I lost my temper at a teammate, coworkers keep using my desk, and more

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

1. I lost my temper at a teammate who said I was rude

I’m a student doing my final year group project. To get my degree, a large project has to be completed by a team of five. My teammate, Nora, had an internship as the project began and so could not help. Brooke and I began work and assigned work to the other two members. The heaviest workload was on me as I knew that particular technology well. I found this very stressful as I also had to prepare for job interviews and attend class, but I did my best, thinking Nora could help me out when she finished the internship.

When Nora eventually did finish the internship, she was less help than I expected. Whatever little work she did, I had to correct. I even had Covid when I had to fix her work for her. Whenever I asked her to learn a new technology to do some work, she just refused. The other member had lots of work so I had to take it up. Everything she did required step by step guidance and was very frustrating, as I had to explain the same topic multiple times to her, only for her to forget. Eventually Brooke and I finished the project and Nora had done essentially negative work. Brooke and I had to fix everything she did.

As a requirement for the project, we had to submit a report. Nora had to do one topic with tables (I had to make the tables for her) and label the tables. Nora called me up multiple times to say that it was too much work and I initially said that I didn’t mind what she did. She called me up one last time saying that she could not get it to work, and I replied saying it’s her problem and hung up.

I solved the issue and sent a text stating that if she wanted, she could use my solution. She replied saying she never asked me to do the work for her. I said that I didn’t mind if she deleted it if she didn’t want it. She later texted me saying it was rude of me to say it was her problem and that she was just asking for help. I said I didn’t care if she did it and she reiterated that I was being rude. I completely lost my temper because it’s unfair of her to do so little work and make me and the rest of the team do all the work.

I regret losing my temper and I will be apologizing for that. What would you have done in my situation? How could I handle people like Nora in the future?

This is the problem with group projects at school; there’s not the same kind of accountability that there would be (or at least should be) if it happened at work. In a work situation if a colleague wasn’t pulling their weight on a shared project, you’d first ask them for what you needed and, if that didn’t resolve it, pull in your manager for help. A good manager would then intervene with the person causing the problem. (There are a whole bunch of other ways group projects at school can be harder than they are at work — for example, at work it’s usually clear who should play what role and take the lead on what, and in class projects that’s often left up to you to negotiate on your own. At work it’s also usually clear who has the power to make decisions and hold people accountable, whereas with class projects that often not the case.)

I suspect you lost your temper with Nora because you weren’t given any constructive options to deal with her lack of work. Ideally your professor should have told you at the outset what recourse you would have if a team member didn’t pull their weight (presumably coming to her for help). Assuming that wasn’t made clear to you, it’s understandable that you felt like you were supposed to solve it on your own, and maybe you even worried that it would reflect badly on you if you didn’t. But if you could do it over, I’d tell you that once it became clear Nora wasn’t doing her share of the work, you should have gone to your professor (well before it reached the point that you were so frustrated that you risked exploding), explained what was happening, and asked for help. It’s not fair for you to be stuck feeling that you have to cajole and persuade someone who you have no power to hold accountable; at that point you really should be able to turn to someone who does have power.

2. Coworkers use our shared desk all the time

At my job, there are four desks in the office but eight staff who often require them. I am the longest serving employee and I’ve always had a desk that I keep all my things in and use the computer — a previous manager gave me this desk.

I understand that with new management and too many colleagues, I will not always be able to have access to my desk 100% of the time as others need it too. However, now it seems like I am never able to access my desk. I of course can use another desk if it is free, but all my paperwork, personal stationery, etc., is on that desk so it becomes very inconvenient when I have to move. Often colleagues will choose my desk over other free desks, leaving me feeling petty if I ask if they can move because my things are there. The desk is now not technically “mine” though, it’s shared.

Today, I was using another desk and asked the colleague using my desk if I could use my fan (which was plugged into the computer at my desk). My colleague said, “No, I’m using it and I’m dying.” This, on top of not being able to use my own desk for at least a week, made me angry. When I pay for my things, I don’t expect someone else to decide when their need for it is greater than mine.

I want my desk back in a more balanced share, and to be able to ask for use of my things without sounding petty and possessive.

There are two separate issues here: the desk, and the use of your personal things. It sounds like the desk is no longer yours and instead is up for grabs by everyone who shares desks … but you’re still thinking of it as “yours.” If the system is that no one owns any one desk, you’ll be better off if you shift your perspective so you no longer think of it as yours. You’re getting frustrated not to have use of it for many days in a row, but it sounds like that’s allowed within the system that’s been set up. If it’s causing a real work problem and you have a legitimate need for it more often than other people do, you could raise that with your manager and see if you could reclaim it — but if that doesn’t happen, then I think you do need to accept that you don’t have more of a claim on the desk than anyone else does.

But your personal belongings like your fan are a different story. You don’t need to ask your coworkers if you can use your own belongings or wait for them to agree! I suspect you presented it as a request to your fan-using coworker to be polite — but going forward you should simply say, “I need to grab my fan and move it to where I’m sitting today” and then do that. It’s yours; you don’t need anyone’s permission to use it. If someone says no, they’re using it, you can say, “Oh, it’s actually my personal fan that I brought it and I need it.” (And who knows, maybe they don’t realize that and mistakenly think it’s shared property like the desk itself.)

3. Food allergies during recruiting events

I am currently in a professional school, entering a career that has a heavy recruiting season (think law, management consulting, investment banking). Attending recruitment events that are hosted by firms helps applicants immensely, since they keep a record of events attended as a way of gauging candidates’ interest in them. Some of these are exclusively sit-down dinners, and I’m currently in a summer mentorship program by one organization that culminates in a sit-down dinner. One problem: I have several food allergies and am vegetarian, and to date none of these events have asked any information about allergies! Every event has a vegetarian dish, but a lot of them are cheese-based and I’m allergic to dairy.

I’m worried that if I ask about allergy-friendly dishes beforehand I’ll look demanding, and if I go but then don’t eat something the employees have almost always made comments that they feel really bad for not considering allergies beforehand, and making someone feel guilty also seems like … not the greatest career move. Should I go and suck it up and eat things that I only have mild allergies to, which will only give me a stomachache (though it also increases my chance of stomach cancer down the line)? Should I just avoid these events and the networking opportunities they present? Or is there a polite way to communicate dietary needs without looking demanding?

Do not make yourself sick, let alone increase your chances of cancer, in order to avoid mentioning your dietary needs! It doesn’t look demanding to politely explain your food restrictions; any decent employer will appreciate knowing in advance so they can accommodate you, rather than scrambling during the meal to try to find something you can eat, or learning you can’t eat anything there at all, or realizing they made you sick. In fact, dealing with this gracefully can show you have professional maturity and polish (after all, you’re going to have to deal with lots of situations on the job where you have to speak up politely about something someone needs).

It’s very normal to say beforehand (like when you’re RSVPing to an event), “I have some food allergies. Would it be possible to get a vegetarian meal without X or Y?”

4. Should I tell my boss that I will leave if things don’t change?

I have a good job, but my workload is unsustainable (and has been for the past 18 months). I have told my boss this on numerous occasions, but to date nothing has been done. I feel as though the only way to really show the severity of the situation is to tell him that if things don’t change then I will have to leave. Is this a terrible idea?

It’s not a great idea. First, do you really want to work somewhere where the only way to get a workload problem addressed is to threaten to leave? Even if your boss responds to that, what’s going to happen the next time your workload becomes unsustainable, or something else is going on that he won’t address? You can’t threaten to leave every time; you need a boss who responds when there’s a genuine problem, not just when there’s a threat to leave. Second, letting him know you’ll leave over it comes with the risks that always accompany telling your boss you’re thinking about leaving — like the risk of being at the top of a layoff list if cuts need to be made because your boss figures you might leave anyway.

There are exceptions to this. You will find people who did have this talk with their boss and things changed for the better … but they are very much the exceptions and not the rule (and they still face the issue of why it took threatening to leave to get real action taken, which is a sign of real problems).

5. Highly designed resume templates

example of a bad resume template

example of a bad resume template

I’m curious about how much design should go into a resume. I work in a nonprofit area that is not especially conservative, but not exactly “creative,” either. My resume isn’t especially designed beyond some basic formatting to make it a little bit more readable and visually appealing than just a giant block of text. But I was glancing at the pre-designed resume templates in Word and … boy howdy. They are a lot. I’ve attached an example for reference.

I get wanting to stand out and look nice, but this feels excessive. Plus, it seems like a lot of wasted space! I’m a reasonably experienced and highly educated professional. I would rather provide details on my experience than a link to my Twitter! I’m recently back on the job market for the first time in six years and seeing that got me a little bit freaked out that standards for resumes have changed a lot in the last few years. Am I out of touch, or is MS Word? (Also the resume templates are “designed by” an online business card printer, so I’m wondering how much of this is all just a marketing ploy.)

It’s not you, it’s MS Word … and most other places that provide resume templates without actually having any particular expertise in what a resume should look like. A disturbing number of the templates out there are wildly over-designed and don’t serve the most basic mission of a resume, which is to present information in a concise, easily skimmable format that hiring managers want to see. Hiring managers don’t generally want graphics or “creative” presentation — they want your work history, presented chronologically from most recent backwards, a small amount of info on your education, sometimes a skill section (though only if it’s necessary in your field and only if those skills are objective ones like certifications — subjective self-assessments like “strong communication” don’t belong there and will be ignored), and sometimes a few extras like community service or volunteer work. That’s it. They do not want word clouds or skill ratings or giant blocks of color or any of the other gimmicks you will find in a lot of templates. They also do not want resumes that sacrifice function for form, and a lot of templates (like your example) leave very little room for the thing hiring managers care about most: the details of your accomplishments at each job.

{ 664 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ*

    LW#3: I absolutely guarantee that at least a dozen of your classmates have diet restrictions of one sort or another that they’re asking to be accomodated. This is a health necessity for you, so you should go ahead and ask away.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I think #3 HAS to ask if s/he’s forced to do sit down dinners and only sit down dinners. Or just not eat at them (making yourself sick may only make the allergy worse, from what I’ve read) if things go wrong. Or bring in your own food.

      I have several friends with severe food allergies, including dairy. Unfortunately, I think they DO have to speak up, literally at the cost of their own lives, and they can’t “get away” with not doing that. (I don’t know how I’d deal since I certainly got raised to never, ever, ever speak up or get ripped a new arsehole if I did.) Adult professional organizations who insist on holding food related events need to be adults and figure out how to handle situations like that these days anyway. Even my office has figured out how to accommodate vegans and the like at this point.

      1. Resolutely Rach*

        Yes, adding support to LW3 – you must tell them about your allergy. Many people need special requests now due to allergies, intolerances and health conditions. It’s just that organisers aren’t always on the ball. Plus in case the caterer brings out dubious options that may make you ill, I would also advise having some food discreetly packed up that you can bring out only if needed – or at least for afterwards so you don’t get hungry/spaced out from lack of food.

        (I also have a dairy allergy- happy to share portable food options in the weekend thread).

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The discrete portable food has helped me out of jams when organizers thought they had accommodated my allergy but failed. It’s never a bad idea to have some high protein snacks to tide you over if need be.

          But please ask to speak with the organizer when you are sending in your RSVP. I historically have found just saying, “I have a food allergy, would it be possible for you to connect me with the person in charge of the food arrangements,” has worked very well.

          1. Green great dragon*

            That makes sense for complicated situations or maybe lifethreatening allergies, but slightly over the top if it’s just ‘vegetarian, dairy allergy and gluten intolerance’ or whatever. I’d give them the written info, and offer to speak to the organiser if it would help. Also helpful to have it written down.

            1. JSPA*

              Going direct to the food person is less of a bother than putting multiple people in the middle, as well as far safer. It’s also less stress for the food person, knowing they got the information directly.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                yes! I have a very allergic friend, just going into a bakery will give her a stomach ache from breathing in flour dust. We were having a big celebration at a restaurant and we decided on a set menu for all. My friend asked for the phone number and once the chef explained all they did to prevent gluten contamination, with basically the only thing on the menu to contain gluten being bread, that simply never entered the kitchen, being sliced in a pantry, my friend felt it was safe to eat there. She hardly ever eats at restaurants because of the large number of foods that can trigger her, and when she comes to see us she brings food and cooks for everyone just to be on the safe side, so I was delighted to see her tucking in to food she hadn’t had to cook for once. Even with the best of intentions, I’m pretty sure I’d have screwed up somewhere, whether listing the allergens or asking follow-on questions, so all in all it was easier to just have her talk with the chef.

            2. NotRealAnonForThis*

              Its definitely better to talk to the person in charge of the food-related arrangements, especially with a dairy allergy. Too many hear “lactose intolerance” here. I want to talk to someone who’s more likely than not (in my area) at least had to have some education in food allergies and proper handling of foods to avoid cross contact.

              All food allergies should indeed be treated as potentially life threatening – because they can be, without any warning.

            3. Lyudie*

              Someone with gluten intolerance can be in a great deal of pain for days after. Dairy allergies can range from digestive issues to anaphylaxis. Vegetarianism is probably asked about frequently and they might have standard alternatives they can offer, and even if it’s a voluntary thing rather than a medical necessity, they can and should be able to ask for an accommodation. I don’t think it’s over the top for any reason.

            4. Rose7777*

              This shows a really poor understanding of food allergies/intolerances. Dairy allergies very much can be life threatening, and intolerances can lead to significant discomfort and possible long term risks, even from low grade exposures (ie celiac and the increased risk of stomach cancers). With multiple allergies like the letter writer mentioned, it definitely makes sense to ask who they should talk to re dietary restrictions. I also recommend eating beforehand if possible and carrying some safe, filling snacks in case you can’t or don’t feel comfortable eating the provided food.

            5. Rain's Small Hands*

              Not really – a gluten or lactose intolerance can have “explosive” results that you wouldn’t want at a recruiting dinner. I’ve always found that purse snacks work great, and that most catering firms will bring you a plain salad with oil and vinegar. Eat before you go and have a statement ready for pulling out your own food “my diet is so restricted that its difficult for a catering company to adhere to all the requirements, this is easier and safer.” In general these sorts of things are horrible for food allergies anyway – and complicated food restrictions (like vegetarian along with lactose intolerance plus a true allergy) are almost never really met by an industrial kitchen.

              (My ex sister in law was gluten free/vegan and allergic to nightshades – including tomatoes, potatoes and peppers and I have issues with gluten – she was nearly impossible to eat out with)

            6. Snuck*

              I disagree with “slightly over the top”. If a person is working hard to eliminate even mild allergens from their diet then one meal, one time shouldn’t be their undoing. Packing snacks on the side is never ‘over the top’. It’d be over the top to demand a full deep clean and anaphylaxis preparation for mild allergies, and it’d be over the top to order Uber eats for the same, but politely asking “is there a dairy free option?” And packing snacks is wise.

              As a coeliac, with anaphylaxis to sesame, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to a function to be faced with every item contaminated with one or the other. Even if it’s gluten free by ingredient it’s stacked under other foods. Or equally bad put out with the regular food an non diet people think “hrm that looks good” and takes it. I’ve been to multiple conferences where I’ve been presented with a fruit platter (I’m also fructose intolerant, a common side effect of Coeliac, which yes I mention “I can only eat a small amount of fruit, barely any”), and one memorable one a piece of lettuce and a slice of tomato. Ugh. Snacks save me EVERY TIME.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                I’m also fructose intolerant, which means I can’t have wheat, onion, garlic, fruit, sweet vegetables, sweet nuts, or anything with added sugar. It’s by far my most difficult allergy and makes my others look easy.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            Yes, speak to the person who is handling the food unless your allergies are simple things like gluten so they can use things labeled gluten-free without going any deeper. Even then, if you have severe reactions you might want to speak to them.
            I’m allergic to soy and there are few restaurant or catering people in my experience who understand the stuff called “vegetable oil” is really soybean oil. I have to ask what kind of oil they are using and if they say vegetable oil, explain I’m allergic to that. Sometimes I’ve had to ask them to look at the label to be sure of what they’re using, and point out the tiny label on the side of the jug that says soybean oil.
            There are many restaurants where the chef, managers, and staff are unaware of this, and probably catering companies too.
            For the person who said they were raised to never, ever speak up, having to speak up to protect my health helped me learn to be assertive and take care of myself. It’s a good thing!

            1. JSPA*

              And at this point, in some countries, it’s also (temporarily) allowed to substitute any oil for sunflower, without changing the labeling, because of the sudden loss of the Ukraine sunflower harvest. One example to follow.

              1. JSPA*


                As products move from country to country, these warnings tend to get lost; basically, “under current circumstances, it’s safer to eat my own items” may be the simplest, most mature, most easily appreciated way of handling the situation.

                Given context, what might otherwise be odd becomes normal; use that to your advantage by making it actively normal and no big deal, and others will follow your lead.

            2. Guacamole Bob*

              Depends on the issue with gluten. My son has celiac and we were taught by his GI clinic to always talk to restaurant staff about how to avoid cross-contamination, only eating fried food from dedicated gluten-free deep fryers, and so forth. Some restaurants cook all pasta in the same big pot of boiling water, unless you ask them not to. Product labels aren’t always enough.

              1. PeanutButter*

                Yep. My ex has celiac, and we couldn’t even go to certain parts of town when the grain milling plant was running.

              2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Cross contamination is my big risk as well. I’m allergic to seafood – all of it, if it swims, crawls, or lived in the water I can’t eat it. The problem is lots of that stuff also has oils – and those oils spread and stick to everything. Which can lead to a supposedly safe dish still causing me to get sick. It’s rare for some restaurants to get certain allergies right – please believe those of us with allergies/kids with allergies; we’ve done the work to know what we need.

                1. Flash Packet*

                  I’m not allergic to fish or seafood but I really, really do not like the taste of it.

                  I visited my dad in San Francisco late last year and we went to lunch at a homey little diner tucked into a picturesque neighborhood. I had the open-faced turkey patty melt. I took one bite and spit it out. My dad asked what was wrong and I told him to try the meat and tell me what it tasted like.


                  It tasted like salmon. I looked at the menu again and, yep, there was the grilled salmon. It was cooked on the same flat-top grill as the turkey patty.

                  I sent the patty melt back and ordered a salad instead.

                  I can only imagine how hard it must be for people with food allergies when that level of cross-contamination is so common.

                2. Snuck*

                  Flash Packet people with allergies learn very very fast about grills ;) And deep fryers, toasters, pasta boiling pots, soup ingredients and so forth.

                  There can be an issue with people with preferences or mild allergies saying “I can’t have X because I am allergic” and then consuming it, which forces serious allergy suffers to then go over the top and remind staff “If I eat traces of this I MAY DIE HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR FLOOR” to get taken seriously. Sadly allergies have become a way for people to get what they want, and are abused.

                  However sending back a turkey sandwich for tasting like salmon is fair! They shoudl be making enough effort to clean their grill (not allergy clean, just oil clean) between meats. I’m not sure the public health rules on doing poultry and fish in the same space at the same time, but it shouldn’t be as bad as tasting it blatantly!

              3. dragonfly7*

                Same here! I’m still learning the right questions to ask restaurants so I don’t get glutened (no celiac-specific medical providers available). I am finding some understand “cross contact” better than “cross contamination,” and a few still think the gluten burns off in the process of cooking.

              4. Snuck*

                The toasters! The ‘we have gluten free toast’ is a joke if it’s done in the same toaster as the gluten bread.

                *face palm*

                Coeliac really changes your understanding of ‘cross contamination’.

            3. Observer*

              Yes, speak to the person who is handling the food unless your allergies are simple things like gluten so they can use things labeled gluten-free without going any deeper.

              Add me to the “you’ve got to be kidding” brigade. Labels are just the start. If someone is truly gluten intolerant, cross contamination is a major issue. There are some intolerances where cross contamination is not a big issue, but that’s definitely not the case with celiac and generally also not with non-celiac gluten intolerance (yes, it’s a real thing!)

              It’s not just gluten, of course. It can be an issue with all sorts of stuff.

              But, you’ve actually provided a perfect example of why someone with a food issue should try to talk directly to the person in actual charge of the food (catered, restaurant manager, etc.) Because anyone who reacts like you do is NOT going to provide adequate information because they don’t know, don’t know what they don’t know, and don’t want to “go deeper.”

              1. DJ Abbott*

                Yes, good example. Gluten is not one of my many food issues so early-morning me forgot about cross- contamination. Silly of me! We probably need to go deeper with all food issues.

            4. Curmudgeon in California*

              I’m allergic to soy as well, especially “partially hydrogenated soybean oil”. Calling stuff “vegetable oil” makes me grind my teeth – it’s usually a mixture of soybean and canola oil. It’s in everything these days, including anything baked or fried.

              Another set of ubiquitous substances I’m allergic to are celery and celery seed. The celery seed is the insidious one – the reaction isn’t instant, it takes from 6 to 8 hours and then I’m coughing like a three pack a day smoker. It’s also in everything – if it says “spices” on the label, it usually has celery seed in the mix.

              My wife has a low tolerance for black pepper – it’s in everything too. I have to take lactase to handle dairy without explosive results.

              All in all, it makes catered food problematic. Thank heavens we aren’t vegetarian – most of the food is soy based and uses soy oil.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                I got annoyed enough to file a complaint with the FDA about the attempt to disguise soybean oil, but nothing happened. Around here it’s usually all soy, I’ve occasionally seen blends like you mention.
                My sensitive stomach can’t handle black pepper either. Or citrus, or calcium, or most of the things they put in everything.

          3. Guacamole Bob*

            Yes, I like this wording for OP. I’m a vegetarian and would just say that in my email because it’s straightforward and common, and if they screw up and there’s chicken broth in the risotto it won’t affect my health. When you have multiple, unusual, and/or very serious restrictions then the closer you can get to the person actually making the food, the better. And the phrasing you suggest doesn’t trigger the weird responses that some people might have to the enumeration of your food restrictions, if you’re worried about the impression you might be making on a hiring manager.

            We’ve been trying to coordinate with the caterer for a cousin’s wedding for my son who has celiac, and the game of telephone through the bride’s mother has been kind of frustrating (does the thing you suggested come from a shared deep fryer? that sounds safe for him but he won’t eat it, etc.). It’d be easier if they just gave us the caterer’s phone number, honestly.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Same! I am always very clear that I have voluntary dietary restrictions, not allergies. So while I appreciate accommodation, it’s not going to cause health problems if I eat something that contains the things I choose not to eat for ethical and religious reasons.

          4. OP with food allergies*

            Thank you so much for this script – unfortunately, I have a lot of instances where people assume dairy allergy = lactose intolerance when a dairy allergy means an allergy to *all* proteins in milk so something like lactose-free cheese will still give me a reaction. And on top of that I have two anaphylactic allergies, though avoiding those are much easier because one (peanuts) is such a common allergen that it’s rarely served at events and the other (a fruit) is such a specific food that it’s really easy to avoid. My least severe allergy actually gives me the most trouble!

            1. tamarak & fireweed*

              Yup, and I agree with everyone who says, just ask for a contact at the caterer then. Plus, in the end you get to decide what you put in your mouth, for whatever reason, so it’s a good idea not to *depend* on networking meals for getting your daily food intake. It’s just smart to have a fall-back to tide you over, especially if you’re more than average likely to run into something you can’t eat.

              Also, the people you want to network with are highly unlikely to care. (I’ve been to many many sit-down dinners with colleagues across the field, and it’s completely normal that a few can’t or won’t just tuck into whatever is served to them. Part of life, which affects people unequally.) The organizer might (for bad reasons – callousness – or more understandable ones – inexperienced or overworked staff), but if they’re a professional organization you don’t have to care about that, and if they’re an employer at least you know who to give a red flag mark to from the outset.

            2. Snuck*

              I’d just ring and talk to the caterer and offer a follow up email (get their email address) to confirm your needs.

              I find saying “I am a coeliac and cannot tolerate cross contamination with gluten” helps separate me out from the ‘gluten intolerant’ brigade. As does making wise choices – “no it’s ok, I don’t need a gluten free specific dessert, I can just skip the biscotti and the cake and have a coffee alone” helps them appreciate that I’m willing to bend with them too.

              I’ve had good and bad experiences talking to caterers but at least I’ve tried. My worst was a school mums meal at an expensive restaurant which had sesame on one meal, and gluten on the other. They offered to make the gluten one without. Ok. I explained I’m AIRBORNE allergic to sesame oil and would they consider changing the sesame one on the set menu …. When it was served EVERYONE ordered the sesame one and I had to leave. Ugh. $75 and a significant social faux pas.

              Just talk to them, discuss the menu, and ask them how you can make it easier for them – do they want you to sit at a particular table so they can plan ahead, or identify yourself to them on the way into the meal so they can note where you are sitting…. And offer up reasonable easy alternatives – “I’m fine with fruit except melon, so do you mind not garnishing my plate with melon?” And “Is there a plan for a non dairy milk to be served, or shall I bring a small amount of my own to be safe?”

            3. Third or Nothing!*

              I feel you on the dairy allergy =/= lactose intolerance. Half the time I just ask for a vegan option because it’s the fastest and simplest way to make sure I don’t get something made with Lactaid.

        2. tamarak & fireweed*

          I certainly would advise the LW to add this to their arsenal of tools of how to deal with such a situation. We had this just recently in a slightly less formal situation. Our research unit’s summer BBQ is definitely a networking opportunity for our students and younger ppl. I noted immediately that with one thing (COVID) and another (budget strains) we apparently have lost the habit of labeling potluck food. A recently arrived student (on a prestigious internship) brought some packaged snack-style foods and explained he had some food allergies (he didn’t go into details but mentioned peanuts and dairy). (He ended up eating some of the cut fruit offerings.)

          Are these catered sit-down meals, or are we talking about restaurants? In either case, dealing with food sensitivities and allergies is something they can be expected to be used to accommodating, and even if there are still some fails, a minimum is to accept an attendees way of satisfying his or her needs when it comes to foods!

      2. Observer*

        Or bring in your own food.

        If these are dinners in restaurants or the like, that probably won’t be allowed. And if the OP is trying to not make waves, bringing their own food is a great way to do the opposite.

        1. Snuck*

          Agree. Occasionally I have actually brought my own, but I have coeliac and sesame anaphylaxis, and on rare occasions I clear it ahead of time with a “I know I’m super hard to cater for right now, so I’ll bring something that’s safe for me” and pack a light sandwich or salad.

          For kids it’s easier, you can definitely rock up with a lunch box.

          But the number one thing I’ve found always stops restaurants in their tracks is when you say “Hrm, so the thing is I’m here as part of a group, but you aren’t willing to guarantee your kitchen wont’ cross contaminate, and I don’t want to use an epi pen in the middle of your restaurant and get an ambulance, so how about I sit up in this back corner here and discretely eat this, and we all just smile and nod? I’ll have a coffee though!” And everyone smiles, nods and let’s it carry on. No one wants an epi pen and ambulance in the middle of service.

    2. Waving not Drowning*

      My father developed a dairy allergy late in life – and – he worked for a milk company. He copped some ribbing when he had to ask for dairy free meals at work events (he could sell the products, but no longer eat them!), but, people understood, and it was no big deal. However, we have had some extremely memorable occasions where staff have argued that something is not dairy free, because it has eggs in it. Dad would have a back and forth, saying its ok, but them saying no its got eggs in it, then he’d finally, very politely, ask if cows lay eggs. Yeah, he’d get his dessert (with no cream, or icecream, but, with eggs!)

      I know I’m more aware when ordering or organising catering at work to have a range of options – vegan, vegetarian, etc etc than I was early in my working career (when it was more a case of yep, I like that, so I’ll order that for EVERYONE). Older and wiser now thank goodness!!!

      1. NYWeasel*

        I feel the frustration about the eggs bc I have a dairy intolerance, but it’s not across the board, so I can have butter and hard cheeses but not soft cheese or sour cream. I have a way I try to explain it when I’m eating out, but I’ve had restaurants go with NO DAIRY and cut out the 2-3 things I still can enjoy in their concern to be careful. I just try to remind myself that I prefer them treating it overly cautiously to not thinking that mashed potatoes (generally made with cream) are a problem.

        Side note: I understand with small restaurants that the owners might not understand what info people need but the number of big chain restaurants that don’t mention really critical info like the mashed potatoes or the dollop of cream they drop into a soup is really frustrating. I can almost always place an order with no problems if I have the info up front!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          My daughter’s lactose intolerance meant she could eat precisely the opposite of you, I see that it’s a hugely complex issue, best to speak to the chef directly to be sure of getting safe food.

          1. Sylvan*

            That’s interesting — hard, aged cheese like parmesan or cheddar contains less lactose than soft cheese.

            1. BabyElephantWalk*

              That’s a very odd lactose intolerance presentation. But yes, be specific about what you can and can’t have safely and try to talk to the person with authority in the kitchen preparing the food. Best way to be safe. Allergies and intolerances should not be lost in a game of broken telephone between customer-server-kitchen.

        2. tamarak & fireweed*

          I think we really really as a society need to grow up and let people’s stated needs and preferences be! Most of my Indian colleagues are vegetarians and don’t eat eggs, but will eat dairy. One Jewish person might only eat kosher food, and another just selectively avoid certain foods. With people who have lactose intolerance clearly it’s all over the place, from avoidance of all dairy to using Lactaid pills, to being able to eat certain cheeses but not others. From trying to figure out the exact contour of what they can eat to dropping a large food group they don’t care about much because *some* of the items are harmful. It’s not our job to say judgy stuff like “I thought you were lactose-intolerant [undertone: clearly you aren’t if you’re eating X cheese]” or “so are you vegan or vegetarian?”. It gets worse when ignorance comes into it (“oh, it’s not dairy, it’s butter!”, “you can eat this – it has no meat, only chicken/salmon/liver”).

          It’s the same with able-bodied people getting all suspicious when someone *sometimes* uses a wheelchair. I am very confused by this attitude.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            This judgyness is part of American culture. People who do it, do it with everything.

            1. pancakes*

              When it comes to allergies and intolerances I think it’s more of an anti-science / under-educated about basic science thing than a judge-y thing. There are so many people who say they have people in their life who don’t “believe in” allergies, etc., and that’s just absurd. It’s a deeper ignorance than just having very rigid ideas about how and what people should eat.

                1. pancakes*

                  Yes. There’s something seriously out of order with people who refuse to acknowledge that.

      2. Cohort 1*

        Lucky Dad who can find a dessert at a group meal! I generally find that there may be seven dessert options at a function, but every single one of them will have dairy products. I frequently run into restaurant menus where there is only one entrée that doesn’t have cheese or cream and hope I like whatever it is. *sigh* I carry a baggie of nuts with me for backup when I travel. I just returned from a vacation in the UK where they have allergy info on absolutely everything – how great is that? There was even a restaurant that had a page of everything on their menu that didn’t have dairy. Woo-hoo!

        1. Elsa*

          Same! And then they might suggest fruit, but I can get fruit at home. I want something special!

      3. PeanutButter*

        I was sensitive to cow’s milk as a kid (I think my Eustachian tubes just finally grew up and widened as I’d just get severely plugged ears leading to ear infections, and now I just sometimes get a mildly annoying post nasal drip) and I had to tell so many adults -ADULTS- that eggs did not come from cows. Or say “that is not a cow” when pointing to the picture of a goat or a sheep on a label when explaining that yes, I could indeed have that type of cheese, etc.

        1. many bells down*

          I’ve got a friend who is allergic to ALL things cow. Not just dairy; he also can’t eat beef. Other meats/milks are fine.

        2. Nethwen*

          I think the confusion comes from how grocery stores and pre-made shopping lists (at least in the USA) are organized. The “dairy” aisle or section of the list is for milk, cheese, and eggs. It’s similar to how when people say they can’t eat wheat, someone offers them white bread because grocery store marketing/common parlance has a white bread-wheat bread dichotomy. When people stop to think, they realize that eggs are not dairy and white and “wheat” bread both are made from wheat, but that’s not how they’re used to talking about it, so the distinction isn’t forefront in their consciousness.

      4. Minimal Pear*


        1. allergygirl*

          I’m the opposite! Allergic to eggs, and everyone always says, “well, that has butter in it, so it won’t work!”

          1. tamarak & fireweed*

            SMH. I’m a working scientist, and I am saying: It would be much much more useful for kids up to age, say, 12 to learn THESE kinds of distinctions in science class (where does milk come from? what does “dairy” mean? and what does it mean to have an allergy or intolerance for a common food?) rather than a mickey mouse version of the scientific method.

            1. jpchatham*

              Honestly this discussion has made me realize that I *still* don’t know for sure what “dairy” means, and I’m in my mid-30s! I always knew eggs didn’t come from cows of course, but until I was 10 or so I thought “dairy” meant “edible animal products that aren’t meat” – milk, butter, cheese, eggs, probably caviar, etc. Until today I thought it meant “milk and foods made from milk”, but there’s so much focus on cows in this thread that now I’m wondering. Does “dairy” specifically refer to cow’s milk products, or are goat cheese and sheep’s milk considered dairy?

    3. Pathology Doc*

      As faculty at an academic medical center, I’m heavily involved in residency recruiting. I agree with @PollyQ that many people have dietary restrictions. We would like to hear about them, because we want people to be comfortable during their interview day! We actually changed where we got lunches from because the previous place didn’t have good vegan and GF options. People just reached out to our program coordinator and we made sure that they were accommodated. For people with severe allergies, sometimes they chose to bring their own food and we stored it for them during the day. It is really not a big thing and is totally expected that some candidates will have food restrictions.

      Also- If a place is weird about supplying you with food you can actually eat, consider what other things would they be unhelpful about.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        My stepdaughter is a chef. One thing they hammered home (and she got it because her mother spent a lot of quality time in the ER with anaphylactic shock and always has an EpiPen- she also had Benadryl in her purse-) is that a Chef is not a doctor, a mind-reader, a judge or a god, where allergied are concerned.
        They are to treat ALL allergies like peanut allergies (potentially fatal) and to believe all statements about sensitivities as gospel.
        Not all culinary schools are this strict, but good ones are, just as good catering and restaurant services have pride in their ability to know ingredient lists and to comprehend Halal, Kosher, dairy, vegetarian, vegan, etc.
        They also know that cows don’t lay eggs, and that caseinate is a milk product.
        This is why you SHOULD go to the meal manager instead of the event planner. If anyone gets impatient or is rude, it’s a “them” problem.
        Don’t let that kill you!

      2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        When I was doing residency interviews, there was one where the program had asked everyone if they had any allergies / intolerances… and then didn’t actually honor any of them! The poor girl with celiac could only eat some bagged carrots. She had been prepared just in case with snacks in her purse, but the rest of us there that day were horrified. It really changed my view of the program itself if on a day when they are supposed to be putting their best foot forward, they couldn’t accommodate someone.

        1. Nightengale*

          my “favorite” residency interview meal experience was the program that took place at 2 different settings. We had the AM tour of one setting and then were brought over to the other setting to have lunch with the residents. Lunch had arrived but the planned talks and the residents were running late. We were kept in the room staring at sandwiches for over an hour before eating. Yes, that told me things about the program also.

          I did all my residency interviews less than a year after a new type 1 diabetes diagnosis, too. . .

        2. Carol the happy elf*

          My friend’s father was a diabetic with hypoglycemia episodes. He would seem drunk, then he’d just slide to the floor. His Medic Alert tag saved his life several times. (This was awhile ago; he had a fanny-pack with his medical equipment, which included hard candy and cheese sticks.) Once, a woman took one of his cheese sticks and some crackers when she noticed them in the pack. She was told very harshly by his staff that if she ever touched his food again, she would be fired on the spot.
          Of course she went to HR to complain, and the HR director told her that if he had his way, she’d be given an insulin injection and THEN fired. She angrily said, “But that might KILL ME.”
          The HR director informed her that stealing his medication, food included, could kill him, and that police would be called if she did it again. Oh, and she would be fired.
          His wife and daughters always carried “Dad-snacks” in purses and cars.
          It’s annoying when people use the word allergy when they mean dislike or even moral objection, but a person has the right to put food in their body that will safely nourish it.
          No person has the right to force another to take a dangerous health (or morally objectionable) risk.
          Now if I can convince my grandson that broccoli doesn’t feel pain and he’s not allergic to peas….

        3. Nikki*

          Unfortunately this is really common. I have a very simple allergy to tree nuts and it’s rare that a business event or conference has handled it correctly. A couple of times I’ve gone hungry for hours. Good on you for recognizing that this reflects really poorly on the program and says something about how they’ll treat their employees!

      3. EPLawyer*

        “lso- If a place is weird about supplying you with food you can actually eat, consider what other things would they be unhelpful about.”

        What I was going to say. OP, remember this — interviewing is a 2 way street. If a company gets all huffy and/or difficult because you ask for a very reasonable accomodation then do you want to work for that company? I know it seems like because you are inexperienced you have to put up with anything and everything to get hired, but this isn’t 2008. You can be choosy about where you go to work.

        1. As per Elaine*

          Also, at least pre-covid, there tended to be a lot of times where many professional jobs would provide food. If the company is weird or bad about accommodating allergies in their recruiting events, there’s a good chance that you’re signing up for awkward food politics down the line, too. (There is SOME variation — maybe your boss will be great about it and most of your meals are with the team — but there’s likely to be at least one situation with all-day meetings and catered lunch.)

          (Yes, I’m looking at the office manager who knows that multiple people requested dairy-free snacks for the office and then didn’t double-check that there were any dairy-free sandwich options at a recent lunch event. Mind you, I’m also side-eyeing the catering place that puts cheese on the hummus and veggie sandwich… who does that?!)

          1. Kyrielle*

            Pizza lunches with two people who couldn’t eat dairy. We didn’t even ask for those to end, just sometimes alternate with other things we _could_ eat, which was occasionally done. And then there was the memorable time they ordered pizza and salad…but didn’t realize the salad had cheese on it. Team lunch day? Yeah, I’ll still bring my own, thanks.

            (In theory, I can have pizza if I take the right number of lactase pills. But the “right number” varies with brand and type of pizza, and the results if I don’t take enough are…unpleasant. So I’m not going to play that game at work. Even if I am thinking the pizza smells really, really good. I believe the other person affected had a true allergy anyway, so….)

            1. pancakes*

              Vegan or cheese-free pizza shouldn’t be difficult to arrange. It isn’t inherently difficult to make very tasty versions of either. Motorino’s marinara pizza and “la vegana” pizza are good examples.

        2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          This is important to remember as you interview. They are showing their company to you and how they treat you says a lot about their culture.

          Considering how dietary restrictions can be religiously driven or how food allergies could kill you, the intolerance indicated by a company being annoyed at a need for accommodations is not a company you want to waste time on.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I also noticed that if all the vegetarian options have cheese, there is nothing for vegans.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…as a non-meat-eater who is not vegan, I’ll admit it is annoying that increasingly the one vegetarian option on a menu is now likely to be vegan and not just veggie, because I really like cheese and eggs. But I recognise that if you’re only able to include one non-meat option, it makes sense for it to be vegan so that all the non-meat-eaters can eat it.

      2. OP with food allergies*

        I used to be vegan (but now I eat eggs) and when they offer vegan options I am very happy because I can just choose that and be safe. But it’s still lacking at a lot of places :(

    5. Teach*

      And OP, as someone with similar restrictions, I feel you. Vegetarian options will so often add extra dairy, nuts, soy etc. to add protein, which is wonderful…unless you can’t have those either. ><
      I know this isn't a solution for everyone, but I take the earliest opportunity to explain my diet to coworkers, so it doesn't create awkward restaurant moments down the road. Not that we should have to!

    6. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

      There is still so much misunderstanding around dietary restrictions. I have wheat and cow’s milk intolerances, and made sure to let a catered event know in advance. They normally serve a chicken and vegetable main, so I thought they would just put one to one side without the sauce. I wasn’t expecting to get served something else entirely! Having waited until everyone else was served, someone came out and set down a dish and promptly disappeared. The lighting was poor and I was wearing my distance glasses, so it wasn’t until I dug in that I saw they had served a mushroom risotto. I’ve NEVER seen mushroom dishes served at that event, so it didn’t occur to me to need to say anything. But I HATE mushrooms. I couldn’t eat it at all. But all the staff had disappeared, there wasn’t even anyone at the bar, and no way to get anyone’s attention. When the staff resurfaced 30 minutes later to clear the plates, the server started ARGUING with me because I hadn’t touched my dish, saying I hadn’t specified no mushrooms, and when I asked, no, there weren’t any spare chicken dishes left. They didn’t offer an alternative, not even to offer me a PAYG a la carte menu.

      I would have rather scraped the sauce off than be presented with a dish I hadn’t asked for containing the one ingredient I simply cannot abide! Why did they have to make me a completely different dish without asking and letting me choose? And then to start heckling me because I hadn’t eaten it? It feels like in their efforts to be over-careful, caterers often end up offering an even less acceptable dish than the standard fare containing one intolerance-unfriendly ingredient.

    7. Sal*

      Also, I would seek out advice from the career center/advisor at your school, LW#3! They can inform the firms recruiting that there are allergies among the student cohort that the firms should be aware of when arranging these events, and it doesn’t look like you, specifically, asking for something.

    8. Anonomatopoeia*

      Also if it feels demanding or the response is not immediate enthusiastic interest in helping you get food you can eat, you can always step back to something like, “is it going to upset the caterers if I just bring my own asparagus and yams? If I don’t eat people feel awkward and of course I know no one wants me to eat things that, despite being delicious, are poisonous to my body.” And then do.

      (This is what I sometimes do; my restriction is less common than either of the ones you list, and yeah, not-eating is SO frickin’ awkward.)

    9. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. The alternative is to cause a problem either by not eating or eating something that will make you sick. Just speak up. Don’t wait for someone to ask when it’s a matter of your own health. You can say something like you’re looking forward to the events, and if food is included at any point, be aware that you have food restrictions x and y, thanks! I have family with weird allergies that no one ever thinks of and people are generally very appreciative of the head’s up.

  2. Eric*

    #4, one option it sounds like you may not have tried is to simply let some of the work go undone. Let your manager know how much is doodle, and what you plan to prioritize, and how much you’ll work. Once you’ve put in a reasonable amount of work, what is done is done and what isn’t is his problem.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yes, agree. If as a manager he hasn’t had to actually deal with the problem of your unsustainable workload, then he doesn’t have the motivation to fix it. Do the work you can do in a normal amount of time, and then let the rest of it drop.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      If all you’ve done is tell the manager I can’t do all of this, while then figuring out some way to get it all done then it’s really possible he doesn’t fully understand the scope. Start prioritizing tasks – what will cause a major emergency if it isn’t done and what can slide for a while. Then let those things that can slide go to the bottom of the list and just not get done regularly. The manager doesn’t know the scope of the problem till they can see the problem. Don’t keep fixing it for them – they get paid the big bucks to fix the problems.

    3. Nicole*

      While I love this idea, you run the risk of your supervisor not noticing for say, two years, and then it’s just a pit of despair and you quit. Not that I know anything about that.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Or forming their own conclusions about what the problem is and then acting on that, without investigating it properly, and then wasting time on something like a telling off for excessive chatting which doesn’t at all get to the root of the issue and resolve anything. There was a reason why my old manager was known as Cornelius Fudge.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I think the idea is to do this for oneself, not as a method of forcing the supe to hire another person, and using the time freed up to look for another job.

    4. bamcheeks*

      It’s also possible that this is why the manager WANTS to happen, and just hasn’t communicated that effectively, ie that yes, there will always be more work than hours in the week, but part of your job is to prioritise 60% of it and acknowledge that the rest doesn’t matter.

      However, that again raises the question of whether this is the right job (or the right boss) for you.

    5. High Score!*

      +10000! Protect your personal time. You signed up for a standard 40-ish hour week, right? At the beginning of each day, or week, or whatever time frame makes sense, go to him and say “I have the capacity to complete A & B or C & D, which do you want me to focus on?”
      If he says it all needs done, just say that you are burned out and no longer available for overtime, then ask again what you should focus on.
      At this point some people will say you are risking your job but that’s not the case in this economy.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        If you are at the point of quitting anyway, you have nothing to lose by taking a stand on only doing what you can do in normal hours.

    6. A Simple Narwhal*

      This 1000%. If you’re killing yourself to get the work done, at the end of the day all your boss sees is that the work is getting done. They should care that it’s killing you, but they don’t. Unfortunately sometimes the only way to make someone care about your problem is to make it their problem.

      1. ferrina*

        A Simple Narwhal is absolutely right. My boss didn’t care when I was working insane hours; but they suddenly cared I said “This workload can’t be done; I can’t start making Kitten Sweaters until next month. Unless you want me to stop working on the Llama Hats, in which case we’ll miss the clients’ deadline. Please let me know what you’d like me to do.” Suddenly they had the budget to hire two more staff!

        But this is only a temporary solution. This is not an employer you want to stay at long-term. They do not care about you and they do not care about reasonable boundaries. Even after I got my staff, the expectations on my team remained ridiculous, I had to play ridiculous amounts of politics to get basic resources, I never got credit for my accomplishments (my boss didn’t even pay enough attention to know what my accomplishments were. And he only had 2 direct reports!), and I was grossly underpaid. Once you reclaim your time, start enacting an exit plan.

    7. Helen B*

      I’ve asked this of co-workers and friends before — what if you just…didn’t? For a lot of people, the answer was “But if I don’t the work won’t be done. I have to.”

      I ask them what the benefit to them is. If it’s “I know I’ll be fired and I can’t get another equivalent job”… ok. If it’s “I get overtime/bonuses and need the money”… ok.

      But if it’s “I’ll feel like a bad person for not working harder”…. not ok.

      1. Always a Corncob*

        But if it’s “I’ll feel like a bad person for not working harder”…. not ok.

        Yes! I wish I’d understood this when I was in OP’s position. It really sucks because it’s conscientious, hardworking people who get stuck in these situations…but, you’re also responsible for your own choices. Actions speak louder than words — if you say “my workload is unsustainable” but you continue handling the workload, the manager will see no incentive for trying to help you. Is that poor management? Yes, because it will demoralize and burn out high performers and eventually they will probably get fed up and leave. But in the meantime, the manager gets to ignore the workload problem *and* 3 people’s jobs are being done for the price of 1. Don’t run yourself ragged for the benefit of a company that is showing you it doesn’t value you back.

    8. Kit*

      Most importantly, once you’ve put in your reasonable amount of work, go home, and start looking for other jobs! Don’t assume that an ultimatum (or unfinished work) will fix the long-term problems, but use the mental energy this frees up to get yourself out.

    9. tamarak & fireweed*

      Yup, I was thinking, one of Alison’s prior scripts would probably help the LW.

      Not just “we need to talk about reducing my workload” but “my to-do list currently has items A, B, C and D. Looking at the number of hours in the week, I can get A done and B and C started to hand over to team X, but there is no chance I can get to D. Please let me know if you want me to prioritize differently.” Then, when the manager isn’t objecting (they might just pull a face or otherwise non-verbally signal neither agreement nor another instruction), send a follow-up email: “I just want to follow up from our 1-on-1 this morning concerning my work pipeline. As we discussed, this week I anticipate to […]. I will let you know of my progress with these tasks.” Systematically after each 1-on-1, or weekly or whatever works.

    10. CL*

      In my most recent job I asked this when I received yet another assignment, and the big boss scolded me that it was ALL a priority. I ended up giving notice about a month later and he told everyone in the company how disappointed he was in me for leaving. I had spoken to my direct supervisor about the workload and that I could no longer handle it, but all I got was a “please don’t leave” and no changes. Some organizations are just dysfunctional. Hopefully the LW’s isn’t, but if they’ve already spoken multiple times about this that’s a real concern. I agree with AAM that threatening to leave isn’t worth it, because if they were going to fix it they would have by now. An actual resignation might have them making promises, but if you have to drag that threat out it’s not worthwhile to stay.

  3. MART*

    LW #5, I am the hiring manager at a creative agency, and I will say I do look out for a more “designed” resume, no matter the position, because it shows an interest in / appreciation for the craft we use. No need for word clouds & such – but a little bit of creative effort and attention to formatting goes a long way with me and my team.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Can you expand a bit on what sort of things stand out as being good in your eyes? Is it the details of font choice and spacing, or are you talking about adding colours, multi-column format, custom letterhead, graphics? And what kind of things would be creative but a detriment (infographics, word clouds)?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it’s interesting that even for those hypothetically in favor, the examples of standing out immediately go to “Of course, X, Y, and Z are a bad idea.”

        Is it just subtle tweaks that enhance readability, where to most of us it’s “Ah, this one is clear” and to a design pro it’s “Ah, they did a clever thing with the headers and margins here.” (Like a good architect can make a space feel more airy, pulled together, etc, even if what most of us notice is “I like this room more than that other room.”)

      2. Hamster Manager*

        I’m a designer as well, and it’s more about the overall effect of the design. A well-designed resume is vastly easier to read/use than a standard Word document, because you can direct the eye to what you want more effectively. For me, this is primarily about proportions and spacing, and making the document more scannable than it would be in the ‘standard’ format.

        I want to be clear what type of design I’m talking about here though, and it’s not the ‘making it more visual’ kind with graphics letterhead and word clouds, it’s the ‘this works so well I don’t even notice it WAS designed’ type.

        My personal resume is prominent name and contact info up top, a thick column with work experience, and a smaller column to the right with “just gotta check this off the list” type content like education and awards. I do have my logo up top as well, but it’s unobtrusive and useful as it matches my website (I’m a freelancer so it’s more of a branded experience thing, if you’re not running your own business/freelancing, you should omit a logo).

    2. Fikly*

      That’s a terrible practice!

      There are plenty of people who are interested in and appreciate things creative agencies would be doing, who are skilled in what’s needed for non-creative roles, and do not have the creative skills to make a more “designed” resume, even starting from templates.

      To stick to only designed resumes for roles that in no way require this skill shows a lack of understanding of what interest means, versus ability, and what roles require what. Frankly, it shows a lack of skills needed to do your job well, despite how pretty your resume may look.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I can absolutely understand that for positions where document design is a core skill, the resume needs to look polished. But for non-creative roles? I don’t think so.

        1. GythaOgden*

          The person you’re responding to said they worked at a creative agency in the first sentence! I did a double take too, but a second read made it obvious.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Presumably they don’t want creative accounting though, or creative cleaning. If the role doesn’t require design skills, the resume shouldn’t.

            1. Like nice resumes*

              This is the first time I thought an answer is way off. Everyone should want their resume to look as good as it can. It’s like asking why someone should proofread their resume if proofreading isn’t part of their job. Not every template works for every person. If one design doesn’t have enough room for your work accomplishments pick another one. Some people are applying for their first real job and don’t need room for a lot of work accomplishments – maybe that template I’d for them.

              1. ecnaseener*

                There are many different ways for something to look good. For a resume, the “good” you want is clean, readable, simple. It’s not a flyer.

              2. Antilles*

                Maybe it varies by industry, but nearly everybody I know who’s done a lot of candidate screening/hiring prefers the simplest possible resumes. The average time spent on a resume by hiring managers is typically like 2 minutes – the more excess stuff you put on it, the more likely it is that your real accomplishments get lost in the clutter.

                1. Peachy*

                  Yup. I’m a designer and my resume is a pretty standard format. I’ve made sure that the use of colors, typography, and negative space is aesthetically pleasing, but still a standard format. Because I know my resume isn’t just for design managers. It’s also for HR, for applicant tracking systems, for non-design stakeholders like software engineers, etc. Good design takes audience/context into account.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Yep, this is exactly it. I work in a terribly non-creative, highly detail-oriented industry, and my first thought when I see a resume like the sample provided is that it’s form over substance. I find them harder to read, our text extraction/generation systems don’t work with them, and I don’t really care about design sensibilities for my hiring needs.

                  I would not NOT hire someone because they had a highly stylized resume but the right qualifications, but I don’t care for them and generally find them harder to read/skim for the important content.

              3. Sloanicota*

                IMO part of the issue is that good visual “design” for something like a social media post, or an ad spread, or whatever, needs copious use of white space – like, a LOOOOT of white space – as in the example Alison shares. If that looks visually pleasing (?) that’s in part because it’s uncluttered with a lot of empty area. But your resume is most valuable for the amount of information it needs to contain – like a list of all jobs and what skills you gained at them. Leaving two-thirds of the page empty would leave you with either .05 size font or eight pages of resume.

                1. ferrina*

                  White space is valuable in design because it attracts the eye. A designer will use white space to bring your attention to a specific message. A good design will actually add value because it swiftly brings your attention to key information.

                  That said, if you’re not a designer, this can be incredibly hard to do and can easily backfire. Being relentless with your editing can help produce the same effect (less words = more attention on each word)

                2. Hamster Manager*

                  Ferrina is correct, also (nitpick alert) Alison’s example is a blank template, there’s a lot of white space because the content is not included yet.

                  It’s a balancing act, because if you have a wall of information, that’s much less legible than a tightly edited, well-spaced (designed) document. Also, I’d challenge you to think of design as more than just the highly visual marketing examples you cited (ads, social media post (which are usually also ads)). The space between comments here, for instance, as well as the bars indenting along the left delineating comment hierarchy, have been designed to make reading the comments easier. If one comment just flowed into the next with no indenting or smaller spacing, this wall of text would be a lot less pleasant to read.

            2. Ana*

              Disagree. I highly doubt they’re holding the cleaning staff to this standard. What a wild stretch out of left field. If you want to work at a *creative agency* as say, a receptionist or IT person, you should show you are creative. Why else would we want you on staff?

              1. Anon all day*

                Seriously. Ah, yes, how can we skew this comment in the absolutely worst possible light despite specific information being given to show its relevance/meaning? Because, OF COURSE, Mart means that his company requires that every single candidate for every position have a perfectly designed interesting-looking resume.

              2. hbc*

                MART said “no matter the position, so I don’t know why you’d exclude the cleaning staff. As for other support roles, I’d say it’s a nice bonus if you get a tech or receptionist who appreciates design, but at most it should be a tie-breaker. There shouldn’t be any situation where you’re relying on the IT guy to weigh in on which color palette is better for the fall line.

                1. ferrina*

                  Depends on the org. Most places use agencies for custodial responsibilities (they wouldn’t have custodians on payroll). I’ve worked at smaller agencies where the IT person is also doing front-end design on the website.

                  That said, I would be wary of the overly creative accountant.

                2. Julia*

                  Well, because there’s a common-sense difference between IT/receptionist and cleaning staff. Most people do not consider the cleaning staff to be “on the team” – a lot of employers contract out that work. By contrast, the IT person and the receptionist are members of the team and it’s reasonable to want a company culture where everyone on the team has some interest in the thing the business does. Like how video game companies hire gamers even for roles that aren’t working directly on the games.

              3. Observer*

                If you want to work at a *creative agency* as say, a receptionist or IT person, you should show you are creative. Why else would we want you on staff?

                Because the person is GOOD at what they do?

                1. Calliope*

                  Having IT people in a small-ish agency or firm with no understanding of or appreciation for what the business works on often is an issue. In a huge company where you can hire people for one specific job like server maintenance only it probably doesn’t matter. But if you’re one of two or three IT people at a small-ish design firm (or the only one!) and you have no knowledge of design, it’s going to be a disaster.

                2. AMG*

                  GOOD is both objective and subjective.

                  An accountant can be objectively good at the skills necessary to be an accountant, but if they don’t understand or appreciate the product being sold and how it gets made, they’re more likely to make decisions that conflict with the specific needs of this particular company.

                  An example from my past, I remember a VP of Finance implementing a new policy that the company would not reimburse alcoholic beverages on expense reports, with a very clear NO EXCEPTIONS after it. This VP didn’t realize just how much our sales depended on client entertainment. After several embarrassing sales events and the loss of a few large clients who felt it wasn’t a good sign that our company was pinching pennies, this “good” policy ended up costing much more than it saved. The kicker? We were an event and entertainment company.

                  So yes, it’s completely reasonable for an employer to expect employees in unrelated disciplines to have an appreciation of the company’s main mission and the processes involved in producing it.

                3. Observer*

                  You can understand and appreciate the work your agency is doing without being in the least bit good at it. Also, part of being good at your job is taking feedback on board.

                  An actually GOOD VP of Finance, for instance should know better that to make rules about what will be reimbursable without talking to people like the COO and Marketing anyway. In the case of your VP of Finance, why was he making rules without checking in with the people who actually make the work happen?

                  To take a counter example- I work for a social services organization. Our former CFO knew approximately nothing about social services, and even less about some of our specific services. But they very, very quickly learned to ASK rather than just make rules like this because there was always pushback. And they were great – so much so that when they left pretty much everyone who worked with them was really sad to see them go.

                  The problem with your former VP was not that he didn’t appreciate event planning. It’s that he did not understand marketing or customer relations management AND the he thought it was appropriate to make sweeping changes without apparently getting any feedback from the people who would be affected by this rule – and whoever he answered to thought that was appropriate.

                  In the case of a creative agency, a creative accountant is probably not going to have the kind of appreciation for marketing and customer relationships to prevent the kind of fiasco you just described. On the other hand a good VP level account should have enough people skill to understand what they don’t understand. Some background in how creative agencies work is good, sure. But that does NOT mean that they actually need to be creative.

                4. beezus*

                  I work in HR and Payroll and while I do know some industry norms and/or specific rules (esp for payroll) for the places/clients I have worked for, I have little interest in the actual output product of my employees. It’s has no impact on my actual job (I will note that I do the “hard” back office type HR). As long as I’m a cultural fit for an organization, I can do my work well. It seems silly that you’d need certain types of back-office people to be “creative” or whatever. Myself and most of the folks I’ve worked with (accountants, IT, etc) just want a good cultural fit to do their job.

      2. Raia*

        Mart mentioned they “look out for a more “designed” resume”, not that they stick to only designed resumes. I think that it is certainly possible that looking out for characteristics of a resume attuned to the field may make one resume stand out over another.

      3. Allonge*

        Look, you can get templates like this online, free, even if you don’t have Word. It’s a low enough bar. Would I recommend it as good hiring practice? No. Is it totally out of line, considering the field? Also no.

      4. Ana*

        This is not a terrible practice LOL. As a professional creative, it is expected that you’ll demonstrate your creative skills in your one brief interaction with hiring managers. There is nothing wrong with that. If you don’t understand that as an applicant, I would think you don’t get the industry

        1. As per Elaine*

          As an IT professional, I would expect that my resume be judged by the standards of my field, whether the company in question makes widgets or websites. (Now, I do pick a font that I like that has good kerning, and try to have a whitespace balance that makes it feel “airy” to me, which may just be what Mart is talking about, not sure. But I certainly wouldn’t change the formatting of my resume just because the company worked in a design-related field.

          1. Julia*

            “I certainly wouldn’t change the formatting of my resume just because the company worked in a design-related field.”

            And that means you won’t get a job at some places where they want everyone including IT to value design. And that’s ok. Some people are not good culture fits for some spaces.

            1. beezus*

              That is severely limiting the hiring talent pool by making such an arbitrary judgement for back-office type roles at such a workplace. But I guess if they’re going to act like that, I wouldn’t want to work there anyway so that is certainly a cultural mis-match.

              1. pancakes*

                It’s arguably unfair or too restrictive, but it isn’t arbitrary for design people to care about good design.

              2. BabyElephantWalk*

                If you have a big potential pool, you can afford to be picky about who you bring in. And if creativity is part of the culture, and it’s valued in the back end/admin roles as well it makes complete sense to use the available information to screen for that.

                It could be a matter of communication – you select for a team you think will be able to communicate well together. If the entire structure is creative, the one person who just doesn’t get it or see the need to think that way could very well be a poor fit.

          2. Danniella Bee*

            I agree! My background is in consulting and tech. I have a visually pleasing and space-maximized resume with sections to showcase my experience in a readable font.

        2. Observer*

          This is not a terrible practice LOL. As a professional creative, it is expected that you’ll demonstrate your creative skills in your one brief interaction with hiring managers.

          For CREATIVE positions, sure. For anything else? This just boggles the mind. But it does explain the kind of dysfunction one hears about in “creative” agencies.

          1. beezus*

            ding ding ding! I did HR/Payroll for several small creatives and I am so glad the owners/executives had the good sense to know what they didn’t know and to hire accounting/hr/payroll/etc that were a good personality fit with their company and could do their job well even if our resumes and reports and stuff weren’t “fun” or “creative” looking.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      From a recruiting perspective, recruiters tend to loathe highly designed resumes with graphics – they don’t load well into applicant tracking systems and they tend to lose their formatting.

      If you have to have a graphics-heavy resume, make sure you have a plain one as well for actual applications you do.

      1. The Beagle Has Landed*

        Yes, I came here to say this. The ATSs often just read text left to right and top to bottom and fancy tables can really mess that up and turn your resume into word soup.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        I mean, look. We all know by now that we’re going to have to manually type in all our resume details in addition to uploading the PDF. It’s not the applicants’ fault that ATS systems are clunky and redundant, and particularly for those of us who are right on the edge of needing to turn a one-page resume into a two-pager, we gotta do what we can to fit everything in.

        I will say I’m especially sensitive to this because I work in a communications/creative field and need my resume to have a little more visual oomph than, say, someone in data entry or engineering. HR might not care about a cool-looking PDF, but my hiring manager will.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Even a bog standard resume is not parsed well by most ATSs, because the prospective employee still has to go copy-paste their resume in pieces into the blanks. How do I know this? Because I have a bog standard, straightforward resume that still won’t parse in a lot of these garbage systems.

        I know for a fact that they drive recruiters nuts too because their UI is terrible, they focus on things that aren’t important, and turn candidates off. I would name names, but that is beside the point here.

      1. The Beagle Has Landed*

        Yes. I know this from hard-won experience applying for project manager jobs. Bring the formatted one to an interview or email it after you are in the interview process, but I recommend not uploading it into the application as it is likely you will be screened out by the ATS if you do. Plain vanilla at that stage.

    4. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I use a template for my resume from MS Word… 1994. Nice and simple, based on a table. Section headings in gray on the left, everything else nicely bulleted on the right.

      Microsoft moved it to the website only in 2003, and by the next version (2007), had quietly deleted it. By then, the colorful monstrosities from your example had taken over. They’ve gotten worse with every resume template since.

      I’ve been updating my resume for years, using the same template. I keep getting comments that it looks very readable and professional. The only times I’ve had issues were when I forgot that it IS a table when I needed to make major edits like adding sections or moving them around!

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        My resume is 3 pages, btw, mostly because I have a LOT of academic history. (4 colleges, 2 degrees, a few publications AND professional organization memberships. Usually because it’s in CV format.)

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          FWIW, I’d say you could list only the colleges from which you got degrees and lose or condense the professional organization memberships.

          I have enough degrees that it would probably kill any anonymity I have left to say exactly how many, a work history with several jobs just in my current field, about a dozen or so publications, and multiple professional certifications. I also have a few jurisdictions in which I’m licensed to practice law. I’ve managed to fit all that—plus volunteer work, sometimes—in two pages. It’s not easy and requires some “creative” formatting (nothing fancier than putting the certifications and bar admissions in columns next to each other), but if I can fit my resume into two pages, you can too!

          I also have a full CV, which has all my publications and conference talks, not just a selection, and has a section on teaching experience. It’s about 4 pages long, which is actually kind of short for a full CV. I’d say that three pages is in kind of an uncanny valley where it’s too long for a resume but kind of short for a CV (unless you’re a brand new scholar fresh out of school, maybe).

      2. Mockingjay*

        Mine is a plain MS Word template, which is still available. It’s not a table; it uses basic headings and paragraph styles which I tweaked – the headings were dark blue which I changed to black. You have to search for simple resume formats; try web search first instead of going to Microsoft’s template site.

        If you have moderate expertise in Word, it’s easy to create your own template. Find a resume style you like and type the basic elements into a blank Word document. Apply/create styles to customize. When you have the Style codes configured, save the document as a .dotx file. This is Word’s template file type. Each time you click the .dotx file to open, it creates a new, preformatted document that you fill in.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Mine is mostly the same, but I created my own Word styles to create appropriate spacing for the heading/bullet/whatever, use concise language in my bullets, and make sure it looks crisp and not cluttered. It’s worked well in my industry and is consistent with resumes I’ve seen in the same space.

            The two worst problems I tend to see with resumes are blocks of text rather than bullets and a focus on the mechanics of job responsibilities rather than accomplishments. It’s also really rare to see a well-written objective that is worth the space it takes up on a resume.

      3. SyFyGeek*

        My son asked me to look over his resume. He used a template from Indeed and it was horrible! And 4 pages because Indeed rated him on skills and said to put them on the resume. I explained that nobody cares about Indeed ratings, and nobody wants a 4 page resume and where was his contact information?? Indeed told him only his name and email were needed.
        I put his full contact info in the header, turned it into a skills based resume, and he’s had some responses.

        I hated to tell him that if I received the resume the way it was, I wouldn’t even contact him, it was such a hot mess.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I would understand that if it was for a relevant position, but how does it matter for, say, accounting or legal?

    6. NYWeasel*

      When I was hiring for creative roles, I would look for a consistent clean design between the resume and the portfolio, but an overly designed resume was a potential red flag for me that the candidate spends more time fussing over their resume than doing professional work. I valued candidates who organized their work history in a way that made it easy for me to assess their relevant experience over someone who put everything into a fancy infographic that might not even cover what I was trying to look for.

      1. Making up names is hard*

        This! When I was a graphic designer I got so many compliments on my resume that was just plain black on white. I used a subtly different serif font in a couple weights, had strong information hierarchy through sizing, font weight, and italics, a bold (but classic) name header, and really REALLY well spaced lines and columns with plenty of white space. I think, inadvertently, I actually demonstrated a lot of my core skills and aesthetic through that resume design, even though I actually love working with color and graphics more than plain text layout.

        For all the non-designers, try to find a template that is very classic but feels modern. Make sure it’s super easy to skim for important info and that it prints well on a normal office printer. Seriously this colored infographic resume nonsense is hurting you, u less you are a student with no work experience who wants to specialize in that kind of design. (In which case the resume design is a portfolio piece.)

        1. Siege*

          I do this as well, though I do have my name block and one horizontal line in a color that is purple if printed in color and dark gray if printed in black and white. I mostly do that as a tag back to my website which has the same purple as a key color. But you can do a lot with just being consistent between cover letter and resume and using font weights/sizes judiciously.

          (It makes me nuts to get a resume that’s moderately well designed and uses bold and normal weight sans-serif pretty well, and then the cover letter is an entirely different side of Times New Roman. Tell me you don’t know word processing programs without telling me you don’t know word processing programs. Problem is, I’m currently hiring for a position where word processing programs are crucial.)

          1. pancakes*

            I wouldn’t assume that someone using different sizes doesn’t know how to make them consistent.

            I also think it’s overly-finicky to think everyone should prefer consistent sizing between both documents the way you do. That’s a preference, not an iron-clad rule. If someone wants to use 11-pt on the resume to get a nice fit for all their info and 12-pt in their cover letter for readability that shouldn’t be disqualifying.

        2. Allegra*

          I used a Google Docs resume template and have had great results. They have a few pretty good simple templates I’d recomment, but the Serif one is my favorite: it’s well-designed with a main section and sidebar, good readable fonts, and there’s a little pop of color in the headers (that you could tweak, but I like it). I’ve never had an issue exporting it to .docx or PDF format and I’ve used it for years.

      2. Allonge*

        “an overly designed resume was a potential red flag for me that the candidate spends more time fussing over their resume than doing professional work”

        Is this not going too much in the other direction though? Sure, if the design does not help readability, that is a bad signal but any designer I knew could set up a stylish and professional template for a resume in a day and consider it time well invested. And still have a couple thousand days of actual work under their belt.

        1. NYWeasel*

          Hence the word “potential”. I didn’t immediately write off candidates but I didn’t consider it as a huge plus that I wanted to see either.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          As a designer said above, the document should be designed in such as way as to make the designer input scarcely noticeable. Just like the work I’ll perform when editing a document: I’ll correct typos, I might use a synonym that helps a sentence flow better, or find a smoother way of saying something. It’s like housework, you only notice when it hasn’t been done, or has been done very badly. It should look like it was effortless, like a gymnast doing the splits compared to me groaning and creaking as I lower my body to the floor.
          “overly designed” is badly designed.

    7. not regular hr, cool hr*

      I’ve been a recruiter at creative agencies for 10+ years and designed resumes are never the way to go from my perspective. Design work is for your portfolio, your resume is for the information Alison shared.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        When my daughter was at the school of fine arts, the teachers all emphasised that no, you mustn’t make your CV into a work of art. No painting or even calligraphy. Her friend, who produced textile art with a big embroidery component, had been thinking of embroidering her CV and the teacher actually cited that as an example of what absolutely mustn’t be done. You produce an elegant, easy-to-read CV and show your embroidery skills off in your portfolio.

        1. The OTHER Other.*

          OMG, an embroidered CV? That absolutely trumps the more mundane over-the-top résumés I’ve heard of, using pink paper, or sparkly margins, etc.

          I knew someone who received a resume attached to a “Congratulations!” balloon once. Congratulations for… receiving this resume?

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      While I think it’s a terrible practice to judge people on the style of their resume, if you insist then you need to specify that in your job postings. “Please get creative with the formatting of your resume such as using blah blah blah.

      Otherwise you are penalizing people for doing the standard normally accepted format.

      I assure you the people using those creative things now aren’t doing so out of some deep interest in you field. They found a template or example somewhere and are copying it.

      1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        If you have to tell people how to get creative, that’s not creativity.

        It would be pretty bad if all hiring managers thought like this no matter the role or industry, but to me this seems like a very reasonable sort of cultural fit determination, and if MART is finding that they get a good number of well-qualified applicants who turn into good employees this way, good for them! It’s not like “prefers a plain resume” is a protected class or even strongly linked to a protected class. If anything people who prefer the plain resume have an advantage in most hiring processes. Just not this particular one.

    9. three soft tacos*

      That’s sort of interesting to me me because these sorts of resumes are basically almost all poorly designed, where a good design would be one that hits all the marks Alison mentioned (easily skimmable, info presented as expected, etc.). A well-designed, “normal” resume with great typography—that seems good. Much more than that, not so much, and tbh they seem sorta cringy to me. (I’m a designer myself though never in a hiring role for it)

    10. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      However, can I assume, MART, that you would prefer your creative candidates to actually create the design for their resume, rather than using a template?

  4. Take the Fannoli*

    #2. The desk has gone. It’s no longer yours. People like it because it’s well-stocked and has a fan(!). If the company is hotdesking, you should have a locker, somewhere to put your personal items. Use that and reduce the frustration.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Yes, I suspect this is where it’s at. It used to be your personal desk, it no longer is, and the next step is to put all your personal stuff in a box or filing cabinet so you can move it from desk to desk. It’s worth asking your manager for a rolling filing cabinet, if you have a lot of paperwork that needs to be stored.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a coworker assumed that the fan went with the desk (in which case someone asking for it would be presumptuous), rather than being a personal item owned by a coworker sitting at a different desk (where asking for it back would be reasonable).

      1. JSPA*

        Right, and leading with “my desk” (when it clearly isn’t, anymore) clouds the issue; the person sitting there assumes “my” is short for, “the fan that sits at what I mistakenly consider my desk,” not, “my actual personal bought-with-my-money-back-when-this-was-my-desk” fan.

        OP needs to take back their special items, and put them into a locker or take them home. After that, the desk in question will cease to be special.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        If the OP is a long lasting, high quality employee in good standing it might be worth it to have a conversation with their manager about how much they dislike hot desking. Because honestly hot desking is miserable and the company should probably hear if they are making their employees unhappy. I don’t know how difficult it would be for this company to bring in more desks, but it sounds like someone should consider it. Be professional, ignore the petty stuff, but tell your manager you are unhappy since you lost your assigned desk, you don’t have somewhere to put your personal items, and is there anything that can be done? It’s a great job market, so they should be trying at least a little to keep a good employee.

        1. Antilles*

          It’s worth politely asking once, but I seriously doubt that conversation goes anywhere productive. Presumably, there’s a reason why the company has four desks for eight employees – limited space, tight funds, doesn’t make sense because there’s never more than 2-3 employees in the office at any given time, etc.
          So I’d fully expect the answer would be something along the lines of “I know it’s not ideal but we’re not adding more desks because X and we can’t assign one person a permanent desk because that’d be unfair to everyone else”.

        2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          OP should also consider whether it’s desirable or feasible to spend more time working from home, where they can have all the things they want in the exact place where they want them.

        3. High Score!*

          We hot desk. This strategy did not work for our employees. They were pointed to the lockers. All our desks are standard tho and anything left overnight is removed by the cleaning staff. That may be irritating to some but there’s no large piles of junk stuffed in cubes by hoarding employees and the refrigerators always smell good and are a joy to use.

          1. ferrina*

            I’m ADHD, and hot-desking is my nightmare. I can hold a thousand things in my head, but my desk will always be a mess. And it takes me a lot longer to clean a desk that it takes a neurotypical person. Cleaning my desk every day would take 30-40 minutes some days (no joke), and I’d probably end up with a bag of clutter that gets stuffed into my locker.

            1. Autumnheart*

              I have ADHD, and I resolve the issue of a cluttered desk by keeping my desk belongings to an absolute minimum, and carrying a backpack. My desk is not a mess and it takes 5 minutes to clean. Because really, even when it’s “your” desk, it’s not your desk. If a person really can’t pack their stuff up within 10-15 minutes and have it be ready for someone else to use, they have too much stuff on their desk.

              1. JustaTech*

                Laugh-weeps in scientist, who is obligated to keep records on paper and also has a half-dozen prototypes on my desk because they can’t be in the lab where they might get mixed up with the in-use stuff.

                That’s in addition to my personal desk toys, my obligatory-from-corporate desk toys, notes, lotion, hand sanitizer, cup of pens, box of tissues, staplers, tape dispenser, mug and teapot – most of which used to live in my cabinets out of sight but someone decided that we should have a more “open” office with just desks rather than cubes with storage. (Heck, you can’t even open the sideways file cabinet all the way so you have to twist every piece of paper to get it in the file hanger.)

                Some of this is my personal clutter, but a non-zero amount is stuff I am obligated (by federal law!) to keep, and since I’ve been here longest, I’m the one who’s gotten stuck keeping it.

                1. pancakes*

                  Right, but even voluminous paperwork easily fits into file boxes for moving, and having lots of toys on one’s desk, more than can fit in, say, a backpack or a single box, isn’t strictly necessary. I’m inclined to agree with Autumnheart on that.

          2. lilsheba*

            This would be so beyond irritating to me. I like having my own space with my things, and having them left alone. Thank GOD I work from home.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Same here. I worked at one company that did “benching” in an open plan, 36″ to 54″ per person, and everyone had a “locker”. It was a pain in the butt. You didn’t dare stretch for fear of hitting someone, and the noise was horrendous when everyone was there.

              Sure, each seat had a monitor, a docking station, a keyboard and a mouse. But that didn’t work well, the lockers were usually far from where you actually sat, and it was generally miserable. I coped by having my laptop, notebook, trackball and desk supplies is a backpack that I carried to and from. I also left in less than a year.

      3. lostclone*

        I’m with this. I’m totally with the lw because not having your own space sucks (especially when it seems like there’s nowhere to put your stuff???). Move the stuff you paid for off the desk and lay it out on whatever desk you have that day – I imagine it’ll make your preferred desk way less appealing!

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think this is probably the case as well. Take all the personal things that you have paid for and remove them from the desk. I suspect the well stocked nature of that desk is why so many people are choosing it – and especially the fan if it’s an office with air circulation issues.

      Alternately – if you have lots of paper files that for whatever reason you exclusively are working on, I would approach the boss about having an assigned desk due to the need to keep files together, organized, and stored to increase productivity.

      1. High Score!*

        Scan the papers and store them online. Unless you need them for signatures or something, in which case they should be secured.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, of course it’s the most popular desk if it’s got all of OP’s personally paid-for amenities! OP, just take all of your stuff out of the desk and bring it to where ever you are working.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. It isn’t your desk. The others are not going to yield to you. Take all your stuff and put it in some sort of storage. Maybe a duffel or briefcase that you can keep in your car or in a locker (it really sucks if you don’t have storage either). But stop leaving stuff on your desk. That fan needs to travel with you or be stored. Yeah it sucks. But it is not your desk.

      1. Oakwood*

        I’d suggest a rolling case of some type. One the LW could put their computer case on top of and roll as one.

        Light enough they can lift it into the car. Big enough to hold her stuff.

        I would also push the company to provide something to lock personal belongings in. Most desks, even in an open office, come with at least a locking drawer.

    4. NotARacoonKeeper*

      Definitely. And if OP can’t let go of wanting a personal space (who can? hotdesking sucks) and wants to try to stake a claim on another desk, they should choose the least desirable desk, and see if they can make that work. But most likely figuring out how to store their stuff away from any of the desks is their best option.

      1. Tara*

        This view is strong on AAM but it’s not the only one – lots of people are fine with hotdesking!

        I have a locker, and a laptop that comes with me and docks at different desks. I don’t have paperwork. I really don’t care about moving desks so long as I’ve booked to sit with people I know.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup. Same with the open office stuff. I am in a corporate building in the UK, and most new build (post 1990s) buildings are open offices. I went for an interview last week and realised that I’d be one of a half-dozen people working in a room half the size of my current reception area with no windows or natural light, complete with masking still being enforced because it was a hospital office, which just doubled the discomfort. (Not anti-masking, just it amplified a problematic environment, because I’m one of those unlucky people for whom masks were a necessary evil but gave me headaches. I know Covid would have been worse, but they were a pain to wear all day every day and contributed to the stress that autism imposed on me during the long winters.)

          I was terrified they’d offer me the job! Open offices are what I’m most used to, I get migraines without natural light, and being occasionally distracted by a team that likes to natter while they work is preferable to claustrophobia. (Best of both worlds — I came very close to getting it, but someone else had just a bit more hospital experience than I had, and they picked up that I’d rightly prefer a more customer/service-user facing role. So it was a moral victory for my skillset, but a relief that I wouldn’t have to work in a converted boiler room.)

          1. Dragonscales*

            Side-note: I find it fascinating that you consider six people to be not an open-plan office, and this has had me examining my definition of ‘open-plan office’. I think anything strictly more than four people sharing a room would have me calling it an open office, though I suppose the presence of cubicals/etc. might change things. Shrug.

            1. WellRed*

              I was a little confused myself. Sounds like an open office to me, albeit extra unpleasant.

              1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

                Nod. I thought an open office was where there were no walls so you can hear all the noises possible. ( I wear headphones to the office to prevent noise and a mask due to the weird quirk that if you as much as sneeze on me thst I’m down for weeks)

            2. londonedit*

              Cubicles are rare in UK offices (in my experience) and I’d call ‘open plan’ one of those giant whole-floor-of-a-building company setups with banks of desks and loads of people all sitting and working together. Where I work we have rooms with 6-10 people in them at adjoining desks, no cubicles or dividers between desks, and I wouldn’t call that an open-plan office.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                That sounds more like the “team room” concept, which is each team gets a room with a door, but there are no walls/cubes in that room, just desks. It cuts down on non-team related chatter and noise, unless you work with loud people who take calls on speaker phone. Also useful in that you don’t need to book a conference room for meetings – the team just turns their chairs around. Any whiteboards can be left up with team info on them.

                But if it’s overcrowded, or has no natural light, it’s probably still miserable.

                1. GythaOgden*

                  Yeah, that’s correct. Open plan to me is a whole floor with quite a few desks. A room barely half the size of my building’s foyer (i.e. tiny) is probably /technically/ open plan, but it would feel claustrophobic.

                2. pancakes*

                  I’ve worked in a room like that. It wasn’t bad because there were three small phone rooms with decent sound-muffling capabilities along one of the walls, along the same wall as the coat closets by the entrance, relatively far from where most people sat. The decor was fairly sunny, vintage 60s travel posters.

            3. tamarak & fireweed*

              The first open-plan office I saw was in the last century at my first summer job at 16. It was at a very large employer who had its global headquarter in our town and employed several members of my family at the time. It was a fairly new steel-and-concrete-and-glass somewhat brutalist building, with a wide modernist entryway and escalators to the rectangular open floors. I was vaguely aware that the architecture had been somewhat controversial among the the employees, who had to move from an outdated building, but with 2-3 person offices, but it didn’t strike me as unpleasant at all. The layout was complex, with distinct “functional areas”, some enclosed (sales, purchasing… typing pool [dating myself here :-) ] ). You walked across it along designated trails that were marked with furniture and quite a jungle of potted plants. HR (“personnel department”) was in a completely different building. The engineering team I was assigned to had about half a dozen of people in a vaguely kidney shaped pod. The manager was a little off to the side at his own desk. Desks were about 8 feet wide. There must have been some sophisticated sound engineering because you basically heard nothing from the adjacent pods (this is with professionals keeping to normal, calm speaking voices).

              Very very different from the open office – low-rise cubes in 4-pods strewn haphazardly across a rectangular room with maybe the occasional potted plant to break things up. Or the hotdesking setup I have seen at a Seattle startup, where engineers paid well into the 6 figures plop their laptop on 4″ desks that have a docking station and a monitor, and the air is a constant hum.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            “I was terrified they’d offer me the job!”
            Why??? I mean I get that you didn’t really like their setup, but you don’t have to accept the first job offer you get. You can just say “no thanks, I don’t think I’d be a good fit”.

            1. GythaOgden*

              I know. I wanted it, I went for it, and what I mean really is that it would be a job I was interested in, just whether or not the working conditions would be a dealbreaker or not was thankfully out of my hands.

            2. Splendid Colors*

              Unless they were on unemployment and would lose their benefits if they turned down a job offer.

        2. Xavier Desmond*

          Glad you said this. I quite like hotdesking too as it gives me a chance to sit with different colleagues and I have no interest in having loads of personal stuff on my desk. Obviously some people don’t but we shouldn’t assume everyone in the world are like AAM commentors.

          1. UKDancer*

            Same. My company hotdesks. Everyone has a locker for their stuff. You book your desk and occupy it. I usually try and sit with my team. I quite enjoy it but then I’ve never been into having a load of things with me.

          2. Warrior Princess Xena*

            I hotdesk. Historically I was in a position where I’d be mostly working on client sites, rather than at the office (auditor), and hot desking was super common since it didn’t make sense to have assigned seating for people who spent 10 weeks a year in the office. Now that a lot of our client work is virtual the audit staff is actually in the office a lot more frequently than we used to be.

            One thing that does help for us is that all the desks are up to the same standard. Two big monitors, nice office chairs, power outlets, etc. And there’s an office-wide expectation of being reasonably quiet, and we’re almost completely paperless these days. It combines into a good experience.

        3. Snuck*

          And it’s easy to store your stationary items in a ‘bag in bag’ (look at Lihit Lab brand for the idea), so you can drag that along with you wherever you go.

          It’s rare to need six different colour highlighters, four different types of sticky notes, three kinds of pencils, five different pens and a partridge in a pear tree to get through the average role in the average day…. I’m trying to imagine just how much stationary is needed to claim ownership of a desk!

        4. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m totally fine with hotdesking now – in the 90s we called it hoteling – but it was hard to break the habit of having ‘my’ space at work. Forcing myself to set up at different desks each time I was onsite helped, and also the passing of time.

          We didn’t have assigned lockers either, so it also helped to take everything with me at the end of the day. My laptop, desk fan, my personal stash of Pilot G-2 pens, notebooks, water bottle, you name it. I left nothing on ‘my’ desk even if I was coming back the next day, and that also helped me to stop claiming a space, even if it was just in my head.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            pfff having to cart all your personal belongings around sucks. Not to mention the waste of time packing it all up and then retrieving it all the next day.

            1. Allison*

              Agreed. One of the reasons I don’t work in an office now is because I won’t have a dedicated workspace, and I’d have to lug everything around on the subway every morning and every evening. No thanks. If WFH is the only way I can keep my stuff in the same place, then so be it.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Folks, it wasn’t that bad. A laptop bag was all I needed for work materials, and a tote bag for my water bottle and fan. Not a hardship at all.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  I literally can’t carry two bags because of disability. If it didn’t fit in my medium backpack, or attach to it, it didn’t go. It was still heavy and miserable.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              This. I did it for a year, and a backpack full of basic stuff gets heavy after a while, and I was minimalist about it. The worst thing was having to lug around a water bottle and coffee cup because all the company had were dinky styrofoam cups. This in addition to my lunch, laptop, trackball, notebook, pens & pencils, stickies, headphones, etc.

              1. pancakes*

                That’s bad, but also not something that has to be a problem in a thoughtfully-designed office with decent cleaning services. Styrofoam cups are illegal where I am and many places I’ve worked have cabinets full of ceramic mugs for coffee and tea, paper or recyclable plastic for water. People’s lunches can go in shared fridges rather than being carried around all day.

          2. calonkat*

            I’m already irritated that I have to drive to a cubicle to work on a computer and attend zoom meetings all day. I cannot even imagine my irritation if I also had to take my computer/keyboard/monitors home every night and back to the office every day.

        5. Annie Mouse*

          I’m in the same boat. My department switched to hotdesking in 2018, the trade-off was that we went from full time in office to 50% WFH. I learned very quickly to keep documents electronically and to be really selective about what I thought I needed on my desk. I carry my laptop and a mouse in my work bag and kept a sweater and some personal things like lotion/tissues in my locker. Most of us really don’t need all the stuff anymore, and being “lean” helps if you’re hybrid.

      2. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Honestly I can imagine hotdesking making sense in some contexts just like how group work in school can be great if done well. The issue is that often neither of the two is done well, causing a lot of frustration.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          If people are going to push for more and more hybrid working situations, then hotdesking is the only realistic and suitable option for a lot of businesses (remote is a different issue, obviously).

          When people are expected to only be in the office 2-3 days a week then, unless you have a very small office in the first place, having a desk available for everyone is an idiotic decision from a business point of view.

          1. Memily*

            I work for a large super-regional bank and go in the office 2-3 times a week. Most of my department goes in once a week.

            We all have our own desks. Part of it is that they own a giant skyscraper downtown (which they won’t give up) in addition to several other buildings and there is plenty of space. Part of it is security I think—they don’t want to spend more money to be able to lock up important documents when they have lockable desks already. And part of it is that they already have systems in place for personal security/IT and don’t want to spend the money to change it all.

            I think a lot of it depends on the industry, the state the business was in before the pandemic, and the company culture. I do think at some point my workplace will consolidate based on fully WFH employees, but I don’t think they’ll ever hotdesk.

          2. A.N. O'Nyme*

            Yup, that’s one of the contexts I was thinking of. As long as it’s done properly (I really like the reservation system mentioned below) it should not be an issue at all.

          3. High Score!*

            Yeah, all the hot desk haters at my company (surprisingly few) just work from home 100%.

        2. Alternative Person*

          Yeah, hotdesking makes sense at my current job because my worksite/office split is usually 70/30 and its the same for most of my colleagues, and unless we’re there for an all staff meeting, we’re never all at the office at the same time. I keep my office essentials in my locker.

          At my previous job we were assigned cubicles at there were enough for everyone, at the main site at least. More than once though, I had to chase people out of mine and got a lot of back talk because ‘it was empty’ and ‘it’s well stocked’. Well, yes, it’s mine. It has my name on it! Go to your own.

      3. Artemesia*

        This is always a good strategy if you are not the most important person. It is doubly true with offices. I was once offered the best office when I needed more space for an important function I performed. I knew that this would make me a target as new people were hired. I was important but I was far from the most important person and didn’t have an entirely secure job. By choosing an adequate but not obviously desirable space, I had my office and was left along for about 20 years till I retired. That corner office always went to the hottest most prestigious new hire.

        But for the OP — yeah. Strip that desk which is NOT YOUR desk of all the goodies. Of course everyone chooses it; it has a fan. Why didn’t you say ‘I bought the fan, it is my personal property?’ I’m sure your colleague thought it odd that you wanted their desk fan on a hot day.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yep, and when you are wishing that you were at the good desk because it has a purple highlighter, hie thee to the supply cabinet and acquire a purple highlight for the desk you are actually sitting at. Yes, it’s stupid that you have to basically supply all the desks, but it’s less stupid than sitting at a badly stocked desk wishing you had a purple highlighter, which is your other option.

    6. Willis*

      Yeah, agreed. If there’s a bunch of personal stuff in the desk that aren’t things you’re actually using during the workday, I’d just bring those home.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Find a central place to store what you actually NEED at work. Take the rest home. I’m betting that if you actually start cleaning out the desk, you will winnow down the necessities to a set of items that are a lot more portable.

        Your own desk isn’t coming back. You need to adapt or decide this is a deal breaker and leave.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      OP, get yourself an organiser bag or tote for your things and clear your desk when you’re finished with it. Either take this bag away with you or leave it to one side where you can easily grab your things to use at any desk. I like the retractable pencil cases which converts into a desktop container, but as a teacher expected to use different rooms, never mind different desks, my rolling cart works best for me. (But yes I think we should all get a desk!)

      1. Artemesia*

        I taught years ago and as the most junior person didn’t have my own classroom and had to race across the campus in the 4 minute break. Wish I had had a rolling cart then. But having a bag that is well organized and holds the desk stuff you need — or a box or whatever. Makes setting up each day quick too. (and the first time someone sees the fan on a different desk it will be ‘hey why did you take the fan off X desk?’ and you will have to explain it is yours.

    8. GythaOgden*

      Yup. This was my response. One org that works in our building has gone to hybrid working plus hotdesking, with people actually having to apply to be in the office rather than at home. They all had a certain date to clear out their desks and take their stuff home, and the second floor where most of them worked is being refurbished anyway (and those people who have to be in have been allocated a conference room to be their temporary office).

      OP needs to shift their stuff and recognise the change in situation. It does no-one any good for them to be passive-aggresive about it — one of those put up or shut up moments where they’re only creating more frustration for themselves and possibly going to end up with a reputation for being territorial where it’s not even their space to begin with.

    9. Emma*

      Yeah, it sounds like the big problem here is that your employer has switched to hotdesking without considering the practicalities.

      A lot of employers that do hot desking also provide lockable drawers or cabinets on wheels, so employees can store their personal items in their own cabinet, and when you start work you wheel your cabinet over to the desk you are using today, and have easy access to all your stuff. It might be worth asking your management to provide this – or, if you’re the only person who has a lot of stuff (which might be why your former desk is so popular), checking if you can provide your own.

      I suspect that once the fan and other nice-to-have stuff is no longer stored on that desk, other people will have less of a preference for it anyway.

    10. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      This. The LW needs to accept that the situation has changed and make arrangements accordingly. My husband’s office switched to hot desking several years ago so he bought a little basket to keep all his desk stuff in and just puts it in a locker at the end of the day. If the LW doesn’t have something like this, that is what I would be asking for. Maybe ask the boss if you can get more fans for the office generally.

    11. londonedit*

      Yep, I agree. We’re desk sharing now rather than hot desking – half the company is in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays, and half on Wednesdays and Thursdays. So you have ‘your’ desk for the days when you’re in the office, but someone else will be using it on the other days. Which means things aren’t the same as they were pre-2020 – we now have lockers and drawers for anything we want to leave in the office, and we take our laptops and anything else we need back and forth from the office to home. I’ve never been one for having many personal items at my desk, but I used to have things like a personalised mug for all my pens to live in, hand cream, a little plant, things like that. And now I can’t have those on my desk when I’m at the office – well, I could, but I’d have to put them away every week to clear the desk for the person who’ll be using it when I’m not, and it just seems like too much effort for two days a week. I’d rather just treat the desk as not being mine, and not have anything personal on it.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        If you do want things like that, I recommend having a small, shallow tea tray living in your locker that has the little things live on it. It’s stupid how much it actually helps since it’s a quick gather and disperse at the beginning/end of the day vs. juggling lots of paraphernalia and getting frustrated.

        1. Tau*

          This is a brilliant idea. I’m prone to clutter so should be careful about it, but I miss having a plant on my desk.

          1. amoeba*

            I mean, I’d also check with the person you’re sharing with – I imagine many people would be perfectly fine with sharing a plant! (Just like having a plant e.g. on the windowsill of the office…)
            Also cannot really imagine it’d be good for the plant to live in a dark locker and only come out for two days out of seven? Might have to go for a fake one in that case…

            1. BabyElephantWalk*

              A plant, and probably a couple personal items. It doesn’t hurt to ask if they have an issue with a (cleaned daily) mug on the corner of the desk when you aren’t there. Be gracious if the answer is no, but it’s ok to ask.

    12. Ya-ya Roo*

      I definitely want to echo that there should be a locker provided! When we moved to hotdesking, we were all given lockers as well to ensure that personal belongings would be accessible. But the absolute best thing that we did was a couple years later, as a result of covid – staff now book their desks in advance. This started for us to be able to track any outbreaks of people sitting near one another, but has moved to become a standard practice because staff really like to be able to know where they are sitting in advance. They can arrange based on colleagues they need to work with that day, or pick one of the ‘quieter’ desks if they have a lot more individual work. We do have people who ‘camp’ at a certain desk, but if they have booked in advance (and left that desk usable for others on days they don’t have it), it’s not really an issue. Senior management also tries to move around the office a bit to ensure they are working with different people on different days. We use the Teams ‘Shifts’ function to do all our desk booking.

    13. Amtelope*

      This. It’s not your desk anymore, and being possessive about it is just going to rightfully annoy your coworkers. Get your stuff, including your fan, and put it in a box or a bin or a rolling cart that can move with you. Your coworkers probably don’t want to deal with the desk being full of your stuff when they’re trying to work there, either.

      1. Oakwood*

        I suspect that’s exactly why they are choosing it–it’s full of her stuff.

        Fan, pens, paper, post it notes, coasters, chargers (usb, powerstrip), monitor with adapters, mouse pad, spare mouse, spare keyboard, all the things that are a PITA to haul back and forth.

        She needs to get there early (or stay late) and remove EVERYTHING from her old desk. Then start sitting at another desk. When the complaints start, she can explain she took HER stuff from her old desk–items she purchased and items supplied to her by the company to allow her to perform her job.

        I amazes me how people allow themselves to be pushed around. These items did not become community property. She requires them to perform her job, regardless of where she is sitting.

    14. Saberise*

      The only possible exception I can see is is if someone is working in the office full time and everyone else is hybrid. We are all hybrid except for one AA that wants to work in the office. We all share the other desks and she has one that only she uses. Other than that we all have our personal stuff in our own cubby that can lock if need be.

    15. The Cosmic Avenger*

      In addition to all of the above, if your office doesn’t provide lockers or file cabinets for you to store your stuff, something as simple as a cardboard box you can keep in your car could be an easy way to keep all of your stuff without trying to camp out at this one specific desk. You can still get simple organizers and small bins to keep in the box, so your stuff is more modular and portable — highlighters in a little bin or ziplock baggie, pens in another, etc.
      And if this all sounds too complicated, that’s because you’re set on having your OWN desk when your employer has made clear that you are hotdesking. Yes, we understand that it sucks in some ways; I like having photos and trinkets on my desk….but that’s because I don’t hotdesk. If I did, I’d pare down my stuff to my laptop and a very few essentials. We’re not ragging on you, OP, we’re just pointing out that your employer has made and approved of this change, and your issues are not so much because of the hotdesking itself, but because you’re creating conflict by trying to resist it.

      1. The OTHER Other.*

        I’m surprised by the many mentions of lockers in the comments. Maybe this is a thing in places that do a lot of hot desking, but in 40 years I’ve never worked in an office that had lockers.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          About half of the open plans I’ve worked in had lockers, because the desks, even if assigned, had minimal storage, and people weren’t shy about taking what they wanted from others’ workspaces. One place wanted “clean desks” every night. I refused. I didn’t want to spend an hour a day taking out and putting away all the stuff I need to work.

    16. Person from the Resume*

      I agree with this statement. You don’t have a desk anymore because your office is hot-desking with a first come, first-served mentality. Take your truely personal stuff home, and put your personal equipment, tools like a fan somewhere that is not a desk – locker or box in the corner (label the box with your name). It is possible (or necessary when there are less desks than employees) to use an advanced reservation system.

      Your other option is to be the first in the office every morning to get the desk you want.

    17. Verthandi*

      My thoughts, too. They’re not grabbing that desk because it’s “yours” but because it has all the amenities. Clear the desk of your stuff and you may find that your coworkers aren’t favoring it as much, unless they like the location.

    18. Petty Betty*

      At this point, all *personal* items need to be labeled as such. Whether it’s in permanent marker, engraved, with a label maker, or some kind of fun personalized sticker (vinyl and hard to remove) – all personal items NEED to be clearly labeled to show that no, the items don’t belong to that particular desk, but to LW2 and that LW2 will take them to wherever LW2 sits.

      Absolutely people are sitting at that desk because they think that desk is well-equipped. They don’t assume that LW2 stocked it for LW2’s personal convenience, and LW2 hasn’t made it especially clear that the items at the desk are specifically LW2’s personal items.

      I’d recommend pulling everything personal and taking it home one day. Reevaluate what you actually need on a day-to-day basis. Find out what you can store in a locker/box that you can carry with you to each desk daily. Label everything that you do end up bringing back and label the box you use to carry your supplies.

    19. BabyElephantWalk*

      OP, I’m sorry your employer has taken away your desk. But you are taking your frustration on that out on your coworkers, even if you aren’t doing it intentionally.

      Leaving your personal items in a shared space and being upset when people think they are shared items? That’s not ok. Take your personal items with you. You are absolutely entitled to sole use of your fan etc – but if you don’t say “Hi Coworker, I bought that fan with my money and it’s my personal property” they are unlikely to give you back the fan. Your request is reasonable, but without that context it appears unreasonable.

      Have a talk with management if you want – if a permanent desk is essential to your job make that case. Be prepared for the conversation to go nowhere.

      Stop being passive aggressive about it with people who have no more power over the situation than you do. If you don’t get a desk back, it might help to make a point of sitting anywhere but your former desk until you can get comfortable with the idea.

    20. PhyllisB*

      I hope the person with the desk issues reads this. I will also post in Friday work forum. I was just reading this month’s Real Simple magazine, and they are advertising a Portable Desk Organizer that might be helpful. Don’t know if the fan would fit, but other things will.

  5. LiteBriteExpert*

    LW #5–hiring manager at a medium nonprofit. I second everything Allison said–I don’t want overdesigned resumes and I especially don’t want the applicant’s picture on the resume. It’s not super common but I’ve seen it enough that it seems to be something of a new trend or maybe advice coming out of some college’s career center.

    1. PR hirer*

      LW5–I hire communication staff in the NPF space. All I want is a crisp, well-formatted resume that fits into two pages.

      I love toi see portfolios and design work, but they need to be separate to the resume.

    2. Jayjay*

      YES! What’s with the pictures? I always feel very uncomfortable when I receive a resume with a photo attached to it.

      1. Language Lover*

        It’s standard practice in other countries. I don’t know if that explains the resumes you’re getting but there could be some best practices spilling over into countries where it’s not common.

        1. Ina Lummick*

          Yes when we’d get unsolicited applications via the support email at my old job, a lot had photos. Eg: it’s quite common in France but in the UK it’s an absolute no (and might get your application tossed so they don’t get accused of bias…)

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. I’m in Finland, and I’ve only included a photo with a resume twice, both times when I was a student. The first time was when I was taking a course in business French at college and we had to do resumes and write cover letters for imaginary jobs in the French job market. The second time was when I attended a job fair for students, and they wanted photos for the attendee cards, although I don’t really know why.

            I think it’s interesting that there are two conflicting trends here. There’s the trend of trying to anonymize candidates as far as possible to limit bias, at least until you get to the interview stage if it’s in person or a video call. But there’s also the trend of eliminating written applications entirely for entry-level jobs and simply asking candidates to record their answers on video. I like the first trend, because it puts people’s skills first. I despise the second, mainly because I can’t bear to watch myself on video or listen to myself on tape. (Video meetings are fine because I’m focusing on other people.) Frankly, I find the practice ableist.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yeah. I have considered streaming some games (not a lot of middle-aged women out there) but I would also find it hard to listen in on my own voice for very long. I agree with the ableist label to a certain extent, but it’s not confined to neurological status: many people who are not broadcasters by profession would find this uncomfortable.

              My neurotypical husband would have hated it, but his neurodivergent brother is a DJ for hospital radio, and has a good voice and animated personality while performing. If you were just doing raw filming and not editing something carefully, I wouldn’t be uncomfortable with it — interviews are easier when you’re relaxed, as I found out the other week, and I’d imagine that interviewers aren’t expecting broadcast quality footage.

              But then again…I’m at my best when I’m part of a conversation rather than talking to a void. My job doesn’t require presentations, and I’m happier with that, but if it did, I can see maybe that someone might have to be comfortable with talking to a room independently rather than solely taking part in a conversation.

              At the end of the day, it’s just a personality thing. More options are good. Shifting from one blanket approach to another is bad.

            2. PR hirer*


              Unless it’s an application for an on-air position (where you’d know from the showreel), getting photos is a risk.

            3. Loulou*

              The photos for the job fair were probably to help employers remember who the students they talked to were, right? Still feels weird to me because photos are totally not done in my country, but I see the logic.

          2. tamarak & fireweed*

            Things are slowly changing in Germany, but back in the last century resumés had to have photos. I hated it. I am pretty sure that in my field and the tech industry I could now get away with no photo, but not everywhere.

            (We also were taught that you had to handwrite resumés, but thankfully that went away with the PC. In France they’re STILL doing handwriting analysis – a complete pseudo-science similar to phrenology – in more traditional workplaces…)

        2. Radical Edward*

          Yep, I tend to agree that it’s confusion over what is best practice/required where. (It could also be people conflating LinkedIn’s insistence that ‘a photo gets you noticed’ with actual resume advice.)

          In Japan a conservative headshot is required on almost all job applications. It’s an absolutely terrible practice and contributes to rampant ageism among other types of discrimination, but it’s legal and expected and there’s no way around it. In the UK as others have mentioned it’s the opposite – and I can confirm that providing a photo will guarantee that your application gets tossed, at least in lots of public sector organizations. They’re extremely careful to avoid even a whiff of potential bias, and application screening processes tend to be more standardized and regulated there than they are here.

        3. Tau*

          This was so fun when I was first applying to jobs post grad-school and was attempting to triangulate UK business norms between reading AAM like a fiend and advice from my mother, who is a hiring manager in a related field in… Germany. My mother was insistent that I had to add a photo and date of birth to my CV, Alison was insistent that I shouldn’t, I got to play “ok, which of these two countries are more likely to mirror the UK…”

        4. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, I once had a boss from Brazil and she said it was standard there to include in your resume your marital status and your kids, if any.

            1. no idea who I am*

              Trying to add fuel to your fire – my current workplace has standardized template (includes photo) that everyone must use for their resumes, the template is a single powerpoint slide.

          1. lyonite*

            I was watching an instructional short on job hunting from the 70s (the Rifftrax of “Get That Job” if anyone is looking for a laugh) and the resume format included a place for marital status, number of children, height, weight, and general health!

          2. Emmy Noether*

            In Germany it’s also still common to include photo, date and place of birth, marital status, number of children. It’s on its way out though. I still include a photo (because I know it helps me, and I’m not above gaming the system), but absolutely do not include the other info.

        5. amoeba*

          Yep, it’s very common in Germany and Switzerland as well. You can probably get away without one but it’s mostly better to err on the side of including the picture. For more conservative places for sure. So I have “CV with photo” and “CV without photo” depending on where I apply, as just removing it obviously messes with the design etc.
          Gets fun when it’s international orgs but the position is based in Germany/Switzerland/France – I tend to just use whichever version I have at hand/feel like/have already updated as I guess they must be used to both practices.

        6. The OTHER Other.*

          Pictures ain’t nothing. In some countries, it’s common to list your BLOOD TYPE!

        1. Zweisatz*

          Though being in an in-demand field, I have left it off and have had no issues with being contacted in Germany.

          1. Abroad*

            Me too! But not everyone has that luxury. And it also does depend a bit on where you are applying and in what field. But it is standard to include one and potentially odd if you don’t. YMMV.

      2. LabTechNoMore*

        For what it’s worth, it’s more common now to include a LinkedIn profile on applications in the US (I’ve even come many where it’s even required). So hiring managers are still getting photos of us even without including headshots. It’s just in a different format.

    3. Quinalla*

      Last time I rehauled my resume (8 years ago), I actually looked around at templates and ended up not using any of them because they were all like this – super busy and weirdly formatted. I just started with what I already had and adjust it slightly

      1. Jora Malli*

        Yeah, the last time I needed to update my resume I got tired of fighting with the templates and just typed everything out in Word, then went to the design tab and picked a theme with a font a color scheme I liked and used styles to designate my headings. It was so much less frustrating than a template that’s only programmed for two previous jobs with no clear way of adding more.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Ugh. I HATE those designed resumes. My company is currently hiring for sales and tech positions and I screen all the resumes. Most of the time I just delete the designed resumes because I can’t figure out what the candidates do! I’m not in a creative field and if you’re applying to a job in a non-creative field, I suggest you don’t use them!

    5. Snuck*

      I prefer a straight forward resume without a lot of guess work of where you have hidden random information! Don’t get all creative on me, it makes it hard to read! (And no this is not a good way to ‘stand out’ either!)

      Generally I might be reading more than 20 or even 50 resumes for some positions, and I’m hiring for roles usually that require straight forward skills and the ability to communicate ‘normally’. If I have to turn your paper back and forth, read sideways, or even just hunt about in the page to find info, or the font is reduced to a ridiculously small size to fit in the extra formatting, then I’m possibly going to give up and toss you into the “not this time” pile. Particularly if I have loads of easy to read, straight forward resumes that include the general skill sets I’m looking for. Why make it hard for me?

      (And yes, I dislike photos too. And people listing their marriage status, kids or pets. None of that is relevant to their actual technical ability to do the job and it makes me wonder whether there’s gaps in their professional skills – a resume has so little space on it why fill it with non work related stuff?! Double-why when it is possibly setting everyone up for a ‘discrimination risk’? I will toss these sometimes if they aren’t amazing from the outset too, unless I can see they come from a culture where this is the norm, but I can’t always tell that from the info at hand.)

    6. Unladen European Swallow*

      I’m in higher ed and I’ve had to do 6 searches on my team in the last 2 years for admin roles. I HATE these overly designed resumes. So not a fan. They are often hard to read/skim, forcing my eyes to dart around the page for all of the relevant info in a first review. Not enough text dedicated to accomplishments/responsibilities, or the wall of bullet points does not suit the design look. Please, for anyone looking to apply to roles in higher ed, cease and desist with these types of resumes.

    7. Siege*

      Yeah, I just saw my first resume with a picture last week. The way we hire, one person is the screener, who blacks out all identifying information, then the committee does individual reviews and settles on our candidate pool. The screener isn’t on the committee. It was surprising for a second to see this ungainly black square in the header of the resume, till I realized it was covering a picture. I don’t care for it as a trend – it’s another way for bias to come in.

    8. Emily H.*

      Like a lot of librarians, I do a lot of design stuff in Canva, because it’s (somewhat) free and has good-looking templates. But ALL of their resume templates have space for a personal photo. It’s baffling to me, and I suspect it may be why you’re seeing more resumes that include photos.
      (Their templates are also probably a little bit over-designed, at least for somebody like me who has 15 years of career experience and needs to put a lot of information on a resume!)

  6. Group schoomp*

    #1. Group projects = pay a lot for a degree but have it depend on lazy classmates.

    There are NOTHING like preparation for the actual work place. Hope there is a group presentation that will show up the lazy ones.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I will say that I was very fortunate that the one major group project I had to complete in college was under a professor who actually cared enough to know his students very well. So when my lazy bones teammate did nada, well he got a 10% for a grade, and the rest of us were graded as if we’d done all the work.

      Yes, we also did talk with the professor – he was aware we were struggling to get stuff from lazy bones. I don’t know if any attempt was made to make lazy help out – but at least they didn’t get credit for our hard work.

      Yes – I am fully aware this professor was a unicorn, and I also really learned a lot of useful in the real world skills in that class too.

    2. Artemesia*

      Part of being professional is to not allow a team member to abuse the team. You should have gone to the professor early on and asked to remove this person from the team as they could not contribute. And if that was not allowed, you would actually have been better off to work with the other three to do the work rather than having to deal with this loser. When it was done. Turn it in and let the professor again know that the 5th member did nothing. And if the prof doesn’t deal with this then rip them on evaluations.

      1. MK*

        This. A group member shouldn’t have gotten a pass in the first place because she had an outside commitment. If the grade depended on passing an exam, she would have found time to study despite the internship. Nor does it make sense for the OP to have to do more of the work for any reason. Group projects have their place, but they shouldn’t be graded (they never were for my degree).

      2. Jackalope*

        On the other hand, as Alison points out, it’s hard to change this if you have no real power in the situation. I’m not sure if you’re arguing that the professor or the students are being “unprofessional”, but if you’re saying it’s the students, it’s disingenuous to blame them for letting another student abuse them. Taking advantage of someone is the fault of the person taking advantage, NOT the person/people being used. Alison’s suggestions for talking to the prof are good, but the blame is still on Nora here.

        1. Artemesia*

          The professor. The professor who doesn’t have a strategy in place for non contributors is not doing their job. Prudently the person being taken advantage of is better off eventually DOING the work and not putting the team members name on it and dealing with that blowback than being hassled endlessly and ending up like the OP here. And the student as an adult needs to also face and deal with issues like this. I am not hearing here though that the OP made any attempt to work with the professor to confront the non contributor.

          1. FisherCat*

            Some group-project-assigning professors have wildly out of touch standards so this may not have been an option for LW. I remember one assigned in undergrad with the explicit requirement that no one contact the prof about any group problems else the “complainer’s” grade only would be axed.

            Predictably I did the entire thing by myself and also got from that experience an abiding dislike of group projects and profs that assign them.

            1. an academic*

              When I was in college, I was part of a group project where one member did nothing. I went to the professor and presented the situation to him hypothetically. He said that if that had really happened, he would refer the 2 students who did do the work to the Academic Integrity Office for “allowing” the 3rd lazy student to get a grade that wasn’t deserved.

              Now that I am a professor, I can Google and see that there are plenty of rubrics and evidence-based methods to encourage teamwork and make grading group work more equitable… but apparently a lot of my colleagues resist doing that.

              1. BubbleTea*

                I think there are some professors who assign group work to reduce their own work – and doing things to make the group assignment actually equitable and useful would add work, not reduce it.

                1. RegBarclay*

                  I am currently in school part time while working and one professor admitted up front that the group project was to reduce grading work on his end. Which honestly I think is OK if properly done. He did use rubrics, incentives, etc and the project was structed so it was obvious who did their part and who did not.

                  It was about as painless as a group project can be, and I appreciated that he didn’t pretend it was for our benefit.

                2. Ann Nonymous*

                  One way to be fair to the group members would have the assignment require assigning discrete parts to the various members who would have their name attached to them. When produced or presented, it would be obvious as to who did a good job and who didn’t. There could also be a part where there would be several required meetings with a summary of what transpired. Additionally, each group member could be required to submit a confidential sheet with their estimate of all member’s contribution and effort expended.

              2. Observer*

                He said that if that had really happened, he would refer the 2 students who did do the work to the Academic Integrity Office for “allowing” the 3rd lazy student to get a grade that wasn’t deserved.

                So, he would penalize the students who did the work for actually doing the work? Interesting! Then we wonder why students cheat!

                Did he deign to explain what the two “guilty” students should have done to change the situation? hypothetically?

            2. Snow Globe*

              I had many professors tell us that the entire purpose of group projects is to train students in how to work with difficult people, because that’s what you have to do in the working world (which is not at all the same, as Alison points out). I would have no faith that the professor would solve this problem on behalf of the LW.

              1. ecnaseener*

                That’s the message I’ve always heard too, but it really just highlights how ridiculous it is to not be allowed to ask the teacher for help in absence of another “manager” figure. I guess they could argue it’s good practice for if you end up in an office full of bees where the managers don’t manage.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                “I am stuck working with that nimwit Professor Snowden, and by god I’m not going to be the only one at this institution experiencing that existential anguish.”

              3. Smithy*

                I came here to say exactly this – this is a “real world lesson about working with difficult people/in the real world there won’t be a professor you can complain to.”

                If I could time travel to the times I had that conversation, I would reply back that the most likely scenario for this in the real world would be at work where I’d have a manager and employer who’d have vested interest in working on a solution with me because the completed project was important to them as well as to me personally.

              4. sofar*

                Same! Even though it’s actually UNREALISTIC because, in the working world, you are getting paid and you (usually) have some recourse if someone’s not pulling their weight.

              5. NotAnotherManager!*

                In the working world, one’s boss (in this case, the professor), would step in to address the problem. I work in a world of group projects AND difficult people, so I’ve got some experience with this.

                When someone comes to me because they have a team member not pulling their weight, we get on that immediately and figure out why and what to do. Sometimes, the team member needs training to take on the work; others, it’s that they are half-assing it and need to know that their boss is aware and watching. We don’t pay people to be social loafers, and, in a time-is-month industry, the unproductive quickly find themselves without projects and thus not meeting performance standards, if they don’t do their part on skills development and initiative. Social loafers drag down the morale of my high performers as well, so not dealing with them puts me at risk of losing the ones I want to keep.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Yes to this! When my dad was a business professor his classes had a lot of group projects, but he was always clear about the expectation that everyone would contribute equally, and that if someone wasn’t the rest of the team should come to him as their “boss” to get it straightened out.
                  He wanted to see that the group had tried to address the issue themselves, but he also knew that sometimes with some of his painfully entitled students (literally titled, in some cases) it would have to be him as Professor to put his foot down.
                  His students needed to learn to work with difficult people, but they also needed to learn when to loop in senior management.

            3. Artemesia*

              This is worth going over the professors head on. A team has to have the option of expelling a member who chooses to do nothing.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                You are treating this like it is a job when it isn’t. They aren’t professionals, they are students. And for a class assignment there isn’t really “going over the professor’s head.” I mean, if the professor assigned something truly outrageous and offensive you could certainly report that somewhere, but are you seriously suggesting they should go to like the Dean and say “our classmate isn’t pulling their weight on our homework?” That would be beyond ridiculous.

            4. lime*

              Yup. The problem is that a lot of profs have limited professional experience, much less management experience, so they don’t have a sense of what’s professionally appropriate. In my master’s program, I once approached a prof about a difficult teammate on a group project. His advice was basically, “have you tried talking to them?” and yes, I had. To which he responded: “some people are just effed up, man. You’ll learn that when you get into the real world and start working.” I was in my thirties at the time and had been working for over a decade. The prof failed me on the next assignment I turned in– I’ve never quite been able to figure out if it was *because* I spoke up or not (I admit it wasn’t great work, but thought it was like… C-level, not fail-worthy).

              1. pancakes*

                If a lot of profs at a vocational school have limited experience, that’s a good reason to look at other schools. I know prospective students aren’t always in the best position to evaluate these things, but that’s all the more reason to talk about them.

            5. The New Wanderer*

              I experienced this situation, but after the fact so I didn’t realize it was going to be a problem. I was a PhD grad student in a grad level class and was paired up with the only undergrad to write a paper. When I compiled the paper, I had to significantly edit the undergrad’s sections for grammar and clarification, but didn’t really attempt to improve the content because, well, it was representative of that student’s work.

              Final grades were only posted after the semester was over, so when I saw the surprise “B” I went to chat with the professor. (Blame grade inflation but in my program at the time, a B was one step shy of failing.) He said he thought my sections were A level but the undergrad’s was C level, therefore we both got Bs. He also accused me of being a grade grubber/complainer and that he would deny that he said anything about the grading if I went over his head. So yeah, some professors are just jerks* who aren’t really interested in equitable grading.

              * There were/are multiple stories of his failings as a professor, this was just my personal example and I consider I was luckier than the grad students he creeped on.

              1. Artemesia*

                In grad school a B is the lowest grade you can have and continue in the program. A C will not even count for credits on your degree. And that professor was a jerk.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, as a teacher, I would blame the professor. They should have set up the group project so that each person gets graded on his or her work and not anybody else’s. Even if all group members did their part (and that’s never going to be true for every group), they wouldn’t all be of the same ability and therefore wouldn’t be likely to deserve the same grade.

            I doubt removing the person from the project would be an option. It sounds like this project is central to the degree and I doubt the professor could say “right, you’re just not getting the opportunity to complete your degree because of complaints from your group.” Generally, students are given every chance and in this case, the professor would be failing somebody based on the views of students who may or may not be giving an accurate assessment of the person’s work.

            Maybe things are different where the LW is, but at least here, generally, you don’t work with a Professor. My college was a little different as it was tiny, but in the large universities? The lecturers might not even know the names of their students. They lectured, assigned work, corrected it and posted the grades. I could not imagine a lecturer confronting anybody, even in my little college.

            1. lime*

              I’m in a group-work heavy master’s program. The decent professors in the program have a stipulation on group projects that teams can vote a member off the project if they’re not doing any work. If someone gets voted off a project, they then have to complete the project on their own. Some profs add a stipulation that you can only earn a limited percentage of project points– for example, 80% of the max project points. But just having to complete the project alone is punishment enough in and of itself. The projects are designed to be done by 3-4 people, so you’re doing 3-4x the amount of work solo. I think that’s a decent solution to the social-loafing problem: you’re giving the social loafer a chance to not fail while not forcing the team to suffer for their shenanigans.

              1. JustaTech*

                Weirdly I had the opposite experience when I was doing a mostly-online master’s for “working professionals”. On one of our (many) team projects (which we hated because coordinating 5 people in 4 time zones all of whom were working full time jobs and had a home life too is just a real trial), one of my team mates got sick. Like, desperately ill, had to be on bedrest, had to take disability from work sick.
                Now, she’d already done her section of the project, so we didn’t actually need any more work from her. And if this had happened at work, well, we just would have all worked a little more to get the project done because she wasn’t slacking, she was trying to not die.

                But the professor contacted us and asked our group if we wanted to reduce her grade because she got sick and couldn’t record her section of the final presentation. To which we responded “no? Why would we do that, she did the work and she’s sick and we have to cut two sections from the presentation anyway, so it won’t make any difference. Huh?”

                All I can think is that there had been major issues with people not pulling their weight in the past.

                1. pancakes*

                  I don’t like the idea of profs turning decisions like that over to a popular vote. I also don’t think scenarios that are bound to come up in the context of group projects need to be decided on an ad hoc basis. There should be some sort of general policy, or guidelines, clear to all from the start.

                2. pancakes*

                  I should maybe clarify, being able to vote someone off a project seems fine, and a lot fairer than being able to reduce their grade.

          3. pancakes*

            Yes, this project was poorly set up. I didn’t have to endure nonsense like this in college. In high school, we did do group projects, but I’m sure the teachers checked in with us rather than leaving everyone on their own until the deadline.

            At a school where the prof has unrealistic standards and/or seems to be totally checked out, I’d hope there are other potential contacts, like a department head or dean.

        2. Filosofickle*

          Yeah when I was getting my MBA the teachers would have just told us it was up to us to figure out. Most of our work was project based, and they believed that leadership / soft skills / persuading others despite unclear assignments and lack of control was part of the challenge. In no way did it benefit us to complain about under-performing teammates.

          1. pancakes*

            An MBA program is specially for people pursuing corporate or entrepreneurial roles, though. The curriculum isn’t meant to resemble undergrad curriculum and vice versa.

      3. A. Person*

        Yes, when this sort of thing happens you should let your prof know – and ideally outline what you’ve done to try and resolve the issue, so they know you’ve already tried resolving it among yourselves.

        Aside from that, I wonder if the LW could have gotten better results by communicating why they are frustrated more clearly – as it sounds like they were a bit abrupt. Instead of just saying “I don’t care what you do” or “that’s your problem”, perhaps next time it would be better to try something like “Nora, I don’t know if you realise this, but I’ve already spent X hours working on this while you couldn’t help because you were doing your internship. I don’t have time to help you with your section as well, and when you call me multiple times to complain your section is too much work, I feel frustrated because it seems like you don’t appreciate the work I’ve done. It would really help the team if you could sort this out on your own. Can you do that?”

        1. I keep getting angry*

          Hey OP here,

          I did let her know from the beginning that I would expect her to help out as I was already struggling and she even agreed to help out.

          By the end I had given up on the niceties as every time I presented her with work I got a new excuse. In retrospect I’d do something like that even if I was frustrated by the end. Your advice is very helpful I might use those words in the future.

          And in regards to the professors, they didn’t care who did the work as long as it was done. This project was part of a research project they are working on and so just wanted us to do the actual work for them.

          1. Bagpuss*

            But if it was a joint project it wasnt her ‘helping out;’ – that suggests that iot wasyour job and she was assisting out of the goodness of her heart. It was her doing (or not doing) her share of the project.

            I agree that the ideally, you would have had a conversation with her much earlier about how the work was to be split and how she planned to cover her share bearing in mind her other committments, and also a conversation wit hyour professor about her non-particpation (and if they shrugged it off, then looking into how / if you can escalate it because that isreally poor performance on their part – and would bebad management if this were a work scenario)

          2. Zweisatz*

            I just want to confirm that the setting sucks and is not even representative of any “real world” group work in an office job.

            I hope that you could take some helpful advice from this thread but my general opinion is that you did a lot of work and juggled the rest as best you could. And that you will NOT run into this kind of setting if you ever move to an office job.
            This kind of Mad Max style figure it out amongst yourself set up is just not common.

          3. kittycontractor*

            Nora and the professor are definitely the problem here, and while the “be better” side of me says you shouldn’t have lost your temper, the real side (and likely would win out) of me wouldn’t apologize. Nora sounds like she was a terrible partner to work with and TBH having an internship isn’t a free pass for not doing the class work.

            1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

              OP mentions a couple of times asking Nora to learn new technology. Isn’t that what the class is supposed to be for? I get that she wasn’t a good group participant, but why should she have to learn things on her own when she’s paying to be taught?

              1. kittycontractor*

                Well, one I disagree that a senior in college shouldn’t have to be held accountable for not learning things on their own. While yes some things will need to be taught I would hope at that age and education level they are also taking some ownership and seeking out solutions independently. Regardless, it sounds like Nora wasn’t participating in anything or even willing to be taught.

              2. rural academic*

                As a professor I sometimes assign digital projects. There is instruction given on how to use the tech tool(s) involved, but it is still the student’s responsibility to practice with the tool and learn to use it. And if the student has missed the initial instruction due to a conflict (like an internship), it is the student’s responsibility to use the provided resources to get up to speed.

              3. NotAnotherManager!*

                Not necessarily. In my experience, there is sometimes a need to learn new things that are tools to get the project done but not necessarily within the scope of the class. Or they may also be things that many people know but Nora may just not have been up on yet. (I run into college graduates with poor Word and Excel skills all the time – I would not expect, for example, an a comparative literature project to involve teaching students how to use Word in class or how to do TOCs or other indices that may be required.)

                In higher education, there is an expectation that students be able to figure out some of that stuff themselves without explicit instruction. At a college level, I would not expect to have to hand-hold students to the point that they never encounter new things on their own that they don’t have to do a little personal work on outside of class.

                1. fueled by coffee*

                  Yeah, the piece about Nora struggling to put tables together makes it sound like the “new technology” might be Excel, etc.

                  When I’ve taught undergrads, I’ve gotten the sense that some high schools have started having students turn in all their work in GoogleDocs, so college students aren’t necessarily proficient in Microsoft Office.

                2. River Otter*

                  @fueled by coffee

                  OP says below that the new technology is RPi (Raspberry Pi?), and he figured she could learn it bc her internship was as a software engineer. I don’t know what proficiency Nora would have needed. If she just needed basic proficiency, maybe it was a reasonable ask. If she required significant proficiency, I’m with Nora in shutting down being *assigned by a peer* to gain that level of proficiency for a class project.

                3. Artemesia*

                  My. major professor told me his first task as an RA for a notorious prof in the field was to be handled a pile of scholarly papers in Arabic and be told to get them translated. It is common to have to master technologies and methods without being taught. I had to figure out how to do path analysis back in the day for example — then a cutting edge and somewhat challenging technology. You are supposed to be a scholar if you are in a doctoral program not have to be spoon fed.

                  This is quite different from a trade school masters or an undergrad program. Although we had requirements like use of excel that all our undergrads needed to be able to use in our advanced classes. They were provided with resources but not classes in those things.

                4. I keep getting angry*

                  @river otter

                  Yup Raspberry Pi, it was already was set up and so the extent she would’ve needed for the project is just turning it on and accessing it without a monitor. Since the RPI is just a computer it’s not something that was completely new imo. The actual programming part was quite simple.

                  In the end I had to figure it out myself and she wouldn’t even listen when I tried to show her what to do. I think if she had put the effort in to even just look up what an RPi is she might have realised it’s simply a computer.I felt that she just couldn’t be bothered to do anything substantial and wanted other people to explain to her what to do. In actuality this all could’ve been done with a quick google search.

              4. Curmudgeon in California*

                No. Part of what you get from college isn’t the material from the lectures, labs and homework – it’s learning how to learn! This includes looking things up, figuring things out, and teaching yourself what is missing. I never finished my degree, but especially my freshman/sophomore coursework were fundamentals and research skills.

                Mastering basic research and reference skills is probably more important than the course material. Certain subjects can quickly become dated, but the core principals and the ability to use reference materials and identify good, reliable sources never do.

                If you didn’t get the ability to figure things out from your college experience, then they failed you, even if you were a straight A student. IMO, YMMV.

                1. Nonny Mouse*

                  Yes! That was the most valuable part of college for me. The open-book tests were very tough. Memorizing the formulas is less important than knowing what formulas apply to the problem.

                  I was always lucky to have great partners for projects. One year we had to break up our group because other students had been stuck with “Nora” for multiple projects. Luckily, I got to work with “Nora’s” long suffering partners, not Nora.

                  I’m glad the professors and teaching assistants were well aware of who was doing what.

                2. JaneB*

                  Agreed – in many fields, and in the wider world, information and knowledge is fast moving (science advances, tools evolve, policies and regulations change). In 2015, who’d’ve thought graduating students might be needing to dig through highly complex and persuasive information sources to make personal risk assessment decisions for themselves or say on behalf of an unvaccinated infant in a global pandemic? Yet if they actually have graduate level skills of research and critical analysis, then the skills they acquired during their degree (whether in Mesopotamian history or nuclear physics) will help them do that,

                  I see my job as an academic as being to equip my students with the best possible tool kit to keep learning, adapting and making good choices as the world changes around them, in their careers and their wider lives as people and citizens – but it can be awfully hard to persuade students this is what they need and should want, when many just want to be able to step directly into a “good job” in a specific field, or just want to get their degree without undue extra stress on top of their complex personal lives and side-jobs so find thinking about higher level skills as opposed to how-to-pass-this-assignment a big ask.

          4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Ahh, yes, that sort of group project. You have my sympathies. I participated in one of those my freshman year that was a total disaster…..and yup – that professor didn’t care either so long as his research got accomplished. Meek 18 year old Where’s the Orchestra who was on a scholarship just found a way to suck it up and get the work done because I needed the grade. And hated every second of it too.

          5. Artemesia*

            Given this the professor should have been MORE hands on. A real world research project is valuable to your education, but if he intends to use the material then it is also critical to him that the work be competent and he needs to manage. One strategy is to make the lazy student’s section separate, so the project can be complete except for someone’s part; of course the professor needs to do their part here. You obviously were in an awkward situation and it was badly managed by. the prof. But next time, no one gets a pass because of an internship or job or whatever and bring the prof in first thing if someone is not participating and if it continues ask that they be expelled from the team. They can do a project on their own.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I’ve been in the position of being labor for a professor, and while I can’t say I or any of my classmates actually learned anything (we were basically doing bricklaying in a carp chiropractics class), his standards were higher than even my undergrad thesis by an exponential amount. He actually brought in a straight edge and a magnifying glass.

          6. Smithy*

            Being mindful of your tagline – “I keep getting angry” – I will just share that towards the end of my academic career if I was in a group project where I either didn’t like the work product of someone or didn’t trust them to do it – I assumed from the beginning I’d get nothing from them. In one case, it was a group of three and two of us just decided to do everything and assign parts to the third member that were “nice to haves” but not necessary.

            It was less effort than project managing, nagging or being mad at the Nora’s of the world, and the beginning of the project would be designed with that in mind. They were going to get the same grade/credit as me anyways and so the option was to do it in a way where I spent time and energy being frustrated or just put that time into a little more work on the project. Or accepted it was a project that was more likely to get a slightly lower grade because we’d go lighter on a certain section.

            I know a lot of people get really upset with this idea because of the other person getting the same grade and doing “nothing”. But I found that happened anyways, and this way made me less angry.

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          While it is a good option and may be the “correct” thing to do, I am not fond of this kind of advice, especially in the office. Most often, it would come across condescending. At best, it weakens your standing in the office by giving deference to placating an unreasonable request and “keeping the peace” rather than address the true situation at hand. The OP was reasonably frustrated as Nora was not up to snuff nor keeping up with her end of the assignment. OP was not responsible to teach Nora how to do her portion of the assignment and she isn’t responsible for Nora’s feelings. While “that’s your problem” is not the nicest phrase OP could have said, it is not rude, nor is “I don’t have time right now”, “You need to figure this out”, or “I am unable to help you”

      4. I keep getting angry*

        OP here, I’ll keep this in mind. I think when I begin working I do just that and let the manager know what’s going on and maybe be a little more clear in communication with person who is not helping out.

        I couldn’t go to the professor and ask that of him as I mentioned above that he didn’t really care about who did the work, just as long as it was done.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I went through this garbage 20 years ago when I got my degree. I can’t believe we (collective we) haven’t figured this out yet. The best team I was on three of the five people actually showed up. One of the three was floundering but he kept trying- I was impressed with that. The other person actually did the work. Our team came in second place which was amazing to me.

          Small consolation, very seldom will you encounter a problem to this degree in the workplace. And that is because unlike school, individuals are held accountable for their productivity rates in the workplace. You will be fine, Excuse-making Nora, not so much. I hope you can find a bit of comfort in that.

          As to your anger, I think that this one won’t slide by you again. I think you will be more vigilant and recognize the problem earlier and I think you will have actual words that you can use in place of having things build up inside your mind. Knowing what to say and when to say it is very empowering.

          FWIW, I sputtered too. Where I landed is that all this group work diluted the value of my degree (in my opinion). I felt the school had ripped me off. I went as a returning student and their group work in effort to simulate a workplace had zero basis in reality. Again, just my opinion. I have learned more reading here than I ever learned in college.

          1. Artemesia*

            Well designed group work can be. powerful for learning especially if the projects are community based and provide a really useful product BUT it can also be lazy.

            I used to organize my graduate weekend classes into teams and the teams did work in class to master the skills needed for the project using simulated situations and data. They then used those skills for their team work. The work done by each team member was visible; e.g. one or two might design instruments while others were responsible for the data presentation or whatever. So individual work was visible to all. In a weekend class, we often went for 8 hours at stretch. No way that can be lecture and discussion, so using team activities throughout the day was the way to learn and practice the information /skills.

            I am sure there were free riders, but students always had the option to consult me about dealing with them, to identify the efforts of all members and they also evaluated each other. Not perfect, but then ordinary individual assignments can be plagiarized without it being obvious etc as well.

            Sorry the OP was in a situation where the manager/prof didn’t take responsibility especially since he was using their work.

        2. Snuck*

          When you get to work it’s different.

          You’ll have clearly defined objectives and responsibilities, and so will anyone else on your team.

          If they don’t meet targets then you can politely ask them for the work. And then if they still don’t you can escalate to YOUR manager (not theirs, if they are on another team), and say “I would like your help, I need Z from Jane, but it’s not been delivered. This is delaying my project Y. How would you like me to handle this?” And then the manager can guide the process.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            And also at work you and your team will usually have the skills to do the task or there will be training. At school your project may require you to teach yourself something you don’t know how to do or how to use a tool you’ve never used before in order to complete it. I know school is for learning, but that can be a lot to add to big project; although, it often unfairly puts the workload on a few students who already know or are willing and able to work harder.

            Also LW’s professor sucks. He wasn’t there to teach you anything. He was getting unpaid labor for his own research. Unfortunately there’s not much the LW can do, but provide that feedback to school.

            1. lime*

              If the prof is tenured, if the prof brings in big research dollars, it’s likely that providing feedback to the school will do nothing as well. Unpaid (or underpaid) labor towards research is kind of the business model in higher ed.

              1. pancakes*

                Yes, but when it’s actually towards research it can benefit students as well. I was a research assistant to one of my law school profs one year and it is still something that looks good on my resume because he’s considered an expert in his field, frequently called on to give talks and interviews, and the work was legit interesting and cutting edge at the time. The work did contribute to changing the part of the criminal justice process it was targeted at. The experiences people are talking about here are all over the map. Someone above seems to be talking about doing literal brick-laying for a prof. The details and the context are always going to matter.

          2. Abogado Avocado*

            Regrettably, this is so not true.

            OP #1, when you get to the world of work, you find many reasons why team members who are not pulling their weight nonetheless are kept on the team: (1) they bring in business, so the fact that they do nothing to service the business they bring in (or any other clients) is not a demerit; (2) they’re related to management and, therefore, different rules apply; (3) they have learned to throw up so many objections that they’ve “trained” their coworkers and managers that it’s more pain than pleasure to deal with them; (4) management is afraid to move on the under-performer because they fear a lawsuit; and/or (5) the team member seeking relief from the under-performer is junior and expected by management to pick up the slack.

            Is any of that fair? No.
            Is that the mark of a great workplace? No.
            Is it common? All too common.

            As much as I disliked group assignments in school for the very reasons commenters have noted here, OP #1, my experience has been that school group assignments effectively mirror the business world by previewing the problem of the under-performing co-worker. So, use this experience to figure out what your tolerances are. How much are you willing to put up with to succeed? What is sustainable (and unsustainable) for you?

            Because most work includes teamwork, under-performing team members will be a part of your work life. Therefore, knowing your own limits will assist you in setting limits in the work place.

            1. Artemesia*

              LOL. This very column is ample evidence that these free riders in group projects in school mirror the workplace. How many of the letters here are about missing stairs who are somehow protected and whose work is piled on the LWs and colleagues. Bad management is more often than not the case.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              It depends a lot on how the work is organised. I’m currantly in a position where there are few hard deadlines on team work, clear responsibilities for tasks, and regular check-ins. So when my boss checks in with me about progress on project X, I can just say “Brunhilda still hasn’t done that thing I asked for, I’m waiting on that” and have it not reflect badly on me. Either my boss will go kick Brunhilda in the derrière himself, or decide it’s not urgent. Either way suits me.

              I think the frustrating thing in class group work is that the teacher is often not that involved during the process and has no visibility, and then you have to deliver the whole complete thing at once on a specific date and share the same unfair grade with the slackers. Most work isn’t like that.

              1. pancakes*

                That’s not an inherent part of class work. It was absent in my undergrad education because seminars were limited to 15 students max and the faculty to student ratio was something like 9 to 1. I wouldn’t say that level of access / visibility is common at “most” schools or workplaces, but it is out there for people who strongly prefer it and can find it.

            3. pancakes*

              Right, but I don’t agree that the function of education — the sole function, at least — should be to prepare students for a life of corporate drudgery. Higher education can be about many other things and at some schools it is.

        3. Feral Humanist*

          I can’t help but think that much of this has to do with many faculty members* having a lack of experience in office jobs. Faculty members tend to be highly independent; one of the reasons people go into academia is because they don’t want to have a boss in a traditional sense. They don’t want to be managed, and they often don’t really want to manage others. Clearly there are exceptions, but my point is that some of them are probably genuinely unaware of how this sort of project would function in an actual work environment, because they haven’t ever done such a project in that sort of environment. (Although I liked The Chair, one of the things I found weird about it was people referring to Sandra Oh’s character as “their boss.” I have never, ever heard a faculty member call the department chair their boss.)

          *In some fields, not all. I’d expect this to be different in business and engineering, for example, and to a lesser degree in the lab sciences.

          1. Former Young Lady*

            This is a major factor. Anyone who works in college/university administration can tell you how big a blind spot professors tend to have about office work generally. Why so many of them create group assignments in the epicenter of that blind spot, I’ll never know.

            I get that schools face a lot of pressure to “prepare students for the Real World,” but you can’t build a realistic microcosm of a planet you’ve never visited yourself.

            1. JaneB*

              we keep being told by administrators that students LOVE group projects. Students tell me that they don’t mind my group projects because I skirt the edge of a lot of the administrative recommendations – for example, I allow students to pick their own groups or to work solo on an appropriately scaled project (expectations are scaled by group size – you want to work with four other people, your final product needs to reflect 5 peoples work), I ask them to submit weekly summaries in which they report who attended the workshop, how they got on against last week’s action plan, and setting out an action plan for the coming week (and if someone misses two weeks in a row, or the action plans are either too minimal or too much, I’ll check in and ask why – sometimes a group is front loading work or postponing it around other commitments, or are confident the missing person is actually working they just couldn’t make it to the timetabled session – sometimes they need to adjust. If someone really isn’t engaging I pull them from the group and tell them they need to do a solo project – that way they affect others less). I have them produce group product and individual pieces based on it (e.g. generate a group dataset or plan or map or presentation, and individually write about a theme or do an analysis or create a leaflet or write a summary report or essay or whatever) so that the mark is shared. It’s by no means perfect but it lets those who like working in social situations do so, without penalising those who just want to do the assignment (or who are juggling home lives, work etc. and find the group aspect adds more stress than value).

        4. noncommital pseudonym*

          As a Professor, I have to say that he’s not doing his job, then. If he’s assigning a grade, he has to care who did the work. There are plenty of ways for faculty to enure equity in group projects – I have students do peer evaluations of their group mates, which then affect their grades. I also keep an eye on who’s doing what, and let students know that I can alter those grades based on my observations. Your faculty member is being lazy.

      5. WellRed*

        Right?! As soon as they were unavailable, at the start no less, was the time to speak up.

      6. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I’ve gone to the prof about a slacker student. The response I got was that sorting this out on our own was a key part of the assignment.

        1. snarkalupagus*

          Me too–three-person team doing a significant project in the last semester of our MBA program. One was a rockstar. One was a barnacle. All three of us had been in the professional world for a minimum of 15 years. When the rockstar and I went to the professor, the initial response was, “Part of this degree is figuring out how to work with people who don’t pull their weight.” I snapped back, “Part of my professional responsibility in the real world is putting people who don’t pull their weight on performance improvement plans to either shape up or ship out. Here’s the plan I put the Barnacle on, and what has happened with it,” and laid out the documentation of specific objectives, agreements, dates, promises, check-ins, and missing deliveries.

          The professor’s eyes got wider and wider as he read, and at the end he said bemusedly, “Oh. I see. Let me speak to the Barnacle.” He did, and the Barnacle ended up on his own project while the Rockstar and I removed every trace of his participation from ours (which took roughly 90 seconds) and continued on to an A. The Barnacle got an extension. I don’t know if he ever finished.

          Coda: the Barnacle reached out to me on LinkedIn a few years later. I…did not respond.

          1. Former Young Lady*

            Sounds like your team had two rockstars on it. Well done coming up with the PIP!

          2. sofar*

            I LOVE THIS. I’m so glad you gave barnacle real-life experience with a PIP, experience which has no doubt been very relevant to barnacle’s career.

            In grad school, we had a group project that culminated in a presentation (each person had to sign on for a sub-topic WITH the professor in advance, for which we’d receive an individual grade, and then we had to morph our various topics together into a presentation). 15% of our final grades would be how well “the group” performed. We created a deck in which everyone had to fill in their slides and then set about doing our own parts individually. On rehearsal day, our barnacle hadn’t filled in their slides. On PRESENTATION DAY, barnacle still had yet to do so.

            So …. we did the presentation. And, when we got to the part about The Future of Llama Grooming (barnacle’s section), we literally went to the transition slide called The Future of Llama Grooming: Barnacle. And then the previous presenter said, “So now, we’ll turn it over to Barnacle….” and Barnacle, seeming genuinely surprised, kind of talked through the topic without any slides.

            We didn’t get the full 15% group portion of our grade, but it was worth it.

          3. Curmudgeon in California*


            This is what should happen in the real world, and should be the routine in educational environments meant to prepare the student for the real world. Part of why I dropped out of college was that the professors were so far removed from the real world that they didn’t make sense any more (to me who was working in industry already).

        2. Artemesia*

          This is okay if you can sort it out by throwing the person out of the group i.e. firing him.

      7. Quinalla*

        Sure, but at others have pointed out, some would punish the student who brings up the problem, so this isn’t always viable. The professor should lay out at the beginning of the project what the students are to do if a group member isn’t pulling their weight. My group projects in college, the professors didn’t want to hear about the problems during the project, they expected it to get done, but they did tell us we’d all be evaluating each group member which only the professor would see and they would adjust our grades accordingly. Wasn’t perfect, but did discourage horrendous slacking off, but a lot of folks weren’t comfortable rating people too poorly as they didn’t want to feel responsible if the other student didn’t pass.

        The idea of group projects to prep for work projects is great, unfortunately they are usually implemented in a way where it is nothing like working on a team at a job.

    3. John Smith*

      Ooh I couldn’t agree more! Half the people on my degree were the laziest articles I’ve had the displeasure to meet. Need to do a presentation? Just use the presentation you used in another class! Got a group project but also a job to go to? Simples! Leave it to everyone else and (try) claim some credit later.

      I had no hesitation in complaining about these people but I didn’t need to. Their degrees – those that got them – reflected their efforts. Out of 60 odd people, 15 passed with most of them getting a third class degree. Those of us who put the effort in walked away with a 2:1 or higher.

      It’s highly annoying, but professors will see what goes on and will mark accordingly.

    4. nnn*

      I also found that every group project I had in school wasn’t actually a multi-person job – I could have done the whole thing myself, probably with less effort because there was no coordinating necessary.

      1. Foley*

        This. But my friends who are professors say they do it to have fewer projects to grade. No other reason. Collaboration, etc., is BS said to lower the workload. (*not all professors, but all of my friends*)

          1. OrigCassandra*

            Nope, it’s not.

            I don’t assign group projects without insisting on a project charter (including a pared down RACI chart) and an end-of-semester 360 evaluation (directly to me from individual students) so I know who did what. Slacking will lose a student up to a full letter grade in the course. I ask each group to choose a project manager and assign PMs some basic duties (watching the calendar, mostly) while reminding the group that that’s part of the PM’s contribution, so weight other work accordingly.

            Students also know that they should first approach the group’s PM to resolve issues, but if that doesn’t work or the PM’s MIA, they can come to me. PMs can come to me any time.

            My student evals routinely say “wow, this was the smoothest and best group project ever!” There’s zero reason instructors can’t insist on lightweight project-management practices in these projects; after all, nobody’s born knowing how to get work done in teams.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              This is cool.

              Plus, having project management skills is always a benefit in the workplace. This thing with people expecting dedicated but non-technical PMs in IT/software development is ludicrous.

          2. fueled by coffee*

            I hate group projects, but as long as most university faculty are underpaid adjuncts I don’t really begrudge them trying to reduce their grading loads.

            OrigCassandra lists a few ways to reduce the stress of freeloading group members. Some other things that have helped:

            -provide at least some class time for students to work on the project. There’s no excuse for team members to beg off because they’re “busy” if they’re present in class, the professor is around to monitor participation, and if a freeloader skips class they can be penalized for attendance reasons instead of the responsible group members needing to ‘complain’ to the professor. This also helps provide a dedicated time for students to meet so that they don’t need to find a time to do so outside of class, which can be difficult when students have work/extracurricular/other course schedule conflicts.

            -“scaffold” the project, and have intermediate (individual) assignments graded on completion before the big final assignment is due. So, for example, if the final project is a research presentation, ask each group member to provide an annotated bibliography for 3-5 sources a few weeks in, then ask for outlines of their sections of the presentation a week or so before it’s due. Students are given credit for turning the work in, and freeloaders have to either do some work or get caught freeloading early enough that the professor can intervene.

            These don’t fix all the problems with group projects, but it leads to a better system than forcing students to either do more than their share of the work or complain to a potentially hostile professor about their group members (see: all the other comments in this thread).

          3. Rebeck*

            I can’t speak to the US but the reason there’s so much group work at University level in Australia is generally because employer groups have lobbied government and accreditation organisations to require it. So I don’t understand why everyone thinks it’s the fault of the academics or even the university administration – it’s employers groups – who have even less background in pedagogy than the least qualified lecturers – who demand it.

            1. JaneB*

              yeah (UK context), employers say graduates have to be able to demonstrate group work and admin decide that faculty have to make that happen – we have to have a certain amount of it in each year of each programme, just as we have to ensure students have done oral presentations as well as written work to prepare them. It’s not terribly helpful, but it’s how it is.

              From the outside, it seems to me US profs have MUCH more autonomy over their classes (I rarely hear about team teaching – which is the norm here, without choice over who you have to teach with either, sigh – or about pre-approval of assessments down to the level of the exam questions, moderation of the grading to ensure it conforms to certain norms, all the sort of continual checking and scrutiny individual academics and departments have to go through as part of teaching in HE in the UK).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I had one class at 7 pm. Driving 25 miles each way for the one class got to be too much on top of my other classes. I asked the prof if I could do an independent study. He quickly agreed and I found out why later.

        The project that people were doing in teams I had to do on my own. I handed in my project for the course. The prof said that my project was better than what any of the teams came up with. He added, “I knew it would be.”
        Makes sense, I wasn’t working with unwilling team mates. I did not lose a bunch of time pleading with people to show up, do the work and so on.

        At that time, there was a study that showed teams can make worse decisions than an individual on their own. There was a lot of talk on campus about this. Did not change anything, though.

      3. KateM*

        Ha, my teen had a competition that could be done either in group or individually, and when they did it in a group of max allowed size, I asked whether they really couldn’t have managed it by themselves. Their answer? “It would actually be easier to do it alone! But see, the problems are easy, I’m just doing it for a group work exercise!”.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I think part of the problem is that people assign group projects without any clarity about what they expect and what to do if people don’t do it. “Go forth and Lord of the Flies your final grade” is not a helpful assignment! A structured process where you are asked to reflect on how you assigned roles, dealt with disagreements and produced your final piece is.

      That said, it’s also why TV/broadcast media graduates, drama and performance graduates, music graduates, etc make really amazing colleagues. They’ve been working in teams with real stakes right the way through their degrees, and they’ve usually got MULTIPLE tactics for dealing with “not pulling their weight”, “creative differences”, “everyone just wants to talk about it and nobody is getting anything done” etc.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I think part of it is that lecturers for the most part, aren’t trained teachers. Most have done a degree in their subject, then an MA, then a PhD. They have no training to teach and it is a whole qualification and set of skills in itself. They’ve never LEARNT how to set up an effective assignment. That is something you actually get rubrics on in a decent teacher training course.

        We had a hilarious in retrospect situation where one of the lecturers on our teacher training course was big into groupwork and kept doing it in lectures (which didn’t really work anyway) but didn’t set up any rubrics and did it really, really badly (and this WASN’T a way of teaching us what issues would arise; she just genuinely didn’t know how to set up effective groups), then said people thought she was teaching nothing because she didn’t teach in the traditional “lecturer at the top of the room” format. Um, no, it’s because her entire lecture was “now, discuss how you’d use technology in your classes.” *puts people in groups with no clear question to answer, no accountability as to whether they are even discussing that or not and no assignment to complete*

        Also, I’m not sure if a lot of lecturers even really see themselves as teachers. I think some are more focussed on their research and teaching is more of a sideline.

        How to grade, how to set up an effective project, how to recognise when students aren’t pulling their weight…these are all things that people need to learn. As secondary school teachers, we learn some in college (and I suspect primary teachers learn a lot more), some from discussions with more experienced colleagues and some from the classroom. Lecturers don’t study how to teach in college and they don’t really interact with students in the way secondary school teachers do – they are not held responsible for student’s work, attitude, etc, as students are adults. So it’s not surprising if they don’t know how to do these things effectively.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Lecturers in the UK always do a post-graduate certificate in teaching and learning, although some institutions have now folded these into Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Whether individuals take it seriously and engage with CPD opportunities as teachers or just do the bare minimum is still variable, though! I have always worked in teaching-focussed universities where the general expectation is that you are there to teach, rather than research, and the general expectation is that you’re an educator first and foremost and a researcher second, and lots of opportunities to develop your teaching and learning knowledge. Of course, that doesn’t always translate to everyone doing it effectively!

          1. After 33 years ...*

            I’ve been at this game for a long time.
            When I started, for many profs teaching was the extra thing you did to occupy time between research efforts. At my first place, I received criticism for devoting too much time and thought to teaching.
            At my current school, there was more emphasis on the importance of teaching (it wasn’t a large research school when I started), but that did not come with any training or formal mentoring. I learned to teach by watching two respected colleagues. The training we did get tended to focus on classroom management and presentation, not on assignment design, group dynamics, or grading strategies. It’s gotten better, but all such training is still very optional. Our department was one of the few that had optional monthly sessions to discuss teaching, pre-Covid.
            There are a variety of motives for assigning group work – some good (at least theoretically) and some very bad. When I had group work, it involved discussion of one or two articles, followed by presentations to the seminar as a whole. Group membership rotated between assignments. I told students at the beginning that, if they felt someone was not sufficiently involved, that they should notify me asap. I had no hesitation in either contacting the lesser-involved student(s) to ask what was happening, or assigning different grades (down to 0%). The group projects always included an individually-submitted written component.
            Getting different members of the group to speak up – I used to do that, but I stopped after I realized that different people have different talents. If group members have divided the roles to their satisfaction, that’s fine.
            Concerning, “was part of the prof’s research project and he didn’t really care about who did the work, just as long as it was done”: UGH. My students have enough of their own work to do without doing mine. I hope you all got acknowledgment on an publications ….

            1. Irish Teacher*

              Yeah, I don’t think assigning groupwork is in itself a bad idea, but assigning groupwork without any training on how to do it or any support is likely to end badly. I had a lecturer (incidentally, this was a lecturer who was teaching us how to teach) whose idea of groupwork was “discuss topic of this lecture for most of the hour long lecture and I’ll ask a handful of people to say what they came up with at the end.”

              “When I had group work, it involved discussion of one or two articles, followed by presentations to the seminar as a whole. Group membership rotated between assignments. I told students at the beginning that, if they felt someone was not sufficiently involved, that they should notify me asap. I had no hesitation in either contacting the lesser-involved student(s) to ask what was happening, or assigning different grades (down to 0%). The group projects always included an individually-submitted written component.”
              That sounds like groupwork done well, with a clear aim and accountability.

              I think the thing is that groupwork should be HARDER for the teacher than giving an essay or an exam. It requires more oversight. If it’s an easy option for the instructor, it isn’t being done well.

              1. After 33 years ...*

                Agreed. Giving an exam is relatively easy (although thinking about the appropriate style of questions may take some time). Designing group-based assignments always requires more work on my part, including provisions to resolve any inequities that might arise.
                Ours generally aren’t about replicating the “real world” (whatever that is). I’d ask students to get together to discuss topics such as “how did our profession get where we’re at”. For the assignment closet to my work realty, involving analysis of a marine cove, the class was divided into threes: Cove #1 was analyzed by student A, supported by field assistance from B and C (one person cannot do all the work, and for safety no-one goes alone); cove #2 was analyzed by B, supported by A and C…
                Best group assignment: our department was looking at rebranding by designating faculty within clusters, based on research areas. So, I asked each group of students to do their own assessment, dividing us into clusters of their designation. When we talked, each student group had different designated clusters, none of which matched the ones generated by the faculty ….

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I’ve always thought it kind of amusing that teaching little kids their ABCs requires a full degree with student teaching and continuing ed etc, but teaching grown adults rocket science gives you maybe a two week training before tossing you into the lion pit.

      2. Artemesia*

        I was involved in an undergrad program that put a heavy emphasis on skills like group work, writing, public speaking as well as subject matter mastery. The capstone involved a semester long internship with accompanying projects and seminars. Early on in the program, the first year, they were taught how to work in groups in a highly managed and structured group project accompanying a class in group process. (they also got a lot of help with professional writing in early courses as well as public speaking skills). So by the time they were juniors and seniors they had the skills to do all these things. It worked fairly well. And students also had the tools and permission to deal with free riders because those issues were dealt with in their early group process instruction.

    6. I keep getting angry*

      Hey OP here,

      There was a group presentation but it went horribly. The presentation itself went perfect. But for the viva/defence part when I began answering a question to the evaluator my professor told me to to let someone else talk.

      The project was part of the profs research project and didn’t care who did the work as long as it was done which is why I could not turn for help there :’)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I think the issue here is, in large part, the professor. The assigment seems to have been badly thought out, more about making the prof’s life easier than about you and your groupmates learning something or assessing your knowledge and lacking in oversight. It’s not surprising you got frustrated.

        In a well-run company, you shouldn’t run into situations really like that too often.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah the question of being professional is somewhat moot because it wasn’t a professional set up at all. In a professional set up there is always someone to turn to with power to effect change. Your professors basically threw some work into a pit and then threw you all in afterwards.

      3. Loulou*

        OP, it sounds like you are taking this whole situation extremely personally and playing the blame game. It doesn’t seem like you can really be objective about it, probably because you had such a bad experience with Nora. An evaluator asking to hear from more members of the team isn’t a bad thing — if one person is doing most of the talking, but you have to grade everyone, it makes sense to tell that person to give others a chance.

        1. I keep getting angry*

          You’re right. In hindsight I may have been a bit dramatic but it was the first question directed towards me. He probably did did have other reasons for it.

          You’re also right in that I’m taking this too personally. I really shouldn’t have gotten so attached to the project in the way I did.

      4. L.H. Puttgrass*

        In possible defense of “let someone else talk”—I’ve been in group projects where the professor used direct questioning to suss out who actually did the work based on how well each group member can answer questions about the project. So it’s possible that the professor decided, “Okay, Keep Getting Angry obviously did a lot of work on this project. Let’s see what Nora knows.”

        Not saying it’s the most likely explanation, but I have seen it happen.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I lived that a few times in college with group projects. The Professor asking the Lazy Bones member explicitly to explain what should have been their part of the project and getting stammers and ummms and frantically looking at me to bail them out said it all.

      5. OrigCassandra*

        Oof, I’m sorry, OP. As an instructor who really does try to do better than this… you have my blessing to excoriate this prof on their student evals.

      6. Artemesia*

        This is frankly unethical. A professor has a conflict of interest in using his classroom instruction to advance his personal research. And poorly managed research is also likely to be shoddy, so undermines the quality of the data he is using. So an ethics disaster.

        It can be acceptable IF the professor is using this project to provide high quality instruction, skill building and experience for the students. This is the best of both worlds. I learned to do survey research and field research by working on the projects of professors, but they had a commitment to quality in their research and made sure that students were well taught and well supervised. It was win win.

        Your professor by using students without providing instruction and help in return and the attitude ‘I don’t care who does it as long as it is done’ is unethical. Students should have been raising hell about this.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In two cases the teams I was on were the subject of research for the prof. She said that she could not instruct us because it would effect her research on our groups.
          There was no one to report her to because everyone was scared crapless of her.

          The second time around, the whole class ended up not speaking to each other or yelling at each other. Even someone in the class blurted out, “Why is it that we are all so angry with each other? What’s the common thread?”

          Ironically, she herself said when groups are fighting with each other look at the leader. I guess she did not hear her own self. She “lost” my records for the course (yeah, okay). I ended up with no credit.

    7. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

      Agreed! This is why I’ve always hated group projects. And you can’t even say that because people judge you for it and decide that you have a character flaw. I remember telling a coworker I hated groupnprojects and she replied “Whyyyyyyy?” with a sad, concerned look on her face. And even after I told her the very valid reasons, her disapproval of my views on it was clear.

      For one group project I had in school, we were given the option of doing a project on our own instead of the group project. I opted for the group project. There was a group of four of us. When I called everyone to see when they were available to meet (this was before email), they each said they had a lot going on and asked if they could just skip the work and just have their name on the report. So, I decided to do an individual project on my own. When I told told each of them my decision, there was silence at the other end. I didn’t care. They were expecting to get credit for others doing the work while they did nothing.

      The other time, we had a real diva In our group. We had to meet at times and locations that were convenient for her (And inconvenient for the rest of us.) I tried to object but that made me the “bad guy” because nobody else had the nerve to speak up. This person did hardly any work on the project and then messed up a lot when we gave the final presentation.

      So, yes, I have always hated group projects.

      1. JaneB*

        I hate them for me personally because I’m an introvert and I strongly suspect neuroatypical – trying to cope with the energy drain of a group of people, the effort of trying to read social cues and not let my natural habits out, trying to remember to wait for other people when an idea has me in its grip, having to work by other peoples’ schedules – it just makes the task many times harder for me. And my career has definitely been affected by it, especially with the gender layer on top of it (I am blatently female bodied in a male dominated profession, but I am tall, fat, loud and have never been very good at performing the right kind of female – the number of times I have been ‘told off’ for behaviour which is accepted from male colleagues because they are passionate or really clever or just like that, but I am neurotic or over-dramatic or emotional… sigh…).

        I’m a good individual contributor (especially if I can do the work part of the contribution mostly behind a door so that the more visible parts of my personal processes like humming, fidgeting, rocking, going off at random tangents, talking to myself or my computer, going into hyperfocus and swearing/jumping/over-reacting when interrupted etc. are not visible to others) and a very good individual student (I love to study) but oh, group work… not my thing!

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      “In life, grasshopper, sometimes you will work with Cady. Who drops her sweater on her desk and then goes to the movies for the rest of the day. To prepare you for this time, I have designed a group project…”

    9. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I hate group projects. After a couple of bad team members I got a reputation for being a “dictator”, when all I wanted was to hand in the project on time. And it doesn’t prepare you for “real life” work… Try telling your boss you won’t learn version control (because is “boring”), that won’t go well!

    10. Beth*

      The only time I had to do a group project in a business class, I went to the teacher to ask how to handle the fact that out of four people, I was doing about 75% of the work, a second person was doing 25%, a third was doing nothing, and the fourth wasn’t even showing up.

      She told me that in the business world, I would have to work with people who didn’t pull their weight and couldn’t be made to do any work, and to just deal with it. She said to just imagine I was working with “the boss’ son”.

      At the time, I assumed she was right. I didn’t learn until I started reading this column that she was full of sh*t.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        It’s amazing how many professors use this excuse—especially considering that a lot of professors went straight from undergrad to grad school to academia and don’t actually know anything about the business world they didn’t read in a case study.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          As a returning student they tried this line with me and I could not contain my laughter. Privately, I thought okay here is a person who has zero experience in business.

          I will say the one prof who keep her hand in the business world was just a super star of a prof. Her classes were so much fun and so loaded with information. But she herself was having fun, you could see it. One time I did a paper on X as one of my weekly papers. I got a note back, “Thank you for doing this. I have always wondered why there were so many varieties of X and you really broke it down for me.”

        2. JaneB*

          although there ARE a lot of letters here about crap managers and bosses sons or otherwise favoured employees not pulling their weight… it’s not entirely unrealistic (but still poor teaching…)

    11. Dorothy Zbornak*

      Unfortunately, sometimes the terrible lazy ones can work presentations to their advantage, too. I once did a two-person project in professional school (Masters level program) with a guy who I liked okay at the time, but after this experience I saw his true colors. We had to do a presentation together and I did my half, he did nothing. I said oh well, good luck presenting on nothing. He (cis white dude), BS’d his portion of the presentation and the professor LOVED IT. Like, could not stop gushing over the crap he was saying about literally NOTHING. Folks, this man’s privilege got him immediately into top roles in our chosen field, where he has been ever since. Luckily, I have heard from various people that he continues to be a douche and nobody likes him.

    12. Rain's Small Hands*

      I had so many group projects in college. For a few of them – because I was a full time employee in the industry I was getting a degree it – I’d talk to the professor and say “I have this expertise…this project can go one of two ways – I do 90% of the work and my teammates learn practically nothing – because I can do a case study on Six Sigma by opening my desk drawer and pulling out my last project – or you can make me a team of one and I’ll do 100% of the work – and the other people who would be in my group will need to learn something.” They usually picked door #2.

      The better ones had room to evaluate each other so you could let the professor know what you did – and what everyone else did.

      But my youngest had a new twist – they were on a team of four – them and a friend and then two other people who were friends. They met early on, then didn’t have another meeting despite my kid reaching out for the next three weeks (it was during Covid lockdowns). A week before the assignment they finally got a response from the other two friends – who had completed the project without them. My kid reached out to the professor and wrote a paper independently, along with a reflection on the group project and what went wrong – and ended up with a B+ in the class. I’m not sure what their friend did, but he also passed the class.

    13. The Starsong Princess*

      Nora has managed to not do any work and caused you more work while holding the moral high ground! That’s really impressive. Since this is not a real work situation where you have to maintain relationships, I think you should not worry about apologizing to her. However, you might want to supply your professor documentation of her contribution to the project. If you do this, make sure you provide documentation including texts and plans because I guarantee she will twist it into your fault if the professor calls her on it. This reminds of the meme where a guy wants the people who worked on a group project with him to be his pallbearers so they can let him down one more time.

    14. sofar*

      My favorite class in grad school gave us the choice to 1. Do projects as a group projects (we got to pick our own groups) or 2. Do the entirety of the work alone.

      I chose to go it alone after the first group project basically had me doing that anyway (on top of a demanding internship and a part-time job). Yes, it was “more work” for me in the long run, but I could easily dole that work out to myself over the entire month rather than having to cajole others and then do it all myself the week before it was due. What amazed me is how many of my fellow students would, TWO DAYS before the project was due, ask me if I had a group “yet” and ask me if I wanted to collaborate with them. Two days before the deadline, I’d have everything pretty much done, so I’d be like, “No. I’m already done.”

    15. Migraine Month*

      My college capstone group project ranks up there with “death of my grandfather” and “medical tech saying the tumor is probably cancer” as one of the most stressful periods in my life. It’s also one of the few times as an adult that I’ve ever yelled at someone.

      In my experience, “real” jobs are so much easier than school in so many ways.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        For the most part, the groups I saw were sniping at each other. Not out and out yelling or rude but just this constant parade of belittling one-liners. There was that one instance I mentioned above where the whole class was in melt down. Everyone was either ignoring others or yelling at them- no in between. We were supposed to fill out a review sheet but the prof ran out of forms so I did not receive one. I simply left the room in the middle of the chaos.
        This was the class where the professor lost my grade and I ended up getting zero credit hours.

    16. Anon Supervisor*

      When I was in grad school going for my MBA, I had a few classes with a big group project. Normally I hate them because I’m shy and not assertive, but they went well TBH. Everyone in my program was engaged in the topics and were adult learners (as was I) and were very good about being honest about their time and skills. A few of my professors would have a few class periods where you could work on the project together, which was good for those folks who had busy family and work lives.

    17. Calliope*

      I don’t know, I regularly have to work with other teams/orgs/etc. without any managing authority. Like sure a student who doesn’t do their assigned work is frustrating. You know what’s more frustrating? When the lawyer of an allied party doesn’t send you a draft brief until the day before it needs to be filed but your client needs to stay in their client’s good graces so can’t chew them out. For instance. I think the idea that these dynamics never come up in “the real world” is a nice thought but not really true.

  7. Esmeralda*

    #5. Please, take pity on the poor soul who has to read applications and do NOT use a creative or design-y resume template. It’s sooooo hard to find the needed info on them. I do not feel charitably inclined towards candidates who make my job harder.

    Some industries do want a resume that’s been designed … most do not not. Clean, well-organized, easy to read. That’s what you want.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I never minded a bit of very mild formatting, by which I mean occasional bolding and bullet points. But a resume that’s as over-designed as the sample in the post would lead me to believe that the applicant had limited accomplishments and was trying to cover that up.

      I’m in the US and I never had anyone try to include a photo with a resume or CV. I suspect my HR director would have chucked any applications that included one, just to head off possible claims of bias.

  8. Mehitabel*

    Re: LW #2 — I really wish that offices with co-working spaces would provide lockers for personal items. Keeping personal items at a desk that you don’t have a claim on is a surefire recipe for conflict. You need to figure out how to store your personal items in such a way that they can easily move from workstation to workstation with you. I know that’s annoying but it’s really the only solution. If you don’t have lockers then use a banker’s box or a tote bag labeled with you name, put your stuff away (perhaps in a closet or in a manager’s private office) at the end of the day, and get it out again the next time you’re in the office. Or – just don’t have a bunch of personal stuff in your office space.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      They gave me a cabinet to keep my stuff in…then moved the “hot desking” offices OUT of that space, put desktops there for the temps, and now if I want to get into the cabinets, I’d have to invade someone else’s office. I asked if those could get moved and NOPE they cannot, no room! So…that was pointless.

      OP2 is going to have to give up her space, unfortunately. That’s the joys of hybrid now, you don’t get “your” anything.

    2. ND and awkward*

      Yeah I’ve always gone for keeping no personal stuff in the office, partly because I didn’t want to carry stuff in on the bus/train, partly because I’m very possessive of what’s mine so I’d be annoyed if anything got lost or damaged. Now that we have hot-desking and lockers, my locker is just the place I leave my bag and coat during the day.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes. I think the most likely scenario is that OP’s colleagues do not realise that the fan, etc. are her personal property.

      If you’re not able to secure a desk that is officially “yours” then I think it is reasonable to ask for a locker or filing cabinet or similar for your items. At my old office we had desks that sometimes rotated but people all had rolling filing cabinets for their personal items.

    4. Van Wilder*

      I was going to suggest this also, but for her office supplies.

      I would also find it really annoying to know you have it all set up but not be able to use it. But maybe you can get a tote to organize your supplies and label it with your name, and move it to wherever you’re working. Not disaster-proof but might make work easier.

  9. LikesToSwear*

    #2 when my company decided to move to a more robust WFH set up, I had a minor anxiety attack (I hate working from home). I ended up literally submitting ADA paperwork to keep an assigned desk. I’m often the only person in the office, but I do have my own assigned desk.

    It may be worth discussing options with your manager, but if you are not able to keep an assigned desk, you need to clear out all of your personal items and make it just like every other desk available. And label any personal items (like your fan) that you want to store in the office.

    1. Observer*

      It may be worth discussing options with your manager, but if you are not able to keep an assigned desk, you need to clear out all of your personal items and make it just like every other desk available. And label any personal items (like your fan) that you want to store in the office.

      This is pretty much what I was coming to say.

  10. Esmeralda*

    #1. If a group member refuses to do the work (which happened right at the outset!), go to the professor. If you wait til the end, the problem is much harder to resolve. I’ve been a student in this situation and I’ve been the instructor. If a group comes to me with this issue, I have them meet in my office to hammer out a solution, and to make it clear that slackers will be getting a separate grade. Because they’re cheating…

    Group projects are not the problem. If they are well designed they can be good learning experiences. (That’s true of ANY school assignment. )

    Group projects do not have to replicate work conditions for students to learn and practice skills useful in the workplace: organization, planning, compromise, dividing up tasks, etc.

    Same with other kinds of assignments. I never took a class in writing memos and end of year reports , but for sure writing essays, abstracts, theses, dissertation taught me a lot about writing clearly and intelligently.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I posted up above – but I also was fortunate in having the professor that graded individually for a group project when we had a lazy bones teammate.

      It was helped that this teammate was known by all to the lazy person who was attempting to free-ride to a good capstone project grade. Nope – didn’t work out for him, and yes we did alert the professor as soon into the project as it was apparent that lazy bones wasn’t going to do anything.

      1. GlazedDonut*

        Yes! I completed a degree in a program where we had a mix of group projects before the final capstone project. By that time it was clear who was a slacker…and lo and behold, no one wanted to work with the slackers. Most of them ended up in a group together (that presentation was ~interesting~ to say the least) but a few were picked up by random groups who at least knew ahead of time about the shortcomings and were able to realistically plan around them. Still infuriating but less so than if it was an optimistic “maybe this time they’ll do it” view.

      2. JustaTech*

        In one class in undergrad a professor ended up doing separate grades on the final project for one team (and only one team) because it was beyond obvious that Bob had worked his tail off and Betty had done negative work. How was this obvious? Betty put tons of grouchy, complaining comments in the shared report (some complaining specifically about the professor) and then forgot/didn’t know how to remove the comments before submitting the report.

        (Betty was also my suite mate that year and was as terrible to live with as she was to try to do classwork with.)

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I think the challenge is that often group projects (at least at my uni) were presented as “It’s like the real working world” to students when, in reality, they aren’t. This is not a failing of group work, but a failing of how it is presented. if my coworkers fail to give me their section of a report by the deadline, I have a variety of ways to follow up. Starting, of course, with a friendly reminder email and escalating from there.

      1. I keep getting angry*

        Hey OP here,

        I’ve mentioned this but my profs did not seem to care about the fact that there were people not doing any work.

        It’s nice to hear that so many people think it’s not similar at all to the working world. If this is what it is like I would be terrified.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Did you actually speak to them or did you asume that they wouldn’t care? Sometimes it’s laziness on their part and actually complaining and explicitly asking them to intervene can work even where they haven’t put in place and expectactions or requirements at the outset.
          Of course what they shuld be doing is making sure that the expectations were clear from the start, and it sounds as though they failed to do that.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I hope you find comfort in knowing this is probably the worst experience you will ever have. What happened to me was that the longer I was out of school the angrier I got with the school for it’s failure to teach me. I came to hear a learned person instruct, I did not pay just so I could be someone’s baby sitter.

          The first team I was on was terrible. My co-chair decided to have a party. I realized in horror that most of the group was underage. I told my co-chair that OF COURSE I would not be attending the party because the police would toss my 40 year old butt in jail. He looked at me totally puzzled as if I was from another planet.
          Things did not get better as the semester wore on.

          1. Loulou*

            Thew worst experience you will ever have?? I must say I feel exactly the opposite of what you described. I had some very frustrating group projects in my professional program too. They bothered me at the time and now I no longer care or think about them because a) time has passed and b) I’m now a working professional who deals with frustrating situations that have actual stakes. Definitely hope OP does not become more angry about this with time!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I am sincerely curious as to a poll: How many people have fond memories of academic group projects teaching them valuable lessons? “I assign valuable group learning projects” wouldn’t count. How many people, as students, credit the group project with teaching them valuable things? And were those valuable things they couldn’t have learned anywhere else?

      Because while compromise, dividing up tasks, etc are useful skills, it’s just not the case that they can ONLY be practiced within the bounds of a group project for a class. Where so often “dividing up tasks” means “the person who cares most about the grade does all the work.”

      1. Important Moi*

        I don’t think of group academic projects as good or bad – just another situation to practice working with others towards a specific goal (i.e. completing the project, winning a team game, etc.). I think it is valuable to have such experience. The desired goal didn’t always transpire, but that’s life.

      2. Booklover13*

        I do have fond memories of group projects. For reference my college was project based and I can count the number of classes without a group project on a single hand. A lot of the teamwork, presentation skills and conflict resolution(which includes when to escalate) we’re learned not just from a group project, but actually having enough independent ones for the skills to develop and grow.

        My degree required an entry level course in another major for breath purposes. So junior year I was in a course doing group work with freshmen. There was a noticeable difference in all of the above skill sets.

        It is worth noting that the school and therefore even the large rest majors there was on the smaller side. So if someone had a reputation of being terrible to work with, it could have lasting consequences.

      3. Esmeralda*

        Sure. I had group projects where the amount of work to be done was not reasonable for a single person to do (even for me, crazy-ass “I do it mommy” type that I am) and where discussing the material with others helped us all learn more, ask more interesting questions, that sort of thing. These were in the humanities, since that’s what I ended up majoring in (started in STEM). Those groups were small (4 – 5) and everyone in the group was committed to working hard and being helpful.

        I was also in groups that were not like that — fortunately only a few — where I or I and one other female student did all the work. Those sucked. Did learn a lot, certainly more than the slackers.

        Of course there are other ways to learn those skills, they don’t have to be thru group assignments. But done well, group assignments do provide the opportunity to learn and practice those skills, and they also are a way for students to take in and wrestle with a larger amount of info, material, activities than they could individually.

        When I was fulltime teaching, I always had a group project of some sort — first meeting for the groups was in class, where they had set tasks to accomplish in term of getting started (= they got a piece of paper with a checklist), and second meeting was with me in my office. At the office meeting I did not participate in the meeting — they had the meeting with me observing. Then I discussed with them what they’d done well, what they hadn’t done well or left out, group dynamics I observed and discussed with them how to address those. About a month later, in class, students individually wrote a short “how my group is going” piece, stating what the group had accomplished, what they had left to do (you’d be surprised, or maybe not, at how different members of the same group saw this), an honest evaluation of their role in the group and the work they had done, and an evaluation of the other group members. Pretty extensive, but very useful. Of course, that was a LOT of work for me, but it really cut down on slacking and misbehavior, and most students had a very good experience. I pulled students out of groups when needed, and gave them the option of completing a group project ON THEIR OWN or taking an “F” for the project.

      4. Jackalope*

        I did have a couple of group projects in college that went well, although I didn’t think that they were teaching me teamwork and things like that. The best was something that would have been hard to do alone. It was a moral philosophy class and we set up a debate (like a talk show) where one of us was the moderator and the rest acted the part of specific philosophers that we’d studied. Notably, the important bit was that while I did do more work because it was my minor and everyone else was taking it for a general requirement, everyone WANTED to pitch in and this particular group didn’t have any slackers, just one or two people who were less familiar with the subject matter and needed a bit of help on understanding it.

        My favorite moment for this was when we were practicing for going up front, and for a moment everyone snapped into really living their characters. When we did the official presentation in front of the class it didn’t work this smoothly because we were nervous, but we did have a moment where we were having a real philosophic debate from the perspective of all of these famous ethicists, and it was great.

        I will add, however, that one of the important things about this project is that it wasn’t a huge part of our grade (we worked on it for maybe a week or two), and so if we had had someone not pulling their weight it would have been less awful for those of us who wanted to work.

      5. Rain's Small Hands*

        When I got my first humanities degree, I don’t remember doing group projects. None. I learned to write papers and analyze though. And I had a position within student government that taught me a lot of the “group project” dynamics.

        When I got my business degree later, after working in corporate America for more than a decade – there were tons of group projects – and I don’t remember a good one. The school I got that degree from had mostly night courses for working adults – and that in particular can create even more headaches for group projects – nearly everyone is already working a full time job, going to school for two or three classes, frequently have families on top of that – and often lived scattered all over the metro. No one has a schedule that’s easy to coordinate for “lets meet up to review our research.”

      6. Artemesia*

        The community based team projects in both my undergrad and grad work were the most valuable parts of my studies. This was particularly true of research knowledge and skills. Doing research is more powerful than reading about it.

      7. Filosofickle*

        I’ll bite. While I had lot of unsuccessful and frustrating student group projects and truly hated them in my earlier education, in higher ed they taught me to work better with others. I’m told all the time in my current role I’m a superstar at cultivating relationships with other departments/functions and collaborating with them. However, my natural tendency is to isolate myself and just do my own thing. I prefer independence to collaboration. But my field is project-based and I wouldn’t be successful in it if my education hadn’t pushed me to go outside myself, rewire my patterns, and learn to appreciate what can be done together. I also believe that things I’ve learned about group dynamics and how people work that have made me better at life.

        1. Filosofickle*

          And one specific:
          I went to business school. Let’s take an example of a semester long project to “create” a company. We all studied the same subjects but group work here is about scale: I could never have conducted the breadth of research we did on my own and deep research was what was needed to develop and test a viable idea. We also had do to a business plan, and needed each other’s strengths to do that right — I’m good at marketing but lousy at finance and talking it through as a team reinforced our class learning. Yes, technically I could have done all of the pieces of this alone but it would have been shallow and half-assed. (Some of my cohort-mates tried.) Together we could do it WELL and working through something at that level and quality is what made it a good learning experience.

      8. My Useless 2 Cents*

        Mid-40’s here and I always seemed to be in the class where groups were the “trendy” teaching technique that was going to be implemented. (My brother, one year older always had the more “traditional” classroom). This all started approx. 3rd grade. 3rd grade-college bachelors I can honestly say there was only 1 group assignment that was benefited/helped by the group situation. It was a business class in college where we had to complete a community service project and then provide a presentation to the class.

        Other than that, a good group project involved everyone taking a portion of the work and completing it alone that was then combined at the end to turn in. A mediocre group involved one person dropping the ball and the others covering. A bad group involved long useless meetings/”study groups” and one person basically ended up doing 95% of the work. Now 20 years after schooling, I have found no correlation to office/work life and still find little to no value in that kind of learning/teaching.

        As a personal note to any teachers out there… as a person who has dealt with general and social anxiety for most of my life (in other words painfully shy) I’m asking you to please ASSIGN groups. Pick names out of a hat if necessary. My personal hell is sitting in a classroom with the teacher saying “I’m going to give you 10 minutes to form groups of 4 for this next assignment”. I truly felt like throwing up or crying whenever I heard those words and can feel the panic forming just typing/thinking about that now.

      9. Smithy*

        I had one case where being on an assigned group project was both deeply educational and enjoyable.

        I don’t remember the class name or the specific assignment, but I remember a lot about the paper because coming up with a topic was a fairly creative act of compromise in itself. We were 4 different students with different interest areas, so finding a topic that didn’t upset, offend or irritate anyone while also gaining adequate/equal contributions – all of that ended up being an achievement. It ended up being a cool process and interesting paper.

        I do think it helped that this wasn’t a very long paper or a huge amount of our grade. No one was asked to contribute massive amounts of time, so even if this didn’t fall immediately under someone’s core area of study – it wasn’t hours and hours of working on something a little outside. And for me, because it was so different from most of what I worked on – likely one of the few things I still remember from school.

      10. Global Cat Herder*

        Very large university, STEM degree. Lots of group projects. Zero fond memories / good experiences. Every single one of them was 5 people: 1 who was super excited in the first meeting but never showed up again, 1 who flatly refused to do any work at all, 1 who committed to doing things but had a never ending list of excuses for why it didn’t get done, 1 who was realistic about their other commitments and that they could only do half the work expected of a team member, and 1 who did all the rest of the work.

      11. KoiFeeder*

        There was one. It was a class related to my major, the work was assigned in such a way that it would be obvious if someone was not pulling their weight, and both the stated intent and the way the assignment was structured was that we needed to successfully work together as a team. Also, because of the way work was assigned, the actual product was able to be graded on each person’s individual work on their part.

        But that’s one in the entirety of every group project I’ve ever had the misfortune to have, and it was a special class that was designed by a teacher who had worked in that industry to emulate that specific work environment for students interested in doing that kind of work. And the instructor worked extremely hard to ensure that it was as accurate a representation of that work environment with the consequences that came with it as possible.

  11. Mockingbird*

    For LW1 and others in this situation, you can also go to your TA, they’re usually the one grading the work anyway. And they can relay a “what are we supposed to do if a team member isn’t pulling their weight?” question to the professor if they didn’t address it in the syllabus. I was an older student in grad student and from my experience and that of friends who went back to school older, we often ended up as HBIC on group projects because we took the work more seriously. How much you’re willing to do most of the work depends on your other time commitments and how much your grade will suffer if you let anyone drop the ball on their section. Good professors design projects so at the least you can submit feedback on how members of your team did the work, or have some assignments submitted individually so they can see who’s doing the bulk of the group work if needed. Sadly it can be like trying to get work done with bad management, so learning to navigate it is as much a lesson as what your professor is trying to teach.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Group projects have always been useless AF, for EXACTLY the reasons stated by Alison. They have no resemblance to the real world and every damn time, someone’s forced to float along a useless flake so that they get their own good grade. Every Damn Time!

      1. Language Lover*

        I understand why people are frustrated with group projects, especially poorly run group projects.

        But I’m surprised at the adamance that they don’t have any relation to real-world situations when I feel like we have had letters that describe these poor dynamics in “real-world” situations as well.

        1. bamcheeks*

          yeah, and a lot of the “should I address this directly? should I take it to a higher authority? should I just try and work around them?” are exactly the same questions that you’d have in the workplace! Well-designed projects call that kind of thing out explicitly and get students to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, so they actually learn what they’re supposed to. And degree courses that are explicitly designed to develop group- and project-working do it over and over again, so you get to practice and refine what you’ve learned about working as part of a team, rather than it being the one single “group project” from your degree.

          Generally the feedback that we get from employers is that their heart sinks when they ask a question about team work and a graduate says, “Well, we had to do a group project and…” They’d much rather hear from someone who did multiple group projects as part of their degree, or who worked as part of a team in their volunteering role, part-time job or extra-curricular activities because it’s so much more likely that people saw the project as the point rather than the grade.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Worked as part of a team in their volunteering role, part-time job or extra-curricular activities.

            My kids learned about how to work in a team from soccer far more than from any academic group project. It’s just not the case that the only way to get some experience in what it’s like to work on a team in a lab is to work on a team in Sophomore Greek History.

            Class teams are notorious for the teacher refusing to let the top students band together in a group, and instead assigning 1-2 good students and 1-2 struggling students to each group. “This way the whole class turns in A-B work for the group projects, rather than only the same group of top students getting those grades!” Yeah, your students did not learn how to get the struggling people to produce A-level work by the power of teams–that’s not what happened here.

          2. My Useless 2 Cents*

            I really think this is just an innate thing people learn as they grow up or don’t. Everyone at some point has to learn to get along with other people because you can’t get ahead in the world without doing so. Perhaps the ideal group assignment will help students learn cooperative techniques they can apply to life but 99.9% of the time the projects assigned are not designed or taught with this in mind and are therefore not effective. I am a very cooperative co-worker, willing to do what I can help where I can whether it falls under my job description or not. I hated school group projects and found them unhelpful and a complete waste of time/energy.

            1. River Otter*

              “I really think this is just an innate thing people learn as they grow up or don’t.”

              I encourage you to think differently. Soft skills are skills just like any other skill, and they can be learned and practiced just like any other skill. If your professor or manager is not instructing you on these skills (and you should not expect them to), then you need to seek out other ways to learn them. There are plenty of books and columns out there.

              1. My Useless 2 Cents*

                I’m not saying you can’t learn soft skills but it has been my experience that those who work well in groups… try, those that don’t work well in groups… don’t try. If someone is unwilling to try, what they learn is how to manipulate and take advantage of the rest of the group to their benefit. If the “purpose” of the group assignments is to teach the students how to cooperate with each other and learn these soft skills, telling someone “there are plenty of books and columns out there to learn them” is entirely missing the point.

                1. JaneB*

                  some of us are just confused by people and by social expectations, despite huge amounts of reading, group projecting etc. (hence why I said above I suspect I’m neuroatypical…) –

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  @JaneB Social Skills therapy! I am very, very autistic, and thanks to many years of social skills therapy sometimes I can have normal human conversations.

                  Though, and this bit is relevant to what 2 Cents is saying above, I really think some social skills stuff should be outright taught in schools. I know there’s a little bit of it in the lower grades, but it’s not very good and most of it is for making the school’s life easier and not to actually teach proper conflict resolution or social skills.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          You can change jobs. In college you are stuck. You have to push through it somehow. IRL, you figure out what you are going to do next, then give your notice and leave.

          You aren’t paying an employer to keep you employed. In college you are paying them to teach you. The failure to recognize the unintended covert learning here is staggering. Students learn to do other people’s work for them. Students learn to pawn off slackers on unsuspecting team mates. I could go on and on.

          The respect given/not given comes back around. I have a friend who was so disgusted by what he saw in college that he refuses to complete his degree. He is just a couple courses shy of finishing. Not my story to tell, suffice it to say he got treated like DIRT.

          I paid big bucks for a service. That service is called an education. I learned very little from the professors because it was all about getting Bob to show up and do the group work. The situation was so severe that when a written report was required the common expression was, “I volunteer to write some BS for us to hand in.” I heard that expression often just walking through the hallways. The students called their own work “bull$hit”.

          This never happens in workplaces. I have never once heard a cohort say, “I will write up some BS and give it to the boss.”

          I have said it many times on this blog and I will stand by it. I have learned more here on AAM than I ever did at Big Spendy School.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I have never once heard a cohort say, “I will write up some BS and give it to the boss.”

            Really?! you work in very rarefied circles!

          2. Neptune*

            “I have said it many times on this blog and I will stand by it. I have learned more here on AAM than I ever did at Big Spendy School.”

            Genuine question, were you doing some sort of vocational training or something? Because otherwise yes, I would expect that you’d learn more about day-to-day workplace issues from a workplace advice blog than you would from a university degree.

            And of course you get unmotivated bullshitters in the workplace too. I mean, this – “This never happens in workplaces. I have never once heard a cohort say, “I will write up some BS and give it to the boss.”” – is a bizarre statement. Many, many people hold jobs that they do not like, care about or particularly want to do well.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I mean, I have heard extremely skilled and motivated people say it, because … sometimes you have to write up some bullshit for the boss.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              This was at a college that is ranked pretty high nationally.

              I have never heard anyone disrespect their own work enough to call it BS. I have heard people say “I am doing this report and it’s useless.” But I have never heard the exact word BS. I guess the frequency of use of this expression is tough to convey. It was a normal thing to hear multiple times on a daily basis. And people did not mind if they were overheard by casual bypassers.

              I have never experience such a saturation in a workplace.

        3. Loulou*

          This is a good point! I definitely didn’t enjoy group projects (and still prefer producing analogous work to what I’d do in a group project independently) but I’ve had some well designed ones and absolutely remember encountering some of the same interpersonal scenarios I do now.

        4. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I’d argue that group projects have no built in hierarchy; no boss (profs usually don’t see themselves in that role), no one who has been there many years and has lots of experience, no one recognized as a SME, etc. Work has those roles. And at work you might be chasing a raise or promotion but in school, it’s a grade. The rubrics are very different. Finally, at work, you keep working with and building relationships with people; with glachool projects, it’s one and done.

          So that makes group projects useless for navigating all the things people write to Alison about. You get no practice learning how to navigate different roles, building relationships and skills, etc.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            The SME thing is big–in the real world, your project team doesn’t consist of 6 randomly chosen co-workers. It has 2 back-end coders, 2 front-end coders, 1 person with institutional memory, 1 PM, etc.

        5. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m not sure giving people practice in the norms of a poorly run workplace is really valuable.

          “Yes Grasshopper. In the real world you may be assigned to work with Jack, who refuses to do anything and just watches gaming streams all day. So for this project I assign you to work with mini-Jack, who will refuse to do anything and just listen to podcasts while tanning. Both of your grades will depend on the final product submitted in both your names.”

          “Sometimes people don’t pull their weight” is something most of us can determine from life experience, with no need for a single academic group project.

          1. bamcheeks*

            In a well-run project, the learning outcome isn’t “sometimes people don’t pull their weight” but “how to ensure the project is still completed even though some people don’t pull their weight”.

            But also, this isn’t just on higher-education institutions. One of the reasons there are group projects like this in higher education is because tons of employers have outsourced third-level education to universities and colleges, and then complain when graduates don’t come in “work-ready” with “work-ready skills”. There are some things that simply cannot be replicated in a classroom environment, because of the different roles of students and workers and the different stakes they have in the success of a project. Some universities and colleges do an amazing job of working with employers or very carefully designing assignments with very carefully tailored and specific learning outcomes, but it’s a pretty tall order.

            If employers want 22-year-olds with real-work-experience, their best bet is hiring 18yos and giving it to them.

        6. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          If I wanted to take a class in how to deal with recalcitrant and obstreperous individuals, I would have looked for one on that. I do not need or want it as an add on to my class in comparative literature analysis, municipal trashcan placement, or organic chemistry.

          If I don’t have the same tools as a real-world scenario to resolve the issues, you’re not actually training me for one.

          And if it is COSTING ME MONEY AND TIME AND LOST OPPORTUNITIES to deal with this (which it always does, because the expectation is that I give up my own time outside of class to work on the group project, because the professor doesn’t care to actually be involved), it is the most ridiculously useless pedogeological model in existence.

          May all group project apologists be consigned to work with the unmotivated and incompetent performers for the remainder of eternity.

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            “The competent person’s abhorrence of group work” Where we are taught in school (starting in Kindergarten and through grad school) that what happens is we are assigned a group where we will do 70% of the work and rework the other 30%. Where we will get bullied and picked on by one of our team mates, who will contribute nothing to the project other than using it as an opportunity to bully you. Where we learn that there is often one person in the group with a fundamental misconception that they will fight you to the end on – so fundamental that leaving it is going to tank your grade. Where you can’t depend on some people to create a title page without typos, and that the more you bend over backwards to make sure someone is included and valued, the more likely the one time you can’t meet at Starbucks at 3pm gets reported to the professor because you are uncooperative.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I know someone above (rightly!) complained about teachers assigning groups rather than letting people pick them, but group projects as bullying vectors is so, so common when teachers allow the class to choose their own partners.

        7. Irish Teacher*

          I think there are still major differences though. Perhaps the biggest ones are that work projects are generally done while AT work – you don’t have to find a time to get together when everybody is free – and the person who assigns roles or decides on the project also has some level of authority. I don’t think it EVER happens at work that a group of people are randomly assigned to work together and told “think up a project related to our job and work on it in your own time, navigating the times each of you is free.”

          Poor dynamics can definitely exist, but…at least the person is generally in the same building and you aren’t hanging around the library wondering is somebody late or have they decided not to show. You also generally don’t have responsibility for deciding on the project and getting other people to do their part. I don’t think it’s that they have no relation to “real world” dynamics as that there are a number of factors that make them different.

          Yes, I have had to collaborate with colleagues who won’t do their part, but I generally can go to somebody and say, “I can’t get the info from X. Is there anybody else who might know it?” You can’t really do that at college. Yes, you COULD go to the lecturer, but college isn’t school. A teacher might step in and tell a student to work but a lecturer probably won’t. Lecturers don’t really have any disciplinary role. Yes, they can fail the student who isn’t pulling their weight but they aren’t like to call the person in and insist they get to work right now. They also don’t really have any responsibility for the project. At work, if somebody has an accident and is out for the next 6 weeks, it’s up to the boss to replace that person or decide to delay the project. At college, it still has to be done by the same date anyway and if that person had info at home…well, it just has to be redone. At college, the higher authority is there to judge how well you did the project, which might put people off going to them with complaints whereas at work, the higher authority is there to ensure the project is completed and done well.

          I will add that I don’t think there’s NO benefit to group projects, but I’m not sure you can compare them to work.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            In the real world, there is usually someone with authority who cares about the project. (If not, the project is doomed, and I shouldn’t be wasting my time on it either.) I can keep that person informed of the project status, do a good job on my part, and the rest isn’t my problem.

            In school, group projects exist for the teacher’s convenience. That’s it. If your project crashes and burns, you may get a bad grade, but the teacher doesn’t care. More likely, you’ll take on the thankless meta-project of trying to tutor the clueless and/or inspire the actively unwilling, before giving up and doing most of the work yourself. Then you’ll take up class time to present your findings, reducing the teacher’s load of both lesson prep and after-hours grading. Your barnacles will get the same grade you did, allowing them to pass the class. (Failures are bad for business, also invariably blamed on the teacher.) I get it – I’ve taught before, it’s a lot of work and a thankless job, this is a rational survival strategy. But let us not insult anyone’s intelligence by claiming it’s more than that.

        8. Filosofickle*

          When I was in school I thought that — in the real world it won’t be like this! Lol. It’s totally like that.

          Yes, there should be more recourse work. I can talk to my boss or their boss. But most of my projects have big, cross-functional teams. I am no one’s boss and while I lead projects I really don’t have any power or control over others, only influence (sometimes). I could go to their/my boss and say hey the work isn’t getting done how do we handle this, but that’s usually a long play while they find another body or coach someone on their performance. In the here and now, chances are I just have to figure it out and pick up slack as needed for the next few months even if that means someone isn’t pulling their weight.

        9. pancakes*

          Same, Language Lover. The time my moot court partner forgot his dress shoes and asked me to try to hide him from view of the three judges as we walked in was not unlike real world dynamics I’ve encountered, haha!

      2. Esmeralda*

        AGain, they don’t have to be the same as what you do in the real world in order to teach/practice skills that are useful in the real world.

        Seriously, I do not understand why people get upset about this. No one at my current job, which is at a large R1 state university, ever discusses gender and British Renaissance drama. Ever. But doing a thesis on that topic taught me a lot of skills I have used every day of the 40+ years I’ve been working since I graduated from college. In fact, my very first job — tech editing and documents management — had NOTHING to do with my major in terms of subject matter, and not one document I worked on was in any way shape or form like any document I produced in college. Not one bit. And yet, all of that writing, revising, editing, collaborating with other students on a large written research paper, my own thesis, all of it — taught me how to read carefully, read quickly when needed, how to edit, how to manage a big ass project in a limited amount of time, how to get help from others, how to talk to other people about my work, how to talk to other people about their work, how to move up the food chain to get help when someone was not doing their part, how to be polite through it all, how to listen, how to shut the F up and listen.

        I promise you, people do not have to do an exact same task or kind of task to learn skills that are applicable elsewhere. When people want to move into a new industry, right here in this blog we see commenters saying if you’re in X industry doing Y job, then you have transferable skills 1 2 3 4 5 which you can use in A industry doing B job. When someone goes for a promotion, they’re often going for a job they have not done before, but the point is they have skills that can be applied to the new job.

        Sure, there are some tasks you can only learn on the job or for which you need special training. But not every damn thing. And for many jobs, what you learn doing other things (papers and projects and group projects in college, being on a sports team, being in a club or organization, working a You want fries with that ma’am job) — all of that, all of it, teaches you skills and gives you experiences that you can take to other situations, be it a job or managing a family member’s health situation or whatever.

        If it doesn’t for you, that’s kind of sad. Because, damn, every day must be a struggle if you’re not able to take what you’ve done and learned in the past, and apply it to the present.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I should not be paying multiple thousands of dollars to have to spend my own time and energy teaching basic excel techniques to another student in a graduate program so that their spread sheet is actually auto-calculating when a someone asks a “what if” question during a presentation, so that I do not look like a fool.

        2. Lana Kane*

          I agree with you. That group projects aren’t run well by the professor or insitution is a separate issue. Learning about team collaborations, and handling the inevitable issues that arise, is something you can build on in many areas of life. I get that a lot of group projects suck because they are poorly run, but also some suck because you are working with other humans and some of them also suck. I have run into this at work and I’m not sure where “this doesn’t happen in real life” comes from. (Thinking of the time I was passed over for a really good project because Someone had seniority, and Someone then completely flaked on it and I took it over halfway through. And that’s just one example).

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            There are better ways to learn group dynamics though – other opportunities in college and life that are far more analogous to work life, and in which you don’t have a grade riding on it (which for undergrads trying to get into a competitive grad program – a bad group project can be life impacting). I did some student government work. I volunteered. I worked part time. I played intermural sports. (this was all my first degree when I was 18-21 – my second degree I worked full time, had two young kids, and went to school – and really didn’t need the group project nonsense on top of it) I don’t need to produce a group project in order to learn group dynamics – and Cthuluhu’s Librarian is right – too often I ended up teaching my group – about the topic, how to research, how to write, how to use software.

    2. An Australian In London*

      I’ve been in group projects in two undergrad degrees and two Masters by coursework. I’ve also been a tutor/TA for undergrad and grad school, including being the one marking/grading assignments and exams.

      The single most important piece of advice for anyone studying at university/college level: talk to your teaching staff ASAP about any problems. Often their hands are tied after some deadlines are passed. Often they will be more positively disposed towards you the earlier you make them aware of issues.

      As a student dealing with group assignments: I learned to say right at the start “I intend to get grade [X] for this group assignment and I have a history of doing so at this level. What grades do you all tend to get and what do you want?” That quickly identified any gaps in both aspirations and track records and did so right at the start. If actions didn’t match words within the first week I would let the lecturer know – n0t out of any hope that they’d do anything about it (and indeed I’d be clear that I wasn’t asking them to, at that stage) but so any patterns and ongoing issues would be documented in writing.

  12. it's-a-me*

    That word template looks more like the menu at a modern cafe than someone’s professional history.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Honestly, I think they are kind of nice-looking, and I can see how they would seduce someone who felt they had to ‘sell themselves’ better….but that’s not reason enough to use them.

      1. kittycontractor*

        Yeah, when I was conducting interviews in my last job this style (occasionally with head shots) was popular. Not the overall norm, but we got enough of them it wasn’t unusual. Truthfully, they really didn’t bother me (and were mainly used, at least from what we saw, by newcomers to the workforce or people who were very heavy in a specific job type so not a lot of fluctuation in skills). Honestly, I preferred it to the guy who sent me a 16 page resume for an assistant job.

      2. pancakes*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s terrible looking to the point of being worth holding against someone. But I say that as someone who spent parts of the 90s squinting at Ray Gun magazine.

    2. AJak*

      I got this resume last week, and your summary is a good one. The thing was 5 pages long and I still couldn’t tell you much about the applicant or their skills.

  13. Genie*

    LW4: I’m one of those rare cases where things did get better when I told the boss I’d have to leave… but only because a plan was already in place, and me talking to her just persuaded her to push to speed things up a bit. I also only did it because I was single, still young enough to go back on my parents’ insurance if needed, and had enough savings to cover my bills for a few months if I had to. I was half expecting to walk out of that meeting jobless.

    1. Ama*

      I didn’t exactly say the words “I’m going to leave” but, last summer after we had finally hired to fill the two vacant roles in my department that had sat empty since the pandemic began, but my workload STILL wasn’t any better because everything the new roles did still had to be delegated and monitored by me, I had a brutally honest talk with my boss about how the workload in my department had become far too big for one role to oversee everything and how I needed either a change in the department structure so some projects were no longer my responsibility or we needed to cancel some of these projects. She definitely got what I was saying and we immediately starting working on a restructuring plan (I was fully ready to give notice if she didn’t, but I didn’t have to actually say that to her). It helps that the plan I proposed involved me focusing on the things I do here that no one else in the office fully understands (even my boss) — she knows full well that if I leave they will be really hard pressed to replace me.

      That said, Alison is not wrong that even if you do get help — I received about 80% of the restructuring plan I asked for, and it has pulled this job back from one that was giving me daily anxiety attacks to one that is more normal on the ebb and flow of work stress — it’s really hard to go back to “ok everything is fixed now.” I find that the burnout from the previous two years has made it much harder to enjoy the parts of my job I *loved* pre-pandemic, and that I’m really in “maintenance mode” where I can keep the day-to-day projects moving effectively and do anything that a coworker asks of me but I’m not seeking out new projects to implement the way I did 3-5 years ago. The only difference is I can at least stay here until I figure out my next step without it severely impacting my health.

  14. Booklover13*

    LW #3 I went to a college that was project-based so nearly every class had a group project, as well as junior and senior year major projects. Thus I have been in, seen, and heard about all kinds of group dynamics. This leads me to three thoughts:

    One: Always be aware of your escalation points, bringing this concern to a professor or an advisor can actually work if you approach it similar to how you would in workplace. Calmly stating material issues and asking for advice and support.

    Two: While someone having additional commitments should give some leeway, it is not carte blanche to excuse themselves from work. Again similar to the work it’s important not to let these things just go on.

    Three: Please recognize that Nora may have a different valid perspective. Someone constantly fixing everything will demotivate a person and her response sounds like it has some resentment of you doing so. Nora could have been trying her best a the start and by the end have decided there was no point in trying because nothing she does gets to final product anyways. This doesn’t make anything LW said any less valid or true, these aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s sounds like there was a large knowledge gap on the relevant technology which would not have helped this.

    This all goes to Alison’s point of why group projects without clear leadership or guidance from the start can get messy, especially if the students aren’t used to them. I think for them to be useful they have to be a strong part of the overall curriculum. It’s the only way students have enough experience that they can actually mimic a more work like environment.

    For a bit of levity: One Advanced Software class was only a group project. There were teams of 10-15 and had to organize themselves with a list of positions. Firing fellow student from the team was explicitly allowed.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I was sort of wondering about Point 3, as well. Suppose Nora is trying and submits her pieces, thinking she’s done them correctly, only to have them re-done every time (and then get yelled at). Why even bother?

      1. GlazedDonut*

        I’d say it depends on the class and level of experience expected prior to this point. In my experience, I had to re-do a lot of a peer’s work because it didn’t fit the style guide (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc)–it was maddening for me to go in and fix every quotation, citation, etc–and those are things that should be easy to learn and do past first or second year of college. There are similar rules for formatting tables based on the particular style (ex: APA has specifics for bolding, spacing, heading, fonts, etc). After the first or second “check the APA rules on X” I can see the lack of progress leading OP to do them herself.
        Communication seems important here, like stated plenty of times above. Understanding expectation, where someone’s coming from, etc.

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

      “For a bit of levity: One Advanced Software class was only a group project. There were teams of 10-15 and had to organize themselves with a list of positions. Firing fellow student from the team was explicitly allowed.”

      I had a business class like this. Our capstone project, worth 80% of the grade, was to start a fictional coffee business and there was software to run the scenarios and spit out data. We could organize ourselves in any configuration we wanted — solo, pair, small group, big group — and organize our “company” with a business plan and org chart. If a group decided to split or fire a “partner” they had to submit their changes to the instructor because that was actually part of the project; the outcome of the coffee business was secondary to organizing and running the fictional company.

  15. LondonLights*

    @Alison, all – in a resume, if someone has just finished college and doesn’t have too much work experience, would you put the education first rather than the work experience?

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Generally, my advice to students is- “Lead with what answers the basic- are you qualified? question.”

      So, yes, right out of college, you biggest qualification is often that you have the degree. That’s the first thing the hiring manager is looking for- do you have the degree that is required for the job? Yes or no? This is true of many entry level jobs in many fields.

      After a few years of work experience, your degree becomes assumed, so can be moved below the experience section, since your biggest qualifier is often “five years experience grooming llamas” not that you are a certified llama groomer.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Your biggest qualification being the degree is incredibly sector dependent, a lot of places will filter out anyone without a degree as a basic (especially for entry level positions) so their understanding will be that you have a degree by default.

        What they DO want to see is that you have basic work experience, even if it’s in a different industry. This is particularly important for people just finishing university, since there’s work norms that will apply across the board that really don’t ever come up in full time education.

        1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

          That depends. I screen beginner engineers, and I legit don’t ever see non engineering work on a resume, except maybe teaching at science camp. I assume a lot of them have it, but I don’t care, school is more like this job than retail is, and there’s lots of valid reasons they may not have it (many are foreign students, etc). They may use unrelated jobs for behavioural questions, but school or volunteer work is fine.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      When I finished college, my resume format was:

      Name/contact info
      Experience (I had a few internships in college)

      After I started working my first full-time job, I switched the sections to be:

      Name/contact info
      Experience (full-time job and internships)

    3. Moonlight*

      Yes, especially for careers where your education makes you eligible (eg nurse, lawyer, medicine/doctor, psychologist). You can demote it once you have experience but I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast explanation for when. My plan is around 3 years of experience when it’s clear that I know what’s what.

  16. The Prettiest Curse*

    #3 – I am an event planner who has food allergies myself. If the staff planning an event which has food don’t take food allergies into consideration, they have no business planning an event. It is not your job, as a person with food allergies, to prevent event planners who didn’t remember that people have food allergies from feeling bad. It’s your job to stay alive.

    You are not being demanding – event planners and caterers get these requests often and can adjust menus if we know in advance. But you do need to give us advance notice (at least a week if possible), because it’s a lot harder to adjust menus for allergies and other dietary requirements on the day of an event.

  17. Former Creative Resume Recipient*

    Re: #5 — as a retail manager in the (thankfully) distant past, I received many, uh, creative resumes, from handmade scrapbooks to what could only be called brand-themed sculptures to a resume laminated onto a tray with a cake on top. Talk about over-designed… Was the baker any good at selling stuff though? We’ll never know.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I totally want a thread telling us of the most wild resumes. But you may have already won.

  18. A.N. O'Nyme*

    LW 3, I will add that you’ll probably need to be prepared for some comments because people are weird about food, but by all means ask to be accommodated! Nothing is worth increasing your risk of getting cancer or any other health problem that may occur if you eat stuff you’re actually allergic to.

    1. Vegetarian*

      Yes, people are weird about food! I didn’t realize it until I became a vegetarian. Some people even seem to be offended that I’m a vegetarian. I don’t understand how my food preferences impact them. I’m talking about at restaurants where we all have menus and can choose what we want. They aren’t cooking for me. I always find something that I can eat. My vegetarianism ONLY comes up when someone suggests meat dishes to me. I find it helpful to say something matter-of-factly like, “Yes, that sounds delicious, but I’m a vegetarian. I’m thinking about X dish that also sounds amazing.” For the most part, it works to prevent further conversation.

      1. londonedit*

        I find that too – I’m not vegetarian but I don’t eat meat, so I’ll often order something vegetarian when I’m out. And so often if I’m with a group of friends, someone will say ‘Oh! Are you vegetarian?’ when they hear what I’ve chosen. No one ever says ‘Oh! Do you not eat red meat?’ if someone orders a chicken burger, but it’s always ‘Are you vegetarian??’ if I order a veggie burger, or then I get ‘You’re having fish and chips? I thought you were a vegetarian!’

        That said, there is absolutely no reason why the OP shouldn’t ask about the food arrangements and ask for their dietary requirements to be accommodated. It’s 2022 and any restaurant/pub/cafe/catering company should be more than used to dealing with allergies and intolerances (in the UK it’s required by law).

      2. Van Wilder*

        My best guess is that people are offended because they’re inferring that you’re judging them for not being a vegetarian.

        It’s like how my first couple years of being a parent, I felt attacked anytime someone else said they were sleep training their kid, because I wasn’t. That was my insecurity and I get the same vibe from people that are weirdly offended by vegetarians.

        1. Allison*

          Definitely, some people have a tendency to get defensive if they see you eating “better” than them, or in a way that you may perceive as morally superior or more disciplined, even if you genuinely do not care what others do as long as you have something you can eat.

        2. Vegetarian*

          I think you hit the nail on the head! Being a vegetarian is not for everyone, so I don’t push it on anyone and certainly never judge. I once left a Facebook group for vegetarians/vegans because I found some people to be very aggressive and judgemental when dealing with meat-eaters and trying to guilt and shame them. It’s not my style, so I left the group. My family and friends have probably run into people like that, which may also explain the defensiveness.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        While it’s not the same, I am an incredibly picky eater (probably have some sort of sensory issue with food) and again, I find some people are practically offended and others start talking to me almost as if I’m a child – “ah, will you try some? They’re lovely.”

        I will say my current coworkers are absolutely awesome and have occasionally gone out of their way for me. They were ordering pizza for a lunchtime celebration once and somebody said, “oh, Irish Teacher won’t eat that. Let’s add some chips.” I didn’t expect it and am quite happy so long as people don’t bother me about not eating, but it was nice of them. But I’ve worked so many other places where people kept asking stuff like “why don’t you eat that?”

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I was not prepared for the level of personal offense taken by others that shellfish could kill me or that milk in any form will not just cause me to be covered in hives and projectile vomit, but will make my esophagus and the rest of my GE tract bleed….

      I’ve learned to pack discreet food on the go options, limit my work travel as needed (truly my position does not require it!), and deal with the weird.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        My guess is that it’s caused by food basically having become a religion, what with “this food causes cancer” and whatever. If you eat the food and then get cancer you’ll always get at least one person tutting about not having avoided -insert food item here-. And you can probably think of at least one person who follows a certain diet (vegetarian and vegan are commonly used examples, but it’s not exclusively them, it’s literally every diet) for the moral superiority, not for any other reason. They tend to annoy even all the other people following that diet.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, keto and paleo folks are almost as evangelical about their diets as vegetarians and vegans. I just roll my eyes and enjoy my steak and potatoes.

    3. Van Wilder*

      #3 – you just proposed increasing your risk of stomach cancer so you don’t (possibly) make a near-stranger feel momentarily guilty! You might need to work on your assertiveness and boundaries now, before you enter the working world, lest you get worked to death.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, that really is worryingly extreme! I am kind of a picky eater and I understand not wanting to feel like a burden or make someone feel bad, but that’s definitely not a reasonable solution. Ideally the best option is to ask if there are accommodations, but if you don’t feel like you can make yourself push for that just yet then plan B is just bring a couple of snacks and get yourself a meal on your way home (I have taken that route plenty of times).

        You said that if you did something like that in the past that it made people say they felt bad they didn’t provide options, but that really isn’t a bad thing! For one thing, I highly doubt they are going to be *excessively* wracked with guilt about it. And for another it means they will hopefully learn to think to be more accommodating for future events! And you seem worried that any guilt they feel will somehow fall back on you but I really, really don’t think that is a thing that would ever happen. And if someone was weird enough to think “oh no, that person had perfectly normal dietary restrictions that I failed to accommodate so now I can never hire them or I would be consumed with shame all the time” then they are probably weird in a bunch of other not very professional ways that would make them unpleasant to work with anyway lol.

  19. Raia*

    #5 Confessions of a secret MS Word resume template user…. Yeah, I use one of the simplest templates for 6+ years and no one has questioned it the past 4 promotions I received. I use the best practices of keeping it clean, easy to read fonts only, and relevant with the top having contact info, skills, most recent/relevant job info, and my education can live at the bottom. No links or pictures or weirdo tiling like that resume image provided. It’s also smart to have a .txt copy for easy copypasta into archaic ATS. Mine’s a normal looking resume, just with a blue bar at the top with my name, and similar themed font colors through the doc, and 1 page bc that’s my exp. I like to think my personality shows a smidgen by making the color bar at the top my favorite blue.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Just a heads up- when people send me resumes in color and I have to print them in black and white, the grey tones often make the color text illegible. So, if you are going to use blue (or any color) as font in your resume, make sure it prints well in grey scale which is what I am going to print it in when I have to read 87 resumes, as I did for a recent open position I hired for.

      No shame using a Word Template though, some of them are perfectly fine, I’m sure.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I second the text copy. I regularly format mine four ways: docx, pdf, html and txt. My format is simple enough that I can make it look almost the same across the formats.

  20. Tara*

    #5 I want something skimmable I can read on my phone. Columns are terrible for readability.

    People love to push the idea that gimmicks and innovation are the way. They’re not.

  21. Recovering Perfectionist*

    #1: It is never easy to work with someone who doesn’t pull their weight, and you’ll meet more of them throughout life! However, you never mention in your letter if you actually told Nora of your expectations. You write that you expected her to help out more after her internship — was she aware of this? And when you say that she didn’t do good enough work, did you tell her?

    I was in this exact situation so many times in school, and for the most part, it was because I was a perfectionist with mile-high expectations on myself AND others. No one could measure up to me except for a handful of people, which made me re-do and correct others work, often without them knowing. It seems the same thing happened with Nora, since she texted that she never asked you to do any work for her. Think of it from her POV: how would you feel if a classmate or colleague “fixed” all of your work behind your back, and when you asked them about it, they’d lose their temper?

    1. I keep getting angry*

      Hey OP here
      I did tell her directly I was struggling and would need her to help out. She did three pieces of work, the first I fixed because we had to present to the prof soon. The next times we told her but she said she didn’t know how and she refused to even try.

      But you are right I definitely see times I could have communicated better about the issues I faced with her work. I think next time I will be more open with communication even if I am frustrated.

      1. Esmeralda*

        First meeting you need to get in stone what the expectations are for the group. Timeline, who’s doing what, how often you are meeting, how are you communicating, what each individual needs to do if they’re struggling or can’t finish in time, what the others need to do when this happens.

        I mean, write it down/put it in a document in a shared drive so that there is no question.

        Revise as needed as you start doing stuff for the project and see how well these expectations are working for everyone.

      2. Momma Bear*

        I had a project in undergrad where my roommate and I did 90% of the work and even worse, the day of the presentation the other 3 who did nothing knew nothing and it showed. We collectively got a low D, which my roommate and I protested with the professor. We got our individual grades raised to a C once we produced our notes. It was a lesson learned in speaking up and determining when to just go forward and when to let someone deal with the consequences of their own actions. In this case I’d have gone to the prof early on and if they did not act, then gone forward with the knowledge that Nora would be dead weight. You could have also solicited help from the rest of the group with the mindset that it just needed to be done so how were you collectively going to proceed? And although text and email is common, some conversations are better had face to face when possible. Even a group video chat may have helped. Next project have milestones and regular group meetings so that when it becomes clear there’s a blocker, you can collectively decide the mitigation.

        But in general, I feel your pain. I hate group class projects because they inevitably all go like this.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I’m grateful that my degree was in drama. In the classes that had group projects as part of the assessment, the project involved working towards a final performance. So if someone did minimal work and didn’t show up to rehearsals, it would’ve been really obvious.

      Standing on stage with absolutely no idea what you’re supposed to be doing is awful, so as a result almost everyone put in the work. It absolutely taught us all how to get stuff done, and I use those skills a lot in my career.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I shout about this a lot in my job! We used to employ a few graduate interns from degrees like drama, music and broadcast journalism, and they were just so amazing at team work. We had one graduate intern who ended up de facto chairing our team meetings because her instinct for “that’s enough throwing around ideas, time to start making concrete plans and assigning tasks” was so well-honed.

  22. Green great dragon*

    #2 it’s actually a bit rude to leave personal stuff on a shared desk, at least everywhere I’ve worked. Definitely ask for storage.

    All my stuff’s in a stackable in-tray set, which might work even if you don’t have off-desk storage. Everything goes back in the tray at the end of the day, even the mug, and gets lifted over to the new desk in the morning.

    If you need access to more stuff than can fit in that, manager ought to be willing to discuss with you – do you need a pedestal on wheels, or is it just a pile of box files that moves from desk to desk, or something else?

  23. Profs ain't Mommy*

    I doubt any professor is actually going to take time to mediate a group project dispute where someone’s not pulling their weight. College/uni students are adults.

    1. ND and awkward*

      So are (the vast majority of) employees, and yet part of a manager’s job is to intervene in workplace group projects where one adult isn’t pulling their weight.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, but the incentives are wildly different. The professor has no meaningful responsiblity of the result of a group project, whereas the manager ultimately has responsibilty of the product of a workplace collaboration.

        I’m not necessary defending group projects where professors allow students to fob off work, but they are very different situations.

        1. ND and awkward*

          The professor does have a responsibility to their students’ education, though, and designing coursework where one student’s education can be saboutaged by something entirely outside of their control without giving them any recourse is failing in that responsibility.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            I don’t disagree and, as I said, I’m not necessarily defending group projects. But responsibility for the overall output of a class is different than responsibility for the results of a single group project.

            I think you are also jumping to some conclusions here. Not always, but typically, there are multiple factors that go into a student’s grade. Rarely is it just one project. Moreover, not all group projects result in the same grade for every participating student (althought plenty do). And crucially: a grade and “an education” aren’t the same thing and I think lots of professors would argue that there is learning experience within the lens of the group project.

            As I said, I’m not necessarily defending this practice. I’m just arguing that professors really don’t have the same incentive to mediate between students as managers have to mediate between colleagues.

        2. Asenath*

          The prof had reasons for assigning the group project, probably involving evaluating the work and progress of all the students involved. It is therefore absolutely necessary for the prof to know that some of the students are not doing the work on which they are being evaluated, and to deal with that in some way, even if it is by giving the students the grade they deserve, and not the grade the work produced by the rest of the students deserves. The prof not knowing about the quarrels among the students about one or more of them not pulling their weight would prevent the prof from carrying out a fair evaluation.

          I must say, group projects at university had to be the most useless and frustrating option for learning that I ever encountered. I never had serious problems working with others in the workplace.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          “The professor has no meaningful responsiblity of the result of a group project”

          If every professor takes this view point then colleges will be turning out students who are useless in the workplace. When these students cannot find employment, then they do not pay their student loans. And when student loans don’t get paid then……..

          Professors are not an island, just like the rest of us our actions/inactions send out a ripple. We are all interconnected and interwoven.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            I think you’re interpreting my statement as an endorsement of this as a good system, when I more just mean it as a statement of fact.

            In most academic systems professors don’t have an incentive to manage the results of a student project in the same way that a manager has an incentive to manage a project. Professors don’t tend to be held professional responsible for the results of a single project, whereas managers typically are.

            You may want to change the incentives in that system (I wouldn’t disagree, I’m not arguing for it) but that is how it currently stands in most places.

        4. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I agree with IRBED!
          I work at a university (helping students but not as an instructor), have 4 degrees with many versions of group projects, taught at the college and HS levels, and have work experience locally and regionally in group projects in multiple contexts. And my spouse is a professor who is a recognized unicorn in his college for the way he organizes group projects (bc no other profs put in much effort, they just “let it all work itself out”). So I know group projects!

          Most Profs absolutely do not operate like a boss assigning work. They just do not.

          If I don’t get a work project done, it reflects poorly on my boss. We all know there can be bad bosses who don’t care; but it mostly does reflect on them.

          There is no comeback for a prof if a group project does not go well. None. Or, if there is, that prof will get reassigned from a course heavy in group work, like a capstone course. That is, there is a **benefit** to a prof who does not run group projects well, they don’t have to do them anymore!

          You can try to tie this to educating a poorly prepared workforce all you want. But this is not something most profs even realize. We see this all the time here with bad career advice from university career centers. If they don’t realize the disconnect with workplaces, what makes you think individual profs notice?

          My spouse does bring in industry experts and he does teach HOW to do a group project and he does assign individual projects when someone just cannot work as a team member. He is the one who had to take over the capstone course to fix it because it was the subject of student complaints for at least 10 years. He only got assigned to fix it because the newer dept chair did not want to deal with the complaints. The previous chair was happy to dismiss them as typical student complaining and did not think there was a real issue. In fact, profs operate so independently that we should not be surprised they don’t know how to organize group work.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            If I don’t get a work project done, it reflects poorly on my boss. We all know there can be bad bosses who don’t care; but it mostly does reflect on them.

            There is no comeback for a prof if a group project does not go well

            Yes — Chilipepper you said much better what I was going for, thanks!

    2. Ranon*

      Yes, but they also have no power to get one another to do anything. If the grading isn’t set up to deal with the reality that rarely do all group members contribute remotely equally, what exactly are you proposing the alternative is? The professor is the one with power in this scenario.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      This thread is reminding me of the magical high school in the Scholomance series, which is perfectly happy to have people cheat and do other people’s work. It is completely ends focused (e.g. “an essay on Sanskrit”) and leaves the means completely to the students. Late or failing work gets you facing often-lethal consequences.

      That last part is important to the system working. Everyone still alive has demonstrated a lot of internal motivation to not die, and so finds any way to make the system work.

      This sort of assignment is like wanting students to experience middle management, where they are considered responsible for the outcome but not given tools such as the ability to hire enough qualified people. “How can you pass the buck, or cheat?” is more likely as an outcome than “So I figured out how to make Belinda stop sun-bathing and actually write her part, using teamwork.”

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      A bad professor won’t but it’s absolutely their job.

      Your boss isn’t your mommy either – but when they assign you work and you don’t do it they will be speaking with you.

      Fun fact – I had this exact problem in my graduate program. I absolutely went to the professor (twice) and she handled it. I dont’ give a rats behind what the solution is – whether the prof grades them separately or has a conversation with them letting them know expectations.

      But managing fellow students is not a students problem.

  24. Former weak link, now team player*

    LW#1 I’ve been on both sides of this. Long story short, I had a mystery list of symptoms in my teens and early 20s, for which the root cause wasn’t diagnosed for about 15 years. At its worst, I was out sick from school/college/work about a third of the time. But, since then, the jobs I’ve done have been very team focused so I’ve also had my fair share of feeling like I’m pulling the weight for some people who are coasting.

    As Alison says, I think the best way to handle this is a) asking very clearly and firmly for what you need and b) if that doesn’t work, going to your professor or manager and explaining the situation.

    But I think another big part of this IS setting out very clear boundaries and expectations and (this part may sound weird!) avoiding the temptation to play victim. To put that into context – you say you and Brooke took on extra work at the start because Nora was on an internship and you THOUGHT she’d do more once she was done and were disappointed when she was less help than you EXPECTED. But what’s less clear is if Nora knew that’s what was happening – perhaps she would have been happy to take on more During her internship had sHe been asked or picked up more work once she was done had she known about the imbalance or pointed out earlier on that the things you expected her to pick up post-internship weren’t the sort of things she had much knowledge of. I can understand the feeling of it all being very unfair that you’ve made sacrifices to cover for her – but it’s hardly fair to expect her to know this is going on and then hold it against her when she doesn’t do what you expect.

    I think the same can be applied to managers who won’t manage. It’s perfectly reasonable to say something like “I’ve got A, B and C to do today. However, because I’ll also need to supervise Jane, I’ll only have time to do two. I’m choosing to do A and B but let me know if you’d rather I do another combination” or “I’m happy to take on some additional projects while Fergus is still being trained but I’d like it to be clear that this isn’t sustainable and I’d like to put a timeline in place for handing these over to Fergus”. What isn’t reasonable is getting stressed out doing 12 hour days trying to fit it all in when nobody’s explicitly asked you to do that, if you see what I mean.

    FWIW, I remember one person I went to school with getting really stressed out with me that I wasn’t pulling my weight on a project and they were having to pick up the slack. And, honestly, my reaction to this was just a bit “Well, appreciate it’s frustrating but our teacher has already assured us we are also being looked at individually rather than just as a group and, as you know, I’ve already been told that if the amount of time I’m off sick doesn’t improve that I’m going to be taken off the project entirely – so why are you still making this your problem?”. (I heard through a mutual friend she STILL held a grudge against me for “costing her her grade” FIVE YEARS LATER AND AFTER SHE HAD A DEGREE AND WE ALL GOT AT LEAST A B IN THAT CLASS ANYWAY so….take from that what you will).

    1. I keep getting angry*

      OP here

      Even before her internship began Nora made it clear we couldn’t ask her for help. I did let Nora know that I would expect her to help when she was done with her internship. I think I was just disappointed that after agreeing to help she just let me down.

      But I do see what you mean. If I do feel overwhelmed at work I will speak to the manager and let them know what’s going on.

  25. EventPlannerGal*

    OP2 – that “technically” is doing a lot of work there. You have new management, a new set-up and it’s no longer your desk. It can get pretty old having a colleague stuck on ‘the way we USED to do things’, especially if it’s simply because it was more personally convenient for them. You might find your colleagues are better about sharing if they don’t perceive you as hogging a desk just because you’ve been there longest – after all, that then reduces the system to three desks between the seven other people in your office. Seconding the suggestions to look at a portable set of drawers or a locker or something like that to store your stuff.

    1. Fluffy Fish*


      I don’t want to be unkind to OP, but they should be aware, they may be irritating the heck out of their coworkers with this which *may* be the reason the coworkers are doing things like….always taking that specific desk.

      Childish? Yep. But it happens.

      They need to go through their things and determine what is absolutely necessary to keep at the office. That stuff needs to either go in a bag or box that they take with them or if it’s too much, then they need to discuss with their manager where it can be stored in the office (that’s not a desk). Everything else should go home.

  26. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, I agree with Alison that those kind of issues are unlikely to happen at work and are why I, as a teacher, discourage groupwork on anything that matters. Yes, students need to learn to work as a team, but for exams…it rarely works well. Up to recently, in Ireland, the exams that mattered at secondary school level, the Junior and Leaving Cert, were completely exam based, so the situation didn’t arise. Any groupwork was just for classwork or homework and didn’t count for results but they have now changed the Junior Cert. (and I think the move away from testing three years of work with one exam per subject is a good thing) and each subject has two projects which can be done individually or in a group. I always tell my students that if they want to do it as a group, make sure each person has a separate component, so they can do their part even if the other person doesn’t pull their weight, for example for the oral presentation, I had a pair who wanted to do a GAA Club, so I suggested one talk about Gaelic Football and the other about hurling.

    I once took over a class midway through where the other teacher had not given such advice and when asked to write a reflection at the end as to what they’d have done differently, a lot of people who chose to work with partners or in a group said they’d have done an individual project, if they could start again. I know that wasn’t an option for you and the clear division of work where the professor knows who is responsible for each part and won’t judge you by anybody else’s may not have been either. I will say, as a teacher, I think that is poor setting up, if she doesn’t have a way of knowing. If students are getting a grade at the end, teachers SHOULD be able to tell who was responsible for what and be able to give each person a different grade based on their work. I obviously don’t know about college (and we never had group projects there), but it seems even more important.

    I’m also unsure whether going to the professor would be an option. At college, classes can be huge and it’s quite possible the professor wouldn’t even know who Nora was.

    But honestly, it sounds like the project was laid out badly. If your degree depends on it, the professor should definitely have developed a way to tell who did what, because it’s unlikely all five of you would be of equal ability and put in equal work and therefore you should all be getting different grades.

    LW3, I am an incredibly picky eater and I will say things are getting a lot better. People are gaining an understanding of the fact that people have things they can’t eat and it’s not that big a deal.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think academic projects assigned to a group are probably one of the least effective ways to learn to act as part of a team. “The person who cares most about the grade does all the work” is a stereotyped solution for a reason. And it’s a solution that doesn’t work in soccer, or a team obstacle course, or a band, or a normal workplace group where you assign the budget parts to the person with that background, the front-end coding to the person who specializes in that, etc.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        You’ve reminded me of my sister’s history project when she was in secondary school. My sister loved art and hated history so just drew the pictures and let her partner do the rest of the work. I was at college at the time (studying history and English) and came home for the weekend and flicked through it, then pointed out that one of her drawings had “that guy looking very happy, considering he’s being fired.” “My friend/partner said he was resigning.” “Um, yes, because the party leader basically told him he’d be fired if he didn’t.” “Oh! I’d better change that, so.” “Um…do you actually know ANYTHING about the topic you are doing this project on?” “Nope, my partner just told me to draw a man resigning, so I did.”

  27. Eurotra*

    That style of resume is actually extremely common outside of the US; I’m in Europe and everyone’s resume looks like that (plus a photo, which is de rigeur.)

      1. Foxgloves*

        I’ve seen it once in the UK and was very surprised by it… and I wasn’t a fan. I guess it might work in some industries, but not mine!

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      I am also in Europe and it would not occur to me in a million years to use such a ridiculous resume. It’s a job application, not a fifth grade PowerPoint presentation.

      I’ve also never had to submit my photograph on a job application. After I’d been hired so they can put it on my ID, sure, but never before.

      1. jane's nemesis*

        It’s actually really inappropriate from a DEI perspective to have photos on resumes – it introduces a level of bias that can happen unconsciously really early on.

  28. Elle*

    #1. Yes, you were extremely rude and unprofessional. ‘That’s your problem’ isn’t a good way to respond to someone unless they’re being rude (she should have probably said that to you!). You didn’t actually help with her issue when she asked you the first time. You just said ‘I didn’t mind what she did’ which is kind of a lie since you’re criticising pretty much everything she does. If she even caught the slightest hint that you disapproved of her work, she would then be really cautious and walking on eggshells, hence her asking a million questions just to make sure she does it right for YOU. Agreed that you should have escalated the problem ASAP. If the work was too much for you then you should have spoken to your professor. Nora needs guidance and you need someone who can already do those tasks. That’s an incompatible working/studying/anything situation and that is the fault of your superiors NOT the fault of Nora. Lastly, if you are correcting her work, I sincerely hope your are showing her how you’ve corrected it and ensuring she is taking notes. If you’re just fixing a problem and not telling her why and how you’ve fixed it then she will continue to make the same mistakes. Giving both Nora and your professor visibility would have improved this situation.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      In order to show people the corrections in their work, they have to a) pass work to the team and b) show up to hear the corrections. These two things are much harder than what it sounds like.

      OP, I see you said that the prof did not care. I’d encourage you to go above their head. BUT. I found out the hard way that going to a dean only works if a student has good grades. Fortunately I was acing things pretty well, and the dean pointed out that the only reason he was listening to me was because of my gpa. It’s sad, OP, really sad.

      1. Loulou*

        Going to the dean about another student not pulling their weight in a group project is completely, unbelievably inappropriate and will go so poorly for almost anyone! NotSoNewReader, I see you have very strong negative feelings about your degree, but I really think you should take a step back. I would hate for a student without much experience to read your comments and think this is good advice. It’s not!

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I think NSNR suggests going to the dean because of the manner in which the professor is using student work in their research, and other issues, not because Nora dropped the ball.

    2. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      I think you are putting way too much expectation of managerial work onto the OP.
      They were supposed to ALL do an appropriate amount of work on the project and Nora did not do so.
      That started with her being late to actually doing _anything_ on the project because of her internship – which can of course happen, having an internship clash with other projects you have to do for uni, *but* then you should acknowledge how you being late to the project put more work on everybody else and really pull your weight once you do join. And as the LW wrote “Whenever I asked her to learn a new technology to do some work, she just refused.” So Nora apparently did *not* pull her weight.
      And then, as OP writes, “I had to explain the same topic multiple times to her, only for her to forget” which definitely shows that the LW _did_ help Nora with her issue but that Nora didn’t actually use that help to produce work that helped the project. And, I’m sorry to say, it was *not* the LW’s job to explain things to Nora – Nora is an adult in the last year of higher education and should have learned by now that if you don’t know/understand something, the onus is on *you* to figure it out. And not to give up learning it (and thus leaving others to do your work, since the work _has to_ be done) just because you didn’t understand someone else’s explanations. I am sure there are other resources out there that Nora could have used (books, workbooks, videos, lectures,…).
      I don’t even think the LW was particularly rude to Nora by telling her they “didn’t mind what she did” because after weeks or months of frustration with and nannying someone WHO SHOULD BE YOUR EQUAL, I would have snapped, too – and possibly uttered the same words ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      Admittedly, the OP should not do that once they work and have actual collegues as it would be unprofessional _and_ – as Allison pointed out – there then should be actual managerial oversight, but as a student I think it’s rather normal behaviour.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It <I<is expecting a lot of managerial experience from OP, but then, OP also seems to have taken a leadership role. “Brooke and I began work and assigned work to the other two”. Did the others get a say in what the topic or approach to the project was? Did their ideas and preferences for ways of working get included? When OP asked Nora to “learn a new technology” to do her part, was that actually a reasonable suggestion within the scope of the project and actually what Nora wanted to get out of it?

        Like, another possible reading of this story is that OP was the best at Python so they forged ahead with a Python-based project when actually a genuine team effort would have discovered they were all fair-to-moderate at Java and led to a much more even distribution of work. That’s a completely normal way for a student-project to go off track, and also one that’s realistic in a work setting, where one dominant voice drives out better and more collaborative processes.

        Of course, to uncover that and make it the actual learning goal of the team-project, you need a more thoughtful assignment and involved professor than this sounds like.

        1. I keep getting angry*

          We did hold multiple meetings to discuss the project one of the Brooke and an other member did really help in deciding what we were going to do. The Nora and the other classmate didn’t give ideas or even make an effort to join.

          The technology I wanted Nora to learn was the RPi. Her internship was as a software engineer so I figured it wasn’t too far out of her comfort zone but she refused.

          And you were pretty close with the Python thing. We chose Python cause the prof wanted that and coincidentally Nora knew Python better than I did.

    3. I keep getting angry*

      OP here,

      She asked a million questions on the first task I asked her to do, so I don’t think it is because she was walking on eggshells.

      I did let her know right off the bat after her internship that I expected her to help out. I didn’t really walk through how to fix the solution with her but I did let her know what I did. Maybe in the future I could do that and ensure she is learning.

    4. Delphine*

      It’s not the LW’s responsibility to spoon-feed Nora, nor is it rude to hold her to account. There’s a lot of odd speculation in your comment about how Nora must have felt and what Nora must need.

  29. ProfessionalChaosCoordinator*

    LW#4 – I disagree slighly with Alison on this. Depending on your relationship with your boss, there are less dramatic ways to express that you think the workload issues might push you to move on. If I were your boss, and I valued you as an employee, I’d want to know that you were having those thoughts. Depending on what the holdup was with addressing the issue, it might give me more capital to push the other decision-makers involved if I knew that I could potentially lose staff over it, which would presumably worsen the problem. All of that said, I’d measure the above against whether you judge a) you have the appropriate rapport with your boss that they won’t view this as a threat and b) whether you think there is actually a solution to the workload problem. It might be, like it is in my industry at present, that we have lots of people leaving and it’s a difficult hiring environment. Or other things that your boss hasn’t communicated. Ultimately though, if you think you’d prefer not to work there any more because of this, start looking for something new!

    1. BatManDan*

      Boss should know that OP is planning on leaving, if OP used the word “unsustainable.” “This cannot go on” means “either YOU change the situation, or I change the situation.”

  30. rosieinlondon*

    As someone with a dairy allergy who has navigated LW#3’s situation many, many times (effectively since birth), please please speak up! You’re almost certainly not the only person with dietary restrictions attending these events, and I’m sure they could arrange for something for you (at least a salad?) so you’re not left on an empty stomach. I’ve also eaten safe food before these types of events and just explained I’ve eaten already or not hungry. Don’t make the mistake I did early in my career and think a few pints of beer “counted” as a meal… But anyway, a company that thinks you’re “demanding” for not wanting to die is not a company worth working for.

  31. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    To misquote Yoda: “Threaten not. DO, or do not. There is no Threaten.”

    You’ve already told the boss that the workload is unsustainable, so go ahead and start the job search. Once you have a firm written offer, put in your notice. If there’s an exit interview, mention that you’re leaving because of BOTH the workload itself and the boss’ inaction.

    1. Lunch Ghost*

      If a boss has been told something “on numerous occasions”, they should already be thinking that the person might leave over it. Telling them so is unlikely to change anything. (This is actually why I wasn’t voting for the “person shouldn’t have told us they would leave if we messed up their pay again” boss as the worst– it shouldn’t really matter whether or not they said so, because the boss should have already assumed it before they said so.)

    2. EPLawyer*

      Yep. Your boss sucks and is not going to change. Or cannot change. Your boss might be advocating for more staff to help with the workload but being denied. Eitherway it doesn’t matter. You said yourself the workload is not sustainable. Your only solution is to start a job search. Don’t announce it. Just do it.

    3. Sylvan*

      Yeah, 100%. Also, if you threaten to leave, you may get fired before you can pull a good exit plan together. Skip the threat and make a smooth transition to something better. Good luck, OP.

  32. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW5, you need to have two resumés: a plain one (without any tables or heavy formatting) for submitting through sites that use an ATS (applicant tracking system), because these systems can’t handle graphics or tables and you won’t get through; and a slightly more colourful/aesthetic one for when you are interacting with a human being if you want to demonstrate your design skills. Ignore MS Word templates.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      How many jobs want you to demonstrate your design skills?

      I could see advice for graphic designers to do something that made their submission stand out while still being usable. But that’s not most jobs. What would you put in the table of a resume, that the hiring manager would think “a table, I love it, so much clearer”?

  33. Squidlet*

    OP3, do not eat food that will make you sick! It’s really fine to ask about food options, as Alison said.

    I never eat the food that’s served at work/business events because I keep kosher and I’m vegetarian. After too many bad experiences (“jeez, we’ll have to get special permission to order food for you”, “sorry, we thought this was kosher” and “it’s kosher, don’t you eat chicken?”), I just started eating beforehand. (If I’m asked for food preferences, I ask them not to cater for me, because I don’t want a per-head catered meal to go to waste.) And if anyone asks, I say something like “Oh, I ate a bit earlier, so I’m fine thanks”. I find that the more you downplay it, the less fuss they make :)

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Good idea. I’ve had to be at many events when dieting and very often they did not even have a salad. I just brought a couple of protein bars in my purse and had one discretely before the meal and saved a protein bar for a snack later. Maybe something like that might be an option?

    2. Mary Jane*

      If it’s a sit-down dinner where not eating would be noticeable, I would still recommend saying something ahead of time. E.g. “I have a number of complicated dietary restrictions and I’ve found it safest for me and easiest for my host if I just eat ahead of time. I just wanted to let you know in advance to allay any concerns about why I’m not eating at the interview. I’m very excited to meet everyone!”

      That may be a lot of “padding” language and maybe someone else can streamline it a bit, but I don’t think humanizing yourself is inherently unprofessional and it’s probably easier to mention it in advance than to try to dance around it and have to manage people’s emotions or attempts to rectify the issue (oh no, I wish we’d known you were allergic. Are you sure you don’t want soup/bread? Should I ask the waiter for a salad?). It’s also easier to just feed yourself than roll the dice on a proper accommodation being made and have to sit there forcing a smile if they mess it up.

  34. I Tried That*

    Good luck with talking with your professor to get help on a group project. I was always told I was ‘learning a good skill’ when professors refused to intervene or even help with the ‘learning’ part. ‘You can figure it out’ basically turned into me doing the entire team’s work and the slackers getting better grades than deserved.

    Did the lack of experience in doing the work come back to haunt them? Doubtful.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      A future survey question for Alison to post would be:
      a) Are you still salty about school group projects?
      b) How many years back was that?
      c) Do you have any memory of a group project that was a useful learning experience for you and clearly better than doing it solo would have been?

      (I’m “yes; decades; no.”)

      1. Area Woman*

        Haha, this is awesome. So many things really stick from college. It is such a formative time, and you realize actual *adults* can be just as terrible as the high schoolers you thought you escaped.

      2. metadata minion*

        We had to work in pairs for a linguistics class and I did actually appreciate that because a) it brings up interesting differences between your individual language use, and b) after about 20 minutes of syntax homework all words stop making sense and so with two of you, chances are better that at least one of you can think of an intransitive verb. But these were pretty standard weekly problem sets rather than a giant project requiring coordination and deadlines.

      3. Heidi*

        We had group projects in high school. At some point, I started each project by mentally preparing to do all the work myself. Then when other people did part of the project, no matter how little, it actually seemed like I was doing less work. When I was in graduate school, I actually did end up in a group project where everyone was awesome about doing the work and we really functioned well as a team. I will treasure that memory always.

    2. Clisby*

      It can be different for really crucial projects. When my daughter was an undergraduate, she was part of a group doing a Capstone (major, required for graduation) project that lasted for 2 semesters. There was a formal procedure for group members to petition to have a slacker member removed. If it succeeded, that student’s graduation date was going to be delayed because this project (or similar) had to be done.

  35. Academic Librarian Too*

    I despise those “creative” resumes. As much as I wish to swallow my distaste and be fair, never has one made it past the hiring committee.
    A clear , easy to scan , linear resume that speaks the candidates accomplishments will “stand out”

  36. Katie*

    I wish I had a rosier view of group projects not being the same in the working world. While it’s not entirely the same, I still have to deal with having to do work that should not be my/my teams responsibility. Perhaps it’s because I am in accounting and the end of the line.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Yeah I was going to say – this sounds exactly like the team I currently work with at my state job. Half the people are utterly useless and 3 team members are pulling all the weight and the manager isn’t doing anything.

      1. GlazedDonut*

        Do we work at the same place? Jk, I’m sure this is true in many state jobs.
        The value of group work in the real world = being able to take a deep breath and do work that technically isn’t your responsibility, but you know it’s important and needs to get done regardless of who does it.
        I’d add that in the ‘real world,’ I’ve also learned a bit more about how to share what I did (humble brag), prevent some issues early on, and suggest improvements for the future/next time the project needs completing. There’s not always room for that in class projects.

  37. Falling Diphthong*

    OP5, if the resume template folks used, say, one of Alison’s sample resumes, then users would say “This? All they did was use a slightly larger font size on the titles. I could do this!”

    I’ll even sketch in a possible conversation where someone on the lower design end said “Okay, here’s a nice basic easily skimmable template” and heard back “Too simple–put in some color and a pi chart” and they sighed and kept adding things until leadership thought it looked sufficiently fancy.

  38. Celiac Girl*

    I have celiac disease and some other allergies. I always call the place directly. If it in a hotel, I call event staff. If a restaurant, I call directly. Ask them to tell you what you can have and memorize it. If it’s pre-plated like banquet, ask the staff to have a special plate with your name. Call during non-busy times. And then call 2 hours beforehand also to confirm. None of my employers or prospective employers have ever had an issue and probably would have tried to accommodate, but sometimes things are lost in translation. (Like the game of telephone).

    I would only rely on the employer if they were ordering in delivery to the office. And sometimes I’ve even called the catering companies.

    Receptionists and admin are your best friends in this case, they’ll be happy to help and give you the catering company name and likely won’t tell the hiring managers. Bonus is that these people are influential to hiring managers and if they have interacted with you it’s a good thing.

    Last resort I bring my own stuff or order separately from the venue or Uber eats. Nobody has noticed.

    Now that I’m in charge of these things myself, I always offer dietary needs options by asking. I have had multiple people be so thankful and pleased by the tiny effort. One person even brought me treats from their hometown that I could eat and I made him cookies he could eat.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Seconding! Our receptionist and goddess of all things administrative (her self proclaimed title, and did she ever live up to it) used to set up phone conferences for the two of us to go over what I needed to “not die” at conferences that she was in charge of setting up the catering for. This allowed her to know what was discussed (and to raise heck if it was ignored on the day of, which yes, did happen the first time) and to help both of us to know what to expect.

    2. dragonfly7*

      If nothing else, being diagnosed with celiac is finally teaching me how to be assertive after being taught to downplay or even pretend my own needs don’t exist for most of my life. I wouldn’t have thought to call a venue like a hotel or conference center directly but usually at least have snacks with me. Thanks!

    3. Nikki*

      I agree with all of this, especially calling the catering companies. The person who was ordering to the office for our work travel seemed very nice, but she didn’t fully understand allergies or the level of precautions I need to take. (The old, “I’m pretty sure this doesn’t have your allergen in it…”) I got the names of the restaurants myself so that I could call and talk to them directly.

  39. WellRed*

    Why do so many event planners keep the menu secret? Even a general idea would be helpful(not so much for allergies). I just went to a conference with dinners both nights. Next year, I’ll bring a sandwich to the first and skip the second if it’s at the same restaurant. I had two low blood sugars (diabetes) that night because I simply didn’t get enough food (olives hummus and pretzels is not dinner, even if I had liked it).

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I assume that similar to diabetes, there’s at least key words to look for though!

      I know brioche and croissants are extremely likely to have butter in them.
      I know that seafood restaurants are he!! for me (it took me sitting outside on the curb during an in house lunch for the owner to grasp that “surprises are bad with food allergies”)

      Seriously. Secrets and surprises are BAD.

    2. Generic Name*

      Right? I’m lactose intolerant, which can be tricky for others to navigate (yes, I can eat mayonnaise, but butter is a problem), so it’s much easier for me to look at a menu and decide if I need to make special requests or not.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      It’s been at least 10 years since I went to major event involving food (conference and the like) that didn’t ask in the RSVP both about dietary restrictions like vegetarian/vegan/kosher and separately ask about allergies explicitly. I guess I’ve been lucky. I thought it was best practice in the events industry (plus liability-wise) to confirm this in advance.
      Agree that people with severe allergies do generally both want and need to confirm with the venue in advance to make sure their protocol will be sufficiently safe for them to eat anything prepared there (or confirm that the place outsources the meals for those with allergies) but it’s definitely the events’ fault for not making it a standard part of what they ask up front.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        It’s veering a bit off topic but I would appreciate knowing the menu even though I don’t have any dietary issues. If I’m going to a conference and I know that the lunch will be yet another one of those ubiquitous buffets of boring little sandwiches with a couple of sad token grapes then I might just bring something with me. But I don’t think I’ve been to an event in years where there wasn’t an option to get special food.

  40. Michelle*

    I have a college work-group story! I went back at 29, where I was much more willing to call out bullshit than the 18-23yo women around me. We were assigned a work group of 6. Randomly, it was me, 4 young women, and one young man.

    That dude was a pompous ass from our first meeting when he chose to sit in a position that put him 2 feet above us where we were all sitting at the table. He took over that meeting, used it to brag about how good he was going to be in this project because of his connections (this was a poli-sci class). But it took a few weeks before we noticed he was doing no work at all. We had an email chain hundreds deep and he never even responded to it, even when we called him out.

    The girls were willing to give him chance after chance after chance. They made excuses for him he couldn’t be bothered to make for himself. When I started to insist we tell the prof he’d done no work, they fretted about how this would affect his graduation prospects.

    It finally came down to one last chance, which he botched: we asked him to write one two-page section of the final paper. He never responded so I wrote it. When he showed up at the final meeting (his first), which I KNEW he’d do, I stopped him in the hallway before he could come in and try to charm everyone. I told him he was off the project, and he started to cry.

    The girls heard him and when I say it took everything I had to keep a couple of them from chasing after him and telling him it was ok, he could come back… they were much, much more interested in this guy’s salvation than he was. And he had counted on that.

    I wrote up a letter to the prof saying he’d done no work on the project and we all signed (some VERY reluctantly).

    The prof ended up being fascinated with the group dynamics happening there. We went out for coffee with his wife (a chemist who faced a lot of sexism in her field) so I could tell her the whole story. Together we marveled over the difference a decade can make in the life of a young woman and her willingness to put up with patriarchal bullshit. :P

    Anyway. I wanted an excuse to tell that story. It’s one of the more satisfying outcomes in my college career and cheers me up to remember it.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Love the story, and I, too, have some interesting scars from sexist bosses. And they still exist, sigh.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Fist pumping behind my computer. I was never particularly interested in saving mediocre men from the consequences of their actions, but now I am the Elder Lady who shuts this sort of BS down.

    3. Jam on Toast*

      This dynamic is real and kudos to you for advocating for this. When I worked as a professor, I had an memorable and unsettling experience when a young man threatened female classmates who were working on the project because they had the temerity to disagree with his approach to their group project. *Note to potential groupwork folks: don’t call your teammates “dumb, brainless, *itches” in university-hosted chat software – it doesn’t end well*. They emailed me right away and I immediately escalate the matter.

      There were significant consequences for the young man. His anger when he was called to account by the school for his behaviour was, to put it mildly, volcanic. It’s the first and only time in my teaching career I had a security plan in place, which was unsettling. Later, I spoke to the young women, who were quite shaken by the experience. I was frank. “In school and at work, you will meet sexist *ssholes like Wakeen who think they’re better than you because they’re men and you’re “just” a woman. Most of them won’t be as awful as this situation but they’ll still be there. It’s gross. It’s unfortunate. It’s a reality. You handled a really difficult situation with maturity and good judgement and I’m proud of you.”

    4. Heather*

      From your point of view it certainly is satisfying, but I have to admit I wonder how it would sound from the other women on the team. You somehow made them “VERY reluctantly” sign a statement that they didn’t agree with? I wonder if the prof ever even heard their version of the story. It sounds like you took over the whole group just to put one guy in his place.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I wonder if there’s a difference in what they might have said at the time, and what they would say now (assuming a few years have passed).

        I can very easily picture them thinking that at the time, they didn’t want to be ‘responsible’ for Wakeen failing the class and maybe having his graduation delayed. When really, his course failure was his responsibility; it certainly wasn’t the fault of the women telling the professor the truth about Wakeen’s contributions.

        With a few years’ more life experience, they might see that covering for slacker coworkers serves no one, and you can’t save the Wakeens of the world from the consequences of their actions.

  41. WillowSunstar*

    Yes, or what you can do is have a large tote bag or backpack, depending on any security restrictions by your company, and bring your supplies in that every day. I work for a company that does hot desking and always just bring my supplies in a separate bag. We do not have lockers.

  42. Urkel Grue*

    Thank you for #5! I’ve been a Word template with some color, albeit one with a very simple structure. It’s got the typical blocks of info with clear headers for every section, but it has a header with my name in large text and also has small icons in colored circles in the left column. (e.g., a small paper icon next to the publications section.) I’m in a STEM field applying to industry jobs. Could this be hurting my chances?

    1. ecnaseener*

      I would say lose the icons and keep it to one color (not counting black). Otherwise it sounds fine – it’s normal for your name to be pretty big so people can grab yours from a stack (if they still print out resumes, which they probably don’t lol, but still – fine and normal)

      1. Urkel Grue*

        Thanks for the advice. I’m using dark purple and black with a light gray header where my name goes. The icons are simple white line icons from MS word that sit over the colored circles. I’m willing to part with the icons if it means I’ll be taken more seriously. It’s so hard to know why you’re getting job rejections, but I’ll start erring on the more conservative side of resume design for now to take this piece out of the equation.

        1. River Otter*

          I honestly don’t think the icons are hurting you. I am an engineer. I used to have two resumes–one for handing out that had nice formatting and icons, and one for attaching to online applications that had standard formatting. Literally nobody skipped a beat when I handed them my nice resume with eye-friendly formatting and little icons.

          Contrary to popular belief, STEM people are not all dry robots who crush non-conformity. If anyone is judging you for having a slightly atypical resume, it’s a minority of people. I’d be much more worried about whether the formatting can survive being attached in the ATS.

          1. ecnaseener*

            FWIW my advice to nix the icons had nothing to do with it being STEM*, I just think they’re one of those things that don’t help and might hurt. They don’t help the reader find what they’re looking for, they’re just distracting little pictures.

            (*It’s certainly possible I’m biased by the resumes I see in science-adjacent work, maybe in other fields icons are more common. But my answer was based off of what I see and what I want to see, not off what I think the mystical STEM-robots want to see.)

  43. CheesePlease*

    Op#1 – It’s frustrating to work with people who don’t contribute equally. However, if you have the opportunity to provide feedback to the department / professor, I would do so. In my program, we had frequent meetings with the professor as a team, and were expected to discuss progress, how tasks were being assigned etc. This was taken into consideration for our individual grades. If this wasn’t happening, or what was happening wasn’t effective, I would provide that feedback in hopes in can be improved for future students. Additionally, and this is very school specific, but all my major group projects involved 360 feedback (ie: we all provided feedback on all the team members) based on how much work they contributed, their ability to meet deadlines and how well they worked with the group. Not having that can certainly make things frustrating.

    In the “real world” a good manager will do the same: meet with the team, assign responsibilities, monitor progress and facilitate discussion between team members who are having conflict. If this isn’t happening, and you are struggling to work in a team, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask your manager “I am having a hard time finishing X on time. I’m spending a lot of time helping Beth with Y and Z, which often need to be completely re-done. And I need Y complete before I can start on X. Can we come up with a solution so that things are more efficient?”.

  44. DolphinGirl*

    #3 As a corporate event planner I would welcome you to reach out and let me know what your food restrictions/accommodations are. I always feel bad when someone attends and can’t/won’t eat. If you were kosher or halal you would /should speak up as well. It’s my pleasure to make sure you can enjoy the event like everyone else. I have ordered special meals all around the world and it’s not high maintenance to take care of your health.

  45. Cpt Morgan*

    LW2, you don’t own the desk. You could save yourself headache if you packed your things into your bag and quit coming in to work expecting “your” desk and unnecessarily upsetting yourself when it’s not available.

    You can argue about how things should be, but this is one of those times when it’s best to react to things as they ARE.

      1. Observer*

        Not only CAN, but should.

        OP, label everything you own. And don’t ASK people for the use of the items you own, tell them and take it. Or preferably, don’t leave it at a desk. If you have a place to store your stuff, put it there.

  46. Lilo*

    This is tangential, but, boy how I hated that you were expected to drink at law firm recruiting events. I have the tolerance of a gnat and so it was never, ever something I was comfortable with. Of course I did the “lime in a sprite” trick but how I hate that it’s required. Especially because we also got multiple warnings about substance abuse in our profession as well. Just hated it.

    Recruiting culture is just so icky, IMO.

  47. Hawk*

    Two comments:
    On the story from LW1: I was always horrible at group projects because of unmanaged disability (untreated ADHD and anxiety), especially in high school, which ended up leading to cyber bullying. So when I was in a group project my senior year of college and a classmate was struggling (including not coming to class for a lengthy period of time), I approached the professor, who told me that my classmate had life circumstances out of her control that were interfering with everything (ironically that professor was ableist has h*ll, so when I had a similar issue but related to another documented disability, I was told I was asking for favors). My other team member took LW1’s approach and lambasted my classmate. My classmate did, in fact, pull through in the end (but not thanks to my other classmate’s yelling). So LW1, I agree with Alison. Chatting with your professor early on (especially during the internship part) about group expectations may have made things easier.

    For LW 3, Celiac Girl posted earlier something that I want to second: as soon as you know the catering company, restaurant, etc, reach out to them! A sample script I’ve had to use multiple times: “Hi, this is Hawk, I will be attending the Noodle Appreciation event with the Kestrel Falcon Fund. I have allergies to milk and grains. How can we accommodate my needs?” This also works with managers (unless you’re my current one).

  48. BatManDan*

    #4 – keep in mind, that even though you have told your boss a number of times that the workload is unsustainable, you have told him approximately 400 times (18 months of weekdays) that it IS sustainable. By the sheer fact that you have shown up and done it. Boss can’t be expected to prioritize something you’ve SAID a handful of times over something you’ve DEMONSTRATED hundreds of times. I’m not blaming you for the situation; it shouldn’t exist to start with, and s/he should have heard you the first time you spoke up, but at this point, I feel that the only way for you to make it clear is to actually leave. There is, probably, no other way this manager/boss will understand.

  49. bamcheeks*

    What I’m learning from these comments is that many people have a much, much rosier view of the success of work projects and teams than my experience has led me to have.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked on lots of successful projects! But the idea that salaries somehow mean that the uninvolved manager, the team member who doesn’t contribute because they’ve got too much on, the one who overpromises and under-delivers, the one who goes off and does a ton of work which wasn’t what everyone else agrees, the one who think they’re the boss even though they’re not etc are all unknown in the workplace is wild to me!

    1. a clockwork lemon*

      I think the difference is that in school you are 1) not paid for your work in the group project at all (and are in fact paying to do the work); and 2) your future job prospects often depend on your success at these types of projects. I have a weekly check-in with my boss, and I can count on two hands the total number of times I met with my instructors individually over the course of eight years of higher education.

      Plus, as a student working on a group project, you’re working entirely with true peers who share roughly your same education and skill level–in my experience, it’s almost never the case at work where you’ll get a whole project staffed with people who have the exact same experience and the exact same number of years working with little to no input from seniors in charge of the project.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I completely agree that there are big differences, but there’s a bit of a narrative here of “at work everyone pulls together and we all have the same investment in getting this done and a good manager who will step in on the rare occasions that’s not happening” is just not my experience at all.

        1. River Otter*

          Oh yes, this situation definitely exists in the world of paid work, including the rude jerk who refuses to help, tells you it’s your problem if you have trouble, and excludes you from the project by taking over your part.

  50. Not Today Josephine*

    #2 I have a three tiered rolling cart. It has open bins but they also come with drawers. Made of plastic, cost anywhere from about $15 up. I use mine to move files from one workspace to another and it is awesome. If the company cannot give you something like this, it’s probably worth spending your own money.

  51. English Rose*

    LW#5: another reason for using a straightforward, clearly structured CV/Resume as Alison recommends is that many large organisations using parsing software to a) make it easier for candidates to apply by extracting relevant information from the CV into the application automatically and/or a) introduce a degree of automation into CV review.

    Overly designed CVs make this process less accurate and you may end up lower down the candidate pile than otherwise.

    All that said, please use a classic, clear font, good size margins and plenty of white space.

    Also, a tip from writing recruitment adverts which translates well to CV content: at the end of every line and paragraph, ask yourself “So what?” That technique cuts loads of fluff and keeps what’s relevant.

      1. English Rose*

        Of course! So for example, you might say “A seasoned teapot maker with experience also in customer service and work processes and analytical skills honed over a number of years.” Or you could say “Expert teapot maker whose teapot technique improvements saved $100 billion a year.”

        If you say “so what” after the first (imagine yourself as the recruiter skimming through multiple resumes of people with similar experience and saying it in a bored kind of voice) you can tell it reads kind of blah. But the second doesn’t even really need a so what, because it’s inherently valuable.

  52. The Beagle Has Landed*

    The over-designed resume can also be a liability as many Applicant Tracking Softwares (ATSs) only read text and are confused by anything beyond bullet points, bold, and italics. Formatting as a table like in the example can scramble the whole thing and make it incomprehensible to an employer.

  53. Person from the Resume*

    For LW2, another solution is for you to simply be the first in the office every morning. It’s apparently a first come gets first pick of the desk. If you haven’t been able to claim your preferred desk for at least a week, that means someone is beating you to it. If you’re the first in everyday you do go into the office, then you get first pick of desks and can always choose the one you prefer.

    Or convince your office, to go to assigned hot desking where everyone reserves a desk in advance. Thet may be more work than they are willing to do, though. It seems like you are the only bent out of shape about the hot-desking as it is now.

    But in either case you’ve got to understand, it is no longer your desk. And you shouldn’t leave your stuff on it becuase it’s clutter for anyone else who is not using it.

  54. AnonInCanada*

    #4 got me curious as to what Alison was talking about so I looked in MS Word’s resume templates. If you definitely want your resume to stand out like a sore thumb (and likely find its way into the round filing cabinet in a hurry) by all means use them! You let your achievements make the document shine, not some fancy layout. Unless the job involves graphic design, that is. Then design your own template, as I’m pretty sure the hiring team’s seen every one of these. Ugh.

    1. Oakwood*

      I’m not sure I agree with this.

      If the resume is WELL ORGANIZED, then adding a little variety will make people more likely to stop and read it.

      I was advised to put one memorable fact on your resume–something to make you stand out. Enjoy fishing, play a musical instrument, run a marathon every year, whatever. Something that (1) humanizes you and (2) makes you memorable.

      The truth is though, most people don’t read paper resumes. It’s scanned into an ATS (applicant tracking system) that pulls out the info and puts it in a database. The paper resume the interviewing manager has my not even be your physical resume. It could be a printout from the ATS database, reformatted into a standard format.

      This is why it’s important to bring a paper copy of your resume to any interview. It may be the first time the hiring manager has actually seen it.

  55. Mitford*

    Old joke here, #1. When I die I want the people I worked with on group projects to be my pallbearers so they can all let me down one last time.

  56. event planner*

    Event planner here – do not ever hesitate to let us know about food allergies – we expect it and are pleased to accomodate. Just send over the list of allergies – seriously – it’s no problem.

    What we interpret as rude is when we dont get a heads up and then have to either scramble on site or have someone sulking because we weren’t able to accomodate.

    1. Clisby*

      I can see your thinking it was rude if you had explicitly asked about food restrictions (not just allergies.)

      If you didn’t ask, you were the rude one. Or at least, the inconsiderate one.

    2. Nikki*

      From the other side, it really sucks when I communicate with the event organizer about my allergy but it gets mishandled, though no fault of my own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told conference organizers that I have an allergy and need food accommodations, only to show up and learn that they haven’t passed that along to the event planner or the catering company. Then I don’t have any choice but to ask the caterer to help me then, and many times I do go hungry. Please consider that the person “sulking” may have done everything in their power to get a safe meal, but due to other people’s failures they’ll have to go without! I can’t emphasize enough how common this is. It has made my professional life difficult for years.

  57. Little Bird in the Big City*

    LW #2
    When I worked at an office that implemented hot desking, everyone got a locker which they could use to store their personal items. If your office doesn’t provide this, then they haven’t implementing hot desking properly and making this situation worse.
    Having said that, our project team consisted of only 4 members and we worked closely with each other, checking in lots with questions, or walkthroughs of work, etc. So our team got an exemption from the hot desking and had permanent desks close to each other. If you have work that requires you to have that particular desk (i.e. it is close to the team that you report to and you have lots of interactions that would require you to be nearby them) or you have to deal with a lot of paperwork that can’t be easily stored in a small hot desk locker, you should have a conversation with your manager about whether you can be made exempt from hot desking

  58. El l*

    OP5: Look, I see some comments from creative people above, and understand you are applying in a creative field.

    So then. Even if this resume is a test of your taste, don’t forget that form follows function. And the function here is information. You must highlight the most relevant information for a hiring committee to make a decision on whether or not to talk to you – and ignore everything they won’t care about.

    Rather than mess around with templates – focus more on figuring out what you’ll talk about, how you’ll make it as concise as possible, and what you’ll leave unsaid.* Figure out how much tailoring you’ll want to do for each company and position. By all means don’t put anything ugly out there, get a nice font, don’t overcrowd things, etc – but follow the data visualization principle of “minimize ink, maximize relevant information.”

    *Definitely don’t use the resumes shown – they were appalling.

  59. Vaca*

    I need to give a different perspective on #3. Qualifications: senior investment banker, went through recruiting, was a vegetarian at the time.

    It’s ok to reach out to the person running the event, probably an assistant, and let them know of your food restrictions. Don’t bother the bankers with it – they won’t have capacity to help you and it will just make you memorable as the person who complicated things.

    Bring something you can eat. If they accommodate you, great. Make sure you thank the assistant who ordered for you specifically! If they don’t, DO NOT call out the assistant or the fact that you mentioned your dietary issues. That will not help you. Just laugh and say you come prepared.

    If and when you get to the interview stage (if they pick you, not if you use your points) and are invited to dinner, THEN you can be more assertive with the assistant. But still don’t bring it to the banker.

    That’s just how it works. Not ideal, for sure, but many of the smaller banks and especially law firms just won’t have this on their list of things to address. They will all fly in, day of, and carve out four hours for the event. They’ll be trying to memorize the names of one or two people who really stand out. You don’t want to be the one distracting the decision maker.

    1. Hillary*

      I agree (MBA who went through recruiting, vegetarian for 25+ years, now involved on the hiring side and also go out with vendors way too often).

      The career center at my MBA program arranged a lot of the catering for these events. Depending on your school, it may also be appropriate to connect with them about restrictions. They can incorporate general guidance into their catering and likely share it with the folks arranging the events overall. When I was there it was normal to ensure they had vegetarian options, now they always have vegan and gluten free. They’re much better now about dressing on the side and no bacon on salad than 15 years ago.

      For your end-of-summer event, absolutely reach out to the person planning it. It’s a celebration of the mentorship program.

      If you’re invited to dinner out during recruiting, make it as easy as possible for the assistant. It may be easier to use vegan as a shorthand even if it’s less accurate. Review menus and be prepared with restaurant options if the assistant opens the door. XXX local restaurant (in the same price range as their original plan) has great options and tables available on weeknights. Steakhouse? Pittsburgh Blue is surprisingly good for vegetarians. and so on. Your goal is to be remembered positively even though you were asking for something.

      Also mentally compromise on the meal in advance. It’s not going to feel as “nice” as some of the other plates on the table and that’s ok. You’re there for an interview, not a nice meal.

    2. Nikki*

      This is great practical advice.

      At the same time, I want OP to know that “the way things work” right now is disability discrimination. Full stop. It is how things work but it’s messed up. You should not be seen as “too difficult” for raising your medical needs during the hiring process.

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done exactly what Vaca describes. Sometimes, when you want to get the job, it’s what you have to do. But it’s absolute BS that highly talented, highly intelligent people (like bankers! and lawyers!!!) can’t manage to order an edible meal for someone with a disability. It reflects the power differential and it’s gross.

      1. Heather*

        The point is that the bankers or the lawyers aren’t ordering the meal, and it’s good to demonstrate that you know that. And if there’s a snafu it’s a good idea to roll with the punches instead of throwing their assistant under the bus. If you bring it up in a nice, professional manner and through the appropriate channels it’s highly unlikely that you would be discriminated against.

        1. Nikki*

          My point is that the failure to provide the meal in the first place is discrimination. Employers have a legal responsibility to accommodate job seekers with disabilities during the interview process. Even if the lawyer or banker isn’t personally ordering the meal, they bear some responsibility to make sure that interviewees with disabilities are able to participate equitably in the interview process. Failing to accommodate a disability and then judging candidates based on how they respond to that circumstance is really inappropriate. Obviously it’s nice for people to be gracious, but the expectation that interviewees respond to discrimination with perfect professionalism is not okay.

          I live in the real world, so I understand that this happens. I just want to highlight that it’s not acceptable and we should challenge this perception whenever we have the chance.

  60. Felicity*

    LW2 — It’s possible that one of the reasons your preferred desk is taken more often is because your coworkers think it includes all the stuff you left at it like the fan. They may be thinking “Oh hey I want to be sure to grab the desk that comes with the fan today” without realizing its actually your stuff.

    Additionally since you do not have an assigned space and if management isn’t able to reassign it to you, any chance you can ask for a filing cabinet or other storage area to put your stuff in instead of storing it at a shared desk, this way you can grab your stationary, and other personal belongings as you need them?

  61. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    Does anyone like hotdesking? It seems dehumanizing to me. I read a study once that looked at the effect of getting to choose what your workspace looks lie, and –surprise!–people are happier with some agency. Hotdesking just feels like it’s designed to remind employees that they aren’t people, they’re just interchangeable cogs.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I like it. I’m only in work 2 days a week post-covid, and spend lots of that time in meetings, so keeping an entire desk for me 5 days a week would be a total waste of resources. Back in the Before-Times, my desk would gradually get cluttered up with things from conferences or reports that I ought to read, no matter how often I tried to tidy it– there’d always be something that I felt I ought to keep because I definitely ought to read it one day. I like the travelling light element of hot-desking!

    2. ferrina*

      I’m mixed. I’m ADHD, so I regularly switch my locations to help with that. But not having a homebase where my stuff is? That would be really hard. It takes me much longer to clean and organize than most people, so I would end up spending a lot of time cleaning, or just decide that it’s not worth having my notes (which help me function in a weird way- I haven’t figured out how it works, but having my notes around just helps). My solution is a lot of WFH

    3. Monday Monday*

      I agree because of how my old company did it. I think there were about 400 people in the department and they got rid of all their cubes and went to the open space hot desk model. Trouble is, they only remodeled to accommodate 200 people. It was first come first serve. So if you were a parent that had to drop your child off at daycare in the morning, forget it. No seat for you. People would try to save seats for people by putting coats on chairs, etc. which made the problem worse.
      To me, it was a clear message they didn’t care and eventually most people stopped coming into work and now the open space sits virtually empty every day.
      They also offered lockers but again, not enough for even the 200 seats they did have and you had to bring your own lock if you wanted to actually secure anything.

      My new company has ample space and you can reserve a specific desk several days at a time if you need to be on-site (we are primarily work from home). In this model I don’t mind it. I switch up my seat sometimes to meet new people or have a different view.

    4. Mary Jane*

      I think it depends on how it’s done. Quite frankly the push for remote and hybrid work spaces makes hotdesking (or shared desks) seem like a pretty practical way for companies to reduce their need for physical office space. But of course that means the desks themselves should be properly set up with monitors and keyboards and there should be rolling locked cabinets or lockers or some other way for people to store stuff they need in the office. Depending on the company you may also need a schedule for when people come in the office or an explicit discussion about shared desk etiquette. You can’t just take away half the desks and tell your staff to figure it out.

    5. Ranon*

      Current job has hot desking and it’s fine? We have docking stations, adjustable stand up desks, options of one large or two small monitors, a reservations system that you can use remotely or in person, easily adjustable chairs, lockers, phone rooms, booths, and a variety of conference spaces.

      And most importantly, a high degree of flexibility in how much we’re in/ out of the office, with most folks doing an at home day if they’re in non stop meetings (which are quite often with external folks so on video the vast majority of the time), and basically no one in the office Mondays or Fridays except the folks who just don’t like working from home. Teams have one day a week they try to focus on in person work and it’s spread between Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday throughout the company.

  62. Professor Ronny*

    #1. I always tell my student groups they have the option of firing a member who is not pulling their weight. You might suggest that to your professor. Also, if a student group tells me they are having trouble with a particular student, I will contact that student and do my best to get them motivated.

  63. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: I am very vocal and very blunt. What you see is what you get with me. We had a heated staff meeting several weeks ago where we (staff) raised our concerns with management. I had previously raised these concerns privately in one-on-ones, via email, and publicly in other staff meetings. I specifically stated that the reason I was asking whether X and Y things would change is so I could make appropriate career decisions moving forward. I was told that they would stay the same for the foreseeable future.

    It gave me the confirmation I needed to intensify my job search and I put in my resignation a month later. At that point though, I was (1) really flipping fed up by over a year of toxicity, mismanagement, and overwork and (2) I had been job searching and networking discretely for about 2 years. I had 3 prospects at the time that I was waiting for offer confirmation on. I also had a solid contingency plan in place in case those offers fell through.

    Here’s what I think. I think you should believe people the first time. If their actions show they aren’t going to change things, believe that. It’s not going to change. They would much rather keep someone who is doing too much than hire someone else to ease the burden, so the only way to get it to stop sometimes is to quit. If you need to have a blunt conversation about what’s next for you if things don’t change, have a plan in place for where you’re going to go next and how you’re going to pay your bills if you get fired or start to get pushed out. You need to be looking for a new job ASAP if you haven’t already started.

  64. irene adler*

    #1- OP, I feel for ya.
    As an older student with many years in the working world, I winced when the profs would assign group projects with the ‘you will learn how to work in groups in the working world’ trope. There are outer pressures on work group to succeed that are not the case with school: establishing a positive working relationship because the members will have to work together again, repercussions over a failed project including personal finances (i.e. risk of job loss), boss who will ‘motivate’ those who do not do their share (one hopes!).

    After completing each group project, the instructor required each member of the team to submit an individual assignment (for a grade). It read “Your team will be awarded $5,000 for completing the project. How should the money be divided up amongst your team members? Justify your response.” So there was feedback from those who participated and those who did not. My understanding is that the grades were affected by the individual responses received (“I don’t care” didn’t fly).

  65. Oakwood*

    Re: fancy resume templates

    Most of these templates are not machine readable. If you upload them into a system you’ll spend an hour correcting all the mistakes.

    Spend some time investigating what makes a resume easily machine readable. As long as you stay in those guidelines you should be OK.

  66. Liz*

    Re: #4. I’m in the same position and I’ve been in it for a long time. I’ve made all the efforts and I finally gave up and am hoping for a job offer this week. A friend of mine asked me if I would stay if they offered me what I have been asking for for years/made a counteroffer, and the answer is no. I shouldn’t have to threaten to quit to get the bare minimum to make my job barely tolerable, and it not only wouldn’t solve the problem, it would make it worse, because my employers would not only likely feel resentful, but it would kill any future changes because, for the next X years, I’d hear “well, we already gave you said you wanted ten years ago”.

    If my employer is surprised when I quit, that’s on them, because I was very very clear on what was needed, provided proof, and information (without threatening to quit), and post-covid, the one thing that has kept me there (flexible schedule/WFH) is now the default everywhere in my industry.

  67. Observer*

    #3 – Allergies

    I just want to say that this letter makes me very sad. The idea that you would consider making yourself sick in order to not make waves (ripples, really in any functional environment) is really terrible. Not that *you* are terrible. But it’s terrible that you put so little value on yourself that you would consider this a necessity.

    Allison is completely correct that any reasonable employer will want to know in advance and will try to accommodate you. If you have some reason to believe that it won’t happen (we’ve seen enough letters where the person doing the ordering considers this a MAJOR imposition, so it is occasionally a problem), eat something in advance, and then don’t eat anything at the dinner. If asked why politely explain that you have these restrictions. Any employer or recruiter that’s going to look down on you for the audacity to “make them feel guilty” is not a reasonable person to be dealing with. If they are minimally reasonable, decent and functional adults they will feel bad and won’t blame you for their uncomfortable feelings.

  68. Alexis Rosay*

    Ugh, OP 1, I really feel for you. I was always that student in school who did all the work on every project. Your professor is being extremely lazy by assigning this kind of group work. In fact, I have to wonder if one person doing all the work is actually the professor’s INTENDED outcome, as this way they don’t have to deal with the headache of a failing student.

    I was a teacher for many years, and I never assigned mandatory group projects. For any given project, students could work with a partner of their choosing or they could choose to work alone. About 75% of students usually preferred to work alone.

  69. Anne Wentworth*

    LW#3, please don’t make yourself sick by eating unsafe food. I understand where you’re coming from — no one wants to look high-maintenance while job-hunting — but the companies who would get upset that you rocked the boat by asking for safe food at this stage are not the companies you want to work for. Because this will come up again; food issues will come up again and again at work (unless you’re 100% remote) and you want your prospective employers to demonstrate during the hiring process that they are a safe place for YOU to work.

    I don’t think the “oh I ate before” or “oh don’t worry about me” strategies are the way to go, because there’s a visible reminder through the whole interview process that something went “wrong” and they might feel guilty for not having food for you (and possibly resent you for “making” them feel that way) or they might interpret it as you rejecting their hospitality (and resent you for that). Asking ahead of time at least gives them them the opportunity to show you how they’ll handle food allergies when they’ve got the facts. And yes, still eat a bit beforehand, in case they make a good faith effort but the restaurant screws up or something.

    1. Nikki*

      Unfortunately, asking ahead only works like… 40% of the time. It’s highly likely that OP will ask and the food will still be unsafe. Many more people know about food allergies these days, but for whatever reason it seems to slip through the cracks at larger events.

      I think this letter is a great opportunity for people without allergies to realize how common this issue is! If you are interviewing folks or organizing event, be aware of food allergies and dietary restrictions. If you see someone going without, don’t draw enormous attention to it or resent the person for not eating. DO talk to whoever planned the event so changes can be made in the future.

      I have a severe nut allergy. Some of my earliest memories are saying “no” to people who tried to give me unsafe food. I carry snacks with me to every event and I can take care of myself. Still, I appreciate when event organizers handle my allergy safely and professionally. And I do think people should feel embarrassed when they, or their company, fail to accommodate someone’s allergy! Too many folks treat this like an “oops” mistake when it’s a huge, and potentially life-threatening, issue.

      1. Nikki*

        Commenting again to add that I agree with you, Anne! Just chiming in with some additional thoughts of my own :)

    2. Observer*

      (and possibly resent you for “making” them feel that way

      Anyone who reacts that way has the maturity of a toddler. Sorry, that’s blunt but it’s the truth. This is especially true if someone has actually tried to deal with it up front. The person who can’t eat is not “making” anyone feel anything. And they react as though the non-eater is at fault, that’s a strong signal that these are not reasonable people.

      1. Anne Wentworth*

        That’s why I said it. That’s why the word “making” is in quotes. And adult toddlers they may be, but it’s the unfortunate reality that LW3 will likely deal with in the workplace. Better that LW3 is warned ahead of time and prepared.

  70. Spicy Tuna*

    Group projects are the worst, but I will relate this story from my university years (about a million years ago). We had a group project and there was one guy that did nothing. He had great video editing skills and said he’d put all of our work together into a video at the end. No one believed him and we were all annoyed that he didn’t show up for any of the work during the semester. We put together a (boring) presentation just in case. Well, presentation day came and he absolutely knocked it out of the park! All of our work, our video interviews (on VHS tape, that’s how long ago this was), newspaper clippings, charts, graphs, etc were spliced together with clips from movies that were relevant to the research topic and set to a soundtrack. All of us, including the professor, were gobsmacked. We got an A and a standing ovation. The group that presented after us looked so incredibly dejected.

  71. Talk To Me Moose*

    LW #4 – I’ve been in a similar position, and what really worked for me was sitting down with my manager and telling them, “I’ve been putting in 75-80 hours per week over the past year, and that’s not sustainable for me going forward. I’m planning to cut down to 12 hours per day, and 72 hours max per week. If I do that, I’ll no longer have the bandwidth for X, Y, or Z. Is there someone else who can take that on, or are you fine with us de-prioritizing that until A, B, and C get done?” They were surprised I was putting in those hours every week, and agreed to hand off A to someone else and de-scope B and C. My workload improved and I didn’t need to give anyone an ultimatum!

    (in the above case, X/Y/Z are lower-priority tasks that others can more easily take on while A/B/C are high-priority tasks that others can’t take on as easily)

    1. Talk To Me Moose*

      Whoops I mis-typed — they handed off X to someone else and de-scoped Y and Z.

  72. Jam on Toast*

    One thing that folks who use ‘graphic’ resumes should be aware of is that many of these examples from Word and Canva are very inaccessible for people have low vision and colour blindness or use technology such as screen magnifiers and screen readers. The ‘visual’ aspect often trumps navigability and accessibility. Things like all caps, font choice and colour, non-standard reading orders that doesn’t go from the top, left-to-right reading orderor not using screen-reader accessible headings and styles all have an impact. You don’t know who’s reading your resume, after all, so making is as accessible as possible is always a good approach.

  73. Jules the 3rd*

    OP2: The way to survive hot swapping is to be able to move all your gear from one place to another easily. Consider using a mobile container, like a storage cube bin ($5 – 10), and putting all your personal stuff into it. Ideally, your company will have a secure place you can leave it at night, like a locker. You can personalize it, keep that fan in it, etc. Think of the cube as your ‘desk’. And yeah, the ten minutes of set up / take down are part of what they’re paying for.

  74. Elizabeth West*

    #5 — Wow, that’s a lot! I don’t think you need anything that fancy for say, an office job. Plus, an application platform likely can’t read it. It might even kick it back out.

    If you need to show your work in a graphic format or link to multiple samples, online portfolios are better. You can still have a standard resume with a link to the portfolio. Few people bother to look at mine, but it’s there, and since you can download my resume on it, it’s easy to send a single URL if someone wants to see all my stuff.

  75. voluptuousfire*

    Re: creative resumes–I help hire product designers in the tech space and I took a look at some of the resumes we had on file. Usually product designers have some sort of creative flair, so their resumes reflect that. For the most part, the resumes were all easily skimmable and a good use of white space. One or two were a little too fancy but they all were easy to read.

    I used Google Docs for my resume and I like the templates available there. A lot nicer looking than what I used to use in Word and easier to work with (IME).

    1. Observer*

      For a product designer I would think that the resume design could tell you something. Like if it’s just ugly, or hard to read or over-designed, I think it would be a yellow flag for me. Because in product design, you want someone who will design something that easy to use, with some esthetic consideration where possible. But you don’t want someone who will place “design” (ie form) over function.

  76. LILBRO*

    I wouldn’t ever issue an ultimatum about leaving a job unless I was 100% prepared for it to be accepted as a resignation (or for the business to know you’re ready to go and start thinking about ways to let you go that lessens their inconvenience).

    I think if things are that bad but deep down you WANT to stay because you love your workplace or your specific position, you might consider starting your job search and having a frank conversation about what it would take for you to stay on *after* you have an offer in hand (in the same way that people renegotiate salary or rank by demonstrating that they can find better pay /advancement opportunities with other companies).

    If the income/benefits from this job aren’t necessary for your survival you can quit whenever but I think it’s always a little easier to find a new job (and have grounds to negotiate when you get an offer) when you’re still employed.

  77. She/They*

    LW#1: group assignments and projects for school are the stuff of nightmares. My other half had a class two terms ago where she was part of a group with one member who consistently refused to pull their weight. What the group wound up doing at the end of the project, as it was part of the assignment, was to review their teammates on the project and assign them a score between 1 and 5 with 1 being awful and 5 being fantastic. My partner (and, as I found out later, several others in the group) gave the lazy teammate a score of 1 and clarified what their role was supposed to be and which teammate actually did that person’s work.
    I would suggest to LW#1 to do exactly what my partner and her teammates did: discreetly speak with your professor about the project, what parts Nora was supposed to do, who actually did the work, and ask if that would impact the grade on your project. Chances are that your professor will thank you for being honest and take steps so that your score (and those of your groupmates who actually did the work) won’t be negatively impacted by Nora’s individual score on the assignment.

  78. Flash Packet*

    #1 – Group projects: My favorite was the time when, as a 40-something year old returning to school, I was put on a team with a 50-something year old, a 30-something year old, and a 20-something year old. Three of us worked our butts off over the course of a months’ worth of meeting, planning, and doing. The fourth never showed up to a single team meeting, never responded to group texts or emails, and went on vacation for the 10 days leading up to the day we had to do an in-class presentation.

    He showed up to class, all smiles and tanned, and asked what section of the presentation was his. We said, “Nothing. No section is yours because you didn’t DO a section. You didn’t do anything.” He became visibly agitated but couldn’t respond because the professor came in and called the class to order.

    2 or 3 teams went ahead of us and, when it was our turn, he ran down the aisle in front of us and stood in front of the projection screen. The prof had to tell him to move to one side so everyone could see our slides. I started, then the 20-something did his handful of slides, then the 30-something stepped up… and the 50-something almost knocked her over trying to stand so close to her that he could read her bulleted talking points. He *spoke over her* for her entire group of slides and everyone, including the prof, was so stunned that no one said anything.

    I talked to the professor after class and her solution was to send all of us a form where we could rate/rank our team members. The three of us who actually did any work gave him zeroes for everything. I have no idea what happened with his grade in the end, but I know that he would look away whenever I passed him in the hallways for my remaining semesters.

    Group projects are the worst. The only thing I learned was who I wanted to pick to be in my next group.

  79. Chocolate Almonds*

    I don’t think it’s wrong to feel a little territorial about one’s work space–hotdesking makes a lot of people feel like unvalued employees. Then there are people like me who are nesters and want to make their workspace to be comfortable, so this hotdesking trend would really stress me out.

    I’m surprised LW2’s office manager doesn’t just assign desks to groups of two employees. LW2 would still have to share but it’d be with just one other person, not seven, and hopefully that person is similar in work habits to LW2. In a former role, I shared a desk with a coworker who worked the early half of our shared job. We each had our own filing drawer where we kept our bags and snacks, shared office supplies, and made sure to wipe everything down before leaving so it’d be clean and sanitized for the other person. I still would have preferred having my own desk but it was more than tolerable to share with a person with similar work habits to mine.

  80. IamVeryTired(TM)*

    LW#1 — I was recently in this position, a couple of years ago. I was getting my second bachelor’s degree, so I was 5-10 years older than all of my peers. In addition, I was planning my wedding, juggling remote school and work, a sick family member, and… ya know… a pandemic. We had a senior design capstone course in which we designed, from start to finish, some kind of mechanical project. The normal group had 5-6, and I got stuck with a total of four – people who couldn’t get into someone else’s group. I never really got to know my classmates due to the age and maturity differences, so I always ended up with a random group. I give all of this as background.

    I did, in all actuality, 80% of the work. There were 2 projects. One small, to get us situated, and one very large. When I ended up doing all (literally, all. I had to tell them where to tape) the small project, I went to the professor. Since I was older and had work experience, I explained that I had been in jobs in which I did a lot of the work and didn’t speak up, and a good manager asked my why it took so long. So, in an effort to not get into bad habits, I wanted to talk to the professor. He shrugged at me and, essentially, said to figure it out myself. I had a full course load, worked half time, and everything else and spent a minimum of 40 hours on this project. I ended up doing all of it, and they all know. Granted, they all rated me high at the end, but it didn’t do anything for me.

    As a lightly confrontational person, I say good for you for losing your temper. Don’t take that behavior, because if you do, you’ll accept it in your professional life. Start right now thinking about how you talk about it in an interview (managing projects, time management, communication, and so on). But, give yourself a break and pat yourself on the back for finishing. Not everyone could have.

  81. IamVeryTired(TM)*

    LW#3: I also have strange allergies, and have felt like not speaking up is the best choice. Especially after the anti-gluten fad, people take food allergies (especially intolerances, like it seems yours is with digestive distress) as being picky. I understand the slight fear. But, I also know the anxiety that comes with eating something you shouldn’t. I agree here, explain the allergy (probably in the least graphic way possible) and ask for an allergy friendly meal. People have dietary needs. And, frankly, as someone who lives through it daily… don’t work somewhere that won’t accept it.

  82. nnn*

    For #3, if you ever again do find yourself in a situation where an employee notices that you’re not eating and then comments that they feel bad, you could actually use that as an opportunity to ask them for advice on how to handle the situation.

    Something like “You know, I’ve been wondering about that! Some people have advised me that it’s reasonable to ask for an allergy-friendly meal in advance, but I don’t want prospective employers’ first impression of me to be all demanding . . . is there a way I could ask for it that wouldn’t come across as demanding? Or would that be too much of a burden? Or…?” The same tone and delivery that you’d use for any sort of informational interviewing question where you’re hoping for a candid response.

    That way, you can get advice from the actual people actually involved, and it might mitigate any guilty they feel in the moment because they might feel good about being able to give you advice on how to handle it.

  83. Nodramalama*

    I think the issue with LW 2s personal items is that she’s leaving them on a desk that is shared, so it’s not very surprising people are using them. Unfortunately this is the reality of hotdesking/desk sharing- at the end of the day you have to either pack up your stuff or accept that people might use your stuff

  84. MCMonkeyBean*

    Wow, LW1 you didn’t really elaborate on what “losing your temper” entailed but unless you said something truly awful that you didn’t mention here I really don’t think you have anything to worry about! That sounds like an extremely frustrating situation with someone who pushed you past a reasonable breaking point.

    I mean right from the start, just to be clear, having an internship did not in any way make it okay to not contribute to the project. If she was still in school while doing her internship then she was still responsible for completing her school assignments! The only way the internship might be relevant is that it could make her unavailable to meet at certain times which would be fine and understandable. But that is not an acceptable reason that she couldn’t be assigned a portion of the work to do on her own time.

    Group projects suck. This one sounds like it was over a pretty long period of time too which is not something I have encountered and sounds like it would really exacerbate all the usual group project issues.

  85. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW 2, I absolutely hate hotelling or hotdesking–my company is moving to this and I am planning to remain remote as a result. Personally, I would honestly start looking for another job if they made me come in and hotdesk every day because having my own space with my own stuff is very important to me.

    That being said–at this point you do *not* have your own space so you have to stop treating it like you do. “All my paperwork, personal stationery, etc., is on that desk so it becomes very inconvenient when I have to move.” That’s ultimately the crux of your problem. You really just can’t keep leaving all of your stuff at a desk you might not have access to. That is not generally how these setups work. Talk to your boss about the best place to keep your stuff, if there are cabinets or something where work paperwork should be stored so that you can access it easily no matter what desk you work from. And as for personal things–well they shouldn’t really be there in a setup like this. If you really want to have certain stationary and a certain fan or something then you may need to pare it all down to an amount that you can fit in one bag each day that you bring to whichever desk you sit at. Otherwise it stops being your stuff and becomes communal property because it’s in a shared space.

  86. McS*

    LW 2 – I’d advocate for lockers or other personal storage not at your desk. It sounds like your coworkers prefer your desk because of your stuff!

    LW 3 – If it helps you not feel demanding, phrase it as “I want to know if I’ll be able to eat a meal.” With the expectation that if the answer is no, you’ll eat beforehand. But the answer likely won’t be no.

    LW 5 – I disagree that the templates are problematic if used correctly. A bit of color coded organization can help generalize your resume so different managers can review it in the order they prefer. The balance of space in that template is wrong, so you still need to bring your own resume editing skills to optimize it. That said, an old fashioned black and white single column resume formatted with tabs, spaces, boldface, etc is not a problem either. There aren’t extra points for a pretty resume, so if you don’t see how it helps organize the same content, skip the template.

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