my slacker coworkers make more work for me, constant trainings disrupt my job, and more

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

1. I’m asked to do more work because my slacker coworkers won’t

I’ve been in my current job for four years and have taken the time to learn things on my own so that I can do a good job. When volunteers are solicited, I step up and I also ask to learn more things so I can understand more aspects of our job.

Most of of my teammates are not at all interested in learning new things or even how do to their jobs correctly. That’s their prerogative, but now my boss gives me extra work because “I know you’ll get it done right.” I’m feeling a bit burned out and resentful that I’m having to do additional tasks we all should be doing because it seems the manager prefers not to address their incompetence and laziness. I’m one of the newer people on the team and most others have been there longer than me.

If people aren’t doing their jobs correctly, shouldn’t someone let them know so they can improve their performance? I don’t want to see my colleagues performing poorly even if it doesn’t cause extra work for me. My boss has even mentioned to me that some of my teammates are still not performing “XYZ” correctly. Is there any way I can suggest they be re-trained to do their jobs correctly especially if the manager is aware they aren’t?

I’m a local government employee and pay is non-negotiable so there’s no chance of asking for additional compensation.

Try this: “I’m happy to help out in a pinch here and there, but I’m concerned that I’m ending up responsible for a lot of additional work because others won’t perform it correctly. Is it possible to get them retrained or coached on things like X and Y so that I’m not carrying that whole load?”

If that doesn’t change anything — and frankly I’m not optimistic that it will — then you’ll have to decide whether you’d rather (a) stop volunteering for the extra work and push back when your boss tries to assign you things your coworkers should be doing or (b) keep doing it because you like the work and/or believe it positions you for future growth, while accepting that that means you’ll be doing more work for the same pay as your coworkers. Or there’s always (c) go elsewhere if you get sufficiently fed up.

Read an update to this letter

2. We got a reference call for a former employee we’re trying to hire back

I am a HR professional at a large nonprofit. We hired a maternity leave temp, Brenda, for a secretary in one of our divisions. As her temp assignment ended, we had a secretary opening in our business office. Brenda agreed to work through our busy season (about 12 weeks), and then was moving out of state to attend a six-month training program in another field completely. Brenda was much loved in the business office and we attempted to keep her here longer, but she wanted to work in her new field once she was trained.

It’s six months later. Brenda has finished her training and discovered that her new field pays minimum wage no matter where she goes. She moved back to our state and of course we asked if she wanted to come back. She came in for an interview, and we made her an offer. She wanted $X, a 40% increase over what we were paying her before. We negotiated and said we would pay $Y, a 25% increase over what we were paying her before. She said she would get back to us in a few days with her decision, but that she really needed $X to cover her living expenses here. We really cannot justify a 40% increase for a secretary position.

It’s a few days later and we haven’t yet heard back from Brenda, but today I got a reference call for Brenda, listing me as a work reference. I answered honestly that I think she is a great candidate but isn’t this just the height of chutzpah? At least have the nerve to tell us you don’t want our offer before listing us as a reference! How would you have handled this? If it makes any difference, I have known Brenda personally for many many years.

It sounds like you’re assuming Brenda has decided to turn down your offer and hasn’t bothered to tell you — but I don’t think you can conclude that at all! She presumably was already in the interview process with this other company before you offered her a job with you, and she’s allowed to consider other positions while she’s considering yours (and for all we know, she might have given them your name as a reference weeks or even months ago). If she never gets back to you, then you’ll know that she has indeed ghosted you but there’s no reason to conclude that at this point.

3. Constant IT trainings are disrupting our work

I work at a large digital media company with several thousand employees around the country. Having a firm handle on the latest developments in digital tech is a must for any job here. But I’m wondering how I can respectfully communicate to our IT department that the number of trainings they’re assigning on a weekly basis is extremely disruptive?

I get anywhere from 3-5 assignments for trainings on new software or web platforms every week. They take, at minimum, one hour to complete. They often involve watching long, un-interactive, boring videos that explain how to use very basic programs that most professionals already know how to use. For example, I have a 75-minute minute Zoom training on … using Google Calendar.

These are really disruptive to my workflow and the workflows of my colleagues, and I often find myself having to rush at the end of the day/end of the week to get all of my “real” work done. Those 3-5 hours a week are a precious commodity.

The thing is, IT is so siloed and remote, I don’t know to whom (or how) to communicate this delicately.

Does IT have the authority to insist you do the trainings, or can they only suggest them? If the latter, it sounds like your manager would give you her blessing to ignore them. But if for some reason IT is able to mandate the trainings, then your manager needs to intervene and tell them that the sessions aren’t helpful to your team and you won’t be doing them because your attention is needed on higher priorities. If she can’t figure out who to talk to, then she should talk to her own manager — but someone with authority needs to step in and say no more. (No need for it to be conveyed delicately either; this can be pretty straightforward.)

I’m also curious about what would happen if you just didn’t do the trainings. And hey, if you don’t do them and someone follows up with you to say you need to, that would give you or your manager a person to address it with.

4. I expressed a lot of enthusiasm for a job, then accepted another offer

I’ve been interviewing with two companies – company A and company B. They are both great companies that do work I care about and have a lot of interesting projects. I had a first-round interview with company A a couple days ago. I really liked all of the people I talked to and they were clearly really passionate about their work, so I sent a very enthusiastic thank-you email in which I also suggested a way of mitigating one of the problems they had brought up during the interview.

Then I had an interview with company B. The next day, company B made me an incredible offer, and I was so excited about it I accepted right away (maybe that wasn’t the best decision, but I’ve already signed the offer letter).

Then company A contacted me about scheduling the next round of interviews. How do I tell them I’ve accepted another offer without seeming like I was insincere about my enthusiasm?

I realize “dial down the enthusiasm a few notches from ‘excited puppy’” would prevent me from having these problems in the future. I’m … working on it.

You’re probably not going to seem like you were insincere. It’s not odd to have a couple of different job prospects that you’re highly interested in and only be able to accept one, or to just have a better offer fall in your lap that changes your earlier calculus. In fact, you can allude to the latter in your response: “I really enjoyed our conversation and think you’re doing fascinating work! However, since we last talked I received an offer I couldn’t pass up. So I need to withdraw from consideration, but wish you all the best in filling the position.”

And I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that you need to dial down the enthusiasm in the future. Unless you’re over the top about it, genuine enthusiasm about a job is a good thing when you’re interviewing, and you shouldn’t tone it down just to avoid this situation.

{ 305 comments… read them below }

  1. Bee Eye Ill*

    #1 – I also used to work in local gov and went through the same thing. I left 2 years and now make more than my old boss and my coworkers are great. Don’t put up with that mess.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is important: Put up some boundaries, because otherwise your boss will realize the appeal of keeping everyone on but assigning their work to you. You’re already burning out. Moving elsewhere, or upward, will be hard if you are exhausted and increasingly bitter–look after yourself, long- and short-term, and hold some boundaries.

        1. Cold Fish*

          I get the impression this is a lesson OP’s coworkers learned long ago.

          Sorry if this is little unpopular but OP needs to stop the holier-than-thou thinking. You are not better than your coworkers because you take on/volunteer for more work than the others. They have learned to put the boundaries’ necessary so they do not burn-out. Also, stop trying to police what processes they are/are not following. That is the managers’ job, not yours. And if your manager is commenting on their performance to you… well, they sound like a very poor manager.

          1. peachy*

            To be fair to the OP, it doesn’t really sound like they are policing what policies their coworkers are following. It sounds like their manager is telling them, “I’m giving you X work because coworkers don’t know how to follow policies P, Q, and R.” In that case, I think it’s reasonable to wonder “why can’t they learn P, Q, and R so I’m not the only person who does X?”

          2. Alexis Rosay*

            This is a big leap. We do not know whether OP’s coworkers have put up better boundaries against an aggressive boss or if they are spending a big chunk of their day on social media, for example. The two situations are not the same.

          3. Bee Eye Ill*

            I can tell you from over 10 years of city gov experience that this is common because of civil service protection combined with city councils voting across the board pay raises in fixed percentages rather than anything merit-based. The long timers learn that doing the bare minimum will get you the exact same as the go-getters, so they sit back and coast.

            1. my roflcopter goes soi soi soi*

              Or maybe….the long-timers have learned to prioritize mental/physical health by sticking to their actual duties as outlined in position descriptions. I’m now a long-timer in my state agency thanks to a lot of covid-spurred departures and not interested in adding to my workload by ‘moving up’. The saying ‘the willing horse gets the most work’ is very true, and without an equal or greater reward for the added work, it’s poor economics to keep giving away labor, esp when it leads to more burnout.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          Yes indeed. Boundaries. Drop the rope. It’s OK to say (nicely) “no,” or “If I do X, then that won’t leave time for Y to be completed, and we discussed last week about Y being a top priority project.”

          As so many commenters noted in the thread of a couple weeks ago – whether it’s become a more favorable market for job seekers or not – there is still a “2010” mindset out there, and not just on the side of employers. I think a lot of workers still feel like there’s going to be a line out the door waiting for their job unless they prove themselves indispensable. While glamor fields and “hot places to work” companies might still have people lining up outside their doors…local government is neither glamorous nor a highly desired place to work, unless you are in an area where that is the main or only employer.

          Drop the rope, LW!

      2. EPLawyer*

        Yep. WHY should the boss make a change if the work is getting done. Make this a boss problem, not your problem to solve.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, if you stay I think this is the most important boundary to draw. If you’re getting all of this done in a normal 8 hours and are just frustrated that you are the only one producing good results then that’s one thing. But don’t work any extra time to cover the extra work! I know government positions are often big on *not* working overtime so maybe this isn’t/won’t be an issue for you. But if you decide you want to keep this job and make it work I would definitely keep that line in mind as a strong stance to take if you ever need to.

      4. Office Lobster DJ*

        OP, your boss’ priority is taking the path of least resistance that gets the work done. You’re right to be skeptical of comments like “I know you’ll do this right” or confiding that your co-workers just don’t do something right.

        Decide what your boundaries are, then use whatever avenue you can to hold them. Consider what you can do. Take your breaks and full lunch, use your earned time off, say no when you can. Maybe you can parry comments like “You know Fergus struggles with X” with “I found Y training really helpful with that. Should I send him a link?”

        Actually, speaking of training, is there any chance you yourself could create internal training materials for your co-workers for some of these things? Not that you should have to, of course, but it would give your boss something to point to and help soften your future “no.” As for you, if it works it gets this off your plate and could even add a line to your resume.

        1. LW1*

          We have a very capable training team that has provided training materials to everyone.

          I don’t know if my co-workers have read them though.

          I really think some of them don’t know better, but if they’re not informed they’re doing something incorrectly, they will continue to do it the way they’re doing it unless someone tells them otherwise.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            It’s your boss’s (and/or grandboss’s, if you have one) job to tell your coworkers “you are grooming the llamas incorrectly. This is the correct way to do it” and then make sure they DO it.

            Your coworkers are not your responsibility. They are your boss’s.

          2. Office Lobster DJ*

            Aha. Well, so much for that idea. Thanks for your comment – I was picturing a situation where the boss has been diverting incomplete, extra, or tougher tasks to you, but it sounds more like the boss has been telling them they’re doing a great job with [the report] and then quietly passing it off to you to clean up?

        2. Momma Bear*

          IMO, have a sit down with the boss and go over your workload. What you can do and what you can’t reasonably do. You are going to burn out. If they can’t do x right and you need to, what is Boss going to take OFF your plate to handle it? Does Boss simply need to redistribute tasks so the Most Important are yours, but at a reasonable level? You need to be clear that this is your boundary/line. If the materials are there for reference, refer people to them and do your own thing. The weight of the whole department shouldn’t fall on you. If none of this improves, dust off the resume.

      5. Meep*


        I work for a startup so a degree of overtime is expected some of the time. However, working from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM with no lunch break and then on the weekends for an extra 6-20 hours was exhausting. Not to mention like OP, it only seemed to get me more work and no benefit.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I’ve also worked in a government environment like that (as a temp consultant, thankfully), and I don’t even see much point in LW1 going to their manager and asking that the co-workers get retrained.

      The manager already knows that the co-workers are bad at their jobs and either doesn’t care or has decided there’s nothing they can do about it except give important work to the employee they know will get it done right (IMO, the latter is more likely). Asking the manager how to get other employees to do their jobs better isn’t likely to lead anywhere good. At best, the manager will make sympathetic noises and shrug; at worst, LW1 risks coming off as a complainer and troublemaker who’s trying to tell the boss how to do their job.

      I’d suggest that LW1 accept this long-standing (lack of) work culture as something they can’t change, then focus on what that means for their own job and what they want to do about it.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        The work request going to a person who will get it done happens in industry as well. When you are a small company it happens.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Conglomerates are not immune. The only difference is their employees may have an easier time getting an internal transfer.

        2. Anonym*

          A friend works in software dev/support and is in this exact position – they’ve become the go to contact because the rest of the team is not very competent. They will be leaving soon because carrying a whole team and never getting a breather is miserable.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        Agreed. The boss is aware those coworkers don’t get stuff done and don’t do it right. If it bothered them enough, they’d fix it. Now, LW1 might be able to say “I can’t do that extra work/I can’t take that assignment. I have too much on my plate.” but that doesn’t mean anything with significantly change.

    2. The Dogman*

      I think it is a bit sad that the issue LW1 has is with the coworkers not the management.

      They have sucked up the corporate/US government propaganda about workers have to give 100% all the time (even when underappreciated or actually hated by the people with real money) when in fact this situation is always caused by the same thing, lack of motivation. And that is the result of poor management and/or low pay/poor conditions.

      All OP can do is find a new job, they need to work at a startup or something, a more vigorous environment anyway.

      1. Anononon*

        Nah, I don’t think it’s sad. I 100% agree that this is something that ultimately went wrong for the OP due to bad management, but I’m not a fan of the recent trend of giving no responsibility to workers. In this case, there’s a a major difference between working a solid 40 hour shift and not going above and beyond (which is perfectly fine) and doing your core job inadequately.

        1. Colette*

          Agreed. It’s not unreasonable to expect someone to do their work. They’re not being asked to work overtime or skip breaks, just do their work to an acceptable level.

        2. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’ve recently been thinking that I’m not loving the “you don’t have a coworker problem, you have a management problem” narrative that gets brought up here pretty often. I mean, it’s not wrong and people in such a situation usually do have a management problem but I don’t see why they can’t also have a coworker problem. I understand that with an effective and competent manager, problematic coworkers would be dealt with and as such, there lies the change, but I don’t see why people can’t also be pissed about how arseholish/lazy/incompetent/annoying their coworkers are.

          (Separately, I also don’t agree with the statement that situations like in this letter are “always caused by […] lack of motivation” and that, in turn, that is always a “result of poor management and/or low pay/poor conditions”, but I feel like that’s actually a separate issue.)

          1. Loulou*

            Well said. Also, as much as I hate the stereotype of “government workers are lazy and you can’t fire them because they’re in a union”…the kernel of truth in that nasty stereotype DOES lead to

            1. Loulou*

              Hit submit too soon. *…the situation OP is describing. OP’s situation rang very true to me and I think it’s a lot more complicated than just “bad conditions = bad performance.” There are a lot of things that are GOOD about our conditions, but they don’t reward strong performance or penalize weak performance like a corporate environment would.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        LW1 seems to be putting the ultimate responsibility on management where it belongs here:

        “Most of of my teammates are not at all interested in learning new things or even how do to their jobs correctly. That’s their prerogative, but now my boss gives me extra work because “I know you’ll get it done right.” I’m feeling a bit burned out and resentful that I’m having to do additional tasks we all should be doing because it seems the manager prefers not to address their incompetence and laziness.”

      3. Loulou*

        I’m not sure if this is warranted from the letter! To a point, I agree that poor performance is often a reflection of poor management or environment. But having worked in a situation similar to what OP describes, I’m sympathetic to the reality of working with people who don’t seem to care that much about fulfilling their (fairly modest!) responsibilities and needing to pick up the slack. In a situation like that, I was frustrated that our mutual boss had seemingly thrown up his hands and just accepted that Adam and Nathaniel would never do X fairly modest core responsibility well, but I also thought “JFC, what is so hard about doing X?”

        1. Cold Fish*

          And I’ve been in several situations where the “new guy” thinks they are the greatest because they are following XYZ processes. When in reality, coworkers know those processes will change at the drop of a hat because they have already had to go from ABC, to DEF, to GHI, to JKL, etc. and are sick of random process changes. OP admits to being of shortest tenure so they may not have the all the history. OP’s complaint is coworkers aren’t following process, not that their work is objectively bad. All of which goes back to problem management and a poor manager making inappropriate comments to one worker about others.

          1. Loulou*

            I take your overall point but I’m not sure where you’re getting the “process” thing from the letter. It’s one possibly reading but by no means is it the only one! At the end of the day, this might be a letter where everyone is reading it through the lens of their own experience

          2. Myrin*

            OP might be “one of the newer people on the team” but nonetheless she’s been there for four years; she’s hardly “the new guy” who isn’t already familiar with the procedures.

            (Also, OP doesn’t mention processes anywhere. She says her coworkers “aren’t performing XYZ correctly” which could mean that they’re not following a certain process while still achieving the desired end result but which probably means – taking into account the rest of the letter – that their work is indeed objectively bad. OP even directly calls it “their incompetence and laziness”.)

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      Same here. I remember getting a review back and being told I was working *too well* and needed to dial it back as to not put undue expectations on other coworkers. Not that I was just working too fast and making a lot of mistakes, etc. – nope, I was doing too well. I wasn’t allowed to work on clearing the backlog of multi-year tasks that needed to be addressed. That would be “too much”. I ended up getting a lot of knitting done in between completing the “well, you will do it right” tasks, like creating training binders, reorganizing files, other busywork. I was also the newest person on the team by about a decade. Stagnancy is a real issue in a lot of gov’t departments.

      Left and got a 60% raise. I now make 3x what I did as a gov’t worker bee. No one yells at me when I make the font larger on a form, because I prefer not needing a magnifying glass to see the text (no exaggeration, the default was 7pt font for some ungodly reason). I get appropriately rewarded for taking on more, and I have an actual team that focuses on working together to get things done – not to just check boxes.

      1. Salad Daisy*

        Yup that was me. My productivity was off the charts and I was told to slow down as it made everyone else on my team look bad. So I did, and started reading Fanfiction at work instead of doing my job. Everyone was happy.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I started automating parts of my job and training my coworkers on the tools I built.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I attempted that first and then was told I wasn’t allowed to do that. “The process is the process”… Any part of working outside my very tiny box was just Not Okay.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                I lasted about a year and a half for that agency (about 5 years gov’t in total). I can’t say I regret it, working in gov’t gave me a huge basis of knowledge that I use constantly in my private-sector job. I just switched sides of the table. Big benefit if you’re in environmental compliance! And it gives me a ton of sympathy for the gov’t employees I need to work with. I can do a ton more on my side to get a permit through faster, for example – I have all the documentation in Excel databases for calculations using exactly what they would use, all my spec sheets in order and pre-labeled with emission unit ID, and I lay out the exact wording with reasoning that I would prefer in the permit. And I keep my management team happy by actually explaining why a process is the way it is, and why Gov’t can’t just do it differently for us. We have a very, very good working relationship with our state agencies because I do my best to make both of our jobs easier. I remember being that permit writer or inspector that is just trying to do my job and end up getting endlessly hassled for a process that is completely out of my control.

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  And when you do that, the government employees love you for using the format they do, and somehow your stuff goes through sooner, amazing that…

      2. Windchime*

        This happened to my son, who worked for the State. His job was basically to help economically disadvantaged people (over the phone) who were having trouble with their benefits. He worked at home, as did his colleagues. He would deal with a call, end it, and pick up another call. He was told that he was processing too many clients per hour and should only be doing X amount, not X + Y. So he would take a call and help the client, then end the call and jiggle his mouse for the next few minutes until he could take another call. (Doing too many cases would make his manager look bad, according to the manager, yet they would also yell at him if his mouse was inactive for too long). Son could see that people were literally on hold for *hours*, but he had to pace himself and not answer too many calls per hour. It was nuts and he hated it.

    4. LW1*

      I’m LW1 and appreciate all the comments!!! I didn’t realize this was such a common problem.

      It’s true I’m already burned out but also blame myself for not setting boundaries sooner. Talking to people isn’t a strength of mine and the fear of being seen as a complainer kept me from really addressing this with my boss. Also, I’m pretty naive and thought this is something we’re required to do as employees.

      I’ve recently started looking for other employment and have some interviews coming up which I hope will result in another job. I’m hopeful that better things await as evidenced by others’ experience here!

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I’m concurring with a lot that’s been said above. When we were in office I saw a lot of knitting or reading going on as tasks were finished but we still had to have behinds in the chair until 5pm. Being a government working I’d take a hard look at if what you are doing is in your pay step or above. If you are doing tasks for others above your pay grade then your position should be renamed (and your paystep moved) to reflect that. Also don’t be afraid to push back if “helping others” becomes “doing their job for them” I had a situation were as an admin for team A I had extra time. So team B started giving me their admin stuff. Then team B just stopped doing any of their admin stuff themselves and just expected me to do all of it. I took a few vacation days and literally had a pile of work sliding off my desk as team B came over to add more. I pushed back with “I don’t have time to do team B stuff right now” They stacked it onto my piles anyway with a “Just do it when you can” Stack literally toppled off onto the floor under the weight of team B’s entitlement. Managers Boss found out and went off on team A & B’s Managers for expecting me to just do all of team B’s stuff. Majorly. Went. Off. Team B learned to only hand me stuff when I went around asking “Would you like some help, I’m free now”

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Oh god that sounds like a nightmare. Talk about entitlement! I’m glad your grandboss went off on them and read them the riot act. It sounds like a case of you gave them an inch, they took it as the go ahead to take a mile. Not your fault. Glad you took a vacation and dropped the rope so Grandboss would notice.

        2. John Smith*

          Yeah, I had this. My manager left without (deliberately) completing half his tasks and his manager asked me to complete them, stating it’s expected of me. I asked him if it was expected of my manager – seeing as it was his job – why he didn’t complete it and why I, 2 grades and £20k under my manager, should do it. He said it’s within my competencies, so I asked why it was a specific managerial task if it could be given to someone on my grade. He could only way I have the knowledge to complete the tasks. I asked him if I should have covered for the chef in the staff canteen when she was off sick as I’m a decent cook (I’m not). Couldn’t answer.

          I can’t help you OP except to say get out and advocate for yourself more. That, or do the job as terribly as everyone else does.

      2. Bee Eye Ill*

        Good luck! I went back from gov work to private sector and it’s night and day when you have people that actually maintain performance metrics and the like.

  2. Heidi*

    Re: Letter 4. The prospect of having to sit through a scheduled zoom call to watch a video recording just plain stinks. I would totally be working on something else during that zoom. Since so many of the trainings are videos, maybe you could suggest that all the videos be uploaded somewhere so that each employee can watch if/when they want to. I definitely know people who could use that tutorial on how to use their calendar, so it’s possible that the training isn’t useless to everyone. It just needs to find its audience.

    1. Wendy*

      I hate to say it, but it’s also possible there are aspects of the training you need to know… or that you THINK you already know, but don’t. I’m just picturing this from IT’s side: “we send out training emails but our employees think that because they know the 10% of the program they use the most, they don’t need to learn the rest! We keep getting help requests that would easily be solved if people just watched the bleeping videos!”

      1. Bamcheeks*

        Possibly, but then IT needs to find a better way of communicating than a 75 minute Zoom training, like directing people to a PDF or a 5min YouTube video. Requiring people to do 3+ hours’ training every week is not the solution!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This. Give me something searchable and I’ll try to find the answer myself. But tell me “Well, Falling, somewhere in these 17 hours of videos about Google calendar lies your answer. Or not. But you’ll only know if you watch everything. Twice.” and suddenly just asking you looks a lot easier.

            1. quill*

              I mean, same, but it’s possible IT is fed up with people not knowing what to google / ask them for, but they don’t understand that no one will learn squat with this information overload.

        2. Nanani*

          Video training is -the worst- for a lot of people. Can’t ask questions, can’t easily skim to the part you need, can’t google a term you’re not sure about because its audio and you can’t see the spelling, etc etc etc

          I know its easier to film a lecture or a clip of someone doing the thing, but developing actual useful reference materials does not end there.
          I swear tutorials and trainings that actually TRAIN and TEACH are becoming extinct now that capturing a clip of someone just doing the thing is so easy

          1. Starbuck*

            Right? First, if you’re going to assign a video training, it better have captions. If it has captions, it ought to have a transcript as well. And if there’s a transcript… just send me that instead of the video!

          2. JustaTech*

            Exactly this. My company got Teams in 2020 and the only “training” was a hour video that was a recording of the training that the executives got on how to use Teams.

            I gave that ten minutes, gave up and dug up the official Microsoft trainings, which are each less than 5 minutes and clearly states what the topic of the training will be.
            Getting many of my colleagues to use Teams has been a nightmare because they didn’t know to look up different training, didn’t get anything from the recording and so decided the entire program was stupid and useless.

        3. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Exactly this. I’m in IT myself, and a lot of my coworkers have the attitude that as long as the information has been made available–no matter how obscure the location or how unhelpful the format–it is now the users’ problem if they don’t know it. No, guys, that’s not how it works.

          And I’m at a university. Teaching is literally our core function*. Drives me up the wall.

          *In principle, anyway. My opinion of what our *real* core function is depends on how cynical I’m feeling that day.

      2. Ange*

        But watching a long non-interactive video is not a good way of doing this. At least break it down into smaller videos with descriptive names (how to schedule a meeting, how to make a recurring meeting, etc) and ideally have exercises for the person to do.

        I don’t learn procedures from watching a video, I learn from doing the thing, so this would be doubly a waste of time for me. Much like our CPR training which since COVID has been just watching videos which have very little explanation of what is happening. (I understand that COVID has caused constraints on in-person training but I learned literally nothing from that video.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I had a really useful video for the start of my current project. It was 10 minutes long, showed me where on the drive and documents to find/put information, and when I had a question about one part I could readily remember that an example lay at about the 8 minute mark.

          Videos are useful if I am supposed to do something on a screen and they indicate what that would look like. (Click on this spot, then the 8th option, then the 3rd option…) But they need to be short and focused. The sort where I watch an 80 minute meeting only some of which is relevant to me–and can’t ask questions, because it’s a recording–are way less useful.

        2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          “I don’t learn procedures from watching a video, I learn from doing the thing, so this would be doubly a waste of time for me.” This!!!! I will promptly forget the contents of the video within a few minutes of ending the video.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            Me too. I’m just not a video person, I even rarely watch TV. I’m an avid reader though. Not everyone learns the same way.
            Video has its place, for example manual tasks are often explained better in video than in just words – assembling my 3d printer was so much easier by following a video step by step.
            For IT stuff, my company does short (5 minutes or less) bits of training online. They email you a link and you can do them at a time that suits you, or skip them altogether. Some are mandatory (security or compliance) so you’ll get reminders every 2 weeks until you do them.
            Some clients work similarly; I recently had to take a cyber security training to go on site for a client that I had written myself – I did not learn much but the 9 minutes it took were not arduous.

        3. AnonInCanada*

          Or if you insist on the long video, post it as a private YouTube video (so only employees have access) and mark off chapters so they can just click on the timestamp to get to the relevant information they need. This solves two problems: 1) they can watch it when they can fit it in their schedule, not forced to watch it at Time X where it’s likely inconvenient, and 2) they don’t have to dredge through the irrelevant parts of a long-winded video to get to what they need. Win-win! But that would mean IT now has to take time out of their day to do that. Oh, darn! /s

      3. Dutchie*

        In that case IT could also do some thinking and conclude that maybe hour long video’s aren’t the way to get their content across.

        If they are in a big company, why not invest in a proper e-learning platform with assignments? Let people perform the tasks they need them to and if the succeed, no need for videos. If they fail, only then show them.

        1. JustaTech*

          Seriously. And if it’s general software like Google Calendar or Microsoft Teams or whatever I know for a fact that at least one (and probably several) online business course companies have online classes. The two that come to mind are LinkedIn Learning and Percipio.
          Not to mention that Microsoft makes training on all its products (and I’ve found it to be pretty good training).

      4. Llamallama*

        “we send out training emails but our employees think that because they know the 10% of the program they use the most, they don’t need to learn the rest! “

        Well.. they probably don’t need to learn the rest, they just need to know where to go to get help on the odd occasion that they have an additional need.

        You can’t teach people, and have them remember, 90% of an application that they barely use. People won’t retain in. IT might figure it isn’t their job to help people with their queries.. but if it is their problem then they need to solve it with a much narrower brush, because spamming people with training will definitely fail.

        1. londonedit*

          This is exactly my situation with a few of the systems we use at work. There are things I use one system for on a near-daily basis, and I can do those things no problem, same with the things I do several times a month. But you can’t keep information that you don’t use regularly in your brain, and every now and then, maybe two or three times a year, something else will crop up and although I can drag some ‘Ooooh, I think that has something to do with X’ knowledge out of the back of my mind, I don’t use those features enough to remember exactly what to do. No amount of training will make me remember how to use them after six months of not needing to even look at them. I’ve also had to sit through several training sessions on how to use the expenses system – I’ve been here nearly four years and I’ve put about three things through expenses in that time. I can just ask my boss how to do it on the rare occasions I need to; again, by the time it actually crops up I’ll have forgotten the training video I watched.

          1. UKDancer*

            I have the same issue with Excel. I use it to a very limited extent fairly regularly (checking spreadsheets and filling in data) but I don’t use much of its functionality. Very occasionally I need to do more complicated things but I have usually forgotten how to do them in the intervening 4-5 months because I don’t retain the information. I’ve done the training but when you don’t use something you forget it in between.

            1. Lab Boss*

              Plus, Excel is a fractal program- not matter how much you learn, there is always the same amount more that you haven’t learned, and the next step is always equally more difficult than the one you just figured out. At some point the company has to decide that this much is what everybody needs to know even though there’s a huge amount more that could theoretically be useful in some circumstances.

          2. That IT Guy*

            Why not document the process for expenses instead of making someone else show you every time? Not only will that help you remember, but it will also give you something to look at the next time, and it will help the next person who does your job.

            1. londonedit*

              Well, it is documented, and as I said there’s regular training on it which I imagine is very useful for people who use the expenses system regularly. I suppose I’m making myself sound lazy but I don’t think having to check with my boss on a less than yearly basis is exactly placing an undue burden on them. I don’t even think I’ve had any expenses to claim in the last two years.

              1. bamcheeks*

                The other thing is that if the gaps are that long, there’s absolutely no guarantee that what you learned last time is still true!

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  Yes, this! My department used to be set up so that many people each had to do a certain complicated process occasionally, and it was inordinately time consuming because it varies based on the specifics of the project and the process gets updated over time. Finally we centralized it so we all take that task to one person in the department, who keeps up to date with all the nuances and changes, and it saves an enormous amount of time and stress.

                2. Daisy-dog*

                  And even if the process is entirely the same, sometimes there are updates in the system that may change the look or wordings ever so slightly. A year ago, you were supposed to click a green button that said “New” and now it is a yellow button that says “Start”. Some people may guess that both work the same, but others will be too nervous to do the process incorrectly which could cause other issues other than briefly conversing with someone who is an expert on the system.

              2. Guacamole Bob*

                I don’t think you sound lazy. I’ve come across many, many of these type of tasks in various roles, and it’s silly to spend lots of time documenting something you might not use for months or years and that may change in that time. Part of it is that it’s not just expenses, it can apply to many other tasks that also come up infrequently.

                A reasonable professional with a good working relationship with others in the office will be able to tell when they cross the line into something they should really learn and remember how to do for themselves or that have documentation already provided versus asking someone to show them.

                1. Cold Fish*

                  Just went thru something like this. At the end of every year, I stand and look over the office manager’s shoulder and walk her thru the mail merge wizard and printing labels in Word so she can send out the company Christmas Cards. It is literally the only time we do a mass mail merge in the office and she is just not comfortable doing it on her own. Spending 30 min writing it down step by step with screenshots sounds like it would be helpful but then Office does an update and things look/work just a little differently. So we could spend 30 min every couple years to update a guide or…. I could stand over her shoulder for 5 min once a year and walk her thru it.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            For anything I don’t do regularly, I write instructions. With screenshots. It’s worth taking the time to do it. There were several tasks like that at Exjob, but I started doing it with all my work years before, in case someone had to cover me.

            1. That IT Guy*

              Yes yes yes, this exactly. Asking once or twice how to do something unfamiliar is normal. Asking repeatedly…well, I’m going to start wondering why you hadn’t written it down one of the first couple of times you were shown. What if That Person Who Knows The Thing leaves the company suddenly? What if they just don’t have the time to help but you need to get this done *now*?

          4. Esmeralda*

            Yep, there are some functions I do once a year, and I’ve done them once a year for 20 years. But I never remember exactly what I need to do, so I look up the instructions every time.

            Sitting through an hour long training for those functions — totally a waste of my time = my employer’s $$ (= the taxpayers of my state).

          5. JessaB*

            What would help in that case is either a comprehensive help search, or a handout that you can put in a folder labelled “stuff I need 2x a year” or whatever. I made myself indispensible in the old days by making up such paperwork for myself and being begged by all to share copies.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Aha! Yes, if I never use this–or don’t use it until one time 18 months from now–I am not going to remember how to do it based on watching a video last year.

          1. Antilles*

            Especially since it’s possible (likely?) that you yourself don’t know what one piece of information will be relevant 18 months from now. If you’ve never used 90% of the program, what are the odds that the one or two thins you remember in great detail happen to coincide with the one thing you actually *need* to know in June of next year?

            1. PT*

              Or that the program will even be the same in 18 months? If it’s Microsoft software and your employer is cheap, you’ll get a decade out of your Teams/Office version knowledge. But if it’s a webapp, chances are whatever function you use once every two years will have moved by the time you need it again.

        3. Artemesia*

          I’ve always learned the technology I need right now — a training system that allows people to do that would be helpful. i.e. let them dial up the 10 minute video or interactive WHEN they need to do this particular function on excel or the data management system or whatever. Most people learn by doing a thing and so the content when you need to do the thing is effective. Few people will learn/retain skills from a 90 minute video watched without immediately needing to apply the skills.

          We used to have to do mandatory training on particular law suit related things e.g. safety, privacy issues, conflict of interest etc. — they were always time consuming and boring and mostly done so the organization could check the box. Most people found ways to be doing something else until the quiz or interactive check points on the entirely repetitive material.

      5. anonymous73*

        A 75 minute training session for Compliance makes sense. A 75 minute training session for Google calendars does not, no matter who you are and what you do. Trainings like that should be optional not mandatory. And they need to realize that most people aren’t going to absorb anything if the trainings are not interactive.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          If we were to switch from Outlook to Google for standard email and calendar functions, we’d all have to sit through multiple trainings, I’m guessing, and that would be somewhat understandable. But in a very large company a switch like that would have a structured, months-long rollout process, because changing people’s main work tools is a Big Deal.

          From the way it was described, I’m guessing that’s not at all what OP is dealing with. Coming up with multiple hours of training weekly takes some serious effort.

      6. just another bureaucrat*

        “I got 1 phone call from someone who could have learned something without me and I’m mad I had to be helpful and give someone a super easy to give tip so I’m going to demand that thousands of hours of productivity be lost so I don’t have to waste 5 minutes being helpful again!”

        1. ecnaseener*

          No one’s talking about this happening from ONE questions, the point is it could be a LOT of questions. (Mandatory 75-minute videos obviously aren’t the solution, but you’re strawmanning here.)

          1. just another bureaucrat*

            So is just watch the bleeping video. It could be lots of questions. But either it’s enough of the job that there are people who have a job in order to answer questions, or it’s not enough and it’s not that much. Especially if it’s a large company with very siloed IT. I’d also bet very strongly in that case that it’s not IT who puts out the video who is getting the questions. It’s the coworker who is “good with computers”. Again, the 3 hours a week on mandatory world’s most boring movies aren’t useful.

            This is not a solution and pretending like it is deserves any kind of takedown needed to get rid of it.

            If it’s IT’s job to answer the questions, then answer the phone.
            If it’s not then IT needs to stop pretending like they deserve as a support unit attention from the entire organization for something like 10% of the companies time. That’s beyond absurd.

      7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        There is no way there’s 75 minutes worth of Google Calendar knowledge that the majority of the users do not know. There might be some advanced-level tips and tricks they don’t know, that should’ve been an email.

        I’m curious, assuming you’re right and IT is drowning in help requests coming strictly from users not knowing how to use the most basic software, then where do they find the time to make and release those nonstop videos?

        1. Lab Boss*

          Acknowledging that a 75 minute non-interactive video is a pretty bad way to learn, I would also say that as a technical-type employee it is absolutely worth it to find a way to create a training resource. Even if it takes a lot up front to make it, a good training resource is the only thing that stems the firehose of “just a quick questions” that will absolutely devour your entire day.

        2. peachy*

          There are a lot of training resources out there for popular software. They could have purchased the videos, which would explain why they’re so long– they’re made for a general audience and not specific to how their specific org uses Google Calendar, so they need to cover everything.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes – there’s no reason to assume these videos are all DIY in-house productions. In the unlikely event they are, having been made in-house isn’t a sufficient reason for everyone to endure them without complaint.

      8. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I keep wishing tech training videos/modules would include a pre-test. If you can pass, you don’t have to take the training.

        1. Joielle*

          Omg yes. I would kill for this option. I already know how to make a strong password and not to plug in a thumb drive I found on the ground, please let me skip the training!

          1. Windchime*

            I used to work for a healthcare company, but I was miles away from where the patients were. There was no way possible for me to ever come across a patient in my work, yet I had to take hours of trainings on how to clean up spills of dangerous chemicals that are used in patient areas, or what to do if a patient fell, etc. Year after year; it was required training (I was in the IT department).

            1. That IT Guy*

              Yeah. I used to work in a bank and we had legally required training that would never be relevant to us unless we worked with money in a branch, which we were not allowed to do.

      9. I'm Just Here for the Cats*

        if thats the case then they need to have some sort of database that is searchable and has help files that people can read, along with short video clips of how to do something.

        I don’t think I’m alone in saying that if I watched a 75 minute video I probably am only going to retain like 15% even if I take notes. And if it’s a task that I only need to do 2 times a year a 75 minute zoom call is not going to help me in 6 months when I can’t remember how to access something

    2. Turducken*

      Ideally, there should be some sort of accommodation or test out method. Our IT training always has a transcript option that takes far less time. Which are two more options to ask about if nothing else.

    3. Testerbert*

      There’s a massive difference between actually taking the time to actually train your staff, and sending out generic, dull videos. One is helpful, the other is a box-ticking exercise.
      The IT department’s time would likely be better served by building out a proper how-to guide integrated into their internal help desk function. Read guide, if that doesn’t resolve the problem, raise support request.
      However, that’d likely cost money, which is most probably why they are resorting to awful videos instead.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        It’s amazing how many problems can be solved by hiring a technical writer. Why yes, that’s what I do!

    4. hamsterpants*

      Some video players can play a video at 1.3x, 1.5x, or even 2x speed. This is a lifesaver when you have to wade through long videos when there is actually good content but the pacing is too slow.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is what I was told about the reason for the high-speed playback option offered by some sites!

        I suspect this was a Zoom precisely to get around that hack.

    5. JSPA*

      Get them to use a platform which (like youtube) allows you to watch them speeded up. Ideally also subtitled, especially if you’re a fast reader. At 4x speed, that’s a reasonable level of time and effort to ensure everyone is not only doing it the same way, but also referring to things with a common language.

    6. PB Bunny Watson*

      Ditto. I am frequently working on something else while listening to a webinar. Ideally, it’s something that you can stop if the webinar addresses something important or new to me.

    7. Meep*

      I am also kind of wondering if these trainings cannot be better scheduled on a bi-monthly timetable – unless OP is only giving one training on Google Calendar a month.

      For example, instead of wasting 3-5 hours a week training the same general thing have a two-month rotation where they are training Widge X for 1 hour on the first week of an even month, Widge Y the next week, and so on and so forth… Cuts the training down to 2 hours max.

  3. MsM*

    #3 – Brenda was pretty clear with you about her minimum salary requirements. You may have good reasons for not being able to meet them (although frankly, I don’t think “but she’s just a secretary!” is a particularly good look), but even if she should’ve gotten back to you by now, you already know what the answer’s going to be unless everything else falls through for her. If she was really that amazing, and you like her on a personal level, why are you choosing to be offended instead of doing what you can to help her find a better fit?

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I’m … baffled as to what Brenda has done wrong.

      She’s job hunting because of her move and likely put in several applications. She is certainly allowed to apply to several places in her job search. She is not obligated to come back to LW’s company. The job at LW’s company might not work out for her because of salary. It’s very common to need to stall Offer 1 for a few days while you figure out what’s happening with Interview 2 and Application 3. Even if Offer 1 is a little low on salary, she’s not ready to decline with finality because she’s not ready to accept another position. LW sounds like a logical reference if they both have worked together AND have an outside relationship (LW seems shocked that she is being used as a reference when she is connected to Offer 1, but the outside relationship clears that up; many jobs ask for a reference from your most recent job, and LW fills that requirement and, as a friend, likely could be trusted to keep things quiet).

      It seems like Brenda is just trying to keep her bird in the hand, AND she’s been pretty honest with the company that the salary is low.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I wonder if OP knew she had been listed as a reference? I can see the surprise make a lot more sense of OP is unaware she is being listed as a surprise reference. I know AAM advises against it – but lots of people still do it.

        1. Roscoe*

          I mean, its also possible that she told Brenda when she left that she could use her as a reference and is just mad tht its happening for a competing company

        2. That IT Guy*

          I don’t think it should ever really be a surprise when a former employee lists you as a reference, much less rising to the level of offense that OP3 seems to have. This is a very strange reaction to me.

          1. Smithy*

            I think the point of “surprise” is more that if someone who I used to manage put me as a reference and didn’t tell me, and I received an unexpected call for a reference – I’d be caught off guard.

            No matter how recent or fresh or “obviously you must have remembered I did XYZ”, I’d ask to see their resume – or at least be reminded of what they’d want me to talk about. Being asked not only gives me the opportunity to say yes, but to confirm the best way to reach me, and gives me time to think about better things to say about them than “they were great”.

            For those of us who have managers who’ve had a higher number of direct reports over the years and are likely to fit in the middle of good employees – and not an employee who caught Moby Dick – reminding them of our achievements only helps ourselves. So that’s where this advice largely comes from.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I know OP said Brenda listed her as a work reference, but they might also just be calling past managers. A lot of applications have a field for supervisor or manager in the work section, and on some of them, it’s a required field. The company that contacted her might think of that as a reference.

        3. RC*

          Isn’t OP in HR? This reference could be a perfunctory one –was Brenda employed for these dates etc.–and not a personal/professional one as well.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Same. Brenda just moved out of the area and back, so has racked up the expenses of two moves and the cost of the 6-month training program. Of course she is applying at more than one job! She’s got bills to pay and, since she is a good employee, other places are interested in hiring her. Unfortunately, the LW’s company can’t meet her salary needs at this time, but no one is doing anything wrong here. Just because she worked somewhere before doesn’t mean that the former workplace has right of first refusal on her career.

        1. Whimsical Gadfly*

          You usually have to match competing offers for first right of refusal, so sounds like a fail even if they had it… ;)

      3. Momma Bear*

        I agree. Brenda is actively job hunting, which likely means more than one interview at a time. If OP’s company had made no offer, then it would just be routine, right? Brenda is under no obligation to take the offer that is admittedly far lower than she asked for. My guess is that Brenda is considering multiple offers, and good for her. We had a guy get a new job, the we asked what it would take to get him to stay, it was way more than our company could swing, so we wished the guy well. That’s what OP should do if Brenda gets a better offer, IMO. Just wish her well.

    2. learnedthehardway*


      Brenda is interviewing actively right now – she’s obviously going to try to get as good an offer as she can before deciding on the OP’s offer, which is under her desired compensation range. She’s probably waiting to see how another offer turns out before making a decision and communicating that to the OP.

      Alternatively, the OP should remember that a lot of job applications require people to list references as part of the application process. So Brenda may not even be aware that her references are being contacted right now.

      I wouldn’t take it personally.

    3. Cisco Crisco*

      Employers make hiring decisions all the time according to the $$. Employees can do the same. It’s only business after all.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        My employer is rather parsimonious when it comes to remuneration. We have just gone through a restructuring with redundancies, including my co-worker, and the powers that be have started to recruit their replacement. All the local newspapers had a story about the redundancies and the local unions even staged a demonstration to protest.

        So the flood of expected applicants is a mere drip, and the one candidate who was called for interview, who has the skills we need, has been dismissed as too expensive.

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

          Wait, if people were let go as redundant, why are they recruiting replacements? There wasn’t any particular pattern to all the “redundant” former employees was there? And if a union is involved, a lot of collective bargaining agreements often have “call back” provisions when a job reopens.

          1. Avril Ludgateau*

            Dollars to donuts they weren’t redundant, they were just “too expensive” and the company expected to be able to replace them with cheaper (often younger or less experienced) blood.

            Such has long been the law of the land… Here’s hoping this so-called Great Resignation changes how employers value labor.

      2. Threeve*

        Also…is she right? Is the salary she’s being offered genuinely hard to live on in your area?

        1. Ash*

          THIS. Maybe it’s time to examine the entire compensation scale and make sure it’s both market rate and also attractive to candidates/will retain current employees. Many companies are having this reckoning now.

          1. Cait*

            I thought the same thing. Unless Brenda is really out of line with what she expects to make (for instance, the same as what the CEO makes), I don’t think anyone should be surprised or offended when someone says, “I’ll take the job but only if I can, y’know, LIVE off the salary.” As much as you might like an employee/potential employee and as much as they might like you, people can’t live on air. Pay people what they’re worth. That means a living wage. Just because someone is a secretary doesn’t mean they deserve to be on food stamps. Time for OP to reassess their company’s wages and stop focusing so much on why someone would dare pass on their offer to employ them again. This is why so many companies are stymied but the Great Resignation. None of them can fathom why no one wants to work their butt off for an insulting wage.

            1. Smithy*

              For nonprofit jobs this very often is just not that easy. And it’s terrible.

              Administrative positions are very typically paid for via unrestricted donations as opposed to program grants, and those dollars are intended to cover a very large range of costs. There are many competing demands, and overall it’s a sector that very often doesn’t pay equivalent to others for similar work. It’s also a sector that can require similar or more education which leaves interested staff with student loans which place their own unique burdens on someone’s budget.

              But if you noticed in the comments of the letter a few weeks/months ago about the nonprofit that paid candidates $500 if they made it to the final interview stage – there was plenty of “what would the donors think???” There remains a huge mindset of donors (both large and small) that nonprofits with “too high” administrative overhead – of which we are very often talking about the salaries of people who’s jobs are classified as administrative – is a sign of a bad nonprofit. And sure, when a nonprofit is spending 70% of its budget on fundraising efforts, it’s an effective marker. But more often than not, it creates a race to the bottom in what money is spent those salaries.

              Because donors don’t support more.

              This nonprofit may be entirely unable to pay Brenda more. And the OP should support Brenda professionally and personally find a fit that meets her needs. And Brenda’s financial situation may make her leave the nonprofit sector entirely despite a strong desire to work in it. Which would suck. But the systems in place that have created this situation aren’t entirely the same as the for-profit sector.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            THANK YOU

            I just spoke with an organization whose annual revenue is $100 to $500 million (according to Glassdoor) but by all means, make me live with eight other people in a closet that costs me half my monthly take-home pay.

            Yes, it’s in an expensive area, but professional employees should not have to live like broke college students!

        2. Momma Bear*

          Also, that line about Brenda’s attempt to work in another field not paying well – regardless about what OP thinks about that field or its salary, fact is Brenda now has more experience than before she left. AND just because OP knows that a prior gig probably didn’t pay well is not a reason to lowball Brenda now. Give her a fair offer, and accept her answer to that offer.

      3. Queen Esmeralda*

        Exactly! Brenda needs $X, and LW’s company is only offering $Y. Brenda is well within her rights to seek out the salary she wants.

      4. Antilles*

        In fact, OP themselves is making a business decision on the salary, right there in the letter itself!
        We really cannot justify a 40% increase for a secretary position.
        OP reviewed the finances and made a business decision as to what salary they are able to offer; Brenda is doing the exact same thing in reviewing finances and making a business decision as to what salary she is able to accept.

        1. Lab Boss*

          And that’s the fundamental disconnect in the employer/employee relationship (at least in the U.S.). Employers want to be able to make dispassionate business decisions and say “we like you but it just doesn’t make sense to promote you/give you a raise/keep you employed,” and not feel guilty at the end of the day because it’s just business. That’s only a problem when they expect employees to bring personal loyalty to the table and turn down opportunities that make good business sense out of a sense of duty.

          1. Cait*

            This is beautifully put. When companies need their employees to step up, all of a sudden it’s “be a team player!” and “we’re a family here!”. But when an employee needs the company to step up and give them a raise/benefits that will cover the cost of living, etc. they’re out of line.

          2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

            Exactly right. If it’s a dispassionate business decision, it’s a dispassionate decision on both sides.

        2. Cat Tree*

          And OP should understand that decisions come with consequences. If they won’t pay top dollar, they might not get the top candidate. And that’s OK! Maybe just good (rather than great) is what they need for this position. But you shouldn’t take it personally that the great candidate didn’t accept anyway just to make your life easier.

          Alternatively, since Brenda seems truly fantastic, is there another position for her in the company that would be worth paying her requested amount.

          1. miro*

            Yes, this! OP, if you’re reading through the comments I hope you’ll take Cat Tree’s comment here to heart.

        3. Avril Ludgateau*

          There’s also something bothering me abour the phrasing… I would be more sympathetic to the LW if it were, “we simply cannot afford a 40% increase compared to what we paid previously.” But “we cannot justify a 40% increase for a secretary“… There’s something that comes across rather unsavory, including an implicit denigration of the value of a secretary’s role.

          40% is being put up as some huge, egregious, audacious demand, but it’s necessarily proportional to her previous wage, where she may well have been undervalued, scraping by, living with family or roommates, dependent on a partner, etc. For example, if Brenda had been making $30k previously, a “40% increase” would be an additional $12k. $1000 more/month for a role they clearly need filled, a person they clearly want to hire, who probably would bring in more than $42k of value to the role…

    4. JSPA*

      Indeed! And she could even be trying to patch together better- than- minimum by working two jobs. If she was excellent enough that she could do her duties with you, solidly, while still having significant down-time each day… who knows?

    5. MissBaudelaire*

      Yeah, I was searching high and low for that ‘chutzpah’. Brenda has acted in a manner befitting someone who is actively job searching. I’m sorry that it doesn’t look the way OP was hoping it would, but… that’s just business. It isn’t personal.

      Brenda needs $X, tried to negotiate for that, was given $Y and said “I’ll consider it, it really isn’t what I’m looking for.” That makes sense! And OP was listed as a reference because she has worked with Brenda before. It wasn’t to rub it in OP’s face or anything. It just the way it went down.

      If OP really value’s Brenda, they should be working to see if they can get that salary she wanted or try and offer something else (more PTO?). Not say “She’s just a secretary!” or get offended she’s looking for a job that pays what she needs.

      1. EPLawyer*

        The chutzpah is that Brenda expects to fairly compensated for her work. That she is daring to find the right fit for HER, not LWs company. Guess which letter this reminds me of?

      2. Holey Hobby*

        I have some additional Yiddishims for the letter writer, but I think they would violate commenting rules.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I wonder if the OP feels like she has dibs on Brenda because of her previous employment there, and thinks Brenda is showing chutzpah by ignoring this ‘claim’ to her. OP is ignoring Brenda’s very reasonable and straightforward salary targets, and her active job search – valid reasons to not accept an offer – and instead feels insulted because Brenda isn’t playing along to OP’s expectations of a joyful return by a grateful employee.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        I sort of feel like we don’t have enough info. Generally speaking, you don’t pay people based on their expenses, you pay people based on what the market value for the job is. It’s unclear from what we know if what Brenda was getting at was “you’re not offering a living wage for this role” vs her personal budget wouldn’t allow it. It’s the old “don’t give Alex a raise because they have 4 kids but Chris gets nothing because they’re single and childless”. The wage should be based on the job, not the person. If they’re underpaying their employees for the work and the area, yeah pay up. But it is also possible Brenda’s expectations for this role she’d be coming back to are out of whack. We don’t know which it is. It is reasonable for Brenda to say she wouldn’t come back for less than $X, but it’s not inherently unreasonable for the job to say “there’s no way we can pay more than $Y for this role”. If Y is the market rate, they simply cannot come to an agreement, but it doesn’t mean either is being a jerk.
        That said, I disagree with OP that Brenda had chutzpah about anything here, but I read that as only about using OP as a reference while simultaneously negotiating with OP to come back, not about the numbers.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          If they can’t afford it, they can’t afford it. What rubs me is “We can’t pay that just for a secretary.”

          If it had been “That’s just out of our budget.” without the snobby tones, that would have been different.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          If they’re underpaying their employees for the work and the area, yeah pay up.

          You’re right that we don’t have a lot of information, but I think this is probably a safe assumption because it’s pretty ubiquitous.

        3. Avril Ludgateau*

          Generally speaking, you don’t pay people based on their expenses, you pay people based on what the market value for the job is.

          But expenses – standard but regionally variable ones, like housing, commuting, food, utilities – are part of the “market value” of a given job. It’s why a software engineer in the Bay Area is going to be paid substantially more than the same level software engineer in Provo, Utah. It’s not because their output is worth that much more based on their location, it’s because the cost of living is much higher, and to entice talent, you have to account for that. (It’s also been a hot topic as some big names in tech have started “penalizing” remote workers who move far from HQ/campus by reducing salaries, using precisely the justification that the wage was high to compensate for the cost of living.)

    6. Holey Hobby*

      Honestly, this letter steamed me. You know what takes a lot of chutzpah? Paying someone a wage so low they literally can’t live indoors and eat – even though you know they are an excellent worker and need them. And saying it’s justified because they are a “secretary.” And then expecting that they will not look elsewhere. And acting like you are some kind of medal-winning level of grownup for providing an honest reference for a great employee. That’s chutzpah.

      A lot of nonprofit execs are frankly unbelievable, with the way they treat people.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        You are so right. I believe Brenda is a fantastic worker, and I bet there are other places willing to snatch her up. If OP really values here, try and figure out how to make it work with her instead of going “She’s just a secretary.”

        If that’s true, then hire another secretary and have done with it. OP doesn’t own Brenda.

      2. Wisteria*

        “Paying someone a wage so low they literally can’t live indoors and eat”

        Where does OP say their wages are so low that they don’t meet the cost of living in the area? All we know is that Brenda has told OP that she needs a certain amount to cover her living expenses. We don’t know what Brenda’s living expenses are, so you are assuming a lot of things that we have no actual information on.

        1. Holey Hobby*

          My position is that if someone says they can’t live on a salary, I should believe them, because they know their own situation better than anyone. So I am assuming Brenda knows what it takes to live. I am assuming that she is not demanding some extravagant wage that will let her sleep on a waterbed filled with cocaine and eat hand-peeled grapes all day.

          Now, if we are suggesting that maybe Brenda is sus because she is trying to support kids, and if the underlying assumption is that fair salaries are only meant to support a single 20-something person eating ramen in a dilapidated studio… that’s a fun discussion we can have, but I would need to put on my class-warrior boots for that one.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Ooh, the ability to eat ramen. I remember being so broke we had ice cubes on bread butts. Of course sometimes, we just had to go to sleep for dinner.

            I’m exaggerating. But only a little.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I remember a week during my music school days when all I had to live on was toast, tea, and a package of cheap bacon. Grown-ass working adults should not have to live like this. Hell, nobody should.

          2. Uranus Wars*

            I think there are a lot of people who need a certain salary to live, but I don’t think that immediately means the wage offered in inherently low. I couldn’t live the lifestyle I am in now on less than a certain number, but it’s up to me find a job that pays what I want. Not for an employer to pay above-market rates to suit my lifestyle.

            1. Holey Hobby*

              “People who need a certain salary to live” eh? Hmmm.. who could that be? Parents? Single moms? People who have to pay off student loans? People who can’t be on their parents insurance? Oh – we didn’t spell it out, did we? We said “lifestyle.”

              See, if you call it “lifestyle” I can imagine that these people are just people with expensive tastes who made a lifetime of stupid, selfish, bad decisions, and now they want more than they deserve. Jerks, who are not producers like me. Parasites who want to steal what’s mine. Lazy dopes who don’t work the way I do. They bought a huge house they can’t afford! They took out $800k in loans to go to basket weaving school! For breakfast every day, they want avocado toasts served to them on a brand new ipad pro!

              But really – it’s just saying that a living wage is what a 23 year old with no debt and no dependents and mommy/daddy insurance needs while he works his way up, but other workers need to fix their aging teeth with duct tape, drop the kids off at the mall in another state, and stop being so demanding. They’re alive, aren’t they? Ipso facto, they must be paid a living wage.

    7. Cat Tree*

      I also didn’t like the implication that since her new field would only pay minimum wage, she should be grateful for anything above that. That’s not really relevant here.

    8. Smithy*

      As a nonprofit person, these types of questions do break my heart because so very often the reason why getting started is so hard is because so many jobs require degrees/training that leave young professionals from less affluent backgrounds with student loans. And so the pressing need for XYZ salaries when your starting (which….that’s a whole other issue, but whenever you see other questions about ‘what would the donors think’) is so often because in addition to all the other needs of living, there’s a student loan payment.

      Students from backgrounds where they could get degrees without student loans or have their parents make those payments can handle those early jobs until they make it further…..but it sucks. It’s a sucky part of our industry.

      1. Holey Hobby*

        There’s also the unfortunate bit too about who the board is comfortable with. Who the donors are comfortable with. Who they like without giving it a thought. Who they automatically trust. Who they easily respect. It can be overcome, but it’s another hurdle.

        1. Birdie*

          And unfortunately, I find that too often the people who can afford to go into the non-profit world are the trust-fund and/or independently wealthy types (or, married into a lot of wealth). They enjoy the work, they care about it, but ultimately it is a hobby for them. They don’t need to job to pay the bills. And the end result is they just have no concept of how it is for the rest of us.

          My current boss–under 40 years old–is one of those trust fund kids who also married an investment banker (with his own trust fund!). Trying to make her understand that offering $30,000 is completely unrealistic for someone with 2 years experience in a major metro area was a disheartening experience.
          “But….that’s what we budgeted!” Well, that’s what you budgeted. You never asked me when we decided to expand my team what a realistic salary range would be, and every time I tried to bring it up, I got brushed off.
          “That’s just how it is in non-profits.” It shouldn’t be, and many non-profits are trying to fix this baked-in inequality–so why aren’t we?
          “They’ll figure it out; I did!” Because you have a trust fund…..
          “Why does everyone keep turning us down?!?!” Because the pay is inexcusably low, like I explained earlier.

          1. Smithy*

            In addition to those types, I think there’s also a larger class of nonprofit staffer who’s not that well off and therefore ends up being blind to what their privileges are.

            Their early years starting out may have been on low salaries, but they were living in a family property where they paid no rent or had family pay for all of their plane tickets home in addition to family vacations. So while many realities may have been tightly budgeted, having that job didn’t mean they also had to live with 4 roommates or forgo all vacations.

            This is certainly the club I belong to, and when I call this out among my peers – as much as they know its a problem and creates gatekeeping to these sectors… also makes people uncomfortable.

  4. LMK*

    #1 – I can totally relate to your situation. I worked with a fairly large group of people, but there were only three of us who took on any extra tasks, and spent a lot of time fixing other people’s work that wasn’t done correctly. Also local government, so a union job, and complaints went nowhere. I finally retired after 20+ years, and it never improved in all the time I worked there. After the first few frustrating years, I decided I would live with the inequities because I truly liked the work I did, and had high standards for myself. I took pride in my work, and I swore I would never become lazy like some of my coworkers. I think your only solution is to decide what you’re happy with doing, and don’t take on more work if it just makes you resentful.

    1. Limdood*

      The tone of LW3 is really worrisome too. It smacks of self gratification. “Why, oh why is this person not grovelling in thanks at our generous offer? Their behavior is most uncouth!”

      LW3 hasn’t gotten a reply from Brenda because an offer below “what she needs to make ends meet” is the LAST choice. Only beating out “unemployed”. People’s life circumstances change. The original amount might have been enough in the past (then again, it might not have…), But she was clear on what she’s willing to accept and your company want willing to meet her there. She might still meet you, but only if everything else falls through… And then only until something doesn’t.

  5. Karia*

    I don’t think this is rude. She needs a certain wage to get by, you’ve been open that you can’t offer it. You’re also her most recent employer. I’d try not to personalise this.

    1. Ganymede*

      Exactly. It’s a shame your company isn’t able to employ her, but it’s no skin off your nose, as the saying goes. Good for Brenda!

    2. Meep*

      Yeah, it baffled me that OP didn’t realize Brenda’s temp salary was probably under market value so if anything 25% increase is probably the lower end of a secretarial job and that this is allegedly the best secretary they have ever had. 40% is justified.

  6. Llamallama*

    @ #4
    This sort of thing happens too often, also simple poor quality training which might be one-off, but is a monumental waste of time. Generally, I don’t think the people requesting it have thought through the impact. Which, for the avoidance of doubt, they absolutely should have done.

    A good trick is to get someone with a financial head to work out the cost to a business if everyone does the training asked… that can focus minds and help common sense to prevail. Maybe 75 minutes training on Google calendar will seem less worthwhile when there is a six or seven figure price tag attached to it.

    I once sat a training module that was so bad I walked into the CEO’s office to tell him about it. The module was quickly withdrawn and we’ve not been given anything like it since.

    1. Beth*

      Last year, I pulled the plug on a proposed course of training that would supposedly have taught my firm anti-phishing measures. The training was SO bad that I was baffled at its terribleness — the half-hour I spent reviewing one of their proposed videos was time I’ll never get back.

      I am now feeling deeply validated at having refused to waste my co-workers’ time with that crap.

  7. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    As Alison has said in other posts you can make it more work for them to not address this. There are various strategies available.

    Also as you are suffering burnout you need to reduce your workload to whats normal for one person and the number of hours a week you work. I’m sure being government if you had documentation that work is causing health issues that gives you lots of leverage to advocate for yourself.

    All that said dusting off your resume and looking elsewhere is also a good plan which may also net you a raise.

  8. Wendy*

    #5 – if the enthusiasm is sincere, it can still help you even if you need to say no. This site is full of people who took a new job and quickly found out it wasn’t a good fit for one reason or another! Seems to me it would be a good thing to be able to say “Remember me, the excited puppy? I took on another offer I was similarly excited about but it turned out not to be a good fit. I know you’ve already filled the role I initially applied for, but I’d love to be considered for XYZ opening instead!”

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Right! I thought it was common wisdom to stay very enthusiastic about a job until you decline it or get rejected. You SHOULD be enthusiastic if you’re interviewing, whether or not you end up in the job. In fact, it’s often a good idea to stay very positive and pleasant even while declining or getting rejected.

      Enthusiasm in an interview doesn’t mean you have to take this job or else.

      1. Allonge*

        There is a difference between positive and pleasant, enthusiastic and excited!puppy though – it’s a scale and can be used with some distinction.

        Nothing wrong with showing your enthusiasm if that is what you feel, and indeed, staying at least pleasant is a good idea in most cases. But faking it is not going to help (so in this sense the common wisdom is wrong), and depending on the industry or even just the particular team, it’s possible to overdo it.

        I agree that this does not mean the candidate needs to take any job, no matter how genuine the enthusiasm.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          OP5 said nothing about faking it — and if it were faked, I doubt they’d have second thoughts.

    2. Asenath*

      People understand that you may be enthusiastic about a job and still take another you’re even more enthusiastic about. I remember meeting someone who had been very enthusiastic about a job with our group. I hadn’t much wondered when he didn’t show up on the list of those accepted – the positions are extremely competitive – but when I met him again he seemed a little embarrassed to admit he had accepted a similar position in another field. I told him entirely honestly that I was happy for him. He had no reason to be embarrassed since it was quite normal for applicants to have several applications in at once, and to be (or appear to be) enthusiastic about them all during the interview process.

  9. TG*

    I have a question related to the LW doing more work since others don’t; how should I handle doing work for my old department 2 years after leaving it for another department? I work with them still in my current role and I’m still stuck doing work because no one in my old department will pick up the slack?

    1. TG*

      My boss hates I get stuck doing it too but when we try to hand it off no one picks it up…I’m so frustrated!

      1. Ariaflame*

        Will it have an impact on your department if it doesn’t get done? Just because nobody else is picking it up isn’t a reason for you to if it isn’t your job.

      2. Empress Ki*

        Can’t your boss step us and say you won’t be doing it ?And then stop doing it.
        What will happen if you don’t do the job ? The company isn’t going to fire you for not doing a job that isn’t even yours, is it?

      3. Bagpuss*

        I think your boss needs to speak to whoever is managing the other department, and then escalate to their manager / boss if nothing changes.

      4. bamcheeks*

        Your manager needs to manage! They need to push for an actual decision on where responsibility for this task sits.

        It sounds like your manager is just saying, “Hey, we don’t really stick handles on in this department, we’re more about painting completed teapots– uhh, can someone stick some handles on? Anyone? Bueller?” — they aren’t doing their job.

        In some departments, your manager will have the power to simply say, “Our department is responsible for painting completed teapots, not to stick handles on. Pottery needs to stick the handles on”, and leave it at that. In other places, they won’t have the power to do that themselves, and will need to go to their manager and say, “TG is still sticking handles on six months after leaving Pottery– Pottery simply won’t assign someone to do that work. If that’s going to become Decoration’s job, fair enough, but we need clarity on whether that’s the intention or not. Can you let us know whether that should sit with Pottery or Decoration.”

        You obviously can’t control your manager, and if your manager is just Bad At This, here are some strategies:
        – suggest that your manager takes it up the chain and asks for clarity (asking for clarity is a good strategy when people are failing to manage and you don’t have the power to make a decision.)
        – keep laying out to your manager the problems that this is creating for you– the fact that you’re having to paint simpler designs because half your time is taken up with sticking handles on. This is giving them the ammunition to explain the problem to their managers.
        – keep being a pain about it! Your manager is waving vaguely at the problem in the hope that Pottery will get off their arses and solve it– one of the most effective ways to get things done in a bureaucratic stucture is to make not doing it more of a pain than doing it. Until your manager tells you that it’s a firm decision that you are sticking handles on, keep bringing it up and talking about the impacts on your work and asking them to solve it.

        The hardcore option is that you and your manager agree that you are not going stick handles on any more, communicate that, and then let other people solve that problem. That’s the stage you should move to IF your manager’s managers don’t act– again, that’s making “not doing something” harder than “doing something”. But it doesn’t sound like your manager has worked hard enough to manage up yet.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        Let it just lie there, undone. Either it doesn’t actually have to be done, or someone, eventually, will realize they need a system for accomplishing this task other than “Wait out the person who did it three years ago–eventually she’ll cave.”

    2. Bagpuss*

      What happens if you just … font’s do it?
      If it’s needed to be able to fo your job, can you not keep returning it / following up with the old department (by e-nail so there is a paper chain) requesting it, setting out when you need it by etc., and escalate to your manager and the manger of the other department if it doesn’t get done.

      If it isn’t anything that you need in order to do your current role then ignore it, and if anyone specifically asks you about it / asks you to do it, have a stock response such as “Oh, I’m not in [old department] any more so I don’t deal with that – you’ll need to speak to Old Department as I don’t know specifically who in that department has taken over that task”

      Speak to your manager first to make sure that they have your back. (And if they assume that you were happy to carry the task over since its’s been two years and you’ve carried on doing it, make clear that you aren’t, and ask them to speak with the old department to arrange to formally hand it back, which might involve you being willing to do some handover notes and/or training with whoever will be responsible in future.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Urgh. I’m going through this at the moment. I made a step by step guide, and pointed out I shouldn’t be the only person in the company who knows how to do this particular task, but I keep getting the “Oh but it’s better if it’s handled by the expert”.

        As if I became an expert by magic.

        1. hamsterpants*

          “It’s better if it’s handled by the expert” is straight out of the slacker’s handbook. Depending on the politics of your company, you can respond with “We need to train at least one other person so if I’m out sick it can still get done” or “my responsibilities with [new position] don’t leave me any more time for [task] so I need to hand it off” or just “I won’t be able to support [task] starting [date that is no more than 2 weeks in the future] so I put the documentation in [place]” and then just letting it drop.

        2. Bagpuss*

          maybe respond with “Oh, I’m, not an expert, and I created a very clear step-by-step guide so you shouldn’t have any trouble following that. I’m attaching a further copy / here’s a link to the guide and can answer any questions if you run into difficulties the first time you/they go through the process” or when asked, just say “Oh, that’s not my role nay longer, but here’s a further cpy of the guide so you can complete the task”
          Who is saying it should be done by the expect? If it is your boss, maybe point out that you might be sick or on vacation so there absolutely needs to be others who can do it – maybe suggest that they allocate some time for you to train a couple of people so that you aren’t the only one. (nd then push back pointing out that they need the practice to become confident doing it, but offer to answer questions for a limited time while they do.

    3. csw*

      Totally agree on tracking hours. My company (as agency) is extremely strict on tracking this, and if we have that many hours my finance people would probably flip out. If there are it’s 4 hours a week that’s 10% of your work hours, which is insane. Get finance to see the numbers and they might adjust, or tell your manager the % so they can fight against it better .

      Alternatively, if it’s a video can you just mute it and ignore it? This is assuming you don’t need any interaction during the training. Personally, I sign in so that HR can log attendance, but tune it out as background noise, then listen in when something that might benefit me crops up. It splits attention and makes working less efficient, so if you need to focus I’d suggest the mute option.

    4. just another bureaucrat*

      Delay, delay, delay. If your boss is on your side you can push back and say you have other priorities and won’t have time to manage it. If you documented it and you can include a description of where the documentation is each time that helps. Good luck. I’m about the same time out and it keeps coming back to me and I can’t get my boss to assign my old team to me so I can actually manage them but that’s my next strategy.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      Just stop doing it. If no one else picks it up, just let it sit there. It’s old department’s job, not yours. Pur the onus on the old department.

      Since this has been going on for two years (1) speak to your current boss about how you have continued to be asked to do duties assigned to your old department and how this impacts your current role. Get support from your boss (2) have your new boss tell the boss of your old department that you cannot continue to do the work of a different department (3) when someone asks you to do the work of your old department just say “no” (No is a full sentence) and don’t do it. Do not pick it up; let it sit and if someone comes to you say “you need to talk to old department. that’s their responsibility”

      Return duties to old department. If someone asks direct them to old department. You can say “That’s not my responsibility. That’s old department’s respnsibility.”

    6. Esmeralda*

      Talk to your current boss about that. ASAP!

      You aren’t in that department any more. You don’t have the same job. Your previous boss is not your boss any more.

      1. Ama*

        Yes and you may be surprised to find that your current boss isn’t aware that you are still being asked to do that work. I’ve been in a couple of situations where I or someone I managed was covering some work for another department “just until we get X role filled.” — Many months later, when I finally went to boss and said “hey, so X role was filled two months ago, is there a timeline for them taking over this work?” every time my boss was surprised that other manager hadn’t taken it back yet. And my boss is pretty on top of things usually — but she wasn’t seeing the requests for this work because they were from the other department and so didn’t realize they were still asking me/my report to do them.

  10. Alice*

    #1, there’s also option d: “I’m happy to help with X & Y but I won’t be able to do Z on top of my regular workload.” Big fan of that one. Even though in my case it didn’t work and I had to move to greener pastures, it helped to set boundaries and frame it as “of course I will still help out but only in the limits of what is reasonable”.

  11. AS87*

    #1. I’ve been there too. This depends on your manager’s demeanor of course but what about de-prioritizing OP’s coworkers’ work until he/she finishes his/her own first as well as not doing any overtime for other coworkers’ work? There has to be some cost for the manager’s poor delegation and inability to hold people accountable.

    But do consider being more selective when volunteering. And consider updating your resume and doing some cursory job searching. I have to agree with Alison about the lack of optimism for the situation improving, unfortunately.

    And to managers who think they’re doing a good job by delegating an incompetent employee’s work to a competent employee, you’re not. You might get some short term benefit but in the long term you’ll burn out the competent employee to the point they’ll (hopefully) leave. Then what? And contrary to what some of you might think, its not a complement to the competent employee.

  12. Rowan*

    LW1: I find government departments are super slow to make any personnel changes, unless it’s an election year. Usually I’ve found that my best bet is to simply request that the manager specify priorities for my workload. Every time, if need be. Doing this highlights that I’m not planning to work overtime to handle their bad planning, and puts some responsibility (and effort) back where it belongs.

  13. File Herder*

    Oh yes, the training videos that take four times as long as needed, when you’re the sort of person who takes in information far more easily by text. I’m also not a fan of the animated ones when there isn’t actually any reason why you need to see pretty pictures other than it being designed for people who learn visually.

    But what I particularly like are the mandatory interactive modules on disability awareness that are difficult or impossible to use if you’re actually disabled yourself. Yes, it’s happened to me multiple times. (I did on one occasion point out to the person telling me “but you can request an accessible option!” that if you have to search through multiple pages to try to find somewhere to request the accessible option, that option does not exist in practice.)

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Arrgh, yes, I have a huge pile of these that have to be completed yearly. Usually identical to the ones from last year. My favorite part is that the videos have options to do things like speed them up, but it’s a trap because at the end of the video it will tell you that you have to go back and do it again at regular speed before the quiz will unlock.

      These videos are usually of the format of “slideshow of bullet points, with vaguely stock images, and someone is reading the slides aloud to you. Slowly. No, slower than that.”, which is just painful for me as someone who reads text pretty much automatically and much faster than I can listen. (Some of them are internally-made videos without captions, which are even worse, but most are from an outside company that also doesn’t bother to meaningfully localize to our state, instead saying things like “your specific obligations will depend on state law. Ask your HR department for more information” while providing bland generalities.)

      At this point, 5+ years into this job with the same “trainings” each year, I mute my computer and let the videos run on my work computer while I do something else on a personal device, then pass the tests as they come up since I already know this stuff. This is at least better than what my dad’s group at his company did before he retired, which is have the first person from their group to take a given training screenshot everything and upload it to a shared folder so the whole group could look at the screenshots for answers while taking the tests.

      I feel like these trainings exist to document that employees Have Been Told The Rules, and any lapse are our own fault, rather than to actually teach us anything. It’s my least favorite part of the year, and if I ever quit in a blaze of glory equivalent to the quit in cod person, it will be related to these yearly “trainings”.

      On the other hand, there are lots of things I would like to know more about and that would help me do a better job! I would leap at the chance for meaningful training on those topics. I have not been offered meaningful, paid training that would allow me to grow in my actual specialty since before the Great Recession in a previous job. Bleh.

      1. Ariaflame*

        The last time I went through a stack of these type of things I ended up sending emails to the people in charge of them pointing out the bits that didn’t work and the out of date links.
        They were actually surprisingly appreciative.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        You’re lucky that you can mute these and still pass the tests. Somehow the ones they give us always do require that you pay attention, but the things you need to know to pass the tests are pretty useless in practice. I can tell you that X is against ethics rules or is a bad financial control or poses a security risk and that you shouldn’t do it before watching the training, but you need to be able to come up with the technical term for the financial control or type of phishing scheme or which regulatory body sets that policy or exactly how long you have to retain certain kinds of documents I never work with, and I forget those details year to year since they’re tangential to my position.

        Many of our trainings are tedious, but we have way fewer than 3 hours a week and I generally understand why I’m being made to take them, at least. OP’s IT department needs to rein it in.

        1. Cdn Acct*

          Yes, the quizzes which focus on the specific names of regulatory bodies etc are the worst, rather than understanding situations and what actions to take.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I went through one where the training made a big deal about differentiating which instances of something were required by our regulatory body and which were required by agency policy. And my reaction was that as a manager, I really don’t care about that distinction at all. Tell me the rules about when to report X or do Y, and I’ll happily comply.

          2. JustaTech*

            Yup. Why the heck do I need to be able to regurgitate which section of 21 CFR is about data management? I’m not in data management. If I need to know the exact number of the regulation (is it 9000 or 9001? bwhahah!) then I will do the normal, human, professional thing and *look it up*.

            At least I haven’t had to do the “how not to bribe foreign officials” training in a while. Or the “how not to have the SEC hunt you down for sport” video. With those kinds of trainings the best thing you can do to entertain yourself is try to figure out who went to jail that this needs to be a rule.

      3. Pepperbar*

        Oh man, I got one of those one year where it said at the beginning of the module: “This should take you 45 minutes. If you finish earlier, supplemental material will be provided.” As a fellow speed-reader, I wasn’t having none of that. Left the window open and went about my workday for another hour or so before actually proceeding through the module, which took me about 15 minutes.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I feel like these trainings exist to document that employees Have Been Told The Rules.

        I sense a Guacamole Bob in IT, who has decided his workplace metric should be how many hours of video material he can assign to people each week.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I am thinking the same thing. I promise this isn’t normal for IT.

          Are these videos mandatory? The only mandatory training videos we get are for annual compliance, that are critical for our company to stay, well, compliant. The Google Calendar one may very well be optional. (Unless Guacamole Bob has a checkbox on his list saying that he has to make everyone take the training in order for it to count as some weird credit to Bob.)

      5. Bagpuss*

        Mind you, the screenshotting thing could actually be a fairly effective way to learn depending on your learning style.
        I know there is one external set of training that people in one department in our office have to do, and they do this, because the questions are generally very badly worded so you can know all the regulations and still get the quiz wrong, because it’s multiple choice answers and very often there is more than one choice which is mostly right, and none which are completely right (or which would only be right if you have additional information they haven’t provided) We arrange a tailored, in person (well, via zoom the last couple of years) training day where the relevant rules are reviewed with an external expert and there is the opportunity to discuss and ask questions, but the Quiz That Must Be Passed absolutely people share answers. (I don’t have to fo i, but it’s the really annoying kind where you can’t mute it or speed it up, there are big chunks where the ‘presenter’ is just reading what’s on the screen so no reason why a fast reader / person who learns better by reading than listening couldn’t mute or fast forward or both, and it has a very high pass mark and you can’t attempt it more than (I think) twice.

        It also duplicates things that are covered in other company wide training, but because it is a requirement for an external accreditation which is essential to us, we can’t not use it or switch providers. We’ve been providing the same negative feedback for the past 10 years and so far nothing has changed – but then as they have a captive market, why would it?

        1. Alice*

          Yep. I have huge problems retaining information through audio/video. Once I had to take a 4 hour training, very technical and relevant to my work. There was no pdf for the course, it was just a video. I had to watch it twice, take screenshots and annotate them. I might have passed the test through trial and error but I doubt I would have learned anything. I was so annoyed at the lack of pdf, especially because we were told “you don’t need one of you pay attention to the video”… That is not how my brain works!

          Also, I just went through the yearly mandatory trainings, and this time around they implemented a system where you have to click every 30/60 seconds to advance the video. It was so frustrating! Especially since it was just someone reading legislation at the slowest possible pace. For the last module (What To Do During Emergencies), I asked my partner to click through while I sent some emails from mobile, then at the end asked him if there was anything important I should know. He went wide eyed and told me in the most serious voice “did you KNOW that if someone has a HEART ATTACK you need to CALL FOR HELP??”
          Bless him, he should get hired to do those videos, at least we’d all have a laugh. Passed the test on first attempt too.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          The ones where the questions are badly worded and/or require knowledge not actually covered in the training are so frustrating.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Or the ones where they make the questions “more challenging” by using double negatives and complicated wording, which makes you pay more attention to the test questions but does not actually do anything to improve how well you understood the material. (I don’t mean asking scenario-based questions that make you legitimately think about how to apply the training to your work situation. I mean questions like “true or false, there are some situations in which you should not avoid following rule blah blah, such as when…”)

      6. Person from the Resume*

        The example the LW gives is not training on policy. The training is assigned by IT and is on a fairly basic software tool. So this sounds like a different issue.

    2. Ana Gram*

      My favorite is our annual video about workplace violence. They teach the viewer to run, fight, or hide and that sort of thing. All very standard stuff except…we’re cops. 90% of the people in the building are armed. Running and hiding are pretty immoral choices for us in that scenario but I have to click on them as acceptable to pass the online test. I complain every year to TPTB but it’s local government so nothing happens.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have had to do the workplace shooter training every year of the eight years I’ve been working … 100% from home.

      2. Morticia*

        That is awesome. You could use that for sketch comedy. That said, in an actual work context, it’s probably annoying as anything.

      3. Em*

        I get the one about accepting bribes, such as “a fancy dinner, or a hotel in Paris!” And also advises me against “showing the client’s family a good time on the company dime so that they’ll like us!”

        I work in a call center, entry-level customer service. It’s… never come up.

          1. Em*

            Blond Sweaterman Twit in the video also loved it as a bribe!

            Blonde Sweaterman Twit does all kinds of silly things.

        1. Ana Gram*

          I got offered a bribe once. It was from a very recent immigrant from a country where the police are bribed so I just explained to him that doesn’t fly in the US and could be a serious issue.

          But! He offered me $7! I saw a $20 in his wallet but he apparently sized me up and thought $7 would be enough. So rude.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            I would spend the rest of my life thinking about that. “Why did they think seven dollars was enough!?”

            1. Ana Gram*

              It was about 15 years ago and I definitely still think about it lol. Like, what about me gave off $7 vibes?! I’ll never know…

      4. Random Bystander*

        Sounds like one that I have to take … I used to work in an office physically located in the hospital (have been remote since March 2020), and the training is obsessed on one of the questions with getting you to say that you would break a window to escape. Never mind the fact that an office with only one point of entrance/exit is a violation of fire code. Never mind the fact that all commercial buildings here are required to use earthquake resistant glass (we’re in the New Madrid seismic zone). So I just mark the “correct” answer to pass, and then on feedback roast them on the points that they are using to force people through a window.

        I really hate trainings that are nothing more than someone reading off a power point (no added content, just exactly what’s on the slide). Fortunately, most of the “required testing” has a pre-test option, and if you pass the quiz, you don’t have to waste the time on the power point.

        The biggest problem with the trainings is that they are not very finely targeted. I got far too many trainings that were marked as “all employees” that should have been clinical staff only, or clinical + enviromental services only (knowing what color bins are for x-category chemical waste just isn’t relevant to my job where I never even *saw* bins for anything other than general trash or the sharps disposal in the bathroom.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          It’s like those questionnaires you have to fill out with applications for retail. The ones that want you to proclaim you would be Batman if someone stole something from the store.

          I am not putting my life on the line for an item. Period. If that person threatens me and steals a TV, then they stole a TV. Whatever you pay me is not enough for me to risk life and limb.

          Of course you can’t say that.

    3. Middle Name Danger*

      This is so incredibly frustrating. I’m hard of hearing and I get disability “sensitivity” trainings that lack captions and don’t…actually convey good information. “Be nice to your coworker that uses a wheelchair “ should be common courtesy and what needs to be taught is ADA compliance and FMLA rules. (Yes, even for people who don’t manage anyone. Understanding that your coworkers have specific rights and have legitimate reasons for absence or accommodation, and that you shouldn’t pry for details, helps disabled people a lot.)

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        How are they not captioned? That’s ridiculous.

        I wish everyone would worry less about everyone else’s time off.

        1. middle name danger*

          I think the goal is to make people pay attention – if they can’t just read captions they can’t put the video on mute and ignore it – but it’s beyond frustrating.

    4. just another bureaucrat*

      I have way more than once called out people doing “disability” or “accessibility” trainings for not being actually accessible. Several times in front of large groups because I’m sick of being lectured about how you should doing the most complex of things by those who can’t be bothered to do the most basic of things. (“I’m not going to use a microphone in this large room but don’t have anywhere near the lung capacity to do that and tell you about how important accessibility is.” “If accessibility was actually important you’d make sure everyone could hear and pick up the microphone.”)

      Just don’t take them is sort of my tact on a lot of these lately. If someone comes after me I’ll maybe do it and then push back on the things that don’t work but…

    5. Nightengale*

      My hospital (hospital!) does not have accessible options for many of our trainings including the ones on DEI and disability. My giant hospital system that sends out 3-4 e-mails a week telling us how important DEI is, doesn’t have anyone in charge of digital accessibility.

      After two years of my complaints, they managed to create text transcripts for the ones written in-house, but some are bought from “outside vendors” and apparently the outside vendors don’t need to follow the ADA. Or we don’t have to follow the ADA in only buying accessible things. The last one, I was told to ask my manager for an accommodation. What, is my manager supposed to create the transcript personally?

      1. Esmeralda*

        Somebody has to make you a transcript if that’s the accommodation.

        Not your problem as to who does it or how it gets done (I mean it is in fact your problem, but not it’s not up to you to figure it out).

        Your boss can do it. Your boss can assign someone to do it. Your boss can kick it to HR or to whoever does DEI at your employer and ask them to figure it out.
        Your boss can ask whoever orders and pays for the trainings to get a transcript from the vendor.

        Obviously, you can’t do it. So ADA = they need to figure it out.

        1. Nightengale*

          Yes I know the law in theory. The irony is that I have been doing disability advocacy work for decades and am a doctor who specializes in kids with developmental disabilities including making sure they and their families know their rights.

          It ends up being a lot easier said than done in practice. Especially since I don’t have an actual written accommodation documented for “can’t follow moving text on a screen” partly because I can’t even figure out (as a doctor myself) what kind of evaluation would document this, and partly because their solution needs to be making the trainings accessible for everyone (universal design) rather than providing individual accommodations.

          Also the people who do DEI at my institution don’t answer their e-mails. It’s a work in progress.

          (I finally did the one training by not watching it at all, and when the questions came up, googling the answers. I mean, I learned stuff and got the answers right. . . )

  14. wear floral every day*

    #5 Last year I was going through a round of interviews with company A. I was really enthusiastic about the company and its mission, as I am experienced in a niche field and this company was just starting out in this field. Just before the second interview another opportunity arose; it was from a company that I have sent my resume months before and I was not expecting to hear from them. I had a candid conversation with company A to let them know that I was not going to proceed with them. I told them that I find their work and mission very interesting but the other job that X,Y benefits which company A was not able to provide due to the nature of the job. Company A called me one year later as they were expanding and wanted to know if I would be interested. I still work at company B and I do not wish to leave, but I referred some of my old coworkers; company A was thrilled. Enthusiasm is not a bad thing unless one is faking it. It can lead to solid networking opportunities and leaving a good impression.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Let me get this straight. When you said “I would think carefully about the future if this is going to be the father of your child”, you were not intending to raise the question of whether she should stay with her husband? Because answering that question in the negative would likely entail divorce, even if you didn’t use that word.

  15. Database Developer Dude*

    Too much enthusiasm about a job you then don’t take? I don’t see a problem here. Prospective employers gush in interviews to candidates all the time, and then ghost them, or reject them. Anyone for whom this is a problem when a job candidate does it needs to have several seats.

  16. Mannheim Steamroller*


    Ann Landers once said: “No one can take advantage of you without your permission.”

    Stop giving permission.

    1. Pippa K*

      This quote has limited utility, though, because it completely fails to consider differences in power. Exploitation exists, and it’s not usually the fault of the exploited person. I’m all for setting reasonable boundaries with peers and strangers, for example, but it can be a lot more complicated and less effective to do so with bosses, where leaving one’s job might be the only way to stop giving “permission” to take advantage.

      (I feel quite strongly about this because someone in power at my institution used this exact quote to tell women academics that they should just stop having most of the service work piled on them, as though the problems of institutional culture and practice were really individual choices by the people being burdened.)

      1. Bagpuss*

        Thank you – I agree that it’s it’s only true in very limited circumstances and is often a kind of victim blaming .

    2. J.B.*

      That’s not exactly applicable at work. Boss is giving the assignments and normally not doing what boss wants is not a great idea. Some pushback is warranted but this is a dysfunctional setting.

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        It’s obviously the coworkers who are taking advantage by refusing to do their jobs correctly so that Boss will push their work onto OP.

        My suggest is that OP push back by (1) prioritizing her own work first or (2) asking Boss which of her own tasks she should abandon in favor of doing other people’s work.

    3. Leilah*

      Sorry, I find this to be terrible advice. If I offer to help someone with something and they take advantage of my kindness, I did not “give them permission” to abuse my kindness. It seems definitionally untrue that someone taking advantage is doing something they had permission to do.

    4. Nanani*

      Maybe let’s not put advice about social situations into a work context with vastly different power dynamics and imbalances.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      This advice is fine for interactions with peers (your annoying neighbor asking you to babysit again) so long as you don’t mind burning the relationship. Which sometimes, you’re like “Oh yes please punish me by never speaking to me again; never dealing with you is going to reduce my stress levels markedly.”

      All relationships do not fit this category. Sometimes we do care about retaining a relationship, and believe the other person will react to a refusal on our part with more consequences than we care to experience.

    6. Observer*

      Ann Landers once said: “No one can take advantage of you without your permission.”

      Stop giving permission.

      Not necessarily so simple. The OP needs to know what they can push back on without endangering their job, and whether they are willing to take that risk. Sometimes people really are not in a good place to take that kind of risk. Ignoring that is not useful at all.

  17. The Rafters*

    OP#3, You’re “trying to get her back.” She’s looking at all of her options, not waiting around for you. What is she doing wrong? If she’s that great, I do hope you will give her the glowing reference, she deserves.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I cringed for the poor job applicant doing 6 months of training for work she’s passionate about, only to discover after sinking all that time (and I imagine loans) into it that she can’t earn a living wage with this certification.

      But if she learned any lessons from that, “Look hard at the money upfront” should be one takeaway.

  18. doreen*

    #1 – Alison is correct. Either stop volunteering and push back when extra work is assigned assigned , decide you are going to to it because it positions you well for a promotion or a more desirable assignment or leave now while you can. I am not going to tell you that this happens in all government organizations because I don’t know that. What I will tell you is that this is probably not the result of a single poor manager – while it could be a matter of the manager not wanting to address their laziness/incompetence, it’s also possible that addressing it is either taking more time than you or the manager would like or that there isn’t any actual laziness or incompetence for the manager to address. I don’t know the specifics of your job so I will give you an example from mine. Let’s say there is some extra/additional work to be done – maybe someone is out sick so their cases need to be covered for a few days/weeks resulting in overtime. First, I have to see if there are volunteers. If so, great – but if there are more volunteers than I need, union rules say I have to pick the people with the most seniority. If there aren’t enough volunteers or no volunteers , I have to assign it to the people with the least seniority. Either way, it’s going to be the same people all the time – and there is no way to address the people who don’t want to work overtime because they aren’t actually required to work overtime unless I assign it to them because they are the least senior.

      1. Pepperbar*

        I think the intent is probably ‘if senior people want more hours, they’ve earned them, but if senior people don’t want more hours they’ve earned the right to go home at shift-end.’ Basically, Rank Hath Its Privileges.

    1. AthenaC*

      “it’s also possible that addressing it is either taking more time than you or the manager would like or that there isn’t any actual laziness or incompetence for the manager to address.”

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking. The other people can easily be “good enough” that they are nowhere near fireable, and are still loads better than new, untrained people, or even no people. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you are a superstar – your life would have been loads easier if you had been mediocre, but unfortunately the cat’s out of the bag now, so your office knows you’re the one to go to.

    2. MissBaudelaire*

      We had those same rules with mandatory over time. First ask for volunteers. Most seniority gets it. If no volunteers (and there were nearly never volunteers) then you go to least seniority. But the boss was supposed to keep track, so the next time there was mandatory over time, he was going up the list. That way the least senior people weren’t always stuck with it.

      He never kept a list though, and so there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when the same six of us had to do it over and over again.

  19. Roscoe*

    #3 you are taking this way too personally. There is very little chance that, in the few days that you were waiting to hear her decision, that she applied, interviewed, and got to reference checking stage with a different company. Likely she was interviewing at multiple companies, which is normal. The timing of this just happens to not be the best for you. But she is doing nothing wrong, and you acting like she is just reflects poorly on you

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I get the emotional reaction, and it’s good OP gave a positive reference and then checked her teeth-gnashing urges with Alison.

      OP, this just means she got back to your state and applied to multiple jobs. Maybe you were even her top choice before it got to salary. But it’s totally reasonable for her to be casting a wide net.

  20. anonymous73*

    #3 No she doesn’t have “chutzpah”, she’s looking out for her own best interests, something everyone should always be doing when working/job hunting. No job offer is ever a guarantee and it’s good practice to have multiple options. You were very pleased with her work and she felt you would be a good reference. You shouldn’t hold it against her because it was for another job. She explained why she asked for the higher salary and she doesn’t “owe” you anything.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #3 – The answer is to give Brenda a great reference and wish her well, no matter what she chooses to do. It sounds like when she moved away she found out her options weren’t great so she wanted to return to the area. It’s highly probable that when she moved she started applying for lots of jobs, including the one at OP’s organization. She probably had to list some former employers, and very rightfully listed OP’s organization. She can’t be faulted for any of this. OP just needs to change their outlook and realize that while Brenda is awesome and they’d love to have her, maybe it’s not going to work out.

  22. Pepperbar*

    #4 – There are some certifications in the IT/telecom industry such as SOC2 that have a requirement to prove all staff have received training over the course of a year and that compliance to said training is being reviewed by management. It can be really difficult to come up with a training that is a) relevant, b) applicable to large groups of staff, and c) easily quizzable and thus provably completed and understood. Some companies do OHSA training (I used to sit through yearly hazardous material training even though the closest we got to hazardous materials was the taco bell down the street), some companies do cybersecurity (everyone uses email!).

    Sounds like your IT department may be labouring under a similar requirement and scrabbling for useful stuff.

    1. Creative Test Taking*

      Yes. My industry has the same requirements of proof of training for all employees & contractors. After multiple rounds of the same training I’ve found ways to pass the tests while doing other tasks (cutting & pasting the training text into a word document & then doing a keyword search during the test – this also works for DMV classes when you get a ticket). This is especially helpful when there’s a time tracker verifying you’re logged on to the course.

    2. Squidhead*

      My employer (a hospital that also includes multiple outpatient locations across the county) has a long safety training module that includes everything from fire safety to active shooter training to being respectful of diverse genders to handling hazardous drugs. While all of these topics are important and many are applicable to many types of employees, I doubt the IT folks working in their offices need the same training about hazardous drugs that I need as an RN! But at the same time the institution has so many locations and job descriptions that it feels like they just gave up on trying to make it more specific.

      1. Pepperbar*

        Definitely. I work in a very small MSP now (15-20 people), so it’s fairly easy to track who’s sat through what. But if I were dealing with tracking hundreds of people over multiple locations, logging who’s done what truly relevant session for god knows what and making sure someone wrote a test for it would be a scalability nightmare. So – everybody sits through the exact same safety training so the compliance box can be ticked in good faith, and let departments or professional associations handle their own job-relevant training.

  23. Workerbee*

    OP#3, you say these things:
    “Brenda was much loved and we attempted to keep her here longer.”
    “She moved back to our state and of course we asked if she wanted to come back.”
    “I have known Brenda personally for many many years.”

    Yet the moment you receive a reference call, you’re ready to toss all that aside for misplaced, self-righteous outrage! Why is that?

    I think Brenda should continue to pursue other positions to get that apparently-outlandish 40% increase, which as you state is 40% over what you were paying her before and doesn’t seem to take into account her skills and culture-fit.

    In my experience, secretaries (admin assistants, et al) have to deal with such sh*t from the people they support that a 40% increase would be your org getting off easy.

    I say this even without taking into account that I’m currently working in a small nonprofit, and the inflated salaries of people who do a lot of Deep Thinking in meetings while the lower-paid assistants do the actual work is a sad fact.

    1. miro*

      Yes to all of this, and I would also add that if OP3 does in fact care about and respect Brenda, then part of that also means letting Brenda have more information about the overall job landscape (through interviewing and getting other offers). Maybe Brenda will look around and find that the job market in that area just really sucks and OP3’s company is indeed the best place for her. Or maybe she will look around and find that some–or even many–other companies are willing to pay far more than OP3’s. But no matter the outcome, it’s good for Brenda (and for you, OP–more on that in a moment) to have a fuller idea of her options and being offended that she would even look elsewhere or be getting other information/interviews/offers is a real red flag.

      At the end of the day, Brenda may find that your offer is the best around and take it, but even then any time she spent applying to/interviewing with other companies was still worthwhile because it means that she’s taking this offer because she really believes it’s best for her. Expecting her to take your offer that is less than she wants/needs immediately without exploring other options makes it more likely that she’ll be unhappy because she may come in with resentment, or questions about what she could have made elsewhere, or whatever.

    2. Am I not a Deep Thinker, too?*

      The deep thinker comment made me laugh out loud. Everyone wanted to be Socrates :) I had a boss who once said that she was really more of an idea person. Meaning I am the grunt here to carry out these pearls of thought.

  24. Jay*

    To LW#1: The big question I see here is this-
    Are you dealing with coworkers who are lazy and incompetent, or just realistic in a crappy situation?
    I come from a family that includes a lot of civil servants. Depending on the city/state they are in and the department they are working for, worker treatment varies tremendously.
    For instance, I had a relative who worked in Social Services in a red state notorious for being hostile to anyone perceived as ‘on Welfare’, even if they were not, or were disabled, or whatever. It was cruel and it was pure political theater with real world consequences. People working in that department were treated monstrously poorly. Hard work got them nothing but harder work and worse treatment. They were being actively punished for being part of the evil ‘welfare state’ that the bosses won so many political points for ‘opposing’.
    I’ve also had relatives work for well thought of branches in blue states that actually appreciate civil servants and the work they do. Pay tended to be reasonable, benefits were good, and advancement was an option.
    If this is a situation where hard work is only ‘rewarded’ with more hard work, then your coworkers may be less lazy and more realistic. In other words, they are actually doing the jobs they were actually hired to do, at the level of commitment and detail that they are being payed to do. They make crap, that isn’t going to change, and when other departments/upper management try to add additional duties onto them, they will have no part of it. In that case, you need to either get out, or learn from them.
    If this is a situation where they are payed competitively and treated well, then you are right. This is a real problem. And it is probably not going to get any better. So, do enough to earn a reputation as a rockstar employee and get yourself someplace better before they burn you out and replace you with a eager new Office Victim.
    Hope this helps.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The point about the more experienced coworkers possibly realizing that under this system hard work is only ever rewarded with even more hard work is a good one.

    2. Antilles*

      I was wondering something similar, from an incentive perspective.
      Local governments often have straightforward salary bands and a very vertical structure with limited promotion opportunities. If the co-workers are realistic enough to know that they’re getting the same 2% cost-of-living raise no matter what, what’s the incentive for them to volunteer extra hours or additional training? Where’s the motivation to work extra hard when nobody else is doing so and there’s no benefit?
      As you said, OP can either get out or learn from them – I’ll even guess that one or two of OP’s coworkers once was just like OP but realized the reality and now puts their passion/drive to learn/etc into their hobby outside of 9 to 5.

  25. Darsynia*

    I’m really sad for Brenda, who apparently is about to find out that it’s possible to do your job so well that the previous employer which is completely reasonable to list as a reference is hurt that she can’t afford to take the job, and find it offensive that she would naturally work elsewhere.

    To be honest, LW#2, I’d ask myself how much of the uncomfortable feeling you’re experiencing is related to feeling a personal connection to Brenda, versus how you might see her actions if you were in her position? The difference between 40% and 25% seems pretty steep, and it seems like she’s trying to raise her skill level with training to be able to be worth the higher amount, so it’s not like nothing has happened in the interim but she still wants a huge pay hike. There have been multiple comments and a few posts about how employers have taken a long time or even *not* taken the time to get back to applicants, so I feel like it’s much more likely that she has HAD to look for work elsewhere to see if she could find something she likes that does reach the pay level she feels comfortable with, maybe quite a while ago, even, and the company is just now bothering to check references.

      1. Phony Genius*

        It’s #2, now. Maybe you had a premonition that a letter would be removed and the others renumbered.

    1. Sacred Ground*

      If Brenda was way underpaid, the difference between 40% and 25% really isn’t that steep at all. Let’s do the numbers: If she was earning $10/hr before and is asking for $14 now but is being offered $12.50 instead then no, she’s not being unreasonable in wanting to think about it. If the numbers are that low, she really is as great as OP says, but the org still won’t budge, then OP’s org is awful and she should be looking elsewhere.

      Wages aren’t set by what employers are willing to offer. They are set by what employees are willing to accept. So OP can either pay the market wage that Brenda reasonably expects or hire someone willing to work for below market. Brenda used to be willing to work for below market wages but isn’t anymore. Accept that.

  26. BA*

    #4 –
    It seems like several hours per week is quite a lot of training (required or suggested). As others suggested, it would be really helpful to break the trainings, regardless of format, into more bite-sized sessions.

    There’s a lot of research out there that shows how short our attention spans actually are. A 75 minute training video that is not at all interactive will put people to sleep or turn them toward something else that helps them just get through the session.

    Also, it seems like pointing out to someone…anyone…that 12.5% of your week is spent in training for things that may or may not be helpful or applicable would be good here. If you’re making $50,000 per year, they’re paying you $6250 to be trained!
    If IT could break things into smaller time segments, you could take a few minutes, watch a video, and easily return back to your regularly scheduled programming. And if these are absolute REQUIREMENTS, I’ve seen businesses that have training modules posted on a separate site. Employees can go through the modules on their own time, by a particular date. That way, at the very least, you’re not cutting into people’s productivity. They can schedule training when it fits best in their workflow.

  27. Clorinda*

    Hey, Brenda’s boss, people who are looking for a job SHOULD be keeping many applications in process at the same time. As her most recent employer, you’ll probably get several reference requests. Get a standard reference ready to go for her so you can send it in with a copy-paste most of the time, and if you’re not prepared to pay her what she needs to live on, be prepared to lose her.

  28. Nick the IT Guy*

    #4 – Much of this is prescribed by people outside the company. You may have noticed all the recent ransomware attacks that are costing companies millions. Now companies take out insurance policies against data loss because of phishing and other attacks. The requirements of the insurance companies are employee training, and they often mandate the specific training – often even picking the training, or a training company that complies with their policies.

    So you’ve got to fight your IT department who has to fight the business in general who would need to make the case to the insurance company who would then have to dictate useful training. Way too much to fight.

    Just be happy that you only have the “private” training you have to do. I also have “government” training since I also work as a contractor. That’s even more layers of bureaucracy. At least when it’s government training, those are billable hours.

  29. Colette*

    It may not have been, but we have no idea what the work circumstances were for the husband (e.g. it could have been crunch time, someone else could have already been out, etc. to the point where it was a hardship to have someone else out) nor do we know what information the husband shared (e.g. if he asked for the time off without any explanation, it’s possible the boss didn’t want to let him have that time off if it was a bad time).

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      I can easily see something like that happening. As a private person myself (and someone who often uses Alison’s technique of being vague about reasons for time off!), I could see myself pushing back a few times to no avail until I can’t take it anymore and finally word-vomit out all the details…

  30. animaniactoo*


    I understand that this is going to be counter-intuitive for awhile… but – while you are asking to learn new things, you’re going to need to pause that for long enough to get your current situation under control.

    Which means that when your boss hands you something because you are the one who will get it right? You have the room to say “I have XYZ on my plate. I can’t get it all done. What would you like me to prioritize?”

    And keep doing that… refusing to go TOO many extra miles/hours… until your workload drops down into the reasonable range. Because right now, your boss has no motivation, no pressing urge to handle the others, as long as the work is getting done one way or the other. But when the work stops being all done and deadlines are getting missed? Then your boss has some motivation to do it. And the path you are on right now leads to burn out and you already need to learn how to push back about being loaded down with too much stuff.

    And at some point, yes, maybe this leads to a conversation which is “I am spending so much time doing these things that there isn’t room for me to learn how to do anything new, which I would really love to be able to do” and so on and so forth.

    1. Clorinda*

      Or LW 1 can push the work she’s taken on back to the people who should be doing it. “Is that assignment part of Project X? Mariana’s the one who should get that.” And push all of Project X back to Mariana. Stop doing other people’s work just because you’re better at it!

  31. Yet Another Jenn*

    Oh my god. Except for the part about local government, I honestly thought LW#1 was me. I have been with my company for nearly 7 years, and my supervisors’ response to me taking the time to learn how to do my job correctly, learning from criticisms and feedback reports, and actively seeking out guidance on doing my job correctly (compliance with government regulations is a big part of what I do), and their response is basically to frequently dump difficult problems that often take a lot of time on me saying things like “we can trust you with this” and “we don’t have anyone else right now that could do this” and even when it’s not even technically part of my job I get pressured into doing it anyway. I have gone for internal job postings and promotions just to get away from certain aspects of this, but it still follows me. Easily 2/3 of my coworkers can skate away with doing the bare minimum of their jobs and my supervisors’ response to that is a shrug and “what can you do,” because they aren’t empowered to take these employees aside or even address it with their managers. Alison’s advice rings so true to me also because I *have* brought up how detrimental it is to rely on me as “the only person who can do X task” because I won’t be here forever, and the response is, as above, a shrug and “what can you do.”

    I suspect this is a far more common problem than I originally realized.

    1. Meep*

      I have been at my job for 4.5 years. I stopped doing overtime at the start of the pandemic (and by overtime, I mean 20-30 hours of overtime on top of 9-10 hour days). I still clock about 45 hours a week) because it got me absolutely nothing but more work while my “smarter” coworkers were working 7 hours a day with fewer tasks and responsibilities and getting raises. It was frustrating.

  32. Observer*

    #3 –but isn’t this just the height of chutzpah? At least have the nerve to tell us you don’t want our offer before listing us as a reference!

    Why is this Chutzpah at all? Was she not allowed to list you as a reference till you decided if you would give her a job? Is she not allowed to look at her options before making a final decision on the offer you made her?

    I’m serious. What exactly has she done wrong here?

    I’m also in agreement with all of the comments about how you seem to be setting pay scales. You might want to rethink that.

  33. awesome3*

    3 – If you’ve told Bianca before that she can use you as a reference, it makes sense that she’s… using you as a reference. If that has changed, let her know, but I don’t see the point in being offended just yet.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Right! She has the right to keep her options open in case she decides- for various reasons- that this is not the best choice for her at this time.

  34. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – it will come to roost the first time you take a week off for vacation. Do not allow yourself to be pushed back, and do not agree to be “on call” when you’re on vacation. I just posted in another thread – I worked with two slackers on shift work – and I was away for a week – and – well, the work didn’t get done. And a director tried to blame it on ME but a manager intervened.

    #3 – “Brenda” may have several irons in the fire, because she didn’t know if you would take her back. She may have applied for “Job B” three months ago, and they’re asking around now. No, it’s not chutzpah. Some companies deal with applicants at sloth speed. She may have applied for that other job a few months back and somebody finally woke up at that company.

    1. Clorinda*

      I really hope that both LW1 and Brenda find work at places that appreciate and properly compensate their work.
      Unless . . .
      Maybe LW1 IS Brenda????

  35. RagingADHD*

    LW#4, I highly recommend the “ignore it and see if there’s fallout” technique. I started using this back in college when I had professors assign so much additional reading that it would not only preclude me doing any other classwork, it would preclude me sleeping or attending any of my classes (including theirs). Indeed, I would have needed a time machine because there was more assigned reading than there were hours in the semester.

    Let some stuff slide and you’ll soon figure out what actually matters and what is pointless busywork, or a general suggestion.

  36. TootsNYC*

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t suggest asking for more money.
    Nor did she mention that there’s probably a reason all the folks who’ve been there longer don’t do anything extra–they probably learned that there’s no upside, unless you take that initiative and go look for something else.

    1. miro*

      The OP said in her letter that she’s a local government employee and she can’t ask for more money. As a local government employee myself, that sounds pretty accurate to me–I think sometimes people in other sectors can underestimate quite how much this sector is tied to pay bands and schedules for raises, and that there really is *no way* to ask for/get more money.

  37. takeachip*

    #5: Your question is similar to a lot I read here and on other advice forums, which basically comes down to, “How can I make sure someone doesn’t think wrongly/poorly of me?” Be careful not to spend too much time & energy managing other people’s reactions or impressions of you. Ultimately you can’t control what people think, and there will inevitably be some who choose to think the worst of you or draw the wrong conclusions about you. This isn’t too say you shouldn’t be mindful of your reputation & how you come across, but just put the focus on what you can control, which is your own behavior and communication. If you behave with integrity and communicate respectfully & honestly, you will leave the desired impression the vast majority of the time. I think Alison’s advice on how to convey your decision to the other company is spot on.

  38. PunkRock Product Owner*

    To the OP of #5: Why not interview and see where it goes? It may be a better fit and more $$$ – you won’t know unless you get an offer.

    Companies compare / evaluate candidates all the time. You can do the same with offers.

  39. Sunny in SoCal*

    OP #1, you mentioned that you are in local government. Do you belong to a union? If so, are they responsive? I know that a lot of local government is union and this is exactly the sort of thing that unions can often help with. You are performing substantially different job duties for the same position and a good union would look into that.

    Additionally, depending on how your organization works you might request a reclassification. If you are doing higher level work there is a chance that the position might be able to be reclassified as a higher level position. It might be worth talking to your HR department (and/or your union, if applicable) about it.

  40. berto*

    #1. This has basically been my entire career. I finally just gave up and stopped volunteering. I set boundaries at where my job starts and ends. My lazy colleagues still try and assign me their work. My boss is aware of all of this. She will never manage anyone. But, she leaves me alone and never assigns me extra work. I am more valuable to the organization than the slackers, and they actually make me seem even better in comparison. A good article which, while cynical, I think makes a lot of sense:

  41. Girasol*

    #4 I’ve seen this happen as a knee jerk reaction to an employee satisfaction survey. “We’re not being trained in the skills that we need to be promoted to the next level” was reduced to the bullet point action item “send everyone to X hours of training.” In our case, the skills that people needed weren’t IT related but IT had the most conveniently available courses. People blamed IT, not their managers, for mandating all this training on skills they would never use. (Think production line staffers being shoved through courses on accounting tools.) Everyone was upset except for the managers who could check off “training: done” on their action item list. If your situation looks like an erroneous response to an employee survey, do take it to a manager and let them know that it’s not meeting the employee satisfaction need.

  42. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    As a fed with A LOT of mandatory low-yield trainings, these videos are usually not that sophisticated in terms of tracking completion. Fast forwarding or clicking through to the end gets you credit. Then there is a multiple choice quiz which is easy.

    Hour long trainings take me less than 2 minutes each. If I really need the info, I can refer back or find it in a more efficient way.

    So maybe you don’t really need to spend the supposed time on this while still being compliant (on paper)?

  43. Crazy Cat Lady*

    OP#1 – I am not in local government, but I could have written the exact same letter – actually I almost did So I am going to have to spend some time reading all of these responses. In my case, the problems lie with my boss who supposedly trained my coworkers. I don’t mind helping people, and feel somewhat sorry for those who have NOT been adequately trained. What I do mind is answering the same questions, over and over again. It almost seems as if management has fostered an attitude of “learned helplessness”. It’s easier to get someone else to do the work than to teach people how to do it right. What’s even worse, is that if some of us give examples to our manager, she makes excuses for their shortcomings.

  44. JelloStapler*

    LW4 we have an IT training every Fall (during the busiest time of year for my team) and i have started to just let it play on the other screen and hit buttons when I need to.

  45. Scott D*

    As an IT manager who runs a team that, among other things, develops training, the these types are trainings are for people who don’t know how to use software. Some managers require all their employees to watch them which isn’t the intent at all. The intent is that new users can learn our software WITHOUT MEMBERS OF MY SMALL TEAM HAVING TO HAND HOLD THEM because they don’t have the time.

    The ONLY training I push leadership to INSIST on is IT Security training. People insist they know all there is to know about security, but the reality is they don’t, security is changing daily, and attackers are getting much more sophisticated.

  46. clearlyMillennial*

    #1 – stop stepping up! they probably make the same amount of money as you and yet you are doing more work. seems silly.

  47. Charly B*

    #1 If your government employer has a job classification system, you should look to see if there is another, more senior, classification that your job fits w the additional responsibilities added and go through the process (find out the process) to be re-classified (I am currently doing this for my own position)

  48. Ask a Manager* Post author

    As a general policy, I do not remove letters once published because of the work that goes into answering them. However, given the enormously out-of-line response from one commenter this morning to the letter about a stillbirth, after conferring privately with the letter writer, I have removed the letter and comments replying to it from the site. (That may cause some confusion with the numbering of the other letters, since it was formerly #2 of five but #3, 4, 5 are now #2, 3, 4 respectively.)

    Updated to add, for people concerned about the letter-writer: she was actually okay with the letter staying up but wanted to add more context to it. Adding more context would mean I’d want to rewrite my own answer to make it work with the new info, so we’re leaving it down.

  49. Mavis Mae*

    For #3 … save your personal negotiation gunpowder/credit for something you care about – start the noninteractive video; mute it; minimise it; and get on with your real work. It’ll play itself boringly through and you have then “done” the training without needing to argue with some higherup whose KPIs are based on everybody doing the training.

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