open thread – May 21-22, 2021

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

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

{ 1,186 comments… read them below }

  1. networking etiquette?*

    Q for the group: I had a networking call with an alum who’s several steps ahead of me in our very competitive industry. I applied for a job at her company, though in a completely separate division/branch. She, somewhat offhandedly near the end of our call, gave me the name and email of the person she believes is the hiring manager. She said I seemed like a great fit and had an impressive resume.

    What’s the protocol here? I applied through their web portal, and I’m worried it will seem out of bounds/pushy to reach out to the maybe-hiring manager. I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to subvert the system but at the same time, applying to a portal truly feels like a black hole and I’m wondering if I’m wasting an opportunity.

    I’m also planning on sending a thank you note to the alum today/Monday for talking with me. Is there something I can include there? What do y’all think? I thought about asking Alison but I have to make a call on this now.

    1. JillianNicola*

      If she specifically gave you the email and name of the hiring manager that seems to me to be a clear cue that it’s okay to contact them. Just send a quick email to say, I’ve submitted my app through the portal, Jane gave me your information, would love this opportunity, etc.

    2. Ooh La La*

      Best scenario would be for her to email the hiring manager and make the introduction directly. Since she didn’t offer to do that, you can email the HM and say something like, “Jane Alum (Title/Department) recommended that I reach out to you” and mention that you’ve formally applied through the web portal. I usually attach my resume to that email, too, for the HM’s convenience.

      1. RagingADHD*

        This would be my approach as well. She didn’t give you the person’s info as a random topic of conversation. The intention was to make a connection.

        I understand her not wanting to make the referral directly, because that can sound like she’s personally vouching for your work (which of course she can’t do because she hasn’t worked with you).

        She’s more advanced in the field and works at the company. It’s unlikely she’d give you the info if a direct approach would be out of place in the culture.

    3. BRR*

      Did the alumna say anything when she gave you the information like “here’s the information, reach out and say X?” If not, I wouldn’t do anything with the hiring manager. It partially feels like the circumventing the system and partially feels like a weird pseudo referral. I think the alumna would need to be the one to reach out to the hiring manager in this situation and if you can think of wording to do a very soft ask in your thank you note that would be fine. But I would find it odd as a hiring manager if a candidate reached out and name dropped someone that I didn’t know or if it was someone I did know, why they didn’t reach out to me.

      1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

        I would assume it is safe to just reach out directly. If it was outside of the Norma of the company I would bet she wouldn’t have passed on the info. As suggested above, apply through the usual channel, then send a quick email explaining the connection and something like: you look forward for the opportunity to learn more about the role through the process. That isn’t the most elegant language but essentially you want to signal you are not asking for their time outside of the normal process. If they offer a info session, that is a bonus. Good luck!

        1. Joan Rivers*

          Why would she give you the info. if she didn’t want you to use it? I don’t understand.

  2. LadyHouseOfLove*

    I’ve been thinking about answering the job interview question of what my weaknesses are. I want to answer honestly that I struggle delegating tasks to other people because I have this need to take on everything by myself. Is that too cliched? It is the truth, but I don’t want to come off as just taking answers from the Internet.

    1. Rainy*

      How does that relate to the job you’re applying to? Since you know it’s a weakness, what have you been doing to work on it? I think that considering those two things and incorporating them into your response could make it a useful one.

    2. velvet*

      I think the “trick” to this question is to identify a weakness *that you are successfully addressing.* If you said, “I’ve struggled to delegate tasks to other people because I have this need to take on everything by myself, but I’ve learned that the end product is better when more heads come together. So now I project manage by doing x and delegating y, and while it’s a work in progress, I’m improving”- that’s not cliche.

      1. Ooh La La*

        This. I don’t think it comes off cliche if it’s genuine, but definitely follow it up with how you’ve realized it’s an issue and are working on it.

      2. BRR*

        Yeah I think it’s fine if you frame it as an actual weakness that you’re working on. The thing to avoid are trying to make it sound like a strength.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, agreed. “Here’s what I’ve noticed about me in these sorts of situations and here’s how I stay on top of it.”

        It’s still a stupid question, though. I cannot believe people still ask it.

      4. Public Sector Manager*

        Totally agree. The OP can’t give a weakness they aren’t addressing.

        This question is asked for two reasons. The first is to see whether the person has assessed their own skills and talents. When people answer this question with “I work too much” or “I care too much,” you can tell that haven’t put much thought into analyzing their own skills. The second is, as velvet notes, is to see how you’re addressing a known problem. If you don’t give an answer on the solution part, it comes off as though you don’t care enough to fix it or you don’t really think it’s a problem.

        Some of my newer team members report that there are career books that will say “pick something not critical to your job and give that as your weakness.” The example someone gave is that if you’re applying to be a registered nurse, answer the question by saying your weakness is Power Point. Maybe some hiring managers will buy it, but I wouldn’t think much of that kind of answer. It lacks self-reflection. It’s a much more compelling answer to say something like: “when I started as a RN, needles made me nervous. So the hospital I was working at let me do three months of overtime shifts with the phlebotomists and now I never miss a vein!”

    3. CR*

      FWIW this is always my answer to that question too since it’s also true for me. I agree with Rainy below, try to relate your answer to the job you’re interviewing for.

    4. Dittany*

      It’s the truth, so that’s what you should say. Frame it in a way that makes it clear that you consider this to be a genuine weakness, not “Ooo, I work too hard and ~care too much~.” I’d also give a specific example of when this caused you problems and what you did to mitigate it.

    5. HigherEdAdminista*

      I think that can be a usable weakness, so long as you don’t make it sound like “I do all the work myself and do it perfectly, so I just can’t seem to delegate.”

      I think if you are able to show a real world example of how it impacted you and how you worked on it, it makes it seem more realistic. So it could be something like: “My greatest weakness is that I struggle with delegating work, and can sometimes take on too much. I was working on a teapot painting project two years ago where I had 75 teapots to paint in a week and I just didn’t know which ones to hand off to the junior painters, so I tried to do it all. By the end of the week, I saw that I was a bit behind where I needed to be and had to request a deadline extension on a couple of the teapot projects. After this, I started to make a conscious effort to figure out what realistic output to expect from myself, and also to schedule regular check-ins with the junior painters so I could feel confident that the work was being completed in a timely fashion when I had to hand things off.”

    6. NewSolutions*

      I use this question to filter out workplaces where I don’t want to end up. AKA if I don’t want to be micromanaged, I’ll say “My biggest weakness is working under close management. I do my best when I’m given lots of autonomy.” I’ll give examples of how I’ve worked to improve that in the past, but it seems to do a good job of actually providing a benefit to the job seeker.

      1. BRR*

        Not sure if that’s an actual example or just one for your reply but is that a weakness? If a candidate used that answer in an interview I wouldn’t consider it answering the question at all.

        1. ecnaseener*

          With tweaks you can make it fit the question more directly: “My biggest weakness is that I chafe under close management. If I’m not given enough autonomy, I find myself disengaging from the work because I have no sense of ownership and no room for creativity.”

    7. Artemesia*

      If you are applying to a management track position that will get you discarded I would think. If you do choose a failing that says ‘I am not management material’ you need to pair it with how you are working on that. Recognizing it as an issue coupled with a strategy for change might impress someone.

    8. Anonymous, of course*

      Why answer this question honestly at all? My primary weakness is that I suffer from chronic depression and prone to paralyzing shame spirals. Think I’m going to talk about that in an interview? No! That would be ill-advised!

      If I were asked that question, I would mention something insignificant, then pivot to talking about how I’ve solved that problem and my weakness is my reliance on said solution.

      “I find prioritizing tasks challenging, so I’ve become an obsessive list-maker. Coworkers often tease me for how I’m constantly rearranging and checking things off my to-do list, but without an up-to-date to-do list I’d be lost.”

      1. ecnaseener*

        I mean, in context the question is about work-related weaknesses, not the biggest weakness in your entire life. And then even among your biggest work-related weaknesses, you should pick one/s that are relevant to the discussion of whether you’re a good fit for X job.

        So if your depression & shame spirals will always be a thing regardless of the job, no point in talking about them. But if they’re worse in a particular type of work environment, that’s relevant! (Not that you should literally say “depression and shame spirals” but “I struggle with X type of management, I feel much better about my work when Y”)

        1. Different anonymous*

          It is work related though. Not the previous poster, but my anxiety disorder and shame spirals have caused real, demonstrable problems at work. Because of my past problems at work I have more anxiety about work than any other situation. I wish it was beneficial to me to share this info but it isn’t for many reasons that have been discussed on this blog before. Instead, people don’t know what’s actually going on and end up thinking I’m inconsiderate or socially inappropriate or not trying.

          It’s also not the biggest weakness in my entire life. Having a mental illness isn’t an all around personal flaw. My friends and family know I have mental health issues and are understanding and don’t ostracize me or berate if the symptoms are showing. (Which in turn makes the symptoms a lot less bad in my personal life because I am not always expecting the other shoe to drop.) If anyone in my personal life acted like that I would just not be in contact with them.

          It seems like you’re telling the person that they should answer honestly, but what you’re suggesting isn’t answering the question honestly. I could say I struggle with high-pressure environments but so does everybody.

          1. ecnaseener*

            What I was trying to say was:
            – If it’s not just work-related, but specifically relevant to the discussion of whether you’re a good fit for X job and X job is a good fit for you, discuss it — don’t explicitly name it because of stigma, but describe elements of it in context of what works well/poorly for you.
            – If it isn’t helpful for that discussion, pick something else.

            Re it not being your biggest weakness…okay? “Anonymous, of course” said this was their primary weakness, and I took them at their word and responded to that. I didn’t call it a personal flaw and I certainly didn’t say anyone should put up with being ostracized or berated.

      2. BethDH*

        I’m coming to this late, but in case you’re in the comments later: I recently had a candidate answer this question with an answer that I think might be the workplace version of the shame spiral part: she mentioned that when things didn’t go perfectly, she tended to spend too much time blaming herself and not focusing on constructive things to do differently in the future, and that she was mitigating that by developing a more structured step-by-step process for reviewing how a project had gone to force herself to be focused on constructive approaches.
        I think the key here is that you can use this if you are focused on how the internal state (which you don’t have to mention explicitly in the interview) creates actions or impacts in the workplace and what you do to mitigate it.
        Depression is so individual that I wouldn’t presume to say how that would look for you, and that could be harder to use depending on how yours manifests, but it could basically be saying something like how you power through (if you do) when you have a period of “low motivation” or something like that. I know low motivation is NOT depression, but I think that keeps the focus on the parts that are relevant to the interviewer.

    9. Nesprin*

      Honestly, I try very hard to stick to the truth for that sort of question, and to use it to explain what I will be terrible at and what I’ll be great at. It’s kind of my opportunity to ask the company if my work style will work for them.

      Mine is: I’m easily bored and if I’m running the same assay day in and day out, I’ll hate my job. As a result I look for positions where I can be doing something different every day- if you need someone who can learn a new discipline every month and take on challenging work with poorly defined parameters, I’m your girl. If you need a robot standin or someone who thrives in getting really good at the same assay, I’m sure not.

      If you struggle with delegating, that’d be a challenging fit for a project manager whose entire job is delegating. For an admin who is supposed to handle everything and make that look easy, that’s more of a natural fit, or a subject matter expert who is supposed to handle only the stuff they can uniquely do.

      1. Fran Fine*

        I haven’t been asked the weakness question in years (most of my interviews follow the STAR method, which is better at getting at those questions anyway), but your weakness is what I used to say back in the day when I was asked. Like you, I’d rather know upfront whether I’m going to be stuck doing mind numbing work all day so I can opt out before accepting a job I’ll ultimately end up quitting anyway.

      2. Anon#24601*

        This is pretty much my answer too, although I frame it a bit differently: “I can pick things up very quickly and always enjoy learning new things, but that strength also comes with a propensity to get bored with repetitive tasks and routine once I’ve mastered them. It’s important to me to be given or have ways to create new challenges to solve.”

    10. Joielle*

      I’ve used that one before when interviewing at nonprofits – that I take on too much because everything is important. It goes over well because everyone can relate. Lol

    11. Noname*

      This is definitely a weakness for me and I used it when I interviewed for my current job. I explained how I understood how this impacted my work, how I was actively working on it, and what my plan was going forward. I think that including these kinds of specifics keeps it from being a cliche answer and makes it personal to you.

    12. Anonymous Hippo*

      As long as your genuine in your realization that this really is a problem, and can show how you are working on it, I don’t think it’s cliché. The problem is when people try and spin a positive as a negative.

    13. Jessi*

      Can your biggest weaknesses be things that aren’t relevant to the job?

      My two biggest weaknesses (that are job related)are that I’m rubbish at ironing, and that I’m pants at all the tiny details. But in my current role no ironing is required and they are looking for more of a big picture person so I have weaknesses and I’m open and honest about them but for this specific role those weaknesses just doesn’t matter

      1. BethDH*

        I think it does matter that they be relevant to the role, though maybe indirectly so. When someone answers with something that is irrelevant, it sounds like they are either ducking the question or (possibly worse) that they don’t understand the role.

  3. Should I apply*

    Anyone have experience with a career coach or something similar when you are thinking about going to part time? Or just have experience going part time, in a role where it isn’t common? I am considering the transition because I want more time to see if I can turn my hobbies into a career, but don’t want to give up all my income & health insurance while I figure it out.

    I am lucky to be in the position where I can afford to live on significantly less income than I currently make. However, I’m afraid that going part time in my current role would just mean that I get paid less, but am pretty much expected to do the same amount of work. For reference, I am a engineer in product development, and I’m not aware of anyone in engineering at my current or past companies that worked part time.

    1. ten four*

      I work a reduced schedule now, and have worked one in the past as well. You are Very Right to be concerned that you will simply work the same number of hours for less pay + the hassle of being the One Person on Reduced Schedule.

      The best way that I’ve found to do it is to have on/off days instead of shortened regular days. So work M-W-F instead of every day until 2, or whatever. And then just RESOLUTELY DON’T check in on your off days (barring a really significant issue, which should happen quarterly at most and ideally less).

      Also as an engineer there might be a few advantages for you, assuming you use points to plan work? I am on a reduced schedule and now I can deliver 25 points instead of 50 in a sprint (or whatever it is). You’ll also potentially need to shift the KIND of work you do – pulling tickets vs. code review.

      For reference, I am a director at a digital firm and I manage several people on reduced schedules both directly and on projects. It works just fine as long as we adjust the tickets and plan around outages.

      1. should i apply?*

        I am a mechanical engineer, and I haven’t been in a project that uses points. The tasks tends to be fuzzy, and I have found people are really poor at estimating how long different things will take. Especially since a lot of what I do is one off and not repetitive.

        I did do quick search to see if there were any jobs being listed for part-time work. Of 235 engineering jobs listed in my area, 3 were listed as part time :(

        1. Cascadia*

          Your best bet might be to see if you could negotiate with your current job for a part-time position. They may or may not go for it. My partner is an electrical engineer for a big consulting firm, and one of his direct reports just requested to go part-time so they can also go back to school, and they’re making it work. They are pretty desperate for good workers, so they had every incentive to keep this employee on, even in a half-time capacity. I have another friend who is a scientist who negotiated going part-time in order to pursue a side gig. She was actually just going to quit outright, but when she told her boss, they begged her to stay on part-time, and they worked out a contract gig that really works well for her. I agree with the others that you need to be ruthless about protecting your hours and setting boundaries no matter what you do. And keep in mind if there are lots of “Extras” that everyone is expected to do. For instance, I’m a teacher and the part-time teachers at my school get totally screwed – yes, they have half the classes, but they are expected to go to all of the faculty meetings, and parent meetings, and students meetings, etc. etc. It really adds up and eats into your time when you only have half the hours.

      2. Krabby*

        I do HR in tech and that would be my advice as well. If you cut your schedule short by 2 hours everyday, well now you have to work overtime for 2 hours everyday and you’re working the same hours. Taking Fridays off may mean you still work a few extra hours during the week, but you’re much less likely to get sucked into just staying a few extra hours to finish X, Y and Z.

    2. T. J. Juckson*

      As someone who is part time in a professional job (where the general expectation is that I’d be full-time or, if not that, a consultant, so available more broadly), I’d say it is absolutely crucial to enforce boundaries. That’s taken me much too long to do. Now, I only work my regular, scheduled hours. I do not answer emails, calls, or texts outside those hours, and I have an out-of-office response on the days I don’t work clearly stating that I’ll reply during my regular hours. It’s less an issue with outside people than my boss, who otherwise would call at all times (Saturday at 7:30 am, anyone?) for non-urgent things.

      I’d love to hear more from other part timers as well, but I’ve come to think that only by ruthlessly enforcing your time boundaries and what can be accomplished in that time is the only way being part time ends up not being a scam.

      You mention health insurance (which I also get), which is obviously a big deal, but depending on how well you would be able to enforce part time hours, I’d also run the math to see if working as a contractor, and thus charging corresponding higher rates, might work better instead.

      1. Momma Bear*

        And if you go 1099/contract, very very carefully weigh how you will bill. A firm fixed price contract may look good initially, but leaves you vulnerable to working for pittance if there is project/scope creep. Hourly is probably better. If you become a contractor, you may be on the hook to handle your own tax payments, which is a significant chunk, so review that as well before you set a rate.

    3. Anonosaurus*

      I’m an attorney and I work 4 days a week. If I wanted to, I could work full time hours for part time pay, and the partners would love that, but I’ve learned to be pretty ruthless about boundaries. I have found that it’s a lot easier to keep your boundaries if you are also tactical about how you present yourself. For example if we’re in the week before trial I’m not going to refuse to take a call from the defendant’s attorney to talk settlement just because it’s my nonworking day. So it’s clear I am still results focused and willing to be flexible. But when there’s nothing much going on, you bet I switch off my phone or at least ignore emails when I’m not working. It helps that I need to track my hours for billing so everyone can see what I’m doing. I also work in a field which is either flat out or dead, so it evens out. My tips would be to be clear on your time boundaries but give way tactically when there are presentational advantages. And also, nobody cares about protecting your unpaid hours as much as you do, so you may need to push back. I’m very successful and I love my job so it can be done, although I don’t know what engineering is like in comparison to law!

  4. Amy*

    I am working on a project for a professional society that is interested in improving their professional development offerings. Their technical topics are really strong, but I’d like to focus on some broader topics around leadership, career transitions, or softer skills, like communication. What topics would be interesting to you, particularly if you’re in a STEM career?

    1. Sandi*

      Bystander training: how to say something when you witness harassment.

      How to deal with difficult people, conflict resolution.

      1. Msnotmrs*

        I did training for de-escalation and I think it was one of the more helpful job-related trainings I’ve ever taken.

      2. OhNo*

        +1 to conflict resolution, de-escalation, or anything about dealing with difficult people

        Even if folks aren’t customer-facing, those are skills that come in handy when dealing with difficult coworkers, bosses, vendors, etc. Just make sure to have examples from dealing with all those different roles! The last training like that I attended billed itself as being broadly applicable, but all of the examples were of dealing with customers, which most folks in the audience probably didn’t do on a regular basis.

      3. Momma Bear*

        You may be able to piggyback on community resources for these, and they may be free/low cost.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      One of my favorite trainings I’ve had (and was sad that we’d only booked the 2h sneak peek version instead of the full day course) was about effective visualization, in presentations and when using whiteboard or flipchart. I’m in a technical position that spends a lot of time talking to non-tech (or very-different-tech) people, and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that!

      1. Prague*

        Yeah! Translating strategic vision to tech, or tech to regular language can be really useful also. It’s underrated until you don’t have anyone who can do it.

    3. Prague*

      – What types of changes will result in customer/internal communication needs and emphasis as automation and AI improve?
      – In fields with high demand/turnover, what are leadership needs, junior employee training for leadership positions, and recruitment/retention efforts changing?
      – How do we reward our best technical subject matter experts and set them up for success (including clear expectations, training, maybe a trial run) for leadership positions that may take them far out of their comfort zones?

    4. McMurdo*

      Ooooh I think about this all the time!
      (1) Communication specifically to non-technical people — I’ve been looking at scicomm articles as a basis.
      (2) Any ethics that come up regularly — in my field, I’m thinking about giving testimony as a citizen that relies on your experience as an engineer but isn’t “”expert testimony,”” or the obligation to point out data errors in legislative bills, or the ethics of working for certain companies.
      (3) Any non-traditional career paths that members have followed that others might want to emulate.
      (4) If there are certifications in your field, I’ve found it really helpful to have people who have already gone through the process to walk me through it. I’m thinking of the Engineering licensures, but I’d also find it really helpful for stuff like project management and sustainability.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Effective communication in general can be a valuable topic for many people, especially in technical fields. Understanding how things REALLY get done in your organization, knowing when you need an editor and who in the org can help with that, and how to manage both up and down.

        Something many of us can use is solid information on how to improve your performance as a remote worker or manager of remote workers.

    5. LKW*

      Adaptability technology solutions that are available to help people with different disabilities in the workplace. Screen readers, translation services, even presentation guides to avoid issues for people who are color-blind.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Yes, this is a great idea. Get people who have these concerns to be the SMEs and show real-world example problems and solutions.

    6. CG*

      Microaggressions, plain language communication, public speaking, and science advocacy training could all be cool. Depending on your field, maybe public policy process explainers too?

    7. Nesprin*

      Hmmm as a STEM type person, I really find most soft skills workshops to be less than great. Most of the ones I’ve attended tend to be banal “Synergy!!!” type events that I struggle to find value in, especially when lead by non-tech folks.

      Ones I have enjoyed tend to be very tech skills adjacent: resume/CV review workshop? Grant writing series, especially with a how to talk to a program manager slant? Atypical careers in field X and how you get them? Allyship and promotion of diversity as a tech person?

      1. TechWorker*

        I think the softer stuff *can* be useful but how well it’s taken depends about 95% on ho it’s presented. A roomful of engineers IME do not react well to chirpy positivity and anything vague or nebulous… the more you can include concrete examples in the training (we love a good concrete example), the better. Obviously you may not be able to – but if you can tweak the examples to suit the group that’s even better.

    8. Aly_b*

      I’m an engineer and PM and one that I think about a lot was negotiation training. Another I’d be interested in as someone who started a small business is more business adjacent stuff – less, like, marketing and stuff but more like what are the local regulations on, say, pay periods and hours of work, or some common ways to structure a business and the crunchy details of shares, taxation, etc.

    9. Intermittent Introvert*

      One of my favorite training topics was how to manage incoming emails. Seems small, but It has made a difference professionally and personally. I got dozens a day from a broad variety of places/people inside and outside the organization and it was overwhelming. Also, Zen PowerPoint techniques.

    10. Nikki*

      Project management.
      I’ve always been an organized person, but learning about the skills & systems involved in project management has really elevated my game. I think every STEM person can benefit from project management training. Even if you won’t be leading projects, you’ll be contributing to projects, and it really helps to be able to communicate progress effectively with the team.

  5. I like birds too but...*

    We are about to conduct Zoom interviews for an open position on our team. One employee has a bird that is regularly out of the cage, perched on the computer monitor that is visible during her video. Occasionally the bird will attempt to peck, gnaw, or squawk. I want to tell my employee to please not have the bird out of the cage during interviews. But is that overreacting? I wouldn’t tell anyone their dog had to be not in the room during these. But the employees with dogs don’t usually have them visible and the dogs collectively (4 of them across 2 team members) have barked once ever during meetings.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I would say something. I mean, you shouldn’t have to, but the guy should know now to have his bird making that much noise.

      I have cats. They’ve shown up onscreen a couple of times, fleetingly, but if they were yowling or something I’d get them out of the room and close the door, or whatever it took to quiet them.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Not overreacting at all.

      An interview is also a sales call. You wouldn’t have a bird flying around and blocking the camera when you’re trying to pitch a million-dollar contract, would you?

    3. Ooh La La*

      Is the employee touchy in general (or specifically about the bird)? If so, I think it’s fair to make a rule that applies to everyone. Job interviews are stressful and it makes sense to minimize potential distractions. You could say something like, “As a courtesy to our interviewees, I’d appreciate it if everyone could keep their pets contained [or in a separate room – if applicable/possible] during candidate interviews.” On the other hand, if you think the bird owner will be fine with it, you could address it just to her. Focusing on the comfort of interviewees makes it less personal, and harder to argue with.

    4. Whynot*

      Seems like a good time to send a friendly reminder to everyone involved in the interview process to ask that, to the best of their ability under their circumstances, they minimize potential background distractions during the interview process. “Please ensure phones are off, family members and pets have a separate place to be, your Zoom background looks professional, etc”

    5. Ashley*

      As someone with bird issues I would be so put off by a bird during my interview that I can’t imagine the interview going well. I would definitely say something.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Agreed. I think enough people are put off by freely flying birds that this should probably be a rule for interviews or other non-private meetings.

        1. OhNo*

          Yeah, birds are a little more unusual as a pet, so their presence might be distracting to the applicants, too. As much as I love seeing people’s pets on camera in zoom calls, that would probably take a little getting used to.

    6. LKW*

      I’d frame it as the bird will likely distract the interviewee and that’s just poor form. Nothing like trying to formulate your responses and having an unexpected bird squawking at you.

      If this were an interview for a zoo – my response would be different… possibly.

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

      If the bird weren’t causing any disruption and just Being in the background, then it would be an overreaction; but the bird causes problems and you can address that. The employee may decide not to cage the bird, but instead move it or himself to a different location, or some other distraction…

      I also think it’s important that this is only for the interviews…internal low-stakes meetings shouldn’t be too restrictive on employees. Employers/bosses/coworkers are already “trespassing” on people’s private lives enough.

    8. Goddess47*

      I have a colleague who is terrified of birds. To the point she won’t buy a (dead) whole chicken at the market! The bird on the video, if she wasn’t pre-warned, would rattle her completely.

      Especially in an interview, you don’t know what kind of phobias people have and would be best to keep that to a minimum.

      1. Krabby*

        Yeah, I have two coworkers with the same issues. One of them literally screamed and made one of us change it when the default changing backgrounds in Windows was a bird one day.

        I’d just send out an email saying something like, “because this is a more formal meeting and we don’t know how the candidate may feel about animals, I ask that everyone keep their pets off camera and quiet during these interviews. This may mean you put them in a cage or shut them out of the room. After that we can go back to the normal rules around pets.”

    9. I should really pick a name*

      For an interview, asking them not to have a bird (or dog for that matter) in the room would be perfectly reasonable.

    10. UShoe*

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable. Two of my cats wander into work calls fairly frequently, but when we were interviewing remotely in January they were absolutely shut away for the day.
      I assume there’ll be some discussion of dress-code, coffe breaks etc. before the interviews, it would make sense to add to this “we want to make sure that all our focus is on our interviewees and all their focus is on us, so can everyone please ensure any pets are kept out of the call. Jack, that includes Polly Parrot.”

      1. LDF*

        Yup, my cats get all up in my webcam normally but if I’m conducting an interview and don’t think they’ll sleep through it then I put them in another room. Feels like pretty basic interview courtesy.

        I would be very put off by seeing a bird flying around while trying to present my best self to a company. If you’re their manager it’s very appropriate to tell them to put the bird away, and if you’re not their manager I’d at least suggest it.

    11. ....*

      I mean…. should the bird ever be doing that? I think it’s perfectly normal to tell them to get their sqwaking bird out of frame

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t see a problem with it so long as it’s not getting into danger, but I also think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask the person to keep it confined or in another room during interviews so as not to be a distraction.

    12. RagingADHD*

      Telling them to ensure the bird isn’t disruptive is completely appropriate and a big favor to the candidates. If the bird needs to go in the cage for that to happen, so be it. I’m sure if the dogs were disruptive (or kids, or cats, or whatever) you’d ask the employees to manage that.

      It would probably be a favor to your current team if you asked them to ensure the bird isn’t disruptive in regular meetings, too.

      1. Hillary*

        Honestly, the bird sounds less disruptive under normal circumstances than many distractions we’ve learned to deal with this year. I’ve met so many pets, toddlers who needed mom or dad’s immediate attention, and very rarely partners or roommates. Bad tech, broken headsets, too-sensitive microphones, and horrible cameras/lighting all add to it. (why oh why does zoom make my skin so red? I looks so much better in Teams)

        I think it’s a kindness to set interviewees up for success by minimizing distractions. They’re already nervous.

        1. I like birds too but...*

          Yes, this employee is in few meetings. The vast majority are with our immediate small team and the bird is fine enough in those cases.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        Telling a bird lover (or any animal lover) that the bird needs to “not be disruptive” isn’t specific enough. I’ve known too many people who would say things like “oh, Polly isn’t disruptive, she’ll just sit quietly on my shoulder” (or like the one time I was visiting a bird owner and asked them to put the bird back in its cage “…but she likes to sit on your head”.

        Some animal lovers aren’t objective about this kind of thing. They can’t imagine that anybody would feel differently than they do about their animals

        I think you should ask people to keep pets off camera

        1. Pennyworth*

          Off camera and out of earshot if possible. A squawking bird or a barking dog out of sight are still distracting.

    13. Momma Bear*

      The bird is actively intrusive. It is not wrong to ask that the bird not be around, just like you would ask someone with children to have them in another room.

    14. JP*

      I would be absolutely delighted if I zoomed with someone and they had a bird on camera. Why would anyone ever not want that?

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Some people just don’t like birds. And many times birds make a lot of noise that is very distracting. It would just be as bad if dogs were barking constantly.

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        JP, I’d love it, too, and it would do more to put me at ease than anything else could. But I’d probably start addressing all my comments to the bird.

      3. June First*

        [raises hand]

        I was attacked by birds when I was young. I am mostly ok with them now, but even reading this post kicked my anxiety up a notch.

    15. Coffee Officinado*

      I have Co worker who has bits. They are put off camera but the noise they make is so distracting. He wears a headset but the does not reduce the noise.
      I definitely think you should ask him to keep the bird away from the sight and hearing of the interviewee it’s an unnecessary distraction and could really put some candidates off.

  6. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m working to not care so much about my job and its hard. I want to reach my goals but I also want to leave work at a reasonable time. So I’ve just been leaving at 6 and if I don’t get everything done I just don’t get everything done. I think I’ll get evaluated for ADHD so I have a chance of being able to focus.

    1. StillWaiting*

      Good strategy! You can only do so much in a day. It’s okay to leave some work!

    2. Ashley*

      I really get this not over caring about your job! Something to think about are you meeting the benchmarks for your job and are they reasonable? A lot of positions will keep dumping more work on you then is reasonable in an 8 hour day, but there are people also who don’t get much done during an 8 hour day no matter how much work they have. So are you getting a reasonable work load done? Because if so it is just a job and unless they are paying you (and you want that level of responsibility and pay grade) it is a business issue to get the work done and not a you issue to solve it.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        The problem is both. At least once a week I’ll get nothing done and just spin my wheels and then there’s times when I ended up getting something different things done than I planned. Like they switched the hardest reports to Monday. So every Monday I never get them done because it’s also the day they are most likely to say ” What about this totally different thing” and I just need a good 5 hour block to do them in. But I also have to plan the whole week and then I gotta fix the charts and it’s all very murky.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Maybe it would help if you looked at your productivity across the week or the month? We get fixated on 8 hours a day because that’s the business ‘norm’ for office hours and timekeeping. But most tasks don’t fit that 8-hour span. Some are shorter; most are way longer. Do what’s reasonable, leave on time, and pick up where you left off the next morning. At the end of the week, have you accomplished most of the stuff on your list? Then it was a good week.

      1. Ashley*

        This can be really helpful to set blocks for yourself. When are you most productive? Set those times for highest attention to detail work. It is most helpful if you can get buy in from your manager about having uninterrupted time for X project barring whatever would be a bigger emergency.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          The weird thing is that there’s no time where I’m most productive. I know the time I’m least productive is Monday morning when they want me to do the most complicated tasks. Sometimes in 6 to 8 pm block I can get stuff done but I’ve been skipping it.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Are you working under different conditions now than pre-pandemic, and is this a new issue or one you’ve always had? A lot of people are experiencing ADHD-like symptoms while WFH and/or under the extra stress of the past year. (The difference is that an ADHD brain acts all the time like a neurotypical brain that’s anxious, exhausted, or stressed).

      If this is new, you might look at behavioral management techniques first, like Pomodoro sprints, timers and auto-reminders, morning/evening planning sessions, and using checklists effectively. Those are all things ADHDers rely on but can also help anyone who is having trouble with focus and productivity.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Its the same problem but worse since the pandemic. I like using a task timer and trying to beat my time, using a to do list, using my paper chart for things too big for to do ( like I have over a hundred things that need done) I like using my phone calender to pop up when I have an appointment.

        I do not like using a planner- and am surprised by people who don’t lose or forget to look at them.

        I lose time sometimes. Like I’ll have spent 2 hours and have no awareness of how it passed. Or I’ll totally lose focus for an entire day. If I have to do more than three phone calls on a subject back and forth I’m lost for a good 2 hours.

        I’m also confused by the suggestion to block off time ( not you my boss) I’m like you say you’re going to do something and you actually do it? I may or may not do it. Then again it’s hard to just make myself do something by an act of will. People will be like ” you just do the thing” and Im like ???

        1. ecnaseener*

          Oh mood, (coming from an ADHDer) the whole “block off a chunk of time to do this specific task” thing is like… why? How do I know I won’t be in the complete wrong headspace for that task at that time? My motivation is fleeting and unpredictable, if it’s pointed in the right direction to do one task then the worst thing I can do is try to pick a different task.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yea I never know which day will be just nothing all day long and which day I’ll be crushing it. I know the task that sets off the most procrastination is phone calls.

        2. RagingADHD*

          One thing that helps me sometimes is to block off sections of my day when my brain/energy is usually good for a certain type of work, and batch tasks togetger that use that same headspace. So like, 9-11 is good for following up calls and emails, 1-3 is good for things that take quiet concentration, or 3-5 I’m braindead so it’s good for total routine maintenance stuff. Those are just examples.

          Once I’m in the zone for something, it’s easier to bang a bunch of the same thing out, than it is to follow a certain topic or project through multiple different types of steps. If that makes sense. Switching is always tricky, but sometimes it’s easier to switch topics than to switch type of task.

    5. Mill Miker*

      I had this problem for a while, and while I never manager to stop caring, I did manage to make sure I didn’t cate the most.

      Now I always ask myself “Why am I staying late for this.” Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes I lost focus or had to step away or otherwise dropped the ball, and yeah I need to make up the time to hit the deadline.

      Sometimes something has to happen at a specific time of day, and it’s part of my role to be there at that time to do thing. Fine.

      Sometimes the issue comes up with enough notice that a project or account manager could go back to the client or other stake holders and push for a new date, or a re-adjustment of priorities and they just… won’t even try. When the people above me aren’t willing to take small steps (on the clock even!) to resolve the issue, then to me that marks it as not worth worrying about. Either I’m right and it’s not worth worrying about, or their plan is that I’ll feel obligated to put in the unpaid overtime to save a company that just demonstrated it doesn’t value me.

      Although, I think this has worked for me because my higher-ups have always refused to outright ask for overtime. They just keep pushing the “this is important I hope it gets done on time” narrative, and I do make a point of trying my hardest during my usual hours. (just not harder than the person who is actually accountable for the project’s success).

  7. rabbit rabbit*

    In the letters and comments here, we can see tensions between workers who have been remote and are now coming back in, and those who have been coming in for a long time. I see this in my own workplace. People who worked remote tried to smooth things out by thanking the colleagues who came in, and saying things like, “My working at home dedensifies the space, keeping you safer”- both of which seem to have just led to more resentment. Any ideas on how to help heal the rift?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I really don’t think you can at this point. People are going to feel what they are going to feel.

      1. JillianNicola*

        I agree. It’s going to be one of those things where we all collectively have to work through our own feelings. We went through a scary, uncertain, stressful thing and that’s going to have ramifications that are unavoidable. That said, I think the constant focus on the “divide” or “rift” just makes it worse. Figure out your re-opening policies, state them clearly, let the chips fall where they may.

        1. StellaBella*

          We are still going thru this thing and yes it is still scary. Agree with you overall tho.

    2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I don’t want to get into any “shoulds” here, but I think that acknowledgement from the WFH-ers that it was indeed a privilege to be able to do that would help. Because it really is a privilege for those that could do that – lots of “essential” workers are in low-paying, thankless jobs and do not have the privilege of education or opportunity for jobs where they could WFH. And even in offices where some can WFH and some can’t for WHATEVER reason, acknowledging that it’s not fair/equitable rather than just saying “thanks” can go a long way.

      1. pancakes*

        I had the privilege of working from home before the pandemic and I think this would be a bit too little a bit too late. Or maybe a little patronizing? If there’s anything to be done collectively—and I do think there is—it should involve getting people in low-paying and thankless jobs better pay and better benefits. Talking about privilege instead seems like clapping for nurses: A nice idea in some ways, but just not enough. I’m not convinced, either, that talking about privilege would address or remedy the privilege-blindness some people have, because there’s nothing to stop them going on about their business enjoying the status quo after they’ve said their lines.

        1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

          I don’t disagree with much of what you said – but that’s why I prefaced my original comment with not wanting to get into the “shoulds” of it all! :-) And it’s definitely not going to be THE ONE MAGIC THING that’s going to fix things! For SOME people who have had to go in to work, it’ll mean a lot, and for SOME who have gotten to WFH it’ll be a good reminder, too. But not everyone, of course.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, don’t say stuff like that.

      The thing is, the damage is done, so to speak. How you heal the rift, to the extent that you can, sort of depends on why some people were coming in and some weren’t, I think. If they were coming in because their jobs couldn’t be done remotely, then you evaluate whether or not that can change in the future and, if it can’t, you find out what can be done to make having to come in more comfortable, as safe as possible, etc.

      If they were coming in because they volunteered, you make sure that other people volunteer to come in for the next crisis.

      If they were coming in because they’re lower status and didn’t have the power to refuse or to negotiate a rotating schedule of who came in, then that policy sucks and your higher-ups need to shoulder more of it in the future.

      If they were coming in because they didn’t have kids/elderly parents/other visible obligations at home, that policy also sucks and you need to find out what you can do to even the burden.

      1. CTT*

        Yeah, I was going to say something along these lines but you said it better. We’re past the point of thanking (like, a year past). A lot of people who were in the office, especially as part of a skeleton crew, had to do extra work by virtue of being in the office because it involved physical things like mail and hard copy documents. Thanking someone for dealing with that is nice, but figuring out if it’s possible to reduce overrealiance on in-office people for tasks like that would be better.

      2. OhNo*

        Agreed, to all of this. Also, just to add, but if folks were coming in because they volunteered, then it might be a nice gesture to give them some kind of thank you gift. If that’s an option, it should not take the place of dealing with the other problems Dust Bunny mentioned, it should truly be a free-and-clear bonus that they get regardless of any other considerations. Some additional vacation days might be nice.

        That said, if the emotions are already there, even the nicest gift or most heartfelt speech won’t solve them. Sometimes, truly the best thing you can do is acknowledge that the situation sucks, clearly state what you’re doing to solve the problem, and get feedback on what folks want fixed and commit to fixing it (Even if it’s hard! Especially if it’s hard!). Rifts like this take time and effort to heal, so unfortunately it’s never going to be easy.

    4. Ooh La La*

      I think it’s the company’s job to heal the rift, by listening to employees and providing actual benefits to address concerns. Individual employees shouldn’t have to feel they are responsible for this. Did the company have a clear and sensible policy for who could work WFH and who could not? Has the company been setting and adhering to COVID safety policies? Has the company financially compensated people who were in-office all along? Can the company give in-office people a few extra days of PTO this year? WFH has been a difficult situation for many people (no childcare, mental health impact, etc.), but nonetheless it’s a significant privilege to be able to stay home and not be exposed to COVID while still earning an income.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        +1

        This sounds very much like management and the company’s to handle, not a co-worker’s responsibility. As a co-worker, it could be an opportunity to spend some capital advocating for what the staff who had to go in ask for (i.e., “Yes, I think it makes sense that Jane, Lewis, and Kris receive XYZ”).

    5. Msnotmrs*

      “My working at home dedensifies the space, keeping you safer”

      As someone who works at an extremely high-risk job, I would honestly freak out if someone said this to me. Like it would set me off.

      1. rabbit rabbit*

        100% agree. When I read that in an email, I started shaking my head NO NO NO.

      2. allathian*

        Would you honestly have felt better if all the employees who could have worked from home had come in to the office instead, increasing your risk as well as their own?

        Presumably you chose your high-risk job and weren’t forced into it as some form of indentured slavery? Granted you probably didn’t include a potential pandemic in your calculations when you did so, but still, if it’s that intolerable you can always try and find something that’s less risky to do in the future.

        1. Heather*

          Wow, that sure is helpful advice when the pandemic came with a side helping of 15% unemployment…

        2. who's this guy*

          Wow. Let me guess, you’re one of the people complaining nobody wants to work because they’re receiving more in unemployment benefits, when in fact those people are switching to a job with actual room for growth instead of grabbing any job that pays poverty wages (and then a second one) in desperation to keep their head above water.

          As a matter of fact, US policies are designed to keep most poor people poor. It’s really not far-fetched to say lots of “essential” workers are systematically forced into a form of indentured servitude they’ll never escape from through sheer willpower alone. What’s your excuse for being a sociopath (i.e., someone with no empathy)?

            1. allathian*

              Thanks. But fair point, unemployment is an issue I hadn’t considered when I wrote that. Too many Friday good news posts here about folks who find new jobs even in these times. Sorry about that. I just assumed that among office workers, some of whom had been told to WFH and others who haven’t been given that option the power differential wouldn’t be that big. I’m not comparing the working conditions of executives and Lyft drivers or retail employees here, but rather individual contributors who can WFH and those who can’t because some part of their job requires their presence at the office, and who were working in the same office spaces pre-pandemic. In that case, I think it should be OK to say that “I hated WFH but I did it so that there would be fewer employees at the office” without getting chewed out over it.

              1. Msnotmrs*

                Obviously I don’t know your life or your circumstances, but the amount of stress that people who were obligated to work in the office/out in the field are under is truly enormous. I work in an industry that saw about a 35% infection rate across the US. Why do the WFHers need to say anything at all? A statement like “I stayed home to de-densify the space” just reads like they’re attempting to say their experience was equally dangerous and sacrificial as mine. It wasn’t.

        3. Msnotmrs*

          1. I chose my high-risk job before the pandemic began.

          2. Something can be true (such as having some people WFH makes things safer) without people needing to basically say “I made a sacrifice for you, please clap”

    6. Ashley*

      I tried to thank the people who made me being remote possible on an ongoing basis and in very specific ways of thank you for doing x and I know that means more work for you. I did have bigger picture conversations with my boss about why me staying remote was important including me not being there reduced the risk for everyone else in part to help convince them of the need for some people to be WFH. It also kept me safe if there was an outbreak, and when my team had an outbreak and was able to keep rolling while they were out for a few weeks. I think this is something the manager could have a conversation about how the I was keeping you safe is landing, but this is really an emotional intelligence/soft skill thing that can be really hard to teach and everyone’s emotions are super high about this right now so in some ways talking less about might be safest.

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        But see, that’s the thing. You staying home kept you way safer than it did the people who had to come in to the office. I’m a hospital employee, so I know I have to come in no matter what but (in general) if someone told me that they were keeping me safer by doing their job at home I would see red.

        1. allathian*

          And as I’ve been saying in this thread, why exactly would you see red? I just do. not. get. it.

          1. nom de plume*

            I honestly have trouble understanding what you don’t get. A pandemic erupted. People were told to stay home if they could to work, while everybody was terrified of catching a deadly virus that was poorly understood and often barely treatable.

            Do you really think that people stayed home thinking, “I do so for the well-being of my colleagues who don’t have that option; my concern is focused on them.”? Seriously? No. People stayed home to protect themselves first and foremost. For them to return to work now with some post-facto, self-focused justification of faux-altruism is as insulting as it is tone-deaf as it is disingenuous.

            Your previous defensive reply about “oh well would you have preferred them to all come in then?” suggests you don’t grasp that justifying your privilege to others is not the same as thanking them for what they did, much less acknowledging what they endured. If stay-at-homers want to say something, which I’m not sure is wise at this point, then the black-and-white take of “hey if you didn’t like it, you could have left bc you’re not indentured” is NOT what is going to convey empathy. It’s not about you.

    7. Artemesia*

      defensiveness is never a good approach — say ‘It is so good to be back’ and leave it at that.
      ‘my benefit that you didn’t get is REALLY good for YOU’ — not going to make them love you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This.
        I went into work all through Covid. I am lucky to be alone in the office, many people had more difficulty than I did.
        However, NO one has thanked me. And I don’t expect to be thanked. My thanks, to me, came when I found myself with more PPE than I will ever use, and when the boss would call me up to say, “Wrap up, GO HOME!” But, Boss, I’m not done. “Go HOME!”
        If anyone was going to thank me it should be my boss or the higher ups. It would be odd coming from a peer.

        I will say that of my peers that showed up, we watched out for each other and we knew we could ask each other for help at any point. If you want to say anything, thank them for something in current time. If Mary helps you with X today, very specifically say or email, “Thanks for your help with X today, Mary.” That is the biggest thing I noticed that people were more apt to thank each other through out the day. The second biggest change I noticed was people would check on each other- from a distance of course.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. When I’m remote but I need someone to do a task for me that day (we are hybrid), I thank them in the moment. The bigger issue is work culture if the in-office people feel resentful or vice versa. If the managers have not been doing an effective job keeping the team together/balanced, that is what should be reviewed and mitigated as people return to office space. I don’t think anyone here did me a favor by being remote. They made the choice based on their own situation, not mine.

      2. allathian*

        But when it’s not good to be back? I’d honestly resent the hell out of my employer if I were forced to return because some people are angry that they weren’t able to WFH because my job can be done 100 from home.

    8. I should really pick a name*

      Can you see why statements like that would lead to resentment?

      It makes it sound like the person who’s been working from home is claiming that they did it as a favour to those who couldn’t.

      1. rabbit rabbit*

        Definitely. As I mentioned upthread, I had a big time cringe at that latter sentence especially.

      2. allathian*

        I’ve loved working from home, but some people hate it. Those who hate it and were basically forced into it, especially if they live alone and didn’t even get to see their coworkers at the office probably do feel like they did it as a favor to those who remained at the office.

    9. Mynona*

      In my mixed office, the best practice is not to talk about your personal pandemic work experience and/or feelings–like, at all. Because everyone had a different experience, and some people had a choice and a lot of people didn’t. Esp. right at this moment, with new office masking policies, everyone is on edge and unsure. Best to get on with work.

      1. pancakes*

        This seems like a pretty good practice considering how many people have lost loved ones. The problem is that it’s going to intuitively make sense to people who try to be mindful about such things, and maybe won’t even be on the radar for people who tend to put their foot in their mouth. Ideally there would be a manager or supervisor discreetly discouraging the latter from using the pandemic as a talking point as people return? It’s going to be difficult.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Adding, I had people around me who lost a close loved one, or had a closed loved one get a terminal diagnosis both for non-covid reasons AND deal with all the Covid stuff on top of that. This stuff gets mind bending. Better to focus on the here and now.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes – losing someone for reasons not covid-related is never easy, of course, but not being able to have the usual services, gather with people, etc., is hugely difficult in itself.

      2. Juniper*

        And not only that, but a lot of people had a tough time working from home. I know most of my friends and family worked far longer hours and had a much harder time maintaining a work/life balance. I really struggle not having a routine and getting to meet people. We all have different experiences, and I think being able to discuss the past year frankly, without making value judgements or ranking them, is key.

        1. Hillary*

          It’s about knowing your audience. Commiserating with someone who shared your experience – absolutely. Talking about it to someone who had a completely different set of stresses, maybe not.

          1. allathian*

            Depends on the relationship you have with the person who had a completely different experience, surely? But you’re right, it’s a matter of knowing your audience.

    10. BRR*

      Assuming both sets were more or less obligated to be in the office or at home, I (a remote worker) would just try to be empathetic and acknowledge the situation of the office workers. If people are forced to be somewhere, I don’t like the concept of thanking them because it wasn’t their choice. I would also try to minimize complaints about working from home.

      Also “My working at home dedensifies the space, keeping you safer” is one of the worst possible things to say in this situation and if I was even somewhat close to the person who said it, I would let them know how insensitive that comment is.

      1. Sherm*

        Yeah, that’s a bit like saying “Since I took a lifeboat off the Titanic, I didn’t get in your way on the ship.” I would be resentful, too.

      2. allathian*

        I honestly don’t understand why that comment is so insensitive, if the employee had no choice in whether they had to WFH. For employers who ordered some people to WFH while keeping others in the office, if they did it purely for job-related reasons, the only reason they did it was to dedensify the office. I honestly don’t understand why it’s insensitive to acknowledge that.

        It would be worse to brag like “yeah, I got to WFH safely while you were forced to come here, yay for me, sucks to be you!”

        1. Ooh La La*

          Because it’s unhelpful and condescending. What is the other person supposed to respond? “You’re right, thanks so much for staying home to keep me safe”? No. People who have been WFH this whole time need to recognize our privilege and make space for the reality of our peers who have been living a vastly different – and at times extremely frightening – situation for over a year.

          1. allathian*

            Fair point, I suppose. But to be fair, WFH hasn’t been a bed of roses for everyone either. Suicide rates are spiking, as are homicides, DV, and divorces. Not to mention the mental health issues that forced isolation can cause. Sure, isolating is the only way to prevent spread, but this doesn’t mean that everybody who’s been working remotely has enjoyed it or been safe doing it. For people who have been suffering through WFH, it’s natural to think that those who were at the office should be grateful for their sacrifice. That said, people with this experience are probably very happy to return to the office!

            1. Oh good grief*

              I mean, you’ve made about eight comments to date about how you just don’t get why that faux-altruism comment is awful, all of them nested under comments *explaining* why that point of view is self-centered, tone-deaf, and entirely devoid of consideration for those who remained in the field / in office.

              Let me suggest that you’re not really trying to understand at all – you want to complain about how WFH was hard on you / why returning to the office is harder still / some other variation that’s about your experience. In that case, it’s not a surprise you can’t see how insulting such a comment would be.

            2. CorruptedbyCoffee*

              This doesn’t make sense. You don’t think people forced to work in high risk, high stress jobs in person during the pandemic had those issues? You don’t think people who were also dealing with the danger of working in person also had divorces, suicides, and mental health issues?

              Regardless of whether or not they wanted it or enjoyed it, people who worked from home were safer in a time when we knew some people were going to have to take on additional risk for us all. Your reply ignores that, suggests that only people staying home had stressors, and just comes across as shockingly lacking in empathy.

    11. ExceptionToTheRule*

      My issue with people coming back into the office (other than parking) is that those of us who had to be in the office daily knew where & who the risk points were. Many of us, like those who WFH, became comfortable in our work bubbles. We talked with each other about safety, exposure, etc… and now there are a whole bunch of people whose exposure risks I don’t know roaming around the building.

    12. ....*

      I think that it’s because that is an incredibly patronizing thing to say. People going in were at much more risk even if it’s “de densified”. Frankly the “I’ll stay home so there’s less people out there for you to deal with” just reeks of Privileged people trying to make them feel better that they’re thrilled to be home while others do the dirty work.

    13. Donkey Hotey*

      I’ve been 100% in office since last May. The only thing that would irritate me is the term “de-densifiy.”

        1. TechWorker*

          density =/= intensity
          (Not to nitpick, I think the phrase is awful! But it sounds like a buzzword someone’s come up with to mean ‘there were fewer people in the office overall’, not any statement about the intensity of the situation)

    14. RagingADHD*

      “It’s good to see you, what do you need help with, what can I do for you?” are probably more productive things to say than this stuff about de-densifying. The density/safety issue is about science. They don’t need to hear science, they understand it already.

      It’s tricky to deal with situations that you didn’t cause, but benefit from. It’s not like the folks who WFH caused the pandemic, were responsible for the company policies, or created the onsite workers’ jobs.

      That’s why privilege is always difficult to address without sounding stupid or condescending. In other situations of speaking across privilege, it helps for the privileged person to defer to the person who has had the harder experience. Listen. Be teachable. Exercise your own impulse control and avoid acting/sounding defensive.

      Ask about and look for ways to help and advocate for them on a practical level. You get everyone on the same side by putting yourself on their side.

    15. SnappinTerrapin*

      It comes across as patronizing for those who could WFH to say that doing so benefited those who had to work on site during the pandemic.

      We noticed there was a pandemic going on. We know that the WFH policies reduced the overall risk to society. It especially reduced the risk to you and your family, and I’m glad you were able to do that.

      But the office workers who stayed home didn’t reduce my exposure to the patients I helped get out of their cars and into the wheelchair to bring them into the ER, nor did it reduce my exposure from escorting families to the ICU for end of life visits, or escorting morticians to the morgue to pick up the deceased patients.

      I’m even glad that many people were paid to stay home from work for a few weeks. My thinking at the time was that the situation was sufficiently critical that it would be better to err on the side of being overly generous than to let people starve while their workplaces were closed. The best way to thank those of us who worked with the public through the pandemic would be by some targeted economic compensation, whether it comes from employers or taxpayers. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        My spouse had to work on-site the entire time (on a reduced schedule) and even with a skeleton staff, there were people in his building who got Covid. They’d go to a stricter phase and delay full staff and business even longer. That’s a stress the WFH and their families didn’t have to endure every single freaking day.

    16. ecnaseener*

      Recognizing that it’s not an oppression-olympics goes a long way.

      I’ve been remote this whole time, living with a teacher who’s been in-person. She doesn’t resent my complaining about WFH because I also got angry on her behalf about unsafe school openings and no vaccines for teachers. And as much as I complain, I never imply that I have it worse than her, because I realize that I’m not in physical danger.

      There is space for everyone to be scared and unhappy, if we just make each other feel seen.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Also bear in mind that many people worked from home before COVID and that WFH has benefits (for some people, in some jobs) that go beyond halting the spread of germs. As a wheelchair user, I greatly prefer WFH because getting to and from an office takes up a lot of energy that I would rather be spending on doing great work. And that doesn’t stop me being appreciative of front-line workers and tipping my pizza guy lavishly.

    17. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      I typed this up in response to the post on wnot working from home, but the comments were closed before I could submit it. This is just one persons thoughts and feelings, and not ment to inflame anyone. If anyone responds to this,please please keep it civil.

      Yes, it feels like a huge class divide. To me, it seems not to be between race, rich and poor, or have and have not, although I’m sure those metrics will align in a way. But the divide seems to be between white collar and blue collar. White collar work seems to be more easily done at home. My wife is a white collar worker. The only time she had to go into her office was to pick or deliver physical files or equipment. Other than that, it’s all been emails, zoom meetings and phone calls.

      On the other hand, blue collar work can’t be done from home. It’s in the trenches, making and repairing things, stocking shelves, cooking food, filling orders and a myriad of other things that can’t be done unless someone is there physically doing them, and I’m sure a lot of those tasks are being done, at least in some degree, to allow the white collar workers to stay home and isolate. *All the while, the majority of narrative we hear and read about is about how hard isolation is and how zoom meetings are horrible.* Even worse is when there are complaints about how their order was wrong, how the delivery person was rude, or that what they wanted was out of stock. And now that things are opening up, and many of the white collar workers are having to leave isolation to go out amongst the blue collar workers…to be at the same risk blue collar workers have been in all along, it’s gnashing of teeth, and fear and woe is me.

      I can’t speak for everyone, but I think what a lot of the essential workers are saying is that we feel taken for granted. We feel that our concerns, worries, and fears aren’t heard, and if they are, they are brushed aside by the isolationists with a pat on the head and a “That’s nice dear, now bring me my groceries.” attitude. Thats why, I think, that Allison tries to have these kinds of posts. So that the blue collar, essential workers can have a voice. So we can be heard over the din of the voices of the working from home folks going on about how scary it is to have to go back into the workspace. So please,give us our space to vent, to have our day, to express our fears and to give and recieve advice on this subject.
      Sorry this got so long. I’ll step down from the soapbox now.

      * I’m sure that WFH has its own challenges. My wife tells me how aggravating, boring, and just plain awful parts of it are. I couldn’t do what she does, even if things were like they were in the before times. Thank you folks for keeping things rolling on the things y’all do.
      – [ ]

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        My husband is essential but not blue collar – a government drone. I think there are a lot of people in those kind of jobs. But apart from that quibbling clarification, your post is spot on. Thank you.

    18. Mononoke Hime*

      Thanking the in-person crew is fine, but the “I stayed home to keep you safe” attitude is extremely tone deaf since WFH IS a privilege. They should recognize that and avoid justifying or even one-upping the in-person crew in terms of the misery and difficulties everyone faces.

      Also, it is an issue the company can address effectively by providing extra compensation for those who stayed behind.

      1. allathian*

        WFH was and is a privilege in the sense that there are lots of jobs that can’t be done from home. Many people, including me loved being able to do it. But many others have suffered through social isolation or being stuck with people who make their life a living hell. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that DV incidents, divorces, suicides, and homicides are spiking.

        The mental health consequences of long-term forced isolation are going to be with us even when the pandemic eventually passes or becomes just another recurring flu pandemic. There’s a generation of babies and toddlers who’ve never interacted with an unmasked adult who isn’t their parent. We don’t know what the consequences of that will be once the world starts opening up again. For a middle-aged person like me, a year is a short time and I’m not missing any milestones, but I do feel for the high-school students who’re missing out on their proms and graduation parties, and who’re having to start college remotely. Once those milestones are passed, you don’t get to do them again. It’s going to be a defining generational experience for many young people.

        1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

          Dude. Please stop bringing up the mental health consequences of working from home. I have coworkers who couldn’t work from home who now have PTSD. My MIL had to work while sick with covid and lost the use of her arm. Working from home was not the only or even the primary suffering going on.

    19. 653-CXK*

      “My working at home dedensifies the space, keeping you safer” sounds pretty damn tone deaf and patronizing to me, and little wonder why it’s led to more resentment.

      I’ve WFH during the pandemic, and I appreciate my coworkers who didn’t have the luxury of doing so either (a) because they were furloughed or (b) because the nature of their job cannot be worked from home.

      Don’t be a smug, self-satisfied, sanctimonious tool spewing out that line of horsehockey to someone who didn’t have the option of WFH. It’s nasty, mean, and uncalled for. Appreciate the circumstances in this pandemic and don’t look down on others who didn’t have the opportunities others did.

      Sorry for sounding salty, but this phrase set me off. Alison, if this is too much, feel free to delete (or wrap the Light Blue Box of Watch Yourself on it).

      1. 653-CXK*

        Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, I want to say a few more things.

        1) 100% agree that WFH is a privilege. In my case 98% of my work can be done from home, but the other 2% must be done in the office. I will be very glad to return to the office, however – CurrentJob hasn’t determined when we’ll be back, but I estimate around September or so, and I may do what I did at ExJob – three days at the office, two at home.

        2) I wore a mask because it was a required health protocol in my state, not as a kind of badge of honor, symbol of political resistance/solidarity, or a means to virtue signal. I’m certain there will be people who will still wear masks for other health reasons (they’ve certainly helped in my seasonal allergies), but wearing them for show is at best silly and at worst patronizing.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          One of the very best attitudes people can run is:
          GRATITUDE.

          Being allowed to work from home while others can’t deserves gratefulness from those who can. They were safe at home while others weren’t.

          Trying to twist it into “wfh benefited those at work” is a very bad look.

  8. LilacLily*

    I am a senior employee at a medium sized company and my job technically includes acting as a leader and supervisor of sorts to my coworkers on top of supporting our customers, but I haven’t yet been trained or given responsibilities on that front due to covid disrupting most of our plans. Recently, my team leader’s announced that he’s resigning, and he’s asked me for help interviewing a few candidates that have applied for an open position in our team; although I know a lot of the theory from years of reading Ask A Manager I have never participated in a hiring process before and I’m both excited and anxious.

    One thing that I want to get people’s opinions on is in regards to implicit bias and employee diversity. As a queer latina woman in a UK based non-profit I don’t feel excluded or left out, but I do feel like we lack diversity in the company as a whole, and thankfully the company itself has also acknowledged this and has been doing their best to work on being more diverse and inclusive of everyone.

    I mentioned to a friend that I forwarded the job ad to a queer group I’m part of, and someone from the group forwarded the job to someone who’s also queer, and although I won’t know for sure until I see their resume and cover letter they seem quite a good fit, but more than that, I was hopeful that this could be a good opportunity for us to hire someone who’s queer and not male. My friend, however, pointed out that I shouldn’t take into consideration a person’s gender identity, background, ethnicity, neurodivergency, none of that into account when reviewing someone’s profile for an interview, even if it’s in the name of adding diversity to the company, and while I agree that I don’t want people to be given unfair advantages due to factors not related to their professional achievements and how good of a fit they are for the job and the company, I also believe that we should try and be more open to giving minorities who apply a chance to prove themselves even if they don’t fit the box as neatly as we wanted to, because we might find ourselves pleasantly surprised.

    What’s the balance here? How should I make sure I’m not letting my implicit bias get in the way of my objective analysis, even if said bias comes from a good place? Also, one thing I do whenever I’m told of a new hire that’s arriving in the company is check out their LinkedIn profile, mostly because I’m curious to see how they look like and have a face to the name. I definitely shouldn’t do that for any of the candidates who apply for this job, right?

    1. HRArwy*

      I don’t have a good answer for this because it’s complicated and bias will always exist and its the tools/strategies we use to limit bias that are important.

      Have you reflected and thought about what kind of biases you have? For example, if all else is equal, would you choose a white cishet gendered male to do the job because you just implicitly “trust” them more? Or is it that they have similar experiences, but some are less prestigious?

      You can always look up candidates, but if your bias is based on what they look like rather than their accomplishments or if how they look impacts how you perceive their accomplishments, then maybe you need to consider not looking them up and interviewing in a different way (no video.)

    2. LKW*

      I’m potentially going to get slammed but gosh darn it I have opinions. Do it. Go look. Satisfy your curiosity.

      First and foremost, and you’ve already said as much, the person has to have the qualifications & experience. If this person meets the need – you don’t have to decide that “best person” is dependent solely on qualifications and experience. You are absolutely allowed to make decisions that you are hiring someone who will bring different perspectives. That in and of itself is a justification to hire diversely. Perspective, approach, experience all matter in a work setting. You can decide that the best person is the person who will potentially shake things up a bit.

    3. Ashley*

      I don’t know UK laws but in the States, you can’t consider someones gender, race, sexual orientation in hiring. Your best bet is to widen the applicant pool by soliciting to groups like the queer group. Also remember not everyone is out at work so you may not know who is queer based on an interview.

    4. Ooh La La*

      I don’t think it’s an unfair advantage to offer an interview to a diverse candidate when you otherwise might not. It’s like very mild affirmative action (presumably you won’t hire them if they’re not the best candidate at the end of the process, you’re just giving them a chance at the first step). Also, everyone has biases (whether conscious or unconscious), and in hiring, that tends to overwhelmingly benefit white men. It’s not as if you are introducing bias into a perfectly neutral hiring process. The bias is already there – you want to put a finger on the scale in the other direction. Personally, I think that’s fine as long as you assess the candidate fairly once they are in the process.

    5. PX*

      Hm. I dont know that I agree with your friend wholeheartedly. When you are explicitly trying to improve diversity, you *do* want to take that into account. I think the general way to approach it is either, if you have 2 equal candidates who meet all the required criteria, then pick the one who adds diversity. Alternatively, make sure your criteria can correct or adapt for the advantages some people may have had.

      I would try and avoid looking up candiates in advance though (attractiveness privilege is a thing!).

    6. Aquawoman*

      I think your idea to look at the “boxes” is a good one. Example: in new-lawyer hiring, one thing people often look at is law journal experience, for a few reasons. But, if someone is, say, working 20 hours a week to put themselves through law school, they don’t really have the extra time needed to do a law journal. So, I think looking at things like that makes sense.

      While I don’t think you can look at a single applicant’s application and consider factors that involve protected classes, you can look at the whole pool selected and if it’s not diverse enough, re-examine your criteria, application process, etc. to figure out and address why.

    7. Artemesia*

      The key to diversity in hiring is casting the net widely and making sure people in unrepresented groups get the word and are encouraged to apply; I would also try to identify at least one well qualified person to include in the final interview pool for each hire. It might be someone who looks well qualified but is perhaps is one of several people who are qualified but might not move on. If they are on the bubble include them. It is easy to value experiences that are more typical of the dominant group in the organization; taking a good look at people who come from a different background but are also qualified is a way to break through that. In making the decision when it is borderline to proceed with someone is where those unconscious biases are most likely to exclude minority candidates.

      1. Hillary*

        I agree 100% here. My employer requires at least one diverse candidate in the finalist group, if we don’t have one that means we haven’t recruited well. Once they make that cutoff diversity will come because they’re often the best candidate (I was the only woman in the candidate pool for my job).

        Also push back on requirements that perpetuate the dominant narrative. In US terms, does this job really require a bachelors degree? Or will an associates plus work experience be enough? Surprise, the latter are often better employees than shiny new grads who haven’t had a job before.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Nitpicky, but: an individual candidate cannot be “diverse.” If you mean a non-white candidate / person of color, say that. Or if you mean any candidate who makes your team more diverse by changing the balance of any number of demographics, you can say “a candidate who adds diversity” or just “a candidate who isn’t a white able-bodied [etc etc] man.”

          I can’t fully explain why this rubs me the wrong way — maybe because it’s too close to “diversity hire” with implications that the person isn’t really qualified, maybe the implication that adding one person of color to your team makes it Diverse(TM). Or maybe it just feels too blatantly like labeling this candidate as Not Like Us.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes! It doesn’t make sense — an individual cannot be diverse. A group is diverse. Calling one person “diverse” is also really othering and implies white/cis/straight/abled is the default.

          2. Hillary*

            Good point, thank you. We’ve been using it as a shorthand to say someone who isn’t a white male and we need to do better. I’ll work to do better.

          3. Reba*

            Also because this kind of rule, even if being followed in good faith, doesn’t serve the *candidates* well. Seeing the candidate through that lens exclusively or first isn’t fair to them.

            On Twitter, Gummi Pie recently shared that she accidentally got an email about her sent to her from a recruiting firm. In the email it was clear that they knew there was no chance she was suitable for the job (overqualified), but they wanted to send her over in order to help the client firm tick a “diversity” box. I have to say that was eye-opening to me.

        2. Blackcat*

          “My employer requires at least one diverse candidate in the finalist group, if we don’t have one that means we haven’t recruited well.”
          I’m in a male dominated field (in academia) and it has been 100% clear to both myself and female friends in our field when we’re the “diverse” candidate in the finalist pool. It’s… shitty! In my experience, people didn’t treat me like a serious candidate despite all the prep I did (faculty interviews are 1-2 full days of meetings + a talk, sometimes also a teaching demo). I flew across the country away from my young baby, and they never took me seriously as a candidate. I was just the woman candidate.

          For that reason, I’m against these types of quotas. If you add someone to a short list just because they’re not a white man, you have to make sure that they’re actually taken seriously as a candidate. Otherwise, you’re using them as diversity window dressing to make people feel better about your process.

        3. Emma2*

          There are studies that suggest having one candidate from a minority/underrepresented background in the finalist pool has limited impact but having two can have a more significant impact (the Harvard Business Review has published articles on this). The effect seems to be that while one candidate still looks “different” from what “people in this role” look like, having two finalists from a similar background slightly disrupts that bias in a productive way – it helps to normalise the idea that female/black/other underrepresented group people can be X, and increases the likelihood that candidates from that group will be assessed on their merits and that one of them will be hired.

    8. Anono-me*

      I think that it is important hire the best person for the job without bias. But so is having a workplace (and other places) where everyone has access to opportunities.

      So expanding recruiting tool is huge. You have already started this process.
      (Yeah for you!) Is there any way you could formalize and/or expand it?

      Letting often targeted groups know that your workplace is a safer space will increase the number of your underrepresented applicants. Can you be a more visible happy with the environment presence? (Bonus-This may cause a few @@#$$ to self select out.)

      Considering accomplishments in context is huge. Please be sure to ask questions about the environment that the applicant was striving in. To me a B average while working is more impressive than an A average while studying without working, but an A average while being the unpaid PCA for an ill parent is the most impressive. Many more, under represented group members have accomplishments or contexts for accomplishments not typically considered in the older style of hiring. Looking at the whole picture will give you better qualified people more of whom will also be historically underrepresented.

      Also, most people’s assumptions about me based on my name and appearance are wrong.

    9. OhNo*

      I think it can be good to consider aspects of diversity if there are specific ways they can benefit the work you’re doing. Maybe one of your applicants would bring an important new perspective to your work based on their identity, or maybe they have more experience working with a particular community that your customers come from. But those details should be gleaned from their resume and cover letter, not their demographic data. Even in those cases, though, I don’t think it should ever be the deciding factor. When you make decisions based on identity, there are assumptions inherently in play that can be wrong.

      For example, let’s say you were picking between two people to interview – one queer and one straight – and you picked the queer one to interview for diversity reasons. You’re assuming that they have an inherently queer slant to their perspective, that they’re out at work, that they’re accepting of other diverse identities (not a guarantee, unfortunately)… And sure, you can suss out some of those details during the interview, but it’s important to consider that by making the call based on identity, you denied the opportunity to address those details to the other applicant. Maybe the straight candidate was a gender studies major with a unique and accepting perspective that would’ve really helped your team, but now you’ll never know! Taking these things into consideration, whether as a positive or a negative, always makes some assumptions about how identity affects other aspects of their work.

    10. EarthBound*

      I (a white cis-male) have been approaching the hiring issue by really questioning how we are evaluating people, pushing for more objective measurements for candidates, and pushing back when people push certain candidates forward because they will “fit” the organization better. A lot of times “fitting in” just means they are like everyone else already here.

      1. OceanDiva*

        Another way to avoid bias based on outward appearance of desired demographics is to include an interview question or assessment criteria on a candidates experience in incorporating DEI concepts in their work (esp if your organization has any public stance or statement on this) and how they would bring that perspective into their work for you.

    11. Cascadia*

      These are great questions and it’s awesome you’re thinking about this! First, I recommend checking out some of the great online resources. I found this Toolkit to mitigate bias in recruiting and hiring an awesome resource and have used it a ton: https://theavarnagroup.com/resources/hiring-practice-better-practices/

      There’s actually a lot in the toolkit to do BEFORE you even create a job posting – so a little late in your case, but these are good things to keep in mind for the future. My org has been doing a lot of work on improving our DEI practices in hiring. We now get together as a hiring committee for a position as a group, and watch a video about our implicit biases, and then do some brainstorming on what our individual and group biases are. The key is to do this before you start reviewing applicants or interviewing people – know and acknowledge where you might have biases. For instance, I might have a positive bias towards someone that went to same university that I did. Or someone that has the same career trajectory. We also then discuss as a group the key attributes we want someone to bring to this job, and what do we need in our specific group. There are people that would be totally qualified to do a given job, but perhaps we already have skill areas X and Y covered by current team members, and we really need someone who is bringing skill Z. In one case of hiring we work with partners in a number of different countries, in different languages. We had people on our team who spoke Chinese and Spanish, but we really needed someone who had fluency in Arabic and French. There were lots of people who applied for the job that would be awesome, but they only spoke Chinese/Spanish and that just wasn’t what the team needed at that point in time.

      It’s great to acknowledge your implicit biases, we all have them, and step one towards mitigating them is acknowledging they exist. If you haven’t played around with the implicit bias test, it can be a real eye-opener to where your own biases lie. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
      I would also strongly encourage you to not look people up by their photo on linkedin before the interview process. It can only add to your assumptions/biases about people.

    12. Mimi*

      One thing I’ve done is to try to identify things that someone with qualities not well-represented on the existing team might bring that are valuable. Are you interested in someone who can work with people different than them? Are you interested in “soft skills” like organization, communication, coordinating a group, etc? Would you like someone with experience teaching, training, or writing documentation? Could you use someone with experience in making your services more accessible? Ask questions about those things! You won’t necessarily find a candidate who checks all of the boxes, but by explicitly stating that you value things that a marginalized person is more likely to bring to the team, you’re increasing the likelihood of selecting such a person (without discriminating against the demographics that are already well-represented, who could have experience in those things, too).

      I also try to make sure that, to the extent possible, people with a variety of backgrounds participate in the interview process. For example, a woman is more likely to notice that a candidate only talks to the men in the room, or always uses men in examples of learning from but women in examples of teaching to, etc. And then listen to what those people have to say, and if someone has positive or negative feedback that’s an outlier, consider if that person is also an outlier among the demographics of the interviewers. (e.g. if Janine is the only person who found the candidate abrasive, is that Janine being picky, or was the candidate only abrasive _to Janine_?)

    13. Mononoke Hime*

      Depends on the nature of the work, sometimes diversity may even be a requirement as you need to avoid group think fallacy at all cost. For example, an all-male sales team probably won’t come up with good strategies targeting female customers no matter how smart and dedicated they are. Or the infamous racial bias in face recognition AI because it was developed by white men exclusively. In such cases, seeking out and prioritized candidates based on their backgrounds and personal attributes would be totally justified as you need to ensure the team is sufficiently diverse.

      As for checking LinkedIn profiles, you can bring it up with HR (if you have one) and see what they say. Some places have strict hiring procedures and only allow interviewers/hiring managers to work with info in the application package. I don’t personally agree with the practice but it does exist.

    14. LilacLily*

      OP here! Thank you everyone for the advice, the resources, and the words of wisdom. As an addendum that I should’ve added to my original message, my company is in a s city that unfortunately doesn’t see a lot of applicants – we only had four people applying for this job (and one of them I can already tell will not go forward for an interview) and thus our options of what we can do in regards to making sure we have a fairly diverse pool of interviewees are severely limited. But I went through my team leader’s methods of assessing a candidate fairly and objectively, found no issues with it, and now all I need to do is keep what you all said in mind when I perform these assessments myself tomorrow.

      Thank you again, and I’ll be back next Friday with updates :)

  9. Susan Calvin*

    It looks like our hiring stop is finally lifted, and basically our entire backlog of requested headcount is going to be approved in one swoop over the next month! Wish me luck, it’s my first time as hiring manager and I’m SO EXCITED!

    1. Coenobita*

      Congratulations and good luck! Something similar happened at my job and there are SO MANY open positions all of a sudden. (Most roles are posted as internal-only first, so they all come through our inboxes.) There are going to be some tired hiring managers!!

    2. Ama*

      Good luck! I highly recommend Alison’s previous posts on phone interviews and reference checks (just search both those phrases in the search bar on this website) — they really helped me formulate some good questions and also keep the phone interview distinct from an in person interview (which was particularly challenging this year since even the “in person” interviews were on Zoom).

    3. new kid*

      Congrats! I was able to hire my first direct report earlier in the year and I honestly enjoyed the process a lot and the new hire is working out fantastic, though admittedly I had the benefit of working with a recruiter at my org who was able to source an amazing cohort of candidates for me for a pretty niche role. I hope you have the same luck!!

  10. Working mom*

    I quit my job this week. I thought it would feel great – I got a great offer for a place I really wanted to work at for a long time, I’m leaving some toxic coworkers and leadership, and it’s going to be less work for more money. But instead I feel disappointed that the big boss, despite being told several times that he failed to address key issues pertinent to my leaving, thinks I’m just leaving for the money. I am not the first to leave for the reasons I am, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

    1. EPLawyer*

      What does it matter??? You know why you are leaving. It’s not your circus not your monkeys. It’s not your job to fix the place anymore or get the big boss to see reason.

    2. AppleStan*

      Big Boss doesn’t think that you’re leaving for the money…Big Boss is using that as a convenient excuse. It’s like, “if the money is good enough, she would have stayed despite these issues.”

      It’s just easier for Big Boss to think it’s money so Big Boss doesn’t have to put in the work to fix the issues.

      1. Ooh La La*

        Thirded. I worked at an org where more than half the staff turned over in a matter of months. Leadership was still telling themselves that people were leaving for family reasons, money, dream job that fell into their lap, etc. Anything to avoid having to acknowledge their own failures.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah I have a pretty good relationship with our CEO (who I report to directly) and I’m still pretty sure when I leave she’s going to retain the part where I say I’m leaving because I want to focus on one particular part of my job (that here is about 60% of my duties) and completely gloss over the fact that I have been warning her for years that my workload is unsustainable and that we’re not adding new staff fast enough to counter the growth in new projects.

      3. Donkey Hotey*

        Exactly this. If Big Boss has been told several times and still thinks it’s money… there’s an internet meme that ends “I guess we’ll never know.”

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      This should just confirm to you that you’re making the right decision. Don’t try to get acceptance or approval from your boss, who you already know is incompetent.

    4. HigherEdAdminista*

      As hard as it is, try to remind yourself that people tell themselves stories about other’s motivations and his reasons for telling himself this story have everything to do with him and nothing to do with you.

      If he believes your story, that there are issues with the job, then this creates work for him. He has to fix these issues and acknowledge that they were allowed to grow without oversight. It might mean re-training people, firing people, re-structuring; it could be a big project. However, if he tells himself you left because you wanted more money and you weren’t “tough enough” for the environment… he’s off the hook. He doesn’t have to do any hard work because he doesn’t have a problem; the problem is you. That’s much more pleasant for him to consider!

      Keep reminding yourself that he is doing this for his own reasons and you can’t change the way he thinks. Congrats on the new and better job!

      1. Working mom*

        This seems to be dead on with this particular big boss. Thank you for this perspective!

    5. Dust Bunny*

      This is like trying to find out why somebody dumped you: No answer you get is going to be the one that you want.

      You’re moving on to a better situation. Don’t expect the employer you’re leaving to not try to make himself look and feel better about it.

    6. TWW*

      When I resigned my last job, I made it very clear I was leaving for the money. I even told them my new 35% higher salary, which I didn’t have to do, but I thought it would be useful info for them.

      Yet somehow, the story that spread during my 2-weeks’ notice was that I was leaving for a job closer to home. It’s true my commute went from 45 to 25 minutes, but that was only a minor consideration since I enjoy driving.

      I suspect the boss was trying to save face. He didn’t want to admit that the problem was something he could have addressed, so instead blames a factor beyond his control.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        And it conveniently also avoids spreading the word to others that they too may be undervalued at the company!

    7. RagingADHD*

      Well, it’s not “despite.”

      He doesn’t see the issues as significant, and therefore didn’t address them. So the fact that he doesn’t see or acknowledge them now is perfectly consistent. If other people left before, he’s not going to have some big epiphany over you.

    8. Zenon*

      I hear you — I also recently left a toxic job for a much better one. With my departure, my team hit 100%(!) turnover in the past 18 months. My team was not the only one with 100% turnover. It’s all really obviously caused by an incompetent CTO who joined 2 years ago. CEO’s explanation? I, like all the other people who left, couldn’t handle a “high-performing environment” and “wanted {our} hands held”. This despite the fact that I got promoted a week before I gave notice… Bad leaders will always find an excuse rather than making necessary changes. And luckily that bad leader is no longer your problem!

    9. StressedButOkay*

      When I left my toxic job, I was still emotionally invested in it. It’s hard not to be – you’ve probably put a lot of effort, time and energy into it at this point. It’s normal to feel conflicting emotions when you’re leaving, even if you’re leaving for a much better opportunity and a non-toxic work environment! It’ll take time to realize that it is no longer not your circus, not your monkeys to deal with anymore!

    10. Not So NewReader*

      This thing about the money explanation is an extension of the same problem. He makes errors in judgement, the errors hurt people but he tells himself that he is right. So we have here more of the same pattern. He has decided you are leaving for more money, this makes you feel unheard, and he has decided he is right.

      Mr. Dense will go right to the end believing he is right, no matter how wrong he is. You can’t fix this no more so than you can pick up Mt. Everest and put it down some place else. It’s funny/odd how we don’t worry about not being able to move Everest but we do get snarled up when it comes to people who will not change. Everest isn’t going to change either and life will go on.

      One of my favorite things to tell myself is that those who cannot listen to and take advice from others will eventually experience a lower quality of life. This helps me to come down off the ceiling and start thinking about my own life instead.

    11. JelloStapler*

      I agree on the convenient excuse, because they can’t or won’t address the issues. My workplace has some similarities and many people leaving too.

    12. Nikki*

      Ugh, I feel you on this one!

      I recently left a non-profit job for a corporate position with a 40% pay raise and great benefits. I left my old job because of structural and interpersonal issues that my boss refused to fix. (Think: toxic client who repeatedly called me names, in writing; management refusing to address serious cash flow issues.)

      When I told my boss I was moving on, he told me the new job was “a waste of my potential.” Eye roll.

      It really frustrated me for a week or two, but now I’m a month into the new job and I really love it. Hang in there!

  11. Me*

    Low stakes question. I have a new kinda boss. I report to THE BOSS and new guy is deputy boss.

    He starts his emails to me with my initials. As in in stead of my name, a greeting or even nothing at all, he starts:

    RM,

    And signs it with his name, not initials. This irritates the ever loving snot out of me. It’s just feels so disrespectful. Am I nuts here? Anyway I can say without making waves- hey there new kinda boss, as a human being i’d prefer being addressed by my actual name?

    1. Rainy*

      Does he do it to everyone or just you? If he does it to everyone I’d likely just accept it as a weird personal quirk, like people who sign their emails “stay gold” or “hold the high ground”. If it’s just you, I guess I’d try to find out why.

      1. Me*

        Not really sure because I’m remote. I do know he addresses people outside the organization by their actual name because I’ve been copied on emails.

        1. E*

          I’ve encountered people who do this, and they never do it to people outside the organisation because one must be on Good Behaviour with them.

          Since he’s new, you have an opportunity to nip it on the bud. Maybe even make it a bit jokey, with “Nobody’s ever nicknamed me RM before. On reflection, I’ve decided I prefer to stay Rachel. Chat soon!”

          1. Joan Rivers*

            Maybe it’s for brevity, and his signature is automatic, he doesn’t type it.
            I’d try not to take offense.

    2. Imaginary Number*

      My first guess would be it’s a lazy tactic to get around asking people how they want to be addressed, especially if you have a lot of folks in your workplace whose names don’t always go by Firstname-Lastname construction.

      1. Ashley*

        Or remembering how to spell everyone’s name though it often pops up when you type in their email. Really try to frame this in your head this is their weird quirk.

    3. Susan Calvin*

      That’s so weird! I’d try to find out if he does that with everyone, because it would probably help me reframe it as harmless idiosyncrasy if I had to, but you can definitely state a preference without making it weird or confrontational!

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      This is a thing that some people do. It might have been the culture at his old place – did he have a lot more reports there?

      I know when I do meeting minutes and assign action items, or notate them in my project planning tool, I often just use initials. But I use them for myself too, so it’s pretty clearly not a hierarchy thing.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think it’s different to use initials for uses like yours and is essentially shorthand. But you wouldn’t start calling people by their initials in conversations or greetings would you?

      2. Me*

        No he had less reports.

        Initials for all the reasons you listed is fine and normal and wouldn’t phase. Actually addressing a person in an email by initials…there’s no reason. You’re emailing me directly you don’t even have to address me at all!

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        I’d say let him know you don’t like it. I’d say it in person. How he reacts will tell you a lot about him. If you don;t say something, it’ll rankle you forever.

        I had a few bosses who did this and it never much bothered me. But…I’m kinda weird too as I always authored documentation as first initial-last name (smcfadden). I think this was a hold over from hiding my female first name in a male dominated area.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      I’m pretty militant on use of my name. I have one that people like to shorten. So here’s how I deal with it, and this goes for everyone, personal or professional.

      “Hey Jess- I need that TPS report”
      “Jessica please- Sure I’ll get that for you”

      Next time it happens
      “Jess- Can you get someone to sort those paperclips?”
      “It’s Jessica- yes I will do that”

      The very rare time it’s ever gotten to a third time:
      “How was your weekend, Jess”
      “My name is not Jess it is Jessica, I won’t be responding to Jess after this point. My weekend was great”

      This is a classic boundary issue for me and is a hot button. So I’m pleasant the first time and serious the second time. Like I said it’s only gotten to #3 a couple of times in my life and I have absolutely no qualms about following up on the ignoring anything that comes with a name that is not mine. I have absolutely turned my back and walked away from people to who have continued to call me the incorrect name.

      1. Dog Coordinator*

        This! Politely but firmly correct them. I also have an easy to shorten name, but only go by my nickname when I have known folks for a while, and no one calls me by my first initial (since that is actually what my mom goes by, we have the same first initial). Granted, I was in the managing position when this happened, but similar to SomebodyElse, just correct it as you see it.

        My example: (Using the name Meghan here)

        Freelance employee who has never met me: Hi M! [blah blah email]
        Me: My name is Meghan, please do not refer to me as M. [I think I also pointed out that we had never met before and it was not appropriate to assume he could shorten my name]

    6. Sunflower*

      I frankly think you should let this go. I’ve had people do this before, and seeing if they do it with everyone really just doesn’t matter and feels like you’re trying to find a way to make it about something, when it’s really not.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      Just mention that you prefer to be addressed by your name instead of your initials. You can say something like that without making a big deal about it.

    8. Artemesia*

      Does he do it in person as well as emails — if emails — I would not find it a big deal and would ignore it. Fussing about it just seems petty. If he calls you by your name in person, fine — if he does the initial thing then , say something. Maybe I am less sensitive to it as I often sign emails with my initials although I always use and expect people to use my name in personal interactions.

    9. Mr Inititals*

      Does he manage multiple people with the same first name? At my company multiple clusters of first names, including 3 people who share mine, plus my last name is hard for English speakers to pronounce. I’m normally addressed by my initials in emails and in person.

      It get’s really interesting when there are three Johns (and two with the same initials) with 3 different responsibilities on the same email string…

      1. Me*

        That would make a lot of sense but alas nope. All unique names, none difficult to spell pronounce.

    10. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      This doesn’t make it right, but might he find either your first or last name difficult to spell correctly consistently and is trying to avoid insulting you by getting it wrong?

      My last name seems to invite misspellings and it’s been abbreviated in the past under such logic. Again, not right, just offering a possible benign explanation.

      1. Me*

        My name is pretty plain jane.

        But honestly I think I feel better knowing other people also think its weird.

        1. the cat's pajamas*

          I agree it’s weird!

          We use initials at work, but only in documentation and sometimes the body of emails, like with a list of action items from a meeting so it’s shorter, but still call people by names in person and in the email salutation.

    11. Donkey Hotey*

      I mean, I get it. My name is Donkey, not D, not Don, and certainly not the Shrek-inflected “DON-keh!” There are some folks who will hear the push back of “I prefer Donkey” and there are some who will never get it. (See also, my current CFO, also named Donkey, but since he prefers Don, I am Don, too.)
      It’s a hill. Death is optional.

      1. Me*

        So true. I have a lot of capital but I’m definitely not interested in wasting any of it on this guy and his obnoxious quirk.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If those really are your initials and you choose to go the light-hearted route, you could mention the name’s taken by a South Korean rapper (from BTS).

    13. Cascadia*

      My old boss used to do this too. I think she thought it was faster. She did it for all three of her direct reports. She didn’t do it in every email, only some, I think when she felt rushed. I did it right back to her, and she never said anything. Just viewed it as a quirk! She was very quirky in many ways…

    14. Brent*

      This is the culture in my old workplace. In e-mails, meeting minutes, anything written, we use people’s initials (we have at least 3 in my country, usually 4, so there’s a very low probability of people sharing initials). In emails it’s fairly normal to use your nickname in closing but the initials for the recipient.

      Maybe your boss came from a similar workplace.

      1. Data protection*

        We have a weird convention at work, with the idea that using initials somehow maintains privacy. So in a message saying that Rachel is out sick, I have to report to multiple people that RT is out sick. Coverage is essential in our line of work. The idea is that various people only need to know we are short and only my boss will recognise RT is Rachel?!!!

  12. It's bananas*

    When I try to move around people in the office, they just stand there and don’t move out of the way. The office is very tiny so it’s difficult to move around people. I’ll say “Excuse me”, but some *still* don’t move.

    One time my backside touched someone, which I felt bad about, but it actually got them to move! 

    Any advice? I think it’s rude of them, but maybe they’re just not paying attention.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I try to add something about trying to get through. Where I live, “excuse me” sometimes means that you didn’t hear something, & I’ve seen confusion over that. How about, “Can I get through?”

      I’m a physically small person, & sometimes people don’t realize that there’s still mass involved. I can’t walk through you!

    2. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

      Stand your ground! Depending on your volume, you could maybe try saying it louder, or saying “Oh, I can’t get through”. I also think that (maybe not in a pandemic), it’s okay to put a hand on a shoulder/arm and gently give some pressure as you do to get through…but know thy office…that may be super weird.

    3. Pippa K*

      In similar situations if a polite ‘excuse me’ doesn’t work, I entertain myself by imagining them as horses in a barn or at a gate. I make the ‘pay-attention’ clucking noise and say ‘get over, old girl’ – but only in my mind! This has no effect on them but amuses me so I’m less annoyed.

      1. Chestnut Mare*

        I just realized that I cluck at everyone. I’ve had horses my whole life and it’s instinctual.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I usually say “excuse me/scuse me” WHILE I’m moving through a group – obviously people have gotten used to being farther apart In These Times, but if covid’s not a concern, I’m just gonna keep moving, and if I accidentally brush against someone, oh well.

    5. insertusernamehere*

      You could walk around singing that Ludacris song… move out of the way bi…. that will get the point across!

      But yeah, that is annoying. I think people are just oblivious. Maybe you could try walking through the space assertively/purposefully, and then say something like a biker, “Coming through…. on your left” – or like a server “Right behind!” or “Corner!” – like they do to let others know they are in close proximity of another person so they don’t run into each other.

    6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Announce where you’re going.

      “Hey, I need to get to the copier.” “Bob, you’re blocking the teapot polisher.”

      Now it’s not just you getting into their personal space, it’s you doing your job. That might penetrate into their brains.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I get a lot of use out of the sentence, “I don’t want to bump you.” They usually see the problem and move.

    7. Tek5508*

      after the first “excuse me”, try a louder “Excuse me, I need to get by, please”

    8. TWW*

      People don’t always know what “excuse me” means. It’s one of those phrases that you say to be polite that usually doesn’t typically require a specific response. It would be like walking up behind someone and saying, “sorry,” and expecting them to make room for you.

      I like to be explicit (and even wordy) in saying what I need, “Hello, Bob, I just need to get by behind you. Thank you!”

    9. Double A*

      This is such a small thing, but I find “Pardon me” works better. (And maybe, “Pardon me, I need to get by” because a lot of times people are in their own heads and take a moment to process what you’re asking). For some reason it’s just too easy to put a little stank on “Excuse me” and have it come out rude or impatient or snarky, and then people are defensive or trying to figure out what they’re doing wrong.

    10. Donkey Hotey*

      As polite as we all like to think people are, “Excuse me” can get drowned out, in part because it’s used for things besides “get out of the way.” Comments I’ve found to work are:
      – “Hey, [NAME]?” (Gets their attention, they turn to you, and hopefully recognize they’re blocking the way.)
      – “Don’t stop now!” (Sounding like a cartoon adventurer or Hunter S Thompson, your choice)
      Then again, prior Navy training means that “Make a hole!” is a viable option, too.

    11. RagingADHD*

      I understand not wanting to touch/brush up against people because you don’t want to. But why would you feel bad about it?

      You didn’t do anything harmful to them. If they cared, they’d pay attention and get out of the way.

    12. Slipping The Leash*

      I had a (great) boss who used to just holler “Hot stuff coming through!” (he had done a lot of restaurant work when he was young) and a path would just sort of clear. Probably wouldn’t work in most offices.

    13. Leems*

      I realized we have a regional variation here in the upper midwest (or at least the Twin Cities) that works a treat: “Ope”– “Ope, gonna squeeze right past ya”. It works when you both go for the same door at once, etc. Not sure if it works anywhere but here though.

    14. Ramona Q*

      Are you sure they can hear you? And what do they do when they need to move around people?

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        I had a similar but opposite problem at OldJob. We were in an open floor plan, nobody had been at my desk for a while before I was hired, and it became the “cut through path”. People would bump into the back of my chair while I was sitting in it! There was plenty of space to go around.. ugh. I used to purposely leave my chair pulled out a little further than when I was sitting in it, so I could retrain people to go around it when I was away from my desk. It didn’t fully work, but most people got retrained after a while.

  13. Building a Teaching Career*

    I enjoy the industry I work in (construction), but I’m not sure if I want to keep on my current path all the way through retirement (which is many years away). There’s only so much upward mobility without going to work for a huge company or starting your own company. I currently work for a small company, which I prefer.

    My question is for anyone who’s ever transitioned into teaching. Later on down the line, I think I would be a good teacher at a college/university level. I don’t have a master’s degree, but it’s my understanding that sometimes people can transition into a teaching position if they have many years of experience in their specialized field. For example, I had several instructors at my university that were practicing or retired architects.

    Anyone have advice or personal experience to pull from? Thanks so much!

    1. merope*

      As a person currently working in academia, where practical field experience can sometimes replace academic degrees, you should only consider this career change if the following things are true:

      1) you are sure that you genuinely enjoy and will be proficient at teaching. This will require you to adapt to many different kinds of students as well as perform your job within the parameters set by your employer, whatever those may be.

      2) you think you will be able to live on a salary of less than $30,000 annually, with significant stress on an annual basis as to whether or not you will have any employment for the coming academic year. My experience has been that technical teaching positions (that is, those where work experience takes the place of academic degrees) are generally contingent labour. Employees are hired (and non-renewed) on an as-needed basis, usually for individual courses. The pay per course ranges from $2000 to $5000 per semester and does not include benefits. Unless the school specializes in this kind of technical teaching, they are extremely unlikely to hire full-time tenured staff for these courses. Additionally, you will nearly always be beaten out in the first round of application review by the many many people who do have a master’s or doctoral degree in or adjacent to the subject you want to teach.

      If you are interested in teaching these subjects, why not consider high school? Those are more likely to be full-time positions, no higher level degree is required, and they also have exceptions from the teaching degree requirement for individuals with practical work experience.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        The instructors I can remember taught part-time and still had active practices or retirement, so I figure it would never be an income I could solely rely on. I live in a city with a high cost of living, but luckily one where there are quite a few options for higher education. I think a technical school or community college would make sense. For example, I would probably do well teaching hand drafting and computer-aided drafting.

        Thanks for your input! It’s definitely a thought for the not-so-near future!

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      It’s important to keep in mind that there aren’t many positions that are truly ‘teaching college’; teaching is often a requirement college professors deal with so they can pursue their true passion, research. Teaching-focused positions are often paid per course with no benefits.

      Teaching in a public school gets a bad rap salary-wise, but this varies GREATLY with location. In my district, which is liberal with strong unions and a high COL, a mid-career teacher can easily make $70-90k. In other districts, it can be half or a third of that.

      1. Well...*

        Liberal arts colleges are teaching-focused, and those jobs are on average less competitive than research positions. They are still, however, incredibly competitive and require some research experience and output, though research is a lower priority than teaching. Also see Cal State schools and their ilk. Many state schools below R1 or R2 won’t see much research engagement from a lot of their faculty.

        Anyways neither sound useful for OP, since these positions require terminal degrees. For OP I’d recommend part-time work and keeping a day job. Adjuncting has very little hope of career advancement, and it’s difficult to cobble together a full-time income from that work.

    3. Nesprin*

      I hate to crush your dreams… but I don’t think you’ll have much success with teaching as a growth career. Most professors these days are adjuncts, who get paid peanuts and lack stability in their careers- getting a stable tenure track position is incredibly difficult unless you’re in a really rare discipline. Tenure track application packages require multiple essays and recommendations, including documentation of experience teaching diverse populations and suchlike. Teaching at a college/university tends to require advanced degrees, with a couple of exceptions for community college vocational programs such as automotive and shop. Getting approved to teach in a slightly different discipline required an equivalency application for me, and I’ve got the doctorate to make things easier.

    4. talos*

      Look into the concept of “professor of practice”. I had a couple of those when I was getting my CS degree. At my university it seems to have been basically a teaching-faculty position with less career opportunity and only needing a BS plus experience; there were a couple we had for years and years so it seems like employment isn’t too unstable.

    5. Ashley*

      I know many people will transition from parts of construction to code enforcement. Gets them out of the field but uses all the industry knowledge. Locally third party code enforcement is big but the places that do it in house always struggle for staffing

    6. OneTwoThree*

      I have no idea how easy this would be to get into, what the pay is, etc.

      However, what about teaching at a trade school or the certification classes for a construction union?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This is what I was going to suggest — a mechanical&technical trade school. Some areas have darned good high school level and community college level.
        Also look into compliance and listing — town buildings departments for local, but also NFPA, UL/ULC, etc. And appraisals for real estate or insurance companies.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      I would say that at best, you might get an occasional single semester teaching gig that pays a stipend. This is what adjunct positions were originally supposed to be for – hiring a professional to teach an occasional course with a small monetary stipend to cover the effort – but they’ve morphed into a way to exploit PhDs who hope to get a more stable job in the field. I would not expect to be able to get any sort of dependable or regular work.

      I would say that teaching CAD or similar things at a university without a graduate degree is extremely unlikely. And trade schools/colleges are going to be hiring their own staff to teach stuff like that, so you’ll be competing with a flood of PhDs for what positions are available. My understanding is that an architect has professional certifications, which is a bit different than more generalized teaching. And the academic teaching market is getting more competitive and poorer paid with time.

      If you’re interested in teaching, you might have better luck striking out on your own – teaching small classes or one on one tutoring for things like drafting and CAD, for people who want to pick up a skill outside of the usual system, or for refresher courses for people who haven’t used their skills in in a while. Go for cheaper and more flexible than university programs. I second the high school recommendation as well – you’d need to do your research about requirements and job opportunities in your area, though.

      I would also not recommend getting an online Masters’ to tick a box on job applications – in academia, where you get your graduate degree matters a lot, and online programs are not generally competitive, reputation wise.

    8. Anon rural higher ed*

      I teach in a science department at a mostly undergraduate university that is in a small town. We sometimes hire local people to teach because it is difficult to get anyone to move here for a non-tenure-track job. We have permanent full time faculty who are lecturers (teaching, some university service responsibilities, no research requirements). We may have professors of practice in other departments/colleges within the university. Strong applicants for our lecturer positions tend to have teaching experience.

      So it sounds like a place like us may have the job you would be interested in. There are a couple of downsides: even though we are fairly remote and not too choosy, we almost never hire people without terminal degrees for tenure-track positions. There are simply too many people with PhDs (or with a Master’s degree if that’s the terminal degree in the field) for folks without those degrees to be competitive for tenure-track positions. Our non-tenure-track positions come with starting salaries that are around 20% lower than tenure-track positions, and with a lower ceiling for salaries for long-term faculty. In some departments lecturers are seen as (and treated as) equal members of the department when important decisions are made, but in other departments that is probably not the case.

      My advice: you mentioned that there are a lot of higher ed institutions around you. Find ones that already have a few people in positions like the one you have in mind. Try to get work on the side as an adjunct in one of those places. This will give you teaching experience and a chance to find out how you like the work. If you do a good job and are a reliable backup option for them for a few semesters, you will have a much better shot if the kind of job you want does come open. If you find a different university to apply to down the road, you will be able to get references from colleagues who can talk about your teaching experience and your quality as a teacher.

  14. Government Worker*

    Just an FYI to anyone who is interviewing for a position with a governmental agency, probably best if you don’t end your interview with “Well, I am suing [same governmental agency] over my termination from another department.”

    I really, really, really, really, really hate interviewing.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Also “My biggest weakness is I never stop talking, like my previous bosses constantly had to tell me to stop talking and get back to work because I’m a chatterbox and I love to socialize and…. [6. Hours. Later.] So yeah! That’s my biggest weakness!”

      I was scared to ask her any questions because I couldn’t face an actual six hour interview.

    2. ampersand*

      Yes. It is amazing what people will say during interviews! Sometimes it’s a gift, and you appreciate the person telling you something that allows you to dodge a bullet and not hire them. Other times it just makes you wish you never had to interview anyone ever again. Sometimes both.

    3. Mockingjay*

      To be fair, it could have been a wrongful termination. Since they brought it up, I would assume that they wanted to get that info out before you called for references.

      How did you feel about them as a viable candidate up to that point?

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Then again, they may want to claim your agency “retaliated” against them for asserting their rights in litigation against the other agency.

        If so, the best advice I can think of is to clearly document the qualification differences among the candidates considered, so you can demonstrate that the selectee would have been chosen even if this candidate had not volunteered the information you preferred not to know.

      2. JP*

        It probably was a wrongful termination. That kind of thing happens a lot.

        Weird that the agency set up an interview with someone they’re in a lawsuit with.

        1. Government Worker*

          Think of it like US Department of Interior interviewing someone that worked at US Department of Treasury. No lawsuit filed yet, and we don’t do reference checks until after interviews are done. So no way to know without candidate mentioning it to us.

      3. Government Worker*

        Candidate wasn’t phenomenal but wasn’t horrific either.

        I’m basically trying to ignore that I ever heard that comment. Somewhere in the middle of the interview, Candidate originally stated they had been terminated by that Agency, which in and of itself, is not necessarily indicative of anything, it happens. We moved on and at the end, Candidate brought up the termination again, and then mentioned the suit. I stated I wouldn’t ask any further questions because, you know, litigation! We then wrapped up the interview.

        You never know the circumstances…Candidate could be 100% in the right, 100% in the wrong, somewhere in between. Heck, sometimes Candidate could have done “the right thing,” but because it’s against protocol…termination. It’s government. You just never know.

    4. Pickled Limes*

      During one recruitment for a government position, I was sorting through applications to decide who was going to make the interview list, and one of those applications was a DOOZY.

      For every job he listed, the reason for leaving he gave was not the sanitized versions we talk about here. They were the full overshare version. He left one job because he got into a physical altercation with a coworker. He left another job because he worked for his girlfriend’s parents and the relationship ended badly. One job he left because his boss assigned him to work weekends and he didn’t want to (spoiler alert: the job he was applying to at my org required working weekends), and the way he phrased it included some language about violating his right to have a personal life. And for every job on the list, he checked the no box for “may we contact this employer?” box.

      He did not make it to the interview pile.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Wow, that must have been entertaining. Nice when they attach the red flags right to the resume!

    5. Djuna*

      Not government, but my forever fave is the guy we asked to “Tell us about a time when you had conflict with a co-worker. How did you resolve it?”

      He overshared in the extreme, and ended with a gleeful, “Well, everyone thinks she was a b*tch anyway, so.” and a shrug. For the life of me I can’t remember what the co-worker was supposed to have done, but I’ll never forget that this dude said those words in an interview.

    6. StellaBella*

      Sadly I made a guy cry once in am interview.

      He had his phone on amd I asked twice that he turn it off to focus on the interview.

      He did not. Third text I asked if it was an emergency or if he needed a break …. Nope …. Just checking in with his friend on interview progress. I was 4th of 6th interview he had with us. He did not make it to 5th as I ended the interviews after this nonsense. He got really upset. It was ridiculous.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        What? Like, he was texting his friend about the interview *as* he was interviewing? Live-tweeting it? Did he do this on the previous interviews or just decided to go for it in this one? I just can’t imagine that mindset where you directly telling him to put down the phone and him not doing it would end any way other than badly.

    7. Eden*

      Had a real whoozy of an interview earlier last week! During the candidate’s time to ask me questions, they like… analyzed my answers and explained their reactions to those answers. E.g. one question was “I mentioned I was interested in your company because of the good things I’d heard of X, but are those things?”, which is already slightly off-putting… I answered saying what I liked about X and the candidate replied something like, “thanks, I mean I know you’re an interviewer and have to represent your company and can’t like insult them, but that gives me a reasonable amount of confidence”. Uh, thanks for saying you think I’m probably not lying? Just really felt like they kept telling me things that should have stayed in their head or been said to a friend.

  15. StillWaiting*

    It’s been over 3 weeks since I finished a lengthy internal interview process and no decision yet. I’m having a tough time putting it out of my mind since it impacts my work. I’m hoping that I’ll find out soon – I really want the role, but at this point, I just want to know what’s going on. Any tips?

    1. LadyK*

      I’m in a similar boat. I’ve had the phone screen and the panel interview for an internal position. I’m waiting to hear if I got to the 3rd round. This job would be life changing in both money, title and location so I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. Add to it that I’m working in a new department that’s a hot mess so my focus is pulled in 100 directions. Personally, I’m not making any huge decisions about my personal or professional life until I hear but am trying to focus on the job at hand so it doesn’t get out of control.

      Have you reached out to the hiring manager or HR or whomever your contact is? I’m sending an email today about mine as it’s been almost 2 weeks (not unheard of here, especially with the role but still longer than I was told about the timeline).

      1. StillWaiting*

        Thanks for letting me know you feel like you’re in a holding pattern. That’s exactly how I feel and I haven’t been able to describe it! It’s so frustrating. I have followed up. Trying to stay optimistic but it’s challenging.

        1. LadyK*

          I feel ya there. My HR contact is out until Tuesday so it’ll be a few more days until I hopefully hear something. This opportunity came out of nowhere but it was one of those jobs that you can’t just let slip by. It would speed up my relocation plans to like now instead of a year or 2 but for what the opportunity is, I’m ready for it. As for trying to stay optimistic, I know that’s hard, especially when it’s something that is perfect or close to perfect for you. I’m lucky in the fact that I’m still employed and don’t have to worry (too much) about bills because I know how much it stinks to be unemployed or under employed waiting to hear back.

          For me, my normal role hasn’t had work in over a year so I’ve been in several different departments helping with their work. I’m using it as an opportunity to figure out what I can live with, what I can’t, the kind of management style I work best with, the kind of management style I have, etc. so I can apply that to my current job, this possible new one, any new ones or even my old department if I’m able to get back to it. And even though I feel this job is a perfect fit for me and the company, if they choose differently, I know I’ve done what I could to get the role.

      2. PeggyOlsen*

        I started a new job several months ago and overall it’s been great. I started the same day as another team member and the transition to this role hasn’t been as smooth for her as it has for me. But I’ve had some struggles, mainly resetting my norms from a toxic workplace.

        My issue is that she is constantly comparing herself to me, outloud in group settings. She calls herself an idiot and says she isn’t as smart as me. She said that she tells her husband all the time that I’m better at this than she is. These comments are always made in team meetings and it creates awkward silences and just makes me want to crawl out of Zoom range. How do I address this? I am so tired of her comparing us.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Can you take her aside and let her know that this is bothering you? “You appear to think that I’m some kind of superhero, and I just want you to know that I’m not, that I have my own struggles. I just don’t talk about them in team meetings. I’m not saying you should do that necessarily, but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop comparing yourself to me. We’re different people and have different approaches to our work.”

    2. Dog Coordinator*

      No tips, only sympathy! I interviewed for the closest thing I’ve found to a “dream job” at a company I love in October, kept in touch through the winter, did another interview in April, and despite a few back and forth emails, the company STILL doesn’t have a timeline on when they will fill the roll. It has been really hard to put them out of my mind, and both continue to job hunt for jobs that I like (and would pay) significantly less, and to keep up my workload at my current toxic job.

      If they didn’t provide a timeline, it’s more than ok to email and ask them when you can expect an update on the position. That might help!

  16. Soon to be free*

    After four miserable years, I’m giving notice at my toxic job on Tuesday. I’m ecstatic! Plan is to take a month or two totally off to rest and recover, then start looking for my next step.

    Would love advice from others who have quit without something lined up, especially on how you managed the financial and job seeking aspects (like how to explain time not working).

    I have enough money saved up to live pretty well without income for 6 months and to live frugally for another 6 if I need to, but trying to figure out how I should approach budgeting/managing my money with nothing coming in. I was thinking about moving my savings to a separate, harder to touch account and then “paying” myself on a regular schedule. Smart? Overkill?

    Also, for those who have left a bad burnout situation – any tips on what helped recover? It’s been so long since I was able to enjoy myself, I now find myself not knowing what to do with free time even when I have it.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I was in a similar situation – left a TOXIC job after 4 years. I had a month off of traveling to see family and decompressing. It was heaven! I’m glad you’ve decided to take that time for yourself. You need to reset.

      What I remember about that time was being able to do things during the day that I normally couldn’t do. I spent about a week visiting family in another state, then came back and was surprisingly active for 3 weeks. I went hiking at noon on a Monday, took yoga classes at 10am when they were less crowded, and went to the movies by myself a couple of a times during a matinee. I know it won’t be as easy to do some of those things since we’re still in the pandemic, but hopefully there are some things to you can take advantage of the time with.

      GOOD LUCK! And enjoy the rest :)

    2. ratatatcat*

      No specific advice but I’m also planning on doing the ‘pay yourself’ thing for my Master’s next year and I’d love to hear if it worked for other people. For myself, I figure it’ll ‘feel’ like a salary still, and I’m usually pretty reluctant to take anything from my savings account so I hope it’ll keep me disciplined.

      1. MissGirl*

        I did it with my masters. I had all my savings in an online account so it wasn’t easily accessible. Every two weeks I transferred my budgeted amount out. It got me in a really good habit for after school. Now every two weeks I move all my money out of my checking into various buckets except for my budgeted amount.

    3. Currently Free*

      Congratulations! I did the same thing in February, nothing lined up. Totally burned out, toxic boss, company responded abhorrently to COVID, etc. My best advice is to take the first FULL MONTH off from even thinking about work. No career podcasts, no job searches, don’t log on to LinkedIn… maybe even don’t come here… Just do whatever your body and mind tell you to do. For me, COVID was still raging and I wasn’t vaccinated, so I did indoor hobbies and watched a lot of Netflix. After a month, reevaluate if you’re ready to consider thinking about work. It probably took me a full 2 months to recover and start feeling somewhat excited about working again.

      Also, try to find a friend or family member who can reinforce that you made the right decision. I’ve had moments of “I’m a total idiot, why did I do this??” but then my partner reminds me that it was a horrible work situation and I was crying literally every day, and staying in that situation was actually not even an option.

      About explaining the time off in interviews… I haven’t had too many issues. I’ve used variations of “I’m looking for a company that responded well to the pandemic” and “this past year put into sharp focus what kinds of values and culture I’m looking for.” Both of which are absolutely true.

      You’re doing the right thing, good luck, and congrats!

    4. Burnt eggs*

      I would go with the pay yourself plan, and live as frugally as you can after the first month.

      In the first month tho, don’t go nuts spending, but treat yourself – massage, short trip, something you wouldn’t normally do.

      Then also, do a top to bottom clean- not for everyone, but I find my headspace is calmer when everything is where it belongs. Or go through and make a list of small projects, clean up old computer and paper files, finish that house inventory for insurance, put pictures in an album. Something where you can literally see what you have accomplished. And just as we set employment goals, set some sabbatical goals for what you want to have accomplished.

      For me, it took about 2 months to fully get old job out of my head; there may or may not have been a ceremonial burning of company branded items.

    5. JRR*

      For explaining my employment gap, my official explanation is “after taking time off to care for a family member, I’m excited to return to my profession.”

      That is 100% BS, but also not something I was ever asked to explain or prove, and I would not want to work for a company that asked for more details.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s not BS to me. *YOU* are a member of your family and YOU needed care

    6. Juniper*

      You already have some great suggestions for what to do with your newfound freedom. One thing that I underestimated when I went through the same thing was the mental toll it had taken on me. Looking back, I would have tried to address the psychological aspect earlier on. I was so excited to just be out that I felt like Julie Andrews walking over the Alps and at the time that felt like enough. But recovering from burnout isn’t just about resting, it’s about undoing the damage that a toxic situations inflicts on both your psyche and body. For a long time afterward I had a hard time multi-tasking, making decisions, trusting myself, and even getting my digestion back to normal. I would recommend that you talk to a therapist so a professional can help guide you through the process.
      Finally, congratulations! I’m genuinely thrilled for you and I hope you get to do a ton of fun and relaxing stuff over the next months.

    7. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Similar boat, left a toxic job last year. To recover from burnout (it’s an ongoing process), I’ll add to what others have suggested:

      *Therapy
      If you can afford it; I was in therapy prior to quitting and have continued. It’s been helpful to have someone talk through this with me.

      *Give yourself grace to feel terrible or glad or whatever
      I imagine this is like purging your body of a poison. I definitely have days when I feel crummy and gross, doubting whether leaving was the right choice. I let myself feel that way, instead of thinking “I *should* feel great because I’m out of that situation.” As I heard recently, our brain is INSIDE our body, so “mental health” is really just “health.”

      *Volunteer
      At some point, I wanted to try to be productive, but for short-term commitments, so I’ve been trying to volunteer. This may be risky, though, since I get rejected more than I’m selected (it’s a competitive volunteer process I’m trying) and that’s not a great feeling.

    8. Hillary*

      I wasn’t expecting the absolute exhaustion when I quit my last job. That was without something lined up, but I ended up getting an offer during my notice period and I took two weeks in between. My first week off I basically just slept and watched tv. Every emotion I’d suppressed came roaring back and processing them took all my energy. It was a complete messy rollercoaster.

      One piece of advice – when you’re ready to go back, start thinking about potential triggers. For me getting called to the boss’s office was a huge trigger for a while, I had to repeat to myself the mantra “he just wants excel help” every time for a year. He really did just want excel help, but the boss before him had been a jerk.

    9. Mill Miker*

      Are you in a field that lends itself to freelancing/consulting?
      When I quit without something lined up, my plan was to freelance. I was actually too burned-out to succeed at that (I did have enough money saved though), but “I was giving freelancing a shot” covered the gap nicely, even though I never really got any work that way. Although, that actually made it a bit easier to calm any worries that I might take off again as soon as I had recouped some savings.

    10. StressedButOkay*

      My one suggestion is that once you get back to job hunting, set up a routine – get up by a certain time during the weekdays, job search during set blocks, etc. The problem that can come with not having something about recovering from burnout is just the days blend together and it can be really, really hard to find the motivation sometimes!

    11. Mrs. Bond*

      I was in a a situation like that about 10 years ago. It was an extremely toxic situation and I was under a lot of stress. I also had a baby to look after and was trying to juggle this work situation with taking care of him. I was lucky to get a severance package so I was okay for money for awhile but not very confident about what I was going to do next or how long that money would last. I didn’t have a very firm strategy about using the savings … we tried to live on what my husband was earning and dipped into savings only as needed.

      I remember needing about 3 weeks to just mentally recover. My mom and my husband were also quite involved in what I was going through and managing their feelings about the situation added to the stress. For the first 3-4 weeks I just spent time with my baby and did nothing much else. We went for walks or hung out in the back yard.

      Around that time some freelance work came my way (via the person who had my toxic job before me!) and I was eventually able to make that into a full-time thing. But that’s a whole other story :)

    12. ronda*

      I retired early and follow some of those blogs. Some of the things lots of people do:

      Some kind of exercise… I joined the Y, other people do hiking or biking or surfing, etc
      Feeding yourself .. I am a restaurant person, but many people take up a cooking thing… making bread, whatever their eating/ cooking goals are.
      Volunteering – I did AARP tax aid this year.. nice cause it has a defined timeframe, Feb to April 15. I am now a volunteer at an animal sanctuary, but just got signed up so we will have to see how it goes.
      Building something – a garage, a garden, knitting a scarf, etc
      Travel – you can take a really long trip when you are not employed.
      (travel is also an explanation people might give in an interview — “I took a sabbatical to travel.” Some folks say you should add something about what you learned traveling, but I say only if you really want to, most people should understand that sometimes you want a long travel window)
      Learning – take some kind of class. pottery, finance, etc, whatever strikes you as something that might be fun.

      I find for me it is important to have some appointments and the gym does that for me…. but not too many appointments !! Don’t want to be too busy.

      I saw this mentioned on a early retirement blog. I have not tried it, but if it sound good to you, maybe you will:

      “My favorite method was created by Ernie Zelinski, author of several early-retirement lifestyle books. He named the technique the “Get-A-Life-Tree. ” Don’t be alarmed by the hokey name – it’s just a structured process to help you brainstorm activities. Activities lead to interests. Interests lead to passions. ”
      from the livingafi website. March 9 2015 post. (should come up in a google of get a life tree)
      the site gives an example of this

      1. Joan Rivers*

        This may sound pathetic to some, but I started out poor and still am frugal.
        SO, when you need to shop, as opposed to when you’re outdoors, enjoying nature, etc., you can find a lot for little at garage sales, consignment shops, and a dollar store.
        A good dollar store can have $1:
        aloe gel / rich lotion including “diabetic” lotion
        antacid / Ibuprofen / antihistamines
        kitchen tools
        greeting cards / charming gift bags
        brand name condiments and other food
        socks
        &
        I’ve found cute scarves mixed in w/ugly ones.
        Plus lots of other household stuff. So I’m not saying buy junk, but you’d be surprised what you can find. Including name brands.
        I use their drugs, etc., after reading the ingredients. For $20 I can buy way more than I would at the drugstore.
        I’ve gotten compliments on a $1 scarf that went well w/a consignment shop Eileen Fisher coat. 1/3 of retail.

  17. The Prettiest Curse*

    I posted in this thread a couple of weeks ago about learning that the person who bullied me off my project team at my last job had finally left that organization. Alas, even though she got her best friend/boss fired, she did not get fired herself. (She bullied – at the last count – 4 people in addition than me, and 3 of them left rather than continue working with her.) Instead, she left to be a consultant.
    I do hope she realises that it’s a lot easier to fire consultants than it is to fire regular employees…

    1. LKW*

      Oh it’s even better than that! I’ve been a consultant for 20 years- I’ve told many people my job is to do two things: Make my client look good and take the blame when something goes wrong. Oh she is in for a treat!

      1. Dancing Otter*

        I read a story somewhere about someone who specialized in taking the blame.
        Your project is doomed, and you need someone else to blame? Hire Joe!
        Not sure how he marketed that, though.

  18. Glimmer*

    My coworker thinks he’s complimenting me but it comes across super-patronizing and I want him to stop.

    Let’s call my coworker Bow. Bow and I work at essentially the same level and we work closely together, but with very different roles. I do a more technical role and he has a more business oriented-role. He is also about 20 years older than me and a man (I am a woman) and we work in an industry that is very male-dominated.

    Every meeting we have, whether it involves reporting our status higher up in our organization or meeting with customers/vendors, he says something along the lines of “And I just want to say Glimmer has been doing a MAGNIFICENT job on this.”

    I think he’s coming from the right place, but it comes across as extremely patronizing to me. It feels like something someone would say about an intern who is performing well, not a mid-career professional who works at the same level and is already recognized a technical expert in their field. I want to get him to stop, but I’m not sure how to word it because saying “Please stop complimenting me” might be a bit confusing.

    1. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

      Haha I see why this is frustrating. If it’s at all true, I would give it back in a saccharine way, “No, Bow, YOU did a magnificent job”. But I’m a little passive aggressive :)

    2. Undine*

      Own the compliment. “I’m really pleased with the way it’s going, I think we have a great team and the decision to do X (where X is something the client chose, for example) is really paying off.” Or, “There’s still some risk around Y that we need to monitor, but I agree that overall, it’s going well.”

      1. Artemesia*

        The reason it bugs you is that it IS condescending; the fact that he is doing it suggests that HE is in charge and you are assisting him. (and thanks for the excellent sandwiches, you always get the horseradish just right). It is a trap because awkward to say something to him; two ideas.
        1. The example from the # above “I’m really pleased with the way it’s going, I think we have a great team and the decision to do X (where X is something the client chose, for example) is really paying off.’ This puts you back in charge and compliments the client — so good choice.
        2. Pre-empt — make a similar statement before he gets around to it — as soon as you meet with the client say that phrase above, and add ‘and I really appreciate the great help that you, Fergus, were on remogrifying the widgit sketches.’ This puts him in the subordinate role which may make the point with him or at least make you feel good.

        1. Glimmer*

          I think #1 is a good option. I also think #2 is a good option, but will be difficult. I don’t honestly think he does a good job. I think a lot of what I do is over his head and he resorts to making really obvious statements because he doesn’t have a ton to contribute. But maybe I should use this for that reason.

          1. meyer lemon*

            Ha! The nerve of this guy, doling out patronizing compliments when you’re working at a higher level than him. It does sound like a power play.

            This is a situation where I would just completely ignore the subtext and take the opportunity to emphasize the good work you’re doing.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            With this being the case then people probably already know this.

            In terms of a pre-emptive strike, can you say something like, “Well, Bob is going to say that I/we did a magnificent job. But I would like to redirect the focus to the teapot handles. This last batch was a really good batch and it made our jobs easier because of x, y and z.”

    3. LKW*

      A slightly different way to think about this – and it’s not really going to change anything – you’re 20 years ahead of your peer. He may not have worked with someone who is as young and as competent.

      Take the compliment, return it when it makes sense to. Call out others who have done a great job. Turn this into something positive that your whole team can get in on.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Usually I would bristle at this, but here it makes more sense that he would be saying things like this since he deals with the business — I would treat it as him just passing along that the clients are pleased or that you are making his job easier. On the other hand, tone is everything and I could see this being said in a tone that would be aggravating.

    5. Machine Ghost*

      Either Toodie’s or Lady of… answers work. If it’s sincere and he doesn’t realize he’s patronizing, he might be confused, but if you are lucky, it can become your running joke with him. Either it will make your work relationship with him better and it will continue, Chipmunks style, or he will get a clue and stop with the overboard compliment when he doesn’t like it turned back on himself.

    6. JP*

      In an internal meeting, say, “I think [this dude] did a great job, too.” Alternatively, “Thanks, buddy.”

      In a meeting with clients, what he’s doing can be a legit strategy to make the clients think you’re awesome — people believe it when they hear the sales guy talk the tech people up, even if the sales guy obviously has an agenda. So, if you’re dealing with external clients/customers, I’d just roll with it in the moment.

      Outside of the meetings, you could try saying, “I appreciate you trying to give me credit in front of [whoever], but I’d rather you highlight the features you like about the work instead of saying I did a good job.”

    7. cleo*

      Ugh. This guy. Possible responses:

      Huh. What a strange thing to say.

      Aw, aren’t you sweet for saying that. You did a good job too.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Seems to be a lot of annoyance from people here today about petty stuff like this.
        Let it go!
        If he says something rude, that’s different, but this sounds well intentioned. Like he’s trying to act “positive.”
        You may say something to someone older that you don’t realize seems offensive or “patronizing” too! If you say complimentary things to other people. Some people don’t, and then they’re hyper sensitive if anyone tries to be pleasant to them.

  19. Fran Fine*

    Any tips/advice on applying to a federal writing job? I’ve never done it before and, honestly, the instructions seem kind of daunting. I have until June 1 to get my application submitted, so I want to work on it this weekend – any advice from federal employees would be appreciated, especially ones who have writing intensive positions in an agency.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      What kind of writing?

      If this is grant writing or contract writing, those are completely different balls of wax.

  20. Autistic therapist*

    If you’re neurodivergent, especially if you’re autistic, and you’re also a therapist – can you tell me a bit about what your training was like/work is like?
    How do you process information? In the session with your client, how do you capture the immediacy of the person’s feelings if you take a while to process information?
    Have you been accused of not being empathic, even though you are?

    Do you work with non-autistic people as clients – what’s the relating to them like?
    Any other thoughts about being neurodivergent and training to be a therapist or working as one would be greatly appreciated! TIA.

    1. Anon Mental Health Professional*

      I work in the mental health field and have a learning disability and anxiety. I have trouble participating in larger groups because I get distracted and overloaded by too much auditory information. I’m also an introvert and need time to process information.

      I found my training hard to get through because I was constantly being told by professors that I lacked empathy and wouldn’t be able to advocate for my clients. There was a lot of pressure by the faculty to constantly be interacting with my peers during downtimes in class and to be volunteering answers multiple times during classes to prove to them I could do it. When I got into the practical part of my training and now that I’m working in the field, I’ve found there to be a lot more understanding from my colleagues and supervisors about individual differences. There is very little pressure in my actual work-life to confirm to a certain mold. Different styles work with different types of clients. You’ll find what works for you. I found it helpful to work with supervisors who had different styles during my training and to get exposure to working with different kinds of clients. Observing how other people worked and getting frequent feedback from my supervisors helped me find my own routine.

    2. Nightengale*

      I’m a neurodivergent developmental pediatrician, which has a lot of overlap with therapy but is of course different. My patients are by definition neurodivergent. Some of their parents are and some aren’t. The neurotypical parents are definitely harder for me to relate to. But I have lots of scripts for them. A lot of my job is interpreting back and forth between autism and neurotypese.

      I’ve generally been accused of being too empathic with my patients. The problem has always been not understanding (or being understood by) neurotypical coworkers. There is so much us/them assumptions in medicine and related mental health fields. I am so much more like the “them.” Which is why we need so many more of “us” in the field.

      My challenge isn’t so much processing feelings as processing visuals. I pick up on spoken and non-spoken verbal cues but not visual ones. In high emotional settings I sometimes use a bit of silence to gather my thoughts, find the words, figure out what is going on. The bit of silence is often helpful for everyone. Or as I am always telling families, we need to get our own amygdalae (fight or flight) under control and get our frontal lobes (think it through) back on line before assisting others (the kids.)

    3. Gnizmo*

      I am an autistic therapist. My training was a bit of a mixed bag at times. My professors were very confused by me which ultimately led to a really great experience, but was kind of stressful at first. My first supervisor for clinical work clicked with me real well though and from there it was super smooth sailing.

      As for the practice, well I actually believe my autism is a benefit rather than a hinderance. You don’t want a ton of subtext in therapy. This easily leads to confusion and wrong assumptions. In day to day life I guess other people get by with this. In the room during that hour you want total clarity though. So anytime I am confused I ask for clarification. Interestingly, this is also what I hear a lot of people recommend as best practice because words can mean so many different things to do many different people.

      Simple reflections are also really helpful with this. People will offer their emotional state when prompted, and reflecting it back can be extremely beneficial. There is a lot of healing to be done in just being seen for who you are for one hour a week. Research and personal experience tell me this.

      A brief pause, as mentioned earlier, tends to be really helpful as well. People read it as you really taking in what they said. It is appreciated as it shows you are really sitting with what they are going through. That, and silence is a great tool in therapy in general. I am super comfortable being quiet during emotional conversations because I have to spend so much time sorting it out anyways.

      That is at least how my stuff interacts with it. I hope you can have a similar positive experience.

  21. shocked I tell you*

    I was laid off in December for budget cuts due to Covid. My employer made it a point to say that as per policy they would not give any references beyond confirming employment. I was able to negotiate and get a written lukewarm reference. I was exhausted of it all and going back and forth and needed it to be behind me. My question is, how would you all handle this? Many applications ask for references when you submit the application. Or for when references come up later… Should I include the written letter as an attachment? If it gets to the stage where they ask for references should I give them the letter and say the former employer has a strict no reference policy? I can use the contact info for some co-workers, but it is a small company and it would look weird to include them if they are obviously not my supervisor. Should I not bring it up at all?

    This has all been disappointing because I feel like losing my job was bad enough, but I feel like this makes me look bad and will make it harder to find a job.

    1. Coenobita*

      I don’t think this is on you! If your former employer has a no-reference policy, they can tell the reference-checker that. I wouldn’t submit the letter anywhere unless one is explicitly requested! I would list your supervisor (even knowing they won’t engage per company policy) and also list some other colleagues, former supervisors, etc. who you know will actually serve as good references.

      1. shocked I tell you*

        Maybe. I’m perhaps a little anxious because years ago I had something similar happen. I left a job on good terms and later when I was looking for another position I reached out to my former supervisor who was happy to provide a reference. Then a few months into my job search the company changed their policy and warned managers they could be fired for violating policy and to direct all calls to HR. Former boss didn’t tell me this and when someone called for a reference it looked bad to them. The job called me to say it was “concerning” to them. Maybe they just overreacted. I don’t know. But I didn’t get that job and I’m pretty nervous about it now even though it’s been years since this happened.

        1. Coenobita*

          I think that says more about the job you were trying to get – there are so many companies out there that do this! Maybe you can note that when you provide your references? “Just so you are aware, my understanding is that Former Company’s policy is X. The contact information for my additional references is…”

          1. TWW*

            Right? A reference only providing dates of employment is so common, it’s surprising that a potential employer would be concerned by that. Have they never hired anyone before?

            1. shocked I tell you*

              I guess that I had not experienced this before personally. Or at least I had not had a job prospect come back to me and tell me it was “concerning” so I thought it was a big deal. I know that often a manager will still speak on your behalf, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in this situation.

              1. PollyQ*

                I suspect the “concerning” part was that you offered someone as a reference who wouldn’t give one, and the lesson there is to check in with your references every so often to see if they’re still on board. I also think a lukewarm reference letter is probably worse than just saying that the company has disallowed references.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds like you were the first person they have ever interviewed. It’s a pretty common thing that a place will only verify dates, it’s surprising to me that they see a problem with this common thing. I wonder what else they are unaware of.

          OTOH, they did call you to state the nature of their concern. This pretty much gave you the opportunity to change course and give them another reference. If all was totally lost, they would not have bothered to call you.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      I would still give them the contact information for your old boss and just mention the reference policy. Alison has pointed out that many manager disregard company reference policies, especially for if they really liked your work (and I’ve done the same because I wasn’t going to let my org’s reference policy stop my intern from getting her dream internship).

    3. Artemesia*

      I’d be happier with a ‘no reference, confirm dates’ reference than a lukewarm one that I was in charge of conveying. I think the former does better for you than the latter.

    4. ferrina*

      Do you have former coworkers who can speak to your work? I would offer an enthusiastic coworker over a supervisor who can’t say anything. Unless a company specifically asks for a supervisor, you don’t need to list one. Other options can include volunteer coordinators at places you volunteer.

      If you haven’t asked a former coworker to be a reference and don’t have their contact info, go to LinkedIn! I recently reached out to a couple former coworkers via LinkedIn, asked if they’d like to grab virtual coffee (they were people I like) then asked if they were willing to be a reference. You can even say something like,
      “This is kind of awkward, but I was recently laid off and don’t know who to use as a reference! Since we worked so closely on XYZ, would you be willing to be a reference and speak to my skills in that area?”
      The worst that will happen is that they will say No and you’ll be in the same spot you are now (okay, if you’re as socially awkward as me, you’ll also feel really awkward, but that’s okay, just remind yourself that most people are awkward, it’s really normal)

    5. Mononoke Hime*

      That policy sucks and the lukewarm reference letter likely won’t get you anywhere as most semi-decent employers would want to communicate with your references and ask them very specific questions about you.

      That said, you should still provide the name and contact info of your former manager and mention the policy, so reference checkers can confirm on their own. Coworkers, clients, previous managers at other companies and even industry partners can serve as real references. Many people aren’t able to provide managerial reference from their most recent work places (eg. job hunting in secret) and reasonable companies would recognize and work around that.

  22. Scout Finch*

    I am SOOOO excited! My employer (a state medical university in the southeastern US) announced this week that, as of July 1, paid parental leave will be added to our benefit package. I don’t have kids (and never will), but this will be HUGE for my coworkers and the institution.

    I don’t know the details, but I am hopeful this will spread to other state institutions and private employers. This will make it much easier to attract & keep good employees.

    1. Eleanor Knope*

      Yay! How awesome for your organization — and it’s very cool that you’re excited about a benefit you never plan on using.

    2. PollyQ*

      Woot! This should pay off for you indirectly, since it will make your employer more attractive, so they should get more/better candidates, and it should cut down on turnover caused by people (mostly women) having to quit their jobs to have a baby.

  23. Coenobita*

    Please note: I am in no way, shape, or form a decision-maker in this situation. Thank goodness.

    At my office job, the entry-level role is an assistant analyst (it’s like half analysis work and half administrative). Our team has a new assistant analyst who started a couple months ago. Apparently, another job they applied for during their job-searching period just got back to them and offered them their dream position – and they want to do both jobs. The official policy on outside employment is only about conflicts of interest; plenty of us (including me) have second jobs but they’re side gigs on the nights & weekends. This employee wants to do two full-time jobs that both mostly operate during standard business hours. They’re like, “lots of people out there work 70-80 hours per week, it’s fine.” HR says, “it’s not against policy.” There is no way this will end well for anyone, right??

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, this is completely unsustainable.

      What happens when one of the jobs has crunch time, or needs a 3-day trip to a client?

      I worked a 20-hour side gig for about 9 months and it was just too much.

      1. Coenobita*

        Yeah, I mean, at one point I had a full-time job and was in full-time grad school at night and also had a regular volunteer gig, which I’m sure added up to more than 80 hours. But all of those things were scheduled for different times of the day/week! and I didn’t expect them to all just continue forever!! The only way it worked was because I had full buy-in and certain (temporary) accommodations from all sides.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Oh this is terrible. While it is true there is probably no policy that specifically states “You can’t have 2 full time jobs” There is probably something along the lines of “working 40 hours during core hours”

      If I was the manager in this situation and my HR had tied my hands like this. I would make it crystal clear with the employee that I expected them to work and be available to me during the core hours (whatever they are) and for 40 hours per week. I would ask them upfront if they were going to commit to that. Then when they say yes, because they will always say yes to this crazy idea. I would make sure that I was documenting everything and at the first hint of them not working to my expectations, I would begin the PIP process.

      At best the employee will realize this is a stupid idea and resign from one of the jobs. Most likely they will be fired from the one that takes a harder line. At worst they’ll be fired from both.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This is the part I don’t understand. Theoretically I could get another 40-hour job where I only work in the evenings and weekends. But how can HR say there’s no issue with two 4o-hour jobs that have to happen during business hours? Sure, there’s no policy against it. Because it’s physically impossible. I mean, if I were this person’s boss, and had this weird HR response, I’d say “you can do the other job but I expect you here 8-5 (or whatever) and there are production goals you need to meet.” And then see what happens.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Plus those people who work 70-80 hours per week generally do it for the same employer, so they’re just putting in a ton of overtime for one single job, rather than being expected to focus on competing requirements from different employers.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I know the OP isn’t the manager/decision maker here, but one thing I’d want to pin my manager down on if I was told a coworker was going to do this is what’s the plan for making sure both jobs get equal priority during business hours — What if both have an emergency “I need this by the end of the day” project on the same day? If I’m trying to get that person into an important meeting, am I really going to have to work around any meetings their other job already has scheduled for them?

      2. The New Wanderer*

        And they work 70-80 hours in serial, not in parallel, which isn’t possible. I would expect the policy to have some wording about core hours, expectations of work schedule, or something like that which would prevent this kind of situation from even being considered. OP’s HR has really fall down on the job here if they’re allowing this to be approved.

      1. Coenobita*

        I mean, it’s a conflict in the “these things physically conflict with each other” sense, but not in the “you can’t use your position to benefit yourself” sense that’s covered by the policy.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Right—it’s a conflict with the space-time continuum, but not with ethics.

          1. Coenobita*

            Maybe the employee has a time-turner!! That is definitely not covered by our staff handbook :)

    4. A Frayed Knot*

      It is a definite conflict of interest if they are not giving 100% of their effort to the job they are being paid to do in the moment. If their hours with you are supposed to be 9-5, and they are doing ANY work for the other company during that time, my employer considers it time theft (being paid for not working).

      You are right…this will not end well.

    5. LKW*

      Entry level role – if they are to attend/conduct any meetings then they’ll immediately start having schedule conflicts and they don’t have enough seniority to request that others move their schedules around to accommodate.

      I see this lasting about 2 weeks until it becomes glaringly obvious.

    6. Sparkles McFadden*

      All I have to say is this: Please, please, PLEASE give us an update in a few weeks!

    7. EarthBound*

      Our outside employment policy talks about conflict of interest AND if the outside employment has any negative affect on the employee’s job. I don’t see how a 2nd full-time job (especially if they operate during business hours).

    8. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Most people can’t handle that pace for long periods of time. What happens when they get sick and need to call out of both jobs? One of those managers is going to say “quit your other gig or don’t come back.”

    9. JP*

      It depends. I’ve had full-time jobs that definitely didn’t have enough work to justify being full-time. If I could have double-dipped and done two jobs at once, it would have been a pretty good deal.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      So this person is going to work two 8 hour shifts, leaving 8 hours for sleep/life/food/etc.
      That ought to be interesting to watch. I hope they don’t get behind the wheel and attempt to drive.

    11. allathian*

      This sounds horrible… I pulled double shifts for a while, working about 35 hours for one employer and 20 hours for another, but they were completely different jobs. One was a standard entry-level office job and the other was doing customer surveys by phone in the evenings and on Saturdays. I did it for about 6 months before I realized that I needed some free time, too, and just Saturdays off work wasn’t cutting it, so I quit the call center job. I was single and didn’t have any family commitments at the time, and I had a lot more energy in my 20s than I do now…

  24. EPLawyer*

    Minimum wage. this is more a rant, but feel free to actually give suggestions. Where I live, minimum is $11.50 an hour (maybe its gone up to $12, I haven’t had to compute it lately for child support). This is not enough to live on. Granted its a higher cost of living area. But there are place where minimum wage is actually $7.25? Like there is no local bump? Even in a lower cost of living area how do sane people think that is enough for even ONE person to live on? And that’s presuming you can get 40 hours a week. A lot of place paying that won’t give you enough hours to qualify for benefits, so you aren’t making $7.25 for 40 hours. Which is even LESS to live on.

    It boggles the mind.

    1. JillianNicola*

      When I worked at the red big box retail who shall not be named, they thought they were heroes for raising our minimum to $13/hr. The cost of living in the suburb I worked was almost $20/hr. It didn’t affect me because I was leadership and made but over that, but it was like, thanks for the extra money but my team would still be homeless if they didn’t have parents/spouses/extra jobs to help them.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Per the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of April 2021: “Five states have not adopted a state minimum wage: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Two states, Georgia and Wyoming, have a minimum wage below $7.25 per hour. In all seven of these states, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour applies.”

      I suspect some cities in those states may have a higher minimum wage, but I’m sure it’s far from all.

      Sane people don’t think that’s enough to live on. Deluded/jerk people think that’s supposed to be “incentive” to “better yourself” (but apparently going to college is the dumbass way to do it now and why did anyone ever listen to a couple generations’ worth of people insisting that you should do that while the cost of college skyrocketed past wages being able to keep up) and that minimum wage jobs are for kids like their labor isn’t worth much and their bodies can be burned and bruised for a pittance.

      Ugh.

      1. pancakes*

        EPI dot org has this broken down by state, on a page titled “Minimum Wage Tracker.”

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          This is a great site, I use it a lot.

          Thirty (+DC) states have a min wage higher than the feds. Cities with higher wages are mostly within those 30 (eg, Seattle WA or NYC), but Birmingham AL has too.

          The 20 states that don’t are mostly South and Midwest:
          Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

          Houston, Philly, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin are the largest cities still at min wage. St. Louis, Chicago, Jacksonville FL are all above it.

          Many GOP controlled states have *prevented* cities or counties from raising the min wage. EPI’s “Worker rights preemption in the U.S.” map shows TX, GA, etc and the year the forbidding laws passed, under the Minimum Wage tab.

          It sucks. The fed wage needs to go up so that marginalized workers in these states can catch a break.

          TX job market is hot enough that few in the cities are working for min wage, but Atlanta could use the boost.

      2. NotMyRealName*

        The official minimum wage is $7.25 here in Wyoming, but nobody is paying that. In my town the lowest I’ve seen advertised is $11/$12.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, there’s also more states where the law is ‘minimum wage = federal wage’. It’s a total of 30, per EPI, mostly US South and Midwest (TX, GA, KS, IA, NC).

        Most of those 30 also forbid local govs from enacting their own min wage laws, you can see that list on EPI’s “Worker rights preemption in the U.S.” page, tab Minimum Wage.

        The current labor crunch helps *some*, but there’s a reason the federal wage is the preferred tool for raising wages / growing the middle class.

      4. GothicBee*

        Yeah, it’s crazy. I live in Virginia and the minimum wage here was $7.25 an hour until this month (May 1st) when it was raised to $9.50 an hour, which is long overdue in my opinion. I have family who manage fast food stores and they’re super upset about the change. I’ve had to stop talking about it with them because I just get angry every time they try to argue that minimum wage should stay the same. Eventually the minimum wage here will increase to $15 an hour, but that’s a few years from now, so it’ll probably still be too low at that point.

        Also, as a result of the minimum wage increase, my workplace upped my pay too, which I didn’t expect (previously I was around $15 an hour now I’m at $17 an hour).

    3. Lora*

      Yup. Neighboring state is $7.25/hr, where I grew up is still $7.25/hr. Rents for a 1 bedroom apartment now are about $1000-1200 in those areas, nevermind utilities and food, so after taxes – forget it. There is literally nowhere to live on those wages unless you are working two full time jobs. I guess you could get SNAP and food bank groceries?

      When I was in college, the minimum hovered around $4/hour, but the rent for a two bedroom apartment I shared with a roommate was only $375/month. Phone bill which was still the Ma Bell Monopoly was $20/month. Rents have increased 3X, utilities increased 4X, food I don’t even know how much it’s increased – and they say we only have 2% inflation per year. Someone can’t do math properly, and it’s not me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Growing up in the 60s, $100 of groceries FILLED the back of a station wagon. And station wagons were bigger then. That was our monthly shopping bill-it would last us a month. My father would pick up small things on the non-pay weeks.

        Now $100 worth of groceries fills TWO reusable shopping bags.

        Even on to 1979- 1980 I can remember gas being 87 cents a gallon and people complaining about the price of gas.

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I live in Tennessee. When I worked for a grocery store after college, they acted like it was the biggest deal in the world that they paid us a $7.40 an hour, a whole 15 cents more than they were legally required too. You also got a ten cent an hour raise after you’d been there for six months, also presented as “incredible benefits how generous what an amazing place to work”.

      That was about six years ago, and as far as I know it hasn’t changed.

      1. Ama*

        What’s completely out of line to me is that I remember very clearly when the national minimum wage went up to $5.00 because I was a teenager making minimum wage at the time. That was 25 years ago. It is absolutely ridiculous that there are places where the minimum wage has only gone up TWO DOLLARS in more than TWO DECADES.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I made $5.15 an hour (minimum) when I lived in Santa Cruz, CA. It’s smaller than Springfield, so the number of good jobs is also smaller. When I left in 1994, the rents were comparable to Springfield, MO—around $650-$900.

          Now the minimum wage in CA is higher, close to $13-14 an hour, but apartments in Santa Cruz are $2000 A MONTH AND UP. D:

          According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, I would have to make $50,856 minimum to live in Santa Cruz again. In Los Angeles/Long Beach/Glendale metro area, it calculates to $42,825. I couldn’t move to LA for less than $52000, but holy wallet crunch, Batman.

          I know people in Santa Cruz who got along fine when I lived there and are practically on the edge of homelessness now. It’s just f*cking infuriating.

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            I had minimum wage or min+10¢ jobs in the 70s. I never had a problem finding an affordable apartment, and I never needed a roommate. Besides the wages not going up sufficiently, the big problem is housing – older buildings with cool, funky apartments are now condos with enormous price tags, or they were torn down and replaced with even pricier condos or with parking garages or office buildings.

            1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

              Oh, and those minimum wage full-time jobs had great health insurance, too, with no premiums for employees.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          In 1980 I was working for 2.91 per hour. Broken and defeated does not fully describe.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Bet they act real put out if people say they don’t want to work for them too

    5. Sylvan*

      Yeah, that’s minimum wage where I live. It’s not enough for anyone to live on.

      The logic of people who oppose raising minimum wage* is that jobs paying $7.25 ought to be entry-level, part-time jobs for people who don’t need to make a living. People like teenagers who are cared for by their parents or college students whose schools provide food and housing. People who need to earn more money ought to get better jobs.

      *I support raising minimum wage and I don’t agree with this reasoning at all, don’t @ me lol. I just live in conservative Boomer land.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        And that’s acting as if the labor of teens isn’t worth fair compensation. Decades later I finally have trouble finding the burn scars on my arms from my time working in a restaurant in high school and college.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes, great point – it’s not as if teens who work only have to clean up junior-level messes, talk to junior-level irate customers, get only junior-level injuries.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “You’re not worth it.”
          The total lack of awareness of this message being sent out is jaw-dropping.

          Another labor source that is exploited are folks with disabilities in group homes and other systems. They end up with a lot of “clean the restrooms” type of jobs. Society turns a blind eye.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I had a lot of fun with this one recently…

        “….so ::big national fast food chain:: should be closed during the school day during the school year? I mean, who is going to be staffing the place if it shouldn’t pay a reasonable wage because its an entry level job for teenagers?”

        Granted, I had this conversation with someone who feels the same as you mention in your example, Sylvan, whilst kvetching that they can’t seem to find a job that pays them appropriately because they have a family and deserve better than minimum wage. With no other qualifications than “but I have a wife and multiple children to support”. My brain simply cannot.

        That sound I swear I hear? 747 straight flyover.

      3. TWW*

        I earned minimum wage in my first few jobs, and it was fine because I lived with my parents. But by age 21, my wage had increased to something I could live on.

        Perhaps instead of just a minimum wage, we should also have a minimum raise for low wage earners. Say, at least +$1 per year for any wage below $20/hour.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        Those same people probably oppose spending more on public schools… Ask them sometime if they support free community college, because that’s the minimum needed these days to get a ‘better’ job.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        The problem with that logic (not yours, I know!) is that in a lot of areas, those ARE the jobs. Like, all the jobs. “Get a better job!” Okay, but where? “Then move!” How do you pay for that, in cookies?

        In my small-ass hometown in MO, they had two manufacturers where you could actually make a decent living. One made office furniture and the other made wire display racks. Both are now gone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was recently told that by a person I did not expect to hear that from. I was absolutely stunned by the thoughtlessness here. So we will take everyone who is not making much money in NYS and move them down to the City? What could possibly go wrong?

        2. Mily*

          Yeah, my family is from the rust belt and my cousin’s wife used to commute an hour to work at Starbucks.

    6. ....*

      Yes there are places where it’s just the minimum. I used to live in one and work for the minimum at the time which I think was 7.15. My rent for my own studio apartment was $315 so that certainly helped. It paid for my rent and food just fine, but I was in college and my mom paid for my car snd healthcare which is of course what made it possible to live in.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Our minimum wage has no state bump, it’s $7.25. But I’m in a larger metro area, so I’m not sure what (if any) jobs around here only pay the minimum. I just saw an ad for basic entry-level office assistance at a tree service company that starts at $14/hr. I think the baristas at our neighborhood coffee shop are making $12-15.

      I think the grocery store cashiers start at $7.50, but those are nearly all teenagers and retirees working part-time.

      But I’d bet in rural areas you’d be hard pressed to find $12 anywhere without a degree or specialized skills.

      1. RagingADHD*

        The teenagers I refer to are at our small neighborhood grocery. There are plenty of folks at the bigger chains who are obviously working it as a main job, but I have no idea what the pay is there.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I passed on applying to so many jobs in OldCity, mostly with the healthcare employers (who never hired me anyway) because they paid $7.25. I could not afford to DRIVE ACROSS TOWN for that salary, let alone live on it. Forget about food, utilities, or anything else.

      And I had a mortgage with a $415 a month payment, for a house I bought in 2002 when I was only making $8.15 an hour. But in the next 15 years, the price of everything went up so much it wasn’t even doable at that.

    9. aseyssel*

      “Even in a lower cost of living area how do sane people think that is enough for even ONE person to live on?”

      They don’t. It’s not supposed to be enough to live on. It’s supposed to be pay for the kinds of low- or no-skill job where you learn how to have a job. But right now our society looks down on those kinds of jobs so much it’s difficult to get hired out of them. We act like there is something fundamentally wrong with adults who hold these jobs. I think the minimum wage discussion is a distraction, and the real issue is the way our society prevents workers from transitioning from minimum wage jobs to career-track jobs. I know someone who couldn’t even make the transition from fast food to waiting tables. One manager said he’d rather hire anyone off the street than someone out of fast food. He said he didn’t want to have to train employees out of bad habits. Didn’t there used to be a regular commenter here who said she absolutely would not hire someone whose only experience is retail and restaurants? I think she said something to the effect of, “They can cut their teeth at someone else’s business.”

      Consider this: Two virtually identical resumes from college graduates for an entry-level position, the only difference being one had a series of internships and the other worked retail through college. Who is more likely to get the interview? The hiring manager isn’t likely to see one person has demonstrated they have the skills necessary to hold down a job, be accountable to an employer, and meet their targets with real-world consequences if they can’t (because it’s a real job), while the other was in a series of short-term programs designed to not allow them to fail. No, they’re more likely to see one candidate has experience in their industry and the other only knows how to run a cash register. I made the transition, but that was because I knew someone at a company that went through receptionists like water. It took years.

      1. pancakes*

        I realize that’s a common mindset but it doesn’t make much sense. The idea that everyone should be endlessly aspiring upward and onward is pretty arbitrary, and pretty moralistic about something that often isn’t a moral issue at all. Why should it bother anyone else if someone is content to have a retail or food service job or whatnot? Or if they aren’t content but have spent years doing it anyhow, for any number of reasons? We need people to do those jobs—many millions of people, in the US—and people who do those jobs should be paid fairly and treated with dignity regardless what they have in mind for their future. Also, very, very few such jobs, if any, are truly low-skill. Doing anything well requires skill.

      2. GothicBee*

        I agree with some of what you’re saying about people looking down on fast food workers. But fast food is not a low or no skill job and it’s not a transition job either. It’s a job full stop. There’s no reason someone working at McD’s or whatever shouldn’t earn enough to live off of. And switching from fast food to an office job is a career change. The same as anything else. There’s no reason to treat it like a stepping stone. I worked fast food and retail jobs for years until I got an office job, and I agree that having to work those jobs instead of being able to do an (unpaid) internship were part of why I struggled to get a job, but minimum wage is still an important thing to focus on because as long as some people can be paid too little to live on, everyone suffers. I mean for some reason everyone seems to think the problem is just that these people can’t find good jobs, but we do actually need people to work in food service, retail, etc. and they should be paid well.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          ” It’s a job full stop.”

          It only becomes a real job when there is an outbreak of food poisoning or a fire or some other major event. Then it’s “Some one failed to do their JOB!” This one cannot be cut both ways, it cannot be a training ground full of inexperienced people but suddenly become an important job when (a predictable) crisis arises.

          I read some where and I agree, we have the youngest, most inexperienced people in charge of a whole section of our food supply. If that is not scary then what is.

  25. Amber Rose*

    My boss was demoted. She said that upper management would probably talk to me about it and let me know the plan going forward. They did not. They talked to everyone else except me. I have no idea who I report to now.

    I’m a ghost. I get noticed if I make stuff move around but otherwise I’m not thought of or seen. It hurts a bit more than I thought it would since I pretty much already knew. Husband says I should just go ask, but… I can’t get the courage to do this anymore. I’m exhausted. I can’t face another “oh sorry, we forgot you” or worse “oh, we didn’t think you needed to know” reaction. I just can’t do it. I’m also a little pissed off they made my poor manager tell me about her demotion herself. That’s just total bullshit.

    I’d love to find a new job but there aren’t any. In all the country, our job market has taken the biggest hit and unemployment levels are off the charts. I also can’t risk taking on a job that might not last. At the very least, I’m invisible enough to not get fired either.

    How the heck do I do this? I feel frozen. I’ve done almost no work in days because I’m so miserable.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Oh this is terrible. You need to go to whoever was your grandboss and ask. Honestly, you have my permission to be snarky with your HR and/or your grandboss, lord knows I would be. If nothing else they need to know that your new boss hasn’t made contact with you yet and you were left out of the official announcement.

      There is really no other option other than floating along not knowing who you report to.

      I’m so sorry.

      1. Amber Rose*

        We don’t have HR. My grandboss would be the COO I suppose, but he’s on vacation. I might get a chance next Friday.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’d get on his calendar now and give a lot of thought to how YOU see your job going forward –have a good handle on what you do that is valuable and how you think your reporting arrangement should be. Lots of bosses will get rid of you if you require them to deal with your issues. So go in with questions about how he sees your role and reporting lines, but have a plan you can offer . “I wanted to meet with you to better understand my role since Maya’s role has changed and I no longer report to her. I have some idea of how we will proceed but wanted to make sure you didn’t have something else in mind.’ then if he blusters around you can say ‘Since I am in charge of remogrifying the widgit sketches, it makes sense for me to report to Claude; we have some deadlines coming up and I want to make sure I meet them.’ And then let him react. He probably doesn’t want to bother with you, so make it easy on him.

    2. Msnotmrs*

      Sympathy. Due to rapid turnover, I’ve had four bosses in 18 months. And I’m a one-person department to boot, so nobody really understands what I do day-to-day, and it seems like no one feels really confident enough to ask/direct me.

      Maybe just let yourself feel your feelings through the end of the workweek, and address it on Monday.

      1. Amber Rose*

        You’re like me then. I’m also a one person department and nobody knows what I do.

        I could probably walk out of here and not come back today and people would just assume I was doing something important.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I am so sorry this is happening to you. It sounds exhausting and demoralizing.

      I have to say that, early in my career. I embraced my ghostliness and once I did, work became much better. What I mean by this is that I would decide what I wanted to do and then…I’d go do it. In a situation like yours (and I have been there) I’d decide what my reporting structure would be and then go see the person who could make that happen and present my plan as a done deal. I’d say “No one has spoken to me yet but I am guessing what’s going to happen is this…” I was shocked at the number of times the response would be “Uh…yeah…yeah…that it.”

      I worked for a very large corporation and, the thing about corporations is that everyone assumes that if you are doing something, it’s because someone told you to do or at least said it was OK. I once rearranged all of the furniture on my first day in a new department. I suggested it to a coworker who said “I’ve suggested that and no one will OK it.” I told him that, if we just did it, everyone would just say “Oh yes. That’s better.” That’s what happened. I did stuff like this for three decades. I think it’s why I was able to stay in one company for so long. I’m not sure of the dynamics in smaller companies.

      My examples are a little extreme for most people, but decide what you want and present it to someone who can make it happen. The worst that can happen is someone would say no…but at least you will know what’s going on. Uncertainty is harder than facts.

    4. EarthBound*

      I used to work in the back end of a big box retail store. Everyone was terrified to do anything they had not been told. “What if corporate finds out?” One day I convinced a few of my coworkers to rearrange our offices and some of the racking to make work easier for us. One of them was terrified we would get in trouble.

      …weeks later our store manager and the regional manager walked by. The store manager asked, “Is something different back here?” “Nope,” I responded. “It’s always been like this.” No one ever said anything else. After that we made a lot of changes and we always told people it had always been like that. No one ever paid enough attention to argue with us.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You have been having a heck of a time for a while now, I am so sorry.

      I do understand you when you say you are exhausted. I also see that you don’t have too many options. This is a tight spot to be in. One thing that I landed on for myself is that the WORST thing that can happen is that I do not stand up for ME. I do understand that this feels like explaining two apples plus two apples equals four apples to grown a$$ed adults. I know first hand the thought of having to explain basic things to people who make much more money and should know better is pretty soul crushing. Do it anyway. Standing up for ourselves is super important. In my mind the final straw is when I do not stand up for myself for [reason]. Nope, stand up for you. You are a very valuable person- because we all are valuable people. Baseline respect needs to be in place at all times, insist on it.

      We see this also with folks who are sick, they have to argue for the correct med or treatment. It’s a pattern we have in society that the people who are struggling the hardest are the very people who are left alone to advocate for themselves. Collectively, we suck.

      This time do one thing different. Just by way of example, my thought is when you hear that standard reply of “sorry we forgot” or “we did not think you needed to know”, have a response ready for this crutch- er— excuse.

      I might try something like, “You know, I hear that phrase a lot. I have worked here x years and I think it’s time we toss that phrase out the window and agree not to use it any more. I am not new. I am a well established member of this [organization/company] and it should not be a surprise that I am here.” I would go in and say this the next time you work. Don’t let this garbage lay around so you can keep smelling it. And this is garbage, it’s very disrespectful. I would go to my boss’ boss if it were me. Tell her things need to change because you are not getting the information you need to do your job.

      FWIW, this internet stranger wishes she could wave a magic wand and get you out of this hole. But more reality based, I hope with all my heart that something breaks in your favor very soon.

  26. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

    I’m a teacher about to end the school year. I really want to use my summer to rest but at the same time I cannot handle life without a schedule controlled by outside circumstances (i.e. I’m not good at sticking to a schedule myself). I lay around and get in a bad mood because I don’t do anything productive while my husband is at work, but I also feel trapped by a schedule when I just want to relax during the summer. I do work a little bit online, but hours are sporadic and I don’t set them – think 8-10am and 1-2pm one day and then 11-3pm one day and then nothing the next and 9-3pm the next day.

    How do I balance needing structure but also wanting to be free of structure? Is this possible lol? I just want to be able to relax without feeling like a bum. Hope this made sense!

    1. PX*

      Plan specific relaxation time? Or have small but specific outside things that you need to do that will give you some structure, and then allow the rest of your time to be relaxation. So maybe like, volunteer 2 hours a day for whatever, or run X errand. You can tick the productivity box, and then give yourself permission to relax.

      But I guess the other bigger question is why do you feel the need to be productive all the time? You work hard the rest of the year, you’re allowed to be a bum during your holiday – thats the point of holiday!

    2. The Original K.*

      Can you schedule your relaxation? I had an insanely busy day last week and I made a point to put a 45-minute “go outside” block on my calendar to give myself some rest and natural vitamin D. On the days when you’re not doing your online work, can you schedule “clean the bathroom,” “read*,” “exercise,” “meditate,” or whatever else would be restful for you, in blocks of time?

      (*I’m implementing scheduling time to read myself. Since my father passed away, I’ve been having trouble focusing on reading. I am typically a voracious reader – 40 – 45 books a year – and am going to see if scheduling the time helps.)

    3. Goddess47*

      If you really need a schedule, find a ‘working buddy’ who will keep you going. If you have to do reading, writing, organization, cake decorating, whatever, set up a regular time with your buddy and just do it. I find it helpful to be on Zoom with a friend when I have (self-imposed) writing deadlines. We do like 2 minutes of ‘how are you’ and lapse into silence. We don’t audit each other, so there’s an honor system to it but just the fact that I’m at my computer makes me way more productive.

      Or just someone who you can text with. Send ‘start’ and ‘stop’ messages to each other to help you keep on track.

      But, do enjoy the summer, too!

    4. Undine*

      When I was self employed, I helped myself get structure by taking fun classes, like yoga or art. Then I had reasons to get up and do things, but it wasn’t a work commitment.

      1. Reba*

        This was going to be my suggestion! Is there a class — fitness, art, language — or some lessons you would like to try? Just having a few regular things, even just once a week, helps with my sense of time. Plus it’s enriching and all that.

    5. CG*

      My best advice for this is to not schedule too many specific productive things for yourself, but rather try to establish a few personal routines, so you have those to look forward to every day and to help center you in a new day. They can be whatever works best for you, from more structured to less structured! Examples:
      -every day I wake up and brew a cup of coffee, then drink it while reading the newspaper/listening to NPR
      -every night before I go to bed, I do a YouTube yoga video or take a walk
      -I try to call my mom up at least once per weekend
      -on Saturdays (or Wednesdays!), I sleep in until I wake up, and then I make a big breakfast
      -I pick a show I want to binge and watch one episode after lunch every day
      -I read books for 30 minutes before bed
      -every Tuesday, I take a stroll through the farmers market, and then every Friday, I pick up whichever groceries we still need
      -I volunteer at library down the street from me every Wednesday morning
      -on Thursdays, I get lunch with friend X

      These are things that won’t feel like letdowns if you don’t do them exactly the same each time, but still help move you through a day. I work an office job that switched to wfh in the pandemic, and routines were so helpful for me staying sane and on track. (…and they still help me remember to do things like switch work off and go do my nighttime stuff.)

    6. AgathaChristieFan*

      I am in a similar position. I signed up for a water aerobics class each morning. It gets me out of bed and out of the house and provides structure to the day. But I have no regular commitments beyond that so I can do the little bit of online work when I need to and relax when I want.

    7. Artemesia*

      BF Skinner used his own principles on himself. He had set morning hours to write after which he rewarded himself — in his case it was music then a leisurely afternoon.

      Figure out what you need to do and reward yourself when you keep to your schedule.

      1. purpler*

        Rewards work for me too. If I do laundry (I hate laundry) I get to read a chapter of my book. Clean the kitchen, then time for lunch! The problem for me is if I get into endless social media or phone games. Then the day goes by in an unproductive fog.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      I’m so bad at self-imposed routine but also hate the feeling of having no structure, lol. Usually it helps to have one thing I plan early in the day to force myself out of the house – like take a daily walk, meet a friend for coffee, etc. I’m less likely to laze around if I have some momentum going, and even if it does end up being the only thing I do at least I’ll have done something.

      Are there activities/hobbies you’d be interested in but don’t have time for during school? Can you sign up for a few classes and allow yourself to be unproductive the other days?

      Also, I’d try to think of things that would actually be satisfying for you rather than like, “I’ll go to a spa/lie on the beach because that’s what you’re supposed to do to relax.”

    9. meyer lemon*

      Oh, I’m like you. What I’ve found helpful is figuring out what the lowest level of scheduling is needed to make me feel like my life has some direction. Low-pressure volunteer commitments and personal projects with a deadline usually work well for me.

      I’ve actually found that I’ve gotten better with self-imposed schedules as well, as long as there is some kind of tracking mechanism. For example, I can stick to a writing schedule if I keep track of my word count every day, even if there is no deadline. Maybe you could try experimenting with a few methods and see what works for you.

    10. Journaliste?*

      I completely feel this. I cannot impose a schedule on myself without there being someone else involved. I had a lot of time last year at home, so I did the things some people are recommending (courses are great and not too much effort/stress). I’ve also taken to signing up for a LOT of free webinars. I go to most of them, and it makes me feel like I’m learning, though they’re very low-key. Having a project on the go can be motivating (write a short story? embroidery?) I have to be strategic with my hobbies or I get overwhelmed with possibilities and end up doing nothing. Good luck!

    11. Jules the 3rd*

      Look for something that gives you external structure 1 – 2 days a week? (And then give yourself permission to do whatever the rest of the time) Museum docent, external training, part time job?

    12. GothicBee*

      Maybe it would help if you plan out specific fun/relaxing things you want to do? I’m the kind of person who can bum around and waste a ton of time binging boring tv shows or scrolling online. So it can help if I make a list of specific fun things I want to do. Like it can be something as simple as the fact that I love reading and playing video games, so I’ll have a plan for a specific book or game I want to play. That makes it feel more like I’m accomplishing something that I want to do instead of wasting time on stuff I’m not that into because I can’t decide what I want to do. Plus, I enjoy it because I’m picking fun stuff.

    13. Loves libraries*

      When I was at a school I remember how hard the first 2 weeks after school ended was so confusing after the breakneck speed of the last month of school. I would wonder what I was supposed to be doing. I give myself time to recover from the year. I usually have a house or yard project to complete and a vacation to look forward to. Lists help me accomplish what I want to do. Good luck.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      Balancing.
      My wise friend used to say watch the highs and lows in life. Any time you go high, you can expect to go low in the near future. The reverse is true also.

      At the start of the problem is the school year is so intense that the rebel in you takes over when summer comes- “I’m not moving from this couch!”. So this is where to start to change the pattern, during the school year. It was recently brought to my attention that it can be kind of unethical to give so much of ourselves at work that there is nothing left of us when we get home. This is not fair to those who love us and/or depend on us.

      Seriously reconsider everything around you. Are you taking on things that are not necessary to take on? Are there ways to make things easier or less time consuming? You mention not being good at sticking to a schedule, i am wondering if you plan a schedule that is even realistic to attempt?

      I have a very smart friend. She’s a wonderful person. But she packs way too much crap into one day and woefully underestimates how long it takes to do things. She ends up exhausted, feeling defeated and stuck in a chair. I told her to double her time estimates. Dishes won’t take 15 minutes, they will take a half hour. Breakfast is not 20 minutes, it’s closer to 4o minutes. Double all your time estimates and schedule your day accordingly.

      So start to tackle this problem by working where the problem starts. This will mean taking on less. It can also mean asking if something is absolutely necessary to do.

      Next, summer. You know the need to rest is legit, you know that right? Why not plan rest periods the same way you plan work periods? (You should plan rest periods during the school year also.) Adequate rest is necessary for good physical and mental health. Of course you are cranky- you are TIRED!! On days where you plan to do something, tie something else to that plan. Let’s say I have to go to the doctor’s on Tuesday. Great, the grocery store is on the way home, so I will take care of that optional, floating activity while I do the mandatory doctor appointment. The doctor appoint anchors that floating activity so it gets done, too.

      My last suggestion is really hard. I had to take a look at what my life actually was vs what I thought it should be. I was dismayed to see that I do not do my crafts as I would like. (I tossed at least half of them.) I love my antique glassware but I do not have time to dust it, (I got rid of half of it.) I had four house pets and while I loved them, I was tired from taking care of all their needs. (I went down to one dog, one cat and then eventually just the dog. I did not get new pets once the old ones passed.) My list goes on. It was humbling at first, but it later became nothing but a relief.

    15. Diatryma*

      In a similar situation, I volunteered with a charity shop that had given job training to some of my students. I knew the work– hang shirts, tag shirts, put shirts on sales floor– and they knew me. Three days a week, I’d go in, hang-tag-floor shirts or pants or whatever, have a coffee in the break room, and go home. It worked because it was structure and because it was a clear physical objective task; much of the rest of my to-do list were subjective or endless or intangible and I needed the visible ‘you did three racks of shirts, holy wow, that’s a lot’ reminder.

      You can find a structure that is also relaxing.

  27. I hate public speaking*

    So as my name says – I hate public speaking. I’m trying to improve so I can get to a state where I find it tolerable and not super scary. My manager is aware of this and they’re working on opportunities for me to practise.

    We have a super important presentation coming up which I’ll be part of for the first time. Given this (+ the fact that it’s scheduled for really late in my timezone) my manager’s offered to cover for me. This is probably a silly question, but will I look bad if I take my boss up on their offer? There’s going to be around 70 people listening, and the thought of it is stressing me out! On the plus side, I’ll probably speak for 5 minutes tops – but that suddenly seems like a really long time…

    Also, any tips for getting better at public speaking? Thanks for reading!

        1. toastess with the mostess*

          Yes, Toastmasters can be a bit scary and intimidating for some folks at first, but clubs are generally welcoming and friendly and will ease you in. Most of the ones around me are still meeting online, and love visitors, so it’s easier to try out a meeting to see if you like it.

          Depending on your area, you can try a couple of clubs to see which one works best for you, you can search on their website for local groups and meeting times.

          Good luck!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I had really good public-speaking lessons when I was a teen, and I’ve trained others (in college & post-college).

      A few pieces of info that you might need to really internalize well:
      1) You are speaking because you are the expert – if everybody else knew what you were going to say, then there’d be no need to have a presentation.

      2) You will be surprised how quickly you get through your 5 minutes. 5 minutes is 3 powerpoint slides. It’s not even a full page of text.

      3) Slow. Down. See point #1. Since you’re the expert, and you know this stuff, you need to slow down so that your audience can absorb it. And slowing down gives you time to breathe and to make eye contact, and it will help prevent you from tripping over your tongue.

      1. Rick T*

        For your 3-ish slides select memorable images with no more than 5 words on each. Your slides are memory aids, YOU are the presentation.

        Don’t have paragraphs of text for you to read aloud, that just annoys the audience…. If they need technical details send out a handout after the event.

        Good luck!

    2. SomebodyElse*

      1st practice alone saying the words you are going to say outloud. That seems like obvious advice, but I’ve caught myself ‘practicing’ in my own head.

      2nd either find a buddy or video yourself speaking through your presentation without stopping. It’s cheating if you stumble and say “oh, um let me redo that part”

      Keep doing this until you feel comfortable with the content. Your goal for this 5 min presentation isn’t to be spectacular, your goal is to deliver content and get practice with public speaking. It’s ok if you you aren’t the best this time there are plenty of not great public speakers who get the job done and are working on getting better.

      1. Don’t Cry Out Loud*

        Yes. Practice your presentation out loud. Several times. Really helps

      2. MissCoco*

        This is great advice, I’d just like to add a rule that’s important to me with this type of rehearsal:
        it’s cheating if you say “oh, um let me redo that”, but it is NOT cheating to say “oh, um” and then keep on going, or take a 3 second awkward pause “. . . . . as I was saying,” and keep going, or mis-speak and say “not X, I meant Y”

        Having some stock phrases in your back pocket for those little slip ups can be reassuring, and practice working through your flubs is also helpful.

      3. CatMintCat*

        I teach debating and public speaking to 10-12 year olds and practise to an audience of some sort is the key. Parents, siblings, the cat, the dog, go out in the paddock and entertain the sheep (farm kids) or, if all else fails, to yourself in the mirror. But practise, practise, practise!

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you’re only presenting information for a couple minutes, rather than a dialogue or Q&A or a longer presentation, I find that works best for me is just to write out what I want to say, practice reading it aloud a few times to tweak it a bit so it doesn’t necessarily sound QUITE as formal as written language can, and then pretty much just read it verbatim. This is easier in a virtual presentation where you can put your script on your screen right below your webcam almost like a teleprompter, and I’m not sure whether yours is virtual or not? Any rate, it lets me put in pauses for breath (either by typing in “[breathe]” or even just double space between sentences if you’re worried that you’d actually read off “breathe”), and if I’m cuing slide changes either by myself or by a third part, I can make sure I include a “slide please” prompt where appropriate.

    4. Artemesia*

      I was crazy nervous when I first needed to speak before large groups — and by the end of my career, it was something I could do with little or no notice easily.

      Practice in the shower and car. AND try to focus on the audience and what they need to know rather than on your feelings. Easier said than done, but critical. WHAT do they need to know. Identify 2 or 3 points you will make and organize around that and think about how those points will be useful to them — what do THEY need to hear. The more you can focus on their need instead of yourself the easier it gets. I always work from lists/outlines and not written out speeches. It is easier to speak naturally this way.

      good luck — it really is something that gets better with practice.

    5. Donkey Hotey*

      1 – Practice out loud, not just imagining it. String the words out in your mouth.
      2 – Record yourself and listen to it. You’ll notice things about your speaking patterns when you hear it.
      3 – Practice with a friend.
      4 – Whatever you do, don’t do like the person awhile back who took a couple swigs of vodka right before the speech.
      Good luck!

    6. allathian*

      Public speaking is one of my least favorite things to do and I’m glad I don’t have to do it very often in my current job, apart from team meetings and town hall stuff that isn’t a problem if I’m asking rather than answering a question.

      Back when I was an account manager for a company that did customer surveys, I was quite nervous but did reasonably well because I *really* knew the material. I rehearsed my presentations, sure, but it helped to know that the audience was paying good money to hear the results I presented.

    7. More Coffee Please*

      I don’t think it looks bad to take your boss up on the offer to cover for you, especially given the time zone issue. Just don’t make it a habit. You could always clarify with something like, “Given that it will be 10 PM for me, that would be great. In the future though, I’m looking forward to getting more comfortable with these types of presentations.”

    8. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think you should try to power through it. You’ll feel SO GOOD that you were able to do your 5 minutes, and that will make the next speaking opportunity easier.

      Don’t forget to breathe, and don’t forget that the audience is just people. If it’s appropriate, smile at them. Mean it when you say “It’s good to be here” or “Thank you for having me.” Your first job is to communicate your information clearly and concisely — no one will ever criticize you for running too short! Make sure they know how to communicate with you if they have questions. It’ll be fine! I promise!

    9. JP*

      I don’t want to be negative, but it truly does depend on why you’re nervous. There are the nerves that everyone has about speaking in public, and then there are undiagnosed anxiety disorders and, if you have the second thing, forcing yourself to speak in public will do more harm than good. You have to use your judgement and do what’s right for you.

      If it’s just regular nerves, though, it can help to think about why you want to do the public speaking — because it’s going to advance your career, or because you want to be part of the discussion, etc, and then look at the speech as an opportunity to learn and get better, knowing that, even if it doesn’t go great, the experience you gain will make the next speech after go better.

  28. ThatGirl*

    Can we talk about summer Fridays/summer hours? How do your companies handle them, if they’re offered? I ask because my new job just sent out an email about ours and it really reads like they don’t want us to do it every week. Which is totally counter to the two other places I’ve worked that offered them and it annoys me.

    1. HRArwy*

      My company is that one Friday’s you can leave by 2:00 PM EST as long as you have a buddy cover for you. So it alternates week by week.

    2. JillianNicola*

      My job does! How they do it, is every third Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day you can take a half day, but you don’t exactly get to choose the days. They split all the summer Fridays into three groups, and you signed with with which group was your first, second, third choice. Then they placed you accordingly. Basically, because we work with clients, we can’t all not be in the office on Fridays lol. It worked out perfect for me because I get a half day the weekend of the 4th and the weekend of a convention I go to every year. This is the first time I’ve been offered something like this, and coming from retail where they never want you to take any time off ever, this is a gigantic perk for me. I suppose it would be annoying if other companies did every week, but grass is greener etc etc.

      1. JillianNicola*

        Should also comment in light of other comments in this thread – my company pays for this time! We put it in as PTO (separate from our normal PTO; it’s company time that’s literally labeled Summer Hours). It wouldn’t feel like a perk if I had to make up the hours Mon-Thurs??

        1. This Old House*

          At my first job, we didn’t have to make it up. I honestly felt like I was getting ripped off that that’s a requirement at this job, but it seems to be the norm. Definitely makes it not worth it, though! (You don’t even get to choose how you make up the hours M-Th – it’s an 8-6 schedule, and given how hard it is for me to get to work by 9, 8’s never going to happen. And given how hard it is to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour when I work until 5, 6 is never going to happen. So I work Fridays.)

    3. I'm that guy*

      From Memorial Day through Labor Day we can leave/log off at noon on Fridays if we’ve put in an extra hour Mon-Thurs. I usually don’t take summer hours so that I can have 4 hours on Friday to catch up with paperwork, training, and other things that I can’t get done when I am in meetings and responding to requests.

      1. Lyudie*

        I used to work at Large Tech Co You’ve Heard Of and they did it this way, but it was semi-mandatory…they turned the A/C off at noon sharp on Friday haha. It was so popular they kept it year round after the second summer, I don’t know if they still do it or not.

    4. ThatGirl*

      For the record, what I’ve had at previous jobs is that everyone can take a half-day off on Fridays, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, provided they make up those 4 hours or so Mon-Thurs, with details worked out with your manager, and with the usual caveats that work needs to get done either way. I didn’t realize there were many variations on this, but what is bugging me most about the email we got this week is that it’s just not clear – it’s not spelled out how often we should take advantage of it, whether it should be every week or every other week or once a month or…??? And I really value clear communication and policies.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I did ask my manager for clarification; she hasn’t given it yet. But in the meantime I was curious about other companies’ practices.

    5. The Original K.*

      I worked somewhere where you added an hour Monday – Thursday and everyone got to leave at noon every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. My then-roommate worked (she still works there!) for a rival company that did the same added M- Th hour but employees get every other Friday off. At both companies, it wasn’t really given as an option – I mean, you certainly COULD work a full day or on your day off on summer Fridays, but no one expected you to and the vast majority of people took them. The communication about it was basically “summer hours start next week, here’s how they work,” and your boss would go over it in the first meeting your team had after that announcement went out.

      I worked somewhere as a freelancer later that tried to implement a summer hours policy, apparently in response to an employee survey that expressed extreme dissatisfaction about … a lot of things, but they so clearly did not want to do it and it came through in all the communication about it. It was unnecessarily complicated and the communication was like “If you must, here’s what happens. GOD, you people are demanding.” It did not go over well. If I recall correctly, they also started it well into the summer.

    6. This Old House*

      My current job you can take summer Fridays (every Friday, June-Aug), but only by increasing your hours M-Th so your weekly hours don’t change. It’s never been worth it to me – mornings and evenings with kids are chaotic enough without chopping an hour out of each 4 days/week. At my last job, everyone got 3 (or 4? I can’t remember) summer Fridays where you just got the day off and didn’t need to make up the time. It was a rotating schedule that you didn’t get to choose, although I think they asked for input early in the process so you could request certain days on or off if you had a preference. It was a small enough office to accommodate that.

    7. sundog*

      We can take half days every other Friday provided we make up the hours earlier in the week, i.e. work one extra hour M-Th and then leave at noon on Friday. We’re all salary so honestly it feels a little weird to have to “make up” time in that way.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, it felt like that where I was too – but on the flip side, a lot of us worked an extra hour sometimes anyway, so it didn’t really feel like much changed on those days.

    8. Llama Wrangler*

      I live in NYC, where I think summer Fridays are more expected. (When I asked my family about it who live in other east coast cities, they were surprised). Also, I work in education, so there’s more of an assumed down time over the summer.

      Current job everyone works a literal half day from July 1-Labor day with no expectation you’ll make up the hours. (This means people who usually clock in at 8:30am are clocking out at 12pm.) People really stick to it across the company.

      Previous job (at a university) summer Fridays ran from Memorial Day-Labor Day for non-union staff and usually the time off started at 3pm, though some years they started at 1pm. There was a little more expectation that you’d work later if you needed to for your work, but people pretty much managed themselves. Union staff (facilities, security, some admin, etc) had a different policy that I don’t remember.

    9. Llellayena*

      Extra hour Monday through Thursday then every other Friday off, half the office at a time. You have to opt in/out at the beginning of the summer so the person tracking timesheets/ billing doesn’t tear their hair out with things changing week to week. And you don’t get to pick which set of Fridays you get.

    10. T. Boone Pickens*

      I had two old clients of mine that were in insurance and had varying degrees of summer hours. One client it was a Memorial Day through Labor Day where everyone knocked off at 1pm on Fridays and you still got paid for a 40 hour work week. They had a reputation as a real ‘nose to the grindstone’ type environment with high turnover and brainstormed some idea on how to soften their image and this is what they came up with. It was very popular and did help boost up morale quite a bit.

      My other client had tremendously good benefits but was below market on compensation and had a pretty stodgy work environment (think dated interior, older equipment, etc). They were getting killed on employee retention because they would hire more entry level folks who would in turn leave for better paying opportunities after getting some experience. They decided to make summer hours permanent and instituted a policy where everyone was allowed to leave at Noon on Fridays. I can’t remember how they worked it out for customer service coverage…I think they went to a rotating schedule with those roles and paid time and a half when you had to work or something like that. They ended up cutting their turnover rate by something like 50%. It was wildly successful.

    11. Sparkles McFadden*

      One job gave us the choice between leaving at 1:00 pm every Friday or taking every other Friday off. Some of us were branded as “essential” and we were told we could select random days off…which worked out better for me.

      One of my retirement jobs was a civil service position. They handled summer Fridays in this way: “Cut your Monday through Thursday lunch down to 45 minutes and skip lunch entirely on Friday and you can leave two hours early…but everyone needs to volunteer to stay to the regular schedule for two Fridays and do everyone else’s work during those two hours.” I found this to be crazy. I volunteered to stay the first two Fridays…and then kept to my regular schedule for the rest of the summer. I couldn’t be bothered with all of the clock watching.

    12. This Old House*

      These comments about mandatory/essentially mandatory summer hours, including longer hours M-Th, are making me anxious. That seems like a “perk” that would have the potential to cost parents a fortune! Many daycares/after care programs charge more for “extended day” without necessarily having a part-time option that would allow you to not pay for Fridays or Friday afternoons.

    13. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      My company is particularly annoying in that full-time employees can make flexible arrangements for summer Fridays but if you’re a contractor like me, you can’t.

      1. anonymousse*

        I’ve worked at places where everybody got Friday afternoons off, staff were asked to make sure at least one person from each team was working since many people take the other half day to make it a full Friday off, and not to hog all the full Fridays off. It worked well.

        I’ve also worked places with various combinations of you can leave a little early every day or work 4 longer days but slightly shorter overall weekly hours and get one day off, some jobs all had to be the same day off, others let people choose planned out with the team so everyone was at least in the office together one day of the week and there was not a day with a whole team out.

        The half day option sucked when I had a ridiculous commute. By the time I got home, half of the extra half day was already gone, and commuting in for a half day just wasn’t worth it. It’s probably better now with everyone being more WFH friendly overall.

  29. Anxious Audit Ass*

    I just started my first salaried job, and I have a few questions about remote work/sick days. We have a generous PTO policy, which is great, but I always feel so awful for texting in the morning of to ask for sick leave. Obviously you never plan to be ill, but. I’ve taken 2 days of unplanned leave within a 5 month timespan, and I’m worried it looks bad. What would you say an appropriate amount of sick days to work days would be?

    In addition, my firm is great about flexibility with remote work. While I prefer to come to the office most days, there are times I’d rather stay at home. Normally, I try and schedule remote days in advance, but there are times, similar to sick days, when I wake up and just don’t feel like going in office. My manager has been ok with this, I’d say I normally work remote unexpectedly on Friday, a day most people in my office also work remote or leave early on. Does it look bad on me to ask to work remote last minute? I’ve probably done it twice since I’ve been working here, but there are also some days where I end up starting my day at the office and ending at home due to migraines from florescents, which I’m pretty transparent about.

    Thanks so much for any feedback, like I said, it’s my first job and I’m still learning how to navigate the office norms.

    1. ThatGirl*

      If you’re sick, you’re sick! I don’t think two times in 5 months is too much at all.

    2. LKW*

      Don’t feel bad about getting sick. It happens. If you have a chronic condition – then talk to your employer about accommodations. Otherwise, people wake up with headaches or get food poisoning. It happens to all of us. The world will continue without you for one day.

      As for remote work – try to plan your days in the office based on who else is going to be there and what meetings you have. On Friday take a look at your next week and determine which days you’ll be online nice and early because you don’t have to commute. It makes little sense to go into the office if no one else is there, or if you’re going but are just sitting at your desk alone, and every meeting you take is with people who are at home or another site.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      This advice will likely vary based on workplace, but you seem to be in a white collar office environment.

      1) Don’t ask for sick leave. Text/call/email your supervisor and tell them you’ll be out sick. Don’t give details unless asked (because of COVID). Right now, in COVID times 2 days in 5 months doesn’t feel excessive.

      2) Remote work – this is really a conversation you should have with your boss. Ask that person directly.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      Two sick days in five months is in no way excessive.

      I get where you are coming from and you may, in the future, work for a lunatic who says (as one of my bad bosses once did) “Get sick on your own time! Not company time!” But…when you’re sick, you’re sick. Take your sick day and stay home. I had hope the pandemic would normalize the idea of staying home when you’re sick but probably not.

      With a chronic condition where you could WFH, discuss what’s best with your boss. Most (decent) bosses would rather accommodate your request and have the work getting done.

    5. SnappinTerrapin*

      I agree that 2 days in 5 months is not excessive.

      While our culture is clearly evolving on this point, I still have a strong bias toward actual vocal conversations about “calling in sick.” There is too much risk, in my opinion, in relying on text or email.

      I feel the same way whether I’m the person calling in sick or the supervisor who has to arrange coverage.

      But I also strongly believe adults shouldn’t have to “ask” for sick leave. If you’re sick, just say so, and let your boss make whatever arrangements are necessary. We rarely have the option of “scheduling” our illnesses. They happen on their own schedule, not ours.

      1. CatMintCat*

        My boss says “until you have actually spoken to me, you haven’t called in sick”. He has a family and has busy mornings just like all of us. He often misses a text message or voicemail, so you keep trying until he picks up.

    6. CM*

      Ask your manager these questions! They should understand that you’re new to the workplace and still figuring out norms.

  30. PX*

    Product manager/product owner interviews – what kind of questions or exercises have you come across? I was promoted into my last PM job, but now that I’m specifically job hunting for it – it seems like there is huge variation across the board with what kind of tasks/roles/questions people talk about/expect for this role. I joined the Product Management subreddit and was really surprised by the kind of things that came up (so much talk about APIs!). I feel like I was good at my last job and enjoyed most of the tasks (understanding users, roadmaps, feature definition, collaborating with UX/software devs etc) but I’m sliiiightly second guessing myself now :/

    So any common themes that people have found during interviews? Bonus points for UK and/or more consultancy based environments.

    1. Cookies for Breakfast*

      I’m in the UK, also promoted in my current role, and also job hunting. I’m not senior and don’t have a technical background, so take this with a pinch of salt :)

      I had two interviews for PM roles so far. On the first one, I didn’t make it farther than an initial screen with the hiring manager, and their feedback was I had good core product knowledge but not enough UX experience. On the second one, which also happened to be in my dream industry, I progressed to a second stage interview (after which the company ghosted me and reposted the ad, how kind!).

      I feel the Product Management subreddit can get very deep into technical debates, or discussions about the PM role’s enterpreneurial / commercial aspects. I wonder if part of it is because lots of posters are US-based, and the roles are different overseas? My interviews focused on things like who my team and my stakeholders are, how we manage conflicting priorities, what my thoughts are on MVP, how I collaborate with designers, how I collect and implement user feedback, and similar topics. I didn’t find those questions particularly challenging, though I made a point to answer them honestly, and it must have shown I currently work in an environment that lacks both process and opportunities to learn.

      I was also never asked to do an exercise. The only interviews that required that were for project manager jobs. But again, I’m as junior a product person as they come, and the jobs I applied to that would have involved more specialised interviews were probably also those that rejected me without a second thought.

      I’d love to learn more about your job hunting experience, because I have trouble to defining what roles / environments I’d be a good fit for, and don’t know anyone else going through this in the UK. How are you going about finding jobs to apply to, or deciding something’s worth applying for?

      1. PX*

        Ooh thanks so much for your feedback, thats super helpful. And glad I’m not the only one who thinks that the subreddit definitely skews one way!

        In terms of finding roles to apply for, its honestly just a lot of LinkedIn/Glassdoor searching and also trying to think of industries/companies I’d like to work for that seem like a good fit and checking their websites. I’ve also found there seem to be a fair amount of recruitment companies that focus on this area so I’ve sent in my CV for consideration to a couple of places as well (check out Futureheads/Consortia/Adlib/Oscar Tech (the last one has some interesting roles but seem a bit spammy)).

        In terms of what to apply for, salary is a definite consideration (currently underpaid a fair amount for what I could get). I’ve also been burned by working at a company that dont know much about software development and am definitely keen to make sure I work in places that have some experience of agile, and have a good idea of what they want a PM to be. I see some ads where the description focuses a lot on writing user stories or UX (like you found) and to me, that says they dont have a big enough team or know what a PM should do (which to me is strategy, feature development, roadmaps, prioritization, customer focus, and then reviewing all the stuff a business analyst or UX designer comes up with). Ideally I’m also trying to do it in industries where I’d actually be interested in the product I’m working on – there have definitely been some jobs I’ve looked at and gone…nah, I dont think I could ever get excited about [industry X or niche topic Y].

        I have my first interview coming up and I’ve been told there will be an exercise geared around prioritization, and if I make it to the 2nd round there will be another task as well – so if I get that far I will report back!

        1. Cookies For Breakfast*

          Thank you, I really appreciate your tips! Sounds like we’re searching in similar ways, and it’s great to have a few recruiter names (I gave up looking for jobs on Reed – I never heard back about a single one). I was worried you’d say it’s all about networking, because I don’t know anyone who could help me job hunt.

          Your comment on looking for companies that structure the role properly makes so much sense. Though I’m sure it’s also what’s burning me, because my company has me doing probably 10% product and 90% tech support and training (aka my old job). Writing user stories is the most exciting part, that’s one of few things I do that make me feel I’m worth my title.

          Good luck on your interview, hope it’s a great fit or at least good learning for the next one!

    2. Another Product Manager*

      Hi PX – I have hired product managers and interviewed for PM roles myself. I’m in the US and not a technical PM.
      Exercises for PM candidates I have asked them to complete vary based on the level of the role and their experience.

      For someone fairly junior in their career, I’ve asked them to do a prioritization exercise. Give them a list of potential features and ask how they would prioritize them. I don’t necessarily care about what order they put them in but about the questions they ask during the process. For example – what are the short term / long term goals for the product?

      For a more experienced PM I’ll give a case study and ask them to present their approach for how they will research solutions. I have also asked them to present a product / feature they have delivered and walk us through the different phases.
      If you’re not already reading Mind the Product you may find useful info there. They are based in the UK and have a lot of great PM content. There’s also a group on LinkedIn called the Accidental Product Manager. There are lots of us that came to PM through a roundabout way. Good luck with your search!

  31. FedUp*

    I work for a small company – 8 employees total – that has been remote for the duration of the pandemic. The nature of our work is such that everyone can work remote fairly easily; however, many of us are eager to get back into the office for all of the intangible benefits that being together in person offers. The owner has handled the pandemic well in my opinion, and no one is being pressured to come back in before they are ready.

    All but two of us are fully vaccinated – which is where the issue lies. One (we will call her Jane) cannot get vaccinated for legit medical reasons; the other (let’s call her Sue) refuses to get vaccinated for all the reasons you are hearing from anti-vaxxers – it is too new, don’t trust the government, my body/my choice… etc etc. Both very much want to be back in the office, but Jane (understandably) is not comfortable being there with Sue, even if they were both to wear masks (Sue also does not believe in masks, so it is questionable how much she’d actually comply). Personally I feel like Sue should be the one to stay home (her job can be done fully remote) since she is the one choosing to not get vaccinated; I don’t think Jane should be “punished” and essentially not able to be in the office simply because Sue won’t get vaccinated. The owner has been wringing her hands trying to figure out how to handle it, as she says she “doesn’t want to upset either Jane or Sue.”

    1. WellRed*

      I have zero f**ks for people like Sue. Sue has a choice, Sue has made her choice, Sue gets to live with the consequences.

      1. FedUp*

        That is my feeling as well. My boss (who I typically think is great) is trying to figure out a way to “fair” to both of them, and it is making me (and several other co-workers) furious that she is even considering accommodating her nonsense. I think she is leaning towards having Jane come in some days and Sue the others. Which perhaps if BOTH had medical reasons for not getting vaccinated would be the most fair way to handle. But in this situation Sue has made a choice that Jane is unable to make.

        1. LKW*

          There is no fair here. Jane has to deal with the unfairness of having medical issues. She shouldn’t have to deal with Sue’s lack of compassion and potential threat to Jane’s well being.

        2. Observer*

          Well, if your boss is really thinking about fairness, it’s simple. Everyone needs to get vaccinated. The ONLY exceptions are for legitimate, documented medical reasons. Everyone else stays home.

          That’s fair. It’s the same rule for everyone. You make exceptions ONLY for the people who CANNOT follow the rule.

      2. StellaBella*

        Same. Company policy can be to enforce vaccibes to protect all I think if it is a private firm ( not 100% sure ) so can this be discussed? Esp if another employee would be endangered.

      3. JelloStapler*

        Same. These are the people who just don’t want to do anything to help anybody else because it might inconvenience themselves.

      4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Agreed. We shouldn’t have to tiptoe around anti-vaxxers and people who don’t believe in masks. This is a public health crisis and these people have been part of the problem. Enough already.

    2. Pippa K*

      I would be delighted to be brought in on a consulting basis, entirely pro bono, to save the boss the discomfort and stress of handling Sue. Sue would work from home and Sue would be given to understand that she would not return to the office until she was no longer putting her colleagues at risk. At no extra charge, I would be happy to do this firmly enough to leave a little scorched mark where Sue had been standing.

      WellRed is exactly right. Here is Sue’s choice, and here are the reasonable consequences.

    3. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

      I say quietly give Jane the choice and see if she prefers to be in the office without Sue or at home. From there, let Sue know if she’s permitted in the office accordingly (without blaming on Jane).

      1. FedUp*

        Jane definitely wants to be in the office, but not with unvaccinated/Covid-minimizing Sue

        1. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

          Then 100000%, office policy = unvax coworkers stay home unless medically exempt. Up to you whether you want to require documentation; I think either way is valid.

    4. Double A*

      How is this even a challenging choice? Your boss can make a policy– in office workers must be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. Bam. Done.

      If Sue doesn’t like the side effects of her choice, she can make a different one.

        1. Observer*

          No competent doctor is signing off that Sue cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.

          1. FedUp*

            I would not put it past Sue to try this — but unfortunately for her she has been making a LOT of noise of about not WANTING the vaccine from a “personal choice”/”Covid not a big deal” standpoint, and zero mention of not being ABLE to get the vaccine. So if she does show up with a doctor’s note, everyone will know she is full of it.

    5. PollyQ*

      Not wanting to upset people is OK as a general goal, but it can’t be the absolute deciding factor when making a business call.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I’d say the hell with it and fire Sue. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a real manager.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Sue is a vector for everyone in your company not just Jane. The vaccines are great but not 100%, and not everyone’s immune system will respond to it perfectly. An elderly family member may not be fully protected, or a family member on immunosuppressants. Children under 12 are not even eligible for vaccine yet. And a kid 12-16 who got vax#1 on day 1 of eligibility won’the be “fully marinated” until mid June.
      All of this is a recipe for variants.
      Keep Sue home. Not Jane.

  32. WellRed*

    On the subject of return to office: Did anyone else read the article with the Saks CEO who not only wants them back in the office, he’s making it completely open (he still has an office of course) with get this: communal round tables for everyone to sit it. That’s right, let’s make it even worse.

    1. Twisted Lion*

      Basically my work this week. They have scheduled 100% return even though our larger organization says stay at 40%.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Some people get their jollies by making thing things worse for the people who work for them or with them. There’s a special place in hell reserved for those people.

  33. Lucille B.*

    This came up in another thread and I’m curious enough to get more input here. As the person in charge of selecting office space and paying rent/budgeting, I’m curious how many people who want a hybrid schedule are willing to give up an individual desk for it. I remember hotdesking being loathed in the before times, and it just seems like it would be even worse now with the shared surface germs. So, hybrid-promoters, what are your thoughts on hotdesks now?

    1. WellRed*

      We are going to this, downsizing office with hot desking. I will be wiping down surfaces.

      1. WellRed*

        To clarify, I’m just into the idea of wiping down surfaces to prevent transmission of colds, etc.

        1. Artemesia*

          A few years ago my software developer son told us he had cut his colds by two thirds by teaching himself to not touch his face, wiping down keyboards and washing his hands after public transport. We started assiduously doing the same (we ride the bus a lot) and so we always immediately washed hands when arriving at a restaurant or home — and it worked. (alcohol gel is a good short stop but it is not effective against norovirus, so hand washing is still best). This all became a good habit with COVID.

          COVID is primarily airborne — yes cleaning surfaces is wise — there is no zero risk there, but the risk is sitting in shared space with other unmasked people.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I’ve gotten over the surface-germ thing. In regards to Covid, it turns out not to be a significant vector. And I think we’re all more comfortable taking extra time to wash our hands and clean our workspaces, and I expect that to continue.

      Most of what I’d be touching would be my laptop, coffee cup, etc – and those aren’t going to be shared, are they?

      Give me a small rolling cabinet to put my stuff in, and make sure that we’ve got good chairs throughout the office, and I’d be just fine with hot-desking.

      1. FedUp*

        Same. As someone who can be rather messy, hot desking would be GOOD for me…as I’d be forced to pick up after myself every day and not let clutter accumulate :)

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        It’s only not significant in that most places have far worse transmission via airborne method. Places where it’s under control like NZ still track and find surface-transmission cases.

          1. Sc@rlettNZ*

            Yeah, I’d be interested in that too. I’m in NZ and I don’t recall any cases where it’s been confirmed as surface transmission (there have been a couple of cases a while ago where the cause wasn’t immediately apparent. One they ended up putting down to air transmission in an isolation hotel corridor and I can’t recall what happened with the other case. That was a community transmission case where they couldn’t find the source).

    3. ThatGirl*

      We had this discussion as “back to work” talks were starting at my office, because the team has grown beyond what there’s currently space for. I basically said I really wanted a permanent desk, enough to be there at least 4 days a week, whereas one of my teammates was willing to give hers up because she’d prefer to primarily be WFH.

      My opinion on that might change if I had a dedicated workspace at home, but I don’t right now – I work from the couch or the kitchen table – and I like having a proper desk set up with space that’s really “mine” to personalize.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      My office was out of desks before the pandemic, and either hotdesking or actually packing in two per cubicle was being discussed. We already had some built-in smaller hotdesk setups that were being used full time.

      It’s worse now that we’ve taken on more people. I said I’d be OK with it if they provide little lockers/locked rolling small file cabinets/etc. to put our work stuff in, and let us have our own keyboard/mouse setups (because everyone likes their own).

      But they haven’t figured out how to deal with the “out of desks” problem quite yet so we don’t have any info on a projected return date, except for that it’s not now.

    5. MissGirl*

      My company has always had a flexible, hybrid workforce. For those of us who want to come into the office three or more days a week, you can have an assigned desk. The rest of us hot desk with a reservation system. Using the reservations system has been spotty, however.

      One thing that is necessary for me with hot desking is having an assigned locker where I can keep things like a charger, wipes, extra layer, and other stuff I don’t want to haul around.

      1. Has anyone in this family ever SEEN a chicken?*

        Does everyone have their own locker? My company is going towards a similar system, but the lockers are going to be day use only. This seems like a recipe for disaster. Not to mention that people who come in 2-3 days/week aren’t going to want to lug their laptop home every day.

    6. ATX*

      I would be okay with a hot desk if it were not in an open office space. For example, our office has cubicles that are pretty secluded, the walls are 5 feet high except for one side where the entrance is.

      I would only agree to a set-up like that where I’d give up my desk if the desk I returned to was secluded like that, and not open and right next to people. If it were in an open space, I’d find an area like the cafe, lounge, or somewhere else to work. I hate working right next to someone :)

      1. Has anyone in this family ever SEEN a chicken?*

        Same. My appetite for hot desking would depend on what each station looks like. The more privacy, the better. Also, there better be 2 monitors! And a relative uniformity among stations so there are no “good” and “bad” desk delineations.

    7. ratatatcat*

      I know someone who pre-pandemic was fulltime in the office hotdesking, and I would absolutely hate that. I think a lot of people still think of hotdesking in those terms – but with a hybrid schedule the whole point is not being in the office so much. If I was mostly wfh and only going in, say, 2 days a week… at that point I think there’s not so much of an attachment to the office compared to because one is no longer spending the vast majority of waking hours there.

    8. Sit in Syrup*

      Hot desking wouldn’t be my first choice, but I am more open to it now than I ever would have been pre-pandemic. If that’s the price I pay for teleworking part-time / most-time, I think it’s fair. Having a locker or locked drawer to keep some supplies would help (big enough for a laptop – it’s nice to leave it at work if I’m working a few days in a row).

    9. ShysterB*

      My firm was in the midst of renegotiating its office lease when the shutdown occurred, and ultimately reached a deal that gives it the right to give back up to 50% of its space over the next few years. We’ve had multiple surveys over the past few months asking people if they would be willing, in exchange for a largely WFH arrangement, to give up a permanent office/desk and/or agree to use only internal offices without windows on the few days in the office. I couldn’t have answered YES YES YES fast enough.

    10. AndersonDarling*

      I think it comes down to how much time I expect to be in the office. ie, if I’m at home 3 days a week, then my home is my real office. If I’m in the office 3 days a week, then I expect that to be my permanent office and to have a quality docking screen and workstation.
      I’m planning to only occasionally going into the office, so I don’t expect to have a cube, desk, or even a docking station.

    11. pancakes*

      It’s not specific to hot-desking, but I want to recommend dedicated phone rooms. Small, relatively soundproof, and the doors should be glass or have windows so people can see whether the room is in use. It’s so much better for people to have a place to make the occasional call to their doctor, their kid, etc., than have them awkwardly hovering around conference rooms.

      1. new kid*

        oh my god, this! it’s been an issue in literally every office space I’ve worked in and the solution seems so simple/doesn’t even require much space (v. private offices/other potential solutions).

      2. The New Wanderer*

        We had those in one building and they were so useful. There were rules against using a privacy room as an office for the day, but you could go have a few hours of uninterrupted time to take a meeting or personal call away from the cube farm. The next building had an open floor plan and no privacy rooms, so people routinely stood in hallways or outside to get some semblance of privacy, which is not great. I have heard our return-to-office building will be hot desking and no privacy rooms, and with hybrid schedules there will still be a lot of online meetings and so much more noise in the office.

    12. Elenna*

      My office is going to hybrid, probably with hotdesking (haven’t heard anything for sure yet, we’re not going in until fall at the earliest so I doubt any firm decisions have been made). I’m reluctantly okay with it. Obviously I’d prefer to have my own desk (wouldn’t everyone?) but it’s perfectly reasonable that the company doesn’t want to pay for office space that will sit empty for the majority of the week. If you ask me to pick between hotdesking and going in 1-2 times a week, versus going into the office most of the time and having my own desk, I’ll pick the former every time.

      That being said, I’m not in the habit of having much on my desk besides a computer, the only things there before COVID were a notebook, a mug, and some papers that honestly could have been thrown out. And I don’t really care much about chair/mouse/keyboard setup, as long as the chairs aren’t terrible (which they aren’t). And I don’t get sick easily so I’m not too worried about surface germs, especially since we won’t be going in till after most people are vaccinated. So YMMV.

    13. TWW*

      I’d be ok with it if each desk had an array of large monitors and plenty of space to spread out.

      Touching shared surfaces would be a non-issue for me. Things and hands are easily cleaned.

    14. StressedButOkay*

      Yeah, my entire team has given up our offices in trade for full WFH. When we need to come in, we’ll be able to grab space. I used to hate, hate, haaaate the idea of hotdesking previously but that was when it was for every day (I have friends who never had a dedicated space and had to come into the office each day). Now when it’s just a few times a month, I’m okay with it.

      We’re being given lots of sanitary wipes and we bring our laptops in with us, so in regards to germs, we’re doing the best we can there.

      1. Has anyone in this family ever SEEN a chicken?*

        This is a really good point. Hot desking can be annoying when it’s 5 days/week, but it’s probably more tolerable when you have the flexibility to WFH most/half of the time.

        1. StressedButOkay*

          Oh yeah, the idea of not having ‘my’ space every day, especially during busy season when I need a door or a quiet space and can’t guarantee that? Full body shudder, no thanks. But a handful of times a month when I’m coming in mostly because of meetings, that’s more than okay.

          And it means I’m not taking up a dedicated office for someone who wants to be in more often.

    15. Anonymous Hippo*

      Personally, I want hybrid, but I wouldn’t give up a private space. I could deal with going back to a cube rather than having a private office, although that seems unlikely given my work needs, but a hot desking or even an open floor plan situation would be a definite deal breaker for me.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      Absolutely not; it would be a deal-breaker for me.

      I actually prefer to be in the office. Ideally, I want the flexibility to work from home during bad weather or minor illness. But I don’t want to share my desk or come in every day and not know where I’m going to be sitting. I want a space that’s mine.

      If I worked from home ALL the time and came in only to attend meetings, that would be different.

    17. Analyst Editor*

      I think if you’re coming in once a week, it is perfectly reasonable to have hot-desking, because corporate real estate is expensive, and then it’s basically storage for your random knickknacks. If germs are a concern, you can encourage people to wipe down, provide supplies, or include it as part of the regular cleaning routine (though that might be expensive for the company and people might not like having computers touched… so maybe not).

    18. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      What I’ve noticed with hotdesking in the past is that the desks are often too close together, not just for the prevention of germs but for being able to work without overhearing That One Guy’s phone calls.

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have been suggesting *shared* desks for some time. Assigned cubicle split between 2 people who will decide on a rational layout and treat the workspace as a true 5S shared space. (Everything returned to default at end of shift, wipe down at the end, agreed-upon use of storage, inbox, which wall is yours/mine to decorate, food policy, etc.) 2 days a week on-site plus alternating Fridays.
      The pandemic bonus is that it makes exposure tracking possible because people will still be in predictable spaces.
      True hot-desking would be a nightmare for so many reasons–imagine starting at 6am to get a quiet-area choice, and at 9, the loud-talker only has one choice left next to you.

  34. E*

    I just found myself using the phrase “Sure, there’s more than one way to skin a cat” in a reply to an auditor.

    Is that a weird or even inappropriate phrase to be using? It made perfect sense in context – we’d tried and failed to get one type of audit evidence, and he suggested seeking out quite a different one that had been used in the prior year. I was signalling agreement.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      It’s not weird, but it could be close to inappropriate? I don’t like that phrase because I love cats. It wouldn’t turn me off a coworker–and I certainly wouldn’t report it to HR or anything– but if they used it all the time, I suppose I’d ask them politely to stop. It’s not something I’d jump on the first time I heard it.

    2. Bucky Barnes*

      It’s common enough but I personally have been trying to move away from it because of the imagery.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I trained myself out of it by subbing in a vegetable. “More than one way to peel a potato.”

        1. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

          That’s a good one! I agree that there’s nothing wrong with the cat one (I wouldn’t blink twice), but why not swap it out with something totally innocuous, just on the off chance that it brings up some negative imagery or memory for someone.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Sometimes I get extra silly when it comes to cliches. “There’s more than one way to juggle a chicken.” My favorite one is not often work-appropriate, but I enjoy “Well, that one sure wasn’t the brightest knife (or sharpest light bulb) in the mixed metaphor.”

        2. RagingADHD*

          Substituting an unusual phrase for a common one attracts attention to the change. That might be what you want in some situations, and not others. Depending on context, there can be significant downsides to sounding twee.

          Like, I have one client I can think of off the top of my head, who would’nt even notice. One would notice and think it’s nice. And one with whom it would undermine my credibility to be so precious.

          Sometimes the best thing is either use an idiom, or say what it means “There’s more than one way to accomplish this,” rather than make up something new.

    3. JillianNicola*

      I’m probably going to be in the minority here but almost every single common phrase or idiom has a horrifying background. We’re a horrifying species, tbh. It’s nearly impossible to use any kind of language without someone somewhere coming up with a reason why you you shouldn’t. I say this all the time, I wouldn’t blink twice. But I do understand why it might upset some people. (Caveat: not applicable to any -ist imagery)

    4. LKW*

      If you don’t work for PETA – I think it’s fine. No one is actually recommending skinning a cat. You simply used a colloquialism.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As long as you’re not working in a Veterinarian’s office, I think you’re fine.

    6. RagingADHD*

      This is an extremely common and normal phrase to use. If you want to stop using it because you don’t like it, fine. But no reasonable person is going to consider it inappropriate for the office (unless you work at, like a vet or an animal rights charity).

    7. WFH with Cat*

      Personally, I no longer use that phrase, which I learned as a child and had to train myself to not use, because the imagery is kind of awful and could upset some people. (Including me, life-long cat lover.) Similarly, I’ve stopped “I could just shoot someone!” “I’m gonna nail his feet to the floor!” — which I think came up here in AAM recently? — and other similarly dramatic phrases that can conjure up violent images.

      I like the “potato” version Red Reader the Adulting Fairy offered. That’s a great substitution.

    8. Shorty*

      I find myself needing to express that sentiment rather frequently, and I’ve switched to “there’s more than one way to slice a pizza,” which conveys the same thought and isn’t icky.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        But… there isn’t more than one way to slice a pizza, unless you’re a monster cutting it into stripes…

          1. pancakes*

            Scissors are not uncommon in Rome and at Roman-style pizzerias, used for pizza al taglio. It works well!

    9. Sara without an H*

      I’m familiar with the expression, but maybe it’s a little old fashioned? I probably wouldn’t use it at work — we have a lot of passionate cat lovers here.

    10. MissCoco*

      More than one road to Timbuktu is pretty close
      6 of one, half dozen of the other is similar, but not quite right for your situation

      You could have some fun you like mixing your metaphors:
      “There’s more than one way to herd a cat”
      “There’s more than one way to burn bridges”
      “There’s more than one way to count your chickens”

    11. 30 yea*

      I think I would have said “I understand what you’re saying, that could be an alternative”. I’m not sure if you’re referring to financial or medical device/pharm auditing. You can give a form of agreement by saying “I understand” without saying “Yes”. In my experience in medical devices, saying yes can sometimes get you in trouble.

  35. anonon*

    I find that once I have been in a job for a year, I start to get bored. I will hit 2 years at my current job in September, and I like the position and it pays well enough, but I’ve always left prior jobs before the 2 year mark hits (because of boredom and restlessness). Is being bored a reason to look for a new job, or should I talk to my supervisor about finding ways to grow in my role? I have been working full-time for about 12 years and this boredom timeline has been an issue from my first full-time job, and in my last 5 prior jobs as well. Any advice would be much appreciated!

    1. ATX*

      I’m someone like you, bored pretty easily and always wanting something fresh. Both in professional and personal life. I’ve been at my current job for 3 years and I love it. I’m bored AF sometimes, but the job is great, my boss is awesome, pay is stellar, and I have a lot of flexibility.

      I do daily gratitude journals to help me with my boredom, being thankful for the things I have and not needing to jump around to more “exciting” things just because I’m bored. You never know what you’ll get when you go to a new company.

      I’ve also accepted that what I do at my work is less important than how I’m treated, the flexibility I have, and the salary + benefits. My work is not glamorous by any means, but I enjoy every other aspect. It took me a long time to accept that, I’m 33 now and had always struggled with it and job hopped every 1.5 – 2 years until 2018.

    2. Ronin*

      Actually (I’m the same as you) I’ve been able to create an interesting career in my industry (which is also well-paid) by being a consultant. My gigs are usually a year or 18 months, and every client and project is an interesting new opportunity so I continue to grow and stay interested in the work I’m doing.

      I realize people don’t really talk about that as a career path here, but it has been interesting and relevant to me in a way that my previous work slogging as a salaried employee was not.

      I highly encourage you to look into it if you’re someone who likes to continue learning (and don’t like all of the politics of being a salaried employee)

    3. irene adler*

      Speaking with your supervisor about ways to grow in the role will give management the “warm fuzzies” to think that you are serious about the company and want to stay there long-term.
      That’s a good thing!
      At worst, nothing will change. Then you’ll know it’s time to find a new position elsewhere.

    4. Artemesia*

      I was lucky to have a job where I could totally change what I do — at least 70% on my own initiative and so when I would get bored, I’d do a new research project, teach new courses, develop a new program, write a book etc — I was on about a 5 year cycle.

      Is there anyway you can see ways to do something different within your organization and approach your boss with some ideas for promotion or sideways moves to have ‘new challenges’ — tell her you are feeling stale in the position and would like to try Z or Y to meet some new challenges and contribute more to the organization. If you are interested in management, explore potential promotion tracks and maybe get some support for training in the necessary skills to move forward. Taking on a masters or technical training program in itself might change up what you are doing day by day and running things has its own variety of challenge.

      It is probably good for your career development and future to stick with something for 4 or 5 years and perhaps you can manage that by changing your role within the org.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I worked for a large corporation and I used to change departments every four or five years because I was ready to move on to something new. It’s stave off the boredom for a couple of years by taking on additional tasks and getting training when possible.

    6. allathian*

      Honestly, it’s going to start looking like you’re a job-hopper. Is there any way you could grow in your current environment or in your current job so that you won’t be bored?

      If all else fails, maybe try something that involves different projects all the time, like consulting? Or maybe temping, if you can find something beyond entry-level.

      I have a friend who’s like you, she gets bored very easily at her job. She’s become a change management consultant and her job is literally to go into a company that’s failing for whatever reason. She goes in, changes things so they return to profitability, and moves on. The longest she’s ever worked on a project is about 3 years.

  36. Jasmine*

    I’ve been SO unmotivated at work this week, and got very little done. The question is, do I log in one day over the weekend to try and catch up (in depth performance reviews for my team) or just draw a line under this week and resolve (probably futilely) to do better from now on?

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Can you maybe split the difference and on the weekend, do one single review? That might be enough of a little feeling of accomplishment to start Monday off better, and that way you’re also not slaving away on the weekend and resenting the time you’re spending on work.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Me too! I am going to set a timer for an hour on Saturday and see what I can get done. When I have an unproductive week it’s sometimes a sign that I need a break, so I don’t try to make it all up on the weekend.

    3. Ins mom*

      I’d suggest working on this on the weekend. For me, if I put it off it will be “one more damn thing “ all next week. Also if you are in US then next week winds down toward the Memorial Day weekend and you will either be in crunch time for month end or have preholiday give-a-cares

      1. llama costume designer*

        I’ve started taking breaks if I’m working late, so instead of working straight through, I’ll stop for dinner, maybe watch a tv show, take a nap, whatever, then go back and do a little more work. I’m able to WFH so this might not work as well from an office unless you don’t mind/are able to take work home.

  37. AnonymooseToday*

    My manager just gave their notice and while I’m happy for them, it feels like one more big question in my life right now. I live in an area with COL exploding (I know that’s everywhere right now), and rapidly coming to the point where my rent is getting out of control (and they’re partially renovating my apartment so it’ll probably be even worse when I need to renew my lease) and I can’t afford to upkeep a house on my salary alone and there’s rapidly becoming a lack of houses in my price range anyway. I’m single and have no desire for a random roommate in my mid-thirties.

    My previous manager was largely absent which meant I did pretty mediocre in my job, didn’t have a good rep with the unit supervisor or rest of the place, and didn’t get to grow. It wasn’t until my current manager who came on, did I really start getting better at my job because they trusted me enough to give me chances and different projects. And I’ve done great! And now everyone is saying I should apply for their job. Well I did last time and the unit supervisor basically told me I shouldn’t apply (without giving me a decent reason), did anyway, got an interview that wasn’t great cause it was my first internal one and I didn’t know how to treat it. And I was honestly okay with it because I decided I didn’t really want the job. I have the same feelings about the job, the unit supervisor is also a largely absent manager, doesn’t quite know how to delegate, so this position has a lot of autonomy, make it own, etc. I do better with structure, and I don’t know if I quite have the confidence (though I’m working on it) to do what needs to be done for the project mgmt aspect (definitely running inference with strong personalities in other depts) though I will say the unit supervisor does have your back when needed.

    Anyway just wanted to talk it through/vent. It would be a nice pay bump though not quite as much as I’m really looking for with my next job, but would help temporarily take away housing anxiety. And there are very few (maybe 3-4) jobs in the last 5+ years in my area I could apply for so it seems a little stupid not to apply for a job in an area I love and want to stay in. But also seems stupid to waste time when I don’t know if I can afford to live here much longer even maybe on the manager salary.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Apply. Applying doesn’t mean you will not make it nor does it mean you have to take it if you do get it. Study Alison’s advice about resumes and cover letters and interviews. It wouldn’t be a waste of time as it is something you will always be able to use. And this could be, if nothing else, good practice for future

  38. Confused Anon*

    Any advice for not taking things personally in a toxic environment, especially if people are bullies and like to push buttons? There is one guy that I work with and we have to interact, so I can’t avoid or distance myself from him. He loves to get a rise out of people and cause trouble, but it’s subtle so it’s nothing that you can go to the boss about without looking like a fool.

    They’re also very competitive socially- one woman brags about how she went out to lunch with some other coworkers. I don’t know them so I don’t care, but it’s just annoying.

    They also like teaming up with other people and give me a hard time. It’s sort of a pack-mentality type of thing, so I feel outnumbered.

    I get upset and fall for it *every* time, even if I try not to. I try to do the “observe them as if they’re a different species” thing, but it doesn’t always help. I’m just tired of going home upset/frustrated. I’m looking for a new position, but until then, any advice is much appreciated.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Can you turn it around mentally?

      The reason they’re picking on *you* is because you’re not an insecure, weak-willed, petty-minded jerk that they can rope into their circle. It’s really a compliment.

    2. moss*

      This is so hard. We are humans and we are wired to seek social approval so start with not beating yourself up for falling for it. They are the ones breaking the social contract not you.

      Can you develop a walking habit at lunch or during a coffee break to get yourself a mental reset?

      Hopefully you are looking for another job. Not everywhere is like this.

    3. Double A*

      Can you pretend you’re working in a sitcom? The anthropologist thing implies a kind of fascination with your subjects. Sitcom characters you can feel free to think of as absurd jerks who you just laugh at (keep the laugh track in your head).

    4. RagingADHD*

      Can you practice just not saying anything? Or a completely noncommittal noise like “huh” or “okay.”

      It takes awareness and impulse control, but you can learn them with practice.

      When I’m trying to change a habit, one way to stay aware of myself is to wear something mildly annoying, like a rubber band around my wrist. It’s the old “string around your finger” technique, but less obvious.

    5. Mill Miker*

      The interesting thing with people trying to get a rise out of you is that a well-executed counter-attack can look the same as letting it slide and being above it all.

      You’ve tried ignoring it, so maybe try channeling the frustration into pointedly ignoring it. Try and get a rise out of them with how unaffected you are. Don’t observe them as if they’re a different species, observe them as if they’re your opponent in a chess mach.

      If this bothers them enough that they want to complain, their own subtlety means that they can’t accuse you of anything without explaining exactly what they were doing and what how they were expecting you to react.