open thread – December 31, 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.

{ 496 comments… read them below }

  1. Cricket*

    Y’all. My project manager has been on PTO for the last two weeks. He has also been joining the daily 8am meeting every day.

    Look, if he’s bored at home that’s his problem, but he’s setting a terrible example for the rest of us!

    1. Observer*


      Unless you see these kinds of unreasonable expectations bleed over, or he’s causing a bottleneck of some sort, it’s not your place to get into that.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It does bleed over, though. No matter how much a supervisor like that says it’s OK if you don’t do as they do, it puts pressure on those who report to him to act in kind. Peer pressure is bad enough, as most higher mammals are conditioned to fit in, but this is coming from above, from someone who has power over others.

        I didn’t push the boundaries of casual dress when we were in the office not because I was concerned about repercussions — I probably could have gotten away with dressing down more, as most days I only talked to the client via email. And, personally, I would have loved to dress down more, as I work pretty much exclusively in sweats now when I don’t have a client video call. But I wanted to help our office maintain a smart-casual expectation for our project staff, as there were always clients in our office, and not all of our company’s clients were as great as mine.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. Just because he is doing it doesn’t mean he expects everyone else to do it. Sometimes when you’re a manager you just have to do these things. My manager is on vacation, but she’s still having to log in here and there, check emails, etc. due to a high level project going on. But she absolutely doesn’t expect anyone else to do that.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Even if they say that, it takes a lot of trust from their team to take the manager at their word. And if they don’t have that trust, they do set a bad example and are pressuring other people to follow suit, even if they don’t mean to do so.

    2. WellRed*

      I agree it’s not a great example. I’m also slightly horrified by the idea of meetings that occur not only daily but at 8am ; )

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m working on a project across 4 continents….I prefer the 8am meetings to the 4:00am meetings India keeps inviting me to! (I forward those to co-workers in a closer time zone!)

      2. Clisby*

        I used to love 8 a.m. meetings – 7 a.m. was even better. Get it over with, so it doesn’t interrupt your work.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Morning people vs. afternoon people … also, my cat wakes me up at 5 am (or earlier) each day.

        2. Jenna Webster*

          Agreed! I used to have supervisors both above and below who were on the same schedule as me and we had 7:30 meetings which left the whole rest of the day free. Now, I don’t schedule anything before 9:30. The people are awesome, but I sure wish they were early birds!!

      3. KR*

        I worked a job that had daily plan of the day 7:15 meetings. The work day started at 7am. And you were expected to be at these meetings no matter what you were doing, sharing in detail what you planned to do that day. So if the meeting is 15-45 minutes that means that you can’t really start your day until 8 because you’re stuck in this meeting. Pure torture. Horrible way to start the day.

    3. Be kind, rewind*

      I find it really confusing when people are “OOO” but still obviously doing work. Makes it hard to determine what/how much you can actually rely on them for.

      1. WellWell*

        This drives me crazy. Can I go ahead and make the final call on this or will my OOO boss swoop in via email in 10 minutes and veto it?

        1. Audiophile*

          Oh, making the final call on something, only for your boss to tell you they would have done the opposite.

        2. Quick Chat*

          Or better yet, send a “I’m really disappointed you finalized this without incorporating the revisions I sent 12 hours after the deadline” email.

    4. None the Wiser*

      I have to confess to being on email and attending a meeting even though I am ooo this week, mostly due to the COVID situation, though, and very little having to do with projects or subject matter.

      1. Jenna Webster*

        I read my email when I’m ooo so I know what’s going on, but I try really hard to only respond if I know the person will be anxious about the issue. I have a couple who would have a very hard time waiting a week for certain kinds of responses and they hardly ever take more than a quick yes or no. The problem is that I know they are also checking email and handling a few things when they’re on vacation and I would rather they not. I’m just not sure which is worse for them!

    5. Eden*

      Agreed. My manager last manager was never quite this bad but did still log in a fair amount while out but he did actually start doing it less after I (and probably some other senior reports) pointed it out. Or maybe he just started hiding it better from us but hey, that’s just as good as far as I’m concerned.

    6. 867-5309*

      The more senior someone is or more their role intersects with many others, the more vacations often change for them. When I’m away for more than a few days, I find it MORE relaxing for me to check my email for about an hour each morning.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yes – I have things that will not get done by anyone else if I am gone, so I can either spend an hour a day either first or last thing when I’m not doing anything else knocking out the brainless busywork OR I can do it in the same six hours when I get back when I have way more important things to be catching up on. The former is far less stressful. (They’re things that are both easy and important but not urgent, so even if I do ask someone else to handle them while I’m out, they’re low priority and may or may not get done, and then I stress not knowing how much of it is left when I get back. Much better for me all around to just stick to method.)

    7. JSPA*

      Covid situations and vacations are odd enough that I wouldn’t worry much.

      Certainly not beyond dealing with it as an “I” thing, not a, “telling you how to do you” thing. Yes, it would be different if HE wrote in for advice, but that’s a material difference. “You know, I want you to enjoy your break. Also, when I take a break, I don’t want to be left feeling that I’m doing something wrong if I don’t check in.”

      There are thousands of reasons he could be doing it, boredom included. Maybe he enjoys that part of the day, and needs a break from the rest of it. Could be that he wants to make sure there are no new directions or “power moves” happening in his absence, on his pet project. Could be he’s using it to get out of some other 8 a.m. duty. Could be that he needs to have a reason to get out of bed, and 8 a.m. meeting is what works for him. Could be he likes feeling responsible. Could be a way to stop drinking the night before after a glass or two.

      It may not be ideal in the abstract, but it’s neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor, it actually doesn’t create a direct problem for anyone else, and it’s not on you to be honing his managerial skills, when he hasn’t asked for feedback. I’d let it not just slide, but glide.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      I see the concern about setting an example to truly disengage. However, is there any other indication that this is expected from staff? If you don’t ordinarily see that pressure, I’d write it off as their quirk and not worry too much when it’s your vacation.
      I have to admit I’ve been off this week but also checking in and working. It’s because I’m off but stuck at home due to the inability to take real vacations. Not every day like your PM, but enough.

      1. pancakes*

        Why are you working during your vacation, though? Not being able to travel shouldn’t make a difference. If you don’t have any hobbies or interests other than work, this is the perfect time to develop some.

  2. River Otter*

    Have folks been following the Jean and Jorts workplace cat drama on Twitter? It is for the ages. Link in reply.

    1. the cat's ass*

      I just adored it and am following it on Twitter. Anything with cats is good, but this was extra in the best possible way.

    2. AceInPlainSight*

      Jean and Jorts are the best! “Are you helping, or just buttering the cat?” is a new phrase in my family

      1. Third Generation Nerd*

        There is a fabulous recipe out there for a winter drink: A Buttered Jorts is made with caramel cinnamon butter, bourbon, hot water a little whipped cream and of course a Jorts shaped orange garnish

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I have, and Jorts has a Twitter account that I am following and it is adorable. Example (paraphrased): “People want Jorts merch; just take an orange marker and write ‘I like Jorts’ on whatever and that’s your merch.”

      Also, there was that really good essay about buttering the cat and disability accommodations.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      It’s been brought up in both work and non work open threads for like three weeks straight, I think.

    5. Llama face!*

      Entirely unrelated… or is it?… about $200,000 worth of butter was just stolen in Ontario. Hopefully not to be used on unsuspecting grooming-challenged cats.

    6. GoryDetails*

      I got to introduce some friends to Jean and Jorts – it’s so satisfying when someone clicks over to a link you recommended and starts laughing out loud over it!

    7. Jenna Webster*

      I was just about to give up Twitter when that happened. I know it isn’t worth it to stay for the one or two really epic things that happen every year, but geez, I really don’t want to miss the next Jorts and Jean-type saga!!

  3. HNY*

    I’m being driven mad. Looking for a place to vent.

    A few years back I worked as a teapot painter in a large team. I got on well with most people, but tried to quietly avoid working with Jane. Jane was a known gossip, loud but with little meaningful to say and was known for her laziness and general poor performance. But, as long as I stayed relatively clear of her, all was fine. To general astonishment, Jane left our team when she was promoted to teapot painter manager in another area. I knew people who worked in that area and 2 ended up leaving within 6 months of Jane managing them, claiming she made the job intolerable.

    Fast forward to this year and I am now also a teapot painter manager. Very sadly my fellow manager had to take ill health retirement suddenly and they advertised her position internally. There was only one applicant, who they hired, and it turned out to be Jane. Given that it had been a while since I worked with her I tried to cast my previous experience aside – a lot of water had passed under the bridge and we were both much more experienced and battle weary now. However, it has been every bit the nightmare I had feared. Being a manager has totally gone to Jane’s head and she is patronising and massively over-confident – think the episode of Friends where Joey uses a thesaurus and you will have an accurate picture of her nonsensical emails to the team. She is still a terrible gossip and will do anything to avoid doing her actual job. If it involves schmoozing upper management she’s totally there for it, but if it involves have a challenging conversation or completing the complicated rotas she will avoid at all costs. She tries to phone me constantly throughout the day, much of the time to ask stupid questions or tell me a piece of gossip about someone in another part of the organisation. I have raised these issues twice with our manager who tells me she’ll speak to her, but nothing has changed. In my line of work we have to work very closely together and she’s making me absolutely miserable after just 4 months. Does it seem like a massive over-reaction to look for other opportunities, or should I just suck it up?

    1. Observer*

      Does it seem like a massive over-reaction to look for other opportunities, or should I just suck it up?

      I think you have some other choices. But it would certainly not be unreasonable to start looking elsewhere, as your manager doesn’t seem to be doing her job.

      Perhaps you can have a conversation with you Grand Boss. Also, is there any way to MAKE this your boss’ problem? Like NOT picking up Jane’s slack, while documenting what happened, so when things fall through, it’s clear what the issue is?

      Also, can you draw some better boundaries? Like when she calls to gossip, you don’t have to hear her out or engage with her AT ALL.

      Lots of luck.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Hard agree with Observer.

        I think dust off your resume and start looking, and also do as Observer suggests above in the meantime. While being as neutral/nice to Jane as possible to fend off the weirdness

      2. WellWell*

        I agree with all of this. HNY, when you say you’ve brought this up to management, what exactly have you brought up? Are you quantifying it in terms of impact on work? And have you tried setting a few boundaries with Jane?

    2. River Otter*

      It’s the old devil you know vs angel you don’t dilemma, with a little bit of devil you don’t know, bc you have no guarantees at a new place.
      Have you been telling your manager that you aren’t seeing any changes from Jane? Have you discussed with them what your options are for when Jane affects your work, and also options for when Jane is annoying but doesn’t affect your work? For example, the gossip. Gossiping affects your work in so far as it takes time away from doing your work, but the contents of the gossip don’t affect your work. Have you discussed with your manager the options for disengaging when Jane wants to gossip? I think this would be more of a thing you want her blessing that her permission for, but she would really need to understand that you can’t spend time gossiping with Jane on the phone. The goal would be to get your side of the story out there before Jean starts talking about how you are difficult to work with because gossip to her as a form of relationship building. For things like whether or not Jane is leaving slack that you have to pick up, you do need your boss’s permission not to pick up that slack. If they have the expectation that you are covering for Jane, if that is a problem, and you just decide you’re not going to, that will create conflict with your boss.
      There’s no reason why you can’t simultaneously look for other positions while you are continuing to work with your boss on your gene problem. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Depending on your relationship with your boss and the corporate culture, you could flat out tell her that your problems with Jane are making you consider whether you have a future at the company. That is really risky, so don’t drop that lightly.

    3. Sharon*

      How much does her behavior affect your work? Can you keep your interactions focused on the work that needs to done? Sometimes refusing to engage and just acting like OF COURSE she would do her job helps.

      Also, if management isn’t aware of what a problem Jane is because others are covering for her, stop covering for her and let them feel the pain of work that doesn’t get done, etc. If management IS aware and doesn’t care because they don’t want to put her on a performance plan or let her go, you either need to not care yourself or look for another job that won’t make you miserable.

    4. JSPA*

      Let’s chart it.

      1. It’s intolerable, as it is, long term.

      2. The change you want, if you stay, is either “Jane gone,” or “Jane to not be Jane.” #2 isn’t gong to happen; it is, by now, everything about Jane that’s the problem, not a single issue.

      a) It only gets worse if she gets promoted over you.

      b) acceptable, if you’re promoted over her.

      c) no great likelihood that she will leave, or at least, that’s not something you control.

      So, yes…start looking. If you get promoted in the interim, the immediate problem is taken care of. If Jane leaves in the interim, ditto. If Jane gets promoted (because management has already shown that they have a Jane problem) and she starts to manage you out, you’re already ahead of the game, by already searching.

      When you have offers, you can (if you wish) go to your company and say, “my only reason for leaving is Jane, and I also understand that to have been a significant contributing factor for [name the others who left].” You’d be doing them a favor, regardless.

      But frankly, you have at least two reasons to look.

      Reason #1 is Jane’s attitude stinking up the place and Jane blowing up your phone.

      Reason #2 is that you have a company that promotes on the basis of who blows smoke up their manager’s ass, never mind how bad their product is, nor how many dependable people leave, when they enter.

      I can’t tell you there are jobs out there without an annoying coworker. There are not. (Hypothetically, each of us is potentially someone else’s nightmare of a coworker.) But there are a near-infinite number of places where this particular Jane does not work.

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Voice mail is your friend for her. Do as much as you can to delay her gratification on her distractions. Do as little as you can of covering for her.

      It sounds like you’ve got multiple peer level managers for a single team, is that correct? That sure makes it difficult, but feel free to do whatever you can to separate out your tasks. Make an arrangement with your boss as if it’s a good idea that has nothing to do with how irritating Jane is. To “simplify the chain of command” or “clarify the routine to-do lists” or whatever. E.g., “I’ll do the rotas on the first and third weeks of the month, Jane can do them on the alternate weeks” or “I’ll handle personnel issues for the team members in painting room A and Jane can do them for painting room B”. Feel free to send clarifying memos translating her awful ones and cc: your boss.

      Then if the rotas get screwed up or if all of the team members want to jump ship to your group, that’s data that your boss can figure out and it’s not your butt that’s exposed.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      One person absolutely can kill a job for other people.

      Is the job worth it? How easily could you move to another company?
      Is it a major benefit to you to stay and fight this one?

      Breaking this down further:
      What have you tried so far with the constant phone calls? You say she tries to call you, does that mean you let it go to vm? You must answer some because that would be how you know her questions are stupid. Can you have her switch to emailing you the questions so you can show your boss the types of questions and the frequency?

      What have you told her about the gossiping? What have you told your boss about the gossiping? There are some instances where certain types of gossip can get a person demoted and/or fired. Oddly, the type varies with the culture of the company. I had one place where anything negative said about the CEO would get a person dismissed instantly even if it was true.

      But of everything you mention here the biggest problem is not completing her work. And this might be the talking point that causes action. What does she not complete and how does that impact you? Don’t answer here but do work out a clear explanation of how her incompletes effect you.

      That same place with the highly protected CEO was also very receptive to anyone who pointed out wastefulness- especially large scale wastefulness. For example, if someone dumped a bunch of raw material into the dumpster that would cause all kinds of excitement/upset. If she is blatantly wasting the company’s materials/resources this would be a good thing to draw attention to.

      As far as asking your boss twice, in some places I have worked one would have to ask 10 or more times to be heard even once. Keep asking. Be more specific about what is going on. “Sue called me up today to ask me how to log on to the computer.” (or other thing that any employee should clearly know how to do.)
      One place I worked, no one cared that Sue could not log on to the computer. (True story.) I wrote the instructions down and gave them to her. I told her to put them in her desk drawer so she would no longer need to ask me. Of course, she continued to ask me. I simply said, “You will have to find that sheet we put in your desk drawer and read the instructions on the sheet.” And I felt NO guilt about saying that. Eh, it was a basic component of the job and I could not sink any more time into showing her.

      There are deal breakers for me- such as if I felt she could ruin MY reputation or actually cause me to lose my job. Then yes, start looking immediately.

    7. HNY*

      Thanks for all your advice guys.

      Jane and I manage the team together – I am responsible for half the team, Jane the other half. We have divided other responsibilities between us but a lot of our work requires us to work very closely together (for example, we recently had to introduce a new procedure to the team. I split the initial presentation in two, checked she understood the procedure herself and we agreed to complete it then come together to make sure it flowed as it was a lot for one person. She put it off and put if off until eventually we came together and her presentation made very little sense – I have coached her through so much already so suggested some obvious corrections and just left it. After the presentation I had several members of the team message me to say they didn’t understand what Jane was talking about, could I talk them through it? Sigh).

      I ignore many of her calls because I am genuinely far too busy. She instant messages me throughout the day, then gets huffy when I don’t respond or tell her I’m busy and will get back to her later (which is fine). However, when we have something we need to do together (a very common occurrence, I usually HAVE to meet with her at least once per day) I will schedule an hour, make an agenda and make it clear we need to complete X by a certain time. Still she’ll try to hijack at every moment to tell me something about her personal life, or about someone from another team. And then there is the WhatsApp messages after hours (about her personal life…)

      The last time I spoke to our manager about it I tried to be explicit – “I asked Jane to do X and she didn’t do it. She apologised and gave me a reason but this is the third time this has happened and it’s affecting our ability to meet deadlines.” Manager nodded along but she seems to really like Jane and her behaviour never changes. Jane is a talker and seems to be able to talk her way out of anything, including leaving meetings early (that she really needs to attend) and previous complaints about her behaviour (when she was a teapot painter).

      Perhaps I am part of the problem – I have high expectations and am a bit of a perfectionist, but since Jane came into the team our performance is slipping (e.g. deadlines for data completion not being met, which is leading to us slipping results-wise) and everything is taking twice as long to complete. Maybe I need to be more patient but…it’s hard when I work to a high standard, Jane doesn’t, and because our work is so interlinked the joint performance is not as good as it should be. I’m sure (?) one day it will be recognised that it is Jane dragging us down (and I’d like to point out I have tried, really tried, to be helpful, for example by offering to explain tasks that she doesn’t seem so keen on) but until then we both seem to be judged equally since ‘we’re a team.’

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        You not only have a Jane problem, you have a boss problem.

        In projects where you and Jane each have a part, you need to decide if you can just just let Jane fail and bear the consequences. If you do this, will your boss care? Will your boss blame you?

        Right now your boss is counting you to always clean up Jane’s messes. Your boss won’t do anything until they (the boss) feel the pain of the mess caused by Jane. If boss doesn’t care, then in Alison’s words, “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change”.

        It’s time to polish your resume and start looking around.

    8. Artemesia*

      When you start aggressively looking for opportunities, it changes something about you — there is a sort of hidden resolve and confidence. So look but also try to see if you can fix the problem by talking with management. Hope they finally deal with her — or you get a good offer.

  4. The Original K.*

    Saying it here to hold myself accountable: I am leaving my field and role in 2022. I’ve scheduled a few sessions with a career coach & have begun speaking with my network. Here’s to meeting professional (and personal!) goals in the new year.

    1. WellRed*

      Good luck! My word for the year is forward. That includes looking around for something new and, frankly, much higher paying. It also includes getting exercise but that’s a weekend thread.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I have personal goals too. All my goals revolve around finding more joy. My life has been devoid of it the last few years (pandemic, job loss, family illness, sudden loss of a parent) and I am determined to make space for it moving forward. I’ve realized I’m doing the wrong work, and that’s a start.

        1. Everdene*

          Can I recommend looking up Ingrid Fettle Lee and her Joyspotters Society? I have found he writings really helpful in guiding me to find and create joy amongst all this.

      2. Cookie*

        That is also my word for the coming year, with a similar (yet currently nebulous) goal. May it happen for both of us!

      1. The Original K.*

        I’d like to have stuff to talk about as the year progresses: a good informational interview, new contacts, etc. Then hopefully a Friday Good News letter!

    2. Green Goose*

      Please keep us updated! I’m considering the same and want to hear others experience. Good luck!!

  5. Talvi*

    The windchill hit -51 on my commute in this morning!!

    Did I wear two toques, two scarves, two pairs of mittens, and an extra pair of wool socks in my winter boots for the short walk between my car and the building? Yes, yes I did.

        1. Talvi*

          Yep. Most of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and parts of Manitoba and Ontario have been under an Extreme Cold warning for the last week, so anyone else from around here can definitely relate.

          Why didn’t I take vacation this week?

          1. Lurkyloo*

            Originally from Winnipeg, moved to Vancouver…And we’ve got SNOW! So I feel your pain and remember those frigid days well.

          2. Artemesia*

            Over 50 years ago I was offered an academic post in Edmonton Alberta and then I learned that it can get 80F below and lost my enthusiasm. I love Canada and have spent a fair amount of time in BC — but wow.

    1. Anonymous Luddite*

      Yowza! Stay safe and stay warm! My region is experiencing “record cold” but the lowest we’ve been is 14° F (-9 c).

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband, SIL and daughter are going to a Bears game in Chicago on Sunday — it is supposed to be 9F and snowy. I have offered him my wonderful Eddie Bauer ear lap hat with the faux fur lining — and he has some good mittens and a very warm coat — but yikes. I am babysitting and feel like I got the better deal.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          Yowza, that’s commitment to a team for sure. Make sure they bring a cushion to sit on, so the heat doesn’t get sucked out of them from cold seats.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Upstate NY here. One winter the windchill was -80. We were warned- no bare skin outside- cover up everything.
      Salt on the roads was useless because everything flash freezes at that temp. Trying to stop at a stop sign was a joke.

      My car broke down at a convenience store. Well, I shut it down and it would not restart. Since I was a couple blocks from work, I decided to walk. In -80. Do not do this. Don’t. I was not even out of sight of my car and I knew I was in trouble. Fortunately a cohort happened by and YELLED at me, “Get in this car NOW.”

      To your list I would add, extra covering for the knees and make sure your core (chest area/ waist/hips) is heavily covered- this is heart/lungs because those organs can start to say “uncle” really fast. What they say is true, stay with your car if you break down. There is a psychological component that can kick in- one of utter defeat- and it rears its ugly head the further away from the vehicle you get. I really noticed the switch in mindset. I started to walk away thinking, “oh this is nothing, I can make it to work.” and within a very short distance I switched to, “I think I have a problem. I think I made the wrong choice.”

      Windchills in the minus numbers are a very serious concern. Take care, y’all.

      1. allathian*

        Yikes, I’m glad your cohort showed up and gave you a ride the rest of the way. Temps like that are survivable, if you’re dressed for an expedition to one of the poles, but otherwise…

    3. Llama face!*

      Hi neighbour! I went outside yesterday (to pick up test kits) and, even with snowpants on, my arthritic hips were extremely angry about it. This week has been brutal.

  6. WellWell*

    Low stakes question here. Our corporate headquarters, where the majority of people work, is located in a different part of the country. The fun committee recently did some low stakes contests, like, submit an ugly sweater photo etc. Most of the prizes were tickets to local college basketball game which obviously the rest of us can’t use. Is it me or should they come up with a more universal option? Maybe I’m questioning it because I do feel like corporate sometimes overlooks how different the other regions are. (Eg, they added a graphic of our state to handbook after they acquired us, but it was the wrong state. We laughed and rolled our eyes but a little effort, please?)

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Of course they should be giving out prizes that can be used by anyone anywhere! Is this supposed to be a team building exercise or an exercise in making anyone who is not at HQ feel left out?

      I think we now know the answer to that…

      And the wrong state??? I have no words.

    2. Ashley*

      Showing a little interest in people that are near the home location is a great way to help keep up morale and show they care. In the meantime picking the wrong state shows a lack of editing and education, and it would be something fun to point out to someone because it should be fixed and fixing the obvious is also fun. Also, I am still annoyed when any prize currently requires in door activity in a crowd.

      1. WellWell*

        I never even thought about the Covid aspect! HQ is located in a state where the governor is a little…lax, though the company has done well with its handling of Covid.

    3. hamburke*

      My husband is remote – the whole company (subsidiary?) is but corporate isn’t. They list local prizes but do, in fact, provide appropriate prizes for the not-locals.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      The wrong state seems like step 1 to becoming the lost department that no one can defund or fire because no one remembers it exists.

      Usually seems to arise at universities, and can coast for decades if everyone keeps their head down and you don’t occupy any desirable office space.

    5. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Source of many an eyeroll from me during previousjob, yes. Tickets to something held in another state, a five hour drive from me, on a weeknight, are not a useful thing.

  7. Olive Snook*

    I work in a highly regulated industry–think federal government, but not quite–and I’m currently looking for a new position in the same field. I had an interview recently where I was told the manager’s position for the job was currently vacant, and we would be reporting to the next level up (who I’m sure will inevitably have other priorities). Am I crazy for thinking this is a huge red flag? My current job is toxic at the best of times, but the one good thing about it is we have a manager we can go to for assistance when needed. She was out on leave for two months, and the next level up position who we reported to in that time was usually far too busy to guide us, or didn’t know how to help when he did have time.
    I don’t want to run from something bad into something worse, but I also don’t want to project my own issues with this job onto the next one. Is this as worrying as I think it is?

    1. River Otter*

      It is a problem if they never fill the position. Can you ask what their timeline is for that? Sometimes management positions become vacant, and it is common for the next level manager up to be the acting manager. It does suck for all the reasons you listed, but it is just a thing that happens that is not a problem at a healthy company. In other words, that practice is not a red flag in and of itself.

      1. Olive Snook*

        The person who would be managing the position for the time being wasn’t on the interview panel, which was another thing that kind of made me worry. I’ll get a chance to talk to her if I make it to the second round, but none of the people I got to speak with the first time were part of the team I’d be joining.

        1. Freelance Anything*

          I think you’re right to be cautious but I wouldn’t call it a red flag at this point.

          Second round interviews will put in conversation with the interim manager so you’ll have a chance to gauge them and ask about the timeline on this vacancy.

          Just make sure you get your answers and then make a decision from there.

        2. Astor*

          Yeah, this sounds like a situation that wouldn’t be a good fit for you, at least right now. It’s not necessarily a sign of a bad organization as a whole, but it’s definitely a sign of a messy transition and from your description it does not sound like it will be the kind of team that you want to be a part of.

          If you expect to see other job openings, then this one isn’t worth considering more than you already have. If you see very few job openings, then I think this one’s only worth considering if you have a lot of other positive information – like it paying significantly more than your current job plus also strictly limited to 35 hours a week – that would make it better than your current job.

          But this is definitely one of those things that vary from job to job and also person to person. If this is a job where the manager’s vacant position is generally okay, then they’ll find someone else who can thrive because they like the flexibility! It’s okay for you to decide this is a deal breaker (in general, or for this job and this timing). Find yourself a job that’s good for you now! In the future, you may continue to decide this is a deal breaker because even when it works out okay you really hate it, or you may find yourself with new experiences that make you more confident that you can judge the situation and handle the problem. But either way is fair!

          There are other kinds of issues that I might tell you that you “just” sound scared to get into another bad situation. This is one where I think the potential for problems for you is high enough that I think you’re right to be worried. Let it play out if it makes you feel better to gather more information, but it’s also okay to bow out of the process completely.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I personally wouldn’t see this as a red flag or even concerning. The former manager left and it can sometimes take a while (months) to find the right replacement. Reporting up to the next management level would be standard in a case like this. You can them how long it’s been vacant, though I probably wouldn’t be concerned unless it was a long time, like more than six or seven months.

    3. PollyQ*

      I wouldn’t call it a red flag for the company or the position, but it’s a big unknown, and therefore a big risk for you. Your boss’s temperament, philosophy, etc. play a HUGE part in your job satisfaction. So even though it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone at the company is doing anything wrong, I still think you should proceed cautiously. (Of course, even when there’s a boss in place when you get hired, they could leave at any time, so in a way, this isn’t that different.)

    4. Public Sector Manager*

      This isn’t weird at all for the public sector. At my agency, the head of our agency is usually on the hiring panel, sometimes I’m on the panel (and some of those times my team doesn’t have any vacancies), sometimes it’s another manager on the panel (even when I have a vacancy), and for this most recent panel, one of the supervisors from my team was on the panel (and we do have vacancies).

      This is a holdover from our prior agency head who hoarded power and trusted no one. And culture change in the public sector takes some time. Should we directly hire for our own teams? Of course! Is what we do weird? Yes. Is it any weirder than what other agencies are doing? No. Certain industries are just weird and weird is normal.

      If this is the only concern, then I think you’re fine. If there are 5 other concerns too, then focus on those 5.

  8. Tex*

    New year – new organizational system??

    I’m facing a massive information overload this coming year. I have 7 projects (I normally have 3 going concurrently) for different client organizations, each with 12-15 different sub-parts (let’s call these building size widgets), each widget needs not only client input (from multiple people on their team) but also expertise from 8 in house experts. I need to keep track of conversations and decisions made due to X reason. Input from one of the later experts can change the design of the widget and I am usually the point person to let them know. To complicate matters, there are usually Part A, B, C phases of the project. I can be working on Part C and can be called into a meeting to discuss decisions that were made in Part A a year before.

    My question – I keep good notes (handwritten), but I don’t often go back through them unless I am frantically looking for a certain conversation as I usually retain all the pertinent information. But this year is different. How to keep all this information organized and at the tip of my fingers? Keep notes and a separate decision log? Electronic notes that can be searchable with keywords? (keeping in mind that meetings usually cover multiple widgets) Write another summary of notes with key points only?

    On another note, I’m considering buying a Remarkable electronic handwriting pad to keep some of this organized. (I also have an office laptop but there are sometimes sketches involved). However, the reviews are mixed – that it’s just an electronic legal pad, there is no syncing compatibility with Microsoft Office, have to buy a yearly subscription.

    1. Dainty Lady*

      I really like Evernote, FWIW. You could type notes that are searchable and upload images of any sketches.

    2. Loredena*

      I love using OneNote for my project notes. In addition to my notes being searchable I can send emails and screenshots to it. Documents can be embedded or printed to a page.

      I have section groups or entire notebooks per project (use the desktop app to create section groups) snd then sections by category. Within that pages can even be made subpages don’t you can get seriously structured. I’ve even made page templates

      I used to use it to record meetings and it would synch my live notes with the recording. (Now my meetings are all in teams. This was in person workshops usually)

      1. Flower necklace*

        I’m a fan of OneNote, too. It’s very useful for having information on hand. I have a Rocketbook that syncs with it, although OneNote also also allows you to just scan in handwritten notes.

        1. Tea and Cake*

          I am also a OneNote fan, but only started using it two months ago. It’s been great to keep my notes and action items organized, but I’m not yet using it to its fullest. Are the scanned handwritten notes searchable?

    3. just another bureaucrat*

      I kind of hate to say this, but I’ve been using and loving OneNote. It’s search capacity is remarkably good, it will search inside images even. Not sure how you sort of organize your brain. I’ve got someone on my team who does all the notes by date because that’s how her brain works best. I do pretty well with project-sized things and then one overall OneNote. My team does a shared OneNote per project and then a couple of others out there. If I have them all open on my desktop I can search through all of them at once in case I forget where I put something. I think per widget would be too small of a structure, but per project would likely work.

      If you prefer handwritten notes I’d keep a different notebook for each project. Then something I’ve done for physical notes is I keep a bunch of stickies at the back of the notebook for things that come up in a meeting unrelated to the topic I was expecting and then just put those notes into the appropriate notebook.

      Good luck!

    4. Observer*

      Write another summary of notes with key points only?

      That for sure not. You’re taking on more complexity – the last thing you need is MORE, duplicative work.

      I prefer EverNote to OneNote, but I’d look into both, as well as some other options. I think that both of these allow you to do handwritten notes with some level of handwriting recognition. So, if actually writing vs typing is helpful for you a good tablet with a stylus or even a phone with a stylus could be useful. And because they allow you to file and tag this stuff, even when the handwriting recognition is not 100%, you can still get a very high level of search-ability.

    5. I exist*

      Sounds so complicated!
      I don’t think my suggestions will be overly helpful, but something that may help the handwritten to digital notes jump is if you have a device that can use google lens (or there may be an apple equivalent now?) that would convert your handwritten notes to text. Often needs a couple edits, but way faster than retyping. I’ve also been known to copy/paste emails about a policy change/etc. into a word doc when an important decision was made to keep track of in one space, instead of searching through emails. Then I also have the email details in case I want to pull up the whole thread.

    6. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      So, I’m a little crazy with notes and organization. Some suggestions:

      *Definitely go electronic with notes.
      *As otherd have suggested, modern notetaking programs allow handwritten notes, if that continues to be the best way for you to process meetings.
      *Start a doc or page for each project. Maybe make section headers for Part A, B, and C for easy access. After each meeting, take a few minutes to copy all of the notes for a project from that meeting to its respective page. That way, you have a master page of all notes regarding that project.
      *In your meeting notes, make a habit of flagging DECISIONS, ACTION ITEMS, and FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS. I like using all caps, line breaks, plus a highlight:

      …notes, notes, notes…

      DECISION: All TPS reports will now be routed through the Otter Cuddling department instead of the Pony Princess department.

      …notes, notes, notes…

      *At the end of each meeting, transfer all DECISIONS to the top of each project’s page/doc (with the date and who made the decision), grouping related decisions, especially those that contradict one another.
      *Transfer all of the follow-up questions and action items into a task management software (e.g. Microsoft Planner, Trello, Asana). These are nice because they allow you to see all tasks OR see tasks per project. Include a “miscellaneous” bucket for those tasks that don’t neatly fit into one project or any project. Keep the task “in progress” until it’s resolved (e.g., “Send request to the Pony Princess department for the Sonar Readings report” stays in progress until they send the report to you).

    7. alannaofdoom*

      Another vote here for OneNote, which I’ve used for the past 3+ years at work after switching from a series of notebooks. The search function is fantastic and I like the flexibility in setting up notebooks, sections / section groups, and tabs / tab groups. It also has good integration with Outlook and other Office products – my company only retains emails for 60 days so if I need to save something for longer than that, I can send it to OneNote with a click and sort it under whatever project it belongs to. You can paste links and shortcuts to documents, and create Outlook tasks from OneNote elements as well. Plenty of formatting options like bullets, highlights, checklists… At this point it’s basically a supplemental brain and I absolutely couldn’t function without it.

    8. drtheliz*

      Something that really helps me with handwritten notes is pseudo colour coding. I have six pens on my desk and every time I start a new topic/session I change colour. It means that when I’m flicking back I can tell where one thing ends and the next begins…

  9. cbh*

    I have an odd question. How would you handle this. I am in my mid 40s, live in the US. I took a “step back” in my career to be able to have more time and flexibility for my family. It has worked out wonderfully and to be honest I am going to keep things this way while my child is in school. I work for an amazing company. Any issues I have with my employer are more because of me not them. Anyway I’m not really looking but I’m in an let’s see what’s out there mode. In the past I’ve used an amazing recruiter when switching jobs but since I’m just looking I’m not ready to contact my resources.

    Here’s what I’m having trouble with. I work for a non profit, obviously the salaries are a little lower but the benefits are great. From the two interviews I had I think the companies are looking at me with great potential – I have a lot more experience than they require, they understand why I’m taking a step back, etc. My salary request is in line with market standards but a small raise (due to COVID and industry issues we haven’t had a raise in 3 years), I seem to be in line with what companies are looking for. Whenever I have switched jobs I have tried to make sure I am made whole in regards to compensation.

    THe thing is my current employer gives a mamouth amount of vacation time to compensate for the lower salaries. I mean from day one I had 5.5 weeks of vacation, 1 week sicktime and 10 days personal time. This is unheard of in the US. I am realistic that I won’t be getting 7 weeks of time off (in total) in a new job. When speaking with potential employers I explain my situation but say I am willing to negotiate down to 3-3.5 weeks vacation plus the new company’s standards for sick time and personal time. The 2 interviews I have had looked at me like I asked for a million dollars and a trip to the moon! I spoke with former mentors and they have all said I’m not asking a lot, I’m reasonable, have backup to my compesnation, industry standards, salary, time off.

    The vacation time, sick time and personal time is important to me. How do I emphasize this in the interview process without making it seem like I’m demanding unrealistic expectations? How do I do this early enough in the interviews that we’re not wasting anyone’s time?

      1. Cbh*

        Not much. Personal is usually someone taking off for errands or a one time event, vacation is a chunk of time. Most of the companies I’ve worked for just viewed it as time off, but company policies differ on how vacation time vs personal is paid out when you leave

      2. OtterB*

        My nonprofit lumps sick and personal time together, separate from vacation. Vacation is for a longer break, for renewal. Sick/personal is for things like going to a kid’s parent-teacher conference, renewing your driver’s license, other life administration, in addition to doctors appointments and times when you/a kid/ significant other are actually, y’know, sick. I have always liked this.

    1. Don’t comment often*

      Can you ask them about benefits during an initial interview (usually at the end when they ask if you have any other questions)? Ask them about their PTO setup first and go from there. I wouldn’t mention negotiating down to 3-3.5 weeks early on in the process if you don’t have an offer in hand.

      1. Cbh*

        I’ve only brought up the 3 weeks when it comes to talking about benefits- it’s not something I discuss right from the start.

        The two interviews I’ve had said I had great experience, would fit in etc but when I try to discuss vacation time they aren’t willing to compensate or negotiate the time off concerns

        1. River Otter*

          If they won’t negotiate, then you have to be prepared to accept less PTO or turn down the offer.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I don’t know what you’re telling an interviewer when you “explain your situation,” but it could be you’re explaining too much. If it were me I’d stick to something like, “Work-life balance is important to me, and my current compensation package reflects that.” They don’t need details about what work-life balance means to you. Interviewers really don’t want to hear about how you prioritize your family and your personal time; they want to hear about what you can do for them for the amount of money they are willing to pay you. Hammer your achievements and your effectiveness at your current position so that they understand what you can accomplish despite (as they see it) the vacation time you get.

      1. Cbh*

        I agree with all you say. I’m keeping it professional – ie not going into my reasons why. I’m just frustrated that when I get to the negotiating stage there doesn’t seem to be any room for discussing the time off aspect

        1. Blue Eagle*

          You are asking for way more time than other employees receive. The likely reason they are unwilling to give you all that time is that then they will have grumbling and bad feelings by the other employees who are not getting that much time off.

          Sorry but unless you are in the C suite, if you want not-for-profit time off then you probably need to stay at a not-for-profit and receive not-for-profit pay.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Well, sometimes it’s simply impossible for both parties to come to a mutually agreeable solution in a negotiation. You may need to manage your expectations as to what you will be successful at negotiating with these employers.

    3. OtterB*

      My limited experience has been that there’s little flex on things like sick leave where there are policies that apply to everyone. More room for negotiation on vacation, especially if they have a system where vacation time increases over time and you can make the case that you are coming in as an experienced person.

      1. Cheezmouser*

        At my company (private sector), there’s a standard number of PTO days depending on years of service, starting at 2 weeks vacation for new starters and going up to 4 weeks after 5 years of service. This seems pretty standard for corporate jobs, so asking for 3-3.5 weeks as a new employee plus sick days plus personal days (my company doesn’t offer any, just sick and vacation) might raise a few eyebrows.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Starting with 21-25 days PTO (combined days off for any reason or no reason) is relatively standard (but often regarded as generous) in corporate America. Companies that separate out vacation and sick days usually don’t have an additional “personal” day category — you are expected to take vacation days for that. But if I heard someone asking for “3-3.5 weeks vacation time, plus sick leave, plus personal days,” my brain would translate that to 21-25 vacation days, plus sick time, plus something more” — which might get me up to 35-40 PTO days and I would probably look at you like you had asked for a million dollars and a trip to the moon. Reframe your request in terms of “PTO days” and state it in terms of days (not weeks) — make sure that your request is calibrated to market and see how that goes over.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        PS — you mentioned “negotiating down” — keep in mind that from their perspective, you are probably negotiating UP to get the kind of PTO you want. Think of it this way — if someone came in to a job interview and told you they wanted a $250,000 for job that ordinarily pays $100,000, but they were willing to “negotiate down” to $120,000 — your reaction would probably be to show them the door. Instead state that work life balance is important to you and that PTO is an important part of the job, then ask them about their PTO and start the conversation from where THEY are — not where you are currently.

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          That’s my point. My brain does this: 1 week = 7 days x 3 = 21. I wouldn’t necessarily do the conversion to work days if someone phrased it as weeks, even though if I slowed down and thought it through that might be what they were trying to say. Which is why I suggest phrasing the discussion in terms of PTO days, not in terms of weeks.

    5. Public Sector Manager*

      Have you thought about the public sector at all? Granted, we don’t have as many amazing jobs as the nonprofit world (for mission’s sake) or the for profit world, but your PTO accruals are closer to what you are looking for. I’ve been with my agency for 16 years and my PTO is 27 days annual leave a year (if I elected sick leave and vacation, it would be 21 days vacation plus 6 days sick leave), which translates to 5.4 weeks of annual leave. We get 13 paid holidays on top of that, plus 3 personal holidays too. And a defined benefit pension plan on top of that.

      My wife just started a new job in August in the for profit world at a company that really treats their employees well. Even there, when she started, her vacation accrual is 13 paid holidays plus 3 weeks vacation (15 days vacation accruing monthly over the course of a year rather than starting with a bucket of hours).

      I think the thing to do is to go through the interview process, and ask what their PTO policy is. I’d wait to bring up what you’d like to see from PTO until they make you an offer. At the offer stage, you have a lot more leverage than early in the process. Disclose it too soon, and it just gives them a reason to say no. Granted, they may have no wiggle room, but if you’re the number 1 candidate at the offer stage by a mile, they may be more willing to meet you halfway on PTO.

    6. Green Goose*

      At my company (nonprofit) and my husband’s company (for profit) they have systems in place so that they cannot (or will not?) give new people additional days. My husband started at 10 days a year which was awful, but the company does not give an employee more days until they get to three years, no negotiation. I think it’s pretty similar at mine, though we start off with about 20 days and it can go up to 27.

      It’s super annoying because from what we see in the media, it seems like negotiating extra vacation days is pretty standard but I’ve never IRL seen someone successfully do that in the past five years.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It’s a bad policy because it makes it a lot harder to hire experienced people – unless those people always previously worked at places with the same policy. I used to work at a company that had this policy and the department heads used to (civilly) argue with the CEO that this policy was hurting their ability to hire. He staunchly felt amount of vacation was a reward for staying with the company. The rest of us staunchly felt if someone has a ton of experience, is coming from somewhere else that gave them 4 weeks, and they’ve had that much vacation for the last 10 years, they’re not going to be willing to drop down to 2 weeks to come work there.

      2. Cascadia*

        Yes, my job (non-profit) and my husband’s job (big big corporate) also don’t have any flexibility regarding PTO. They have set standard policies that apply to everyone based on time at the company. Perhaps you can negotiate that you should start higher up on the ladder, but you’re not going to negotiate off the entire ladder. At my non-profit, the absolute max is 20 days PTO + 12 days sick time +14 holidays. No one gets more than that, so to ask for more would be seen as being really out of touch. And we care a lot about equity, so the poo would hit the fan if it was found out that one person was getting way more PTO than everyone else – especially a new person. It sucks, but PTO is part of compensation, and for a lot of companies they set these bands deliberately and won’t budge so that they don’t end up with massive inequalities. I say this to confirm that some companies cannot/will not negotiate on this for legitimate reasons. I think your best bet is to look for companies/organizations that offer amazing benefits up front to everyone – they do exist, they’re just harder to find.

  10. Olive Snook*

    The person who would be managing the position for the time being wasn’t on the interview panel, which was another thing that kind of made me worry. I’ll get a chance to talk to her if I make it to the second round, but none of the people I got to speak with the first time were part of the team I’d be joining.

  11. Helpy New Year*

    Happy almost 2022 and Please Help! I’ve worked at my company for a very long time and have done great work. But for a long while I have been thinking that I’ve been here TOO long, and I’ve been ready to jump ship since a major letdown a few years ago, when I thought I was getting a salary increased but only my responsibilities increased and I also got some bigtime gaslighting for good measure. But I never take the next step from reading a job descriptions to tossing my hat in the ring because I have that problem that is talked about here a bunch: I get hung up on the job duties where I have no experience and talk myself into thinking I’m not qualified at all. I’m confident this experience is not one that is unique to me, so I’m sending out an SOS and hoping y’all can tell me how you pushed through it?

    1. Dino*

      Just doing it anyway. You can ask about those other duties in the interview. If they’re looking for someone with more experience with those already, you’ll sort it out during the application process and you’ll be no worse for wear.

    2. Talvi*

      This has definitely come up in the archives at least a couple of times — I’ll try to dig up a few links and put them in a separate reply.

      It’s easy to say and hard to do but… apply anyway. Worst case, you just get radio silence from them, which happens all the time when you are qualified for a job. All you really stand to lose is the time you spend writing a cover letter and tailoring your resume to the position. Besides, it can hard to tell from a job ad which job duties are absolutely essential and which are a wish list… and sometimes coming up short on what’s essential gets outweighed by other factors.

      In my case: My current job was looking for someone fluent in French. I’m… reasonably competent in French, but by no means fluent. There are tons of people far more experienced in my field and far more fluent than I am! French isn’t exactly an uncommon language to speak. I almost didn’t apply. I threw my hat in the wing a bit on a whim at the last minute (and spent a fraction of the time on my cover letter as I would for jobs I felt I was far more qualified for), and ended up getting the job. (As it happens, they were actually hiring specifically to serve the local French-speaking community, so language skills were very important to the position. But being willing to relocate to a relatively undesirable part of the country counts for a LOT. I found out about a year later that they’d already had multiple failed searches for this position before I even saw the job ad.)

      1. Talvi*


    3. A Girl Named Fred*

      Agreed with Dino that unfortunately the answer a lot of the time is just, “Throw your hat in and see what happens.” I totally get the desire to want to plan it better though! Something that does help me is to imagine how I would approach a particular duty even if I haven’t done it before. Sometimes during that process I go, “Oh wait, that’s actually really similar to how I tackled X task, maybe that skill is transferrable to this task after all!” And then, you either have the transferrable example ready in your mind for a cover letter and/or potential interview, or you’ve at least thought through how you’d approach it and can speak to that aspect instead.

      I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but you can do it! Good luck to you, and thanks for the chuckle from your username!

    4. irene adler*

      Sometimes the job description is drafted as a wish list of every possible thing they desire in a candidate, knowing that if they found 50%-75% of the skills asked for, they would be thrilled.

      Some of the jobs I have applied to have like 30+ requirements. Nobody could possibly have them all. When I interview, I learn that they are (1) looking to hire multiple people, each of whom have just a portion of the list of skills asked for; (2) concentrating on a subset of the listed skills. In all likelihood, a skill you lack is something they are perfectly willing to train you on. Or they admit during the interview that they don’t really need that particular skill. Of course, why none of this is spelled out in the job ad is beyond me.

    5. Astor*

      I pushed through it with outside support structures! I still needed to do it, but my therapist talked me down from my freakouts or my friends reviewed my resume / cover letter and told me what could be improved and what sounded great. Do you have anyone who could help you like this? If not, the open thread might still be useful! Do you think it would help if you told us about your experience and what job duties are making you think you’re not qualified, and we gave outsider feedback?

      But, yeah, unfortunately it’s still the kind of thing that I’ve had to figure out how to do until it’s become easier to do. Good luck!

    6. Cookie*

      My old boss Mr. McV used to say, “If you don’t ask, you know what the answer will be.” And my mom often says to me, “The worst thing they can say is ‘no.'” Bearing both of those things in mind, why not give it a shot. “No” isn’t the end of the world, it’s just an answer, and you go on to the next thing.

    7. Helpy New Year*

      Thanks for taking time to give feedback! I’d be hesitant to describe my specific role and my skills unrelated to my job because I think it all could be highly identifying, but I can say that it’s a combination of (1) the job description things that have me saying “sorry, HelpyNY, not you” are mostly related to required knowledge of programs I don’t know anything about (my work hasn’t even required Excel, so….) and (2) my work is the kind of work where “outcomes metrics” is a big stretch and so my resume follows that old-fashioned style of responsibilities (believe me, I’ve tried to revise for the current recommended style and it just doesn’t work), so I feel like those two things combined make me seem like an old, out-of-touch lifer. I know I’m being my own worst enemy but knowledge hasn’t been translating to power. Hopefully just saying all this “out loud” to AAM will help me get out of my own way.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I’m wondering if it would help to hire someone to help you rewrite your resume with more of an accomplishment focus. You say that it doesn’t work when you try to put it together that way, but there are people out there who specialize in writing compelling resumes. Good luck with your next step!

      2. Cheezmouser*

        If it’s technical skills like Excel or Word, you might want to consider taking a class or watching some tutorials to build your skills. Community colleges often have affordable classes too. Maybe gaining new skills will give you more confidence to apply.

        And keep in mind that critical thinking skills are much more valuable than technical skills. Think about what skills you do have. Maybe you don’t know Excel but you’ve kept the accounting books organized for 3 different divisions with zero errors. You can train someone to use Excel. It’s much harder to train someone to pay meticulous attention to detail, so I would rather hire someone who demonstrated these critical skills and train them on computer programs than the other way around.

    8. The Dogman*

      This might be better aimed at Alison perhaps?

      Write her a letter laying it all out and she will be able to help you get over the mental roadblock that is stopping you getting on!

      Not sure I have any direct advice apart from apply for a few jobs you like and see what happens… you can always say no to the interviews if

  12. MissGirl*

    I’m not sure if I can negotiate for an internal offer. I don’t feel like I have any leverage. I have no desire to stay in my department so I’ll take the offer but I’d love to go up a pay band. Honestly, I’d probably start job hunting in the spring/summer if I don’t get a bump. Anyone maneuvered through something similar?

    1. PollyQ*

      Your willingness to turn down the role and leave IS your leverage. You don’t need to say that right to their faces, but you know it’s true, and if they have any sense at all, they will too, since that’s the way jobs work. Go ahead and negotiate. If it works, great, and if it doesn’t, well, you’re thinking of leaving anyway.

  13. bookwisp*

    Had a small panic attack at work because we copy the checks we receive for our records and I left one on the copier and thought I lost it somehow. 9k gone in a flash. Anyone else have little mistakes like this?

    1. Gipsy Danger*

      Everyone makes little mistakes like this! I find these are the kinds of things I beat myself up about, because they’re the kinds of things only I notice, so I assume I’m the only one making them, but when I make a point of observing others, I notice everyone does this kind of stuff.

      I do notice that I make more of these types of silly mistakes when I am either overtired or overwhelmed.

      1. bookwisp*

        I will say I hadn’t had my coffee before doing this. It’s hard to remain objective with little mistakes like this because it feels like the end of the world when its happening. Your right though, we’re all human.

    2. TiredEmployee*

      I once deleted everyone’s phone numbers from the client portal because I made an error in a sql query. Thought it would be fine because they’re duplicated to our internal system, but the automated sync process wiped that before I could turn it off. My boss had to restore them from a database backup, after giving me a lift home because I had a full-on panic attack and he found me curled up, hyperventilating and crying in a meeting room.

      Now any time I (or anyone I’m training) mess up and panic, I point out that at least it’s not as bad as that time. Though accidentally sending a mail merge with the correct information but wrong names to 100 subscribed organisations was also pretty bad. Still, a handful of cockups among nearly five years of excellent work is a decent ratio.

      1. Anon for this*

        My company lets customers upload info to their pages on our site (think yelp or angie’s list), and one time we lost ALL of a specific kind of info. Just… that field blanked out for every single listing. And it was in s3 not sql so no one had set up any kind of reasonable backups because aws is the wild west. And the info we actually lost was more cumbersome for the user to recreate than opening hours or whatever actually exists on yelp. Oops!

      2. tangerineRose*

        Scary. My rule with SQL is to first write a “select * from…” statement, and if it selects the right data, change it to a “delete” or update if that’s what I need.

    3. PollyQ*

      Sure, everyone’s done something like that. (And even if you’d truly lost the check, the money wouldn’t be gone. You’d have to go through the embarrassing process of telling the sender that they’d need to void the check and send you a new one, less the bank fee, but the $9k wouldn’t have permanently vanished.)

    4. CSR by Day*

      In my work, we have this horribly convoluted procedure where we use a person’s social security number to verify their identity and we have to enter it into the computer. The problem is when we get a customer who calls in and who has multiple accounts that she or he wants us to check on and we have to reenter the verification information over and over. Our computer system isn’t really set up for such calls, although we get lots of them. And so, rather than asking the person for their social security number over and over I usually write it down in the notes and copy and paste the notes into each individual account record and then delete the social security number. Only, every once in a while, I forget and leave the customer’s social security number in the notes, which is a big no-no around here. It’s unlikely to cause any problems, but I could get dinged if it showed up in a randomly-selected case for quality review.

    5. usernames are anonymous*

      I once created the department’s annual budget using the previous year’s wage rates. We had switched to a brand new system which meant I was under by several million dollars in labor. Luckily I caught the mistake before I sent it anywhere but had a panic attack when I realised how close I came to sending it out to the management team.

    6. Anonymous Luddite*

      Ayup. It happens, friend. Happened to me once with a move-the-decimal sized check. All came out in the wash. I hope the next time, it goes smoother for you.

    7. just another bureaucrat*

      My favorite story was a coworker who long long ago worked at a big fancy telecom place when they were big before they were small before they were big. He lost over 2 million in what amounted to a typo. And actually lost.

      My own story is that I once took down the entire workflow engine for my my whole organization. Well over 10,000 people.

      I have been promoted 4 times since then.

      Everyone makes mistakes, not one yet has been the end of the world.

      That said to this day I make little mistakes and even when it’s small and I know it’s small I still occasionally have a meltdown over it. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. I know I’m more likely to make them when I haven’t eaten or slept well.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. I logged in 60k worth of merchandise that wasn’t real. My very cool boss fixed it all. And seeing how upset i was automatically understood I did not need a lecture. I thought it was over. But it wasn’t.

      A month later my boss’ numbers were skewed. Even though the error had only been in the computer for 45 minutes (the time it took to track down the boss and fix it), it still threw everything off for the entire month.
      The boss could not figure out why the numbers were so off until I reminded him of my 60k mistake. He checked and yep, that was right. This gem of a boss THANKED me for helping him find MY error. smh. All bosses should be this good.

    9. AdequateArchaeologist*

      When I worked as a printer I was going through a 3 part carbon copy form file to make sure it was all good before printing and noticed the resolution on the second page was really awful. So I had one of the designers replace it with a copy of another page and sent it through the printer.

      Apparently the second page had a different code on it from the others that wasn’t obvious on the proof print (3 part forms were stupidly convoluted with this particular machine). We had to toss the entire order because it also threw the rest of the pages out of whack. And it was a one day rush. $2k down the drain and I felt like an idiot for not not as it printed. Also had to rush order more carbon forms and tell a very annoyed customer that we messed up.

  14. Mimmy*

    I think I’ve gotten myself into a bit of a pickle and could use some (gentle) input: I am overeducated and underqualified. Apologies for the length!

    TL;DR – I’ve racked up a lot of education but am concerned about my limited work experience and my age as I prepare to finish my degree and find a job in my desired field.

    This spring, I will complete a second master’s degree. However, I don’t have a lot of full-time work experience. My resume does show a good amount of activity, but a lot of it is volunteer committee work. After talking with my sister yesterday, I now realize that I’m probably overcompensating for the difficulty I’ve had over the years in finding employment due to my disabilities. The second master’s is also a bit of a career shift. I’ll elaborate in a moment, but I want to preface it by saying that I’m being somewhat vague on purpose so as keep my anonymity as best as possible.

    My first master’s was in social work. However, the field as a whole seemed to be focused on clinical work (e.g., mental illness, working with children), which am not interested in. I’m interested in accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, and I saw very little of this in the social work field. After a long, long period of not being able to get my foot in the door anywhere (a lot of it was analysis paralysis but there were disability-related barriers too), I finally decided to pursue a long-held interest in higher education. So that is what my second master’s is in. It is a niche degree. I’ve also had some training in other related areas.

    Aside from a part-time state job (almost 5 years!) working with blind and visually impaired individuals and a nonprofit job many years ago providing Information & Referral, I don’t have a lot of related work experience (I’ve had other jobs, but they’re not related). I will have an internship this spring, which I think will help immensely.

    Still, I’m concerned about the optics. On the one hand, some may think I want to a director-level position; while I do want a professional level position, I am not ready to lead a department. I’m not even sure I want to be a “people” manager. On the other hand, I hope that I can effectively show that, while I don’t have a lot of paid experience, I can build on the skills and knowledge that I have developed, not just through school but also my current job. Again, I think my upcoming internship will be a big plus.

    Lastly, I worry about my age. I’m in my late 40s. I strongly believe you’re never too old to enter a new career, but I’m not sure hiring managers will agree. Having a disability AND being older could be a hindrance.

    1. The Internet*

      Honestly you sound like you might be a great fit for an organization like where I work. Without going too specific, we work with people with disabilities and their families from birth to end of life. No clinical work, mostly making sure people have access to systems and community. We hire at director level but with no requirement of employee supervision.
      Based on your experience and knowledge (and some of your terminology- knowing what an I & R is) have you looked into advocacy work for a disability organization?

      1. Mimmy*

        have you looked into advocacy work for a disability organization?

        A former classmate from my current program just got a job at a Center for Independent Living after not finding anything in the field we’re trying to enter, so the type of work you’re describing is definitely on my radar as a backup possibility. I also occasionally do informal presentations on the ADA (I have some training in this), so I’d consider something in that lane as well.

    2. Three Flowers*

      I had a somewhat similar experience: I have n MA/PhD as well as a master’s in a totally different field, and the career I have now benefits from both but isn’t directly connected to either.

      My advice:
      – do not follow the advice of career counselors who tell you to use a functional resume. I got nowhere with that—but offers from both applications where I used what was essentially a chronological resume with slightly tweaked headings
      – do not undervalue yourself! You have a unique background!
      – I am not deeply involved in disability services, but my work in higher ed is close to educational technology, and over the past two years, we have gotten *very* interested in technological accessibility. I expect that will stay relevant for online and hybrid education. You might look in that direction and aim to pick up some skills with accessible media and learning management systems if you don’t already have them.

      Good luck!! (And I was only a few years younger than you when I made this transition—you can do it!)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is kinda where I am. I’m overqualified for entry-level admin roles but underqualified for say, PM jobs. I suppose that’s why nobody hired me for subsistence jobs in OldCity.

      I can’t offer much advice since whatever I’m doing isn’t working (sigh), but it sounds like your internship will indeed help if it’s targeted to the kind of jobs you’re looking for. At the least, it will be a recent entry on your resume that shows the trajectory you’re on. I assume you’d be applying for lower-level positions? You could mention in your cover letters and your interviews that, rather than manage, you’re looking to expand your skillset.

    4. fueled by coffee*

      I think you’re selling yourself short on the “no work experience” front here! From your first few sentences, I was imagining two masters degrees and no actual employment. Instead, it sounds like your trajectory has been: nonprofit job > social work degree > ~5 years part-time state job > 2nd masters > internship, with some additional work experience in unrelated areas mixed in. Just focus on writing a strong cover letter along the lines you explained here: your experience in social work led you to realize you were actually passionate in accessibility/inclusion, so you took steps to build experience in that area and are now pursuing work in these areas.

      I don’t want to minimize the existence of ageism and ableism in hiring practices, but late 40s is still mid-career even in ageist minds, and while your masters will probably put you above entry-level positions, I don’t know that anyone will automatically assume that you’re looking for director-level jobs. Just explain in your cover letters why you are a great fit for the specific positions you are applying for and how those positions fit into your career goals.

    5. BRR*

      I would focus on crafting a really good cover letter that explains your interest in shifting careers and how your experience will transfer over.

      I’d also consider possibly leaving by our first masters off your resume.

    6. River Otter*

      You are in A similar experiential position to new PhD grads. Even with the internship, you would be looking for somewhat senior entry-level positions. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but essentially the entry level positions available to new graduates with advanced degrees or slightly senior to the positions available to new graduate with a bachelors degree. So that is how you should approach this. Having been someone who went back to school in a related but not the same field as previous schooling and then start a job in my late 40s, employers are likely to give the most weight to your most recent degree and treat the initial masters as interesting but not directly relevant. And yep, age will be A Thing, but it is not the only thing.
      If you are not already working with your soon to be Alma Mater’s career office, start working with them to find interviews. Recruiters who go to college campuses know they are getting entry-level people. That is what they are therefore. Having a small amount of work experience will not hurt you with those recruiters.
      Best of luck!

    7. Pam Adams*

      With a masters in higher education, you are lined up for being an academic advisor or other professional role in student services. Many campuses are increasing hiring for these positions. Disability resource support would be a great place for you.

      1. Blomma*

        Yes, I was a frequent flyer at my university’s disability support office and your education (and personal experience using such services) sounds like it could translate well to that setting.

    8. Tex*

      Say it’s a career pivot and look for large, corporate organizations that have Diversity and Inclusion positions in their HR depts. I’ve seen so many openings for that. (Seriously, look in the largest orgs, like the Nikes and Exxons of the world, search on LinkedIn). The job may not focus exclusively on disabilities (and may need you to address other issues such as race), but it would be a stepping stone to where you want to go in a rapidly changing field. What you have on your side is the the background to do this sort of work – it’s housed under HR but most HR people (who are not recent grads) don’t have more than a class or two to get acquainted with the topics and not much experience implementing it. This is a seriously in demand field at the moment.

  15. Libby A.*

    I’m looking for some advice about applying/ interviewing somewhere I’ve worked previously.

    In college, I had an internship that was meant to be 6 months and turned into 3 years of on and off full time and part time work. About 6 months before my graduation a position opened up and my boss and grandboss both went to bat to get HR to wait to hire me for it but because of the timing and HR policies, they hired someone else. It worked out that I was able to get a job doing basically the exact same thing at another company. Now, almost 3 years later, the person that was hired instead of me is leaving and my previous boss and grandboss reached out to me to apply for the position. After some thought, I think this is the right move for me for a lot of reasons but I’m nervous about the whole thing. I’m preparing for the process like I would if I was applying anywhere else but I’m wondering if anyone has any extra tips about applying or interviewing somewhere where (a) you’ve worked before or (b) they’ve asked you to apply?

    1. Cricket*

      This is awesome! The boss and grandboss clearly think highly of you. I have no actual advice, but go ahead and submit your application and let them know you’re looking forward to talking more! Best of luck.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Most important thing: don’t assume that everything is done the same way today as it was 3+ years ago. People come and go, laws change, policies change, new procedures and technology get introduced, companies re-organize.

      But you can use your knowledge from back then during the interview, especially if you know of things in the industry that have changed in the intervening time.

      For example, you could ask “I know you were scheduling the llama grooming with Acme Software tools; since Oracle introduced a product last year, have you looked at switching?”

      1. Talvi*

        Similarly, don’t assume they remember the details of your work on this project or that task. They might, but they might not! 3 years is a fair amount of time and you don’t want to sell yourself short by leaving something out because you figure they’d already be aware of it.

    3. Lizy*

      Go for it! Remember things may have changed, so don’t be cocky, but definitely I’d be more relaxed – less stilty language and more “oh hey yeah I remember when we worked on such-and-such project together”. I’ve been invited to apply back at a role once and although I had a formal interview, it was definitely a lot more “just want to make sure you’re still interested” type of a vibe. I was recently asked if I was interest in PT assistance at a prior job, too, which fell through for various reasons (not related to me), and for that one, I would not have had an interview.

      Good luck!

    4. LDN Layabout*

      Do you want to be doing the exact same thing you’ve been doing at the same level as when they wanted to hire you three years ago?

      You’re no longer entry level, in most professions. If it’s a lateral move, there’d have to be a hell of a lot of positives.

      1. Libby A.*

        This is great to think about but also made me realize I wasn’t very clear. The job I’m doing now is basically the exact same as my internship but different than the one they wanted to hire me for. So if I end up in this new position, my progression would look like this:

        1. Llama Grooming Intern at Company 1 (with expanded duties past what an intern would have due to being there so long, a position purely for college students)
        2. Llama Grooming Assistant at Company 2 (very, very similar to what I was doing as an intern, generally considered entry level in my industry)
        3. Llama Groomer at Company 1 (some overlapping duties and tasks with an entry level position but definitely not entry level, usually requires a graduate degree)

        So it’s definitely a step up in title and pay but also comes with a ton of other plusses from my perspective- a company size and atmosphere I prefer, a boss and team that I feel more comfortable advocating for myself with, a better balance of the job duties I enjoy, and more interesting and new projects.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          That seems like an all around win to me! Good luck and definitely throw your hat back into the ring.

          Even though you should be prepared for things to have changed/moved on, if there’s been not much turnover and the people in charge are mostly the same, it sounds good.

  16. CreepyPaper*

    We’re currently work from home because of the ‘rona here in the UK. My office is closed until further notice but those of us that have a key are allowed to go in ‘when necessary’.

    I think major construction work starting on the house that’s attached to mine counts as ‘when necessary’ but HR does not agree. I’ve tried to explain to them that hello, I live in a terrace (we’re the end of the terrace so only joined to one other house) and next door is literally being ripped to pieces so this will be NOISY and DISRUPTIVE and they’ll hear the noise on meeting calls.

    How do I pitch ‘construction work noise will send me potty’ to HR to get approval to come in? My only other option is to go to my parents place to work and that’s a hard no, they won’t leave me alone and will treat me like a teenager.

    1. WellRed*

      As someone who went into the office to avoid construction noise my question to you is, what does your manager say? Are there any specific examples you can cite as to impact on your ability to get work done? May I also suggest scheduling a call with HR while getting as close as possible to the noise?

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This! Just take all calls and meetings as close to the noise as possible and the problem will magically fix itself

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Live in an end terrace house in the Uk too and I can hear people next door cough and sneeze – construction work would be a nightmare!

      Suggestion: get your manager on your side. Explain to them that really, nobody could work with that level of racket going on and your only other alternative is coming to the office. Else the work will likely suffer (I can’t concentrate with bangbangbang drillbzzzzzz all day).

    3. Not A Manager*

      If you can’t get permission sooner, wait until the banging really starts, then bring your mic as close to the noise as possible. Call your HR and your manager and allow yourself to sound just as annoyed as you feel.

      1. WellRed*

        Even better if you can frequently interject “what?” “Can you repeat that?” Into that conversation.

    4. Observer*

      My only other option is to go to my parents place to work and that’s a hard no, they won’t leave me alone and will treat me like a teenager.

      Don’t even mentions this as an option. When you discuss this with HR, you need to focus on your house. If they ask “Don’t you have someplace else to go?” the answer is “NO”. No explanation of why or who you can’t go to, etc.

      If your work is meeting heavy, then you should point out that the construction noise will be disruptive to meetings.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        To be honest, this also sounds like an opportunity here to stand up for yourself. If you have no other choice but to go to your parents’ place to work, make sure when you ask, you let them know you’re coming to work, and have to concentrate on that.

        And then enforce that boundary. Either they’ll get it, or they’ll boot you, and either way, you’ll have an answer.

        1. CreepyPaper*

          My parents literally have no concept of boundaries. Well, no, that’s a little unfair. My MOTHER has no concept of boundaries. My dad does so hopefully he can hold her back if I have to resort to working in their house.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          That sounds like a lot of work, drama and opportunities for boundary blurring.
          Pushing for office work as the only real alternative seems like a better plan.

    5. TiredEmployee*

      I have no advice, only sympathy. We’re mid-terrace, next door on one side was recently sold and needs a complete renovation, and two doors down on the other was recently vacated and has been quite thoroughly gutted. I fear my future is all construction all the time.

      1. CreepyPaper*

        You absolutely have my sympathy! We also live under the flight path of a major airport and yet somehow the aircraft coming in to land is less disruptive to working at home than any construction work that has happened in our terrace in the ten years we’ve lived there. And my colleagues are now used to the sound of aircraft engines in the background of Zoom calls. I find the aircraft sounds almost soothing and you can set your watch by them too.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It could be just me. But my solution would be to set a phone appointment with HR during the noisiest times at the construction site. Tell them you need to talk in person and can you call around X time- right when the jackhammers are running full bore.

      I think that will fix your problem.

      1. CreepyPaper*

        I am absolutely going to have to do this aren’t I? I don’t want to rile HR and I have this nasty feeling that they’re going to argue that I just need to suck it up.

        Construction starts 4th January so we’ll see.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          This is a lot to take on by yourself. Can you get your manager to advocate for you with HR?

    7. pancakes*

      Did HR ever circulate an email or a memo about what is and isn’t considered a “necessary” reason to go in? If you have something like that to refer back to, see if you can mirror the language for one of the reasons.

      1. CreepyPaper*

        Yes, necessary is ‘you cannot perform your job duties at home’ and the example given was that your remote connection didn’t work. I asked them directly about the construction noise and they said ‘you can still work, therefore it’s not necessary for you to come in.’

        That’s what’s ticking me off, I can’t perform my job duties while next door is like battlefield levels of noise but our HR is notoriously populated by jobsworths who will not bend.

        1. Never Nicky*

          “Oh dear I don’t know how it happened but looks like the building work has damaged the telecoms cabling…”

          Probably not a good idea. But the spirit of the guidance is that you may work away from home if doing so would affect your mental well-being. Could that be an approach? (My partner is the sole person in his office for this reason, global HR weren’t keen but his manager backed him)

        2. pancakes*

          Ugh. They’re not being reasonable if you can’t work at home because you can’t concentrate with all the noise! The idea of calling in at a particularly noisy time can’t hurt. Good luck.

  17. rr*

    Has anybody who was forced to return to the office been sent to wfh again? Or are your companies holding firm? Is it ok again to tell places you ‘ve applied with that a reason you’re leaving is because of your employer’s covid policies or lack of them?

    1. Cricket*

      I think you could definitely mention COVID risk as a reason for changing jobs. As with anything, you wouldn’t want to blast your former employer, but instead frame it something like “I am looking for an opportunity where strong COVID precautions are in place. I was uncomfortable working in-person at my previous role because masking and distancing were not required.”

      Good luck!

    2. The Other Dawn*

      We’re currently reducing our in-office presence, but they’re not allowing us 100% WFH. We have enough room to distance, though, and some people have an office.

    3. Cricket*

      Two more thoughts:

      – ask them open ended questions about their COVID policies. Remember, you’re interviewing them!

      – focus on how you’re a good fit for the new job, not just that you’re running away from an unsafe work environment.

    4. Quick Chat*

      We came back “full time” in July 2020. Masks became optional as soon as the federal
      Government relaxed its requirement. Executives announced they will comply with a federal vaccine mandate only when all state appeals have been denied. Hope my family gets workers comp when I die from catching COVID in the office.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Definitely ask what a place’s Covid strategies are like at interview, or beforehand, and I think it’s totally ok to say you left somewhere because they had a lax attitude to safety.

      I was adamant, still am, that anywhere I worked HAD to have masks, distancing, people vaccinated as soon as they became available and I did cancel an interview because I found out they were not going to wear masks and thought that vaccines were ‘government poison’. Hoo boy.

      To answer your first question: my job by necessity requires me to be on site some of the time but other departments in the office were starting to return – and then the UK got swept off it’s feet again by rising Covid numbers and some of them are allowing their staff to return home.

      I try to do my bit by ensuring my staff are fully compliant with safety regulations and do everything they can to reduce the risk of passing on Covid (get vaccinated, wear masks on site etc.). I also will fire anyone who comes out with antivaxx stuff.

    6. Mimmy*

      I work part-time for the state. We were fully in-person for the past couple of months (after being hybrid for a while); now we’re back to hybrid at least through next week. We’re also reverting back to 100% virtual programming at least for next week after resuming some in-person programming in November (first time in over 18 months!). This has been disruptive for us because we’ve had to change how we deliver programming for our students. I can only imagine how confusing it is for them. We’re hoping this will only be for next week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets extended given the predictions of how much more COVID case numbers could rise in January.

      On the one hand, I applaud my state for enacting policies in an effort to curb the spread of the latest variant. However, as I said above, it has been disruptive, and I think it’s also been very confusing for instructional staff, myself included. I definitely want future employers to take COVID as seriously as our state government has, but personally, I’d much rather have a role where my ability to do my job isn’t significantly impacted by ever-changing workplace policies.

  18. Three Flowers*

    I have a relatively low-grade stressful situation and I’d love some advice!

    I am part of a department of three FT staff in a higher ed context (we also have some faculty affiliates and student workers, but they’re only peripherally relevant to my question): our manager and two project-focused specialists with niche skills whose work overlaps somewhat but not entirely. I’m one of the specialists; the other, who has been at the institution many years longer than me or my manager, is currently on leave for at least several weeks, possibly several months.

    This person went on leave suddenly, leaving me and my boss scrambling to figure out the status of their projects for YE. The situation we found was…not the greatest on nearly every front, and we had to determine what to complete or cover and what to table. I rearranged some of my own projects to help with this, which is mildly annoying but not a long-term problem for my workload. My manager, on the other hand, already had a huge workload, now compounded by trying to find temp coverage for my coworker and ensure our outward-facing reputation stays great while we are understaffed.

    My question is how to help the boss pass along some of this stuff (where appropriate). I have a lot of experience from work in another field that means I can do a significant array of project and operations management work, which had been slated to be turned over to my coworker but then COVID changed our work. My boss has been extremely diligent and kind about shielding me and my now-absent coworker from surprise demands from outside our office and maintaining a reasonable workload for us. But they are now in the office after hours (like, *very* after hours) regularly, and it would not be a burden on me to take on some tasks that are suited to my skill set. I think it would be a lot less stressful for my boss (and would actually further some of my own future goals).

    Tl;dr – how do you get your boss to delegate on a short-term basis when they are trying to protect your work-life balance more than is necessary and stressing themself out in the process?

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      Oh, I hear you on this. I am in higher ed also and have been in your boss’s situation. The first time I dealt with unexpected leaves I kept everything too close. I also wanted to not overburden the remaining folks. After a while I became the bottleneck and was in danger of harming the great reputation of the program I’d worked so hard to create.

      I bet your boss would respond well to an argument around how pitching in more gives you valuable professional experience. You could start small and then expand to more work if needed and if the leave gets extended.

      It was impossible to plan in this situation, but it is worth noting that something that might work for 6 weeks as an emergency measure (say, Camelid Coordinator picks up all slack and fills in all gaps because she knows the most about what is going on) does not work when the situation continues for months on end.

      I am glad your boss could get a temp! It took me two weeks to find one and two weeks for the temp to move on (which she regretted, but still). I am very glad I keep looking for someone even though the leave was supposed to end at 6 weeks because it kept getting extended. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  19. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Many thanks to everyone who replied to my query regarding not bringing my meds into work because another member of staff has an addiction to them.

    I’ve set up a laptop, software, VPN etc. (I’m the IT manager) for that member of staff with the agreement of their boss so they can work from home during the worst of recovery (and all my sympathies – I’ve been through it myself and oh man…) thus not needing to face temptation in the office and everyone can continue bringing in their meds if they need them.

    Additionally, I asked quite a while back for opinion on someone in HR saying I gave off a ‘threatening’ appearance and I did go back and ask for specifics thanks to the suggestions. Some were things I could action (I’m really, REALLY tall so standing up I tower over everyone- so I sit down more now) but some of it I can’t (I’m obese, and thus take up a lot of room – I agree it can feel intimidating to have someone really big talk to you but I can’t change this). The rest was, sadly, ‘anonymous feedback’ about my voice being overly confident.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      ‘anonymous feedback’ about my voice being overly confident

      Ugh, that sounds very sexist tone-policing.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Got it in one! the HR bod tried to tell me to raise it up an octave or two and make it ‘softer’. Ain’t gonna happen. Especially not since I regularly go to engineering sites where men bellow at each other.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            It does and thank you :)

            I’m just going to pretend that they didn’t say all the stuff that pissed me off. So I don’t see in the new year (it’s around 9pm here in the uk) really really annoyed.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          Your HR person needs remedial training on how not to be sexist. What a load of crap – advising you to adjust your voice to a higher octave.

        2. Librarian of Shield*

          This is especially hilarious (aka infuriating) to me because I’m a soprano, and when I started taking on leadership roles I was advised to lower the pitch of my voice to make myself seem more authoritative.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I had to have speech therapy years and years ago due to having a really severe stammer – when I speak in my usual low octave tone I find it easier to not mess up my words. Ask me to change it and the stammer comes back.

            Probably why I’m such a godawful singer!

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        Not just sexist, Elizabeth. I get the same damn thing as a black man if I even dare to disagree with anyone in the office… so I got pushed out of that project and am staffing another. We’ll see how it goes.

    2. the cat's ass*

      Thank you for the update re the med situation, Keymaster. This was handled with empathy and compassion.

      Being a fellow big tall loud woman, i really enjoy being perceived as threatening at times, especially if someone is giving front office staff a bad time. I whip around the corner and loom and things kind of…stop. How sexist and cowardly of the anonymous feedback person(s), though. If we were men, we’d be seen as forceful and have leadership qualities (rolls eyes).

      Happy New Year!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve certainly loomed over people who decide it’s a great idea to come harass my staff as to why their computer hasn’t been fixed yet! Although I think my walking stick scares them more.

        I can make it dance over my knuckles ;)

      2. Anon for this comment*

        As a short, gray-haired, and somewhat rotund woman, I am envious of your ability to whip around the corner and loom until misbehavior … stops.
        On the other hand, I can sometimes leverage my gray hair to intimidate misbehaving youngsters. And theoretically it could be helpful to resemble a sweet old lady. Not that I would ever do anything terrible, but it’s nice to know that one could hurl a ferocious question from behind the granny mask.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        If you were -white- men, you’d be seen as forceful and have leadership qualities. The rest of us just get told not to get ‘uppity’

    3. Dr. Doll*

      What. Your *voice* being overly confident. Oh, FFS.

      Good on you for asking for specifics and being willing to change the thing you can reasonably change. Bad on them for being, gee, douchecanoes, for taking anonymous sexist crap seriously.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Sounds like the “Karen” who accused me (not to my face, to my bosses at the time) of being bullying and intimidating because I stood up for myself as far as proper procedures for securing databases (I was the DBA). I’m a black man, and if I don’t just ‘shut up and color’, I’m automatically being a bully….. *smdh*. sorry you’re going through this.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Bloody hell, I had the exact same accusation levelled against me for the same reasons back when I was a DBA (no, Sheila, I’m not going to give you admin access and twenty minutes making stuff up in MS Access does not equate to a database expert).

            Something about having the highest access to a system really tends to be an arsehole magnet doesn’t it?

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          A manager no less! Why would they ever need to look competent and in control of their job responsibilities?
          Next thing you know she’ll be levelheaded in a crisis or make us look good to the clients! The horror!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve also worn shoes with smaller heels than I usually have these days. While I love my stilleto heels I can understand that adding 6 inches to my height probably didn’t help.

        1. RagingADHD*

          How do you manage such high heels when you also need a stick? I can barely cope with a 2 inch wedge anymore, and I fortunately don’t need a mobility aid (yet).

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Longer stick basically!

            I’ve worn heels for so long that I can’t wear flat shoes at all anymore. Additionally, because of where the fractures in my spine are, I find that the posture high heels force on you is actually less painful than lower shoes.

            I have an absolutely wicked pair of green fluorescent zombie 6 inch heels that I’ve worn to work in the past..

    4. Chaordic One*

      Well, it seems like your main problem with the co-worker is working out. You might not find this very helpful, but when I hear “overly confident” I perceive that as being synonymous with being “arrogant,” or perhaps being something of a “know-it-all,” but that’s just me. Under the circumstances, HR probably should not have conveyed this to you, since they don’t really seem to know what context this criticism is made in. Perhaps when they revealed it, they were hoping you’d know what context it was made in? Lacking information about the context in which the criticism was made, just ignore it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Personally I think they’re passing on a complaint from the department that sits near mine. There’s a few people there who have called me a ‘know it all’ so it might be related.

        Thing is, I work IT. It’s kinda my job to know things.

    5. Scotlibrarian*

      I can’t believe that being tall and obese is ‘threatening’. I’m 5ft, everyone is taller than me. I do not find everyone threatening. That’s so much rubbish. And also, your voice is ‘overconfident’! Wtf. How strange, and coincidental that you are a woman being given this nonsense feedback /s. Sounds like men at your work are ‘threatened ‘ because you do good work and speak confidently. Bloody tone policing really hacks me off. Also, well done on helping out the other employee. Hopefully thinks work out well for them

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I really hope they’re doing ok. I came off a very strong opiate several years ago and the withdrawal is nothing to be sneezed at. It’s a very harsh process involving being unable to sleep, cold sweats, muscle aches and random shaking, cold sweat everywhere…

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      The “overly confident voice” feedback is absolute sexist nonsense. Screw them.
      I am glad you managed to find a workaround for the medication issue. Here’s hoping that you have to deal with a lot less HR nonsense in 2022.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      About 10 plus years ago, I realized that tall men have to be cognizant of what they are doing more so than say- average height men. I was at a meeting. The lead was a tall guy. The meeting got tense because of an issue. Not thinking, the tall lead stood up to adjust his clothing. (We had been sitting for quite a while.) Others in the room gasped out loud. They thought the tall lead was going to punch the argumentative person. No, he was adjusting his clothing and totally oblivious to assumptions people were making.
      It wasn’t right, nor fair. The assumption was just because he was a big person, he was standing up in prep to punch the person with the opposing perspective.

      I learned a lot about the people in the room with me. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people can feel vulnerable. I guess that is in part because I am working on my own weaknesses and not thinking about other people having their own full set. While I agree and see the sexism in the comments, labeling the comments as sexist or whatever, doesn’t change much. I’d be curious how many people said these things out of the group. Numbers tell a story. I’d be very surprised if it was more than three people. Very surprised. If your group is smaller than 20 people, then I’d be surprised if it was more than one or two people.

      I think one thing you can do is push back with HR. You can ask HR how they handle that if someone indicates fear but has no specific complaint to report. If someone comes to HR saying they are afraid of you (or anyone else for that matter), then HR can 1) tell them that you get along with everyone and there has never been an issue and 2) go over the reporting system if the complainant ever has a problem with anyone.
      People who feel vulnerable for whatever reason can gain some traction on their concerns by knowing what can be done if there is a real problem. It’s also empowering to know what types of behaviors are reportable. People have such a hard time describing behaviors and their complaints can end up sounding fuzzy and vague.

      I think the comments were made anonymously? However, if HR did speak to these people and did not say anything- then I’d be looking sideways at HR. I hope that time is kind to you here and these types of remarks vanish.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I once read a story about a man who had been a successful college and professional athlete and was extremely tall and muscular. He found, to his dismay, that his appearance was intimidating to many other people including his customers and the people he supervised. (Personally, I’m impressed that he had enough awareness to recognize this.)

        He developed (some questionable) coping mechanisms to make himself appear less intimidating that included things like limping at times and faking old sports injuries and (this is my favorite), upon meeting people for the first time, he would get up while carrying a file folder full of papers which he would purposely drop and scatter all over when reaching to shake hands. People felt sorry for him, being so clumsy, and would help him pick up the papers. It did make him seem a bit less intimidating.

    8. Public Sector Manager*

      What the actual deuce?!? A threatening appearance? An overly confident voice? Sigh. Your HR sounds mental. My wife is from Ireland, feisty as hell, 6′ tall but loves 3″ heels from time to time, and no one has said those things to her ever.

      I say keep calm and tower on! HR can really get bent in this situation.

      Best of luck navigating all of this!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Usually they’re ok, if a little heavy handed, so this did surprise me! Maybe it was just that one HR bod who’s got a grudge against me for some reason.

        If they start on this crud again I think I’ll speak to their manager about their offensive attitude. Was tempted to put any and all future calls from them in the ‘don’t bother fixing this unless you literally run out of work, user is a bellend’ queue but, alas, professionalism prevails again ;)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sadly, I would be surprised if there was any on-going grudge there. I think it’s probably more like total lack of awareness and/or inability to figure out what to say in response.

          I am sorry to say, but many of these problems can happen because work is needed on a remedial level, such as teaching people what to say in these instances. At one job, I was routinely tossed curve balls and caught without the proper response. Because the moment had passed, I could not fix that particular instance however, I could prepare myself so that I handled it better in the future. I am not saying it’s right, but what I am saying is that the brain drain at some jobs can leave people unarmed and off-guard. The best I could do was not to make the same mistake twice.

          Older me has listened to too much bs, so now I would be able to tell the person, “So you are intimidated by OP because of her height? You know she can’t make herself shorter, right? So that means it’s up to you to find ways to reframe this whole thing and maintain a positive working relationship with OP. Now what steps do you think you can take to reframe that intimidation you are feeling?”
          This could include talking about feelings vs reality and talking about stereotyping. If nothing worked my last attempt would be to point out that part of what we are compensated for is our willingness to get along with others. Then I would say, “I have tried to help you find a path here but I realize what might sound solid to me does not click with other people. This means you will have to continue to develop ideas on your own to build that path.”

    9. Calamity Janine*

      sympathy from another tall and large woman here. right in the body image issues there – what absolute abominable soggy lampshades hr is!

      the only thoughts i have about what to do are bad. however you get them anyway as a source of amusement: collect and begin wearing the most absurd, glittery, floofy, silly headbands you can find in order to show you are nonthreatening.

      it’s hard to be menacing in a pair of light-up deelieboppers, after all…

    10. Chauncy Gardener*

      Your HR person sounds like a sexist moron. I can’t believe they didn’t nip these comments in the bud when they were told to them, never mind pass them along to you.

  20. Tabs*

    In your opinion, can the desire to learn and be challenged be developed in an employee? Or is it something innate?

    This was a discussion I had with my boss a couple weeks back. We were discussing the state of various departments and she asked me if I thought an employee can be developed into someone who wants to learn more and be challenged, without the immediate attitude of “what’s in it for me right now?” We’re not talking about adding a huge amount of work to someone’s workload permanently. It’s more like learning how to do tasks that are outside of their job description for cross training purposes (for emergencies, not a permanent job description change). Things that will make them into a more well-rounded employee, increase their knowledge–things that might enhance their resume if they move on.

    I feel it’s mostly innate. In all my years at various companies at varying levels, I’ve never seen someone who has the “it’s not my job” attitude eventually be eager to take on a challenge or learn a task to simply increase their knowledge and skills.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I agree that it’s mostly innate and not something that can just be developed. However, I think that it can also be job specific – someone may be like that in one job, but not another due to interest in the job, life circumstances, etc.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I tend to agree with you. If someone has no interest in broadening their knowledge there’s very little you can do to change that.

      However, there is one very, very specific situation where we did manage to change someone: we were able to show them concrete benefits to learning stuff outside their job description – stuff like ‘you can get moved up a pay band, get more money, have greater flexibility in your hours’ etc and that person did then put in a lot of work learning a specific technology (SQL in this case) on their own. But if we hadn’t been able to show the benefits it wouldn’t have worked – also if we actually couldn’t give them a pay rise after learning that stuff.

      If we’d tried ‘it’ll look good on your CV’ we wouldn’t have got anywhere either.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think the older somebody is – and I don’t necessarily mean chronological age, it’s more often years in the same position or company – the harder it is to change somebody. Habits get set, some people see nothing but their retirement date.

    4. PollyQ*

      I think it’s the kind of thing a parent might instill in a child throughout their youth, and perhaps something a young adult might grow to appreciate with a little age and wisdom. But I doubt there’s much a boss can do to instill the value of it in an employee. The best option is probably to make it a corporate value and/or requirement of the role. I used to work at a company that offered tons of internal classes and required up to get 40 hours/year of education.

      1. Tabs*

        Yes, I would like to put in our job descriptions “a willingness to cross train others and be cross trained.” We had something to that effect at my previous company and it was just expected of everyone.

        1. PollyQ*

          I wouldn’t even say “willingness”. Just include giving & receiving cross-training as the requirement.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, we have this as a part of our performance evaluations. I have a coworker with the same job description, so we cover for each other’s absences and this hasn’t really come up, but the rest of the team has more varied job descriptions, and for them it’s definitely a thing.

    5. DistantAudacity*

      Hm. Maybe it’s a bit self-selecting, but at OldJob this was a strong part of the culture and very obviously expected of everyone, like *of course you learn more and seek challenges in different directions*. Sligthly less where I am now, but still.

      So it was treated and coached and managed as routine that you would do this (e.g. How you handled a problem as an entry-level («tell someone!») vs levels of experience («have a solution»). Also different tasks/roles/whatever.

      But of course, if you absolutely did not want do do this, you wouldn’t be there in the first place.

      But still, the culture around it driving it and normalizing it is important, I think.

      1. Tabs*

        I know people at the top talk about a culture of learning and growing, but there’s nothing in our job descriptions nor any items in performance reviews that speak to this expectation. My previous company had it in all their job descriptions as a willingness to cross train others and be cross trained, and it was hard coded into every performance review. Thus no one tended to have the “it’s not my job” attitude. If they did, they didn’t last.

    6. Observer*

      I feel it’s mostly innate. In all my years at various companies at varying levels, I’ve never seen someone who has the “it’s not my job” attitude eventually be eager to take on a challenge or learn a task to simply increase their knowledge and skills.

      It’s not necessarily innate. The fact that you’ve never seen that change means nothing. Some people are like that at work, but not in their personal lives. Some people are like that at work because it makes sense to be that way. And, yes, some people are that way because they can’t get past some very narrow boundaries. But for the most part, mostly I see it being related to #2 – it just makes sense.

      Think about this – you needed to immediately caveat your question with the idea that “it’s not adding a huge amount of work to someone’s workload PERMANENTLY.” Because so often, in so many jobs that is EXACTLY what happens, regardless of the what the boss says. Also, maybe even if the extra load is “temporary” it’s still a really big ask. There are plenty of people who would be interested in learning a new skill, but at what cost? If you’re talking about, say adding 10 hours a week of work “temporarily”, that’s going to get you a flat “No. Not my job, not happening” from a LOT of people, unless it REALLY is maybe two weeks.

      1. Tabs*

        No, it’s not 10 hours a week of work. We’re talking learning a task that takes, for example, maybe 20 minutes a day and doing it for a few weeks to learn it, then letting the primary person go back to it. The second person would jump in as needed if that person is absent. They might also do it here and there just to refresh themselves on it.

        1. allathian*

          Then you need to set up performance-related requirements to get people to cross train. They don’t have to like it, as long as they do it. You seem very sold on the idea that they should want to do it “for their own good”, but that’s simply not realistic.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Bingo. It does not matter if they want to or if they are enthusiastic or whatever. “Here, you need to learn this. It’s now part of your job to be back up for Bob.”
            Done. Over.
            them: “But-but-but…”
            Boss: “Sorry not optional, not up for debate.”

            For myself, I don’t care what I do during the day. It all works into a day’s pay. HOWEVER, if someone wants me to do a task that I seldom do, then the instructions need to be written down. I can make my own notes as someone shows me the steps.
            But you know, I had one foolish boss that said, “I am not going to wait for you to write down each step.” Well it was a 2 hour task with at least 32 steps… that I did not write down. Guess what happened next.

            But honestly, I don’t even see why there is any concern about innate vs learned. That has no bearing on filling the requirements of a job. Being able to cover another person’s tasks is a job requirement for your organization, period.

            1. allathian*

              Ugh, what a boss. Did you ask them for instructions step by step? Or just do it and let the chips fall where they may?

              I need instructions in writing, period. Preferably given in writing (which I thankfully usually get), or at the very least, letting me write things down. I could never work for a manager who processes things verbally and who expects me to do the same.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                He did show me the process step by step but he did not wait for me to write each step down. I wrote as fast as I could and as much as I could. I tried to fill in with more words later when he was not looking. It was one of the top worst trainings I have ever received in my life.

                He ended up “letting” me do half the process and he would complete it at a different time. I felt like crap about myself and started asking others to fill in my gaps. The next hurdle was everyone had different answers. So I narrowed it down to asking one person who really had only company blood in their blood vessels. This person was all about the company. I followed her advice, figuring she was probably the most accurate. Until I got my act together the chips had to fall where ever they fell.

                Over a period of months (because I only did this task once a week or less) I finished writing out the instructions. I did this on my own time at home. I typed them up and saved the file on my computer. The instructions were two pages long. I ended up giving the instructions to new hires so they would not be screwed as badly as I was.

                It wasn’t just me who struggled. A majority of the employees were either in tears or near tears trying to understand how to do this task. As time went on, I trained new hires behind the boss’ back to do the task by giving them segments of the task. Not only was it a lot of steps but it took mental stamina to stay on track for the two hours it took to do the task. Struggling to complete one step could derail a person’s ability to do the rest of the steps.

                Fast paced work places don’t write things down- because the pace is too fast. There’s no time. But here the company culture was, “We are fast paced.” and they actually weren’t that fast paced. I have worked for brutally fast workplaces and this company was IMO moderately paced. I could not say that out loud because it got people PO’ed. There was no need to make this task so freakin’ hard and obscure.

                I lasted a few years then I left. They burned through so much help in the time I was there, what a waste of company resources.

                1. allathian*

                  Thanks for the explanation. I’m a slow and thorough thinker, and I wouldn’t last long in a fast-paced environment.

    7. pancakes*

      Neither. This can be developed, but the impulse to do so would almost certainly have to come from the person themself or someone influential in their personal life, not an employer.

    8. allathian*

      I think finding pleasure in learning for its own sake is largely innate. Some people will never, ever be motivated to do anything unless there’s something in it for them. Ideally, cross-training would be a core value of the employer, and a key vision in the company strategy. Most people are willing to learn when there’s an external motivator for doing so, you need to set up that motivator to get them on board.

      Some people will never do anything without thinking what’s in it for them right now, and I don’t think that’s something you can change.

      That said, it can also depend on what’s happening in the person’s life outside of work. If you’re a working parent with small children, perhaps with special needs, at home, and you’re going through a crisis in your relationship, I bet that most people won’t have the spoons to do anything they absolutely don’t have to do.

    9. Diatryma*

      I have a very strong Not My Job boundary because otherwise, my job would eat my alive and not in a useful way– if I could sacrifice myself to, say, decrease everyone’s workload a significant amount in the long term, sure, I’ll consider that, but I had a trainee ask me how I know when to go home when there’s still so much to do, and I basically said to go home on time. For me, this is a survival thing. I’m not paid enough to take on extra tasks right now. In past jobs, where employees weren’t so close to the bone on a regular and permanent basis, I’ve happily taken on more.

      You specify that this is for emergencies only, which is good, but consider reframing it as part of the transational nature of work in general. What’s in it for me right now? Someone has to learn this, your boss tells you to, you don’t have to like it or actually want to do it ‘for the resume’ or ‘for the company’ or ‘for the nebulous moral good of learning more’, just do it. Yeah, if you have two employees and one seeks out cross-training as a source of personal satisfaction, that keeps you from having to tell someone to do it, but it doesn’t make one employee morally superior to the other. You’re just seeing them at work, which isn’t their entire lives.

    10. Msnotmrs*

      I feel like I didn’t have a desire to achieve at work until I was about 30. I don’t know why. It’s like a switch flipped on. So for some people, maybe it’s a maturity level thing, or related to mental health, etc?

    11. Cacofonix*

      It’s not necessarily innate. But it does take a good leader to understand what motivates an employee. I knew an inspiring leader that motivated people into getting excited by the tasks, training, and projects she assigned. Sometimes we employees would look at each other and laugh about how easily we got turned on to a bunch of extra work we wouldn’t have done so eagerly in another setting. But we were tuned in to the big picture, were rewarded, learned a ton, and our careers grew well. People we thought were lackadaisical did great work, and others left or complained because it wasn’t for them. It’s a balance between the right employee who needs a push and an innovative leader.

    12. Chaordic One*

      I know you say that you’re not talking about adding a huge amount of work to someone’s workload permanently, but that can easily become a slippery slope where that someone ends up having a surprisingly large amount of work added onto their workload, so I can understand their reluctance to take on this kind of work.

    13. RagingADHD*

      There’s a major difference of perception going on here -abstract vs concrete. That often is an innate difference in thought process. So innate, that you don’t even see the concrete thought process as equally valid to your own.

      You view “being a good employee” and “learning job skills” as valuable and positive in an abstract way. Your employee views them as a means to a concrete end. The concepts themselves have no inherent value.

      So in practical terms, what actually is in it for them? How is this training going to make the employee’s work life better in a tangible way?

      If cross training means everyone gets better coverage when they’re out, without a backlog of work to dig through, that’s a concrete reason. I’d encourage you to think of others, because you will never be able to motivate employees if you don’t respect their values and perceptions.

      Beyond their immediate work life, you can also motivate a concrete thinker by showing how an action will help them achieve their personal goals.

      Most people want to learn and grow in areas that are personally significant to them, things they care about. For many people that area includes their career. For many others, work is the thing they do to support the things they care about more.

      If your employee’s heart is elsewhere, you aren’t going to change that by encouraging them to be “well rounded”. You have to show them how it helps them further the goals they are working toward in their own life.

      If there is an incentive to learning these skills, like the potential for more pay, overtime pay, or career growth, then that might help.

      Don’t write your employees off just because they see the world and the job differently than you do.

    14. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t necessarily think it’s innate, but I do think if someone managed to get through their early 20s without developing it, they’re extremely unlikely to do so after that point. Like if you were talking high school or college student intern, it may be possible to develop – still not super common, but possible. After that though, I think there’s no Scrooge-level lesson-learning that changes this part of someone’s attitude.

    15. Your Local Password Resetter*

      It feels like one of those things that can be changed, but only if the person wants it and is willing to work on it.
      If it was just behaviour, you could enforce that. But their own desires and initiative seems like it is too deep in someone’s psyche. If they refuse to be curious or show intitiative, you can’t really make them do it.

    16. allathian*

      I think that one advantage of a system with long vacations, where experienced ICs and executives get (and usually take) up to 7 weeks vacation every year is that the need for coverage and cross training is built in.

  21. MMM*

    How soon is too soon to leave a job for more money?

    I started a new job in September (entry level higher ed) and recently discovered through browsing LinkedIn that comparable jobs at other schools in the same city pay more; in one case the minimum salary is $6k more than I’m making (info from publicly listed salary grades). When I started, there was no room for negotiation. I’m happy with my job, but it’s not my life’s greatest passion and I don’t have any particular attachment to my employer. Basically, if I could be doing the same work elsewhere for more money, I’d leave in a heartbeat.

    But I feel like it’s too soon to leave just for more money (i.e. there is nothing glaringly wrong about the job or the workplace) and I wouldn’t even know what to say in interviews. I only have ~3.5 months of experience in this type of role, should I just wait until it’s been a year to browse around? Even then,would it be ok to say I’m looking for more compensation, or will that always be too tacky? to mention in an interview

    1. irene adler*

      I have to ask: what will you gain from this employer should you stick around for an entire year? If you are not acquiring skills or significant experience in this current role, and there’s no avenue for advancement that interests you, then why not go for “greener pastures”?

      (you did not mention anything about advancement opportunities at your current position. So I will assume there aren’t any or the path to advancement has not been made clear to you/does not interest you.)

      I get that your sole motivator here is salary. Not knocking that. Perfectly fine motivator.

      Let me temper this with: indicating that salary is your sole motivator in the job interview would be tacky. What about mentioning a lack of advancement opportunities or the job does not add anything significant to your skills/experience or the job does not utilize your best skills? Sometimes these aspects of the job don’t appear until after you’ve worked the job for a bit. You’d be justified in not wasting any more time there and moving on to better prospects.

      And, that one-year mark for employment is not something that should hold you back from applying. Now, if the rest of your resume indicates a job- hopper, then yeah, someone might have reservations over hiring someone who will likely leave in short order. But if you are someone who is looking for better opportunities (and you can define “better” in your terms or an employer’s terms) and are actively seeking exactly that, hey that should appeal to a savvy employer.

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        I agree with the point about making good arguments for the change. I am in higher ed, and I’d have a lot of questions about someone looking to leave a job after just a few months. Sometimes it takes a couple of years to get acclimated in a higher ed position. I’d really want to see some compelling reasons the person was applying to my job/my institution.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        Honestly, if someone in an interview said there were no advancement opportunities after being in a job for three months that would probably be some sort of flag. Maybe not red but…

  22. Former scientist wannabe*

    What would you expect from an undergraduate starting their honors thesis, with no prior experience? I’m reconsidering if I really wasn’t cut out for research, or I didn’t get trained properly? My thesis professor had me shadow one of their research assistants for a couple hours, and then another honors student after that. I never knew what I was expected to do, but got the sense I was supposed to be driving my own research project, which I didn’t know how to do. In the end, I finished one experiment during the semester, which I was able to write up into a 6-page thesis, and that was the end of it. My professor clearly wasn’t happy and told me most students end up with 20-30 pages worth of material. What would have been your advice for an incoming honors undergrad?

    1. Skates*

      Oh man, I am advising an honors thesis for the first time this year (in humanities not science but still) and this sounds like your advisor dropped the ball majorly. Sure, 30-40 pages seems like the right length and 6 is probably far too short, but all of that should have been clearly communicated and there should have been a LOT of meetings in between the first discussion and final submission. My advisee has been drafting since October and we’ll probably meet twice a month until her final draft comes in in April. How would you know what was expected without it being clearly communicated to you??!??

      1. AGD*

        All of this! I meet weekly with mine. The idea is to show the students the ropes, not to just toss them off the deep end and hope they already know how to swim!

      2. Former scientist wannabe*

        I had no idea what a thesis should look like until I was trying to write mine at the end and she gave me one from one of her former students. We didn’t have any meetings after the initial welcome to the lab.

        1. deesse877*

          That’s malpractice, especially the “no meetings” part. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Sounds like your advisor just left you to flounder then. You were basically an entry-level employee who had to reinvent half the job from scratch with no management support and not much direct help from colleagues.
          It would take an amazing student to deliver even a mediocre thesis in that situation.

    2. fueled by coffee*

      From “experiments” it sounds like you’re in the social or natural sciences? I’m coming from a social science background here, so YMMV if you’re in natural sciences but I have a few thoughts:
      -This sounds like an issue with training/expectations: you should have known from the outset that you were expected to write 20-30 pages; saying “write a thesis” with no other instructions is poor mentoring. Can you ask the professor or research assistant to send you examples of past theses, so you can get an idea of the expectations for the final product?
      -I’m assuming that this is a thesis which is due at the end of the academic year in May or so? I’d ask to set up a meeting with the thesis professor early in the semester to ask for feedback on (1) what you’ve written up so far and (2) your project plan moving forward. Ideally you should get feedback before you run your experiments so that you know if you’re on the right track; this is a professor’s job (or possibly a postdoc or grad student in the lab). I’d go into the meeting with a detailed plan of what you’re expecting to accomplish over the next semester, and then ask for feedback along each step. You could say something like, “It seemed like we had different expectations about what an honors thesis involves, and I was hoping to touch base to make sure we’re on the same page moving forward. This is obviously my first time writing a thesis, so I think I need a little more guidance to make sure I’m meeting expectations.”

      Based on my knowledge of undergrad work, the expectation for 20-30 pages (vs. 6) could be coming from a few places:
      (1) The professor was expecting you to engage more deeply with previous work/literature in your introduction or “lit review” section. Unlike papers for a class, where you might cite 2-3 articles as part of the assignment, a thesis usually involves explaining how your work fits into an academic conversation about the topic and how previous work motivates your research. Take a look at the lit review sections of some longer journal articles to see how this is done.
      (2) The professor was expecting you to do more than one experiment. Again, not explaining this to you was poor mentoring, but figure out what the actual expectations are for honors theses. Depending on the field and institution, this could be anything from “replicate a previous experiment and write it up” to “run multiple novel experiments”
      (3) The professor was expecting more details in the sections you did write up; in the social sciences my methods and results sections alone often take up to 10 double-spaced pages, including graphs/statistics/etc.
      (4) The professor was expecting more from your discussion/conclusion: not just indicating results, but also explaining why the results matter and connecting these back to the questions raised by the previous literature you discuss in your intro/lit review section.

      In any case, this doesn’t mean you’re “not cut out for research” — you weren’t given any instructions and made your best guess! The lesson to take away from this is that if instructions are unclear, you should ask professors/other mentors for more guidance so that you can set yourself up for success (it’s literally part of their job to *advise* you on your thesis — they should be giving you advice!).

      1. Former scientist wannabe*

        It was life science. This actually happened 15 years ago and had a major role in steering me away from the field. Some of the AAM letters this year made me reconsider the situation.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think this is a massive failure of communicating expectations. They should have pointed you to a shelf of previous work and said “Here’s an example of a good honors thesis project.” There also should have been several feedback loops – you’re not supposed to just write this in a locked room and drop it finished on your advisor’s lap.

      Off-the-wall question: Did you do science fair projects in high school? Because 1 experiment and 5-6 pages of writeup sounds like the minimum of what I’d expect from that. A college honors thesis ought to be an order of magnitude bigger.

      1. Former scientist wannabe*

        I never actually went to high school (homeschool + GED), but my professor probably didn’t know that.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          FWIW I did go to high school and science fairs were not a thing. Took a bucketful of AP science courses and never did anything close to a 6 page writeup either, so I don’t think the problem here was entirely the profs assumed you knew what high school level was and thus should know that college level = more. It’s literally your advisor’s job to tell you the expectations.

    4. River Otter*

      My advice to anyone starting a thesis or dissertation project is that The term “advisor“ is highly misleading and he will have to figure everything out yourself. I would not conclude right now that you are not cut out for research. I think that you just needed more guidance on a specific set of non-research skills that your advisor assumed you already knew.
      If you were going to change some thing about your approach after this experience, what would it be?

      1. Former scientist wannabe*

        Ask way more questions. Ask about the big picture until I had a clear sense of what my project should look like and where each day’s work fit in. Ask for regular check-ins to go over the status and direction of the project.

      2. pancakes*

        This was not my experience in undergrad, where my school took the unusual approach of requiring independent study for each course, called “conference work.” This work was self-directed but required weekly (or maybe it was every other week?) meetings with the prof. A school where advisors just leave their students to sink or swim without doing much in the way of actual advising isn’t providing a very good education. It seems like the best thing to do in that scenario would be to transfer to a better school rather than try to reform the whole process as a student.

    5. hamburke*

      I roomed with an honors undergrad working on her thesis in college – very driven person who asked far more questions than I ever considered. It was 20+ years ago but there was definitely a program to follow (extra classes, meetings, seminars/symposiums) and lots of guidance from the honors advisors. I’m wondering if you aren’t missing something from your program. Or if your advisor hasn’t provided appropriate guidance.

      1. Former scientist wannabe*

        There weren’t extra classes or meetings, but there was a seminar where we discussed research (cutting edge studies in the field, not our undergrad work).

    6. pancakes*

      “I never knew what I was expected to do, but got the sense I was supposed to be driving my own research project, which I didn’t know how to do.”

      I would expect someone who is pursuing an honors program or a research project to be motivated to seek clarification on this rather than just muddle along.

        1. pancakes*

          Even if you didn’t seem to care, it’s bad advising to not have given you examples and not have had regular meetings. Both of those should be standard for every student in the program, not just the ones who seem enthusiastic.

          1. After 33 years ...*

            Late to the party, but:
            – My Honours and Masters students received much input from me concerning the design and scope of their projects. At my place, we cannot accept Masters students without financial research support provided by the supervisor, so the research must fit within the supervisor’s grant.
            – weekly (or bi-weekly, depending on student preference) meetings are essential
            – as an Honours / Masters advisor, I wanted to see what my advisees had written frequently – for an Honours, at least once a month. Partial drafts are fine; saying “I was really busy / had other things happen in my life” is fine, so we both know where matters stand and what could / should / could not be done under the circumstances
            – the first meeting would involve discussion of the conceptual project and work schedule. I would give the student examples of completed theses at the second meeting, along with some more discussion of timing.
            – I’d ask for an outline / table of contents at that meeting
            – apparent enthusiasm (or lack of same) can be very deceptive. Psychologies differ – people are more / less reserved. more / less gregarious, more / less willing to indicate difficulties and uncertainties, both analytical and personal (e.g. imposter syndrome, which can begin early in academic life); more / less acquainted with role models and modes of operation in academic settings; with more / less expectations of guidance.
            – Rather than leaving someone to drift, I would be asking about progress. I’d even be willing to risk a diagnosis of micro-management in the process.
            – If I thought that the final product wasn’t adequate, or wasn’t representative of the student’s ability / potential, I’d consider it as a draft and return it for revision. Any pressure from Heads / Registrars would be met with a firm “It’s not ready yet. I’ve discussed it with X, and X will submit the final version on date Y.”
            – some students have noted that my comments on their initial drafts had more words than their drafts.

            1. Former scientist wannabe*

              I really appreciate your (and everyone’s) perspective. It’s definitely helped make sense of what happened. And helped in my current career. I’ve ruffled feathers before by asking too many questions and until recently thought the answer was to stop asking. Now I know how important asking the right questions can be.

    7. Humble Schoolmarm*

      It seems like both your program and your advisor let you down here, OP. I also had a poor experience with my honours thesis (biology) but I felt like the program was much more structured and let me complete a successful thesis, at least.

      1- The program: The way it worked was that the department provided a list of professors who were willing to take on honours students. If you were accepted, you were given a small chunk of one of their projects to work on. We had a weekly seminar that talked about how to write a thesis and in addition to our final project (50-60 pages), we also had to give an interim powerpoint presentation to our classmates and participate in a poster conference. Our drafts were due in chunks (methods in Feb, then results two weeks later etc) and the department bound copies of all of a given year’s theses so we were encouraged to use those as references.

      2- The advisor and lab staff (ie, the bad part). I was supposed to be working on a project on guppy genetics but even though I spent hours a week in the lab from August to January, none of my experiments were working. All of my gels were coming out as black smears. My advisor said I needed to devote more time to the lab, so I did, but I still wasn’t getting results. The lab staff watched my procedure once, couldn’t see that I was doing anything wrong and just kind of shrugged and again suggested I needed to try harder. I was at the end of my rope when, luckily, my advisor let me analyze a data set instead of actual hands on lab work and that got me enough to make a respectable thesis.
      Months later, I found out though a friend that worked in the same lab that the person who took over my bench had similar troubles, BUT they knew enough to check the calibration on the micropipettes. 5 months of work wasted because no one knew to check the calibration and I didn’t know to ask.

      In terms of advice, I would suggest talking to as many honours students as possible to know what you’re getting yourself into and don’t be as scared as I was to insist on asking for help. (Plus, don’t underestimate the importance of seemingly small things, like how to calibrate everyday equipment).

    8. Diatryma*

      I’m on team Bad Advisor here, and I say this as someone who would probably have gotten a PhD with a different one of my own. You were twenty-one and had no research experience. How vulnerable should you have made yourself– how much should you have confessed that you, Honors Student, had no idea what you were doing, and wouldn’t be able to complete anything? And they should have checked before the thesis was turned in.

  23. Quick Chat*

    It’s been a long and difficult year at my workplace, with 5/6 teammates leaving and the sixth has notified us of her impending retirement. I have trained every new hire, covered workloads while they got up to speed, and handled increasingly unreasonable timelines. My patience is gone and I know it’s showing. I have asked and asked for a change of role because this is crushing. No movement in 9 months of asking.

    Guess what happened yesterday at 4:50?

    I received a “quick chat” meeting invite from my direct supervisor. 9am Monday in a conference room. No agenda, no context, and they left early so I couldn’t ask.

    Happy holiday weekend! Guess I’m job hunting. :|

    1. PollyQ*

      I don’t blame you for being worried, but IME, they don’t give you advance notice when they’re going to let you go, they just call you in and drop the hammer right there. So maybe it’ll be good news? Or maybe not, and perhaps I shouldn’t get your hopes up. Regardless, I hope it all works out for the best for you.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I got a few days notice on a meeting that turned out to be a layoff of most of my department. But that was somewhat unusual.

        I hope Quick Chat is wrong, but I don’t blame them for being a little paranoid and prepare for the worst.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          ThatGirl, I wholeheartedly concur with you. If it was something good, they’d say so.

    2. irene adler*

      Wouldn’t a company looking to lay someone off do so before the beginning of the new year? And not want to delay such news?
      I’m hoping that they scheduled a meeting early in the day, on the first day of the new year, to portend something positive for you.
      It sure would be very mean to drop the hammer on you on the first day of the new year.

    3. Firm Believer*

      Why on earth do people have to send vague and cryptic notes like that right before a holiday weekend. It’s beyond rude. Now you have to stew. Sorry.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Because they can. They have the luxury of not thinking about how this looks.

    4. the cat's ass*

      That’s pretty crappy, ruining your holiday weekend. Hope it’s not what you think on Monday. But maybe it IS time to get your resume in order, because they sound like a terrible place to work.

    5. Anonymous Luddite*

      If I had to bet, I would bet against the layoff, but that’s my hunch.
      That said, I agree with others that this weekend sounds like a lovely time to update your resume.
      Please followup next Friday and let us know what happened.
      Good luck and may the Kool-Aid Man of Job Satisfaction visit you soon.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Well, at least they are consistent in acting like jerks.
      Honestly, it sounds like you could have been job hunting before now.

      My new years wish for you is that you find a new and better job and they offer you a promotion so you can sit there smugly and say, “oh, thanks! but NO thanks! Here’s my notice.”

    7. Chaordic One*

      I received a cryptic email last week notifying me of a “personnel action.” It had me a bit shook up. It turned out to be a notification that I had passed my annual ,service anniversary and my tenure ranking changed as a result of that.

    8. Cheezmouser*

      Agree that IME it’s unusual for a supervisor to schedule a layoff meeting for the future. It’s usually sent on the same day. A lot of thought usually goes into the timing of these things because companies want to minimize the damage to morale for the remaining staff. Of course, that’s assuming a conscientious and competent management team.

  24. Skates*

    Niche academic job market question. I’m in a pretty good job right now, but I am occasionally applying to new positions that pay more and are in more desirable areas. To do so I need 3 letters of recommendation on file. I reached out to the 3 committee members from my PhD to ask them to update letters in august. Two did very quickly/enthusiastically. The third has gone awol. She was the faculty member I was least close to, she’s closest to retirement, and honestly she’s in kind of a weird conspiracy theory rabbit hole on Twitter (not anything that I think would harm me by association, such as being Q related— just weird stuff about Russian bot farms). I don’t know how to proceed. I could ask another faculty member I took a lot of courses with to write for me, but the best candidate there is married to one of my other recommenders. I could ask my committee if they can intervene but I also don’t want to put them in an uncomfortable situation. I could just keep submitting her old letter, but by the next round of applications it will be 3 years out of date. Any advice is welcome! Happy new year to all!!!!!

    1. fueled by coffee*

      I’m still a grad student so stepping way out of my lane here, but if you’re already a few years out, I have heard about people asking collaborators from other institutions or other people who are familiar with your work even if they weren’t on your committee.

      Anyway, good luck — faculty dropping the ball on recommendation letters is literally my worst nightmare (and happened when I was applying to PhD programs. Thanks, Prof I did 10 hours of research work/week for over my senior year of undergrad who couldn’t be bothered to respond to my emails!)

      1. AGD*

        Yes, this. If there are any choices from the rest of your academic life, it would likely be an advantage to have a mix of institutions and people who know you in different ways (e.g. as teacher, as researcher, as collaborator – even just as semi-informal mentee).

        1. peasblossom*

          Agreed! And, I know this is field dependent, but, since I’m in a similar boat to the OP, I’ll flag that this is the breakdown that was recommended to me: 1 committee member, 1 collaborator/peer at current institution if possible (if not collaborator/peer on a shared project from another institution), 1 person external to your current institution who can speak to what you want to highlight most (scholarship, teaching, service).

          Good luck, Skates!

    2. deesse877*

      You need to move beyond your committee regardless of this person’s behavior. Collaborators, trusted colleagues at present position, etc. It feels weird to ask, because those new prospective recommenders don’t have the job of “launching” you the way your committee does, but three years is too long to still be presenting yourself like an ABD.

    3. Who is Baby Monkey?*

      Seconding what others have said about branching out to other colleagues not on your committee/at your PhD-granting institution (this is usually seen as a must at a certain point, but not necessarily three years out) and adding that IME it’s not “done” to send letters that aren’t from the current academic year, so I’d definitely avoid that. (I’m an Assoc. Prof. in the humanities). Good luck!

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Agreeing with all above. After 3 years, I’d be looking for at least one reference from someone at your current place, and / or someone you’re working with actively.

  25. Toasty Bacon and Eggs**

    I started a new job a month ago, and so far its not too bad. My issues just stem from how my team ( including my manager) are training me on the work I will be doing and the attitude/grief that they give me on how I learn and what questions I asked. Some of the training is fine, but other times I can’t make heads or tails about it. I learn a lot better by doing the work, instead being lectured about it, but my coworkers are more into the lecture portion ( and just reading the instructions to me like a bedtime story) and get irritable when I don’t take notes (I just started to take notes to placid them, but I don’t use them because I don’t understand what I wrote because I am trying on concentrate of understanding what they are talking about). This last week, my coworker stating that I wasn’t doing anything because the other coworker wasn’t there, therefore I didn’t have anything to work on. I countered with the list of emails that I completed, a list of new vendors I set up, and the list of other emails that I would be working on. His response was that it didn’t matter and went on about me “not working” due to the other teammate being out sick. (this was during a group meeting, which included our boss and our grandboss. Suffice to say, I was very defeated the rest of the day).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      FWIW, you got my sympathy. I have trained a lot of people and the ones who did the best were the ones putting their hands into the work. That is how I learn best too. You can tell me to turn the screw driver three turns and I won’t remember that- but I will definitely remember tightening the screw down and what it looked like once it was snugly in place. I am a hands on learner, for sure.

  26. Delighting in daffodils*

    Saw this bananas story on Reddit the other day! OP gave her boss a tie as a gift and her husband a pair of sunglasses as a gift. OP’s husband went to her workplace to demand her boss trade gifts with him…

    “He said it was between him and my boss and I should stay out of it and not be sych an over-reactor. … He doesn’t know my boss at all nor met him personally to be this comfortable with him.”

    I am just aghast.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I saw that, and if it’s real, then there’s no way this is the first time the husband has done something problematic. Because nobody goes from perfectly normal behavior to outlandish bizarro behavior in one hop.

      But since the account is 3 days old with zero other comments, even as replies to their own post, I’m guessing it’s fiction.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I wouldn’t rule it out because of age of account: If he’s as strangely abusive is he seems to me, she’s wise to use a throwaway account.

  27. Happy Gruyere 2022*

    Shout out to the non-profit donor folks who are working OT+ to process holiday and end of year gifts. I’ve been stuck at my desk for the past 3 weeks working the CRM and keyboard to manage 4600 gifts AND I’ve completed a household move only being allowed to take 1.5 days off to do so.

    Yes, it’s a nice problem to have but the ‘thank you notes have to be out in 24-48 hours’ is killing me, as are the other manual data entry requirements. We can only streamline so many tasks and all CRM’s have interoperability limitations with gift processing platforms, etc.

    And for the love of Judy, please stop sending non-profits long lists of names you’d like for us to send ‘in honor of’ cards which are really in lieu of you having to send your own holiday cards!!

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Ah, this takes me back to my nonprofit days. Luckily, I wasn’t really involved in gift processing, but the people who would call or email to ask for a tax receipt for a $10 donation that they made at a supermarket checkout (and therefore was not associated with a name) were always a source of deep annoyance. May your donors always be polite and may your ledgers always add up perfectly.

  28. FourHornedBrother*

    Hey, professional writers who were able to get into something other than SEO/copywriting – what do you do, and how did you get there? I’ve been copywriting for a few years and have done well getting a career started for myself, but I find myself increasingly bored and depressed by the work.

    I can’t leave just yet, but I’m forming an escape plan—I just don’t really have a strong idea what I want it to be, and I’m looking for new avenues that my skills could transfer into. Maybe UX? I don’t know.

    1. Super Duper Anon*

      I am a technical writer and have been for my entire career. I got there by first doing a undergrad bachelors in computer science and then realizing while I like the tech theories, I didn’t want to program for a living. So I looked at a ton of job ads to see what else was out there and came across a lot for technical writers and the job descriptions appealed to me. I took a 1 year post grad certificate in technical writing and then got my first job. Been doing it ever since. There are a ton of online classes for technical writing you can take, and already having writing experience should help you transition over.

      1. FourHornedBrother*

        Yeah, this is something I’ve definitely been thinking about, and I even already have a track record with some moderately techy clients.

        I’ve been conflicted about taking a certificate course for it, though—did you find yours to be a worthwhile investment?

    2. Anonymous Luddite*

      I am a technical writer and have been for about (internal boggle) twenty years. I got there by an undergrad bachelors in English, which got me a call center job at X answering questions about products X made. This lead to an intimate knowledge of specifications and bills of materials. This lead to a transfer to the department which wrote the specifications and bills of materials. I never really thought of it as tech writing until I was laid off about four years ago. Next job (current job) needed someone who could write instructions using bills of materials as a guide. Shazam. I now write user manuals and safety instructions. Nothing fancy and the Hugos are safe, but it’s a living and my bills get paid.
      I know that UX is hot right now. And bear in mind that there is always a need for clear and concise instructional materials for mechanical and electronic devices.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I ghostwrite nonfiction. I mostly work through an agency. I have a couple of novels out in my own name, and did a few (underpaid) nonfic books for clients I found on Upwork and Guru. Then I applied the next time I saw a listing for this agency and got picked up.

      I used to do self-help and inspirational memoir, but I burnt out on secondhand trauma. Now I do business, finance, and career development.

      I really prefer working through the agency, because I like doing books but I hate screening book clients to find the ones who have money and aren’t looney tunes.

      1. FourHornedBrother*

        That sounds awesome, especially in regards to having an agency. I have no desire to go back to the precarity of freelancing and the need to screen clients.

        Are there a lot of reputable agencies like yours, and can you find them by searching “ghostwriter” on job sites? I keep having this idea that there’s some kind of code phrase that bigger agencies might use, but maybe that’s off base.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I know of 3 or 4. I found them through searching for remote wfh writing jobs (didn’t know I wanted specifically this at the time). Technically I am still freelance, because I’m an independent contractor. But there’s no shortage of work.

          They did want experience with full manuscript writing, because it’s a big thing to wrap your head around. So if you have anything in a drawer somewhere, it might behoove you to finish it up.

    4. BadCultureFit*

      Internal communications. I started there in my first job out of college, and picked up some media, social media, even event planning in bits and pieces as part of my roles along the way. Eventually became VP of Corp Comm (So all Comms, not just internal, reported to me) and lead writer.

      Meanwhile I also ghostwrite some bestselling fiction before getting my own book deals, so I have a dual career thing going on. But I would absolutely hire copywriters for certain types of internal Comms roles!

    5. Sloanicote*

      I freelance in report writing for my sector. It seems to be an area where a lot of organizations have data stockpiled (results of a certain program, for example) but have not done the analysis, or where they want book-length informational resources or short one-pagers. I write these at a set price. It’s nice because I find it interesting, I believe it ads value (these are busy people who always meant to do these reports themselves, but realistically will never have time for it) and the schedule is totally flexible. Also, it usually doesn’t involve a lot of face time. They give me the info they have, I go away and crunch it, I come back with a draft. So far, word is getting out between different orgs in my sector that this can be outsourced successfully to me.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      The posts were deleted. An OP had slipped through as a nomination and was getting quite far in the process, and OPs aren’t usually meant to be included in the nominees so as not to discourage people from writing in.

      1. Mimmy*

        Ahh the Worst Boss posts completely slipped my mind. I’m sad the posts were deleted. However, knowing exactly which nominee you’re referring to, I think it was the right decision.

          1. Anonanon*

            “She made it clear this has been a personally difficult month for her.”

            There’s no need to jump on people for not having seen whatever post/s or comment/s Alison made that contain this information, and who are merely expressing sadness or confusion that a regular feature of this site was removed without apparent (to us) comment.

            I haven’t personally seen anything to this effect and it’s obvious that the people asking have missed it. It would be kinder to have pointed this out without adding in the snarky tone & comment.

              1. Anonanon*

                Ok is making the assumption that people already know or should know that Alison had a bad month, and said “people could deal”.

                Nobody is here wanting to run roughshod over Alison & her feelings, it HASN’T actually been made clear that Alison was having a tough time, and it’s pretty rude to say “people can deal” when they are just confused/wistful that a regular feature they enjoy disappeared with NO notice.

                1. WellRed*

                  I agree “people can deal” was a bit of a “tone.” As a regular reader, I also had no idea what happened to worst boss or that it’s been a challenging month. I’m sure there are others. Here’s to a better 2022.

                2. Mimmy*

                  Agreed with everyone else. Just to add:

                  I’m a regular reader and I also had no idea the Worst Boss contest was scrapped and the posts deleted until I saw this thread. I did know Alison had a lot going on from a reply to someone in last week’s weekend free-for-all (or was it 2 weekends ago?), but I’m sure not everyone reads the weekend posts regularly, so it’s understandable that many were unaware.

                3. linger*

                  The exact expression used is important to the interpretation.
                  “I’m sure people can deal” = “I’m sure we’re all mature enough to accept it gracefully.” Really nothing to argue with there.
                  Snark is added artificially by condensing it to a curt “People can deal!”.

  29. Nervous to job hunt*

    If you have ever left a job voluntarily just because it was MEH or mediocre and you thought you could find a place with a better work environment/comp package/commute/etc., not because of anything egregious or a change in your personal life. What was your experience like? What factors did you weight? And in hindsight, did you make the right choice, whether you moved on or chose to stay?

    I’d love to hear your experience!

    1. The cat’s ass*

      Many times over a 40+ year career! I’ve always looked for challenging work, more money/better bennies and a few times moved for a geographical cure. Moving from a cold gray climate to a warm sunny one had a huge and positive impact on my seasonal affective disorder. I’ve had a couple of jobs with unreasonable expectations and two with hellbeast bosses, but absolutely no regrets. Good luck with your search, and Happy New Year!

    2. allathian*

      Not in my actual career, but I switched careers in my mid-30s, because the career I got my college degree in didn’t take me anywhere. The job I had when I decided to switch was okay, but a dead end.

  30. The teapots are on fire*

    For people who’ve taken a prolonged leave or left the workplace because of severe burnout, how long did it take you to feel like yourself again?
    My SO is considering this move (with my enthusiastic support) and we’re thinking 6 months. (I started to describe what about the job led to the burnout, what they’d tried to get their work environment, job, resources, and responsibilities adjusted, and it was just a rambling novel that can be summed up by saying the workplace is full of confused and angry bees.)

    1. Happy Gruyere 2022*

      I left a harrowing non-profit role in Oct 2019. I have been in non-profit for 20 years, variety of roles and responsibilities. The only time I took time off was when we were stationed in Germany for 3 years so I guess that was a forced time out, 2007-2010.

      Although I didn’t know that COVID would consume/ruin 2020 job prospects, I waited until 2020 to start my job search but that quickly blew up. So I turned to virtual pro bono work through Taproot and Catchafire so I could still be in the mix, try new skills, hone current ones. Perhaps that could be a way for your SO to take time off and do project they want to do – passion skills and strengths?

      I’m leaving my current role because I dislike the tasks and stress so much (and it’s not really creative enough for me) and will return to pro bono work while I look for a new role.

      Great thing about pro bono work – depending on the quality of non-profits and their projects – are great resume bullets/details. In 2020, I completed 25 projects with 22 non-profits saving them over $100k in professional fees. My current non-profit loved that about me which is why they hired me, but I’m a mis-fit with the job.

      Thank you for supporting your SO. I couldn’t have been successful in 2020 without my SO support (and that he dragged me all over the world with his Army career while I was an Air Force Reservist with my own deployments)

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        Thanks so much for this. I think no pro bono or part time anything will be happening for months. This is some bad burnout.

    2. S*

      I have been off work for almost 4 months now with severe burnout. When I had my initial breakdown to my boss I genuinely believed I’d be away for a week or 2 at most, but once I actually stopped it was like I dropped off the edge of a cliff. I still don’t feel ready to go back to the workplace yet, although I am noticing a huge difference in my mental and physical energy – just noticing things like the warmth of the sun or the color of a flower again is making me realise I HAVE made huge progress since those dark days a few months back. I’d say 6 months minimum, longer if you can afford to – and it will be one of the best moves you make. Good luck, thinking of you.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      I would say six months of no work at all would be fine.
      I left my last job, totally toxic bizarre management, working 70+ hours per week for 5 years, at the end of Feb last year. I took a couple of months off and then started a part time job in May. I feel like I JUST got my brain back a couple of weeks ago, although my energy still isn’t what it used to be. We couldn’t afford for me not to work, but six months off probably would have healed the burnout thoroughly.

  31. Anon For This One*

    Currently trying to convince myself that the single Delta 8 gummy (legal in my state) I took 62 days ago won’t cause me to fail the pre-employment drug test I took last Thursday. I don’t think so, as the background check was completed and sent to the employer already, and from what I understand if you test positive you’ll get a call from the lab first asking if you might be on any medications that could cause you to fail.

    I also got so paranoid that I bought a home drug test on Wednesday, took it and passed. Yes, I know I should have done that before the test, but I’ve only been using something stronger than alcohol for less than a year, and I don’t know all the ins and outs of ways to maximize a negative drug test. The HR rep has been out for the holidays, and is the only person who can confirm that I passed, so I’m just slowly driving myself crazy over here.

    This is the first time I have even had the slightest possibility of failing a drug test and, legal or not, I’m going to give THC a wiiiiiide berth going forward. I enjoy it, but I can easily live without it and it’s not worth the stress.

    1. TPS reporter*

      Are you sure they’re screening for THC? Typically employers only screen pre employment for substances that are illegal in the state and only during employment for other things if they have a job operating equipment/driving or appear to be under the influence at work

      1. Anon For This One*

        It’s a 9 panel, so yes I would have been tested for THC. It’s so stupid, this is for a dang office job!

        1. Anon For This One*

          Oh, and also Delta 8 and 10 (derived from hemp) are legal in my state, but Delta 9 (your traditional weed) is not. Unfortunately as far as a dip test is concerned, they are all THC and will fail you equally.

    2. pancakes*

      62 days is a long time ago! From a Discovery magazine article:

      “There is a very good chance that the Delta 8 THC will clear out of your system in much less time than its traditional Delta 9 counterpart. The length of time it takes for your system to use up the Delta 8 THC depends on several factors including how much you’ve consumed and how frequently you use it. These factors can cause traces of Delta 8 to be detectable in your system anywhere between five to fourteen days.”

      I only skimmed the article, but it seems like the main factors are body fat percentage (the higher it is, the longer your body may hang on to it) and frequency of use. If you only used it once it should be well out of your system.

      1. Anon For This One*

        I would do one weekly, but only for 6 months (April – October). Even with that though, I theoretically should have been good to go in around 30 days max. Most everything I’ve looked at indicates it will be fine (my husband in particular thinks I’m nuts to be this stressed over it), but the I think the only thing that’s going to relive my anxiety at this point is a call from HR. This job comes with a huge pay and title bump, so I’m terrified of it slipping through my fingers.

    3. 867-5309*

      This happened to me back in April except I had taken a few hits off of a joints and the company informed me the next step would be the background check and drug test. I haven’t had the latter in 15 years for a job. Fortunately they took a few weeks to get organized but I just drank a ton of water and hoped for the best. Unless it’s within a few days or a week or you smoke/take gummies daily, then you are probably fine.

    4. Annie Nymous*

      62 days and one (presumably <10mg) gummy? You should be fine, cross fingers. Good luck.
      It's frustrating as hell, for sure. Recently saw a job posting that would've been absolutely perfect for me except for that one line item

      1. Anon For This One*

        55 days at the time I took the test, but I’m still within a week of that. I passed the home one I took at 60 days, so my hope is that they would be similar. However, I imagine that logically there has to be a day when you go from positive to negative, which is why I wish I’d read the advice to take a home test before.

        The gummies I took were 25mg (it appears to be the standard dosage they are sold in), but Delta 8/10 is usually double the dose of Delta 9 for the same effect. So I’d say it’s roughly comparable to a 10mg Delta 9 gummy.

    5. Yellow Rose*

      I’ve used a detox drink in the past that helped me pass a pre-employment after I went to a Colorado wedding. I would have refrained, had I known I’d be offered the position. I recommend High Voltage Premium Detox Drink. Walmart sells it, as well as your local ‘hippie goods’ store. Best of luck to you.

  32. Rosie*

    Ope had new manager’s first “accidentally let a small problem escalate because didn’t realize it was something people were truly in their feels about and not just minorly annoyed” situation this week. I can pretty clearly see where it would’ve been better if I’d addressed it in hindsight but I’m also like please, it’s…a disagreement over who can use which chairs?? I hope we get some more work in soon, so much of the problem is we’ve had too many idle hands and I don’t know how to relieve the unhappiness of coming in to work and doing nothing.

    1. PollyQ*

      Any chance your employees can do some cross-training and/or online education? Or maybe even one of those tedious “We’re cleaning out the file cabinets!” kind of projects? Seems like even some busy work might be better for morale than literally sitting around doing nothing. (Also: who can use which chairs? Oy. *eyeroll*)

  33. SleepyHollowGirl*

    Someone my team works closely with is being let go. He didn’t send out the usual goodbye email, so most people don’t know he’s left. Any suggestions on how to address it if someone says “What happened to Fergus?” If it was known that he’d been pushed out, I could respond with “I can’t talk about his situation particularly, but here’s what generally happens before someone is let go.”

    But given that he didn’t even want to let people know he’d was leaving at all, do I just play dumb and say “I don’t know anything about it, but he did give me and his manager notice, but didn’t want want a fuss to be made about his departure so I respected that and didn’t share the information.”

    1. pancakes*

      Telling people that he left voluntarily if he didn’t isn’t something I would characterize as playing dumb. It’s actively misleading. Can you direct questions to someone else?

    2. 867-5309*

      It seems like you are overthinking this… Stay vague and neutral. “He moved on to explore other opportunities” and then jump into why it might matter (‘Here’s how we are cover his work,’ etc.)

    3. PollyQ*

      I’m confused, did he leave of his own volition, or was he fired or laid off? If it wasn’t his choice, then I definitely think you shouldn’t be implying that by saying anything about his giving notice. I’d say that ultimately, it’s up to his manager to handle the messaging, and that if they don’t do that (which I gather is pretty common, unfortunately), you’re probably safe to say something like, “Yes, he’s gone, but I don’t know all the details about it; you should ask [manager].”

      1. PollyQ*

        Further note on: “he didn’t even want to let people know he’d was leaving at all”

        That’s not something he gets to decide. If he didn’t want to make a big farewell, that’s his choice, but of course the people that work with him need to know that he’s not working there anymore, and it shouldn’t be something that’s kept secret by anyone.

      2. Filosofickle*

        “Let go” and “pushed out” definitely implies it was not his choice, even if he technically quit. But it sounds like he was fired. So while he doesn’t get to control/decide what is said about his departure, and something will need to be said, I understand his desire to simply disappear and not say goodbye.

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

      The message should probably be, “Fergus is no longer with the org. Contact Jane for any of his former projects.” If anyone presses, you’re “not going to discuss the details.” I wouldn’t be coy or misleading; that’ll make you look bad.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Ask his manager to do a broadcast announcement before the questions start rolling in.
      Refer everyone who asks to his manager.
      Shorten your message way, way down to, “I was told he left. I have no further information.”

      1. SleepyHollowGirl*

        Thanks, I think the second one works.

        The problem with the last one is that I do know exactly why he’s leaving. I saw a draft of what was sent to HR to justify his termination, and he told me in a 1:1 that he was fired.

        Part of the issue is that he’s been a defacto member of my team (he’s the only person who doesn’t report to me to me that attends my scrums and team meetings), and for the last two people who left, I organized a surprise goodbye zoom call. So I kinda look like a jerk for not doing that for him, except he very explicitly didn’t want that.

        1. Cassie*

          You could say “I was told he left. I have no further details to share”. Whether you have info on why he left is irrelevant – you’re not sharing it w/ others so that’s that.

          And if people ask “oh, how come we didn’t have a goodbye zoom call?!”, you can simply say it was his preference. We had a manager send out an email for a retirement party for one of her staff (Amy). Problem was, Amy did not like being the center of attention AND she was retiring instead of being laid off so it wasn’t exactly happy times. Amy sent out an email a couple of hours later, letting people know how much she had enjoyed working w/ them and how she’d miss them, and added that she was opting out of having a retirement party because she didn’t want to be the center of attention, but to feel free to stop by the office to say goodbye. Anyone who had worked w/ her knew how low-key she was, so this was a good option for people to stop by and chat with her and wish her well, but not for there to be this big hubbub since she didn’t want that.

    6. Worker bee*

      I’d just say, “He’s no longer with the company and X is handling his job for now.”

      I get that he might not want people to know he’s left, but please don’t leave people in the dark about it, if you can. My company has an irritating habit of not informing people when someone leaves and it can cause problems. A manager I needed information from was fired one Friday afternoon and the only reason I found out was because his kinda boss texted me to let me know. And the only reason he let me know is because I had asked him the day before who would have the information I needed and he didn’t want me to be stuck waiting for info that would never come.

      That kind of stuff happens all the time and it’s very annoying. I don’t want or need details about people’s departures, but it’s frustrating to be reaching out to a coworker, only to find out later that they don’t work here anymore. Most of the time we find out about this stuff when we reach out to someone else in that department to ask if X person is on vacation or ill.

    7. allathian*

      The people who were working with him need to know he’s gone and won’t be coming back, because that affects their work in some way, but nothing more than that. If the messaging is neutral, people will shrug and move on.

  34. LimeRoos*

    Internal promotion!! I just found out that I’ll be moving into a training role (offer pending department approval for timing and all that), and was wondering if anyone has tips for ways to keep it engaging while training over Webex. We’ll be staying remote for, well, the foreseeable and not so foreseeable future. Cameras are off, subject matter can be repetitive but is required for the jobs, and trainings are anywhere from 1-2 days (6 hours) up to 5 weeks, with the most common being 3-4 6 hour days. Thanks!!

    1. Cacofonix*

      There are tons of tips, I can think of, but one I like are adding little poll questions at intervals during training. Whether quick quiz, relevant mentimeter type multiple choice poll, specific feedback, anon. Q&A, etc. All can be a low stakes way to keep from a droning one way communication.

  35. Anon (Canada)*

    Advice on asking for reasonable accommodation of reduced hours?
    I’ve anxiety and depression (treated with meds). And I’ve noticed that working 40 hours leaves me drained. A lot less on my current job wfh then as a cashier. But I’m still struggling to have the energy to visit family on the weekend. I’ve also been struggling to find the time to do things like precooked meals. As I work 9 hour days 5/w and my shifts change everyday (I’m required to be available for work for 12 hour blocks, 5 days a week. And the 9 hours includes 30 minutes unpaid set up and 30 minutes lunch. So if my shift is 11am-7:30pm, I work 10:30am-7:30pm)
    I’m concerned that they will try to say it’s a necessary job requirement or unreasonable accommodation.
    I also struggle to book doctors appointments (I want to start therapy again) since my shift makes it impossible to go in person and the job does nothing to accommodate doctors appointments for other people. (my shifts window is usually 11am-11pm, because I’m not starting work at 3am. Waking up at 9:30 is hard enough. I’d end up with some bad version of graveyard hours. I’ve done the morning shift at a different job, starting at 5am. Never again)

    Part of the reason I am worried is that one of the people I trained with was let go after needing accommodation for child care (picking up kid from school nearby) and standing up for his right to be paid for logging on to the system I just don’t know if it really was unreasonable or not. And they make people clock out for other reasonable accommodation breaks they need.

    (I’m staying at the job only because I need a reliable wfh job where there is at least a 11am-11pm shift. Most of the others I’ve seen either require me to use my own pc, gave worse reviews, or have worse-for-me hours.

      1. Anon (Canada)*

        Weirdly enough, they don’t offer part time. You have to have a minimum of somewhere between 28-30 hours. (I don’t remember)
        Not that they hesitate to reduce our hours when needed *eye roll *

            1. LDN Layabout*

              The shortest I’ve seen full time work described is at the 36 hour mark, usually in terms of frontline healthcare (e.g. nurses working 3×12 hour shifts a week).

              For both the US and the UK there doesn’t seem to be a true official definition but government sites seem to say 35 and above for full time.

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

    Good news (/s) I’m getting a raise in the new year…bad news, it’s to bring me up to the legally mandated minimum in California to keep me classified as exempt. And now I’m mad… Happy F* New Year …and stuck. The benefits are still better than I’ll get pretty much anywhere else for my job; I really like my supervisor and coworkers; I enjoy about 81.5% of my projects; and I USED to be pretty competitively paid at this org. I was also the higher paid designer in the dpt because of my years of experience, expanded skills, and awards I’ve won.

    …but COVID hit and salaries were frozen and I don’t think I’ll ever “catch up” to where I should have been. They’re only giving me this mini bump because they have to. And it’s still “competitive” with the market in my area and industry…as in it’s ALL in the toilet. But if they have to bump me to the minimum, then they have to bump coworker too and now we’re both making the minimum. I shouldn’t be this livid, right?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d be crabby at this one for sure!

      A conversation with your manager pointing out relative wages vs skill sets might be in order in the near future.

      And then a dusting off of the resume may keep you aimed for something better.

      I quit a job back in the day b/c they gave me a $0.25/hr raise and acted like it was a big thing. (And had they given me $0.50 I probably would have been thrilled.)

      I spend a lot of time being furious on behalf of a friend from the same bus route who spent many years providing infant child care, being a lead teacher, and having every single one of her meager raises erased when the state minimum wage increased.

      Lay out your benefits and let them tell you whether they care enough to keep you there.

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

        My boss, who is a very good human –but not great boss in the sense that he was promoted against his will when our former boss retired suddenly at the onset of the pandemic, and managing is way outside of his skill set — knows just how crappy this is. But annual salary budgets are set by 2 levels above him, and negotiated at our fiscal year-end in June. Our grand boss is new to California in the last year-ish, and comments how lucky and highly paid we are…. I assume compared to where she’s from in the Mid West, but I’m not sure SHE gets that.

        I think I should feel ok. I’m comfortable, but maybe having a mid-life and mid-career crisis realizing this is as good as it gets?

  37. Absolutely Fed Up*

    I work for a large hospital network’s employee health services as a temp. The demand from employees for covid tests is currently overwhelming. We are getting verbally abused daily by coworkers who don’t want to wait in lines for tests or don’t want to wait for results. This abuse extends to the on-site managers, who look completely beaten down by this situation. Today, the Big Vice Presidents sent out an email begging for calm and good behavior at the testing sites and promising disciplinary action against employees who threaten, abuse or assault testing site workers.

    If my on-site managers refuse to do anything about it, how bad would it be for me, the lowly temp unit clerk, to start emailing lists of the worst offenders to these VPs and asking for the actions promised in their previous email?

    1. usernames are anonymous*

      Could you reply to the email asking them to specify what the process is to report abusive coworkers – maybe giving examples of the recent cases of bad behaviour you’ve seen. Sorry you are going through this.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s what I was going to suggest too. You might also ask what the process is when on-site managers aren’t taking action on threats or aggressive behavior.

        I read an article this morning about this happening at public testing sites in Georgia, too. The spokesperson said their workers have had people pull guns on them, people try to hit them with cars, etc. Madness!

        1. StellaBella*

          Wow, in Georgia? At covid testing sites? That is terrible. Seems that in my bias, I would not have thought a person doing that would even want a test. The dissonance this virus has caused breaks my brain every day.

    2. Asenath*

      There should be a process to follow, and maybe if there isn’t, you can get one instituted – even as a temp, you shouldn’t have to put up with that. Waiting rooms in the hospital system I use have big signs up saying that security will be called to deal with bad behaviour, and judging by the occasional overhead call for security to go to various clinics, that’s exactly what happens. I don’t know what happens AFTER they’re escorted out by security, but at least they’re out of your hair. And I am absolutely sure it wouldn’t matter if the people reported to security were employees or not.

  38. KR*

    Hi friends!

    I’m on Hawaiian Aleutian Standard Time and am applying for remote work. The roles I’m applying for aren’t management roles, think mid level individual contributor jobs. I’m applying for remote jobs in central, mountain, and pacific time zones but I think I’m getting passed over because of my location. I note in my cover letter that I have experience working with coworkers across multiple time zones and solving problems from hundreds of miles away (because I do from a previous role) but I’m not sure that’s sufficient. I would prefer to work in an earlier time zone – I can get out of work earlier in the day and have afternoons free. Do I say I’m seeking a job in an earlier time zone right in the cover letter? Should I just not mention my location even though I’m applying for jobs from thousands of miles away? Help.

    1. KR*

      Also, side note I cannot stand how it’s just ~normal~ for employers to not even send you a form “thanks but no thanks” email. You have my email, phone number, and usually my LinkedIn info -THREE different ways to contact me. Just tell me you aren’t going to hire me so I can cross you off my list. I already do the thing Alison suggests and just assume I didn’t get the job, but it’s still annoying.

      1. Anonymous Luddite*

        I feel for you on that front. I liken it to online dating: I’m thrilled to get a reply, even if it’s “no thanks.”
        And I also empathize on the time zone shuffle. I lived on the Aleutians for two years (Adak) and no one off the island could ever remember what time it was.
        As to your actual question, I wish I had something to add other than “good luck.”

    2. PollyQ*

      Yes, I’d definitely put your active desire to work an earlier shift in your cover letter, since mismatches there can make things difficult for collaboration. I guess you could omit your location altogether to avoid getting screened out from the beginning, but you’re going to have to tell them sooner or later, so I’d say it’s better to be up front about it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Are you sure it’s a time zone problem and not a tax problem?
      There are tax complications for out-of-state workers. Maybe look for companies that have branches in your state?

      1. KR*

        That might be it. There aren’t a lot of companies offering remote that operate in Hawaii and the mainland but I’ll keep that in mind.

  39. Salary requirements*

    I’m applying for a job where the posted salary range tops out at about $15k lower than I currently make. The pay cut wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker for me…but it’s also not ideal.

    The online application has a “desired salary” field. Is it ok to put a figure higher than their published range in this field, or would that be likely to get my application screened out before interviews?

    For what it’s worth, I think I’d be a competitive candidate for the position and they’ve extended the application deadline on this post at least twice.

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

      Only the company would know if it would immediately screen you out, but I think it would be reasonable to put the number you want, acknowledge it in your cover letter with an explanation about why you think the job is a good fit, and let the chips fall where they may.

    2. Lizy*

      I never put/give my desired salary if I can avoid it. You don’t know what all the “others” are that are involved – do they pay crap but their health insurance and PTO is awesome? Do they offer flex-time? How’s the work-life balance?

      There’s so many factors to consider.

      I skip the salary question or – if it’s required- I put 0 or 1.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Sure you can do that, though you might be screened out. I’d personally ignore the salary and only bring it up if I got a phone screen.

  40. Engage Cloaking Device*

    Struggling today.
    As background, I’m fully vaxed and boosted and very mask compliant.
    Two of my co-workers are strongly anti-masking and anti-vaccination. My company’s response has been… tepid at best. We get a half-hearted, “no really, get the shot, wear a mask” email once a month, and a week later, they are both wearing chin straps and grudgingly pulling it up when someone comes near.
    On Tuesday, I was working near them for about ten minutes, while they both stood around with their masks as chin straps and complained about co-workers who schedule sick time for medical procedures close to holidays.
    On Wednesday, one of them was out of the office.
    On Thursday, just as we were leaving for the day, boss announced that one of them tested positive, which means the other one is sent home until he has a negative PCR test. Local testing centers are swamped, so dude is off until Tuesday at least.
    I’ve taken two antigen tests (Thursday night and Friday morning) both negative.
    Such a jumble of emotions:
    I want them and their families to be healthy and yet a small and petty part of me is smug because science. And at the same time, I wonder if they were gaming the system as a retaliation to the “unfairness” they perceived. I know I should be the bigger person and at the same time, compassion fatigue is really wearing on me right now.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      I feel for you very much. The constant low level resentment of my fellow humans for their asinine behavior is really grinding on me. Even more than the fear of getting sick, which I’m not too afraid of for reasonable reasons, I hate this feeling of being constantly angry and upset at others. Your coworkers are special tools, complaining about others’ medical issues while actively putting those others at risk.

      I woke up on Christmas Day thinking, man, I’m tired. So tired. Wow, tired. ….Really? That’s my Christmas present? *Covid*? Yup. [I’m fine now, back to about 90%.] …which I’m thinking was because I did a necessarily in-person meeting with about six people a few days before. One stupid woman was double masked with both masks pulled down to her upper lip. TF?! I fussed at her at least four times. She pulled it up each time, but damn.

      Hang in there, it’s Friday. /fistbump

    2. pancakes*

      Respectfully, it doesn’t really matter how you feel privately about this. However you feel about these people has no bearing on whether they and their families remain in good health or not. If you internally don’t want to think kind thoughts about them, you absolutely don’t have to.

      If you think they’re gaming your employer’s policies to get time off of work, it doesn’t sound like you have any sort of proof of that that you could escalate even if you wanted to, correct? Not wearing masks isn’t proof of that, and a lot of people are legitimately testing positive or realizing they were exposed and need a test right now. In any case, the less time you spend in the vicinity of these coworkers, the better.

    3. Loulou*

      I’m not really sure why you’d assume they’re gaming the system. A LOT of people are testing positive right now, and I’d expect someone who’s unvaccinated and doesn’t wear a mask to be even MORE likely.

      Totally understand why you’re frustrated with their behavior in other respects, but we really want people who have covid or suspect they might to stay home from work right now!

  41. Worldwide Handsome Jin*

    Does anyone have advice for how to negotiate salary for an internal promotion when you’re going to be subject to different taxes? I am not relocating, but my main office will be changing to a different state (think living in DC and changing from the Arlington, VA office to the Bethesda, MD office). I will be able to work remotely for the majority of the time, but I am not fully classified as remote (nor is that an option) so I’ll be subject to the taxes for the state where my worksite is. My company is ending the temporary tax allocations they permitted during the pandemic where you could just list the address you were actually working at and pay taxes for that jurisdiction. I know I can claim back some of the taxes in my tax returns, but has anyone ever had luck leveraging the higher taxes you’ll pay when negotiating a raise?

    1. PollyQ*

      I wouldn’t raise it as a specific argument for why you should get more money. Just crunch the numbers and ask for a raise amount that covers the higher tax rate.

  42. Temporarily Anonymous*

    COVID-related work question. What do you recommend I ask my complacent workplace to change with a new massive Omicron wave hitting our city?

    I have a small crowded workplace.
    Most of us are capable of working from home at least some of the time but my big boss has been wanting us in office more. (arrgh)
    I believe everyone at work is double-vaxxed but not sure if everyone is planning to get boosters.
    We have a local mask order that requires people to mask except when sitting alone in their cubicles. More than half my coworkers (including my bosses) walk around with masks off or below noses regularly. I have multiple times both individually and in staff meetings asked for people to mask up and they are still not complying.
    I share some spaces in my home with people who are highly vulnerable (upstairs/downstairs setup with shared hallway and laundry room).
    Rapid tests are widely available for free here.

    I’m trying to estimate threat levels and figure out what would be reasonable expectations. Obviously they are not being entirely reasonable (the mask thing) but imo they are not malicious, just complacent.
    I’m thinking maybe some/all of these options:
    Ask for a HEPA air filter
    Ask that we cohort and reduce # of people in the office to max 5 at a time. (office seats 11 people)
    Ask that we increase frequency of wfh days
    Ask that anyone with any kind of illness wfh until no longer symptomatic. (People have been coming in with colds and stuff)
    Ask that we start testing daily/weekly

    Any other thoughts?

    1. Girasol*

      Would they honor a request from your doctor that you work from home for the next eight weeks while omicron peaks?

      1. pancakes*

        That seems like the best option.

        I wouldn’t assume everyone is vaxxed unless your employer requires it and is strict about needing to see proof. It doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be open to investing in good filtration or reducing the number of people in office or being firmer about people with other illnesses staying home, considering that they’re careless about masks and at ease about people coming to work with colds. Do what you can to protect yourself rather than counting on them to become much more careful about all this.

        1. pancakes*

          (I suppose I should add, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to ask for these things, which are reasonable, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they said no).

    2. Temporarily Anonymous*

      Thanks Girasol* and pancakes*, but I don’t think it very likely I’d be able to get a doctor’s note for this. So I am trying to focus on options that make my workplace less of a risk to everyone. I have thought about this a lot and if my bosses are unwilling to make changes I will be restarting job hunting. I already left one job because of extensive COVID irresponsible behaviours and I’m not willing to let my mental health deteriorate the way it did in 2020 because of a bad workplace. In the meantime I’ll do what I can with my own masking and such.

      Also fwiw I do know (because people have mentioned it in passing) that most of my coworkers are two-dose vaccinated. The only ones I am not 100% sure of are a couple very new employees but from things they have said I am pretty sure they are too.

    3. Anony*

      I would just worry about yourself and ask to work from home for a few weeks, or only go in once a week. Given how contagious the current variant is, the other solutions probably won’t do much to reduce risk.

      1. pancakes*

        Yeah. If you don’t think you’ll be able to get a doctor’s note, start with requesting to work at home on account of wanting to protect very vulnerable people you live with.

  43. Chidi has a Stomachache*

    I need a bit of advice! I applied for a job with a local university about 2.5 years ago. I reached the first round interviews, but didn’t advance past that. Since then, I have changed jobs (I’m at my current place ~1.5years). The university has reposted the same job I applied for in 2019. I think my newer experience makes me a stronger candidate than I was 2.5 years ago, and I also know that the leadership structure has changed, so I likely won’t be interviewed by the same people I was previously. Should I mention that I applied for this previously in my cover letter? I can’t decide if it’s more awkward to include, or to not include if their HR system still has a record of my previous application.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      I would omit the fact that you previously applied. The whole point of the cover letter is real estate to show how you’re the best candidate for the job. Mentioning you previously applied does nothing to show them you’re the best candidate. I realize there is a temptation to include it because of the progress you made since you last applied. But if it’s a new team doing the hiring, they won’t care. And if it’s the same people doing the hiring, they probably don’t remember that you applied in 2019.

      Make that space in your cover letter work for you. Mention things that aren’t in your resume. And good luck!

    2. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

      Agree with the comment above. 2019 was a long time ago, in HR scenarios.

      In my experience, HR doesn’t even notice when you’ve applied for positions previously. And even if they did, they’d be unlikely to mention it to the selection committee.

      Good luck with the application, and as the commenter above mentioned, use that cover letter real estate to highlight your newer experience and accomplishments.

  44. AllyKat*

    My manager (along with some others in our area) are planning a community of practice day in late January/early February. The idea is that all the teams will share projects we’ve been working on and provide resources to the other teams, as well as engage in some teambuilding. My manager told our team that the entire day (8 hours) will be outdoors in a forest. The team who is hosting is really into outdoor activities and environmentalism, so that’s the theme for this day. The problem is that we are in Canada and it’s winter, which means we will be out in the cold all day, with no places to sit other than the ground or tree stumps. There will be a campfire at one point, but that’s it.

    I hate the outdoors. I hate being cold. I’m not physically fit. I’m dealing with long-haul covid (which has left me with brain fog and intense exhaustion on top of already dealing with chronic fatigue). All of this means that I don’t want to go to this event. I don’t think it would be safe for me to go and I would be so miserable that there would be no learning for me.

    My manager has said this is a mandatory event. She doesn’t like cold either and said she feels for me, but we all have to go. I would love to talk with her about how this is not an inclusive event, but I need some help on a script. I’m a crier when stressed, which includes talking to management.

    Right now I’m thinking of just calling out sick that day (though my manager will know what’s really going on), but I’d appreciate some help in crafting a script to talk to my manager.

    1. What the Jorts?*

      I’m so sorry. Can you get a note or statement from your physician about how this would not be good for your health?

      1. PollyQ*

        Yes, do this if at all possible. There’s no reason why anyone should have to do this nonsense, but long-haul Covid is an excellent reason not to! I expect you’ll have no trouble whatsoever getting your doctor to sign off on this.

    2. WellRed*

      You can’t be the only one who doesn’t want to do this. Group pushback? And yes, this is not an inclusive event at all. I also can’t imagine cold us good for the lungs of a Covid patient.

      1. AllyKat*

        Unfortunately half my team is super excited about this, so group pushback isn’t going to work. It’s kind of extra ridiculous because we always talk about inclusivity for our students, and then they go and plan something like this that the majority of our students wouldn’t be able to do anyway!

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          What about the other half of the group? This sounds terrible! This is completely not inclusive and ableist and and and….flames!

    3. Colette*

      This is a terrible idea. I regularly spend all day outside in winter, and this sounds awful. It doesn’t sound like there’s any way to stay warm (you’ll get cold fast if you’re sitting around instead of moving), and it sounds unsafe.

      I’d suggest saying “My health doesn’t allow me to take part in this, do you need a doctor’s note?”

      (How big is your company? Is going to HR an option?)

      If for some reason you have to go, bring:
      – a lawn chair
      – 2 sleeping bags (one for underneath you, one for on top of you)
      – winter boots with wool socks (make sure you have room to wiggle your toes – they shouldn’t be too tight)
      – a toque
      – mitts (not gloves)
      – snow pants

      Hopefully, you will be able to borrow some of this stuff.

      1. AllyKat*

        Thanks for this! I’m going to tell my manager I can’t do this for health reasons, and if she insists I’ll use your list of supplies. If I need to buy stuff, maybe I’ll tell my manager I need to expense them so I can participate in the mandatory activity lol.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Does your manager know it’s a potential threat to your health versus just a preference to not be painfully cold and uncomfortable being outside for an entire day? I would think a medical exception is fine to use against a mandatory event. Do you have any accommodations in place for long COVID or chronic fatigue? If so, maybe you could lean on the language of those accommodations. If not, maybe it’s time to ask for one specifically excluding this event (and anything similar in the future).

      I also second the other option WellRed suggested, to push back as a group. It’s unrealistic to force people to be outside for eight straight hours in what I’m assuming is very cold weather (I was just in BC recently for the cold snap) with minimal comfort facilities when that is not their job, and I have to believe at least some of your teammates are also put off by this.

    5. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      I wonder if you could push back to your boss to at least have the company provide adequate PPE? I’m not sure how you do it in Canada, but I do know it’s can be cold enough to be dangerous to life and limb. Being outdoors in the winter all…dang…day…Sounds like frostbite would be a concern.

      1. Undine*

        Hypothermia. And you don’t know when it’s happening to you, so you can’t rely on someone to speak up before it’s too late. They could kill somebody. I would guess long Covid has a significant chance of increasing your susceptibility and your risk of not being able to detect that it’s happening. Definitely get a doctor’s note and point out they have to comply with health and safety regulations. Definitely discriminates against older people, people with certain chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes), who are at greater risk. It’s not just you. Not being able to leave the instant you feel like you have to warm up literally puts people’s lives at risk.

    6. My Brain Is Exploding*

      And… Will there be porta potties? ‘cuz I’d want a nice indoor bathroom that’s heated!

      1. RagingADHD*

        Nothing says environmentalism like taking a whole company full of non-campers to hang around pooping in the woods for 8 hours.

      2. AllyKat*

        This was one of my first questions too! And nope. We’ll be in the woods for the day with no porta potties. I was told that we might get to go to an indoor location for lunch, but that’s it. So much about this is a horrible idea with no real planning.

        1. Construction Safety*

          That would violate US workplace laws (OSHA), Canuckistan MUST have something similar.

    7. Wishing you good health*

      Absolutely get your doctor to help on this. She will probably be appalled at you going!

    8. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’d reach out to your provincial workplace safety authority. (WorkSafeBC, OHS in Alberta, etc.; use search terms “worker health occupational safety ProvinceName” if you don’t know the name of your province’s organization.) Check their website. There might be guidance for how to refuse work in unsafe conditions and how to start the conversation at the workplace, so that you cover your bases in the event that you need to escalate to a report to the authority.

    9. the cat's ass*

      Oh, yuck, just yuck. In the middle of a Canadian winter, no less. WHAT is the matter with your management? Please get a provider note (I’ve written them for patients for something just this tone-deaf and potentially unsafe) and bail all the way out of this nonsense. Good luck!

      1. Clisby*

        Exactly. I’m currently basking in a beautiful South Carolina winter (I actually turned on the AC yesterday) and I wouldn’t want to do this either. Unless you’re all park rangers or trail guides or something like that, what’s with spending 8 hours in the great outdoors?

  45. Matilda*

    I’m writing in the hopes that commenters can help me brainstorm career ideas. I’ve worked in education for most of my career in various roles – teaching, admin, and now a position where (in my state) I help with determining eligibility for kids who may need special education. I have a life science bachelor’s degree and science education master’s degree. Writing, data analysis, and verbal communication are probably the most transferable parts of my current position. I moved into this job at the start of the pandemic and since we returned to offices last year, the position has really changed since the time when I started my training/certification. It’s now heavily micromanaged (yet without that translating into any kind of helpful support, somehow?) and with really really tight deadlines for the work that needs to be completed. Part of the difficulty is that I’m relatively new at this, but exactly no one in my building feels like this is doable, and we only recently got to the point where there wasn’t someone crying at work each week over the frustration and anxiety about the pace of work and what we’re being asked to do. This is all in addition to the general dumpster fire that is working in education through the pandemic, and I’m more concerned than usual about the ways that this new CDC guidance is going to make my job less safe than it was in the first half of the year (which was frankly not that great to start with).

    I keep reading Ask a Manager columns and it seems like other people have interesting jobs that pay at least reasonably well, even in the remote setting. I want that! But making the change from education is daunting. I live in a relatively small city and I suspect that my best bet for doing something interesting that uses my skills would be with remote work, but everything seems kind of scammy, and I’m not exactly sure what my resume looks like to someone in a corporate setting.

    I’m hoping that commenters with non-education positions might steer me toward the types of positions that might be a fit. Thank you!

    1. Scotlibrarian*

      You have a lot of transferable skills if you have done teaching and admin! Online training roles, library assistant (not well paid, in person, front line, but generally decent places to work), remote admin. I work as a trainer and a librarian, so can speak to those. Maybe also look at other local govt positions near you too – look through the job description/ essential and desirable characteristics for anything that doesn’t need a specific qualification / training and get a feel for how your experience could be mapped onto their requirements with a little stretching

    2. Green Goose*

      Have you looked into Ed Tech or education nonprofits? I was a classroom teacher and then moved to an education nonprofit and have been happy. And they value my past experience. Look for larger nonprofits, they pay better.

    3. Pigeon*

      Would you have interest in library roles, or maybe a hospital librarian or Clinical Health Sciences Librarian at an academic medical center? It’s not the most well-known field in librarianship so can be a struggle to fill positions, and more of the postings (including our two most recent openings) are broadening the wording of the degree qualifications in the ad to allow other relevant advanced degrees in place of an MLIS, and science education master’s degree would definitely meet that requirement for ours.

  46. Second Breakfast*

    I am thinking about shelling out some money for a skills assessment, since I am at a crossroads in my career. My analyst suggested the Strong Interest Inventory, but a few people I know have also recommended the Strengths Finder. I was trying to decide between those two, when the book “ADHD 2.0”put in a plug for the Kolbe A Index.

    Does anyone have experience with any of these tests? Are they worth the money? Did you learn anything from them you didn’t already know?

  47. Second Breakfast*

    I am thinking about taking a skills assessment, since I am at a crossroads in my career. My analyst suggested the Strong Interest Inventory, but a few people I know have also recommended the Strengths Finder. I was trying to decide between those two, when the book “ADHD 2.0”put in a plug for the Kolbe A Index. Now I can’t decide which one, if any, I should try.

    Does anyone have experience with any of these tests? Are any of them better or worse than the others? Did you learn anything from them you didn’t already know?

    1. Dreaming of travel*

      I’ve taken the StrengthsFinder and it looks like the Strong Interest Inventory comes from Myers-Briggs. Except for maybe the Big 6, none of these tests have any more validity than the ones I took in Cosmo magazines in college, so first, know they are not scientific or prescriptive. But I keep ending up with bosses who like me to take them, lol. I can see they could be useful as a self reflection tool. Personally, I thought Myers Briggs was a little more accurate than StrengthsFinder- but my sister reported the opposite for her. There are plenty of similar, free tests online- I’d take a few and see if there are any trends.

    2. PollyQ*

      I took the Strong Interest Inventory 30 years ago, when I was fresh out of college with a Math BA and no idea what to do with it. Despite its name, it doesn’t (or didn’t) actually look at what you’re good at. It basically asks what kind of things you like to do, then tells you that other people who like those same things like doing the following careers. So it’s great for finding careers that you might not have thought of, but it won’t necessarily tell you what you’d be good at. (Of course, there’s a lot of overlap between the things people like to do and the things they’re good at, so that plays a role.) I’m not familiar with the other 2, so can’t compare.

      I did find the test helpful for myself — their top suggested career for me worked out well for a long time.

    3. Filosofickle*

      The Kolbe was the most accurate I’ve ever taken. Based on a small battery, it pretty much nailed me. That was a long time ago though! Strengthsfinder was okay, interesting but it felt more like a label than a tool.

  48. Worker bee*

    I feel like I’m getting close to a crossroads at my current job and I’m not sure what to do. My company can be frustrating, but not in a deal breaker kind of way, but I keep having this overall feeling of dissatisfaction and I’m not sure what I can do to change things.

    I’ve been with my company for 7 years, in my current position for almost 5, yet I still feel… lost, useless, unimportant/irrelevant? I run my company’s e-commerce store, but only in the sense that I do general maintenance (uploaded images and descriptions and adding/removing products). It was an interesting challenge 4 years ago, but I’m bored out of my mind now.

    In the past year, the owner has asked me to add additional data to product records, which has been a welcome change. I’ve been able to come up with procedures that make this easy to do and somewhat fast (though when you’re talking about tens of thousands of items, nothing is actually fast).

    I was moved to my current position because of my previous two years of experience in the company, but even though I’ve gained a ton of experience, there seems to be no interest in giving me a title bump or a raise that reflects my knowledge and experience.

    They know that they can throw pretty much anything at me and I’ll figure it out and get it done, but I’m finding it frustrating and disheartening to never have any goals or metrics for success. I am one of the only people in the company that doesn’t have a direct boss/supervisor and, regardless of that, my company doesn’t do performance reviews.

    I’ve been putting together a list of things I’ve done/my accomplishments, but it looks so lackluster in print. I don’t have anything solid like “increased sales by 20%”, only “learned more efficient ways of doing X, Y, and X and created manuals for jobs X and Y.”

    My issue is that I have no idea what might be a salary for anything I do. Since I don’t have a job description, I have no idea of a baseline. I tried looking at glassdoor, but I’m not willing to do all their nonsense. Is there another site that might have decent info?

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      I’m so sorry! It sounds like this job has sucked a lot of your confidence out of you.
      I’m not sure about salaries, but one thing I have found helpful is to get on Indeed, Monster or Careerbuilder and just start looking at job descriptions. Maybe search on “e-commerce” and see what comes up? It also sounds a bit like some marketing type jobs I’ve seen. I wouldn’t get too hung up on titles, it sounds like you could do a bunch of things well.
      And, you have improved processes for X, Y and Z and that’s huge! And being about to write manuals is a great skill and experience. You sound like a process oriented person, and that is incredibly valuable to companies. Maybe look at smaller companies that are trying to scale up and need to get more efficient.
      Good luck!

    2. Marketing Middle Manager*

      Ugh, I can totally relate, I was in a very similar situation after being in an email marketing role for 5 years.

      Have you looked into e-commerce SEO? Either in house or freelance. Knowing how to quickly update product records and manage a large e-commerce website are worth their weight in gold in that field. And it’s a thriving field where a lot of people fall into it from other types of roles, so you wouldn’t be an outlier. As for salaries, many SEO companies do salary surveys, just google something like “seo salary survey”. The only thing to keep in mind is whether the survey is focused on freelancers or in-house, depending on which direction you want to go. I’d also highly recommend Traffic Think Tank if you are excited about SEO and want to learn more + connect with other e-commerce SEO people.

  49. CalAH*

    Are there any nonbinary people who could share advice for coming out at work?
    I have used they/them pronouns for about five years but chose not to share that while applying for my current job. I thought it would be safest/easiest to spend my probationary period learning the office culture before deciding if I wanted to come out.
    It has not been ideal, but was probably my best option. I know several people, including management, who will likely be supportive. I was also able to establish myself as a diligent, effective employee. Having positive performance reviews makes makes me feel more secure in case anyone tries to claim that I am no longer a good fit. My probation ends in a few weeks. Both my managers have shared that they recommended I become a permanent employee. I was on track to come out sometime in mid-January using the resources from
    Then a new position opened up in my department, and several coworkers have recommended I apply. I am applying because I’m qualified and the job duties are more in line with my training and interests.
    I am now questioning my coming out timeline. Most of my coworkers have been very kind, especially those I would be working with more closely if I earn the new position. Essentially, they would be mentoring me. While kind, some of them are very conservative, and I am concerned that their good will and aid are conditional. Waiting through another 6 month probation would increase my chances of receiving necessary training and mentorship. However, another 6 months of using the wrong pronouns sounds exhausting.
    Has anyone had a similar experience? Do you have recommendations for when and how to come out? I would appreciate any suggestions or resources.

  50. DJ Abbott*

    I’ve just been reading the discussion about the trans person who was harassed by their coworker, and I have a couple of things to say.
    I probably won’t have time to come back and discuss this, I’m just putting it out there.

    The only trans person I’ve ever known (that I know of ) is/was a coworker at the deli. She is a really cool person and we all like her and I would never do anything to upset her. So no big deal, I’ll just refer to this person who seems male with feminine pronouns, right?
    It turns out the path in the brain from “male appearing” to “male pronouns” is long and deep, going back to when I learned to talk. I fully intended to refer to her properly, but several times slipped and used male pronouns. I always realized and corrected myself right away and I hope it never got back to her and she never overheard it.
    The deli is a typical young worker/working class environment and all of my colleagues were better at referring to her properly than I was. These are young people who sometimes don’t have much education and very little job experience, and none of them had a problem with a trans worker that I could tell. They could teach some of the office workers a few things, right?

    1. RagingADHD*

      I think it’s a mistake to ascribe deliberate, stubborn, ongoing harassment to ignorance. It was very clear that the coworker in that story wasn’t confused or awkward or making mistakes out of ingrained habit. She knew exactly what she was doing, and she was doing it on purpose to make a point.

      You can’t teach personal growth unless the person wants to learn. They have to come to that point inside themselves.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Oh no, I wasn’t saying she was just ignorant. I know her harassment was deliberate, and she is horrible.

        I was very surprised that even though I intended to use the correct pronouns, my brain had other ideas. It takes a while even with the best intentions.
        Maybe I should have posted this thought at some other time so it wouldn’t be linked to that discussion.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Thanks! I did practice the pronouns out loud and in my head, and it helped.
        I quit that job a few weeks ago and my trans colleague was talking about doing some other things so she may have quit too. I hope she has fun and does well wherever she goes!

  51. Green Goose*

    Trying to weigh the pros and cons of my job… Would love insight. I really love the niche industry that I’m in, and I really like about 99% of my coworkers. We also have great benefits that I have never seen offered at other companies. The issue is that we are expanding in scope of work but my department size is not. I have literally double the amount of clients as when I first started but my team has never grown. Because of this the urgent and boring work is now becoming the major part of the work I do, and there is not a lot of time for the exciting, creative and strategic work I enjoy doing and that really needs to get done. I find the urgent & boring work very draining and do not enjoy it at all. I’ve talked with my managers over the years but it just seems like we are never going to expand until I or the one other person rage quits. There is still opportunity to be promoted and get more money, but the actual work will not change if there are not more people added, which I know will not happen for at least a year (unless there is a rage quit?). I feel like currently I’m a very overpaid data entry support who is falling short on the higher level expectations of the role because there is no time to do them. What do you think AAM?

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      Your read of the situation sounds accurate to me. My only suggestion would be to document how much time you are spending on the low-level tasks and see where that gets you. How far out of line with your job description is the way you are spending your time? How much would it increase organizational efficiency relative to cost if they paid someone else to do those tasks full or part time (presumably at a lower rate)? What would that free you up to do and how would that pay off for the company? One caution—you don’t want to get reorganized out of a job if they really only want the low-level tasks these days, so you may want to talk with your manager first about what kind of information would help make the case for adjusting your job duties.

  52. Camelid coordinator*

    My university is having a COVID-related town hall for staff later this week, and I’d like to submit a question/request that they actually talk about staff. Almost all of the policy changes since Thanksgiving have been aimed at students, except for the one that prohibited gatherings with food=holiday parties. It feels like we are being asked to do our work at our usual high level (and in person for the most part) under very trying conditions. I am not asking for anything in particular but would appreciate it if they acknowledge the stressors out loud. If you have suggestions about how I could word this I’d appreciate it.

    1. AllyKat*

      Could you ask something around what are they doing to support staff during this time? We just started an extended winter break because of rising cases, with teachers using this week to plan for if learning goes virtual again. Our district put out a bunch of resources to support teachers, acknowledging that this is stressful and offering to help teachers make two sets of lesson plans. You could ask what the university is going to do to support staff who may have to pivot to virtual learning quickly, or if they are offering any stress management/self-care resources.

  53. RhondaDawnAnon*

    This doesn’t really require a letter to Alison, but I’m curious to hear what other people think of it. I left a job about three years ago at about the same time as “Jane,” a difficult co-worker. Jane was good at many technical aspects of her job but consistently interpersonally abrasive. We still work in the same industry, which is small but not tiny. Jane has recently told several people in my professional network that I “bullied” her out of that job. That’s not quite what happened. If anything, Jane bullied me, although at the time, I thought as more ineffectual than a bully. (If compared to characters from “The Office,” Jane was far more a Dwight than an Angela, although she sees herself as the latter).

    The script I’ve been sticking to the two times it’s come up is “[Former Company] was going though some major challenges when I left. Jane and I had very different experiences there, but I’m glad she landed on her feet.” Is that a sufficient answer? I’m not at all worried about Jane harming my profession reputation, but I do want to have an answer that deflects without giving away too much information.

    1. Green Goose*

      That’s a tricky one. If someone said “Dwight said you bullied them out of their job” could you look very surprised and say something like, “are you sure Dwight was talking about me? I remember their exit quite differently. Anyway, how are you?”

      I have a relative who is an abrasive and difficult person and that caused a lot of issues at their former employer. Relative’s contract was not renewed and they have now been saying they were bullied out of their role. Since my relative told me a lot about their job, being “bullied out” is not true. But that’s what they believe. I don’t think most people will blindly believe my relative just based on how relative usually acts.

      So if your former coworker is the type to make drama and cause issues and accusations then maybe people will take the bully story with a grain of salt.

      And what was your reaction when you first heard? Did it make you view the past situation differently?

  54. Dizzy*

    Late to the party, but here goes. I have been with my company two years this week. Due to COVID we have all been working from home since March 2020. I was getting ready to ask my manager for a raise when he was suddenly replaced with someone that had been a fringe manager for our team. My old manager is not gone just not a direct manager any longer so would be able to have input if asked. Well, I took the leap and using AAM advice, emailed my newish manager to ask for a raise. I included points about why I though I was deserving as my role has expanded tremendously from what I was initially hired to do. That my last appraisal was straight 5’s (can’t get any better than that!). And…..crickets. No acknowledgement at all, no, can’t do now, I’ll look into it, nothing. It has been three weeks. So how do I diplomatically follow up on my request? He has answered other email questions I have sent him, so I’m fairly confident he received the email.

  55. Powerchair Problems*

    This is probably one of the weirdest questions y’all will have gotten on one of these threads, but I can’t think of a better group of people to ask.

    I am a full time power wheelchair user. For as long as I’ve been using a power chair, I’ve chosen ‘fun’ colors like pink and purple. I’ve recently started the process of getting a new chair, and my stepmom brought up something I have never had to consider before: whether the color of my chair would affect how employers view me.

    As a result, I’m now looking at more ‘muted’ colors for my new chair, like maroon or even navy blue. These colors aren’t ‘me’, but since I’m disabled (and very visibly so), I do have that voice in my head telling me I need to make myself As Professional As Possible so I have a better chance at getting a job. Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated!

    1. Marketing Middle Manager*

      Caveat: I am not a wheelchair user, so my perspective might be limited.

      To me, this feels similar to any other choice about appearance–fashion, hair color, etc. Alison has great advice on this broader topic. Essentially, it probably won’t be an issue unless you’re aiming for a highly conservative field with a more conservative dress code (ie, finance). If you love bright colors and wouldn’t feel as confident without them, then perhaps you don’t want to work for an employer who wouldn’t embrace that. But you also get to decide if you would rather choose a more muted color and remove all possibility of it being an issue.

      I can tell you that in my company (edtech) no one would care, and a lot of people proudly display their love for bright colors in their appearance or office decor.

    2. Tali*

      Honestly I cannot imagine any employer having rules or expectations regarding professional colors and designs for mobility aids. I don’t think it will make you stand out more than having a wheelchair in the first place–sadly I think if you get discriminated against I think the existence of the chair, not its color will be the factor. Get the one that makes you happy!

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