open thread – November 26-27, 2021

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

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

{ 401 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    I have a question about FMLA. Currently TTC and job searching. If I become eligible for FMLA (hit my one year mark at a new employer) when my new baby is, say, 4 months old, am I eligible to take FMLA for that new baby as the non-birth parent? Specifically, does the baby’s birth have to occur in my FMLA eligibility period for me to get FMLA, or does my FMLA eligibility period just have to start within one year of the birth?

    1. Observer*

      I’m not clear what you are asking. But if you are asking whether you could take an FMLA covered maternity leave at 4 months, the answer is almost certainly not. If you needed to take off to take care of a current medical issue for your or your child, that would be covered regardless of when the child was born.

      1. Steve*

        In some countries the parental leave can be taken anytime in the first year and leave can be split between parents, so often one parent stays home for maybe 9 months, then the other parent stays home for the next 3 months. I’m assuming they are asking if the US has a similar concept.

        1. Casper Lives*

          There’s no mandated leave for someone giving birth in the U.S., much less parental bonding leave for the non birthing partner. It will all depend on their company. Many company benefits like bonding leave aren’t eligible until the employee has worked a year.

          Only advice is to ask the company. My company offers bonding leave but it has to be taken when the kid is born or adopted.

            1. Observer*

              For fathers it’s not medical, and for mothers it’s no longer medical 4 months later.

              That’s assuming no unusual health issues, of course.

            2. hamsterpants*

              The question was about FMLA for the non-gestating parent. Adopting or getting someone pregnant and then coparenting isn’t usually medical.

          1. Bureaucratte*

            This is incorrect. FMLA CAN be take for bonding, within 12 months of birth, for birth parent or non birth parent. I don’t know what happens if the FMLA eligibility kicks in after the birth
            “An employee’s entitlement to FMLA leave for birth and bonding expires 12 months after the date of birth. Both mothers and fathers have the same right to take FMLA leave for the birth of a child.

            “Birth and bonding leave must be taken as a continuous block of leave unless the employer agrees to allow intermittent leave (e.g., allowing a parent to return to work on a part-time schedule for 10 weeks).”


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

      FMLA is medical leave so you would have to have a medical need to take time off, or your child or partner would need to have a medical need that you need to help care for. In fact you need to have documentation from a doctor. So unless your partner of child is ill you would not be able to take FMLA 4 months after the child is born.

      It sounds like you might be starting a new job or considering the job. If you are still in the interview stage I would ask the potential employer what their policy is. They may be a good employer and have a separate policy for parental leave that doesn’t include FMLA. So you might be able to be on leave at the time of the birth. In fact if you are waiting for the job offer maybe ask for it with the job offer. Or if you know you partner is pregnant you could ask and see if it could be part of the job offer. Just like some people have to ask for certain days off right away because of vacation or holiday plans.
      Good luck!

      1. Blackcat*

        Yeah, the non birthing parents I’ve known have only been able to use FMLA for the 6-8 weeks that the birthing parent is considered to be disabled. It has to be right after the birth.
        I don’t know if this is technically legal, but it’s what I’ve seen be most common.

        1. Bureaucratte*

          It is VERY clear in Department of Labor documents that FMLA can be taken for bonding; it may be that you cannot use your paid sick time for that, but FMLA includes bonding as an option. I don’t see anywhere that the baby needs to have been born when you are eligible, only that the baby needs to have been born within the last 12 months.

          1. HoundMom*

            You are correct.FMLA applies for many family situations including care of an infant with the first 12 months of life. If the employee hits the one year mark during the child’s life, the dad would be eligible for FMLA.

      2. Malarkey01*

        The other thing to keep in mind is that FMLA is NOT PAID leave, it only guarantees you cannot be fired for needing the leave. The policy goes along with the companies only policy on sick and personal leave policies on whether you receive pay for any/all of this.

        Very very few companies are going to tell you that you’re unable to take off for the birth of your child- you need to figure out whether it would be paid under their rules on leave accrual as well.

        1. Blackcat*

          When I had kid1, my husband’s company did this! They only approved 5 days PTO use. He had more accrued but they were understaffed so they did not approve any more. It sucked. He expected to be able to use 10 days, which still would have sucked, but at least I wouldn’t have been as at risk of ripping open my stitches (which I did the first day he was back at work).

    3. dawbs*

      FMLA also works for a ‘change in family status’ or a qualifying event. Meaning if I adopt a child, I do qualify for FMLA. But if I adopted a child 3 weeks before I started, I am not.
      (But if that child has special needs, I still could. So my husband can’t get FMLA to cover our kid being sick. But our kid is autistic, so both my husband and I could get FMLA at any point because it’s a qualifying disability. The system is weird and it sucks)

    4. Overeducated*

      From what I can tell from the Department of Labor website, you would be an eligible employee after 12 months and 1,250 hours, and FMLA has to be taken within 12 months of the qualifying event (birth). I don’t believe they technically say that the qualifying event itself has to occur during the period you are FMLA eligible. I had to go into the actual text of the law to find “The entitlement to leave under subparagraphs (A) and (B) of paragraph (1) for a birth or placement of a son or daughter shall expire at the end of the 12-month period beginning on the date of such birth or placement,” indicating that the clock is based on birth, not eligibility.

      However, my experience is that you will have to review the language with a fine-toothed comb, AND any HR handbook type stuff your employer has and know it BETTER than HR, because you’re going to run into people mixing them up and being sloppy with the details. Caution: I am not a lawyer. I will just argue people into the ground over my benefits if I have to. Check out D O L dot gov/agencies/whd/fmla for everything from one page fact sheets to legal links. There may be something in there contradicting my interpretation more definitively.

    5. J.B.*

      You would need to have a year in before taking the leave. Then you can take the leave within the 12 months after birth. I took FMLA and then my husband dad so our youngest didn’t start daycare until 5 months old.

    6. Leave Administrator*

      You are able to take FMLA within 12 months of the birth of the child. If you hit your 12 months of service with the company 4 months after the birth (or at any point within the first year of the birth), you will be able to take your bonding leave at that time, assuming you also have the 1250 hours worked within the past 12 months and are in an eligible location (a location that has at least 50 employees within 75 miles). Just note that you need to complete your 12 weeks of FMLA (or however many weeks you choose to take) before your child’s 1st birthday. A few states also have leaves that are more generous than FMLA, and often have a lower threshold to qualify – so make sure you look into any state leaves that may be available to you as well when you plan out your leave!

  2. Hazel*

    Hope everyone is having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

    I’m looking for some advice. I’m working with a relatively new manager and having quite a few issues with her. But we had a significant disagreement this week about Christmas plans for the company. I wanted to do all virtual events and she wanted to have an in-person party for all staff, even though our government advised against it and the Covid numbers in my country are rising daily. In this conversation, she called me difficult, accused me of ‘making a fuss’ over Covid and just became downright nasty to me.

    I went to the CEO for his input as we could not agree on a way forward. He agreed with me on the plans and issued a statement to all staff stating that all Christmas events this year will be virtual. He then went on to emphasize how serious Covid is and extended sympathies again to staff members who lost loved ones to Covid.

    My manager has been sulking since (this was on Monday) and has not returned any of my emails or communications. This is another red flag for me among a whole host of other issues I’m having with her. I don’t know how to talk to her about this or even how to address my other concerns. Should I start the process of trying to fix this or just start looking for a new job?

    For context, I really enjoy my job and love the company culture and really like most of the people that I work with. I’ve worked with awful managers before and know how soul-destroying they can be. I’ve been losing sleep and been very stressed about this manager and don’t know what to do.

    1. Trawna*

      Based on her not returning your emails and other communications, she, in fact, is not doing her job. Based on your constructive handling of the party situation, you are excelling at yours. She doesn’t fit the company culture. You do.

      I suggest wearing a professional smile and thick skin and waiting this out. She may be gone sooner than you think.

      If you need answers from her in the meantime that aren’t forthcoming, resend the relevant emails letting her know that absent a response by x date, you’ll be moving forward with Plan A.

      1. RJ*

        This is a good point. I have jumped ship too soon due to these types of problems before, leaving a job I really liked only to have the problem manager gone a few months later.

        Having said that, it’s hard when you can’t see the end though. I really get that feeling of not being able to sleep and having it affect your entire life. I would keep an eye out for good opportunities but be really picky. That way, even if you end up leaving, it’s for a good opportunity as well as leaving a bad situation.

        1. Your local password resetter*

          If she keeps doing stuff like this, can you eventually escalate?
          You’d have to try and solve it with her first, but if she does stuff like refusing to talk to you, then she’s not doing her job. And that should give you standing to alert her own manager to these issues.

        2. Grits McGee*

          I only bring this up because you specifically mentioned jumping ship too soon and work stress bleeding into your personal life- maybe consider taking the time and energy you would spend looking for a new job, and channel that into strategizing how to cope with your current situation? I’ve 100% been in your situation before, and what was really helpful for me was making a conscious decision that I was going to wait X amount of time to let things play out, and plan out the actions I was ready to take and possible consequences. (In your case, that could be deciding to let things play out for 3 months, give boss a week and a half to sulk, then address it with her, and then if things don’t improve, escalate to the CEO.) I also used CBT techniques to keep work thoughts at work, and keep myself from getting into anxiety spirals about work stuff I had no control over.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        Came here to say exactly this! I think if you are patient, she will wear out her welcome quickly enough.

    2. Observer*

      Trawna has a good point. If the CEO is your direct grand-boss, some judicious cc’ing would also be a good idea. Not on everything, but if she’s really holding you back, especially on stuff that’s major or that the CEO cares about.

      Also, if that’s this case and her misbehavior keeps up, talk to the CEO. The issue here is not that you had a disagreement about events and Covid, but that she’s sulking about SOMETHING and she is NOT giving communicating with you on WORK stuff. I’m sure that your CEO is smart enough to put 2 and 2 together, but it’s much simpler to not get into that.

    3. TamDot*

      Don’t start looking for a new job yet. It sounds like you’re a good fit for the company. The manager isn’t a good fit for you. Give her a week or two to get over whatever bee is in her bonnet. Maybe in-person holiday events were something she was looking forward to after a horrible year and now she’s lost it. That doesn’t excuse her nastiness to you, but let her sulk while you continue to be professional.

      After the cooling-off period and if you’re up for it, tell her you’ve noticed some distance in your interactions (that’s underplaying it!) and you wanted to discuss it openly to resolve any issues. If that’s more confrontational than your style, start documenting her lack of response or other unprofessional behavior, just in case your manager tries to retaliate for you going above her head.

    4. Choggy*

      I have to agree with the other posters. Keep doing the great job you are, caring about the company and its employees, and move ahead with any plans even without her input. This is a “her” problem, not yours. If you feel you are being prevented from performing your job, then by all means escalate as needed. Perhaps she’s having second thoughts about the company, especially if they don’t align with her (poor) decisions.

      1. Maybe*

        I agree with this. Keep doing a good job and start cc’ing her superior in emails, being certain to state that you haven’t heard back from your original email on x date. And that if you don’t hear back, you will move ahead with x,y, z as another suggested. If you do go above her head for help, frame it as seeking guidance on how to do your job because of her lack of responsiveness rather than as a disagreement between the two of you.

    5. the cat's ass*

      is the CEO your grandboss, or is there another layer of management between Ms. Sulky and the CEO? I’d escalate things as needed to the appropriate person if she’s not responding. And I’m sorry because crap managers ruin EVERYTHING. Hope you can document/wait her out.

    6. Cleo*

      I agree with the other posters.

      I also wonder if there’s a less formal way for you to get more support within the organization. Is there someone at your boss’ level or higher that you have a good rapport with / that you trust to be reasonable that you could talk with? Not to report her but to get suggestions for how to work with her – i.e. “I don’t know how to work with boss right now, do you have any ideas?”

      I have two motives for suggesting this – one, they might actually have useful ideas and two, it makes them aware of boss’ bad behavior to you (and maybe they can do something about it).

      1. Bayta Darrell*

        Plus, if you come to her peer or her boss and say that you’ve been experiencing these behaviors and tried a few solutions unsuccessfully and you need other ideas, it makes you look proactive and easier to side with, and not like a tattle tale. So while she looks petty for throwing a hissy fit, you look good because you are trying to get solutions for a work problem.

        “I’ve been having some problems with Jane after our difference of opinion on in-person Christmas events. She’s been (describe what she’s been doing when she’s been “sulking” in a more matter-of-fact way, because you want this to be about the facts as much as possible–so perhaps say that she has been avoiding you, or she won’t answer your questions, or whatever behavior she’s been doing that is affecting your ability to do your job) and she won’t answer my emails. Because of this, I (may miss X deadline/can’t move forward with Y project/can’t get the approval I need to do Z/whatever concrete way this impacts your ability to do your job). I’ve (given her some time to cool off/offered an apology/whatever you have tried), but unfortunately these issues have continued. What do you recommend I do?”

    7. RagingADHD*

      You should always try to fix things first. It may not fix everything all at once, but trying to improve communication and address issues before bailing is a life and job skill that’s required to have satisfaction in either one.

      1. Observer*

        Knowing when to cut your losses is also a life skill.

        In this particular case, do you have any concrete suggestions for how the OP is supposed to improve communications? There have been some useful suggestions that I think the OP could try. But “try harder” and “make it better” are not among them.

        1. Hunnybee*

          Love that. It truly is a life skill!

          I’ve spent years wallowing in mistakes because of sunk cost fallacy. : /

        2. RagingADHD*

          From the question as posed, it sounds like OP has not tried much of anything yet. They propose, “Should I start the process of trying to fix this or just start looking for a new job?”

          There are already a number of good suggestions on the thread of ways to start trying to fix this. I am encouraging them to pick one and give it a shot.

          There is an enormous, reasonable middle ground between “cut your losses” and “I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas.”

      2. EmKay*

        Would you say the same thing to a person who’s romantic partner was beating them to a pulp every night?

        Why or why not?

        1. RagingADHD*

          For heaven’s sake.

          Are you seriously implying that domestic violence is a “communication issue”? That’s really offensive.

    8. anonymous73*

      You have a third option – escalate. I would try and setup a meeting with her and discuss your issues and how you can both move forward. But if she refuses to meet with you (which sounds like a possibility since she’s basically ignoring you) or nothing is resolve, escalate her behavior. She’s acting like a toddler because she isn’t getting her way (and IMO there’s no excuse for being nonchalant about COVID). I don’t think you have to leave a job you enjoy, especially considering you were successful in escalating the holiday party issue to your CEO.

    9. Anon for today*

      Your CEO sounds very responsive and awesome. I think it’s worth mentioning your bosses behavior to the CEO. It’s important for management to be on the same page and it sounds like this boss lacks good judgement. Typically, the higher up in management, the less informed you are. I think giving visibility to management is important. I would talk with them because the way your manager is behaving is retaliation. Retaliation for following legal rules set by your government. That’s a huge issue. Don’t downplay it.

    10. Fed-o*

      There’s been some advice on cc’ing her boss, but I find that escalates things in a very antagonistic way (of course, it’s sometimes the warranted course but maybe it’s jumping the gun to do it now) and I’d suggest being more direct first. I’d stop by her office if you are in-person or send an email if not, and describe–neutrally as possible–the elephant in the room. e.g “I’m concerned that we haven’t been communicating effectively, particularly since our disagreement on the nature of the holiday party. Our working relationship is so important and I want to do my part to get this right. When’s a good time for us to talk?” or some such. If she ignores that, then presenting it to the next line of authority is appropriate and you can say you’ve attempted to address it directly in good faith. If she doesn’t ignore it, it gives a chance for the relationship to improve through some straightforward communication. And if that fails, you can always say you tried and move it up the ladder. As a grandboss (and a great grandboss and a great great grandboss), I will always always want to know that someone has tried the direct approach with the other party before bringing the issue to me. Obvious exceptions for harassment, safety/security, legal violations, etc.

  3. CompSciProf*

    My daughter graduated from college in the middle of the pandemic and has had a really hard time finding a job in her field (which is not a common area). I think that finding a professional organization that helps people with their job search (résumés, cover letters, interview coaching and other specifics) could be a good idea, but I’m not sure where to look. I’ve Googled a little but mostly find just resume writing services. Can anyone point me in the right direction of what to look for?

    1. Jane*

      Is there a professional body for her sector? She should join that anyway, for training and keeping up-to-date, but they may also provide a resume review service. (They may have very discounted membership rates for unwaged.)

      What about the careers service at her old college. Can they help at all?

    2. Grits McGee*

      Could you share the specific field? It’s hard to give advice that’s relevant to her situation without it.

        1. Ina Lummick*

          I did a forensic sci degree (just found it interesting)…often you need a masters before going into expert witness type positions. (I stopped at a BSc and I’m now shortly starting in an IT adjacent role within the Food Industry).

          But there will absolutely be professional organisations for Forensic Science (Eg: Chartered Society for Forensic Sciences, which is a global association, your daughter’s may well be accredited by a professional organisation, meaning it’ll be easier to join.).

          If she’s looking to specialise in one area later (such as Forensic… Anthropology), she could also investigate non- Forensic associations to join (like the American Anthropological Association).

          I know when I graduated uni I followed my lecturers on LinkedIn & FB, and they’ll repost entry level Forensic roles too. Would any of her lecturers be happy to review her CV/covering letter? I had a careers service there that I used at first…but I could have done better without it!

        2. Silver*

          Apply for federal internships… it’ll take a while to come through but be great experience and could get her a clearance.

    3. L. Ron Jeremy*

      My nephew graduated with a degree in this field January of this year and has been making sandwiches ever since, first at Subway, now at Togos. He had experience in this job during his summer break before college.

      He’s applying to be a cop, which is not his preference, but my lead to a position in forensics.

      I have directed him to AAM for resume writing and interviewing skills and would recommend you do the same with your daughter.

      1. Webeh*

        I agree with Girasol’s advice. Very early in my student days I had an interest in forensic science and from my own research am not wholly convinced policing is the way to get there. (I think policing and forensic science are different fields.) I’d recommend trying to identify a local forensic scientist and see if they’d be willing to meet for an informational interview.

    4. irene adler*

      You might (well, your daughter might) contact some of the professors she had in college and ask them for the names of any professional organizations pertaining to her field. Or, ask for the names of any trade magazines/journals pertaining to her field.
      Might try LinkedIn and see if there are any groups pertaining to the field. Joining such groups would be free. Then once she joins the group(s), she can ask about professional orgs.
      Also, it may be that the professional organizations for forensic science are going to be something a little more generic. For example, Googling “Chemistry professional organizations” brings up numerous professional organizations brings up groups pertaining to biochemistry, materials science, radiochemistry, toxicology, clinical chemistry, oil chemistry, and even The AAFS = American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Let me post the link for this last one separately.

    5. Girasol*

      Might a forensic scientist working in the field be open to giving an informational interview? They must have gone through the job seeking process successfully and might have tips.

    6. Canadian Valkyrie.*

      So some communities have job services as do most colleges. My city, for example, has a university and a college, both of which have career services, they also have 2 centres that are government funded career service centres (resume writing, interview prep etc). Most career centres at a university/college are free – both schools I’ve attended for my various degrees have offered free services.

      Her university/college career centre might be the best place to start, as they might be more aware of connections they have in the community for alumni, and they’ll be more likely to be aware of how to help people with specific backgrounds based on what the school offers. The community based ones funded by the government are ok to but a lot of those ones, at least where I live, cater to literally everyone, particularly people with particular work place challenges (eg the one I’ve wealth with in my city specializes immigrants who don’t have Canadian work experience and might not even speak English very well – no beef, just a specific challenge that not everyone has – and people who are, like, high school drop outs, homeless, have criminal records, are looking to get a new career – like moving from unskilled labour to getting an apprenticeship or something). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it does mean that their resources look different.

    7. Madeleine Matilda*

      Alison has two books that would be a good starting place: How to Get a Job: Secret of a Hiring Manager and Free Guide: How to Prepare for an Interview. There are links for each her on the blog. There have been several posts here about the poor advice often given by career centers and such.

    8. Webeh*

      Does your daughter have any work experience in her field of choice, such as a summer internship or co-op student experience? If not, to be honest, she’ll be at a distinct disadvantage (even for entry level roles) until she can add some to her resume. Perhaps as a first step, she could try the following:

      – Do informational interviews with professionals in the field
      – Apply for internships
      – Try to do some volunteer work in the relevant field
      – See if anyone will let her shadow

      On top of this, I’ve found that job searching can also very much be a numbers & timing game. When I’ve been unemployed earlier in life, I’ve had searches that took up to 6 months. During that time, I took a bit of a blunt force approach to my job search. I’d set up Indeed alerts, which I checked daily and would submit applications within 24 hours of the job being posted. (Because I’ve heard stories of hiring managers only reviewing the first 50 submitted.) I’d probably submit 200 applications before encountering 1 successful offer.

      1. Webeh*

        I spotted after posting this that your daughter is interested in forensic science. That’s a very specialized field and my proposed blunt force tactics above may not be as effective in this scenario.

        Your daughter should probably try to do an informational interview with a professional in the field to learn what the entry pathways are. She might have to be prepared to pursue advanced degrees since it is a field of science.
        Perhaps in the meantime, she could explore pursuing work in the peripheral industries of forensic science to at least gain some on-theme work experience. (E.g. Support staff at a police station, working in a funeral home, admin in crown attorney’s office, etc.)

    9. Midwestern Scientist*

      I worked in a lab that handled some overflow cases from the state and local crime labs related to our specialty in college. I decided not to go that route but I think everyone I knew that handled any of the forensics had experience in related/adjacent fields before devoting their time to forensics. It might be worthwhile, especially if having a hard time finding a job, to settle for a related lab-based job (DNA testing, medical lab, phlebotomy (may require additional certification), drug testing lab, etc)

  4. Anony*

    I work at a nonprofit organization that is revamping our performance evaluation process. Currently, the only across the org practice is an annual review where managers have to fill out a standard format and then have a meeting with each employee. Does anyone have recommendations for resources on this topic? Best practices? Things that have or haven’t worked at your workplace? Thanks in advance!

    1. Trawna*

      I value ongoing one-on-one’s as I need them, raises when financials are good, an explanation and thank you letter when financials are bad, bonuses for exceptional years, and to be left alone to do my usual excellent work.

      I value as-needed constructive criticism, but have never seen a formal review program that isn’t demeaning.

    2. hamsterpants*

      My company follows a format where at the start of every year managers and their reports meet 1:1 to define what success will look like that year. Then at the end of the year they review if the goals were met. Emphasis is always on something specific and measurable. Otherwise it’s way too subjective and your review ends up being more about your manager’s feelings than about what you actually accomplished. Also publish performance guidelines that are consistent across the company broken out by role and level so Bob’s engineers are held to the same standards as Tim’s engineers.

      1. Cassie*

        Agree on the specific and measurable part. There’s an oft-repeated quote “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. That may not always be true, but bosses can’t tell employees to “do better” and then not specify what “better” looks like.

        1. Llamallama*

          Measurable objectives are great, but plenty of improvements can’t be measured and too much focus on measurable ones can push people away from doing things that they think are important. Sometimes it’s best to trust staff to know their jobs and what they believe will improve things and let them do that… give them license to follow their own agenda and let them determine if they have improved things… all in addition to those measurable things that certainly have value.

          I’ve spent too much energy in my career arguing that things are important and worth doing, but getting pushback because they were hard to measure. It results either in good initiatives being sidelines, or people wasting time coming up with bullshit metrics to justify something that didn’t need them.

          And, hey, sometimes an initiative we think will be beneficial doesn’t pan out. That’s fine. I always encourage my team to invest time trying things out and to be open about whether they think it worked out or not. It’s all a learning process.

    3. londonedit*

      Where I work, it all comes from the employee’s side and it’s framed as a chance to discuss goals for progression rather than a review of past performance. So we fill in a form that starts with our job description, and then has sections for you to fill in the parts of your job that you think you’re showing top performance in and why, a section for the parts of your job where you think you’re showing competent performance and why, and a section for any parts of your job where you feel you need more support or training in order to get them up to a competent/top performing level. There’s also a section for any goals you have for the coming year and any support or training you might need to hit those goals. You send it to your manager, they read through it, and then you have a one-to-one meeting to talk through everything, and agree on any action points before signing off on the document together. It feels much more collaborative than having a manager write a report on your performance, and it feels more like I’m in charge of how my role is progressing and what I need in the coming year.

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

      Ours has a standard question on plans for the future…5 yrs and ten years…might I suggest removing that from evaluations. There’s almost no win on that question…say an employee wants to move up or out (promotion or school or new job) and you might get a manger who penalizes them for it; if they say they DON’T want to advance and the manager penalizes them for lack of motivation or dedication Etc. It’s just not a good question and isn’t really good to put on a performance evaluation.

      1. Anony*

        Totally agree! That’s not a question on ours right now, and I would definitely keep it off. The only “future plans” type question is a box where the manager can specify trainings or further education they recommend for the employee in the upcoming year(s).

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I’m not sure how to suggest avoiding this, exactly, but something to be aware of: My previous company used a standard format and early, mid, and end-of-year reviews (plus theoretical one-on-one meetings throughout but not all managers did this).

      The issue was, we also had rank-stacking. For the uninitiated, this is the terrible employee-ranking process that Microsoft pioneered and then eventually got rid of because it’s really demoralizing and often subjective. How it manifested is that the employees were supposed to set their own goals and objectives, referencing their projects or types of things that they would likely be doing throughout the year. While managers did have to agree with what the employees put, they didn’t necessarily have to indicate whether the goals/objectives were more or less valuable than other employees. So, you could smash it out of the park on all your goals and still be ranked lower than someone with more “valuable” goals who did a so-so job and you wouldn’t know this until the final rankings were done (ask me how I know).

      Worse, managers are responsible for assigning work and of course there’s no insight into whether the work one person is assigned is more or less valuable than another person’s work, so gaming the system is not only possible but seemed to disproportionately impact female employees. From conversations with several other women, I heard similar stories of doing a fantastic job on manager-assigned work, only to be told when the rankings came out that the work wasn’t considered important enough for higher rankings or promotion considerations.

      I don’t have a good solution, other than Don’t Do Rank-Stacking. Without the rank stacking, people aren’t penalized for doing “less valuable” work and the focus can be where it should be, on performance on the work assigned.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Ranking is TERRIBLE!! Anyone who says you can’t have all employees in a team knocking it out of the park can’t manage and can’t hire.
        Also, I would make sure that standards for what constitutes say, a “meets expectations” or whatever rating is very, very clear. Otherwise you will have some team leads who will rate everyone “exceeds” and others, with teams just as good, will rate them “meets.”

      2. usernames are anonymous*

        Yes – we use a ranking system and I am less than motivated right now as review time rolls around in the new year. Ratings are used to promote people and although I am not high up the food chain I am in a role that can no longer be promoted. In practical terms that means in the last couple of years my pay raises have halved as has my bonus because my manager will not waste a good rating on me. There are very specific reasons why changing jobs is not an option right now and I know it is my decision to stay and put up with this but it is still demoralizing.

    6. Canadian Valkyrie.*

      So I like being asked to evaluate my own performance and come up with goals and stuff. I like this for several reasons.

      (A) it will show where I think I’m doing well vs not so well – this way of there’s a discrepancy between my managers evaluation and mine, that means that that might be particularly important to discuss.

      (B) it might identify areas that I think are important vs my boss — being in the job, I might have goals for the job, whereas the manager might have a more tram-oriented view and it can be good to make sure goals and stuff for an employee aren’t just top down.

      (C) make sure that there aren’t any surprises in the evaluations. An employee shouldn’t be hearing about ANYTHING that they didn’t already know, especially performance concerns For example, let’s say an employee is consistently 5-10 minutes late, and that’s a problem, this shouldn’t be the first time the employee is being told about it.

    7. Storm in a teacup*

      My last place and current one both have similar systems that I think work well. Beginning of the year I set my goals and objectives with my manager. Objectives are aligned to company objectives and my departmental ones in the main. They have to be specific and we define how success will be measured at this stage and they cover both what I’ll do and how I’ll deliver it.
      I then have regular check ins and one-ones. At mid year we have a review and amend objectives if necessary. At year end I write a reflection on my year and so does my manager. We then meet to discuss the review and also plan my PDP (personal development plan) for the year following.
      I like being able to take the lead in deciding my objectives and being clear on measurables.
      In my old role I managed a team and having their objectives aligned to the departmental ones was invaluable to ensure they focused on what was needed to be delivered.

    8. Susan Calvin*

      Oh, do I ever!

      – Combination of Team and Personal goals; in my org every team lead defines a few goals that everyone is measured on (usually picked from some corporate guidelines about overarching goals, depending on applicability), then develops some individual goals with each team member
      – SMART goals; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound (just google this for more details)
      – Ongoing check-ins; as others have mentioned, multiple check-ins through the year are ideal. Our process requires at least one mid-year review where the goals are formally updated with progress reports or adjustments (e.g. in case circumstances have changed and some goal is not achievable anymore in its original form), but more informal check-ins are normally dispersed liberally in between.

  5. How do I let go?*

    I left a terrible job in academia over the summer. (New job is great!!) I was a manager of a number of junior level employees. The head of our lab was the worst boss I’ve ever had – no boundaries, casually cruel, unrealistic expectations that were poorly communicated and had moving targets. Due to how academia works, there was little support elsewhere and this professor thinks they behave completely appropriately (talking to them about things going poorly was like talking to Teflon). I did my best to protect my staff, but fell short and feel so guilty about it. Most people have since left, but a few remain and I am still a sounding board and moral support. I’m pulled into the drama and cruelty, and I’m so angry at this professor and about my experience at this job. Are there practical ways I can serve as support to my former team (who are amazing and actively taking steps to leave), but with boundaries to protect myself from getting sucked back in to all the awfulness? If anyone has practical actions that aren’t therapy (already there) or cut all ties (I will as soon as the rest of my team moves on), I’d be grateful.

    1. JustForThis*

      It sounds as if your support to the remaining members of your former team is valuable to them, and it also sounds as if you want to keep it up without being emotionally sucked back into that toxic situation. Maybe you can schedule fixed time slots for this — e.g. 30 mins twice a week — and be available then to answer emails, chat etc., but not deal with the former job at any other time?

    2. Reba*

      Keep in touch with your former employees, keep helping them move to other jobs (references), but ask them not to talk about that workplace with you any more. You can explain, kindly, that it’s emotionally taxing for you to keep discussing those issues and that you need to move forward and focus your work-related energy on your new job. They will get it! They probably have other friends and colleagues who can hear this stuff!

      1. un-pleased*

        This is great advice. The best thing you can do is use your perspective as someone who knows how to bridge the move to out of academia to help frame references in ways that speak to non-academic bosses. I have also made a similar move, and in the interests of protecting my own feelings, this is about as much as I can do.

        1. AGD*

          This! One of the big things that keeps people in academia even when they’re unhappy is not knowing how to approach the alternatives (in several senses: not knowing where to look, not knowing how to market the amorphous blob of research/presentation/teaching skills that academia leaves people with, and feeling insecure/uncertain). I actually know someone who has a small business working with academics transitioning out.

      2. Annony*

        Yes. Let them know that you are willing to help them leave (keep them up to date on job openings, act as a reference, be a sounding board for job search woes) but that you can’t listen to stories about Toxic Job anymore. They will most likely understand.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Clearly state how you will be supportive to them and limit your conversation to those areas.
        For example, I like talking about proactive steps, so something I would be interested in is “what steps have you taken this week?”
        It’s okay to say that because you were in it also, you don’t think that going over it would do either one of you any good.

    3. MoreFriesPlz*

      Could you come up with a script you use that you out no thought into and just kind of repeat verbatim? Like “I’m so sorry, what X is doing truly isnt normal or acceptable, it is honestly painful for me to even talk about, but I’m always here if you need (whatever you can actually give: resume advice, coffee to talk about other things, whatever).”

    4. Birch*

      Uh hi, it sounds like you worked for my former PI too (or there are just a lot of them in academia, unfortunately!) Coming from the same experience as you, a few years down the line… you’ll have to decide whether you can keep those relationships or not. Are you in an OK place yourself, mental health-wise? Can you afford to take on the work of maintaining and healthening those relationships? If so, you can practice focusing on positive things that are happening to them, or just friend-things if they truly don’t have anything positive to say about work. I had to essentially cut ties with mine because as much as I loved them as people, I wasn’t in a place where I could emotionally support them and I wasn’t able to create good boundaries to protect myself. And they had gotten too deep into the habit of using me as a buffer or sounding board for the drama. Practical, professional things you can do to support them: say yes to writing recommendations for them, congratulate them on publications and accomplishments, keep them in mind when networking, offer to read drafts of funding applications and things like that, give practical advice on how to get out or how to find opportunities. Also, are you getting something out of those relationships? If you’re already planning to cut ties with them once they’ve gotten out, why are you still in contact? Out of guilt? YOU know that you did your best to help, but it is not your fault that the others on your team are still there and suffering. You don’t have to keep bearing that burden. You didn’t say why those few have still remained, but in my case those who stayed had a combination of being logistically trapped and I think psychologically trapped–the idea of uprooting themselves and destroying their idea of what the next few years of their academic career would look like was scarier than staying and trying to finish the degree/contract. At the same time, we’re all adults and your wellbeing is also worth something. Did anyone try to help you? You deserved support too, but you were still able to give it to the others. You are allowed to feel that anger and disappointment and loss for yourself, too. It’s not your fault you got an opportunity to leave and took it, and you don’t have to keep feeling guilty or responsible. In fact, the best thing you can do is look after your own wellbeing and career, get some power, learn how to use it in situations like this to make it better next time. I’m sorry you’ve had this experience! *internet hugs if you want them*

    5. Blackcat*

      I’ve been exactly where you are.

      I made a decision you may be uncomfortable with: I completely disengaged. When remaining lab members came to me for advice, I set a clear boundary of discussing career goals and helping them move on, but I would not discuss how to cope in their current situation. I really had to do this for my own mental health. Everyone got it, and no one seemed upset at me for that boundary.

    6. Malarkey01*

      I say his very kindly because I understand the responsibility you feel towards them and the need to help, but I think for continuing this link you are setting improper expectations for them on professional norms. It’s not okay to continue to contact your old boss to complain about your current job (yes we all vent occasionally and totally okay to continue networking and seeking resume tips or references, etc). I think modeling appropriate behavior by empathizing that yes the job is toxic and you’re happy to be a reference but otherwise can’t be a soundboard would be the biggest long term thing you can do. Since you have zero power to fix this at some point complaining for venting sake becomes unproductive and toxic itself (which is one of the lasting effects of toxic jobs that they skew your own perception of what’s okay).

    7. How do I let go? OP*

      Thank you all! Your advice is spot on and well taken. I will start setting boundaries about when I’m available and what topics are open for discussion. I’m definitely aware that this odd proxy management and moral support is not normal. Then again, everything about academia is not normal. It was my first (and last!) job in academia, so I had some perspective about how awful and boundary challenged the professor and department culture were. One of the reasons I’ve had trouble disengaging is that the rest of my team was new to the workplace and they had no reference point for how a job experience and management should be. I hired them, and though they’re adults, they’re very young ones, and I at least owe them some of my perspective as written clearly in some of the scripts: this is not normal, X should not treat you that way, you did a great job with Y, your performance is on par with other early career teapot researchers… If all goes well, all of my former direct reports should be out by late spring. Thanks again!

  6. Sporty Yoda*

    Just wanted to rant to strangers (thanks y’all):
    I got the reviews back on a grant I submitted a few months ago. Overall, they were okay, but one review particularly tanked it and was probably the reason we didn’t get it. We’re graded on a few things, ranging from 1-10, 1 being the best, 10 being the worst… and this guy gave us 6s and 7s. Apparently the project didn’t have enough funding to be successful… which was one of the reasons we were submitting the grant. To get money for it to be successful. SMH this is why people leave academia.

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

      It’s like getting a bank loan, if you NEED the money to stay afloat, go eat sand…if you can pay it back easily, here’s double what you asked for. They may have wanted the project to show it was economically feasible before giving the grant.

    2. MoreFriesPlz*

      Omg as someone who used to work I research/academia this is wildly frustrating. Does that person know what a grant is ?!?!

    3. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      I have an asinine reverse situation! I’m in the private sector. Needed to pay invoices for work already done by consultants and calculated cost needed, so proper amount could be moved from another project budget to mine. Random OTHER consultants, who somehow inserted themselves into this budget request process, decided (without telling me) to ask for double that amount through the process/paperwork. Because, as they put it “what’s the harm?”. Um…the harm is that it raise a bunch of red flags and now I’m being questioned by the office of the COO with a bunch of questions as to why do I need so much money. I DON’T. I need the amount I calculated. To pay invoices coming past due. FUN TIMES.

  7. Andjazzy*

    What is the end goal of my company? I work in a department of a little less than 80, and so far we’ve lost over 60 people this year. Their workloads are directly dumped on us remaining employees, and the workload overall is higher than ever before in company history.

    Management says their goal is to double staff over the next year, and in January they’re bringing in independent contractors to try to hold us out until more people start.

    However, they keep firing people for not being able to keep up. What is the point of holding people to old standards

      1. Andjazzy*

        Almost every new hire this year saw what management was doing and walked. Plus we lost a lot of experienced people. I’m trying to get out myself but I don’t understand why you’d be regularly firing people when you’re admitting you’re less than half staffed

        1. Your local password resetter*

          Because your management is really bad at their jobs.
          Maybe they think they can intimidate the remaining employees. Maybe they have a really rigid mindset about performance. Maybe they’re elitists who think everyone should be able to keep up, or they don’t deserve to work here.

          Whatever it is, they’re terrible at managing a company.

        2. Casper Lives*

          The company might be headed for bankruptcy or dissolution. Reduce staffing, give themselves big bonuses for reducing overhead, file bankruptcy, leave little guys in the dust.

          I could be too cynical

          1. Andjazzy*

            It’s a fortune 100 company, they’re not headed for bankruptcy. They are ruining their reputation though by staffing so poorly

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

              Bankruptcy wouldn’t mean dissolving though…just allow them to renegotiate debts and restructure, or sell off pieces of the business, if that’s really their goal. If their solution so far is contractors, they might be looking to outsource permanently and this is the way to make it look necessary.

              1. Andjazzy*

                In order to do this job you must be state licensed. Hiring a licensed contractor is substantially more expensive than retaining staff. It can’t be legally outsourced to another country

            2. The New Wanderer*

              The company as a whole might be stable, but your department seems to be doomed. Is there a chance they’ll decide they can do without the department or are going to solve it with a reorg?

              FWIW I’ve been in departments that had serious boom and bust cycles – my former company has layoffs/rehires cycles so regularly they overlap. At particularly low points, they tend to reorg to try to salvage something and create a “new” environment to attract or retain talent (while sloughing the skillsets they think they don’t need, before changing their minds!). And it absolutely can be due to a few people at the top of the department who seriously miscalculate who/what skills they need to accomplish the work. Probably the only reason we haven’t seen a situation like yours (do 3 FTEs or you’re fired) is because most of the workers are union – doesn’t protect you from being laid off but does protect from crazy workloads and being fired in retaliation.

              1. Andjazzy*

                We are the main product the company sells. I’m an auto insurance claims adjuster. This is all they do, they cannot function without state licensed adjusters

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Sounds like not too much has changed since the 70s. My husband got sick of hopping from one synthetic crisis to another and left the industry. Plus there was so much bribery going on back then.
                  He moved 4 times in 3 years. Finally they said his job was in the Big City. He said, “bye-bye”.
                  I think they like to keep everyone moving around because they think it prevents corruption.
                  It seemed to me that they hired a lot of college grads, playing on their innocence.

                  Short answer: They are doing this because they did not care 50 years ago and they still don’t care.

                2. e271828*

                  It could just be bad management, but this kind of attrition has to have been noticed by c suites and board.

                  Is it possible the goal is to lower value before a merger/buyout or something hinky like that?

          2. Gary Patterson's Cat*

            I think you might be right. This is often one of the signs that the company is experiencing serious financial trouble. It often precedes a chapter 11 bankruptcy, or they are looking to sell or breakup the company. The goal is to reduce costs while keeping performance and metrics up. The company still looks good from the outside and the executives get a nice piece of the profit and/or bonus for squeezing the most from what’s left. Sad to say, but this is not new.

            I’m cynical as well having been through it at two former companies.

    1. Sandi*

      ‘Beatings will continue until morale improves”
      They sound like idiots who are panicking while the company is in a crisis.

    2. anonymous73*

      Not sure it would help, but has anyone actually presented that fact to management? I mean, it’s obvious to us reasonable humans, but maybe a simple reality check will help (I’m being optimistic here) “We went from 80 employees to 20, and your solution is to fire people who can’t keep up- how exactly do you expect that to work?” Doubling staff in a year’s time is not going to resolve the short term problem of expecting employees to do the work of 4.

      1. Andjazzy*

        It’s all we talk about on employee engagement surveys and all staff meetings just denigrate into the remaining staff yelling at management

  8. Escaped a Work Cult*

    More of an update than anything, but today is the last day at my job. I put in my two weeks before background checks were done because I had a breakdown and desperately needed out. Due to the background check taking longer than anticipated, I now have a week break before my start date. This is nice to have. I’m getting the rest I need.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      So glad you are FREEEEEEEEE from your awful job! Wishing you much happiness and peace in the new workplace. <3

    2. Whynot*

      Congratulations on making your escape! I hope you have a very restful week, and that the new job is miles and miles better.

      Just a quick reminder: it takes awhile to recover from traumatic experiences, and starting a new job (even a great one) comes with its own stresses, as you’re taking in a lot of new information/dealing with a lot of new people and it can feel exhausting. Be kind to yourself and try to give yourself as much rest as possible in the next couple of months as you detox from the old and adjust to the new!

  9. Green Leaf*

    Career quandary:

    I had begun taking college courses for which I had been pre-approved for my employer’s tuition reimbursement program. The reimbursement was covering the full cost and I would not have started if it hadn’t. A short while into the courses, I was laid off. My employer refused to pay for the full reimbursement and would only pay for a partial amount. The policy only has language about the employer not having to reimburse if someone resigns – nothing about layoffs.

    I’m considering taking them to small claims court to recover the costs they wouldn’t cover – a few thousand dollars, which is a lot for me. I don’t need them for a reference and am not worried about burning bridges. Anyone been in this situation before? Any advice?

    1. Casper Lives*

      That’s pretty crappy of them. Unfortunately if you’re suing, that’s basically asking for legal advice. No one should give that out in an online forum.

      Have you tried talking to the school? There might be some kind of hardship help

      1. Blue Eagle*

        The school would likely not be able to help. Generally in this situation you pay the tuition up front and the employer reimburses you if you complete the course and receive a passing grade. So the school already has their money and woudn’t return the amount you are expecting your employer to reimburse you.

      2. Rock Prof*

        My tiny university has exactly this type of fund for these situations. It might be called an emergency fund or hardship, and I with think it’s worth looking into. I’ve had a number of students who have been able to tap into it for a couple different reasons.

        1. Rock Prof*

          I should add, sometimes these funds don’t have to always go directly to tuition but can be used for other needed expenses.

    2. WellRed*

      I’d at least consult an attorney about this for that amount of money. I hate employee programs that require them to pay upfront and risk getting screwed over like this.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think I’d go to your state attorney general and ask for help if it were me.

      Small claims courts are tricky. They have caps- you can only go up to a certain dollar amount. And it’s not just explaining things to the judge. It’s documenting every single thing every inch of the way. And opposing counsel usually has an unforeseen point or two.

      If I could not afford a lawyer, it’s one of those few times that I might consider Glassdoor or other social media instead of court.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      Do you have any kind of written agreement with the conditions, or is this discussed in the employee handbook? This sounds like it might be standard practice (crappy, I know, but they pay the tuition because the coursework benefits them), so I’d check all the documentation before you go to the hassle of court only to discover this was spelled out somewhere.

      1. HR Person*

        I agree with Policy Wonk. I’m an HR person with lots of experience administering tuition assistance programs. Companies almost always have limits on what they will pay and when. For instance, most companies won’t pay more than $5,250 per year (because that’s the IRS’s limit for tax-free tuition benefits) – or less. Some companies pay a little up front and then the remainder of the benefit once you’ve completed the course, so if you hadn’t completed the course by the time you were laid off, that might be what happened. Some companies only pay for job-related courses, so although your degree might require you to take X, Y, and Z, the company might only pay for X and Z because Y isn’t job-related.

        On the other hand, if you haven’t signed your severance agreement yet, this would be a great thing for you to try to bargain for. Ask them to pay the remaining amount that you thought they were going to pay you for tuition assistance. Frankly, every place I’ve worked would have been generous in a layoff/tuition assistance situation, so I’m sorry they aren’t being generous.

  10. hamsterpants*

    Any recommendation on job titles to search for?

    My husband has a PhD in the humanities with a strong background in history and archival research. He has worked in various writing-type jobs and now has three years experience doing qualitative market research for a company. He’s wanting to branch out from market research because of crappy culture at his current job. Constraints: looking for a full-time position that does *not* require getting an additional degree (so nothing requiring a MLS) though a short certification could be OK; strong preference is on the rigorous research aspect (so “guy who leads tours and teaches members of the public about history” is not a good fit) though he is also good giving in-depth presentations about his research to adults. He’s very thorough and detail-oriented and has gotten a lot of praise and success for this. He’s open-minded about industry.

    Any ideas for jobs that could fit the bill?

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      (field specific) analyst. Like Public policy ananlyst, research analyst.

      Editorial work for a publication on the field.

    2. cubone*

      Agreed with policy analyst and maybe look for think tanks/councils/research centres that are doing innovative research work? For example, in Canada we have the Broadbent Institute or Future Skills Centre.

      Also highly highly recommend Jennifer Polk’s “From PhD to Life” site for other resources and advice

      1. cubone*

        Oh also a completely different track and would maybe require some additional certification/learning, but what about instructional design? The rigorous research part could be met through the process of working with subject matter experts, and his presentation and evaluation (from market research) type skills would be great for this too.

      2. Coenobita*

        Also maybe government? If you’re in the U.S., maybe check the Congressional Research Service or the GAO, or a state-level equivalent. I know quite a few PhDs who do policy-related research work in government or in public-sector consulting.

      3. Hunnybee*

        I would encourage him to consider UX Research! There is a whole field of UX that researches and analyzes user responses. Presentation skills would be hugely helpful as would his analytical skills, and UX Researchers are always in great demand!

        Here’s a little more:

        PS UX pays quite nicely in corporate settings. But UX Research is applicable in all industries, from Tech to Goverment, etc.

        Best of luck to your husband!!!

        1. Nerfmobile*

          Ditto on this. I work in UX and we are consistently needing to hire more researchers. It’s a short jump from market research.

    3. Hillary*

      Does he like qualitative marketing research? We have a role called customer experience manager – they work between customers, sales, and product owners to keep our direction aligned with customer needs/wants.

      Related, he might like product management. Essentially you represent the voice of the customer in product design.

    4. Grits McGee*

      Maybe a professional archival researcher? I work for a large archive that supports a community of full time professional researchers, but I have no idea what kind of money they make, and they’ve been out of work since the pandemic started and shut down in-person access to our research facilities.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        This, or some history museums have separate research departments that work on the more academic end of research and writing and lectures, as opposed to the popular research done for the general public publications and programs.

    5. Madeleine Matilda*

      He might try looking for positions in the national libraries (all gov jobs found on USAJobs): Library of Congress, National Library of Medicine, National Agricultural Library.

    6. Hunnybee*

      Has he considered UX Research? It seems that nobody is able to find a UX Researcher, and that talent for analysis could translate well into both the research and application of research. There are so many websites online that teach UX Research Methodologies, and it might be an interesting work transition for a thoughtful and curious mind.

      Also, it pays well. : )

    7. J.B.*

      You might check out RTI (several locations they cross social and life/physical science), they might have some job descriptions that would give some ideas.

    8. Hunnybee*

      Sorry for the duplicate response! My first one didn’t show up so I typed it in again, and then they both did!

    9. OtterB*

      I know several people with graduate education in history and archives who have taken jobs in records management.

  11. No SoCal*

    Thinking about talking the leap and applying for a supervisor position. It would new for me as in other jobs I didn’t have the complete role (think projects, not people….vice versa).

    For those of you who are supervising now, what’s one piece of advice you wish could go back in time and tell your yourself?

    1. IndyDem*

      Paperwork, gah, the paperwork. Additionally, you have to realize that you are no longer a llama groomer, but someone who supervisors llama groomers. So if you loved being a llama groomer… you have to realize that you are not that anymore. You also need to think ahead of time, how would you deal with high performers, average employees, and difficult employees. Luckily, AAM can help with the last.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Yeah, this part is haaard. As a manager I definitely find myself wanting to do the llama grooming, which I’m already good at – and avoiding the managerial stuff, which is new and scary! I’m getting better at it, but it’s definitely a shock to the system at first.

    2. Lady Danbury*

      Formal training!!! Managing is a completely different skillset and learning as you go is pretty much the worst way to learn. Ideally your job offers training, otherwise there’s a world of external resources available. It doesn’t hurt to ask if your job will pay for it or at least allow you to train on company time so that you don’t have to use personal/vacation time. At worst, training is worth investing in even if you have to pay for it yourself.

      Also, don’t assume that people know what they’re doing because they’ve been in x role for a long time. There were specific times that I trusted advice from HR/senior managers even when my instincts said that I should act differently and I was completely right. Find trusted third parties (other managers, AAM, etc) to discuss concerns and seek objective advice.

    3. smirkpretty*

      Prepare yourself for radically different needs along your various direct reports. I recently went from supervising 1 person to supervising 3 FT + some part time folks, and wow, the daily pivoting!

      Some folks have a more junior mindset than I expected, in that they sort of wait to be told what to do and haven’t quite learned how to take initiative on complex projects. So I have to help them chunk things down into smaller, more concrete projects where they can take the lead. I check in (more often than I initially expected) about their progress, with the goal of helping them build the skills to become more self-sufficient.

      In the same day, I’ll meet with another one who is super proactive and needs no help with managing her projects but does need to bounce higher level strategic ideas off me and get my help moving things up the chain of command.

      And the one who is proactive on tasks but just doesn’t ask questions? Ever? So I have to anticipate the organizational knowledge he needs and remind him of what he should be digging in to learn about. So that he isn’t just doing tasks but figuring out how to think about all the tasks in a larger context.

      Then I’ve got super part timers who are hourly wage employees and need a super clear running task list that is updated and reviewed on a regular basis.

      Anyway, there is much more interpersonal attention/awareness needed to help my team be successful than I ever imagined! So the advice to my earlier self would be… Try to discern who they really are and how they operate, and not just what their job description says they should be. Or put the other way, yes, they need to do the job as described, but helping them get there successfully has a lot to do with interacting with who they actually are.

    4. Uncoverer of Mistakes*

      A good mentor is invaluable – if there’s someone in your org who you feel is a good manager, who has a generally good reputation with people who are quite unlike you as well, then it’s very much asking if you can set up some informal mentoring, or regular short check-ins as you’re transitioning into the role. Someone you don’t directly report into is useful for this, but someone you can run things through with is what you’re looking for.

      Also – managers can’t be friends with their staff, friendly open and approachable are great, actual friends is bad for a myriad of reasons.

  12. client gift question*

    I’m a freelancer, and I’d like to send gift baskets to a few high revenue clients over the holidays.

    In each case, I work directly with someone pretty high up in the company and cc the CEO,  who I do not directly communicate with.  (For one client, I have interfaced with the CEO on a zoom intake meeting.  They all chime in on emails every once in a while, but not really directly to me.)

    Is it appropriate to send the package care of the person I work with and include the CEO (and others) by name in the card?

    Any other recommended approach? 

    1. RagingADHD*

      I would either send an individual gift to the direct contact, or a shareable basket c/o them, as you describe.

  13. No Raise*

    I found out last week that a raise to bring my salary in line with other people in my job and experience was denied. I’ve been doing a lot of work and a LOT of above and beyond during COVID vs other areas. I’m in one of the covid response programs, so it’s been a brutal 20 months, we were denied OT pay, we haven’t had support. It’s been rough. I expected the no on the salary bump, but it still hit me really hard. My boss and his boss and the person who does the HR stuff were all livid on my behalf, and I know it wasn’t because it wasn’t written up well. It’s just…to the centralized agency who approves this…they don’t care. They are trying to reclassify me at a higher pay grade instead which…I guess is fine? But I’m having a hard time putting my “I don’t care” back on. I’m normally the lowest paid person in all the meetings, and projects, and work that I’m a part of and normally it doesn’t bother me. I know the people in the Other Department are all paid way more and I just roll my eyes. I know the vendors are all paid more and it’s fine. But right now it’s getting under my skin more than I want and I need to reset my brain and looking for suggestions.

    (And I appreciate just leave, but that’s not going to work for me or help me so thank you.)

    1. WellRed*

      I realize being in a Covid response program makes this harder but, stop going above and beyond. I’d like to see you reset your expectations for the future. Expecting the “no” and rolling the eyes and trying to convince us (and yourself) that it’s all “fine” is the road to demoralizestion and burn out and the feelings you are experiencing. Or, just tell yourself, “eff them!”

    2. Sandman*

      It’s right for you to be mad about this, because it’s not just and it doesn’t reflect the very real work you’ve been doing to the benefit of your organization and community. If you didn’t care at all, I’d be a little concerned that you don’t value yourself and your contributions appropriately. I know it’s easier to be able to put your head down and do your job without having feelings all over the place, but feelings are there for a reason and sometimes we just need to take some time to feel and process them in order to get that equilibrium back again. I’d say to give yourself time and permission to process, and also focus on the people who know YOU, who know your work, and are livid on your behalf.

    3. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      And companies wonder why the Great Resignation is going on? Honestly. It’s because of shit like this.

      Ok, so you want to stay. Is it realistic and probable to believe that you will actually be reclassified at a higher pay grade and this is just something that will take a little longer than expected? If you do, then I say try to look past it, be patient, and continue doing your good work as normal. However, I would pull back a little bit in the working the extra hours for the meantime… especially if you’ve all been denied overtime pay or comp time in lieu of overtime pay. Your labor is not for free and enough is enough of that already. And don’t frame it as “I don’t care,” because you SHOULD care. Frame it as “I am being patient because my organization will do the right thing and this bureaucratic stuff just moves slower than I would like it to.”

      If you have reason to think this is all just lip service and the central agency will never approve your reclassification, then honestly why would you want to continue working for an organization that does not value your hard work and efforts? I’m not saying you have to quit in a pique over it immediately, but I would definitely set a deadline in my own head for them do increase your salary, and begin looking elsewhere if you sense it’s not gonna happen. Good luck! I hope for your sake they do the right thing by you.

      1. Sandman*

        I don’t know where the letter-writer is from, but personally I live in a small community where there are a very limited number of employers in a given sector. They could be in a similar situation where taking a new job means needing to move, which can be a non-starter in the context of a person’s whole life. Just pointing out that sometimes there are real reasons to stay in a given spot even when we know it’s not idea.

        1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

          I’m not saying they need to quit RIGHT NOW over it.
          It sounds like OP’s managers are trying to resolve the problem at least–which argues for some patience. But what if nothing changes in 3 months or 6 months? Then you’ve got to make a decision to stay and live with it, or go where the grass is greener.

          What concerned me the most about this company wasn’t the salary bump being denied, it was the “we were denied OT pay,” which might actually be wage theft if it’s prolonged or uncompensated in any way.

          1. No Raise*

            I’m salaried and exempt and government. So it’s not wage theft, it’s just being jerks, or for those who are the worst “fiscally responsible”. OT pay for my grade must be approved by that same central agency and they denied it to us during the pandemic, not that we would normally get it, but we had a tiny sliver of hope that they’d approve a little during the pandemic.

            I do have to make the decision, and for right now my decision is stay, and I’m just trying to make sure I’m not crabby or bitter about it.

      2. No Raise*

        I think it’s pretty likely and there is one more path if they don’t which they wouldn’t be able to deny, it’s just more annoying for all of us than the reclassification. I think the framing is really helpful because that’s a huge part of what I do all the time, so much bureaucracy, so holding that will help me see this better. Thank you!

    4. I have the light of life*

      In the short term, you should schedule some time off, like some overdue vacation time, or like a day or two to take a step back and refocus on yourself. If you have PTO, you don’t have to give a reason for needing time off.

      In the long term, it would be good to reevaluate how much you’re willing to invest of yourself in your work. It has to be a fair deal for you. It’s okay to work 40 hours week if you’re only paid for 40. Take reasonable breaks during the day, whatever you need, so that you can do your work properly without burning out and without hating your job.

      You did all the grunt work so you could back up your request for a pay raise. There’s nothing wrong with that and it wasn’t a waste of time. Now you know where everyone stands, so you can decide for yourself what you’re willing or not willing to accept.

      If you can, enjoy your life outside of work, because work is just work… it has whatever value you want to give it.

      1. No Raise*

        I am willing to invest a lot in work, because it’s not just work, it’s a really big deal and it helps a huge number of people. Being in public service and doing work that helps people is absolutely a large part of my sense of self. The thing I do isn’t just making money for a billionaire, it’s as close as I get within the system to the opposite. I help people every day and most of the time that’s fine and that’s enough to keep me from getting overwhelmed and burned out despite no time off and no breaks and all the rest. People need help and I have a space right now to help people. I think part of what’s frustrating me right now is that I feel like I’m focused way too much on myself thinking about this. I know that American culture is very much you have to take care of yourself and no one else, but that’s just not where I’m at and so feeling like this a little right now is a challenge for me.

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          But you also have to take care of yourself to be able to help others. And there’s nothing wrong with being compensated for work, even if it is something that is altruistic. The majority of my job is making sure water gets to folks and keeping the used water from contaminating waterways. It’s something that needs to be done, but if I wasn’t being paid for it, I sure as heck wouldn’t be doing it.

    5. Koala dreams*

      Even though you don’t want to change jobs, make a resume and check job adverts. Perhaps for 30 minutes a week for a month or so. Often it’s easier to accept things when we remind ourselves that we have choices. By reading job adverts for other jobs you’ll remind yourself why you choose this job, and not any other job out there.

      For the overtime, set a limit for how much time you think is reasonable given your job and your pay. Zero hours, five hours, ten hours, more? Then try to follow your limit. Plan simple activities after work and put a reminder on your calendar. Talk to your boss about needing to prioritize among your tasks and deadlines. Overtime shouldn’t be a habit, it should be for work emergencies.

    6. Uncoverer of Mistakes*

      I’m in the public sector, and I’ve read and understood some of your responses about public service, and what I’ve found useful is to directly connect more with the community we serve – so I can really see the benefit my work has directly rather than just knowing it.

      Some of the other advice you’ve had here about reframing is brilliant – particularly around the regrading, which is also something we’re going through right now – but I wondered if some of that mission (re)connection might also be helpful.

  14. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I have been an office worker pretty much my whole adult life and would like to do something different. I’m trying to think outside the box for this, but don’t really know where to start. Are there resources anyone can suggest for me to peruse for ideas of non-traditional jobs – remote would be great, but not necessary, and I’m open to some travel, too. Just looking for ideas at this point, not necessarily job postings, though checking through them will give me ideas, I guess! :)

    1. There’s nothing in the fridge*

      What do you know how to do? Are you an artist who could sell custom pet portraits? Are you a triathlete who could start a personal training business? Is your closet so perfectly colour-coded that you could be a personal organizer? Do you have the expertise to be a technical writer? Are you interested in sales? Do you volunteer anywhere?

      There is a whole universe of jobs that aren’t office jobs, so this is kind of like saying “I want something to eat.” What do you like? What skills do you have? What are you looking for?

      1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

        Well……none of those things you listed, actually. I am an amazing employee and coworker, but don’t have any special skills that might be helpful to springboard off of, and my hobbies are not marketable – reading, light scrapbooking, dogs. I grew up on a farm, so I know a little bit about everything related to that, but nothing I can see helping in this situation. I’m just an average person with no special skills trying to do something a little different – I’m not super-picky about what that “different” is. I’m guessing there’s really nothing out there like that, unless I stumble upon it, but was hoping to improve my odds.

        1. socks*

          You say you like dogs — how are you at training them? Dog training isn’t a well paid position, but it’s one with minimal startup effort/cost. Pet store chains will usually have a training program for new trainers, and if you want to stick with it you can get other certifications later.

        2. Grits McGee*

          I’ve heard about people hiring themselves out as farm-sitters for small farms- would that be a feasible option in your area?

        3. Julie*

          What, specifically, about you as an employee is amazing? Once you can articulate that you’ll have a good launching pad for other work you could pivot to, taking advantage of that specific quality.

    2. Colette*

      What kinds of things do you find satisfying? Are you willing to go back to school?
      There are a lot of non-office jobs – catering, electrician, plumber, closet organizer, childcare, physiotherapy, nutritionist, retail, building inspector, etc. – with various amounts of schooling required.

      1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

        Not willing to go back to school, honestly, because I don’t care passionately enough about any program to spend the money on it. Things I find satisfying: finishing a good book, helping people (I know that’s broad/general as there are many ways to help people!), tackling a list of tasks and finishing them. I know this is too general to be helpful, and I think that’s much of my problem with this (see my reply above to “There’s nothing in the fridge”). But thanks for replying and making me think more about it, at least!

        1. e271828*

          Don’t write off retraining/education to get skills you need. There are some jobs you might be interested in (carpentry/joinery, for example—any trade type work) that would require it. If you enjoy scrapbooking, you might enjoy putting similar analysis and assembly skills to work in that kind of environment.

          You may also have a bent toward logistics, which can lead into emergency management and other public service types of jobs (including transit/transportation), if you are good at compiling a task list and seeing it through.

          Look through the past year or so of local news and see if you can find trends in non-office work in industries or areas that pique your interest or are just different.

        2. Colette*

          More questions.
          What kind of people do you like helping? (Adults? Children? The general public? Seniors?)
          Do you like taking care of people (childcare, senior care, etc.)?
          Would you like dealing with rental properties (e.g. showing apartments, collecting rent, etc.)?
          Would you like teaching English as a second language (note, this would require some training)?
          What about working at an animal shelter or other animal-related business (e.g. riding school)?

          I’d suggest thinking about what you’ve done well at your past jobs, what skills you used, then compare it what you like doing (either at work or outside of it) and what skills that uses. Try to figure out what skills you’re both good at and like doing, and then try to match that to possible jobs.

        3. Nancy*

          What kind of office do you work in? What list of tasks are you doing? Which do you like? What have you done in the past? Helping people do what? Start there.

        4. Squirrel Nutkin*

          With what you enjoy, maybe you would find happiness working at a Reference Desk at a library? (My favorite job of all time!) I kind of fell into a good situation for a couple of years there without a library degree, which probably won’t happen for most people. But if this sounds like something you think could be fun for you, maybe you could do a little volunteer work at a local library and see how you like it. If you do like it, perhaps pursuing a degree might then seem more appealing?

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      So, it sounds like you may benefit from some career coaching exercises. Ones I’ve heard of include: _What Color is Your Parachute_, _Design Your Life_, and The ZigZag Project (a podcast/online thing). Maybe see if you can find a copy at your local library and ask the librarians if they have suggestions for similar books.

      Other than those, maybe you need to start with some questions/reflection. Look around you and your day-to-day. Who has a role that makes you go, “Hmmm…interesting. I wonder what that would be like?” These could be real people or people from your reading. Make a list, then do some thinking about what you think sounds interesting about them. Is it the job work itself, the associated lifestyles, their impact, the field?

      Then, start doing some informational interviews to learn about the reality of any job that sounds interesting.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        More books to look at:
        “Is Your Genius At Work” (Dick Richards)
        “Creating A Life Worth Living” (Carol Lloyd)
        “I could do anything if I only knew what it was” (Barbara Sher)

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      How about taking a class without any aim for training or certification? Maybe check your local community college, library system, or country parks and recreation department to see if there’s any class or program that you’d like to try out. The time you spend with new people and learning something new, outside of your office and the house, might give you ideas about what you’d like to do.

    5. PollyQ*

      There are tests that match your personality to careers which may be helpful in suggesting things you wouldn’t have thought of. Many years ago, I took the Strong Attitude test, which basically asked, “What kinds of things do you like doing?” and than gave back results that said, “People who liked those kinds of things also liked these kinds of jobs. It returned Computer Programmer for me, and I did work happily as one for many years. It also popped up things like Optometrist, which I would never have even considered.

    6. HR Person*

      Would it be feasible for you to become a consultant doing the kind of work you’ve been doing? That would be almost all remote, and probably would include some travel.

      Another thought is to look at Task Rabbit or Upwork to see what kinds of very short-term gigs they are offering, and which items appeal to you. Again, you’d mainly be working for yourself remotely. I assume some of the jobs would at least involve local travel, like delivering items or shopping for something in a specialty shop in another town, etc.

      For that matter, Uber Eats or being a Lyft driver are non-office jobs and can probably be done part-time at first to see if you like them. My cousin has a high-powered office job and she drives for Lyft on the side- she absolutely loves it because the stress is much lower than her office job and she gets a kick out of chatting with her passengers.

      1. WellRed*

        I’d hop on here along these lines and suggest part time and possibly temp gigs in retail or customer service to see how you like interacting with the public.

  15. Anne Reno*

    Is there a diplomatic way to tell my supervisor that I am not looking to do any professional development right now, and want to focus on the scope of my job and that’s it?

    For context: the last year at work has chewed me up and spit me out. I’ve posted before about losing most of my staff, getting shoved into a leadership position with no support, and generally being burnt out. My team is FINALLY fill staffed again, including having both a boss and grandboss again. My grandboss has decided that, given the amazing work I did holding my team together, I deserve all kinds of professional development opportunities to continue growing my skills — leadership institutes, conferences, etc.

    However…I am so burnt out that frankly all I feel up to doing is my own job, now that I don’t have to do the work of 3 people multiple levels above me. I also have multiple simultaneous family health crises plus the unprocessed trauma of *gestures at everything*. I appreciate my grandboss’s belief in me but I do not want to be superstar anymore — I just don’t have it in me.

    Anyone else been in a similar position or have advice?

    1. cubone*

      Have definitely been there and it’s hard. I think it’s a really good thing you’re thinking about your capacity and saying no to things.

      are you willing to talk to your boss about the stress and toll this year has taken? I think that’s more the root of your decision – like it’s not that you just hate PD and don’t think learning matters, you don’t have the mental or physical capacity to add more to your plate! You could frame it as with everything that’s happened, you need to reset and recenter yourself and don’t want to add additional learning until you feel you’re in a space to take
      that on and make the most of it.

      If you think your boss won’t be understanding or try to convince you otherwise, maybe you could frame it AS professional development, like “right now I’d like to focus my growth on adapting to our new team dynamics and learning how to best be of service within my role”. Who knows if it’ll work but maybe?

      Also I’m really sorry that you have so much going on now and that you even have to navigate getting someone to understand this. <3

    2. simple_rhyme*

      Congrats on pulling through a really tough time and delivering amazing work!

      One thing that I find (not sure if “insulting” is the correct word) is what they are offering to you as a way of recognizing your hard work:
      “My grandboss has decided that, given the amazing work I did holding my team together……..” and “now that I don’t have to do the work of 3 people multiple levels above me” should be followed with “so, they have promoted me to xxxx position and a raise.” or at the very least “so, they have given me a $xxxxx bonus.” Professional development is great and all, but it’s only worth it to the candidate if they want it and have plans to utilize it to advance their career. And it shouldn’t be used as a “thank you” in place of compensation recognition. Is that something you would lean more towards and find adequate?

      I don’t really have any ideas on language to use when you have this discussion, I’m sorry. I tend to have a hard time being diplomatic in my tone, even when I think it out ahead of time and won’t be much help. But I am hoping others can help you with that.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I’ve been there before, and it is hard. I turned down a couple of good development opportunities because I had little kids and just didn’t have the bandwidth. Be honest that issues unrelated to work make it impossible to do this right now. Note that there is a trade-off in that the opportunities may not be offered again. My boss seemed very understanding and accepted my position but it clearly put me on the “bad” list when opportunities arose.

    4. Can Can Cannot*

      Talk to your grandboss to get a better understanding of the reasoning behind the development opportunities. Does grandboss see this as a way to make you better in your current job, or are they setting you up for a promotion? If the latter and you are interested in advancement, it might be worth doing. But if it’s the former, it might just be setting you up to take on even more unrequested responsibilities.

    5. HJG*

      It’s really dependent on what you know about your manager but as a manager myself, honestly I wouldn’t mind someone directly telling me they’re happy in their role and aren’t looking for development. It makes my life easier (less work than lining up development opportunities/managing a promotion process) and it’s a relief to know someone doing work that’s necessary for your team is happy to keep doing it! So it could be an easier convo than you think. Good luck!

      1. SomeTimes*

        I had this experience as a manager and it was perfectly fine. The employee communicated that he did not want to grow out of the position or take on more senior roles. This was in a company where managers had to have a development plan for every report.

  16. cubone*

    I commented last week (or maybe the week before?) about my fears to quit my contract job after 8 months and everyone’s encouragement and input was so helpful. Gave notice Monday and it went totally fine (I was way more nervous than necessary, of course!). I only gave their required 3 weeks and will be free before the holidays!
    Thanks everyone!!

  17. Second job Spender*

    I’ve been offered a weekend job! I took it for the vague reason of wanting more money (especially because of the CoL drama…) but would appreciate hearing what others do with their side gig money. I’m thinking of mortgage overpayments and a new coach!

    1. Daffodilly*

      Pay down the principle on any loans you have.
      If you own your home, routine maintenance to avoid big ticket repairs down the road. Same for cars.

    2. Hillary*

      Pay off high interest rate loans. If your mortgage is low rate it may be better spent elsewhere – low interest = free money. Plus inflation isn’t going to touch your mortgage.

      It might be good to just save it. I didn’t realize how much stress it was causing until I had a cushion in the bank.

    3. Coenobita*

      I am very fortunate that my/my spouse’s main jobs cover the bills, savings, etc., so my side job is my budget for fun money. Well, maybe not “fun money” so much as “lazy money” – like for buying lunch a few times a week instead of bringing food from home. I like eating complicated salads but I am not motivated enough to make them for myself. I would much rather do a few hours of customer service work and trade the outcome for salads. :)

    4. Hermione Danger*

      I paid off my student loans early by dumping half of my side gig money into them while saving the other half. Now, I still put half into savings, and I pay a little extra on my mortgage, but I’m ALSO using that money to make charitable donations to organizations I believe in that could use my support.

    5. sara*

      When I do side gigs (freelance web dev projects), I put the money towards my savings goal at the time (I don’t have any debt). Plus, I would dedicate a small amount of it to time-savers to help out – like adding a bit of extra to my takeout/delivery budget, drop-off laundry, or something similar. If I didn’t WFH, I’d add cleaning service to that list.

    6. Alternative Person*

      Investment items. Things like high quality clothes (maybe a tailored suit), shoes and bags. Not necessarily high end designer but stuff that is well fitted and will last for years with a little maintenance.

      It’s one part Vime’s theory of boots and one part looking like a smart, serious professional for me.

    7. Sam I Am*

      Pay down high interest things like credit cards, but if you don’t carry high interest debt, or a high amount of debt, make sure you invest some money somewhere. I really can’t tell you where, and it shouldn’t be all of it, but I heard an advisor recently speaking about how, generally, men see money as a river- it flows in, it flows out, they’ll be able to get more if they lose it. Women generally see it as a pond that they fill up to one day start drawing down on. This rang true to me as a woman, and after speaking to some financially successful male friends, they agreed that they see money more as a river.
      I don’t know how much this helps, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately and making some plans for investing some very small amounts.

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

    So can anyone tell me how you can find out if you are being paid market rate?
    I work at a state university and the entire system is revamping the pay and title structure to be more competitive with the market. I’ve got my new title which I’m happy about ( the old title made no sense to anyone outside of the system so if you were updating your resume you would have to explain the title.) The salary part won’t change for a while.
    I’m an admin and I make ok money for my city, but the only way I’m able to survive is that I live with family and the rent is really reasonable.
    So I wonder how I can find out my or not. I looked at but I don’t know how accurate it is.

    1. MoreFriesPlz*

      I’d look on Glassdoor and find other universities or similar in your area, or similar CoL areas I’d there aren’t others near you. See what other people with similar titles report.

      If you’re only able to get by by living with family, are you really making ok money?

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

        I’m making ok money for my area. It’s just that it’s a high cost of living and for single people it’s really hard unless you want to live in a studio (which I cannot for certain reasons).
        I am NOT looking to leave my job. I have excellent benefits. In fact even though It.maoe hourly a little less than what Iade at a previous job I take hom e more money because my health insurance is less for the same plan. (State employees get huge discounted insurance. Plus I get like 3 weeks in vacation and a generous sick time that accumulates). I just want to be able to better understand what the going price is and maybe be able to negotiate when it comes to that.

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      Not sure if the following AAM links will provide the information you’re looking for, but maybe they will give you a running start:

      See the responses given to RosenGilMom on how to find salary ranges for nonprofit positions

      AAM’s 2019 article “How to find out what salary you should be making”

      AAM’s 2015 article “How to determine what salary to ask for”

      Also, salary data from the government, which is filterable by location:

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Also, AAM did a salary survey a few years ago, that might have useful data for you. I don’t have the link handy, but I’m 99% certain it’s under “Salary” in the topics section.

    4. Rosy Smile*

      IIRC don’t university jobs usually post salary bands on the job listings? Can you look up open positions at other universities similar to yours and see if the salary bands match up?

      In general, I do think university pay tends to be lower than private sector so while you can check Glassdoor, it might not be super accurate.

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

        Oh yes I can see all the salary info for other jobs within the university. That’s not the problem. We all make $15/hour for my level. But when they do the salary restructure I want to see if we are really at market value or if it’s hyperbole from the university.

    5. Alternative Person*

      Have a look at regular/local job boards and see what comes up, look at a range of companies not just universities. Also, make sure you calculate (as close as you reasonably can) the value of benefits you get as a for-profit job might have a higher base salary but non-profit/university jobs might come out ahead on things like health care.

      Another thing I would consider is costing out how much it would be to live in a nice flat (no roommates) and seeing where that figure takes you in relation to your (desired) salary.

      If you want to get really fancy, see if you can track down old salary data (search engines might have old cached job advertisements) and see how its changed (or not) and try applying the rate of inflation (or something slightly higher) over time and seeing what you get. It might be something that would be completely unreasonable to expect, but if you take a look at all the data you gather you can see the kind of numbers you should ideally be moving towards.

  19. GiftGiver*

    A colleague is retiring due to a degenerative illness. Does anyone have ideas for a nice gift? Most of the retirement gift advice is focused on experiences post retirement but that may not be possible here. Thank you!

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

      Do you know if there is anything they enjoy? Reading or a certain music. Depending on the illness they may still be able to enjoy certain activities.
      Does the person have a partner or family member that you could reach out too for help?
      If nothing else maybe a donation in their name to a charity.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        No, do NOT make a donation in their name to a charity. This is NOT a gift (unless the person has mentioned prior to this that they have given donations in the name of other people to charity as a gift).
        How about a gift certificate to Harry and David? They have great fruit and great candy – – certainly there is something they sell that the person would enjoy.

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

          Can you enlighten me on why a donation is not a good idea? To be clear I’m not talking about a random charity but something that is close to the person. So if they are active with their Rotary club, or their local humane society.

          1. zaracat*

            Donating as a memorial is one thing, but in my opinion donating to a cause instead of giving a gift to a (living) person kind of sucks in general – it comes across both as lacking imagination and sending a message that the person doesn’t deserve a gift in their own right. But in this specific situation it has the potential of causing extra hurt by making the colleague feel as if you see them more as a generic representative of a worthy cause than as someone you value as an individual and with whom you have a shared history.

            1. zaracat*

              Add to above comment: leaving work because of illness is a major life change and, unless you really hate your job, a significant loss. Depending on the exact circumstances it can mean loss of a sense of purpose, loss of status, loss of a major part of your social network etc and it can be something that needs grieving. In the face of those losses, nobody is likely to enjoy giving up yet one more thing (their gift).

    2. CJM*

      When I retired, a work friend gave me a gift certificate for a site where I could buy just about anything. That was a nice gift. Besides that, a sendoff with cake and a few greeting cards signed by my work colleagues were memorable.

    3. Kate*

      Is there a particular food that you know they enjoy? A subscription service for a few months of whatever that is might be nice- consumable so it won’t increase clutter and it gives them something to look forward to being delivered each month.

  20. Jo*

    Hivemind help: I think I’d like to pivot slightly in my career and focus on what I actually enjoy doing. This is things like:
    – process analysis (how can we streamline how we work to make things more efficient)
    – continuous improvement (similar to the above)
    – operational strategy (are we doing the right things? should we consider new ideas/ways of working/products, what are market trends etc)

    And then actually implementing or executing projects to do the above.

    What kind of job titles should I be looking for? So far I’ve found Business Architect, change manager (sometimes), process analyst (not that many), and a lot of strategy roles that are quite senior and dont quite include anything about actually executing. I feel like I’m missing something but not quite sure what.

    My background is in B2B software development (as a data analyst/product owner) for context and I’m early/mid career (8 years of experience).

    1. ThisIsTheHill*

      I’d add Business Analyst & Business Process Improvement – in my line of work, those are the most common titles for the type of work you’re looking for.

    2. Generic Name*

      The first bullet point sounds like Kaizen/six sigma stuff. I’d search for jobs with “quality” in the title. The American Society for Quality is a good place to start.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I also wonder if “project manager” or something similar will contain some useful results. You’ll have to filter out a fair amount of the results, but it may help you find titles that you could search for instead.

    4. anon for this*

      I’d actually check out “product manager”. Read about product management and see if some of that would be good. I am working with some nascent product managers now and in particular that would encompass both improvement of the current product and the operational strategy thinking you mentioned. Listen to “This is Product Management” podcast for some ideas of what folks do.

    5. A Frayed Knot*

      Internal Audit (but doesn’t really do implementation, only identifying needs) or Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) for strategy.

    6. Waiting on the bus*

      This is exactly what I and my colleagues are doing. My title is project manager. My colleagues, who were hired after me, were hired as business analysts, which is what we’re now using officially for our role. (I’ve kept my old title so far due to my irrational dislike of the term “business analyst”).

      We also advertise the same position as process manager/analyst in our job ads.

  21. Lizy*

    Tips on vetting a company to be sure it’s legit? I’ve Googled it and searched (found) a couple of people on LinkedIn. It seems ok – just a smaller company. I’ve accepted the position but before I put notice in on Monday I wanted to check and see if there’s anything I could have missed. It’s fully remote, and HQ is a couple of states away, so not necessarily something I can drive by and confirm the building is there lol

      1. Lizy*

        Not really. Just anxious because it’s a 40% raise and fully remote and decent benefits and waiting for the other shoe to drop lol

        1. Decidedly Me*

          Got it! You could check GlassDoor, find their business registration, see when tbe company domain was registered, use the Wayback machine to check earlier versions of their site. Also, try Googling company name + scam.

          If everyone’s remote, I’d worry less on the HQ location. My company is fully remote and our public facing address is a mailbox :P

          1. pancakes*

            Also try looking at the Google News hits for the company name, since there are a lot things that might be newsworthy about it despite not being a scam. You don’t want to tailor your results very narrowly when you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

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

      Even though you can’t literally drive by have you thought of scanning around on Streetview?

  22. Cassie*

    I may be moving on to a different position within my organization. What office supplies (e.g. calculator, Swingline stapler) can I take with me? There are some items that I inherited from an eliminated position/dept 20 years ago (like half reams of colored paper that are just sitting there) so they weren’t purchased by my current dept. Though it may sound weird, I actually remember what stuff I inherited.

    I’m obviously not going to take everything over to the new position but would it be wrong to take some of the older stuff?

    1. Colette*

      If you’re within the same company, you can take any of your personal supplies. (So a stapler or calculator is fine; taking all the paper for the department printer is not.)

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

      If it hasn’t been used in 20 years you won’t need it in the new department either. I would leave anything the old department uses and assume your new department will supply what you need for your new job; take only your personal property with you unless someone (IT, facilities or boss) says otherwise.

    3. Lizy*

      Um… I may or may not take basically everything. Pink flowery keyboard rest? Mine. Fancy pen? Mine. I’ll leave the sticky notes (probably) and note pads (maybe) and stapler (but only cause I still have the other one from 2 jobs ago) so…

    4. Policy Wonk*

      Since you will be in the same organization, you can take whatever you want. If you can, scope out the new office space and see what it looks like, what it already has. When I moved offices I discovered my predecessor took (or never had) desk supplies like a desk blotter, pencil holder, stapler, paper clip holder, etc. And while there were a lot of pens in the top drawer, it turned out they were all out of ink! Not sure why they were kept, not tossed, but it was weird. It took a couple of weeks to get everything I was accustomed to having, as we had to order new ones – except for the pens, it wasn’t the kind of stuff kept in the supply room.

    5. Amtelope*

      Take anything you like (that’s used just by you, not communally used by your entire office/department/group) with you. My experience is that the outgoing person will take anything they like with them, and then whatever they leave will be scavenged by people around them, leaving a cube empty of everything except broken pencils, a keyboard with sticky keys, and the Worst Chair.

  23. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    Any thoughts on how to light a fire under the butts of HR/senior staff about a promotion that’s been delayed and delayed and delayed? My manager is on my side but we keep getting stonewalled by his boss.

    I am job hunting but (a) want my 401k to vest before I leave, which will happen late summer 2022, and (b) want the title I have been promised for two years.

    1. RagingADHD*

      That’s not a “light a fire” situation. Two years means someone higher up has decided not to promote you yet.

      Now, how to find out who decided and why, or get them to be honest with you, is tricky and will depend a lot on the culture and hierarchy.

      Have you talked face to face with grandboss and asked why the promotion was overruled?

    2. Policy Wonk*

      If your company is big enough, start applying for jobs in other areas. If asked about it, indicate it is because of the lack of the promotion. Sort of the in-house version of letting them know you are applying for new jobs. The loss of your experience often will outweigh the penny-pinching over the raise.

  24. MissGirl*

    I’ll be interviewing for a few positions internally in the next month or so. I feel I’m underpaid in my current role and want to go up a pay band or two in the next position. My company has strict pay bands so I can’t negotiation for salary, only what level I’m classified as.

    I’ve never interviewed internally before. Is this something you’d bring up at the offer stage? Also, if I don’t get a bump, I’ll start job hunting in February. Would it burn a bridge to leave that soon after a transition? If you’re made an offer internally, do you have to accept it?

  25. Badger*

    What is your experience with “fully remote” jobs?

    I’m currently searching in the tech world and on one hand, chances seem much better to find remote gigs, on the other hand in the interviews it turns out that – at least after the pandemic – they would like to establish some on-site collaboration as well, e. g. quarterly.
    On the one hand I understand the motive, on the other hand it kind of defeats the purpose for me, if I could get a job with a company anywhere in the country, but will then have to travel to their head quarters 4 times a year.

    Is this to be expected or do you have experience with REALLY remote gigs or where you travel, say, once a year?

    1. MissGirl*

      I think it really matters on the nature of the job and company. My job is fully remote (and was prior to COVID) but that’s because we’re consultants and our clients are all over the world. It doesn’t make sense for us to come into an office and spend the day on Zoom. We have an office I occasionally go into but that’s not required; I just like to get a free lunch now and then.

      I wouldn’t mind traveling four times a year if it’s paid for but that’s just me.

      1. Badger*

        Ironically, this was a consultant role. They want to do these events for workshops and team building. And I don’t mean to condemn the choice, it’s that I chose remote work for health reasons so longer travel is not fun. But if it’s kind of the norm for non-consultant roles as well, I guess I have to limit my search to local companies.

        1. MissGirl*

          Just to clarify my company doesn’t require travel to the office currently but I would say it’s common that some sort of travel may be required in fully remote positions (once a year, twice a year). For instance, we used to require once a year but I’m sure they would’ve made exceptions for health reasons.

          Everyone is allowed their own deal-breakers. One drawback at only looking at local positions is that may put a little pressure on you to come in if you’re already in the city. I would say apply widely and just be upfront with what you can and can’t do.

          1. Badger*

            Within the confines of the city I would be fine coming in more often (though not “often” by any stretch), so there may be a compromise there.
            But thanks for the tip, I think I will keep it a mix of local and non-local applications and see where that gets me.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      I work fully remote and the company has always been remote. Prior to COVID, there was an annual meet up, but it was just for fun and not required. Depending on a person’s role, they may have attended multiple meet ups (they aren’t whole company meet ups yet, but more department based).

    3. Incessant Owlbears*

      I got a new job during the pandemic, and it’s 100% remote with no plans to return to the office. So jobs like that are out there. I’m doing software engineering and dashboard creation. The team has 7 other people on it and is for a public utility.

      1. Badger*

        Yeah I’m wondering about going back to support for this, but fear I’ll get bored and also have to take a notable pay cut. But there are a lot of IT jobs out there so for now, I’ll keep digging (no pun intended).

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      My current job is fully remote. Everyone works from their home offices. We (pre-covid) would have one or two in-person meetings per year in whatever location seemed to be the most centrally located/easiest to get to for most folks. One or two face-to-face meetings with plenty of social time (unstructured dinners i.e. buffets with lots of mingling, bowling, trivia games, what have you) has been pretty important to maintain the great culture within a rapidly growing company.
      Anyway, there’s really no need to travel in this company unless you’re a sales person who prefers, or whose prospects prefer, that you do in person meetings.

  26. Lore*

    How in the world do you successfully network on LinkedIn? I’ve tried everything on several advice websites and even had recruiter/HR friends and even paid services read over my messages, resumes, and cover letters. But, more often than not, reaching out to anyone just gets me ghosted or my applications rejected much faster. I’m autistic trying to navigate a world where if I want any chance at an upgrade in salary, regardless of my skills, I need to somehow wheedle my way into referrals and conversations, but I can’t even get to “hello” before the door slams in my face.

    Two years of applying and not one interview. I’m ready to just give up.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      In short, I don’t. Different people use LinkedIn (like any social media) in different ways. Just my experience, I’ve found it’s mostly useful to me as an address book to keep up with people I have worked with in person/real life.

      On networking: Are you cold emailing these people? If so, the chances of that working are the exception. Network is more about one degree of separation (e.g., your friendly former colleague’s former/current boss). Your colleague would provide you an introduction, so you’re not a complete stranger.

      I have not had any luck with networking leading to jobs, but I trust that you know your field and that you need to network to move up.

    2. Colette*

      I’d start by contacting the people I know personally (and ideally have a good relationship with). Send a personal message – for example, “Hi Jane, I hope you’re doing well! I see you’re now at Teapot Depot. I hope you’re enjoying it! I know when we worked together, you were interested in moving into a Teapot Designer role, I’m glad to see you have! I’ve been at TeapotsRUs, but am looking for a new position as a Teapot Engineer. If you know anyone who is hiring, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know. Thanks so much!”

      You could also use something similar to get introduced to someone else – note that I’d only do this if I hadn’t applied for a job there.
      “Hi Jane, I hope you’re doing well! I see you’re now at Teapot Depot. I hope you’re enjoying it! I know when we worked together, you were interested in moving into a Teapot Designer role, I’m glad to see you have! I’ve been at TeapotsRUs, but am looking for a new position. One of the companies that interests is The Teapot Emporium, and I see that you have connections there. Would you mind introducing me so that I can get a feel for what it’s like to work there? Thanks so much!”

      But the key is that you have to be interested in the person as a human being before you ask them for a favour, and you have to cheerfully accept a no. (This is true whether you’re networking on LinkedIn or not.)

    3. Good luck to you*

      This sounds so discouraging, I’m sorry this is happening to you. Perhaps you could send your question to Alison as well as posting it here, she may have some insights for you. I wish you better outcomes soon.

  27. ReadyToQuit*

    Forgive me if I sound whiney here, I’m trying hard not to get overly emotional, but I’m just so tired. I’m ready to give up. It’s been two years of constant applying, two years of “oh, it’ll happen” messages from every well-meaning person on the internet, and not one interview or even a basic response to a single message on LinkedIn.

    I’ve tried everything from paid services, to resume reviews, to HR/recruiter friends reading and approving everything I send out, but nothing. I don’t get it. My background is strong, but anytime I reach out to try and network I get ghosted or my applications just get rejected much faster. I’m at a loss, genuinely. Everyone I’ve ever met says tech companies require networking because referrals are the best way to an interview, so how are you supposed to network to a totally unwilling and unreceptive population?

    I genuinely, really and truly, believe that neurodivergant people are just not welcome in the workforce. You’ll hire us when you can’t get anything better, but at the end of the day we’re supposed to be invisible.

    1. MissGirl*

      I am so, so sorry. I’ve been where you are in life situations where everyone says something will happen and it hasn’t. I also feel your pain. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere and that everyone gets something I just don’t understand.

      I will say every time I’ve tried to network into a position I’ve gotten nowhere. Yet, every job I’ve gotten has been by cold applying to online postings. (I’m not sure what that says about me either).

      My analytical mind would probably try to break down your process. Are you applying for positions with a hundred applications or ten? Can you take your tech skills to another industry? For instance, I didn’t have much luck breaking into the big tech companies but I now work in healthcare.

      If you’re cold applying, are you ever getting interviews? If not, is something in your resume not matching up with the positions? If you’re getting interviews but no callbacks, have you practiced your interview skills?

    2. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

      Where are you finding the jobs that you’re applying for? Are they all on LinkedIn? My experience when I was job-searching (for three years) was that the job postings on LinkedIn were frequently out of date.

      I also tried to do a lot of networking, and although it sometimes led to some helpful insights about the field, it never resulted in anyone contacting me to say, “You know, we have this opening, and I thought you might be interested.” Similar the the above commenter, every job I have gotten has been the result of a cold application.

      Also, when I did try to network through LinkedIn, it was never in connection to any particular job I was applying for. Rather, it was either to gain insights about the field, or just try to get on someone’s radar screen. Ask A Manager advises against trying to use LinkedIn to network after you’ve applied to job, in order to get noticed, and that is sound advice. (Just mentioning this in general – not necessarily saying that’s what you’ve been doing).

      You mentioned consulting with HR/recruiter friends, but I’m not sure what their response has been. Can you share a little more?

      I know from personal experience how lonely the job search process can be. I’d like to help you if I can.

    3. J.B.*

      I’m sorry. I struck out for a long time because I’m older and don’t fit in experience boxes well. I don’t know if you want advice but would focus on career organizations in your field. And possibly pivoting roles if you can find something that is a better fit.

    4. RagingADHD*

      That’s so hard!

      When you say “reach out to try and network,” do you mean reaching out to new people, or are you contacting people in your existing network? New people are always going to be harder to connect with than people you’ve worked with or interacted with before, and it can definitely feel like a catch-22 situation.

      The folks I know who have successfully networked their way into better jobs always made a lot of connections through in-person events like industry conferences, being on speaker panels, volunteering for local chapters of national associations, that kind of thing. And the last two years have just decimated most of those opportunities.

      No advice, just commiseration. With all the people out there saying they’re desperate for employees, and all the applicants saying they can’t get a call back, it seems like our hiring systems are just completely broken.

      1. Madeleine Matilda*

        Have you read Alison’s books (links on the blog) and followed her advice to make accomplishments the focus of your resume and write an awesome cover letter? Many readers report that was what worked for them when other approaches hadn’t worked.

    5. HR Person*

      ReadyToQuit, I totally get it. I was out of work for a year and 4 months before I found a temporary job. One thought is that you stop trying to network for a little while and instead, focus on applying for jobs online. This is because I had a great job coach who said when one job search strategy isn’t working, it’s time to switch things up and try something different. I found that helpful.

      Another idea is to look for temporary positions, ideally something that is similar to the work you’ve done before. Trying to get a temp job as a receptionist or administrative assistant won’t be easy if those aren’t things you’ve done before. Also, remember that temp agencies aren’t trying to find you a job, they’re trying to find the right person for the jobthey get paid to fill. So don’t get frustrated if you meet with a temp agency and then don’t hear from them for a while (or ever). It just means they didn’t have an open jobs that matched you. (Also, try for multiple temp agencies, because that will improve your odds.)

      My last suggestion is to find a free, online job searchers group. There are multiple throughout the united states, and most of them went online for the pandemic. Find one near your home if possible, but if not, there’s a great one in McLean, Virginia, for example, that’s online on MeetUp. You’ll get ideas, advice from experts, interview practice, and some networking. Plus there will be other job seekers who understand what you’re going through. There may be something about your resume/applications/approach/interview answers that is not helping you that you aren’t even aware of. Groups like these can sometimes help figure those issues out.

      1. HR Person*

        One more idea: my sense is that the Federal Government and other large employers are doing more to make their workplaces more accessible to neurodivergent candidates and employees. (Smaller employers might be doing this, too, but I think it is more common in large companies.) So maybe consider applying to the Federal Government and other large employers (Deliotte, Comcast, Booz Allen, etc.)

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Maybe also do some web searches on your name & some common misspellings. Just to make sure you don’t have a misbehaving doppelganger.

  28. Roxie*

    I’m annoyed at how my boss is enabling my slacker co-workers and putting it all on me. It’s actually been keeping me up at night the past few nights.

    I need some scripts on what to say without saying “this isn’t my problem. It’s YOUR job to coach these people and hold them accountable. Stop making bringing me into this.”

    Scenarios that happened this week –
    *Both of these are not one-time issues,

    #1) We have an analyst (from a different team) that is supposed to do tasks my team assigns to them. This issue is that the analyst never does the tasks I assign, if he does finish it, it will take him weeks or months, and every time he’s just “yes I’ll do it tomorrow” but he never does. Every time I talk to my boss he’ll agree that the analyst doesn’t do what he’s supposed, but my boss acts like he has no say in that analyst doing his job! He’s just like, “yeah I’ve talked to his boss before about it”, but there are never any consequences for this analyst not completing tasks. Instead, my boss keeps telling me to assign the analyst more tasks! I’ve suggested to my boss that the analyst and his boss TELL us what kind of tasks we should give them, but my boss won’t ask them and told me “they’re not going to tell us”. Also, my boss and the analyst’s boss are looped in on every assignment, and I still tell my boss when it’s not getting done. My boss is pretty much ignoring any problems.

    #2) My peer (who my boss is also managing) is terrible at her job. What will end up happening is that instead of telling her to do x,y,z, my boss (or I) will have to step up and do her job. What happened this time was that she sent me a vague and unclear 1-sentence email with no actionable direction for me (no questions, no context, just a vague statement), so I didn’t respond because I assumed it was informative only. Then she responded back a few days with a question that required a yes/no answer, so I responded back “yes”. Then my boss dug into what I think was the issue (which my co-worker never talked about in the first email), and asked me why I gave a 1-sentence response. I told him how unclear her email was, and I don’t think he understood what I was saying. He kept stressing how I shouldn’t have responded with a 1-sentence email, and then gave a bunch of excuses on what my co-worker could have (at this point he hadn’t talked with her about it) intended with her email. My co-worker sent the original email, why on earth didn’t he talk with her first on what she needed, then talked to me? And I know at this point he hadn’t spoken with her.

    1. wen*

      I’ve been in this situation before. My slacker coworker just wasted 7 hours everyday while I did the heavy lifting to meet deadlines. I spoke to my manager about it and included evidence (e.g. work I completed vs. work she completed). My manager knows the slacker coworker won’t change and actually told me to pull my coworker’s weight. Her words were: “We are a team, we have to work together for a common goal.” I expected the answer because the manager was ineffective at managing and instead let the slackers get away with it. So I left for somewhere else.

      And in one year, that department collapsed. No work was being churned out because they didn’t make deadlines and they lost customers because of this. My manager fled to a different job (I think it was her plan all along). Karma really comes around.

      1. Roxie*

        “We are a team, we have to work together for a common goal.”
        OMG my boss said something similar about being a team (aka me doing everything for this specific coworker). I’m sorry you also had to deal with that! Hope you’re at a better place now! No wonder it collapsed, you’re old manager had no one do force all the work on.

      2. Document Everything*

        Can you cc the boss(es) on every email with the uncooperative co-workers? Even if your bosses won’t do anything they’ll see your emails, “Fergus, this is my 3rd request in 3 weeks. Please give an estimated completion date.” If the bosses object, you can innocently tell them you’re needing to document everything until the core issues are fixed.

        1. Roxie*

          My boss and the analyst’s boss are already in the loop and copied on everything, but it’s like it doesn’t click with my boss it’s not getting done unless I tell him

    2. Kelly*

      1. Don’t assign anything new. When your boss asks about it, tell them the core issue of Fergus not completing his tasks needs to be solved.

      2. Just play stupid when she emails you and cc’ your boss. “I’m confused, are you asking me a question?” “Can you provide more background on why you’re asking for x?”

    3. cubone*

      When I did DBT, my therapist gave me this worksheet called “DEARMAN”. It’s an acronym for how to structure hard convos and ways to approach them. It seems kind of silly and childish at first but I refer to it alllllll the time, specifically for work.

      You can Google it for more info and descriptions, but I would advise thinking through 2 specific questions as well:

      1) how much do you want to preserve your relationship with him? Obviously lashing out isn’t great no matter what, but I find it really helps to figure out where I stand on advocating for myself vs maintaining a positive relationship. Am I willing to keep pushing even if it might make my boss a little (or a lot) angry? Or am I willing to tolerate/negotiate if it means we stay in better terms. Thinking about these lines and what matters MOST to you is helpful (obviously in an ideal world you’d advocate for yourself AND have a good relationship – it’s not an “either or” but more like a ranking)

      2) what is your ultimate goal? Think of it as “the thing I want my boss to DO is:___”.
      From your description, it sounds like your goal is to:
      A. Get your boss to stop including you in resolving these issues
      B. Resolve them on his own
      C. No longer take on the work of your slacker coworkers.

      It probably seems like all of these are the same thing but they’re actually distinct. Be REALLY clear about what you actually want to see happen so you can ask for it clearly and communicate what will happen if you don’t get it. Again, ideally you come away with all of those achieved, but if that’s not possible, which is more of a priority to you right now? Tbh I would suggest focusing on A or C as those are more within your locus of control.

      If A: create a script that focus on the specific examples of you being asked to assign the analyst tasks and the email clarification. State how much time this is taking and anything else (is it making your relationships awkward?) clearly ask if they will agree in the future to communicate about those issues with other colleagues directly and let you know outcomes (or something)

      If C: focus on specific examples of you doing other peoples work and how it’s impacting you and and ask if you can agree on your work priorities (whether it be once a month, week, etc) and to readjust when new tasks are added. I feel like AAM has tons of scripts for “my workload is too high” you could use here

  29. wen*

    Are work-from-home employees more vulnerable to being cut as they’re “out of sight, out of mind” or seen as less dedicated for not making the commute? How will the shift to a hybrid model after the pandemic affect this?

    Six long-term colleagues (e.g. 20+ years of service) are being laid off in December, and five work from home. I’m wondering how much working from home affected their job losses. Our company is going through a major organizational shift and jobs are being outsourced (some got cut last year too). Management is clear cuts are due to business shifts and not personal or performance-related (other teams and locations are also experiencing job cuts).

    1. Girasol*

      In my experience it depends on whether the manager measures success on results or on butt-in-seat time. If the manager feels a connection with the folks in the office who look busy but not with the ones at home who aren’t visible, then they’re in trouble, but if the manager communicates with both with equal ease, then layoff criteria is likely to be more based on actual personal performance. If all of them are laid off, it’s most likely just business-related, but if only some go, then some criteria must be in use to decide which would go and which would stay.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with this. Our owner is not a fan of remote work and has said anyone who wants 100% remote is not a team player. I’d totally expect he would cut remote people simply because he thinks being in the office is being a team player.

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

      I think they can be correlated in that jobs that are able to be done as WFH are more easily outsource-able.

      1. wen*

        Actually, our jobs can be done WFH, and we didn’t need a pandemic to prove it. These people were already WFH even before the pandemic. And it’s because our work is being outsourced that there are job cuts. But the in-office people didn’t get cut, only the permanent WFH, and the permanent WFH have been doing it for 20+ years, which makes me think it’s less performance-related and more just because of WFH.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Or being older they also have expensive insurance and WFH is a way to hide that from the EEOC. :(

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I mean, every business is different, but I think there’s probably a higher risk of being one of the first people to be let go if you are 100% WFH. In a perfect world we’d be assessed, evaluated, given raises, and promoted based solely on our output. But we’re in a real world, not a perfect world. There’s a social aspect to organizations, and if you’re not social with your colleagues and seeing them face-to-face, then you might get an out of sight, out of mind result in opportunities for continued employment or advancement. (By “social” I don’t mean getting together outside of work or being the most popular person in the office. I mean being physically in the same space with them.) I think if you’re 100% or majority WFH then it’s likely a good idea to make sure that you’re extra communicative and you heighten your efforts somewhat to make sure that your contributions are on everybody’s radar.

      But another thing that comes to mind is that these were colleagues with 20+ years. Maybe they were offered early retirement deals. Or maybe it was straight-up ageism, or some combination. Could have been a number of factors.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, that’s been my experience. People who work from home when most people are in the office are more easily overlooked, and there’s less of an impact to the team if you lose them.

        And in a world where most of the employees are in the office, they are unlikely to be the best performer because they’re missing out on a lot of passive information transfer. If you’ve ever been in a conference room with 10 people while the eleventh person is on speakerphone, it’s easy to see why – the person on speakerphone is at a severe disadvantage.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this is so true. I work in a team that expanded from 15 to 20 people during the pandemic. In our old team, we started doing Skype meetings even when everyone or most people were at the office, because two of our team members were in regional offices and they were at a distinct disadvantage compared to the in-person people, even when they were on video and showed up on the big meeting room screen with their face twice its natural size. It was much more equitable when we were all on Skype, even if I don’t recommend being in the same Skype meeting as your office mate, the 0.5 second delay is very distracting.

          We had biweekly Skype meetings and quarterly development days when the remote employees would travel to the head office.

      2. wen*

        Yes, 5 of the 6 are employees are older and have 20+ experience. Two other employees besides these 6 retired. I agree that there’s the physical aspect to it too. I’m wondering if the converse is still that WFH are just slacking off, enjoying their cushy home, etc.

        1. Annony*

          Yeah. I was wondering if people with more seniority/higher pay were more likely to be able to negotiate WFH.

        2. SomeTimes*

          Either too expensive or they hold leadership positions and the company wants to go another direction. If leadership is ineffective they may need to clean house and it makes sense that the long-timers may be leaders.

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

      I’d be more inclined to think they are firing older workers rather than remote given you said 5/6 had been with the org 20+ years. Them being remote gives the org plausible cover to say it’s not age discrimination it’s WFH that’s the problem. Did they give anyone the option/direction to come back first and people refused?

      1. wen*

        Well, all in-office employees are directed to return to office. But these are permanent WFH and were WFH before, so they aren’t required to come back.

        However, there are many older staff in the office too with 20+ years of service. Two of them retired. But all the job cuts were WFH.

    5. Alexis Rosay*

      It’s definitely easier to be overlooked with WFH, esp if the company is not 100% remote. I used to work in person but managed a team of employees who worked 95% offsite. For everyone in the office, my team members were basically out of site, out of mind and I had to constantly fight for their work to be valued and recognized, to get them raises, etc. It was exhausting.

      Ironically, I think covid made people recognize their work more since being 100% remote these folks were now on an equal footing. Remote in a remote-first company can be fine, but based on this experience I wouldn’t recommend being 100% remote in a hybrid situation.

  30. Tired Unicorn*

    Recommendations on a career change for a former software engineer who loves coding and designing/building systems? What gives the same thrill as building a new system or writing code?

    I keep getting pulled into roles where I’m not coding anymore and I think I just need to be honest about my situation and find something new because it’s just too difficult to be near the code and not be able to jump in. I’m used to being the powerhouse on the team, but for the past few years/jobs I get pulled into more administrative stuff, project management, etc because I can see the big picture, am organized, and none of the other engineers are good at that stuff. I’m yet again doing multiple jobs, none of which are technical, because the other option was to let the department fail, so I never actually got fully onboarded and up to speed on our more technical items. All the tech companies in my area are either start-ups or consulting/outsourcing places where I am very likely to run into the same issue. Remote jobs aren’t an option – I’m terrible ineffective at home long term and love being in the office. I think I need to just find a new career that has a decent work/life balance and then come up with personal projects to get my coding fix.

    1. PollyQ*

      Why not try to find a job that’s just coding and has a manager that will understand that that’s all you want to do?

    2. J.B.*

      I have roughly the job you describe and enjoy it but couldn’t get hired from outside an org to do that! I think it gets mainly at whether you can do that thinking/planning and is really hard to assess with someone you don’t already know.

      Are there more mature companies that do something else and might have some software roles? Like health care, ed tech, or fin tech?

    3. TechGirlSupervisor*

      If you enjoy some parts of the big picture things, I would suggest a more DevOps type role (continuous development / integration pipeline). Setting up, maintaining, refining processes and supporting ongoing projects gives me the “engineering” fix I’m looking for while also letting me put my organizational skills to good use. You need to understand coding and even write some code/scripts to use those tools, but at the same time you need the big picture thinking to use them properly.

      If you are set on coding though, I would also suggest the R & D department at one of the larger organizations. These are rarer opportunities but in my experience they are mostly smaller projects that manage themselves and focus more on proving concepts then making them look pretty.

    4. anon for this*

      I’ll come in again and suggest product management. I’m in the Midwest and it’s really hard to find people who kinda know what product management is (much less experience). It is invaluable to have someone with real software experience, who can actually understand what the engineers are concerned about, what they care about, and what they’re saying, and moreover can actually get engineers on board for a different direction if it makes more business sense or addresses the needs of the customer more effectively.

  31. Tabs*

    How do you get people to see the long term value of participating in a project? Ultimately, it has to get done, I can’t do it alone, and I know it’s within my authority as the department manager to assign tasks out how I see fit. But I’d like to help my team members see the value of being part of it and not just hand out the work.

    I have an assistant manager, plus a handful of team members. An acquisition was announced recently. What that means for my department is we’ll need to figure out how to import a bunch of information from the other company. It’s going to be tedious because they pretty much do everything manually by literal paper and Excel, while we have a powerful software application that is automated for most of these things. Some things can be handled by the software provider, but there will be a lot of sorting through things, figuring out where in our application it should go, how it should be set up, stuff like that. As the manager, I expect the initial analysis and critical thinking will be done by me and the assistant manager; however, getting it set up in the system after we do that will be a group effort–two people can only handle so much. And my hope is others will chime in during the process with their thoughts as to how to do certain things better.

    When it comes time to start talking about the project timeline, what’s involved, etc., I plan to state pretty much what I just said, that I and the assistant manager will do the heavy lifting, but we’ll need help implementing and also welcome their input. But based on past experience with other, much smaller things, I anticipate a lot of complaining. Yes, In the past (pre-dates me), we’ve paid overtime when something big came up, and it was voluntary. No one was forced. A project requiring anything outside of a normal work week is rare. It hasn’t even happened since I’ve been here (3 years). Also, our department is not overloaded with work so it’s not a matter of forcing people with a very heavy workload to take on even more. They just don’t usually see how something can benefit them in the future in terms of advancement, more opportunities, learning something new, etc. One or two of them do, but the majority don’t, even after explaining it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds like the goal is to reduce or eliminate complaints?
      That may not be possible.

      When I supervised there were some people that only did well if I agreed with them in some manner. “yeah, this one’s a rougher one”. Since they felt heard they did work along. Some people do not work without complaining- they just don’t know how.

      I do think that reducing/eliminating complaints is a lofty goal and probably not attainable. In the end, this is the work you all have and it has to be done. I have said things like, “We are all in the same boat. We all have to work on this.”
      Being Susie Sunshine with a group of Eeyores isn’t going to be that much help.

      1. Tabs*

        I wouldn’t say it’s all about the complaints. I know my team at this point and they will always have something to complain about, so I’m not expecting there to be no complaints. They’re mostly an inherited team and it’s just always been this way, even before me. I’ve accepted it, though I do try to manage it somewhat. They do good work, though.

        I guess what I want–what I’d love–is for people to want to stretch a bit, welcome learning something new, get a chance to do something different, and see this project for the opportunity it is. I mean, I know not all of them will. Some just want to come in, do their job and go home, which is fine. We need those people. But it just sucks that most of them never see any opportunity for what it is.

        1. PollyQ*

          Do you manage these people directly, in the hire/fire/annual review sense? If so, it might be worth taking that kind of cheerleader/coach role, but if you’re only the project manager for these employees, I wouldn’t spend 1 second worrying about it. Maybe at the kickoff meeting, you can say a sentence or two about how excited you are and what the benefits of the project will be for the participants. But ultimately, the work is the work, and how employees feel about it is their business.

          1. Tabs*

            I manage the department overall. I manage the assistant manager, who manages the rest of the team. But yes, I have the authority. And the assistant manager feels the same way I do, in that we’d love for people to want to stretch a bit. Ultimately, I know people feel how they feel and some just don’t want anything new or challenging, and there’s probably isn’t anything I can do about that other than pointing out the benefits.

            1. Merry*

              So while I can understand being disappointed that not everyone feels equally as enthused or invested as you are… it sounds like you want them to WANT to work more/harder/more thoughtfully. And wanting people to want the things you want them to want has rarely been a urge that has resulted in the desired outcome.

              They’re showing up and doing the things, but you want the things done with Excitement And Investment Beyond Simple Doing? Then A) you’re not providing the kind of environment/context/supports that allow them to be enthused, B) they’re never going to be because this is not the kind of people they are (this kind of investment is a personality thing moreso than a difference that can be coached or created), or C) both.

              I understand wanting enthusiasm and for the team to see the gestalt, not just their little bit of it…but it’s just a job. Your company would exist without them. They could get hit by a bus tomorrow and you’d soldier on (though I am sure you are a nice individual and would be sad about it). What are you offering them in return for the kind of investment that you are seeking?

            2. Not So NewReader*

              From my own experience, if this is the case, then what you will have to do is drag them, kicking and screaming, through the process.
              Then once the process is over you can point out what each person achieved or where they had growth.

              You have to understand that no matter how you package it, to them it is just more work, that’s all it is. My suggestion to you is to let them see you remain happy/content about the project. If true, then tell them this is one of the better projects you guys have done together.

              Do little progress reports to show them that they are moving along- “Look! We’ve got 20% done already.” They will laugh in sarcasm. Ignore it. Then later you show them, “Look, 35% done!” And a couple will turn their heads to see. After a while, “Hey, 45%, all! We are doing this.” And then watch the pace pick up. Maybe you see some enthusiasm from a few people. Maybe others start asking,” how much did we do this week?” And so on.
              By the end you might have as many as 50-60% of them engaged and connected to the project. This is what success looks like.

              My best suggestion is to let go of the idea of TELLING them about the opportunity and switch to SHOWING them as the project unfolds. They are not connecting to what you are saying when you just tell them about it.

        2. coffee*

          I worked in an area which was always full of “opportunities” that never actually materialised into a benefit. (And a bunch of the opportunities were actually an opportunity for people to offload the work they didn’t like onto you.) If your team has had that experience in the past with previous managers, they will (understandably) be sceptical. So, what kind of concrete benefits can you give staff who take up these opportunities? I don’t mean in a “more money” kind of way, it’s also like, do they get more autonomy over their work? More respect for their opinions? More diverse work? What is the actual opportunity, and have you clearly rewarded the behaviour you want so staff can see the payoff will actually take place?

    2. LQ*

      Do any of these people want a raise or a promotion or are they comfortable in their current roles? If they are comfortable (actually comfortable) in their current roles then you are going to struggle for leverage on this. That said, if you have folks who are interested, or say they are, in a promotion or a raise, explain that this looks good to build that, explain that one of the things that you’d look for in someone with the next level of skills is these kinds of behaviors.

      The other thing is to point out that things change, you can’t keep doing the work the same for 20 years like the excel and paper folks and if they don’t continue to build skills, they will be the paper and excel folks …

      If you have one or two who do see the benefit, work with them, help them build their skills, give everyone the chance, but it is actually ok to build skills in a few people who are engaged with the project.

    3. Annony*

      How much of a growth opportunity is this? From your description, it sounds mostly like grunt work. It has to get done and they should abs0lutely do their part, but trying to spin an undesirable task as an opportunity tends to increase complains rather than decreasing them. If there are actual marketable skills they will be learning, you could try pointing that out. But if it is just different than what they have been doing, I don’t know that you can really characterize that as an opportunity. To them, it is probably just a boring task that has to get done. There is nothing wrong with that so long as they actually do the work.

  32. Anonymous choosing references*

    Talk to me about professional references. Who do you like to use? How do you ask them? How does it feel to be asked to be a reference for someone?

    I hate asking people for references. Like really hate it. If you were a Bad Place architect designing a personal hell for me, it would be getting me to ask people for professional references and/or invite people to socialize with me. I have horrible anxiety centred around rejection and reaching out to people. Sometimes I contemplate staying in the same job forever just to avoid ever having to ask anyone to be a reference for me.

    But now a new job has opened up on my current team. The position reports to the same boss I currently have but is one salary grade above me and includes more challenging and strategic work. My boss has told me that she and grandboss would both really like to see me in the role. However, union rules dictate that we have to have a full competition, including interviews and reference checks (and yes, someone else could absolutely get the role if they score better than me in interviews). So I’m going to have to ask at least a couple people to be my references. I had a good relationship with my last boss, but I have barely spoken to him in the last two years (have I mentioned my anxiety?) and therefore feel weird reaching out again. There are a few other folks in my department (peers of me and peers of my boss) who have said really nice things about my work after I collaborated with them, but I also feel anxious about reaching out to them.

    I know that a) no one else knows my situation as well as I do and can therefore actually give me advice, and b) the real solution is for me to start going to therapy again to manage my anxiety. But I also think it might help to hear some general thoughts from folks on the process of choosing references. Maybe you can help talk me out of some of my distorted thoughts (e.g., when I ask this person, they will say yes to my face but then behind my back think/talk about how weird and terrible I am and what a stupid loser I am for thinking they were the right person to ask).

    1. Sandman*

      I hate asking people for references and have a lot of anxiety around it, too. Actually applying for jobs is similar for me; I’ve been asked to apply for two positions in the past few weeks and I’m kind of a wreck about it because I hate how it feels to put myself out there, to ask people if they think I’m good enough and to make the argument that I’m really great. It’s. just. hard. For me – I just need to stop thinking about it and do it. I’m never going to have good feelings about this kind of thing, so I can’t wait for those to resolve before I put myself out there. So I do that, and high five myself for doing something I find difficult, and treat myself to a nice candle and a good book or something when it’s done.

      1. Anonymous choosing references*

        Thanks! :) It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my fears. I like the idea of treating yourself after doing something challenging. Maybe I’ll choose some fun rewards for myself after I bite the bullet and ask people.

        Good luck with your applications!

    2. cubone*

      I am a very frequent reference giver (manager of interns and volunteers) so everything I think is based on my experiences of being asked, just as much as asking myself. I’m sort of just brain dumping here and I hope it helps, but know you are definitely not alone and you absolutely can do this and people will NOT hate you!

      Choosing people:
      -it may just be my industry but I tend to have 1 former manager and 2 peers on deck. I try to make one of those peers someone who is in a slightly different area (eg different department but we worked on a project together, something like that)
      -peer references are GREAT. If someone has said good things about you, there is a high likelihood they would be happy to say good things to other people (how often do you give people specific compliments about their work that are lies? do you think someone would do that to you?). I love peer references and cross functional references because they often can be really specific about the experience working with and collaborating with you, which is valuable.
      -manager: having one manager is essential, since it does matter how you are as an “employee”. Also, any person who has been a manager knows that giving references is part and parcel of the job – you know you’re going to be asked! It’s not unusual and if you don’t want to give one for someone, it usually will have been clear during the working relationship that you don’t jive or they had issues with your work. Also I have had terrible managers I thought hated and no choice but to ask them at the time and they gave GLOWING references. It’s unusual for someone to sabotage you (instead of just declining)

      -do it via email or LinkedIn
      -if it’s been a while, acknowledge that! “I know it’s been a while since we’ve spoken, but wondering if you’d comfortable being a reference for me?” (Again, managers have people come out of the woodwork way more than 2 years later – you’re not in a bad spot)
      -Optional and not necessary but I personally like to say 1 sentence explaining why I asked: “I think you have good insights on my working style, i know you oversaw my work on some complex projects, I think you’d be great at speaking to my teamwork skills” (peer). I think this just adds to the personal element of the ask if you’re worried about seeming out of the blue (but don’t get caught up in a gushing paragraph)
      -offer an out: “if you don’t have capacity right now or aren’t comfortable, I completely understand”
      -optional again but I LOVE when people offer to send me the job or their resume if it’s been a while: “if you’d like, I’m happy to share my resume of it helps refresh your memory, and/or the job posting if you think it’d be helpful”
      -thank them!
      -ideally it’s great to ask either when you start job hunting but I really suggest letting them know each time you’ve shared their info as a very short FYI so they know they might get a call
      -if you don’t ask in advance, I would be really conscious of the hiring timeline and maybe ask when you sense you’re near that stage so that you’re not asking the same day the potential employer asks for them (but get around that by doing it in advance!)

    3. mreasy*

      Hi! I understand feeling anxiety about this. But you absolutely don’t have to maintain social contact with someone to ask them to be a reference. A pleasantry in the asking email, sure, but managers understand that part of their role is to be a reference to good employees in the future. If the anxiety is a major issue, I would just make an email template that you can update with the person’s name and send it. Less time to spend overthinking!

    4. Anon for this*

      If it helps, I am totally flattered and honored when someone asks me to be a reference. So you might be making someone’s day if you ask them to be a reference :).

      Also, you mentioned it’s been 2 years since you’ve talked to your former boss. Two years seems totally reasonable to ask someone to be a reference – it is typically understood that people only switch jobs every now and then so it is something that will come up after some years have gone by. There are 2 people I supervised until 2014 and if either of them asked me to be a reference now, I would be happy to do so. (And I have barely heard from either of them in the last 5-6 years.)

  33. Can’t Sit Still*

    My company is finally moving to add low force bars as a reasonable ADA accommodation to the doors I use most often in our new building. It’s absurd because they installed them on the lab floors, but not on the office floors. FWIW, virtually everyone finds the doors difficult to open unless they use both hands, so I don’t know what they were thinking. (They are extremely heavy glass fire doors.)

    Until they are installed, there is no expectation that I will come into the office. I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve been in a handful of times since the move, and I’d like to go in more frequently.

    1. coffee is my friend*

      The lack of universal design is appalling. In college one of our buildings was particularly bad with exterior doors being hard to open in general and impossible for people with mobility or arm issues or carrying a lot. Someone paid a bunch of money for a new entrance…on which they put good doors with working auto open buttons…except the door was up 5 steep steps so fail.

  34. Semi Bored IT Guy*

    My wife is tired of her current job. She’s been in the same role (with various growth related title changes/promotions/pay raises, and a wide variety of different managers due to transition and reorgs, but essentially performing the same job) for 10 years. She’s been feeling overworked (her department recently laid off several people, including the other person that shared her 2 person on-call rotation for critical software issues), and a few large projects that were put on hold are getting ready to start back up again. She has also been trying to get into management for several years.

    She’s applied for (and been offered) a new position in a completely different department (It’s a very large company). She would be working for someone she knows, respects, and trusts. She would be a manager with 4 direct reports.

    Unfortunately, the position is a lower compensation grade than her current role. That would mean a roughly 10% pay cut, and that she wouldn’t be bonus eligible. We’ve discussed our finances, and even with the pay cut, we’d still be in a good financial position. And her potential new manager (and the senior manager) say that they are working to get what would be her position to be bonus eligible within a year or two. (This year is the first year she would have been bonus eligible in the current role, and since she hasn’t actually received a bonus yet, we’re not quite counting that as “lost income”)

    Any advice?

    1. Enough*

      Re: bonus. Don’t ever consider it income and don’t budget for it. Always consider it found money. You never know when it could be reduced/gone.

    2. LQ*

      Take the job. Motion is good and even if this one is a cut, she’s now got manager experience and could get another one more easily.

    3. HR Person*

      Is she positive they would reduce her salary by 10%? In all the places I’ve worked, we try not to reduce current employees’ salaries if they transition to a new position within the company. So maybe she’d no longer be eligible for a bonus, and her max salary might be lower than it was in the old role, but they wouldn’t lower her pay.

      Even if they do lower her pay, the other pros that you mentioned sound better than the cons.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Take the job. It sounds like a step back now and two steps forward later. It doesn’t hurt your finances which is an added bonus. It sounds like the new bosses actually WANT her and this is a big deal.

  35. PrincessB*

    I think I’m burning out at my job. I’m up for promotion and will find out in March of next year if I got it. My job has gotten harder with more and more scope (required, for this unguaranteed promotion) and I’m facing more and more bureaucracy. I’ve redone my resume but haven’t found the energy to apply it even really think through what I want. I don’t know if I can continue working like this to make it to promotion. Those if you that left 70 hr/week jobs- how did you pull it off? Take vacation and use it to apply? Take the risk of quitting without another job?

    1. cubone*

      I have taken a mental health leave of one month and then two months part time and used it to apply for jobs (on my doctors encouragement). But I also just quit my current job with nothing lined up and I’m going to see how it goes to take a break. It’s scary, I can’t do it indefinitely financially, but honestly? This stress and burnout adds up and I am TIRED. Staying in this spot just doesn’t feel like it’s less of a risk than freewheeling it for a bit. I feel really, really happy and really excited.

  36. WG*

    Recently my employer was robbed while I was working. The employer has been great about supporting us. But has anyone out there been through this and have tips for feeling safe at work again?

    1. Hattie McDoogal*

      Ugh, being robbed sucks and I’m sorry it happened to you. I’ve worked at (*counts mentally*) 5 places that have been robbed (1 armed robbery and the rest just in-and-out grabbing either equipment/merchandise or people’s belongings). If yours was the latter the only advice I have is to minimize your risk – don’t bring too many valuables to work and keep as much on your person as you can. If it was an armed robbery… that’s tougher to get over and I don’t have much advice. Is your employer doing anything new policy-wise in response?

    2. Zona the Great*

      Ugh yeah I worked at two banks that were robbed and one was a hostile takeover type of robbery. Time and therapy are all I can suggest. EMDR would likely help here. Google good EMDR practitioners in your area.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I was robbed at work once. I quit that night.

      I promised me that I would never work alone at night again and I have stuck by that promise.
      For quite a while, I drove to places that I could walk to simply because I could lock myself in my car.
      When I did work at night, I used the buddy system to get to my/our cars. (We’d figure out who was closest and we’d drive to the other car.)
      My aunt sent me a loud personal alarm that I could keep in my pocket.

      Familiarize yourself with all the security devices around you and how those devices work.
      Consider carrying your cell with you at all times, if allowed.
      Don’t carry anything of great value with you to work.

      It helped me to beef up my own personal security at home or while running errands.
      At one job I had a friend who was most willing to call me at home at a given time. If I did not answer the police would be called immediately.
      I still sleep with a dim night light on.
      If I stay in a motel, I put a chair against the door after locking every lock I see. (And I bring my oddly comforting night light with me in my suitcase.)

      Keep in mind I was robbed 40 years ago. I don’t think it ever fully leaves us. But I think that we can teach ourselves to be aware. And we can teach ourselves not to disregard our gut instinct, we can pay better attention to our gut feelings. I have even gotten interested in online security and it all goes back to that robbery. Oddly, that robbery may have saved me from other problems later in life because I deliberately looked for lessons from that experience. And I still do.

      I definitely got some relief from developing action plans and doing those plans. Time also helped. If I had known about calming teas and such I would have added them to my mix also. I was pretty lucky because what happened to me was tame compared to what happens to other people, so there’s that.

  37. AMD*

    I am thinking of opening a small Children’s Museum in our hometown – is there anybody who has any experience either with that specifically, or with gauging your target population in an area and starting what’s essentially both a small business and a small non-profit?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Look to see how close your nearest competitors are.
      Is there an over-arching group of children’s museums that you can join? ( a consortium?)
      There has to be demographics available some where that show what types of communities would do well with a children’s museum.

  38. Help me wear hats at work!*

    What are some tips for a woman “getting away with” wearing a hat all day in an office? There is not an official dress code and style ranges from fashionable casual to actual business casual. I don’t see customers and am on the more casual side usually.
    What type of hats or style choices will help me not stand out? I was thinking maybe a thin knitted lace cap that’s fairly close fitting and a natural color that blends/complements my hair? Or would it be better to have something that color matches my outfit? What kind of hat-including outfits could you see indoors and not find odd? I have thin, baby fine hair and there is starting to be too much visible scalp. I miss my outdoor job where it was totally appropriate to wear a baseball cap in the summer and a beanie or earflap knitted hat in the winter :(

    1. Policy Wonk*

      Where I work there is a woman who wears fabulous hats every day. If you want to wear a hat, and you will be the only one, I’d recommend you embrace it! Make the hat part of your outfit. your knitted lace cap one day, a raspberry beret another day, maybe a chic hat on days when you dress up a bit. Eventually you’ll be known as the hat lady. But that’s better than trying to find the impossible – a way to blend in – and being known as the odd duck who wears hats.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I second this. There’s no way to like, have your hat blend in, so you should accept standing out.

        Alternately, if you’re worried about your hair, perhaps get a fake hairpiece to weave in?

      2. Usurper Cranberries*

        I would also recommend embracing wearing hats and going all in. Instead of trying to find something that will blend in (because frankly, hats don’t really blend well), let yourself have fun with it.

        (You’ll probably get compliments on your hats. I’m a hat person, and while I only wear mine when I’m out and about rather than all the time, I still get an astonishing number of compliments on my hats. Absolutely makes my day.)

    2. PollyQ*

      Head scarves might be an option, although people may make inaccurate assumptions about your health or religious practices.

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

      On the question of what to wear not to stand out, perhaps pillbox type hats (if you like 60s style in general) or, if your thinning hair is in one particular spot, a fascinator-style headpiece or an extra wide headband. You could also do a lady’s turban or other scarf covering. The more the hat has a brim, the more it’ll read “outdoor” hat but a short-brimmed style, like a trilby might work.

    4. Lizy*

      I agree with Policy Wonk – but only if you’re comfortable with that. If you have a good relationship with your boss, why not ask them? I think it depends on your office culture, but from what you say, I’d say go for it and wear whatever you want. If/when people ask, mention your have a medical issue IF YOU WANT, or, honestly? I’d just embrace it and say you’ve always liked wearing hats and finally figured “screw it – I’m gonna wear my hat!” Say it proudly and flaunt off. ;)

      If you’d prefer to keep it low-key, I’d stick with beanies or those fun French knit hats. They can be fashionable but also not ostentatious.

    5. Siege*

      On women, you can see all hats indoors and not find them odd. According to formal etiquette, the only place women cannot wear a hat indoors is their own house when guests are visiting, because it states that she has somewhere else to be. Otherwise, in recognition of the fact that a woman’s hat becomes a part of her hairstyle (in reference to hatpins and, I hope and believe, hat hair) it’s not appropriate for a woman to remove her hat in the way formal etiquette dictates men should. You can go forth with any hat you care to and know that you are unimpeachably dressed.

      But I would match the hat to the look – I have a wide-brimmed low-crown hat that looks great with a more boho look in the fall, and caps of all sorts that go with other outfits. You might want to experiment with casual hats to fit your overall style. Also, if you decide to be the hat person, you may want to get fitted for a more formal hat you can wear if your job calls for you to ever wear a suit. A trilby and a fedora are often the same basic hat with a brim and wearing variation, but depending on the width of your shoulders one will look better on you than the other. It can help to talk to a haberdasher, but also I just wanted to say haberdasher.

    6. Fellow Traveller*

      I’m female and I wear hats all the time at work.
      I don’t know about “not standing out” because people have always given me nice compliments on my hats. For me, a hat is another fashion accessory much like a scarf or jewelry, so I don’t worry about people noticing that I’m wearing a hat. I have a wide variety of casual hats: newboy caps, berets, tams, beanies….I THINK i have five or six hats that I wear regularly. I match the hat to my outfit, with a beige newsboy cap being the default if one of my more colorful hats don’t go with what I’m wearing that day. (I also have some more formal/structured hats, but those don’t tend to work for me to wear indoors because they are more formal.) My indoor hats are all fabric, though there is a variety of textures for different seasons. I don’t know what would work for a business casual outfit, though, since I work in a pretty casual and creative field. I think if you live in a cold environment, winter is a great time to try out hat wearing indoors because you’re wearing a hat anyway when you’re outside… you just have to not take it off when you get to your desk.

  39. Hunnybee*

    Has anyone here heard of BrightHire? I had an interview last month in which the company added in the byline of the interview invitation that they would be recording my interview using this software, and I could opt out. I actually proceeded to opt out four times (I’m thorough and, to be transparent, also high-functioning aspergers); I feel incredibly uncomfortable being on video all the time for work anyhow, and I especially feel awkward in video interviews. I just couldn’t handle that extra layer of observation.

    When the interview started, the HM told me that she would be recording me with BrightHire software, and I explained that I had already declined this (a few times), but she then spent about 5 minutes of the interview arguing with me about how she found it necessary. She eventually relented and the interview proceeded just fine.

    They asked for another interview last week, but I have a sour taste in my mouth about the whole process and declined moving forward. I’m currently employed, and applied for the job because it sounded interesting.

    My question for Alison and others is — how legal is this? I wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing my personal situation to a company during the interview process. This layer of added pressure of recording doesn’t feel inclusive and I feel there is a complete lack of awareness of neuro-diversity in the interview and recruiting process (well, in companies generally).

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Yikes, they give you multiple options to decline to be recorded but the HM still argued with you about it? That’s not okay. And obviously she didn’t find it “necessary” if they asked you for a second interview afterwards. I totally understand why you would opt out of continuing.

      I don’t think it’s illegal to require being recorded as part of the process as long as the company is up front about it, which means you either consent to the recording or self-select out. And in this case recording wasn’t required as you had the option to decline, which they eventually honored. If they recorded you without your consent, that might be up to individual state laws whether it’s illegal. However, it’s potentially discriminatory and a bad hiring practice.

    2. BRR*

      IANAL but the only things I can think of is if they didn’t announce they were recording you and you didn’t consent or if you asked for an accommodation and they wouldn’t engage in a discussion on accommodations with you.

      (From doing a quick read on it I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up discriminating as a lot of AI seems to end up tiding that)

    3. Voluptuousfire*

      I’m surprised they didn’t have in their initial emails that they used BrightHire. I did one interview for a company where it was in their initial email and I was OK with it then. When I thought about being recorded during the interview it made me very self-conscious and I ended up cutting the interview short, among other reasons.

      I had an interview with a company Tuesday that also used this product and I opted out and it was fine. I’m not a fan of BrightHire as a service but understand the use of it.

    4. Dino*

      I’d never heard of this and jumped to their website.

      I’d be very curious about how the recorded parts are used and/or what they are filtered through. The privacy policy lists “captioning and transcribing” which seems less terrible than I was expecting as an admitted hater of AI. But I really don’t like the thought of every second of interview being pulled up and rewatched by the hiring team. If anything it just allows people to nitpick over 1 thing or develop negative opinions based on how you talk and present yourself (read: culture differences or disability or gender etc).

      Plus if there’s any kind of data-use similar to test proctoring technologies that track eye gaze and other movement to assign a “score”, they’re failing really fucking hard at their stated mission for less bias in hiring.

      I think I would opt out, too.

  40. frockbot*

    Any librarians out there who’ve left the field, where did you go and how did you get there? I’ve been applying outside of libraryland after spending 11 years inside it. In my applications, on cover letters and on resumes, I’ve been very specific about how my experience can apply to the jobs in question. But I haven’t gotten any bites, and I’m worried that people see “librarian” and automatically filter me out. Any tips?

  41. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

    Workplace advice urgently needed!

    Last week I was invited via two emails (both last minute, meaning the head of our department forwarded a 10-day old invitation email from the head of the company about 15 minutes before it began, and her assistant also sent log in info to our department) to a virtual zoom event (annual) to celebrate company members for their 5-year, 10-year and 15-year stints at the company. Having worked there 5 & 1/2 years, I was excited to get my “pin.” Turns out, I wasn’t even mentioned — nor was I given the correct link, so no opportunity to be on camera on zoom — all because I am a “part-time” employee. And apparently “part-time” employees aren’t included or celebrated.

    I was utterly devastated. I left a comment in the chat of the zoom session expressing my disappointment at being overlooked, and also texted my immediate boss and her boss (he used to be my boss when he employed me – both recently went up a rung.)

    She (immediate boss) called me to apologize profusely and to say they were looking into what could be done and said she was checking with her boss, meanwhile he (her boss, my old immediate boss) texted me chastising me for “embarrassing” the assistant — aka the person I was logged in as (another error – I had not been given the correct link by the assistant). He also stated (in the text) that the zoom meeting was being recorded and it was no place to air grievances. He did apologize, further in the text, and said it was “something they’d been working on for years” (getting part-timers included). I had asked him why was I even invited to a ceremony when my years at the company weren’t even going to be acknowledged, and his (text) reply was that all part-timers are invited to participate along with full-time staff.

    So, my question is – what do I do now?! No one has followed up with me since then. They all took the week off for Thanksgiving, but the rest of us (workers) worked the beginning of that week.

    I’m thinking now is the time to repeat (now in writing) my 6-month old (verbal) request for a long overdue raise and an office assignment (verbally requested). They gave my office away during the pandemic, but now that I am back working mostly in-person, my boss is letting me use her office during my lunch break (late in the day, so she’s gone home by then).

    How do I go about asking for a raise, and maybe an explanation of why I was invited to an event where I was overlooked? No one ever told me in all these years that that celebration was for full-time staff only. I had even mentioned to both of them in an email earlier in the year that my 5-year anniversary was coming up. I realize now neither of them replied to that email.

    And yes, I am looking for a new job.

    Please advise!!

    p.s. I have been told by my boss that there is a “real estate” issue – meaning no offices available, however the office of the person who left and caused both my bosses to go up a rung has been used to store chairs for the past 4 months. It’s a nice office, but then so was my last one (which I shared with another (full-time) worker. I have been asking for an office replacement and it’s understood I am willing to share it.

    1. Zona the Great*

      That really sucks and is exactly the kind of crap that has happened to me my whole career. I do agree that you should not have used the Zoom chat feature to express your disappointment. Since those who saw it don’t have the background, it just looks like someone used an inappropriate means to communicate something they were upset about. You got an explanation of why you were invited: they just invite part-timers. A stupid and insultingly dismissive explanation, but it’s an explanation none the less.

      As for the raise and the office, I think you should simply take the office. Gather notes and examples of reasons for your raise to include money saved or earned for the company or skills you have that they need and need to put more value into, and set up a face-to-face meeting to discuss it and then follow up with that meeting with an email recapping what was said. ” I understand that you will not give me a raise because you need to repay the company for your drunken night with the company card” , or “you mentioned that you agree that I am worth more to company and should be compensated thusly.”

      1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

        Sound advice, thank you. I was going to email the formal request for the raise, but you’re suggesting I set up a face-to-face meeting to request it in person. I already did that a few months ago, AND followed up with the recap email. Nothing was done.

        As for just taking the office … easier said than done, because it is full of office chairs (evidently being used for storage), so I don’t know where I’d move them all to… Plus, I might get locked out of it if I was just squatting in it.

        Good points, though, so thank you Zona.

    2. WellRed*

      You need to stop looking for an explanation for being invited. It was a mistake or oversight and I am not sure what you hope to gain by continuing to pursue that. Focus on the raise.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I don’t understand about the event — were only the people recognized invited? Or was everyone invited and only the milestone people recognized?

      If it’s supposed to be all-staff, then there were mistakes in not recognizing you and in giving out the wrong link. But you would not be the only person invited who was not recognized, if they invited the whole company. Perhaps that’s why it seems as if you and the managers are talking at cross purposes.

      Either way, I agree with WellRed that pursuing a pin isn’t going to help you get a raise. Neither will commandeering an office.

      This isn’t nice to hear, I know, but you are a part-time employee who is apparently already marginalized by management, and management does not seem particularly enthusiastic about you.

      This isn’t the time to try and throw your weight around. You don’t have the relational capital to spend.

      Justify the raise based on performance, not longevity or whether it’s “overdue.” They sound like they need reminding of the concrete value you’re bringing to the table.

      1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

        Everyone on staff was invited and the milestone people were recognized – but only the full timers. Apparently part-timers don’t count?

        Thanks to everyone for advice – I’m def focussing on a raise at this stage.

        1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

          p.s. I just don’t know how to word my request for a raise, given this recent upsetting episode.

          1. Dino*

            Don’t mention it at all. You want the two events to not be linked in their minds. You want them thinking “Wow, DonnaMartinGraduates adds a lot of value day to day, there should be enough in the budget.” You DON’T want them thinking “It would have been cheaper to just give her a pin.”

            1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

              Excellent point. I was def gonna just focus on the raise at this stage, and maybe get to the bottom of my 5 + years being overlooked some time afterwards. I still deserve recognition for being on the front lines.

              1. TJ*

                There is nothing to get to the bottom of. The policy is that they don’t recognize part-timers. I get that you don’t like that policy, but what is exactly is it that you think there is to “get to the bottom of”?

                You are putting way too much importance on this if you were “utterly devastated”. And you were absolutely out of line by commenting in the chat.

          2. WellRed*

            You word it the same way you word the request without this episode. Here’s the value I am to the company, here are my recent accomplishments that helped the company achieve x.

  42. Speaksupbetterforothers*

    Have you ever asked for a title change? Example Sr Payroll to Payroll Manager.
    I am department of one.
    How did it go? Notes: I don’t have official job description.
    Thank you for any advice or encouragement

    1. Colette*

      I’d advise against asking for a title with “manager” in it unless you manage people, I think it’ll get confusing when you job hunt. (There are exceptions, like project manager, but payroll manager wouldn’t be one of them.)

  43. John Grontosaurus*

    I think there is a vicious cycle of understaffing going on at a lot of companies now, including mine.

    1. Company’s pay is no longer competitive for what the job requires, employees start to leave, workforce shrinks
    2. Workload does *not* shrink, remaining employees must now work lots of overtime
    3. Long hours make job even *less* desirable relative to pay, and overtime pay isn’t enough to compensate
    4. Workers leave even faster, workforce gets even smaller …

    Eventually we’ll just have one poor sucker doing all the work in the world. It will have to be Superman, because no one else is capable. He’ll make about $100k, tops.

    1. Stoppin' by to chat*

      Yes this is what I’m seeing in the tech industry. I think the concern is that this seemed to be what happened to companies like IBM over the years, and then they were no longer as innovative and cutting-edge as they had been. Lots of competition for employees in the tech industry in my part of the US for sure!

  44. Anon for today*

    I work in tech as a PM. We “follow” agile but do not have a scrum master. I am new, the engineering team has been around for multiple years. Our product has been failing pretty bad. Every meeting starts out with chit chat.. I timed it last week and the average meeting didn’t start until 22 mutues past the start time. I took it up with the tech lead (a director who out ranks me title wise) and he argued against my request to start meeting on time and keep them on topic. “This is the only adult interaction we get all day” “if you take this away people will quit” “stopping the chit chat will bust morale.”

    I don’t know what to do. I report to a different department and if I bring up my concerns and escalate, I’m scared this team will ignore or sabotage me… but if I don’t figure out how to get us on track, my product will continue to fail. I should mention that I’m highly in love with our mission and outside of the chit chat, I love my job but I am in 20 hours of meetings a week and really want to reduce my workload from long running meetings.

    Also worth a mention: This is EVERY meeting and consists of about a minimum of one to two hours of nonproductive time for the whole team of 10 people a week. We have a weekly hour long happy hour to meet this purpose and they also use that time every week.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Hm…well, consider letting go of having The One Solution. Instead, bring to the tech lead and your boss (probably together), “This product isn’t on track to finish on time and, at our current rate of progress, will be late. What can we do to get back on t

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        …to get back on track and stay on track?”

        The meetings are one possible solution, but if the team lead isn’t willing to take that one, then instead of fighting it, find put energy to find another solution.

    2. Colette*

      You need a scrum master. But since you don’t have one, can you suggest starting on time and then those who want to chat can stay after the meeting?

      Alternatively, show up 20 minutes late.

    3. anon for this*

      This is very tough! I work in a similar configuration (one kind of tech lead) and from my POV if the tech lead supports wasting time and working on a failing product without acknowledgement, you’re doomed. Sorry. That’s a really depressing thing to say.

      How much support do you have in the company? Who supports this product not-failing or even succeeding? Who influences who? Who do people jump for?

      Can you break in at the beginnings of meetings with this sort of question: “Hey, I just have a question as a newbie: Who are our actual customers for this product, and have we talked to them about (x)?”

      Can you talk individually with the team members as an onboarding exercise and deftly probe out who else thinks the meetings are a waste of time?

      Is it worth you emailing or Teams- or Slack-messaging each team member for updates on what they’re working on, asynchronously?

      But I think you’re burying the lede: “My newspaper is failing and it has really inefficient meetings”…. it’s not the meetings that are causing the failure! What’s the actual problem with the product? Can you get people to acknowledge it? I did manage through a product that was a pretty abject failure initially and I did so by 1) ending the weekly meeting where the VP would give the technical leader another 28 “ideas to consider” and 2) forcing a relentless and frankly embarrassing focus on the user. “What does the user do with this info?” “What will the user see?” “How will the user operationalize this insight?” “What’s the user supposed to do in response, again?” This team is enjoying the chit-chat because they know the product is $hit, and they figure they might as well enjoy the time until they’re laid off. But I guarantee you not everyone on the team feels that way and there are cracks, there is leverage. You just need to find where.

    4. J.B.*

      So another case of “agile “ that does not actually follow agile. I don’t have specific advice just commiseration.

  45. Lost*

    I have a question: how do I decide which job I want to do next? My goal during my early career was to work on Europe (I work in international relations) and I worked toward that. At my current job that’s what I do. I love my job in some respects, hate it in other respects but have been working here (the defence department in my country) for the last two years. I should think about moving on soon but I have no idea what I want to do next. A promotion would mean managing people, which would be ok (but may be hard to get) but I’m not overly excited by that, and nor am I overly excited by the chance to work for the foreign affairs department, (which is an option) even if it did mean I could keep doing Europe. I should note I am no longer a EU citizen due to Brexit so I can’t actually work in Europe. How do I figure out what job I’d like to do next, now that I have achieved my long held goal? I don’t mind if my next job has nothing to do with Europe or international relations or is completely different. But I am just not sure what would be a good fit for me- so many jobs these days seem to be like really hard slog or unreasonable conditions or other things you wouldn’t want.

  46. Ice Pop Party*

    I’m not 100% guaranteed a job, but I passed my interviews & reference check and have had my application approved at a place I’d like to go! I’d start early next year :) I’m still interviewing at another couple of places, but I think I’d be very happy with this one.

  47. Keena*

    I have a question: is there an appropriate amount of time to stay in a job before moving on?

    For some reference, I have been in my current position for 21 months. It was an area I thought I would like and could continue to grow in. However, I discovered I am not really interested in moving up anymore but found a job in another department that is really interesting to me. I don’t want to appear ungrateful to my current boss, or seem flighty.

    1. allathian*

      I think it depends a lot on the industry and why you’re looking to move on. I don’t think you’d be considered a job hopper in most fields unless you switch repeatedly after less than a year’s tenure.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Generally aim for 1 year at a job.
      If you’ve been at it 21 and just want to switch departments (but not companies) you should be fine! I think you do need to explain your interest in the other area and why you’d like to give it a try, plus it helps if it’s a step up too.

  48. Wenike*

    Its official, with the accompanying paycheck! I had been campaigning for my boss to get a lead type position on the team or at least set it up in tiers to allow people some chances for growth. Boss agreed and I took on lead-type duties at the beginning of the summer (when we changed processes around for the team in general) but HR didn’t have the spot created yet. Boss, grandboss, great-grandboss all agreed for the position to be created and boss and I even rewrote job descriptions for the new positions. The lead title is still not available on the org chart, but we are in tiers and the tier 3 position is essentially a lead (with direct reports). And it came with bumping the entire team up 2 salary bands (minimum 7.5% raise for everybody) and going from hourly/non-exempt to salary/exempt. My raise was 24%!

  49. Alf*

    So I literally just witnessed several of my family members almost come to blows at the family holiday dinner table over whether reference checks made by employers about potential employees are:
    (a) absolutely necessary,
    (b) often actively harmful and damaging and a complete waste of time, or
    (c) usually relatively harmless but still a complete waste of time.

    What’s everyone’s thoughts on this topic?

    I have worked outside the US for most of my career in countries where reference checks aren’t really a thing, and still do, so I do think the whole system is kind of stupid. (I mean, who cares what some random stranger who apparently worked with this person before thinks? How do you know that they are telling you the truth, or that their recollections are even accurate?)

    1. aura*

      My dad, uncle, aunt and two of my siblings got into this exact argument at the family lunch. My aunt and siblings have left bad employers for better jobs and double the pay in the Great Resignation, so it seems to be a big topic right now in the family. All these new jobs were secured without reference checks, because employers are obviously starting to feel the panic and the squeeze, which is a very good thing, in my opinion.

      I agree with points (b) and (c) your family members, raised, Alf: I’ve always thought it should be potential employees who should be doing the reference checks on the potential employer, to be honest.

      I’ve always thought reference checks were stupid at best, and damaging at worst. I saw this at my very first job at a supermarket, when the owner would actively badmouth any employee who left for any reason, even his best workers.

      I’ve also seen bosses with vendettas use reference checks to deliberately try and destroy people’s future job prospects, for reasons as varied as: “this woman wouldn’t sleep with me”; “this person knows I’m breaking the law and I want to make sure no one will believe them if they talk”; “I screwed up badly, successfully blamed this person for it and got them fired, and now want to make sure they don’t talk about it”; “I don’t like this person”; “I know this person doesn’t like me”; “this person is highly-skilled and makes me feel insecure in my job, so I want to destroy them”; and also just general power-trips and so forth.

      I think reference checks can help if someone was shy or nervous at the interview, but it depends. I think good interview questions and previous work samples or a short assessment task are a million times more effective than a reference check. Especially if someone’s references are difficult to contact, which puts them at a disadvantage through no fault of their own.

      1. Dragon*

        After I was passed up for a job I had really hoped would work out, I discussed it with one of my references. If the reason was me, I speculated maybe someone wasn’t entirely convinced why I would leave my current employer after 10+ years.

        My reference said that if that was the case, the potential employer could’ve asked him and my other references about it.

    2. Gatomon*

      C with a solid dash of B. You generally can’t contact the current employer/manager without jeopardizing the person’s job, so if someone has been with the same company for a long time, they may not have any recent references who are safe to reach out to. It also punishes people early in their careers who may not really have a reference history, or anyone who was fired recently or struggled in a job that wasn’t the right fit. Plus there are some companies that are notorious for refusing to provide any kind reference, or will only confirm dates of employment, which unfairly penalizes good employees as well as protects the very people that are issues. It feels like a relic of a bygone era. I’d only put serious weight into a reference from someone that I knew personally/professionally anyway.

    3. Thinking*

      I certainly agree that reference checks are utterly stupid and often quite harmful, and I personally don’t believe in them.

      My very first full-time boss was a lying psychopath who gave me a bad reference (when some HR person did some snooping into who my other former bosses were, without my consent, because apparently three referees was not enough) because I turned down his sexual advances. I had been the best employee in the entire department, and his bad reference – which was full of horrible lies. cost me my then-dream job. So no, I don’t believe in reference checks.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      C and B: If the goal is to verify employment dates, then sure. But if digging for more than that you have to understand that people lie.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’ll go with (b) often actively harmful and damaging and a complete waste of time and add that business never truly grasp fully the opportunity costs of rejecting a good (or the best) candidate on petty, unverifiable hearsay.

      But it is a convenient way to import prejudices from total stranger.

      1. Rosie*

        Oh, I am +1000000000000-ing so hard on this comment, Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est!

        I’ll go with option (b) as well.

        From my experiences as both a candidate with more than one psychotic ex-boss who seems to live to give dishonest bad references about ex-employees whom he felt intimidated by (but were excellent employees), and as a manager who hires people (and realises that relying on reference checks for anything, including something as simple as employment dates in a lot of cases, is asking for trouble: people lie, they have bad memories, and records are often inaccurate).

        And there’s also issues like luck and timing. Sadly, three of my former managers have passed away. One is retired and basically off the grid as a ‘grey nomad’. Another is now working overseas and genuinely extremely hard to reach, as he is working in quite a remote location.

        You could, however, reach my worst-ever ex-boss, “Bob”, (who I only worked with for three months) with relative ease, but he’d say he had to fire me because I was “hopeless” and “incompetent”…when I actually resigned as I found a new job, because the company – illegally and without any warning – completely changed my job overnight. (Think of it like I had been a Chief Llama Clothing Designer one day, which is the job that I am experienced and qualified in, and the next day I showed up at work to be informed I was now Chief Llama Shed Engineer. The job still technically involves llamas, so it’s the same, right? Er, no, Bob. It’s not.)

        But Bob also wouldn’t tell you he ended up fired about four weeks after I left, and that I had spent almost five years with the company, very successfully, prior to his arrival.

        So, yes, I detest and despise the concept of reference checking with a passion. And I am more than happy to argue with my most obnoxious relatives about it at a holiday meal.

    6. Tali*

      Great criticisms here! I think it’s really important to question why you would trust Stranger A’s opinion on Stranger B. Especially as time passes because you can’t use one from your current job–how do you recall details of an employee from 5+ years ago?

      I can see how you would want references for some jobs that require high integrity and character–is it a holdover from when household staff would receive reference letters and being dismissed without a reference would doom you to unemployment? Yet many such workers left for factories which did not require references. If the job doesn’t require a high degree of independence and integrity–like a contractor, a CEO, someone in charge of money or security–I don’t think references are really necessary. Many countries do without it just fine.

    7. Recovering*

      I absolutely loathe the process of reference checks. Not only because it is a waste of time and a relic from the days when the rich wanted to keep the poor away from them. And not only because it often costs the best possible candidates jobs for reasons they can’t control, like if a reference is dead or otherwise unavailable.

      I also hate the reference checking process because a former boss, who had assaulted me, was contacted by a nosy HR person, looking for an extra reference without my permission, although they already had two. This process allowed my former boss to find me.

      I understand that this is an extreme example. But I am not the only person I know who this type of thing has happened to.

  50. Violet*

    My partner and I were just talking and they were saying how they hope I find a job I like. I had been saying how I never show my real self and work because no one, especially higher up, really wants to know.

    But if I don’t feel free to speak freely about the work and the job, then I won’t be hired at a place that is a good match. I’ve only ever wanted the paycheck and try to meet my needs outside of work. Just smile and nod. But I’m not sure if this way–my needs at work not getting met–will be a happy workplace for me or if a happy workplace even exists. I never share much personal stuff at work. I have a former co-worker who keep in touch with that I never even told her I had a partner. I am really private because I know not many people care. Not really, beyond surface pleasantries.

    But my partner is concerned that if I don’t try to meet my needs or be myself in some way I won’t find a job that really makes me happy. What do you guys think?

    I’m sure the question will be, well, what are your needs? After years at a job, if someone asks me an opinion about the company or the work, that my comments will be heard and mentioned again. I don’t expect anyone to act on them, but I’d like to be heard out. I’d like a company that cares about my future there and actively gives me funds or time for professional development. I’d like better healthcare options. I’d like the opportunity of a raise. In my 25 years of working, these asks have gone mostly unheard so I stopped even thinking about them and just move job and sometimes careers after 5 – 6 years because I’m not moving forward. I’d like to stay at those jobs, but I don’t see futures there. Or gosh, I just want to go to the dentist and the places aren’t going to change.

    So those are needs I’d like places to listen to. How I know if they ‘really’ care about me.

    1. Tali*

      What does it mean to have a company “really” care about you? To have a “happy” workplace, or to be able to speak “freely” about your private life?

      Many companies offer opportunities for professional development like training or courses, and almost all offer raises of some kind… All that depends on the company but it’s a very normal need. But this doesn’t necessarily correlate or affect the behavior of individual workers next to or above you. You can chat pleasantries with most people at most companies, I don’t know if that means they personally do or don’t care about you, and it definitely doesn’t mean you are/n’t important to the business.

      Turning this on its head, do you “care” about your coworkers? How do you demonstrate that to them? Do you feel resentment that you can’t share some things about your life with your coworkers? Do you prioritize room for growth/benefits when you switch jobs or careers?

      1. Violet*

        Tali, thanks so much for your response here! I greatly appreciate it. And it’s given me much food for thought.

        In general, I do care about my co-workers. In my performance reviews that caring is noted and it’s been said how when I’m not there there is a real difference in the office. I’m not sure how that will be in a new remote position in the future, but that’s how it was in person.

        I demonstrated it mostly by bringing in food and snacks. ;-) But I remember when a coworker was fired unceremoniously and as soon as I was on my lunch break I called him on his cell to see if he was okay. He wasn’t, but I wanted to say goodbye. He was still kind of in shock that day but I hope he knew it mattered and I cared. I never saw him or heard from him after that but I see he did find another job. I’m happy for him that he’s outta that place!

        I am taking some time now to think about growth and benefits. It’s difficult, though. I honestly don’t know what’s reasonable to expect from a workplace having been in a toxic place for so long where all the things you say are normal needs weren’t met.

        Food for thought.

  51. Myrin*

    ACK, I just felt my soul leave my body a little bit.

    I’ve spent the last six weeks applying for jobs and am in the process of putting the finishing touches on yet another application. I’m not in the US and it’s customary here to put your date of birth on your résumé and I just now realised that I had mistyped my own birthday. My original master résumé got corrupted two weeks or so ago and I had to re-write it which is certainly when the error happened. I’ve sent out two applications with the wrong date in them without realising anything was amiss, and it’s the two I’m most hopeful for, to boot.

    It’s not hughely noticeable – we write dates as “day.month.year” and my birthday is March 5, so “05.03.” but I remember typing and deleting and typing again because I couldn’t decide between using only numbers or actually writing out the month and then I ended up with “05.05.”.
    I’m also not sure how likely it is anyone will even realise this; it’s possible, because our references are written and you send them as well as any educational certificates along with your original application, and all of these have your date of birth spelled out, so certainly someone might realise that the date on my résumé doesn’t match up with the date on literally all my references. But I don’t know how likely it is that someone will actually pay attention to that.

    But I’m so embarrassed and annoyed with myself. I pride myself on being able to spot basically any kind of typo or inconsistency and what-have-you and then I go and don’t realise that I put the wrong birthday for myself!

    I have now assertively changed it to spelling out “March”. Good lord.

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