open thread – September 3-4, 2021

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

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

{ 1,169 comments… read them below }

  1. Kath*

    You may remember me from a couple of weeks ago. I was here asking how to deal with an admin who is very unprofessional and plays favorites.

    Quite a few things happened since my post. Last week there was an event in the office and everyone was invited/included in the planning steps. I was completely left out again and I found out about this at the very last minute. I already was expecting a very stressful week and it didn’t help. I casually mentioned this to one of my coworkers. It wasn’t venting as such, it was more like ‘I’m never included in anything. Don’t know why she does that. What do you suggest I do since you get on with her?’ He said that she might be either jealous or scared of me. My heart sank thinking I alienated her without knowing so I decided to have a chat with her but had client meetings all week with little time for anything else.

    Come Thursday, I’m pulled to the side by my manager. Apparently the other coworker told her that I thought she was a jealous person and better be scared of me… She told this to my manager bawling her eyes out and said that she will stop all communication with me. My manager is OK with it. He just told her that so long as she provides me with administrative support, we don’t need to talk outside. I don’t feel comfortable with this though. I told my manager that the jealousy etc. part didn’t come from me but the other coworker. He believes me. I also spoke with the coworker, he apologized for relaying our conversation to her but wouldn’t admit he also lied when doing so. I tried to talk to her to clear the air and set the record straight at least but she refuses. She hasn’t spoken to me since (over a week). She doesn’t acknowledge me. I keep seeing her mocking me. For instance, on Monday our system shut down due to user fault and I sent a quick message to the team saying ‘Whoops. Apologies if it was me!’ She now puts this sentence everywhere with 3 exclamation marks whenever something goes wrong, whether it’s relevant or not. Her clique reply with a laughing emoji each time. I’m pretty sure she does this to annoy me. I witnessed her doing petty things and telling me about them with a huge smirk when we were friendly as I mentioned in my previous post. I also overheard her calling me by the name of a not-very-attractive movie character.

    The whole thing probably went the worst possible way. What can I do at this point? I know that my manager won’t do anything about it. I previously documented/mentioned instances the admin was being petty but he shrugged off each time even when my work was affected because of it. I don’t think looking for a new job over this is sensible but the negative energy affects my day to day more than I’d like to admit. Thanks.

    1. I edit everything*

      Looking for a new job over this is completely sensible. It’s not just about the admin, it’s about the whole office environment and the lack of support/action from management. Start looking!

      1. Murphy*

        ^ This. You’ve tried talking to your manager and it doesn’t seem like they’re interested in helping. Get out.

      2. Medical Librarian*

        Agree. You aren’t going to get any help with this situation, so you have to decide whether staying is worth it given the stress. Not fair, but realistic.

      3. Typing All The Time*

        I’m sorry. This person doesn’t want to change or resolve what’s going on. Save the screenshot of her using the “whoops.”

    2. Sara Sunflower*

      I think you need to get a new job. It sounds like everyone has turned against you if your coworker lied and your manager won’t help. Unless you have an HR who can step it, I would leave ASAP. Good luck!

    3. Colette*

      I’d suggest working on not letting it bother you. Be very neutral when you talk about her, and when she does something like that, just remind yourself that happy people don’t act like that. Jim from the office once said “that’s the smallest amount of power I’ve ever seen go to someone’s head” – try to channel that attitude.

      1. AliceL*

        The great thing about being a working adult is that you’re not in high school anymore. I lived a similar situation in a previous job, where everyone acted like it was high school with the popular kids and the nerds. One guy took the lead on bullying, and the manager just wanted to be liked by the popular kids. It really upset my one coworker who was frequently targeted. It annoyed me, but when the bully tried his stuff on me, I was just like, I’m in my 30s. I don’t give two sh*ts what you think of me.

        Absent actual harassment, you can choose to let it all go. Stay out of all the nonsense, don’t discuss anything personal with your coworkers, and if anyone tries to drag you in, it’s your turn to smirk and say, some people never grow out of high school.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Try taking all the emotion out of any interactions. Just the facts. (Yes, you’ll kind of sound like a robot. That’s okay.) Exude professionalism.

      For instance, when sending the message about the system shut down: “All, the server is down at present. IT is working on it and expects to have the system up in a couple of hours.”
      If you are left out of invites: “Admin, my email was omitted from the department invite list. Please ensure that it’s included next time.”
      If she calls you by anything not your name: “My name is Kath. Please don’t refer to me as anything else.”

      Concentrate on your work and your clients. You are not responsible for Admin’s insecurities or emotions. (I’m betting she’s a bitch to everyone at some point.) Don’t give her power over you.

      (And your manager is an ass.)

    5. Amaranth*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. In the best cases you could call a meeting with HR and this person, or your manager and this person. It might be worth telling your manager that this is impacting your work, with examples, and ask if he’d facilitate a meeting to clear the air (if you don’t have HR). It might be tempting to reach out in writing since she won’t meet with you, but do NOT send this person an email about the situation unless you want it read to the rest of the office with dramatic emphasis.

    6. T. Boone Pickens*

      Geez, my sympathies here Kath, what an untenable situation. Special kudos to your co-worker who decided that after the two of you spoke that there weren’t enough logs to throw on this fire with the admin so they decided to grab a few and added a quart of kerosene for good measure. Yeesh!

    7. Campfire Raccoon*

      Time to go. These beeholes are not going to change without significant management support – which you do not have.

    8. Bagpuss*

      I agree that looking for another job is probably sensible as your manager is not prepared to manage.

      I do question whether your coworker lied – in light of everything else you’ve said isn’t it equally likely that the admin either misinterpreted what he said, or that he simply asked her / raised the possibility and she assumed that that came from you (unless he is someone who normally stirs up trouble or lies)

      Mena time. I would focus on being as neutral and professional as you can, and possibly also mentioning the situation to another coworker, if there is anyone you trust, and asking if they can ensure that you are copied in on / invited to any work-related group meetings, mails, and information bout planning for events as unfortunately you keep getting “accidentally missed off” and it would be useful to have a backup.

      If the events are social ones and she is including a clique and excluding you then I don’t think there is anything you can do other than ignore it.

      I don’t think you would be wrong to go back to your manager and explicitly ask him to address the issues of her unprofessional behaviour, in particular mocking you or other co-workers, calling you names et as those are specific things which he can address and can make clear that she is expected to behave in a professional way in general, but unless he is willing to take action then nothing will change.

      All you can do is try to ensure sure that she can’t see that her behaviour is having any effect .

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

      I think when you signalled her behavior and attitude was getting to you, that was the green light for her AND OTHERS to ramp it up…because that’s how bullies work. If you have an HR and they seem effective, skip the boss and contact them with all of your documentation; however it probably won’t do much to change the culture there. The only thing that could solve this is if your BOSS could now be held accountable for letting the bully continue. You don’t have a 1 bad coworker problem…she’s just the spokesperson out in the open.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        There’s a boss problem, there’s a problem with the cohort who spoke with you…. this is just a toxic place that supports bullying.
        You can’t reason with unreasonable people. This type of bs does not happen in a vacuum, if you stay on you will find out there is more bs going on.
        I hang on to the fact that when a boss can’t manager their people, there is something distracting that boss. “Distraction” is a very broad area and can be almost anything. You are not a priority with your boss, so it’s okay not to make this job a priority for yourself. Job hunt around and get yourself something better. Don’t wait, this story line will not get better.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Are you sure the co-worker lied? They could have repeated the convo as-is and the admin twisted it.

      While you job hunt, ignore her and her clique. Just be civil, polite, and professional to everyone.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This is what I came here to say. Betting $20 that the admin made it up.

        Wow this takes me all the way to my first sleepaway summer camp when I was 8. No idea why, but everybody in our group of 30 kids ages 7 and 8 hated me. There was a popular girl 7 years old. We had a policy where our cabins were locked for the night. Popular girl went to brush her teeth before bed and came back to a locked door. She came around the cabin to our bedroom’s window, where the 10-15 of us were getting ready for bed, and banged at the window asking to let her in. Everyone just ignored her. I should’ve known better too, but I felt bad for her, unlocked the window, and let her in. While climbing in through the window, she banged her leg on a window lock or something, and bruised it. She then started shouting at me for making it happen(??) A counselor heard the noise and came in asking what the matter was, and Popular girl straight up told her that she’d been minding her own business getting ready for bed, when for no reason at all, I ran up, kicked her in the leg, hard enough to leave a bruise. No one else said a damn thing (and I now really wonder why no one did and why no one unlocked the window – I bet everyone else already knew what Popular Girl was capable of.) She was crying too (just like OP’s admin) and looked adorable doing that. Counselor took her side and I got in trouble. It was the last straw and I sent my parents a letter asking to come get me. Normally they’d tell me to tough it out but I must’ve gone into some compelling details, because they took me out of the camp and brought me home a few days later. I went to other summer camps between ages of 9 and 13, and often did get picked on, but none were that bad and I would typically have a friend or two that had my back. Moral of this novel is, that behavior is not normal or acceptable even in a 7-year-old! And additionally, what I am seeing here, OP, is your coworkers being scared of that admin themselves. Again, not normal! Get out get out get out (and tell all at your exit interview).

    11. Maxie's Mommy*

      Your boss is useless. Talk to your grandboss. Bring docs to back up your experiences, likecopies of her snarky emails.

    12. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Holy shit. That’s some major league bullying. Do you have HR? I missed the earlier discussion.

    13. The Dogman*

      “I don’t think looking for a new job over this is sensible but the negative energy affects my day to day more than I’d like to admit.”

      I think you should consider this carefully, a new job might be the best move at this point, and once you are out you might see that you are/were under more stress than you are/were aware of.

      Mental health pressures slowly grind at us and can be much heavier than we are aware of since the pressure is slowly built up.

      Good luck regardless, and don’t let the b-words get you down!

    14. Observer*

      I don’t think looking for a new job over this is sensible b

      Why? You’ve gotten some good feedback. But if someone is trying to bully you, and your boss won’t help even though it’s affecting your work, why NOT job search?

    15. Batgirl*

      The admin is lying through her teeth about how the conversation with the colleague went down. It was an opportunity to blame/dig at you. Your colleague was right about the jealousy. Being above it all and raising the occasional little eyebrow at the childish stuff will drive her nuts.

    16. learnedthehardway*

      I would not assume that your other colleague lied about what you said. My guess is that they tried to help, and your admin person twisted the message and then complained to your manager about it.

      In addition to looking for a new role, I would continue to document the issues with the admin, and would cc your manager on your requests to this person. Make what the admin does as visible as possible.

    17. allathian*

      Ouch. Your admin is an awful person, but the rest of your office is enabling her. You have every reason to get out now. When you get a job in a reasonable office, you’ll wonder why you put up with that mess for as long as you did. Don’t let that office skew your perception of what’s normal for an office environment any more than it already has.

    18. Laure*

      Hi Kath, I was one of the readers who answered the first time. And oh my God! As one other commenter just said, this is serious bullying. OF COURSE it’s reasonable to leave other this.
      I don’t know you and of course I am projecting here, but you seem like the “reasonable” type, who doesn’t like drama and have a tendency to understate problems. The problem with these type of people – I would know ;) – is that they are a perfect prey for toxic people, because they “reason” what is happening (oh, it’s not that bad, this job has many perks, who am I to get upset about ridiculous things like a meeting invitation, this is temporary, it will pass) instead of reacting a little irrationally (screaming, crying, hiring a lawyer, quitting dramatically).
      But… Being reasonable is the right thing, right? You don’t want to be a drama queen?
      Sure, but see, your bully knows that. She knows that she can bully you safely. She knows you’re going to stay professional, so she knows it’s safe for her to continue her antics. She even despises you a little, she sees you as weak, because you won’t react strongly – strongly in her definition, meaning, again, making a scene, yelling at her in front of everybody, etc.
      She’s safe! She can do whatever she wants! Nothing will happen! You won’t embarrass her in front of everyone! She’s free to have fun.

      So where does that leaves you?
      Solution 1- You could become the unsafe one. Obviously you don’t want to react as irrationally as I described, but you could do anything to make it unsafe for her to continue bullying you. That means, calling her behaviour loudly in front of everyone each time she excludes you/insults you, say the grown up equivalent of “are you in love with me, you’re really obsessed with me” thing that we teach high school students to say to their bully, use the world “bullying” in front of her and her friends, meaning saying things like “do you know that what you are doing to me is harassment and bullying and that I could call a lawyer? I started documenting everything”… And when of course she comes running to your manager, say the same thing to him. “What she does is harassment and bullying and I’m documenting everything before going to a lawyer.”

      – Solution 2 – looking for a new job. Because doing what I said before would be absolutely exhausting. It would work, she would tone it down, but it would be like going to war every morning. Because you are a reasonable person you won’t do it. So you see…. You’ve got to leave! :)

      But please, do something. Reasoning your situation “it’s not that bad, I don’t have to leave over this, it will pass” is why she chose you as a victim.

      1. What else is going on here?*

        Possibly, but there may be some things for her to look at here. It sounds like she came down on the co-worker who may have tried to help her — insisting that he “admit he also lied” — when it’s entirely possibly that he has only been supportive of her and, as others have commented, it’s probably more likely the person she has a problem with twisted his words. This “everyone is persecuting me” mentality is the sort of thing that could be causing her to lose credibility in the eyes of others and make her appear to be part of the problem.

    19. identifying remarks removed*

      Sounds like you’re having to deal with a hostile work environment every single day with zero support from your manager. That’s definitely a reason to look for a new job. It’s horrible that you have to be the one to leave rather than your manager do his job and manage his staff. But life is too short to work in such a negative environment if you’re able to leave.

  2. Ghosting*

    I’m doing something wrong, and I don’t know what. Three times in a month, I’ve been ghosted on an initial screening call. Three separate people (one internal recruiter and two hiring managers), three separate companies.

    I get an e-mail saying they’d like to set up a call to talk about my qualifications for the position. They include a set of time blocks. I’m asked to choose a date and time, and to confirm my phone number. I respond with a date/time, list my phone number, ask them to please confirm that the option I’ve chosen works for them, and say I look forward to speaking with them.

    Then, nothing. No e-mail response, I wait by the phone and the call never comes, they never write again. WTF is going on?

    1. Teapot Repair Technician*

      That’s odd and I’m sure really frustrating, but I wouldn’t assume you’re doing something wrong.

      Are these initial emails directed specifically to you, or do they seem to be mass emails that could possibly have been sent to many people?

    2. Oxford Comma*

      Unless there’s something wrong with your phone number, which seems doubtful, I don’t think it’s on you.

      1. Mimi*

        It might be worth reaching out to your phone provider to confirm that there isn’t anything weird going on. There probably isn’t anything wrong with your phone number, but it would be good to confirm. (I discovered that the battery in my wireless doorbell was dead because I missed the delivery of my laptop for a new job!)

    3. irene adler*

      If your email indicating the date/time is not responded to, are you sure it is even getting to the recruiter/hiring manager?
      (I’ve had issues with some folks never getting my emails. ISP service provider issue? Can’t say. But they don’t receive them. And there’s no issues with any other recipients of my emails.)
      Next time, after a day has passed, might follow up the date/time email with a phone call to them. Maybe your emails are being flagged as spam/unsafe and they are not getting to the recipient at all.

      1. LCH*

        my old workplace used gmail as it’s email service. sometimes if I sent something from my personal gmail to a coworker, it went to spam. so weird! so yes, I’d follow up that your emails are not going to spam since you’ve had employers drop contact more than a couple times.

    4. Fran Fine*

      I would assume that by the time they sent you the request, a candidate appeared in their pipeline that they determined they wanted to hire and moved full steam ahead with that and just forgot to circle back with you to cancel. Or the people who would need to attend the interview suddenly weren’t available during the block you selected, and they just didn’t follow up to tell you this (the latter has happened to me a couple of times in the past). It’s crappy, but it happens and doesn’t have anything to do with you. Try not to take it personally, and good luck in the rest of your search!

    5. Amaranth*

      They don’t confirm the time? Is there a contact phone number? I think it would be fine to email or call and confirm if you don’t hear from them after 24 hours.

    6. No Name*

      I’ve had the same exact thing happen several times. I always just assumed they met their interview quota by the time they got my response and didn’t bother saying anything. (Which makes sense to me since I’ve done multiple interviews with companies and then never heard back even if they tell me they’ll get back to me by x fate. Seems like as soon as you’re out of the running for any reason, you just aren’t worth the time to contact.)

        1. Erin*

          I think that is a very reasonable response time. I also think that even though it’s reasonable, it is possible that they’re emailing a bunch of candidates and then filling the slots as the responses come in, and may have them all filled before they get your response. Not sure how likely that is to be the explanation for all three instances but I do think it’s one possibility.

          1. Teapot Repair Technician*

            I think it’s very possible that they fill their quota long before 8 hours elapses.

            Not related to hiring, but I have a regular task that involves sending an email to a large list of people and waiting for responses. I always get a bunch of immediate responses followed by a slower rate of responses over the next day or so. I guess the differences is between people who get new-email alerts on their phone versus people who check their email when it’s convenient.

    7. voluptuousfire*

      Eh, with the Great Resignation, many companies are hiring like crazy, and recruiters are crazy busy. I’d say you just happened to hit a bad spell. It’s definitely not you, it’s them! I’d chalk it up to poor candidate experience and move on. Your messages probably got lost in their inboxes. If they were smart, they’d be using something like Calendly or similar to schedule initial screens.

    8. Mayflower*

      Does your phone number by chance include “800” or something similar anywhere in it? There is one phone exchange (that underlies a lot of phone calls) that has a software bug associated with that.

    9. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Double check that your phone isn’t turning on do not disturb or meeting settings automatically during those times. Was helping someone earlier this week who had DND scheduled to turn on during their previous job, and had never turned it off, making it so unknown numbers couldn’t get through during normal business hours.

      1. I edit everything*

        Yeah, I have my phone set to not ring if it doesn’t know the number. I’m not job hunting, but knowing me, I’d forget to turn that off if I were.

  3. Hen*

    First steps to take when you’ve finally decided enough is enough and you want a new job? I updated my LinkedIn profile (I hate LinkedIn) and now I’m like hmmm

    1. curious*

      I’m lucky to be working in an amazing job right now. I would say start applying. If your financial situation allows it shoot for the stars. Before I had this job, I was miserable in my previous job. Prior to COVID this industry was already remote. I applied all over the place geographically including a few companies that were definitely out of reach for me. You would be surprised at the positive responses and actual meetings I got. I think if you’ve got that fire in you, go for it, start researchign companies, do it all! You have the time, start looking at what you really want.

    2. Cookie D'oh*

      I would also make sure your resume is updated. I work in IT and there are some large companies in my area where I know past colleagues now work. I would start looking at those company websites and see what job openings they have.

      My husband has a maintenance/HVAC background so he looked for jobs with some of the manufacturing corporations in our area and also searched on Indeed.

      In the US, you can also look at job postings for the city, county or state that you live in.

    3. JB*

      Figure out what you’re looking for in your new job. What do you like about your current job? What are you fed up with? Make a list (doesn’t have to be on paper, unless you like it that way – in your head is fine.) That’ll help guide you as you look at opportunities.

      1. Fran Fine*

        I can’t emphasize enough how important this step is. Doing this will keep you laser focused on finding the best fit for your skills/strengths/desires/whatever and help you avoid applying to any old thing because you’re desperate to leave your current job.

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      Start talking to yourself…. I mean: start practicing answering interview questions out loud. Interviewing is not a regularly used skill, so get in the habit of talking about your strengths and weaknesses, describing your former responsibilities, all that. But do it out loud, so your mouth gets used to saying it. (Mental composition is different than talking.)
      And good luck!

    5. Teapot Repair Technician*

      Depending on how desperate you are to get out, consider spending a few weeks watching the job boards but not applying to get a sense of what kind of jobs are out there and how often they come along.

      I was in your position a year ago, and the first thing I did was send out a flurry of applications to a bunch of jobs that, in restrospect, would not have been a great fit. Got frustrated and didn’t do anything for several months, but continued to get daily alerts from Indeed, so I developed a good picture of the landscape. Then when I decided to try again, I was able to be much more selective about what I applied for, pace myself, and spend more time on each application.

    6. BlueberryFields*

      1)My first step for job searching is to update my resume.

      2a) Then I make a general list of all the major projects I’ve worked on, skills I’ve obtained, etc.
      2b) If I’m feeling productive, I will write up some usable paragraphs for some of the more major projects–that way I can slice and dice into future cover letters.

      3a) I start a spreadsheet with links to job descriptions, date the application closes, location, company. I make two tabs–jobs I want to apply to and jobs I’ve applied to.
      3b) I download the job description for all of the jobs I am super serious about–you don’t want to go to get ready for an interview only to find that the listing has been taken down!

    7. Sara without an H*

      All of this is good advice. You should also make a mental list of your professional connections and cautiously pick a few to inform that you’re looking for a certain type of position.

      I say “cautiously” because you don’t want to confide your plans to somebody who will rat you out to your current employer. But if you have some connections in the type of industry you want to work in, they can be really helpful. I found my last position when a friend sent me a notice that appeared on the job board run by a professional association she was active in.

    8. Cleo*

      Job boards are a good next step.

      Set up a profile and job search alert on Indeed and at least one more specialized one for your field. It’s also useful to post your resume on job boards, for recruiters that don’t bother to post a job but will search for specific experience.

      I found it much, much less demoralizing and overwhelming to get an email with a few posts rather than searching job boards.

    9. Ann O'Nemity*

      Think about what you want to do next.
      Update your resume, profiles, etc.
      Talk to trusted mentors and network contacts.
      Start applying.
      Prepare for likely interview questions.

    10. Nicki Name*

      Figure out what you’d like to be paid and practice saying it out loud confidently.

      If you’ve saved any recruiter info from the last time you were job-searching, start calling them and letting them know you’re looking again.

  4. ahhh*

    I posted this late in last week’s open thread but it got lost in the shuffle. Special shout out to “Product Person” who answered as his/ her words were so encouraging. I did modify my post a little bit with some updates on my research this week. I’m hoping to hear from others who have followed through in the same situation.

    I have a business idea that I’ve been tossing around in my head for literally years. I’m trying to do some research to see if it is realistic. It is related to a hobby I’ve had most of my life. I’ve become an “expert” over the years finding unique items (as opposed to those sold in chain stores). These unique items are what I would like to focus my potential company in. There are some companies (online and physical locations) that I use personally that I admire greatly. I feel guilty that I might become competition to them. Does that make sense? Believe it or not their product and services actually inspired me and got me thinking of one day opening my own business. Is this normal?

    While still in the very early stages, I have been working on a business plan, contacting potential suppliers, legal/ financial help, talking to local business (in general not related to my niche) to see what it’s like to run a small business. The thing is I reached out to someone in the general industry I would like to open my business in. My fears of asking for advice came true in that the owner said why would he give ideas/ help to potential competition. Even when I tried to explain I was going into the same general industry but not the same niche area. Sigh. I was professional but it really got me down and nervous. I didn’t even attempt to tell them how much I admire them and that even if I did something professional in the same general industry, I would still use their services. They were so angry. So much for an informational interview.

    I guess in addition to the above what I’m asking is has anyone opened a success business and even continued a professional/ personal relationship with indirect competition?

    1. Eco-Logical*

      You know, I think you’ve experienced talking to the wrong person. I set up a business 11 years ago, and I do work for my direct competitors. And they do work for me. If you’re secure in your business idea and you run your business well, competition isn’t a bad thing. I send people free resources to set up ‘in competition’ with me if they ask, because they aren’t really in competition with me at all. My business doesn’t stand and fail on what they do, and our reputation is good enough that it doesn’t matter that there are 3 businesses all doing the same thing in the village I live in.

      It sounds like what you’re looking for is reassurance you’re making the right decision. The thing about setting up a business is that it always feels like a huge leap, but let’s take a moment to think about what the worst that can happen is: it fails. So what? You go and do something else. Big deal.

      My advice would be: start small and ramp up. If you can go part time with your day job or set this up as a side hustle to start with do. You will take several months at least to start making money, so either make sure your partner is ok with that or that you have 3-6 months of savings you don’t mind using. Don’t spring for premises unless it’s essential.

      Pitfalls: feeling like you should always be working. Not having anyone to bounce ideas off. Having to do everything yourself. Not having colleagues to chat to (if that’s your thing!).

      Why don’t you see if there’s any small business networking groups you can join who are hosting virtual meet-ups or similar? That might help you make connections.

      1. curious*

        Thank you so much! I am definitely ready to take the leap, but I have a lot on my plate right now so I know the first few years are going to be slow to set things up to where I want to be. I’m ok with that. I have joined a few small business networking groups. I like your advice that things succeed or fail because of what the competition does but on how you do. I’ll get there.

      2. ahhh*

        curious = me, the OP. I posted elsewhere in the open thread. I tried to keep different names to make easier searching. Thanks for your advice in my question

    2. Smaller potatoes*

      I have a successful business and have literally provided training to direct competitors. I’m confident that the high quality work my team of experts provide that we run training courses to help others learn how to do what we do. The training courses have the added benefit of networking with those who might want to do the easy parts of our work, but will bring us in when they need a higher level of expertise.

        1. Offer to pay*

          I suspect the person she contacted is not doing as well as he might appear to be doing. His response sounds like something a bitter, unsuccessful person would do. Someone who’s truly successful but simply busy likely would simply not bother to respond to a request for free advice.

    3. Quinalla*

      Yeah, don’t let this one jerk put you off to reaching out to others. If they didn’t want to help you, they could have ignored your message or pled business, no need to be rude!

      I don’t have much other advice, but it sounds like you are doing your research prior to jumping in which I think is excellent! I feel like so many small businesses fail because people think they just need a great idea to be successful. Good luck!

    4. RagingADHD*

      Yes, I have frequently referred business to my “competitors” (freelancers who do the same work as me), because I wasn’t available or it wasn’t quite my bailiwick and I thought they’d be better suited. We chat and share knowledge. One client of mine started a $15 million per year business, and he refers out 90% of potential customers because they aren’t an exact match for what his company does and the direction he wants to grow in. When I worked in law firms, the attorneys all participated in industry associations and workshops where lawyers who all had the same specialty in the same city (theoretically competitors) came together regularly to share knowledge and discuss best practices.

      These kind of connections are how a business owner/freelancer becomes an authority in their field.

      This idea you (and the guy you interviewed) have about competition is rooted in a mentality of scarcity: the belief that there isn’t enough business to go around, and the only way you can succeed is by taking something away from your competitors. This is only true if you are not very good, your business is precarious, or you are trying to sell/provide something of dubious value where the customers take a lot of convincing, or there are very few customers at all. (Or you are a massive entity like Walmart that can totally occupy a market).

      When you are providing something that people really value, and have correctly identified and connected with your market, you will find that there is more business out there than you can handle. You niche down and specialize, so you can focus on the highest-value customers and offerings.

      However, I will say that working for yourself or running a small business requires confidence in your idea, your ability to make sound decisions, and your goal. It also requires a kind of ego-less-ness. From time to time, you will make mistakes, look foolish, and have other people be unhappy with you. These are inevitable. Sooner or later they will happen, guaranteed. You must be able to tolerate or process these experiences without spiraling or imploding emotionally.

      If you are plagued with guilt at the idea that your business might become successful and gain a lot of customers, then you won’t do it, and your business will not succeed. If you are fearful to the point of paralysis of asking for advice, you will avoid it. Then you will make costly mistakes that could have been prevented. If someone else getting upset derails you, you won’t be able to stick to any kind of positive path.

      I’d say that before you worry about competitors, you need to get your internal house in order so that you understand which feelings are good guides that align with your values, and which ones are self-sabotaging and will lead you astray.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, this advice here is pure gold.

        Pay attention to the third paragraph about scarcity. There are people who lead by fear and people who lead by confidence. Decide to be a confident business owner.

        I worked for a nursery. Our number one “competitor” was just like us, similar products, services, and target market. The owner of my nursery frequently called the other owner and visa versa. Both these owners believed there was plenty of work out there and it only benefited them to support each other. It was nothing to see them send each other pallets full of lime, potting soil or whatever the other one needed. One day, a large building on my nursery caught fire- they called to find out if my nursery was going to be okay. (My nursery was going to be okay once things got cleaned up a bit and the building got rebuilt.)

        OP, it was a privilege to work for these people. Confident business owners make good bosses. My story ends with both businesses operating until the respective owners passed away- these were decades old businesses and well known names in the town. No one said much but I would guess that the two owners threw parties and invited each other and their respective families. These were people who decided to just be happy in life and in work. Both businesses absolutely thrived and the families were more than comfy.

        This one person you spoke with is not one of the confident people. Skip this person. And put yourself on a quest to find people similar to yourself who want to share and help each other. These confident people are all around us, you will find them.

    5. Offer to pay*

      When starting your own business, you can have significantly better results learning from people in the same industry by offering to pay them a consulting fee. Anyone with a successful business is bombarded by requests from people who want free advice about how to get started in the same business. By offering to pay, you are far more likely to find people who will be happy to speak with you. This has worked exceptionally well for me. I have been able to learn from the top people in my field, including some who ended up giving me advice without charging.

  5. Penny Hartz (real name Jill)*

    Hi AAM community! I am currently completing a capstone research project for my master’s in Learning and Organizational Change, and am collecting data via a survey.
    If you live in the US and are currently experiencing, or have recently experienced a significant organizational change, I invite you to participate. (Examples of significant organizational change include an organization redesign in which the participants’ role, job responsibilities and/or team or unit changed; a merger and acquisition; a change in organizational culture; and/or a significant technology implementation.) More information and the link can be found on my LinkedIn post:
    My ultimate goal is to make change easier/better for employees. Thank you in advance for considering participating.

    1. unpleased*

      As a social scientist I am going to suggest that you add in a comment your Human Subjects approval info. Potential participants should see that up front without having to click over.

  6. Post on asking for manager references?*

    I am looking for a post that I *think* was on this blog. The gist was someone asking if candidates can ask hiring managers for references. The answer was (I think) that you can ask to speak to current employees. The post laid this out in more detail. I didn’t find it looking in the “references” tag or in doing a search. (I could be wrong that this was on AAM). Does this ring a bell for anyone?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes, I remember it. It was definitely here. Didn’t find it with a couple of quick searches, but it’s here somewhere.

    2. Points for anonymity*

      It was definitely on this blog, but I’ve just tried a couple of search terms and can’t find it either – sorry! You’re in the right place though.

    3. E*

      I found a similar post and commented the link but it’s stuck in moderation, I think. The title is “I asked an interviewer for his own reference — and he thought it was weird,” if you want to find it via Google.

  7. GotaPenny*

    I worked for the same company for 16 years but moved up in different roles. So the first time looking for a job since then I listed all three jobs (they were different enough) on my CV. I have a few jobs to put on there now and feel no need to put all three roles in detail on there but I’m unsure how to list it. I don’t want to leave off the minor roles completely and have it appear that I was Store Manager for 16 years when I was first a worker, then shift manager, then store manager.
    What I was thinking of was:
    Store Manager (years)
    Shift Manager (years)
    Worker (years)
    Then list the major achievements

    Does that seem right?

    1. athiker10*

      I usually put the accomplishments under each role-but the longer ago they were, the fewer I keep on there. I think for my first role at my last job, which was my first office job, I’ve since dropped any accomplishments from that time and only left accomplishments for later roles.

      1. Yorick*

        I agree with this, except that if there are accomplishments from an earlier role that are especially relevant to this job, it’d be ok to have more from that role than you might otherwise.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      I’m in a similar boat. I tried that and the problem I ran into is that OCR resume scanners can’t understand that those are the same company. Haven’t figured out a way around it yet. Good luck!

    3. londonedit*

      What I’ve done before is put the final job title, but in the first line or the first bullet point of the summary of my accomplishments I’ve said something like ‘In five years with Company X I was promoted from Worker to Store Manager, including two years’ experience as Shift Manager’. It explains the situation and it fits with the rest of your accomplishments, because it shows that you started at a lower level and were steadily promoted.

      1. GotaPenny*

        I like that and technically is an accomplishment. Hired as worker and promoted to shift manager within 18 months.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      You can do:
      Company 2004-2021
      – Awesome achievement #1
      – Awesome achievement #2 etc.
      – other titles included Shift Manager, Customer Service

      Don’t worry about labeling each title with its own achievement. The more complicated the structure, the more confused the reader can be as they try to sort it all out. Keep your reader on task — which is discovering just how awesome you are now, not which thing was done in 2013.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I would not do this, not unless you can legitimately claim you were the store manager for the entire time. It comes off as lying about your experience.

        It would be better to do what the OP wanted – list their company, the various positions with dates, and then accomplishments under that (if it makes sense to group all the accomplishments together. It might make more sense to have the Store Manager position as a stand alone with its specific accomplishments, and the other positions grouped with their accomplishments all together.)

    5. JB*

      That’s exactly how I handle a similar situation on my resume.

      Be aware, though, when you upload that resume to application websites etc. the systems will always be a little confused on how to interpret that, and you’ll have to manually correct whatever it comes up with.

    6. Karo*

      I think the problem with this layout is that it’s hard to tell how much agency you had in an accomplishment because it varies so much based on your position. For instance, “Set sales records” could mean that you had the highest commission at that store as a worker as opposed to improving your store’s sales strategy so that you bested every other year the store’s been open. The former shows your selling abilities and the latter your leadership abilities.

  8. Web Crawler*

    I’m very bored with my current web development job, but I’m not sure where to go from here. How do I know if it’s my job that’s the problem or just me being burnt out covid-style? I don’t have much vacation left to take, and I’m saving it for Christmas, and my sick days are always gone from migraines. So I’m not sure what I’d do about it anyway.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Start by taking some time — maybe over this holiday weekend if you’re in the US — and looking at listings for other jobs. Is there anything out there that you could do that sounds fun and interesting?

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      I knew I was burnt out with my entire field, not just my job, when I couldn’t find even one other job to apply for that I could muster genuine enthusiasm for. (Not that one must be enthusiastic about work all the time, but I was in a field where passion for the mission was considered very important.)

      Maybe also make a list of what you like and dislike about your current job. Is it the hours, the manager, the coworkers, the web development itself? Some things will change with a new job, obviously, and others will be similar where ever you go. Try to zero in on what would make you happier.

    3. RosyGlasses*

      Just as an aside – depending on if you are in the US – migraines are considered a serious health condition under FMLA and can be flagged as a disability under ADA. This means that the time would be unpaid, but there would be job protection for time that you need to be off the job, as long as you have filled out the paperwork with doctor’s attesting to the migraines and gone through the interactive process.

      1. Vesuvius*


        IF you live in the USA, I actually have some insight into the ADA qualification. I qualify under the ADA and had accommodations denied to me, though at the time didn’t realize that that was happening. This definition depends on severity (according to my lawyer friend). Most people with chronic migraines who can get medication that works through your PCP do not qualify, but several people do. In my case I qualify because I got referred to one…gosh, two years ago? It’s made a huge difference for me.

        Migraine as a Disability: To qualify as disabled with chronic migraines, under the ADA, your migraines must be severe enough that you were referred to a neurologist. If you can get them treated through your PCP they don’t count (as far as I understand it, but effective treatment means you’re not laid up in bed sick with one multiple days a month). I hope this helps!

        It is not difficult to get a referral, at least not where I live, especially if you have tried to get prescription medicine in the past or have it and it’s not helping as much as it should be. Also, specialists have more insight into whether it’s just migraines or there is an underlying problem. I hope you find some relief soon! Burnout definitely made mine much, much worse. I also hope this is helpful.

    4. Tech Girl Supervisor*

      That’s the same for me. I’ve been a high contributing senior Java developer for the last 4 years and I was the (unofficial, so of course, no pay to go with it) technical lead for my last project. There was no technical lead position available for at my company and there wasn’t going to be one anytime soon unless someone else left so I was placed on a new project as an IC again. I hate it. I don’t have the political capital as the new person to rock the boat about all the process improvements, development environment snafus and about the fifty things I just spent 4 years learning about that I see could make everyone’s lives easier, because of the usual BS about there not being enough time this late in the project to introduce those kinds of changes.

      It doesn’t seem to click with some of the management people that taking one/two weeks to setup and train people on better build and delivery systems saves so much more time down the line when it comes to doing integration and robust testing, stuff our customers insist we do, since we’re delivering one-off custom software most of the time.

      So I’m done waiting for my company to give me an official title. I’m already interviewing with several companies for the role I actually want. Mostly thanks to all the great insight I have found in this community.

      Web Crawler, figure out what it is exactly you want out of a technology career. Then go for it. And don’t let anyone make you second-guess yourself.

    5. ten four*

      If you’re bored with your web development job start hunting – it’s an absolute feeding frenzy for engineering/development talent out there!

    6. Miss Displaced*

      I think some is Covid burnout. I generally like my work but also am feeling a general malaise lately.

      That said: Are you bored with web development, or just bored with your current company?

      Web developers are needed everywhere, so sometimes switching to a new industry vertical can reinvigorate your attitude. If you’re bored with being a developer, what’s the next logical step or side-step? Could you move into, say, UX design or something more creative with those skills? Or think of something really different but related you’d enjoy, like perhaps teaching or training roles? What about starting a business of your own?

      I sometimes find it useful in these conundrums to run through the possibilities in my mind and think about what is appealing.

  9. ThatGirl*

    My husband works for a small urban university in its counseling center. He has only been seeing students remotely for the vast majority of the last 18 months, but he and his coworkers are in-office. They all have their own separate spaces, but sometimes need to have meetings of course, and it’s a small, old, poorly ventilated building.

    He had a new boss start this week; he was happy with the selection and thought she’d be a great fit. And then on her first day she casually mentioned that she was not vaccinated and was planning to file a religious exemption (because the state has mandated that all education-related employees need to be vaccinated or face twice-weekly testing). I do not know for sure if she’s getting regular testing. She IS masking, and seemed like she would accommodate his request to largely meet remotely, but then today he reported that she has pushed back on making their counseling staff meetings in-person. They don’t really need to be; they’ve gotten along fine with Zoom/Teams so far. There is a conference room in their space that’s a little bigger, but with her unvaccinated he’s not super comfortable.

    So, part vent but also part what could he possibly say to her to be polite, professional, but also firm?

      1. ThatGirl*

        Hmm, could be worth a shot. I’ll have to ask if he’s expressed anything that way yet. In all honesty he’s more worried about himself (he can be a bit of a hypochondriac) and I suspect she would say something like “oh, I’m fine, don’t worry about me” but … worth considering.

        1. Amaranth*

          The problem is, a lot of people who claim belief exemptions don’t believe covid is a risk (or even real). He might be better off saying he’s at risk or has a family member at risk and would be more comfortable with Zoom. If he makes it about her, she has already demonstrated being fine with the risk for herself or she wouldn’t be choosing in-person meetings.

          1. ThatGirl*

            From what he’s told me she doesn’t seem to think any of it is a big deal and doesn’t think the vaccines even work or something? But yes, I would not be surprised if that were the reply. So for now he’s mostly focusing on himself.

      2. Mephyle*

        If it would violate his religious/ethical principles to put her at risk like that, he could mention it. (That is, framing it in something akin to her terms, since she’s seeking a religious exemption.)

    1. Blackcat*

      “Since Zoom has been working well for us and the delta variant spreads so easily even among vaccinated individuals, I’d like to keep meetings virtual to minimize COVID risks.”

    2. A Fellow University Counselor*

      You can also check your state laws. In some states mental health clinicians, even working in universities, are considered healthcare providers. If vaccines have been mandated in your state for healthcare providers and his boss holds the right licensure, she may have to get vaccinated to be let go. Good luck staying safe and healthy!

      1. ThatGirl*

        I noted this above, but vaccines have been mandated for all education workers, but with exemptions allowed for both medical and religious reasons (and it’s a Catholic university). Anyone with an exemption is supposed to undergo twice-weekly testing; I don’t know for certain if she’s doing that or not. I think due to their licenses they are also considered healthcare providers, but I don’t think the rules are any different? His university’s HR is fairly useless so I have a hard time imagining they’d fire her unless she did something really egregious.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I do not know, although I would HOPE that since HR requires her to formally file an exemption, they would also ask her to submit to testing (and the campus health center is next door).

        1. Ashley*

          Depending on the relationship it might be worth pushing back about the religious exemption given it is a Catholic University. The Pope has come out in support of vaccines and the Diocese of Nevada has refused to issue exemption letters. If the boss is Catholic, how are they claiming a religious exemption when the Pope supports the vaccine? This could be the upside of working with Catholics because they don’t have to offer the same religious exemptions as others.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I don’t know if she’s Catholic; I’m just saying the university is. You don’t have to be to work there.

            I don’t think he’s going to be able to change the fact of the exemptions HR has chosen to honor, unfortunately, misguided though we believe them to be.

          2. Parochial school girl*

            Be careful with that as it could stir up some issues. While the Pope supports vaccines, there is still a number of Catholics (like my own pastor!) who are not getting vaccinated because some of the research in the vaccines development used stem cell lines derived from aborted fetuses. If his university is on the conservative side of things Catholic, they might not be genuinely supportive of the covid vaccines and not too stringent in supporting state health mandates. Please note that I do not know of any particular school taking this approach, but, as a lifelong Catholic, I know there are people who are taking this stance.

          1. ThatGirl*

            She’s not taking her mask off and coughing on him or anything. It’s his job to manage; I’m just looking for suggestions I can pass along. And you’re gonna have to trust me that in all likelihood the worst that would happen is a begrudging compromise forced upon her.

    3. RagingADHD*

      It is perfectly polite and professional to say, “It is not necessary to meet in person, and the risk is too high. I will be happy to attend the meeting via Zoom/Teams.”

      1. ThatGirl*

        You’re right, but then she can say “I’ll wear a mask, it’ll be fine, don’t worry so much, come on in to the conference room.” And my husband is not the kind of guy who wants to get into arguments with his new boss.

        1. RagingADHD*

          He doesn’t have to argue. He can just literally say “thanks but no.”

          There are no magic words that will somehow prevent a determined and unreasonable person from pushing back or making demands. And you (or he) cannot game out some kind of imaginary chess match about what he can hypothetically say if she hypothetically does this, that, or the other. None of that is real, and the only thing that matters is what really happens when he speaks to this real human being.

          He just has to make up his mind whether he’s going to attend a conference room meeting or not. If he is going to attend, there’s no point pretending he won’t in order to try to make the manager feel bad.

          If he’s not going to attend, there is no point trying to change her mind because it won’t work.

          He’s just going to have to make his choice and find out what happens.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I do appreciate the thoughts – truly. He’s just kind of … well, he’s Rex from Toy Story, he doesn’t like confrontation, and neither I nor any random commenter on the internet can change that, so I’m trying to figure out how things might play out.

            They did work things out today, but the compromise was that he sat in the hallway just outside the room. He is not thrilled about it, but it’s not his hill to die on with a brand-new boss.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Okay, I’m surprised that someone who works in counseling with students considers politely declining to be a confrontation. Because “no thanks, that’s not for me” is not at all confrontational.

              I’m glad he found a way forward that works for him for the time being, anyway. Hope things continue to go well.

              1. ThatGirl*

                I think you misunderstand, it’s not the politely saying no thanks, it’s what comes next, or might come next, and he also has anxiety.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Get others involved in the conversation- if he can drum up several cohorts (her subordinates) that are willing to say they prefer Zoom, he might gain some traction. I can see where one voice objecting is not going to cut it here.

          1. ThatGirl*

            It’s a small team, and his other counselor coworker is on his side, but I don’t know how “loud” she is about it.

        3. Batgirl*

          He could lead with the mask as a counter argument before she says anything? “I considered doing this in the conference room wearing masks, but I realized that it’s still fairly unsafe, especially since zoom has been working so well.” He might also consider saying something like “I understand you have a religious reason for not being vaccinated, but that does mean we need to be extra careful.” Hopefully she’ll get sick of the regular testing and just get vaccinated because it’s easier.

    4. Camelid coordinator*

      I’d like to think about how he can help the new boss get what she is looking for out of an in-person staff meeting. Perhaps she feels it is easier to be creative and have casual conversations in person, Zoom sometimes feels transactional to me. You could have every other staff meeting be on Zoom or have special brainstorming time on Zoom. If she is trying to build rapport maybe you could go outside or have a walking meeting. I have to agree with others, there are not likely to be any magic words. So let’s shift the focus.

    5. allathian*

      Does he have any medical conditions that put him personally at risk in spite of being vaccinated? If not, he could attend the meetings, masked up, and simply refuse to eat or drink anything in her company. Also, if the meeting rooms are poorly ventilated, does it have windows that can be opened? Even if people have to sit there in their overcoats in the winter, or swelter in the summer heat, that would decrease the risk.

      Quite honestly, at the moment I’m starting to become increasingly unwilling to do anything to protect the health of those who refuse to be vaccinated. I figure if they get sick, it’s largely their own stupid fault. I’m a lot more worried about those who haven’t been able to get the vaccine yet, like young kids, or those who are immunocompromised to the point that they don’t get the full benefit of the vaccine anyway.

    6. Morning Reader*

      I have some hearing loss that seems to be getting worse. What I’ve noticed is that it is easier to hear and understand someone showing their face on zoom than it is to hear them face to face, masked, in person. If he is similar he could possibly lean on this as a reason to say that online meetings work better.
      I’m not suggesting that he lie as that would be unethical. But, if clear, face to face communication is necessary for these meetings, it might be a factor to mention as a better method than in person, masked.

  10. Texan In Exile*

    Was anyone else as horrified as I was by this story on LinkedIn (link following) about how yes, you should identify and contact the hiring manager – that it’s a great thing to do?

    My guess is the person who wrote, “Never reach out to the hiring manager” is an AAM reader.

    “Yesterday I got a, ‘Hey, is it appropriate to reach out on LI to the hiring manager for a job I’m applying for?’ question and an unsolicited, ‘Never reach out to the hiring manager – totally inappropriate.’ comment. My take? The latter is living in the dark ages. As someone who has hired and helped hire for countless roles, I can tell you that a candidate reaching out to me and others on LI about a job rarely happens and, when done right, is a pro-move to standing out.”

    1. Zephy*

      I think the key is “when done right,” but that also feels like a dogwhistle for “when the candidate is also a straight white Christian man.”

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        I wouldn’t quite go that far. It’s definitely a tricky calculus, and I’ve seen success with it for sales roles most notably (which makes sense.) It would also be hypocritical of me to not be somewhat in favor of this approach because this is a piece of how I earn business as a recruiter is by targeting the hiring managers versus going through HR.

        1. Zephy*

          I think if you’re a recruiter, the context is a little bit different than if you were an *applicant* reaching out to a hiring manager directly. Your approach is “I can help you find someone to hire,” not “Hi, I don’t give a single flying fish about your actual hiring process but still somehow want you to offer me a job.”

        2. LTL*

          It may make sense for certain industries, but outside of those, I’d be wary that men (especially white men) who do it would be seen as go-getters, while women and maybe POC would be seen as more aggressive.

      2. Anhaga*

        For me “when done right” means that the person actually read the posting, has relevant experience, submitted all the required materials with their application, and has something they want to say to me other than “Look at my resume PLZ!” Most of the applicants I’ve gone through over the past couple of hiring cycles were not of that caliber. If all of them started contacting me on LinkedIn, I would get super-irritated.

    2. Cookie D'oh*

      I don’t even know how you would go about finding out who the hiring manager is in the first place. When my husband was job searching after being laid off, the majority of places had online application portals where you entered your info. After pushing submit ,it went off into the void and hopefully someone would contact you. I guess if it’s a referral from someone already working for the company, that would be different.

      1. Zephy*

        I guess if the company has a website with employee profiles you could probably do some sleuthing and figure out that Tangerina Warbleworth, Associate Director of Llama Grooming, is probably the hiring manager for the Llama Grooming I role you applied for on Indeed or whatever.

        1. GraceC*

          When I was reviewing cover letters for internships and graduate roles at my work, there were a lot addressed to “Dear [department head’s name]” that they clearly took from the team page on our website. Nope, he’s got plenty of better things to be doing than reading hundreds of CVs and cover letters, sorry.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yabbut, that’s a recipe for embarrassing errors. There are extremely frequently pockets of employees of a certain job profile (HR, accounting, software development, IT, customer service…) distributed across an organization, which *also* may have an [X] department for each of these that has nothing to do with the job posting. Also, you have no idea if the hiring manager is the department head / director or a middle manager, or even someone entirely different.

          I’d only ever consider contacting the hiring manager if a) this is a done thing in that particular industry AND b) the job posting makes it easy to find out a name. For example, in some research postings as well as in the industry when someone is looking for a high-level individual contributor, it *is* ok to contact the hiring manager with a preliminary inquiry. Another reason to contact is to figure out if additional staffing needs might be coming up, if you are interested in working for the unit they’re recruiting for, but in a different role (“I see you are currently recruiting several junior and customer service positions for your new X department. I am very interested in X and have [track record]. I have written a book on designing X-specific cyberinfrastructure. So I wonder if a need for an X-certified database architect might come up and/or whether it would make sense for us to talk.”)

          But these are exceptions – most of the time it’s more annoyance than help to contact the hiring manager.

      2. E*

        Depends on the set up. We have a formal recruitment system, but all of our job adverts list the name of the hiring manager.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Can you explain examples of what “when done right” has looked like for you?

      If I’m hiring, I never want someone to reach out to me on LinkedIn unsolicited. I’d just want people to apply in the recommended fashion, like all the other candidates.

      “Gumption” doesn’t make you a better employee.

      1. Reba*

        Texan in Exile is not saying to do this.

        The Linked in poster (who does give an example of “done right” from her pov) is in sales, so maybe that changes the calculation?

        Also, her post and the agreeing posts are promoting the use of Linked In, as well as her own business website, so not exactly neutral.

    4. MissGirl*

      This is interesting as I’ve seen here many times to not reach out. I actually asked two of my managers once if they found reaching out inappropriate and they said not if the candidate was qualified.

      1. Amaranth*

        Considering how many applications can come in for any job, this has the potential to become overwhelming if it becomes the ‘next big thing’ for applicants to try and stand out. To me it feels like an end run around the stated process, so its interesting to me that some managers approve.

    5. Yorick*

      I think I wouldn’t mind if they had real questions about the company or role that needed to be answered before they knew if they wanted to apply. But that’s pretty rare. And I might not mind if I had met them or they were in my network in some way, as long as they made it clear they knew they had to apply the regular way.

      Otherwise, just apply for the job.

    6. Teapot Repair Technician*

      It seems less bad to contact the hiring manager on LinkedIn than than by email or phone.

      I’ve never felt the need to reply to LinkedIn messages from strangers (or even to read them), so receiving one wouldn’t really bother me.

    7. Texan In Exile*

      I would not want to work for this man (who commented on the thread). He is the owner of the company and apparently, looks for gumption.

      “I hired many instructors, but I never hired anyone who didn’t reach out to me after they sent their resume’.
      I wanted to see an expression of interest that went beyond sending a resume’. I was more interested in people who seemed more interested.
      A follow-up note suggests initiative. I respect and expect initiative.
      A follow-up note reveals communication skills. Do they use good grammar? Are they outward or inward focused? Do they bring up relevant issues?
      Wordiness is a warning sign in a follow-up note, but brevity demonstrates respect for people’s time. And it shows an ability to get to the point.
      A follow-up note that focuses on appropriate topics indicates an ability to be relevant. Organizations already have too many employees who don’t know how to align with priorities.”

      1. Quantum Hall Effect*

        I guess he’s not familiar with cover letters.

        Anyhoo, he’s allowed to want what he wants, and since it’s working for him, who are we to tell him he is wrong?

      2. Beth*

        I wonder how many highly qualified candidates he ignores because they don’t play his stupid mind games.

      3. LTL*

        The number of times I’ve seen hiring managers generalize their specific preferences as universal and obvious norms is too many.

      4. Miss Displaced*

        This guy is pretty nuts. In his mind game, it’s really that the biggest bullshitter (aka shows most gumption) wins the game. Biggest bullshitters do not equal best/most qualified employees.

        But he wants what he wants. It’s his business that will sink or swim with this method.

    8. Hiring Mgr*

      As someone who interviews and hires and isn’t in HR/recruiting, I don’t really care where the candidates come from. If a good candidate manages to find me on LinkedIn and gets in touch, I’ll probably just forward over to our recruiter anyway, but wouldn’t penalize them. “Following application instructions” isn’t that big of a deal (for me)

      But I think much of this is maybe industry or even person specific. So still better safe than sorry and don’t do it – but it’s not like a universally terrible tactic

    9. KatieP*

      If the candidate is qualified, that’s one thing. Having been on the receiving end of dozens of unsolicited messages from explicitly unqualified candidates, I prefer that we keep everything going through the usual channels. Some applicants can’t tell the difference between a polite inquiry and harassment.

    10. Chaordic One*

      I think it is like playing the lottery. Most of the time it won’t work and it will, in fact, usually annoy and alienate the hiring manager and hurt your chances of being hired. But every once in a while, it does work for a certain kind of candidate (usually someone over-confidant and brimming with charisma). This kind of thing probably goes over better in sales kinds of jobs, than for most positions.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      This advice has been around since the 70s that I know of- maybe even longer. Before computers people sincerely believed a job hunter should call the company and smooth talk their way into finding out who the hiring manager is.

      I never did it. I found it intimidating. And I also tended to believe that if the HM wanted to talk directly to people then the HM would give contact info.

      Alison’s posts were a breath of fresh air when she said, “Don’t do this, it can annoy the HM.” And that was my gut feeling on this all these years. Going the opposite way, I don’t want to work for a company that hires on the basis of friendliness or perceived personality. I want to work some where that people hire based on ability.

    12. KR*

      I have been seeing this on a few social media posts/videos that you should reach out to hiring managers directly or find people on LinkedIn who work at the company and it just seems like such a bad idea. If someone reached out to me at any of the jobs I worked at I wouldn’t have talked to them and would have referred them to the job listing.

  11. Farragut*

    I’m a freelancer looking to branch out into resume writing services. For anyone who’s used one, what are your main pet peeves / areas of advice for ensuring quality service? For anyone who hasn’t used one, what are the reasons why not?

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I’ve done this work, and the thing that’s important to me is to specify up front that the candidate gets ONE round of changes, because otherwise you could be there all year. I also find it really beneficial to have a voice call with the candidate, because once I get people talking about their work it’s easy to pick up on their more marketable qualities, and also they often remember achievements they forgot to put on their draft.

      1. Mimi*

        Yeah, absolutely talk to the candidate. The job coach I worked with offered resume-writing services, but the writer didn’t talk to me at all, just took my existing resume and added a bunch of (mostly irrelevant) buzzwords to it.

        It’s probably also useful to know what fields you know enough about to be helpful for — in my case, the resume writer didn’t seem to understand that tech is not a monolith, and that the words that are relevant for a code monkey aren’t the same words that are meaningful to someone in infrastructure.

    2. LC*

      I used one last year as part of my severance package. My overall impression is that I now have an excellent resume and cover letter that just … don’t sound like me. I mean, they’re completely accurate and do an excellent job at the facts (a lot of the wording for my accomplishments is soooo much better than any way I was coming up with). It’s just not in my voice at all.

      Part of that is absolutely on me, I didn’t push nearly hard enough to make that happen, and I can’t fault her for not reading my mind. I’m not a writer, not by a long shot, so I definitely didn’t have any “here is a specific thing that bugs me and suggestions on how we could fix it” things to say, which would have at least helped me feel more comfortable about speaking about it more.

      But she didn’t really make any effort on that front either, and I wish she had. I think just some more discussion could have helped. I had calls with a job search coach person, but the resume/cover letter writer and I communicated entirely by email (the coach and writer talked directly though, I’m pretty sure). I’m really, really not a fan of phone calls that I don’t have to do, but I think it would have been worth it to just chat.

      (End result, I got a great job and the recruiter made a point to tell me that my resume was their favorite and that I lived up to it in the interview, so it’s entirely possible that I’m just not very good about being objective about myself.)

    3. No Name*

      I do fiction writing, and have had first chapters critiqued by new freelance editors for free before (so you’d recommend them to your writing friends). Most of the feedback either didn’t make sense (so I doubted their writing/editing skills) or they’d tell me my writing was fantastic and they didn’t see anything to change. So I’d never use a freelance editor at all, for resumes or otherwise, because it seems doubtful I’d get much out of it. I guess I might give it a chance if I could get a free sample, but resumes are too short for a free sample.

      1. JB*

        You probably shouldn’t judge freelance editing at large by work you’ve received for free from newbies.

        I’m an (independently published) fiction author myself and the freelance editor I work with is indispensible. I don’t make every single change she suggests – that’s not how the relationship is supposed to work – but my finished novels are much, much stronger for her services, and readers notice the difference.

      2. Redaktorin*

        Honestly, you should try again with someone qualified. This usually means they’ve published work of their own and won’t work for you for free.

  12. Cj*

    Just wanted to express my frustration, given this morning’s first letter, that we have had a person out of our office for two weeks with Covid. Thank goodness they are the only unvaccinated person in the office. However, even though vaccinated people get much less sick, I don’t even want to be mildly sick for a few days with it, and I’m kind of PO’d.

    1. Cj*

      Wanted to add – it was this person’s choice not to get vaccinated. I don’t know if it is “political” (I kind of doubt it, since most people are pretty vocal about that), but I know it’s not because they couldn’t.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Haven’t read that letter yet, but I feel for you and the frustration. I’ve told the story here before but it’s worth repeating: After a recent announcement from HR about another case in the building, I wrote the (immuno-compromised) HR person and joking asked about bringing in a vaccine dart gun and going “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild America” on the willfully un-vaxed people in our office.
      She replied, “Well, as HR, I can’t approve you doing that… but if you bring it in, I’ll do it for you.”

    3. MsGnomer*

      I am very frustrated with how people in my office are handling covid as well. One of my direct reports told me yesterday that he will be unable to attend a major work conference this year because our company requires all employees to attend to be vaccinated. This is a conference that we host for all of our clients in the industry and a chance for him to meet his clients face to face. I’m really disappointed.

      I let him know that once we return to the office, he is going to be required to follow our company’s protocol and wear a mask 100% of the time, social distance, and submit to weekly covid tests at the company’s expense. He kind of laughed. I made it clear that we will be very strict about this and it is not optional.

      I have to work with this person closely and I’m just…angry. Both of my parents have cancer. I don’t want to be around anyone who refuses to vaccinate, let alone have them sitting in my office during a 1:1 looking at the same computer screen.

        1. Fran Fine*

          They don’t care. According to them, it’s just a cold and most people get over it with no issues. *sigh*

            1. Cj*

              And they are lining up for monoclonal antibodies in FL because they have no problem putting that in their body but they do the vaccine?!?!?

              1. Cj*

                I’m sure it’s probably too late for anybody to see this, but I was reading today that monoclonal antibodies are tested on the same fetal stem cell lines that some of the vaccines are.

                Some people are using this as a basis for their religious exemption against the vaccine. If they truly have a belief this is wrong, then they shouldn’t be getting the antibodies either.

        2. Ashley*

          It is a huge point of frustration that we are supposed to except 1,000+ people dying a day. My other huge issue is because someone got vaccinated that is all the ever need to do to protect themselves from COVID.

          1. Cj*

            Although I’m vaccinated, I know I can further protect myself by wearing a mask (and socially distancing). But given the most of the protection from masks comes from the infected person wearing them, and that so many anti-vaxers are also anti-maskers, that further adds to my frustration.

        3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          The cognitive skills they would need for this are the same ones they would need for empathy – so they neither know nor care. Why comprehend complex issues? Why use empathy and imagination to put yourself in another person’s shoes? Why game out possible outcomes for society at large? Why alter your behavior for the greater good? That stuff is hard, and the guy on the news is white, male, Anglo, and very, very angry – that makes him the dominant male of your tribe. So just fling feces in the direction he tells you to fling it. Then everything’s simple and your head won’t hurt.

          1. Cj*

            And yet these people dare to call themselves “patriots”. Doing stuff for the larger good of society is being a patriot, and like you said, they are doing the opposite.

            1. Cj*

              (My apologies, Alison, if this comment is getting to political. I’m just so very, very angry that this is all so unnecessary.)

      1. Sara without an H*

        Be sure your own manager has your back on this. Then go for it! This is one situation when it’s good to be a hard ass.

        Would you check back in later with an update? If your report is refusing the vaccine for ideological reasons, holding him to protocol may be your only option. But I’d be curious to know if he eventually decides that it’s just easier to get the vaccine.

        1. TIRED*

          Yep, another go for it vote here. Fire him when (not if) he doesn’t follow the covid protocols. Laughing to your boss about not following company protocols during a deadly global pandemic??? That alone shows immense disrespect, to you and the company protocols. F this guy.

        2. MsGnomer*

          Yes, first thing I did was schedule a meeting with my boss to let him know I will be enforcing this and there needs to be consequences if he does not comply. My biggest concern was making sure my company had my back, and they do. My manager alerted senior leadership and we are all on the same page.

          1. HigherEdAdminista*

            I don’t blame you. Honestly, I would make sure to document any infractions and any negative impact on his client relationships that might happen compared to other members of the team due to his inability to engage in certain activities.

            I am merciless at this point. I just want to see these folks getting fired.

            1. Andrea McDuck*

              The only way to get them to get the shot at this point is to hit them where it hurts. Jobs, entertainment, events, convenience, services. Ban them from in-person grocery shopping, live concerts, movies, meetings.

              WE COULD HAVE BEATEN THIS BY NOW if these selfish a-holes had done what they were told. I’m only working part-time and taking care of our kids the rest because we can’t send them to daycare. We simply don’t trust our community enough.

          2. Pocket Mouse*

            Do you have it in writing that your manager and senior leadership are on the same page? I can see this getting murky down the line if, say, your direct report starts flouting protocols around the same time leadership is about to loosen those same safety protocols.

        3. MsGnomer*

          Oh, I also tried floating the idea of offering an incentive for those who get vaccinated. A competitor to us is offering $1000 to all vaccinated employees. Not sure if it will get any traction – I’m a new manager and the lowest rung on the leadership ladder. But I think that would help.

          I’m also a proponent of keeping our folks full time remote. They’ve been doing their job just fine for 18 months. I see no reason why we need to bring anyone back 3 times a week. The consensus among employees is largely favorable of working from home full time.

          1. Cj*

            I don’t have a problem with incentives in theory, but it kind of annoyed me when my state started giving out $100 give cards in July or so to people who still weren’t vaccinated and did so, when those of us who did the responsible thing and got vaccinated as soon as we could got squat.

            1. Cj*

              Oh, yeah, meant to include that so if you do an incentive, try to make it so all people who *are* vaccinated get it, not just those who still aren’t and do once the incentive is announced. It sounds like that might be what your competitor is doing, and I think it is the right thing to do.

              1. Michelle*

                Robert Picardo, who played the Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek: Voyager, offered signed photographs of himself to anyone who had not yet been vaccinated, got vaccinated, and was willing to provide an explanation of why they waited until they were getting a signed photo to protect the people around them.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        I think you are well within your rights to refuse to meet in-person with this (frankly awful) direct report. He can get Zoom meetings or phone calls with you, and if his refusal to meet the requirements to attend the conference means he is not in a position to meet important benchmarks…meh.

    4. JustaTech*

      My work has 3 sites, and 2 of them are almost fully vaccinated, and then there’s one, the busiest one that has not got spare staff at all, that’s like maybe 50% vaccinated. They’re very proud that they haven’t had any on-site infections, but like, the rest of us haven’t had hardly any cases and they’ve had dozens?

      But the company insists that they can’t even ask unvaccinated people to test because of the location of that one site (not Florida). It’s just exhausting.

      1. Cj*

        At first I thought you were going to say they were very proud that so few were vaccinated! Seems strange, I know, but after the applause Marjorie Taylor Greene got in Arkansas (I think?) when she said they had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, you just never know.

    5. OyHiOh*

      I have a stand alone post further down about a person who came in knowing they had direct contact with someone who has COVID. In our case, the only way to deal with it is through our building’s property manager. There are 4 little non profits and one small for-profit that lease private offices, and a handful of month to month people out in the suite’s work-share space. The COVID-human, as I’ve been referring to them has one of the work-share tables.

      I have nervous systems dysfunction and POTS as is. I do not want to get sick, even if the odds are for a mild case! A lot of the long-COVID symptoms are things I experience on a regular basis without this virus adding to the load.

    6. Miss Displaced*

      I was “mildly” sick with Covid earlier this spring just before my age bracket was able to schedule the vaccine. Even mildly sick with Covid was absolutely gross and horrible. You really do not want it.

  13. Binky*

    I have a question about being a contract employee. I interviewed for a really interesting position this week that’s a contract role, but indefinite basis. From what the people I spoke with said, it sounds like these contractors stay for many years, and it’s a very stable job (I had originally thought it was a temp job, but it’s not). Are there any major pluses or minuses I should think about, if they move me forward?

    Also, I have no idea about any terms other than pay (I’d be hourly). I know I’d be a W2 employee of the middle-man company, so I don’t have to worry about taxes. And I know I wouldn’t get benefits from the company I’m performing work for. The middle-man company will provide health benefits after awhile, but I have no idea what other benefits I might get, or could ask for. I have no idea if the middle-man company provides any PTO. Is there any negotiating I can do? And what would be realistic to ask for? Anything else I should be thinking about?

    1. Cj*

      I think with a middle man company, you might be able to negotiate your pay to some extent, but the ones I know of have standard benefits for everyone that aren’t really negotiable.

    2. Zephy*

      I have so many questions about this arrangement. Why has Company X decided to fill this role by permanently contracting it out to Middleman Inc? It seems like it would be more efficient if you were just a Company X employee. Do they have a lot of roles filled this way, or is it just this one? Definitely do more research/homework about Middleman Inc – exactly what benefits do you get, when do you get them, what is the pay, what are the specific terms of your contract.

      1. Filosofickle*

        FWIW, it’s surprisingly common in my field/area to do this kind of indefinite contract situation. I especially see it in tech companies, where a huge number of workers aren’t employed directly by the company. It does a couple of things for Company X, most notably keeping the permanent headcount down so the numbers look better for investors and the finance folks. (On the balance sheet, employees are liabilities not assets.) And if the business runs into any speed bumps, it makes it easier to cut jobs without officially laying off or firing anyone. That looks good on paper, too.

        Personally I’ve found the pay rates and benefits are sometimes less as a contractor, so there may be some cost savings for the company as well. It can be big things like PTO or benefits, or small things like not having access to the company gym and free food. It can create an awkward two-tier system of workers. Some that have security and benefits and some that don’t. Some are paid twice as much.

        You’re absolutely right to recommend checking out the contract house. That matters a lot, and varies a lot.

      2. COBOL Dinosaur*

        Many government contracts are done this way. Whomever wins the bid of the contract will have it for so many years. Often if another company wins the bid they may hire the employees of the old contract holder but not always.

      3. Student*

        Having worked in a similar arrangement, I can’t give you definitive answers but I can give you some reasons why they may handle it this way.

        Possibility 1: Company X may have trouble performing one or several “overhead” business functions, such as payroll, IT, benefits, management, training, etc., but be good at generating interesting proposals/bids for work and at some level of project management/technical execution. So, getting employees through Middleman Inc. may let them outsource a lot of the non-technical aspects of running a business to Middleman Inc. while allowing them access to good technical employees. In that scenario, Middleman Inc. deals with all the foundational business aspects, Company X gets the cool technical work without devoting much of their time or capital to learning how to do payroll correctly etc., and OP Binky gets to do the cool technical work while not having to worry about whether Company X’s nerd squad remembered to do payroll or correctly figured out relevant tax laws for Binky’s region. It’s a very silly approach, in my mind, but I definitely have run into it.

        Possibility 2: This is a shell game to get funding that Middleman Inc. is not directly eligible for. Perhaps Company X has the ability to apply for special set-aside funding of some sort (grants, government projects, tax breaks). An example would be if Company X was headed by, say, a veteran/woman/person of color, or is categorized as a “small business”. In this scenario, Middleman Inc. is a large company headed by white guys who want the money that, for example, the government sets aside specifically to fund small businesses. In this scenario, Company X gets the government contract, but instead of doing the work themselves, funnels most or all of the work to Middleman Inc. Traditionally, Middleman Inc. gets some reasonable cut of the profits out of the deal for very little work. Thus, the companies both sidestep the intent of the relevant set-aside in a legal sense, for profit at the expense of the group who was actually intended to benefit from the set-aside. I have definitely seen this happen quite a lot.

        Possibility 3: Corporate flim-flammery. Any chance Company X and Middleman Inc. are both owned by some single other company? Then it might be some tax strategy or a corporate restructure shuffle. Maybe Middleman Inc. doesn’t want to be directly associated with the project, for PR, competitive, tax, classification, or other reasons, so they go through Company X for misdirection. If there are enough shell companies around you that someone starts to yell about how it’s turtles all the way down, this may be the situation. I only run into this occasionally, but I understand shell companies and misdirection about actual ownership are common in other industries.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I did this sort of thing for a long time, and the way raises worked was every year I had to go to the staffing agency, ask for one, give them a short list of accomplishments, then they checked with the company I actually worked for and usually came back with a raise of a buck or two an hour.

      There wasn’t much other negotiating I could do, and they offered insurance but it was pretty pricey so I ended up just getting it on my own. I did get to mostly set my own hours and WFH when I wanted to, but I didn’t get PTO or paid holidays.

      1. Amaranth*

        When we’d hire through an agency we always had to pay several dollars an hour higher in order to cover their fees and the employee’s pay. Part of the contract was that we also couldn’t hire that employee directly. I get doing that for a temp or emergency staffing, but is there an advantage – to anyone but the staffing agency – I’m not seeing in long-term contracts?

        1. ThatGirl*

          That’s funny, cause I did eventually get hired on full time at that company.

          My understanding is that they did it primarily because they could save money (possibly illegally!) on payroll taxes, insurance, etc and also move contractors around easily – I spent about 6 years there as a contractor and I think had 5 different jobs in that time, because they would put me on team A for a year, then team B, then team C for 5 months, then back to team B…

          1. Cj*

            If you were a W-2 employee of the staffing agency, and therefore they paid your payroll taxes, carried work comp insurance, etc., I don’t see where there would have been illegal savings for company you actually performed services for.

            If the staffing agency gave you a 1099, that could be a different matter. Even in that case, it would have been a staffing agency handling it wrong, not the other company.

        2. Filosofickle*

          Often, the costs of benefits and such for a regular employee — health care, PTO, HR, taxes, development, perks, EAP, 401k — can significantly outweigh the extra $ for the agency markup. And it’s not a long-term commitment, so they can end it at any time without officially firing anyone as well as headcount down in financial forecasts (which can affect investments and stock valuations).

    4. Yorick*

      It sounds like you need to get the benefits info from the middle-man company.

      Also, some companies have a rule about how long contractors can work, and you’d want to know that rule if it exists. For example, my husband contracted for a place that could have you work for no more than 2 years at a time, but could hire you as a contractor again after a certain amount of time (maybe 6-12 months?)

    5. darlingpants*

      I did this for about 14 months and I was fine with it for the first 8 months or so, but after a while it started to really rankle that I was getting paid ~70% of what the people doing the exact same job as FTEs were. Plus my hiring company was really strict about dumb stuff to prevent “co-employment” rules from kicking in, so I couldn’t talk to my on site manager about a bunch of different stuff like compensation or even my performance. If the job itself had been great I might have stayed longer, but I think this kind of arrangement really eats away at feeling like the company respects you and like it cares about your well-being. And I had great PTO! Other contractors from different contracting companies had really awful health insurance and no PTO which is extra awful in a pandemic.

    6. talos*

      My company has a lot of contract employees like this. One thing to think about that I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned is that contract employees mostly don’t get any of the team building or professional development that regular company employees do (contract employees are usually not invited to official team lunches or affinity group meetings or most PD). I think the reason is that it’s harder to get reimbursed for spending money on contractors. So you have to be sure you’re okay with that.

      1. Binky*

        My interviewers did let me know this was an issue. It sounds less than awesome, but I think the job is interesting enough to give it a try.

      2. Frank Doyle*

        Actually I believe that it’s because if the company treats contractors the same as they do employees, then they’re out of compliance with labor laws.

        [There are] legal distinctions that companies are required to make between employees and contractors; if they treat them the same, they risk being forced to reclassify the contractors as employees (with all the accompanying costs for payroll taxes, benefits, and in some cases government-imposed fines). Preserving that distinction often means that contractors aren’t invited to company parties, aren’t allowed to use perks like company gyms, aren’t eligible for various awards, and so forth.

    7. LabTechNoMore*

      Once in the lab, I spilled a ~5mL sample of mildly acidic water onto the DI Water Filter, causing it to catch fire. Also another time the instructions on making a reagent for an experiment weren’t clear, and I accidentally made SURPRISE BROMINE! fuming out of my volumetric flask. Good times! ;)

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        Hrm. I have failed at nesting this comment. This was supposed to go under the “Office Mishaps” thread. Standing alone here it just looks… off.

  14. CasualCat*

    Asking about dress code in an interview (especially when it’s virtual so you don’t get a good sense of what employees are wearing) — bad idea? I’m very pro-casual and it’s somewhat important to me but wouldn’t want asking about dress code to rule me out. Field is libraries, if it matters.

      1. Yorick*

        You could ask whether the environment is casual or formal, and that might give you an idea? They might even mention dress while answering the question.

    1. Cj*

      If they aren’t closed to the public, can you visit the library to check it out? I don’t think asking would rule you out, but in an early interview it may seem somewhat premature. However, if it is so important to you that you would drop out of consideration, you might as well go ahead and ask in order to not waste anybody’s time.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      I’m a librarian who hires fairly frequently and I have no issue with being asked about the dress code in an interview. I don’t think I’ve asked in an interview, but one library that had a pretty strict dress code did mention it in the interview, which I appreciated. I think it’s unlike to make you a red flag.

    3. Gipsy Danger*

      I work in healthcare admin, and I always ask about the dress code in interviews, because if scrubs are required I will self-select out of there (I have no desire to wear pyjamas to work). I usually ask in the context of “If I were the successful applicant, what would the dress code be?” and I have never had any issues with that. It feels different than asking about money or benefits somehow.

    4. ErinWV*

      Certainly doesn’t seem like they’d take points off for you asking. I don’t think the question “What is your dress code like?” automatically triggers “this person will regularly show up every day dressed like the Dude.”

      All the libraries I have worked in (one public, a couple academic) have been business casual, but one did have very strict rules about footwear. There had been some kind of book-avalanche-toe-crushing situation in the distant past, so there were no sandals or other open-toed shoes allowed.

      If you’re worried about like, blue hair or something – you’re in libraries, so you probably don’t need to worry about that!

    5. louvella*

      I feel like you could say something like “Can you tell me about the company culture?” and then list several examples of things you would like to know about, including dress code.

    6. Eleganz*

      It’s funny that this question has a bit of a “don’t ask” reputation, I really don’t get why! As an interviewer, I sometimes try to slip the information in because I feel like it’s something potential hires would be interested in, and everyone is happy to hear it but seemed embarrassed to ask. I even sometimes tell phone interviewees what the dress code is for the full interview – I find it so awkward to be sitting in my barely-business-casual interviewing someone who’s got the full suit going on.

    7. Barbara Gordon*

      I work in public libraries and participate in hiring pretty frequently.

      People ask this often. I wouldn’t rule someone out for asking it. I personally don’t like when it’s the *only* thing that people ask, though. But as one of a few questions, I think it’s fine, especially if the other questions are more focused on the job duties or library’s goals, that kind of thing.

  15. Albeira Dawn*

    On Wednesday I was washing my hands in the office bathroom and the faucet came off, soaking me, the walls, and the floor. Thank god we’re moving to a new building soon.

    Anyone else have tales of office mishaps?

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      I once had a faucet splash me in a way that made it look like I’d had an accident. Only solution was to go to a different faucet and intentionally splash the upper half of my body as camouflage.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Oo, I did that too. I think I had tan pants and brushed against the wet counter such that it left a distinct wet spot in the front middle, so I ended up adding more water to hide the placement and implications of the initial spot.

    2. londonedit*

      Years ago in a previous job I once arrived in the morning, went into the office kitchen and switched the light on, as you do…and the light bulb exploded with a huge pop and a flash, sending tiny pieces of glass all over the place. It certainly woke me up! I’ve also worked in an office where part of the ceiling collapsed while we were all sitting there (luckily it didn’t land on anyone but it made a heck of a mess!)

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I had that happen in a classroom I was teaching in! People can move pretty fast while still sitting in those little desks once the sky starts falling. (The acoustic tiles had gotten wet at some point & finally started disintegrating. It was a soggy mess, but nobody got hurt.)

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          I was working one night when a possum fell through the sodden acoustic tiles into our work area. I don’t know who was more terrified, my coworker or the possum.

    3. Beancat*

      Oh my gosh! I can’t even imagine.

      Once we had an entire (small!) shelf just lean forward under its own weight and dump the contents onto the floor. Sigh…it doesn’t seem like it was mounted properly.

      1. ErinWV*

        LOL, I once caught a collapsing shelf of binders and then did not know what to do from there (couldn’t put it down, couldn’t put it back up). I started screaming for my co-worker in the next office, and she came in like, “What are you screaming about, are you crazy? Oh.”

      2. A Poster Has No Name*

        My home office has two shelves on the wall–one on the wall right in front of my desk around 4-5′ high and another to the left of it a few feet higher. I was grabbing a binder off the higher shelf the other day when the right bracket came out of the wall and the entire shelf and all the contents slid down onto the other shelf and the combined contents then fell down onto my desk.

        It was, needless to say, a giant mess, but the only casualties were (miraculously) one glass and the rest of my omelet from breakfast.

      3. JustaTech*

        I had that happen with a counter/set of drawers that wasn’t attached to the wall. One day (as we were moving out the space) it just pitched over and threw a pH meter and a density meter on the floor. Amazingly neither broke.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      More than once, I saw water flowing out of the ladies’ room and soaking the carpet in front of the door. More than once, I have been the person who reached behind the toilet to turn the water off.

      (And when I watched “Me, You, and Dupree” last night, I wondered why Dupree didn’t just turn off the water in the overflowing toilet scene. That is a skill everyone should have.)

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I had that happen at a previous job. We had a single toilet stall in the office suite and I walked in to a large pool of water coming out from under the door. Turns out the storm sewer had backed up due to serious amounts of rainfall and we had ‘gray water’ geysering up out of the toilet, shooting up at least a foot in the air over the top of the toilet rim. I ran around picking up file boxes and computers off the floor (got shocked by one), and after I had done what I can I told the department’s front desk that I was forwarding the phones and going home. I threw out the shoes I had worn during all of that.

      2. JustaTech*

        I know someone who, the first time he lived on his own, called 911 when his toilet violently overflowed late at night because he literally had no idea what to do. The very kind (and very annoyed dispatcher) said “have you tried calling a plumber?”

        1. allathian*

          Not at work, but when our son was a baby and napping in his bassinet in the living room, a fluorescent energy saving light bulb blew up and spewed glass shards and mercury on the floor. Luckily our son was unhurt although it happed only a few feet from where he was. Cleaning up wasn’t pleasant and everything that had come in contact with the mercury (except the actual floor) had to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Since then, I’ve never really trusted energy lights much, and we’ve been replacing them with LED lights.

      3. Hamburke*

        We bought a house this spring. It had push-pull shut off valves for the toilets. They are terrible and I could not tell you how they worked – although one of them *didn’t* work and kept getting sucked in so the hall toilet didn’t work for more than 2 flushes. We had a plumber install quarter turn valves for us within 2 weeks of moving in. I’ve also had one of the screw knobs come off in my hand in an apartment even though I was tightening it and another knob spin freely but not shut off the water – that was a terrible apartment complex…

    5. I'm that guy*

      They were giving out cupcakes with bright purple frosting to celebrate a product launch. I picked one up and when went to take a bite I missed my mouth and dropped it down the front of my white shirt. Fortunately I was paranoid about the possibility of a clothing malfunction (I’ve had buttons come off my shirt in the past) and had a spare shirt in a drawer in my cube, but I had to walk from the cafeteria back to my cube with a purple splotch in the middle of my shirt.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        I once spilled tomato sauce down the front of my shirt. Luckily I wasn’t client-facing but spent the whole day looking like I had committed a murder. Yikes!

    6. PrincessButtercup*

      Me! I used to work in an office that constantly had water issues like this. Overflowing toilets (like spontaneously, not from bathroom related functions), random floods, etc.

      I biked to work and there was no shower/change room, so I would change into work clothes in a bathroom stall. I’m changing one day and basically down to my underwear only, when all of a sudden I hear someone a few stalls down yell “what the heck!” (in less PG terms) and I suddenly see water gushing under the stall. She yells that the toilet broke and I’m trying to pull my clothes on without getting everything wet so I can run out of there.

      Basically she said she had gone to flush and the handle just started spouting water like crazy. We all got sent home that day but it was a VERY stressful 30 seconds trying to weigh getting drenched in toilet water vs my whole office seeing me in my underwear.

    7. WellRed*

      My coworker and I shared coffee brewing duties. She once brewed a new pot without emptying the remains in the pot. Massive overflow all over the place.

      1. JustaTech*

        When we had a coffee pot one day my boss came in super early for a 5am study and decided he needed coffee, so he made a pot (one of those giant things with a spigot at the bottom, not a regular glass pot), but then didn’t actually move it out from under the brewer. So when I came in a couple of hours later I find that he hadn’t seated the coffee filter basket correctly and half the ground were in the pot and half the grounds had flowed onto the counter, into the drawers and then all over the floor.

        That was fun to clean up.

    8. Tris Prior*

      I brought overnight oats in a mason jar to work for breakfast. I heated it up in the microwave (I think it is disgusting cold!), took the jar out… and the glass must have had a flaw in it because the entire bottom of the jar just fell off, spewing glass and hot oatmeal all over the lunchroom floor.

      We all also quickly learned not to stand too close to the keurig-like coffee maker because about half the time the coffee would squirt straight out of the front of the dispenser instead of going in the cup. That made for some interesting clothing stains.

    9. JB*

      One time I was washing my hands in the restroom at work and the toilet, which I had just flushed, made a very alarming gurgling sound.

      I reacted by backing away from the toilet, which was very fortunate because a moment later, it started spewing water into the air.

      I spent several panicked seconds trying to figure out how I could POSSIBLY have caused that to happen before I realized the other (unoccupied) toilet across the hall was doing the same thing. Turns out the city was doing some work on the municipal sewer lines that sent a gas bubble the wrong way through the pipes. No raw sewage came out, but the water that was in the toilet bowls geysered everywhere (even the ceiling was wet) and the gas came through and stunk the place up for the rest of the day.

    10. The Prettiest Curse*

      The elevator in my last building was a piece of junk and frequently broke down. I once missed a ride in it that led to a breakdown so bad they had to call the fire department by 5 minutes. So glad I got back early from lunch that day!
      There was an upmarket chocolate company which had its marketing office in the same building and I frequently saw one of their staff hauling around a cart filled with big boxes of chocolate samples. Every time I took the elevator with that guy and his samples, I’d joke with him that I hoped it would get stuck so we’d have to eat all the fancy chocolate!

    11. Amber Rose*

      Sort of office sort of not, but last summer a sprinkler system pipe burst just outside the shipping door and shot water 20 feet into the air for like an hour before someone braved the storm to shut the water off.

      Naturally, it burst right beside the water control room. The manager who went out there was soaked, and that water was NOT clean. It blew debris all over the place.

    12. Liz*

      When I worked in a hotel, the ceiling collapsed on the ground floor in one of the wings. I had to evacuate that side of the building, move guests, and cordon off the corridor on both floors. Luckily, everyone found it rather funny and said I handled it beautifully!

    13. Elle Woods*

      Early in my career, I carpooled with a coworker. Sometime between the previous night when she dropped me off and the next morning when she picked me up, she spilled her tea mug in the passenger seat. She thought she had gotten it all soaked up; she hadn’t. I was wearing light colored pants that day so the tea stain on my backside looked like I had both wet & soiled myself. Fortunately, I had a long sweater at my desk I could wear to cover it. During my lunch hour I ran to the Gap and picked up some new pants. Thank goodness for the summer business casual dress code!

    14. LimeRoos*

      Not an office mishap, but I was doing a phone screen for a new job after moving states, and the light fixture in our kitchen just fell and hit my boyfriend on the shoulder. So uh yeah, definitely paused my interview and asked if I could call her back in 15 minutes. It was a heavy light fixture too but luckily he wasn’t injured. And I got the job :-D

    15. Bagpuss*

      I had something similar. Our toilets are self contained so there is a toilet & hand basin in each cubicle. I was sitting, minding my own business one day when a joint in the water pipe to the water heater gave out , and I was suddenly showered with cold water at surprisingly high pressure, in circumstances where I was not in a position to beat an immediate retreat!
      (and could not immediately turn off the water, due to where the stopcock is.)
      Fortunately I live fairly close to the offices was able to nip home to change, after I had adjusted my clothing and turned off the stopcock .
      Happily it was clean water.

    16. Late Bloomer*

      Not exactly an office mishap–but my husband works for A Major Educational Testing Company and was on a test irregularity call this spring where someone reported a raccoon falling through a test center ceiling while testing was in progress. Not only did everyone have to retest, but one student, while attempting to rid the room of the raccoon, was bitten by it.

    17. Mockingjay*

      Back in the day, heel came off my favorite pair of pumps at work one day. Just walking down the hall and off it came. At lunchtime I hobbled to the Payless around the corner to buy replacements (got a nice pair of flats from the clearance rack).

      Another time, I was going to the airport for a work trip, when a nail attaching the heel of my loafer pushed through and began piercing my foot. Another stop at Payless on the way!

      (I can afford better shoes now, but the beauty of telework is being BAREFOOT.)

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I miss our local Payless. They had the best insole liners, and BOGO is my second-favorite price.

    18. V*

      Oh boy, I have a few.

      I used to work on the 15th floor of a building. (Note: there was a filing room on the 14th that I accessed regularly.) There were usually four elevators in service…supposedly. However, in practice, one elevator was almost always out of service. It was an old building. I never got stuck myself, thankfully, but I remember having to pick between walking up the stairs to the fifteenth floor (which was massive for cardio — think concrete stairwell with keycard locked doors all the way up), or taking the elevator. I remember one morning about half the division’s staff (mostly senior to me, but one of them was at my level as well) got stuck in an elevator and missed a meeting. Another time we had an all-staff meeting that was delayed by (you guessed it) the elevator getting stuck. Worse, twice while working there I was on crutches, so it was always a roll of the dice whether I’d end up stuck.

      Crutch-Walking: At one point I had an ankle sprain bad enough to need a walking boot. It was summer. It was hot. I do not recommend this for a building with AC that doesn’t stay on. My doctor insisted on the boot because I kept spraining it again on a loose flagstone (yes, it was a regular issue at my old apartment). Anyway, here I am hauling a file box along by myself, trying not to look like a complete moron…and the bottom gives out. I wind up half-crouched half-kneeling (if anyone’s worn a walking boot, they’re AWFUL to kneel in) trying to pick up a bunch of papers and one of the senior staff took pity on me and helped me clean it up. It would have been so much worse had I been wearing a skirt. Yikes. Still embarrassing but less so these days, since I understand what was going on.

      Note: this one happened at a very toxic workplace, which only had the one floor to the building.
      Sample Freezing: During COVID, I had three water samples in a fridge (it was labeled “sample fridge”) that was not secured. TL;DR, the samples froze and busted up in the cooler on the way to the lab. There was one sample that was still good. I got chewed out for it because you generally want redundancy for lab testing. Erk. BTW, sample fridges were specifically labeled because food in a sample fridge = bad.
      Side note: The fridge had no locks. Anyone who ever used it could play with the dials and mess with them. Anyone whose friend had a key to the building could get in and disarm the alarm. Nobody ever owned up to touching them. I assumed it was a manager’s job. But my boss liked to make impossible things my fault, and I was easy to call and yell at, so he reamed me out for it, and so did the admin staff. I left this workplace in June of this year.

      1. JustaTech*

        Ah, skirts and lab work: I have an elderly instrument (it takes floppy disks) that, when the light blub burns out you have to disassemble most of the instrument to replace. (And it doesn’t work without the light blub.)

        What’s the fastest way to have it burn out? Wear a dress and heels, because I have to climb up on the counter and then kneel there unscrewing a dozen panels.

        I had a knee injury recently that meant I couldn’t wear pants, so I was sure with wearing a skirt every day for a month and a half it would break spectacularly, but I guess it took pity on me and didn’t. (Yet.)

    19. Might Be Spam*

      I had just returned to work from my maternity leave and was lucky to have my daughter’s daycare right across the street, so I could go and nurse her on my lunch hour.
      Well, my daughter was a world class champion projectile vomiter and she covered my blouse thoroughly.
      Fortunately, they were able to wash it for me. There wasn’t time to dry it very well and I had to go back to work in a wet blouse. I had a jacket to wear over it but I was uncomfortable all afternoon. Also, there was a sour smell and I was glad that I was off in temporary area, because they hadn’t set up a desk for me in my department, yet.

    20. Zephy*

      The building where my department is housed also contains a fake Starbucks (coffee shop with a la carte food options that “proudly brews” Starbucks-brand coffee and is allowed to call their coffee milkshakes “frappuccinos”). Said fake Starbucks shares a wall with my department office. One night a few years ago, a water line connected to the soda fountain broke apropos of nothing and flooded the Starbucks, the adjacent library, and about a quarter of my department office, ruining the carpet in 3 offices and damaging 2 more workspaces. The carpet was very, very overdue for replacement anyway, but they had to rip it all out and replaced it with more modern carpet tiles, which will be much easier to replace the next time there’s such a mishap.

      The job before this one was at an animal shelter. I got a new manager at one point, and as part of his onboarding, he shadowed each of us to get an idea of what our day-to-day actually looked like and hear our spiels (we did adoptions). The day he shadowed me, I was showing a pair of bonded, anxious chihuahuas. At one point he went to pick one of them up and I guess moved too quick or otherwise spooked the poor baby, but the dog managed to wiggle hard enough somehow to express an anal gland in mid-air. Onto my face. It’s a good thing my mouth was closed.

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

      In college i worked for one of the on-campus cafeterias on the night crew — after food service had ended for the day. I was mopping floors and someone from the dish room had stacked up the drinking glasses crates, which held about 50ish glasses each, over a safe height…my recollection is about 6 feet high so over my head and impossible for me to safely unstack. The crates are on a wheeled base, so i go to roll it out of the way of mopping and it hits the joint between floor tiles and tips the whole thing over, catapulting broken glass from approx. 500ish glasses across the room.

    22. Pan Troglodytes*

      Our office is in a very old building with dodgy plumbing. The toilet once broke and the contents leaked everywhere. I was one of two people in the office at the time. The office manager came in and asked me to explain what happened so she could tell the plumber. I was new and overly chatty out of nervousness. I indicated to the floor and said ‘That’s my pee!’

    23. Girasol*

      We once had a mouse come in, probably through the open shipping dock, and run across the office floor. Nearly everyone in the office was scared to death of mice. You could track the animal’s progress through the building by who was shrieking and climbing onto the desk top. It was like people doing the wave in a football stadium.

    24. Thursdaysgeek*

      In an old building years ago, someone fixed a leaking ceiling by putting a garbage can up above the ceiling tiles to catch the water. That worked, and the fix was forgotten about. Spring ended, summer came, then fall, and it eventually started raining again.

      When the garbage can full of scummy water fell through the ceiling and doused the hall, it surprised everyone.

    25. Mimi*

      I worked in one of those places that had soda syrup on tap. The idea was cool, but they often didn’t get used enough to not clog, and, relevant to this story, the boxes of syrup were 30+ pounds (40? 50? a lot) and had to be installed in overhead racks. I was nearby when a new employee tried to refill the cherry syrup for the first time, and miscalculated the lift/balance. I rushed to help her, but even two of us were not sufficient to salvage the situation beyond ensuring that no one was injured. I didn’t get too much splattered on my clothing, considering, but the kitchen looked like something had been killed, messily.

    26. As Close As Breakfast*

      I work on the second floor of our building. A few years ago, over several weeks, I flooded the office directly under the women’s restroom. Not once. Not twice. But THREE times. With toilet water. The toilet would get stopped up, overflow, and somehow make it through the floor and would start pouring out of the ceiling right above the poor person’s desk. It was horrifying and somehow happened only when I was the unlucky person to have used the restroom. I was so embarrassed and by the third time I was just crying and swearing up and down that “I was just peeing, I swear!!!”

      After 2 different plumbing companies ‘fixed’ the problem, a third finally found a clog of some sort down the line that they said was getting caught on the old piping, moving a bit and getting stuck again. They successfully fixed the problem and got the toilet and everything sealed up correctly.

      Thankfully, that office has been toilet rain free ever since.

    27. Chauncy Gardener*

      One time someone put regular dish soap in the dishwasher (vs dishwasher detergent). There were suds EVERYWHERE and of course everyone was studiously ignoring it…

    28. Buni*

      As a teacher of small children I sat in PVA glue while wearing black linen trousers. Didn’t notice. Carried on my whole day and took the tube home. Dried white PVA on black trousers looks….not like glue, is all I can say.

    29. Green Goose*

      I worked in a place that got really humid in the summers but I taught in an air conditioned building so I normally wore a slip under a black dress I owned. One day the school director needed the teachers to do a networking event with prospective parents at an outdoor dinner. It was going to be really hot and humid so I decided to forgo my slip…
      As we were walking into the event one of my fellow teachers was behind me and gasped. She told me my dress was see-through and she could see my underwear so clearly that she could see the pattern. I was mortified and didn’t have anything with me.

    30. meagain2*

      I was driving our company’s golf cart outside and somehow ran over a tree stump and the golf cart got completely stuck – couldn’t move forward or back….it was a mess. I was freaking out and went back inside and couldn’t find my boss and one of his guys was in his office, but must have seen the look on my face and came out and asked gently, “Is everything okay??” sooo concerned looking. I was so mortified. He came outside with me to take a look and he’s in his nice professional clothes and got down on his stomach in the dirt and leaves and gas to try to get this thing un-stuck. He was as nice as possible, but I know he had to be like that idiot girl. Then a few days later, I was with my coworker and our boss and I confessed to a (funny) office shenanigans thing and he was like, “That was YOU??” and then looked at me and asked, “So when were you going to tell me about the golf cart?” And my perfect little reputation as the good employee was shattered forever. They did manage to free the golf cart, but I’m pretty sure I broke it or ruined some cable because a few weeks later they got a new one…. oops.

    31. It wozn't me*

      A piece of office “furniture” (like the partitions and doors) broke during normal use in a way that only didn’t result in injury to me due to luck. It was clear that this had happened before as there was a repair on it in the same spot.

      I was called up into HR and told I was only narrowly avoiding dismissal due to “gross misconduct” of violently damaging company property…

    32. Virginia Plain*

      Colleague of mine once got trapped the wrong side of an internal door by forgetting his pass on the other side of it. Working late, phone, wallet and house keys behind the door with the pass… He had to kick the door in.

      Fortunately kicking doors in was a useful learnt skill in that job.

    33. tamarack and fireweed*

      Well, just yesterday… I hopped into a large open meeting my employer was putting on about upcoming grant opportunities. They don’t look like a likely fit for me at this point, but I wanted to know. I was eating my lunch, answering emails, looking/slouching around while on the call. Of course I thought my video was off, and I was muted. Until I got a message from a co-worker telling me people were watching me eat on video.

      (At least I didn’t get out my recorder for 15 min recorder practice while half listening to a not-very-interesting webinar… but I may well have picked my nose :( . And watching someone eat who thinks they’re private is always slightly embarrassing.)

    34. Anon because this story is legend*

      Many years ago, my building was evacuated when someone swatted a housefly that had landed on the smoke detector. Oops.

  16. Sami*

    Along the lines of Revenge Week and Mortification Week (and Petty Week?), what about “The AAMpire Strikes Back Week!”? The responses wherein the LW likely wanted Alison to agree or affirm with what they were doing and sooooo didn’t get the response they were looking for. Examples include: the manager of the leap year employee, manager of the woman who wanted a few hours off to go to her college graduation, the guy who wanted to know if now that his group employed women (!) could the women be golf cart girls or beer babes or something on their annual bro golf trip or dude who didn’t know what to do about his usual all-guys beach trip because the women might (or did) hear about it and cause drama. Just a few examples of a much-needed smack down.

    1. cubone*

      The Graduation one is my top #1 AAM of all time. It’s SO infuriating. I truly hope that poor employee stumbled on the post one day and saw how many people were praising and congratulating her (both for graduating AND quitting that terrible job/manager!)

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        While the Covid letter is a good one, sadly there are a lot similar scenarios out there so it doesn’t strike me as particularly unique and I’m almost numb to folks like that LW. It’s just so inconsiderate. As cubone mentioned, that graduation one was SO bizarre and beyond the pale compared to societal norms that I was just…WTF when reading it!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But it’s a good example of someone expecting one answer from Alison and getting something else entirely, which is what Sami was looking for.

    2. MissGirl*

      I always circle back to the employee who claimed she was fired for taking initiative and wanted to sue. Alison’s response was, yes, I’d have fired you too.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Lol, I remember that too. The utter lack of self-awareness from that letter writer ended up being comedy gold.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      The one where employees were going on beer runs during work and bullying/excluding one coworker, and the LW manager was like “ugh she’s just so awful, totally ruins our fun vibe”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        That one’s perfect. “I thought, since your column is called Ask a Manger, that you would side with the manager!”

      2. JustaTech*

        That one was really special because the LW followed up a couple of times, realized the error of her ways (maybe after getting fired?) and really grew as a person.
        That was nice to see, even if the LW did suffer a lot to get to a better place.

        That’s what we want, LWs, we want you to be better!

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I feel like that’s sort of the epitome of violating the “don’t be mean to the LWs” guideline.

      1. Nessun*

        It could still be interesting to put a group of such similar stories together, but maybe under a heading of “Unexpected Enlightenment” instead?

      2. Just an autistic redhead*

        I’d have to agree… I feel like it would just invite a lot of piling-on.

        I’d rather see an Oblivion Lesson week where we get sort of a post where someone being described in the letter is completely oblivious to something that is helpful for us/anyone to learn (or that we hope we/everyone has learned already)…

    5. Llama face!*

      The guy who ghosted his girlfriend (as in literally packed up and moved out without a word while she was on a trip) and then learned she was going to be his boss. I think he even replied with a follow up and still had learned nothing.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        That was… something else. I wanted to cheer LW’s ex for getting rid of LW.

        1. Llama Leader*

          That’s the one that came to mind for me – “how do I deal with an unforgiving ex who is now my boss “- when he had ghosted a MULTI-YEAR relationship. And then he framed her worry and concern about where we disappeared as stalking and refusing to get over him.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Going the opposite way, how about the people who braved the comment section, listened and turned their lives around. Credit card guy is at the front of my thinking on this one. He had to have felt hammered by the comments but he came back and told us how he changed everything he was doing. I love to read the cheers when this happens.

  17. Blackcat*

    I just had an HR nightmare (lost paperwork, insisted a new hire *never existed* in the system and that never lost anything, etc). An administrative assistant bore the brunt of dealing with them and getting it figured out.
    She’s new-ish. I know nothing about her. But I’d like to get her some type of thank you gift.

    1. Zephy*

      A card and/or specifically complimenting her work on this snafu to her supervisor/TPTB (ideally in writing) goes a lot further than something like flowers or a gift card ever would.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Yup, all really good. Also, if your company has a ‘kudos’ or ‘shoutout’ board this seems like a perfect use for something like that.

      2. JB*

        Agreed. Compliment her in detail in an email to her supervisor and copy her on it.

        If you’re her supervisor, email her your compliments and maybe also offer to buy her lunch.

      1. WorkNowPaintLater*

        As an admin – yes to the pens. Or a nice post-it holder for her desk (if she doesn’t already have one).

        Starbucks is always appreciated as well – lots of goodies for the non-coffee drinker.

    2. I used to have a question*

      I’d go with fancy chocolates. Starbucks gift card is ok *only* if there’s a Starbucks next door or you’ve seen with with a cup at her desk. (otherwise, it’s a burden on her). So, fancy chocolates. If she hates chocolates, she can donate them to passers-by.

      1. Amaranth*

        Chocolates just seem to me like a romantic gift or kind of a stereotype that all women like chocolate. At least a Starbucks card can be held onto indefinitely and then used on a trip or given away at her leisure. However, I think that since the admin is new, kudos to her and her boss would be even better.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Not only that, but unless you know whether she has food allergies or not, I’d avoid food gifts in general.

    3. I Love Llamas*

      How about write a really nice email to her manager and copy her. It would be nice for her to have that when she goes in for an annual review. That and a little gift maybe? You are kind to think about a nice thank you. Kudos.

      1. Blackcat*

        Thanks! There’s a restaurant next door, so I might do a gift card for the price of a lunch there + note to her supervisor.

    4. Mayor of Llamatown*

      Offer to order in lunch for her. It’s a special treat and means she doesn’t have to go get lunch/worry about lunch that day. Ordering in is less of a hassle than leaving the building/taking her out for lunch, where that could cut into her plans for the day.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Newish? Send a letter to her boss and her boss’ boss and cc her. If she is relatively new this letter could have some real impact. But even for people who have been around for a few years, a letter like this is something a good boss will hang on to.

  18. Amber Rose*

    The woman who was my manager for six of the last six and a half years was rather abruptly let go yesterday.

    I ran into her this morning (I am always 45 minutes early for reasons, so we were the only ones here), helped her load some last things into her car, and then awkwardly parted ways with a wave because I am Awkward Personified with stuff like this.

    I feel like shit about how it all went down, I feel tense and weird about things. Like how hard she’s been working to distance herself from me for the last year and how I don’t like the way this all went down and how I don’t know what my future looks like anymore.

    It’s all just a bit nauseating.

    1. Zephy*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with that, but if it helps I don’t think there’s a non-awkward way to handle that situation, so at least as far as that part goes, that’s probably as good as it gets?

      You might want to look into therapy of some kind to help you process your feelings about all of this – if you have an EAP, that’s one place to start, or maybe look into an app like BetterHelp (all the podcasts I listen to are shilling for that these days, should be easy to get a discount code if that’s a concern). There are also guided-meditation apps like Calm (IIRC) that can help you organize your thoughts if talking to another person is not feasible for you, and journaling’s basically free, less the cost of a pen and paper. (NB: I have never used Calm or BetterHelp and am not endorsing them specifically, just, this is a thing that exists.)

      1. LC*

        As someone who has a really, really hard time doing any sort of mindfullness or meditation exercises, Calm is actually pretty good.

        The paid version came as part of my health insurance, so I’m not sure where the line is between the free stuff and the paid stuff, but there’s such a big library, I have to imagine the free one has some good stuff.

        I don’t know if it’ll necessarily help with the specifics of processing this situation, but it can help for anxiety and that tense/weird feeling. Maybe in the moment, maybe at a set time every day (i.e. when you wake up, or midday at lunch, or just before bed). I use it in bed with headphones to help shut my busy mind up so I can sleep.

        I personally find it boring af and it’s really, really hard to focus on it and not on everything else (thanks ADHD!). But it actually really does help. YMMV of course, but it’s worth considering.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Yeah, anybody would be awkward in that situation. Is it possible she saw the writing on the wall and was distancing herself so nothing would rub off on you?

      1. Amber Rose*

        That’s exactly what she was doing. She basically told me in as many words. Things have been super bad for the last two years. It’s honestly been agony so it’s almost a relief she’s leaving, which I feel bad about. But the situation was so toxic.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have to say this.

          You probably made her day. She probably thinks very kind things about you and is very grateful you were there.

          From my perspective, you responded with class in helping her like that. I think you should be proud of you.
          Anyone can handle stuff that is going well. It takes special people to handle the stuff that is not going well.
          Yes, it is going to feel awkward and unfortunately that is normal. And yeah, a bunch of mixed emotions that is normal too.

          My theory is that we (society) cannot send terminated employees out into the world with a bad taste in their mouths. That anger lives on and on forever. Companies and even cohorts can find ways to set the anger/upset/ worry aside and recognize that we are all fellow human beings. And that is what you did here, you took a moment to say, “I realize above all else you are a fellow human being”. This is priceless.

    3. Cj*

      Since she got fired, maybe it’s good that she was distancing herself from you? You might not want to be tied to closely to someone who was let go.

      1. Amber Rose*

        That’s why she was doing it. But I wonder if it really helped, which makes me tense about the future.

        1. Amaranth*

          Is there a new manager assigned already? It might help to set up a meeting and just mention that you wanted to air some concerns because you haven’t received a lot of managing and support the past two years and now that FormerManager is gone, she mentioned that was intentional, but now you’d appreciate x, y, and z. Whether that is more structure, a clear set of duties, feedback, etc., it might help mark you as a victim of the toxicity rather than a contributor.

          1. Amber Rose*

            I should specify, the toxicity was from upper management. My ex-manager was great, always very supportive and helpful even while she was pulling back, and she got an extremely raw deal. I’ve had a new manager for about six months, but I have no idea who will be taking her place. I suspect it’s the one person I can’t stand, which really isn’t helping my uneasy feelings.

            1. allathian*

              I think you should start looking for a new job. I know it’s not easy, but if you’re feeling uneasy or anxious, action is the one thing that often helps.

    4. Not A Manager*

      If you have a private way to reach out to her, you could communicate again sometime in the next few weeks, just to say that you enjoyed working with her and appreciate all that she’s done for you.

      1. Anonanon for this*

        I agree with Not A Manager. I myself am a manager who has been fired abruptly, with a ton of toxicity leading up to it, and I can’t tell you how meaningful it would have been if a direct report had helped me pack up my car and/or reached out to me later to say they appreciated me (and check in on me). Amber Rose, you did a wonderful thing.

        And, find out who will be your new manager, give that situation a chance for a little while, but be very open to moving on to a new company. Toxicity often trickles down…

  19. Magnus*

    What is a diplomatic way to tell my manager I’m bored?
    Not in the sense that there’s not enough to do, but in the sense that I don’t feel challenged or very engaged. I have mentioned on a few occasions that I would be really interested in taking on some more project work in addition to my daily tasks, and he has always responded positively and said he’ll, “definitely keep me in mind if anything comes up,” but I feel like he doesn’t understand that I am on the verge of looking for a new job, even though I otherwise like it here.

    Any tips on verbiage I can use?

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      Can you set up a more formal meeting with your manager, or bring it up in a 1:1? Say something like I feel like I have a really good handle on my current duties, and am starting to feel the need for new challenges. I’m a person that likes to continually learn and grow. Can the two of you discuss stretch opportunities or new things that can be added to your plate?

      and then also give yourself a timer. By when do the new challenges need to appear before you do start looking? 2 months? 6 months? a year? You don’t need to tell your boss this (it will come across weird) but you should have an internal deadline for yourself. Needing new challenges is a completely valid reason to leave a job you otherwise like.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Ask for training in new skills? If the company won’t pay for it, go get it yourself.

        1. Quantum Hall Effect*

          I would also ask if he has any hesitations to giving you more difficult assignments and say you hope he will be candid if he is seeing something that he thinks is a barrier to giving you things. Ask in the spirit of wanting to correct the problems. I have gotten both good and bad (ie, non-actionable) feedback from asking things this way.

      2. Fran Fine*

        + 1 to your last sentence

        And I advise you to keep your internal timeline short if you go this direction, Magnus. If you give too long a timeline, you run the risk of constantly pushing it back and you’ll never get the extra opportunities you’re looking for.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I really like this wording:
        ” I’m a person that likes to continually learn and grow.”

        The problem that comes in is that the manager may not have any work that she can push your way. I have had this problem as a supervisor. Worse yet, in one situation I was not allowed to change the employee to other work and I could not tell them that.

        My point is that you can press this question but also be prepared to hear, “This is the job. You’re looking at it. Nothing will change.”
        I totally agree with the timer idea that Respectfully suggests here. I would like to add that the timer can be set back to the first or second time you asked and you can give yourself permission to job hunt now.

        I have seen enough settings where managers do respond in fairly short order, they start trickling new things into my line up of stuff. So when I do not see that response in a short time, I know what the answer is.

    2. irene adler*

      You may have to drum up additional projects on your own. Can you ask co-workers to include you on tasks that they are doing that you view as interesting? What about other managers? Can you get some interesting project from one of them (with the permission of your boss)?
      It may also mean this is the limit for this position and it is time to move on- to another job.

    3. Quinalla*

      I’ve brought this up before that I am very interested in more project work, can we talk about next steps for getting me started on a project in the next X weeks/months?” If that doesn’t pan out, I would personally get very direct, something like “I’m not feeling like I have opportunity for growth in my current role, is there a different internal role I could pursue to get more project work?” and then start external and internal job searching IMO as yeah, so far sounds like you are at best your concerns are being prioritized behind way too much other stuff or at worst being brushed off.

      You could also try getting some work directly from others if that is ok in your work culture. My work is very much ask forgiveness vs. ask permission, so getting myself attached to a project on my own I wanted to do would generally be fine. If that won’t fly, at least express interest to the manager/PM and maybe even ask them to talk to your boss on your behalf?

  20. Katie*

    I’m getting annoyed at how laid-back and hands-off my boss is. For example, below is a conversation we had this week. For context, myself and my coworkers, Chelsea and Tom, report to our boss, Mike. Chelsea, Tom and I are program managers, although I’m a level ahead of both of them. There is also an analysis team who works with our team. Since I’ve been with the company, about 2 years, I’ve used that team to help me with analyses and reports. However, I had to hold their hands through every single step and double-check any changes they implemented. It took 2x the time and was so inefficient. Then about 4 months ago, we had a restructuring on our team, so I didn’t have to work with the analysis team for the time being, as they were put on other projects. 

    Our conversation –
    Mike: I want you to think about using the analysis team more.
    Me: Okay, what types of projects are they working on for our other team members?
    Mike: I’ll talk to Tom about it, I think Chelsea is using them, I’m not sure. She hasn’t been going to the meetings we have with them (okay, why wouldn’t you ask your report why she’s not going to the meetings??). I’ve also asked the analysis team to be more proactive about X,Y,Z, but they haven’t been. Part of it is on me, sometimes I can’t remember what I ask them (we have a task management system, not to mention email…), so then I forget during our meetings.

    Basically what I’m thinking is that Mike can’t be bothered to do his job as a manager, so once again, he’s making me delegate and manage projects for them, when he can’t do it for them and doesn’t even know how Chelsea is using them. 

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      “Did you record that in the task management system? I find that really helpful so I can keep track of what projects people are working on.”

      “Help me understand what the analysis team can provide that will move my projects forward.”

      “Why don’t we set up a meeting so Tom and Chelsea can update you on how they’re working with the analysis team and you can work with all three of us to see how we can better use that resource?”

      1. Katie*

        “Did you record that in the task management system? I find that really helpful so I can keep track of what projects people are working on.” >>> He actually said (I forgot to add) he needed to get better about using this system.

        “Help me understand what the analysis team can provide that will move my projects forward.” >>> lol soooo, I’ve asked him about this my first year and didn’t really get a clear answer, I think he doesn’t really know what he wants, or what the team needs. He’s just like “I want you to think about how you want to use them”. Last year I had an idea to give them a list a constraints so they could implement X if Y was going on, without us having to check it over. He said that in the past when they’ve tried it, it’s fucked up the projects.

        “Why don’t we set up a meeting so Tom and Chelsea can update you on how they’re working with the analysis team and you can work with all three of us to see how we can better use that resource?” >>> This is an EXCELLENT idea. In fact, I’ll put something on the calendar for next week.

      2. Katie*

        “Did you record that in the task management system? I find that really helpful so I can keep track of what projects people are working on.” >>>He actually said later on he needs to be better about using this, which I forgot to add here.

        “Help me understand what the analysis team can provide that will move my projects forward.” >>>lol sooo I’ve asked about this several times and don’t really get a clear answer. I think Mike honestly doesn’t know what he wants. Last year I spoke to him about my idea to give them a list of constraints so they could implement X if Y or Z happened, without asking us, and he said they tried that before and it messed up the projects.

        “Why don’t we set up a meeting so Tom and Chelsea can update you on how they’re working with the analysis team and you can work with all three of us to see how we can better use that resource?” >>> This is an EXCELLENT idea, I’ll schedule time for next week.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh, I would have answered Mike very differently.

      Mike: I want you to think about using the analysis team more.
      Me: Well since you mention it, I have to tell you that my experience with them before was terrible. I had to double-check everything they did, and it turns out that in the last 4 months, without their involvement, I hit deadlines with more time to spare and was more productive. What’s the reason for going back to using them again?

      1. Katie*

        lol Yeah I might re-mention this. As far as using them again, he told me someone from their department put in a months long notice, so someone on that team we’re working with might be moved to his old position. I’m honestly fine with this, but Mike is hard set on using them.

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      Is there any chance that this is Mike’s way of seeing how you manage a team (maybe as a trial run for more responsibility and/or a promotion)? I’m my org people generally take on some smaller management / oversight duties a few months before they are officially promoted.

      1. Katie*

        Hmmm, yeah that’s definitely a thought. Honestly though, I don’t want to manage someone/a team while reporting to him. Back when we had a team restructure, a woman was supposed to report to me. There were a few months where we were still transitioning so officially she wasn’t reporting to me. I also want to mention, at this point, Chelsea was supposed to be reassigned to a new project, then once she was moved over and trained, then this other woman would report to me, under my project. But every time I asked Mike about an update, he would always say something like, “thanks for be so proactive, I’m not sure where Chelsea is at with that.” Then one day my would-be-report said something extremely condescending to me and I told her not to talk to me that since she would be reporting to me. She emailed Mike and threw a fit how she wanted to keep her current role. Of course he let her get her way, which caused more restructuring for our team. It’s like Mike doesn’t want to put his foot down on anything.

        So after that I was just like, I don’t have confidence he’ll back me up with a report. I like Thin Mint’s suggestion of scheduling something with all of us. To me, I think he’s asking me this because he’s conflict avoidant and doesn’t want to hold the analysis team or Chelsea accountable. Why not? Who knows.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      “Okay, Mike, I will wait for you to get back to me after you talk to Tom, Chelsea and the analysis team then we can sort out what I will be doing here.”

      I get that this sounds passive-aggressive BUT he did say he was going to have the conversations. So here, I would simply be repeating back what he just said. Also once I summarize like this the boss has a chance to say, “Okay, good and while you are waiting please do x, y and z.” Sure thing, boss, I am on it.
      If the boss says nothing, I can just continue on as I have been.

      1. Workerbee*

        I like this. I am wondering if Mike is prone to theoretics and open-ended ideas so that he won’t have to actually do anything concrete himself.

        1. Katie*

          Something I do like about Mike is that he is open to new ideas, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to put his foot down or put into place any type of structure, so there is lots of overlapping.

      2. Katie*

        He told me to talk to Chelsea, and I’m thinking, why haven’t you talked with her to see what she’s doing?

  21. Procrastination!*

    This is the procrastination thread.
    Deliverables that are late and I dread doing.
    Will come back later to report.
    I’ll start.
    Monthly report.
    Must do now!

    1. Zephy*

      My deliverables aren’t *late* yet, per se, but I have a batch of files due in January that I’ve basically not bothered to even start on yet. I *am* waiting on some things that will post in the next few weeks, that’s the major reason, but also…mehhh, don’t wanna.

    2. Cj*

      I’m commenting here way more than usual this morning because I need to do something I don’t want to do. I better start soon, though, so I don’t have to work over the holiday weekend.

      1. reject187*

        I’m always behind on grading. Looking at the work my students have turned in after teaching the content they need several times and they’re still not doing it…ugh. It’s just too depressing.

    3. Yorick*

      I have to do a supplemental analysis to finish a study, but it’s been so long since I did the main analysis that I can no longer remember how to use R.

    4. North Wind*

      Oh, this column is a perfect thing to use to procrastinate.

      I usually procrastinate housework, and at some point there was a work-related task (needed to be done from home) that I felt the need to procrastinate from even more, and suddenly all the housework seemed very urgent and do-able and I got it done in record time. So find something else that you need to do that’s worse than the monthly report and use statistics to procrastinate from that!

      Something that has genuinely helped me though (usually with housework more than work) is to set a timer -LITERALLY SET A TIMER – on my phone for 20 minutes, and tell myself I only have to work until the timer runs out. I plan to set the timer every so often (on the hour, every three hours, once a day, whatever), and only work 20 minutes. But what almost always ends up happening is that once I get to 20 minutes, I’m in the swing of doing what needs done and I don’t even want to stop. It turned out I just needed help getting started. But even if I only clean for 20 minutes I am astonished how much can be done in 20 minutes.

      1. LC*

        This is super helpful for me too.

        Sometimes I even start with less time. 10 minutes, or even 5. I can do anything for 5 minutes. Starting is almost always the hardest part for me, and like you said, it’s not uncommon to just keep going after that, since I’m already in the middle of it.

        I do with podcasts too, although works way better for cleaning or something, it wouldn’t be helpful for something I have to actually focus on like work. Say I have 15 minutes left on a podcast, I’ll tell myself I only have to do the thing until I finish that episode (but if I want to keep listening, I have to keep doing the thing). If it’s a good podcast (and it always is, otherwise this wouldn’t work), I’ll want to keep listening to the next one so I keep going.

      2. Zephy*

        Oh, I am also a procrasti-cleaner. In high school I had a big assignment to do over the summer between junior and senior year. My room was never cleaner or more organized, my laundry never folded more neatly.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I have to send some sample pages to a client, and I am dreading it. It isn’t hard, but it is just pointless at this stage. The purpose of periodic sample pages is to align my writing with her voice and tone, so that when it’s time to work up the manuscript it will sound as much like her as possible. Normally I only have to do about 4 sets of these pages before we’re aligned. They aren’t supposed to go on forever.

      We’re 14 weeks into this thing, and she still doesn’t understand what “voice and tone” are. Every time I send pages, she just uses them as a prompt to add in all the things she didn’t think to say before. Which I suppose is useful in a way, because it’s material that should go into the book.

      But it is sooooooo annoying. Ugh, I don’t want to!

    6. Disco Janet*

      I need to complete some more assignments for my master’s program and finish creating my Google Classrooms for the first day of school on Tuesday. But I keep getting distracted by the internet in general and brainstorming idea for the homecoming float that I for the class that I for some reason decided to volunteer to co-sponsor.

    7. tamarack and fireweed*

      I have a manuscript that really really needs to come together and then be submitted for publication… but I’m still redoing data analysis for it, sight.

    8. R*

      Yeah, I’m just, like, not that into any of the files I have to work on this evening. They’re *boring*. I want cute, fun, exciting files to work on.

  22. Mrs. Hoover*

    I have no question, I just needed to air my dirty laundry.

    I’m not sure I have the emotional bandwidth to be a manager. I have always dealt with anxiety in regard to my career. Some of it Imposter Syndrome, some of it because the work doesn’t come naturally to me and requires a lot of quick decisions when I would much rather prefer to absorb and contemplate. Now, as a manager, I’m finding that managing the concerns and issues of my direct reports increases my anxiety further. This is not necessarily because of their performance, moreso that all projects come with some challenges and now my job is to help them manage them. So I’m now anxious about whether I’m giving them good advice or feedback, on top of my regular anxiety.

    I’m starting to become disconnected from myself because I don’t want to feel anxious anymore. This was made more difficult by the fact that I was recently given a title promotion and a significant raise. While this should validate that I’m doing a good job, in my head it only confirms that I DID a good job and will have to continue down this road of anxiety to continue doing a good job. It makes me want to move to the mountains and become a hermit.

    I’d like to change careers. I’m 40, it’s not quite so simple. I’d like to move. I’d like something amazing to fall in my lap. I’d like to break out of my rut. But, I think I honestly need like a solid month of doing nothing to restore some motivation. And for the next two months it’s just not possible to take a vacation.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Can I recommend a mental health professional if you don’t already have one? While I fully support you changing jobs, it sounds like the first thing to do is deal with the anxiety.

      1. Mrs. Hoover*

        Yeah, I’m in therapy. The problem is that I generally feel on top of things and then I have a ridiculous few days that bring me to a crashing halt. So, it’s situational and temporary and difficult to find the root cause. Also difficult is that alongside the anxiety, I also have Persistent Depressive Disorder, which is resistant to medication and difficult to treat generally.

        Too be honest, my career exacerbates my condition, it always has. And I remain convinced if I took a lower paying, less stressful job in a less ridiculous city (NYC), I could be happier. But, that is not how my journey played out.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I hear ya. I know/love people with similar issues (both the anxiety and chronic depression). And it’s entirely possible that you need a change! Perhaps you could focus on next steps in therapy? Feeling stable enough to figure out what you want to do next and how to get there, whether it be finding a new job, moving, or something else?

          1. Mrs. Hoover*

            We’ve been talking about it for awhile (not a long while, but it’s definitely been a conversation…) I’m just having a particularly sensitive week and the thoughts have been swimming in my brain.

        2. cubone*

          “ generally feel on top of things and then I have a ridiculous few days that bring me to a crashing halt”

          Do you identify with perfectionism at all? This was what I was always describing to my therapist and she brought up perfectionism (to which I said “I can’t be a perfectionist because I’m a total failure!”). It’s truly normal to have good days and bad days. One of the hallmarks of perfectionistic thinking (which is detrimental, debilitating and not a cute, funny, “type A” “strength”) is marking all your days as either Good or Bad. If you had a couple great days (or weeks), frankly, it makes sense that then things might feel not so great because ….. no one is on top of things all the time, forever (literally no one). Just something to think about.

          1. LC*

            “I can’t be a perfectionist because I’m a total failure!”

            Hey, why are you listening in on my therapy sessions? See also: “I can’t have imposter syndrome because I really am just not good enough.”

            marking all your days as either Good or Bad

            Ohh so much this. And if there’s anything Not Good, the whole day becomes Bad. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop thinking that way, but I have gotten better at dealing with it (combination of therapy and a better job).

            Mrs. Hoover, I very much identify with your situation. I was having very, very similar feelings when I was managing people and I spent years trying to find the right (or even good enough) meds. I never really wanted to manage people, but that was the only way to move up at that job. I am not cut out for people managing. I do not like it, I do not think I’m good at it (at least partially because I dislike it so much, people deserve a manager who wants to be there, but plenty of other reasons too).

            Eventually I realized that the reason my bosses kept insisting that there weren’t any individual contributor positions I could work toward was because all of those positions were outside of that division and they wanted to keep me stuck. Moving to an IC position is hands down one of the best work decisions I’ve made for my mental health ever (although if I’d never moved into people managing, it may not have gotten quite so unmanageable, but who knows, if it weren’t that, it very well might have been something else).

          2. Mrs. Hoover*

            I would identify with perfectionism, except that I’m SO not type A and I don’t try to be perfect. But, I will say that I regularly hop on the merry-go-round of trying to find the “right” answer to the varied life and professional questions that pop up. This is in part due to my upbringing with a parent who believed they were always right and always had advice about how I should do things or do things better. So, my poorly wired brain has turned that into me believing there is always a right answer and constantly trying to determine what is the right thing to do. But, I don’t necessarily strive to do the right thing perfectly. If that makes any sense at all. (Maybe I’m just trying to justify not calling myself a perfecctionist, when in fact I am a perfectionist! I’ll have to ask my therapist.)

            1. cubone*

              hahaha, I hear you! I definitely don’t mean to tell you what you are/have/feel, but similar to LC (and you!), I was so adamant that I wasn’t a “perfectionist” but realizing I was and understanding what it meant more was immensely helpful to me, probably one of the most beneficial things that’s ever happened in my life (even more so than starting therapy, receiving an official mental health diagnosis, etc.). It was really like a keystone to a lot of what was going on for me and I’ve heard similarly from others.

              i think perfectionism in practice is less “everything has to be just right” and more so “I judge my self-worth based on achieving a particular standard” (and that maybe that standard is a bit unrealistic, unforgiving, etc.)

              1. LC*

                Yep yep yep all of this.

                If you were to picture what immediately comes to mind when you say “perfectionist,” that’s not me. But I judge myself by a much harsher standard than I judge other people.

                So, my poorly wired brain has turned that into me believing there is always a right answer and constantly trying to determine what is the right thing to do.

                Like cubone said, learning to understand things about myself, about how my brain and my heart work, is so incredibly helpful (and will probably always be an ongoing experience). The power of being able to name the thing that’s going on in your head is huge. And in the spirit of trying to get better at stuff like this, I will tell you something that I will also try to convince myself of. The name isn’t the most important part, and it’s okay if there isn’t a pre-existing “right” name for something.

                I spent a lot of time saying I wasn’t this or didn’t think in that way, because my understand of this or that (whether it was right, or commonly, wrong) didn’t exactly match up with what I felt. And since the name wasn’t completely “right,” it was wrong enough that I felt it was completely irrelevant. I don’t think of myself as an “all or nothing” kind of person, but in trying to put this into words, that’s how it keeps coming out to me.

                And this actually kind of goes full circle, because I don’t see myself as a perfectionist as commonly portrayed either, because I’m not exactly like that. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an incredibly useful context for me to examine some stuff within myself. So you saying you identify with perfectionism, but you aren’t a perfectionist feels (to me) exactly like me saying that I don’t think of myself as an “all or nothing” person, but I feel like that’s how I approach some stuff. Being able to name thoughts/feelings/approaches/whatever is amazing, but getting caught up on that step doesn’t let you get to the part of actually working through it. Kind of feels like the “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” saying. (Which is also really good for me to remember as I struggle to write this comment because it’s not getting my thoughts across clear enough so it’s not even worth it to finish and click submit.)

                Annnnd I think I started projecting and just talking to myself at some point there, so even if this makes absolutely no sense or isn’t helpful to anyone at all, I think I just gave myself some accidental much needed therapy, which is neat. :-)

                Anyway. Good luck with all this and remember you’re not alone. It’s hard and there isn’t a perfect answer, but there are people who understand what you’re feeling and I 100% believe that you’ll figure it out.

          3. Pan Troglodytes*

            This response made me tear up, Cubone. Mrs Hoover, you’re not alone!
            Even short breaks- like weekends- can provide the brainspace you need to rethink things, or see things in a different light, if you can prepare your brain to relax. Can you take a weekend away in the countryside?
            I have the same doubts about myself as a manager (although I’m not currently managing), but when I express them to trusted people, some of the things I see as flaws, they see as strengths. For example, as a highly anxious person with imposter syndrome, you are almost certainly highly reflective and critical. This is quite possibly makes you very good at giving advice, because you’ve thought about the situation a lot (you had to- you were worrying about it). You’re quite possibly giving far more nuanced and thoughtful advice to the people you manage than someone who just does things without thinking.

        3. Mayflower*

          FWIW I moved away from NYC in my late 30’s and it definitely made me calmer. NYC is not good for anxiety.

    2. Sara without an H*

      You say you’ve always experienced anxiety in relation to your career. While I agree with ThatGirl that therapy can help with this, have you also discussed this with your doctor? There are some decent anti-anxiety meds out there, and they can help get you to a place where you can assess your life and work more objectively.

      I’d really recommend seeking treatment before you pull your life up by the roots to change careers. That kind of decision shouldn’t be made while you’re in the middle of anxiety. Try working first with appropriate healthcare professionals (mental and physical) and see if you can dial it back a little before you make life-altering decisions.

      1. Mrs. Hoover*

        Yep, I have a therapist. I’ve also tried a variety of meds. But my diagnosis (PDD and GAD) doesn’t respond super well to drugs.

    3. cubone*

      I wish I could give you a hug (or a … friendly wave (?) if hugs aren’t your thing). I have felt much of this before and anxiety is just an awful runaway train. It’s exhausting.

      Your “I just need a month of not doing anything” is like a flashing, screaming siren of burnout, TBH. One of the things I notice a lot with people who are anxious AND burned out (as someone who works in mental health), is they’ll be adamant that “no no, it’s just me and that I’m not doing things well/not skilled enough/not on top of everything”, so… maybe just notice that and try to be kind to yourself. Easier said than done, and sounds cheesy, but really, managing is H A R D and it sounds like you want your direct reports to feel supported, which in my books says you’re a decent human who deserves some kindness.

      Lastly on the manager bit, 2 thoughts:
      1) it’s not your fault that so many workplace cultures only see “take on management of people” as a means to promotion. I’m not saying it isn’t for you but … if that’s what you’re saying, that’s completely normal and okay. You don’t have to want to manage people. A lot of people don’t and they’re still incredible, hard working employees.
      2) I don’t think this is a solution by any means, but mentioned in a past thread the book Radical Candor for really helpful tips on giving feedback and fellow commenters agreed. Throwing that there if it helps.

      1. Mrs. Hoover*

        Thanks for the hug (I’ll take it!!). I know I’m circling burn out. I’ve circled it before and at least once it led to a week-long panic attack (that job did not end well). I’ve managed to avoid a repeat of that by recognizing when I need to ask for help, which I am no longer afraid of doing (but very much was in the past). But, my people are the type to pull up their boot straps and it was ingrained in me from a young age that you just have to go through things and do things. So I do.

        And I’m competent at my job, I know this. But I am not naturally good at it. It’s not something that comes to me well. I also know from previous experience that any good I may have done before can be dismissed in the wake of something not good. So I take praise with a grain of salt.

        But, I’m older now and I recognize I want a simpler life. I just want to do something I feel confident about and live pretty simply. I’ve never been tied up in making $$$ or having the next best thing. But I do live in New York, which requires $$$ and so it became another circle that I had to go around. But, I experienced a pretty significant loss over a year ago and the things that held me where I am, no longer exist. And my desire to change my circumstances is only getting stronger. But, I do want to do it logically, rationally, and with strategy and thought. So, for now… I manage and take on the burden of my direct reports and my boss and hope that I can hold on for a bit longer. (Sorry!! This got deep! I really am ok, in the sense that I will keep on keeping on, I’m just a touch on the miserable side right now and emotionally tired)

        1. Fran Fine*

          Awww, I know this feeling well (in fact, I had it myself last year after my uncle died suddenly and I just…didn’t care about anything anymore). Keep your head up – you will get through this.

        2. MissGirl*

          I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m anxious and introverted and decided a long time ago managing people wasn’t the route for me. Luckily, I work at a company that has different career paths. What’s something easy you can do to move to a new non-management role? Something I did when I was ready to move but not ready to look was to turn my LinkedIn on to signal to recruiters I was interested. Can you take a different path at your company?

          I know you’ve already taken the promotion but remind yourself you don’t have to accept anything you don’t want to. It’s okay to say to yourself or anyone, I’m happy where I am and I’m not looking to change. You don’t want more money and the responsibility that goes along with that and that’s an entirely reasonable decision to make.

        3. cubone*

          sending much love, that’s so much on your plate. I really wish there was an option to just …. take a month and ruminate on what you want in life, we’d all use it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I want to break this into parts.

      “So I’m now anxious about whether I’m giving them good advice or feedback, on top of my regular anxiety.”
      How is your advice playing out in real time? This means checking in- you can ask “how did you make out with X after we talked?”
      You can also say, “With problem X try ABC and let me know how that goes.” Ask them to come back and give you feed back.
      You can have 1-on-1s where you ask them to tell you what they need your help with and what you have done so far that they find helpful.

      ” While this should validate that I’m doing a good job, in my head it only confirms that I DID a good job and will have to continue down this road of anxiety to continue doing a good job.”

      It appears to me that you are disconnected from your successes. You do stuff right and you tell yourself, “not worth thinking about, let’s dwell on the negative”. It’s okay to bask in the glory of the moment of doing something right. It’s okay to let yourself up for air and yell inside your head, “I GOT ONE RIGHT!!’ A very powerful question a friend used to ask his subordinates was, “What did you do that you LIKED?”. This is where we accrue habits that become part of our work- we keep repeating the parts we like and we modify the parts we are less impressed with. So I have to ask you, no need to answer here but do think about it, “What have you done so far that you LIKED?”

      “I’d like to move. I’d like something to fall into my lap.” These two are related. It’s not until we move around that stuff happens. I marvel at how many people will start to help once I get up and start moving around. I mean this literally. I went out to try to deal with yard work and the fussy tractor. People saw me trying and they came over to help. Such a simple example, but a lot of life goes this way. Let people know you want to move to x state, and start a new career. See what happens, see what people think of to say.

      “I’d like to change careers. I’m 40, it’s not quite so simple.”
      This doesn’t get better at 60, I can tell you first hand. However, the biggest hurdles are the ones inside our own heads. What steps are you willing to take to find out what career is next for you? Do you know people you trust that you can bounce ideas around with? Do you enjoy reading? Perhaps you can turn to books for advice.
      This is going to sound super lame but it worked for me. I used my friends’ eyes as a mirror to see myself. A friend suggested a job to me. I just decided to let go of my own harsh self-judgement and apply for the job. My friend thought it was within reach for me. I have been at the job for 9 years now. Tricky part, I highly value this friend’s opinion, she has a track record of putting a super amount of thought into what she advises. So we can’t do this with just anyone. But looking at what our friends see us as being capable of can be a great starting point to shift directions.

      “I’d like to break out of my rut. But, I think I honestly need like a solid month of doing nothing to restore some motivation. And for the next two months it’s just not possible to take a vacation.”
      You sound very tired. And any person facing all this would be absolutely exhausted. My suggestion to you is to give yourself a vacation from thinking about all that you want to change and just focus on self-care. Eat good meals, hydrate, get to bed on time every night. Even if you don’t sleep well, just lay in bed and read. I got a lot of mileage out of telling myself that I could not think about Life and Problems after 9 pm because there was nothing I could do about any of it after 9 pm anyway. I allowed myself a time out from the worries. This ended up being the best part of my day for many years. See if putting something into you, later allows you to figure out your next steps. We would not expect our cars to go down the road if there is no gas in the engine. Our bodies and minds are very similar- we need to fuel up our bodies and brains before we can travel. Put good stuff into you- whatever that means to you.

  23. My cat is prettier than me*

    I’m looking for a new job because I’m relocating to my hometown next month. Several times in the last two weeks recruiters have contacted me on LinkedIn about jobs in my current city. I updated my location to (hometown) and put at the top of my bio that I’m relocating. It’s a small thing, but it’s annoying. How can you say you’re interested in me if you can’t even bother to look at my profile?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think this is about anything you’re doing. I think it’s probably some lazy recruiters, who are just spamming a bunch of potential candidates. I don’t even think they’re looking at the top of your bio. They’re probably just doing some filter on your hometown. Maybe take that location off altogether?

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      They could have done a search/data dump from LinkedIn weeks ago, keyed to location, and the recruiter is just now getting around to going through the list. It’s not like they comb through your profile for 30 minutes before they make each call.

    3. Doc in a Box*

      LinkedIn is the job equivalent of OKCupid when it comes to things like this. It’s low-effort for recruiters to send a bunch of spam to everyone. Except instead of “Heeeey baaaby” you get a lot of “We’re hiring in not-your-area! Join us!”

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I worked for Company X from 2012 to 2014. I was a tech writer, not a developer. Company X was bought by Company Y. I get recruiters asking me to apply for jobs as a developer of Company Y software WHICH I HAVE NEVER TOUCHED.

    5. Mentorless*

      I flat out told a recruiter on LinkedIn that I wanted to be paid x and they came back with x-y which was less I make now then asked if I wanted to proceed, it’s incredibly frustrating

    6. Pascall*

      I had a recruiter message me on LinkedIn a few months ago with the following:

      “Hi Erica,
      I was going through your resume and found that you have relevant experience for the below mentioned position…
      Title: Client Services Team Lead Real Estate Provider
      Location: Palo Alto, CA
      Duration: 6-month”

      I replied: “Hi. My name is not Erica (it’s TJ), I’m not currently located in CA, and I have no real estate experience. Thank you.”

      LinkedIn recruiters are some of the laziest, honestly.

    7. JustaTech*

      I had a LinkedIn recruiter reach out to me, have me fill out a whole application (without telling me who the company was or where *exactly* in the metro area they were located), then then get back to me all huffy and annoyed that I had “misrepresented” myself because I don’t have an RN.

      I never said I had an RN. Nothing on my LinkedIn would make you think I have an RN.

      Like, I can understand “whoops, I misread your credentials, sorry, you don’t have the certificate needed for this position”. But to act like *I* had lied? Just extra rude.

    8. LI recruiter fail*

      I have very niche technical skills. Like, probably 20 people in my country have these skills. My company is expanding looking for these skills. I get recruiters from Linked In contacting me *all the time* for jobs at my company. Yeah, Linked In recruiters can’t even spent 3 seconds finding out where you work now.

    9. Dancing Otter*

      Lazy recruiters, for sure.
      My LI profile says “RETIRED” large as life. I still get contacted. Not just for jobs at my most recent level, but for stuff at which I would have turned up my professional, degreed nose in my twenties.
      Think accounts payable clerk for a CPA, or janitor for a civil engineer.

  24. Abyssal*

    Is there any politic way to ask my boss to give me a heads-up if he’s looking to move on?

    Basically, I’m in my job because of him. He’s a fantastic boss, and providing me with a lot of support in a life situation I’m currently in the middle of, as well as generally being great at setting clear expectations, flexible with letting us determine how best to complete our work, and very assertive in protecting his people when it comes to interdepartmental politics. I don’t actually enjoy the work I’m doing all that much, but I would put up with an awful lot of garbage to keep working with him.

    However, if/when he moves on, my interest in this job will go with him. I find it generally stressful and difficult to stay on top of, and since we’re an overhead function, the company keeps us as leanly staffed as possible.

    Is there any value to asking for such a heads-up, or is it just not practically possible/reasonable?

    1. Abyssal*

      (And yes, I have made sure to verbally express to him how much I appreciate what he does and how much I like working with him. He’s newer at being a manager and has been outstanding right out of the gate.)

    2. Colette*

      I wouldn’t. There’s no reason for him to tell you until he’s accepted a new job, and then you’ll know,

    3. Amaranth*

      No, if he’s smart he won’t tell anyone he’s looking until he has a new job in hand, and that would be an awkward request. It sounds like you generally have great communication though, so there could be conversational openings to express that if he ever moves on you hope he’d keep you in mind for any openings on his new team.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think so, but at the point if/when he does give notice, I think you can have the conversation then, and let him know you would be very interested in working with him again in future, and would appreciate it if he were to keep you in mind if any jobs come up at his new company (you can also at that point ask him about staying in touch and using him as a reference if you need one in future, especially if he is your direct supervisor and the person you’ve worked most closely with)

    5. anon for this*

      Depending on his role and agreements with your employer, he may not be allowed to tell you. I’ve worked for leaders whose contracts included nonsolicitation of current employees/contacts. (contracts become more common in the US at VP level and up.) One of them apologized on his last day that he couldn’t tell me and that he couldn’t offer a job at his new company. Our mutual employer almost sued him anyway because his new company’s parent company owned a competitor.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I have had bosses indicate that they were looking. But for the most part the boss won’t or can’t tell you.

      What I do here is look for any change in the boss and the way they handle things. Sometimes you can get a feeling that something is up or something is different- and you can’t shake the feeling off.

      I think you should live your life. If you don’t like the job and you are staying because of a person (or few people) that is enough right there to know you need to prepare to move on. Any time I have hung my hat on certain people at work, they have usually left the company. It’s not a good reason to stay and it usually plays out poorly.

  25. JB*

    Hey, uh, in an office position, if there’s no break room to eat in – where do you eat lunch?

    I recently started a new position at my company, in a new department. Long story short, I’m excited about it, it’s an advancement for me (and means I don’t have to talk to customers any more) and I’m getting great feedback. But I’m finding myself worrying a lot about this very mundane thing.

    My new department’s workspace is nice, but the break room is just a fridge, sink, microwave. There’s nowhere to sit in there and eat.

    Right now, the only people in the office are myself and the department head. She goes out to eat every day, or sometimes closes her office door to eat. I’m in a cubicle, and I prefer to bring my lunch, both for financial and health reasons. Other people will be coming back in on a revolving/socially distanced schedule in a few weeks.

    Is it okay that I’m eating lunch at my desk? Does that change depending on what I’m eating? I bring in a lot of homemade sandwich-adjacent stuff – homemade tacos, homemade pulled pork, homemade sloppy joes, etc. I reheat the meat and assemble the sandwich in the breakroom, then I eat at my desk. Is that okay?!

    All of my previous jobs have had a break room with seating AND policies about not eating at your desk, but they’ve all been very different from this job. The department head hasn’t said anything about me eating at my desk, but given her personality I’m not sure she would! (She is not my direct supervisor.) Help?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      While it may be okay to eat lunch at your desk, I’ve generally tried to avoid that, because I’ve found when I eat lunch at my desk, people still bother me for work stuff, when I really want to be focused on eating. In terms of it being messy, maybe you can just put something down, like some napkins?

      At one job, weather permitting, I’d take my lunch outside and eat on a bench near the sidewalk. You may not have something like that available. I’ve had co-workers take their lunches out to their cars to eat.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Same here. There’s a nice bench outside in the shade that I enjoy, but I’ve eaten in my car when it was taken or the weather wasn’t great. If I sit at my desk, it’s inevitable that someone will interrupt me.

    2. Colette*

      I’ve pretty much always eaten at my desk, unless I’m at a company that has a cafeteria, or if it’s a really nice day and I want to eat outside. Go ahead and eat at your desk.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      There’s nothing wrong with eating at your desk! Especially since they don’t actually provide you with anywhere else to go.

      In the before times I liked to use my lunch break to go for a walk or run errands, so I almost always ate at my desk. Unless there’s a specific rule in your office against it, it’s a pretty normal thing to do.

    4. BlueberryFields*

      You can eat at your desk, but I’d encourage you to get away from your desk even for a little break. If the weather is nice, you could find a bench, sit in your car (if you drive), find a little nook somewhere if there is a cafeteria. Perhaps not as doable with covid, but especially if you are on an unpaid lunch break, it’s good for your mental health to get away from work! Don’t want to get sucked into something work related during your valuable free time.

      (Also no fish in the microwave, ha! It’s a good way to make enemies. (Not that you mentioned it, but just a general office rule.)

    5. I Love Llamas*

      I think physically getting up and taking a break from your desk is a good mental break. Is there a conference room you can use for now? Are you in a larger office building that maybe has some kind of seating you could use? I bring my lunch every day too, but I never eat at my desk. I need the break. If you eat at your desk, you may want to take a walk to recharge. Good luck with the new role!

      1. Honey Badger Don't Care*

        I had to work in the office for a day last month. It was a ghost town. I took great pleasure in nuking my fish lunch. Nobody around to annoy!

    6. Joielle*

      I often eat at my desk! I just don’t bring anything that has a strong smell. Also, I work in a very quiet cube area so I try not to bring anything super crunchy, although that’s probably not strictly necessary. Just make sure to wipe up any crumbs or spills right away and wash your hands before touching your keyboard/mouse/phone again.

      If I want to get away from my desk, I sometimes go to the lobby of our building or the building next door, which both have relatively nice seating areas. Maybe something like that would be an option even though your actual office doesn’t have space for seating in the break room.

    7. Nicki Name*

      100% okay! Though, as other commenters have said, if the weather is nice it can brighten your day to go eat at an outside bench, the local park, etc.

    8. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Definitely ask around.

      And if you want to be away from your desk, ask if you can use a different space like a conference room (provided, of course, that you clean up — and throw any trash out in the breakroom so meetings don’t have to be taco-scented in the afternoon).

      Lately I’ve been eating at my desk b/c I don’t trust my colleagues to be vaxxed, but I kinda hate it because I don’t actually relax.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Yup, I like the suggestion to observe and maybe ask around.

        But, consider me another person who both eats at my desk AND suggests taking breaks to get away for a walk or whatever.

    9. cactus lady*

      I like eating outside :) there’s usually a bench or something near any office. The break from office time is very important for me.

      1. JB*

        Thank you! And thanks to everyone else who replied, too.

        I would love to go outside (especially as my new position is salaried and I can set my own hours to a degree, so I can take a longer lunch if I like…thinking fondly of a prior job that was right on the river so I could eat lunch on the boardwalk and take a walk along it after…) but unfortunately around here it’s not really possible. I wouldn’t call it unsafe, but there isn’t really anywhere to sit and there are often people loitering outside our building, peeing behind our dumpsters, etc. And there’s nowhere nicer in immediate walking distance unless I were to go into an actual restaurant to eat.

        I do take the point about getting away from my desk. This new role is very solitary in nature so I have a feeling other people won’t be bothering me too much about work, but a change of scenery might be nice. There is a conference room with a nice view of the historic building across the street, I might start eating in there.

          1. JB*

            My car is parked in a garage that’s about a fifteen minute walk away, so any kind of drive would be out of the question unless I want to take a MUCH longer lunch.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          You might also ask anyone of your new co-workers even if they aren’t coming to the office. Worst case, it’ll be a big sigh of “oh, yeah, not having a better place to eat lunch than your desk was my big peeve when I was in the office”. Or you’ll hear that the norm was for people to leave altogether for long times. But you might also hear about the secret roof garden, the *other* and nicer tea kitchen or whatever.

          I quite often eat at my desk, but I see it as my failure to plan better.

    10. Bagpuss*

      I normally eat at my desk, but I do have an actual office. I close my door as that is understood as signaling that I am not available unless there is an emergency (I’m one of the bosses, so there are some things it’s legit to interrupt me for !)

      I do normally also either go out for a short walk, weather permitting, after I have eaten.

    11. Pascall*

      I usually eat at my desk, but I’ll have a little sign that I prop up that tells people when I’m at lunch, usually because I have my headphones in and they don’t always realize until they’re approaching my desk. Most will see the little sign and will come back later. It works pretty well!

      But I also like to go eat outside sometimes just to get away from the computer.

    12. Honey Badger Don't Care*

      I’ve always eaten my lunch at my desk even when there is a place to be seated in a break room or cafeteria. I like to read when I eat and I’ve noticed that many more people interrupt my reading with work issues when I’m eating in a public spot than when I’m at my desk. I’ve had an office for the last 12 years so I just close the door and enjoy the quiet time.

  26. Anonymous Educator*

    If you’re working remotely in an “office” job right now and doing a bunch of video call meetings, is the standard in your team or company culture to have your camera on or to have it off?

    I have some co-workers who have their cameras off all the time, some co-workers who have cameras on all the time, and some who have cameras on most of the time. But a friend of mine said at her workplace it would be extremely frowned upon to have your camera off ever.

    1. londonedit*

      For small meetings (just my team or my team and one other, for example, so maybe 6-8 people) we’d have our cameras on, because those meetings are quite informal. When we have bigger meetings with 25-40 people in them, though, the convention is absolutely to have your camera off and stay muted unless you’re speaking or leading the meeting.

      1. FlyingAce*

        Funny, it’s the other way around in my place. I work in a team with 5 other people, and for our weekly team meetings we rarely bother to turn on our cameras. For the monthly meeting with the team in the neighboring country (around 70 people, including us), the big boss will insist on everyone having their cameras on, and will call you out by name if you don’t.

      2. Fran Fine*

        My current team operates like this, londonedit. Since everyone is spread out in remote locations in the U.S., India, and Ireland (with most of us working permanently from home with no local office to go to even if COVID wasn’t a thing), our manager asked that we turn our cameras on so we could all “meet” face-to-face.

        At first, I was annoyed by this because it was a major change from how my old team operated – none of us ever turned our cameras on for our weekly and bi-weekly team meetings. A few of us turned cameras on during a global call we had one time, but it wasn’t mandatory.

        And my company as a whole really doesn’t have a culture of having cameras on in general because of the global workforce – some people are getting ready for bed during our meetings, so no one wants to see a colleague in their pjs and chilling on their mattress, lol.

    2. Colette*

      I find it varies between groups. I will often start on camera and then go off camera. Others are always off; some are always on. I do find that those in higher-level jobs are more likely to be on camera.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Depends on the meeting – we almost always have ours on for small groups, say, 10 or less. For the 200+ people town halls, most people leave them off. In between it kind of depends, but mostly people don’t fuss if you leave yours off.

    4. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      At my previous job, we had a culture of cameras on most of the time. At my current job, it’s cameras off almost always. We very rarely turn our cameras on.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      It really depends on the meeting I’m attending, how involved I am in it, and if I’m camera-ready. If I don’t play a major role, I feel way less inclined to be on camera if I’m just going to be staring at the screen, barely talking or contributing at all.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      I think it varies by workplace, by department within a workplace even. Where I work, many people are pro-camera or just automatically turn their cameras on, but many others don’t. We just had a small group education session where only the presenter turned her camera on and the half-dozen of the rest of us had them off.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      The question is one of bandwidth. For smaller calls, keep the camera on. For very large calls, it should be on when you are speaking, but off otherwise. The challenge is those medium calls. My office and home computers both signal me when there are bandwidth issues, so I keep it on unless I am getting one of those signals. Depending on my rank in the pecking order, I will either tell participants I need to turn off the camera, or put a note in the chat.

    8. Joielle*

      Cameras on for anything but the largest all-staff meetings, but it’s ok to turn it off for a minute during a smaller meeting – like if you’re eating a few bites or taking a bathroom break or helping the cat get his claw unstuck from a blanket (side-eye to my own cat who is my biggest source of video-call distraction).

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Depends on who’s involved. If I’m meeting with my peers and/or upper management, they’re all big camera people, so I turn it on. If I’m meeting with my reports, I let them decide, because I’m totally indifferent and some of them are vehemently anti-camera.

    10. Victoria, Please*

      When we education professionals meet with IT professionals, this always makes me grin: Ours are on, theirs are off, always. It’s rare they will have profile pics either, but all of us do.

      In person, my door is always open and the lights are on in my office. Their doors are closed to a crack, and they sit in the dark with one lamp, like friendly neighborhood vampires.

      1. Not a cat*

        When I worked in the office at a software company, our CEO used to go down to the developer’s floor and flip on all the lights. The developers HATED it.

    11. Parakeet*

      The fewer people, the more likely I am to keep it on. This is at least in part because Teams calls seem to hog my bandwidth and it often causes bandwidth problems for meetings with more than a few people. Also having it off gives me a break from trying to keep my face in the right expressions and focus, and that break is nice, and our org culture is accepting of that. I try to make an effort to have it on whenever I’m personally speaking. I think I turn mine off more than average, and some people never turn theirs off, but most people turn them off at least some of the time and it’s not frowned upon (though I think having it off literally all the time might raise some eyebrows).

      1. Mockingjay*

        MS Teams is a HUGE bandwidth suck. I’ve got robust internet/vpn and a new hi-powered Dell laptop, and I still have to turn my camera off during most meetings because Teams lags and drops.

        I’ve used other video software and never had those issues: Skype, WebEx, Solstice, DCO/DCS (government systems)

        I just turn off the camera and post a note in the chat thread: “bandwidth issues, switching to audio only.” It happens so frequently with Teams that no one bats an eye.

    12. Lemon Zinger*

      This is so dependent on workplace norms. My office requires that cameras be on. If for some reason you can’t be on camera, you are expected to disclose the reason immediately (internet issues, child running around in the background, etc). But I know people at different organizations who do the same work as me, but their employers are a lot more relaxed about cameras.

      1. anonyITmous*

        IT professional here. We have cameras off and no profile photos, if our org lets us get away with it, because facial recognition is creepy, and being targeted online is more common in tech for anyone who isn’t a white dude.

        The way Microsoft uses profile photos, they are sent to ANYONE you email, which means random strangers I email from tech support now have my photo, not to mention whatever creepy data mining Microsoft is doing with it.

        I use a cartoon avatar that looks kind of like me so people have an idea what I look like but without compromising my biometric data.

        For new people, new vendors, more personal meetings, I try to be on camera at least for a bit to say hi for relationship building/maintenance as long as the meeting isn’t recorded.

        Also, many of us are not neurotypical, so having a camera on can add to anxiety, depression, executive function challenges, etc.

        Many of us went into IT because we aren’t judged on our appearance as much and it’s extra icky for me to feel like I’m being judged on something that doesn’t affect of job.

    13. Alice Quinn*

      I work at a very large company, and it’s really dependent on the situation. I tend to default to camera on as I find it’s easier to connect with people when I can see their faces and a lot of my work is dependent on establishing good working relationships, but in meetings outside my team, I defer to the preference of the people I’m meeting with to make them comfortable. In really large meetings, I usually stay off camera unless I’m speaking or presenting. For team meetings, I keep my camera on.

    14. allathian*

      In team meetings, we mostly keep our cameras on unless there are bandwidth issues, etc. But we’re fairly informal in that nobody’s policing how much others look at the camera and what their backgrounds look like, etc.

      We’re onboarding two new people in our team right now, and that would be much harder to do with cameras off.

      In bigger meetings, I keep my camera off unless I’m presenting. In my role, I almost never need to do that.

    15. Miss Displaced*

      Same goes at my job. It’s a mix of on and off depending on what people prefer. And I think that is fine. I’m more of a video-off person myself, but I try to make an effort to turn on the video at least at the beginning of a call, and then switch to audio only.

    16. tamarack and fireweed*

      The way it kinda worked itself out is that for the bigger meetings (8 or so up to 100s of people) most have their cameras off except for the person(s) just currently speaking. Switching your camera on is almost an informal sign of “I want to say something”. On the other hand for our small team meetings (one has 3, one 5 and another one also 5) most keep their camera on, and even be unmuted for longer times, and it’s more like an in-person meeting with everyone engaged.

      It is quite acceptable though to keep it off (one or two coworkers always have it off – one doesn’t *have* a camera, the other one has pretty bad bandwidth or eats during meetings). Also, as for the concern about privacy, many now use blurred backgrounds on Zoom, or of course image backgrounds.

    17. Quinalla*

      Cameras on generally for internal meetings, but if you have a bad connection or are walking around on the meeting, etc. then it is fine to have your camera off. The bigger the meeting, the more people turn cameras off.

      For external meetings, I pretty much always have my camera off unless it is a small meeting with people I know well. I am dressed very casually all the time now and I’m in my basement while a lot of external clients are back in the office wearing business casual or more formal clothing, so it feels weird to have my camera on. I’ve notice a lot of folks keep their cameras off for external meetings, treating it like a conference call with a screen share like we mostly did on those types of meetings pre-pandemic. If a screen is shared most of the time, I find it isn’t as necessary to have cameras on.

  27. Job Senioritis*

    Anyone have tips for staying engaged when you are Just Done with your job and are actively searching, but are mentally checked out and your performance is taking a nose dive?

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Mentally write scathing Glassdoor reviews (which you never post) detailing all the many failings of your colleagues? This of course will require you to pay attention to their activities.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Stop working for your boss and start working for your resume. “I will take on x task because I can add it to my resume, talk about it on interviews, etc.”

      The other thing you can do is “scold” yourself about being self-defeating. You can say, “Stop it! I am better than this and I will do better than let everything slide!” Sometimes the worse thing that happens is not others’ opinions of us, but our own opinion of ourselves. If our own opinion of ourselves tanks, it can feel like all is lost.

  28. UnluckyTadpole*

    I’m constantly being pulled into meetings by my boss’s boss. I have NO IDEA what these meetings are about. Like…imagine that I work on financials and accounting the meetings are about public diplomacy. I always feel like the kid in English class who didn’t read the book and hopes she doesn’t get called on. I think that my boss’s boss does it as some kind of strategy so there are multiple voices who appear to agree with whatever she’s saying. I just listen to what she says, and when she inevitably asks me what I think, I paraphrase and parrot back what she just said. I literally have no other context.

    Does anyone else experience this? It’s making me crazy and I’d prefer not filling days with meetings I should have no part in.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Can you ask about what role you’re supposed to be playing in these meetings? You could even frame it as you’ve been pulled away from your core work by a lot of meetings lately and you want to make sure you’re using your time appropriately. If you can’t ask your grandboss, it’s worth asking your boss to run interference.

      1. Fran Fine*

        This. I would get clarification on why you’re even there in the first place. She may not just want someone to agree with her – she may be pulling you in to ask questions about what you’re hearing and don’t understand because outsiders may have the same questions you do and she’s trying to make that point to the others in the meeting.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I’d ask your boss for advice & guidance.

      Sometimes the grandboss doesn’t even want echoes of her thoughts, just an entourage.

    3. LuckyLeapfrog*


      You are being groomed for upper management.

      No one expects you to know, but they value you enough that they think you should be a part of these conversations

      1. Anonymous Koala*

        This was my thought too. But you can also ask your boss was your role in these meetings should be

      2. Amaranth*

        I like your optimism! However, sometimes the Big Boss just says ‘bring the whole team’ when they really need two people for effective information and feedback. This could mean Big Boss doesn’t have a clue who does what or is one of those people who believes good ideas can come from anyone. It might be helpful to ask their manager if there is a way to get some advance prep for these meetings, however.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have joined boards and the beginning is rough because I have no idea what they are talking about and if it is even important. It takes a bit to get oriented.

      You could ask why you are there and how you can contribute. But actively listening is key. Taking notes is also helpful.

  29. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Are there any guidelines or advice on doing putting in your notice while on extended PTO (e.g. vacation)? Of course, I wouldn’t start the 10 business days until I return, but other than that?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      If your two weeks notice isn’t going to start until you get back, it seems like you might as well wait until you get back to give notice. I’d recommend something else if your two weeks notice had to start during your leave, but since it won’t I think you can just wait until you’re back.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The complication is that my employer is already lining up decent-stakes, high-client-visibility work for me to tackle when I return, and the SLA will be ticking the entire time I’m away. I think the odds are better than 50/50 that my notice period will be declined, as I’m staying in the industry. If I wait until I return, that work goes to coworkers I’ve worked with most of for a decade or more and are more like siblings to me, as rushed fires. While I agree it’s not my problem, I care about those whose problem it will be.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Hmmm that does complicate things. But one thing to keep in mind is that if it was going to be assigned to you, none of this work was going to be worked on until you got back, right? Which in theory means it should be doable for someone to not start it until that date anyway.

          How long until you’re back? Maybe if you’re out for another three weeks it might be worth saying something sooner if it really would make a difference (unless you think they’d bump your last day up while on vacation and that would mess up your compensation), but if you’re only out for a few days I don’t think it will make much of a difference to wait.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Hmmm that does complicate things. But one thing to keep in mind is that if it was going to be assigned to you, none of this work was going to be worked on until you got back, right? Which in theory means it should be doable for someone to not start it until that date anyway.

            While technically true, it will augment their normal workload, not replace it. Those who have the expertise I expect will want for time and those who have the time I expect will want for expertise.

            How long until you’re back? Maybe if you’re out for another three weeks it might be worth saying something sooner if it really would make a difference (unless you think they’d bump your last day up while on vacation and that would mess up your compensation), but if you’re only out for a few days I don’t think it will make much of a difference to wait.

            I’ll be away 7 business days. Our project cycles are normally roughly 72 hours. I have considered the possibility that my final day would get backdated to my first day of PTO and have made peace with that. The compensation angle is contingent on what terms I leave–with well wishes or over a burning bridge–and that is playing into my decision to notify early as well.

            1. Amaranth*

              I agree that putting in notice when you return sounds best, because if they don’t want you to work out notice, do you want them going through and cleaning out your desk or do you want to take the day you return to clean it up, organize some work, etc.? You can also just get the list of projects and offer to work “with Josephine” or whoever to complete them and hand over the accounts during your notice period.

              I’d be a bit confused as to why you’re getting notification of projects waiting for you while you’re on PTO, but staying connected during “vacation” seems to be an unfortunate norm these days. It might be best to stop reading work emails if you can.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I agree that putting in notice when you return sounds best, because if they don’t want you to work out notice, do you want them going through and cleaning out your desk or do you want to take the day you return to clean it up, organize some work, etc.? You can also just get the list of projects and offer to work “with Josephine” or whoever to complete them and hand over the accounts during your notice period.

                I’m 500 mi away, so thankfully that aspect of it is moot. If I were still in an on-site role, I’d be taking my personal items from my desk with me when I head home next Wednesday (and my desk has been Spartan from paranoia in the past, anyway–it’d mostly be my keyboard and trackball, which I could easily explain with intent to use them). I would be shipping their equipment back to headquarters.

                I’d be a bit confused as to why you’re getting notification of projects waiting for you while you’re on PTO, but staying connected during “vacation” seems to be an unfortunate norm these days. It might be best to stop reading work emails if you can.

                I’m much better wired for work-life integration than work-life balance, so I actually find it more relaxing if I can check in once or twice a day and see how the work is evolving. If I can offer needed advice to a coworker who requests it, that helps me relax knowing the work’s in the best hands. Or if there is a monster waiting for me, I can relax by mentally preparing to tackle it and hit the ground running. In this case, though, I’m seeing projects coming down the pike where the instructions/specifications are 25-50% complete, and plans are being built around them coming to fruition during my absence and waiting for me upon my return. While they won’t be officially late yet, we will already have used our one opportunity to ask for more time.

  30. FD*

    I think one of the most frustrating things as an employee of a small business is watching an owner who, while a nice person (“You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice.”), is just bound and determined to burn it to the ground by refusing to take action.

    I’ve been telling my boss over and over over the last two years, “Hey, it’s a problem that we’ve set it up this way because you want me to do three different incompatible jobs and that was fine when we were tiny but now it’s a huge problem.” The problem has only gotten worse and worse as we’ve grown and I’m expected to somehow do the work of 2 or 3 people, and not just labor but incompatible labor (I’m supposed to both do a lot of deep focus work that requires time and a great deal of care AND also somehow do all the day to day management in a business ripe with interruptions.) Several months ago I pretty much broke down and told him point blank, “It doesn’t matter how many hours I work, how many weekends I work, how many times I’m in here at 5AM. I literally cannot keep up with everything. I can’t keep on top of everything, and because I keep being the one you expect to put out fires, I’m not able to do [key projects for very important new customers].”

    All I’ve gotten is ‘it’s going to suck for a while’ and ‘we just need to get organized’ which…yes, I agree but I’M NOT THE ONE WHO ISN’T ORGANIZED and it doesn’t fix my problem anyway–no human could do a credible job of the work I’m doing. No real changes have been made.

    Then, earlier this week, [very important customer] was angry because I had missed one important thing as part of their key project because I’m trying to do too much and this slipped through the cracks. I let the customer chew me out and ate the crow but afterwards, I called owner and very calmly explained, “Hey, I want to make you aware of something. This thing happened and the customer was angry. This is what I have been warning about when I say that because you expect me to keep all these other balls in the air, I can’t do the [key projects for very important new customers] properly.”

    All I got was, “I understand your frustration” combined with a lot of deflecting about how he didn’t know about this one, specific thing. Which while true, YOU OWN THE DAMN BUSINESS IT IS YOUR JOB TO KNOW, and also, if it hadn’t been this thing it would have been something else.

    The thing that’s so damn frustrating is that I know when I leave, this will at best go really poorly, and at worst, possibly shut down. The clients we work for mostly want to talk to me, not owner. I know for a fact several of our clients only went with us because of me (not pride, they point blank said so).

    But if the owner won’t care enough about his own business to save it, what can I possibly do?

    It’s just so frustrating to see a really viable business (we’ve grown 15x in 3 years without even marketing ourselves; some of that is due to the owner’s connections but a decent amount is word of mouth too) be treated this way. I know that ultimately it isn’t my fault or responsibility but damn it’s a pity.

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      Have you explicitly told the owner “you need to hire someone else to do x and y.”? Because from what you’ve presented, it sounds like you’re saying “this needs to be taken care of” but not giving any suggestions on how to take care of it. Owner seems like they need this conclusion explicitly drawn for them.

      1. FD*

        He did…he hired someone without my input or without having me talk to the person to make sure she understood what the job was and now won’t listen to me as I explain, “Hey, this person is supposed to do X, Y, and Z, she’s not doing it well and she pushes back when I try to delegate to her.”

        I mean, I’m just job hunting at this point and trying to hold out.

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          Yeah, this is unsalvageable. Job hunting is really all you can do at this point. I’m sorry.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Seems like this might be a good opportunity for you to strike out on your own, if you have any interest in doing that. “I know for a fact several of our clients only went with us because of me (not pride, they point blank said so).” Is there one of them that you really trust, that you could have a confidential conversation with about taking their business?

      This all assumes that you don’t have a non-compete or anti-poaching agreement in place.

      1. FD*

        I don’t actually want to own a business and I want out of this industry at any rate, long term. I’ve gotten really really good at some pretty complicated accounting. I’m trying to get a bookkeeping job and go back to school for my accounting degree, which is the part of my job I actually like.

    3. Green Beans*

      Get a new job. We’re at the same point, honestly, and my POV is that sometimes people just want to learn the hard way. You gotta let them.

      Protecting people from consequences does no good. I’d back off to working 40 hrs per week, look for a new job, and let the chips fall where they may.

    4. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      Keeping the company afloat isn’t your job. I knew someone who cared sooo much about the company & long term growth & was so frustrated at the owner who blew off all input & suggestions. Turns out the owner only cared about getting $ out of the company short term & absolutely didn’t care about keeping it going and didn’t want to spend any money. Very different visions of the future

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Reframe. This is not a nice boss. This is a bad boss. You are very generous in your assessment of this person and this person has not earned it.

      Eh, you really have nothing left to lose here. When he launches into deflecting about smaller problems, rope the conversation back into discussing bigger picture problems. “The overarching problem here is that this is not sustainable. I am working x hours per week doing three different jobs and this is not a good plan. It won’t work in the long run.”

      There are business owners who approach a business like a hobby. He is probably one of them. I’d think about drawing my lines so I had time at home that I could use for job hunting. I dunno, tell him due to health concerns you are no longer able to work 100 ( or whatever number) hours a week. You can work 45 ( pick a number that suits you) hours and he needs to decide where your efforts can be best used. Yeah, it might be scary but decide not to wear or carry his concerns and responsibility for him.

      1. FD*

        Yeah, I’m leaving no matter what at this point, it’s just *so frustrating* to see a situation where on paper, someone has literally every reason to succeed and they just…don’t make the choices that would let that happen.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          You can’t care more about someone else’s well-being than they do.

          It’s a hard lesson to learn and still worth learning.

  31. Stelmselms*

    I saw a job posting for an Exec Assistant that listed working for a publicly traded company as one of the MQs. I’ve been in higher ed for the last 11 years which has its own set of quirks. If you’ve worked for a publicly traded company, what makes it different? What are some things to know about the culture, etc.?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Specifically asking for “publicly traded company” probably means that they want you to be familiar with reporting and data retention practices that are mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley and similar laws/regulations.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yup, corporate governance and regulation. If the position is EA to the C-suite, finance, or legal department, then you would be dealing with board meetings, reports, and SEC filings, which have a specific format and schedule.

    2. Filosofickle*

      The way the business thinks and makes decisions is different when it’s publicly traded, it has to follow the tides of shareholders and analysts. (Take this all with a grain of salt — not every company operates the same and these issues can be big or little depending on the company.) There’s a lot of pressure to keep numbers looking good — or make them look good — which can lead to shenanigans and layoff/hiring cycles. The constant requirements of quarterly reporting can take up a lot of time and attention. Decisions are often made to maximize value to shareholders, not customers or employees. What Wall Street analysts say carries a lot of weight — you can have a great quarter and even beat your earnings targets and still get downgraded by analysts because they wanted you to do even better. In my experience it feels more out of control, it’s harder for publicly traded companies to make decisions that are good for its long term health and its people. It can create a lot of external pressure and stress.

  32. Stelmselms*

    Why oh why do companies check references before the interview? Is this a new thing? This recently happened to my partner and a co-worker. While they do have their supervisors listed as references, they weren’t planning on telling them unless they got further along in the process. (I guess lesson learned to not list your supervisor up front?) It seems like a waste of time on the employer’s part because what if they don’t like the candidate after they interview them?

    1. Tom Servo's Sister*

      I’ve had this happen 3 times in the past year. My boss knows I’m looking (my job is part-time and I need something full-time), but it’s still annoying. Once I got called for an interview, but the other two times they sent emails to my refences the day after applied, and never called me for interview. It seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

    2. Forkeater*

      I’ve noticed this, too, recently, and I wonder if it’s because the interviews (at least mine) were all remote. I don’t use my current supervisor as a reference, so that’s not a problem, but I think my references were taken aback to be called at that point in the process, and were surprised when, in those two cases, I wasn’t selected for the role. BC (Before Covid) people would only call my references when they were ready to offer me the job.

  33. Amethyst*

    A couple weeks ago I said I’d asked for a raise for the first time in my career and had gotten approved for one. The only thing I was waiting on was how much of a raise I’d be getting. I heard back from my great-grandboss the other day. I’m getting $2.53 more per hour starting on Monday. (I was hoping for $3 more so I’m very pleased!)

  34. Middle Manager*

    Any tips for staying engaged in a job I’m completely burnt out in and actively trying to leave?

    I posted a while ago about being ready to quit with nothing lined up. Some things have changed that make it more bearable to stay for now (for the sake of a steady paycheck and solid benefits) but it’s not where I want to be. I know I’m burnt out and my own standards are slipping. My boss and grandboss are sympathetic to the workload I’ve carried over the past year and keenly aware that I’ve been the cornerstone of my team during a lot of staff transition — we had 14 people quit in a year, and I’m one of 2 people left who’ve been here for more than a few months. But as we settle back into “normal” and hire more people, I know that my current level of just keeping it together won’t cut it.

    I’ve been applying to places and had 3 interviews so far, all rejections. Job-searching is soul-sucking, and I’m already stretched because from work stress, a serious family
    health issue, and the general state of the world. It’s hard to keep all the balls in the air.

    Any advice or anecdotes is very appreciated!

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      You mentioned you are considering quitting with nothing lined up – are you financially able to do this? Because if you’re able to float it and think you’ll be able to get a job before you run into trouble, I’d honestly recommend doing it.

      I was working 14+ hour days and dry-heaving from stress every morning, and the only way things got better was for me to quit with nothing lined up. I was very fortunate – I was able to go on my partner’s insurance, they could cover most of our household costs, and I was extra fortunate in that I was able to collect unemployment – my company and I agreed that things weren’t working out and negotiated a departure that included them not disputing an unemployment claim. Stepping away from my awful job allowed me time to recover and actually devote myself to a real job hunt. There’s no way I would have been able to find a job that fit me well while I was still working there – I had zero time to job hunt at all, but if I had I would have desperately taken the first thing that came my way, and there’s a good chance that place would also have sucked.

      I don’t know your circumstances, but if you are able to quit with nothing lined up, there’s absolutely zero shame in taking advantage of that.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      “I know that my current level of just keeping it together won’t cut it.”

      I mean this to be helpful, despite the pointedness of this question: Why not?

      They had 14 (!!!) people leave in ONE YEAR. Whatever amount of work and continuity you provide is valuable, so prioritize your health and well-being. It is NOT your responsibility to keep this company/department/team afloat. It doesn’t matter what your job is, it is NOT worth your health.

      Don’t pay for this with your lifeforce. Just…don’t.

  35. CA.L.*

    Can someone be on LinkedIn with one long-term job listed? I have no interest in being on LinkedIn (and so my question may even be somewhat irrelevant, I don’t even know!). But a recent work occurrence made me question if I should be on it just on a basic level. I’ve been at my company over a decade and before that dabbled around and had some gaps and I don’t want to show my work history on there. I’d really rather just list my current position/company (and am fine also listing my previous position within the same company). I just want it in an effort to keep connections with people who may leave my company. Do people do this? Will it look weird?

    1. irene adler*

      hey- that’s me! 24 years at one job.

      Lots of people just keep the LI account to keep up/keep in touch with folks. Nothing strange about this at all.

      And believe it or not: I get inquiries- often- from recruiters.

      1. CA.L.*

        Excellent! Glad to know that thank you. I’m also having a bit of dread of suddenly creating an account after not having one, looking to colleagues (who I assume I’d eventually then connect with) like I’m looking for a job when I’m not. More like don’t want to lose contact with people if they leave and may want to connect in the future.

        (Also: great username!)

        1. irene adler*

          (Aww, thanks!)
          When you reach out on LI, there’s opportunity to add a little note. Put in something “I’d like to keep in touch” or “don’t want to lose touch with you” or something like these.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I think that’s fine! If you’d had promotions, be sure to list those. But it’s also fine to do one position at one company. I usually don’t see a reason to go back more than 10 years of job experiences, especially if the older ones aren’t particularly applicable or flattering.

    3. JHunz*

      LinkedIn may be job-focused social media, but it’s still social media where you’re allowed to curate your own page as you desire. I wouldn’t find it particularly strange seeing a page with one long-term position on it.

      1. Amaranth*

        I don’t know much about LI, honestly, but I’d say the key thing with most social media is to not make it look like the page was put up and abandoned. So, if LI shows “2015-present” it might be worth having some other kind of activity or updates that show that means 2021 not “2015-17 then I lost interest”

  36. Anon for now*

    This is an update on something I asked about not in the Friday comment thread, but on the post, “Are employees obligated to speak up when they’re unhappy at work?”. I talked about being unhappy with part of my job (teapot glazing), wanted to focus more on a different part (samovar polishing), and wondered if it was worth saying anything. That is here:

    The update is that shortly after that post and reading the replies I got, I did tell Craig I wanted to focus on samovar polishing.

    At my review, which Fergus attended for the first time, Craig let me know everyone understood my preference, but basically there’s no one else to glaze blue teapots, but that could change if at some point there’s an applicant for an open position with a background in glazing blue teapots (unlikely). I receive a good review on my samovar polishing skills.

    On to the blue teapot glazing review. I acknowledge that I’ve made errors and try to go into the root causes of that and suggests solutions. Fergus agrees I’ve made errors, but just otherwise does not listen to me. Shuts me down. The gist of it is I need to figure it out, others who do teapot glazing on the red glazing team have figured it out. So that’s what I need to do. It’s like we’re on different planets about fixing this. Craig suggests adding a bit more structure (not a ton, really, just a small amount) and it is sounding good to me. The Fergus says that no, that’s totally insulting to “Anon for now” and what we do with folks on PIP then asks me if we should do that. Obviously, I cannot say yes.

    I’ve had some mental health issues this year due to a trauma, effects of which have included challenges concentrating. I have NOT told anyone at work about this at work. I am glad I did not because the structure Craig suggested probably would have helped, but been deeply stigmatizing given Fergus’s comments. Fergus is higher in the food chain than Craig.

    I’ve been a wreck since. I’m tired of advocating for myself for support that will not happen. I don’t see my blue teapot glazing skills magically improving. I’m tired of dealing with Fergus and his condescending and unhelpful comments (he also contradicts himself, and good luck getting straight answers).

    I need to get out, right??

    Any tips on putting the worst review of my life behind me? (I literally wake up at night thinking about it!)

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Take control of your work life by 1) working on the stuff Fergus wants you to fix, and 2) looking for another job. Interviewing is a great way to get a little taste of how other organizations do things and evaluate whether you have things pretty good and need to work on yourself, or whether Craig and Fergus are just glass holes.

    2. Quantum Hall Effect*

      I disagree that you obviously could not say yes. You could say things like, “I’d like to hear Craig’s ideas and implement the ones that sound helpful.” Maybe you could hear Craig’s suggestions without Fergus present and implement them on your own. Fergus wants you to figure out, well, implementing some structure is you figuring it out. I think you have a lot more agency here than you realize, and using some of it might make this more bearable.

      Who exactly is Fergus’s boss? Can you bring your complaints about Fergus to them? Have you expressed to anyone that both the blue teapot glazing and Fergus’s attitude are negatively impacting your desire to stay in the role at all? This is risky. I expressed this, and there was zero response. I just left that job.

      Also, why can’t they transition on of the red teapot glazers to take on some of the blue teapot glazing work to take it off your plate? (answer, there is no reason that they can’t except that they don’t want to)

    3. Amaranth*

      Can you reach out to the red glazing team on your own or through Craig, to get some additional training/tips? Just because Fergus thinks a procedure is warranted when someone is on a PIP doesn’t mean that you can’t take that kind of solution and embrace it as requested training. But if Fergus was saying they’d have to put you on a PIP to make it available, I’d talk to Craig about getting it as a development opportunity instead of being punitive. Besides, you *don’t* feel like you’re doing it well, so be open about it and that you asked for the assistance, come from the point of view that you’ve been given this task and want to be better.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      This is … really bad management.

      So they have a blue teapot glazer that they are thinking about putting on PIP. No one else does blue teapot glazing. And they have no plan to seek out such a person. And they think YOU are bad at your job????? They are awful at their jobs. They know that they have a weak spot in their production of blue teapots and they do NOTHING. omg.

      Yes, you need to leave and they can figure out how to glaze the blue teapots themselves.

      On putting it behind you, my heart goes out to you, really. It’s okay to not be great at something. It’s not a personal flaw/failing. This review is NOT the sum total of your life- it is something that happened to you along the road of life. Do not force yourself to stay in sinking ship situations. Rescue your own self- in that rescue operation, you will start to find things that make this review sting less. Unfairly, it’s by doing the hard work of moving on that we can actually put bad situations into a new perspective. Read here- it’s a positive pro-active environment. Get Alison’s job hunting book to help beef up your search.

      For immediate purposes, I agree with those who said to talk to the red teapot team and find out what they did.
      Make one modification at a time to what you are doing. That way you can tell if the modification is working or not. Take notes. Seriously, write it down. I know when I get rattled it’s hard for me to remember exactly what I did and how something played out- so I track what I am doing until I get the problem resolved or at least make it better. Oddly, I have found by taking such serious steps that bad reviews or criticism stung less. I think it had to do with respecting my own self because I took good care of me at work.

  37. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Informal AAM poll: Are your companies requiring vaccinations? Testing? Other?

    My company of less than 20 people now has a vaccine mandate. This is particularly hilarious because the owner is antivax and low-key antimask (he wears them when required, will remove them as soon as he can). Illinois’ vaccine mandate has driven this change.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Very small company, health care adjacent, owned by a surgeon. There’s no formal policy requiring vaccination, but it’s pretty much assumed by all of us that you will be. We will probably be hiring for a new position this fall, and I’m 95% certain we’ll list that as a requirement in the job description.

    2. Temperance*

      I work at a large law firm, housed in a high rise that has about 2k people in it.

      We’re requiring proof of vaccination or a weekly negative COVID test, which the non-vaxxed person needs to pay on their own. All guests in the building also need to show this evidence. I support it fully.

    3. Lizy*

      Nope – neither. The company will pay (outside of normal PTO) if someone is sick. I think it’s 2 weeks. I can’t remember if they’ll pay for quarantine – I think they will if it’s like a family member (spouse/kid/whatever) that you live with.

      They do require proof and will not pay for time off while waiting for a test, or if the test is negative. BUT – we’ve had issues with people saying very often (like once every few weeks, if not more) that they have to quarantine because their brother’s cousin’s friend’s neighbor had covid and they were around them for 2 seconds as they waved across a field.

      My manager is pretty reasonable and would absolutely go to bat for me and essentially have stealth-PTO if I needed to be off while I was waiting on test results. (In fact, he did once at the start of the pandemic.)

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      Large hospital in Illinois, pre-state mandate we were requiring masking (always except for during distanced meal break), vaccination by a deadline or approved exemption, exempted people must undergo regular testing (weekly per state requirement), managers will have weekly updates sent to them about who on their staff hasn’t been vaccinated yet.

    5. Nicki Name*

      If you want to come into the office (when we have an office again), go to company gatherings, or undertake business travel on behalf of the company, either you provide proof of vaccination or sign a document affirming that you will wear a mask while doing those things.

      I’m in tech, healthcare-adjacent, and my company is allowing permanent remote work for anyone who wants it.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I work for a large company (~2500 employees though a majority of them work in manufacturing; I’m in the corporate office) and so far, no mandates. They are strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, and masks are required in the office again regardless of vaccine status. (I’m also in Illinois.) For my office, though, we can all still work from home as much as we want/need to; the official return to office has been pushed back. And even before that it was strongly stressed that if you weren’t vaxxed and were discovered with your mask off, you could be fired.

    7. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      35,000 employee hospital system. We are mandating vaccines, our mandate deadline was 9/1, and as of this morning, we have just under 300 on suspension for lack of compliance. They have until 9/15 to provide documentation that they are in process of getting a vaccine at which point they can return to work 2 weeks after the final dose is administered, but if they haven’t done that, their suspensions will transition to termination.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (Forgot to add, we do have medical and religious exemption options – medical ones go through employee health for approval, religious ones through the chaplain’s offices I think but I’m not positive.)

        1. AnnonRN*

          Similar here – approximately same sized health system. We have mandatory vaccination, but no religious exemptions are allowed. Applications for medical exemptions need to go through a special approvals committee. They made it clear that there is a very, very narrow range of medical exemptions that can be approved. Employees who do not have an approved medical exemption and choose not to get the vaccine will be terminated.

    8. Fabulous*

      International company and we are requiring vaccines for the majority of the workforce, except for 100% WFH and warehouse workers (because “reasons”) and a lot of people are all up in arms about it. If they don’t report their status or get vaccinated by December, they’ll be shown the door.

    9. Cookie D'oh*

      I work for a large company with multiple locations across the US. The direction from the CEO on downwards is that vaccines are “strongly encouraged” but not required. We are required to document our vaccination status in our HR system. Masks are required in high-transmission cities regardless of vaccination status.

    10. JB*

      Our company is requiring masks if not vaccinated. (Obviously you can still choose to wear a mask if vaccinated. Many people are.) We are all socially distanced still, many people are WFH. They are starting to slowly bring people back on rotating schedules to maintain distance, and certain doors have been designated for use in our larger campus building depending on where your department is located to try and avoid too much population crossover.

      As far as I know, testing is only required if you show symptoms. They’ve also offered free testing to anyone potentially exposed to someone who tested positive after having come in to the office. (It’s come up a couple times; both times, nobody else in the office caught it, which is a sign to me that the distancing and mask policies thus far have been effective.)

      1. JB*

        A couple of other notes:
        The company supplied us each with five well-constructed double-layer cloth masks early on in the pandemic, as soon as they started requiring mask use.
        They sent everyone home who could work from home. We’ve been on optional return (which includes coordinating with your supervisor, HR, and facilities to ensure you have a properly distanced desk to work at) since early 2021.
        People working from home were fully supplied with everything they needed on the company dime. People who had to work in-office in 2020 received bonus hazard pay, and those working directly with the public received more. The company also regularly ordered in food or vouchered lunches for those of us in the office, both to reward us/keep morale up and also to help out local restaurants during the worst months, many of which are our customers. People working from home got a couple of care baskets (fresh fruit and stuff like that) delivered from business customers who do that sort of thing, and a couple of DoorDash vouchers, so they wouldn’t feel too left out of the free food.

        Not bragging. Just want to share a story of what it looks like for a company in an essential industry to handle COVID well (IMO). I’m very grateful to work here.

    11. Alex*

      My company has a vaccine mandate PLUS required weekly testing for anyone in the office PLUS a mask mandate. But they’ve also allowed many people to work from home permanently.

      You can get a medical exemption for vaccination but then you have to be tested multiple times per week.

      Compay pays for testing.

    12. Pascall*

      I’m in Texas, so…

      Unfortunately, we can’t mandate *anything*.

      I am reserving my comments about our governor LOL.

      1. Pascall*

        Forgot to mention, I work for a public school district, so we’re tied to the governmental ruling on it while the courts battle things out.

        1. Teach*

          Public school teacher in Iowa here. I get it.
          We kept our district fully open and in person last year with all persons masked, contact tracing, and many changes to provide better ventilation and distancing.
          Now, mask mandates are illegal, the 7-day positivity rates (when they report them) are hitting 20%+, maybe 1 in 20 people are masked, and there is zero contact-tracing or quarantine recommended by the local health department. I know I’ve been exposed twice in 1.5 weeks of school – like, an unmasked colleague with symptoms sat at a table with me for 2 hours of training, then went to her Dr and tested positive later that day. We have no official notification system anymore – just word of mouth. I am usually the only masked person in the room. A few students are, and I’m glad they see an adult doing the same.

          1. Teach*

            Also no COVID leave – if we get sick from being surrounded by unmasked, too-young-to-be-vaxxed students all day, we burn sick leave. No quarantine recommended, so if we did stay home pending testing, also sick leave burnt.

      2. Paris Geller*

        I work for local government in Texas, so, same.
        We’re also not allowed to ask coworkers if they’ve been vaccinated.

    13. Lore*

      Large media company. Vaccines required if you want to come back to the office (and the mandate includes visitors, clients, contractors). You must upload your proof to the HR system in order for your ID to be reactivated.

      Anyone who can’t or won’t be vaccinated can continue to work remotely, as can anyone who simply prefers to remain remote. Though we’re in NYC and a lot of people (myself included) with small apartments are anxious to be out of them!

      Office reopens 9/13, and as of last week, universal masking also required, including inside private offices. The vaccine mandate is permanent; the mask policy has changed twice already so I imagine they will keep revising it in line with local guidelines and case counts. (So far it’s only gotten more restrictive but I hope at some point we will be able to ease up at least enough to remove in offices and workstations that are not adjacent to others.)

      1. allathian*

        I’m really glad that your employer is taking Covid seriously and insisting on masking. That said, living conditions would have to be pretty grim for me to prefer coming in to the office and masking vs. staying at home unmasked.

    14. fueled by coffee*

      University setting:

      We have a vaccine mandate (medical/religious exemptions are required to test weekly) and indoor mask mandate for everyone. I think there is some sort of workaround being made for international students who didn’t have access to vaccines until they arrived in the United States (and therefore won’t be fully vaccinated until ~6 weeks into the semester).

      I’m very grateful for vax and mask mandates, but there’s been virtually no information about what to do if someone tests positive (Do people around them have to test or quarantine? Will accommodations be made for students to Zoom into in-person classes?), which is stressing me out.

    15. Hotdog not dog*

      Official policy is that vaccination is encouraged but not required. Unvaccinated people should work from home if possible. Everyone (vaxxed or not) must wear a mask in the office unless you are in a separate office with a closed door. The reality is that we have a small number of clowns who think rules are for other people, but fortunately they are not looked on favorably by management.

    16. Morticia*

      I work for a large University, and we are required to get the vaccination and to provide proof (a scan of the card), or get a COVID test twice weekly. The U. is not requiring staff or students to pay for the tests. They did “un-enroll” a small number of students who had not sent in their vaccination paperwork before the term started.

      At the moment, the administration is also requiring everyone to wear masks on campus. The U. has been very good over the pandemic because they sent everyone home in mid-March 2020, and directed that everyone who could work from home do so. We are just coming back to the office 60% of the time (3 days/wk).

      1. After 33 years ...*

        At my university, proof of vaccination will be required for access to campus – faculty, students, staff, vendors … uploaded to the university website before the start of classes Wednesday. Medical exemptions must be approved by our Medical School people; simply having a generic note is not sufficient. On-campus vaccination clinics are available. Masks are required. On-line courses are available for students who are not vaccinated.

        The university wasn’t going to do this 3 weeks ago, until some of us expressed our concerns to administration. It’s good that they listened, and it’s been helpful to write and thank them for leading and acting, in spite of the hate mail.

    17. OtterB*

      Not-for-profit with about 25 staff, no plans to require return to office although people are free to work there if they wish.

      We are all vaccinated, I believe. No mandate. Masking in the office if there are other people there, and our building requires masking in common areas.

      My organization runs a lot of meetings and workshops and there’s discussion about requiring attendees to be vaccinated when those return to in person but no decision yet, I don’t think.

    18. Anon College*

      Right now… sort of. There is a vaccine mandate for our larger university system, but my college keeps advertising the vaccinate or test option. As far as I’m aware, the testing out situation will not be an option, but the upper people seem to be relying on the university to spread that news. We have some students who are refusing to vaccinate, and it isn’t clear yet what will happen to them if they don’t. There is some warning that they could be dismissed and lose their tuition for the semester, but will they follow through…. I can’t say.

      There is no vaccine mandate for faculty and staff yet, which I am upset about. I was the vaccinate to be mandatory for all. I sense it will be eventually, but it is taking too long for my taste.

    19. Kathenus*

      Happy to say we are phasing in required vaccines over the next few months starting with full-time employees, then moving to part-time and seasonal next.

    20. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      Large national company, health care adjacent. Just announced a vaccine mandate 2 days ago. Everyone must provide proof of vaccination by 12/31/2021.

    21. MagnusArchivist*

      Museum-library with about 50 employees in a east coast city here and yes, we do have a vaccine mandate for staff AND any researchers using our library. And the nice thing is that the policy has clear instructions for what happens if an employee is not vaccinated by X date (basically: they’re fired).

    22. Pam Adams*

      My state university (California) has fully mandated vaccines for all. Anyone without proof of full vaccination has, since august 16th, needed to submit to weekly testing. There is a strong campus-wide buy-in to this.

      The campus has just re-opened for Fall, and 30-40% of our classes are in-person.

    23. Chaordic One*

      At this point in time, if you are working in the office you’re required to be either vaccinated, or to submit to weekly testing. (The employer pays for the testing done onsite by a medical professional.) If you’re working from home, then there’s no requirement.

      Strangely, though, they’ve had everyone fill out a survey in which a response was mandatory. You could say that you were either 1. vaccinated, 2. un-vaccinated, or 3. you could decline to state. They do give paid time off to get vaccinated, so they should have a record of if you’ve claimed that. If you claimed time off to get vaccinated and didn’t get vaccinated, you might be in trouble. I suppose they’re hoping that if there are a majority of people vaccinated, they can end the work from home.

    24. Coverage Associate*

      Small office of Big Law. The firm is requiring vaccination. The mask policies follow local regulations. I am in San Francisco, so masks in all shared spaces.

      Somehow the 3 minutes of masking between the building door and his desk keeps my boss from coming in. (His wife is a doctor, and he’s very respectful of all COVID policies. I just don’t understand the few minutes of mask wearing in the building making a difference. He also has to wear a mask on the ferry, which is longer.)

    25. Flower necklace*

      Unfortunately not. I work in the public school system. All of the other major school districts in my state have vaccine mandates for teachers except for us. We’re the 2nd largest district in my state.

    26. LC*

      I’m at a company of about 100 people and currently, coming into the office currently is not required but is an option open to everyone.

      Before Delta started getting out of control, we could send vaccination proof to HR and wouldn’t have to wear a mask, otherwise, you had to wear a mask all the time except at your desk alone.

      About a month ago, they changed it back to masks being required for everyone regardless of vaccination status. They’re basically doing about one step stricter than whatever the city or state is requiring.

      I have no idea what they’ll do when they start requiring at least some office time (currently plan is starting January 2022). I think they’ll require vaccines, but who knows.

    27. Needs more ketchup*

      We have a vaccine mandate starting in October, everyone is required to wear masks on-site regardless of vaccination status, and we are required to take a rapid test at the on-site clinic (weekly tests for vaccinated folk, daily tests for the unvaccinated).

        1. Needs more ketchup*

          A significant portion of the staff (myself included) must be on-site to do our jobs, so the company has been pretty strict with COVID precautions.

    28. Been There*

      My company requires us to mask when walking around, not when sitting at our desk. No requirements around vaccination or testing, but the vaccination rate in my country is among the best in the world so I’m not worried about it.

  38. Ugh*

    I’m venting, but how are offices supposed to deal with this?

    Our staff of 7 has two staffers out with COVID(non-vaxxed, very vocal refusers).

    The other five of us are having to pull the extra weight, but three are purely in sales, so it’s really just two of us pulling the extra weight. For three weeks, we’ve been pulling 10-12 hour days while the COVID people are out of the office.

    Now, I have ear infections in both ears and the other one is one wrong word away from walking(and she easily can).

    Our boss who offices somewhere else just keeps telling us to get everything done. When we ask what to prioritize he kind of just yells that it all has to be done. He said to take our stress and multiply it by three and that is what he is dealing with. He mentioned a bonus for the two of us, but our checks came with no bonus.

    Next week will be week four. This is not tenable. Hiring a temp would be worthless, because there is nothing here you could just walk in and do. It would be more trouble for us than it’s worth.

    1. Kes*

      a) your office and boss suck and I would look at getting out of there if possible
      b) do you have sick days? if you do I would take them. It sounds like you’ve been working really hard to make everything work and honestly I would consider stopping doing that and letting it be a situation that doesn’t work so your boss actually has to deal with it

    2. WellRed*

      Call out sick. You have an ear infection. Let the balls drop. Also, it doesn’t matter why your coworkers are out (though I get why it adds an extra layer of irritation). Your boss isn’t doing his job.

    3. Koala dreams*

      From an employee standpoint, you set boundaries and are proactive in telling your boss which tasks you won’t be able to do. After you come back from your sick leave, of course. There are some good advice in the archives. You might also want to job search.

      From a company standpoint, the owner/manager should prioritize, and also make plans for the next time. There will always be a next time. No employees will be there forever.

  39. anon for this because talking about ppl*

    So i’m in an office with no mask mandate, a capped amount of people in the office, and alleged required testing of the unvaccinated. The testing is not being done, masks are not being worn, so i said ok no biggie i would home office as i’m not comfortable sitting six feet from someone known to be unvaccinated eight hours a day five days a week so as not to be the “bad guy.” I am in a risk group and will be eligible in the first wave of third shots in my country. I didn’t tell anyone but my line manager and HR, didn’t gossip, didn’t name names, all that was said is that i am in a risk group and because of delta i am going home.

    Well now I’m the “bad guy.” I did “the right thing” didn’t make noise and just went home without gossip, asking for them to mask or test or, you know, stay home, and i’m still being treated like I’m the one being an extremist or a hard ass. It’s harder for me to work with one of the known unvaccinated and she’s doing stuff like asking other people to ask me stuff on email. And HR were like “you’re vaccinated why do you care?” Um, because breakthrough infections are a thing? Like, i don’t even want to get a little sick at this point in the pandemic? Why is it ok for unvaccinated people to just run around breathing on people indoors? They have an inperson lunch next week with three people out of 40 unvaxxed, all in the same closed conference room.

    I feel really gaslit that I happen to care about people not breathing on me and how that is somehow a hard line to take and it has been weighing on me a lot this week. I’ve been told i was taking it too far working from home by otherwise reasonable people. Like, at this point i should have just been the person saying “ok i won’t come in unless the unvaxxed masked up” because the social pressure is the same for me at this point.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      I’d be tempted to get an industrial-sized fan and put it on my desk to blow their gross air away from me. Sorry you’re dealing with that level of BS.

      And yeah, all the “but you probably won’t die” people can suck it.

    2. Overeducated*

      I’m so sorry. There’s no winning here. I wish your coworkers were more concerned about your health and welfare than any perceived judgment on others.

    3. TIRED*

      Gah this stinks. I’m sorry you are dealing with this. You are being gaslit and their attitude is wrong. Other office workplaces are requiring everyone to be vaccinated. (Standard disclaimer that those with valid medical exemptions should of course be exempt, but that’s a very very small number of people.) You should consider if you can quit over this. Stand your ground and keep working from home. See if there are other options for you job wise. From what you said about your workplace and everyone’s attitude – we know that when the anti-vax people “agree” to wear masks, it really means they will do it a few hours out of the day. Not consistently. And not covering their nose all the time. It is NOT worth the risk.

    4. Codex*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, I think you’re the only reasonable person in this scenario. You don’t need to defend yourself or give anyone more information than they need to do their jobs. You’re working from home. You can be reached via email/skype/zoom/pigeon. Repeat as necessary. :)

  40. school of hard knowcs*

    Our company sits on the corner of a very busy intersection in Southern California. Accidents happen usually once a month. Wednesday, a truck pulling a trailer tried to turn left and dumped his load in the intersection. Traffic was backed up in all directions, and THEN a van tried to cross some vacant land in front of our building and got stuck in the sand. Bent bumper flattened tires and all. They finally pulled it out and left it in our back driveway blocking anyone from using it. Thursday, we called the police, they called the van owner and told move it by 5 pm or we impound it. (They moved it).
    Friday, one of the managers George decided to come in early this morning and pulled into the front parking lot AND a guy came at his car waving a pick axe. George stayed in his car with it in reverse, pick axe grabbed his stuff and ran into the driveway of the company next door. Called the police again. Yes it is all on camera.
    Our rule, don’t leave your van blocking our driveway. Don’t wave pick axes at our employees.
    Now back to our regularly scheduled program

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Whoa. I’m sensing a reality series. All you have to do is run the security camera tapes.

      1. school of hard knowcs*

        Oddly enough, another employee came in, heard the story and said, ‘oh, pick axe is new’. I just kept asking for details on the pick axe. I was trying to picture someone carrying an axe around. Was it John Bunyan sized? Camping folding type? George said it was like a fireman’s pick axe. I think we are too far out for reality.

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

      Are pick axe guy and van guy the same person? It wouldn’t surprise me me if they are not. We’ve had set-fire-to-a-palm-tree guy and break-open-a-water-man guy in the last year on my office block (LA county area)

    3. WellRed*

      Your lucky the police were willing to do that if it was private property. I had someone abandon their car in my driveway (apt building). If they had left it on the street the city will tow. In this case, the landlord had to deal.

  41. Thumper*

    Wanting to vent:

    After being off for the summer my job is calling me back in and it already looks like the place is about to fall apart. People are already putting in resignations. There’s already been issues with payroll (me being overpaid because their math was wrong and being forced to work for free). I have multiple coworkers that refuse to get vaccinated and because our state is going to require it for schools (we are contract workers that primarily do work in elementary schools) I know I’m going to be carrying most of the workload this fall, and my superiors seemed to just shrug it off and is letting them do other work instead. I’ve also been double scheduled and when I asked about it they said “I’ll fix it later” and hasn’t, so on top of doing most of the work I also need to figure out how to be in two places at once. I’m starting to regret not finding a new job over the summer but I’m taking classes in a subject that should allow me to transition into a new, way better paying career and that won’t be over until early 2022. So all I can do is power through it and double mask, I guess. I feel so stuck.

    1. Alexis Rosay*


      With the current worker shortage, I’m wondering if you can find another job even though it’s late? Esp if you’re vaccinated and you work in schools, you may be more in demand than you think. But if that’s not possible, try to stand firm on only doing the workload of one person, or get extra compensation if you are asked to do more.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Start looking for a new job. You don’t have to accept it if you don’t want, but you might want. And do not work yourself into the ground for them. They clearly don’t care about you. Your management double scheduled you, they need to fix it.

      FWIW, my company just issued a vaxx mandate this week because of (I’m guessing) the same state mandate. One of the antivaxxers I know is getting vaccinated. I’m not asking the rest, but I’m guessing they will be forced to as well.

    3. Amaranth*

      Check with your labor dept because in some states they can only recover a certain number of weeks back (for instance, if it takes them two years to notice, they can only recover x weeks). Also, they should agree to a payment plan!

  42. JanetM*

    A question about hiring.

    My university HR recently held a training on hiring / search committees and said that the hiring manager should not (or possibly may not — I wasn’t in the training and heard about it from someone who was) be on the search committee, but that they should sit in on search committee interviews with candidates and, of course, interview candidates themselves.

    Is this a thing? And if so, why?

    1. teatime*

      It’s definitely a trend in higher ed to not have the supervisor on the search committee. We’ve been told it’s to 1) help not increase the workload of a supervisor who’s understaffed (and searches are a LOT of work at universities) and 2) help diminish implicit bias (change it up so you don’t hire the same type of people you always hire).

      It’s fine when the other people on the search committee have a good grasp of what your department does. When not…eh.

    2. Academic librarian too*

      The hiring manager has a conflict of interest. The hiring committee is supposed to be impartial and vet the candidates producing a slate of short list for final interviews. The hiring manager would have greater weight given to their preferences.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      Interesting! I’m in higher ed and my office always includes hiring managers on the hiring committee, as well as someone totally unrelated to the position (think including a housing staff member on a committee for an admissions counselor job).

  43. Kesnit*

    I had a weird interaction with my boss this week.

    Last Thursday, I had minor, in-office surgery and planned to be out Friday as well to recover. (I have a lot of leave and we are encouraged to take leave when we need it.) The surgery was Phase II of a 3-phase plan. Phase I was done late last year by the same surgeon. I like the surgeon and had no bad effects after Phase I. However, it is surgery and I was a little nervous.

    I also have anxiety. It’s usually controlled, but I was feeling it last week some.

    Wednesday before I left and Monday after I got back, my boss asked if I was feeling OK, that I had seemed a little stand-offish last week. I was taken off-guard and just said I was a little nervous about my surgery. I am sure that was part of it, but his comment surprised me. Now I feel like I have to be upbeat (or at least act like it) all the time. I interact with others in the office, but I also like being able to go in my office, close the door (common COVID precaution) and just work.

    1. Lizy*

      Does he normally notice if you’re “off”? How much info did he know about the surgery, and/or about your anxiety?

      Tbh it sounds like he just noticed you were off and wanted to check in with you. I don’t think you have to be upbeat or anything else like that. If you want, you could say something like “hey boss I wanted to thank you for checking with me last week. I was pretty anxious about the surgery and it showed. Thankfully all is well and back to normal”. And then… act like normal.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You are taking one interaction and allowing it to impact your behavior going forward, without any indication that you actually need to. Just because you had an off week and someone expressed mild concern doesn’t mean you need to change anything. Tell your anxiety to take a hike, because I suspect it’s playing in to this a bit.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Very much agree. And there is nothing like a health issue to magnify other things. Every thing is vulnerable to getting bigger if health stuff is going on.
        Take a deep breath, OP. Decide that the manager is coming from a good place UNTIL you find concrete proof he is not. You can just focus on healing your body.

    3. RagingADHD*

      There is no reason why you have to act upbeat all the time, unless a) your boss now starts acting strangely toward you, or b) you perceive someone asking if you’re okay as a threat or a criticism (It doesn’t sound like either one to me).

      You were not, in fact, okay. Your boss was correct in observing that something was bothering you. And because he isn’t psychic, he used his words to find out whether it was something personal or something work-related. Assuming that everything goes back to normal now that he knows it was personal and temporary, this was just a normal, positive management interaction.

    4. Amaranth*

      Your manager might also have made a poor word choice and meant you were preoccupied, but I have noticed when I focus on work and am not purposefully social, some people take that as something being ‘wrong’.

  44. Trivia Newton-John*

    I have a 2nd interview today! I’m excited but also have some concerns – any advice would be helpful.

    Concern 1: Recruiter called me 3 days ago to say Client wants to interview me again, and can I look at the times/days available? (I was on vacation) w/family this week). They were all scheduled for next week.
    I emailed the recruiter back to say we’re mandated back in the office full time next week. There is no privacy in the building where I could do this, and would need to bring my personal laptop in for a video call (our firm blocks them). He knows I work in DC. (Client is in Philly, the position is remote, Recruiter is in NYC).
    I stated that it wasn’t ideal, but could we do this interview over the phone? He called me back and said the client was “concerned” and why can’t I do the interview at Starbucks or something? I explained that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, the indoor places that are convenient to my office do not offer seating right now, and that there is an indoor mask mandate in DC, so no one would see my face anyway. I apologized that I was being a pain, but I wasn’t sure how to make this work out and that it was unfortunate they could not make a 30 minute video screen work this week while I’m still WFH.
    Recruiter seemed VERY annoyed with me but ultimately Client rescheduled for this afternoon. (a family member who’s a high ranking VP back home said that shows they really are interested in me)

    Concern 2: The person initially in this role was doing 2 roles at once and that’s why they need someone to take this part over. Although the person in this role has been there the whole time, it’s as though I’d be starting from an unfair advantage, already behind the 8 ball with things they want to see in the first 30/60/90 days based on the answers in the first interview (one very big thing that I cannot understand why it hasn’t already been done as it is deadline sensitive, which the director is aware of and didn’t really have an answer for me)
    They are growing fast and they want to update/modernize procedures and Director stated will be pushback from over half the partners in the firm who are “that’s the way we’ve always done it” guys.
    At my current firm, I have advocates to back me up when this situation happens. How would a new person coming in (remotely) successfully bring people with that mindset to where the director (who would be my boss) wants the firm to be? Again, this is not something that I can build trust/capital over the first few months, I’d have to jump in the deep end right away. Personally if a new person came into my (current) firm and immediately wanted to make changes, there would be a lot of resentment. I don’t want to be that person.

    Am I overthinking? Today I’ll meet with the director and one of the partners. I asked all the questions in my first interview, including Alison’s magic question — can I ask them again to the partner to see how/if their answers differ? Should I bring up that the recruiter stated they were “concerned” and apologize for having them reschedule?

    1. Picard*

      This has more red flags then a parade at the Kremlin.

      Unless you THRIVE on stress, conflict and challenges, I would nope out of there.

    2. ferrina*

      Do you actually want this job? I’m seeing a lot of trepidation and no excitement around this role. There’s som really big disconnects between what the company wants and what you want- their goals don’t align with what you think is doable, you’re concerned about the remote aspect (and building political connections remotely is its own skillset, so no judgement), and you sound very skeptical about your would-be boss’ judgement.

      Anyways, to your concerns:
      Concern 1: As an employer, I’d be a bit concerned about you! It sounds like there was a lot more back and forth than needed. Was there really no way to do a video chat? Even from your phone outside? (and you can say, “yes, I’m available, but I’ll need to take it from outside my building. Is there any way we can do it at X time?”) Or do things the old fashioned way and take half a day off for an interview? It’s deeply unusual for someone to say “No, sorry, I can’t find 30 minutes at any time this week to talk to you.” You need to be solution-oriented and offer opportunities, not just barriers (even barriers out of your control), because you do want to talk to them, right? If you don’t (and I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t interested!), you could have taken this opportunity to withdraw from consideration.

      Concern 2: Oh yeah, this is a red flag for me. The Change Directive needs some strong advocates, and I think you’re smart to say that you need advocates right off the bat, especially if half the firm is expected to push back!

      Going forward- I wouldn’t bring up the scheduling snafu unless they do, then apologize and acknowledge that your situation is unique and inconvenient. Yes, you can reask questions of different people. I usually frame it as, “I asked SoAndSo this, but I’d also love your take on it. What do you think separates someone that is good at this role from someone that is truly great at this role?”
      And if you don’t’ come away from this next interview excited, withdraw.

      1. Amaranth*

        I can understand not taking a half day with little advance notice the first week back in the office, but wouldn’t have been surprised if the company just said ‘thanks, sorry it didn’t work out.’

    3. WellRed*

      Thank them for rescheduling, don’t bring up the recruiter. Yes you can ask the magic question again. Is there buyin from the random file about implementing change or is that just lip service from the c suite? Will you have their backing on implementing change?

    4. Workerbee*

      Good god, run. Even if they never actually use the phrase “change agent,” that is what it sounds like they want. Do not be their scapegoat.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Change agents can work if they have the proper internal support to back them up – my last role had elements of a change agent, as does my current one, and in both situations I the only reason they work(ed) is because I had upper management and C-suite executives championing what I was/am doing. Without that, it will be a disaster.

        It’s concerning that they have a bunch of deadline driven work they need done within the first 30/60/90 days after the new hire starts, but haven’t done anything to get the ball rolling on these initiatives. This could signal a firm that says they want change, but then doesn’t actually have a firm plan for how they want it to happen or will subconsciously sabotage it. You can also be held responsible if they don’t see results right away, which would be awful.

        I don’t know, I would just probe a little bit more with the hiring manager to see what the KPIs will be (or if they even have any yet) and see what they say.

    5. Distractinator*

      RE:should you apologize – One thing I’ve been working on is trying to reserve my apologies for when I actually feel I could have handled something better, there are some articles and memes about how we (societally) say “sorry” a lot and saying “thank you” is sometimes more true and more comfortable not just for you to say for for them to hear. “Sorry for being unavailable”, their only response is “that’s ok” whether it’s actually ok or not; but “thank you for accomodating” leads better into “I’m glad we could find a time that worked”. Also say you know it was extra complicated working through a third party (and you can make sure the recruiter didn’t garble your messages/reasoning)

      And Re: concern#2 this is absolutely something to discuss with the director and partner when you interview – how much resistance to change should you expect and who will be backing you? What is their plan for managing the office to keep this role from becoming divisive?

  45. Anon because this is really specific*

    I just found out that I was nominated by my workplace for a pilot of a management program offered by McKinsey Connected Leaders Academy. Unfortunately, neither my boss nor myself had any prior notice about this nor information on how I was nominated or even what the program is.

    Is anyone familiar with programs like this from McKinsey (I assume no one has done the actual program since it is a pilot)? There does seem to be any information online about it at all, nor much about potentially similar programs. Should I attach any meaning towards being nominated?

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Not even knowing how you were nominated for some pilot project sends up red flags for me. Is it possible this is the equivalent of a cold call by this company? There is very little real info on their website, lots of handwaving consultant stuff and there’s a line in their “Executive Programs” blurb that makes me suspicious: “To ensure high-impact learning, most programs are invitation only.”

      I’m wondering if you’re being “offered” the “opportunity” to pay them to get some training.

      1. Anon because this is really specific*

        It’s not a cold call. We were informed by the head of talent management for our company in our country. I was one of two dozen people globally out of a multinational company of over 100k.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Wow. Craziness. Unfortunately I know nothing about them other than they’ve apparently been around since 2013 and can find nothing about them that isn’t created by the company themselves.

          1. Not a cat*

            McKinsey is the originator of the “shareholder is really the client.” school of business operations, which has inflated CEO pay. They are also behind AllState’s fighting every claim. Veterinarians tripling their prices. And their work with Big Pharma (releasing new generics at a much higher profit, while limiting the lower-cost generics in the US.

            1. Sparkles McFadden*

              Anything having to do with McKinsey is a red flag. I have had to deal with their on site “efficiency experts” at my long time employer for years and nothing ever became more efficient. People just got fired. The sad part is the company probably spent more on paying McKinsey than they “saved” by laying off thousands of employees.

              I don’t know what this new scheme is but my hunch is that it’s an attempt to get a foot in the door to get your management to pay money for…something.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          It sounds like a form of scam to me. Not that you aren’t qualified to be selected for a leadership program! But if you don’t know why and your manager doesn’t know why, it does sound pretty random. I’m guessing it’s your company’s money they’re after (this would be the scam part), but unless you can find out more details about their selection process and the program itself, I’d be very skeptical of the whole thing.

    2. Can't Sit Still*

      It’s McKinsey & Company, a white shoe management consulting firm. It will look pretty on your resume in some industries and be held against you in others. It’s worth following up with them to find out more details if they are held in positive light in your industry. They are an old school Good Ol’ Boys club, so you may make valuable contacts.

      McKinsey has been party to some very ugly things in the world, including what Not a cat says below, so definitely do your research if you are not familiar with them. Good (for a certain value of good) search terms are McKinsey and any of the following: Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi, China, Big Pharma, opioids, or extrajudicial rendition. That’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are many more where those came from.

        1. linger*

          From Wikipedia article “White-shoe firm” (referencing a 1997 article by William Safire):
          “A white-shoe firm is a term that is used to describe prestigious professional services firms that have traditionally been associated with the upper-class elite (usually White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) who graduated from Ivy League colleges. The term is most often used to describe leading law firms and Wall Street financial institutions, as well as accounting firms that are over a century old.”
          It originates from a popular style of footwear among Ivy League students.
          Not to be confused with “white shoe brigade” in Queensland, Australia = ‘tasteless and corrupt nouveau riche property developers’.

  46. Garnet, Crystal Gem*

    After having multiple discussions with my therapist about my current new role, in a new-to-me field, she concluded that the level of responsibility I was given in this role might be the cause of my burnout, lack of motivation, and slight disappointment.

    It’s true, I was given a great deal of freedom. I took it and ran with it but at this stage in my career, I definitely could’ve benefited from some clear-cut directives and parameters in the beginning to help build my confidence. Not handholding per say, but some training wheels to start before being free to go on two wheels.

    I’ve exhausted all of my mental juices trying to learn on the job, while trying to create my own project, while of course setting and maintaining my own deadlines. I did it, and somewhat well (I think?) but I am absolutely depleted.

    Are there other ways to reframe this experience? Because the disappointment and feelings of failure still have a firm grip on me.
    Therapist says I don’t hold all the responsibility here, but I wonder if I could’ve done more to avoid this outcome.

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      You do not hold much responsibility here. The burden of understanding how much responsibility and/or hand holding to give a report lies with the manager, and an assessment of the report’s ability to be independent should be conducted during interviews before they are hired. Sometimes the manager makes a mistake and hires or promotes someone who needs more hand holding than they can give and the report doesn’t work out – that’s not on the report, it’s on the manager. The report’s job is to be honest about what they can do and what kind of supports they need to do their job, and to do their job as well as they can with the resources they are given.

      I’m sorry this position made you feel insecure. Please remember that your ability to work autonomously says nothing about your character or your ability to succeed in other positions.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Is this the first time you have done something of this magnitude? I have found there is a huge learning curve to new stuff that has a lot of moving parts. And yeah, I end up wiped out by it. Once I get used to it, it goes better. But I still can get pretty tired. Self-care is super important in my world.

      Each time I do the process again, I make tweaks in what I am doing to help myself along. It sounds like you could work with some type of paper or digital planner to plot out your action plans?

      Because of your lousy boss(es) there is probably very little that could have made this situation better.

    3. Quidge*

      Late reply, but this resonated with me! I have Thoughts:

      1) Learning new skills is exhausting. You were learning the field AND the responsibility/project management parts. Exhaustion -> burnout & mental illness relapse. Possible reframe: this was a huge success, especially for a first time project, you just need a little down-time to recover because you were busting your butt to make it so.

      2) Disappointment and feelings of failure are classic anxiety/depression/exhaustion/burnout symptoms, and also Impostor Syndrome. So many people are very successful, and like you, provably awesome, but these feelings are insidious and so, so common. More support would not stop you feeling this way, but faking it til you make it or talking it through with your therapist might! Possible reframe: Impostor Syndrome is freaking ridiculous, and hard, but you DID THE THING ANYWAY. Good job, Garnet, Crystal Gem!!

  47. RD*

    1) Accepting a job with a lower salary but would be a good step up AND reduce your commute (70 miles one way in a low traffic city) to zero as it’s totally remote – is accepting a job for less money always a bad idea?
    2) how to get over the fear of resigning when you generally like your boss and colleagues?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’d say the opposite—I’ve switched jobs for less money several times, and every single time it was a great move for me. I’m not saying it will be a great move for you or for everyone under all circumstances, but “is… always a bad idea?” makes it seem as if it being a bad idea is accepted fact, with some exceptions. I’d say it’s either 50/50 or the other direction.

      Two considerations in terms of accepting a lower salary:
      1. Do you believe this will hurt your overall career trajectory (and the ability to make more money in the future)?
      2. Are you still able to pay your bills and loans?

      If you don’t think this will hurt you long term, and you can pay your bills, I’d go for it.

    2. Gracely*

      I took a lesser-paying job to reduce my commute and change careers, and it was the right decision for me. It took awhile to get back up to what I was making before I switched jobs, but every time I look at what my colleagues from the old job are dealing with, I’m more and more thankful I left when I did.

      It’s kind of a YMMV, really. How much less money? Does cutting out the commute cut enough of your costs that some of the difference in pay will be mitigated? Is the step up something that will help you get to an even better position sooner than you would in old job?

      As for resigning, if you’re ditching a commute, that can be reason enough for your coworkers to wish you well, and certainly most will understand. I’m always happy for my coworkers who can move on to something better for them; sad that I won’t see them much anymore, but glad that they’re going to be better off (plus, I have a strict no social media with coworkers rule, and if they leave, well, then we can be FB or Insta friends and share pics of our pets, which is a net positive).

      1. RD*

        It’s not much less, but the health coverage is more $$ and I’d be losing some other benefits. I think money wise it will work out but it still feels stressful to leave. I’ve been w/ my company for a long time in many different roles so it feels like a huge chapter of my life ending AND they’re known to be kind of weird when people leave, IMO. So I just have to make peace with it I know if I want to get something different w/ less of a commute.

    3. Admin of Sys*

      There was a study done that said adding 20minutes to your commute made you just as unhappy as getting a 19% pay decrease. There’s not a guarantee that the opposite is true – that decreasing your commute is worth the pay cut – but it seems really really likely.

    4. Kathenus*

      I took a huge paycut earlier in my career to pivot to a new area within my field, and it was totally the right thing for me to do at that time. One thing to consider, in my opinion, is where you are in your career and how long you expect to stay in this lower-paying role. For me it was a skill-set building step where I figured I’d be there 3-5 years before moving on towards a more career-oriented role, so the lower pay wasn’t long-term. If you’re in a place where you hope your next position is long-term then take a good look at your overall finances given this job to help decide whether it makes sense for you or not.

    5. Vermont Green*

      In calculating the pay difference, remember to factor in your travel time as work hours, especially if you’re driving. If you have an hour commute one way, you’re actually working a ten hour day. So whatever you’re being paid per hour is deeply watered down by the extra hours. If you get $200 a day and work 8 hours, that’s $25 an hour, but if you’re work takes you 10 hours a day in all, you’re really only making $20.
      So the lower salary may actually not be that much lower.

  48. Alexis Rosay*

    School-related question here. I’m back in school in my mid-thirties. A lot of my classmates are quite a bit younger than me and online spaces have emerged as an important way for people to connect outside of class, much more than when I was in school before.

    What has surprised me is the amount of vitriol and complaining in these spaces. I know that complaining is an important way to blow off steam and I’m not trying to shut down anyone else, but I’ve also been in enough situations personally where my own complaining only made me more miserable in the end and I try to stay away from this dynamic.

    Since we’re in class online, I feel like I have to be in these online spaces or risk missing out on connections with peers, who will become important connections when I enter a new field where I don’t have a network. But…are they always so negative? How do others balance this?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I made the mistake (as many do) of going to grad school right after undergrad, and I was exhausted. During orientation, I sat next to two older students (one I think was in her 30s, another in her 50s), and they were giddy about having the chance to write papers again, as they’d been out of school for a while. I didn’t want to write more papers, but I knew I had to to get my degree. So part of that complaining may just be that these younger classmates may have just been in school the whole time and tired of it. They lack perspective.

      Whenever young people ask me about grad school or a second degree, I now always advise (unless they’re going to med school, which takes forever) to get a full-time job for a bit first, and then go back to school.

      So, yeah, I don’t know if you can balance this. I think you may just have to hang out with the young’uns from time to time and make those connections… and just know they’ll complain.

      1. fueled by coffee*


        I worked at a regular job between college and grad school, and found myself surprised at the lack of knowledge of professional norms among some of my classmates (who are all wonderful people, to be clear!). Since college can be a “work non-stop, party whenever you aren’t working, make some poor decisions, and hang out with your friends all the time” kind of atmosphere for many people, I think people who go straight through to grad school both (1) see their classmates as potential close friends (not in itself a bad thing! But in most work spaces, you probably wouldn’t consider yourself best buddies with someone you’ve only known for a few weeks) and (2) struggle to create a work-life balance (staying up all night studying, writing 10-page papers at the last minute, living off of microwave dinners). I think both these things then contribute to an environment that promotes a “complaining culture.”

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Become known as the person who always has something positive to say! People will remember that about you.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Also mid-30s, and I don’t think this is age-related. There’s a lot of weird line-blurring online because groups/attitudes that might not normally overlap much have so much more access to each other. For example if one person treats complaining like small talk, another does it for comedic effect, and another takes it seriously they’re all going to respond weirdly to each other and escalate any given complaint in a way that wouldn’t happen elsewhere. It’s easy to become very negative/combative because text can be misconstrued and you forget there’s a real person behind those words. Sometimes people forget to curate their posts or don’t realize it’s necessary/preferable (ex: don’t post on LinkedIn the way you post on Facebook, don’t share sarcastic memes with your aunt who takes them seriously and ruins the joke, don’t share the work rants with your boss, etc).

      Are they complaining in your class discussions, or is this like you follow them on their personal Twitter? If it’s outside of class I would just mute/unfriend/etc them so you don’t have to see it. If it’s in class, don’t engage with those posts or maybe gently push back on things you disagree with or find disruptive.

      I unfollow people if I want or feel obligated to stay connected but don’t enjoy their posts, and unfriend the worst offenders. This can be anything from “posts too many inspirational quotes” to “raging bigot I’m unfortunately related to.” I mainly engage in positive spaces online (like-minded friends, this comment section, wholesome subreddits that don’t get a lot of trolls) and avoid getting sucked into ones where there’s a lot of nonsense.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        That’s really true–I have a hard time understanding the spirit in which people are complaining and probably everyone else does too, and seeing a barrage of negativity online is so different than some light-hearted complaining in person.

    4. fueled by coffee*

      Like Dark Macadamia says, unfollow anyone who adds negative energy to your social media/etc. If these are more informal channels like group texts or discord (is that what the youths are using these days?), I’d ask about starting a separate thread/group chat/etc. for “venting” so that you can steer clear. I don’t think anyone would react poorly to “Hey, I’ve noticed that we tend to do a lot of venting in this group chat, and I’m finding it kind of distracting. Can we set up a separate chat for commiserating?” Then mute that thread as necessary.

      As a grad student, I also wonder whether there’s a theme about the subject of these complaints, or if there’s just a general vibe of complaining about everything. In my program, we tend to have specific complaints about certain aspects (e.g., how TA assignments were distributed, or specific classes that were known to be extremely time-consuming). This, I think, is normal. But if you’re finding that the complaining is about *absolutely everything,* I’d read that as more of a sign of an unhealthy dynamic.

    5. HigherEdAdminista*

      We often have a problem in the department I work in with negative students as well. Over the years, we have conducted surveys and focus groups, and we really work hard to make things as pleasant as possible, but for our graduate programs… these are a lot of work. We warn applicants about this. We let them know that you will be in classes for longer periods of time. We let them know the hours of work required for classes outside of class.

      But a lot of them don’t understand what we are saying until they are in the thick of it. They are so focused on their goal of getting accepted that they don’t seem to hear us when we tell them what to expect. Most students adjust and do fine, but there is definitely a culture of complaining, and sometimes even those who are doing well complain quite a lot. And what happens is that they aren’t really blowing off steam… one person starts complaining and they all feed each other and it blows up to feel bigger than it needs to be.

      My advice would be to recognize that the people speaking up the loudest and who only want to complain likely are not the only opinions in the space, but others might be afraid to contradict. Plus, I can remember even from when I was in graduate school… complaining about being overworked was sort of… like a brag to your classmates. When everyone is very focused on being the best, you want to prove that you are the most overworked, the most tired, and having the least fun. I found that I would hide times that I went out and did something fun, because I didn’t want other people to say things about how I was getting off easy.

      I would seek out the quieter people who are not upset about everything and talk to them. You will connect with these folks professionally, but you probably don’t want to be all that close to the ones who are the loudest about their unhappiness anyway; they are going to be like that at work too, chances are. If you are organizing online social events, plan like an online game night and make it a school-free discussion night. No talking about school, because it is supposed to be a real break. It could even be a game… any time anyone mentions classes, that person gets a point and the person with the most points has to bring cookies for everyone next time you are in person or something.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Ha, I love this!

        It’s so true that the loudest people do not represent everyone…I have a very common name and at the same time as people have been complaining, I’ve also received messages from students saying how much they appreciate the program–mistaken, because they thought they were messaging a staff member. But it showed me that people didn’t feel able to express gratitude publicly but others felt able to complain publicly.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I went back to school in my early 40s. I found it helpful to listen to the complaints — or at least some of them. I found some complaints were legit as far as how things were handled in the school. I was also surprised by how much school has changed. It was normal for a prof to expect students to cover 500 pages in one night. I found out that my peers did not even bother trying. So that is what I did, I targeted the things that seemed important and focused on them. I used the complaints to get a sense of a perspective in a setting that seemed a bit much to me.

  49. Viva*

    Small town restaurant drama. Raven broke up with their partner Owl (a former employee), then messaged the restaurant manager Crow not to schedule them on shifts with other employee Wren, Owl’s parent. Well, come to find out Raven and yet another employee Emu had gone to retrieve Raven’s belongings from the apartment they had been sharing with Owl and in the process destroyed all of the furniture by writing cruel messages to Owl in paint all over the furniture. Raven is insisting that they did nothing wrong because they paid for the furniture and thus it’s theirs to destroy, but nonetheless Raven and Emu are trying to call off sick to avoid facing Wren at work. Crow is not amenable to the drama, was highly irritated at waking up to messages about this nonsense on their day off, and says they can come deal with the consequences of their actions. Raven is currently claiming they have the flu. Emu called Crow’s boss (our district supervisor) to plead their case with them when Crow told them to come to work, but did actually show up.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      And this is why I won’t work in restaurants anymore. Too many people stuck emotionally in junior high.

    2. WellRed*

      Kudos to crow for not engaging in the drama. And now you have valuable insight into the kind of people Raven and Emu are. Nasty.

  50. Anon in Texas*

    Started a new job about a month ago – and this is my first time ever being a contingent worker. I anticipated all the benefits and bonuses that I would lose out on not being an FTE and “monetized” those things into my rate. I’m really excited to be here, I’m doing great thing, and getting lots of good feedback so far.

    However, I knew I’d eventually get the FOMO feeling being a contractor. I’m not privy to all meetings in my workgroup. There’s an “employee of the quarter” bonus but I’m not eligible. I can’t take any sponsored trainings. And to top it off I had to learn the ropes for my role and get it up to speed with little assistance whereas there’s a welcoming committee for FTEs.

    I know I shouldn’t let this bum me out, because I’m doing really good stuff. I’ve grown more professionally in the past month here than in a YEAR at a previous job. So I’m just venting here really. But how do y’all deal with this other contractors?

    1. Picard*

      There are actually really valid reason why you are not a part of those things. If your client DID include you, they would risk having you reclassified as an employee with all the attendant, penalties, fines and interest.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      It’s definitely not ideal. I’m a contractor and also have a disability, but I can’t participate in the ERG for people with disabilities — even though I think it would benefit both me and the company to do so.

      Does the organization have other contractors? You can at least informally connect with them and share experiences.

      1. Anon in Texas*

        That’s eye-rollingly ridiculous! Sorry to hear that.

        Even given my comments about the company overall I’m enjoying my interactions w/ contractors and FTE alike so that’s good.

    3. WellRed*

      I don’t think it’s normal to not help you get up to speed in your role. Surely they’d want you doing the job well.

      1. Anon in Texas*

        I found it odd too. I work in a highly technical field and in previous roles I walked contractors through how we have everything setup. New FTEs here basically get a very thorough checklist as well as a “buddy” to show them the ropes and I had to ask around on how to get stuff done.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’d ask if you can get someone to do some training. That would be the norm for a contractor, too, if they want you up to speed on their practices. They might not call it ‘new employee orientation’ but maybe include you as a ‘guest’ to certain training. If they have to charge a nominal amount of $25 or something, that’s another option.

  51. Internproblems*

    Hello! I was wondering if people have advice or a sort of template for how to network within a company. The large corporation I work for has rolled out a new initiative/department I’d love to be part of. I have a few years of relevant experience, but I don’t have insight into what sort of roles they need to fill (if any), and if my experience lines up with the needs. So I envision this to be a softer outreach rather than a formal application. I want to both assess the team staffing needs but also know more about what it would be like working for them (since I’m happy in my current role and am not set on leaving).

    I feel so lost on how I could reach out to one of the distant contacts I have in that department (I’m also nervous because the people I know are much higher in the org chart than me). Script I was thinking: “Hi XYZ, I was so excited to see us roll out the ABC offering. **Language about why this is important and aligns with my background**. I was wondering if we could have a half-hour virtual coffee to chat — I’d love to learn more about the offering.” (but that sounds weird because I work there and could get some info about the offering online).
    I’ve seen so many articles about how to do this sort of informational interview with an external organization, but I wouldn’t want my manager to get the impression / hear through the grapevine I’m looking to leave. It also feels 1000% more awkward because I distantly know these people.

    1. JB*

      If it’s within your company, keeping it hush-hush/secret from your manager is not really an option – usually. You’d be basically asking the people you’re talking to to risk spoiling their working relationship with your manager.

      If your manager is extremely, unusually bad and nobody has a good working relationship with them anyway, it might be worth the risk. Only you can assess that.

      But in a normal working situation, the correct way to start is actually to tell your manager that you’re interested and ask if they know anything about it.

      1. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

        I agree. If your manager is reasonably supportive, they will be a good place to start. Have you had any discussions with them about your next career steps at all?

        This point aside, I want to comment on your script: The ask in your script is too vague and indirect. The way you phrased it make it sound like you want to learn about the initiative in general, but said nothing about wanting a job. As a senior manger, if I see this I wouldn’t have time to guess what you really mean. I would instead take your email at face value, decline to have coffee, and direct you to the information online.

        If you want to explore opportunities for a new job, then own it and ask for it:

        Hi XYZ, I heard that ABC will be a new offering coming out later this year. I’m interested to explore whether I might be a good fit for any new positions supporting this new initiative. Will it be possible to discuss?

  52. dogmom*

    Has anyone ever successfully negotiated for flexible hours? I interviewed for a fully remote job this week, and assuming the money is right it could be a good fit, but the hours are traditional 9-5, and I have a side business that pretty much requires me to be out of the home during the mornings. So if I were to receive an offer, I was planning to ask if I could work say 1-9 instead, since it’s not a job that involves breaking news or anything needing to be done in real time. Has anyone successfully negotiated different hours, and if so do you have a script or tips you’d be willing to share? Thanks!

    1. dogmom*

      If it matters, the side business is in no way a conflict of interest with the full-time job, so I could do both without there being any concerns over ethics. Also, I did not inquire about the possibility of flexible hours during the phone interview, just asked what the hours were and was told 9-5/9:30-5:30.

      1. Picard*

        You can ask but unless they STATE flexible hours, I doubt you would have much capital going in to get an alternate schedule. We have flex hours but there core hours are 10-3 where you HAVE to be available/onsite.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        That’s a pretty big shift – you’d be shifting your hours by half the work day, and would only have 4 hours overlap with other staff. So I’d say it’s a lot less likely than asking to go 10-6, or 7-3.

        Also, the fact that you already asked about hours, and said nothing about the fact that you can’t work the stated schedule, is unlikely to help your case. Waiting until you get an offer, and telling them you can’t work 9-5, only 1-9, because of the demands of your side business, probably won’t go over well.

      1. dogmom*

        Well it’s a media company, so it’s not strictly 9-5, although like I said this particular position doesn’t handle breaking news or anything that is time-sensitive. So I thought between that and the fact that I have a very particular set of skills that most people don’t have, they might be open to different hours.

        I did also just interview for another job with 12-9 hours, so asking to push back my start time by one hour might be much more doable there. However, should I get an offer I’m leery of taking it, because a) the guy who would be my boss made a couple comments in the interview suggesting they maybe don’t care about work-life balance too much and b) even though HR said they’re fully remote for anyone who wants it, potential boss said that once it’s safe to go back to the office he expects his people to do that once or twice a week. I don’t especially want to do that anyway, but it would also necessitate a cross-country move to a huge city, where even the top of my salary band wouldn’t be enough.

        So that’s a bit more background!

        1. WellRed*

          Is there any overlap between you and breaking news? I’m in media on the news side. If it breaks during my non news coworkers’ odd off hours when I need something, it’s not ideal. But if you would have a completely independent role, maybe it’s doable.

          1. dogmom*

            It would be completely independent — no overlap at all with breaking news. Everything would be scheduled in advance, I wouldn’t need to work nights/weekends/holidays or late if something big happened, etc. So that’s why I thought if I could schedule the, say, Tuesday 10am content on Monday evening, it could be workable. But I def get “what if there’s a 9am Monday editorial meeting,” etc. And this also assumes I even get an offer. I just didn’t know if it was something that could be negotiated — I searched Alison’s archives and only found salary and vacation time negotiation posts.

    2. Toucan*

      This is tough… negotiating a 7-3 or 10-6 job is one thing, but 1-9 is very different. As a manager, I would not allow someone to work from 1-9. I’d want them to be pretty much available when everyone else is working. If other people depend on your work or have to ask you a question, waiting until the afternoon will get frustrating.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree. I have a couple coworkers with slightly different hours and it’s fine until I need something or they are behind the ball on stuff that transpired while they were off. I work for a media company.

  53. Many Differences!*

    I’m not the official manager, but I’m training and unofficially managing a new employee(Rachel), who started two months ago. The job has many moving parts, and I expect training to go on for about a year. My office is remove 4 days a week, in-office 1 day/week. I have been meeting with Rachel once a week for coffee, outside of our designated “day at the office”. We also slack a lot, and video chat occasionally. We meet for coffee, mostly because she prefers asking questions in person rather than video.
    Last time we met, she wanted my cell phone number, “in case there is an emergency” – she can slack me up to about 30 minutes before we meet if she needs to cancel last-minute. I declined to give her one because (1) I don’t really check a cell-phone at all when I’m working from home (and we work-from-home on days we meet for coffee) and (2) I don’t want to give the impression that this is a meeting that can be changed last minute. From my point of view, it’s a business meeting. I need to move other things in my day to be there, and I’m there. I don’t know what last-minute emergencies can exist. (she can’t be stuck in traffic, if she’s working from home, because we pick places that are within a 1 km walk of her apartment – so, say, less than 20 minute walk).
    My question is: how out-of-touch does this read? I’m curious because there are some issues here (I’m 48, from a low-touch, always-on-time culture, she’s 28 from a high-touch, time-is-fluid culture. We work in my country). I can’t personally imagine a last-minute emergency, that would happen 30 minutes before a meeting, but I’d like to understand.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Hmmm I’m torn. I don’t like sharing my personal phone number with colleagues, but I still do it with my immediate coworkers and boss, with the idea that it’s only to be used if there’s no other way of reaching me and it’s incredibly urgent. There have been a handful of times where it’s come in handy, like if my internet is out and I needed to update someone on something, back when I was commuting I would let them know if my train was crazy delayed, essentially anytime life got in the way and I couldn’t access my computer. You say you “can’t personally imagine a last-minute emergency that would happen 30 minutes before a meeting”, but that’s the nature of emergencies – if you could plan around them they wouldn’t be emergencies.

      I think it’s fine to not want to share your personal number, but just know that there may be a time where something comes up and she will have no way of contacting you, and you’ll just have to be ok with that.

      1. Fran Fine*

        You say you “can’t personally imagine a last-minute emergency that would happen 30 minutes before a meeting”, but that’s the nature of emergencies – if you could plan around them they wouldn’t be emergencies.

        This. I work from home, and have been since before Covid, and I had one of these emergencies happen today right before one of my senior coworkers wanted to call me to go over whatever I needed her to be aware of while I’m out next week. I live in an apartment just like Rachel, and maintenance decided to suddenly start drilling and hammering in the apartment right above mine, so my coworker wouldn’t have been able to hear a dang thing I was saying if I hadn’t told her this and let her call me. There’s no way I would have been able to plan for this because maintenance doesn’t inform us when they have to do work in the apartments ahead of time – that’s just the nature of city apartment living.

        I also recently broke a tooth right before a meeting and needed to have it seen by a dentist immediately. I contacted my former manager to cancel via Teams chat, but had he not been available online, I would have had to call or text him on my way to the dentist’s.

        OP, I would just give her the cell number and reiterate that she should only use it in emergency situations. If she uses it outside of that, don’t engage – ignore the messages or calls and only respond during work hours. She’ll get the point (but I doubt she’ll use your number inappropriately to begin with).

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh, swapping personal phone numbers is just something that most people do these days.

      I think there’s probably a miscommunication about these meetings. Rachel sees it as meeting once a week for coffee. You see it as an important business meeting that just happens to be at a coffee shop.

      1. Many Differences!*

        Interesting. This: “Oh, swapping personal phone numbers is just something that most people do these days. ” is not true for my department. I literally have no one else’s number, and they don’t have mine. We don’t communicate by phone *at all*. We’re all about slack, email etc. So, while I’m not disagreeing with you, I guess I don’t see the point of swapping numbers?
        I think you are correct that Rachel sees it much more casually than I do. If we were work-at-the-office full time, I expect I’d spend 10 or 20 min a day answering her questions as she came by my desk.

    3. Flower necklace*

      I think it depends on context. At my workplace, I have the cell phone numbers for all of my coworkers and my boss. It’s pretty common for people to exchange cell phone numbers in case there’s an emergency.

    4. Ginger Baker*

      I can think of SO MANY last-minute emergencies that were totally unexpected; they may be rare but certainly not unheard of and I have experienced many/most of these:
      – the water heater broke and water is spewing forth in your basement (happened to me)
      – your dog got hit by a car right in front of your house (happened to me)
      – someone you live with has a medical emergency (multiple occasions)
      – you have a medical emergency (thankfully only like one or two hospital-needed occasions)
      – a tree falls on your house (say, due to a storm) or, for a different weather-issue, a tornado hits your block and breaks your front door and gutter (not to mention all the downed trees and power lines – only on your block, mind, anything around the corner is untouched and looks perfectly fine) (you guessed it, both these have happened to me!)

      I can easily list at least 5 more possible totally unexpected emergencies that would necessitate an urgent meeting reschedule at the last minute without even trying, but I think these are more than enough for this example.

      1. Joielle*

        I was about to start a similar list but you covered most things I was thinking of! There are tons of things that could happen less than 30 minutes before the meeting starts. Maybe she’s walking to the meeting and sprains her ankle, or gets a call that a relative is in the hospital, or stops to help someone who fell off their bike.

        I have phone numbers for my boss and most immediate coworkers, and they have mine. I don’t know that any of us have ever had to use them, but I think it’s good to have just in case. I think the new employee was trying to be conscientious by realizing she doesn’t have a way to reach you in the half hour before your meeting starts, and thinking ahead to what would happen if there were a last minute emergency. Not having your phone number doesn’t mean she’ll never have to reschedule, it just means you’ll get all the way to the coffee shop before checking your email/Slack to find out she won’t be there.

        1. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

          I am thinking the same things.
          I don’t mean this is a snarky or disrespectful way, but I’ll admit I am a little surprised and genuinely curious about how you can’t imagine what last minute emergencies can exist.

          Maybe you have a different definition of emergencies than me and other commenters? To me, an emergency is something that occurred unexpectedly that I must deal with immediately, and the timing of the occurrence is out of my control. So if family member suddenly fell and broke their leg, that is an emergency in my book. But if someone arbitrarily deciding last minute they want to do their grocery shopping instead of meeting with me, that’s not an emergency.

          I’m also from a culture that prizes punctuality. In my view, that makes it even more important to have my colleague’s phone number. I would want to make sure I can notify my colleague of any true emergencies as quickly as possible, in real time, so they don’t end up wasting time waiting for me. So to respond to your question, you are a bit out of touch in this regard.

          I have Slack and Webex team installed on my phone, and I found that to be useful when I have meetings offsite, as an alternative to phone number. Would that be an option for you to help keep in touch with Rachel in real time?

      2. Many Differences!*

        That’s a whole host of unfortuate events! Since Rachel and I both live in high-rises, I’d expect any building emergency to be taken care of by the janitors/concierges, so building emergencies are definitely off my radar. Also, I’m so sorry about your dog, that’s quite tragic. I know she lives alone, but it’s a fair point that she might get a call about an ill family member in another country. (She moved to this country for the job, and is doing a good job making friends, but doesn’t have local family).

        1. Ginger Baker*

          I would like to gently point out that even if a plumbing emergency is handled by on-call professionals (which is great! I am jealous!), if the timing is bad that can still mean time spent doing “desperately grab and move personal belongings in hopes that they will be kept safe or salvageable”. I think it’s a good reminder that you don’t need to expect (or have) experienced a specific emergency to move forward operating with an understanding that just because you may not *be able to relate* to someone else’s personal life experiences (even if you know all the details about where they live and with whom), that doesn’t mean that people might not…experience things that you haven’t [or even thought of].

        2. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

          I believe these are just examples to illustrate the types of emergencies that can happen to humans, and not meant to be a concrete list pertaining to Rachel that you need to rule in or out item-by-item based on what you know about her. Even if she has no family in this country, her friend might get sick and call her to help. Oh she doesn’t have any friends now so you can get it off your radar? Well she might make friends in the future and that’s not something you would necessarily know. It doesn’t work like that. She has a life outside of work.

          BTW, I’m not sure how you concluded building emergencies is not relevant because you live in a high rise. I also live in a high-rise, but if an emergency occurs in or near my unit, for example a water leak, I still need to stay there to move my personal belongings out of the way. The janitor will not be able to do that. My building concierge will call me to come home urgently if a building emergency happens in my unit while I’m out. It’s not like I can just continue to have coffee at the cafe while my unit is getting flooded.

    5. JB*

      You really can’t think of any last-minute emergency that could possibly happen to disrupt a meeting? Medical emergencies…family emergencies…not every event in life has the professional courtesy to arrange itself in advance.

    6. LC*

      I don’t think it’s out of touch at all, at least from what you’ve said here. I’ve had the cell number of my last four or five bosses and rarely used them. Occasionally to let them know I’m sick or to ask moderately time sensitive questions when I know they’re working but not on a computer (which was totally okay in that office culture).

      I think it’s a very reasonable request for all the reasons a few others have mentioned. Unless there is a lot of tone or something that I’m missing, I don’t think that asking indicates that she isn’t taking these meetings seriously or anything, just that she’s concientious enough to want to make sure she has a way of contacting you if something bonkers happens. (I do wonder if she sees them as business-y as you do, or if she sees them as a little more casual face time with the boss, but either way, I don’t think that had anything to do with her asking.)

      It would honestly weird me out if I didn’t have a way to communicate with my boss unless I was on my work computer, and they wouldn’t provide one if I asked. Cell number, or if you both have Slack on your phone, or something.

      By it’s very nature, an emergency means she likely won’t be at her work computer, and refusing to give her a way to contact you kind of feels like telling her that there are absolutely 0 acceptable reasons she could ever be late or cancel or anything ever. Like she’s not allowed to have anything in her life that could maybe possible approach the importance of her job.

      1. Many Differences!*

        “Like she’s not allowed to have anything in her life that could maybe possible approach the importance of her job.”

        yes, that’s a very good point. I’ll need to let her know that if some arises she can slack/email and I’ll see it then. I’m still not giving out my cell phone because I don’t usually carry one, and I wouldn’t see the message for several days. So, it’s not a good way to contact me.

        Our company culture is that I have no one’s cell phone, and no other way to contact other than slack, including my boss or immediate colleagues.

        1. LC*

          If you both have slack on your phones, or if she can email you from her phone, I think those are great solutions! That way she can reach out if she needs to while not at her computer, and you’d be able to receive the message either on your computer or your phone.

          (If she doesn’t have it on her phone already though, make sure to consider any implications of her installing something for work on her personal device, both in terms of company policy and what that might mean for expectations of her availability.)

        2. NancyDrew*

          This is truly such a bizarre take to have. You’re mentoring/managing someone who has requested a way to contact you for emergencies, and you’re refusing to give it to her? So incredibly odd!

          You do you, I guess, but I guarantee Rachel is telling her friends all about her weird boss who won’t give out their number.

    7. Not A Manager*

      It’s true that there are any number of Terrible Emergencies that *could* happen. Hopefully not all of them will happen within her training year. If you’re willing to risk one or two legitimate emergencies that would cause her to cancel without notice, that sounds like a fair trade-off for not sharing your phone number. The worst that would happen is that you’d have a quiet cup of coffee before you head back home.

    8. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      …you both have Slack, which is very much like texting.

      In my U.S. experience, so this may not apply, a text is going out if there’s a last minute cancellation. A Slack message would do the same…so…I think all of your coworkers (including this one) have plenty of ways to contact you in case of emergencies.

    9. Multiple hat wearer*

      I have the number of roughly 30-40% of the people that I work with regularly, and that includes the owner, HR, IT, most of the management staff, and coworkers. This is common within my company’s culture, as you often have people floating among various locations and if there’s a time sensitive issue, sending an email or calling around through official channels to track them down is pointless.

      There have been plenty of work related emergencies that have led to this exchange of numbers. Just in the last week, I’ve had a text from a manager asking for a colleagues email address (they didn’t realize they had an outdated list at home), confirmed with another manager about the time for an onsite meeting, asked another manager if the info I had received was accurate (couldn’t find it in our system), received a text from yet another manager asking me to correct some errors he found, had a coworker let me know she’d be late to a meeting, and yet another who hadn’t received an urgent email and was asking for details. Two weeks ago, I was involved in a group text among the owner, HR, and two managers about how to handle a minor issue that was going to happen the next day.

      As far as last minute emergencies, my commute is about 15 minutes and the following have been things that have happened as I’m leaving:

      – A flooded garage/basement with rising water
      – My elderly dog collapsed and had a seizure
      – My younger dog was coming inside, missed a step, and slammed her mouth into the step, breaking two teeth
      – Flooding that closed several roads (my 15 minute commute turned into nearly 2 hours, as I tried to navigate around multiple road closures)
      – Someone hit my car while it was parked on the street, so I called the cops. Even though the damage was fairly minor, security footage showed it was our neighbor and this was the third time she had hit one of our vehicles. The first two times there was no damage, but she was rude and dismissive when we spoke to her about it, so I decided it was time to get the authorities involved, so I didn’t want to move my car.

      All that said, everyone is very respectful with their use of people’s numbers. If it’s something time sensitive, they’ll call or text, but if not, they won’t. The owner might need to tell me something, but if it’s 11 pm or 5 am, he’s sending me an email.

      1. Multiple hat wearer*

        Oh, and I forgot a big one that happened last year. We had a snow/ice storm, so I had texted a manager to let them know that I’ll try to make it in, but can’t make any guarantees. She texted back to let me know that the office was closed. It was quite the misstep, as the decision to close was made early that morning, but only about half the staff was informed. My company almost never closes and, up until Covid, WFH wasn’t possible, so it was kind of a mess, as three people showed up to a closed office. After that incident, it was decided that at least one person above you in the management chain needed your contact number, so they could inform the staff of any closures.

        After thinking about this, I do think you are being unreasonable, in a way. I know you can contact her through Slack, but what happens if that goes down? Also, while it might not be in line with your company’s culture, but if you got a new boss and they asked for your number, in case of emergencies, would you decline?

  54. Jackalope*

    Someone suggested earlier this week that we have an open thread about WFH “issues” with your pet(s) where we write letters as if they are letters we are submitting to Alison to resolve. I thought that sounded fun, so am starting that thread! Please jump in! And since this is just for fun anyway, feel free to submit even if you aren’t working from home; I’m even down for people who couldn’t ever possibly work from home (health care, retail, fast food, construction….) submitting made-up letters imagining that they can have their critters at work with them.

    1. Jackalope*

      To start things off, I will share the “letter” that I posted earlier this week on the mini thread that formed at the time:

      Dear Alison,

      I know you responded previously to someone who bit their coworker, so I was wondering if you could weigh in for a bystander? My two newest hires are siblings, and insist that biting and jumping on each other is normal and affectionate, but it gets disconcerting to see them chewing on each other all the time. As their manager, how should I handle this?

      They also have a strange obsession with mice. I got used to seeing them carrying around catnip mice in their mouths, but now it’s escalated to sitting on my computer mouse and not allowing me to move it. I’ve tried to set boundaries but they refuse to respect them.

      I guess I’m beginning to have concerns about my hiring choices. I try to look at abilities and not age when choosing my new staff, but maybe 3 months old was a little bit TOO young?

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I have a very similar pair in my office! They have hung up my phone calls and put my computer to sleep in the middle of meetings!

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Dear Alison:

      I’ve been assigned to WFH and I opted to work in the same space as two colleagues who are in cubicles. They seem fine until I have to be on conference calls, and then I get glares from them for talking (on my headset, they don’t hear the other side), but it’s literally part of my job! They don’t talk, ever, and I swear I even catch them napping for a significant part of the day. The only time they want to interact with me during work hours is when I’m coming back from the kitchen and they act like I should have brought food to share too.

      Should I take them less personally?

    3. Niniel*

      Dear Alison,

      I have encouraged my employee to work from home, and to my satisfaction some days she does! I recently have decided that I have a right to sit on her laptop to warm up, as needed. She freaks out when I do this! I don’t understand, since I am giving her the golden opportunity to take a break from her taxing job. What do I tell her when this happens?

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Letter from pet!

      Dear Alison –
      I have three direct reports and I’m not entirely convinced ANY of them can do their jobs without me sitting there watching every button they push. One keeps me locked entirely out of his office so I don’t even know what he’s doing down there. One keeps consorting with KITTENS on his work hours and he don’t have enough lap for me to snuggle in at his desk. And one always eats lunch in front of me and she don’t NEVER EVER share. Also she’s not fast enough to open the door when I bang on it and yell at her. I feel like I need to put them all on PIPs until they accommodate me better.

    5. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      Dear Alison,

      My new coworker thinks he’s my (micro)manager and literally sits on the back of my chair each day and watches over my shoulder as I write emails. He also insists that my laptop is both a chair and a step to use to get in the windowsill. He is demanding, tapping my elbow every few seconds when I am busy asking me for various things, even when I’ve explicitly told him I am busy. He also yells at me when I close him out of meetings he’s just being a distraction in. How do I convince him to respect my boundaries? His two other counterparts are much more respectful of the boundaries I’ve placed. Though they tend to bicker throughout the day and I sometimes have to send one of them to work from my husband’s office. I think that’s a different letter though.

    6. Beep Beep*

      Dear Alison,

      A young worker on my team recently has (by necessity) started taking his meals near my desk. He is not allowed to sit *on* my desk, but I think the proximity of food makes him bolder and he has started to investigate, sometimes coming dangerously close to my computer’s power button. How do I handle it when I have to tell him to go away in the middle of a meeting? I mute myself when I can, but sometimes I’m in the middle of speaking or I lose track of others are saying in the few seconds I’m not paying attention.

      (This is very cute. Thanks for opening this thread, Jackalope!)

    7. Pam Adams*

      Dear Alison,

      My coworker, despite having comfortable bedroom to work from home in, is confining us to tiny cubicles during the working day.
      She also refuses to give us the supplies we need to get through the work day. A few examples:
      1) A single cushion on the floor of my cube, even though there is plenty of soft furniture to lie on.
      2) The Kongs stuffed with peanut butter last for barely an hour.
      3) She insists on playing ‘relaxing’ music which prevents us from hearing passerby, so we can alert the world to their presence.
      Milo & Bandit

    8. Multiple hat wearer*

      Dear Allison,

      I don’t work from home currently and have a colleague, who I like very much, but has a habit of sneaking up on me, then yelling (barking) when I haven’t immediately stopped my work to focus on her issues. Because of the noise/music coming from others in my office, I am often wearing headphones, so I have a tendency to jump and occasionally make some less than work appropriate utterances that can be loud when she surprises me. Thankfully, the rest of the office finds this amusing, as they also are used to her being stealthy and loudly demanding.

      My question is that I will address her initial issues, then will address further issues she has, but she never seems happy about how the meeting is resolved. Occasionally, she will silently come into my cube to evaluate how well I’m doing with an ongoing, long term test of how company privacy (the chew hasn’t been touched). I assume that she is happy with my performance, as she occasionally insists we do “one on one” meetings outside of the office, but other times I feel that she just wants to scold me publicly.

      Last year, a younger employee arrived, who is primarily a WFH employee and she got very jealous of the attention she received. I had to break up an argument between them recently and, since then, my coworker has stopped coming by on a regular basis. I feel like I have damaged the relationship, but I’m not sure how to assure my coworker that I can work well with both of them. Thoughts?

  55. LadyHouseOfLove*

    I’ve got two library job interviews lined up next week. I’m excited and nervous! One of them is how to present online resources to a particular group of people. Unfortunately, since I live outside the area, I can’t access those resources. I’m going to have to do some research, which I can see as also a test from the hiring managers. I’m going to give it my go.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Do you have to present specific online resources? A dear friend of mine super wowed her hiring committee for an academic job by presenting on free business resources, because she didn’t have access to the paid options when planning her presentation for the job. Good luck with your interviews!

      1. LadyHouseOfLove*

        Honestly, it’s any of the resources listed on the business resource page. There is a mix of free and library card-access-only resources. I think it might do good to go to that venture like your friend. So many ways to do this presentation so I will have to be creative.

        I am nervous that if I do not get this job, they will toss my resume/cover letter aside for different positions in the future. I’m reminding myself that is not true. My anxiety brain is kind of a jerk.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          When I am watching a librarian’s interview presentation, I care a lot less about “what they say” as I do about “how they say it.” It’s a test of “how well do you present” not a test of “how well do you know Medline.” I have found that if you can present on clam biology resources in a compelling fashion, you can probably also present on stock market resources in a compelling fashion. So, I would worry less about the content and more about presenting it well. Not sure that will make you less nervous though!

          Unless you do something truly offensive- like say disparaging thing about “religious people” at an interview at a Christian college (yes, this happened once)- than you are fine. In fact, at several places I have worked, we have later hired people who we declined to hire the first time for different jobs. Like we had one young woman who wasn’t ready yet for the job she interviewed for the first time, but turned out to be an amazing fit for the next entry level position that opened a year later.

          1. MagnusArchivist*

            This. I’ve seen candidates turned down before because the content of their talk was technically very good, but they were dismissive of audience questions, made jokes about the workplace conflicts they were running from, or just weren’t good communicators and teachers (which is so important to liaise with departments!).

            Also, be up front about not having access to the resources. Some of the people attending the talk from other areas (if you’re interviewing for a business librarian I guarantee the history librarian is not up on the most recent sources!) might not know this & you don’t want them assuming you left great resources out because of ignorance or a deliberate choice.

  56. Misttertee*

    Does anyone have book recommendations for giving presentations and/or effective communication? A major component of my job is giving product demonstrations to prospective clients and I am looking for ways to improve my delivery, message, tone, etc. Thanks in advance!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      There’s a book called “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” that I think is really good. It’s not a fan-boy book by any means.

    2. Cut the new release wall*

      Interpersonal Communication by Peter Andrei is an absolute gem. Hundreds of tips and techniques and lots of good examples from speeches to illustrate the them.

  57. Inigo Montoya*

    How long do you wait for an interviewee to answer a question?
    I just finished an interview. It went well, except when we asked her the typical “what is a weakness?” question, she had no answer. She thought for 1.5-2 minutes, and didn’t have an answer. Would you have waited, or moved on? It’s such an obvious interview question, I expected she’d have something prepared, but she had nothing. How would you have handled it?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Whoa… 1.5-2 minutes is a long time of silence. Barring that I hate that question (“What is a weakness?”), I think it’s okay to move on, let the candidate know that they can think on it some more, and you’ll get back to them on it at the end of the interview… and then return to that question at the end of the interview.

      1. Inigo Montoya*

        Agreed. Unfortunately, HR gives us the questions – I’d love to use my own. It was a group interview, and I wasn’t the lead; I would have moved on sooner than we did if it were up to me.

    2. whistle*

      I would just move on. Please reconsider asking this question, though. As you said, most people have a prepared answer, and these answers don’t actually give you any useful info beside who did more interview prep.

      1. Fran Fine*

        She probably hadn’t been asked it in so long that she really didn’t know how to answer, lol. I know I would have been stuck – no one I’ve interviewed with within the last 8 or so years has asked this question. It’s all STAR questions these days.

    3. GNG*

      I think it would be fine to move on.
      However, I would suggest reconsidering the weakness question. I haven’t asked any candidates this question in more than 10 years. In my field, interviewers and candidates typically come prepared with behavioral interview questions and responses.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Move on, but certainly take note if she just sat there like a stump with nothing to say for 2 minutes. That is a LOOOOOOOONG time, to the point that it’s very abnormal behavior to not be able to come up with anything at all to say. Even if she weren’t prepared, surely she knows herself. She has lived with herself for her whole life and worked jobs before, so she’s had ample opportunity to observe some of her own problems or habits. A stumbling or silly answer would be better than just going vacant.

      So maybe she froze. If the role doesn’t involve any real-time communication, it might not be a problem. But if the job involves any ordinary live conversations, which may involve answering questions out of your existing knowledge without prepared notes, this would be a problem.

    5. Kathenus*

      When I’ve had someone get stuck on an answer, I’ll generally suggest that we move on and come back to that question later, which gives them some more time to think about it but still gives a chance to get to that topic during the interview.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I would not have asked the question.
      Alison has commented on this question before. Nutshell: Get better questions.

      I would have just pulled back the question and moved on before she decided not to work for me. “Yeah, that’s a trite and over used question that really doesn’t highlight anything new, let’s move on.”

  58. Cookies for Breakfast*

    If a company shows they are moving quickly through the hiring process (two interviews over the course of a week; less than a day after the second stage the external recruiter calls to say the company wants to offer me the role), is not hearing back for longer than expected particularly odd?

    There are points around salary and training I’d like to clarify before I make a decision, and ideally I’d like to speak with a team member to learn more about the work environment. The recruiter said she would feed back to the company and let me know. Given the speed of the previous steps, I took it to mean she’d share an update the same day, or at least today, but haven’t heard anything back yet.

    I’m particularly nervous because, if I accept this offer, I’d be giving notice just weeks after accepting a promotion and large salary increase at my current workplace (my new salary is the top of the other company’s range, and they haven’t yet offered me a specific figure, but I doubt it would be that). Two virtual interviews of one hour each didn’t quite leave space for all my questions; the job sounds like a potential fit, even though it’s slightly out of my comfort zone, but after two years in a dysfunctional department, I’m being extra cautious.

    I’m telling myself it’s just another “hiring takes time” situation. Candidates wanting to dig deeper into an offer is perfectly normal, right?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      So they’ve already made the offer, you asked for more information to help your decision-making process, and now they’re taking more than a day? I mean, getting back to you the same day would be nice, but when you have to get feedback from someone else first, the recruiter may just not have an answer for you. If it’s not by the end of the day the next day, that’ll be weird. If I were the recruiter and didn’t have an answer by the next day, I’d at least let you know I’m still getting the info.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Thank you! That’s pretty much what I’ve been thinking. I’ve had my share of being ghosted by recruiters and employers, and it’s been way more annoying than being rejected. A “leave this with me, waiting to hear back” note from the recruiter would have been just fine. I’m not sure how long to wait before contacting her for an update, so to avoid the risk of chasing too soon, I’ll just…keep waiting :)

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I think two weeks is generally considered reasonable for a follow-up, quicker if there’s something else going on (like a competing offer came in).

  59. Unknown employment*

    Got a tough one, and going anon for this. I started a new job this week. It is fully remote. I was shipped a laptop and credentials, but no other start date information. I was asked to fill out an i9 online, which I did, but nobody has countersigned and sent back to me. I have no email, no IM, and no engagement. I’ve called both my boss and my HR contact daily this week and have not heard a word back. I’m assuming I have a job because why would they send me equipment, but I’m very concerned that nobody is responding to me. I am opening up to interviews again, but that will take awhile and doesn’t help me in the meantime. I don’t know if I’m insured or not. I don’t know if I’m going to be paid. What would you all do in my shoes?

    1. whistle*

      Yikes. That is pretty concerning. I would do the following:
      1. Keep job hunting.
      2. Collect any documentation you have regarding the offer and start date.
      3. I have never gotten back a countersigned I9, so I wouldn’t worry about that.
      4. Did you opt in to any insurance? If not, you are not insured through the employer.
      5. You said you’ve called HR and your boss – have you emailed? If not, start emailing.
      6. Email yourself each day with the hours you worked and the steps you took to make contact with the company.
      7. If you don’t get paid, invoice.

      Good luck! Hope you get a direct deposit and communication soon!

      1. WellRed*

        I agree with most of this except I don’t see how you can actually be doing any work if no one has assigned anything so not sure what you’d invoice for. As to tracking hours, sure, you can try but without a start date I wouldn’t assume you have started the job yet.

        1. whistle*

          You invoice for the spent available to do work. It’s the company’s fault they didn’t assign any. This assumes that there is communication from the company that says start on such and such date.

        2. Unknown employment*

          I have a written offer with the start date and the shipped laptop with the note that it is for my start on 8/30. So start date is very well documented. I’m ready and waiting on them!

          1. WellRed*

            Gotcha! This is all very weird, I’m hoping it’s just a communication meltdown on their side. Maybe both are out this week and dropped the ball. Please update us.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      There must be others at the company you can call? I would try and reach the Head of HR or someone like that – not just the person you’re in contact with.

      I mean presumably you received an offer letter and accompanying documentation?

      As an aside, I don’t think you typically receive a copy of the i-9 (at least i never have, with no issues)

      1. Unknown employment*

        So far I’ve tried the talent acquisition manager who presented my offer, and my designated HR partner, according to the details I found on the onboarding site (hosted by greenhouse, so pretty robust). I do have the name of the head of HR, but that’s a c level employee here. I am planning on emailing her Tuesday, but the more I think of it, the more I feel like I need to consult an attorney. I am very concerned about my rights in this situation. I understand they can terminate me at will, but until they’ve communicated to me, I don’t believe I have been terminated.

        I have:
        1. Offer letter with start date
        2. Email from talent acquisition informing me that my background check cleared
        3. Onboarding emails from Greenhouse showing my start date
        4. Screenshots from Greenhouse showing my start date
        5. Email from IT saying they would send me my laptop before my start date (included the start date)
        6. Email from talent acquisition confirming my mailing address to ship my laptop before my start date (includes the start date)

        So I feel like I have a pretty solid paper trail showing my offer, start date, and me taking it on good faith.

        1. whistle*

          What a mess! They sure did a lot of documentation to then leave you in the dark all week. Definitely contact the HR Head on Tuesday.

          Hopefully just a miscommunication, as others have said. I still think, if all else fails, you invoice for this week. If salary, you certainly did work in initiating contact, so they owe you for the week. If hourly, log the schedule you expected to work assuming you were available to work those hours.

    3. beach read*

      This is odd. Do the credentials work? You didn’t mention much about the company itself. Are they large enough to have a corporate headquarters you could contact? Are they small, do you know if the company is still in business? Could they have had to shut down for some reason? (Covid, hurricane, etc…) Google the company name and the people with whom you were in contact, maybe something will turn up. Good luck and keep us posted!

    4. Louisiana*

      This is very specific, but is the company located in an area affected by Hurricane Ida? Louisiana, for example, has been a mess since Sunday night. Maybe you were left off of emergency communications.

  60. LC*

    Yesterday’s post about salary bands (which was super interesting, I really loved hearing from everyone) led me to start writing down questions I’ll want to ask in the “Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace Training” I have at work in a few weeks.

    I’m new to the company, so I’m still getting a handle on things, but I started looking into what we actually do in terms of D&I and wasn’t overly blown away, particularly in terms of disability.

    I think my employer is well-meaning but not particularly clued in (they’ve been, uh, improving in the diversity department the last few years, but we definitely have a looooot of older, seemingly able bodied white men). I think they’d be open to things if they were brought up, and I wouldn’t mind using any of the minimal capital I’ve built so far for something like this.

    Anyone here at companies that are doing some actively cool stuff with D&I? Anything they’re doing that seems all feel-good-y but is useless or potentially harmful? I’d love to hear what some other companies are doing and how the employees actually feel about them.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This is on the “feel-good-y but is useless or potentially harmful” side. Also, it’s a company I left last year, so maybe it’s improved (hahahahha…yeah…).

      All of the staff went through a training two years ago with two organizations that specifically do this kind of training. The info was pretty good, but not really actionable.

      Afterwards, we had some internal follow-up discussions. I asked about making pay bands available (the implication about equity was implied and at least one other coworker of 30 total got it). HR literally said, “Nah, that’s too much work.”

      After I left the organization, another BIPOC employee also left (he was a terrible coworker and employee, for what it’s worth). I’m not sure if they’re replacing him, but my role went to a white woman.

      Also, when we were recruiting a new position last year, HR literally said to me, “Oh, this one candidate has an indigenous background, so that’s great for our DI initiative.”

      Um…cool, performative diversity.

      Side note: we did end up hiring her and she is AWESOME. Doesn’t make that comment any better.

    2. Anon for this*

      I hate that the metrics are all about overall staff numbers all the time, with no discussion of whether or recent hiring numbers are better. I have a significant cohort of white men who have worked for us for 20+ years who will skew the data set, so I am always on the “bad list” for DEI. My numbers won’t improve until they retire, or you give me significantly more headcount.

      We seem to be doing good things on DEI, particularly with regard to recruiting, but I have benn consistently having to fight off staff metrics as part of my eval. Hiring metrics would be fair, but holding me to account for decisions made 20 years ago by someone else is not.

  61. Crystal Stair*

    For the past few months, I was working in what has to be the worst (white-collar) job of my whole life. This place was terrible in so many major ways, but it was also a fantastic font of weird stories. I think I was mired in this environment for so long that the dysfunction became almost normalized, so I started writing stuff down to make sure I was remembering things correctly. Now that I’ve left, I figured I’d share some stories from my old shitty job with y’all Friday open thread readers.

    *** Background ***

    My old office was a smallish (18-24 people) government office that worked on human resources-adjacent matters. We were mostly split between Legal (my team) and Diversity & Inclusion, though we handled other stuff as well. The office had a management structure with a Director, a Deputy Director, and team Managers, including my direct supervisor, Legal Manager. The entire office was fully remote due to COVID, so all of this took place over video.

    *** 12 Days of Holiday Cheer ***

    I started the old job in November of 2020. Unbeknownst to me, sometime in October of 2020, the government agency we’d been working for had sent out some employee engagement surveys to every office. My office had scored pretty poorly on that front, due to having been overworked and understaffed for quite some time.

    In response to employee concerns about workload and staffing, the Director and the Deputy Director decided an effective way of improving employee morale would be to institute “12 Days of Holiday Cheer” in December of 2020. “12 Days of Holiday Cheer” was 12 CONSECUTIVE WORK DAYS of mandatory hours-long (yes, multiple hours-long) holiday-themed teambuilding events, conducted over video call. We were repeatedly told that participation was mandatory, that everyone had to have their cameras on, and that if we did not volunteer, we would be “voluntold.” During the holidays. While everyone was stressed about their crushing workloads.

    I can’t remember all of the teambuilders we did, but here are the particularly bad ones:

    – Making paper snowflakes. We spent more than an hour on a video call making paper snowflakes, and then INDIVIDUALLY holding them up to our webcams to try to get them to focus on the paper snowflakes. We then went around the call and voted on blatantly made-up categories of snowflakes (i.e. “most realistic snowflake,” “most elaborate snowflake,” “most creative snowflake,” “best non-traditional snowflake”). This took more than an hour.

    – Holiday-themed “Never Have I Ever.” Never Have I Ever is just not a game that can be both work-appropriate and interesting at the same time. We all had to put our fingers up in our video call squares and put them down one at a time for categories like, “Never Have I Ever…” “opened a holiday present early,” “told a child Santa wasn’t real,” “fallen asleep before midnight on New Year’s Eve.”

    – New Year’s-themed “Two Truths and a Lie.” I don’t know why this had to be New Year’s-themed. I have a hard enough time coming up with two truths and a lie regularly. This teambuilder did come with a story from the Director of the office, where she said that one New Year’s when she was a teenager, a guy she was seeing said that he was busy, so she snuck out of her house and climbed into his bedroom window to make sure that he wasn’t cheating on her. That was one of her two truths. She just dropped this into the teambuilder and nobody said anything about how maybe that was a weird story to tell the whole office.

    – Favorite holiday songs. A way to do this teambuilder which would have been fine and reasonable would have been for everyone to email a song to one person to put together a Spotify/YouTube playlist and then email out the playlist link. The way that my office actually did this teambuilder was to gather everyone in a video call on their work laptops, and then have everyone pull up their favorite holiday song on their cell phones, hold their cell phones up to the mic on their work laptops, and play 30-second snippets of each song from their cell phone speakers through their mics to everyone else listening on the call. After each snippet of a song, people would then comment on the song/artist, which added even more time. There was no queue order either, so people would have to do the awkward “You go,” “No, you can go,” over video call. This took more than an hour.

    – Elf Yourself. Do you remember those Elf Yourself videos that your Facebook friends were posting in 2008-2011? Where they put their own faces onto dancing animated elves while some cheesy music played? Good news, they’re still around!
    The entirety of the teambuilder was all 20-something people in the office sitting around watching one person screenshare them streaming Elf Yourself videos from the website, with our faces pasted in. But because each Elf Yourself video only fits 4-5 elves at most (a tragedy), we had to watch at least five different Elf Yourself videos. In their entirety. And occasionally put supportive messages into the chat to show that we, the employees, were feeling Very Engaged. “Oh haha this is so funny!” “Nice dance moves, @Coworker!”

    – Guess the movie from emojis. This one wasn’t even holiday-themed, but it was a teambuilder anyway. I guess it’s hard to come up with 12 holiday-themed teambuilders. The only reason I remember this one is because the Deputy Director (who was known for being petty and mean and generally a bully) made some snippy comment about how this teambuilder was originally going to be something different, but the management team changed it at the last minute, because “some of the MILLENNIALS ‘didn’t look engaged enough’ at the last teambuilder, so we thought we’d do something that speaks more to your interests.” At the time, there were only 4 people in the office who were millennials (including my elder millennial direct supervisor), so I’m pretty sure this was targeted at me. In my defense, it’s hard to look interested after the third consecutive Elf Yourself video.

    1. Enough*

      I’m sorry but I would be having some very difficult to resolve technical issues with my camera, microphone and cell phone and computer.

      1. Crystal Stair*

        I really wish, but at the time I was only a month in and wanted to appear to be a team player!

      2. Just an autistic redhead*

        Oh my goodness, my internet is just being so flaky today I’m sorry! And for some reason my camera is just turning off and on. I had better try restarting again. XD

      1. Crystal Stair*

        I wish I knew. Believe me, I didn’t want to be doing this either. I’ve been in several other government offices and none of them have ever gone beyond an hour-long teambuilding thing once or twice a year, AT MOST.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      This is terrible, thank you for sharing hahahaha.

      I really love that the conclusion of Boring Holiday Cringe Week was “UGH I guess you CHILDREN only like EMOTICONS, thanks for ruining the FUN we planned!”

      1. Crystal Stair*

        Us millennials love our avocado toast and emojis and not spending several hours of our busy work weeks on video performing fake holiday cheer.

  62. Senior Director to Manager?*

    Does it look bad to have a “step down” in title on your resume?

    Or do the accomplishments / responsibilities matter way more?

    I’m interviewing for a role where my title would go from Senior Director to Manager, and I’d be building a team from scratch (right now I manage a department of 30+), but I’d have a lot more freedom to make my mark, so to speak. Plus a 30-50% salary bump.


    1. Amber Rose*

      That’s what cover letters are for! If/when you choose to move, you get to explain that you stepped down in title in order to build something new.

    2. user52359*

      I wouldn’t care about that. Everyone who has been in the workforce for a few years knows that titles don’t mean much. I know a company in which entry positions are called “managers” but also some where “senior manager” means “board member”.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        “Director” at one company means “Assistant Manager” at another. Half of the employees at a bank are called Vice President. And look at the confusion in the thread a week ago or so about what “Project Manager” means.

        1. WellRed*

          My tiny company at one point had more directors than anything else because it was a fad all if a sudden for that to be The Title. And they all gave it to themselves. #eyeroll

          1. Needs more ketchup*

            We have a total of 5 directors in my department of 20 people. One Director and 4 Associate Directors.

            I will join you in the eyeroll.

  63. PivotPivot*

    I know there are phrases that employers use that disguise ageism.

    “We are looking for energetic, enthusiastic workers!” springs to mind.

    Are there other things to look for? Phrases? Policies?

    1. Nicki Name*

      “We work hard and play hard” is a red flag for techbro culture and everything that comes with it, including ageism.

      1. Mrs. Vexil*

        Haven’t seen in a while but my husband and I were just laughing last night about “rock and roll atmosphere” which usually means “manager who has been there three months longer than you” and “lots of interpersonal employee drama for little money”

    2. ginkgo*

      Look at the benefits – ping-pong, catered meals, no 401k or parental leave (or they have minimally acceptable versions of those, but exclude them from the benefits page in favor of playing up ping-pong and catered meals).

    3. Girasol*

      In-office it’s sometimes referred to as “We’re looking for fresh blood.” (Which doesn’t actually sound like they’re recruiting for vampire victims until it’s written down like that.)

  64. user52359*

    Is it reasonable to expect that I will be learning new things in a job?

    It’s an IT job. I am used to learning really a lot, in the past I thought myself several technologies because I thought my job could profit from that. I’m very proactive in this respect.

    However, in my current job I don’t see that many opportunities for that. My role on the current project is very junior and they want to keep me for at least a year more. I have a lot of time, so I shouldn’t complain. But it’s breaking my heart when I have to start working every day since it’s so boring.

    Are my expectations unrealistic?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Maybe redefine what you mean by learning.

      You won’t be picking up a new language, but are there things that you will be learning by being part of this organization? Policies & management best practices, industry history & perspective, domain-specific knowledge (databases for llamas have to be designed differently than databases for teapots), etc?

      1. user52359*

        The problem is the systems in this organization are very specific – they aren’t really transferable to other orgs since the company isn’t using standard solutions.

        I’m doing my best to learn what I can, but the opportunities are limited.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      It sounds like you’re in a job that isn’t a great fit for you! But it makes a great thing to say in job interviews: “I’m looking for a more challenging job, and my current role is more suited to someone who likes things to stay the same. I’m ready to learn and solve problems!”

  65. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    AAM commentariat, I am asking for your help! I just interviewed this morning for a job that would be SO MUCH FUN and SO AWESOME and SO RIGHT for me! Please call upon whatever divine forces you can to help me get this!

  66. lcsa99*

    Ok, so I have a ridiculous, temperature wars question. It seems like they recently raised the temperature in the office slightly. I usually like it cooler, and it isn’t really that uncomfortable for me, but the issue I am having is that now it’s at what I call “nap temperature”, and I am having a hard time staying awake! I can’t really tell my boss that I am trying not to fall asleep at my desk because it’s so warm, can I?

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      No, but you can ask if the temperature has recently been raised because you have noticed discomfort with the temp recently.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      I recommend talking to your boss about it like Lunch Eating Mid Manager said, but in the meantime can you get a small desk fan? They make a lot of quiet options that might lower the temperature enough for you.

      1. jotab*

        along with the fan I have a small spritz bottle with water, being careful not to spray the computer. The slight dampness on my face and back of my neck lowers my temperature dramatically. Also chewing mint gum helps keep the brain awake.

      2. LC*

        My desk area at home can get absurdly warm, so geting a fan was a high priority for me, but I like having one anyway (helps it not feel stuffy plus bonus white noise!), so I second this suggestion.

        Oscillation was super important to me, and the one I ended up getting is awesome (Honeywell mini tower). It’s maybe a foot tall, oscillates, isn’t loud at all but provides a little bit of white noise, and has enough speed settings so it’s good for just a little bit of air movement all the way to “it’s 85+ degrees in my living room and the two giant fans don’t reach my desk so I need to not melt on my computer.”

        Ask your boss about the temperature for sure, but a fan might be a good idea regardless.

      3. Chaordic One*

        Also try chewing gum. If you can, maybe listen to lively music on headphones at your desk. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a small thermometer at your desk, so you can verify that it really is too darn hot.

  67. NDA what?*

    NDA deal-breakers. What are yours?

    I’m a freelancer, working mostly through Upwork who provides a standard contract/Terms of Service. This includes topics like ownership of work product and confidentiality.

    I do a lot of shorter-term projects, so I’m pretty regularly interviewing with new folks and starting new contracts. Sometimes a potential client asks me to sign their own company’s NDA, and it’s usually not a problem because it mirrors the Upwork terms I have already agreed to. It definitely tends to be larger organizations/companies that ask for this, and I understand – they have standard procedures and paperwork for vendors for good reasons.

    I just interviewed with a quite large SAAS company for a small project. The interview went great, and they sent me an NDA to review and return before we proceeded. I was flabbergasted by two of its conditions (and am not taking the project). The NDA specifies that there is no time limit for the terms of the NDA, so they are essentially asking me for a lifetime commitment in exchange for a couple weeks worth of work. Number 1 below is too crazy to even comment on. Number 2, what if my next career pivot is to write software reviews? I would be unable to express an opinion about one of the biggest software companies in its industry for the rest of my life. Not just for a job, but even just in passing on Twitter or something.

    Are other folks seeing these kinds of things?

    1. I agree to provide Company and any person designated by Company such reasonable assistance as may be required to obtain, perfect and enforce the rights and title to the Work Product provided to Company under this Agreement. If Company is unable, for any reason to secure my signature to any document required to file, prosecute, register or memorialize the assignment of any rights under any Work Product as provided under this Agreement, I hereby irrevocably designate and appoint Company and Company’s duly authorized officers and agents as my agents and attorney-in-fact to act for and on my behalf and instead of me to take all lawfully permitted acts to further the filing, prosecution, registration, memorialization or assignment, issuance and enforcement of rights under such Work Product, all with the same legal force and effect as if executed by me. The foregoing is deemed a power coupled with an interest and is irrevocable.

    2. During my temporary project with Company and after the termination thereof, I will not disparage Company, its products, services, agents or employees.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Those are totally bonkers and tantamount to abuse of the employer/employee power dynamic differences. You should decline the project, and I hope everyone would with those conditions.

    2. Reba*

      Ay yai yai! You are smart to read the contract critically, and yes, these kinds of lopsided agreements are common even as many states are moving to limit certain aspects of them. I have not encountered power of attorney(!) in agreements before but apparently it’s a thing in fields where patents are done? IANAL.

      It’s so infuriating when employers just shoot these over as if it’s a mere formality. I’m glad you are able to walk away from this one.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I have not seen these, but I’m also not sure why #1 would cause problems for you. It is strictly limited to the work product, which I assume you would not have any future rights in anyway. I would rather not have a former client hunt me down ten years in the future to get me to sign a bunch of paperwork that could have been dealt with at the time.

      It strikes me as something rather like a self-proving affidavit on a will to avoid having to track down the witnesses.

      Am I missing something important?

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Provision 1 is trying to make sure that you sign any documents they need for registering intellectual property with the USPTO or Copyright Office or whatever. And if they can’t get your signature, then it says you’ve agreed to let them sign the documents for you. This isn’t unreasonable.

      What do you find unreasonable about the second provision? They don’t want you to badmouth them, especially since people may perceive that your words carry some weight of authority on the topic of the company since you worked for them and therefore you must know what you’re talking about

      And as for the lifetime term for