open thread – February 4-5, 2022

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

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

{ 1,256 comments… read them below }

  1. Miss. Bianca*

    I’ve been at my current marketing job for two years, manage the largest portfolio of budget among my team and my boss has told me numerous times I’m “the best teapot product marketing manager” on the team. We just had our annual reviews where my boss was happy with my performance and gave me “exceeded expectations” across everything.

    I told him I want to move up to a “senior teapot product marketing manager” level and if that’s something he sees happening this review round. He paused and went “ummmmmmm…let’s see how you do against your SMART goals this year”.

    I’m infuriated that he gave such a lukewarm and flippant response after I’ve worked my butt off the past two years; he seemed almost surprised I even asked him this. I previously asked him what the difference was between a regular teapot product marketing manager vs. the senior level, and he told me it was a different pay bracket. There doesn’t seem to be a difference in more responsibility or strategy, I would pretty much be doing the same thing I am now. Even the SMART goals we talked about me achieving are basically continuing what I am doing.

    What’s more, there is an open rec for a senior level marketing manager for a different type of product. For that specific open position, even with the senior title, I would still be managing more budget and the higher priority products even with a lower title.

    It’s weird to me that I keep having to ask a ton questions about this and he’s giving me vague answers and not elaborating on them. He’s the director of our department and I don’t understand why he doesn’t just say, “the difference between the regular manager vs. the senior level is X, Y, Z, in order to get there you need to work on A,B,C”. Maybe he just doesn’t know or fully understand it? But then why wouldn’t he try to find out? If you’re giving out “exceeds expectations” on reviews, you need to realize that people are going to want to be promoted.

    I wanted to get other takes on this. I think next week I’m going to ask him more why that other position gets the senior title when it’s less spend and less of a priority. Then in six months I’ll push for a promotion against my SMART goals, if that doesn’t work then push again in a year. The thing is, I really like my job and salary and would like to stay at the company for at least 5 or 6 years.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      One possibility: his bonus is dependent on the profit margin of his department. If you get promoted and get a higher salary, the margin goes down, and he makes less money. He’s getting everything he needs from you now and has no incentive to pay you more.

      1. cindy lou*

        This – or, he may not have the budget available to promote anyone this year. There may have been a directive from above that there isn’t any extra for salary increases or promotions for a while; I have seen this happen many times, where internal moves are frozen for budget contstraints. By working on it this year and showing your skills may give him more leverage to push his own superiors or whomever manages the head count forecast to consider giving him the buffer for a pay raise and promotion next year.

        1. TGI(February)*

          He may also know there’s no roles open or something else internal like that. What I would do is start job searching because you’re ready for more and the boss has given you a signal that he’s not seeing it for you there.

    2. Sunflower*

      I would go back to your manager and ask for a clear promotion plan. Clearly list out the SMART goals but also if there’s anything else you need to do. Come to some sort of agreement with him that this is the plan. If you work at any sort of mid-size company with an HR department and formal reviews, this should be something they can provide. It might take a bit of prodding and constant follow up but keep pushing for it- your company really can’t fault you for it.

      I was stuck in a similar situation where I was given vague feedback on what I needed to do to be promoted ‘you’re almost there- just need to tighten up everything a little more’. I asked for a plan and never received one and wish I would have pushed harder. I think a large part of it was just laziness on the count of my manager vs reluctance to promote me. During my exit interview, when I cited the lack of promotion as a reason, HR came back to me assuming my manager had given me very clear plans and directions on progress and promotions. She was shocked when I told her that I never received them despite being promised them. So yea definitely just keep pushing every few weeks for that.

    3. AppleStan*

      I suspect he doesn’t want you to leave. You being promoted means he loses not only his highest performer, but a high performer overall. You’re not just the best in the department, (I mean, on a scale of 1 – 100, if everyone else is a 1, but you’re a 2…you’re the best in the department, but you’re not the best), you’re probably one of the best employees in the company. Some managers are not above keeping opportunities from you in order to keep you with them. Other managers might actively sabotage your promotional opportunities.

      Is there any reason you can’t apply for the promotion yourself? Is this something he has to propose?

      1. Miss. Bianca*

        It’s still in my department, it’s just a ‘senior’ title and per him the only different is a high pay bracket.

        The open rec is an entirely different position for a different product, I’m not applying for that job.

        1. Fran Fine*

          The open rec is an entirely different position for a different product, I’m not applying for that job.

          Maybe you should? I mean, he pretty much told you with his lukewarm response that he has no plan to promote you this year, possibly at all. You said yourself you want to stay with your company, so if that’s the case, why not reach out to the hiring manager on the other team and ask about the role to learn a bit more about what you’d be doing if you made the move. If it sounds like a good deal, then apply formally and let the chips fall where they may (but note that doing so could jeopardize your current position if your manager is the type to be vindictive).

          Sometimes managers don’t “get it” until they get presented with the possibility of their high performer moving on. You have to put your career goals first, though. I would hate for you to keep beating your head against a wall trying to push for something that just may never happen, at least under this particular manager.

          1. Miss. Bianca*

            It’s in the department, it’s not on a different team. It’s different type of marketing, but with less budget and less of a priority.

            1. Fran Fine*

              Okay, so it has less budget and less priority product. I’m in comms and not marketing so excuse my ignorance here, but does this really matter if you’d get to move up and increase your salary? Is that your end goal?

              I think you need to figure out now what matters more to you: staying in your exact same spot at the level you’re at now for the foreseeable future, but still getting to work with a larger budget and with priority accounts OR applying for a promotion within your department and working with less budget on a less sexy product, but for a higher salary and title that you could parlay into at least a similar pay scale in a couple years when you’re ready to leave.

              1. Miss. Bianca*

                Re: the product, it’s a running marketing programs on a different type of platform. So I run paid search marketing and this other position is for Facebook marketing. I actually do have some Facebook marketing experience, but that open rec is for someone who has more experience in paid social.

                But it is a thought to bring up to my boss, like “what’s stopping me from applying for the paid social role? It’s less budget”. It would honestly be an empty threat though

                1. Fran Fine*

                  Ahhh, I see. So you have no interest in possibly doing that role? I mean, I don’t know if it’s an empty threat to say something like, “Hey, we’ve talked about my desire to move up to a senior-level role before. Can we get together to come up with a plan for this promotion to happen by years end? If not, I may have to look at other options” – and then genuinely look for other options. Are you open to potentially leaving sooner than you planned? I know you said you wanted to stay 5-6 years, but sometimes that’s just not feasible for many reasons.

                2. Wonderer*

                  I would apply for the other position, even though you don’t plan to take it. Just doing that will show that you’re serious about this issue. They’re going to figure that it’s only a short step to go from applying for internal roles to applying for a new job somewhere else. It might put a bit of fear into them!

            2. Fran Fine*

              Okay, but does this really matter? I’m not a marketing person (I’m in comms), so maybe I’m missing something here, but if the goal is that you want to be promoted to a senior-level position with a higher salary and your manager is letting you know he has no intention of promoting you this year, or possibly ever, would it not be a benefit to you to at least investigate the other option in your same department? Sure, it may be a less sexy product with less money in the budget, but if it could get you where you want to go, then it may not be a bad idea to start looking at your options.

          2. Anon for this*

            And some people don’t even realize this after multiple high performers flee. I’m about to be the LAST high performer left in my department. The others were replaced with people who are decent… but not high performers by any means. Ten people across several teams have all left, citing the exact same problems, and no one has done anything to fix the problems. The only reason I haven’t left yet is I knew I’d be handed another high performer’s project to complete when they left, and I want to put completing it on my resume.

            1. Gnome*

              So true. I literally said to management, “Right now, if you don’t fix this quickly, you are at risk of loosing five people…” And then named the 4 top performers and a drama llama. The four top performers left within three months of that statement. The drama llama is still there.

              1. Momma Bear*

                I’ve worked several places where that happened. I was the start of one of those rats leaving the ship moments. Eventually people will see that the only way up is out. It stinks when you otherwise like your job but they won’t give you incentive to stay there. If a clear path for promotion is not forthcoming, dust off the resume.

      2. ThatGirl*

        It sounds like the senior version of the current position wouldn’t mean losing her — in fact, it would be a way of retaining her with a higher salary and better title. That said, if he refuses or is wishy-washy, he might end up losing her anyway!

      3. lost academic*

        The other department is not going to want to create problems by poaching a high performer.

        Obviously your manager is going to look at this short term and know that an employee performing highly at at the top of a salary band is one of the most valuable things you can have and it’s a net loss for you to move up and out. Doesn’t mean it’s good for you or the business long term but that’s the thinking I see constantly.

        1. Fran Fine*

          The other department is not going to want to create problems by poaching a high performer.

          According to OP, it’s the same department, just a different product team. And this isn’t necessarily true. I was the high performer at two separate companies who was “poached” from my team, but it’s not really poaching if the high performer takes the initiative to apply for another internal opportunity themselves.

        2. Doctors Whom*

          I would have no qualms about hiring a high performer from another department where they are not being recognized appropriately. I’ve done it in the past and would do it again in the future if the position I had open was a clear fit and I could provide a growth path for a top performer. Managers who don’t steward the growth and career paths of their team members don’t get to hoard top performers and box people in. If I can provide a growth opportunity for someone that isn’t available in their current position, I don’t have any qualms about this – and it can be handled professionally and personably and politely.

          We have an internal hiring process and explicitly encourage people to work with managers and find growth opportunities across the organization. And for all our challenges, I can’t believe we are a magical unicorn on this front:) It is very common to move teams to seek a different technical challenge or a leadership opportunity that’s not available in the current position.

          1. Fran Fine*

            I only had problems at one place when I decided to move on (accepted a promotion into another, higher paying/higher visibility division). My old manager sent a nastygram to the hiring manager of my new division when he politely reached out to her via email asking to coordinate my start date with his group. It blew up into A Thing, the email chain went to our corporate division, old manager looked like a psycho and the SVP of the new division ended up chiming in to question old manager’s leadership skills on the email thread with her manager copied on it – it was a mess for a few weeks, then settled down once old manager got over herself.

            But new manager shared your stance on this – had I been valued where I was and given an upward path there, I wouldn’t have applied to the position on his team in the first place. So that was on old manager, not me or him.

          2. no sleep for the wicked*

            I’m in this boat now. I used to be considered a high performer, running a critical operation at my workplace, but now that there is a new manager in place (after years of no manager or another higher up filing in) I am increasingly sidelined even though the operation I manage is still very much in demand.
            I’m hoping it’s just because we have a ton of new folks hired since the pandemic and everyone has a lot going on, but when I share proposals for major service improvments that will revitalize demand that has fallen off while we were locked down, I get nowhere.
            In the past this sort of thing happens when someone is about to be shuffled off to the basement broom closet (state agency so it’s rare to have layoffs or firings) and that is making me nervous.
            It sucks to have a new boss with no capital and no sense of the politcal wrangling here, and existing management (aka the grandboss I reported to between direct managers) is very eager to be done with lingering personnel issues in favor of letting new mnager find her way.
            So I spend a lot of time doing stupid self-created projects so I don’t look like I do nothing all day, while waiting for someone up the food chain to greenlight a game-changing service pilot. And I comb internal job openings, hoping for a crumb of interesting work.

    4. Doggo*

      The exact same situation happened to me. I expressed interest in being promoted to senior, showed initiative by asking what I could do to earn it. I was given vague non-answers. I was also told the position didn’t exist. I did not continue to follow up.

      2 years later, unexpectedly my coworker (who is a male. i am a female.) was promoted to senior. He has less tenure at the company and half as much time in the industry. I was not told there was a senior position opening up, so therefore I did not have the ability to compete or earn the position. It’s really shitty. I’m looking for a new job :)

      I hope things go better for you. I think the advice to continue to ask for a written out plan is good!

      1. JelloStapler*

        That is absolutely awful. I’m so sorry. I’d make sure to mention this to HR when you have an exit interview- “I was given no specifics or path to advance after asking, or was notified of a recent opportunity in favor of a less experienced male colleague. This company clearly has biased career ladders and I do not plan to recommend anyone in my network to apply to positions here.”

        Not that they’d do anything but at least it’s on record. *shrug*

    5. Cold Fish*

      My current company was sold about two years into my tenure here. At about the five year mark I was told, it’s a good thing “Old Owner” sold, she never would have let you move out of “Old Department”. Turned out within a month I had the highest output and fewest errors of anyone in “Old Department” and “Old Owner” didn’t want to promote me because of it. Some managers just can’t think past “But they are doing so well here, I want to keep them here.” I can tell you, that if I was never moved out of “Old Department” I probably would not have made the five year mark. Not because I didn’t like “Old Department” but because I would have been bored out of my mind with that job.

      You are going to have to decide how long you are willing to do your current job without promotion. Then you can make it clear to manager that, for example, if you are not promoted to senior by next year, you are going to be looking for other opportunities even if it means leaving company. Easier said than done, I know. But from what I’m getting in your post, it sounds like manager may need to be reminded that it is not just up to him where you work.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Some managers just can’t think past “But they are doing so well here, I want to keep them here.”

        The crazy thing about that logic in this case is, if it’s even applicable to OP’s manager and his thought process, OP would still be in the same department doing essentially the exact same work just with a higher title and larger salary. If it’s a budgetary concern, he needs to be upfront with OP about that so OP doesn’t think he’s jerking her around for no reason. If it’s something else, well, he still needs to be upfront about why a promotion just isn’t in the cards for OP right now when she’s (according to him) performing well above average. Transparency would solve so many workplace problems…

    6. Artemesia*

      He isn’t going to change. He thinks he can get this productivity out of you without having to reward it. Someone close to me in a similar situation just found a new job that pays a third more and had a huge signing bonus; it took her about a month. Her boss who didn’t promote her was shocked that she is leaving.

      Time to go where you will be rewarded.

      1. Anon for this*

        Our HR rep’s brain broke when they learned the salaries our coworkers are getting when they leave. They still keep insisting we aren’t being underpaid though, because they refuse to acknowledge that our department is responsible for anything challenging.

        I’ve been putting in a request to please let me trick an HR rep into volunteering to help us with our “easy” work once a week for the last several months. So far it’s been rejected on the grounds that luring someone into the situation HR has put us in would be cruel, but as the situation worsens, I have hope.

    7. JelloStapler*

      Unfortunately, this seems to happen a lot when a director is concerned about budget or losing you. Titles and pay ranges are quite the inconsistent mystery in so many organizations, even if it is published.

    8. theletter*

      This could be an issue of the company’s (or your manager’s) expected level of experience. There’s some companies that do want to put people with a solid work 2-year work history into a senior role just as a matter of course – it gives entry level employees a decent goal at motivation, and if it’s a team that’s going to grow a lot, like sales/account rep/customer service, building out levels of hierarchy are very useful.

      On the other end, there’s industries and companies where people used to stay for decades or their entire career, and senior roles may have been more for individual contributors who ridiculous amount of experience, but not enough leadership skillz to go into management. I think I’ve seen this too in career paths that are dying off – where the market is oversaturated with workers with 15+ years experience, but are behind in the latest skills, and less than enthusiatic about change. The minimal amount of career growth available means the company could hire from the outside instead of promoting within if they want more experience.

      I dealt with this a few years back – I had a dotted line manager who ostensibly managed my technical projects, but couldn’t figure out how to get the llamas in and out of the grooming pens to save his life. He thought we should be zigging when we all knew we should zag, and nothing would convince him otherwise. He kept hiring outside seniors, with the idea that they would get those llamas in the pen the way he wanted, and then get the rest of us inline. Well it never worked, and the day he announced his resignation was the day my manager put me up for a promotion.

      Anyways, long story short is you might want to ask around your team and other teams about what the company and HR think the senior role means. Are they looking for an outside person with a billion years of experience who can quickly grow into a manager role? Are they looking for internal candidates who’ve been with the company long enough to take on a mentoring role? Is there a dollar amount of profit per resources that puts the person into a state where impact of loss would negate the benefits by keeping them at the currect salary rate? Could it just come down to some additional communication device (like an automated dashboard or a weekly update) that would make you a valued leader on the team?

    9. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I’d take a look around and see what other marketing opportunities are out there for you to take that next step up without the wait.

    10. Fabulous*

      I know my company just changed the way they do promotions, to where you have to move into an empty existing position, rather than be promoted in-role. Perhaps he’s hemming and hawing because there are no open senior positions? Or maybe his budget doesn’t allow a for a new role in a higher pay bracket?

    11. cindy lou*

      It could be something as simple as he may not have the budget available to promote anyone this year. There may have been a directive from above that there isn’t any extra for salary increases or promotions for a while; I have seen this happen several times in my long career where internal moves are temporarily frozen due to budget constraints. By working on it this year and showing your skills may give him more leverage to push his own superiors or whomever manages the head count forecast to consider giving him the buffer for a pay raise and promotion next year. Or you may just have caught him off guard :) keep the dialogue open and see what happens. Bring in some SMART goals he can’t refuse.

    12. Chevron*

      My take on this is that he’s telling you he doesn’t plan to promote you, and yes push for answers, ask about the open position, but be aware that not answering is an answer in itself.

      I used to be in a team of 10 individual contributors, all doing the same job but over different products, a mix of senior and non-senior positions. Technically the senior position had higher metrics to meet but they were very fuzzy and essentially the only difference was pay. I was one of the top 2 performers, in a non-senior role, doing better than many of the senior people. I spent 3 years asking about promotion opportunities, being given goals to reach to be promoted, then at my next review the goals would change and I’d be given a new set of goals. After the final time I went out and got a new job for more money. Management was shocked I’d left, they had to replace my position with a senior level post to match the work I’d been doing, and I hear they did a few promotions after I’d left to equalise things on the team.

      Looking back, I could possibly have pushed harder at the time to be considered for promotion. I could have made it clear I wasn’t willing to continue in the role when I was sure I was working at the higher level. But I think my manager was happy to have me working hard at the level I was and for whatever reason didn’t want to use capital to get me promoted.

      1. Wonderer*

        I think the first part of this is the clear message – He doesn’t have any plan to promote you. If he even knows how he would go about doing it, he clearly hasn’t put any thought at all into making it happen.

        No doubt that he’s hoping to just kick this problem down the road and hope you let it go. Keep pushing at regular intervals, and definitely apply for the other position. If they ask why, I would say “it’s less work and more money, why wouldn’t I choose that?”

      2. Miss. Bianca*

        Yep, unfortunately for me I think your few sentences are 100% right on.
        I’m so sorry that happened to you :(

        1. Chevron*

          It was a job and people I loved – but my new job was a 30% pay rise and also had lovely people, so it really all worked out well! And was much better than the creeping resentment of knowing I wasn’t valued as I should be.

    13. Liu1845*

      Maybe he does know, but does not want you leaving right where you are. You are making him look good and he likes the status quo. You might have to get the information from elsewhere.
      Does your company have mentors? The company I retired from had them and it was a great program. You might need to find your own though. Our program had a strict rule that your own boss could not be your mentor. It was a great way to develop your reputation at the company.

    14. Qwerty*

      He may not actually know the answers to your questions. You’re going to have to drive this – ask him what steps you need to take to get promoted, what is the job descriptions for the senior title, does the department have the ability to promote you to senior, etc.

      Is that open rec with the senior title under your director or in another department? Are you able to talk to the hiring manager for it informally to find out what they consider senior vs regular?

      Right now its easy for your manager to give you the brush off. It doesn’t sound like he’s invested in your growth or wants to handle the hurdles in getting someone promoted. I’ve run into this many times. Just because someone is in a higher management position does not know they understand how to manage or run a department.

    15. It’s Bannannas*

      I think I would go about this from a different angle. Instead of asking your manager if he sees you getting promoted this review cycle, I would go back to him with a full proposal of why you believe you should be promoted to the senior level. Take your past goals and give concrete examples of where you exceeded against each one, especially where you have examples of exerting influence, coaching/mentoring others, improving a process, managing large complexity/responsibility or otherwise taking the next step past simply achieving the goal. Then, if he is still being unclear on why you wouldn’t be considered for the senior title, you can push him to go one by one against each of these goals to explain where the gap is between your current performance and a senior performance. That gives him less room to avoid the question, and allows you to take more control in how to get to the next step. Finally, have him help coach you to make a plan to conquer any gaps, if they arise.

      I would avoid centering it around the other senior position, and instead focus on how your performance exceeds your current title in terms of responsibility and level of delivery. Perhaps it is all about budget, but then he’s forced to be more clear about the reasoning. Good luck!

    16. Marketing Middle Manager*

      How much structure does your team & department have in general? How long has your boss been a manager?

      The situation you describe–where Senior Teapot Marketing Manager basically does all the same things as a Teapot Marketing Manager, but, like, more senior-ly… that is a difficult situation for both employees and managers (especially new managers). The trouble is that often there AREN’T clear distinctions between the more junior role and the more senior role. And then managers & department heads fall into a bad habit of waiting around for people to impress them and feel like they “deserve” a promotion, rather than meeting specific criteria. So the answers to your questions might not exist. There might not be a culture of giving people specific criteria to meet for a promotion.

      If you suspect that’s the case, then as someone else said, you will need to drive this and nudge your manager out of his passive state. Request clear criteria for Sr Manager and keep following up if he puts you off. You could also offer to do the legwork yourself, doing research and creating a draft job description + promotion criteria for Sr Manager, and bringing that to him for approval. Then all he has to do is say Yes or No.

      If you STILL get nowhere, at a certain point you can switch to asking him about the pattern (see AAM’s advice for managing performance with employees). Or try grabbing coffee with HIS boss, explain your career goals, and see what they say.

      Ultimately, unfortunately, you might never get the structure you’re looking for at this company. I’ve seen companies where this haphazard approach to promotions sticks in the culture for years and years. It can take a lot of work to overcome, because depending on the company, your boss might need to get signoff from multiple levels above him and HR to approve the promotion criteria. Leadership might view it as making risky promises to employees about promotions, or view it as giving up some of their power and flexibility to make decisions.

    17. River Otter*

      You believe in what I like to call the calculus model of promotions. You have shown that you can do all the calculus 1 work with an A+ grade, so you expect to move into calculus 2. College works that way, but promotions do not. Being a senior whatever isn’t about being really good at all the same things as a junior whatever. Seniority also comes with increased autonomy in making decisions and increased mentoring expectations. Sometimes there is an expectation that you are the go to person for whatever it is that you do. And while seniority requires a greater number of years of experience, that does not mean that a greater number of years of experience will automatically get you seniority.
      It is good that you are asking these questions, but I think you need to reset your expectations. Have some conversations with other senior marketing people about what increased responsibilities they have taken on as they have gotten more senior. This will give you the sense of the difference in positions that your manager was not able to articulate. With those in mind, go have another conversation with your manager about the expectations in the senior level role. He was probably taken by surprise when you first brought it up. He will have had more time to think about it, and you will have some material to lead the conversation with. Expect that you will have to have multiple conversations over the coming months, and expect that at least one of those conversations will involve him saying that he doesn’t think you merit a promotion at this point.
      Revise your goals to go beyond what you’re currently doing. If you just keep doing all the same things, even if you do them really well, you will just keep staying at the same level. You can also enlist senior people to help you figure out what kind of stretch goals you should be thinking about. Then you will also have this conversation with your manager to see whether or not he is willing to help you find the kind of assignments that will stretch you. Keep in mind that operating at the senior level and being a go to person frequently works out to you finding your own opportunities, rather than your boss finding the opportunities for you. Be willing to do some of that legwork and advocate for yourself in getting more responsibility.
      Seniority can sometimes also mean taking on functional responsibilities. So maybe your department has some strategic plan that senior individual contributors take parts of. Again, consult with your senior colleagues and with your boss on how to find these. If you are on good terms with your skip level boss, talk to them as well. Just be sure that you keep your direct manager in the loop right after that conversation.
      Getting promoted doesn’t typically mean that you have to do all of those things that I just talked about. It frequently means that you have to be doing a few, so let that guide your strategic plan. If you can find one or two senior level responsibilities to incorporate into your job going forward, that should lay a solid foundation for having the promotion talk in the next review cycle.
      Good luck!

  2. Cat Tree*

    Thanks to everyone for the advice last week about interview questions to ask. I have interviewed several candidates so far and several of them could work out in this role.

    I need a sanity check though for one that didn’t go so well. I interviewed a guy who came off as condescending to me. This is a big problem, right? It’s for an entry level position so I try to be very generous with the expectation that we’ll have to train the person on all kinds of things. But this seems like a deal-breaker. He’s the only one we have interviewed so far for the entry-level role (others were for the mid-level role), so I don’t have anything to compare him to.

    He was overly complimentary/flattering to me in a way that felt like he was trying to suck up. It came off as condescending because he congratulated me on my own work achievements, which I had only described for background. It’s hard to explain, but it seemed really weird that he assumed I was seeking validation from him. All roles are collaborative to some extent, but this particular role is especially collaborative. I’m concerned that he would be condescending when working with people who views as beneath him. I think he could theoretically learn to communicate better, but this probably isn’t the right role to do that.

    Does anyone have experience working with someone like this? Are there any examples of someone like this coming into the role, really learning on the job, and everything working out well? Or should I just pass?

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      Trust your gut on that one – I’ve worked with a few people like that and they are exhausting.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes!!!! Absolutely trust your gut on this.

        When I did not, I ended up with the most difficult lab tech I ever experienced. Friendly on the outside, but combative, explosive temper, unreliable, a liar, uncooperative. After 10 months (of hell) had to fire her.

        One time I interviewed a man who met all the job criteria. But my gut was shouting “NO!”. I could not articulate why. So I moved him, and two others, forward to interview with my boss.

        My boss interviewed all three candidates. He handed me back the resume of the man my gut objected to and said to me, “I like either of the other two candidates. DO NOT HIRE this guy.”

        I asked him why. He said he couldn’t say- just a feeling. And he always went with his gut feeling.

      2. Elle Woods*

        I second this. My experience working with someone like this is that they coasted on charm and their work was inept, at best. They didn’t understand why their role was important to the organization or how it fit into the larger scheme of things and was a complete nightmare to work with.

      3. anonymous73*

        +1 to trust your gut. I was involved with my manager in interviewing for an open developer position. I had virtually no experience with being the interviewer, but whenever my manager asked for my opinion on someone personality-wise, she always validated my thoughts. One candidate rolled her eyes at us.

        If you took his tone as condescending and brown nosy, then that’s who he is. Believe it. Interviews make people nervous, but nerves don’t generally create this type of attitude.

      4. Chauncy Gardener*

        Came here to say that. Don’t second guess your gut. If he’s condescending IN AN INTERVIEW, he’s not going to magically improve once he’s on your payroll.

    2. Rey*

      I supervise college students, so they usually don’t have a ton of professional experience and I’m used to training on office norms. But I would never want to train them on how to not be condescending. That just sounds like a lot of work on my part, when I assume there are other applicants that wouldn’t require this kind of handholding. I would just pass.

    3. Elenna*

      I’m noticing that you haven’t actually listed any reasons you *want* to hire him, just reasons you don’t want to. And you say you have several good candidates. No reason to pick this guy and probably give yourself a bunch of headaches in the future, when you can just pick someone else.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Ha, good point. He actually did ok in some parts of the interview although there was as least one other red flag. Oddly, he answered really well on the question about collaboration and gave a good example. Even understanding that I’m only getting the candidate’s point of view, it still seemed like a good example so that’s partly why I’m questioning my judgment.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That’s a huge caution flag that you are questioning your own judgement. Don’t start down this road, it won’t serve you. A good candidate will feel like a solid hire, this is a different feeling from what you describe here.
          I can almost predict that you could end up questioning your judgement after each interaction with this guy.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Dating/hiring analogy: if you’re trying to talk yourself out of dating someone, then they’re not someone you should date. Instead of “Yeah, but…” it should be “Hell, yeah” as across the board as possible.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      At almost every stage, you’re looking for reasons to winnow down your applicant pool. If this guy put you off with his manner while *ostensibly on his best behavior* AND you have “several” other people who could work out well, I think you should pass on this person’s candidacy. Don’t go borrowing a professional development project if you don’t have to.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, good point. My concern is that I’m the most junior person on the interview team so he might have done better at hiding with the others. So I want to be sure of my own position if I have to present it to others who saw a different side of the candidate. I have to decide how much capital I’m willing to spend on a veto *if* the others want to hire him.

        1. OtterB*

          This is a really good reason to have junior people on interview teams. Some years ago, my organization interviewed someone who was rude and condescending to an admin person who was part of the interview. I would never have seen it; the interviewee considered me their equal. We did not hire them; good technical skills would not overcome inability to respect everyone on the team.

          1. SomeTimes*

            Wanted to say just this, I value the perspectives of the junior people on the team so much- often they will catch behaviors like this that the candidate may hide in meetings with more senior employees.

          2. tangerineRose*

            “my organization interviewed someone who was rude and condescending to an admin person who was part of the interview.” Thank you! I used to have a co-worker who was rude to anyone he didn’t think was important enough, and it made him very hard to work with.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Thanks for that reminder. I didn’t make it clear before, but we are filling at least two positions. He is the only candidate interviewing for the entry-level position during this round. But it’s probably better to pass on him and re-post the position.

        1. Pam Adams*

          Even if he wasn’t problematic, I would re-post. One candidate in the interview pool for a role isn’t enough. Maybe widen your search parameters?

    5. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

      Pass. I learned the hard way never to hire someone that I wasn’t enthusiastic about.

    6. Policy Wonk*

      Yes, I’ve worked with someone like this. They will do nothing, take credit for everyone else’s work, and brown nose to your superior while getting in subtle digs at you. Hard pass.

    7. NervousNellie*

      Hard pass, just dealing with people like this is exhausting. I can’t imagine working a full day. There are a lot of fish in the sea right now, go catch another one.

    8. Purple Cat*

      Although you don’t specify YOUR gender, I’m willing to assume you’re female. And we’ve been well-trained to ignore our gut feelings – especially when they’re unfavorable towards men – because of course what we’re feeling isn’t REALLY what we’re feeling and is wrong and we must suppress them to not cause waves.
      Getting an “icky” vibe from someone is enough to not move them forward. It’s not that they were nervous, or didn’t have the exact skill set you were looking for, it’s their basic personality that doesn’t feel like a fit, and you can’t train that away.

        1. retired3*

          My first thought was that you are a woman (I am too). Trust your gut. I once worked as a manager in a state prison system. Sometimes I worked in the prisons One thing that struck me in this very macho environment (and that I appreciated) was that if you said an inmate made you uncomfortable, you were taken seriously. The focus was on staying safe in that environment and honoring people’s intuition apparently was part of that. There was no questioning of your feeling.

        2. Mimi*

          I don’t know how many of the other interviewers are female, but this would be a huge red flag to me. You’re the canary on the interview team, as it were — how he behaves to you in the interview is how he will behave to women in junior roles, possibly to anyone in junior roles, and you do not want that toxic nonsense on your team, or interacting with anyone in your organization (and possibly your clients!) You’re on the interview team BECAUSE people will potentially show you this behavior that they wouldn’t show a senior VP or whoever, and the company wants you to voice these reservations. Stick to your convictions. It’s possible the rest of the team will overrule you (though if so, that seems like a bad sign for this org), but you can hold firm in “If this were my decision, he would be a heck no.”

    9. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      trust your gut. I usually participate in interviewing candidates for support staff positions on my team. One guy came off kinda arrogant and dismissive to me, but I didn’t bring it up when my manager asked what I thought of him, because I couldn’t really explain why I didn’t feel great about him. We hired him. Turns out he was kind of arrogant and sexist and thought rules didn’t apply to him. He did not last. Lesson learned.

    10. Forkeater*

      Ah yes. I had an employee who treated me as if she thought I needed a lot of reassurance. It was very strange. It came out over time that this behavior was a symptom of the contempt she had for me. Trust your gut.

      1. It Is Ok*

        I’m a new supervisor interviewing for my backfill and my Director added a last-minute referral. I interviewed the referral as a courtesy and she kept reassuring me when I didn’t need to be reassured.

        It was irritating and I couldn’t decide if it was a viable reason to pass on her. It’s tricky because of who referred her. Your comment helped me realize what she was doing. Thank you.

    11. RagingADHD*

      It’s an entry level role and you already have several good candidates. Pass.

      It isn’t your job to teach this guy remedial communication skills. Unless literally every other candidate would require longer & more difficult or comprehensive training in order to fill the role, then don’t waste another thought on him.

      The only reason to bother with this guy is if he were your absolute best candidate. He isn’t.

    12. Bagpuss*

      You’ve given specific concerns based on how he came over .
      I am also wondering if you are female/female presenting.

      I once interviewed a guy who came over like this to me, but only to me, not my male colleague. My colleague was enthusiastic about the gut and haven’t noticed how he acted toward me at all. I vetoed our taking his application any further.

      If you have other good candidates, move on. If not, or if he was otherwise strong, maybe consider a second interview – would it be feasible to have some of the people who would be directly working with him be involved in that and see whether he gives of the same vibe there?

    13. Wait what?*

      Unless there’s more you’re not saying, I would run it past some trusted colleagues. By all means, trust your gut.

      But, the one thing you point to – he congratulated you on an achievement that you brought up, is hardly evidence of being condescending by itself. What response were you looking for?

      I could imagine a different interviewer penalizing a candidate for not responding like this candidate date. i.e. “I mentioned $achievement but the candidate didn’t even seem to know that it is important” How’s the candidate to tell the difference between that interview and you?

      Also be mindful that for true entry-level positions, the candidates might not have the polish you’re looking for. Candidates are less likely to know or manage how they come across, so you might mistake naivite for arrogance or condescension. But you’re the only person who was there for that, so you’re the best judge of that.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I explained to him that I’m the SME for the process, have been for years, so I know what is important for the position. He made a point to congratulate me later, not even a spur of the moment thing. It’s just so bizarre that he thought my reason for saying it was to get his personal approval. Plus it’s not like a recent thing. I’ve been the SME longer than he has been in the workforce.

        It’s like if a 10 year-old congratulated you for tying your shoes. It’s just so bizarre. No other candidate has ever done this.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Context is everything. Cat Tree was there, you and I were not.

            If you want more details, there is a big difference between Cat Tree saying “I created [useful tool]” and the candidate immediately saying “that’s cool!” or “that’s great!” or something along those lines and a situation where Cat Tree says “I created [useful tool]” and at the end of the interview the candidate says “it’s very impressive that you were able to create such a useful tool for [field]” with a tone of “what a cute parlor trick, little lady.”

            Word choice, tone, body language, and many other factors play into determining intent.

            1. Wait what?*

              Yeah, context matters. But intents are inscrutable, and people are very bad at identifying them correctly. Focus instead on the actions and their outcomes.

              As you said, you weren’t there, so I’m not sure how you came up with that dialog.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                I should have been more clear: I came up with the dialogue for the two example scenarios to show how adding word choice + tone + timing in the interview to “a candidate congratulated me on an achievement” creates two very different scenarios. Because we (as commenters on the blog) only know “a candidate congratulated me on an achievement” and the timing in the interview, I’m willing to trust Cat Tree’s judgement of the word choice, tone, body language, etc that led her the believe the candidate was condescending.

                1. Wait what?*

                  Yeah, these types of discussions aren’t productive on the internet because context matters so much.

          2. RagingADHD*

            The intent is irrelevant. If the candidate is coming across as bizarrely condescending, that’s a problem.

            It demonstrates a failure in their interpersonal communication skills, which would negatively impact their job performance in this environment.

            Part of the job is establishing positive collaborative relationships, and committing faux pas in the interview shows they are not good at it.

        1. A Pair of Foxes*

          You clearly very much care about being the SME for the process and he correctly picked up on it. Absent information you’re leaving out, it’s bizarre that you think he was doing it to personally approve of you.

          You really need to take a step back and talk to the rest of the hiring committee to make sure your judgment isn’t miscalibrated.

    14. Stoppin' by to chat*

      Typically when you’re in the interview phase with someone you still have very few data points about them. So if a key data point about how they interacted with you seemed off, then listen to your gut. It’s unlikely that will be the ONLY qualified candidate you will ever come across or this role ever. It’s okay to listen to your gut and pass.

    15. The teapots are on fire*

      First, hire no glassbowls is, to me, the first and foremost rule of hiring. I have ignored it twice and regretted it bitterly both times.

    16. no sleep for the wicked*

      We recently hired someone for an entry level position who had worked here in a student capacity a few years ago and now had an MLIS (absolutely not required for the position) and because another person on the hiring committee recalled enjoying working with this person previously, we hired them.
      Oh lordy what a shitshow. They snubbed everyone they work with who doesn’t have an MLIS and started contacting outside organizations and higher-ups about any random idea they had about workflow they didn’t bother to learn, causing a lot of kerfluffle as they were quickly reined in. They also refused to be trained by me for a critical part of their job I oversee, turning down my meeting request for training with “I’ll get back to you in a couple of months” which ended up with a “I’m ready to help you with your documentation-writing problem now” What the actual??
      New manager (who wasn’t here for the hiring) has done a lot in helping with workplace norms but this person still regularly expresses disappointment with lack of autonomy and general entry-levelness.
      I wish we had never hired them.

    17. Nesprin*

      Yup, patronizing junior employee is a combination I loathe working with, and in my experience rarely goes with competent or pleasant to work with.

  3. Sunflower*

    Salary Benchmarking – 2 questions
    – My company says they do benchmarking based on total comp, not salary- everyone I’ve spoken to both in and outside of my industry say that benchmarking should be done on salary alone since bonuses aren’t guaranteed.
    – I asked my boss if HR could provide benchmarking info for my role. She told me my base puts me at 75% and bonus pushes me up to 100%. I was expected to be given the salary range for the position and could figure out where I fall. We usually get bonuses (around 15% given the company and your performance rating are both average) but of course it’s not guaranteed.
    Both of these (primarily the benchmarking %) seem a bit odd- am I correct?

    FYI – I had posted a few weeks ago about getting a 10% raise as a promotion (6% COL and 4% title raise) and thinking it was low. I’ve been preparing to go back to negotiate, and this is my first step. Unfortunately, my boss doesn’t seem concerned I’m asking about salary and I don’t think negotiations are going to go anywhere. Ideally I want my boss to pick up that I’d be looking elsewhere if I don’t receive the raise I want (but without flat out saying it)

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Nope nope! CFO here and also in charge of HR at my current and previous (smaller) companies. I always benchmark base and then a separate benchmark is total comp, not including benefits, only cash comp and equity.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      We look at both base salary as well as total cash compensation which would include things like bonus, stock, etc. It depends on the service you use for benchmarking but you establish a target for the role externally vs. companies you consider your peer employers, determine what percentage you want to be vs. those peers and set that as the mid-point of that position’s salary range.

      A 10% promotion increase is a solid raise assuming it is just one level up.

    3. Can Can Cannot*

      In terms of being given the range and then figuring out where you fall, that won’t work. The range is part of a distribution, and knowing the high and low won’t tell you much. Being halfway between the high and low doesn’t mean you are in the middle (50%) of the distribution since the distribution can be uneven. The numbers you were given are probably more useful. You are quite a bit above the mid point (75%) for your base and at the very top for total comp.

      1. Sunflower*

        I’m still a bit confused only because when I’ve tried to negotiate my salary before, I’ve been told that they can’t go any higher because I’m close to the top end of the range and they need to leave room for increases. So I assumed there was some range somewhere out there? I should also mention my team is really small and this is a new role so I’m the only person in it so far and it’s not a situation where there’s a lot of other internal salaries to gage it against.

        Just was shocked to hear that because I’ve been doing my research and it seems people at our competitors are making a little less than my total comp in their salary and receiving the same percent bonus so they are making a decent chunk more than me. I work at a relatively large company (5000+ employees, 65,000+ if you include our parent and sister companies) so I assume they have access to pretty legitimate benchmarking data.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          It sounds like you have some additional data. It could be that the benchmarking was flawed, or biased to make your company look more competitive. but if you have information that you are not in fact at the 75% and 100% points, you might want to bring that up. But don’t expect them to buck their benchmarks. Instead, it might be the information you need to find a new job.

  4. ecnaseener*

    Can I please get a gut check on priorities when comparing jobs?

    I’m 25 years old, 2.5 years into my first post-college job. I’m doing very well in it but still challenged enough to be engaged. I’m reasonably happy here and wasn’t job-hunting when a recruiter contacted me about another job, which I’m now at the reference-check stage for.

    New job would be a step up in title (and pay), with more growth potential than is available at my current job. I would be learning a new area of my work. So on paper, a great move for my career. But it doesn’t feel like enough to justify a move, and I’m not sure if that feeling is rooted in reality or if I’m just averse to change (and tbh averse to digging up references, kind of a pain when in your first job).

    So…would it be a mistake to pass up a growth opportunity now and potentially find myself stuck/stagnating in a couple years? What do you wish you had done at 25? For context, I’m not in the type of job where hopping around every 3 years is normal.

    (I am of course considering other factors beyond pay and advancement. None lean heavily to the new job though, so it’s basically the above.)

    1. SquigSoup*

      It sounds to me like you are happy where you are, and weren’t planning to look for a new job. What I’m reading is that you’d be jumping from a known quantity where you feel challenged and respected to an unknown quantity. I would advise you to stay put, for now.

      1. ecnaseener*

        An accurate assessment, yes! I probed into details where I could, but just about every factor affecting my immediate work experience is somewhere in the realm of “probably about the same” to “there are yellow flags that it could be worse.”

        1. Cat on a Keyboard*

          It’s a good idea to interview, to see what’s out there, talk with others in the industry, and think about your overall career priorities, while you’re not in a rush. But if you’re happy where you are, and the new job doesn’t seem totally amazing and definitely better, then I wouldn’t jump ship yet. Maybe in a few years you’ll feel ready to move on and those opportunities might be open again.
          Congrats finding a good spot to stay for 3 years, I job hopped a lot in my early career trying to find my way. A solid start will look good for you.

          1. Nesprin*

            Yup, this- if they want you to move out of an environment where you’re doing well, they need to be good + willing to pay you to move.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      At the end of the day, it’s all personal, but pattern-wise? The people who move around more earlier in their career tend to earn more.

      I bucked that trend and have managed to catch up, but I still regret staying several years at my first post university job. Look at the changes I’ve made since then, I’ve probably left an extra 10-20% salary and at least 1 level of title bump on the table.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I mean, you will be kicking yourself about something 10 years ;) Life isn’t perfect and neither are we. It sounds like this job might not be one to go to, but that it might be worth looking into what’s out there.

          If you’re like me? It’s REALLY hard to move when you’re comfortable. I love the current people I work with and our mission, but I’m still leaving and in a way it’s harder than when I left a place I’d grown to hate. But it’s a big step up, working on some stuff that’s highly visible and as my mind acclimatised to ‘I’m leaving’, the more excited I get!

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Don’t ignore your gut. If you aren’t excited about the new opportunity I would hold tight for now but recognize that you have enough of a work history now to keep an ear to the ground for external positions that would excite you and push for internal growth .

    4. Rey*

      You say that it doesn’t feel like enough to justify a move, so if in a couple years you were looking for a new role, what would feel like enough? And once you know that, what would you like to be doing over the next couple years to feel prepared for that kind of role? At 25, you have a lot of time to make career decisions, and that’s true. But if you have a specific title in mind and there’s specific things you can be doing to prepare for it, I think that would be a good place to start. And maybe think about things that you would like to change in your life in the next couple years, and consider how your current job versus the potential job would fit with that. Maybe right now you have a long commute that diminishes your social life or keeps you away from family that you would actually like to prioritize more.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Hard to say — if I wanted to move it would be because I was bored or otherwise unhappy at work. So my standards would be lower, I would probably weigh the prospect of new challenges much heavier against the work I currently enjoy.
        Even then, I can honestly say this particular job would still not be a slam dunk — it’s a lot of the same work day in and day out, whereas now I have a variety that works for me. If I get bored of this particular set of tasks, replacing them all with 1-2 new tasks won’t be terribly appealing.

        1. Lady Danbury*

          Based on what you shared here, it doesn’t sound like this is the right move for you. But you definitely shouldn’t wait until your desperate! Now is the perfect time to polish up your resume/linkedin and keep an eye out for opportunities that would be a better fit. Others have mentioned the significant career benefits of changing jobs and applying doesn’t mean that you have to take the job. You’re far less likely to find a better opportunity if you don’t look at all.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Seconding this. It sounds like you’ve considered this job and it wouldn’t be the right fit, but what jobs would be a good fit for you? Where do you want to go at this point in your career, and what steps would you need to take to get there?

            I was “loyal” to the company where I had my first job, so I didn’t push back when they had me working exclusively with outdated technology. I didn’t have a career plan and was really stagnating when they decided to fire me. It was only then that I realized I couldn’t get a job in the same field for the next year because of the noncompete, and I didn’t have any experience in the modern technology every other job wanted.

            Even if you’re perfectly happy where you are, keep an eye on job listings and the skills they want so that you can transition to a new job when you want or need to.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I agree–it sounds like a move, and on paper there is logic to it, but not slam dunk “You’re unhappy where you are now, you need to budge” or “This is a huge promotion and right in line with your desired career path” logic. You can be happy where you are and stay put another 1-2 years.

    5. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Growth potential early in your career is huge. What could be a small step up now will incrementally grow over time and snowball into much more than if you stayed where you are. To me, the early years in your career are the time to take risks — you can always take this job, realize it’s not what you like, and try to go back to your old role (or a similar role at another company). But that’s just me!

    6. Nowwhat465*

      I’m in higher ed. Once you start working at some of the bigger institutions, job hunting really dies down. I started at one my first job out of college. I stayed in my assistant level role until I was 26.

      By 2 years, I was doing the job really well. I was taking on new projects with meaning that I found challenging. But I was not getting paid for those growth opportunities within the job. I had the responsibility of an Assistant Manager on a lot of these programs, and I was still paid like an assistant. I was comfortable though, so I didn’t really see a reason to move even though I was aware there would not be an opportunity to move up in my team. I didn’t end up starting to search for other opportunities until about a year later when I grew extremely frustrated that I had all this responsibility and not the pay and title

      I’m now nearly 30. I’ve moved up a couple of time since that position within my institution (different teams) but I really wish I had started the process 6-12 months sooner. The salary bump alone just a bit sooner could have helped my husband and I reach our current goals a bit sooner (buying a home, getting married) and we are trying to plan our future goals around my next career move as I want to be in a new position for at least a year before kids, or have kids in my current position and then move on after.

      If there other factors outside advancement and salary that discourage you from taking this job (benefits aren’t great, longer commute, longer hours etc.) then definitely take those into consideration and see how they affect your quality of life. But please don’t pass up opportunities just because you’re comfortable. It can be scary, but I promise you it is worth it.

      1. Mimi*

        I also wish I’d moved out of my first job a little sooner, and one of the factors there is opportunity cost — Yes, I was learning in oldjob, and I wasn’t totally bored, but I would’ve learned more and gotten more interesting work if I’d moved on after three or four years, instead of six.

        (That said, it sounds like maybe this particular job isn’t the best choice, but keep an eye out for other options.)

    7. pcake*

      There’s no way to know how a new job will work out. They could have unreasonable expectations, your new boss could be a jerk, there could be other issues that don’t show up “on paper”. So many jobs have issues once you’re working there that don’t show from the outside or that they don’t talk about. Considering you are happy enough at your current company to NOT be looking for a job, I don’t see a compelling reason for this move. You can always worry about more upward growth in the future. Seems like the big winner if you change jobs might be the recruiter.

      How does potential new job compare in bonuses and other benefits like paid time off and flexibility? Is it remote, and if not, is it closer or further from where you live? Have you talked about hours yet?

      To me, moving to a new job you weren’t looking for with no strong advantages seems like it’s not a move worth making. But that’s just my opinion.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Ha, the recruiter is definitely the big winner and she is pushing hard! And the unknowns are looming big.

        No bonuses at either job, new job has more PTO in total but also more restrictions on it (ie, current job has a pooled PTO bank so I can easily take mental health days and whatnot; new job has more vacation time [available after 6 mos] but very few sick/personal days), both are remote, hours sound like typically 40 but with some surges (current job I almost never work long hours).

    8. Anonying*

      You said the prospective job has more growth potential than at your current job. I think that’s key. To me, if there is no similar growth trajectory open to you after 2.5 years at a company, I would consider the prospective job offer, if/when that comes. I regret losing growth at your age and stagnating at a job that I knew would not lead to my career.

      Most importantly, perhaps, I would also make sure the pay bump is actually a bump. If you currently work 40 hours at $50K and this new job wants 60 hours at $55K, you’d be working for far less at the new job, once converted to hourly rates. Also, compare benefits, especially 401K matching and insurance premiums. Also look at vacation days; I very much regret taking a “better” job that didn’t give me any vacation until 12 months. I didn’t figure that stuff out until my late 20s.

      Good luck!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Great points, thank you! I don’t have zero growth potential in this current job — I’m at level 2 of 3. After 3 I will be stuck if I don’t want to be a man anger (or the managers don’t leave – they’re both probably lifers). The new job is a bigger department that is itself growing.

        The new job is definitely not a 60 hr job, but from what I heard in the interview they do sometimes have surges (whereas I’m almost always getting my current work done in 40 hours, never as much as 45) so this 6-10% bump does shrink a bit when I look at it hourly.

        1. DrRat*

          I am always getting colleagues who move to a new company and want me to go with them. “It’s an extra $10,000 a year!” But then it turns out they are working 60 hours a week for the salary when I’m working 40, they get no paid OT, fewer PTO days, 401(k) matching is not as good, they have to go to the office instead of working from home…

          It sounds like you are asking all the right questions but that the answer may be “Yes, I need to look for a new change, just not this particular change.”

      2. SansaStark*

        That’s such a great way to frame thinking about “more money” that took me years to learn. I just rolled my old 401ks into a Roth and it is really surprising how the meager amount I was able to save 15 years ago grew into something that, taken together with other accounts, actually translates into real money that can grow over the next 20 years.

      3. JitzGirl11*

        I was going to comment similarly. Salary and career progression are absolutely important considerations. But the whole benefits package tells a story as well, and that’s worth weighing. Early in my career, I moved from a corporate job to take a position with a nonprofit to learn a new skill set. I took a slight pay cut, moved into what was seen as a less stable industry, and took on a longer commute – but the new job contributed 10% to my 403(b), I had four times as much vacation, I had more flexibility, I was valued, and I got away from toxic management. I was able to leverage that foot in the door into a series of promotions that eventually (I stayed with the nonprofit 10+years) helped me land my current job, outside of social service nonprofits, where my pay, responsibilities, benefits, etc. are significantly better than many of my peers my age and in my industry. Weigh the “small” stuff, in addition to the career steps and salary boost you might see. In my case, a lateral (and from a pay perspective, backward) move was 100% the best choice.

    9. Cold Fish*

      I kind of regret not moving around more when I was younger (I really, really, really hate job searching and I’m good at planning my next moves). I also really liked the people/company I work at and moved internally enough that I didn’t get bored. I’ve gotten to the point I know I really need to move on but can’t find anything at current pay, even though I know I’m making less that I could have if I did a little more job hopping. There is nothing wrong with staying where you are if you don’t like the sound of the new job. But it is easy to get stuck without some kind of plan.

      1. Romana*

        Oof, I could have written this. This is all true of me except that I was incredibly bored at my job at 25 and actually very badly wanted to move on, but struggled because I hate job searching so much and because my perception of my job also affected my ability to build my resume and applications (I didn’t know what to say about my work since it felt meaningless to me). I eventually lucked out and found a job with much better pay and a better environment, but it was a lateral move in terms of responsibilities and title because I was just applying to anything that seemed realistic out of desperation. Now I’m feeling stagnant again but can’t find anything even close to my current pay. I really wish I had done something more to grow in my career when I was younger, because now I want to try new and different things but can’t accept an entry level salary anymore.

    10. SansaStark*

      Short answer: I’d tell my 25 year old self to trust my gut a lot more. I was right about SO MANY things but felt like I couldn’t trust myself if I didn’t have a “good enough” reason.

      Longer answer: Spend some time digging into WHY your gut might be telling you something. Is there anything you learned in the interview with this specific situation that make you hesitant? If the opportunity was slightly different, do you think you’d feel differently? Also maybe spend some time thinking about your short term and long term goals are. It may be worth turning down this opportunity for the potential of a reaching a longer-term goal. Or maybe not! For a long time, my short-term goal was to work in a job that didn’t suck my soul with people I liked with a long-term goal of learning my industry from the ground-up so that I’d be ready for something bigger eventually. Your short-term goal might be to make as much money as you can right now. Totally valid. It’s YOUR goal for your life. And of course, your goals can change as you do!

      You’re not going to get it right every time. No one does. Learn from your mistakes. Good luck!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Permission to trust my gut is what I wanted to hear, thank you! :) Yes, there are some yellow flags and ultimately nothing (other than the money) that I’m sure I’ll like better.

        Long term goal setting is……not my strong suit. So i know my gut is in a blind spot there.

        1. SansaStark*

          I took a job for money once and ignored a couple of yellow flags and my general ‘off’ feeling about it and that whole story became the reason that I say so confidently now “listen to your gut.” Good luck!

    11. anonymous73*

      Don’t lose out on an opportunity that came to you just because it’s a pain to put together references or because you’re not crazy about change. It’s always a little scary to start a new job. I’ve been working professionally for over 25 years and have stayed in more than one place because I was comfortable, but had limited growth potential. While I’m doing well, I could be doing so much better. I know there are no guarantees with the new job, but to me the growth opportunity is a HUGE plus. I say go for it. You may not get the new job, but will probably have regrets or at least wonder “what if” if you don’t at least try. If you get an offer, weigh the pros and cons and do what’s best for you.

    12. Purple Cat*

      Pay increase and growth potential is HUGE at the early stages of your career. Compound growth is absolutely a thing, so please don’t discount that. And changing jobs <3 years is absolutely not "job hopping" and even if someone thought that was a short period of time, you need to worry about multiple "short" jobs before it's a concern. This new company obviously wanted you despite your current short tenure.

      I'm not sure what else you're expecting/looking for to "justify a move". There typically isn't a blazing firestorm writing "GET OUT" that gets people to move.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Sorry, by “normal to hop around” I just meant how there are some fields where everyone takes a new job every few years because you can’t get a raise or promotion otherwise. I didn’t mean I had any concerns about looking like a job-hopper – I don’t, for the reasons you name.

        As for what else I was looking for to justify the move: an improvement in my actual day-to-day work experience. A sense that I would like the work better, or the people, or something. I spend 40 hours a week (or less!) doing work that I enjoy a reasonable amount, with a dependable manager and reasonable coworkers, and I can afford what I need. I’d be risking a lot of short-term happiness for long-term money.

        1. okay*

          “I spend 40 hours a week (or less!) doing work that I enjoy a reasonable amount, with a dependable manager and reasonable coworkers, and I can afford what I need.” This is one of the most lukewarm, milquetoast justifications for staying at a current job that I think I have ever read. Are you sure, OP? Are you really, really sure? I don’t see any passion, any heart, in what you said – only comfortable and safe. Now, given The Times We Live In, comfortable and safe may be just what you need. If that’s the case, that’s fine! But be honest w/yourself that the stress of moving to a new role, even with the promise of better money and better opportunity, isn’t what you are able to handle right now.

          1. Loulou*

            I don’t mean to sound harsh, but your reaction feels pretty out of touch. Absolutely none of the things OP listed are things anyone should take for granted. It makes perfect sense to say, “I’m happy with the conditions I’m working in now and I don’t want to risk losing them.” It’s a pretty mature perspective, and I find it condescending to say “be honest with yourself” as though OP isn’t!

          2. ecnaseener*

            I appreciate this perspective! I’m not passionate about this job, but I wouldn’t be passionate about the new one either. I’m not working in a field I’m passionate about, so I actually feel quite lucky to be simply content. I get a non-zero amount of enjoyment out of my work, which is a lot more than many people can say, and it’s work that makes the world a little better rather than just lining investors’ pockets. I don’t want to risk a generally-pleasant existence.

            But like, you’re not wrong that I could be happier. It’s either a Plague Times coping mechanism or my brain maturing, but my emotions have been weirdly steady.

            1. allathian*

              You sound very mature and self-aware about your situation. I hope your working hours are short enough that you can find something to be passionate about when you aren’t working.

          3. no sleep for the wicked*

            Plenty of outlets for passion & heart that don’t involve the risk of unemployment, eviction, food insecurity. ‘Comfortable and safe’ are conditions billions of people are striving for right this very moment. Don’t knock them.

      2. Happy Individual Contributor*

        One thing I haven’t seen mentioned in the responses: do you WANT to advance in your career? If you are happy where you are, and the compensation works for you, it is not a requirement to keep “leveling up.” Most people do want to take on new or different responsibilities at some point, but don’t feel like you need to get to Vice President by the time you’re 40 if you’re happy where you are.

        1. ecnaseener*

          YEAH that’s the question isn’t it? I don’t feel any particular desire to advance right now, no ambition burning in my heart, but who knows what I’ll want eventually.

    13. Fran Fine*

      You got all the way to the reference check stage, so something about this opportunity is intriguing to you. You said there’s higher growth potential and a higher title/salary to match, so yes, that’s reason enough to move on if you want to. I moved around a lot in my 20s, and I don’t regret it one bit. Everything I learned or experienced, good or bad, led me to the great position I’m in now and has set me up for even bigger things down the road. Don’t pass on this opportunity because you’re afraid of the future or the unknown. You could be missing out on something that could change your life for the better.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I mainly got here by trying to do my due diligence before saying no, haha! They only wanted one interview. I was feeling lukewarm after that, and asked the recruiter if I could talk to a non-manager to hear about the culture & management style. Instead I got a meeting with the hiring manager and one of her reports, together — so I didn’t get the candid information I was looking for.

        1. Fran Fine*

          LOL! It doesn’t sound like you care too much about this new position (or your current one), so in that case, stick with the devil you know until you find something that truly excites you.

    14. mreasy*

      Honestly, I would take it if you get a sense the culture/expectations are acceptable. This type of move early in your career pays dividends later on by putting you at a higher seniority and salary level… not worth being unhappy but worth seriously considering.

    15. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

      Digging up references is going to be a pain whenever you move on from your first job. It gets slightlyyyy easier if you have more of a network before you have to do it, but it’s still a barrier. So if you stay until you’re a level 3 at your current job and do that job for a couple years, say you’re 30 and still at that job — how do you feel about that if it means you don’t have to deal with the reference issue and stress of change?

    16. cindy lou*

      You accepted an interview for a reason – maybe not reasons you’re really opening your eyes enough to see or are avoiding thinking about due to a natural nervousness about change.

      If you were 150% happy and not interested in other opportunities you wouldn’t have accepted an interview, so stay honest with yourself, and every time you think of a reason to take or not take the job, just keep asking yourself “why?” you think that reason, until you get to the bottom and the truth.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The reason really was just “might as well find out more, maybe it will wow me” and then it didn’t.

    17. HR Exec Popping In*

      My one piece of advice to people earlier in their career is to take the risk and say yes. A bump in responsibility and pay will pay significant dividends down the road if advancement is important to you.

    18. Double A*

      Is there any reason not to apply? It’s always good to keep your resume up to date and your job hunting skills fresh. If the opportunity seems exciting, digging up those references won’t seem like such a pain, and if it doesn’t, then references will be a moot point. I think it’s always good to know what else it out there

    19. ecnaseener*

      Thanks all for your advice! After thinking through your responses, including the ones saying things I didn’t want to hear, I feel like I was able to wrap my head around the question much better. I can’t know with 100% certainty that I won’t regret my decision, but I won’t be kicking myself for not thinking it through properly. (I also called my parents, who aren’t shy about telling me I’m being lazy or shortsighted, so it was a relief to hear that they didn’t think so.)

      I can now say with no small amount of relief that I called the recruiter and withdrew. I’m claiming this for Friday Good News! If I hadn’t read so much advice from Alison about really assessing the job while the interviewer is assessing you, I might have been taken in by the warm fuzzy “they like me!” feelings and forgotten to probe for as many details as I did.

      (Also thank goodness for AAM teaching me the importance of scripts. That recruiter made it haaaard to stick to my guns but I had written down scripts for it all.)

      1. DrRat*

        Sounds like you made the right decision for yourself at this point in time. But it sounds like you got some valuable advice and insight here by asking the question in the first place, and that will help as you move forward in the future. Best of luck!

    20. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Have you negotiated the salary yet? I mean, if you otherwise feel this could be a good opportunity, but it’s not quite enough to make you budge, you might be able to get a bit of a better offer. It’s worth a try, but only if you’re serious.

    21. Qwerty*

      My view is that you should be running towards something rather than running away. Are you worried about missing out about a job that’s great on paper or are you actually excited for this job?

      Sometime interviewing someplace new can also make you like your current job a lot better. I tend to talk to companies if an opportunity sounds intriguing, and my indicator for leaving is when I’m more excited about the new job than my current job.

      I think at 25 with a stable job that keeps you engaged, there’s no harm in you staying. And if you feel good about the new place, there’s no harm in taking it if you think you’ll want to stay there for however many years is normal in your industry. Go with your gut – the downside of having two good options is that you’ll probably feel regret no matter which one you choose.

  5. Should I apply?*

    Advice on coordinating others work when your approach to the work is completely different than those you are coordinating.

    I am a technical lead on a large project (not a manager) but am responsible for making sure that the technical work gets done correctly and in a timely manner. I’ve had this role on other projects without many issues, but on my current project I am really struggling. I think a large part of the issue, is that previously the people I’ve worked with have approached problems in a similar manner to how I do. Now I am working with someone who’s approach is completely different. I don’t think either of are approaches are ‘wrong’ but they fundamentally conflict with each other on something we have to work closely on.

    For a silly example, I think you should wash the llama before shearing and they think you should shear it and then wash it. We can’t shear and wash the llama at the same time. I could dictate the work, but I’m afraid it would seriously damage my relationship with my co-worker and cause them to be less engaged in the project. I could try their approach but as I don’t understand their logic it makes it very difficult for me to plan and track the status.

    1. Choggy*

      Is it a matter of the technical work not being done correctly and in a timely manner? Or is it a matter of control over the way they do things?

      1. Should I apply?*

        The problem is more of deciding what work should be done in what order. However, it can lead to work that I was expecting to be completed, not being done in a timely manner because they chose to work on something else that they thought was more important to the project. At this point we have had multiple discussions about what is the most critical but since we are approaching this from two very different view points its like we are talking past each other.

        1. Two Dog Night*

          Would there be any harm in going with this other person’s approach, as long as they can tell you in what order they’re going to do things so you can plan? I mean, if they’re really not prioritizing correctly you might have to get their manager involved, but if the end result will be the same it seems easiest to accept that they’re going to do what they want and plan around it.

        2. River Otter*

          So let’s say they were shearing the llama, and now washing the llama is behind schedule. What downstream of both washing and shearing has been impacted by washing the llama being behind schedule?
          I hate to get all program manager-y on you, but have you identified the critical path? How does the order of the activities impact the critical path and the overall length of the work? Also, who has the final authority on the schedule?
          You should really have at least a guideline schedule made up with critical path identified. That will tell you whether the order of the operations is really going to be a problem or not. If the order of the operations is going to be a problem based on critical path analysis and you have final authority over the schedule, then you have standing to ask your colleague to do things in the order dictated by the schedule. But if you don’t have a schedule, and you don’t understand with the impact to everything down stream really is, well, you actually have no idea what kind of risk you’re operating under. I recommend as a first step that you actually analyze with the impact of doing things differently would be.

    2. Dave*

      I would actually try to have a logic conversation with them where you both explain your logic for how you do things. You may disagree but if you can at least understand it that might help. When you explain your there maybe points the other person gathers. This can be tricky because they need to be open to an open honest conversation for it to work. I could also see in your example where there are times you way makes more sense, like the llama came caked in mud, but to them washing away the loose hairs after shearing the lama is easier and makes for a faster washing.

    3. Trawna*

      Have you asked them to fully explain their approach to you – why, benefits, downsides, etc?

      Also, a couple of times, I’ve asked people I’m training or managing to please humour me and do it my way for the sake of continuity or deadlines or an outside factor that they may not understand. I’ve then followed up with them later to both explain my reasoning and get my head around their methods. I like learning new tricks : )

      1. no sleep for the wicked*

        I do this too. I ask them to first learn it my way, and when they are consistently competent to feel free to sort out their own workflow as long as the end result works. I’ve learned some interesting hacks and usually people I’m training end up ‘getting’ why I do things a certain way.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I’m guessing this is something where there are no standard practices & procedures in your company for doing this?
      ie: Deploy database changes to test server, then run consistency checks, then write API, etc?

      If you’re the team lead, you ought to be the one setting priorities. If you are butting heads on this, that’s a management issue that needs to be addressed directly. “Fergus, I know you like to shear the llama first and then do the washing, but I’ve decided we need to do it the other way around because (a) testing needs to measure how much dirt gets washed off before the 1st of the month, etc.” And then hold them to that.

    5. Lady Danbury*

      It sounds like you’re trying to take the soft approach and let them use their method, but then getting frustrated when things aren’t done according to your method. You both need to be 100% on the same page about which method you’re using, instead of having expectations from one method but working out the other method. It could be your method as the technical lead or their method because you want to accommodate them. Either way you need to have a conversation about what method you’re going with and why, allowing both parties to ask questions so that the thoroughly understand the approach.

      1. Xenia*

        I agree. Pick a method–could be yours, could be theirs, could be a hybrid of both. But I think you won’t get anywhere much until you have something concrete that you can both refer back to for coordination purposes.

    6. CurrentlyBill*

      Start with the end result you want from them. Get clear on that, and as long as they get there in an appropriate manner, great.

      Is your end goal for them to deliver a clean, sheared llama? Then they should shear first

      Is your end goal for them to deliver clean pile of llama wool? Then probably showering the llama first is thew way to go.

      As long as they deliver the result you want on time, let them get there the way they want. But to give them that freedom, first you need to be crystal clear on exactly what you want from them and when. If they can do that by taking an eyebrow plucker to the llama, well that may seem stupid (and really likely to anger the llama) but that’s not necesarily your problem.

  6. Salary woes*

    I have had terrible luck in my last two salary negotiations and I’m having trouble getting over it.

    The first time, I was incredibly ill with bronchitis. The recruiter refused to delay the call despite my pleading, and I was gagging and hack-coughing throughout the conversation, repeatedly asking him to repeat himself because I was so sick. I was foggy-headed and kept drowning out his voice with my noises, plus my thinking was incredibly slow. He simply outmaneuvered me. I was resentful at the low-balling throughout the time I spent in that job.

    At my new job, we had horrible connectivity issues and the recruiter kept cutting out and echoing. I thought I got her to say the range, but the audio kept dropping (at the EXACT wrong times, to the point that I even got paranoid that she was hitting mute). She was clearly getting angry at my multiple requests for her to repeat herself and I got scared, so I quickly gave in and gave a range. Based on her reaction, I think the number I gave was lower than the number she gave, but I couldn’t effing hear her! I’ve only just started this job, but feel angry and taken advantage of.

    I’m so fed up. I can read pages and pages of tips about how to negotiate, but what’s the point when some outside factor screws me over? I like the work and the colleagues at my new job, but underneath I’m simmering at having the same thing happen twice, so mentally I have one foot out the door already. I don’t know what to do. Try to find another new job, and hope I don’t get screwed a third time? Put in the two years until I vest and move on, seething all the way?

    1. Handbasket*

      I so sympathize with this and feeling that you only have the one chance to negotiate. Which may be true. But I am big believer in the pause. If a recruiter or a hiring manager can’t wait for you to be well, then is that who you want to work with? Especially if you know you are going to resent the salary you end up with?

      The real question is would you rather have a job with a lower salary or would you risk not getting the job at all by waiting until you are really in a better position to negotiate. Wait until you aren’t sick, call back from a phone/internet with better reception, etc. By negotiating under circumstances where you or the tech aren’t at your best, you are already starting at a disadvantage. If you could let it go and be okay with that, fine. But you are furious! Those things were out of your control but you could mitigate them. That does takes some risk to do. Think of that as the beginning of the negotiation. Setting the call up to your advantage. It’s a risk but you might end up better in the end.

      I’m risk-averse myself, but I’ve ended up really devaluing myself in the end, so now I learn that I can pause. A little.

    2. lost academic*

      I think you’re going to have to decide if you can stand up for yourself more forcefully in these and similar circumstances. Not “can we delay this call because I am sick” but “I need to delay this call due to illness, could you suggest a time [next week]” and stick to that. If you’re having constant connectivity issues, find a tech solution or again, be clear about the need to stop and reschedule. Yes, it can burn a bridge, but is it one you had to have if they’re going to be aggressive about this kind of problem?

      I must also say that I’m not sure it’s right to call this an outside factor screwing you over at the end of the day- that’s the impetus – but it’s how you handle it. If they aren’t going to give you a choice in something you can’t control, what you CAN control is whether or not you are part of the discussion. No one is stopping you from making your statement about rescheduling clearly and firmly and hanging up. I know that the pressure of needing a job can create that kind of problem, though I didn’t see where you mentioned that this was an issue. Even still – I think this is about standing up for yourself at the right stage.

        1. irene adler*

          Yes – this!

          It takes strength to say this to an employer as there’s a fear of having them rescind the job offer. But if an employer is going to take unfair advantage (and hey, not offering to reschedule when the candidate is obviously ill IS taking unfair advantage), it might be better to lose out on the job altogether. Have to wonder what else they will try to put past an employee.

      1. Fran Fine*

        If you’re having constant connectivity issues, find a tech solution

        This. OP, if this ever happens to you again, please ask the person you’re speaking to to move the conversation to email so you can better understand what the offer is. Most good employers will be happy to do this, or even ask if they can call you direct on the phone if your internet is spotty. Don’t just assume you have to shout out a number when you couldn’t even hear anything that was said to you.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And if you sense that the person is fiddling with the connection somehow then bow out of the conversation entirely. This is highly manipulative. You should not be put in a position where you agree to something and you don’t know what it is you have agreed to.

          As far as being sick- send them an email. “I am unavailable due to illness and I would like to reschedule for x or y dates.” Then do not answer the phone.

          Take control of your setting. Someone who is a shady character might get rude. But a true professional will either select a new date or politely explain that this is not doable on their end and No manipulation involved.

    3. WellRed*

      I’m gonna be a bit of a hard ass. On the first one, what would have happened if you had absolutely been unable to have that call? He can’t literally make you take the call and pleading with him to reschedule probably put you at a bit of a disadvantage. On the second one, why not point out the connectivity issues and ask to reschedule? Even just quickly calling back on a different line? If you couldn’t hear her, the onus is on you to say that. At any rate, maybe it would help to practice negotiations with a friend rather than reading about how to negotiate.

      1. Generic Name*

        I agree. I do think the first company did you dirty and took advantage of your illness-related brain fog to get you to agree to a lowball salary. Seriously uncool. That said, they did not physically force you to have that call. “I’m sorry, I am too ill to take this call. It is simply not possible” and if they dig in their heels and call anyway. You do not have to accept the call and can let it go to voicemail. You might have lost out on that job, but it would have been a bullet dodged if they are so rigid they cannot reschedule a phone call when a candidate is ill.

        On the second call, I’d sit and think about why you felt scared when she got angry. I’m not saying it’s not a valid or understandable reaction, but there might be some stuff to unpack there.

        In both cases, I’m sensing that you have issues with boundaries. Others push and push and you give in. I don’t know if both situations were such that you were days from homelessness and needed those jobs, which is certainly a valid reason to feel like you HAVE to accept a job even at a low salary. But think about how you react when people don’t immediately give you what you want.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Or the solution might be ironing out a response to each one of the pitfalls if it ever happens again.

        What I see here is not true negotiation. True negotiation involves discussing rates of pay, benefits etc. Negotiation does not involve being sick and unable to follow a conversation nor does it involve guessing what is being said because of connections.

        I have to wonder if you just happen to get two shady people and you need to stay away from these two.

    4. pcake*

      You need to speak up if there’s a communication problem like these, and realize if someone responds poorly, either they’re a jerk or they’re a jerk and their company supports their jerkiness.

      Next time you’re that sick, put off salary discussions or any other discussions about important things till you’re doing better. After hearing you hack up a lung, a reasonable person would want to put off the conversation. An unreasonable person is a red flag IMO, and a sign this may not be a good company to work for.

      If you have a connection on phone or internet that’s so bad you can’t hear correctly, ask to reconnect and see if it improves things. Tell them you can only hear every other word, and you really want to hear what they have to say. If they don’t want to accommodate such a reasonable request, I’d say that’s another red flag. If the person gets angry, that’s a good sign this company is not a good one to work for. Don’t be scared – they can’t make you work for them, and if they want to bully you, you’d be better off washing dishes than working for bullies.

    5. Cold Fish*

      I understand it can be really frustrating to do your best work when you feel underpaid and taken advantage of. If you like your new job (and you say you’ve just started), can you put your energy into documenting and setting up a kick-ass argument for why you deserve a raise that you can take to your manager at the 6-month or 1-year mark.

    6. RagingADHD*

      I’m so sorry you’re in this situation! Whatever you do, I strongly suggest that you work on your whole concept of negotiation and your ability to assert yourself or you are guaranteed to wind up in the same type of scenario again and again.

      First off, salary discussions don’t need to be this adversarial. There should be no question of being “outmanouvered.” It isn’t an arm-wrestling contest. If they are extending an offer, then they want to hire you. You already got the job! You are on the same side, trying to make sure it’s a good situation for everyone.

      You know what you are willing to accept, they know what they are willing to offer. You’re just finding out if those two things overlap, and if it’s a close match but isn’t quite there, what else they could offer to sweeten the deal.

      You aren’t obligated to accept anything, and you should never feel bound by a verbal assent to anything, particularly if you couldn’t hear it in the first place! If it isn’t in writing, it isn’t real. And if you aren’t happy with it, you don’t have to take the job.

      Next, you literally couldn’t hear what they were saying, but you felt pressured by their tone to agree to something. You’re navigating these conversations by feel and tone rather than facts and content. This is a problem.

      The outside factors aren’t screwing you over. You are getting screwed over because you are proceeding with important conversations without being able to fully participate. You can reschedule. You can ask to get it in an email. You can ask to call back in. You can change the parameters of the conversation entirely. If it’s worth having the conversation at all, then it’s worth making sure you can actually participate. These things are a lot easier to “negotiate” than salary! They’re just basic expectations of having the discussion at all.

      Since you say you like the work and your colleagues, I’d suggest you stay put while you get this sorted out, because I’d be very surprised if this pattern only shows up in salary negotiations and nowhere else. A good stable job can be a great opportunity to practice healthy assertiveness and build self-efficacy that will then carry over into your approach to job seeking and salary discussions.

      I understand your feelings of resentment, but if you let the “woulda couldas” dictate your attitude and performance on the job, you will miss out on some good opportunities that may be are right in front of you. Try to put behind you and work with what you have, where you are, until you are in a stronger position.

    7. Binky*

      I don’t know that you can do anything about the current job. But if you ever run into something like this again, please feel empowered to politely tell the recruiter that you can’t hear them and will need to try a different time/method of communication.

    8. Calliope*

      So I would say there’s two things you can do when job searching that will basically stop this kind of situation from happening.

      1) Screen your calls. Let them go to voicemail and if it’s someone calling to discuss an offer, don’t call back until you’re ready and primed to discuss salary including how handle it if you’re asked for a range.

      2) Don’t say yes or no to anything on the spot. If you’re given an offer, take it and call back later after you’ve had time to think about it.

      With that, by all means start job searching now. There’s no reason to be resentful at work I’d you can find something else. But don’t start searching again until you’ve come up with plans to handle these types of situations. Like saying you can’t hear and will need to call back!

    9. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Well. It’s unfortunate you had these issues, but you know those are not the norm, right?
      And were they truly salary and benefit negotiations for a job offer after interviews, or just a phone screen getting an idea of your salary range?
      Because I don’t view phone screen comparisons of salary ranges as a “negotiation” at that stage of the game, it’s just assessing if you want to proceed or not. Ideally, they tell you what their range is first.

      If you do find yourself in a difficult spot, there is nothing wrong with saying that you’d like to see the offer via email because now is not a good time to talk on the phone, or there are technical difficulties and you cannot hear them. Politely tell them once you read it, you will respond within 1 hour, or by 5pm or something reasonably quick. I always prefer things in writing anyway so I make sure I’ve understood them.

    10. Koala dreams*

      I feel you! It’s so easy to know what to do beforehand, and then panic in the interview. Maybe it will help you to write out a few scenarios and how you want to deal with them?

      And yes, if you’re that unhappy with your new job, keep looking.

    1. Choggy*

      Some days I’m fine, some days no so fine. I try to plan the not so fine days for when I WFH, but doesn’t always work out that way. I have this developed this sense where I can *feel* someone else’s stress emanating from them when I talk to them in person and it makes me to uncomfortable. At this point, I’m wishing for a third WFH day, two isn’t enough.

      1. Burnout*

        I’m full WFH right now and it’s probably slowed down the burnout but it’s still just this relentless creep. I find myself actually missing being sick because it was a chance to guilt free sit in from of Netflix with hot tea and some junk food. I’m even (horrifyingly) jealous of my colleagues who are out for funerals. They have a good enough reason to not be answering emails. I have cut out early on slow afternoons but work has just picked up again and I’m going to have to work during my next vacation. I’m in sales so it’s just part of the deal – if you have a big deal coming up you HAVE to engage. Plus, ya know, it’s how we get paid.

        1. honoria*

          I wish I could be home “sick”–of course, I don’t want to actually be sick, I just want an excuse to be on the couch with no responsibilities, not braining . . .

      1. Burnout*

        Figured I wasn’t alone! Though I fear that everyone is somewhere on the burnout spectrum and it’s just… where we are two plus years into a pandemic :(.

        1. Same same*

          You’re not alone! I can’t even figure out why I’m burning out. I’m permanently WFH now and barely have to travel anymore (before the pandemic I was on the road 35-40% of the time and hated it). I should be ecstatic. Maybe the sameness of my days is contributing to it, but I’m bored and can’t find anything to get excited about. I’m also becoming increasingly frustrated with my coworkers too. I need to figure it out.

      1. no sleep for the wicked*

        I’ve only got 10 years, but that means transitioning into one of the little old ladies who are tucked into random corners doing busywork, and somehow finding a way to be ok with that because my fam depends on my wages and pension (assuming it’s still there in 10 years) too much to do anything else.

    2. Brains or Bust*

      Unfortunately my burnout wasn’t solved until I changed to a new company. I even tried to take off two weeks at my old company and the burnout only got worse. Best of luck my friend!

      1. Burnout*

        *shudder*. I can’t even imagine trying to job hunt and onboard with my current level of brain fog. I have deep relationships here that make it much easier for me to coast on my bad days but man 2022 has just been so busy!

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Not well, I gotta say.

      I started a new job about six months ago, and while it’s much better for me in a lot of ways (shorter commute, better personality/temperament fit with coworkers, more support from leadership), my new job is on a leadership track which means I’ve spent most of the omicron surge scrambling to put out fires and cover staffing gaps. So, on paper, I thought this would be a job that offered me the breathing room I need to recover from the burnout I built up at the old place, but this week in particular has been really rough.

      1. Burnout*

        I would love nothing more than to take a 3 month sabbatical and then come back to my current job. It’d be easier than them backfilling my role and they’d get to keep my institutional knowledge! But it’s just not done. Though at this rate I might end up attempting to pull some FMLA!

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Oh man, a sabbatical would be amazing. I took a week off between jobs and I really wish I had been able to afford more.

          1. no sleep for the wicked*

            Same. I love when faculty wish me a happy intercession/holiday break and I’m like yeah, staff work 365 yo. Or when they complain about not getting that second sabbatical in Provence…Staff sabbaticals would be utterly transformative, but higher ups prefer that we leave permanently so they can hire in fresh meat at lower pay.

        2. Joielle*

          My spouse recently took a month off using FMLA – he has a chronic condition exacerbated by stress and he was super burnt out, and his doctor was finally like, you can’t keep going like this, you need to take a break. His health was so dramatically improved by the time off that we decided it didn’t make sense to go back to the job at all. He’s looking for something different but he’s taking his time so he can find a good fit (we are very lucky to be able to live on just my salary for a while). I wish we had made this decision ages ago! If you have FMLA available to you, I say use as much as you can.

        3. LizWings*

          They do this in Australia! It’s called Long Service Leave. You get 13 weeks paid time off after you have been with the same employer for 10 years. That’s on top of the other great vacation time, salary, and benefits they normally get there, of course.

    4. Brian S.*

      Health care employee here. I did a bunch of research on burnout prevention for a federal grant I wrote – that we won! Only 10 were awarded to workplaces in the whole nation! One consistent intervention that has a lot of promise is, for lack of a better term, “GROSS” – Get Rid of Stupid Stuff. Leaders meet with folks on the ground and say “what’s the one thing – procedure, documentation requirement, workflow, etc. – that you would get rid of that would make your life easier and make outcomes better?” Then, the leader and a support team dig into it to see if they can actually get rid of it. The research said that about 66% of the time people thought it was a requirement beccause of external regulations or needs that other departments have, when in fact it’s outdated or even counterproductive. We’re excited about launching that program along with a bunch of other stuff – stress first aid, peer support hotlines, etc. I know this is based on managing large teams and not something an individual can usually do by themselves, but maybe there are opportunities to rally coworkers and find solutions to suggest management look at more closely?

      1. Burnout*

        This is GENIUS. I only have 1 direct report right now but I’ll be keeping this back pocket to raise with leadership. The acronym is making me really smile.

    5. JelloStapler*

      Letting go of what I cannot control or big picture things I cannot change. I tend to want to fix and help, but I have to put mental boundaries down on what I am willing to take on as my responsibility.

      1. Generic Name*

        This is the only thing that helps me. I am managing an insane number of projects PLUS working at a technical level on one project that has spun out of control. The piece I am working on is literally delaying construction of a major roadway project (the reason for the delay has to do with an unexpected turn of events having to do with some federal regulations). I am getting hounded to turn things around immediately, and I’m having to say, “look, this is just going to take me 3 weeks to get it back to you” and then not caring that some big construction company is losing millions of dollars. (I have management support to do this- it’s either frustrate one client or seriously piss off over a dozen). It really sucks.

        1. Burnout*

          “It really sucks” could be the tagline for 2022 (and most of this pandemic). I also work on multi-million dollar projects and it’s amazing how even the high dollars fail to motivate at this point. *gestures vaguely at the wretched state of the universe*

          1. Generic Name*

            Ha, yeah. I just don’t have it in me to give a crap that some multibillion dollar corporation has a slightly smaller profit than normal.

      2. Burnout*

        I have stopped checking e-mails over the weekend because I simply cannot bring myself to care and I so desperately need the time to rest. Except, we have a toddler, so rest is still deeply elusive. My (small) light at the end of the tunnel is that young kids might start getting vaccinated soon and once he’s protected I’ll feel comfortable taking him to museums and aquariums and libraries and all kinds of indoor events that get us out of the house. Parents are not ok and I definitely have had to channel my inner Frozen to Let it Gooooooo.

    6. J*


      I’m WFH with 2 school aged kids who haven’t seen the inside of the classroom much since before winter break. There’s just no end. I’m either trying to work while ignoring the kids, helping the kids with their virtual school while ignoring the pile of dishes in the sink, making lunch while ignoring my Slack messages, Slack-ing with colleagues while ignoring my spouse, or just collapsing into bed and ignoring everything. There is no way to be caught up.

      I’m trying super hard to be positive about everything: I have a great job, a great family, and none of us are sick. Still, though, I could really use a break.

      1. Burnout*

        *Pours you a cup of hot tea*

        I did not realize how many people would chime in on my post! So many people struggling :(. Kudos to you for trying to stay positive and I hope your kids can (safely) get back to school soon!

      2. NancyDrew*

        My husband and I realized today that our kids (including one with autism who needs special supports both in and out of school) haven’t had a full week of in-person school since early December. It’s TOUGH out there. Today I had to mute my (brief!) client call three separate times to attend to one kid’s needs because my husband was out picking up the other kid due to unanticipated early closures (weather). It’s just incessant.

        I spend a lot of time setting boundaries and enforcing them, and then just surrendering my to-do list.

    7. Cold Fish*

      Horribly, almost total shut-down at work. I spend a large part of my day online and I don’t feel guilty at all. I’m getting all my work done, yet, there are so many additional projects I could do if so inclined but don’t feel like that would be appreciated so why bother. At home, I spend most of my time just trying to recuperate. Unlike work, all the additional projects I don’t have the bandwidth to tackle add stress but I’m not sure what to else to do but keep plugging along.

      1. Burnout*

        I feel you! I… answer all my e-mails and take my calls and keep things moving along but I am not overperforming by any stretch of the imagination. And even the bare minimum feels like a struggle! I hope you can get a break soon.

      2. no sleep for the wicked*

        This is me, with a giant wet blanket of worrying if admin is going to clean house sometime based on…idk. I’m just not engaged and my workplace rewards engagement (as long as you’re in the cool kids club) with…hmm….more work/committee assignments/smiley faces…or at least a speck more agency in workload changes.
        When I wfh if I don’t have active projects or new requests on my ticketing queue, I just sit there. Too tired to even goof off at home (though I certainly used to when we were in full lockdown/wfh mode).

    8. CatCat*

      Poorly. I don’t sleep well, am not making the best nutritional choices, cry several times per week, and had to cancel taking today off for rest because there’s just too much to do.

      1. Generic Name*

        I have a question that sounds flippant, but is serious: will anybody die if you don’t check off all of the tasks on your to-do list today? Unless people’s lives are literally on the line, I wouldn’t sacrifice your mental health to get stuff done for your job.

        1. H*

          As someone who used to work on an inpatient psychiatric unit and and emergency dept ( I don’t anymore)… I always think about my work now in this context and everything else just doesn’t seem as important because I am not dealing with life and death. Late emails, late phone calls, late data entry. It isn’t as important as some others think it is.

      2. Burnout*

        Cried 3 times on Wednesday and just ate a box of mac n’ cheese – solidarity CatCat! My sun lamp helps incrementally but the world just feels so overwhelming right now…

        1. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

          I’ve literally been scheduling “cry breaks” between meetings — since I’m back-to-back-to-back on Zoom all day, I’ve been enforcing a 5 minutes before the hour end time — because otherwise I’d probably cry on zoom in front of my whole team at least once a day. CatCat and Burnout, I so empathize and hope things get better for you soon.

    9. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      Not well, my friend, not well. It’s such a tough time. I’m only doing kind of ok now because we were so insanely overwhelmed with work from December 1 until mid-January (I work on the COVID response) that now that we’re only regular busy it seems like a relief. Taking walks on my lunch break helps except the weather has been crummy for a week now. I have cats, so those are nice. I’ve been watching a lot of Disney plus.

      1. Burnout*

        Omicron was a WALLOP. If you haven’t seen Encanto yet, it’s outstanding. Made me cry, but they were cathartic tears.

        1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

          I’ve watched it 3 times and listened to the soundtrack many, many more times lol

        2. Shirley Keeldar*

          I listened to Luisa’s anthem about carrying it all and feeling so desperate under the surface and thought, “you and me, girl,” and burst into tears.

        1. Raboot*

          I feel very lucky to have been able to negotiate and afford this. I was actually able to take a decent amount of time off at once at my old job, but everything came rushing back on day 1 back – it was clear a change was needed.

    10. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

      It is so bad. I just took two weeks off — which normally does wonders for my morale — and came back feeling even crappier. I lead a medium-sized team and have been documenting for HR how much time I’m spending managing bullying from coworkers directed at my team — it has literally been 50% of my time this month. As a result I’m behind on every deliverable I’m responsible for. I seem to be the only senior manager saying “the way people are treating each other isn’t ok and we are going to do something about it,” and there’s no interest from leadership in acknowledging that we’re still all juggling a bajillion personal stressors in the middle of a pandemic (see: childcare, elder care, personal illness). The worst part is, in my industry, everyone operates this way, so changing jobs gets me nothing.

      1. Same same*

        I’ve been thinking about this since you posted it because it really resonated with me. I think that’s a big part of my burnout too. My team is overworked and understaffed, and I spend so much energy fiercely protecting them from the people who treat them like they’re just not doing their jobs because I know that they are burning out too, or they’re really close. I’m trying desperately to get them some help, but it’s exhausting and in the meantime I’m trying to keep the wolves at bay and it’s taking a real toll on me. And I have to do it. If they all quit en masse it’ll be even worse (I’ve told a coworker that if my team walks I’ll be right behind them). Anyway, I feel your pain and am right there with you.

    11. Double A*

      Prioritizing exercise, because it makes everything else more manageable. I’m WFH with 2 kids under 3; fortunately our child care has been reliable. Still, it would be very easy to let exercise slip, and I have to make that a sacred commitment in my schedule or everything else really spirals.

    12. OtterB*

      Not well. Emailed my boss recently to apologize for being late on a task because I’ve hit a pandemic brick wall. And, really, I have no excuse – very minimal personal impact from anything. Just *waves hands around*.

      I am trying to keep my to-do list very concrete. Not “finish report,” which is normally enough, but Finish Table A, Finish Table B, Review Charts 1-10, assemble footnote list.

    13. H*

      Tooks yesterday and the day before as sick days and it was just for my mental health. Should have taken today too. Have a tenative job offer pending…will the grass be greener?

    14. Qwerty*

      The best thing that’s happened for me is a Friday afternoon meeting where my brain just checks out afterwards. It’s a bit stressful (presenting to execs) but I feel like justified in taking a break after, which starts my weekend off right.

      I’ve also set some boundaries where I work long hours Mon-Fri, but then actually enjoy the weekend
      – Schedule stuff away from the computer
      – Turn off notifications. Slack lets you set notification hours, or snooze notifications for a set time (also helpful during the workday if actually trying to get stuff done).
      – Hide my work laptop if I’m really feeling it
      – Find something to do with my hands, its very therapuetic and gives the mind a break. Might be knitting/crochet, might be scrubbing something (my apartment messy but very clean because scrubbing baseboards helps my brain more than putting stuff away)
      – Communicate to my team in a low key way what my work hours are regularly. Nothing serious or a big announcement, but it made me feel better about not responding to messages during my “off” time because my extra hours might be early morning vs Jane’s are late at night vs Fergus who has productive Saturdays. We end up laughing together about the work we have to do
      – Find ways to laugh and smile

    15. no sleep for the wicked*

      I try hard not to kick myself when some days turn into refreshing AAM and Not Always Right in between reading workish newsletters & such I subscribe to.
      My job has a huge feast or famine aspect so burnout is extra hard to deal with during slow times because I feel like I have no excuses. Busy times are hella stressful but at least I’m too busy to feel burned out until I’m done for the day.

    16. Sparkly Librarian*

      As a government employee, I’m holding on with teeth and claws and eyes fixed on the upcoming 4-day weekend occasioned by Lincoln’s Birthday and Presidents Day. Not sure yet what I will be doing when not working, but it will involve carbs and trees and people not needing me.

    17. Buran*

      Walking the dog every morning even when I don’t want to, to stay active. Making time to go to the gym once a week.

    18. Anon for this*

      Very badly. House is so bad I can’t find the toaster (stuff all over kitchen counters) & feel too embarrassed to let anyone in even if I felt safe doing so, I barely shower, I’m messing up work stuff & evenwith only having a few on campus days (HE lecturer) end up calling out of some of them because I can’t handle doing the work AND leaving the house. Feeling gas lit by government (UK), whole world is depressing…

  7. Seeking Purely Allegorical*

    Hello! Last week you answered a question from Anonymous Reader about changing from being an editor to being a consultant and then picking up skills from different accounts.

    Could you talk some more about that? What kind of consulting firm did you join? And did they train you for the different skills for different accounts?

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Alison doesn’t read these comments. The post is for readers to ask other readers. :)

    2. Marketing Middle Manager*

      I worked at a management consulting firm for a specific industry, and we hired people all the time with general humanities skills but no specific work experience in consulting. Bonus points though if they had experience with the industry. Unfortunately the job titles are all over the place, but try looking for something like “Research Analyst” or “Qualitative Research”. And/or go the other route and look for consulting firms in the industries you find interesting, and then look at their career pages. You’ll see from the JDs, the primary skillset is being able to read a lot of information, synthesize & summarize it, then write about it.

      Another similar option would be to do consulting FOR editing/content. This job would probably be within a marketing agency and would be called something like Content Strategist.

  8. Freddy*

    Loaded question, but how do I tell my company I’m dealing with a stalker, when I haven’t had any success in getting an order of protection? Should I tell them at all?

    Short summary: I dumped and cut contact with an ex after she threatened to share compromising photos of me (this sort of activity wasn’t illegal in my state when it happened). Since then she’s been trying to pass messages through our remaining mutual friends and new social media accounts every couple months. I block them and tell the friends to stop passing the messages, but last week she found my current girlfriend’s Instagram and sent her a message accusing me of stalking her and her fiancé.

    We went to a family/DV lawyer, but he was pessimistic on our chances, because the stalker lives in another state across the country. and because of that, her asking others to pass messages (“StalkerName wants to know how you are and if you’ve unblocked her”) is borderline. We’ve considered my girlfriend getting a restraining order on the stalker, but the stalker hasn’t tried to circumvent that block yet. I’ve considered getting a lawyer to write and send a C&D, return receipt requested, but with her now saying I’m stalking her, I’m worried that it’d prompt an escalation.

    That’s all a little off topic, but should I tell my boss/HR? How do I do that without sounding like I have skeletons in my closet?

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      So…I’ve had to give my PTB a heads up on something sort of similar.

      Quick background – extended family member, complications of multiple jurisdictions

      All I said was “if Company is contacted by FamilyMemberinQuestion, please do not confirm nor deny that I work here, please give no information, and please do not give out my individual company cellphone or email. I’m asking discretion be used if FamilyMemberinQuestion provides Company any “information” about me, and to please consider the source”. Company responded by updating or implementing policies having to do with giving out employee information, and removed individual contact information from the publicly available website. It didn’t really become a thing with them, and the fact that I had a FamilyMemberinQuestion behaving questionably did not reflect upon my ability to do my job.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        I’m really happy that your work was supportive of you in such a lousy situation not of your own making.

        1. Freddy*


          I have written for the company blog, so that’s something I need to figure out how to handle …

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Is there any way you could get your name removed from the blog posts and have the byline just attributed to the company?

            1. Freddy*

              Interesting question…I don’t want my stalker to cause me more problems by going ballistic with lies about me being the real stalker in the comments on a blog post. That’s another possible venue for her to harass me aside social media.

              On the other hand, I’m proud of what I’ve written, it’s on my resume, and I shouldn’t have to cower and hide because of someone else’s antisocial behavior. And if they are, that doesn’t stop her from hassling me and making a bunch of tweets along the lines of “@Company your employee @Freddy is stalking and harassing me and my fiancé!”, either under her real name or anon accounts.

              The best possible outcome I can envision is one where she just Goes Away. Failing that (sadly looks like it is), I don’t want to have to deal with it. What does not having to deal with it look like? I guess it looks like if she does try to start something and lie about my conduct, everyone knows it’s completely made up and shuns/ignores her… I guess at this point, talking with my boss and our HR team is the best way to get that done. They’re fantastic people, but I have dragged my feet on it because 1) I’m not sure how to have that conversation and 2) this is a lot more sensitive than anything else I’ve had to discuss with them.

              As a side note: I think physically showing up to one of our locations is pretty unlikely, because of both distance, and causing a scene at my employer’s physical stores or offices seems like it would be much more likely to get her arrested or charged with something.

          2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Also, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! It’s not your fault and you don’t need to be ashamed. Any manager who’s a halfway decent person would be happy to help keep you safe.

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      I wonder if the threats she has made are making you feel like this is something to be ashamed of, when really you aren’t doing anything wrong.

      I think if you went to your boss and said something like: “I wanted to let you know about a personal matter that has to due with my potential safety. I ended an unhealthy relationship x amount of time ago, and my ex-partner has stalked me since. I have done all I can to block her, but she still attempts to make contact with me and with people close to me. She has made threats that she will say or do harmful things to misrepresent my character. I wanted you to be aware so we can take x and y action to protect my safety here/let you know that this person might try contacting people at work and see if we can discuss how this should be handled if it does happen.”

      You don’t have to reveal any private information. You can let them know what kind of support you need (not appearing on the company website, making sure that employees are trained not to give out information to callers about any employee, security at the site, in case she is likely to show up). It sounds like she thinks she could make threats to get you in trouble (releasing photos, acting as if you are stalking her) and she hopes these will be enough to get your attention, and it is totally normal for that to rattle you, but you have nothing to be ashamed of and you aren’t doing anything wrong.

      You have to remind yourself that everyone has a private life, and I think most people who know you will be more concerned about your safety and well-being than anything else.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        This, except I don’t think you need to say the relationship was “unhealthy” or how long ago the relationship ended. Just say a former partner is making threats that you consider to be realistic, and it might affect your workplace/coworkers (if she calls or reaches out to them). You have nothing to be ashamed about!

      2. Artemesia*

        Probably every company should make it clear to all employees that if they get a call asking for information about a co-worker that they should not give out information. This is not just for the OP but for everyone. People are helpful. Someone calls and ‘has had trouble reaching OP, can you help?’ and the normal response is ‘sure, let me get your their number’ if they are not sensitive to this issues. There is probably at least one other person in the company at similar risk. There needs to be some company wide training on this.

        My husband has a really common name — like there are probably thousands in the US. We used to get collection calls for someone with the same name for a hospital we never used. When they didn’t get us to pick up at home (after a few attempts to shut it down) one of these collectors contacted him at work. Making it hard for people to work their way to any individual at work is in everyone’s interest.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          That’s great unless you’re in a position that works heavily with the public or multiple clients. I had people who’d forget my number but remember my name, and ask our reception number to put them through to me. Or they’d just want to verify my name for dozens of innocent reasons, like updating their contact database or giving me credit in an article. We can’t all live anonymously.

      3. Freddy*

        Good advice, but going off gut, I’m gonna have to agree with Lunch Eating Mid Manager. IMO, the only details of this relationship, that are relevant to my employer, are:

        1. I have avoided all contact with Stalker Ex for years. We have no shared children, shared property, a business, or anything else together. I dated her, it’s over, open and shut. Zero reason for her to need contact with me.
        2. Despite #1, Stalker Ex has escalated her attempts to interfere in me living my life with zero interaction with her, by finding my current girlfriend’s contact info and using that to lie to my current girlfriend, that I am stalking her and her fiancé. This isn’t true, but I’m concerned about blowback from her escalating. It didn’t happen, and wouldn’t hold up in a court of law, but if she is sufficiently dedicated and/or she doesn’t care about her reputation, she could Google bomb or spam up Twitter with this.
        3. I’m trying to get an order of protection against my Stalker Ex. I haven’t had much success yet, but I am actively trying.

        So I have a lot of concern about her escalating to my professional life because she’s losing all “channels to me” she feels she has. My work is semipublic, because I write for our company blog etc., but I’m also uncomfortable airing my dirty laundry with my boss and HR, and don’t know how to. That’s why I’m here. :)

        Sorry for the really wordy replies, I’ve been amped up and anxious about this because I don’t feel like this is my employer’s business (I’m on great terms with my bosses and HR, but this is 100% personal life and I feel uncomfortable bringing it up at work). And honestly, also because I feel like people treat a woman stalking a man less seriously than vice versa; everyone expects a creepy man or an ex-boyfriend to stalk a woman, and a weirdo ex-girlfriend harassing her former boyfriend is seen as weird. Not trying to make a political point, I don’t think women being stalked should be taken lightly, but just based on tone from other interactions, I have gotten this feeling.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          Yes, definitely! I included the “unhealthy” descriptor more to communicate “this was a good decision for me and I am happy about not being in the relationship,” because I was thinking about that situation where sometimes people don’t take men being stalked as seriously (thinking it might make a person prone to judgement see you want no part of this), but it isn’t necessary at all.

          It isn’t their business, but if you choose to let them know, it is for your own well-being. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and while people might judge they are wrong to do so. I know that doesn’t eliminate anything you are experiencing, but hopefully these folks know you and will want to support you.

          1. wondering*

            Just wondering, since the poster did not indicate their gender, why you are basing your suggestions off the baseline assumption that the poster is male – they may not be. Regardless of gender, they are not obligated to share overly personal details about this past relationship with their employer as a means of mitigating any potential gender bias about the severity of their claims; if their employer handles their case differently (once they have finally been made aware) based on the employee’s gender, that’s a whole other issue.

            1. Freddy*

              I’m a guy and I’m active in our company’s fitness club,. TBH, that’s probably a subconscious reason I’ve held off on it. I could’ve just thought, not actively, but “our HR guy knows I’m a big tall man who could bench press this lady without breaking a sweat, he’s not gonna take this seriously”

        2. Parakeet*

          I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this, Freddy. And I agree with you about the gender angle. I also want to validate that it’s really common for stalkers to make false accusations or spread rumors as a stalking technique.

          Particularly given the fact that a lot of this stalking is technological, you might benefit from the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s technology safety project’s apps for evidence documentation. That way, if your work wants documentation for whatever reason, you will have some, even if you are not successful in getting a protection order. Also, if you google the Stalking Awareness Center, they have a less tech-oriented documentation log template.

          You may also want to consider talking to a domestic violence organization in your area – you should be able to get a local referral through the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The reason why I am suggesting this, is because sometimes an advocate at a domestic violence org can do things like write a letter if need be (whether for your employer, or for a court, or some other relevant situation) explaining that you’re the one being stalked, in case your ex starts making accusations more publicly on social media, or directly to the company, and the question of who’s stalking whom comes up.

          Good luck. I’ve had people I care about go through similar situations, and am familiar with how grueling and demoralizing it is.

          1. Ezri Dax*

            Seconding these really great suggestions. Another thing local domestic violence organizations can help with is finding a therapist and/or support groups that understand the dynamics of stalking and abuse, if you feel like you can benefit from that type of support. A few of the organizations in my area run men’s groups. Men go through this a lot more than people realize, and the perpetrator being female doesn’t make it less scary. I’m so sorry you’re facing this, and I wish you all the best in getting this resolved.

      4. Can Can Cannot*

        You might want to try getting a different attorney. Some are like pitbulls, some are like poodles. You need someone more like a pitbull.

    3. Rey*

      At this point, has the stalker done anything specific to your work environment? It sounds like it’s mostly been through social media and mutual friends. That’s how I would decide if you should tell your boss/HR. And if you were to talk to your boss/HR, what specific thing are you asking for their assistance on, or warning them about? For example, do you want to ensure that your ex doesn’t have any information about you or can’t enter your work building, or are you concerned that she will share the compromising photos with your company? From there, I would keep it very short and matter of fact with your boss, “I just wanted to give you a heads up that an ex is trying to get back at me. I’m working with the legal authorities, but I wanted to mention it to you in case she [tries to visit me at work, sends compromising photos, etc.] I wanted to make sure you heard it directly from me.”

      1. Freddy*

        Lotsa questions. I hope you don’t mind if I quote and reply to each individually, even though that’ll make a long comment.

        At this point, has the stalker done anything specific to your work environment?

        A while back, I got a LinkedIn notification that she viewed my profile. I instantly blocked her off LI too, of course.

        And if you were to talk to your boss/HR, what specific thing are you asking for their assistance on, or warning them about?

        I’m afraid she’ll escalate further, since she started at “I want to apologize and be in your life again” and jumped to digging up my current girlfriend’s Instagram so she can send her messages, lying that I’m not over her and harassing her and her fiancé. I dunno whether this is or rational or not, as I’m a worrier but this is so far beyond normal conduct that my stalker sending revenge porn of me, or taking this to social media, making posts like “@Freddy, an employee of @ACME, has been stalking me and my fiancé” to make my life harder both seem possible.

        For example, do you want to ensure that your ex doesn’t have any information about you or can’t enter your work building, or are you concerned that she will share the compromising photos with your company?

        I’m less worried she’ll send the photos of me to my boss/HR, since that would be clear cut revenge porn. I’m mostly worried about her making a scene at either our offices/stores (I perform a back office type of job at an e-tailer with a few real world locations), or online. A real nightmare scenario would be her getting a job here, though I get the feeling that that’d get way more complicated

        Your advice for how to phrase it is good. I would and also add that she is hassling my girlfriend now, too.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Do you have a written list of everything she has done so far and what you have done to block her?
          If you do not have a written list with dates (ideally) then now is a good time to construct one.

        2. N'Anemoose for this*

          I’m assuming that both you and your girlfriend have specifically told her not to contact you again? If you haven’t – you need to, in writing, tell her not to call, text, email, approach you, contact you on social media, or any other method, etc. If she hasn’t sent you anything recently I wouldn’t preemptively do it – but your girlfriend certainly should. Not that law enforcement will do anything – but if they consider it they always ask this first.

          You could tell your work that an ex hasn’t taken your decision to cut contact well, and is actively attempting to go through others in an effort to get your information and contact you. When you do this you can ask what their current policy is on handling employee information, and if they would be willing to send that around as a reminder. This also prompts them to consider implementing one if they don’t – and every company should for just these kinds of reasons!

      2. Artemesia*

        You want the company to have a policy KNOWN by everyone that if someone calls them to get information about reaching anyone else in the company, that they should give out no information even to confirm they work there.

    4. Mockingjay*

      First, before discussing with your company, call or file a report with local law enforcement. You want the situation on record. They likely won’t do anything at this point, but can advise you on what steps to take if she contacts you or your girlfriend again: who to call, what to say/not say, how to document the interaction, etc. Law enforcement can also provide better POCs to get an effective no contact order than a divorce lawyer.

      Next, when you do discuss it with your company, bring it up as a security issue in a matter-of-fact way: “Here’s the situation, I’ve taken these steps with law enforcement. If she contacts or shows up on company premises, how can we best handle it?” These days most companies have thought about or encountered this problem and probably already have guidelines.

    5. Policy Wonk*

      Definitely get ahead of this with Boss/HR. As it appears she still has contact with mutual friends, she probably knows where you work and will eventually get around to trying to contact you through them. Or she may give them false information about your stalking her. They need to hear your side of the story now, before you are in defensive mode.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        And this is why what I did worked. I got “ahead” of the issue, before it became “so FamilyMemberinQuestion said that X, Y, and Z….could you explain?” as that was his MO.

        1. Freddy*

          Good point. My boss has actually met my girlfriend in passing (she stopped by the office before we went out to Valentine’s Day dinner one year, and we are friendly outside of work, so we had a quick “hey nice to meet you” chat). But asking her to talk to HR or my boss seems even messier and should be avoided.

          I will set a meeting with HR for Monday and craft a message based on all the advice we’ve gotten here. Thank you!

    6. Generic Name*

      I had a sit down with HR and told them I felt physically threatened by my ex. Luckily, it was just after we had a training on workplace violence, so I knew that HR would be receptive, because domestic violence was one of the issues highlighted. And what’s wrong with “having skeletons in your closet”? This is not your fault, and you are not to blame for the actions of your stalker.

    7. PattM*

      Great advice in this thread, hope all goes well for you. As far as the still mutual friends go, if you have clearly told them to not pass on messages from her and they continue to do so, block them from your life and socials. A friend would honor your request to not share any info about you. Best of luck.

      1. Freddy*

        As far as the still mutual friends go, if you have clearly told them to not pass on messages from her and they continue to do so, block them from your life and socials. A friend would honor your request to not share any info about you.

        I’m fairly certain that in most of these cases she’s left out what she did, it’s more like “I don’t have Freddy’s number anymore, can you tell him I said hi?”. And what she did was super sensitive; I didn’t post a FB status or text all our mutual friends saying “hey, Stalker did this, she’s a bad person, do not talk to her.” Fortunately (or unfortunately; anything more than 0 is too much IMO) I’ve only had to cut one person off for Not Getting It.

    8. DJ Abbott*

      Having read this thread it sounds like your ex has been stalking you for several months, maybe longer.
      That seems like a really long time. Many of us have revenge impulses after getting dumped, but for most of us that goes away in a few days or weeks and we move on.
      So I think you should be prepared for her to escalate further, because it seems like she’s really obsessed with getting back at you. Take advice from lawyers and police, as suggested, on ways she might escalate and have plans in place in case she does. Be sure to take good notes that you can refer to. Good luck!

      1. Freddy*

        It’s been over a year. These contacts are intermittent, but I still get either pings over new social media or messages passed from friends who aren’t in the loop, once every few months. I know that persistent behavior and the escalation by telling my girlfriend that I’m not over her and stalking her implies some stuff, but I’d rather not go down that road — all I want is to be left alone. As long as she doesn’t try to mess with my life, I don’t care at all about what she does. And there’s no reason for her to be involved in my life; think I said it before but we don’t have any children or property together, and we weren’t married. This is just a regular old stalker ex situation, just with the expected genders flipped.

        I set up chats with HR and my boss tomorrow. I’ll fill in the AAM community next open thread.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, but she hasn’t moved on and normally a person would have moved on about a year ago. To me that sounds like she’s going to keep doing this until she’s stopped, or finds something else to obsess about.
          It won’t hurt to be prepared in case she does escalate. Better to have and not need preparation than to need and not have.

  9. WFH is all I Want*

    I got a job offer but now I’m in the background check phase and I’m in a bind.

    I’ve lived and worked in a few different countries over the past ten+ years and my new employer requires a criminal background check for each one. (I passed them all for my current employer a few years ago.) They’re using HireRight for the checks.

    My start date is mid February and I’ve already put in my notice at my current employer.

    Today, the background check updated and it estimates one of the countries will be completed in late March—four weeks after my start date. I’ve emailed the recruiter asking how we should handle it but haven’t had a response yet.

    I am panicking. I can’t afford to go a month without income and I’m illogically terrified that the report will come back with a mark against me and I’ll be out of two jobs and unemployable for the next four years (until it’s been longer than ten years since I worked in that country).

    Has anyone else been in this situation as the recruiter, hiring manager, or new hire? What did you do?


    1. ThatGirl*

      Try not to panic. Wait for more info from the recruiter, first. Would your current job be at all amenable to pushing back your end date? It’s also possible you could start contingent on the background check coming through clean.

      There’s no reason to suspect that anything negative would come back — you would know! Sometimes these things just take longer than they should. I had been a contractor at a company for about 5 years when they hired me on FTE, and even though I’d worked there for so long, they were required to do a background check. Part of what took so long was that the company (I think it was HireRight) was having trouble verifying that I had, in fact, been a contractor there for all that time. Which was hilarious to me – I was like, I have eyewitnesses!

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        I think it’s down to the company they’ve contracted to do the search. They haven’t been able to verify my current employer either which is another issue but easier to resolve. I have all paystubs and W2s but I’m concerned about providing them since I negotiated a 50% raise (more that I am so underpaid with 15 years of experience than an expert negotiator).

        I’m also considering applying for the police clearance myself. If I do it directly, the turn around time is two weeks. The draw back is it’s $250 dollars but it might be peace of mind that there isn’t some long overdue toll road payment or a parking ticket I don’t know about.

        I also have 200 hours of PTO accrued at my current employer so they will cash that out but I really want to save it instead of use it to pay rent and living expenses for a month.

        Should I call the recruiter on Monday if I still haven’t heard back?

        1. PX*

          I would ask if they would reimburse you the $250 if you did it to expedite the process. I’ve had to do something similar and the company was happy to pay for it.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I think calling again Monday would be fine. And I agree about asking to be reimbursed for expedited handling.

    2. Picard*

      I know this doesnt help you now but for everyone else reading, dont put in your notice until your background check is complete.

      For your current situation, I think you have to just wait until the recruiter gets back to you.

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        I really wish I’d held off. I’d rather negotiate a short notice period than navigate a potential period of unemployment. It’s never taken more than 5 business days for this country so I didn’t think it would be any different this time.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          You wouldn’t need to negotiate a shorter notice period. Any delay is due on your new employer, so they will need to wait for the background check to complete + X weeks for a notice period. You would put in your resignation, including any notice period, after the background check finishes. If that causes them to wait, they wait.

      2. anonymous73*

        Honestly I’m surprised the new place gave them a start date before the background check was complete. I had to get a public trust clearance for my current job last summer and it took 8 weeks before it was completed. That’s when we figured out my start date (I was unemployed at the time so notifying a current company wasn’t an issue. Sorry I know it’s not helpful, but I’m not sure there’s a solution here other than asking your current company if you can push back your end date.

    3. I.*

      The company that did my international background check sent preliminary reports from each country. One took very long and the hiring company had the other 2 and then had me start, barring issues coming up in the 3rd/complete report. Maybe there’s a workaround like that for you too?

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        I’m hopeful. My current role is in the fintech space and needed extensive and in-depth background checks. The new role is in cybersecurity and it still requires background checks. I also haven’t left the U.S. since those were completed for my current job because of Covid and there’s no way I could have even traveled back to the country in question to commit any offenses because they closed their boarders.

        But then my mind wanders and I wonder if someone has committed credit card fraud with my stolen details, or if the people I sold my car to used it to commit a crime…it’s thoughts like that that are adding to my panic.

        1. All Het Up About It*

          Whoa! Those thoughts are full on catastrophizing! Try and recognize them as such and focus on more realistic roadblocks and what you can do to counteract them.

          The suggestions above of pushing back your end date at current company, paying for your own background check to expedite the process, possibly starting contingent on the background checking coming back clear are all great, logical solutions that you could consider and try and implement on Monday. Also, from what it sounds like the most logical worst case scenario (excluding the catastrophizing) is that you would have to live off the cashed out PTO and not build your savings. Agree, that’s not great, but could you also consider short term fills for that time? Could you work as a contractor at your current place for a month? Could you drive Uber or Shipt? Could you use websites live Fivver to do some feelance items? Try to come up with possible solutions for scenarios that are probable. Knowing that you have options and solutions for worst case scenarios, should help you combat the anxiety. I haven’t had to have such an intensive background check done, but the last one I had, there was a flag that came back on it. I was panicked, but HR just shrugged it off. They hadn’t even gotten the results yet and said it was probably just a date discrepancy. I never heard any more about it, so I figure it was something like I said a started an old job on the wrong day of November or some such.

          Also – consider that 250 dollar for the personal background check… would that be worth it just to cut the catastrophizing thoughts off?

          Sending lots of positive energy your way. Hope you come back next week to update us with a very positive update!

    4. Katie*

      Honestly you need to see what the company’s policy is from the recruiter about incomplete background checks (which you have).
      I work for a large company and we are having problems getting background checks being done timely. We have not been able to onboard those people until the check is done. One hire was delayed months (!!) because of it.
      Smaller companies probably can let it slide. Bigger companies (like mine) have so much red tape that we couldn’t even though we wanted to.

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        My current employer and soon-to-be (I hope) employer are both giant global tech companies so there’s a lot of red tape. The offer letter does state the position is contingent on the background checks. The recruiter pushed me to give a start date so I chose one 4 weeks out to give it all time to clear. But I got the impression she wanted me to start immediately and asking for 4 weeks instead of the standard 2 really bothered her.

        I’m worried they’ll pull the offer and try to hire one of the other candidates.

        1. Midwest Manager*

          At this point, there’s no benefit for them to hire a different candidate – they’ll have to do the full background check on any other candidate they attempt to hire which would delay a start in the role even further. They now have sunk costs in you, and there’s nothing here to indicate they would pull the offer and move on.

          FWIW, my organization uses HireRight also, and they’re notorious for slow responses on checks from other countries. Many large organizations require that these activities be completed by their vendors, and won’t accept an employee-provided report. I recommend saving your $250 and attempt to delay your end date at your current employer. If you cannot do that, use the PTO payout to bridge your costs until the check is finished.

        2. Hillary*

          They’re not going to pull the offer. You’re a desirable candidate in a candidate’s market. Hang in there.

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      Unfortunately background checks that involve multiple countries do take a long time in the best of times. And these are not the best of times. During covid we have seen the amount of time increase significantly. This is because of lockdowns and staffing shortages. I doubt there is much that can be done. Most employers will not waive the background check for a host of valid reasons. And your offer letter likely stated the offer was contingent on the background check. I always encourage people to not put in their resignation until they have passed the background screen and have an un-contingent offer.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I am not clear on the details of how this works. But my thought is if you have a copy of the last time HireRight did a BG check, perhaps they would accept that so you can start the job on time.

      Because of how concerned you are, I have to ask is there something else here? Did you check out this new employer thoroughly? Could it be your gut is saying do not take this job?

      For situations like this Alison’s advice is the best. You don’t have a job until you actually have a job. Would you consider sending out other applications now? It might give you some insight to this situation or it might just take your mind off your nervousness.

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        I’m so anxious about this job because it’s such a breakout role for me and my career path for a well known company that will strengthen my resume. The other thing playing into my anxiety is how quickly they wanted me to start. I was bored to actual tears in my current position and the potential of this new role excites me.

        My anxiety driven thought process is they pull the offer since it’s estimated to take another six weeks (it’s already been two weeks and with how quickly it went from interview to offer they could easily hire an American and have them start in three weeks). If they do that I’m unemployed and any company who hires me next will also get stuck waiting on my background check. This will extend my unemployment gap so I have to explain it for the next ten years and also leave me in a situation with no income and a loss of housing.

        I’m still sending out other applications and I have other interviews next week. They aren’t for jobs I’m even interested in but they fit my current life and pay close to what I’m currently making so not a huge financial impact.

        My stress is multiplied because I’m a single parent to a 4yr old, disabled child whose is also medically vulnerable and we’re on that knife’s edge of being one medical bill away from complete financial ruin…and there’s Covid.

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        If your previous background check was done by the same vendor that is doing the current one, maybe it would help if your recruiter asked them to look in their file cabinet for the prior investigation report. That’s a pretty standard investigative technique that occasionally gets overlooked.

  10. The Assistant*

    The New York Times ran an article this week titled, “Part-Time Work During a Labor Shortage: A Tight Job Market is Unlikely to Reverse Inequality.”

    Here is a quote from the article:

    “How could this be when the country is in the midst of a labor shortage in which employers are struggling to fill jobs? Because executives at many companies have decided that part-time work is too important to abandon just because the labor market is temporarily tight.”

    I guess my question to the commetariat here, is this market temporarily tight? As hiring managers and leaders of businesses, are employers just waiting this temporary situation out? And how do you *know* it’s temporary?

    I’m a job seeker at the moment and will likely have employment soon but I was so hoping for long-term change in the job market. Curious what others think. I will try to reply as I have time for today but please know I’m avidly reading any comments and appreciate them.

    1. Cold Fish*

      I think companies will always have the advantage that people need jobs. The longer they can go claiming “temporarily tight job market” the better off they will be. As much as I would like it otherwise, without serious work/regulations/laws we are not going to see long-term change.

      1. The Assistant*

        You may be right. It also might be something better assessed in hindsight.

        I wish there was more we could do now to see long-term change, but I know that so many are just literally trying to survive right now about Covid, so forming unions isn’t necessarily high on the list.

        But I hope employees make whatever changes they can for themselves individually during this time. I know I will!

    2. Spearmint*

      No one really knows for sure if this job market is a turning point or a temporary blip. For now, many employers can resist structural changes if they assume it’s a temporary blip, but if this job market continues to be tight for years, then employers will have to change to remain competitive.

      The factors that will determine if the market remains tight are myriad and unpredictable, from macroeconomic policy to whether there’s a new covid variant. I hope it remains tight and forces employers or change, but I wouldn’t assume it will happen when make life decisions right now.

      1. The Assistant*

        Thanks, Spearmint! (I love spearmint tea.)

        I agree we have to make what decisions we can with what we know right now. I too hope it remains tight (or gets tighter) but also realize it’s not just that that forces change.

        As an employee when I started fresh out of school, I didn’t know what a tight economy was or when it was happening or anything. And I’ve seen many ‘looser’ (if that’s a thing) economies before and learned what to do in those moments.

        Each moment is different. I will admit right now I feel ever so less desperate. (Might be my own maturity or the economy, I don’t know.) It’s subtle shift but I like it and aim to keep that feeling going no matter how the economy changes.

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      Historically the labor market goes through several significant cycles where it is tight and when it is not. There are not indicators that this current situation will not eventually normalize. But when, no one knows. The reality part time roles have a place in economy in both instances. Having such positions actually broadens opportunities to candidates that otherwise would not be willing/able to work a fulltime job.

      1. The Assistant*

        Thanks for popping in! I appreciate it.

        There are no indicators that this is the new normal, no. But again, we honestly don’t know how long this will last as you say.

        I wasn’t thinking about part-time roles specifically even though the article was about that. I was just struck by the word temporary used in the article as if that was already a fact. I know part-time roles and workers have a place, but I am just thinking of how any workers can use this time, temporary or not, to their advantage.

        It feels like a game of chicken. Everyone is just waiting and seeing. Who can wait the longest? A simplistic view, I know, but I’m not an economist. Just getting better at observing. And making any moves I make with the best information I have.

    4. Double A*

      It sure seems to me that many of the factors that are causing a tight labor market aren’t going to change anytime soon. One, 800,000+ people have died. 200,000 of them under 65. So, to be completely heartless about it, those people will no longer be working. I doubt immigration is going to open up much, which is a major source of underpaid labor. The child care situation isn’t going to be addressed so (largely) women’s labor will remain constricted. The birth rate is down. So where will all these extra workers come from?

      Sadly the most likely thing is that business will lobby the government to make life more painful for the lowest economic rungs of society, increasing their desperation so employers will once again have the upper hand.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        There’s also been a harder-to-pin-down psychological shift where people in the US aren’t even paying lip service to the American Dream any more. Expectations have changed from “I’m going to be better off than my parents” to “I hope I have health insurance one day”. Workers are expected to job-hop for a better wage instead of getting a raise where they work. I’ve heard advice-givers actively discouraging young people from going to college.

        Also, a brush with mortality can make people reevaluate their priorities, and I think we’re experiencing that as a country. What’s the point of making enough money to vacation if you can’t travel due to COVID restrictions? What’s the point of saving for retirement if your job is suddenly so dangerous you don’t think you’ll make it? What is the bare minimum amount of money we need to pay rent and have health insurance, and what’s the bare minimum amount of time we can put into earning that money?

        I think you’re right that the government will try to make life more painful for non-workers, but I’m hoping that as millennials get old enough to hold political office, we’re going to see a big priority shift towards college debt relief, childcare support and higher minimum wages.

        1. Double A*

          As an elder millennial, I very much hope this is true. I absolutely feel that my cohort is primed to tell work to sit down and take it’s rightful place in our lives. I do think our attitudes about this are shifting permanently. We millennials didn’t really buy into a lot of the Boomer ethos about work after we graduated into the great recession.

      2. Violet*

        Wow, that makes me so sad. That we have lost so many, many lives.

        The government will do what it does. I wonder what will ‘we’ do. Or more specifically, what will *I* do differently?

        I know my worth and also what’s important, especially once you see how quickly people move on when you leave a job. As they should. And as I will remember what is really important in my life. The older I get the more precious life is to me.

        1. The Assistant*

          I am going to use this time to my advantage as best I can.

          I thought once I’d help start a union or something but honestly, coworkers I knew and trusted for years simply weren’t interested.

          So yes, live your life thoroughly someone said below that those at the top are. Best you can. So many lives lost, I feel that is some of the best advice.

        1. Starbuck*

          Get active, if you can. Local and state organizing can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. I’ve got online friends spread across the country and we compare notes. My state, for example, has done helpful things like doing away with the ‘tipped’ minimum wage and has yearly plans to raise the minimum salary threshold for overtime exemption continuing over the next several years.

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

      I’m late to the party and no one may see this. It likely IS a turning point, and employers will probably change especially if conditions remain tight, but probably not in the way that workers want. This is usually where businesses “innovate” new ways of being a**holes instead of simply giving employees what they’re looking for.

      We’ll probably see more tech automation and more part-time, contract, or gig work. My own department, which has lost 2 full-time people in the last year, has just brought on 3 freelancers to “replace” them with plans on keeping that the new way going forward — now we don’t need to provide them with benefits or equipment or worry about paid leave or… as long as they toe the line on not treating them like employees (or humans), this is the “new normal.”

      1. Kay*

        I sadly have to agree with this. I have a number of clients all with positions that need filled, yet none of them want to pay decent wages, offer decent benefits or even offer great working environments imo. Right now, since the margins are looking great with the reduced payroll, those at the top are thoroughly enjoying their profit sharing & bonuses – while everyone else is dealing with battles over raises, lack of covid protocols and unreal hours.

        1. The Assistant*

          Thanks for sharing this inside view.

          But are those at the top untouchable? And if they are, well, then what is really different right now tight economy or not?

          Well, it is different for those not at the top. But that’s where the power is and it’s so hard to shift that.

          Hmm. Thanks for your comment. Gives me food for thought.

      2. The Assistant*

        Party is on all weekend!

        “This is usually where businesses “innovate” new ways of being a**holes instead of simply giving employees what they’re looking for.”

        This made me laugh! They probably will!

    6. Starbuck*

      Where I work, we were planning on hiring for a half-time role but the position was bumped up to full time with benefits before it got posted. As far as I know it was done for a few reasons – equity (my field as a whole needs to be paying more so that it’s not just already wealthy/privileged people that can afford to work here) and because we’re in an area with a very tight housing and labor market, and there’s no way the position would have been competitive as a part-time no-benefits offering.

  11. Monty*

    (how) should I follow up?

    I interviewed for an entry-level admin position in October. I didn’t get the position, but the hiring manager gave me GLOWING feedback and strongly encouraged me to apply for a higher-level position opening up within his department.

    The position was posted in early January, and he emailed me to ask me again to apply. I applied through the HR website, let him know, and…silence. The position was reposted about about a week ago. What does this mean! I don’t want to seem presumptuous, but is it appropriate to ask about their timeline? Any suggested language?

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      It could mean a lot of things, including they didn’t get the minimum required number of applicants in the pool, so they have to keep it open until they hit that number. I would say hold tight and don’t reach out to the hiring manager again. At my workplace, hiring managers aren’t supposed to be in direct contact with candidates anyway, so his wrist might have been slapped for sending you that first email.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think it would be worth touching base with the hiring manager at this point and asking about the timeline, yes. I would probably start with “At your recommendation, I applied for the Teapot Painter position in your department in early January. I haven’t heard back yet, but I noticed the position was reposted last week. I wanted to check in and see if I am under consideration for the position, and if so, what the expected timeline is for the hiring process. Thank you for any information you can provide.” It’s possible they want to have X number of candidates to bring in for interviews, and the first posting didn’t get enough, so they’re waiting to contact people until they do have enough. Or it’s possible that you aren’t under consideration, but they haven’t let you know. Hopefully the hiring manager will be courteous enough to let you know either way!

    3. 867-5309*

      When did you apply and let him know? If it’s been less than two weeks, I would wait until week or two.

      You could send one email, “Hi Jim, I am still excited about the role of so let me know if there is any more information I can provide as you look at candidates, or if you had a timeline for when you will begin interviews?

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      If you haven’t heard from anyone in nearly a month and the hiring manager was the one who encouraged you, absolutely contact them to check in!

    5. OtterB*

      Another possibility is that there was an automatic renewal on posting the position until it was actually filled, and they’re still working through the process. But I think a polite email to the hiring manager asking about their timeline wouldn’t hurt.

  12. W*

    Any thoughts on changing careers? Especially for those who’ve done it later in life? How did you manage the paycuts when you change careers?

    I’m taking a course to try to change my career. My current career doesn’t have good future prospects and I’m taking a course in one that does have a lot of growth. I’m making $55k at my job as a midrange experienced employee. (The higher range tops out at $70k hence why I want to change careers, not to mention layoffs and job cuts.) However, because I don’t have direct experience in the new career, I would have to take a junior role. But I don’t want to take a junior role with substantially less money. I’m in my 30s, so not old but I spent all my 20s trying to make more than $30k and don’t want to go back to making less, especially when I have financial goals (buying a home) to consider. As for the new career, it’s not completely unrelated, every company will need to deal with this so it’s in demand, so I’m not switching completely different industries.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Without knowing the specifics of the two fields, as a hiring manager, I would be comfortable recommending that a new employee in a junior role come in at a higher point in the posted range if they have general workplace experience and have convinced me in the hiring process that they will hit the ground running. (The course you’re taking probably helps in that regard.)

      1. W*

        Thanks for this. This is comforting to hear. Even if I get a higher point in the range, the range would still be lower than what I’m making, so I’d probably just put up with it for a year or so and look for higher.

        As the hiring manager, surely they must realize that a seasoned employee with work experience won’t be staying in the junior role for long once they have some experience in that role. I’m wondering if there would be some sort of “you just wasted all my of efforts training you.”

      2. Anhaga*

        I did this as the employee–my now-employer looked at my resume, realized that my past experience would help him expand a side of his business that he hadn’t focused on yet, and met my salary requirement even though it was a solid 30% over what he was planning to pay for the position. So do think, in your cover letters, about how your past experience would let you bring something unique and different to the position; that can go far to helping you make the case for the higher starting salary.

    2. TGI(February)*

      I don’t know if this helps, but is there any “bridge” type role between what you do now, and what you want to do? I agree that in my mid thirties I would not have been willing to start over in a junior role. But you can sometimes achieve similar ends in two or three lateral moves. For example, you’re an editor now and you want to be a llama trainer. Maybe it’s like, you become the editor of a llama blog, then you manage a llama department, then you become llama trainer. It won’t work if you’re set on a field like nursing or teaching with a very specific non-negotiable credential process but there may be a medical-adjacent type job that will suit you just as well without having to have that specific degree and license.

      1. J.B.*

        That is what I’d recommend. I went back to grad school at 39 and couldn’t get responses to junior roles (partly because I didn’t want to low-ball the salary number. I get not making quite what I made before but when you can only put one number in an application tracking system it will be on the high side.) I made a lateral ish move and am training myself in new skills as I go.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t be afraid to use your insight to explain to employers why you’d make a good employee. Draw those parallels for them.
      At one job a potential boss was concerned about me handling X. So I simply said, “Oh X sounds like it could parallel Y, which I HAVE done. Here is how I approached Y.” I used to shy away from stuff like this because it felt condescending as it was so obvious. The boss-interviewer raised their eyebrows, “ohhh, never thought of that!” Remember what is obvious to you is not obvious to everyone else.

    4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I know this is probably unhelpful, but I just took the pay cut. It was 21% and it hurt because I was a single parent at the time, but in the end it was worth it.

      It also depends on whether, as someone else mentions, you are going into a field with rigid pay structures. I was becoming a teacher at 35 with some grad school licensure classes but no licensed teaching experience, so I was making just slightly more than someone who would be 22 out of their undergrad. For something like that, there is no way around it.

    5. beach read*

      I left my job in the financial services industry after 20+ years to work in a different capacity within the financial industry. Although much of my skillset was transferrable, I didn’t have experience in the new position so I was sort of ‘starting over’ with a lower paycheck. I thought it might take me a few years to move ahead. It actually took about 5 years to get to where I am now which is a better job and higher pay than I was earning at my original job. I was fortunate that I had savings to make up the difference while I worked my way back up. Financially it was tough for a while, but I was much happier in my new position. I would not change what I did.

  13. ETW*

    I have recently started a new job for a team that is building up speed so I spend a lot of time engaged to wait and then it is time to jump when something does come up. I have done a bunch of online trainings for anything my department remotely touches, organized old computer files, created some forms for use by people to help with work flow, but what else can I be doing while I am waiting for new work. I have asked around to colleagues and offered help but we have some larger territorial stuff so helping outside of my department is tricky. We don’t have the culture where you can blatantly be reading the news or surfing the web though short bursts can be ok. Some days I am trying to fill hours, but thankfully other weeks I am busy all week with actual work.

    1. AdequateArchaeologist*

      My last job was similar. I had two blocks of time that were ultra busy and the work had to be done ASAP, but in between I was “on call” and bored out of my mind. Something occasionally popped up, but not more than 20-45 minutes worth. There was no additional work to take on and it was going into slow season. Random higher-ups would periodically walk around in the area behind me so I felt like I couldn’t do anything too obvious.

      I basically had two windows open, one work related (usually a spreadsheet or parts list) and would click around every few minutes. The other was AAM, zoomed in enough that the ads and the banner at the top didn’t really show (so it looked like just a text heavy window/document). I also read a lot of articles and whatnot concerning archaeology (I was an admin assistant at the time) using the same method.

      I later did WFH and used the spare time to clean house. Not something I’m super proud of, but I finally was able to deep clean my washing machine…

      1. ETW*

        WFH can have so many advantages for these times but the zoomed text isn’t a bad idea. I am still new enough I am not sure if anyone looks at your internet usage. (We have a few old school folks who I wouldn’t put it past to manage that way. They have announced retirement plans so the culture is shifting which is why I was willing to join.)

    2. Katie*

      Does your work have groups that you can join? Like a volunteer group or a planning committee? My work has many and the level of participation is up to each person and their availability. That also shows your face to the rest of the organization.

      1. ETW*

        I wish. We have two people who are just in charge of that stuff and they never want help even when they clearly could use it. (If stuff is falling down while you are trying to hang something just take the help!)

    3. Rational Lemming*

      What about a Coursera or Khan Academy class that could be at least loosely related to your job? I believe both are work at your own pace courses. Coursera makes it look like you have to pay, and you do if you want a certificate of completion, but there is a way to take the class for free.

    4. SofiaDeo*

      I recommend the “take a course” idea. Many orgs have IT monitor websites that employees use, and while AAM is not social media or goof off stuff, IMO using that time to take a class indicates to at least some managers that you are “more serious” about work, and definitely not goofing off.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Join user forums for your primary software–I did downtime research into industry best practices and answered questions about tricks I knew and shared tricks I hadn’t known with co-workers…and ended up the department software expert.

  14. litprof*

    Any advice about how to introduce a new significant other to one’s colleagues? I realize this is a super low-stakes, non-problem to have, yet somehow I feel stumped. I work in a small office at a university. My colleagues and I have warm, collegial relationships. Occasionally we’ll do social things together outside of work, and we know or at least know of each others’ partners, children, etc. But I’ve been single for the entire time I’ve worked in this office, so it feels really weird to me to bring up dating and new relationships when I’ve never talked about it with my colleagues before. Maybe the issue is all in my head: I think I feel a bit “behind” since I am in my late 30s, when it seems normal talk about children and spouses, but unusual to introduce a new partner or tell colleagues you’re dating. This is all complicated by the fact that we are all still working remotely, and rarely have casual conversations anymore as we would if we were running into each other in the hallways at work. Do I make an announcement? Save it until the weather warms up and we do something social outdoors together? Casually drop it into a conversation to my closest colleagues and let it spread from there? I’m excited to share this positive development in my life, but uncertain about how to do it!

    1. frog*

      Do you have a charming or funny story about your new partner/adventures with them/etc to share? That might be a good way to sidestep into it.

    2. CTT*

      I think making an announcement could be awkward (if I were your colleague, I wouldn’t totally know how to respond); I think you can either wait for a social event or mention it if it naturally comes up – like if you’re talking about weekend plans, it’s normal to say “[partner] and I are trying takeout from that new restaurant that just opened” or something like that.

      Congrats on the new SO!

      1. Raboot*

        This is how I’ve learned of the existence of most of my coworkers’ SOs. The last one that did this, we’d been working together for a year and been work friends for longer – I still don’t know if the partner was new or if the sharing was new and it didn’t bother me at all. So I say this is the way to go, just mention them casually.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Hello from a fellow late-30s who has been chronically single until recently! I found casually dropping it into conversations was the easiest route for me to go. “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh my partner and I went to a great new restaurant in town.” Some people didn’t catch on (or didn’t care) and some people were very excited (“Oh I didn’t realize you were seeing someone! Tell me more.”) But dropping my partner’s title and/or name casually into the conversation worked well for me.

    4. Artemesia*

      This is not something you ‘announce’ or make a fuss about. Lots of people go a long time without mentioning or introducing a partner. If it is important to you that they know you have a partner and you won’t be having any office social events anytime soon (when his presence would be the announcement) then just let it drop in water cooler chat talk about what you did Sat night. As in ‘We saw a great movie Sat night; have you seen Belfast yet?’ And if they ask who ‘We’ is you can mention him. Or ‘Jack and I went cross country skiing this weekend; it was so fun.’

      1. Starbuck*

        Same, I’m in the boat of ‘they don’t need to know so why bother.’ Maybe once it’s at the point where you’d take a sick day if they needed your help. Otherwise I have no desire to share things but don’t mind giving a simple answer if I’m asked directly. But I’m super in the camp of, not talking about my personal life at work unless it’s somehow actually relevant.

    5. HESM pro*

      As a perpetually single mid-30s professional also in a university setting, I completely understand how you feel! While I haven’t introduced a significant other of my own to my coworkers, two of my colleagues have. The first just started slipping his existence into conversation with all of us saying “oh yeah this guy I’ve been seeing…” but the second was a little more hesitant, I think because they were trying to figure out how serious it was. He ended up mentioning small tidbits that let me know there might be a new person in his life and then at an after-work social event one of his friends asked if he was still dating the person and he side-eyed me before responding yes. I was the only one who knew for a long time, but when my other coworkers were planning a pot luck I casually mentioned to them that they might want to make it clear if significant others or friends were invited and they did which allowed him to introduce her more broadly! So I think it could really go either way – don’t act like it’s a big deal and just start mentioning the person, or choose someone closer to you that you trust and mention it to them. I knew he wouldn’t get mad if I mentioned it to others, but I didn’t want to steal his thunder, so I just greased those wheels to let it happen “naturally.”

    6. Wordybird*

      I was single for the first year of my current job, and this was just assumed when everyone else was talking about their partners and I was not. Most of my coworkers are childfree (I am not) and many are not partnered so there’s a mix of all sorts of lifestyles and situations at my workplace. I was so excited to talk about my partner when we did start dating this past fall that it just came up in conversation naturally when my coworkers were talking about their families and one time when we were discussing a location that a colleague had visited that my partner used to work at. He’s my favorite person ever so it’s hard to NOT talk about him all the time. :)

      People will figure out who your partner is from conversational context. It’s all good, and congrats!

    7. RagingADHD*

      Casually drop a reference to something you and the SO did that you’d normally chit chat about with your colleagues, like a weekend outing or a movie you saw.

      If they want to know more, they’ll say, “Hey, I didn’t know you were seeing someone! Cool!”

      That’s all it takes.

    8. litprof*

      Thanks to all of you for the advice! I feel much less awkward about it after reading about your experiences.

  15. Crazy Plant Lady*

    I’m getting married later this year and am planning on changing my last name. I want to keep using my maiden name professionally since I’m somewhat recognized within my field. At my current job, this shouldn’t be an issue – I can let them know about my legal name change but that I’d like everything else (email, etc.) to keep using my maiden name. I’m more concerned if I switch jobs that there will be another company in the future that is stricter/more rigid about only allowing employees to use their legal names or something.

    Has anyone encountered any issues like this? Or have experiences (good or bad) with using a different name than your legal name professionally?

    1. WFH is all I Want*

      In my experience, the employers have asked for my preferred name and I list first name, maiden name. It hasn’t been an issue. In one instance, I was listed in the outlook address book as “first name, maiden name (married name)” just so everyone could locate me since payroll and HR documents needed my legal name.

    2. lost academic*

      Yup. Have had no issues. Just tell them what name you want to use when you start new places and they will not care. It helps, I have found, if your maiden name is still part of your legal name. Everyone knows me by my maiden name, it’s where my (mostly irrelevant) publications are, and quite frankly it’s my professional identity and I am not willing to cede it. Now if I did… well, I don’t think anyone would care, or pay attention after a month, it’s so common for women. The only people who use my married name are my husband and anyone associated with the kids I now have.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I work for a state government, & some women have had a problem with this. The reason is given as “transparency,” but if nobody knows you by your legal name, it seems to have the opposite affect. Our solution is to include the preferred name in parentheses in email addresses & other electronic communication.

      I disagree with the policy, as it doesn’t do what it’s purported to do & it adds an additional burden on women & transgender people who might have to explain why their email & their name don’t match.

      1. bleh*

        Ugh, can we please change the moniker to unmarried name or family of origin surname or something else. Does anyone actually know a different way? Maiden literally refers to whether or not you have had sex, and it is not how women should have to talk about names. It feels outdated and creepy.

        1. Siege*

          It has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with age and whether a woman is unmarried. Literally, the dictionary definition is “a girl or young woman, especially an unmarried one”. “Mrs” doesn’t mean “f***s like a bunny”, it means (functionally) “married”.

          1. sheesh*

            From Merriam Webster:
            “maiden adjective
            Definition of maiden (Entry 2 of 2)
            1a(1) : not married
            a maiden aunt
            (2) : VIRGIN”

            Words and their origins matter.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Basically, a maid is unmarried & a matron is unmarried. Hence, a maid or matron of honor.

              In the old days, the assumption was that an unmarried woman was also virginal. (Sometimes true, sometimes a polite fiction.)

              *Maiden” is just a diminutive of “maid,” which originally meant “girl” or “young unmarried woman.” But now has a different meaning, except in some old terms & phrases.

              1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

                Matron is a married woman, unless you’re referring to a prison position or a female janitor.

        2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          Yeah, it’s not that. Do a search for the podcast Unladylike and “Episode 70: How to Marry Off Maiden Names” for a great listed on the history of the maiden name.

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          I just had to reread my comment to see if I slipped up, as I prefer “birth” or “original” name.

    4. AdequateArchaeologist*

      I have something similar, but in reverse? My last name is socially Folgers-Coffee. I married and hyphenated because like you my (tiny) amount of public work has my maiden name “Folgers” (and I’m emotionally attached to my maiden name). I do job applications and give people my married name, even put down my married name on packages etc. But during onboarding I let HR know that my name is still legally “Folgers”.

      I’m technically in the process of changing it, but it’s super low on my list of priorities and this is the third job I’ve had a separate legal vs social name. No one has ever given me issues though. The most I’ve ever gotten is a weirdly handled email address ( instead of but I’ve found most email addresses are weird when you hyphenate.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        YES, Jiminy Christmas. Being (legally) Valentina Solomon-Kenmore, I really wanted our IT folks to make my login/email address vsk@(work). I expected them to make it either vsolomon or vsolomonkenmore, depending on the character limits. What I actually ended up with is vsolomonken, which is just silly. :P

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      I once had a job where they put my name incorrectly on… tax forms? paperwork? I don’t remember but they hyphenated my middle and last name as a last name despite all the original forms being done correctly by me and always being called Mrs. Macadamia. When I first tried to correct them they told me they couldn’t change it because the thing had to have my full correct name and I was like “yes, that’s why you need to change it” lol. They did fix it after that.

    6. Purple Cat*

      My company requires legal names to be used for setup. It is VERY confusing when people go by middle names or completely different names. Then they have email signatures that reference their preferred names and it’s difficult to find them in directories, etc.

      A different option would be to use your married name socially and not change it legally, that way legal and professional names match.

      1. lost academic*

        I did this for awhile but if you have or plan to have kids, it is still a world where when your last names do not match you can run into a lot of additional hassle and actual trouble (especially during travel). It only takes one officious ignorant person to derail your plans because they’re being a PITA with travel.

        1. No Tribble At All*

          FWIW, my mom never changed her last name, and the only issue we’ve ever had was when I was first applying for my learner’s permit. The clerk at the DMV asked for my birth certificate to verify it had her name on it, since my last name (my dad’s) is different from hers. Since it’s the first official form of government ID, I guess they were being paranoid.

          I’ve never traveled internationally with her without a passport of my own (not as a baby or anything).

          Of reasons to change your name, don’t let “some bureaucracy may require slightly more forms” be the biggest reason!

          1. Anony*

            Strongly agree with this, as a woman who did not change her name, and we can all help by normalizing parents not sharing a last name with their children.

        2. Purple Cat*

          Full disclosure: I took my husband’s name.
          I don’t want to discount that there *might* be in some cases an issue with parents and children’s names not matching, that is definitely fading. Between blended families, more diverse backgrounds where women don’t take their husband’s names, same-gender couples, etc… this isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be.

        3. NancyDrew*

          I promise you, in my 10 years of being a parent, I’ve never had a problem with my kids and I having not-matching last names.

          1. Clisby*

            Same here, after 25 years of parenthood (2 children). To be sure, I occasionally had a child’s friend/classmate call me “Mrs. HusbandsLastName”, just assuming I had the same last name as my child, but that didn’t bother me.

            I never had the slightest desire to change my name, but if I had, it would have been just socially. I would not have even considered changing it legally.

    7. Velociraptor Attack*

      I worked somewhere that had very strict requirements on using your legal name. I got married a week before I started and since everything hadn’t gone through legally yet I had to start as firstname.maidenname as my email and then 3 months later it got to change to firstname.marriedname.

      I signed everything as Firstname Maidenname Marriedname and still do.

    8. Anony*

      One of my colleagues legally changed her middle name to her unmarried name when she took her husband’s last name, and she uses both in her professional life, e.g. “Maria Gonzalez Hernandez”, where Gonzalez is her unmarried name and Hernandez is her married name. It seems to have worked for her, but she is also OK with being called either Maria Gonzalez or Maria Hernandez by new people who meet her.

      1. Joielle*

        I did this! Not the exact same situation – I use only my married name in my professional life (we married pretty young), but I use both socially. I will say that my close friends understand what my name is, but pretty much everyone else hyphenates my middle and last into one last name even though that’s wrong and I never write it that way myself. It doesn’t really bother me since it only shows up on, like, wedding invitations – so nothing where it’s crucial that my name is punctuated correctly. But it might be a bigger issue at work, idk. Just have to be a bit patient with people and have it corrected when it’s necessary.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I did this and the next company to hire me put all 3 on my email with hyphen even though I was not hyphenated. It got even longer because the company domain name was merger-hyphenation hell itself. I was so glad when we got bought out so I could have a work email that didn’t exceed some character counts!

    9. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      You’re doing it backwards. ;) If you want to go by your maiden name professionally (aka at work and possibly publishing and schooling with all the legal documents that go with them) you shouldn’t change your name legally. wat you want to do it to change it socially.

      i.e. Your legal name is your given name — Jacquelyn Straw but you go by Jacquelyn Straw-Smith or Jacquelyn Smith with friends, family, on social media, etc.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        That’s kind of how I do it. I changed to my husband’s last name when we married because mine always got mispronounced, and I used that at work. The only time I wish I hadn’t was when some rather strange person kept calling me at work from another country to cheerfully argue that I was an ethnicity I most definitely wasn’t – nor was my husband! But when I got an article published, I used both last names because it was MINE, plus if anyone I knew from my single life stumbled across it, I wanted them to know it was me. It’s the same reason I use both on social media, to make it easier to reconnect with people from my past.

      2. Pennyworth*

        That’s what I did – when I married many people just assumed I would take my husbands name, and started using it. He liked it that way too, so during our marriage I was socially Pennyworth Husbandname but legally Pennyworth Birthname. It made everything very easy when we divorced. I still use Husbandname a bit when I think there is a potential for identity theft.

        I once worked with a woman who used completely different first and second names professionally and socially. Think Mary Smith at work and Elizabeth Jones socially. We only found out when her mother rang her work phone and asked for Elizabeth Jones and was told no-one with that name worked there.

  16. Mbarr*

    Any advice about how/if I could handle this situation better in the future?

    After I left my old team (I did an internal transfer), my colleague Jane (she’s was a peer, not my manager) asked if I could sit in on interviews (for a different position, not to backfill my own). I helped and we hired Fergus. (He had work experience in India, and just finished his Masters in the US. He was also a classmate of one of the people on the team.)

    A month later, Jane reached out and asked if I could help coach Fergus. He was making some careless mistakes on reports, and Jane thought he might be more comfortable having someone, not his boss, help him out. Fergus and I met several times and I tried to impart tips and tricks to help him. I talked to Jane again, and she said Fergus was doing better.

    Fast forward 6 months later, and while Jane and I were having a social chit chat, she acknowledged that Fergus will never be a super star on the team. He’s mediocre, and continues to make mistakes.

    Now, here’s where it gets fun… Yesterday Fergus called me out of the blue and asked for a confidential chat. He wanted to know about my experience on the team, and why I left. He’s frustrated cause he feels that Jane is constantly criticizing him. He knows he’s making mistakes, but has taken steps to try to fix things, and doesn’t know how to navigate his 1:1s anymore.

    The thing is, Jane’s a superstar. I personally wouldn’t want to report to her. She’s a lovely person, and was good as a coworker. But she’s also one of those people who have a crazy eye for detail and will remember that in the Llama report, column X had this random number, but now, months later it has a different number, and why don’t you know why it’s different? Why didn’t you catch it? Why can’t you answer me right now?

    Long story short, I told Fergus how to search for internal job postings. I also told him to ask Jane what more he can do. Fergus says that if he sticks around for another 6 months, he knows the type of work he has would change, and would probably be better… But he’s miserable now.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Do you have any feel for how much of this is Jane’s “eye for detail” and how much is the fact that Fergus is still making mistakes? Both of these things could be problems or not: Is Jane nitpicky or is being detail-oriented an asset in this job? Is Fergus being micromanaged or does he legitimately need to make fewer mistakes but isn’t achieving that?

      Changing departments/teams might help if Fergus’ level of performance is actually acceptable but Jane can’t back off, but it won’t if Fergus really is lackluster and Jane’s frustration is at least somewhat justified.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Well, I think you know the answer here. You should have stayed out of it, especially the coaching. That was Jane’s business and literally not your job. At this point, you should tell both Jane and Fergus whenever either reaches out next, that you have realized it’s better for them to communicate directly and not through you.

      1. MsM*

        Ooh, I disagree. I think whether Jane intended it or not, you’ve been an excellent mentor to Fergus, OP. You don’t have to continue doing so if you don’t want to, but I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong here.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Honestly, it sounds like Jane might not be a great manager. Demanding attention to detail in your employees is fine, but it sounds like she is providing feedback in a way that’s really scoldy and doesn’t help her employees improve. But it’s hard to tell your peers that they aren’t managing their employees well.

      1. Invisible Fish*

        I actually came to say something similar- I’m a “Jane” in my own way, and if I’m in charge of something, I know to get my expectations under control.

      2. JelloStapler*

        I had a former colleague like this – and it was often an issue of not seeing there was more than one way to do things and would get hung up on details- those she supervised would mention it to me (who at the time supervised other teammates) and ask for advice. I was close to said person and tried to encourage her to loosen up, and eventually, she had an epiphany and realized how she was coming off- with mixed results on actually changing. We ended up doing some re-organizing anyway and then a year later she ended up leaving for another position/career change. I just think she works better as an individual contributor.

    4. 867-5309*

      This is not advice per se but rather something a manager once told me that stuck and is important for the Janes of the world as they begin to manage – whether projects or people: “The star pitcher usually makes a terrible coach because they don’t know how to coach third string or bench warmers.” He then reminded me that is my job as a manager, not to prop up someone who truly cannot do the job, but to coach and mentor others and to also remember, that many roads lead to Rome and there way might be a hair longer or a little different but if it helps them learn, I have to lean back and let them go.

  17. SurlyGirl*

    What are some good interview questions to suss out whether or not someone is a pleasant person to work with? In my experience, 90% of people bring their best selves to the interview, but I’d like to know what they’re like on a day to day basis. Of course we check references and such, but look for a good way to assess this before getting too far into the process.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Perhaps ask them how they have handled difficult situations with a colleague or a challenging process working collaboratively? That might give you a sense of whether or not they are quick to blame others, have decent emotional intelligence and self-awareness, patience, etc.

      1. irene adler*

        Might ask about how they handle disagreements with co-workers.

        A long time ago, when I was about to graduate from school, a job interviewer asked me, “What would you do if a co-worker swiped some of your lab equipment-without asking?”

        After I responded, she asked, “After you spoke with the person who swiped your lab equipment and asked them to ask first, what would you do if this person did it again-and left the equipment dirty?” I responded.

        And then she asked me a third time what I would do if this person had taken my lab equipment- a third time-without permission or any apology.

        Only thing I recall is thinking that in the professional environment, I’d have to keep my cool and not go off on this person. Maybe even find them their own equipment -you know, solve the problem. Not sure if they wanted the response to include informing the boss or what.

        I still wonder what the correct responses would be (if any). But I bet the interviewer learned a lot about the personality of the candidate asking this question- multiple times- as she did.

          1. irene adler*

            Reflecting on this, I think they may want to see if someone would resort to ‘revenge’ tactics- sabotaging the other person’s equipment, or bad mouthing them or even attacking them physically.
            These things do happen in a lab environment. Not often. But I’ve witnessed some things.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          This is a great technique. Has anyone read “Who?” It’s an awesome book on hiring and they recommend digging like this in an interview. People will tell you who they are!

    2. Ashley*

      Have they been pleasant with everyone in scheduling interviews, getting references, etc? Are they nice to the person at the front desk? To me it is less about questions and more about actions.
      I am guessing you are coming off working with grumps and unpleasant people and sometimes we over correct after that, but what skills / attitude do they need to do the job. If this is a culture fit where everyone says good morning, and the last person didn’t I would be upfront about the culture so they can help screen themselves out if they are just not the chit chatty type. (Or maybe you last hire was working for the company where you can’t make jokes and needed to go back to that office.)

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        Co-sign! If they are polite to the receptionist, that tells you everything (almost).

          1. Ashley*

            I hate ‘tests’ but maybe since it is virtual, have someone else start the second interview before you join about 10 minutes later and see how they respond. Plus the second person may see something you don’t so that is not always bad in and of itself.

      2. Artemesia*

        We always asked the AA about their interaction with her. Were they polite and friendly to her when they arrived; were they difficult in setting up the interviews etc. Of course you have to have a mature AA you have confidence in but it is surprising how many people are rude to the admin. And the AA fields the whiny calls from people demanding interviews and repeatedly ‘checking in.’

    3. Golden*

      Last year when I was job searching I got asked “tell me about a time when you were not a good coworker”.

      I wasn’t ready for something like that, but looking back it made me have to discuss a lot of the attributes that College Career Counselor described.

    4. anonymous73*

      In addition to what others have said, don’t make the interview “all business”. Not saying you have to have a 10 minute conversation about hobbies or anything, but generally if the interviewers are relaxed, and provide more personal commentary here and there, you get to know their personality better. With my current job, my manager and I were on the call for about 5 minutes before the other person joined and I felt an instant connection with her. We didn’t really talk about much of substance, but she made me feel at ease and it allowed me to show her my true personality.

      1. Joielle*

        I second this! I really just go on gut feeling for whether someone would be a good coworker, but I feel like you can get a much better sense from informal conversation. Do they seem genuine, engaging, personable? Do they seem… nice?

        I’m certainly willing to hire people who are really nervous or just awkward (I mean, same here), but what I avoid at all costs is someone who seems smarmy or condescending. I’ve always had fairly informal workplaces without a strong hierarchy, and someone who has a big ego or is too “sales-y” in the interview is just not going to be pleasant to work with. You get a feel for it after conducting a lot of interviews.

    5. Eether, Either*

      As my department’s admin, I always meet with our candidates. My conversation with them is very casual–I do not interview them about their qualifications–that’s for my bosses to do. Instead, I just “pop” into the conference room for a “casual” chat, in between interviews. They are more relaxed and usually let their guard down–and if they do not, that is also something I make note of. I have a very good instinct about people that I trust absolutely. I am also included in the final decision and encouraged to voice my opinion. I read somewhere that if you really want to find out what the candidate is like, ask your receptionist. Some people think the receptionist (or admin in my case) is No One Important, which gives them license speak more freely. I’ve heard some really strange and inappropriate things.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Oh, come on, don’t leave it there…please tell us some of the strange and inappropriate things? We need diversion.

    6. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I keep thinking of Ben Stiller’s character on a Friends episode. Bring a duck and leave the room for a few minutes! : )

  18. Spotted Elephant*

    How do I function when I’m actually afraid of my boss?

    I’ll preface this by saying that of the three positions at the top of my department two are vacant. The remaining one (my manager) is super stressed as are the other managers and myself (not a manager, but one of a few “Team leadish” positions.) Hiring is underway and my manager’s boss is aware of my department’s ongoing issues, and will be mediating a talk for a few of us next week. (I’ve also applied to an external position to explore my options.)

    We’re thankfully remote so this is all Zoom, but recently my boss completely lost his sh!t at me during a meeting. Afterwards I was shaking I was so upset. How do I continue communicating with him? I’m afraid to be in a small meeting with him and was really uncomfortable during a larger team meeting with him yesterday. I *need* to talk to him sometimes for work stuff but I’m really not sure how to handle it. Any advice?

    1. frog*

      Can you speak to your skip-level about potentially ameliorating your need to communicate with your boss? Honestly, this shouldn’t be your responsibility – your boss should be the one to apologise to you and try to create a more positive, constructive line of dialogue, as well as explaining to their boss that stress is making them treat their coworkers poorly – but it doesn’t always go that way.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I agree. This sounds like a situation where it’s necessary to bring in the manager’s boss, or HR if you have it. You’re not trying to get your manager in trouble, but he needs someone to tell him that the way he’s interacting with his staff right now isn’t professional or appropriate.

      2. Spotted Elephant*

        My boss’s boss is aware. I told him I don’t feel comfortable being in smaller meetings with my manager at this time, but he didn’t really provide any guidance on that. He’s mediating a talk for some of the senior staff next week (related to many issues, not just this one.) He asked me to keep an open mind and come. I said I would, but I honestly doubt one hour is going to change things.

        I’ll be shocked if I get an apology!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Telling him you feel uncomfortable is not the same as asking advice.

          You may need to re-open the conversation, “Oh, BTW, when I mentioned about smaller meetings with my boss, I meant to ask you what advice you might have for me. I would like some tips or ideas, please.”

    2. AC4Life*

      Stress toys really help me. Squeezing company branded ones help me feel like I’m fighting back, but no one can tell when they’re off camera.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      When your boss goes ape-poo crazy, you have to see it as a technique he uses. It’s not personal. He’d do it to anyone if he thinks he can get away with it. He knows it gets under people’s skin, he knows he does it as a way to establish dominance, etc.

      It’s not like this kind of thing sits on a continuum of highly-emotive communication styles that correspond to your work performance. If things were going amazing well, would you expect him to lie down and literally kiss your feet after tossing money around you? That would be absurd and ridiculous, right?

      So the way I’ve dealt with this is to realize it for what it is – an attempt by someone to use irrational behavior to achieve something that they aren’t getting. No different than a 2-year-old throwing a tantrum. And the response is to just let them scream and spit, and when they’ve run out of breath, carry on with the professional conversation. If for no other reason, you’ll feel better about your own behavior in retrospect. You were the rational adult in the room.

      I know it’s hard to internalize this now, after he’s already gone around the bend at you and you’ve had a strong reaction to it. And maybe the current situation can’t be fixed without re-organization & apologies.

      Also, when you say you are afraid to be in the same room as him – do you mean you’re concerned about actual physical violence? If so, disregard everything I wrote and go straight to HR and/or a lawyer.

      1. anonymous73*

        While all is true, allowing it to happen and never addressing it is not the way to solve the problem. OP shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around their boss. They need to escalate it – to a higher manager or HR. Normally I would suggest talking directly to boss outside of the tantrum when they’re calmer, but if OP is genuinely afraid of them, it needs to be escalated ASAP. Yelling and berating is never okay at work, and stress is not an excuse for allowing that behavior.

      2. Spotted Elephant*

        No, not at all concerned about violence! I wouldn’t want to be yelled at like that in person, but I’m not in any physical danger.

        1. Spotted Elephant*

          Though he did try to prevent me from leaving a Zoom and I wonder what might have been in the same room and I’d try to walk out.

          1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

            LOL, how the heck does that even work? You just hit the hang-up button, or you get up out of your chair.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Alton Brown’s Evil Twin is right. He can’t stop you from leaving a Zoom meeting. You’re allowed to click the leave button.

            In fact, if he yells at you in a meeting again, I would recommend hanging up immediately and contacting his boss. I know you said his boss knows about the yelling, but keep telling him every time it happens, and keep saying this is unprofessional and unacceptable behavior.

            Your grandboss kinda sucks.

            1. Fran Fine*

              All of this (especially the part about grandboss sucking). Hang up on your manager the next time he attempts to yell at you. You don’t have to sit and take anyone’s verbal abuse at work.

            2. pancakes*

              He can’t stop anyone from leaving a Zoom meeting, no, and the fact that he tried to anyhow strongly suggests that he is lacking self-control with regard to anger. He is seriously untrustworthy as a result, whether he does this strategically in a crude ploy to establish dominance or simply lacks impulse control. Agree that this needs to be escalated. DIY recordings are not necessary to do so.

          3. no sleep for the wicked*

            Do you have a recording option? When he starts to wind up next time, tell him you’re recording for HR puropses or whatever might strike a little fear.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      I agree with frog about speaking to your manager’s boss. Present it as “can you help me figure out a way to solve this problem?” rather than as “I’m telling on Manager.” Keep it simple. “Grandboss, I’m having issues communicating with Manager. In a meeting recently, he yelled at me/insulted me/insert other unprofessional behavior here, and the experience left me really shaken! I understand he’s under a lot of stress as we’re so short-staffed, and I understand I made an error in following protocols/checking my work/whatever he was angry about, but I’m now in a place where I’m so worried about him losing his temper again that I can’t communicate with him about things that are necessary for work. Can you help me find a way of resolving this?”

      Everyone gets upset and frustrated. Sometimes with good reason. But there’s no excuse for unprofessional behavior towards your reports.

    5. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      If you felt able to say this, state that you would like to record any zoom meetings where your manager is present given their behaviour towards you – nothing wrong with setting a clear line for yourself as they were out of line.

    6. Kay*

      Can you move to strictly email conversations for something you must discuss with him? It sounds like from other comments that you do a lot of Zoom, if he refuses email and requires Zoom, can you record them?

      I know you say Grandboss already knows, but can you go back to them with the added screaming and say you aren’t comfortable with any further Zoom meetings, and from here you will communicate via email unless they have other ideas? Or draft questions to be sent through a 3rd party?

      Yikes – and I hope this gets better for you!

  19. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    I am having one of those weeks where I just feel like I can’t do anything right. But one thing that is especially grating is that in my 1:1 with my new boss she brought up that at an in-person workshop last week between my team and another team we work closely with that “during a breakout session, someone felt that you were being negative.” It feels very weird to be tone-policed so vaguely, especially considering that the whole context of the workshop was to improve processes and the thing I was “negative” about was a pain point about communication across our team (I’m a pretty direct speaker, but I wasn’t rude or out of line). It’s also weird to me that “being negative” was worth a) complaining about and b) my boss and grand boss thinking it was worth bringing up with me to “address”. I pushed back during the conversation on the idea that being negative, especially given the context of the workshop, was necessarily a bad thing. We aren’t robots and nobody is going to be perfectly happy all of the time.
    Additional context – this was a meeting of 100% female presenting people including myself (a female presenting nonbinary person) (one male was attending via video call) and I’m pretty sure I’m the only neurodivergent person in the room.
    Am I wrong by being frustrated and weirded out by this?

    1. JelloStapler*

      Ugh I hate the vague “you were negative” feedback, especially when you don’t know what is was regarding or you were giving direct and constructive criticism that someone apparently did not want to hear.

      1. Pumat Sol*

        Weirdly, even though the description of events was very vague, I was able to pinpoint the exact conversation and the person who complained (we literally only had one breakout session). So I was able to drag the conversation into something with a semblance of value, but if I hadn’t been able to do that, I’d be extremely frustrated and confused (as opposed to my current level of moderate frustration).

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      How do they expect you to engage in problem solving if you’re not allowed to mention things that negatively impact the team and the work?

      1. pink fuzz*

        It’s often as simple as the difference between someone saying “this process is impacting our work in X way” versus “this process is terrible” or “I hate this process”. Tone-policing may be in play here, but also, sometimes more judicious choice of wording can negate the outcome that people label you as “negative” rather than comprehending that someone is talking factually and impartially about a pain point and not just b*tching.

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          That’s part of why I am frustrated – I used business appropriate language. I said essentially after discovering a process change I wasn’t notified of: “When did this change? Why wasn’t this communicated? You know, I’ve noticed this is a trend for our team. Something changes and the change isn’t communicated. I want to flag this as a pain point for me.” then I proceeded to give 1-2 more examples of when this pattern had occurred. Nowhere in my speaking did I say anything personal or really emotive beyond “I find this frustrating.”

          1. Anonymous Koala*

            So I don’t think you did anything wrong, but it sounds like your team / bosses are sensitive to the direct language and/or tone you used. If you want to express your frustration more circumspectly next time, you could say:

            “Oh, I didn’t know that had changed. I feel bad that I was out of the loop on that one. Is there a way we can put a process in place for notifying people of changes like this? I think I’ve experienced similar lapses in communication, like when we were working on X and Y. [Team lead], would it be possible to get a weekly update email summarizing process changes?”

            The language in the latter focuses on how you were affected by the problem (you didn’t know about X) and prompts discussions about a solution to the larger communication problem.

            1. Kay*

              Seconding this. While you didn’t necessarily say anything bad per se – if you had said something along the lines of “Oh no, I completely missed that change and have still been doing it the old way! Come to think of it, the same thing happened back when the policy changed from submitting required documentation from 10 days to 2 days (and we would incur a 100k fine per occurrence) and we nearly had a 5 million dollar fine, and that other insert really important need to know info or drastic consequence here – is there a better way we can make sure that all these policy updates are sent out to all members of the team in a timely fashion so this doesn’t happen in the future??” the way people respond to the two are usually very different.

              Now that you know people on your team, and your bosses, are sensitive to perceived criticism and tone, I would adjust accordingly.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      I don’t think so! I hate vague feedback, or feedback delivered from a third party without any inquiry into the original context or situation. And tone policing is one of the most irritating forms of feedback, since it’s so subjective and impossible to please everyone for. And coming from a new boss—who may not have much context for how I normally operate—would definitely make me irritated!

      From what you said, it may also may be the case that if it’s one of “those weeks,” you may be feeling it extra intensely—which doesn’t invalidate it at all! But it may be influencing the meaning you’re attaching to it. If it were a week where everything were coming up roses, do you sense it would have bothered you as much? If not, I’d take this moment as a data point as you move forward with the new boss, but try to chalk it up to “one of those weeks” for now. It may be a one-off, or it may be the beginning of a pattern. It’s really hard to tell right now.

      I hope your weekend turns the week around!

      (And, respectfully, your username made my day. <3)

      1. Pumat Sol*

        Thank you, this is a really helpful way to frame it to myself.
        (and I’m glad you like my username. I’ve been kind of waiting for another Critter to notice.)

    4. anonymous73*

      I would have asked my boss if they felt I was being negative. Nobody is happy 100% of the time, and pointing out issues is not being negative. It’s being realistic. Nothing is perfect, and bringing up issues is they way you work to resolve them.

      With that being said, I was in a situation a few jobs ago where I was unhappy. My boss came to me and told me that one of the new team members asked her why I was still there if I was so unhappy. That was a wake up call that I was complaining too much and I needed to make a change. So I would take some time to think and figure out if this is a pattern, or if it was just 1 blown out of proportion isolated incident.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        I’d say it’s just a one time thing – I’ve only been at the org 7 months and am generally pretty happy and satisfied with my job. I don’t complain often – but like I said, the meeting was literally to discuss our processes and flag places for improvement.

        1. anonymous73*

          Yeah that’s really odd. Maybe bring it up again and ask how they think you should have handled it? Maybe try and figure out the reasoning behind bringing it up at all.

    5. linger*

      “Negative” in the context of an attempt to improve processes could mean “only raised problems, without offering suggested solutions”. And maybe your boss is one of those “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” types who believes that approach saves time. But since that approach just as often prevents discussion that could lead to a solution, you’re not wrong.

      1. linger*

        (Admittedly, the phrase “personal pain point”, if that is an exact quote, probably should have been avoided.)

    6. Joielle*

      Ha! I got very similar feedback in a previous job, and my response was basically “Well yeah, I am fairly negative. I’m an attorney, it’s my job to identify potential problems and point them out so we can avoid being sued.” It was immensely frustrating. Like, sorry I’m good at my job, and my job is to tell you not to do things that are illegal, even (especially) if you really really want to do them.

      I know you didn’t ask for advice, but maybe you could try a similar tactic – point out that it’s part of your job to identify process improvements and ask questions about how they arose and how they could be improved. So you are very sorry to hear that this work was perceived as negative, but the questions still need to be answered.

    7. tessa*

      I think it’s ridiculous for your higher ups to use a single instance of perceived negativity to express concern. If there’s a pattern on that, fair enough, but this just sounds like you were being straightforward, which isn’t the same as negative.

      I think your situation resonates with me because I’m currently leaving a workplace where this kind of thing happens routinely. It’s mostly caused by slackers and people pleasers, and they pout over everything that isn’t sweetness and light. I love what I do, but it’s tough to be responsible for certain processes AS WELL AS other people’s susceptibility to being butt hurt if you don’t coddle with your words. Adults should be able to discuss things straightforwardly. It is just that simple.

      Again: patterns of behavior are what deserve the microscope. Not single instances.

  20. Rapunzel*

    Any advice on how to respond to male coworkers specifically apologizing to me (a young woman) when they swear in a group of coworkers where I am the only woman? From the context this is clearly not because they are swearing in a work environment (they are fine swearing in front of other male coworkers), but specifically because they don’t want to swear in front of a woman.

    I want a breezy response that doesn’t cause a major issue or continued conversation, but does potentially give them pause / may lead to some of them realizing that this is sexist. An example of the type of response I’m going for is “You too!” if a man compliments a woman on her handshake.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Ha! I’ve always just laughed and say, “Don’t apologize for that shit.” They laugh, and we all move on.

    1. lost academic*

      Maybe something like “I don’t think anyone was offended/bothered!” with a smile/laugh.

      This happens to me a LOT at client sites. It’s hard to get people past the way they were raised (to not swear in front of women/children, stuff like that). You have to walk the line between making a point that isn’t derailing with the breeze, and actually being heard. And you have to be comfortable with not likely moving that needle.

      1. Rapunzel*

        I love this idea! It gets across the “surprised”/”confused”/”why are you apologizing?” without actually asking the question. And it subtly points out that they’re apologizing specifically to me, even though we’re in a larger group of people. I’m going to try this next time, with a surprised but friendly smile.

    2. ShysterB*

      When this has happened to me, I’ve at times used something like, “Oh, don’t worry about me, I curse like a stevedore” (and I do, I really really do) or simply respond (if possible) with a light-hearted joke about how there’s no effing offense taken by me.

      There have been occasions, though, where the person(s) in question have been the sort where I’ve wanted to return the awkward to sender, and I just look at them, confused, and asked them why they’re apologizing to the only woman in the room.

    3. Macaroni Penguin*

      You could respond with a swear word of your own. Like, “Why the **** are you apologizing?” If said in an amused tone, this can come off as very friendly like. But I find it only works if swear words are part of your normal vocabulary. Swearing isn’t part of my typical speech, so here are some phrases I’ve used.
      “Please speak normally, I’m not offended.”
      “Don’t stop swearing just because I’m a woman.”
      “Why are you apologizing?”
      “My ears!” *dramatic pearl clutching* “Dude, seriously. Just be yourself “

    4. Burnout*

      Lived in the south. Military spouse. I found a laugh to be the most effective along with a casual:
      – no delicate ears here!
      – married to the military, it’d take more than that to offend me!
      – you’d have to try much harder to offend me!
      – scandalous!

      You could also pretend to gasp and clutch pearls and then totally laugh it off like they’re being a bit precious.

      It’s usually something about their cultural upbringing and being casual is fine to assure them you’re not going to be offended or tell their grandma.

    5. Littorally*

      A lighthearted “Oh, I don’t f**kin mind!” tends to get the point across without getting people defensive. Whether or not it will make anyone rethink their attitudes is a different question, but in my experience, challenging someone’s worldview without putting them on the defensive is an extremely fine needle to thread.

      1. JelloStapler*

        I do this if I know the person relatively well and know they have a good sense of humor. I may tone it down to “I don’t give a d*mn!” though. LOL!

    6. Ashley*

      I typically throw in if you apologize for swearing in front of me it means I will feel bad swearing in front of you.
      If you want to be more overt you can call him out for only apologizing to you.
      Other times I have just sworn in hearing range of others so they know I won’t be offended.

    7. Stephivist*

      Now sure if this is the kind of response you are looking for (I’m not sure it would make anyone think), but I’ve used “Ahh [swear equal to what they’ve used], don’t worry about me.” It always took care of it and put everyone at ease.

    8. Artemesia*

      I don’t recommend this unless you know your room but I had one colleague who did this a lot, and finally said. “Well, F#$k Charlie, I’ve used the damn term myself but it is probably offensive to someone here and would probably be really offensive to some of the clients.” I got tired of being the only woman in the room and having this kind of constant undertone of sexism.

    9. Laney Boggs*

      “Don’t apologize on my account.”

      “I’m not bothered by that.”

      “Why are you sorry/what are you apologizing for?” Feels a bit confrontational to me, but something with a similar meaning and toned quizzically could do it too.

    10. Dark Macadamia*

      “Shit, who cares?”

      This is so obnoxious. Presumably they’re not taking off their hats, standing when you enter a room, or IDK bowing and kissing your hand as a greeting, so why aren’t they aware the norms for Coarse Language Amongst The Fairer Sex have changed too?

    11. LadyByTheLake*

      I sometimes say (in a breezy tone) “are you apologizing to me because you think I’m a delicate flower? I guess you don’t know me yet.” — then laugh.

    12. DarthVelma*

      Ask them if they’re apologizing for the swearing or their sexism.

      Ok, probably more confrontational than you like.

      Maybe go with a nonchalant “whatthefuckever dude”.

    13. RagingADHD*

      I have usually made a joke, like “Lan’ sakes, pass me my smelling salts!”

      Or gone oblivious (often sincerely) because I didn’t hear / register the swear in the first place. “Sorry for what? What are you talking about? Did I miss something?”

      1. Just a different redhead*

        I’m on this page as a great approach when swearing is occasional / is not religiously-oriented. I like doing a good overdramatic “Oh, my! How shocking!” with a smile.

        Tbh though for whatever reasons I do get really bothered (i.e. involuntary discomfort/emotion spiking that continues until I and the circumstances part ways) if swearing is frequent / continuous or does invoke those who are of religious importance to me personally, so more often than not my usual response when an apology ends up happening is “Ah, thanks” while looking sheepish, without considering whether it’s because I’m a woman or not; though I have the additional yardstick of there being other women here and knowing that the apologies are towards me as an individual. (Some even from the other women XD )

    14. SnappinTerrapin*

      FWIW, I’m embarrassed when I slip and cuss in a business meeting, whether men or women are present. With my upbringing, it’s exacerbated if a woman is present. No apologies for that. It’s the way I am, and isn’t intended to mistreat anyone. To the contrary, I want all interactions to be respectful.

      Having said that, I’m not always consistent in how I handle my embarrassment. I might apologize, or I might brazen it out and pretend nobody noticed or cared. After all, sometimes it is possible to make too big a deal of that.

      A different context from Rapunzel, since she noticed a pattern of her colleagues treating her differently.

      The casual, breezy responses strike me as appropriate.

  21. Career Counselor?*

    I know it’s a long shot but does anyone in the NYC area know a good career counselor? Especially for people wanting to change careers from book publishing?

    1. bookperson*

      Not a career counselor but I’m someone who successfully transitioned out of book publishing — any questions I can answer? I was in the industry for 5+ years and was in editorial.

      1. Career Counselor?*

        Yes! What did you go into and how did you find a new career? I’m at a loss for how to start. I’m in production editorial.

        1. bookperson*

          Production editorial like managing ed? If so, I think those skills would translate amazingly to project manager jobs anywhere — if you want to keep doing tracking and managing the work of people who don’t report to you! I had great respect for my colleagues on that team — also may have worked where you do as we also called them production editors! Hello to any friends who might read AAM and know who I am from this post… And if not managing ed, what is your work like?

          I did some thinking about what field I was interested in moving to and where I would learn the most, did a bunch of informational interviews with people who were friends of friends in that field, and got a job at a small nonprofit where I had a loose connection. I learned a lot there but eventually ended up deciding to go to grad school and my grad school connections helped me get my first job after grad school, which gave me the resume to get my next job without any networking. I’m still using my writing and editing and task and project management skills all the time and I’m making more than I would have in publishing (and I no longer live in NYC).

          All this to say — you have so many transferable skills, you just have to figure out where you want to use them. The informational interviews are a good way to learn about fields you might be interested in and what the kind of work you want to do is called in that field. Definitely use all of Allison’s resume and cover letter tips to show how your experience connects — again assuming managing ed, keeping people across many teams, and many projects, on task and on time, while meeting external vendor deadlines is *huge*. Throw in the pressure of big name authors and rush jobs and you can show you are a proven calm-in-the-storm colleague. Also you are probably great with various systems and databases and new jobs are always thrilled when you aren’t intimidated by learning whatever (often ancient and complicated) system they’re using.

          Grad school worked for me because I was able to keep it relatively low cost — different approaches to that include state schools, getting a job at a university for tuition benefits, going somewhere where your background/credentials are unique and tuition scholarships are offered. But I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t keeping my loans down, and I’m glad I did the pivot for a job before applying for grad school as that helped clarify what I wanted to study.

          Hope some of this helps and will check back.

          1. Career Counselor?*

            Thank you for writing such a great answer! There’s a lot of good information in there.

            Production editors are similar to managing editors, I think. I’m not sure I want to keep tracking people though! I think it comes back to figuring out what else I might be interested in and I’m having trouble with that part.

            1. bookperson*

              Totally hear you — I was doing a lot of tracking in a previous job and I’m glad to have that piece reduced. Are you still pretty early in your career? (Apologies if this advice is not helpful for the stage you’re at.) It could be worthwhile to do some informational interviews with folks in marketing, publicity, sales, operations — even if you ultimately want to leave publishing, those are all roles that other organizations have and you could get a sense of the kind of work they do. I’ve found that for me I need to like the day-to-day work and care about the mission, so understanding what the tasks other roles do is key. (I enjoyed reading manuscripts and writing editorial letters but that was not how I spent all my time, and I needed more novelty/chance to build new skills in my work looking down the road at a career.)

              If you’re within the first 5 years of your career I would check out any early career groups available to you, in house or in the industry — the AAP’s YPG and the CBC’s ECC both hosted a lot of events, not sure where they are now with COVID. Networking in the industry might open doors to jobs you weren’t aware of that are a better fit, and you never know if the person you just met on Zoom might have a friend who works in a totally different industry you’re interested in who will chat with you.

              I will also say that I moved over to the nonprofit/government sector because I couldn’t see myself working on products that weren’t books. That’s just me, though! Someone gave me the advice to pay attention to what you enjoy reading and learning about and that helped some. Also think about what culture you want to be part of and don’t take for granted the parts of publishing culture you like — I’ve had a job or two where people didn’t seem to read for pleasure and that just felt wrong. Oh! And if you are already freelancing on the side and like it, or you can get that gig going before you leave, do it — there are many former publishing people who still copy edit/proofread/write/edit after leaving and it’s a nice way to make some money and keep a toe in the industry (and sometimes involves free books! You will miss the free books when you leave!!).

              Good luck!!

              1. bookperson*

                Last thing (probably) — LinkedIn 2nd degree connections are your friend, especially in the small world that is NYC! Want to work at Google? Somebody you know probably knows someone there. (And even 3rd degree can work if the person who knows someone who knows someone is a good friend of yours willing to talk you up to their 2nd degree connection!)

                1. Career Counselor?*

                  Thank you for coming back! Good info but I’m 15 years into my career so it would be more of a shift. Any chance you have any advice knowing that? (You’re really good at this!)

                2. bookperson*

                  You’re very kind! I enjoy doing this for other people (someday maybe I’ll figure out some way to coach!). I was aiming for publishing through college so when I realized I wanted to change I was at sea and it’s easier to chart courses for others than myself!

                  I would think you’d have (unfortunately!) the easiest time transitioning to a project manager role outside the industry, especially if you looked into the official certifications. But there are so many jobs that need those skills and aren’t project manager jobs, so it’s definitely about finding an industry/org you’re interested in. If you have tuition remission look into whether you can use it to try out a course or two (if you have time!). I wouldn’t discount grad school – for certain programs you’d be an interesting candidate because your background is atypical and you have practical working experience while a lot of Master’s degree programs attract 22 year olds, so you might be able to swing funding. Definitely look at higher ed project manager and administrator jobs — not exec assistant unless that’s interesting to you, but there are lots of roles that need good communicators and people who know how to manage up — and you could then use tuition benefits to get more skills/try new areas.

                  Our timelines overlap so there’s a nonzero chance we worked together and at the least we probably know people in common. I just made a burner email – username+current year, gmail— if you want to reach out and connect, and will then switch to real email.

                  Either way, you’ve got this! Good luck!

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Maybe take a step through technical publications–similar but corporate. And then move to managing something different with that company/industry.

        1. bookperson*

          See above but, writing writing writing. I had a couple jobs in grad school and my writing was always a huge asset. You know how to write calm, focused, professional emails to get information out of people? You will use that skill in every job you have and you will realize not everyone has it. You’re good at breaking things down into steps and making sure people understand it? Also very helpful. Relatedly — time management!

  22. Excel Jedi*

    So, I have a dilemma:

    I just got an offer for a job making about 30% more than my current job, for less responsibility, at a nationally known nonprofit. I’d be working with a great team, with tools that I find genuinely fun to work with, on really wonderful projects that will have real social impact. On paper, it’s a no brainer.

    I’ve just been moved to a new team at my current job though, and I have such high hopes for the TYPE of work I’ll be able to do there. I’ll be on more creative projects, which will tie in much closer to my degrees and to my passion. My social impact will be a bit less direct, but I’ll be stretching myself in new ways, and getting into the kind of work that my resume doesn’t set me up for yet. I’ll be breaking into a niche I’ve wanted to get into for a long time. But I’ll never be paid at market rate at this particular nonprofit.

    How do you weigh these pros and cons? Are there strategies for this decision making?

    1. Voodoo Priestess*

      Two things: First, find someone you trust and explain this all to them. Get their opinion and then pay attention to your reaction. Are you in agreement or are you trying to justify the other choice? Are you trying to sell either one? That’s the one you want.

      Separately, think through each scenario: First where you take the new job, next where you don’t. Take time when you’re by yourself and undisturbed and really play it out: first day, things to accomplish, unknowns, etc. Which is more exciting? Which makes you feel regret? Sometimes listening to your gut/heart/intuition instead of looking at the logical pro/con list is what you really need.

      Good luck!

    2. Ariaflame*

      Have you tried the coin flip/dice roll method? As in flip the coin or roll the dice to determine what you go for, and then ignore the result. In general you will find that if you do have a built in preference, this will be made clear when you make the choice dependent on random chance, because either it will come out as what you want and you will find that you’re happy, or it will come out as what you don’t want and you will notice that you were unhappy with the toss. Either way it helps you determine what your preference is.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      I think a lot of comes down to personal stuff on these things. Will that 30% raise make a significantly measurable difference to your life? (i.e. max out retirement benefits, save for a house, whack away student loan debt, etc). Also, if you pass on this opportunity, are there any particular negative benefits like it being a black mark to your reputation? Also, will the raise perhaps allow you to give back in some fashion to the non-profit you’d be leaving and allow you to get some fulfillment that way?

    4. Camelid coordinator*

      I agree with all the advice to try on each and see how you feel. Imagining yourself telling other people each one of those decisions. Are you excited and happy or slightly disappointed?

      My concern about staying where you are is that your decision would be based on the new position at current place’s potential and not on anything you know for sure. I also wonder where you are in your career. If you have twenty years left you might prefer to get into the more creative work now since you’ll enjoy it more in the long run. If you are looking at 5-10 years to retirement you might want to think about socking away money while you can and take the higher-paying position.

      1. TGI(February)*

        This was my thought. How will you feel if you stay on in this role and the potential you saw doesn’t pan out? You’re still going to be underpaid and know you passed up guaranteed improvement in your situation. Can you live with it (genuine question) knowing you rolled the dice and lost, or would you feel utterly betrayed? I tend to believe that once you’re at the level where these roles are open to you, it’s unlikely to be your only chance – meaning in another year you could get another similar offer if you wanted – but there are no guarantees.

    5. Purple Cat*

      You say you won’t be paid market rate at this nonprofit for the niche work – is there possibility for higher pay of the niche work somewhere else? And how likely is the “high hopes” to actually play out?
      I’m very pragmatic, so higher pay for less responsibility for work you really enjoy is hard to give up. More money and less stress (presumably) to enjoy your “life” more… But on the other hand, if you think 20 years down the road you’ll really regret not giving this niche a chance and you wouldn’t be able to break into it later….

      I would do a list of pros/cons, but think of it as worst-case if you stay or switch, and then best case if you stay/switch. What might you regret and what can be done (or undone) later.

    6. anonymous73*

      I would make a list of the things that are important to you in reference to your career, as well as personal things that are affected by your career (commute, work-life balance, etc.). For each important thing on your list, make a pro/con list for each job. When you see everything written out in front of you, the choice will probably be clearer. If it’s not, have a trusted friend/SO/relative go through the list with you and talk it out.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Whatever the 30% salary difference comes out to, would you pay that to go back to school for a certificate in this niche? Is it worth the tuition?

      What is the upside on salary for the niche, and who is paying? How likely is it that you could get one of those jobs?

      If you invested the extra 30%, how long would it take before your earnings at a new job in the niche would catch up to the money you passed up?

      If there are no better-paid jobs in the niche, or if they are unattainably competitive, how long are you willing to work underpaid in order to do cool stuff?

      Sometimes people choose cool jobs for less money, permanently. If thats what you want, great. If it’s not what you want, you need to assess how realistic your timeline is for making the switch.

    8. ecnaseener*

      Ah, I just did this! If you’re a list/table type of decision-maker, here’s what I used:

      Column 1: Factor I care about (salary, benefits, management, type of work, amount of variety, etc.)
      Column 2: brief summary of how good that thing is at my current job (and in your case, include the potential for your new team but be clear what’s a hope and what’s a relative certainty)
      Column 3: how good I expect the thing would be at new job
      Column 4: bottom line, which job is better in this factor? (“new job would probably be better,” “I’m risking losing something great for an unknown,” “shrug emoji”
      Column 5: importance [low, medium, high]
      Column 6: numerical score (positive score = points toward new job, negative score = points toward old job, zero = no real difference), scaled by importance. (So a high-importance factor has scores of +3 to -3, medium +2 to -2, low +1 to -1. I didn’t bother with half points or anything, but I gave some high-importance factors a smaller score than 3 if the improvement would be small or uncertain.)

      The math part may or may not be helpful for you, but considering each factor one by one was really helpful.

  23. Lemon Ginger Tea*

    Good news from the land of job hunting– I received and accepted a job offer this week!! It’s a new industry for me after 10 years working in law firms. The new job is remote (current job is not), about a 20% raise, more PTO, and perhaps most importantly there’s good potential for career growth within the new company. I’m so excited!
    I applied to about 150 postings mostly through LinkedIn, had about 6 interviews with different companies, and it’s been about 2 months since I started seriously applying.

  24. This is Fine Meme = Me*

    Just wanted to vent a little. I’ve been at my current job for some time now but keep to myself because I prefer to separate work and personal life. But my coworkers are the complete opposite! They know all about each other’s affairs, sex lives, alcoholism, and other very personal problems – more personal than the ones I’ve listed. Compared to other people who openly share this information, I’ve revealed only the bare minimum of personal info and am not well liked like the oversharers. I’d like to be well liked professionally to build up political capital but talking about my dating life and personal struggles is really not how I want to do that! Unfortunately, that seems to be the only way of doing that, from what I’ve observed… It’s an all around weird place to work at and I don’t plan to stay here, so I’m just collecting stories to entertain my friends with.

    1. Artemesia*

      Can you think about an area of your life that is not deeply personal that you could overshare? A hobby, a cultural interests, a sport you do, a pet, an organization you participate in — so that you can blather on about your weekend, your trials and tribulations training your dog etc without touching on your sex life, religion or other highly personal areas.

      1. This Is Fine Meme = Me*

        Oh I certainly have! Hobbies, tv shows, etc are exactly the things that my colleagues already know about me. However the conversation can abruptly change to inappropriate topics. I’ve tried some of Alison’s scripts by brushing off the weird questions with “oh I don’t want to talk about that hahaha” and similar phrases but they are not received well. Sometimes this place makes me feel like I’m on a prank show!

        1. Fran Fine*

          It’s time to start making stuff up, lol. Create a character, give that character a backstory, and then the next time your boundary-crossing coworkers try to drag you into these types of conversations, you’ll have material. They’ll get their drama and gossip fill (just make sure nothing you make up can damage you don’t professionally) and you’ll get included when it’s time for actual important work conversations/decisions. Win/win.

          (And if you’re morally opposed to lying, just think of this as acting while you look for another job with a more professional environment.)

    2. 867-5309*

      Can you find some safe topics to talk about? Like your love of dogs or a hobby? That way you can contribute but aren’t delving into highly personal territory?

    3. clownfish*

      No advice from my corner, just solidarity. I’m in a very similar workplace – a casual conversation between coworkers not long ago was “what would you say your biggest regret is?” Got some cold shoulders after declining to share, but what on earth are you supposed to say to something like that at work??

    4. BRR*

      Would it work to ask them more about themselves? People love to talk about themselves and I imagine oversharers especially do.

    5. SnappinTerrapin*

      I don’t even want to know what is even “more personal than the ones (you) listed.”

      Hang in there. Be an island of sanity in your little bay of oversharing.

  25. Voodoo Priestess*

    I’ve posted here a couple of times about a young engineer that has been driving me bonkers. Her work is mediocre, but she can’t take feedback and it’s a huge pattern of her not addressing issues, requiring 3+ reminders to finish tasks, and spending more energy on coming up with excuses than focusing on improving. After 2 years on the job (and with an advanced degree) she requires as much hand-holding as a mid-college intern with no degree or experience. She’s exhausting. After raising concerns with her directly (multiple times), and with her manager (I’m her task lead), things blew up in an overly dramatic way, including involving our chief engineer and group director. Group Director received a cold email the same day praising this engineer as “highly talented” and telling Director he should give her “all of your most complex work.” Simultaneously, she was complaining that I was being “unfair” and “not holding anyone else to these standards”. (Side note: she’s the only person on the job I’m managing and also the only person with <10 years of experience.) After that, she started questioning all of my technical feedback and asking to get another senior engineer's (male) opinion when I was the task lead. It got to where I was taking screen shots of conversations and time stamps on files because she was lying, and documenting everything through email and notes on my hard drive. I was concerned she was already telling everyone that I was being mean and changing the narrative so she was/is the victim.

    Well, fast forward to this week and I had nothing to worry about. I had a check-in with Director and a few things have happened. 1) Our task is being extended but she's being taken off the job due to performance and drama (phew) and 2) I found out she was removed from a previous project for the same reasons and two other projects all said her work was "OK" but she required a lot of hand holding and no one enjoyed working with her. I thought some of the issues were that she has a PhD and I don't, but they had her under a PhD earlier and he's the one who kicked her off his job. I brought up my concerns that she was painting me as unfair/demanding/mean and I've experienced this before. (I'm a woman in the technical part of a male-dominated engineering profession. It's difficult being a competent woman.) My manager reassured me that everyone she has talked to enjoys working with me and I am known for doing excellent quality work. She said this Engineer has done a lot of damage to herself and no one will take her criticisms seriously. I don't think this Engineer realizes how much she's damaged her reputation in her first job out of college.

    My stress level has significantly improved. Now I'm just counting the days until she's done on my project and she becomes someone else's problem to deal with. I expect to have her roll off in the next 1-2 weeks. We have 2 other young engineers that will step in for final design and they are both excellent to work with.

      1. Anonymous Luddite*

        Eh, I have a department of this type of engineer. In our case, it requires the department lead to have a functioning vertebra or two.

      2. Voodoo Priestess*

        Excellent question! Best I can tell, my company rarely fires someone unless it’s completely egregious or illegal activity. The rumors I’ve heard was that there were multiple (frivolous) wrongful termination lawsuits years ago and they have decided it is cheaper to manage someone out (get them to quit on their own) rather than terminate. It was expensive to deal with the lawsuit, even though the firing was justified.

        We also have several layers of management and a very conflict-avoidant culture. Sometimes the managers/directors really aren’t aware how bad things are because the task leads don’t want to say anything negative. And it’s pretty often that people who aren’t doing well also don’t get clear and direct feedback. This site has been a huge help to me for managing others. Prior to this mess, my last team of 3 young engineers are said they felt I communicated expectations and schedule clearly, so the always knew where they stood and what to do. I took that as a huge compliment! (They were a great team, too!)

      3. Voodoo Priestess*

        There’s one other thing at play, which is her visa. I was told work visas are renewed annually, so in situations like this, the company will usually wait to take action until after the visa has been renewed to give them time to find a new job here in the US without visa issues. (Do not rely on any of this information; it’s hearsay and I did not verify if it’s true.)

        My director sounded really frustrated. She came highly recommended by a senior person, so there’s some internal politics as well. It seems messy, all around.

    1. JelloStapler*

      So happy to hear this! Take a nice big deep breath and enjoy the weight off of your shoulders. Sounds like she is digging herself a sizable hole.

      1. Voodoo Priestess*

        If she hadn’t already burned the bridge, I would try to explain this to her, assuming she’s young and unaware. However, I’ve decided I can’t be more invested in her career than she is and I’m washing my hands of it.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Yikes! That’s so surprising that it’s someone with a PhD needing so much direction and guidance. Most people with PhD’s I know only ask their advisor (and now their supervisor) things as a last resort — which can be a problem of its own.

  26. Mbarr*

    I’m annoyed, but I also acknowledge that I don’t have the right to be annoyed.

    After a meeting with my manager yesterday, I sent an email with a 3 row table, listing all their takeaways. One row of the table included, “As discussed, here’s the scathing review about X sent by Y.” (My manager wanted to discuss the review with my peer who is responsible for X.)

    My manager replied with a warning that I shouldn’t use the word “scathing” in my notes. “What if I didn’t vet the notes and forwarded it to peer?” I know my manager is right. And I know I’m in the wrong here. But a) maybe make sure you read what I send you? and b) “Scathing” was a description of the review, not of my peer’s work. The peer gets lots of good reviews, and this was an outlier, which is why my manager wanted to investigate/talk with them.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      You might just chalk this up as reminding yourself that face-to-face communications are different from those that are written down.

      Also, your defense (a) doesn’t really work. Sure, he could read it right when you send it, recognize that your use of the word ‘scathing’ means this should be confidential, etc. But 2 months later he might have to dig into his email archives, not remember that you used a loaded word, and forward it on to somebody that might result in embarrassment and hard feelings all around. Better not to write down a loaded word like that in the first place. Written records last forever.

    2. Loulou*

      Writing an email that can be forwarded easily is a simple thing you can do to make your colleagues’ life easier. Yes, they should check before forwarding to make sure the contents are appropriate, but that’s also an unecessary step that can be eliminated if you just…don’t editorialize in the first place.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Every work-related communication should always be worded in terms that could be forwarded to anyone in the organization. You never, ever know what is going to get bcc’ed to whom, or who might accidentally forward it to someone they (or you) never anticipated being in the discussion.

      The words concerning, critical, negative, or just “the outlier review you wished to discuss” would all serve your purpose in this context.

      The more neutral your professional communications usually are, the more impact you’ll get from charged words when you really need them.

  27. AC4Life*

    Dear Ask A Manager, I never thought this would happen to me…. Male coworker on a peer team presented my deck outlining target state reporting for our new data strategy to our grand boss, and then to our great grand boss, after his deck was rejected as basic. Luckily, his manager thanked me for the deck beforehand tipping me off. My boss went full M@$$hole on them, crashed the meeting with great grand boss, made darn sure everyone knew it was my work, and blocked anyone else from speaking. I work in financial services and this is the first time I’ve felt like someone was a true ally.
    Yes, I’m applying to other jobs.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I think it’s great that your boss has your back. If you otherwise enjoy your work, do you want to leave a job in which your manager goes to bat for you?

      If these kinds of problems are prevalent, it might be worth having a candid conversation with your boss about them. You like the work and you’re good at it, you like working with Boss, but these kinds of issues create a negative environment. What can we do about them? Explore options. If nothing changes, then look for something else.

      1. AC4Life*

        Life is grand now, but if he decides he’s had enough and bounces things will get very ugly very fast.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I think it’s good that you’re keeping that in mind. It’s great that your boss is standing up for you, but if you’ve only got one person in leadership you can count on, it absolutely makes sense to look at other options.

    2. Anonying*

      It sounds like you have a great management team that truly had your back and made sure you received due credit for your work, and publicly so. Jerk coworkers are a dime a dozen, but those two managers are harder to find.

  28. Middle Name Jane*

    I’ve worked at a small non-profit for just over a year, and I’ve been miserable for months. The workload is heavy on everyone, and I’m burning out. I’m not new to non-profits, but this one is dysfunctional. The benefits are terrible (even by non-profit standards), and I’m not getting any support from my manager.

    I’ve tried Alison’s tips to talk with my manager about my workload, such as “I can do A and B, but not C. Or if C is really important, I’d want to move A off my plate to make room for it. Alternately, I can act as an advisor to Jane on C, but I can’t do the work of C myself if I’m also doing A and B.”

    Instead, I just get more work and more projects assigned to me. There is no such thing as a slow time of year at this organization, and I don’t see the workload easing up in the foreseeable future.

    I’m already job hunting, but what can I do in the meantime to ease my stress when management won’t listen to us about the unsustainable amount of work we have? I can’t go on working late every day and waking up at 3 a.m. in a panic about stuff that isn’t getting done.

    1. Violet*

      Wow, Middle Name Jane. You sound like me a year ago. Wait, did you fill my role when I left? I am so, so sorry anyone has to work there.

      In my opinion, there isn’t much one can do except keep job searching. That will come to fruition. And keep your non-work life pleasant. Really nourish yourself in your time off. Take a vacation! I did that and it was magical. (I also interviewed while on vacation.)

      Know you are worth more and that place is crazy. Maybe invest in some therapy afterward. There will be an afterward, I promise you.

      1. TGI(February)*

        Yep. Lifelong nonprofit worker. Take every inch of leave you can before you leave assuming it’s not paid out. Stress is an illness so use all your sick leave. Remind yourself you’re leaving any day now and these things are not going to be your problem in six months. Do the best you can with what you’ve got and then clock out without guilt at the end of your work day. Nonprofits eat their own young when they can.

    2. Ariaflame*

      Lack of good management on their part should not constitute an emergency on yours. What are the consequences if you limit what you do, to what is reasonable to do? Are they likely to fire you and then have to find a replacement? If they did, would you be secretly relieved?

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I think it’s time to stop presenting options, and simply flatly state what you can and can’t do: “X and Y are due this week. I have no bandwidth for any additional tasks or projects, and will not be taking on or responding to anything new until they are done.” If management isn’t willing to reassign or simply accept that you’ll get to it next Monday at the earliest, that’s management’s problem.

    3. Important Moi*

      I would suggest seeking a relaxation activity not related to job or your job duties. Most importantly, what ever it is you find relaxing, do it and lean in. Just remember – nothing is to mundane, no sophisticated enough, too sophisticated or out of your reach to do. (Wording is based on things that have been said to me.) I’ve found that really leaning in to activities that have NOTHING to do with my job or job duties help my peace of mind.

    4. Girasol*

      I had a boss who couldn’t prioritize and did not set deadlines. Cycling through her list of demands turned out to be the answer. She’d say “Your number one priority is A!” but I would hardly start before she’d say, “I need B first!” and then, “Put that aside! C is Big Boss’s hot button!” and then “Get D out of the way before anything else!” So I’d be working on D and she’d say, “Where are you on A? I told you that was your top priority!” So each day I’d cycle through the list, pushing each effort forward just far enough to be able to claim progress if she asked, and moving on to the next. I could say, “I took this step on A and I’m waiting for a reply from Bob, I filed a form on B, there’s a meeting planned for the C team, and I’m researching D now.” It’s an inefficient way to work – everything is moving at a snail’s pace – but it seemed to make her happy. Could your boss possibly be satisfied this way?

    5. Cold Fish*

      I’m not trying to add stress or be mean but I think you are forgetting the second half of Alison’s tip… letting things fail. Doing A & B and letting C sit there. Put in your 8 hours and leave, even if only A gets done. The worst they can do is fire you and like Ariaflame asks, would getting fired be a relief? Most of the time, fearing the fall is worse than the fall itself. But management isn’t going to change unless they feel the pain.

      (Constant stress and lack of sleep will often magnify problems in my mind. I struggle with this but find it very helpful when I’m stressed… take a deep breath and tell myself “I can only do what I can do.” )

      1. All Het Up About It*

        Yes. If you can’t keep working late every night – stop working late every night! I know that can be scary, but having worked in similar places and fields, you’re unlikely to get real backlash. (You’re also unlikely to get real support.) But failure also tends to highlight real deadlines opposed to “would be nice” deadlines and real priorities.

        Also – I also find I’m more likely to have middle of the night anxiety if I’m afraid I’m forgetting something. Sometimes just having a list of all the projects helps, because I know I’m not forgetting to do X, I’m just prioritizing A and B first.

        Good luck!

    6. Gumby*

      What would happen if you just stopped working late every day? Right now the workload is a problem for you. It isn’t a problem for your manager because you are protecting her from facing the consequences of assigning an unreasonable workload.

      If your manager won’t tell you what the priorities are when you ask, you could switch to a “Looking at my task list of A, B, and C, my sense is that A is the most important so that is where I will be putting the bulk of my effort for now unless you tell me that the priorities should be different.” Then work reasonable hours, do your best, and then stop working. Leave things undone. If you keep handling the massive workload they have no incentive to change. Make the price to your manager of not hiring more people/reducing the workload larger than “oh, I just have to listen to a few complaints but it will all get done.”

    7. All Het Up About It*

      It might be a little extreme, but just don’t work late. Don’t finish everything on time. Especially if you’ve had the conversations of, I can’t do X, Y, and Z. It’s a little scary, because it feels like you are going to get in trouble, and maybe you will, but maybe you’ll come to find out that that the reward for staying late every day is more work and the reward for not being a rockstar, is that you get to have a life. Sometimes, I’ve found that I stress myself out far more than the people around or above me. I get that it’s a risk, but your mental health is important, especially as you try and job hunt and find something more viable.

      Good luck!

    8. beach read*

      The company I used to work for was notoriously bad with providing adequate staffing in their offices. It was the number one issue brought up at every meeting. At one point I was doing the job of 3 people and quite failing at it, well, because, you know, I’m not 3 people. The stress of working under such conditions was awful. What finally made a difference to my state of mind was to ask myself, why was I getting myself so sick over it when the company was CHOOSING to keep the office without staff? If the staffing level was not acceptable to them, they would have changed the staffing level. I am not the CEO of The Company! Who was I to question them as to how they wanted to run their business? I did my due diligence in explaining what staff we needed and did my follow ups with my boss for status, what more could I do? I did my best and worked hard every day. You can’t change the status quo but you can change your attitude towards it.

  29. what are my weaknesses : self-review*

    Review time! What do people put for the ‘weakness’ or ‘needs improvement’ part of their self-review? I’m a late-career engineer, and I do the best I can. If there were an area that I knew needed work, I’d do it.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I put technical things, like “learn Sharepoint” or “Learn SQL” and then ask for the $$ to take a class.

      I know some people put things like “Become a better public speaker” and use “join Toastmasters” as the action plan.

      That is, I put goals that can be measured and are not about my personality.

      1. Teal Fish*

        This is the approach I take, as someone also in the middle of my career and also highly proactive about professional development. I think about what would be interesting to me, what do I wish my company would pay for me to do, and put that down as my development goal. Think of it less like a “weakness” and more just like “these are my continuing education goals for this year.”

    2. Lady Danbury*

      I would encourage you to do further reflection. Everyone has weaknesses (none of us are perfect!) and if you can’t identify any than lack of self-awareness might be one! Do you have any trusted colleagues, mentors, past bosses/coworkers or even friends/family that you can talk too? What about action areas from past reviews? You can’t address your weaknesses if you aren’t even aware of them. As a manager, I’d be concerned if an employee gave a PR answer if I expected honest self-reflection.

    3. beach read*

      Gotta love review time! I typically mention time management as weaknesses. If you really don’t think you have any, go with N/A.

  30. BEC Mode*

    I wrote last Friday about Beatrice, a new hire who is overstepping her boundaries and authority.

    We work in audit and I found out on Monday that she has been reviewing and approving financial reporting controls.

    For those not in audit, this is like having the authority to approve purchases up to $500 but instead stepping in and approving purchases in the $50,000 range.

    And, in this case, it would be like approving a $50,000 cashier’s check that was going to be handed to fraudsters. Because the controls she approved as “All good, no problems,” did in fact have problems. Big ones. They shouldn’t have been approved.

    So not only was she operating outside of her job role, she got it wrong.

    The manager who caught the errors told me about them. I said, “I kinda get the impression that Beatrice thinks she is already a manager.” The Real Manager replied, “You’re not the first person to make that observation. Others have noticed it as well.”

    In my company, that just means that Beatrice will be asked/told to dial it down a bit, while being complimented for being a Go-Getter. [eye roll]

    1. Mockingjay*

      I’m cringing as I write this, but if you are the one who is catching Beatrice’s errors, maybe let her fail?

      Assuming that there won’t be blowback on you, of course. I’m guessing you are the one who has to step in and fix her blunders. Might be worth a convo with Real Manager to ensure you don’t get stuck with Beatrice’s problems in addition to your own work, or that her errors won’t be counted against you as a memeber of the Audit Department.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Nevermind, I reread it and saw that it was Real Manager who caught the problem this time. But still, do her mistakes reflect on you and the department?

      2. BEC Mode*

        No, I’m not the one catching the errors. A manager did. The manager told me about it. The manager is an Audit Manager and is the person who *should* have been approving the control testing.

        I am not having to fix Beatrice’s blunders, and I would be the loudest squeaky wheel in the company if I were.

    2. pancakes*

      Yikes! A person who steps this far out of their bounds and into the audit process can be a real liability.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yikes!! That can expose your company to some serious liability if it’s not curbed.

      If she does get the “go getter” treatment, you might want to think about looking for a new job, because that kind of thing can sink a company and make people who worked there look bad.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m not familiar with auditing, but it seems like something that should have controls so that employees would need certain permission levels to do various things. Not defending Beatrice but curious how she could approve those items in the first place

      1. Xenia*

        I am an auditor and I literally cringed back from the computer when I read that. There are at least three things wrong here: controls are being improperly applied (signing off on a check as OK when it’s really not out of incompetence/laziness/malice), insufficient IT and/or security controls (someone who is not a check signer getting access to check signing duties), and a lack of management backing for having good control procedures (she’s being told to dial it down rather than getting the “you’re opening us up to fraud, knock it off or you’ll be fired” talk). It’s good that the manager caught it, but this would be the sort of thing that if not corrected swiftly and ruthlessly would downgrade the company from getting a good report to getting a “we noticed some issues” report.

        1. BEC Mode*

          Hi Xenia,

          I explained below but the only thing Beatrice is signing off on is another auditor’s work. Apparently I’m really bad at applying analogies and highlighting that it’s an analogy and not the actual issue. Sorry about that, everyone!

          I’m not sure how it is in your shop, Xenia, but it’s a great big no-no at ours for a non-manager to sign off on someone else’s work. Even friends of mine who are Senior Internal Auditors at public accounting firms don’t sign off on / review-and-approve junior staff work. They, like us (in industry), lead projects, answer junior-level staff questions, and pre-review juniors’ work to help them turn in quality papers, but they (and we) don’t close out a test as “Done”. Only a manager has that authority.

          We also don’t assign junior staff to other people’s projects. Nor do we email the entire damned department (including the Sr VP) to crow about the training documents we found somewhere in the shared drive, declaring ourselves the Primary Discover/Provider of that training info.

          1. Xenia*

            Yeah, she sounds like a) a nightmare and b) a massive fraud risk. My sympathies, she does not sound fun to work with.

    5. anonymous73*

      Why did she even have access to do something like that? Somebody needs to fix the permissions in the system STAT. Yes Beatrice needs to be knocked down a few pegs, but it’s a failure in the system that she was even able to do something like that.

          1. BEC Mode*

            The cash analogy was just that. . . an analogy. No actual cash was involved.

            We work in Internal Audit and we “test” controls. Usually, that involves asking for spreadsheets that were used to calculate, say, payroll accruals, and we check the accuracy of the source data and the calculations, then make sure the numbers made it into SAP correctly, and that everything was appropriately reviewed and approved by Payroll / Finance management.

            So Beatrice, a Senior Auditor, approved a staff auditor’s test (the staff auditor’s work) and approved *that*. But there were material errors in two of the work papers / tests that she approved. The errors were easily resolved because, it turns out, we just weren’t given a complete set of data. So no harm came to the company. And, if there had been an actual mistake made in the payroll accrual calculation, there are other eyes besides ours on key elements of our financials, so a material mistake would have a 99.999999% chance of being caught.

            But Beatrice knows / should know that approving other auditors’ work is a MANAGER’S job, not her job! Having to spell that out is like. . . man, I don’t know. . . telling a non-manager that they shouldn’t be approving other people’s time-off requests or pay raises. It would never occur to anyone to have to say that!

            Beatrice doesn’t have access to cash or the ability to approve expenditures or sign up new vendors or any of the things normally associated with fraud. I’m sorry if my analogy about purchase approval levels led people astray. It’s just that most people don’t have a clue what Internal Audit does, and why Beatrice approving a co-worker’s work (and thus closing out the test) is a BFD.

            The “go-getter” speech will probably look like this: “We appreciate your willingness to take on responsibility and grow in your role. As you now, the next step after Senior *is* Manager. However, you’ve only been here three months and are still learning the ropes. In this department, the only people who can approve other people’s work are managers. Even a manager can’t approve their own work and it has to be reviewed by another manager. I like that you’re showing initiative, but let’s slow it down a bit, OK?”

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              It sounds like your company really doesn’t care that much if Beatrice does this, or at least they don’t seem to be taking it as seriously as they should if the consequences are really that big.

              Or they could just be thinking one mention, even in the “go getter” way, will be enough to get her to stop..

              1. BEC Mode*

                I sincerely hope (and think) it’s the latter.

                We’re a “nice” company. Like, “Minnesota Nice”. We’ll phrase things as politely as possible for as long as possible.

                I have seen evidence of escalation when the situation warrants (fraud, harassment, angry outbursts), but I have also seen past team members float by at a “C-minus” quality and output level, and management just not wanting to bother with what it would take to get rid of the person (per our own HR rules).

                As long as Beatrice isn’t causing financial harm, or isn’t crossing serious lines like harassment, then management will limp along with her annoying behaviors. I mean, they’ll keep having milquetoast conversations like the “go-getter” one, but they won’t say, “This is a final warning. You are not responsible for assigning staff tasks or monitoring their workloads, and you cannot sign off on their work. If you do it again, we’ll have to part ways.”

                In my company’s defense, the people in our department have advanced degrees, licenses, and certifications, and are expected to not only know how to use Excel at an advanced level, but to know how to operate in a professional, corporate environment. They would be expected to understand that the “go-getter” speech means, “Knock it off, do not act like this again.”

                But, as a long-time reader of AAM, I realize that this expectation isn’t always enough to correct improper behavior.

                I’m just secretly glad that Beatrice’s “bigger than her own britches” behavior rose to the level of management without me having to say anything.

                1. Hiring Mgr*

                  You mention that she’s a new hire – could it be that her previous company did things that way and so maybe she doesn’t consider it a big deal, or is more like a universal standard that wouldn’t fly anywhere?

                2. BEC Mode*

                  Hiring Mgr – It wouldn’t fly in the vast majority of companies with an Internal Audit department, or in the public accounting firms that co-source and out-source internal audit functions.

                  She worked in public accounting as a co-sourced internal auditor for six years without ever being promoted to Senior. Friends of mine in the same or similar public accounting firms were promoted after just one or two years.

                  I sincerely think it’s a “her” problem, not just a simple misunderstanding based on her past experience and norms.

            2. Gumby*

              But approving other people’s work is done in some sort of software, right? Like, you click a button saying “approved” or whatever? That button shouldn’t even appear to Beatrice. That the button shows up when she is logged in is a problem. Fix that and no amount of go-getterness will let her do something she shouldn’t.

  31. Anon for this*

    Motivation/procrastination advice requested! I am struggling with a lack motivation/urgency, and the procrastination goes along with it. It’s not my job, it’s me. My job is great, my team is great, but I’m struggling with motivating myself to get stuff done. I think I’m just generally tired of working! I’m having trouble staying engaged. Any thoughts on how I can get my work groove back?

    1. Necronomnomnomicon*

      I do what’s called the pomodoro method; for x amount of work I do, I reward myself with y amount of downtime. The most common is 25/5 – for every 25 minutes of work I do, I take a 5 minute break to stretch, grab a drink, etc. Could be worth a shot!

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        I echo this. I’ve been focusing a lot recently on getting myself back on track in terms of productivity/not procrastinating after a bout of depression last year that had a big effect on my ability to motivate myself (in life as well as at work), and Pomodoro technique has been a huge help in that. Plus it’s cumulative – once you see how much you can get done in what feels like a relatively short amount of time, you feel like you want to keep going.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          To add to this: sometimes it really helps me to say out loud, “no, I’m not going to look at my phone/use social media/go on AAM etc, I’m going to file the llama reports/reply to Jim’s email/schedule that meeting”. It’s kind of catching yourself in the act of procrastinating and then course correcting it.

    2. Rara Avis*

      Lists help me, and starting with the easy jobs — it feels good to cross something off, and then I’m more ready to take on a more challenging task. Also rewards — getting coffee after I finish a task, or the like.

      1. Cold Fish*

        I second lists. But I alternate quick, easy task, then harder task, quick task, long task, etc. I get to cross things off the list but all the unpleasant/hard tasks aren’t piled up at the end. Sometimes just getting that one unpleasant task off the list is the huge relief I need to keep going.

        I also have a playlist of songs on my phone that are upbeat but I don’t sing along with. (I start singing and I start paying attention to the songs instead of letting the beat motivate) Then pop in those ear buds to block out distractions.

    3. Picard*

      If you come up with something, please let me know? I’m just so done. I work at a GREAT place, workload is manageable but I just CANT GET MY ASS IN GEAR.