open thread – June 10-11, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on any work-related questions that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to take your questions to other readers.

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

{ 1,022 comments… read them below }

  1. Pink Shoe Laces*

    Any tips on what to ask and notice during the interview process so that you don’t end up with a supervisor who is narcissistic, selfish and does not give a fart about your career? I feel like I’m horrible at seeing this. My last two jobs I’ve had (male) supervisors who would get nasty and combative the minute I said “no” on something reasonable so I’d like to avoid that as well.

    1. JP*

      For specifically the “not give a fart about your career” bit: you can definitely ask how other people in this role or similar roles have grown! You can also ask about how the promotion cycle is structured. When I’m conducting phone screens I love when candidates ask about this stuff bc it means I get to brag about our development track record! You can usually also find this info on LinkedIn with a little bit of sleuthing – look at people at the level above what you’re interviewing for – did they start at the lower level? In a sample of 10 random employees, how many of them were promoted to their current role?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Ditto — we love our career ladder. In our group, our exec director, both directors, all five managers and eight TLs started out as individual contributors (either inside our group or in other areas) and have progressed through internal advancement opportunities.

    2. Lucky*

      I think you can ask for the opportunity to meet with peers on the team you would be joining, and asking them about culture and working under Supervisor X. You could probably also ask about the person leaving the position (if it’s backfilling) and how changes in the team have been handled. Then, I think you just have to trust your instincts when you meet with the person who would be your supervisor and hope he’s not a glassbowl.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Some people are really good at selling themselves in interviews, so I’m not sure you can avoid it completely! But you can try asking what the typical career progression looks like for someone in this role. They might tell you people usually stay in the role for 2 years before moving up within the company, or that this role is really designed to be long term and they’d want someone who would be happy staying for a long time (either of which is reasonable), OR they might get offended that you would be thinking about your future and decide you’re not a good fit for the role. Either way it’s a win from your perspective!

      I would also ask “what isn’t getting done?” to suss out if they’re open to the idea that sometimes there’s too much work on the team and need to make reasonable judgement calls about priorities, or they might tell you “everything is a priority and it all gets done”.

      Finally, see if you know anyone who has ever worked with them who can give you the inside scoop. If you get an offer you can also ask to be put in touch with your future peers so you can ask questions about the team culture.

    4. Rose*

      Ask to talk to other members of the team, or the person who was last in the role! People won’t usually bash a team member so you have to keep it and mind and do your best to read between the lines.

    5. CatCat*

      I have been asking about development and training opportunities in the interview. I have also asked to speak with a current member of the team outside the interview process.

    6. Crotchet*

      The two times I ended up with what you describe, the interviewer (supervisor) talked more about themselves than about me. One of them didn’t even ask questions. They were also both overly enthusiastic about hiring me but with really bad offers; one of them refused to take “no” for an answer*. I would say to specifically ask about professional development and career growth opportunities in the interview; I would caution, though – the first one, when I was super young, blew glitter up my you-kn0w-what and relied on me being too young and naive to read between the lines. Sometimes, I’ll write up a fake AAM or AskMefi letter and see if muddied waters get any clearer.

      (*I was part-time 1099 and he wanted me to be full-time W-2, and, although I in VERY CERTAIN written terms rejected his really bad W-2 position offer, he apparently communicated to our grandboss that I would definitely come and work for them full-time if she offered the terrible offer to me. She offered it to me, I said “absolutely not – I told Supervisor I couldn’t do it for that salary,” and she got mad at me for reneging on something I’d never agreed to. Grandboss was well-intentioned (and highly manipulated by Supervisor) for the most part but Supervisor loved to watch his land mines blow up.)

      I wish you all the best. The biggest barrier I have to job-hunting, still, is the fear of landing in the frying pan yet again. It’s exhausting. But there ARE good managers and employers out there.

      1. Pink Shoe Laces*

        “They were also both overly enthusiastic about hiring me”

        Yes!!!! They were like this with me too!! This is such a red flag

        1. Crotchet*

          Popping back in to say that “The Gift Of Fear” and “Why Does He Do That?” are two books that have really helped me maintain boundaries and recognize these kind of people (in retrospect). The first one has a lot about workplace issues but the second one is definitely more about domestic violence; I found both to have a host of information that is highly transferable to workplace situations and coworkers.

      2. Smithy*

        Yeah – I’ll say that the times I or people I’ve known have been burnt the hardest (and it wasn’t a true bait n switch) was due to a failure to read between the lines.

        I’m in nonprofits, so whenever there’s been talk about “fast promotions” – in the past I didn’t interrogate that properly because earlier in my career I didn’t really know how. I’m on the nonprofit administrative side of the house, so promotions typically open because someone leaves a position and someone else steps into it or a team has added new roles. The case where someone has done their job so well and then warranted a promotion is still most commonly tied to adding a new senior position but cutting the junior one, so most commonly still tied to a budgetary cycle.

        Not knowing that background meant I wasn’t asking the right questions – was there recent turnover or an addition of new positions? Were new positions expected to continued to be added? And at what seniority level? Instead, my supervisor was happy to just say there’d be lots of quick promotions despite the fact that for the position I was interviewing for – that promotion growth was actually irrelevant and involved almost zero management and genuine professional development engagement by supervisors.

        After having worked for her, I would say that in her case it was naivete on her part as opposed to maliciousness – but it still would have been nice to know that sooner.

    7. Smithy*

      I think that being in a position to ask follow-up questions to poke through generic answers but also be prepared to ask different types of questions about management.

      If a manager tells you that people get promoted quickly, I think it’s good to interrogate a little bit about why that’s happened. I know that in my field – and possibly others – quick promotions can happen for a bunch of reasons that have nothing to do a supervisor. Lots of departures can result in quick promotions or a team expanding and adding new positions can as well. And those conditions may have nothing to do with your would-be supervisor or they may have just recently . So being able to sniff out the platitudes and ask follow up questions.

      Additionally, ask a variety of management questions will be helpful in seeing what kind of answers you get. Are they all jargon/platitudes? Are they more thoughtful? Has the would-be supervisor thought about this role and how it will work with them? Do they want a repeat of the last person in the role because that went well? Or are they rethinking the position? Or is this a new position?

      I would also say that if you get a lot of responses like “wow, that’s a great question – I haven’t thought about that yet” – not to totally dismiss the person, but that it’s worth following up in the thank you email. Such that, it was really great to discuss the position – you mentioned in the call that you hadn’t thought much about the reporting structure of this new position and would be happy to hear if you’ve had more time to consider what that would look like?

      In an interview, it’s really rather easy for people on both sides to default to industry or management jargon and platitudes. Therefore, being thoughtful in your questions and follow up will give more considerate supervisors opportunities to show that and for supervisors who will get irritated or be dismissive about management – you’ll give them more room to show that.

    8. JSPA*

      On the saying no issue–find a way to land a gentle “no.”

      If you’re quick and flexible enough to do so, there’s the “I get where you are coming from, yet no” corection.

      (“yes, I always thought [y] as well, as it stands to reason! But then I ran into a study by so-and-so arguing quite persuasively that against all expectations, it’s [x].”)

      If the hiring manager reads that as, “negative and confronational even in an interview,” and doesn’t make an offer, the problem has identified and solved itself.

      It may also deal with a significant subset of narcissists.

      But really, the only person who’s guaranteed to be invested in your job as a top level sort of goal, is you. Expecting that from a manager is a big ask. Especially these past 2+ years, where everything was warping in mostly unexpected, often frightening, and generally unwelcome ways, it probably struck them as narcissistic on an employee’s part, for that employee to have expectations of a career development plan, especially a personalized one.

      Sure, it’s still part of their job! But many parts of people’s jobs got set aside, while they dealt with problems (for themself, their family or their friend network) of sickness, death, hunger, depression, isolation.

      I’d also suggest recouching the issue in terms of management, not a psychological diagnosis.

      Not being invested in other people’s happiness and success, broadly, because such things fail to register–that’s narcissism.

      Not being invested in your specific happiness and success–that’s being a bad boss, and it’s a problem that’s separable from narcissism. After all, if you had the world’s most caring boss, except that they had a blind spot when it came to your career development, you’d be just as screwed. Thus, less armchair diagnosis, and more concrete discussion of how career development is handled, seems like the better tack to take.

  2. My Pronouns are Unsure*

    A local public committee opens its meetings by asking members and guests to give their name and pronouns. Like some previous letter writers, I find being asked about my pronouns or prompted to claim a particular set of pronouns in a public space with people I don’t know well to be fraught and distressing. Also, these meetings are public and recorded (both in writing and audio/visual) and I’m uncomfortable with having my pronoun declaration “on the record,” so to speak, especially in an uncertain political environment. I’ve looked at Alison’s suggestions for employees and companies to be sensitive to people who may not be ready to claim a particular set of pronouns, but does anyone have suggestions for how to word this to a committee chair? I can’t even attend the meetings as a guest without being told to give my name and pronouns (they’re very small meetings, maybe 7 or 8 people at a time), let alone apply to join the committee which I’m actually interested in doing. I could attend and only share my name, but I wouldn’t know how to respond when asked my pronouns in a recorded public meeting.

    1. Dynamic HR Manager*

      Many well meaning people think that asking for an individual’s pronouns demonstrates a public commitment to inclusivity without realizing that not everyone (including those who actually prefer being identified by ‘non-traditional’ pronouns) do not want to essentially make a public statement about their sex/gender every single time that they also introduce their name.

      One item we have coached our managers on is to make sure to reference if asking for pronouns that including them in any introduction is completely OPTIONAL. Something like “Please take a moment to introduce yourself and if you like include any pronouns that best identify you as a person.” That leaves it open to the individual’s discretion without putting everyone on the spot.

      1. Just another queer reader*

        +1

        A good friend is going through this right now: how to signal and model inclusivity while also being uncertain about what their own pronouns are (or if they’re willing to share that with coworkers).

        It’s tough because the options seem to be (sort of) lying, or appearing to be not-inclusive.

      2. PollyQ*

        Agreed, and I think this is an important enough issue that it should be pushed back on (not just worked around), since it’s actually making things harder for the people it’s supposed to be helping.

    2. MissBliss*

      I’m afraid I don’t have any thoughts to addressing the larger issue, but would it be more comfortable to not initially give your pronouns and only your name, and if asked, respond with something like “You may use she/her to refer to me.” (or whatever would be most benign to you)? I also find it uncomfortable when people ask me for my pronouns, but I typically address it by saying “she/her is fine” or “You can use she/her”. It might just be for me but it makes me feel like I’m not *claiming* them, just giving them to somebody else to use for the day.

      1. Migraine Month*

        Alternately, you could respond with “please just use my name”. Not everyone wants to use pronouns.

        1. MissBliss*

          That’s the boat I’m in, but I’ve never thought about saying “please just use my name”! A revelation. Thank you,

      2. My Pronouns Are Unsure*

        Yes, that does feel less weird! I will try practicing that in the mirror.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Maybe find an article online to explain it for you, and send it to him with a message like “I think it’s great that we invite people to share pronouns, but best practice is to make it optional” – you should not feel obligated to disclose how this affects you personally!

      1. CalAH*

        +1 to this approach. It sounds like this space is trying to be inclusive. Sharing information about how to be more inclusive would likely be welcomed. It also does not force you to explain why this is an issue for you specifically. Best of luck with the committee.

    4. Not A Manager*

      If you weren’t asked to give your pronouns, people would just use whichever ones they believe most reasonably apply to you. How would you feel about saying, “My name is MPAU and I’m comfortable with all pronouns”?

      I *think* that this reasonably invites people to use the pronouns that appear to apply to you, without explicitly claiming or disclaiming them. I also *think* that this places you firmly on the side of “pronouns are a real thing and they matter,” although that might partly depend on tone. I worry that explicitly opting out of the exercise runs the risk of sounding like you think all this newfangled pronoun business is silly, which doesn’t seem to be your actual position at all.

      1. My Pronouns Are Unsure*

        That was one of my concerns – I didn’t want not giving pronouns to be taken as rejecting the whole idea and I didn’t know what to say if they still asked for my pronouns after I’d introduced myself that wouldn’t sound like I was rejecting it. I will think about the all pronouns option!

    5. DarthVelma*

      Just because they ask for your pronouns doesn’t mean you have to give any. Just state your name and move on. If they insist, politely say no thank you. After that, any awkwardness is caused by them not you.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        This is likely to read as very anti-inclusivity, so I wouldn’t suggest this approach.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I think they said they could not even join the Zoom without listing something as their pronouns.

    6. Alexis Rosay*

      Can you just…quietly not give your pronouns? I’ve been in lots of spaces where people are explicitly asked to state their pronouns, and there are always some people who do not do so. I’ve never seen anyone ‘called out’ for it thankfully.

      If you’re pressed, is there any kind of preface or simple disclaimer that would help you feel more comfortable with the statement? Like “You can use he/him pronouns for me” rather than “My pronouns are he/him”. Could that feel less like you’re revealing a deep truth and more like you’re giving people a quick tip that will only apply to this group in this time? I’ve also heard people say “Any pronouns are fine as long as they’re used with respect” when they’re exploring gender and not ready to publicly commit to pronouns, but YMMV on how that plays in any given space.

      1. My Pronouns Are Unsure*

        I’m not sure – I looked through the recordings of some recent meetings and all the participants share their pronouns each time after being asked to do so by the chair. Sort of like this:
        Chair: “Welcome to the Llama Town Committee for Inclusivity, I’m Winifred, she/her/hers, everyone please go around the table and share your name and pronouns.” And then everyone does share name/pronouns, so I’m not sure how not saying them would play out. But I like the “you can use she/her/hers” language.

    7. Overeducated*

      Could you email the committee chair with what you’ve written here (and maybe an article as someone else suggested) outside of the meeting, so they don’t make this an explicit suggestion, or phrase it less definitively, like “name and pronouns if you would like to share them”? I feel like you having to respond in the moment is inherently awkward and uncomfortable no matter what you choose, it would be better for them to avoid putting you and others in that situation.

    8. bee*

      Do you think you could ask them to tweak it to something like “What pronouns can we use to refer to you in this session?” I find that that can take some of the pressure off of being asked to Declare An Identity and instead reframe it as just whatever feels easiest/most comfortable for you at the current moment.

      Another option could be to say “Please don’t use any pronouns for me! Just use my name.” This can make some sentences clunky, but it’s workable and a good alternative if the idea of picking anything is just too much.

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

        I was going to suggest just asking to be called your name, or say something like “My name is Jade. Please refer to me as Jade.” or “I don’t use pronouns.” But that last one can sometimes feel like a statement you’re trying to avoid. To me pronouns are a language shortcut to avoid repetitively calling someone by their name, for example, “Jade likes lemonade. She prefers no pulp.” — but there isn’t any reason why you need to use them at all, “Jade likes lemonade and prefers no pulp” or “Jade likes lemonade. Jade prefers no pulp.”

    9. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      “I really appreciate the committee’s efforts at inclusion by inviting people to share their pronouns. I think that it would be helpful for the committee to make clear that this is optional, because it can cause distress for people who are not out to have to choose between outing themselves and misgendering themselves.”

      You don’t need to talk about yourself, and I suggest going in with the idea that they will welcome this info because they’re trying to be inclusive.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I’m definitely going to say this the next time it is presented as something I’m expected to contribute.

      2. Shhh*

        I just emailed this to myself – it honestly didn’t occur to me before that expecting participants to share their pronouns could be a harmful practice and your wording is excellent. Thank you!

    10. Malarkey01*

      I would reach out and note that it is not always safe for people to provide pronouns (whether job, family or home situation, or even community violence) and that making it clear you’re accepting of all pronouns and if anyone wishes to provide theirs they are very welcome to is a better way to sure inclusiveness than asking a group to repeatedly announce their gender at each meeting. (So much of this is very well meaning without thinking through the implications or the way that in some spheres it’s putting more pressure on gender identification).

      1. My Pronouns Are Unsure*

        Thanks, that’s really what I’d like to see happen because while the overall safety stakes for me are low (it’s more of a personal comfort/confusion thing), I was also concerned that if I was already avoiding these meetings that I probably wasn’t the only one. Noting the job/family/community aspect I think would be helpful.

      2. Gargoyle*

        This. Requiring people to state their pronouns means for some people that you’re asking them to out themselves. For individuals who aren’t sure if their pronouns, or for whom it’s unsafe (example: person not “out” to their anti-lgbtq family) it means they have to lie about their pronouns to avoid outing themselves.

        Saying something like “if you like, you can tell us your pronouns” as others have suggested would be ok.

    11. JSPA*

      “my name is Zaphod and I’m not a pronoun or titles person” might work; they can recontact you if they want to know how to deal with pronouns in the record, and people who want to refer to what you said can say, “as Zaphod said,” or “I disagree with Zaphod.”

      You can also give your name and not mention your pronouns; if they ask, then you say, “I’m not a pronoun or titles person” or “no thank you.” Or you can say, “most people use ‘she’ or ‘they’ for me.” That’s about the behavior of others, not about your own preferences. I find it a useful distancing tool.

      I don’t know if choosing to disclaim pronouns is just as fraught, for you, but I find it rare that people insist.

    12. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      In my opinion what I think is happening is people are trying to be inclusive, which is good. But I think what they are trying to say is “Please feel comfortable providing your pronouns if you wish”. However some people, especially in this situation, may feel like they are demanding that you give pronouns. Just like if you were to address the committee you would be asked to give your first and last name. The committee may think that it is implied that you don’t have to include your pronouns but everyone doesnt get that.

      My boss did something with pronouns that I thought was great. I wish I could remember the exact phrasing used but it was something like “please introduce yourself and share your pronouns if you feel comfortable”. Would you feel better if the committee asked this instead?

    13. YetAnotherFed*

      I am in a new job and many of my colleagues put their pronouns in their mail signature etc. I thought long and hard about it and decided that I do NOT want to do so, as I have put up with nearly half a century of gender discrimination due to my first name, and I am more than happy to seize the opportunity to sign off my work etc with my initials instead of my full name. If anyone tried to make me use my full name or pronouns in my mail signature, I would respond that I don’t particularly care to subject myself to gender discrimination.

    14. Marvel*

      I have been the person shutting down exactly this situation in multiple contexts. Usually what works for me is: first, I make sure to acknowledge how happy I am that they are trying to be inclusive and applauding their initiative in doing so. Because, well, I truly do appreciate it, as a trans person. They’re trying! That’s better than nothing! They’re just… not succeeding, because unfortunately cis ideas about what is good for trans people are often counterproductive in exactly this sort of way. Anyway, after I’ve done that, I point out that unfortunately this particular tact is often misguided, and can even be dangerous. If someone doesn’t “match” their chosen pronouns, according to certain onlookers, you are giving them two very crappy choices: either put themselves at threat of violence and harassment, or lie. What results is a situation in which cis people are still fine–sharing pronouns isn’t a loaded issue for them–but trans people are uncomfortable and potentially unsafe, which is obviously not the goal!

      Clearing this up can be as simple as asking people to state their names and pronouns “if they’d like to share them.” Giving an opt-out helps protect people who don’t feel comfortable disclosing their pronouns, while still normalizing pronoun sharing, which is probably the end goal they had in mind when they started doing this.

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        This whole thread is interesting to me. I’m learning a lot which is good. :) I definitely don’t want to not be inclusive, but as a cis female I’m probably clumsy in my approach sometimes.

        The pronouns is weird. I don’t mind when people include them in their greeting and whatnot, but I don’t like to say mine out loud in a business setting. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a male dominated field and don’t like drawing further attention to my femaleness, but it gives me the shivers to say it out loud in like meetings. I am cis and female (although ace more than “straight”)… I definitely look female. I don’t think I’ve ever been mistaken as male even though I wear mens clothes at work (industrial manufacturing… I like wearing womens clothes but there just aren’t that many good womens work clothes options out there – and I wear dresses outside of work almost exclusively).

        But yeah, sharing my own pronouns even though I’m happy to know everyone else’s just feels weird to me.

    15. Robert Sigley*

      If pronouns are forced, then in lieu
      Of outing yourself, what to do?
      You may, if you’re able,
      Just say in your label:
      “At work I’m addressed by (hey, you)”.

  3. What's in a name?*

    What is the difference between managing people’s feelings and managing with respect to people’s feelings?

    I know that each person has a different style for how they get their work done and how they best recieve feedback. These should be considered to have the best interactions, but when does it become managing people’s feelings instead of know their feelings and factoring it into how you interact?

    1. irene adler*

      Managing people’s feelings is when you worry if they are happy or if what you impart to them will cause them to become unhappy. See, no one can make another person happy. Happiness comes from within.

      Learning how each individual report best receives feedback and taking steps to do this is good management. The goal is to improve the work product. Delivering feedback in the manner that best communicates the message to the report is really not in the realm of feelings – although having a boss who ‘gets’ them tends to impart positive feelings.

    2. Jean*

      You can be empathetic and kind/neutral in your tone while still giving needed feedback/having direct conversations about difficult topics. This is not managing someone’s feelings. Managing someone’s feelings would be like if your direct report has an emotional breakdown in a 1 on 1, so you avoid talking to them about certain topics, even if you need to in order to manage the person properly. Or you hold up a meeting to let someone give a monologue about how angry they are about some process change, instead of politely asking them to sit down with you and discuss their concerns one on one after the meeting.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        What you said about the meeting reminds me of when I was new at Exjob and trying to present my new template, only for my team lead to repeatedly interrupt me with multiple Buts. I wish I’d said, “I would like to show you this in its entirety first; please note your questions as you listen and I’d be happy to address them when I’ve finished.”

        A manager could do this in a meeting or a one-on-one; I think it would be effective. It would work on me if I were getting defensive.

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

      I think that managing people’s feelings in practice is asking or demanding that people FEEL a certain way, “Are you excited?” “You should be happy!” “Turn that frown upside down,” “We all need to be positive and cheerful,” etc.

      Managing with respect to people’s feelings is taking into account that certain things will positively or negatively affect the employee’s emotional state — for example, Fergus doesn’t like having a new project assigned after 4:00pm because it causes him to worry and stress through the night, so try to assign him projects at the beginning of the day, while acknowledging that business needs might not always allow for that. Carla prefers communication via email, because she can refer back to it as she works. John likes to hear encouragement or “good job” every once in a while…

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        I disagree. I don’t feel that that(turn that frown upside down…) is what managing peoples feelings are. That is someone who is trying to enforce certain feelings on to others. Managing feelings is more like you go out of the way to do something so the other person doesn’t react in a certain way.

        1. Migraine Month*

          That’s the way I’ve used it as well, but I think there’s a surprising amount of overlap. If you know your supervisor is managing your feelings (for example, trying to spin a demotion in job responsibilities as “a chance for you to focus on the things you do well” because they don’t want you to feel bad), there is a pressure to accept their framing and pretend to be happy about it. Whereas if the information is presented more neutrally, it’s more acceptable to have negative feelings about the change.

          1. MaryLoo*

            Don’t get me started on the trend in evaluations that list “things you do well “ and “opportunities for improvement”.

            Or the oft-heard comment by the bigwig (with the golden parachute) commenting on layoffs (I mean “right-sizing”) as “a great opportunity to find a new direction bla bla bla”.

    4. ferrina*

      This is a great question! For me, managing people’s feelings is acting to make them feel a certain way- such as a manager who always wants their team to be happy or always want their team to agree with them. This is different from managing behavior, which is about results (including emotional/social results such as “good customer service”).
      Managing with respect to people’s feelings is giving people the space to be humans. It’s giving folks the space to process bad news in an appropriate way (such as making sure they don’t have back-to-back meetings right after you tell them that you won’t promote them) and being direct and kind in your wording. It’s giving thoughtful feedback about both positive aspects and things that need to change, and noticing your reports as individual humans and treating them that way. It’s about negotiation and collaboration (and for those that are hyperrational, about getting the biggest mutual benefit from the ever-evolving social contract between a boss and employee)

    5. RagingADHD*

      Managing with respect to people’s feelings is when you consider morale, inclusivity, and kindness as important parts of your management style and make decisions accordingly. Management is concerned with behavior and policies related to work.

      Managing people’s feelings is when there is an inappropriate overstep (from either direction) where an employee’s personal feelings are treated as the manager’s business.

      Appropriate:

      Manager: I’ve noticed you are making a lot more errors and struggling to meet deadlines, is everything all right?

      Or
      Employee: Hey, my coworker is routinely condescending to me and others, and is dismissing our feedback. Could you intervene?

      Or
      Employee: I’m having a stressful situation at home and it’s making it difficult to concentrate.

      Manager: I’m sorry to hear that! Is there anything we can do to help, like move you to a quieter area? Or do you need to take PTO?

      Or
      Employee: I have some great news. I’m pregnant / getting married / coming out / graduating / getting an award!

      Manager: Wow! Fantastic! I’m so happy for you!

      Not appropriate:
      Employee has frequent, public emotional outbursts and expects the manager or coworkers to comfort them, talk them down, or make excuses to clients and leadership.

      Manager avoids giving work feedback because of employee’s emotional reactions.

      Manager expects or requires employees to report their emotional state, asks intrusive personal questions, or “perform” an emotional state to make the manager more comfortable or create a cultural narrative for the company (regardless of the true situation).

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Great examples (and for the inappropriate cases, on both Mgmt and employee sides)!

    6. JSPA*

      I’d say,

      Managing with respect to (and awareness of) people’s feelings is focused on management: on getting the best work, via good communication, at a reasonable outlay of attention and awareness. (i.e. modifying your informational input to modify their work output.)

      Managing people’s feelings is focused on controlling how people feel, or trying to outmaneuver people so as to channel or divert how they’d normally feel. (i.e. modification of their inner landscape, where you broadly have no legitimate business barging in or hanging out.)

      The second of those is intrinsically boundary-pushing and inappropriate. Leave it to the person’s chosen confidante, psychologist, psychiatrist, faith leader, meditation practice, or what-have-you; it’s not your purview. Even if you’re a psychiatrist, but not their psychiatrist, it’s still not your purview.

      Can you circulate, “useful tools and tips for regaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity”? Oh, I suppose…just as you can encourage people to move more, or eat salad (knowing, of course, that moving more isn’t for everybody’s physiology, nor is salad for everybody’s digestive tract).

      But if you’re being encouraged to get into people’s heads so as to motivate them through changing their psychology, then you’re doing something cult-adjacent. This sort of mind-f%ckery is cyclically in vogue. People who don’t want to be abusive (or abused!) need to push back when it comes around yet again as a shiny new management strategy. (Being Rasputin or Svengali–that’s not a management strategy.)

    7. Marvel*

      This is a great question, and I appreciate the opportunity to think through where I draw that line myself! I have a bit of a trauma history, and I was expected to manage the emotions of the adults around me from a very young age. As a manager, I’ve collapsed under the weight of trying to please everyone multiple times. I’ve struggled with figuring out where the line is for years, but I’ve never tried to explicitly articulate it before, so here goes.

      I think for me, it works out something like this: I manage the environment and myself in a way that I believe will result in a more pleasant experience for them, to the best of my ability (incorporating their feedback, if I have any). But once I have done that, they are going to feel how they are going to feel, and those feelings belong to them. Not only can I not control them, but it would be inappropriate and inconsiderate for me to try.

      In actual practice, this means:

      1) Keeping my actual goal centered in my mind. The goal is not “make sure X doesn’t get upset or mad,” it’s “give X the news that they’re being let go in a way that is clear, compassionate, and respectful.” The goal is not, “stop Y from being unhappy at work,” it’s “solicit feedback from Y on how we can improve the work environment, and look for ways to apply said feedback next month.”

      2) With said goals in mind, I try to think both rationally and empathetically (I’m very high empathy by nature; this might look different for someone who isn’t). What do I know about this person and how they react to situations, and what does that tell me about their underlying feelings and attitudes? From there, I try to anticipate what their needs might be, and meet them if I can. For instance: some people need time to think before they respond to something, so if I have a serious question I want them to consider, I might make sure that I ask it several hours or even days before I need a response (where possible, obviously). Someone else might do extremely well focusing on one thing at a time, but get stressed and overwhelmed if they’re asked to think about something way in advance that’s not a priority right now. So for them, I’ll wait to ask about it until the conclusion of their current project (or whatever makes sense).

      3) Here’s the crucial part of this: the person who needs time to think might still want more time than you can give them, and feel stressed as a result. The person who likes to focus on one thing at a time might still have to give you an answer about something ahead of time, and might feel annoyed with you as a result. THAT’S the part you can’t control. People are weird, and how they feel and react to you often doesn’t really have anything to do with you; it’s about their past experiences and what’s going on in their psyche at that particular moment. This is where knowing your values, goals, and boundaries comes in handy.

      Sure, give X as much time to think as you can–but make sure he knows that you need his response by [date and time] at the latest, and hold him to that. Will that make him feel stressed? Maybe! But you’ve given him as much time as you can. Let those feelings be his to deal with.

      Sure, let Y focus on one thing at a time and work sequentially where possible. But sometimes it won’t be possible, and though you might open with a “sorry to interrupt your work on Project ABC” in acknowledgement of her preference, she might still be annoyed with you about it. That’s okay! You’re allowed to need a response, and she’s allowed to be annoyed about it. Obviously, snapping at you wouldn’t be okay, but that’s about actions, not feelings: if she remains polite, but seems annoyed at the interruption, you don’t need to try to manage that annoyance away.

      I hope that makes sense! This is something I will doubtless continue to think about.

  4. Totally For Sure*

    Does anyone have any stories of being at a company when a new V-level or C-level person is hired, and they make a bunch of horrible changes that severely impact the company negatively and then end up leaving less than a year?

    My current company had an acquisition 1 year ago, and 6 months ago they fired a woman at the VP level (who had been with the company around 20 years) to bring on a man (who had no experience in our product, think moving from lightbulbs to cloud servers) to replace her. Within the past 6 months, he made no positive changes based on the feedback his teams told him and instead forced the company to hire for positions that weren’t needed and forced us to switch over to new reporting platforms. Anyway, he’s quitting. Today is his last day, he gave less than 1 weeks notice!!! A VP level person who gives less than 1 weeks notice! Who does that? He also gave no direction on what would happen after he leaves, and he is in charge of 3 major departments! Good riddance. My co-worker and I were laughing about how it was karma for the CMO after she fired the previous VP. I’m currently looking for a new job.

    Another time I recall was when I worked for a small advertising agency about 10 years ago. We lost a major client so the owner brought in a new CMO who decided instead of a regular agency, we would be a “one-stop-shop” agency who would only provide everything (website, advertising campaigns, creative, etc.) to clients instead of allowing the client to choose to service. Everyone knew it was a bad idea, and a few month later they had to lay off an entire department. Luckily I had already found another job by then, but after laying off the department (who was needed), everyone was too overworked and left. The company folded about 1 year later.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      OldJob hired a new VP with such unreasonable expectations, over half of the directors left for our main competitor within 6 months. She tried to eliminate my department entirely, which happened to be a very expensive violation of a contract we had with another (major) client, so within the span of a week I went from being told I was losing my job to be told, “Just kidding!” VP was fired long before her first anniversary.

        1. GelieFish*

          Hoping my spouse’s new grand boss does the leave quick thing. Comes in and starts moving things around even in other departments. Wants to rush hiring by skipping steps, but all it has done is slow it down because the steps are vital to the licensing the new employees must have.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I want to say it was closer to two years, but yes, and since I was one of the ones who got out by the mid-way mark, it was satisfying to watch it unfold.

      I was offered a promotion to backfill the position of a supervisor who’d left. I did NOT want the promotion because it would require relocation to a much larger, costly city, and not just by me. My spouse is a business owner, relocation is pretty well off the table, especially for a position that I didn’t apply for and did not want.

      So I declined the promotion.

      My (recently hired and through a reshuffle of the org chart) supervisor passive aggressively reacted to this by dumping the work of that position on my lap, and by scheduling travel for me every other week or so. Slow boil though, took about six months to get to the “out of town every two weeks” point. My previous (and still there, see reshuffle of org chart) supervisor had been diligent about making sure that I traveled minimally. It was in my offer – travel is to be limited to less than five business days a year. This inclusion of limited travel did NOTHING to prevent me from doing my job, by the way.

      So as the new guy is ignoring it and in general making life HIGHLY difficult for me, both in and out of the office proper, I’m starting to look elsewhere. In addition, there’s snide commentary from him about how I shouldn’t limit my career based upon what my spouse is doing (Put a pin in this guys).

      It took three months for me to find a new position. I gave plenty of notice to the OLD supervisor, and then two weeks to the guy who was the problem. Never even had the required exit interview.

      I was NOT the only one.

      Fast forward eight months. Text message from a former coworker with a “you’re never going to believe this” Turns out that the problematic guy who was snarking at me for limiting my career options over what my spouse was doing? Quit due to his wife’s job transfer. No notice, just up and quit. VP Level.

    3. Rick Tq*

      Sounds like what we’ve called a seagull manager.

      Flies in. Makes a bunch of noise. Poops the bed and fails. Flies out to their next victim..

      1. irene adler*

        Oh that’s good!

        Two decades ago, we were owned by a venture capital company. They wanted to merge us with another company. But our current CEO wasn’t “impressive” enough to head the merged entity and raise the needed funds. So they brought in some guy from the Midwest to serve as our new CEO. Flashy. A talker.

        So this new CEO immediately gets to work to raise funds. He spends lots of cash on the finest lodgings, first class travel and meals, etc. to talk to the money people. “Have to impress them!”, he says.

        After the first year, he decided all the raise money should go to him. He worked hard to earn it.

        Never raised a cent.

        He got the bright idea to sell off our little company to raise funds. This turned out to be a good thing as we divested both the venture capital and this CEO.

        Meanwhile, he’s burning through the cash. Company never brings a product to market.
        Eventually he is unceremoniously given the boot.

        One day, a friend tells me about some new program at the local zoo (where she works) and they are paying some major bucks to bring in some fantastic CEO to run it. Yep, same guy.

        I cautioned her. He’s all smoke and mirrors. She did not believe me.

        One year later, he’s given the boot. She told me lots of financial damage was done.

        Today he’s on the board of many local companies – including a biotech incubator.

          1. I'm Done*

            Arrogance is sometimes mistaken for confidence. Arrogance and ignorance often go hand in hand.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, this is what happened at OldExjob (I had a whole comment and the site ate it; it might be below). I love this term. :’D

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Years ago, the R&D division I worked for got a new VP who was more concerned with the format of our powerpoint slides than the content. I suspect he wasn’t qualified to judge the value of the content so settled for what he could understand. Budgets were arbitrarily cut (pretty sure he got a bonus for ‘saving money’) but deadlines and output were not allowed to change. Instead of putting engineering effort into a massive, multi-year, multi-million dollar project, we were forced to fuss with weekly template changes for weekly hours-long report-outs on the (lack of) progress we were trying to make. After about a year the VP was laterally transferred out of harm’s way but it was too late, the project died a slow painful death, multiple senior technical people left, and lots of potential innovation just … disappeared.

      1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        Don’t you just love it when C-level people make a huge fuss over inconsequential things like fonts and PowerPoint slides? Like those are gonna make or break a company. And yet, I’ve seen this happen several times.

    5. AnonForThis*

      New VP said he’d get us so many students that we’d have to freeze admissions. Publicly bragged about paying $10.25/hour to Master’s degree admission counselors with huge territories. Fired most of the senior admissions team and got rid of all of our institutional knowledge. Gutted our existing recruitment strategies, changed new strategies at the last minute, and didn’t communicate to departments. Within two years, we had lost so many students that we had to go through a complete reorganization and two rounds of staff and faculty lay-offs with closure of dozens of programs. Dude got fired and is on LinkedIn where he somehow has former colleagues who genuinely praise his skills and ability to save schools.

    6. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      VP/C-suite folks leaving with less than one week’s notice often means that they’re being allowed to resign as a face saving measure for themselves, but that the context of that resignation was “I want your resignation on my desk by end of business today, or you’ll be fired.”

    7. Grig Larson*

      I worked for a director who was brought onboard to manage our QA team. The previous director retired rather quickly because of the dotcom era, he realized he could retire on his stock options. The new director had never run a technical team before, and was really bad at it. I ended up doing 40% of the work for 25 people and streamlining a bug scrubbing process in a far more efficient manner just to keep up. The result was that he asked me to document what I had done. So I did.

      Then he outsourced the entire team, and I got laid off. Then for reasons I could not possibly understand, refused to use anything I had documented, did his OWN version, which failed miserably. The QA process was completely botched, and under pressure of the marketing department, they released a version of the software that was so bug-ridden, it was an embarrassment for the company for years afterwards. He was let go, but not after receiving a golden parachute worth millions.

      Choice comment from him:

      “Who are these QA people and why are they so down on the product? I haven’t heard anything from a QA person that was positive about what worked in a product, only what didn’t. I don’t like negativity.”

        1. Kes*

          Right, could you demonstrate more clearly your lack of understanding of QA and its purpose and function, wow

      1. Observer*

        Choice comment from him:

        “Who are these QA people and why are they so down on the product? I haven’t heard anything from a QA person that was positive about what worked in a product, only what didn’t. I don’t like negativity.”

        Ha!

        I’d say that the problem has nothing to do with running a technical team and everything to do with being a shyster who wouldn’t understand the value of selling stuff that works no matter WHAT you said to him.

    8. Quinalla*

      Yes, we had someone take over as CEO and made a bunch of changes that resulted in a lot of in-fighting by basically pitting different groups against each other to compete for resources. He left after ~2 years and started his own company and tried to poach all the employees from our company too :( Luckily we were able to pivot with new leadership, but it honestly probably took ~4 years to undo the damage and start getting back to improving relations between different groups and feeling like one company again. Also, most folks that left with him either quit that job and went elsewhere or some came back to us.

    9. Elle Woods*

      A VP of my former employer left after about eight months. From the day he arrived until the day he left, he was full of nothing but hubris and bad ideas. He never bothered to try to learn the systems that were in place or how things were interconnected. It took a couple of years for the division to fix the damage he’d created both internally and externally.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      That happened at OldExjob. The parent company who bought them out hired an industry guy as VP to oversee OEJ and its sister company in another state. He fired and laid off these people at OEJ:
      1) the general manager — who, to be fair, was promoted from ops manager and wasn’t suited for the big chair but had a wealth of industry knowledge.
      2) the very best manager they had, who oversaw operations at their second plant. I think some of his people left in protest.
      3) the marketing person — he was part-time and they were going to consolidate this function at HQ anyway, so this one wasn’t a shock.
      4) me — my position as the sole clerical worker was completely eliminated.
      5) the sales manager, aka BullyBoss — this was the only one I agreed with.

      They didn’t replace me, but they hired an admin for the VP and split up my duties among the sales reps, who were NOT happy about it. I heard through the grapevine that it wasn’t great and soon after that, VP left.

      The company was sold again in 2018 and as of December 2021, the new owners moved its operations to Canada. OEJ no longer exists and neither do the jobs of around 60 people. :(

    11. DrRat*

      Oh, yeah. Worked for Highly Incompetent Clinical Research, Inc. The company was faltering because the leadership was so clueless. VP hated anyone else in the company with a Ph.D. because he didn’t want anyone else being called “Doctor” except him, people were literally hired on by employees voting on who they “liked” best instead of credentials, they hired a manager with no credentials who was (not kidding) fired from her last job as a kindergarten teacher for being too mean to the kids, but who wore a 34DD…just crazy incompetent. So as they were circling the drain, they sold out to a new CEO/owner who was Going to Turn Things Around. CEO said he had never had layoffs, and wasn’t going to start now!

      Yeah. Whole place was Nepotism Central. Employees were expected to contribute to an expensive gift for a CEO who bragged about his luxury car collection. His daughter was head of HR, his trophy wife was in charge of corporate charity, and they had an award for people who had no personal lives – again, not kidding, an award named for an employee who burned out and committed suicide, who was held up as a role model.

      CEO/owner kept his word, though! He didn’t lay anyone off! He stole two specialists and highly coveted equipment from us and took them to the headquarters, sold the company to someone else on that basis, walked away with a golden parachute, and the New Company laid us all off and closed our location, which of course was the plan all along.

    12. M&M Mom*

      At old job, high level employees brought in from” the outside” would rarely last over 2 years. Never really understood why. The culture was by no means terrible. They just never seemed to be the right fit.

    13. Cj*

      This thread is why I’m glad Alison decided to allow work stories and not just questions. There’s some interesting stuff here.

    14. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I have been with my company 5 years. In that time, our marketing department has had full turnovers 4 times, most recently just 6 months ago. It’s crazy! The disruptions and organization of the department keeps changing. We’ve had a lot of people get laid off or quit.

  5. Out of spite*

    I would get nothing done if not for spite.

    I was the first hire in my role at my old job, and grew the department to four people. Eventually I asked for a senior title, which was twice the standard in my field (most SMEs would become senior after ~3 years, but I had 6 years in that company, and 15 years overall). I wasn’t even asking for a raise, just the title. I showed them proof of my field’s standards, and pointed out that they had an identical structure in the overall R&D group (seniors, principals, etc.) which was the overarching department we were assigned to. They said no. I asked two years in a row at my gushing-of-praise year-end review, and also when we got a new department director. Still no. So I left.

    My new job gave me a ~70% raise (75k to 130k) to go with that senior title, and I just had my first (off-cycle) review. My new boss outlined a schedule to show me how to work my way to principal SME in 2 years, including the training I will need to take and the milestones I need to reach. I just got a corporate Amex to fund these trainings. 

    I finally feel like people respect me as an adult professional. All this happened because Old Company wouldn’t put the word “senior” in my e-mail signature.

    Anybody else succeed out of spite?

    1. Not a Spawn of Satan*

      Oh yes. My parents told me I wasn’t going to be able to get a bachelor’s degree. I graduated with a bachelor’s and am now working professionally.

    2. Spiteful studier*

      Not a work experience, but an academic one: In undergrad, I almost gave up on my honors thesis out of fear it was poorly designed until a sanctimonious relative (who was also a professor in my chosen field) told me that my research topic could never succeed. As soon as he told me I couldn’t do it, I knew I could. The thesis ended up winning 2nd place university-wide and I published a journal article based on it. I also got into a top tier grad school based largely on my thesis advisor’s recommendation and on that publication.

      Congrats on your success, Out of Spite! I’m sure you’ll continue to show ‘em.

    3. KofSharp*

      I got mad a guy with “more field experience than me” refused to listen to the client specific knowledge I had, to the point of making the client angry because his work was so bad.
      I created 90% of the process documents, and now my coworker and I maintain a single giant reference document that’s become the standard of information sharing for teams across the company.
      The guy didn’t listen to the written “HERE IS WHAT THE CLIENT SAYS, HERE IS THE EMAIL THE CLIENT SAID IT IN, HERE IS THE COMPREHENSIVE DOCUMENT.” And has since been fired for other misbehaviors…
      But I’ve now had 1 new hire and 2 interns prove my process documents are functional!

    4. SansaStark*

      Your first line really spoke to my soul.

      My old company and boss dragged their feet on giving me a promotion for Teapot Design Manager which I had been doing for a year. I had to go through a very long resume, cover letter, and interview process. Since I had to do that anyway, I applied for a couple external jobs, received interviews from almost all of them, an offer from 2. I accepted one of those offers. My boss was *shocked* that I wasn’t waiting around for his offer to maybe happen. The company I left for is a very well-respected company in my field. At one point, my boss mentioned something about my new Teapot Design Manager job and I had the delight of saying “oh, no, I’m not the Teapot Design Manager. That position actually reports to me. I’m the Senior Teapot Design Manager and oversee the whole team of teapots designs and managers.”

      I have never felt so validated and vindicated in my whole life and will be chasing that feeling forever.

    5. Migraine Month*

      Throughout college I applied to a number of jobs because I was so frustrated with the current workers not showing up or not knowing how to do their jobs. Not sure if it’s spite exactly, but I definitely had the thought, “Even I could do a better job than this person.”

    6. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I read your comment to fast and I thought the first sentence was I would get nothing done if not for SPRITE.” (as in the soda sprite)

      I was really confused until I re-read that first sentence! :)

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Not gonna lie, sometimes an ice-cold Sprite with a splash of pure cranberry juice is the only reason I get anything done. :)

    7. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      Spite is what keeps me alive most days, honestly. I wish that could be a joke. Most of my major life choices have been fueled by spite. I grew up in an extremely abusive setting where I was told every day I would never succeed, I would never escape my toxic little community, nothing I wanted to do was worth anything.

      So when I grew up, I moved across the country from my toxic little community and family, where I became highly successful in one of the very fields I was told wasn’t worth anything. The only thing that knocked me down out of that position was a series of health issues that took many years to repair (and were the result of long-term damage and denial of healthcare by my abusers growing up.) I’m being a little vague because I’m not sure if one of them might read this site, sorry. They’re very good at corrupting healthy messages to get away with their toxicity, so this is the sort of site they’d pat themselves on the back for reading, while twisting its positive messages into something awful.

      Less-vague, though, I’m in the process of another spite-fueled work path change! I’m in a dead-end job I absolutely hate that has nowhere to grow. Basically, just the sort of job I was told growing up would be the only thing I’d ever get hired for because I was so worthless. I’m determined to get out and prove my family wrong once again.

      And now I have an added layer of spite sustaining me: the guy who recommended this job to me. When I realized the position was a toxic go-nowhere zone and began the search again, he arrogantly told me that I wouldn’t find another job because the only reason this place hired me is on his recommendation. That’s entirely untrue, as the actual interview and hiring process showed, and it’s an such an insult to me. I can’t wait to wave my future offers in his face on my way to HR to put in my notice, moving on to something better while he spends the rest of his life hating his job here because he doesn’t have the courage to try for something else himself. I think people who tear down others because they don’t want to put in the work of building themselves up are among the worst. Like, my dude, if you hate your life, that’s on you. Don’t tell me I’m worthless to make yourself feel better. Get screwed.

      I’ve already got multiple promising leads, as well as a lead on starting my own small business with the knowledge and skills I learned through a lifetime of succeeding out of spite. So while I hate where I am, I’m optimistic for the future. :)

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        I’d like to add, one of my absolute favorite authors, Diane Duane, started writing her popular Wizards books (Young Wizards, Feline Wizards, etc.) out of spite against another author’s terrible writing for young people. You can spin some surprisingly beautiful things out of spite!

        1. Migraine Month*

          I’ve heard the story that the Seuss book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ was written to show how bad the current crop of beginning-reader children’s books was. (“Jane sees Spot. Run, Spot, Run.”) The reason it is so different than his other books is that he used the same constraints (only using a limited number of short, common words).

          I myself am far more inspired to write by bad writing than good writing.

          1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            I’ve never heard that about Green Eggs before! Spite is a magical tool in the right hands.

          2. Observer*

            It wasn’t spite – it was a specific attempt to prove a point about literacy in general and the Basel readers in particular.

    8. Elle Woods*

      My undergraduate advisor told me I should lower my standards and that a Research I institution would never admit me for graduate school. I not only got into the school of my dreams, I won a few awards for teaching and research while I was there!

    9. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Oh yes! About 5 years ago two of my for coworkers were terrible to me, cut me out of projects and training and said horrible things about me (and my kids) behind my back. I was laid off during a restructuring, they are still there and look like still in those same roles. I got a new job a few weeks ago, and you better believe I feel some great satisfaction that my salary is now double there’s.

    10. Girasol*

      Me too! An engineer at my first adult job said he would automate my menial task, a paperwork nightmare that I inherited from my predecessor. The guy kept talking down to me in such a sexist and condescending way about this wonderful app that he was going to write but never did. I was at the BEC stage when I asked if I could look at his manuals while he was on vacation. He said they were too complicated for a woman to understand but I could try if I really wanted. They were quite well written. I wrote my first app and had it running before he came back. I never want to see him again but I know that I have his snotty attitude to thank for starting a pretty successful career in IT.

    11. Spiteful PhD*

      I finished my PhD out of spite.

      My advisor seemed nice at the start, but it soon turned out that:
      1. She played favorites, and I was definitely not one of them.
      2. She was quick to gaslight people and throw them under the bus – for example in a 1-on-1 she told me to present data a certain way in an upcoming meeting, I wrote down what she wanted and presented it exactly as she’d told me to, during the presentation the approach was criticized (not constructively) and she openly agreed with the criticism and put the blame on me, then when I brought up that she’d told me to present the data that way in our next 1-on-1 she tried to say that she hadn’t done that and I was clearly misremembering what she’d told me to do.
      3. One of the male grad students in the group openly sexually harassed multiple female grad students, as well as multiple female undergrads. His behavior was brought to her attention and, instead of reporting it to the Title IX office, she tried to tell the recipients that they were imagining it. Even after he was reported by one of the recipients, she protected him, made excuses for him, and kept assigning him female undergrads to mentor/supervise.

      I almost walked away several times, but I knew that I needed my PhD to get the job I wanted, and my field was small enough that I’d probably never be accepted to another PhD program if I left. I also suspected that she wanted me to leave, and didn’t think I’d be able to push through and finish. So I stuck it out just to spite her. Now I’m in a great job, I recently received a promotion, and my company is sending me to trainings that will lead to further promotions.

    12. Lana Kane*

      I worked in a team for many years and was a SME in that team. I put off advancement opportunities because my son was very young and I had a full time remote role, which was rare at the time. A little bit before I decided I was ready to pursue other roles, my team was re-org’ed. The new dept heads knew nothing – like, nothing – about our roles. Then a supervisory role came up that would have supervised my team. I interviewed and had really good feedback, but the final decision was up to a manager who was in none of the interviews and picked one of her favorites. (I later learned I was the panel’s choice, but thew manager overrruled it). The person who got the role also knew nothing about my team.

      I would have understood losing out to someone who was as well-qualified as me, but this was just blatant favoritism. I realized I wasn’t going anywhere in this new department and applied for a lateral role elsewhere. I put in a couple of years learning on the job, and when a supervisor there left, I applied and got the job. I spent almost 4 years building a really good reputation that Old Dept was aware of because we’re related departments. Sometime later the manager who blocked me ran into some issues during a restructuring caused by staff complaints and lost all her reports. The person she picked for the job also was transitioned to a non-management role.

      I decided to move on from management and into an individual contributor role that was a great next step for my career. Now I’m in monthly cross-department meetings with Old Manager, working on high-level projects. She has not acknowledged me once – I don’t care about that, it only highlights to me that acting out of spite ain’t all bad :)

      (Interestingly, another person in Old Manager’s department who had been around for a long time also applied for the same role I did, and never even got an interview. He left soon after and his career has also progressed dramatically – and visibly).

    13. LittleMarshmallow*

      Haha! I don’t think I do it in my work life as much as my home life… I will not be defeated by crafts! I do so many fiber and textile crafts (and I do them well). My first experience with spinning was fraught with frustration (I hadn’t eaten dinner and it was after a long work day). My friend that had talked me into taking the class was sure I wouldn’t want to continue but instead I grumpily said “so when is the next class” after we finished that one. I now do lace spinning and love it. I’m still not as good at it as I am with some of my other crafts but I was not about to be defeated by a spinning wheel!

      My current one is autocad… I’m determined to learn to use that stupid program for work… it’s so hard! I have zero spacial reasoning skills so trying to figure out what plane I’m in is just so confusing to me! It’s not intuitive for me at all!

      1. Cj*

        I can relate to your spatial reasoning issue. Wherever I have to take a test, I do really well on the verbal and math skills, but the spatial reasoning questions are my downfall.

        I’ve had to take such tests for a couple of jobs I applied to. What spatial reasoning has to do with tax preparation I have no idea.

    14. Shocker*

      Instead of opening a GM position, my old company hired a political buddy, someone with no experience (literally none. In a heavily regulated field. I have 20 years). When i asked why, my boss said it was a “24/7 job.” I had worked 24/7 for them anyway. I quit three weeks later and started a competing business. Then the other excellent, tenured employee left. I’m succeeding, and shock of all shocks, they are flailing with no experience in the building.

    15. Striped Sandwiches*

      I don’t suppose you’re able to share this SME pathway please? My company is struggling with this. They’ve got the executive track down pat but not the SME track.

  6. darlingpants*

    I have an intern starting Monday and I feel unprepared. She has a well defined project that should take her the entire summer, and HR has programs for the interns to meet with senior leadership and take seminars and stuff. Any tips or advice for how to make this interesting and engaging for her while not totally burning me out?

    1. ABBBK*

      Set up daily 15 min check ins for undergrad, 2-3X/week for grad intern. Invite her to any departmental meetings/events and give her a list of leaders she should meet with within your department. If she has a good project and HR is taking care of fun events, you should be pretty set!

      1. TechGirlSupervisor*

        If you don’t have time for a daily meeting, is there someone who reports to you who would like an opportunity to mentor? I work in software and we have new co-op students pretty much every 4 months. I have found great success in having one (or more) of the junior / intermediate developers do the daily check-ins and that allows me to do a weekly/bi-weekly meeting with the student. I’ve even split up the sort of things that people like to help out with. I have one person that likes helping with navigating all the company tools (timesheets, HR processes, etc.) and a couple others that want to help oversee actual code development and serve as a go-to person for the student. My helpers get stretch goals and recognition on their performance reviews and the co-op students get a peer mentor to go to.

    2. Antilles*

      It seems like you’re in good shape already, to be honest. The mere existence of “a well defined project” and “HR programs for interns to do” already puts you well ahead of a lot of internships (most?). So good news, you’re already much better prepared than you might realize.
      But beyond that, I think the biggest thing you can do is just to help introduce her on the first couple days so she feels comfortable and gets to know people. And then just try to keep tabs on her – ask her how she’s enjoying the work, ask her if there’s anything else the company does that she’d like to be involved in, etc.

    3. hamsterpants*

      Set clear guidelines with her for when she should come to you for input vs figuring something out for herself (or waiting for the next check-in). Set some reasonable milestones/checkpoints for the project and what success will look like for each one. Set expectations for how she will learn new things, e.g. coursework, talking to you. Set expectations for how much she will have to take records, and of what — for example, if you are training them on a complicated system, be clear that you expect them to take notes so they can do it themselves next time. Or if she nails something, does she need to save the tracking number? Etc.

    4. bosben*

      It’s great that you have a well defined project. One thing I would recommend is coming up with some backups or little things for the intern to do. Sometimes with uninterrupted time, projects take less time than you think for an intern or they get stuck waiting for feedback or time with a stakeholder. When I was an intern, I kept getting bored/waiting, so now I give my interns their priority “must do” projects plus other “like to have” projects that they can fill time with. These projects are usually things I want to do but never get time to work on. My goal for intern work load is to provide them more than they could possibly achieve, rather than “should” fill the summer. If you prep this list ahead of time, they could just move on to the work without needing your constant intervention. Then if they get to the “like to have” work, its a win for you and them. If they don’t, no impact to you! Good luck.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        In addition to this, expose your intern to other areas of the work you do. We have a civil engineering intern assigned to one engineer, mainly doing calculations and basic engineering tasks; but we’ve taken her out on field work, including working in traffic and sewer manholes. We’ve taken her out to do soil samples. We’ve taken her out to sample industrial users. Next week, she gets (has?) to ride along for some grease interceptor inspections.

    5. Alexis Rosay*

      Create a shared Google doc for the intern to record questions in. For the first 2 weeks, check in with them 1x/day (or have *someone* check in with them) and go over all the questions they’ve added to the document since your last meeting. That will support them while also keeping you from getting interrupted too frequently. After the first two weeks, decrease the frequency of meetings to 2-3 times per week, and then to 1x/week later in the internship.

      Ask them to set up 30-min 1:1s with everyone on your team/everyone their project might interface with within the first two weeks.

      If appropriate, invite them to observe meetings so they can get a sense of how the office runs and what people work on, even if they aren’t necessarily participating in the meeting.

      1. talos*

        Your second paragraph is a very good suggestion. Would really have helped me in my internship.

    6. Meow*

      When I was an intern, one thing I surprisingly loved was not just that my team invited me to team meetings, but to meetings with vendors, other teams, etc. This way I was able to able to absorb a lot about a how both the company and the industry worked in general, even if the contents of the meeting wasn’t directly related to what I was working on.

      This might depend on the personality of the intern though. I was perfectly happy with listening and absorbing, but I could see it also being a problem if your intern wants to ask questions about anything or insert their opinions on things that aren’t relevant to their work.

    7. talos*

      Especially if she’s virtual, make sure she’s getting invited to meetings, asked to introduce herself, and introduced to good networking contacts (potential managers for after she graduates, people further along her potential career path, the long-time employee with the best stories, etc.).

    8. Nesprin*

      Ask her to setup meetings with other people at your level to talk about what they do/career path. Put together a stack of things for her to read if she gets stuff done too quickly. Ask around for other low level outsource-able tasks so she gets to work for lots of people on lots of things.

    9. darlingpants*

      I was thinking it would be more like a “while you weren’t here, I was working with Joaquina on project X, and I’ve been really impressed and think she really deserves a promotion during this cycle.” But I will take all your advice and not do it (or at the very least ask her if she wants me to put in a good word)! Thanks for the gut check!

    10. Martin Crief*

      One thing I did was make her write a 1 page summary weekly report: Achievements, problems, plans for next week, documents (including source code) created and their location. I had to nag her a few times to get this done, but I think she found it a great help when describing her experience and what she learned. It probably was very useful when assembling her CV after she finished university and wanted a professional job. It is a loss to our organisation that she made it clear that her horizons were larger than our company had to offer.

    11. LittleMarshmallow*

      Maybe you already know this… but I once got exit interview feedback from my intern that introducing her as the intern and then her name instead of vice versa (this is our intern Jane vs this is Jane our intern) made her feel like I didn’t view her as a person. It stung because I loved having her as my intern and had no idea she had taken issue with me as her supervisor. That particular phrasing would absolutely not bother me (unless someone used the wrong title or something) so I never even considered that it might be viewed as dehumanizing to someone else. I probably don’t do this perfectly but I do now make an effort to introduce someone by their name first then any title info after.

      Interns are sort of the bottom rung on the ladder so I guess little things like that can go a long way with them.

    12. linger*

      The project is well-defined; but who defined it? If it’s something defined within the company without input from the intern’s academic programme, then some initial discussion may be needed to establish how far it matches this individual intern’s specific skill levels, and what areas of training or ongoing feedback may be needed as a result of any mismatches.

  7. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Wish me luck! Reviews are today! My boss says my work is fine again but the new forms are 17 pages long and I’m not good at working in general. Hope I get a raise

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

      Good Luck!!! SEVENTEEN PAGES! Sorry, but that sounds ridiculous. I thought the 5 pages I have to fill out were 3 pages too long.

    2. GlazedDonut*

      Good luck! I had a 45 min interim performance with my boss recently (everyone else just had side-comments in other standing meetings, not separate meetings). Of course I was nervous–why does she need 45 min?! It turns out she wanted 45 min to talk about development further for the next level.
      One of those “my boss says my work is fine but…” and I was nervous over nothing. Hope it goes well!

  8. Dark Macadamia*

    I’m applying to a couple school districts where the app lets you apply for both general subject pools for future openings AND specific current jobs. How should I handle the cover letter? There’s a listing right now that would be a perfect fit and I want my application to reflect that, but then if other jobs open up they’re going to see the same cover letter. Is it obnoxious to email the specific school with a brief “hey I applied and I really want THIS job” message as a supplement to a more generic “hire me anywhere in the district” cover letter?

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I’m in Ireland and our system is different but I don’t see a problem with “I would be particularly interested in…” It’s not unusual here for somebody who applied for a specific job and was unsuccessful to be contacted some time later and asked “are you still available as we are looking for something else now?” I’ve been called to cover sick leaves, etc in schools I applied for permanent jobs in.

    2. GlazedDonut*

      I’d do a generic cover letter re: your license area/what you’re looking for. Then, I’d follow up to schools with a more specific cover letter + resume.

  9. Marigold*

    And advice for keeping it together at work when you’re not in a good place emotionally? I lost my beloved cat two weeks ago. I won’t get into details but it was not a good or gentle death. So I am dealing with grief with a side of trauma, not sleeping well, struggling to concentrate, etc. My boss is not super supportive. For context, several years ago, when she was my grandboss, one of my cats passed away and her response was “well, it’s not like it was a person.” I have a vacation planned in July and it’s hard for me to take time off between now and then because we’re pretty short staffed. So how do I manage to not totally screw up at work with very little understanding from my boss about why I am not operating at 100% and honestly probably won’t be for awhile?

    1. Dasein9*

      Oh, I’m sorry about your cat.
      Maybe something along the lines of this statement will work?

      “A traumatic event in my personal life has left me shaken up and I may not be 100% for a bit. I’m working on the issue and doing my best to prevent this affecting anyone else.”

      1. Nesprin*

        This article is great, and so sorry you’re going through this.

        Something I find valuable is mentally separating thriving weeks from surviving weeks- and remembering that you get judged by how well you exceed in the thriving weeks. In the surviving weeks, your goal is to do what absolutely has to get done and no more.

    2. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I think the link may have gotten eaten by the spam filter (sorry if this is a duplicate post) but Captain Awkward has a great post about this called “How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed” and I go back to it all the time. I’m really sorry about your cat – that happened to me too last year and it was awful.

    3. Just Another Cog*

      I’m so sorry about your sweet cat. Um, yes, pets are like people in our lives, especially when we lose them. Your boss is a jerk.

      I don’t have any specific tips for you, except be good to you during this time of grieving.

      Hugs.

    4. Fellow cat lover*

      Marigold, I’m so sorry about your cat. I think really taking time to grieve outside of work and leaning on the emotional support of people who understand your loss might help you keep it together in the office. It’s also okay not to be at 100% at work right now—think about what low-priority tasks might be less visible to your boss, and maybe let those slide for a bit. Take care of yourself. <3

    5. June 10*

      Sorry about your cat :(

      I’d not mention it at work at all if your boss won’t be understanding. Call a supportive friend and have a chat with them, and then say nothing in the office.

      Easier said than done, I know. Good luck and I hope your vacation helps with healing after your loss.

    6. Not Pickwick, Just a Dodo*

      I have a lot of sympathy for you! I am also struggling personally and having trouble keeping it buttoned up at work. I would suggest an unplanned sick day. This can be your grieving day, but you can always blame allergies or a stomach bug if you have a nosy workplace. Allowing yourself a day to yourself may help immensely, even if it means more work when you get back.
      July is a long time away if you need a little breathing room NOW. After all, isn’t that what sick days are for?
      One sick day will not give you an opportunity to come back at 100%, but it may give you just enough meatal break that you can come back in a better space.
      I wish I had some good tools to suggest, but all I have is deep breathing and crying in the bathroom at my disposal. I also rage to my very best friend, but again, not a great tool.
      Good luck and I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved cat.

    7. ferrina*

      Fake it when you can, and when you can’t, give your boss a plausible excuse that she will be better at. My go to is “I have a killer headache and I’m still waiting for the pain meds to kick in.” Cut down on time that you need to be around your boss- find ways to be in more meetings (with kinder people), or work from home, or just happen to be grabbing coffee at the time that your boss tends to stop by your desk (“so sorry I missed you!”). Move your communication to email, which is easier to fake being chipper! With exclamation marks! See, I used an exclamation mark so I’m fine and you won’t think of being cruel to me and hopefully you’ll just leave me alone!!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your cat <3 Much love to you

      1. Marigold*

        This is really helpful, actually. She already tends to dodge me when I need her for things so It’s actually pretty easy to communicate almost 100% by email (we don’t even work at the same location every day) and it is *much* easier to fake being functional via email.

    8. Don’t put metal in the Science Oven*

      I’m so sorry. I agree not mentioning it specifically at work as your boss is not a safe person for that reveal. There are pet loss support hotlines that might have some suggestions bc they hear,”It’s not like it was a person,” all the time. The University of California at Davis has an excellent hotline. And maybe they’re just the ones to call for a quick workday help.

    9. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      I don’t have any good advice, but I am so livid at your boss! The last time someone told me, “It’s not like it’s was a person” over losing one of my pets, I just snapped and replied, “Yeah, she was far more important than any human I’ve ever met” and just gave her a hard glare before looking back down at my work. I think she picked up on the unstated “specifically, YOU” because instead of pressing me like she normally would have, she walked away very quickly and never brought it up again. In the moment, it did actually help me feel a little better, though I can’t say I’d recommend it if the other person is especially volatile.

    10. J*

      I am so sorry to hear about your cat. I know I was a mess when I lost a pet and I tried to power through and years later I still regret I made that decision. I’m reading a book about grief from Megan Devine and it really emphasizes how little people want to deal with grief. I had a tragic sudden familial loss last year and people gave me more workplace accommodations for a migraine I had than my grieving. Grieving is normal and important! So I think recognizing the problem is them, and not you, is a really important step. There might be tiers of grief but I don’t think that is your boss’s job to figure out and it is insulting they would take that attitude.

      That said, things that help me at work are to schedule moments of sadness. I used to have a whole goodbye routine with my dog and after her death I’d get to work and then just feel that emptiness in my day. So I started having my first 30 minutes be “email time” where I could shut the door, slowly get through emails, listen to music to match my mood, drink tea, etc. I could be semi-productive, cry if I needed a moment, and help acknowledge I was indeed feeling sad. If I could do it again, I’d emphasize to team members and bosses how I was finding myself stressed for various personal and professional reasons (and dealing with a nonempathetic boss fits this) and in order to prevent burnout, I am choosing to engage in more conscious self care which might mean a slower turnaround on projects, fewer meetings in a day, etc. You have a vacation in July and can say that when you return you’ll revisit what you can handle. That’s what, 6 weeks? Frankly you deserve more but that can get people off your back.

      I’ll also emphasize reading Megan Devine’s book or instagram page. You are going to be distracted. Reading comprehension will be down. Those are normal in grief. Consider this a workplace accommodation like if you needed a boot on your foot and had to limit off-site lunch meetings or travel. Don’t downplay your needs or put your work first. Find a way to take care of yourself after hours too. I’m really so sorry you are facing the loss of your pet and the struggle to have empathy from a boss too.

    11. Firm Believer*

      I just wanted to say I’m so very sorry about what you are going through. One year ago almost exactly I lost my cat in a way that was also neither good nor gentle and I dealt with crushing grief and trauma. Please try to remember how much love you shared and replace the negative thoughts with lovely memories. Plain and simple it’s going to take some time for you to get to a better head space. Often times losing a pet is harder than losing a human because that little being is part of your daily routine and completely relies on you. And it doesn’t help that society at large tends to regards cats in a lesser way than dogs. I know this wasn’t your question but I share your pain. If you can see a trauma therapist please do so. In regards to work, you aren’t going to change your bosses attitude but I would try to use work as a distraction and normalcy if you can. That’s a common suggestion from grief therapists. One thing that also helped a little – and I know this is wacky – but talking to a pet medium. I don’t know if it was legit or not but she knew things she couldn’t have known and was able to help me understand that he went through pain but that it wasn’t my fault and he was so happy where he is now. Good luck in your healing.

    12. Ashloo*

      I wouldn’t tell this person it was a cat since they’ve shown their insensitivity in the past. If anything, maybe “I lost a dear friend recently.” But also, world circumstances have been SO traumatizing for awhile now – can you say it’s all just caught up to you or your finding *gestures broadly* distressing? Or nothing at all; will she even notice?

    13. Marvel*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! Sometimes people who have never had pets (or never really bonded to the pets they did have) just Do Not Get It, and that seriously sucks to be on the receiving end of. I honestly can’t improve on the suggestions above, though I will second that obfuscating and blaming “headaches” or “not sleeping well” is probably better than trying to be honest. This person does not deserve your honesty! And she doesn’t have to understand or accept your grief for it to be real. This is a HER problem, not a you problem.

      I’m so sorry about your cat. I hope their spirit finds peace.

    14. beach read*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Does your company offer an EAP? Perhaps there are some resources available that could help? Support group? Perhaps talk with your Dr? In any case, hang in there and take one day at a time. During non-work hours get rest and relaxation as best as possible to shore yourself for the workday.

    15. Gatomon*

      First, it’s okay to not be okay! I lost a pet a few months ago and then my mom, so… I am not okay. Even at moments when I feel normalish, I’m not functioning at my usual level. (Just made a massive ugly mistake this week in fact that I think I might’ve caught had I been in a better place so… yeah.) Please be gentle on yourself, even if others aren’t.

      Some things that help me:
      – slowing down… trying to work at my normal speed causes me to make more mistakes
      – frequent breaks (just get up and walk around for a minute or two, freshen your drink, savor a bit of fruit or chocolate or just breath deeply)
      – taking on less critical work – if someone else can do x, let them, focus on what you must do and nothing more. It’s not the time to push yourself. If boss won’t reassign tasks then just try not to volunteer yourself, if you can
      – take a mental health day or afternoon here or there, migraines or other transitory illness work well if your office isn’t enlightened :)
      – asking a trusted coworker for a second set of eyes or a bit of help, if that makes sense in your job
      – checklists! Break larger projects into smaller tasks and distribute by day. Or if you have a certain procedure you do frequently, having a checklist to refer to, even if you don’t normally need it, will give you some confidence and a feeling of success while also keeping your focus
      – it’s a great time to try and do documentation or other small tasks as a break from harder stuff
      – comfort when you’re not working: maybe it’s time to try grocery delivery or food delivery or a laundry service. Or just sign up for an extra streaming service, pick up new books, make plans to enjoy a fun weekend, etc. whatever it is that will either lift things off your plate outside of work or help you feel better – do it

  10. Should I Apply? needs a new name*

    I’m about a 1.5 months into a new job at a new company. The organization’s management style is pretty hands off, meaning there is some general direction on what to work on, but it’s up to me to figure out the details. In my previous roles that style hasn’t been an issue, but with this new role I’m feeling lost.

    I’m really struggling to get started, I’ve been procrastinating a lot. Which makes me feel bad about myself, which demotivates me from working. So what are your best tips for breaking out of a procrastination / shame spiral?

    1. kiki*

      I’m a fellow procrastinator. Through therapy, I’ve been able to identify that I procrastinate worst when I’m scared or unsure about how to do something. I’ve heard that this is one of the most common reasons to procrastinate.

      One usual mental trick I’ve been playing is to require me to look into something for 20 minutes each day. My biggest blocker is feeling too overwhelmed and intimidated to get started and then feeling like I have to commit to blazing through something for 8 hours straight. When I look at something for 20 minutes, I realize that I do have questions and should ask for guidance and/or end up just diving in and feeling confident that I can do another 20 minutes of work on it.

      I also realized I was holding my self to perfectionistic standards of what a “good” workday would look like. In my head, I pictured the ideal standard workday being me working at full steam for 8 hours, which isn’t actually attainable most days. Now, I have some mantras I repeat to myself to help me get back on course. My favorite is “It’s never too late to do your best.” Another common one is, “Just get something on the page. It’s easier to edit something than start from nothing.”

      1. kiki*

        Also remember that a successful workday isn’t just about producing deliverables, especially when you’re new. Thinking about something and realizing you need to ask someone a question is productive. Trying (and even failing) to figure something out still counts as productive. Spending a whole day trying to figure something out and getting to a dead-end is still a productive work day. Yes, in theory companies are paying you to get things done, but on a day-to-day basis in practice they’re paying you to spend your time figuring things out. Don’t punish yourself for doing things imperfectly in the beginning. Don’t hold yourself so much to perfection standard of execution that you don’t get started. Be thoughtful, but in my experience 9/10 times it works out better to try doing something imperfectly early and get feedback on it than to wait until you feel like you can execute something perfectly.

      2. Olivia*

        Ooooh I have ADHD and I think I’m going to use this. It can be hard to start something when I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. But deciding to maybe spend 20 minutes looking into sounds doable, and then the next day I can take the next step based on that, whether it’s more investigating or emailing someone or whatever.

    2. TheOtherJennifer*

      Do you have some colleagues in a similar role you can reach out to? I set up short 1:1 with a variety of colleagues in different regions just to introduce myself and get a sense of their day to day and identify who would be the best go to person for a certain situation. My HR has a “buddy” policy which was invaluable for the first couple of months – just getting the lay of the land and where to find things.

    3. I Need a 9 Hour Nap*

      You sound like me! I’m regretting my latest career move because I’m directionless but I’m expected to perform a job that requires direction from up top. I’ve started reaching out to people with matching job titles and asking for some time to go over tips, tricks, and ways to add value. It’s been really helpful. My boss wanted a Chief Lama Groomer but doesn’t really know what they do so it’s been on me to figure it out.

      The procrastination is hard. I currently keep a written list of projects and when they’re due. If I’m tired or unmotivated I work on something else for an hour before coming back to the more urgent stuff. It helps a little bit.

    4. ferrina*

      Oh man, I lived this hell recently! I had no training and no guidance, and I was supposed to define my role and set my goals without having any real information or authority. It was the worst, and it did not go well (ultimately there was a happy ending).

      Some thoughts- it’s not just you, and it’s not just this job. Pandemic fatigue is real, and many of us are so emotionally and mentally tapped out after the last few years that even things that we’re good at have gotten really hard. If you are feeling exhausted/finding yourself procrastinating in other aspects of your life, it could be a sign of depression- you can chat with your regular doctor to learn more (many doctors have brushed up on their knowledge of depression and anxiety in the last couple years)
      Lower your expectations for a couple weeks. Give yourself a break from shame. Do the bare minimum, and spend time on the things that you love and do feel motivated by, even if they aren’t supposed to be top priority.
      Pomodoro. Set your timer and spend 25 minutes on the thing. That’s it. Procrastinating is often about not starting the thing, and the pomodoro technique gets you started. Sometimes that’s all you need to kick yourself into gear, and if it’s not, that’s fine! Slog through 25 minutes, then reward yourself.
      And give yourself some love and grace. You wouldn’t criticize a friend for being in your shoes, so show that same compassion to yourself.

    5. Emm*

      I agree with kiki that I tend to procrastinate out of fear of failure. When starting an intimidating project, I find it helpful to write it into a to-do list and break it down into as many steps as possible. Then I get the satisfaction of completing a task from something as simple as drafting an email or reading a document, and it helps motivate me, knowing that I can tackle the rest of the work bit by bit.

    6. Anon (and on and on)*

      Fellow procrastinator, here! I definitely struggle in situations where there is little structure and no clear deadlines.

      One trick I use to get myself started is to ask myself the question, “IF I were to get started on this, what is the first thing I would do?” The “if” is really important because it allows me to think about a task objectively and hypothetically. Almost always, the first step is “open the file and look at it,” so I commit to doing that and ONLY that. Once I’m reading something, I usually find myself working on it a little, and once I’m actually working on it, it’s like the dam breaks and I can get myself moving.

      1. Anon (and on and on)*

        Also, maybe there are structural things going on with this job. I find that I get so caught up with my shame spiral that I don’t even consider this, or practical things which could actually help my situation! Are you really clear on what you SHOULD be working on? What are your work goals? How should you be prioritizing? Do you have a good sense of how the company functions? How the teams interact with each other? How it brings it’s products to market or otherwise makes money?

        My guess is, you don’t have a good understanding of these things, because you’ve only been there a short time and someplace as hands off as you’ve described probably doesn’t have an amazing onboarding program, either. So, what about working on that? Treat LEARNING as a top work goal! I work in HR and support onboarding and performance management in my company and this is what I recommend. Actually take time each week to schedule meetings with people to understand their jobs, read about the company, learn the history. And take time at your 1:1s with your manager to ask questions. That’s all valid work-time, and it might help your more task-oriented work come more easily because you’ll have some much-needed context.

    7. Quinalla*

      I do procrastinate sometimes. Breaking down whatever I’m trying to do into small or tiny tasks usually helps, the suggestion above about asking what the first thing I would do on something is a good one. They just do ONE thing. If you can do ONE thing and for me I like to check it off in some way that is satisfying, often that will help me feel motivated to do another thing. If I really, really cannot get started on the project I really should be working on, I’ll say ok I’ll knock out “less intimidating task” that takes say 20-30 minutes and then come back to the other project. Sometimes getting ANYTHING done helps push past the procrastination.

      Also, is there a peer you can bounce ideas off of to get started? Or a mentor? That helps as well sometimes. Good luck!

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      Oh, I’ve been in that spiral so often. Some things that might help:

      1) Even if there’s little direction, there may be some priorities. Check in with your manager to figure out what their priorities are for your work. Use their priorities to guide you on what you start with first.
      2) Break each priority down into smaller things: “format the columns of the spreadsheet” or “ask Wakeen for the numbers from last quarter.” Be specific: you could have “find a tutorial on de-duping a spreadsheet,” “watch the de-duping tutorial,” and “de-dupe the spreadsheet” as separate steps. This means that all you have to do is look at that list of steps to figure out what to do next. Not having a huge project in front of you, but a bunch of small tasks, is much less overwhelming.
      2) a) If you don’t have a good enough understanding yet of a Big Thing To Do to be able to break it down into smaller things, a good place to start is to just randomly jot down stuff that could be a part of it. You can do this on post-it notes, and as you get more of them, you can start arranging them in an order that makes sense, filling in spaces between steps, etc.
      3) Do a small, easy task! The dopamine burst you get when you check something off the list is often enough to get you to start the next task, and it builds up.

    9. Mouse*

      If your office situation allows, focusmate.com can be a huge help for procrastination. Specifically for me, deadlines/scheduling and accountability — I have to show up (video call) at the time I scheduled and have something in mind to work on and report progress at the end of the session.

      Other tricks I’ve used:
      “Step one, open the file.” I might just sit and stare at it, but there’s a good chance that looking at the work will start some thoughts moving.

      Talking to myself on paper, basically rubber-duck debugging to try to get some thoughts down and in some kind of order.

      A “done” list, to keep visibility on what I actually have done, not just the endless looming ToDos. As other people have said, thinking/troubleshooting/etc. counts as doing, (Bonus, it also tends to snap me out of blank periods when I can see nothing is happening on the Done list.) My particular Done list comes with sparkly stickers. :)

      1. kiki*

        I’m also a software engineer. After I read this, I wrote “Step 1: Open the file.” on a sticky note. It’s so simple, but too often I get so overwhelmed by the bigger project, that I don’t even get to that step before I panic (and then want to self-soothe by doing anything but solving the problem).

        1. Mouse*

          Awesome, glad it’s helpful. And yep, that’s exactly the path my squirrel brain takes if I can’t rein it in.

          I also realized (since I just did this) that one of my more recent tricks is recognizing when I’ve made a genuine attempt and the focus just isn’t there. Then I can switch to 20 minutes of emails or tidying or something else productive that takes less brain, instead of continuing to stare at the thing that isn’t happening. Sometimes that’s enough to reset, or at least to plan for when I’ll try again.

    10. LittleMarshmallow*

      Sorry you’re struggling. I’m a procrastinator at home but usually don’t have issue at work with it so I don’t have good advice, but I wanted to say that your story serves as a good reminder: people that have newbies on their team… check on your newbies for at least the first three to six months or so (all levels… especially below and equal to you – but sometimes even a manager – don’t leave that solely up to their managers – there are way too many incompetent managers out there for that)! They might be overwhelmed and need a little direction and coaching until they get into the groove! If they still feel new to you it’s probably still ok to check on them.

  11. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Petty rant about annoying application processes.

    I’m looking for a new job in a relatively senior, niche, non-technical position. So far I’ve seen applications that have asked for:

    – A writing sample (in a field where anything produced on the job would be confidential) in addition to a cover letter. Isn’t my cover letter the best demonstrating of my writing?

    – A recorded pre-interview video screen so I can “tell them about myself”

    and best of all:
    – An assignment to listen to some corporate blowhard talking for 20 minutes, then answer questions about what he’s talking about. They asked candidates to take 3 hours on the assignment. Again, this is a listening comprehension test for a senior position! And part of the initial application, before I’ve learned anything about the job!

    On the other hand, I’m also engaged in hiring processes that simply asked for a resume and cover letter, and will ask for additional information in interviews or as they need it later in the process. The best process I’ve seen is (again, for a senior, well-paid position) that went: simple application, panel interview 1, panel interview 2, conversation with hiring manager to talk about nitty-gritty details of the role, pre-offer reference and background checks, offer. I’m still in the “pre-offer check” phase but even if I don’t get it, this is the best hiring process I’ve ever been part of.

    What are your application/hiring process annoyances?

    1. Princess Xena*

      Anything requiring me to record video and audio. I don’t have media training or good software/hardware. Extra special bonus points for anyone using AI analysers on the video.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I tried to do a pre-recorded video for one job and it went so terribly that I will never do it again.

        Mine is those annoying personality / logic-math tests with oodles of questions that have nothing to do with the job. They’re useless and potentially discriminatory.

    2. irene adler*

      Encountered a very long multiple choice ‘quiz’ that seemed it wouldn’t end. I quit at about the 50 question mark. This ‘quiz’ gave no indication of how many questions there were or how far along I was. It was a lot of personal values questions (“Is it okay to take home a pen from work?” Answers: Never; Sometimes; Maybe; Once in a While, Always).
      Figured they’d lose my application since I didn’t complete the ‘quiz’. Nope. Got called for an interview. Which I did (absolutely no mention of the incomplete ‘quiz’). Then crickets after that.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      All the applications I’m doing right now require you to provide three references before you can even submit the app (or in some cases, work on the following pages/view what else you’ll need!). Your application isn’t considered complete until ALL your references have returned a form. For a general applicant pool of potential future openings!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Oh goodness! I’m used to supplying the names of my references upfront, but asking them to submit a reference check before you’ve even applied is ludicrous.

    4. Boba Feta*

      Part of me wants you to engage in some delicious malicious compliance for the writing sample request and just upload a document that has everything except your name redacted with those TV/movie- style black bars, but of course if you actually care about that job maybe don’t do that…

    5. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Everything except the writing sample is way off base, especially for just the application!

      Although a cover letter can show good writing skills, it may not show the type of skills they are looking for. It sounds like they want something very specific for your field/ this position. They probably want to see more skills that a cover letter doesn’t show.

      I know you said that the field is confidential but could you make up something? So for example if you work in social work could you make a fake notes about a made up client. Or if the job is grant writing could you make up a fake grant proposal. Use the skills that you would normally use but just have fake info. Just make sure that you explain that this is a mock version of what you would normaly do since your field is confidential.

      If it was just asking for a writing sample along with cover letter and resume I would say that it is an inconvenience to have to write something up or find something that would work. But with everything else (a 3 hour assignment!) run for the hills!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Could I write something just to submit as a writing sample? Absolutely

        Am I interested in spending the time and effort to do so? Absolutely not. For a job that requires 7 years of experience and will have a lengthy interview process, that’s just one thing I’m not willing to do!

        1. Migraine Month*

          Reminds me of a company that asked me to apply for an open software developer position, even though I had no experience in the language they used. Which is pretty normal; learning a new software language requires a few months of ramp-up time, but it’s usually worth it if the developer is any good.

          Except they wouldn’t even accept the application *they had solicited from me* without completing a project in the language I didn’t yet know.

    6. Migraine Month*

      It wasn’t so much annoying as funny, but during an interview for a software developer position, they gave me a questionnaire that asked–among a number of general questions about computer skills–how good I was at machining parts and whether I could easily build a device based on blueprints. Neither of which are a typical part of software engineering.

      Which meant that, halfway through the interview, I had to ask the interviewer which job they thought I was applying for. Apparently corporate had decreed that every applicant had to take the assessment, no matter how irrelevant it was.

    7. Marvel*

      I suspect the thing about asking for a writing sample in addition to the cover letter reflects how bad most people are at writing cover letters! Even people who are otherwise decent writers. I would also find that maddening, though.

      Personally, I won’t apply for anything that requires me to record myself on video. It’s discriminatory in multiple ways, it doesn’t give them any information about you they won’t get at the interview phase anyway, and it’s a LOT of work upfront before they’ve invested anything in you whatsoever. Maybe for some people this seems “easier” than writing a cover letter? Am I the odd one out? No idea. But I hate it and I refuse to do it.

      Also, positions that ask for a resume… and then ALSO require you to enter all of your recent jobs, volunteer experience, etc. into their online application. Bonus points if required fields include information that is 1) irrelevant and 2) I can’t provide because my industry simply doesn’t work like that. Major bonus points if there’s a note that says “do not put SEE RESUME.” I usually put it anyway. Why even ask for a resume if you want me to enter a separate, detailed job history?

      1. Princess Xena*

        For cover letter vs writing sample, it would make a little sense if they’re looking for how well you write highly technical things, or if they’re worried about people stealing cover letters (which we’ve seen here before). But if it’s common that writing would be confidential that should be a later stage, potentially paid task rather than an introductory task.

    8. onyxzinnia*

      Annoying pattern matching/math/vocabulary tests as part of the hiring process for a senior manager role. Because I’m totally going to need to identify errant triangles when talking to customers.

      Nothing else too crazy thus far, several requests for short PPT strategy presentations.

      I think my main annoyance is endless rounds of interviews, I’ve been averaging 6-8 rounds per company.

  12. Rayray*

    I think I posted recently about having a job interview.

    I didn’t get the job but the interviewer told the talent acquisition that I’d be a good fit for the company so they pulled up a couple other positions. To be honest, I was disappointed and it did feel like a bad consolation prize. However, I decided to try to be a good sport and give it a shot. I interviewed for another position yesterday and I am feeling good about it. This is an organization that I’ve been really interested in for a long time. I am currently in the mortgage industry so layoffs have happened and it’s so unstable. I also just don’t love my job and I hate my commute and I hate even more spending almost $50 a week just on gas.

    I should hear back next week. Appreciate any good vibes you can send my way :)

      1. Rayray*

        Thanks! I’m glad to hear this has worked out for so many people. I did ask the “Magic Question” which the interviewer liked and I feel like it does align with my experience better than the other one. My friend who works there told me the company is very supportive on helping people grow their careers and get where they want to be which is awesome.

    1. Rose*

      Good luck! I have also gotten a job this way. Do not look at it as a consolation prize – they wanted you enough that they found another position for you! That says GOOD things about you! There are a multitude of possible reasons as to why they did not hire you for the original position you interviewed for – likely had nothing to do with you specifically. But they liked you enough that they found a place for you.

      1. Rayray*

        Thank you for that. I think it was initially he’s to take that rejection but I am
        Hopeful that things will work out for the best. I actually really liked the woman I interviewed with and I was able to find reviews on Glassdoor from people in the same position and all had 5 star ratings.

    2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      This is how my spouse got his current job! It can work out! Fingers crossed for you!

    3. Purple Cat*

      Good luck!
      Definitely don’t look at it as a “consolation prize”. No company is hiring you because they feel bad for you. They’re hiring you because you are the right fit for the role. This sounds like a good company to work for, since they recognize that “Not right for A” doesn’t mean “Not right at all”.

      1. Rayray*

        Thank you. I think when you feel rejected it’s hard to see the bright side but I did come to that realization so I’m very hopeful.

    4. rosyglasses*

      I’ve been the hiring person where someone isn’t the best fit for the particular job they applied to, but their skillset and experience (and any x-factors like, has videography experience even if that’s not a core part of the job) would lend well to another role. I’ve also created jobs a couple of times because I felt like the individual was solid and would bring alot of value just being part of the team because of future ideas we had. So I would avoid looking at it as a consolation prize, but rather, they really want to find a way to have you be part of the company!

    5. Lives in a Shoe*

      I got a job like this – the interviewer literally said I didn’t have enough experience for them, but could she recommend me to another department. . . that was the stepping stone to the job I hope to retire from. I’m so very happy. Hang in there.

  13. 36Cupcakes*

    Has anyone left their company to start a competing one? Or even started a company with previous coworkers?

    Other than consult a lawyer first any tips?

    1. Dynamic HR Manager*

      Double check with the lawyer to make sure there are no non-competes that will shut down your new company before it gets off the ground.

      Being your own boss is not everything it is cracked up to being.

      Expect the first 1-3 years to be a lot of work and very difficult. There is a long term payoff, but it takes awhile to get to that stage.

      Most new businesses fail. Be prepared for failure and have a Plan B.

      Make sure you have access to sufficient cash to fund the startup. Even if your revenue projections are conservative, always have at least two or three more models to plan the first few years. I’ve seen many very promising start ups simply fail because they ran out of money assuming revenue was going to come in a point that it simply was not going to happen. It was unfortunate for those start ups because they were probably 1-3 months away from actually generating revenue but just couldn’t make it to that finish line before folding.

      1. KofSharp*

        My field didn’t have a non-compete clause “because sometimes client like to hire us directly” so I got very lucky.

        I also had cleaned out my desk before turning in my resignation because they were full of spite.

      2. 36Cupcakes*

        Thank you! Non-compete is our first order but in our state it’s pretty clear we wouldn’t fall under one if we were just being employed by another company like ours. It’s income based. So the question is starting a new one.

        The rest will be what we have to figure out. We know the start up costs for the software we need and for at least the 1st year we can all work other jobs and do this on the side to float us if needed.

        One of the future partners left about a year ago, I’m finishing my last few days of my notice and the other will be giving notice shortly.

        Thank you!

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Create a partnership agreement, and be clear about what each person is bringing to the table.

      Be sure you can have discussions about whether each person is meeting their obligations or not, without having to worry about hurt feelings.

      Have a backup plan, for if things go south (they do for most businesses that get started – play the odds that yours will be one of those, and plan accordingly).

      Know what your metrics are for “we’re being successful” versus “we’re limping along” versus “we’re failing”. Have them written down, so you can look back at them in a few years, and evaluate if you’ve met them. Lots of people are sure things are going to turn around for their business, and stay in well past the optimum point to realize ‘this isn’t working out, and I need to overhaul things/get out’ because they never wrote their goals/metrics down, and continually renegotiate those metrics with themselves without realizing they’ve done so.

      Make sure anyone in your life (family/partner) impacted by the decision is aware of what you’re going to be doing, and how hard the work is going to be. Be honest about the difficulties you’re facing as you face them (I’ve seen a lot of people try to hide how hard things are for the business from their family, and it rarely ends well for the person, the business, or the family).

    3. Olivia*

      Well, from the other day we saw a very good example of why someone cannot be “unofficially” handling the money. There is no such thing in a legit business. But someone that came up in that one that might be more common is that the different partners weren’t working with a realistic breakdown of who was contributing what and each person being paid accordingly. It would probably be good to go in with the understanding that things can change unexpectedly and if some of you end up doing more than the others, it would make sense to change the compensation arrangements accordingly.

      One thing someone mentioned in the comments of that one (which people have been getting at here as well) is that they took a course about starting your own business from their local chamber of commerce, and a point they really drove home was that you need to have an exit plan. Because unfortunately a lot of small businesses don’t make it, and you want to be prepared for that.

      1. 36Cupcakes*

        Thank you! Yeah I saw those comments and have started looking at courses. One of the people already had a separate business and has an accounting background and we know we need formal accounts. Ironically that letter published the day after I was approached and was definitely timely.

        1. Entrepreneurship librarian*

          Look around to see if any local universities offer any courses or anything, too. I’m an entrepreneurship librarian at a large state university that offers short- and longer-term programming for prospective entrepreneurs/small business owners across the state.

    4. TPS reporter*

      Depending on what line of work you’re in, IP could be an issue. Your current company could say certain ideas/designs/processes for protectable IP (like something that could eventually be copyrightable or patentable) that you are bringing to your new company were actually conceived by you at your current company/in your current role thus the IP belongs to your current company. Review any IP acknowledgement you may have signed when hired (typically this really only applies to certain roles like engineers, designers, scientists, etc)

    5. I want your cupcakes!*

      If you’re starting a company with friend/coworkers have a very clear agreement on who’s doing what, what not-good-enough looks like, and plans for how to handle that. If it’s a small number of people, it’s easy to blame one person for lack of progress, and force them out, when that’s not the problem, or the only problem (ie it’s easy to get greedy). if it’s software, have a realistic idea of how long it takes to port things to all the platforms etc.

    6. Alternative Person*

      Be realistic about how much money you can put in, and create a wall between your personal finances and business finances.

      Consider setting agreements about how decisions are made and see what protections are available if one of your partners either goes off the rails or tries to take the business out from under you (or similar).

    7. MJ*

      Absolutely make plans for worst case scenarios. It’s easier to make decisions about exit strategies – either for the entire business, yourself or your partner – if the trigger events and steps in decided in advance.

      When you are in amongst the weeds, it’s easy to get caught up in sunk cost fallacies and figure that since you’ve already put in so much effort / time / money, you should keep pushing through. Surely things will turn around soon! If you have a plan in place that says “in this circumstance we pull the plug” it is a dispassionate, rational decision instead of an emotional one. Your mind can see it as a business decision instead of a “failure”.

  14. darlingpants*

    Second unrelated comment:
    My co-worker who is lower level than me and is now a friend (we do trivia together) has had a lot of turnover in her boss in the last year and I think it probably impacted her compensation (her last boss got fired right as performance reviews were being finalized in February and her new boss didn’t start until last month). We got an email saying that they’re doing a mid-year promotion cycle, and I want to tell her new boss that she deserves one – she’s been working at least two levels higher than her title for the last 4-6 months on top of not having a boss. She’s been designing experiments, dealing with vendors for high level projects, and representing her department in client meetings. The twist is that her boss has never introduced herself to me so I’d have to schedule an introduction meeting and then drop this suggestion/request.
    Is this a reasonable thing to do? Should I just do it by email? I feel super awkward but also want to advocate for this person who has been doing a really good job in a hard place – plus her department would be screwed if she got a new job.

    1. SherriLane*

      I think this would seem odd since you have a personal relationship and aren’t in her chain of command. Could you encourage her to advocate for a raise? Maybe offer to practice the conversation?

    2. Mockingjay*

      I would introduce myself, bring up the suggestion, but offer to submit the details in writing. Give New Boss accomplishments she can fact check, provide names of other people who can corroborate coworker’s accomplishments, etc.

      I would also suggest looping in your manager ahead of time; as a peer she can facilitate the introduction, corroborate coworker’s successes.

      Does your company have an awards program, in which bosses and peers can nominate anyone? My company does this; it’s a great way to highlight individual accomplishments and extra endeavor.

    3. londonedit*

      I think she definitely needs to do it herself, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you saying to her that you know she’s been working at a higher level for the last 6 months, she’s been absolutely brilliant, and you think she should throw her hat into the ring in the upcoming promotion cycle. And definitely offer to practice the conversation with her, or help her draft an email, or whatever she needs to do. But it’s not your place to go to her boss about it.

      1. AspiringGardener*

        100% this. You’d be actively harming her by going to her boss about this directly without her knowledge.

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Why would the boss be interested in your opinion about his staff’s compensation? I mean that sincerely, not snarkily – are you his boss, or involved on the compensation/retention side of things? If you’re just a fellow colleague I’m not sure your words would have much of an impact. I think you’d have a bigger impact spending your energy helping your friend prepare to make her own case for a raise, since it sounds like she deserves one based on her work output!

    5. Masked Bandit*

      Tbh I had a friend at work do this to me and I was very upset by it. She wasn’t in my chain of command and my new boss was several rungs up the ladder from her. It simply wasn’t her place to argue for my promotion. It felt like she was interfering in my relationship with my boss and didn’t believe in me enough to allow me to advocate for myself. It did not reflect well on her to my boss, who was senior leadership. So if you’re going to do this, I would be 100% sure that it will be well received by all parties.

    6. PollyQ*

      Nope, not reasonable, and I think it would reflect badly on both of you. I do think there are two slightly different things you could legitimately do:
      1) Send an email to her boss praising her for the hard work she’s done.
      2) Let your friend know that you think she deserves a raise and encourage her to advocate for herself. If you can provide specific AAM links about it, that would also probably be helpful to her.

    7. darlingpants*

      I was thinking it would be more like a “while you weren’t here, I was working with Joaquina on project X, and I’ve been really impressed and think she really deserves a promotion during this cycle.” But I will take all your advice and not do it (or at the very least ask her if she wants me to put in a good word)! Thanks for the gut check!

      1. Alternative Person*

        It’s difficult to give good advice because it really depends on how feedback is done at your company. At mine, it’s not unusual to receive feedback about someone with minimal or no prompting. I heard about how my managee did some lovely work recently unprompted from a colleague, and I passed on my very good impressions of working with someone else to their manager during an unrelated conversation. I especially make a point of this with my women colleagues as we’re often socialized to downplay our achievements and in turn get asked about them less so anything I can do to make things better for them is important.

        I’d suggest talking to your friend first. If they approve, talk to your direct manager. It may be the case your manager will pass on the feedback, or they will be able to suggest how you should go forward. Focus on what your friend did as in processes and why they were successful, don’t talk about what you think they should do.

        It can seem small, but I think these things are very much worth sharing as good workers can often be lost in the shuffle if they have shiner, flashier colleagues. I’ve been in situations where hard work and strong results would get ignored because others would shout about how great they and their methods were.

        1. Alternative Person*

          Also, as a manager it can be good for making you question your biases. A senior manager recently praised one of my managees for doing something that seemed pretty much expected from my point of view based on my first reading of the e-mail, but on reflection and reading it again, actually, my managee did something really good, it’s just as women, I would expect that level of competence from both myself and her automatically whereas with a man, I wouldn’t be surprised to either get pushback or for them to not handle the situation graciously.

    8. Bumblebeee*

      I am a manager and if I got an email like this I would find it odd and potentially would reflect badly on both of you. I would be wondering why on earth your friend/coworker wasn’t talking to me directly like an adult and whether they asked you to talk to me on their behalf.

      I’m all for employees advocating for themselves including speaking up when their pay needs to change to reflect their performance. But that should come from them directly. You’re kind and thoughtful to think of your friend but this is something that you should stay out of.

  15. RFlaum*

    I have an employee who has another job, which happens to be a fairly unusual one, and one that I’ve been curious about for a while. I kind of want to ask him about it, but I think getting a bunch of questions about your other job from your manager might come across as kind of weird. What do y’all think?

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think it depends on how you ask it. If you were chatting and said, “hey, I’m actually really curious about your job. I’d love to know…,” I don’t think that would be weird.

      1. Rayray*

        I agree, I think casual conversation about it is best vs calling them in and asking them to close the door behind them. I think if you have a good working relationship and also get along well as people, you can definitely ask about it.

    2. AspiringGardener*

      Asking a question or two in the course of normal conversation – fine.

      Conducting a lengthy informational interview – weird.

  16. many bells down*

    How do you get OUT of BEC mode with a co-worker? I’ve got a co-worker who’s done some weirdly annoying things, like messing up shared databases because they thought it was just on “their computer.” Recently they asked me to fix an issue with registration for one of their events, but I’ve never done one, it’s not actually my job, and I don’t know anything about the event.

    I’m constantly annoyed with them, and I’ve lost perspective on when the thing they’re asking me to do is reasonable, and when they’re being condescending and trying to give me work they shouldn’t.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      More of a workaround rather than a solution: I was at BEC with a former coworker, so I started doing a self-check, “How woud I respond if this was coming from [example coworker I am neutral/positive towards]?”

      It didn’t work all of the time (some of the requests were objectively ridiculous), but it helped a little. Good luck!

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I’ll give this a whirl, thank you for sharing!

        (I’m not that hopeful, because I’m at BEC because said coworker is vastly out of touch with industry norms and in being out of touch, makes my life more difficult than it needs to be. Frequently.)

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Unemotional redirect (with perhaps just a whisper of perplexed eyebrows) with exactly zero accepting of anything that isn’t your job, and pointing them in the direction of someone who can call them out for messing up your workload. If it’s a reasonable request, it should come through channels, whether you’re annoyed by it or not.

      “Fergus, when using a shared database it is important to change only what you “own” — could you please talk to Sally about how you can recover the broken data?”
      “Gee Fergus, I don’t know a thing about that. I guess you’ll need to ask your boss.”
      “Gee Fergus, that’s not on my list of things to do. Could you you check with my boss about whether I should be assigned to that?”

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        The idea here being that you buffer the annoying out by being boring and eventually once everyone’s back to baseline you can decide whether it’s still BEC or that they’re clearly an irritating whatsoever.

    3. Loulou*

      I have had a coworker like this too and haven’t found a real solution. I think all you can really do is 1) focus on what you DO like about them and 2) try to imagine what you’d do if any other coworker asked you the same thing. If you’d try to help them with their event registration even though it’s not technically your job, then that’s probably what you should do here.

    4. Olivia*

      This might be a little long, but I have so much experience with a BEC in the past few years, so I think I can help! I have a coworker who at times I have been worried I was getting close to BEC mode with. She’s a bigot who is also often making me a captive audience to her loud conversations about politics, covid denialism, etc. I can’t stand her as a person and would never choose to spend any time with her. I have to spend about 6 hours a week working in close proximity to her. Here’s what’s helped me:

      The number one thing that’s helped me is kind of cliche, but I realized that I was letting her and her BS live rent-free in my head, and–and this is crucial!–none of my being annoyed was affecting anyone but me. And most of it isn’t stuff I can push back on or something that a supervisor should be told. So it wasn’t like mulling things over could have been leading to anything productive. If it helps, you can think of it as your BEC is winning when you spend your limited mental resources thinking about how annoying they are. It’s not negatively affecting them, just you! It’s easier said than done, but all I did was I made an effort to consciously redirect my thoughts when I became aware I was dwelling on it. And this allowed me to get better at tuning them out. Now, if they’re asking you to do something for them instead of just droning on about inappropriate stuff, you probably can’t just tune them out. But maybe you can try to train yourself to not dwell on it after you answer them. You have better things to do and they are not worth it.

      Because my BEC does occasionally do stuff that I should report, I try to think really carefully about it–more than I would for someone else–before notifying a higher-up of whatever it is. I will write up an email when something like that happens (when the details are fresh) but think it over a day or two before sending it (and of course, read it over carefully a few times). When she was a BEC for me or very close to it, I tried to get really clear in my head about how the different things she did that I objected to fell into different categories, and there’s only some categories I should act on. There’s the stuff that I can’t or shouldn’t try to do anything about, there’s the stuff that I can push back on myself, and there’s the stuff that I should let someone else know about. Part of not letting her live rent-free in my head is learning to let the first category go, at least more easily than I used to. Knowing that I’m able to do this is really empowering, and makes me confident that at least I am being mature and handling the situation as professionally as I can. It makes me feel good about myself to know that I can do that with someone who can really get under my skin.

      In your situation where the person is asking you to help them clean up their mistakes and it seems like fixing that kind of thing is not even normally your job, I think going the detached friendly route is a good way to go. If you’ve never done x, know nothing about it, and it’s not your job, then I think you can feel confident about deciding that it is officially Not Your Problem. Your BEC can figure it out their damn self. They are an adult and if they are capable of asking you, they are just as capable of asking the person whose job it actually is, and they can use google or look things up in a document. Phrases like “I’m sorry, I don’t have any experience with that” and “you might ask Fergus because he usually does that” or “I’d consult the Teapot Database Reference Book for that” are your friends.

      Sometimes one way to gauge your behavior towards a BEC is to think about how you would feel if someone else did whatever. Since part of the problem is you think they might be condescending to you, you might flip that reasonableness-gauging method a little and ask yourself if it’s something that another coworker with the same status as your BEC has or would ask you to do. And if you, like me, have tempered some of your responses or done more for them than you would for most people because they have bad reactions to being told no or to being corrected, I want you to free yourself from caring about that. Seriously, who cares if they get annoyed with you because Teapot Database Management is not your duty and you acted accordingly? Unless their negative feelings could result in more difficulty for you, let them be mad. Pushing back on doing stuff that you don’t know how to do and isn’t something you’re responsible for is totally normal and reasonable. I also wonder if part of it is that you’re thinking you would do X for someone else, but don’t want to do it for them. But if X is something that you’re not really the person for, but you might do it for someone else as a favor because it would just be a nice thing to do and you can spend a little bit of time on it, it’s also totally fine to not to that kind of favor for someone who isn’t treating you well or whom you just don’t like for whatever reason. If it’s something where you might do it for someone else but it would be going out of your way for someone, well, you don’t have to do that for everyone and it doesn’t make you a jerk or unfair to decline to do it for everyone.

  17. Minnie*

    I had an interview this morning (working in payroll) and they asked me to describe situation where I had to keep something confidential and what actions I took to keep things confidential. Everything I work on is confidential. I had no idea how to answer that? What response were they looking for? I ended up saying everything was encrypted, work always stayed at work and I never discussed it with anyone/no one used my computer or had my passwords and I always logged out of everything. Was this just a very obvious question or am I missing something?

    1. SherriLane*

      I’ve been asked that before and had a hard time answering because my example involved a lot of still-confidential information! So at the start of my answer I was upfront that I’d have to be a little vague but would do my best. I talked about how I handled casual inquiries, kept to myself what I worked on (it was a very high profile issue covered extensively in multiple national newspapers), and was diligent about following company policy regarding tech security and media inquiries.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      That’s kind of a hard question to answer. It’s like answering “how to you handle breathing oxygen” – I just do! All the time! It’s at the core of my work!

      I think your examples are great and this question is not well thought-out.

      1. Minnie*

        Thank you! Ok I’m glad it wasn’t just me. I was like “I keep things confidential…?”

        1. Froschkugel*

          I was asked something similar in an interview recently. I am a lawyer. It’s my whole job to keep things confidential… I pivoted the question to what to do when things go wrong, because no matter how diligent you are, there is always the chance. So I used an example where I fell for Outlook auto fill, sent an email to the wrong person, and all the steps I then took to remedy that.

    3. irene adler*

      I think you gave a good response because you expressed the awareness of things like:
      keeping the work product at work (= not generating risk of losing confidentiality by bringing the work into a new ‘environment’ )
      knowing not to share your computer or give out your password (trust folks all you want; but hey, sharing could end up compromising something)
      attention to the prompt logging out of things
      You are “walking the walk” so to speak.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Agreed. This question will catch a surprising amount of people into revealing that they don’t actually handle confidential info correctly. That’s probably what they were trying to suss out.

    4. KG*

      I had the same question and same problem answering. I’m a bookkeeper for several clients who happen to be competitors. I just don’t share info. It wouldn’t cross my mind to do it. I didn’t get the job but since the bulk of the questions were regarding confrontation and confidentiality, I’m not heartbroken.

    5. Purple Cat*

      It seems like a very obvious question – that people probably bungle all of the time.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Yes, if the candidate starts talking about a confidential matter that they had kept confidential …

    6. Bernice Clifton*

      I think you answered it well. If you had an example of someone trying to get confidential info from you that they weren’t entitled to, it would be good to bring up how you told them no.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Technological controls (everything is encrypted, importance of a privacy screen on your monitor, etc) and behavioural controls (never discuss it with anyone outside of payroll/HR etc). If there was ever a time where you were privy to information ahead of time, such as an upcoming (not yet generally announced) mass restructure that would have an impact on payroll systems so you had to prepare the setup ahead of time and fend off questions from people who thought (correctly) that because you’re in payroll you’ll have been tipped off ahead of time.. how do you deal with a situation like that?

    8. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Yeah that is a little odd given the role you are going for. I think they were trying to gauge how much knowlege and experience you have with confidential info.

      What we’ve asked is “Because of the nature of our work, we handle a lot of confidentail information. We work with HIPPA and FERPA guidlines. What experience do you have with these or other regulations

      1. Princess Xena*

        It’s also an easy way to catch who’s really unprepared for handling confidential information. For similar reasons, auditors will usually check a client’s books for the keyword ‘fraud’ when they do an audit. 99.999% of the time it won’t turn up anything, but if you don’t do it and it comes out in court you look very stupid

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      I probably would have said something very similar: no hard copies of anything confidential unless absolutely necessary, any hard copies get secured in a locked place when I’m not handling them and shredded when no longer needed. No e-mailing confidential documents: use secure file sharing instead (e.g. Dropbox). Never share passwords or write them down. Change passwords regularly. Shut computer off or put to locked screen saver when I’m away from my desk. Lock my office door when I leave (if I had an office door, LOL).

    10. Olivia*

      It sounds like you answered it well. Keep in mind that some of what you think is obvious or just standard, is stuff that not everyone is doing. I once found a coworker’s notebook lying around and it had no name on it, so I looked in it to see if I could tell whose it was or even what department it belonged to. It must have been an HR person because it had interview notes and also **people’s names and SSNs scattered throughout**–you probably aren’t doing that!

      I see a lot of the comings and goings in my organization, and one thing that I’ve become aware of is that sometimes people ask me for details that they don’t need to know–basically, gossip–and I don’t give it to them. I’m guessing you don’t get many blatantly inappropriate inquiries about how much money people are making, but do people ever ask you for info that you know they don’t need to know, and you give vague replies or brush them off? Just being cognizant of that kind of thing could be an example. But I think your answer sounds great!

  18. Ashe*

    My coworker overreacts and I think it’s starting to impact my reputation.

    I started a new job during the time when most companies were WFH. My company was very conservative about Covid risk, so we only just came back to the office in February.

    Since then I’ve learned that a coworker, let’s call him Rick, loudly overreacts to minor issues. I knew Rick was very reactive from our Zoom calls, however Rick so often overreacts, while ignoring context, loudly for all to hear that I believe it’s starting to negatively impact my reputation with surrounding teams. Specifically I’ve noticed team members who sit on our side of the building have started to treat me with kid gloves, like they can’t trust my work since returning. Nothings changed with my work quality for these folks, in fact I’ve never made a mistake on some of these peoples reports in the 2 years I’ve been doing it.

    An example of an overreaction is: I emailed Rick a report to review that I had no training on. I explicitly stated in the email, please pay close attention to section 2 as I’m not confident I did that part right. I could see the instructions being interpreted to mean X or Y but I went with X. Let me know if I should adjust. (I’ll also add that I asked to look at this together but he wanted it emailed). A few hours later Rick yelled, “Oh my god you’ve done this report completely wrong! I don’t even know where you got these figures!?” I was a bit freaked out thinking I had totally got the report completely wrong, so I dragged my chair over there and wouldn’t you know, the only problem with the report was that section 2 needed the Y method. I spoke up, but I definitely wasn’t as loud because Rick yelled this to me across the cube wall loud enough to be heard without getting up and I thought it would look pretty odd if I was that loud sitting next to him so I said at a normal volume “Oh so I actually did the report perfectly except the one section I specifically pointed out as being a problem? Is there a reason you didn’t just respond to my email to just do Y?” His response was a pithu – it doesn’t matter the report has to be right!

    He’s not like this with our other coworkers who have been there longer, so I honestly think he doesn’t trust new people’s work much because he also did this to another new coworker before he was fired (for a bad attitude receiving feedback and making mistakes).

    I’ve started to defend myself when this comes up in group settings. If Rick says “Ashe messed this up we have idea how she did this” I’ll speak up and say actually Allen specifically had me make that change”. I worry however that I’m coming across as defensive, especially considering the firing Does anyone have suggestions for how to approach this? Note that changing Rick is not on the table. I was warned about Ricks behavior when I was hired and he’s been here forever. His behavior is clearly tolerated. Should I loop my boss in about my reputation concerns? Something else?

    1. Ashe*

      This is an edited repost because last week the replies mentioned I should do what I had already done, which was to speak up to Rick when he does this in the moment, but I just left out that detail because this is already pretty long

      1. After 33 years ...*

        If the new coworker was the one who was fired after encountering Rick, it appears that Rick simply doesn’t like new people. That could be one reason why he’s there forever – because he scares newcomers off.
        Certainly, you need to speak with your boss. Your boss might not be completely surprised, if Rick is a known quantity.
        Also, are you sure that your co-workers are treating you with kid gloves, or are they avoiding interactions with Rick? Have your co-workers indicated directly to you that they are having problems with your stuff? A possible co-worker strategy is to wait Ranting Rick out, and then start looking at what you’ve sent them.

        1. Ashe*

          Thanks for commenting.

          Re:Kid Gloves yes.

          Since being in the office coworkers have said things like – you need to pay attention to be sure to get this correct. Now this is important Ashe pay attention. On our zoom calls (hybrid) and even in person which never happened before coming into the office.

          1. Sue*

            If you aren’t already being pointed in your response to these kinds of comments, I would start. You need to ask why they would say that to you, why would they question your competence. Put the burden on them to explain these insulting remarks and then you’re better able to combat this jerk. You are perfectly justified to explain yourself, it doesn’t have to be defensive, just matter of fact.

    2. Melanie Cavill*

      “Should I loop my boss in about my reputation concerns?”

      YES. As soon as possible. Rick sounds like he isn’t so much overreacting as he is having tantrums and throwing you under the bus.

    3. Princess Xena*

      I would definitely loop your boss in. From what you say Rick is deliberately portraying you as incompetent, and it will almost certainly be harmful for you. Phrases like “publicly belittles me when I ask for help” might be applicable.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      Definitely loop in your boss about this. And be clear but unemotional about addressing Rick’s issues.

      You also might try a quote directly from my mother: “Do not shout at me across the room. If you have something to say, come here and say it to me.” With the right delivery, this shuts people up & shows you as the in-control one.

      Also, Rick is an ass.

    5. Crotchet*

      You already have some good advice here. Loop in your boss. I’d also be cautious about learning that your predecessor was fired for not receiving feedback well and making mistakes; if Rick is this disrespectful and disparaging about you to your face, I would be surprised if he’s saying good things about you to your supervisor. And I’d be cautious about rationalizing Rick’s behavior as “he doesn’t trust new people’s work much”; in my experience, flat-out avoid crafting internal narratives to explain other people’s behavior. Rick’s a raging jerk. Period.

      I’m mostly commenting to say that I’ve learned to purposely ignore coworkers (even ones I like!) who yell across a room to relay a message or get my attention. Nope. On passive aggressive days, I’ve walked off to the restroom and left them yelling their message.

    6. kiki*

      Definitely loop your boss in and, if possible, send them copies of the report you mentioned and the email you sent Rick calling out that you asked for his guidance. I would also ask if there’s a better way to get feedback on stuff you’re not sure about. I’d say something like, “Because I’m new, I’ve been diligent about calling attention to areas where I’m not sure and asking for feedback. It seems like Rick interprets those areas as mistakes even though I highlighted in my email that I wanted guidance on those sections. Should I be directing things I’m not sure about to you or somebody else for review before I send things to Rick? I feel like he’s under the impression I’m making careless mistakes when I’m asking for feedback or doing something as another stakeholder instructed.”

  19. Melanie Cavill*

    The other day I posted a one-off complaint about a co-worker constantly getting upset that I don’t ask her questions. I got some very fun responses but now I’m wondering if it isn’t worth providing actual context and soliciting actual advice. Co-worker is nearly forty years older than me, has been at the job for four years vs. my seven-ish months, and is constantly going on longwinded rants about how ‘no one ever asks questions and just does their job poorly instead’; ostensibly, this is directed at the people from other departments who give us incomplete documentation, but she has pointed out several times that I also don’t ask her questions. Like, she legit said as much in a team meeting, putting me on the spot in a way she felt was ‘dry’ but was actually rather passive aggressive.

    The thing is – she’s not fantastic at her job. She has experience, but lacks critical thinking skills. Our team lead spends a considerable amount of time teaching and re-teaching her how to use our software. And she’s completely incapable of communicating effectively in English, to the point where I was surprised to learn it was her first language. Her sentences are such a soupy jumble of words that I often have to ask her to repeat herself at least once, often more, before I can parse what she is saying to me.

    (To be honest, I get the feeling that the team is just patiently waiting for her to retire, which could be in less than a year.)

    I have no idea how to politely and professionally say, “I don’t ask you questions because I know I will get nothing of value out of it.” Any thoughts? Or am I better off just quietly enduring her bizarre remarks and waiting it out? Being somewhat frequently irritated is hardly the end of the world, after all.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Ask her questions! I think it’s absolutely worth investing a few minutes twice a week to “pick her brains” about something completely innocuous. Ask about corporate culture/history, her own experience with the company, etc. My guess is that she sees herself as a font of institutional wisdom who is being needlessly sidelined. I wouldn’t bother asking her about technical stuff unless you think she actually values her own perception of being an expert. If she does, then maybe ask her something technical occasionally and then just ignore the answer.

      I’m not suggesting that you baby-sit her or anything, but if you can soothe her by a few minutes of what is essentially small talk, that’s probably the path of least resistance.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I would just say “I’m confident that I know how to do (process) but I appreciate you being available if I ever need help” or something like that on repeat. Or bring it up directly even if you don’t intend to take her advice, like “am I doing something wrong? You seem to be really concerned about my work.”

    3. GelieFish*

      I suspect she won’t change, but I might say thank you for the offer and please know I am here for any of your questions. Treating it as two way street may help the annoyance that she is insinuating she knows more.

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, “Oh, yes, I’ll definitely ask you if I have any questions**, and you should totally feel free to ask me, too***!” Let any subtext just slide riiiiight on by. She sounds … kinda lonely, maybe? Or like she wants a different work style than is really especially useful in that particular workplace.

        ** You won’t.
        *** If you think making the offer is viable or at least worth it for the sake of interpersonal harmony

    4. Purple Cat*

      Oof, well as much as I’m cheering you on from behind my computer you know you can’t say “I know I will get nothing out of it.”
      So, I would try to grit my teeth and try to ignore her. You could also return awkward to sender and ask her to name “specifically” what you had done wrong that she could have helped her with. Alternatively, ask her a question and just know that you’re going to ignore the answer.

    5. PollyQ*

      First, completely ignore non-specific rants about “no one ever.” Do the same for “said as much” phrases. If she’s not directly saying, “Melanie, how come you never ask me questions?” then she didn’t say anything you need to respond to. Second, if she does ask you directly, the cheerful non-sequitor is your friend. “Oh, thanks! It’s great to know that you’re availble to be a resource!” said brightly and happily, will carry you far.

    6. All The Words*

      Has your supervisor advised to you contact specific people with questions? “I was instructed to contact X with questions about this”. Is this person designated as a go-to person by their supervisor/manager?

      Your co-worker sounds like they feel they have more to offer but aren’t getting the opportunity to do so. That’s really something they should discuss with their supervisor/manager. It may sound cold, but I probably wouldn’t spend any time caretaking their feelings about this simply because I currently don’t have the emotional bandwidth.

    7. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’ve found sitting still and not reacting to bizarre public condemnations makes people like her look as outrageous as they are acting. I work in a field where we have lots of open public board meetings. Be like them when a citizen rants about sidewalk gutters affecting their internet reception. No reaction besides, “I wonder what I should have for dinner” on your face.

    8. linger*

      I probably wouldn’t be able to stop myself from replying with the only slightly more cautious:
      “Be assured I won’t hesitate to ask your advice wherever it might be of value.”
      Delivered with fully genuine earnestness. (Not that I’m actively recommending this!)

  20. Mango*

    Happy Friday everyone! My former manager told me (on the back of an otherwise great review) that 1. I should be less nice, and 2. I should build up leadership skills. My current manager has also mentioned #2 to me, as a medium-term development goal. I’m a relatively junior individual contributor right now and am not likely to become a team lead or people manager in the next couple of years, at least. I’d love to hear from people who have ‘been there, done that’ – what does this look like when you’re young, junior, and have to work with much more senior people? How did you make the change – any tips or actionable strategies you’d want to share? How do you strike the right note between ‘I am a competent professional who sometimes has to disappoint other teams by saying no to their requests’ and ‘my colleagues enjoy working with me and think of me as a team player’?

    For context – I am a minority woman working in a large (>10k employees) international organization, and so are both of my managers (current and former)

    1. Princess Xena*

      One thing you can try is going back and asking your managers if they have any advice or thoughts on building leadership skills. Could you ask to take the lead with handling a client? Proactively do some of the project management/organization that team based work needs?

      As for being less nice, I would guess that there’s been at least one instance where you’ve taken on a more than fair share of a coworker’s work, possibly to the detriment of your own. To try and combat this I’d see if there’s any repeat offenders who ask for help a lot, and if they’re asking for help on the same things, and failing back on helping them as much: ie, if someone asks you for the fifth time on how to do the one tedious transaction, point them to the documentation or notes instead of walking them through it.

    2. Margaery Tyrell*

      Can I just say, I’m so jealous for you / happy to hear that as a minority woman, both of your managers have been minority women, and they’re doing their best to advocate/mentor for you? What a rarity and a blessing. (I also identify as a BIPOC woman.)

      As for concrete advice, I would look for opportunities where you can take lead on a project or at least a second-in-command role if lead is not an option. Be more open to sharing your own feedback and advice on ongoing tasks, even if they’re not your own — I know this can be difficult (especially coming from a junior position), but as you’ve ben in this role for a few years (if I’m reading correctly) — you have the expertise and experience to provide valuable feedback.

      If you get pushback from senior people when you do this, I’d try to delineate between legitimate criticism (“Actually, that’s not how we do things”) versus people who might be letting age/gender/etc biases come into play (“Well, you’re junior, so what do you know?”). I work in a role where I get constant feedback (designer) from people who are definitely not SMEs in my area, so I can definitely tell the difference by now haha. Hope this helps, and good luck!

    3. GelieFish*

      Too nice as in too friendly, as in too apologetic when you have to say no, or as in need to set boundaries because people take advantage of you? I would ignore if it is the first, consider if it is the second or third. And I support asking more questions. It can be, “I was thinking about what you said, can you give more specifics, suggest some training, etc.”

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        Yeah… that one feels in the vein of “you should smile more” but ya know… the opposite.

      2. linger*

        Possible example of what “too nice” looks like when you need to be taken seriously as a potential future manager: if you often end up doing stereotypically gendered scutwork for coworkers (e.g. photocopying, getting coffee…) that isn’t in your job description, it’s time to cut back and set boundaries.

    4. Som*

      Leadership: The big one that comes to mind is to look for information/training on “leading without authority” this is a good topic for people at your career stage. The advice that I have gone to for people in your position is that the best leadership training you will ever get is when you can do it with no authority to do it. Look for opportunities to ‘take the lead’ on something even if it’s small. Continue to do this and people will perceive you to be a leader who can get things done. (This kind of training would also be good to talk to your manager about in addition to opportunities)

      Being Nice: That’s a little bit of a weird way to express what I think is happening based on your comment. It’s ok and often the right thing to do to say “No”. In my teams I will often say I’m building fences, not walls, not silos. Fences have gates and you can almost always reach through a fence… that’s hard to do with walls and silos. So, if you have to say no to someone, make sure there’s a good reason for it, and if you can help them achieve what they want in a different direction. “Sorry I can’t do X, but have you tried talking to Y?” or “At this time we don’t have a way to do that but if Z changes we can talk” “That’s not going to work, can we find a different solution?”

    5. mlem*

      “Less nice” sounds odd, but I agree that the specific details are what matter. As a woman, I’ve had to learn to aim less for high-pitch consensus-building (permission-seeking), and more for lower-pitch declaratives … without overdoing it. It’s tricky to balance and takes practice.

      If it’s more the angle of always saying yes in order to be seen as a team player, I’d suggest making that more of a conversation. “We’re pretty booked, but if you can X then we could possibly Y,” or “We’re full for this month, but I can pencil you in for next”, things like that. At the very least, make transparent that you/your group isn’t just a place to toss any excess work and that you have competing demands to balance.

    6. KT*

      This is tough because they are essentially telling you to be more assertive, which can really blow back on minority women in a way it never does on men. There is such a fine line between “assertive” and “bitchy” or “loud” when you are a woman especially of color. I HATE it when people who are not women and not of color tell people they are too nice. Anyway, actual advice- don’t apologize when you didn’t do anything wrong, “I hear what you are saying “ or “good point! I will keep that in mind” instead of an apology. Accept compliments-don’t say it was nothing, don’t say it was a team effort if it was mostly you. Don’t say that you couldn’t have done it without so and so unless that is really true. If someone compliments you say “thank you! It was a fun project” or “thank you! I am glad we got it done on time and under budget “ or other appropriate response. Also, a good way to try out leadership is to be on committees however that can be a trap for women and women of color if the effort it takes isn’t recognized towards promotion and/or takes you away from the projects needed for promotion. Also- ask your manager how they would know someone had improved leadership skills.

    7. Academic Librarian Too*

      Less nice. I had received this criticism. I actually needed it spelled out for me.
      I was told to stop writing please and thank you in emails.
      I was told to bullet point directives.
      I was told to stop using the phrases “when you have time” “I know you have a lot on your plate” “I am sorry …for anything”
      Be directive- the department needs…this copy by 5 today. This draft Monday by 10.

    8. LittleMarshmallow*

      “Leadership skills” early in your career can be as simple as attending a training or seminar or something of the like about management or emotional intelligence or other such soft skills. It doesn’t have to be that you “lead your leaders”.

      I would say that knowing how to effectively direct a meeting is a soft skill that seems to be surprisingly rare but those that have it are usually seen as leaders and well liked (there maybe other factors on why those things go together). So finding articles, trainings, seminars on different meeting types and styles, how to create an efficient agenda, and how to keep a meeting moving are skills that you’ll be recognized for if you can figure out how to be good at it! No one likes a long aimless meeting.

  21. Dust Bunny*

    I need some advice on behalf of a new college grad who hopes to go into “politics”. She’s a family friend but my mother in particular has acted as a sort of pseudo-aunt in the absence of other adult support.

    1) Her family cannot help her. She’s pretty much the first one to graduate from high school, never mind college, and none of them have ever held jobs beyond basic manual labor. They also resent that she went to school instead of working so even if they could help, they won’t.

    2) My mother is enthusiastic about helping but hasn’t applied for a job in 35 years and is not good at taking advice that contradicts her ideas about how things should work, even if she’s wrong.

    3) I can’t polish up my job-hunting skills quickly enough to help her and I don’t know anything about the kinds of work that interest her.

    4) She’s only ever had fast-food and college campus jobs before, and she is exceptionally naive about job-hunting. We’ve already either bailed her out of or talked her away from some Ponzi-type fake charities, worthless “training programs”, and a housesitting job that was almost certainly a front for human trafficking. I think the combination of being desperate, a complete lack of context since she’s never seen adults work in anything but day labor, and some overestimation of what a college education can do for you, is getting her in trouble.

    My first thought is that she should look for a position with a smaller but reputable activist nonprofit so she can get a) some activist experience but also b) some experience in an adult workplace. I’m not sure that New College Grad has the self-confidence or life experience to push back on my mom’s (probably bad) advice, and she definitely doesn’t know where else to look for jobs or help. We’re in a major city so there should be something that can at least get her started.

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      What about temping? Get a toe into a professional environment but without the stress of having it be a permanent position. That way if she messes up with the social-relationships that comes from learning about professionalism she isn’t stuck repairing her reputation in an organization.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        She sounds terribly naïve. I think first, direct her here, to this site. Pick out a few key posts that might be relevant to her and send them her way.

        Second, I’d definitely echo the “get her working an office job” recommendation, even via temping. If she wants to be in politics, she’s going to need to understand how to navigate complex social and bureaucratic systems. An office job will help her learn that.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          She is very naive, about a lot of things (not just jobs). And just when we think she’s gotten it she’ll turn around and do it again, just in another context; she’s calling today, we hope, to decline the Ponzi-scheme job.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      Does she know what she means by politics? e.g. does she want to work directly for campaigns, or work within the governmental sphere (city, state etc.) or within the general area (e.g. public affairs).

      One question would be how much support does she have? Some of the jobs she could be aiming for are likely to not provide anywhere near a living wage at lower levels AND they’re often highly competitive, where she’ll be competing with people who have done internships every summer or know people.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        . . . I’m not sure. I would not bank on her having a well-formed concept of what this means. She had an internship with a state representative and loved that, but she loves pretty much everything she tries because it’s always new. She saw a “public relations” job that she thought she’d apply for, but it’s for the county attorney of our very large, major-city county–it didn’t occur to her that that might be an overreach. I do think she’s sincere about wanting to do something that helps people and she has the personality and work ethic to be very good at that, but I don’t think she has a goal in focus right now.

        No support. She lives with extended family, not parents (her parents are not in the picture), and they’re not wild about her taking up space in the house.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          If she doesn’t know, then the best thing you can do is help her talk through it and identify the kind of jobs open to her. It sounds like it would help if you could talk to her about the kind of jobs she could/should be applying to (e.g. entry level vs. the public relations job).

          If she doesn’t have a particular focus, temping is likely also a good place to start and it allows her to get more experience in an office setting.

    3. Antilles*

      What involvement has she had in “politics” thus far? Volunteered for campaigns? Helped out at her country party headquarters? Internships? Etc?
      If the answer is none, then she probably needs to first realize that it’s going to be a process. Working for activist nonprofits is an option, but another option is to start by making it more of a ‘side gig’ – get a paying job in whatever her degree is in, then use her free time doing that sort of stuff to start building connections and getting her name out there.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Internship with a state representative.

        My mom is resistant to telling her to just get a job for fear she’ll get trapped in fast food because she doesn’t have the big-picture she needs to get out of it, but I suspect that that might be the way things have to go. (For the record, I started out scrubbing kennels in a vet’s office but did get a job in my field of study after a couple of years, so I’ve done that.)

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      My very first job was in a local government position (library page). There are jobs in government for people new to the workforce! Think small & local. A lot of government offices will take a chance on someone who’s willing to learn.

      And “politics” can mean a lot of things. Does she have a better idea of what she wants to do? She can look into local boards that might have openings (like the parks board, etc ). Some are elected positions, but some are appointed. (Appointments sound impressive, but generally anyone can apply – look at your local government website for more information.) She might not get paid for the work, but it could help her see how government works close up, give her valuable skills, & build her resume. (And be a good citizen!)

    5. Rosengilmom*

      As a new college grad, she should absolutely take every advantage of any career support the college offers

    6. Overeducated*

      It’s not an office job, not for every personality, and frankly I have a lot of Thoughts about the work practices and environment, buuuuut…I know a few people who got their start out of college canvassing for activist organizations (e.g. PIRGs). My impression is that these jobs are not that difficult to get, especially in the summer, and they can be a way for new grads to get hands-on experience. If she’s floundering a bit, it could be a good short term step.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        I know several people who did this out of college. It didn’t pay well, but it was pretty easy to get into.

      2. Parakeet*

        I’ve been a PIRG canvasser, and granted it was some time ago, but it was truly awful. Wage theft, complete disregard for worker safety, outright lying about the terms of the job. Most people were fired for failure to meet quota within three days (especially men of color who couldn’t get white people to answer their knocks on the door in suburban neighborhoods), and most who made it past then were fired for failure to meet quota within a couple of weeks. I would never recommend it and will never give money to a PIRG.

        1. pancakes*

          Fwiw I did it one summer and had a blast. I’m sure there’s a lot of variation because our local office, and I’m guessing most others, were run by very young people with seemingly not much oversight. I must’ve lucked out with ours.

    7. Edith*

      You say major city–does that mean potentially the capital of your state? If so, my suggestion would be to look for two types of jobs in state government agencies–constituent services (basically routing/tracking/responding to problems people are having with the agency) and legislative/government affairs (which usually overlaps some with constituent services in that it often means working with the staff of the state legislature on constituent issues related to your agency, tracking bills, responding to legislative questions, etc.). Constituent services isn’t exactly what she is looking for, but it is good experience and exposure to some of what she does potentially want to do. While the meatier bits of legislative/government affairs is more something that someone with a law degree or a lot of experience would do, at larger agencies there is usually an administrative/coordinator type role in that office that she would be qualified to do and would be a politics adjacent job where she could make good professional connections and get some experience. These jobs are all called different things at different agencies, so she would really need to look through the job postings pretty carefully.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Not the capitol. Bigger than the capitol but not the seat of state government. Lots of city government, though.

    8. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Municipal employee here! “Politics” is pretty broad and there are a thousand ways to get into it. Without a reasonably wealthy, well-connected family to support her, the most important thing your college grad is going to need is connections.

      Politics doesn’t actually follow all the rules of the adult workplace so I wouldn’t put too much of a premium on that. She’s probably searching only for full-time, benefited positions and that’s a mistake. With her experience, I’d say she probably would have more luck taking a part time program support role at a community organization and proving herself competent and useful. Saying yes to everything is the surest way to meet the people you need to meet who will support you for the kinds of roles you really want.

      If this is really what she wants, she also needs to be going to community meetings. Make her name and her face recognizable to people.

      Non-profits aren’t the only ways in, though. People who work for developers and private planning firms and community engagement consultants etc go to a lot of the same events as people in non-profits and you’re more likely to land that full-time, benefited position with them. Just be prepared to not have a strong work-life balance if this is the path she wants to pursue. You have to show face at every community event coming and going to succeed if you don’t come pre-loaded with wealth and connections.

      1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

        Addendum, a lot of communities have like a citizens academy of some kind where you can learn more about how your local government works.

        Also, local office is the typical first step to state office but she might also try getting in with a lobbying group who likely has strong connections with her state political party and will help her make the right connections to get where she wants to go. It’s kind of a slimy way to do it but it’s reality (in the US at least).

      2. Dust Bunny*

        She cannot afford to take part-time, unbenefited work. She has no other support but herself.

    9. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Send her to the local library for job-hunting advice and assistance. This is the sort of thing that most public libraries have someone on staff helping with at the moment, and they’ll be well suited to offer assistance with the tools that exist. If you all are in a more rural area, she may need to go to a medium/large size library to get assistance, but it is probably worth the trip.

      As far as getting particularly political work, it can be worth reaching out to your local representatives (ie, the state level rep for your area), explaining what you’re interested, in, and asking them if they know of groups advocating for that issue. Most reps will have brushed shoulders with advocacy and action groups for every subject at least in passing, and they may be able to offer a recommendation of active ones that you can then hunt for job openings from.

    10. kiki*

      What was new grad’s major? Has she talked to anyone from her college program about what sorts of jobs are available to a new grad who majored in what she did?

      I want to second Cafe au Lait’s recommendation that she seek out temp agencies. Even if they can’t place her immediately, it may be helpful to her to talk to somebody who has more understanding of what sorts of jobs somebody with her background would be eligible for.

    11. VelociraptorAttack*

      Depending on what “politics” means, it is a mid-term year so she could probably get on a campaign of some sort (you said you’re in a large city so there should be need for campaign staff there for state-level and federal campaigns).

      It’s definitely not work for everyone and it’ll be temporary but it definitely opens doors to future opportunities if that’s the type of path she’s interested in.

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

      1. Local non-profits in your area that help first-generation college graduates transition into careers — something like a career ladder program — that could also help her find a job.

      2. Alumni networks from college. It’s unfortunate that she made it through college without some guidance from the school while she was there, but they may still have alumni networks that are specific to first-gen graduates where she can find an alumni mentor who has a similar experience. They also usually have a job board.

      3. Join professional orgs to build up a business network. For instance, if she majored in Public Relations, she could look into the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) that has chapters in lots of large cities, or something similar. Professional orgs often also have job boards for their members, or offer mentoring programs.

      4. Community organizations, like Rotary, are often full of local community and business leaders who could also become part of her network, especially if she’s interested in government.

    13. Policy Wonk*

      She should see if she can get an internship with a representative or organization – depending on what she means by politics this could be local (Mayor, city council, school board), state or federal. The path to a job in politics usually starts with registering with the party she prefers and going to their meetings, volunteering at their events, and/or volunteering on a campaign. In the early stages she may be challenged to find a paid position. I would expect she may need to continue with the retail, waiting tables type work until she makes some connections, gains some experience. Your suggestion of working for a nonprofit is also good but again she may need to start with an internship or volunteer role.

      Good luck to her.

    14. Double A*

      The could be a perfect time to get hired as a field organizer for the midterm elections. It’s hard, it’s not paid great, but sometimes there are benefits, or she would probably be able to be fully subsidized with an ACA plan.

      It’s hard work but it teaches you a ton of amazing skills and you meet a ton of people, both within the campaign and then just while you’re out and about meeting voters. I worked for several campaigns after college and it was truly foundational work for me, even though I ultimately didn’t want to go into campaigning.

      1. Parakeet*

        Yeah, I second this. There’s a lot of hiring of campaign/electoral staff happening right now, for candidates, ballot initiatives, and nonprofits.

    15. retired3*

      Government. Go to personnel office (state, local, whatever). Look at job openings/descriptions. Talk to staff. Ask for help.

    16. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Is her degree in political science or public policy or city planning or anything related to those? If not, “going into politics” is going to take a lot of time and effort. The old-fashioned way is to get involved on a ward level and attend all the meetings and volunteer for committees – all while having a (usually) unrelated full-time job. One more related job is to work in the local court system, which is a good way to meet lawyers and judges and other officials. My late father-in-law was a self-employed plumber, but he was heavily involved in the local ward organization. For decades, no one could get elected as a committeeperson or alderman (THAT needs a new word!) without his help, because he knew EVERYBODY. If he was someone’s campaign manager in a local election, they won. Heck, the local committee wanted ME to run for office just because I had the same last name! So in many instances, volunteering with small neighborhood associations or organizations is the way to get a foot in the door.

  22. June 10*

    Anyone have tips for how to handle a lunch invitation from your boss (at a new job) if you’re still wearing a mask at work?

    I’m bad about “going along to get along” but I need to be careful for family members.

    I’m practicing saying “I’ve been being extra careful so I’m not eating indoors at restaurants, but I’d love to chat if you have time after you grab lunch!”

    Anyone have any experience with something similar?

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      Could you suggest ordering something in and sharing a meal that way, with enough space between the two of you?

    2. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I think that’s a good response! You could also ask to eat somewhere outside if that’s an option.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Yes, I think the original language is perfectly fine and adding that you’d be happy to join if you can eat outside would be fine, too, if you feel comfortable doing that.

    3. Dynamic HR Manager*

      If outside dining is an option, that is considered by most sources to be extremely safe even without a mask.

      If not, I would just plainly state that you because you need to still look out for family members, you are following more strict contact protocols at this time. Ask if you can substitute a Zoom or other form of communication. Don’t make it sound like you are dismissing the opportunity, but instead looking for an alternative channel.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yeah, if you’re in the northern hemisphere it’s the right time of year for patio dining.

    4. yogurt*

      This happened to me with my former boss constantly at my previous job!! Even during COVID heights, she was scheduling lunches, happy hours, and staff parties with our board without ever even asking if we were comfortable with jt. Her reasoning once we got vaccinated was “well, we’re all totally immune now!” And when Omicron hit in January, I finally put my foot down permanently.

      But that was a lot different bc I had been at that job for nearly 3 years, so I was pretty confident in saying no (even though she tried to ‘get me’ a few times by claiming she saw photos of me at a bar which turned out to be someone else). What I said to her was that my partner and I have medical concerns that make us more cautious to COVID so we don’t eat indoors, go unmasked in crowded spaces, etc, but that we were willing to gather with others safely outside unmasked. At the time it was winter so that didn’t mean much but now that it’s summer (if it is where you live) that’s what I’d advise you do! Just state
      your boundary without apology and add a few options with what you’re comfortable with.

      1. Loulou*

        Echoing the “suggest options you’re comfortable with.” I would say “I’d love to get lunch, could we go to X place or another place with a patio?” or “how would you feel about coffee in the park?” or substitute with whatever you’d personally be willing to do

      2. June 10*

        Thank you! Yes I’m fine with setting boundaries at my current job but it always gets tricky learning the dynamics of a new place.

    5. theletter*

      If you’re in a place with nice weather and nice outdoor spaces, could you propose a picnic?

    6. Just another queer reader*

      My office has a very nice patio area with picnic tables, and many local restaurants have outdoor seating.

      You may also feel comfortable unmasked if you order in food and eat in a conference room with just your manager.

      If none of these sound good, suggest a Zoom lunch.

      Good luck!

  23. FD*

    I’ve been in a new job for about seven months. I took a huge pay cut for this position, which has much lower responsibilities than my last job. I’m not sorry I did–I really couldn’t have stayed at that him any longer for my own health.

    I’ve been dealing with some health issues and while I’m insured (thank God) it’s been expensive. Car trouble and inflation have put much more of a strain on the budget then I had anticipated.

    On the reverse, I’ve accomplished far more then anyone would have expected for my role, including automating a process that took my predecessor (who had been there 20 years and was very good at her job) 3 hours so that it only takes me 30 minutes.

    That said, it’s a small nonprofit and not doing that well financially. I’m also going to have to ask for some somewhat expensive accommodations (different desk and a more ergonomic chair for my issues).

    At what point should I ask for a raise? What if they say the really isn’t the budget for it (which genuinely could be true)? I actually really like this job but I’m at the point where I’m really anxious financially.

    1. Alex*

      It’s a bit early to ask for a raise, especially at a nonprofit that is not doing well financially. I think you need to stick it out another five months before bringing it up. Your taking a pay cut and having some expenses isn’t really a reason for them to give you a raise.

      1. FD*

        That’s fair, the only reason I had thought it might be an edge case is that I had far exceeded the role as written. (It wasn’t part of my job to find ways to speed up processes and the improvement is dramatic.)

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Oof, that’s tough. I think it’s reasonable to prepare to ask for a raise at the 1 year mark (bringing a list of your accomplishments over the past year), but as a fellow lifelong nonprofiteer I wouldn’t expect a small, struggling nonprofit to be able to give it to you. Do you have the kind of relationship with your manager where you could bring up your concerns and see if they’d be open to considering a raise at the 12-month mark?

      Honestly, though, you’re already struggling financially, inflation is only going up right now, the organization is not secure, and you’re capable of doing higher-level work. If I were in your shoes I’d start looking to see what else is out there. This isn’t the only job in the world with low stress and many of those probably pay better.

      1. FD*

        That’s fair. I’d rather stay put for at least two years both for both resume reasons and because I’m trying to start my own business on the side.

        But thank you for the advice.

    3. Kiwiii*

      It’s probably a little early to ask for a raise, but if you have regular one on ones with your supervisor, asking about the process shouldn’t be out of line and can set you up to have the conversation at the right time.

  24. Hire For What?*

    I was hired for a virtual admin position and for about a year my workload has been very, very light. I’m usually only working an hour or two a day. One of the other reasons I was hired was because I have an in depth background in UX and eCommerce, primarily storefront and course building, and my boss promised I’d have “more to sink my teeth into” as time went on.

    I found out last week that my boss just paid someone $10k to do a full build, UX remodel, and new product launch. I sat in on a meeting with the team and took notes and everything this guy is recommending is wrong, out of date, or isn’t the best option for our users or our company. He’s also drastically overcharging and from what I can see of his portfolio, not as knowledgeable as he says he is.
    Do I just sit on this? My boss is very easily distracted by new things and loves to throw money at stuff just because it’s there.

    1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      Your boss has the rope in his hand; let him hang. You’ll have work to do cleaning up the consultant’s errors. :) Heh heh heh.

    2. Purple Cat*

      I would definitely bring it up, but not going in hot complaining that everything this guy is doing is wrong.
      Start with confirming what your experience is and asking why Boss chose to go with an external consultant. Depending on the answer, you can point out that you have the bandwidth to take on the project.
      A lot of people think outside people always have better ideas than internal staff.

      So, try to bring it up, but if boss isn’t responsive, just sit back and watch what happens.

    3. Private_Eye*

      You could catch your boss on their own and propose it as a money savings exercise! “That new contract, is there a cooling off period, because I have some ideas on how we can actually save 10k!”

  25. June 10*

    If she’s a coworker and not a direct report, I’d leave it. I bet everyone else in the room saw right through the comment about questions. If it becomes a barrier to completing your work or collaborating with her, maybe raise it with your supervisor.

    Good luck :)

  26. braindead*

    I’m worried I’ve developed mental problems since starting my current job.

    I work at a nonprofit processing gifts. When I first started, I was told for a certain type of gift, in situation A, you would do B to process it. So I’ve been doing that.

    Yesterday, I asked my boss over IM about a detail about one of these gifts, and instead of answering, she said, “remember, we were told months ago to start doing C with these.” I didn’t respond because I was totally flabbergasted.

    I have no memory of being told to start doing them differently. No one has said anything about me doing them wrong. I asked a coworker, and she didn’t remember a change either (though I don’t know if she processes many of these gifts). The day before, my boss even told me to do B with another gift.

    I don’t know what to do. Just forget about any gifts that have been entered “incorrectly” and do them “correctly” going forward?

    My boss has brought up other things I have supposedly been told before that I have absolutely no memory of, and I don’t know if something’s wrong with my memory or comprehension skills, or if the rules are inconsistent, or she’s bad at communicating things. I think I need to find a new job because these situations make me question my sanity and cause me a huge amount of anxiety.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I would bet money that your boss was told and assumed that you had also been told, and so did not tell you. This happened to us about something at the beginning of the pandemic–our supervisor was told something and thought we had been included on the email. But we hadn’t, and weeks later HR emailed us and said, “Hey, why aren’t you doing x thing with your timecards?” Because we didn’t know!

      1. tangerineRose*

        ” your boss was told and assumed that you had also been told, and so did not tell you. ” Yeah, that’s what I think too.

    2. Dynamic HR Manager*

      Your boss is probably too busy to keep everything with the various processes straight.

      Ask for any changes in a process you do to be sent to you in writing via email as you don’t want to miss any. This is also good CYA if something like the above happens again. It is also a reasonable request as it gives you something to reference if you need that.

      1. braindead*

        My boss actually is definitely busy and constantly gets interrupted by various people. So it would make sense that she might just be disorganized or losing track of what she’s told me/not told me.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Pretty sure Boss is bad at communicating things. I recommend writing a simple process. Write down what you normally do with Gifts in situations A, B, and C. Then request a meet with the boss: “hey boss, for consistency in gift handling, I think a process would be useful. I’ve drafted steps of what we normally do; can we review this together?”

      I’ve used this technique for disorganized bosses who wanted standardization but didn’t know how to get there. You draft it, they review/tweak it/bless it, then you’ve got a reference going forward. Boss misremembers or gives you conflicting instructions? Then you can refer to process. “Hey boss, according to the SOP, we normally do A. Is this a one-off or do we need to update the SOP?” Now the process gets the blame, not the person.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yes, this tends to work very well. Plus the boss is likely to think of you as someone with initiative. Also, it makes training new people easier.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      Coming here to agree that boss is more likely to be the problem. I have a scary good memory, & in one job, I thought something had happened to it. Turns out you don’t remember things that you are never told!

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I really doubt you are developing memory or comprehension problems. If that were the case, I suspect they would be showing up everywhere, not just at work and certainly, it would be showing up in your communications with more than one person. This sounds like it is only one person who is saying you were told things you don’t remember, so that sounds to me like either she is forgetting who she told and who she didn’t or she is expressing things badly so that she THINKS she’s made something clear when she hasn’t or maybe that there is just a problem with communication between the two of you.

      1. braindead*

        I’m glad some posters are pointing out the problem might be my boss. Makes me feel less crazy!

    6. Minimal Pear*

      I’m pretty much positive that the boss is the problem here, but speaking from experience, it might be a good idea to get a referral to a neurologist, just to make absolutely sure nothing’s going on.

    7. PollyQ*

      I’d bet it’s your boss, and if you feel like you need a new job, then by all means, start hunting. In the meantime, maybe start carrying a notebook with you at all times, and write down EVERYTHING your boss says all the time.

      1. braindead*

        I do take a lot of notes. It seems like if the problem is my boss, it would be better to get a new job rather than to have to worry about proving I wasn’t told something I wasn’t told (which seems impossible?).

    8. Asking for more interview timing options*

      Hi, I also have felt a bit gas-lit like this at work. When I am working on ABC that is on my plate, and then the boss will send a message asking about if I completed XYZ from 7 months ago. Like you, I’d freak out a bit and question my memory.

      The trick to address this…..TAKE IRON CLAD NOTES and highlight what you are to do and what the boss will do. If there are emails like this, put them in a separate folder to refer to later.

      Essentially, be a bit defensive when it comes to noting who does what. This does help regain a feeling of control.

      1. braindead*

        I do have a binder crammed with detailed notes of processes (including updates to processes or new things I learn about processes). I would think if my boss told me something changed, I would have added it to my notes as I usually do.

        I do also have an e-mail folder where I keep any instructions she e-mails me. The things I’m not remembering are things she supposedly told me in trainings or otherwise verbally, not through e-mail unfortunately.

    9. *daha**

      “I was not previously informed. I will start using the new method immediately. Do you want me to re-process the earlier gifts, and if so, how far back should I go.”

    10. LittleMarshmallow*

      I wouldn’t automatically assume that you have a mental issue because of this. Internal communication in every place I’ve worked has been terrible… to the point where you think you’re going crazy, but it’s always really just been crappy communication.

      Also… no one remembers everything… that’s just part of aging (no idea how old you are… I’m only 38 but I forget crap all the time). I sent an email the other day and then was 100% certain my colleague actually did it… but then nope, I see the email in my name written in my communication style… I just don’t remember doing it. It’s not because I’m going crazy or mentally ill (I mean… I am, but this is unrelated) it’s just because I’m human and sometimes forget things.

      Keep your chin up. You’ll figure it out.

      I’d actually recommend asking manager for the supporting document for the current process. If one doesn’t exist then… well they can’t reasonably expect you to know the rules… if one does, then it should clear up the issue pretty quickly (also… if it exists but is out of date you could volunteer to update it if needed – not sure what you’re documentation policies are – whatever makes sense for your place).

    11. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Lol king for at new job over one fairly minor issue (that’s probably not even your fault) seems pretty extreme. I’d have had to job-hunt every few months if that’s the solution! Just ask! “I don’t see anything in my notes or your e-mails about process C, when was this supposed to go into effect?” Bounce that guilt ball right back at your boss! But do make sure the correct processes are used going forward, because NFP audits are sticklers about how gifts are handled.

  27. CalAH*

    We finally have a new employee for my old position! (I was promoted in March. Since then I have been backfilling my old position while learning my new job.)
    I’m responsible for a lot of her training. This makes sense because the position was new when I started and I’m the first person who had those specific duties. I’ve written and updated guides on the more complex processes and set aside a minimum of five hours per week to train the new employee. I’ve also asked for regular meetings with the positon’s manager to track progress and get advice on my training style. Unfortunately that manager is overbooked and it’s unclear if she can hold those check ins with me.
    I have cross trained coworkers and led some learning exercises in school, but this is my first time training anyone in an official capacity. I would appreciate resources or suggestions on how to effectively train new employees.

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      I’d recommend asking the employee how she would like to be trained! Some people just need a quick written guide and off they go, with the understanding that they can ask you questions if need be. Other people prefer to shadow for a little while. If the new employee can give you a helpful answer, it may be easier to build a training set-up tailored to her.

      1. ecnaseener*

        +1 for asking. I’ve learned the hard way that you can write the world’s best guide, but if the trainee is a note-taking sort of learner you will still have to wait for them to take their own notes. That kind of thing, and pacing too – would she rather learn 1 task at a time and practice it a few times before moving onto the next one, or get shown everything ASAP and go from there? (Obv you don’t have to accommodate every possible preference – if she prefers a glacial pace, oh well, you don’t have time for that.)

    2. Just another queer reader*

      Good thoughts here! Oftentimes the impulse with training is to deliver a lecture, and maybe that’s appropriate in some ways, but as much as possible, try to make it more hands-on or discussion based.

      Personally, I often ask the same questions several times on a brand new topic. It just takes a while to get it to sink in. Please be patient when you answer a repeat question. (maybe there are ways to avoid this, I don’t know.)

    3. Sleepy cat*

      If someone was training me I’d find it overkill for them to meet with my manager. You really don’t need to do that!

  28. Cafe au Lait*

    I’m applying for a job where one of the major responsibilities would be training incoming employees. Other than onboard incoming employees with existing material in my current job (worked in my role for 10 years), I haven’t created anything new. It’s not for lack of trying; my manager keeps shooting my ideas down. It’s not because they’re bad ideas, they’re just not hers. (As an example: in a team meeting with my manager, my grand-boss and a colleague, I brought up several ways to make communication smoother in our small team. My boss would start saying “No,” and my grand-boss would jump in with “That’s a great idea, Cafe au Lait.”)

    In my role prior to this one, I was able to create new training materials. I’m worried that 10 years is too far out of date for examples.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Don’t worry about it. When you answer interview questions you aren’t usually date stamping them.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yep. They’re usually looking for effectiveness of the materials & delivery.

        That being said, I would still update what I could. That way I wouldn’t be sidetracked in my mind about how out-of-date anything is.

  29. Yoyoyo*

    I recently started a new job which was a significant pay increase and will be less stressful than my previous job – yay! It also appeared that the PTO policy was comparable. However, I found out last week that holidays are taken out of our PTO! There are 6 holidays, which means that our total vacation time is over a week less than what I was led to believe when negotiating my offer. We also can’t use PTO for the first 90 days, so I am not getting paid for Memorial Day or Independence Day. I asked if there was a way I could work Independence Day so I wouldn’t go without pay, and I was told no. My question – is it normal to have to use PTO for holidays? It seems odd to me but maybe I am the one who is out of touch? Regardless, I think they should have specified this when they made my offer. I likely would have taken a harder line in negotiations had I known!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t know about normal. My org includes the six official holidays in our PTO bucket, but that’s because we’re a hospital system and many areas are staffed 24/7, so people who either have to or choose to work the holiday can keep the PTO and just use it some other time that’s convenient for them. That said, we also don’t do the no-PTO-for-your-first-x-days thing, and in fact the first 30 days are an exception to the normal “can’t go negative on PTO” rule as well, so our newbies don’t have to take unpaid holidays in their early days.

    2. Another person here*

      Not normal. I had an offer from a place that did this – no PTO the first 90 days and holidays included in PTO – but they included the leave plan with the offer so I knew about it (it was a factor in my declining the offer). They also gave employees the option to work the holiday or make up the hours during the same pay period.

    3. Rose*

      Does it say anywhere in your offer letter etc that this is how they handle PTO? If not perhaps you have grounds to push back? I have never worked somewhere that took holidays out of PTO like that, but I do know they exist. IMO pretty shitty to do, unless it is a company/role that requires coverage at all times (such as healthcare)

    4. 867-5309*

      I have NEVER heard of holidays coming out of PTO. (However, Red makes a good point above. As soon as I read that, I remembered my mom who was a nurse having to take vacation on holidays but outside of those situations I do not think it’s common. I am not sure how the process was for the office staff and leadership.) It is normal to not be able to use PTO right away but in my experience that doesn’t include holidays. (For example – I was hired in late-April 2021 and got Memorial Day off paid.) Is this something you can back to to discuss? Or would feel comfortable doing so?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m admin (not clinical) at my hospital system, and the way it works at least for my division is, any PTO requests for the holiday itself are approved no questions and no limits, but people who choose to work part or all of the day can do so and save the PTO in their bucket. People who work the holiday don’t get paid extra for it, just their regular hourly wage.

        We’re remote, so we don’t have to worry about whether an office is open on the holiday or not – I assume people who work onsite in an office that would close for the holiday have a different set of options. All our team members (admin and clinical alike) have the same general PTO structure, accruals based on how long you’ve been with the org, but each area has a slightly different way to apply PTO use based on how that area’s particular needs shake out, as long as they’re consistent for people with the same types of jobs within their area, if that makes sense.

      2. LittleMarshmallow*

        24/7 manufacturing plants do holidays differently sometimes too. The one I used to work at had holidays and PTO separated, but for shift employees, they were hourly, they just don’t get the holiday if they’re scheduled that day… they get time and a half or double time pay instead. They still get PTO for vacations and if they work stuff out with their crew sometimes can use it to take a holiday (that’s actually pretty rare among the shift hourly workers but common among the shift salaried workers). The shift salaried workers were given an extra 5 days of PTO that non-shift workers didn’t have to account for not being guaranteed holidays. I was salaried shift for almost 3 years there and honestly I didn’t mind the arrangement. I was young and didn’t have much for family commitments so I often volunteered to take shift trades to cover holidays. Working holidays was quiet and sometimes there was free food. Haha. It was better than sitting home alone on a holiday. I know it was harder for people with family obligations though. Although most made it work fine.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I wouldn’t say it’s normal but I have worked with places that have this policy. It totally sucks and is very demoralizing, but it’s legal (though they should have specified!).

    6. Purple Cat*

      That is surprising. And very lousy to not have informed you ahead of time and to be forbidding you from using them for Holidays that they’re not allowing you to work! That last piece is the one I would push back on.

    7. Shiba Dad*

      It’s not normal, but I had a job where the office was “closed” but didn’t have paid holidays. We had to use vacation or work if we wanted paid for those days.

      Eventually that changed.

    8. PollyQ*

      Are you exempt/salaried and in the US? If so, my understanding is that you need to be paid a full week’s wages for any week in which you did any work at all, so not paying you for a holiday wouldn’t be legal. AFAIK, there’s no “first 90 days” exception for this, although they could dock your future PTO. Anyway, to answer your question, no, this isn’t normal, and I’ve never even heard of such a thing.

    9. Picard*

      In over 30 years in full time for profit businesses Ive never had to use PTO for holidays AND not been allowed to work. In other words, if I was working a 24/7 kind of place, you might have to use PTO whenever you’re off but you’re not mandated to be off certain dates. If it was a regular office environment, holidays were not part of PTO (current office recognizes 10 days yearly)

    10. Lady_Lessa*

      For my industries (non-medical, non 24 hr coverage needed) I have never seen holidays as part of PTO. Sometimes you have had to use it if the plant shut down between Christmas and New Years, but not holidays.

    11. Simonkitty*

      Actually, that’s how the PTO works in my current company instead of vacation/sick leave. We use PTO for holidays; but you can work on the holiday as long as the work is billable to the client.

    12. WellRed*

      If they said they offer x number of paid holidays, that should be in addition to x amount of PTO.

  30. AnonRN*

    I’m interested in people’s take on this situation. I’m an inpatient nurse. Every shift there must be a charge nurse. Many of the nurses on the unit are qualified to be the charge nurse and we usually rotate it around. There is no extra money for being the charge nurse, but there is extra responsibility and interaction with higher-level supervisors. Most of the nurses on my unit work 12 hour shifts. One nurse has recently elected to only work 8 hours shifts for personal/medical reasons. For continuity of care, it’s better to have a 12-hour nurse be the charge nurse rather than an 8-hour nurse. So, it’s likely to be the case that the 8-hour nurse won’t be the charge nurse very often any more. What do you all think about this? Are we inadvertently punishing them for the adjustment they needed to make to their schedule? Are we depriving them of opportunities to interact with supervisors? It’s on my mind that the nurse in question is also a POC (the only one on the unit) and also had a rocky transition to working on this unit (several years ago). Does this appear to be unfair? Does the operational need (continuity) legitimately outweigh the personal need (opportunity for this nurse)?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Since your operational need is specifically linked to patient care, I think it does outweigh. It’s not like y’all are frivolously deciding that only 12-hour nurses can be charge nurse because they wear blue scrubs and patients like blue scrubs or something.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      One outside-the-box thought:

      Why can’t the charge nurse duty just last for 6 hours, instead of a full shift?

      More handoffs during the course of a 24-hour-day, obviously. But this might make the charge nurse responsibilities less onerous since you’re only doing them for half of your shift, and the 8-hour nurse could take 6 hours of charge nurse duty then hand off to a full-shift nurse for the other 6.

      1. Ope!*

        My understanding is that there have been studies done that prove that more handoffs in responsibility lead to more infections / complications / potential deaths. That’s how longer shifts in medical care became the norm to begin with. I suspect the organization would not be willing to change the standard of care based on that.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I’d assume this as well. (Kind of surprised that the nurse w/ 8 hours actually got that. 7 and 7 were the shift change hours when my munchkin was hospitalized. We had a care-changeover discussion every evening and morning – we meaning the off-going nurse, the on-coming nurse, myself and my child to some degree. If there were any on our floor with that schedule, I never saw them.)

        2. A Wall*

          This precisely. More handoffs mean more risk to the patients, which I do think unfortunately does have to come before opportunities for this nurse.

          However, as others have said, you should talk to her about it and see how she feels. She may be relieved to not have to take it on, she may want you to try to find other opportunities for her in the future instead, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Can you talk to them? Maybe they would prefer not to be the charge nurse so often. Maybe they have some suggestions as to how they could make it work. Maybe they might already have assumed that the change to their shifts means they will have to opt out of being charge nurse.

      It seems reasonable to me. To me, it seems a little like being department coordinator here (sorta like head of department but we don’t have very official heads of department and it’s often rotated) and say somebody who is jobsharing or who only has a couple of hours of a particular subject not getting a turn at being department coordinator. I think most people would realise that is reasonable.

      But I do think that if possible one of you or a group of you should go to the nurse in question and say something like, “hey, now that you’re working shorter shifts, we were wondering how to arrange the charge nurse situation. Would you prefer not to take on that role any more or have you any suggestions as to how we might make it work?”

    4. RagingADHD*

      No, it is not unfair.
      The top two priorities here are 1) patient care and 2) the nurse’s own wellbeing.

      The nurse made their own decision to reduce shifts knowing that charge nursing requires a 12-hour shift. If someone is in the position that they need to cut back their work hours for their health, then giving them extra responsibility for no pay would not be doing them any favors anyway.

    5. PollyQ*

      Not unfair, IMO, and it looks like a pretty good example of reasonable vs. unreasonable accomodations. I can see where it feels different because she’s a lone POC, but hopefully this will just be a temporary thing until she’s feeling better, and she’ll be able to resume the higher-responsibility role in the future.

    6. Part-timer*

      As someone who went part-time for similar reasons a number of years ago, I fully expected and accepted that there were certain things I was sacrificing professionally, and it was completely worth it to me. The extra responsibilities (comparable to rotating charge nurse) were things I was glad to be able to give up. I also fully realized and accepted that it would impact my possibilities for advancement, but I was completely ok with this as well, since it was how I was protecting my work-life balance. Should I ever want to continue to advance, I would expect to return to full-time first. Obviously, your co-worker may have different thoughts, but she likely considered a bunch of options prior to making this change. I think an open conversation could probably clear up a lot!

      On another note, I initially read your intro as saying that you are an “impatient nurse,” and I thought this letter was going to go in a whole different direction!

    7. Observer*

      What do you all think about this? Are we inadvertently punishing them for the adjustment they needed to make to their schedule?

      I don’t think so, but I also don’t think it matters. No one is trying to “punish” her or “teach a lesson” to her. But, compromising patient care is simply never a reasonable accommodation to someone’s health need.

      You could argue that everyone would be better off if the whole system went to a 3 8 hour shift system. But as long as that’s not happening, you simply need to do what’s best of patient care within the system as it exists.

      Does the operational need (continuity) legitimately outweigh the personal need (opportunity for this nurse)?

      I’m actually concerned that this is a serious question. What’s at stake here is not minor – Patient care is the raison d’ etre of the system, and you don’t compromise that unless you have no choice. Especially since compromising that could literally have life altering negative consequences for your patients.

  31. Shiny*

    I started a new job in February. It’s fine, and there are many good things about it while a few not so good. The reasons for leaving my last job still totally remain and I would not consider going back to a similar role at that organization. I have turned down requests from recruiters reaching out (not super common in my field).

    However. My last organization reached out to me about a different role. As opposed to working in, say HQ across a portfolio, I would be a senior person on a field project. They roll out the red carpet for these kind of roles. Think living in a very low COL country with US salary, big tax benefits, housing paid for, an allowance, moving and R&R covered, etc. And it would be much more interesting work than my current job.

    How crazy am I to be seriously considering it? It would probably burn the bridge where I am, which is unfortunate as it’s an excellent organization. But opportunities like this don’t come along often. I’m not a shoo in; they may receive a superstar application they’re not expecting. But it requires a mix of skills and expertise that are pretty rate on their own, much less in one person.

    What are the pros and cons I’m not thinking of? What questions should I be asking? How do I frame it if I do leave my current role? I would tell them it just fell into my lap and was too good to pass up, but is there anything else I can do to soften the blow and maintain the relationship at all?

    1. 867-5309*

      You need to ask if the issues in your former employer were just a result of the role you held or deeper cultural and leadership ones? Nothing will have changed around a CEO whose belief systems are wildly out of sync with yours or a culture of burnout.

      And the reality is, I don’t think you can soften the message. It would be better to be matter of fact using your script below and tell them how much you appreciated the opportunity to come on board. The only other thing I can think of is to reinforce that in no way had you expected this from your former company and the opportunity was not even on your radar until they reached out. (I could see current job thinking you went to them as a backup when you really wanted something from old job.)

      Look… yes, you might burn a bridge initially but as a hiring manager who used to hold a grudge, I’m now much more realistic about these things. It’s part of business and while I wouldn’t welcome you back in say the next 24 months if you hate the job you’re going to, it wouldn’t forever “black ball” you in my esteem. That isn’t the case for everyone but at the end of the day – you do what’s right for your life.

      1. Shiny*

        This is a good point about the issue. I would have an entirely different reporting structure and would be insulated from a lot of the nonsense that goes on in the US side of the organization. I’d have to figure things out when the project ends, but that’s several years down the line and is not really a concern.

    2. Kaira DeLeon*

      Approximately, when would you be starting the new role? It’s already mid-June, so after they do all their interviews, would it be mid-July/August? August is six months after you started, so that’s not ideal, but doesn’t seem burning a bridge.

      1. Shiny*

        I’m worried since they invested in getting me my security clearance, etc. But you’re right. The new role has a pretty flexible timeline; they need someone in country no later than December. I’m hoping you’re right and it’s at least 6 months.

        1. Pam Wagner*

          Since NewJob got you your security clearance you might check the employee handbook on leaving within a certain time. Those are very expensive!

  32. KofSharp*

    I saw an exec at my old job get fired and walked out due to embezzlement, but no legal action was taken. The leadership above him kept it mostly quiet and I only found out because I followed my team lead to a new company. That executive took money meant for our bonuses and raises as well.
    The executive have now created his own company, and I’m seeing old friends from my first job follow him. Do I have an obligation to tell them, or should I let them find out on their own when he does it again?

    1. Margaery Tyrell*

      Oof this is hard to say, but I’d say because they’re your friends it’s worth sharing what you know. I’d try to frame it less as a “your new boss sucks, and you’ve made a terrible choice” and maybe a “in case you didn’t know….”

      After that, I would leave it alone and not pester them to leave the job, for those that decide to stay. But as a friend, you’ve given them what you know and let them do with that what they will.

      1. KofSharp*

        One of them did call to ask if I wanted to move to that company, siting “Higher Paychecks” and whatnot.
        I had actually gotten a little upset and said I knew the executive never wanted to work with me again because I had organized the new hire group into asking for more money. (They tried to say I couldn’t legally discuss my pay and I pointed out that not allowing discussion of wages was illegal so…)

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Holy cow! I’d definitely feel obligated to tell them. You can say “I heard this second hand but I thought it was concerning enough that I wanted to give you a heads up”. They can then make their own decisions about whether to work with him, but at least you’ll be giving them a heads up to look out for anything suspicious.

      1. KofSharp*

        I’ve told ONE of them about this and he blew me off so I just dropped it with him. I’m just worried I’ll find out they failed.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Well, it’s out of your hands now! You did what you could and now you have to put it out of your mind. Not your circus, not your monkeys.

        2. pancakes*

          That’s an odd reaction. Maybe they were just flustered and didn’t know what to say.

          In terms of legal consequences, there may have been a settlement both sides agreed not to discuss publicly. So I wouldn’t assume nothing at all happened.

          You could phrase it as a question rather than an announcement, in terms of letting people know – something along the lines of, “Did you know he was accused of embezzling?” Anyone who kicks off against that or gets dismissive, that’s their choice, but I would be curious if people were telling me they were going to work for someone like that.

    3. 867-5309*

      I understand why your company might not have pressed charges if they’re worried about reputational blowback but I would feel inclined to warn those following him.

    4. Dino*

      I would absolutely reach out and let them know. To CYA, make sure it’s a phone call or in person instead of in writing. But yes, I think you should let them know.

    5. RagingADHD*

      If you would be happy to see them lose their bonuses again, then don’t tell them. But in that case, you should probably stop referring to them as “friends.”

    6. Mickey Q*

      You should be concerned about a company who doesn’t take legal action against embezzlement. It could mean that other execs were also in on it and chose not to take action to hide their own involvement.

      1. Observer*

        Highly unlikely. There are a lot of reasons why a company might not take action. And those reasons have nothing to do with collusion on the part of other staff or executives.

          1. KofSharp*

            buckle up, Tessa, my first job was a bumpy ride!
            1. I was hired under false pretenses so they could underpay me. (Said I’d be 3D modeling new things. This job was not that.)
            2. Refused to tell anyone what the possible career paths were, or how to meet those goals. Then when you asked, it became ABUNDANTLY clear that the only way to get ahead was nepotism.
            3. Embezzling executive hired at least 4 people and their families because he was sleeping with one member of that family.
            4. When I was going from contract/temp to hire, I organized the whole group to go ask for more money because I found out what base salary for that SHOULD be. Did not go over well.
            5. When the embezzler was fired, the new exec they brought in had EXTREME control issues: every work truck had to be parked based on make, model, and year, and it got to the point of shouting at me for wearing headphones while I was listening to a virtual client training that he had signed off on, because “headphones are ALWAYS unprofessional”
            6. I asked for a raise, I’d personally blown every goal out of the water and brought a new client on. They laughed at me.
            7. They decided to build a $50-70k “training room” after the one person qualified to run trainings left… and said we’d be in charge of writing and running trainings while maintaining our current levels of productivity.
            At first I was putting up with the BS because I’d failed spectacularly at getting a job in my actual field. Then covid hit, they told us “no one was hiring” and during an exposure that was handled poorly, they locked a whole team (me included) in a conference room while they “called corporate to find out what to do.”
            I found a new job for a 33% raise with better benefits and turned in my “I leave Friday” notice.
            I regret not leaving sooner, and they probably should have walked me out because I taught every other coworker how to update their LinkedIn accounts and how to use the salary comparison tools. Only 2 people I originally worked with remain there.

            1. Observer*

              Wow!

              Where to start with this… Embezzler Exec is not even the worst issue here. I’m glad you’re in a somewhat sane place now!

              1. KofSharp*

                I was just so happy to leave my post college job of bartending that I overlooked a ton of those flags. Oddly enough I was really good at the job that they lied to put me in, which is fantastic! There’s actually a career path here for people without an engineering degree and I’m so happy.

    7. Observer*

      I don’t think you have an obligation. But I do think that telling anyone you are still in contact with. The fact that one of the guys who followed him blew you off doesn’t change that. It does mean, however, that you can be pretty sure that the others won’t be hearing about it from him.

  33. Crylo Ren*

    I’m in the process of interviewing and in the fortunate position of having a few different companies interested in moving me to the next round, plus I’m not really in that much of a hurry to leave my current role (obviously I’d like to leave at some point, but I can afford to be very picky about the next one).

    Two of the companies I’m VERY interested in and would absolutely take the job without hesitation if offered.
    The third company I’m “meh” about it at best, and probably wouldn’t jump to take it unless the other two rejected me and if things suddenly got way worse at my current job.

    Given that I’m kind of ambivalent about this third company, should I still continue interviewing with them? The other two are not a sure thing yet, so I’m hesitant to preemptively remove myself, but at the same time it’s exhausting to interview with three companies at once – especially because all three of them want to do full-day round-robin interviews in the coming weeks.

    1. Margaery Tyrell*

      Can you tell company 3 to pump the breaks on the scheduling? You don’t have to tell them why just maybe “due to personal reasons, I’m going to be less available for the next # weeks — can we punt this conversation to Month #?”

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’m of the belief you shouldn’t stop interviewing until you have a signed offer, so I’d continue with the third company just in case. I’m actually in this boat myself – I’m one of two top candidates for one company (so 50% chance of getting an offer next week) and in the running for a job I feel great about and they seem to feel very strongly about me, but I’m still about to do an initial interview with a third organization I’m not wild about, just in case.

      In my situation though, I’m about to be out of work so I don’t have the option of staying where I am!

  34. New Intern Manager*

    Any advice for managing an intern for the first time? I have a graduate level intern (local government) who started this week, who also worked 1-2 years in an unrelated field prior to grad school, so he has prior exposure to working in a professional setting. Thanks in advance!

    1. 867-5309*

      I did something that has been incredibly helpful with the interns on our team… I had them create SMART goals and then we developed a week-by-week grid of deliverables (some of which were continuing ed around taking online training) that was flexible when a project took longer or they finished an assignment sooner.

  35. Shalom*

    Earlier this week the division (of about 150 people) I work for had a cook out. My team was all sitting at one table. I don’t eat pork or shellfish and there was a lot I wasn’t able to eat. Literally everything but the drinks and one side didn’t contain pork and/or shellfish. I had a drink and at a bit of the side. I have a lot of work to do and it’s been a stressful few weeks at work, so I excused myself to go back up to my desk to work & enjoy a quiet office to catch up. I also get very nervous in huge social situations as I am on the spectrum & deal with a lot of social anxiety– but this fact isn’t open at work. On my way out that evening, a friend from another team mentioned to me that as soon as I left the table, my colleagues, including director was making fun of me for my Jewish dietary restrictions. And some of the stuff I was told was pretty horrible things about my dietary restrictions and me being “weird”. I am at loss how to handle this situation. I am terrible at confrontation. Should I talk to my director? Go to HR? Or just see this as a cue to look for another job?

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I would probably talk to HR, while looping in the friend who’d relayed the “discussion” of your religious based food restrictions.

    2. Jessica Ganschen*

      Definitely talk to HR and also be prepared to start a job search if necessary. I’ve been very lucky in my life so far and haven’t had to deal with people making fun of me for keeping kosher, but you have my sympathies, and I hope everything works out well for you.

      1. Shalom*

        Thank you! I’m in the year long conversion process so this is all new territory for me.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Definitely talk to HR.

      I’ve had people criticize my vegetarianism to my face, but this is 1000 times worse. Bigotry is never acceptable.

      On a side note, you might also mention that cookouts need to be more accommodating in general, as I am sure you aren’t the only person with dietary restrictions, whether religious, philosophical, or medical.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Accurate. With shellfish allergies as prevalent as they are (3% of the US adult population is the first number that fell out of the Goog-machine) combined with at least one major world religion not being cool with it, I’m always surprised its such a common thing at company picnics, etc. Because of course, meals provided by an employer should be inclusive.

        My own shellfish allergy probably would have precluded me from eating a darn thing at this same meal.

        1. Shalom*

          I might add I live in a part of the country where a certain shellfish is much beloved and eaten in mass quantities.

      2. WellRed*

        Right? I just plain don’t like pork or shellfish so it would have been sides for me. However, I have no problem with speaking up.

    4. Shiba Dad*

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this. Go to HR. Your coworkers may not realize it, but they are arguably being anti-Semitic. HR should take this seriously.

      Also, as the spouse of someone with celiac disease, dietary restrictions of all kinds need to be normalized.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        It is especially bad that it seems like the co-workers knew about the dietary restrictions and practically all of the food violated those restrictions. Was this done on purpose?

      2. Observer*

        Your coworkers may not realize it, but they are arguably being anti-Semitic.

        This is not “arguable”. Making fun of someone’s kosher restrictions IS antisemitic. The same way that making fun of someone’s Halal restrictions would absolutely be Islamophobic.

    5. PollyQ*

      You should go to HR, since this is straight-up illegal harrassment based on religion, but sorry to say, you should also start looking for another job, since all too often, these things don’t work out well for the employee. I’m sorry — this really, really sucks. My sister also keeps kosher, and she’s run into issues where company-provided lunches didn’t have much for her to eat, but no one’s ever given her any grief about it!

    6. Scott*

      I know you said you are terrible at confrontation but this is one in which I would recommend sucking it up and confronting the team. You don’t have to be belligerent about it, just matter-of-fact in asking at a team meeting or something. “Hey, I was pretty taken about to hear that y’all had some not so nice things to say about my dietary restrictions. What’s up with that? Do my eating habits affect you somehow that I’m not seeing?” Put the awkward squarely back on them.
      I recognize this will be hard to do, but you will probably be doing your team and maybe future team members a favor.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        And while we’re at it, can you please let me know before we arrange a lunch like this again so I can make sure there are some options that I will be able to eat.

    7. Observer*

      Should I talk to my director? Go to HR? Or just see this as a cue to look for another job?

      If your director was joining the talk, there is nothing you can gain in talking to them. However, I would both go to HR *and* start looking for a new job.

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

      My sympathies. I have (non-religious) dietary restrictions and during our last company meeting the only I could have was tea, cereal bars and croissants, no lunch at all. Besides going to HR, I’d suggest writing to the organization comitee and complain about the lack of food for your situation.

    9. tessa*

      How do you know what your friend told you is accurate, or even true? If true, I’m terribly sorry, and absolutely go to HR; but make sure you have evidence or at least have your friend with you as a witness.

  36. The Prettiest Curse*

    Tell me your unsolved work or office mysteries! My last office had an entire area of our floor that was permanently blocked. (The doors were kept locked.)
    The equivalent space was rented out on all the other floors. Nobody ever talked about that space and apparently it had never been rented, so I will never know if it was a utility area, unfinished office space or something more mysterious…

    1. Princess Xena*

      We have a box in the lady’s bathroom that is kept stocked – somewhat – with mostly useful things. Sometimes there are tampons and pads. Sometimes sewing kits. Sometimes lotion. No one I’ve talked to, including the office staff, know who stocks the box. No one has ever complained of things going missing.

    2. Melanie Cavill*

      At my previous job, I was there super late one night. I was the only person in the office I work out of. There were people in the building doing second shift work, but most of them are not allowed to come into the administrative office unless they have a first aid emergency. I left my desk to go use the facilities, came back… and there was a giant clump of light brown hair on my desk. My hair is jet black.

    3. trilusion*

      At a former job, a few colleagues and I used to have a a post-it sticky note with a ninja drawn on it. The game was to hide it somewhere (innocent places, like under someone’s keyboard, in the lowest shelf, amidst other sticky notes, etc.) and whoever found it “won” and then got to hide it next. Sometimes we would forget the ninja for a few weeks until someone turned their keyboard upside down and found it, to everyone’s surprise and cheer.

      Before I left that job, the ninja hadn’t been found for a while, and all participants got worried about him, we searched the last known places and we just didn’t find him. I still wonder if he maybe just fell down to get sucked up by a vacuum or whether someone will find him in a few years behind the toaster or something.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Or someone who wasn’t in on the game found it on the floor or something and threw it away.

    4. JimmyJab*

      We had a pooper. About 5 times over about a year-long period, someone was leaving a human poop in the middle of the hall on the upper floor of our office where the public has some access, and basically right outside a bathroom. I believe it was always found first thing in the morning in a locked area of the office, so unlikely a rando did it, it had to be someone who worked there or otherwise had access. There were SO MANY rumors, but as far as I know, no one was ever id’d, or if they were, the situation was handled quietly. I don’t know if it is relevant, but I work for a state government agency with 90% office workers.

    5. Cookies For Breakfast*

      My lunch got stolen from the employee fridge once (and only once in quite a few years at that company). It was a portion of homemade very beige food, stored in a plastic box of a distinctive colour. I opened the fridge at lunchtime and…my box was just not there.

      I was annoyed that someone took the food, but hey, stuff happens. What I still can’t explain myself is that the empty box never reappeared, because:

      – It was midweek. The fridge only got cleared out by cleaners on Fridays, so, unlikely it got thrown away by mistake
      – The office had a huge stash of empty washed food boxes employees left behind. Every now and then, cleaners would invite people to take them back/take anything they wanted before they threw away the rest. I even took a few for myself now and then. But the box that lunch was taken from was never there.
      – There were plenty of open spaces where the thief could have left the empty box without anyone noticing. Heck, they could have left it in the sink, and it would have just been cleaned up and put in the pile. I posted a message on the office Slack channel (“hey, my box of this shape and colour is missing, I need it back, has anyone seen it?”). No replies, and no anonymous drop-offs.

    6. FormerPage*

      In high school I worked as a library page. I was reshelving books one day when I came across a bra that was laid out across a row of books. It was clearly placed there deliberately, and the person responsible had clearly taken care to make sure it would stay where it was until someone found it. I went and got one of the librarians, and she took it back to the desk and put it in the lost-and-found. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever came to claim it. I have so many questions that I will never get answers to, which is probably why that incident has stuck with me for 20 years.

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        My assumption would be some teenagers were having some, let’s say. hormonal exercises nearby and were too embarrassed to reclaim the article later.

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

      It’s not really “unsolved” but it’s sort of mysterious. One of our campus buildings has a completely hidden half floor (by that, I mean it’s only about a 5-6 ft tall space that’s not really the full height of a floor and a tall person would have to crouch down) between the first and second real floors. There are no windows, so you can’t tell from outside either. There are 2 stair cases that end at a ceiling, that I think, once led to this half floor and I believe there is an hidden access door somewhere. I found this out when I was creating a way-finding sign for the building and was given the blueprints to use as reference. There would be a stairwell on the first floor, and an office on the second where the stairs should have been. The blueprints did not reference this extra floor at all. I mentioned it in passing to someone who works in that building, and they confirmed, they know there is a hidden half floor.

    8. Chapeau*

      At one of my previous workplaces there was a room that was basically under the basement, a sub-basement if you will. There were some no-longer-used tunnels that connected older buildings on the campus, but this room was separate from that system and was accessible only by a staircase that seemed to go nowhere. And in that room was a complete weight room. The equipment was not new, but it was still usable….

      And no one ever used it.

    9. Purrscilla*

      At a smallish company, we had a single HR person who was suddenly fired. They had worked there for at least 10 months and were well-liked as far as I knew. There was a company announcement: “Marcia is no longer with the company and we’ve been advised by our lawyer not to say anything else”.

      This left me insanely curious about what happened, but of course I knew better than to ask.

    10. beentheredonethat*

      We had a storage room that was always referred to as the ‘dog house’ The story was that 10 years earlier, 2 employees were found in there … uhm… inappropriately position.

    11. LittleMarshmallow*

      I put little dinosaurs all over our office… I know so it’s not a mystery to me but my colleagues don’t know who does it so it’s a mystery to them.

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        Oh. We also have a ghost… I won’t say the name lest a colleague is on here. Haha. He rings the doorbell to the building when you’re on nights (we all heard it… there was no one there and nothing on the camera!) and steals stuff.

  37. Resume Help Needed*

    Hiring managers, would you rather see:

    A) A resume that shows 20+ years of professional growth including some big name national organizations with a couple of gaps and sidesteps that make you raise an eyebrow (but are totally explainable by things I don’t want to get into like divorce & childbirth)

    or

    B) A resume that shows the last 8-10 years of experience but leaves off earlier “name brand” relevant experience?

    I’m asking because I’ve been sending out A, and had a few people probe into the reasons for gaps / sidesteps that I didn’t want to go into, but felt like I needed to in order to explain the gaps. I really don’t want to discuss my mid-30s divorce or my mid-40s surprise child but they’re reasons for some short-term / part-time gigs that don’t really line up with the rest of my resume.

    I also wonder if it’s to my advantage to only have the most recent years of experience anyway, to avoid age bias.

    1. 867-5309*

      I know there is prevailing advice to only include the last ten years but it’s always miffed me a bit. However, how I do it might help you here: I do ten years with achievements and for the rest of my career, list it as

      ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE
      Company, 08/2003-05/2006, Role (Location)
      Company, 08/2003-05/2006, Role (Location)
      Company, 08/2003-05/2006, Role (Location)

      Also, you don’t have to give much detail. You can saw the gaps are related to “personal family needs, including having a child” that have long been resolved.

      1. 867-5309*

        I’ll offer one other opinion… If there are several part-time and freelance jobs in a specific window, put them all under one “Freelance” bucket and list a key accomplishment or two per each gig, rather than the individual contract and part time jobs. (I did this also because I’ve done freelance and part-time work at different points in my career.)

    2. aubrey*

      It sounds like B would be the better option and would be the one I’d like to see as a hiring manager. You could always reference the big names in an interview. I do find it weird that people are digging into gaps from 10 years ago though! I honestly wouldn’t even read that far back on a resume. However, I work in a rapidly developing tech field where recent work is very important so this might vary by industry.

    3. El Muneco*

      Slightly different take… I have gaps in _my_ resume, so I don’t automatically become suspicious when I see one in a resume that crosses my desk. However, I am quite cognizant of the fact that I’m an outlier in that regard, and the second option is “safest”.

  38. NoLongerFencer*

    Returning to telework after maternity leave ends next week. After NICU, severe reflux, having severe hives and general misery that slowly turned less miserable. And baby is quite cute but screams every 3 min. So…YAY! Also, any tips? SO is taking over with 12 weeks parental leave. Pumping every few hrs. The only women who became parents all left the company despite amazing benefits, to be SAHMs.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I telework and I tell my husband: “I’m not really here.” No wandering in to chat, interruptions to ask “where is thing?” Designate times that you can be disturbed – pumping times or other.

      But as a former nursing mom, be prepared for milk let-down if you hear your baby fuss. Even if you are pumping regularly, ole Mother Nature hits you with a reflex upon hearing that cry. If you videoconference, have some extra pads in your bra or aim the camera to neck and above. Make sure your chair is comfy; sitting for 8 hours even months after delivery is not fun.

      And congrats on your baby!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Oh man, my husband has a terrible habit of wandering into my office when he’s watching the kiddo and just playing with him right there while I’m trying to work. I don’t WFH too often right now but I’m preparing to switch to a more remote job, and my plan is to physically not be present while he’s home with the kid(s). Our house has a door between the living area and kitchen, and you have to go through the kitchen to get to the office, so that door will remain closed unless he’s actively cooking in the kitchen.

        Also, this won’t be an issue until babe gets a bit older, but at a certain point they will get upset every time they see you and then you leave. So try to keep away from the baby until you’re done for the day!

    2. WorkingMomof2*

      Me! I started back a couple weeks ago while my husband is home taking over a couple weeks ago.
      1. Do a trial day next week with all bottle feedings/pumps so you can get an idea of a schedule/how much baby eats if you haven’t been doing lots of pumping/bottle feeds already.
      2. Block off some time/set reminders in your calendar to pump. Sometimes I get distracted and would forget otherwise. I haven’t had a problem with supply by shifting pump times up or back by 30min-1hr.
      3. Try to have a work space with a door or headphones so you can block out baby’s cries. It’s so hard to hear and not go help but Dad will get the hang of it.
      4. Enjoy the adult conversations! For me the 12 weeks of leave was great but I missed adult conversations that weren’t about baby diapers.

      After my company was all remote for the last 2.5 years they want us back in the office 3 days a week so I’m starting that next week after 2 weeks remote. I feel like I’m going to lose a lot of productive time going from the 3rd floor to the 1st to pump every few hours but we’ll see how that goes.

  39. bee*

    I don’t know if this is a fully formed question, but I guess the crux is: How do you know if you want to stay at your job, like… forever? Is that even a thing? Should I be thinking like this?

    For context, I’m in my mid/late-twenties and three years into my first real, permanent job (I had fellowships/interships/survival jobs before this). I got this job because the person who held it before me retired, and people tend to stay at my job for a loooooong time. The work anniversaries list just came out and there are multiple people just this year with 35 year tenures, and one of my coworkers has been here for 50+ years. And that’s just my department, of probably less than 50 people! So it really is a place where people stay.

    But my issue is, well, that I’m in my mid/late-twenties! I kind of can’t conceive of having the same job for the next 40 years, until I retire. That’s longer than I’ve even been alive! And a lot of my peers are hopping around, and the common wisdom right now is that the way up is 2-ish year stays at a lot of places, so I hear a lot from friends and family the “so what’s next” thing. And I don’t have any plans for that right now? I like my job! It’s not flashy or exciting (and I went to a Big Name College, so I think that’s playing into some of the pressure) and in fact it’s pretty boring, but the hours are great, I have time to freelance on the side, and I get to work a hybrid schedule. I could definitely be making more money, but the trade offs would be either going to grad school or a high stress environment.

    Also, because it’s relevant: the pay is just okay, but the benefits are PHENOMENAL. We’re unionized, so I get guaranteed 3% raises for the next three years (and likely beyond, but that’s how long our current contract is for), we have 4+ weeks of vacation, 2+ of sick time, and 19 paid holidays (my employer is Jewish so we get those holidays in addition to the federal ones), I don’t know a lot about it, but we get a pension and I’m pretty sure it’s generous. And the health insurance is like, Europe level good. It’s fully paid through my (nominal) union dues, and we don’t have deductibles or copays or really any medical costs. I’ve spent $0 on anything medical in the last three years.

    So… any advice? Do I stay? Should I be more ambitious? Am I worried about nothing and I should just see how I feel in the next year or two?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I know I’ll get people who disagree with me here, but there is no such thing as job security. I know people who have worked 15 or 20 years at a place and gotten laid off. There is no company loyalty to an employee, so there should be no employee loyalty to a company.

      I promise you there are other places with phenomenal benefits. There may even be other places that will pay you more and have phenomenal benefits.

      You’re only in your late 20s. I would 100% look for other jobs. You don’t have to be in a rush to find something. In some ways, you’re in the best job-seeking position. When one has to find a job immediately because their current workplace is toxic or because they have to move for a family emergency or a spouse, they can’t be as picky and choosy. You can take your time. Put yourself out there, and be picky. Find a job you actually want to leave this one for.

    2. FD*

      Why not just stay and enjoy it? Things might change later. Really the only thing that would worry me is the pension–I would never want to count on that staying. I’ve seen too many places my parents generation worked for find ways to get rid of a pension while the executives responsible for multimillion dollar payouts. But if you can afford to put money into a Roth at all okay level that’s probably not a deal breaker.

    3. Shiny*

      Life is long and often unexpected. Stay there as long as you’re happy. When you feel like you want to see what’s out there, see what’s out there! You don’t have to decide the rest of your life right this moment. You’re in a good position for now, so take advantage of it. Financial security now can lay the foundation for changes later.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        I agree with Shiny 100% — stay while you’re happy, start looking when you’re not.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Yes, all of what Shiny said!

        Do make preparations just in case though. Be on LinkedIn and link up with co-workers and maybe clients. Keep a running list of accomplishments, and make sure you have a copy of it at home. Keep your reviews at home so you can use them on a new resume if you need to. You don’t need to have 1 foot out of the door, but do a few things that will help if you need a new job because you never know.

    4. CatCat*

      Am I worried about nothing and I should just see how I feel in the next year or two?

      This right here. It doesn’t sound like there is any reason to move right now. This job is hitting a lot of priorities for you. Those priorities may change or the job may change in the future, but don’t worry about it just based on what other people are doing.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think you can ever know for sure nor do I think there is any reason to. Even if you really, really love your job and want to stay forever (and that is pretty much how I feel about mine), you never know what’s ahead of you. Maybe you’ll fall in love with somebody who lives far away and want to move to be nearer to them. Maybe your boss will retire and somebody horrible will take his or her place. Maybe the company will close down. Maybe you’ll hear of an amazing opportunity elsewhere. Who knows?

      I don’t think the question is do you want to stay forever, but are you happy there now? If you want to remain there now, then there’s no issue. If you change your mind in the future, you can always apply for other jobs then. You don’t have to make lifelong decisions at any point. Other jobs will always be there.

      I also wouldn’t worry about what other people are doing. It’s not less ambitious necessarily to want to remain in one company. It’s just a different form of ambition. There’s no right or wrong and what is right for you might be completely wrong for somebody else. I have two uncles, brothers.. One got a job in a bank almost as soon as he left college and remained there, in the same bank until he semi-retired in his 50s and now works part time in some related career – possibly a credit union. The other has had more jobs than I can even remember and made a habit of quitting jobs at a moment’s notice and looking for something else. Both were probably the right decisions for them. The first is a very cautious kind of guy who was happy to climb the ladder in one company and ended his career quite successfully. The other is a complete free spirit whose job trajectory seems terrifying to me, but he would have been bored stiff in one job for life and…he seems to be pretty successful too. It’s about what’s right for you.

    6. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      I have worked a long time at a place where 5 years is considered an eternity (yes, our workforce skews young). One guy took me out to coffee specifically to ask, “Do I have to leave?” Nope! As long as they projects are good, the pay is ok, and yes, our benefits/PTO is *excellent*–why go? I would definitely keep your skills sharp, your resume up to date, and your network humming, but if it ain’t broke?

    7. RagingADHD*

      Your job meets your needs for right now and you are happy there.
      You don’t see yourself there forever.

      These two statements are not in conflict with each other. Both can be true at the same time. There is no problem that requires you do anything or decide anything at the moment.

    8. knitcrazybooknut*

      One thing that I’ve learned in my work life is that everything changes. If you’re annoyed or happy at your job, take a breath and wait six months, and something will shift.

      It sounds like you’ve hit a sweet spot that some people never find! I would say, wait six months and see if you still like your job. If the boredom starts getting to you, start looking. If it doesn’t, then enjoy it! Invest your energies into your side projects, enjoy your holidays, save some money, and keep rolling.

      “Being more ambitious”: It sounds like other people’s voices are getting into your head. How do YOU feel about it? You could make more money, but is it really more money when you factor in the medical costs that you’re not paying, and the hours you’re being paid to not work on holidays and for vacation time? Calculate the REAL hourly/annual rate of pay, and factor that into your idea of ambition.

      My inner payroll geek is coming out. Figure out the number of days you actually work in a year, accounting for holidays, vacation, and sick leave. Divide your annual salary by THAT number and you’ve got your real hourly rate. I would guess it’s way higher than what’s on paper. If you want to add the cost of medical expenses, in the US, the average person spends $10k or more per year in medical expenses. Calculate in the hours you don’t commute, and suddenly your hourly rate looks a helluva lot better than your friends and family who may be working more stressful, “higher paid” jobs. It sounds like people are expecting other things from you and you are absorbing those expectations instead of questioning them.

      If you have coverage for mental health benefits, find a therapist that can help you work through some of this stuff. It doesn’t sound debilitating, but it’s always nice to have someone else’s thoughts on this type of situation.

      It’s also great that you’re asking this question! And congrats on finding a lovely place to work that values its employees.

    9. sara*

      My current boss who’s been at our company for about 6 years has an interesting strategy on this. He has a recurring reminder every Monday morning to checking in with himself if he’s still enjoying work. If it’s a no, he makes note of it. And then annually he checks in on those notes to see how it’s overall going. No idea if he’d make a decision solely on this, but it’s a piece of data in the decision to stay I’m sure.

      But he’s a super happy/in-the-moment kind of person who generally enjoys things as he’s doing them, very go-with-the-flow for the most part. For me this cadence of check-ins wouldn’t work, as I’m more reflective and moody about things (like things stick with me for longer, both good and bad things). But maybe this is a strategy that might work for others.

    10. voluptuousfire*

      What I’d say to do is to stay where you are for a bit but leave the door open to let some fresh air in. It sounds like you have a pretty stellar setup currently and it would be foolhardy to chuck it for something metaphorically “better.” Since you have the luxury to be picky, keep the “open to new opportunities” option open on your LinkedIn profile and if someone approaches you with an interesting opportunity, hear them out. It doesn’t cost you anything than half an hour of your time. Build up your experience where you are now but definitely keep in mind that it’s always best to keep an eye out for something new.

    11. LittleMarshmallow*

      I’ve been at same company but in many different jobs for 15 years. I’d say it’s less common to stay in same job for decades, but fairly common to move about within a company for decades. I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with either approach. There are pros and cons to both staying with a company and bouncing about to other companies. Unless your general skill set is very specific I guess I wouldn’t recommend assuming you’ll have same job for 40 years. Usually people hit a pay cap for their position. Some people are cool with that and that’s ok but it sounds like you wouldn’t be.

      Some Pros to staying with a company (this assumes it’s a good company with at least an average management team – don’t stay at a toxic place long term): you don’t have to learn a new culture at every job change, you’ll have some networking advantages by knowing more people within your company, you don’t have to learn new policies and such (HR, training, pay stuff, etc).

      Some Cons to staying with a company forever: you don’t have anything to compare to so you may not recognize toxic work environments, typically it’s harder to really get good pay bumps even switching to new jobs, the longer you stay – the harder it will be to try other places because comfort zones are a thing, you’ll have a skewed view of “outsiders” when your company hires external candidates instead of internal (unless your company has a good balance of bringing in fresh blood vs promoting from within – mine doesn’t).

      The pros and cons to switching are basically opposite with a couple other things.

      Pros to moving around: typically get higher pay bumps when jumping companies, chance to see/try new work styles broader networking.

      Cons to moving around: you never know what you might be getting into, learning office culture is exhausting, depending on location – moving costs might counter any bump difference in pay esp if companies don’t have good relo packages (even with relo moving is expensive), you have to start over building political capital more often.

      This list isn’t all inclusive obviously but the short answer is that there’s not a right way for everyone on this. Do what works for you. If you want to bounce around then by all means do it as long as you follow professional norms (I wouldn’t job jump annually or whatever), if you want to stay and see how it goes and only move if there’s a drastic reason then more power to ya! But remember the days of company loyalty to employees is long gone so don’t get too emotionally invested if you do decide to be a long termer! Good luck!

  40. JungleGym*

    Hi! I recently had a team member start on our all-virtual team. She has a young child at home (who she says will be homeschooled this fall for the first time). So far, every meeting I’ve had with her has included her child. The child puts things in her face, climbs on her, and does other child-like things that simply need attention. This has happened in one-on-one meetings, meetings I’m in with her and a client/external partner, and meetings with the whole team (including boss).
    It’s distracting, to say the least, when I’m trying to explain a process and I can’t see her whole face because her child is in front of it. Is there a polite way I can let her know that her child is distracting? Is it even my place, or should my boss handle it (if she thinks it’s an issue)? It doesn’t sound like her child is just home temporarily, and I’m concerned how much work she will be able to do once the workload picks up and we’re depending on her for things. I’m also concerned how much attention she’s able to give in meetings when she’s constantly answering to her child’s needs.
    Maybe this isn’t an issue! Or maybe it is. I’m trying to be empathic with this new world of work and others who may be in different situations.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Are you an all virtual team that doesn’t have a policy around childcare on the clock?

      If her child is getting up in her face while she’s on meetings with clients and external partners, I would say that’s definitely something that should be identified to boss. While you’re 1:1 with her, I think you can say things like “Let’s reschedule this for a time when you’re able to settle Wee Fergus so he’s not climbing up and distracting us both.” And if you have to keep rescheduling things, that’s another thing you can bring up to your boss.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I’ve been thinking on this one – with the background that I was extremely thankful that my kids were upper elementary when the stuff hit the fan in March of 2020, since they were more independent. And that THAT insanity led lots of credibility to what I’ve been told by homeschooling friends and relatives:

        Homeschooling is a full time job.

        If she has a kindergartener (my assumption based on what you’ve described as the child’s current behavior and “for the first time in the fall”, apologies if I’m off base here) and she’s thinking that SHE is going to be handling the homeschooling, I have concerns with how she thinks she’s going to manage that and how much you’re going to be holding the bag. My (again, upper elementary school aged) kids could read and HAD a teacher with whom they interacted daily, and them learning virtually added an easy 2 hours into my schedule every single school day. They knew how to read, how to complete a worksheet, how to upload and download computer files, how to log in to websites, and print.

        But a five year old?!

        I would agree with RRtAF above about rescheduling as needed when the child is being distracting.

        1. Blomma*

          Yes! As someone who was homeschooled (real homeschooling, not temporarily virtual school), it is a full time job.

    2. PollyQ*

      I would say boss should handle it, although you’re more than justified in raising the issue to your boss and saying how distracting it is for you to have the child in every single meeting. I’d leave the issue of whether co-worker will potentially be able to handle her workload alone. That’s something for boss to track, up until it’s actually causing problems for you.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Definitely say something!

      You can’t do a good job at work that requires professional meetings or uninterrupted concentration if you are also minding children. And you can’t ignore children all day while you are working! Their need for attention is normal and appropriate.

      Something needs to shift here in order to make the situation feasible for everyone.

    4. Observer*

      Do you supervise this woman or are you peers? If you are peers, it’s not your place to “manage” this situation.

      There are three different sets of issues here. Stuff that you just don’t like such as “I can’t see her whole face” is something I think you need to just deal with. Stuff that actually interferes with your work is something you may be able to call out in the moment, and can definitely talk to your manager about. Like “Lilibet’s child was very distracting in our last meeting, and we had to repeat a lot of the material multiple times, which made the meeting run over” is absolutely something you can bring to your boss. Keep it neutral and fact based. Then there are the things that don’t directly affect you, but could affect the business. If your boss is aware that this is happening – whether she has seen it herself or has heard about it from clients – then it’s not your place to bring it up. On the other hand, if this happens in contexts that your boss may not be seeing, it’s definitely appropriate to bring this to her. Again, keep neutral and fact based. Also stick to the present and don’t get into what might happen down the road. So you could say something like “Our last meeting with Client X got interrupted several times by Lillibet’s child who wanted something to eat.”

  41. AnonToday*

    Can a manager penalize you for not arranging coverage for FMLA leave?

    I’m currently out on parental leave. I let my manager know 5 months ago about the pregnancy and due date. When my wife’s doctor scheduled an induction a week out, I informed him of that too. I’m a salaried employee with set hours, and I guess I assumed my manager would arrange coverage for the 3 hours each night where I’m the only one on the phones (for what its worth, we also have a designated on-call team member that rotates each week, with bonus and flex hours, but my manager prefers they not get after hours calls).

    I’ve been getting worrying texts from teammates. I guess the first day I was out, my manager called a team member half an hour before my shift begins (three hours before his starts) and ask-informed him that he’d be working 11-hour shifts for two weeks to cover the 3-hour gap I left. My coworker worked the longer shifts for a few days, then emailed the rest of the team to see if anyone could help. My manager then called my coworker, cussed him out, and told him he has a bad attitude and should be looking for another job. Apparently he also made some comments about how unprofessional and unreliable I am for not arranging coverage myself–abd that’s when my coworker reached out to let me know what was going on so I wouldn’t be blindsided when I get back.

    I’m stressed out. I’ve freshened up my resume and started sending out feelers, but my son was literally born two days ago and now would be a disastrous time to be without insurance. Do I have options here?

    1. Dynamic HR Manager*

      Unless it was an actual essential duty of your job to do the scheduling or you were directed to propose a coverage plan, it is not your obligation to ensure proper staffing. That is some basic management responsibilities right there and it sounds like this manager dropped the ball entirely.

      FMLA has retaliation protections. You may want to read your company policy and other resources on those to see if they might apply in this situation. The quick arm chair answer is “maybe” from what you state up top. That is probably your best recourse if doing the standard office politics is not an avenue that settles the matter.

      1. AnonToday*

        Thank you. No, nobody has ever asked me to arrange coverage for this or any absence and my job is 100% IT support, nothing to do with scheduling or arranging coverage.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      I don’t think it was your job to make sure that was scheduled, but I do think it’s helpful to have a discussion about coverage needs before leaving for an extended period of time. This is what we do, though that is initiated by the team lead, not the person leaving.

    3. Observer*

      If your manager does ding you for this, go to HR right away. Any competent HR team is going to be on this in a heart beat. Because it would be illegal for him to penalize you in any way for taking FMLA leave. And even if he HAD asked you to arrange your own coverage his attitude about that would be problematic from a legal point of view. Given that it is not standard policy and he didn’t ask you to do that, he’s certainly not allowed to punish you for that.

    4. LittleMarshmallow*

      The parental leave situations I’ve seen, management arranges The Who and the when and your only obligation is to get them up to speed (and even that isn’t an always… sometimes the coverers already know the job and no transition/ training is needed). In all of those situations the managers were very clear about expectations. From my experience your manager is being unreasonable.

  42. AnonToday*

    I work at an organization that is notorious for its very demanding workloads: it has too few staff and staff are underpaid, discontented, and burned out. Despite regular promises that things will get better with new hires, more reasonable pace, etc., not much changes. We are in a niche industry that has been hit hard by COVID. Job openings are scarce and there is not a lot of turnover at my institution allowing the administration to continue exploiting its workers. This problems stems from a combination of a CEO with wildly unreasonable expectations and high ambitions, and my manager’s inability to advocate for their staff and push back against the CEO. I’m senior staff and widely acknowledged as a top performer and am regularly tapped for projects that others wouldn’t be able to do. I have just been given a long-term (18-month), complex project with ridiculous expectations, workload, and deadlines—I can probably do it, but it will be very hard, stressful, and exacerbate my burnout. It’s also a project I’m not very excited about or invested in. Despite me pushing back on this forcefully and repeatedly suggesting workable alternatives (using lots of AAM advice!), I am told that I have to do this. I don’t have the luxury of quitting without another job lined up and, even though I have been actively searching, I’m likely stuck here for a while given the job market.
    My questions to the commentariat: How do I deal with my intense anger, disgust, and disappointment over this situation and figure out a way to come into the office day-after-day and keep doing my work? I’m really struggling to envision how I will martial the energy and initiative required to do this project (while trying to get out). I will continue trying to push back and manage / lower expectations, but don’t have any hope of substantive change until I get a new job. I’m also struggling with how to face my manager who has—yet again—failed their staff. I have expressed my unhappiness in no uncertain terms (I have the capital and job security to do that) and my manager knows I’m looking for other jobs. They acknowledge it would be a big blow to lose me, but they are nevertheless unable to change things … only express sympathy and make empty “I share your pain” noises. How do I keep working here until I can quit??

    1. Rick Tq*

      To survive until you can leave I suggest you focus on giving your employer a full day’s work every day 5 days a week. No more overtime, no working weekends, no more above and beyond. And no interacting with work email or answering work calls from home. Let it all go at 5 PM every day.

      The project schedule will be what it is, and if the schedule is blown it isn’t your problem.

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        This advice is spot on. Stop caring. Don’t do more than the minimum necessary to keep your job. Let balls drop, and let your boss and other leaders pick them up.

    2. Dynamic HR Manager*

      It is actually a tactic that I have seen disingenuous leaders use to keep around key employees – that is throw them a complicated project that saps all their time basically ensuring that they won’t have time to do a job search on the side. I’m not saying that is what has been done here, but it is not a remote possibility.

      Depending on your level of “burnout” I would talk to a mental health professional. If you are showing signs of anxiety, depression, or anything similar then you might have a case for short term disability, if you have that coverage through work or elsewhere. Framing a leave like that, using FMLA, would both help you deal with the burnout situation and give you time to find a less toxic work environment. Any disability coverage you have would bridge the lost income to an extent which most people need.

      Whatever you do – do NOT continue down the “death spiral” of working more and more and more with empty promises of things getting better. If you don’t have anxiety or depression from it now, that is a sure fire way to tax your mental health to get to that point. Plan an exit strategy, take the time you need to execute it, and get out

    3. The teapots are on fire*

      Agree. Sometimes a company with this much dysfunction doesn’t really fire people who are doing any work at all. So just do what you can do in reasonable hours and let the deadlines creep and tell your manager you feel his pain.

      Believe me, my burned out SO is wishing so hard that he had done this.

  43. Mystic*

    Hey y’all. I got my promotion! Almost 3 months ago, and it was a whirlwind since. Especially since while learning the role, my direct supervisor resigned without notice, leaving a supervisor from another team to manage his and ours (it is the same team, just normally split into smaller teams), and then we found out we had a new group of people coming in that we were training. Took a month to find a direct supervisor, then the other supervisor got promoted, so now our supervisor is managing both teams, and we had another group to train again at the same time.
    But we also mentor people in both teams, and I’m beginning to run into a bit of a problem. Mainly that I don’t really know how to mentor? Like, I know the job and stuff, and I know that most of the people we’re mentoring could do it, but that they’re getting stuck on small stuff or they’re overthinking and I can’t figure out how to mentor away overthinking – not that thinking isn’t bad, but they don’t need to spend 5 minutes on one thing.
    So, any advice on how to mentor people? Just in general.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      If people are getting stuck on small stuff and overthinking, I generally think of that as a terror of failing. Reassuring them that everyone makes mistakes, and giving them a sense of perspective about different kinds of mistakes may help. Telling stories about your own, and how you handled them, and if applicable, how you WISH you had handled them, are all things that may help.

      Appropriate for your company/industry, maybe give them a percentage of surety. “If you’re 75% sure about this, send it!” Or even give them a level-based percentage. Okay, for CEO, you’ll need 100%. For me, you’ll need 60% and I promise I won’t yell at you if you get it wrong. And talk about what you WILL do when they get it wrong. Have them talk with their own managers about this as well.

      Does that make sense?

      1. Mystic*

        It does, and we do tell them it’s okay to make mistakes. Especially since we give them a ton of training: like, 9 weeks for policy, 4 weeks for procedure stuff and how to actually do the work, and slowly give them more work to do. And weekly or biweekly mentoring sessions.
        But we do also still have monthly conferences and I think that’s where it’s coming from? But I’ve flat out told them not to worry or overthink, I just don’t know how else to word it or if there’s other ways.
        But it does make sense, thank you.

  44. Encouraging Diversity*

    I saw this on a job posting. The boilerplate language at the TOP of the posting, not buried on the bottom.

    Statistics show that women and underrepresented groups tend to apply to jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Sobi encourages you to change that statistic and apply. Rarely do candidates meet 100% of the qualifications. We look forward to your application!

    What have you seen (or would like to see) companies do to encourage more diverse applicants.

    1. Princess Xena*

      Have a ‘necessary skills’, ‘bonus skills’, and ‘skills we will train on’ section in the ad. For instance, I don’t know beans about working QuickBooks but I’m most of my way to a CPA. If a company wants a bookkeeper and says they use quickbooks, I’d want to know if they’re looking for institutional quickbooks knowledge or the accounting knowledge.

      1. Dynamic HR Manager*

        Also, in the situation where you need a “bookkeeper” and your company uses Quickbooks, ask yourself what is the essential qualification there? Is it the ability to perform accounting to the level required for the bookkeeper position AND experience with Quickbooks? Or is it really just the accounting knowledge, but Quickbooks more preferred? Most of the times you will come back with just the knowledge part being essential and the other portion can be learned.

        I understand it is more convenient for an employer to hire someone who is more “out of the box” able to start performing. It is far easier for me if the bookkeeper can just get a QB login on day one and start doing their job based upon previously existing documentation and practice. But, if you are interested in real inclusivity your company should be willing to provide necessary training to a reasonable extent for a qualified applicant.

        In the Quickbooks example, for instance, we recently hired an accounts payable clerk who had no experience with that platform but a few years of job experience in accounts payable doing specifically what we needed. As a condition of employment, we paid for them to complete a two day, 15 hour training course ($500) which gave them all the skills necessary to do that portion of the job. They are three months in and doing a great job. Also this person started day one with probably more core knowledge (as they were fresh off a training course) than a professional who used another QB setup might have been.

      2. Dynamic HR Manager*

        If a skill is easily trainable, even if it is at a modest or reasonable cost to the company, is it really essential? I would argue for some positions the answer is no and if your company is dedicated to real inclusion it will be willing to invest some training dollars into a new hire.

        We recently did this with an accounts payable clerk. They had the knowledge to perform the job and several years of experience, but had no knowledge of Quickbooks. So as a condition of employment, the person attended a 2 day, 15 hour course ($500) focusing on the area of QB they would need to know to do the position. For a small investment and minimal risk, we ended up getting a great employee who is doing well. In fact I would argue sometimes it is better to get someone with fresh eyes, just out of training, in a role like this because they are not bringing all the past practices and policies of their previous accounting jobs.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Two things we’ve been doing lately to try to encourage more diverse applicants, but I’d love to learn more and I’m not sure these work, but we’re testing them.

      1. Really look at the educational/experience requirements. At my work, these can’t be waived easily after they’re in the PD, so I like to really examine them. Does someone really need a Bachelors or do they just need course work in X? Oe experience in Y? If they can’t be shifted, are we really at a salary band that is fair for what we’re asking for?

      2. Sending applications to specific list-serves and places that target a more diverse pool. So, like in my state, there’s a big Native American population, so we have been making a point to reach out to the tribal job boards to get our listings posted. Same with national groups, though we don’t often do nationwide searches.

    3. Dynamic HR Manager*

      We start off by not including an unending list of qualifications that no one could ever reasonably have who would want the position.

      I think real outreach starts with how the company crafts its postings. What are the ESSENTIAL qualifications that are reasonable for someone who would satisfactorily perform in the position and only list those. If you have some “nice to have’s” or “not required but preferred” list those in their own section and make it known they are not core requirements.

      Also, if you want to get real about inclusivity and outreach, assess all your positions that “require” a college degree to ensure that they actually require such an academic qualification. You will probably find that 1 out of 3 jobs posted do not and it was just something on the boilerplate form that got copied time and time again.

      Putting statements like the above are fine, but taking real action that is going to have real effects is better unless all your company is really doing is performative DEI stuff because they think it looks good for the corporate image.

      1. Elle*

        I took out the college degree requirement. I focused on computer and customer service experience needed for the job and got two great employees fairly quickly.

        1. Dynamic HR Manager*

          We took out the college degree requirement for about 20% of our requisitions over the last two years and are finding much better matches for more junior administrative and technical jobs. We have had to increase our training budget slightly and also coach managers on how to run a training plan for new employees, but the results have been overly positive.

          And if you are getting pushback from the C-Suite, point out someone without a college degree (and usually associated student loan debt) will usually not demand the upper limit of your salary band. We still pay these positions fairly and within market range, but gone are the days where someone would say “I have a degree from Big Fancy School, so I need the top of the salary band.” I recently did a report that showed there was real cost savings in salary and benefits from this hiring strategy. It is really an all around win-win-win for everyone involved.

  45. anon e mouse*

    I am starting a new job July 25, and will take a full week between jobs. I know this for sure. Is it unethical not to tell my work until I get back from vacation on June 21? I feel like it’s still >3 weeks notice, so no, but I also know they’ve done a terrible job of cross-training anyone in anything I do and could use an extra week.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not unethical at all. I once gave ten weeks notice because I knew I wasn’t going to get pushed out and the team was already understaffed by half, and they hadn’t done any cross-training on what I do, so I wanted to give plenty of time to either cross-train or even hire. They hadn’t done ANY of that, including even getting the job posted, by the time I left. You can’t fix their poor planning for them.

    2. Another person here*

      Assuming you are in the US, 2 weeks notice before your last day is the standard. They don’t need to know when you are starting your new job, they only need to know when your last day will be. Don’t let anyone make you feel one bit bad about it.

    3. Jo April*

      I accepted an offer last month, have a start date in September, and am not resigning for several weeks yet. I have zero qualms about this. Two weeks of notice is standard. 3 weeks is generous. You don’t need to solve their problems anymore.

    4. CatCat*

      Not unethical at all. Three weeks is generous notice. That they’ve done a terrible job cross-training is not your problem.

    5. MJ*

      If you have the time, before your vacation start documenting your work. Then even if you don’t get cross training done there’s a manual they can refer to.

  46. CAS*

    How do you deal with odd territorialism at work? Like when a coworker says, “That’s *my* chair,” or “That’s *my* parking spot,” when these areas are not designated or assigned? I recently learned the hard way that a coworker has a preferred chair in the conference room, and she basically can’t function if anyone else sits there. I’m relatively new, and I had no idea until my boss actually took me aside and (sheepishly) explained that everyone accommodates this coworker’s chair preference because she’s so weird about it. So weird that everyone scrambles and accommodates her. I’ve never seen anything like this in almost 40 years of employment. My boss told me she wasn’t going to say I couldn’t sit in that chair, but she recommended I not do it again. I had a similar issue with this coworker when she confronted me over “her” parking space. I thought she was joking, but she was very serious. Apparently, this person has a lot of quirks like this, and as a newish employee, I’m concerned that the chair and parking spot aren’t the end of it. Any similar experiences? How would you handle this?

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Is it impacting your ability to do your job? If so, then say something, otherwise it’s not worth your energy. People are strange, so I’d just let it go.

    2. soontoberetired*

      You’ll just sort to have to accept it, since management has been tolerating this.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, I’d just go with it. You don’t know, there may be reasons why this person is so territorial. If anything, I’d say the problem is more that nobody told you and let you get the blame for miscommunication. If your boss or somebody had told you right at the start, “hey, just so you know, Mary prefers to use such a chair and such a parking spot,” I don’t think there’d be any issue.

      The best advice I can give is to ask another coworker. Just say something like, “I was really embarrassed there when I accidentally sat in Mary’s chair. Is there anything else I should know? Cups that belong to certain people or times I should avoid certain offices or anything like that?” Don’t make it about “Mary” being weird, but just about you wanting to know the unwritten rules. I’ve often seen new members of staff come in and ask if there is somewhere in particular they should sit or so on.

      1. CAS*

        Thanks. When my boss approached me about this, I told her that I wished she had told me in the moment so I could have done something differently. I asked her, to find some way to tell me if anything like this comes up again. It was a very visible situation that occurred in front of the whole staff, which I could not have known at the time. There was opportunity for her to tell me quietly to grab my drink and switch chairs. And I would have. I don’t care about chairs. I do care about this coworker creating problems for me if I inadvertently breach her territory again. Because of COVID precautions, I have mostly WFH for the duration of my employment there, so even after 2+ years, I barely know most of my coworkers, and I’m still learning the office culture.

    4. LittleMarshmallow*

      Oof, management needs to deal with that… if it was just a chair and a parking spot I’d say maybe don’t worry about it but if it’s spilling into other things and affecting your work then I’d continue raise it with boss. Inappropriate gate-keeping should not be tolerated and absolutely affects the teams ability to do work. We have someone that does similar things, hoards supplies and stuff that she deems hers and won’t let anyone touch/ have it without her approval, gets mad if someone does something that she perceives as something she needs to give permission to be done, thinks she’s the only one who should be allowed to do certain types of work. To be clear in our location she’s like the second from the bottom on the ladder, so she doesn’t have this authority really, but it doesn’t stagnate or get better once managers start accepting the behavior. If it’s allowed that only emboldens them to continue and increase the behavior. Keep track of how it affects your work and keep your boss posted (you can choose your battles… you don’t have to bring up every chair stealing event, but if there are things that are distracting or keeping you from doing your work then raise them with the boss).

    5. pancakes*

      I think it makes a big difference whether multiple people are behaving that way (which would be very odd) or it’s just one person (which is still odd, but presumably they have their reasons, presumably non-neurotypical reasons). If multiple people were doing this I would gently push back, but if it’s just one person and your boss is telling you it’s a thing, I would assume this is something the coworker and the boss have discussed. It sounds like you handled it fine.

  47. Meow*

    So as part of a talent development program (??) our organization is making us, basically, interview for the positions we are currently in. Yes, this is setting off 100 red flags and I am looking for another job.

    But whether I interview for my current position, or interview for a new position, I have the same problem: I have been working on a project for most of my career here that has been a complete and utter failure. Management has reassured me many times that they recognize that the failure of this project has nothing to do with my performance, and they have no complaints about my work. But I have no idea how to address this in an interview or on my resume. Specifically, I’m having a really hard time coming up with accomplishments or success stories when the majority of my work had been for a project that has provided nothing for the organization except a massive sink of time and money. Anyone ever manage to put a positive spin on something like this?

    1. JustMyImagination*

      Can you break down accomplishments a bit more? “Created Deliverable Y under budget”, “Developed analytics to present to senior management”? Other companies don’t need to know that Deliverable Y was never implemented so the money wasted.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I’ve led a number of projects that ‘failed’ but honestly I prefer to think of them as explorations of ideas that didn’t work out for whatever reason. In R&D, that’s pretty common. I basically followed JustMyImagination’s advice to frame it as my own accomplishments toward the project. When you don’t have a successful final project to point to as an indication of your success, you highlight the pieces that show you can do great work.

    3. officeolivia*

      Ooh. Yes. There are tons of skills that go along with managing and mitigating failure that you can certainly speak to. Think things like: “pivoting” or redirecting a project when you’ve hit a setback; forecasting and communicating issues to your team; adapting to changing deadlines/budgets/goals/etc.; persevering through difficult circumstances; learning from mistakes and implementing change… Obviously use these to brainstorm specific examples or scenarios you can speak about in a more detailed way.

    4. linger*

      Even with a negative result, the process is still valuable source material for your CV and for responding to some common interview questions. (And anybody who’s ever worked in research should have had similar experiences: every experiment that fails is still a learning opportunity.) So:
      What did you learn while working on the project?
      What specific skills did you develop?
      What procedural weaknesses did you identify, and how might they have been improved?

  48. Business Narwhal*

    I commented last week on the Memorial Day thread about how to choose a career. I just wanted to says thanks for the advice, it was particularly reassuring to hear that you can switch careers and I won’t be bound to a decision I make in university for the rest of my life. Also I liked the recommendation of the Canadian gouvernement website that rates job availability, me and my friends had fun with that at lunch.

  49. Mbarr*

    How do you decide how much to pay an employee (a temporary intern to be specific)? We know how much their school recommends (the recommended salary differs based on what program they’re in and how much previous work experience they have). But the range is very wide. I’d prefer to put some science into my offers instead of just picking a random number in the middle.

    This is coming up because the student we listed as “of all the students we interviewed, we liked this one the least” is emailing, asking for further salary details. (I told them during the interview that whoever we hire would receive an offer in line with their school’s recommendations.)

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Why not say something like, “Salary varies depending on experience and will be discussed at the offer stage with the strongest candidates. The range is X to Y.?”

      That doesn’t lock you into a number.

    2. 867-5309*

      We pay our interns $18-$20 an hour and offer a housing stipend. This is a full stop for us – we don’t get into experience and everything else because no matter what and even when paid, the internship should be for the primary benefit of the student.

      Librarian’s script above also works if you don’t wish to be or can’t be that prescriptive.

    3. Just another queer reader*

      Next year, I’d recommend setting the intern pay scales before you hire. Honestly, all interns (in the same location and field) should be paid the same, imo. Negotiating pay isn’t really a thing for internships. And providing pay information upfront is good for equity.

      Maybe it’s something like:
      $18 for mechanical engineers
      $20 for chemical engineers
      +$2 if they have [x experience]

      1. AcademiaNut*

        This is the way to go. I’d list weekly in addition to hourly (because they aren’t likely to know which fields count 40 as a full week, and which count 35), and anything else you pay for (housing stipend, travel to get there, etc.).

    4. Alexis Rosay*

      When I hired paid interns, we would usually start with minimum wage as a baseline (it’s quite high in my city FWIW), then add to it based on how many specific skills we were looking for the intern to come in with and how rare those skills were.

      I’m confused by the idea of starting a hiring process before you’ve budged for the salary, though. You should have stated at least a range in your job posting. The student who is asking for salary details is completely justified in doing so.

  50. Potatoes gonna potato*

    I started my job search this week. I’ve had a few conversations with recruiters/staffing agencies and I’m finding myself stumped at this one question: Am I working with other recruiters and interviewing at other places?

    Why do they ask this? What are they expecting to hear? Why do they want to know the names of the people I’m talking to and companies?

    I’m having my first conversations with everyone so I *feel* like I don’t need to disclose that but eventually I may need to if I advance? Also – idk if it’s a hang up of mine or what but I dislike giving names. I don’t know why I can’t explain it, I just don’t like naming names in most situations.

    1. Dynamic HR Manager*

      Recruiters ask that because sometimes they are contractually obligated to not compete for certain positions if you are already being represented by another company.

      Companies ask because if they need to accelerate their hiring timeline to get a candidate they really like because of other potential offers, knowing that is a possibility early makes that viable and much easier than getting a note from the candidate saying they have another offer and need to hear back from you in 48 hours.

      You are under no obligation to provide specific answers. I would usually just coach job seekers to say “yes I am exploring many opportunities at the time” and if represented by another recruiter say, “I am working with X firm to place me in Y industry” just to give them a heads up if their is a potential conflict.

      If someone is demanding names and companies, I would ask why do they need that information. It could be because they are concerned about potential non-competes and want to clear that early in the process. Otherwise, it is probably because they are trying to get some business intelligence on where job candidates are looking for work. Again, you are under no obligation to provide specifics and a company that is concerned about potential non-competes should have a disclosure question on their applicaiton.

    2. Purple Cat*

      The issue is with the type of recruiter you’re working with. If they’re contracted to fill a specific role than it doesn’t really matter who else you’re talking to. If they’re just going to take your resume and attempt to blast it everywhere, then they don’t want to overstep with another recruiter that is doing the same thing. It would also reflect poorly on you if a hiring manager got your resume from 4 different recruiters.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        So i did talk to a few who mentioned that they would be sending my forward to other companies as well for other openings. They made sure to ask if that was OK with me and of course I said yes. I had no idea it would reflect poorly on me.

        1. Purple Cat*

          If they’re all submitting your resume to Company X then how does Company X know who the right agency to work with is? That’s the challenge.

          1. Tired of Working*

            I used to work for a legal recruiter, and we were told that if more than one recruiter emailed a job-seeker’s application to the same law firm, the law firm would work with the recruiter whose email arrived first. It was very discouraging to ask a job-seeker if they had applied, through another recruiter, to this or that law firm and to be told no, only to hear from the law firms that another recruiter had already contacted them about this job-seeker. Whenever we mentioned this to the job-seekers, they always said, “Oh, yeah. I forgot.” It was very frustrating.

        2. Rosengilmom*

          It’s not that it reflects poorly on you–you want to have complete control over where your resume is submitted. If two recruiters submit you for the same position there’s likely to be argument over which gets the $$$ when you are hired. That’s the situation to avoid.

        3. MacGillicuddy*

          This might be too late for the thread, but I always told recruiters they were NOT to submit my resume to any company unless they specifically asked me about it beforehand and got my permission for that company.
          You should know at all times where your resume is being sent. Keep a spreadsheet of this info that includes the company name, position, recruiters name or whether you applied yourself.

          There are recruiters who take your resume and try to job-shop it around, sometimes to companies that have not hired them to recruit. Sometimes these “recruiters” try to get you to sign an exclusivity agreement so you can only be represented by them. Do not sign such an agreement.

          And do not ever pay a fee to a recruiter to find you a job.

  51. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    What do people mean when they say “niche industry” or “niche role” here? So many LWs and commenters describe themselves or their work in this way, but by definition most of us can’t be in niche roles. What are folks trying to get across when they say that? That their experience is specialized and doesn’t translate to other fields? Nobody else in their organization does the same kind of work they do?

    1. Shiny*

      I have often wondered this myself! And then I’ve found myself using that language. What I mean, at least, is that I’m in a specific niche within a niche. I work in international development. Most US staff who work in it are, ultimately, project managers. I’m not. I work in a specific sub field that every organization in this field needs, and even within that I have very highly specialized skills that get me in senior level consideration. But they’re not the budgeting, management, etc. skills that most of the people who run these organizations use. When you add in technical expertise (in a field like, say, global health, agricultural development, education, etc.), it really is a niche within a niche within several more layers.

      I’d love to hear what other people mean as well as whether this usage makes sense to others!

    2. QuickerBooks*

      Although I’ve never described my industry as “niche”, I might do so if pressed. To me it would have something to do with being small, highly specialized, and not well-known. My industry is the type of thing that when you describe it to people at a dinner party, they say, “Oh, I guess I never realized that someone has to do that.”

      1. Ope!*

        Same – when I started describing my job as niche, it was when I became a type of teapot painter that not even my fellow teapot painters were familiar with. When my educational cohort started getting really interested in my work because they don’t know what I’d do in a job like that – that’s niche to me.

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        Like my stepson – who works as a carpenter in a nuclear power plant. Who knew? But they keep a crew of carpenters busy.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Ha, I used that in my comment today! I mean that I work in one specific area of my field that in order to be hired, you need a significant amount of experience doing this one thing. My field is fundraising and my niche is major gift fundraising, which is one of many aspects of the field – people also do annual gift, grants, donor relations, events, mid-level giving, corporate relations, etc etc etc. So the roles I’m applying for have a very specific and narrow level of experience required to be considered for them, and the pool of candidates with that experience isn’t all that big.

      I think of it in comparison to my husband’s career, which is a lot more general and he can apply to a lot more, and a lot of different kinds of, roles.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Oh that’s interesting! I don’t think I would’ve considered that niche. Sure major gifts is a subset of fundraising, but that’s mostly just a specialty. Any medium-sized or larger NPO that has a development department likely has a major gifts officer. I agree the pool of candidates isn’t that big, and the potential roles out there are not as plentiful as any kind of generalist, but like if you do major gifts for an arts org you could probably do it for a zoo or for a health org or for an educational institution or…. etc.
        To me, niche seems to mean more like it’s a subset of a subset, with such specialization that it isn’t really transferrable to a parent-set (or is transferrable but you could be the most expert-expert on the niche, but someone who is an expert-expert on the parent-level of the niche would maybe just be Quite Knowledgeable about the niche and vice versa).
        Like – there’s a frequent commenter here who is an expert on and has written books about 19th century baseball. Baseball? Not niche. Historian? Not niche. Baseball historian? Less common but not niche. 19th century baseball history? Niche. (Not speaking of his expertise specifically here, just using that particular niche for illustrative purposes of how I think of what a nice is.)

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      There’s lots of different types of niches, so it seems very possible that lots of people could be in various niche roles. I think most of them time people use the term to mean their experience is specialized, but it could also mean that they have a strange mix of responsibilities, jobs in their field are hard to find, they have a particular specialization in a common field, or they would have to move to a new location to find the same job.

      I’m an instruction librarian and certainly not in a niche role when you look at the US as a whole. However, I’m in a very rural area with few universities, so it’s a pretty niche role for the part of the country that I live in.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      I would say that I am in a niche role. What I mean by that is that what I do is highly specialized, requires a special degree and years of specific experience and training. It absolutely is industry specific and does not translate to any other work. At any company, I am usually the only person in the role, or work with a small team of similar specialists. Nationally, there aren’t that many of us who have this kind of specialty, so we all either know each other or are within one degree of knowing each other. That’s what I mean by the term. In my field there are lots of different niches, with specialists for each.

    6. Crotchet*

      I take it to mean “not easily replaced in terms of specialized licensure or position requirements.” If they walk out, it would be difficult to find someone to replace them. And/or used as a vague/anonymized term to denote a highly specialized role but without having to specifically describe that highly specialized role on a sometimes-viral site.

    7. Fluffy Fish*

      So I work in emergency management (not niche) and my title is planner (not niche) but I focus on alert and warning (which is niche).We colleagues who have the same title – I can step into their roles but they cannot step into mine. Same as if I left the job – outsider could apply but unless they have some kind of experience dealing with some very specific software and demonstrated knowledge of knowing how to use the right language to communicate in crisis, they would not get the job.

      The flip-side is if I wanted to continue to do this but move to a different employer, my options are extremely extremely limited.

    8. AnotherLibrarian*

      When I say I work in a niche field, it denotes a few things- If I wanted another job in my field I would likely need to move cities or move states. It also means my field requires specialized training and it means that it’s a small community where people tend to know each other. I think most people who work in niche fields are operating in a subfield of a larger field. So, I think as other’s have said the idea is to indicate that the work they do is not common in their region and, for many of us, walking away from our job would mean leaving our fields or having to leave our geographic area. It can also mean the job would be hard to replace, but I’ve never thought of it that way (maybe because in my niche, there’s more people who want the jobs than jobs that exist.).

      1. Crotchet*

        Just to add that I agree it goes both ways. In my role, there are more jobs than people who have the specialized license and training, and it’s not a specialty that many have heard about unless they have had direct contact with someone in my position; it’s that niche. But it also limits me in terms of my jobs; doing something different would mean leaving my field altogether, or doing the same thing at another company. I don’t really have much depth or breadth in terms of career flexibility (so maybe I’m more pigeonholed than niche haha).

    9. Calliope*

      I always say that because I’m an attorney who works on regulations for a specific industry and those regulations only apply to that industry.

      That said, I’m not sure that “by definition, most of us can’t be in niche roles.” By definition, most people can’t be in the same niche role. But it would be possible for most roles to be niche. I don’t think that’s actually true but I don’t think it’s that rare for someone to have a job like mine where they work on substantive things that are pretty specific.

      I also don’t think it’s impossible to change. I recently switched from primarily federal regulatory work for my industry to primarily state regulatory work (in a specific state) for my industry. And I know lawyers who have switched to other highly regulated industries. But they’re generally switching to another niche position, not to a generalist role.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        The “niche vs generalist” distinction is what I was trying to get at when I used the term niche. Not that it’s in any way better/more exclusive/fancier than any other job, it just has a very specific focus.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Ha, yes — I guess perhaps everyone could be in niche roles (just different ones)… but then there would be no value in the “niche” qualifier.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t think I’ve said it here, but if I used that phrase, here’s what I’d mean:
      If I told you my job title and nothing else, you’d think “oh there are millions of those in the world”.
      If I told you what I do Job Title for, and you thought “oh I’ve heard of that”, you’re probably one of 50,000 people.
      If I told you what I’m an expert in, and you wanted to know how many experts-on-that exist in the world, the answer is probably less than 500.
      If I wanted to get even more specific about my specialties within that expertise, I’m probably one of 25.

    11. pancakes*

      “but by definition most of us can’t be in niche roles.”

      Why not? There’s no particular reason to assume that the commenters you see here are 1) an accurate representation of the general public or even 2) an accurate representation of the readers of this site. Most people read and don’t comment. I’ve seen Alison say that, and my understanding is that it’s generally true for other sites as well. I think when the Guardian did a big study of their commenters they found something like fewer than 90% of readers left comments, and the people who did comment tended to be high-volume commenters. On the rare occasion I look at NYT comments that seems to be true there as well. There’s one guy in Ohio or something who comments on every single feature open to the public, even if only to say nothing on the menu of the restaurant reviewed that week appeals to him, and another who writes limericks. Pretty niche!

  52. Potatoes gonna potato*

    2nd post –

    Tell me about your first FT job after taking a “break” or being freelance/part time for several years? I just had my first in person interview since 2017.

    I have not been a full time employee since March 2020. I had a child that year and almost immediately after, took on a contractor position, quit that, started a full time job and got fired. Yes they were disasters, bad decisions etc and no they’re not on my resume and yes I still feel bad from them. After being let go from disaster #2, I just did side projects here and there until I came onboard as a contractor for my former employer last year.

    While I enjoy the flexibility of my work right now, the inconsistency in income and working remotely is killing me so I’m looking for FT jobs now that are hybrid. On my resume, I have myself listed as self employed from [month] 2020-current. When I talk to recruiters I make it very clear that this is all *very* part time work that won’t interfere with a full time job.

    Honestly though, I worry that the longer I stay freelance and not working FT, the harder it’ll be for me to adjust to working life again. I got really used to the flexibility. It’s silly but….small things like trips to teh grocery store, going to the gym, taking my kid out to the mall or park when it’s not crowded, doctor appts etc, I avoided all the crowds (which I hated even before 2020). Or if my kid didn’t sleep at night I could just nap during the day if I really needed to or if I was truly desperate, cancel my plans and just sleep in (not that it ever really happened but now it definitely can’t happen).

    So can anyone relate to these fears? Any advice? Of course parenting isn’t the only reason to take a break from full time employment so everyone’s welcome to weigh in…

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, I can totally relate! I freelanced for five years and then got an in-house job. I’ve been in-house ever since. I was really worried about going back to a 9-5 job because, like you, I’d got used to the flexibility of freelancing, and also because I decided to go freelance after a couple of seriously toxic experiences with previous jobs, and I had a lot of fears about getting caught in another toxic work environment. Luckily for me, the in-house job I got was a year’s maternity cover contract, so before I started I told myself that even if it turned out to be awful a few months in, I’d only have to stick it out for a year, and it was a great job/company to put on my CV. Thankfully it wasn’t awful, and I ended up sticking around and moving into doing the same job in a different department where I’ve been ever since. It definitely did take a while to adjust (I have to say I’ve loved WFH because it lets me combine some of my freelance flexibility with actually having a regular pay cheque and paid holiday and sick leave etc) and I was very tired to start with, but the benefits definitely outweighed those challenges. You do have to change your approach to things somewhat (shopping at the weekend/in the evening etc) but for me having regular money and not having to tout myself out to get work definitely made up for it! I also realised how much I enjoy being part of a project from start to finish, rather than just doing an edit or a proofread or doing a short-term contract to help out here and there.