boss makes us discuss all our mistakes in a group, elf work on a resume, and more

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

1. My boss makes us discuss all our mistakes in a group

I hate my boss. She has this policy that she believes works where she insists on discussing your mistakes on a video call with our team of nine. No member of our team finds this effective. It’s embarrassing and makes everyone terrified of making mistakes. Nobody is willing to tell her that because we know she will not take it well.

She is also incapable of admitting when she makes mistakes. Instead, the mistakes will somehow be someone else’s fault. When it is apparent nobody else is at fault but her, she just moves on with the conversation. There will never be an apology. I have reported my discomfort with this behavior to a trusted supervisor before and was told that’s just her management style and that she does it because she cares.

I dread going to work every day. I am terrified of making mistakes, to the point I have anxiety about it, and any time I do make a mistake it keeps me awake at night. The pay isn’t really worth what this does to me, but I can’t bring myself to leave. The company has good benefits, like really really good. I like most of my coworkers. They’re very understanding when I have to miss work for health concerns. For the most part, I like the work I do here. Most importantly, it took me a long time to find this job. Going back into the job market scares me. I don’t know if my mental health can handle working here, but I don’t know if it can handle leaving either. Do you have any advice?

Job search.

Your boss is a jerk. Some people can work for jerks and be relatively unaffected, but lots of people can’t — and this particular boss is clearly terrible for your mental health (and understandably so). No job is worth your health and peace of mind.

You said it took you a long time to find this job, but (a) the market is pretty good right now, so it might be different than the last time you searched, and (b) even if it takes you a year, that means that in a year you’ll be free of this job, rather than still working there. Please look around and see what your options are!

To be clear, if you loved the work, the benefits, the pay, and the coworkers and the boss was a jerk but that wasn’t eating you up inside, I’d give you different advice. In that situation, I’d say that you should decide if dealing with your boss was a price you were willing to pay for the rest of the package. Sometimes, for some people, it will be. But that’s not your situation.

2. Elf work on a resume

My son is applying for a new job. Same field, better employer.

He’s very young and his work history includes such things as field worker on a hay farm, pizza delivery, and dishwasher. One of his jobs was a seasonal turn as an elf at a large store. Not quite like Buddy the Elf, but he did take pictures, manage the crowd, etc. in Santa’s wonderland. (They liked him so much they brought him back as the Easter Bunny’s assistant.)

I kind of like leaving that on there the way he listed it — “Elf, (employer) (dates)” — because it’s memorable and a little bit amusing. It has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of job for which he is applying, but without that job his entire work history looks like one year at his current employer.

Should he list it at all? My husband wants to change it to “photographer’s assistant,” which I think is boring.

Your son should keep the elf job, and definitely shouldn’t blandify it by changing the title the way your husband proposed! It’s interesting and he will almost definitely get questions about it interviews. It’s also something that will speak to his skills working with the public, which can be really valuable, particularly when he’s early in his career and doesn’t have a lot of other experience to talk about.

3. I’m annoyed that my team changed our lunch plans without telling me

On a recent work trip to a very warm location, my colleagues and I decided to go to lunch in the hotel immediately after arriving. I quickly showered and went to my colleagues, who then proceeded to leave the building. I asked what was going on, as this was not what was planned, and was informed that they were looking for a nearby restaurant instead.

I thought that was a great idea! I was rather miffed, though, that I wasn’t informed or even asked if that was alright with me, which would have been trivial to accomplish, and I was completely unprepared for a trip outside in the tropical heat. If I had been informed, I would have quickly packed my sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat (I do sunburn very quickly), worn actually useful shoes, and probably re-used an old shirt instead of using up one of my fresh ones (one of my teammates did run out of shirts later on).

When I mentioned this to my team, everybody replied that this was pretty regular and I should just go along with it. How right am I to be annoyed by this?

You do sound like you’re overreacting / being overly rigid. You’re right that it would have been more convenient if they’d given you a heads-up, but it’s not uncommon for a lunch destination to change on the fly in situations like this, and you generally just roll with it unless there’s a more compelling reason why you can’t (like if they’d decided to go to a restaurant where you couldn’t eat anything on the menu).

I’d put this in the category of “mildly annoying / reasonable to wish you’d had a heads-up” but not anything worth dwelling on after the fact.

4. Should I take my side business off my resume?

Recently I sent my resume to a consulting service that does resume reviews. I work full-time at a big bank, and I’m a photographer on the side. I have been a primarily wedding photographer for over 10 years, but I’ve still held a full-time job. His response to including this on my resume was: “There is a bias against business owners, especially those who currently have a side gig. 1) always flight risk 2) distraction risk 3) how well will you take direction 4) if so good at what you do, why do you need to find a job. Consider moving it to an Additional Experience section to keep the focus on the employer-based experience (or dropping it completely if it doesn’t matter for the role you are applying to).”

This kind of felt like getting kicked in the face by a giraffe, but is he right? Should I remove it? (It’s currently the third job down in my Work Experience section.) Does my experience not matter?

If it’s totally unrelated to the kinds of jobs you’re applying for, I would indeed take it off or move it to an Other Experience section — although mostly for different reasons than the recruiter gave you.

It’s not that the experience doesn’t matter, but a resume isn’t supposed to be a comprehensive accounting of everything you’ve ever done; it’s a marketing document for you as a candidate. Done well, it should be designed to show how you’d be a match for the specific job you’re applying for. If you use prime real estate for a job that’s not relevant to the work you’re applying for, you’re wasting valuable space on something that won’t strengthen you as a candidate. Most hiring managers skim resumes very quickly, and you want their eyes to fall on the stuff that most screams “great candidate for this job.” If wedding photography isn’t that, it doesn’t make sense to mention it more than as a side project, if at all.

The recruiter is right to say that some employers will worry about the distraction risk if you’re currently running another business, and that’s more of a concern if you give the job equal billing with your full-time work; it will be less of one if you move it to a different section like he suggested. (I do find the rest of his concerns overblown, though.)

5. Paying back a PTO advance when you leave

I’m an exempt employee who has apparently already used one more vacation days than I have accrued as of my resignation date. Do I really have to pay it back? We get paid on the first of every month so I will literally have to give money to my company since I have already received my final paycheck. I have “unlimited” sick days, of which I have used none in the past couple years, and it just feels so petty for them to ask me to pay them back for that one additional day.

Yes, when you leave, companies are allowed to require you to pay back any PTO they advanced to you before you had accrued it. It’s considered akin to a loan or a cash advance. (I can see why it feels petty … but on the other hand, some companies won’t advance employees any leave in order to ensure they won’t run into this, which also annoys people.)

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Dark Macadamia*

    (They liked him so much they brought him back as the Easter Bunny’s assistant.)

    I assume you would’ve specified if he was a character so he was probably just wearing a pastel vest or something, but I desperately want the Easter Bunny’s assistant to involve a fluffy yellow chick costume. With a pastel vest.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I love that they brought him back as the Easter Bunny’s assistant. It speaks to his customer service skills, and it’s very funny.

      Those department store Easter Bunnies are terrifying, though.

      1. My dear Wormwood*

        Yes! He should include that they thought so well of him that they rehired him! That’s a great piece of info for an early-career resume.

            1. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

              Yes!!! That’s amazing information, and I would love to interview someone who had gone from Santa’s employment to the Easter Bunny’s.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              ah no, “promoted to Easter Bunny”. As an elf he was just Father Christmas’s assistant, but now he’s the Easter Bunny, not an assistant at all, the Real Thing!

            3. Momma Bear*

              I love this.

              I would definitely give an Elf resume a second look. He’d stand out from the plethora of bland and boring. Photographer’s assistant doesn’t convey the people skills he probably has. I’d be thinking “Hrm, can I throw this guy at a trade show?”

        1. Yvette*

          I knew someone who worked as the Easter Bunny assistant. EB needs an assistant because if EB has to walk anywhere EB must be led as it is impossible to see where you are going with the giant EB head, and it would not do to have a headless EB walking through the mall.

          1. Nina*

            There’s a similar problem with Star Wars clone troopers/stormtroopers! I’m a ‘face character’ (my face is visible in my costume) with the Rebel Legion. It’s pretty common for us to be asked to do events with a lot of small children, and since the troopers can’t see anything below chest height or not directly in front of them, it’s important to have a ‘face character’ or non-costumed handler for each trooper to make sure they don’t accidentally kick kids, and to stop kids stealing their blasters (actual problem).

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              My daughter was Mario at a Consumer Electronics Show once for 10 hours a day for four days. Fortunately, she (and the character) is short enough to be able to view other short people.

      2. Pennyworth*

        My favorite Easter Bunny ever was one dressed exactly like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, so short it kept disappearing as it moved through the store – the children had a wonderful time tracking it down all for a very small chocolate egg.

      3. En*

        we still laugh about the time my son cried petrified seeing the Easter Bunny in the mall and then when he realized is kippah was missing screamed the Easter Bunny ate my kippah
        for years he wouldn’t go back to the mall in case he was back

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I am not a hiring manager, but if I was, I would definitely want to interview someone with elf experience just so that I could do my best impression of a New York newspaper editor and growl “So, kid, gimme the inside dirt on the grotto” when the candidate walked in.

      Seriously, though, if he got invited back he clearly has a lot of patience and good customer service/crowd wrangling skills. If he wants to make it sound a bit more official, he could list it as Grotto Assistant or something similar instead.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      I was an Easter Bunny once (as in, I wore the costume). Sadly the assistants did not have any sort of costume.

    4. Fluttervale*

      As a hiring manager I would also definitely leave it on the resume. Anything that makes you an individual helps us remember who you are, and this is a good thing for us to remember.

      1. COHikerGirl*

        I have a volunteer section on mine and one of the positions was dung beetles research. Every single interview I get asked about it, since it’s unique! I even got a “we’ll pass” email that mentioned it…!

    5. Data Nerd*

      I worked for six months in a grant-funded position as the Chief Widgiteer at the Center for Really Neat Research (both those names are real, at the risk of doxxing myself). Kept it on my resume for *years*. Got me more than one interview, and I’m pretty sure it contributed to me getting an internship that did eventually lead to me getting a “real job” where I have never had nearly as much fun.
      (if anyone is curious, CRNR made communication aids for people with severe physical disabilities that limited their motion. As chief widgiteer, I built the actual devices for input, working with all our clients to determine what would suit their needs best based on their specific abilities)

    6. Random Biter*

      The non-profit I worked for had an arrangement with a local photographer where if our staff volunteered to be the kid/animal wrangler during photos sessions at Christmas and Easter he would donate a portion of his proceeds to us. Santa wasn’t bad as I got to interact with the pets (my favorite was a large, white rat who sat on my shoulder very calmly holding on to my ear while his family got situated) and the photographer would not waste time with parents trying to calm shrieking 2 year olds for 15 minutes (“You can have the crying on Santa’s lap photo to show their new girl/boy friend or wait until next year.”) However, we actually *were* the Easter Bunny and I can still remember going home with raging migraines because the person that wore the costume before me used a heinous perfume. Ah, good times…good times.

      1. Selina Luna*

        Oh my goodness. I can just picture the rat up there. I’m anthropomorphizing, but I am totally imagining an amused look on its little face.

    1. MozartBookNerd*

      Yes, I think it was called the SantaLand Diaries. It started as an NPR audio piece — very engaging and funny and well-known. (He later published it in a book.)

      Your son might very well get a question, in the interview, about the David Sedaris piece! It would be excellent homework for your son to check it out beforehand (it’s surely online I’d think), not just as prep for the interview, but more important as a lesson in the kind of thinking ahead that can contribute to a great impression on an interviewer.

      I for one would be impressed at the combination of the experience and the fact that a young person had context ABOUT the experience. Good luck to him :)

      1. Triplestep*

        This is good advice. The people interviewing could easily be more familiar with the David Sedaris elf than the Will Ferrell elf. (I certainly am.) LW, suggest to your son search the NPR website for the long recording of Sedaris’ reading from The Santaland Diaries. I believe it’s played every Christmas. (There’s a short one, too, but the long one is worth it and about 30 min.)

      2. ferrina*

        This was my first thought too- be prepared for a SantaLand Diaries reference! Seconding the recommendation to read the book to prep for interviews. That way when an interviewer brings it up, your son can connect with the interviewer over this.

    2. CTT*

      I read Santaland Diaries every year, and while I know there is some exaggeration in there, it sounds like a job that involves a lot of people skills and stressful situations. If I saw someone had done well in that job, it would legit be a plus for me!

    3. Minerva*

      Very true!

      Besides, I wouldn’t want to work for anyone who sees “Mall Elf” or a “Easter Bunny Helper” as a reason to immediately chuck a resume in the bin. That person clearly has no sense of whimsy. It’s a perfectly fine job, especially for someone young.

    4. CheesePlease*

      I was about to comment this!! Santaland Diaries is a Christmas season tradition for me! I love David Sedaris so much and his elf experience helped his comedy writing career haha.

      1. Lydia*

        It’s also around as a one-person show and is a lot of fun to see live. I’ve never seen it with David Sedaris, but a local actor has done it a few times and it was wonderful. Would recommend seeing if any theaters are putting it on.

    5. The Original K.*

      I was going to comment this! The piece is fantastic, and if you can listen to the audio version, I recommend it. (The audio versions of his books are great in part because he tags in his sister Amy to do voices.)

      Seriously, there is a TON of valuable experience to be mined from a role like that. He should definitely include it on his resume.

    6. kristinyc*

      That was the first thing I thought of when I read this! It launched a WILDLY successful writing career.

    7. River Otter*

      The Santa Land Diaries show is wildly entertaining and I love it.

      It is also not at all the description of elf work that you want to bring up on a job interview, oh holy smokes no. If an interviewer brings it up, the sun should probably chuckle and say something about how much he loved the work and how well he dealt with customers who said “I am going to have you fired”.

  2. nnn*

    #2: The fact that he was an elf for a department store Santa is probably more compelling. It’s a busy, crowded, context at a busy time of year when many people are rushed and stressed. You’re working with children who don’t always understand what’s going on and often find the situation overwhelming, and your clients want a very specific emotional experience that can be difficult to achieve under these conditions. The fact that he’s good at it really speaks to his interpersonal and customer service skills!

    In contrast, “photographer’s assistant” suggests to me working in a studio, by appointment, under controlled conditions where everyone wants to be there. (Note: I’ve never actually been in a photography studio, but that’s the impression I get.)

    Unless an emphasis on photography-related skills is helpful for the job he’s applying for, I think the elf is more impressive.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Agreed! Department store elf experience can be extremely valuable in many fields – if nothing else, the ability to tolerate/work well with The Public during The Holidays tells me that this person can handle pressure like a pro.

    2. SpaceySteph*

      A lot of people bring kids to photography sessions that don’t want to be there, too, but it is also true that a mall santa is much more hectic.

  3. Observer*

    #1 – Your boss is a jerk. And she’s apparently done a number on your perception of yourself.

    PLEASE start looking for a new job. Yes, it may take a while, but if you don’t look you will ALSO still be stuck with her and you also won’t have a chance to get away from her.

    Let me point out that your company is not so great. I mean, a supervisor told you that she does this ridiculous things “Because she cares”?!? What on earth?! That would be bad enough if she took correction reasonably well and admitted mistakes. But given that added piece, it’s beyond ridiculous. Either the supervisor who told you this is incompetent or lying to you. Because if they don’t realize how toxic and ineffective your boss is, they are incompetent. And if they do realize that it’s bad and told you this, then they are just . . . bad.

    1. Jack's Son*


      While the job search is a chore, it’s not forever. Working there in the long term will be far more detrimental to the OP’s mental health.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Other jobs have great work, great benefits, and good colleagues too, AND don’t have jerks for bosses. Leaving means you might find one of those places.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The good coworkers tend to drift away over time when you have leadership like this. Also, their stand out mention is how understanding they are of OP’s mental health concerns. OP, at your next job, you might bond with colleagues over challenges and successes; not, you know, a common enemy in power over you who makes everyone “terrified”.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Yep. A different job might mean that work is not one of the places that puts undue stress on your mental health.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Was hoping somebody would mention this – eventually the mistake judging bully will have only a team of those type of people. Please start looking now so that you can get away from her before that happens.

          Ellis Bell is right – the good staff will nope out of here because the good staff always have options.

          1. Seal*

            Very true. In fact, I’m seeing this play out a my workplace right now. Our best people are leaving because good staff do indeed always have options.

          2. Chris P. Bacon*

            OP#1 here. I think a few people on our team have just normalized this behavior as they’ve been with the company for decades. Others are being sheltered from it. One of the newer members of our team told me in a training session she and I had recently that she has a feeling there are a lot of things she isn’t seeing. There was an incident recently where I added her to a team chat because she was going to be my backup for the project we worked on in that chat. Shortly after, everyone was removed from the teams chat. We were informed later that day (not by my boss but by the supervisor mentioned in my original post) that my boss did that in order to recreate the chat with a smaller group of people “because *Boss* can be very direct in that chat and doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea.” I told the trainee during our session together that yes, that is code for “she’s openly a b***** in that chat.”

            1. LaFramboise*

              oh, OP, it sounds to me like you know how bad this is and are be truthful with others. Please treat yourself as you would treat your newer members and get out of there.

      2. Chris P. Bacon*

        OP#1 here. I think part of the reason I get scared of the benefits at other places is they stress to us here how great our benefits are. I mean, they are, but I didn’t really notice until recently just how much they push that on you. Part of your yearly performance eval involves pulling up your elected benefits and calculating how much the company is paying for your benefits. Then you are told to add that to your yearly wage so you can see “how much the company is paying for you. This is how much they value you.” I recently realized that’s kind of a weird thing to do.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Some companies have crappy benefits, it’s true. But your current company is not the only place that has good benefits. There are other places with good benefits out there! Look for another job, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what’s out there.

        2. Nesprin*

          That’s a profoundly weird thing to do.

          They pay you in exchange for your work: it’s not a thing that they do out of the kindness of their heart that you should be grateful for.

        3. DramaQ*

          That’s to keep you from leaving. We have insurance tied so tightly to jobs in the US that it’s a very powerful scare tactic to get people from jumping ship. I had an employer do this. They really liked to hammer how you wouldn’t get cheaper premiums anywhere. And that is true HOWEVER when I did a side to side comparison with my current employer my current employer may not win on premiums but the plan and network is better. Please do not let their manipulation keep you from another job. Something else to keep in mind is a new job may come with a salary bump enough it ends up a wash or you still end up better off. You need to look at the whole picture. Whatever they feel you owe them for how much they pay for you is NOT worth your mental well being. Higher premiums for better sanity and less anxiety is worth it.

        4. MrsThePlague*

          Just want to echo/really underscore the comments of others that this is a weird and super manipulative thing to do. They *should* give you benefits! That’s part of the deal! They aren’t doing you a favour, though they really want you to think they are so they can guilt you into ignoring their sh*tty behaviour.

          Listen to the little voice inside that’s saying “wait, what? No!” – it’s right! :)

        5. Chilipepper Attitude*

          The lady doth protest too much, methinks
          i.e. – calculating how much you cost in benefits sounds like a way to make you value them more than you should!

          It’s kinda creepy and weird!

        6. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          I have heard of companies sending you a “total compensation” statement with benefits included, but never heard of the employer making the employee do that calculation themselves! That is downright manipulative!

        7. goddessoftransitory*

          The actual hell? That’s like them punching you in the face and then demanding you be grateful there’s an ice pack vending machine in the lobby!

        8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ummm, that is really weird, but I have experienced it as well in the past. Got to my next job, and spoiler but “add up to see how great your benefits” place actually had really crappy benefits – they may have been overpaying, but the benefits were crappy.

          It sounds like you know there are issues here – the question is can you grey rock your way past the dysfunction, or should you start planning an escape. Only you can answer that.

      1. Chris P. Bacon*

        Hey, OP#1 here. So does it make it better or worse if I tell you that the remainder of the response was: “this is something you see more when you have reached a level where she trusts and values you. she has done this to me a thousand times.”

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Worse. It’s like a punishment for success. That would disincentivize most people to pursue progress.

          1. MrsThePlague*

            It almost feels like gaslighting in a toxic relationship. “I yell at you and make you feel like crap because I love you so much!”


            1. Chilipepper Attitude*

              But it is the boss of the boss doing the gaslighting for the boss.
              Dang, that boss has gaslit her boss into gaslighting everyone else for her.

        2. EPLawyer*

          WORSE. This is not the behavior of someone who trusts and values you. If you trust someone, you don’t have to nitpick their mistakes.

          The supervisor has allowed the toxic behavior to warp their sense of normal. GET OUT before this happens to you.

        3. Nesprin*


          I believe very much in a culture of feedback, where the answer to “here’s how you can do better” is thank you, and this is emphatically not that. But inherent in that concept is that there should be enough trust that feedback can go both ways, and that public shaming is counterproductive.

          It’s super super cult-y that the longer you’re there the more that they beat down on you- nothing bonds like trauma.

        4. Observer*

          So does it make it better or worse if I tell you that the remainder of the response was: “this is something you see more when you have reached a level where she trusts and values you.

          Worse. Much worse. Because this is just a lie. This is not about reaching a level where the “trusts and values you”. This is about reaching a level where you are a threat to her. And so she “needs” to cut you down.

          It’s not clear whether this supervisor has Stockholm Syndrome or she’s gaslighting you. But either way, you should NOT trust anything she says.

        5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          So Much Worse. Somebody else called it seeing you as competition, I’d call it seeing you as a threat. That supervisor doesn’t sound normal, or very good. Please plot an escape – you deserve better that her as a supervisor.

    3. John Smith*

      Totally agree that leaving is the option here.

      My boss is also a finger pointer and blames others for his own mistakes. The baroquean leaps of logic required to reach the conclusions he does are beyond me to comprehend.

      So do what I do and just laugh at your boss. Repeat back to your boss what your boss has said as a question while laughing to demonstrate what an idiot they are. Works for me anyway, but my boss is an absolute clown (and his boss is a bigger one). I’m not leaving as there are so many good things about my job that I won’t get elsewhere and my boss is the only bad thing about the job. Staying and dealing with the idiot is my preference, but I don’t think it will work for you in the long term. Good luck.

    4. RIP Pillow Fort*

      We have more than one supervisor that does this in our office and 100% they’re not going to change. Mostly because no one above them will hold them accountable. They also don’t “do it because they care,” they do it because they are incapable of owning up to mistakes. Yet will drag other people through the mud if it’s their mistake. As if they are not responsible for catching and correcting that before it leaves the office. It’s a huge limiting flaw that not only affects the workers but the rest of the supervisory staff/customers. They’ve driven numerous people off with their approach and turnover has skyrocketed.

      They should look for a new job since it’s affecting them this much but in the meantime they really need strategies to limit the mental health impacts of this. Because unless the job market is better (and in my field it’s not really that great) they will have to put up with it for a little while longer.

      One of the things I do is find ways of combating the anxiety of making mistakes. I have had that anxiety forever (due to ADHD/childhood upbringing) about making mistakes. You might benefit from medical help with that. Even if it’s just talk therapy- that can help you put how ridiculous your boss is in perspective. I also try to mentally reframe “mistakes” not as something terrible but something you learn from. Even if the boss doesn’t frame it that way.

      The other thing I do is mentally name the issue so I keep it in perspective that the problem is the supervisor- not me for making a reasonable mistake. Reasonable mistakes are expected in the workplace.

      The supervisors that do this where I work have been called out on it and react poorly to being called out. So calling them out doesn’t fix the problem and upper management isn’t going to fix it, even if we came as a group to talk about how absolutely demoralizing this behavior is to workers. So you need to shift from “how do I deal with this” to “how do I take care of myself while job searching?”

      1. Chris P. Bacon*

        Hey, I’m OP#1. It is kind of nice to see I’m not alone in dealing with supervisors like this. I also have intense anxiety about making mistakes. I am also not one of those people who can brush off what others think of them. It’s a long-winded explanation that essentially boils down to childhood upbringing like you. I see a therapist every few weeks, and she is helpful in listening and helping me try to reframe how I deal with these situations. We have been working on getting to the root of the issue in my self esteem/psyche and working through it from there. It’s a long, long process that is very draining and currently compounding the problem rather than aiding it. I am trying to come up with temporary solutions in the meantime. I have found limited success in taking my stress out on enemies in Hyrule Warriors.

        1. MrsThePlague*

          Oh man, Chris P. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’m in a similar situation, and going into a workplace that triggers your deepest fears and traumas (having a *boss* who does this) is HELL.

          I don’t know if you have the option of taking temporary leave from work – that’s what I’m doing now – but it’s been incredibly helpful to just get perspective back. I’m slowly starting to realize that this isn’t what work has to be – you don’t have to have panic attacks every day before work, you don’t have to be medicated to the hilt just to get through the day, you don’t have to stop eating because you’re too nauseated to keep anything down. I had almost convinced myself that this was normal, and it was only when my doctor and my therapist really sounded the alarm that this was dangerously unhealthy that I made moves to change.

          One suggestion – really go through those benefits with a fine-tooth comb and try to find every single option that can give you a little relief, then USE THEM. Do they offer massages? Alternative therapies? Short-term paid leave? Sign up for all of it.

          Don’t let them guilt you into not taking them – they’re there for you!! It’s what they keep bragging about, right? There may be a little voice in your head that will try to guilt or shame you for using so many resources, but put it on hold just for moment. Even if you have to say out loud: “thanks for your input – I’m going to get back to you, I promise, I’m just taking care of this one thing first.”

          If using those resources gives you back a little bit of energy or confidence, invest that right back in yourself (not your current job, which doesn’t deserve it): job-hunting, networking, putting new strategies into place with your therapist, etc.

          Hopefully this isn’t too much of a projection on my part (your letter obviously struck a chord, lol) – I just know how hard it is to dig yourself out of a deeply draining situation when you’re already drained.

          Sending you positive vibes for positive change!

    5. KRM*

      Yes, refusing to admit mistakes is not a sign of the boss “caring” about you. It’s the sign of a terrible boss who has no idea how to manage. My old boss once spent an entire meeting (where my small group usually planned out how to divide the work coming in) going over an experiment of mine that failed to “see what happened”. I was so angry, and later I realized that was when my desire to leave cemented. I’m a bench scientist, and usually the answer to “what happened” is “any number of things that we can’t necessarily figure out because we’re working with living cells and also I did this three weeks ago so I don’t remember this particular experiment setup anymore”. And TBH later I realized I had plated the cells on the wrong kind of dish–and I never told my boss precisely because of what this OP said–I didn’t want to deal with the repercussions which would VASTLY outweigh the error. This kind of thing is terrible for your self-esteem and confidence in your work product, and OP, you need to start looking. Even the feeling that you’ll eventually have an out is going to help you!

    6. Cait*

      I don’t know if I 100% agree about starting the job search right away. OP mentioned that no one says anything because Boss “will not take it well”. Well… what would happen if OP was just honest? What do they have to lose? I think more people might be willing to say something if one day OP said, “I need to be honest, these discussions where we have to admit all our mistakes gives me intense anxiety and makes my work harder, not easier. I can’t speak for anyone else and I appreciate wanting people to own up and do better in the future, but this exercise makes me feel more ashamed than empowered. So I’m going to respectfully bow out of this exercise in the future.” If Boss blows up and makes OP’s life even worse, THEN I’d say start looking for a new job. But maybe this will do nothing more than ruffle Boss’s feathers. Maybe the other coworkers will jump onboard and make Boss realize this is a fruitless struggle to continue. Whatever happens, if OP does decide to look for employment elsewhere, at least they’ll know they made a good effort to stay in this job and spoke up on behalf of themselves and their coworkers. Hopefully, if it comes to that, there’ll be an exit interview where OP can describe to the higher-ups exactly why they’re leaving.

      1. Jack+Bruce*

        The OP has already made a good effort to stay in this job, just by enduring this! And they can start job searching by just looking around for jobs, seeing what’s out there. There’s no harm to do that, even without applying. I don’t see any reason to not explore other options.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Because Boss will not take it well. Boss WILL retaliate and make OP’s life harder. It’s ALREADY affecting her mental health and Boss treats her the same as everyone else. It will only be worse when she is singled out. Also remember most states are “at will.” Meaning the boss could say “you don’t like it, you are fired.” Leaving OP with no paycheck and no healthcare to deal with the mental health effect of dealing with this loon.

        OP needs to start the job search now. that way, there is a paycheck and healthcare benefits. Sure Boss will be pissed and take it personally when OP puts in her notice. but OP can then safely say “well then I guess today is my last day.” Don’t worry about using this person as a reference either. Someone who considers this a good management technique will LOVE to talk about ALL your “mistakes” if asked.

        1. Smithy*

          All of this.

          When you’re in a job that’s *very bad*, it’s very easy to think about how it can’t get worse. But very often it really can. Right now the OP considers themselves to have great coworkers, but if by speaking up to their boss – the boss acts out towards the entire team, those coworkers may no longer be as collegial or supportive towards the OP. Which would likely make that environment feel worse, even if they’re not fired.

          AAM’s note about different people having different bandwidths for this kind of bad behavior is spot on. I used to work at Place A that had issues, but in my evaluation was a place with solid benefits/HR (i.e. protections around parental leave, FMLA), major name recognition, and no frustrations wildly unique to the sector. It’s also a place with major weaknesses, so if you had a bad manager your life will be misery with no recourse and even without a bad manager a lot of cronyism factored into promotions/development. For me, it makes it an ok place to consider a position provided you understand you may only work there for 2-4 years. And likely can not change any systemic issues.

          For some of my peers at Place A, they viewed this work environment as complete hell. And I completely support and affirm their experiences. But I’d also worked for Place B that was far far worse (wide spread sexual harassment, financial mismanagement, payouts around racial discrimination, general yelling etc.). So my bandwidth for the issues at Place A was higher. It took me a year of job hunting to leave Place B, I knew my tenure of around 3 years at Place A would be great on my resume and not harm my mental health.

          None of this is to take away from those left greatly distressed by Place A, but just as a cautionary tale that while there may be those who 100% say what’s happening is bad – they may not be impacted as badly as you are. And their survival instincts in this negative environment may be far different.

          1. Chris P. Bacon*

            Hey, OP#1 here. I think part of the reason I stay in this job is because I have worked at worse places before. My former coworker has told me that as well. Because I have been through hell elsewhere, it’s easy to ignore the issues here because “it’s not as bad as that was.”

            The job I had before I came to this company is a perfect example. They were short-staffed, so I was not allowed to leave even to go to the doctor when I was ill. It took me finally threatening to quit before Boss B would allow me to go to the doctor, and I was instructed that I would use my lunch break for it and come back immediately after. I was diagnosed with a sinus infection, bronchitis, ear infections in both ears, an upper respiratory infection and early stages of pneumonia. My doctor considered hospitalizing me and told me that she would have had no choice if I’d waited another couple of days. I called Boss B and informed her of the diagnosis. I was told to pick up my prescriptions and come back to work despite being contagious. Mind you, this was a daycare. One of the children in my care ended up hospitalized after catching what I had. I was also let go a week and a half after said appointment because Boss B decided to give her daughter my job. The job before that? They would occasionally make me come in and work off the clock back when I was too young and dumb to realize it was illegal.

            So, by comparison, this job is great, and I think that’s why I’ve put up with things for so long.

            1. Hen in a Windstorm*

              No, you’re mistaken. This job is also awful. You haven’t found a great job yet. Time to start looking! Good luck.

              FYI – none of these “I had to” and “they made me” statements are true. You could have said no. Don’t ask permission to go to the doctor, just go. You could have asked the doctor for a note saying you couldn’t work.

              1. Frankie Bergstein*

                Hey – you are technically right, but that feels a little hard on the OP to me! I’ve been in their shoes.

              2. Chris P. Bacon*

                Yeah I was young and stupid and thought that was really how jobs worked. I learned my lesson, though. I paid a lot of money to deal with the long term repercussions of that untreated illness.

                This job I do have days where I try to work sick, and they stress to me that that’s not expected. When I first started having symptoms of COVID-19, I tried to work. I had informed my boss and supervisor that I was starting to show symptoms, and my dad, whose house I had been working in all week, tested positive. My supervisor (the one who fed me the “because she cares” line) called me as soon as he saw I was online and told me to go back to bed. After I tested positive, he told me to just rest and not worry about working until I was feeling better.

                On the flip side, though, I once puked while on video with him, and he asked me to clean up and call when I was finished because we needed to finish our discussion. (We really didn’t, in hindsight. It was a waste of time.) That one kind of came back to bite him, though, because I wasn’t able to give my laptop ample time to dry and it fried parts of it. The company had to replace my laptop. It’s a lot of winning in some areas and losing in others.

              3. Gipsy Danger*

                Hen, both your statements are incredibly rude. The OP has been gracious enough to engage with us in the comments, there is no call to speak to her this way. Also, it is Alison’s policy that we take letter writers at their word. If she states that her currently job is great compared to her last one, then we believe her. When she states she felt she had to come to work sick, and felt she had no choice but to go to the doctor on her lunch break, we believe that too. If you have something constructive for the OP, that is fine, but there is no call to be so rude and dismissive here.

                1. Xanna*

                  I think it’s fair to say the OP’s perception of “a bad job” has been hugely skewed by the horrible experiences they’ve had in several workplaces. I feel like Hen is pointing out that one’s internalized expectations of being treated terribly can have really adverse effects on what you see as “normal” or “acceptable”.

                  So like, by reframing to “I’ve had a series of really abusive workplaces – how can I orient my job search and expectations to ensure my next one is a sane, healthy, nontoxic experience by using what I’ve endured previously” OP can move forward into a better situation. Part of that is realizing that the way OP has been conditioned to respond to truly egregious demands may not serve them well when they find work in a more functional office.

                  IMO it’s not disbelieving their experiences – just pointing out those experiences don’t necessarily reflect what’s true in a less toxic environment.

                  (Also, I was surprised to see that word in your username – it’s widely considered a slur against various groups of Roma/Sinti peoples – I’d recommend looking into the history of the term as it’s quite jarring to see here :/)

            2. BethDH*

              I’m guessing that experience makes you anxious that you’ll end up somewhere worse, but don’t let that trick you into staying till you’re desperate.
              Start looking now. You don’t have to accept a new job, and knowing you currently have a job that isn’t your worst ever means you can try to look for red flags. I think there have been a number of questions here over the years about how to assess workplace environment during the interview process.
              You might also look for the discussions on how to recalibrate your sense of normal work environments after being in toxic or abusive workplaces. You deserve a bar that’s higher than “at least they’re not endangering me or clients.”

              1. EPLawyer*

                Oh boy THIS. If you have a job with a paycheck, you can be picky in your job search. Remember, interviewing is a two way street. Check the place out. At least since you have a job, you won’t have to take ANY job just because you are desperate. Just because they offer doesn’t mean you have to accept.

                Look see what your options are. I promise you there are no-crappy jobs out there. And I say this as someone who worked in law firms that are NOTORIOUS for their crappiness. But even there good ones can be found.

            3. goddessoftransitory*

              Look at it this way: right now you’re putting up with your boss stuffing rabid weasels down your pants, because it’s better than the last employers, who all stuffed rabid wolverines down your pants.

              Focus on finding a job that employs non crazy adults that leave your pants alone.

      3. Observer*

        Whatever happens, if OP does decide to look for employment elsewhere, at least they’ll know they made a good effort to stay in this job and spoke up on behalf of themselves and their coworkers.

        The OP is not obligated to make “good faith effort” to stay in a job where a boss is abusive and is being supported by others in management. Nor are they obligated to try to rescue their coworkers when they have no control and the risk of trying is significant.

        And, yet the OP DID make a good faith effort. They are trying to not make mistakes. They actually DID speak up and was told, essentially “Too bad”. Why on earth would you now expect the OP to take on a further risk?

        Your suggestion is especially egregious because what we know about this person’s behavior means that when the OP says “not take it well” it’s not just going to be a few minutes of pouting and that’s it. The idea that someone owes an abuser “a chance” to prove that they REALLY, REALLY are abusive before they have the moral right to get away from the existing abuse is abusive. And it’s one of the reasons that abusers maintain their grip.

        1. Cait*

          I didn’t suggest OP speak up for themselves so they could fix their boss. At this point, it sounds like Boss is unfixable. But if they really do love this job and really don’t want to leave it, I would hate for them to look back and think, “Maybe if I spoke up, that would’ve solved the ‘sharing our mistakes’ issue and I’d be less stressed and could’ve stayed at a place I loved working at.” Is it likely Boss would react in a reasonable way? No. But if she gets upset, that’s even more proof OP should run without regret.

          But this is assuming the main issue is the one OP mentions (the analyzing of everyone’s mistakes). Of course, if Boss’s behavior is the bigger issue then yes, it would be wise to leave. A boss who won’t take responsibility and strives to blame others for their mistakes is a terrible boss. If OP can deal with that and is just stressed about the mistakes exercise, I think it would be wise to speak up before job searching in an effort to be able to stay at this job but lessen the stress. But if the root of the issue is Boss’s behavior full-stop, then there’s nothing that will make it better (esp. if management backs her up) and leaving is the only thing that will make things better.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        It’s not the OP’s responsibility to try to fix the culture of the company – and this is indeed a culture issue. Her boss’ behaviour is known enough that the boss’s manager should be stopping these self-recrimination sessions and coaching the individual on how to be a better manager and people leader. They’re not, and the supervisor’s attitude is that this is just how the boss is because “she cares”, and the OP is confident that the boss won’t take suggestions well, not to mention that the boss doesn’t take accountability for her OWN mistakes. All told, that’s a culture, and it’s not one the OP can or even should try to fix.

        The OP’s best bet is to keep quiet, start job-hunting, and remind themself that this is a dysfunctional culture and to not take it personally – in that order.

      5. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I don’t think it’s either/or, I think it’s both/and. OP should start job-searching AND ALSO consider speaking truth to power.

        As for “what do they have to lose” — maybe, their job? It’s much much better to look for a job when you have the option to not take the first one you get, and if you’ve just been fired, your options are fewer.

    7. ICodeForFood*

      I just wanted to add my voice to those encouraging OP #1 to look for a new job. Your boss is a jerk who had NO clue how to manage people, and her ‘management style’ is making your life miserable. It’s not ‘because she cares,’ it’s because she’s a lousy manager!

      You (and all your coworkers) deserve better!

      Once you pull together your resume (using all of Alison’s suggestions), and start hunting, you may find (as I did) that getting positive responses and interviews actually helps with your mental health… There are reasonable interviewers, managers, and companies out there.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. TypityTypeType*

        A lot of managers do things calculated to turn their employees into walking bundles of anxiety — and/or rage) — but that isn’t usually considered a “management style.”

    8. Rocks are neat*

      Yes, you should leave. Having mistakes pointed out and held over your head is an awful way to spend a meeting. But in the mean time, do you collaborate with your coworkers? Are they in a position to catch some errors? If yes, can you bring up a mistake you almost made and then thank the coworker for their help? Combat the negative by giving out some positive feedback. Your boss may still criticize but your coworkers will know you value them

      1. Chris P. Bacon*

        OP#1 here. We do try to collaborate outside of the meetings so we can present to our boss the error and the solutions we came up with. This has limited success. Some days she says “great” and moves on. Other days we get to hyperfocus on the error and why it was made by whoever made it.

        1. Cait*

          Question. Are you more stressed about this asinine exercise your boss forces you and your coworkers to participate in, or her behavior in general? In other words, if she decided to do away with the “let’s analyze everyone’s mistakes” game completely, would that make you happier, less stressed, and more productive? Or would it just put a band-aid on the bigger issue of your boss’s incompetence? If it’s the latter then I agree that it’s best to move on from this job. Because it sounds like your boss isn’t going to get any better anytime soon and the higher-ups are just fine with that. But if you’re willing to deal with her behavior and are more stressed by this stupid exercise, what would happen if you just refused to participate? When you say she’ll react badly, what does that mean? Will she scream at you? Fire you? Give you the cold shoulder? Would it be worth it to gather a few coworkers and address it again with the higher-ups? I only ask this because, if you really, really, love your job and really, really, don’t want to leave, something has to give one way or the other. But please remember that perks like sick leave, vacation days, bonuses, etc. aren’t worth your mental, emotional, or physical health. There are other jobs out there that offer those perks without abusive bosses.

          1. Chris P. Bacon*

            I think it is more her in general. The exercise is truly awful, but it’s not the only issue as she has no issue exhibiting the exact same behavior via email or instant messaging. Since the meetings where she calls us out are twice a week and mandatory, there isn’t much we can do to avoid it. If you are the person being called out, you’re expected to engage with her. I don’t know that she would yell, but she would definitely escalate and get harsh if you didn’t respond. You’re on video, so avoidance doesn’t really work.

            1. Rocks are neat*

              Ugh, she sounds awful, the meetings sound so stressful. Based on your comments it sounds like you have done literally everything to make this situation better but your boss is the bees. Run away.

    9. Ann Nonymous*

      Now that I’m older and more confident, I find that immediately identifying and calling out my own mistakes is the best way to go. No, not every mistake or ones that only affect me or that can be easily fixed. I’ll tell my boss, “Here is the email that I seem to have missed two weeks ago. I know I had just come back from vacation, but I shouldn’t have overlooked it. Do we want me to reply with A or B?” Or, “Oh, I see I wrote the wrong figure down. I was looking at page 2 when the total was actually on page 4.” If you own up to mistakes, perhaps briefly explain why you got something wrong and then fix or propose a fix, it would be weird if people got mad.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Yes. This kind of thing is totally normal (if sometimes annoying) with work travel and a group.

      The other thing we usually do is set up a group text chat for the trip, for discussion and keeping people up to date.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Exactly. With the bonus that maybe next time someone will think of dropping you a text next time they change a plan when you’re not around.

    3. Lilo*

      I actually would expect them to leave because chances are it might take longer than 5 minutes, but “we’ll text you where we end up” is a reasonable reply.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        In my experience I can’t recall anyone ever even offering to tell me where they ended up/were going, much less actually doing it. But on the other hand, if they can’t be bothered to send a text for me to catch up, I probably don’t actually want to hang out with them.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Exactly. All of the above.

        The LW is advised to work on basic confidence in affirming their needs in group settings outside the family. (Maybe read up about ask culture vs. guess culture. Asking, unapologetically, quickly, low-key, and getting needs addressed is a useful skill to have.)

      1. Shad*

        It is a pretty regular situation, but one that can be stressful for those who are most comfortable with clearly defined plans. I got that impression from OP, and it seems that they might have spiraled a little around it like I sometimes do.
        OP, if I’m reading that right, I’ve sometimes found it helpful to try to reframe the plan in my head as being to improvise; that way, it being up in the air *is* “all according to plan”.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**

      Yeah. It’s annoying, but typically in these situations no one is “in charge” of organizing, so it’s always a little unclear who is meant to be communicating, etc.

      The best approach is to politely advocate for your own needs, and expect that others won’t necessarily keep track of them.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        This is perfectly said.

        OP, fwiw, I would have been peeved, too. But this isn’t a situation where you are clearly right and they are clearly wrong. They told you this is the natural dynamic for them, so all you can do is advocate for yourself and what does/doesn’t work for you.

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      Exactly. And also, since it’s tropical, I’d be willing to bet there are other people who don’t want to walk and would cheerfully split a cab.

    6. londonedit*

      Yep, I’d have said ‘Oh, OK! If we’re going outside then I’ll have to nip back to my room and grab some sun cream/my hat/whatever – let me know where you end up and I’ll meet you there’. I have very sun-sensitive skin and often find that people who don’t burn easily simply don’t think about the fact that other people might need a hat/SPF/cotton shirt to sling on – I expect the OP’s colleagues just didn’t consider the fact that someone might need extra kit to go outside rather than heading straight to the hotel restaurant. But I wouldn’t have taken it as a slight, and I’d assume reasonable people would completely understand if someone asked for five minutes to go back and grab a hat or change shoes or whatever.

    7. Workerbee*

      This. The mere thought of not being adequately protected sun-wise gives me the heebie jeebies. And I’d request one of them stay back and wait for you to go to this location, especially if you’re in an area new to you and/or am directionally challenged like I am!

      I refuse to put my self-care at risk because others think it’s okay to change plans on a whim.

      1. Lilo*

        I’m a mom who carries a giant mom purse, but I literally always have sunscreen on me. There are some very portable stick sunscreens you can carry easily.

            1. Unaccountably*

              I have a normal-sized purse, but it’s more than roomy enough to hold my wallet, a pair of sunglasses, a tube of sunscreen, and a pair of those fold-up ballet flats.

      2. I-Away 8*

        It would be very kind of your coworkers if one stayed behind to take care of you, but you could also use your phone — first to call them and find out where they are once you’re ready to venture outside, and then to get turn-by-turn walking instructions.

      3. Malarkey01*

        I think this is a little much. “Change plans on a whim”- they are a group waiting around a hotel lobby for lunch it’s not a huge planned event and most likely while waiting someone looked at the menu and said whoa they want $30 for a burger or it doesn’t look like they have any salads on the lunch menu and decided to leave. The fact that LW was last to arrive probably means the discussion happening without here.

        Totally legit to run back up and grab something but asking someone to wait for you (when you were also the ,ast person down) would be a lot for a work group on travel.

      4. biobotb*

        You don’t actually know that they changed plans on a whim. There may have been good reason for it, even possibly a reason related to someone else’s self care.

    8. Sloanicota*

      When this type of thing has really irked me, I’ve taken it as a sign that I need a more flexible wardrobe that transitions to any circumstance, especially when traveling. I keep some basic things, including sunscreen, stocked in the purse I carry everywhere. I’m always looking for stylish work shoes that I actually can walk a half-mile in, no problem. Layered outfits, etc. Be the change, OP!

      1. RIP Pillow Fort*

        Yep. Sudden changes can irk me so I just tend to be prepared when travelling. I’ve had so many things just change on the fly while travelling I just come prepared and expecting last minute changes!

      2. Smithy*

        Agree on both points, both advocating for your needs and being a little more personally prepared for changes.

        A major difference across business travel is how much luggage different people travel with, and how they prepare to deal. I’ve been on travel to warmer locations with people who travel very light, and I can only assume they either don’t sweat, do laundry in their room, or plan to send their clothes to hotel laundry services. But we’re coworkers so I’m also not asking. Same with sunblock, what shoes are comfortable, etc.

        I will also note that getting together with colleagues outside of the planned work agenda is often done to be collegial and well meaning, but also not mandatory. So if the meal changes to be outside and you don’t want to leave the hotel – dropping out is also ok. Saying that jetlag just hit you or an urgent email just arrived, that’s also ok.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I really want to be the person who packs light. Truly, I do. It looks so nice. But the couple of times I’ve really committed to it and done it, I wound up stressing out — mentally I like having options depending on the plans and my mood. I don’t need to be prepared for everything, but I like having the things I know will be hard to come by wherever I’m going. So, I have accepted that I’m the person carefully weighing and measuring my carry-on after I fill every available inch like a game of Tetris.

      3. Bye Academia*

        Yeah, this is just part of traveling with other people. Plans can change, often on the fly. I’d just take this as a message to be prepared to be flexible. Wear shoes that are also easy to walk in, bring a layer for the sun or extra AC, take a bag with sunscreen, etc. If you’re ready for any scenario, it’s a lot easier to go with the flow.

    9. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Same thought.

      It seems OP, that people were chatting while waiting for everyone to turn up. I don’t think they did a head count, or even realized who wasn’t there yet. They got excited about the idea and when you arrived they told you about it. That is when you say either: “Sounds good, but I need to switch shoes and grab sun screen. Back in a few minutes.” or “I’d love to join the group, but I need to stay near the hotel to do some prep work after lunch.”

      1. Student*

        It’s also possible they changed venue to accommodate someone’s food restriction – perhaps the hotel restaurant was Plan A, but they had to make up a Plan B once everyone had gotten a look at the menu and realized it had no viable food for someone on the team.

      2. KRM*

        Or someone reported back that the hotel has a lunch buffet that doesn’t look very nice and costs $55 per head, or someone says “hey the guidebook says there are like 5 places that are really really good a 10′ walk from here, let’s check those out and see what the menus are like!”. OP, this is totally normal and not a big deal at all. Either say “oh give me 5′ to pop back for sunscreen and my hat!” or “okay show me on the map where it is and I’ll catch up to you, I need to be more prepared for sun exposure!”.

    10. Office Lobster DJ*

      OP, if you’re having trouble letting this go, it’s worth considering why it’s a hot button for you. Maybe it’s a symbol of something more. Are these co-workers prone to generally disregarding you? Is there a problem with communication in the group? Is it a “you” thing? Were your stress levels high due to traveling? Are you just naturally a planner and could work on going with the flow?

      (Okay, that last one is very much me. I’m working on it!)

      1. Smithy*

        This is really good. I know that when I travel, I personally like to travel with more “stuff” than a lot of my colleagues do – but can also feel a bit self conscious if I run into colleagues who have one tiny bag compared to all of my stuff for the same time period. This is 100% a me issue but can put me on edge.

        Because of alllll of this, I have found better ways to plan around this that most involve trying to travel with my luggage without colleagues as much as possible. And, when that’s not possible, I always come up with some kind of story around why I need those extra cubic feet.

        I’m sure no one actually cares, but I know that I do care. And anything I can do to stop caring about this will help make me more even keeled for other unexpected issues.

    11. Rainy*

      Yup. I also sunburn very quickly, and if I were not anticipating leaving the hotel I would probably have dressed differently/not been completely sunblocked/not have carried my hat, and thus wouldn’t be able to go outside.

      Just say “Oh, I didn’t realize we were going outside–give me a second to run back up and grab my hat!”

    12. snarkfox*

      Yeah, it sounds like they all met up while they were waiting on OP and changed their mind while they were talking. It happens all the time. Someone might’ve looked at the hotel menu and saw it was super expensive or not as good as they were expecting or something. I mean, yeah, I guess they could’ve sent a text? But… tbh, it sounds like everyone was already waiting on OP, so maybe they didn’t want to wait even longer for OP to change their outfit?

  4. Nes*

    #5 It’s another one of those horrible double standards where many times employers are not always legally obligated to pay out accrued PTO, but they can require repayment of advanced PTO. It’s similar to how employees are crucified for not giving notice when quitting but it’s standard and accepted when employers fire/layoff people with no notice.

    1. Jim Bob*

      Depending on how much this would burn a bridge and who is involved (just HR? direct mgr too?), #5 also has the option to, just, not. “Policy” doesn’t mean much if his last day is set.

      If he’s already been paid, it’s extremely unlikely the company would go to the trouble of, and win, court action to recoup one day of pay.

      1. orange line avenger*

        They’re unlikely to take LW to court, but extremely likely to get a collections agency involved. And if it comes to that, the bridge is going to be extremely burned. It’s annoying, but taking the path of greatest resistance would hurt LW and their credit score far more than it’d hurt the company/stick it to the man.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I don’t know if they’d bother to do that, but it can certainly be a black mark in their minds about this employee, hurt the reference, etc. That said, it’s a crappy policy, and I’m sure OP wishes in retrospect that they’d used sick leave for one of their days off earlier.

          When I gave notice last time, I offered to give three weeks, which would have included a new month and given me more time on the company insurance. My HR person moved up my last day to be the last day of the month so they didn’t have to cover me for another month (while telling me what a great job I’d done and how much they valued me!). I could have just waited a week to tell her and then gotten those extra 25 days of insurance. I learned my lesson … companies are brutal around separation.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Not necessarily, though. They could easily have said they didn’t the whole 2 weeks notice if it would have saved them a whole month of insurance. When you give 2 (or more) weeks you should be prepared to be fired on the spot.

      2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        Wouldn’t need to go to court; in many cases, when you signed up for direct deposit, you also authorized your work to take overpayments directly out of your account.

        1. Parenthesis Dude*

          The OP could close their bank account to prevent this from happening. That’s what some people do when they’re given a lot of money by mistake and decide they want to keep it. To be clear, this is a terrible idea and no one should actually do this.

      3. Antilles*

        As others have said, the company probably has options short of taking you to court over one unpaid day – and if you’re parting on otherwise good terms it’s probably not worth torching that reference over a single day of pay.

        That said, from OP’s post, I’m not clear on whether they’ve actually asked for repayment or this is just OP expecting it might happen. If it’s the latter and repayment hasn’t actually been discussed, I’d absolutely keep my mouth shut until they start the conversation – just in case your manager has forgotten about that repayment policy or can’t remember whether you’re over the PTO limit or decides it’s just the cost of doing business or etc.

    2. Snow Globe*

      IANAL, but I think it’s pretty typical that either they pay out accrued PTO *and* require repayment of advanced PTO, or neither one. I’ve never known a company to require repayment of advanced PTO but not pay out accrued, and I would think that wouldn’t be legal.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh I’m guessing it’s legal somewhere, but I agree it’s not something I’ve encountered. And it is awfully nice to get your leave paid out in jobs where that’s an option.

      2. Birdie*

        My last job did not pay out PTO, and tried to get me to repay PTO when I left. When I gave my noticed in March, suddenly they were all “you’ve used more PTO this year than you’ve earned!” Oh no no no no no.

        I was able to point to the employee handbook where it said PTO is reset on January 1 of each year and employees receive their full allotment for the year. I also had 3 years of PTO statements saved, showing that PTO was not accrued, but given as a single allotment for the year. When I raised the possibility of getting legal counsel involved, they backed down.

        Just one of many examples of the incredible dysfunction I ran away from.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Ugh, ok this specific experience I have had: companies with vacation leave that doesn’t roll over at the end of the year, meaning every January you’re reset. If they *don’t* let you front your leave, it’s incredibly stupid, because you haven’t actually earned your “two weeks” pittance until the last week of December, meaning nobody could take any time off until at least mid-year. Both places I worked that had this set up in theory, in actuality you could “go on in the hole” and earn the leave back over time. Never thought about them trying to get you to pay it back though. That would be insane. Good on you for standing up to them.

          1. Birdie*

            Like I said, dysfunction. And our PTO was ALL leave, vacation and sick. So it would have really sucked if you got sick in January and had no leave accrued.

            This is the same place that the year before, our finance/HR person was blowing up my phone to find out if I was taking unpaid FMLA when my husband was hospitalized 2 hours away for nearly 2 weeks and underwent multiple surgeries. “You can’t possibly have enough PTO to cover that!” I remember being so confused by that statement at the time; of course I had enough PTO, I got 22 days to on January 1 and it’s mid-February. I had to contact the executive director and ask him to make her stop because I just couldn’t deal with her calls demanding to know how many unpaid hours per week should be recorded (NONE, because I had more than enough PTO!) when I was trying to deal with the hospital, being away from home, coordinating long-distance care of our preschooler with my family, and squeezing in a few hours of work each night once the hospital kicked out visitors at 8 pm.

    3. OP #5*

      OP #5 here. I don’t know if I have a copy of the handbook anymore but I was under the impression we accrued all vacation days as of Jan 1 since I could have sworn I’d heard that or read that. My former company paid all exempt employees up front on the 1st of of the month so I had already received my final paycheck by the time I gave notice. It feels very frustrating to be billed such a small amount when I rarely used my “unlimited” sick time and had great attendance for the 7 years I worked there. Definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

      1. River Otter*

        “ It feels very frustrating to be billed such a small amount when I rarely used my “unlimited” sick time and had great attendance for the 7 years I worked there.”

        It sounds like you have an unstated agreement in your head that you think your company should have adhered to — you have great attendance, and in return they give you extra PTO. I can see how the situation is frustrating. The company never signed up to give you an additional day of PTO in exchange for your attendance, though. Your expectations in this case were unreasonable. The bad taste in your mouth is rooted in your unreasonable expectations, not in the company’s actions.

      2. CM*

        Op #5, I don’t know if it’s too late but you could always try saying that. Send an email to HR saying your understanding of company policy was that you accrued all vacation days as of Jan 1 and were not aware that your day of PTO was considered an advance. If you took PTO on any days you were actually sick (or trying not to infect other people, or caregiving), you could also mention that and say that had you know, you would have taken a sick day instead, and ask if the day could be transferred to sick time. So basically, I’m suggesting that you ask them to waive this requirement and give them reasons.

      3. H.C.*

        That would be an unusual arrangement (would someone who joined in late Decembe, suddenly get a year’s worth of vacation days after working a few days/weeks; or if your former employer pays out unused vacation days [either by their own policy or legal requirement], what’s to prevent an employee timing their departure in early Jan and getting paid out a year’s worth of vacation days?)

        A more likely scenario is that as of Jan. 1 your former org’s staff have access to use all vacation days they will be accruing for the upcoming year, but are subjected to pay back hours if they left employment with a “negative” vacation hours balance.

        P.S. The “combined PTO” vs “sick & vacation leaves in separate buckets” is a neverending debate; but since your former employer is using the latter system, you’re not going to make much headway in your argument about how you rarely used any sick leave so you deserve to have this vacation payback waived.

  5. Not my usual name*

    Leave the elf in.

    I worked for a while at a community circus, and it has always been a talking point in interviews, even for unrelated jobs.

    I think something quirky does make you stand out, and can make the chat flow a bit more naturally.

    I was a basic skills tutor and the volunteer coordinator. I had a bit of patter that went along the lines of “Well, I’m obviously used to juggling many priorities to keep all the plates spinning in a busy role, and I’m adept at walking the tight rope of keeping funding coming in whilst delivering key objectives.” before segueing into a rather more nuanced exposition of my skills.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Agreed, anything that stands out like that just gives you an instant advantage because 1. It’s an instant conversation starter and 2. It makes you much easier to remember.

    2. Annika Hansen*

      Agreed. We were hiring for a position. We had one applicant who we weren’t sure if we should interview. He had a weird job listed (not Elf but something else). That is what pushed him into the interview pile. Ultimately, he didn’t get the position. However, when you are young without much experience, you need whatever can get you into the interview.

    3. Tupac Coachella*

      Agree. Not only is it interesting, but it requires a particular type of person and skillset to be successful that could easily get lost with a more “professional” title change. “Photographer’s assistant” doesn’t draw up the same image of wrangling tired children and tireder parents, multitasking quickly, keeping the mood positive, and creating a whole experience rather than just performing a service. A photographer’s assistant might DO all of those things, but “Elf” paints a picture.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      When I first was looking for a job, most of my job history consisted of working at a haunted house so I put it on my resume. Some people were interested and thought it was cool but other people thought I was nuts.

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The other thing, for younger workers this is a really normal sort of job.

      OP – make sure that he mentions in that resume that he was asked to come back to help for the next holiday season as well. That’s a huge feather in your son’s cap, and speaks to his customer service skills.

  6. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (side job on resume), I don’t really agree that the consultant’s concerns are overblown. Being involved in interviewing myself, and in contact with numerous other people who are, those things would definitely be a concern and get probed into in an interview. Of course they are not a deal breaker but I’d be listening closely to the answers.

    Anecdotally, the “side husiness owner” people sometimes don’t work out for exactly that reason- they are used to running all aspects of the business and are in danger of taking decisions/initiative that they shouldn’t.

    1. Varthema*

      This is probably just a minor detail, but I’d love to never hear “flight risk” in the context of work ever again (it’s a court term I believe, judges use it as a reason to deny bail). We’re not serfs; EVERYONE is a quitting risk, for reasons the boss is aware of or for ones s/he isn’t. ugh.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Sure, but it’s a good manager’s job when hiring to consider whether people are more likely or not to be able to stay for a decent length of time. Decent length being company and industry dependent.

        It’s both a financial and a morale issue. On-boarding/training is more expensive than I think most people realise and unstable team environments can cause other employees to be put under additional pressure and can lead to losing them as well.

        1. KRM*

          Yes this! I had a colleague who applied for an FT job at my old company, and my manager had to ask me about her resume and her work history, because it was a mess. She didn’t indicate that any of her 15-18 month positions were contract positions, and she also had at least year gaps between her positions. Even setting aside the year gaps, she looked like a “flight risk” because her resume seemed to show that she took FT positions but left them in less than 2 years. For the amount of time you spend onboarding and training a scientist for your company, that’s a terrible investment if someone leaves that soon.

        2. Observer*

          I agree that a good manager should be looking to reduce the risk of turnover, and looking at these issues is part of it.

          But could we use a more accurate term? “Flight risk” really has a connotation of people being bound to an employer.

          I think I’m a bit more sensitive to this right now, because we have someone in the comments who basically implied that OP #1 – who is in a terrible employment situation – has some sort of obligation to make a “good faith effort” to make a jerk boss stop behaving like a jerk, despite the risk to them before they can start looking for a new job. People simply don’t have that kind of obligation to an employer, and terminology that implies it is probably best avoided.

          I’m not going to jump on people for using the term. But I think it’s a valid point.

    2. bamcheeks*

      This seems like a logical thing to think about if someone has ten years in the FT job and started the side-job in the last couple of years, but if they’ve been doing both for ten years then it would seem pretty clear to me that that’s the status quo and I wouldn’t assume they were any more likely to leave to go full-time photographer than anyone else.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah I agree. But I also think that the side hustle could be shunted into the hobbies section, it just so happens that OP gets paid for what she does, but it’s got nothing to do with her bank job. If she had zero experience in banking and was looking to get a job at a bank, she could maybe try to show how a weekend hustle as a photographer helped her to hone her financial skills (billing and tax and making sure she’s got enough money to invest in new equipment) and basically work to deadlines etc. But since she’s already working at a bank, the side hustle doesn’t really need leveraging. It would be an interesting hobby to talk about though and who knows whether someone in HR might be planning their own wedding or their daughter’s!

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      As the owner of a side business, I can say with absolute certainty that it will never replace my day job. It is literally a paying hobby that finances my other hobbies. It’s not a large business – think of a person selling crafts on Etsy. Sure, you run “… all aspects of the business”, but you are in no “danger of taking decisions/initiative that they shouldn’t” – because it’s a different type and scale of business!

      Sure, you understand a business that sells goods or an individual service. This is actually an asset to a company because it means that you understand the basic flow of a business. But you aren’t at risk of getting too big for your britches in a corporate environment because the scale is significantly different. It does mean that you know the difference between “employee” and “business owner”, so it’s harder to blow smoke up your butt about “ownership” and other buzzwords.

      Anyone who would reject a person for also having a small, unrelated side business is looking for drones, not employees IMO. If they are afraid of an employee understanding all aspects of a business then I would wonder if they don’t maybe have some shady business practices that they don’t want discovered.

      IME, “initiative” is a valued trait in a lot of businesses. Where it’s not I would think is a soul sucking mess.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I think it probably depends on the nature of your specific side business. For example, if I had an Etsy shop selling products embroidered with snarky sayings, I would hope that a potential employer would understand that I can’t sew fast enough to make that a full-time business. If I were selling things on Teachers Pay Teachers, it could be a double edged sword. Pro, my lessons are good enough that there’s a demand for them. Con, how much of my focus is on my students and how much is on creating marketable materials? In the case of a wedding photographer, that is a job where potential clients may insist on meeting during work hours, or where it’s plausible to leap to full time photography. I can see proceeding with caution.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In my previous contract I was not allowed to have a side hustle unless it was completely unrelated to my job. Too many translators would try stealing their favourite clients from the agency otherwise!

        I set one up anyway, but working for completely different clients, and it totally became my full-time job once I managed to get myself made redundant.

  7. TechWorker*

    For #1 it could also be worth putting out feelers to see if there’s any way of moving teams but staying within your company. Honestly I don’t know how easy that is at other places & you know the team structure better than I do but if you are a strong performer at my job and went to your skip level boss saying you were miserable on the team and would be happier elsewhere – giving this sort of thing as an example – there would be an effort to move you basically immediately.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. This is worth looking into.

      At my company, if someone is unhappy managers will definitely make an effort to move the employee to another department; however, there has to be a need elsewhere, such as an upcoming open position or room to add a position. They generally won’t create a new position for the person just because they’re unhappy. They’ve done this in the past (prior to my arrival) and I think they now regret it. It has created an expecation among certain problem employees that all they need to do is complain loudly and *poof* a new specific-to-them position appears out of thin air. There’s one such person on my team and he doesn’t understand why we can’t just create a new position for him like my boss did for someone else several years ago.

    2. Snow Globe*

      In a larger company you wouldn’t even need to tell anyone that you are miserable on your current team. Just look at the job postings and apply for internal positions that you are qualified for.

    3. Chris P. Bacon*

      OP#1 here. I have looked into it a bit. It’s hard to answer this without really giving myself away to any coworker who is reading it. Essentially, the biggest issue is that leaving my team may mean starting from square one on benefits. We have a weird structure with our company that has a bunch of umbrella companies under one owner. If you move to another umbrella, they consider you as a “new employee” in that one and start over on everything as though you are a new employee. So, for example, our PTO accrual per pay period is based on your years with the company. If you change umbrellas, you would start back over at the lowest tier. So I would need to stay under my same umbrella, which gives me limited options. There are only a few teams per umbrella.

      1. Properlike*

        I feel like this is worth pointing out: I see that you are offering a lot of rationalization for why THIS job is worth sticking out/not so bad/your hands are tied.

        None of these things are true. You are worth more than this crappy situation. Your mental health is worth pursuing for YOU. You are worthy of respect. You have agency. You are not destined to be a passenger in your life.

        These are hard things to remember when you’ve been beaten down for so long, but if you would give different advice to a friend in your situation, then I suggest you take that advice for yourself. YOU are worth it!

        1. Chris P. Bacon*

          You know, you’re probably right. I think it’s easier to rationalize in my head why staying here isn’t that bad when the other option is facing the job market and the unknown. Plus, my self esteem is so low that it is very hard to accept I deserve better than this.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Is it possible to negotiate that as part of the job offer? When I moved to a whole new company they told me as a new employee my PTO would start at X and I said at my current company my PTO is X+Y and I would be looking to match that and they did.

  8. Codex*

    I used to work as an Elf, doing almost exactly the same thing as OP#2s son! I put down my title as “Santa’s Elf” and interviewers LOVED it! Plus it gave me an interesting segue to talk about the job in a way “photographer” wouldn’t- because you’re not just a photographer, you’re doing sales, managing customers, handling money, entertaining children and all sorts of other things too!

    I don’t use it anymore but it was a super interesting thing to have on my early resume and I’m sure it made hiring staff want to talk to me even if it was just to ask what I meant!

  9. Less Bread More Taxes*

    #2 – I used to work as a Disney princess at birthday parties, and I listed it as “Disney princess” on my resumé. It was always a talking point in interviews. People seemed to be really intrigued by it. It stayed on my resumé until I got through two internships and my first full-time job. If anybody thought it was inappropriate in some way, I never found out.

    1. Christmas Carol*

      I’m thinking ahead to when they ask for your references. How much fun will it be to be able to put “North Pole” down when asked for an address for your boss.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Anyone bothered by it probably didn’t even interview you. And quite frankly not a place you want to work anyway. So it all worked out for the best for you.

  10. Green great dragon*

    LW1, can you try being really supportive of each other in these discussions? It’s not a solution, it’s a very small mitigation while you’re jobsearching, but it seems like you’re really hating it yourself (understandably!) and I bet when it’s someone else’s mistake you aren’t nearly so hard on them. But they’re probably feeling pretty bad too.

    1. Tau*

      This might be worth a try! I’ve been lucky enough to only work at companies with really solid no-blame cultures, where we did often end up discussing people’s mistakes in the form of incident post-mortems but it never felt agonizing the way OP1 describes. Some key points to keep it from going in that direction are:
      * always assume everyone was doing the best they could and acting with the best of intentions. If there’s an issue with someone being incompetent or making too many mistakes, the right place for that to be addressed is in one-on-ones between them and their boss, not in a team meeting
      * look forward: whatever happened happened and making people feel bad about it happening doesn’t achieve anything. What can you do now to mitigate the damage? What can you do to prevent something like it from happening again? That’s where the focus has to be.
      * humans are going to human, and so human error is something that will occur, will keep occurring, and that needs to be planned for. If a human error slipped through, your first stop should be figuring out whether you can set up or improve your processes to catch this sort of thing. An important document contained an embarrassing typo when it was sent to a client? Maybe you need a review stage where a second person reads through the document. Going “you shouldn’t have made the typo” is unproductive, not actionable, and only makes people defensive – it has no place in this kind of meeting.

      It’s tricky if the boss is in full finger-pointing mode, which it sounds like. But if the rest of the team tries to push this meeting into a solution-focused no-blame direction, it’s possible it could get less painful.

      1. bamcheeks*

        These are good, I’ll add a fourth: being able to distinguish between a mistake that meets the bar for this level of scrutiny, and one which doesn’t. Forgot to book a room for a meeting with a client and the client was left waiting for twenty minutes whilst everyone scrambled? Needs addressing. Forgot to book a room for a non-confidential internal meeting of peers and everyone hm’d and hah’d for five minutes before deciding to do it in the kitchen area? Does not.

        If this kind of Mistake Post-morgen is happening super regularly, there are either really significant process and procedure problems, or the bar on what counts as a significant incident is waaay too low.

        1. Tau*

          Oh, absolutely! Your average post-mortem 100% should start with “what was the damage” section. If the damage was basically nothing, then the only thing you can talk about is why it got inappropriately escalated to this point. OK, there’s some room to talk about incidents that could have been damaging if not for luck, but you can easily take that too far (“what if the typo had been on a document going to an external client, and been far more damaging than it was??” …but it wasn’t.)

          And I agree that if you’re having these super regularly then either your processes are borked or you’re discussing things that are really too minor to deserve it, because you shouldn’t be having damaging incidents that regularly! Again, OP will have to know their team and their boss to know if this could work, but if the team manages to agree that only incidents with a certain severity should be discussed in the mistake round that might already take a lot of the pressure off.

      2. Dinwar*

        “humans are going to human, and so human error is something that will occur, will keep occurring, and that needs to be planned for.”

        This. So much this. If you send out documents without someone QCing the documents, the issue isn’t the errors (which are inevitable), it’s that your procedures are inadequate. (To be clear, the QC person is going to have a certain failure rate, so things will occasionally slip through.) The document is a product, and products need to be inspected before going out to clients!

        Further, if you’re verbally and emotionally abusing people for making mistakes, they’re going to try to hide them. A mistake is one thing–happens to everyone, 99.999% of the time it’s not a big deal. Cover-ups, on the other hand, are HUGE. These make mistakes harder to identify and correct, and often the act of covering up the mistakes makes its own problems. Setting up a situation where this is inevitable is incredibly short-sighted.

        This was a major issue with regards to health and safety. People hide injuries or incidents for fear of punishment. It’s absolutely critical that incident investigation be non-punitive, at least at first. Most of the time the issue isn’t “The worker was screwing around and got hurt”; it’s “This process is bad and this worker figured it out the hard way”. The solution is almost always to revise some process to prevent or preclude recurrence. But if people are too afraid to report the issue, or are actively hiding the incidents, you don’t know they’re happening.

        Put another way: PEOPLE DIE because of what this manager is doing.

        1. Chris P. Bacon*

          OP#1 here. Funny story, I accidentally forgot to put my filter on the other day when replying to an email about a mistake I made and left in the line “because I’m a human and make mistakes.” I then, for the first time ever, received a response stating that she understands human errors happen. She then turned on someone else.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I love this! Like the opposite of malicious compliance. Try as much as possible to make the meeting supportive and reassuring for each other, and if it’s your mistake try to frame it as gratitude for people’s support and patience rather than apologizing.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, this sounds like a mis-applied quality circle or TQI thing.

      The point is not to dwell on the mistakes or to place blame. The point is to prevent them, to identify them earlier in the production cycle, and to mitigate the downstream effects of them.

      1. Chris P. Bacon*

        OP#1 here. One of my coworkers and I have a belief that it doesn’t matter who made the mistake as long as it’s fixed and we do better to prevent it next time. I don’t see a point in blaming everyone else because you will always have people who won’t take accountability, and at the end of the day what matters is making it right and preventing it in the future.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I would 100% do that myself. I used to have a grandboss who didn’t do this public flogging, but would wring his hands and have multiple meetings when people made mistakes. While it was worth looking into whether there was a process error, some things are human fallibility. Mistakes will happen as long as humans are involved. Ironically, this guy blamed me for a mistake he made because (and I quote), “it can’t be all my fault, can it?” I wish I had said, yes, I think it can because we were never trained how to or even TO DO the thing that you’re blaming me for.

    5. Diatryma*

      Absolutely second this, though it will be nearly impossible. If you can’t frame it as radical support to yourself, try for spite/defensive compassion. “That sounds like a really understandable error, especially since XYZ. I probably would have done the same thing!”

  11. Metal Librarian*

    #2 – I’ve seen job adverts looking for a “Father Christmas” before so I’d say “Elf” is a legitimate job title! Best of luck to your son in his job search. :)

    1. Bread Addict*

      my friend works as a Father Christmas every year.

      His normal job is working in schools where he goes and teaches them science in fun and interesting ways. mostly with primary level younger kids like 5-10. His company loves that he does it and gives him extra flexibility in December for it. He was doing it before he started working there and was definitely a reason they invited him for interview.

  12. Madame Arcati*

    To me, “photographer’s assistant” indicates some skills but not necessarily customer service ones. Elf makes me think, dealing with customers you don’t have chance to build a relationship with, unruly toddlers, tired parents with a fixed vision of The Perfect Christmas ™ and being polite and patient in the face of some who think they can treat you rudely just because you are wearing a pointy hat with a bell on it. I reckon the son can really mine that experience to show how he is good at problem solving on the hoof, whilst keeping everyone happy, dealing with large numbers of people all wanting attention (“finding solutions in a fast pace and dynamic environment” right there), keeping calm and cheerful in a crisis and a general feel of Getting Sh!t Done. If it’s not a photography adjacent job then photographer’s assistant might be skipped over .

    1. Lexie*

      Photographer’s Assistant also implies a level of experience and knowledge he may not have. When I take my kids to get pictures with the mall Santa the photographer is standing behind a stationary digital camera and all they do is push a button and then show you options on a screen and then print the one you choose.
      So that’s what I envision when you say “Elf”.
      What I envision for “Photographer’s Assistant” is someone working for a professional photographer. They would have knowledge about different kinds of cameras and lenses, they would know how to compose and light a shot, they would know how to edit and touch up shots, etc.

    2. to varying degrees*

      I agree. I think “Santa’s Elf” also is going to give an immediate view in an interviewer’s head of what the job is. A photographer’s assistant may come across as rather bland and sedate (one family at a time, maybe one crying kid but parent’s there and handling it themselves) whereas if I think of Santa’s Elf all I think of is chaos, multiple crying and screaming kids, parent’s who probably need a drink, and Elf’s who have the patience of a saints.

  13. Properlike*

    “I made the mistake of letting someone else’s insecurities skew my perception of myself and my worth, but mistakes are human and I’ve decided that I will practice self-forgiveness. In the meantime, I plan to use this time to talk about something I’ve accomplished that I’m proud of.”

    1. ferrina*

      I was also wondering how to skew this. I work with someone who wants to put people’s mistakes on display (yet somehow her team’s mistakes never get brought up). When it’s her turn to share, she either talks about a mistake that’s over a decade old, or she talks about one that isn’t a mistake at all. “When the VP said that he was interested in the project, I sent him an email with more details and a standing invitation to chat. Later his assistant said that he was upset with my boss for approving the project without consulting him. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have assumed that my boss talked the VP, and I should have spoken with my boss.”
      So essentially her “mistake” is that she followed the usual process when she had no reason to assume something was amiss.

  14. Luna*

    LW1 – You know she’s not gonna take it well if people speak up and she can’t admit her own mistakes? Time for some malicious compliance, and turn the tables on her. Talk about *her* mistakes made during those full team meetings. It might not do much, but it will feel good to give her a taste of her own medicine. After all, that’s what these meetings are about, right? Discussing mistakes you made, right?

    LW3 – I dislike the ‘reason’ of “That’s how it’s usually done, just get used to it”. There are a lot of things that are ‘the norm’ in situations and it tooks us as a society sometimes a very long time to finally put our foot down and say that just because it’s been done that way for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s *good*.
    Maybe on one occasion, go along with it and be mildly annoyed. But if it does happen regularly, I don’t think it would be wrong to at least voice a degree of how inconvenient this sudden change is. (Admittedly, I am on the autism spectrum, so sudden plan or routine changes are something that I find a bit more difficult to deal with than other people)

    1. Observer*

      There are a lot of things that are ‘the norm’ in situations and it tooks us as a society sometimes a very long time to finally put our foot down and say that just because it’s been done that way for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s *good*.

      I find that comparison quite problematic. The idea that people make ad hoc changes to low stakes plan is a norm that somehow equates to things like discrimination and abuse is a bit much.

      As others have pointed out there could have been a lot of good reasons for this change, which really is NOT major. And the OP could easily have dealt with the actual problem that presented (ie needing stuff for going outside). On the other hand getting miffed because no one asked them? Unless people had some reason to know that where they eat could be a significant issue, that’s a bit precious.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I feel that OP should have just said, “OK can you wait while I go to grab better shoes?” and if they said no, to text her the address of the restaurant once they’d settled on one, while she went to grab her stuff.
        I totally get not reacting the right way, I remember forgetting my glasses, and a friend just said “oh you don’t need them come on” because he’d been waiting and was fed up. I meekly followed, but within less than a minute, I came to and said “no actually I do need my glasses. I nearly tripped because I can’t tell where the floor is without them” and then everyone had to wait that much longer while I went back to get them”.
        (That person is not one of my favourite people. He doesn’t know how well I can see without my glasses and had no business decreeing that I didn’t need them! Of course, that’s not the only problem, he’s also a drama queen)

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Also on the spectrum here: Comparing last-minute lunch changes to systemic discrimination is extreme. I don’t love last-minute changes, either, but *trivial bloopers* like this one are the kind of thing that you just have to learn to roll with in the adult working world. If this is the scale of things that can derail one’s day and keep one stewing after the fact, life is going to be rough.

      (The LW strikes me as seeming very set in his/her ways, which is not an approach I’d take if I were traveling for work. I’d assume that there will be walking and last-minute changes and gear my clothing toward that rather than toward the assumption that I’d be staying in a lot. People in new cities tend to get curious and do more than they anticipated, not less.)

    3. Unaccountably*

      I’m fascinated by the idea that someday society will “put our foot down” and decide that changes in lunch plans will no longer be tolerated. I don’t actually think that’s a society I’d care to live in.

  15. Asenath*

    OP 3 – This is just one of the mix-ups that happens when travelling or working in groups. I was once at a conference and turned up at a dinner when no one else did. When I checked in by phone with the member of our group who had organized everything, I found out that she’d cancelled it due to lack of interest among the whole group, and not notified me (or, incidentally, the restaurant where she’d booked the table. It was a really big conference, so we didn’t often see each other in the same sessions, and so I didn’t find out casually. She apologized to me, I apologized to the restaurant, telling them what had happened, and ate elsewhere. I was a bit annoyed, but the only thought I gave to it after I walked out of the restaurant was that I really should have asked if they had a smaller table, and eaten there anyway, because it was a lovely place and I’d been looking forward to the meal. But I didn’t think of that in the short time it took me to get over being a bit embarrassed by the inconvenience the mistake posed to the restaurant, even though I hadn’t been the one to make the mistake. These things sometimes happen.

  16. FashionablyEvil*

    #3 remind me of the adage, “Just because you’re given a cactus doesn’t mean you have to sit on it.”

    As folks above have suggested, asking for five minutes to run up and change your shoes or saying, “ooh, I’m not really dressed for walking in this heat. Would anyone else like to share a taxi?” would have both worked. Instead you seem to be choosing to sit on the cactus and stay there. There’s no need!

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I love this, lol. Well said.

      Also, OP: “one of my teammates did run out of shirts later on” – okay, but did you? If there is anything on earth more pointless than brooding over inconsequential travel mishaps, it’s brooding over inconsequential travel mishaps that didn’t even happen to you.

      1. Workerbee*

        And – hotels have laundry service, or one can just wash one’s own shirt in the sink with soap and not even mention “running out of shirts” to anybody. So far this team is one I wouldn’t enjoy being on myself.

        1. Properlike*

          And if it’s hot weather, that means that you have more space in your suitcase for extra tops/skirts/lightweight dresses. It’s a conference. It’s up to you whether or not you pack for contingency situations, but knowing that you are prepared for mishaps can help take an edge off the anxiety. And if it’s a conference, being extra prepared for “anything” and keeping sun protection on you isn’t a bad idea either.

          There’s a lot of catastrophizing about this small incident (ie – “what if I run out of shirts?”) which isn’t so productive in the moment, but you can use it to your advantage when creating your packing list.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I had a job on time where one of the things we did was go down to the state of Georgia in the heat of summer and do testing on rooftops. There you had to shower in the morning, work, then shower and change clothes in the evening before you went for dinner. This was for three weeks!

            There was no way to pack enough clothing without needing to wash it. So we did laundry. The hotel had laundry machines and we used them on the weekends, and sometimes had to wash out shirts in the middle of the week, because we went through two shirts a day.

            1. Anon for this*

              Several years ago I was on a human rights delegation in a conflict zone in a very hot climate. I was there for three weeks and we were going from place to place every couple of days (meaning that any luggage we brought had to be relatively easy to carry). I definitely did some washing of shirts in various sinks. So did the other people on the delegation – the only time it was a problem was the time that someone washed a shirt covered in tear gas in the sink of the university guest apartment that some of us were staying in that evening, thereby gassing all of us who were staying in that particular university guest apartment with her.

  17. I should really pick a name*


    Why did this feel “like getting kicked in the face by a giraffe”? It was just feedback on your resume, not a judgement of your photography skills.
    Is it because you’re disappointed that the work you’ve put into your photography business isn’t contributing to your job search?

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think maybe LW sees it as disparaging their photography business and all the hard work they’ve put into it – the recruiter’s comments may feel disparaging towards that work. But yeah, it’s context-dependent – the photography business isn’t super valuable on a resume for unrelated work, that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable overall!

      1. Sloanicota*

        This. And, although I think the recruiter was too emphatic, I have sat in post-interview discussions with my boss while she’s wondering if someone’s side hustle will conflict with the job duties. If you spend too much of an interview (like, more than a sentence! A sentence in which you downplay the time/effort involved!) talking about your air bnb or your photography business, the thought will probably come up. Because it’s not something that benefits the boss when they’re thinking about having you in this role.

      2. gina knows best*

        OP/LW #4 here; and yes. the “if you’re so good why do you need a job” hit me a little bit. I like that i don’t do photography full time.

        1. jellybean*

          the recruiter maybe could’ve delivered the message softer, but I also do resume reviews (as part of employment counselling) and the overall point to remove it was spot on (Alison explained it much, much better though). I joke sometimes that 90% of my job is telling people what NOT to put on a resume, not what they should be adding.

          People are very, very, very, very attached to the things they put on a resume. I cannot stress this enough: people get very emotional about “cutting” ANYTHING from their resume, because it feels like a personal representation of who they are and that they earned this role/responsibility/title, and to not include it would be a dismissal of their hard work (even if it’s not a small business they’ve built from the ground up. I once was discussing with a client that task x from her last job, while important, wasn’t relevant to the new job she was applying for and was taking space from other more relevant items. She BURST into tears and said that she had worked so hard to do task X and it was so important and how could a job possibly understand who she was if she didn’t include that on her resume.

          I’m not a recruiter but a lot of people in the resume review biz have different styles; some people seem to really enjoy a blunt, “let me set you straight” attitude. I don’t personally like that (nor do I think it’s helpful to the client), but it probably comes from the fact that you might be the 100th person that MONTH to have an irrelevant side hustle/job/business on their resume and they’ve forgotten that you are hearing this for the first time. It’s not personal, it’s not a comment on your success, but it is good advice.

        2. Flash Packet*

          I co-own a small business and what I do for it was relevant in my most recent job search. Every interviewer asked about it and more than one phrased it similar to what was said to you, OP4.

          My answer was always, “Because doing it full time is boring.” I sometimes followed up with, “I know lots of other people would prefer to fill in their free time gardening or painting or the like, but my brain isn’t wired that way. I honestly would rather do X-role because I find it mentally stimulating. The paycheck it comes with doesn’t hurt either.”

          1. gina knows best*

            OP 4 – thank you both for your comments! i do agree with Alison’s advice and I never spend more than a sentence on it in interviews unless specifically asked.

  18. I should really pick a name*

    Until you can find something better, can you view these discussions about mistakes as part of the process.

    Everyone knows they’re going to happen, so there’s no need to be embarrassed.
    Are there consequences beyond talking about the mistakes in the meeting? If not, you can just think to yourself “this is just what my ridiculous boss likes to do” and just treat it like a mild annoyance, not a judgement of your character.

    1. ferrina*

      It does wear on the psyche. I had a boss who liked to use our weekly 1:1 to rehash every mistake I’d made that week. Most of the ‘mistakes’ weren’t even mistakes, it could be something like “I’d have written that email a little differently” when the email was fine! It sucked because it was a constant stream of why I’m not good enough (even though she kept adding to my responsibilities), and there was no balance with the extraordinary things I’d done. I got no recognition for my accomplishments, only constant tearing down.

      Oh, and this boss also dodged responsibility for anything that was her fault.

      1. Dinwar*

        I worked for someone like that as well (matrix-management–they weren’t my boss, they were just in charge of a good portion of my work). Every conversation was about how stupid I was for making this or that mistake. It got to the point where I kept her comments on documents, so that when she said “Why would you say something so stupid?!” I could point to it and say “Because you literally told me to.”

        There was a support group in the company that formed to help people who worked with this person. She drove multiple people out of the company.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          “ There was a support group in the company that formed to help people who worked with this person. She drove multiple people out of the company.”

          I really don’t understand why companies enable/placate/put up with these bosses who are driving away talent. And yes, I worked under one of them – she was “different” – but I decided that everything else about the job was good enough that I could play pretend anthropologist to deal with her wackiness. (I am still here, been given one promotion since she left – and she is gone in a blaze of glory because she didn’t get a promotion to run a different group because that whole group went to the manager and said they’d all quit if ex-manager was hired.)

        2. Observer*

          There was a support group in the company that formed to help people who worked with this person.

          And no one in the company saw that this was a problem?! Your boss wasn’t the only toxic thing at that place!

          1. Jellyfish*

            I’ve seen multiple cases where the higher ups knew there was a problem person, but they didn’t care. The problem person had a skill set, connections, or knowledge that technically benefited the company, and no one with the power to do anything about their behavior was in the line of fire.
            The people who worked under the problem person were expendable – receptionists, accountants, security guards. We were easily replaced, and it was worth it to the company to keep the Problem on instead of protecting the peons.

          2. Dinwar*

            It’s a cost/benefit question. As long as she was worth more than she drove away, she was worth keeping, as I understand it. And as Jellyfish said, the people she drove away were easily replaced. Field geologists have something an absurdly high turnover in the first three years anyway–it’s a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding job, and most people rather quickly move out of the roll, even if that means leaving the company–so for a long time the signal was lost in the noise. It took a while to identify that people were leaving because of this person, rather than because hand augering through red clay for ten hours in 100 degree heat sucks.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              “so for a long time the signal was lost in the noise. It took a while to identify that people were leaving because of this person”

              This is sort what happened why the manager I mentioned above (the one I outlasted – I’m actually the only person from her team left, which should also speak to the type of hires she was making – she was out sick the day of my interview, her supervisor stepped in and also picked me). That manager said that people just kept burning out working B-shift. Or they changed their mind and wanted full time hours (we were half time at that point). Or they were in college/were going back to college and had schedule conflicts. She was able to loose the numbers for the churn in the variety of different reasons, so it wasn’t until the other team as one all went to the hiring manager for that position that the 99% turnover (and their group ultimatum) brought her dysfunction to light.

      2. KRM*

        Yes! My old boss would say “well your presentation was fine, but you didn’t specifically mention Thing X that we talked about you mentioning”. Well, people forget things, or people asked questions that led away from X, or it didn’t end up making sense based on how we rearranged the slides at the last minute (a whole different issue!)”. It can make you feel really bad about yourself when someone is constantly harping on mistakes that happen, no matter how consequential they actually are! And it was especially bad for the junior people on our team, who we didn’t want to think that this is how feedback goes, because it’s not!
        This was also the boss who told me to send him a “list of my accomplishments” to justify a promotion. I had spent the summer working on a project that I presented to multiple departments with great feedback from all of them, with him present for all of them, as well as my regular work that we talked about every week. But somehow he acted like he had no idea what I did all year. Total BS. But heaven forfend I misspoke one thing on one of those meetings, I’d get 5′ of chastisement about how I said that thing wrong and I had to be more careful and have more attention to detail.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          “This was also the boss who told me to send him a “list of my accomplishments” to justify a promotion”

          That sounds extremely normal to me? I get asked by my boss to send highlights of my accomplishments at least twice a year as they prepare review materials.

    2. Jackalope*

      That’s something some people can do, but it’s not a universal ability. And honestly, this seems like it would be expert level brushing off, that’s going to be hard if the OP already finds it this traumatic. I’m not going to say she can’t try, but if everyone in the group is struggling with it then there’s probably an element of bullying going on and that’s a lot harder to ignore, especially if the boss has found your personal vulnerable spot.

  19. bamcheeks*

    Alison, I really like your answer to #1 and the focus on the fact that what is intolerable and damaging is subjective! I think so much work stuff assumes that “tolerable/intolerable” is an objective thing where something is either in the category “so bad that nobody could tolerate it” or “other people cope with this, suck it up”. It’s so important to recognise that it’s the effect ON YOU that matters, and you’re not obliged to put up with horrible behaviour just because someone else who is Not You would be able to ignore it.

  20. toolittletoolate*

    I think if I saw “ELF” on a resume that person would automatically get an interview! I love it.

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Confirming that if we’d seen “Elf” on a resume, they’d have most likely gotten an interview.

    2. bamcheeks*

      We once interviewed someone for a student internship with a previous career as a professional wrestler. We did the whole interview and then my colleague said, “I’m sorry, this isn’t terribly relevant to the job but — please tell me more about being a professional wrestler?!”

  21. Coffee Anonymous*

    #3, in the before times, I used to travel every week for work, and mealtime plans changed all the time. Either you roll with it (and grab a taxi or run back upstairs for your shoes), or opt out if the revised plans aren’t to your liking. My favorite example of this was being at a client site with 7 teammates and 1 other contractor. 3 of us worked closely with the contractor, and one day he suggested we all grab dinner at a casual, inexpensive hot pot joint nearby. I was in … until one of our colleagues who LOVED to plan Fun Team Events got hold of the plans and suddenly we were all going to watch Local MLB Team play CompanyTown MLB Team, and have a late dinner near the stadium (much farther from work or our hotel) afterwards. At that point, I graciously declined, and no one was offended. (And yes, the 3 of us who worked directly with the contractor did quietly join him for hotpot the following week.)

    1. WellRed*

      One of the best things I’ve learned as an adult is to gracefully decline to join in when I know it might not work for me, personally with friends or in a work situation. I’m happier, they’re happier.

  22. hamsterpants*

    #3 — unless someone on your team has “planning group outings” as an official job duty, then there is no one to be upset with here other than yourself. In a group of people without a designated leader, everyone just advocates for themselves and then the chips fall. This example is similar to if “the team” ended up at a restaurant where you couldn’t eat anything off the menu.

  23. doreen*

    I’m a little confused by #3. I think what is says is they traveled to the location and when they arrived, the OP took a shower and changed clothes , putting on a clean shirt and if they knew the group was leaving the hotel for lunch, the OP would have put the shirt worn for traveling back on. If I’m understanding that correctly, then I don’t get why they would have re-used a shirt to leave the hotel while wearing a fresh shirt if they were staying at the hotel.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Because it was so hot outside they would sweat through their shirt, but the hotel would be air-conditioned.

    2. RIP Pillow Fort*

      They specifically state that it’s a tropical place (high humidity/heat) and it’s very typical to change shirts for traveling outdoors vs. staying indoor.

      The travel shirt OP wore before is probably more suited to being outdoors than the other one. This is pretty normal in areas of the world with non-ubiquitous air conditioning from what I have experienced.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Yes, I’ve been to business conferences in Florida and Arizona in June and in Hawaii during a heat wave, and I had to ration my clean shirts to make sure I had enough to make it through the trip. Nowadays, when I’m traveling somewhere hot, I purposely pack a couple extra shirts, just for this reason.

        So I understand the OP’s point about the shirts, but I agree with others who have noted that they are taking this…really personally. With an amorphous group like this, you have to assume that plans will change, so if they change in such a way that they don’t suit you, you either go with the flow in the hope that you’ll enjoy it in spite of the changes or in the interests of pleasing everyone else, or you just say – cheerfully and politely – “Thanks, but no thanks. I think I’d better do the original thing for Reasons.”

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          When I travel to hot places for more than a couple days I plan on having to wash my shirts because I can’t pack enough if I have to go outside the hotel. I don’t sweat all that much, but outside in heat and humidity and my shirts will feel sticky. So I just plan on rinsing out my shirts and unders every evening.

      2. doreen*

        That explains why I didn’t understand it – it would never occur to me to wear a shirt indoors that wasn’t suitable for outdoors ( I won’t be cold wearing the outside shirt in the AC)

  24. Nancy*

    LW2: Store elf is a real job and should be listed as such.

    LW3: Next time just ask them to wait 5 minutes or meet up after you get your stuff. Don’t make a big deal out of nothing.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      A person’s comfort is not “nothing.” LW3 has the right to be as comfortable as possible. That said, no one is going to look out for her, and she’ll have to protect her own needs.

      She also said she mentioned to the team that she wished she had known in advance. If she said that on the spot (ie before they left the hotel), I’m giving them serious side eye for not telling her to go back and get her hat and shoes.

      1. Unaccountably*

        OP is an adult, though? It’s no one’s responsibility to make her go back and get her hat and shoes like she’s a recalcitrant toddler. She decides whether to do that or not.

        You say no one’s going to look out for her, which is accurate, and then say you’re giving her co-workers “serious side eye” for not looking after her in a way that would strike most people as overbearing and infantilizing.

      2. KRM*

        They had not yet left the hotel when OP was informed of plans changing. OP came downstairs and group said “Oh we’re thinking X instead of hotel lunch!”. OP is perfectly capable of saying “Oh OK give me 5′ to grab a hat and sunscreen, I burn so easily!” or “Great, I’ll need different shoes but if you guys want to leave now, just text me where you end up”, or “That feels far for me to walk in this heat, anyone else want to split a cab?” or even “Oh thanks, but I need to stay near hotel for [whatever reason you want or no reason] so I’ll skip this time, thanks!”. Colleagues are not responsible for telling someone that they need a hat and shoes. Were it me, for instance, I’d be saying “no I’m fine the way I am, thanks”.

      3. Nancy*

        Staying silent and being annoyed that people decided to leave the hotel is making a big deal out of nothing. Simply saying, “give me a few minutes while I run upstairs” takes care of your comfort without making it a big deal. It is not coworkers’ responsibility to tell you to get a hat to take a walk.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Sure, but she could have asked them to wait, or bowed out, or worn sensible shoes and casual clothes in the first place. Other people’s comfort matters, too, and that includes getting to eat something you like/that suits any dietary requirements you might have if the hotel’s restaurant looks unpromising.

        It rather sounds like this was a semi-agreement but might have been made before they saw the menu, at which point things changed. I’ve found that it’s better not to get too invested in staying in the hotel when everyone is in a new city and you’re with a group of people because there is inevitably curiosity and a diversity of tastes/needs to accommodate.

      5. RussianInTexas*

        How would they know she would need different shoes and a hat? Or that she didn’t put on sunscreen? I would need all these things because I burn easily, and I would not expect for anyone to know this for me.

      6. Cordelia*

        whyever would it be up to her coworkers to “tell her”? I’m not sure whether or not anyone has the “right” to be comfortable, but if they did – maybe another member of the group wasn’t “comfortable” eating in the hotel restaurant after all, and was able to communicate this in a grown-up manner. “Oh, I’m sorry but turns out there’s nothing I can really eat here, I’m going to head out, anyone want to come with me?” Just as easy as it would be for OP to say “Oh, give me a minute to grab my sunscreen and change my shoes then”. No big deal

      7. Observer*

        A person’s comfort is not “nothing.” LW3 has the right to be as comfortable as possible. That said, no one is going to look out for her, and she’ll have to protect her own needs.

        No one is saying that the OP’s comfort doesn’t matter. But that they should have just done what they needed to and not get “miffed”. ESPECIALLY over the fact that no one asked them first.

      8. biobotb*

        Well, everyone else in the group had an equal right to comfort, and changing restaurants was apparently what made them most comfortable.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    Definitely nothing to worry about however you list the elf job.. Honestly it doesn’t seem that unusual or particularly interesting, it’s a pretty standard teen/young person type of job I think.. I can’t imagine anyone batting an eye

  26. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Yes, keep the Elf!

    A relative of mine had a macabre part-time job in college that he listed very matter-of-factly, and it got him noticed when he was applying for medical-adjacent grad school.

  27. Fluffy Fish*

    OP2 – Not only should he leave the Elf in, it’s a great time/example to talk about with him on screening employers!

    It’s important to learn that hiring is a two way street – that he’s evaluating them as much as they are evaluating him. Part of that is there’s things like the Elf job for example – it’s pretty likely that any company who looks askance at that job is not someplace he’d want to work for. It’s a mild example, but an important part of applying for jobs.

    Perhaps your husband needs this lesson to – it’s never too late!

  28. Just my 2 cents*

    LW #5 – If you gave a standard 2 weeks notice, they should have caught that before your final pay. Since it’s only one day and you’ve received your final pay, I would ask your manager to see if there is a way they would make an exception. Not every place is flexible/reasonable, but some are. I once got paid too much unused vacation when I left (not a high dollar amount) and they said, “oops, our mistake” and let it go.

    1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

      I was given the iPhone when I left the company. The tech folks deemed it “outdated” since it was 2 years old. Still using the iPhone5SE from 2015!

  29. Mockingjay*

    OP1, can I ask about the mistakes themselves?

    I absolutely agree with Alison’s advice; this is “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” What I’d like to offer is coping strategies in the interim while you job search.

    Are the mistakes things that would be caught if you and your coworkers checked each other’s work? Is there a pattern – same type of error, or just random because Boss has everyone on edge?

    If the former, you and your colleagues might be able to stem some of Boss’s rantings. “Boss, you’re right about the mistake. Team and I have discussed how to reduce these errors; can we try checking each other’s work before we submit? We can fit in a QC check without affecting due dates. Can we try this for a month or two?”

    Or, if you don’t think Boss would be receptive, you and your teammates can quietly do this for each other anyway. Brainstorm with your colleagues – draft a checklist, swap tasks if you can to balance workload and give you more time to work accurately, etc. Do what you can under Boss’s radar to make work a bit less stressful.

    1. Chris P. Bacon*

      Hey, I’m OP#1. I will try to answer your questions without making it obvious to any coworker reading who I am. The mistakes vary between calls. The calls aren’t even in place to discuss the mistakes. They’re for giving project updates and discussing issues as a team. My boss just tends to derail them to call people out for things they’re doing wrong. As we have these calls scheduled twice a week, this does tend to make me dread meeting days.

      One recent example that didn’t make it to the video call and was instead an email thread (with the whole team, of course): Monthly, I send out an email of pricing changes that need to be reflected on our reports. The number of price changes going into this email were much higher than normal, and I made a few errors. We have a system in place where 2 people check my work and confirm its accuracy. Neither of them caught the mistake either. After discovering the error, I took accountability for my errors from the original email, but my boss continued to tell me what a huge mistake I made and how we can’t be making these kind of mistakes. No mention of the 2 people who double checked me and missed the same error.

      Another example (because this is probably going to bother me forever), I came in to a series of messages from her in a group Teams chat about a mistake I had made in an email I sent to a client the previous day before leaving. I was confused as I used the exact language she had approved. She accused me of changing the approved language before sending to the client and told me I needed to correct the error immediately with our client and use approved language going forward. (It wasn’t as nice-sounding as that, but I’m trying to keep it short.) After an hour of me searching for this error and her berating me in the chat, she revealed to me how she knows I made this error: The client had asked about something that was included in the language I was accused of changing/deleting. I informed her that the question from the client came 2 hours before I sent my email to him where the question was addressed. Her answer? “That makes sense.” Nothing else.

      A third: My colleague was once lectured for 7 minutes on a call because the report she sent my boss was not formatted in the way my boss wanted it to be formatted. Had my boss told her how she wanted it formatted? No. She just told her what information she wanted and nothing else, leaving my coworker to discern on her own how the information should be presented. She clearly got it wrong, and we all got to hear about it. My boss also kept cutting my colleague off every time she tried to explain her rationale for the formatting she used.

      We have attempted to discuss errors outside of the group call and present the error and solution to her at once as a united front. This has limited success, varying by day and the individual at fault. Sometimes she accepts what we present to her and nothing else is said about it. Other times, it is an opening to a lengthy discussion about how the mistake was made where the person who made the error gets to explain (for a second time, since it was already discussed outside the call) exactly how they made the mistake so that she can inform them they should not have made said mistake.

      1. Hermione Danger*

        I already suspected it from your first letter, but now I know for sure: your boss isn’t interested in correcting or avoiding errors. She’s interested in destroying self-esteem. Get out.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “Your boss isn’t interested in correcting or avoiding errors. She’s interested in destroying self-esteem.”

          Yep! A few times my bad boss accused me of mistakes that weren’t actually mistakes. When I showed her the proof, I could tell how HUGELY disappointed she was.

          A normal boss would be happy to learn that there was actually no mistake, right? But not if what they are really seeking is the emotional charge they get from shaming you. Pathetic.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        Until you get a new job, I have a suggestion. It’s dealing with a bully 101 – which is exactly what your boss is.

        Simply pleasantly agree with her. Horrible awful terrible mistake? Yes, you are so right.

        YMMV, but the thing with bullies is they are trying to make you feel awful and small. When you agree with them it does two things – (1) it throws them off because its the exact opposite of the response they are expecting and want, especially if you say it super nicely, and (2) doesn’t give them what they want and they get bored.

  30. Miss Suzie*

    #4 Don’t put it on your resume. My company does not allow any outside employment. They fired someone from the finance department who applied for a part time evening job at a convenience store so they could earn extra money to support their brother who had cancer. Lots of companies want to know that you are at their beck and call and have no other activities that would interfere with that, and also that they are your only source of income.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      In my experience this attitude isn’t terribly common. (Obviously your experience differs, Miss Suzie.) Every employer doesn’t want you to do something that conflicts with you main job, but most are at least somewhat forgiving of side gigs that have no impact on the main job. The organization I work for just says in the employee handbook that “outside activity must not interfere with an employee’s ability” to properly perform their job, that it must not interfere with the interests of the organization, and that an employee should discuss outside employment with their supervisor before accepting the new job. I can’t think of a place that I’ve ever worked that would mind it if someone had a side gig as a wedding photographer. But of course YMMV.

      1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        It’s terrible. “No moonlighting”clauses prohibit employees from exercising their right to sell their capital, hinder their current and future earning potential, and basically limiting workers to only earning the pay they’re given, not what they could potentially make. This goes against every conceivable notion of freedom.

        There are of course cases where there could be conflicts of interest (such as consulting) but an employer ought not to be able to dictate the prohibition of unrelated work.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I think there are also situations like in the medical field where hours-worked-consecutively caps are meant to prevent exhaustion, and moonlighting makes that moot, or jobs that require particular licensures where working multiple jobs could be a regulation issue. But in the majority of jobs, I agree, it’s no one’s business what employees do with their off-hours time.

      2. Miss Suzie*

        I’m not sure I agree with the “discuss outside employment with your supervisor” part. IMO it is none of your employer’s business what you do outside of working hours, whether it is another job, a hobby, a class, whatever. What if you are a Civil War re-enactor and it takes up all your weekend time and your boss is……I don’t know, anti history? Or worse, what if you were very active in your church, synagogue, mosque, etc. and spent 3 evenings a week there. And the company says no you need to be available at all times. Even though your job is a strictly 9-5 M-F position. I would never disclose to any employer what I do when not on the clock.

        1. OtterB*

          I don’t think being active in your religious organization is the same as outside paid work; agreed that personal pursuits of any kind are none of your employer’s business unless there’s an established schedule need for you to, e.g., be on call some of the time. If they say you have to be available at all times … that’s more problematic.

          My organization also has a requirement to get approval before accepting other paid work; they are checking for potential conflicts of interest. The couple of times I had something come up, it was consulting related to my day job so potentially an issue, but my boss approved it. I would also have asked for approval for something like a side retail gig, but there would have been no issue.

        2. KayDeeAye*

          The point of discussing it with your supervisor (as I understand it) is to make sure it won’t conflict with Main Job – either time-wise (e.g., maybe twice per year, your organization has major events that require all hands on deck and the supervisor needs to ensure you know about that) or otherwise (e.g., they don’t want someone who writes bylined articles on a specific topic to write about that same topic for someone else).

    2. Jackalope*

      That might fall under the “you’re interviewing the company just like they’re interviewing you” umbrella, though. If the OP is set on continuing the side gig, having companies let her know up front that that’s a no-go is a way to mutually screen each other out, and would be better than doing it on the sly, getting caught, and getting fired.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree. This is clearly an important endeavor to OP, they probably don’t want to work at a company where continuing it would be prohibitive. It’s a useful screening tool in that way.

          1. Observer*

            In that case, you definitely want to know any potential employer’s policy on outside work before you accept a job offer.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      This is highly employer dependent and pretty toxic. Unless it is to avoid a conflict of interest/ethics issue or you work a rare job where you are truly on-call and need to work at a moments notice, there is ZERO reason an employer should have any rules about outside employment.

      Not to mention lots of people have no desire to work someplace that thinks employees are at their beck and call.

      In fact your reasoning is a perfect reason to leave it on – screen out those employers.

      The only reason to leave it off is because it’s irrelevant to the job.

      I’ll just say working at toxic companies can make people think something is normal/common/acceptable.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I think this must very much depend on the job. It wouldn’t be an issue at my workplace, where we don’t expect people to be available after-hours.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      Obviously there are companies that are like this. But it is absolutely not typical or reasonable. “Outside employment may not interfere with your job duties” is normal and reasonable. Forbidding people from using their off-the-clock time in ways that have no impact on their employment is… overreach is much too mild a word.

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      Your company is just nasty. They fired someone for getting a second job at a convenience store to help pay for a family members’ cancer treatment?? Yikes on multiple levels.

      Resumes help you screen companies too. If you have a side gig, you should leave it on your resume, so then you don’t end up with some nasty company firing you for having a side hustle.

      I am an employee, not a serf. If a company wants me available to them 24×7, then they need to pay for all of my hours. Even my low six figures salary doesn’t give them 100% claim on my time. I never want a company to get the idea that they are my sole source of income and that they have all the control over my life. The relationship is employer and employee, not overlord and serf.

    7. Observer*

      Don’t put it on your resume. My company does not allow any outside employment.

      That’s all the MORE reason to put it on the resume. If the company wants people to not have an outside job, they could tell the OP that. And if the OP decides that the side business is more important to them than this particular job, they are better off not taking the job. Taking a job that forbids any and all outside employment while keeping an outside job / business is both dishonest and stupid.

  31. Hel*


    Definitely ditto to the advice to job search. No job is worth your health. But like a couple of other commenters above me, I would also recommend finding a way to reframe the experience to help mitigate the anxiety until you find a great new job. Therefore I’m going to pretend for a moment that your manager *does* have good intentions with this exercise and that the execution is just… uniquely terrible.

    One thing my husband has been trying to work on with his direct reports, and the teams below those direct reports, is getting people to own up/admit to mistakes they’ve made. It is far, far easier to fix a mistake that someone owns up to early on rather than one that remains hidden for days, weeks, months and has compounded in the meantime. The issue is that since people tend to get punished by mistakes, particularly by bad managers, it’s hard to break a habit of hiding/deflecting issues in the hope that it becomes someone else’s problem/you’re not “found out.” Therefore, assuming that your manager *does* have good intentions, I would assume that her meetings are out of a desire to desensitize people to admitting mistakes only it’s having the exact opposite effect. It’s also possible that she’s trying to mimic post mortem type conversations – that discussing mistakes in a group will focus on how to fix/prevent similar issues.

    But if everyone hates this and is feeling embarrassed/anxious by the process then it’s not working. If you *wanted* to try to turn the ship, I would suggest something similar to language suggested above and say in your next meeting something to the effect of “I’ve made the mistake of looking at this process in a way that hindered its helpfulness. These meetings tend to fill me with anxiety and dread, and I believe that’s the opposite of the desired effect. If the goal is to help brainstorm ideas to help fix/prevent mistakes in the future, then it doesn’t make sense for me to feel shame or embarrassment. When someone else makes a mistake I don’t think “Well they just shouldn’t have done that,” rather I think “Okay, if I face a similar situation in the future… how should I try to respond.” And I’m grateful for them for having the strength to talk about what they did and why because it helps me – and I need to remember that because I bet they feel similarly when it’s my turn. And yes, sometimes a mistake is as simple as “My brain misfired that day, sorry!” but I’m human. And admitting that sometimes we have bad days is also useful because it helps us be more forgiving of each other and ourselves.”

    But also job search. It’s not your job to do your manager’s job.

  32. Just a Manager*

    My son worked as a “pumpkin cannon operator” while in college. It was on a farm with a fall fair where people could do hayrides, pet the farm animals, select pumpkins, and/or shoot them out of a cannon. He told me he got several interviews because people were interested in what a pumpkin cannon operator/pumpkin chucker was.

    1. Camellia*

      My ethnicity is ‘hillbilly’ so I must correct your terminology. They are ‘punkins’ and he was a ‘punkin chucker’.

      Not to be confused with little children, who are often also called ‘punkin’. Ah, I miss those ‘hey, punkin!’ endearments.

  33. Princex Of Hyrule*

    Definitely keep the elf job on there for as long as possible! I worked at Disney for a year through their college program, and I keep it on my resume even though it’s getting a little old because every time I get an interview, the interviewer wants to know more about it and I can use it to speak to my strengths in public-facing roles.

  34. Butterfly Counter*

    #1-Have you thought about taking a page from your boss’s book and refusing to admit to any mistakes?

    If they’re self-reported, just start saying “I didn’t make any mistakes this week.” Obviously, this would only happen if you don’t think the rest of the group would benefit. A discussion of changes to be made to prevent this from happening to others would be a good thing. But other than that, just don’t self-report petty mistakes that are just honest human error.

    If the boss is keeping track of mistakes and bringing you and others to task, maybe a shake of the head and a, “No, that’s not what I remember happening,” on repeat. Don’t blame others, but don’t play the game where your boss is the shining captain of a group of ne’er-do-wells. If the others join in, all the better.

    But other than that, I definitely agree with Alison and the others to look for a new job.

  35. Sylvan*


    I want to point something out: Your reasons for staying in this job are that you like your coworkers and you have good benefits.

    You can expect to find decent coworkers at most jobs. You might miss your current coworkers, but you can stay in touch with them. Now, about the benefits. Are you sure that your company’s benefits are better than others’? Did your company tell you that? It might not be true. If it is true, is it worth staying in an job that’s you’re so unhappy in? Would being in another job provide benefits that don’t look as good on paper, but include things like being calm and happy at work?

    I think maybe you should check out job listings and see what’s available in your area. You could learn what your options are even if you aren’t ready to apply for them right now. Also, keep in mind that your job is accommodating when you need sick days, so you could take a sick day for an interview in person or say you have a telehealth interview when you have a virtual interview.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Especially now, in this market, a lot of companies are buffing up their benefits – especially if they can’t increase salary to be competitive, but often in addition to better salaries because the competition for talent is fierce. This will vary by area and industry of course but I strongly recommend putting feelers out and seeing if your company is still as much of a unicorn as you seem to think.

    2. Chris P. Bacon*

      OP#1 here. Yes the benefits are actually pretty great. By comparison to other members of my family, my job has the best benefits by far. I do not pay for my health insurance, which is a through major insurance company and only has a $1,000 deductible. My dental and vision insurance are fairly cheap as well. Life insurance, they pay for a policy for each person that’s the greater of $35,000 or your annual salary. You can add voluntary on top of that. Retirement, after one year of service they provide a 3% contribution to your 401(k) each pay period. The worse parts of the benefits package really come down to paid days off. We have 6 holidays, and funeral leave is kind of iffy. Compared to my mom and sister, I have more family members included on my funeral leave policy, but I get less days off than they do for the ones we both have. (Example: My mom had 5 paid days off for her mom’s death. I would get 3 for my mom. My mom gets 5 for her sister-in-law. I would get 1 for mine.) We do not have paid leave split into categories, vacation and sick time fall under the same “PTO” umbrella. You accrue a certain amount per pay period based on years of service starting with 80 hours a year (aka 3.08 a pay period).

      1. Specialized Skillets*

        Those are good benefits but not unique or jaw-dropping! My spouse works for a civil engineering firm and pays nothing for his insurance (albeit a higher deductible), has the same life insurance, better 401k matching, bonuses, and more PTO. I work for local government and have astonishing health insurance, a fixed-benefit pension, same life insurance, 401k/403b matching, and so much PTO I’ll never be able to use it all.

        All this to say: there are many jobs that will take better care of you than this one. I am change-averse and know it’s super hard but there is something better out there for you!

      2. Gumby*

        Those are decent benefits but nothing that you couldn’t find elsewhere. Except for the life insurance I have better now and did at my previous jobs too. Honestly, 80 hours of PTO meant to include both sick and vacation is kind of paltry. In my current job I started out with 80 h vacation and 80 h sick. Now, granted, some of this is location and industry dependent but don’t buy into the whole “these are the best benefits anywhere you won’t find better” because it is not true.

        But also, I want to add to the chorus of people suggesting you job search. There could be something better out there and you don’t know if you don’t look. And if it makes it feel better – looking at other possible jobs doesn’t mean you have to leave this one. Nor does interviewing. Even being *offered* another job doesn’t obligate you to leave your current one. You can always turn job offers down. But at least then you know what your options are.

  36. That One Person*

    #1 – Won’t lie, I wish there was a better way for you all to push back against this together, or somehow become…more cavalier about it? Not quite the right note, but a way that since you’re all uncomfortable somehow it becomes less so when facing each other and turn it into something more productive like “Ah yes, this field was easy to miss because it’s small so remember to enlarge/double check for it.” Unfortunately it sounds like the sole purpose is to publicly humiliate and audibly flog people for the slightest misstep so I doubt the boss would let you all keep it in a productive realm. Still I’ll enjoy the mental image of them getting shunted aside as everyone tunes out in favor of helping each other instead, or just everyone refusing to show up altogether.

    #2 – Honestly early resumes are going to look hectic like that – one of my uncles shared his and how over time he was able remove the more customer service jobs in favor of the more relevant ones to his field. I do think leaving it as “Elf” is going to make it more memorable (and it’s a fun memorable in this instance), but it’s also going to let them know your son worked in a hectic seasonal job and did so well they asked for him back. If anything’s going to push someone’s customer service abilities to the edge it’s Christmas season and Black Friday.

    #3 – Annoying, but at worse seeing as they changed the plan while you were away I don’t think it’s huge to ask if you can just nab some sunscreen real quick (and then at least grab the hat and sunglasses). Minor inconvenience for another.

  37. Deschain*

    #5 needs additional clarification. An employer must comply with any state requirements on deductions from pay, which (depending on the state in which you operate) may include getting the employee’s specific agreement to the deductions (this is the case in Virginia) ahead of time. It has to be an agreement specific to this instance, and not a “one size fits all” statement in the handbook.

  38. Risha*

    LW1, I will echo everyone else and suggest you find another job asap. It may take awhile or it may be fast, who knows. But you can’t continue like this because it will really start messing with your mental health. The job search won’t last forever, just hang in there. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to know what normal is at a job. I’m still feeling the effects of my prior horrible job, and I’ve been out of there for over a year.

    The petty side of me wants you to wait until you find another job and then during those ridiculous meetings, tell the manager about all her mistakes too. Don’t let her move on or change the topic. Find whatever was her fault and tell her if you all have to discuss your errors, so does she! Make sure to leave glassdoor reviews too.

  39. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

    I thought “elf work” was going to be an amusing typo on a resume, like the “elf leg” running joke on The Daily Coyote (the result of someone mistyping “elk leg,” AKA a natural coyote chew toy). The actual story behind elf work is far more heartwarming, as are the comments! It should totally stay on the resume–something like that would stand out to me and make me want to know more about this person I could be hiring. Their nontraditional experience could be exactly what the job needs.

  40. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    #1 It’s not good.
    I once had a boss in publishing who would have a whole office meeting to discuss the “mistakes” after each monthly issue would come out. He would force us to go through page by page.
    Usually it was over very minor things, such as a small typo, or say an advertiser didn’t “like” the placement of their ad or something. Sometimes it was even over the trimming of the magazine, which had nothing to do with us.
    It felt demoralizing. I got out of there within a year due to a move, but seriously I could not stand that. I also basically worked at a makeshift desk made up of two plastic tables.

  41. Capt. Jack Harkness*

    About 15 years ago, my now wife was applying for jobs after completing undergrad. One of the jobs on her resume was from when she worked retail at a shoe store. She applied for a job as a file clerk at a law firm, and when she was interviewing, her interviewer talked about how much she loved the specific type of shoe her store sold, and they had a whole conversation about how great that brand of shoe was.

    My wife ended up getting the job, worked her way up to legal assistant and then paralegal, and today has been a paralegal for more than 10 years, and works at one of the best law firms in our state, if not the country, with great pay and benefits. And it all started because the HR person flagged that shoe store on her resume.

    You never know what on your resume is going to pique people’s interest and what it can lead to.

  42. Just here for the cats*

    #5 this totally sucks and I’ve been there. In my case the company was closing the site in June. I got a new job that started in May. Because of health issues I had a negative balance in PTO (which I didnt know since only managers could look it up). They actually had me leave 3 days before my scheduled last day. Then the following week they shut the site down 3 weeks before the scheduled time. And I mean there was NOONE there. We never received any communications on who to contact if there was any issues with our pay or tax forms or anything. Well my last pay check was only around $100 because the took back all the pay from the PTO I took. They never told me they were going to do this and I had no way of contacting anyone. It’s not like it was my fault the company closed our site and I wasn’t able to work the remaining time to pay back my PTO.

  43. JelloStapler*

    LW2- I absolutely love the Elf idea and gree to keep it as is. Trust, anyone on the hiring team who has taken kids (their own, or others) to see Santa will appreciate the skills needed there.

    LW3- “Oh hey I didn;t realize we were going out, does anyone have sunscreen or can you let me grab some?” Otherwise, sure annoying but not worth too much spent energy .

  44. Thistle Pie*

    For LW #2, my partner held a job as a mall santa 10+ years ago but keeps it on his resume because interviewers LOVE it. Every interview he has had someone has made a comment on it, asked questions about it, and generally been amused by his stories about that time in his life. He’s had a varied career and I think the job exemplifies that he can really do anything, is great with people, and is willing to do work that others may find less appealing.

  45. Janeric*

    I kept one of my high school jobs on my resume for just over a decade because “hot air balloon crew” ALWAYS prompted an interested question from interviewers, and it was a great way to showcase skills with driving in remote areas/reading maps and navigating on the fly/convincing landowners to give me access on short notice. (I work in ecology where these are all essential skills) It’s very helpful to be able to say “it gave me a strong basis in X, which I then used in job A and B” when you’re just starting out — but interviewers WILL ask about the most unusual job on a resume so he should be prepared to talk it up.

    1. OyHiOh*

      I posted separately about a similar type of job – it was somewhere catchy and interesting, and also great jumping off point about one of my skill sets.

  46. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    LW2 not only should your son keep the elf job, it is absolutely vital that he have “Easter Bunny’s assistant” on his resume.

  47. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – please don’t take it personally that the consultant advised you to downplay your own business. I know that the business is near and dear to you, but the advice to downplay it is PRECISELY because – being near and dear to you – it may start to overshadow your qualifications, commitment, and availability to do the full time corporate roles for which you are applying.

    If you have a side business as an ongoing concern, it WILL cause hiring managers to explore whether or not you will be fully committed to the role they’re hiring.

    Your side business may have given you great skills and experience, but you can talk about those without focusing on the fact that you spend every weekend and evening managing it.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      “… fully committed to the role they’re hiring.”

      You can have a long running side business on evenings and weekends and still be “fully committed”. You can even have a side job as a convenience store clerk without lacking commitment to your day job. Really. It happens All. The. Time.

      If a company wants me to give up my hobbies/side gig so they can have 100% of my time they need to pay me seven figures and give me a title like “CTO”.

      The idea that you can only have loyalty to one job needs to be buried in the dustbin of history. When companies can, and will, drop you like a hot rock with no notice you are a fool if you give them 100% loyalty and devotion.

      A side gig as a photographer or craftsperson is not going to overshadow your better paying day job. How do I know this? Because I have a long running side gig, and it never overshadows my main job. It doesn’t pay enough.

  48. RussianInTexas*

    LW#3, lunch outside the hotel – I imagine you could have said “please give me couple minutes, I need to run upstairs to grab my glasses and a hat”.

    1. Meep*

      Based on the fact OP wanted to also apply sunscreen, I think their coworkers might’ve ditched them. My grandmother is like this. Takes forever to get ready to the point plans have had time to change fifteen times.

      1. snarkfox*

        I kind of wondered this, because it reads like everyone was already waiting on OP. If OP is well-known for taking a long time or requiring outfit changes for every small change of plans, that may be why they didn’t give them a heads up that the plans were changing in the first place. I personally get a little feral around lunchtime if I haven’t eaten and don’t have a ton of patience for, well, anything.

  49. Alex (they/them)*

    I did a lot of science education outreach as both a volunteer and employee and got a lot of positive feedback from interviewers about it, despite both my job title and the name of the org being quite odd.

  50. Dust Bunny*

    Elf: I’ve never done a job like this but I have friends who have been helped into jobs in unrelated fields because elf-type or waitstaff-type jobs gave them skills in handling fussy people. Don’t knock it, Dad.

    Also, your son is young. Employers aren’t surprised by jobs like this on early resumes.

  51. Meep*

    Re: Alison’s Advice to LW #1 – I have been diagnosed with PTSD due to my horrible boss situation. It isn’t worth it. Get out.

  52. Birb*

    While it was inconsiderate (and bad planning on someone’s part) OP#3 did seem to have a more extreme response than I would have… but this is why it is important for someone to plan options that are accessible in advance, especially if it is mandatory for everyone to eat meals on the same tab at the same place.

    While I obviously can’t say that this is what happened to OP… there are a lot of people with conditions (sometimes invisible!) where a 10 minute walk outdoors in a tropical climate is not possible, or would be physically exhausting, or could trigger a condition, especially if it is hot, hilly, or there are not even / accessible sidewalks.

    Choosing restaurants that are not accessible means someone being “othered” and left out, possibly missing important work or networking opportunities. No one should have to disclose a medical condition to their coworkers during travel.

    People with medical conditions (and lots of neurodivergent folks!) tend to prepare in advance to accommodate their needs based on the information they’re given. It can be jarring for plans to change, especially by surprise and with no input (which would have given her a chance to advocate BEFORE the group decided without her).

    Also, this kind of self-advocacy for people with invisible illness often reads to others as whining or complaining. I’ve seen coworkers who were branded as “pouting for not getting their way” or “pitching a fit” for just politely opting out of something that was not accessible to them, and LOTS of wheedling that it will be FINE, it’s really not that hard, why can’t you just be a team player?”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they knew she’d protest so they chose not to tell her until it was “too late” to change the rest of the group’s plan, and again… no one should have to out a medical condition to their coworkers to have access to food on a group business trip.

    1. MaryB*

      I have to say, I don’t understand this idea of “you should never have to disclose anything at all ever to anyone” but at the same time “people should accommodate you no questions asked with no explanation whatsoever” or “people should automatically plan for every single possible accessibility need no matter if someone in the group has that need because how dare you expect that they give you that information, it’s personal!” Like, no, people aren’t entitled to every detail of your life, but it’s not unreasonable for people to need to be informed of your needs and not just intuit them.

      1. Birb*

        The manager of a person who requires an accommodation SHOULD be the one to make sure that if group plans are being made, the expectation is that they take some form of transportation other than walking. Otherwise the person is left open to situations like I described. “Hey guys, I really am not up for a 10 minute walk, we need to take some other form of transportation or find a place on-site like we planned” “Oh, it’s not that bad! Ten minutes is nothing!” “Anyone can walk that far, don’t be lazy!”

        1. MaryB*

          You seem to be responding to a very specific scenario that is neither that in the letter nor a typical business trip.

        2. Observer*

          They should be the ones making sure that someone is accommodated, when the manager is actually involved. But that is only relevant when the person lets the manager know what accommodations are needed.

          The comment that started this thread seems to make the claim that people need to accommodate issues that they do not – and CANNOT – know about. And that the manager needs to make it happen. But not only is it not reasonable, it could actually wind up being illegal.

    2. Malarkey01*

      This just assumes so much and that things like grabbing lunch should be a big planned activity. Most business travel is hey let’s go grab something, people mill around the lobby, and then a loose plan is made. The fact that LW took a shower and was the last to the meeting spot is probably why she missed out on the discussion of “man the burgers are $30 here air the hotel lunch doesn’t have a salad, anyone mind if we find another place?”

      By all means if you need accommodations let folks know but assuming that a pretty typical part of business travel needs a complex is probably not going to happen.

      1. Birb*

        I’m saying that if the person has an accomodation and is traveling, their boss should make sure that their food plans are accessible in a way that doesn’t make them out themselves. That can be done by either planning meal locations, or it can be done by letting whoever in charge know that the expectation is that travel to group meals should be accessible.

        1. Nancy*

          People normally manage their own food choices when traveling. What you’re describing sounds much more paternalistic than anything I’ve ever seen for work travel.

        2. Unaccountably*

          Not unless said boss is supervising small children. Unless you work in a group home, generally the assumption is that adults in the workplace can handle feeding themselves without assistance, even if it means saying “No, I really can’t walk that far.”

    3. Cordelia*

      why would they “know” she’d protest? sounds like OP’s objections were about having the wrong shoes and no sunscreen, a problem that could have been very easily sorted at the time. No-one is being asked to “out” a medical condition or starve, that is an over-reach. And maybe the hotel restaurant turned out not to be accessible to another member of the team for some reason?

    4. Kendall^2*

      There’s no way to know whether the reason for the change was so that someone else in the group could have access to food they could eat, either. It goes both ways. I think using words in the moment, as many other comments have mentioned, would be a better approach.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      This is a lot.

      While people should be considerate, if OP or anyone has a specific need, then it is absolutely on them to vocalize it.

      Choosing not to disclose something is valid. But in turn you absolutely cannot expect people to magically guess that you can’t xyz. In that case, you simply decline to go if you don’t want to say – hey I can’t walk 10 minutes.

      There’s simply no way to do literally anything and accommodate every single need someone *might* have.

      1. Birb*

        Not magically. Their boss has a responsibility to set expectations for group meals during travel to be accessible if they have an employee who requires those accommodations. That could be making sure transport for the group is available (and covered) so no one has to walk.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Nope. Your expectations are wildly out of norm.

          There is generally no expectation when traveling for work that people eat together. Its a choice and its voluntary. Business travel isnt a school field trip.

          You are saying people should just make accommodations. Now you are insisting the boss would know (but I thought they didn’t have to disclose?).

          It doesn’t work that way in most cases. Im baffled where you got both the idea that when people travel for work they have to eat together as well as assigning a motivation to OP that they didn’t mention. Seriously, you have entirely made up a scenario.

        2. UKDancer*

          I think my boss kind of expects me to open my mouth and say if something doesn’t work for me for whatever reason or if I have specific needs. It’s possible to do that without vast amounts of medical detail about diet or access issues. So I’ve had staff and colleagues with needs ranging from “nowhere with stairs because of the wheelchair” to “needs to have a vegetarian dish on the menu.” Most people just want to eat and not have too many difficulties or delays in my experience .

          I would say if someone has complex needs it’s best for them to do advance planning. So when I went to The Hague with a Muslim member of my team I said I was happy to go to a halal place but he’d need to find one he was happy with and I didn’t want a long walk when we arrived. He googled and offered me a choice of 2 and we had great Indonesian food. I was happy to accommodate his needs and he made it easy for me to do so. So a win all around.

    6. Unaccountably*

      OP was in a hotel. With a restaurant. Literally no one was keeping her from having access to food.

      Catastrophizing trivial things like this doesn’t help people with actual medical needs they need to have taken seriously.

      Someone with an invisible illness

      1. Birb*

        I fully understand that. Many group travel meals are only covered if eaten with the group. There are instances when it is appropriate for the manager of an employee to make sure their accessibility needs are met IN ADVANCE of the trip so their needs are met without having to disclose.

        1. Mockingjay*

          These are separate things.

          I recently traveled to the home office. Company picked up the tab for a formal team dinner. Because the meal was paid for already, we did not get the per diem dinner allotment for that day. Which is correct – the company is not going to pay me twice for one meal.

          Our managers picked an excellent restaurant with a variety of food choices and accessible seating. If coworkers asked for or needed accommodations, it was handled privately. We only knew that everyone was able to select a delicious meal to suit themselves. Which is how it should be.

          The OP wasn’t asking for accommodations. They were annoyed that lunch plans on the fly had changed. Not the same as needing an accommodation or attending a required event.

        2. Unaccountably*

          I have never in my life worked anywhere that required anyone to eat with a group in order to have their meals covered. I’m not sure that would even be legal in the US. Where do you even live that that’s the case?

    7. biobotb*

      People don’t have to disclose anything to others, but they can’t then complain that those other people don’t know that certain choices are not accessible. Plus the team may have changed restaurants to accommodate someone else’s needs. The OP isn’t the only person who may have needs that could be accommodated.

      1. Birb*

        That’s why their manager should have set expectations with the organizer or the group for meal selections or provided funds for group transportation. I have never been on a business trip where my meals were covered if I ate separately from the group.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Seriously. The responses now contain a made up boss who would of course know about these accommodations and direct his employees on where they can and can’t eat because planning group meals is a normal part of business travel.

        It’s a truly bizarre response to something OP didn’t even remotely mention.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes my bosses have never been that involved in travel planning if they’re not coming. By and large as long as I’m within budget my boss doesn’t care what I eat or with whom. I can eat with my colleagues or retreat to my room and order room service or go to KFC quickly and then to a salsa club. As long as my expenses are appropriate and I’m not misbehaving the details of what and how I eat and with whom are up to me.

          Likewise when my staff travel I expect them to plan meals to meet their needs. If they’re very new I will explain what the company will and will not reimburse but otherwise I expect them to make sensible plans because they’re adults.

      2. Unaccountably*

        It’s disability p0rn, is what it is, and it’s gross and ableist. Needing accommodations doesn’t mean you have to have someone run your entire life for you and make everyone on the business trip bend over backward to accommodate you and only you, and I call BS on business meals being unreimbursed unless everyone eats together. That would just be such a weird logistic and labor-law nightmare that I can’t imagine even one company enforcing it, let alone some entire industry.

  53. The Wizard Rincewind*

    I used to work at a Renaissance faire selling corsets. As much as I loved to bring it up as trivia, I did “blandify” it for my resume because…well…corsets. “Elf” is a great resume addition!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My cousin did this. I think she just put that she worked a food booth (she sold pretzels. While wearing stays).

      1. The Wizard Rincewind*

        I worked for one of the artisans and the business was called [Blankety Blank] Corsets so I listed it on my resume as Sales Associate – [Blankety Blank]. As I got more relevant experience I took it off and instead use “I worked at a Renaissance faire” as a fun answer for “tell us something about you”-type questions.

  54. What She Said*

    #1 I had a boss do something similar. While you are looking for a new job (you really should) go into these meetings with no expectations and give bland responses, do not fully engage. It takes some time to get there but if you keep working on it it will get easier. Good luck!

    Boss: OP you did XYZ and it was wrong
    OP: Okay
    Boss: You need to do this instead
    Op: Okay

    1. River Otter*

      This is where I am at with this. Let go of the anxiety. Just talk about your mistakes in a group. The entire team thinks it’s awful and they will be sympathizing with you. Once you can let go of your anxiety and just be like, “Yep, used the wrong cover sheet on the TPS report. Yep, I should double check the cover sheet before I send it out,” you will find that the Airing of Mistakes becomes quite bland.

  55. Ya-ya Roo*

    I worked as a children’s party princess for a couple years and I always like to have it on my resume as a talking point. I did a number of administrative tasks for the party company, so I can talk about those when it comes to payments, bookings, etc., but I also get to talk about the things that make me a good trainer today (I do a lot of all-staff training in my role) – commanding a room, using intuition to respond to unexpected situations, and more. Connecting up the skills I used doing children’s parties turns a relational, silly moment with a prospective employer into a serious one. It has been many years and I’ve got a lot more experience under my belt in typical office situations, but I think roles like that really prepare you for public speaking and other skills that many other people don’t get a chance to practice!

  56. Anomie*

    Complaining that a work group didn’t clear a minor lunch venue change with you, is not a good look. I guarantee if you do this kind of thing often, your social esteem in the office will take a hit. And to be so upset about it to write an advice column. Sometimes it’s better to go with the flow on minor issues.

  57. LMM*

    #1 – that anxiety about making mistakes is not normal. For a long time, I thought it was. I thought everyone got reamed for making errors (I am a journalist, and I’m referring to errors like misspellings – obviously, not ideal, but fixable.). Turns out, making mistakes is normal, and a good boss understands that and moves on after correcting it.

    Obviously, if multiple mistakes are made and/or they impact your work or others’ work severely, a conversation is needed, but there’s still no need for that palpable anxiety you describe. I left a job three years ago after my anxiety built to a boiling point and I’m really just now getting to a point where an error doesn’t send me into overdrive. (I made one last night! My editors asked for an explanation, I gave it, and it was over.)

    1. Goldenrod*

      Agree with LMM that mistakes are normal! Also agree with Alison’s advice.

      I was in almost exactly the situation you were in last year – liked the work, liked the pay, liked my co-workers….hated my boss who was also totally intolerant of ANY mistake, no matter how small (even a mistake that had been corrected before any harm was done)….And could never admit her own mistakes. She was a horrid, horrid person. Not only the worst boss I’d ever had, also probably the worst human I’d ever met.

      I also had fears about finding another job, particularly one that paid as well. But one thing that really helped me that I think it may help you to know – just the act of LOOKING for (and applying to) other jobs is psychologically helpful.

      For example, I had my performance evaluation on the same day that I also had a phone interview for another job….So the whole time I was being evaluated, I was thinking (gloatingly) about this job interview.

      Just the act of looking, applying and interviewing is VERY empowering….with the benefit that eventually, it will lead to another job!

      Got the job I was interviewing for that day – and with a 10% raise! Alison is right, the job market right now is VERY good for applicants….and you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Good luck!!!

  58. anti social socialite*

    LW #1: please get out. I know the old adage is “better the devil you know” but if it’s impacting your mental health, it’s not worth it. Take it from someone still working through the repercussions of a shitty job from 10 years ago, you deserve far far better.

  59. OyHiOh*

    I’m on team “leave the job title of ‘elf’ in the resume.” And note that the vendor asked him to come back for Easter Bunny season! That’s significant!

    It’s not quite as cute or referential as being an elf, but I’ve left my American Girl call center job on my resume for the better part of two decades. It serves a useful purpose in documenting one of my skill sets, but also it starts conversations. Every time I job hunt, I have interviewers who ask deeper dive questions about my time at AG and what I learned and accomplished there.

  60. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Hi #3. I get it that you need certain things for certain situations, like sunscreen and sunglasses if going out. I do too, because I have a chronic illness, and have to always have certain stuff. I have also traveled quite a bit, including to conferences.

    However. There are constructive ways to prepare for this kind of thing. For example, you were wearing shoes in the hotel that you could not wear outside. Do you really need both pairs? Might be better to wear/pack the kind of shoes that can do double- and triple-duty. It’s also less to pack. You can carry whatever you need, like sunglasses, sunscreen, all the time (like I do with my CI stuff). I realize that you might argue that you don’t want to have transfer stuff from bag to bag, but that raises another simplicity issue: do you really need more than one bag? Do you really need one for shirt for every day of the conference, instead of bringing two or three and laundering them? There’s also the idea that you can buy stuff you need while you’re at the conference, then mail it home; but I realize that’s not economical.

    Simplifying what you bring isn’t just a “cut-down-on-baggage” thing. It also prepares you for exactly situations like this, where plans can change quickly, but you can roll with it. I mean, you do you; but it really does help to think carefully about what you can wear and carry that covers multiple situations. It will save you a lot of anxiety in the long run.

  61. Caleb (he/they)*

    Oh dear, the answer to LW #4 is making me concerned for my own resume… I have my current part-time freelance writing gig listed under “Work Experience”, but if I move it to live with my volunteer work and internships in “Other Experience,” I’ll only have one job (my current one, which I’ve been at for three years) under “Work Experience”. I’ve had jobs before my current one, but they were all 3-6 months each and very unrelated to my current field, so I haven’t been including them on my resume because I thought they did more harm than good. Is it better to leave my freelance gig in “Work Experience” so I have multiple jobs there or move it to “Other Experience” so it doesn’t seem like it will be a distraction from my career?

  62. LeahS*

    I don’t know how I missed this one. I had a direct report (intern) whose first bullet point on her resume was “promoted to head elf”. Loved her, loved that she had that people experience and showed she likes to grow in her professional love.

    Would 100% hire an elf again but it’s kind of a niche specialty haha

  63. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    ah no, “promoted to Easter Bunny”. As an elf he was just Father Christmas’s assistant, but now he’s the Easter Bunny, not an assistant at all, the Real Thing!

  64. Heather*

    Some states cannot make you pay it back, it’s illegal. I’m in North Dakota, and we give salaried employee access to all of their annual PTO January 1. They can take every hour of it and resign the next day and we can’t do anything about it.

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