I’m earning less than someone who lied on their resume, difficult client will only deal with one of my employees, and more

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

1. I’m earning less than someone who lied on their resume

I am perturbed by the fact I have worked my butt off for the last 15 years to get to what my salary is, and someone I know lies on their resume (who just started working about 5 years ago) is making more than I. Does HR not check backgrounds anymore? Should I push harder? I can’t lie, it’s more of an accomplishment deal for me. How should I move forward? Is this what people do these days?

No, this isn’t what people do. This is what one unethical person did. You presumably value your own integrity and not having to live in fear of a lie coming out and torpedoing a job you’ve already been hired for (which is very much a thing that happens) more than that person does. You move forward by recognizing that there have always been people who lie and always will be, and that that’s something you choose not to do because those aren’t your values.

But also — even without lying, sometimes people with less work experience than you might be earning more. Sometimes it’s because they’ve schmoozed their way into a higher salary than their work deserves, but sometimes it’s because they’ve genuinely earned it. The thing is to make sure that you feel you’re being paid fairly and competitively for the work you’re doing. Ignore everyone else (barring situations like systemic discrimination, of course).

2. A difficult client will only deal with one of my employees

I manage a small team of customer service/account managers. I’m after some help navigating a tricky situation. I have a long-term client who is quite particular and has dealt with one of my employees for a few years now. Recently, I’ve brought a new employee on board and we decided to transition this account over to her. The client sent me a polite, but very stern email after about one week requesting to be put back in the original employee’s hands immediately. Now, nothing really happened to prompt this, the new employee hasn’t done anything wrong, and our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way that means she should be handled by the new employee.

I personally think it’s quite rude to demand someone be returned to your account, but I can’t see how I could refuse her either, which may be taken badly by my new employee!

I once asked to be moved to a different account rep when the one I’d been assigned was repeatedly misunderstanding requests and giving me information that was clearly wrong — and if I’d been told I had to stay with him, I would have taken my business somewhere else.

I don’t know what prompted your client’s request, but it’s not necessarily an unreasonable one. Before you conclude anything, you’ve got to find out what the concern is — either by talking to the client or reviewing the correspondence between the two of them or through whatever other means you have at your disposal. And then you’ve got to decide if the client’s business is valuable enough that you’re willing to move the account back to the previous person. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t — but if it’s a valuable account, sometimes you do things like that to keep an important client happy. (It’s also worth finding out what the previous rep’s secrets of success are with this account — maybe she’s just highly competent, but maybe she has certain approaches she uses that others could use too.)

Make the decision based on what makes sense for your business. And if you do move the client back to the old rep, be straightforward with the new hire about why. If this client is just picky and difficult and it’s not her fault, be honest about that. But if you find out that she wasn’t handling the account as well as the previous rep, explain that too — she’s new, so some of that is normal, and it makes sense not to saddle her with someone especially challenging while she’s still learning the job.

3. Handling things that aren’t my job when there are serious consequences if I don’t

I do some work as a court-appointed attorney for parents (and occasionally children) in child protection cases. The social services department in my county is, quite frankly, horrible. I frequently have to step in and take care of things that are (literally, legally!) their jobs. I’ve been doing this for about five years. It feels like their whole department has come the proverbial missing stair. Quite frankly, it’s burning me out.

I’ve tried pushing back and not doing it, but there are serious consequences when I don’t. For example, I’m not supposed to be in charge of finding placements for kids, but I historically have done so since nobody else will. However, the one time I pushed back and just didn’t help, a kid wound up sitting in juvie because “he was just too hard to place.” Needless to say, I wound up giving in and finding placement options. I’ve tried talking to the social services supervisor and the county attorney, and they just say that the social workers are “trying their best,” which seems uncredible since I’m able to find placements, services and resources without any of their tools. Do you have any ideas of what I could say or do to try and push back on this becoming my responsibility? I’m good at being assertive, I’m just not even sure what to say or try at this point.

Children’s service workers are notoriously overworked and under-resourced, so it’s possible that they’re genuinely stretched too thin to give individual cases the time and attention you can. In fact, having to triage resources in child protection cases is so common that I’d assume it’s happening here unless you have real evidence that it’s not — there literally may not be money to pay for the additional staffing they’d need to do a better job.

Readers who work in this field, do you have advice on concrete actions this letter-writer could take?

4. I don’t want to reconnect with a former coworker from a toxic job

I spent the past five years working in a toxic environment where I was completely miserable. I recently got a new job in the same field in a different state, and I am so much happier! Moving out of state was difficult but so worth it for my mental health.

However, I recently learned that a former colleague, Jane, will be moving to my city to start a job in my same field but with a different employer. It is a small and somewhat niche field, so our paths may cross even though we will not directly be working together. Jane and I were friendly at our old job, but I was privately not her biggest fan. She was very close with a high-up manager there (to the point where people thought they were having an affair), and he prioritized spending time with her over supervising his direct reports, including me, which caused my work to suffer. Thinking about having to see her just reminds me of the toxic and miserable workplace I was so anxious to get away from.

I am worried that when Jane moves here, she will reach out to get drinks or dinner. I moved jobs and cities to get a fresh start and really do not want any reminders of the job that made me so unhappy. Is there a polite way to blow Jane off without making it awkward if our paths cross professionally?

Yep — plead an overbooked schedule. As in, “My schedule is ridiculous and it’s hard to get anything new on my calendar right now. But if there’s anything you’re wondering about the new city, feel free to reach out and I can try to be helpful.” (If you don’t want to offer that last piece, you can change that sentence to, “But I hope you’re getting settled in and enjoying the new city! I really like Coffeeshop X and Restaurant Y.” The recommendations are optional, but including something of that sort helps soften the message so it’s a bit more than “I hope you shall never darken my path again.”)

5. Explaining why I’m staying remote without disclosing health information

The return to work after Covid has brought up a conundrum for me. I am vaccinated, but immunosuppressed with other major underlying conditions. I’m fortunate to have a job that I can do completely remotely and my boss has allowed me to do so indefinitely. My issue is that the rest of my office has started resuming in-person activities. Celebrations, lunches, etc. My company is not tracking vaccination numbers or asking for masking of unvaccinated employees, so I have opted out of any in-person events. However, my absence is being noticed by other employees. I am not forthcoming about my health problems and for various reasons have no desire to share this information beyond my immediate supervisor.

It is widely known that I have no children and if I claim to live with a family member who is immunocompromised it will just lead to questions about my spouse. The comments so far have been well-meaning and benign so far — “Hope to see you at [upcoming event],” “I look forward to getting together at [office celebration],” “Let’s meet up for lunch this week when I’m in the office.” I’ve been able to change the subject or use the phrase “I wish I could, but I’m still being careful.” But as time goes on I’m concerned this will become a perception problem that I’m not a team player. I am now the only employee opting out of in-person attendance at these events. It’s feeling more and more awkward and I’m getting the impression I’m being seen as antisocial and not wanting to join in on group activities, especially since I’m fairly high up in the company. There is one large event later this summer that I would normally be leading. Instead, I won’t even be attending.

I feel like my health information should be private, but I also think showing up as the only masked person and opting out of eating won’t be received well either. I am younger and appear healthy so medical concerns are not what people jump to. This feels like a rock and a hard place. How do you recommend I navigate this?

I get that you don’t want to disclose that this is health-related … but it’s by far the easiest way to handle it. You wouldn’t need to share any specifics; you’d just matter-of-factly say, “I have a health situation that means I need to stay remote for now.” You don’t need to provide details beyond that.

If you really don’t want to say that, you could stay very vague — “I’m staying permanently remote for now” — but you’re right that it risks becoming a perception problem. That’s especially true because you’re higher up; there’s a risk of it being seen as unfair, or as hypocritical if you’re involved in high-level decision-making in an office that’s bringing everyone else back. You don’t have to disclose that this is health-related, but you’ll likely get a much better outcome if people have a general sense of why you’re suddenly not there.

{ 397 comments… read them below }

  1. former oddit*

    #2 Client probably wants to deal with someone who already knows their business and not someone who might need context when things come up.

    1. allathian*

      Sounds likely, especially if they’re providing a service that’s customized to some degree by client. If it’s a more standard service where clients are provided more or less the same service, it’s less likely to be the case.

      Whatever the reason, the LW needs to know why the client prefers their old rep and if it’s worth catering to that preference. I mean, if the employee quit, would the client drop the company as a vendor?

      1. Artemesia*

        Important client; wants to stay with same rep. This is a no-brainer; the client gets what they want. Shift new clients or small clients to the new guy.

        1. former odd*

          Yep. We had clients we used to send our supervisor for fieldwork even though that’s junior’s job because the client wants them. If they’re willing to spend higher rates then let them spend but these are some instances where the customer is always right comes in.

        2. singlemaltgirl*

          exactly. we’d never just ‘shift’ important clients over without a good reason and a very specific transition plan. and if it doesn’t work for the client? we change it back immediately. there’s something missing from this letter i think that i’m just not getting.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I read it that either the accounts are being split on some logical division (size, geography, etc), or the first rep is getting new responsibilities (i.e. in preparation for a promotion).

          2. Coder von Frankenstein*

            What makes you think this is an important client? OP never said they were, just that they were “particular.”

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          The situation of LW2 was a pretty common one during my time in the tech industry. I was leading the team of tech support reps (engineers), who would only in absolutely exceptional cases be assigned to an account. But the professional services engineers sometimes were, and each account had an assigned account manager – or, for big ones, an account director + account manager team.

          Obviously fluctuations in business and staffing sometimes require reassignment, and a demanding client – and certainly a demanding high-value client – will totally most often get to stay with their preferred rep, if not every client is equally demanding. However, sometimes a change needs to happen sooner or later. For example, the assigned rep may be earmarked for a career development that would be incompatible with continuing to work with the client.

          It sounds like it here, something like “we agreed with Calpurnia at her lastest annual review that she would be focussing on further developing our business with Alpaca breeding accounts, and would be moving out of general camelid grooming. This is what she wants, and what the business needs, and she is getting a promotion to lead the effort.” For example. We might have an account manager who wants to be, and has been granted, a career ladder into project management for example. Or for that matter the rep might be getting their work roster rejiggered as a prep for going on maternity leave! And then there’s the general truth that we all know people aren’t in roles forever – if the customer would leave as soon as their rep becomes unavailable you want to do some damage control work and try to shift the customer’s attitude.

          So in this kind of situation, the relevant manager (could be the AD, could be the director overseeing client services) would make a meeting with the client to figure out what’s what. In a general tone of “we’d like to find out how meet your expectations so that you’re happy with your rep even when we undertake staffing reassignments, as will necessarily happen from time to time”. In fact, for difficulty or high value clients there would have been no reassignment without telling the client beforehand, and having some meetings with both old and new rep in attendance, with a full handover.

          1. Beatrice*

            For that situation, we generally communicate that the person has made a job change. “Calpurnia has been shifted to a different role with a focus on alpaca breeding – we agree that she is excellent, this is a growth opportunity that she has earned through her excellent work, and Alexis will be your point person on camelid grooming from now on.” Then details on a transition plan and assurances that Alexis has access to Calpurnia for questions, if that is true, and then we stand firm on the change unless the client has a camelid mange outbreak or a true emergency that really requires Calpurnia’s expertise – if that happens, Calpurnia might get involved again temporarily during crisis mode and then will be unavailable again as soon as possible afterward.

          2. OP#2*

            I’m the poster, just want to say thank you for your thoughtful response, it’s very helpful, especially the last paragraph. This actually happened a couple of weeks ago so I did end up making the switch back but left it open for review in the near future, so this will help me word the discussion I plan to have face to face in the future.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              From reading the responses (yours and others) there seems to be a general understanding that while you were ok on “good reason to make the change” you dropped the ball on “having a transition process, tailored to the client”. Good luck!

              (One thing that stood out to me, too, is that there is value in over-investing in smaller clients, to a degree. If you ever lose a large client your business is more resilient if you are cushioned by a healthy pipeline of smaller, loyal clients…)

        4. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This seems like a no-brainer, but OP does need to do their due diligence to figure out exactly what the situation is because if that rep leaves or gets hit by a bus, the client will need to work with someone new.

        5. Harper the Other One*

          I’d be careful about this, personally. Yes, to a certain degree what a big client wants they should get, but a rotation in who handles different client accounts can be beneficial for everyone – if it’s handled well. As one person elsewhere in this thread mentioned, the original employee might not be able to continue with the client forever: they might need leave, get a promotion, find a new job. And while a long-term client relationship has its advantages, it can also lead to blind spots on both sides, or unreasonable expectations on the employee’s time.

          For an important client who is already only dealing with one employee, working in partnership with both employees could be a good option, as could pointing out how the new employee could benefit the client (“Janice is new to us but has just finished a degree in left-handed widgets, which we think could be an exciting option for you…”)

          But mostly, I’m leery of any time a business’ internal decisions become controlled by an external client, because that can lead to some pretty major dysfunction or disaster when things can no longer go the client’s way.

          1. no phone calls, please*

            “but a rotation in who handles different client accounts can be beneficial for everyone”
            oh dear lord, PLEASE, NO. omg. We already have to deal with key vendor staff changes due to promotions and departures and we would be very unhappy to have additional changes for the sake of having a rotation. Humans / Reps aren’t uniform widgets and each change can have a significant impact.

            For a big vendor our request to be contacted by email except in emergency is *nothing* – a mere note in our customer record – but for us not receiving unnecessary check-in phone calls while we’re busy running the business is priceless and when we have an account manager who GETS THAT it sucks when we’re moved to another rep and have to start all over again.

            This example accurately reflects issues on the vendor end anyway that they can’t consistently handle this extremely basic request, but I’ve changed my strategy to *proactively* praising our account manager to the powers that be (at the vendor) and requesting that we not be reassigned (unless she left/ promoted obv). It’s worked so far!

        6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          It depends on if it’s an important client, doesn’t it? Based on the description I’d guess this one is more toward the “can’t we just fire her already?” end compared to the “we must not let her leave!” end.

          Unless the OP is totally incompetent at a assigning reps, which could be possible, they wouldn’t have given one of their best accounts to the new guy. Either she isn’t actually worth that much, or she’s so “quite particular” that nobody wants to work with her, or both.

          1. Nicotene*

            I wondered if the senior rep was trying to get away from this client, who may be a PITA. Always an awkward situation.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I watched that happen once – Rep used their maternity leave to transition a “special client” off to another rep (unfortunately me). It was supposed to be temporary – became a non-issue because the client blew up and rage quit when they couldn’t get their old rep (who day of blow up was at the hospital giving birth!).

              Client tried to slink back to us six months later when the company they moved to fired them. I was gone by that point, but they still didn’t get their original rep back because they had loved Mat leave so much they didn’t come back.

            2. Krabby*

              Lol, that was totally my read. Every time we rotated sales support staff like this in my last job, it was because one of our reps was absolutely done with one of their clients.

          2. Snailing*

            Yeah I’m an account manager (employee benefits) and it always seems to be that our smallest clients (and thus least amount of revenue) have the most demanding and finnicky admins who get really unpleasant if you try to change anything that their used to – who their AM is, a new process, a new regulation. It’s all somehow a personal offense!

            1. no phone calls, please*

              I’d argue that it’s likely because it’s the small clients who are balancing every aspect of the business with very few people, so every change is a disruptor. Handling an employee benefits procedural change when you have a HR department is a very different situation than when you’re in charge of literally everything.

              1. no phone calls, please*

                p.s. Perspective offering: small and medium sized companies serve as a cushion to help curb the leverage large companies have in the client relationship (the larger the percentage of your business they have the more you have to kowtow to their demands, so the more you can insulate that leverage by having 25 -40%? not-huge clients the more control you retain).

                This probably reads as being self-evident, but as a smaller client of several large companies it often feels like they lack this perspective (we do understand the power of the dollar and reality though).

          3. Observer*

            Unless the OP is totally incompetent at a assigning reps, which could be possible, they wouldn’t have given one of their best accounts to the new guy

            The thing is that the OP doesn’t seem to have even given a lot of thought to the issue of how clients might respond to a handover – not just in terms of this client, but in general. They say that they don’t want to move the client back because “our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way that means she should be handled by the new employee.” Which sounds like “This is what suits us, and we’re not thinking about how the clients will see this.”

            Now, it’s quite possible that the OP’s “strategic goals” really do mean that OldRep can’t take back the client, but then why would then say “ I can’t see how I could refuse her either“? And they indicate that they are not so worried about OldRep’s being able to manage the load as much as offending NewRep.

            The OP certainly needs to figure out what the clients wants and needs, before doing anything else.

            1. no phone calls, please*

              YES! THIS! “And they indicate that they are not so worried about OldRep’s being able to manage the load as much as offending NewRep. The OP certainly needs to figure out what the clients wants and needs, before doing anything else.”

              I was surprised about the primary focus being on NewRep’s feelings.

              1. OP#2*

                Hi, I’m the OP. NewRep is a brand new employee, we are in an industry that is difficult to hire people in. I want to have my staff’s back, and I don’t want her to leave so yes I do care about her feelings. The client, though important because we value all our clients, is a very small account. OldRep would have to give up other higher value /more profitable work (which I would then take on) in order to take this less “important” client back on.

            2. OP#2*

              Hi! I’m the OP, you’re right. The reason I was surprised at their reaction is because I actually transitioned this client from myself to her current rep about 2 years ago and it went great. After reading everyone’s comments I think this transition was handled badly by myself and needed more time/care to understand and anticipate her reaction.

              The client is a very small account for us so I certainly didn’t handle it the way I would’ve if it were one of our top clients, which isn’t how I want to operate. I’ve moved her back to OldRep and will revisit this in the future if possible. Thanks everyone for your input!

        7. Ray Gillette*

          Letter doesn’t actually say important, just long-standing and difficult. I’ve had a few difficult clients who would only deal with me, and they were never our most important ones. That’s not to say this client couldn’t also be important, but it could also just be a regular squeaky wheel situation.

          1. Anoni*

            It’s funny, because frequently it’s the clients who aren’t the heavy hitters or the ones who are actually the big money drivers for your business that demand the most appeasement.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              I can’t recall where I saw it but there was an article recently about how often it occurs where a few overly demanding clients can take up more than half of your time but only generate 10% of revenue. Such clients are a literal waste of time and end up costing you money. The best thing to do for your business in that case is to identify the clients that cost you more than than their business brings in and fire them.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            Or even just a client with unusual needs/applications.

            We’re the “difficult” client for some of our contractors simply because our operations are relatively complex, much more variable than industry standard, and fall into an unusual regulatory category. I often have to get things redone because the first time around they gave us something that we can’t legally use. This isn’t a problem with any specific service provider… it’s pretty consistent across the board.

            We’re a tricky client, I know it, and I don’t hold it against a company as long as they are responsive when I request corrections. But an account manager who’s familiar with our particular niche and can get it right on the first time? They’re worth their weight in gold.

        8. SansaStark*

          Yep. I was the new guy once in this situation and it was horrrrible. The new client NEVER liked me or gave me a chance to become their superstar account manager which eventually led to me getting fired. It wasn’t a service to them, their old account manager, or me.

        9. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The only caveat to this is if the Old Rep will be getting promoted or will be otherwise not available. In this case you need to talk to everyone involved and explain the changes, because sometimes customer reps move on – and changes must be made.

          (Oh, and Otherwise not Available can even mean that for whatever reason the old rep would like a break from “particular client.)

        10. kathy*

          Yes, this. I was an “important client” in a previous role, and I asked to switch sales reps a few times. Sometimes it was just style – sales person was too proactive in an annoying way. Sometimes it was because I needed support on a technical issue where one sales rep had more experience than another. It was never a reflection that the rep wasn’t good at his/her job, just not the right fit for me.

        11. OP#2*

          Hi I’m the posted of this, the client is actually one of our smaller clients. Not that the account isn’t important, but it’s much smaller than most of our accounts

        1. Zephy*

          Suppose you’re the client, and I’m your favorite rep.

          If I got hit by a bus and died and my company assigned your account to someone else, would that be “jerking you around”?
          If I got fired or quit or was promoted or otherwise still existed but didn’t do whatever service you hired my company for anymore, so they assigned your account to someone else, would that be “jerking you around”?
          No, because your business relationship is between you and my company, not me, specifically, the individual, unless I also own the company (and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case, here).

          Staffing changes happen. If you interpret “your account will now be handled by Jane instead of Tangerina” as being “jerked around,” you’re taking a business relationship way too personally and need to take a step back.

          1. Comms Associate*

            LMAO I don’t think anybody would argue that being transferred to a new rep because the old one got killed by a bus would be “jerking you around.” What a weird argument.

    2. Wendy*

      It can be a status thing, too – I was a client of one professional who was part of a larger company (think financial advisor or insurance agent). That professional had been in the business for many years. Without warning, they transferred my account to someone completely new and “building their client list.” I know I’m probably not their biggest client, but it would have been nice to be asked, you know? It felt like the original person shuffled off the accounts they didn’t want and I didn’t make the cut. I was just about to increase the amount of business I do with them, but they missed out. I had just resolved to use the new guy instead when the company moved me to someone new AGAIN and I decided to just go to a competitor :-/

      1. Wendy*

        (I should add: the original person wasn’t leaving the industry or retiring, either – they just slimmed their client list down.)

      2. Artemesia*

        When our financial guy retired they assigned to newbies ‘building their lists’ who literally didn’t listen and tried shoveling product at us that we had clearly indicated we don’t want to invest in like hedge funds and those faux tranches of garbage that they actually made a movie – the Big Short – about. We dropped the firm and went elsewhere. Treat your big important clients right.

        1. Beth*

          And ask your financial advisor what their succession plan is, to prevent this happening again. If they have no plan, or their plan doesn’t put the clients’ needs first, it may be time to start shopping again.

          My current firm is the first I’ve ever worked for that had a solid succession plan in place. The senior partners have indeed moved some of their clients to the younger generation staff — and every transition involved the old partner introducing the new advisor, sitting in on meetings, and making sure the client was satisfied. That’s the kind of service our clients are paying for, and if they don’t get it, that’s all the reason anyone needs to go elsewhere.

          1. Hillary*

            The firm I work with consciously focuses on succession planning, and they assign accounts taking timing into consideration. My parents have been working with the same guy for 20+ years, but they assigned me to the guy my age instead of my parents’ guy. At this rate I’ll probably retire well before my guy.

          2. Artemesia*

            This. Our current money manager has changed the people actually managing the account several times with changes at the firm, but they handle it so our concerns are always addressed — the new guy is not suddenly loading us up with the stuff we expressly have indicated we don’t want or to reduce the unreasonable amount of cash holdings I am comfortable with. When moving clients to new managers in any field, it is important to do it with thought and care. We are relatively small fish as these things go but they don’t treat us that way. One effect is that we have brought them a couple new clients.

      3. former odd*

        That sucks, but yeah too bad for them. On the other side though, it might be that the agent had moved on a higher rank and would not be able to deal with their customers directly like usual but with your point, yeah they should have at least addressed that with you first.

        1. TechWorker*

          Or they were massively burnt out from workload because the time clients needed from them had steadily increased…

    3. appo*

      This sounds likely.
      I was also wondering, how did you make the transition? Having someone new take your business can be draining so maybe there is something you can do in the future to make the transition smoother for the client. Anyhow, talk to the client and your emplyees to see what happened and see if there is anything to learn from it.

      1. appo*

        Just to clarify: there might be ways you communicate the transition to the clients or how you prepare the new emplyee to THESE spesific clients etc. Also, like someone above Said; which clients you move in the first place.

      2. Self Employed*

        I would be much more comfortable as a client if my existing rep introduced me to the new rep and we all talked about what’s unique about my business needs. If it seemed the new rep just didn’t get it, or didn’t click with me, of course I would want the option of keeping my existing rep if they were still in that role in the company for other clients.

      3. Snow Globe*

        In our organization (financial services), when there is an account manager change, there is generally a period of joint calling with the old and new account manager, in order to facilitate a clean hand-off. You don’t just tell the client “here is your new account manager”.

    4. QP-Client*

      When I read #2, I wondered if *I* was the “quite particular” client who was the subject. I wrote an email to a supervisor about being assigned to a new rep at the end of March, because the new rep was making a series of small errors that accumulated into a job quote that missed most of my specifications. As a client who has to balance the needs of my clients and the abilities of my vendors in order to meet project requirements, I absolutely have to trust my team of vendors to deliver to our established order specifications, and I don’t have an administrative cushion that can either absorb the mistakes of or follow up on corrections to vendor errors. I would have been fine with being transferred to a new rep — it wasn’t trying to keep a personal relationship with one rep active — but I couldn’t be the customer that the rep learned the basics of the job with.

      1. desktopper*

        Your last sentence makes a good point. I was also wondering why they’re transferring a “quite particular” client to a newcomer. Some accounts are meant for beginners and some are for tenured ones. The client saying they want the tenured one means that the account isn’t for beginners then.

        They should look into why the client is looking for the old rep, as was suggested, and be mindful in the future about switching reps and informing the client before the switch happens might help in addressing issues like this again.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, I wondered the same re: transferring a particular client to a newbie. Transitioning clients happens — people leave, workloads get to big, companies do internal shifts — but the handoff needs to be treated with care. You need to make sure you’re matching the right clients to your team members, and there needs to be continuity for the client. I work in an area that in no small part relies on relationship building and I have transferred some of the smaller clients to my staff — but I stagger it, starting with the more straightforward ones. I’ve retained the more complex, smaller clients until I’m confident my staff is ready to manage those relationships.

      2. NYWeasel*

        I know it’s not about me, as I haven’t switched reps, but it might as well be. We used to be staffed with internal support for the tasks our vendors now do, so I’m very clear on what is reasonable to expect for service. I’m very fair—for example, I know my external partners are in this to make a profit, and I don’t squeeze them on a project by project basis to keep cutting costs. But I also have a clear gold standard of service I expect, based on what I *know* is possible, and I have zero compunction pointing out where and how our partners need to improve. If a vendor suddenly switched me to an inexperienced rep with no transition period, I would be just like this client and tell them to switch me back immediately. I’m paying for their expertise, not funding their training program.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Well said. I’m going through this right now – got 95% of the way on contract negotiations with a vendor, and then they restructured their sales system. We were suddenly transferred to a new rep who is a complete goober and a very slow responder, and I’m being asked to re-do so much work to get this doofus up to speed. Argh! Learn about our business needs from the guy we used to have, not from us! We already explained this! Deciding today whether to go to a competitor.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      It sounds like there needs to be a strategy to how the account is shifted over. Clients don’t like being handed off to other people, particularly when they are happy with their current account manager and the business is complex.

      Personally, I would have introduced the client to the new person in the context of “we are cross-training people to ensure your business is always well served”, and would have started out by having both account managers on calls, splitting the work up between them, and gradually transitioning the old person out. Might have taken a couple of months, but would have been more palatable to the client.

      Focusing on what is best for the client is key – the real reason might be that the old account manager is moving on to bigger things, but it’s better to present the change in terms of making sure that the client is served in case someone is hit by a bus.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Right! I deal with a vendor ordering products pretty often. This someone I’ve known for years both personally and in business. It was odd when recently they started copying another associate on emails regarding my order, but they never explained who this person was. Then, the new person I’ve never been introduced to started emailing me about the order (still copying the familiar person) and seemed to be handling it themselves. I suspect my friend/salesperson has been promoted, but that’s never been communicated to me!

        The kicker is that the new person has made a couple of minor mistakes that have caused inconveniences for me…but doesn’t seem to realize. For example, they split up an order into two parts without explaining why. So now I have two orders to track instead of one. On top of that, the orders require a 50% deposit if they’re over a certain amount, but need to prepaid in full if they’re under that. The two orders separately don’t meet the requirement, so they were asking me to pay in full so they could place the order!

        I wouldn’t mind a few mistakes if I knew I was dealing with someone learning the ropes, but I STILL have no clue what this person’s role is in the company. Saddle that with miscommunication, dealing with my orders in a way I’m not used to, and causing inconveniences for me as a client… Not a good look!

    6. WS*

      On the other hand, I often see men who don’t want to deal with my boss (a woman) but don’t necessarily want to wait four weeks until semi-retired other boss (a man) is in, and complain that he’s “not available”. There’s choosy and there’s picky. But in this case it does sound more like the client doesn’t want to deal with the new person.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I like the “there’s choosy and there’s picky”. I’m petty sure if LW2 had suggested that, for example, the client wants to stick with the male rep and showed immediate distrust of a female replacement, we’d be more sympathetic. Whether the client’s attitude is reasonable (“my business is complex and I don’t want to be the one who trains your newbies out of their beginners’ mistakes” or “I am unhappy how the change was announced to me – not at all!”) or unreasonable (“I want to only work with men” or “there is no possible reason that I would accept for an account rep change”), there needs to be a client transition process that minimizes friction.

        1. Greg*

          Depends on the importance. My organization had someone dealing with our biggest customer for 15 years. We brought someone in over him and introduced him to the buyer of said customer. There was a pretty explicit comment made that Mike would be making the initial sales call, but we were told, “That’s fine and all, I still only want to discuss new alpaca feed with just Dan.” And wouldn’t even entertain anything else. So. Dan continued to make the call.

          If had been someone further down the line it may have been a conversation. But for someone who made up 15% of our top line revenue we just let that one go.

    7. LITJess*

      I guess I got stuck on *why* OP’s company felt they needed to move someone they describe as “difficult client” to a brand new hire. Why wouldn’t you keep that person with the current rep until the new hire is at least up to speed and then begin the transition over? It feels a little like everyone was set up to fail in this situation.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Agree on set up to fail. I feel a bit like this was a trial by fire where, if it all worked out, everyone would be happy, but the client came back in a week with “My fingertips are singed; I do not care for this sensation; please put me back with Old Hat post haste.”

      2. Observer*

        Well, it seems to me that the OP hasn’t really thought about the issue at all. When a client asks or demands to be moved back to a specific rep and the initial response is “but that’s not in our strategic plan” it says that the OP and whoever else is involved haven’t bothered to take into account the actual detail of making that strategic plan happen.

    8. NinaBee*

      maybe the change came from the rep themselves, if the client was very demanding or difficult to deal with

    9. Machiamellie*

      I agree.

      I’d suggest having the old employee and new employee work as a team on that client’s account, and letting the client know that. Then the old employee can be phased back off as the new employee comes up to speed.

    10. Beth*

      A basic part of my firm’s business model is that every client works with whoever they like best. We work for them, not vice versa, and they call the shots. There are plenty of clients who don’t care who they work with as long as their needs are met, and we can move those assingments if needed to keep things balanced.

    11. Meghan*

      Honestly I can relate. I got transferred to a new insurance rep without being asked a couple months ago. The thing is the old rep cc’d me on the email she sent to the new rep, explaining my needs and my policies and providing a document that was required for me to get a good rate. I had to follow up twice after that. When he finally responded to me with pricing it was very clear that he had not read anything she had sent him, and when I called to clear it up he seemed very confused and asked ME where to get all this information. I emailed the original rep and said that I wasn’t comfortable using him, please transfer me to someone else. I know people need to learn but this is my money and my life. If I did what he was suggesting it would have cost me thousands of dollars more than it needed to- and even if I handheld him through the process, I would spend the next year wondering if he did everything properly. If you can’t read an email or do the tiniest bit of research before giving a client information, that tells me there’s something else going on beyond being new. I need to feel like I can trust the person I’m dealing with to handle it all without me combing obsessively through every letter of the contract for errors.

  2. raaaleigh*

    #3 – I’m assuming your state/region doesn’t have a CASA program? If they do and I’m misunderstanding, start there! They might have additional resources they didn’t realize are needed, or maybe you could gently pressure them to up recruitment for more volunteers to be child advocates and help with stuff like finding family and placement options. Hope that’s somewhat helpful!

    1. jen*

      I worked in child welfare for years and this was my first thought. There were some differences between counties and how they “divided up” the work. The one county we had the most cases from most of the kids were represented by one of two agencies. Both resulted in the kids having a social worker and an attorney who worked together. The social worker did a lot of the leg work and gave the attorney the info needed from a legal standpoint. The county worker more or less oversaw everything. Most placements were with private foster care agencies so there was another social worker there as well. Between the three social workers it seemed to get done. It was harder if the child was assigned a private attorney as the pay was so low and they didn’t have the social service background. That stated, since the kids had a private agency social worker with typically a reasonable caseload (a few agencies were exceptions) – it was doable. Sadly, with child welfare if you are prioritizing addressing a kid who needs to be removed immediately and has no place to go and another kid who is not in a great place (juvi) the one with no option is the priority over the one with a crappy option. It’s literally been about 10 years since I worked in that end of it and can’t imagine what it’s like now given covid.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        This is in theory how it’s supposed to work, although the private agencies either don’t have social workers or I’ve just never met one (and I am a private attorney, and yeah we don’t get paid hardly anything). Since you had different counties doing different things, do you have any advice on how to get them working more efficiently in this model?

        And the biggest problem isn’t so much the no place to go vs. staying in juvie as that they default to juvie for emergency placements and then just… leave kids there if it isn’t easy to find a placement. My county frequently has more kids in juvie from child protection than from juvenile criminal court.

        1. jen*

          There was one county that the county worker had a caseload of about 25 families (well in theory, often higher). That could represent easily up to 100 to 150 kids. They would have to do the agency to agency transfers. As the private agency if we didn’t have an appropriate home we would give a 30 day notice that the county had to find another placement. While I had some county workers who weren’t the best the vast majority did the best they could given the resources. Not sure the best way to do this where you are but what often derails more “routine” issues, is dealing with the crisis issues. If there was a way to put more resources to address the crisis situations, that would help allow more time to focus on more proactive or simmering situations. I’m also wondering if there is a way for the supervisors to step in more. For an emergency situation the ongoing worker probably needs to address it but then bunting the we have a kid in juvi who could be served elsewhere to the supervisor could make more sense. The supervisor (1) works with a number of workers so theoretically should have a better sense as to the current state of the available placements/resources (2) typically isn’t in the field as much so being in the office probably in a better position to do the 5 or 10 minute phone call to get the ball rolling.

          The other county we worked with did all the work for their cases – the on going twice a month required by the state home visits, etc. When their workers were full OR they didn’t have an appropriate resource they handled the “overflow” by contracting with private agencies to do the work. That freed up a lot of time for their workers. That depends on having the funding though to enter into the contracts.

          1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

            Hmm, shoving it off onto the supervisor is an interesting idea. I’ll have to think about how I might be able to do that without it being ignored. (Unless anyone has ideas?)

            1. Anonynap*

              I usually save this line for when I really need to get things done or burn the current process down, but “this needs to happen, so who do we need to escalate it to?” has been a reliable one for me in the most urgent of situations (always seems to be IT for me, thankfully – one time when they did an upgrade that unexpectedly turned off all our customer-facing PCs and cash registers and felt it was a 3-5 day response time thing when we had 50 people in line (government, so they couldn’t even take their business elsewhere), and another when we urgently needed to post crisis line info internally for staff and they had inadvertently removed the access of everyone due to, you guessed it, a software upgrade).

              It’s harsh, though, and can come across as a bit hostile, so it should be used sparingly (though I admit there’s a part of me that would consider doing this every time a kid is being hung out to dry to see if that puts enough pressure to address the issues in their processes). But it’s also very effective – either the person decides it will be easier to address the issue themselves or you’re able to contact someone who CAN do something (and usually will, if only to get you off their back).

    2. Anne Elliot*

      Our states program is not called CASA but I volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem, which is largely the same thing, and I strongly second this. The GAL’s role is to advocate for the child and they have the ability to press DSS and/or the court for anything that is in the child’s best interest.

      But if the reality is that you just do the DSS job better than the DSS workers do — completely possible, given that they are completely overworked, underpaid, and there is a ton of turnover — I would warn you against making a habit of picking up their slack. Your contribution to the process is through the legal work that you do, and you admit that overextending yourself is burning you out. If you continue to try to carry the entire case yourself, you will deprive kids who need your legal assistance from getting it, because you will have quit in exhaustion, discouragement, or disgust. It is super-important to maintain good personal boundaries to enable to you continue to perform the role in this process that you HAVE signed up for.

      This process is necessary, but it is long and it is terrible for the families. Please remember that if you place yourself in the position where your only choices are doing both your job and someone else’s, or walking away, you are going to eventually walk away, and a broken system will not benefit from losing your services.

    3. madge*

      I volunteer as a CASA and this was my first thought.

      OP, this is why we’re here! We’re told that finding placement options is technically the children’s services folks’ responsibility but they’re so overworked and underpaid, there’s literally no way for them to fully do their jobs so we have those conversations with the parents and kids to feel out who might be an option we can investigate. I SO get your frustration – it feels like the ball is constantly being dropped but like you, we keep going for the kids. But please reach out to CASA, or the juvenile office for similar resources if you don’t have CASA in your area.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Part of the problem for me is that the social workers in my area have the lowest case load of anyone involved. Our equivalent of a CASA program they have a multi-county case load that’s even higher than mine. I did the equivalent of a FOIA request for my county to try and figure out how social services in my county did case assignments and what the case loads actually were, and discovered that basically my child protection case load is 75% of two on-going workers (not including the investigating and relative contact workers).

    4. Abogado Avocado*

      My experience with CASA is that there aren’t enough volunteers and that they very well meaning, but their skill depends on their training and experience. Those who are not the race or ethnicity of the child or who do not speak the family’s language can miss or discount cultural and racial needs. CASA is not a substitute for a well-trained and well-resourced social worker.

      OP: First, I hope you’re charging the court for your time in finding placements. The judge needs to know you’re doing work that others should be doing, but for whatever reason are not, and you need to get compensated for it. Second, to the extent that this is an overwork situation for those social workers, I would document this — in a letter that only identifies your clients by pseudonyms — for the court and for whoever runs the agency for whom the social workers work for. The only way to get more social workers or more qualified social workers is to give the Powers That Be the information they need for the money to hire more people. Otherwise, they need to be paying you for this extra work.

      1. Tehanu*

        Also a little concerned that you’re in the position of finding placements for kids – are these being vetted in some way?

        1. raaaleigh*

          Typically if someone outside the official government department “finds a placement” it just means they do the legwork of locating possibilities, and then hand it over to DHS/CPS to actually go through the process of placing the child there (which includes all the vetting, etc.). That’s what a CASA/GAL volunteer would do, or it sounds like OP as the court-appointed attorney but not the social worker.

        2. Jane Seymour (#3)*

          I’m typically either finding group home/care taking/mental health, etc foster placements or family foster placements. Occasionally I’ll find a “traditional” foster home, but that tends to be through networking with families I’ve had previous kids placed with. I’ve learned enough doing this that I can at least do a basic evaluation of if a family member would be a possible option to get a foster care license, and if it seems like they are I try to get a private organization to do an emergency license for free or on the cheap. (I owe so many favors…)

      2. madge*

        I can only speak for the CASA location where I volunteer but we receive quite a bit of training in the importance of cultural and racial needs (and in supporting LGBTQ kids which makes my heart so happy in this bright red state). This is why we always look at relatives for placement first, even ahead of a loving and supportive foster family (I have a case like this now). Many of us have extensive experience in law, public service, education, working with families in the legal system, etc., so yes, we can be just as effective as social workers. Not everyone of course, but a blanket statement like, “CASA is not a substitute for a well-trained and well-resourced social worker” isn’t always true.

      3. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        My state does flat fee payments, so charging for the time isn’t really an option :/ That’s part of why I have a high child protection caseload – so few attorneys are willing to even take cases, and when they do they rarely take many of them.

        I will definitely start documenting it though – I definitely haven’t been keeping a record of the time I spend all in one place. I don’t know if it’ll work to get through to anyone, but at least it will hopefully make an impact.

    5. Don’t hide my straightener*

      Does your CPS have a child welfare board? They should. I was on one for 9 years and we helped with a lot of this. CASA is a good option too, though CASA can sometimes be more trouble than they are worth (speaking only from my 9 years of experience, plus having a husband that does family law and is constantly frustrated with CASA).

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        We have a governing board for social workers, but they can only handle licensed social workers. There’s a legal exception in my state that government employees don’t have to be licensed which is terrifying when you think too much about it.

        Yeah, our CASA equivalents can be really hit or miss, and they have huge case loads, so depending on them isn’t really an option for me.

    6. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      We do have what is basically the equivalent of a CASA program, but they typically just default to social services’ decisions because they have a multi-county case load that’s even higher than mine. I did the equivalent of a FOIA request for my county to try and figure out how social services in my county did case assignments and what the case loads actually were, and discovered that basically my child protection case load is 75% of two on-going workers (not including the investigating and relative contact workers). I also do indigent criminal defense work and domestic abuse/family law legal aid, so

      1. Jinni*

        Ooof. Hats off to you for this. I did GAL work for about five years when I first started practicing law (25 years ago). I quit from burnout because I could not see any way the system would improve. My mother had been a social worker my whole life and the 1970s did not look much different from the 1990s. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution. The cost to me was too high, so I got a corporate job to pay off my law school loans, then left the law altogether.

        Like another commenter above, I think prioritizing your own mental health and energy is paramount so you can continue this work.

        I once heard a Julian Bond speech while I was practicing as a GAL. He told the following story:

        “Two men sitting by a river see, to their great shock, a helpless baby floating by. They rescue the child and, to their horror, another baby soon comes floating down the stream. When that child is pulled to safety, another baby comes along. As one man plunges into the river a third time, the other rushes upstream.

        “Come back!” yells the man in the water. “We must save this baby!”

        “You save it,” the other yells back. “I’m going to find out who is throwing babies in the river and make them stop!”

        The babies never stop coming.

  3. Doctor What*

    #4 My situation was different, but this advice works!

    I left a job, moved out of town to take care of a parent. A couple years ago, I moved back to the same town…announcing that move on Facebook, where I was still friends with a person from my old job, I would call an “emotional vampire.”

    As soon as I was back in town, she wanted to continue our friendship as before. I did exactly what AskAManager suggests here. I was always busy, could never connect…etc. and I am so much the better for it!

    Good luck!

    1. Mimi*

      I did the same with someone from college who I liked and considered a friend, but who seemed to constantly generate drama and always leap from one crisis to another. Some of the crises were legitimate and some were imo of her own making, but either way after a year of being her primary support system and finding her EXHAUSTING, I decided that I wasn’t up for that again when she started talking about moving to my city a few years post-college. I replied to her email and was friendly but noncommittal. She moved to a different part of the city and we never wound up meeting up. I hope she’s doing well and has the drama more under control.

    2. NinaBee*

      I once heard it described as being ‘politely unavailable’ and it’s the perfect soundbyte to carry with you in these situations

      1. Artemesia*

        We have been dropped this way and dropped others this way. We retired to a new city where we didn’t know anyone and accumulated a social circle — sometimes over time we found some of the folks we acquired sort of boring and apparently a couple of them felt the same way about us. You just politely decline specific invitations and after awhile it becomes clear on each side that it is done. Still facebook acquaintances with a couple — we aren’t mad at each other, we just don’t want to spend a lot of time together.

    3. PT*

      My suggestion would also be, if LW takes Alison’s advice to recommend restaurants, coffeshops, etc., would be to recommend LW’s second-string ones. If you work near The Good Starbucks with The Fireplace and live near Cafe Espresso and go to them a few times a week, but once every few months you go to Java Time Cafe because it’s down the block from your friend’s new house so you know it’s good but you’re just not there often…send her to Java Time Cafe and keep her out of your happy places.

      1. Interview Coming Up*

        Yes! Came here to say this. Don’t really tell this person your favorite places.

      2. quill*

        Good call! You’re much “busier” if you aren’t tripping over your old aquaintance at starbucks every other week.

  4. Hmmmmm*

    #3 I have about 6 years of experience doing administration and oversight of government public services and 10 years working within the system.

    I think Alison is correct about understaffing but that isn’t the end of it. For me, one huge contributing factor is the dynamics of resource navigation itself (which is what I think you are seeing the negative impact of it). The problem with resource navigation is that resources are in a consistent state of change. Resources are driven by politics, personalities, and funding. This is from rule making to procurement processes.. it depends on the manager or director sometimes and that trickles down to the front line case managers. I see this and live this daily. For example, if a manager hears about a change in rule making that will impact a resource and doesn’t tell their team, that team is working off of old information and is basically not 100% equipped to offer the services to which your clients need. You, as a partner, might know that information which makes it feel like the case managers are not doing their job.

    Another issue I have seen is around case managers who have been doing the work for so long that they just don’t care to chase the resources anymore. They know it comes and goes and they just resort back to what they know. Life changes a lot faster than mindsets. Sometimes that makes the outside appearance look worst.

    Since you stated you are pretty much done with doing their work. I might write to my local commissioner(s) to let them know what changes you need to see in which county. They are more than likely responsible for oversight for some of the funding. They may also know Directors or have a better way into the system. Also, I have found a lot of them like to cause ruckus and will take the issue upward. I feel that Governors offices don’t work because it takes too long and the nature of our system is too red-tape. I have seen “fixing” bills appear for year and year.

    Good luck.

    1. GarlicBreadAficianado*

      I don’t work in child services but I do work in social work….
      Here’s what I’m going to say….

      You see maybe a third of the stuff they see. You aren’t walking into houses where there’s needles on the floor, but no milk in the fridge. You are seeing these kids in court. You aren’t seeing them when they get into a foster home and their walls are up so high that they are combative and aggressive (rightfully so)

      You aren’t seeing all of the kids who are neglected, or the parents who are woefully ill equipped for parenthood.

      And those social workers are getting ZERO emotional support from their superiors for the horrific crap they see day in and day out.

      And while I suppose the pay is “good” in comparison to so many other social work jobs, it’s not that great considering that many of these jobs require years of experience and a masters degree.

      Add in the fact that their case load are ridiculously high and their burning it at both ends and can be called in the middle of the night for a case… That kid sitting in juvie? Not ideal, but safe, with a bed, showers that work and food vs the kid who’s being sexually assaulted by his mom’s dealer….

      None of us go in this field because we say to ourselves “Yknow, I think I’d like a job where I can screw around and not do my job and still get paid” We go into it because we genuinely want to help people but after 5 years that vibe has been metaphorically and sometimes physically beaten out of us.

      1. Womanaroundtown*

        I totally hear and support that, but also want to note that that is a huge problem (obviously) partially because it means less attention to the kids and partially because it can mean less attention to the parents. I’m a lawyer in a burnout field and one of my closest friends in a lawyer in family defense. She tends to find my stories of the doctors and other non-legal staff I interact with horrifying – I think the stories she shares are ten times worse. The system is broken. It’s not on social workers that it’s broken, but a huge symptom is this burnout you describe. Not every case is like that, and many parents have their kids taken away for significantly less, but the more shit you see, the more you expect to see it everywhere and start thinking people are lying or obviously the kids would be better elsewhere. In my job, we see lawyers working less hard because they’re just going to lose anyway, so why fight harder. When I was a case manager before law school, it was the same deal. We need to funnel more resources into social services and adjacent fields, and we need to treat our social services staff more like humans who can only handle so much, or we get into places where all situations are generalized into looking the same, even when they patently aren’t.

        1. Hmmmmm*

          Yea. This.

          I also was a case manager before I get my MSW and started doing administrative oversight. I’m one of the few Social Workers management that I know.

          I think if people had more resources, we could combat burnout a lot more. The first person is 100% correct, people enter this field because they care. At year 10, that passion sometimes start fading because of burnout. That’s why consistent and adequate resources, training, and support is necessary. Also better implementation of rule making. Gosh darn, have I seen some of the most minimalist rule making create some problematic processes for case workers.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Its tough out there. LW3 you can call and get the services because you got 1 kid to find a placement for. They have 20. And have to triage. Your kid might be in juvie, but this other kid needs a psych bed RIGHT NOW.

        Plus they can be hamstrung by their own policies. I worked on on case where the kid was transitioning to needing adult services, the court told ME, to get the guardianship done. We had no place for this kid to go because the adult services in our county operated on an emergency basis only — like you need a bed TODAY. Since the kid was still in kid services, they had a bed, no emergency. The adult program wouldn’t even LOOK for a bed until the kid services ended. Which is stupid. We were doing this in advance to AVOID an emergency and to ensure the kid had someplace to go when the kid services ended. How did we find this out? After literally months of stonewalling, the judge got fed up and flat out subpoeaned the director of the adult agency to show up in court and explain what the hell was going on. We got a bed. But only because everyone — including the judge — was willing to the time and effort in. I thanked the judge profusely at the last hearing. When I run into her at conferences (she is since retired) we talk about this case.

        Its the nature of doing family law. Sometimes you gotta help your clients find the resources they need, even if it is technically someone else’s job. I’ve helped clients get social security benefts, apply for food stamps, find therapists, etc. I know more about the social services side of things that I ever thought I would. Because it is what it is.

      3. anon for this*

        Social services vet here. Working in that field is absolutely Sisyphean, so it’s a pretty safe bet to assume the department you’re working with is doing their best, but wildly underresourced and burnt out. From the outside it’s very easy to conflate overwhelmed with inept, although neither are okay because it’s the service recipients who suffer the consequences of a poorly functioning department.

        As for what to do, advocacy work could really benefit here. Most counties have public budget hearings at least once a year that anyone can testify at. Go to those and testify. Get other people to testify. Contact local elected officials regularly outside of budget season to remind them this issue is important. Write op-eds in the local papers. Get other local advocacy groups to take on this issue as well–maybe it would be possible to sue the county for inadequately providing child welfare services. And through all of this, be careful about inept vs overwhelmed framing. If you make public enemies of the department and they somehow all get fired and replaced by new people but with the same staffing levels, nothing will change. But if you advocate for more funding, staffing and higher quality resources, hopefully something will change.

        1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

          Thank you for the ideas. I will make a note of them and figure out which ones are possible. We do have a lot of turnover (and not of the “burntout” type, but of the “moving to a different county” kind), but I’ll definitely try to figure out a way to frame it that isn’t as harsh as I currently feel.

      4. Observer*

        I won’t argue with anything you say except:

        That kid sitting in juvie? Not ideal, but safe, with a bed, showers that work and food vs the kid who’s being sexually assaulted by his mom’s dealer

        Unfortunately, not necessarily the case. There is plenty of documentation of just how abusive these places can be.

      5. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        If it was just providing three hots and a cot, it wouldn’t be a problem. Instead, I’m the one answering the question why am I/my child being punished. There are serious, long-term psychological impacts on both children and parents when children are placed in juvie.

        Last time I looked up the statistics, sexual abuse was the least likely reason a child is removed. Most children are removed because of neglect (typically parental drug use).

      6. Banana Pudding*

        I’m concerned to hear from a social worker that it’s acceptable to you that children be left in juvie, especially when the letter writer says that more children in her county are in juvie waiting for placements than because of criminal court (not that they should be there for any reason!)

    2. pancakes*

      Class action litigation on behalf of the kids whose needs aren’t being met is one way to force more resources in their direction. I wonder whether the letter writer has contacts who might be interested in pursuing that.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        The state I live in had several cases of kids that ended up dead or missing due to DCF dropping the ball. This spurred DCF to be given a agency wide investigation. It came out that on top of the dead and missing kids (mostly due to case workers not following up on legitimate complaints and police reports or not doing home visits but recording them as having happened) the investigation found out that kids were being left to sleep in the office as their was no placements for them. Also kids got molested by staff while sleeping in the office. This was all dragged thru the media and a top to bottom reform move started. Be the squeaky will LW 3. Every time you have to do the social workers job for them, email or call their direct supervisor and let them know. “Case worker A failed to find a placement in a week and a half. I secured 1 with an hour of phone calls. Please advise me on what actions you will take to get Case Worker A to effectively do her job in the future. Do you need me to share/train how I find these placements with your employees?” Do this each and every time they drop the ball. And let the local media know how they keep dropping the ball. Shine a light on their ineptitude. Kids lives and futures hang in the balance.

        1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

          Yeah, we recently had one kid who died in a placement due to foster parents neglect. It wasn’t really covered much, but I hasn’t thought about trying to do a wider media pressure until you brought this up. That may work. At least it’s something that I can pursue that has a chance of working.

          I will definitely start tracking both the time without a placement compared to how long it takes me to find a placement – I tend to just put it in my notes rather than an actual comparison. That will hopefully help make my point more clearly

        1. pancakes*

          To clarify, I don’t mean taking on any of that litigation themself, I mean suggesting that there seems to be a need for it.

      2. Arvolin*

        Talk to a lawyer if you’re thinking of litigation. First thing might be to see if what you want to have happen is something a court can compel.

    3. Artemesia*

      I am sure the staffing issue is part of it, but when we were foster parents we got a good look at how incompetent and lazy some people in those roles can be. We could not get good advice about important things e.g. can I let the child go for an afternoon with the grandparents? We finally arranged to meet them in a restaurant where we could eat at another table and let them have the grandparent visit while under supervision. How do we get permission for the child to go to Scout camp with our daughter when we cannot sign the indemnification paperwork required? It was a night mare to get that kind of help. The child would come back from visits with her mother in jail all upset since she would make unrealistic promises and we suggested the social worker might want to supervise and their suggestion was that WE supervise — an obviously terrible idea. BUT the social worker wanted to shop for clothes for the child. We wanted the money to shop so the kid would fit in with her peers at school etc and the social worker loved to spend her days buying clothes. We won but it didn’t convince me that ‘busy’ was the problem with their incompetent service.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Yeah, I’ve wound up running interference with foster parents too. I’ve also managed when representing parents to help with the relationship between the parent and the foster family (which is not always ideal, but typically at least lets us bypass the social worker).

        Thank you for being a foster parent. We definitely need more of them in this country!

      2. KoiFeeder*

        Ah, I’m jealous of you! I think it’d be nice to foster, and I think I’d be good at handling older kids who have more trouble finding placements… but I’m autistic, so no fostering for me. It’s great that you get to do something so important.

        1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

          If you want to foster, I would double check to see if you might be able to! I’m fairly certain autism doesn’t automatically exclude you from being licensed in my state, and if you go through a private licensor they’re more likely to work with you on getting licensed! Even if you were just licensed for respite care – there’s a desperate need for it.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            To the best of my knowledge and ability the current dictates in my state are that you’re not supposed to have any mental health conditions for which you are or have in the past been undergoing active treatment (therapy, medication, etc.). So while it’s not technically because I’m autistic… it’s pretty much because I’m autistic. I also believe that physical disabilities are equally disqualifying.

            Although I’m glad to hear that’s not the case in all states, and maybe someday I’ll be able to move to a more forgiving state.

            1. pancakes*

              This seems ripe for litigating, too. It’s not fair or sensible. Active treatment isn’t incompatible with being a good parent or good foster parent.

    4. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      While I don’t necessarily think that understaffing is a big issue (my child protection case load is 75% of two on-going workers), I’ll have to think about changes in resource management policies. My gut says that isn’t to blame, but I haven’t really though about it long enough to be sure I’m not just dismissing it out of hand.

      Writing the commissioner seems like a really good idea – we have one who seems to pride himself on being a shit stirrer, so reaching out to him is something I’ll put on my to do list!

  5. lafcolleen*

    OP #3. I can’t tell from your letter if you are full time employed doing this work or get appointed to individual cases.

    My suggestion is a bit of a scorched earth approach so with that caveat in kind.

    my basic assumptions: that you are in the US and that the majority of the funding for the work you do comes from the feds.

    are you asking at court reviews that there be a finding of no reasonable efforts? if no RE, then no $ from the feds to cover the cost of services.

    it is a high risk strategy because courts are conservative with a small c. and when money is tight, trying to get another stakeholder to buy into using turning off the money spigot is always a tough sell. plus it does run the risk of pissing off the social service agency.

    it does sound like your child welfare provider is ripe for reform litigation. in my state, the ACLU brought a class action.

    but I dont have enough info to provide more detailed suggestions. there are networks of both child rep and parent attorneys. are you connected to those?

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I like this advice. In my jurisdiction, a call to the ACLU would be a good way to start looking at litigation. Or if ACLU won’t take it on, they can assist in marshalling other non-government child advocate organizations to get things moving. (Different chapters/affiliates of ACLU will go about this kind of thing in different ways. Where I am, their intake section is trained to refer people to an extensive network of regional orgs.)

    2. Marie*

      A Better Childhood is an org that has successfully litigated class action lawsuits against child protection agencies in several states.

      For individual cases, you could also consider contacting an ombudsperson or local representatives in your state.

      I would also, if you haven’t already, start documenting all the extra work you’re doing, and perhaps CC the main worker and the supervisor of the department. They might be moved to do some work just to reduce the amount of email you’re sending them. But more importantly, the supervisor might get nervous that you’re suddenly putting in explicit writing — in your files and theirs — what their department is failing to accomplish, especially if you note to the supervisor in advance that you’re CCing them because you’re not sure they’ve understood you before when you’ve told them how significant the gap is on their team.

      And that may also be true, they may not have understood! County supervisors deal with so many complaints, because literally nobody is happy with child protection even when they’re doing things right, that I find they sometimes fail to differentiate serious complaints from the pile. And burned out workers usually need things to be very concrete and repeated, because their executive functioning is too tired.

      Burned out workers also usually need to be pressed into active steps, as they usually default to passive paths of least resistance. Saying “we’re just too busy but thanks for your concerns” is the passive path. Make something uncomfortable enough for the supervisor to need to switch into active action, and if possible, provide them in advance with some active options, because they will probably default to those. This can be a difference in phrasing, moving from “did you know your workers are so burned out they can’t do basic work” to “what are your next steps to address X, Y, and Z, and when can I expect to hear back? I recommend trying this.” If their next step is, “I will do nothing,” make them say that, in writing, rather than shrug it.

      Similarly, you could do that with the workers themselves, by only doing half the work you’re currently doing. If you locate a potential placement, send that info to the worker and say, “This looks like a possible placement, what’s your next step for connecting with them? When will I hear back?”

      I also want to say, you might want to pull out of individual problem solving if you want to advocate for greater change. Right now, you are a fantastic reason for them to never change — you’re doing all the work for them, which means they don’t have to do it AND they don’t get in trouble for not doing work. There may be state or county commissioners who are responsible for fixing this, but they are unaware of the problems, partially because you keep solving them before they escalate. Figure out who this county is accountable to, stop solving problems and document them in a way that can be forwarded to those people. That’s hard to do, because you have to accept watching a few cases go badly for a while, but right now, all the cases you’re not on are going badly. This is a way to attend to all the cases you can’t fix for them.

      Finally, this is more of interpersonal and less direct, but have you considered just offering to take a worker or two out for coffee and talk candidly with them, at a moment when you don’t share a case? Loose lips sink ships, and nobody gossips as hard as burned out workers, especially when you give them a bare glimpse of the consideration and support they’re not getting at their jobs. There may be things you don’t know about the department that would help you strategize differently.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        These are really good ideas, thank you. You would think, as a lawyer, I would be better at creating a paper trail! I need to get into that habit here.

        Framing it that way for the individual problem solving is really helpful, and isn’t a way I had ever thought about – that this means that the cases I’m on are probably falling completely through the cracks. I’ll have to remind myself of that regularly.

        Taking one of them out to coffee is a good idea – I’ll have to see if I can arrange that! I hadn’t even thought of that as a way to get direct insight to create strategy.

        1. Marie*

          If things are as bad as you’ve noticed them to be, I guarantee you the workers aren’t happy with it, either. They likely feel as powerless and weary and unheard as you do. Knowing you’re falling down on crucial work, especially when you are exhausted and unsupported, makes people super defensive. The defensiveness usually isn’t laziness or apathy so much as a feeling that being asked to do one more thing will break you in half, and people will reasonably defend their last shred of energy with tooth and claw.

          You all may disagree about individual cases or actions, but you’re on the same team overall — you think clients deserve help and care. Trying to re-establish that shared ground, and that you recognize that both of you are being asked to attend to your calling to help others in unsustainable, unsupported ways, can really lower defenses and smooth over working relationships.

    3. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      We really should not be advocating for starting with the more aggressive responses. The people that LW is worried about are still people and aren’t necessarily operating with malice, it would be demoralizing to treat them as criminal when they’re likely already aware that their operations are deficient.

      1. pancakes*

        I haven’t read all of the newer comments yet but I haven’t seen anyone suggesting treating the over-burdened workers or their agencies as criminals, or presuming that they’re malicious in any way.

    4. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      I am appointed to individual cases, but there aren’t many options where I work so I’m not too worried about the scorched earth problem.

      I actually have asked for a finding of no reasonable efforts – I even have a template brief that I sometimes file when I reach that point of scorched earth. It never works because the judge’s training on child protection includes telling them that they’d be cutting off funding and that’s bad and they shouldn’t do that.

      I hadn’t thought about the ACLU, but I’ll add them to my list, thank you! They tend to be a good resource, but I always forget about them.

  6. Temperance*

    LW3: you’re not going to like this advice, but you can either keep doing their job or push back and report if the social workers aren’t doing their jobs. They drop the ball with you because they feel like they can, because you’ll call around for services.

    In my state, kids can get GALs who look out for their interest. If you’re a parent advocate or a child’s attorney, you should be able to request a GAL for the kid. The GAL can do more for placements and services.

    1. Marie*

      Agreed. I’d also gently note that when you hear or think statements like, “if I don’t do it, nobody else will” or “I’m the only one who cares” or “I’m the only one who can…” those should ring massive clanging alarm bells for burnout. The social workers aren’t the only burned out people here; you need to stop taking on extra work for your own sake. Or if that’s too hard to consider, you need to stop taking on extra work for the sake of your future clients. You won’t be any use to them burned out, and the field won’t benefit from you exiting it early.

      Have you considered reaching out to colleagues? Workers are supposed to have the support of a supervisor and coworkers when they’re struggling, as something to help protect them from burnout. That’s something that’s known and expected among social workers, but I’ve noticed not as much with attorneys. If you’re in private practice, you are likely isolated. You need to intentionally create some community and support for yourself, and connect with other attorneys or just people in your life who understand and can give you perspective.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        That is… very true. I am definitely starting to burn out, and it’s hard to admit it but it is probably starting to effect me.

        I am a solo, and it is really isolating. You are right that I need to start creating that community support. Thank you, I think I really needed to hear that. I’m not sure I would’ve thought to do that and it is something I don’t have.

        1. Marie*

          I’ve worked with a lot of attorneys as a social worker and have been routinely amazed at how different the cultures are, yet how similar the work can be. You all are often dealing with the same stretched resources, same demoralizing stories, same boundary issues, same overwork, same terrifying “but what if it all goes wrong and my client is hurt irreparably?” constant drumbeat thoughts.

          But social workers are trained in a culture that talks specifically about boundaries and support and care and colleagues and supervision and breaks being NECESSARY. That doesn’t mean the field always respects that, but it gives a shared language and expectation, where it’s normal for a colleague to ask, are you burned out? Is this hitting something personal? Do you need to step back? Which gives a lot of opportunities to pause and reflect.

          My sense has been these aren’t typical features of attorney culture (though I might be wrong!). So y’all are basically doing the worst parts of social work without any of the (admittedly few) good and helpful parts.

          I’ll say, though, that even with that culture, everybody routinely forgets to ask for help, or support, or supervision, or time off. You learn that lesson a thousand times, and each time it almost feels new again. So, don’t add any shame to your burnout for not recognizing burnout — shame, and an inability to see burnout, are symptoms of burnout, too!

          As you start to work your way out of this, it may be helpful to keep some notes about what symptoms you can notice in retrospect crop up for you when you start burning out. It can look very different in different people. My support network knows my burnout symptoms, because I told them what they were, and I gave them permission to point it out when they see it. So now all I have to do is make sure I maintain regular contact with my support people, because if burnout creeps past my internal security system, it’ll have a chance to be caught by my external security system. And any reluctance I have to see my support network, or share about my life, is another symptom of burnout for me that I can notice.

          If there’s a worker in that county who seems more together than the rest, especially if they have some years of experience under their belt, you might consider hitting them up for coffee first. In addition to learning more about their office, they may also be able to offer you some tips and insight on working in a high burnout field. In addition to gossiping, there’s nothing burned out workers love more than giving others (sometimes shockingly good!) advice on burnout — it’s a reliable way to avoid their own thoughts and feelings.

          1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

            Thank you – this really is helpful information and insight. Attorneys are definitely not part of a culture that encourages self-care (there’s a reason that a good chunk of the “moral support” mailings we get from the bar are typically for AA meetings in the area).

  7. nnn*

    An option for #5, depending on how this aligns with the venn diagram of what you’re comfortable sharing and the strategic need to say something:

    Do you know what conditions would need to be met before you’ll go back into the office (regardless of whether this is from the point of view of doctor’s orders or you own comfort)?

    If yes, an option is to tell people what conditions need to be met, without telling them why. “I can’t go to in-person events until there have been no new COVID cases in our region for two weeks,” or whatever is true. You could also say “I’m not allowed to go to in-person events until…” to make it a bit stronger.

    The advantage is that stating specific conditions for returning to work makes it sound less like you’re “slacking off” and more like you have a very good reason.

    The disadvantage is, even though you haven’t said anything explicitly, this does strongly suggest that you have a medical situation, and nosy people might ask follow-up questions.

    1. Anon100*

      I agree, OP #5 needs to say something and stop being vague. It’s understandable to be vague about personal medical matters, but from an outsider view, you can also say “I have a medical condition, my doctor doesn’t want me doing in-person activities yet.” That should shut down most lines of questioning about why you’re not coming back to the office, and if you keep brushing people off by being vague, eventually you might start losing any political capital you have in your workplace (ymmv of course).

      1. twocents*

        I agree. She’s more likely to burn capital with her current approach than just being matter-of-fact. You don’t have to give your whole life story to reference a medical condition, and I think this past year in particular has reminded folks that there are more vulnerable medical conditions than are normally thought about.

        But people think she’s being anti-social because she is. It is anti-social behavior to be asked to do something and change topics or to be vaguely positive and then never show. This is how people stop getting invited to do things.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This seems to come up a lot in different guises: If you’re doing something outside of social/business norms, addressing it upfront with a one-sentence boring explanation is the way to go. “Dealing with a medical situation that will keep me remote for a while” is all that is needed to signal to people what they should do.

          1. AskJeeves*

            This, exactly. “I’m high-risk” or “I’m immunocompromised” is all you need, and then you can politely refuse further inquiry. But a higher-up working remotely, without explanation, while everyone else has to be back in the office – that’s going to create drama and resentment.

        2. PT*

          I agree, and I’d also like to add, in all of the places I’ve worked, in the absence of a concrete reason, people start speculating. And the speculation that the rumor mill comes up with is usually far more wild and disrespectful of your privacy than whatever is actually going on.

          If you just keep saying “Oh I’m busy,” there will be a rumor that you have checked out because you’re looking for a new job because you got pregnant and are trying to move to France after being placed on disciplinary probation because you accidentally sent nudes to Fergus over the company Slack back in March. But if you say, “I am high risk for COVID and my doctor recommends I keep distancing,” well, that’s pretty boring and not good gossip at all!

        3. cncx*

          i agree too. this is like any of the other things where something that is your hill to die on usually costs political capital, and i understand the need for privacy around health matters but at what cost, and the cost to op5 is political capital. And sometimes it’s ok to spend that capital and sometimes it isn’t but it’s still capital and op needs to weigh her need for privacy with how much capital she is willing to spend on this based on personal context. for example, i’ve been at my current company ten years, there’s a lot of stuff i can be vague or weird about that wouldn’t fly at a new job, or in a higher position.

          1. OP #5*

            I agree, this is a question about political capital. The issue I’ve run into at my company is I expend capital no matter what. If I fully disclose, people view me differently and question if I can do my job. If I vague disclose, people still think I’m being standoffish and making too much out of nothing (thank you healthcare industry company where people handle medical issues poorly and overshare as routine), if I deflect and don’t say it’s medical then I’m not a team player. All the responses advising sharing that it is medical are making me realize the bigger problem lies with how my company handles medical concerns in general, pandemic aside. I’ve never navigated this arena at any other company and I think that is skewing my perspective on disclosure.

        4. quill*

          Yeah. Most people will take “my doctor says no” and know not to pry (and those who pry anyway will burn through their social good will) but very few people will take “Oh sure, maybe, I don’t know” for very long

      2. Smithy*

        I agree that it makes more sense to remain vague around when the OP would feel safe returning, but to offer up something in the medical space.

        The majority of people, and especially people, at work will ultimately respect a boundary of how much you’re willing to share. For those of us who grew up in homes with bad boundaries and then especially if we ever had a job with poor boundaries, enforcing boundaries can seem so difficult that it results in feeling most comfortable being either exceptionally private or sharing absolutely everything. However, at work when most people follow-up about hearing someone has a medical condition or needs to go abroad to their home country to manage paperwork, they’re doing so to be sympathetic or kind. And if at that point the person offers nothing more and changes the topic or addresses what that means for managing work – many coworkers will ultimately respect those boundaries.

        I get not wanting to feel like you have to overshare, but there really is a place for that light to medium share that can be greatly beneficial.

  8. tra la la*

    OP #4: I’d actually leave off the “feel free to reach out” and the recommendations. Just say that you’re sorry but you’re really busy, leave it at that, and then continue to be busy if you need to be. “Feel free to reach out” is going to suggest you’re OK with them reaching out, which it doesn’t sound like you are.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, agreed. To avoid burning bridges completely, maybe they should consider being open to grabbing a coffee with this person at a professional event they’re both attending, but limiting contact to that. For every 100 people I work with now or have worked in the past, there’s maybe one or two I’d be interested in socializing with as a friend or friendly acquaintance rather than a purely professional contact.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, and I’d only include recommendations to places I never go to, no point telling them where they’re likely to run into me.

      1. Smithy*

        I think those recommendations can also be used for obvious places that the person would likely find anyways. Either because they’re what essentially everyone recommends or you hear they live in X neighborhood, and Y is the main spot.

        If someone moved to Cincinnati, telling them to try out Graeters ice cream and go to Findlay Market is true enough to the region but likely doesn’t risk running into to them by a long shot. Maybe in smaller communities that’s trickier, but I do think often ways to give those kinds of recs without being too specific to your life.

    3. Nancy*

      Agree. Also, if someone mentioned a favorite restaurant without me asking for recommendations, I would assume they were suggesting we get together at it at some point.

      Just say you are really busy and leave it at that.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      Agreed. And OP #4, if you’re uncomfortable with claiming to be busy, just know that re-watching your favorite show for the thousandth time while working on a craft project qualifies as being busy.

  9. Artemesia*

    We have several acquaintances and friends who have immunocompromised situations and have not had their vaccines ‘take’ — they are very careful to only go unmasked around fully vaccinated friends and are isolating. If you have this situation, it will be a lot easier to let people know you have an immune issue with vaccine not taking and so have to continue WFH. Otherwise you end up with all sorts of baroque envy, speculation etc.

    1. Anon for this*

      Not to de-rail, but I would be very interested to know how they knew that the vaccine didn’t take. Both my husband and I had barely any reaction at all to the Pfizer shots we got. Our son (30 years younger than we are) got his vaccines at the same place and had reactions (sore arm, elevated temperature, body ache) both times. We were wondering if ours didn’t take.

      1. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

        A post-vaccination antibody test that shows no (or very few) antibodies. People who are immune suppressed are sometimes (often?) also on antibody suppressants, which make vaccines ineffective (or at best, less effective).

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I just came here to say that Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus is the best sign on name in a long while. And I can’t wait until I have an excuse to use that sentence in a conversation. Sir or Madam, please remove your monkeys from my circus.

      2. MK*

        There is a test you can do a few weeks after the second dose, that shows how many antibodies you developed. They aren’t completely accurate, but you can know if you have some ammunity.

      3. ceiswyn*

        Older people often have less side effects from the Covid vaccines. The part of the immune system that causes the side effects is different to the part that makes the antibodies.

        1. Blackcat*

          Yup. My parents (Moderna) and neighbors (Pfizer) all reported zero side effects. They’re all 65+ years old.
          In contrast, of the folks I work with (24-45), only one did not have significant side effects. Women also seem to have more side effects than men (including menstrual cycle disruptions).

      4. Nancy*

        Having side effects or not has nothing to do with whether the vaccine is effective. Just like how someone can get an infection and have few or no symptoms, and another person can end up sick for days.

        Vaccines are generally less effective in older people and those who are immunocompromised.

      5. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep, you probably won’t know unless you get an antibody test, which normally might not be done unless you have a reason, like you’re immunosuppressed. I get antibody tests as part of a study in which I’m participating, and it’s pretty cool, as after they get a positive test, they do a second one that specifies what kind of antibodies, as exposure and the mRNA vaccines generate different types, and they don’t definitively indicate immune status:

        To better understand the spread of COVID-19 and the uptake of vaccination in the community, all participants who test positive for antibodies are tested a second time to determine if their body’s response is due to exposure to the virus or vaccination. Your body will make different antibodies in response to COVID-19 infection than in response to vaccination. Further testing indicates that you do NOT have antibodies to the COVID-19 virus nucleocapsid protein that develop after natural infection, suggesting that your antibodies result from vaccination. Antibody tests can take several weeks to become positive following COVID-19 infection or vaccination and may become negative again several months after COVID-19 infection. This is not a clinical test and should not be used to change your behavior.

      6. NeutralJanet*

        Unless you are immunocompromised or have some other condition, I wouldn’t worry—the campaign to tell people that side effects from the vaccine are healthy and normal was so effective that people are worried if they don’t have side effects, but really, it’s a spectrum for everyone, some people were terribly sick and couldn’t get out of bed for a full day, some people were just a bit tired and achy, and some people were totally fine, and those are all normal and nothing to worry about!

      7. Dust Bunny*

        One of my parents is a transplant recipient and so is on immunosuppressants permanently. They are “fully vaccinated” but we’re assuming it wasn’t that effective and are behaving accordingly.

        And, yes, I back out of things because I’m regularly around someone who is immunocompromised, and I just tell people that, without going into the details of why. Nobody has pestered me about it after that.

    2. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I wish more publicity was given to the factors that can make the Covid vaccines less effective. Advancing age is one, which is why there is a high-dose flu vaccine recommended for those who are 65 and over. It’s unlikely that old timers like me reach maximum effectiveness, but since the effectiveness is so high, even without a high-dose version, the protection is pretty good.

      Another key factor is medication, such as steroids and certain biologics like Dupixent, that have immunosuppressant impact. Anyone taking such medicines should confer with their doctor to see if it is possible to discontinue them for a time before vaccination. This hold for all vaccines not just Covid.

      Pregnant women are naturally a bit immunosuppressed, because the fetus is a foreign body and reducing the immune system helps keep it in.

      There are other conditions affecting the immune system, all of which can reduce vaccine effectiveness. As I stated earlier, the Covid vaccine is so highly effective that even if reduced, the protection offered is worth it. Anybody who can get the Covid vaccine, should.

  10. Annie*

    2, I think you should keep the account with the person who has always been dealing with it, not only has a relationship developed between them but in my experience, most customers only complain if they genuinely feel there is an issue, and those labelled as difficult customers are usually people who the company just can’t be bothered to deal with properly the first time, and so they keep pushing the problem down the road, and when the customer calls up again to get it resolved they are labelled as difficult.
    Mind you, in most cases, I don’t blame case managers who are usually overworked and don’t get support from Management, it can be draining to see the name of a particularly stubborn customer coming up constantly especially if you know that you can’t do anything for them.

    1. Ruby Rhubarb*

      If anything I think it’s more rude to force someone to move from a rep they have a relationship with.

      1. Daisy*

        I agree. ‘Our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way…’ makes it sound like it’s all for the company’s benefit and not at all for the client’s.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I get why a company might do this, but it sound like they just did it without informing the clients. There’s nothing wrong with changing up how you divide up clients, but that has to be communicated to the current clients. If you are in customer service, the clients are part of the equation, you can’t make decisions without considering them. It has to be communicated to ALL clients not just this one difficult one. The other clients might not be thrilled either. It would be terrible to find out that your new strategic plan actually resulted in less business because poor handling of the transition drove away clients.

          1. Chinook*

            “f you are in customer service, the clients are part of the equation, you can’t make decisions without considering them. ”

            Exactly. If you move my account to a new rep with no transition in place, I then have to train on how to work with me, it suddenly isn’t as much work to look around at the competitors because, no matter what, there will be a learning curve on the vendor’s end. But, if you as a vendor have made the effort to smooth the transition, it is still more effort to look elsewhere than it is to stay with the status quo.

            That transition to a new rep is when you will most likely loose existing customers because the pain point for change has been lowered.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          But sometimes that’s how it works. Maybe the rep wants to re-prioritize, or maybe the rep hates the client. Maybe the rep needs to cut down hours and can’t manage all of her clients.

          I am a new account rep and took over some territories. It doesn’t make sense for my colleagues to keep certain clients, no matter how much they love each other. We made the transition as smooth as we could, and some clients still reach out to my colleagues because they forgot there was a change, but sometimes that’s just business.

        3. Tired of Covid-and People*

          It also makes it seem like relationships don’t matter. In that case, just establish a call center and be done with it. Like the client here, I would be upset if my longtime rep who I had a good working relationship with was arbitrarily removed from my account. Clients are not widgets.

      2. Smithy*

        I get that this is how it sometimes works out – but I actually think that it’s not ideal for business purposes. There’s the classic what if someone gets hit by a bus/wins the lottery, and if only one person can manage a client then that’s not great long term.

        However, I do think for relationships that are this challenging a slower handover is helpful when possible. Basically, aim for the old rep and new rep to work with him together for a while before proposing the change.

        This will inevitably vary based on the style of work being done with external entities and the business needs for the change. But coddling one client to just have one rep would actually make me worried of the business liability.

    2. Firecat*

      Eh. My former company was definitely what I would consider a difficult client.

      Didn’t or misread most communications.
      BLEW UP when said misunderstanding caused the slightest hardship on ourselves.
      Ignored all good will the vendor built up on a whim.
      Demanded special treatment.

      There are definitely bad clients out there.

    3. A Person*

      The LW carefully gave us no personal information at all about Old Rep, New Rep, and Client Contact, and it could be down to something personal! Such as, New Rep is/sounds young and Old Rep and Client Contact are both in their 50’s. Or New Rep didn’t introduce themselves acceptably (which would be the manager’s fault IMO). Or – and this is what I suspect – there’s a perceived us/them issue. If Old Rep and Client Contact both sound (I need a good term to encompass middle-class, middle-aged, white; is there one?) and New Rep sounds Other, client could be reacting badly due to that. I don’t have any advice here, but IF it’s a factor it’s worth acknowledging it internally, especially because new rep probably suspects it regardless.

  11. _(」​∠ 、ン、)_*

    #1 If you did lie on your resume for your next job, how would you feel about it? Would you be constantly worrying when HR calls on you? Anxious anytime you meet someone in your new job who can uncover your lies? Are you willing to spend the rest of your time there with trepidation that if they found out? And it would be a hit to your professionalism and reputation.

    They say money can buy you a better bed where you can spend sleepless nights but that’s up to you if you can handle all that and more.

    1. Artemesia*

      Someone at my organization got fired for a resume misstatement that was arguably ambiguous (e.g. something like a double major in a masters being listed as two masters degrees rather than one). It has made me very conservative in my advice to anyone trying to puff the resume.

    2. Elena*

      I mean, this is basically basically a lesser version of “crime doesn’t pay.” Obviously, crime does pay, and sometimes crime pays really well, and some people get away with it. You’re taking a bigger risk and doing the wrong thing morally, but some people decide that’s worth it.

  12. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here*

    I did this work for 6 years. In my state, the ACLU also brought a suit and the DHS department ultimately was court mandated to have a receiver. I can’t say if it did any good, as it took a decade and I left the field by then. But the problem is systemic and IMHO, so far beyond one person’s capacity to change it.

    I can’t imagine what you can do beyond requesting the court to order social services to provide each and every service you are providing, that they are legally obligated to provide, in each and every case you have. Then drag them back into court in a reasonable time if they have not done it. That worked sometimes for me and others. I had social workers with 72 cases when the recommendation was 15 max. But still, no excuse for sitting there, burned out, doing nothing. I had social workers refuse to do a home study on a foster home because it was on the other side of town. I had a Down’s syndrome kid sit in an orphanage for 2 years while DHS said no one would take her, when in 5 minutes I found a placement via Parents of Down Syndrome Children, which maintained a list, which the social worker had never bothered to consult. Then DHS successfully objected to that placement because the home was biracial and the kid was full African – American. (Yes I know this is a controversial subject – please engage in those arguments not with me.) I had a kid who had such a bad situation her father actually was jailed (never happens) and the city still refused to provide her legally required counseling. I loved the judge who said, at my motion for court ordered counseling, to the city attorney, who kept saying it would be provided, “well now Ms. X, I suppose since you already intend to provide the counseling, you won’t mind DHS being court-ordered to do it” and then issued an order. He is my favorite forever.

    I took kids to the drugstore and bought them pregnancy tests and waited while they peed on the stick. I got people into drug programs in order for them to get their kids back if they maintained being clean and progressed. I did a whole lot of social work when it was not my job, but otherwise it would not get done. I did not do home visits very often, for which I felt guilty because others in my role did as a matter of course. But I could not manage that with my other duties and so did it infrequently, but still did it when absolutely necessary, even though it was completely not my job. There were 2 very good social workers in the entire agency. One of them eventually left and got elected to city council. I had left that line of work by then, so I can’t say if he managed to get improvements that the ACLU receivership did not manage.

    If your city has law schools with juvenile justice and or abuse and neglect clinics, I would absolutely contact them. At least you will be able to get advice, possibly help, and maybe even wind up getting mentored by people who do this long term and teach it. These people are amazing and can be very helpful. For most, this is a high-burn-out field. There are only so many infants in body casts or 6 year olds with gonorrhea of the throat one person can take in a life. But some of the teachers at these clinics have done this for their entire career, and can be amazing resources.

    The system is broken, and all I can say is I do not think any one individual can fix it. Good luck, and sorry I don’t have better suggestions.

    1. jj*

      This confuses me “I had social workers with 72 cases when the recommendation was 15 max. But still, no excuse for sitting there, burned out, doing nothing.” having a caseload 5x the recommended amount seems exactly like an excuse for doing nothing [on this particular case]. That’s a case where they need to ignore 80% of their clients entirely, or 80% of their clients needs. Unless you knew for sure that the 72-instead-of-15 social workers weren’t clocking 40 hours worth of solid effort.

      It’s absolutely heartbreaking for the children, and it’s not okay at all that this is the children. But it hardly seems the fault of a social worker with a caseload that is 400% larger than it should be.

        1. Abandon all hope all ye who enter here*

          Yes, actually I do know that many of them were not putting in hardly any work at all, let alone a full 40 hour week. I wouldn’t just randomly ignore a fact I myself brought up, which is that people were having 72 cases when the official recommendation was 15. They may well have not been working much because after working there for years, they were completely burnt out and could only stare at the wall for hours. But, at that point it’s time to get a different job.

          And also, I would note that just because the recommendations of the national Social Work Association or whatever it’s called are that social workers have 15 cases, does not make that realistic in the real world. In a perfect world, maybe.

          But just as teachers are perpetually underpaid, and that doesn’t seem likely to change, while CEOs make zillions more than their workers, unlike in the 1970s when the disparity was much less, we don’t live in a perfect world, and you don’t get to be, for example, a teacher and then say Oh geez I’m underpaid and overworked and our department is understaffed! I’m shocked! Just shocked! Therefore I’m going to just sit here and do next to nothing. Hopefully one has the vaguest notion when one takes on that line of work that one is going into an organization that is overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. Hopefully you know that you are going to have to bust your butt in order just to keep your finger in the dike.

          And the fact that there were several good workers that one could always rely upon to do their job, even with a heavy caseload, means to me that it is possible. Which doesn’t mean the system shouldn’t change. The system is obviously horrificly broken. Should people have 72 cases when the recommendation is 15? No. Is one lawyer going to be able to change that? Not in my opinion. Is the recommendation for 15 the best recommendation there is? Is it reasonably accurate as to the most someone can do in a 40 hour week? I don’t know.

          I just know that trying to go it alone in such a circumstance is not a good idea. Getting mentorship is critical. Getting advice from others doing the same kind of work and not just commenting from the outside like if you ask your buddies who work in offices is critical. Would an EMT ask an Executive Admin what they should do when they find that they are overworked and underpaid and understaffed? I don’t think that’s useful. Getting advice and mentorship from the proper people I think is very useful. Forcing people to do what they are legally obligated to do by getting court orders to require them to do it is, to me, one of the better methods available to deal with the reality on the ground.

          Most people who work in this field know what a horrific nightmare it is. If the best minds have not been able to fix it, I certainly can’t. But I do know the reality I witnessed, and that is that yes, many of those social workers were not nearly putting in a 40 hour week. Probably because they were so traumatized they could do nothing any more but sit at their desk and maybe answer a couple of phone calls. Or maybe, because in our city there was a lot of nepotism going on, and you could get a job with the city government and be completely unqualified. But that’s another story.

          In terms of advice for this attorney, my issue isn’t how she can fix the fact that social workers are overworked. It’s what can she do to force the situation so that whatever Child & Family Services type agency she’s dealing with is legally put on the hook for every kid to whom they fail their legal obligation.

          Most statutes have pretty specific things set out that are requirements to be provided to children in certain circumstances. The social workers are required legally to provide those services. If they don’t do it, as a single attorney representing parents and children, you have few options. But holding the agency accountable in court to the best of your ability is one of them. Getting mentored by people who know what they’re talking about is another thing one can do.

          The politicians can deal with why there aren’t enough social workers.

          1. jen*

            I worked in the system as a private social worker. We had to see the families for 30 minutes in the home every other week for each child plus attend court (which often took all day of sitting there) and the medical appointments and the educational meetings. This doesn’t account for paperwork, driving time, making resource referrals, arranging respite, supervision, etc. 12-15 is legit the maximum you can have to do all of that. 72 kids there is no way we could do that level of service. My co workers and I routinely worked 50 to 60 hours a week.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Where I am their case loads are nowhere near 72 cases. While they do have more than 15, it’s not by enough to justify not doing what they’re supposed to do. I’m on the equivalent of 75% of the cases shared between two social workers.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Consider running for state legislature and working to fix the system!

    3. jen*

      I’ve worked in the field. There is no way a social worker who is supposed to have 15 cases and has 72 can be providing the same level of care to the 72 that they could if they only had the 15. The issue isn’t, as you put it, the social workers “doing nothing”. It’s them having case loads 4-5 times what they should be and having to triage. That isn’t “doing nothing”. Work for increased funding to have enough social workers to do the work. Look at creative solutions such as volunteers/interns to help organize resources or do some of the legwork.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Where I am their case loads are nowhere near 72 cases. While they do have more than 15, it’s not by enough to justify not doing what they’re supposed to do. I’m on the equivalent of 75% of the cases shared between two social workers.

    4. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Triggering comment here, horrific child sexual abuse, please add warning. I don’t see how anyone deals with this as a job, blessings to all of you that do.

    5. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Thank you – as much as it sucks to know, it does help to know that I’m not the only person who’s been in this situation.

      And yeah, the level of frustration and anger I get when all it takes to find a placement is 5 minutes worth of googling and email when the social worker is saying they’ve tried and there’s no placement options.

      I hadn’t thought about bringing regular motion hearings – I normally just wait until the next scheduled hearing since the calendars are so full, but it’s probably a good idea to do that to get a specific timeline for services ordered between hearings.

      Unfortunately we don’t have any law clinics nearby, but maybe I’ll see if I can import a student for a summer internship…

      1. pancakes*

        You could suggest a clinic to a local-ish law school, too. Maybe you could be their first staff attorney? I was heavily involved in a clinic for 2 out of my 3 years in law school and it was more important to my education than anything else. If there is an on-point clinic established elsewhere you might ask whether they’re open to branching out, too.

  13. Caro*

    #2 – One thing I would add on top of Alison’s advice – When you are review the file keep an eye open for anything untoward. A client only wanting to work with one rep can be a red flag for corruption or kickbacks. 99% of the time it’s about legitimate relationships and customer service concerns, but the 1% exists too.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I suspected the same thing. When people have outrageous reactions to change, I suspect fraud.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I don’t think anything sounds outrageous so far. All we have is that he was moved and asked to be moved back and OP thinks that is inherently a rude request.

      2. Hamish the Accountant*

        There isn’t anything in the letter that sounds to be like the person was having an outrageous reaction.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I’d like to know more about why this client wanted that one person. We had a patron who always wanted to work with me but it was because I already knew what he was likely to want and he was impatient and asking for me to do it was just the fastest and easiest way to get it handled.

  14. restingbutchface*

    OP1 – I’m experiencing something very similar at the moment. Your feelings are valid, it isn’t fair and it is really frustrating. On one hand, I know that employers frequently ask for qualifications that exclude people without educational privilege and on the other hand… it isn’t fair, I play by the rules, wah! I’m uncomfortable with my sulkiness around this issue but I wanted to validate your feelings :)

    What comforts me is the knowledge that these lies are usually found out – not by reference checks but when employees fail to deliver to the standard required. I’m trying to divert my feelings into improving my negotiation and self promotion skills. If someone can succeed by lying and just by being persuasive and good at negotiating, imagine what I could do with those skills AND a background that meets the requirements. It’s hard, but just keep your eyes on your own papers, be your best advocate and you’ll be amazing.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      “What comforts me is the knowledge that these lies are usually found out – not by reference checks but when employees fail to deliver to the standard required.”
      This may certainly apply to jobs in tech and engineering and the like where you do acquire specific knowledge through education. However, in many more “creative” fields, it is possible to wing it. I worked as a translator for years without a diploma, producing better work than many people with a Master in translation. I ended up getting a Master myself (on the basis of my work experience, I didn’t have to actually study for it) simply because that bit of paper has become a necessity, nobody trusts a self-educated person to produce decent work any more.
      (Not that I ever lied about my lack of qualifications)

      1. restingbutchface*

        Congrats, what an inspiring story. I guess the difference is, you didn’t lie. If you’d walked in shouting about your wall of diplomas, people would have a much higher expectation of you that you would be unlikely to fulfil.

        I’m sure it is possible to wing it in all sorts of industries. But that additional pressure and level of secrecy often trips people up.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Unfortunately in this case, sounds like the liar has been at the company for 5 years and their work must be good enough to avoid suspicion.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Why is their work being good something unfortunate?

        To me it would depend on what they lied on their resume about and why. Some jobs screen people out on ridiculous and, in some cases, borderline illegal criteria.

        Back in Home Country, I changed my father’s middle name on my college application, because the school I wanted to attend was screening out people of my ethnicity, and my father had an ethnic middle name. Got in, graduated, would do it again if I had to start over.

        1. Temperance*

          Lying about past job experience and education is vastly different than fibbing on a minor issue to avoid racist treatment. Come on now.

        2. restingbutchface*

          Refusing to play racist games isn’t anywhere near the situation here – I applaud you for doing what you had to do and I’m sorry it was even a consideration. In my original comment I said I was uncomfortable with criticising people who don’t have educational qualifications that are limited to people with money and the power & time to get them – but that’s a grey area. Your situation is black and white, you didn’t do anything wrong.

          I really hope that you don’t have some sort of internalised guilt over doing what you did, although I wouldn’t blame you for it. Outright lying about essential experience and/or qualifications to get a job ahead of people who actually have them isn’t even close to what you did and I’m pleased you refused to let those racists ruin your aspirations.

  15. singlemaltgirl*

    #3 – i assume this is in the us and i’m not. but there are systemic issues and then there are the things you can do for a client rather than allll the clients. what has worked for us is to get media involved for specific cases and getting the parents to support (so you have consent to share info). people can get behind a story or a family or a child. children or families are overwhelming. but 1? specifically tragic or heart breaking story and how the system is failing them? can sometimes bring about direct and immediate pressure to address some things where you are at. will it last? likely not. and then you’ll pull another family or child to do it again. but keep agencies in the public spotlight so that they do their jobs can mitigate some of this (just not all of this).

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Well if the children are getting placed in Juvie rather than a placed in a foster home or with a family member there isn’t any family who has guardianship of the child to go to the media. Plus their job may not allow them to go to media.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Yup, how it works in my state is that the county gets temporary custody of the kids. I have to be very careful sharing specifics of cases outside certain defined circumstances.

    2. Jessica Fletcher*

      I’m shocked by the number of people who think OP3 should go full Karen on this office. They have to continue working with these people. Running to their supervisors and *the media* to badmouth them is such a terrible idea. Right now, OP doesn’t know they aren’t doing their best with the crappy resources they have. If OP makes their low paying, over burdened jobs even harder, they’ll find out what it’s like when nobody at the office wants to help them.

      Imagine! You’re working long hours at a very low paying job, the parents are angry at you all the time, the kids don’t understand and are angry or upset, the public thinks you’re some mix of saint and martyr, nobody will fund your services, your department is always first on the chopping block… And here comes this know it all lawyer, complaining about you on tv?? What a huge jerk!

      If OP wants to improve the situation, they should advocate for better pay, more funding, etc for the office.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        “Imagine! You’re working long hours at a very low paying job, the parents are angry at you all the time, the kids don’t understand and are angry or upset, the public thinks you’re some mix of saint and martyr, nobody will fund your services, your department is always first on the chopping block”

        This would perfectly describe my job, except the public vacillates between thinking I’m some sort of evil asshole and that I’m an unnecessary waste of funds, and it’s my payment on the chopping block without any department to back me up.

    3. Temperance*

      This is horrible advice, for many, many reasons.

      1.) As an attorney, LW #2 owes her clients a duty of confidentiality. She cannot under ANY circumstances just go to the media looking for sympathy.

      2.) LW #2 is often a parent advocate, not a child advocate. Her clients have largely been accused of abuse and neglect. They are not exactly sympathetic to many.

      3.) It’s disgusting to put a sob story about a child’s life out there for the world to see. It will define them if you do this.

  16. Portia*

    OP #3–

    Have you checked with your state bar as to whether what you are doing is permitted under your states rules of professional responsibility?

    1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Yeah, my state’s rule of professional responsibility basically only use about half of the model ones, and some of the rules are basically waived if it’s in the best interest of your client and you tell your client you’re going to do it.

      My state bar’s professional responsibility board also has a loophole for court appointed/indigent representation that basically amounts to “as long as you’re not stealing from or screwing your client, we’re going to ignore it”. (And I’m not kidding – the complaint process actually tells people that if their attorney was court appointed/indigent representation, if it doesn’t fall into the appointed categories they have to file a motion with the judge for contempt rather than a disciplinary proceeding.)

  17. Birch*

    #4, if you do make recommendations, have a list of places that you can vouch for or have heard good things about but are NOT your favourites! It’s a huge mistake to recommend your favourite local haunts to someone you’re trying to avoid! (Ask me how I know…)

    1. Dandy it is*


      I immediately thought this when I saw that recommendation. Only suggest places you don’t go to frequently otherwise you run the risk oh running into the person you are looking to avoid.

  18. London Lass*

    #2: Something else to consider is how the transition was handled. If I had a long-standing relationship with someone and felt that I was being pushed over to a new rep without enough notice/consultation/explanation, I’m sure I would push back against it. Knowing this is a tricky client, did they get a heads-up and an opportunity to discuss the context for the change and how you would ensure it went smoothly without legacy knowledge being lost between your staff? Or did they just get a message out of the blue one day from the new rep announcing it? As Alison has said, the amount of effort you give this will ultimately be a business decision based on how important that client is to you and how difficult it would be to accommodate their preferences, but maybe they feel it was closer to the latter than the former and this is part of why they are resisting the change?

  19. Ruby Rhubarb*

    #1 and some fields and jobs also pay more than others. Are you in the same field?

    I have fired someone for lying on their resume.

    Living in fear of being found out wouldn’t be fun either.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      That was also my thought. The tone of the letter made me assume this was a personal relationship of some sort (friend, cousin etc…) rather than a colleague.

      It’s possible that even without lying on a resume a person 5 years into their career would be making more than someone 15 years into a different career. I know I make more at five years in than one of my colleagues who has been with my company for 20 years because we do different kinds of work even within the same general field – they’re a (very knowledgeable and skilled!) AP clerk and I’m a CPA doing more technical and conceptual work.

      I’m not convinced it’s fair that my job level and salary band is higher than the other one – but it’s what the industry and market have decided the rates are for those types of work.

      I got a bit of a salary bump for having an advanced degree and the CPA designation, but if I had lied about those and only had a BS with no license? I still likely would have been hired for my role (most of my peers were recent college grads), and it still would have paid more than the AP clerk, especially after five years had gone by.

  20. Ruby Rhubarb*

    You can’t send someone to juvie just because they’re hard to place – that is not a thing.

    Alison I know you don’t like people to question if letters are real and I expect this comment to be removed but that is not a real letter.

    1. Green great dragon*

      But can you fail to get someone out of Juvie because there is no-where for them to go?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        That’s not what it says. It says, “a kid wound up sitting in juvie because “he was just too hard to place.” ”

        Which could perfectly well mean that the kid was already in juvie and remained there because nobody else would take him. It does not say that the kid was sent there because there was no other placement.

    2. Currently anon*

      They said “sitting in juvie”, not “sent to juvie” which is something I’ve seen happen – they won’t give the kid bail if there’s no placement for them.

        1. Chickpea*

          Yea this would be an incredibly odd story to make up. I’m more inclined to think the sandwich throwing story is fake! My assumption is the phrasing is off or there is some context left out for simplicity sake.

    3. middle name danger*

      I would not jump to the conclusion that it’s not a real letter based on that – if information is inaccurate it’s way more likely there’s a piece of context we’re missing or working is off, or LW misunderstood the details.

      But… from my understanding (not in this field but family members are) there are scenarios where a kid would stay in juvie or be sent to a rehabilitation facility if there’s no placement, especially if they’re seen as difficult.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yes, if a kid is in juvie and there’s no foster home or group home to take them in, they stay in juvie. They don’t just release them into the streets.

        Ruby Rhubarb both misread the letter (“send” to juvie instead of “leave” in juvie) and is over-reacting and over-suspicious as a result. A lot of people here read letters too fast and leave out a lot of details in their mind.

    4. Jennifer*

      I don’t think they are saying a kid was sent to juvie because they were hard to place but that they “ended up in juvie,” which is something I could see happening if an at-risk kid had no place to go and ended up falling in with the wrong crowd or doing some desperate just to survive. Of course, you have to factor in that poor people and minorities are sent to jail all the time for next to nothing anyway.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. I want to add, too, that sitting in juvie can describe a range of situations. One iteration of it where I live is called Non-Secure Detention (NSD), whereby kids live in group homes while their cases are pending in family court. That’s not the only place at-risk kids might be, just one of them.

    5. Cle*

      No, but if they are already in juvie and they don’t have anywhere to go to, they won’t be released. There’s a good chance that whatever landed them in juvie made it impossible for them to return back to where ever they were staying (for example, assaulting someone else in the household).

    6. Not A Manager*

      “a kid wound up sitting in juvie because ‘he was just too hard to place.’” That’s exactly the opposite of “sent to juvie because he was too hard to place.” Kid was already in juvie, and therefore kid stayed in juvie when the social worker wouldn’t try to place him.

      Also, of all the scenarios to fabricate and send to an advice columnist, “I have to deal with fallout from systemic failures in our social safety net” is just about the last one to jump to mind.

    7. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      To clarify – you can in my state. It’s considered an “emergency placement” and was intended to provide emergency placement lasting 24 hours or less (excluding weekends, holidays, etc.). It’s based on the fact that juvenile detention centers with open beds cannot refuse to take children (within the qualified age range) if law enforcement deliver them on a hold of some sort, and there is a specific section of our child protection statute that allows law enforcement to take responsibility for placing a child if there is not “an appropriate shelter, treatment, or foster placement” available at the time the child needs placement. However, the loophole in the law is that, once the child is there, there’s no deadline in the law for removing the child as long as there’s no contrary order from a judge. Judges won’t order a child out onto the streets if there’s no placement. And, even the one time when I’ve had a judge order a child out of juvie without a placement, social services just repeated the process by having law enforcement deliver the child back to juvie on a hold. (This typically only applies to kids 11+. There are only two facilities that take kids 10+.)

      It also 100% happens with kids who are sent to detention as part of a juvenile criminal case as well; and in my state, sometimes social services and law enforcement will also bypass the emergency hold requirement by charging the kid as a runaway, truant, “disorderly” behavior, etc. This gives them 36 hours to get the kid in front of a judge.

      Never underestimate the US’s belief in incarceration as a solution to everything, especially the lack of community services.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Here’s what is probably a stupid question, because I know just enough about the carceral system to be dangerous. Is your local juvenile detention center for profit? Because if the kids are consistently ending up in a for-profit center… I’d be very, very suspicious.

        1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

          There is a combination of for profit and state run juvenile detention centers here, although most of them are for profit.

  21. LilacLily*

    to OP #2: I support one of my company’s biggest and most important clients and I’ve told my bosses several times that I shouldn’t be doing all the work of supporting them alone – not because I can’t handle it or because I don’t want to, but being solely responsible for one thing comes with tough challenges. for instance, no holiday is really a holiday if you come back to all the work you had before you left PLUS all the work that accumulated while you were gone because no one else knows how to support your client, and if I need help with this client (e.g. there’s too many tickets and I could use a hand, I have a tough ticket and could do with a bit of brainstorming about it with someone) I literally can’t ask for the help of any of my coworkers because no one else knows the first thing about what I’m talking about. because of these things, for the first year in my new job (the last person who supported this client left after I was here for just a month) I felt like I was a completely separate entity from the rest of my team. also, what happens if I suddenly decide to change jobs, or worse, (knocking on wood) I suddenly fall ill and need to take a long absence of leave immediately? who’s picking up my client then, if no one else in the team has even an iota of knowledge about the client the way I do? grim story, but at my first job we had a contractor who handled our SAP systems, and I was told that the previous guy before him got into a car accident and died. when that happened, literally no one in the company he worked for knew what he did or how – there’s only so much you can gather from scarce documentation that was written with the knowledge that only one person needs to understand what it all says or means. it took them months to get things back on track, and even then lots of things were lost forever.

    anyway, what I’m trying to say is, OP #2, you shouldn’t give this big, difficult account to the new hire cold turkey like that; you’ll most certainly overwhelm your new employee and give a bad impression to the client. what you should do instead is a steady transfer/share of responsibilities so that neither your senior employee nor the new hire are solely responsible for supporting this account, and so they can both lean against each other whenever they need help. explain to the client that your senior employee will still be the one mainly responsible for them, but new hire will also be supporting them from that point on, which is why they’ll eventually see their name in tickets in the future, and then go from there. Good luck!

    1. 70C*

      I am the new manager of a team that went through this just before I arrived and it’s been tremendously difficult. No cross training or continuity book, just “Mordecai always did that”. No one ever followed up with him to ask what was done and he never offered. So many processes and historical knowledge was lost. Cross train and write it down people!!

      1. ceiswyn*

        And that is exactly why I spent a month buying a colleague lunch at a previous job.

        M was the only person who knew how to poodle cut llamas. Everyone else could keep the cut tidy after it had been done – but if anything happened to M, we risked making a right mess of any new llamas who came to us for our specialist cut. Obviously M spent all her time grooming poodles and had no spare time for training, so the only way I could get information out of her was by taking her out of the office entirely.

        The document I wrote as a result never got officially released. It more sort of escaped into the wild. Apparently people hadn’t realised how badly they needed it until they read it – which was satisfying, but a bit worrying from the PoV of someone who sent a version to five people for review and for a reply from someone completely different who’d just sent it to a client!

        1. SoloKid*

          Yep, I’m the poodle cut person at my current job – management not prioritizing hiring a backup for me just means they’re up the creek without a paddle when I quit or get hit by a bus.

          I DO document processes, but the real experience is knowing the context to apply them, which cannot reasonably be written down in a wiki.

          1. ceiswyn*

            Yeah, that was the thing M most wanted to be able to get across to people. We had a lot of in-depth conversations over the garlic bread, and I spent a lot of time structuring the disparate things she told me – we already had documents that explained all the elements of a poodle cut, but the new one included principles like ‘make a list of the exceptions to the general way this cut should be done, and think about how to handle those FIRST so that you don’t cut so as to make them impossible’. I was rather proud of it :)

    2. Littorally*


      At my firm, our relationship managers work in pods for this specific reason. Joe might be the client’s primary contact, but Mary, Sam, and Jane are also all familiar with the client’s history and specific needs. If Joe is out briefly, any of the other three can pick up the slack, and if Joe leaves without a transition period, the other three help smooth the transition to Joe’s replacement.

      Obviously, this is feasible partly because we’re a large outfit, but the OP should consider something similar if they’re able. Having every client relationship entirely depend on a single point of contact is a very vulnerable system.

  22. JM in England*

    Re #2

    Perhaps this specific employee is the only person whom the client trusts to meet their needs properly.

    My father worked in a skilled trade (scientific glassblower) and he excelled at it. In fact, certain clients asked especially for him.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes. When I worked in a translation agency, many clients specifically asked me to translate their stuff. If I couldn’t fit it in, I had to promise to proofread the work and give it my “special touch” instead.
      When I left, the clients soon realised it wasn’t me doing their work. They looked me up and reached out to me on LinkedIn because they very much wanted me to do their work and nobody else. I did make them promise not to say anything to the agency because I did not want the hassle of my former boss taking me to court for stealing their clients, even though I knew he couldn’t get me convicted of it.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      I would love to hear more about scientific glassblowing on tomorrow’s open thread!

          1. JM in England*

            What I will say now, though, is that his job was a major factor in me deciding on a scientific career!

    3. Gray Lady*

      And even if he’s not the ONLY one the client could possibly trust, he might be the one he DOES trust. It’s a lot to ask of a client relationship to just switch account managers because it fits the company’s internal goals, without regard to the client’s needs and comfort level. Even if person #2 is perfectly competent and up to speed, the client needs to be satisfied that his account is being taken seriously and properly serviced, rather than just shuffled around for company’s benefit. It’s possible that this client is overly hard to satisfy, but it’s also possible that LW’s company is giving insufficient thought to how well this change serves their clients.

      If I were a client in some business relationship that required a significant level of trust, I’d be at best mildly annoyed that a long-established relationship was being thrown overboard just so the new hire could get some accounts. If it was well communicated, and the previous account manager helped with the transition and inspired my confidence, I’d feel better about it and would deal with it appropriately, but I still wouldn’t see it as positive if I had a good existing relationship. If anything less than a serious effort was made to ensure me that my needs as a client were being fully addressed through the transition, I’d be significantly more unhappy. While I might not go so far as to demand a change back, I don’t think that a client that does this is necessarily out of line provided they’re not being entirely unreasonable in manner.

  23. VampireWeekday*

    I’m horrified, but sadly not surprised, that a child who needed foster care was put in juvenile detention. I hope everyone who reads this starts actively supporting all local and federal increases to funds for social services and if, as I suspect, the kid was from a marginalized community, fighting the systematic discrimination in our justice system.

    I have no words of advice to you specifically letter writer, just sympathy and solidarity.

    1. BigBodyBill*

      The letter said “sitting” in juvie, so I wonder if the child was already there, and they couldn’t find placement. But, the rest of the letter did make it seem as if that’s where they were placing the kids they couldn’t otherwise find a place for, which is 100% unacceptable! I would advise contacting the Director and demand this situation be fixed ASAP and continue contacting them and/or going to the media until it is fixed!

    2. Macaroni Penguin*

      It’s most likely that the kid remained in juvenile detention because a placement couldn’t be found. I work in the social field alongside Children’s services. There are too many cases where an appropriate kinship placement, foster care, group home or whatnot simply doesn’t exist. Sometimes juvenile detention is the least terrible option. And oh yes, social services absolutely needs more funding. It’s heartbreaking to work in the social services field at times. More often than I like, there’s Nowhere to Go and Nothing I can do. *sigh*

  24. ToodlesTeaTops*

    LW 4 – There are still old coworkers who wanted to connect with me and I haven’t seen them in 10 years. They were pretty selfish people too, so I have no interest in catching up with them. I wouldn’t worry about excusing yourself from the convos or saying that you are too busy. Most understand, and honestly when someone says “let’s catch up” most of the time it’s from people who don’t actually want to catch up or are too busy to.

  25. Prague*

    #5, can you be or say you’ll be out of town for the big event? Not everyone needs to know your health status even if you tell a few.

    1. londonedit*

      I think the trouble with that would be that it’d work the first time, or on the odd occasion where there is a big event, but if they keep using the ‘Oh, I’m away’ or ‘Oh, I can’t make it’ excuse, it’ll wear thin after a while. It sounds like there are going to be regular meet-ups once people are back in the office – everything from events to lunches to casual drinks – and if the OP keeps saying ‘Sorry, can’t make it’ then people may well start thinking they just don’t want to go, or they aren’t being a team player, and it could affect their interactions with their colleagues. I agree there’s no need to disclose any details, but ‘I have a health condition that means I’m still being extra-careful, sorry’ gives enough detail without resorting to personal information.

      1. jess*

        Yes, making up an unnecessary lie creates drama where it’s not needed. And then your colleagues wonder why you are OK with the presumably higher risk of traveling out of town but not OK with coming into the office or attending any future meetups.

  26. Tomalak*

    LW2 obviously works in a business centred around client relationships. So it’s hardly surprising if sometimes clients value those relationships enough that they don’t want them severed. It’s a sign of success, really. Apparently this change was made without consultation in this case, and the client was still polite about it – all of which is further evidence they aren’t being unreasonable.

  27. Ginny*

    The court appointed attorney is going to have to say placement is not my job because it’s not and I feel like they could be opening up themselves to liability. At this point they are being taken advantage of. The judge usually sets status hearings on these cases. I’m wondering if the attorney can bring the issue up then. I knew the attorney feels bad but if they keep doing this, it will just keep being expected. Any new cases they need to stay firm and make it clear exactly what their roll is.

  28. FashionablyEvil*

    #1–if you’ve been at your company for a lot longer, it can be helpful to ask about/find out more about salary. I’ve seen it happen several times where folks with long tenure were brought in at a lower rate and so their rate of growth is slower/eventually you end up with salary inequity. If companies don’t do an equity review, they may not notice.

    1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      A ton of places will pay new employees market rate but give existing employees only small raises. They bank on status-quo bias keeping the existing employees there.

      1. Antilles*

        This happens all the time, but most of the time I think it’s not any active choice to “bank on the status-quo bias”.
        Instead, it’s more apathy that they’ve never actually sat down and done a salary equity review to realize that there’s such a wide gap between what they’re paying existing Teapot Designers and what the market actually bears for new Teapot Designers.

    2. Coenobita*

      Yes, I absolutely recommend asking for a salary review. I previously worked at a company for about 10 years, and had this happen twice: once when I pointed out that new hires with substantially less experience/expertise were coming in with a higher rate than valued long-term staff, and once when I pointed out that employees who left the firm to go to grad school and then came back were hired back with a big pay increase (whereas I stayed working there while I got my master’s and got a much smaller raise when I finished).

      Both cases resulted in substantial increases for me as well as others who were in a similar situation. Especially if this creates a disparity according to race, gender, or another protected class, companies can be highly motivated to correct this sort of thing once it’s been pointed out.

      1. Kiki*

        Yes, pointing out the last bit is what finally got my company to establish more consistent pay grades between existing and newly-hired employees. It seemed very obvious to me, but it turns out the person who negotiates offers to new employees (recruiter) is in an entirely different department than the person who determines raises for existing employees (engineering manager) and they weren’t communicating around pay as much as they should have and were working from entirely different budgets.

    3. Antilles*

      That was my immediate first thought as well – resume-exaggerator is getting paid market rate while the company’s getting OP1 at a discount.

  29. KTV123*

    I worked in foster care for a short period of time. I did not go into social work for the money but I was severely underpaid (think 30k with a masters degree in 2014) with a 60-70 hr a week work load if I wanted to do my job even okay. The judges and what not would expect high caliber work and many would get very upset (rightfully so) if things weren’t done correctly but the case workers had such little support. When I told people that job was not for me t(huge kudos to those who do it and do it well), they tend to assume it was because of challenging clients or heartbreaking stories and that truly was not what caused me to burn out. It was the incredibly high expectations with lack of support or compensation. It did not help that I worked for a religious based organization and they would say we were doing Gods work as an excuse to not give us raises etc.

  30. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #5 – This is why we invented the expression “Doctor’s orders.” And then do as Alison suggests and don’t give any details.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Yep! Good suggestion!
      Coworker: “See you Saturday at the Big Event!”
      OP: “Oh man, I won’t be able to attend since I’m still fully remote. Doctor’s orders!”
      CW: “Oh no! What’s going on?”
      OP: “Don’t really want to go into it, but I hope you have a good time! I heard there will be cake!”

      Deflect. Deflect. Deflect!

      1. jess*

        yes, that sounds fine. But also might want to give some info to coworkers to help them understand that it will be an ongoing thing, not just missing one event. Maybe you don’t know yet exactly what criteria need to be met for you to participate in person, but at least explain that this will be the case for the next few months or until notified by your doctor, so that people don’t keep wondering.

  31. Isabelle*

    #1 Your colleague may not know that some companies double-check the background of every employee before layoffs. They do this to save money, anyone who lied on their CV or application materials can expect to be let go without severance.

  32. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    #3 – There is always oversight at the state level for CPS. Go up the chain outside of your office to voice your concerns. Look up the department for your state (e.g. Department of Health and Human Services) and locate the office where you are located. There has to be contact info for everyone involved on the state website. From here you can voice your concerns, in writing, to the appropriate parties and how the current system is endangering children.

    1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      I will have to see what’s available in my state – there’s a strong “leave as much as possible local” in my state, but it would make sense that there should still be some sort of state wide oversight that might be able to do something about the office in total.

  33. Camellia*

    RE: #4 – “I really like Coffeeshop X and Restaurant Y.”

    Please don’t recommend places that you go to; you don’t want to run in to her at those places! If you choose to include this, recommend places that are far far away from where you might ever go.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Yup, I would recommend places that were way out of my normal places, like 2 miles away from my job.

  34. The Dude Abides*

    Re #3

    Two years ago, I started working in the state admin office for my state’s child protection services agency.

    My first week, I learned that by policy, caseworkers were only supposed to have up to 15 cases at a time. At that time, the average was 44, and it’s only gotten worse since. So I’d try to have a bit more empathy.

    1. Anon Kiddie Lawyer*

      Yep, and there are similar caseload guidelines for lawyers, yet we are expected to do far more and also do a fair amount of the social work.

      1. JM in England*

        My brother-in-law is a solicitor and he once told me that at any one time, he has 150-200 active cases. Whenever I visit my sister & him, he always seemed to be perusing case notes!

      2. Someone On-Line*

        My ex was a public defender with a way too high case load. He was not able to put in the time and attention that he wanted in to each case; it’s not that lawyers are magically able to do better. They end up taking short cuts and dropping balls the same as any other overworked profession does. The true answer is better funding to retain more case workers and to pay more to ensure you can keep highly qualified case workers. Same for public defenders and other public interest professions.

      3. Observer*

        Lawyers, even in social service fields get paid a lot more than the social workers.

        Even if that were not true, why would it matter? You want more empathy for lawyers, say so! But the burden that lawyers bear doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have more empathy for the social workers.

      4. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Amen. I don’t know if it’s still there, but at one point the ABA had different reasonable caseload recommendations for private vs. public attorneys. Because apparently we are magical unicorns or something.

    2. pancakes*

      More empathy is always good, but it’s not enough – those kids and those caseworkers need more resources, and the community needs to get to work on getting them there.

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        Empathy can guide how we choose to respond to the situation. A response lacking empathy would likely come across as aggressive and could drive out the people already performing this work, further straining that system. But if we consider empathy as an important factor in our decision making, we’re more likely to choose responses that are more constructive and supportive.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        And neither does fostering an adversarial relationship.

        I had my fair share of frustrations with caseworkers when with my old unit. Did it make my job harder? Yes. Did I still do a number of things not in my job description, but still in the best interest of the youth? Without hesitation.

        1. OhNo*

          I think you missed my point – I was trying to say that the LW came here for advice on what they can do. Empathy is all very well and good, but it doesn’t solve the problem they’re facing. The kids still need placements, and the work is still not getting done. Empathy for the caseworkers is all very well and good, but it doesn’t lighten the LW’s load at all.

    3. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      I have all the empathy in the world for high case loads, although honestly theirs aren’t as high as people seem to be imagining.

      I don’t have any empathy for the refusal to google, email, and make a few phone calls to get a kid a placement.

      There’s a difference between deciding that a phone call can stand in for an in person visit this month and deciding that placing a kid is too hard. (Yet, somehow, they always have time for a road trip when a kid is placed somewhere fun but not for a kid who doesn’t have a placement/has a depressing placement.)

  35. Allypopx*

    #2 I’d also take into consideration how the employee who had been handling the account felt about working with that client. If both the client wants this particular rep and the rep is fine with it, make the client happy. But if this difficult client was at all abusive, or untoward, or if the rep is otherwise feeling extremely relieved not to have them, maybe moving them is best. Not to a newbie though – customers that are that brand of difficult need to be pushed up the chain, not down.

    1. Anon this time*

      YES, exactly this.

      This kind of thing happens in my client-based industry a lot. A crappy client gets paired with the one account manager who can be their client whisperer, but eventually the client whisperer wants to move on (whether because she wants to grow in other areas or because she’s tired of dealing with the PITA client) and the client gets mad. Then the agency either decides, “we want to make this client happy even if it means making our employee unhappy” and puts the account manager back with the client, or (much less commonly) the agency prioritizes their valued employee and tells the client “it’s not possible to have Valentina working on your account full time, but rest assured she’s here for our internal team to ask questions if they need help.”

      Very, very rare, but I’ve seen it happen once with a true nightmare of a client: Agency brass goes to the manager of the nightmare client and says “The reason you can’t keep quality people on your agency team is because Nightmare makes them all want to quit. Please help us out.”

      Anyway, OP2, part of your decision process, assuming the old employee does not want to deal with this person, is asking yourself whether you value the employee or the client more!

  36. So sleepy*

    LW#3 this is heartbreaking, but I think the reason you are starting to feel burned out is also the reason most of them aren’t able to do these things – they’ve either hit their breaking point or are trying to keep their workloads sustainable so they can help as many people as possible. Unfortunately, that means that they have limited time/resources and sometimes things aren’t going to get done as well as they should.

    If you’re able to triage some of the above-and-beyond things you do, that would probably be your best bet at this point. Figure out the things that are the most impactful (or the things that will help the most people with the least amount of time/effort), and actively decide you are going to set limits and prioritize those things.

    Then, figure out what limits will make this sustainable for you – is it a cap on how many hours you work/help in a week, a time you force yourself to go home every night, that you preserve one day a week that can’t be touched?

    And then do it, and whenever you feel guilty, remind yourself that this is a systemic issue that isn’t your fault, and that if you don’t do this, you’ll eventually be too burned out to function, and the next person to come along might not do a fraction of what you are.

    If it helps, it might be worth advocating for more funding for social services in your area – write letters/emails, etc. It’s awful, I know. But ultimately it’s about the system itself, and that’s what’s going to need to be fixed for any of this to be alleviated.

    1. pancakes*

      This seems like very good advice to me. I know lawyers who’ve approached burn-out as public defenders, etc., and found a new sense of purpose in doing advocacy work. Some clinics and organizations take a more holistic approach – represent clients, and research and draft policy. Strategic litigation can be rewarding and reinvigorating.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        It makes sense to look into holistic advocacy organizations – I’m not sure there are any in my area, but I’ve been so focused on trying to solve everything I haven’t looked.

    2. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      I think you’re right – I probably do need to start triaging things. It’s just really, really difficult to let it go when it feels like I should be able to solve the problem.

      Thank you, this is good advice.

  37. internalized misogyny*

    For #4 I just want to call out that the LW says they didn’t care for Jane because LW’s boss spent more time with Jane and LW’s work suffered. It’s a shame that LW placed some of that dislike onto Jane – what was she supposed to do? Seems like that’s on the boss. And people thought they were having an affair? The treatment of Jane seems really sexist. I’d examine those feelings if I were the LW.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      I had the same reaction reading it. Everything mentioned in the letter would make me upset with the boss not Jane

      1. OP #4*

        Hi, this is LW#4. There is more to this situation than what’s in my letter, but I don’t want to risk putting too much potentially identifying information. Please rest assured that I am feeling a lot of anger, demoralization, and loss of respect towards my old boss, who I previously considered a mentor. With Jane, it’s more that seeing her reminds me of the whole situation (which she flaunted to our entire department) and I don’t know what we’d talk about besides the old job. I don’t think it would be healthy to reconnect with her.

        1. Beth*

          Thank you for the added note. This is pretty much what I had read in the letter as it is, and it sounds completely understandable to me!

          I hope your new job and boss and home and life are all wonderful, and that you send Jane to some fine coffee shop that is NOT the one you use yourself.

    2. Loredena Frisealach*

      I got the impression that it was less that she was upset with Jane, as that seeing Jane triggered the memories. Which is not unusual, if a bit unfair for Jane.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had to go back for a second read (thank you all) and now have the same impression! That there’s nothing wrong with Jane, other than she’s a reminder of a toxic job. Boss spending 1:1 time with Jane could mean anything up to and including Boss mentoring Jane to someday take his spot. An affair would be the last conclusion I’d jump to.

  38. SlimeKnight*

    LW#3: I work in administration in a county social services. It sounds like you’re a court appointed attorney. My first piece of advice is to push the judge to make sure reasonable efforts have been made to place the children with family. This is a federal mandate, however, judges have been known to rubber stamp this. Sometimes the removal parents aren’t exactly forthcoming, either, so make sure your clients cooperate. I would also add that in the last five years we have had a lot of trouble getting family placements (even grandparents) to clear background checks.

    As for whether the CPS workers are doing their jobs, there are multiple factors here. 1) There just aren’t enough places to put foster kids. That kid in juvie you mentioned? There are very few homes that will take teenagers, especially teenagers with behavioral difficulties. 2) The turnover rate in the field is very high. It takes time for workers to learn all the resources and providers around. You may legitimately know more than they do. 3) Caseloads tend to be higher than what is recommended.

    1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Yes – we definitely have trouble getting family placements because of background checks. Sometimes even technicalities will prevent it. (Somehow I doubt having a 6 mos old boy and a 2 year old girl sleep in the same room is going to cause trauma, especially if it’ll let their 16 year old cousin have a place to live.) I’ve definitely had clients where we’ve gotten very creative with the use of “family” in order to get placements.

      I will try to keep those things in mind.

  39. Healthcare worker*

    LW3 –

    This will be incredibly hard to hear, and coming from someone who’s worked in healthcare for over 10 years, you need to stop doing it.

    The powers that be will never allocate appropriate funding if they aren’t seeing the problems because things are getting done. Even if ground staff know it’s happening because someone is working beyond their remit that does not mean the higher ups will get it.

    The best advice is to let go, and keep advocating, but don’t step in. Nothing will change if you keep doing that.

  40. Anon Kiddie Lawyer*

    #3 – Everything this person is saying is true. I have worked as an attorney for several years, and am lucky to be in a jurisdiction where our social services are pretty good. There are serious systemic problems – underfunding, unmanageable caseloads, long-term systemic racism and classism, etc. It often falls to the child’s attorney to help find these resources because the CPS staff just can’t (or in some cases, won’t). I have a kid-client right now sitting in a detention facility because they can’t place him somewhere else. He’s a smart, delightful kid, who is becoming institutionalized because he’s seen as a “problem.” But he’s a problem because he’s institutionalized. A vicious cycle.

    In many places juvenile justice matters are confidential by law. And this is great, as it helps to preserve children’s and families’ privacy. But there are times I wish they were open to the public so people could see just how broken these systems are. A little daylight would create accountability. As it is, the general public likely has no idea just how terrible this all is. Sigh.

    No advice. Just commiseration.

    1. pancakes*

      We can have both a little daylight and protection of privacy. In the small handful of cases in this area I’ve worked on, the lead plaintiff and other class members are identified by their initials, or first name plus last initial, and other identifying information is redacted in the supporting documents.

    2. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Yes – this is half the problem! There’s a cycle and if someone doesn’t break it things get progressively worse.

      As much as it sucks to know the juvie thing is a problem everywhere, it kind of does help to know that it can be a problem even when social services are good – hopefully this can help me personally reframe it. I was starting to get a bit BEC with social services as a whole, which just makes it even harder to deal with the cases.

  41. For the love of decency*

    I am a foster parent and I think many people who are not apart of the system are drawing incorrect conclusions. As a foster parent we get cold called at all hours of the day and night from police and social workers alike because the kids are in crisis. Keep in mind Covid has really disrupted the system that already has it’s fair share of problems. Some of the children have court cases for crimes and will be sent to a detention center. After time served they will need a home placement and if no relative or foster parent steps up to take that child they can be left in the detention center. Foster parents get a call about a child coming out of jail who stole a car or was violent or whatever and they need to make the call if that is something they can take on. Many people say no. We took in a run away who was court ordered to go to lock down center (not jail it’s basically school in the morning and therapy in the afternoon but no cell phones and they are locked into the center). The center was not taking new kids so she needed to go to a foster family. Even though she had behavioral and self harm issues we took her in committed to do the best we could. However, My house is not a lock down center so it was heartbreaking when she ran away. It hurts when you question how much good you are actually doing when it constantly feels like you are putting a band-aid over a missing limb wound.

    1. Anon Kiddie Lawyer*

      Foster parents often get very little credit for how much they do, and that’s another unfortunate piece in our broken system.

    2. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Thank you for being a foster parent, especially one willing to take in kids who have serious needs. I know how little recognition you get, but please know that it is truly appreciated (even by those kids who do continue to act out and run away, and their families).

  42. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    LW#1: Liars can get caught eventually…but it takes longer if they’re actually good performers.

    I once learned a person was earning significantly more than I was for the same job role and title. It stung because I busted my butt every day to do a good job and she dropped the ball so very often. I realize now she probably negotiated from a higher salary from her previous job and on paper it looked like she had more experience. But someone that “experienced” should have been less sloppy at the job. When I constructively complained, I did get a raise but it still didn’t match her salary. I’m still salty about it.

  43. Jennifer*

    #1 Honestly, there are always going to be people who make more than you with the same job title because of all kinds of things. They may just be good at negotiation and managed to get a higher salary. It just motivated me to study this site and figure out how to get more money for myself when I started a new job. I get that this situation especially sucks because you’re saying this person is also a liar, but I wonder if negotiating a raise for yourself is possible?

  44. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #4 in my case, a coworker changed jobs and wanted to stay in touch. She came by on her last day asking for contact info, but instead of my phone number, she asked for my address, “because I’ll be working in your area and might stop by after work” to which I very quickly said no. It was before social media, so we weren’t connected on anything. On her first day at her new job, she sent me an email, which I deleted without opening. Never heard from her again. Worked like magic. Though, in my case, we were not in the same field, she was objectively a terrible person, and I was okay with burning bridges.

  45. Middle Manager*

    OP #3 I work in government human service, not children and youth, but a similar field with many parallels. A few things- those social workers could easily make 2-3x the money if they left for a hospital job, private practice, etc. Meaning that most of the time there is a mix- a few less than great employees that are allowed to stay because hiring and retention is brutal for that office and, at least in my experience, many more social workers who are great and care deeply and doing their very best in an impossible system. That latter group almost certainly wants to do a better job and is willing/able to do a better job- but realistically they are only able to do that better job for say 50 cases and they are being required to do a mediocre job for 250 cases instead.

    My suggestion for you would be to become an advocate for the office, not an adversary. Be an outside voice who raises up what you’ve seen to ask for more resources for them. Call the state department in your state that oversees them. Legislatures or county governments (who fund them) and request more funding.

    1. MissBliss*

      I was coming here to say exactly that–I know you’re frustrated with the workers, OP #3, but they’re undoubtedly frustrated too. If you can, partner with them to agitate for change. I can guarantee you they are complaining and no one is listening. The more people who are outside of their office who are noticing and complaining as well (to the state oversight board, to the courts, to the media and local government representatives) the more likely it is that people are going to think “this is a serious problem with consequences for children” and not just “these people are complaining their jobs are too hard when they’re not even getting work done.”

      You are in an impossible situation for one person. So are the many individual caseworkers. But if you, the caseworkers, and others involved in the system start making noise, you may be able to get some things to change. Chapter seven of Don Lash’s “When the Welfare People Come” talks specifically about this issue. (Great read, highly recommend for anyone reading this and feeling horrified and asking what they can do. If you live in the US, this is almost certainly an issue where you live, too.)

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        Thank you for the recommendation – I will definitely add it to my reading list.

    2. Serenity*

      Oh gods, yes, this (I’m in the field). Much less money for a much larger case load and don’t forget six times the paperwork for each case compared to non-governmental social services. We do it because we care, even in a broken system.

      Advocacy for more staff and more money (but please not more paperwork) is the only thing that will change it.

  46. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 2, you wrote, ‘Now, nothing really happened to prompt this, the new employee hasn’t done anything wrong, and our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way that means she should be handled by the new employee. I personally think it’s quite rude to demand someone be returned to your account, but I can’t see how I could refuse her either, which may be taken badly by my new employee!’

    It’s not your client’s job to help you meet your organization and/or talent development goals. The client has exacting business needs and she trusts the other employee. She probably has a solid rapport too. The request is not rude, it is strictly business.

    I’m sure you can find another way to align and develop your new employee without losing business.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      My interpretation of “our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way that means she should be handled by the new employee” was that the client list was going to be alphabetized and divided between various employees.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Could be, but I don’t get that impression. When I read the OP’s entire post I got the feeling her rationale was more about team development and internal efficiencies. She seems to be reacting strongly and almost taking the client’s request as an unreasonable insult. ‘Demand’, ‘rude’, ‘polite, but very stern’? Nope. Normal.

    2. Clisby*

      “The request is not rude, it is strictly business.”

      This. At least, the LW has not even hinted at anything like the client being motivated by some kind of prejudice; it just sounds like they (understandably) have more confidence in the experienced rep.

      I’ve never worked in account management, but if the company has come up with a new way to divvy up clients, it seems like part of that plan should be to smooth the way with the clients ahead of time, not just suddenly inform them they have a new rep.

      1. Here we go again*

        Client doesn’t want to start over with someone new. It’s like find a hair stylist who cuts your hair perfect then the salon saying you must work with this new stylist fresh out of cosmetology school.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          But sometimes the client really doesn’t have a choice. My hairstylist moved, so I either fly 1500 miles to see him or I try the person who’s taking over his clients.

          I don’t think the client is rude or out of line, and I think the LW is taking the request way too personally, but I also think it’s sometimes how business goes. Reps shift for all kinds of reasons.

          1. Chinook*

            If the hair stylist moves, then I, as the client, still have the right to refuse the fresh new one. If the salon is lucky, I may tell them if I am unhappy with their selection for me. But, more often than not, I just won’t book my next appointment and will take my business elsewhere. And, depending on how the transition to the new stylist is treated, I may also spread the word to others about my treatment (just like I would with excellent treatment).

            I believe the OP needs to verify that their transition process took into consideration their client needs as much as their own internal goals. because, without those clients, those goals become harder to reach.

          2. Gray Lady*

            But that’s not what’s happening here. I agree that ultimately, the client needs to adjust if there’s no alternative, or if in the end, LW decides that their management needs trump the client’s desires. However, their previous account manager didn’t move to another company, or change job functions, that person is still available as an account manager. So the question is, is it more important to force the client to make the adjustment because of the company’s internal goals, or is it more important to maintain a good working relationship with the client. From the client’s perspective, the latter is obviously going to win every time. From the company perspective, it could go either way, so it shouldn’t be seen as rude or demanding for the client to request what ought to be a possible accommodation and will be considered as giving better client service.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Exactly. I’ve been the client who had new Account Executives assigned to me and my team, not by my request and smetimes as a done deal. If our project wasn’t complex or it was a fairly new relationship, I didn’t complain or push for my old AE.

        If I had complex, ongoing needs like the OP’s client, and a multi-year track record with an AE who made my life easier, I questioned on my vendor’s decision. Even if there was a valid reason for it and I agreed with the move, I still needed advance warning to plan for the transition on my end. My team and I were going to lose time and momentum with any new AE, but especially an inexperienced one.

        Again, strictly business.

  47. HLK1219HLLK*

    Per social workers: Alison is right that they are often overworked and stretched thinly. The issue is that if the LW is not a licensed SW or trained, she/he could get into legal difficulties if things go wrong. I’m not saying they’re wrong for stepping in – just pointing out that it gives the department leeway to make her the scapegoat. My recommendation is that if there are oversight groups in the area, the LW should try bringing this up with them. This doesn’t mean the head of Child Welfare Services (although they should be included) – I’m referring to oversight bodies, usually staffed with volunteers from the social worker, law enforcement, judicial, and child advocate groups. Here’s an example in Sacramento, CA. https://dcfas.saccounty.net/Admin/childrenscoalition/Documents/2017%20CPS%20Oversight%20Annual%20Report%20-%20APPROVED.pdf
    For the LW: I want to say thank you for putting the needs of the children first. You deserve recognition for taking these steps – a child in a temporary or permanent placement is going to almost always have better outcomes than a child in juvenile detention which sad to say, more often than not, helps to develop an institutional mindset in the child (not good for the rest of their lives).

    1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      I… honestly hadn’t even thought of being made the scapegoat. It seems like this becomes more and more complicated the more I get outside thoughts on it – I’m thinking I had tunnel vision about the whole thing.

      Yeah, the pipeline to prison is terrifying, especially knowing that it can start at a really young age just because the government makes a bad decision.

  48. Lacey*

    I’m surprised that #2 seems surprised that their difficult client didn’t want to be moved away from the Rep they already had a good rapport with. I work in advertising and this happens all the time. They want their sales person and their designer.

    I had a client who would only work with me for TEN years. His ads were simple too. Anyone could have done them.
    He didn’t want that though, because he was used to me doing them. He was a super good (& spendy) client, so we just humored him.

    Of course there are times you can’t humor the client. I eventually left that job. Another coworker changed roles and couldn’t be a client’s designer anymore. A designer’s client load gets too heavy and they have to switch some clients.

    But it’s a really common preference.

    1. OP#2*

      Hi! I’m the OP, you’re right. The reason I was surprised is because I actually transitioned her from myself to her current rep about 2 years ago and it went great. After reading everyone’s comments I think this transition was handled badly by myself and needed more time/care.

  49. Jessica Fletcher*

    #3 – It’s also possible that resources are more willing to accept placement when you call because you’re the attorney. They might think it’s more urgent, they might see you as having more authority than a social services worker, or they might think saying yes to an attorney is doing a favor that might be in their best interest long term.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      I wondered about this as well … I’m also curious if the OP has additional support from their staff at work that might make it a bit easier for them to work on placements, etc. And if their case load in general is less than that of the average social worker/case mgr in their county.

      Not trying to call out the OP who seems very compassionate and committed. But it seems to me that there are several factors that might heighten the lawyer’s effectiveness in these matters.

      1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

        I’m a solo practitioner with no support staff, so it’s just me! And I also do indigent criminal defense and legal aid domestic violence/family law, so my case load is… well, running my caseload in the state system breaks it (which is not particularly unusual for public attorneys).

  50. Quickbeam*

    OP #3: I was a juvenile probation officer for my first career. Placement was *always* a scramble and it helped to view this as a collaborative process. I stepped up to maintain a book of resources and emergency placements. I worked with guidance counselors, youth crisis social workers, private attorneys and public defenders. I’d say in my career, we all took equal responsiblity for placements. Many times we all sat down together and shared ideas for a challenging placement.

    This worked because we were friendly with one another and knew we could count on each other. The more adversarial the process is, the more likely people will leave it for someone else. My suggestion is to meet face to face with some of the players who you feel are not assisting and develop a game plan for future crises. Becasue there will be future crises in the youth at risk business. Maybe if they know you better, they won’t ignore the requests.

    1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Trying to get a written game plan may help – I’ll put that on my to do list!

      Yes, honestly as much as I hate it when my clients get criminal charges, honestly our probation does a better job of getting kids placed outside of juvie than social services. Go figure.

  51. Mal*

    OP3: For context, I’m a CASA, so familiar with the system, at least in my state. Our DSS is overwhelmed, but nowhere near the level described by some other posters here (caseworkers tend to have only a little over their max case load). The social work that you are doing on your cases, especially if you are doing them as an attorney for the parents, would NOT be acceptable in our locality. It would even be considered in some cases a conflict of interest. And so I’m not 100% sure the best advice to give, since it sounds like the system where you are located must be dealing with a level of crisis beyond what I am used to. But here’s my best shot:

    1) Don’t do so much that you will burn out. If you burn out, you can’t help anyone. If you need a break from doing social work, you need to take that break (or greatly reduce what you are doing). Direct any outrage regarding issues with placements or services to the judge. If services are mandated and not happening because DSS isn’t moving on it, the judge needs to know.

    2) Contact other lawyers in your position for support. I regularly meet with other CASAs to just talk and share notes. This helps greatly with burnout.

    3) If you have a local CASA office, see what you can do about advocating for getting a CASA on your cases. This will shift at least some of the social work off your plate, since the CASA will be pressuring DSS to stay on top of things.

    4) The big issue here is that your state or local family services system isn’t able to do it’s job. Maybe (probably) the case loads are too high. Maybe they need more support keeping track of resources. They almost certainly need far more funding. When you try to band-aid over the issues, you are helping the kid whose case you’re on, but you are masking the larger issues, which if anything hurts in the long run, since the system is under less pressure to fix its issues. A systemic problem needs a systemic solution. The ACLU? Other organizations in your state? Writing letters higher up in your local and state governance? Media attention?

    1. lil falafel wrap*

      I definitely agree that this is a systemic problem. Honestly, I may do outreach to legal organizations that focus on impact litigation and children’s rights. I’ve worked for one and am about to do an internship with another, and there are orgs out there that will take these cases and sue these counties to ensure children’s rights are being upheld. I don’t want to share for my own privacy, but I’d recommend doing some googling or reaching out to children’s advocacy orgs in your area and see if they have any recommendations for organizations.

  52. Soupspoon McGee*

    #5, It sounds like you’re in a position of leadership in your company. You can do so much for other employees who are in a similar position but have less power than you by clarifying that you need to stay remote for your health, and you are not in a position to meet with people who are unvaccinated/unmasked. I promise you there are other people in your organization who are risking their health because they feel they have no a choice and are afraid to be singled out as “not team players”. It’s not fair that you should have to disclose anything personal, but in this case I think you can do a lot of good. I agree with others that your reputation will take more of a hit with no explanation than a vague explanation of health issues.

    1. OP #5*

      I’m in a position of leadership, but not so high that I have a big influence on culture. Think middle-management. I have disclosed enough medical info to my supervisor and direct reports that they are fully aware why I am staying distant. I have not shared that more publicly in the company because I am currently facing negative repercussions for disclosing even minimal info to upper management. If I say too little, I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. If I disclose too much and truly reveal the seriousness, I get concerns about if I can continue my job and seen differently in the company. At my particular organization, there seems to be no winning. But I am starting to realize the disfunction of my company has far greater impact on my question then I previously realized! Medical situations are not handled well, even pandemic aside.

  53. ali*

    #5 – I feel your pain. I skipped ONE event due to the same health situation and got so many questions I eventually gave in and said why. I also knew full well that one of my teammates isn’t vaccinated and doesn’t planning on getting it at all. Thankfully we don’t have in-person events often (and don’t even have an in-person office) so it won’t be an ongoing problem for me. In your situation, it might be worth telling your manager depending on your relationship. I’m lucky that mine was very understanding.

    Just know you’re not alone in this.

    1. OP #5*

      Yep, I made that mistake before! I fully disclosed to one person in another department and now get questions about it every time we speak. Working in a healthcare related industry seems to make probing questions even more likely to occur. Finding the balance is a struggle. My supervisor is understanding, but not willing to mitigate on my behalf. Thank you for your support, it can feel like a very lonely situation to try to navigate.

  54. Agnes A*

    #1 Imagine someone asking: “I’ve been married for the last 15 years and never cheated on my wife. Someone I know cheats on his girlfriend all the time. I can’t lie. How should I move forward? Is this what people do these days?”

  55. Paulette Valla*

    I am a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) volunteer. In some areas it may also be known as Casa. A Guardian ad Litem is assigned to a case by the Judge when a child has been taken into placement by the State due to domestic violence, drug usage, neglect, etc. The role of a Guardian ad Litem is to represent the best interest of the child. As a GAL I represent the child’s needs and wishes. I work with the social agency to ensure that the needs of the child are being met in a timely manner. This includes working with the agency to find a suitable placement, asking for referrals for the child if I feel therapy is needed, family counseling, therapeutic visits with the parents, receiving status reports from service providers as to the progress the parents are making in their required services, status updates from medical and mental health providers, etc. I attend all hearings and submit reports to the court re: the well-being of the child, parental behaviors, and make recommendations as to what final outcome is in the best interest of the child. If you have this program in your judicial circuit, you can request that a GAL be assigned to the case.

  56. JohannaCabal*

    #1 Are you absolutely certain this other person actually lied? Maybe they’ve excelled in ways you don’t know about or have experience in other areas that they bring to the role. I know some of the regular posters here have been accused of lying on their resumes/applications when they haven’t (as a woman working in a field tangential to tech, I often worry about this when I apply for some jobs).

    If you’re unhappy about the pay where you are now, perhaps it’s time to look for a different role and negotiate a pay increase (something I did successfully despite it being the middle of the pandemic last year).

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, this was my thought. How does the OP know this person lied (and, assuming they work for the same company, why wouldn’t OP flag that to someone?). I feel like OP is upset with their financial compensation (and it’s very likely their feelings are valid!) but the issue then is with their employer, not this other random worker.

    2. bob*

      I know we’re supposed to assume the truth of posters, but I wondered about this too. So without trying to judge if this is actually the case here, it’s worth pointing out that jealous colleagues sometimes start rumors that end up not being true. For those cases, it’s worth remembering- you may not get along with everyone on your team, but it doesn’t mean they lied on their resume.

  57. Observer*

    #5 – You are right. Your medical information is yours to share or not as you choose. But your behavior in public is just that – PUBLIC. And to some extent it affects others, even if indirectly in minor ways. So it’s legitimate for people to draw conclusions based on what they know. Right now, all they know is that you are refusing to attend anything in person at a time when it should be safe.

    Alison is correct – you don’t have to share details to get people to understand that your issue is not being anti-social, nor are you being hypocritical. But you DO have to share the basics if you want people to know that.

    It’s like a lot of other things in life. You DO have the right to do and say (or not say) certain things. But that doesn’t insulate you from the reasonable results of your decisions. If you choose to act in ways that look like you want to isolate yourself from people and don’t give people any sort of context for your actions, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to draw the reasonable conclusions.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t think it is always legitimate for people to draw conclusions based on their own guesswork about the situation, knowing that they don’t know all the relevant facts. A lot of people are bad at contextualizing. That doesn’t keep them from trying, of course, but it doesn’t follow that they’re all or always being “perfectly reasonable” in reaching the uninformed conclusions they do.

      1. Observer*

        Sure not everyone reaches a reasonable conclusion. But “She’s just not interested in being around people” is not an unreasonable conclusion to draw in these circumstances.

          1. Observer*

            So? If the OP wants to make sure that people don’t come to factually incorrect and damaging conclusions they need to provide some information. Otherwise people are going to draw the incorrect but very reasonable conclusions.

            1. pancakes*

              I’m more inclined to think people should care about whether their guesswork is correct than to think people should try to preempt every wrong guess their coworkers might make about their personal life.

  58. blink14*

    #5 – I’m in a similar situation of being vaccinated and dealing with a variety of health conditions, including an immune disorder, all of which put me at a higher risk for severe Covid symptoms. My workplace (for context, a university) is expecting as much as possible that people are back in the office either as soon as possible or by around Labor Day. However, you can request alternative work arrangements, which has resulted in entire departments going with hybrid work schedules, and a subset of people remaining fully remote. Much of this is dependent on your role – mine for instance just happens to be a role that can remain fully remote, but I’ve made it clear that if that was not the case, I would be submitting for health related reasons to stay home.

    I think its in your best interest, while being as vague as reasonably possible, to state that you need to remain remote for health concerns. Fact is, we don’t know what the Covid situation is going to be 2 months from now, much less the fall or winter. I think many organizations that aren’t actively putting new WFH or hybrid policies in place are going to start requiring reasons for why an employee wants to remain remote, and health concerns are completely valid. And we don’t want people to forget that! This feeling in the US right now that everything is going to be fine and its all over just isn’t real or realistic, and that’s going to start happening as more and more countries roll out vaccination programs. There are millions of people, both in the US and worldwide, that will be taking regular Covid precautions going forward, because it’s still incredibly dangerous for them, even with a much smaller chance of getting the virus.

    1. OP #5*

      Thank you, I agree the uncertainty around what the future looks like makes this a much harder situation to navigate. I hope that you stay safe and healthy.

  59. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    OP#1: Many years ago I was a student in a computer-science program at a state university. There was one difficult programming class everyone had to pass. In the year behind mine, every single student cheated in that class. They got caught, too. AND THEN the school decided it couldn’t flunk all the CS students in a single year so they just took a zero for one assignment.

    Those people graduated and have jobs in the technology industry now. Scary, huh?

    1. Susie Q*

      In my opinion, if every single student has to cheat to pass a course, there are major issues with that class and professor.

        1. Observer*

          In this case, it’s a distinction without a difference. The fact that they ALL agreed to do this means that something was totally off here.

        2. pancakes*

          I think it makes rather a big difference whether the class was impossibly difficult or the students were uniquely cooperative in colluding.

      1. SarahKay*

        My first year at uni, one of the end-of-year exams was incredibly hard, and I know that I couldn’t have scored more than 15%. (It was maths, so it’s usually possible to get a very clear idea of what marks one has achieved.) I absolutely should have failed, and had to resit the exam, and maybe even the year.
        When my results were sent out I’d hit the pass mark at 40%.
        It turned out that the lecturer in question had had his first two suggested exam papers rejected from the dept head for being too easy, and for his third try he basically said ‘right, he jolly well won’t reject this one for being too easy!’ As a result the department decided to grade that paper on a curve and move everyone’s marks up accordingly. Even after that a good 25% of the class had to resit for that course.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Was it literally every student?

      I was in a similar situation also at a state university; a class being taught by a teacher that wasn’t actually a teacher, just a consultant in the wrong place at the wrong time. The final project was bonkers (re-implement TCP/IP in Java. This was the only class in the entire college that used Java at the time). I remember going into office hours to have my D score explained to me–not why it was so low, but how it was anything above an F.

      Something like 80% of the students in that class collaborated on the individual project and ended up mining textbooks for code (if you’re thinking plagiarism, you’re essentially right). But enough had influential people behind them that the Department Head (I forget his real title) re-scored the class ex post facto on a curve of 68-100, so any one who attended class and made any sort of effort got at least a C and credits to move forward. I ended up with an in explicable B- (it wasn’t my finest moment; I probably had a D+/C- going into the re-scoring).

      The course wasn’t offered again in the 3½ semesters I attended after it (I have a 10 semester degree instead of an 8 due to changing majors after 6 semesters). I probably should have dropped the course when the “teacher” docked me 5% on an in-class assignment for using vi instead of emacs!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        …7 semesters, not 3½. I switched to semesters so the numbers would be whole, but managed to mangle that one. It was autumn and I was a (true) sophomore…

  60. OhNoYouDidn't*

    #3. I worked in child welfare for several years as a foster care worker, a licensing worker, and a supervisor for both. You’re absolutely right in that placing children is the job of placement workers, not you. You’re also probably right that they are woefully underfunded, overworked, and doing the minimum required just to keep their heads above water. I suspect (based on my experience) a lot of them are burned out, just aren’t personally invested, and have no interest in or capacity to go above and beyond has you seem to do . Others have commented that your situation is ideal for class action litigation on behalf of children as happened in my state. Despite following a consent decree, and despite many reforms, things still suck in our state. But we don’t have workers not placing children. I admire and commend you for you advocacy on behalf of these children; it’s a draining and thankless job.

    The first thing that came to mind was to ask if your state as an Ombudsman to which you can take very specific complaints. In our state, this office investigates and those investigations are taken very seriously by agencies and workers alike. This office has teeth behind what they do. If your state doesn’t have that, maybe lobbying to start such an office is something you could do to help with a long term fix. Going to the press to report problems can bring pressure on the government to throw money behind the issue and bring reforms. Lobbying your state legislature is another avenue. As I said, I know these are long term solutions and don’t help your immediate situation. But brining specific incidents to bigger powers and making things public, often that’s they only way change happens. You might not have the ability to make immediate change, but maybe you could be the catalyst for long term changes. Hats off to you!

    1. Jane Seymour (#3)*

      Thank you. It’s good to here from someone on the other side of things that it can get better and to have a concrete idea of a way to do so.

  61. Girasol*

    #5 There are people who believe that those who are vaccinated and still won’t get face to face with others are science-hating phobics who ought to get therapy. (Comments here in past threads have pointed that out.) If you don’t reveal that you have a health condition that makes your situation different from that of most people, you may end up dealing facing that problem instead. You have every right to say nothing at all, but Alison’s bland and undetailed script might save you some of that trouble.

  62. Observer*

    #2 – A few thoughts

    Now, nothing really happened to prompt this, the new employee hasn’t done anything wrong,

    Reading it from a customer pov, that raises a number of non-green colored flags for me. Nothing “really” happened? Does that mean that SOMETHING happened, and you don’t consider it significant? Has the new employee done anything RIGHT? What do you mean “hasn’t done anything wrong?” That’s a rather odd way of putting it. It’s hard to tell if that means “She’s been competent and polite, but she works a little differently from her predecessor” or “She’s never rude, and she hasn’t made any big mistakes yet, but she’s substantially slower and it often takes several conversations for her to understand what exactly the client needs” or anything in between.

    and our strategic goal for 2021 is to split up clients in a way that means she should be handled by the new employee.

    And why would your customer care about that? From their point of view, your strategic goals are irrelevant except insofar as how it affects the quality of service they are getting. If they are getting substantially lower service, or even if that’s the way they see it, then if you tell them that, you’ve just killed your relationship with the client.

    I personally think it’s quite rude to demand someone be returned to your account,

    This is not a social relationship, but a business one. The rules of etiquette are rather different in this context. I don’t mean that people should be mean or inconsiderate or anything like that. But a customer is PERFECTLY within their “politeness rights” to demand that they get service from a better / more skilled service provider.

    but I can’t see how I could refuse her either, which may be taken badly by my new employee!

    If your employee is REALLY likely to take this badly then that helps explain why the client does not want to work with her. Because in this kind of set up that kind of response is really inappropriate, assuming that you make the switch in a reasonable fashion. (ie Don’t be rude, lay blame, overstate the case, etc.) On the other hand, if this is just your perception, you really need to step back and rethink how you manage employees. You are not friends or family, and your relationship and how you deal with each other should reflect that.

    Again, I’m not advocating that you treat your employee like a robot or without kindness and consideration. But reassigning accounts, if done reasonably and for solid reasons (like you want to keep a valuable client who is not being abusive) should not be cause for an employee to have a melt down about, sulk, or otherwise behave poorly. And if you make it your business to consistently treat your employee fairly, reasonably and well, it really should not be a big deal.

    but I can’t see how I could refuse her either, which may be taken badly by my new employee!

  63. TeaWrecks*

    #2 – I’m in sales/client services and I’ve had client like this also who just don’t want to deal with other people. As I’ve said previously within my company when accounts are moved, humans are not resources like monitors or computers that can just be unplugged from point A, plugged into point B and work the same for everyone. We are all humans, and sometimes forming a human relationship – even within the context of a business relationship – means more than moving an account where it makes more sense. Aside from genuine friendships that can form between reps and clients after years of working together, there is a shorthand and understanding of projects, needs, past history as well as future projections that is absolutely exhausting for a client to have to establish with a new rep (I’m going through this now!). And sometimes the client is just shy, or introverted, or surly, but has found a person they’re comfortable with.

  64. All het up about it*


    but I also think showing up as the only masked person and opting out of eating won’t be received well either.

    This is what jumped out at me. If you do not feel comfortable/have been directed not to go out even masked, then of course do not do so! But if you feel that you could safely go out in a mask, then perhaps that is your answer. I recently visited family in an area of the country that was far more lax about Covid restrictions so there were a few times I ended up the only masked person and it really wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think your co-workers are going to “not receive it well” if you show up masked. While there are people out there who will judge, there are also plenty more people who will respect that you are making a decision for your personal health and safety and that will just be delighted to see your face – the part that isn’t covered by a mask.

  65. Jennifer Strange*

    OP#2 – I work in fundraising for a non-profit, and I know when a gift officer (the person who creates a relationship and solicits the gift) has to pass off someone in their portfolio there’s a specific transition. Usually the current gift officer will arrange a meeting (a lunch or dinner usually) with the donor and the new gift officer so that the donor is introduced to the new gift officer and can get to know them. If the new gift officer is new to the organization (and especially new to the business) the current gift officer will work in tandem with them for a bit in stewarding the donor until there is a trust there, and then they will move on.

    Was this change just a “Hey, your new rep is going to be Jane!” message to the client? Or did the new rep get a chance to work with the former rep in working with the client, so that they could be caught up on all of the nuances of the client and their needs? I would hope it was the second, but if it was the first, well, yeah, I can see why it would be jarring for the client! To be clear, even if there was a transitional period I don’t think the client was rude to ask to return to their original rep (within reason), but it sounds like it was just an abrupt change for them.

  66. Public Sector Manager*

    For OP #1, when I was in private practice many years ago, my coworker had a client who had one lie on their resume–a master’s degree they didn’t earn. Everything else on the resume was real. They got a job at a major telecommunications company, the initial offer was “sweetened” because of the degree, and the client did amazing work for 12 years. No one found out, until the client had a major disagreement with a supervisor. The supervisor audited their personnel file, asked for proof of a degree, and that’s when the lie was exposed. They fired the client immediately. The client turned around and sued, arguing that even though they lied, they did great work and there was some evidence that the supervisor was motivated by age discrimination (and trimming the salaries that come with senior employees). It took about 2 years for the case to go to trial, and the client lost on all counts. Client had to completely abandon their career because any time someone called to verify employment, the old employer told the prospective employer the client was terminated for cause. The client was 51 when they got fired, and had no career.

    So even if it looks like someone else is getting away with something, sometimes it really is only a matter of time before they get caught.

  67. JB*

    I was this client once. We were the largest, most complex, highest dollar client for 5 companies for whom we’d contracted training services. At first, I was accepting when they transitioned new reps on. But – honestly – it was too much “work” to bring them up to speed. And sometimes you could just tell the person was passing through, wouldn’t be there long. I tried to be fair but after a while gave up and made it clear that the new people could handle routine stuff but if I had any issues or complex situations, I was only dealing with my “old” rep, who had moved into management. So we came to a sort of compromise that worked. More like an apprenticeship. During the ~10 years of the relationships, the core people continued to be the same (often they had an ownership stake) and “reps” came and went.

    1. JB*

      Meant for OP#2. And I think I was a pretty reasonable client, not a “difficult” one. But our account was complicated.

  68. Macaroni Penguin*

    Hi OP3. I work in a social services role adjacent to children’s services. I just wanted to say that you’re a very good human! And its entirely probable that the social workers are truly doing their best. (Granted, there are some dull crayons in any field). In your words, it’s “uncredible since I’m able to find placements, services and resources without any of their tools.” All I can say is you probably have more resources, time, money, or support, or something than the social worker case manager does. This isn’t my organization thankfully, but I’ve seen social workers with ghastly caseloads beyond what any human can reasonably handle.
    So what can YOU do in this situation? The way I see it, you have two strategies to take; try to change things on the Small Level or the Big Level.
    Change at the Small Level. Take care of yourself and do great work in the area that you have. The system is broken, but maybe you can help some people you come across. It sounds like you’ve already talked to people at the supervisor level. Are you in regular contact with individual social workers? Maybe making a resource list and sharing it at the ground level would improve things.
    Change the Big Things: The system is broken, let’s fix it! Vote for politicians who will increase funding for the social services. Report individuals who are Not Doing Their Jobs to the appropriate authority. Become a Director who can change policies and restructure the work loads. Write to the people in power and ask them to Do Something. Solve racism, poverty, generational trauma, malnutrition, and all the woes of humanity. It’s an impossible task, but perhaps worth the attempt or else the system will never change.
    I don’t know what the True Answer is for what you see. I’m just in the middle of all this as a social worker type person trying to make a corner of the world a bit better.

  69. Silicon Valley Girl*

    #1 – The resume liars will get caught, so it’s not worth it! I worked at a Fortune 500 company that hired a new CEO & a few months later, it came out that he’d lied about something in his job history. He was booted immediately. Resume stuff is easy to fact-check, so someone will catch it eventually.

  70. Nanani*

    You don’t have to.
    You can ignore their messages entirely and if you run into them in another setting, “Oh I’ve been so busy/I don’t really use (insert app here) much these days.”

    Any specific invite that you can’t ignore gets a No with no explanation (explanations invite entrapment, if you say no because you’re busy that day they’ll reschedule so you now “have to”. You don’t actually have to)

    It doesn’t sound you need references or anything from this person, just to remain professionally civil, so you are officially TOO BUSY TO SOCIALISE and perfectly civil in person in professional contexts. Which are the only contexts you’ll see them.

    1. OP#4*

      Hi, this is LW#4. You are correct in that I do not need references from Jane, as she is quite new to our shared field. Your advice is so nice to hear. I have anxiety issues and often feel incapable of declining invitations, and it’s sometimes hard to remember that I’m not obligated to socialize with people I’d rather not see. Thank you!

  71. VALCSW*

    LW#3 first let me say thank you for all you are doing to protect children. You are working in one of the most needed, yet most thankless, exhausting professions & I’m grateful there are folks like yourself out there. But that doesn’t help you. Quite frankly, I don’t know that there’s much more that can be done to correct the matter until our federal government starts funding these systems in a more respectable manner. I hate to offer advice that really is clearly not advice, but this system infuriates me. It’s easy to blame the system’s workers, but they & YOU are in an untenable situation. Until salaries are commensurate with the level of skill & work required, the profession will continue to attract untrained workers, which leads to low staffing, HIGH levels of burnout, & children who are being failed. I’m sorry this isn’t helping you, but I’m very grateful that you go above & beyond to do what you can.

  72. MsGnomer*

    #2 – I work in an industry where things like this sometimes happen. Here are some of the reasons a client has wanted a change:
    1. They wanted to work with a man.
    2. The person handling the account genuinely did not have enough experience to handle work with that level of complexity.
    3. Personality preference – they did not feel “connected” to the person handling the account and wanted moved back to someone they had a connection with.
    4. Communication preferences – they didn’t feel like they were updated enough or preferred to speak on the phone rather than email.
    5. Lack of understanding on the client’s part about their own contract.

    With each case, we would have a conversation with the client to learn what their concerns were. Then, we would address with the person handling the account. In most cases, we would put together a plan to address the concerns and see if the client agreed to the plan and to continue working with the rep. Usually, once we figured out their preferences, we would adapt to that and it would go smoothly from there. In the case of someone who just wasn’t qualified to handle the account, we would move it. Otherwise, if the client did not agree to the plan and insisted on a change, we would move the account if we felt it was reasonable and it was something we were able to accommodate. Sometimes, we might make a business decision to keep the account where it is even if the client disagrees. It really just depends on the situation.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      1. They wanted to work with a man.

      I’m going through that with one of our clients. Or, more accurately, the CSR I work with is. She’s fantastic and does an amazing job; they just don’t feel like talking to her because… reasons.

      If I had billing power, they’d have a Stupid Sexist Upcharge already.

    2. So sleepy*

      I’m honestly torn about this one. I keep thinking about how I’m constantly frustrated by our new insurance rep. There’s truly no amount of chasing down the issue that would resolve this – at the end of the day, we had someone who had worked in the industry for 25 years and did everything in his power to advocate for his clients and make recommendations that were in our best interests, not the insurers.

      The new rep makes sure all our insurance needs are met in a timely manner, but doesn’t know us at all, and it would never occur to her that we would want to know that a first time $12k claim will probably increase our rates by $25k+ over the next few years. Which we really would have liked to know before making the claim, as we can hardly manage the costs now – we would have been much better off to pay out of pocket.

      That’s something that comes with experience, and knowing your clients wants/needs well. You could ask about our concerns til the cows come home, but it’s not going to help anything. Unfortunately for us, we lost our rep to retirement; we would have fought til the cows came home if we were reassigned to someone else for any other reason.

  73. Just another commentator*

    I totally agree dealing with only a particular person at a business. In my case, my old dentist was very upset when I said I no longer wanted to deal with her partner after it was found a cavity the partner had filled incorrectly had led to an infected dental abscess, which was the cause of 6+ years of constant sinus infections. I was told by the ENT I was very lucky I hand them gotten meningitis or a heart infection. My dentist also refused to believe the dental was what we made me so sick.

    Needless to say, I changed dentists because quite frankly their mistake could’ve killed me. My new dentist did a root canal very quickly and my constant infections magically cleared up!

    1. So sleepy*

      I don’t want to derail but I’m also super curious how you were able to find out the abscess was the cause of your sinus infections!

      1. Just another commentator*

        A student doctor at my college, deciding x-rays don’t always show everything, sent me for a sinus CT scan, which showed the abscess.

  74. Just another commentator*

    That should say I was very lucky I didn’t get meningitis or a heart infection.

  75. So sleepy*

    LW5, you could also say something like “I am a caregiver for someone who is immunosuppressed” or something along those lines, as well – almost whatever you would expect your spouse to say when explaining why he is still being cautious. I know a few people in that situation and wouldn’t question it at all if someone was being intentionally vague about it – I’d assume they were talking about a parent, sibling or otherwise, and were being vague out of respect for that person’s privacy.

    I think it’s probably more common than you think – I have a parent who isn’t immunocompromised, but is extremely high risk. Thankfully, her fiancé has been a godsend this past year, but if he wasn’t in the picture, it would have seriously impacted what I could and could not do and made it a lot harder for me to balance my kids’ needs as well – work would have been last by a long shot.

  76. msk1024*

    For LW1 who makes less than a new hire. I was in that same position around 15 years ago. I’d been underpaid for much of my time at the company, and while several managers had intervened on my part and got me increases, I was still a bit below. They brought someone in who was supposed to replace me while I moved onto a new position–a lateral move. Found out later that they brought her in a good 10% higher than I was at the time. I don’t know if she lied, or was just better on paper than in reality, but she did not work out. At all. I wasn’t really the best advocate for myself at the time and had beat myself up over it. I’m sure this person negotiated her offer (as she should have, of course) The thing I learned was that you have to be able to produce if you ask for more money. She wasn’t there a year.

  77. LilyP*

    For letter #3, I don’t know social services at all so this is a shot in the dark, but are there any elected officials you could reach out to or make a fuss with? City/county/state-level, or even your congresspeople might have staffing and pull to advocate for more resources for social services, or see this as a potential campaign issue.

  78. Gnizmo*


    I used to do investigations for DCFS some years ago. The first thing I would say is the accuracy of their caseload might be off. I had an official caseload of around 30 investigations typically. We also had an “alternative response” type reports that were NOT part of our official caseload despite often involving much more work (long story). Alternative responses were meant to be low severity cases where time was not as much of a worry. Basically trying to be preventative and intervene before something major happened. With stunning regularity as soon as we started approaching our state limit of new cases per month the cases the severity of alternative responses would start to increase. It got to the point where sexual assaults got classified AR which was terrible because those cases would sit for fucking months before I even read them at times (I would have upwards of 80 active at a time).

    The other part I will mention is that if I knew someone would pick up the slack for one of my tasks then I would absolutely not do it. Especially towards the end when burnout was really bad and I went entirely numb to what I was seeing (burnout is real bad). I was doing 120 hour weeks which meant I was also not doing great or a lot of work because the meatgrinder had chewed me up so thoroughly. Anything that could be moved off my plate by simply ignoring it was dropped immediately.

    If that is happening in your area then you need to go higher. We would get occasional mandates handed down saying we needed to stop ignoring X because it was causing a lot of problems. There would be a massive uproar in the office where we would go to our managers and ask how we were expected to make time for this? We would then be told to not worry about Y which would immediately get neglected until a mandate came down about it. Sometimes Y would be paperwork that was actually useless but also time consuming which was helpful. Sometimes it was other work that was important but we knew would be picked up by someone else at least for a while.

    I will also say that you sound like you need to take a step back a little bit. This system will destroy your soul. There were problems with the system long before you got involved, and they will be there long after you have left. The more you take care of yourself the longer you can keep working to improve the system. The voice that tells says you specifically have to help all these kids is your ego, and not your conscience. Carry the torch as far as you can and hand it to the next person. That way you can get a breather, rehydrate, and carry it again when it comes back around.

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