open thread – July 2-3, 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.

{ 1,106 comments… read them below }

  1. Speaking unprepared*

    Can anyone recommend simple resources for improving your ability to speak on the fly?

    I’m not looking for practice polishing my ability to give a presentation or speech, like with Toastmasters. I specifically want to improve the impression I give when I’m speaking about something off the cuff, without the opportunity to prepare.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I struggle with this as well. I feel like my vocabulary isn’t as dynamic as other people I work with.

    2. Atx*

      I do this really well. I think being a subject matter expert helps, my outgoing personality, and I’m not afraid to go off on tangents or speak my mind. If something I say is wrong, I will admit it. If I go off on a tangent, I usually just joke about it and say “well that was irrelevant!” Or “I don’t know where I was going with that” and people giggle.

      Confidence helps as well. I’ve always been very self-confident.

      1. EnfysNest*

        When using Indeed for job searching, does it make a difference whether you apply directly through Indeed or look up the company’s website and apply there? I had one recently where Indeed would have had me applying for just one position, but the website just had a general “enter your info and we’ll see if we like you for anything” option, so I wasn’t sure if it was better to apply for the specific position on Indeed or through the more generic form on the company website, and I’ve spotted a couple others with slightly different processes and I don’t know if it makes any difference.

      2. green beans*

        Oh, that is me exactly. I almost never extensively prep for public feedback and I am always told I’m a good speaker.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Um…how do you propose that OP might use your many flavors of innate giftedness as a resource to develop a skill set?

    3. Four Leaf Clover*

      The book Think On Your Feet by Jen Oleniczak Brown really helped me. She used to be an improv teacher, and had a lot of great techniques for communicating in those kinds of unexpected moments.

    4. Bloopmaster*

      Honestly, even if you’re looking to give impromptu remarks rather than formal presentations, Toastmasters still offers useful techniques. Often, the reason that speaking on the fly is challenging is that you don’t have time to prepare and therefore don’t always know what your main point is and how to get there. Structured activities like Toastmasters allow you to frequently practice that 5-10 second prep that gets you speaking concisely and coherently.
      Even if you’re not into joining a group, practicing speaking on the fly will help you do it in real life. Pick a topic (at random or from a list of things you might commonly be called to talk about) and then just make 2-3 points about it. Record yourself to better examine your flow, coherence, and intonation. Or put yourself into more settings where you are conversant, whether it’s among friends or meeting people for the first time.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Seconded. Only part of toastmasters is prepared–a lot us extemporaneous Q&A. Or at least that’s what I saw at the branch that people were trying to start at my office before pandemic.

        1. MC Toast*

          I agree. You can visit a Toastmasters club without obligation to join and try it out. Many clubs are still meeting online which makes it easy to try different ones to find a good fit. All the clubs I’ve met with have been very friendly, supportive, and welcoming. Good luck!

    5. T*

      I struggle with this too! My current concern is interview questions. One thing I’m doing is randomly selecting an interview question to verbally answer out loud to myself and also after some meetings I summarize important points verbally to myself.

      1. Artemesia*

        If you are not good at this — and most people aren’t, then preparation is the key. Everyone should go into interviews having identified examples from their experience that fit the half dozen most likely behavioral interview questions. If you have half a dozen specific examples of things you have dealt with in the workplace then you can adapt those to any question thrown at you.

        For impromptu remarks? What are the kinds of things you are going to be asked to do on the fly? Think about what you might say ahead of time. And having a simple structure may help. What will you say to grab their attention? An anecdote or rhetorical question perhaps. What are two points you might make on the topic. How will you close with a punch.

        Practice while you are in the shower or driving so these things come easier.

        1. Llama Llama*

          Also if you’re really prepping for something like an interview or other *really important* conversation, record yourself. This will help if you have difficulties with things like tone, pauses, um’s etc.

      2. SJC*

        For interview questions, look up the STAR method of answering. That might be a useful framework for keeping your thoughts organized when answering.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      A technique I’ve heard of if you find you’re using a ton of filler words (um, like, you know, um, uh) is to take your default filler word and say it 20 times fast to get it out of your system. The specific context was a reporter before an interview, but if you know you might need to answer questions or inject comments off the cuff you can try this before the thing starts.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes; after a solid minute of “Um well um well um well um well um well….” one is sick of the phrase, and it recedes for a while. Most useful if you have one go-to tic. (The reporter’s was “You know?”)

    7. OneFishTwoFish*

      At a company I used to work for we had a training exercise that was designed exactly for this. It might sound silly, but it’s actually a lot of fun and I found it to be helpful. How the exercise worked was you’d have a bowl that had pieces of paper with random nouns on them, they don’t have to be work related at all. The more random the better. So one person would draw two words from the bowl, when I went I believe my words were Xerox and fish, and you would then get 10 seconds to prepare and then you would have to speak for one minute and somehow connect your two words. The other people in the group would listen to you speak and at the end try to guess your words, but the goal was to not emphasize the words or necessarily make it obvious, but just to speak on the fly. I believe I made up a story about losing a pet fish and using Xerox machine to make flyers to post in the neighborhood about my lost pet. Like I said, it’s silly and not work related, but it really helps with just being able to talk about anything!

    8. Employee of the Bearimy*

      Toastmasters actually has a regular section (Table Topics) where members practice short, impromptu speeches on a topic that’s given to them. For me it was one of the most useful sections as it allowed me to practice organizing a coherent short speech on the fly, plus it gave me a much better understanding of how long 2 minutes actually is (many people under- or overestimate quite a bit).

    9. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was always good at this, which is weird, because I am pretty introverted. But…I just really loved my job and thought about how to improve things all the time. (My brain is a very noisy place sometimes!) I also enjoy exchanging ideas with people and having them challenge my plans so I could be sure we had everything covered, so I kind of liked being put on the spot sometimes.

      So…what to do? I’m not sure what sort of work you do, so the following may not apply:

      – Staying organized in general helps all around. I always kept “to do” lists and I made running lists of accomplishments so I could refresh my memory before reviews or one-on-ones. This would help me keep relevant facts fresh in my mind. That makes “hallway discussions” easier

      – Be upfront about being the type of person who likes to prepare. Give a very broad response and say “I’d like to review some notes so I can be sure I am giving you accurate information. Can you drop by my office at 2:00?” Or, “Let me just grab my notebook and I’ll be right back.”

      – Focus on the person to whom you are speaking. I think this is really important because I always found that people would speak at other people, not to them. What does this person want to know? How detailed do you need to be? Don’t think about impressing the person or performing well on the spot. Think of it as helping someone out with information.

    10. Aquawoman*

      I don’t know if this is an issue for you, but I do find that it helps me to very consciously slow down. Rather than start talking and finding the answer as you go, start with something like, “well, that’s a complicated question” or even just “that’s a good question” and then pause a sec to think what you want to say. Also, speaking more slowly makes me less likely to go off on tangents.

    11. K*

      Toastmasters does have opportunities to practice speaking on the fly, at least mine did. I found it really helpful, you were just given a random topic and tried to speak to it as best as possible. The feedback I received, or heard given to others, was also helpful (both for prepared and on the fly).

    12. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      Obviously this is not for everyone, And may not even help everyone, but if it fits your circumstances and sounds useful, consider doing a podcast. My friends and I started one just before covid and it has brought back those instincts I had lost from literature class discussions in college.

      If you don’t want to be posting them or don’t know what to talk about, do something informal. By yourself, you can start doing a quick 15 minute discussion of, for instance, aspects of your work, or your evaluation of your favorite TV show. If you have a friend who also wants to improve their speaking, you can do a casual book club, or Newest Marvel Series Club.

      The topic doesn’t matter. The goal is to talk about something concrete in an intentional way, and then to be able to listen back to it. You’ll become more aware of your speech patterns and the way you present ideas. If you have difficulty articulating something, you can go back and rethink your approach. It’s also helped me become much more aware of how I listen to others–I’ve found several times that I was misunderstanding what someone else was trying to say in the moment, because I was set in my own thought patterns, and so my answer was not really what I would have liked to say.

      Essentially, you can treat it as an even more casual Toastmasters, that you can study after the fact. It’s also nice to save those conversations, if you do it with friends.

      1. Actual Vampire*

        I’ve found that even just listening to unscripted podcasts has made me a better conversationalist. It’s like it trains my brain to think at conversation-speed.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Listening to others talk seriously has an effect on one’s brain. I find myself adjusting to what I listen to all the time. Podcasts are one. But also if I listen to a lot of standup, I start thinking in bits. Ted Talks, video essays, etc., all effect my inner voice, and then probably my outer voice, lol

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Oh yes, listening to standup definitely affects my sense of timing and phrasing, and when I should get off the stage too. It has helped when I need to make a point but want to make it short and snappy.

    13. Gloucesterina*

      Does it make sense to identify what context you’re speaking in/your goal for what you’re saying–e.g., interviews; meetings with a larger group; one on one meetings with supervisors; interactions with customers or whomever you “serve” in your role?

    14. Tessera Member 042*

      Probably less useful than the resources others have mentioned, but there is a game called Talking Points in the Jackbox Party Pack 7 where each player has to give an impromptu presentation on a topic using slides one of the other players is preparing for them. This could be a fun way to practice with friends, although it definitely emphasizes the humor aspect rather than a professional demeanor (though you could set a house rule for trying to take it as seriously as possible and leaning into the unintentional humor that creates?)

    15. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      In my team, we used to do ‘Powerpoint Karaoke’.
      It goes like this:
      1. The MC downloads a few presentations from the Internet. Not in our field; extra points for the slide deck being in a language and script foreign to the participants and the audience, like Georgian or Tamil.
      2. Participant gets 1 minute to go through them (advanced version: no prep at all).
      3. Participant presents.
      4. Hilarity ensues.
      5. Participant becomes the next MC.
      This works surprisingly well to learn how to speak confidently and convincingly without having a clue.

    16. HEllooo*

      I’m a trial lawyer so speaking on the fly is literally my specialty. Something I’ve found helpful is to practice and prepare small topics that may come up a lot – for example a judge is going to ask my how the testimony I’m soliciting isn’t hearsay….I’m always prepared because I’ve practiced the 3-4 possible responses to this. It won’t cover every scenario, but it helps a lot & increases your confidence, which I feel is 75% of effectively speaking without preparation!

    17. Gloucesterina*

      Oh, and this is so simple and random, but just informally discussing topics with friends and colleagues!

    18. Workerbee*

      I have long wondered this too, and am glad you asked.

      Gradually I’ve noticed that among my colleagues, it seems to not matter as much what you say as long as you sound excited and authoritative about it. Many, many hours have been lost with people held captive by someone gushing ideas, going off on tangents, telling stories…

      …I want to learn how to speak on the fly while making actual sense and with good effect.

    19. IL JimP*

      you can try improv, I actually do this with my team sometimes – it doesn’t have to be formal just have someone you trust do an improv exercise with you

    20. Anonymous Koala*

      It might sound weird, but dating actually helped me get a lot better at presenting myself and speaking on the fly. And it was low stakes, which helped build my confidence. Obviously dating isn’t for everyone, but now that things are opening up, what about trying to meet new people through something like bumble BFF? Sometimes meeting people in low stakes situations can really improve your ability to converse about random topics and express yourself succinctly on the fly. Or volunteering events, or hobbies – anything where you meet a lot of people in casual settings.

    21. Maddy*

      McKinsey’a structured thinking. When you get into the habit of key points, it’s such a natural way, when callled to speak or review things.

  2. Office Comfort Items*

    I’ll be returning to work in the office in the next few weeks and am on the market for some items to make it more comfortable than it was before. Any recs would be appreciated!

    First, I am already dreading how cold it always is and that I need to wear shoes again! Any recommendations for slip-on black shoes/sneakers (preferably ones that you can wear with socks)? I want to slip off my shoes under my desk, but be able to slip them on quickly if I need to get up to greet or assist someone. Additionally, are there any foot rests/warmers you’d recommend where you can slip your feet inside them under your desk?

    Second, I don’t have a standing desk, so I am curious if anyone has a quiet elliptical foot pedal exerciser that they’d recommend so I can get in some movement/exercise while sitting at my desk all day. It has to be very quiet, though, since we tend to have open office doors, and I don’t want anyone next door to be able to hear it.

    Lastly, I’m also curious about any other items that make working in the office more comfortable for you. Another item I was potentially thinking of getting is a white noise machine to block out weird noises the office makes, but again, I don’t want anyone nearby to be bothered by this. Thank you!

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      What about a pair of black loafers? They’re quasi professional, but you could conceivably wear socks with them (I’d wear more professional socks rather than something like athletic socks).

      1. RudeRabbit*

        You can find a lot of stylish blanket shawls for relatively cheap. I am currently wearing one I got from Target several years ago and it is awesome.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I had a heated shawl that I could drape across my legs if I got cold. A heated mouse is something to think about as well.
      I’d also suggest a fitted back cushion for your office chair.

    3. dealing with dragons*

      converse makes slip ons if that’s acceptable to your dress code. fwiw I would wear dressy shoes that weren’t cold appropriate but keep slippers at my desk and I could switch pretty quickly. I also keep a blanket at my desk. A shawl is probably more professional

      1. Forty Years in the Hole*

        Sketchers may also suit your needs, tho’ they tend towards the casual.
        I’ve used a tiny battery operated desktop “zen” fountain at work; you can adjust the noise level by adding/rearranging some small stones to alter the trickle effect. Not all your neighbours may appreciate this special effect though.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Pedals: I have a Wakeman fitness pedal exerciser that I got at Target (dirt cheap, very low-key, it’s literally just a pair of pedals on a bare-bones stand with a little bit of resistance adjustment, does need a hit of WD-40 every so often but otherwise silent) and a “Stamina InMotion Elliptical Trainer” that I got on Amazon ($109, a little fancier, basically if you face forward you can stand up on it and use it like an elliptical but if you turn it around backwards it lends itself well to seated bike-style pedaling, quiet as long as you keep the little wheels/tracks clean). I use the Wakeman under my desk and the other in my living room, more commonly as an elliptical than as pedals, but I’ve used it both ways. My housemate’s bed is directly under one and his desk is directly under the other, and he says he doesn’t hear anything at all from the Wakeman and very minimal noise from the elliptical. The elliptical does require less vertical clearance than the Wakeman does, if that’s a consideration.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        I bought a DeskCycle and like it a lot. It makes no noise that I can hear, and it’s heavy enough that it won’t move around as you pedal. It also has a electronic display that shows how long I’ve been cycling, the distance, speed. It has settings that allow it to run with no resistance up to a lot of resistance.

      2. Hillary*

        I have a Cubii – it was more expensive, but I love the variable resistance and bluetooth connectivity. I’ve found settings for both light intensity during meetings and higher intensity for real cardio, and it updates my apple watch automatically.

        Seven months in it’s still very quiet, my microphone doesn’t pick it up during meetings at all.

    5. rachel in nyc*

      I keep a sweater in my office just in case.

      And actually my office provides most of us small heaters…I use mine for my feet specifically. It has a timer so there isn’t a safety concern (I just make sure that it is set to turn off after a couple of hours, plus I picked one that turns off if it falls on its side.) [And yes, we also have fans. Depending on the season, we need both. And I’ve seen people use both at once.]

    6. AGD*

      Check out CozyWinters for lots of heated foot rests and the like! Mine has been ridiculously helpful.

      1. Chaordic One*

        And radiant heat electric floor mats! So much better than having a space heater under your desk. I’m dreading going back to the office because they don’t allow us to have anything that plugs into an electric outlet and I really like having it in my home office as I work from home.

        I find Cozy Winters to be a bit pricey, but they do have them. You could probably find something similar for a lower price on Amazon.

        You should also consider having thermal insoles in your shoes. They do help a bit.

    7. College Career Counselor*

      Pretty sure Merrell’s makes a black camp shoe/moccasin. My spouse swears by them.

    8. HatBeing*

      I second the loafers! I have a pair of silver ones since I tend to wear black clothes.

    9. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I like Skechers and Tom’s for slip-on shoes. Both are very comfortable and don’t pinch my toes or give me ankle blisters, which too many shoes do to my feet. I also have a pair of black slip-on shoes from Levi’s that I really like.

    10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      As far as shoes go, I think Skechers has a great selection for men and women of stretchy, easy-to-pull on shoes that also look on the dressy side of business casual.

      My office sits on top of an unheated back corridor, and so the floor under my desk is freezing in the winter. And I suffer from poor circulation in my feet. So I got a 2′ square heated carpet square (from Walmart, I think) that did a good job. Take my shoes off, put my socked feet on the square, and they were nice and toasty, especially after a cold 5 block walk from the parking garage.

    11. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I got an electric “shawl.” It looks like something great-grandma would wear but its like a giant heated blanket in a triangle/shawl shape. Really helped me in the cold office.

    12. Retired Prof*

      Don’t know if it would be allowed in your office, but I made this DIY IKEA standing desk (a cheap side table, shelf brackets and a shelf) and put it on my side table next to my desk. I put a monitor on the table and my laptop on the shelf. It was actually more ergonomic than using my laptop on my desk (I have a keyboarding hand disability and the only computer that works for my crippled fingers is a specific laptop). So I could sit or stand depending on how my back was doing.
      https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ikea-standing-desk-hack_n_7033432

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        I found an inexpensive “tray” that stands on legs and use it for a standing desk. Much easier to deal with than raising and lowering the Varidesk, I just sit the tray on my desk and put keyboard and mouse on it. Just Google keyboard tray or stand. Cost about $40.

    13. Artemesia*

      Mug warmer to keep your coffee hot (it works better with a flat bottom cup but if you get the silicon lid to put on the coffee cup, it works fairly well with any mug.).

    14. Annika Hansen*

      How dressy do you have to be? If you are casual and don’t mind the one of the ugliest shoes, the shearing-lined Boston clog is super comfortable and warm. It slips on and off. It’s unisex. They are seriously one of my favorite pandemic purchases.

    15. I'm just here for the cats*

      In the past Sketchers have had some nice-looking slip-on shoes. I have an old pair that I used during the winter so that I wouldn’t have to drag extra shoes with me after walking through the snow with my boots.

    16. Yorick*

      I wear ballet flats with socks that only cover the bottom and sides of the foot. I usually wear black or sort of a nude color socks, partly depending on the shoes.

    17. SaraV*

      For my oddly shaped, ginormous feet, I do love BZees. Super comfortable, and wide enough for my toes. Probably just a smidge on the casual side, but should be fine if your office is business casual.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        For me, the most comfortable shoe ever is a black leather, “manager style” wingtip safety shoe – complete with kevlar puncture-safe insole and composite toe cap. It does not look much like a safety shoe but fulfills all the ASTM requirements. I can just keep them on when suddenly called out to site and they don’t trigger metal detectors. Not cheap ($100 a pair) but oh so worth it.

    18. Trisha*

      Crocs makes slip on dress shoes in a variety of colours. I find them super comfy and easy slip on/off. If they are a bit big or loose, you can pop them in the dryer for 5 mins (to warm them up), put them on wearing a pair of socks and they will mould well to your feet.

    19. Cooper*

      I picked up a small daylight therapy lamp to put on my desk to combat the soporific effects of office lighting!

    20. Office Comfort Items*

      Thank you for all of your suggestions about shoes and other items, everyone!

  3. Furlough Ghost*

    I just resigned from my furloughed job and will be going into my office next week to return my work laptop and retrieve my stuff from my desk. I know a few of my coworkers will be in the office for me to say goodbye but I think many are still working remotely, are furloughed, or will be taking the week off since it’s the 4th of July holiday. Since I won’t be able to say goodbye to everyone in-person, I was thinking of leaving cards with my best wishes and contact information on their desks for whenever they return. Would that be odd? I know most people would go with email nowadays but I’m mainly worried about the furloughed people; if they end up not coming back, they won’t see their work email ever again but likely will come back to their desk at least for their stuff. Also I was fairly well known in my office for doing thank you cards and holidays cards so I’ve done slightly similar before. What do you think?

    1. Doctor is In*

      That sounds like a very thoughtful idea. Taking the trouble to write a card is rare these days!

    2. lisah*

      I love the idea of getting to my desk to pick up my stuff and getting a card from my colleague. I say go for it.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think it is a nice gesture and not odd at all. I imagine people will appreciate a personal note.

    4. HatBeing*

      I really like this idea! I saved all the cards and notes I’ve received from c0-workers in the past few years because they were so thoughtful. It’s refreshing to work with people who display care and professionalism.

  4. Gone Girl*

    I am actively getting steamrolled at work by someone who is not on my team and is not my supervisor. We collaborate together often but they’re, say, a teapot builder and I’m more along the lines of the teapot designer. They’re very knowledgeable in their field, and on most projects I appreciate their feedback and insight, but lately it’s gotten out of hand.

    They’ve found their way into all the other project channels, and have proceeded to insist on their personal vision for nearly every project regardless of whether or not it’s in their purview, and more worryingly: talk down the people who actually have the experience and insight on the projects. They’ve told fellow coworkers that they’re work/ideas are unimportant, or that they disagree with their insights and then they’ll proceed to do whatever they think is better (because they’re also the person who ultimately has the power to implement them).

    We’re a young & small company and this person was one of the first hires, so they’re highly valued by our founders and it’s unlikely they’ll be fired. My supervisor is aware of the issue and said they’re working on a solution, but in the meantime, what the heck should I do? Half the time I just wanna “yell” at them in the slack channels to butt out and let us do our jobs because it’s definitely killing morale and the collaboration I’ve really loved about the company so far. Thoughts?

    1. Grace*

      You could try ignore the unsolicited advice when/if you can. If this person has last hands on everything and thus keeps changing the final product, maybe they won’t be able to change *all* the things, or will decide it’s not worth the work to do so. But it’s really, really sucky that they’re telling other people that their work/ideas are unimportant, and that’s definitely worth standing up to.

      1. rachel in nyc*

        I agree. Trying a “Thanks for the suggestion” to their face, and anything you aren’t actually interested in, just gets ignored.

        Probably best if your manager gives approval for that route…

      2. Artemesia*

        If others on your team agree and can come together to forge ahead with their own team decisions and vision then, ‘thanks for the ideas, we’ll think about it’ and then proceed to ignore it might make your day better. Or just dead air; ignore the comments and emails. The real problem comes when the higher ups decide to impose this toad’s ideas on the teams. If that is your problem then your only real option is to leave.

      3. Teapot supervisor*

        Agree that ignoring is probably preferably where possible, although agree with Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain that you could probably also call out the ruder instances.

        You have my condolences though. Work with one or two people who I have to do a lot of virtual smiling and nodding with and a lot of holding back from saying “Uh huh, yep, sure, I mean, I’m NOT going to do that because of about 50 reasons, half of which are big picture management stuff it’s not even appropriate to tell you about, but, sure, you go on thinking it’s ok for you to tell me how to do my job. That really warms me to your suggestions.”

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

      “That’s a rude thing to say Steve and uncalled for. We are all professionals here.” Look him dead in the eye and let any silence hang. Also do this when he says it to others, not just you. If you do it for them, they might return the favor. I’ve had coworkers come up to me to thank me for having their back when another person is insulting or steamrolling them; so often everyone else stays silent and looks away.

      I also agree with Grace, ignore his suggestions if you can for the most part.

      The third thing is that this will eventually cause highly qualified people to leave. I suggest you look at your options.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yup, seconding that. A three-pronged approach:

        – Direct, calm, challenging of the overall style, especially when the target is the coworker standing next to you (or equiv. in Slack/group chat) “It is not cool to call any of our work unimportant. You need to knock this off.”
        – Turning to stone when he targets you. (“Interesting. Thanks. Well, ok, back to work now I guess…”)
        – Making a very strong case with the powers that be that this needs serious reining in as it threatens the ability of the company to retain qualified contributors other than him.

    3. Anhaga*

      Can you or someone with the right admin privileges make Slack channels private to only the teams working on them? That is a simple way to keep out people who are not part of a project, though it can be a bit inconvenient to have to manually add anyone who is part of the project. They can also, very simply, be removed from channels where they have no business being.

      Overall, though, someone with power over them needs to tell them to stop and stop now. Anyone who’s essentially a peer probably won’t be able to make their lines stick unless there’s a higher up person backing them.

      What does “working on a solution” mean in this context? Is your supervisor/this person’s supervisor unwilling to simply tell them that the behavior is unacceptable and obnoxious?

    4. Feedback Falcon*

      What if you proactively set aside time to hear their feedback? In the moment when they provide unsolicited input, you could say “Since I am / my team is currently in the middle of this project and changing things as we go, we’re hoping to hold off on receiving immediate input. Would you mind holding off on making changes until you see the next version/draft?” Then, you could set aside time to chat and hear their feedback.

      Following that, you could say “I really appreciate your insight and experience here, and it’s genuinely valuable. However, it’s hard to hear input from just one source all the time, and sometimes your expertise seems to inadvertently shut down others’ ideas. Would you be willing to give the newer colleagues some latitude with their ideas, so they can prove themselves too?” (This wording is intentionally generous, to try to retain a positive relationship with someone who is valued in the company and at a higher level.)

      Ultimately they may not change their approach, but giving them this feedback and turning it into “letting other people prove themselves the way you did” could be useful. Of course, I would not suggest doing any of the above without your managers’ go-ahead.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I agree with Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain.

      Also – we don’t use Slack at work – is it possible to make private groups so you can make a group / conversation that he can’t see / isn’t invited to, or only invite him to that specific chat if and when his input is needed

      Failing that is it worth using different methods of communication/collaboration for projects his input isn’t needed on? It won’t solve the problem but might cut down on the number of incidents.

    6. LKW*

      Have you tried the “Yes, but” approach. It’s annoying and it can be a pain to execute but it might save your tush. In short, every time he butts in someone says “Yes, that is something that could work. BUT….” and then throw in the appropriate next statement:
      1. How does this solution prevent this thing that we know will happen because of our experience?
      2. How does this solution deliver more than this approach that we’ve designed? Will it save more money, make things faster, improve quality, etc. How?”

      The first lays out the known risks and asks him to either define how his solution will deliver without that risk and the second asks to clarify the business case so that business resources are wisely used. When documented, it saves a bit of time saying “you made the push for this even though we told you what would happen.”

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Tell the offending person you are available by email and all “suggestions” should be in email.
      Then forward the suggestions to your boss(es).

      AND/OR

      If you notice that he is doing this to mostly women, file a formal complaint. If they don’t have a system for that, tell them they need one because you are filing a complaint.

      The fact that it’s unlikely this person will be fired telegraphs that it’s unlikely this situation will be changed. As a parallel, if someone moves in to my house and after a bit becomes convinced they own my house there is little that will change that. The only answer is to kick them out.
      Your person here is acting like they own the company. They have been there too long or they have let all the praise go to their head or someone else isn’t doing their job or whatever.

      Always remember that this situation is happening because the owners have allowed it to build and build unchecked.
      If your boss is not an owner then your boss should be discussing this frequently with the owners until the situation is resolved. Your boss should be able to tell you how to handle things in the interim. It’s kind of scary that your boss is not helping you with this.

      Where I land with all this is for immediate purposes, I would tell this person that all their suggestions have to be in email and you will be seeking approval from TPTB before you make any changes. Try to make their suggestion process as encumbered and burdensome as possible. Let your boss know what you are doing and why you are doing it.

    8. LabTechNoMore*

      Been there. Small company thing might help – can you raise the issue directly with the founder? Alternatively if founders prove to be ineffective, I like the idea someone said above of just making a group chat that includes all the members of your team and not the Know-it-all Coworker. That will at least reduce the frequency of unsolicited advice. Also if they find a way to interject further, a more blunt “It’s nice of you to offer to advice, but we’re going to go the [MyIdea] route for this project.” Later adding “If we need your help, I’ll reach out but otherwise there’s no need for your feedback on [Dept] projects going forward.”

      Depending on the level of obnoxiousness of this coworker, they may go ballistic on you, outright refuse to collaborate for things you actually need from them, or go running to the founders and try to get you in trouble. So make a point of documenting their previous issues including brief, succinct commentary on how wrong their idea is. Chances are you’re going to have to involve management sooner or later, so make sure you have your ducks in a row and be ready to raise any further uncooperativeness from them after having The Conversation.

  5. Legally a Vacuum*

    When we get on the phone with our Beijing team, they are operating at about 12 hour difference. We typically say “good morning”/whatever is appropriate for their time zone when we get on the line. We’re adding a team in the UK to calls- do we need to have a temporally appropriate greeting for each team?

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Hello to everyone in all the time zones?
      Greetings to all!
      Welcome to the meeting
      Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

        1. Esmeralda*

          Beijing office, good morning!
          London office, good evening!

          Just do them in turn quickly.

    2. londonedit*

      I wouldn’t say you *need* to, but if you’re specifically saying ‘Good morning to the Beijing team’ then it would make sense to say ‘…and good afternoon to the UK’ or whatever. Otherwise if it’s all becoming a bit clunky then you could maybe just change the whole thing and say ‘Welcome, everyone’ or something else that doesn’t reference a particular time of day.

      1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        This makes me think of Eurovision, when the hosts open with “Good evening, Europe! Good morning, Australia!”

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      Can you just do a generic “Hello everyone” or something less time fraught?

      1. Legally a Vacuum*

        My boss likes each team to be individually acknowledged. I think I’m just going to go with “Hello Beijing team, hello UK team.”

    4. Malarkey01*

      I typically say “Good day” with our time zone calls. I don’t think it’s a big deal but when people say Good morning or Good afternoon we hear the jokes of haha it’s dinner time here or hahah not morning for us and to just avoid that stale joke over and over Good day or Hello today seems to work. It’s pretty low stakes though.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh, I’d flip it around the other way. Make the greeting appropriate to *your* time zone, and everyone else can mentally translate. Plus it’s a reminder to them about where you are in the cycle.

    6. Your friendly neighborhood Zen Buddhist*

      What do you do after your dream dies?

      I changed careers recently from my “dream” career that I got my two degrees in and found a lot of purpose in. However, it wasn’t really a “dream” after awhile (last job was pretty terrible) and I’m not sure I’d ever want to go back. Now I’m working in a better paying, much more stable job and feeling a bit lost. Has anyone ever gone through something similar?

      1. OneFishTwoFish*

        You dare to dream again.

        I think there’s this common idea of the dream job, dream this, dream that, and we think of it as being something singular. But we can have more than one dream, or we can have new dreams entirely. I think we’re conditioned to think that letting go of a dream is failing, but it isn’t! I think changing dreams can lead to a bit of a grieving process in a way. You may feel that because you are doing something else, the two degrees and the previous career are for not, but I’d encourage you to try to see it differently. Your dream doesn’t have to die for it to evolve. Maybe it changes for a time, maybe it changes permanently, but that’s okay and can even be a positive. I don’t know if that’s helpful at all and perhaps I’ve missed the mark, but there is something to be said for better pay and stability and perhaps you can reflect on how those two things can help you achieve new dreams.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        Sorry about the nest fail.
        I have a friend who wanted to do X job for many, many years. Finally got her chance, quit her job, went to school, passed with flying colors, got the job and absolutely hated it within six months.
        She had a party. We all came dressed as “what we wanted to be when we grew up.” Plenty of ballerinas, doctors, etc. There wasn’t a single person there who was actively doing what they wanted to be when they were little.
        She had a good laugh and went back to her old job.
        Good luck!

    7. middle name danger*

      My company’s international calls usually open with “Good afternoon! Well, or good morning if it’s morning for you!”

    8. Brett*

      We have a lot of international calls in my line of work. We just use “Good morning, good afternoon, good evening” as a default greeting regardless of what countries are actually on the call.

      1. Two Dog Night*

        Same here. It’s quick and inclusive, and it’s easier than thinking about who exactly is in which zone.

    9. Applesauced*

      Is your boss from The Truman Show?
      “Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!”

    10. Bagpuss*

      Good Day might work, rather than trying to have a different one for each set of people

  6. Chidi Has a Stomach Ache*

    I’m newish here – how long should I wait after submitting a question by email before it’s safe to bring it up in this thread?

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I think it varies. I’d give it a couple weeks at least, though. And even if you bring it up here and Alison answers the question later, you’ve basically gotten the comments before the letter response, which isn’t necessarily a BAD thing (although I always like to see both the letter AND Alison’s response, and respond to the thing as a whole, but depending on the question, it might not matter. Like, do you want an expert opinion, or are you crowdsourcing some ideas? If that matters for the question you’re asking.)

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

      I don’t think Alison has given a hard time frame. I would wait a few weeks — if it’s been a month, it’s probably not in Alison’s queue to answer.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve actually answered things months later. A lot of them! I have stuff in my definitely-answer queue right now that’s been there for months. There’s just too much volume to answer it all in a timely way.

        But I ask that you wait at least 3 weeks; I know it’s not reasonable to ask people to wait longer than that, especially when it may not be published at all. But if you want, you can always email me to ask if it’s in my to-definitely-answer queue.

        (Also to the other comment, above, I don’t publish questions that I saw were already on an open thread because it feels like 2 bites at the apple when there are so many others that don’t get answered at all. So ideally pick one or the other!)

        1. Chidi Has a Stomach Ache*

          Okay, thanks! I’ll hold off a little longer, I think it’s been about 3 weeks, but my question wasn’t super-urgent.

  7. Navigating Video Interviews While Working*

    I’m one of a handful of people working out of our office that used to hold over 300 people. It’s a ghost town. A recruiter recently reached out to me about a great sounding position. I did my phone screen with him in my car on my lunch break. The first video interview that I did with the company, I also did in my car, on my cell phone, on my lunch break. For the second interview, it was raining so hard that I was concerned that the sound quality would be an issue, so I booked a conference room on a floor more deserted than mine and did the video interview on my phone from there.
    I feel weird about that last one. Is there a better way that I should have handled this?

    1. Legally a Vacuum*

      My office has quiet rooms for single-occupancy phone calls and similar- if your office has anything like that I think it’s preferable.

    2. NotMyRealName*

      Would you have felt ok with booking the room to have a quiet lunch with a colleague? I think it’s fine, you weren’t using space that was needed for anything else.

    3. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

      I’d be happy doing what you did, and back in the dim and distant past, I’ve done similar – especially as (being in the UK) I haven’t typically driven to work (so don’t have a car to retreat into).

      My view is what you did is fine – if someone else had needed the room that would be a different story, but if it was truly surplus to other requirements at the time you had your call, I think you’re all good. But your mileage may vary.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      HAHAAHA you just reminded me of something – I used to do phone interviews while pumping. I’d throw my jacket and bag over the pump to muffle the sound. Ended up landing a fantastic job! You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes; you’re still entitled to a break after all.

    5. Wry*

      I think you handled it fine, and I think I also would have felt weird about it. That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong; job searching when you are employed sometimes leads to unavoidable weirdness, whether it’s ducking out during work hours to answer an unexpected call from a company, slipping out during your lunch break to interview, or similar. I can see why you felt weird about doing an interview on company property, but it was your lunch break and you didn’t really have another option. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

    6. Epsilon Delta*

      Are video interviews going to become a new normal, even post-everyones-back-in-the-office? Because this sounds potentially onerous and difficult for people who are employed and not working from home :(

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I think that video calls will be offered more as an option, but I don’t see in-person interviews going away completely.

        However, depending on how far you live from home you could possibly just take a long lunch or something and go home for your video interview. Or come in late/leave early. Just like you would do if you were working in the office and had an in-person interview.

      2. I take tea*

        I actually think that it might be easier to sneak in a video interview discreetly, as you don’t have to count in time to get to and from the place. Of course you have to find a good spot for it, which can be hard in some places. But if there is an unused conference room, I think it’s ok to use it.

    7. coffeeklatch*

      You might see if there’s a public library or other space near you where you could book a study/private room for these. I once had an interview on a day I unexpectedly had to travel from NYC to Boston for a funeral. I ended up finding a bunch of these rooms along the way and when I had a sense of timing I booked on and it worked great for the situation.

    8. Wordybird*

      I think you did just fine. I have done interviews from my car in my job’s parking lot, in the local library’s quiet rooms, in my parents’ driveway… you gotta do what you gotta do!

  8. lisah*

    My company is going through an “integration” with our parent company and that’s led to lots of us looking for new jobs. I have A LOT of questions about & opinions of this whole situation but the question that came up on my team this morning was “what do you make of job applications that ask questions about your race, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, etc.?” We were looking at a posting today that asked for your age range and socio-economic class.

    I *think* some of these questions are required by law to ensure fairness in hiring practices but people on my team are worried their answers will be used against them. What are your thoughts?

      1. AndersonDarling*

        An I understand that employers are required to ask those questions in the US.

        1. D3*

          No they are not.
          SOME employers might be – for example if they are federal contractors the contract might require them to report on their numbers of applicants, interviewees and those hired.
          But it’s not a blanket all-employers-must-ask-these-questions situation

    1. Malarkey01*

      I cannot speak for every organization, but in mine the answers to those questions are kept completely separate from the hiring information and aren’t linked. HR will know that the applications are 60% women, 35% men, 5% non-gendered or prefer not to say- but the data doesn’t say which applicants are which. The same for age, ethnicity and race information. We do track it to make sure our announcements aren’t targeting/restricting specific demographics adjusted for field anomalies.

    2. Golden*

      I’ve seen race and disability status (the second of which I was always unsure about answering due to advice not to disclose it until you had an offer), but never age or socioeconomic status.

      That seems to leave out a lot of nuance, such as someone who grew up very disadvantaged but is wealthy in adulthood or vice versa. I’m not sure how that info would be used effectively but am curious to know if its becoming more common.

    3. (Former) HR Expat*

      Race, disability status, and veteran status are pretty standard EEO questions, but they’re required to be stored separately and are not shared during the hiring process. Socio-economic class, gender identity and all the others are a bit out there, and I would wonder why the company is asking for that information. The only information I want for socio-economic status relates to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, but it’s usually not information that is mentioned in the posting itself, but more as a question at the same time as the EEO stuff (and not shared).

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        My organization (a public university) asks some of these questions, but it is clear they are not shared with the hiring committees. I think it would be perfectly fine to contact the HR department and say you’re interested in some positions they posted and have started the online application, but you have a question about the EEO-style section. Keeping it light and friendly, not demanding and offended.

        There are also cases where people think that their answers would uniquely identify them (employers: don’t do that! keep the categories large enough to do actual statistics!) and people in this situation have made a case for change but a) this is not going to work immediately for the application in question and b) it’s much more likely to work once you’re employed. Employers who are sincerely concerned about collecting stats to help them with diversifying their workforce typically will be sensitive to this, though it is tiring for, like, the only indigenous woman who is currently applying to project management jobs in [some industry or other] in [country] to have to repeatedly deal with this stuff.

        This is not the case for me, though. So once I know that these are not going to the hiring committee, I usually fill them in with no concern.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      I have never seen sexual orientation, socio-economic class or age range. I have been hiring and managing people for over 30 years and would never even think to ask those questions!! I’m no lawyer, but I would think this is along the lines of asking your marital and procreation plans
      Are you in the US? I really don’t think they questions are legal here, but like I said, not a lawyer

      1. lisah*

        I am in the US and the socio-economic and age question was in a job application for a remote job for a company hq’ed in NY. Like I said, answering the questions aren’t required so I don’t think there’s a legal issue (although am also Not a Lawyer).

        1. HelenofWhat*

          It’s possible the company is trying to gather more detailed data about the diversity of their applicant pool. I’ve seen sexual orientation in the mix for organizations who want to account for that kind of diversity, so that they can show they’re attracting a range of applicants. It’s also helpful to compare to the survey responses you get from employees during culture/diversity feedback (which is also anonymous).
          And if they’re using a real application system (Greenhouse, Lever, Workday, Taleo, etc – not like a Google form) then all this data goes to an aggregate report, and isn’t linked to an application on the backend. The application only shows the actual application materials. EEO data is entirely separate. The recruiter won’t be able to see that you chose X race, or Y gender, etc.

  9. Carrots*

    I work with “Wakeen”. (He is senior to me, but we both have the same boss.) Wakeen will be super nice to everyone. He greets them and will be his charming self to literally everyone. He ignores me/treats me as if I’m invisible around other people. (He wouldn’t even say Happy Birthday to me on my birthday, while everyone else did.) When I’m absent, he gives me the cold shoulder/silent treatment for being gone.

    When it’s just the two of us, however, Wakeen can be very social and friendly. It’s very confusing! He’s like a totally different person. I don’t get it.

    However, when he’s stressed, he uses me as his proverbial punching bag. My job is to place orders. I placed some big orders and Wakeen is in charge of receiving these orders. He freaked out and called me up screaming, “Where am I supposed to put all of these orders?”

    I was very quiet. A few minutes later he called back and he was a lot calmer.

    I think that he might be job searching/looking to leave his position because he was telling us how he can’t handle the stress of the job, it’s too much, etc. (It’s hard to tell because he said the same thing last year, so I don’t know.)

    The bad part? We’re understaffed already so we would all have to take on some of his duties.

    I’m looking to leave to escape all of this, but until I can, any words of advice for dealing with someone like Wakeen? Have you ever worked with someone like this? What did you do? How did you not let it affect you?

    1. sdfsd*

      I’ve worked with someone similar. For whatever reason, Wakeen doesnt want to interact with you, but when your alone and he wants interaction he talks to you. It’s hard not to take it personally when you see they treat other people differently than you. I just kept on doing my best to be friendly to them, and chug on with my day. If hes really being disrespectful or rude, like next time he screams or uses a loud voice, maybe respond “It sounds like your yelling, is everything OK?”. Make it clear that you notice the tone, but try to keep it polite and friendly.

      1. Aquawoman*

        It’s also okay to be more direct than that and tell him that you are willing to discuss the issue but will not tolerate being yelled at/only in a professional way.

    2. Juneybug*

      Here are some suggestions –
      1. Wakeen is nice to everyone but me.
      You are using more energy than Wakeen for this relationship. Yes, it hurts when someone is rude/immature, but don’t forget you don’t need his “friendship”. You only need him to be civil at work. So I would suggest you grey rock him (be polite/civil, uninterested in his drama, and care much less about a friendship with him).
      2. He uses me as his proverbial punching bag.
      Noooo my friend, do not let him abuse you! When he screams, tell him in a calm manner that he needs to speak to you as a professional. Hang up if he does not calm down. Repeat as necessary.
      3. Wakeen calms down when he calls back after his blow-up.
      Have you noticed that he doesn’t apologize for his behavior? Have you noticed that he blames you for the workload (which you have no control over)? These are signs of abuse.
      Next time, he calls back after he blows up, ask him if he’s calling to apologize. Not because he’s allowed to continue this behavior (blow up at you and then be calm) but because he needs to be called out on his behavior.
      If these steps do not resolve these issues, let your boss know. I understand that you want to fix this yourself, you might be embarrassed or feel shame, or feel like you are whining to your boss but trust me, your boss would want to know when their employee is being abused.
      4. Wakeen might be job hunting and we are understaffed.
      Your boss needs to worry about being understaffed, not you. If Wakeen leaves, you might find out that his duties are not as time consuming as your originally thought. And his replacement might be a rock star who is mature and professional. If Wakeen mentions looking for another job, smile and wish him good luck.
      5. How to deal with Wakeen.
      Care less. Use this situation to reflect on what you would do better as a supervisor. Take classes to improve your skills. Develop stronger work relationships with others, both inside and outside of your department.
      Good luck!

      1. LKW*

        All of this.

        Wakeen is immature. Period. These are just toddler-like behaviors. So treat him like you would a toddler. “Hi Joe! Hi Wakeen! – Wakeen? Are you ok? Are you not talking to me? OK Wakeen, I’m sure you’ll talk to me when you’re feeling better.” “Wakeen, do not yell at me. We do not yell at work. Please call me when you have calmed down.”

  10. DrunkAtAWedding*

    Can you fire someone for having an affair with your spouse?

    I’ve seen that situation discussed a few times on the Internet, and the general debate seems to whether it would be fair – since it didn’t happen at work – vs the fact it would be very difficult to work with that person in the future. I did Google a bit but couldn’t find anything specific. I did learn that, in many US states, people can be fired for dating coworkers, and this seems like a similar – but worse – situation, in terms of causing interpersonal issues.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      In most US states, you can be fired at any time for any non-discriminatory reason, unless your contract specifically says otherwise (if you’re in a union). So if you’re asking if legally you *can* then I think the answer is yes.

      If you’re asking *should* you…. yeah I probably would!

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        You don’t necessarily have to be in a union to have a contract, though that is where they are most common. Executives will sometimes have them as well.

    2. Reba*

      Sure, you can fire someone for wearing a blue shirt you didn’t like. (In most parts of the US)

      It would be best if the affected party/spouse recused themselves from the process. But, yeah, I think the spouse saying “I can’t work with this person anymore because they are part of a very painful life episode, so it’s them or me” would be reason enough to reassign or fire the other person, presuming the business values the spouse more highly.

      The morality or whatever doesn’t need to enter into it! Tbc I don’t think people should be fired over how they conduct their personal lives. It’s the impact on the rest of the workplace that makes it more reasonable grounds.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        In one anecdote I saw, the person cheated on was the CEO/owner, which made it a lot trickier since the buck stopped with him.

          1. DrunkAtAWedding*

            The anecdote I read was written by the son of the previous owner, who had inherited the company along with the manager who’d broken up his parent’s marriage. Iirc, it had reached the point where the manager thought he could get away with murder and the Op wanted to fire him for work behaviour but was worried that it would look petty or retaliatory. Some comments questioned why the guy hadn’t been let go years ago, when he had an affair with the previous owner’s wife, while others were convinced that firing him for that reason would not have been acceptable.

            Like anything written by anonymous strangers on the Internet, it might not have really happened. That doesn’t really matter to me though. That scenario could plausibly happen, and I was interested in what you could actually do in that situation. Especially when I read another anecdote elsewhere from a manager whose partner had had an affair with a coworker.

            I was pretty sure that you could tell the company that it was difficult to work with that person, and they could move people to different teams or let someone go, but it seems much harder if you’re the top boss. Some people were so sure you couldn’t fire someone in that situation that I wondered if they were right. For all I know, there might, for example, be laws based around not firing someone for their personal relationships, aimed at protecting the queer community but written broadly enough to protect someone in this scenario. The stories I read were based in the US, but I’m in the UK. I am interested in how that would play out here, but I know most readers are in the US and were more likely to have practical knowledge or experience based there.

            1. Observer*

              In the US, there would be absolutely no problem in letting the guy go in 49 states, outside of things like union contracts.

              I’d be interested to know if the UK labor laws would protect the guy (assuming he actually was god at his job, which doesn’t seem like he is.)

    3. I'm that guy*

      Many (most?) states people are hired at will. Meaning that they can be fired for any reason that isn’t specifically illegal (like race, gender or age). So yes someone can be fired for having an affair. They can also be fired for earing greens shoes or for no reason at all.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Legally, yes (in the US).

      Ethically, yes, too. It is totally appropriate to say that you can’t manage an employee who contributed to such a personal betrayal of you.

      Should you blame the employee more than your spouse? No. Your spouse cheated on you. The employee didn’t make that same commitment to you. Actually it’s not really fair to forgive your spouse and try to work it out with them while holding a grudge against the affair partner and bad mouthing and blaming them.

      But having the inability to fairly manage someone who contributed to a painful event for you is a good enough reason to fire someone IMO. “I can’t work with you.” It would nice/kind to fire them tell them not to come back and pay them their final two weeks or a severance to go away fast.

    5. Llellayena*

      Yep, and I would. However, my next advice falls under the “be the better person” category. I’d recommend specifically stating that you will not fight unemployment and will give a recommendation that will reflect ONLY their professional achievements, not any of the personal issues. The idea being that while you can’t work with them due to the personal issues, their actions do not reflect how they would work with someone else. I’m not discounting the hurt and desire to make them hurt, but it’s better to err on the professional side.

      1. Hillary*

        I believe in most states this would not be considered “for cause” and the fired person would be eligible regardless. I once heard this from an acquaintance who was an unemployment judge: Why were you fired? I punched the boss. Why did you punch him? He was sleeping with my wife. Not work related, eligible for unemployment.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      • In the US, yes, usually.

      • The military has some rules about no affairs with your coworkers or their spouses because when command says “Charge that hill!” they don’t want the troops to be thinking “This is because Command is banging Bert’s wife and he wants to get rid of Bert. We should mutiny.” (See David and Bathsheba for historical antecedent.) In most offices the stakes are lower than life and death, but still, people suspect underlying non-work reasons for work decisions based on the known canoodlings or rage about canoodlings. It’s bad for morale.

      • You can’t fire your boss for having an affair with your spouse.

      1. LKW*

        You might be able to expose the situation and make it embarrassing for the company to retain the boss.

    7. Wry*

      Assuming we’re talking about at-will employment, which is the case in the vast majority of the US, then as others have said, you can be fired for any reason, legally, as long as the firing doesn’t constitute discrimination against a legally protected identity. So in the situation you’re describing, it would absolutely be legal. I would also argue that it is perfectly fair. Just because something didn’t happen at work doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect the workplace. Consider: if a coworker physically assaulted you or another employee somewhere outside the workplace and outside work hours, would it be reasonable to fire them? Of course. Could the assaulter and assaultee really be expected to work together in a collegial manner after something like that? I don’t see how an affair with a coworker’s spouse (or manager’s, as I think you might be describing?) is any different. The person who had the affair is responsible for creating a negative work environment and making it so that the spouse of the person with whom they had the affair cannot reasonably be expected to work with them or manage them or whatever the situation might be.

      1. Observer*

        if a coworker physically assaulted you or another employee somewhere outside the workplace and outside work hours, would it be reasonable to fire them? Of course.

        Totally agreed. But I realized that this is the mistake at the heart of the question. There have been a number of questions here over the years about “How could my boss fire me for getting into a fight / punching someone / acting a first class jerk / some other terrible behavior when I was off the clock?!?!”

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        In countries where a firing would not be legal – I’ve been brought up in one, and my intuition of what’s right and wrong in the workplace has been shaped in the sense that this would not be fair – the argument usually goes that if the behavior in question isn’t illegal, and doesn’t bring the company into disrepute then it shouldn’t be grounds for discipline/termination. And people have the right to arrange consensual relationships as they please, even though this frequently creates heartache and family upheaval among those who are rejected.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      I can’t imagine someone having an affair with their boss’s spouse and expecting to stay employed afterwards!

      I’d say it’s less like dating, and more like supervising a family member or romantic partner. You can’t supervise your spouse, you generally can’t supervise your ex-spouse, and you can’t supervise your spouse’s other partners, if they have them. So you can’t supervise your spouse’s affair partner either. As far as firing goes – the cheating employee started a relationship within a managerial chain and didn’t inform the employer about it. If it had been a consensual polyamorous relationship, for example, they would need to inform the employer so that they could be shifted to a new manager (or not start the relationship in the first place!). So I would say they could be ethically fired for that part alone, without the cheating being the focus.

      I’d say it’s rather hypocritical to fire the employee and stay married to the spouse, but also an entirely normal and predictable reaction (like the cheated-on spouse staying married, and dumping all the blame on the affair partner).

    9. Observer*

      whether it would be fair – since it didn’t happen at work

      That’s a fundamental mistake. It’s fine to take what people do in their own time into consideration when making hiring / firing decisions. Of course, there should be limits to that, but that’s more around “I don’t like who Chris voted for” kinds of things.

  11. Question about word choice*

    I am trying to find a more modern term for “homemaker” that would be inclusive of not only stay-at-home parents and caregivers, but also people who may be doing domestic labor at home without kids or dependents. This is for an employment status question on a survey. Any suggestions or thoughts?

    1. Malarkey01*

      Not employed? Or Not seeking employment? Not sure if you’re trying to grab specific data on why people are not working but all of us are doing domestic labor- some more robustly if there are kids, elderly care, etc going on.

      Stay at home parents had a little differentiation since in can mean that it’s more of a temporary measure while children are young or that it’s more circumstance driven than choice.

        1. Question about word choice*

          There is some concern about people misreading/misinterpreting “Not employed outside the home” and thinking it would apply to them because they are now WFH full-time or most of the time. It may seem like an obvious distinction to some of us but there is always room for confusion with these things. But I have been playing around with this phrase as well.

    2. Reba*

      Homemaker covers that. At least to me, it doesn’t necessarily imply parenting. It is perhaps a bit dated, but I’m not aware of a good alternate.

      Maybe consider “stay-at-home” without parent on the end? But people are so used to SAHM or -P that it would probably be read that way even if you leave those off.

      (It is interesting that although homemaker is not strictly gender-marked term, all the synonyms that come up for it seem to have “wife” or “woman” in them)

      1. Mental Lentil*

        When I looked it up, Merriam-Webster suggested that two synonyms were “housewife” and “henhussy”. It is very dated.

        I vote for “stay at home professional.”

        1. Annie Moose*

          “Stay at home professional” makes it sound like they’re employed and just working remotely. Being a homemaker or fulltime caregiver isn’t really a profession.

          1. Question about word choice*

            I agree with what you are saying.

            While we want to be as inclusive as possible, there has to be some compromise on whatever we end up using. Of course, a stay-at-home parent or homemaker or whatever would be technically unemployed, but is that really the label they are using? I’m not sure. It’s something I haven’t thought about before!

            1. AcademiaNut*

              You could cover it with two questions
              – employed outside the home y/n
              – actively seeking paid work y/n

              “Unemployed”, in statistics, only counts people actively looking for work.

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

            I shouldn’t laugh, but I totally guffawed on that one! So bad…

          2. Metadata minion*

            “Hussy” was originally short for “housewife” — the meaning has drifted significantly.

            1. armchairexpert*

              And slut meant a slovenly woman/poor housekeeper. So you could literally either be a hussy or a slut.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Or we could go the other way and try to make “chicken hustler” (the gender neutral variation) catch on.

          1. Clare*

            Okay I know Alison says not to put SAHP on resume but I wish I could put “chicken hustler”

        3. Dark Macadamia*

          No, because they’re not in a profession. I think this would come across similar to “domestic engineer” or “CEO of Smith Family, Inc.”

          I don’t love checking “Unemployed” but it’s an accurate, neutral description of my employment status and way less outdated/icky sounding than “Homemaker” lol

          1. Reba*

            Good point, I suppose it’s a bit of choose-your-stigma between unemployment and feminized carework. “Unemployed” at least is not a euphemism!

        4. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Out of linguistic curiosity, what’s the publication date of that dictionary?
          (It’s not in the Web edition, not even flagged as archaic.)

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t personally think “homemaker” excludes people without kids or dependents? In fact, I’d appreciate the fact that the term doesn’t automatically lead to assuming kids/dependents the way that “stay-at-home parents and caregivers” do.

      1. Question about word choice*

        After thinking about this over the past few days, I like the term too, but others have raised concerns about it being outdated so I am trying to see what alternatives I can offer.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I like homemaker, in part because all the “at home” things might be confusing when people are doing paid work inside their homes, which is now quite common.

          “Not employed, not looking” I guess covers those who do no homemaking and instead outsource that with their investment income, but that seems quite narrow.

          1. Question about word choice*

            There’s so much gray area, but someone identifying as a “Homemaker” feels like a more deliberate choice. If they are “not employed, not looking,” maybe they’re unemployed because of the pandemic and have stopped looking for now because of scant opportunities/stress/other things. I appreciate the suggestion though — it’s one I have been keeping on my potential list of replacements.

            1. Filosofickle*

              You’re wise to be looking for the least loaded, least wrong way to say this! I agree that their intent does matter in the framing, emotionally if not factually. While technically a homemaker is not employed *for direct pay*, a person who sees taking care of things at home and socially as a deliberate choice may not think of themselves as “unemployed”. They may bristle at the term and not even identify with it, which will influence the results and engagement you get in your survey. They do provide work, they are engaged in an activity, it just doesn’t happen to come with a paycheck. That’s tricky to describe.

            2. allathian*

              Unemployed only includes those who are actively looking for employment. So “not employed, not looking” would work.

              “Domestic labor in the home” might work as a way to differentiate from those who are WFH for an employer, but without specifying exactly what that domestic labor consists of, so it can be a homemaker, SAHP, or full-time caregiver of an elderly or disabled relative, etc.

              The thing is, though, that if you want an option that covers a lot of alternatives, you can’t be too specific at the same time about the reasons why someone’s doing something. So “not employed, not looking” includes both those who have intentionally chosen to stay at home without outside employment and those who have been forced into it for lack of suitable employment and who’ve simply given up looking for work.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Understandable. The other thing is, you want to make sure it’s clear to the people reading your survey – as you pointed out up-thread, things like “not employed outside the home” have room for interpretation, and I think if your survey offered me the option of “henhussy” I’d close it out and not finish, because WTF are these people even ON :) (Not, of course, that I think you would go that route.)

          “Outdated” does come with a little bit of “people know generally what it means because it’s been around forever.”

          1. Question about word choice*

            Good point! And maybe it’s “outdated” but I don’t think it’s offensive or has terribly negative connotations. If people saw “Homemaker” on the list of options, they would have a pretty good idea what we meant.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s a good point about the possible benefits of “outdated.” (See the earlier discussion of how you tell your older bosses that the new program’s innocently made-up name is a euphemism for genitalia amidst the youth.) If it’s the old way of phrasing it, most respondents probably know what you mean. (Whereas “henhussy” would throw them, and many would assume you meant urban chicken keeping.)

            “Not employed outside the home” I automatically think “Yup, freelancer, I work from my home, that’s me right there.”

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        Exactly. To me, ‘homemaker’ is exactly what you’re looking for, meaning someone who does domestic work at home.

    4. 12312312*

      Not sure if this fits what your going for – but what about just Unemployed, and you could use “Not Currently Employed by Choice” and “Unemployed but seeking work”. or something.

      1. Lord Peter Wimsey*

        This makes sense, particularly if it matters to the survey whether the work status is voluntary. The “official” terms (used by the BLS for example in the US) would be “Unemployed” (meaning not working but wanting to work/ currently looking for work) and “Not in the labor force” (meaning retired, homemaker, etc. — not working and not wanting to/looking for work).

        1. green beans*

          Yup. If I was doing a survey and needed to differentiate, I would put
          [relevant employed options]
          Unemployed, looking for work
          Unemployed, not looking for work
          Retired

          it’s neutral, and gives the information you’re looking for. If you need more information, you could have a redirect to
          “Why are you not looking for work at this time?”
          Acting as stay-at-home parent/guardian, caregiver, or homemaker
          Unable to work to disability or other extenuating circumstances
          Financially secure without a job
          Other

          for those who select unemployed, not looking

    5. GoryDetails*

      Heh. I rather like the idea of “homemaker” being… rebranded?… to include all the variations you describe. Indeed, I could use it that way myself (though “home-procrastinator” might be more accurate in my case!).

      Something more business-ish: “household steward”? Rather implies that you’re caring for somebody ELSE’s household, though…

    6. Joielle*

      I think “homemaker” IS the more modern term for “housewife.” I don’t think it necessarily means there are kids or dependents! I’ve also heard some euphemistic ones like “domestic engineer” or “family manager” but personally, I think those are cheesy (not to mention kind of confusing).

    7. Bloopmaster*

      The tricky thing is that domestic work (cleaning/organizing/cooking/caretaking) and caregiving (attending to the needs of dependents) are two different skills/jobs, and–often–two different professions, which might be lumped together in the case of stay at home parents or certain other in-home caregivers. Maybe “domestic work and/or caregiving”, to show that there’s not necessarily overlap (but might be)?

      1. Person from the Resume*

        But as a domestic worker you could be working for someone else. Homemaker implies in your own home, not as employment.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Yeah, “domestic work/caregiving” sounds like a paid position, especially if it’s meant to describe your employment. I’d be concerned that I was misrepresenting myself and/or be annoyed that the form is insisting that I indicate a “job” when I don’t have one.

    8. PurplePeopleEater*

      My husband went by “house husband”/”house spouse” while he was between graduate degrees. He was doing a huge part of the home labor, but we don’t have kids. I think he might’ve picked “homemaker” if he had been given the option on a survey. Hope that helps!

    9. Bagpuss*

      Not in paid employment
      (depending on the purpose of the survey you might also want to have further options such as ‘parent or carer’ ‘retired’ ‘disabled/unable to work’ ‘seeking employment’)

    10. yeah*

      Homemaker is the appropriate work. You are making a home. A home doesn’t need anyone but the homemaker. I think the problem is the association with it being a wife (and mother). It is time to change the perception of a word as opposed to finding a “gender neutral” version as the word homemaker has no gender.

      1. Wry*

        But you don’t have to be a spouse to fall into the category OP is describing. Single person with dependents or single person with no dependents would both qualify. (I like the term “house spouse,” I just don’t think it works in this context.”)

        Personally, I think “homemaker” is perfectly appropriate. I understand it’s a bit dated, but I can’t think of a better alternative that encompasses both unpaid care work and unpaid domestic labor.

    11. Yorick*

      I’d go with “not employed.” If you want more info than that, you can then have everyone who chose “not employed” to pick a more specific option: looking for work, homemaker, student, retired, etc.

      1. Yorick*

        And yes, I’d probably go with “homemaker” for that option, since it can be with or without kids

    12. Gloucesterina*

      I defer to professionals in this area of course, but here’s a common breakdown suggested by this survey product site: https://www.alchemer.com/resources/blog/how-to-write-better-demographic-questions/

      What is your current employment status?

      Employed full time (40 or more hours per week)
      Employed part time (up to 39 hours per week)
      Unemployed and currently looking for work
      Unemployed and not currently looking for work
      Student
      Retired
      Homemaker
      Self-employed
      Unable to work

    13. Artemesia*

      homemaker seems like an excellent term for that and it is gender neutral and does not suggest children.

    14. DistinctiveGait*

      “Homemaker/Stay-at-home parent” would make it clearly gender neutral but allow for people without children, I think.

    15. green beans*

      It depends on what information you’re looking for, but I don’t think your question is worded very clearly at this point.

      If you just want to know if they’re looking or not looking for work, ask their unemployment section and put unemployed and looking/not looking for work as part of your options.

      If you want to know why they’re not looking for work, you’d need to ask that in a separate question. You could include “acting as stay-at-home parent, stay-at-home spouse, caregiver, and/or homemaker ” as an option – if you group it with other options, it becomes clear you’re looking at it as a category of people who are staying at home and spending their time on domestic duties, rather than specifically looking for people who identify as a “homemaker.”

      In general, you want to make your questions and your answers as straightforward and value-neutral as possible. If all you want to know is if they’re looking for work or not, that’s all you need to ask – you don’t need to provide justifications for why they may not be looking. If you want to know why they’re not looking, you need to ask that separately from *are* they looking.

    16. tamarack and fireweed*

      You got a lot of suggestions, which were interesting to read. I went back to look at the *purpose* you want it for, as this wouldn’t usually go on a CV. When you say “employment status” I imagine a question like “what was your employment status on January 1st, [year]”, maybe to determine eligibility for something-or-other. I would probably say “not in paid employment” when not looking for work and reserve “unemployed” when looking for work.

      I would imagine most status forms use a multiple-choice format, but if not, and you want to stress what you actually did I wouldn’t find “managed household (unpaid)” or “full-time caregiver (unpaid)” – the latter inclusive of SAH parent *and* family caregiver, the former not implying a caregiving focus – fine.

    17. RagingADHD*

      So, are you differentiating people who are single and unemployed from those who are being financially supported by a spouse/partner and therefore taking over most of the domestic duties?

      Because the gender neutral designation of a person who is just being an adult while between jobs is simply “unemployed.” There is a certain amount of domestic labor that is just inherent for everyone.

      If you’re looking at employment eligibility, I’m not sure the distinction is relevant or appropriate, since it would categorize people based on relationship status, which isn’t the employer’s business.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        +1 this is a really good framing! Most adults have domestic tasks like dishes, laundry, etc but we don’t call them all homemakers every time they’re jobless.

    18. Homebody Houseplant*

      These suggestion of “not employed” or “no paid employment” come across kind of poorly to me, they’re pretty uncharitable and could seem like attempts to look down on people by being too matter of fact that they are not laboring in a societally expected way. It looks more like you’re saying “they do nothing of value”. Yes, everyone does some domestic labor, but there is a difference between doing normal house tidying as expected of any human and being a “homemaker”.

      I’m not sure a catch all term really works, since you do have distinctions like “stay at home parent” or “house wife/husband”, etc. Maybe go with something like “home keeper”, or just avoid using a title. Instead of being like “they’re not employed” you could say “they primarily focus on household duties” or “they spend their time keeping the household running smoothly”, or even “they mostly do domestic work for their household”. There really isn’t one term that can be applied to all of the different facets of a home keeping experience.

  12. CTT*

    BigLaw attorneys of AAM, are you getting blasted with cold recruiting emails? I used to get one maybe once a month, but for the past two weeks it’s been at least one a day. I assume this is because my firm has not been involved in the associate salary raise arms race (they actually did across the board increases for everyone this week, but 1) it wasn’t at the $200k level and 2) no one leaked it to Above The Law so it’s a “if a tree falls and no one takes a picture of the confidential email, does it make a sound” situation), but it has been driving me bananas.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      Come to think of it, the cold recruiter emails have tapered off. I used to get them daily.

  13. FisherCat*

    I’m getting really frustrated at work due to things entirely outside my control- think that I’m entry level, and the CEO herself changed my job (& all my same-title colleagues, its not personal) from llama grooming to llama training- and it gets to me daily. I think the longer term plan is to find a different job but for various reasons that isn’t feasible for another 1-2 years. Does anyone have tips for not letting it get under my skin in the meantime? FWIW, I disagree with the functional change to the job AND the way the new job has to be done. But, since I can’t fix it and can’t leave yet, what can I do to be less miserable every day at work?

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Been in that same position (can’t change it, can’t leave) and I tried looking at the daily job like a quest giver in an RPG. I’d go in, do what I was told, complete the stuff and be ‘rewarded’ by going home in the evening and relaxing/not thinking about work at all. Basically, put a level of fantasy between my job and reality.

      1. Teapot supervisor*

        Agreed – this a very good idea, which could even be applied to tough days in a good job.

      2. FisherCat*

        This is interesting. I’m not much of a gamer but I might give it a try nonetheless.

    2. kbeers0su*

      Was it just your title that changed, or did the actual substance of your job change? I think I’m in a similar situation, although my title is the same. Since starting this job many of the job responsibilities I wanted when I applied have been modified/lessened/removed from my actual work. So now I have a job that is 25% what I wanted to do, but 75% stuff that the organization has now decided is important but does not fit with my job title/original purpose. It’s stuff I can do- it’s not outside of my skill set. But I’m not excited about doing it. At this point I’m trying to make it another year in this job because I’m looking to move into a new/adjacent field and I’ve been in the role less than a year. Plus, it’s a steady paycheck. So…my only advice is to step back and look big-picture at what’s important to you right now. If, like me, the pandemic has made you rethink everything and you realize having work you can do and a paycheck is enough for awhile…work on adjusting your mindset.

      1. FisherCat*

        Yeah this seems to be the most similar situation to me. Plus a little sprinkle of the fact that I believed in our old purpose which has largely changed. I’m trying to remember that these sea changes aren’t common, exactly, but they’re things that happen along the timeline of life and they’re not happening *at* me, and looking around at other jobs I would qualify for to 1) lay groundwork for when I can leave and 2) sometimes remind myself that this job isn’t so bad by comparison.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Since question- what is happening with this that impacts you and bothers you?
      I ask because I can’t tell if you are being given more responsibilities and no pay increase. Or maybe your job is being changed into something you never would have signed on for. Or maybe it feels like a lie because you do not train llamas you only groom them. (I have seen these lies before that were done for reasons of getting funding or whatever and, yeah, the lies really ticked me off. If we were all trainers we’d get funding but if we were all just groomers, then no funding.)

      1. FisherCat*

        Sorry about the confusion, I think because of trying to anonymize I ended up lacking clarity. There’s no *more* work, its just different. The org’s goals have basically changed, and I would not have taken this job if I had known what was in store. There’s no lying, its just no longer a job or effort that interests me now that it’s been flipped on its head.

    4. Windchime*

      I made an adjustment when I came to my current job. Previously, I had been very invested in things like my title (I was demoted at previous job), what other people were doing, etc. For this current job, I decided to change my perspective and just focus on what is in front of me. I no longer focus on what other people are doing compared to what I’m doing, and I don’t focus on my title or lack thereof. It has made me a lot, lot happier to just consider this my job; it’s what I do to get money so I can live my life. That doesn’t mean I don’t make friendships or care about the people I work with (I do), but it does mean that I am a lot happier. If I am told to do something that doesn’t make sense, I raise the issue and if they still want me to do it……OK. They’re the boss. I’m just here to do stuff and get paid.

      I don’t know if that will help you or not, but it helps me. I’m just here to do stuff and get paid.

      1. The cat's pajamas*

        A friend once gave me good advice for any job misery. Be kind to yourself and leave work at work as much as possible. Do more nice things for yourself outside of work, don’t take work home, answer work calls or emails after hours, don’t stay late unless you absolutely have to meet a deadline, etc.

        Having a good friend or therapist to talk to may be helpful, too.

        Hang in there!

      2. FisherCat*

        Thank you! This is what I’ve tried to settle on, but it only works maybe, 20%, because the job itself has changed into something I do not enjoy. Its still within my expertise and technically within my duties but has changed radically.

  14. jenny*

    Any recommendations for where to buy workplace-friendly bralettes with enough padding to keep anything from showing through my shirt? I’ve been getting the double-lined shelf bralettes from aerie and they aren’t thick enough. The padded lace bralettes are, but you can see the lace through shirts so that defeats the purpose. More info below…

    – not a bra, never again a bra
    – stretchy – not even an underwire-less bra with clasps and straps, I’m like a 38 B.5 so no dice
    – breathable fabric, which for me means cotton usually, I sweat a LOT in synthetic fabrics
    – thick enough my nips won’t show

    Posting in the work thread because I only care about this at work – hope that’s ok!

    1. irene adler*

      Decentexposures.com might have what you need-although they don’t use the word “bralette” specifically.

    2. Actual Vampire*

      Personally I love Calvin Klein bralettes and wear them at work all the time. They might not be thick enough for your purposes, though, especially if you’re wearing them under a thin or tight shirt.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Soma has some stretchy/pullover wireless bras that I find really comfy and supportive! They have removable cups that are not very padded but thick enough for coverage.

    4. Recommendation*

      The Duluth Trading Company Women’s Free Range Organic Cotton Bralette sounds like exactly what you are looking for. I swear by them.

    5. Pocket Mouse*

      I’m looking for the same, and specifically racerbacks! My most loved set from Fruit of the Loom seems to have been discontinued, unfortunately.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        Similar problem here – zero padding doesn’t work for me. My solution was to buy some flexible bandaids and put them over the area in question in an X shape. No more points, and since I’m 34AA I can just skip the bra then.

    6. Coco*

      Uniqlo relax wireless bra.

      It has no wires, no clasps. Just pull over your head. Padded enough to not show nipples. I sleep in these, they are so comfortable.

      1. Emma2*

        I second this – they are not cotton and I also usually find I need to avoid synthetics (this is a bit TMI, but I find synthetics can get a bit stinky in a way that natural fibres don’t), but I don’t find I have this problem with the Uniqlo bras. These are super comfortable.

    7. Redhairedrunner*

      If you are handy with sewing or know someone who is you can buy the padded inserts from stores like Joanns and add to existing bralettes you have and like.

    8. Reba*

      True and Co bralettes are super nice and come with removable cookies (foam pads). I highly recommend them! They are synthetic, but I don’t find them hot myself.

    9. pieces_of_flair*

      Maybe wear whatever non-padded bralette you prefer along with silicon nipple covers?

    10. Ruby + Rowdy*

      I really like my Aerie seamless padded bralettes, have you tried those? They’re smooth and don’t show under shirts for the most part.

    11. Introverted Type-A Employee*

      I realize this isn’t an actual helpful response to OP’s question, but speaking of bras I just wanted to throw out a huge THANK YOU to the posters in other bra questions that recommended r/abrathatfits because it changed my life! I’ve always been busty, but all I could do was buy the biggest one the store had and do my best. I was cramming myself into 44DDD “huge” bras and having the girls pop out and over the cups. Let me tell you, tucking your breast back into the cup surreptitiously during the workday is a SKILL…

      I went to the Reddit, measured, and found out I should be wearing a 40L (US) / 40HH (UK) and used their recommendations for my shape/size to find bras in my size online with easy try on/return policies. MY WORLD IS CHANGED!

      Thank you for being awesome, AAM commentariat! <3

    12. Keanu Reeves's Patchy Beard*

      Pact has a great padded bralette! They’re a little on the pricier side due to the organic cotton, but I think they’ll last a good long while.

    13. Wry*

      I get almost all my bralettes from Gap, and I think a lot of them would meet these criteria. The only thing I’m not sure about is full nip coverage, because that can really vary based on your specific nips and what sort of shirt you’re wearing over the bra. If you’re ordering things online with the potential to return, you can always crank the thermostat down, put on a work shirt, and see what the situation is. Good luck!

    14. NoRegularPosterName*

      I am slightly larger than you but I have been wearing a bralette by Jockey in XL that might work for you that I like a lot. No hooks or wires, removable pads (but needed for coverage IMO), adjustable straps, but made of nylon & spandex. I don’t find it hot, except during our most recent heat wave.

    15. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m very small chested but I got some bralets at TJ Maxx. They are Danskin and are super comfy and have enough padding not to show anything. They work great with some of my sundresses. I don’t know how it would work for someone with a large chest though.

      Good luck, finding comfy bras sucks!

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I do wear an XL because companies dont get that you can be small chested yet big around.

    16. introverted af*

      Could you see about pulling pads out of an existing sports bra to put inside a shelf bra/etc for work? Almost all of the sports bras i have had have had a pocket for a little pad sorta designed to give the bra more shape but they’re removable. I am pretty middle of the road though, (c-d depending on size and brand), so they might not be in smaller bras

    17. I take tea*

      I bought a Sloggi Invisible Bra, it doesn’t give great support, but is very comfortable and has some light padding. I usually dislike man-made fibers too, but this is surprisingly nice, and very thin.

    18. Cooper*

      I like the Fruit of the Loom tank sports bra! You order based on your bust measurement, but may need to adjust a bit for comfort and support. I think you may want to size up, based on the fact that I’m a 38H and tend to size down– there’s a set assumption in every pattern on how different the bust will be from the underbust, and mine is…quite a bit bigger of a difference than patterns normally account for.

    19. Anono-me*

      Walmart has some camisoles a with built in padded bra. They might be worth a look if you shop there.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Our place has put a question into the standard interview questions that I’m not happy with. Is this just my issue or is it a concern I need to bring up?

    The question is: what self improvement or career improvement opportunities did you take during lockdown?

    The reason I’m personally iffy about this is I don’t have an answer myself, because I had a severe issue with my mental health during that time. I doubt I could say ‘trying and failing to remain sane’. If this is just me being over sensitive though I can keep the question in the interview sheet.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I don’t get it. I was learning to do my job remotely, staring down the fear of dying or killing… What do they expect me to have done?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Asked my immediate superior that one and she said ‘a lot of people took the extra time not commuting/working to learn new languages, do up their homes, try new exercise, learn a new skill, teach their children. If someone is motivated enough to do those things it shows they are more effective’.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Ping, Ping, Piinnng.

              I now have a picture of air-borne cows in my head….

        1. londonedit*

          I bet she also thinks everyone on furlough has been having a lovely holiday, rather than trying to live on a 20% pay cut and worrying whether their job will even exist in a month’s time.

        2. kbeers0su*

          Uh…and what’s going to happen when a candidate replies “I buried a family member and have been in mourning?” Will they get points taken off? Will they not be scored as highly as someone who got in shape? What’s going to happen when that candidate goes to HR because they didn’t get hired? This is such a can of worms that I’m worried your superior can’t see it…

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            That’s…a good question actually. I think I’ll go back to HR with that.

            (I had to endure 3 funerals over zoom last year for people I’d loved. It’s…not nice. Tell your loved ones how special they are to you because ye gods it hurts when you can’t anymore)

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Bingo. Is she ready to hear stories of human suffering and tragedy that will leave her speechless?

        3. Dark Macadamia*

          It’s weird to me that they’re including “teach your children” here! All the other things are optional/extracurricular, but if you’re a parent you kind of had to figure out childcare and school in some format regardless of how “motivated” and “effective” you felt. I guess I would tell a potential employer that I’d been supporting my child’s remote learning as a way to explain why I didn’t get much else done, but I wouldn’t use it as an example of personal growth.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I think that one is because she’s (my immediate supervisor) got kids and is generally boasting about how she taught them ‘extra’ skills during this – like needlework, or car maintenance etc.

            1. not a doctor*

              OMG… tangentially, I misread this as “because she got kids,” as in, somehow acquired children during the pandemic. Not had, but got! I was VERY confused for a second.

            2. Chauncy Gardener*

              Ummm. I think I hate your supervisor. How smug and self satisfied and unaware of the suffering around her! Didn’t AAM have a column on this in the past?

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’ve not been in the job long (well, over 6 months) but she’s good in some ways…but definitely a ‘suffering is a choice’ type.

        4. JillianNicola*

          Know what else makes you more effective? Not dying.

          The amount of people who just took the totally wrong lessons out of the past year and a half make me weep for humanity, I swear. I’m sorry for your struggles, and your clueless (at least in this respect) employer! I spent the first 3/4 of 2020 as an essential retail employee, and these sort of breathless ‘but what did you LEARN’ missives make my eyes twitch. I don’t know? That humans are selfish and disgusting? What do you want me to say Sharon

        5. Malarkey01*

          This person is a idiot (sorry I know that’s unkind), but so many people had new overwhelming burdens placed on them by CoVid that thinking that it’s a matter of motivation or efficiency is madness.

          It’s like the people that think people should be able to magically pull themselves out of being born into abject poverty through a combination of bootstraps and gumption and those that don’t “just aren’t trying hard enough” or “just don’t want to”.

        6. Myrin*

          Apart from everything else people have already mentioned, I also continue to seriously question that logic.

          I am plenty motivated to do all kinds of things at work that I can’t be arsed to do at home half of the time. Like, the exact same things, I mean. And it’s not even because I get money for one and not for the other but rather because work is in a different location from my home and I mentally categorise it differently in a way that gives me infinitely more energy and a better ability to concentrate (the main reason why I wouldn’t be cut out for WFH, by the way).

          Conversely, I know plenty of people (some of whom I’m related to) who are always eager and ready to take on another home improvement task or learn yet another technique regarding doing their hobby but who are pretty bad coworkers.

        7. Colette*

          Your superior is ridiculous.

          Some people did those things; some people didn’t because they didn’t want to, their health didn’t permit them to, or they were busy dealing with a global pandemic and didn’t have the time.

          I did a bunch of stuff during the pandemic, but if I were asked that question, I’d assume it wouldn’t be a good fit.

        8. Metadata minion*

          To add to everyone else’s responses, I actually did take up baking during the pandemic. I’m getting quite good at bagels. But it wasn’t because I was “motivated” or “effective”; it was because I desperately needed something to take my mind off the situation and for some reason baking was it even though there were plenty of other normal things I was struggling to keep up with due to stress.

          1. Metadata minion*

            And I did a major professional development thing…because I physically can’t do a large part of my job at home, so we went “hey, let’s do this massive training thing now instead of in 6 months like we’d planned in your annual review”.

          2. Myrin*

            Relatedly – and in some way, that always grinds my gears whenever I see these “productivity during lockdown” posts although I can’t really articulate why exactly – gardening, especially produce and herbs, as well as cooking and bread-baking (with lots of variety and trial and errors; I’m German and we have a lot of bread products!) have been my main hobbies for the better part of the last decade. I didn’t change my routine regarding these things. Does that make me more worthy in the eyes of this supervisor or less?

          3. Humble schoolmarm*

            Exactly! I did, in fact, start fiddling with learning Gaelic through Duolinguo and tried (not terribly successfully) to crochet, but I don’t consider either of those to be signs of motivation, efficiency or self improvement. I live alone, I’ve been that winning combination of bored and stressed and I like languages and handcrafts. I consider those hobbies much more as signs of my privilege (I can afford the time and money for hobbies and I live in an area that takes the pandemic very seriously, but has been touched fairly lightly, so I didn’t have to struggle with nearly as much grief and stress as those in harder hit regions). Plus, while I like to brag about my 355 day streak on Duolinguo, I wouldn’t even think to bring that up in an interview for fear someone would actually expect me to speak Gaelic on the spot.

        9. Bagpuss*

          But teaching your kids isn’t self improvement or career improvements and for most people it’s not an opportunity, so if that’s what she’s looking for the question isn’t fit for purpose.

          I could just about see it being a question to ask people who were furloughed or otherwise not working for a long period during lockdown, although even then I think it would be better as ‘were you able to develop nay new skills or undertake any career development work during lockdown, if so, what can you tell me / us about them?

          It also makes the assumption that everyone answering was working from home., and that working from home = lots of extra spare time, neither of which are true.

          I think it’s a really poor choice of question and will be very alienating to anyone who had a hard time during lockdown, which is going to be a huge proportion of people.
          All other considerations aside, fear and isolation are exhausting, not everyone will have had the energy to do extra stuff, it has nothing to do with how effective you are – all it tells you is how much free time you happened to have during lockdown, and whether or not you were also free from additional stresses and responsibilities.

        10. LadyByTheLake*

          F* that. Many people (like me) had no changes at all — I worked from home and was busy before Covid. I worked from home and was busy after Covid. Oh, and also hoping not to GET SICK AND DIE. Many other people had to make major changes, juggle home learning and child care, try to be on Zoom calls without their naked roommate in the background, dealing with disruption in work, worship, entertainment, mental and social support etc. Oh, and also hoping not to GET SICK AND DIE. This question is elitist, out of touch and is coming from a place of extreme privilege. If a potential employer asked me this question I would Nope right on out of there.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Same (and, like you, I didn’t have much of an adjustment to make last year since I already worked from home and was always a homebody at heart).

        11. Irish girl*

          ummm… none as my commute was short to begin with so I didn’t gain more than 20 mins back a day and i was stuck at home with a 1 and 3 years old interrupting me all day. So no time for self improvement when you can’t take your kid to a park or event since they are all closed!

          And what time during my normal packed work day would I have free time to work on career development as my job never stopped and got heavier during lockdown?

          They should not ask that question as it can be discrimatory to women who were responsible for child care (not schooling) as well as minorities that were essential workers and didn’t have extra time to to be more effective

        12. Teapot supervisor*

          Yeah, talk about slap in the face to anybody whose answer is ‘I spent it dealing with crippling mental health problems/trying to figure out how to balance looking after my small child while also doing my job/burying a close friend or family member/catching covid and struggling to recovery’… the list goes on. I mean, I DID spend some time working towards a qualification during lockdown and even I’d go ‘Yeah, red flag right there’ and pull my application.

        13. green beans*

          that goes in the same bucket as the enraging, “look at all we managed to do to fight COVID when we came together! let’s take that urgency and apply it to other diseases” emails I’ve gotten in the past few months.

          it’s not a good bucket.

        14. Observer*

          and she said ‘a lot of people took the extra time not commuting/working to learn new languages, do up their homes, try new exercise, learn a new skill, teach their children. If someone is motivated enough to do those things it shows they are more effective’.

          Ask her if she expects people to realize that things like “I homeschooled my kids while doing my job” and “learned to deal with the objectively unhealthy levels of isolation caused by the pandemic in reasonably healthy ways” are included in “self improvement?”

          Also, ask her what happens if an effective person did not have the ability to do all of these interesting projects either because the time saved was eaten up by other things required by the pandemic or the money wasn’t there because they got furloughed? Oh, and is she willing to risk dealing with the discrimination issues that this could bring up? She should probably run this by the lawyers…

    2. londonedit*

      Urgh, no, I would hate that question and I’ve seen several articles attempting to push back on the idea that everyone has or should have spent the last 18 months on some kind of self-improvement kick. Plenty of people were just trying to survive, trying not to lose their job, trying to deal with a health crisis of one kind or another, trying to look after family members, trying not to have a breakdown locked down in one room, etc. It just feels really crass and out of touch to assume everyone’s been having a merry old time learning three languages, dropping five stone and training for an ultramarathon.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I wonder if I should just flat out refuse to ask that question, or explain to HR/my senior management (next person up from me is director kinda level) just why I wouldn’t be able to answer the same question.

        (“Yeah, I watched loved ones die, saw people denying the reality of the situation, had no source of income and my brain went literally kaput. Of course I spent the time learning Russian…/sarcasm”)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I would just say, “I can’t do this.”

          While the question itself ticks me right off I do understand that it might be hard to pry the question out of clenched fists. So why not offer an alternative question such as, “In thinking back over the last five years what activities have you taken on to develop yourself professionally or personally.”
          I am not even a fan of this question for [reasons] however because of the longer time frame more people might be able to have something to offer.

          I have to go back to, “I can’t do this. They are going to end up telling me heart-wrenching stories and this puts them in an emotional place that should NOT be happening on a job interview.”

          1. asteramella*

            Yes, this. “Tell me about ways that you’ve developed new skills or kept up with new developments in [industry]” is a normal question, and if someone wants to say “Well, during lockdown I had a lot of free time so I taught myself to code” (or whatever) they can say that, while everyone else isn’t expected to have an inspiring story of pandemic self-improvement.

    3. Grace*

      Oh, I would haaaate this question. It ignores the fact that a lot of people were just trying to survive, and did not have the freedom to do either of those things.

      It’s especially bad because someone unscrupulous could use it to screen out people coming from an economically disadvantaged situation or someone with medical issues.

    4. Captain Raymond Holt*

      Definitely a concern! For everyone baking bread on Instagram there were plenty of people who struggled and didn’t jump to self improvement.

      I’m also worried that this question could potentially discriminate against parents, and especially moms. Parents were without childcare/school and forced to take on those roles on top of working. That takes up a lot of energy and leaves even less available for personal/career improvement.

      1. kbeers0su*

        Oh yes…parents would definitely have an HR-level complaint with this one. I spent months trying to wrangle two kids/handle remote school AND not drop any major balls in life/home/work. So if I didn’t get the job I would 100% wonder if that was part of the reason (assuming I gave that as my answer).

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m glad they didn’t ask me that when I was hired! I’d have been tempted to point out that being disabled and high risk was enough of a full time occupation at some points.

      3. Overeducated*

        Seriously. From March 2020 to February 2021 (when schools opened hybrid), literally every waking hour was scheduled for either work or childcare from 7 AM until 9 PM, because my spouse and I were on “shifts” trying to manage both. We’d shower and do the dishes and such after 9 PM. We planned leftovers and frozen food for weeknights so that we could alternate who got to exercise for 30 minutes before dinner while the other person heated up food while watching the kids (because you can’t cook from scratch with a toddler trying to climb up your leg). When was I supposed to improve myself, again?

      4. Mimi*

        Not just parents — this question is ripe for discrimination all over, because the people most likely to have been in a position where they were either too busy/too precarious/too freaking out to have had time and brainspace for new hobbies are also statistically most likely to be disabled, people of color, queer or trans, immigrants, etc (also parents).

        As an interviewer I wouldn’t touch this question with a 10-foot pole, and as an interviewee I would be giving any company that asked it EXTREME side-eye.

        Even its less-terrible cousin, “Are there any hobbies or self-improvement projects you picked up during the pandemic that you would like to talk about?” privileges people who have, well, privileges. It’s like rating candidates more highly because they’ve taken international vacations or gone to fancy summer camps, except with way more trauma.

    5. Coffee Powered*

      This is such a non-inclusive question, and I can’t see how it would actually help towards getting the best employees for the job. It wasn’t a fun holiday or relaxing career break for most people, so it’s odd that they’re treating it as one.

      I would definitely raise it, and suggest reframing it more generally and ask them to ‘give an example of a time when you needed to improve your skills or capability, and how you went about doing that’ . Good candidates will have an example of that, and it doesn’t matter whether it was the last year or before that, really!

    6. Mental Lentil*

      This is a terrible question to ask.

      The very notion that we all had tons of down time to suddenly learn Swahili or Python programming or oil painting and that we are somehow bad people if we didn’t do that turns my stomach.

      Millions of us were out of work, on reduced income, taking on the work of 2 or more people, dealing with an angry public that didn’t want to wear masks or social distance, all the while trying to keep ourselves, our families, our coworkers healthy and alive. Millions of people have died from this pandemic and we were worried about becoming part of that statistic. We had—and still have—no idea what the future holds regarding this disease.

      Whoever at your company who decided to add this question needs to have their viewpoint challenged, at the very least. If I were asked this in an interview, I would get up and leave right then and there, to save me from throat-punching the person who asked me this ridiculous question.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Agreed! It’s a sour question. It assumes that everyone was leisurely sitting around with time to learn a new language. People were dying. The question denies the reality of the pandemic and the trauma of millions of people.
        What will happen when someone gives an honest answer “I learned all about the funeral system as I buried 3 of my family members.” Will the interviewers be ready for that?

    7. Alice*

      Yeah, it doesn’t sound great. I wouldn’t have an answer to that because my job had us almost 100% in office during the pandemic, so not much changed for me, aside from the panic attacks and depression. But, more broadly, I don’t think it’s helpful to have a question that deals with a specific time. A perfectly valid candidate might have had issues or of their control during that time!

      I think you would get more meaningful answers with a more general question about how the candidate approaches self improvement.

      1. Alice*

        Addendum since I saw the comment above: remind your superior that candidates are also interviewing the company. This question will make a terrible impression, especially if someone struggled during Covid, which *gestures to world at large*

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Also a very good point. They hired me several months back and if I’d been asked that question…I might have disconnected from the interview right there depending on my mood.

        2. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

          Yep. How I spent my Plague Year Vacation: Pivoted from all in person to all online teaching and advising, spent a week in the hospital (back injury), 6 months doing physical therapy and getting myself off a giant buffet of drugs, my son’s brain cancer came back, once I was finally able to wash and dress myself by myself and drive my car, my husband had a mental collapse (panic attacks, depression, severe anxiety) and went on sick leave = I drove him everywhere, I made him get up in the morning, I spent hours helping him through bouts of weeping (I’m still doing physical therapy and in back pain during all this, mind you). Worked fulltime from home.
          That gets us to December 2020.
          No need to continue, right?
          And you know what? Plenty of my friends and colleagues had it *worse*.
          Boy, if I were asked that question, I’d know for sure, this employer is run by assholes.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            As one who also had a total mental breakdown during this I’ve got a lot of respect for you for taking care of him, it cannot be easy dealing with a spouse whose brain has just given up.

            (Shoutout to my husband who had to cope with a terrified, depressed and also paranoid wife during all this. I hate how much I put him through)

            I hope you and your husband are doing better these days. Back pain especially is a nightmare.

            1. Anon for this*

              Thanks, keymaster, we are all doing better now. I know you feel bad about what your husband had to do — but I’m sure that he was glad to be able to do whatever he could. It’s hard to see a loved one suffering. I hope you are doing better. Day by day, that’s how it goes.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      Nothing. I worked through the whole lockdown.

      Nothing. I had to work and take care of family who never left the house during lockdown.

      Didn’t die of COVID and survived bring a COVID long hauler.

      There’s a lot of privileged assumptions in the question, as you know. It’s bad.

      1. Msnotmrs*

        Yes, my answer to this would basically be, “Almost nothing about my worklife changed, so any CE or self-improvement I did wasn’t outside of the stuff I would have been doing anyway.”

    9. Employee of the Bearimy*

      Agree that this is terrible. My spouse was still working outside the home and my kids were at home with me while I was working remotely so every single moment I wasn’t at “work” I was dealing with them (either general caregiving or for “remote school”). There were days I didn’t eat or go to the bathroom until my spouse got home from work. And honestly, after dealing with a boss who had a remarkable lack of empathy around COVID I would run screaming from an interview like that.

    10. No Tribble At All*

      Ooof, I agree that this question is garbage! It wasn’t a *~meditative retreat~*

    11. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      “I learned a very important new skill during lockdown. It’s called NOT DYING DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.”

      Seriously, that is a terrible question.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I actually love this answer because it is 100% what I and most of my team are thinking.

        1. ampersand*

          Yep. I’d be tempted to reply with: “I did everything I could to keep my family as safe as possible/alive while working full time. Is there something more I should have been doing?”

    12. Lora*

      This is definitely not a thoughtful or at all good question. LOTS AND LOTS of people buried loved ones, sometimes multiple loved ones. People had to suddenly become quasi-schoolteachers when school went remote, and spent 30 hours per week trying to get a small child to focus on Zoom lessons. I know healthcare professionals who up and quit their careers because despite being Pandemic Heroes(TM) they were still treated like crap by hospital administrators and even downsized, given pay cuts. Many many MANY people laid off and not recalled and unable to find work in their field anymore, trying to piece together several part time jobs to make ends meet. Many people in my field just burned the heck out from 80 hour workweeks trying to make more vaccine / treatment faster.

      You’re not being oversensitive, this question is going to come across REALLY badly to a lot of people. It wouldn’t be at all difficult to ask it of someone who replies, “I was too busy burying my relatives and dealing with their medical bills/estate to get around to self-improvement, actually.”

    13. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Um, I was at work for almost the entire lockdown. What does she expect me to say?
      I did do quite a lot of studying about Covid and how to live with someone who has it since my husband got it and some of the associated complications.

    14. middle name danger*

      Not just your issue or you being overly sensitive. I think Alison had even brought this up months ago, that she was worried it would start being an interview question. If they aren’t listening to concerns, you can frame it as “we’re going to chase away qualified candidates if we bring up an emotional minefield during an interview.”

      If someone lost someone, or had Covid themselves, this is a FRAUGHT question. “Tell me about how you actively pursued self improvement when your relatives were dying!” I’d tell the hiring manager to kick rocks if I was offered the job after that.

      Even if someone wasn’t personally touched by loss, it was all some of us could do to stay sane. I continued working the whole time and lost basically my entire social support system. I have ADHD, losing my routine destroyed my ability to function for months. I wouldn’t want to disclose any of that in a job interview.

    15. CatCat*

      I’m wondering what this question even has to do with the job.

      I don’t even know how I would answer this. “Rapidly adjusted to productively working from home”? IDK what else there is.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        ‘Ability to go above and beyond during a crisis situation’ probably, since we work in tech support in an industry where having a critical server go down for longer than an hour could cause serious issues relating to safety.

        However, I know how to ask questions of people about their ability to act under stress a without bringing up a deadly virus pandemic.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Plus, it’s a different type of stress – short bursts of stress due to working under time pressure, and long-term stress due to fear for your own life and health and those of your loved ones are very different things.

    16. Liz*

      WTF is this nonsense? I’d have an issue with it is well. Not everyone took whatever “extra” time anything thinks we had to improve our selves or careers. I was fortunate enough to keep my job, but had to adjust to working from home daily, when I really hated it. I still struggle on many days with simply being productive. And I don’t have a lot of extra time as my commute wasn’t all that long. For me, it was just maintaining the status quo. that’s it, nothing more.

      1. Mockingjay*

        I’m puzzled by the “extra time.” I didn’t gain any time by being confined to home, including remote work. Sure, I didn’t have a commute, but that was replaced with Zoom calls to reassure family (elderly parents waiting for the apocalypse – Dad was sure this is IT), searches for toilet paper and cleaning supplies (I only ever kept minimal amounts, preferring to buy only as needed – boy was that a mistake during the pandemic), and having to cook and clean more since people were in the house 24/7 (add grocery searches because again, everyone was panic buying). I also had to adjust to working from home when I prefer to be in the office and had to move my workspace away from Dear Husband, who was also WFH and is a chatty, social guy and likes to interrupt because he wants to share something with me. (We worked out that lunch and midafternoon break were the best times to chat during the “workday.”)

        Did I learn a new language or take a course? Nope. I dug out my adult coloring books and spent evenings calming myself by filling in mandalas and flowers.

        tl;dr: send this mess to HR. It doesn’t deserve another moment of your thought. It will only revive the worst moments of the last 15 months.

    17. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Lots of people spent the year dealing with fiscal crisis, health crisis, mental health crisis, children, and just getting through each day in whatever way they could. Your company is showing its privilege, and it smells.

      They are going to deserve some very snarky answers.

    18. Bloopmaster*

      It’s one thing to ask a general questions about self improvement or career improvement opportunities someone might have taken in general, at any point in time (because somethings those things don’t get highlighted in application materials), but to ask about them specifically during the pandemic/lockdown is just gross. It’s the presumption that people should have been exceptionally functional during a terrible period that’s disgusting–so just ask about those activities in a more general (and less judge-y) way.

    19. Purple Cat*

      This is an AWFUL question.
      And I know I somewhat recently read an article about how terrible this mindset is, but I don’t have time to try to dig it up.

      People “survived” an incredible amount of inordinate stress during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. This wasn’t the time for self-fullfilment and “bettering” yourself. It’s such a classist disconnected view from reality. And it certainly doen’t speak to how employees will perform on the job.
      I think you could ask something more broad about “how did you handle the changing circumstances during the last year” or even possibly (and I don’t actually like this one) “what did you learn over the last year?”
      But “how did you better yourself?” no, no, no!

    20. AlexdrinaVictoria*

      I totally lost my marbles and spent a month picking them all up again. Think that will get me hired??

    21. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      The only way I could see this being a reasonable question is if the person being interviewed had been let go or was furloughed during the lockdown and was not working. I had a family member, December 2019 grad, looking for a job during most of 2020, so I encouraged him to look at free courses in his field (Coursera for the win!) to show that he was doing ‘something.’ Not that looking for a job isn’t doing ‘something’ but it was a way that I was hoping would help him stand out a little, especially as the May 2020 college grads joined the mix.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Thing is, I was unemployed when they interviewed me last year and couldn’t have answered that I’d done any kind of courses or additional learning. Don’t want to blame anyone else who couldn’t face it either.

    22. balanceofthemis*

      I was asked this question in an interview, and it rubbed me the wrong way, which probably showed in my answer. I was honest, a took a couple coursera classes and helped my parents fix up thier house to sell.

      The interviewer asked me what I learned from that experience, I told her I learned that I don’t ever want to work in construction. I didn’t get the job.

    23. Wry*

      You’re not being oversensitive. It’s an inappropriate question. The past year and a half has been a worldwide health crisis, not a vacation. If you have the power to remove the question, definitely do so.

    24. Iota*

      Joining the chorus of “this is awful”.

      My lockdown-survival-mechanism was to acquire 120 houseplants and learn from scratch how to keep them alive. I work in a hospital and live on my own and I needed *something* that wasn’t work, wasn’t overtly related to current events, that took a bit of concentration, to focus on instead. That wasn’t enrichment, I wasn’t doing it to develop new skills or to develop a passion. I was doing it because it was a broadly workable way of coping. I could spin it to sound good in an interview situation, probably, but I wouldn’t want to. I’d be pretty unsettled by the idea that it showed that I was in any way motivated to do anything other than get by, day to day, in whatever way meant I didn’t spiral into the distress and depression and isolation and fear as I tried to keep going.

      All my work for a year was pretty profoundly derailed as we tried to figure out how to completely reconfigure our service so we could still treat our patients – people in urgent need of high-risk treatment, where their immune system is also severely compromised by their illness and then wiped out completely by the treatment. How do you do that in the context of a pandemic? The idea that I could have taken advantage of lockdown to pursue some extracurricular activities with all the spare time and brain space that afforded me is laughable.

      And I got off lightly. I came through the pandemic pretty well, setting aside the aching loneliness, the zoom funerals, the tension and stress headaches, the fear. I did learn a lot about houseplants and how to look after them! I did watch an unreasonable amount of archive Formula 1 races (comfort viewing). That doesn’t mean I want to be asked to talk about it in an interview situation, especially not if it’s framed as the need to show that I was ~productive~ and ~motivated~.

      Also, I think this question overlooks the part where often the people who responded with the most wisdom were the ones who took a nuanced view of the push to do all the things with lockdown free time. The people who prioritised self-care and didn’t push themselves to take up the instagrammable trendy hobbies. The ones who focussed on doing whatever they needed to do to get through as safely as they could whilst doing what they could to protect their mental health. That’s a kind of resilience and insight that speaks to someone’s ability to handle challenging, stressful, draining situations. It’s also absolutely not something that anyone should be asked to go into in an interview.

    25. DrRat*

      “I took up woodworking and made a dart board with your face on it! Wanna see?”

      Seriously, my response would probably be to do my best Mr Spock eyebrow and say, “Do you really not have any idea how out of touch that question sounds? Are you seriously going to ask that question to people who had family members die of COVID? Plus I’m thinking that if you base any kind of performance evaluations on that, we’re going to get sued by someone covered by the ADA. Also, did anyone run that by the legal team? Because I’m thinking no.”

    26. HelenofWhat*

      This question went viral on LinkedIn for how poorly thought out it is and how rude it is for those who lost loved ones or had health struggles. The only people who liked it were looking for excuses to smugly report their successes.
      You can push back or ask to skip it… Maybe leaving it to the end of your time so you “don’t have time to ask the question”?

    27. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yeah, no. If I could without repercussions, I would be inclined to write a very polite email to whoever at HR owns recruitment and point out that while some people clearly did use the pandemic time in new ways for personal or professional growth, others juggled three different school closures / home instruction schedules / loss of childcare with job loss and potentially deaths or severe illness in the family. And that candidates with particular medical vulnerabilities who happen to live in a hotspot undoubtedly had to manage entirely different levels of anxiety than a healthy younger candidate who had the privilege of sitting out the greatest risk in an isolated house.

      You might also point out that some candidates might find the question insensitive enough that they could consider it a red flag even if they personally have a good answer. It paints the employer in a light of being insensitive to how bad it has been for many.

    28. fhqwhgads*

      I think it’s a shitty question. It doesn’t inherently presume people weren’t doing their normal jobs exactly as before the pandemic, but it sort implies that? And that’s a bigger proportion of people than they may think. If they wouldn’t also ask the same question but replacing “during lockdown” with “in the past year” – for any year they might be doing interviews – then that tells you it’s not worth asking. Whereas if they would ask that absent the lockdown aspect, then maybe figure out what they’re really trying to get at with it.

    29. tra la la*

      Um, so, I work in higher education so I had to support a lot of panicky faculty as they learned how to teach online with virtually no notice, and I had to learn how to teach online myself while also trying to identify legally-available electronic sources for said faculty.

      So yeah, I can talk about what I did and what I learned, but if I were asked that question and it were framed as being about “self-improvement,” I’d know that I didn’t want to work at that place.

      1. tra la la*

        Thinking about this, though, if I’d been laid off (so grateful that I wasn’t) I do know that I would have been doing a lot of things to make me marketable for the next job, which is something that I do even as an employee. What I find objectionable about the question is the implication that I had a lot of time on my hands, and the way I’m wired, I would have been working even if I hadn’t been employed, and so the “self-improvement” angle would bug me. I would have been writing articles rather than perfecting my sourdough bread baking skills.

    30. allathian*

      What a stupid question!

      I’ve had it easy compared to a lot of people, but I guess completing a certification that I started working on in the fall 2019 would answer this one for me. But I’m lucky because I didn’t lose anyone to Covid, I’ve probably avoided being exposed because I haven’t even been tested for Covid yet, although both my husband and my son have been tested. I had a runny nose in the spring and would have gone for a test if my allergy meds hadn’t dealt with it. I’m counting my lucky stars every day. But even so, I feel this question is utterly inappropriate.

    31. Lizy*

      Good lord… please push back. (If you’re still reading.)

      I didn’t have “lockdown”. I still got my fat butt out to work. My job is one that could not have been done remotely. While our offices were closed to the public, I was still there. I didn’t learn anything new because … I was busy with life?

      Nevermind the people like you who were just trying to stay sane. Such a horrible question (the interview one – not yours)

    32. Anyhow*

      I loathe this question for all of the reasons articulated in previous comments. I feel this question should be removed from the list of your employer’s questions. It’s so very tone deaf and reeks of privilege.

      Career Improvement Opportunities: hmm, let’s see, in March 2020, as a teacher, I had exactly three days to transition from a face-to-face, in person classroom teacher into an online, remote teacher. I had three whole days to figure out how I was going to teach my students remotely when I had zero experience of doing that before. Then, in August 2020, at the height of the pandemic I got to return to the classroom and teach face-to-face again. Except this time around some of my students were remote. So, I became a hybrid teacher, and once again- I hardly had any training for this. The roster of students who were remote and students who were face-to-face changed every single day. Then different students and colleagues came down with COVID. Some people were extremely sick. Meanwhile, I went to work every single day. Throughout the stress. Throughout the hurdle of teaching f2f and remote at the exact same time. Throughout worrying about my own health. Throughout worrying about the mental health of my students, my colleagues, our families. Throughout all of the hospitalizations of friends and family. Throughout the deaths in my community. What did I learn? I’d tell your boss that I learned that there are essential workers who jumped through rings of fire while the rest of society sat back and took them for granted from their positions of privilege.

    33. Sanity Lost*

      “I worked through the entire time, buried an uncle, and tried to keep my children engaged and focused on their schoolwork. I had no time for “self-improvement”.

      Nope, I personally would hate this question as it gives the underlaying feeling that last year was a holiday for everyone.

  16. Gem*

    Working full time and going to grad school full time (ie 2.5 classes a semester). Doable? Nah?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      98% chance not doable. Depends on the job. Even if they’re all online, grad school classes still require a lot of *time* so unless you can do your schoolwork during your work time, you’re just going to run out of time in the day. I’m “only” doing full time + 1 class a semester, and it’s still a lot. I’d say my class is at least 15 hours a week.

      I maybe could have done two classes at once when I was a night shift operator (aka paid to sit there for 12 hours in case something broke). So unless your job is equally as boring and has scads of time where you’re not expected to do literally anything, I’d say no.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is your employer supporting you in this? Ie, they want you to get the degree (and may even be paying for it), and so will let you spend some on-the-clock time studying, doing assignments, etc.

      If this is a thesis-option masters, is what you do on the job applicable to your thesis? Because working on a thesis, even though it might just be one or two 3-credit classes, is pretty much a full-time job.

      But I think 2 classes at a time ought to be your limit. That’s M-Th, 2 hours every evening in the classroom, plus aforementioned study & assignment time.

    3. purple giraffe*

      Depends what your grad school is. Is there a research component? In my STEM grad program, each class was 3 hrs per week of instruction + 15 hrs per week for assignments. So, can you handle a 70-80 hr week? I’m also not sure what .5 of a class is. A class that meets every other week for the year?

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      So so dependent. I did it with no problem for four years (in fact, I was doing two masters degrees at the same time, which is why it took four years instead of two), but I am a freak of nature in ways that benefited this endeavor and I know people who can’t handle undergrad part time while working part time because that’s not how their brain works. So. Doable in general? Maybe. Doable for Red Reader? Without a doubt. Doable for Gem? Whole different question.

    5. Grace*

      Really, really hard. Only doable if your work will let you use downtime to work on school stuff (and you have a job with LOTS of downtime), and it’s also going to be hiiiighly dependent upon the field your grad school classes are in. If there’s significant overlap between the two, it’s easier.

      I did the “working full time and grad school half time”, and that was with a very, very understanding boss and classes that met in the evening. It was rough, and this is coming from someone who finished 2 undergraduate degrees in 4 years, so I’m not a slacker. And even with a boss who was super lenient, I still had to do a full semester while on unpaid leave from work, because it just wasn’t physically possible to be in the field for grad research and working full time in a totally different field at the same time.

    6. MissBliss*

      I finished grad school working full-time in 2.5 years. The one semester I took 3 classes made me so sick I had to skip the winterim course I’d planned on (hence why I graduated in 2.5 years instead of 2). But 2 classes per semester was totally reasonable to me. My program was not super intensive, though, so it really depends on your program, degree, school, professors, and support system in and out of work. Good luck!

    7. kbeers0su*

      Just did it. I completed an MBA (started in-person, then fully online thanks to COVID). The classes were 8 weeks long and I took 1-2 at a time, so I was able to complete it in 5 semesters (fall, spring, summer, fall, spring). I also have two kids and a small business with my partner. I may be a *bit* of an overachiever, but I also know many other people in the program who were in a similar situation (i.e. FT jobs and families). So, as someone else said I think it definitely depends on the program.

    8. Lora*

      Depends on what else you have going on. I’ve done it, but you have to not have a ton of other responsibilities – elder care, childcare, spouse having a crisis etc. You basically have time in the day to do your job, go home, fix dinner and tidy a bit, then do your coursework and go to bed. You don’t have time for hobbies or a lot of socializing – a glass of wine or two on the weekend with a friend is about it. It’s about 30-40 hours per week commitment, so if you have a short or nonexistent commute, don’t mind dropping hobbies, don’t have childcare or elder care to worry about, sure, can be done.

    9. BlueWolf*

      I would say nah, but I’m biased. My partner did it and eventually burned out and lost both the job and subsequently the motivation to finish the master’s degree (the job was related to what he wanted to do with the master’s degree). Really depends on the person, the type of job, the type of grad school, etc. If it’s a job with a predictable schedule and low stress that will work with your school schedule then it may be doable. My partner’s job was a low paid salaried position that expected him to regularly work overtime/weekends and wasn’t sensitive to his school needs.

    10. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yep! I had three part time jobs and made this happen. You can do it too. Treat yourself often, sleep as much as possible, and don’t feel guilty about missing brunch sometimes.

    11. Asenath*

      No. I did a grad program when I was unemployed, employed part-time, and finally employed full time. I had to adjust my program accordingly – and when employed full time I did a single course plus work on my thesis at any given time. Naturally, I worked less on my thesis the times I was doing a course, and only on my thesis when I finally got all my coursework done. And that was with starting my thesis ASAP and, wherever possible, tailoring my coursework accordingly. For example, when I did a course on stats, if possible, I analyzed the statistical methods used in papers on my thesis topic, llama migration patterns. I could never never have managed a full time load and working even part time, much less full time. Grad level courses take a LOT of work if you want to do well in them.

    12. Renee Remains the Same*

      I never tried it. I did one class a semester and a short, expedited summer session. Graduated in 3 years (full-time students took 2 years). For the most part, I was happy with my decision. Perhaps there were some semesters I could have taken an additional course (if one of the classes was easy), but I wasn’t able to judge that unless I was in the class and doing the work. I would argue the time you save with the additional class is not worth the burnout that you might get for a year or two of constant scheduling of work and personal time. You’ll have very little time to spend relaxing/recharging, which becomes more and more important as time goes on.

      Unless you’re in desperate straits trying to improve your career / looking to leave your current work situation, I would take your time, really absorb each class in a way that benefits learning.

    13. SnapCrackleStop*

      I did full time work with a part time Data Science degree, supported by work. Most semesters I couldn’t handle more than 1 class. No kids, and I have a very supportive partner. My health also wasn’t great, that’s not something you can necessarily predict.

      It’ll vary by program and the rest of the your life stuff, but this was my experience.

    14. BRR*

      I did two classes a semester with a not too stressful job and an easy program. So i think it’s doable depending on the variables. Thesis writing was much harder than the classes for me.

    15. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      Depends! I did, for a masters in accounting, but I lived a block from work and all my classes were online, so no time lost driving to and fro.

    16. Metadata minion*

      It really depends on your program, your job, and any other responsibilities you have. I did 2 classes/semester while working full-time, but it was a library job while working in a library, so my boss was 100% ok with me working on the odd homework assignment when things were slow, and I didn’t have any lab work or things like that. And I really wish I’d had the time to really commit to the coursework instead of just doing enough that I felt like I had a solid grasp on the materials and would pass the class. But on the other hand, having the work experience was hugely valuable.

    17. Seal*

      I got 2 master’s degrees in 5 years while working full time, but pretty much all I did during that time was work and study. So it’s definitely doable if you’re willing to put other things on hold while you’re in grad school.

    18. TiffIf*

      So this was undergrad, not grad, but for me working full time and taking a part time undergrad (upper level courses) load was a bad plan. I ended up being let go from the job because I got caught trying to finish some reading for class during work. (Yes it was a stupid decision.)

    19. Millie*

      I have and it is very hard. It depends on your work, your desire to have a social life and your motivation.

    20. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I know some who have. All they did was work and do class/classwork. No downtime, no fun time. It worked (barely) for one person because she still lived at home and her mom helped her out with food, laundry, etc.

    21. Sparkles McFadden*

      I did this in my mid-40s. I had everything scheduled so tightly that my biggest problem was worrying about my commute. If the train got canceled/was late, I’d have a problem. I did asked for a slight schedule change one day a week (coming in early/leaving early) which my boss agreed to…and then constantly bitched about (“I said yes because I didn’t think you were actually going to do that.”) It’s best if you can get management support when you are doing this.

      It was exhausting but I have to say it was easier than when I was in undergrad full time and working at outside jobs. The reason it was easier is that, after a couple of decades in the work world, my brain became super-efficient at zeroing in on what was important and what wasn’t in my classes, and I felt I absorbed information better. My commute was about an hour and I got lots of studying time on the train.

    22. talos*

      I did an MS in computer science (coursework-only/2 semesters, so 4 classes but no research) while working probably 20 hours a week, and several times, I got so fatigued that I literally could not do anything except sleep. I actually fell asleep in a plate of food, at a meal with other people present. It was bad.

      So if you’re doing an MS in computer science, I would say you’ll want to dramatically space out classes? 2.5 would be too many while working 40 hour weeks. Other fields I can’t really speak for.

    23. LKW*

      Depends on the job. I worked full time and took 2 classes a semester. My job was 7:30 am to 4:30 pm and I rarely had to stay beyond 5pm and I never had to take work home. By last semester I had classes or school related activities – e.g. group working sessions – 7 days a week. It can be done, but if your job isn’t well time-boxed then I recommend starting with 1 class per semester to see how well you fare.

    24. Stevie Budd*

      It does depend, as others say. For my MPH, I was working full time but 3 x 12 hour shifts (plus some overtime) and took 15 credit hours a semester. The job was as a veterinary technician, so it was physical and somewhat mental, but not mentally taxing and I could leave it behind at the door which I think helped.

      I think it would be harder with a research component. In my PhD, I had a research assistantship to cover my tuition, etc. so classes plus research plus another full time job would have been tough. I did do some part time work for a previous job, but the hours were flexible. It’s important to leave a lot mental space for working on a dissertation, etc. since that is so self-driven.

    25. Hillary*

      Doable but it sucks. I did an MBA in 2.5 years while working full time. Three classes during regular semesters plus one or two in the summer. I finished in time, I got the opportunities I wanted out of it, and the ROI was there.

      I had no social life the entire time. I lived alone in a studio apartment so housework was pretty minimal, but at one point I was so busy I was trying to outsource laundry. I couldn’t have done it if my job required/allowed more than 40 hours/week.

      Ten years later my main regret is that I didn’t just accept the loans and go full time.

    26. Coenobita*

      Totally agree with everyone saying “it depends”! I kept my full time day job while doing a masters in two years (4ish classes per semester) and it was fine, but:
      (1) I did a policy/practice focused program rather than a research one, and it expected students to have stuff going on during the day so all the classes started 4pm or later
      (2) My day job was super flexible and supportive
      (3) My day job, my classes, and my home were all within like 3 miles of each other
      (4) I didn’t have a lot of other responsibilities in my life at the time
      (5) To be completely honest, my program wasn’t all that hard!

      If any one of those things hadn’t been true, I think it would’ve been a different story.

    27. 8 classes left*

      Not grad school, but I’m currently working on my BA . I work 40 hours and take 2 condensed (8 weeks instead of 16) classes at a time. It is hard. It’s not the actual work itself that’s hard, but trying to cram in 8-10 hours a week for each class is. I don’t have a lot of free time for other things I like to do. I would assume grad school classes take even more time and brainpower.

    28. Pool Lounger*

      Totally depends on the grad program. Library science? Totally doable and many people do it. A program where there’s a lab component or where you’re writing really involved research papers and have tons of reading? Less doable.

    29. DrRat*

      I did it, I know other people who did it, but you have to be 100% committed. You have to plan to have NO social life whatsoever. If you’ve got kids, hard no. If you’re in a relationship, you’ll probably trash it. Good chance of significant weight gain and/or substance abuse. And you don’t need to sleep more than 4-5 hours a night, right?

      Think of it as playing a video game at the hardest possible mode, for months or years.

      Oh, and it will give you nightmares afterwards. For decades.

    30. IL JimP*

      I work at a grad school, and we really recommend only 1 course at a time for people working full time

      It’s about 12-15 hours a week of work per course at my school

    31. Gloucesterina*

      My boss is doing a PhD and it seems that she has been taking one class per semester.

    32. asteramella*

      I did this for a Masters program that was known for being “easy.” I had a lot of schedule flexibility (took classes Mon and Wed, worked Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat) and my capstone project was on something I was already doing at work. It sucked. I would never recommend it. I did manage to graduate, but my grades were awful.

  17. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m kinda bummed to hear we gotta go to stuff physically now- not having to worry about logistics was saving a lot of capacity. Thinking about capacity, I’m still trying to think of career goals. It is sort of assumed that you’ll be able to rise higher as you get experience, but I still have a pretty limited capacity- working multiple ” jobs” at the same time or anything that requires long hours probably won’t be a possibility for me. I want to be able to sustain having a job for a long time too. I feel like I’m sitting on very limited physical and mental energy which is a big setback.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Can I ask your age range? Also, how long have you been in the workforce? I felt like this for so long. It was only in the last few years that I have risen to where I felt I belonged or earned. I now work for a government agency that funds the work I did in the private sector. I work with very educated and experienced people from all over the world. We make great money. We are home for dinner every night. We rarely feel burned out. It’s real and you can get there. Someone on this site once said they were surprised that as they made more money, the jobs got easier as far as day-to-day work. This has been true for me. The more I make, the less frazzled and overworked I feel.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nearly 40 but maybe 4 years of experience in my field- I got * hosed* by the great recession. I’m hoping this new rethinking of the workplace will help before the next big recession where we lose our jobs and all our progress is wiped out again.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          I hope so too. I’m 35 and was fortunate to be in college for most of the recession. I never thought about that before but you’re probably on the right track. How we work and how work has changed could absolutely change the response to the next one.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yea, the companies and bosses might not have learned from this, but we sure have. It’s a new world!

      2. Gloucesterina*

        That transition sounds amazing! How did you learn about this type of role? Did you have mentors or colleagues who supported you in identifying that as a possible transition or in the process of actually arriving there?

    2. ferrina*

      Agree. My job is going to a hybrid model, and even commuting one day a week is zapping my energy!

      Be gentle with yourself- last year was a doozy. It’s going to take a long time to recover, and each person and place is going to recover at their own pace.

      Sometimes a career goal gets to be “Have a job that I don’t hate and isn’t actively doing evil and pays my bills.” In the last 50 years, it seems like the job market has transformed from clear-cut, guaranteed career paths to a more flexible but less certain career paths. I think the idea that you’ll inherently rise higher through seniority is outdated in a lot of fields. I think the trick is to know how to use the experience you have to get in to a job that you like. Then build that in to the next job. Rinse, repeat. Sounds like you got slammed by the Great Recession. I got hit with it too, and it took about 4 years to get back to on any kind of track, and those 4 years were pretty much lost time (career wise- I picked up some really undervalued skills around communication and customer service, though!). It took another 5 years and a couple job hops to get close to where I would be without the Recession (and I got lucky with a couple big projects and a lot of hard hours).

      Good luck!

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        That’s true. What I like about my job now is that some children might be helped by my efforts. This last year has been hard and I’m now like I don’t know what I want to be now- everything seems so silly after that catastrophe and I’ve changed a lot. So now I’m like I’m not sure what I even want to do when I’m 40 and that’s only 3 years away.

  18. ghostlight*

    Curious if anyone here has ever job-searched with a major surgery (in my case, open heart surgery) on the horizon. I’m currently on a short summer contract that will end in the fall right before I’m due to have my surgery, but I would love a long-term, stable job after 2020. Not sure if I should address it in interviews or after an offer… or if I should even mention it at all before I have a date nailed down.

    I’m also not sure what recovery will look like for me–my last surgery (which was before 8th grade) took me almost a year to get back to 100%. I think remote work would help a lot, but so would a flexible schedule if I have follow-up appointments, PT, or just a rough day. But I should discuss those things in an interview/offer phase… right? I also work in performing arts admin so I’m not sure if this is at all realistic. Thoughts?

    1. Metadata minion*

      This wasn’t looking at nearly such a long recovery, but right after I got offered my current job I found out I had to have surgery for thyroid cancer and would have to be out for at least a week starting about three weeks into the new job. Luckily my employer is really good about this sort of thing and it was a total non-issue except that getting the insurance changed in time was…fun.

      I would tend to recommend mentioning it at the offer stage.

    2. elle*

      If you have the financial flexibility, I would disclose at the interview stage in order to weed out employers that aren’t going to be good to work with on this process. You won’t be protected by FMLA on this timeline, so waiting until you’re both stuck with each other at an employer who won’t handle it well is more likely to not go in your favor.

  19. Hotdog not dog*

    What is an appropriate level of involvement for a parent of a teenager looking for their first summer job? I’m having a debate with a friend- she decided what job, filled out the application, scheduled the interview, and

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      …sorry, somehow that submitted before I finished! She met with her son’s manager to decide his schedule, negotiated the pay, and drives him to and from every shift. On the other hand, I made a few suggestions but otherwise left it to my son to navigate. The end result is that her son is on his second week of work and mine is still looking. (In spite of the supposed worker shortage in our area, positions have filled quickly for retail/service jobs.) I feel like hands mostly off is still the right answer, but I’m second guessing myself.

      1. Grace*

        I would definitely err on the side you’re taking. Her son probably still doesn’t know how to get a job, despite having one. I mean, if her goal was “make sure my son has a job this summer” rather than “help my son learn how to get a job”, then she got what she wanted. But she robbed her son of a valuable learning experience.

        As long as there are consequences to your son not having a job (like, you’re not paying for stuff you want him to have a job to pay for), he’s going to be much better off navigating this himself. If he flounders a bit while looking for a job, well, that’s exactly what this time in his life is for. Better to flail a bit now while he has a stable place to live/food/etc. than when he’s really on his own.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          I agree. With the addition that the parent should talk through how to do this stuff, not just turn them loose with no clue. Talk it through, be available to answer questions, then let the kid figure it out from there.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Yes! Compare to if you were training a new employee — if you knew they had never done an important and difficult task before, you’d give them more guidance than just “a few suggestions.” Help him out, show him how to do it, but yeah absolutely don’t *do it for him.*

        2. Hotdog not dog*

          I’d like him to have a job, but mostly for the learning experience. He’d like to have money to support the social plans he hopes to be making soon and to build up some savings towards a car for when he gets his license. My job as a parent is to help him become a productive members of society, which means sooner or later he’ll need to know how to get a job. Might as well learn now while the stakes are low and any mistakes will just be disappointing but not devastating.

        3. Lurker*

          I think this is such a great comment. I’d ask myself the question, what do I hope that my son learns from this experience? And for me, navigating this process independently (I’d obviously offer support, but just doing EVERYTHING….) would provide so many learning opportunities. It’s really a shame that she’s snowplowing like that…

        4. Kiki*

          This. I put a LOT of effort into helping my brother with college applications (I didn’t want to write it for him (would’ve been a lot faster, tbh) so it was like pulling teeth, for hours — ate up a whole bunch of my Christmas break that year), and he did get into a good college. But then he floundered in college, and my mother and I both wonder if I actually did him any favors, or if getting himself into college (or not) would have been better for him overall.

        5. Teapot supervisor*

          This 100%. If your goal is just ‘get son job’, then friend’s method makes sense. But I used to arrange work experience with teens in a previous job and how much they ‘got’ out of the placement was inversely proportionate to how much their parents were involved. The ones where parents pretty much arranged it for them pretty much sat there ticking boxes or finding ways to make it to 5pm. Basically, all they got was some words to add to their CV and no actual work ‘experience’. The most pushy parent was also the one who emailed on her daughter’s first day to say she wouldn’t be turning up after all, so go figure.

      2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        It’s going to depend a lot on the kid, but really, parents should stay out of kids job searches. Those are skills they need to learn on their own. You should be available to answer questions and help guide them through the process, but it’s their job not the parent’s.

        1. Clisby*

          It also depends on where you live. I live in a city that’s heavily tourist-oriented, and every food/beverage/retail place downtown is begging for seasonal employees this summer. My 19-year-old son walked down to a place he liked, talked to the manager, and came out with a job. He really likes it, but if it turned out to be a bad place to work, he could have ditched it, and found another job within the next 3-4 blocks. I had no involvement whatsoever, except that I told him he had to find a job within walking/biking/bus distance. He hasn’t been interested in getting a driver’s license, and I’m not interested in driving him to work.

      3. Actual Vampire*

        Your friend’s level of involvement sounds intense, but it might be appropriate for her kid. But I think you might be a little too hands-off with your son. I remember when I was a teenager, I was totally baffled by the idea of having a job. I had no idea of what it entailed, what my qualifications were, what I would be doing at work, whether I could balance work and school, how I would transport myself there, etc. My parents didn’t really give me any guidance – I think if I had gotten hired, they would have stepped up to help me, but since I never got hired they never really talked to me about it. If you haven’t already, you might want to at least have a conversation with your son answering the questions he might not know to ask. Talk about what a job usually entails, what his schedule might be, how he might get there, etc. This will probably give him more confidence when he’s job-searching and more ability to act like he knows what he’s doing.

      4. Asenath*

        Hands off is best. All my parents did when I got my first ever paid job was mention that they’d heard that a certain student position might be open – I contacted the employer and did everything else needed. For me, that was part of learning how to find a job .

      5. Lora*

        I am definitely Old and out of touch, but in Ye Olden Days under-18 employees had to have a work permit signed by parent/guardian, school administrator and issued by the town clerk, and the clerk’s office was only reachable by car (which I didn’t have). My mother refused to have anything to do with that process and said I should just get a job working under the table where they wouldn’t care about whether or not I had a permit; the school called her and pressured her into signing, saying that under the table jobs like that were often dangerous as they disobeyed all the other worker-safety laws too, and what would happen if I was hurt? I also needed my mother to sign off on allowing my driving permit, but she wouldn’t sign the permission slip for the school-sponsored Driver’s Ed class because somehow I was supposed to “just figure it out, you’re old enough to drive you should be old enough to figure this out!” Thankfully this was still in the era of paper paychecks that banks would cash for a small fee, if I’d had to have an actual account with an adult co-signer I’d have been totally lost.

        I think parents should definitely walk kids through the process the first time, or go to the library and get some books about how to apply for jobs, or help them get first-job training classes (e.g. lifeguarding, child CPR for babysitting and camp counselor type jobs, stuff like that), help them with the underage work permit process, set up their savings account for paycheck deposits, if they have some uniform to pay for then help with that. Kids aren’t psychic, they know what you teach them, so teach them and then let them keep their own work hours in a calendar and set alarms and work out the bus schedule.

      6. LKW*

        I think you’re taking the right approach. Your friend is playing pitcher, you’re playing coach. When the kids have to go it on their own, your kid will be significantly more experienced.

      7. Artemesia*

        I always hesitate on this one because when I was a kid looking for a job it was so discouraging to see the children of wealthy connected parents get sinecures or good paying summer jobs when I had to scramble and then wait tables if I was lucky. And it is the same today that well connected parents arrange opportunities for their kids. (check out the nepotism on Wallstreet)

        But you are raising a man; yours with a little guidance from you will be self reliant and take responsibility for himself and develop the skills needed for his future. Your approach is right and in the long run your son (and your relationship with him) will be the better for it. Imagine being the woman who marries this kid being hand carried through life by Mommy and imagine the MIL she will be.

      8. WellRed*

        Not sure where he’s applying but high school kids usually have better luck getting hired at the grocery store or ice cream parlor rather than Say, Target.

      9. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think it is ok, for efficiency’s sake, for a parent who happens to have a lead or two to help ferret out an opportunity (less than 1h of effort – not a major production!) and give the CV a read. After all, summer may be over before a teen on their own may have gotten their act together. All the rest, NO.

      10. allathian*

        Yeah, well, I guess she (and he) got lucky. Most managers would have noped out and said something about employing only those kids who are independent enough to complete the application process in the first place.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Nope nope nope. Parents can have veto power to a reasonable point (overnight shifts would probably be a no go) and should provide/facilitate transportation if they can, maybe bring home an application, but stay out of the rest.

    3. irene adler*

      Answer any questions the teenager may have regarding the job seeking process. Maybe give them the Ask A Manager website for reference.
      How else will the teenager learn how to find a job if they are not doing everything themselves?

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        So far I’ve helped him fill out applications and coached him on interviewing. I did refer him to this blog, but I don’t think he’s looked at it. I drove him to one interview. He biked or walked to the others. I also recommended he dress a little nicer than usual. Other than that, I’ve stayed out of it, because I think he needs to learn from experience. Unfortunately, it seems that his friends with more-involved parents are having better luck. What he’s learned so far seems to be that it’s better if you can get your parents to prepare the way for you, which is exactly the opposite of what I believe.

        1. Liz*

          I agree 100% with what you are doing, not what your friend or others have done. Kind of sad that those who got the most help got the jobs. I’d like to think that in the long run, your son will be better of, if he learns now how to negotiate finding a job, so that when he’s done with school and looking for his first “real” job.

        2. Malarkey01*

          I think anything where you the parents have contact with the employer is way too far. I would run from your friend’s kid in a hiring situation.

          I think answering questions, helping with applications (not doing them but answering questions or even reviewing it for edits suggestions), coaching on what to expect/how to interview, and transportation is all fine. The way kids learn is by someone teaching them, so being completely hands off doesn’t work either.
          One question- is your son interested and motivated to find a job? From when I hired teenagers it usually came across who was interviewing because THEY wanted to work and who was doing it because their parents told them they had to get a job but didn’t care. MOST teenage jobs here are taking anyone who applies so it’s not unusual his friends are all getting the first job they applied for.

        3. Sunflowers*

          I think you are taking the right approach. I brainstormed with my daughter (16) on which businesses might be hiring, and she got many more ideas from networking with her friends.
          I did drive her one day of the job search because she was unsure of how to get to that area of town, but I stayed in the car and she walked around town to ask if places were hiring and to fill out applications. One place interviewed her on the spot and then hired her. The other places never got back her. So I’d say have your son just keep trying and ask his friends where they have gotten jobs. I view it as a big learning experience, and that is most important- the experience she got through talking to businesses, applying, interviewing.

    4. Mental Lentil*

      As someone who has hired and managed teenagers in the past, I hire teenagers, not parents.

      Your friend is over the top. I would never hire her son. He will learn nothing from this experience.

      1. Here we go again*

        +1 I won’t work with teenagers ever again. I’d do schedules twice a month, and the part time help always worked the same shifts for simplicity. Employees had weeks to request time off for plans weeks in advance in a calendar by the register, everyone knew where it was. Two days before a shift teenager would say “I can’t work Christmas Eve or the 26th my mom is taking us skiing out of town.” I’d say “Why didn’t you tell me a month ago? You’ve already had 2 no call no shows. If you miss work and call in for this reason you’ll be let go.” She threatened to sick her mom on me. I had to remind her that her paycheck came in her name not her moms, and her responsibility to request time off when needed in a reasonable amount of time in advance. She never showed up for her shift, and mom never called corporate, I think her mom had more sense that to get involved. She was terminated for job abandonment.
        Another parent was great with her kid at work, she even told her daughter about the job and she’d drop off her daughter. But I think teenagers think they can sick their parents on their employer or manager like they can their teachers. But the dynamic is completely different.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        Her son was hired for the first job she applied to for him. I wouldn’t have hired him either, because it’s not like she’s going to work his shifts!

        1. Here we go again*

          Yeah I wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t fill out the application themselves.

    5. IDK*

      I am in your same situation. I have encouraged my son and given him some suggestions of places to apply, but right now he has no desire. He also has no responsibilities financially at 15, so he drive may come soon with the desire for gas and such.

      My aunt on the other hand, for my cousin who just graduated college, is the one sending out resumes for him. I don’t know if she scheduled the interviews or not, but I still think this is to much. He’s an adult. With an expensive education. He should be able to navigate obtaining a job at this point.

      I think you are doing fine. I get the frustration and we tend to compare ourselves to other parents and where our kids are at points in life, but we shouldn’t. I still have to remind myself of this some times. Our kids will get there. Hopefully when they do, they will know how to stand up for themselves and what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior because they have had to navigate it themselves with only guidance from us and not us doing it for them.

    6. Alex*

      The parent should have no involvement that the employer is aware of.

      The parent can encourage the teen to look for a job (or require it of the teen!), give advice to the teen when asked, like what outfit to wear to the interview, etc., and help figure out transportation. The parent should have no contact with the employer whatsoever.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      My son got his job on his own. He’s 16 (and extremely immature but motivated with a car and expenses). I think timing and networking with their peers are key. He applied in early spring and got a lawn and garden position. The hiring manager told him they need to hire ~20 people so he referred a friend, and that kid had a job soon too. I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk to the hiring manager at all. I don’t hire teenagers, but I would NOT hire someone whose mom did all their negotiation. The exception would be the case where the parent personally knows the business owner or something like that, but the only convo should be to get the foot in the door, not the job details.

      1. allathian*

        Yay, congrats to your son! I bet he’ll mature a lot thanks to working, as well. Having to deal professionally with adults who are neither your parents nor your teachers tends to do that.

    8. D3*

      I’ve brainstormed with them a list of places they could apply, practiced interview questions with them, and helped them fill out their IRS withholding forms and direct deposit forms. That’s the extent of my help with job hunting and hiring.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        D3, that’s about the extent of it here, too! We talked about what kind of questions to expect in the interview, what kind of questions would be good for him to ask, what to wear…and the first application he did (online) I helped him navigate but he still had to fill it out on his own. We also talked about what he’s good at and enjoys, and what jobs might fit best. I still felt kind of helicopterish.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          To me you sound right on target. All my parents ever said was, “Did you get a job yet?” Zero coaching, nothing, nada. There was never any discussion about what to do with my life, what types of work interested me, etc. Honestly, I don’t think they gave it a moment’s thought. “Your problem, kiddo. Figure it out.”

          I tend to be a fan of handing out fishing poles not fish. I am more like you, “here’s the overall idea, now you try…” type of thing. I do think that you can answer any specific questions he comes up with. And I think looking for him to initiate conversation would be good.

          I think that you are fine and your friend is going to have a long road ahead of her.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I agree. I think that things were a bit different when I was looking for my first job in high school in the late 80s. My mom saw an ad in the paper, a local grocery store chain was looking for employees for the summer. I applied, had a short interview (I think they offered a trial period to pretty much everyone who showed up) and got some basic training for a few days and then they assigned me to a store within a few blocks from home. I did well enough that a few weeks before I was due to go back to school, the store manager asked if I’d be interested in doing a few shifts a week during the school year. I accepted and worked about 20 hours a week in my junior and senior year. It has to be said, though, that I didn’t have any extracurriculars, my job was my extracurricular. But I’m also in an area where only academic achievements count for getting into college, so that didn’t bother me.

            I got the job because I wanted Levi’s, and while my parents were willing to buy clothes for me, if I wanted brand name stuff I had to pay for it myself.

    9. Juneybug*

      This is what we did and didn’t do as parents with our teenager son and daughter –
      DID:
      1. Talked to our kids about job responsibilities (show up early or on time, have your uniform clean and ready to go, etc.).
      2. How to research for jobs (newspapers, online, ask others about open positions…).
      3. How to apply for jobs and interview (wear nice dress clothes, fill in out areas of application, practice answers for questions, etc.).
      4. Talked about profession behavior (be present, help others, do not be on your cell phone unless it’s break time, don’t whine, etc.).
      5. What employers can and can’t do (they can not ask you to leave school early for work, they can leave message on your cell while you are in class, they can not be rude to you, they can ask you to clean the bathrooms even if that is not your job, they should have safety procedures in place, etc.).
      6. Encourage them to ask questions to both us and their supervisor (why is my paycheck so low after taxes?, how do I do this task?, etc.).
      DIDN’T DO:
      1. We did not let our children miss school for work. Education was number 1 priority.
      2. We let them work as many hours as they wanted to on the weekends (they had to be home after their 10 PM shift ended on weeknights).
      3. We did not drive our kids to and from work, unless they asked in advance.

      Funny story – our son applied to a fast food restaurant and the manager asked in a snaky manner if he had a resume (which was totally unusual for this position, culture, and time – year 2005). He said no but he would provide one the next day. So we both stayed up late creating his first ever resume (he had asked for my help). Next day, he took his resume to the manager. She was astonished and hired him on the spot (no interview other than to ask what hours he was available). She later told my son that she started doing that as her method of weeding out teenagers who would not put in the effort and therefore, not be hired. She turned out to be a great boss. Our son worked there for two years before joining the military.

      1. Here we go again*

        When it wasn’t working out at my stepdaughters last job I told her of a place I knew that was hiring across the street from where I worked that was always holding open interviews.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Honestly, how obnoxious of that manager. I mean, good for you and your kid, but you shouldn’t have had to stay up late for that when it wasn’t made clear ahead of time. (What about the kids whose parents weren’t available to help, or the kids who didn’t have computer access?)
        As fast food so often goes, this was about hiring someone who’d ask “how high” when told to jump, not about hiring a reasonably dedicated worker.

    10. Happy Lurker*

      I pushed my eldest to apply and get a summer job. They did one shift and were not called back. It was customer service. My eldest child disliked it. The following summer eldest WANTED a job. I reached out to contacts and got them a job. It was manual labor and the kind of job they wanted. They excelled at it for 2 consecutive summers. So much so, that my contact made a point of stopping me and telling me what a good job eldest did.

      My middle wanted a job with different contacts and I refused. I wanted them to get their own job. Middle got a job and worked for 3 weeks of very sporadic training, unpaid. Came home crying after first full shift. Place was toxic. I made them quit immediately, no one should be treated they way they were treated. I reached out to contacts and got middle a job. Middle was there for 3 summer in a row.
      After getting both my children the jobs initially, I never had contact with employers again. I do help the kids behind the scenes with phrasing texts for time off, etc. I do drive them to and from work, when needed. Neither place even had a job application. Although, I have helped with prior applications.
      Hotdog friend sounds pretty involved. I am more hands off than that. My eldest says I am the apache helicopter parent. I am hovering around somewhere out of sight, but ready to fly in and support or rescue at a moments notice. ;)
      *Note: both employers were small businesses, not a grocery or department store or chain with specific hiring procedures.

    11. Katie*

      I’d say somewhere in between the two approaches. I can see deciding what job (esp. if you’re going to be the one driving) and filling out the application (but having your kid sit with you while you do it, explaining what you’re doing). But meeting with the manager and negotiating salary is too far.

      Also, I think it depends on the age of the kid. The younger they are, the more help I would give them.

      Also also, getting a job and working a job are two different skill sets. What is your main end goal? If it’s that your kid has a summer job, giving them more help seems legit. They can learn how to WORK the job, and next time learn how to apply for another job. If it’s that they learn how to apply for a job/get a job, then more coaching/less overt doing is the way to go.

      1. Katie*

        Also also also, if it’s really important to you and your kid that they have a summer job this year, you could give yourself a time limit to try the less hands on way and see if that garners a job, and then after that time limit, switch to more hands on help, and see if that results in a job.

  20. Alice*

    This week has been my first at NewJob, and I’m so glad I took the plunge! It’s still early days, but everyone has been so very helpful and friendly, and training is genuinely interesting! I’m very tired but also happy. :)

    As a bonus this position is mostly remote, I went into the office on Monday but I’ve been home the rest of the week, and next week will be WFH too. It was one of my big motivations for leaving… My commute is now two hours rather than 10 minutes, but I’d rather go into the office when there’s a real business need rather than being there all the time because management likes to see butts in seats.

    No real question, just glad to have this community, the interview advice and scripts for tricky situations are invaluable.

  21. Anon E. Moose*

    Hi all, I posted in the thread at the end of May about an internal job I had applied for and had decided not to take. I was asking if I should wait and see if they chose me (and possibly see about a counter-offer) or withdraw. I used the weekend to confirm my decision not to take it and was going to withdraw when I returned to work on Tuesday (holiday). Before I could, I found out in the morning that they had contacted my references so I went ahead and withdrew my application ASAP so they could shift gears. They were disappointed (as I was their first choice) but understood my reasoning.

    I am happy with my decisioow n, it was nice to and they were able to hire someone else in time!

    1. Anon E. Moose*

      ETA due to browser hiccup: I am happy with my decision, it was nice to know they had chosen me without putting them in a tough spot, and they were able to hire someone else in time!

  22. Ace in the Hole*

    How many plants is too many for the office?

    I have setup with a corner desk in a small open plan office (4 other people work in the room). I also like plants. Right now I have three small potted plants on my desk, a trailing vine on top of my filing cabinet, and a small (12″ pot, total height under 4 ft, not very bushy) Monster Plant on the floor in the corner.

    Is this too many? My plants are all out of the way, don’t block any walkways or access to anything, but I don’t want to be the crazy plant lady.

    1. Long Furby*

      Totally dependent on your workplace. My small cube farm has a row of windows stuffed with plants. Like 10+. We got an email the summer I started about being more careful with watering schedules as we got gnats, but other than that, no one seems to care. There appears to be leniency for our non public facing basement dwelling dept.

    2. 12312312*

      As long as they are out of the way and don’t block anything and aren’t a nusiance. I see nothing wrong with being the crazy plant lady :) Now if youre unable to properly use your desk, thats another thing. There has been a crazy plant lady or man everywhere I’ve worked. I’ve had some odd comments but generally I think the plants bring people some joy, or otherwise atleast breaks up their day a little.

    3. Joielle*

      I think that sounds fine, but I am admittedly a crazy plant lady. As long as you have enough space on your desk to actually work, and you don’t spend hours a week caring for them, that would be fine everywhere I’ve worked!

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      My officemate has about a dozen plants. Other than the occasional person who stops in to ask her about the plants and plant care, it doesn’t seem to matter at all.

    5. Hotdog not dog*

      As long as they’re healthy and cared for, not taking up so much room that you can’t work effectively, and not so numerous as to create a distraction, they’re fine!

    6. Anonymous Hippo*

      I have that many stuffed animals on my desk, and I’m pretty sure plants are more “office appropriate” than stuffies lol. Doesn’t sound like a problem to me.

    7. JimmyJab*

      As long as you don’t allow them to get pests – this happened in my office and that led to folks wanting to ban all plants. PS, I’m a plant obsessed lady and realize sometimes plants get pests and you can’t do much about it.

    8. Coenobita*

      I was the crazy plant lady at a previous workplace and nobody cared. For a couple years, I sat in a converted conference room that was basically a greenhouse (it occasionally hit 90F in the summer, even with A/C) so I figured I might as well take advantage of it!

      My advice: keep in mind what will happen if/when you quit, go on leave, or move offices. My previous job moved office buildings three times in eight years and it was a pain in the butt moving all my plants from place to place!

  23. No Tribble At All*

    Advice for applying for a mentoring program? My (huge) org has a formal mentorship program where you fill in an application form and they match you up. I’m thinking about applying as a mentee, but most of what I want to get out of the mentorship is advice on how to move to other jobs at this organization. My current role has a cool mission but boring day-to-day and to be honest was kind of a step back for me (which I knew! I just wanted to get my foot in the door at Org). So, most of what I want is “learn more about different roles and responsibilities and how to move into those” since I haven’t been able to meet those people in person and talk to them.

    How do I put that down as my reason for wanting mentoring? I don’t want to sound like I have one foot out the door– I don’t at all! I just want to move up out of this entry-level role.

    1. elle*

      I think TONS of people get into mentoring for advice on career progression – that’s not unusual at all! And that’s encouraged at many companies (like my current company) where moving people up and around is highly valued. As long as you frame as progressing in your career within the org, that shouldn’t stand out as unusual or “one foot out the door” at a reasonable organization.

    2. Employee of the Bearimy*

      This is what you call “career path guidance.” It’s a very understandable reason for wanting mentoring and it’s probably one of the main reasons your company offers it. It won’t look odd to write it that way.

    3. Zidy*

      In addition to what elle and Bearimy have said, if you’re worried about sounding like you’re job searching, just put in something about how you love the company and its mission, but you’d hoping to get a better understanding of all the moving parts and hope a mentor will help guide you through this. And then go into the whole career pathing stuff.

    4. Fran Fine*

      Say exactly what you just said here – seriously. That’s what their mentorship program is likely for. The company would rather you learned from a mentor about other positions in the company and possibly apply to one of their open roles in the future instead of leaving altogether. I applied to my company’s formal mentoring program early last year because I was in your exact same spot, was accepted, and then was promoted effective this week into another role in another division thanks to a tip from my mentor!

  24. Your friendly neighborhood Zen Buddhist*

    What do you do after your dream dies?

    I changed careers recently from my “dream” career that I got my two degrees in and found a lot of purpose in. However, it wasn’t really a “dream” after awhile (last job was pretty terrible) and I’m not sure I’d ever want to go back. Now I’m working in a better paying, much more stable job and feeling a bit lost. Has anyone ever gone through something similar?

    1. kbeers0su*

      Yessss. I was in a field that required a lot of after-hours and on-call work, everything was a priority to higher-ups (but not really) and we were constantly putting out fires that were really just minor things that some person didn’t like. BUT I loved the core work and had a degree in the field. I switched fields a year ago to something adjacent, but with better pay, strict 9-5 hours, and where the work is rarely urgent. It’s weird, but I think it’s because I’m less emotionally invested because my “clientele” are not as in-need as my previous set of clientele. So it feels…like less important work? I’m trying to adjust using Alison’s many articles about toxic workplaces/toxic behaviors in workplaces to remind myself that the things I described in the beginning of this post are not ok.

    2. Grace*

      You find ways to enjoy the parts of the dream you like/love, but outside of a work context, if that makes sense.

      In my case, I discovered that working all the time with the thing I loved made me start to avoid the thing I loved outside of work. It turned something I had loved into a chore. I was lucky enough to get into a different field, and now I can happily enjoy the thing I loved once more without it feeling like WORK.

    3. elle*

      I am going through this exact thing right now. My ‘dream’ required being an entrepreneur and sadly that meant that when I needed to get back into normal employment it counted against me and I had to start even lower on the pay scale than I was at 21 right out of college. It’s been 2.5 years now and I’ve worked my way up to the exact job I had right out of college and I’m trying to redefine my goals and career from here on out.

      One option is deciding to compartmentalize work as just work, and not such a huge part of my identity as it was before. Thinking about work as serving me, providing me with stable income without too much stress so I can be happy and fulfilled in other ways.

    4. longtimelurker*

      Yes. I’m working using my degree but basically found out interning during my masters that my chosen career path was very underpaid and underappreciated, as well as being difficult to get into. It’s a struggle when a lot of my colleagues etc still think I should be somewhere “better” (read more prestigious) but like… sometimes it’s ok for the dream to die.

    5. BRR*

      This is going to sound harsh but have lower expectations with your job/career. And I’m speaking from experience with that. Look for fulfillment outside of work.

    6. JRR*

      In my life the answer was, “Get a hobby.”

      I left college with the expectation of eventually landing a dream job related to my science degree. But now in my 40s I find myself in a generic 9-5 office job. The upside is it leaves me with enough of time, money and energy to pursue music as a hobby.

      Even though I don’t make much money at it, I’ve come to think of my hobby as my primary occupation. Which is way better than having a dream job.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Think deeper about what drew you to that career, and look for other types of work that can be use your sttengths in an equally meaningful way.

      Or, in metaphorical terms, dream more. You don’t just get one dream in life, you can dream all kinds of things.

      1. Fran Fine*

        You don’t just get one dream in life, you can dream all kinds of things.

        I love this, and it’s so true.

    8. Hillary*

      Yes. Try to give yourself space to grieve for the dream, you’ll find new ones soon. I felt lost for a while when I went from a toxic job to a reasonable one. It took months to internalize that I wasn’t at the awful place anymore, then everything else started opening up mentally.

    9. Frankie Bergstein*

      This was and is me. I feel like I’m still in the transition. It was hard at first, and I still feel it some days — I miss the idea of a career that I had. But I have spare time, spare money, and low-stress. I wouldn’t have had that with my “dream” career. I’ve never had so many resources available to me (i.e., time, money, social connections from living in one place) before.

      Thinking of my job as just a job and investing more in my personal life than ever before (friends, community, health, marriage, local mutual aid, activism, creative hobbies) is the balance I’m trying to strike. I’m not there quite yet. My inclination is to volunteer and use all of those resources to give back, and I’m doing that (see above, mutual aid) but it feels like there’s something I’m missing.

      Overall, I am enjoying it though! I’m not really looking back at those dysfunctional, high-stress “dream” jobs. I think my disappointment is less than I gave up on my dream job/field, but that the system we all live in makes my dream career so incredibly unlivable. It’s such important work!

      For me, there’s lots of camping, reading, naps, peaceful mornings, meeting new folks (still mostly online), and I’m okay with seeing how this goes for awhile.

    10. Teapot supervisor*

      In addition to what others have said about compartmentalizing work, there’s also accepting that dreams evolve. It’s perfectly ok for goals to shift as priorities do. I’ve shift my career more towards back office and, yes, I miss being on the front line. It’s where all the action is! But it also comes with longer hours, job insecurity and lower pay (at least per hour actually worked – some frontline jobs pay way more than my back office one but the person doing also never sleeps). And my life right now is in a place where that’s just not a trade-off I want to make.

      It’s worth looking at the comments on here to the ‘I keep breaking my own heart by turning down great job offers’ question from 2019. Lots of the commentators on there make the point I’m trying to make much more eloquently than I am right now!

    11. Not So NewReader*

      “What do you do after your dream dies?”

      I decided I needed to be more reality based. I needed to be able to put into words what I needed in a job and what were deal breakers. For some reason this was hard for me.

      I think that daydreams give us clues, they can point the way to what we are naturally good at, where we are happiest, the types of environments that help us to grow and other key things.

      I do think that listening to others around us can help. “Oh you are so good at x!” or “Wow, how did you do y so fast?” or “Thanks for the help on z, you really bailed us out!” Don’t blow by these comments in passing. Pay attention. Look for common threads.

    12. Anono-me*

      Volunteer.

      When I was very young, I wanted a very different career than the one I have (which I also love). But all the ancillary stuff was a total nightmare and only getting worse. And the pay was peanuts. So I built a career and volunteered in my passion. When I retire, I hope to step up my volunteering. (A nice thing about volunteering in a chronically underserved and underfunded area is that smart organizations treat credentialed volunteers like gold.)

    13. tamarack and fireweed*

      Maybe this is something you can relate to… I was initially on a super-academic, highly abstract path. I knew it was competitive, but I frankly had no idea what that meant and no notion that as the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college there was a lot that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. I was brought up in the ethos of “if you’re good enough, they’ll want you”. And I always had been “good enough”. Then I went into a graduate program, preparing for what I thought was my dream job…. and pretty much wilted away. Became depressed. Didn’t know what to do about it. Yadda, yadda. Dropped out, jobbed to get a teaching qualification, tried teaching and again, it didn’t work out.

      I took it *very* hard that the academic/scholarly world had, apparently, not just rejected me but, as I felt it, chewed me up, spit me out, and ground me into the dust.

      A path forward was needed, though, and I looked to the tech industry. I had skills, but they were scattershot, and I had no formal credentials in practical technology applications. Some friends helped me get some basic understanding how to fill some of the gaps. But I was a far cry from being anywhere close to the top of the heap. I entered through tech support, working for a mediocre company on an at-best-mediocre product. But it was a proper tech company, and I learned *so*much* about how industry works, how to be a techie. I describe it as the time of embracing mediocrity. My instincts helped, but I had to deal with a lot of condescension from people with better qualifications though not necessarily great skills/instincts. But I got recognition. Was laid off after 4 years, got another,, better, tech job quite easily.

      Then I wanted to get to a different geographical area, and the best way was to apply for tech jobs at a university. I got one, with the operations of a research station. And after a year I was pulled in again toward the science side. Very different than the first time – extremely applied science. Very much building on my tech industry skills, though I’m using my old credentials too.

      Obviously now I’m far from being the bright young early-career thing – still early career, but not young at all, and not mobile like my early-career peers. So who knows if I will stick in this line of academic research – but I know that I can go back to the tech industry, skills-wise. Even if it were to be a step-down in prestige, it would pay better too :-) .

      So I’ve left behind the idea of dream job. I *do* want to do meaningful work, and I do prefer to work on something that helps people deal with natural hazards, or increases our understanding of some natural phenomeon to helping Nestlé do better marketing, but I’m not wedded to one way of having a fulfilling career.

    14. Kinship*

      For me: therapy.

      I needed support to grieve my dream. I needed dedicated time and space to process becoming a different person than the one I thought I’d become. I needed help reframing all of it to understand that a career doesn’t define me, or make me lovable, or make me worthy, and to get in touch with what I *do* value now.

      Maybe that resonates for you, maybe it doesn’t. Personally I was extremely successful in the new career and still needed a LOT of help to make sense of it all.

    15. Wordybird*

      All I ever wanted to do growing up was become a writer. In high school and early college, I dreamed of living in NYC as an editor for a major publishing company. Then I met my ex, and I got married instead the day after I graduated from college. I spent the next 15 years raising children and trying to extricate myself from that relationship. I worked off-and-on during the marriage but nothing steady or on a career path.

      I’m now in my 40s and while I have a job that pays the bills and is communications-adjacent, it is not being a writer or an editor. Obviously, things have changed a lot in publishing since I graduated from college so that’s not an industry to pursue now, anyways. There are lots of things that I wish I could or would have done in my 20s and 30s, personally and professionally, but it is what it is.

      I can either continue to mourn the dreams that died or give life to new ones. I have to be intentional about reframing it that way but it does help. I am more than just my job so while I can’t have that particular dream anymore, I can have different job-related ones and/or I can have other dreams that my non-dream job makes possible.

      1. jolene*

        Anyways, plenty of us are writers and editors and do very well out of it! Why do you think it’s “not an industry to pursue”?

  25. Binky*

    Interview Question – how do you talk about thoughts/plans that stem from a prior employer’s failures without sounding unprofessional? 

    I’m preparing for an interview for a job that’s very tangential to my career so far. Basically an HR position for the job I had previously had. I’m super interested in this role in part because the company I’m interviewing with seems to have spotted and attempted to address many of the issues I had with my last company. But when I think of trying to explain my interest, or some of my thought processes or prior work, I’m having trouble phrasing them without throwing my former employer under the bus. Things like – I advocated for the hiring of a minority intern, and ran into roadblocks that led to her not being hired, so I think it’s important to address those roadblocks by X, Y, Z to prevent such problems or I saw women taking and returning from maternity leave deal with these hurdles, and I’d address that by A, B, C, etc. 

    I was laid off from my last job due to Covid, so I want to be especially careful about not seeming bitter. I actually really liked a lot of the people at my last company, and I’m using some of them as references, but they just lacked systems that they really needed. It was incredibly frustrating at the time, and I actually did some advocating to put some systems in place before I was laid-off. I just don’t know how to talk about the advocacy without getting too much into the frustration. Help?

    1. elle*

      I personally would say things like “I’m attracted to your company because I noticed you do a great job at X, and I’ve worked at places that aren’t as far ahead at that s you are and seen how important it is” type of statement — not naming any company, not even bringing up specifics of exact bad situations.

    2. Reba*

      You don’t even have to compare it to previous workplaces *at all* to get this idea across.
      “I’m interested in working at a place that is walking the walk on inclusive policies”
      “It’s important to me that my workplace reflect the makeup of my community and actively develop marginalized talent”

      1. Binky*

        The issue is that the role itself would focus on issues of inclusion and equity. I’m trying to figure out how best to show that I’ve recognized problems and advocated for solutions during my career, and thus would be a good fit for the role, without speaking too negatively about prior employers. Some of my answer to “tell me about a time” questions would be totally neutral, but some of the stuff that I think speaks most strongly to my dedication to equity came up because of my previous employer’s failures.

        1. Reba*

          Ah, I was imagining like a “why do you want to work here” question.

          For a question about your experience, I think the way you phrased it in your post is perfectly fine and not accusatory. You could phrase things as being a bit distanced or passive-voice — so not, “my manager blocked this” but “unfortunately, the systems were not set up to [whatever], this showed me that my advocacy alone without support wasn’t going to be enough to accomplish [goals].” I don’t think it’s bad-mouthing!

          1. HelenofWhat*

            I completely agree here! I would see it as a plus that you can speak to what structures were needed and what you would’ve liked to see.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          You might be able to turn it into something you read or heard from a friend and thus avoid mentioning your old company.

          OR you could treat it as answering this question, “How did you move your company from awkward or unethical situation x, in a manner that was digestible and caused people to change what they were doing?”
          This could be a question about gracefulness or your ability to get groups of people going in the same direction.

          Remember you do not have to use the worst examples you have in order to make your point. This is a pit I fall into. I always think that I have to talk about Really Tough Situation A in order to drive my points home and ace the interview. That’s just not true. I can talk about Moderate Situation B and still make the same point. You don’t have to review the toughest things you have ever faced.

        3. Gloucesterina*

          I feel that especially that if the role is explicitly a DEI role, the interviewers will be prepared and eager to hear about your story about why you care about this work and are interested in the position.

          They will recognize that you intentionally recognizing barriers to equity in any given organization or position doesn’t equal you willfully badmouthing–you are giving these examples in order to supply substantive information about you as a candidate and your personal understanding of what being successful in this area entails. It also gives you an opportunity to gauge whether your definition of “success” and theirs are on the same page, same planet, etc. which is pretty crucial info for you.

    3. not a doctor*

      For prior work examples, I’d just talk about the things *you* actively did. You advocated for the hiring of a minority intern, period. You helped women returning from maternity leave do XYZ. You were developing a program for ABC, etc.

      If they do ask about the ultimate outcome, you can say, “Unfortunately, circumstances [in another department, higher up the company, beyond my control, etc.] led to that internship going unfilled, but–” and either pivot to something concrete you have an outcome for, or something you created/planned for the internship if it had happened.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Agree with this — the challenges in diverse hiring and parental leave are well known, so you can say “I worked to identify and eliminate roadblocks in hiring diverse candidates for our internship program” — “I worked to facilitate return to work after parental leave by doing XYZ.” If they ask you about your success, you can say mild things like “unfortunately, there were other priorities and not everything was implemented” or whatever.

    4. Soup of the Day*

      I think you can phase it as “I’m passionate about X and I’m excited to see that your company has a dedicated history of working on these issues,” and just be vague about your past experience – like “this is something I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with in the past/something that’s in the news a lot/something I know is important for workplace culture” without mentioning a specific past employer. At that point they’re free to ask you to elaborate if they want to hear more, but you’re keeping the approach positive instead of focusing on someone else’s negatives.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to implement a strong culture of X in practical ways, and I’m excited about the ways your company has approached it.

  26. Mouse*

    I’m curious about whether your companies are seeing evidence of the “Great Resignation”. We’ve had pretty high turnover lately and I’m wondering if it’s an Us Problem or if there really is a more large-scale pattern. Are you seeing high turnover? Are your companies hiring a lot? Are you having a hard time finding candidates?

    1. Long Furby*

      One department at my workplace is nearing 100% turnover, and we’re not the only one at or organization. Hard to say on hiring though, I’m not involved in that part.

    2. elle*

      My company pays well, has good benefits and a pretty great culture – especially a culture of encouraging moving around within the company until you find the right fit. We aren’t seeing mass resignations at all, and we just did an engagement survey that came back with close to 90% satisfaction over many thousands of employees. I think if companies are seeing mass resignations that would have been avoidable if they had made themselves a good place to work.

      1. LKW*

        Completely agree. My company has seen the same level of attrition in prior years. While some people are excited to get back to face to face engagement, the company has done a lot to keep us engaged while fully remote.

    3. Malarkey01*

      Just for context- white collar office company with above average salaries and employees skew older. We went 100% remote March 2020 (with the exception of a handful of building maintenance people responsible for keeping the buildings stable) and they were extremely flexible with schedules to accommodate childcare. We actually saw less turnover this year, BUT as we start to talk about returning to the office in some hybrid capacity in the fall we’re seeing a huge number of people who have announced end of year retirements (like quadruple normal numbers and it’s early for people to be making plans known). Some of that is the age demo here in general, but it sounds like a lot of eligible people just don’t want to go back once the flexibility goes away.

      1. Junimo the Hutt*

        We went 50% remote in March 2020 because people still needed to work in the labs (with great flexibility), but my company also skews older. I’ve never attended that many (virtual for me) retirement parties in a single year as I have during the pandemic. And come to think of it, most of them were from the staff working on-site throughout…

        On the other hand, we did get slammed and had to triple our output at the beginning of the pandemic, so I don’t know if it was pandemic-related or if it was no end in sight to needing lots of overtime to compensate + a bit of an inadvertent hiring freeze that caused it.

      2. Fran Fine*

        Since March 2020, my company has seen a ton of retirements too. Like you, I think these are people nearing retirement age (or are already there), and they just don’t want to deal with possibly coming back to work in an office. Many of the retirees’ bios on our intranet site say they plan to travel, so there’s that.

    4. TiffIf*

      I’m in software and we’ve had 4 developers resign in the past 6 months. Even though they’re hiring it doesn’t make up the gap (because of ramp up/training time) so our head of development has had to tell product that some of the things they want are needing to be pushed back 6 months because of it.

    5. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      My department has lost 6 analysts in the last couple of months. There was a hiring freeze for most of 2020 and they were incredibly overworked/understaffed, with a boss with no institutional knowledge who started one week before everyone got sent home to work remotely (our office just opened up this past week).

      I’m pretty sure these folks were just biding their time until Covid numbers started going down and the job market rebounded, and now that that’s happened in our area they are running for the hills.

      1. Tired Accountant*

        There has been quite a bit of turnover where I work, accountants and engineers mostly. We were treated like crap the past year, then the company culture wasn’t great to begin with so people are taking advantage of new jobs being posted. I’m working on finding a new job and can’t wait to put in my notice.

    6. Elle*

      Yes. I work for a public health non profit which has always had grant funded low paying jobs. People are quitting with low pay the reason for leaving. There’s always been an understanding that the jobs are low pay but with cost of living so high people can’t do it anymore.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Same. I work for a youth development nonprofit and while salary has been part of why many people have left in the past, for the first time we had someone resign specifically because of the salary. I hope this is a wake-up call for the leadership.

      2. JelloStapler*

        Exactly. Our organization has not in any way kept up with COL and we’re below market rate as is- people are getting tired of it and the “mission” is not enough.

    7. JelloStapler*

      We started having turnover issues even before the pandemic but it is certainly continuing at a rapid pace. A lot of it just has to do with our industry and organization, workload and salary issues as well as the response of our administration to all these issues.

    8. Irish girl*

      Yes, we are feeling it right now. It seems like in the first 6 month of the pandemic, no one left and then there was this rush of people moving jobs internally and externally. There are so many jobs open on the career site right now. My whole team is new compared to what it was last year in July including a new manager. This is all happening before we have even fully reopened to in person work and our company hasn’t forced on-mass people to work any specific way.

    9. mediamaven*

      Very very high turnover. Our industry has always had an issue but right now it’s insane. The recruiters are out there and there’s not much that can be done to curtail it.

    10. Chaordic One*

      During the pandemic our turnover rate dropped. We implemented WFH and I think that then, people were just happy to have a job and happy to stay put. Since people started getting vaccinated, beginning in May or so, we’ve seen more resignations than usual, but I suspect that many of those people would have resigned sooner if not for the pandemic. It seems to be a case of pent-up desire to resign resulting in more resignations than usual now.

      My workplace is hiring a lot for reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic. They are having problems finding as many qualified candidates as they would like. To compensate they are now hiring a lot of people who are not as well-qualified as they would like. The new hires are still “qualified.” They are NOT “unqualified.” However, they are not “as qualified” as the people doing the hiring would like.

      I think this is going to work out O.K. The new hires might require a bit more training and hand-holding to get them fully on board but, as a bonus, we seem to now be hiring a more diverse group of people. Yay!

    11. Generic Name*

      Yes. We’ve had several folks leave to move “back east” to be closer to family. We are very remote friendly, and two people are able to work remotely from their new states, but at least one person wanted to keep working for us but did too much fieldwork to be able to work from another state. I think the pandemic has really made people realize that being near family is important to them.

    12. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. I work for a large company and first it was furloughs, then layoffs, and in the last few months since the new year, a lot of quitting. Overall, the company treated people well during the Pandemic, but I think a lot of people are just moving on to other roles. Ours is not a growing or exciting industry.

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

      I’ve noticed that a lot of the people who were less than 5 years to expected retirement have all suddenly decided to retire now rather than later; about the pre-pandemic average amount of turnover in the aged 35-59 crowd; and a lot of turn over in the younger than 35 group.

    14. The Dude Abides*

      In my old department, I left in March, big boss (who started right as the pandemic hit) retired in May, and boss (who started in August) is leaving.

      The head of HR is terrible and slow, and her slowness has had real consequences – my old role doesn’t even have a temp (which is one reason my boss cited in leaving), and the role I’m in now was vacant for well over a year because the offers made to the first round of interviewees came so late that every single one had already taken jobs elsewhere.

    15. Decidedly Me*

      No turnover issues. Hiring has been harder, though. We’re getting a lot more applicants that are bad fits and places we used to advertise jobs on don’t seem to have the same types of candidates looking anymore (or maybe it’s just harder to sort though with the increased volume of applicants).

    16. Fran Fine*

      My company is hiring a lot, and I just got promoted and transferred to another department because of it. I’m not sure about resignations or how hard it may or may not be to hire for our open roles, but I don’t imagine there are a ton of the former – I’m in tech and my company has always been open to working from home (I’ve been fully remote for over two years now), and as far as I know, no one is being forced back into our offices per a mandate from HR that says that people need to use their own discretion in this area. If anyone is concerned or not ready to come back, HR has said they need to work with their manager to come up with a remote game plan until they do feel comfortable going back in.

    17. asteramella*

      My org is experiencing extremely high turnover. Some of the turnover is explicitly due to employees realizing as we return to the office that they’d really prefer fully remote roles. However, I think upper leadership is blaming too much of the turnover on the pandemic. A lot of turnover is among more tenured staff who are unhappy with some unrelated decisions my org is taking. (I am one of the longest tenured employees in my department, and I’m job-hunting as well, for reasons that have nothing to do with the pandemic or the state of our industry as a whole.)

    18. Wordybird*

      I work for a small company (less than 20 people) that lost 1 manager, 1 associate, and 2 newcomers (less than 3 months) this past year. I’m not sure that they were directly COVID-related but 2 of them were because they were able to secure more money elsewhere which could be because of COVID turnover at those other companies and/or because my former coworkers’ partners were financially affected by COVID.

      I’m not part of hiring for the departments those people left so I don’t know if our candidate pool was affected in any way but we have replaced all of them + hired more people since the pandemic began.

  27. GigglyPuff*

    Is there a really well known online Project Management certification? Like an association? Or well regarded/universal online learning site? Instead of just a random one through a random e-learning site. My job is individual project management (as in my own projects assigned to me), but to move up, most of those jobs are heavily project management over multiple people either as manager or just involving more units than I currently deal with. So thinking about taking some classes to get a more formal project management mindset.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I have a Project+ cert. It would be more of a beginners PM cert, but CompTIA is a reputable company so it hold a little bit of weight. CompTIA is more about IT.technical programs, but the Project+ cert was more generalized to project management methods, calculating ROI, and teamwork methods. I actually learned quite a bit from the program.

    2. Mouse*

      Check out the Project Management Institute (PMI), you can find a ton of info on their site!

    3. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      PMI (Project Management Institute) is the international organization widely recognized as setting the standard for traditional project management. For agile/scrum, I believe it’s the SCRUM Alliance. Both organizations should be able to direct you to resources for taking courses either in person on online to prepare for their certification tests.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Good point. If this is for software development, one of the tech-specific ones may be better suited.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      PMP for the US. Prince II for the UK. There are other national certifying bodies if you’re elsewhere.

      But PMP is highly recognized internationally as well.

      (These can be quite different in the details btw.)

  28. Requesting to reclassify a firing*

    Reclassifying a firing as a layoff: What does this look like? How is it done?

    I was fired from a prior job, in retrospect—and obviously this is from my perspective—due to mismatched and uncommunicated expectations for the role that I wasn’t able to identify and therefore try to salvage in time. Nothing catastrophic, though my supervisor seems to have painted an unflattering picture of my work to HR. There was no PIP or other process attempting course correction leading up to the firing, and I did not have the opportunity to respond to anything my supervisor might have submitted as documentation or justification.

    I learned at the time this happened that I’m eligible for rehire, and have since learned that no one was ever hired as backfill in that role. A new position, with very different job description, was created on the team instead. (As an aside, I’m far from the only one who had trouble working under that supervisor—as far as I know they were new to managing when I joined the team, so perhaps others/HR now have a better sense of what kind of manager they are than was the case a handful of years ago.)

    I’ve seen advice here before to ask if the employer can reclassify the termination as a layoff in some situations, and I’d like to do so because it does seem like the team was restructured somewhat at the time of my departure. What should someone in my position include in an ask for this? From an HR perspective, what would make a compelling case?

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Can you help us understand what you think you would gain by this reclassification? You didn’t fit the role, you were let go, you are eligible for rehire (which is awesome), but this WAS a firing.

      1. Requesting to reclassify a firing*

        Applications sometimes ask about ever being fired, or reasons for leaving specific jobs. I’d like to avoid checking the “I’ve been fired” box, and I think “Changing expectations for the role/position was eliminated” accurately sums up why the job ended when it did regardless of how it’s classified, though I’d prefer transparency by including the nature of the departure.

        I’m trying to suss out the extent to which the advice I’ve seen on this site (that reclassification is possible in some situations) could apply here, since the “Well, it WAS a firing” impulse could also apply in those other situations as well, and if possible, how to go about it.

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          You just check the box for “I’ve been fired” and add that explanation. It’s a bad question, but they are really looking for people who stole, were fired for chronic lateness etc. I think of layoffs as RIF due to elimination of departments/consolidations/budget cuts etc. and that’s not what’s going on here. Or maybe I misunderstood the scenario. I’ve been let go a few times for bad fit, and it hasn’t harmed me in the least.

  29. Ama*

    Does anyone have recommendations for good online classes/tutorial videos for fairly basic level Microsoft Office Suite skills? I have a new report who is eager but inexperienced with PCs and there are things she doesn’t know how to do that are so basic I just can’t predict them (for example, we just had a morning of confusion because she messed up the time on an Outlook calendar invite, but sent a new one instead of either deleting the old one or just changing the time on the original, and also somehow managed to leave me off the new one so I didn’t know we had an issue until *my* boss asked why she had three invites for the same meeting on her calendar). We’ve had similar very basic issues with Excel and Word (she once told me “Word won’t let me open this file” when it was just one of the standard pop ups that happen when you download a file off the internet and it was just checking that you wanted to proceed).

    Once she understands she can do something, she’s fine but she clearly needs some material that will walk her through the basic functionality of these programs and we don’t have an IT staff with bandwidth to even recommend training resources much less develop them themselves. Programs with a one-time cost would be okay (I have a small professional development budget) but stuff that’s stuck in a subscription only service like Lynda/Linked In won’t work because my employer isn’t willing to sign up for those.

    Any advice would be welcome!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is getting some Dummies books from the public library not going to work for some reason?

      1. D3*

        Books get real outdated real fast. The publishing cycle + the library purchasing cycle means everything on the shelf software wise is very likely to be way out of date. I would never try to use a book from the library to learn software.

    2. asdfsdf*

      Is there someone on her team who could be the dedicated go-to for her to ask questions? Someone patient that doesn’t mind basic questions and is happy to help.

      1. elle*

        Agree – designate her a “mentor” or something that can help her. When I was new to an office environment I definitely needed help with basic stuff like that as well as things like “how do we sign off on our emails?” and other basic office culture things. It’s also a great development opportunity for the non-managerial person to get some training responsibilities in a soft and easy way to add to their resume and their skills.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Microsoft has a reasonably robust (as far as I can tell) training and support site that’s probably worth looking at, if it’s specifically Office you want her to learn more about. Not dropping a link into moderation, but I got there just by putting “Microsoft Office training” into Google.

      1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

        I was about to say this as a place to start if it really is basic stuff.

        If you Google “How to ___________ Microsoft Office” you’ll get some pretty good resources. Granted she has to know what she needs to know in order to do this herself…but it may save you some time if you only have to give her the key words to google or if you/a mentor does the search and send the link it to here.
        As a college prof, I had to learn that many of my students have minimal computer skills applicable to school/work and aren’t great at trouble shooting or even knowing where to look, so over the years I’ve made documents with links to directions for how to do basic things.
        As she finds useful resources, I strongly recommend she make up a document both for herself but for future employees with similar needs. Maybe make up a shared document for her (and anyone else) do drop resources into?

    4. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I will put a link to a free service, GCF Learn Free – they have a microsoft class(es).
      But her local library might have a subscription to LinkedIn Learning and they have lots of microsoft clases that she can do for free with a free library card. Everyone should be getting a card and using LinkedIn Learning if their library has it!

    5. university admin from home*

      My public library has access to Lynda, so it might be worth checking what resources your local library system(s) have for this kind of thing? (I think mine also offers very intro level classes like you want, but I suspect that is more likely to vary, since it requires staff to run.)

    6. JP in the heartland*

      I’ve worked at places that offered LinkedIn Learning (used to be called Linda, I think), and I heard the classes were pretty good and the price reasonable.

    7. beach read*

      I once took an intro class during the summer at our community college. They offer all sorts of non credit courses that aren’t overly expensive.

  30. Daisy Wooton*

    Any suggestions from readers regarding their preferred “slow paced” careers?? I’m combing job listings these days for admin and program coordinator jobs, and the phrase “fast paced environment” sets my teeth on edge. I just don’t enjoy that type of work anymore. But what does that leave me?? Any insights? Or is this something I have to consider on a job by job basis?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Employer by employer basis — typically government is more relaxed than industry, even if you’re a contractor and not a “true” federal employee.

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        Employer by employer basis I agree. Because I disagree that the government is a slow paced environment. The government program I’m on is super fast-paced.

    2. D3*

      “fast paced environment” = you’ll be expected to do miracles like produce 60 hours of work in a 40 hour work week. Deadlines will be unrealistic.

    3. StudentA*

      I’d like an answer to this too. Everywhere I apply and everywhere I’ve worked is “fast-paced” and want everything yesterday.

    4. Generic Name*

      The federal government is very slow paced. Anything that’s a big bureaucracy that uses a ton of processes tends to be slow paced.

      1. A Fed*

        Depends. I work at fed government agency. There are many times we work nights and weekends (without overtime pay or comp time for the most part). Some of our folks recently spent two years working six days a week til 10 pm every night, on a project with a specific deadline. Good thing we all believe in the mission.

    5. RagingADHD*

      If you have a legal-secretary or financial background (like EA or admin in a financial services area), I always found tax law and trust & estates to be very low-drama, deliberate pacing.

      There can be a bit of a push at year-end for tax, but it’s not usually hectic, just a bigger workload.

      Estates get a bit of a push when someone dies and a new case starts in probate, but again you’re looking at 60, 90, 120-day deadlines, so it’s not “fast-paced.”

      You’re also mostly dealing with people who are planning stuff far in advance, not crisis situations. Which is a much more relaxed mindset.

      1. Daisy Wooton*

        I have been an EA in higher ed with some financial/budgetary aspects to the role that I have enjoyed more than I expected. Would that experience possibly be applicable to the types of jobs you mentioned?

        1. RagingADHD*

          Possibly. It’s worth looking into. You might have to step back a bit in seniority, because they will want more legal-specific experience for more senior roles. But most of your skills would transfer just fine. I answered a question further down about some stuff I used to do as a legal sec, I’m sure most of it will be familiar to you as an EA.

    6. Wordybird*

      I don’t tend to put too much stock into a “fast-paced environment” just like I don’t when they say they want someone who can communicate or someone who’s a team player. These are obvious things everyone wants in a worker (or person), and they don’t carry any real weight.

      Admin/coordination jobs, in general, though, have lots going on so if that’s something you don’t enjoy, you should look into something that isn’t in that field at all. The only admin job I’ve ever had where I didn’t have to juggle things all the time was for a non-profit that was too small to have 40 hours’ worth of work for me. What other types of skills do you have? Anything technical?

  31. LongLostLibrarian*

    For any librarians that have taken Library Juice Academy courses, would you put them in your resume? Particularly the certifications?

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      If I had a lot of space on my resume I would probably list them in a section at the bottom.
      But I would probably mention them in my cover letter. Something like (if it makes sense for the job/your personality): I love learning and continue to build my skills. On my own time I have earned certs from Library Juice in ….

    2. Metadata minion*

      Absolutely, especially for certifications or for something you don’t do regularly in your job but would do in the job you’re applying for.

  32. Bluesboy*

    Bit of a surprise at work this week. I work in the offices of a bank (we have all floors, but all are offices except the ground floor which is a branch).

    Get to the office at 8am, and they are taking down our signage to replace it with the signage of a different bank which I’ve never heard of. There have been rumours and gossip of mergers and takeovers for a while, so the initial thought is “Oh God, we’ve been taken over!”

    Some worried people on my floor for two hours until 10am when…a film crew pulled up. Turns out they are filming using the bank as a set and the signage is for a completely fictional bank!

    Of course, it would have been nice if someone had thought to tell us…

    So watched from my office window as they filmed the lead crossing the road, other actors going in, coming out etc. Not that exciting, but better than a takeover!

    1. it's me*

      Years ago I worked in downtown Atlanta, and I sometimes came in on Saturday mornings. I took public transit and walked to my building. One morning, before I’d had coffee, I noticed the usual exit from the subway station was blocked, and when I asked a security guard why it was blocked, he said, bizarrely, “There’s nothing for you out there.” Baffled, I exited another way, but saw that the main street I walked along to get to my building was covered with papers, and there were burned-out cars including an old bus off the side streets. Eventually I saw trailers, and this was before there was really much filming in Atlanta, so I didn’t recognize them immediately, but put it together soon after, although I was still pretty confused since this was all very out of the ordinary. Friends, I had walked into the Season 1 Walking Dead set, and although they weren’t filming at the time, you can see what I saw in those promo shots of Rick riding his horse with a burned-out old bus in the background. At the time, however, I had no idea what was going on. Funny that all they had to do to downtown to make it look like a zombie apocalypse was add burned-out cars and have papers blowing around. Later that day, I watched from the 27th floor of our building as extras dressed as zombies crowded around a tank containing Rick. It was something like 95 degrees that day, so I felt bad for people having to be outside in costume.

        1. DrRat*

          On the next level of meta…do we think this was an ACTUAL security guard, or an extra dressed as a security guard? Because that kind of sounds like an actor getting into the role. Or a security guard who missed his calling.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I have definitely been through sections of Atlanta where it looked like the apocalypse had really happened IRL. Smoldering semi on the I-20 off-ramp, and all.

      2. LavaLamp*

        As a Walking dead fan, I’d have probably been trying to figure out if I could go BE an extra, heat be dammed.

        1. ronda*

          I have a friend in Atlanta who has been an extra in a few things, you just need to find the sites that do calls for it and sign up. I don’t think anyone takes walkups tho :)

    2. TiffIf*

      That really is bizarre that they didn’t tell you. I mean you’d think they would at least notify people to stay out of the area being used during that time?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I would expect the opposite effect; tell people there’s filming and they’ll want to watch or even get into the picture’s background.

      2. Bluesboy*

        Well, we had to walk through the set if we wanted to go for a coffee or for lunch, so they couldn’t really tell us to keep out of the area! But there were no long scenes – how long does it take for someone to walk across the road? So maybe we had to wait two minutes for a ‘cut!’ and then they would let us walk past before the lead walked back to the other side of the road and started again!

        But it would have been nice to know what was going on in advance, definitely!

    3. Asenath*

      I can only blame myself for not paying attention to the public announcements the day I walked towards my church and saw an unusual number of vehicles, including a police car and, oh my, that’s an ambulance…then I saw the other big trucks and realized it was a filming crew, and actually, the logos on the police car and ambulance weren’t exactly like the official logos. I thought for a minute there had been some terrible tragedy.

    4. LKW*

      In NYC when they’re filming on our block, every building gets a notification several days in advance about the crews, the noise and whatever. It’s just a piece of paper taped to the door – but really, was that so hard?

      1. ronda*

        I got the same thing when they were filming at houses in my neighborhood in Atlanta, and they said if they would be closing the street for it. But if it were at the work-place, I probably would not have got notice.

  33. Why is COBRA stupid expensive?*

    Anyone here have COBRA for health insurance who has had the government subsidy kick in yet? I’ve paid my first month’s premium, but I can’t afford to do that the next month. I can’t even get through the phone lines of my benefits company to see what they have to say.

    1. Another JD*

      Something is wrong here. If you are eligible for the COBRA assistance, then you aren’t supposed to be paying your premium.

    2. Cantatatata*

      I have been on COBRA since January, and since April have been covered by the subsidy. But the subsidy did not appear in my account on April 1 since the benefits company needed more lead time to implement the rules. So, I ended up having to pay April, May, and June on my own before they applied the subsidy. I requested a refund of the three months of premiums I paid, and apparently will be getting a check in the mail next week. It doesn’t seem like it is a smooth process. It might be better for those who started COBRA recently.

    3. Whiskey on the rocks*

      If you’ve recently separated from your job or otherwise qualify for the special enrollment, the marketplace is open to you. They have a thing where you can get an idea of costs and plans, but I wish I had gone ahead and completed the application because after that, things were much more specific (and accurate). The tax credit gets applied and you can see the full cost as well as the discounted one.

      1. Cantatatata*

        The COBRA subsidy will pay 100% of your health insurance costs through September, and after that you can sign up for a plan through the marketplace. I would look to COBRA before looking at the marketplace if you were recently separated. You can’t beat free, at least through September.

    4. HelenofWhat*

      As someone who works on benefits administration, I’m so sorry. The companies that run these things are horribly ill suited to quickly applying these types of subsidies.
      But you do have the right to it if you were involuntarily terminated, so see if you can push them. If you feel up to contacting the HR dept or whomever runs benefits at your former employer, they can apply pressure to the benefits company that you can’t. At my job we regularly are able to expedite things for people or at least ensure they don’t lose coverage.

  34. LandOfTheBeanAndTheCod*

    Has anyone worked out of The Wing (especially the Boston location)? What’s it like from a workspace perspective?

    I’m permanently work-from-home now, but I don’t have great air conditioning and my place gets very hot in the summer. The cheapest option for co-working near me seems to be The Wing. It’s less than half the cost of my other options. I’m on the fence about it for other reasons, but I’d like to know if it is a physically good space to get work done.

  35. Tech Lesbian*

    Any tips on writing a cover letter/resume specifically for an internal job that you’re already doing minus the title & pay?

    For over a year, I’ve been administering an application that will soon take over the entire department as our central enterprise service management solution, and my bosses have recognized that I won’t have time to devote myself to that application while I’m running around doing all of the other lower-level tasks my job is actually supposed to do. Because of The Rules, they can’t just give me this new job title (and significant pay bump) without posting it for all candidates. So it’s “mine” but it’s also not mine because this is not exactly a niche field and someone could apply with 10 years experience who just blows my current work out of the water. When my bosses first told me about the position, I felt very confident that it would be a cakewalk, but now that it’s getting closer and closer to being posted, I’m really worried about the number of extremely qualified people in my field who are currently out of work and aggressively looking.

    So I have to submit a resume and write a cover letter for a position with tasks & duties I have been doing for over a year, on a project where I have made all of the contacts with collaborators and have 100% designed from the ground up. I will be devastated to get rejected and basically have to hand over every single project and accomplishment I’ve made at this job to someone else (and if I were rejected, I would probably start looking for another job.) I’ve read through Allison’s resume and cover letter posts, but almost all of them focus on external candidates or people applying internally to a different department/division. Anybody have tips on how to frame a cover letter to a hiring committee comprised entirely of people who know me well, know that I have been doing the new position’s duties for over a year, but don’t necessarily understand the technical side/backend of what I do?

    1. Anonny*

      Weird coincidence–both very similar questions that ended up one right after the other. I’ll be watching the answers here too.

    2. green beans*

      I don’t hire externally, but if you know the person who’s going to be reading the cover letter, write it for them. “As you know, I have taken on many of the duties that are now being formally encompassed by this position. I have really enjoyed the transitioning of my job from X to Y, and am applying in hopes of making this a permanent change.”

      I’m tired, so make it sound less pretentious, but just be upfront – you’re doing many of the things already, you’re enjoying them, you want to make it permanent, 1-2 examples of success, 1-2 things you’ll be able to do if you’re transitioned into the role and can let go of your other duties.

  36. Anonny*

    TL;DR: What should a cover letter look like for an internal position? How specific can you be? Can you include things that would normally be business or contract information not shared outside of the company? + any other advice on internal transfers welcome!

    There’s an internal position that just opened up that I am interested in. It could mean a significant raise but my company has a habit of underpaying based on past compensation history and since it is at the same company I can’t exactly hide my compensation history. (I’m also NOT in a state that has laws around setting salary based on past compensation.) I don’t know the exact salary the person who is leaving the position made (and it isn’t really an option to ask him) but I DO know that he was given an outside offer and the company’s counteroffer was 40% over my current salary, and given what I know of how promotions/raises work at my company I can’t imagine that his salary was less than 130% of my current salary. So I plan to stick to my guns on salary and if they won’t pay, I’m not moving and taking on more responsibilities if the salary is not at least equal to what he was paid. (Can you argue “equal pay for equal work” based on the pay that the person in the position previously had?)

    Anyway–salary aside–I was actually originally offered this same position three years ago before this guy was hired, so I have no doubt I could do the job. My main strength is I have extensive domain knowledge (I have numerous times taken technical issues from the guy who is leaving to solve problems for clients that he can’t). I have a co-worker who is strongly advocating for me to have this position.

    But I don’t want to take this for granted! I don’t want to assume that it is just mine for the taking. I’ve started composing a cover letter but have run into a question–this is an internal position in the same department–think moving from customer service to sales for the same product. So where my cover letter would normally coach some accomplishments in vague terms “acted as account manager for a major US insurance carrier” –because this is all internal can I name them explicitly? How detailed can I be in ways that would not be permitted in a cover letter for an outside company?

    Also in general how to handle an internal transfer? Especially one where you would be working with many of the same people but just with different responsibilities?

  37. Machiamellie*

    CW: child death

    This was years ago and it still bothers me.

    I worked for a company of 50ish people who all worked in the same building. A coworker who I didn’t work closely with had a baby with a disability. They brought the baby to get togethers, he was adorable, everyone held him, it was wonderful. It was known the baby would pass away within a year.

    One day I came to work and everyone was out. I started working as usual, saw on another coworker’s calendar “(baby’s name)’s funeral” for an out of office notification. Basically, the baby had passed away and no one told me. Everyone in the office had gone to the funeral.

    When my boss got back I was upset. All I said was that I wish someone had told me so I could go pay my respects and that it would have been awful if I’d asked the coworker how Baby was, as I always did when I saw him, not realizing he had passed away. My boss said it was the coworker’s “private business” that he didn’t think he had the right to tell anyone. He then said I was “too sensitive” and “overly emotional.”

    Was I?

    1. Asenath*

      I can understand why you would be upset about not being notified. When similar things happened at my last workplace, somehow word got around through the grapevine without public announcements, so those who wished could contribute to a card or donation and attend the funeral. I suppose generally, like maybe your boss, people didn’t like to make public announcements of deaths except those of workers or retirees out of consideration of privacy (but we all found out double quick when an adored niece of a co-worker died unexpectedly and we paid our respects). But your boss was out of line to call your reaction too sensitive or over emotional.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree. I can understand that maybe the boss didn’t want to feel like they were sharing personal and upsetting information without permission, and it’s possible the boss didn’t realise you were the only one who hadn’t been informed of the death. But I don’t think it was fair to call your reaction ‘too sensitive’ or ‘overly emotional’. It was obviously upsetting for you to find out about the baby’s death anyway, and that would have been compounded by realising you’d missed the chance to attend the funeral because no one had told you. I think being upset is a pretty natural reaction in that situation, and it sounds like you expressed your feelings quite rationally.

        1. Machiamellie*

          Thank you! To be clear, I wasn’t expecting a company-wide announcement or anything, but my office was literally next to his and he could have poked his head in and said, “Baby died, funeral is tomorrow at X time if you want to go.”

    2. Metadata minion*

      It particularly doesn’t seem like an overreaction to me if *everyone else* was at the funeral. I’m never sure where the line is in a larger office where you don’t want to pry but also don’t want to inadvertently add to someone’s grief by asking about someone you didn’t realize had died. But here it sounds like everyone knew but you, which is…weird.

    3. Red Swedish Fish*

      Its very odd that you were the only one not invited but that also says something about either how well you knew the mother and/or how you interact with your co-workers. That no one mentioned it to you or around you is a big flag that there was a reason you were not told, this would have been something everyone was talking about to some degree.

      1. Machiamellie*

        Yeah that job was full of red flags. It was an old boys’ club and I was neither old nor a boy. Most of the employees, including the father of the baby, worked on the other side of the building.

    4. RagingADHD*

      The best construction I can put on this was that the bereaved mom told people individually, wasn’t thinking straight and inadvertently left you out. Then your boss & others either assumed you knew, or were trying to respect her (apparent) wishes and not pester her with follow-up questions.

      Your boss’s response to you was not great, but I can see how the mistake could easily be made.

      Is there any chance your boss might have felt that you were making the situation too much about yourself and your own feelings of exclusion, in a way that seemed out of place in context of the tragic loss? I could maybe see someone using “too sensitive” in that context.

      1. Teapot supervisor*

        This is what I was thinking too. If boss said he wasn’t tell people, then it’s likely you got missed by accident as the message went through the grapevine and, right up until the moment you spoke to him, boss had no reason to think you didn’t already know. From boss’s perspective, if somebody came up to me after I’d come back from a funeral involving a tragic death and told me “I wish somebody had told me”, I too may have interpreted it like you were focussing on the wrong thing.

        But I also would have hopefully realised that you were upset and probably a bit in shock (an OOO notification is an awful way to get that news and I know how awful it feels to not be able to attend a funeral of somebody you want to pay your respects to) and offered up a “I’m sorry you had to find out this way” rather than scolding you for being too sensitive. Your boss’s comments were out of line.

  38. JH*

    Last year, due to COVID, the non-profit I work for downsized and re-org’d. As part of this re-organization, my chapter merged with two other ones. We now consist of the “three markets” and the Executive Director (ED) in my “market” stayed on as the ED. The other two ED’s for the other areas were given new titles and called Area Directors.

    While we have been financially successful as a chapter this year, the re-organization has definitely caused some management and work-style bumps. I manage a specific program that operates in all three chapter geographic areas. So even though I report to one of the directors, I have “dotted lines” to the ED and the other director. The ED and my manager have a very hands-off management style. I have weekly check-ins with them and they have an open-door policy. The expectation is that they trust me to get my work done and to come to them when I need help.
    The other Director is a different story. She’s very much a micro-manager. She’s the type of person that needs to be kept in the loop every step of the way and if you’re not doing it on her timeline then it’s an issue. She also has a tendency to call people out in the middle of staff meetings for things that aren’t done on her timeline. I’ve always gotten my job done and had good success, it’s why my boss and the ED trust me so much. But because I don’t do things on the other Director’s timelines, which sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for my workflow and/or competing priorities, she has really upped her “management” of me. She tries to have her hand in everything I do and when I don’t do it exactly the way she does, she can become very critical.

    I love most of my job and my team, but it’s clear this director isn’t going anywhere. It’s gotten to the point that when I see an email from her hit my inbox I start to have a mini anxiety attack. I don’t want to leave but I don’t know how to make the situation better. I’ve tried to talk to my boss about it and she’s talked to the other director but it hasn’t helped. It feels silly to job search over one person but I would love other’s input or advice on the situation!

    1. Colette*

      Have you tried responding when she gives you something to do and letting her know when you expect to be done? I.e. “I’ll get this done by Friday”, “I’m got a critical issue to fix, but I should be able to start this next week”.

    2. Put yourself first*

      If you can, talk to her about how to best balance her need to know everything with trusting you to handle it in a way that works well for your business.

      If you can’t, GO. I was in a similar situation, and after years of being like a professional who could handle her business, it was terrible to be stuck with a psycho on a power trip. (That description may not apply to this manager, of course!). Prioritize your well being and mental health above everything else. You deserve respect, consideration, and professional treatment. (I’m sorry I don’t have good concrete advice on how to proceed – I just hope you make YOU your first priority.)

    3. The New Wanderer*

      Unless or until you have more clear support from your manager and the ED to fend off this AD’s micromanagement or remove her from your reporting structure altogether, you may not be able to make the situation better. There’s a reason why it’s said that people leave managers, not jobs. If they value the work that you’re doing and you can show a net negative effect of this AD’s interference (stress, re-work, added comms or work with no added value), that should be rationale enough to consider you to be sufficiently managed by manager/ED without that AD needing to be in the loop.

      I was briefly in a similar situation with a micromanager and the only fix was to get out from under and report to a different manager. Unfortunately the manager I escaped now has moved to a role managing a group that I work closely with, and has stated he’s going to ‘revamp’ the well-established work priorities of his new team based on his (unfounded) opinions of how it should be done. I don’t envy that team and it’ll be interesting to see what happens because I know several of the senior people in that group are not going to take direction from an ill-informed micromanager disrupting their progress for poorly defined reasons. It would be disappointing if the key people on the team transfer/quit and this manager stays, but that happens when upper management ignores an issue like this.

    4. ronda*

      We spend too much time at work to put up with this kind of stuff if we have other options. I would start looking for new place.

      In the mean-time, put them on an information diet, just tell them when you will have stuff done for them and don’t engage on the other stuff. Always blame it on high priority stuff that needs to be done for the ED (if they won’t blow your cover).

  39. Mostly managed*

    Y’all.

    My boss quit last week (let’s call her Sansa) and now I report directly to her grandboss (Robert.) I’ve worked with a ton of different people over my career but I’ve never in my life had difficulty communicating with someone like I have communicating with Robert. I’ll make a joke, he takes it as deadly serious. I’ll send an email, he asks for more info, I send more info, he says he doesn’t want more info. I write bullet points, he asks for paragraphs, I write paragraphs, he asks for bullet points.

    (As a concrete example: he asked if another team had permission to do something. I replied that they did, with an attachment showing that. He sent back a ten-point list of information he said he needed from me, explicitly saying he needed that list filled out. I filled out the list. He emailed me back, saying he didn’t need that much information, and just saying they had permission would be fine. Argh.)

    Before Sansa left she indicated that she also had difficulty communicating with Robert, and that I wasn’t alone with this problem. The other members of my team are all male and anti-social so I’ve been elected “the talking to management person.” Robert has decided that extends my (very tech-focused) role to “party planner and admin.” (I’m also taking Sansa’s technical and PM work. Our team is understaffed.)

    Has anyone got advice on how to deal with this? I’ve started job hunting because I legitimately don’t know how to communicate with Robert. Am I missing some ~communication tips~?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Is your communication happening primarily by email? Does Robert work better over some other form of communication such as in-person, video, or phone call? That sounds so frustrating.

      1. Mostly managed*

        I’ve never met him in person– but I’ve called/offered to call when I think miscommunication is happening, and he always seems annoyed that I called him (I check if he’s free first!)

        A common communication goes like this:
        I email him for a quick thing
        He emails me back a list of requirements.
        I send back what he asks for
        He calls me to say that I only needed to email him the quick thing

        Or!
        I email him a quick thing
        He emails a list of requirements
        I call to double-check what he needs
        He says he just needs the initial email.

        It just seems like every way I approach this is the wrong way ):

    2. elle*

      I worked for a boss like this. He destroyed my mental health. He even purposely made my life a nightmare at a certain point because he wanted me to quit on my own (he had a policy of never firing people). Get out now. This isn’t about you, Robert is just a nightmare human.

      1. Mostly managed*

        I can already feel it chipping away at my sanity (and I have a ton to do, so the extra communication is just… eating the time I need to get stuff done.)

      2. Windchime*

        Agree. I used to work for Robert, only she was a woman and her name was Barb. She destroyed my mental health to the point where I had to take two months off for severe anxiety, and I was pretty sure I would never be able to work again. She tried to destroy me (and others in the department), and she did it on purpose. (Fortunately, all I needed was to find a normal workplace and all was well).

        I’d start looking. It’s not worth it to try to deal with people like this. They get off on making us feel confused and upset.

    3. not a doctor*

      I’ve worked for a Robert, so trust me when I say: you will never be able to communicate with Robert the way you (or, arguably, anyone who values their sanity would) want to. He doesn’t know what he wants — only what he doesn’t — and by the time he sees whatever you send him, he’s already forgotten what he asked for. You’re right to be job hunting if you can’t get out from under him, and I wish you luck in a speedy escape!

      That all said, some things that might help you keep your head until then: document absolutely everything he says; whenever you send him something, remind him of what he asked for (with a direct quote, if possible); don’t be afraid to deploy “as I said in my previous email,” etc. (as politely and professionally as possible, of course); refer to existing rules and documentation if you can/as needed (if he tries to get you into party planning, for example, can you refer back to your job description?).

      Also, don’t accept being the de-facto ‘Robert person’ on your team! Make one of the guys help you out! He might be completely different with a man. If not, at least they’ll understand what you’re going through.

      1. Mostly managed*

        It’s hard for me to internalize this I guess! I’ve always been complimented on my communication skills by past managers (which is why, despite hating being the “communications person” I always end up with the job.)

        Documenting the requests is definitely something I need to start doing– I’ll start adding “per your call, x” to my emails as well…

        (And I’ll get one of the guys to help out. They can’t avoid him forever.)

        1. not a doctor*

          I totally get it. Unfortunately, Roberts were put on this earth to defy and stymie anyone with reasonable communication skills, because they are not reasonable communicators.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Indeed. Communication is a two people job. If Robert isn’t listening or is constantly flipflopping, then the communication will always be bad.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          This would drive me crazy too. At some point I would be just forwarding the original email with the short answer when he reacts poorly to the long answer that he requested after receiving the short answer. Not even “per my last email” but the minimum effort that also shows you already did the thing. It is no reflection of your skills, you’re just working with a missing stair.

          Also, however makes the most sense to do it, definitely get the other people on the team to be part of the communications. Assuming Robert doesn’t need information that only you can supply, the others should be taking on their share of responding to requests.

          Also, since you note that the others come across as anti-social, take some cues from them. Professionally of course, but if Robert stopped asking them for things because they wouldn’t respond in a timely manner, or responded by saying “too busy, ask X”, or forwarding the request to you to handle as the default communicator for the group, use these techniques to distance yourself from being the default go-to person.

        3. green beans*

          Being good at something does not obligate you to do it! People become good at things with practice.

          I am good at building (but not maintaining) organization systems and I’m decent at event planning. I hate both, passionately, and will not do them unless they are to primarily benefit myself or I am getting some kind of ridiculous, mostly financial benefit out of it.

          1. green beans*

            *people become good at things with practice = others will become good at it if you don’t do it.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        One of my first jobs, I had a boss like this.
        He’d write up a list of 7 tasks he wanted me to do. A numbered list.
        Then he’d say “So do #2 first, then #4, then the first part of #6, then #1, then the second part of #6, …”.

        Robert doesn’t actually know what he wants, and he changes his mind on the fly.

        1. Mostly managed*

          That sounds very frustrating! I feel like there are a lot of dudes who get into management because they’re good at things other than communicating, and by the time their job is all communication there’s nothing that can be done to help.

        2. Windchime*

          Yep. My Robert/Barb literally made me a numbered list.
          Task #1
          Task #2
          Task #3

          Then when I did Task #1 first, she acted confused and said that had NEVER been the top priority. Seriously, she was bonkers.

    4. really*

      This sounds like total power BS and it is not you, or how you are communicating. You will not be able to figure this out, and that is part of the total power BS. Keep looking and best wishes.

      1. Mostly managed*

        This is what my partner said. It’s different to hear it from strangers though.