open thread – July 16-17, 2021

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

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

{ 1,100 comments… read them below }

  1. Jolene Jolene Jolene*

    How common is it for jobs to pay out any unused leave when you resign from a job? I just left a job (private sector) and I know in my job before that (public government) and in my new job (public academics), this is standard procedure. I can’t find my hiring documents from my recent job and HR and my boss is basically ignoring me, so I want to know if this is a thing I should actually push for (because I know I had a lot of leave left) or if it’s not a common thing that I should drop.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It varies at least by the state level. Some employers pledge to it in states where it’s not required. Others are so vague as to be useless (i.e. my employer).

      1. Love WFH*

        If your employer doesn’t track PTO time, then they don’t have it on the books and won’t pay it out. This would be the case at a company that says “unlimited vacation!”

        If you do accrue is officially, and it counts down in the system every time you use some, then I’d expect it to be paid out. It always has been for me.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Your logic makes sense… it’s just not my experience. My state doesn’t require PTO payout and I’ve never had it happen.

          1. TiffIf*

            My company has accrued vacation time–technically it accrues per month but they always give it in one lump sum at the beginning of the year. You are expected to pay back the company if you leave the company during the year and have used more PTO than you would have accrued to that point in time. Otherwise any unused accrued PTO gets paid out.

            I think the pay out is a change from when I first started working at my company because I feel like I was told at the time (8 years ago) that it was not paid out. I do not live in a state where it is required to be paid out. However, my company has locations in a bunch of different states, some of which legally require pay out, so they may have just made it standard across the whole company.

            1. TiffIf*

              Added note: This is the first company that I have ever been at that does pay out unused PTO. Previous jobs I worked at even if I had PTO I never got a pay out.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            My state does not require it, unless (which is a big unless) the company has the written policy of doing so and/or have done this usually in the past. My state is normally exceptionally unfriendly to the employees.
            I have gotten the payouts twice in my state.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              That’s how my current employer is… Company policy says PTO is paid out “under normal circumstances” and I don’t trust them not to hide behind the excuse that every employee departure is unique, so there can be no “normal circumstances” from the past to draw on.

              I also have way too much PTO stockpiled.

    2. Audiophile*

      It’s pretty common to have unused vacation/PTO paid out upon resigning. The only exceptions are if you quit without giving proper notice (2 weeks, 30 days, whatever is required at your level), don’t return equipment/keys, or leave on bad terms.

      Is there someone else in HR you can reach out to?

    3. Sunflower*

      Check your state law first. I’d say it’s pretty common though. I worked for a very cheap, crappy employer in a state where it wasn’t required and they paid it out.

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        Contact your state labor department. If money is owed, they can work with you to get it from your former employer. In some cases, if past due wages are not paid on time, you can receive 3x the amount owed.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Check on state laws and your employee handbook first. Some states require it; sometimes companies do it as a matter of policy.

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        I was just going to say that. If your state doesn’t require it, check your employee handbook. My employer does pay out unused PTO up to the 200 hours we are allowed to carry over each year. I hope your old employer has something similar in their policy, OP!

    5. BenAdminGeek*

      I’ve never had it in 20+ years in the private sector, spanning 3 states. That’s an anecdote, but it’s definitely not guaranteed.

      1. Nicotena*

        Yeah, a lot of my career, vacation has not rolled over (“use it or lose it”) and it is also not paid out.

    6. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Not common unless you are in a state that requires it. I’ve always ended up just not getting paid out.

      1. Clisby*

        I don’t know how common it is – I’ve had it paid out in two states that didn’t require it. I’ve never had unused sick leave paid out, though.

    7. Gone Girl*

      Agree with the above. Depending on state requirements, your employer may be required to pay you within a certain timeframe, too. I had heard from former employees that they had trouble getting unused PTO paid back, so when I left I was sure to email our boss essentially saying “and I expect to be paid my XX unused PTO days by XX date in accordance with state law” just to keep them honest.

    8. Tuckerman*

      I had a job where HR took me aside and quietly said that to get it paid out, you have to actually ask for it. So you might send the request through email, so you have proof you sent it.

    9. F0rmer Retail Lifer*

      I’ve worked in retail and property management and no company I’ve worked for ever paid it out except for one. They paid it out because their headquarters were in a state that mandated it. My husband has worked in call centers and various customer support positions and they never paid out unpaid leave either.

    10. Rayray*

      All my previous companies in Utah did NOT pay out. My current company which is headquartered in Utah that has offices nationally does, I’m guessing to comply with places like California where they have to pay out. It’s probably easier to just make that a standard across the board so it doesn’t look like anyone gets special treatment.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        *places like California where they have to pay out*

        Hence the “Unlimited PTO aren’t we amazing!” strategy that some CA companies have adopted. :(

        (Not that I am against the law itself – but those unlimited vacation employers are trying to tell you it’s raining when they are – well, you know.)

          1. KuklaRed*

            +1000 I just found out this week in a managers meeting that my company will be switching to unlimited PTO soon. I am not happy and neither are the other managers. The company has had to pay out unused PTO to people in CA and I guess they don’t want to do it anymore. I think unlimited PT is a complete scam. I work in a crazy industry where it can be difficult to find time when you can take a vacation. But now I can tell my team that they need to use it or lose it. Now, with the UPTO, every time they want to put in for time off, someone above me will say that it can’t be approved. Not looking forward to telling my staff about this one.

    11. dealing with dragons*

      part of my employment “contract” states that in order to get my leave paid out I have to give at least 2 weeks notice. I don’t know if it’s law in my state or not, but that’s what the standard has been in my state (Indiana)

    12. 867-5309*

      I think the payout is usually pro-rated. So if you had 20 days of leave and already used 10, there wouldn’t be a payout because that is about what you would have accrued YTD.

    13. Blinx*

      I don’t know if its the law or not, but here in PA I’ve always gotten paid for earned, unused vacation days. Personal days, though, are not paid out — supervisors always advised us to take those first before using vacation days. Never got paid for unused sick days.

    14. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think it depends on the company and the state you are in. Look online for what your state’s requirements are. I would just keep bugging HR. Is there someone above your boss, or a manager in HR that you could talk to?

    15. Purple Cat*

      My private sector experience (office jobs) is that vacation is paid out but sick time is not.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        That was my experience at my last job. I got paid out quite a bit, because I had accrued so much.

        And I deserved every penny after putting up with them for so long.

    16. it_guy*

      It varies company by company and sometimes within the same company. When I started, they paid out unused PTO, but in December one year they decided to not only NOT carry over PTO from year to year, but when you left you got no PTO payout.

    17. AnotherLibrarian*

      My last employer was “use it or lose it” when it came to PTO days, so it wasn’t paid out. My employer before that it was. I think it just depends.

    18. Prangenta*

      When I resigned from a private university (which is treated like a nonprofit in my state), I was given payout for my vacation time but not sick time. If I resign from my current job at a state university, then it will be similar – I’ll get vacation payout, but sick is in another accounting bucket and goes back into a “pool”. At both schools, my PTO from both buckets rolled with each year, though there was a cap on how much PTO you could keep in your buckets at the private school. At the public school, sick leave never expires and always rolls, so there are people working here with literally a full year of sick leave.

      My husband works for a for-profit, private company and is about to resign, and he will not receive any payout. They have a single bucket for all PTO and don’t care what you spend it on. It also does not roll from year to year – it’s a use it or lose it situation.

    19. JustaTech*

      When I worked for the state (university) you got paid out vacation but not sick time (but sick time accrued indefinitely and you could donate it to others).
      In the corporate world I’ve seen vacation time paid out. It was an issue the time my company went bankrupt and got bought: everyone’s vacation was paid out (as it’s a debt on the books), which is good that we got it paid out, but not so good because a couple of people had been saving vacation for years to be able to take a long trip back to their home country and now were set back to zero (and we got no warning).

    20. Girasol*

      At first we were allowed to request a payout of our accrued PTO balance at 50 cents on the dollar (not in CA). When the company fell on hard times and laid people off, the rest were told that the payout program was rescinded. Then when business improved it was reinstated. So your employers could have changed their minds since you were hired anyway. I don’t suppose there’s any harm in pushing, but bear in mind that there’s not a lot of value to them in making an ex-employee happy. They might want to do it if they think you’ll tell potential candidates and clients that this is a great company, or if they fear you might tell current employees that it’s more “use it or lose it” than they thought, leading them all to clamor for time off at once.

      1. Squeakrad*

        Here in California private companies at lest have to,pay you PTO and/or vacation But not hours that are considered sick time if they are separated out. Companies are free to put limits on how many hours you can accrue so you might have a maximum of 30 days that you can carryover but they have to pay you those hours when you leave.

    21. Might Be Spam*

      Where I used to work, you had to pay back vacation time if you left before July 1st. I didn’t know that, so I was lucky that I gave notice July 15th and got my PTO paid out. Somebody who left just a few weeks earlier in June had to pay back half of his used vacation time because they pro-rated it.

    22. Keyboard Jockey*

      PTO is not the same as vacation time. In a lot of places in the US, vacation time is considered part of your compensation (unlike sick leave) and must be paid out, whereas PTO is often not considered part of your compensation and so doesn’t need to be paid out.

      1. Squeakrad*

        In California PTO – leave that is not specified and can be used for vacation or sick time — must be paid out when you leave.

    23. SophieChotek*

      My job paid out all of my annual leave (approx 100 hours). The bad news for me was this screwed up my unemployment claim, but ah well…

  2. Should i apply?*

    Mini-retirement (AKA sabbatical, gap year), have you taken one, or are you considering taking one?

    I am seriously considering taking a year off of work. I don’t know if it is burn out from the pandemic or that I turn 40 soon, but I have this overwhelming feeling that just continuing on my current path isn’t sustainable.

    If you have taken one, what did you learn from it? Anything that surprised you, or that you weren’t prepared for? What was going back to work like?

    If you are thinking on taking one, why? How are you planning for it?

    I am in the stage or trying to figure out what I want to do with that year, besides just not working, travel, work on my hobbies, volunteer, explore new career options.

    1. Artemesia*

      If it is important to you to be able to return to the job, be sure to get that in writing. I have a friend who did this with the informal understanding that he could return to his job at the end of the year; when he came back, they had decided that he was no longer needed and he found himself ‘retired’ at age 60 and was not able to get another job anywhere near close to what he had been doing. If at all possible negotiate a formal leave of absence with a return date; no guarantees but perhaps at least sets expectations that there is a commitment.

      I know several people in software development who have done this with no issues. And of course there is a system for it in academia.

    2. Hannahnannah*

      I’m considering this also. I’ve hit a wall with my career, and while I’m looking at other job options, I also am entertaining the option of taking a year or more off.
      – My husband and I have been getting our finances adjusted several months before I take the sabbatical, so we can get a better idea of what life will be like when I’m not drawing a paycheck (while having the safety net of my salary until then).
      – In talking with my husband, we both agreed to learn and be flexible as we both adjust to this different lifestyle. There may be some expectations going into it that we’re not aware of yet, and will need to address once we’re there.
      – I’ve been identifying things I want to do while not working – Spend time with our aging parents, volunteer more, spend time with other family, host more often, etc.
      – A friend suggested that during this planning period, daydream a little and write down things you’d like to do, or loose schedules you’d like to try (i.e. Mondays are floor care days, Tuesdays are grocery shopping and other errands, etc.).
      – That same friend also mentioned that you will have more downtime – room to think. Think about hobbies you’d like to get into / back into, classes you might want to take, community groups you’d like to join, or any self-improvement goals you’d like to pursue while not formally working.
      – I think most importantly, make your time away from work count. Be intentional, but also give yourself room to grow and explore (i.e. don’t pack your schedule so full that you don’t have time to reflect).
      – And, it helps that my husband is supportive of this path. I don’t know your situation, but I do know it will be harder to take this break without household emotional and financial support.

      1. should i apply?*

        I’m not in a relationship, so that simplifies part of the planning. I am in agreement with you and your friend, I want be doing something meaningful, not just “not working”. I am currently trying to frame out what that might look like, as it will impact how much money I need during that time. I need to be sure I have enough in savings to cover the time off + transition back to working.

    3. Gap Year Anon*

      I’ve been thinking about this for 2-4 years in the future. I think I’m torn because I’m 35F and I just hear so many horror stories of how difficult it is for women in my field after 40. And when I look around my field at my own employer or conferences, the majority of women are under 40. So I’m feeling pulled in two different directions, one is YOLO and the other is the worst-case-scenario “if I take a year or so off I’ll never get hired again!”.

      But for what I would do, my family is very dispersed and live in really interesting places around the world. I would probably go to each of those places for an extended period and try to do a little consulting work (if I could get some) and then also spend time at home fixing up my home. My partner can work remotely so he would be able to come with me on the travels. I feel like if I knew for certain it would not hurt my future employability then I would do it for sure.

      Also I’ve been wanting to do a podcast and I think if I had all that time I could crank out a few episodes and see if it was actually something I wanted to do.

      1. should i apply?*

        I have a couple hobbies, that I have wishfully considered making into a career. That is one of my thoughts, is take the time off to explore if trying to make money on the hobby is feasible and/or enjoyable or if having to do it for a living would just ruin it.

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          Hobbies are notoriously hard to turn into career without hard work.

          I’d recommend ramping into your possible time off by making the hobby a SERIOUS side hustle, just to see if the market is there, if your pricing is right, and if your interest can be sustained. Even if you have to schedule a bunch of vacation days to do it. Investing in it while you’re working lets you know whether to take the risk.

          1. Nicotena*

            This is such a fine line. As a freelancer, I definitely heard the advice “if you think you can make it, prove it now by doing it in your spare time and then scale it up later!!” but I literally could not have done it as an extra .5 job on top of a full time job (particularly since I was burned out on my FT job by the time I considered freelancing). I had to take the leap first. BUT, my compromise was, that I had three contract jobs lined up by the time I quit. It was still tougher than I thought, but at least I wasn’t totally fooling myself.

            1. Nicotena*

              Clarification: in my experience, there is a huge gap between someone saying, “OMG you could totally do this professionally!” and someone saying, “I personally will pay you X rate to complete Y job, right now.” I made sure I had at least three jobs in the latter category before I quit. But I had not already been doing Y job for six months part time before I quit, which would not have been feasible for me.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I did, I was off work for about a year and a half when I was 31. I had saved up for it for a couple years beforehand, plus got a small inheritance from a family member partway through my hiatus. In my case, I had just gotten divorced and was moving across the country and wanted to take some time to *handwave* re-find myself :) I did a lot of traveling, adopted a dog, and transitioned my now-husband from “some dude I know” to, er, more. I got back into working through a temp agency covering a six-month leave, was hired on at the end of my temp contract and actually am just getting my third promotion, effective Monday.

      Things I did: Maintain my certifications/credentials while I was off work. Budget extensively. Enjoy my break.
      Things I didn’t do, but should have: maintain health insurance, because (knock wood) I’ve always been extremely healthy with minimal health care needs, so I just didn’t worry about it.

      1. Nicotena*

        To be fair, for the average person, gaining one (1) spouse is as good as gold, financially. Your housing expenses may be literally halved, there are tax incentives, and the insurance alone probably pays for itself.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Sorry, I was unclear – we got to know each other better while I was off work, started dating right before I started working again in early 2014, and didn’t get married for another almost four years :)

    5. Tinker*

      I was awake at 4AM formulating plans for this, so… yeah.

      Reasons:
      — I feel guilty about characterizing myself as burned out because I’m struggling with focus and engagement, and there’s something in my mind still sort of yammering at me that burnout is for people who are doing too much and I’m too lazy for that (yikes!), but let’s be real… I arguably started the pandemic some measure of burnt out, the pandemic has added to it, and trying harder is not going to get me less burned out.
      — When I look back to try and answer the question of “when was the last time leaving my job wasn’t to some degree on the list of things I may want to do?” I feel like the answer comes up “at my previous employer”, and that was like six years ago.
      — I turned 40 over the pandemic and somehow feel like that milestone is important for both pragmatic reasons and also some broader picture emotions / values stuff.
      — A specific pragmatic thing that is tied in part to age is that there’s a definite trope in my industry of older technologists who have settled in at big enterprise roles living the life of the Thanksgiving turkey where life is a bit boring but there’s food in the bucket until at around age 50 one day is different from the other ones and they are not ready to retire but retiring is ready for them. I do not desire the result, and consequently I am a bit concerned that I increasingly fit the profile.
      — I’m in a new dating relationship and some of my existing relationships have gotten to feeling more secure and important over the pandemic time, so I feel both more supported if any change went badly and also feel more deeply that there are people who are counting on me to be more than what I presently am.
      — Despite not historically seeing myself as a “start a business” guy, I have a business idea that has captured my imagination and I’m feeling a draw like “I don’t necessarily know what will happen if I lean into this, but I don’t want to wonder what might have been over it”.
      — I have a track record so long as to be darkly comical of repeated failure to get a job search actually started, I am getting to think the cause might be related to having my nose rubbed in the demoralizing and confidence-shaking aspects of my current job on a daily basis, and despite trying arguably for years I can’t seem to find a way to reliably eliminate those aspects without eliminating the job but there is some evidence that eliminating the job would work.
      — When I start looking at my financials and making some rough figures, the result seems to come up “scary but appears to be viable”.

      Planning:
      — For several reasons that go beyond the job problem and also are not exclusively tied to the new relationship, I’m having increasingly definite plans to move into a shared household. This would have a significant positive effect on my budget, and also the move would make any commute that arises in future potentially untenable for the long term. I haven’t committed absolutely to doing this, but I’m currently going forward as if I will do it.
      — I’m laying out a plan to get my business idea past the “startup costs” stage and earning revenue, so that it’s clearly distinguishable from my typical run of expensive hobbies if not actually a meaningful source of income yet.
      — I have ideas of varying concreteness around rendering aforementioned expensive hobbies more cost-neutral.
      — I’m composing the narrative I would use in post-break interviews for jobs in my usual line of work.

      At the moment what I’m thinking about is to mentally commit to an exit plan, but to stay in my current job until after I move (which would probably put this at about the end of the year), resign, take a relatively short time to do nothing but alternate between “lying around having feelings” and “working on the business”, and then ramp up a job search for an employee role of some sort based on how the business situation is going at that time.

      The big things that are hovering for me about that is the financial aspect — beyond the household, I currently have the spending habits of a tech bro and the degree of need for health insurance of a 40-year-old transmasculine equestrian, cyclist, and self-defense practitioner — and just how firmly it is drilled into my head, and not entirely unjustly, that quitting your job without another one lined up or quitting your job to pursue a business idea is something that sensible people do not even think about too loudly.

      1. Coenobita*

        Oof, I completely feel you on the “burnout is for people who are doing too much and I’m too lazy for that” – I’m 100% right there with you. In my case it’s a vicious cycle, because the burnout makes me less productive/effective, so I feel even more like I don’t deserve to be burnt out, which makes me even less effective, and so on. Ugh!

        My spouse spent a year mostly unemployed while transitioning from academia into not-academia, about three years ago. We have an agreement that it’s my turn next – we can swing it financially, but I’m scared that I would just completely tank my career and professional reputation.

        1. Jenna*

          Omg, yes – the burnout/procrastination/guilt cycle. I feel so drained and burned out these days after the pandemic, two kids, and 7 years in a job I don’t love. But my job is only 40 hours a week with a reasonable work load, so I feel like I’m not allowed to be burned out, compared to healthcare workers and people with more demanding jobs. So I just chug along, losing my enthusiasm and vivacity bit by bit.

      2. should i apply?*

        Thirding the feeling “I can’t be burned out cause I am not working that hard”. I am just mentally disengaged from my work, which makes me feel guilty, which makes me even less engaged with work. Definite spiral going on.

        1. Carter*

          I’m with you on that spiral. I’m sleeping fine, my workload is reasonable, and yet I feel so mentally burned out. I miss feeling energized and enthusiastic.

          1. Tinker*

            The fatal twist for me is that it’s increasingly not so much “I miss being enthusiastic and vaguely hope that in the misty future I can be that again” and “I miss being enthusiastic and if I close the lid on my work laptop, walk away, and do literally anything else I will be enthusiastic”

    6. Windchime*

      I’m kind of doing this. The past 18 months have kicked my ass and I realized that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working until I’m too sick or old to do anything else. I’m in a different age demographic, though; I just turned 60 so I can start using my retirement funds. I negotiated a part-time gig at my current employer; it’s not permanent and they will re-evaluate in a few months. This allows me to keep my health insurance while working only half time, so I’m very fortunate. I will be fine if they decide they don’t want to extend me; I will also be fine if they keep me on.

      In the meantime, I have a long-arm quilting machine and I’m taking classes and practicing on that for potential future income. I’m thinking that maybe I can just do it very part-time; I don’t want to exchange one set of chains for another. If I could take in enough quilting to pay for my health insurance, then that might work.

      Other things I’m doing with my free time is finally getting settled into my house that I moved to last October. I’ve been spending time with family and taking short excursions and day trips. I’ve been sewing more and spending time just sitting in the yard with my eyes closed, enjoying the warm (hot) weather. I’ve been painting swatches on the wall, trying to decide on new colors. And I learned how to grill amazing chicken wings.

      All in all, it’s been pretty good. Working half time is good practice for living on a smaller retirement income.

    7. Nicotena*

      I did it last year. I was amazed how “puttering” basically took over the gap that work would have left in my life. If I had even *one* minor errand to run, well, that was basically my whole day gone, after AM puttering. I’m still not sure what to make of this. Even when it was happening, I was like, “Nicotena, you used to work 8 hours *and then* go pick up that prescription on your way home. How has one errand now become your whole day??” Sadly, Nicotena did not answer. She was very busy sorting one load of laundry very slowly.

      1. Janet Rosen*

        Welcome to what retirement looks like! I am a healthy 66 year old, happily retired from day jobs, free to paint and draw, plus I volunteer and take classes…but I putter A LOT, just as I happily did as a kid….it easily takes me three leisurely hours to be ready to Go Out!

    8. Cookies For Breakfast*

      This is such a good question! I have enough tenure at my company to be eligible for a sabbatical, and yet I’m completely clueless how to plan for one, aside from ensuring I can pay the bills and have food on the table.

      Pros:
      – 6 months off a job that’s sucking the soul out of me. I could take them and then find a new job?
      – Probably unique opportunity, who knows if my next job will offer it or if I’ll again stay at a job long enough
      – I’m trying to write a novel and there is one career change I’d like to explore, so I could use the time

      Cons:
      – Will I still have enough savings for a rainy day, after 6 months unpaid?
      – I should probably have a firm enough plan for my novel in advance, so during the sabbatical I could focus on sitting down and writing. What I have so far is nowhere near that solid, and it took me months to even get there.
      – The career I want to explore is translation. I’m bilingual, but in a very common language pairing. I don’t have formal translation degrees. I love the act of translating itself, but suspect I’d get a lot of stress out of freelancing. I’ve no idea which part of this I’d be able to explore in 6 months! I’m in my mid 30s. I should probably try to upskill at things that would serve me in my current job. And I feel no desire for that.

  3. Alfalfa Alfredo*

    Should you disclose something that isn’t mentioned in the job description, but might be somewhat prohibitive once you have the job?

    Think a sales job where you might have to fly once a year but are absolutely terrified of airplanes, or a job as a maintenance worker where you might have to clean litter out of creeks and streams but you can’t swim.

    I’m torn on this one. Thoughts? IMO it’s not a deal-breaker in either of these situations, but if the maintenance worker were placed regularly on river duty, it might be. THANK YOU!

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

      The river/streams one wouldn’t really NEED to be disclosed, unlike a disability (the flying phobia would qualify as a disability I believe). If the non-swimmer just doesn’t know how, but they aren’t terrified of water, then they should treat it as any other skill that they need training on. The job might pay for lessons, or make it a mandatory skill that the employee would need to acquire to remain on the job. The flying phobia would depend on if there are other travel options that would accomplish the same task — like train or car.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I don’t know about the river-streams one. If they need someone who can swim they should put it into the job description! They may also think that it can be accommodated, either with safety equipment or via scheduling. (If you have N maintenance workers x% of whom are non-swimmers and y% of the jobs are near water, it is easy to work this out if x is well below 50, y is small and N is large, and hard if the numbers shake out differently.)

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

          Depends on what is meant by rivers and streams then: Mississippi River, maybe if you are expected to be in the water, and it should be in the job description then; a mountain creek 1 foot deep, no, although swift water can be dangerous and flash floods can happen it’s not a normal aspect of the job to swim in that case.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I agree there is a huge difference to possible scenarios, but whichever, if the skill is so important to the job that it could be essential to be successful in the position then the job ad/description should mention it.

            Being able to swim, just like being able to ride a bike or operate a car, is not something that humans can be expected to come equipped with without mention. Jobs that require driving mention this, too! A possible exception would be a job in a location where people typically are avid swimmers (some small island/beach community?)

            In any event, in this case if a candidate is concerned, I’d suggest asking an open-ended question at the end of the interview (“Could you describe some of the environmental conditions that maintenance work typically involves?”), and then, if water comes up prominently, follow up with “How to you mitigate the flooding or drowning hazard?” or even more directly “Do you expect all your staff members to be able to swim?”

            1. Clisby*

              This is where I come down – if swimming is necessary to a job, it needs to be stated. I live in Charleston, SC, which has beaches and plenty of river access, and I would never assume everyone is a proficient swimmer. I insisted that my children take swimming lessons to the level where they have a fighting chance to stay above water until help arrives, but I wouldn’t bet on them against a rip current.

    2. Emmy*

      It’s a little hard to tell from the examples you gave, but I’d lean towards disclosing it after you have an offer but before you accept. The examples seem quite different to me – one is a safety issue, while the other is a phobia. I’m assuming that the airplane phobia isn’t a result of PTSD from a plane crash, or anything else that might be covered under the ADA. If it was a medical condition like that, the company would be required to provide reasonable accommodation for you.
      You don’t know how prohibitive the thing is unless you ask. They might be expecting the salesperson to fly 4x a month. If you aren’t covered under the ADA, they aren’t required to accommodate you and can let you go for being unable to perform essential functions of the job. Best to avoid that by being upfront.

      1. Artemesia*

        This has always confused me. It seems to. me if I am hiring for Sunday coverage of a business that the hiree cannot subsequently claim a religious exemption — the whole point of the job was to cover Sundays (or Saturdays). If I am hiring someone for a job that involves plane travel, why should I have to accommodate a phobia against flying? Airlines are not required to hire blind pilots. All of these seem to me to be central to the job duties.

        1. Emmy*

          They are required to make *reasonable* accommodations only. So you don’t need to hire/continue to employ a blind pilot or someone who can’t work the days you hired them for. The flying phobia would be prohibitive for a flight attendant, but probably not for a salesperson. The company would have to prove that the job could not be done with travel via car or train or telecommute, or that other employees could not take on the flying duties. It’s a fairly high bar to prove that you can’t accommodate someone’s disability.

          1. Weekend Warrior*

            As a previous poster indicated, the fear of flying would have to be covered under ADA before the employer would need to provide accommodations. In order for it to be covered it would need to be part of a mental condition that substantially impacted major life activities. The employer is allowed to request documentation of the disability from the employee & can require the employee to be seen by a professional of their choosing for evaluation. So, to qualify for accommodations under ADA this has to be more than just a general fear of flying. That said if the employer can work around it they may willing even if not required.

        2. hamsterpants*

          They key term is “bona fide occupational qualification.” It’s legal to discriminate against people who can’t do the job.

    3. James*

      I’d say that if you’re too afraid of flying to get onto an airplane, in a job that requires flying, that would be a sign that the job isn’t for you.

      Not swimming isn’t a huge issue. Any job that follows OSHA requirements for working near water has protocols that will keep you safe if you can’t swim. It’s worth telling the safety officer, but it’s not prohibitive. I know this, because I’ve been the safety officer in that situation. If you need to swim, I’m not doing my job–you’re supposed to be wearing a PFD, and have other equipment and rescue protocols in place.

      In general, I think the thing to remember is that an interview is a two-way street. You’re allowed to say “Given what you’ve told me I don’t think I’ll be a good fit for this position.” It saves time for everyone.

      1. Gap Year Anon*

        Yeah, if its a requirement of the job and you can’t do it for whatever reason, I think it’s not the right job. At my employer, we have certain roles that HAVE to stay until 7pm. It’s not a flexible part of the job but we’ve had multiple apply or even start the job when 7pm would not work for them and it was a hard situation for everyone involved.

    4. JRR*

      You’re examples are a little unclear. Do you mean that your fear of flying would compel you to refuse to attend the conference? Or is it more like, “Instead of taking a day to fly to the annual conference, I’m going to take 3 days to drive there.”

      Similarly, do you refuse to work near water? Or do you merely require a personal flotation device?

    5. TheCultureisStrong*

      I think it depends on how easily accommodated the issue is:

      1) You have to be at the conference, its coast-to-coast, normally employees get 2-days for travel, you will require a week to drive or bus or whatever, you could easily take PTO and cover the additional expense (or ask you employer to accommodate).

      2) The maintenance worker could wear a life vest, which would be a good safety precaution for everyone.

      3) You are a mail man who is terrified of dogs or birds – this would prevent you from doing your job effectively. If you were say allergic to bees, that would be inconvenient but you could/would have an epipen.

    6. Zephy*

      I think it would also depend a lot on whether it’s a dealbreaker for the applicant, and it would be worth asking questions about in the interview. From the applicant’s side of the table, it may seem reasonable to hire someone that ticks 90% of the boxes and reconfigure the last 10% to be either handled differently or assigned to someone else, but from the other side of the table, maybe that 10% is the most important piece of this role, and they actually specifically need to hire someone to do that part and can’t rebalance the tasks the other way around for some reason.

    7. meyer lemon*

      I would bring it up during the interview to see how much flexibility they have. It can be pretty difficult to get a sense of how important any one responsibility is unless you have a direct conversation about it. Personally I would prefer to get this information at an early stage before I’m too committed.

      Depending on the response, then you have more information about how prohibitive it might be for you, and you can decide whether to disclose more details at the offer stage or just withdraw from the position. (Of course, some of this calculus would vary depending on the nature of your concerns: whether it’s something more like disability accommodations, or concerns about discrimination, or just a strong personal preference.)

    8. quill*

      A job duty that you don’t have the skills for probably needs to be disclosed, a medical issue probably not.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      In answer to both, jobs change as the company’s needs change, so nothing is ever in stone. I tend to watch these types of scenarios carefully.

      I applied for a job that my gut said RUN. Noooo… I kept trying. In conversation I initially learned that I would need to travel once a year. I thought, well maybe that will work out somehow. I noticed a shady sort of smile, like the person was soft-pedaling, but I went along with it. The hiring process dragged on. In conversation I learned, No, the business trips are once every three months. Yellow flag but, silly me, I kept going. After more time passed, I learned that the trips were really once a month or once every three weeks. The person I would be replacing had an aging dog and did not want to do it any more.

      Wait. *I* have an aging dog. I was not willing to routinely leave my dog who needed customized care.

      I think it’s good to iron these things out up front. I think that by asking for a clear explanation of how much travel there was, helped me to see this employer’s true colors- such as tremendously indecisive, willing to soft-pedal (lie) about the real work involved. They didn’t really seem to know what they were doing.

      It starts with knowing what your limits are. I might try leaving my old guy once a year or maybe a couple times a year but I was not willing to leave him once a month or more often.

      There’s a difference between a brook/stream and a river. Figure out where your limit actually is. Do that part first.
      Then ask, “Is maintenance ever asked to clean the brook/stream/river?” Or you can also say, “How is the litter along the waterway taken care of?” Sometimes I have a hard black line so I will point blank asked, “Will I be required to climb a ladder?” I have to know the answer to that question. It’s not worth it to me to take a job and worry about ladder work every day.

      1. Smithy*

        I’m with you on this. Job descriptions more so give a general overview of the role rather than enough specifics to independently assess exactly how much of an issue it will be. I know that my mom travels for work 1-3 times a year, and I doubt that travel would even be mentioned for her role. So if “travel to a major conference” is mentioned in a posting, I’d only believe that was the only travel if it was verified.

    10. Xenia*

      I would try and figure out how critical the something is for the job, so for your sales example, I’d first get a really clear idea of how often flying is required. Then I’d sit down, think through my issue, and brainstorm how to get around it and if it would be possible to get around it. Sales where you have to fly once a year is a very different situation from having to fly once or twice a month. Then, assuming that it’s not a dealbreaker scenario, I’d let the boss know after the offer has been given but before I accept it.

    11. Smithy*

      I think it’s going to really depend on what the issue is and how well you know your industry.

      For a number of years, I worked outside the US but in positions where the primary need was for native English speakers. It was common for other languages to be mentioned but at various levels but not fluent. While I successfully worked with “English only” skills for many years and knew the job could be done that way – if the organization wasn’t structured for that that, it was an obvious fail. So it was always important to ask those questions during interviews and to clarify what my conversational skills were vs professional language skills.

      To the travel point – if the jd says actually says travel once a year I do think it’d be worth at least pushing a little for more information during the interviews. I don’t think it needs to be full disclosure, but even just to push a little more for insight whether there’s impromptu travel that might not necessarily make a formal job description.

    12. Former Child*

      I just read the old question from a guy who ghosted the woman he lived with and then she ended up years later being his new BOSS.
      And the advice was to contact her before the job starts to bring up the issue. It didn’t end as he hoped it would, the conditions were reasonable but he didn’t see it that way. So he left.

      But that’s a win because it’s ALWAYS good to bring up issues instead of letting them show up and be a problem.

      It’s hard to say if fear of flying once a year will be a problem. But generally it’s good to face issues. There are other jobs if you just can’t handle an aspect of one.

    13. Windchime*

      I probably would disclose, actually. Or might not even apply; if it was an awesome job but one requirement was that I take care of the care and feeding of the pet tarantula, then that would be a hard no for me and I don’t think I would apply and then hope that they would get rid of the spider.

    14. RagingADHD*

      I think you should use the interview to ask about the job duties, to see whether this is really a problem or not. For example, the flight-phobic person might ask how much travel is involved, and what locations are normally covered.

      Then you’d have a better sense of whether you need to disclose at all.

  4. Anonymars*

    I totally bombed my first Zoom interview yesterday. Still cringing as I remember my terrible answers (and yes, they were pretty bad, I’m not just being hard on myself!). Part of it was being unprepared for how awkward the Zoom aspect of interviewing is. Part of it was that I feel depressed, disempowered, and burned out in my current position, and I think that came across in my lackluster answers. This was also my first time interviewing for a director-level position, so failing so spectacularly really ramped up that imposter syndrome of feeling like I’m not capable of being at that level. Which then makes me afraid that I won’t be find anything that pays as well as my current job that’s not a director-level position.

    I’m telling myself that this job wasn’t my #1 pick anyway, and I didn’t really vibe with the leadership, so it’s probably better that I tanked. But as a chronic overachiever, I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself.

    Any tips for dealing with the awkwardness of interviewing over Zoom and not being able to read a room as easily? And interviewing when you just feel really beaten down your current job?

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Turn off the ability to see yourself in the screen, when we see ourselves it tends to throw us off. Instead only be able to see the person who is interviewing you so you make eye contact.

      1. LC*

        Oh, that’s interesting! That actually probably wouldn’t help me. If I’m on camera, but can’t see myself, I’m hyperaware of my face and my expression and everything, and it can take more energy than I’d want to spare when interviewing. Being able to see myself lets me reassure myself that either my face is fine, or I can quickly make adjustments.

        I love how different we all are. I can see this being super useful for a lot of people, it actually makes a lot of sense.

        @Anonymars I like to have water within reach. Not only do my mouth and throat get super dry with all the talking (I don’t normally talk that much at any given time), but it also gives me something to do when I get nervous or when I need a second to organize my thoughts before I respond to a question.

    2. starsaphire*

      First, HUGS.

      Second, it’s possible that what felt like a bombing may have just been a bad cultural fit or a clash of personalities. (I’ve had a few interviews like that – where I felt at the end like I was clearly some sort of criminal posing as a llama groomer, rather than a llama groomer with ten years’ experience and just a really, really bad fit for an unpleasant work culture.) Please don’t beat yourself up for what may not have been your fault after all.

      Third, my best advice is to practice. Pick a couple of friends and do some mock Zoom interviews with them! See if you can get better at reading body language via the little Brady Bunch boxes on your screen while you bend your good sound bytes into whatever odd questions they throw at you.

      Please don’t let this get you down, OP. I promise you, you can’t be a total fraud and have made it all the way to Director. It was just a super bad fit, and that’s a bullet dodged, not a failure!

      1. Anonymars*

        Thank you for the encouragement! I think you’re right, that it just wouldn’t have been the right fit, even if I had given the perfect answers. I did some LinkedIn sleuthing on people who’d held that job before and found that they’ve gone through two directors in the past 5 years, which isn’t an awesome sign.

        That’s a good tip on turning off my camera. I’ve been anxious to do that because I find it even more intense to make direct eye contact with my interviewers through the screen. I tend to overanalyze their facial expressions. (“Why didn’t they smile at that? Did they think that was a bad answer? Am I talking too long? Shit, I’m rambling. They look bored. AHHH!”)

        1. Mimi*

          In that case, it might be worthwhile for you to try to focus on your webcam, instead (which is what will look like eye contact to the interviewer). I drew a silly smiley face on the back of a post-it and stuck it to my laptop such that it sat just above the webcam. It made me feel a little happier, and helped me remember where I wanted to keep my primary focus.

          1. Smithy*

            I actually do feel better on Zoom looking at myself – in addition to adjusting my face this way or that, “someone” is always smiling back at me. I’m not overly bothered by my own face on Zoom, and really do find it far less distracting.

          2. Might Be Spam*

            I put animal stickers next to my camera to give me something to look at. Otherwise I catch myself looking at my picture or off into the distance. If I look at the camera/stickers, it looks like I’m making eye contact.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        This! If you connected with the folks interviewing you, you probably would have been fine. Were they weird? I find that if there is some kind of lack of fit/connectedness/mutualness (I’m putting it poorly, sorry!) then the whole interview feels like such a strain, whether it’s in person or over video. Please stop beating yourself up! All human interactions take all parties to make a success!

    3. Artemesia*

      Could you practice with a friend on zoom? Most people are not at their best the first time they do something. Also turn off the self view — when you first dial in use the zoom as a mirror so you can adjust the screen angle or light or whatever, but then turn off your own view so you are looking at the interviewer only as you would in a normal interview.

      But the only way I know of getting over the hump of the new — whether it is public speaking, teaching, holding managerial feedback meetings or interviewing — is to practice until the technical parts of this are matter of fact and you can focus on the task.

      There is hardly anyone who hasn’t at some point had an interview or public presentation failure if they do much of it. Learn from it, practice till you are more comfortable, move on.

    4. Emmy*

      Oh this was me at the beginning of the year! I was feeling all the same things you are – really down about my current job and major imposter syndrome regarding the position I desperately wanted but felt I wasn’t qualified for. I totally blew the interview. In hindsight, I didn’t really want the job, but was desperate to get out of my then-current role. A couple months later, the recruiter, who I had really connected with, reached out about another position in the company. It was the PERFECT fit for me, I got the job, and I love it! What helped me in the interview for my current job was: 1) interviewing in a space different than where I was working for the job I hated 2) taking the whole day off so I wouldn’t be stressed about if people were missing me at work 3) writing down what I wish I’d said in the previous zoom interview & having those as notes in front of me 4) picking 3 things that I didn’t mind about my current job and spinning them into things I enjoyed doing & putting them as notes in front of me.
      The best part about Zoom is you can have notes and no one will know as long as you don’t read off the paper! I know it’s the worst feeling but you can do this!

      1. Anonymars*

        I LOVE all of this advice. Thank you so much! I wouldn’t have thought to interview in a different space from where I normally work — that’s a subtle thing but I can see it making a big difference psychologically. I also like writing down the things I wish I’d said, will definitely take that advice.

        Congratulations on landing your perfect job!

        1. Carter*

          Also, wear your favorite outfit, wield your favorite mug, listen to your favorite song ahead of time, put your favorite tchotchke on the table by your laptop – various things to put you in a positive mindset. :-)

          One of the best pieces of advice I received about interviewing is to have a list of things you want the interviewers to know about you – like your top accomplishments, goals, and traits – and make sure to incorporate those into your answers no matter what. It’s okay to be a politician and not answer the exact question that’s asked, especially when it’s nebulous like, “Tell us about a time when you led a multi-stakeholder team and overcame interpersonal challenges to find an innovative solution.” Don’t get too hung up on the exact question – instead just talk about the awesome accomplishment you want to share!

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      In addition to the good advice already given, don’t discount how awkward the first interview is after you haven’t done one in a while (and it sounds like you haven’t). It doesn’t mean your next interview has to be awkward, just that your interview skills are a bit rusty and need practice.

      As for interviewing when you are really frustrated or burned out, I think it’s important not to frame whatever job you are applying for as perfect or your only/best hope. That just ratchets up the nerves. What helped me when I was applying last year was to remember that I was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me. Going in with the attitude that I could take it or leave it put me a bit more at ease and I think that came through in a good way in the interview. I definitely prepped for the interviews and took them seriously but up until the moment I got the offer I was fine if I got it or not. I know this is easier said than done, but I was surprised at home much having this attitude seemed to help my interviewing.

      1. Anonymars*

        Yeah, this is the first interview I’ve done since … late 2017, I think! And that was an interview where I really killed it and ended up getting a job offer (that I turned down). I probably was still thinking I’d be as good now as I was then, discounting the fact that I’m interviewing for totally different types of jobs.

      2. LabTechNoMore*

        This is my take too. Your interview went poorly because it was the first time you had done a Zoom interview. I usually mentally write off the first interview I do for a given job search because it’s always awkward getting back into “sales” mode regarding your skills. You’ll get back into the grove, just give it a little more time and a lot more practice!

    6. Somewhere in Texas*

      I am so sorry you had a not-so-good feeling interview!

      A few things to note as you continue on your job hunt:
      1. If Zoom interviews are going to be the norm, start hopping on more Zoom calls. Get comfortable in this space so you have one less stressor for future interviews.
      2. It sounds counterintuitive, but be upper picky about the jobs you apply for. Even applying for jobs you “don’t really care if you get” are draining. Narrow in on the specific things that you are passionate about in your job hunt and search for those. 2-3 quality applications for jobs you feel qualified for + passionate about will serve you better.
      3. Write down WHY you want the jobs you apply for and highlight the skills/experience you have that compliment those jobs. If there is a recurring skill that feels like a roadblock, start the education process. Research that area, take free classes, etc.

      YOU GOT THIS!

    7. meyer lemon*

      I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I actually find video interviews way less awkward than in-person ones. There’s something about being in my own home, not under the direct eye of the interviewer, that puts me more at ease.

      I wonder if there is some way you can try to focus on the advantages of the video format to feel better about the process as a whole. For example, you could take an hour before the interview to do a relaxing activity. You could make yourself a nice non-alcoholic drink like soda water and lime to drink during the interview. You could put up a favourite piece of art behind your camera to look at briefly when you feel nervous, or write something motivational on your hand. You can also remind yourself that the interviewers will probably blame the video format for a lot of the awkwardness rather than you.

      Just letting yourself relax a little more might help make the interview go more smoothly in general.

    8. Caboose*

      I have some specific hype-up music I use before interviews, to get me in the right headspace– either “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line, or “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” by Bette Midler. The reason I like these songs in particular is partially because of the lyrics, but it’s mostly because they’re showtunes, which encourage me to get in the right sort of bubbly, performing mindset that I want to bring to an interview.

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      It sounds like it could more all the other things you mention (burnout, depression, imposter syndrome) rather than Zoom in particular? In other words, do you think things would have been different had the interview been in person?

      1. Anonymars*

        Hmm, you might have a point there. I felt like because of the Zoom aspect I was much more flustered and word vomited more than I would have in person, but I also think I didn’t have particularly good answers to the questions because I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, and was feeling anxious for all those reasons I mentioned. If I had been more prepared for the interview, then the anxiety and Zoom aspects probably wouldn’t have been as stressful.

    10. Lauren*

      I totally bombed a Zoom interview on Tuesday, so I’m offering a distanced high-five in solidarity!

      As for actionable advice*: I think you truly have to assume the best (i.e., the most goodwill and openness) on behalf of the interviewer. The ‘vibe’ over Zoom is necessarily going to be colder, more formal, and more technically oriented, without the benefits of the pre-2020 standard interview process. Treat the interviewer like someone who gave you a brief tour of the office and offered you a cup of coffee, even though the disconnect may be palpable.

      *I’m basing this off of my personal experience with interviews that went poorly vs. ones that went well, so it may not be 100% applicable here.

    11. Miss Marple*

      Can you have a practice session with a friend that you record. Then youy can review how you are coming acrosse.

      Also right down the questions you were answer and think about how you would answer them next time.

      Tip from my recuirotr feind is have a thnk about your caree and the following
      1. Successes
      2. Failures
      3. Weaknesses you have over come
      4. Challenging peole you have worked with
      5. When you have had to escalate

      I did this and 2 weeks ago when I had 2 Teams interviews and received an offer. Due to that I withdrew my candidacy for the other. Both interviews were the best I have ever had. I knew in my heart I could not have done better.

      Shout out to this website, I used interview questions from many different posters. Doing that allowed me to withdraw my candidacy as it was poorly answered and triggered a red flag.

      The job offer I received was for a more senior job with my current company. I interviewed for Tea Pot Analyst and was offered Technical Tea Pot Analyst. I honestly thought I was 12 months away from Technical Tea Pot Analyst and may get an opportunity to do it if I worked hard and upskilled over 12 months.

      All the best for your next round of interviews

  5. GirllGoesAbroad*

    I’m looking for advice on how to negotiate something I proposed at work. While this is benefiting both myself and the company, I’m starting to feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick.

    I live in the US but frequently travel to our Germany office for work projects and 80% of my work/project team is based there. I asked my boss if I could spend some extended time there this Fall as we have a lot going on and a teammate starting who I can help train- she is in favor of 6-8 weeks there. This has been all but totally approved- I’m just waiting on the final red tape to clear, however, working across country lines for extended periods of time is quite common at my company so I don’t expect an issue.

    I was also told I’m expected to cover my expenses. While I expect to pay for my housing and food, I would expect some help- ideally flight covered, a stipend and some flexibility as far as coming back to the office. For background, I am currently WFH and living with my parents 2 hours away with the plan to sign a lease in work city when I return from Germany. Given the situation with COVID, things could change at the last minute so I’d also like some flexibility on being able to WFH for a bit when I return and/or coming back to the office in the case travel restrictions go into place and the plan is postponed.

    While I technically asked for this, it was because it’s beneficial to both me and my company. The more my boss tells me about the stipulations, it seems the company feels they are accommodating a favor I requested and are not formally acknowledging the benefit for them- which was not my intention. It makes me nervous financially and mentally as well as feeling like they are trying to pull one over on me.

    I’m wondering how and when to bring this up and what to ask for/what’s fair. While I can put a monetary amount on the costs, the training and being able to spend time with these teams in person can not be. I expect some very high ranking folks in my company would go to bat for this to happen. I’m sensitive to this as I’ve been in a similar situation before and still kick myself over not advocating more for myself when the company was clearly gaining. This is something I thought would be fun and beneficial to my career here but I’m willing to walk away if they don’t provide some support.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      How much did the company seem to agree that it was mutually exclusive?

      If this isn’t the way they normally operate, then I could see it being a bit like WFH in that everyone else says it’s great but the company isn’t used to it and thus isn’t completely on board.

      1. GirllGoesAbroad*

        I don’t really know because all comms have been through my boss. When I proposed it, I had framed it in a ‘this will allow me to build relationships with stakeholders, familiarize myself more with the geographic area(this important in my job), hands on training with a team member’, not ‘I wanna spend 2 months in Germany because it would be a fun experience’- but I have a feeling it was taken as the latter. I never mentioned the cost aspect up front. My job was a new position and they didn’t expect I’d be working with Germany so much- when I leave this job, they will rehire it in Germany.

        If they don’t see it as beneficial to them, then that’s their prerogative and I will accept that. I tend to be timid about asking for things and I guess I’m finally in a situation where I feel 100% confident about what I’m asking for- still nervous to do it! I’m willing to play hardball since I’m absolutely willing to walk away if we don’t see eye-to-eye. I just don’t want to leave anything on the table.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I mean, I think this is a business trip much like, though longer than, most others, but my dad worked for a company where it was very common for people to work overseas for weeks to years at a time so all this was par for the course. If it hasn’t been at your company–which seems weird for a company that has international offices?–then they may not have gotten on the wagon yet.

          1. Bex*

            I think the difference here is that while it might be beneficial for the company, there isn’t actually a business need for it. It’s very different than a situation where the company decides they need to send someone overseas on an extended assignment.

        2. Midwest Manager*

          If they’re going to rehire eventually in Germany, is there anything stopping you from just asking to be permanently relocated there? I realize there are reasons you might not want to do that, but in this context it might be beneficial.

    2. WellRed*

      You say working across country lines is quite common. Do they have any policies you could look at?

    3. Lady Tina Dasilva*

      Im not seeing how this really benefits you other than it will be easier to do your job! I think you’re totally getting screwed here Im sorry

    4. afsdfs*

      Your extended trip should be totally covered by the company IMO. Housing + Food + Travel like normal business travel. You are doing normal business travel that benefits the company. Is there an HR partner you can have a conversation with?

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        Hard agree. It’s just an extended business trip. It’s the company that benefits from you going there.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        I agree. It’s not like you are going over there for a meeting and asking to stay longer for vacation, or to spend time with friends. If you are going over there to build business relationships, help train, etc then your housing and travel expense should be paid. I’m assuming if it was just for a few days of meetings they would cover travel and a hotel. I don’t see why this would be different. The only thing I would add is if you did anything extravagant during your longer stay (such as renting a car to go sight seeing on the weekend or going to an expensive restaurant, or to Oktoberfest). Then those things you should cover because it’s for pleasure not business.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I would expect nothing less for this arrangement, and I wouldn’t agree to it until everything has been resolved. The company should be covering all of the related business expenses you list (relocation flights, housing, per diem expenses). The only exceptions would be any personal travel you take during specified vacation time, which is just normal practice.

        I saw that you (OP) left off specific discussion of costs in the hope that the company would cover it, but honestly I probably wouldn’t have brought it up either because I would expect/assume the company to cover it because it’s a proposed business trip. The fact that there’s any discussion this might not happen is either a bad sign or a miscommunication that should be addressed with someone other than your boss.

    5. Artemesia*

      It sounds like they think you are doing it for the vacation aspects of being in another country and that it is an accommodation and not a benefit to the company. Presumably you pitched the ‘benefit’ angle when you asked and they haven’t bitten. Did you specifically request travel costs when you broached it? You can certainly do that now, but it sounds like they are not seeing this as a benefit to the business but as an accommodation to someone who wants to work abroad for awhile.

      1. GirllGoesAbroad*

        Yes this is exactly what has happened. I didn’t broach the cost angle when I first asked. I purposely left it open ended as I was hoping they’d offer to cover all costs but I’d still do it if I came out even to what I’d be spending at home- but now it just feels like it’s going to cost me money. I’m not going to lie- yes I think it would be a fun experience to spend 2 months in Germany!- but not if this is the situation.

        I’m planning to go back and lay out all the benefits I see- I just wasn’t sure if I had standing to advocate for all my costs being covered. I mentioned in another comment I can be timid when it comes to asking for things but I feel 100% confident about this and am willing to decline going if needed.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          You should be willing to back off the trip if the costs are not covered by your employer. This is a standard business expense, and they need to cover it. Are you OK with not going if they don’t cover the costs (flight + housing + meals)?

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            Came here to say the same thing.

            “I’m sorry, there must’ve been some miscommunication. I proposed this trip because it would help on-board the new person faster and facilitate relationships with key stakeholders at our Germany location. If the company doesn’t have the budget for that, that’s fine with me, but this isn’t a vacation or a personal trip so I won’t be able to cover the expenses.”

            1. Cari*

              This is a great response!

              OP, I’ve done what you’re proposing with multiple organizations in multiple countries. The companies paid. It has always had huge benefits for the company. Plus, I can now find coffee filters in almost all grocery stores (pro-tip: with cleaning supplies in Germany for some reason).

              In my sector, and in many others, this sort of thing is either just a long business trip or an expat assignment (generally longer duration) and the company pays all expenses. Sometimes there are exceptions on which/how many meals are covered for longer trips, because you have a domicile not a hotel.

              The company should be the one entering the contract for the apartment, also. From my experience doing this in Germany a number of years ago, that’s probably the German office. This was true also for a 6 month version in Brazil.

              It sounds like you didn’t do a written proposal. It would probably make sense if you did one now. Include sections for projected benefits, rationale, and budget. You should also sit down and see if you can think of some specific milestones or objectives for a few points during your time there, and include those and a timeline in your writeup, since that always seems to make leadership take such suggestions more seriously. You can – and should – share this with your boss as a “draft” for her feedback, but it should be a final-ish version from your prospective. By that, I mean relatively polished and clearly thought out, something that you wouldn’t be mortified when it’s inevitably sent up the chain no matter what you call it.

              A proposal like this will give the leadership something to nucleate around (“company capacity building we need to invest in and will provide returns”) and prevent/minimize them from using their imaginations (“we’re being so nice providing this vacation perk”). Include a final writeup/summary on the timeline after your return to capture lessons learned, formal and informal. At this point, you’re fighting a rearguard action, so you’ll benefit from over-formalizing.

              You will definitely want an agreed upon version of this, with a detailed budget, signed off on and on file. Depending on the size of your org, you might talk to whoever does your reimbursements for any materials they use for expat assignments in other departments.

      2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        Yeah I agree. To me it sounds like her boss represented it as ‘GGA wants to work from a different location and not report into her normal home office’ and HR and senior mgt responded with ‘cool, sounds good.’

        If this were not COVID times, how often would you be traveling to Germany? How much do they pay for then?

        Honestly, right now it sounds as if you drew the line in the sand and said ‘if you’re not paying, I’m not going to Germany’ they would just say ‘cool, stay here, sounds good.’

      3. Tuesday*

        I think this is the issue. I don’t think it’s really that they’re trying to pull one over on you – it’s more that the reason for the request got kind of muddled, and now they’re not viewing it as a regular business trip. I would revisit the issue and get more clarity.

    6. It happens*

      Whoa, whoa. You are expected to cover your expenses? That’s not how this works. You may be living with your parents now and have no housing expenses, but that is irrelevant. It should be assumed that everyone has housing costs that do not go away when you are on a business trip.

      You are leaving your home country to work on a project for 6-8 weeks at another office. Company pays air fare and lodging. Some food allowance, though less if lodging includes a kitchen for this extended period.

      Or you can stay home and do the project across time zones. Doesn’t seem to make as much sense. There is a benefit to the company for you to work with the team in-person. Advocate for yourself.

      1. Gap Year Anon*

        Yeah, I think you need to nip this in the bud quickly. I work at an employer that has branches across the country and my team has to fly out to support branches from time to time. Once we had a team member go to the other branch for almost six months. That team member did not have to cover their accommodation or travel, just meals and other stuff. I know it’s not the same since we’re all domestic, but it seems very weird to me that they would expect you to pay for your work trip. And unless it’s something that you really want to do, I don’t think you should agree to pay and set that precedent.

        Hi [Boss],

        Could we connect about my upcoming support trip to Germany? Based on our conversations, I am getting the sense that [Company Name] is viewing this work trip more as a vacation request by me. I did not realize that my initial request came across this way, and that is not my intention. I suggested staying longer due to [reason 1] and [reason 2] and it also seemed to make more sense than myself or another employee flying back and forth to support with [project] and [new employee] onboarding. I just want to make sure that we are on the same page, and that my suggestion for an extended work-trip is not a vacation request.

        This would be cost-prohibitive for me to purchase a roundtrip flight and fully cover housing and all expenses while I’m there. Also, since I will be working full-time while I am there and there are extensive covid-precautions I would not be able to treat this as a leisure trip. On previous trips to Germany [Example], [Example] my costs were covered by [company name]. If this is not something that [company] wants to do at this point, then it makes more sense to cancel the extended work trip and stick with the plan [insert whatever the alternative is].

        Not sure if that wording is helpful at all, but feel free to use any of that. Don’t let your employer take advantage of you.

        1. GirllGoesAbroad*

          Thank you so much- and everyone here for your input. I can’t respond to everyone but I’m happy to hear that I am not off base in my thinking and I’ll definitely go back to my boss with this. I’m really hoping they see the same value in this that I do but am totally prepared to walk away if not.

          1. Cari*

            I made a (long) comment above in more detail, but: if this is something you really want to do, I really (!!) think you need to provide a written description/proposal/budget to avoid it getting further garbled.

            Source: I’ve done this at multiple companies, multiple countries.

          2. Gap Year Anon*

            Good luck, companies can be greedy sometimes and it’s totally okay to push back. If you have a good update please tell us in the coming weeks!

    7. Annony*

      I think you need to make your willingness to simply not go apparent. “I proposed going to Germany for a longer period of time than usual because I thought it would be beneficial for the company. Hearing now that you are not willing to pay for my flights or give any flexibility on my return date if travel restrictions are imposed, I would strongly prefer to not go. I simply cannot shoulder the risk and financial burden. If you decide that you do need me over there, please let me know so that we can try to work something out but given the stipulations, for now I think I will have to decline.”

    8. Lora*

      What? No. If they aren’t paying for this, don’t go.

      If they want you to go and they see a benefit, they should pay for ALL of it: extended-stay hotel, rental car, meals, all of it. Have worked for many many companies which do exactly that. The only time I inadvertently paid for business travel at all in any way for any length of time was when I was working for a startup that was crappy about reimbursing us, made us use our own credit cards and then ran out of money to pay us.

      Were my business-class flight overseas + Hilton network hotel for the HH points + rental car / train tickets + meal receipts for months on end expensive? You betcha. But if you knew how much businesses spend as regular operating costs, you would see that this was a drop in the bucket. Absolutely NOTHING.

    9. AdequateAdmin*

      Would you otherwise have to make multiple trips to and from Germany in the same time frame? Because if they’re going to have to constantly send you back and forth, it would probably cost a lot less to just go with your proposed plan. So maybe you can frame it like that? (If this is the case, I would also assume there would be a lot less “wasted” time flying there, driving to and from the airport, when you could otherwise roll out of bed and go to work. Which would again be in the company’s favor.)

    10. Hiring Mgr*

      If you’re going there for work, why isn’t the company covering the expenses? Do they normally when you travel to Germany?

      t does sound like they think you are asking for a favor – do you think they agree that there’s a benefit for them as well?

    11. Purple Cat*

      You shouldn’t be paying for anything out of pocket. This is a business trip, so the business should be covering. Flights, hotel, food, all of it.

    12. Another JD*

      If they aren’t covering your flight or lodging, I wouldn’t go as those are squarely business expenses. If the lodging has kitchen accommodations, I wouldn’t expect them to cover food.

    13. Overeducated*

      I see this a little differently than many posters – I think you may not have communicated what you thought you were communicating when you left costs out of the discussion. In my experience, any time you’re proposing a major business trip, “here’s why I think we need me to make this trip, here’s a rough estimate of what it will cost, and my argument for why it’s worth the money” have to be part of the pitch. By leaving that out, your employer may have heard, “I’m working from home now, I’d like to work from Germany for 6-8 weeks instead, this would help the business as well so can I have permission?” That’s a very different ask than something you’re proposing mainly for business purposes and asking for support for. I think there is still time to get on the same page, but I wouldn’t be adversarial and think they’re trying to take advantage of you, it may be an understandable miscommunication stemming from an incomplete request in the first place.

      1. V. Anon*

        I agree. By not mentioning costs OP failed to position this as a business trip at all. We’ve been WFH and people are coming back now, and occasionally someone is like “I’m going to X country to finally visit family and I want to stay a month. Can I take 2 weeks vacation and work from X for the other two weeks?” The answer has been yes, sure, do it. But no costs get covered. (Other than the person takes their company laptop and phone.) Not talking about money = this is not business.

      2. GirllGoesAbroad*

        I can see how my boss thought this. I had brought it up casually at the end of my review, honestly not even expecting it to go anywhere. I was moreso hoping at the that we could come to a deal- I have to travel over there at least 2-3 times during this time period so figure my company could pay out a little more to me in a stipend and they would get me there for 2 months vs 1.5 weeks. I dumbly assumed someone would have thought about this and come to the same conclusion as me- but I guess no one has thought about it at all!

        Cari- Similar to what you described in your other comment, my boss has now asked me to write out a plan of what I expect to do while I’m over there and this has really solidified my need to be compensated if I do this. I am now realizing how much this has the potential to spiral into something I don’t want (did I mention I don’t even like Germany that much? lol) and it’s actually turning me sour on the idea of going there at all. I will plan to write out the cost benefit analysis and let my boss/company decide. I am hoping they’ll agree with me but I’m totally OK with just doing individual trips if that’s what they want.

        1. Cari*

          That sounds like the best attitude to have on it. I hope it all gets sorted out.

          I’m sorry to hear you haven’t enjoyed Germany much so far. I’ve loved my times there, but it’s definitely location specific. The best was a relatively small town where I would go to the Saturday market in the square (cheese and multigrain croissants!) then spend hours outside at the pub on the square (“no, really, another cafe crema, please!” “So much coffee! How do you not die? Americans are weird! Did you visit the castle yet???”) before pedaling home.
          If you go in the fall, maybe you can time it so you’re still there for the local Christmas Markt, which is often fab people watching and gingerbread.

    14. Sunflowers*

      I’m a bit confused- when you travel for work (which you say you do frequently), doesn’t the company pay for flights and meals and hotel? You also say working across country lines for extended periods is common- has the company paid for those expenses? What have they done for others? Is this just because this wasn’t viewed as “Essential” travel and was your idea and not the company’s? Are they pushing back because this is viewed as a personal choice, like WFH during the pandemic, but from a different country?

      My thought: (if travel for training the person you mention would ordinarily be supported and funded), how about treating this like a normal work trip of 1 or 2 weeks (whatever you can justify) and asking the company to pay for that, and then say you will pay expenses beyond 1 or 2 weeks. So they would also pay for the return flight.

      However, there is a benefit to the company, it’s not like you would be on vacation in Germany. I can see the company perspective somewhat- I am a manager and if one of my reports said he wanted to stay overseas for 2 months, I doubt I would approve the expense. I would approve a trip that was required for business purposes, and I have had employees have to work in China for 3 weeks at a time. If he said he wanted to stay in China for 2 months, I would have asked the business purpose. If there was a valid case, then the company would pay all expenses. If not, we would have said no. I’m not sure if we have a policy on trip length, but we have norms. 2 weeks seems like the usual maximum for business trips to Europe that I’ve seen at my company. We also support employees tacking on a few days of vacation before flying home. To me this is either or- either the company is sending you somewhere for business, in which case they should pay, or not.

      Maybe this is a gray area because you are willing to stay longer even though the business need is a shorter timeframe. The team interaction would be a benefit to the company. If you can’t get them to pay for everything, then how about 2 weeks fully paid and then a stipend of 50% of estimated expenses for food and lodging for the remaining weeks?

      It doesn’t hurt to ask. Find out company norms and policies and what others have done. Have a more in depth discussion with your boss. The worst is they say no.

    15. AcademiaNut*

      I work in a field where this sort of trip would be not usual but normal, and my employer would absolutely pay for it. A long term temporary relocation (like a year), would involve me keeping my local apartment, and them paying for rent and utilities in the new location, plus travel to and from, insurance, and a stipend for transportation and food in higher COL areas. Shorter term visits would pay everything.

      The exception is people who are doing a visit primarily for personal relationship reasons (visiting a long distance SO in a two-body problem). In that case, there still has to be a genuine work reason (visiting collaborators), but the employee might negotiate a longer than normal visit, on the grounds that they’ve got a place to stay and won’t need to claim accommodation costs (so, longer trip for the same budget).

      Honestly, either there is a genuine business benefit and your employer approves and covers the costs, or there isn’t a genuine business reason, and they should turn it down. Offering to pay a significant amount of money to help your employer is not something you should do – you should only do that if it’s a purely personal reason (you want to stay in Germany for six weeks to visit your partner or family, and it turns out you can work there at the same time, for example).

    16. Hiring Manager sometimes*

      Two things. Our company has done this multiple times for other countries but it is always treated as a business trip- meaning costs are covered. Second, if you are concerned about job security, be sure your project doesn’t “teach them” that the role needs to be immediately rehired in Germany because it’s so great having someone on-site (at the sacrifice of your job).

  6. Beancat*

    Heads up – I was job searching and applied for a data entry job that sounded good. I got a text back this morning claiming to be about my application, but they wanted me to download an app and do an interview. Some digging shows it’s very likely a phishing scam; a lot of people went further in the process and were asked to deposit checks for equipment before they realized what was going on.

    It could so easily be mistaken as legit for a second, especially since I did apply for a job yesterday! I just wanted to share my experience in case anyone else gets the same message.

    1. Should i apply?*

      I have been getting a ton of job search/ job application spam & phishing emails lately. Not sure if my email just got on some list or if this just the latest phishing trend.

    2. Cowgirlinhiding*

      I had this happen to me a few weeks ago. Interview seemed legit until they asked me for my banking information. Didn’t ask for two forms of ID and sent me a weird message about not harming my family. I asked for a handbook and more information on the company and they said they didn’t have anything. Totally saw the red flags start popping up. Scary people are taking the time to do this.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        These are old scams that have moved online. (They used to rent office space & furniture. By the time you went back, they’d be gone with your personal info.)

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’ve heard of this and it is just crazy what the spammers are up to.

      In my experience there are some places that will text, especially recruiting companies, but I think you have to opt-in on your application. And when they did text they were very clear what company they were with. So the text would be
      This is Tara from Manpower solutions. I’m just contacting you about your recent application for X. We would love to get in touch with you.
      local phone number to their office and legit email address included.

      They also would send an email. I personally don’t like this method, especially since they kept hounding me even after I told them I was no longer looking. I had to block the numbers because they would text/call every other day.

    4. Sled Dog Mama*

      My Company is having a problem with this recently, someone trying to impersonate our CEO. In a 22 person company it’s not impossible that you’d get an email from the CEO. They had to send out a reminder that our CEO will never email to ask for your cell #, she already has it.

      1. Midwest Manager*

        I had one like this recently, where I got an email from midwest_manager@gmail.com, asking for my own cell number and to contact me immediately.

        I looked in the mirror and asked myself what I wanted. :D

    5. hamsterpants*

      If it’s a job you can do from home, with flexible hours, good pay, and a low barrier to entry… it’s a scam. :(

  7. Career Dev*

    I realize this is vague, but: if you need to educate/train during your own personal time (rather than during your work day) to level up your career, how the heck do you do it?

    I collapse at the end of a long work day. I can’t fathom finding the mental energy to fold laundry, much less teach myself the newest tech in my field.

      1. lost academic*

        My firm wouldn’t allow that. You’d be considered a representative of the company and they want it to be official when you go to conferences (and usually have goals for them) so they would explicitly not approve PTO for you to go to a conference like that.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          The only way the firm could have that level of control is if they were paying for the class.
          If the OP is doing that on their own time and on their own dime, the company should have nothing to say about it.

          1. lost academic*

            Theoretically, but it would not generally be worth the loss of capital at work. Companies can have a lot more control when it comes to being considered a representative than you might imagine.

        2. annon just for this*

          Depending on the area and what the conferences are about I don’t think that would always apply. There are some conferences and training programs that it is expected that you are there as a member of your company. But there are also those that are for just people who work in the field
          I’m going to give a similar example that I see where I work at a university mental health services (think counselors, social workers and therapists). This is the best example that I can think of.

          If someone went to a conference that was “Higher Education Counseling” conference Then yes they would be a representative of the college they worked at, because if would be just for higher ed therapists and counselors.
          However, if they just went to a Counselors Today annual conference put on by their licensing board they would not be a representative of their university because they are going for their own development, not as part of their employer.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            That’s true of academic conferences in my field. If you’re attending, you’re doing so affiliated with an institute, and therefore representing them (plus some press people, at larger meetings). You can’t register as a random member of the public. There’s actually a logic for this by the conference organizers, as they’d otherwise get a flood of crackpots presenting their personal “theories” – the same applies for professional journals.

    1. SnapCrackleStop*

      Here was my answer while working on a Masters part-time: I let things slide around the house. I paid more for take-out and pre-prepared meals. I let go of hobbies. It sucks, so I hope someone else has a better answer.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have wondered if my first marriage would have prospered if I were not working full time in a new stressful job AND getting my masters evenings while doing all the housework while putting said husband through law school. I am happy 55 years later in a rather blissful marriage of 49 years that the first marriage didn’t last, but being exhausted all the time and feeling like I was carrying ALL the load certainly didn’t help us establish a strong partnership. It is very hard to work a demanding job and also further your education. Can you find any on line tools for career development that allow a very limited time commitment. e.g. I am currently trying to learn French and using Duolingo — it may not be the best system but it is something I can literally do for 10 minutes a day on days I don’t have time. If you have very clear skill goals you might be able to find some sort of program that you can do in very brief spurts.

      2. Moths*

        I did the same thing while completing my MBA recently. I worked full time and took classes in the evening and to make it possible, I let go of everything else I could. Most cleaning was saved for breaks between semesters, I bought a lot of takeout and other pre-made meals. And while that’s not the way I prefer to normally live, I tried to remind myself that what I was doing was caring for myself during a stressful time.
        What also helped me was to make it formal learning. I don’t do well if I just need to study something on my own in my own free time, but by signing up for classes, I had external deadlines and structure. I wish that I could just buckle down on my own and learn something new, but I need that external support.
        Finally, I would just add that there are a lot of things that seem overwhelming to us from the outside, but once you start doing them, your body and mind adapt and you find a way to make it work. Just because you can’t imagine doing something now doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do it once you actually need to.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Try different kinds of tutorials. There has been an explosion of video content in tech, either on YouTube or on dedicated tech sites. If your standard method of learning something new is plowing through an O’Reilly book, mix it up and see if that engages a different part of your brain that isn’t wiped out from the daily grind.

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

        I took A LOT of LinkedIn Learning and YouTube tutorials at the beginning of the pandemic. If it’s not the kind of thing you need to follow on a screen or do simultaneously, I would just listen like a podcast while doing other simple tasks — walking, folding laundry, empty the dishwasher, etc.

    3. LCS*

      Depending on when your work day starts, could you do an hour or two before work? I’m not a morning person so kind of hate this suggestion but I’ve employed it successfully at various points in my career. Once you get to work the daily momentum kind of carries you through, and at least you don’t feel bad crashing at the end of the day since you still did the extra work that you needed to get to.

    4. Texas*

      In terms of end of day fatigue generally, I’ve found taking a 10 minute nap (really just lying down with my eyes closed, I can’t drop out that quickly unfortunately) during my lunch break helped me have more energy after work (though this ofc only works if you WFH and get a break).

      I’ve also found it helpful, because my job is looking at screens all day, to use the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Easing eye strain that way helps me feel less tired at the end of the day.

    5. kbeers0su*

      I recently completed my MBA while working FT. I found doing some of my work during my lunch break was helpful, because I was already in a work mindset. I either told my staff I was closing my door and was not to be disturbed, or I would step out to another quiet space where I wouldn’t be bothered. When I was taking more than one class and needed more than a handful of hours to do homework I would choose one day a week that was my school night, and as soon as dinner was done I checked out of home/family life and left my husband to handle the kids so I could put in earbuds and focus on homework.

    6. Person*

      For me what’s the most helpful is to try to get work tasks that kind of push the boundaries of the stuff I already know, that way it isn’t 100% on my own time. Like maybe there’s a task that involves X, Y, and Z and I already know X and Y but Z is completely new for me, so I’ll volunteer to take that task on.

      But otherwise if that’s not possible, I guess maybe take a look at the stuff you do day to day, figure out your priorities, and see where you can cut time (while still making sure you still have time to destress/relax so you don’t burn out). For example, if you work out 5 days a week, maybe instead cut it to 3, or if you cook for yourself everyday, maybe get takeout a couple days a week, etc. But keeping in mind that not everything you want to do can be a priority, and maybe if all the other stuff comes first, then this maybe isn’t as important to you as you want it to be.

      Also, maybe seeing where you can fit stuff in in small increments. Like you don’t necessarily have to spend 2 hours digging deep into some tutorial. You might be able to spend 10 min at a time while you’re waiting for other things to read about new topics, or listen to podcasts about things you want to learn while driving to places, etc.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My employer gives 16 hours per year of “free” PTO explicitly and exclusively for use on approved educational pursuits – we’re health care, so a lot of people even on the non-clinical side of things have certifications that require continuing education to maintain. I totally used mine a couple years ago to attend a 4-day conference at Disneyworld (I used my own PTO for the other two days), but I don’t use it every year – it’s use-it-or-lose-it – because I can also do webinars on work time as long as I’m reasonably judicious about it (like, one or two a month, not daily).

    8. Lora*

      1) I am very VERY strict about working hours. Emergency project that demands 80 hour workweeks? Too bad, find someone else to do it or accept that the deadline you pulled out of your butt is not realistic. Priorities, same: I can’t have three #1 “focus on this and nothing else” projects and get them all done in a short time, you need to choose which is more important. In cases where this was unavoidable, senior management and I had to have a Talk about what data they actually NEED to make a decision and they got a very basic outline of that data with the understanding that it wasn’t the most detailed analysis ever. If they wanted me at a 4am conference call with Europe, I was shutting the laptop at 12:30 and napping for the afternoon.

      2) Hired a housekeeper to come in every other week and clean. I used to spend a full day on the weekend cleaning, with the housekeeper I just kinda live with things being a bit messy for a week and all I have to do is tidy a bit, clean litterboxes and run the laundry and dishwasher. Automatic litter boxes, roomba do a lot of work too. Also, lowered standards to some extent: I kinda live in only a handful of work dresses (no outfit fussing to do in the morning, e.g. Thursday = blue dress day) and a couple of going-out dresses, jeans and a few weekend shirts. Laundry is minimal (I live alone, it’s only my laundry).

      3) Automatic delivery of everything I can get automatically delivered. Pet food/litter, paper towels & toilet paper, cooking oil, trash bags, detergent etc. There’s a dairy in my area which does automatic scheduled deliveries of many groceries and prepared foods – I have a fridge/freezer out in the garage, they drop stuff off for me and debit my bank account. I go to the actual grocery store about once or twice a year and buy a lot of pasta, dried beans and rice, baking supplies type of stuff. On the weekend I have maybe a leisurely 20 minute perusal of the local farmer’s market for fruit and veggies. I don’t do grocery shopping, things show up: I just have to decide what I feel like throwing in the Instant Pot.

      4) Batch cooking. I started this in grad school, you make a big vat of something and portion it out and freeze it, defrost as needed. Instant Pot is a big help with this.

      Also, what Artemisia said – I did not have time for my then-husband when I was in grad school. He resented this mightily. Especially the part that involved him doing something other than sitting in front of the gaming console when he wasn’t working, such as doing his share of the housework, as opposed to being waited on hand and foot.

    9. The Rain In Spain*

      I studied for the bar while working full time- I gave myself an hour to decompress after work, studied for an hour, took a half hour break for dinner, and then studied two more hours before going to bed/watching tv/hanging out with my spouse/etc. I also studied during my (mandatory) lunch “break.” On weekends I studied in the mornings and then left the day free (as it got closer I also studied in the afternoons). My spouse picked up extra housework (as I did when he took his boards), and we did a lot of takeout/meal delivery services to alleviate that burden. The good and bad news for me was that I only had a set time frame to study and prep, so I knew there was an end in sight, which helped. When I was done I was amazed at all the ‘free’ time I had again when I wasn’t devoting so much time to studying!

      If you’re pursuing these skills on your own, at your leisure, I would consider setting it up like a ‘semester’ or typical course if you were taking it at a nearby college or whatever. Eg two nights a week you study for 2 hours, and then on weekends you put in 1-2 hours a day, and go at that pace. Whatever feels reasonable to you.

    10. Coverage Associate*

      I have book group 2 fridays a month. When there’s something I need to fit in, I do it on the other fridays. I figure if I have the energy for book group half the time, I can summon the energy the remaining time.

    11. MissDisplaced*

      How do you do it!? I couldn’t afford not to! It’s called desperation.
      I spent 15 years getting my bachelors degree while I worked a full time, swing shift job where overtime was mandatory. Yes it took me THAT long but I did it. About 10 years ago I went and got my masters, all while working a full time job after the first semester.

    12. Software Dev*

      Sounds like you might be a software dev so first ask, do you need to train? What are your goals, learn new tech or get familiar with the stack you work with? I’m a software dev with no formal training and I’ve done very little off the job training. Working with code 8 hours a day is generally enough for natural skill improvement imo.

  8. the north side of trees*

    Should I address a long (almost four years) work gap in cover letters? If so, should it just be acknowledgement and something simple along the lines of “I am re-entering the workforce,” or should I provide some explanation?

    1. WellRed*

      “I’m reentering the workforce after taking time off for family obligations” or whatever and then focus on why you are excited to apply for a specific role

    2. Distractinator*

      If this is the first job after a gap yes; if you’ve had a job since the gap e.g. gap from 6 yeas ago till 2 years ago), then it’s not necessarily a key part of “who I am as a professional” which is the story you’re trying tell in the letter… or maybe it is, depends on the situation. Figure out how the gap fits into your professional story. The ideal is sort of “I did X, then during the 4 years I was out of the workforce realized A about myself so focused next on Y and now am excited about this opportunity to Y with A for you” but honestly not every gap can get such a positive spin or be stitched in to your professional narrative so well. Keep the cover letter focused on the professional narrative and if it’s a personal gap then just acknowledge it and move on.

    3. JRR*

      The line in my cover letter was, “After taking time off to care for family, I am excited to resume my career…”

      That’s not exactly the reason I took time off, but no one ever asked for proof or details.

    4. MoinMoin*

      I had a year long gap caretaking for a parent. I addressed this in cover letters but it seemed like I started getting more call backs once I added a short blurb on my resume as well. Just something like:

      September 2020-present I took off some time to care take for a parent through the length of their terminal illness.
      July 2018-September 2020 Llama Groomer, Camels ‘n’ Cutz

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Good luck, Unfettered Scientist! Go forth and impress them with SCIENCE!
      (What’s your dissertation on??)

        1. ampersand*

          Good luck! This sounds really cool; it’s a fascinating and necessary field of study and it seems like there’s much we still don’t know!

    2. SnarkyMonkey*

      Best of luck – I would bet this entire community is pulling for you. Let us know how you did!

    3. Artemesia*

      You won’t need luck. Your major professor would not allow it to proceed to defense if it were not in great shape and you are certainly on top of the work you have devoted so much of the last months/years too. You won’t need luck; you will do great.

    4. Anhaga*

      You will do great! Remember that you are a professional on par with your committee–a junior colleague, perhaps, but still a professional like them who has the standing and knowledge to defend your well-reasoned positions. I never got to my diss defense (left school ABD), but taking that attitude really helped me with my oral exam for my master’s. It didn’t hurt to know more about my specific specialty than my committee did!

    5. SophieChotek*

      Your defense is probably long over now, but I wish you luck and am sure I can now congratulate you as “doctor.” I well remember how nervous I was at my dissertation defense!

  9. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    When you’re offered for a job, or in the late stages from interviewing, is it appropriate to ask for detailed insurance coverage information? Like, enough info to check out what doctors are in-network, and what medications are covered?

    My partner has a chronic illness that’s currently managed with fantastic doctors and a super expensive medication. They’re on private insurance cause their company’s insurance is crappy; the company is otherwise good, though, and so they’d really only leave if a different employer offered insurance that covered everything they need.

    1. Mr. Tumnus*

      I’ve had people request this many times, and it’s no big deal. Insurance is part of the compensation/benefits package, and they have every right to want to know specifics before taking the job. I’ve never asked why someone needs that information, and I don’t think your partner needs to offer any details unless they want to.

      It’s absolutely fine to ask!

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      Once I’m moving into the salary discussion phase of things, that’s when I ask. It’s all tied into compensation really- if you want to pay me 50% more but no health insurance, or 5% more with great health insurance, etc.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Yes, it’s normal. But, if possible I would leave out the part about have a chronic illness/expensive medicine. I was able to ask for insurance details and check coverage without explanation when I was considering a job offer last year.

    4. LC*

      For my new job, I had three interviews and was working with a recruiting firm. I was given some basic information during my first interview with HR and my boss, asked my recruiter for at least a high level overview after the first interview, and then the full detailed information from the HR rep about the entire benefits package (PTO/holidays/bonus structure/etc.) during the offer phone call. I think they were going to send it with my offer letter anyway, but I made a point of saying that insurance in particular is a not-small part of the compensation package so the more detailed information was something I needed while considering the offer.

      By US standards, the long term/forever meds that I take aren’t what I’d call super expensive, but expensive enough (to the extent that sometimes, GoodRx is cheaper than going through insurance) that they need to be accounted for in my monthly spending.

      I probably would have asked for more detail a little sooner, but my last interview was with my grand-boss and it seemed like a really odd question for him. I was going to ask the HR person after that last interview, but they actually got back to me with an offer a lot quicker than I expected.

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, you can ask during the offer stage or when I’ve interview with HR sometimes they just hand you a packet which has all the info to look it up or, for like state/city/uni jobs, the info is on the website. I have found to learn details I sometimes have to call the insurance company (since I also take some unusual medications) and confirm the specifics, but all the times I’ve done that the insurance reps have been helpful and seem to get it.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      Yes! But don’t mention the chronic illness. It’s none of anyone’s business

    7. Working Hypothesis*

      I have a chronic illness and my husband is keeping a watchful eye on a condition which isn’t a danger now but might become one someday. Between us, we need our insurance to be both excellent and cover specific things — prescriptions, provider networks, etc. (In fact, we got married in the courthouse seven months before our wedding celebration for our families and friends, because my insurance stopped covering an expensive medicine that I needed and it was the only thing we could think of to do at the time which would keep me on it!!)

      Given all that — none of which I ever mention to the employer; it’s not their business — I do ask, always, about specific insurance terms. Usually I do this at the offer stage, because there’s still a pointless stigma in some places about talking about compensation before then. But I always ask to see their insurance plan information before accepting an offer, and I’ve occasionally turned them down because it wouldn’t cover what we needed and the overall pay wasn’t high enough when we took out everything my family would have to pay out of pocket to make up for the plan’s deficiencies.

    8. RagingADHD*

      It’s a normal part of the offer stage, and you don’t need to give any reasons.

      The quality & affordability of insurance is part of your total compensation package, and you should certainly assess it before making a final decision.

    9. Hiring Manager sometimes*

      I just did this in an interview when we got to the offer stage. Turns out the new company insurance was so much more costly that this affected my salary ask.

    10. Midwest Manager*

      When making an offer, I always include information about this with the specific website for more information. I share costs, options (there are many here), and encourage the potential employee to review the website and ask any questions they have. This is extremely common, and any employer who refuses you the information has something to hide.

  10. MoinMoin*

    Parents, how did work priorities change for you after having a kid?

    In my third trimester and after really liking my company and job, I just feel done and don’t see myself staying long-term. I’m really not sure if my complaints are valid or clouded by the huge impending life change. My specific issues below in another comment, but I’m really interested in whether others felt this way or how life changes have impacted your own perspectives on what’s important at work.

    1. EenieMeenie*

      I don’t know if it’s pandemic-related burnout or new parenting, but I used to really spend a lot of extra hours on evenings and weekends responding to clients, researching issues, or stressing about work. Now since my child was born a year ago, I’ve become a very 9-5 employee and work doesn’t feel as urgent anymore. And actually it makes me enjoy my work more now that I am not stressing about it all the time. And it turns out that when I’m not speeding through work as quickly, I’m being assigned fewer new cases, and my job is totally doable. So maybe I’ve learned that the reason I was always so overloaded is because I could be relied on to finish things so quickly, and now that I’ve slowed down to a more average pace, my case load has shrunk a bit.

      1. kbeers0su*

        Similar case here. I was your textbook overachiever as a new employee. I always volunteered for extra projects, worked late, was always available to my team after hours, etc. This changed somewhat when I had my first child, but became even more dramatic after the second. By then I had small human beings (not babies) who really needed me to be available mentally/emotionally/physically and I found I couldn’t do it all. So I shifted to a very 9-5 mindset. Let me team know that I would respond to texts when I had time, to call only if it was an emergency. Most people seem to respect this, other than one supervisor who was clearly upset that I didn’t make work my priority. I’m happy with my choice, and I know that *if* I want to go back to my former high-achieving work levels years from now when the kids are grown, I have that capability. But also…I no longer live to work, which I love.

    2. LCS*

      Honestly, they didn’t really change. I had a high pressure / long hours job before, and this has only escalated over the last 10 years since my first kid was born. I would say that I’m more likely now to pay for external help (cleaning, meal prep) than previous so that when I do have downtime, it can be quality family downtime. But I just felt like I’d be short-changing myself to intentionally step back from something I really enjoy and do well at, not to mention I’m definitely a bit intentional about the example I set for my daughter in particular being in a leadership role in a traditionally very macho, technical environment. If you hate your job it’s a different story but if you like it, I think it’s good for kids to see that they are part of the family but not the only part that everything else has to revolve around.

      Specific to your union question – I’d want to know how much of the agreement is governed strictly “by the book” vs. outside of it by precedent, letters of understanding, etc. There are pros and cons to both but knowing how the relationship is structured helps you know how you have to approach management of it.

    3. buzzbuzzbeepbeep*

      Having a kid definitely made me tighten up my work hours too. I am very strictly 9-5 because that is when childcare is available and I don’t have time/energy to do anything more than the mandatory 8 hours. I have definitely received push-back over my career about not being available to work late at the drop of a hat or work weekends all of the sudden. I have certainly made accommodations to work odd hours or weekends when given plenty of notice. I have had to put my foot down about my work hours more than once. Usually it was with a boss who didn’t have young kids. None of that has impacted my career at all and I am where I want to be right now. Be sure to stick up for yourself and draw a line in the sand if someone starts trying to push you to spend more time at work and less time with your family.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I was so tired and ready to be done in the month or so before my due date. I think part of it was that I was physically uncomfortable, and that made it even harder to focus. I was also pushing myself to work as long as I could so I could have as much time off with the baby.

      Taking a full 12-week maternity leave really helped me. I totally disconnected from work and focused on taking care of my baby and myself. By the end of leave, though, I was looking forward to going back. My priorities changed somewhat, as I valued work-life balance more and needed to put family first more often. But I don’t think it was inherently detrimental to my career. I got better at prioritizing and finding efficiencies. And it seemed healthier to not care about the little stuff as much as I had before.

      1. MoinMoin*

        I’m very uncomfortable and this makes me question how much I’m reacting to that temporary thing and how much I’m reacting to valid issues with changes in my job and company.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          Yes, it can be really hard to tease those things apart. The best thing to do, I think, is to wait it out and see how things materialize. See how you feel, how your company treats you when you get back, etc. No reason to make two huge life changes at once, especially if you can’t tell which feeling is coming from where.
          And not for nothing, and it may not be like this for you, but my hormonal changes were AMAZING (and probably not in a positive way!) after delivery. I just couldn’t believe my mood changes!!

    5. MoinMoin*

      My specific situation:
      -I will hit only 2 years here in late Autumn, around when I’d be returning from mat leave (so I’m trying to be extra deliberate in not being impulsive).
      -My job experience has increasingly gotten me more pigeon-holed in an important but not particularly respected/compensated/upwardly mobile role and I’d like to move into an adjacent but competitive field. I took this position with the spoken understanding that the core functions wouldn’t take up all my time and I’d be able to fill the rest of my time on projects that would give me wider experience (also negotiated a title to reflect that). We have a department that does what I want to do and their director was on board with this. But it hasn’t really panned out due to the pandemic, staffing changes within my department, my boss growing to dislike the director of the other department, etc. It seems pointless to bring this up now when I’m busy now until my due date doing core functions and putting things in place for my leave, but when I come back it will have been 2 years of not getting to really getting the experience I want and I worry this is just how the job is now. Added to this, the one big thing I’ve gotten to do is implement a new company-wide software, which is finally up and running, but now a lot of my time has turned into administering this system, which will probably be ongoing to some extent.
      -I was working from home for most of the pandemic and we were told to expect a hybrid or flexible schedule to return. That was just taken away completely and we’re in the office again. My job can mostly be done at home and I went in no problems when needed throughout the pandemic. I fully admit that I just don’t want to go in everyday, but I am also dealing with a huge amount of swelling from sitting all day, to the point that my legs and hands are going numb. I’ve asked to keep a hybrid schedule for that reason and was told no by my boss, with no reason outside of “we’re all back in the office now.” Which isn’t even true for other people in our department, but more than that I’m just angry that I bent over backwards to be flexible going in as needed during the pandemic and am being denied any reasonable reciprocation now. I have no problem going in most of the time, but I spend days not talking to anyone just doing what I’d do from home but in pain in the office. Just seems like BS.
      -This has been a family owned mid-sized company, but a few years ago got a private equity partner and our old CEO just retired. I just feel like the new CEO is here to extract as much short-term profit out of the company as possible and worry about culture change. But maybe the company will flourish and that will mean opportunities for me in the next couple years.
      -My benefits are great, the pay is really decent for what my role is, I have a nice private office, I like all my coworkers, the core functions are not too intensive. And it still seems like I should be able to get more experience than a lot of companies would be able to offer, it just hasn’t panned out that way yet and I don’t know if I’m fooling myself. But maybe with a baby I’ll want a job that isn’t too intense. I also want more money, but I know that will only come with a more difficult job and maybe I won’t want that with an infant. I have no idea.

      1. Bloopmaster*

        Given the current working world, I think there are very few people (parents or not) who are looking to stay at their current company “long term” ( I tend to thing of “long term” as 5-10 years but YMMV). So leaving after 2 years really isn’t unusual or any kind of problem.

        I had a baby just before the pandemic, after only being with my org for 3 months, and as of March 2020 I had expected to go back to office on a hybrid 2-day WFH, 3-day in-office schedule (standard for my org). That would have been fine for me at the time, but after 16 months of full time WFH, I know I’m never voluntarily returning to the office and any jobs I take in future will be at least 90% WFH. It’s not so much that my priorities changed (although they did) as the possibilities presented changed–and now I’m dreaming bigger. Getting to see my baby roll over for the first time, walk, and hit other milestones because I was present in the home was priceless. And as an introvert, I’ve never enjoyed offices anyway, and I’ve always preferred to preserve work-life balance and been fortunate enough to have jobs that allowed me to pursue outside interests–it’s just that one of those interests in now my kid.

        Plus-as someone who still has a kid too young for pre-K, I’m happy to work a chill, non-intense job during his toddler years. There’s plenty of time to ramp up my career later–if I want to. You may have to switch jobs to make more money, but as far as I can tell, no one offers you a better job because you overworked yourself at your last job…

      2. Hillary*

        There’s private equity and then there’s private equity. I worked for a small company that was owned by PE, it was also a gold mine. Ownership left us alone and took the profit. Every couple years they would sell and new ownership would do the same. Obviously YMMV for this.

        I haven’t had kids, but in your shoes I’d try to wait it out right now. There’s nothing wrong with taking your leave and starting a soft search the end of your leave, or even just not returning if you don’t want to go back and it makes sense for your family. This is one time where no one will question you if you say your priorities have shifted.

        Good luck with everything and congratulations!

      3. Midwest Manager*

        I recommend not attempting to look for a new job just yet. Can you ask your OB/GYN to give you a medical note for WFH? I had similar issues with sitting for long when I was expecting, and the ability to flex my schedule based on that was a lifesaver.

        After your leave, you’ll have an opportunity to evaluate where things stand for you and your family. You may find that you enjoy the easier pace of your current role right now and are willing to put off a change until your baby is in school. OR you may come to realize that the problems you see now are too bad to push aside, and you can look for a role that is partially (or fully!) remote. Just give it time and don’t make any decisions until after you return to work.

        The most important thing right now is to remember that becoming a parent will change everything. This is not a bad thing! Be patient with yourself as you discover what it means to be fully responsible for a tiny human, and how that will inevitably change your perspective on everything. You’ll come to realize what’s a deal breaker for you and your family and be able to make a decision then.

    6. This Old House*

      I wouldn’t say that my work priorities changed so much as that everything changed, and that affected work. We moved out of the city to have a yard/be near family – that increased my commute significantly, and with a baby at home, that was even less desirable than otherwise. Working a job I loved with low pay was harder to justify when we had to pay for daycare. Etc., etc. I took some time off, and ended up working a job that ticks all the practical boxes (good pay, short commute, long maternity leaves (unpaid, of course, this is America), daycare onsite) but that I’m not particularly interested in, or passionate about at all. It’s 7 years since I left the job I love and I still wonder if it was the right call, but I also can’t imagine that we’d be surviving right now if I hadn’t.

      1. MoinMoin*

        I think this is kinda where I’m at. I know I want kiddo in daycare- it will take up a big chunk of our disposable income but we can afford it and I think it’s worth it for the child development and for us to stay in the workforce both for future career prospects and current 401k/medical benefits. But this was an easier trade-off when I also liked my job and felt positively about it’s future. If I don’t like it I’m just burning myself out for minimal benefit. And if I’m burning myself out anyway, surely I could do it for more money and career potential. Unless, my current feelings about my job are just temporary, in which case I might appreciate more life balance in a lower stakes job for the next couple years.

        1. Bloopmaster*

          Long term, staying in the workforce is likely to be more beneficial (financially/career-wise), even if your entirely salary went to childcare. Otherwise, it’s all a balancing act – how much pay per unit of stress makes a job worth it?

    7. J.B.*

      For the first year after each kid was born I did my job well and was sometimes fortunate that I could do it half asleep. After each kid hit the year mark I revved back up. I had to adapt or die at that point and have really good time management and ability to set boundaries.

    8. Anhaga*

      For me, becoming a parent solidified my belief in “work to live, not live to work.” When I realized that my awful job (white collar, remote job that required me to work 6 days a week and where the administration had no idea how much time our tasks took, resulting in us being horribly overloaded all the time) was making it so that I resented the attention my children wanted because I was just trying to get my work done, I decided that I absolutely had to make a change. It took another 7 years to make that transition, but I am much, MUCH happier now that I’m in a job where I’m working 38 hours a week and getting paid for 40. And where my boss is horrified if any of us answer Slack messages he sends after hours.

      Even with the job change, my spouse and I have also made other concessions like paying someone else to clean. That was causing us to fight and has ended up just being worth the money.

    9. Another JD*

      Flexibility mattered so much more after I had a little one. I’m an attorney and my firm is fine if I tell a client I can take calls after hours but not until 9:15 PM when my kid is in bed. Staying late with no notice is also not a thing anymore unless it’s an emergency, which has happened three times in the last year.

    10. OtterB*

      My kids are 18 months apart and now in their late 20s. The younger one has special needs, and after she was born all bets were off. There were medical issues when she was younger, now resolved, but she turned out to have intellectual disabilities and there’s been a lot of therapy and support and whatnot along the way. Possibly things would have been different if I had another typical kid, possibly not. I have kept working; I took about 3 months off completely at one point (during which I concluded that my stress was all in being mom, and I couldn’t take a leave of absence from that, so I might as well go back to work). I went part time for 5 or 6 years, before and after a relocation for my husband’s job, then back to full time with a new employer 17 years ago.

      It shifted my priorities. I was always a high achiever and at least moderately ambitious. I earned a PhD about 4 years before older child was born, and I envisioned building a name for myself and making a contribution to my field. Afterward, I quit pushing myself so much. I jokingly say I felt so much better once I gave up all hope, but it’s only partly a joke; when I couldn’t do it all, I stopped trying to do it all, and the world didn’t come to an end. Flexibility from my employer was absolutely key in keeping me able to work. I do a good job at what I do, but it’s not my identity the way it once was.

    11. RagingADHD*

      My priotities changed completely, and in a good way.

      I completely stopped caring about getting validation or head-pats from work, and my life purposes / ambitions / personal value are completely divorced from work.

      It became all about finding my strongest & most valuable skillset, and selling it for the best price with the most flexibility & pleasant conditions. It became “just business.”

      Of course there are stressful crunch times where I can’t be in 2 places at once, but I am much, much happier with my professional life. I’m more productive and make much better money. And I’m a better colleague / employee because I can deal with things thoughtfully and positively, instead of having my ego or feelings involved.

    12. Wordybird*

      I grew up thinking that I would love being a SAHM and was able to stay home with both of my kids the first 3 years of their lives (the second time not for lack of trying, though!). I’m grateful to have had that opportunity when some people wish they could & can’t… but it is not for me. I realized fairly quickly that babies’ and toddlers’ constant neediness is just too much for me to handle 24/7. Having an unsupportive hands-off partner made this worse.

      I had to work my way up from freelancing to part-time to full-time work, and it took 3 years but I did it. I realized that working from home with older (elementary- and middle-school aged) children is my sweet spot so that I’m still available to them before and after school and to be available for field trips, doctor’s appointments, etc. but they are not with me 24/7 and my brain is engaged with my work so I’m an actual person and not just a need-fulfiller.

    13. The Rat-Catcher*

      As a go-getter right out of college, I wanted what would pay the best and feel the most “fulfilling” to me, period. My job was not that. But after having kids, it became clear that not everyone can just take off for a doctor visit or a class party. Flexibility moved way the heck up the list of things I cared about in a job.

    14. allathian*

      My son’s 12 now so it’s been a while. I’m also in Finland, where maternity leave is typically 9 months, with additional parental leave up to the youngest child’s 3rd birthday (I know parents who’ve been SAHPs for up to 10 years straight with strategic family planning). Theoretically your job is protected during parental leave, but in practice that’s not always the case, and the mommy track is definitely a thing here. Women of childbearing age have a harder time getting hired for open-ended contracts, whether or not they plan to have kids. But it’s great if you do have a “permanent” job. But I digress.

      I admit that I’ve always been a work to live rather than live to work person. I don’t think that becoming a parent changed that at all, but it definitely made me appreciate the flexibility my employer offers all the more. I went back to work when my son was 2, and it was honestly a relief. I feel that I became a better parent when I had something other than my son to think about during the day. At the time, I also loved my commute, because it was pretty much the only me-time I got. By the time my son was in bed, I was exhausted from my double shift. When I returned to work, we were building a house, and after work, my husband supervised the construction and did what he could himself, like indoor painting, laying floors, installing the kitchen, etc. This naturally meant that I did almost all of the chores at home for a while. It was very much worth it, though.

    15. Jobbyjob*

      Haven’t had one yet, but in my third trimester. This topic is so challenging because on the one hand, everyone has to do what is best for them and their families and there should be greater support for working parents. On the other hand, I despise that because I am a pregnant woman there might be an assumption that once the kid is here I’ll obviously want to “lean out” or take it easier with work. And honestly how can I blame people for assuming that when clearly so many women do? My spouse and I are in agreement that my career is just as important as my family, or anything else I am intentional and invested about, so no. I don’t plan to change my priorities beyond the minimum required by medical/feeding/keeping a human alive practicalities.

      1. Midwest Manager*

        I applaud you for your convictions! Once baby arrives, you may find that you feel differently. If you don’t that’s OK! Just be patient with yourself as you pivot into this new phase of adulthood. You’ll learn things about yourself that you never dreamed of, and those things may have an impact on where your career goes from here.

        FWIW, my career didn’t really take off until after I became a parent. The things I learned by being a parent of multiples opened up career possibilities I had only dreamed of and built skills I didn’t realize I was lacking. Now I’m only one step from my ultimate career goal, the role I want to retire from.

    16. Clisby*

      I realized pretty quickly that (a) I did not want to put her in daycare; and (b) I *really* wanted to go back to work. Serendipitously, my husband was pretty fed up with his job, so after my 2 months of leave were over, he quit his job and stayed home with our daughter for the next 5 months. That gave him time to thoughtfully look for another job. He did land a better job, and it was a lot closer to my family, which was important to me. I then stayed home for almost a year, at which time I was recruited to go back to work for my old employer half-time, working 100% remotely. (This was late 1997.) I found out I loved working part-time – I had a very flexible schedule – and taking care of our daughter. Deciding to stick with that job, which I really enjoyed for the most part, was one of the smartest things I ever did. I later went to full-time, but even though we had 2 children at that point the flexible schedule made it very do-able. I retired at 62 after 17-18 years of working remotely, and I don’t regret any of it.

  11. EenieMeenie*

    I’m applying for my first job as a supervisor in the US as a lawyer. The non-profit I’ve been invited to interview with is unionized and so I would be part of the “management”. Does anyone have any suggestions of questions I can ask to suss out whether there is animosity or a deep divide between “staff” and “management”? Becoming a manager in a unionized workplace where there is a lot of negative feelings would definitely make me reconsider wanting the job!

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      I have not been in this specific scenario, but I consult for clients with unions. I will ask probing questions around benefits structure for union vs non, how the last contract negotiations went, etc. Even if the union didn’t get everything they wanted last round, if they were treated with respect that’s very different than getting what you want through a terrible “us vs them” arbitration. You could also ask point-blank how things between workers and management have been, and any areas where they’d want you to help effect change.

    2. Legalchef*

      I am management at a legal services org that is unionized. In my experience, I think you should assume that there is going to be some negative feelings. You would be kept out of a decent amount of it as middle management (which it sounds like you’d be?) luckily. You should do a search online for your org + union (including looking to see if there is an insta), as there might be articles or press releases. You should also see who oversees the union.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If you think of unions as an entity that advocates for a group of people, then it’s not a huge leap to wonder why the people voted them in and felt they wanted the advocacy of a union.

      It may not be straight out animosity you find, it might be total fatigue, a wearing down of sorts, where everyone is just tired of it all. Somehow that is just as bad as animosity.

      Get a copy of the union agreement and the employee handbook. Google the union online to get a sense of their approach/understanding of things. Take the specific union group you will be working with and see what you can find in court cases involving this group. Ask to see handouts that the union gives employees.

      My old union gave me a handout that said it would teach us to read. Yes, a printed handout intended for people who cannot read. I can tell worse stories. In the end instead of having advocacy we had two bosses that we had to please. Union dues were a full day’s pay each month. Find out what the unionized employees pay in dues.

      Will you be expected to sit in on negotiating a new contract when it comes due? I have no idea what this is like now. My husband whose degree was in labor relations and union arbitration said it was basically an endurance contest. You did not wanna be the first person who needed food or sleep. He cited examples where people did not leave the room for any thing for periods greater than 24 hours.

      What I am saying can vary depending on the union or the arena. In my union, we would be called the night before and told to go march picket lines. If we said no, we got a black mark next to our names. If we needed help from the union, they’d check for black marks before they’d help us. If we left work to picket someone at work would probably be injured/hospitalized because of being short handed.
      There was a huge sense of hopelessness in our group, in the end we were a broken/defeated group. This is worse than anger because no one cares about anything. I have more stories of people who died young or became incurably sick. Not a coincidence, but just my opinion.

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      How often in the last few years have they gone to mediation? Full hearing? I worked in management in an agency where the labor force was part of a very very corrupted union. The union won in mediation for workers who had stabbed people, committed unspeakably unsafe and dangerous maneuvers, were outwardly and actively racist, etc. I would want to know if my agency were also as weak and unwilling to fight as mine was. The union was terrible. My agency should have been willing to go all the way to court for so many of those things. How much money could such a corrupt union have to continue to fight these things?

  12. Ann Perkins*

    BG: I’ve never worked at a large corporation, only those with 10-50 employees. My current job is something like a franchise operation of a larger company, however, with lots of communication with HQ.

    There’s a job at HQ that I am incredibly interested in and qualified for. I submitted an application internally – should I also reach out to the hiring manager with an introductory email saying I’d be grateful for any consideration and why I’m interested in the position? There was no place for a cover letter in our internal system. Or is that too forward?

    1. Artemesia*

      Nothing annoys a hiring manager more than being ‘contacted to express interest’ by people they don’t know applying for jobs. Don’t be that person. Applying is expressing interest.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        If it’s an internal applicant though there might be more leeway for this kind of thing. I know if someone at my company contacted me about a role on my team they applied for that would be fine.

      2. Pool Lounger*

        Depends on the company, for internals. My partner works for a giant corporation and it’s weird for internal candidates to not contact the hiring manager before applying. If you didn’t it would be seen as uncaring on your part. In both internal jobs he’s applied for and been hired for he had convos with the hiring manager and others on the team before applying.

    2. Hillary*

      Do you know anyone at HQ that you could talk to? This is incredibly company-specific – like Artemesia said it can be verbotten, at my company it might or might not be frowned on depending on the manager, but at my BFF’s company it’s unspoken that it’s mandatory. Not reaching out to the hiring manager is seen as not being truly interested there.

      If you have any mutual connections or if your boss would support you, this is a good time to ask them to put in a good word.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        That’s a good question, though I don’t think anyone I know would know the answer to that. I have someone at HQ who knows I’m job searching and put in the job as a referral for me rather than me applying through the website directly as she said that will help bump it to the top of the list. But she doesn’t know this hiring manager. I could see my company being more the latter though.

        1. Midwest Manager*

          If you think your company has an unwritten rule that a direct message to the hiring manager is the only way “in”, perhaps you could reach out to your contact at HQ and ask if it’s expected? If not that, maybe conjure up some questions about the role or the HQ office that you could use? As in:
          “I recently applied for this job, and I’m extremely interested. There was this one aspect about the posting that was unclear. Can you please elaborate on XX? I would be happy to address these questions if I’m invited to interview.”

          Good luck!

    3. NeutralJanet*

      What’s your relationship with your direct supervisor like? If you’re willing to let her know that you’re interested in the position, and in my experience internal applicants are usually strongly recommended to tell their current managers that they’re applying, she might be able to send an email for you or let you know if she thinks you should.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        Unfortunately I report to the local owner and don’t want him to know I’m looking. I’m paid under market rate for my role and have been pushing for a raise, and don’t want to give him any reason to continue to underpay me.

  13. ShibaDoge*

    How should I handle an employee who I suspect is lying about a religious exemption for getting the vaccine? Some background, I am a manager at a firm that recently brought everyone back into the office. We don’t require masks and everyone was required to be vaccinated unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

    Well, one of my direct reports claimed he has a religious exemption. He claims to be part of a religious group that does not allow vaccines, and named the group (I had never heard of them but a quick google search confirmed that they are a real, local group). I have known this employee for years, and he never has mentioned being part of this group, or being religious in general. I know that this doesn’t mean much, or he could be a recent convert. But I highly suspect he just claimed to be a member of this religion to get out of the vaccine requirement. He also refuses to wear a mask. When I told him he must wear one, he showed up with a neck gaiter instead…

    Should I escalate this to HR? I don’t know if I can prove that he lied about his religion.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      If its a matter of safety then yes. If you start asking about religion you can step all over some laws regarding being prejudiced because of religion.

      1. A Feast of Fools*

        Yep. My company is treating it like any other safety issue where the company would be on the hook for the employee’s health; i.e., you can’t be on the factory floor without closed-toe shoes, ear plugs, and safety glasses.

        The shoes, the ear plugs, and the glasses aren’t about protecting anyone else but yourself. Don’t wanna wear them, and wear them properly? Find another job.

    2. EenieMeenie*

      Maybe for a first step, just be clear that when you say “mask” a neck gaiter isn’t cutting it, and reiterate that vaccine exemptions are available for people who are unable to get vaccinated but they MUST stay masked in shared work spaces. And if the employee doesn’t follow the mask policy, escalate that. But I don’t think you can accuse him of lying about their religion. It may be infuriating if that’s what he’s doing, but ultimately the issue is that he’s putting himself and others in danger by refusing to get vaccinated or wear a mask, so focus on that.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Ding ding ding! You’ve offered a reasonable accommodation. His refusal to accept it is a different matter.

    3. MissGirl*

      I wouldn’t touch the religion aspect with a thousand-foot pole. You cannot determine what this guy’s belief system is in any way. Focus on what you can and that sounds like the mask mandate. He either wears a proper mask or finds another job.

    4. Susie Q*

      I don’t think you can do anything about the religion. Leave that alone. You can’t prove or disprove anyone’s religious affiliation without wading into murky legal territory.

      However, you can reach out to HR and say that an unvaccinated person is going against company policy and not wearing a mask. However, many do believe and treat neck gaiters as a mask.

      1. Firecat*

        I don’t believe anyone who claims ignorance on a gaiter not being covid complaint mask. Just like the ones wearing vented masks.

        In the beginning of the pandemic, sure it was possible to not know what masks to wear, but now there is no excuse and frankly my family members who try and pull the “oh doesn’t this veil count as a mask?” BS all know exactly what they are doing. They view it as a form of protest/malicious compliance.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          I didn’t know that at all. I truly had no idea that a neck gaiter was not acceptable. Thanks. But, yeah, some won’t. I’m wicked smaht and try to be very informed and I didn’t know.

        2. comityoferrors*

          The most recent research I can find indicates that a gaiter is almost as effective (47% vs. 51%) as a three-layer cotton mask on its own, and is more effective (60%) when created or folded to have a double-layer. The CDC includes double-layered gaiters as an appropriate mask in their guidelines.

          Just throwing that out there since now there is no excuse not to know ;)

      2. Annony*

        I agree. I’m not sure if he is intentionally ignoring you or sees them as the same thing. A lot of the early requirements focused on “face covering” because there was a mask shortage and so masks, neck gators and even bandanas were all acceptable. Ask HR to clarify their policy and define what is and is not an acceptable mask. My employer sidestepped that altogether by telling us we had to wear the masks they provide and only the masks they provide.

    5. WellRed*

      I’d leave it alone. I also find it hard to believe if this is the first time this employee has been a PITA.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      Don’t get tripped up by the religious thing, focus on the need to wear a mask. Trying to prove whether he follows a specific religion or not sounds like a recipe for trouble.
      Can you impose consequences if he doesn’t?

    7. Observer*

      You don’t know that he lied. So don’t go there.

      But. But. You CAN insist that he wear a mask. If he refuses to wear a mask, you should ABSOLUTELY escalate to HR.

    8. Lady Tina Dasilva*

      Leave the religious exemption out of it completely and require the mask. NOT a gaiter. You may have others in the office with legitimate medical exemptions and you need to protect them. you don’t want to go down the road of trying to prove his religion, but you can absolutely make a mask a condition of his employment.

      Is he a pain in the ass generally? I’m wondering what it’s like to manage this guy in other areas. Doesn’t sound like he takes direction well.

      1. ShibaDoge*

        He has been stubborn occasionally in the past, like not admitting when he’s made mistakes/ trying to shift blame etc. But not frequently enough to cause big issues. He has been very argumentative about having to wear a mask, tried to send me links showing that the gaiters are effective (only true if they’re more than 1 layer and his aren’t) or if I give him a paper mask, he still wears it improperly, like he won’t actually open it or fit it to his face, sometimes has it upside down or something.

        I’m worried that if I try to pull in HR, he will argue that he is “technically complying” because our policy says face coverings, not specific types of masks

        1. I should really pick a name*

          First off, he can argue that, but a good HR department wouldn’t care.
          Secondly, try looking at it this way.
          1. You do nothing.
          2. You talk to HR, and it doesn’t ultimately help. You’re basically in the same situation as case #1
          3. You talk to HR and they do something about it.

          If you talk to HR, there’s at least a chance that the situation will improve.

          1. Lady Tina Dasilva*

            You don’t need to be break a specifically enumerated policy to be fired though. He needs to properly wear an appropriate mask, period. Document every time he is told and his response. Make it really clear what tje consequences will be. (If you have the standing. It’s starting to sound from your comments like your company doesn’t give you a ton of agency with disciplining your reports.) at this point it’s not about “policy” it’s straight up insubordination, and the consequences could be dire for other employees. Do not tolerate this.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Okay, so without involving him, tell HR that you need a list of what is an acceptable face covering additionally you need a complete description stating how to properly wear this face covering.

          Do this without talking to him and by vaguely telling HR that people are debating these points and you need clarification in writing.

          That’s the first step.

        3. Still anon*

          So he’s complying with the policy as written and you still have an issue? You sound rather power-tripy. No wonder you don’t want to go to hr.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Don’t challenge the religious exemption. Plenty of people don’t talk about their private life at work, or don’t talk about certain aspects of it. It doesn’t matter if he’s lying, just go with it. Your angle here is the masks. No vaccine = must wear masks, and wear them properly. If he doesn’t want to wear a mask, that’s fine, but that may put his job in jeopardy.

    10. Bagpuss*

      Speak to HR, but focus on what steps you can take to mandate that he continues to wear a mask, and that it be a suitable one, not a neck gaiter.

      You cannot prove what his beliefs are.

      I suppose you could check the material about the group to se if they are indeed opposed to vaccination, but even if they are, I would be speaking to HR and focusing primarily on the mask requirements but also perhaps mention “X did tell me he is religiously exempt as he is a member of XXXX but having read the material on their website they are actively encouraging vaccines and running a shuttle service for local people to get to vaccination centres, so I am not sure whether that’s correct” but even then I would be very cautious. If the religion is opposed to vaccines then I would absolutely not mention your own doubts.

      1. Littorally*

        No, don’t even do that. It isn’t an employer’s job to determine whether someone is obeying the precepts of their religion or practicing it in a non-standard way. If the employer is offering exemptions from vaccination for religious reasons, then they have already decided that they are accepting what people say their religious beliefs are. Dude gets to wear a (proper!) mask instead, end of story.

    11. Artemesia*

      For starters, require anyone who is unvaccinated to wear an N95 mask; if possible have them fitted and provided at the office. In any case, have them provided so they can’t wear useless masks like neck gaiters and require they be worn continuously and properly. Make being a jerk less comfortable.

      The focus should be on protecting staff and those people who are immunocompromised or can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons should not have to work next to callous plague rats.

    12. Dark Macadamia*

      Think of it this way: it is normal and professional for someone to not bring up their religious beliefs at work, do there’s no reason he would’ve mentioned his affiliation until it became relevant for the vaccine exemption. You said you don’t require masks and people are allowed to take an exemption for the required vaccine so it doesn’t actually sound like he’s doing anything wrong from a policy standpoint, just being annoying. But if you do require masks for people who aren’t vaccinated then just hold him to that in the same way you’d enforce close-toed shoes or other safety measures.

      1. ShibaDoge*

        Sorry I should have clarified, we don’t require masks for vaccinated people, since he is not vaccinated he has to wear a face covering. But it doesn’t specify types of masks or coverings that are acceptable. His gaiter worries me because it’s basically one thin piece of cloth, he doesn’t wear layers or anything and I know it’s not really effective as a mask.

        1. JRR*

          Sounds like he’s not actually violating the company’s mask policy. Forget about him for now, and ask HR to change the policy to one that requires unvaccinated people to wear a company-provided mask.

    13. Donkey Hotey*

      Adding to the chorus: Religion isn’t the issue.
      Options for employment are vaccine or acceptable mask.
      If religion forbids vaccine, then the options are mask or sidewalk.

    14. Can't Sit Still*

      My company provides appropriate masks for folks who need them and those are the only ones that may be worn. No personal masks are allowed. That seems like an easy way to solve the problem.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. That said, I’d thread carefully there. Some masks are a lot more comfortable to wear than others, depending on the size and shape of your head and face. I’d be very annoyed if my employer required me to wear a mask that was uncomfortable for me, rather than a mask that was just as effective, and more comfortable.

        Our employee handbook requires a surgical mask or PFF2 mask at the office, whenever you’re sharing airspace with someone else. Most of us sit in 2 or 3-person offices, and working unmasked is fine if you’re the only person in that space. Most of us are still WFH 100%, although a few of my teammates have asked to be allowed to return to the office because they live in apartments with no AC and understandably find it difficult to focus on work when it’s 30 C/86 F indoors.

    15. Anonono*

      Controversial opinion: don’t even worry about the mask.

      Maybe I’m tired, but at this point I’m resigned to the inevitability that dangerous yahoos will always be among us, whether we know about them or not.

    16. HBJ*

      Reading all your comments, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on here. Not everyone practices their religion in the same way or professes it the same amount, so leave that out of it. Your company requires a face covering if he’s not vaccinated. He’s not vaccinated, and he’s wearing a face covering. What’s the issue? If you think it’s not an appropriate covering, you need to take that up with your company. He’s following the rules.

  14. RainbowTribble*

    If this is too out of left field I apologize, but dog owners how are you handling going back into the office? I’m prepping right now to return to office and struggling to figure out everything for my puppy and making sure things go smoothly. Any advice? It’s definitely the most stressful part of return to work.

    PS: don’t have much room in my budget so no doggy daycare!

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Unfortunately, our dogs just are alone of a lot of hours. They’re not puppies though (5 and 10 years old), and they have each other. We keep them in the bedroom with a baby gate while we’re gone, and the cats can go over the baby gate to visit. I leave for work at 1:15pm and get home at 11; it’s long, but they’re good boys. It’s also only three days a week, since I work M-Th and my fiancee works Su,M,T,Th. I do feel bad, though we give them lots of attention when we’re home. We’ve considered using Wag or something similar, but we’re iffy about strangers in the house, and also about the 10-year-old getting walked with other dogs, since he can be a bit cranky.

      1. RainbowTribble*

        I’m lucky it’s three days for me too, I’m at least partially home two days of the workweek. My pup is SO good about being put in her playpen when I’m away for chores but four hours is different from ten. :/

    2. Grace*

      I don’t have dogs, but a couple of my cats have been very put out that I’m no longer WFH in the morning (I’ve already been in the office for afternoons for over a year now). They got used to snuggling me in the morning hours while I sat in bed with my computer, and now they’re just super offended when I get up to get ready. The oldest has taken to literally laying on top of me when the alarm goes off, which is both adorable and frustrating, ’cause I don’t really want to get up and go into the office every morning either when I can do part of my job just fine from home (our great grandboss is a butts-in-seats person). One has become really demanding while I’m trying to get ready–she wants ALL the pets, now, right now, she will flop down in my way if necessary–and she’s normally the shyest/least demanding cat.

        1. Grace*

          They are really sweet cats.

          Though the middle cat couldn’t care less if I’m home, except as someone to complain to if my spouse isn’t home. “WHAT DID YOU DO WITH SPOUSE?! WHO IS GOING TO PET ME NOW?! No, not you, I don’t want YOUR pets.”

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        Awwww

        There were all the posts at the beginning of covid wfh about how everyone’s dogs are happy to have their people home, and the cats are all “what are you doing in my space all day,” but all the cats I know were THRILLED to get to snuggle all day long

      2. LizB*

        Now that I’m back doing in-person work, my husband keeps sending me pictures of our cat looking disgruntled in my home office. :( :( :( I miss her!!

    3. jrg*

      also dealing with this! we’ve been trying to leave our pup alone for increasing amounts of time – 30 minutes, one hour, three hours, etc. to get her more used to us not being around. i know you said no doggy daycare but i’ve found that in my area, sitters on Rover are way less expensive than the daycare places if you want to consider one day a week or maybe a half day to ease your dog into being away from you. it’s definitely the most stressful part of going back to work for me too – good luck!

    4. Zephy*

      If you haven’t already, look into crate training. Crating is not a punishment, the crate is the dog’s “room” or safe place in your house for when you aren’t around to watch them.

    5. Fitz*

      Start adjusting your pet’s expectations. I’ve been hybrid since the beginning of the pandemic because of the nature of my job, but I did recently lose a roommate who worked from home all the time (and had a dog herself). I started with “core hours” where I would be gone and he would be crated (my commute is very short, making this a viable option for me). I also made sure that I did not make leaving or returning a special event —- this can make separation anxiety worse. If you haven’t crate trained or worked on separation with your pup at all, then you’ll have to start at the very beginning and slowly increase the time away. My pup handles being alone well now so he gets a full room to himself with his crate (ideal napping place), water, a view of the street, and his favorite toys. And then when I get home, I make sure to give him some undivided attention after 30m to an hour (so not immediately after I get back), be it extended cuddling/grooming, a good run at the dog park, etc. I’m generally a pretty calm person, and being calm about the whole process really helped his anxiety in the beginning.
      Note that I have a younger (5 yo) high energy breed dog, but he’s been trained to preserve the on/off switch that’s common with working line borders, so during the day he mostly just naps/lazes around. (I know this is the case because he does this on the days I wfh). I found doggie daycare unnecessary for him since he already gets his “on” time and dedicated attention from me.
      A puppy changes the calculus because of the potty training aspect, but a lot of the same tips apply.

    6. A Simple Narwhal*

      Before the pandemic, we hired a dog walker to take our pup 2-3 times/week. I don’t know how much room is in your budget, but could you possibly find a local walker/playgroup? It’s significantly less expensive than daycare, and having a midday play and bathroom break means the dog is alone for two smaller chunks of time vs one big long one. I think our last walker was about $20-30/session and it was great – rather than just a walk around the block, they would take the small group of dogs either to a dog park or an off-leash trail (after verifying firsthand that the dog was trained enough to be off-leash of course, the group was also curated to make sure the dogs all got along) and let the dogs play and run around for an hour or so. It meant my pup came home exhausted and happy, and we didn’t have to feel guilty for leaving her alone so long.

      TLDR: A dog walker/playgroup is much less expensive than daycare, if you have any wiggle room in your budget could you try that a few days a week? If you belong to any sort of Facebook group for your town, I recommend posting there to ask for recommendations, word of mouth is the best way to find a good dog walker.

    7. 867-5309*

      I know you can’t do doggy care but what about a mid-day dog walker or even just a couple times a week? Depending on where you live, it could be as little as $10 a visit.

      For prep:
      Start the routine now so the puppy is prepared – and you can tackle any separation anxiety issues. With one of my dogs, I made my leaving a “celebration” – before I left in the morning, he got a small kong with peanut butter that I had half soaked in water and froze. He loved it.

    8. ErinWV*

      This is definitely on my mind! My husband has been working fully at home since the beginning of the pandemic and it’s been so nice to know my girl (4-year-old pit mix) spends her days stretched out on the couch napping instead of in her crate.* But now he’s expected to return to the office in September and we can’t decide what to do. I hate the idea of a dog walker (a stranger, because we don’t know any personally) having a key to our home and being alone with the dog. But day care is so expensive! She used to endure the whole day alone pre-COVID but it makes me so guilty now.

      *Previous family dogs made it out of the crate much sooner than 4 years old, but this one tends to have bathroom accidents when she is left alone loose in the house. We’ve had her checked out; it’s anxiety, not medical. She never has accidents in the crate.

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        Does she have accidents if she’s confined to a room? We used to crate the dogs when we went out, but at night they had the run of the house, and would sometimes have accidents in the room farthest from their crates, like that counted as “far enough” that it was “outside” to their brains. But once we started just keeping them in the bedroom at night and when we go out (with access to their crates) the accidents stopped

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have a little Kasa webcam in my home office (which is where my geriatric dog spends most of her time whether I’m here or not) so I can look in on her – I originally got it so I could see if she was in there without bothering her, because if she so much as heard me in the hallway outside the room, she’d get up to come see what I needed. It’s motion activated and I view the clips or the live action through an app on my phone, it’s not broadcast anywhere publicly.

      You could also look into some of the treat-tossing webcams, those are a little more expensive but would probably be fun :)

      1. Forkeater*

        Yes! We got a puppy in February 2020 who is going to be in for a ride awakening when I go back this fall. We got a Wyze webcam off Chewy. It was less than $30 and it’s great. We’ve been leaving her alone more and more and the webcam is set up in the room she likes the best. It’s huge peace of mind to see she’s just napping on the couch the whole time!

    10. GothicBee*

      It’ll probably take some trial and error. I recommend working up to longer periods of time away if you can and see how your dog does. Also, start a routine that you follow every time you leave, and don’t make it a big deal. My dog would get really hyper when I left the house and chewing things, so I started giving her a little chew treat (or toy) when I headed out the door because she’d settle down with it (make sure it’s not too unhealthy for your dog’s diet). Plus, a good walk before work might help to tire your dog out, especially if they don’t have access to the outdoors while you’re at work.

      Most of the dogs I’ve had do surprisingly well on their own. As long as you’re giving them attention when you’re home and not just ignoring them all the time, they really don’t need to be watched 24/7. Even my current dog who would get nervous and start chewing things (like the couch, ugh) settled down pretty quickly once we got a good routine down. That said, my dog does have access to the doggy door to go outside during the day, so if your dog will be stuck inside, you may need to consider a mid-day dog walker or (if possible) coming home during lunch to let the dog out if your dog doesn’t do well being left without bathroom access for a full workday, especially if your dog is still young. Even adult dogs may have a hard time being left without a bathroom break for 8+ hours.

  15. Katie Porter's Whiteboard.*

    I work for a company that’s allowing vaccinated individuals to remove their masks while onsite as long as they provide proof of vaccination. The problem arises when we have contractors who work for an outside company remove their masks when they’re onsite. These are people contracted to be onsite every day but their supervisors are at a different location and they don’t fall into the company organizational structure. Generally, I would give them the benefit of the doubt but one of them has been vocal about not getting the vaccine and when I said ‘I’m glad you got it!’ when I saw them without a mask, they were evasive and didn’t confirm or correct me. I’m pretty low down the ladder and have no proof that they’re not being truthful about their status, so I’m feeling a bit helpless. Any advice?

    1. RosyGlasses*

      I would still alert your HR or whomever has seniority that backed this policy – as they would want to know if someone is flouting it. They also then have the power to address speaking with those contractors.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’d speak to HR. Ask if the policy applies to contractors and if so, what they are doing about checking status.
      It may be that the policy needs to be that contractors remain masked on the premises, if HR doesn’t have access to the necessary proof,

    3. Artemesia*

      It is perfectly appropriate to require anyone not on staff to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. And it is also appropriate to require staff members to provide proof of vaccination if they go maskless. But start by just having a blanket policy that contractors or vendors must wear masks in your building. Period.

      Personally I just assume those people in the grocery store without masks are unvaccinated since careful people are still wary in crowds and tend to mask. Your instincts about the contractor going maskless are spot on.

      1. LC*

        (to the extent that sometimes, GoodRx is cheaper than going through insurance)

        This is a much better way to say what I was thinking. Not an employee? Masks required. Full stop.

    4. LC*

      I think it’s reasonable for employers to require that without vaccine confirmation, everyone on site wears a mask. Since I can’t imagine it your company would expect non-employees to give them their health information, that would automatically include any delivery people, vendors, visitors, anyone who comes into the office who isn’t an employee.

      Hopefully your employer would actually be enforcing that, but either way, I think going to HR and mentioning that this is a thing and is there anything they can do about it is a good idea.

      (Also, I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with that particular contractor, but I don’t think I’d say anything like yay you’re vaccinated to people you see not wearing a mask anymore, especially people that had been vocal about not doing it.)

    5. LCS*

      Is it a company where people are regularly wearing ID cards / lanyards? You could add a card (brightly coloured, easy to ID from afar) that certifies someone has shown proof of vaccination. And if that card isn’t visible, mask should be the expectation.

    6. Firecat*

      Don’t go to HR. Your appropriate contact is whoever is managing the contractors onsite. There is usually a liason or project lead of some sort representing the company. I’d start with them. They should be responsible for enforcing company policies and imposing consequences on the vendors that don’t comply.

  16. LegendaryBobcatTaxidermy**

    Recommendation for Cozy Mysteries genre series (not true crime, think more M.C. Beaton and Agatha Christie) please? I am about to start the last book in a series I loved and I’m putting off reading it because I don’t want the series to be over (and the author passed away in 2019, so they won’t be adding to the series). Not to sound snobbish, but I’ve tried some of the Rhys Bowen series like “Evans Above” and, while I enjoy the characters and plotting in her earlier Royal Spyness mysteries, the Evans mysteries are just too easy to figure out. I like a bit more of a mental challenge. I shouldn’t be able to figure out the perpetrator before the detective does and that drives me crazy. So they should be well constructed plots and reasonably well-written prose.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Have you looked at Jill Paton Walsh’s books? She has 4 mysteries set in Cambridge University; protagonist is Imogene Quy, a college nurse. And she has also worked with the Dorothy Sayers estate to publish more Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

    2. Artemesia*

      Catherine Lloyd’s Kurland St. Marys mysteries. It does get harder and harder to find decent series once you are finished with Sayres and Christie and Charles Todd. ML longworth’s provencal mysteries featuring a French magistrate and Martin Walker’s Bruno mysteries set in a village in the Dordogne patterned on La Buque are also good. I learned about a lot of cool stuff of the region such as food delicacies and the great parties that are ‘night markets’ from. reading his books.

    3. Actual Vampire*

      Check out Ngaio Marsh, aka the New Zealand version of Agatha Christie. Many people say she’s better!

      1. RagingADHD*

        Love Marsh. She splits the difference nicely between Christie & Dorothy L Sayers, in terms of dense language.

        Also look at Margery Allingham. She experimented with a lot of different facets/forms, and her style changed temendously over her career.

        Also, Josephine Tey and Nicola Upson.

    4. Former Curator*

      I’ve been enjoying the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth, which was written between the late 20s and the early 60s. It’s in the vein of Miss Marple, where Something Happens, and then Miss Silver, an elderly former teacher with a wide network of friends/relatives, is brought in halfway through to solve it. They can be a little hit or miss with how stupid the heroines are, but they’re relatively fun, easy reads. My favourite so far is Pilgrim’s Rest. I think the entire series is in the public domain (at least in Canada), so it’s easy to check out if you have an ereader/don’t mind reading online.

    5. DistantAudacity*

      I recommend the Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, where Cadfael is a monk in 12th? century England (ye olde England).

      Also, +1 on the Wentworth!

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      I know they’re old, but Ellis Peters and the Brother Cadfael mysteries are really great. A friend who has a master’s in medieval history says they’re very historically accurate as well. But they have everything, romance, a mystery or three and wonderful context!

    7. Actual Vampire*

      One more I forgot earlier – Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small mysteries. They are set in New England in the 1950s (if I remember correctly) and center around the local Jewish community. I’ve only read one, and it was certainly a bit dated, but it’s nice that it falls squarely in the cozy mystery genre while not being the exact same as every other “vicar in an English village” mystery. I think they are out of print, but they are all available on Kindle, if you have one.

  17. Annie J*

    What’s the best thing to do when half a department resigns, and the other half is actively jobseeking.

    I work in a busy CallCenter environment, recently we took on a large campaign but due to COVID-19 and a vast array of other issues, there have been huge backlogs, customers have rightly been outraged and annoyed and it’s the customer service advisors who bear the brunt of their ire, One person resigned and this sparked a chain reaction with customer service advisors at all levels of the company, including many managers put in their two week resignations and so now we have a very incredibly large backlog and less people to manage the work.
    besides that, I know many of the people who haven’t left are actively Job searching, we trained a new group of staff recently but in the first few weeks, many of them also left.
    If we lose this campaign, it’s going to be a great blow for our CallCenter.

    What can we do?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      To be honest, I thought that this was typical for call centers. Does yours normally have pretty good employee retention?

    2. Observer*

      Hire more people.

      Start treating staff well. Give them some reasonable tools to handle calls that are out of the norm. Both in the sense of being able to help people where possible and not being forced to take abuse from callers.

      Be more realistic about workloads. If you take on jobs that require 50 people to take 10 calls a day, and you only have 30 people, or it’s not realistic to actually take 10 calls a day, you are creating an impossible situation. You are not going to get out of the backlog, and you are going to keep on losing people.

      1. Artemesia*

        Great advice and particularly the power to deal with abusive callers. (I realize that many customers are justifiably irate so one approach is to transfer irate callers to a supervisor charged with dealing with them and deciding if they are abusive or justifiably outraged — there is a difference between demanding satisfaction and calling the agent names).

        And awful jobs like this are probably going to have to pay better and provide better working conditions to attract reliable employees.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Well, you need to recruit. And you also need to take a good long look at your work environment, pay, benefits, and how employees are treated. Also take a look at your policies and actual practice for handling abusive callers. If the job is terrible, you’re going to have a lot of turn over. Either accept and deal with it, or make the job better.

    4. Zephy*

      The best thing for you, specifically to do would be to find a new job and get out.

      The best thing for the company to do is offer competitive pay and good benefits to attract and retain good workers, but the very nature of the call center environment makes that difficult.

    5. Generic Name*

      Are you in management and have the power to change pay and/or working conditions? If not, do you have enough clout to go to management with your concerns? It’s noble you’re concerned that the loss of a contract would be a blow to your employer, but some people/companies never learn their lesson without consequences. If their policies/pay make employees leave in droves, maybe they’ll change when it impacts their bottom line. Or they’ll go out of business. If you think your job would be in jeopardy if you lose the campaign, maybe you should be job hunting too?

    6. AcademiaNut*

      Increase wages, decrease the workload per person (dealing with angry people constantly is much harder work than only occasionally), hire a ton more people, and train them well. Give them the power to cut off rude or abusive customers, and provide strong supervisor support for the merely irate. Offer perks – good coffee, other beverages and snacks, regular access to them, and to the washroom as well, order in lunch for the office on busy days. If you really want to make the job appealing, offer excellent benefits (PTO, health care, EAP, paid sick leave, subsidized childcare).

      If you can’t do the above, and the campaign depends on crushing workloads and dealing with abusive customers, maybe the best thing is to lose the contract, restaff and train, and start fresh.

  18. a small frog*

    How much disorganization can I expect from a company? I’m at my first job and it’s both a new company + ostensibly museum-adjacent so I know the cards are way stacked against any semblance of functionality already, but sometimes it feels like a but much. I’m frequently left out of communications that would help me accomodate customers, we can’t even get our real phone number posted on our website, our hours are all over the place, and a lot of this is because the boss just doesn’t prioritize these things that would actually let us operate smoothly on a day-to-day basis. Her strength is donor outreach and anything else is simultaneously neglected and micro-managed, as she gives no guidance until she suddenly needs everything done at once but the way you’re doing it isn’t quite right. Other employees also agree that her management is the big problem in our organization that keeps us in a perpetual state of chaos and uncertainty. We’re understaffed so I can’t expand more into the actually fulfilling work I was hired for, instead stuck in the gift shop trying to deal with frustrated people whose reasonable questions I don’t have answers for. Maybe it’ll get better one day, when/if we hire more people and add some more competent and experienced managers? The pay is decent, but I fantasize about quitting and trying to find work in a more established organization with, you know, an easy-to-find phone number and hours.

    1. Zephy*

      All of the things you list are 100% your boss’s job to solve, if you don’t have the power to speak up and make suggestions for improving workflow. It’s not your fault you were hired into a garbage fire, and it’s not your responsibility to put it out.

    2. Msnotmrs*

      In my somewhat cynical opinion, this is pretty par for the course when it comes to things like nonprofits or arts jobs.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          Agreed. Thought someone at my old job was posting this and just changed the sector from tech to museums to anonymize it.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I’ve worked in heritage institutions (rare books, archives, museums, special collections) for like 20 years. There is a certain amount of oddness, but what you’re describing is pretty deep dysfunction. I would be looking for another job. Yes, there’s a little dues paying in this field, but not doing the work you were hired for is a really bad sign. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you owe more to the institution than you do. That’s a mental box a lot of people in museums seem to get locked into.

    4. PollyQ*

      Maybe it’ll get better one day, when/if we hire more people and add some more competent and experienced managers?

      Unless the disorganization is something that started recently, perhaps in reaction to some kind of unexpected blow to the company, then no, it is not going to get better any time soon, and maybe not ever. Don’t quit, but do start job-hunting, and when they ask why you’re leaving so soon, tell them it’s because the job you’re doing is very different than what was described when you were hired.

  19. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’ve gotten increasingly fed up with what’s going on at my employer (small startup, on our 2nd different tech transfer product from a university). We’ve had a bunch of struggles turning a rather buggy and obscure chunk of code into a real product, and then pivoting it from cloud-based to a self-contained laptop product. And I feel like I’m being frozen out (I’m employee #2, the senior technical person). I feel like the COO/marketer doesn’t trust me any more, and I have gotten radio silence from the founders, even if you discount the Covid effect. I feel like I’m not trusted to talk to partner companies or customers, and I just can’t figure out why.

    And now we’ve got unreproducible errors, because we’ve never had a chance to test our stuff with the piece of medical equipment that’s sending us our raw data. Despite begging and pleading for the past 6 months. And I’ll probably have to work all weekend on this. I feel paranoid and disrespected, and I’m trying my best to not make this personal and/or emotional. But it’s hard.

    I’m reworking my resume and have reached out to contacts from previous jobs, etc. Already have a tentative offer for some part-time work.

    Any other suggestions for keeping my balance, while I try to get over the hump of the latest crisis while also keeping my eye on the longer-term goal of getting a new position?

    1. Mimi*

      I’m not necessarily advocating this, but what would happen if you just… didn’t work all weekend on this? It sounds like you aren’t being empowered to do your job (and possibly aren’t even getting enough communication for someone to call you out on stuff not working).

      If things are really bad and they’re at the point of looking for an excuse to get rid of you, this could be it, so you’d want to be aware of this, but this does not sound like a job you should be emotionally invested in.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        :-)
        I appreciate the outside-the-box thinking. But there’s a junior employee who’d bear the brunt of my non-responsiveness, and I don’t want to dump that on him. And I have enough professional pride to want to figure this out, and not to be fired for something as bald-faced as just chucking the work.

        But you’re right about not being emotionally invested. I crossed that bridge a few months ago. Thanks for reminding me.

    2. Renee Remains the Same*

      It sounds like you’re in a bit of a spiral. I’ve been there, it sucks and I’m sorry. It’s hard to step outside a vortex, but I’d recommend disconnecting from it. For me, that meant putting on my helmet and becoming the most rational, logical, robotic person I could be. I didn’t trust my boss and was well aware she didn’t like me, which meant there was no point advocating for myself or my job. So, I just did my job. And since I was anxious and stressed and depressed, I probably didn’t do my best either. Didn’t matter, I just did my job to get **** off my plate. That meant, if I didn’t have the tools I needed. I let my boss know. If I ran into a problem, I let my boss know (undramatically). If something went wrong, I let my boss know (also undramatically). In other words, I did what I could, when I could and the rest of it was out of my once capable/now anxious hands. It may have hastened my departure, but it also prevented a nervous breakdown.

    3. theletter*

      So the founders never heard about the Therac-25 disaster?

      TBH I would just go ahead and get out of there. Once you’re on the other side, give your junior dev whatever they need to get out too. The writing’s on the wall – this company won’t last much longer.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        There’s no chance of a therac-25 thing. We’ve already gone through preliminary FDA work for patient and operator safety. We just accept output from medical imaging equipment, store it, and process it.

  20. Curious Cat*

    I work as a receptionist and when I hear about other workers in public-facing positions whose employers won’t let them go to the restroom or have a drink of water when needed, I both feel very thankful my employer/managers aren’t that controlling and very worried I may find myself in an employment situation in the future where that happens. So my questions are:

    1. Are there good questions to ask during an interview to filter out work environments that won’t let employees freely use the restroom/drink water/etc.?

    2. What type of jobs are likely to restrict bathroom/water/etc access? I mostly hear retail workers complaining about this.

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

      You could maybe ask who covers the position as backup. If there is a clear role of who covers the reception desk/phones if you are away for any reason, then you shouldn’t have restrictions on breaks or vacation/sick days. If they hem and haw or say something vague — that “all of the sales team” is expected to answer phones, that might be an indication that basically no one covers and you can’t leave.

    2. Bagpuss*

      You might get replies by asking about presentation – for instance, I used to work in an office where reception staff were not supposed to have drinks or food at reception (although they did get frequent breaks)

      I think the jobs most likely to have restrictions are
      Retail
      Call Centres
      Production lines

    3. Siege*

      You want to ask about metrics. The environments most likely to go this route are going to be ones with a high reliance on externally-tracked metrics. At the Amazon facility I worked at, we had unrestricted access to the bathroom in all the departments I worked in, the problem was if your metrics dropped below a certain point, which the walk to the bathroom exacerbated.

      If the org has a lot of metrics that would be relevant to your role, that’s where I’d worry.

  21. Renee Remains the Same*

    I have a direct report. She’s fine. She does her job well enough. But she can be occasionally dramatic and honestly, a little lazy. In the past, she would go through phases where she would call out sick (or unable to commute because the plumber was coming or she locked herself in her apartment, you get the picture.) This would typically happen on… Mondays and Fridays. During pandemic, this rarely happened. And now that we’re back in the office a few days a week, it has now happened twice.

    I don’t want to get into a debate about whether I believe she’s sick. It almost doesn’t matter. She has sick days, she can use them. BUT, it really pickles my shallots that it always happens at the start or end of the week. Several times in the past, she would tell me in the morning that she wasn’t able to get in to work, but could WFH. Our jobs make it necessary for us to have someone on-site for requests that come in. And while I could cover her, it happened often enough that I needed to let her know that unless she was sick or there was an emergency, I wanted 24 hours notice if she wasn’t able to come in to the office. And she put up a little bit of a fight about it.

    A lot of this is about perception and not just my perception. While no one else is keeping tabs on her sick days, it does illustrate how she handles her job generally. She’s good when she’s invested and interested and absent or lackluster when she’s not. I feel in order to advance and grow in her position, she’s going to need to be more responsible and also think about how she wants to represent herself.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      “pickles my shallots” HA! That made me laugh. Okay so there is a pattern of behavior here where she has learned to game the system. Are her peers noticing this? Is it impacting the daily work flow? What I would do is sit her down and show her all of the Monday and Fridays that she “sick” or wants to WFM and that it needs to stop. I would not allow her to WFH but would instead make her take PTO, that way when she burns through it she cannot do it anymore.

      1. Renee Remains the Same*

        No one has said anything to me, past or present, about her absences. Prior to the Pandemic, I mentioned that I did not want WFH to become the norm and on two occasions made her take PTO when she gave me short notice. She fought me on it a little bit and wanted to clarify what the rules were: there weren’t any, my company had no WFH policy then. My rule was I wanted more notice and also WFH shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to coming into the office, especially if there is a lot of activity going on and need people in the department to support.

        Now that the company is 50/50 WFH, I think it’s even more important to keep a regular schedule because it’s so difficult to keep track of who is in the office, who is home, and who is out. So, I suppose I just need to keep track of her requests for changes to her schedule or last minute requests for time off to determine if the pattern is resurfacing. And then have another conversation.

    2. RosyGlasses*

      Have you had “the talk” about her performance/ your expectations and how much she really wants to be in the role?

      I had a direct report who usually was fabulous, well liked, and when focused – did a really great job. The problem was after a few years they got really burnt out on the job itself and performance started to reflect that. It would go in bursts, and we would course correct but eventually we would end up back in the same spot and I was unable to get the role “leveled up” to where it could truly be effective for our department. After a few of the performance related talks I sat down with them and really dig into – are you still excited by your role / where are you at with your goals and they came to the realization that the motivation and drive to succeed wasn’t there anymore and we started the separation process. It was difficult but necessary.

      Your experience may vary with this individual and the type of work required but many jobs are rarely “just punch in and do stuff and you’re good” – performance may also include deepening the role, advancing as a professional to bring more to the company – and if someone is clearly not invested to do that, that is how I approach the convo.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Well, 2 out of every 5 work days is a Monday or Friday! This is a tricky one, because she *could* be slacking off work those days, or it could be a chronic illness thing. We’ve heard from a lot of commenters with chronic illnesses that it’s easier to handle those at home— you can lay down, take longer breaks during the day but still get your hours in, dress more comfortably, etc. So working from home really could be alleviating/masking some symptoms that would otherwise make you call out. If you’re having Stomach Issues flare up, you might have to call out because you can’t safely commute in to the office, but during mandatory WFH, you can just… hang out in the bathroom.

      Stuff like calling out because a plumber is coming — if it’s a scheduled visit, she should call out further in advance. It sounds like she tends to be flaky, so you’re not inclined to cut her any slack. This is a tricky one!

    4. Bagpuss*

      What would happen if you told her that WFH won’t work so you’ll put it down as PTO instead?
      What is her productivity like on days she does WFH?

      If she is generally effective when working from home but there are takes she needs to be in the office for, then I think the conversation you have with her is that she needs to give reasonable notice if she wants to WFH and that there will be times when you need to say no, where in-office coverage is needed, and that you have noticed a pattern of her frequently calling in looking to WFH at short notice, which is a problem.

      I think you can also talk to her about the fact that there is a noticeable pattern and that it is going to impact how she is perceived

    5. StudentA*

      Like another commenter says, Mondays and Fridays are two out of five! Those aren’t too shabby odds.

      I have several chronic conditions. I have found that Mondays are toughest on my body. Nothing dramatic, but I’ve probably called out more on Mondays. I almost wish I was pretending, but I’m not. Such is the life with chronic illness and pain.

      If she does her job well enough as you say, the rest is no one’s business.

    6. meyer lemon*

      I think you might need to clarify for yourself what exactly is the problem with her behaviour. It sounds like there are a few things in the mix here: coverage, lack of trust, her future career prospects, her lack of enthusiasm for the job, perception from others, and what seems like a pervasive sense of annoyance at the way she handles herself. I think it would help if you reflect on which of these are the most urgent priorities, and try to address them individually rather than wading into this sea of general bad vibes.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      I wouldn’t assume no one else is keeping tabs on her sick days. In my experience everyone notices when Sansa is always sick on Fridays. Yes, as someone noted, it could be a chronic thing. But I’ve worked with people like this before and trust me, it is a topic of conversation.

      1. Renee Remains the Same*

        The lock was stuck and she couldn’t get out. It’s something that would happen to me, so I’m not insensitive to weird ****.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      “I have a direct report. She’s fine. She does her job well enough.”

      Except for the times she’s dramatic, lazy, not invested, not interested, lackluster or absent. (I found those words here.)

      I am not sure what you are trying to salvage here but okay let’s roll with it. Make a list of things she needs to improve. If there’s no improvement than out she goes.

      I have to wonder if everything else were okay, then the absences would less of an issue? Try this: Make your list of necessary improvements and leave off any thing about the absences. What do you have?

      1. V. Anon*

        Or…you have a meh employee and you accept that. Does the role require someone less meh? Are you going to go through the talk, the PIP, the firing, the job posting, the interviews, the offers, the training to get somebody better or are you going to accept the meh? Her future prospects are 100% not your problem. If it is worth going through the whole performance improvement process and possible replacement, do it. But sometimes you have somebody meh.

    9. JelloStapler*

      I had a coworkers who always was sick, or had car trouble or x, y or z when it rained. Like clockwork. Rain? She called in. TPTB couldn’t really prove it so had to put up with it (we also had quite a turnover of different supervisors so documentation was never consistent). After years of her being incompetent but never called on it she finally did something actionable and resigned instead of being fired.

      In short I sympathize.

  22. notmyrealname*

    So I may be getting an offer in the next few days. I’m ready to leave my current job and it’s a great job. The downside? My boss is going to be on vacation for the next week. I have been at my company for a long time and I have worked with her for a long time. We have a great relationship. She does not know I have been searching.

    So my dilemma is – if I do get an offer while she is on vacation – what do I do? I told the new company I just needed to give a 2 week notice. Do I call her on vacation? Or do I tell the new company I have to wait until she is back until I give my notice?

    The culture of my organization is that it would be weird to contact HR or her boss for my resignation.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Is anyone managing while your boss is away? I would say telling HR is fine but it might burn bridges with your boss. This is so tricky!

      1. notmyrealname*

        So the person managing while she is away would be me. I should also say that I am a mid-level manager with direct reports and she reports to a Vice President.

    2. sue*

      Job offers typically come with expiration dates that are about a week out. You may still have time to talk to her after she returns but before you accept the offer and resign.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      If your boss is gone and you cannot reach her via telephone or text I would go to their boss and email them so there is a written record of the day you resigned.

    4. BlueBelle*

      I am in the same boat. My plan is to send her a text “I am so sorry to bother you, can you give me a call today, please?”

    5. WellRed*

      Give the new company a start date that gives enough time so you can give notice to boss. If they can wait two weeks they can wait three.

      1. BRR*

        I was going to suggest this as well. It’s perfectly reasonable to see if you can push back your start date one week.

    6. NopityNope*

      Congratulations! If your boss is only going to be gone a week, you may not have to worry. If there’s a background check or drug test, those may eat up the time your boss is gone. However, if the timing doesn’t work out naturally, you could always ask New Company for a start date in three weeks. And then if that doesn’t work out, yes, I would contact my boss while they are on vacation, by phone or email. Alison has addressed this before, and has provided some great scripts. Unfortunately, timing just doesn’t work out sometimes.

      1. StudentA*

        I like this plan. And I think you can tell the New Company that your current boss is on vacation and you’re not able to give your notice until they return. I think they’d appreciate your candor and your loyal nature.

    7. Purple Cat*

      I don’t think it would burn a bridge to offer your resignation to someone else because your boss is on vacation. You have to do what’s best for you, but calling or texting/her while she’s on vacation to tell her you’re leaving, is kinda lousy. I think everyone should take a little time off between jobs away (financials allowing), so tell your new company it has to be 3 weeks and given that you’ll get a day or so to officially accept anyway, you won’t have to give your notice until she’s back anyway!

      Good luck, I hope the offer comes through!

  23. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Should I keep ignoring my boss’s use of the F-word as his only adjective even if it is grating and unprofessional? My whole team, him included are late 20s, he has no direct oversight (just reports to the CEO of a very large company) and my colleagues don’t seem to mind. If I should bring it up, how? For what it’s worth, English is his second language and he manages all of us (Americans) from an office overseas.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Is he doing it in front of clients or as a means of berating staff? If it is causal and only with staff and not in a manner in which he is “disciplining” them I would let it go.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I used to work in a call center that served active duty & retired service members. Their language could get salty. As long as they weren’t swearing AT me, I didn’t care & let it go. That’s just the way a lot of them talked.

        On the other hand, my language to them was always very G-rated. So, I think it really depends on the circumstances & how it affects interactions.

    2. have we met?*

      I often wonder, in situations like this, if the speaker was given some bad advice along the way. Was he told that using F-bombs is a great way to show your American team that you’re approachable?

      Depending on the openness of the relationship, I’d be tempted to mention the fact that F-bombs are often perceived as unprofessional or downright offensive, yes even in the US.

      Side note: I saw a job listing this week that actually used symbols for swearing – a.k.a. @#$% – in the job description, mentioned that the team was “balls to the wall” and said their ideal candidate can, among other things, “hold their tequila.” This was all touted as positive, as in “bring your whole self” to work (unless you’re a recovering alcoholic, apparently). Hard pass.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I wouldn’t care about the f-word being used in itself, but describing things as “this ***ing report” or “a bloody analysis of this ***ing policy” I’d find that kind of attitude towards the work itself quite demoralising, like to him all the work tasks are just an irritating nusiance.

    3. Cowgirlinhiding*

      Ask him not to use it around you. If this is his second language you can also add that it is offensive.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I’m wondering if he will think it odd now that I’ve been with the team for four months and haven’t brought it up, or if I’ll be coming off as stuffy. I don’t generally mind my friends using the word but when he describes “that f-ing report” or “we need to do an analysis of this bloody f-ing policy” it gets old fast.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          He might, but that might be something worth living with if you’re really uncomfortable. It’s okay to let people have something they don’t like/think is weird about you. It’s also okay to not be comfortable with something.

          It’s really freeing when you realize you’re allowed to assert your personality just like other people.

        2. Anon for this*

          I had a boss who was former Navy and stereotypically swore like a sailor. After a few months I finally had enough and said something to him about it (a number of years ago). He stopped the swearing in front of me (though it continued if I wasn’t present) but many of the team members thanked me for saying something as it bothered them as well.

    4. ATX*

      The f-word is used quite often in our office in close-knit meetings (Fortune 100 company, we’re all v. professional). I would consider it very common in American culture, depending on what type of work atmosphere you have.

      My boss uses it, I use it, my direct reports do, other managers do.

      In meetings with other departments or with people you don’t work with that often, it’s not used very much.

    5. Angstrom*

      I had a similar situation with a young ex-military boss. He wasn’t angry or hostile, just sprinkled a lot of profanity into his language. I finally had a conversation where I said “When you use that kind of language, it makes people focus on your words instead of your ideas.” He thanked me and it got better.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Unless he’s swearing at you or others as personal abuse, or you are willing to take the hit of sounding stuffy/prudish because you’re deeply upset and offended, I’d ignore it.

      Your boss’s professionalism isn’t yours to manage.

    7. Been There*

      I know among young people in my country, the f-word is often used in casual conversation because we hear it so much in American tv shows and movies we grow up with. It has lost most of its offensive meaning.
      He may not realise it’s seen as unprofessional in American office culture.

  24. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    I have been in my current position for 7 months (found a new job in same field immediately after being laid off due to COVID). The job itself is fine but it is not challenging me or helping me to grow my skills. I also dislike the coworker with whom I share an office with (i.e. they do as little work as possible and I am doing the majority of the work). There is an opening for another position in the same department that I would much more prefer (skill development wise) and is in the role that is my professional goal. Is it appropriate to apply for this opening so soon after being hired? I am outside of my six month probationary period and HR tells me there is no limit prohibiting transferring between roles.

    1. BlueBelle*

      Apply since the company doesn’t have a minimum time of employment before applying or transferring positions! Good luck!

    2. Purple Cat*

      Sounds like the policy specifically allows it, so you can go for it! My company it’s a year.
      Since it’s the same department, is it your current manager who oversees the new role? It might be worth a conversation with them first.

  25. Goes On Anon*

    I think I helped my boss get a new job in a very small way (because I’m a supportive and helpful cheerleader, not because I’m actually useful as a job hunter) and if so, I’d like to get her a small farewell gift. Nothing too fancy or whatever, just like a small token of my respect plus like a little card with some well wishes.

    But I am atrocious at gift giving and have no idea what that would look like, so I’m looking for some input from everyone.

    1. LC*

      Just the card would be great and probably super meaningful for your boss.

      But if you do want to get a more gift-y type thing too, one option (totally depending on the person) would be something for their new desk that is useful but a fun version, like pen holder in their favorite color (ooh or even a box of their favorite pens, if they have a strong favorite that isn’t a crazy specialty one or anything but not one that isn’t normally a standard pen that’s just available in a lot of offices, I very much have a favorite and it was always a pleasant surprise when I’d unexpectedly get a box).

      Or if they have a favorite coffee shop, or if the area of their new office has a good coffee shop close by that isn’t normally close by for them, a gift card that’s enough for their normal beverage of choice and tell them that coffee’s on you their first day. (Replace coffee shop with bakery or bagel shop or whatever as applicable.)

    2. Artemesia*

      The card is plenty and will I am sure please her. A tiny box of good chocolates if you know she eats chocolate would be fine too — as a pleasant gesture without too much $ investment — more than that gets awkward.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Just give the card. I still have cherished cards from former colleagues. I’ve long since tossed any tchotchkes I’ve been given.

  26. No Tribble At All*

    Happy Friday y’all! I have another question about my application for a formal mentorship at my Very Large Organization. We’re supposed to say what we think we will gain from this mentorship. One thing I’m super interested in is how women engineers at my organization do work/life balance specifically with kids. I’ve heard this org is good for that; a friend in a different department mentioned his boss was recently coming back from maternity leave, and already I’m working with more women than were in my whole department at my old job. There’s even a daycare on site.

    I’ve literally never met a woman engineer who has kids, much less a senior one (boss!!) who took extended mat leave (yes I’m in the US). And as spouse and I plan to start trying for kids in about 2 years (timing based on me finishing my master’s) I’d like to know more about navigating that. How does it working with timing of operations and projects; if I badge flip before then (change contractors) does that ruin my ability to take FMLA? I don’t actually like my current role that much, but should I stick it out because I’ll need to meet longevity for FMLA?

    But, would it be grossly inappropriate to talk about that in the application to be mentored? I don’t particularly want to write “I want a lady who can tell me about how she had kids and kept her career going” but that is in fact exactly what I want.

    1. RosyGlasses*

      For the FMLA one that can be tricky. It depends on how your org is structured and I would lean on talking to your HR about your specific question because they’ll know whether your time carries or not. Typically though if you change employees, your time restarts to the 1250 hours in 12 months and 12 months of employment needed to qualify (and employer has 50 or more employees).

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t know a lot about formal mentorshipa but I think you should focus more on the career aspects not mothering, maternity and FMLA.

      1. NopityNope*

        +1 Keep it focused on career. If the program has group events, as well as just connecting a mentor/mentee, you can use those to build up your network of women/parents in the organization and leverage those organic connections to explore your questions.

      2. Peachtree*

        Honestly, this comment gets me down. Women need support to take time off for pregnancy and childbirth. Workers are people too and having kids will have a disproportionate impact on women’s careers in comparison to men. Saying that the OP should focus on “career” not “mothering maternity” is basically ignoring the many and varied intersection between these two concepts. Plus, if it’s a specific Women in Mentorship Programme … these types of questions will NOT surprise them.

        OP – go for it. Work life balance is a really common issue for professionals more generally and if it’s a women-focused programme then they will not be surprised to hear that you need support on how to make this work with children. I probably wouldn’t go with the FMLA questions yet but definitely talking about kids and career breaks and how you can come back stronger IS really important. Good luck!

        1. NopityNope*

          I don’t think we’re saying women don’t need support to take time off for pregnancy and childbirth. We’re also not saying that Tribble can’t ask to be paired with a woman in a senior engineering role, or that she can’t pose those kinds of questions to her mentor, be they male or female, once matched. However, since Tribble works for a Very Large Organization, and there is zero indication that this is a mentorship program for women only, there are likely to be BETTER forums for that kind of support. (See other comments on ERGs, etc.)

          Since this is an application to a formal, corporate-sponsored mentorship program, I would still recommend a more career-oriented approach here, while also encouraging her to seek out other mentors as well. I’d say the same to a man looking for advice on leveraging the company’s paternity leave policy.

          1. WellRed*

            Yes exactly. Get the mentor based on career merits and goals but use it how you need
            In a fuller life balance way.

            1. WellRed*

              To add: the question is about the APPLICATION so op needs to make sure that is in order.

    3. lost academic*

      What do you consider extended? I fit the description (supervisory, mid/senior level engineering, female) and I took more than the FMLA twice. My experience and status at my firm allowed me to make the decision and not have it be challenged or questioned. It did come with the risk of losing my job the first time more than just FMLA would, but I knew where I fit into the organization and didn’t consider it a risk at all. You have to prepare for your leave in a similar fashion. But you need to know your company, and consider what the prep looks like based on your project timing, staffing, etc, against the time you plan to take.

      The badge flip will reset the clock for eligibility.

    4. MissBliss*

      I think if you put that in your application, it would help them connect you to a mentor that cares about those topics and wants to be able to help another female engineer navigate the same issues.

    5. anon for this*

      Not knowing what happens to paper like this in your organization I would hesitate to put it on the formal application. But you could indicate you are interested in a mentor who can help you navigate the balance between work and family, and the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Something like that.

      I also have to say that where I work the formal mentoring programs are rather structured – lots of exercises and programs for us to do jointly (as if we wouldn’t get together otherwise?) so I’d recommend you also seek less formal mentors through professional associations or other work events.

    6. The New Wanderer*

      As a senior female professional in an engineering-adjacent field with two kids, I would happily talk about that topic with a mentee and I think it’s highly relevant to career growth.

      I would phrase it as something like wanting guidance on balancing work and life, including family, with career opportunities.

    7. Hillary*

      If your org has ERGs/affinity groups, they can be a great resource for this too. We talk about this a lot in our Women’s group and we help people meet informal mentors to talk about this kind of thing.

  27. Pikachu*

    I’m changing back to my maiden name after getting divorced. Should I indicate this somewhere or just let it speak for itself? I don’t want to put my married name in parentheses like people do with their maiden names after marriage. I also am hoping to not have to tell everyone I actually got unmarried, because it gets awkward. Just wondering how others have handled it.

    1. WellRed*

      When people I communicate with outside my company suddenly have a different name, I assume marriage or divorce and move on.

    2. Zephy*

      You don’t need to share all the gory details, and IT should be able to set up forwarding/an alias/something so that if people are still emailing Pikachu Smith but you’re Pikachu Jones now, you’ll still get their messages.

    3. Asenath*

      Any time we had a name change in the workplace, an email was sent around saying something like “Jane Black will be now known as Susan Red”, the person in question would simply start using the new name on all email etc. I’m sure there were some people who picked up on the change more easily than others, but that ended soon enough. I don’t think anyone officially gave a reason, although if you knew the person they (or you) might mention it in casual conversation. I remember one co-worker who told me spontaneously that initially she’d kept the ex’s name so as to have the same surname as the children, but now that she was about to get a degree she’d been working on part time for years, she decided that there was no point in putting his surname on it when he hadn’t been around in years. But I never heard the reasons for most of the name changes. The only thing that annoyed me was if there was a lack of a notification email. I spent more time than I like to remember trying to track down Jane Black in my records only to discover that she was now Susan Red, and no one had let me know.

    4. Mr. Cajun2core*

      One salesperson (I was the client) when she changed her name, she called me and said, “I have changed my name from Smith to Jones. I did not get married.” I found that very comfortable. Yes, I know you said that you did not want to tell everyone you got unmarried, but in this way you are not saying you got divorced. There could be any number of reasons though divorce would be the most common. I did not find it awkward.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yes! I don’t make assumptions. I worked with someone who had changed her surname to her mother’s maiden name, because her parents divorced when she was quite young, & she considered her maternal grandfather as the man who really helped raise her.

    5. Firecat*

      It’s really not awkward. I can’t recall exactly who/when (that’s how not a big deal it is) but there are at least a couple of multiple divorced women on our office. Just start using your new name. For resumes no need to highlight but for references if they only knew you by a prior name then I would put a not on the reference as (known as Pikachu Smith)

    6. Hillary*

      If you want people to know, you can also ask a trusted colleague to share the update. I go through a mental “am I supposed to congratulate them?” when I notice a name change in outlook and I hadn’t heard they were getting married.

    7. Generic Name*

      I did the same thing after my divorce. It was surprisingly a non-issue at work. I think it helped that my first name is fairly unusual and the two names I was switching between were fairly similar, so I honestly think a lot of people just didn’t notice. I communicated the change via an additional line in my email signature. I think it just said something like: Please note- my email address has changed. My new email is originalname@company.com. My old email still forwards to my new email. If anyone offered me congratulations, I just said “thanks!”. Most people at my company knew the story, so I didn’t think it was necessary to say “actually I got divorced” and create awkwardness with people outside my company.

  28. thatoneoverthere*

    I have a virtual interview next week. The only option for me, would be to take it from my car. Does anyone think this is a big deal? Will it appear unprofessional?

    A few friends said no, and that most people get that I have job and just need to sneak away really quick.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Agreed. As long as there isn’t a loud rainstorm beating on the metal roof of the car, you’ll be fine.

    1. Blarg*

      If you mean “sitting in my stationary vehicle that’s parked in a lot outside my current employer’s building” I think that’s fine. If you mean “on a road trip with my friend/SO driving and me in the passenger seat with the world whizzing by at 65 MPH” it’s pretty distracting and not the private space usually expected in interviews. If you mean, “while I myself drive,” absolutely not. It is not safe. Even not on video. And as an interviewer I’d refuse to talk to you while you were driving for concerns about your safety and the safety of others.

    2. cubone*

      I would consider letting them know in advance or at the start of the meeting. I don’t think it’s “unprofessional” (people have all sorts of things going on, limited quiet space), but at the same time…. I think I’d find it a little odd if it wasn’t commented on, you know? Either sending an email that says “as an FYI, I want to let you know that I’ll be live from my car for our interview! Due to my schedule for the rest of the day, this is the best spot for me to ensure I’m not interrupted. I have great internet connection, but wanted to give you the heads up so you know I’m not driving and interviewing” — or say something to this effect off the top.

      I think the tone should be fairly nonchalant/polite, and basically make it clear that this is due to your current role and not having private space to conduct an interview, not an issue with lack of internet access/privacy at home etc (basically anything that could seem like “an issue” in the – hopefully! – new job).

      My boss once had to participate in a live press event from her car and similarly just commented on it off the top in a sort of “ha-ha” way (but I think really just wanted to make sure she acknowledged it so people didn’t get weird about it, or again, think that she was driving and working simultaneously!)

      1. thatoneoverthere*

        I don’t have the interviewer’s contact info unfortunately. It was set up by an internal recruiter. I could email the recruiter I suppose.

    3. StudentA*

      If you have to, it’s fine. But if you can use a zoom background, that would look more professional.

  29. hoggums*

    I have sort of a weird situation that is seriously stressing me out. I’m a federal employee who is placed in a state government office. My purpose is to do whatever activities the state government office needs. Currently I am term limited and the federal government pays my salary, but starting in a few months I’m becoming permanent, moving up a grade level (and will move up another next year, this means two promotions in two years), and the state will have my salary taken from their grants. I’ve been placed with my team for three years now, 1.5 of which has been doing COVID work so not our normal duties.

    Our office is getting tons of COVID money and is going to undergo a complete restructure and hire a ton of new staff. My supervisor who is retiring keeps scheduling and cancelling meetings for us all to discuss our post-COVID roles. My team (currently has 6 people on it) sent out a new org chart yesterday (when we never even had our meeting yet? but I guess some team members were working on this) that details our proposed new team- 11 new staff members and the team would become a unit split into two main subject areas. They do not have me on the org chart and do not even have a position that “could” be mine on the org chart (based on my job title/responsibility level). My other two coworkers who are a contractor (not from the federal government, but similar-ish structure) are on the org chart.

    How do I address this? I’m emotional about it because I’d already been feeling unappreciated/that my team doesn’t really understand my role (even when they signed the contract to keep me, only our finance people looked and not my supervisor because we were so busy with COVID) so I’m worried I’m going to cry if I bring it up. In one year I’m supposed to be doing a team lead type role and the open spaces on the org chart are super low level and wouldn’t even fit me now!! I was going to reply back “You forgot me! haha” but tbh I really feel it deserves a bigger discussion about my actual role vs randomly being slapped on the chart somewhere.

    1. Asenath*

      I’d set up a meeting with the supervisor – and with whoever os developing these charts if the supervisor is retiring soon – and get this straightened out right now. It’s too important to delay. I’d start off low-key – “I have been left off the organization chart. Would you show me where I will be placed?”. I’d be persistent. If they try to put you off with some excuse about how they haven’t forgotten you, you’re going to be on the next version, or, heaven forbid, say they assumed you’d be in one of the low level positions, start pressing harder and maybe go up the chain of command. Be sure to bring with you some documentation about what you have been promised, especially in the form of pay and responsibility increases, and something in writing about the kinds of tasks you see as part of your future job, being as specific as you can be. You might not need it, but if you do, it will be invaluable. If you are in the middle of one of those hopelessly chaotic reorganizations, you must speak up for yourself.

      1. hoggums*

        I stopped by the guy who made the chart this morning and said “Hey, you forgot to put my position on the chart!” and he pushed back saying it was only for “state” positions and I explained to him I’m exactly like the contractors now… so he just sent out a revised chart (I thought he would put a position specifically for me, like add an extra person on the chart) but instead he highlighted one of the low level positions (for people who have no degree and like one year of work experience, or a brand new graduate) and indicated it was the “federal position” by shading it in :( My supervisor is out the next week but I definitely need to address this :( The guy who made the chart definitely has the type of personality where he will think you’re a “snowflake” for caring about this type of thing.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          How annoying. He’s the one who made it, doesn’t he want it to be right? Sounds like he’s just spitballing.

          I would ignore what he’s done until your supervisor comes back. This guy doesn’t even know how you’re categorized, and if they’ve been working on the chart for a bit, then it’s not an emergent situation just because they sent it out. You might be feeling like you need to get it fixed ASAP became it just came to your notice, but just get ready to discuss it with the right people for now.

          Get any emails or communications together about what changes you’ve been promised, and go to your supervisor when he’s back. Bring both versions of the chart and say, “Now that this came out, I’d like to figure out what the changes we’ve discussed will look like and how I’ll fit into this new structure.”

          1. hoggums*

            I honestly think no one in my office really knows what they signed for me (a two year contract), It was at the height of COVID and they had to sign a year in advance and we work in public health so they just rushed to sign it but only our finance people likely ever looked at it and there was no time to actually sit down and do planning for my future position. I unfortunately think my supervisor won’t be very helpful due to past experiences/him genuinely not understanding things/he is super checked out due to retiring am thinking I should also maybe approach the director of the office as technically per the agreement she’s supposed to be my actual supervisor. My federal supervisor encouraged me to do that but I’ve never had a conversation like that so I’m a little panicked trying to plan it out. I sent a panicked email to my colleagues placed in other states asking for examples of their work activities so I can use those as examples lol

            1. Hillary*

              Please talk to your director. She needs and wants to know what’s going on.

              It’s rightly a big deal for you personally, but this is just something that happens that leaders have to deal with sometimes. Treat it as a casual update that of course she wants to hear. This isn’t you asking for personal help, this is you informing her of something going on with her team. She wants to make sure your contract is honored.

              This can even be a drop by her office thing if you’re in person.

        2. Overeducated*

          Oh, dear, i hope he doesn’t actually have authority to make decisions here. Better luck with your supervisor.

        3. NeverComments*

          I’m a fed embedded in a state agency as well (although I am permanent). I don’t believe my position shows up in any work chart either. So yes, definitely have the conversation with your supervisor – but I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    2. should i apply?*

      Can you reach out to your supervisor, instead of waiting for them to schedule a meeting? It might be that whoever put together the chart, either got bad information, or took the activity on themselves. I understand why you are upset, but maybe assuming incompetence/ disorganization will help you reframe it to make it easier to have the conversation.

  30. Real Real*

    Hello everyone,

    My significant other has been frustrated with his job lately, pay-wise. Unfortunately, a piece of that has to do with some debt he is working to finish paying off– he feels that he should take a job outside of his current ‘professional’ industry to something ‘blue-collar’ to get that dealt with faster. I understand his reasoning (and I know if he didn’t have this debt, it would certainly not feel as frustrating for him). I support him whichever way he decides to go about it, but I guess my concern is him leaving his preferred industry, even if only for a bit and how it might impact his ability to jump back in. He’s planning to do some more studying for his preferred industry soon, so he says its fine, but… Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on this? I guess it’s just tough for me, because I see how much he enjoys what he does, but the reality of things isn’t meshing with the ideal at the moment…

    Hopefully this made sense, thank you in advance for any thoughts!!

    1. kbeers0su*

      Rather than jumping ship into an entirely new industry, perhaps you should try sitting down together to discuss budgets, finances, and whatnot together to try and find another solution? I had the same frustration a few years ago (and did ultimately decide to shift fields) but before that my SO and I decided to start following some of the principles of Dave Ramsey (cut spending, snowball debt paydown, pick up extra side work). We paid down a ton of debt since, and it has helped us both feel better about our mediocre pay in jobs we like because we feel like we have control of our finances.

      1. Real Real*

        This is a good idea! I’ve briefly touched on these points, but definitely it’s worthy of a more formal conversation. I’ll have to look into the principles of Dave Ramsey too! Thank you!!

        1. 867-5309*

          Dave Ramsey is the real deal. My younger brother makes half (possibly even a third) of my salary and has zero debt, owns him home, funds family vacations, very healthy retirement, etc. I, unfortunately, did not get the discipline gene in my fam.

        2. Sophia*

          I could not agree more about Dave Ramsey. Ignore some of his political beliefs and listen to his financial advice. My spouse and I had a serious emergency last year and we had an emergency fund. So while we had an emergency to deal with, at least we did not have a financial emergency. My friends and family were so surprised by how calm we were and I can credit Dave 100%. Such good advice. He calls it financial peace for a reason!

      1. Real Real*

        He is currently working in (and wanting to stay in) law, he’s working as a legal assistant right now. He is thinking of doing something like production/labour for 1-2 years in hopes that a higher wage will help even things out.

        1. 867-5309*

          I have three thoughts:

          1. If someone is already working in their desired field, it is always easier to continue within that field if you don’t have gaps or pivots to another line of work. It will set him back a couple years, potentially.

          2. I don’t know how that would look in the legal field. Sometimes the community can be arrogant/judgmental, depending on the region, practice area and firm. He could be judged for doing labor work AND will need to think through how to message the reason. Saying it was to pay off debt will invite it’s own set of judgements. (I do not think any of this is fair or right, just a potential reality. It’s b.s. that we place more value on certain types of work than others.)

          3. One way to return would be to look for a legal job in the sector where we works blue collar. He will bring some practical experience in understanding the industry, combined with legal knowledge, that could be compelling. (When I started the communications internship program at a major retailer’s HQ, we gave students who had retail experience – at our stores or similar – additional consideration.)

          1. Real Real*

            I really appreciate these insights!

            It really is BS to place such different values of work :(
            Point 3 is a perspective I hadn’t thought of, and if even after we discuss as best we can, he still decides to take this route, this is a good framing for when he does return.

            Thank you!!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, it’s worth all of two cents but I would be concerned that the higher wage will become a trap for him. Maybe some people could do this but I do see that our choices made in desperation/high need can become pits that are difficult to climb out of. Once inside that higher paying job it’s not so easy to just “jump out of it.”

          I tend to think he should find something law-adjacent to do part time in addition to his current job. Or he could look around to see if he can raise his pay by moving to another place. I like the ideas of writing a budget and a plan to eliminate the debt. I also like the idea of seeing what costs he can reduce. I started reducing costs 15 years ago because [life stuff] and I am amazed that I am still finding new ideas 15 years later. Once in a while I hit a “jackpot” where I reduce a cost by $100 per month. Those are beautiful moments. I read and now I can attest, that if we put ourselves in cost reduction mode, more and more opportunities appear to allow us to reduce yet another expense.

          1. kbeers0su*

            Yes! There are many Dave Ramsey facebook groups (and many other financial frugality-themed groups) and the ideas people come up with are amazing. Another one is the FIRE or FIre groups, which are focused similarly on living frugally so you can retire early (or not). But shifting to a place where you control your money and your money doesn’t control your options is such a cool place to be in life.

        3. Purple Cat*

          That feels like a tough pivot and that he really needs to be thinking about his long-term plans.
          (This is outside my field) but I feel like in law, years of experience matters, so stepping out for 2 years, would set him back for his long-term career/salary goals. And is he really going to want to leave a higher-paying job once he’s used to the salary? And then he’ll be “stuck” in a job he hates because he’s in it for the money.

          If there’s a mentor he can talk to about how to accelerate his law career, that would be a good place to start. And maybe pick up a side-gig instead of switching full-time jobs.

    2. Girasol*

      Does he have a mentor in the legal field whom he could ask, someone who knows the ropes but can be trusted to discuss the matter in confidence?

  31. Heffalump*

    The situation I’m about to describe happened quite a few years ago, but I’m curious to get the commenters’ take on it.

    I was working as a typesetter at a small type shop. At one point we got the account of the print shop of the local county government. We were in a major city (you’d recognize the name), so this came to quite a bit of business. Much of the work was things like envelopes, letterheads, and business cards, either for a particular county agency or for an individual who worked for the county. A letterhead or business card would include the information you’d expect, but within that framework, there was some variation.

    It soon became clear that “Fergus,” our contact, couldn’t write instructions. I would read over one of his jobs and literally not know what he wanted—I couldn’t even start work on the job. The first time this happened, I called him up and said I had a question about the job. He snapped, “Just do what it says to do,” in a surly tone. Totally unhelpful. I couldn’t think of anything to say that would (a) get him to clarify what he wanted, and (b) not put me at risk of getting fired, so I signed off. I never experienced anything like this with any other customer before or since.

    Over the next few months I had a few more of these conversations with Fergus, with the same results every time: “Just do what it says to do,” always in that same surly tone.

    I concluded that asking Fergus to clarify his instructions was a waste of breath, and all I could do was give his jobs my best shot. This meant that I was often doing the jobs on a basis of guesswork. In one case a job had to go back and forth 3 or 4 times before he was happy, and he wrote in the margin, “Why is it so hard to follow instructions?” I suppressed the urge to write, “Because you write the worst instructions I’ve ever seen in my 13-year typesetting career.”

    I’ve sometimes wondered what would have happened if I had invited Fergus to come to the shop, pull up a chair alongside me, and see the situation from my viewpoint.

    In hindsight I should have asked my employer to talk to Fergus and (hopefully) convey to him that typesetters aren’t mind readers, but it didn’t occur to me. If you were my employer, what would that conversation with Fergus look like?

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I’ve sometimes wondered what would have happened if I had invited Fergus to come to the shop, pull up a chair alongside me, and see the situation from my viewpoint.

      I quite like this idea. I used to work in a print shop and people have absolutely no idea how these things work. (No, we can’t just use yellow ink over the entire page instead of using yellow paper; no, the printing press will not magically correct your typos; no, we can’t saddle staple something and have it come out even without trimming it; et effing cetera.)

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It’s not type-setting, but I’ve dealt with clients like this in programming.

      The only effective ways I’ve found are to literally break their instructions up into single clauses and send each one back independently for translation into English (or whatever the mutual language is, and I literally use that phrase) and/or to play chicken with them using their deadline as the oncoming train.

      I also have a reputation as a miracle worker and a healthy cache of esteem capital to cash in if it comes to that. But generally, my Fergi would complain to my supervisor, who would check with me for details, and invariably it would either go back to each Fergus to articulate what was desired more clearly or my supervisor would own the judgment calls.

      1. Msnotmrs*

        “play chicken with them using their deadline as the oncoming train.”

        Government employees are used to things taking forever as a matter of course, so this might be a loooong game of chicken. I work in a govt agency that uses an internal print shop, and 6 weeks is an average wait time for me to get my stuff.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I get a lot of mileage out of the phrase “I’m prioritizing viable work…”

    3. Distractinator*

      I’d refer back to the last job that took several tries to get right.
      “Just do what it says to do”, “ok yes, we will, but I can’t tell from what’s written if you wanted X or Y” “Just do what it says to do!!” “You probably recall that we had to iterate 3 versions last time because we didn’t understand what you wanted. That’s not an efficient way to proceed.”
      I’d lay out 3 options: we’re doing nothing until we get all our questions answered, we’ll interpret it best we can but will not make changes if you don’t like it, if you’re too busy then direct us to someone else who can give instructions and we’ll work with them on this project.
      Could also suggest sending a questionaire with really detailed fields to be filled out so that if he even completes it you’ll have everything you need. Conversationally could blame the current request form for being nonspecific instead of blaming him for being a jerkface.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Yes, requiring people to use a standard form can save a lot of interpretation. Of course, some people can’t follow instructions even in that case, but it can help.

    4. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      If I were your employer, I would either have you bump calls to Fergus to me to explain that either he needs to answer your questions or accept that he’ll have to do multiple versions, or else I would empower you to be firm with him. Sometimes obstinate people have more respect when they know someone more senior is talking to them or backing up the person they’re talking to.

      Or, if we really needed to coddle Fergus (like that his business is so important that it’s worth wasting my typesetter’s valuable production time), I would at least reassure you that you’re not doing anything wrong when he snaps at you, aren’t going to be fired, and you should just consider it part of the job.

      1. Roy G. Biv*

        Ah, great communicators, who actually LACK any semblance of communication skills. I had a boss who used to say, “I think I made that completely clear.” Um, no, no he did not. He was in fact the opposite of clear.

        We worked around him by creating a checklist for almost every process, and disguised it as chain of command. “When I hand it off to the next department I want them to fully understand what we want. No confusion on their behalf.” This gave him the plausible out that other departments were the problem, as opposed to him, when we all k we he was the weak link.

        I would use a checklist or some kind of template with a customer as well.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If they have to talk about the clarity, you can almost be sure there was very little clarity.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      I’ve dealt with it by asking a ton of clarifying questions and stating that I would not move forward unless they responded. They sometimes realize that their instructions were not that clear. It goes like this:

      Thank you for your order. We need the answers to some clarifying questions before we can begin processing your order.
      1. You asked for “bread.” Our options are white, wheat, rye, and bagel. Please tell us which one you would like.
      2. Your request specifies lox, but that is not one of our options. Is tunafish an acceptable substitute etc etc.

      1. Heffalump*

        At one point Fergus came to the shop and met with the site manager (owner worked out of our head office) and one of my peers. I assume the meeting was about their account in general. My peer, who had also dealt with Fergus over the phone, said he was perfectly polite in person–go figure.

        He also said Fergus reeked of cannabis, and medical, much less recreational, cannabis was at least a couple decades from becoming legal in my state. I told this story to a coworker at another job some years later, and he suggested that maybe Fergus wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer even pre-cannabis.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I guess I would want to create a form or template type of thing for orders.
      If the form was not filled out correctly, it would be handed back to him. If he skipped parts of the form it would be handed back to him. The order would not be processed until properly completed.

      I am saying this as an outsider to your arena. So this might be equal to saying, “I’d wave my magic wand and that would make his communication clear.”

      Personally, I’d want to talk to Fergus’ boss and ask if there is anyone else there who can handle these orders.

    7. RagingADHD*

      This doesn’t need to go through the employer. It just needs the rep (you, or whoever is prepared to ignore the snippy tone and get the info you need) to ask specific questions.

      Make a list if the info you need. Ask for the things that he didn’t include.

      Better yet, create an order form with specific items to check off. Say out loud, “Here is the information I need that was not included in the instructions. We can’t start the job without answers to these questions.”

      TBH, if I were the employer and discovered how much time and money was being wasted re-doing jobs because my employees were signing off on stuff at random to avoid asking routine customer service questions, it’s not Fergus I’d have a problem with.

      1. Heffalump*

        Yes, they were indeed routine customer service questions, but we were dealing a customer who flat refused to answer them.

  32. Cendol*

    Does anyone here write (fiction or otherwise) as a side-gig on top of your regular day job? Or balance any kind of creative side-gig with your 9-5? I’ve been doing a bit of research and follow a handful of blogs on the topic but I am curious to know if any of the lovely AAM commentariat are doing this and how it’s going.

    1. 234342*

      I don’t write, but have other crafting pursuits that includes some commission based work. My 9-5 is STEM. They both require some creativity, but are different enough that they balance eachother out. Work is a break from crafting, crafting is a break from work. If I have idle downtime at work, maybe I jot down some ideas for crafting. Sometimes when I’m crafting, I ideate some research ideas for work. Most of my fellow STEM coworkers hobbies include just netflix and tv, they seem pretty burnt out at end of the day and need to rest. I think having the crafting hobbies/commissions keeps me from coming home and turning into a couch potato.

      1. Cendol*

        This sounds like a good balance! I’ve found that as I take on more responsibility at work, I start veering more and more toward the “Netflix and veg” mode of post-work recovery. Which is not what I want!

        Whenever I’m tasked with drafting reports at work or have a particularly busy day, I know I won’t be getting much writing done that night because I’ll be too drained. It’s frustrating. I feel like I don’t have much time to socialize or keep up with the local art scene/pop culture in general because I’m pouring everything else I have into my second unofficial job, but at the same time, I don’t have enough bandwidth left over after a regular work day to market my writing.

        (I should say, I’m in the process of obtaining an ADHD diagnosis, lol. Maybe this feeling of being constantly overwhelmed will go away someday soon!)

        1. 234342*

          I used to prioritize work over all else in life. It took being 4 months away from home (for work) that drove me into a deep depression and flared serious medical issues to finally push me to change that. I used to look around at all my coworkers and wonder, why aren’t they as motivated to get the job done, they have no sense of urgency, do they even care? Now I put my family and my health first, and am more like those old coworkers. Just saying, if work is draining you too much to even enjoy your time after work, maybe you are working harder than you should. When I evaluate over the last 8 years in STEM industry, I’d say the average person actually works like 4 hours a day, Maybe 6-8 on a rare busy day. Of course I don’t know your situation, maybe you have to work this hard, but could be a chance to reevaluate.

          Luckily my side gig incorporates socializing with friends I already have in that scene. Maybe more friends in your scene could help keep you accountable?

    2. MissGirl*

      I write novels in addition to my day job. I’ve got five out right now. It’s hard because self-publishing requires a high amount of churn to be really successful and I don’t have that capability.

      1. Cendol*

        Right, I don’t think I have what it takes for the churn of self-publishing. Not to mention I have 0 publishable novels! (Congratulations on your five!) I write at lunch and in the evenings and manage 4-5k during the workweek. I try to keep weekends as weekends, mostly because I’d never see my spouse otherwise!

    3. Pikachu*

      I do! I am a contractor for an agency that specializes in content marketing. Pretty much all I do is write articles/blogs/podcast show notes/social posts that they assign me on a regular basis. I don’t have to go out and hunt for clients myself. Just open my inbox, click a task, and write. If I am on vacation or need to scale back a bit, all it takes is an email to the agency and they just assign other writers in the meantime. There is always more work if I want it, too.

      I only do this because of how easy it is through this agency. If I had to keep up a fiverr profile or a website and manage client relationships myself, I wouldn’t bother. I don’t have the bandwidth to do all of that on top of a regular job, but this is cake.

      1. Cendol*

        Wow, I didn’t even know agencies like that existed! It sounds like this is working really well for you. I agree about the headache of managing client relationships—definitely not something I have the bandwidth to do.

      2. CDell*

        Would you mind explaining a bit more about how you found that/how you applied? It sounds interesting!

        1. Pikachu*

          I was searching for content marketing jobs but was also looking at copywriting and editing roles. (I did the yolo move of 2020 and quit my corporate job.) The role just happened to match one of my linkedin searches. I knew from the posting that it was a contractor role. The application was basically just a portfolio, because my work is just a small piece of much bigger content campaigns arranged by strategists that work for the agency. I’ve never seen a business model like it before either. It’s awesome.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Yes, I have a small series of mystery novels and short stories out there, and a half-done nonfiction book on faith/spirituality.

      I found it much easier to work on my own stuff when I had a 9-5, because my days were so stuctured. I had exactly 1 hour in the morning before work, and 1 hour at lunch.

      Since I’ve been freelancing and make my own schedule, time runs through my hands like water, and it’s very hard to make progress on my own stuff.

    5. SummerBreeze*

      I do. I’m a traditionally published, award-winning author but I have a day job (executive level) and 2 kids. It’s tough. My writing takes a looooong time and I barely see friends.

      1. SummerBreeze*

        That sounded more negative than I intended ;) It’s just that is IS hard, and I had to decrease my expectations significantly in terms of word count each week in order to not feel bad about myself. I used to write 1-2k a day, before kids and even when I had a train commute. Now 2k a week is my goal.

  33. Passive Job Searcher*

    I am struggling with how many references I should provide. I was not actively job searching, but I have Indeed alerts set up just to keep my finger on the pulse and a very interesting opportunity popped up. I passed a phone screening and have an interview lined up for Monday. Is it ever ok to provide only 2 references? I have 2 former bosses who I know will give me glowing references. Do I need to pick a third? They haven’t asked for anything yet, but I am trying to be prepared since it was only a day after the phone screen that they asked to meet in person so it feels like they are moving quickly.

    1. Immee*

      I’m in the UK so this may be partly regional, but over here providing 2 references is absolutely standard.

    2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      I think two is plenty. I like to have three because it feels more like a list, but I also work a lot of short terms jobs and have lots of former managers who would give me glowing references. If you’ve worked only long-term steady jobs you might only have one or two within a good range of time.

    3. NeutralJanet*

      I would think about someone to use a 3rd reference just in case they ask for one, but if they don’t specify how many references they want, offering 2 is pretty reasonable and standard.

  34. Not a Real Giraffe*

    Are any folks here involved in producing written, substantive content for their company? My firm provides a niche service and occasionally puts out a think piece about relevant areas of interest, but it’s been a MESS to get them written, distributed, and read. (Think: articles about a current event, but with a focus on the specific service my firm provides, with a slight marketing angle for “here’s how we/firms like ours can help.”)

    How do other companies do it? Do you have ghostwriters? Where did you find ghostwriters that know your industry well enough to write knowledgeably about it? Do you self-publish or do you get these placed in newspapers, blogs, etc.? Do you use a PR team to help with this? Is this all internally driven?

    Help! I am new to this but somehow put in charge of the process and it has turned my hair all gray.

    1. SansSerif*

      Sounds like white papers. Where you’re providing useful info, but also showcasing (in a subtle way) the way your company can help them with a common issue or upcoming challenge. Our company does a lot of those. Either we (the writers) handle it, or sometimes for something with a more specialized knowledge base, a professional (in this case, an MD) will write the first draft and then a writer cleans it up. We use the white papers as part of campaigns, like linking them to a newsletter or an email, for example.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Definitely similar to white papers! These are like 700-1200 words in length. It sounds like you have an in-house writing staff then? How many people are on your team, and do you have a background in the kind of work your firm does, or does most of the team come from a writing/editing background?

        We are a small firm trying to operate as a much larger one and I’d love to be able to make a strong case for bringing more people on board to help produce these things, if this is a strategy my CEO is committed to.

        1. SansSerif*

          We do have an in-house staff. Our company has several different products, and each product ha 2-3 writers assigned. We get to know the products, but our expertise is in writing. Sometimes we’re given the info, sometimes we’re expected to do our own research. It depends on the topic. And sometimes a specialist who has a contract with our company will do the research and do a rough draft, and then we fix it up. It all depends on how many of these papers you’re going to be doing. They are certainly more time intensive than other things, such as writing an ad or web page copy. Maybe you could start with a contract worker and make them full time if it works out?

    2. Bobina*

      We had dedicated comms, PR or marketing people at the companies I’ve worked at to handle things like this. It will be internally driven but by someone with the right skillset.

      If that person doesn’t exist in your company, something like getting the subject matter expert to either draft it or do an interview with a freelance writer who then writes it up sounds like the best way to go. As far as getting it published in traditional media etc, again, you need someone to cultivate that relationship with them. You can outsource it (usually by finding a niche marketing or PR firm related to your area) or again, have a dedicated PR/marketing person who should have that responsibility.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        On average, how large were/is the comms/marketing team at the companies that you’ve seen do it well? I think this is the route we need to take but I need to make a case for bringing more dedicated people on board. Right now it’s just me trying to do absolutely everything under the marketing umbrella on top of an entire other side of my job that is equally as time-consuming.

    3. mreasy*

      I manage the dept that does this at my company. We create a tremendous amount of content because the product we sell requires our customers to understand a lot before they buy. We use a stable of freelancers with mixed results. When I find one who has a background in our (jargon-filled, horribly complex) industry, I just try to use them as much as I can. Ultimately, we have multiple people involved in the process, to ensure everything is factually correct and clear – I take a first pass, then a subject matter expert at the company looks, then I take the final pass (in the future we’ll have a FT copywriter though). It’s extremely time consuming! We publish bylines from our execs in industry publications, as well as having a blog and regularly publishing white papers.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        It sounds like you get final sign off? I think this is another area where we struggle. Our CEO is incredibly hands-on with these and we have a hard time getting things out the door without his redlines (which are often about style, not content).

        Do you find that your blog and white papers are well-read? We just did a review of our readership numbers, and I am just not sure all the work is worth the effort when compared to the number of people who actually digest the content!

    4. ThatGirl*

      You really either need a dedicated team of freelance writers or an internal comms/PR/copywriting team. Do you have a marketing or creative team already? Are there any writers on it?

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        No :( It’s just me who runs things globally and I don’t even have a marketing background! We have an external PR team but I do not find them to be very good, and they certainly aren’t thinking about us outside of specific requests I make (they are reactive, rather than proactive).

        1. ThatGirl*

          That’s hard, then. You really need someone dedicated to it, who’s got the company knowledge and the writing background and all. There are certainly plenty of external firms who can do it, including PR teams, but it sounds like your current PR team isn’t much use.

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          If this isn’t a constant thing (or even if it is), maybe see if you can get a freelance editor/copywriter signed on. I did this for a very small company, one-time. They did engineering and construction on a certain type of infrastructure and worked with cities on bid work, but were trying to branch out into working for hire. Engineers wrote out descriptions of jobs they had done, and I edited them to be somewhat more layman-friendly, while also still detailing all the technical aspects of what they had done, and somewhat “selling” them.

          It requires close work with the client and/or research, but if you don’t like any of your internal systems maybe you can justify hiring out.

    5. Mantis Tobaggan, MD*

      I used to ghostwrite this exact kind of content in a past job working for a market intelligence firm. Usually for clients that had us on retainer to provide a variety of services including media monitoring, writing content, etc. I always found it really strange these huge companies would pay us to write this stuff – you could pay an English major new grad to do the level of work we billed $150/hr for tbh

  35. Alice Ulf*

    Hello all! This is a question specifically for those of you in property management (or those who were and left for something very different). I’ve worked in subsidized housing for over a decade now, but I’m 110% DONE with my agency and with working several hours of unpaid overtime every week. Property management would be a fairly easy transition, but I’m so completely burned out that every job description I look at exhausts me. I need a little perspective. So:

    What do (or did) you like about property management? What made it satisfying? Has anything in particular kept you in the field?

    And the flip side, of course: What did you hate, what wore you down? If you left entirely, what was the last straw?

    If you’ve done both commercial and residential property management, which did you prefer?

    That’s pretty broad, but if you have any experience or advice to offer, I’m eager to hear it and thank you so much in advance. If it makes a difference, I have a lot of experience in Section 8/HCV, PBV and HUD Multifamily. All the positions I’ve held have been heavily client-facing, so I already know that people can be bananacrackers (in general).

    1. Zephy*

      Hellmouth’s experience is (hopefully) unique, but Alison posted her whole saga last month among the updates, if you want a masterfully-written horror story about the dark side of property management.

      1. Granger Chase*

        Seconding this. It’s worth the read, and could clue you in on some red flags to look out for when it comes to PM.
        If you are looking for an on-site property management position, I would recommend avoiding university/student housing, as their leasing staff tends to be mostly students (so a lot of turn over), and they tend to be sold and bought by different property management companies more frequently than other apartment complexes.

        1. Alice Ulf*

          Ha, I actually followed that in fascination/horror when it was ongoing but somehow missed the dramatic conclusion! What a ride. o__O

    2. balanceofthemis*

      My brother works in property management, so I asked him. Now, he is not and has never been a property manager, but he works directly with them. He said a big make or break issue for propery managers is their assistant managers. If they are bad at their job, completely checked out, or the company just doesn’t hire them, you are going to burn out fast.

      He also said to tour the properties the company manages on your own time, and not just the one you will be working at. That will give you an idea of the type of company they are, and the type of owner you’ll be dealing with. If the properties look rundown, if maintenance is lacking, that shows you the owner doesn’t care, and is cheap, and it will be like pulling teeth to get anything taken care of. And that will mean either angry tenants, that you will have to deal with, or, it means the tenants can’t complain because they can’t find anywhere else that will take them. And if the management company hasn’t shown that owner the door, it shows they don’t care.

      1. Alice Ulf*

        Oh, this is great advice–I hadn’t thought at all about looking at the other properties. Please thank your brother for me!

  36. Separation anxiety*

    Workplace separation anxiety – is this a real thing?

    I’ve put in my notice and am two weeks away from the start date at a new job. I knew this was coming for a while (got the offer weeks ago), but now that it’s happening I’m suddenly filled with… anxiety?

    Thing is, I really like my current job – I’ve been here for two years and it’s a fantastic workplace. Except, the work itself wasn’t really the area I’d like to specialise in, so when an opportunity came up to get into that very specialty, I decided to go for it.

    I should be excited I guess? But as I’m finalising things at my current role, I’m suddenly hit with this overwhelming sense of not wanting to leave. It’s all really silly stuff like, I’m going to lose access to my work email (who even likes work email??)! Or I won’t be part of the office groupchat! Or even this weird possessiveness at handing over projects (even though those same projects have driven me crazy on multiple occasions).

    That’s weird, right? I mean…it’s a job! And I’ve changed jobs before! I wonder if everything from the last year or so has made me extra-sensitive.

    I get along great with my colleagues and everyone’s saying keep in touch etc., but I wonder how much of that actually ever really happens. I mean I like working with them a lot but very rarely spent time together socially. It’s like that weird space where I like them enough to miss them, but not sure if it’s only specific to the work place and we actually have nothing in common beyond that.

    1. blueberryfields*

      Def normal! I have always dealt with this when changing jobs. In fact I am sort of in a similar boat. I am applying jobs and sort of ready to leave. But..
      1. I like my company and boss
      2. Love my colleauges
      4. love the benefits and perks

      However there is no room for advancement for me and I need to progress my career. I am scared to leave, but know deep down its right.

    2. 234342*

      I was SO ready to leave my last job and still had these feelings. I loved the work, my colleagues, even if it was a bit dysfunctional, but I was commuting 2-2.5 hrs per day. New job was a bit of a downgrade but 5 min commute. I keep in touch with a few via texts, some of them want to get jobs here. I’m planning to send a holiday snacks box around christmas, but otherwise I kind of keep out of their hair. I do not add coworkers on social media (except for a very few close friends I made from work), so that makes it a bit hard to stay in touch.

    3. Overeducated*

      Yes. I got that when i changed jobs this spring. It probably took me 6 weeks to stop feeling it on a daily level.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      “That’s weird, right? I mean…it’s a job! And I’ve changed jobs before! I wonder if everything from the last year or so has made me extra-sensitive.”

      Sometimes we can become very comforted or even bonded to someone or something that has carried us through a stressful time. Kind of makes sense really, let’s say you move but you bring your cat or dog. Everything is new- your home, your city, your state, the people, the restaurants and on and on. You feel yourself getting really attached to your pet- because your pet is a constant in a sea of variables. The pet is familiar to you when nothing else is.

      You have been at this job for 2 years? So it carried you through the Covid pandemic. It’s reasonable to assume that you will ALWAYS remember this job. Just like I will always remember my day at work when the twin towers were attacked. I remember exactly where I was standing and who I was with when I first heard the Challenger blew up. You see the idea here. The surrounding place and people become etched in our minds.

  37. SansSerif*

    In this age of Zoom, how common is it to have a “pre-interview” where they send you a pre-recorded video of someone asking 8 or so questions that you have to record your answers to? It feels like this takes the place of the phone interview. I know someone who just had to do that and it seems awfully awkward. But I guess this is a new way of winnowing out the candidates? She did fine and then had a live Zoom interview, but had never had this type of interview before. Has anyone else?

    1. Nicki Name*

      This is something that was starting to come in pre-pandemic– at a previous job, my company was starting to add this to one of its products (not for job interviews but something similar).

    2. AdequateAdmin*

      A company I applied to did something similar. You had to record yourself answering these questions and send them back; it took about an hour. I haaaaated it. But apparently the company took them very seriously? (I knew someone who worked there, who was responsible for watching the videos for a different department than I was looking for.) I really hope this doesn’t become a common thing because I just don’t do well with scripted, single-sided answers.

      1. Alianora*

        My employer did that for one of our positions. Very awkward videos as a result. I didn’t find them especially useful; a written questionnaire would have been better.

    3. LC*

      Man I hate this. I don’t know how common it is, but I think it’s more common than it used to be. It seems annoying for the employer (the idea of sitting through fifteen minutes of someone talking when I can’t converse with them instead of just, I dunno, talking to them for fifteen minutes, seems like a nightmare) but I’d also hate it as the interviewee. One of the things I’ve learned at AAM that’s stuck with me the most is that interviews are a two way street, you should be interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. Requiring something like this feels like it short shrifts the applicant because they suddenly need to spend way more time on something before they’ve even talked to anyone, and it’s a longer and more involved process getting to the point where you can actually converse and ask questions and figure out if this is a job and company that you want to pursue.

      Not just the length of the final video, but time to prep their answers, prep the tech they’ll be using, stopping and starting or reshooting because of dealing with the inevitable tech issues or not liking that take of an answer, reviewing (editing maybe? especially if you don’t have it in one shot, start to finish) it, figuring out how to send it since it’ll probably be a large file and I would be surprised if the company made it particularly easy, all the extra time between filming and sending it to them worrying about what you should have said instead, or coming up with better wording, or realizing that you missed a key point and then deciding if it’s worth it to reshoot again.

      It just seems very unbalanced and puts a significantly higher burden on the applicant than is really fair at that stage.

      1. SansSerif*

        Yeah, she hated it. But she’s a recent college grad so she hasn’t had a lot of experience with interviewing in general. She had to redo several answers because of tech issues, and you could only redo them three times. So in the end, she sent in some answers where the video and audio weren’t totally synced. I told her I didn’t think that mattered because they will see it’s a tech issue and they’ll still be able to hear what your answers are. And she mentioned the whole – they can’t react to my answers, I can’t react to them, etc.

        I’m four years from retirement. I hope I can stay in this job and don’t have to deal with the new world of interviewing!

    4. Double A*

      I had to do this for my current job. However, weyre an entirely remote organization (even pre-pandemic) and the job requires online presenting, including recoding videos sometimes, so for my position it’s actually relevant to the role and how the organization operates.

      1. allathian*

        I’m comms-adjacent and I was dismayed to hear that my manager used this method to pre-select candidates for a few positions. If they’re ever going to hire a new coworker for me, I really hope they don’t use this method. I don’t need to be on camera, ever, except on team meetings when I’m WFH, and requiring this would probably make a sizable majority of good candidates for my position nope right out, unless they were desperate. When my current coworker was hired, we had 10 applications and interviewed half of the candidates. For the positions that my manager was hiring for, they had something like 60-100 applications and asked about half of the candidates to answer a few questions on video.

        For some positions and fields this may be the way to go, but for some positions it would only eliminate good potential employees before they get a reasonable chance to shine.

    5. CubeFarmer*

      I had to do this for what was supposedly an interview so candidates “would not waste the interviewer’s time.” In my case, I had to log in to a website, the questions would pop up and I had to read them from the screen and then answer them into my camera. The software company claims this removes bias in hiring and puts everyone on a level playing field. Huh?

      I am not of the generation that has their face in a camera several times a day and I HATE to be on camera. It was extremely unnerving. I quit the “interview” half way through and called the recruiter to tell them that an interview was a two-way street and this was a waste of MY time. AND that it was probably screening out people of my generation.

    6. NeutralJanet*

      I had to do that for an interview in 2017, so it’s definitely something that companies have been doing for some time, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s become more common nowadays. I didn’t like it, and pretty much all of my coworkers at that job also didn’t like it, but it wasn’t the worst thing ever, just a little awkward.

  38. Orange Crushed*

    My job is to order teapots and other items. I messed up the part numbers, so the wrong teapots came in. I told my boss right away and he said that it was no big deal. He said to return them and re-order new ones.

    I apologized and said that I would be more careful. Well, my assistant manager “Steve” keeps giving me a hard time about it. Steve isn’t perfect either, but he is loud and points out other people’s mistakes presumably to cover up his own.

    I’m not perfect, but I work hard and it’s a busy time of year for us. I’m in a toxic workplace where everyone routinely has too much work piled on them and everyone is at critical burnout levels as a result.

    The way that Steve is acting makes me feel like I suck at my job. I did a check in with my boss and he reassured me that everything is okay and that I’m fine, but what do I do about Steve?

    Any advice?

    1. NopityNope*

      That sounds stressful! First, I’d like to point out that the boss said you’re fine, so feel very free to ignore Steve. If it were me, I’d probably tell Steve to look in the mirror stfu, but I’m rude that way. So if you want to address it, but in a more mature way, on the first comment, keep it simple: “That’s been corrected and [boss] says everything is fine.” On repeated comments, return awkward to sender, with quizzical look: “I’ve already explained that this has been corrected an [boss] said everything is fine. It’s weird that you keep bringing it up.”

      But I want to stress this: Boss says you are good, so you are good. Steve is an asshat.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        I agree with this, though if necessary I’d take it farther: “I appreciate that when we make mistakes, we are able to address them and move on. I’ve told you that Boss has said it’s fine but you keep making these comments, and it’s unproductive. If you have any concerns about the way the situation was handled, maybe the three of us should sit down so we can hear you out. Otherwise, I’d really appreciate it if you would stop making these comment.”

        But yeah, you’re fine and Steve is annoying. I’m sorry you have to deal with this!

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          That’s a lot of words! I doubt if Steve would listen to all of it. If you want to make a point, you have to get to the point.

    2. Lucky*

      Next time he brings it up, can you deadpan “Steve, boss understands that was a one-off mistake and has told me he isn’t concerned, so is there a reason you keep bringing it up?”

    3. Fiona*

      Fully ignore Steve to the best of your abilities. Your boss is aware, fine with it, and that’s ALL that matters.

    4. Purple Cat*

      You ignore Steve as much as possible. (Which of course is easier said than done).
      Just keep repeating to yourself like a mantra “He’s trying to cover his own mistakes, he’s trying to cover his own mistakes” to drill home that it actually has nothing to do with you and your one mistake.

      1. Orange Crushed*

        I think he also doesn’t want the boss or people to think that he was the one that made the error. (In private, not at work, I refer to him as “Mr. Teflon” because he always manages to get out of situations/nothing is ever his fault.)

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

    Asking for an ADA accommodation, 2 questions:

    1. Anyone with experience in this been given a hard deadline to submit paperwork/physician note to HR? Is this normal to be given a deadline — as opposed to just not able to move forward until the paperwork is submitted? What happens if my physician doesn’t respond in time (they are on vacation)? The HR rep said they might be able to extend the deadline (the hell?)

    2. Has anyone ever asked for accommodations that are basically “don’t change what I’ve had in this job for the last 14 years”? I have a chronic disease that I live with just fine for the last 31 years, but as I age and after the last year things are getting harder, and I want to sort of get it on the books, so to speak, before I get into a situation that would be bad for my health. So I’m requesting that my office environment be pretty much what I’ve had for the last 14 years — semi-private office/desk, no restrictions on number or time for breaks for food/drink or bathroom, no strenuous physical activity… my job SHOULD not be impacted by any of these “accommodations” since I am exempt and do not need to cover any phones or customer service. As we return to normal operations, they are doing a BIG shift of offices since those staying remote are losing their offices and the org wants to use space “more efficiently”. I’m already on notice that I’ll be moved. And there are some indications that my new uber-boss expects more “voluntary” participation in events as we start to have them again. My job is a graphic designer and I don’t want to be manning a registration table, ever, but especially not now.

    1. Let me be dark and twisty*

      1. This is really strange and suspect. I’d push back on the deadline – what is it for and what are the contingencies, if any. For accommodations, there really shouldn’t be any deadlines because circumstances and situations change often. (I’d understand if the accommodations were temporary, like for recovery after surgery, but that doesn’t seem to be your situation.) IANAL, but definitely check with one about the deadlines.

      2. As long as you spell out what you need – semiprivate office, no restrictions on breaks, etc. instead of “what I have now” in your accommodations request, you should be fine. Even though you say you’re exempt, definitely put in the paperwork and get it documented because you never know what’s going to happen or how things change as a result of the move.

      As for voluntold events, is there a way you could volunteer yourself for something that does fit what you’re able to do before you get stuck at, say, the registration table? Definitely start practicing your excuses or looking for other priorities to commit your time to on those days. Maybe doctor appointments…

    2. Another JD*

      A deadline would typically be imposed so that the required interactive process doesn’t stall.

  40. Viva*

    I have a phone interview in a half hour for a job that would finally get me out of food service hell!!! It’s still a customer service role, but working remotely. I think that will make the customer parts more bearable.

    1. NopityNope*

      I know you’re doing a great interview, even as I write. Best of luck, fingers crossed!

      1. Viva*

        Thank you! <3 I think it went well. Even if it didn't I'm encouraged because I only started applying for jobs in earnest last weekend and I'm already getting responses.

    2. Bayta Darrell*

      As someone who escaped food service hell for a customer service job, it still has its drawbacks but you will find joy in a lot of the simple things. For me, it was things like, I can sit down whenever I want! I can put things on my desk! I don’t have to scarf my lunch down! No more staying until midnight-1:00 am! We’re closed for the holiday and I’m getting paid! I can take a paid day off! All of those things are standard office stuff that gets taken for granted, but they were such a novelty to me. The other thing is, a customer service office job can sometimes lead to a not customer service office job, which is nice. I wish you the best of luck and a speedy escape!

  41. esemess*

    I’m in an industry that is super competitive and trends towards burnout. On my current team, I’m one of the longest standing members, in part because I work hard to create boundaries and fight against burnout (I also genuinely like the work). One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s hard for me to figure out the appropriate course of action when I see a colleague spiraling towards burnout or worse.

    When I train new staff I am very frank about the pitfalls in our industry and the ways that I’ve been able to persevere. I try to model self-care and boundaries and empower others to figure out how to create health and sustainability (to the extent that I have power, some things are fully out of my control).

    However, I really struggle with when/how to tell someone that I’m concerned about them. While I supervise some of these individuals, I don’t have any HR authority over them. Also, I trend toward being an empath and want to ensure that I’m not taking on things that are not actually mine to carry. Any suggestions on where to draw the line and how to further encourage people to care for themselves?

    1. Firecat*

      Personally I draw the line at work friends. If they aren’t a work friend, or an intern I manage, then I don’t need to monitor their performance that closely (and frankly a lot of people would bristle at you projecting that they are burnt out).

      For friends I will take them off campus for a coffee and ask them how they are doing. Usually if there are problems weighing on them it comes out then. If none do then I don’t pry any further and we enjoy a mid day break.

      1. esemess*

        This is helpful and a good reminder to keep my eyes on my own paper. Thanks, Firecat! :)

    2. TPS Reporter*

      As a manager, I like when team members tell me if they have concerns about someone else on the team pushing themselves too hard. With peers, my team members are more open so I only see a certain side of them when they interact with me.

  42. Llama Wrangler*

    I know Allison has discussed how we don’t owe anything to our employers, but I’m feeling torn about whether I’d be burning a bridge to leave my job for a new one right now. I just secured funding for a new program for my team, with the idea that I’d be the one leading it. If I left, not only would they need to find someone who could design and execute the new program, but they’d also have to fill not only my role but my subordinates, who also have both recently left.

    On the other hand, the company is dysfunctional (normal dysfunctional, not toxic dysfunctional), we’ve been without raises for two years because of COVID-related revenue loses, and the new opportunity is with a team I know and respect in a much more stable organization.

    I can try to give my current role a month’s notice, but I still feel like I might damage relationships leaving them in the lurch. What do you all think?

    1. whistle*

      If your leaving for a better opportunity with sufficient notice would burn a bridge, that bridge wasn’t too sturdy to begin with.

    2. NopityNope*

      Agree with whistle. A good manager understands that people leave, and will wish you well in you new opportunity. If you’ve got a bad manager, there is probably no “good” time to leave. Be professional, but move on. Also, leaving in a professional way is not burning bridges. If the relationship goes up in flames, they will have been the ones who threw the match.

    3. irene adler*

      Do you think your employer would give as much thought to terminating your position – if they needed to- as you are in leaving them?

      The business will survive without you. They may not like doing so, but they will survive. Unless you have ownership stake in this business, then you need to leave the worrying about the business to those paid to worry about the business. And that ain’t you.

      Remember, only you have your best interests at heart. And only you can act to serve your best interests. You need to do whatever you need to do to protect your best interests. No one else can do that but you.

      There’s never a good time for an employee to leave a position. And, if leaving for a new position (something employees do every day) is going to damage the relationship you have with your current employer, that’s on them. Offering 1 month vs. 2 weeks notice won’t change that. Is this extra notice more to help them or to assuage some guilt that you may harbor because you are leaving them “in the lurch”?

      Do the best you can to document things and prep whoever will take over from you. That is the best way to help your current employer.

    4. Purple Cat*

      They will survive without you. And if they can’t survive, then they are a poorly run company.
      There is always *someone* to do the work. It might not be done as well as you think it should be, but there’s always the possibility they find someone better ;)

      (Speaking as the person who unexpectedly took over a project because the 3 other people that shoulda/coulda worked on it quit or retired).

  43. Into Dust*

    How do you work with people who don’t seem to want to work with you and use you as their proverbial punching bag? I always end up working with people that are like this. I’m not trying to be their best friend or anything, but they won’t even say the basic “good morning” and “good night” to me. They’re rude- they snap at you, roll their eyes, give attitude, etc.

    People that I’ve spoken to said that they might be threatened. Some have acknowledged that they are difficult to work with and they feel bad for me.

    I try to make small talk to sort of “break the ice” and bring donuts or other food, but we’re okay for that day and then it goes back to being awkward the next day.

    They also go out of their way to make fun of me with others and exclude me socially. Sometimes they’ll give me the cold shoulder and then the next day decide to start talking to me as if nothing ever happened.

    Has anyone been in a similar situation? If so, what did you do?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh boy. Never had anything that bad, but I have experienced some similar things.

      Is there something different about them versus you that really sticks out? Culture, education, work experience, accent, etc? Sometimes people get weirdly tribal about stuff like that, like they’re deliberately looking for a way to exclude others or set up an internal enemy.

      And does this happen when you’re the new person on an established team, or if you’ve already been there and then a grumpy gus is hired?

      1. Into Dust*

        I’m the youngest person, single, no kids. The rest in the office are older, all of them are married and have kids, etc.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          It’s young whippersnappers like you who always come in and change things for no good reason! Steam-powered computers were good enough for my granddaddy, and by gum they’re good enough for me!

          /s

    2. 234342*

      I’ve been on both sides of the situation. If you say good morning every day for a month and they don’t say it back, stop saying it. Just smile and give a nod. If you’re feeling excluded, make sure you have people outside of work to socialize with. Keep on keeping on and doing a good job at your job. If its really important for you to feel like you fit in at work, maybe its time to look for a new position. I have been where I didnt fit in – I was 20+ years younger than everyone, different hobbies, life, etc. It was really alienating. In my new place, I’m the average age and they’re my kind of people I suppose. it feels alot more fun to be here.

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

      I guess I easily detach from people who clearly don’t want to be friendly: I don’t try to make small talk; I don’t expect or give pleasantries; I don’t bring donuts… You can’t change them, you can only change you. Stop expecting different behavior from them. Sometimes desperation or insistence on acceptance into a group causes people to stiff-arm a new person. The only caveat on that is if they make it difficult to do your job — they leave you off of project emails or meetings, they refuse to do their part in a project…etc. — that’s a management problem that would need to be addressed.

    4. llamaswithouthats*

      Unfortunately this can’t be solved. Your coworkers are objectively jackasses and unless you are guilty of some sort of terrible behavior we don’t know of, there is no justification for how they are behaving. Unfortunately this is something you just have to navigate until you leave. If it’s really affecting your work you could bring it up to management/HR if you think they will back you up and solve the issue effectively.

      1. Into Dust*

        I’m introverted, so that may be part of the problem, but even when I try to join the conversation it seems awkward.

        1. llamaswithouthats*

          Again, I don’t think anything about you, like your introverted nature, is the problem. In a functional environment people don’t get ostracized for being introverted! Your coworkers suck. I also want to echo what the others have said re don’t put anymore energy in trying to win them over. Try to get as much work done with as little interaction as possible.

          1. Into Dust*

            They seem fine with one another, so I don’t get it. One of them made a comment about how quiet I am and even my boss said something like, “Into Dust is just quiet” as if it was excusing something. Again, I’m not looking to be best friends, but it would be nice to feel/be more accepted, but I don’t think that it will ever happen.

            1. allathian*

              This is odd. Especially as they don’t even respond to your greetings.

              Even if you’re quiet and introverted, they’re probably using it as an excuse. At least they aren’t accusing you of being aloof, which is something, I guess…

              That said, someone who’s looking to be accepted and is clearly putting a lot of effort into it, can come across as a bit desperate. I learned this the hard way and found that it was a lot easier to be accepted and I managed to find my people when I stopped giving off those desperate vibes.

              So at the very least, don’t bring any more goodies into the office, it’s clearly not appreciated by your coworkers.

              This is yet another reason why it’s better if teams are more diverse, it’s more likely that you’ll find someone you click with that way. Now the married-with-kids coworkers are a big clique with lots in common and you’re the outsider. That said, truly decent people would try to welcome you in spite of any differences like this.

    5. Asenath*

      I’ve been in similar situations although less severe. Personally, I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I don’t placate people who don’t seem to like me. I try to be polite and professional, but if they don’t want to exchange morning greetings or small talk, I drop the greetings and small talk. I don’t socialize a lot at work, so don’t get hurt if I’m not invited to go on a coffee break or whatever. But if someone is directly rude to my face – snap at me, roll their eyes at me, well, I’m not always good at coming up with a quick response, but I do try to respond in the moment. “Is there something wrong? Oh, I thought there must be from your expression” – even a cool look and raised eyebrows can sometimes help. And every once in a while I did get a good response at a good moment, and the other person left me alone and went looking for easier prey. I am way past the point at which I expect to be good friends with everyone; polite and professional is all I aim for, and if I don’t get that in return, tough, I’m not going to think it’s my fault. But I don’t know who is giving you the advice that the person might be threatened by you or are basically difficult. If they are people in the same workplace, stay out of those conversations. You really don’t want your problems with this person to become the main topic in the office gossip, and you particularly don’t want your co-workers to feel bad for you because that’s only one step away from them thinking you can’t handle the professional relationships in the work place.

      1. Into Dust*

        That’s what I was thinking- I’m trying to be a little social because I don’t want people to think that I’m not a “team player” or something along those lines.

    6. Red Panda*

      Oh gosh, I have been in this exact situation and it is just the worst. Ultimately, I had to find another job because their hostility was getting to me and because it was impossible to do my job properly when no one would train me or answer basic questions. I have been lucky to stumble into a work environment where there are people at all stages of their careers, which keeps things from getting cliquey. I wish I could offer advice on how to find a job like that but all I can offer is best of luck to you! You deserve civility from your colleagues, at the bare minimum.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Just decide how you want to be in the office, and be that way, no matter what they do. I recommend being low-key positive, professional, relaxed and polite.

      Be the one who says “hi,” or who nods, or whatever level of greeting feels right. If you want there to be donuts, bring donuts. If you don’t want donuts, don’t bother.

      Don’t try to win them over. Don’t pay any attention to their negativity. Just be the person you want to be, regardless of how they act.

      There are several benefits:
      1) The more you act on this, the less you will care what they think.

      2) By not looking for a certain response or conditioning your behavior on whether it’s “working”, it will be easier to ignore their negativity.

      3) Other people will see your behavior, and theirs, and know who is the better influence.

      4) The less you care about their nonsense, the less they will bother doing it. And the more malicious they are, the more annoyed they will be that you don’t care.

    8. Koala dreams*

      Sorry that you are bullied at work. The fact that they are nice to you when you bring donuts and mean the next day shows what kind of people they are. :(

      I don’t have any advice, just sympathy. That kind of cold and hot thing can be really difficult to deal with. I hope you have good people to hang out with outside of work.

  44. Hawthorne*

    I’m job searching for the first time in forever and was vetting the company I’m interested in. They don’t have a glassdoor profile (though they have one on Indeed which seems okay in terms of reviews) or much of an online presence. I was vetting who would be my boss and they have liked a couple “Back the Blue” posts on LinkedIn (which is wild to me? Who puts that on linkedin?) It looks like the CFO and the CEO are married and they employ some of their family members. But they also have a lot of people that aren’t family (about 100 employees) and it looks like other higher-ups are not family. It’s a manufacturing company with a lot of office staff like engineers and finance people, and a lot of people working on the floor in a manufacturing capacity.

    Does the above seem like red flags to anyone regarding potential nepotism and lack of real online presence? I’m waffling. The back the blue is also troubling.

    Thanks

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I don’t think its a red flag. Maybe a yellow flag.
      It sounds like it’s not just some small mom and pop company (since they have over 100 employees). It sounds like maybe the married CFO and CEO started the company and it has grown. I would say continue cautiously and if you get an interview ask questions for any concerns you might have. Remember, a good interview should be a 2 way conversation, where you interview the employer too.

      The Back the Blue does seem odd, but I have seen other companies do similar things too. Maybe something to consider and look at in an interview. And who knows, maybe it was done by one rouge employee.

      1. Hawthorne*

        It was the CFO liking the Back the Blue on their personal page. But it seemed almost like something that someone would like if they didn’t really understand what it meant . . . Idk. I am being cautious. The CFO was hired on about 6 years ago and the CEO started the company 20 years ago. But it does look like the CFO was also the CFO at a few other companies before coming here so I’m not sure.

        I’m also thinking yellow flags to ask about in the process.

    2. kbeers0su*

      The “back the blue” thing might make sense from a professional standpoint if they engage a lot with police or police-adjacent/supporting organizations.

      My bigger concern is that the CEO/CFO are married AND there are other family members working there. I would be concerned about nepotism not only in any initial hiring decisions, but also bias in promotions and general consideration of opinions. For instance, if you start in an entry-level position but later go in for a promotion against someone who is family, can they be unbiased in choosing the best candidate? I also feel like there are so many letters on here about the dysfunction that comes with working for family businesses or married couples. So even though this is a larger organization and appears to have been successful, that doesn’t mean it’ll all burn down at some point when some family drama comes to work.

    3. JRR*

      Are the CFO and CEO owners or cofounders of the company? If so, I see no red flags in their employing family members–that’s normal for a family business.

      Also nothing unusual about the lack of online presence for a B2B company.

      The back the blue thing sounds like something to consider carefully. I’ve spent my career working for small manufacturers as a tech writer, so while I myself am a progressive creative type, most of my coworkers and bosses over the years have been more conservative “working class” guys. If you’re not OK to live-and-let-live with folks like that, proceed with caution.

  45. I'm just here for the cats*

    Any tips on helping with the hiring process? I’ve been asked to help my direct supervisor with reviewing applicants for the 2nd front desk assistant position (my old position, I’m now front desk coordinator).
    I will be reviewing applications and then later will be part of the interview panel.

    Any tips or suggestions. I’ve never really been on the other side of the table.

    1. Nicki Name*

      Come up with a standard set of criteria before you start reviewing anything. That’ll help keep bias from creeping in.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Figure out what skills were necessary to do the job, and what other qualities or skills helped you excel. Essentially a must-have and a nice-to-have list. When reviewing applications for our interns, I actually make a chart in excel with the names on the left and my list of desired skills/experience on the top, and then as I review their resumes I check off which one each of them has. It’s a great way to start and see at a glance who literally checks the boxes for the role.

    3. LC*

      I agree with Nicki Name about having a standard set of criteria, and I’d also suggest taking some time to think about what skills/qualities/whatever are teachable and also reasonable to spend the time.

      And for interviews, have a game plan going in of who is doing what and a standard set of questions.

      This may or may not be regulated by your company, but I like the set of up of specific questions that you ask everyone, leaving room for a couple follow up questions and maybe one or two standalone questions based on something specific about the applicant, like in their resume or something they mention during an earlier response.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I need to make things a bit clear.
      1. I’m in a state university so there are already set procedures and criteria.
      2. I am in no way in charge of anything. I was told I would be the subject matter expert since I did the job before and I would be the one working with the new person the closest.
      Think of it like how when you go to your doctor’s office and there are 2 or 3 people at the check in desk. I would be the main person, and handle a lot of the extra tasks (opening and closing, billing) but we both technically are at the same level. The other person is part time and basically backup. There to give me lunch and help students check in for appointments.
      3. I think my biggest problem is that I’ve never been the go to person before. This is new for me and I think I have imposter syndrome. I’ve never been put in a position where I would be the senior member before.
      4. I will give my thoughts about someone but I won’t really have a say.

      Mostly I just want help figuring out how I should act and what I should look for, based on whatever criteria I’m given. I’m not worried about bias or anything like that. I just am really anxious.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        For #2:

        I would prepare two sets of questions.

        The first would revolve around the things you did the most, what you spent 80-90% of your time on every week. Come up with some interview questions that will help you assess that they can actually do the job.

        The second would revolve around the challenges that you faced on a regular basis. Since they will presumably handle the same challenges, it would be helpful to ask questions about how they’ve handled similar things in the past.

  46. Merry R.*

    After searching for a while, I’m about to start a new job in a different field with a 25% pay bump, which, yay! But… now that onboarding has started and more details seem to be coming out, this job seems way above my paygrade. My new position is Assistant Project Manager, and I thought that meant I’d be on a team of PMs to manage a large project. But instead, I’m supposed to be the acting PM (which I’ve never done before) all by myself. This is a major major company, and I’m terrified. I just feel overwhelmingly unqualified. I didn’t lie on my resume, but it feels like they made a lot of assumptions based on my experience that I didn’t have an opportunity to correct them about.

    1. mreasy*

      Not to be too Pollyannaish but…the hiring team at a major company thought your experience and qualifications made you someone who could to this job! Can you try to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if it’s something you can rise up to? It may end up being a bad fit, but you may surprise yourself. I’m not at all discounting your anxiety but there’s an excellent chance you’ll be able to do this.

    2. Distractinator*

      Maybe Assistant PMs are put in charge of smaller projects, and the longer you’re there the more likely you’d be responsible for a truly critical team – and your task looks huge to you but it may be relatively minor part of the portfolio.
      I’d encourage you to think less about whether you can currently do everything they’re asking and more about how much you *want* to be able to do those things (i.e. confirming that this learning curve will take you where you want to be) and what’s your ability to start doing those things. If both those outlooks are positive, you’re in a great place – with a job title of “assistant” they were planning on this being a growth role, so your goal is to grow. If you can be so aware and organized about what needs to be done that you’re able to sort into things you can and can’t handle yourself, you can have conversations with your bosses in which you ask for the help you need and look good for knowing what resources or training you need, not bad for being unable to do it all personally. Don’t treat it like a confession or a failure, treat it like a chosen path to project success.

    3. Purple Cat*

      They obviously saw something in you and believe that you are the right fit – so believe them!
      Keep giving yourself pep talks, and if you actually start running into roadblocks and things that feel out of your depth, that’s what your supervisor is for.
      Remind yourself that EVERY job has a learning curve and they are going to expect that of you too. So don’t put pressure on yourself to know everything right away.