open thread – October 8-9, 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.

{ 1,099 comments… read them below }

  1. InMyBones*

    For people who went back to school and took out loans- how did you mentally come to terms with the financial burden of loans and potentially going without/limited income for a bit?

    I’m 33(single!) and finally feeling in a good place financially where I don’t have to stress about every dollar and I’m on the cusp of finishing up paying off my federal student loans. When I finished up undergrad, I considered getting my Masters to become a psychotherapist (Masters is required to practice) but I wasn’t 100% sure and didn’t want to take on the loans for grad school until I was. Well the pandemic has made me realize that this is what I want to do- but now that I’m *this close* to being out of debt and feeling cushy, the thought of putting myself back into it is the only thing holding me back. This has been causing my mental anguish- I’m pretty frugal so most big purchases are mentally tough for me- but I also can’t ignore that this feels like 100% the right career move for me. Would love to hear others experience.

    1. Yorick*

      If this is the career you want, it might help to start planning about paying off the debt right away. How quickly will you want to pay it off? How large will your monthly payments need to be to do that? What will your salary be like with your new job, and what does that mean for how quickly you can pay it off? Etc.

    2. Psyched*

      I am finishing up my masters in Forensic Psychology and although I had to take on the debt, the excitement I have for my future is more than worth it. As long as you’re smart about finances (which it sounds like you are) and aren’t biting off more than you can chew, it’ll work out. Take some time before you start to look for grants and scholarships. Apply for as many as you can. Check with your workplace to see if they offer any tuition reimbursement and, depending on what it is you currently do and where you want to go to school, you could also see if you can work for the school doing something. Most colleges offer a tuition discount and/or free tuition for employees. If you are able to keep working through school, you could also look at only taking out a certain amount in loans and paying some out of pocket as well to help keep your overall debt low. Best of luck to you!

    3. Zephy*

      Psych BA here, had similar reservations about going on to grad school upon finishing undergrad with a five-figure loan balance despite choosing a discipline that requires a master’s at minimum to do anything in the field. There are tons of concurrent MA/PhD psych programs and it’s super common to enroll for the PhD for the funding, then “master out” (get the MA so you can get licensed to practice, then dip). I have no idea what the consequences are for doing that funding-wise, it probably varies school-to-school, but it was a thing that I was told about in the mid-late 2010s in conversations about what comes after undergrad. I would imagine getting in (and getting that PhD funding, like a fellowship or whatever) is still the tricky part, but that may be something worth looking into.

      1. Almost a Dr.*

        I am a clinical psych PhD student – this is not a route to go. First of all, getting into a clinical PhD program is extremely competitive (statistically more competitive than medical school) and generally requires years of research experience, so putting yourself through that process unless you are interested in research is generally not worth it. Second of all, you can’t always become licensed at the masters level if you “master out” of a PhD – the hours required to get licensed as a LMHC or similar are greater than those you will have accrued at that point in a PhD Program.

        There are some fully-funded psychology masters degree (not very many, unfortunately) which are not a bad idea to look into.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I can’t speak to PhD programs, but even with an MA in counseling, you need clinical hours with supervision before you can get your first license. It took my husband a year or so? I think? (It’s been awhile.) So it’s not like you can go straight from MA->LPC.

          His MA was partially funded by workstudy, but I don’t think it’s common for them to be fully funded, as you note. But that’s one field where you just can’t do much in the clinical world with a BA.

        2. Overeducated*

          Yeah, I have friends who went through (non-clinical) research psych PhDs, and practicing is not an option for them because the knowledge and experience they got was not the same; most stuck with research/teaching, but one is actually back in school so she can get into clinical therapy. And PhDs take so long that her current school won’t count some of her college prerequisites, so she has to retake stuff like basic statistics that she *taught* in grad school. It’s absurd. (Hopefully worth it though!)

          In general, I think dropping out of a funded PhD program with a master’s is a great way to avoid debt (it was my plan too, except like an idiot I just…kept going), but clinical psych seems like one of those fields where this might not work, at least not in any old program.

    4. Ginger ale for all*

      Have you thought about getting a part time job for the holidays to get a small pad of money for emergencies to ease your mind a bit?

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I wish I’d done it differently. I thought going back to school was the way to get out of shitty jobs, but boy was I wrong. Getting two degrees didn’t really help me, other than qualifying me for entry-level jobs that ridiculously require a bachelor’s. None of them paid enough for me to pay the loans back.

      I tried to go to school a couple more times but finally gave up and will never go back. I’m okay with certifications or a class now and then. You’ll never find me in a degree program again. I do wish I’d finished my master’s in education—I could have gone into corporate training. However, it required a practicum, and there was no way I could do that because I had to work.

      Another thing I would change would be to avoid private loans. And I would have gone to a state university instead of a private one. Ugh. What was I thinking? I will never be able to retire unless I somehow become a millionaire or marry one and he pays off my debt as a wedding present. Not holding my breath on either one. :P

      If you plan it very well and have a sound strategy for paying off those loans, it might be worth it. But only you can decide.

      1. CaviaPorcellus*

        I’m facing down the reality of needing to do field hours while working full time. If it does work out, it’s not going to be pleasant.

      2. PT*

        I had a lot of friends who did this during the recession. They graduated college and couldn’t get anything but a low paid service sector job, so they went back for a masters. But when they graduated, all they could get was a low paid service sector job…except now they owed debt on undergrad AND a master’s. Eventually they ended up in a second graduate program for a degree in a specific job field (say, teaching, law, MBA, etc.) and…some of them still couldn’t get jobs that paid more than $35K…and now they owed loans on three degrees.

        It’s terrible.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s a scam, really. “Get a degree! Get more! You’ll get a better job!” No. It’s a terrible return on investment. There is no reason for school to cost this much other than greed, plain and simple.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Hate to have to agree with you, because it shreds all my illusions. Maybe in an earlier decade…long ago…I finally got my degree and graduated into a recession w loan debt. I took that financial obligation very seriously, but ended up doing the same crap work (and even that was hard to get during that recession) just to have an income. One of my professors was honest enough to tell us employers use having/not having a degree as a screening tool because they get so many applicants. The loans were paid off years ago.

    6. MissCoco*

      Frankly, it was tough!
      It helped to have a bit of time to practice during my application cycle. I got close to living on a student “salary” (except my rent was higher before I moved for school), and stocked up on some stuff I knew would be harder to purchase on a really tight budget. Things like good quality dress pants, a vacuum cleaner that wasn’t a hand-me-down from college, and some small kitchen appliances to make cooking easier.

      Also, though I currently don’t work, I had a part time job over the past 2 semesters and though it really didn’t have a huge impact on my budget, it made me feel much better to have just a bit of money coming in

      Funnily enough, the thing that finally decided me was when I was really plotting out what my return on investment would be with interest on my loans and thinking about my repayment schedule. I realized that even if I didn’t come out “ahead” (in terms of how much I’d make over a hypothetical career if I didn’t plunge back into debt) I still wanted to spend the money. It will be worth it for me because I want to do this career, and while I’m all for working to live, I am happier if I get 40 hours a week that are at least somewhat enjoyable.

      I also did a lot of research on actual job prospects and salaries, there were several programs I was interested in that I decided weren’t safe enough as far as return on investment or I felt it would be too hard to get out of debt on the schedule I wanted.

    7. New Mom*

      Here is my advice as a fellow debt-adverse person:
      Have you looked into getting your master’s abroad? I got mine in England and it ended up being cheaper than the cheapest state school option back in the states. England is also the most expensive European option, so there is also Germany (free to international students), and other countries as well. European masters tend to be more condensed and shorter than American programs (less time out of the workforce) and you usually pay a flat fee instead of yearly tuition. And you also get a year living abroad.
      If you have to stay stateside you should look into employers that cover some or all of your tuition. I think people get discouraged because there are so few grad scholarships in the US and they are very competitive, but employer tuition reimbursement is a great option.

      1. New Mom*

        But I totally get it about the mental anguish. I had been working full-time and had two part-time jobs for the three years leading up to grad school and I would get so excited when my bank account went up each month. Then as a grad student I had to live in a pretty awful house (mold, bad roommates) and it was so expensive and I just had to watch my bank account decrease and decrease during that year. That’s another reason I was happy to do a 14 month program in England instead of a 24 month program in the US, so that I was able to start working again. But I’m making more than triple the salary I made prior to grad school so it all worked out. But it was grating to be so consumed with the costs of everything when I knew no money was coming in.

      2. InMyBones*

        Thank you for this suggestion!! I will definitely look into this as I know requirements to practice vary country to country and I’d want to make sure if I got my Master’s abroad, the school would be accredited to practice in the US.

        1. Canadian psychologist*

          In general, European psychology qualifications aren’t accepted in North America as it is a totally different training system. But you can check by looking to see if the state where you live has a reciprocity agreement with wherever you want to go to school. But Canada is likely much cheaper than the US and has the same accreditation system as the USA, at least for clinical psych. Look into counselling psych MAs, or MSWs, that’s what you want to be a therapist with an MA. Stay away from clinical psych, it’s designed to go to PhD and you won’t be ready to be a therapist with only a clinical MA. As well as the other reasons, above, to avoid a clinical psych program given your goals.

        2. New Mom*

          Yeah, I did the same. I reached out to people in my field/the field I wanted to move into and asked how a degree from the UK would impact my hiring prospects. My field is less specialized than yours, but you should definitely poke around. I’m strongly an advocate of finding the most affordable education option and not taking out any unnecessary debt. Good luck!

        3. Rachel in NYC*

          I had a friend who had the option- which she didn’t take- to get her MSW, while continuing her university job. It would have been a LOT- going to school and working full-time but the university would have paid all or most of her tuition. She’d have been responsible for fees, books, and taxes.

          She didn’t go for and I admit I never asked her whether she regretted that decision.

      3. fueled by coffee*

        Not sure where you’re located, and not sure how the licensing guidelines work internationally, but many Canadian MAs are funded.

          1. Canadian psychologist*

            I think US students in Canada are covered by some funding and not others. Some of it will be determined by what is allowed by the student visa (I think you cannot be paid for most work, like during a practicum? Also there are limits on how many hours of paid work per week that are allowed, in accredited programs). This is the kind of information that may well be on the university department’s website, or you can call or email the program’s graduate assistant. You may be able to work on campus as a TA, but not off campus – things like that – and which scholarships etc you are eligible for as an international student. It’s also pretty common to be paid as a research assistant for your thesis advisor, but again not sure how that works as an international student.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Foreign students pay significantly more tuition in Canada, and need extra health coverage, so they’re more expensive to fund than domestic students. That doesn’t mean that funded positions don’t exist, but they can be evaluated differently, as a fee paying foreign student brings extra money in, but a funded one costs more money. My researched based, fully funded PhD program had about 1/2 foreign students.

              As far as I know, foreign students are not eligible for student loans, and some scholarships are for domestic students only. The student visa does tightly regulate what kind of work and how much you can do. In my program, grad students could do campus based work for pay for a certain number of hours, like working as a TA or RA, but couldn’t take paid jobs off campus.

              I’ll also note that student visas generally require that you demonstrate you can financially support yourself during the degree, either through savings, or a family member paying for you, or scholarships/allowed on campus work. So going abroad for a degree might have cheaper tuition, but you can’t get a random part time job to support yourself, and if your plan is to work illegally to do so (tutoring under the table, for example), you won’t fulfill the financial requirements for the visa.

      4. GrooveBat*

        To pile on: You can work for a university in a non-teaching position and get free tuition. The salary is generally lower, but way better than taking on a ton of new debt.

        1. Worth The Wait*

          This is what I did. I was able to take 2 courses per semester (finishing up my BS) and my husband could also take 2 courses per semester (he got his MBA.) I took a low-stress, strictly 40 hour a week administrative position and was able to move my lunch time around when I had daytime classes but most of what I needed was offered at night. My husband’s classes were designed for the working professional so they were all at night. We didn’t see much of each other for a couple of years – sometimes arranging “study dates” in the campus library and went out for drinks after final exams! We each finished our degrees with no debt. The salery was lower than my previous postition but the net result was greater over time.

          1. New Mom*

            I love this story! Thanks for sharing. Did you or your husband husband have to apply to the program or did you have a different admissions process because he was related to an employee? I’ve been curious about those options but the two closest colleges are very difficult to get into.

    8. Old13oy*

      I went back to grad school in my late 20’s and made a number of choices to keep my total loan amount low, including going to a state school, taking classes part time, and working the whole way through. It wasn’t easy, I cried a LOT during my final semester, when I unexpectedly had to take a full time course load during a pandemic while working full time and also doing a couple part time jobs/projects, not recommended… but I also graduated with ZERO debt! I don’t know if that would be possible for you in the position you’re in now (I was lucky to work in a fairly well salaried field), but if you can swing it and can afford to wait the years to get the degree I think it’s worth it.

    9. BlueK*

      I think this is a situation where informational interviews are important. It can be very hard to gauge exactly how feasible it is to get into a desired field in a certain geographic area w/ a specific degree. Especially if you’ve been working in an altogether different area up to now. Salary info and number of job openings only get you so far.

      School choice can also be a big factor – or not! And there is often a price difference between schools. I was lucky, I had the money to pay out of pocket when going back to school to switch fields. Biglaw has some advantages. Still, I chose to go with the public option (1/3 the cost of the private one).

      What made sense for law school made much less sense for the second degree. I don’t doubt there are alumni networking advantages I gave up, but it’s also not like law where firms only recruit from set schools. And I now have the money for more specialized continuing education programs.

      Then there are the intangibles which mattered a lot more this time around since I was in a fundamentally different position of working with a a net this time. I personally happen to like the ethos around public schools more. I’m glad I had the private school experience, but once was more than enough. This might not matter to some people. And others may really want that private school experience if they didn’t get to have it before. It’s really personal that sort of thing.

    10. Almost a Dr.*

      Specifically for a masters to become a therapist. I would really suggest working backwards from where you want to be – do you want to practice in the state that you live in? If so, take a look at requirements for different licenses (LMSW, LMHC, LPA, etc.) that fall under the realm of masters-level psychotherapy and what the routes are to get to those licenses. This tends to vary by state. Some types of masters programs will be more expensive than others, and some have different income expectations right out of school. (For example, I have friends who got an MSW through an in-state school, which was fairly reasonable price-wise, but after that you generally need to spend a couple years in low-paying, difficult working conditions accruing hours for licensure before you can move to more independent practice or higher paying jobs). It might be helpful to try to talk with people doing what you’d eventually like to be doing to see how they’ve managed loans and income in the short term.

      I see some recommendations up-thread about other certifications or degrees abroad – that is good advice for other professions/types of masters degrees, but licensure requirements probably preclude most of those.

    11. Unladen European Swallow*

      If you haven’t already, be sure that you do detailed research on the expected starting salary for your chosen profession in your area. How much can psychotherapists expect to earn in their first year? If you’re not tied to a specific geographic area, what does the pay look like in other states? Also, is the local job market fairly saturated or is there a real need? Essentially, you want to be sure you’re making an informed decision about the ROI for your degree/debt. Make sure that your first post-master’s degree income will be enough for you to repay your loans. If you know that this master’s degree is required for your career and will help you earn an income that is commiserate with your education, I think that can help you in taking on your debt.

      I worked for 6 years before deciding to go to grad school. By that time, I was sure that my chosen field was the one I wanted to stay in, that a master’s degree was needed to move up in my field, and that it would dramatically improve my earning potential. Also, my local area always had openings for my line of work, so I was confident in being able to find a position after graduation. Also, if at all possible, I STRONGLY encourage you to make student loan payments on your new graduate loan WHILE STILL IN SCHOOL. I did this and it that meant my principle was a few thousand dollars less when I graduated.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        Also, if at all possible, I STRONGLY encourage you to make student loan payments on your new graduate loan WHILE STILL IN SCHOOL. I did this and it that meant my principle was a few thousand dollars less when I graduated.

        Seconded. At the very least, if you have the kind of loan where there interest accumulates while you are in school, make the interest payments + $5 (or other nominal amount that you can spare).

    12. Guess I'm Losing My Leave*

      Rather than getting a scholarship, I went to a big State University that uses graduate instructors; it comes with a small stipend but more importantly, tuition waiver. I worked my tail off and didn’t learn as much as I would have in my own classes because I was basically an unpaid professor for undergrads (not even in my field, I TA’d science labs), but it was worth it to graduate basically debt free. Look for research universities and don’t go there as an undergrad because you’re mostly going to be taught by 24 year old nobodies like me.

    13. the cat's ass*

      It was HARD. I worked a couple of part-time jobs and took out a HELOC. I fully committed to being broke for 3 years while i worked and went to school part-time. I got my MSN/NP at 40 and have never regretted it. The great thing is when i graduated and got relocated, i sold the house and then paid off the loan.

    14. Sea Anemone*

      I don’t know your program requirements and the free time you might have available, but would you be able to teach a college level class during your Master’s program? I don’t mean TA, I mean be the instructor of record. You have a BS, that might qualify you for entry level lecturer positions at a community college or smaller university.

      It’s something I wish I had thought of when I went back for my mid-career Master’s. I wrote off teaching bc they save the TA positions for PhD candidates. It seriously wasn’t until I graduated that I had a facepalm moment realizing I had the credentials to be a lecturer. If your program leaves you the time for it, it would mean fewer loans.

      1. Okay*

        Most community colleges require MAs, PhDs, or MAs on the way to becoming PhDs. It’s going to be field specific but adjuncts don’t usually hold bachelor’s degrees only.

    15. Hermione*

      I don’t know if this is an option for you, but if you don’t mind taking the part-time route and working full-time while you do so, the tuition remission benefits you can get by working at a university can make this signficantly more affordable.

      I live in a college town and happened into higher ed after my undergrad not long after the recession. I recently started using my benefits to take some graduate-level courses I was interested in, unrelated to my job. Ultimately I applied to the degree program and now I should graduate this spring with no debt. The classes were a small fraction of the usual cost of the program. It actually went so well that – while I am happy with my current job and career progression so far – I’m considering another Masters program with a focus in higher ed starting in the fall to further support my future career.

    16. WulfInTheForest*

      Honestly? I live off of income-based repayment and intend to stay there. I’ve never made an actual full payment (most years it’s actually at 0$ repayment), and eventually the loans get forgiven at 20 years. It’s been 7 years since I left my undergrad, I can wait out the next 13.

    17. CaviaPorcellus*

      I’m actually working on my 2nd masters, accumulating more debt well before discharging any of the debt for my first masters or the bit that was leftover from undergrad.

      I work in public sector social services, so I just pay what I can, knowing that I’m working toward PSLF. This 2nd masters is an MSW, so if I go through with letting my LCSW after this, I’m also eligible for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.

      Overall, it’s worth it. Much moreso knowing the forgiveness options out there.

    18. Camille*

      Not sure if any of this will be helpful, but I got my liberal arts MA at an expensive Ivy League school in a high COL city. I worked part-time during the school year and picked up more hours during the summer. I took out the maximum Federal loans and maybe $10k in a private loan. My program colleagues and I figured out immediately that the cheapest way through the program was to do the first year as full time, then the 3rd semester at half time, and the last semester at quarter time (or whatever it was called) — because by the 4th semester we were basically just writing our theses and had taken all the required courses.

      After I graduated, I consolidated all my federal loans and locked in a low, non-variable interest rate. I’m also in the Public Loan Service Forgiveness program and have about a year left before I’m eligible to apply.

      It was a struggle when I first graduated, I couldn’t afford my payments and had to defer them. But I’ve always been very fiscally responsible so grad school debt was all I had (no house, car, kids, no credit card debt). Sometimes I wish I would have chosen a less expensive program, but I also know having the name of that university on my resume opened doors and my income has steadily increased at each place I’ve worked.

    19. Tech Process Geek*

      For me, the fact that I have doubled my annual salary within 10 years of getting my masters helps significantly. When you are going to graduate school for a specific goal, the results and the pay-off are much higher.

      Would focusing on that type of positive help you? I tracked my income for 5 years after graduate school, which clearly showed me that I had increased my income by more than the pay-off amount of my loans.

    20. Xenia*

      Is there any way for you to take find a workplace that will sponsor your classes? Or take a non-standard approach through a community college or something less immediately expensive?

    21. Squidhead*

      I typed a long reply and a site reload ate it. Anyway, I took out a big loan to go back to nursing school when I already had a BA in something else. It took about 5 years to pay it off after I finished school and started working, and that was paying a lot (1k/month).

      Going into it, I wanted to preserve our (small) savings. My spouse was working at a low-paying job, but it was enough to co-sign the loans since I was now unemployed. We already had a house with a mortgage so we knew we wouldn’t have to qualify for one any time soon. I also knew that I would make more as a nurse than in my former arts career (which is a commentary on arts careers, not nursing!). So the loans seemed like a reasonable, though not free, way to minimize our risk. It worked out. Loans are paid off, I then later got a BS on my employer’s dime and could get an MSN the same way if I want to. Acknowledging some privilege here: No one helped me pay for school, but I knew if we got into some kind of jam (like, I got terribly ill and couldn’t finish school ever), that family would help us out. That kind of silent safety-net means a lot, and helped us feel okay with taking out the loans/abandoning a previous career/etc.

    22. Middle Manager*

      If you’d be willing to work in a healthcare shortage area or public system, there are some tuition reimbursement options for healthcare professionals, including therapists. Varies by state, but something worth considering.

    23. Squeakrad*

      Family therapist here. I did the same thing you did, except for my clinical hours, I was able to find jobs rather than internships. Do you want the best paying jobs but they definitely help me pay off my loans. And once I actually had my license, I was eligible for a huge bump in pay at my job. I never actually had a practice as I didn’t want that level of risk and I wasn’t interested in seeing people with what we would call “middle-class“ problems, but I very much enjoyed working in the field.
      I also worked various jobs while in school – overnight at Care homes, residential treatment centers etc. Looking back I would not have gone to the expensive school as a masters in psychology is a masters in psychology but I liked my program and it was small enough that I got to know everyone there.

      If you’re anticipating getting the degree because you want to start a practice though, be aware that Masters level therapists are only approved for insurance in a few states. So if you want to work independently you may have to get a PhD

  2. Tiny Tina*

    Low stakes question from a previous incident. A few years ago, I broke my leg (not on my job)and had to be non-weight bearing for 2 months. My boss and HR decided to have me work from home during that time. I didn’t ask for it; they suggested it. Though our office was legally handicapped accessible, the entrance with a ramp was in our very busy warehouse/workshop and I think they were concerned about me crutching through there and injuring myself further. Fine by me, I was more comfortable working in my bed with my leg stretched out and it was easier to get to my physical therapy appointments from home.

    This all happened during December and our company holiday party, which was always a delicious catered buffet in the warehouse with games and prizes (nice ones like TVs and sports tickets), during the work day. My boss was surprised when he mentioned the party to me over the phone and I said I wouldn’t go. He assured me that even if I was working from home, I was allowed to come in an enjoy the party. There were a number of reasons I decided not to go: I had a physical therapy session that day, I would have needed someone to pick out food and carry my plate for me. But yes, I was also thinking I shouldn’t go because I was working from home, specifically due to my boss and HR being concerned I couldn’t easily get around our office. It would have felt weird to accept this uncommon work set up and only go in for a fun work event, proving that I probably could move around our office (but very slowly).

    What would you do in this situation?

    1. WellRed*

      I don’t think it would be weird to go in for the party but I probably would have passed for the same reasons you did: logistics.

    2. londonedit*

      I don’t think there was any reason why you shouldn’t have gone from an ethical point of view – your boss invited you to come and join the party, and I’m sure they were keen for you not to feel left out. But if I was in your position, I probably wouldn’t have gone either – it sounds like a logistical nightmare and it wouldn’t have been much fun spending the evening sitting on the sidelines and having to get people to ferry food and drinks back and forth. I’d have felt a bit like a spectacle!

    3. Witch*

      I think you could’ve went if you wanted: “He assured me that even if I was working from home, I was allowed to come in an enjoy the party.”

      It sounds like they understood your needs well enough to get that a two-hour or so party is pretty unequal to a full eight-hour workday. In your position I probably wouldn’t have gone just cause me spending time doing whatever I want is more of a treat than a company holiday could ever be, though.

    4. photon*

      Going to the office for a one-off event (in which you’re not expected to concentrate on work) is very different from dealing with the logistics of going day-to-day. I think it would’ve been entirely appropriate for you to go, had you wanted to.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Came here to say exactly this, doing something once for a special occasions is very different than being able to do it every day.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Agreed. It doesn’t sound like Tiny Tina was being forced to work from home, in any case, it just made more sense. You weren’t persona non grata around the office, and going for a few hours would have been fine.

        That said, I think it was also fine to decline for the reasons you did.

      3. Seal*

        Agreed. At my previous job one of my staff members was out for 6 weeks following surgery, but they came in briefly towards the end of their time off for a coworker’s retirement party. Everyone was happy to see them, including the retiree, and no one questioned why they were there when they were otherwise on extended sick leave. Likewise, everyone would have understood if they hadn’t felt up to coming to the party.

      4. Nessun*

        Agreed. You had sound logistical reasons not to go, so were I in your place with those items in mind (appointments and such), I’d have skipped too. But going wouldn’t be an issue, as the party is substantially different from working day-to-day – only a few hours, meant for socializing (no burden on you to get things done at a pace other than you’d do at home), and able to sit in place and have people come to you if they wanted to visit, instead of having to seek people out in the office for various work reasons.

    5. A Lynn*

      I think you could have gone in for the party. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it as your coworker -just that you went to extra effort to come in for a special event. Going in for one event is different from going in daily & needing accommodation for entire workdays -like how to position your leg.

      During my parental leave a few years ago, I attended my boss’s retirement party. And just this week, many people who work remotely came in for a happy hour to interact with some new management people

    6. Mockingjay*

      We have multiple remote employees (for many reasons) and all are encouraged to attend the holiday parties. It’s an employee party! You’re an employee, go and have fun! It’s great to see people in person (in general, outside pandemic).

    7. Not Dave*

      I personally would have gone for the prizes, but yes it would be quite the headache to get in and around. However, if you wanted to go for the middle ground so your boss doesn’t feel like you’re left out, you could have said “I have a physical therapy appointment that day, but if you could leave me a plate of food I’ll swing by and pick it up on my way home”.

    8. anonymous73*

      I think it was fine for you not to go for most of the reasons you mention, but WFH shouldn’t have been one of them. Outside of WFH because you’re contagious, there are plenty of reasons someone may be WFH temporarily and they shouldn’t feel weird for coming to a one day holiday party.

    9. Bagpuss*

      I personally probably wouldn’t have gone because I tend to go to the Christmas party because I feel I should, rather than because I want to go, so any excuse to stay home would be welcome, but I think you would have been totally fine to go.

      Attending a one–off event is different to going to work, and it seems both reasonable and kind for the boss to make sure that you knew you were welcome, and as it was they and not you who suggested that you work from home, there wouldn’t even be a risk of them thinking you’d overstated your needs / difficulties to avoid coming in to the office to work. Also – moving slowly at a party is no issue – you’re not on the clock nor are your potentially holding up others who are on the clock.

      At work, the dynamics re very different.

      Would you have felt weird going if the party had been at a restaurant or other venue, rather than at the warehouse? (setting aside the other reasons you didn’t want to go, all of which were of course totally valid on their onw!)

    10. Chloe*

      I would have gone; a colleague or two would have been happy to get food on my behalf.

      But I would want my manager to make it clear to everyone that “Chloe is working from home, but I’ve invited her to attend our annual engagement in person.”

      1. Loulou*

        Wouldn’t that have been understood? I feel like making an announcement turns it into this weird thing when the situation is totally normal.

    11. JelloStapler*

      I would have think it “off” if your boss did NOT invite you to the party because you were working from home, that would imply you are not part of the team, which you are. So, on the flip side – I also would not feel bad about going for that reason. That said, it makes sense to not go for your own reasons you stated.

    12. Sparkles McFadden*

      There’s a world of difference between coming in for a single event and having to navigate the office on crutches every single day so it’s no surprise the invitation was issued.

      I wouldn’t have attended the party either, (for the reasons you listed and also because I am definitely not a party person), but I think it’s better (and kinder) for your boss to make sure you were invited so you could decide. It’s just like the work from home offer. They offered it to keep you from having to ask for sensible accommodation. Sounds like a good workplace!

    13. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think it was fine not to go — an injury like that makes you rethink how you expend your energy on any given day, and parties take lots of energy even when you’re not injured.

    14. Worried and Down*

      Any advice for dealing with imposter syndrome? Just started a new executive level role and not sure I made the right move as I feel like I have no clue what I am doing.

    15. Dust Bunny*

      I wouldn’t have batted an eye if you showed up. It’s a one-time event, not a daily grind of having to deal with doors and stairs.

    16. ATX*

      I would have 100% gone to the party and if someone had an issue with it and saw it as you taking advantage of working from home, it would be their own issue.

    17. learnedthehardway*

      I would have EXPECTED to be welcome – I mean, you are still a part of the team and an employee. You’re working from home due to health reasons, not taking a vacation. And even if you were away and not working at all, at the companies I’ve worked for, people on leaves of absence (eg. maternity/parental leave, which was up to a year when I was an employee) were invited to come to the Christmas parties. (Now that I’m self-employed, some of my clients invite me to their Christmas parties, too).

      I might have stayed away for logistics reasons or if I was going to be too tired after physio, but I’d have tried to go if I could in order to reconnect with colleagues.

    18. theletter*

      In the before times, when a co-worker was wfh due to a remote location, they would often travel to the office specifically for fun work events. Reason being that as hard as it is do boring work things over the wire, it’s pretty much impossible to do a fun event virtually. Bowling over Zoom just isn’t a thing.

      Another thing I noticed is that ‘fun work event’ isn’t viewed by management as the same thing as ’employees getting time off from work and also free beer’. Some companies like to do MVP awards or have the president do a motivational speech, or just try to get people to mingle/network/build cameraderie. From a motivational standpoint it could make sense to bring virtual employees in for a day to participate, if it can work logistically.

      1. kt*

        Yes, this is a good point. Some of our “fun events” are considered team-building events and they’re worth it for enhanced communication the rest of the time, as well as for retention (yes yes I know all you folks in AAM-land who don’t like going to social events with your colleagues: I see you, I respect that, and I also see lots of other folks who value things differently). We make a particular effort to include or at least not exclude our WFH or remote folks.

    19. Beth*

      I might have attended if I was able to set myself up with a work buddy to help bring me stuff. But that’s only if the event was something you actually *wanted* to go to.

    20. RagingADHD*

      I don’t think there’s an inherent conflict between having a regular daily wfh setup to accommodate your injury, and still going in for a special occasion.

      I agree with you that it wasn’t worth the trouble (particularly since you had a PT session that day). But disability and accommodation aren’t absolutes. There are things you COULD do once in a while, but just aren’t sustainable for every day, or things that are technically possible but not worth it on a regular basis.

      That’s true for people with permanent disabilities as well as for people with temporary injuries. Things don’t have to be absolutely impossible in order to merit accommodation.

    21. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Have been there, done that, and got suckered into the company shindig. It sucked. It proved I’d have been correct to decline.

      The logistics are going to suck for events like these.
      The boss wants to make sure you know you’re welcome, but I’d put good money on him not understanding the logistics issue.

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

      If it wasn’t for the appointment I’d say go. One day is different than every day for months. If anyone would have a problem it would be on them, not you. I don’t know how your warehouse works during this party but I assume that it would be closed at the time too. So you could just go in for the party and there would be less or no obstacles in your way, at least not like there would be in a normal day.

      This problem also shows why handicap accessibility needs to be actually accessible. If they hired someone who was or an existing employe becomes permanently disabled what would they do? Just having an entrance so you can mark your building as being accessible doesn’t make much sense if it could be a safety hazard to go through the warehouse where the entrance is.

  3. Binky*

    I just started a new job and have an interior office. Any advice for cheering it up since I’m windowless? No plants, as I have no natural light and am a black thumb.

    Also, is anyone else feeling super awkward with new people? I can’t tell if it’s just me, or if the pandemic isolation has made everyone more awkward.

    1. Observer*

      If you don’t have great lighting, a lamp, preferably with a bulb that’s the same color as sunlight.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Seconded. I have a window-less office with overhead fluorescent lighting. I was able to swap out those bulbs for a warmer tone (like 4000K vs the normal 5000k) and I have a desk lamp with a 2700k bulb that’s warmer. Because it would be a pain for anyone to keep track of my bulbs, when they needed to be replaced I ordered them myself with my company card and I keep them the extras behind my cabinet.

        I realize not everyone can do this, though. We’re a small company and my boss didn’t mind. He was surprised at what a big difference it made, though, and now he totally understands why I go through the effort. Even the lamp would make a big difference on its own if I wasn’t allowed to change the overhead bulbs.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Could you get some fake plants? There are some really lovely fake plant options out there, and a bit of green always cheers the place up.

      Do you have space for a floor lamp? Having non-overhead fluorescent lighting can really help make a place look/feel less industrial. I’d also add maybe a painting (if you have the space) and bring in a few personal touches, like a fun mug for your pens and some photos of your family/friends/pets. I also found that a personal calendar, even if you never use it for calendar things, adds a really nice feel to things. I had never especially wanted one, but a friend made me a custom calendar with pictures of me and our friends in it, and it really added something nice to my space.

      Congrats on the new job!

      1. Forgot My Name Again*

        Seconding fake plants – we’re not allowed actual plants in the building as they encourage pests, so I picked up a few different ones from IKEA to scatter around the area. Makes a sterile white room much more bearable!

      2. Elle Woods*

        I third the fake plants. I’ve picked up some from both IKEA and Target that are very realistic looking. I have to dust them from time to time but that’s it.

      3. Mental Lentil*

        I fourth fake plants. I used to think these were kind of tacky looking, but the new ones they have now are so realistic. You never need to water or prune.

    3. Paris Geller*

      In my last job I had an interior office that was truly a box with a door. I made it nicer with lots of fake plants (Target generally has pretty affordable options) and art on the walls.

    4. Dwight Schrute*

      Congrats on the new job! I’d do fake plants (that’s what I have in my house), pictures or paintings, and some lamps

    5. Three Seagrass*

      There are some good looking fake plants out there! Their only maintenance is some regular dusting.

      A lamp can bring some warmth, either a regular lamp or a salt lamp. (Warning: if you get a salt lamp, everyone will want to talk to you about ions)

      Some art. If you have empty walls, a big piece can instantly bring some cheer. Ikea has cheap pieces if you want something immediately, or you could try thrifting for something fun.

    6. WorkNowPaintLater*

      Things I’ve done (years in windowless cubicles, old building inner offices):
      1 – I bought a mouse rug that looks like an oriental rug and keep it in front of my monitor (since using a trackball now). Adds some color to the desk and handy for placing mugs, water bottles, etc.
      2 – if allowed, a small light in the corner of the desk. Handy on those days that really feel gloomy.
      3 – Command strips are very handy for hanging framed prints, small shelves when you can’t/are allowed to put nails in the wall.
      4 – if you need a touch of green, there are some nice artificial succulents in really cute pots. No light needed!

    7. Not Dave*

      Fake plants are good! If you have any work-friendly hobbies, knick-knacks would help.

      I have had a lot of people admit they feel more awkward interacting face to face lately. I grew up with anxiety and social awkwardness, so I don’t feel any noticeable difference but probably didn’t have as much room to “fall”

    8. LunaLena*

      I have an interior office and a black thumb as well. I just have a ton of other decorations – posters, art prints and postcards, fake plants and flowers, etc. I also got a poster of a fake window to put on one wall. You can find a lot of those online, with the fake window or door opening out to a beach or garden or other nice view. Mine opens out to a star destroyer hovering in space, but that’s only because I couldn’t find one of a full Halo-type space battle scene. I’ve also seen ceiling versions that look out to the sky.

    9. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

      I got myself a wall cling that is a picture of an open window looking out over the ocean. I have an interior office (“the cave”) and it really does help trick my brain a bit and makes it feel bigger in here! I got it off of Amazon.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Me too … searching “Fake Windows Wall Sticker Removable” turns up many. Some walls will stick better than others. When we moved I had to use some tape. It’s still cheery.

        1. Squirrel Nutkin*

          Love the poster/wall cling fake window idea!

          In my dark office, where the tiny windows are behind me, I put posters of beautiful nature scenes — lots of palm trees on the beach, a Hudson River School landscape, a vintage travel poster showing water, etc. It really does help.

    10. anonymous73*

      Fun pictures on the wall an maybe a fake plant? I call myself plant hospice, so I’m right there with you.

      As far as feeling awkward, I’m always super shy when I first meet people so being cooped up for the better part of a year and a half wouldn’t make it any different for me. Over time, my comfort level rises and they see the real me (warts and all). It may take more time, but I’m sure you’re not the only one feeling that way.

      1. anonymous73*

        Oh and a lamp or 2 (depending on how big your office is). I always keep the overhead lights off or unscrewed (migraines) and have table lamps for lighting.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        Agreed! And Ivy too. Push comes to shove, one can also get a small lamp with the right bulb, which will help the plants and provide some extra light in the office.

        1. PT*

          Grow lightbulbs are $9 at big box home stores and you can pop them into any regular desk lamp now that they’re LEDs. They don’t pull tons of electric and they don’t get hot.

          Also as I learned the hard way, don’t ever type “grow light” into a search engine. You’ll get tons of really expensive heavy duty equipment for marijuana grow operations. If you want the $9 LED bulb for houseplants or seed starting, it’s a “plant light.”

    11. Bagpuss*

      Fake plants / flowers (dust them occasionally) – there are some very realistic ones or you could go with obvious fakes (a coworker of ours has a little paper cactus which was given to her as a joke because she has a black thumb)

      (if permitted) a string of little lights (on the fake plant like christmas tree lights, or along the top of your monitor or the frame of any picture. Check rules about electronics and whether battery powered lights would be OK)

      Prints or photos or posters.

      A lamp (possible with a daylight effect bulb) again, check the rules about bringing in / plugging in electronics .

      I’ve always been fairly awkward with new peoples learned to fake it, but I think with the pandemic a lot of people are out of practice and things are more awkward, and also with masks / distancing etc. a lot of the normal stuff is more complicated or less practical – offering someone a coffee r just popping by to introduce yourself get odd when you have to distance / mask . I don’t think it’s just you.

    12. Artemesia*

      When I had an inner office I bought a huge print of one of those Magritte prints of a window — surreal — It really did give the office a more windowed open feel. I think the one I used was where the window was broken and you could see the outdoor scene on the shards of glass on the floor as well as the actual scene through the window.

    13. Dust Bunny*

      Artwork?

      I don’t know. I’ve always been awkward with new people. I’m often awkward with people I’ve known for years, as well.

    14. HarperC*

      I am still in the same job, but just moved offices and I’m in the same situation! I’m now windowless in a completely beige room. I am thinking of getting some tapestry/wall hangings and just “papering” the walls with fabric. I also was thinking along the lines of others with the desk lamp — or one of those sunlight lamps.

      If there are any gamers out there, I was thinking of going full on Fallout Vault-Tec, but the place is depressing enough already.

    15. Red*

      Window or not I’ve always decorated my space with colorful pictures I like and becuase art is my hobby things I’ve made myself. To make it look neat and uncluttered though I always have a corkboard and keep it confined to the corkboard. Also, if you get SAD (the disorder) look into a lamp with a natural light bulb. It’ll help you feel better (even if you don’t get SAD it’ll probably be nice).

    16. EGA*

      My old job had several interior offices and the ones that always seemed the nicest had the following in common:
      1. plenty of colorful art
      2. Textiles in some form (one person had a small rug, the offices usually had a second small table for meetings and people put a table cloth on those, a throw pillow on their office chair)
      3. Lamp: additional lighting that is warmer or “sunlight” to offset the florescent lights

      Some of these offices ended up being the nicest looking because people put a lovely amount of effort in!

    17. ms.communication*

      Windowless usually means lots of wall space. I’ve been in window less offices before and used the 3m Velcro poster strips to decorate my walls. Inexpensive plastic frames with pictures., postcards, artwork can really brighten up your space. Removable wallpaper can be fun as well. I inherited an office with gold removable wallpaper dots on one of the walls and it was really cute.

      1. Interior office*

        Can you please tell me more about the removable wallpaper dots? Was the entire wall covered with wallpaper?

    18. C*

      Art! There is some very easy “wall art” that anyone can make that I used for my interior office. Or you could buy prints from Etsy and frames from the dollar store. Either way, art needs no light or care!
      Also – matching office supplies. I find it really helps cheer up my surroundings to have a matching stapler, tape dispenser, pen holder, yada yada. Just label it.

    19. New office girl*

      I just started a new job with a window- less office. It was so sterile. And had 80’s white metal furniture. With dark blue carpet. I wish I could attach a picture of the before and after. I decided white, gold and navy was the theme! I put in 2 gold/tan floor lamps from Walmart. I painted 2 gold and navy paintings for the wall. Added another gold piece of wall art. Put out white wood file holder and pencil cup with gold edging. And everyone who walks by says wow this office is amazing! It is also so calm and comforting while being stylish. Start with lamps and wall art and go from there.

    20. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Plants, LED grow lamps, a wall poster of a window, and the only piece I haven’t seen already, a fan, To prevent stale air.

    21. BlueK*

      Nice matching desk accessories cheer me up. Something with an aesthetic that fits you. To make it more personalized and yours. Not for everyone but would make me enjoy the space more.

      1. Forty Years in the Hole*

        Adding to the above: I’ve always incorporated a small plug-in or battery operated burbling fountain (depending on your facility management rules), surrounded by plants – very calming. If you’ve the surface space, a little tray of sand to “cultivate” a zen garden. Soft material items (small accent rug, wall hanging, soft throw on chair back for those cool days), help deaden that echo- feel in an enclosed space, and the tactile effect is calming. Something nice/inspirational on the back of your closed door so you’ll have more than just a door to stare at (I hung my figure 11 targets there after our range day – pretty good at grouping – but you gotta know/hang with the right crowd…).

    22. NerdyPrettyThings*

      Regarding your second question, I definitely felt like I had forgotten how to people during WFH (and I’ve never been very good at peopling, anyway). I work in an area that went back onsite early on, and it just took a while to adjust back to office norms. It might take you longer to adjust, since you’ve been isolated longer.

    23. Anthony J Crowley*

      Yes lots more people are super awkward with people than before. Whenever I meet up with anyone socially I’m really scared I’m going to say something ridiculous. More so than previously, I mean :-/

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        I’m convinced that social behavior is not only very learned, but it’s like a muscle and very quickly atrophies. As a homeschooler, I can say “what about socialization” turned out to be a very valid criticism.

    24. RagingADHD*

      Lots of office-y type plants prefer flourescents to natural light and get burned if you put them in a window. Plants are always my #1 choice.

      If you have wall space, I also like paintings that evoke water or movement. I used to have a reproduction of Kupka’s “Nocturne” in my office, and it was really pleasing if you like non-representational art.

    25. Anonymous Hippo*

      My old office was a concrete block building inside a giant warehouse. A tornado couldn’t get me much less sun. I had my entire office decked out, every wall, with cute colorful sci-fi art I got off etsy. I did do it piece by piece so I didn’t entirely scare people, but I got nothing but nice comments about it the years it was up. In my new office, which has a window with the stunning view of the wall of another building (lol) I haven’t had time to put up all the art, but i do have a collection of small toys (beanie sized) that clutter up the area under my monitors, including a dragon, slytherin narwhale, wooden mushroom, small elephant to sit on the mushroom, random fidget toys and spinners, etc. I’ve also put up christmas lights in an office before…wait a few weeks, put them up “for christmas” and then just forgot to take them down again.

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

      I think pandemic has made everyone a little backward. Plus meeting new people can be awkward for some. Just do the best you can.

      As for the windowless office. I FEEL YOU! I am at the front desk and everyone else has windows and plants. I do have a spider plant that does well with fluorescent light, but I am able to put him (it is a him apparently) in a meeting room window during weekends. But if you don’t do well with plants (same but I try) I would say get some fake plants. there are some nice palms that look nice. I would also add some sort of light. Maybe get one of those mood lights or SAD lights that give a natural glow. I’d also recommend some artwork or something that makes you feel good (Beaches, outdoor pics, puppies and kitties, whatever) I think a standing lamp and a desk lamp helps as well so you can turn off the overhead lights which can be a bit much.

    27. the cat's ass*

      Warm lighting, or full spectrum bulbs, totally. Also fake plants, just need a dust! And one of my colleagues hung what looks like a paned window on the far wall-it’s a mirror, but it really brightened thing up. I hung a medium Hawaiian seascape. It’s restful and i love to look at it!
      Yeah, social skills have definitely taken a hit during the pandemic. I just try to be cheerful and friendly but am also pretty exhausted by the end of the day. I think this will pass with time (and exercise, i have become an indoor cat during the last 18 months)!
      Best wishes on your new job!

    28. Maybe Helpful?*

      I had a similar situation and hung 8 x 10 photographs of nature (waterfalls, mountains, ocean) on the walls. I used frames with plexiglass from ikea and hung them with command strips to avoid damaging the walls. My husband or I had taken all the pictures, so they were great conversation starters. Having some nature within view made the windowless office more bearable.

  4. Networker*

    Networking follow up:
    I recently met someone in my field who I’d like to network with – we chatted for a few minutes and he mentioned that his company was hiring. He didn’t have a card on him, but he wrote down his name and company website, but not an email address

    I figured out his email from the pattern of other’s at the company (one of his employees listed an email address on LinkedIn) and sent a short note (“Nice to meet you, interested in your work, and would like to know more, can I take you for coffee?”)

    We met Saturday, I emailed Tuesday; I haven’t heard back, but I also haven’t gotten a bounce back that the address was invalid.

    This could be a GREAT opportunity and I don’t want to miss out, so I plan to try to reach him once more, then drop it.
    If I haven’t heard back a week after sending my note (so Tue/Wed next week) – should I reach out via LinkedIn with a comment about guessing the email address? Send the same/similar note but CC the general info address that is posted on the website?

    1. Networker*

      For context, I am a mid-30’s white woman, the man I met was a mid-60’s white man

      My dad – who was there went I met networkee-man – worked in managment and hiring for many years, he’s also a mid 60’s white guy, and suggested to either call him or send a letter “to stand out”

      1. Venus*

        I would normally never call, but if your dad knows him and suggests calling then I might try that instead of LinkedIn.

    2. Lucky*

      Can you add him on LinkedIn, with a note that you emailed him at his work address to try to connect, in case your email got caught in his spam filter?

    3. photon*

      Give it a bit and try on LinkedIn.

      Note that a lot of big companies do not bounce back wrong addresses, because it gives spammers too much info. You may not have guessed correctly.

      1. Teapot Repair Technician*

        That may have been what he was expecting you to do.

        When I’ve told people about job openings, that’s how it goes: “There’s a job you’d be good for. You can go to this website and apply. Feel free to drop my name.”

        If I’m not the hiring manager, there would not be much benefit to meeting me for coffee. If anything, it would be more important to apply without delay.

    4. Professor Plum*

      And since he mentioned they’re hiring and gave the company website address, look there and apply through the system they’ve laid out. Then if/when you hear from him, you can thank him for letting you know and tell him you did apply.

    5. Mstr*

      Yeah,. I think he chose not to give you his email. Not as a personal slight or anything, but he just didn’t give it to you because he didn’t want to/didn’t think you would need it/etc.

      1. Teapot Repair Technician*

        Another thought, at my current job we do not use company email for that type of communication. We use email almost exclusively for project-related communication with coworkers, vendors, and customers.

        For that reason, I would not give my work email to my network, and if I received a networking email at my work address, I would have to delete it and (if I replied) reply from my personal email.

    6. Sarah*

      He took the time to write down the company website instead of his email address — I feel like that’s a signal about his interest in being contacted by you via email. I would not follow up via email, certainly not to explain that you guessed at his email address. If this situation happens again, I would just reach out on LinkedIn.

    7. kt*

      Depending on what kind of company it is, ask him if he can connect you with the right person in HR. When I meet someone I’d like to have considered for a role, I connect them with our HR person who can set up interviews, manage the system, answer benefits questions etc., and has visibility into all the open roles (not just my team).

    8. Nessun*

      Well, I’d have reached out through LinkedIn first, and asked if it was possible to email him at work (and if so, could he provide an email address), after applying through the company website. If the website didn’t actually have the role posted, you could ask about that in LinkedIn as well. Since you’ve already guessed an email address, I’d give it some time before trying to reach out again – and I’d still use LinkedIn then.

      My company has a somewhat standardized email address system, but you can still get the wrong person easily because the convention will work 99 times out of 100 but person 100 will have a different email than you’d think; so it’s not great to guess with us! In general, I’d assume the same for other companies, and not guess at email addresses, based on my experience at my employer, but understand why you’d be comfortable making the assumption.

    9. Sea Anemone*

      You should apply to positions you find interesting via the website instead of further emails. I guarantee that they want you to follow the process. Calling or sending a letter will make you stand out as the candidate who didn’t just apply through the website.

      1. I can never decide on a lasting name*

        Agreed, and like the person who did not take a strong hint (the writing down of the company website and not his email address).

  5. A Simple Narwhal*

    User Beth commented on Wednesday’s poker-game-for-bonuses post, implying that their former boss had an even crazier scheme for determining bonuses, but then never followed up on what that scheme actually was. Beth, if you’re out there, please share!

    1. Beth*

      Ohai!

      Okay, if you’d like to hear the entire terrible setup! This is LONG.

      The underlying situation was a very small and quite affluent company, with two equal owners and a very small, very hardworking support staff of three. This was an industry that usually requires at least twice that many support staff, or more; so figure that each of the staff were doing the work of 3-4 normal people, because we were honestly REALLY good at our jobs. We were so good that, since our bosses liked delegating and didn’t like scutrwork, they kept on giving us more and more work, and then they didn’t have enough to do. So they spent way too much time coming up with stupid ideas, which translated into ever more work for their staff.

      We had a few years of feeling reasonably well compensated and appreciated; then the bosses started fretting about how they must be overcompensating us, and started to find ways to cut back. For example: for a couple of years, they reimbursed the cost of flu shots, which weren’t usually free at that time. Then they decided that they couldn’t afford to do it — what if the price went up? What if they suddenly grew to a massive size and hired a hundred people? They couldn’t afford a hundred flu shots! So the flu shots went. The good coffee went. The regular raises went, because we were “already on the high end of the typical range for our positions” — bear in mind that each of us was filling at least 3 roles, so they would have had to triple our salaries for us actually to be at par.

      Then they came up with the Bonus Scheme From Hell.

      Before then, there would be a bonus after the end of the year — I seem to recall in the range of, say $2500 for someone with an annual salary of $50k. The bonus was pre-tax, which is a poor way to do it if you really want to have the best impact on morale; my current company presents bonus checks as their after-tax amount. But I had never had bonuses at all in my previous jobs, so I was happy.

      For the Bonus Scheme From Hell, a base amount was set as our maximum bonus. It wasn’t a very large amount, either; I recall that the professional staff were at $5k and the administrative staff at $2k.

      Then they divided that amount into fourths, and assigned a metric to each one — total company revenue, total business done, client growth and retention, and the Personal Enrichment that I talked about in my previous comment. Each metric had three levels: at the top level, we got the entire 25% of the bonus; at the next level, we got less; at the bottom, we got still less.

      So, 25% of $2k — if we had a knockout year, you might get $500 for each metric of company performance, but the metrics were deliberately set VERY high. If we had a good year, you’d get about $350. If we had a bad year, you’d get $250. Did we have ANY control over these metrics? Noooo. Did it make the bonus feel like a plastic carrot being offered to an unappreciated donkey? Yes, it certainly did!! Did it help with morale? Hah. Did it leave us thinking all year long about what a crappy system it was, and how little we felt valued? Why, yes, it did.

      It broke down as: the bonus amount was after taxes anyway, and the top tier was unattainable, so the most we could hope for was barely half of the stipulated amount, which was mediocre to start with.

      Then you add in the “Personal Enrichment” — which, supposedly, WAS under our control, expect for all the added pitfalls. When you’re doing three people’s work, there isn’t much time or energy for hobbies. There was the cost, as I mentioned: one person tried to golf one year, another tried tai chi; both spent WAY more on lessons than the entire maximum bonus. There was a requirement that it had to be something different every year!! You couldn’t continue to “enrich” yourself in the same way, after all.

      There was the requirement to measure, track, and report: my first year, I wanted to get more physical exercise, so I set a specific goal. They quibbled over the goal metrics, because it was a rational year-long challenge instead of a Big Thing such as, say, a marathon. They required me to turn in a complete calendar at the end of the year showing EVERY exercise session, and then quibbled over the fact that I’d done way more sessions in the later months in the year than I had in the earlier months (“it looks like you were trying to catch up after missing a lot at the beginning of the year”), and cut my “bonus” because they thought that was somehow not good enough, even though I had reached the stated metric.

      Another year, I had set a specific goal of writing, based on wordcount. Of course, to most non-writers, wordcount is a confusing mystery, which actually helped — they didn’t ask too much about it, because they would have risked exposing themselves as ignorant, which would probably have caused small seismic implosions in their brains. I blew that one out of the water — I had set 50,000 words for the year, and did over 70,000 (finished a novel in progress and the first draft of a second novel), and they never knew that I’d been writing fanfic. Hah!! Still, when I turned in my wordcount calendar, one of my bosses asked if I felt that I had met my goal, and I said I certainly had . . . and he tried to persuade me that I had not, and started to give me a reduced bonus on that score, and I pushed back and repeated that I HAD met my goal and exceeded it.

      After three years of this crap (with the base bonus amounts never increasing, btw), I told them in January that I just couldn’t come up with anything, unless getting in more hiking and mountain-climbing would be acceptable. They sternly told me that I’d have to do something along the lines of summitting Mount Rainier for it to qualify. So I told them that I didn’t have any new ideas, I needed to continue to work on my existing interests, and they solemnly told me that in that case, I wouldn’t qualify for that portion of the bonus at all, and I said I understood and accepted that.

      That was my last year with them. I hadn’t actually made that decision in January, but it didn’t take long after that. I left late in the year and have only looked back in wild celebration.

      1. KitKat2000*

        OMG! The first part – company goals taking up a portion of the bonus – is not that uncommon, though I can see how it can be frustrating if you don’t feel you can have any impact on them.

        The personal enrichment part though…. OMG! WTF! That is SO wild.

        1. Beth*

          I’ve linked to my very first comment from the “self-care” thread, but it’s in moderation because it’s a link. There’s more there.

      2. Purple Cat*

        Wow!
        We have company metrics as part of our objectives, and then even more company objectives as a “Pay for Performance” bonus, and then personal objectives, but it’s really been a way to give us more money at the end of the year.
        Your company’s system was awful.

      3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        The good-sized not-for-profit where I worked gave each employee a $35.00 gift card bonus for several years, plus there were two staff events, so the line item in the budget was $100.00 per person. At one point, the summer event disappeared. Then the gift card bonus no longer was given out. Then the winter awards dinner went bye-bye. I try really hard to be sympathetic to anyone who gets a mere triple-digit bonus, but it’s very, very difficult.

    2. Beth*

      By the way, here’s the very first comment where I had started talking about it. This comment was just about the “Personal Enrichment Activity”.
      https://www.askamanager.org/2021/09/companies-lip-service-about-self-care-isnt-what-employees-need.html#comment-3565171

      “At my unlamented former job, the bosses (two white men, co-owners of a very small firm) had a complicated “bonus” system that mostly boiled down to pretending to offer bonuses that were so strangled by conditions that they actually never had to give out very much money.

      Then they made it even more complicated and demoralizing by adding a “personal enrichment” component. One-quarter of our “designated bonus amount” was tied to our annual chosen “personal enrichment activity”. At the beginning of each year, each employee chose a Thing that we would do, and after the end of the year, they would decide to what degree we had “succeeded” in this activity, and apply that percentage to that part of our “bonus”.

      Bonuses were never increased in this system, by the way; only reduced. I had a “base” of $1000; the other $750 was tied to the firm’s metrics (revenue, etc), with the top deliberately set VERY high so that the only way we would ever actually get the entire amount was if the firm had such a banner year that it blew every single metric out of the water.

      The “personal enrichment activities” were to be done in our own time, at our own expense (which meant it was going to cost far more than the bonus amount), had to be pre-approved, and had to have quantifiable results on which we would periodically report to our bosses. And we had to choose a DIFFERENT one every year (so developing a real skill over a period of time wasn’t acceptable). And modest goals weren’t good enough: one year, I wanted to do more hiking, and was told that it wouldn’t count unless I summited Mount Rainier (clearly something that any older desk worker with a full-time job and a constrained income is going to be able to work themselves up to in one year).

      I really loathed those guys.”

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        That is awful, and I hope having a good story has helped make it better!

  6. Crazy Making*

    I used to sign off on teapot orders, which is basically saying “yes, we received all of the teapots in this order.” Well, apparently a coworker was mad that I wasn’t informing her about something in the process and the boss changed it so that I wasn’t signing off on orders anymore. Problem: I still enter orders and finance wonders why I’m not signing off on them.

    To make matters worse, either my boss forgot what she said because she started yelling one day about how people who enter orders need to sign off on them! I explained that on X day she changed it, but she cut me off and told me to sign off on my orders.

    They make rules and then forget about them/don’t follow them, so it’s hard to know what we’re supposed to do, not do, etc…. It’s crazy… Any way to handle this/advice? Has anyone been in a similar situation?

    1. Observer*

      Email is your friend here. When your boss makes a change, follow up with an email confirming. When she asks why you are doing X, remind her. If she wants you to revert, ask her how she wants you to handle whatever issue is was that prompted the change in the first place. Then follow up with an email.

      It won’t keep her from yelling. But it WILL help your sanity. And it could protect you to some extent.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Agreed, I had a similar issue at work this week (had to submit the same form 3 times because the instructions on what to enter kept changing) and I just asked the folks who kept moving the goalposts to put everything in writing. That way, of they kick the form back to me again, I can just refer to their email instructions on how to complete it, which hopefully should resolve the issue. (Hopefully…)

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        This. Getting instructions in writing is better, but this is the next best thing. Lawyers do this all the time, following up on a telephone conversation with a letter repeating what had been discussed.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Absolutely this: The modern paper trail.

        If it’s acceptable, group email finance, your boss, and your coworker so everyone sees what’s going on.

      4. Red*

        This +1000
        You work in a default CYOA environment. Make everything in writing. Keep an agenda and email email email.

      5. Quinalla*

        Yup agreed, this is the only way to handle it. Having the paper trail will keep a boss like that in check.

    2. HamlindigoBlue*

      For stuff like this, I always like to get confirmation in writing. If you were verbally told not to sign off on the orders, you can follow up with an email confirming that’s the new protocol for future orders.

    3. photon*

      Get your boss and finance into a meeting to discuss, then email the summary of what was agreed upon afterwards to all parties involved.

    4. Christmas Carol*

      Confirming e-mail to boss:
      “Regarding Teapot Orders, per our conversation on such and such a date, I will immediately resume signing off on orders as you directed”
      and
      CC: Finance Department; Original Mad Coworker

    5. Lizy*

      Get it in writing, and then when they say “why isn’t x done” you can say “because you told me not to – per the attached email”. If they say it verbally, follow up in writing (i.e., “As you mentioned this morning, I’m no longer doing X task.”)

      Granted, they may still change things every 2 seconds (I’m in a very similar situation and it is beyond maddening), but at least that way you have backup.

      1. LKW*

        Plus you have a history to show that people are directing on whim, not clear process or business value.

    6. Cold Fish*

      I worked with a manager like this (not my direct manager but adjacent department). Constantly giving contradictory information, months apart, and didn’t believe they were doing so. For my own piece of mind, I kept a document saved on my computer with process, followed by date of direction.

      Ex. Sign off on teapots (1/1/19); per X – don’t sign off on teapots due to issues with Y (6/1/20); per X – go back to signing off teapots (9/16/20); per X – still issues with Y, don’t sign off on teapots (1/4/21); per MyManager – always sign off on teapots, no exceptions (1/8/21);

      At this point, when X came back again with no sign-off I’d bring up the contradictions in direction, with dates to back it up. Having it all in one place with dates, they couldn’t really argue that they weren’t being consistent. After being confronted a few times with proof, they did finally make an effort to be more consistent with their direction.

      Note: this was with a lot of small issues between their department and ours, going back and forth over years. Very hard to track and we don’t use internal email all that often so the whole email confirmation thing would have come across very strange.

    7. BlueK*

      For me, my office culture was one where the best approach was to fall on your sword. Apologize for the misunderstanding (even if you know it’s not your fault) and move on. I really learned not to take it remotely personal. The work was fast paced and what seemed reasonable one day to them no longer did. I would have been labeled argumentative if I came back and said here is the proof you said X on this date. Better to just say of course and do the exact opposite as before . Occasionally had sanity checks with other people on the team to be like is it me or did he just say last week to do the opposite? But otherwise it was simply the way things worked.

    8. RagingADHD*

      My current agency is big on Constant And Neverending Improvement, so their processes are always evolving. These changes aren’t always announced, so I will often find new tasks in my project checklist that weren’t part of the last project, or were explicitly NOT supposed to be done on prior projects.

      I just reach out and ask “hey, is it just me or is this different?” and get clarification. Fortunately, nobody gets tetchy about it. I think that’s the difference between a crazy-making situation and not crazymaking: that the change is acknowledged and the question is answered reasonably.

    9. Vesuvius*

      Honestly, my only experience with this was under a manager who was bound and determined to “break me in,” and have absolute control over what I did, like how you break a horse to saddle. Yes, really, it was that crazy. This is Cersei, from a previous post — if y’all recall the one about petty revenge? It was so satisfying to make her write things down, but truly it didn’t matter. Finance didn’t care, nor did she. She just wanted to yell at someone.

      If you are constantly receiving conflicting instructions write a summary or email. If your boss retaliates with another phone call, follow it up. Document, document, document, is how I coped with it. Because if I got it in writing, I wasn’t at fault when they messed up. It took the wind out of a lot of managers’ sails when I said “I wrote down your instructions exactly, and you said to do X on this date at this time.” Oh boy, they hated me for it, but it got me out of getting in trouble because their strategy was to throw junior staff under the bus to cover for their mistakes. Take notes, and time and date them (and email a copy of the summary of instructions like “I understand you want me to do X from now on”). Copy finance and your boss’s boss if your boss starts getting ridiculous. It might not protect you from yelling, but it will certainly take the wind out of boss’ sails if her behavior is noted. Written summaries do not violate the two party consent to recording rule. (I had to look this up for my last job, as I am in a 2-party consent state.)

      If I were you, I would start looking at your workplace with a more critical eye. If your boss yells regularly then that is a very bad sign. I understand why you might stay (I stayed in a very abusive job for 18 months because I couldn’t afford to quit), but you deserve better than this.

  7. Gifting up*

    Apparently National Boss’s Day is coming up next week.

    My coworker proposed to our team that we all get a gift for our boss. I used Alison’s gift guide to push back on gifting up and this was his response:

    “Certainly, no one is obligated to participate. I tend to ignore unwritten or arbitrary “rules” in favor of letting personal dynamics lead the way.”

    My eyes rolled so hard they almost fell out of my head. This same coworker absolutely refused to share his salary with the rest of us because “that’s not how things are done.” Yes, he is the only man on the team. To have him pressuring me to spend my money and talking about arbitrary rules after that….Reader, I was mad.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Understandable! I might respond with ‘Personal dynamics usually give the advantage to more… privileged members of society. These ‘rules’ I’m explaining to you are there to protect those with less leverage. You don’t want to look exploitative, do you?’

      (I’m sure there’s other wording that may go across better, but I’ve been SJW’ing so long I’ve lost some of the generic vocabulary)

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      Oh yeah, I’ve definitely met people who use ‘arbitrary rules’ to mean ‘rules i don’t want to follow’.

      1. Teapot Repair Technician*

        Yeah, this guy sounds like a jerk. But it is in fact true that he does not have to follow the “no gifting up” rule if he doesn’t want to.

        Same with sharing his salary. His reason for not sharing his salary is a cop out. But if he doesn’t want to share it, he doesn’t have to, and he doesn’t have to have a good reason.

          1. JB*

            ‘Follow the herd’ is a bizarrely rude way of putting that.

            Agreed that he can gift up if he wants to. If he’s the only one who ends up doing it, it’s definitely going to reflect strangely on him, though.

            1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

              Let him look like the office suck-up! That’s a great way to sink his own reputation.

        1. New ED*

          I don’t know the specifics of OP’s office policies but we have full salary transparency at my organization so this guy would have his salary shared wether he wanted to our not.

    3. Full-Time Fabulous*

      Good for you for pushing back! Boss’ Day is ridiculous. In my previous office we were all guilted into buying our boss a gift for this “holiday” and I totally resented it. She makes so much more than all of her employees and is stingy with raises/promotions! How are your other colleagues responding?

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Gosh I felt like such a rube after I discovered AAM and read that Boss Day was a total sham and that under no circumstance should you ever gift up. Gang, I drank the kool-aid out of a gallon jug. Boss Day gift, “You bet I’m in for $5-$10!” Holiday time, “Hey team let’s pool our money together and get boss and spouse something super nice! We must’ve spent close to $100!” Boss milestone anniversary (I think it was their 10 year) “Hey team let’s all chip in some money to get boss and his spouse a weekend getaway and a gift card to a fancy restaurant!”

        What did boss get us you ask? A perfectly reasonable small gift card that would have some thought behind it (coffee shop for coffee folks, gift card to craft beer store for those folks, you get the point). Oh geez, I have to laugh in retrospect at how clueless I was!

    4. Mockingjay*

      “Personal Dynamics lead the way?” Ah, he is first in line to kiss up.

      If your boss is a reasonable person (that is, no one is going to write to Alison about him, lol), I would just let Mr Dynamics make a fool of himself. (Bring popcorn to watch.)

      1. pancakes*

        That is exactly what he’s saying, yes, lol.

        Gifting up, if you want to bother with responding at all, you might point out that he’s mistaken to think “unwritten” is a synonym for “arbitrary,” and that the reason no gifting up is an unwritten rule is most people instinctively recognize brown-nosing when they see it.

    5. Lizy*

      I think this is an excellent time to use “reply all” and say “Thanks for the clarification! Due to power dynamics/budget restraints/gifts-flow-down/whatever, I won’t be donating. Of course I’ll continue to show my support and appreciation for Boss by doing quality work (or whatever).”

      1. pancakes*

        Why reply all? Trying to bring him a little clarity on this doesn’t need to be a little performance for the whole team. If he wants to do his own silly thing—with or without the benefit of a little lesson from Gifting Up–it’s no harm to the rest of the team.

    6. English Rose*

      Oh my, I didn’t even know National Boss’s Day was a thing, we don’t have it in the UK. Thank goodness!

      And… “personal dynamics”? Dear lord, what a twit (as we Brits would say)

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        It’s only a thing in the way National Spaghetti Day is probably a thing. Anyone can declare any day to be a thing, and if you market it well it will have a bit of staying power and end up on Wikipedia.

    7. Cold Fish*

      I don’t blame you, steam would be coming out of my ears too at that bit of snarkiness.
      If this was a group email, I’d be tempted to respond all with:
      “I agree. Lets show our appreciation for boss without bringing in any power/personal dynamics into the mix. Perhaps instead, we get a couple dozen cookies from Bakery X for the department to enjoy in celebration of Boss’s day.”

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh. What a douchecanoe.

      I sent my awesome bosses at Exjob an email on Boss’s Day to let them know I appreciated them—no gifts. I know everyone hates Admin’s Day too but I wasn’t going to turn down a $50 Visa gift card, no sirree.

    9. Mephyle*

      I agree that the years are necessary for this particular book. Without them, the potential reader is very likely to expect a history that goes up to the present day. When they find out otherwise, it will throw them off.

      Also the potential reader who notices the start date may be intrigued; as Other Duties mentioned, 1744 is a lot earlier than many people would expect.

      1. Mephyle*

        Please ignore the above old message that stuck in my reply window; I erased it before writing it so I don’t know how it survived.

        What I wrote, and meant to answer was this:

        You’re in perfect agreement with him in one way at least: you too believe in personal dynamics, and your own personal dynamics lead you not to gift up.

    10. Diluted Tortoishell*

      Honestly, I’m reading you as coming off a bit antagonistically here. Am I reading right that you and others asked him to share his salary and he declined – and now you all think he’s terrible for not sharing? That’s not a great attitude to have regarding a coworker and there are plenty of people (myself a woman included) who are uncomfortable sharing their salary or have had bad past experiences.

      I found his response stiff, but I also find it odd that you are so angry about it. It may help if you take extra time to reach out to this coworker – I get the sense that you are at BEC mode with him. Whenever I’ve been like that with a coworker I have all there emails go to a folder and I save drafts in there as well. I save reading their emails for when I’m calm and ready for whatever emotional rollercoaster they are going to send my way and I leave any hot button emails in there for at least a day. It’s amazing what giving something an entire day will do. I’d say for me I only sent about 30% of the emails I wanted to send as after some time I realized that other messages were curt and unnecessary.

      Finally a PSA of sorts that many offices don’t follow Alison’s advice of no gifting up. In fact despite being a big reader of Alison’s for the past 10 years my experience is that most offices do gift up to their bosses. So citing it as an unwritten rule may fall flat at a lot of places where this has been a normal annual tradition.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s not just Alison’s advice; it’s been standard advice among etiquette experts for many years.

  8. Rebecca*

    Seeking your best first day/week on the new job advice!!

    Starting a new remote gig this coming week and it’s my first new company after working at the same place for over 10 years right after college.

    Thanks in advice for all your wisdom!

    1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      One of the biggest struggles for folks onboarding remotely has been figuring out how to ask the “dumb questions” that you’d normally just ask a seatmate – the equivalent of “where’s the printer” or “do you normally send this by IM or email” and “do meetings start right on time or is there a buffer window.” Ask your manager right away who good people in your department are to check in with stuff like this and don’t be afraid to ask those questions. No one wants you to be sitting at home panicking for half an hour over something they hadn’t thought to tell you!

      Try to set up 15 minute coffee chats with other members of your team in the next week or two, so that you get a chance to get to know them a bit individually and what some of the personalities are like (it will help you figure out how to communicate with them best going forward).

      No one expects you to know everything all at the beginning, and the more you spend the first week or two reaching out and purposefully getting to know colleagues, the better. It sets you up as an engaged employee and should make collaborating easier too. Plus it gets you set up to feel comfortable asking questions as issues arise.

    2. anonymous73*

      IME, the first few days are generally slow. If that’s the case, ask if there is any documentation you can review or training you can take to get up to speed on the position.

      I just started a new job in early August, and am assigned to a govt contract. The work I was assigned takes me a maximum half day each week. So I took all of my assigned training for the year, and when I had my 30 day check in with my manager (she’s fairly hands off), I explained that I wasn’t sure what the person I replaced was doing with his time, because all I had been assigned was barely taking any time to complete. So she assigned me to a new project, and had a chat with my customer so he knew I was available to help with other things.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      If your boss has not specifically encouraged this, set up a series of 15-minute “get to know you” appointments with people on your team.

    4. EGA*

      Expect some downtime and use that to look through company information!

      My company has a lot of resources in our intranet that I spent my downtime perusing, just to get acquainted with our projects, culture, recent news, etc. Some examples include the company newsletter, internal communications and marketing information, the Executive town hall (sessions are recorded so I watched the most recent 2), etc.

      Helped me understand the larger context of the company, who is who, etc.!

    5. knitcrazybooknut*

      Take the time to set up your tech exactly how you like it, and test everything to make sure you’re giving off an appropriate-for-your-job appearance – Zoom background, sig files, etc.

      Remote is different, but I used to dress really nicely for the first two weeks of any job. After that, people will always remember you as dressing really well, and you can slack off for the rest of your employment. (Obviously your mileage may vary, and this is industry-dependent, etc. etc.)

      Yes, as anonymous73 said, it’s going to be slow. Do all the trainings, read all the company websites, check into your union contract if you have one, read the handbook, figure out all the day-to-day details on your own, and make a list of the questions that come up. You may not need to do a full interrogation to get them all answered at once, but once you have them written down somewhere, they may come to mind at the appropriate time.

      Good luck!

    6. Wendy City*

      Good advice in the comments below! Seconding the suggestion to schedule meet-and-greets, as well as to quickly identify who you can ask ‘dumb’ questions that might not pop up in the first week(what’s the process for asking for time off; what’s the etiquette around chat and email communications here; etc).

      Also, I’m normally a staunch camera-off person for meetings, but the first couple of weeks at a new job I’m prepared to be on camera at any given time, and I make a point to leave my camera on for the first couple of meetings. Also, pick a photo (if your IT systems allow it) to use as a profile picture – I swear it helps you ‘stick’ in people’s brains more.

      I also like prepping a couple of pics of my animals to share as an ice breaker in those meet-and-greets. Work talk is great, but building small-talk-connections with coworkers is important for my sanity, and I’ve found sharing pet photos is a great way to do it.

      Write down or somehow save the IT helpdesk phone number somewhere that isn’t your work machine. Inevitably, something will go haywire tech-wise on your first week, and there’s nothing more frustrating than being locked out and resorting to texting or using personal email to contact someone at your new job for help!

    7. kitryan*

      This is of course, job and supervisor/trainer dependent, but try to (without over communicating) make sure you’re not out of sight, out of mind. I’d proactively ask about having regular check ins (more frequently at the start) and I’d write up a list of questions as they come to mind for those meetings. From the perspective of someone who was recently training a new remote person, if I’d assigned a task that might be done same day or carry over into the next day, I loved getting a report at end of day on how it was going – just ‘I’ve made good progress on X and everything is making sense so far. I just have to compare A to B in the morning and then I’ll be able to send it over for review’. Otherwise I’d be worried that nothing had gotten done or that they were struggling with the task or my instructions were unclear…
      Of course, this is for a junior role with lots of short projects, not something more self directed/long term projects, but I do think that making sure supervisors and teammates (appropriately) are kept informed of what you’re working on is helpful in most any situations where you’re a bit off the radar by being remote *and* a new hire.

    8. Diluted Tortoishell*

      Just wrapped up 6 months after onboarding remotely – here are my tips!

      1. Expect everything to take longer. I typically was fully independent by 3 months. I’m not yet and it’s been a struggle not to internalize that as a failing on my part.
      2. Reach out to new coworkers to chat. If you have a simple questions, ping them and see if they have time for a call. Engage in water cooler chat on these calls. (but also try to read their engagement. If they are quickly switching back to work dial it down).
      3. Advocate for yourself. If someone mentions a meeting relative to your area – ask nicely if you can join the next time. People will forget you. Out of site out of mind. Don’t take it personally but do advocate for yourself.
      4. Be appreciative. Having both been the trainer and trainee remotely it is definitely harder to train new staff who are remote. You can’t just say – hey I’ve got 10 minutes watch me build the X project. You have to plan it, hold onto easy work to train. It’s very difficult. Let others know you see their work and appreciate it.
      5. volunteer to help them. The temptation when you are lite on work at home is to do laundry, watch a video, or other non-work stuff. Instead try to reach out to assist your team members.

      Best of luck in your new role!

    9. Jamie Starr*

      Show up / log in on time.
      If HR asked you to complete any paperwork beforehand make sure you do it; and supply any additional documentation requested.
      Take notes.

  9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Another team in my department is having a weird issue with one of their staff members. This person is clocking in for an 8 hour shift, but not actually doing any work during those 8 hours. However, they’re doing 6-8 hours of work off the clock. (It’s a production role and all their widgets are timestamped at start and finish, so the time that the work is being done is known.) I don’t know much about how they arrange their schedules, if there’s a reason they don’t just offer to shift that person’s schedule to apparently the hours they are willing to work, etc – that all has context I don’t know about. That team’s (brand new) manager is getting ready to address it, since apparently it’s been an issue previously to a lesser extent.

    My only question is, since this person is a non-exempt hourly worker, how does this correlate with the legal requirement that they be paid for their hours worked? Are we good because they’re working 40 hours a week and getting paid 40 hours a week even if the two sets of 40 don’t actually overlap, or are we in trouble because they’re getting paid for (let’s say) 8a-4p but doing their work between 5p and 1a?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Are they being paid 40 hours of wages for 40 hours of work? Yes.
      Can you prove it? No.

      This may not ever be an issue – absent a complaint or an audit by a customer, nobody would ever look at it. It could be that your time-tracking system is inflexible, and this is the workaround that this person and a previous boss settled on for tracking their time. To really cover all the bases, you’d get the time-tracking system fixed AND you’d make sure that this person accurately and truthfully recorded the hours they were actually working.

    2. Binky*

      Are they physically present when clocked in? Or are they remote? Cause if they’re physically present, that seems more problematic re: overtime.

    3. What Is Sleep Even*

      I am also non-exempt hourly, and my (California) employer definitely does not reconcile the times between my time sheet and the specific hours I work. They do care about hours per day, so ending at 1am and then working eight hours the next day would get flagged.

      Before talking to the person, I might double-check that the time-card clock and the widget timestamp clock are set to the same time zone – clocking in hours before actually starting work seems like a lot of effort.

    4. HarperC*

      My understanding of non-exempt is that the work has to be done within the scheduled hours. My last department offered some training classes. There was a huge issue with non-exempt people taking the class book home because it was considered a work task and if they read on their own after hours, that could be seen as overtime. It’s a little different than this situation, but I think the principle might apply.

      I think someone (i.e. a manager, etc) needs to check in with this employee and figure out what’s going on. If this person is remote, could they not just have their regular hours be set to that other schedule?

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

      The only legal issue MIGHT be if their working over midnight (5p-1a) could potentially mean that they are doing less or more than 8 hours in a day — and if your area has laws that count overtime as over 8 hrs in a day.

    6. Zephy*

      This sounds like a weird software problem, honestly. I can’t think of any other reason why the timeclock is showing one set of hours but the timestamps on the widgets are showing a different one. One of them might be set on a different time zone from where the employee actually is. And possibly the timeclock software automatically bills any time logged outside of its locally-defined “business hours” to overtime, I’ve worked places where that happened – if your punch-out time was after 5 on Friday, even if your total for the week was 40 or under, those minutes after 5 PM were billed to OT. I had paychecks for 39.92 hours normal rate and 0.84 hours OT a few times.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And conversely there’s the chance that the remote employee is not currently in the location expected. If this person went to live in a safer area during lockdown and never came back, would you know? And if this is true, is your company allowed to be operating where the employee really is located?

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

        Yeah, my mind instantly went to a system clock being set to a different time zone for some reason. (Or perhaps they have another job during the ‘real’ hours!)

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        The last time this happened (under a previous manager) the employee was talked to about it and it was legit confirmed that they were working the widgets outside of their official clocked work hours. They were instructed not to do it again, and apparently they’re doing it again now that there’s a new manager. We know what’s happening, it’s not a time clock issue or a location issue, it’s a behavior issue. We (or at least I) don’t know why. That’s why I was only and specifically asking about the legal issue of paying them for their time worked if their time worked and their time clocked didn’t match up, not any of the rest of the details.

        1. Confession*

          I did this at a remote job for a while once. I was exempt and my work noticed something was wrong but they did not know what. I was having serious health problems that caused a lot of disruption to my mental health, and one of the problems was that I could not sleep at night. Between the physical symptoms and my mind, I would literally lay in bed in the dark all night wide awake. I tried to treat it with all the normal stuff (from therapy, CBT and others, OTC and prescription meds, exercise, saw a sleep specialist many times, etc.) but it remained enough of a problem to make it so that I was exhausted all day and often needed to sleep late / sleep in the afternoon to make up for it. It was all very personal and I would never, ever have felt like I could ask for accommodation in a shifted schedule (explaining why would have been mortifying and it wouldn’t have been allowed anyway) and I would never have felt comfortable letting on to anyone about any of it. And medical leave would not have helped at all.

          After months of that, some very bad things happened in my life and my health got worse and I really spiraled mentally. I just started going out and doing stuff all night since I could not sleep anyway. So then if I had been found out, it would have been an obvious case of me making extremely stupid choices. And I never would have admitted what was behind it, it was too much to talk about to anyone. I had a hard enough time with my therapist, I wasn’t gonna tell my bosses.

          I’m not saying “this guy is obviously going through what I went through so he’s allowed to do whatever he wants!” I just immediately thought, oh boy, I bet that’s what it would have looked like on the other side if I got caught. When they talk to him they should at least to be compassionate. That doesn’t cost anything, and if the take that approach they might get a lot farther than if they just focus on the schedule. Whatever is going on he doesn’t seem to want them to know, but if they approach it kindly he won’t be as invested in hiding that something is up and might be more willing to ask for something that would actually fix or at least improve the issue.

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          There may or may not be a problem, depending on where your company and the worker live. However, like others say, since this opens you to potential confusion (or potential fudging), even if it isn’t illegal when everything is running smoothly, I would still address it.

          There’s unlikely to be a good reason the worker needs to do this, and he already knows he’s not supposed to. Inform his new manager that payroll needs him to report the hours he DID work, to be sure they are following wage laws.

          Also, if you haven’t, ask the worker why he does this. It might turn out to be some kind of conflicting instruction or misunderstanding that can be rectified. I have found that many, many, many people do not understand time tracking and payroll principles and think they are making something work when they are really messing it up.

        3. Xenia*

          Wild swing in the dark here, but…are you sure he’s actually the one doing the work and not outsourcing it to someone else?

    7. Anonymous Hippo*

      I’m not sure why management wouldn’t just tell them to clock in the hours they are actually working. I mean generally lying on your time card is not a good look, even if you aren’t actually shorting the company.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Yeah.

        The current records document 80 hours per week: The 40 documented “on the clock,” whether working or not, and the 40 time-stamped hours pf production.

        It needs to be straightened out, and documented.

    8. Redaktorin*

      I hate to say it, but the reason I once did this is that I was working two full-time jobs remotely.

  10. Suit shortage?*

    I know there are supply chain issues affecting everything. Have you all noticed a women’s suit shortage specifically? I’m on the hunt and it seems like all the normal suits (i.e., not pink) are only available in a couple sizes.

    1. Elle*

      It is very hard to find any nice clothes right now. I was looking for a work dress in Nordstrom and all they had were white cocktail dresses. Not sure why everything was in white. They told me to order online and have it delivered to the store. It’s the supply chain, stores are closing or doing nice clothes online only. Very frustrating.

    2. Don't Touch My Snacks*

      Yes! I had to buy a new outfit for an interview and ended up having to piece together separates instead of an actual suit. Even finding a plain shirt that wasn’t a tshirt to go under the jacket was hard!

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        eShakti is my go-to for work outfits, because of their customization options. They also do a good job of fitting those of us who might be on the more substantial side.

          1. Firm Believer*

            I have like 30 of their masks. I color coordinate with all my outfits and I love the neck straps.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Dress Barn also has been upping their workers game. A lot of their dresses & jackets have usable pockets, too.

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

      I’ve noticed that second-hand items on places like ThredUp the office clothes are going quickly. I think it might be both supply and demand. They wound down production of things that weren’t selling when everyone was home, there is a lag as they come back up or they’re still waiting to see if the market for suits comes back, and transportation issues are really big for stuff coming into the US right now. The ships are backed up to be unloaded in ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA. Those are the two biggest import entries for goods coming from Asia.

    4. kiki*

      There could be other supply chain factors I’m unaware of, but I think since the pandemic a lot of retailers pivoted hard into more casual clothes because there was a dip in the number of people going into offices. Since so many white collar workers were working from home, suits and more formal workwear weren’t being purchased for a long time so it didn’t make sense for stores to offer their pre-pandemic options and variety.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Ah, that would make sense for why a commenter above was told they could go online at Nordstrom instead. It would make sense for those companies to keep certain items in a warehouse to be shipped instead of spreading them out over retail locations and having them sit on the rack longer.

        1. Elle*

          I hate buying clothes online. I wish sizing was more consistent. I miss running into Loft or a department store and grabbing what I needed.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me too; I’m so tall I have to try everything on. It took me half a day and pawing through every rack before I could find pants that were long enough (at Kohl’s) for an in-person interview in the summer.

            I barely have any office clothes anyway. Exjob was just jeans and t-shirts, and I gained all the weight back that I lost before moving, so now none of my business casual stuff fits. Stupid pandemic. :P

      2. Mantis Tobaggan, MD*

        Yes, this! Banana Republic used to be my office go-to but last time I was in, it was mostly casual and loungewear. I struggled to find anything for my post-COVID, 10lbs heavier return to office. I had the most luck second-hand shopping tbh

    5. DCQ*

      Look on the Real Real. Seriously. I’ve been trying to get out of fast fashion and have bought so many high quality work clothes there… including suits.

    6. Coverage Associate*

      I have noticed that suits have disappeared from department stores. I actually have good luck getting suits on eBay.

    7. theletter*

      if you’re looking at online stores/thredUp etc, you might want to check around with friends and family to see if they’d lend or trade.

      I for one have loads of office-y clothes that are just hanging in the closet, taking up space. I don’t even have to dress up for church anymore.

    8. English Rose*

      Same in the UK. It’s like all the stores are a year behind because they have loads of great ‘smart leisure’ stuff that would work for remote working but I’m an old-fashioned gal, I like a suit in the office and they are all crappy polyester in very limited sizes, styles and colours. Yuck.

    9. Rey*

      I was looking for a new suit for an interview and was totally frustrated when I couldn’t find anything at my local (big-city) mall that usually has several options. Thanks for confirming that it’s not just me!

    10. BlueK*

      It’s an issue in general where I live. Was looking for a few end of season dresses recently (since it’s still 70 degrees out…). Everywhere I went had the oddest selection ever. They don’t even have descent fall options. It’s like they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel and just putting whatever out. Good for my budget I guess but still disappointing.

    11. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Was just at my tailor getting a second work suit earlier today – to hear him tell it, everyone in clothing manufacturing is slammed right now because of all the COVID delayed weddings finally happening, people trying to get married before the next wave of lockdowns, and people trying to get new clothes as they return to work.

      For context, he usually had 5 to 10 orders being processed per week – he hasn’t had a week with less than 30 since the middle of spring.

      Great for his business, but it means there are shortages all over the place, definitely.

    12. Ancient Llama*

      I actually ran into this last Spring: as things were opening up i got a phone interview and realized if we were doing Zoom (or even in person) that none of my suits fit (gained 10).
      So i went to Macy’s, JCPenny, Boscov’s and there was a dearth of selection. Not like they had racks which were empty. For example one store had only 2 ladies suits total: plenty of sizes, but they were in a back corner and that was the whole section.
      I asked and they said it was a company decision; they cut down the section once the pandemic was in full swing and they needed to make room for all the work-from-home wear.
      I can only imagine the supply chain issue made it worse. Last Spring they also recommended online options are better, but i think the supply chain issue will impact you there just as much.
      Sorry i don’t have any secret sauce for your issue, just commiseration.

    13. Missouri Girl in LA*

      It’s been about 6 months since I’ve purchased a suit but I buy all my suits from Talbots.com. They have classic suits (which, admittedly, I love because I’m a boring dresser). They have all sizes from regular to petite to women’s and women’s petite. The sizes are true and the quality is worth the money. I don’t shop anywhere else (and for the record, I’m in women’s/plus sizes and always feel well dressed in the suits).

    14. lcsa99*

      I am not surprised.

      My company supplies fabric to fabric stores and manufacturers and we’ve been having a hard time getting the fabric from the mills. There are a ton of shipping delays. So if companies like us can’t get the fabric to the company that makes the suits, they can’t sell them.

    15. Jane of all Trades*

      Yes! I was interviewing in July and my pre-pandemic clothes just don’t fit anymore, so I had to buy a new one. I tried multiple department stores in nyc that I would ordinarily have easily found a bunch of suits. There really were only two to choose from at Macy’s, so I ended up with a (admittedly really nice) $350 suit (much more expensive than I would have ordinarily wanted to spend), because there was nothing else. And I could not find a white button down blouse at all.
      I think it is because with people working from home there is such little demand.

  11. Rayray*

    J

    I’m thinking about applying for an internal transfer. I got hired in July 2020. It’s a great company (mostly) and I like it here. After a few months, I was offered a sideways move to help rebuild a team that had completely turned over due to some bad employees and drama. It’s still in the same department but under a different manager and supervisor. I don’t love this job but it’s okay. I’m content but also acknowledge that I definitely don’t want to do this long term. I don’t think I’m the best suited for it but also too it’s a position that not many people would actually love and to be honest, I feel like my entire team is underemployed in it. Anyway, there’s a couple positions open at the company in entirety different departments that I’m kinda interested in, still thinking if I should try for any of them. The rule here is that you need to be in your position for at least 6 months before transferring and I’m just about there. I normally wouldn’t want to transfer this soon but as I see it, I didn’t ask for my current transfer – it was offered to me and I feel I have contributed well to the team rebuild. I just have never done this before cause I have only worked for small companies. How might I go about talking to my manager about the possibility? I’m still just thinking about it and luckily have a long weekend to do so but I also know at least the position I’m most interested in won’t open up often and it’s the kind of job I’ve always wanted but could never get cause I didn’t have the most perfect experience but I think an internal transfer might be super beneficial for me to finally get into something like it.

    1. 867-5309*

      Maybe approach your manager this way, “I recently saw a position open up for a {role} on {team or division}. I know I’ve only been in my current role for six months but this opening is right up my alley and I know they don’t come up often. I feel I’ve made meaningful contributions to the {current team} and would of course remain available to help through any transition, should I be selected for the transfer. Would you be open to my applying for it”

      1. Rayray*

        I like this, it’s a super simple approach. I appreciate you reading my long post and offering advice.

    2. Venus*

      In our workplace there is often a higher chance of success the second time as the applicant is more comfortable and familiar with what is expected. I would suggest applying this time as practice for future opportunities, and if you happen to get it… bonus!

    3. Diluted Tortoishell*

      You’re new to the company – do you really want to be on a high drama team in crisis that has to rebuild from the ground floor? I’d pass personally but if that sounds like a good time to you the other suggestions are great.

  12. FD*

    It’s strange how quickly something can turn from A Big Deal into something small and petty.

    Last Friday, I gave my two weeks’ notice at the small business I’ve been basically running for the last three years and which has pretty well run me into the ground with stress. I cried. The owner cried. All very emotional. I settled down to do the work of transitioning as much as I could on my end, despite knowing what a train wreck it’ll likely be when I leave (owner has no idea of how to do almost ANY of the day-to-day work of the business).

    Owner decided to take today and half of next Friday, my last day, off. Because he’s so stressed out. From spending like four days learning a small part of what I’ve been holding together for years.

    I was furious…but then I realized how funny it is.

      1. FD*

        Yep. Denial and magical thinking are what got us into this mess.

        Just ignore things and hope they’ll get done…which actually means FD will do them eventually and the owner doesn’t have to worry about it!

      1. FD*

        Yep. Also a lesson learned–never care more about a business than the business owner does. (I do actually need to unf***k my brain when it comes to some mental habits that got me into this mess.)

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’ve recently started a new job after working in some pretty unhealthy circumstances for a while, and for the brain rewiring process I recommend keeping a journal at least for the first few weeks of your new job. It really has been helping me to notice the ways my mindset had been altered by my previous work habits, and it’s been a great way to force myself to think consciously about the kind of employee I want to be and the kind of employee I definitely DON’T want to be. When you have to take the time to write down the way you used to think and you see it there in stark lettering, it makes things so much more obvious.

          1. FD*

            Yeah, that might help, though I have had a lot of trouble with keeping a consistent journal in the past.

            The bigger issue is a more general mental health issue I’m working on with my therapist where I feel that I am only valuable as a person insofar as I am useful to others. That makes me especially vulnerable to this sort of situation at work.

            But that’s part of why I deliberately took an hourly, lower-level job. I can do well in it, but its boundaries are defined by the nature of the work.

            1. JelloStapler*

              I have similar challenges with value=usefulness, i am glad you are working through it, it can be pretty damaging to self-care and boundaries.

    1. Rick Tq*

      Be sure to remind Owner about your hourly rate and minimum billed time for consulting after your last day.

      I’d use the same number as your highest paid contractor (like the company lawyer) and make it a 4 hour minimum.

    2. Artemesia*

      Sometimes the angels hand you the moment that relieves you of all guilt. I left my first husband and felt guilty and then he said something to me that literally wiped away every bit of my guilt at being the one to walk away. Your boss by deciding that he doesn’t need to learn his own business and pissing away the time he has to transition has handed you this absolution. Be happy.

      And when he is calling you to find out where the key to the restroom is kept and how to transmogrify the ferns — let it go to voicemail and let at least 3 days go by before you call back because ‘the new job is just so demanding that I couldn’t get to it before now.’ Of course you will want to answer a question or two — but don’t make it easy to reach you and of course after a couple of weeks don’t be available at all.

      These little days off of his have been a gift to you.

      1. FD*

        Sometimes the angels hand you the moment that relieves you of all guilt.

        That’s basically what let me go from angry to just laughing at the train wreck. It reminds me of Captain Awkward letter #1003 where the guilt-tripping parent tried to manipulate their child by telling them they’d have to live with the fact that they (the child and LW in that case) couldn’t make everyone happy.

        For so long, I kept thinking that it was me, that I just needed to find the words to get my boss to care about his business. But if he really doesn’t care enough to stick around for my transition time…there was never anything I could have done to make this end any differently.

  13. Trivia Newton-John*

    Advice Needed:
    You might remember I was interviewing for a fully-remote position that sounded like a job for 2 people (some commenters stated there were a number of red flags) and I took myself out of the running. I also didn’t super love working with the recruiter. Last night, the recruiter emailed me as though he’d never heard of me before, telling me about the exact same position and to contact him if I was interested. I shouldn’t respond, right? (This recruiter initially contacted me through email and again through email — not LinkedIn).

    Advice Needed Again:
    I had an amazing interview a little over a week ago and they said they’d be in touch early next week for next steps.
    This would be a step up in my career and this job seems absolutely perfect for me (even the COO who I interviewed with said that) and my skills and experience look to align with what they need AND they (so far) seem to really like me! So next steps would be interviewing with the managing partner in the local office and the heads of each of the departments (I’m assuming this is all going to be done via Zoom) – this would be for a management role. Any tips for me if/when it comes to this – how to best showcase that I’m the best candidate for this role? You guys, I have never in my life felt so qualified for a job and gotten such good feelings from initial interviews before and I do not want to mess this up.

    1. ThatGirl*

      for no. 1, it could just be an automated email – a form letter that gets sent to everyone whose resume matches. I would ignore it.

    2. SC in NC*

      Advice Needed – correct, I would not respond. It would take more effort to explain this recruiters incompetency to them than it’s worth.

      Advice Needed Again – I’m not sure you need much advice here. It sounds like it’s going very well for you and you are confident in your performance so far. Just keep preparing as before and maybe anticipate some questions that you may not have already covered. It’s obvious you are very enthusiastic about this opportunity but maybe just slow down a bit and look at it critically just to be sure you’re not going in with rose colored glasses. As for the interview, you want your enthusiasm to show but not be over the top. Take a deep breath….be yourself….and knock it out of the park!

    3. learnedthehardway*

      If you’re not interested in the role, just ignore the recruiter. They’re probably working on a high volume of projects, and when you’re contacting 100s of people a week, it is hard to remember everyone individually. Perhaps their system didn’t log that you were called before, and they didn’t realize they had called you already. Perhaps they sent you a repeat message by accident by hitting the wrong buttons. (Personally, my memory is only as good as the notes I have taken, so I could totally see myself contacting someone twice by accident for something, if I didn’t note down that I’d already made the call).

      About the other opportunity – follow up early next week to reiterate your interest and ask about next steps. I would save doing major preparation for when/if they invite you to a next interview. If they do, find out what you can about the format (ie. panel or individual interview, level of the person, what areas they are likely to focus on), research the company, prepare some examples that relate to each of the requirements, and don’t sweat it overly much. Best of luck!

    4. NACSACJACK*

      Ignore the recruiter. I had this happen to me. I reminded the recruiter I had just interviewed there before. He insisted it was a different job. I got permission to call the hiring manager (on a Saturday! Oh!) and spent a half hour on the phone with him, finding out it was the same job. I walked into the recruiting office, sat down with the recruiter, told him it was the same job and asked him to explain, which he couldn’t. I stood up and in a very enraged, strong tone, told him to “NEVER CONTACT ME AGAIN!” Poor guy must have been desperate. He called me two hours later asking we could meet to discuss the situation.

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

      I know that the professional thing is to ignore the email, but there is a side of me that would respond to the email in some snarky way

  14. what to do what to do*

    i’ve been working with this one person who is senior to me on our project. he’s the lead on the project. i’m learning how to be a product manager from him after years of doing other things in our company. last week we told our SVP that we’d give him a digital update on the project this week, via an email or Teams message. but my colleague is off this week, he said he’d check in and be available over Teams because he’s having people over at his house, he’s not going anywhere. i haven’t reached out at all, he messaged me something a couple days ago. yesterday i sent him what i think the digital update should say. i don’t feel right sending it out without his look at it. i asked him to let me know if he had any changes. he said “Thanks, will review.” Now it’s Friday and I can’t tell if I should wait for him or if i should send it out. i guess i should wait but sometimes i’m overly deferential to authority.

    1. what to do what to do*

      actually he just responded and asked me to rewrite each bullet and focus on what’s most important.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Check in early w/teammate on Teams with something like ‘I want to send by Xpm, if you have any revisions let me know before then’, and at Xpm (2 or 3ish local time), send it.

    3. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      It sounds like you received an answer, but if you hadn’t I would have waited. It sounds like you’re still learning the role, and since this was going to an SVP, it would likely have been fine if they had reached out for their update (which I bet they wouldn’t have since they likely have so much else on their plate) to say they would have it next week.

  15. PJS*

    I have a new employee (here for about two months). She began accruing vacation and sick leave right away. She has already taken five days off either because her child was sick or did not have school and is a little bit negative on vacation time (new hires can go negative up to 40 hours in their first year). We were talking the other day and the fact that Monday is a bank holiday came up. She then realized that school was going to be closed and said she would need to take another day. I approved it without giving it much thought. Later, I started wondering if she thinks she’s going to take off the week of Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas? She does not have that much leave time and cannot go negative that much. Plus I just can’t have her out that much at that time of year.

    I feel like I need to say something now to make sure she knows that she needs to be making other arrangements if she’s not already planning to. Any suggestions or tips on the best way to broach this or how to word it? She has made a comment before about not being able to afford childcare and I want to be prepared for pushback on that. As far as I know, she has no family in the area.

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I think you should say something sooner rather than later – that is a courtesy to the employee. If she is aware that it is actually going to be a thing, she can plan for it, or even decide whether or not she’s a good fit for the role. Maybe this will truly be a deal-breaker she hadn’t anticipated – which sucks, but these things happen. I’d bring it up as, “hey, I realized after I okayed next Monday off that you’re already negative for time off, and I’m seeing a correlation between school being closed and you needing those days off. However, with the holidays coming up, I need you to be aware that we do need you working during those times, and I’m unlikely to be able to approve time off during those times when school is closed, so I want to make sure you’re aware of the expectation and can make arrangements”. I’m sure someone has better wording, but keeping it matter-of-fact and treating it like the heads-up that it is should help!

    2. Scoffrio*

      Have you provided her with a list of holiday time she does get off? I have found that very few of my employers have done this and it makes a huge difference to have that information way a head of time (I make plans early and I’ve had some employers just never tell me until like four weeks prior).

      In terms of wording you have a great opening here: “I realized when we talked about this Monday, you may not know how we handle the holidays around here so here’s a breakdown.” I wouldn’t specifically comment on her not being able to take that time off because she’s an adult and should be able to figure that out. But if you’d like to be more direct you could give her the breakdown and then say “Feel free to chat with me about any holiday plans you have, as I know your child will be out of school and you only have X amount of negative hours left.”

      1. A person*

        I agree, this is the perfect opportunity to sit down and discuss what holidays are automatically given off and expectations for additional holiday leave requests. You can also tell her how much leave people typically take, and what kind of coverage is needed in the office around the holidays. If you need everyone to put in leave requests early around the holidays so you can ensure adequate coverage before approving it, let her know that too. Places I’ve worked usually ask people to start thinking about holiday leave requests in mid to lateOctober.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I had a second interview yesterday (it went well, yay!) at an office and was walking around with one of my interviewers afterward for a quick tour. She introduced me to a few people and someone mentioned something like, “Ok, need to get back to this so I can get it done before we’re off on Monday!” It didn’t dawn on me until later that it’s Columbus Day. I haven’t had “bank holidays” in…10 years?! I made a note to ask the HR recruiter about their holiday schedule since that hasn’t been the norm for me for a WHILE.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Sooner is better, but can you do any kind of flexibility, like letting her work from home for some of the days? Or bring her kid(s) in? Childcare over the holidays is *hard*. Even the trackout camps close.

    4. Rayray*

      Is there any chance that her position has flexibility to work remotely some days? Her kid might be old enough to take care of their self for the most part but young enough they need an adult around.

      If it’s not possible for her to work from home, I don’t have management experience to give advice but I have been the coworker of a person who did this and it sucked to be honest. So many days I’d come in and find out she had called in for a kid being sick or whatever and then I was on double duty for the day. She was eventually let go but that also bugged me because the company didn’t even talk to her about it being a problem. They enabled her to take so much time off and then suddenly decided they weren’t happy with it and let her f out of the blue and that definitely was not the way to go about it. So tl;dr – don’t let the issue
      Build up too much before you say anything. Don’t let it get out of hand.

      1. PNW Labrat*

        I’ve been doing a variation of this where I’m an at home worker (sometimes) and my bestie who happens to work at the same company has been stuck on childcare because of school in the time of covid. Her kids are old enough to watch themselves, I’m there in case of fire or medical emergencies. We all eat lunch together but other than that, I just poke my head in from time to time to make sure they are playing age appropriate games on my xbox. It works surprisingly well. But I’m sure the key here too is that the kiddos are older.

        1. Rayray*

          Yeah, this is what I was thinking. Depends a lot on the specific kid and their age and needs but many kids can easily entertain theirselves while at home and don’t need constant supervision, just need someone there for safety or to make sure they’re fed. In that case, I see no reason why someone couldn’t work from home to be there for their kid.

          1. JohannaCabal*

            It can also depend on the area. I remember that two relatively older kids walking to places by themselves drew the ire of CPS in a DC suburb.

            I grew up in the early 90s in a suburb. While I usually rode the bus, I knew a six-year-old that would walk to school with same age friends. My mom was considered over-protective but was fine with my walking to my friends’ houses on the same street without an adult. The suburb I live at now also would be fine with it but I know other places aren’t.

            1. JelloStapler*

              I’ve been trying to decide when my kids will be able to come home on the bus and not go to Latchkey (being alone for about 2 hours?) and found the same thing- the answer seems to vary widely!

            2. allathian*

              Yeah, I hear you. I’m so grateful that my son’s been able to get himself to and from school since he was about 10. Lots of kids here do it when they’re younger, but we waited until he was ready and actually wanted to do it himself. It helped that he had a cellphone, like the vast majority of kids his age. This was before the pandemic, and my son could always call me if he wanted, and I expected him to text me as soon as he got home, or if there were any issues. Now that we’re still WFH, he hasn’t needed to be at home alone, but he still takes the bus to and from school most days.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, bring it up now. I know childcare/nannies/babysitters are scarce right now but apparently she needs a different plan for holidays if she’s going to stay in the job market, at least until the kid is older.

    6. anonymous73*

      Definitely bring it up soon. 5 days off in 2 months is A LOT of time to take off. If there’s any flexibility in her schedule or if she can WFH sometimes (depending on the age of her child), I would offer, but it really isn’t up to you to resolve her childcare issues. Work with her as much as you’re able, but if her co-workers have to pick up the slack when she’s out, it’s not fair to them.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I would be careful to offer that same flexibility to other employees if you do – letting a new employee work from home during school holidays to save on childcare, while requiring current employees to find and pay for care isn’t likely to go over well.

        The priority here is to let her know exactly how vacation days work, and that she’s going to run out soon (also, that she’s currently in the red, and those days will be taken from her next year’s allotment). From your side, it’s worth thinking about how you will respond if she says she does not have childcare for holidays, and will not be getting it. Do you let her go? Offer work from home, and if so, what level of productivity or availability will be required? Offer unpaid leave? Will you require her to be at work during holidays, but offer unpaid leave for illness?

    7. lost academic*

      Say something now kindly and ideally with a reference to support HR can give and/or your EAP – probably she does realize it (I’m in a similar boat but more experienced with more resources). This is a really tough time for parents right now – the typical kinds of backup care just do not exist anymore even if you can afford anything the market would offer. If she really doesn’t know what to do and you’re able to do so, see if you and she and HR can maybe brainstorm some flexible arrangements to get through the holidays. For older kids (grade school) there are places that basically do day camps when school is out (the Y comes to mind).

    8. brightbetween*

      I would start by asking if she is planning any time off at the holidays. In many organizations, it’s common to have to request holiday time off early due to coverage needs (I have to request Nov/Dec days off in August), so I don’t think it would come off as an unusual ask. Then if she says yes, you can broach the issue of not having enough leave/needing coverage.

    9. noahwynn*

      I would definitely bring it up sooner rather than later. Just ask what time she is planning to take off around the holidays and share the company paid holidays. If she is planning to take off more time than what is allowed, you can discuss it.

    10. Cold Fish*

      Could you start by bringing up the negative vacation time? Just an “I want you to be aware that you are negative on your vacation time. This is fine the first year up to 40 hours and you aren’t in trouble. But with the holiday’s coming up, I wanted to give you a heads up that you really only have X hours left so plan accordingly.”

    11. BlueK*

      Definitely talk to her soon. Time off around the holidays is often limited because almost everyone wants off then. Which obviously wouldn’t work.

      I’d also ask her to look at the school calendar and come to you with a list. Make it clear that it’ll have to be a discussion because you may need her to work some of those. But there’s just no reason she should have just realized there was no school on a holiday.

    12. ADHD Anon*

      It’s hard to know whether this is the start of a pattern that will impact her work or not. When she is there, how is her work and are others impacted by the absence. ? That’s the most important thing

      All that said – some compassion? I can only speak to what’s going on where I am right now so everyone else’s MMV.

      if you’re a parent in the US in an area that has a lot of Covid restrictions – this year is still hard. My too-young-to-be vaccinated kids started school in mid-August. If anyone tests positive for COVID in their class, they get sent home for 3 days plus negative COVID test.

      And if a kid has symptoms that didn’t used to send them home, like my son with a runny nose/ cough. Now they go home in the middle of the day and can’t come back without a negative PCR or Molecular COVID test.

      So, you kid is home because they maybe have COVID. What exactly do the some of the people above who think she should have ‘backup care’ do? Hire a sitter? Not have a job?

      Appreciation to everyone who has asked if she can work from home. I think it really comes down to whether you think she’s doing a good job now.

      And -side note. I’m very organized and I’ve been totally caught off guard by a Columbus Day or Veterans Day closure. Even in the before times.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Problem is WFH is supposed to be work from home–not work and mind your kids. Also, what if someone else would like wfh? Why should new person get it and old timer not? OP simply needs to say “Hey, you are already negative on leave. As holidays approach, the company is closed these days. I’ll expect you here all the other days we are open. Approving time off will not be easy, so be aware please.”

  16. LostGosling*

    This is a situation that stretches across work and outside of work. How do you respond to people making remarks about the fact you are wearing a mask?

    For example, I am triply vaxxed but still wear a mask when people come into my office or if I’m in a group. I have a coworker who almost always comments. These range from telling me no and don’t do it as I put on my mask to telling me I’m disrespecting him and being hurtful. He may be trying to be funny, but he is definitely against masking and other measures. He is not looking for a reasonable discussion. I’ve tried that. Lol I’ve already practiced my stop it response for next time.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      I just stare at them awkwardly and let them simmer in the uncomfortable moment they created.

    2. me*

      I’d just say “it isn’t about you” and leave it at that.

      Because when it comes down to it, it isn’t about them. You’re choosing to wear it for your own reasons, not for any that they may come up with.

      Also, your coworker is a jerk.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’ve had a strong impulse to say, “Come on, don’t be a d*ick!” but I’ve held back. Agreed, the coworker is the one being a jerk. An alternate response could be, “I have my reasons. You should let this go.”

      1. Eden*

        I wouldn’t ask a question, even a rhetorical one. Imo, at work especially the goal should be to end the discussion of masks, not get into a debate.

    3. Aarti*

      I have taken to saying “just practicing my freedom, as an american.” In cases where they might listen, I will say how i haven’t gotten a cold in 2 years, (true!) but this dude doesnt sound like he will listen. I also might call him out directly, in public. “Dude why you are so concerned about what I do?”

      1. Michelle*

        Early in the pandemic I had an emergency printing situation (forgot to print important medical papers before I left home), and stopped by a print shop. There was a sign on the door talking about “freedom,” and no one inside was wearing a mask. I left immediately, and in my review I mentioned that I was exercising my freedom not to give my money to companies that willingly endanger their employees and customers.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I’ll admit, this is not a problem I’ve had because we have an indoor mask mandate in my state (and in the office). But to this particular guy, I’d say “you’re making your choice, I’m making mine, please stop commenting on it.”

      1. kitryan*

        We had a work event recently where it was stated that the attendees would be/should be masked and the speaker would not be (and would be correspondingly further away from the attendees). I thought this was an ok compromise, for intelligibility for attendees (in person and remote), and when a newer employee showed up unmasked I side eyed them severely and they went over and got a mask from the sideboard of the room. I felt like a tiny hero :). The email was very clear! Attendees would wear masks!

    5. LunaLena*

      I suspect those kinds of people are just itching for a fight, so they can prove how “smart” they are. So don’t give them one. I would just stare blankly, say something noncommittal like “okay” and then just return to the work subject.

    6. WeAreTheJunimos*

      Like you, I am also triply vaccinated but I still do wear a mask in public places. I wear a mask because I am a frontline healthcare worker sometimes working directly with covid + patients. So even though I have vaccine protection and wear my PPE correctly, I still don’t want to spread it unknowingly. That’s what I say when people ask why I still wear the mask.
      For your coworker, I think he’s looking for a reason to push his beliefs. In my personal experience, a lot anti maskers cannot stay silent or reasonable. I had my hand broken at work (in a hospital) by someone who refused to put their mask over their nose and disliked me asking them to do so. So, I think a “We’ve discussed this many times already, this is my choice, now stop asking me about it” would do well here. Any further comments, you could repeat ad nauseum or just ignore. I’d go for ignoring him.

      1. 30 Years in the Biz*

        I’m so sorry about you hand, that’s awful! I’m hopeful you’re not in pain anymore. I worked in the hospital for 10 years and had a patient hit me over the head with the bedside phone as I bent over them. It hurts doubly when you are trying to help someone with their health and they’re attacking you for it. Thank you for your service during these trying times!

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I agree with this response. I think if it were me, I’d just go with “I’m not going to talk about my mask with you anymore. Stop bringing it up.”

    7. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I like the responses from both “me” and “Aarti”. For those people who make a fuss, either of those should work since the coworker sounds like one of those “this is America and we can do what we want” people.

    8. Elle Woods*

      Wait. You’re disrespecting him and being hurtful by being triple vaxxed AND wearing a mask? *headdesk*

      Turn the tables on him. “Please stop. You are being hurtful and disrespectful by not respecting my choice to wear a mask.”

    9. braindump*

      I’ve said variations of these to family members that I won’t see again for awhile (so I didn’t mind riling them up), it may be different in a work environment where you see the guy regularly.
      “You’re not the type of person I’d expect to be such a snowflake.”
      “I guess there’s nothing to do but whine more” (with extra loud snap of elastic and a pointed look)

      The decent, job oriented part of me would go with a boring response to get them to stop getting a reaction from you. “I’m doing this for the benefit of anyone near me” or plain ignoring comments like I would a toddler that cried over not getting a gallon of ice cream for dinner.

    10. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      “I am more comfortable wearing a mask and won’t be changing my mind. There’s no point in discussing this further.”

      Then just refer back to the above, and move toward “I’ve already said I won’t be changing my mind. It’s odd that you’re still bringing it up.” and start putting it on them.

    11. Dark Macadamia*

      There are a lot of snarky things I’d LIKE to say but the professional option is just “please stop commenting on what I wear” or “I’m not discussing this with you again”

    12. anonymous73*

      “My wearing a mask has zero affect on you. I need you to stop making comments about it.”

      Then walk away or ignore him. He’s being an asshat. No need to sugarcoat anything.

    13. AndersonDarling*

      “If this is a problem, then we can [reschedule, make this an email, tell the boss].”

    14. learnedthehardway*

      The reply, “This isn’t about you!” is one I find quite useful, when dealing with people who feel like my decisions are all about them or how they feel.

      Or , “My body, my choice!”, which might be a good point to make, considering the people who insist on not masking seem to think it is all about their freedoms.

      Better yet, “I have sense of social responsibility”, because that is really why you’re masked – to protect the general public.

    15. Don’t put metal in the Science Oven*

      I say whatever will cause the least comment or reaction. I don’t want the unmasked to talk at me any more than the minimum. I also don’t want a reaction of them trying to cough or breathe on me since that’s a thing now. Although that could get reported to HR. I’m fact, you could keep records of when, where, and who else was around every time this person comments & take that to HR

    16. theletter*

      You could go another route and say “It’s not just the covid, you know . . .” and then wave your hand in front of your face as if you just got a whiff of something gross.

      Of course, my first instinct is to just start coughing, infusing enough rattle and spittle to really scare anyone around me. And follow him out when he leaves, and stand at the desk, coughing, while trying to tell him about my weekend.

      1. Michelle*

        A couple of weeks ago I was at the doctor with my son, and we were the first to get on an elevator that had a limit of four people for social distancing. Five more people crammed into the elevator after us. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say (in a medical building attached to a hospital!!), but afterwards I wished I’d just started coughing loudly the whole way up.

        1. Don’t weaponize coughinh*

          Please don’t join in those weaponizing coughing. Don’t stoop to that base level.

    17. cubone*

      I don’t know how I would deal with this in the workplace (and thankfully haven’t had to).

      But someone in line at the grocery store the other day started laughing and making little comments under the breath, and I finally said “sorry, is something the matter?”
      Them: “something something sheeple mask” (I don’t recall)
      for some reason in that moment I just went with …… “what mask?”
      Them: “your mask”
      Me, with my best ‘you have 3 heads’ look: “what are you talking about?”
      Then: “the stupid mask you’re wearing!”
      Me: “what on earth are you talking about?”
      Then: “something something liberals deep state muzzling children masks”
      Me: “this is just my face”
      Then: “stop being stupid, you already look stupid enough with that on”
      Me, looking around incredulously to the cashier who was killing herself laughing: “what on earth are they talking about, what mask?”

      By some miracle, everyone around me either ignored or went with it by nodding/shrugging towards me and the anti-masker just sort of … faded in the background, grumbling. But I truly believe from the look on their face that even just a small 1% of their thoughts were “… am I hallucinating?” and THAT made the whole thing worth it. Mileage may vary, but I had fun.

      1. ADHD Anon*

        Amazing and hilarious! If other people are sick of this guy too- it could work. Or at least just be fun.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Ah, that’s great – I once as a teenager did something similar.

        I was riding the city bus (in Germany), which was half empty and had lots and lots of empty seats, right behind me and in front of me. An older person came in, made a beeline for me and ordered me to get up. I had noticed that this was a thing – older people, in their 70s and up, ordering teens and younger kids around just because they could. So I was prepared. And asked why I should get up. They responded, because they’re older than I was. I asked how they could possibly know this. They started fuming and sputtering. I said I recently turned 85 (the person was clearly younger than that). Two or three riders who overheard it quietly giggled into their reading material.

        “Today’s youth is soooo rude!” was a recurring complaint during my childhood. I realized that while this might well be true, it was probably true in the past as well, and rude kids probably turn into rude retirees at one point.

    18. RagingADHD*

      If he’s ostensibly joking, I’d ostensibly joke back:

      I’m not putting it on YOU.
      So I can’t smell your farts.
      This is where my superpowers come from.
      So I can make faces at you.
      My face is cold.
      Taco breath.

      Or just don’t reply at all. Nonsense doesn’t merit a reply that makes sense.

    19. KoiFeeder*

      I point out that the alternative is looking at my face, but… I’m ugly, to put it bluntly. It probably won’t work so well in your case, and it sounds like this guy is just being a tool anyways so I’d just ignore him or tell him to knock it off.

    20. Artemesia*

      a long measured look, over the top of the mask, followed by a deadpan ‘well, OK, then’ and then get on with your business.

    21. Anonymous Hippo*

      I try and say something that would make a decent person feel bad for being a butt. So I’ll say something like “I’m being extra cautious because of my infant nephew” or “my father has severe asthma and covid could kill him” etc. Seems to be working…people have stopped commenting on it to me. This is people I have to maintain a relationship with because of work etc. Randos on the street, ignore.

    22. tamarack and fireweed*

      It hasn’t happened often, but my reaction has been either ironically/quizzically raised eyebrows or something along the lines of “I care about us protecting each other – you are free to do whatever you think is best”/

      A friend of mine just said “I’m COVID-positive”. Made the guy jump and run. (It was a lie.)

    23. Quinalla*

      I have been preemptively telling groups that I’m wearing a mask because my kids are unvaccinated. No one has pushed back on this and frankly, most folks are back to voluntarily wearing masks anywhere inside now anyway in my area, so it hasn’t come up recently. If you don’t want to get into details, I’d probably go with something like “I’m being extra cautious with everyone, we don’t need to discuss it every time I see you.” Or just ignore the comment, pretend like it wasn’t said.

    24. allathian*

      Ugh, I can’t imagine how annoying that would be to deal with.

      “Oh, I’m just waiting for all the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers to get covid and die” is what I’d be thinking, although I doubt I’d say it in a work context. Our health authorities are basing their calculations on the assumption that every person who doesn’t get the vaccine and doesn’t mask will get it sooner or later.

  17. louise*

    My small (~20 employees) company is being purchased by a larger company with ~40 offices throughout the US. They keep promising us nothing will change on a day-to-day basis (though of course there will be some growing pains), but I am very hesitant and I don’t love the merger in general. They said they are purchasing my company for my department in particular, because their reach is currently small in my field and the projects they currently do are not my expertise at all. FWIW, I am a mid-level engineer and I am a woman, and this is a company that is engineering-adjacent. My current company is an engineering firm. My boss – who is a great mentor and looks out for the well-being of his employees – is wanting to retire and I really fear for the future of not only my job, but my department and my future projects as well. I am VERY worried I am going to be given their existing projects that I have no idea how to do and penalized for it because this happened at the last large engineering company I worked for.

    They have given me a 3-year employment contract with a 90-day notice period, a non-compete, and a non-solicitation agreement. I have been wanting to move, so this really does not sit well with me as they don’t have offices in my target areas. My current company doesn’t know I have one foot out the door as I’ve been casually speaking with recruiters and looking for the right fit. The employment contract is 11 pages long and full of legalese and I don’t want to sign it.

    Can anyone offer any advice, or things to watch out for, things to get in writing, things to dispute in the contract? Can they make me sign the contract? This was dropped on us earlier this week and I’ve spent the whole time just boiling in anxiety and frustration.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Well for starters, non-competes rarely hold up in court, so I wouldn’t be too worried about that. Also, if you move to a location that they don’t operate in, a job there really can’t be said to be competing with them, right? Though employment contracts are pretty unusual in the US, so I would honestly recommend talking to a lawyer about it, especially if it’s full of things you don’t understand.

      I will add that I worked for a small company that got bought out by a large company that claimed they bought us for who we were and didn’t want to change anything…and that didn’t end up being the case. They may not have planned on changing anything, but a small company operates very differently from a large one, and we went from being very independently run to being under intense scrutiny and oversight, which just completely changed the nature of my job. I went from really liking my job to being absolutely miserable.

      I’m not saying that to scare you, but if you already have one foot out the door…well it can’t hurt to start amping up your job search.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I am a voice in the wilderness about this, but “noncompetes rarely hold up in court” is not the end of the analysis. If you sign a noncompete and violate its terms, you can still be sued, and you still have to participate in the litigation. Even if you win because the noncompete was legally deficient in your jurisdiction, you will have lost time and money fighting the lawsuit. It’s really not enough to imply that signing any noncompete is OK because it probably won’t hold up in court.

        Anyone presented with a noncompete should talk to a lawyer about it, and before signing it they should make sure that what they’ve been given is reasonable and that they are OK with complying with the terms. This is especially true if your current employer is presenting you with a noncompete after you’ve already been working for them, because in a lot of states you have additional rights that a lawyer can help you understand and try to preserve.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I think you should invest in an actual lawyer, who can tell you the legalities in your area. For example, California’s been vacating non-competes, but US South, they’re still going strong.

      1. contract negotiations*

        OP: If you get a lawyer, ask which jurisdiction is mostly likely to prevail — your state or the company HQ state. From what I read it’s not cut and dried, but any guidance on that could be helpful in case there’s a big mismatch between the states’ laws.

      2. pancakes*

        Yes. No one here is going to be able to give you reliable legal advice on a contract they haven’t seen.

    3. 3Owls*

      Can they make you sign it as a condition of employment, yes. But if you are on you way out already, I wouldn’t sign. But that’s just me.

      The contract page count isn’t really a red flag for me, but the fact that it is written in a way that you can’t understand it is. I also don’t like non-competes.

    4. anonymous73*

      90 day notice? That right there is insane to me. I’ve been laid off 3 times in the last 20+ year and every time it was because my company was bought by another one. I’m not saying that will happen here, but I would polish off your resume.

    5. contract negotiations*

      I’d consider bringing in a lawyer to review it if you have serious concerns about how this will affect your future employability. Many non-competes are unenforceable, especially if they are more than a year, cover a large geographic area, or effectively keep you from making a living or working where you want. It’s possible you should just walk away if you have options. Signing on to a non-compete with a big company could very quickly close a lot of employment avenues.

      I just went through negotiations on a non-compete / non solicit agreement and it was not fun. Mine was carefully crafted in a few ways, designed to make it more enforceable in some ways but was still weirdly broad in others. I didn’t object to the basic “don’t take our clients and employees” bits. That’s normal in my industry. They didn’t forbid working for competitors, which is usually not enforceable anyway and would have not flown with me. I pushed back on a couple of weird things that, boiling it down for simplicity and anonymity, required me to report to them every new business activity for the duration as a way of enforcing this agreement. They agreed to take out the pieces I objected to. (Honestly, did they think that through? Do they want hundreds/thousands of former employees constantly notifying them of every new gig, project, client, committee, and “business relationship” for years?) If they hadn’t agreed to take it out, I would have considered a shorter time frame a possible compromise. I also got, in writing, approval that the agreement did not cover pre-existing relationships with clients of my own that may become or are currently clients of my new employer. I asked a lot of hypotheticals to ensure I understood what all the pieces meant, and got a lot of handwaving about “oh we wouldn’t enforce it for the scenario you just described” that I’m not super comfortable with. I do believe them, I’m a small fish and they will not care about my little side hustle or future collaboration that in no way impacts them. Yet I’m signing a legal document!

      Oh, one more thing to look for that wasn’t in mine but I wish it was: Is there any delay before it goes into action? Meaning, if you signed this and found a job in a month (or a day!), are you stuck with abiding by all that? I read some have a time frame for that. Mine didn’t and I would have liked that in case this job doesn’t work out I’m not hamstrung for years.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      LOL – they really have some nerve. What are they offering you in exchange for all that? Because that’s not an agreement, that’s coercive. (Where I am, companies can unilaterally impose those kinds of conditions on employees. It’s called “constructive dismissal” to change the terms of the employment agreement. If they want to change the terms, they have to offer something in return – eg. higher salary, etc.)

      Personally, I would do an active job hunt, and not sign the agreement. Meanwhile, I’d negotiate hard for everything you want, while job hunting. See if you can get them to offer you something that is worth staying for, and that compensates you for what they’re trying to impose on you.

    7. Observer*

      Take the contract to a lawyer and ask them for advice. It will cost you, but I think that this is a good time to spend the money.

      Can they make me sign the contract?

      No. But they CAN make your continued employment contingent on your signing. So the sooner you talk to a lawyer, rather than stewing, the better off you are. This way you can make the decision that is best for you.

      I am VERY worried I am going to be given their existing projects that I have no idea how to do and penalized for it because this happened at the last large engineering company I worked for.

      Just because you were with one bad company does not mean that all large companies will be the same. You would probably be better off trying to find out how they are to work for.

    8. AnotherAlison*

      Lots to think about. If the acquiring company is a general contractor, I might run! I worked for B&V for 5 years, then an engineering firm that had recently been acquired by a contractor (in the early 2000s) for the next 15 years. It took 5 years for us to play nicely together, and even at the end of my 15 year run, there were still some old-school construction sponsors who thought they could push me around as the engineering PM. You hear the words construction-driven design a lot. However, how much you risk would also depend on the industry. My background was traditional power, and that seemed fairly useless in the market for the past few years so I’d hang on jobs in that field until I had something locked in elsewhere. I moved to a whole different thing – a subcontractor type of company that was also trying full EPC in renewables and microgrids. It was rough. Now I’m moving to a non-energy related industry that’s on a growth curve and they don’t care that all my technical knowledge is in a different area. (Sounds like you ARE in demand if the company was acquired for expertise, so I’d probably lean towards moving if I were in your shoes.)

  18. JanetM*

    This is really minor, and probably me over-thinking things.

    I work 8:30 to 5:30. Our building custodian’s schedule has changed; she’s coming in earlier and cleaning the restrooms around 4:00-4:30.

    Am I an awful person if I use the restroom after she’s cleaned it?

    1. Littorally*

      Nope. The bathroom is there for you to use — she’s not cleaning it to leave it pristine for the night!

    2. me*

      No! (unless you’re seriously messy!)

      Someone has to be the first person to use it after it is clean. I don’t think it matters whether it’s that day or the next morning.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        This.
        Cleaning the restroom doesn’t bring it into a magical state of purity; it’s just a regular thing that you have to do to keep it in an acceptable range. Using the restroom doesn’t irrevocably corrupt it, either.

    3. Dwight Schrute*

      No! Not at all, that’s what it’s there for. I think as long as you’re not leaving a mess you should use the restroom without guilt

    4. Dust Bunny*

      No. Someone is always going to use the restroom after she cleans it. That’s why it’s cleaned daily.

      1. Cordelia*

        maybe I’m the awful person here, as in a similar situation I was really happy to regularly get to use a clean and shiny bathroom! of course, don’t leave a terrible mess, but don’t be doing that anyway when someone else has to clean up…

    5. Snark No More!*

      Our schedule is even worse! They come around at 10 AM to collect the trash and clean the restrooms. Seems to me that they are “supposed” to do another trash/bathroom run at the end of their day, but they don’t. I use the bathroom when I need to. They’re short staffed too.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Lots of places have ongoing cleaning throughout the day. At the gym or the airport, they clean while people are using the stalls.

      It’s not an operating room. Who would you be “saving” it for?

    7. Purple Cat*

      Ha. I often work late in the office, and I have to use the bathroom after it’s been cleaned.
      I also feel guilty about it, but then also remind myself to “Enjoy the go” in a perfectly clean bathroom.
      It’s not like you’re deliberately trashing the joint (I hope). You’re using it for it’s intended purpose.

    8. tamarack and fireweed*

      Ours get cleaned on a schedule that I don’t have insight into (and that looks irregular to me) at potentially any point during the day. You’re fine.

  19. Scoffrio*

    I am job searching, and just got a candidate survey that asks “why I’m leaving my current job” and I have no idea what to answer because my situation is so weird.

    My boss hired me eight months ago. In my interview he was clear that he was looking for someone to give his business (a tiny law firm) to in two years time when he retired, the two years would be spent getting me trained to take it over. I told him in the interview that while it sounded nice to own my own firm, I wasn’t certain the path was for me. He offered me the job. I took it, seeing the potential of it not working out, but knowing it was a once in a lifetime type deal (I do not have the capital to start my own firm, and would not for a very long time).

    He has since become a terrible boss (walked back promises made at hiring, treated health issues poorly, etc), and he has not given me any opportunity to learn how to manage the business or any authority to manage the staff.

    I could say that I realized I did not want to own a business, which is true, but I didn’t really explore that option with him and never really gave it a shot. I could say there wasn’t an opportunity for growth, which is kind of true, but really there just isn’t one that I wanted. In truth, I am leaving because my boss sucked and has lost my trust, and the job turned out to be very different from what I was offered. I have not told my boss I’m searching, and have no idea what reason I will give him. I am worried that if I leave my job before I have secured another one (which is becoming more likely because I’m miserable), my boss won’t verify what I say if he is called (especially if I say I didn’t want the business). I can’t talk to him about it to agree to what he would say because it doesn’t feel safe to do so, he has shown evidence of being quick to fire.

    Any advice would be super appreciated!

    1. ThatGirl*

      You do not have to be 100% honest about why you’re leaving. You shouldn’t blatantly lie, but you definitely don’t have to tell the whole truth. While it’s possible your current boss would say something, when references are called they’re usually not asked why someone is leaving! (Also, it would not be weird for you to ask a new job /not/ to call your current boss, for many reasons.)

      I would probably stick with “I realized it wasn’t a good fit and didn’t have the opportunities I was looking for” and segue into why the new job sounds better.

    2. Mstr*

      Try to think of something you DO want, a goal that the new job you’re targeting would help you with & say that. Try not to focus on the negatives.

    3. ChemistryChick*

      You could just say something like the job isn’t what was described to you when you took the offer. You don’t really need to go into detail about your boss sucking.

      As for what reason to give your boss, as long as you have something lined up when you give notice you really don’t have to tell him anything specific. “I was offered an opportunity that was too good to pass up.” “I felt like I needed a change.” Anything vague, really. You don’t owe him details if you think it’ll cause you issue.

    4. Hanani*

      The job you’re applying for doesn’t *really* want to know why you’re leaving, they just want to weed out Obvious Problems. So if you wrote that you were fired, or that [insert a bunch of gossip about your current job] or something, they’d probably dig deeper or reject your candidacy. Write what is bland by true – looking for growth in a particular direction is a common reason to look for a new job, and it’s true for you.

    5. A person*

      You are leaving because you decided at this point in your career you want to work for a firm that does X or is Y size or whatever applies to that particular employer. Focus on the fact that you are trying to move toward a certain opportunity, don’t make it about trying to get away from something.

      1. Mockingjay*

        “Focus on the fact that you are trying to move toward a certain opportunity, don’t make it about trying to get away from something.”

        This. It’s not that Current Job is bad (even if it is), it’s that you are excited to work for New Company because of X opportunity, which fits your goals, skills, etc.

    6. ferrina*

      “The job ended up being very different than how it was described, and I’m really interested in a position that offers XYZ.”

      That’s it. Like Hanani said, this question is usually just meant to weed out Obvious Problems and avoid Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire situations (I once had someone say they were leaving their position because they had had 3 bosses in 3 years and wanted more stability. Well, the position they were interviewing was on Boss #4 and was going to have some heavy restructuring in the next year- that would not have been a good fit).

      If you get a follow up question, be ready with a couple neutral examples, like how you were told you’d have a staff and that hasn’t materialized, etc. Get ready with some of those promises that he walked back, but it likely won’t be a big deal.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yup.

        – I’m really interested in a position that offers XYZ.
        – You haven’t been at your current job very long though?
        – True. It ended up being different than I expected at the outset.
        – How so?
        – For example, it was described to me as being a lot about XYZ – it’s something I care about. And also [insert something that differentiates the two, like “I realized that I really prefer a slightly larger office / collaborating with a variety of [lawyers, whatever] / work on [area of law]”.

        Just *don’t* slag off your current boss. At most, if you’re pressed, say something like “our management styles mesh less well than I hopes”, with a wistful smile. They’ll read between the lines, and will be reassured that even when you’re [probably] frustrated and in a mindset of wanting to get out, you’re able to be professional and cool about it.

    7. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Just say that you’re looking for a better fit and want to learn more about [whatever the new job is about].

    8. Not Today Satan*

      I’m always just super vague- “seeking other opportunities” or whatever. I think more often that not questions like that are just giving candidates enough rope to hang themselves. You’d be shocked how many would answer like, “I have a crazy boss”, or whatever.

    9. Rayray*

      They don’t need a story, just simply say you are seeking new opportunities to contribute to an good company or something along those lines.

    10. Teapot Repair Technician*

      Whatever the company I’m apply to does better (or is more of) than the company I’m leaving, that’s my reason.

      When I was applying to my current job, I said I was interesting in working for a larger company, that was closer to my home, and had a more international customer base. Not coincidentally, that company fit the bill to a T.

    11. learnedthehardway*

      There’s no reason to tell your current manager you’re leaving, and you should absolutely not do that. Anyone who wants to confirm that you work there can simply call up and ask, but I would tell employers that since you are currently working, you do not want them approaching your company for references until you give them the okay (and don’t do that until you have an offer letter in hand).

      As for reasons, here are some ways to put it:

      – your point about not wanting to own a business is just fine – it’s one of the reasons you were told you were hired. You could very legitimately say you have discovered/realized that you DON’T want to own your own business at this stage of your career, but that you DO want to give your boss the time to find someone to whom they can transition their business, while you pursue your career as an employee in another company. (If asked about what it is about owning your own business that you’re not interested in, you can point out that you didn’t realize the risks involved, or that you find there is no work/life balance at all, or that there is a huge amount of administration you’re not interested in doing, or perhaps that there is just so much business development and it’s hard to balance that with actually getting the work done – just tailor it to the role you’re applying for so that it doesn’t contradict what they want in a person).

      – or you could say it has become clear that the owner has absolutely no intention of retiring, contrary to their stated plans to transition the business to you, and that while you are interested in career growth, you’ve realized you want to work for a larger organization where you could grow into management. (If you are interested in career growth, this nicely explains what your actual interests are and also why you can’t stay where you are to meet your goals.)

      Hope that helps!

    12. Generic Name*

      I don’t think that hiring managers are really expecting a litany of everything that’s wrong in your current job, and certainly don’t give your boss a heads up you are looking to leave if it will compromise your current job. Come up with something innocuous like “I’m looking for more opportunities for advancement” or “My current job focuses on X, but my true passion is Y [where Y is what the job you’re applying to focuses on]”. For example, when I applied to my current job, I said I was interested in the job because I wanted to focus on the field my BS is in- I had been working in a related field where I have a MS in. I really was looking for a new job because my boss was a flaming a-hole, but I didn’t mention that part. :)

    13. BlueK*

      I’d put something about interest in ownership of your own cases. Or the chance to work with a leader in whatever sub practice it is they specialize in that you presumably want to work in. Basically, make it about wanting whatever they have to offer. Unless you are relocating or have some other obvious reason you’d be looking.

      You can get into the details in the interview stage about the solo practitioner job having been a great opportunity but ultimately not a match. That’s pretty understandable. Especially given the timeline about when he plans to retire, etc.

    14. theletter*

      You’re leaving your current job because you’re interested in working for the new company.

      You can say you’re looking for a bigger company/such-n-such clients/ ability to focus on XYZ. Take it as an opportunity to talk about what you want to do for the company.

      I think what HR might secretly be looking for is red flags – someone unreasaonable might accidentally out themselves as a grouchy crank about to get fired – sooooo don’t do that.

    15. pancakes*

      I agree with what everyone else is saying about keeping your answer fairly bland rather than trying to craft an accurate narrative about your boss’s shortcomings.

      I want to add that I don’t think it’s surprising he turned out to be a bad boss, because what sort of person says all that to a candidate they’ve never worked with? That they can maybe have the entire firm, not just a job as an associate? If his only criteria for who to give his whole firm to is their willingness to take it after two years of training rather than the quality of their work after quite a lot of close observation, that is a pretty big red flag. Two years of training is quite minimal for a lawyer, even if he was keeping up his end of the bargain with regard to mentoring you. I think it’s also a red flag that he wanted to give his firm to someone rather than sell it. To me that suggests his business isn’t exactly thriving.

    16. RagingADHD*

      “I hoped this job would have a growth path, but it hasn’t worked out to be right for me in the long term. I’m looking for (positive thing that is different than current situation) instead.”

      Like, more structure or opportunities to practice in a more collaborative environment.

    17. Self Employed Employee*

      The truth of the matter is that the owner is going to retire in the near future. That’s not even a lie. At some point in the near future, even if you wanted to stay at the job, you would need to start your search.

  20. Holiday Plans?*

    What are people’s workplaces thinking of doing for a holiday gathering this year? We have a staff of approx 25 who would usually go to a restaurant. Last year we did an entirely virtual event, but this year we’re seeking in-person but still socially-distanced options in light of restrictions here (non-US). So far we have discussed suggestions like a private trivia event or renting out a movie theatre for a holiday classic. Any other creative ideas?

      1. Rayray*

        This is the best idea but seeing as many workplaces would huff and puff about the idea, I think renting out a theatre or private space is a good idea. You could also cater lunch in from somewhere that does boxed lunches to avoid a germy buffet style lunch and then give everyone the afternoon off after eating and socializing.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Hmm maybe I’m just a crumbum but neither of those events sound like a fun thing to do with work people. Plus watching a movie isn’t exactly social. Not to mention most (all?) classic holiday movies are Christmas movies, meaning unless you know everyone in your company celebrates Christmas, you’ll be isolating some of your employees.

      Again, maybe I’m just a humbug but the best holiday party my company could offer would be no party at all and instead just let us go home early. Or money! I’d take money too.

      Though I will say my company did offer a couple remote cooking events that were really cool through Try Hungry Virtual Xperiences. We were each mailed a box of supplies, ingredients, and tools, and a celebrity chef walked us through how to make something. I bet they offer a holiday-themed recipe!

      If you do go this route, I recommend you pick a recipe that includes sending everyone everything they need – the first one we did was making your own hot sauce, and it included absolutely everything we needed – peppers, spices, bottles, funnels, even ingredients to make a margarita plus a small cocktail shaker! The second was chicken and waffles, and they included everything but the chicken and eggs, meaning we had to get those ahead of time, which was a tiny bit of pain. (But they did include an adorable mini waffle iron!) But other than that it was a really fun event, and it was exciting to get the care package in the mail.

      So if you can’t give everyone money or time off, I recommend the Try Hungry Virtual Xperiences.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this works if everyone likes cooking, but many people don’t. I hate cooking, and I’m just happy my husband likes it enough to do it. I’d definitely skip the sort of event you’re describing.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I genuinely hope my workplace isn’t planning on anything like this (I think I’d know if they were). I agree with an extra day off and/or a gift card or something else that doesn’t require gathering (trivia isn’t really socially distanced in any format I’ve experienced. Lots of teams putting their heads together).

      1. Aarti*

        YOU GUYS! My company is doing a potluck. Ewwwwwwwwww. I am bringing fresh fruit and will just eat fruit, didn’t love potluck before and definitely don’t feel comfortable with it now.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Ugggggh…. My friend’s job was going to do a potluck that ended up getting canceled because the host got COVID. People still haven’t learned. Godspeed, stay safe.

    3. Lunch Ghost*

      Last year we had a fancy box lunch, a brief gathering where we received a quality branded item and a gift card, and then got the rest of the day off.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Honestly, the best gift I could think of was money and time off, but this sounds lovely. A nice box lunch, a quality item, money, time—I would love this.

    4. MissLibby*

      We are not having holiday parties this year and no funds have been budgeted. I am sure some teams will do virtual events or get together outside of work on their own dime.

    5. Midwestern Scientist*

      For many years (including pre pandemic) my department has done $75 gift cards to the local grocery store since we have many people that travel for 4 weeks in the November-January months (international fellows, etc) or who don’t celebrate an major winter holidays. Way easier for scheduling and inclusivity!

    6. Grace Less*

      My company is doing a 1000-person party complete with about 200people arriving via airplane.

      Better choices that I have seen are tours or holiday light displays (zoos, arboretums, outdoor spaces), TopGolf, and parking lot food truck parties.

    7. BeachMum*

      I know that most people here hate holiday parties, but my husband’s employees (he’s the owner) have already asked him about whether we’re doing an in-person party and saying they want one. So, I’ve booked the restaurant and sent out a save-the-date.

      I was worried about how to deal with employees’ spouses’ vaccination status, but now restaurants in LA only let people eat inside if you have proof of vaccination and it’s too cold (most of the time) to eat inside in early December. Therefore, everyone will have to be vaccinated or they can’t attend.

      He wasn’t sure he wanted to do an indoor dinner, but several of his people said they really missed it last year. (It’s never been mandatory and we really don’t keep track of who comes and who doesn’t.)

  21. LimeRoos*

    Super low stakes question, but I’m curious. So mid September our Employee Giving campaign wrapped up, and I won my bid for Lunch w/ the CEO with 2 other winners. E-mails went out, we picked a place, his EA was going to schedule a time, but now it’s been 3 weeks and I’m not sure if I should follow up or be patient a little longer. I’m super excited for the lunch, but I’m nervous about reaching out too since all 3 (CEO & 2 other winners) have each been with the company for over a decade. Granted, writing that out makes it feel even more silly I can’t just send an e-mail. But I don’t wanna bother anyone, and well, I assume being a CEO is crazy busy.

    1. Roos*

      I would follow-up with the EA and cc the other winners in an email. Asking isn’t a “bother” if it’s been 3 weeks and you don’t have an update. Just do it once, see how they respond.

    2. adminatlarge*

      You can email the EA. That’s their job! There’s a chance it’s fallen off their radar over there and they need a gentle reminder.

    3. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Just email his EA and ask for a scheduling update. Tell her your calendar is filling up, and are there any dates you should put a hold on for now while she’s confirming with the others.

  22. WonkyStitch*

    As a disabled person who lives in the Midwest, I’ve experienced a lot of job application rejection because I couldn’t relocate and needed to work remotely. Disabled people desperately need to stay near their family and support networks, but many many companies believe you have to be there in person. I remember distinctly applying to the book of faces, several nonprofits (including federal ones), and many for-profits related to my specific disability,and they all insisted that I had to relocate to take the position.

    As the pandemic has shown, many many positions can be done remotely, and my position definitely could (recruiting – I’m now in payroll data management).

    I was curious as to the experiences of other disabled job seekers, and whether or not these huge companies like the book of faces will ever face the music on denying remote work as a reasonable accommodation.

    1. bronzecat*

      I can’t speak to the companies you applied for, but “remote working” is absolutely a reasonable accommodation…if you live in a state that the company is set up for with employees. After all, because you’re working from home, they have to follow the employment laws of your state, not the state of their office. You may find smaller companies in other states unable to account for that. No idea about Facebook. I’d try looking for remote work for companies targeting remote employees, or companies with offices within your state, where you can utilize the accomodation process.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I am also disabled, and working in a field where remote work is often possible and easy to arrange. Please keep looking! I use FlexJobs, which requires a small membership fee but also screens out scam postings.

      1. WonkyStitch*

        Thank you! I appreciate the link!

        (I’m not actually looking for a new job, but with FB in the news lately it got me thinking about the topic. )

        1. pancakes*

          It’s usually not in the news for anything positive, so I feel like it would be an unlikely bright spot for disability accommodation to be the one thing they’re good at besides making heaps of money.

  23. kiki*

    Flow State and Work
    I found this post from Sarah Drasner about why flow matters more than passion (https://leaddev.com/culture-engagement-motivation/why-flow-matters-more-passion). It’s talking about software development specifically, but I think it really can apply to just about any sort of work (maybe not the arts? or academia?). I started a new job a few months back and have been able to get into ~my flow~ much more often and it feels great! I partially credit this to improved mental health after taking four weeks off between jobs but also how much BETTER management is at my new job. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but at my last job I felt like my brain couldn’t get into the work, despite knowing it’d make my life easier just to do it. Even when I was doing the work, I felt like I was a narrator narrating somebody else writing code. At my new job, I’m in the code. There’s no narration, I’m just in it, doing it without being self-conscious. I can lose track of time and spend 2-3 hours just knocking features out and getting things done instead of constantly being aware of every moment I’m spending.

    What are other folks thoughts on this post? Do you have any good tips for finding ~flow state~?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I can see it. This is how I felt when I had a report to edit at Exjob. Facilitating that state meant trusting me to manage my own time, letting me wear headphones so I could listen to music and block out distracting conversations, and enabling me to sit there and do the work (i.e. with a sideways trackball mouse and dual monitors, although the latter were mostly for my data verification).

      I couldn’t get any flow when I had to uproot myself and go cover the front desk at lunch. I just read Buzzfeed articles for an hour in between calls until I could go back to my cube. There was no way I could concentrate with all the interruptions and my boss knew that.

      Oh yeah, that’s another thing. A boss who actually gets all this. Without one, it would be useless.

    2. The Other Liz*

      The concept of flow was a game changer to me – I have ADHD and got the advice from an ADHD coach of developing a routine to get me into the flow of the workday. For me, it’s sitting down with my cup of coffee, putting on some good focus music, and spending 10 minutes cross stitching, followed by reviewing what’s in my paper planner. My brain hates abrupt transitions so I can’t just say “And now, we work!” I need to signal with a ritual that work is about to start.

      I also think it totally applies to the arts. When I practice my musical instrument, I might not FEEL like practicing one day, but once I get into it, I am in the groove and it’s actually tough to stop practicing.

      I suspect this applies to neurotypical folks, too, but I think it’s important to try and create the conditions conducive to flow state, rather than try to badger ourselves into focusing, and to accept that sometimes, we just can’t get there. Removing shame entirely from the equation is tough to do but important I think. And, like the article says, management needs to create the conditions. A desk job where you’re expected to always reply to emails *right away* won’t let you get into a flow state for anything other than….. checking emails. A place with too many meetings, for instance, or no willingness to make accommodations for folks with disabilities, will never get the best work from their people, either.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      I am an academic and have been struggling with my flow. I’m not sure why you think it doesn’t apply to the arts or academic work – it seems to me it’s inherent in any creative type of work.

    4. Quinalla*

      I think having both is best and I also think passion = working really long hours is not how I define it as the article seems to suggest. But yeah, flow is important and I think it is something managers need to try and cultivate by giving employees focus time to be able to get into flow. There are lots of ways to do that, but protecting their time from too many meetings, making it ok and expected to enforce focus time, etc.

      One thing that has really helped me is to make sure to task switch well so I can pick back up a task I put down with little ramp up time. I also try and work on things I know are that right level of challenge, etc. during times I am less likely to be interrupted so I can get into flow during that time. Also, keeping my stimulation level right for me (sometimes music, sometimes quiet, the right amount of light, etc. helps as well and is much easier to control since I am working from home.

    5. allathian*

      For me, flow happens when it happens. Being able to focus without too many distractions is key for me. There can be noise in the background, as long as people don’t interrupt my focus. That said, the difficulty level of the task has to be just right, if it’s a routine task I’m familiar with, I won’t get into the flow state because I’m slightly bored and doing it more or less on auto pilot, and if it’s too difficult, most of my focus will be on how to do the task rather than on actually doing it.

      I’m a translator, so my job involves creative writing within limits set by the source text.

    6. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I was introduced to the concept of flow state through the arts and was under the impression that the person who coined the phrase studied artists specifically. I have experienced flow state since I was a young kid while being creative and it often comes naturally to me, so I don’t have a lot of tips, but this is definitely an interesting discussion and I hope the other comments are helpful!

  24. STONKS*

    Interviewing in the time of COVID, when also undergoing gender transition.

    I’m getting ready to go through an interview process conducted entirely by phone. It isn’t my first remote interview, but this is the first time I won’t have any kind of face-to-face contact with the interviewer, no video or webcam or anything.

    It’s very important to me that I confirm the hiring manager is going to be at least baseline level ok and not weird about having a transitioning employee. My current boss is as fully supportive as I could ask for as I’m going through all the nonsense of transitioning mid-career. I’d be reluctant to take even a significant pay/duties bump if it means working with a boss who’s not going to have my back when it counts. In previous interviews, I’ve been able to get a gauge on the manager with how they reacted to seeing me — I don’t pass one way or the other, and particularly there’s a significant discrepancy between my appearance and my voice. The hiring manager this time is not going to be presented with that discrepancy up front, and I won’t have any visual data to work with either.

    I also know that bringing up issues that are potential discrimination points in an interview is generally considered a very bad idea. Openly asking “hey are you cool with trans people” is not a very useful question. National, state, and company non-discrimination policies mean that the manager really can’t say anything but ‘yes’ regardless of their personal feelings.

    Are there useful questions I can ask that could suss out my chances of getting a supportive boss versus one who is going to make my life hard? Or is this something I should be taking about with HR or another third party? (This is an internal promotion, so governing policies and HR remain the same, but I’d be moving to an office in a different state.)

    1. Cat and Dog Maw*

      I was pleasantly surprised to be asked an LGBTQ question during my interview for my current position. I took that as a sign that they were open. Maybe you could ask a question about this during your time for questions? Something related to your field and how they incorporate LGBTQ into their policies or how they deal with LGBTQ customers. You could also try to ask about diversity, equity and inclusion and how that relates to their mission. Are they making positive strides in this area?

      1. STONKS*

        It’s an internal promotion, so I already know what the company policies are and what the firm as a whole is doing. It might be a way to probe more about the specific team, but I’m not sure if it would come across weirdly in that context.

        1. Attractive Nuisance*

          If it’s an internal promotion, could you use your network to find out about that hiring manager? If you don’t want to straight up ask “hey is Bob a transphobe” you could try couching it in terms of wanting to understand the team’s culture.

        2. BlueK*

          In this case, I’d try and find out through back channels. But if you can’t, I do think you can ask their experience with X initiative that the company is doing around this. It’s asking the question without asking it directly (which you could also do!). It’s going to be obvious you’d be asking this because it relevant to you. And it’s very reasonable that you would have concerns as a trans person. And if anyone was put off by that, do you really want to work for them? I wouldn’t make it your first question but it’s a very reasonable one.

          1. STONKS*

            Yeah, exactly. I very much want to work in this department, and it’s a department that doesn’t have openings often, but I don’t want to uproot my life and move to an office in a different state to work for someone who’s going to be a pain in the butt. I can wait for an opening for that job in a different office if I have to.

            1. Dino*

              Can you ask to speak to any trans or gender nonconforming employees (past or present) of the team? Their reaction alone could tell you something.

              1. If they say “yes talk to so-and-so” you know they out people
              2. If they say they’ll pass your info along, that could mean many things but confirms they at least have had some contact with other trans folks
              3. If they act shocked, that’s data
              4. If they ask why you’re asking, you can handle it how you want or what feels right.

    2. Web Crawler*

      I’d probably go with an open-ended question like “what’s your experience with trans people?” and watch for the extremes- either a defensive-sounding “I don’t have a problem with them” or the kind of over-the-top enthusiasm that sets off alarm bells.

      Like you said- that’s a really hard one without being able to see body language. (All my experience with this was pre-covid.)

    3. cryptid*

      Could you ask about how they’ve supported staff previously with major like changes like starting a family or transitioning? By adding other examples you can take the sting out of necessarily, strictly outing yourself, and it allows for you to get a sense of their support for their team as people (not just workers) even if they’ve never had a trans employee before. Otherwise I agree that back channel info might be most helpful. If it involves an interstate move you could also look into the legal protections in the new state, which is less about work and more about your ease of access broadly.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      Caveat 1: I’m not trans, but a queer cis woman. Caveat 2: This probably depends on local culture quite a bit.

      It is true that “are you ok with trans people” isn’t likely to give you a hugely useful response. But coming out and carefully listening to *how* they react might be. Just in your own words – “I’m currently undergoing gender transition and would be interested whether this is something my new colleagues / the team at location X would have encountered before” or “whether there is generally a level of familiarity with LGBTQ+ topics”. A co-worker (full professor now) told me when he applied for jobs that landed him where I am now, he tried that for the first time, and the relaxed-enthusiastic response made him think this would be an ok place (that was 15+ years ago though, and the general baseline has lifted).

      Personally, I’ve mentioned my partner/wife quite a few times while applying for jobs and generally try to be visible.

      Caveat 3: You may have to read between the lines. Sometimes people can be clumsy about answering surprise questions but be fine nonetheless. When my partner applied for her current job as a quite senior engineer, she asked how many / what proportion of women they have in technical roles. The interviewer – her future boss – was stumped. But she knew that her grandboss would be a woman and from an under-represented minority, and that the company had a good reputation. All of which turned out to be true, and her boss turned out to be very nice and supportive.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        (Also, the above is given/assuming that a) you don’t want to work in a transphobic or frustratingly clueless office and b) you’re already out to your local people/boss, so nothing new here if they hear about it through the grapevine.)

  25. ahhh*

    A friend read an article the other day. I’m curious to see if anyone experienced this. I’m not looking at this maliciously, just curious if this happened. In the article a management team let an employee go. Apparently employee was behind on their work. However after the fact, management realized he had legitimate reasons for being behind. In addition on employee own started working on a backlog of company projects. Employee is gone and done with the company. Just curious if anyone in management ever dealt with this and how it was handled. Yes friend and I agreed management should have been more in tune with the employee’s workload and manager should have additional training. Again this was just an article, and no one in the article appeared to do anything maliciously.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes, in general a manager should have a sense of how busy their people are. That is especially true if they are looking at firing that person. The first step should be a conversation- Here is the problem, why is that a problem? Then listen. That’s when you can catch that Project X has monopolized all their time, or Person Y is bottlenecking everything, employee has been having a bad year, etc. Then you make a plan to make it better- if the issue is external (a project being unexpected drain on resources, another person not doing their part) the appropriate person can take steps to address that issue, if the issue is internal (i.e, the employee’s performance) then a PIP is made.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      This is, flat out, bad management…or a poorly written article. Did management have any kind of conversation with the employee before the firing? Were there repeated discussions where the employee said “No, everything is fine” when it wasn’t? Even with the bare bones outline, it seems to be an issue of management acting impulsively without sufficient data.

      The take away from the employee side is to keep management apprised of delays and ask for guidance in priorities. A really bad manager will likely still do the wrong thing, but at least the employee did everything she could and has documentation on what went wrong.

      1. ahhh*

        I asked from clarification from my friend. The article was a text book case study for a college class on management. My friend is a later-in-life student and asked me (who’s been working this whole time) if such things happened…. and a discussion about the “article” came about.

    3. Cold Fish*

      I’m confused… if Employee was behind on his work, why was he working on company backlog projects?

      Agree, if management found out after firing someone that there was a legitimate reason Employee was doing X, then management needs more training.

      1. ahhh*

        the employee was told there were different priorities. While waiting for data to come in, he filled his time working on backlog projects

    4. RagingADHD*

      Why didn’t Employee and Manager have a normal conversation (or multiple conversations) like grown up people about the status of Employee’s projects, the reason why Employee was behind, and the other backlog work Employee was doing?

      M: Hey, Employee, what’s going on with the Flinderman project?

      E: Oh hey, Manager, actually I am bogged down in Reasons and waiting for deliverables from Other Team. I’ve been working on Backlog in the meantime, but maybe you could help shake those deliverables loose from Other Team?

      M: Absolutely. If I can get them for you tomorrow, how soon can you get Flinderman back on track?

      It is such an easy conversation to have, the fact that nobody had it is really strange. They just fired somebody instead of opening their mouth? Something is seriously askew with that company and that manager.

      1. ahhh*

        I agree with you. I mentioned above, when I went to clarify a few things with my friend after this post, the “article” was a text book case study from a college class friend is taking. I agree you, communication is the key.

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      Well…. I hope this blunder comes up in the management team’s performance evaluations.

  26. HappyFriday*

    Happy Friday everyone! Not a question, but I wanted to share a practice I’ve started adopting more this year, which is making specific, clear requests.

    As a minority woman, I’m aware there aren’t many “role models” that look like me in senior leadership positions. Recently, I interviewed with a company and directly asked about their DEI initiatives and specifically, how are they measuring success? The person who encouraged me to do this is a career counselor, I know the advice may sound basic, but I really really struggled with asking direct questions or stating very specific requests such as, “I want to talk to a Latina in a senior leadership position” or “Can you tell me what programs are in place now to mentor and develop minorities?”

    The response from the company I’m interviewing with has been very positive overall. And I also take care that if they don’t have any specific initiatives that are aligned with my long-term career goals, I make a note to consider maybe that’s not the best fit for me.

    I want to encourage everyone else who might be interviewing to do the same. Ask the specific questions you want to know and don’t be afraid of it, especially if you are interviewing with a panel of white males (which I often find myself doing). I’ve been so pleased to talk to advocates for DEI across the spectrum.

    1. Teal*

      Thanks for sharing!

      (In my org, I feel like that first Latina in senior leadership is going to be me!)

  27. Crystal Stair*

    Hey y’all, I’m back with more stories about my terrible old job. Here are my previous posts:

    1: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/09/open-thread-september-3-4-2021.html#comment-3536950

    2: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/09/open-thread-september-24-25-2021.html#comment-3561715

    3: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/open-thread-october-1-2-2021.html#comment-3572288

    As backstory, the second-in-command of my former job was the Deputy Director, “Alicia.” Alicia was a woman in her mid-late 40s whose whole deal was just that she was not very competent, and that she was mean to people. Alicia would do things like blow up at people and send them long, ranting emails criticizing their work and copying their supervisors on said emails. If Alicia sent you an email and you didn’t respond within an hour, she’d send you 3 or 4 follow-up emails to make sure you saw her original email — even if you were visibly in other meetings. Alicia would also do things like skip out on trainings and presentations that she was supposed to be giving and make you cover them at the last minute, even if she knew well in advance that she’d need coverage.

    Alicia was also just a really petty and unprofessional person. Here are some other fun stories about Alicia:

    – Multiple people told me that Alicia once told a story at the office about how her ex-fiance had been “messing with” a former stripper, so she fought the former stripper for the ex-fiance and won. I have no idea if that’s true, but the fact that I can’t say for certain that it isn’t should tell you something.

    – Alicia once brought her son into work and left him alone in a room with one employee, even though Alicia had her own office and could have easily kept her son there. Alicia told the employee that she couldn’t watch her own son because she “had meetings all day.” Alicia also told the employee to “watch him and make sure he’s doing his math homework instead of watching basketball videos.” The employee told me that Alicia’s son spent the whole day watching basketball videos. Afterwards, Alicia told the employee that she had to bring her son into the office because she had “caught him looking at a Maxim magazine.” That’s right. Alicia brought her 13 year old son into work and made an employee babysit him because she didn’t want him seeing pictures of ladies in bikinis.

    – Alicia once held a staff meeting from a Starbucks, wherein she discussed various confidential/sensitive personnel matters. This was AFTER we’d been lectured extensively on privacy and protecting confidentiality.

    – My office was in the Washington, D.C. area, so it wasn’t uncommon for folks to plan employee excursions to visit monuments or museums as bonding events in the pre-covid era. Alicia once planned an employee outing to go to visit the Washington Monument. At the time, Alicia was the manager of the Legal Team. Alicia decided to invite every employee on the Legal Team to go see the Washington Monument except for one woman, “Jenna,” who she didn’t like.

    As an aside, Jenna is good people. Jenna has worked for the government for longer than I’ve been alive, and is incredibly competent and hard-working and helpful. Jenna does not give a fuck whether she’s on the ~exclusive~ list of “people Alicia invited to go see the Washington Monument.”

    On the day of the Washington Monument excursion, as Alicia and the other employees are leaving the office, they run into Jenna outside the building. Alicia waits until they’re out of earshot and then flips out, asking the other employees if they think Jenna knew that they were going to see the Washington Monument without her, and if she was “waiting there to catch us.” Jenna was not. Jenna was having her daily smoke break with the hot dog vendor on the corner, which she has had at around the same time every day for the past thirty years. I also want to point out here that Jenna is from the area and has seen the Washington Monument already. It’s literally free to go and there are always tickets available. We have all seen the Washington Monument.

    1. Attractive Nuisance*

      Ok, I’m sure the trip was to see inside the monument, but I’m laughing at the idea of Alicia taking her team on a super-secret excursion to stand on a street corner and look at the Washington Monument.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I would pay Jenna actual dollars to show up the next day with a Washington monument mug and drink out of it all day

  28. AnonymooseToday*

    Rant (maybe a question). Totally having stress sleep. I interviewed for my vacant manager’s position and think I did very well (have heard some things), but it’s government so it’ll probably be two weeks before I hear anything official. Right after the interview I was contacted by prestigious college to interview for a job. The first round interview isn’t for another week and a half. I really wish I’d sucked it up and asked for the salary range from the college. The manager position pays pretty bad for what it is and in a high COL city, but there are other things that make me want to stay (benefits, experience I need, flexibility, known factors, etc.). But I’ve always planned on leaving because the pay is always going to suck and I’m exhausted by always thinking about money.

    But totally stressing out that the timeline is going to be so off, that I might screw over my current employer. Because if the pay is great, and the interviews goes well for me (good benefits, projects, ppl, etc) I would take the academic job. (Which I know this is all premature the amount of times I’ve done this and no guarantee of a job offer from anyone.) But at the time the offer probably comes I’ll have already taken the manager position and they would have to repost it and start all over.

    Brains are so annoying, no matter how much I try to tell myself this is all unlikely, still goes to worst (best?) case scenarios. Would it be weird if I email the college, after I’ve already set up the first interview, to ask for a salary range?

    1. ahhh*

      I’d be up front and honest with the college. You’re in the running for another position. Is there a way to set up an informational interview to find out if this is a good fit as you are very interested in working the college. It might be enough to speed things up on the college’s end.

      1. Ama*

        I like this idea — colleges can move really slowly on hiring (largely because they are trying to coordinate through many levels of approval for each step) but sometimes if they know they might lose a promising candidate they can at least hop on the phone to answer a few questions if they can’t move up the date of the actual interview.

    2. knitcrazybooknut*

      I totally get why you’re stressed, but there are so many variables here! The timeline being a problem depends on so many other factors.

      You could not get the manager job. (No offense meant!)
      They could be delayed in the approval process. (Federal OR state is so. slow.)
      They could offer you more money. (Possibly a good thing?)

      And even if everything went exactly as you’ve stated here, (in which case, great!) they still would have gone through the hiring process for the manager position. They will have interviewed other candidates, and have a list of people they can go to as second/third choices. This is KEY. They probably wouldn’t have to start from scratch.

      And even if they did? That’s the price of doing business, and if the pay scale sucks, they already know they’re in trouble. Welcome to my world. I have a terrible paying job that reports to me, and I am resigned to hiring a new person at least once every two years. I’m also super transparent about it, and it’s a great foot in the door for an entry level person.

      Good luck!

  29. Small Picture*

    Has anyone had success bringing a big picture boss down to earth? I work in an academic environment and I’m spearheading a project that involves the completion of lots of small steps to succeed. My boss (the PI) has a dim view of clear job duties and seems to be disappointed that I’m not thinking bigger about my role, which is brand new for me. His focus is on nouns–he doesn’t understand that action verbs is how you get there. For example, he’ll talk about the impact this project will have and the difference it’ll make in the larger community–and then say that I need to take responsibility for that and, I don’t know, somehow embody the vision, vs. focusing on the millions of details that will get us to that end goal. Side note, I’m the only one working on organizing this project. There is literally no one else who will take care of logistics if I don’t do it. This way of thinking is common for him and to many scientific researchers, I think, once they get to the point where they have a staff doing all their work and they’re only responsible for generating ideas and bringing in money. I plan to break down some of his big picture ideas into smaller steps so he can see the roadmap, but I doubt it’ll stick. Has anyone else had experience with this?

    1. Ashley*

      Yes and it tools years to develop a relationship where it was appreciated (generally) that I would execute the big idea. That part of the relationship was actually easier then when I had to keep explaining why great idea didn’t work over and over. It was a slow process and just saying to embrace the vision I have to do x, y, and z. Also for incredibly stupid ideas asking questions on the hurdles worked best for me. Or the ever wondering, I thought the law on that was x but maybe something changed.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I’m not sure you need to bring the boss down to earth. You just need to demonstrate to him that you get it. He wants his staff to be enthusiastic about his great big idea, and he might be interpreting your “Yeah, great, we’re going to save the world, but first we need to do X, Y, Z, …” as raining on his parade. You can “embody the vision” by saying “Hey, I’ve got a great start on X, Y, and Z which means we should be on schedule for saving the world!”

      I’m right with you as far as where you’re coming from. I’m the guy who has to make things happen too, and I can see the look on my boss’ face when I say “Fergus, we can’t launch the product yet, because we still haven’t nailed down the formula for step 5, and we need to purchase and analyze another big data set before we can get the government to sign off on step 12.”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This ^ I have had a lot of luck with “yes, and”ing my boss instead of trying to bring her down to earth. “Yes, this is a great idea, AND to do it in the way we need to…” or “YES we’re saving the world, AND it takes a lot of work, let me walk you through this process…”

        your mileage may vary but leveraging agreement with their big picture visions can be helpful

      2. Small Picture*

        “We should be on schedule for saving the world”– I’m using that! Good point though about needing to demonstrate that I’m on board.

    3. Buni*

      My boss gets brilliant ideas – and tbf they usually *are* brilliant ideas – and thinks we should start on this right now, right!? Luckily she’s also okay with me being fairly blunt, usually along the lines of “Well we’re still doing Last Brillian Idea, so do you want me to stop that to start this?” – the first couple of times she suggested doing both / multiples at the time but when I broke it down to actual logistics she saw the light.

      But then this is the same woman to whom I’ve had to – gently and lovingly – use the actual phrase “[Boss], that’s not how linear time works…”

      1. Small Picture*

        My boss may actually think that once he speaks an idea, it simply manifests. So maybe he’s not so good with linear time, either. :)

    4. Quinalla*

      Crediting Brene Brown on this, but she helps get folks from big picture to in detailed AND from detailed to big picture using this question: “What does done look like?” and fleshing out the answer using the 5 C’s:
      Color, context, connective-tissue, cost and consequences
      • Color – Physically, what does this look like? Is this an email, a direct mail piece? Do we want just copy or images too?
      • Context – Why are we doing this? How does it fit into the company’s mission? Goals? Strategy?
      • Connective-tissue – When is this due and what other actions, deadlines and initiatives are reliant on this? What other pieces should we model this after to ensure consistency?
      • Cost – How much should this cost to complete?
      • Consequences – What happens if this isn’t completed on time?

    5. Chaordic One*

      Not really. There’s an earlier post today by someone named “ahhh” that explains how this situation often works out.

  30. Attractive Nuisance*

    I’m embarrassed to ask this question but I guess I should.

    How do I deal with a coworker who really gets on my nerves? She’s fresh out of college and has a tendency to make dumb mistakes (though not dumber than your average new grad). I also find her personality annoying. She’s a bit sarcastic and over dramatic. I think part of the reason she annoys me so much is because she reminds me of my younger self and makes me self-conscious. I want to be a good coworker, mentor, and co-manager to her, but I really find myself internally rolling my eyes a lot when I interact with her. What do I do?? How do I get over myself?

    1. me*

      I think it’s useful to just be the adult. I have an awesome boss.

      A few years ago, our group took on a new coworker and she’s just… extra. I can’t even begin to explain how annoying she is. Through interactions with my boss, I realized I was being far too catty. My boss is entirely professional and calm. It’s strange, but modeling that behavior to me really worked, and now I don’t view the coworker as so difficult.

      So be like my boss! Realize everyone has quirks and no one is perfect. Model the behavior you want.

      1. Attractive Nuisance*

        Thanks, this is helpful! I’m realizing one of my problems is that I keep thinking of this person as a peer even though she is younger than me and lower on the hierarchy. So yeah… I do need to “be the adult”!

      2. too many too soon*

        I’ve been trying to catch myself when reacting internally to people/events/things that bother me with ‘I don’t have to feel anything about this’, instead of winding up to be annoyed or have a good rant. It’s hard at first, but I keep trying to logic myself that the stress of reacting emotionally only affects me. Doesn’t change the annoyance or make me feel better, it’s just a bad habit that feels good in the moment the same way scratching a bug bite does.
        Definitely helps me take the high road with people who are legit lazy, rude, etc. since coming at them with annoyance just seems to create more annoyance.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I’ve found that the people who annoy us the most are those who possess qualities of our own that we do not like. I’ve only have that happen twice to a distracting extreme in the workplace.

      The way I’ve dealt with this in the past will sound silly, but it worked for me. I would replay any question/statement directed to me in the voice of a coworker I really liked, and respond the way I would to that non-annoying coworker. This technique makes me pause and think before I respond so I don’t say something unreasonable like “I can’t believe you don’t where the pens are when I’ve told you THREE TIMES!” instead of just saying “The pens are in the closet next to the bathroom.”

  31. JelloStapler*

    I would have think it off if your boss did not invite you to the party because you were working from home. So, on the flip side – I also would not feel bad about going for that reason. That said, it makes sense to not go for your own reasons you stated.

  32. Disease Vector*

    I’m currently waiting for my COVID test results but I’m pretty sure I got a breakthrough infection. My employer has allowed me to work from home while I’m on mandatory quarantine but my boss informed me that ends on Monday. I told her I’m feeling worse and checking in with my doctor but she’s getting pushback from HR to bring me back onsite. Are there any legal resources I should look into or am I just screwed?

    1. WellRed*

      If you test positive for Covid your quarantine will be extended surely? The bigger issue here is why is HR demanding this?

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely – surely your doctor will sign you off? I cannot believe they actually want an employee who has Covid to come into the office. That is insane.

    2. Mstr*

      Hopefully it won’t come to that. Don’t go in. Ask to speak to HR directly if necessary & also say stuff (to your manager & to HR) like “I know WE don’t want to be the cause of a COVID outbreak at our company. I know we have vulnerable people on site & I would never forgive myself if they caught COVID from me.”

      Also ask, “What are you asking me to do? (And let them know it won’t be a secret.) If I come in, I will have to let all my colleagues know what is happening so we can all be extra careful. I feel like that might be a distraction. (Are you going to be comfortable in the same room as me?).” Stress your need to confirm your not contagious before returning. Offer to provide a doctor’s note if they need documentation.

      1. Mstr*

        Also, yes if you need to take time off for illness then do that. They can rightfully choose not to have you work through your illness.

    3. TiffIf*

      Wait, they allowed you to work from home while quarantined but want you back in the office once even if you test positive? …That makes no sense!

    4. Christmas Carol*

      Wait a minute, HR is pushing to have an employee with a POSSIBLE ACTIVE COVID INFECTION go back to working in the office?????

      Are there any legal resources your coworkers should look into or are they just screwed?

      1. Mstr*

        Surely there’s a misunderstanding here. I’m wondering if they simply want her to use sick time since she’s actually sick instead of “working” remotely? Or of the message is getting muddled between her manager & HR? Maybe they think no positive test means she’s fine, not that the test results didn’t come back yet?

        1. Disease Vector*

          My manager spoke to an OSHA-type rep at the company and since my doctor’s note listed today as the last day of mandatory quarantine, I’d have to get it extended to continue being allowed to WFH or I’ll have to use PTO and not work at all. My rapid test came back negative and the PCR test was done as a backup so everything seems to hinge on that.

          1. WellRed*

            Well if you don’t have Covid then yes, it’s normal for them to ask you to use pro if you are suck.

          2. RosyGlasses*

            That makes more sense. HR is probably informing your boss of company policy surrounding WFH/use of sick time – not that you have to be back onsite with no recourse.

          3. Imtheone*

            You can still be sick, but not have COVID. What about taking a sick day if that is the case?

          4. Mstr*

            Yeah, obviously getting your doctor to extend the quarantine (which surely he/she would pending test results) or taking PTO are two entirely reasonable options. Don’t you presume that’s operating within the law? What are you expecting the lawyer to do here?

          5. AcademiaNut*

            That actually makes sense. A potential case of COVID requires quarantining until the test results are back, hence the work from home. If the tests are negative, then you’re either healthy and can go back to work, or are sick with something else, and should take sick leave to recover.

      2. pcake*

        A family member is in a very similar situation. They allowed someone not feeling well to work, and it turned out they have Covid. Now a bunch of people have been exposed in a smallish room, and they’re not allowing anyone time off to quarantine.

    5. BlueK*

      Something must be getting lost in translation. I can’t imagine if you show them a positive test they will want you back in person. That defeats the purpose of quarantine. If it’s negative that’s another situation obviously. You could be regular sick and need to take a few days.

  33. me*

    During a work meeting this week, we had mini breakout groups where we were supposed to talk about how we were handling the stress of the pandemic.

    After a few minutes of folks talking about how well they were dealing with stress in various ways like exercise, diet and time with family, I chimed in and said hey, I’m not actually handling it well and that’s ok too. Right after I stopped talking, another coworker that had been quiet spoke up to say that he too wasn’t handling stress well at all. We spoke later and he thanked me for saying what I said. I credit AAM with providing me the tools to say what I wanted and not BSing through the situation and make it all rainbows and unicorns. I also gave feedback directly to my boss about how that was a really bad idea for a topic.

    So how are you dealing with the stress of working through the pandemic?

    1. braindump*

      Work is how I get away from other stressors like anti maskers in my family. Just TALKING about it with my coworkers would bother me. I like to work as a distraction!

      I think HR/managers should be open to hearing about how stress is affecting employees’ work. Sitting in meetings specifically to talk about it would be the opposite of that for me.

    2. Me*

      I’m not handling it at all well. I’ve started sleeping a lot to avoid thinking about things. My edibles intake has quadrupled. I’m becoming obsessed with death and how I am going to die one day. It is bad.

      1. Pandemic Blues*

        I just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone! I also now worry when I feel a symptom of anything that it is a sign of a major problem. I’m managing that anxiety, but I would like not to even have those thoughts any more.

      2. me (the OP)*

        I hear you. I go through longer sleep periods a couple times a month, and I know it’s low level depression drifting up to the surface. I see it all around me – friends who are having issues with coping. As humans, we’re such a social species and being safe in a pandemic just isn’t helpful for those that rely on community. I could never be a hermit.

        I hope it gets better for you!

      3. too many too soon*

        Just had a close relative die extremely suddenly, just getting ready for a normal day. It’s hard not to filter everything through how easy it is to just drop dead in the traces. No closure, no goodbyes, just not responding to a knock on the bedroom door to see if it’s time to leave for that errand…

    3. Pandemic Blues*

      I also want to thank you for speaking up about that! I generally feel pretty alone in my department. Everyone got vaccinated and no one is like, an anti-masker, but they have all either traveled or been to shows and restaurants. I still have not socialized indoors with anyone. I did one indoor leisure activity that required masks, but that was before Delta was in full swing.

      Honestly, this has been the saddest part of the pandemic for me. I’m declining invitations to parties. My friends are hanging out without me. There are things I might like to do, but that would be very complicated to impossible to do while still being cautious; it’s not really possible to sip a tea in a coffee shop and read a book without a mask, you know? But cases are high in my area and I and others in my inner circle are vulnerable so… I keep on. It’s very tiring being around people who are all about living their best life again and treating me like I’m caring for no reason, when you can still get long COVID if you are vaccinated. Before, at least in my circle I felt like at least we were in this together. Now… I feel pretty alone.

      I’m exercising and trying to get sleep and keep myself busy, but I’m sad and lonely. I sensed this was coming when the whole CDC says its a maskless party now for the vaccinated started coming up in the spring, but this has started to feel less like a temporary thing I have to deal with and more like the new reality of my life. Even if it gets to the point where I too feel safe moving on… who will not have moved on without me and adapted to not having me around? Will I even feel like I have anything in common with these folks anymore? I’m already starting to feel a disconnect. I try not to go down that road too far because I know there’s no point in worrying about it; if it happens, I will keep adapting. But I’m sad and mad that I even have to think of these things because of what a shitshow it is.

      1. Aarti*

        It’s so weird. I am doing ALL of the right things to handle stress: excrsise, eating well, hobbies, crafts, getting outdoors, but I still have a low sense of anxiety, way more than I should. I am going to try some cbd oil next.

      2. anon for this*

        I’m in the same boat. I’m normally a quiet/private person, so I don’t get lots of invites, but I did sometimes go to the movies or to shows and sometimes to small friend-gatherings or dinners out. There’s been none of that for almost 2 years.
        I’m vaccinated but I have asthma and allergies and regularly have stamina and breathing issues (not serious but not fun either) and the prospect of catching a breakthru infection and either of those things getting worse terrifies me. I could end up crossing over to where these issues that are more just bothersome right now could severely impact my quality of life.
        In the meantime, it seems like everyone’s having fun and traveling again, while I feel like I’m courting disaster by riding the subway to work and seeing the doctor for a regular check up.
        I also lost my cat to cancer this week, so I don’t even have my best buddy to come home to anymore.
        (going anon for this, as it would be obvious it was me to anyone I know, and I don’t want to link up to my kvetching posts )

        1. Pandemic Blues*

          I’m so sorry about your kitty. That is so rough!

          What you said about feeling like you are courting disaster by going to the doctor or something… you could have snatched that idea right from my mind. I went to get a flu shot and there were people walking around without masks and I thought, “Is it safe for me to be here?” And sometimes I think, “My friends go out to museums and movies and bars, and nothing happens to them! Why am I worried about being in the store?” and I don’t want anything to happen to them, but it feels like doing something fun is just asking for trouble. If it happened on some necessary endeavor, well… it will still suck, but it would be hard to avoid. If it happened because I just couldn’t entertain myself watching a movie at home… how mad will I be at myself?

          From your use of subway, I think we could be in the same area (unless a bunch of areas call it that lol) and if so, I wish we could both put on an n95 and take a walk together!

          1. anon for this*

            Yes, all of this. People walking around like nothing’s wrong- but there *is*. Just because it’s been almost 2 years and there’s a vaccine doesn’t mean there’s no more risk – it just means I’m significantly less likely to actually die from it, which is good, not saying that’s not a good thing, but I’ve always been a pretty risk averse person when the downside is so big and the risk so avoidable.
            My sibling is traveling all the time and seems to both take Covid seriously but always be doing something and I don’t understand how that works! Every non-required outing, I’m thinking well, is this worth risking my future health for? And individually, they aren’t but the cumulative toll of no outings is rough.
            And I’m in NYC, so you’re probably right.

            1. NancyDrew*

              Honestly? I was like you. I went nowhere. Did nothing. The only things we did (my family of four) were 1. little kid went to daycare (masked) and 2. husband and I went to grocery stores 1/week (masked).

              And then in July there was an outbreak at my kid’s daycare, and we all got COVID. (We were fine, ultimately. We’re vaxxed.)

              And I…got pissed. Because we’ve done everything right, and still got it. I have friends who’ve been on many plane trips, concerts, DISNEY WORLD!, and didn’t get it — and we did. So I decided to change how I was approaching this. I do things now. We went on vacation, we go places, we’re living our lives. Safely, but still doing things. Because there are no guarantees, and I’ve lost 18 months.

              Everyone has different comfort levels, obviously, but there’s got to be a balance between caution and isolation, no?

        2. Mannequin*

          Same with asthma & allergies- I have the type of asthma where even the mildest of respiratory infections means I need to be loaded up with steroids & antibiotics or I will end up in ER. Even vaccinated, covid absolutely terrifies me.

          I shudder when I see people acting like because they are vaccinated, it’s NBD to pretend that life is exactly like the before times & they can do whatever they want.

          I have NO idea when or if I’ll ever be or feel safe in a crowded public space again.

    4. Gipsy Danger*

      I got a job in healthcare in October of 2019. Talk about your bad timing. Luckily I’m an Admin Assistant, but still am directly patient facing. I find a couple of things useful: I focus on the things I can do. We have a mask mandate where I live, and of course I have to mask at work, and that helps me feel less anxious. I got the vaccine as soon as I could. For my day-to-day: I walk my dog, and sit outside with a book while she bombs around our yard; I walk with friends outside; I avoid too much social media, and have unfriended/unfollowed any people/accounts that might induce me to argue about COVID/masks/the vaccine; I see friends one-on-one indoors (this is my comfort level and what is allowed by our Public Health Orders) for tea and conversation; I focus on all the ways my life is still the same, like work and grocery shopping and getting gas and seeing my niece and snuggling my dog and cooking dinner, etc. I don’t try to ignore the pandemic, that is impossible. But I do try to not let it take up all the space in my head.

    5. Esmeralda*

      Yeah, this is why we don’t talk about how we are handling the stress at our staff meetings any more.
      We had an (optional to participate) time block to discuss this. Every week, the same chirpy happy nothing’s ever too much to handle folks piped up first and at length. I checked with my supervisor and asked: so I’m NOT having that experience, is it ok for me to say so, or do I just need to turn down the volume and drink a chai latter? Supervisor says: This is supposed to be time for us to check in and support each other, please say something! So I did at the next meeting. Leaden silence. Prolonged leaden silence. Eventually a chirpy person spoke up…I later heard from colleagues who also were not feeling chirpy.

      And now we no longer share anything about stress at staff meetings.

    6. Kk*

      I suppose the assumption is you are still working so on some level you are coping. But it’s totally okay to say you’re struggling. I wouldn’t go on about it to the point where you’re having a misery loves company conversation. But acknowledging it’s tough? Totally. That’s just being refreshingly real.

    7. too many too soon*

      My workplace actually formed a group to help us deal with some of the stress and isolation. We use a teams channel for talking about stress and coping strategies and we share any and all articles etc that someone might connect with for their particular situation. I use my relative privilege as a long term employee to daylight concerns other staff aren’t comfortable sharing. I advocate for (and model) sane use of leave time for mental health catch-up.
      Once we started talking it seems like people felt a lot better just knowing we are all stressed and worried and that it’s ok to ask for help or a chat and to take time to just chill out.

    8. Overeducated*

      I think it is great that you spoke up that way, and your coworkers obviously do too. We had a conversation like that that went poorly as well, where a well-meaning manager asked everyone to go around and say how they’d found their source of resilience during the pandemic. One person got angry and almost cried and I think it made clear how putting people on the spot to perform feelings at work is a bad idea.

      As far as handling the stress, I think I actually did pretty well for a long while, but now that my kids are actually back in full time school and day care, my house is quiet, and I’m on my own…it’s sad and lonely, there’s no point where it gets better to look forward to, and I’m not doing well with focus or healthy eating. I’m trying to build in more reasons for conversations with coworkers (like in the office we used to have “so what’s new with project X?” conversations randomly and ate lunch together; I know people are really busy but I can plan a couple of those conversations every week). I’m also planning to make at least monthly visits to client sites to talk face to face with the people my office supports over the next year – generally this can be done outdoors and pretty safely, and would get me out of the house and out of my head. I am grateful to be able to mostly work remotely and have a flexible schedule, the stress I’ve been under is nowhere NEAR that of a nurse or teacher, it’s just been tough with this latest wave.

    9. Jessica Ganschen*

      I’m doing moderately okay, I think? Workwise, having a manager who I like and who has clear instructions and goals for our team really helps. I also decompress every week by going to services at my synagogue, and even though I’m not traditionally Shabbat observant, my big number 1 rule is NO PAID WORK EVER. No doing it, no thinking about it, and no feeling guilty about it.

      On the other hand, I’m dealing with money stuff, which I hate, and my sleeping and eating patterns have suffered. I’m pretty sure this is one of those situations where I’m like, “Yeah, my life is fine I guess,” and then once the stressor is finally, fully removed, I’m going to collapse into a heap of spare parts.

    10. Anon for this one*

      Thank you for speaking up. I called the LifeLine because I’m not handling everyone else doing okay again when I’m still a wreck. My company rolled back all the flexibility they gave earlier in the pandemic and it’s crushing to be the only one struggling. I’m glad you and your coworker connected.

  34. CW*

    Has anyone ever gotten fired over the phone? I am not proud to admit this, but in 2017, my boss fired me over the phone right after I got home on a Friday night. There were problems at that job that were escalating over 5 months when I got hired in November 2016, but I will save that story for another day. I will admit it was my fault that I took that job in the first place, but I was desperate for money, and have learned my lesson since. I took me a while to get over being fired and I haven’t gotten fired since.

    Looking back, my then boss was a covert narcissist who had “childish” tantrums, something that I was oblivious to at the time. So I suspect he took the easy way out.

    But how common is it to be fired over the phone? Especially on a Friday night?

    1. Mstr*

      Hm, I think his method is okay unless he said something outrageous. Technically he should probably do it during work time, but this way you couldn’t have a angry face-to-face discussion or you wouldn’t have to be locked out of your workstation during the meeting & escorted off the premises by security (as happens). It was discrete and done at the end of the workweek presumably? Sounds like you might be ruminating & looking to place blame when letting it go might be healthier. It’s been years & you’ve moved on right? So why get caught up on this detail?

      1. CW*

        I was just wondering. But it did throw me off, and he cursed me out in the office. I have since moved on – I was just curious.

        1. Zona the Great*

          I would still be thinking about this as well even if I did move on. He sounds like a frightened person. Cursing someone out that you already have authority over? Man. No, I’ve only been fired once and it was in person the way it should be in most situations. Odd that he had the gall to curse you out to your face but couldn’t tell you you were out in person. Sounds like you would have handled it just fine.

        2. Mstr*

          It sounds like a bad situation overall, but a phone call at the end of the workday on Friday sounds pretty ideal. You might consider leaving such a situation earlier if it ever happens again, such as the first time your boss curses you out. Maybe setting aside some funds & keeping your resume up to date *just in case* would make you feel better going forward so you know you won’t be stuck/desperate again? I know it’s hard but I’m sure you’re glad you don’t work there anymore.

          1. CW*

            It was, but like I said I learned my lesson. Also, he cursed me out on that same Friday at 5pm, so I wasn’t able to catch that red flag until the last minute. But there were other red flags that I won’t get into here, since those are topics for another day. I was also job hunting for two months at that point because I really wanted out of there, and my plan was to quit as soon as I got another offer. But he let me go before I was able to get an offer. No fuss about it though. It was actually a relief to be out of there.

            1. Sea Anemone*

              I feel like the “fired over the phone” part is the least of the problems in this scenario.

    2. Goopy GilsCarbo*

      Honestly, I think this says much more about your former boss than it does about you as an employee. Unless the boss had concerns about their physical safety for some reason (which doesn’t sound like was the case), they should have fired you in person, not on the phone and outside of work hours. To me, that is utterly unprofessional and sounds like it was a spur-of-the-moment tantrum. I’m glad you’ve been able to move on! Being fired sucks, but staying in a bad job is usually even worse.

    3. No name today*

      I was once fired over the phone while driving to a meeting with my boss. I was the only employee at a site 4 hours away from the main office. Most of the drive had no cell phone coverage. I had made it to the hallway point when I got reception again and the call from my boss.

      I was driving down to meet him in person because he was new to the company. Apparently part of his role was reorganizing my division. I was in so much shock, the only thing I could think of was reminding him to have the admin cancel my hotel room.

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Back in February 2007 my boss told me “It’s going to be icy tomorrow, why don’t you plan on working from home?” And then the next day he called me up and fired me. He knew it was happening and didn’t want me to make a 90-minute drive for nothing, which was actually very kind of him.

    5. Forrest Rhodes*

      How about being fired without being fired? I’d been living and working in a small town for several years. One day, on my day off, I stopped by the library to return some books and chat with the librarian, a friend.

      In the course of the conversation, Friend said, “So, what’s the new job?”

      I said, “What new job?”

      She said, “Well, now that you’ve left [what I thought was my current job], what’re you doing?”

      Confused, I replied, “I haven’t left [current job].”

      My friend, now embarrassed, told me that another person who’d been in the library an hour or so earlier had been rhapsodizing about how happy she was to be starting her new job as [my position] at [my company]. (Again, small town, small business; I was the only one who did what I did at my company, and we weren’t expanding.)

      I went straight to my office and asked Boss, “What’s up?” Turns out Boss, the company owner, had hired my replacement and fired me without bothering to tell me about either. When I, stunned, expressed astonishment—there hadn’t been problems, disagreements, anything untoward, not a single conversation in that direction—Boss said, “Oh. I thought you quit.” So I was gone.

      That was a bunch of years ago. To this day, the town considers the company owner to be a pillar of the community and “a generally great person.” Somehow, I can’t agree with that last part.

    6. Anon-today*

      The only time I have had to fire an employee over the phone or would consider it is if that employee was fully remote (due to pandemic or is just a remote employee). It feels yucky to me to call a remote employee into the office just to let them go.

      In general though I firmly believe employees should be let go first thing in the morning, in person. This allows them to meet with HR for things like COBRA/payout of pto/401k stuff, gather their things if they want to and not feel like we’ve squeezed a day of work out of them before letting them go.

      1. CW*

        Funny that you mentioned HR. This company didn’t have one. Also, this was in California. Per California law, you must be paid on the same day you were terminated. He didn’t do that, and instead I had to wait 1.5 weeks before he paid me. If I had known at that time, I would have contacted the labor board and the employer would have owed me penalties. But oh well, it was a blessing in disguise that I was let go.

    7. Dumblydore*

      When I had to fire someone I always did it in person out of respect. But then I had one employee’s husband call me up and have an outburst for making his wife “go into work for nothing.”

      I suspect there is no winning solution here. Being fired sucks.

      I don’t know if there is ever an ideal day or time to fire or be fired, for the most part. Of course it would be outrageous if someone decided to fire an employee a day before their wedding or something. But otherwise, I don’t think your boss firing you on a Friday is egregious. You’re allowed to feel angry and hurt about being fired and that alone – it’s a horrible situation! You don’t need to find other reasons or breach of workplace etiquette to justify your feelings.

  35. Librarimoose*

    Research librarian here — I work with metadata on the more traditional end of things (decent tech skills but not a coder or a systems librarian). How can I find a full-time job that will allow 100% remote work? I’m in the US.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I don’t really know what to suggest here, beyond looking for library jobs that are remote. At my library, we have two fully remote librarian positions. Both teach our 1 credit research class online. One is a web librarian and the other is the systems librarian. To be fully remote our policy is that you must not need access to physical materials over the course of your work. We do have several part-time remote catalogers who work about 50% in the office. I don’t know what sort of metadata work you do, but for the metadata work I do, I couldn’t be remote.

    2. Llama Leader*

      If you’re interested in the corporate world I would look in UX and operations adjacent roles (knowledge management, taxonomy, content management, RFP system management, etc) or in research roles (market research, competitive research, client research).

      I have my MLIS and have worked or managed librarians in all of those roles, and many of them transitioned from research or systems librarianship – and in today’s world all of those roles could be remote.

  36. Sharkie*

    Ok can I humble brag for a second?

    Guess who got a job in her COVID ravaged industry and has been there for 6 weeks and is now a valuable resource to the department?
    *this lady*

    Don’t give up job searchers! It’s possible to get back to doing the thing you love doing

  37. alu*

    One of my supervisors cancelled all of their meetings for today/the next few days very suddenly and put up an out-of-office autoreply that they are away on bereavement leave. I don’t have any more information than this. We have a friendly relationship but have only been working together for a few months and I don’t know as much about her personal life. I’d like to send her a condolence message but am not sure what the best way to go about it is (particularly since I don’t know for sure who passed away). Should I send her an email that she can deal with when she wants to (but I only have her work email), a text message (which is more personal outside of a work context but feels slightly intrusive when she’s grieving or busy with logistics), or ignore until/if she addresses the team about it directly? We work in different offices/countries so sending a card or flowers would be logistically difficult. When a close family member died I really appreciated everyone who offered support or reached out with kind messages to acknowledge my loss, but am not sure how to best navigate this in a professional setting. I’m leaning towards a text message that she can ignore if she wants, but any perspectives would be much appreciated.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I would not text a condolence message. There’s really nothing you can say since you have no details, just be sensitive that she may be off her game for a while after she returns.

    2. braindump*

      I think a text or email of something like “I saw your bereavement message/out of office and wishing you peace over the next few days” would be a good acknowledgement.

      When I was out on leave, I appreciated the thoughts too. I didn’t reply to any of them but said thanks when I returned if I remembered they sent a message. I don’t think a reply is ever expected.

    3. Attractive Nuisance*

      I would give a brief “Sorry for your loss” the next time you communicate with her about work. I don’t think you should contact her while she’s on leave.

      1. Teapot Repair Technician*

        Agreed. You know she lost someone to death, it doesn’t matter who or how, “sorry for your loss” is always appropriate.

        And I also agree, wait until she returns to work. The first few days of bereavement can be surprisingly busy.

    4. Katherine Vigneras*

      You could text something like “No obligation to respond; I saw you’re OOO for bereavement and wanted to say that you and your loved ones are in my thoughts at this time.” Kind, but not nosy and not too familiar.

    5. TiffIf*

      I think email would be fine.

      I went through this weeks ago when my Dad died–I appreciated the co-workers who reached out via email to express condolences.

      1. JelloStapler*

        I’m sorry for YOUR loss, and I agree- when I lost my dad in 2019, I appreciated the thoughts too. Email works best so she can decide how to respond on her own time (texts have more of an immediate feel to them).

    6. RagingADHD*

      Don’t text. If you were close enough to be on a personal-text basis, you would already know who died because she would be in touch with you about it.

      Send an email to the work address, which she will receive when she’s ready to deal with work people:

      So sorry to hear you are on bereavement leave. We’re thinking of you and are happy to help out with anything you need.

    7. beach read*

      Nice sentiment, but I would not recommend an email or text. Especially since you don’t have all the facts. You can always send a card later.

  38. Anonymous for This One*

    Question for those who have been through hiring a higher-level employee, and how to manage performance expectations. To make a long story short, I hired a public facing mid-manager (replacing myself in my old position, before being promoted) over the summer, and they’ve now been there about 3 months. I feel like in many situations, their subject matter knowledge is okay to fine, while their soft skills and “office skills” are weak (professional tone is off, inability to follow directions on simple stuff correctly, using wrong network drives/not asking for help when needed). To help myself keep track of this, I started a word doc to document examples, and while none of the instances on their own are egregious…. readers, they are adding up. Again, this is not an entry level position; this is a seasoned professional in a very high profile position. I am a little flummoxed on how to proceed. My boss was very involved in their hiring (in fact, boss voted for this person over my preferred candidate); should I sit down with boss and review the concerns first? I’m worried that will make me look petty if I go through my laundry list, but I guess I could pick a couple examples in each category. Do I review with the employee? My sense is they will freak out as they seem a little sensitive to the work-based constructive criticism I have given over the past months. The position is not unionized and at will (no probation period); however, in our work environment, termination would be unusual (but not out of the question). Honestly my gut is telling me this is not working out, but maybe I am looking at it through a lens of “this person is not as good at my old job as I was” and not fairly evaluating them.

    1. BlueBelle*

      Sos your work have a manager or leadership training? It may be helpful to take your list and align it with the job description and then work on a development plan. Do you have a LMS for learning? Or any training programs?

    2. bronzecat*

      The examples you’ve used for office skills seems to be an opportunity to improve your internal documentation, such as a resource sheet or training guide with a directory of the network drives, what they should be used for, naming conventions, etc. “Simple direction” following relies heavily on working memory & focus; try communicating the directions in a different way, such as e-mail, SOPs, and verbally reviewing if those two aren’t working/are already what you are doing. The first 90 days, most new employees of any level are still learning the basics of their role *within this new company* & the current expectations, and just beginning to grasp culture. Some people are able to pick up tribal knowledge quickly, but in a manager role, it’s harder to learn the tribal knowledge while also putting out fires that mid-level managers often need to.
      TLDR: None of what you describe was soft skills, it seems a bit much to ask for any new employee to have those down after 90 days, especially not if in an admin role, and I have the suspicion that you are relying on “tribal knowledge”, aka internalized things you know because you know from experience, not “global knowledge” where knowledge is externalized and adequate documentation exists to support that “this is how we do things”.
      If I am wrong, and there’s plenty of documentation, try addressing this with the person first. Then go up to your manager and express your concerns if things aren’t changing. You are absolutely looking at this as “why can’t this person do what I did the way I did it” & less “how did I learn what I know when this was my role”

    3. Anonymous for This One*

      One of the details I omitted from the long story was that I prepared a training guide for us to review together as onboarding, and they have their own copy as a reference. So for example, things like where to save on the network has been covered in a meeting where we discussed that part of the training guide.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Writing something down does not install it in someone else’s brain. You *can* start answering questions with “This is in chapter 4 of your training guide, but yes, save that to the L drive.” A smart person will catch the hint and check the guide before asking you things.

      2. Tea and Cake*

        Sorry but you were in the role longer than 3 months and expect someone to be at the same or better performance within 3 months. IMO that’s highly unfair. Your organization operates differently to this persons previous job. They need time to acclimate and it sounds very much like you are not allowing or in fact helping them much to acclimate. Tracking a long list of small mistakes and sharing it with anyone without even trying to help the new hire succeed seems like a potential skipping of steps. It could also seem like there’s a part of your job that you aren’t doing as well as you can/want to.

        1. Anonymous for This One*

          Well, again I had to leave a lot of the details out to avoid being so long that nobody would read the OP. I feel like twice weekly tailgates to go over the training guide that I prepared is a relatively decent formal acclimation, and as I previously noted downthread I give frequent feedback (both positive and constructive criticism) following meetings and other interactions, but I’ll take the larger point that the new hire and I definitely need to sit down and review expectations for soft skills. Nor do I think that they need to be at the level I was at when I moved out of the position, after only 3 months. But my expectations overall are calibrated differently for someone coming in mid-level as opposed to the entry-level positions I hired around the same time.
          Thx!

          1. Tea and Cake*

            It’s great that you’re looking at this more open minded than it seemed like in the initial post – and I think that twice weekly syncs on training material is great! If in the past few months you haven’t gotten through all the material yet, maybe calibrate the syncs to prioritize some of the items on your list?

            I’m not sure about the soft skills comment as the examples we’ve heard so far feel much more process/protocol driven.

            One last thought: people learn in different ways and perhaps the new hire struggles with an instruction manual to really understand/learn new things. I’m not suggesting you revamp the on boarding materials to match their learning style, but might be something to consider/discuss with them.

    4. ferrina*

      This is your employee, so good news is that this is yours to manage. I would start with making a plan to improve their performance. What are the key benchmarks/abilities that you expected them to hit that they aren’t hitting yet? What would you reasonably expect for an employee 90 days in? At this point you aren’t creating a PIP, but you are starting to get your ducks in a row, should it come to that. These notes are so that you are abundantly clear on the feedback you need to give them.

      Next, give your boss a head’s up that you’ll be talking to this employee. Just a quick debrief that they aren’t hitting benchmark A, B or C, and that you’ll be chatting with them on Tuesday and working closely with them to bring them up to speed. This is a CYA in case the employee tries to go over your head.

      Then, sit down with your employee and let them know what you need from them and the time frame in which you need to see that. Again, this isn’t a PIP, this is a clear and defined conversation about expectations. From what you wrote, it looks like you haven’t really had this conversation yet, but its’ badly needed. Keep it work-focused, and once it’s done, don’t try to manage their emotions. If they are upset, let them be upset. Your goal here is to be crystal clear about what you need.
      Good luck!

    5. Therese*

      I think you should definitely go over the list with your employee first, it seems unfair to go straight to your boss with these types of (what sound like minor) issues after only 3 months. Are you sure you are not a bit resentful that your boss overruled you in hiring, and you want to be able to say “I told you so”?
      But if it’s true that your employee “will freak out as they seem a little sensitive to the work-based constructive criticism” that could be the biggest issue here. They have to be able to take criticism to improve on the job, so if they take your feedback poorly you should address that part as a performance issue.

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      I guess the examples you have here all feel a little small. I mean, I get things add up and maybe I am missing something, but I think you need to speak in trends. Is there a trend here that concerns you? And if there is a trend, how do you approach that? Because after 3 months, mistakes are pretty normal and so far, none of the things you list seem egregious, except perhaps not not asking for help, which in the jobs I do would concern me.

    7. tamarack and fireweed*

      The issues you list sound on the one hand relatively minor, and not unusual after just 3 months, and on the other hand they might be indicative of problems that are real if they persist. There are some things I’m reading between the lines, though, and you might want to sit down with yourself and honestly review your own attitudes:

      – This is not your preferred candidate. Indeed the “my boss *voted* for them” makes me think that your organization is using a pretty unsophisticated process for contentious hiring decisions, rather a more consensus-focussed one. Did you start out fully expecting that this person would be a good / excellent / great fit to the role? Preconceived notions can tank a relationship…
      – This person is replacing *yourself*, so you have a particularly strong model in your mind of how an employee would go about filling the position. Maybe a more open-ended discussion with them about work style would be helpful, too (in addition to the performance managing and expectation setting that is being suggested in other comments) – helpful to *you* in order to come around to the idea that this person has and is always going to have a different style.
      – Is this the first time you hired at a mid-level employee? Maybe there are parts of the “office skills” and even soft skills that aren’t any easier for a mid-level employee (who has been molded elsewhere) compared to an entry-level one (who has no experience, good or bad).

      Sure, even after taking on these points you may end up in the place of “it’s not working out”. But I think before you get there, and talk about it with your boss, you owe it to the employee and to your employer to give it your best shot to help them get to a point where their work can be called successful and satisfactory.

  39. care not CARE*

    I’m starting a new job and want to get off on the right foot with work/life balance. I’ve gotten more comfortable setting butt-in-seat boundaries between work time and life time … but caring about a job and doing good work, versus CAAARRRRRIIIINNNNG about it and thinking about it 24/7 … this is a new mindset for me. I know it’s nonsense, but I feel guilty. How do you strike an emotional work/life balance?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Do you find yourself thinking about the job, but not actually doing any work, when you’re off the clock?

      That’s a normal thing during the first few weeks – everything is new, your brain is working overtime connecting and organizing and analyzing all the stuff you’re taking in. But it shouldn’t be something you do on a regular basis. If you get a great idea out of nowhere, write a note to yourself, then go back to whatever you were doing.

      I don’t even think of it in terms of “caring”. I care about my job, but that’s a state of being, not an activity.

    2. Attractive Nuisance*

      I take pride in my job, but I don’t care about my job. I care about my rights and the rights of other workers. In my mind, keeping a healthy work-life balance is one of my most important duties. Otherwise I’m contributing to the devaluation of my skill and the exploitation of my fellow workers (which is prevalent in my industry).

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I take pride in my job, too. I care about my employer’s mission, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my mental health for it anymore. Sadly, it took almost burning out a few years ago for me to learn this lesson.

    3. Malika*

      A tip which might sounds obvious is… Have an interesting private life! Hobbies, time with friends and family etc… It helps you detach far more easily. I agree with Attractive Nuisance, a good work/life balance makes your employer appreciate you much more. It also leaves you refreshed for a new work week and contributes to a higher life satisfaction.

    4. Teapot Repair Technician*

      There’s a stoplight that I pass on my way to work. I’m not allowed to think about work until I pass it. When I pass it again on my way home I have to stop thinking about work. That’s the theory at least, but it gets easier with practice.

      My therapist recommended that practice when I was new at my last job several years ago. I’ve been doing it ever since and it’s been really helpful.

      1. care not CARE*

        I love this one! I’ve historically tended to mentally work all the time, whether or not I’m in front of my laptop or phone. Planning, writing content in my head, playing out ideas in my mind … A lot of that was because I loved my work and cared deeply about the mission and my colleagues. But that’s not the level of engagement I want anymore in this new setting. I’m trying to break old habits and feel comfy giving 100% vs. a lot more.

        1. Hermione Danger*

          I love this too! I work from home, so it’s not as easy for me to do that, but I’ve taken to closing all work-related windows on my computer, pushing in my chair and using a physical gesture of closing a door (like to an office or a closet) to create an end point for work.

          1. care not CARE*

            Love the physical gesture! It reminds me of that Daniel Craig meme announcing “The Weeknd.”

      2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I used to have a commute that included a big bridge over a river. Thinking about work was confined to times when I was south of the bridge. North of the bridge was Home Time.

      3. The cat’s ass*

        We must have the same therapist! For me it was mentally unloading all my patients, who were in the back seat, onto a small island next to the bridge of my commute. They parked there all night and I picked them up the next day. So brilliantly simple and effective too.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I survived a toxic workplace by reminding myself that once I clocked out, that was MY time and it did not belong to my employer; it belonged to me. Being hourly, I didn’t have to work any overtime (small company and they didn’t want to have to pay it), plus the job didn’t really lend itself to staying late. I didn’t hang out with coworkers, either; number one, I didn’t have time, and number two, I didn’t want to see people I was stuck with all day every day and/or end up in venting sessions that would just make me feel worse about it.

      It took practice, and I’ve kept that up ever since. It allows me to go home and write without dwelling on any work stuff. I can enjoy my work and my coworkers, but once I leave the building, that’s it. I’m done for the day. This practice also helps me avoid scenarios like leaving Sally out of a wedding invite because she prayed for my death!

      1. care not CARE*

        Thank you! Work has frequently been where my creative energies go, and I’m trying to flip that. You’re inspiring me!

    6. Ama*

      One thing that’s helped me is having a designated place (usually some kind of notes app on my phone) where I can jot down any “oh crap I need to remember X on Monday” kind of things. For me, writing something down is key to being able to let it go, so if I can do that in a way that doesn’t require me to interact with other work stuff I can get it out of my head and move on.

      But I agree with the others who have said having projects outside of work that you like to think about help too — yesterday I was having a hard time getting to sleep because of some work anxiety and I made myself think about the bedroom renovation I’m in the middle of and what parts I’d like to get done this weekend. Worked like a charm.

  40. Scoffrio*

    Phone screen question – this company I screened with told me at the start of the phone screen that it would be: an overview, 4 questions, 1-2 questions from me, timeline discussion. Love having a map. However, they said all of that should take 10-15 minutes. I tried to keep my answers short but likely failed, and the interview went for 25-30ish instead (I only asked one question). Do we think I rambled or do we think that their time range was just way off base?

    Also – should I send a thank you note after a phone screen? It was billed as “informal” (though it didn’t feel that way)

    1. DCQ*

      Just a thought — but maybe record yourself in your next phone screen so you can listen back to it (assuming you’re in a 1 party state). Might help you fine-tune your responses or affirm you are doing ok.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      10-15 minutes seems like a really optimistic estimate. Just the overview and the wrapup/timeline would realistically soak up 5 minutes of that. So I don’t think you did anything wrong.

      Yes, send a thank-you!

    3. WellRed*

      I’m a reporter so have lots of phone interviews and I don’t think their timeline was off base. I do think it was oddly rigid. What if you had more than 2 questions?

    4. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      10-15 minutes is very short! I think they underestimated how much time this would take.

    5. Kat Maps*

      I can’t say for sure since I don’t know exactly how you answered and whether or not you rambled. However, I was once required to answer 4 questions in a video interview format and was required to keep it under 10 minutes. It was hard! Even after rehearsing several times, answering 4 questions in 10 minutes is tough, and it sounds like what was included in your discussion would take longer than 10-15 minutes to me.

    6. Scoffrio*

      Important follow up question – what on earth do people use as the subject line for thank you emails?

      1. Aarti*

        as the hiring person, I appreciate the position name in the subject line so I know immediately what it is in reference to.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          +100

          I’ve usually put “interview for [position] on [date] – thank you for meeting with me!”.

  41. Kat Maps*

    I’m completing a 6-month performance appraisal for myself, which my manager and I will review together later. I’m asked to ‘Identify career development needs that go beyond the current job’. I have no idea how to respond. This seems to be beyond the usual professional development, where in another section I’ve already requested taking a few courses that would help my in my current role. I work in higher education so I know that there are a lot of educational opportunities that I’ve been encouraged to take advantage of, but my only real ‘need’ is a stable income and benefits. I have career & educationsal desires, but these are long term, and I wouldn’t describe them as ‘needs’. Should I be thinking outside the box more about what these ‘career development needs’ could look like? Would floating the idea of completing a Masters degree seem out of place here, after all it’s not a ‘need’. I’m probably overthinking the assignment, but I don’t know what to say!

    1. londonedit*

      I’d assume it means things that would help you progress from your current job – things that would help you qualify for a promotion, for example.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Exactly. I think you’ve got yourself wrapped around the axle on terminology.

        “career development needs that go beyond the current job” = “what would you need to learn (or think you ought to experience, etc) in order to take the next step in your career with us?”

        1. Kat Maps*

          Ah, thank you both for providing insight. Yes, I’ve really been overthinking it. You’ve provided clarity :)

    2. OtterB*

      Agree with the previous comments. Are you new in this job? If so, the answer might be that at this point you just want to improve in your current role and you aren’t thinking beyond that yet.

      Also, it seems like a good sign that the question exists, so that you can easily have discussions about preparing to move on without expecting it to freak out your boss.

      1. Kat Maps*

        Yes! This is just my first 6 months, so it’s still very fresh. In terms of our department hierarchy, it’s me and one other person in this role, then our manager above us, and then the director above that. I’m not very interested in pursuing a management position so I don’t entirely know what upward movement would look like right now. I am super appreciative that this is a conversation that my employer is willing to work into regular performance appraisals, though.

  42. June First*

    Mansplaining:
    I (she/her) have a couple male coworkers in a female-dominated office. They are my peers in age and role, although I have been here much longer. When someone is clearly mansplaining, what’s the best way to get them to stop? Walking away is not always an option. Even when they are clearly wrong, they double down to show that they are right. That makes ME double down, although maybe I should just brush it off. That feels almost like I am deferring to them, though.

    Others have noticed these tendencies, to the point where they say the male coworkers appear to be uncomfortable with women in power. Supervisor is male and brushes it off.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      “You are telling me something I already know.”

      “Why do you keep explaining something that is common knowledge to everyone here?”

      Cutting them off/talking over them: “We’ve already established that, so let’s move on to ________.”

      1. kt*

        “I’m really glad you’ve picked up on that!”

        “It usually takes people a while to understand that — nice work.”

        “It’s so great you’ve been able to synthesize that — really shows a step up in your understanding.”

        “Sounds like you’re ready for some next steps, now that you’ve got that down!”

    2. BlueBelle*

      Some people aren’t worth the effort. I put on a blank face and let them dig their own grave.
      I shut them down, “I will be addressing that in a few minutes”
      I let them finish and pointedly ask a woman in the group for their thoughts.
      If they interrupt I ask them to hold that thought and let me or whoever finish what they are saying.
      If the information they are giving is inaccurate or off topic, put a stop to it.
      Good luck!

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      When they’re wrong, can you put it on THEM to “prove” it? Like, show me the policy/document where it says that?

      1. pancakes*

        There are two big downsides to this approach:

        1. It prolongs discussion with the tedious dudes rather than cutting it short.

        2. It suggests to them that you value their reasoning and findings.

        I much prefer the politely dismissive approach Dark Macadamia and others have given examples of.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I think it depends a bit on what’s being said, but mostly I would just act confused like they’ve done something very weird and maybe a little stupid. “Yes, that’s how we’ve always done it.” “Didn’t I train you on this?” “Of course. Why are you acting like I didn’t know that?” “Actually, we do it this other way. You can review the tutorial if needed.” etc and then move on to something relevant. If they double down just a “hm.” or “okay.” with a kind of mildly skeptical but disinterested tone?

    5. Charlotte Lucas*

      Are these work-related conversations, general info, or both?

      For work stuff, I’d keep up the argument & bring in all the references, etc., supporting my stance.

      For general information, it depends. I dearly love to be right, have a great memory, & can usually dig up even the most obscure reference. Sometimes I keep the discussion going, but I had a female coworker like this, & I started picking my battles, because she drained so much of my energy with her crabbiness & inability to accept that others might do or see things differently.

      1. June First*

        Great question, and your user name cracks me up because they remind me of Mr Collins! It sometimes seems like a combo of social awkwardness and wanting to prove themselves. Both work-related and non work-related.

    6. Sylvan*

      Just wait for them to finish and continue as if they didn’t do it. Like when a dog barks. If you want to respond to them, keep it short and non-argumentative: “Yes, I know,” “Okay but I need to get back to work now,” etc.

      This might be totally off, but I think engaging with people doing stupid things can implicitly validate them, like what they’re doing is worth arguing with. It isn’t.

    7. Former Young Lady*

      Ugh, I’ve been in that kind of office. Men are rare, so they get treated like some delicate endangered species who can’t possibly survive feedback or direction.

      If they’re ‘splaining something true but obvious, you can respond with a flat but incredulous “Yeah, I think we all know that, Jake.”

      If they’re making stuff up that you know to be untrue, that’s harder. “I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Would you mind telling me where you heard that?”

      Ultimately, though, I had to leave the Delicate Mansplainer Sanctuary. When management tolerates this kind of toxic misogyny, there’s not much any competent woman can do to repair it.

    8. Zona the Great*

      “Thanks for the mansplaination….Does anyone here need a reminder of the basics of their job? If so, see Steve.”