what’s the deal with outplacement agencies, my boss won’t support any professional development, and more

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

1. What’s the deal with outplacement agencies?

Could get your opinion on “outplacement support agencies”? I was laid off from my job recently and as part of my severance package, I was given several months with one of these agencies. I had never heard of such a thing before! Are they common? Are they thought to be useful? They are clearly organized to support me in finding another job, but also seem to be … a something for my former employer to give to show they are not leaving me in the lurch?

Some of their advice seems useful or at least not bad — professional ways I can speak about the layoff, ways I can format my resume. But they have a LOT of suggestions that seem outdated or just weird, and I’m starting to get a little worried. Particularly, they are eager for job seekers to ask a lot of favors of people we know, and while I can do that — I have friends who want to help and I’m not particularly shy — I can only ask so many favors and I don’t want to use them up on things that don’t help.

Examples of things they’ve suggested include trying to get recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn (no one has asked me for one of these in close to a decade — am I out of step or are they?), trying to get informational meetings with absolutely anyone in my industry in order to “make contact” with their network in turn (they also urged us to make these meetings in-person, which seemed remarkably tone deaf), and to research companies we might want to work for, whether they have job openings or not, and compile extensive files on these target companies so as to be ready in case we find a job to apply for.

With all this researching and networking (I’m supposed to reach out to 10 new contacts a week!), the recommendation is only spend 10% of my time applying for actual jobs. This is not advice I have ever heard before, but it has admittedly been over a decade since I’ve been on the job market. I may be out of touch or simply lazy, as all this sounds like a lot of strange tasks that I don’t want to do. Should I be following all this advice? I have been reading your column a long time and I trust your advice!

Outplacement agencies aren’t uncommon, particularly if you’re laid off by a larger company. You’re right that companies use them to try to make people’s transitions easier when they lay people off, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad! That said, the quality of their advice can … vary. Significantly. A lot of them fall into the same traps that lots of job-seeking guidance falls into — like outdated or generic advice that doesn’t work, and sometimes just plain weird advice (look at the story here about one that advised a woman not to order cranberry juice at a lunch interview because it could look like she had a UTI).

Often job search advice that someone is paying for (in this case, your old company is paying for it) leans really heavily on networking stuff because it allows them to come up with a bunch of things to recommend beyond just “write great cover letters, have a resume that shows a track record of achievement, and use your network in reasonable but not overbearing ways” … which is correct but not terribly exciting, so if you want to get people to pay you for your help, there’s pressure to come up with other strategies, whether or not they really make sense.

Your instincts here seem right on — for example, the stuff about LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements isn’t good, the heavy focus on informational meetings won’t make sense for most people (a few meetings, sure! tons of them in-person, no), and 10 new contacts a week would mean annoying a lot of people.

Sometimes with these programs you can find useful parts and just discard the rest … but once you see their advice is bad in one area, it makes their advice suspect across the board. I’d trust your instincts, and realize that many of the “experts” these firms employ don’t have much expertise in hiring and have just been hired to deliver a curriculum they aren’t positioned to apply their own judgment to (to that point that often, if asked to explain the thinking behind it in a nuanced way, they won’t be able to do it).

2. My boss won’t support any professional development

I have a problem with my job. The work is personally fulfilling, I’m a high performer, the pay, benefits, and coworkers are great, and the corporate culture and day to day are fine, but … management leaves something to be desired. Their focus is solely on how individuals can benefit the department, with no trust or investment in the other direction. This is particularly visible when it comes to professional development.

We are not allowed to pursue individual professional development. This includes requests to attend industry events, taking a certain percentage of work time to learn/practice new skills, or even attending an hour-long online presentation by industry organizations. (They’re not banned, requests are just never approved.) In the extremely rare cases where anything is approved, no matter what it is, we’re required to come back and present to the entire department on what we learned. (It cannot be purely individual professional development.)

At the same time, I’m being pushed to take on work that requires an entirely different but parallel set of job skills that I do not have and was assured I would not need when I took the job. (Imagine you’re a racecar driver who was informed you’ll now also be piloting an aircraft on a regular basis. Both are just vehicles, right?) Learning those skills to a sufficient level to do what’s being asked of me is a matter of hundreds of hours, and I will not be getting any support during work hours towards independently acquiring these skills, let alone formal training. As a result, I’m disengaging more and more and becoming increasingly unwilling to do anything above and beyond the strict definitions of my job.

This problem is unique to my department, and other departments in the company frequently attend individual trainings/industry events/seminars/etc. Is this attitude on their part reasonable? Is this common?

No, it’s not reasonable! And it’s not particularly common in professional jobs, although it’s not unheard of either. Most employers want their employees to increase their skills and get better and better at what they do, because that benefits the company (in obvious ways) as well as helps them attract and retain good people long-term (which also benefits the company, for that matter). Seeing individual development as something that only benefits that one person and doesn’t help the team/company is bizarre, at least assuming the development is related to their work in some way.

But none of that is as troubling as pushing you to take on an entirely new skill set that will require hours of learning and not giving you any help to make that happen (like arranging paying for training and letting you use work time for it). Ideally you’d say you’re willing to take on the new area they’re asking for, as long as they will pay for training and consider your learning time to be part of the work you’re being paid for.

3. Trying to negotiate a higher salary when your company is bought

My husband worked for a very small company, about 10 employees, which was bought out by a larger company in July. It seemed clear from the beginning that the new company planned to keep everyone on board, but it was still a relief to get the official offer letter a couple weeks before the transition. They offered my husband his same job, at the same salary, but with better benefits/time off/etc.

He asked a couple of his pals if he should try to negotiate a higher salary and they all said yes. I told him that it’s not the same thing as a new job, just a new boss, and if he wanted to try to negotiate for a new salary he’d have to make a pretty strong case for why he wasn’t getting paid enough before. One of his friends, who went to business school, told him that the offer was “an insult” and he should reject it. I can’t understand that viewpoint, since it’s literally the same job, at the same pay, but with better benefits (both tangible and fringe)! Anyway, he tried to negotiate, didn’t get an increase but didn’t reject the offer, and so (thankfully) still has a job. I’m just wondering — how would someone negotiate a higher salary in a situation like this?

Yeah, this isn’t a whole new salary negotiation! Most people don’t have a ton of leverage in this situation, if any. Typically the acquiring company will have talked to the outgoing management about who is really key and needs to be kept; if you’re a key employee who they’re highly motivated to keep on board, you’ll have more negotiating power and could be offered a special retention package. But in more cases than not, you won’t have that sort of leverage. For most people, it’s much more toward the “if you want to keep your job, here’s what we’ll offer” end of things than the “let’s reopen negotiations completely” end. (I hope your husband is reconsidering getting future advice from the “it’s an insult / you should reject it” friend.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I’m worried my coworker’s surgery will set the standard for how long I can be out for my wife’s

A coworker of mine is getting the same major surgical procedure done as my wife. My wife’s procedure is scheduled for a couple months after my coworker’s. The recovery time is widely variable for this procedure. I’m worried that if my coworker has a swift recovery (which of course would be wonderful for her), it will make it difficult for me to take the same amount or more time off to care for my wife if her recovery takes longer. It’s a very rare procedure and most people have never encountered it. I’m worried that my coworker’s procedure is going to set the standard for what our bosses expect from this surgery in terms of time off.

Currently, I don’t know how much time off my coworker is taking, she just mentioned in passing that she’ll be put for a few weeks “depending on her recovery.” We’re also working remotely and my coworker is on a different team, so I won’t really know when she goes on leave or comes back, to match my own leave request with hers. I haven’t put in for leave yet because my wife’s procedure is still months away. How should I approach this? My company is too small for the FMLA to apply, although we do have a very similar company medical leave policy.

Approach it the same way you would if your coworker weren’t in the mix at all. You don’t need to match your leave request to your coworker’s. In fact, you can sidestep the whole issue by just not naming the procedure your wife is having — which is info they don’t need regardless! It’s enough to just explain you’ll need to care for her after a major surgery and the doctor expects you will need X amount of time but it’s highly variable so you won’t know for sure until it happens. If you feel weird giving no info to people you work with every day, you can still talk about it without getting into the exact procedure — “it’s heart surgery” (or another broad descriptor) is a very normal thing to say without getting into the details.

But if people do know it’s the same procedure, just explain that recovery varies widely from person to person and your wife’s doctor has said it could be anywhere from X to Y weeks and you’ll keep people posted. (In fact, that seems to be exactly what your coworker is doing herself.)

Read an update to this letter here

5. “My work hours may look different than your work hours”

I saw something in a colleague’s email signature recently that reminded me of the periodic questions you get about whether or not to respond to email outside of normal work hours. This person added a line to their signature that reads, “My work hours may look different than your work hours. Please do not feel obligated to respond outside of your normal working hours.”

It’s a pretty simple solution, but since the first time I noticed it, I’ve seen several of our mutual contacts copying the same language into their own email signatures, so it seems to be an effective solution. Thought I would pass it along to share with AAM readers if you think it’d be helpful.

I’m happy to share it here!

{ 260 comments… read them below }

  1. Bowserkitty*

    When Big Testing Company had their mass layoffs they included a day or two with one of these companies in group sessions. It was a nice networking opportunity because I met a bunch of others, but because it was in group sessions and happening literally the day or two after the surprise layoffs, there were a lot of really bitter people in the room and I don’t feel like it was really productive.

    I’m sure individual sessions are much more helpful!

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      My wife got pretty good career support when taking a buyout from a major telecom. Didn’t directly lead to a job, but seemed productive.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I’ve been recently using a company-provided outplacement service, which was included part of an early retirement package. For the most part, the advice was pretty helpful. their LinkedIn advice centered around improving my profile. They did make the claim that “less than 20% of jobs are ever posted, so you need to rely on your network to find opportunities” which is not true. The biggest problem I had with their advice was their insistence that I should use the Oxford comma in my resume, to avoid looking “dated”.

    3. Exif*

      My experience with an individual session was so bad it seemed like a prank show. I had to sit down with an elderly woman in a giant pussy bow blouse who glared at me over her spectacles and told me that I needed to clean up my resume because I was clearly “a flighty woman,” which apparently meant a job hopper. She was looking at a mix of FT jobs and freelance contract assignments that were clearly labeled as such. I could not get it through her frail powdery skull that jobs of 3-6 months were SUPPOSED to be that way.

      1. Thunderingly*

        Can I ask the significance of the “pussy bow blouse”? I googled it and I have a few in my closet–am I inadvertently sending a message when I wear them?

        1. pony tailed wonder*

          JMO, they can look dated. They had a big heyday in the early 80’s. A few years ago, they had a small comeback but the bows were slimmer in nature.

        2. Spotted Kitty*

          I think they’re super cool, but then again I’m not a fashionista. I just think they look great.

          1. 30 Years in the Biz*

            They’re still in style and some consider pussy bows classic. I think it’s how you wear them. They’re now seen with jeans and even (elegant) shorts. If you wear the ties knotted much lower and not tight against the neck you can really modernize the look. I totally understand the association with uptight fashion, but I think pussy bow blouses and shirts can still be fun and attractive.

            1. kathy*

              agree with this. I have a couple but they all have thin ties, and I wear the ties with a single loose knot rather than in a tight bow. I think they look classic and elegant (when my ties aren’t dangling in my lunch, anyways).

      2. quill*

        oof. I have had the interview with a contracting agency version of this. Where “why did you leave X job after two months?” was honestly answerable with “they had a 3 month contract for me to help wrap up their projects, then my boss quit so they decided the hell with finishing wrapping anything up.”

    4. Mimi*

      I’d say that my first session or two with the job search coach my old company paid for was reasonably helpful (I had questions, and felt like I got good answers, and she showed me some features of LinkedIn job searching that I hadn’t known about), but after that it felt more like a mediocre accountability buddy who kept asking “What do YOU want to talk about?” And, like, it’s good that it was somewhat self-directed, and I’m glad that she didn’t make me sit through hours of How To Zoom, but also I don’t have more questions every week or two. I think I expected a coach to perform a little more analysis and not just take my self-assessment as the gospel.

      I didn’t love all their advice (they were really into SMART stories, which are a useful tool, I’m sure, but in my experience are not the only thing I should be practicing for interviews). One day she kept hounding me about “You’re still applying to other jobs, right?” when I had told her multiple times, “I’m trying to get my head in the game for the interview I have in two hours.” And, yes, one doesn’t want to put all of one’s eggs in one interview basket, but also _while you’re trying to research the company you’re about to interview with_ is not really the time to have someone pestering you about whether you’ve applied to other jobs this week. I wound up ending that call early because it felt like she was more stressed about my interview than I was, and if I kept talking to her I was going to get stressed too.

      They had a resume and cover letter-writing service, which was garbage — I think they needed to change things to feel like they were doing something, and didn’t know how to handle someone who already came in with strong documents. (My expectations of the service were pretty low, especially after I realized that the person doing the writing wasn’t going to actually talk to me before writing the things, but I was curious.)

      One of their big things was “We do all the job searching so you don’t have to waste time doing that part!” but they weren’t any good for that, either, at least not for me. My job is pretty technical, and their handpicked service only came up with three job postings in the several months I was working with them. (One was the equivalent of “Maintenance Engineer” when I was looking for “Electrical Engineer,” one was behind a paywall, and one was nominally what I was looking for but one of those job descriptions you feel very bleh about.) Meanwhile, I was looking at the SAME JOB SITES they were pulling the postings from, and finding things to apply to.

      Most of my fellow layoffees were similar unimpressed, even the ones who weren’t in technical fields. The only one who had anything good to say was the woman who was still processing the layoff when she had the first coaching call, and also her family’s dog had just died or something similarly traumatic, and she needed a metaphorical shoulder to cry on.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Yeah, my experience was similar. I participated in a government-sponsored job retraining program many years ago, and part of the program was a full, multi-week course with an outplacement firm. This firm was top tier in the country, famous for placing c-suite level executives (which none of us were), and they made sure to let us all know this during the introductory session. (In retrospect this probably should have been my first red flag, but I was really trying to keep an open mind since what I was trying hadn’t been working.)

        Their advice was just… bad. The resume writing session wasn’t terrible, per se, but they still had some outdated ideas like including an objective, and they argued against my skills section for some reason. Technical and software skills, i.e. the things that everyone looking at my resume is going to look for. I could see no reason not to make that easy and skimmable for the hiring manager, not to mention keywording the hell out of my resume for the bots doing the initial filter in the applicant tracking systems. So I kept it, despite their protests. I added the objective just long enough for them to leave me alone about it, then removed it before using it to apply anywhere.

        Worse was their “networking” advice. They also leaned REALLY HARD into the informational interview thing, but were pretty explicit this was just about getting access to our contacts’ contacts, and shaking trees to see what fell out. They told us to say we were asking for “help and advice” on our resume, but *wink wink* we don’t need to take their advice because we’d already reworked our resumes with the firm’s help so didn’t need to change anything. They gave absolutely no other suggestions for making these meetings (in-person, of course) actually useful. We were just supposed to smile and nod along to whatever our contact said about our resume, then ask if they had contacts who might be willing to talk to us too. I did this, diligently, wondering how this could possibly work because it seems like I’m just imposing on SO MANY people’s good will; but again, willing to try anything since what I was doing wasn’t working.

        To no one’s surprise, it didn’t work at all. Sure, I added more people to my LinkedIn connections, but for the most part I never spoke to any of these new contacts again, and they certainly never reached out to let me know they’d heard about a job I might be a good fit for. (Or for any other reason, for that matter.) Because, as I suspected, who’s going to remember the rando they spoke to for half an hour 3 or 6 or 12 months ago when a job posting comes across their social media feed?

        I sometimes wonder how much money they got from the government to do this, because they made out like bandits. The next job I found I got the normal way, by applying through job sites and recruiters.

        1. Mimi*

          I really wondered what oldjob paid for that service, too.

          The other thing I realized, around the time that I put the service on hold, was that we had fundamentally different goals in the search: They wanted me to find a job, ANY job, within three months, because that was the only metric they tracked. Whereas I wanted a job I was happy with, at a decent salary, with opportunities for growth and interesting coworkers. Within three months would have been nice, but I had unemployment and some savings, so I wasn’t desperate to take the first thing I could get regardless of fit.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Across many different departments, at that. It was an interesting time. They laid us off in groups and had us go to their outplacement meetings in different groups.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I worked with a Giant Telecom Company during a massive layoff, and they hired a well-know outplacement company for our associates. A lot of the ‘counselors’ were former teachers and seminarians, chosen because they were empathetic and could talk about ‘tough subjects.’ During a bitter layoff process, I think that’s fair.

      But some of the career advice I heard while I was monitoring workshops, etc., was truly horrible – akin to what your grandparent might tell you. Their hearts were in the right place, but their career savvy was nowhere to be found.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Or “put on a suit and go ask to see the manager and hand them your resume in person” advice.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Pretty much, on both counts. Also:

            ‘There’s no reason why you can’t expect at least a 10% increase in salary in your next role.’ Said during the 2001-2002 market.

            ‘Send flowers to the receptionist the day before your interview. She’ll say nice things about you to the hiring manager, they always ask the receptionist what she thinks.’

            ‘When you apply for a job, either paper application or online, you don’t need to fill it out completely. Just write “See Resume” unless it’s not on the resume. Besides, no one really reads applications, they read resumes.’

            ‘During an interview, you’re in control. They may have a process but you aren’t obligated to follow it.’

            ‘After your interview, follow up until you get a live person on the phone. Employers want to know you’ll do whatever it takes to get results.’

            Again, truly nice people who meant well said this stuff, but the advice was soooo bad.

            1. Lance*

              ‘During an interview, you’re in control. They may have a process but you aren’t obligated to follow it.’

              So they’re purporting that people will hire for arrogance over cooperation. I wouldn’t expect that to go well.

              ‘After your interview, follow up until you get a live person on the phone. Employers want to know you’ll do whatever it takes to get results.’

              Ah, good old gumption.

              1. Anoni*

                ‘After your interview, follow up until you get a live person on the phone. Employers want to know you’ll do whatever it takes to get results.’

                Interviewer #1: She called us multiple times to let us know she would do anything to get the job.

                Interviewer #2: Yes, but will she do…murder?

      1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        “A lot of the ‘counselors’ were former teachers and seminarians, chosen because they were empathetic and could talk about ‘tough subjects.’”
        Oh, wow. I’ve been both, and I cannot fathom giving anyone useful career advice under the circumstances you describe. Empathy is good, but unless you actually know what you’re talking about, it seems like it could be counterproductive.

        1. Nanani*

          Indeed. Teaching definitely has very different hiring norms from other lines of work, for one thing, so even relevant experience hiring teachers isn’t going to readily translate!

    6. Artemesia*

      LOL 40 years ago 41 people were laid off by department in a merger We were herded into sessions on ‘What Color is Your Parachute’. So enraging.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I worked on an edition of that book back in the day. People were swearing by it then, I was trying to get out of Old Occupation so I tried some of the advice. Uhhhh…don’t believe everything you read.

      2. BookMom*

        To pass my seventh grade typing class we had to duplicate the first page of “What Color is Your Parachute?” without any errors. This is when they still taught typing on electric typewriters. That’s an eighties-tastic memory!

  2. Bryce*

    I run into stuff like #5 all the time. People will say “we can meet to figure that out first thing in the morning” and then be shocked when I reply “that’s great, what time do you call morning?” There’s been plenty of comments on here from folks who showed up for work an hour late because it was mistakenly assumed they already knew the norms somehow.
    It’s nice to see explicit acknowledgement that folks are running on different schedules.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      A lot of my colleagues have wording similar to that quoted in letter #5, except the first sentence will say: “Due to my flexible schedule, I sometimes send emails outside standard working hours.” I think this is great wording and also helps to get people more accustomed to the fact that not everyone works the same schedule.

      1. RB*

        Yes, I use the wording that someone on here suggested recently: “I am working flexible hours and may email outside business hours. I do not expect a reply at these times.” It’s much more succinct than what was in the #5 letter, and I don’t like the phrasing “my work hours may look different than your work hours.”

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Your phrasing indicates that there is still a norm around “business hours” and you DO expect a reply inside them. Maybe this works for your workplace but if the OP’s workplace is more flexible, there may not be a standard business hours for this to apply to.

    2. WS*

      Yeah, a few years ago it was a shock for me: I moved from a multinational company with seven different timezones where it was assumed that you would get information back to someone during your next workday (and emergencies were dealt with appropriately at management level) to a company based in just two cities in the same timezone that expected immediate follow-up even if someone was working after hours!

    3. Asenath*

      I never used wording added to my emails, although looking back, it might have been a good idea. I had assumed of course everyone in that workplace (well, OK, in my department) knew that almost everyone else had some version of hours that weren’t the traditional 9-5. I rapidly learned tht when anyone requested a “morning” or “afternoon” meeting, I needed to ask them to specify the time, and, if needed, point out that that would require me to remain after my normal working hours. And my hours weren’t THAT far off 9-5. but certain people always assumed “morning” was my mid-morning, by which time I’d probably be absorbed in something else, and “afternoon” meant a time that started when I got off, or maybe half an hour before. Wording like #5’s might have been helpful.

      1. Alex*

        I feel this – my “morning” is around 9-10am, and my “afternoon” can very well be 6pm – times that really do not mesh with other people’s definition of “morning” (I’ve been invited to “morning” meetings at 6am and got confused looks when I told them that I will be – very – sound asleep at that time.

    4. Nicotena*

      I’ve thought about putting my non-standard hours (I’m part time) into my email signature so people aren’t hemming and hawing about my slow response if they email after I’m done for the week. On the other hand, it feels vaguely rude, like I’m pro-actively assuming they’re going to want more than I will deliver – and also I’m bad about not actually working outside those hours anyway. This seems different than pro-actively telling people you *are* working outside of 9-5 and that they shouldn’t feel pressured to match.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Is there another contact they should send urgent questions to while you’re not working? If so, that’s how I would frame it in the email signature: “My working hours are M-W 9-5. If you need immediate assistance on Thursday/Friday, please contact xxx@email.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My office has a few of us add something like that to our email signatures (and copy a lead on certain external facing emails) to help prevent bog-down. I think in the year we used it we’ve had one complaint.

        2. Cassie*

          I’ve seen an email signature similar to this (except the person worked a 4/40 schedule so it was M-Th 7am to 5pm). I would also suggest setting an out of office reply on the days where you are out (if possible – it might be a hassle though, turning it on and off).

      2. Delia K*

        The clerk who processed my marriage license application had this before her signature:
        ***Please note that I will not be in on Monday so any inquiries received this weekend or on Monday will be answered on Tuesday.
        And then she listed her availability below her title in her signature (she’s Tuesday – Friday). I thought that worked well.

    5. Puggles*

      I’ve seen this a lot more during the pandemic when a lot of us were working from home but had other obligations like taking care of small children or schooling older ones.

  3. Cranky lady*

    #4 – Two family members the same age had the same procedure 9 weeks apart. Both needed inpatient rehab at the same facility (the fabulous nurses even remembered us). One was home in less than 2 weeks and the other took more than 3. I don’t think any reasonable person will use your coworker’s experience to set the standard for your wife but we all know there are unreasonable people out there.

    1. bunniferous*

      My husband had bypass surgery last month. The surgeon said he should be in the hospital about 5 days. It actually was three weeks to include 2 weeks of inpatient heart rehab before he could safely be sent home. And that is just the inpatient part of recovery!

      Recoveries vary because PEOPLE vary. I wouldn’t worry about comparing to the co worker. Most people understand that there is no one size fits all when it comes to health treatment.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I understand the question. At my company one person returned from a major orthopedic surgery in 6 days. The company then got really annoyed if anyone took longer than the superstar’s length of disability.

    2. Asenath*

      I would assume that most people knew that recovery time often varies by patient – but assumptions can be wrong. Maybe saying something like “I need time of for a family medical issue. The doctors tell me it could take three weeks, but might take longer and they can’t say for sure in advance. I’d like to take three weeks, and would let you know as soon as possible if I need more time.”

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        This is what I did for my dad’s heart surgery, I said I would be out for two weeks but it was possible I would need to stay longer. (I was traveling across the country to stay at his apartment during the initial recovery.)
        The following year, I was out when my husband had surgery. No one, save the HR person with my paperwork, knew the details of that surgery. Some days I knew for sure I would be out, others were more up in the air. They dealt with it and I got zero push back.

    3. Ana Gram*

      Same. My brother and I got both had appendectomies with 2 weeks of each other (weird!) and had very different recoveries. He was back to work after 4-5 days and I need 10 days. It’s a common enough surgery but no one ever expressed surprise at the time I needed. I doubt people will be comparing the OP’s wife with the coworker. People just don’t pay that much attention to that sort of thing.

      1. Observer*

        I doubt people will be comparing the OP’s wife with the coworker.

        Oh, I’m sure that if there are people who know them both, there WILL be people who are comparing. But if HR and the OP’s boss are reasonable and reasonably competent, they won’t be among the people making these comparisons.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          And comparing the two might not be inherently bad natured. It could be sympathetic, as in “Lucinda was back to work in two weeks, but Sam’s wife is still in recovery after three. Poor thing, she must really be having a rough time.” Even if people do notice, it won’t necessarily be in a negative way.

    4. Susie Q*

      Except giving birth…

      You’re supposed to be good to go 6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 8 weeks after a c-section.

  4. Cautionary tail*

    Having twice used outplacement, I think Outplacement agencies are completely useless. I had to go in twice a week after being laid off so someone could tell me my resume was great. They had workbooks to do to become more “professional.” Mycompany paid them thousands for my outplacement, money that I could have used if they only gave it to me as part of severance.

    1. BRR*

      That’s how I felt when I was laid off as well. Just give me the money. Also they didn’t announce with layoffs that an outplacement firm was available, you had to ask for it. Which seems….let’s go with not helpful.

    2. 867-5309*

      Same. I’ve not found them useful at all.

      A family member is transitioning from a 20+ year military career into private sector and he is getting some of the same – dated, if not bad – advice through some of those programs also.

      1. Anonym*

        Not sure if this is helpful to your family member, but sharing just in case: a number of major US companies have veteran jobs programs. Where I am (finance, global, Fortune 100 company) there’s a team of recruiters dedicated to helping vets find jobs with the company, and they provide things like resume support (again, from real recruiters who hire, not people reciting a script) and networking and periodic training programs. If your family member has any interest in the financial sector, Veterans on Wall Street (VOWS) might be a starting point. They do an annual symposium in November that includes a lot of career transition stuff, and have a bunch of big corporate sponsors who typically have veteran hiring programs. I would bet other industries might have something similar.

        All that to say, for veterans leaving military service it could be more useful to reach out to some employers directly rather than relying on outplacement services (or do both! but definitely find the employers that have the programs).

        1. alienor*

          My former employer (also a huge company) had a program like that. They were very proud of it, and it seemed to work well–I had a couple of really good coworkers who came in that way. The only slight drawback was that people who got hired through the program had to be prepared to get repeatedly trotted out as a veteran success story for the first couple of years, and to have their veteran status mentioned every time someone introduced them forever.

      2. Anomalous*

        The US Federal government has veteran preferences in hiring for all (or at least almost all) of their positions.

      3. Anoni*

        My SIL is going through this, too, and I was interested in the kinds of advice she was getting, but my brother didn’t really know or didn’t want to share. I let him know she could run things by me if she thought they sounded weird, but now I think I’ll just send her a message and ask how it’s going.

    3. Growing old but not growing up*

      I received this service about 10 years ago from a large well-known company.

      They did not seem to know the difference between a resume and a C.V. I know people use them interchangeably, but in academia, in my country, they want a C.V. that lists everything…EVERYTHING. 5 pages, no problem. 10, even better.
      However, they did assist in converting my 25 year old duties based resume into a achievements based one, so that was somewhat helpful. I was out of work less than 3 months.

    4. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Wait, the outplacement was required? Like I thought these things were just something you could use if you wanted?

      Almost sounds like unemployment where you have to go to the Workforce Development Center (WDC) at least once a week and take stupid classes and have people give you contradictory advice.

      I honestly think the one person just said I needed my street address because there was nothing wrong with my resume and she had to give some sort of thing for me to work on. 2 weeks before I was told by a different person at WDC that I needed to remove it.

      1. Been There Read That*

        I was required to use the WDC about 20 years ago while collecting unemployment. It was utterly useless. They would call on Wednesday to tell me about job listing from the Sunday paper. By the second time we interfaced I flat out asked if it was the same job listing from the Sunday paper, because yeah I already saw it and mailed out a resume 2 days previous.
        The job advice was utterly laughable. I had gone in with such high hopes, but it was a waste of time and resources for me.

        1. SeluciaMD*

          My brother had to use our local workforce development when he was on unemployment a few years ago after his company closed. The required training was SO BAD. He actually took audio recordings of some of it because he was sure no one would believe him when he described it (he was not wrong). Those “intro” sessions were farmed out to independent contractors and it was SO CLEAR there was no oversight because the facilitator and her “content” (if you can call it that) were just uniformly ridiculous and so very far from being helpful. They are much better now but that was not a good time to be unemployed and actually need their help.

  5. My name keeps getting deleted*

    Letter 2 seems to be a feeble attempt by the company to avoid investing in skill sets their employees can take elsewhere….but everything they currently know and do for this company is a skill set they can take elsewhere. It’s kinda laughable.

    1. Anon, Obvs.*

      It struck me as an odd policy, they aren’t simply not supporting developing, they are all but prohibiting it. Yet they expect the LW a to pick up substantial skills, all on her own.

      It sounds as though this department is different in this respect from others at the same company. I would try to find out who in this fiefdom is so anti-development, and why. If it’s a big issue maybe a lateral move to another department would help?

    2. GNG*

      In the extremely rare cases where anything is approved, no matter what it is, we’re required to come back and present to the entire department on what we learned.

      This particular requirement doesn’t sound too unreasonable. I’ve seen this in places where I’ve worked before, but at the same time, these places also provide generous resources for professional development activities, and have clearly stated policies for the approval process.

      From the letter, it sounds like only LW’s department is so stingy. It makes me wonder if they have a company-wide policy with stated criteria for professional development activities approval, or is it solely up to LW’s Boss to decide what gets approved?

      1. Kara*

        It sounds wildly unreasonable to me! Because lots of people will be put off by that so won’t do any learning.

        1. GNG*

          Hmm interesting. I didn’t find it to be the case in my own experience. Instead, there was a steady stream of employees attending prof dev activities and presenting on them. One of the places also covered tuition and textbooks for my two graduate degrees in full. But I get that every place is different!

          1. Kara*

            Well I think it’s ok if you go to some big industry conference or whatever. But if you have to present every time you go to anything then you’ll have less time for learning. One place I worked had an OPTION of catching people up in a team meeting which worked nicely.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              We did short presentations to everyone else as a review of the course as in what you liked/didn’t like, instructor methods (individual work, group work, etc), instructor quality, etc.. I found it handy because the presentations helped me avoid not-so-great trainings.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              We did this at my last job as part of our monthly meeting. We’d go around the table and everybody would do 2-5 minutes of something they learned that month. Stuff like “I watched a webinar and learned this useful thing about talking to angry customers” or “I was looking through the help menus for our checkout software and found this great keyboard shortcut that’s been really helpful.”

              Some places go overboard on it and make people do a full PowerPoint getting into all the points, and I think that can definitely be off putting. But there are ways to set up knowledge sharing after a training that are much easier for everyone.

              1. JustaTech*

                I did a full slide deck presentation of the cool stuff I learned at a conference, but 1) I wanted to share the stuff I learned and 2) very few people in my department go to conferences so it’s not like it was something people had to do very often.

                But no one asked me to do any kind of presentation about my grad school, even though that was (partially) covered with tuition assistance.
                (My mom was asked by her boss once to report on what she’d learned at a professional conference and my mom was super confused because it was the type of conference where the point is to network, rather than give or attend presentations.)

              2. TardyTardis*

                We had required paid trainings at the tax place (avoiding phishing attacks, Fun With Foreign Taxes, I-9’s and other forms, and so on). True, a lot of this happened on rainy Sunday where you would have two people showing up for the day.

        2. MK*

          The only way this might be considered unreasonable is if the company is expecting the employee to basically replicate the course for their coworkers. That’s not what giving a presentation about what you learned means; you just give an overview, focusing on the parts that particularly affect your job. I doubt most people would be foolish enough to pass on professional development to avoid this, but if they are, too bad for them?

          1. GNG*

            Right – a 5- 10 minute presentation to summarize key takeaways isn’t onerous. It’s a pretty low bar.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Agreed. It’s very common in any company I’ve worked for to come back from training, seminar, or webinar and give a summary of it. It’s usually at a weekly department meeting and it’s probably 10 minutes tops, unless you have a team member who gets really into it and makes a PowerPoint (yes, I have one such team member).

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I’ve sort of experienced this (and found it valuable) – one person attends the full course/conference or whatever, and then condenses it to be relevant to colleagues, then presented and Q&Aed. In my case, I probably spent less time preparing and delivering to my colleagues than I spent on the course, and I was delivering to more than a dozen people. It’s definitely more efficient than sending everyone, and allows for insights to reach people who can’t attend such events e.g. because of caring responsibilities.

            That said, it means you end up limiting attendance to people who can summarise and deliver, or relying on the summarising/presentation skills of attendees, and if those aren’t skills that are part of your business model then that’s unfair on everyone in a different way.

        3. Observer*

          Because lots of people will be put off by that so won’t do any learning.

          Anyone who is so unwilling to share really shouldn’t complain when they don’t get approved for training. Expecting people to share is reasonable. Refusing is unreasonable. Not learning so you don’t have to share? Wildly unreasonable.

          1. Kara*

            I’m a knowledge worker. I do a lot of professional development. There isn’t time for us all to share about everything we do.

      2. Asenath*

        Apparently this is a quirk of LW’s boss – she says people in other departments do go to professional development activities. As for the presenting requirement, the one job I had that gave me marvelous professional development opportunities did not require presentations when I (and others) came back. Other employers do – and my mother, although never an employer, could not understand how I could get to go to a big conference in a distant city and not give a presentation when I got back!

        1. WellRed*

          I’m not sure how valuable such presentations are, for the most part but it obviously varies by industry and people.

      3. Washi*

        I think this would probably vary by industry and type of event. I’m a social worker and we need a certain number of CEUs to maintain our licenses. It would be kind of weird and useless to have to do a “DBT in 5 mins” presentation each time I went to a lecture. But for something like a day-long seminar, it would be more normal to present key takeaways.

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’ve run into the same thing and it wasn’t too onerous. You’d do a 15 min lunch-and-learn that coworkers could join if you were interested. The content was to briefly review the course content and give a review of the training (what you liked, didn’t like, if you found it useful, what learning styles it suited). I liked it because so often trainings can sound good on paper, but end up not being worth it.

      5. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        My company has a similar requirement (although I will note that our department is not large). For us it works as a way of both learning new skills, and knowing who in the department to ask about HotNewThing. The expectations for the presentations also vary depending on the type of professional development.

        Find a really useful course online? Share it with the team in case anyone else wants to take it.

        Half the team goes to a one-day conference? Everybody shares a few sentences about their favorite session at the next team meeting.

        A few people go to a big multi-day conference? The collaborate on a presentation about the conference as a whole. This includes the bits about favorite sessions that we do for the one-day conference, plus some stuff about more intensive courses, keynote speakers, the “hallway track” (aka, really cool conversations you had with people you met by bumping into them in the hallway), plus optional activities provided by the conference and/or its sponsors to fill in evenings, mealtimes, or pre/post conference activities. Usually presented within a month of coming back from the conference.

      6. EmKay*

        Yeah, no. The engineers in my consulting firm don’t need my hour-long presentation on advanced PowerPoint functions.

        1. Good Vibes Steve*

          I guess it highly depends on the context of the training. No one needs a rehash of your powerpoint training if you’re say an accountant. But if I went to a conference dealing with the latest and sharpest in presentation technology and techniques, and my company is one where the main purpose is to support presenting skills – then it should be shared.

        2. Anoni*

          I don’t think anyone is giving hour long presentations on “PowerPoint functions, ” which is incredibly dismissive of the kinds of professional development people engage in.

          1. EmKay*

            You mean like you just dismissed my own professional development as an administrative assistant? The literal example I gave from my own experience?

            1. Anoni*

              I think you dismissed your own work out of hand. I don’t know what you do or what your professional development is, but you kind of undermined yourself in your comment. That wasn’t me. You wouldn’t reteach an entire workshop on it unless you were not great at presenting the highlights, anyway, would you?

              1. metadata minion*

                If your work differs significantly from most of your company — like if you’re an admin for a bunch of engineers — it does seem kind of weird for you to present takeaways from your professional development that are crucial for you but are things your coworkers are never going to do.

        3. Gumby*

          Presumably the engineers are in another department though? OP said if anyone does get to do professional development they have to share it with the department not the entire company. Though I have actually given a 5 minute presentation to engineers and physicists about a couple of kinds of project management software and they were fine with using their time that way.

          I don’t think sharing an *overview* of what you learned within your own department is all that onerous. Requiring a complete duplication of the full class/meeting/presentation is too much. But there is real value in “I just went to [major conference] and these were some interesting take aways.” It’s not 100% required but is quite common at my company.

      7. Emilia Bedelia*

        I think the usefulness of presenting to the team depends a lot on whether the training is personally useful/skill based (eg, presentation skills or project management or something like that) or informationally based and broadly useful to the team (eg, going to an industry conference or a webinar).
        “Skills” training is harder to distill into a few sentences, and the benefits would really only come from actually being there, or if the person is specifically intending to fully train their team on that skill.
        “Informational” training is easier to summarize for others – eg “I went to a webinar on the new llama herding regulations. The main takeaway for us is that lariats are not allowed anymore, and most companies in our industry are using the following techniques”. I think this is the most useful kind of thing to report out on – there are many useless webinars out there, and if the most valuable information can be distilled into a 5 minute presentation then everyone’s time is saved.

      8. Drago Cucina*

        I had a director that would make everyone write a one page essay on what they learned at their training. It was supposedly so they could share. No, it was just another part of her micromanaging.
        Someone was shocked that I wasn’t doing it. I had never been told I needed to. Really, I think because the director knew I would either not do it or turn it into an actual continuing ed event for the staff.

      9. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – if a company is paying for its people to go to conferences, etc., then it is reasonable that the person attending would give a presentation on lessons learned. NOT reasonable, though, if the company isn’t supporting the learning or just expects people to do conferences on their own time or holidays.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      And it’s also extremely weird that they are expecting LW #2 to do all these job duties that they don’t currently know how to do, without any training.
      The only explanations that I can think of for this are: 1. They expect the employee to pay for their own training and do it themselves outside work time (anf it seems like they would even have issues with this approach.) 2. They trying to force the employee out by making it impossible for them to do their job. 3. They are so devoted to their dumbass policy that they can’t see that it will actually be harmful in this case, either by forcing the employee to leave or putting them in a position where they seriously screw up because they just have no idea what they’re doing.

      1. Green great dragon*

        It is weird. 4. manager has absolutely no idea what is involved in the new task and assumes therefore it is obvious and easy.

        1. Alice*

          It sounds like OP’s manager is out of step with the rest of the company…. I’m surprised that the advice wasn’t, try to bring this to the attention of someone about the manager and get her on board with supporting professional development.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            I think Alison/AAM’s advice was targeted at the question asked, i.e. “Is this a reasonable policy?”

            It wasn’t clear if OP2 was interested in advice on how to change the situation.

      2. Bubbly*

        I worked for a toxic manager who did this. I asked to attend a specific continuing education course to learn a skill that would really come in handy at our workplace and help avoid referral out to larger businesses, but my boss refused it and expected me to do it anyway! I refused to do the skill and continued to refer it out. The kicker was that we were legally required to do CE every year and it was built into our contracts, but he didn’t want to pay an extra $500 for it. I also had to declined leaving a major conference two days early because I wouldn’t have enough hours for the year if I did.
        This place was completely toxic and it was just another symptom.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        I would just do it outside work time or on lunch breaks and not tell them. What you do outside of work hours isn’t something they should control.

        1. Anoni*

          Right. Except some of those things cost money or are time investments and not easily done on your own dime or on your own time. If it’s not related to the work you do or the work you will do, I can see taking it on the costs and time yourself. But if it’s something that can improve your current position and would benefit the company in any way, you shouldn’t really be eating that cost.

    4. Perfectly Particular*

      It could also be budgetary, especially if the team is a cost-driver, rather than a revenue driver. T&E budgets are often the first to be cut, which would rule out the industry conferences, etc. and then if there are young employees on the team, they may be using up any training budget just to come up to speed on basic skills necessary for work. Expecting the employee to learn a new skill without any formal training is unreasonable, but not shocking, unfortunately.

    5. irene adler*

      This is exactly the mind-set ALL of management has at my company. They will not pay for any outside education/training etc. because it sets folks up to go elsewhere with the newly learned skills.

      There’s been very little turnover. Likely because we employees lack updated skills. So there’s method to the madness. It’s just not a very nice thing to do to the employees.

      1. Do-Gooder*

        …so their employees skills fall further and further behind, and the business gets less and less competitive? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

        1. banoffee pie*

          That’s pretty negative and horrible. Probably won’t help the company in the long run either.

      2. BatManDan*

        Great quote, widely attributed to various celebrity entrepreneurs, supposedly goes like this:
        VP (against stafff development): But, what if we train our people, and then they leave us?
        Big Boss: what if we DON’T train them, and they stay?

        1. Anoni*

          Also, not training them or investing in them in any way is almost a guarantee they’ll bounce anyway.

      3. Farrah Sahara*

        Reminds me of that great quote from Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

      4. Cordyceps*

        Yes, this is exactly how my company operates. They widely tout their “100% tuition reimbursement”, but after you get started with them, they show you the fine print and find out that the tuition reimbursement only applies to courses/instruction that are directly related to your current job. Now, some people are able to make limited use of this, but for me, I’m already at the senior level of my role (not that i know everything) and it’s a pretty useless “benefit”.
        I understand that most businesses do not want to pay for courses in creative writing, military history, etc. But, I wanted to take some courses in business statistics and market research (my company hires tons of people that perform statistical and market research work), but they wouldn’t support me on this because I’m not already working in those areas.
        However, this policy (and others like it) are starting to bite my company in the butt. Tons of people are leaving specifically because of lack of development and career growth opportunities and now the organization is desperately trying to solve for this. I’m sure when they rolled this policy out, it seemed like a great way to offer a “benefit” that almost nobody could actually take advantage of, thus saving the company a ton of money. But, this is a large, publicly traded company and the ONLY thing that matters is next quarter’s earnings call and the very worst thing you can do is spend money on labor.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          What numbskull came up with that policy or approved it?!?

          It’s reasonable to expect training to have relevance to the person’s role, but it’s counter-productive to pull a bait and switch like this on people who are expecting to be able to get support for training as part of their contract with the organization – if training was a driver for them or a big attraction of the role, they’re going to leave when the training support doesn’t materialize. That, or their morale is going to tank, and they’ll take it out on the company in terms of reducing their efforts.

          It would be better to not have a training support policy at all, rather than pull this kind of trick.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I left a company over this type of policy. They required a bachelor’s degree for the step up from the entry level position I was interviewing for, talked up their “education benefits”, but when I said I was 3 quarters away from a (relevant STEM) BA they said I didn’t need it for the entry level position so it would be denied. They were also a looong commute and going into an ISO9000 certification. It wasn’t worth the hassle if I was going to be stuck at entry level.

            I started looking for work and got a job at a much more pleasant company that didn’t need a specific degree to advance, much closer to home.

      5. Observer*

        They will not pay for any outside education/training etc. because it sets folks up to go elsewhere with the newly learned skills.

        That’s classic. And unfortunately for them, no one seems to have pointed out to them that now their people are UNSKILLED and sticking around.

    6. Mockingjay*

      I worked for a company like this in the early 90s. Huge government contractor; our division alone had over 9,000 employees. Whether you got training depended solely on how hard your manager fought for it. When we had to switch from WordPerfect to MS Word – a BIG change back then – I asked to have the typing team trained on the new software, then they could come back and instruct the rest of us. Seemed reasonable to me.

      My manager refused. He handed me the 800-page manual instead. (oh, the days before IETMs – interactive electronic tech manuals.) Then he pointed to the line in our job descriptions that we had to be proficient in a word processing program. I was livid. How can we be proficient in a brand new piece of software none of us had ever seen?

      (I got him back with a minor bit of petty revenge. He called me in his office one day and said, “close the door.” I’m like, oh sh*t. Turns out he wanted to know how to format something. I said, “Hit F3.” “What’s that?” “The help key.” Then I turned and sailed right back out the door.)

    7. Drago Cucina*

      I would have said it was very odd until I recently. At old job we had gotten a federal grant for Stan to get a graduate degree in our field. The requirement was that he had to work in the public library rather than school, academic, etc. If they didn’t the grant had to be paid back at a pro-rated rate after graduation.

      We always viewed it as growing the profession and all knowledge and skills learned benefited us. Stan was the third person to receive such a grant. He lived in an area with no broadband internet. So, I scheduled him to “work” evenings with our very competent high school aides. The same nights as his online classes. In case of emergency he was available. He oriented all his school projects to benefit us.

      Just five months from graduation the new director forbids him from doing his classes at the library or any of this classwork on the clock. So, within three months he was hired at an academic library, for twice the pay. They got a deal. A soon to be degreed librarian with years of experience. Stan made enough to easily pay off the grant and has excellent continuing education benefits.

      1. Lance*

        Just to try and understand this… are you suggesting it’s good to limit such opportunities, because people might leave, or to treat said people well enough that they won’t then leave with those skills?

        1. Drago Cucina*

          No. That’s why I pointed out:

          We always viewed it as growing the profession and all knowledge and skills learned benefited us. Stan was the third person to receive such a grant.

      2. Anoni*

        This…is not a good way to look at that. Perhaps if you had paid him what he clearly was worth (“twice the pay”) he would have stayed. Instead, he saw an opportunity to come out ahead and he took it. Stan isn’t the one at fault here. In addition, while you helped him out, your new director was incredibly short-sighted and forbade him from doing classwork during downtime at the library. I’m not sure how you see this as a Stan problem.

        1. Caraway*

          I don’t believe Drago does see it as a Stan problem! It seems very clear to me she agrees with you that the supervisor was short-sighted.

          1. Anoni*

            Oops! I got a totally different read on that. I saw it as “this is why professional development is bad like when Stan left after five months of taking advantage of this perk we offered.”

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Um, @Drago Cucina seems to be presenting this anecdote as another example of a shortsighted manager who lost a great employee. It sounds like they think NewDirector made a mistake with Stan. Drago even did what they could to accomodate Stan:

          “[Stan] lived in an area with no broadband internet. So, I scheduled him to ‘work’ evenings with our very competent high school aides.”

          Then NewDirector came in and messed this up.


          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Also, I think the first part about it being odd is saying that this shortsightedness is more common than it might seem.

        3. Drago Cucina*

          I never said it was a Stan problem. It was a management problem.

          It’s easy to say pay him more, but when the local government cuts your budget by 30% we were lucky not to have layoffs. It’s why one of the carrots of the grant to stay for two years. Public library staff are notoriously underpaid in comparison to other types.

    8. Meep*

      My company used to pay for and encourage classes through Pryor because we are so small. Then the same person authorizing would complain how expensive it was because it was taking someone offline for 1-3 days. I could see this being the case depending on the size.

    9. Artemesia*

      I can understand not providing personal development like conferences etc — don’t like it, but understand it. But in what universe does it make sense to not train people for the specific jobs you expect them to do?

  6. Anon, Obvs.*

    Outplacement is a thing, quality varies, as with anything, I found it very useful, both nuts and bolts of my resume etc but also some very good exercises helping me think about what kind of job I wanted to go for.

    I’d been laid off after working with the same company in various incarnations for 14 years. I got 3 months of outplacement support. My resume was very out of date, both in content and in style, and I had only done a few internal interviews in that time so my interviewing skills were a bit rusty. Networking was pretty new to me also. They helped me a lot, my resume was hugely improved and that combined with advice on cover letters (similar to Alison’s) meant I got an excellent response rate on the applications I sent.

    They gave really good advice on how to turn the inevitable interview question about being laid off to my advantage also. A couple interviewers remarked that it was the best answer they’d ever heard.

    There are inevitably going to be crappy services, or cases where advice is spotty, as with anything. My advice would be to gain/learn everything useful out of them that you can, and don’t get distracted by what isn’t helpful. Going into it with the thought that “this is just some BS a the company bought to make themselves feel better” and wondering about their ulterior motives is not likely to be productive.

    Being laid off is a huge blow, it helped me to feel like I had a plan and some help to get me in the right direction.

    1. Bamcakes*

      It depends a huge amount on where the client is starting from too. If someone hasn’t had to apply for a job for a long time, doesn’t have a recent resume and hasn’t interviewed for a long term, that’s very basic practical stuff to teach. If there are people who haven’t really thought about their career direction for a long time and want to take this opportunity to consider new directions, and the outplacement package includes coaching and individual work, you can really help then.

      One the other hand, if you’re a well-networked professional who has job-searched in the last 5-7 years and you’re happy looking for similar work, or you’re one of a hundred newly-redundant alpaca-trainers and the only alpaca-training facility in town has just shut, there’s probably not a huge amount of practical good the outplacement people can do for you except try and absorb some of the general bad feeling and disappointment. Sometimes companies and authorities aren’t entirely realistic about what problems careers advice and coaching can solve: we can’t make jobs appear where jobs don’t exist.

      1. NYWeasel*

        So much this. I was laid off from a company where people had *decades* of tenure, while I was only there for a few years (and had already been job hunting for over a year). The company they hired was designed initially to deal with executives needing to job hunt, and the advice was…well…

        The resume coach added a little value, though I ended up drafting my own resume based on her structural suggestions. But the other coach was ridiculous. He pushed getting “100 LinkedIn contacts” and wanted me as an assistant project manager to apply to jobs across the entire country and then “negotiate to work remotely!” All of his successful examples of this technique were VP level candidates with really unique skills, and this coach refused to acknowledge that the unique skills were more why the companies were willing to negotiate than just having the candidate ask. (I did ask him for examples of project managers getting these types of perks, and he couldn’t answer me, lolllll)

        Anyway, I definitely found that the people who got the most value from the service were those who had more than 15 years since their last job hunt. (Ie pre-internet)

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I’ve been through layoffs in the bad times of 2009 and 2020, and both companies used the same outplacement outfit. I found the advice way more useful the first time around because I hadn’t gotten much guidance on resumes, interviewing, etc beyond typical college career center stuff. My second time around, I was much savvier about resumes, interviewing, and networking, so the outplacement service was less useful to me (but it was helpful to have my resume polished and made more modern-looking).

        I think the service was way more useful to my coworkers the time I was laid off from an old-fashioned company where people worked from graduation to retirement. Many of my teammates had not job-hunted in decades, and anything they knew about the process was wildly outdated.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      Great comment. It’s also very easy to have the attitude, when the advice is straightforward, that this is all obvious. My experience when laid off from my old job and going through an outplacement group session is that what seems obvious isn’t obvious to everyone.

    3. Lance*

      ‘My advice would be to gain/learn everything useful out of them that you can, and don’t get distracted by what isn’t helpful.’

      Not that it’s bad advice — I don’t think that is — but this one is fairly tricky. It can be hard for a lot of people to tell what’s helpful and what’s not, and some just don’t have the savvy to not just take what the ‘experts’ say at full face value. I think it can be worth it to go in with a shred of doubt to this general end, and possibly do some research on the side, along with working with them (or not, if they’re fans of gumption).

    4. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Good for you, but I knew mine was terrible by her contact with me. About a month after the layoff, I started getting bombed on all fronts by someone at the agency. Multiple phone calls, voice mails and emails EVERY DAY for a week. And she tried to scare me – “if you don’t use this service, you won’t be able to get a job in these hard times, call me to set up a meeting now.” It was obnoxious, unprofessional, and frankly predatory.

      I emailed her and said that based on her unprofessionalism, I didn’t think I would find her services helpful and not to contact me again. She at least complied with that.

    5. Cleo*

      I had a similar experience. I was laid off after 16 years at the same company, and I hadn’t had to do a real job search in more than 20 years. My company didn’t offer outplacement but fortunately my husband had been laid off a year earlier (not that it felt like good fortune at the time!) and his company paid for outplacement at a non-profit job center that specialized in career transitions. He had a really good experience and signed me up right away.

      I had to pay for a membership (the cost felt like a lot but it was quite reasonable compared to hiring a job coach) and it honestly was a life-line. I went to the center regularly and took their workshops and signed up for coaching and peer groups. Not all of the information was useful but a lot of it was and the fact that they had a structure and curriculum was incredibly helpful to me. Job hunting had dramatically changed between 1991 and 2014 and I needed all of the help I could get. All of the coaching and workshops were done by volunteers so the quality varied but I was able to find the support that I needed.

      One of the most helpful workshops I took was one about how to use LinkedIn that was given by a volunteer who’s day job is a recruiter. His insights into how recruiters use LinkedIn were invaluable – I made a few changes based on his workshop and I immediately began getting more useful inquiries through LinkedIn and one of those hits got me a job. (I’m in a field where contract work is very common and most of it’s through recruiters.)

  7. Chidi-Janet & The Tarantula Squids*

    #2 It looks like just LW’s department has this attitude.
    How big is the organisation? Can you approach HR with questions on how best to get the upskilling you need to perform this new task?
    How does your new task interface with other areas of the organisation? Using the racecar/aeroplane analogy, who are the passengers and groundcrew that will rely on you performing the task competently? Could they support your training in some way, even if it just means a couple of key stakeholders speak to your manager/department head?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I am rarely an advocate for going to HR, but if other departments are approving training, conferences, and development opportunities and this one manager is not, that’s a big inequity in the company and only HR is in position to know if that’s really a fact or a perception.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. At a previous job, I asked my boss and HR if the company would contribute towards some training, and was told that the company wouldn’t pay for training for people in my role, since they didn’t think it was worth it. Thankfully, some overtime came up, and I put that money towards it, making sure the company knew what I was doing.

    The taking on the new task sounds concerning, if additional training is required and the department is unwilling to pay for it.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. Many employers will require employees who leave within a given period to reimburse the company for the costs of the training. Two years is common. A friend of mine’s an accountant and when she got our equivalent of the CPA certificate, her then-employer paid for it. She was headhunted by another employer during the reimbursement period, and she essentially negotiated for them to pay her former employer a “transfer fee” equivalent to what she owed them. If they had paid her a sign-on bonus, there would’ve been tax consequences for her.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        For some things it makes sense – certifications that the employee needs to keep up to date to practice professionally, or optional continuing education, where it might be a benefit to the employer, but is also a benefit to the employee, and isn’t needed for their current job (tuition reimbursement is a common one).

        It becomes punitive if the employer is requiring the training, and then demanding that the employee pay for it if they quit (or even worse, are let go). The employee is being required to take on a potential debt to remain employed. It’s like having required work travel, but being billed for it if you leave in between booking the ticket and the trip – it’s a cost that is being required by the employer, and should be borne by them.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Where I am there are specific rules around this – this kind of arrangement is only legal where there is a specific written agreement, the company can only recover actual costs, and there is a general requirement that it is reasonable and not a penalty clause – typically an arrangements that you pay back 100% if you leave within 12 months nd 50% if you leave between 12-24 months is likely to be reasonable.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          It becomes punitive if the employer is requiring the training, and then demanding that the employee pay for it if they quit (or even worse, are let go).

          Been there, done that, opted out of the T-shirt. There were a million good reasons not to keep that job, but “being required to reimburse the company for $20M ($20,000) worth of training I don’t want and does me no good if they lay me off afterwards” stops the narrative that *I* was the irrational one dead in its tracks.

    2. Alternative Person*

      Yeah, my previous job was like that. I ended up playing for the training with my own money. Didn’t take a proper holiday for 2+ years. Got the certificate, they downplayed it. Found out later they would play up my qualifications to clients as a reason to choose them. I left as soon as I could.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Fortunately, my current workplace can see the forest and the trees. Learning new skillsets is encouraged and paid for if requested. It makes for a better workplace because people are eager to share their new skills. Unlike a previous job where the attitude was this system worked for 20 years so why update it to reflect current practices?

  9. favorthebold*

    My previous company offered outplacement support services. I was actually already really good and job searching at that point (having done it to get into the company that had just laid me off after a scant 2.5 years) and I felt confident on what direction to go. They did provide me a “coach” who I did mock interviews with, and asked for some tips which she provided. Her tips were probably the only useful part of the whole business. They had a job search database on their website which was bad, a terrible UI, and despite the hint that they provided skills training along with the service there was no actual training, just webinars about vague topics. My conclusion was that my previous company hugely overpaid for the service and I wish they’d have just given me that money in severance. (though I can’t complain too hard, they gave me very generous severance and more importantly they let me keep my corporate healthcare for up to a year of job hunting)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      This is how I felt about them. The resume and mock interview was helpful, but a lot of other things were not. My thought was the company could have paid them a lot less for more like just 1 afternoon of this and not something ongoing.
      Note: Even though I didn’t need the resume service as much, there were people who did not even have a resume, or had not updated it in 15-20 years! So perhaps it helped those people more. I had only been at that company 2 years so my resume and job search skills were fresh.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      If you’re in the US, and your company was not super small, they may have been required by law to let you keep your corporate health insurance for up to, I think, 18 months, if you paid the premiums and didn’t have a new job with other insurance offered.

      And some states eg Massachusetts require companies to offer that regardless of size.

  10. The Prettiest Curse*

    I had a really good experience with an outplacement agency after being laid off. The most useful thing that they offered were webinars and in-person training sessions on various aspects of job-hunting. I also had a few meetings with a career coach, who was lovely and very helpful.

    However, like anything else, I’m sure that quality of these agencies varies widely. So, since you’re not required to follow their advice, discard anything that seems weird or off-base and keep anything useful.

    Also, I have a feeling that it may be difficult for companies doing layoffs to actually evaluate the quality of these agencies’ services, since there aren’t any required professional qualifications to call yourself a career advisor. They all probably give the exact same slick presentation to HR and then the big bosses go with the cheapest service. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing for companies to give this service to people being laid off, because they can be useful. But I think that companies are primarily attracted to these services because it allows them to think that they’re caring about and being helpful to their laid-off employees – even though it would be more helpful to said employees if they could keep their jobs.

  11. Alternative Person*

    #2 is really bizarre. It’s one thing for companies not to pay for training (it’s depressingly common in my industry) but to deny requests and force you to do tasks that require specialist training but not give you support for it? What on earth?

    I’d say you need to take a look at company policy and talk to HR, but if your department is not going to budge then you might need to consider moving on. Giving training is a reason for people to stay at a company, not giving it is going to lose good employees in the long run.

    1. irene adler*

      My boss never saw the need for training employees on new things. He felt that employees should just ‘fool around’ with whatever new skill they were asked to perform until they get it. He was fine with answering any questions asked about the new skill. But you just had to figure things out on your own.

      That’s how he learned things.

      Yeah, this leaves a whole lot of room for bad outcomes.

      1. Hazel*

        Aaaaaaargh! This makes me nuts! People are actually not all the same, and different people learn in different ways.

      2. JustaTech*

        Good grief, that sounds like my old boss, who was a big proponent of the “watch once, do once, teach once” approach to learning new things.

        Except that sometimes he didn’t offer the “watch” option, but rather left me a hand-written protocol and then left, then got upset because it wasn’t turning out right. Thankfully a peer in another group heard me lamenting my inability to do this assay and offered to watch, where she immediately identified two major issues (one his and one mine), corrected them and then, ta-da, the process worked.

  12. Xavier Desmond*

    Completely baffled by the person who thought being offered the same money but better benefits for the same job is an insult.

    1. Do-Gooder*

      Especially since when a company is bought out, most employees are understandably very concerned whether there will be layoffs due to redundant positions or cost-cutting. Looking at it as a time to ask for a higher salary just seems tone deaf to me.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Yeah. So often they’ll say there won’t be any layoffs, and then the next thing you know, you’re cross-training someone who will probably be taking over your job.

    2. Observer*

      Bizarre, isn’t it.

      OP, is this friend the kind of person who always finds some reason to be offended?

    3. Snuck*

      I’d roll with the offered contract, and then prove I was worth more. Negotiate after a year. Unless you are a very very key worker (and trust me, a lot of people think they are but hopefully aren’t – a good company has multiple people ready to step in at any time to most work roles), if you are a very key worker then you might be able to ask for some concessions to stay, but what will you do if they say no? Stay and grumble? Take another job? If you don’t have another job lined up they will assume you are leaving soon anyway?

      New owners don’t know your capabilities, and often have some knowledge of the industry so might have people they want to pull over when they can too. It’s normal for there to be some staff changes as people get known, come and go for various reasons, and it’s a great chance for new management to quickly establish new order/improve significant problem employee behaviour (if they want to and have the nouse to do it swiftly!).

      I’d personally offer to keep on everyone, I’d make retention offers to specific individuals in specific roles (based on performance, training/experience/skill sets, key knowledge specific to the business), but if others chose to go I’d take the chance to bring in fresh people who can help transition with skills I want or even just dilute any ‘us vs them’ mentality that might be happening. I wouldn’t shove people out to do this (unless it was blatantly obvious they were incompetent), but I wouldn’t fight hard to retain general staff in the current employment market if they were going to be resentful or even just opportunistic. I don’t know them well enough to put up with that if there’s a line outside the door of people (who I equally don’t know) who have skills and experience and knowledge that could be worth a try too.

  13. Gimmeausername*

    Since Covid my company has been including “I am currently working remotely and flexibly. If I send you an email outside of normal working hours, please do not feel you need to reply outside your own working hours”

    Amazing how quickly a global pandemic moves a company from “flexible working by arrangement with a manager and reluctantly” to “we’re only going to have 50-60% capacity in the office without social distancing so everyone is going hybrid 2-3 days a week”

  14. Nea*

    My experience with outplacement services is outdated in several ways – first because it was over a decade ago, second because the main advice was “gumption” based. I was told to find the CEOs of 10 companies, identify a problem their companies had, and send the CEOs a letter every week fixing that problem until someone was so impressed I got a job offer.

    I still shudder at the multiverse reality where I actually tried that instead of blurting “I don’t work for free.”

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Yikes, imagine getting random letters from a stranger telling you how to run your business better. You would end up on the do no hire list after the third weekly “In my opinion” letter.

      1. Nea*

        Third? I figure the first “Hey, you don’t know me and I don’t know much about your company, but I’m totally the solution you need for (problem that probably doesn’t exist)!” would be an instant blacklist.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          That was my thought. The first letter would put you on the Loony List.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Wow. This makes me feel bad for the assistants to the CEOs who had to open all those random letters from people who took this bad advice.

      1. Temperance*

        Speaking as someone who gets to read wacky letters at work, it was probably actually quite entertaining for the assistants to read these.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I would enjoy reading those and trying to reverse-engineer whatever weird advice the letter writer got!!

    3. Kyrielle*

      “Dear CEO,

      You don’t know me, but I am aware of at least one major problem your company has. Namely, there’s this outplacement service recommending people email the CEO’s of companies solving their problems every week until someone hires them. Here is their name, address, and contact info…..”

    4. Anoni*

      Oof. I wonder if that was even realistic a decade ago. I think of how long I’ve been reading AAM and I’m pretty sure it’s been for about a decade and I can’t see Alison thinking that was wise even ten years ago.

    5. Chaordic One*

      This sounds like the “pain letter” approach that is heavily promoted by that other employment columnist (who some consider to be a rival to our beloved Alison). It might work every once in a while, but it really isn’t very helpful for most situations.

  15. UKgreen*

    I really like that, LW5. It’s a lot clearer and more succinct than what I currently have so I may steal it – thank you!

      1. RB*

        I added one that was even more succinct in an earlier comment above. I got it from a commenter on this site, I don’t remember who.

  16. .dev*

    #3 depends on the industry maybe. I was in a similar situation once. Tiny software company where I had a salary that was far below industry standard, but we made a product I loved, I had a lot of freedom, etc. Company was bought by huge company (one of the companies you think of when you think “large tech company”). For me, while the job title and description remained the same, the job did not.

    I guess it is different if you are, say, a tiny restaurant that is bought out by a bigger chain but will remain working independently and you are a low level worker and the job is mostly the same. But I think that in many companies after acquisition, the job will not actually be the same, and it is likely that as part of a small company, you were underpaid. If the normal salary for this kind of job in the company is known and that is what made the friend call the offer an insult, negotiating makes sense to me. It is possible that friend is just completely oblivious to what is a normal salary for teapot designers, but if job postings for “teapot designer” of New Company list a salary range of 80,000-120,000 and the offer you get is for 55,000 then it is insulting, regardless of whether that is what Tiny Company paid.

    1. Plant*

      Yeah, for an acquisition by a larger company, you might not have room to negotiate but it is likely that your pay will be adjusted to fit their pay scales, which at least for ‘professional’ jobs might mean a significant increase.

    2. Another Person*

      I was looking for exactly this comment. At larger companies and in other industries I could imagine the exact same salary is common, but in software often people at small companies are undercompensated from a salary perspective.

      I was in a relatively large software company that got bought out by a much bigger one and I STILL got at least a small bump. That said, there wasn’t much room for negotiation – but the idea was that we were all getting pay bumps so that was less needed.

      Also, when such a small company is bought out, often the implication is that they are paying partially for the knowledge the workers have. It really behooves them to make sure the people are being paid fairly since they should really want them to stay on!

  17. Joe Photo*

    I have direct experience with the second part of #2. As a still photographer, our new director told me I would now be shooting videos, too, as all the cameras can shoot both.

    It reminded me of a Dilbert in which the pointy haired boss said, to paraphrase, “anything I don’t understand is easy and takes no time.”

  18. Jack Straw*

    #4 – I say this as a person who has surgeries (major and minor) multiple times a year: you’re overthinking it. As another commenter said, people are different. Heck, doctors are different in what they consider recovered. Any reasonable employer won’t track things that closely and won’t disagree with the directives from your wife’s physician.

  19. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I work with a lot of job seekers who went through outplacement services. I can spot one of their resumes a mile away.
    What hurts my heart is that these folks often get their resume created by the service and then ride out their severance before they finally come into the career center b/c their unemployment insurance starts. It’s not that the resumes are BAD, it’s that they’re written by someone else, and most folks get scared to “break” the pretty resume. So 6 or 9 months later, I get to teach them about customizing and targeting resumes, which is fun, but it’s 6 or 9 months of lost opportunities.
    I always tell folks that if they (or someone else) paid for their resume, it’s awesome that now they have a good solid first draft to work from.

  20. 867-5309*

    OP2, Just a small nuance to point out. “In the extremely rare cases where anything is approved, no matter what it is, we’re required to come back and present to the entire department on what we learned. (It cannot be purely individual professional development.)”

    This is incredibly common and something I do at least via email, regardless of its requested.

    The company wants to maximize its investment in development, which means ensuring lessons gets shared around with others. It makes sense that they want you to share back with others who could not participate. “Individual development” at a place of work is not the same as personally deciding you want to learn a new skill.

    1. EmKay*

      Sure, but sending an email and standing up in front of the entire department and speaking are two different animals.

      1. 867-5309*

        About 50+% of the time, I stand up and give a presentation. That has been standard almost every place I have worked if someone attends training, conference, webinar, etc. on the company’s dime.

        1. Anoni*

          Same. I’ve done these kinds of brief overviews for coworkers before. In my experience, they don’t want you to present word-for-word what you learned, but rather the larger concepts and how they might apply to your department or projects.

    2. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Agree, most every big company I’ve worked at has requested that if you go to a class, conference, etc., you present what you learned to the rest of the team afterwards. In my work (& pre-pandemic), it’s usually a quarterly brown-bag session where anyone who attended something has 10-15 min. to talk about their experience & ideally how it relates to our work. Of course, this is also part of a culture where we’re encouraged to learn more about our industry & related skills.

    3. Tamara*

      Surely, this really does depend on if the rest of the team actually requires this knowledge to do their own jobs, right?

      If Jane is an engineer and needs to attend a class on a critical update to the specialist software that Jane needs to know how to use properly in order to do her job (and make the company money), but it’s not something that Gary in marketing will ever need to know in order to perform his job, does Jane really have to spend company time teaching Gary about it in detail? All Gary in marketing might need to know, if anything, is that the company knows all about this critical software update and that its engineers are all over it.

  21. Autumn*

    I remember when LinkedIn first started with these “endorsements” I was mystified when an old and dear friend “endorsed” me for “healthcare” I’m a nurse, Dear Friend has no professional knowledge of my work. So I poked around and discovered one didn’t in fact need any standing to endorse anyone else. To test my theory I endorsed a couple of people senior to me as something or other and it was still on their profiles weeks and even years later. How worthless! My LinkedIn profile only exists so I can get in touch with my references ahead of using them for a job application. Between my line of work and living in what I affectionately call “Northeast Nowhere” I haven’t found LinkedIn very useful.

    1. Artemesia*

      A cousin I literally had not seen in decades endorsed me on linked in. She read my book but she had no idea of my skills or competence. It did teach me all I needed to know about linked in.

  22. Alexis Rose*

    I’ve been in this situation before. In my case, it seemed to be my boss specifically, rather than a departmental/organizational policy. I left because of it. It was incredibly demoralizing and frustrating and I felt stifled and stuck in my role. My boss’s shocked Pikachu face and his panic when I gave my notice was pure gold. He apparently didn’t see the causation/correlation between not allowing any personal/professional growth and my desire to leave immediately.

    I honestly would be looking for a new job, this type of thing weighs on you and isn’t a pleasant work environment.

  23. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP33 – just to amplify what Alison has already said, if the old ownership thought your husband was a key employee, the buyers would have already had conversations with him. It’s possible, of course, that he’s more key that the old owners thought – that’s really the only wiggle room you have here.

  24. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I get asking someone who goes to a conference or a seminar to give some highlights to the team or the company when they return, and maybe also making the materials available in case someone wants to look up a particular point. But presumably if the participant doesn’t know the material well (which… would be why they went to the seminar), replicating a presentation would be really hard to do. I teach a couple of law school classes. I can do it because it’s material I know well because I’ve been doing it for 20 years. It would be outrageous to expect one of my students to be able to re-teach my same course after having attended one day.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      At most, your should expect the attendees to come back to the office and say “This is what the new ANSI standard for teapots is going to do to our business”. Maybe 30 minutes of presentation per day of training.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      And yet, there’s the whole “Train the Trainers” approach to change management. It isn’t ideal there, and it’s even less so with professional development. Some managers think it’s just great, though: train the whole department while only paying for one.
      Especially problematic with CPE, where only certified training counts toward license renewal.

    3. JustaTech*

      I understand giving a highlights/cool things presentation from a knowledge-exchange type conference, I’ve done that and enjoyed it (having presentations avaialble online makes it a lot easier!).

      But the time I went for a week-long super-intense training on a very complicated laser instrument? Yeah, I didn’t present on that, I started using the instrument with less hand-holding. Like, maybe I talked in my sub-group meeting about what I was going to do with the instrument now that I wouldn’t break it?

      1. GNG*

        What you’re saying totally makes sense.

        If anyone is still reading the comments: There seem to be some discussions on what should or should not be presented. I feel like I can chime in. In a previous job, the word “Professional Development” was literally in my job title, and we make a differentiation between professional development and training. So if any one is interested:

        In my field, training usually refers to learning how to do, or how to use, something specific, or how to carry out a specific process. Learning how to use a complicated laser instrument is a good example. It’s usually not necessary or appropriate to present to others on the training content. If a manager needs staff to gain the same skills for their jobs, then staff should be sent to the same training.

        Professional development usually refers to learning tools in order to gain the capacity to do a range of things, or achieving a range of outcomes. For example, Amanda is a teacher, and she goes to a Prof Dev session on how to incorporate active learning strategies in the classroom. After she gets back, she revises her teaching plans based on what she learned, and use it to teach her chemistry class. The course she attended didn’t specifically prescribe step by step how she should teach her chemistry class, but she gained the theory and knowledge to incorporate it into her practice. It would be appropriate for Amanda to present as summary of key takeaways or highlights to her fellow teachers. The purpose of presenting is usually to report out on how she spent her time, and alert other teachers that there is new knowledge that can help them with their professional growth. It is not to replicate the course for other teachers. That wouldn’t be a realistic expectation.

        There can be overlap between the two, of course, but I find having this understanding of the differences can help clarify a lot of confusions.

  25. WonkyStitch*

    My outplacement agency story…

    It was 2014, I was working as a recruiter in the HR department and had a shiny new PHR certification (meaning lots of hours of study in HR laws and regulations). The company and I weren’t a great fit, partly because I was undiagnosed autistic and HR was run by a lady who was pretty “drink the koolaid, smile, and fake it” which autistics are notoriously bad at. In any event, her boss offered to let me resign and he’d give me a couple of months at an outplacement agency in our smaller midwestern city. I took the offer.

    The outplacement agency was pretty much staffed by former recruiters (someone I’d worked for at a staffing agency was now a manager there). I assumed that he’d given them my info and what I’d been doing for the company and they’d help me find a new position.

    That week, I’d had to fly to Washington D.C. to see my dad interred at Arlington National Cemetery. I was flying back and my flight was delayed in Chicago due to weather. I was going to be juuuuust on time for my appointment at the agency if I hustled from the airport, but I had no nice clothes with me. I’m the type to always dress very well for interviews, which I saw this as. I hauled ass to Target, flew through the women’s section, found something that would fit, changed in the restroom, and drove too fast to the agency, arriving just in the nick of time.

    I was flustered and tired but I was there, on time! I sat down with two ladies who seemed nice. Except the main one didn’t have a copy of my resume. I handed over my copies to them, and she reviewed it quickly. Then she turned to me and brightly said, “so we can help you with your resume and how to prepare for a first job in HR!”

    Except I didn’t need help with my resume (I had Ask A Manager for that, and I knew mine was good!), and I had my PHR and five plus years of work in HR/recruiting.

    I was very confused and still flustered, so it pretty much went downhill from there. I asked if they would help me find a new job and she said, “no, we don’t do that.” Essentially they were mostly staffing for their client companies, helping THEM find employees, not the other way around.

    When I called the head of HR who’d gotten me the appointment at the agency, he was just like “well that’s what they can do then, good luck.”

    Yeah. Not a fan of outplacement agencies.

  26. Slow Gin Lizz*

    …look at the story here about one that advised a woman not to order cranberry juice at a lunch interview because it could look like she had a UTI.

    I’m sorry, what??? In what world do people automatically assume that a woman ordering cranberry juice has a UTI and why would anyone care or not anyway if the person they’re interviewing has a UTI??? Wow, that’s just bananas.

    1. anon for this*

      I see how completely absurd and paranoid and misogynistic the reasoning is…but also, as a woman who has spent most of this week lying around fighting the most annoying and disruptive UTI she’s ever had, hearing about the story kind of just made my day.

      (For the record, since I looked this up last night, the Mayo Clinic says that cranberry juice doesn’t necessarily help, but it can’t hurt.)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        At a restaurant you’re probably getting cranberry juice cocktail though – that can hurt.

        Feel better!

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ugh, sorry about your UTI. They are definitely no fun. But at least you found this story amusing. Hope you feel better soon!

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      Their partner probably works for the Orange Juice Suppliers of America! Cranberry bad, orange good!!

    3. Observer*

      In a prior comment thread someone insisted that he judges where people go to eat and what they order because it (according to him) tells you a lot about the person. A number of us challenged that because, really? But I guess we know now what he was talking about.

      This is absurd, but so is the one where diet soda is somehow “immature”. I’m very sad that there are apparently three people who actually have this kind of absurd world view.

  27. WellRed*

    No. 2. That really sux. My 1000 employee company has a better track record. But. We switched computer systems last year and I had to begin using Excel to do graphs when I was used to a MAC graphing program. I don’t use Excel, no one who uses Excel knew anything about graphing. I inquired twice about training resources (anything!) and was told “you keep expecting this magical training” by my usually sane boss. You’d better believe I’m still ticked off, though it felt good to highlight this BS on the annual employee survey. Meanwhile, I’m muddling through.

    1. WonkyStitch*

      Check your local library – mine offers a subscription to Lynda dot com if you have a library card. I believe it’s now LinkedIn Learning. But you can take Excel courses there. Sounds like you’d have to do it on your own time but at least it would help?

      1. Firecat*

        Also if you can open some excel files with nice graphs from prior presentations you can check out their options under the charts menu. You can also copy that graph, then change the data location to use the same graph style.

        1. WellRed*

          I had to literally create these from scratch and they are used in a magazine (so quality is an issue, too. It’s not great in Excel).

    2. Kiki*

      It’s wild to me that your boss referred to excel graphing training as “magical.” Excel training is really common!!! I could see this sort of response if this were some random in-house tech with no documentation or something, but excel courses and resources are so abundant! It’s weird your boss has made no attempt to help you find something

    3. JustaTech*

      The free online training from Microsoft has gotten a lot better and now it’s pretty good. (Says someone who taught themselves Access with just the free Microsoft tools.)

      I had a grand-boss insist that I had to use a completely different graphing software (Origen rather than JMP) to make the figures for a poster. There wasn’t really any training (hello help forums) and it probably took me three weeks to figure out how to re-structure my data to get the graphs I wanted.

      Anyone who thinks that switching between graphing software is quick, easy or simple hasn’t used any graphing software.

  28. angstrom*

    #2: If the manager is worried about “What if we train them and they leave?”, perhaps they should consider “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      Doesn’t even sound like that here though, because they want them to have the ability to do the new tasks. They are just cheap and want the free labor of the OP learning the skill on their own time with their own money. It’s exploitation IMO.

  29. ThatGirl*

    When I was laid off in 2017 I got three months of outplacement services. I joked that it was a support group for white collar workers to keep them from jumping off a roof. It had its useful parts – the resume review was actually pretty helpful and not unlike Alison’s advice – and I actually did get my next job via networking there. But yeah, some of the advice was weird and outdated, and the majority of people I met had been laid off from huge companies like IBM and Sears who had no idea what to do with themselves after 20 years.

  30. Firecat*

    #4 I experienced this personally. I was given a hard time by my boss since my coworker recovered about a week quicker then I did.

    I worked at a hospital at the time. They are notoriously ruthless to their staff. If your boss isn’t like that normally, I doubt they will be anything but supportive.

    I tried to explain my surgery had complications and they had to work on another organ while inside me but it didn’t matter.

    If your boss is like that, then Alison’s advice to not say what the surgery is for is best. Frame it as your wife’s request. My wife is private about her medical information, hope you understand. Let me know what paperwork I need to fill out for the medical leave.

    If the cats out of the bag and your boss is a bully, I’m sorry but you probably will be treated poorly. In my case it was 6 months of bullying about my work ethic. I left that place. I stress this is not at all a typical response.

  31. Elizabeth Proctor*

    Another thing to add, along the lines of #5. If you don’t have a physical address in your signature, add your timezone! I have it next to my phone number. It can avoid a lot of mishaps, and helps you (or a scheduler) know where to start. I’m not going to offer 10a ET to someone on PT, but if I don’t know then that’s another back and forth we have to do.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Ohhh, as an EA/AA that would actually be super helpful. I can’t tell you how many folks whose timezones I just had to memorize/make cheat sheets for because I had to remember that C-company A was PST but C-company B was EST and they were on totally different (but sometimes overlapping) projects! Throw in random contractors on one-off projects too and I was always Googling peoples’ companies to try and get them scheduled properly. A quick reference of “what timezones are in the email chain” would have been super appreciated!

      1. Not a cat*

        I’ve been reading thru these comments. Maybe I’ve just always worked for crap organizations but for my last multinational corp job I was expected to respond pretty much immediately no matter what. It’s good to see the world is changing!

  32. Jennifer Strange*

    One of his friends, who went to business school, told him that the offer was “an insult” and he should reject it.

    Did this friend go to Gumption University?

    1. Anoni*

      I’ve heard of this place. In order to graduate, you just have to go into the transcript office and demand to graduate. They’ll be so impressed with your chutzpah, they’ll give you a cap and gown on the spot.

  33. Annony*

    #4: I hope that you work for a reasonable company and that they realize that things can vary significantly when it comes to surgery recovery, even for the exact same procedure. When I had my gallbladder removed, my sister took a week off to come stay with me because I have a history of things going oddly badly and she had the vacation time to spare. Since it was vacation time, her boss didn’t give her a hard time about it but did tell her that he thought she was overreacting because plenty of people are back at work the day after for that procedure. I had an adverse reaction to the anesthesia and ended up in the hospital for multiple days and had no pain killers when I was released because it could exacerbate what happened. Even a common, simple procedure can vary. I can only image how much a more significant and rare procedure would vary in recovery time.

  34. Oh No She Di'int*

    #5 Agree that this is an elegant solution.

    I would say, however, that the one limitation might be that bosses should still be extremely cautious when sending email to direct reports during off hours. I have learned at least in my experience that it doesn’t matter how you frame it or how explicitly you say that people need not respond, they will always feel pressure to do so. Again, just my experience. YMMV.

    1. Rach*

      Totally agree, I had a boss that did this and sent emails at all hours but they would still come in & get my heart racing and got me into “work mode”. Can we just normalize schedule send???

      1. Nanani*

        Schedule Send also has the advantage that the recipient will not see the notification!
        Yes, there are ways to hide them during certain hours, but if you really want to avoid stressing people out for no reason, you can schedule send and avoid it altogether.

  35. fantomina*

    Thoughts on the “my working hours may not be your working hours” signature line v. schedule sending emails for the next day? I’ve done both, and I just want to make sure that when I’m working late my colleagues know I’m not pressuring them to work late as well, but also that I’m not trying to virtue signal by working late.

    1. JustaTech*

      I think the “my working hours” might be more useful for folks who either work a permanently shifted schedule, or are in a different time zone. For example, I’m in Pacific time, but I know I can’t contact some of the folks in another Pacific time site at 9am, because they work the night shift and are gone by 9am, but I can contact the East Coast night shift folks at the end of my day (which is the beginning of theirs).

      So if your “normal working hours” emails will always come in at someone else’s 3am, then the “working hours” makes sense. But if it’s a one-off working late, and the people you’re e-mailing are normally in your time zone, then the delay makes more sense.

  36. Mannheim Steamroller*

    #2… [“At the same time, I’m being pushed to take on work that requires an entirely different but parallel set of job skills that I do not have and was assured I would not need when I took the job. . . . Learning those skills to a sufficient level to do what’s being asked of me is a matter of hundreds of hours, and I will not be getting any support during work hours towards independently acquiring these skills, let alone formal training.”]

    Sounds like they’re trying to push you out. I hope you’re started the job search.

  37. Spicy Tuna*

    #4 – A woman I worked with went out on maternity leave and returned to work after 2 weeks. Her MIL had moved in with her and her husband and had completely taken over care of the baby, so my co-worker was literally sitting home with nothing to do, not even allowed to approach the baby (that’s a whole separate topic!!).

    Anyway, a year or so later, another woman in our group was pregnant and our boss brought up the fact that employee #1 came back after 2 weeks at literally every meeting we had. The second woman was more assertive and insisted that she would take the amount of time she was entitled to (boss also wanted to know where she was delivering and we all suspected it was so he could ask her work-related questions during her delivery, but again… separate topic!)

    Needless to say, every person is different and recovery takes as long as it takes. I agree with Alison – proceed as though your colleague wasn’t having the same surgery.

    1. Recruited Recruiter*

      “boss brought up the fact that employee #1 came back after 2 weeks at literally every meeting we had. The second woman was more assertive and insisted that she would take the amount of time she was entitled to”

      Do I hear a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit coming?

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      Is it bad that I want to Gibbs-slap that boss? (and fifty cool points to the first person who gets the reference)

      1. Retro*

        I got that reference! I’d say something worse than a Gibbs-slap. Gibbs-slaps are reserved for people being temporarily frustrating AKA you’re being a real butthead right now but I will welcome you with open arms when you stop being on eventually. Misogynistic jerks are never just temporarily frustrating.

  38. Aloha*

    LW3: I think he’s really lucky that things didn’t get worse. A similar situation happened to me 3 years ago. Old owner retired and sold the business to a larger company. I was old that my job would be outsourced to someone from corporate headquarters. I was offered a two choices A) Accept a demotion to an entry level job but be allowed to keep my same pay rate or B) A layoff without any kind of severance (But as a “benefit” they would write me a nice letter of recommendation???)I have to keep a roof over my head, so I accepted the demotion. Things really went down bill from there (Highlights include having my bathroom breaks monitored and having my preplanned vacation revoked because “old owner agreed to that, not us”.) My coworkers who stayed all had the same issues. People started jumping ship. I found myself sobbing in my car in the parking lot at the end of each day. I started planning my exit. Within 2 months I was able to secure another job elsewhere. My former coworker still works there and has told me things have only gotten worse (I’m not sure how that’s even possible). Unfortunately she hasn’t been able to find another job yet.

    1. Aloha*

      Oh and they did a bunch of other outrageous things. They took away our relatively new computers and replaced them with older, slower models. I completely fail to see how that would be beneficial? They forced the C shift workers to come in mid day for a health a care open enroll meeting. Obviously not too concerned with employee health or safety… as these exhausted folks were supposed to be operating heavy machinery.

  39. CR*

    I was eligible for outplacement after I got laid off. Some of the folks had some interesting interpretations of job requirements, but the ones I had were great. I learned some new technical items, and it partially paid for training in a new area. I found the jobs on my own, but did get good advice and a boost to keep going when I needed it.

  40. EatingJustOkayInTheNeighborhood*

    While I’m sympathetic to how demoralizing that experience is, I’m curious about some of the specifics of #2.

    What sort of formal course could the company provide access to that fill the “hundreds of hours” need for training for the new skill you have to learn ? Usually requests for conferences and seminars and lunch presentations aren’t going to get you that deep dive. Are they expecting that you learn this new skill from others on the team who have the skills through projects rather that separate study? Do you need to take an online class for several weeks? Is that why the formal trainings you’re requesting aren’t getting approved but others’ are? If they’re thinking that you’re already covered on this within the budget and scope of the work you’re performing and have built in time and money and staff to get to you up to speed, it’s not beyond the the pale that they wouldn’t want to pay for an additional course that may not provide as much value as the original plan of learning on the job.

    Cause it sounds like you need at least a month or so just to prepare without having to produce work and I don’t know that a lot of professional development budgets are structured for that size of expense for one person -or- project/process timelines that have that much flexibility for a someone in a holding pattern. But maybe I’m misunderstanding.

    May not make sense for your industry but in mine, on-the-job training is a huge part of how we’re structured (projects last several years, we have professional licensure that takes four years of paid apprenticeship to get, the work itself is complex). That said, my company plans for learning in budgets and schedules and staff assignments and additionally invests in project and career development related training that is paid for out of overhead. A conference or seminar or workshop or Lunch & Learn isn’t going to replace the skill development gained from well-supported learning on-the-job and is just one of several tools used to grow employees.

    I certainly don’t think you should denied access to the smaller PD at all, but it absolutely has its limits.

    Professional development is hugely important and a non-negotiable part of business but it’s also a part of business. If you’re on a team, of course, any professional development done with company money or time has to be beneficial to the team (never purely individual) and asking you to report back on what you learned from a short training you’ve taken is not at all unreasonable.

    Bottom line, if your job description changed from what you signed up for and you don’t want to do this work anymore, don’t! It’s not that easy to up and quit but fighting to get training to do a job you said you were promised you wouldn’t have to do isn’t gonna get you what you want. You basically said yourself you’re becoming jaded and unmotivated. I think it’s time for you to start looking into the work you want!

  41. Database Developer Dude*

    While I agree with Alison that it’s not normal for an employer to not support ANY professional development (and kind of a dick move too)………. that’s the extreme side of a potential motivation. Understanding someone is a key factor in being able to deal with them in a professional manner.

    In my civilian job, if you get training, then as of the end of the training, if you leave the firm before 12 months, you owe the firm the entire cost of the training. If you leave between 12 and 18 months after the end of the training, you owe 50%. That’s a written policy, and they make sure you know before you commit to the training.

    The idea here is that if the company’s going to spend money on you like that, they want the benefit, not some other firm.

    And I think the OP’s workplace is operating on an extreme version of that, which is why they don’t do it. They mistakenly believe “If we train them, they’ll leave”. They don’t get that people are leaving BECAUSE they don’t train them.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Oh yeah, I used to work for a firm where I had very little to do, and wanted to attend an all day training that was free, and the project manager wouldn’t allow it. My firm now, as long as it has to do with my job, if the training is free, they let me do it during work hours…. some clients will also allow me to charge it to the contract.

  42. anonymous73*

    #4 – pretend your co-worker is not having the same surgery. The specifics of your wife’s surgery are really none of the company’s business. You say you don’t have FMLA, but figure out what your options will be – how much leave do you have, are you able to take leave without pay if you run out, etc. Give them a heads up and what to expect. “My wife will be scheduling surgery in a few months and I’ll need to take leave. The recovery time can vary, but I’ll need to ask for x amount of time off to start.” Let them know that it may require more time off and see what they expect you to do to prepare for a possible extended leave. You don’t need to share details.

  43. anonymous73*

    #2 – If there are other opportunities within the company, I would start there, but I think you need to dust off your resume and start looking for a place that will support you and want you to succeed and advance. They are being 100% unreasonable. Most companies that pay for training will require you stay for a time period after you’ve completed it (or pay it back when you leave) because they’ve invested in you and want to reap the benefits. Even if you are an awesome employee, a good manager/company will encourage you and help you move up in your career even if it means losing you.

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