writing an improvement plan for a pastor, job-searching outside of business hours, and more

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

1. How do we write an improvement plan for a pastor?

I am on the personnel committee for my church. We work with the senior pastor in hiring, firing, job descriptions, salary requirements etc. It’s time for annual reviews which, given the nature of the role of minister, are not always data-driven and can be a bit fluffier than normal jobs. The youth pastor at our church has been there a LONG time. He’s a good guy, well loved beyond the church community. Fixture of the broader community kind of guy. Never a cross word. He always does what is asked of him. The church has supported him through several major health battles. He is well compensated for a part time role both for the area and for the job. We do have comparison reports that give frameworks for that sort of thing, if anyone was wondering how some churches determine what pastors are paid. We are southern baptist in denomination and that means the church makes the decisions on hiring and such, it’s not determined by a larger governing body.

The problem is stagnation and boredom. You’ve got teenagers coming to the senior pastor, kids who WANT to be in church, complaining of boredom in bible study. There is nothing innovative out of his department. The same events and programs are rehashed.

The committee is tasked with helping write the terms of the PIP. I’ve already said the number of students attending and number of students going to camp are no longer appropriate metrics. But how do we write a metric around being less boring? He’s already been sidelined from preaching on Sundays because it’s basically torture. Part of the PIP is giving him room to create his own exit in a way that is positive for everyone involved. If we thought money in terms of actual funding, more help, etc. would help, we’d do that but he doesn’t have any good self-reflection skills. Part of that may be due to the major health issue.

I can’t speak to the politics of the church context, but if I were writing an improvement plan around these issues, I’d do metrics based on teen engagement. For example, can you measure teens’ happiness with the programming through a survey or some other objective means of pulse-taking (maybe surveying now and in six months to measure any change)? I’d also think about what it looks like when teenagers are engaged and build metrics around that. Do engaged teens sign up for additional classes? Not drop out of current ones? Show up more regularly? There are probably metrics there that taken together will describe the goals you’d want anyone in the job to be meeting.

For innovation, you might also include something like “create two new initiatives, different from our current offerings, that generate X amount of involvement from Y population.”

But if you’re convinced that he won’t be able to meet those metrics, the better route might be to have an honest conversation with him about what you’re looking for and why you believe it’s not a match with his strengths. That’s not always the right route to take — sometimes for political or other reasons you need to demonstrate that you went through a PIP-like process — but it’s worth having it in the mix of what you’re considering.

Read an update to this letter

2. Will job applications submitted outside of business hours be ignored?

My husband works in finance and I work in healthcare. He is currently job searching and claims that Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, are the only times to job search. If he job searches in the evenings or weekends, then he says his application will get buried in their piles of emails so he can’t job search then. Is that true or is he making this up? He says this is basic info that I should have been taught in college. This information is very important in how we arrange our schedules with respect to our respective careers and childcare during this pandemic, so I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

Your husband is wrong. It’s very normal to send applications during the evening or on the weekends — that’s when most employed people do it if they have jobs with regular hours, because you absolutely shouldn’t be job-searching from work — and those applications are not at any disadvantage. I’m not sure if your husband pictures a hiring manager sitting there evaluating every application as it comes in, but that’s not how it works; typically applications are looked at in batches whenever it happens to be convenient, sometimes at random times throughout the week and sometimes all at once when an application period ends. There is no reason you need to submit them during work hours; in the vast, vast majority of jobs it will make no difference at all.

If his college taught him otherwise, we can add that to the very long list of weird and wrong things that colleges have taught students about job-searching.

3. Director is so bad that everyone is leaving

About a year ago, we got a new director at the top of our company. In the last year, he has pushed back on every reasonable request, has prevented us from moving forward on a number of key projects, rejects necessary infrastructure changes and asks for new proposals, then rejects those too. He offers no options or solutions for how we can proceed when he rejects something and expects us to come up with yet another new plan that he will ultimately reject. It’s become impossible to do the most basic functions of our jobs and as a result we have lost three team members, including a manager, an interim manager is stepping down, and EVERYONE is job hunting to get away from him. One of the managers who left made it clear that the director was the reason he quit, but nothing has changed and it seems everyone is afraid to tell this director that he is impossible to work for and there are now no managers between us and the director to push back on him.

I love the company, the benefits would be hard to replicate in a new job, and ultimately I like what I do … when I can do it. Do I have any options besides fleeing a sinking ship like everyone else?

Well … you can decide that you’re willing to live with these conditions in exchange for staying in the job. I don’t mean that to sound flippant. Some people are able to make their peace with terrible managers and find ways to let the dysfunction roll off their back. If it’s worth it to you to do that to stay in the job, that’s your “any other option.”

If the “any other option” you’re looking for is a solution where you or someone else speaks truth to the new director and makes him see the light … it’s unlikely. Feedback has already been given and ignored. If you happened to be in a position where you had excellent rapport with him and he was open to feedback and you’d seen evidence he could change … well, maybe, but even then it would still be be unlikely. And since he’s at the top of your company, there’s no one above him who’s going to swoop in and make things right.

Your options are almost certainly to decide to live with things as they are or move on.

Read an update to this letter here

4. Are interviewers turned off that I say my son is my priority?

I am attempting to reenter the workforce after many years out of it for several reasons (school, baby, living overseas, child diagnosed with disabilities). I have had several interviews, but no offers yet. I initially started looking for part-time remote work but haven’t found jobs that I’m interested in with those parameters. So I expanded to looking at full-time remote or part-time office jobs. My interviews have all been for part-time office jobs.

When I have interviewed, I have been very clear that my hours are not flexible because I need to be available when my son is out of school and he is my priority. I am beginning to wonder if this honesty about my priorities and availability is taking me out of the running for these positions. I don’t need to work to support my family right now, but I would like to get out back in the workforce for many reasons. Should I continue to be blunt about my availability since I can afford to be picky right now? Is there a good way to phrase this? I have literally said my son is my priority and I’m sure that is not what employers want to hear.

I think it’s that your kid being your priority generally goes without saying, so when you make a point of declaring it in an interview, it sounds like you’re going to be prioritizing him in ways that go beyond what most people do, which might make you a pain for the employer (like being outraged that they expect you to work during his winter break or something like that). Try just explaining that your hours can’t be flexible because of school schedules — without the “he is my priority” part — and see if that changes anything.

Read an update to this letter here

5. Should I wear a button with my face on it to my new job (since we’re masked)?

I’ll be starting a new job in a few weeks. With the exception of the three people who participated in my video interview, no one knows what I look like — including the executive director and others at the in-person interview (I live in a state with indoor mask mandates). Since I’ll be masked for the foreseeable future (and probably then some since I am risk-averse), I was thinking about getting a little photo button — like about 2.5 inches round — to affix to my clothes for the first few weeks. Is this silly? I would be delighted if it became something we did as people, as I miss seeing people’s faces when I am just meeting them. But I’m not putting that on the world, haha. I don’t want to seem overeager or dorky — help! :)

I’m interested to hear other people’s reactions to this! Personally, to me it feels too … something. Other people might like it but even if they do, is there really enough benefit that it’s worth it? My answer is no … but readers, what’s your take?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 767 comments… read them below }

  1. Not In College*

    Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that OP #2’a husband is using this an an excuse for her to be primarily responsible for the kids and errands during the day?

      1. Van Wilder*

        Ugh, this makes me so mad! Reminds me of a friend’s husband who plays videogames all day while my friend is working and the nanny is watching the kids, then on the weekends when the nanny is off, he has to do all his chores and leave my friend with the kids. Diabolical.

        Also, if her husband really believed this is true, he could still do all the job searching work on the weekends and just click “submit” on Monday morning.

        1. INFJedi*

          These days, even google gives you the option to send an e-mail at a more “appropriate” time. Right smack in the middle of business hours.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly – I think I submitted the application for my current job on a weekend. And I know I submitted my application for my promotion (it’s the way this job works) after 10pm on a weekday. He got sold a bill of goods and doesn’t want to let go for some reason.

      1. Jaydee*

        I *know* I submitted my application for my current job at like 11pm or something. It was only 3 years ago. I remember sitting on my bed with my iPad applying for this job and another one with a different state agency (same application system, so easier to do both at once). I obviously got this job, but I also got called for an interview for the other one.

    2. iliketoknit*

      Yes, the comment about “important to our schedules” is definitely sus. My other thought was that if he’s really convinced people won’t see things submitted outside of business hours (I don’t believe this for all the reasons Alison gave, but I know people who obsess about the exact right time to send their materials), he could do the searching in the evenings/on the weekends, and then just submit his application during business hours. Draft the e-mail with everything ready to go, and just hit send at 9 am on Monday (or 2:37 on a Thursday, or whatever date/time he thinks the stars are aligned).

      1. AG*

        For most programs, you can also schedule when the e-mail will be sent. It might be a bit buried (e.g. in Outlook), but that’s a convenient way to get e-mails done without sending at uncommon hours.

      2. Underrated Pear*

        This is the weirdest part to me. I can kind of see how someone might think the timing of their email makes a difference in terms of it getting “buried” (though I agree that’s absolutely not the case in reality). But why on earth would you need to reschedule your day based on the timing of the application SUBMISSION? Work on the application materials at night and then submit them at whatever time you want! If it’s done by email, even easier – just schedule the send time. I am honestly so confused as to why this is an issue.

      3. Fried Eggs*

        I think for a lot of people, job searching means resume spamming. So if his idea of “applying for jobs” is looking for jobs he wants and then immediately sending an application and moving on to the next thing, his logic kind of makes sense. Except it doesn’t for the other reasons Alison mentioned.

        1. Katrinka*

          If that’s his reason, then it’s long past time he learns that adults (especially parents) have to change how and when they do things all the time. It’s part of compromising and working together as partners and parents.

          I may be projecting here, but I bet he doesn’t think he should ever be the one to take the day off work when one of the kids is sick either.

      4. BRR*

        That was my thought as well. Even if he “has to” submit his application during work hours, he can certainly look for jobs and writer cover letters any time of day.

      5. ThatGirl*

        This was my thought — even if he wants to submit the application during working hours, there’s no reason he can’t do everything else on the evenings or weekends.

        (Quick anecdote, indicative of nothing: for my current job, I submitted the application around 11 a.m. on a Friday; I got a call from HR to set up a phone screen roughly 40 minutes later. But that has never happened anywhere else ever.)

      6. AskJeeves*

        Yes, that’s what I was thinking. Even if he believes you can only *submit an application* during business hours, that means you can do 99% of your job searching work at other times, and just hit “send” on the email between 9am-5pm M-F. (Or 100% of the work if you set up a scheduled send.)

        Either he’s somehow completely unable to apply common sense here, or he’s trying to finagle the family schedule to his benefit…and based on the vehemence and downright rudeness of his attitude towards LW’s input, I suspect it’s option 2.

    3. Undine*

      It’s also disingenuous because even if you did have to submit your application exactly between 9 and 5 for some reason, there’s plenty of prep you can do outside those hours. You can find the jobs you want to apply to and prepare your materials If you can email your application in, you could compose the email and send it later. Even if you have to submit through a portal, you can take a preliminary look and see what info they might want. It’s only that last click that has any kind of time stamp attached. I don’t think that last click matters, but even if it did matter, there’s no way his schedule can be that inflexible.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes! Submitting applications does not cover the entirety of job searching. Interviews will most likely be scheduled in working hours, but that too is just a small part of the whole process.

        The whole entire concept of time zones, if nothing else, negates the idea. 9-5 where?

        Sorry, OP, this is a really weird thing to say, and therefore smells of excuses.

        1. More anon today*

          Good point. At my work, your application is initially processed by someone in Eastern Time and then forwarded to someone regional. So if you are applying to a West coast location, I guess you can only apply between noon and 5 pm Eastern, otherwise your 9 am EST application will get lost in the pile of applications forwarded between then and 9 am PST. But wait, I don’t know how long the processing takes. Better find that out, if it takes an hour then you can apply as early as 11 am EST! (But before 4 pm EST, otherwise it won’t be done until the next day and the west coasters will get it at 6 am.) Oh, but what if the hiring manager is at lunch? Or out of the office for the day?

          I know, only apply by snail mail. Them you can be pretty sure it will arrive during business hours…

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      Right? Even if this concept was not ABSOLUTE POPPYCOCK, he could prep his applications at other times and spend 20 minutes submitting them at 9:45 am. Done and done.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Absolutely! I also read it as him wanting to avoid having to jobsearch in the evenings and/or avoid doing childcare or housework in the daytime.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Agreed. Not sure which way he has argued it, but however you slice it and without further information, this question currently reads as father / man of the house attempting to push most housework and child care onto mother / woman of the house with a ridiculous, weak, and, again, ABSOLUTE POPPYCOCK excuse about the timing of job applications.

          Which, not acceptable.

        2. Mephyle*

          This was my first thought, too. And to forge a small link between today’s letters, somehow I get the feeling that just like the director in #3, he would not be amenable to feedback.

    5. My dear Wormwood*

      Right, the whole “basic info you should have learned at college” feels like some kind of cut-price gaslighting.

      1. Despachito*

        Exactly so.

        The “basic info you should have learned at college” immediately lit a large red light for me.

        Even if it WAS indeed a basic truth and not total BS, this is not the way to put it. It is dismissive, and I am wondering about the man’s behaviour in general.

        1. hayling*

          Agree, that was not very kind of him.

          Also as Alison has mentioned, basically anything you learned about job searching in college is BS. If the OP reads AAM regularly, they probably know way more about job searching than the husband.

      2. GrumpyZena*

        Dingdingding! Any time anybody tries to back themselves up by saying “Gah, everybody knows this, I can’t believe how stupid you are”, they are at best correct but being *very* unkind about it, and at worst it’s a lot more sinister.

        In this case, he’s definitely incorrect. And even if he was correct, the idea that your would have to rearrange your schedule around this is completely illogical. And I get the sense that he hasn’t been open to pushback on this, hence your letter. You are looking for backup.

        This is your *husband*. The barest minium requirement for that position is someone who is kind to you, and listens to you. Heck, that’s the minimum requirement for a half decent person.

        OP, you are not asking too much here. If you are afraid to push back on this, that tells its own story.

              1. AMT*

                Yep. My first thought was, “Why are you in a position that you have to be suspicious that your husband is making things up? Why is this a thing you’ve accepted in your relationship?” My second thought was, “Is he actually job searching, and does he actually want a job? And given that he doesn’t have a job *now*, what is he doing to contribute to the household other than theoretically job-searching?”

            1. Elizabeth West*

              It could also just be that he’s really afraid he won’t find something if he doesn’t do it exactly the way he was told to do it. That’s how I read the “no one will see it” thing.

        1. OhNo*

          Yeah, the phrasing on that letter made me a little worried. Maybe we’re all reading way too much into it and everything is peachy-keen, but… might still be worth taking a step back to look at your situation, OP, just to check in on whether the commentariat’s concerns have any basis in reality. After all, it can’t hurt and it might help.

        1. mophie*

          Making up something, and then making it seem like it is general practice and common knowledge and making the person feel bad about it? That’s totally gaslighting.
          Undermining someone else reality by making up facts? I feel like that might be the literal definition of the term.

          1. Nope.*

            What? Who says he’s making it up? This could genuinely be something he heard and believes. There’s no reason to jump to the worst possible conclusion and assign ill intent right off the bat.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I think he might well actually think it, *and* that he’s being an asshole about it, but isn’t necessarily lying on purpose.

            2. AMT*

              Possibly, but I kind of agree with Mophie. To me, the “everyone knows that/this is basic info” flavor of the conversation steers me in the direction that he doesn’t actually believe what he’s saying. The 9-5 thing is such a bizarre practice that it strains credibility that he was actually taught this in college, or that he really sees it as “basic info.” And there’s clearly some secondary gain implied in the letter (e.g. not having to do chores/childcare during the day) — I can’t imagine this conversation coming up without some kind of question of what, exactly, he’s doing during the day and why he can’t job search at other times.

              1. PT*

                It sounds class related, to me. Like he went to a mediocre college, thinks What I Learned In College Is How Someone From College Acts, and has no outside frame of reference to realize that he is wrong.

            3. mophie*

              This is so ridiculous, i find it difficult, if not impossible to believe that he thinks it’s real. And even if he did, there is no way that he’s that confident in it to call it basic info, when there is no way that he has gotten any reinforcement of this in real life. Because, as stated many times previously, this is complete nonsense.

              1. Nope.*

                People come to wrong conclusions all the time and dig their heels in about stuff that doesn’t make logical sense. It doesn’t mean that they’re gaslighting.

                1. mophie*

                  Since we aren’t in the guy’s heart, we have to go with what is more likely. So what’s more likely: 1) the guy picked up some weird custom that literally no one in the working world has heard of and then doubled down and declares to his wife it’s common knowledge based on this, Or
                  2) that he doesn’t want to childcare during the day and is making this up?

              2. Katrinka*

                Oh, the stories I could tell you about what people truly think is A THING THAT IS/IS NOT DONE….suffice it to say that people basically only know what they are told or experience themselves. Unless they are challenged , they don’t even know to question their own knowledge. All you have to do is look around to find people who were brought up with vastly different beliefs and “common knowledge.” The problem is not that they don’t know any differently, the problem is when, as with this husband, they refuse to consider that their belief/knowledge is wrong.

            4. MCMonkeyBean*

              I agree, it is not a nice thing to say but there is no reason we should not assume he believes it is true. He is definitely wrong and definitely condescending but I don’t think there’s a need to make it more nefarious than that.

        2. My dear Wormwood*

          Eh, that’s why I called it cut-price. It’s not the literal definition but it’s got that vibe.

        3. ill-tempered msbp survivor*

          I mean… we don’t know the actual situation, but assuming the hypothetical, this would be:
          1) a domestic partner
          2) intentionally trying to get you to believe something untrue
          3) for their own benefit
          4) by insisting there’s something wrong with you if you don’t believe it

          …which would be the first *accurate* use of the term I’ve ever seen in this comment section!

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, obviously that part is none of my business… but I am going to comment on it anyway. I cannot think of any situation where someone saying that to their spouse would be appropriate. I wouldn’t say gaslighting, but I would say it’s condescending as hell. I can really only imagine saying something like that to like maybe someone being an asshole on the internet and spreading dangerous misinformation.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          (Even then it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate, but I just acknowledge that I can get petty when I am sucked into ridiculous arguments online lol)

            1. banoffee pie*

              Commenting on stuff that’s nothing to do with us is the raison d’etre of every comment section ever ;)

        2. Despachito*

          “I cannot think of any situation where someone saying that to their spouse would be appropriate.”

          This is my take, too.

          Even if the spouse was wrong in something REALLY obvious, like, 1+1=3, it would be OK to gently correct them (brain farts happen to anyone), but adding any BS about how they should have learnt it in kindergarten is not necessary, and expresses way more about the speaker than the one who made the mistake. (If the spouse is genuinely stupid, then why did I marry them?)

          Honestly, I cannot think of a situation when a condescending tone would help at all. It is all about the speaker and all it does is possibly temporarily relieve their frustration but in the long run is counterproductive. Maybe understandable if you use it towards an internet asshole, but even then you just let off some steam but never persuade the person they are wrong.

          For the near and dear, it is a big NO.

          1. banoffee pie*

            “I cannot think of any situation where someone saying that to their spouse would be appropriate.”

            Maybe in a screaming row where they’ve said worse. Definitely not in cold blood.

      4. Observer*

        Right, the whole “basic info you should have learned at college” feels like some kind of cut-price gaslighting.

        Except that she’s also accusing him of lying. Which he might be. But it could also just be a nasty response to a nasty accusation.

        To me the whole thing reads like more of a relationship problem than a job search misunderstanding problem.

      5. RagingADHD*

        It’s not gaslighting or anything like it. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

        Sometimes people are just wrong. And sometimes when married people are doing something exasperating like applying for jobs and trying to coordinate schedules, they get snippy with each other. So they argue over stupid stuff like whether the time of day matters in applications, even though they both probably know it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

        Isn’t there enough malice in the world without looking for nonsense to escalate?

    6. Beth*

      Yep!! He’s insisting on an inconvenient-for-OP schedule out of deference to a nonexistent norm? and isn’t even looking for alternatives like writing an application on Saturday and scheduling the email to send on Monday morning? He’s def dodging something. OP, the only job hunt activity I can think of that likely has to happen during standard work hours is an interview. Everything else can be done on evenings and weekends.

    7. Edwina*

      Yeah, this sentence screamed that to me: “This information is very important in how we arrange our schedules with respect to our respective careers and childcare”

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this screamed at me, too.

        I know plenty of couples who split childcare fairly or where the man takes on more, but I also know several where when the pandemic hit the man is the one who ended up with the home office or the guest room “because his work requires concentration” and the woman did the vast majority of caring for children while also working from the dining room table. In nonpandemic times it’s the couples where the man’s 2-hour gym visits are sacred because of how important they are to his health while the woman can barely take a shower without being interrupted by the kids.

        “I can’t job search outside of business hours” strikes me as coming from the same place in the way it claims priority for one partner’s needs in a way that probably feels like a genuine need to him but which dumps way too much work onto the woman.

      2. Starbuck*

        I think sadly the issue OP is having is bigger than just her husband wrongly believing in an incorrect norm and needing to be convinced otherwise, unfortunately.

        1. Observer*

          Definitely. She doesn’t trust him and he’s rude and disrespectful, plus insisting on a “norm” that doesn’t exist. Definitely not a healthy relationship here.

    8. Artemesia*

      The things that jumps out at me and makes this shirking likely is he is saying he can’t ‘job search’ in the evening. Submitting the application is literally a 5 second event but looking for jobs, completing applications, writing the new cover letter — all that is what takes time. He could prepare everything and then submit at 9 am before supervising the morning child chores or whatever if he is so sure about that.

      It is of course a stupid idea to think a hiring manager is sitting at his computer viewing applications as they arrive. If a computer is pre-screening, it matters not when they come in. If a person is screening then they will be doing it in batches and one submitted at midnight will be in the next day’s batch if they are viewed daily — and of course if they are viewed weekly or at the end of the search period, then it matters not at all.

      This point of view seems designed to procrastinate or shirk home responsibilities or make excuses.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        It’s often quite time consuming to do the application, even if you have all your documents prepared. Most corporate sites will require you to set up a profile and enter a lot of information into their applicant tracking system. If you can apply through LinkedIn or another tool that parses the information for the ATS, it saves time, but if you have to go through the steps, it can take several minutes (and that time adds up if you are doing multiple applications). When I was looking around last year, it was a primary reason I didn’t bother applying to a lot of roles that I’d have been qualified to do – it just wasn’t worth the time to go through the hassle of setting up profiles.

        That said, this process is also a VERY good reason why you would NOT do an application during working hours, if you’re currently employed. You’d either be shirking your current job, or have someone notice that you’re applying for jobs with another company, or both.

        Further, any company that uses an ATS doesn’t have applications coming to their email, anyway – they go into the ATS, the recruiter accesses the particular job, and screens resumes within the system. Smaller companies might not have an ATS, but they’ll use a dedicated email and will go through the volumes of applications all at once. It really won’t be a question of an application getting buried in someone’s inbox.

        1. PT*

          It usually takes me 45 minutes to an hour to complete the application in the ATS. And that’s assuming I’ve written the resume and cover letter ahead of time. If I get to the ATS phase and find out that the cover letter/resume I wrote ahead of time won’t work with the way the ATS is configured and I have to start over, that’s another hour.

        2. Despachito*

          Haha, true.

          I spent the last evening filling in my CV, and it took me like two hours. I am self-employed and if I did it during the day, it would mean two less hours of work.

          There are definitely more efficient ways to do it than I did, but still I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to do it during a workday and “steal” the time from their employer.

    9. SweetestCin*

      That was my immediate thought as well. Sounds like an attempt at getting out of “shared adult responsibilities” to me.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Same – there’s definitely something else going on here. I’m not entirely sure what your husband is trying to get at, but I just can’t believe you should need to arrange your work and child care schedule to accommodate his job search.

    10. Kate*

      OMG, I came here to say this!!!! “This is basic info that you should have learned in college” is not a way kind partners communicate with each other.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s also not a way that people who respect one another’s intelligence communicate. A college education isn’t necessary to look up basic info on the internet, and isn’t the be-all and end-all of learning.

        1. banoffee pie*

          I don’t remember my university/college mentioning how to apply for jobs. You had to make a point of going to the careers department for advice. Which nobody did because it had the reputation of being crap.

    11. Dust Bunny*

      We had a (then intern, now new-hire) ask this (in fairness, she was 22 and I think was getting bad information from parents who believed you should apply in person, don’t get me started) and, direct quote from our HR: “Submit an application any time. No, you do not need to apply during business hours.”

      We’re a pretty accommodating organization but I doubt we’re more progressive in this respect than most. If we do it, everybody probably does it.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Back in the time that I worked in restaurants, all applications were delivered in person (I don’t remember anywhere having a way to apply online). If someone came in to hand in an application during a busy time, their application usually went into the trash. It showed that the person applying didn’t understand the nature of the business. Applications should be handed in after the lunch rush and before the dinner rush so a manager would have time to actually come up, meet you, then take your paper application to their office.

        This is the only situation I can think of where the timing and handing in the application in person was actually relevant…and it’s probably changed quite a bit since then!

        1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          When I worked in HR in a grocery/deli setting, I cannot remember giving even a single fragment of a crap about when applications came in online, and if people wanted to wait forever at the customer service desk to drop them off in person during a busy time…well, that was on them, and the desk crew would let us know if they were jerks about it.

          1. More anon today*

            I work grocery customer service now and all our applications are online anyway, so standing in line to talk to us mostly just wastes your time. If you’re really nice and we’re not too busy, we might put you in touch with the person you’d be working for, if they happen to be there, but you still have to apply online and have an initial interview with someone who works at a different location, so yeah, it isn’t going to matter when you apply.

            1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              I appreciate that your workplace is making it easier on the CS crew! Your job is hard enough as it is. (Flashbacks to the person who ate an entire salad from the salad bar in the Before Times and then came up to complain that there were aphids (???????) in the spinach…)

    12. anonymous73*

      That was my first thought as well. Sounds like they have different schedules so one can take care of the kids while the other is working and he’s trying to get out of being a partner and a parent by making her feel like she’s stupid and doesn’t know how things work. There are so many easy ways to work around this.

      1. SyFyGeek*

        Way back when I was in Retail Management (that was in the 1980’s-so the last century), the unwritten rule everyone knew about was applicants had to bring the applications in person, and it should be Tues-Thurs.
        Monday was paperwork day, managers were too busy to even look at applications, let alone talk to an applicant. And Fridays were spent getting ready for heavy sales on Saturday, and trying to find coverage for people who suddenly were too sick to work the weekend.

        Hubby sounds like he’s making excuses to not job hunt. Or to unsuccessfully job hunt.

    13. Boof*

      I think we should be careful about immediately jumping to the worst conclusions about OP2’s husband, though it is a little suspect that 1) OP is writing in, not her husband and 2) the specific question about whether apps can only be submitted 9-5 (presumably online apps, not the kind apps you have to hand in in person, like some physical jobs). But we also don’t know what schedule the OP2 is asking for – if OP2 is, say, asking hubby care for kids 9-5 M-F while OP2 works, then maybe care for them a little more so OP2 can have a little downtime, THEN hubby should jobsearch (what, all night and on the weekends when not also sharing responsibility for the kiddos and chores?) then… ehhh. Jobsearching should have some dedicated time and is stressful/draining in it’s own right and while the schedule can be somewhat flexible in the application stage it probably benefits from “thinking” of it like work and blocking out time appropriately as if they were working.
      Like I said no idea if that is what’s going on either just don’t have enough information to speculate on who’s doing what poorly in the relationship, if anyone :P

      1. Boof*

        edited to add – forgot to finish 2), which was supposed to be that husband is asserting something as “basic” that is actually quite wrong, except maybe in specific areas like retail etc.

    14. StellaBella*

      This was my thought too.

      OP2, please show your husband this column and our replies if it will not create too much drama or difficulty for you.

    15. anonymath*

      Yeah, his comment about “emails” is also weird. Emails? what emails?

      I’ve hired, mm, two-three people in the last few months and there are no emails involved until we schedule an interview. I get notes from the HR guy involved usually via our chat/communication systems pinging me that he’s got a candidate I should look at, or I look at the resume tracking system which simply gives me a list of resumes and cover letters submitted. There are no emails, and nothing on my end is real-time. Moreover, the entire point of email is to enable asynchronous communication.

      The “they should have taught you this in college” comment is 1) doubling down on falsehood, and 2) condescending. Don’t take that crap.

    16. TootsNYC*


      He says this is basic info that I should have been taught in college.

      What a condescending thing to say.

      Also: this is not something that anybody should have been taught in college. That’s not what college is for.

  2. Farragut*

    LW5 … no button. That would seem extremely odd. If everyone were doing it, then it’d be fine. But don’t be a one-person button band. That’s weird.

    1. Eric*

      Yep. And especially when that one person is also the new person, it can come off as even odder.

      One idea: make sure Outlook and Slack or Teams or whatever the new job uses has a profile picture for you. Then people can see you that way.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Yes. And you could suggest sharing photos in a team meetings – even if others are not masked, it can be nice to see their off-duty look/last holiday/family? And I say this as someone who hates being in photos and would probably be digging out a nice online pic of my favourite local stately home or my kids rather than anything with my face in. But don’t be the one with the button, it’ll seem odd to go to that much effort to show your teammates a picture of your face.

        1. Artemesia*

          And it can be framed as ‘I am sure you all know each other from the before time, but I am new and have no idea what anyone looks like, could we post our pictures in our (profiles) or (other way of sharing)?

      2. Lacey*

        Yup! Or if your company sends out an email introducing new hires to the team, perhaps they’ll ask about a photo (my company does). I have multiple coworkers who I’ve never met in person, but I know what their faces look like.

        1. Mockingjay*

          This is what my company does: they write a little bio blurb about the new hire and post it with their picture (aka ’employee mugshot,’ lol) on the company’s intranet news page. Office 365 picks up this photo as your icon, but you can replace it with a better/fun photo. (The IT Dept. has some of the best ones!)

        2. Not always right*

          Great idea! My only ask would be to please not Photoshop you picture so much that you wouldn’t be recognized if someone saw you in person. A couple of years ago, there was a missing woman whose picture was photo shopped so much to the point that (to me, at least) it was useless for identification purposes.

      3. Lego Leia*

        Yes, this is the way to go. Anyplace that you are allowed an avatar at work, make it a real picture.

      4. Birdie*

        Even if the coworkers found the button fun and kind of charming, as a new employee, it seems highly likely LW would forever end up as “the button guy” (or some variation thereof)! I would opt for some of the other suggestions in this thread, instead.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I think it’s kind of a fun idea if the office was providing them for everyone, but makes an odd first impression if you do it yourself. Maybe try having a photo of yourself with your family/pet/friends on your desk instead so it’s a little more subtle but still allows people to see it?

      1. Lab Gal*

        Yeah I’m with you, it’s definitely a know your workplace thing and they have no way to know. Everyone at my job would think it was funny. I think this plus the other comment about having photos on slack/email/etc profiles are good ways to go.

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

      I guess because I work in an environment where everyone wears a photo ID badge it doesn’t sound SO bad to me, but it’ll certainly stand out as quirky that it’s a button; but I think Eric has the less quirky solution…photo on Teams/Slack/email.

      Spend a few days there first to see if quirky would be good or bad.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’m one of those people who’s insecure about their looks and really hates photos of themselves. I hated wearing a photo badge when I worked at a company that had those (I usually managed to end up with the photo side facing my shirt…), and I would want to move to a cave on top of a mountain and become a hermit if people started wearing little buttons with photos of their faces.

        I’m also… not face-blind but quite face-nearsighted, if that makes sense? I am below average at recognizing faces and particularly bad at identifying people from photos, so seeing one small photo of someone’s face is very unhelpful to me.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’d have to peer closely at their button, unless its HUGE, which could be incredibly awkward off the bat. But I’d feel like there is an expectation I’d look at it. And then I won’t connect later anyway due to face blindness. I think it seems a bit cutesy as a button…gimmicky?

        2. Birch*

          SAME. There’s no way I’m going to get a good idea of what you look like from a tiny button–heck, I barely recognize people in person after I’ve been Zooming with them for months, so peppering my space with bad quality driver’s license style photos of myself is a pointless nightmare. Besides, it feels overkill to be doing that when you’re in person and can see someone’s eyes, hair, style, body language, etc. I don’t need to know what your mouth looks like.

          1. Even better!*

            Instead of a button, I’m thinking of a custom T-shirt with your face photo printed on it, actual size.

            1. banoffee pie*

              What about wearing a mask with a photo of the lower half of your actual face printed on it? ;) It probably would come out weird-looking though.

              1. Mannequin*

                HAHAHAHAHA The fact that it would come out weird looking sounds like a feature, not a bug!

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          I am willing to say that I simply do not photograph well at all. As in, my entire life, people either don’t recognize me in photos or very awkwardly stumble around, “But you don’t look like THAT.” in reference to my pictures. I’m on my third photo in the company directory. The first was so bad I got multiple emails about, the second was marginally better but not great, the third is at least recognizable as me if not a headshot-quality photo. Don’t get me started on selfies – I cannot relate to why you’d want to take a bunch of pictures of yourself from unflattering angles.

          I would join you in your mountain cabin if wearing a high school campaign button with my face on it became an expected thing. We can ban cameras entirely!

          If someone in my office suggested we all wear our photos so they could see what we looked like without a mask, I would get the impression they were weirdly obsessed with people’s looks and probably try to avoid them whenever possible.

          1. Another anonymous IT person*

            Seconded. Also, I blame social media. I think it’s creepy when you log in and your own profile photo is in the upper corner all the time. I don’t want to look at my own photo all the time. It reminds me of the above and seems like a really vain thing to do, ugh.

            I do not have a real photo but an avatar that sorta looks like me so people kinds know what I look like.

            I’m also an IT person, and putting your photo out there makes it easier for ID theft and facial recognition which I find creepy and invasive.

            Not to mention it reinforces ridiculous societal standards for how you’re supposed to look and being anything other than a white male in IT is still a liability.

            I’m not an actor or model, my appearance should not matter but it does, reinforcing toxic cultural norms goes against my values.

            If it wasn’t private medical info, I’d rather have a picture of my brain, which is actually important to my job.

        4. Koalafied*

          I’m the same. Whenever TV shows do a big reveal where they show someone at the end of the episode with the dramatic music like I’m supposed to be shocked, I always have to google whether I was supposed to recognize that person. Especially when it’s a white guy with short brown hair, which seems to be 80% of male actors on TV. If I don’t see their face in an episode every week I won’t be able to distinguish them from all the other white guys with short brown hair, so I can never tell if the dramatic music is just “behold, your new villain!” or if it’s supposed to be “Gasp! it was that minor character who’s been popping up here and there all season long, all along!”

          1. Katrinka*

            Lately, it’s guys with slightly longer brown hair and beards, dressed more casually and sitting (for some reason) in what always seems to be their kitchen.

          2. inksmith*

            My office has always been full of white guys with brown hair, wearing black pants and a white/grey shirt, but at least I’d met most of them. Now it’s full of those guys and I don’t know who any of them are because they were hired during the pandemic! I can’t even distinguish between them all – the only one I regularly recognise as “yes, I’ve seen you before (but still have no idea who you are)” is the guy with a terrible yellow dye job who wears a maroon corduroy shirt.

        5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          Agree with Wendy here. I would rather think of my coworkers as cartoon faces than have to look at buttons with their real ones.

          I once had a boss who, when asked for a photo of herself, provided one of the actress Penelope Cruz instead. (They, uh, did not look alike.) I would be tempted to do this if wearing face buttons became a thing.

          1. Katrinka*

            I would use a photo of my dog, with a caption along the bottom, “some objects may appear distorted due to frame size”

    4. ggg*

      We all wear photo ID badges at our company, which are quite helpful in meeting new people who are masked (assuming they are not flipped around backwards). But I think it would be weird if you were the only one wearing a button.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, we do the same. Of course, the photo’s too small to actually recognize the person from 6 ft away, even with 20/20 vision…

      2. effazin*

        This may sound snarky, but it is intended as an honest question. Could you expand on how a photo ID is helpful when meeting new co-workers? A name tag, if the lettering is big enough that you aren’t stuck obviously staring at their chest, I can see the value of. But a picture doesn’t seem intuititve to me. What information does a picture give that “Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Jane Doe” doesn’t convey?
        My understanding of photo ID is that it reassures the public that the person wearing it is a legitimate representative of the organization that issued it. Eg. Yes, this guy standing on my doorstep is the repairman I asked the hydro company to send, so it is reasonable to let him come in to inspect my fuse box. Or yes, this person in the reception area at the gym really is one of the minders in their child care centre, and not some random stranger trying to convince me to allow them access to my child. I guess in a large organization that work IDs could perform the same function–yes this person I’ve never seen before really does have legitimate access to this restricted place, resources, or information, but photo IDs imply there is reason to believe that there are imposters trying to get some benefit by decieving you about their identity, and in most work cases, that doesn’t sound likely. What benefit would there be to pretending you are the new data entry clerk?

        1. Joanna*

          “but photo IDs imply there is reason to believe that there are imposters trying to get some benefit by deceiving you about their identity”. This is exactly why we have photo id badges at my office. I work in Defense, so the benefit of deceiving me is to try and gain access to defense data. In my husband’s case, the sensitive data is protected healthcare information. I assume Finance and Banking companies and any companies with highly desirable propitiatory data (Trade secrets) would also have these precautions in place as well.

          1. nona*

            I work for med device, and I’m pretty sure our quality system also requires that only employees have access to the building, to protect the integrity of the product we build, in addition to protecting IP/trade secrets.

            Almost every business has confidential information they want to control access to. Things people need to do their jobs, but that don’t go to the general public. I mean, Target HQ (who is not defense, finance, or banking) has photo ID badges. I would say that if you work for a company that has controlled access (which is most large/medium corporations, regardless of industry), that badge is also going to have your picture on it.

          2. Katrinka*

            School systems use photo IDs all the time, for the same reason. Unauthorized access to students can be quite a problem sometimes. Where I used to work, all swipe cards had name, photo, school (or office), and ID # on them.

        2. Joielle*

          I think it’s just that the new co-workers are masked, so you can’t see their whole face. Seeing a little picture of them can be helpful in terms of knowing what they actually look like, so theoretically in some future time when we don’t all have to wear masks at work, you’ll be able to recognize your co-workers.

          For me, an ID badge photo is probably going to be too small to do much good, but having a profile photo on Teams/Slack/Zoom or a photo of yourself and family/pets on your desk would be good.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        Do they provide sufficient protection ?

        I ask because I don’t know what kinds of mask you are referring to.

        Is it possible for the letter writer to get a mask with their own face on it ?

        1. Wendy*

          There are a wide variety of masks available with clear windows (do a search for “lip reading mask” to see a cross-section) – I tried a bunch and came to a few conclusions:

          1) the ones that are mostly clear are totally useless because they don’t bend to your face, so you need either a molded plastic shape or one that is mostly flexible plastic/cloth and has a smaller window

          2) you’ll definitely want de-fogger (you can buy this at a drugstore – it’s sold for glasses, next to the contact lens solution)

          3) people who actually read lips will find these MUCH EASIER to communicate. People who do not read lips don’t seem to care all that much because they still hide *just* enough face structure to keep regular facial recognition from kicking in

          4) all-around, I did not find any that sealed as well as an N95, so they’re good-ish for you not sneezing on other people but won’t do much good if you’re worried about being in an indoor environment and breathing in everyone else’s germs

          Ultimately I kept one or two for my regular rotation but am just using N95s now that they’re affordable again :-) I don’t normally work with Deaf people, though, so if you work with a lip reader they may still be really helpful!

          1. Bibliovore*

            I’ve read that it’s not uncommon to use wig tape to seal clear-window masks in place and make them safer. (That works for gappy regular masks, too.)

          2. NYC Employed Person*

            I took a different route to the subway yesterday and walked past a school for the deaf, and the pod of teachers in their masks with mouth-windows welcoming the kids to school made me tear up. Just, like, the solutions we’ve invented to make things a bit easier for people during shitty times brought up a lot of feelings.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              My first thought when reading the LW’s questions was the nurses, doctors, and hospital staff in PPE wearing printed photos of themselves to seem more personal to patients. It does make me have the feels.

        2. pancakes*

          There are masks custom-printed with your own face, called Maskalike. It wouldn’t be my choice, but if the letter writer is adamant about having their face visible to anyone passing by I think that might be slightly less odd than a button? I much prefer other suggestions people have offered, like just adding a photo to your email account, or having a photo on your desk.

            1. pancakes*

              Ha! It’s putting a foot in the uncanny valley, but I feel like it’s easier to understand why someone would think that’s hilarious, whereas wearing a button with one’s face on it seems more earnest to me, and therefore slightly odder? But yeah, it’s odd, and I think it’s quite likely either one would inspire some puzzled looks among other coworkers.

            2. A Feast of Fools*

              Tangential anecdote: I went to a Ren Faire in April and three of the “cast” members were wearing masks made out of fabric that matched their facial skin tone perfectly (three different skin tones, three different colored masks).

              And my brain just did not know what to with that. I couldn’t quit staring because, like, it didn’t make sense. Hair, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, skiiiiiiiiiiin, shirt collar.

          1. sometimeswhy*

            I saw one of those the other day and they are a quick trip to the Uncanny Valley and I found it extremely unsettling to look at. I’m sure it would only take a little while for my brain to normalize it if I interacted with someone wearing one regularly but there would be a not-short period where I had to control my facial expressions to avoid being rude.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I have tried the clear masks and they tend to slip off your face if you open your jaw too much, and I’m told they made my voice sound funny. I can’t say I recommend it. I tolerated them longer than the other folks who tried them and got them off within a few minutes.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Probably wouldn’t recommend unless you had specific “I need someone to read my lips” reasons, really. They aren’t great for safety with regards to air.

    5. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

      L5: Yeah no. It can come across as focusing too much on what you look like to others, instead of focusing on learning to do your job.
      It’s not just the dorkiness of it, but it’s also a bit odd that you might be making an assumption about how much your new coworkers would care about or need to know what your face looks like? Even pre-pandemic, a large number of people were able to work with others across the country or the world for years on end, communicating only by email or phone, without having to know what their coworkers look like. Your coworkers who are right in front of you don’t need to know what your face looks like in order to go on with their jobs. If you want your coworkers to get to know you, there are multiple other ways to project your personality and self to your team without resorting to wearing a button.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Also, who is going to put their regular everyday work face on a button if they also have a glamour shot in their arsenal?

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Came to say this exactly. I’ve worked with many people for many years without ever meeting them face to face — I don’t need to know what someone looks like to work with them.

      2. HBM*

        Totally agree!

        I also had the thought…am I the only person who can ID people fine while they are wearing masks? Eyes, hair, height, body type, etc all still obviously visible. Unless someone has a very distinguishing mouth or nose we’re usually IDing by a combination of the prior traits anyway. Although I would concede it would likely be easier to start remembering strangers that way (aka your new coworkers for a time).

        But ultimately I would feel super weird about this, puts a weird emphasis on looks which can make some people very uncomfortable.

        1. Joielle*

          Funnily enough, I changed my hair pretty dramatically during the pandemic, and when I came back to the office for the first time, a few people who hadn’t been seeing me regularly via Zoom didn’t recognize me. I was not offended though – when most of the face is covered, hair becomes a key identifier!

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I teach 142 kids, all masks all the time, and have no trouble recognizing them by eyes, hair, build and forehead shape. Oddly, though, I sometimes have trouble recognizing them when we go outside for a mask break. Freckles, round cheeks, mouth and nose shapes can throw me off as I’m not used to them.

          As to your problem, op5, for the past two years I have been including a nice selfie in my “Welcome to school! Here are some pictures of your new class!” email. Otherwise, I don’t worry too much about people knowing what the bottom half of my face looks like.

        3. Aerin*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t put together that you were trying to show me what your face looks like because I can see your face. Imagining someone walking around wearing a button with their own face on it gives me very “Hello fellow humans I am also a human” vibes.

        4. Blinded by the Face*

          I’m face blind some masks or no masks I have a really hard time recognizing anyone. But the masks do interfere with the faces I have been able to learn.

        5. char*

          Yeah, I was surprised by the idea that you “don’t know what someone looks like” while they’re wearing a mask, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been. I’m mostly face-blind myself, so it’s easy for me to forget how important faces can be to people. Personally, all of the main features I use to identify people – hair style and color, glasses, clothing style, etc. – are clearly visible with or without a mask. If anything, the mask has become another data point I might use to help identify people, if they wear a distinctive style or color of mask.

          Basically, I’ve never been able to identify people by their faces, so it makes no difference to me whether your face is covered up or not!

        6. Mannequin*

          It makes me think of people complaining at the beginning for the pandemic that “you can’t tell if people are smiling” because I don’t look at peoples MOUTHS to see if their smiling, I look at their EYES, because that’s when you can tell if it’s genuine.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I was going to say: Most people are distinctive enough even with the lower halves of the faces covered that I can’t imagine this being really necessary.

        If I worked in a job where customers would want to verify my identity–if I were coming into their homes to fix their appliances, say–maybe? Although you could still just wear someone else’s button.

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I think this would be fine if you worked in a field where everyone was doing it (like nursing), but doing it by yourself may come off as weird.

    7. Jess*

      I agree with the others who suggest making sure you’ve got a profile photo up on any intraoffice communication where it’s normal to have one, and maybe having a photo or two of you and family at your desk.

      The photo button is a cute idea and I think it EVERYONE had one, or it was a more informal environment it might work, but it comes across as yes….you have a face. We all do! Why is your face an important part of what you need people to know about you in your workplace?

      1. Jackalope*

        I would tend to say that as humans we generally consider faces to be an important part of getting to know our community. Not everyone, and certainly there are places that are fully remote and people don’t know each other’s faces, but in general it’s really normal to want to know what your coworkers look like.

        1. Birch*

          But the only thing that’s being hidden by a mask is your nose and mouth. Arguably being in person with another human tells you a lot more about what they look like and how you can recognize them than a tiny photo button.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is what the company intranet photos are for. Even ID badges can work for this and are common in buildings where security is an issue.

          Wearing a button with your own face on it is weird. Unless you’re campaigning for something, I’d totally look askance at someone doing this. (Wearing buttons with other people is different – promotion of awareness of missing people, advocacy for victims, pride in your kid’s activity – sure. Yourself? Nope.)

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In the days before photos were all over internet, I worked at an agency. I had no idea what the people I contracted work to looked like, and formed pictures in my head. Any time one would pop in to see us, it was a huge shock, each looking at the other and saying “you don’t look a bit like what I imagined”. The worst was a Dutch guy who I pictured looking rather like George Harrison circa 1970, I was so disappointed when he turned up bald and clearly overweight.

        1. American Job Venter*

          One of the handsomest men I know is bald and overweight. Come to think of it, one of the handsomest women I know is also bald and overweight. And they’re both gorgeous.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            To each their own taste. Knowing he didn’t look like George Harrison after all didn’t change our relationship in the slightest, because I don’t judge on appearances. I was just disappointed that he didn’t look like one of my all-time favourite rock stars.

            1. American Job Venter*

              because I don’t judge on appearances

              Then why was it so important to mention that he was “bald and overweight”, descriptors meant to convey negative connotations, rather than saying, “but he turned out to look completely different”?

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                I just used two factual adjectives to illustrate the fact that the guy didn’t look like George Harrison. Since it is objectively not possible to be more utterly gorgeous than George Harrison, it’s quite difficult to use words to show that the Dutch guy looks different without making it sound like he’s less than gorgeous. There’s nothing particularly offensive about either “bald” or “overweight”, they’re more neutral than anything AFAIC.

                I really don’t understand how it’s possible to be so offended.

                My comments actually turned into a running joke with that guy, he was constantly making jokes about his lack of resemblance to George Harrison, sending himself up because he obviously had no hang-ups over it.

    8. Pennyworth*

      If I saw someone wearing a portrait button I wouldn’t assume it was a photo of the wearer. Also, I don’t want to stare at a colleague’s chest. If you really want people to know what you look like you can get creepy masks with your own face printed on them.

    9. John Smith*

      The only time I would see this as appropriate is in some kind of care setting (hospital, nursery, therapy etc). In an office or environment where you see the same people daily, unless it’s all goofy fun environment I just wouldn’t.

      It reminds me of those horrid oversized badges with your name and some flippant wording. It’s bad enough having to have my mug on an ID card and like others, I hate photos of myself. It may also pressure other people into doing it who don’t want to.

      As an aside, a number of people have said that I have film star looks when wearing my mask and baseball cap which I can only assume means I have nice eyes or eyebrows, but I’m wearing them more often even when I don’t have to!

      1. BethDH*

        Yes, the teachers at our daycare did this when they first reopened. Turned out the kids weren’t as freaked out by masks as everyone expected them to be and the teachers stopped wearing them pretty quickly.
        If the team Zooms for any meetings, OP can see/be seen in those. I find that those actually help me hear people better when I later hear them speaking masked — it seems to give me a baseline expectation for their cadence and intonation — and it might help OP do the same thing with faces. I admit it’s daunting to imagine learning to recognize new people in masks.

      2. Rock Prof*

        One of my friends is an elementary teacher, and she started wearing a button like this. A couple kids mentioned that they liked it, so she’s kept it up. But that’s over of few contexts I think it makes sense in.

      3. Cookie D'oh*

        I follow a person on YouTube who works on a cruise ship. I believe most of the staff wear buttons with their picture on it since they have to wear masks. So it makes sense in a hospitality/customer service setting, but not really in an office environment. I wonder if this counts as pieces of flair?

        1. The Rural Juror*

          You must have a minimum of 15 pieces of flare. But you will be judged for not wearing 37, like Brian.

      4. The face behind the mask*

        Yes, several hospitals have implemented this during COVID where frontline healthcare workers will wear a button with their face and name. Feedback is that patients appreciate it, especially in areas like palliative or memory care. But it’s my understanding that it’s always optional for workers to participate.

      5. PT*

        Hospitals were doing it in their COVID units, because a lot of them had their COVID employees in so much PPE they looked like aliens. Especially the hospitals that were fortunate enough to have respirators and hazmat suits.

    10. Allonge*

      Also – weird or not, we have photo badges, and it helps exactly zero amount.

      The photo is not much more than passport-sized, and also passport-like in that people are not necessarily looking like it that much. It would have to be a huuuge button for it to make any difference, and anything that big is best worn with others doing the same.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        My school has photo badges, but no one is particularly stringent about wearing them. I try to be diligent for the first weeks so that new students know that I’m an adult who is supposed to be there (and has standing to tell them off for starting a water fight at the fountain) but I’ve never really used them to help with face recognition.

      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        Allonge our photo badges are never updated so you have a picture of someone taken 20 years ago when they started in the department and it doesn’t look anything like them now. If you loose your id, they print old picture on the new badge. The irony is our department is tied to a department that makes citizens get a new id every so many years.

    11. Kwebbel*

      Agreed – I’m in the no-badge camp. I’d also add that, if I saw everyone at my new workplace with a badge with their face on, and was told it was because everyone missed seeing each others’ faces, I’d have kind of icky feelings about the environment. It’s hard to explain.

    12. Beth*

      Agreed. People will learn your face through zoom calls, a profile picture in your directory, or simply seeing you while you’re eating lunch or taking a sip of coffee. A button is unnecessary, and weird enough that it isn’t ideal as a first impression in a new workplace.

    13. archangelsgirl*

      There are teachers that have had photos of their lower face printed and put on masks with a rictus grin “for the kids”. It’s cringey. It interferes with discipline, “Hey, Cecil, get down off that desk,” but Cecil sees your grinning, happy mask, so he doesn’t.

      What if you have a big smiling button of yourself and you’re angry or upset or seething under the mask? What if you get a new hairstyle? It’s the static nature of it that doesn’t work for me. You’re carrying around an always smiling picture of yourself and throughout your workday, you won’t be always smiling.

      If you have a consistent desk or cubicle or whatever, you could put a photo of yourself with a little caption, “Me without a mask” or something, if you wanted to, although the suggestion to make a good photo part of email correspondence and your Zoom or Meet profile, etc., is probably more effective. You just… shouldn’t have yourself pinned to yourself.

      1. drpuma*

        I like the idea of posting a “me without a mask” photo on your cube. That feels like a happy medium, and you can pick a photo that’s more natural than your Teams profile pic and print it to be larger than a button. That also seems like you’re sharing with people who are specifically coming to talk to you while the button would be visible to all and sundry.

    14. Bagpuss*

      I agree, the button would be odd, and especially as you are starting a new job (it would still feel a bit strange to me if it was something which the company was organising or promoting but I think as a new employee, it runs the risk of you coming across as a bit strange or out of step with office norms, which is not a great first impression.)

      I also think that in most situations it’s probably not going to work very well as a way of letting people see what you look like unmasked – a small button is not easy to see or to allow you to recognise someone, (I think when medical staff who were in full PPE did it, they mostly had pretty big pictures, and I think it was as much about counteracting the depersonalisation of the heavy PPE and giving people reassurance as it was about recognising a specific individual), if it’s not something that’s being done across the company I’m not sure people will even realise it’s you (so there is a risk that it looks as though you are wearing a political or fandom pin), plus the awkwardness of people staring at your chest if they do notice it at all.

      Depending on the office set up, a photo of yourself with your family / dog on your desk may help.

      I may be wrong, as I have faceblindness so my facial recognition skills are exceptionally poor anyway, but I think people in general are fairly good at learning to recognise others even with part of the face covered, partly because even half a face can be pretty distinctive but also because people unconsciously also recognise other things – voices, ways of moving etc .

      1. Ella*

        The thing that really stood out for me about this is that, I really don’t think I’ve seen someone’s unmasked v masked face and been shocked or surprised at the difference? Like what is the LW wanting to show off that people wouldn’t expect to see once no one is wearing masks? Really sparkly teeth?

    15. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. A photo button would seem really odd to me, and I hope no company ever does something like this. Photo badges are pretty standard, though, for many companies. Maybe LW could suggest something like that via an employee suggestion “box” at some point.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Mine was “precious” – along the same lines.
        Also, this photo button would be worn on the chest and as a woman I would not rather not direct coworkers’ attention to my chest… or any body part.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “Precious” has the advantage that while it might mean pretty much the same thing as “twee,” it also might refer to the one ring to rule them all.

      2. TimesChange*

        At different points in the pandemic, people have talked about adding a button with their photo or smiley face — but I recall it more being in care settings in an effort to be more comforting/less alien. Like doctors and nurses who were wearing a lot of PPE and things feeling like the end of ET with plastic and tunnels and no real people.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The only time I haven’t recognized someone in the pandemic was a physical therapist–in the year since I’d last seen this one she’d lost weight, changed her hair, and was wearing an eyeshield as well as a mask. I think the hair was the main thing throwing me off. Good point that as the amount of PPE goes up the ability to read facial cues goes down.

    16. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      LW5 … no button. That would seem extremely odd. If everyone were doing it, then it’d be fine. But don’t be a one-person button band. That’s weird.

      The only part I disagree with is that I think it’s still odd even if others are doing it.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes but there are odd things we go with as social animals. I think it’s odd that I have my laptop plugged into a docking station and functionally use it as a desktop tower, but that’s what my whole office is doing. Sometimes it comes across odder not to do the odd thing.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Yes but there are odd things we go with as social animals. I think it’s odd that I have my laptop plugged into a docking station and functionally use it as a desktop tower, but that’s what my whole office is doing. Sometimes it comes across odder not to do the odd thing.

          Quite true. I didn’t intend for LW5 to object if everyone else were doing it, just that it would still be odd.

          Same thoughts on the notebook in a docking station. A Raspberry Pi or Micro-ITX box would be cheaper, repairable, and last longer, but my employer loves notebooks for some reason, too.

    17. Amethystmoon*

      There are see-through masks available, mostly for those who work or live with hard-of-hearing people. It would be nice if we as a society normalized that — I’ve read many stories online of people not being able to buy goods or interact with others in general because they couldn’t read lips during COVID.

      1. Lady Glittersparkles*

        I think see-through masks are a great idea but found it difficult to wear them (I tried to use them at the beginning of the pandemic when working with clients). Even when I found one that didn’t immediately fog up, I discovered that I apparently spit A LOT when I’m talking. Five minutes into wearing one I found the inside of it was visibly covered with spit droplets which made me feel so self-conscious. Strangely enough I’ve never noticed the inside of a cloth mask getting wet from talking but maybe I just don’t notice it.

    18. Renee Remains the Same*

      You can custom make a mask with the lower part of your face.

      (I’m 50% kidding.)

    19. Falling Diphthong*

      As someone who is not face-blind, but definitely toward that end: I might not even realize what the button was. I would probably assume that it was a meme I hadn’t heard about, or some sort of “Team JoAnn while JoAnn undergoes cancer treatment” thing.

    20. OhNoYouDidn't*

      Agreed. Some companies, like mine, provide work badges with photos to be worn. But if you’re the only one wearing a face badge, it would be weird.

    21. QKL*

      Agreed, no button. When you start a new job, it’s best to fit into the culture and observe, standing out too much is risky. With no information about you, it might come off as attention seeking, which is a turn off for many people. Besides, there are plenty of people I’ve met in professional environments last year where I’ve never seen them unmasked and they haven’t seen me, but I recognize them when I see them.

    22. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Not all but some jobs will give you a photo id so the button might be a mute point anyway. Also I have been recognized with my mask on, hat, and sunglasses from across Walmart by coworkers who haven’t seen me since before the pandemic so I’d say we aren’t missing that much by not seeing the bottom half of everyone’s faces.

    23. Sparkles McFadden*

      My vote for #5 – No button. It’s odd if it’s just you, and I would have even more of a problem with it if it were an “office thing.” I am saying this as someone who had a photo ID on a lanyard around my neck for 30 years. I’m not sure why it feels different, but it does.

    24. Gothic Bee*

      This depends on what the button looks like, but I’m not sure if I’d realize the button was of their own face, at least initially, because I doubt I’d look that closely, just see a face and go “huh, wonder what that’s about”. Then I’d probably briefly wonder if it was a memorial thing or like a missing person thing. A profile pic on your email/chat account is a great alternative though.

    25. sacados*

      Agreed — but I will say that I totally get being worried about people not knowing who you are. We recently had an in-person office day for my department, where 90% of us were seeing each other IRL for the first time.
      We’re used to video calling, so I know what everyone’s faces look like, but there’s a lot of visual information that you still don’t get from that — it can be surprisingly hard to recognize someone in-person and masked when you really only know them by their face!!
      So it was actually great that they provided us all with nametags to wear at the in-person thing — super helpful as your brain adapts to what the person’s IRL body looks like too!

    26. Dr. Nick*

      I work as a doctor, and my workplace paid for us to get 3×5″ headshots of us turned into badges that we can clip to our clothes (optional). It is very weird, but I’ve actually gotten a surprising number of compliments about it from patients and families. That being said, it would have to be big like mine for it to work, and the interviewers would probably think it was weird.

    27. Public Sector Manager*

      My doctor’s office and the lab in the hospital I go to is doing this. In that context, it’s a nice touch. I’m not sure how I feel about it in an office or any other context.

    28. Yup*

      Also, it isn’t necessary. When the masks come off, your co-workers will still recognize you. You might have noticed that if you run into someone you know when you’re both wearing masks, you still recognize each other. It’s because our eyes and the top of our head are distinctive enough for people to recognize us.

  3. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – that’s absolute nonsense. Most recruiters are so busy during the day with interviews, that they do their resume screening in their off-hours, at least right now, when all the roles that didn’t get filled during the lockdown part of the pandemic are now being urgently filled, while it seems half of the world is job hunting.

    1. askalice*

      Yea at my work we literally do not even look at applications until after the closing date, then we assess all of them in one big go against our metrics and system.
      We do that 9-5 but I have zero idea what time any individual application came in!

      1. Heidi*

        Agreed. The whole 9 to 5 theory doesn’t hold up to even mild scrutiny. Why would a company risk missing out on a great candidate by operating this way? Does the husband only read his daytime emails and not his nighttime emails? And implying that everyone knows this but you would be condescending even if it were true.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Agreed that this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but this blog has shown that companies are quite willing to miss out on great candidates by having pointless policies/practices :P

          1. Observer*

            Yes. But if this blog has taught us anything it’s that you can’t base broad strategy on what individual weird companies do.

            Think about it- Company Q A won’t look at resumes that come in outside of business hours. Company B only looks at resumes that came in since the close of business the day before and gets through as many as they can during the day. Anything that came in later in the day doesn’t get seen because they had too many to go through. Company C does all screening at night, and goes through backwards, so a resume that came in at 6:00 is more likely to be seen than one that came in at 10:00 am. And then there is the guy that thinks that if you sent your resume in 12:00, you are “not taking it seriously” because you are “squeezing it in during lunch hour” and is impressed by an 1:00pm submission time because that shows “dedication”.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          I’ve gotten many jobs by submitting resumes after hours or on weekends. I wouldn’t use my work computer to job search externally. It’s too risky someone will detect it and report it to the boss.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          …. This is an interesting flip on the “In some roles, do not send emails out of hours” which would never have occurred to me as a thing anyone would care about without AAM. And yet some people do care!

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        All of our applications go through central HR, and the ones that meet the minimum requirements are forwarded to the hiring managers about a week after the posting has closed. I have absolutely no idea when any of them were submitted.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Same at my employer except it’s usually sooner than a week after the closing date – the only time a hiring manager would be specifically told when hubby applied would be if he’d only just missed the deadline and they were asked if they were still willing to consider the application anyway.

        2. ErinWV*

          At my institution, all applications are submitted via a specific program, which we log into to access CVs, rank potential candidates, contact them, etc. And every application I’ve submitted in the last, I don’t know, 10 years, was also automated in some way, not sending an email with a CV attached.

          Even if that is still the way these companies do it – most good companies can still read and respond to emails that come in at night and over the weekend. They don’t disappear into a black hole.

      3. Fried Eggs*

        Yeah, even when my ex-boss was manually screening applications in her inbox, she’d leave on Friday saying things like “I can’t wait to see what comes in over the weekend.” Like opening her email on Monday was a kind of adventure with a “maybe the ‘one’ is in this pile of emails” vibes.

        1. Artemesia*

          I did a lot of hiring back in the day when applications were physical, not electronic and we would make copies for the others on the hiring committee. It did not matter when they came in. I would screen in batches and select the ones for the committee and hve those copied. When they arrived s long as it was before the deadline was good and I had not idea.

    2. TootsNYC*

      If I were going to care, I’d rather see the resume come in outside working hours.
      Because that would tell me the person is (1) not unemployed and (2) conscientious about how they use their time at work.

      But I don’t actually care. I just want everybody to get a new job. I may have only one spot to hire for, and I know many of them are not qualified for it, but I’m rooting for everyone whose resume comes across my desk. Even if—especially if—that means they work for someone else.

      1. Observer*

        Because that would tell me the person is (1) not unemployed and (2) conscientious about how they use their time at work.

        Well, actually, it doesn’t tell you that either. A person could be sending in an application after work hours because they just wasted the day at some unemployment insrance required “workshop” and now is frantically trying to get caught up. Or maybe they sent it then because they didn’t have time to finish it at work.

        Obviously I’m making stuff up. But the number and types of possible scenarios is so vast, that it would be a very bad assumption to make that an after hours submission tells you anything.

  4. Dark Macadamia*

    #2 even if applications had to be submitted 9-5, that wouldn’t mean searching and working on them would be limited to those hours! This is a very weird idea.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think whoever noted that he just wants to get out of the daily responsibilities and force his wife to do them during HER work hours has nailed it.

      1. BethDH*

        The only generous possibility I have is that it’s been a long time since he’s job hunted and he’s freaking out and casting back to dimly remembered details from the days of applying in person for entry-level jobs. I feel like going during business hours to hand in an application rather than dropping it off is the kind of advice that was common for paper applications.
        People definitely seek out all kinds of weird job hunting techniques to give themselves control when they feel overwhelmed. OP will certainly know whether their husband is more likely to be avoiding family responsibilities as his primary goal vs that being a collateral effect of general search anxiety.

        1. SweetestCin*

          I chewed this thought over.

          The last job I applied to in person was in 1994. (That was retail. Looking back, the hiring process was completely arcane and ridiculous given what the job was.)

          I think the last time I applied to a job by physically mailing a cover letter and resume in response to a newspaper add was in 2002-ish. And I work in an industry that is not known for being up to date on technology.

          Its iffy, at best. And FWIW, university fell between those two jobs mentioned above for me…I’ve never heard anything quite as nonsensical as “you may only apply during business hours” for anything other than that first retail job.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Also if it’s been that long since he last was job hunting I find the “you should have learned this in college” comment all the more egregious. Norms change in that amount of time.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I could see this arising as a poorly thought out variation on “When you’re out of work, you need to treat your job hunt like a 9-5 job.”

        3. Kelly L.*

          I remember being about 16 and having an argument with my mom. She thought I should sit there in the Burger King or whatever, and fill out the app right there, because it would show how enthusiastic I was. I thought taking it home and bringing it back would make me look like either (a) I had a life or (b) I was going to put more thought into it. My mom won the argument, on the grounds of being the mom.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        Yeah, the “this is so basic you must be an idiot not to know” vibe is so disrespectful and unkind it’s hard to think the husband sincerely believes what he’s saying.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I’m imagining the floor turning to lava at exactly 5pm. “Stop reviewing resumes! It’s 4:45, run for you lives!”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I mean that’s how most of my days end but I still have the remaining resumes in my inbox the next day ;)

  5. WomEngineer*

    #5’s button idea might go over well if their colleagues have that kind of sense of humor. I could see it in a company with a younger vibe.

    But mostly, I wouldn’t. Instead, LW could put photos that include them on their desk. Then at least people who walk by can see.

    1. Cinderella Sparklepants*

      I’ve seen this several times at my kids’ schools, and in that context I think it’s great. But at work? I’d think it was odd, though also not really a big deal. I agree that desk photos probably make more sense.

    2. Heffalump*

      I like it, but I have a high tolerance for non-conformity. I imagine it would depend on the corporate culture.

    3. EE*

      It might go over well if they were all Farscape fans. There was a great episode where the characters were bodyswapped. Not a new concept in sci-fi, but the characters here had the sensible idea to stick a big picture of their actual bodies on their shirts for ease of recognition!

    4. Rayray*

      Funny you should say that cause this definitely seems more a boomer type of humor than Gen Z or even millenial.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I like the point about being the new person–if you’re an established person that people know well and they respect your work, then you can do things that read as “Casey’s style” for you and “that new twee intern” for the new person. (Also arises with clothing or cube decor.)

  6. A_Jess*

    No. 5
    I think you’re be better off with a photo of you (and/or family or friends) on your desk. I’m going to suggest that most folks will figure out who is who in the photo.
    But since I’m sensing you’re attracted to the whimsy, might I suggest a goofy photo? Would still be fun but in a slightly more traditional sense.

  7. Queer Anon*

    For #5, all the staff at my doctor’s office wear a button like that these days, with text around the outside that says something like ‘this is me under the mask’. They’ve been vaguely helpful in helping me go ‘oh yeah, I definitely do recognise that nurse from the before times,’ but I’m not sure they would feel particularly useful to me in a different context.

    1. iliketoknit*

      I can totally see that in a service/provider setting like a medical practice, but that’s for reaching out to customers, not co-workers, which to me feels really different (and weird in a way that showing clients your face is not. I like the sentiment behind the button idea but I’m in the no-button camp).

    2. Allonge*

      For me in a case for a doctor / nurse it works better also because at some point we get close enough for me to actually see the photo without doing a whole exercise of I-am-looking-at-photo-not-your-chest-I-promise. In an office environment, we can keep distance better, but that makes the picture very unhelpful all in all.

    3. sara*

      Yeah, when my grandfather was in hospice care last year, all the care staff had big photos as part of their ID tag. It was really helpful for my dad to recognize them in person vs on video calls (i.e. when someone would call to update about his condition). And I think also nice for my grandfather to distinguish between individuals.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      The dentist’s office did put up photos of the dentists (if not everyone else) on the desk.

  8. Wowokay*

    #1 He’s been there all these years and suddenly he’s not good enough? That’s weird. And I say this from the perspective of a weekly church goer. It’s also odd you’re putting him on a PIP. Have you thought about the wider church ramifications?

    1. Esmeralda*

      Sounds more like, he’s been there all these years and has gotten less good because he does the same stuff all the time, and it’s not appealing to the current kids. A crummy youth program is a pretty serious problem.

      Possibly there is some new desire to make the youth program a good one. Or a new willingness / push to ensure employees are doing a good job.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        To me it sounds like more they are getting complaints from the kids who “love him as a person, but don’t love the programs he is running for them.” It may be that in the past he was great with the kids, but now things have changed and what he’s doing isn’t working any longer – which is okay. If that is the case kindly setting up an off-ramp for the former youth pastor, maybe with the inclusion of something else he could do as a service opportunity instead, may be the best option for all involved parties.

        1. Wendy*

          Yep. that was my impression too. Honestly, church HR can be way harder than other venues because you have “the right thing to do for the church” and also “the right/moral/ethical thing to do” that don’t always match up – which is why so many churches end up keeping on long-term employees who aren’t doing their jobs well anymore (or never did in the first place) and coming up with convoluted ways to make other people cover for their deficiencies.

          I think my answer to this would depend on the size of your church. If your youth group is only ten kids, it’s kind of unfair to hold the pastor to metrics like “more than X% retention in the youth program” because all it takes is for one family to move away or start basketball season and that’s not really his fault. If the program is fifty or sixty kids, that’s less pressure on individual teens. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that there IS a lot of pressure here – he could lose his job! – and make sure that however you spin it, individual teens won’t feel obligated to support programs they’re bored by and are welcome to speak up with suggestions.

          This is a tough scenario, OP, and I hope it works out well for you!

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          If he’s not allowed to preach on Sundays because it is torture for the adults to listen to him, he does not sound like someone who can be engaging with kids. I would guess he was shuffled off on the youth program because the was a good organizer and to spare adult ears, not because he was ever particularly good with kids.

          1. OhNo*

            It could also be that he is very good with kids, but only for a short window. I’ve certainly met folks who are absolutely phenomenal with kids in the 5-10 age range, but the second kids age out of that they just can’t connect.

            Or, it could be that since he gets so repetitive with the programs, kids can only work with him for so long before they’ve heard everything he has to say twice over and are bored out of their minds. Again, that’s a case where he’s probably great for the first couple years with kids, but there has to be someone new taking over once they’ve gone through everything he has to share.

            Either way, that’s no judgement on him as a person. It’s just a case of trying to figure out which needs he isn’t meeting and trying to find methods to meet those needs and appropriate metrics to tie to them. Which can be hard, especially if he’s running mostly educational programs and teens want something more engagement-focused like volunteer or mission work.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          This really resonates with me.

          The current 14-year-olds don’t remember how he was before, so they aren’t layering that onto their impression. He seems like a nice guy, too…. just major “Uncle Sully starts to tell the bear story again: RUN” energy.

        4. Kal*

          In my church growing up, it was very, very normal for the youth pastors to transition into another position or into a less involved or non-official position (i.e. they become an involved community member instead of an employee), with a transition period in between where they stayed as an assistant to the newly hired youth pastor. It was also common for them to move around age groups, switching between the teen group to the college group to the younger groups and so on, or to switch between working for our church and other sister churches in the region. The idea was to always keep learning and growing in their faith, since becoming stagnant meant they weren’t doing their job of serving Christ.

          As a kid in youth group, it meant activities didn’t become stale and endlessly repeated and while it could be sad to see a liked youth pastor leave, there was still a sense of continuity because the old youth pastor was still around, he would sometimes show up for a starting activity in youth group and be the substitute if the new youth pastor had to miss a week, and you could still go to him if you needed help and felt more comfortable talking to him. I can’t know what things were like behind the scenes, but from my perspective as a teenager then, this sort of soft off-ramp being built in seemed to work really well to keep the program going strong.

        5. Artemesia*

          A failing youth program is a church killer. Many new families choose their church home precisely for their youth programs; I have personally watched a church fail as their youth program withered and died. By relying on what old people who have been there forever want a church can destroy itself. New young families and youth are the lifeblood of the church’s future. I’m not sure youth pastorates should not be term limited jobs. Hire someone for a 5 year contract renewable once and then move on.

          1. AskJeeves*

            Yep. Same with synagogues. A vibrant youth program will draw young families, which in turn draws more young families, and that is how you build the future of your congregation. The church in the letter desperately needs to put the pastor on a PIP, and be prepared to part ways if it’s not successful in the time allotted. Otherwise they are jeopardizing the future of the church, not to mention doing a disservice to their current membership.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Or just that one kid saying something is seen as the kid is an outlier, while multiple kids speaking up is seen as giving you a glimpse of a widespread perception.

    2. Bayta Darrell*

      While certain things stay the same with kids, others change. When I was in school, the mere sight of the TV cart made everyone excited. Now, in a classroom where smart boards are used in daily lessons, that wouldn’t have the same impact. You don’t necessarily need someone younger, but you need someone who is willing to meet kids where they are. To pull an example from the Bible, the Apostle Paul said that it was his strategy to be all things to all people. To the Jews he was a Jew, to the Greeks he was a Greek, etc. So to a Gen Z teen, you have to be a Gen Z teen. Youth programs are critical not just for the church mission of spreading the gospel, but also because youth programs bring in families, and in my past experiences, established families are some of the most reliable with tithes and offerings.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        It’s not necessarily that you have to *be* a gen z teen (as someone who works with kids and teenagers, the fastest route to get them to ridicule you is the “look how cool and relatable I am” route), but you do have to *respect* a gen z teen. This means you need to be willing to understand the mindset and the needs of current teenagers and the ways they differ from previous generations.

        If you’re teaching the same lessons and reading the same Bible study books and planning the same Saturday night events that you were doing 5 or 10 years ago, those things are going to be substantially less relevant to the needs and fears and concerns of today’s teenagers. It’s not about knowing what’s popular on TikTok, it’s about knowing what matters to the specific group of kids you’re currently mentoring and tailoring your activities to support them in the ways they need.

        1. Corrvin*

          It sounds like the kids/teens are already willing to communicate what’s not working for them– rather than seeing the youth pastor as someone who mentors the kids, why not flip it and have the kids put together the program with him supporting?

          It’s absolutely not about what’s popular on TikTok– but if someone doesn’t want to find out what TikTok is or look at anything else that affects kids (and the social media they use to communicate their culture because nobody will let them wander around outside unaccompanied anymore– sorry, soapbox) then they may not be in a good position to “keep up” with youth issues.

          1. OhNo*

            Honestly, I love that idea. I’m not a regular churchgoer, but I am a librarian, and a big focus that I’ve seen recently for teen services is how to help them bridge the gap between “adults do everything for me” and “I do everything for myself”.

            I could see creating a bridge program that helps teens start working toward independence in creating their own programs as a very helpful step for them. Start getting them used to the idea that they can create and curate their own experience, with support from this trusted adult who they seem to like but whose approach just isn’t working for them quite right anymore.

          2. anonymath*

            I was going to suggest this as well. He might be a great mentor/supporter as these kids stretch their leadership wings. This could be a great solution.

          3. Pastors Wife*

            That is a fantastic idea! Having the teens’ input not only involves them in their own programs, but similar to how letting little kids help with dinner encourages them to expand what they eat, involving the teens make them more invested in the outcome.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Adults doing the “look how cool and relatable I am” thing always look ridiculous. I remember adults trying to relate to kids by talking about disco in the 1980s, and now I’m guilty of thinking any music that came out after I graduated college is “stuff kids today like” even though it’s more like “stuff current 40-year-olds liked as kids!”

          1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

            At my first church the discipleship pastor was obsessed with having the teens love him. He dropped so much weight to “fit” in that his own wife was worried about him, started dressing to match their clothes. He had all the time in the world for any kid who wanted to drop in, but none for anyone else. Worst of all, he apparently thought it was not a problem to drive, alone, with a teen girl……

        3. TootsNYC*

          you are also probably going to put a lot less energy into them. YOU will be less excitede about them. And that will show.

    3. iliketoknit*

      Stagnation is a real thing. Someone who was a great teacher in 2004 may not be a great teacher in 2021 if they haven’t changed anything since 2004.

      1. TimesChange*

        Yes and coming up with fresh curriculum is tough and time consuming. And a gamble on whether the end product will work. Is the church pushing for new things, but not supplying time or budget?

        1. HBJ*

          From the letter – “If we thought money in terms of actual funding, more help, etc. would help, we’d do that …”

      2. Can't Sit Still*

        My current job title is identical to the job title I had in 2004 at a different company, but the job duties are performed differently. It’s recognizably a similar job, but if I tried to do my job now the way I did then, I’d be looking for a new job very, very quickly!

    4. MK*

      There is nothing weird about someone not being good enough for a job they had for years. Sometimes people get worse at their job for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they stay the same, and what was great for 15 years ago isn’t working now. Sometimes they just fail to improve, and what was great work for someone who just started their career is inadequate for an experienced worker. And sometimes, especially in organizations like churches, you get someone who is mediocre at best but very likable, and you give them chance after chance hoping they improve, and they don’t, and “suddenly” you realize that you have been putting up with subpar work for a decade.

        1. RJ*

          Totally. Send him to a conference or other PD where he can brainstorm with others in his role and get a breath of fresh air about the work!

        2. kittymommy*

          I was thinking this as well. Has the church supported training programs/material for him? Conferences and materials can get expensive, especially for an independent church that does not have the support/financial backing of a larger denomination. Also is the guy part of a local network of youth pastors that support and encourage each other? That should be encouraged by the church and the senior pastor.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        When I first read this I wondered if someone from a church I know wrote it. It’s the exact problem they are having, right down to the health issues. That youth pastor has always had a serious inability to self-evaluate. My husband once joked it’s a prime example of the Dunning–Kruger effect.

        He’s been to retreats, conferences, workshops, etc. The problem (and one I’ve seen in teachers and librarians) is that attitude that they have been in the biz so long they cannot possibly learn everything. We avoid any workshop he’s at because he takes over and it’s torture.

        I don’t have any clear answers. The only situation I’ve been in is when I told someone with on-going health issues, accommodations were no longer possible and we had gone way above FMLA, that it was time to start looking at disability.

    5. Cj*

      What I don’t like about it is they’re putting him on a PIP at his annual review because he didn’t meet metrics he was never told he was supposed to, since they are just coming up with these metrics now.

      1. Language Lover*

        That’s my issue too. One thing missing from the letter is what kind of talks they’ve had with him. When they pulled him from speaking, did they tell him why or did they couch it as a change unrelated to him to not hurt his feelings?

        Maybe they’ve done this but considering the other details included, that stood out to me as missing.

        1. LW#1*

          There have been talks, over the past two years. Pandemic and major health issue caused set backs but this should not be a surprise.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’m guessing prior to 2 years ago things were better? If that is the case, since the past 2 years have been weird, maybe it is more that he wasn’t great at adapting to pandemic methods of youth engagement vs face-to-face? Or was it always kinda meh and just got worse?

            One option is for your church to set up a Youth Council program where the younger folks design and guide the program with the support of the youth pastor as facilitator. That way they are more engaged and more responsive to what they need than any adult run program could be. I’ve worked with Tribal Youth Councils and it is pretty amazing. I’ll post a link to an example in reply.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I think OP is thinking of the literal meaning of Performance Improvement Plan – they want to improve the pastor’s performance. Which I think is fair – I don’t think a PIP is automatically a punitive thing. Maybe they could phrase it as a training plan, a program development plan, etc. But it doesn’t sound like this is a gotcha – “you didn’t meet the metrics we had in our head so you have 2 months to fix that or you’re fired” – it sounds like it’s meant to be a conversation – “we need X and Y from our youth program now, but we know [health problem] is a challenge for you. Do you want to try to hit those metrics, or do you want to consider retiring/leaving the role?”

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          But OP says “Part of the PIP is giving him room to create his own exit in a way that is positive for everyone involved.” There isn’t a real drive to help him improve, it’s a passive aggressive way of hinting he needs to quit. Improvement is a fringe benefit if he does have the capacity for “self-reflection” needed.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            I read “create his own exit” in the sense of “if he wants to leave, we want him to set his own terms for that.” Ministry is hard, and this minister is having health problems; he may decide that retirement or leaving for a congregation that wants what he’s doing currently is the better option for him, rather than take on the training/changes that are probably necessary to revitalize this youth program.

      3. Reba*

        I get what you are saying, but there has to be a first time to be told about a change. I don’t think it’s unfair to say “performance measure is changing starting now” as long as there is a enough time for the employee to adjust if they can. I think a lot of people think a PIP is punitive, which is why it feels like springing it on the employee for their unknowing mistakes. But it doesn’t have to be punishment! You can use it as a structure for getting on board with a new way of doing things (or transitioning out in a sensible way, which is what I predict will happen here).

        My read on the letter is that while the committee/Op are coming up with new ways of measuring, the *issues* with performance are already at least somewhat known. So, youth engagement is the issue; before they measured it by attendance and now they are going to measure it by some more nuanced way, and add required actions to address it.

        They have annual performance reviews, and the guy is already off the preaching rotation. Nevertheless I know from reading this website that it’s very possible for someone to feel blindsided by something everyone else might feel is obvious. It’s good for OP to anticipate these reactions and shape her messaging about the process.

      4. Sea Anemone*

        Exactly! From his perspective, it sure looks like he’s been there all these years and suddenly he’s not good enough. I saw “PIP,” and all I could think was, “Have you ever even once had a conversation with him about what the teenagers are saying?” Bc it sure sounds like they went from 0 in PIP in less than 60 seconds.

        Slow down, LW2. Try a little collaborative problem solving bf you jump to PIPs.

        1. LW#1*

          So, there has been. There is also a long history of hands off management from the previous pastor. New pastor has been doing that conversation. This has been slow.

          1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

            2 years is a long time to have a bad youth pastor. Especially these past 2 years. By not actively making the needed changes you’re doing a disservice to your youth. Youth who feel like the church doesn’t respect or listen to them today, are the ones who leave the church after they leave home and parents are sending them to youth group/camp, etc. How do you think your HS Seniors feel seeing that they came to you as Sophomores saying “this isn’t working anymore” and haven’t seen any measurable difference in the past two years? You’ve been generous and understanding with this pastor and his health issues, but at some point those just become excuses for both him and you to hide behind. I think you and the church are letting yourselves be held hostage to an underperforming employee by “how good a guy he is”. You’ve said there have been multiple conversations with him about the changed that need to be made. They haven’t been made. Let him go. Your youth deserve better.

    6. Artemesia*

      The world is full of people who have ‘been here all these years’ and who long ago stop being effective. I think this is particularly true in churches where there is little staff accountability for positions like this. He could be killing the youth program and it sounds like he is making church engagement unpleasant for teens in the church. Probably should have moved on or been counseled out years ago. They already don’t let him preach because it has a negative impact on adults in the church. The kids deserve better.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        “The world is full of people who have ‘been here all these years’ and who long ago stop being effective.”

        This is absolutely correct. I’ve worked with a handful of people who’ve been in their jobs for more than a decade, but if they were to apply today for their own job, they wouldn’t be hired. Almost no job in existence is the same job it was 10 years ago. There are new processes, new software programs, new service initiatives, and different expectations from end users/customers. If an employee decides they don’t need to change their process to be in line with current expectations, they’re going to stop being effective eventually.

        I’m having a similar situation with someone on my team right now and it’s incredibly sad to think about managing this person out. They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they have a lot of passion for what the job used to be 20-30 years ago. But if they’re not willing to engage in the job the way it is now, that’s not something that can continue indefinitely.

        1. Rebeck*

          This is a perfect description of a colleague of mine, and I think seeing it that way will help me when I’m tempted to eyeroll at the things they say. Thank you!

    7. Harper the Other One*

      My husband is a minister (different denomination) and stagnation is a real thing! His church body encourages people to move on every 10-ish years (or, in a multi-staff church, change roles) to avoid it. And keeping up with the changing interests/needs of teens is a lot of work.

      I actually applaud this congregation because rather than doing a Principal Skinner-esque “no, it’s the children who are wrong,” they’re taking the input they’re getting from their teens seriously, but also considering how to help their current youth minister evolve rather than just saying “guess he’s no good any more, let’s hire someone new.”

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There are countless reasons why a church should change pastors, with ten years being the far end of best practices. It maintains the church’s identity separate from the pastor’s. It can be hard. You have a beloved pastor: why would you want him to leave? Because he won’t live forever. Even if he stays effective as an octogenarian, this isn’t sustainable. What happens to the church when that beloved pastor of forty years finally dies? Usually, the church dies too. First off, octogenarian pastors aren’t bringing in new members. The people there have been there a long time. What’s wrong with that? They are loyal to Old Guy, but Old Guy is gone. Some will drop away. The rest form the call committee and hire New Guy. What then? They will hate him. Coming in after a beloved pastor of many decades is a notorious no-win situation. What’s wrong with New Guy? He isn’t Old Guy. He would be lucky to last a year. It is barely possible that a viable congregation will remain and hire Even Newer Guy and internalize that he isn’t going to be Old Guy. It is more likely that they shut down. This is an old, sad story that has occurred countless times.

        1. Corrvin*

          My parents’ church pastor retired recently, and the larger church organization sent an interim pastor for the transition. The interim pastor was absolutely not a candidate to be hired permanently, his job was to fill in for six months or so while the search was done– and it also meant that when the new permanent pastor was hired, he was “replacing Interim Pastor” which made it a lot easier for him to fit in.

          1. TimesChange*

            Yes — having an interim pastor is often handy. Create some space, get used to someone new, but low stakes.

          2. Sandman*

            This is a very healthy thing for a church to do – kudos to them. Pastoral transitions, especially if the previous pastor had been there a long time, can be fraught even in healthy congregations. A lot of times when this isn’t done the new hire becomes the de facto interim and leaves after just a short time as people come to terms with things being done differently.

          3. LizM*

            This is smart. Our denomination has a rule that when a pastor retires, he or she needs to leave the church for 2 years to give the new pastor time to settle in and establish themselves. Once that’s happened, they can come back as a member if they want to. I’ve seen too many churches where a “retired” pastor is still called on for counseling, weddings, funerals, etc.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          Yep, my husband has been the New Guy and it sucks – especially when Beloved Pastor also had no life/family beyond the church, so spent 80+ hours a week working.

          I also agree that less than 10 years is far better – but the reality now in my husband’s denomination is that stable congregations are rare, ministers are rarer, and it can be hard for many reasons to leave sooner. So far he’s changed positions every 5-ish years, but now we’re supporting family that needs extra help, so he won’t be able to change congregations until one opens up near us that hires him.

        3. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, my dad was a pastor, and honestly – I do not know how ANY of the discussions about him leaving the various churches we were at went, but his path was:

          -interim pastor as part of finishing his seminary training, 1 year
          -lead pastor, small urban church, 7 years
          –that church merged with two other congregations and he was a co-pastor there for 3 years
          -lead pastor, small urban church in a totally different state, 5 years
          -music minister, slightly bigger rural church, 3 years

          and then he got out of church ministry and started working in other capacities in the denomination. but in all those years it was normal for pastors to come and go every so often – just like any other job, even though the work-life boundaries are much, much blurrier.

        4. Drago Cucina*

          So true. The parishes in our diocese with the biggest problems are the ones where the pastor has been there “forever”. When the New Guy comes in there’s the discovery of problems. Then everyone is upset because basic things need to change. We went through a period where the parish was so fractious that our new pastor came as an act of obedience to the bishop because no one else wanted it. Fortunately he had the calming personality we needed.

        5. Dixie*

          I wish I could put my pastor on a PIPMy church community (Catholic) is currently experiencing a rapid decline due to the new pastor who came about three months ago. The old pastor was a “middle of the road” priest and was there far longer than usual for various reasons. He managed to get both conservative and liberal folks to work together to be a community that provides a great deal of service to others in the area. The new guy is not vaccinated, wants a Latin Mass, has said that we are not holy enough, and takes an angry tone when he preaches. He is already sowing strife among the paid staff and Sunday attendance is way down. I doubt that it would do any good to complain up the chain of command. I am left with the choice to leave a community of friends which supported me through difficult personal times or to stay and endure what happens under this idiot’s leadership.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            This makes me sad. There’s an old joke:
            What are deacons? Servants
            What are priests? Servants
            What are bishops? Servants
            What is the pope? The servant of the servants of Christ
            Ware are the people? People with a servant problem

            Sometimes too true.

          2. pancakes*

            It doesn’t seem like a particularly supportive or friendly community if people would stop being your friend on account of you not wanting to spend time with an anti-vaxxer.

            1. Dixie*

              No one has said that they will no longer be my friend. Othes are just as upset about the lack of a vax in the pastor (and there undoubtedly others who think vaccines are the devil’s tool.). Others are just quietly leaving. I don’t make friends easily but I do like participating in activities that used my talents. Without any family nearby, much of my “social life” has been there. When I was widowed, they were the ones who helped me move forward. Being an active participant has given some strucure to my retirement. This is what I would leave behind.
              Once before, many years ago, my husband and I (and a whole lot of others) left a parish due to a problem pastor. It felt like a divorce so I don’t want to do that again.

        6. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          I’m in my first call as a pastor right now, following (1) someone who served for the better part of two decades and, by all accounts, needed to leave before they did, and (2) an interim who, as far as I can tell, was partly a poor fit for the job and partly a designated We Miss Pastor Wakeen scapegoat.
          I have already decided that as much as I love these people, my stay with them needs to be in the single digits, or they will be part of the old, sad story you name.

          1. My dear Wormwood*

            “We Miss Pastor Wakeen scapegoat” is officially my favourite use of the Wakeen injoke.

        7. TootsNYC*

          having been through two pastoral changes at my church, I really see this. When our long-, long-time pastor left, I worried that we might not retain our identity. We did! Now, 10 or 12 years later (a shorter time than the previous pastor), we’re doing it again; and again I worry about how well we’ll maintain our identity. I’m actually more worried this time.

          But it’s important to see the congregation as the core unit, and not the pastor.

          At the current outgoing man’s installation, I led the kids’ choir in singing “We are the Church” (I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together…), partly as a message to him that he wouldn’t be alone, and partly as a reminder to the congregation that our role wasn’t done just because he’d started his new role with us.

        8. Gumby*

          I agree that this is common, but there are exceptions. The particular congregation I attend was founded more than 90 years ago. In that time we have had 4 pastors. I was around for the transition from #3 to #4 and it was actually really smooth. This was possibly helped by the fact that #4 had been a vicar at the church 5 or so years previously. (In this sense – vicar is like an internship, generally between the second and third years of seminary.)

      2. FlexDCat*

        This is one of the things i really appreciate about my denomination, United Methodist, is that our pastors change on a regular basis. Technically, they are re-appointed to a church on an annual basis, but they usually keep them at least 2 years and at my church, anyway, our senior pastor averages a tenure of about 4-6 years.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I think 2 years is too short! You are only learning in the first year. Four to six sounds ok, though even four seems a little short.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Yes, my husband says he needs at least three years: one to learn how they do a church year, one to try some things of his own, and one to really be a member of the community and not “the new minister.”

      3. The Rural Juror*

        The church that I grew up in did not have a pastor or lead preacher. They had a board of elders (that may not have been the term they used…can’t remember) and a calendar where they rotated as first speaker (usually 10 minutes or so) and second speaker (more like 20-30 minutes, depending on how long-winded they were). There were songs before and in between speakers, and a short window where children were ushered out for “kid’s church” before the second speaker.

        It helped to keep things varied from week to week and give different perspectives. Each week they had a common “theme” so all the songs and talks were centered around that common denominator. It also meant that none of the elders were on a salary and that money could go back into programs and facilities.

        If I remember correctly, they also had a rotation on teen’s group on Wednesdays, but I lived too far out of town and didn’t go those evenings. Those were usually college-aged or young adults leading that group.

    8. Richard Hershberger*

      Not weird: typical. Especially with the specific role of youth minister. They start out as a hip twenty-something who really relates to the kids, evolve into a thirty-something struggling to stay hip and not quite pulling it off, into that vaguely creepy older guy. It is a sad story retold many times. There are guys who can successfully age in the role, but not many. The usual solution is to move into other roles, vacating youth pastor for someone who really is a hip twenty-something. It looks to me like in this situation they let things go on too long, with this guy in a comfort zone that doesn’t challenge him. It may be too late for him to adapt to another role, but that really is up to him.

      1. doreen*

        I haven’t run into this with youth minister types ( because of how assignments typically work in the US in my religion) but I’ve seen “the person who hangs on too long” many times in other (mostly volunteer) roles that involve working with kids and teenagers. Maybe they were a great Scout leader or coach in their thirties – but twenty or thirty years later, their own kids have aged out and the leader/coach is older and doesn’t want to go camping or travel to tournaments and eventually the activity folds if no one else is willing/allowed to take over.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Yep. I don’t even think it’s about being hip and relatable, necessarily, but the structure of the pastor role is just that you start working with the kids and move up from there. My neighbor’s daughter is ~26 and is an associate children’s pastor in a large church, but it doesn’t even pay enough for her to live on her own, so she would have to move up the ladder at some point. Sounds like the OP’s guy wasn’t really promotable at the right stage in his career, and they’ve made it comfortable for him to stay in a role that he’s outgrown.

      3. Jackalope*

        Um, I’d also like to point out that not all youth pastors (or head pastors) are men. I know this was a side note from what you were trying to say, but the most effective youth pastor I ever knew was a woman in her thirties (she was at our church for almost a decade and left around the time she turned 40). Part of thinking outside the box here is not assuming you have to have a hip young dude with a beard and a guitar to reach out to teens.

        1. Blarls*

          The OP’s denomination doesn’t ordain women. They’re having all kinds of very public issues with abuse, harassment, and racism (not surprising if you look at its origins). As a survivor who grew up in a similar denomination, it scares me that they want to bring in more kids but I am not surprised.

    9. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

      Long time church admin assistant in another life… this will not go well. You can’t push too hard, or you will suffer the consequences of his own fans who think well of him no matter what. Trust me, church life is its own world, and its own rules. Best thing to hope for is he leaves on his own.

      1. LW#1*

        I’ve been in ministry as a staff person and child of a pastor. I agree it can go poorly but he’s lost a lot of fans.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        As a former southern baptist, do not do this.

        A major reason for the decline of the church where I was a member for most of my life is that church leadership thought it was more important to be “nice” than to be good employers. And as Into the Woods has taught us, “nice is different than good.” When you just sit around hoping problem staff leave on their own or waiting for problems to solve themselves, you’re just multiplying toxicity and drawing the problem out longer than necessary.

        It seems quite rare to me that a church staff takes employee management and supervision seriously and I applaud OP and their team for trying to find a way to be good supervisors in a kind way.

      3. Observer*

        Best thing to hope for is he leaves on his own.

        This is the kind of advice that gives religious institutions a bad name. If the pastor is a bad at his job as the OP says (and I have no reason to doubt that), you simply cannot just wait around for him to leave on his own. The damage from that is too great. Alison’s general advice that you cannot be held hostage by one person is just a true for religious institutions as any other organization.

        Think about it. They may have issues from the people who think this guy can do no wrong. But what issues are they allowing to go on from the parents who are frustrated by the problem – that’s a short term issue, but one that could SUBSTANTIALLY harm the church. And what are the issues for the kids suffering from his poor skills? That’s an issue that might not hurt membership in the short term, but you can be sure that MANY of these kids are not joining once it’s up to them – and that’s the best case scenario where the kids DO decide to join A church – it just won’t be THIS one. Plenty of kids will decide to not join ANY church because of this guy if he’s allowed to continue on.

    10. New Yet Old*

      Good luck in engaging teens for more than five minutes in this TikTok culture we live in. None of the problems with this pastor seem unresolvable, just suggest new programming to him! Get ideas from the people affected!

      I sniff a bit of ageism here, like the person is considered stale because he’s been around for a while, time for something “fresh”. Personally, I think churches cater too much to “youth” culture while ignoring mature congregants who fund everything. I think it has gone overboard, with some youth feeling “special” and entitled because of all the emphasis on them, I’ve seen it at my church.

      Please don’t PIP the pastor over this. It’s a bad example for the youth, and does not encourage respect for mature and experienced congregation members.

      1. Theo*

        …yes, well, I sniff a bit of ageism in “good luck in engaging teens for more than five minutes in this TikTok culture we live in”. Have you hung out with some teenagers lately? They are smart, engaged, political, and extremely stressed out. They deserve a youth pastor who can meet them where they are. Are you suggesting we shouldn’t listen to kids and young adults just because of whatever cultural touchstone affects them?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Seriously. I’ve worked with a large number of youth organizations and young people and they last thing they are is hard to engage. If there is a topic they care about the bigger problem is getting them to disengage and step back a bit so they don’t burn themselves out.

        2. TootsNYC*

          if anything, this TikTok culture is leaving them really hungry for something that has MEANING.

          These kids are already willing to attend these events.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I find it interesting that you mention ageism, because saying “Good luck in engaging teens for more than five minutes in this TikTok culture we live in” feels like the same thing.

        It’s not unreasonable to have separate strategies for younger and older congregants, and if this pastor isn’t as effective in his role with the youth, something should change, whether it’s him changing what he does, or replacing him.

      3. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

        Churches need both seniors with money, and youth to eventually fill the position of seniors with money. It’s a very hard balancing act. I was at a church business meeting to watch the senior pastor vs the seniors, who DID NOT want the minor changes the pastor wanted to make, to try to keep the youth engaged. It was brutal, and led to him moving up his retirement date.

        But when the seniors pass on, their church will die if youth don’t stick around. They need to keep that in mind. Is it more important to them to see their positions catered to, or to see their grandchildren remain churched, thus keeping the church alive?

      4. Anon for church*

        Every church and denomination is different, but the ones I’ve been associated with over the past 30 years- the mature congregation doesn’t actually fund everything. They continue to fund at levels they established 20 years before or cut back as they retire. The families with kids in middle/high school/college are the ones that fund the most. Those are the people settled into careers with larger incomes and if their kids are happy and engaged (especially if it’s multiple day a week programming and activity) support the church and those programs. These are the ones that would fund large unrestricted projects and give weekly.

      5. Esmeralda*

        Oh please. “Kids these days…”

        Substitute “too much tv” and “weed” and “punk music” for TikTok and you’ve got the exact complaint that was made about my generation.

        I work with college freshmen primarily, so a little older than OP’s group, but truly, “kids these days” are interesting, earnest, creative, engaged, active, socially aware, passionate about making a difference…they’re delightful and exasperating lol. They keep *me* young.

        I’m not seeing ageism in the OP’s letter. I’m seeing, this guy is not good at working with teens however nice a guy he is and however much the teens may like or respect him as a person. And the question for OP’s church is, do we keep an ineffective person in this job? a person who may be driving away an important constituency because of his ineffectiveness? And what is the kindest and ethical way to move him out?

        Not everyone is suited to work with young people. It’s just what skills and aptitudes you have. Some people, like the youth minister at OP’s church, don’t have those skills and aptitudes, and maybe not the desire either. But that’s not the fault of the kids.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am kind of confused here because I don’t think it’s realistic to expect one leader to offer something for everyone. This is why we hire fill-in people. People who cover the leaders gaps. There is no leader who offers a comprehensive package.

          Typically people relate PIP to dismissal- OP, is this where your group is going? You all want to fire this guy?
          Just wow. Reading through here I feel sorry for the guy.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Where are you seeing that anyone is expecting him to offer something for everyone? He’s the youth pastor and right now the youth are not finding him engaging. That’s an issue.

        2. Pastors Wife*

          I taught grade schoolers at church when I was younger and enjoyed it, up to a point. After 12 years I dreaded showing up, and I’m ashamed to admit many classes toward the end were “Veggie Tales” nights (watch the episode and discuss), because I was so burnt out. I would have appreciated someone asking me to step aside and do something different, even take an older group, and allowing someone else to take the little ones. I did my best, but the last 3-4 years I was phoning it in. Which was definitely an injustice to my students.

          Our problem was, at that point there WASN’T anyone else willing to teach them. I flamed out one night due to a combination of an unreasonable but powerful parent that no one dared cross, except that I did, and stress from personal problems in my then-marriage that my pastor knew about but that wasn’t common knowledge.

          SOMEONE took over after I quit teaching, but I haven’t the foggiest idea who, even though I stayed at that church probably 2 years afterwards. A better support system for the staff would’ve been an immense help. (Not saying that LW’s church isn’t being supportive, by the way.)

      6. Colette*

        I volunteer with teenagers. They are engaged, enthusiastic, and love trying new things. They don’t complain about being bored.

        And their parents pay for them to show up – and if they weren’t having fun, they’d stop showing up, and their parents would stop paying.

      7. Dark Macadamia*

        Teens are human beings worthy of respect, just like adults and children. It’s obvious why YOU find them challenging, but they’re just people.

      8. Librarian of SHIELD*

        A) Teenagers are more than TikTok. The ones I work with are kind and smart and articulate and they’re intent on making the world better. A good youth pastor should be incredibly excited about the current generation of community minded teens.

        B) I don’t think this problem has anything to do with the youth pastor’s age. You can stagnate in any job if you’re in it for long enough, whether or not you’re over 40. The LW’s question is not “how do we get rid of this guy because he is old?” They have realized that to be effective in this role, he needs to do things differently and they’re trying to help him do that.

        C) If I’ve learned anything from the library customers in their 70s and 80s who come in to learn how to use ebooks and streaming video, it’s that you’re not too old to learn new methods and processes until you DECIDE you’re too old. It’s about mindset more than age.

      9. Gerry Keay*

        Yes yes we get it, phone bad, kids bad, get off my lawn I have some clouds to yell at. Like seriously, tell me you haven’t had a conversation with someone under 20 in the past decade without telling me you haven’t had a conversation with someone under 20 in the past decade.

      10. Richard Hershberger*

        My thirteen year old read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. I initially got her the young adult version, but then upgraded to the original. She is currently reading a history of the Bible. It is not even distantly aimed at kids. She doesn’t consider herself a believer, but is amply self aware to want to understand what it is she doesn’t believe. She also enjoys TikTok videos.

      11. Jennifer Strange*

        Personally, I think churches cater too much to “youth” culture while ignoring mature congregants who fund everything. I think it has gone overboard, with some youth feeling “special” and entitled because of all the emphasis on them, I’ve seen it at my church.

        He’s the youth minister. It is literally his job to cater to the youth. Also, without the youth, the church will die out as there will be no one to fund it when the “mature congregants” are gone.

        Please don’t PIP the pastor over this. It’s a bad example for the youth, and does not encourage respect for mature and experienced congregation members.

        First, I doubt the youth will know. Second, how is it a bad example for young people to see that sometimes even good people struggle and may not be able to continue in a position? Third, being “mature and experienced” does not automatically make someone worthy of respect.

      12. Observer*

        I sniff a bit of ageism here,

        Pot, meet kettle.

        Actually, you are doing a LOT of projecting. Because in your case, it’s not just a “bit” of ageism.

        Good luck in engaging teens for more than five minutes in this TikTok culture we live in.

        This is both ageist and stupidly inaccurate.

        It’s a bad example for the youth, and does not encourage respect for mature and experienced congregation members.

        Ah, yes. It’s a TERRIBLE example to teach kids that they deserve the same level of competence in their teachers / pastors / staff as adults do. **sarc**

        This person is so bad at ANY preaching that he’s been banned from preaching to adults. That’s NOT “mature and experienced.

        Why is it reasonable to expect that KIDS should deal better with incompetent staff than adults?

      13. LizM*

        I volunteered with our high school youth group, and teens are more engaged than ever if you make an effort to meet them where they are.

        And while churches don’t need to cater to “youth culture,” the youth pastor absolutely should. Young families will not join a church without an engaging youth group. While it’s all well and good to have lots of programs that cater to more mature members (I can’t tell you how many of our church’s groups meet during the work day, so are clearly aimed at retired members), a church that isn’t attracting young families is a church that is, at best, stagnating.

        It is not a bad example to youth to treat a long-time employee respectfully, but also recognize that they are not performing the core functions of their job well, and give them an opportunity to improve or a dignified off-ramp.

        1. LizM*

          I’ll add, I’ve been at my church for a little over 10 years. A lot of the congregants who had leadership roles when I joined have stepped back, and you have a new crop of leaders (many recently-retired or middle aged) moving in, and the younger families (like mine) are moving into the more supporting roles. It’s a natural cycle, but if the younger families weren’t there, there would be no one to take over coffee duty now that the lead coffee-maker is the lead usher because the lead usher decided that at 80 years old, she doesn’t like having to get to church an hour early every Sunday and just wants to show up and enjoy the service. More mature members don’t grow on trees or materialize out of thin air. And all of the young families at our church started attending because we liked the youth programming for our kids.

      14. BabyElephantWalk*

        Ok. Well not only is your comment outright ageist, but you’re kinda missing the entire point. He is the *youth* pastor. His very job description is engaging the youth, who are bringing in feedback that he is not doing that, and apparently numbers are reflecting a lack of engagement. If he is no longer allowed to lead sermons, that suggests that there are other pastors whose job it is to speak to the entire congregation.

        Unless you are trying to suggest that the youth pastor position shouldn’t exist at all, it seems pretty messed up to suggest that the youth pastor shouldn’t, you know, try to engage the youth.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        Is there any opportunity for him to step into another role and someone else to fill this one? Something administrative, or maybe helm a volunteer project? It’s not fair to him to continue to ask him to do a job that he can’t, and it’s super unfair to the youth to continue to ask them to engage with a youth leader who isn’t willing to meet them where they are. If his preaching isn’t good enough for the whole of the congregation, why is his leadership deemed good enough for the youth? Especially when they are telling you it’s not working.

        That might be the kindest for all involved, but I understand it’s not always practical.

    11. anonymous73*

      The things that would have made me sit up and pay attention as a teen are not the same things that would work with my teenage stepson now. If your job is to engage with youth, you can’t do the same things over and over for years. THAT’S the problem.

    12. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t think it sounds weird at all. He’s been there all these years but now has distracting and tiring health issues, and, let’s face it, we all lose touch with what is appealing as we get further and further away from that age.

      My church is a small congregation and basically has hit a downward spiral because it has a limited pool of possible youth program teachers, who have gotten burned out and are drifting away because . . . we have a limited pool of possible youth program teachers. It’s the same people doing it all the time. And of course once that starts to slide, families leave because there’s nothing to offer their kids.

    13. pancakes*

      I don’t think it’s at all weird to develop a better sense of someone’s shortcomings over time.

  9. Esmeralda*

    #5. No, don’t do that. It’s cutesy and gimmicky and you will not seem professional. Have some photos of yourself with family or friends on your desk.

    You’ll be zooming with your colleagues no doubt, they can see your face then.

    1. Bayta Darrell*

      Exactly. I just started a new job recently and we’re hybrid, so people haven’t seen my face in person but they have over Teams.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Completely agree with your first comment, but why do you think they’ll be zooming? There’re a lot of places which don’t, because it doesn’t work for their particular work. I’d assume OP wouldn’t be worrying about the issue if they were going to be on video calls.

    3. Lore*

      If the job is fully in person, you’ll be masked on Zoom calls, too. (My office just reopened part time and my choosing which days to go in is partly based on which Teams meetings I’d rather attend unmasked, which means from home.)

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I have to be masked so people have the option to walk in to my office and look for me, I’m only permitted to be unmasked behind a locked door during lunch.

  10. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

    #5 – I have seen some customer-facing roles doing this for all their staff, and I think it’s great in that context, but it would be a bit odd if it’s just you. Is there a place you could add a headshot, like a messaging app, email icon, intranet profile, or something like that? (I’m thinking about the places where it might otherwise just show an initial as a default icon.)

    1. TiffIf*

      This is what I was going to suggest–don’t do the button, but upload a pic of yourself as your avatar in your work chat program, Outlook profile, company directory etc.

  11. august*

    I’m not from the US but from where I am in Asia, it’s typical to have a company ID with the person’s picture in it, even for the new hires which maybe not as sturdy but certainly serves better than a button IMO. If your company doesn’t issue IDs I would still say no to a button. It reminds of politicians and elections and all the gimmicky aspects of it.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Many US employers have these too! I’m guessing this LW doesn’t, and I agree it’s too weird to make a button.

    2. SoloKid*

      Most companies I’ve been in (US) also have IDs, but people wear them on their belts where someone isn’t going to bend over to look. I’ve worked mostly in industrial settings where one doesn’t lean over with a lanyard that could get caught in things. I suppose the IDs have been more for badge access than facial recognition too.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Interesting! I’m used to working in environments where photo badges have to be worn above the waist to ensure that person on the badge is the person wearing the badge. I didn’t realize industrial settings would have different requirements. Thanks for sharing!

      1. LavaLamp(she/her)*

        The last place I wore an ID badge was high school. Everyone had to wear their school ID’s on lanyards. None of the jobs I’ve ever had had anything more than one place had secure doors so we had little badges to get in, but they were blank plastic.

    3. Allison*

      I started wearing my work ID on a lanyard for this exact reason! I work as a school counsellor, so it’s important that I can build relationships quickly, and having an actual face helps that.

  12. Jessica Fletcher*

    I remember reading about doctors doing the face button thing, maybe summer of 2020! I thought it was a kind thing to do, to help patients feel more comfortable.

    Assuming you’re not in a patient care environment, it might be a little out of place, but I think it could catch on, depending on the office culture! Just briefly and cheerfully explain why you’re doing it, and see what people think.

    You could also consider ordering masks that have a clear front to show the face. I’ve seen those in videos online, made to use when your friends, family, clients, etc are Deaf and facial expressions are so important to communication. You could get one or two to use in rotation depending on cost, so people sometimes see your face.

    Of course, you might get a name badge with photo that you can wear clipped in a visible area, so this issue might solve itself!

  13. Nikara*

    #1- I’m fascinated to finally see a Personnel committee letter here. My Mom is on one, and has had to deal with essentially firing a Pastor in the last year. Hearing her stories about it, I’d put church personnel stuff in the same category as colleges/universities, with how different the rules can be. Largely because you aren’t just disciplining/firing a specific person, you are also impacting the donations that you may receive from that person’s friends in the church. People leave churches for good based on the decisions made in personnel committees.

    So with that caveat, I definitely think the former approach is a good idea (coming up with a survey/other specific measurables of youth engagement). And maybe finding a college/seminary student intern who could add a little spice to the programming for a few hours a week to help the Pastor out. Another strategy maybe working within the committee/session (I’m a Presbyterian, so I’m not sure if the language is exactly the same) to find a good landing spot for this person- a job they will want to take somewhere else, so that they get to grow in a better direction. This kind of thing (actively finding a job for someone you want to leave) would be crazy in normal hiring, but I’ve definitely seen it in church-world.

    1. Sue*

      I was on a personnel committee at our church when we were having problems with a pastor. We did a survey, met one-on-one for months, wrote up goals and a plan for improvement. We talked about and agree to keep it all confidential, trying very hard to kindly work out the difficulties. After all that, the pastor got up and gave a sermon on how we were all after him, how unfair it was, etc…It was a nightmare and the church has never fully recovered from it. Many congregants (and the pastor) left for good. I sincerely hope you can navigate it better than we did.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I’m sorry. I mentioned above my husband is a minister – a toxic minister can destroy a community before they even know what’s happening. If it helps, that situation is rarely something a church personnel committee can handle alone; my husband’s denomination has specific personnel called interim ministers who come in temporarily t help congregations in crisis, and that’s one of the primary situations they are called in for.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This is one of the greatest benefits of a denominational hierarchy. Congregationalist structures have their advantages, but the disadvantage is that there is no one who can come in and kick some butt when that is what is needed.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Absolutely. My husband’s denomination has a very bottom-up architecture unfortunately, so the congregation usually has to recognize that they need an interim minister on their own – not something most congregations are self-aware enough to do. Frankly, his current community needed an interim minister, not him, but he’s making do with what he’s got.

            Although, I will say that a strict hierarchy creates its own forms of toxicity, like moving the troublesome pastor from place to place rather than actually disciplining them. As always, it’s as much about the people involved as it is about the structure.

          2. Blarls*

            It’s the SBC. Be happy the elders aren’t throwing their weight around. Right now they’re doing their best to obstruct a sex abuse investigation-really makes a PIP look quaint.

            1. SnappinTerrapin*

              That is a constitutional crisis in the Convention. The Executive Committee is defying the orders of the Convention, as expressed by the votes of the messengers sent by the constituent churches that collectively form the voluntary association of churches known as the SBC.

              The process of cleaning up the mess won’t be pretty. But a Baptist officer who defies the self governing churches (or his own self governing church) is on his way out the door.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            Yes, it was well done. Actually my husband kept saying, “I’m stealing that homily….I’m going to use that.” Obviously not Bev’s sermons or motivations ◥(ºᵥᵥº)◤

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I posted up above about maybe working as a group to help this youth minister find another way to serve – you aren’t trying to push him out, your trying to find ways to let him still serve that aren’t as hard on his health.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        This is a great idea, IMO — especially in light of his apparent health challenges.

      2. Qwetry*

        Phrasing “For our and our teens’ good” as “For your own good” is patronizing and insulting. Don’t do it.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Agreed. It’s okay to want different things from a church program, just like it’s okay for a business to decide they need to change a role’s responsibilities.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I didn’t phrase that well – should know better than to post late at night. What I meant/was trying for is to work with the youth pastor to see if he can turn things around with the programs he is currently running – but if it’s not to go ahead and have a conversation where you let him know that you value him greatly, but the needs are changing. Let’s work together to find something else for you so we can get a new minister who more fits what we need in the youth program.

      3. Cj*

        What I don’t like about it is they’re putting him on a PIP at his annual review because he didn’t meet metrics he was never told he was supposed to, since they are just coming up with these metrics now.

        Sorry if this is a double post but I don’t see it else where.

        1. Venus*

          I think he knows what was needed to do well in the role. I don’t think the LW was asking how to broach this topic from the beginning, but rather “How do I quantify metrics that have been qualitative, so that we can make it obvious that he hasn’t been performing well enough for many years?”

          I think it is reasonable to add metrics to a PIP if someone has been told “You aren’t making enough widgets” for years and they haven’t improved despite training and conferences and support, and then the PIP says “We need you to make 20 widgets a month, same as all the other employees” when they have been lucky to make 2 per month. It is never a good situation, but a PIP isn’t a termination, it is a last chance to improve.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree. Maybe I just missed something, but it didn’t seem clear to me whether anyone had talked about this with the pastor yet. If they’ve been suggesting this to him and he’s been blowing it off then that would make sense. But if not, then I think a PIP seems extreme for what sounds like “you did a good job for a long time but now we want you to try something different.” I mean, I guess technically they are wanting him to improve his performance and therefore a performance improvement plan sounds reasonable… but I guess it just feels like there should be a less formalized attempt to fix things first!

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My experience with churches is limited to Orthodox/Coptic, so I’m unfamiliar with set-ups like the LW describes, but I was wondering if they had an Elder Pastor? That might be a good role for someone who isn’t connecting with the younger people, but still wants to contribute.

      5. Lady_Lessa*

        My SBC experience has been that Youth Ministers tend to be relatively short term. They are fresh out of seminary and are on job 1 or 2.

        Orchestra, I like your idea of encouraging him to move toward a different ministry, perhaps the home bound or senior adult might be better.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think we’ve had a few church questions over the years, but they are rare. In my limited experience (in a previous role I consulted with Baptist churches, though I never worked in one) I think you are right. Baptist churches, particularly because they are often small and not governed by a larger body, can be very odd places- like all of the problems with a family business, plus a side order of strangeness of a non-profit, and a splash of management by committee. I think the role of the committee here is to both try to get some better youth programing (your pastoral student idea is excellent and most states with a seminary have trainee pastors who need internship hours), as well as be as fair as possible to the man leading the teen programing. Can you hire a college student assistant who might bring some new blood/ideas? Plus, I think the church needs to see you working with him to try to make changes, but also supporting him. I’ve seen this go bad (sometimes in wild ways, I have stories… man do I have stories), but it can also really be a way to revive your teen programing for the better. Good luck, LW#1, I do not envy you this problem.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Many years ago I had a Baptist roommate. He explained to me that Baptist churches all have similar polities on paper, but in practice come in two flavors: either the deacons run the church with an iron hand and can and will fire the pastor on a dime, or the deacons are in the pastor’s pocket and the church is a de facto monarchy. From the first sort you get those stories of the deacons hauling the pastor down from the pulpit in the middle of his sermon. From the second sort you get those stories of the authoritarian pastors, with everything that follows. Coming from a different tradition, both seem to me terrible ways to run a church, but I am biased.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          From past comments I believe we come from very similar traditions. I’ve unfortunately seen a charismatic pastor take over even in our set-up, but while it was eventually easier because the structure above the congregation helped move him along (and kept tabs on him at his next call) it still did do damage to us as a congregation in the short term.

            1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              Well, hi there! I was thinking your comments sounded an awful lot like our crew. The “ok we have bishops but in fact we’re really pretty congregational” line is a fun one to walk indeed.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                I am not enamored of the ELCA hierarchy. Too many really want more centralized authority. The saving grace is that the individual congregations control their own real estate and bank accounts. This constrains how much the hierarchy can force matters, while still giving them room to be actually useful.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            And yes, the destructive charismatic pastor can strike even Lutheran congregations, but it is unusual, and there are procedures for limiting damage.

    4. My dear Wormwood*

      True, people do leave congregations because they feel leaders have been pushed out, but then others leave because there are chronic staff problems not being addressed. I can definitely understand the OP’s hope that some middle course can be found but…yeah, they might have to decide which ultimately hurts the congregation less.

  14. Brain the Brian*

    LW1: Try reaching out to nearby public highly schools and see how they measure the effectiveness of the adult leaders for their extracurricular activities. Do they have tools they can share with you that they use to measure teens’ engagement in those activities, attainment of the skills or knowledge base that the activity is intended to teach or engender in participants, or other factors that they consider relevant? For example, they may use a simple pre-post survey of students to see if students have grown any over the course of a several-month activity, or they may look the overall quality of, say, artwork or poetry that a cohort of students produce in a given activity. I suggest public schools because private schools may be less willing to share this kind of information restrictions on sharing internal toolsets, but private schools might honestly be better at it than a lot of public schools.

    There are ways to measure the effectiveness of any youth educator, pastor or not — you just have to find what might work for your situation, and be ready to present your findings to this pastor in a way that affords him the grace he will need as he presumably transitions away from this role. Either way, having a way to measure how engaging and effective your teen Bible study course and other activities are after he leaves will be important to determining whether you want to keep his replacement long-term.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      Public community center programs may have publicly available data such as reports to justify their existence and funding.

    2. Ganymede*

      Also, consider giving the next person in the job a renewable contract. Then you have something to hang their potential transition on if they don’t work out. Perhaps make the first year probationary as well. It sounds like the current guy didn’t have a contract, so there are no terms to refer to.

      Of course, if you give the new person a contract, you might need to start giving everyone a contract – if they don’t have one already. This might be a chance to revamp your whole HR approach. I’m from the UK and pretty much everyone has a work contract – I may be wrong, but I believe it’s less common in the US, where one can be fired without cause, with no notice etc. but can also quit without notice. I just googled “Anglican Church contract of employment” and came up with some interesting results, although of course these reference British law. There will be resources online that can help you think about the terms of employment you might want to include, and why.

      1. Ganymede*

        And I also agree with what other people have said about courses/professional development. Make that part of the job in future if you want your Youth workers to stay current.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Yep yep yep! Definitely make both of these requirements for future hires, and perhaps even institute the second one with the current pastor going forward.

  15. Holly Dolly*

    As a Southern Baptist that has served in a paid role on church staff, I think there needs to be some convos soon. Also, the writer mentioned health concerns. Major Heath concerns can very much affect people’s jobs. I think you can have honest conversations about the expectations and ASK if there are ways to support the youth minister. Also, as a Christian, praying for someone is going to do way more than writing a PIP or a letter ever could.

    1. KateM*

      But as a Christian, it would never enter your head that many people of his church in all probability have already prayed and prayed, so that part has been done and now they seek for further help?

    2. tg*

      TBH, I think praying for someone, and thinking about how something like a PIP or letter might help aren’t mutually exclusive.

    3. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      Calling bullshit on your as a Christian comment. Work issues should be addressed as such, in this temporal realm, not directed to prayer.

      Imagine being told “well, we prayed for you to be better at your job, but never told you that we weren’t pleased” at any point in your life.

      1. Lance*

        This. Praying for someone does not help their work product; you need to actually talk to them.

      2. Gray Lady*

        Is this fair? Holly Dolly mentioned having conversations as well as having prayer. He didn’t pit the two against one another except to say that prayer is more powerful. That’s not the same as thing as saying it should be used to the exclusion of addressing the issues.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          The statement was “praying for someone is going to do far more than writing a PIP… ever could.” So, yup, my initial reaction (even if typed in an insomniac haze) seems more than fair – the statement is sanctimonious excrement in any context related to work performance.

          It is literally saying that you think someone is more likely to change because you wish hard for it, than if you lay out clear expectations of what you want to see – and a corollary to that thought is that if they can’t/don’t change, it must be because a deity wills that they should fail in that position. None of the issue lies with the managers/oversight who didn’t actually act to help that person improve, but just sat and silently wished for improvements to appear.

          We would never accept that sentiment in any letter or comment about a workplace that was not religiously focused. We are doing everyone involved a disservice if we accept it simply because this workplace IS.

        2. pancakes*

          “She didn’t pit the two against one another except for the part where she did precisely that.” Come on, now.

        3. kate*

          Sounds fair to me. Honestly, the whole “praying for someone is going to do way more than writing a PIP or a letter ever could” just comes across to me as totally illogical. Instead of explicitly stating expectations or defining metrics to measure improvement, it’s better to….think really hard about what you want someone else to do? Honestly it isn’t just illogical- it’s ridiculous.

    4. agnes*

      Youth pastoring is challenged and what engages kids changes rapidly. I also think your PIP could include attending various trainings available to youth pastors on how to continually engage youth. Our youth pastor goes to a lot of them. Is there also a successful youth pastor in the area who could mentor him?

    5. ThatGirl*

      Wait so you think praying is going to magically help someone see what they’re doing wrong and how they should adapt? Asking God to intervene is not a substitute for having difficult conversations with people.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        The two go hand in hand. One key factor is that praying for the well being of the employee they need to talk to helps keep them focused on the principle that everything the church does – including its personnel decisions – ought to be done in a spirit of love, and with a view toward making the church’s ministry more effective.

        Although the context was of one member feeling wronged by another, Paul of Tarsus wrote some sound advice for church members to follow in talking through their differences with each other. I’m sure the LW is familiar with those letters.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Praying for yourself to gain some clarity and focus is great. I do not think praying for someone else will do a bit of good in this situation; it will only serve to make the person praying FEEL like they have done something.

  16. JM60*

    #5 FWIW, for me, one of the benefits of the pandemic is that I could hide my face and care less about apparences.

    1. JKB78*

      Agreed! My face hasn’t aged out of the acne phase (please let it be a phase!!) and the mask hides that. Food stuck in teeth? No one sees it! Terrible case of the yawns? Others don’t start yawning too! I sorta wish we could keep the mask forever, but I should really go see my dentist anyway about the tartar on my teeth. Darn it.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – from the standpoint of Junior Orchestra masks are wonderful because nobody gets to see the full mouth of metal the orthodontist is currently insisting upon. The orthodontists in our area are actually designing advertising campaigns about now with masks being a great time for “stealth braces.”

    3. Gracely*

      For real. The only makeup I have to bother with now is eye make up, and I only do that if I want to; when maskless I feel like I need to wear makeup because I always always have acne. Mask wearing has been so nice in that regard.

      Also, just nooooo to buttons. No no no no.

      1. HS Teacher*

        That, and the fact that I haven’t had a cold or flu in over a year, are why I’m never going to stop masking.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Except now they demand to see “smiling faces” over Zoom. I get a lot more of that now than I ever did IRL.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I’m not sure ‘endearing’ is really what you want to b going for starting a new job. Professional is much more important.

    2. Roscoe*

      I think some people will see it that way, and others will find it ridiculous. As the new person, I’m not sure you want to make that kind of first impression

  17. Roeslein*

    OP#4, I think some people might (wrongly I assume, as I’m sure it’s not how you mean it) interpret this as implying parents who work long and flexible hours are somehow not prioritising their kids as much. I work 60-70 hours a week at the moment for various reasons. Of course my child is still my priority – as Alison says, it should go without saying.

    1. Casper Lives*

      Yes, saying it like that is odd in an interview. I think OP should mention her hours aren’t flexible. Try to see if the interviewer uses wishy-washy language about regular comp time or regular overtime.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      The phrasing makes #4 sound rarin’ for an argument, which doesn’t really make sense in an interview. At that stage, even if they didn’t find the strict schedule or any other priority reasonable, they’re not going to get into a back and forth about it. They’ll just move on to someone else. I get the instinct to be clear about one’s dealbreakers up front, but the framing is needlessly antagonistic. It comes across almost like a challenge.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Agreed, the phrasing comes across as antagonistic. It would be better to ask the pertinent questions rather than make demands.
        I think everyone has priorities when they are looking for a new job. PTO is very important to me, but I ask specific questions on how often people really take vacation and if they are disturbed while on vacation. If I stated, “Vacation is my priority,” it could easily be interpreted that I plan on pushing the limit on vacation time and that vacation is more important than the work I’d be hired to do.

      2. BRR*

        Re: rarin for an argument. I think that’s what is bothering me the most about the phrasing (the parent persona vs work person comment below is another thing that sticks out). It’s very strong language. I think the lw could use gentler wording that gets at the same thing

      3. T. Boone Pickens*

        Agreed, I picked up on that as well and would be curious as to the tone and expressiveness at which LW #4 gave that statement. I’ve been in a few dozen interviews where a candidate has made that type of statement over the years and outside of 1 or 2 they typically all had…not quite a hostile tone to them but a, “Don’t you dare ever ask me to deviate one iota from my hours or job description ever.”

      4. Groove Bat*

        I agree the phrasing sounds unnecessarily antagonistic. Frankly, the part that bothered me most was not the “my son is the priority” part, but that OP mentioned several times that they didn’t need to work, were prepared to walk away, and could afford to be picky. If that is what is being communicated to employers, I would find that more problematic.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Right, it’s like the OP is going in with a defensive stance and if that’s the case that could be communicated through more than just the specific phrasing (though the phrasing is also problematic). I’ve interviewed people before who have talked a lot about their kids or special care they need, and that’s fine! But usually they’re conveying it in a way that elicits sympathy, not that makes me feel like I’m threatening their time with their child in some way.

          Example: I have a child with special needs who has taken a lot of my time over the last x years, and I’m a little nervous about returning to the workforce. I’d need to work with you to create a strict schedule we can stick to, my time has to be really structured.

          Versus: My child is my priority there will be no variation in my hours and if that won’t work I don’t need this job that badly.

          The latter is probably not as harsh as OP is actually speaking but tone and body language could still convey that sentiment.

        2. Lego Leia*

          From reading the letter here, I don’t understand why the letter writer was applying for jobs. They don’t really seem to care about working.

      5. BethDH*

        Yes, this expresses what I couldn’t about why I found the letter setting me on edge. It is expecting that work and parenting will be in conflict. It’s like when someone comes out of a job with a toxic boss and feels the need to say in their next interview that they’ll prioritize their mental health over pleasing the boss.

      6. Smithy*

        The phrasing can be seen as antagonistic – but even if it doesn’t – it may also not be super helpful in actually figuring out what someone means. For some people having your kids being your #1 priority means working as many hours as possible because them being a priority means generating income. For other people, having kids be a #1 priority means being able to have time off around a school/daycare calendar.

        Because there is that ambiguity in what it means to put kids as a #1 priority into practice, it can unintentionally set up tension when that’s not the point. Ultimately, the OP may have a lot more in common with part-time students or creatives when it comes to needing a fixed schedule and never staying late compared to other parents.

        Additionally, by only calling out what it means work wise and not personal life wise – the OP may gain some insight on why she’s not having success with the specific kinds of jobs she’s applying for. If she’s largely been applying for part-time work that has a significant coverage factor for smaller workplaces (i.e. working a front desk on a small team), then having that increased scheduling rigidity for that kind of part-time work may not be the best fit. And it may open up conversations for the OP to hear that rather than more narrow insight just on the parenting piece.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      Moreover, nearly every workplace has parents*, most of whom are working around their childrens’ and partner’s schedules to some degree, and many of whom have home-related hard stops during the day / week / month.

      MOST kids are their parents’ priority, even if the kids are neurotypical and/or semi-self-sufficient, which obviously is not a safe assumption; many people have complex home situations or kids that need extra attention or time.

      This is not a foreign concept or one that bears announcing at the top of every interview.

      While obviously LW 4 is exactly right to be carefully considering her home schedule as she ramps up to work, and it is important to choose a workplace that accommodates its employees well … LW does not want to insinuate — or, frankly, think — that she is unique or special in having a difficult or complex home schedule that is inflexible and critically important to her. Absolutely select a workplace that will accommodate your schedule, but it’s not a good idea to go around thinking — or coming dangerously close to announcing — that your kids and inflexible home schedule are more important than anyone else’s kids and inflexible home schedule.

      Not every workplace can accommodate your inflexible home schedule, but it’s on you as the job seeker to ask the right questions to select for that hard-core, not on the office to treat you differently because you have announced that you have kids and an inflexible home schedule.

      *Obviously you don’t need to be a parent specifically to have non-work hard stops that can influence your work schedule.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        This seems like a very uncharitable response! LW hasn’t said she’s expecting the employer to treat her differently from other workers: she said she’s looking for a job with flexible/part-time hours. And she’s also said her child is disabled, which may make a huge difference to how flexible she can be: if mainstream childcare options / wraparound care can’t accommodate her child, then yeah, she’s got way less flexibility and fewer options than many other parents. She’s not asking for special treatment, she’s literally looking for a job that will let her work around her child’s needs.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Gahhh, I wrote a long answer and my iPad ate it. Long story semi-short, I’m not trying to be mean at all. But LW4 will not be the only one with an outside-life-based hard stop at 4:15 every day.

          There are lots of parents in the workforce with all kinds of challenging family situations. Her announcing it up top in interviews, combined with her having been out of the workforce for some time, point to her not being fully aware that her situation may be very challenging within her household, but not so unique that she should expect that employers will be surprised and need to make special accommodations.

          If an employer can’t accommodate her, it’s not the right employer.

          1. bamcheeks*

            But there is absolutely nothing to say that she is expecting the employer “to make special accommodations”. She says, “I have been very clear that my hours are not flexible”. That’s not, “please rearrange your workplace for unique special me”, it’s “here is my availability, will that work for you?” How else can she find out whether they are the right employer except by asking?

            1. bamcheeks*

              (I don’t want to have a go at you, but I am interested in how many people seem to looking for ways to interpret a parent saying, “I have to work around my child, will that work or not?” — and being completely happy to accept “no it won’t”– as asking for special treatment, being unfair on their potential colleagues, insinuating that they are more important than other people or whatever. I think there’s some strong unconscious bias happening here: I think people are quite uncomfortable with a worker setting that boundary, and looking for a way to rationalise it as “she has clearly done something wrong here” which isn’t justified at all.)

              1. EngGirl*

                I don’t necessarily think that’s a fair interpretation though. LW4 may not be asking for accommodation at all but she is writing into an advice blog to ask of hiring managers are seeing this as an issue, so to me that sounds as if she’s not completely happy with “no it won’t”. Maybe I’m misinterpreting! I think it would really depend on what specifically the letter writer is asking for.

                1. Bamcheeks*

                  I think she’s absolutely clear what she’s asking! Her needs are non-negotiable and she is prepared to walk away if they can’t meet them, but she doesn’t know if there’s a better way to express them.

                  I totally agree with people saying that “my child is my priority” isn’t a statement that works in an interview any more than “I just want the salary” does, but “think[ing] that she is unique or special” and “thinking that your kids and inflexible home schedule are more important than anyone else’s kids and inflexible home schedule” sound like moral judgments, and the LW has said nothing to suggest she thinks either of these things.

                2. Cj*

                  I think her specific question is saying “my child is my priority” a problem. Which it is. Wording it as “these are the hours I’m available, does that work for you” still gives both her and the employer the information they need, but comes across entirely differently.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  In my experience it actually doesn’t give you the information you need– as I’ve said below, I was much more general about, “I have young children, what flexibility does this job offer” at an earlier stage of my career and it didn’t really work out well. Their idea of being flexible wasn’t actually useful to me at all, and it was really stressful trying to meet their expectations. With my current job I was as honest as I could be about what I needed and why before I accepted the job, and made sure that those were terms my new employer was happy with. “These are the hours I’m available, does that work for you” doesn’t tell you much about last-minute flexibility, the approach to start and finish times, how you might handle a flare-up of a child’s disease or disability, etc, which might be critical information. A more general conversation about what you need and why gets into some of that nuance.

                  I don’t think an interview is an appropriate place to do that, but if OP’s working availability is constrained, my advice is to be detailed and specific about what they need, and about why they need it at the offer stage, because it’ll mean both them and the employer understand the terms of the acceptance.

              2. mophie*

                Saying, “my children are my priority,” when most people in the office probably have children does come off as a bit entitled (I am not sure that’s the right word). Because the fact that you’re saying it means that you’re implying that it’s not for other people. Which comes off as either you thinking you’re special or signaling that you’re going to be unreasonable.

                No, she didn’t ask for accomodation. But she is setting it up as “my needs as a parent are more important than everyone else’s”

                Better to give them your availability and see if it’s acceptable, like Alison said.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  genuinely, I would find anyone who heard, “My children are my priority” as an implicit judgment on other people’s priorities to be wildly touchy. I don’t think it’s a useful thing to say in an interview because it doesn’t give the employer useful, actionable information or get the applicant useful or actionable information, but the idea that it’s entitled or offensive just bizarre to me.

                2. GammaGirl1908*

                  I would find anyone who heard, “My children are my priority” as an implicit judgment on other people’s priorities to be wildly touchy.

                  You’re right that such a statement shouldn’t be a touchpoint, but … the fact is that it IS a touchpoint for a lot of people. We all encounter people whose response to hearing a neutral “I like X” is to leap to “What? What’s wrong with Y? And why don’t you like Z?” Suddenly I’m on the defensive when all I wanted was to have salmon instead of roast beef.

                  And then there are a LOT of parent-shamers out there making statements about how they choose to organize their family situation and indeed intending them as judgments.

                3. mophie*

                  I don’t think it’s wildly touchy. It’s the context. Going out on a first data and saying “my children are a priority” is one thing. Saying it in a job interview is another. Since the phrase has nothing objective or actionable, it’s meant to try to reflect your values.
                  This may be a strained analogy, but it would be like a new basketball player coming into the locker room and announcing to his new teammates, “I’m here to win.” Sure it’s an obvious statement. But it goes without saying. Announcing it to everyone else, who are certainly also there to win, implies that you think you want it more to everyone else.

              3. Observer*

                but I am interested in how many people seem to looking for ways to interpret a parent saying, “I have to work around my child, will that work or not?” — and being completely happy to accept “no it won’t”– as asking for special treatment,

                Because that’s not really the issue that people are addressing. What people are addressing is that the OP is very much sounding like she IS unique for prioritizing the child and that she does have an especially difficult issue going on.

                A lot of people hearing “my son is my priority” are going to be thinking “well, duh. What exactly are you trying to tell me?”

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              Frankly, we don’t know what LW4 is asking for, only that her “hours are not flexible” as a result of her son. I don’t know what that means, especially with a child with an unspecified disability and with possible need for doctor/therapist/etc. appointments. Does she need 11 am to 1 pm off every other day? Hard stop at 3 pm every day? Or is it simply someone who is looking for a classic 8-5 slot with zero overtime flexibility?

              I do think the wording is probably offputting and there could be a way of softening it. I think the majority of parents would say that their child is their priority but not necessarily in those words in a job interview.

            3. Colette*

              “My son is my priority” makes me wonder whether she’ll call in because she’s decided to accompany her son’s class on a field trip, or because it’s sunny and she wants to go to the park with him. It makes me wonder whether she’s going to want to be off every school holiday, as well as every time he is sick or has an appointment.

              It’s not that he isn’t her priority – of course he is! – but the way she’s phrasing it makes it seem like she’s going to show up at work whenever there’s nothing more interesting she could be doing with/for her son.

              There’s a difference between “if something urgent happens with my son, I have to deal with it” and “any time work conflicts with something I could do with my son, work loses”.

              1. BlueKazoo*

                This is similar to my line of thinking. Especially if she’s sharing that her son is disabled. I suspect people may interpret that as she’ll not infrequently drop everything mid-shift and go pick him up. Sure all parents get that occasional call that their kid is sick. But fair or not, emphasizing your kid comes first suggests to others that you’re looking for something beyond the normal consideration.

                And I think that is the root of the question. LW is concerned about how her phrasing is coming across in interviews. Speculation about if she thinks her circumstances are special isn’t helpful IMO. She’s asking how is this coming across. What LW does with that info is her business. It may well be that her circumstances are special! And she does need more accommodation because of her son. In which case she will have to consider whether working is feasible at this juncture.

              2. Avril Ludgateau*

                “My son is my priority” makes me wonder whether she’ll call in because she’s decided to accompany her son’s class on a field trip, or because it’s sunny and she wants to go to the park with him. It makes me wonder whether she’s going to want to be off every school holiday, as well as every time he is sick or has an appointment.

                Heaven forbid! We can’t have the wage slaves making such outrageous demands as “work-life balance” and “completely reasonable PTO and expectations that they can use it”, especially in the light of the highest period of human productivity in recorded history.

                Sarcasm aside. I’m surprised Alison has not mentioned that if “my son is my priority” is indeed harming the LW’s chances… That may well fall into discrimination based on family status. This knowledge may not help LW unless she can prove it, of course, but it should certainly color the way we talk about this scenario. There is a reason these exact discussions and trains of thought, in the context of an actual hiring committee, would be illegal, and I’m a bit surprised at the direction of comments here, where people tend to be pretty informed and invested in things like business ethics and legality.

                I would also advise LW to stick to “my hours are firm and I am only available from X:00 to Y:00” without an explanation of why, but I would recognize that I am advising such precisely because of the judgment and discrimination that any further explanation would invite.

            4. Mockingjay*

              It’s not what OP says, it’s how she’s saying it. The phrasing she uses draws a line in the sand, which seems oddly antagonistic or unusually blunt for an interview situation. She can get the info she needs in a conversational manner, inquiring about standard work hours or shifts. The answer will tell her whether the job will work for her. She doesn’t have to tell them why she prefers certain hours.

              “Can you tell me about the working hours?”
              “We have two shifts, morning and early afternoon.”
              “Mornings would be perfect for me. Does the schedule switch much?”
              And so on.

        2. J.B.*

          I’m working full time with very challenging kids right now, to the point where I have considered quitting at times. The only context I would bring that up in work is to quit or perhaps go on FMLA. I wouldn’t address it that way in and interview and wouldn’t love hearing it.

        3. Roscoe*

          Everything isn’t uncharitable. My god, people have started saying any criticism is “unkind or uncharitable”

          GammaGirl made some very valid points, and its more or less how I read it. Even if OP didn’t mean it that way, when you are interviewing, perception is important, and its easy to see how an employer can perceive it that way.

        4. V. Anon*

          I think GammaGirl is right though. The LW is looking to improve her interview performance. It IS possible she’s pissing people off and they’re too polite to show it. My daughter is absolutely my priority, and I have had it both insinuated and stated bluntly that that probably isn’t true because I work full time. Coming in with really blunt language about parenting might be coming off to interviewers like a criticism of women who work. Which would definitely make me not want to hire her. I can accommodate your schedule, but I do NOT want someone on the team announcing every time she’s in that SHE makes her kid a priority (implying that no one else does). We can’t be sure that LW needs to soften/recalibrate her language, but it’s a valid thing consideration.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          Sure, she hasn’t said she’s expecting that, but the way she’s phrased what she is saying implies it. That’s the point. By saying what she was saying in the interviews, she was not communicating what she (hopefully) intended and was perhaps unintentionally communicating that she is expecting her employer to treat her differently from other workers.

    4. Amaranth*

      The pandemic has also limited a lot of after school programs an employer might normally expect a parent to take advantage of to allow a 9-5 schedule, so they might be more flexible as a matter of course right now. OP might want to be sure they aren’t framing it as ‘until things get back to normal’ on the company side.

    5. Daisy*

      Yeah, it’s like announcing ‘I only work so I can get paid!’ in an interview – obviously true, but off-putting to state for no reason.

      Also, pretty much 100% of people I know with part-time jobs are doing it to work around childcare. I doubt that’s going to be an alien concept to them.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, given the number of mothers who’ve flat-out told me that they care more about their children than I do because they either stay at home or only work part-time, I would likely take that away from a candidate emphasizing that their child is their priority. (And my spouse, who is male, is the Greatest Dad Ever for things like dropping the kids off at school or taking my daughter to an activity – don’t get me started. I mean, *I* think he’s the Greatest Dad Ever, but not because my kids make it to school fed and wearing clothes.)

      My children are my highest priority, and one of them has special needs that require more support and interventions intervention than most children their age (so I also get feedback about “babying” my teenager – so may people I know are on an information diet to avoid their commentary). For us, my insane job is PART of that prioritization plan because we use the hazard pay from my insane job and the flexibility and government healthcare of spouse’s job to put together a plan that works for our family. Therapy, behavioral interventions, and medication aren’t free, and our jobs provide the means to have access to those things.

      Frankly, someone’s dog or parents or SO could be their highest priority, all I care about is how does whatever your priority is impact your ability to do the job?

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

    #1 what specific programming changes do you want from the pastor? If you’re going to put him on a PIP but you can’t articulate anything beyond “he’s boring” I think your oversight group or the Senior Pastor is part of the problem for not giving him clear goals and actionable items all along. He’s doing what he’s always done and been successful(?) at. Give him a list of what you want to add…IDK — video games, social media presence, bible trivia, music, scavenger hunts, interpretive dance — and see if he can plan and implement it. If not, then you have a objective reason why he should step down.

    1. Artemesia*

      Sad to think they would have to do his program planning for him in order to justify getting rid of someone who apparently doesn’t plan interesting and engaging programs.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, this isn’t reasonable. Program planning is part of the job description; while it’s kind to offer suggestions, particularly if the teens have asked for specific things, they shouldn’t be taking over part of his role.

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

        They aren’t doing the planning, just asking him to plan and implement something specific. My boss doesn’t just gesture vaguely in the direction of my computer and say “do creative graphic design…things” I’m given a goal…”you’ll take on the new alpaca grooming marketing. We want to highlight their wool products.” All of the particulars are mine to figure out and deliver, but I’m given more management than “don’t be boring”.

    2. bamcheeks*

      This assumes that the youth pastor’s job is simply to plan and implement a programme which is decided by his bosses: it’s completely possible that, “know what kind of activities will attract young people” is part of the youth pastor job description, and that’s the bit that he’s struggling with.

      An alternative might be to define “identify the kinds of new activities that would attract young people” as an action point, and provide suggestions on how to do that, like, “research successful youth programmes at other churches”; “run sessions with young people to find out their needs”; “establish a voluntary youth leader position to provide a young person’s voice into decision making”; “supervise an intern with a focus on developing new activities” and so on. That gives him some clear objectives to meet without taking the “designing the programme” part of his job away from him.

  19. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

    OP#2, I can add my own experience. I am a hiring manager, and I have never once looked at a time stamp as to what time a job application came in, When I have a position I am hiring, I review resumes and cover letters when I can – sometimes that is during the work day, and sometimes that is after hours.
    I have never heard of this idea that you must apply to a job between 9am to 5pm. I went to college too (and worked at my college career office) and was never told this.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Same here. I always looked at applications in batches as they came in. When they came in made no difference at all.

  20. Clydesdales and Coconuts*

    #1… How about instead of removing old reliable’s dignity with a PIP, you utilize the opportunity to revamp the youth program and engage the older teens in developing activities and programs for the younger kids that will take the old boring stuff and make it fit better with the current age groups attending. Not only are you giving these kids a chance to better absorb the material, but you might give them the opportunity to develop some sort of portfolio in the process that can showcase their individual skills. ..

    1. Jackalope*

      Being on a PIP is hard, but I wouldn’t say it removes someone’s dignity. It can be done kindly and with grace even when the ultimate job is removing someone from their position.

      And having the older kids help plan works to an extent, but they have someone paid in this position for a reason. I had a job where I had to come up with this sort of programming and it was HARD at first. And the most recent youth pastor at my church had a specific program of mentorship with some of our teams (where they would work with younger kids one afternoon a week), and from what I remember she put a LOT of work into it. I think it was a success, but it definitely wasn’t something where she could just hand them the reins and walk away, at least not at first. Maybe their current youth pastor would find it easier to supervise that than to do it himself, but that really might not be the case.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Getting older kids involved in planning and implementing programs for younger kids takes MORE work, skill and enthusiasm on the part of the youth minister than what he is doing now.

    2. MK*

      Who is going to organize this revamp and engage the older children? That sounds like something the youth pastor should do to me. You are basically suggesting that someone else should do this guy’s job for him and let him take the rewards.

      1. Allonge*

        This. It’s not OP’s job to do the pastor’s job for them.

        Also PIPs are not about removing people’s dignity. It’s a performance improvement plan, it’s a structural way of letting people know what they should do better to remain in their job. Firing them outright and publishing a bulletin on why would be removing their dignity.

        1. Super Duper*

          This. If the church is going to have employees, it needs to manage them professionally and appropriately. The youth pastor has a job to do. Failing to hold him to a professional standard for his work is just that, a failure.

          It’s also unfair and counterproductive to the church community to allow someone who can’t perform their job to stay on indefinitely, in the name of “dignity.” What about the kids who want dynamic programming and aren’t getting it? If I were a parent in that church, I’d be incredibly disappointed that the leadership was prioritizing one person keeping a job they can’t or won’t perform adequately over my kids’ engagement in our faith community.

    3. Bibliothecarial*

      I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think older teens would have the time to plan programs for the younger ones, what with school and homework and sports and all. At this church it seems like it’s a full-time job! Plus, a church would want to make sure the programs had accurate doctrine and theological teaching, hence the need for a pastor.

  21. short'n'stout*

    OP5 has reminded me of the Before Times, when I was in a job where we had to be masked, gowned, and wear head-coverings for specific workplace safety reasons. There were colleagues whose faces I never saw. On the occasion where one of them greeted me in the corridor, I was confused for a second, until I recognised her voice!

  22. Bayta Darrell*

    LW 2, please tell your husband that I recently did a job search where I *exclusively* researched and applied outside of 9 to 5 hours, and got several interviews and two offers. I submitted at night, sometimes even at like 2 am on a Saturday, and had no issues.

  23. Person from the Resume*

    LW#4, I’d be concerned that you’re outright saying that means if your kid gets sick or schools close again (or even school holidays) you will be missing work to care for him versus making plans to find alternate care with family or spouse or baby sitters.

    Even in a PT job with a fixed schedule that will never need you to work before/after school, you’re very aggressively conveying that your child is your priority (fine) but it seems like it may still impact your availability to work times you are committed to.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, and given the fact that the LW doesn’t need to work, would just like to do something she could get paid for while their son’s in school, that’s probably true. Such jobs are hard to find. Even unpaid volunteer gigs usually require some sort of commitment to a schedule.

      1. just a random teacher*

        If she does specifically want a job that matches with her kid’s school schedule, and is willing to be open to a wider range of types of jobs to achieve that, she might want to try looking at positions in local schools (probably not the specific one her kid goes to, but a different neighborhood’s elementary school or a different level of school, ideally in the same district). There are a ton of openings this year because of a combination of burnout and people not wanting to be exposed to COVID, and some of the classified ones match really closely to the student year and don’t always work on the teacher work days and such (others work a schedule similar to teachers, and still others are year-round).

        Several of the best special education aides I’ve worked with were parents of students who took jobs in the school system for the schedule. Some of volunteered as room mothers when their kids were little, then applied for an actual job in the district as their kid got older and didn’t want them hanging around their specific class.

        1. Amaranth*

          Also, if LW feels that being out of the market for is part of the reason they are struggling to find the kind of jobs they want, volunteering might be a great way to get more recent experience.

        2. Nutrition worker*

          Yes, looking for jobs at your child’s school or even a school in the same district can give you the same days off as well as summers. I know you said office jobs, but at least in my district we have so many openings available in nutrition services, both full & part time and like a random teacher stated, there are so many different openings in schools right now, many not requiring experience. We are to the point at my school that we’ll pretty much take anyone that can pass the background check, they are that desperate.

    2. bamcheeks*

      you will be missing work to care for him versus making plans to find alternate care with family or spouse or baby sitters

      I mean, yes, surely this is what the vast majority of working parents do when a child is ill? Unless you have a non-working spouse or local grandparents / other family who are able to drop everything and be available at short notice. one parent in a couple will need to take time off work to look after an ill child.

      Maybe this is a yawning cultural divide, but I have never heard of anyone being able to organise short-notice paid babysitting for an ill child, unless you’re in the income bracket where you have a full-time nanny or something, both from the point of view of most childcare workers not wanting to care for an ill child and most ill children needing someone very familiar and comforting around.

      Every time childcare comes up on AAM, I am truly shocked by how many people seem to think, a) childcare is always purchasable or otherwise findable, regardless of financial constraints or the needs of the child, and b) parents should always purchase or otherwise find childcare in order to prioritise work, regardless of financial constraints or the needs of the child. Even at short notice. And it contrasts spectacularly with a general consensus that it’s a very bad idea to go to work when you’re ill, and that work will simply cope without you for a couple of days and that’s OK. It’s wild to me.

      1. Allonge*

        For me it’s the other way around a bit: most parents I know have some backup plans for childcare. Not for every single situation for the entire decade+ it takes for a child to become self-sufficient enough to be able to wait some time at home alone! But in most cases, the plan is not that whatever emergency comes, I need to handle it myself every time. That matters a lot.

        I am in Europe, with wider opportunities for sick leave, subsidised childcare and whatnot. Still, if a parent comes to an interview with the (implied) expectation that their hours need to be completely fixed, but they will absolutely need to drop everything every time there is a childcare issue, be absent for every school vacation, every illness, every emergency – on top of their own health issues – that will make jobseeking difficult even here.

        And coming to work sick is a bad idea primarily because you can infect your coworkers (and even if not, you literally cannot work in many cases). Some flexibility exists. What LW4 needs might be too much for a lot of companies – but that is why they need to be clear about what they actually need and not use phrases that can be interpreted by everyone differently, which is true for ‘my son is my priority’.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Like most grandparents, my children’s grandparents are getting up there in years, so they certainly aren’t an option for help when my children are sick.

            1. Cj*

              Then there’s the other end of the spectrum, where (for example) your parents had you at 25 and you had kids at 25, the grandparents are still working themselves and unavailable to do childcare.

              1. NoviceManagerGuy*

                Also common, that’s true. (In my case my parents had me at 40, my kids were born when I was in my early 20s, but my dad can’t seem to retire because people keep coming to him with jobs he enjoys to much to turn down.)

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        All of this. I think very few people would suggest that you shouldn’t take off time when a parent lands in the hospital, for example.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I understand that often a parent needs to take off to stay home with a sick kid, but does it always need to be the LW/mom instead of the breadwinner/dad? In this family it may be, but she’s telling them that in the interview. The employer can choose not to select her in favor of others who may feel exactly the same but don’t spell it out in the interview.

        Also when I was a kid my mom was a teacher. Her taking off work was a rare thing. I’ve stayed with grandparents or aunts when I was young and sick. Not always but it happened.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          If we had family that we could hit them up for childcare I’d be *thrilled*! So would my kids. But I think that’s largely a matter of luck and not something that employers should rely on or consider a norm.

      4. Colette*

        If the child is sick, a parent (not necessarily the OP) probably needs to stay home. But during school holidays, child care should be possible. But the OP is saying I have been very clear that my hours are not flexible because I need to be available when my son is out of school and he is my priority., which could be interpreted to mean that she’s going to want to be off every time the school is closed, which isn’t reasonable in most jobs.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, I didn’t get the impression that the LW meant they would need to take time off when the kid is sick or that the inflexibility was referring to never being able to work early or late because the school schedule dictates what time they can start and/or leave work. The impression I got is that they would be unwilling to work during school vacations, on school holidays, staff development days, the afternoons when classes are dismissed early for parent-teacher conferences and so on. I cannot imagine any part-time job being OK with all of those restrictions with the possible exception of some jobs with the school district. Because while there are probably part-time jobs that will allow an inflexible schedule of say 9-2 Monday- Thursday and ones that will allow someone to vary their work schedule so that they can be off Thursday instead of Friday when school is closed on Thursday, I doubt there are any that will accommodate an employee’s desire for one-way flexibility – because that’s really what this is. They aren’t truly looking for an inflexible schedule because that would be specified hours on specified days each week – without the changes the LW is apparently looking for regarding the days/weeks when the school schedule is different.

      5. BlueKazoo*

        My concern would more be that she’ll have to go get him not infrequently mid-day. It’s a rare situation IME where you can arrange back-up care if what’s happening is every couple of weeks the school is calling you saying come get him now.

        Not saying this is the LW’s situation. But that would be what I’d be concerned about if someone felt it was necessary to let me know in an interview that their child was their priority.

      6. Anon for now*

        I’m a single parent to a special needs child. Every appointment, sick day, etc., is on me. And I have wonderful friends who will watch my son with enough advanced notice, but I have no one to watch him at the last minute if he’s sick. I also have no parents or people who don’t work who can just step in.

        And I am not special. There are millions of people out there like me. One of the reasons I work for the employer I do is because they are flexible. I’d love to find a more challenging role with with potential for advancement, but I can not afford to give up the flexibility I have.

        And even with all that, I don’t do the extras like field trips to insure I’m only out when it’s absolutely necessary.

      7. Avril Ludgateau*

        I mean, yes, surely this is what the vast majority of working parents do when a child is ill? Unless you have a non-working spouse or local grandparents / other family who are able to drop everything and be available at short notice. one parent in a couple will need to take time off work to look after an ill child.

        It’s a big part of the gender wage gap, and an even bigger part of why you’re not allowed to discriminate in hiring based on family status. I am a little perturbed by the tone in some of the threads, here, that are basically openly saying they would discriminate against LW.

    3. J.B.*

      If schools close again, I’m out. That is true for many parents who can meet bills on one salary, although most of them wouldn’t say so in an interview.

  24. Casper Lives*

    OP2 I’d ask your husband why he’s adamant about the time. He’s wrong, of course. You should push back if it’s interfering with child care. But he’s going so far as to say you should’ve learned this false thing in college.

    Is he worried about job hunting and focusing on what he can control (time app is submitted)? Taking out his frustration on you as he hasn’t had luck searching?

    I could be off base. It strikes me as a very odd thing he’s insisting on.

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

      This one is a relationship question that looks like a work question, imo. Isn’t it interesting that she asked if it’s true *or if he’s making it up* (as opposed to, e.g., is it true or do you think he’s received some dud advice somewhere). I can’t tell from what’s in the letter what is actually going on, but I’m so curious to know! What I can tell is it clearly.goes deeper than this one job-search-timing question.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        While this is all true/fair, I want to highlight that one partner job hunting can be incredibly straining on a relationship so it could still be that he’s being more insufferable than usual during a high stress time and it isn’t indicative of their normal relationship.

      2. Observer*

        Yes. This is really a relationship question, imo. And the framing as “did he make this up” jumped at me too.

  25. Not Enough Info*

    Letter writer #4 mentions that her son has disabilities. Perhaps she actually would need school breaks off to care for him. She doesn’t go into enough detail to really make a recommendation.

    1. Lab Gal*

      Most districts have summer care for disabled students for free in the US. I wish there was a checklist for letters like these, country, area (state/province/what have you). Because I’m sure even pre COVID and if they were willing to hire help, it would be difficult to find and NOT cheap, unless they could get respite care.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        It *really* depends on the location, and the degree to which the child is disabled. And that’s summer, not winter break or spring break.

      2. S*

        You mean four hours a day, four days a week, for four of the nine weeks of summer? (This summer, it was distance learning, too. So a complete waste of all our time.) The summer offerings for disabled students are terrible, far inferior to normal school year schedules.

        1. BlueKazoo*

          True but perhaps if they have the money – which it sounds like they do, they may be able to get the child into a summer day camp specifically for children with his type of disability. Or pay for a carer for that time period. Maybe a teacher who needs the extra income – because let’s face it, they are underpaid a lot of the time.

    2. MK*

      I don’t see what it matters. The OP has certain scheduling restrictions about when she can work, and she isn’t flexible about that. There is no point in fudging that in an interview only to have it become and issue later on.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t know of many jobs who let you take all school breaks off. Parents find alternate childcare.

      1. WS*

        I work in pharmacy and we let parents in certain jobs in the retail part of the pharmacy take school holidays off, because they can be replaced in those times by the teenage part-timers who usually work weekends and after school! We’ve retained some terrific staff that way. But I agree it’s not possible for most jobs.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          This example reminds me as to why my first manager was honestly spectacular. The mall was open an additional 4 hours a DAY for the two weeks immediately leading up to Christmas. And by then, it had already been open an extra 2-3 hours every day since Halloween. That her crew of HS aged teens was ready for as many hours as she could give us during holiday breaks definitely helped the holiday hours situation with the “actual adults” who really preferred having say, Christmas Eve, off. (She worked Christmas Eve with us teens, if you were curious. Again, good manager by actions and example.)

          The actual adults kind of appreciated it as they were typically low level management, i.e. just enough salary to be exempt from OT.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Parents find alternate childcare

        Bit of survivorship bias here, which I think characterises a lot of the AAM conversations on childcare: you see the parents who manage to find alternate childcare, the ones who don’t end up leaving the paid workforce.

  26. Blueberry Girl*

    LW#4: I’ve interviewed for multiple part-time positions in the last year and am about to have to hire for two more. I don’t know exactly how LW#$ is phrasing that her hours are not flexible, because of her son is her priority, but I can see this being a bit of a concern for me as a manager. Not because I don’t think family comes first, I know it does. However, I don’t know how her son being your priority will play out.

    For example, I would start wondering- does this mean every school inservice she won’t work? Does it mean she would never cover an afternoon shift if there was a staffing shortage, due to illness or travel? Is she going to be one of those parents who thinks single people should work holidays, because they don’t have kids? I’ve dealt with that one before and it was a such a headache/mess.

    None of these are automatically deal breakers, but not knowing what I am about to step into would make me hesitant to hire someone. Simply saying that you can’t be flexible with your hours is 100% fine and worth expressing in the interview, I don’t think you need to explain why, because it isn’t really anyone’s business.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Right. And be specific about what those hours are, would there be times in the year when you couldn’t work any hours, etc. Just be super upfront about the specifics of the working days/hours. You can say that you need to work around your son’s school schedule. Everyone gets that (and those who don’t — you don’t want to work for them)

    2. Sooda Nym*

      Exactly this. Saying something like “my son is my priority” tells me nothing useful as a hiring manager, and shuts down conversation. I have three children who are my priority, and that has meant I’ve spent 45-70 hours per week working over the past 23 years because I was the breadwinner and my spouse was the caregiver (primarily). So I don’t k now what “my son is my priority” means for you. Further, “my son is my priority” is not a line of discussion I can pursue as an interviewer, because I cannot NOT hire you because of something I know about your family situation, so it’s “safer” for me to not ask questions about your family.

      Also, I’m looking for some level of objectivity about your family. While I (as a manager) completely understand your son is your top priority to you (as he should be) it helps me to know that you can see from my perspective he’s a personal commitment that competes with work for your time and attention. It’s honestly not a question of priorities anyway. It’s a question of availability. I’d be happier to hear this phrased the way Alison advises. Say something like “I have personal commitments that limit my availability to the hours between 8:30 and 3:30, and require me to not work during school breaks. Will the parameters of this job allow for that?” Then the interviewer can ask questions about availability without feeling like they are getting into info they shouldn’t know, and without having to question your priorities.

      It s possible that none of the jobs you’ve interviewed for would work for someone with your availability, and you’ll have to spend a bit of time searching to find the right fit. But I also think tweaking your approach will help.

    3. Nicotena*

      Also I think it’s a bit of a bias because this is an *interview,* where in theory you’re on your best behavior trying to make a strong first impression. So being this direct (“my son is my priority, not this job”) under those circumstances is going to seem extra adversarial and outside professional norms. Nobody reasonable who is hiring for a part time office admin actually thinks this job is your reason for being.

  27. iliketoknit*

    Re LW#4 – making a point of saying your son is your priority would rub me the wrong way. “My schedule isn’t flexible because of childcare/school schedules” reads very differently to me than adding “because my son is my priority,” in part because your interviewer doesn’t need to know how you feel about that, and in part it would make me worry that your work identity would always take second place to your parent identity. I mean of course your son is your priority – if a choice has to be made between a job and family you love, I would hope everyone would pick family – but I’m not hiring you as a parent. That doesn’t mean your role as a parent is entirely irrelevant, in that it makes sense to bring up related issues like scheduling, nor does it mean that if you’re hired I don’t ever want to hear about your kid or be inconvenienced by your kid’s needs or anything like that. It’s just that in an interview, I want to see your work persona, not your parent persona. I’m worried I’m not expressing this very clearly, because I don’t mean to demand that parents suppress that part of themselves or pretend it doesn’t exist, it just seems weird to me to say “my son is my priority” in an interview for a job rather than to just focus on the impact that has on your availability/how well the job fits you. And to be really blunt, I would be even more concerned by this from someone coming back to the work force after taking time away to raise their kid. Again, that’s not because I have a problem with someone in that position, but because it would seem like that candidate was presenting more as a parent than a potential employee.

    (Full disclosure, I’m not a parent myself and have tended to work in fairly inflexible industries where mommy-tracking is a real danger, so that’s definitely coloring my reaction and I may be being slightly unfair. I’ve also had it drummed into me 1) not to bring up family stuff in interviews because family responsibilities tend to get held against women, and 2) interviewers asking about such stuff is inappropriate and probably illegal, so why would I want to encourage them to go down that road. I realize that candidates asking about stuff pertinent to their family responsibilities does make sense if that’s an important consideration in taking the job, so I think that LW#4 being very clear about their schedule/lack of flexibility/having other commitments is totally fair and reasonable. It might turn some employers off, but if it’s a dealbreaker, it’s good to know those things as early in the process as you can. It’s just the “because my son is my priority” part that I find rough.)

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      You expressed yourself very clearly. You nailed it with work persona vs. parent persona.

    2. Blueberry Girl*

      Yes, I think this is what I was trying to get to in my comment and I just didn’t get it out right. I love the idea of personas, because we do all have several. As a manager the work persona is what I am interested in, not the parent persona. I couldn’t care less if someone has kids. That’s not relevant and if a candidate makes it part of the interview, I am going to wonder about the long term work impacts.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      ‘I’m not hiring you as a parent’ is perfectly put.

      An interviewer wants to see your professional persona, who you are at work. Will you be able to do the job, get along with your coworkers, not be a nightmare to manage? That sort of thing.

      Being a parent doesn’t factor into those decisions. Or shouldn’t. Don’t mention your kids at interview. By all means ask about how strict the schedules are, heck I’ve done that. (I’m not telling interviewers all my disabilities and why those mean I have issues working out of hours).

      1. BlueKazoo*

        Thanks for mentioning that about another reason for needing a specific schedule. I know LW’s question is specific to being a parent. But it has got me wondering how to handle my own needs in this area. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I’m on paid leave, but my goal is get back to work. And I will need that to be somewhere with some flexibility, especially around start time. Mornings are tough and I have trouble getting out the door sometimes.

        I had an internship where my supervisor was obsessed over me clocking in 10 minutes late when I had no appointments first thing and wasn’t missing meetings, etc. I always made up the time. She ultimately couldn’t do anything besides hassle me about because I was in school and had accommodation support. But I know if she could, she would have had me out the door. That’s her prerogative of course. Just wouldn’t work for me and I’d prefer to know ahead of time if that’s the case so I’m not setting myself up to fail.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Yeah, my various health issues and the medications for them are a tricky beast to schedule sometimes. I come in late on a certain day each week because I have to pick up my medications (some of which are controlled
          ), I really can’t work after 6pm without a lot of notice due to one of my medications making me exceptionally tired after I take it.

          Generally I ask if there’s any flexibility in the time. I’m an early bird and much prefer getting up at 6am than working till 6pm.

          Definitely never telling any firm what medications I’m on, or for what reason. I might get sympathy, but it’s not worth the risk.

      2. Boof*

        It’s interesting because I’ve heard that in negotiations, women may get more mileage stressing they are negotiating /for family/, not for themselves. Not that I wouldn’t like that not being a thing and, y’know, men and women generally being generally treated equally, but you also have to deal with the world you live in until it changes. (and I’ve also heard that the pay gap is partly explained because women tend to want more flexibility etc for family, but end up giving up more for it; so that doing the same amount of work on “flexible” hours = disproportionately less pay, etc)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s…not true in my experience. In fact a woman or a man asking for more pay because of ‘family’ will likely find themselves not getting the pay rise they want. You have to base requests for more money on your own skills, your own experience, your own proven track record. I doubt any employer is going to take ‘I need more money because I have kids’ seriously.

          1. Boof*

            Eh, it’s usually “I need x schedule” or other benefit, rather than a higher salary (agree that wouldn’t fly and/or if it does should apply to everyone), but can’t say I’ve put this into practice much either – just something I heard floating out there at some point

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              You may want to check your sources then, your impression of the pay gap between men and women is kinda off as well. It definitely still exists (grr) but it’s not caused by women having children and demanding flexible working. It’s just pure sexism.

              1. Boof*

                what sources do you want me to check? Regarding some of the pay gap being “accounted” (it’s not GOOD accounting) for by more flexible schedules, I am referring to things like this: Gender Differences in Earnings of Early- and Midcareer Pediatricians – there are a lot of factors, it’s kind of layers and layers of bias that add up to a bigger bias.

        2. pancakes*

          You should reconsider your sources of information about the pay gap if what you’re encountering is the idea that women can end it whenever we want by smartening up about negotiation.

          1. Boof*

            That is not at all what I said and is a pretty weird interpretation of “one possible negotiation bias I heard about”

    4. bamcheeks*

      I think this is a good way of putting it, but I’d also add for LW that is it so so normal to struggle to find and present your Work Persona when you’ve been in Parent Persona for a few months or years! It comes back, but it takes some real focus (and if you have the opportunity, practice!) to bring that Work Persona to the fore for an interview when you’ve been full-time Parent Persona for some time.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Not a parent, but I was out of work for over 2 years due to severe medical problems and getting back into a professional mindset definitely took effort. One tip I got was practicing what you’d say to standard interview questions/work questions when on your own. I did it while driving since nobody notices someone talking to themselves in their car :)

      2. Sandman*

        This is so true. When I started re-entering professional spaces I felt like a fake just for wearing normal, appropriate office attire – it felt like I was wearing a costume and trying to pull one over on everybody. It didn’t take that much time to readjust to that normal, but it was weird for a while.

    5. MissMeghan*

      Small anecdote: I had a coworker who spoke with her grandchildren on the phone every. single. day. And her voice would get very high pitched and sing songy, and would carry through the office so we all had to listen to these conversations. Occasionally she’d facetime and bring the phone over to show what we were doing. I don’t think you’re going to be this person, but if in your interviews you’re not conveying that “work persona” I would be wary of another situation like this. Having strict schedule times to take care of your child makes total sense, focus on that

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      I 100% agree with you. And I agree that it’s kind of hard to put into words why saying essentially the same thing in a different way matters here, but I think you’ve pretty much summarized it.

  28. GrumpyZena*

    I am giving giant side-eye to the husband of OP#2. Even if his assertion was true (it isn’t), why on earth would that impact your schedules? He could search for jobs, write the application, polish his CV, and then merely hit “send” at 9.01 on Monday.

    I smell a man who is trying to wriggle out of childcare and/or some other responsibility, and is using the vaguely bullying approach of “God, I can’t believe you’re this stupid” to make you question yourself. Are there other times that he tries to make you feel “less than”? I bet this isn’t the first incident of its kind.

  29. LF*

    I don’t know about wearing a button with my face on it, but I happened to start a new job while we were under lockdown. My first two days were in the nearly deserted office and the rest were working from home. Many months later, when restrictive restrictions lifted and we all started working from the office again, I met many of my co-workers in person for the first time.

    It turned out just about nobody looked like their Slack profile pic. I could barely recognise anyone.

    Anyway, my point is, a button might not help anyway :D

    1. JKB78*

      Yeah, I was thinking of driver’s license pictures when the button concept came up. Once, I got my driver’s license picture taken and I got a hair cut the next day, so when the license arrived in the mail, I looked a bit different. I know, the picture on the button would be a GOOD picture, but I don’t manage to take very many of those myself.

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, agreed. I think a large part of how we recognize people is through movement. I once showed my mom a picture, and she said “who is that with you”, and the answer was “I’m not in that picture”.

    3. Thursdaysgeek*

      Relating this to #1 as well – we had an interim pastor preaching, and covid finally retreated (for a time), so he could remove his mask while preaching. We were all surprised to find out he had a beard!

  30. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    #4, Alyson and other commenters said it well about just saying school schedule. I read your post as if I am the hiring manager and my big question is if you expected to take off work when school is closed. I would make it clear that you had childcare for school vacations and teacher in service days. Unless you are working at a public school, it’s very difficult to find a job with those days of. Even in schools, many of the jobs require work on in service and maybe vacations. If you need those days off, your best bet is a work from home job where they care that work gets done, not when it gets done: bookkeeping, writing, editing, graphic arts, coordinator. I do this full time with two clients, as an inscrutable contractor. As long as I meet the project deadline (like Thursday by 3), they could care less when I did the work.

    Nonprofits have always been great to find part-time professional jobs. They are always thrilled to find a skilled person who wants to work part-time long term rather than someone who will leave when they find a full-time job. Many nonprofits are run by women and are family friendly/flexible. It’s so normal for a colleague to say, I have to leave by X time to bring my kid to soccer, therapy, etc.

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      I’m really hoping that “inscrutable contractor” is not just a typo, because the mental image is lovely.

  31. John Smith*

    #LW3. You could be writing about my manager and I sympathize. Like yours, my actual job is brilliant, interests me personally, is well paid, great team mates etc etc. If it weren’t for the terribly toxic and dysfunctional management of the place I’d be in 7th heaven. I know I’m not going to find it easy to get similar elsewhere so I’m staying put, and that means dealing or learning to deal with managers from hell. Mostly by just accepting whatever daft decisions they make and not taking things personally. It requires a level of zen and being able to rise above the shambolic egotistical pettiness farted out of managers’ mouths. But you soon get used to it and in time, actually enjoy watching each and every shit show of manager making.

    1. Ayla*

      Ditto. I have to admit I haven’t reached that level of Zen though. The management in my organization appear to worship at the altar of process rather than making decisions. It makes for frustrating hours and days debating if we use the word ‘agree’ or ‘approve’ or ‘endorse’. It does my head in.

      1. Mockingjay*

        “worship at the altar of process rather than making decisions”

        Off topic, but dear goddess this describes my project lead!

      2. ArtK*

        Great turn of phrase there. Process can be a wonderful, helpful thing, but it can go wrong. I’ve found that when you make someone’s job the process, you get situations like you describe. I quit a job, in part, because one of the process people told me that it was more important that I complete and circulate a bunch of (paper) documents and get them signed, than fix a bug in our product. The documents were completely irrelevant and full of “N/A”, but nobody had updated the process or given it a bypass for that.

        The reason this happened is that her objectives started with “Ensures that the process is followed” and she was rated on that in reviews. Mine started with “Delivers a high-quality product to our customers.” The two were in conflict.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It makes for frustrating hours and days debating if we use the word ‘agree’ or ‘approve’ or ‘endorse’.

        Ah, but think how many people would be able to start their next morning’s status update with “I had such a busy day yesterday! was in meetings all day” and nobody needs to know that the meetings were about the use of ‘agree’ vs. ‘approve’ vs. ‘endorse’.

    2. Anon for This*

      We had a department head from hell that actually ended up being let go. But that decision was made at a level far above mine. I certainly had no say in it, and did not see it coming. Apparently happened after the VPs started threatening to leave if that person stayed. For me, the options were to learn to live with it, or leave. I was semi-actively looking during the few years that this person was in their role.

      Now that I think of it, we also had a VP from hell later (hired by Dept Head From Hell… no surprises there), that also drove a lot of people to leaving, who was also let go later. But again, that was a decision made at the upper levels. I guess what I am saying here is that the leadership at OP’s workplace do have the power to get this guy removed, and should exercise it before he causes enough damage that the workplace won’t be able to come back from it. If OP is in the leadership, then this applies to them. Otherwise, I’d follow Alison’s advice.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I also have some advice for LW3. Remind yourself that bad things are temporary. Just like the last director left, this one will eventually leave too. This mindset helped me get through some rough jobs during the recession when I had limited options. My very first boss after college was terrible and I was miserable. I felt stuck. Then 6 months in the layoffs started and he was the first to go. I was at that job for 2 more years with a slightly better boss. Years later I had a job I liked with a boss who wasn’t terrible but pretty mediocre. A few months in, grandboss hired a second person in that position. It was partly because the team was growing and partly as a reduction in responsibilities for mediocre boss. I then reported to a better manager. I eventually realized that nothing is permanent so I try to make the most of whatever I have.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Second this! I outlived a lot of terrible managers, including one that tried to get me fired. (Guess who was let go instead.)

  32. Beth*

    #1: Has anyone had an actual conversation with him about this? Usually, managers should be giving their employees feedback long before a problem reaches the level of a PIP. The PIP should never be the first conversation about an issue. I know that a church setting isn’t the same as an office environment, but I think the same logic applies here. You say he always does what is asked of him, but he isn’t necessarily great at self-reflection–that combination makes me think that having a frank conversation with him about what needs to change could actually have great results, as it would give him a clear problem to address without requiring him to figure out the problem on his own.

    Has anyone asked him to revamp the youth program and update it to be more in line with what your young members want? Did anyone tell him that he needed to craft more engaging sermons, or did your church go straight to sidelining him from preaching? Is he aware of the complaints of boredom from your young members, and has anyone talked with him about your expectations regarding how those complaints should be handled? If the answer to any of these is ‘no,’ I think that’s the best starting point. You might find that he actually is up to the task once he knows what the problem is–or, alternatively, that he agrees he’s not up to it and is happy to work out a plan to move on in a positive way.

    1. Artemesia*

      The senior pastor should have been managing this guy around these issues years ago. Often just these counseling/management sessions will encourage someone who is a weak player to think about retirement or changing roles.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I wondered about other roles – it sounds as though he is not good at preaching and not good at the youth work – what are his strengths? IS there scope for him to move into a role which plays to his strengths rather than his weaknesses?

        1. Jean*

          His only strength, judging from the letter, seems to be his beloved/respected status in the community. Maybe a fundraising focused position? I’m not religious but I know churches need revenue streams.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I suggested up above if you need to move him on, maybe they should look for other ways for the youth minister to serve. That way they are helping find a soft landing not forcing out a “pillar of the community.”

    2. Allonge*

      I agree that the PIP should not be a first conversation, but you also cannot wait forever to address issues. It sounds like the OP is not in a normal, daily contact line manager’s position. A PIP can also be whatever it needs to be, so a written combination of warning and plans agreed at the same time.

      1. Beth*

        Sure, but “someone should have a conversation with him about it and see how that goes” isn’t exactly asking the church to wait forever. Even if he doesn’t have a standard manager-type person over him (church structures can be very different than office structures, I know) I think it’s still an important step before jumping to a full-on PIP. It’s been years of this already, it doesn’t sound like he’s doing a catastrophic job (just a mediocre, less-than-ideal job), and it sounds like it’s important to the church to maintain goodwill here; making this a cooperative conversation, and then not having the PIP come as a surprise if it does end up needing to happen, sounds like it would be worth dealing with this for a little longer.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      I was just scrolling through the comments to see if anyone else had made this point yet! Start with a conversation about how things are going, how he’s feeling about the job, etc. I think often times managers feel like, “I have my list of everything that’s wrong here and I must convey it!” but if you start with a more open mind and make it a two-way conversation (especially with a long time, reliable and beloved employee), you may find a lot more options than you first thought.

  33. Varthema*

    There’s an old chestnut that goes “job-hunting is a 9 to 5 job” in reference to how much time and effort it takes. Maybe he heard it once in college and took it very literally.

    1. Mami21*

      I had the same thought. Quite possible that he’s heard that saying and has either not understood the meaning at all, or is just choosing to misinterpret it as justification for not job searching outside business hours.

  34. Beth*

    OP4: I think your issue here might be some over-zealousness with your wording. “My son is my priority” is strong language to bring into a job interview! It would make me think that you’re anticipating serious conflicts between the job you’re interviewing for and parenting, to the extent that you need to preemptively warn them that you might not meet certain expectations.

    If that is the case–if you’re applying for jobs that you think you won’t actually be able to do due to your family situation–honestly, the people you’ve interviewed with would be right not to hire you! That would be an exercise in frustration for everyone involved. You should instead look for positions in which you can actually meet expectations.

    But if what you mean is more a standard level of work/family conflicts (e.g. needing to work a set schedule that’s primarily during school hours, or being willing to find childcare for planned school breaks but potentially needing to use sick time once in a while because your son caught a stomach bug and unexpectedly can’t go to school), then the language you’re using is too strong. Just say that you don’t have flexibility on your schedule outside the hours you indicated.

  35. Retro*

    “My son is my priority” reads like you’re saying that your son is your priority more than other children are other parents’ priority – why else would you mention it? that a kid is a parent’s priority is implied whenever someone mentions or alludes they have children – and, by extension, that you’re not expecting to be held to the same standards or meet the same expectations as other (parent-)employees.

    Instead of saying something so terrifyingly opaque, stick to the practicalities – “I can’t work after four – that’s when school lets out.”

    1. EE*

      Exactly. Imagine saying “I need to get some sleep EACH night of the week” or “Fitting meals into my daily routine is a deal-breaker for me.”

      I’d be thinking… “Is this her way of saying we shouldn’t rely on her to arrive on time? Or that her lunch break will take as long as it takes no matter how slow service is at her favourite restaurant?”

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. It reminds me of the sort of people who ‘As A Mother…’ everything. ‘As A Mother, it’s been so difficult getting through the pandemic’ or ‘As A Mother, I can’t bear to hear of children being abused’. As if people without children (or, indeed, fathers) can’t possibly have the same level of compassion and can’t possibly have any difficulty in their lives. Of course this person’s son is going to be their priority – it just seems unnecessarily combative to announce it like that. ‘I can’t be flexible about my working hours because I have to be available for the school run’ – absolutely fine. ‘I can’t be flexible because My Son Is My Priority’ – weirdly aggressive.

        1. Rebecca*

          Yes. YES. I am a teacher, which is a professional job that is very different from the job of parenting. For a long time I taught without being a parent, and if I had a penny for every time a colleague or client said, “Well, actually, as a mother, I……” to discount my professional work, I could live on the Champs Elyses.

          I am a mother and a teacher now, and yep – jobs still very, very different. My motherhood is great, but it is not a professional qualification.

          1. quill*

            Can confirm as a teacher’s kid. The number of times my mom came home in a huff to announce to me and my brother (tongue in cheek) that we “didn’t prepare her at all” for teaching because we didn’t, say, chop off our own hair with safety scissors or state that a fact we learned about Iowa is “it looks like a lake”…

            And then there’s the obvious that teaching is not “keep x number of children safe and nourished and clothed” it’s “everyone needs to be literate to x degree by the time they leave this class”

        2. Hillary*

          I used to work with someone who would start explanations with “as a Mason…” We kept wondering what on earth was different about his Masonic ethics than other ethics.

          He also told me I was bad at my job because things cost more than they did thirty years ago. He was something.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I know at least one person has suggested this – but I really think OP should look for jobs in a school where the schedule should line up with his schedule. Even if it’s just volunteer work.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        This is a really good framing for why it sounds so weird! Any time you’re stating an objective fact (having a kid impacts your schedule) as a personal preference (he’s my priority) you’re going to come across kind of unnecessarily intense

    2. Ruby*


      Every time I’ve heard that phrase, it was to bash me for having the audacity to have kids and a job at the same time. It would definitely be off-putting to me.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I really, really, really like this comment. I think this is exactly the change that OP should be making in their wording. (chuckling at the idea that a parent on the interview panel would actually be like “oh, how interesting! see, for me, this job is my priority, and my kid knows he needs to fend for himself because the job is more important” – which, of course, would never happen in reality.)

  36. Bamcheeks*

    OP, I recently took a new job. I have two kids who are able to access normal childcare and wraparound care, but we have no family support and very little flexibility outside the hours of nursery/afterschool club (7.30am-6pm). This didn’t matter too much for my previous job, where I worked 9-5 and had a 20 min commute, but my new job is further away and my commute is now 1hr 15mins, by bike and train.

    I spoke to the employer before I applied for the job (this is encouraged in the UK, but I get the impression from Alison that it’s not ok in the US— but that there are usually opportunities to ask practical questions about working patterns and pay etc at an early stage of the process.) At that stage, I first outlined my qualifications for the role and how interested I was in it, and then said I was somewhat limited by childcare and needed to check that the amount of at-work hours vs working-from-home hours would roughly work with my schedule. I didn’t phrase it as “priorities”, so much as “these are the facts, these are the limits I can work under.” That was a general discussion, and they said they would definitely be interested in an application. I then applied and interviewed, and didn’t discuss it again, so they could evaluate my application on its strengths.

    Once I was offered the job, I had a detailed conversation about what I could and couldn’t do— basically, super happy to come into the office 2-3 times a week, but would need to leave at 4pm to get back in time to pick kids up, happy to do an hour’s work in the evenings. I phrased this as, “I want to be completely specific about how this would work, because I’ve been caught out by “oh we’re very flexible!” before and left a job after a year becayse their flexible and mine didn’t mesh! That worked fine, and we came up with a schedule that worked for both of us.

    What I think worked: keeping those conversations separate as far as possible from the actual application and interview, where I wanted them to assess my skills and experience; framing it all as, “we are trying to find a mutually satisfactory arrangement that works for both of us”; not letting it turn into me vs them; being prepared to turn down the job if we couldn’t make it work.

    Good luck!

    1. Beth*

      Just to chime in from a US perspective, I think it would be odd and potentially unwelcome here to reach out to the employer before applying (most posted jobs get too many applicants to field questions from people who haven’t even applied yet), but very reasonable to bring up the potential for a flexible schedule at an early stage in the application process. “These are the facts, I wanted to check that it makes sense for both of us to continue given that limit” is a good way to frame it.

      1. Roeslein*

        Not in the US, but I would imagine that depends on my job? In my field too many qualified applicants is… not a problem and as a hiring manager I would be glad to have a discussion with someone who is qualified but is on the fence about applying due to this sort of thing. Know your field.

      2. Smithy*

        I agree with this. Very often in the US the first interview would be seen as that initial HR screening, were positioning your basic dynamics would make sense. Or if the OP was working with a recruiter, then that initial recruiter interview would be a time to frame “here are my specific scheduling needs”.

        Because a recruiter/HR might not be truly aligned with a hiring manager, I then think it’s correct to bring it up again after receiving an offer to confirm that the initial confirmation with the recruiter/HR actually aligns with the hiring manager’s vision for the role. When a rigid schedule is a non-negotiable, I think the more matter of fact it can be handled helps. Because it serves to be clear for the employer but also for the person interviewing to get confirmation their needs will actually be respected once hired.

    2. Mami21*

      Re flexibility – some employers definitely advertise ‘flexible hours’ when what they actually mean is ‘flexible for us, as in we’ll be constantly changing your schedule and you’ll need to have full availability’. I know that’s not your main point but that really stood out to me!

    3. anonymous73*

      Speaking to someone prior to an application submission is outside the norm in the US, but it could be something brought up to the recruiter during the initial phone conversation/interview. You wouldn’t want to proceed unless you’re on the same page about deal breakers like flexibility or salary range. I’ve had jobs where I’ve asked about a specific flexible schedule before accepting a job because the commute was brutal. If there are deal breakers with your situation, it’s definitely best to ask specifics and be on the same page before you start the job.

    4. londonedit*

      I think this is possibly industry-specific in the UK…I’ve seen a couple of adverts with ‘For an informal chat about this position, please contact [name] on [number/email address]’ but it’s definitely not the norm. It’s easier if a job is advertised by a recruitment agency, because then you can speak to them about it before deciding whether to get them to throw your hat into the ring, but generally I’m not sure how contacting someone before applying would go down.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It’s almost universal in the public sector and the NHS, and a lot of mid-large charities– generally, it goes along with formal HR-led recruitment processes that want you to fill in an extensive application form and demonstrate how you meet a list of criteria. Which is as it should be, I think! If you’re going to invest all that time in the application, you should get a chance to discuss deal-breakers beforehand. Smaller companies with less involved application processes (standard CV + cover letter) are less likely to do it.

        1. londonedit*

          Oh yes, definitely. My industry is still resolutely CV + cover letter, I’ve never come across an application form, so it’s not a common part of the process. I like to see it when it does come up, though!

  37. Green great dragon*

    #4 I am a parent and ultimately my kids are my priority. But I juggle. I would try to get the kid’s hospital appointment at the beginning or end of the day so I’m not out the whole day, or put the sick child in front of the TV while I clear urgent emails, or see if her dad can pick her up just that once so I be at a key meeting, or see if I can phone the teacher rather than coming to the school for the lunchtime meeting. Announcing ‘my son is my priority’ rather than just being open about the main constraints would, rightly or wrongly, suggest someone who would be expecting work to make all the adjustments, rather than trying to strike a balance.

    1. Green great dragon*

      To put it more succinctly, my kids are my highest priority, they’re not my only priority. Announcing they are your priority in an interview sounds more like the second one.

      1. Just delurking to say...*

        Agreed. When I imagine hearing this line in an interview, I can’t help imagining an unspoken “…this job will be a very distant second, and don’t you dare think otherwise.”

  38. PrairieEffingDawn*

    #5- Some hospitals do this. When my son was hospitalized for a few months last year it would have been nice to know the faces of the people who were caring for him. Most of the staff’s photo ID badges were small with outdated photos and I didn’t want to be staring at those. I think in this kind of job, when you’re client facing and there are emotions at play, wearing your face on a button could have real impact.

    In a more traditional office job, maybe this is overkill. Unless you already have a great photo button of your face you want to show off, then you just do you!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I could totally see buttons/badges like that in any pediatric medical setting – would probably make some of the patients and families more comfortable.

      I think the picture button comes down to know your industry/field/new office and it’s norms. Maybe even ask whoever is handling your onboarding what they think.

  39. bluephone*

    I really doubt that LW’s husband was told “you should only job search during business hours” in college. I think it’s something he pulled out of his ass and/or just some random thing he came up with on his own and is now doubling down on (because people are weird and their choices don’t always make sense, to paraphrase Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). It also sounds like he doesn’t actually want to job search and/or is looking for excuses to not get anywhere with it so he can play the victim when he doesn’t get interviews.
    TLDR–LW’s husband is being a weirdo.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Job searching is hard no matter the circumstances. I think the husband is being a jerk about it, but the why behind the jerk statements might be more important. Why is he looking for a new job? Dissatisfaction? Lack of opportunity? Layoff on the horizon?

      I agree with other commenters that this is more a relationship question than a work question. OP, talk to your husband and find out what’s going on. If he really is searching, then direct him to Alison’s archives and threads on resume writing, interviews, and thank you/follow-up notes, and download her free book on interviewing.

    2. anonymous73*

      The job search sounds like a secondary issue IMO. It sounds like he’s trying to get out of his parenting/partner responsibilities and using the job thing as an excuse.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      It reminds me of the thing where you’re like “I’m going to start my homework at 6!” and then when you look at the clock, oh shoot it’s 6:03, guess you can’t start til 7

  40. Bookworm*

    #3: Flee. I was part of the Great Resignation/Reshuffle due to a situation somewhat similar where people left and leadership didn’t replace middle management, which very clearly was what stood between us peons and the rather poor executive leadership. If you’re willing to put up with it, that’s up to you but you won’t change. If the resignations aren’t a hint, nothing else will be.

    #5: I think it can depend. I know that earlier in the pandemic that medical personnel actually did carry around pictures of themselves taped to their chest so patients could “see” what they look like. I don’t know if that’s still a thing but it might be weird if no one else is doing it/it’s not really a thing for your job. It’s not totally out of left field, though.

    1. ecnaseener*

      If I’m not mistaken, medical professionals have mostly stopped doing that. I figured it was because they found it didnt much help — the benefit of seeing someone’s face is mostly about seeing it move/emote/make eye contact

  41. Richard Hershberger*

    LW3: To paraphrase Alison’s answer, the key to long term happiness in this situation is to stop caring. This is hard at first, but quite liberating once you achieve it. The trick is to consciously transition back to caring when circumstances change.

  42. Moi*

    LW1: consider sending him to some courses that will help him improve engagement it’s important to set people up for success) our provide him with a mentor who excels in this area.
    LW5: I work for a large organization that provides three circles to our employees. It’s a great idea and you may start a trend at your company (:

  43. agnes*

    #4 I recently interviewed a woman for a job who was returning to the workforce and she made similar statements about her children being her number 1 priority, she would need flexibility to attend athletic events, the most important job in her life was being a mom, etc etc. It seemed that the only person whose life mattered was her own.

    Based on how long she had been out of the workforce, she would require a lot of remedial assistance to get her skills up to snuff, which I would be happy to do for someone who seemed interested in working with us, but was not willing to do for someone who seemed so unaware that everyone on our team had a personal life that was important to them. It seemed pretty clear that all the flexibility would have to be on our end. That wasn’t fair to everyone else.

  44. Gnome*

    Wearing a button if oneself comes across to me as somewhat narcissistic, so I wouldn’t recommend it for an interview. Also, as a woman, I would hate for this to be the norm. The last thing I need is something that will risk snagging the fabric of my work blouses AND encourage people to look at my chest. Lastly, I am horrible with faces. Tiny shiny mini-faces will not look like the real people to me. It will most certainly make it harder, not easier, to identify people post-masking.

  45. sswj*

    LW5 – The button thing would strike me as very odd. If you want to “introduce” your full face, stand well back from whoever it is you’re talking to and drop your mask for a brief moment while you say ‘hi, so nice to meet you …’ or whatever. Then mask back on and go to work.

    Personally I don’t care about what people look like, I care about HOW they work and interact. Focus on that.

    1. ecnaseener*

      No, I wouldn’t do this indoors. The six-foot guideline isn’t magic, many people will not appreciate you unmasking in the same room with them. (Many workplaces have this as a rule too, irrespective of distance.)

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      Ooph please don’t take the mask down inside. That would make me very uncomfortable and I would question how seriously the new employee is taking COVID

    3. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

      Nooooooooooooo do not do that. I would not be pleased if someone lowered their mask to introduce themselves. I dgaf what you look like; I care about what you can do. I would be VERY uncomfortable around someone who thought that removing their mask- even from a distance, even for a moment- would be okay. NO. You don’t know who in that room might be immunocompromised- or heck, even just very Covid anxious. I would absolutely question their judgment.

  46. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This stands out to me: “Part of the PIP is giving him room to create his own exit in a way that is positive for everyone involved.” This isn’t a PIP, and don’t dress it up saying it is. If the church is looking for a way to get rid of this employee, call it that. But don’t pretend it’s about improving performance, where the plan itself involves his leaving. It sounds more to me like the church needs to decide what it actually wants.

  47. Wednesday*

    LW5: While I can see that this would be great in healthcare or childcare settings, my first thought went to this huge New Kids On The Block button of Joey that my sister had (and wore!) back in their heyday. I say if you are going for it…go all the way, lol.

  48. EngGirl*

    LW4 I think we’re missing some important context here in terms of what kind of hours you’re looking for. You said you originally applied for part time remote positions which may give you more flexibility in what you’re able to find that works with your schedule, but that you’re not as interested in what you’ve been able to find in those types of positions. My first thought wasn’t “oh her phrasing is off putting” it was “what is she asking for exactly?”

    There’s a big difference between “Hey I need to leave by 4 to get my kid off the bus, I can’t be flexible on that,” (which still may not work for some employers) vs “I’ll need to start at 9 and leave by 3 for this full time position. Also I can never travel.” Which I don’t think anyone would be willing to accommodate. Not saying that’s what you’re asking for, that’s a pretty exaggerated scenario lol, but I think it’s less about your kid being a priority and more about what your actual ask is.

    1. ecnaseener*

      She did say the interviews were only for part-time jobs so far, so within that framework the schedule might be reasonable. (I’m also curious how she means to swing full-time with most schools letting out in early afternoon!)

      1. EngGirl*

        Exactly. If she can find something fully remote or even freelance she may be able to make it work if the company is flexible, but otherwise I don’t see it being feasible unless she takes shift work and works like 3rd.

  49. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    For #1, can you get some feedback from teens about what they would like to see and what would be engaging for them? That might help. But also – it’s not really fair to them if you’re just hanging onto a guy because he’s a nice guy and has had health problems and you’d feel bad if you had to fire him. If he’s not doing his job, he’s not doing his job and should be placed on the PIP and/or let go. It’s the frustrating thing about paid ministry, balancing the “job” aspect with the “but it’s MINISTRY” aspect – and I would know, my husband’s a youth pastor! Good luck – church stuff is always messy, even when it should be more straightforward!

    For #5, I, too, would be delighted to see this happen! Alison’s right, it does seem too “something”, but if you have a sense that your workplace would enjoy a little whimsy, I’d maybe do it anyway! But that’s hard to gauge sometimes, especially when you’re new. Hope you quickly connect with people either way!

  50. Jules the First*

    Nooooooooooooooooooo on the buttons!
    I can see it as being one of those things where people who like it think it’s a fantastic idea and people who don’t will be deeply uncomfortable. I never realised why I hated nametags and photo lanyards until someone pointed out that it means that *everyone* stares at your chest by default, and as someone uncomfortably well endowed to begin with, I get enough of that already!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’ve noticed that if someone is wearing a nametag, I can’t help looking at it, even if I already know their name. It exerts a gravitational pull on my eyes.

  51. Roscoe*

    #4. I agree with Alison here. I think people know your kid is your priority, but saying that makes you not only sound difficult, but that you think YOUR kid is more important than other kids. Like imagine saying that to an interviewer who also has kids. It just doesn’t come off well.

    #5. I’m with Alison here too. I can’t really pinpoint my issue with doing this, but it seems like a lot. Maybe over eager. Kind of like Tracy Flick from Election. I’d probably roll my eyes and move on. But, for me, i don’t think it would have the reaction you are intending. Maybe just one of those masks with the clear mouth area would work better.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      “Like imagine saying that to an interviewer who also has kids.”
      Yes this exactly! The interviewer had to leave her kid at school looking desperately unhappy because his friend hadn’t yet turned up, but she couldn’t wait because she had several interviews to prepare, and she’s feeling bad about that, but how else can she pay her bills, and then OP waltzes in saying no way will she work if her kid is not in school, projecting an aura at least of not even needing the money, just wanting to get out of the house for a bit… it does not endear you to the interviewer. I may have made that mistake too when I went back to work after having the kids, but it’s not like there were any decent jobs that I missed out on.

  52. ecnaseener*

    My first thought with letter #5 is that your appearance shouldn’t matter for most jobs. I know you’re thinking of it as a “human element” thing and not “everyone needs to see how attractive I am,” but it may read more like the second. I like other commenters’ suggestions to put a picture of you w/ family on your desk, or set your outlook profile pic or something. When you’re having a conversation in person, people are hopefully focusing on the conversation itself and not on whether you have a face.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I REALLY miss seeing people’s faces. I’m not sure a button would change that though – I miss expressions and the nuances of conversations, and reading lips because my auditory processing is crap. An outlook profile pic is a great suggestion, I’ve found those helpful, but both that and the button aren’t really adequate substitutes for what masks are taking away.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Agreed. A *live* face is very nice to see during a conversation – a photo, all that does is confirm you have a face.

  53. Skippy*

    LW3: I would definitely start looking for something new, no matter how much you like the actual work and how good the compensation is. Bad management will harm you in so many ways: it will affect your performance, limit your opportunities for growth, and distort your perceptions of what makes a good workplace. And ultimately his poor management and the high turnover will hurt the company, one way or another.

    Take your time searching so you can make sure you find the right fit, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to find something new.

    1. A Library Person*

      Not only this, but it sounds like the director might be in the early stages of running this company into the ground. While the advice to figure out if and how you can be okay in this environment is solid, I’d also consider what might happen to the company itself in the long run.

      (I’m unclear whether the director is in charge of everything, like a CEO, or in charge of a department, like an executive VP, which might make a difference too.)

  54. balanceofthemis*

    #2: A few years ago an article was published, I think by Forbes or Business Insider, but I don’t remember for sure, that said more or less what the OP’s husband is saying. Basically, applications received between 6-10am, Monday-Friday, receive the most consideration. Applications sent outside that time aren’t ignored, but they receive a shorter, less thourough look.

    It’s possible the people at husband’s college career center read that article, or something similar, and are repeating it.

    1. Sara without an H*

      If this is true at all, it’s probably pretty industry-specific. In my field (higher ed), you look at applications when HR tells you they’ve got some.

    2. pancakes*

      Forbes published a great deal of shoddy content after they changed their business model to include content written by unpaid volunteer contributors. I think they’ve since made it a bit more restrictive, but I’m not sure all of the content passes through even basic editing.

  55. SlimeKnight*

    LW#3: I once worked for a manager like this. Nothing was good enough. Everyone’s ideas were bad. We were just spinning our wheels and the manager contributed nothing. During a meeting one day, after he was done mowing down suggestions on improving our performance, someone point blank asked him, “Well, why don’t YOU tell us some ideas.” He responded, “It’s not my job to come up with ideas.” We had a particularly cheeky British expat working for us, who asked in a devastatingly dry voice, “What exactly is your job, then?”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      God bless the cheeky British expats! We had one working on my team at an old job. It was an older woman, who’d raised four sons, and was unflappable. She’d say it like it is, but politely, and with a British accent. I want to be her when I grow up (Not British, but I do have an accent, so maybe there’s a chance?)

  56. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW5: The pandemic convinced me to get my hair cut when the restrictions eased (after having no other humans cut it for decades). I have gone a few times, and most recently, my stylist arrived as I was coming in and didn’t have his mask on. I blurted out “You have a face!”

    He did not look like I expected and I’m still strangely salty about it. He is, however, awesome and I’ll get over it.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      HAHAHA! This is even better than when I first saw a new coworker (whom I’d previously met once at a happy hour in a semi-lit bar) at a meeting at work, and greeted him with “Oh it’s you, I didn’t recognize you with the lights on!” (Apparently made everybody’s day with that remark.) Awesome stylists are hard to find (and this one even has a face, extra bonus!)

      1. quill*

        Once in college a friend was grousing about having worn shoes that were not suitable for the sudden change in october weather to “damp and cold” and having to walk back to the dorm to change.

        I blurted out “I didn’t even notice you had feet!” to general amusement… and next semester came down with my first bout of extreme tendonitis in my feet. Leading to many foot jokes at my expense for the next four years.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Who among us has never said to a coworker “Oh, I didn’t recognize you with pants on!”?

        (SKIRTS. She usually wore distinctive ankle-length SKIRTS.)

  57. MissDisplaced*

    #5 I sort of get why you’d want to maybe match the button with say, your work profile picture, so that people make a connection to who you are. But yeah, this feels a bit dorky for most workplaces.

    Though it’s probably fine you’re working in education, counseling, or other job with high interaction levels where it’s really important people get to know who you are by sight.

  58. Laura H.*

    OP 1,

    I’m a volunteer for my parish’s middle school aged faith formation going on 9 years. I’m also an alumnae of that program in my parish- I volunteer at the same one I grew up in.

    Not sure if this is still correct, but at one time, I was told that there are six semesters worth of catechesis that my parish’s program of choice covers. It doesn’t feel like I’ve ever rehashed anything with the content. (Aside from maybe a few lessons around certain points in the liturgical year, and one lesson that is far more homebrewed than the norm where each day of Holy Week is discussed in depth.) The teaching at its core clearly does go through a cycle of sorts but only when you look at the core catechesis.

    Now while we use a national branded program for the content, our program is going to feel different from a nearby parish using the same content, due to environment and “staffing” differences, as the volunteer pool changes year to year. (I think I’m the longest serving volunteer in that group this year.)

    Can you also suggest resources to your YM, or that it’s okay to borrow ideas- there’s bound to be some out there that cater to a general Southern Baptist church’s tenets and tendencies. It sounds like the teaching at its knowledge level is solid, but the approach and execution need work. Make these distinctly separate. Highlighting what your YM does well and encouraging them to use that strength as they investigate new ways to present the teaching and engage your youth seems like it would make this go smoother.

    In addition, maybe it’s time to bring in someone new to assist your YM and make an exit more possible if needed. I’m still where I am because I know the ministry needs all the warm bodies and minds to engage and look after the youth in our care. While I also volunteer with this ministry because I enjoy it, I will have hopefully an easier time transitioning out when the time comes because I’m not the first one who’s done it, and there will be someone to step in and fill the “vacancy” created by my departure.

    Does your YM have that sense of “It won’t implode if I need to leave/ can no longer perform my duties.”? That can make a world of difference.

    Good luck and blessings on you and your fellow committee members as you discern this issue.

  59. Dwight Schrute*

    Job searching husband letter: I helped review resumes and applications at my first job and we never checked the time stamps

    New director letter: I’m so sorry your new director is driving everyone away! I think Alison is right that you’ll either have to learn to be ok with it ( I probably wouldn’t be) or you’ll have to leave.

    Buttons: please don’t do the button. I think it would come across as cringe worthy and odd. I would just make a profile picture for slack or teams or whatever email and chat your office uses

  60. CCC*

    I try not to get touchy when there’s something in here about weird advice people have gotten from colleges/career services, I recognize it’s a real issue and it’s not as if you’ll get a bunch of questions from people who got excellent advice from their colleges, and it’s not about me, but fwiw, never in my 10 years of career services have I heard a colleague or peer at another college suggest that only applying during business hours was a thing. What the heck. Business hours are decreasingly even a thing, and at places where they are, they’re usually not 9-5. This is so weird. Husband just wants to find excuses not to job search.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      More like, he wants excuses not to take care of the kids and housework while OP is out at work.

      1. CCC*

        I assumed he was currently working from 9-5 since OP mentions he works in finance, but yeah, whatever the motivation, he’s making excuses to avoid something. I’m a bit biased because I routinely meet folks who claim to be job seeking but are finding every excuse under the sun to not actually apply to any jobs (usually it’s related to anxiety, self-esteem, uncertainty, etc., but every once and a while they just don’t actually want a new job).

  61. Rebekah*

    OP#1 This might not work in your context and demographics, but have you considered moving him into seniors’ ministry? From the description he sounds perfect. Often the bulk of seniors ministry is being a warm and empathetic listening ear.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      This is a great idea! I think that demographic would appreciate more routine things than the youth group would and might enjoy having the same events over and over.

    2. LW#1*

      That’s a good idea. Unlike many SBC churches and some in our area, we don’t have a large senior adult population. Our church is kind of busting at the seems with kids/teens/families. Which is great! He also not quite old enough to do a “senior adult” pastor role. Which is a weird comment to say.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I don’t know what ministry would be appropriate for him, but I urge you to find something besides youth. A great youth program is a driver for bringing in families with kids. A great program can run on momentum, but only for a couple of years. Then word will get out that the program isn’t that great after all.

      2. Sea Anemone*

        “He also not quite old enough to do a “senior adult” pastor role.”

        Does he have to be a certain age to minister to senior citizens? He is way older than the teenagers he ministers to, and that’s not a problem.

      3. Laura H.*

        Could there be a ministry to the parents of the youth? As I said in my comment, if his theological and catechetical understandings are sound, he might be able to explain what the youth are learning in the group.

      4. Holly Dolly*

        We had a pastoral care minister on staff when I served on staff and that man was an amazing servant of God. He had such a gentle way and was wise. Preached lots of funerals and mentored and did various things. Maybe that’s an idea if you have that ministry. I am careful about what I say on this platform bc I got crucified in the comments above. I hope you find something that works for the church. I do think it’s worth talking to him about the health issues though. That very much can affect job performance. Good luck! I prayed for y’all last night.

  62. James*

    #5 reminds me of the time I cut my hair short and came into the office. I’m usually a bit….scruffy. I’m a field guy, it goes with the job. When I came in with my hair cut and my beard trimmed a person I’d worked with for two years came over, introduced themselves, and asked who I was looking for. They genuinely didn’t recognize me.

    It’s mildly amusing (if you’re the one not recognized) or embarrassing (if you’re the one making the mistake) when this happens. But a week later it’s a funny story you tell around the coffee pot.

    I wouldn’t wear the button. People will recognize your voice, your stance, your style, etc. Wearing a button would be more disruptive than just occasionally having someone make a mistake.

  63. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Just a thought: the youth pastor is well-loved and has been around for a while…. he might be too old to move with the times and engage with children where they’re at nowadays? No longer in touch with the kind of music they’re listening to, or the games they’re playing: I can see that being a problem. The people youngsters engage with most readily are often not much older than themselves, in their 20s for example. They’re old enough to be looked up to, but not old they have no idea what makes kids tick. The youth pastor is probably the same age as the youngsters’ parents, which is definitely too old to be cool, and not yet young enough to provide grandfatherly fun.
    This sounds terribly ageist, and I’m sure there are some great youth pastors in their 40s, but it’s worth looking at this aspect and perhaps encouraging the youth pastor to perhaps seek a position where he’ll be interacting with a different age group, if he can’t get with the times in order to better engage with children of today.

  64. April*

    #1 Southern Baptist churches have a resource for this, actually. Each state has its own organization that advises and guides clergy in its own state. You can find a list here: https://www.sbc.net/resources/directories/state-and-local-associations/
    When I worked at one a long time ago, this particular department was called Church Staff Leadership, and we worked directly with committees like yours to find or replace pastors, and to provide guidance to pastors who needed or wanted to make changes. My organization was large (Bible Belt) and we had an entire department devoted exclusively to youth pastors and ministries, including access to curriculum and statewide activities.
    In the event that the youth pastor decides to transition out, the organization can also help by placing interns or interims.

  65. Worker bee*

    #1. Almost everyone in youth ministry ages out of it at some point. That’s nobody’s fault but it is always a difficult situation. Try to find him a different job in the church.

  66. Senor Bunsy*

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so open an acknowledgement that religion is just a business before… Honesty is refreshing sometimes.

    1. LW#1*

      Given how many churches either sweep pastoral staff issues under the rug/pass them around to other churches or just badly handle it and cause division or death of a church, it seems prudent to approach this from a framework of accountability.

    2. RagingADHD*

      It’s a business in the same way that a hospital is a business: you’re there to serve people, and if you don’t meet their needs they will stop coming to you. So you need to sort out the deficiencies, which often involves HR issues.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Churches have a lot in common with other non-profit organizations. You are there to serve people and carry out a particular mission. You are also heavily reliant on volunteers and on goodwill from the membership/parishioners. All of which can be jeopardized by doing things that make perfectly good sense in business terms.

      Making an exit plan for a beloved youth pastor who is no longer up to the role is fraught with hazards, and I hope LW#1 can find some good suggestions here.

    4. pancakes*

      You can’t have been looking in many places, then. It’s hardly a secret. The Vatican, for example, pioneered modern tax shelters in the 1930s (British Grolux Investments Ltd).

  67. LW#1*

    Thank you Alison for posting my letter. I am a frequent commenter but sticking with LW1 for this. And I’m already kicking myself for not putting more info in my letter. I usually go “why didn’t the LW say that in the original letter”? It’s hard to figure out what all to say. So, to address a few of the comments…

    1. I’m a child of a minister and have held a staff position in our denomination. I get church politics. I know this is fraught.
    2. He was told about specific areas to improve. The pandemic and ensuing shut down really cramped any expectations about physical meetings when we couldn’t physically meet. And while I don’t know exactly what the pastor said to him, the concerns are NOT a surprise. I’ve managed staff long enough to know not to do that.
    3. I would argue ageism is not at play. I’ve seen 70 year old adults leading youth who were engaging and relatable. He has post college age kids/early 20’s. He’s probably late 40’s early 50’s.
    4. He deeply cares for the youth. Truly he does but the stagnation is a big issue and has caused families to leave the church…after expressing concerns which you don’t often get. People usually just leave.

    I could write a PIP for someone with an attitude problem. But writing something to help them be less boring and more engaging is where we are struggling. I like the idea of a survey and the idea of letting the youth have more agency in planning with him in support. That’s a great idea! If we thought training or money or an intern would help, we’d happily through money towards this. The issue is the self-awareness. I will try to pop in thru the day and respond to comments.

    1. Zennish*

      While this is an administrative problem, it also reads to me as a place where counseling might help, in that self-awareness keeps getting mentioned as a stumbling block. Who is the youth pastor’s spiritual counselor, and would they be able to have some direct, but compassionate conversations with them about whether there is some underlying problem or disengagement that’s causing the youth pastor to not want to look critically at their ministry?

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      If there’s not something off to the side that’s making him more boring (fatigue, depression, other health related things), then it could be a lack of inspiration. It’s easy to fall back on what worked before and to simply believe that things are fine.

      If you want to keep him, then finding inspiration may be the ticket. Ideally with the research being, in part, his assigned project. I would start by reaching out to the church administration community (i.e., folks running churches in or out of your denomination) and looking for ideas about new things people are doing — maybe with an excuse that looking for “post-shutdown” program ideas.
      I also find that doing a creative project entirely separate from “the job” can be helpful to unstick someone and get new ideas that spill over into “the job”. Can you encourage a little sabbatical or course that would feed his soul for a bit before rebuilding his program?

      I’m in serious pandemic burnout now that the substantial crisis is over in my workplace, just bored with the limitations of my life and tired of my pod and small work community. I’m finding it very soothing to join up with communities of makers who are busy exploring new and wonderful techniques and approaches and to make my own little efforts in response. The best parts are when there are conversations with the participants where I can imagine that I’m an entirely interesting and fulfilled person for a few minutes.

    3. I don’t post often*

      Hi LW #1:
      So there are several things at play here. Glad to hear you’ve been on church staff before, because that makes a difference. Im a pastors wife. We served as NAMB missionaries before that.
      1. How often does your personnel committee cycle? If you put a PIP in place, will you be there to see it through? Or are you rolling off the committee? This is something to consider.
      2. Do the youth actually like him? Look, I say this as a pastors wife. Pastor’s love their congregation. That doesn’t mean the congregation loves them back. Particularly in a baptist church in which we are congregation lead. Which leads me to ..
      2a. Is really best for the church if he just leaves? If so talk to your local or state org. Also NAMB does have some resources to help, but it’s less hands on and you are likely to get connected with someone state or local. If you don’t pay dues to the state or local org, it’s ok. Give them a call anyway. They are there to help. (If you are in Virginia or Texas make sure you call the correct org that fits your church the best. If you aren’t in those states dont worry about this. But do remember that anything “Cooperative Baptist Fellowship” is completely different from “Southern Baptist”.) the state org has a regional or statewide person that supports pastors, but also supports congregations. This person can step in and help you talk to the pastor. If what you really want is an exit strategy, this can be a huge help. What you really need is a third party to assist. I’m sure you have those families that love this person, so a third party like this can be truly helpful. (And if connected to your state org your church pastors probably already known and trust this person.)
      3. As far as teaching and programs, Lifeway is expensive but it is plug and play and the ideas are truly age appropriate. Bite the bullet and pay for Lifeway material it is truly worth it.
      4. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about in this post, I’m willing to get connected to you outside this site to assist. Know you aren’t alone. The pandemic has exposed so many problems in churches and many churches that ignore issues now just must deal with them.
      5. Is your church mission focused on the gospel? I say this because it can be easier to have a conversation if that’s the case. “The video game night was fun, but I notice you don’t have anyone in Bible study… how can we transition those people? What might be the problem?”

      1. not your typical admin*

        Fellow SBC pw here! Just had to say how neat it was to see familiar lingo (NAMB, LifeWay, CBF). Totally agree with your advice. Church life and work can be very tricky and messy, but doing it right is so worth it.

        1. I don’t post often*

          I wish there was a “like” button to like your post! We baptist have our lingo. I admit to chuckling while reading some of these comments. Baptists don’t know or use words like “catechism”, “parish”, etc. it’s a completely different world. I didn’t realize this until I was in college. I was shocked to find out there were churches that had communion every week!

          1. Laura H.*

            I can relate to the shock, I’m Catholic and well my brain sorta froze when I asked my Baptist roommate about what they do for Advent and was met with a “What’s Advent?”

      2. LW#1*

        Lol. I know all those things. And it’s funny because one of the main editors/writers of Lifeway was the officiant for my wedding. I also know one of the main church plant leaders in the SBC. I know our connections on the local, state and national levels.

        Our PC people serve for 2 years with new folks coming on every year to make sure there is continuity. We are very much advisory group to the pastor unlike my past history where there is a ton of committee control. My church doesn’t even have a committee on committees. Gasp, right? And the church doesn’t even vote when we need new carpet.

        1. not your typical admin*

          No committee on committees! How do you even function, lol! We’re in a similar situation. We planted our congregation 13 year ago, then 9 years ago we merged with a dying congregation because we outgrew our space. We have one business meeting a year to approve the budget. Everything else is decided by staff or teams.

    4. Church politics is a whole 'nother world!*

      LW1, thank you for being so kind during all this. As someone who was a Southern Baptist pastor’s wife for many years I know the tightwalk you are trying to walk. I think someone else asked this but would it be possible to move him to another pastoral position in the church? That would probably be the best way to handle it without too many hard feelings.
      Have you checked with your Director of Missions/Associational office? They may have some ideas to help you also.
      I hope y’all are able to work this out. I never imagined saying this on AAM, but I will be praying for you.

      1. LW#1*

        I do appreciate your prayer and this has certainly been something covered with prayer for the past few years. The group (of which I’m not the chair, I’m just asking AAM because of the wealth of knowledge) struggles with what to do and we’ve tried hard to help the pastor craft good metrics and goals.

    5. Sea Anemone*

      Try taking a collaborative problem solving approach rather than a “you suck” approach, which is what a PIP is. Make your pastor part of the solution. Brainstorm with him and with some of the teenagers to come up with ways of engaging the youth. And I would hold off on the PIP until you have a conversation during which you say, “we need to see more engagement from the youth or we will start a formal PIP.” Bc while there have been talks, the talks may not have been explicit that change is necessary.

    6. Thursdaysgeek*

      Asking the youth to take some leadership roles is also good for them – they will learn more when they teach, and it makes them more engaged with the church itself. A big problem is youth becoming adults, aging out of youth group, and not having any other connections or responsibilities in the church. If they find themselves useful and needed, it helps them stay.

    7. BabyElephantWalk*

      The more I hear the more convinced I am that this role is not a good fit for this person. He has been given feedback and improvement has not occurred. Your church is literally losing congregants directly because of the fact that he does not perform well in this role.

      It’s time to start looking at a future that does not include this person as your youth pastor. Maybe it means finding him another role within your church. Maybe it means helping him find something at another church, or different organization. Or maybe it means sitting down with him and telling him directly what you’re telling us and having a sensitive conversation about how he would like to move forward.

  68. SJ (they/them)*

    LW #2, there is lots of good commentary here already about why your husband is wrong on the facts.

    Also, like some other commenters, after reading your letter I felt a bit concerned for you about whether you are generally being treated with kindness and respect by this person. You might find some useful information at the website “love is respect dot org”. Wishing you well and sending good vibes your way.

  69. It's Me*

    #1 – As someone who has been one of those bored teens (who comes from a family of pastors!), thank you LW#1 for pushing for better even when it’s tricky and uncomfortable. Pastoral roles are incredibly challenging, but they’re still jobs just like any other jobs, and churches have very weird, squishy work/life boundaries that can make it so much easier to prioritize the ~*feelings*~ of the dude in the role (it’s almost always a dude) rather than the population he’s supposed to be serving. You can be compassionate and understanding and still require the work to be done. Bravo!

    If there’s a way to get more feedback from the families who were kind enough to express some concerns before they left, that might help as well? Like, is there anything concrete that would’ve assuaged their concerns?

    1. LW#1*

      Thank you for understanding the quicksand we are in.

      Yes, we have details on why the families (multiple ones) left. Those were presented, kindly, to the YP and it was excused or rationalized away. But it still came back to boring lessons, wash/rinse/repeat on activities, nothing new or challenging.

      1. It's Me*

        Yeah, okay, that seems like an even bigger issue? He was told *directly* that what he was doing was driving people away from the church and he brushed it off?? (Hopefully not to their faces! I’ve had leadership do that to me and it caused church hurt that lingers to this day, much more than simply being heard would have.)

        Rooting for you!!

      2. Observer*

        This is the real problem – he has been TOLD what the problem is and he refuses to engage with it.

        I don’t know that a PIP of any sort is going to help until that changes. I think he needs to hear, clearly, that “We want you to succeed. But if you are not willing to make changes or consider that there are some real issues, we’re going to have to move you out.”

        NOT an easy place to be. But refusal to accept that there is even a problem really makes any forward motion impossible.

  70. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #2 I’d really love to see an update to this letter. Commenters (myself included) are not reading this with much generosity towards your husband, and I’d really like to see if the responses do anything to temper his outlook. Is this really a deeply held belief that’s been leading him astray? Was this helpful? Does he double down? Are y’all doing okay?

  71. BooDirectors*

    So I am LW #3 and I wanted to thank everyone for their advice. I also wanted to note that at the same time I was saw that my letter had been published, I also got an email that we have yet another resignation from the team and this one cited issues with the director as the reason as well. We are now down a full third of our team. I am also job hunting in earnest now, I need to get out. No benefits are worth this.

    1. Paris Geller*

      Good luck! Hope you find a new amazing place soon. I’ve seen this situation play out multiple times and the powers that be never realize how much of an issue it is until it’s too late (my most horrible boss had NINETY percent turnover in her two and a half years at a place where people in other departments stayed 5, 10, 15+ years. When she left only one original team member was still there.)

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is there anybody above the director that you can go to? Board of directors, owners? Because I think at this point you have a fiduciary duty to them to let them know that this person is going to destroy the business.

    3. Sara without an H*

      I think you’re being smart. Be sure to check out the AAM archives — Alison has lots of good stuff there about job hunting, cover letters, etc.

      Good luck, and send us an update when you find something.

  72. not your typical admin*

    LW 1

    Baptist pastor’s wife here, so I’m going to give a little bit of inside perspective.

    It sounds like this guys is totally burned out in this role. One of the hardest things about ministry is constantly having to come up with something fresh, new, and engaging. Even things that worked great at one time can easily become stagnant. It’s emotionally exhausting feeling like you constantly have to stay ahead of the curve. Between that, and constantly having to make decisions and change plans in light of covid, and every single Pastor I know right now is burned out.

    My suggestion would be to transition him to a new role. Where is he gifted, and what needs does the church have? We’re actually in the process of doing this with our worship pastor (at his suggestion). He realizes that he’s loosing some of the charisma required for the job, so within the next year he’s going to transition to doing administration and pastoral care. I know it’s hard to have these conversations, but it’s so much better to do it now than let frustrations on both sides grow.

    1. LW1*

      Thanks. As a child of a baptist pastor, I appreciate your perspective as well. It’s tough and in ways that some can’t really understand.

      1. not your typical admin*

        Ministry is tough! And you’re right; it’s hard for those outside that world to understand. Thank you for serving and wanting the best for this guy and the church.

    2. GreenDoor*

      LW Alison’s suggestions are how we measure the work of parental engagement in the school system I work for. I would also add that you survey the youth to see what their wants and needs are. Do they want more Bible study? More field trips or spiritual retreats? It’s hard to say “come up with two new activities this year” without knowing what the kids might like. If you can survey the youth….you might be able to help him help himself.

  73. Chloe*

    “…an improvement plan for a pastor.”


    I know this is a serious question, but nonetheless, I can’t stop laughing. Awesome topic.

  74. Zennish*

    OP #2… I’m a manager, and in my experience anyway, this isn’t a thing. I don’t know if our process is “normal” whatever that means, but when I have an open position, our HR office forwards me the applications of those who meet the basic, on-paper requirements in batches a couple times a week. I don’t know when they came in, and don’t care.

  75. RagingADHD*

    LW1, some important components of church youth programs are service and leadership development. Teens get bored when they are passive. Engaged young people want to do things and make a valuable contribution.

    These might also function as useful metrics.

    Are the teens volunteering inside and outside the church? How many community projects do they do per year? How many teens serve in regular roles like ushering, choir, nursery, VBS, cleanup crew, altar guild, etc?

    Our church has a youth-led service once a year. You could set goals around participation, and/or have them involved with planning.

    How many teens invite friends to Bible study? They’re not going to do that if it’s boring.

    How often does the youth pastor solicit input and ideas from the teens about what topics or approaches they’d like to cover in their studies? They could do a “Guernsey Literary Society” type project, where each teen discovers a book or devotional and makes a case for using it in class.

    Best wishes to you. You’re in a very tricky situation, and I hope things go well.

    1. LW1*

      You’ve highlighted a couple of the things that they should be doing that I was already planning to include. They don’t do much in the way of volunteering around the community and absolutely should!

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        My church had a wonderful youth program. It was so good that our friends all started coming to it even though their families didn’t attend our church. We did lots of volunteer stuff in the community, we went bowling, roller skating and ice skating, we put on plays and we did folk masses where we played the guitar and sang traditional folk and spiritual Christian music. One time we put on two plays in front of the congregation that had been written by a Christian living in Israel. They were about Jesus. There was one where I played Mary and I talked about being afraid of being a teenage mother. Ask the kids what they’d like to do!

  76. Hey- I'm Number 5!*

    Hey all! I’ll let people keep weighing in, but this is conforming my hesitation in wearing anything with my picture on it. I’ll look for opportunities to add my picture to technology, and love the idea of pictures in my office. It has been so interesting – the responses to facelessness in the pandemic. My best friend had face blindness but can remember names and dates from 20 years ago. I have a photographic memory for faces and can recognize someone years later from a fleeting engagement. I guess I just…really really miss faces. But me wearing a photobutton of *me* isn’t really going to solve that wistful sadness, which I think is at the heart of this twee scheme.

    Thanks all, for the comments! You’ve saved me from embarrassing myself. :)

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I feel you on missing faces. It may be possible to see your coworkers’ faces, at least a little bit.

      At my company, COVID rules allow employees to eat together (unmasked, obviously) if (1) everyone is vaccinated and (2) they eat outside. I don’t know if your new company will have similar rules, but if it does, you could ask if anyone feels comfortable eating lunch with you. Obviously, this depends on company rules, the weather, your risk/comfort level, and your coworkers’ risk/comfort levels.

      Also at my work, people tend to put their masks on right when they enter the building and take them off right when they leave, so if you run into any coworkers as you’re arriving/leaving, you might be able to see their faces for a bit. Just want to give you some hope that all is not (necessarily) lost!

  77. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    LW#5: Mmmm… the button feels a little weird and gimmicky, for some reason (unless everyone in the office was doing the same thing, that is). I’ve onboarded several people throughout the pandemic and we’ve all worn masks around each other. We all barely know what we look like. You could always can stand really far apart from each other, take off your mask for a moment, and wave hello! “This is what I actually look like!” [insert big smile then mask back up]. That should be safe enough.

    1. Colette*

      That’s adding risk to the people you’re talking to without their consent, which isn’t a great way to start the job.

    2. quill*

      Honestly I look like a lab coat asking questions to most of my coworkers, and that’s fine! Might start wearing lipstick occasionally when this is all over though.

    3. pancakes*

      Please don’t do this. Safety aside (!), it would be really, really weird. If someone at work insisted on showing me their nose and mouth this way I’d be gobsmacked.

  78. employment lawyah*

    3. Director is so bad that everyone is leaving
    There probably ARE people above him, namely the board. But they might not talk to ordinary folks like you. Also, they may have different priorities and judgments: Perhaps YOU don’t think he’s doing a good job, but THEY may love him! That is usually a factor of different priorities: You may look at the small scale, while they could be very happy with his broad company-wide planning, or the way he brings in new business, etc.

    In the end I doubt you could do much. Either accept it and stay, or leave while you can still maintain a good rapport and get a good reference.

    That said: Have you considered a lateral in-company move? It’s possible that some positions would be better, even WITH this director. Most obviously, if your immediate boss is really awesome, they can be a good insulator from the director and can really improve your day.

    4. Are interviewers turned off that I say my son is my priority?
    Yes, they are turned off on two fronts.

    First is the “priority.” The usual expectation is that work will be a priority during business hours, subject to actual emergencies and such. But the issue is that people really vary about what is an emergency, and what sort of tradeoffs they make as a result.

    Nobody wants one of those employees for whom “anything vaguely related to family comes before anything to do with work.” By focusing on your kid as a priority, you are probably coming across like that.

    Next, people generally prefer to hire people who WANT the job. Not necessarily “desperate,” but also not “I could take this or leave it, but I guess I’ll take it.” All things being equal, it’s nice to have a level of interest and commitment.

    Frankly, your post makes me feel like you don’t really want to work; that you don’t care about it; and that you aren’t interested. This is fine–it’s your life!–but it’ll hurt your hiring. If you come across that way in interviews it’s a red flag, ESPECIALLY if you combine with the “priority” thing.

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

    #5. An option for this could be if you have a security badge with your name and picture. At an old job we had to have our badges with us if we left our floor. Couldnt get back into the building without it. The badge was like a credit card and it had a lanyard. It had our photo, name, and I think our department. At the clinics and nursing homes that I’ve visited the staff all have their ID’s clipped to their shirts. If you’re company has a photo id badge system maybe just wear the badge? Otherwise, I think it’s weird to have a picture of yourself on your clothes.

  80. AppleStan*

    LW#1: I’m staying away from commenting on the whole PIP process and what not, because I think that’s been adequately covered.

    While I saw recommendations for sending him to conferences and trainings, has there ever been some sort of “exchange” program considered with other churches similar to yours (like in size/temperament/how you’re governed (meaning not reporting to a larger organization) that *do* have the type of programs you are looking for.

    It honestly sounds like everyone in this church is just…in a rut. That’s easy to get into and sometimes you can’t tell that’s what’s happening until someone from the outside points it out…in this case, the teenagers that are complaining about the staleness of the program.

    I myself am not active in a church, so I don’t understand even the basic church politics that can occur, but just consider some sort of exchange program, OR assigning several churches for him to go visit (maybe 1 a week for 4 weeks or something like that), and let him know that it’s for him to get some fresh ideas.

    And finally…has anyone ever asked the teenagers what THEY are looking for?

    1. Gobbo McGobberson*

      | has anyone ever asked the teenagers what THEY are looking for?

      Such a pertinent question that not enough people are asking lol

  81. LCH*

    in situations like #3 where a new top of the company is hired (so they obviously aren’t the owner/person who created the company), who hires them? can this issue not be brought to whoever hired them?

    1. anonymous73*

      Probably an executive board or similar. I can say from experience, even when the reason is obvious as to why people are leaving at a high rate, changes won’t necessarily happen. A company has made a hiring decision for reasons other than the obvious, and there’s nothing anyone can do or say that will change it.

  82. Elm*

    I find the final question hilarious and I highly recommend doing it AFTER getting the lay of the land (and finding out if you need a photo badge for the office, rendering it moot). If the office seems good natured and like they’d find it amusing, go for it!

    (Remember, you’ll probably already have to upload a headshot to your email or online chat options, so they’ll probably have an idea, but I still find this hilarious.)

    I’d even get some stickers printed that say “Hello My Name Is…” with your photo and preferred name on it. (I say preferred because I don’t go by my first name and it’s hard to remember since we’re all remote and that automatically shows up.) I actually think that would help folks both remember your name and know who you are when the masks come off.

    I also think getting a custom printed mask of the lower part of your face would be amazing, but that might be a step too far.

    In the meantime, if you have a desk, bring a photo of you and a loved one (significant other, parent, cat, whatever) and set it there. If not, when people ask about your fam, do the old school photos in the wallet. For me, I wouldn’t find it weird if this was a pic of you and your pet goldfish or anything, especially if you have a sense of humor about it (“Oh, Frankie here really is a huge attention seeker! Also, I figured someone should know my secret identity, and you seem trustworthy.”)

    But, I fully admit I’m weird. Again, get the lay of the land before doing anything beyond the desk and maybe wallet photos (if the wallet photos are of your family, not just Frankie Fish, despite his attention seeking).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I also think getting a custom printed mask of the lower part of your face would be amazing

      Ehhh I think that’s getting into creepy uncanny valley territory if only half of your face is emoting

      1. Kit*

        Not if you do like Macaulay Culkin, and get the mask to emote by wearing the flayed face of your younger self! (He got a custom-printed mask of the hands-on-face shriek from Home Alone, it’s hilariously awesome and that really is the language he used in his PSA. The uncanny valley has nothing on that…)

  83. Observer*

    #2 – Alison is right, and your husband is incorrect. But I have a few questions for you.

    Why are your choices “I am right” or “My husband is making stuff up” rather than “I am right” or “My husband is right”?

    Why would you limit job search to the hours that you can submit applications? There is more to job search than just submitting applications.

    Is he only submitting applications through ATS? If applications are emailed, why not set up the application when it’s convenient and schedule the email to go out at a better time?

    Which is to say, that aside from the issue of when to submit applications (where your husband IS mistaken), you both seem to be quite hyper focused on submitting applications as the whole of job searching, and rather rigid in how it’s being approached. It might be beneficial to rethink the process a bit because that gives you more options.

  84. higheredrefugee*

    Re: #2 – I get beating up college career services, after spending 15 years doing the work, but this one reminds me to caution others that sometimes (often?) our information is misinterpreted. This one sounds like explaining to a student that no one will be reviewing materials or responding to voice mails or emails outside of regular hours, and that if you follow up outside those hours, don’t expect a call back or reply until the next day. Students regularly extrapolate that kind of explanations as to why their materials aren’t getting interviews or why a recruiter isn’t replying instantly. Truly, the leaps of logic can be astounding.

  85. DG*

    If HR is going to judge people based on the time they submit an application, couldn’t they also judge a currently-employed person for job searching and submitting applications during business hours, when they should be focused on their current job? (If it’s not clear from the mid-workday timing of this post, I personally don’t subscribe to that line of thinking!)

    For every fringe recruiter who passes on an applicant because of an 11pm submission, there’s probably one who passes on a “9-5” applicant for shirking their responsibilities at work.

  86. Wait, what?*

    LW #5,
    I know a lot of teachers who have been wearing buttons with pictures of their faces for their students to know what they look like. I think it makes sense in the context of working with children, but the consensus seems to be that it would be weird if you’re working with grown-ups.

  87. SWFgoesketo*

    I see that #5 has already posted, but a few people mentioned not being able to put their fingers on what seemed “off” about it.

    I think the appearance focus is a big part of it, particularly when women are concerned. I used to teach online, and it always creeped me out a bit when students demanded pictures. I think a lot of women* can also relate to experiences in which people act as though their faces are supposed to be for public consumption (strangers demanding that we smile, compliments/comments/remarks on our appearance rather than character or actions, unsolicited suggestions about how to improve our appearance, etc.), which is pretty icky, especially in a workplace. Even if the poster weren’t trying to encourage others to sport buttons or otherwise “share faces,” going out of one’s way to make sure that others can see your face when it isn’t actually an essential part of one’s job does reinforce the idea that appearance is somehow an important part of a person’s job/ability to connect with colleagues/etc.

    * this may vary across cultures, of course

  88. Anon for now*

    #3 – unfortunately it doesn’t matter who speaks up, nothing will change. Only that persons boss (even if it’s a board of directors) can change things. And, at least in my experience, that can take years if ever. I have worked for a company with a toxic CEO, but the rotating board (they serve 3 year terms) thought he was great. No amount of turnover or rumblings from the staff changed anything. So it’s unlikely things will change, sadly.

  89. Daisy-dog*

    #4 – I worked with someone with a similar situation at a very busy clothing store. She would work 9-2 on weekdays and nothing more (see very busy above). I do believe that the leadership team did allow her to work this schedule in part because of understanding her situation and priorities (disabled child who could not be with strangers because of emotional issues – he was comfortable with her, her husband, and the teachers at school). I do want to highlight that she was a really good employee and this schedule could be hard to fill because our store primarily had students working there. However, the advantages provided were for both because of the value that she provided AND because of her circumstances.

    I feel that an office job will be even more accommodating. Part-time roles rarely need extra work outside of business hours. And – at least where I am – most people in leadership have families themselves. While they may not be the primary caretakers, most know what it looks like because of their spouse/partner.

    Do you need to say it in the interview? Not at that stage. I think emphasizing the schedule you’re available to work is enough. Once you get an offer, mention it to your supervisor or HR. They will hopefully be understanding or it’s possible that this role isn’t a good fit.

  90. RagingADHD*

    LW5, if you work in a casual restaurant where employees are expected to “show flair,” this is a great idea.

    If not, then it’s out of place.

  91. Red*

    Lol @ #2. Maybe I’m cynical but I’d bet a dollar your husband learned no such thing in college and was just trying to find an excuse to not do whatever you’re asking him to do.

  92. RagingADHD*

    Peoole of all ages gripe about being bored sometimes, and a certain amount of moodiness or contrariness is developmentally appropriate for teenagers.

    Parents don’t leave churches because of ordinary, occasional griping. They will leave if their kids aren’t learning anything valuable or growing in character (among other reasons, of course)

  93. nnn*

    #5: Personally, I’d get nothing out of seeing a photo of what you look like unmasked.

    If we’re interacting in person, I can see your eyes, so I feel like I can see you as a human being. I can’t see what your mouth contributes to your current facial expression, but a still photo won’t provide that information.

    I’ve heard of people doing it in medical contexts so if I saw it I’d think “Oh, they’re doing that thing,” but I wouldn’t feel any benefit from it.

  94. nnn*

    For #1, a thing to consider is what exactly the teens want to be getting out of their bible study that they aren’t getting.

    They report being bored. But are they getting the information they need/want/expect delivered in a boring way? Or are they not getting the information they need/want/expect? Is it more of an issue that the pastor lectures in a dull monotone? Or is it more that he’s mindlessly using the same textbook they’ve been using for the past 50 years rather than relating the lessons of the bible study to life in the year 2021?

    Teenagers should be able to give you this information themselves with some guided questions!

    1. quill*

      Yeah. Consider if it’s the structure, the content, or the fact that teens naturally aren’t that interested in even more school-like obligations than they already have. Are they bored because they’ve been doing the same program in sunday school since age six? Are they bored because everything covered seems irrelevant to the middle of a pandemic? Or are they bored because they’d like to actually do useful things instead of sitting in a classroom for more hours, and could they be working on the church’s mission via some sort of volunteerism?

  95. GS*

    Not to pile on for OP#2, but to reassure you, I work at one of the largest global financial institutions and I used to be a recruiter at my company. He is completely and totally wrong about his application getting lost.

  96. staceyizme*

    Pastors, youth pastors, music directors, family life ministers (deacons, elders, etc.) have had as hellacious a two year interval as everyone else. Some churches have pivoted to online, some have pivoted to hybrid and some have shuttered. They’re members and attenders are traumatized. THEY”RE traumatized. This simply isn’t the time to write a PIP based on how anybody is feeling (because everyone, speaking very generally, is feeling crappy, tired, anxious, cynical, depressed or angry). This is the wrong time to kick your guy out, OP1. Get more hands-on. Have some fresh young faces incubate their ideas for programming and incubate your next generation of leaders, possibly right out of your own youth. As long as the deal is “I’m bored”, “I’m depressed”, “I’m tired”, “this is just the same-old, same-old”, any minister is going to be on the losing end of an examination of his relative value to the church. Be less business-y and a little more church-y and overlook fixing him until you can fix some of the impacts of covid-19. (And be a little wary of church-as-consumer-experience perspective indexing. It’s only part of the picture, in my view.)

    1. Colette*

      The youth he presumably works with need support they aren’t getting. Why should the need of the minister be prioritized over their needs?

    2. Allonge*

      Have some fresh young faces incubate their ideas for programming and incubate your next generation of leaders, possibly right out of your own youth. etc.

      Is this not what the pastor is supposed to be doing though?

  97. Assessment Librarian*

    For #1 – I balk at the idea of a PIP, as if he is somehow at fault and needs to “exit.” Sounds pretty punitive for what you describe as a great human being, fixture of the community, whose programs just aren’t meeting current community needs. In a CHURCH. You could cause this guy – and all those whose faith has been built on his kind heartedness – to lose their faith. That’s your whole mission you’re compromising.

    A more useful tactic would be working with him to learn how to hear the community’s voice and respond appropriately through what the humanitarian program assessment world calls MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation, Assessment, and Learning).

    As you study these methods, sorry AMA, but I disagree – sounds like your focus will need more qualitative measurements, not quantitative. Because many youth will show up/stay because their parents mandate it. But the LW’s question is the quality of the content, the quality of the experience. So I’d recommend a focus group, in-depth interviews, or teen advisory board with whom he continually collaborates on program planning.

    1. Colette*

      His job is to produce the programs that aren’t meeting the community’s needs. You can have compassion for someone while still recognizing that the people they serve need someone else in that role.

      1. Assessment Librarian*

        Community work requires being provided the resources to meet community needs: a MEAL toolkit, and learnable skills. His church and board currently don’t provide either. It’s not a flaw in who he is or his innate abilities; it’s a resource kit all modern churches, libraries, and other humanitarian organizations have to provide their staff. Regardless of who comprises the staff. And this guy’s strong community network (“he is a fixture of the broader community”) is the foundation of this kind of work – absolutely irreplaceable.

        1. Colette*

          It sounds like the OP is looking for information that would help them be specific about what they need him to do, which seems to match what you’re asking for.

          They should give him any resources they have, and clear standards to meet.

          But that doesn’t mean he will be able to do it. Sometimes the job changes and the person who has been doing it isn’t willing or able to adjust. Sometimes people develop health issues that mean they can’t do the job they used to do. It may come down to a choice between prioritizing the feelings of the youth minister or the needs of the people he is serving.

          (I’d argue as well that it’s not a kindness to keep someone in a job that they are not doing well rather than letting them go and find something they will do well.)

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      The idea that someone’s whole system of belief/morality could crumble because they’re told they could improve in certain areas of their job is WILD. He’s ineffective with the specific group he’s actively working with, but essential to people who aren’t affected by his work at all?

      1. Assessment Librarian*

        Please reread my original comment. The problem isn’t recommending improvements – I’m advocating for that and even recommended the toolkit they can use. The problem is attempting to eliminate a key employee who’s “well loved beyond the church community. Fixture of the broader community kind of guy. Never a cross word. He always does what is asked of him.” This is a golden employee the community is invested in.

        As a person who has worked extensively in this kind of role for the past 30 years – and unfortunately encountered a variety of similar scenarios – please learn from my unfortunate observation that this is EXACTLY the kind of move that breaks apart churches as organizations, as well as individual faiths.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Alison has written many times about how a PIP is neither punitive nor an exit strategy. It sounds like you are agreeing that action is needed and giving a suggestion of what that action could be, but framing it as if you’re disagreeing.

          In any case, I was only responding to your comment that he and his supporters will lose their faith. I can see people being angry or disappointed in church leadership, even to the point of leaving that specific congregation, but I’d be surprised if a lot of people were like “Pastor Skip got fired so God doesn’t exist/I’m not a Christian anymore.” I guess I was reading “your mission” as the religion on a larger scale, which shouldn’t be individually or collectively affected by a single staffing change, but if you just meant the church community then of course this could have a big impact on membership and interpersonal relationships.

      2. Sea Anemone*

        Honestly, not wild at all. Rightly or wrongly, the fact is that people invest a lot of themselves in their work identity. That’s why being laid off is so hard for some people–the layoff impacts not just their income, but their self image. When the work identity is tied up in faith, I think it would be even more demoralizing when the work is found wanting.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Sure, but that’s about how your job makes you feel, not what you believe. I thought Assessment Librarian was saying the pastor will stop believing in his religion if he’s put on a PIP, not that he will lose faith in his personal ability to be good at his job.

          For example, I might question if I’m an effective teacher and feel really awful about myself and my abilities, but I’m not going to stop thinking literature is interesting or writing is important. My faith in my competence and my faith in the value of education are two entirely different things, and I literally can’t lose the second just because someone questions the first.

          I might have just misunderstood which version of faith Assessment Librarian was referring to.

          1. Sea Anemone*

            In this case, the job is tied to faith. Maybe a plumber or librarian would not have a crisis of faith if they lost their job. However, this is a pastor. Their faith is part of their job.

            1. Allonge*

              Respectfully, a church as an institution cannot allow itself to think that way. If we take your point to the logical conclusion, no church / faith-based employee should ever be fired, as they might lose their faith?

            2. Dark Macadamia*

              But I’m saying that even if your beliefs are closely connected to your career path, it’s unlikely that the job is the SOURCE of the beliefs. I didn’t become a teacher first and then later decide that education matters. Valuing education led me to being a teacher, but being a bad teacher would not cause me to lose that. You can be bad at plumbing and still want a toilet in your house, you can be a bad librarian and still love books, you can be a boring youth pastor and still believe in God.

              My point is that while it makes sense someone would have a lot of doubts if they struggled at work, and that could lead them to also question the values that led them to that work in the first place, I think it would be weird for someone to equate “teens find you boring” with “I’m not a Christian anymore”. And I don’t think “maybe he’ll leave his religion” is a good thing for an employer to consider when assessing how well someone does his job, even if the job is related to the religion.

    3. I don’t post often*

      I completely disagree with you because this is a church. The gospel is an urgent message.

      Let me say (type) that again. The gospel is an urgent message. People are dying without hearing it. This is a problem of monumental proportions. It is not the time to sit back. It is the time to take action.

      Now, if the church wants to keep him on the payroll as a ministry to him personally (I’ve seen this happen in churches) sure, go ahead.

      I disagree that people will “lose faith”. If they lose faith over this, they never believed to begin with.

      Now, they might leave this church and go elsewhere if this is handled poorly. That’s different than losing faith.

  98. slh*

    LW #4 -Any statement that your child is a priority will be a big red flag. I used to not care if that was statement was made in an interview, but quickly learned it is a reliable marker for someone who will be late, leave early, extend lunches, and not come into work for the most minor of child-related things. You might be the exception, but so many employers have been burned by this I would avoid stating it.

  99. Beth*

    LW #4 — in your situation, I wouldn’t even say I had “no flexibility”; I’d say “very limited flexibility”. To me, “no flexibility” indicates that you aren’t even willing to make an effort to work with me in unusual circumstances, and that’s not a good impression to make.

    If you say “very limited flexibility”, even if the extent of your flexibility is actually maybe five or ten minutes in an emergency — at least to me, you’re giving the impression that you have boundaries and are willing to work with your manager, and that IS a good impression.

  100. quill*

    #5 – I’m split on whether or not I’d find this charming or shrug-worthy. Either way, it’s definitely a choice.

  101. Susana*

    I’m with Alison – part of me thinks it’s sort of charming, in a childlike (*not* childish) way. But part of me thinks of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine convinces her boyfriend, then working for Mayor Dinkins, to suggest everyone in NYC walk around with name tags so people would be friendlier (Jerry: “hey, you know who I saw willing the other day? Bob!”)

  102. Madness takes a toll... please have exact change*

    OP #1 – As both a pastor’s wife and an HR professional, I do know a thing or two about church/ministry politics.

    Has anyone had a legit, sit-down conversation with the YP about this yet? In the context of the teen Bible study? As I would recommend to any manager, an employee should never be surprised by a performance review. Performance conversations should be ongoing – even at church. A start would be a reference to the fact that he was removed from teaching from the pulpit, and the why behind that decision. Then, tie that to the feedback you’ve been receiving from the teens. But if this will be the first conversation that anyone has with him about this issue with the teens, then a PIP in that context would be inappropriate, in my opinion.

    A YP at the church we serve realizes that he can be a little dry… but just because he’s the YP doesn’t mean HE has to be the one to do the Bible study… perhaps that’s a skill that you or another member of the lay leadership (board, elders, committees, ministry teams… whatever you happen to call it) has and could use those skills by serving in the youth ministry.

    Training on public speaking, mentorship, video series, instead of a book or something more based on the skills of the facilitator – HELP this guy out.

  103. Darcy*

    LW1 – I attended a church years ago that had to oust their (in this case, young) youth pastor because the congregation’s teens weren’t engaged with the pastor’s version of “programming”. These teens still often attended Sunday services with their parents, but were getting their “spiritual feeding” during the week by attending other churches’ more attractive youth programs.

    I heard through the grapevine that the Senior Pastor had tried numerous times to get the Youth Pastor to look into “the competition” and find out exactly what they were doing to be successful……but that the YP felt it undignified to “copycat” programming and ideas from other churches. (Huh?)

    One idea for a PIP might be to investigate the “competition”. Weird to call it that in the religious world, isn’t it?

    1. LW#1*

      Yeah, i totally get what you are saying. We also visit other churches to check out their ministries, so it’s not a bad idea for youth.

  104. LW#1*

    I just wanted to thank everyone again for their thoughtful comments. There are absolutely times when a pastor needs to leave and not just when they’ve done something illegal (which I’ve totally seen). Sometimes you outgrow or undergrow your position and something has to change so you and the people you work with get what they need. And I think with thoughtfulness and prayer, it would be possible for this man to find a path out that doesn’t damage our church. Although we’ve been through 2 tough pastor resignations and survived and grown, so I think we have a good track record.

    There have been some really suggestions that I will absolutely share with the committee. I know religious related things often land differently with this group. So, I do appreciate the thoughtfulness here.

    1. Regular Human Accountant*

      LW#1, I just left a comment below based on my own experience. I hope your church finds the best way forward and that your youth ministry will end up thriving. These are very hard times for students; ours are suffering with depression and anxiety like we’ve never seen before, and the issues they face seem to get harder every year. Thank you, on behalf of pastors and their spouses everywhere, for handling this with thoughtfulness and grace.

  105. Sharon*

    LW #4 – Are you applying to jobs where you can meet the requirements of the job while still meeting your personal obligations? Or are you going into a situation where you’re asking for a schedule accommodation before determining if the job’s a good fit? In a job interview, you should be highlighting your skills and how you can benefit the company., because that is why they are hiring someone.

  106. Hollie A Baranick*

    #5 My job required us to wear our picture on lanyards while wearing masks. Probably because most of our company works in frontline, guest facing positions. I didn’t have an opinion either way, but I’m pretty sure no one looked at the pictures. I DID have an interview with someone who brought a headshot so I would know what he looked like without his mask. That was a little weird. (I hired him anyway. Turns out he was a great guy, just quirky).

  107. Ceci Thunes*

    Should I wear a button with my face on it to my new job (since we’re masked)?

    It is too something. An easy approach is to just upload a photo to your email/Zoom etc., so anytime you communicate with someone, they can see your photo.

  108. BluntBunny*

    OP3 is there another department you could move to in your organisation where you wouldn’t be under the direction of this director.
    Is there an annual work survey where you could voice dissatisfaction? If work is not being and projects are at a standstill surely those metrics are being measured and reported. It must be affecting the profits.

  109. Goldenrod*

    To OP #3 – I recently left a job where I worked for a HORRIBLE boss. She was legendary. The person I replaced literally vanished after 6 months or so…she just walked out and never returned one day. The person before her lasted less than a year.

    I really liked the work, my office space (huge office with windows for some reason! I’m an EA so that was a new one for me), the salary and my peers….Everything but the boss.

    I stayed almost 3 years. After a while, I just couldn’t put up with the boss anymore. But I enjoyed it while I could.

    My advice to you is, stay as long as you want, as long as you’re still enjoying enough other parts of it. But Alison is right – the boss won’t ever change, so eventually, you probably will want to leave. No rush, though!

  110. Regular Human Accountant*

    #1, my husband has been a youth pastor for almost 25 years now, which is almost unheard-of. Most last about ten years max and then they either move into a different role or they get out of ministry altogether. It takes a great deal of effort and intentionality to relate to students as one grows older. My guess is that the youth pastor in Letter #1 has not changed much since he started out, and has lost the ability to relate to students.

    As the letter writer acknowledges, it’s very hard to set metrics for ministry and really this situation is probably already too far gone. You can’t tell someone to just act younger, or be better at connecting with teenagers; he either has that ability or he doesn’t, and at this point he probably doesn’t. My advice would be to move the current youth pastor into another position if it’s financially possible, something like family ministry or small groups or pastoral care, and hire someone else to head up the youth ministry. If he’s as engaging in person as you say, he’d probably excel in a role where he talks with people one-on-one, but I would definitely not ask him to lead any Bible studies! Nothing like torturing your congregants to make attendance go down!

  111. TheGingerGinger*

    I’m very late to comment, I know, but #1, please consider what you’ve said. This youth pastor is no longer allowed to preach to “grown up” church because he’s not good at it. Even though he’s a youth pastor, preaching is involved. So you’ve basically allowed someone with a major skill deficit to continue in a role where that skill is critical, just because….he’s only preaching to kids? Youth ministry isn’t a priority for your church? Youth programs don’t matter as much as “real” programs? I’m sure none of those reasons have been stated explicitly, but really take a hard look at why you’re willing to sacrifice your youth programming to someone who demonstrably cannot adequately teach. What are you kids supposed to be learning from this guy?
    As someone who grew up in church, and went to school to go into ministry (even though my path turned out very differently), I know that youth pastors had to take most if not all the same preaching courses as people studying to do head pastorship. Ultimately you’re looking for someone in this role who can engage his “audience”, build disciples, and compellingly speak/preach. None of that is different from the skills needed to minister to your adult population. And a TON of skills 1 and 2 come from having skill 3. Can your current youth pastor do any of those things successfully? He’s been banned from preaching to your wider church population. It sounds like your church is letting someone who is not good at the role continue to the detriment of your youth just because they’re young people, and that is definitely not reflective of God’s heart for young people. I really encourage you to consider the message that sends to your youth and to parents seeking to join your community. Are you seeing a lot of families with teen aged children joining your congregation? I’d wager you’re losing at least some church-seekers to this guy. It’s not just a matter of keeping your current teens “entertained”. He’s not a babysitter. Ultimately in a faith setting, he’s supposed to be equipping your youth to live lives of faithfulness, and it sounds like he’s seriously failing.

  112. LW4*

    I am LW4. Thank you to everyone who commented in response to my letter. I don’t have time to respond individually so I’ll post this and respond to any replies later tonight.
    First of all, it is very clear that my wording in that interview was terrible. I wish I could remember the specific context of why I said that, but I don’t. I appreciate all the people who offered alternate phrasing options to better clarify what I’m actually trying to convey. I also want to state that I NEVER meant to imply that my son is more important than anyone else’s or that working parents don’t make their children a priority. I can, however, see how that was what was likely communicated. I also really appreciated everyone who brought up the parent persona vs. work persona issue. I obviously need to work on transitioning out of the parent persona, but I do believe I have been getting better with each interview.
    My specific circumstances are complicated by the fact that I’m not looking for work in my specific field. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and would like to pursue my MFA eventually. So it has been a challenge to convey to managers that I am absolutely interested in working these jobs, but they are likely not part of my long-term plans. As many people have mentioned, it’s true that my son’s disabilities do complicate childcare, but I absolutely do not expect to be home with him every day that he’s out of school (unless I’m working a remote job, but childcare is an issue there too especially for longer breaks). When the topic of schedule has come up in interviews I try to be clear about when I’m available but I also offer some flexibility (for example offering to work remotely some days/times).
    I also believe that like Alison says the interview process goes both ways. I am looking for a job and employer that is a good fit for me. I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t need to work to meet my family’s basic needs, but there are more reasons for my desire to work than just wanting something to do. I never intended to be a long-term stay at home parent, but life made that necessary for a few years. It may turn out that right now I am not able to find a job that meets my needs, but at least now I can do a better job of communicating those needs in a way that also communicates my commitment to the job.
    Oh, and for everyone who mentioned working with the school district: I have tried that. I was interviewed for an admin position and it went to someone else. They did actually offer me a classroom aide position, but working with the students like that is not a good fit for me personally.

  113. Meg*

    For LW#4: Saying “my son is my priority” makes it sound like your son ALWAYS comes first. Like, if you noticed that your son was starting to outgrow his sneakers, you would cancel a day full of important client meetings so that you could go shopping. I have 2 kids and OF COURSE they’re more important than work, but I also tell them to get their own snacks while I’m on a conference call. I have also rescheduled their non-emergency medical checkup appointments when a crucial work meeting appeared on my calendar. Many employers would interpret “my son is my priority” as meaning “minor issues for my son will always be prioritized above major work issues”, which is not a great attitude for an employee to have.

  114. Oh Behave!*

    I’ve worked and volunteered in church my entire life. Excellent programming is a MUST when dealing with children’s ministry. Whether it’s a two year-old or 17. Our church is known for our children’s programming. We write our own curriculum. The teens (Jr High & HS) have their own services. They are all involved in small groups. They do community service projects together. Kids bring their parents to church. If kids hate church, parents are dragging them kicking and screaming. It starts to not be worth the hassle.
    It’s very easy to stagnate in ministry. Our pastors attend conferences for just this reason. It keeps them fresh and eager to implement new things. It’s so typical to leave low performing people in church roles. Can you look to the past and pinpoint where he started failing? If it was his illness, you need to talk to him. Has he ever been spoken to about his performance? If not, a PIP will hit him like a ton of bricks. I have a feeling it won’t be a complete surprise to him though. TALK to him first. Find out where his head is. You need to be brave. it can be hard. The life of your church is on the line. No pressure.

  115. Delilah*