue he needed help with had come and gone and there wasn’t anything I could do. I responded the best I could. He called me Monday, upset that I didn’t respond more promptly. I explained the issue with using email in that situation, and suggested that he find a different lawyer. He was silent for a moment and then realized the issue and apologized, but we still parted ways.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Actually I love that anecdote because boundaries are so important and this illustrates your point very well.

  29. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – If your example of degrees is that close, I wouldn’t worry about justifying why you have one rather than the other, unless the interviewer brings it up. Then you can use Alison’s suggested approach for answering.

    In most cases, hiring managers and recruiters will have a certain latitude about what education they can consider, unless the role has very, very specific requirements. Obviously, the more senior the role, the more experience counts, and the more latitude there is. (eg. for an engineering role, you might find they insist on a chemical engineering degree at entry level, but are open to any engineering degree at manager level).

    With a decade of experience behind you, I would focus on demonstrating that you have the experience the job profile requires, rather than justifying that your degree is relevant.

  30. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    OP5 – Keep in mind that in some fields, the degree requirement is hard and fast; to use your library degree versus archival studies example, many states have specific requirements on how many staff (and in what roles) are professional librarians in a public library. Professional librarians are pretty narrowly defined, as those possessing the MLS/MLIS from an accredited institution. This means that while the employer might recognize that you would be an excellent fit and bring valuable skills to the role, you don’t solve their problem of ensuring their staff meets their regulatory requirements, and won’t be seriously considered.

    Definitely do some research on the field you’re looking to move into, and make sure you know what the local regulations and degree requirements are. If there’s wiggle room involved in the new field, than yeah, you should be able to write a cover letter about why your unique skill set and experiences would be valuable to the role. But if you start sending resumes to employers saying “I think I would be a good fit with my X degree” when they can truly only consider candidates with a degree in Y, you won’t have much luck making the transition.

    1. honeygrim*

      To follow up on this from the academic library world, it really depends on the institution’s policies for hiring librarians. Where I work, librarians are a type of faculty. So we have a statement in the institution’s faculty bylaws that allow for hiring people who don’t have the MLS/MLIS if they have a PhD in a discipline that is specifically relevant to the role (for example, a PhD in data science for a data science librarian position). But this is implemented on a case-by-case basis, and has to be written into the job posting.

      Unless the job posting specifically allows for a different degree, then they might be restricted to hiring only those with a library master’s degree. I think this partly stems from a fear that someone would sue if they weren’t hired while a person who doesn’t have the MLS/MLIS was hired. I don’t know how real that possibility is.

      Of course, you used libraries and archives as an example, and your actual degree and job search may be in a completely different field! But archives and libraries have a lot of overlap in how they operate, and it doesn’t hurt to submit an application/CV/resume.

    2. Forrest*

      Yes, I thought this! It depends so much on whether the “real” degrees that LW is thinking about are accredited degrees and regulated professions or not, and how close they actually are to librarianship / archive studies.

      LW, I’m assuming that librarianship/archival studies are just two random examples that have nothing to do with your field and which you’ve plucked from the air because they seem similar to a non-expert, but if those are the actual degrees, or you aren’t sure whether your new field is a regulated profession or not, you should definitely check that!

    3. Nethwen*

      OP5, expanding on what Cthulhu’s Librarian said about doing research on the field you want to move into, what I look for is an example of how the degree translates. Like Alison said, just declaring that it’s a good match doesn’t tell me anything. In fact, I’m likely to conclude that you probably don’t understand what the position I’m trying to fill actually entails and are applying with severely inaccurate expectations.

      But if you tell me something like, for example, that in your archives work, you were able to keep mental flowcharts to account for multiple if/then scenarios and had a 1 in 1,000 rate of error and that seems like a skill that might be useful in the public services position you are applying for based on X in the job description, then I start to think that you’ve actually read the job description and thought about what the work will be.

      1. LL*

        OP5: If you were actually looking for a public library job and had an archival/museum studies degree instead, you would not have a high chance of getting a public library job as a librarian. Public Librarianship is vastly different from museum/archival work, and it is notoriously difficult for librarians to shift between public and academic librarianship jobs unless you have experience in some capacity already in the other field, or if you have connections to the library you are applying to. There are tons of librarians looking for work, usually, and if you don’t have the asked-for degree, there are many other applicants that do, so….. I don’t know what your actual field/degree is, but just be aware that “similar” degrees don’t necessarily translate well into “similar” sounding jobs….

        1. Sunny*

          Public Librarian here and I could not have said it any better. It is a specific discipline.

          And it is also slightly insulting, as the person that she is applying to more than likely has an MLIS or MLS. So it’s basically like saying “I have a completely different degree, but how hard can it be?”
          Which happens more often than you would imagine.

  31. Traveling Nerd*

    For #5 –
    I’m a hiring manager. There’s a good chance that the “required” degree isn’t something that they care about at all. I often have to put a degree in job postings due to immigration law! If I don’t put a degree requirement, and someone wants to apply who is on a skilled labor visa (like H-1B or E-3), the federal government will say “that’s not a skilled profession” — even if it’s a job that requires 10 years of experience!

    I recently experienced this when the government tried to say a Chief Data Scientist position with 10+ years of experience required wasn’t a skilled position…. So now all of my job postings have various degree requirements, even though I never look at the education section of any resumes.

  32. Librarian*

    I’m an academic librarian and would highly encourage you to go for it. One of our faculty here serves as the museum curator and does not have an MLIS degree, for example. It’s not unheard of.

  33. awesome3*

    Even if you aren’t LW2, turn off your work email push notifications. Especially if it’s your personal phone. If people are emailing you in the middle of the night, chances are they think you’ll get to it when you get to it, not that it will interrupt you while brushing your teeth.

  34. Girasol*

    LW3: I’m with you on this. I’m vaccinated so I’m very unlikely to get seriously ill from covid. I am masking, distancing, and staying out of indoor venues with maskless people for the sake of my husband who is immune compromised. I can still catch a case of covid so mild that I don’t even know I have it, then bring it home and kill him with it. When you face people telling you that you shouldn’t be so afraid, like it’s some kind of personal failing of yours, try telling them who you’re protecting from covid and why the risk is still quite serious for them.

  35. John Smith*

    #5, definitely apply – they can only say no! They may even say yes, as my organisation did to an applicant for a position that involved driving heavy goods vehicles for which he – known to my organisation – had no licence or experience…..

  36. Dark Macadamia*

    #3, I know nobody in offices reads signs, but you might consider having a “please mask up” sign on your door and a box of disposable masks on your desk. That way it’s a little quicker and easier to address someone walking in unmasked, and hopefully you can train your coworkers to just know they need a mask when they interact with you.

  37. introverted af*

    The only time I turn on work email notifications is when I’m WFH and I’m out of things to do during normal business hours, so I’m going to walk away from my computer and do something else. I check them as they come in and if they are important then I go back and deal with it, and if they’re not important I leave it.

  38. Anonymous Hippo*

    DND disturb is your friend. We have a number of managers and executives that may be around the world and answering emails at 2 am our time, but a perfectly reasonable time for them. I use DND from 10pm – 8am and only my family set to go through. There is nothing my boss needs from me between those hours, this is finance, not brain surgery, lol. As for my email on my phone, I have it set to pull only, not push, so I don’t even get notifications unless I look for them. I may change it if I’m away from my desk during a time when something is in the works, but email is not intended to be an instantaneous response. I believe 24 hours is perfectly reasonable for email, and by that I’m not counting weekends and holidays.

  39. Bella*

    Good lord, asking to speak to a grant officer is not asking for “special treatment.” This person is trying to do their job. Funders, please stop doing that kind of stuff!

    1. MommyMD*

      It is if they are trying to get around application protocol because they “know” someone. LW doesn’t want to do it. It’s their prerogative.

  40. Message in a Bottle*

    #3 – I wonder what you will do about lunches? I don’t disagree with your stance on masks. It’s best to be prudent, even vaccinated. I’m in an office in a state where indoor dining isn’t really thing yet (it’s allowed but businesses aren’t doing much of it), it’s still cold outside, and I don’t use a car.

    I have to take off my mask to eat . . . somewhere. Is it safer at work around people the few people I know? Better to go to the one restaurant doing indoor seating with a few people I don’t know? It’s hard to know.

    I hope you stay well and safe, OP3, and hope Alison’s scripts work.

  41. STEMprof*

    OP#3 – In case no one else has noted this, the interpretation of the CDC guidance is a bit off. The reason they advise against gathering maskless with people from 2+ unvaxxed households is to protect the unvaccinated people (who can transmit to each other and are at much higher risk of infection). More details here: But that is for private gatherings. For a workplace, which is more like a public space, the following guidance is probably more applicable:
    “Other Personal or Social Activities Outside the Home
    Risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection during public social activities such as dining indoors at a restaurant or going to the gym is lower for fully vaccinated people. However, precautions should still be taken as transmission risk in these settings is higher and likely increases with the number of unvaccinated people present. Thus, fully vaccinated people engaging in social activities in public settings should continue to follow all guidance for these settings including wearing a well-fitted mask, maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet), avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently.”

  42. JRR*

    #2 I guess it’s because I started using email long before most people had cell phones (or even internet at home), but it would never occur to me that if I sent someone an email at 11pm that they’d feel compelled to read it immediately.

    I always thought sending someone an email after hours was the equivalent of posting a letter that they would find on their desk the next morning.

    I know you should not call or text people at night unless it’s an emergency. Does that rule also apply to email?

    1. Deborah*

      It’s probably the angry tone that’s an issue. If he was just working through emails and sending useful and needed replies, then I’m sure it wouldn’t be an issue.

  43. Esmeralda*

    #5: I love Alison’s wording and I wish that all of our applicants who don’t have the (unnecessarily narrowly defined) required degrees would use it, because when I’m leading a hiring committee it helps me make the case for not eliminating obviously good candidates right at the start.

    And yes, it would be better if the required degrees were not so narrowly defined, thank goodness there’s usually an “or related field” statement, and trust me, I’ve tried to get this changed.

  44. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

    OP #4 – If inquiries are coming from your fiance’s organization and social circle, then your fiance has a responsibility to shut it down at the front end. Presumably his peeps are starting from him to get your contact info, and he can set the tone with all the nopes.

  45. The Grass is Greener?*

    LW #1 – this is completely me. So me. So much me. I am also in middle management and am probably looking at the grass is greener on the other side. The only difference between me and the LW is that I was told to take on a different role with no say if I wanted it to happen because of my job’s “re-org”. It crushed me and made me realize these last few months to really ramp up my job hunting.

    I’ll admit – it is hard to keep my attitude positive because the re-org put me in a department I didn’t want to be in, but I will take Alison’s comments to heart.

    Thank you LW for sending this, thank you Alison for posting this and commenting on it.

    1. LW #1*

      Hah no that’s me too! I put it in a long comment as an update in this thread but one of the most demoralizing things recently was my direct report – who ran a program of his own – recently left for another job and instead of rehiring someone and they just…told me I had to run that program now. Not only do I not have the time to really make that program successful (during certain seasons the former employee would work full time on the program. I have my own programs to run) but I don’t want to do it. It’s not an area of our work I am suited for and it’s not what I was hired for. But thems the breaks at non-profits so I am doing it as best I can for now. But it is demoralizing when your superiors don’t listen when you tell them what your work load is really like and just ignore it.

  46. MommyMD*

    LW 3: wear a surgical mask or two, get your vaccine, wash your hands often and you will be fine. Masks DO protect the wearer as well. Many of us have been doing this the entire time. The vaccine works against protecting from deadly outcomes.

  47. Louisa*

    LW3: I might add to the great scripts Alison has already suggested, I always lean on: I have to be extra careful because I have not been able to see my very elderly mother yet and until I do, I can’t take any chances. (Realizing of course, this may not apply to you, but anything similar or even a teeny untruth, if it keeps you safe, might be in order here.)

  48. CMC - Librarian*

    LW 5: I work in an academic library at a public university and we can’t look at any application unless the person has an ALA-accredited degree (or international equivalent). Many of the archival studies degrees are not ALA accredited because they cover different content, etc. This was also the case at the other academic libraries I worked at due to terminal degree requirements and the ALA/AAC&U joint statement on terminal degrees for librarians.

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