kicking a coworker out of our social huddles, disclosing PTSD at work, and more

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

1. Should I kick a coworker out of our social huddles?

I am an associate director and lead a team of three (mixed genders, some very new to the workforce). We work remotely, and each department has an optional weekly 30-minute huddle, purely social. My team and I usually chat about pleasant but inoffensive topics, like books, pets, gardening, etc.

About a year ago, Tim, a director I am close with, hired Jane for a newly created position. Tim oversees two departments plus Jane; the other departments are very introverted and 100% male (we are working to fix this, but turnover is low so there aren’t many new hires). After discussion with Tim, I invited Jane to join our huddles in hopes of helping her feel more connected.

However, recently Jane has been getting inappropriately personal and negative, talking about her dating life, her poor financial situation when she makes more than my staff, politics, and even applying to other jobs! So far, I have been redirecting the conversation to something neutral when she does this, but it’s getting exhausting and I am not always successful. It’s setting a bad example for my other employees and is very uncomfortable.

Should I talk to Jane and ask her to keep away from these topics? Talk to Tim? Disinvite her from our huddles? She has mentioned several times how much she enjoys our huddles and isn’t well connected to other employees, so I am worried about the impact on her morale if I disinvite her.

Talk to Jane one-on-one. It’s your huddle so it makes sense that you be the one to do it; if Tim does it, it’ll be a lot more awkward (since it’ll be clear you spoke to him rather than just talking with her yourself).

Approach it the way you would if Jane were, say, misreading the room at a meeting with clients — a matter-of-fact correction with a “just letting you know so you can fix it” tone. For example: “I wanted to tell you that we try to keep the huddles pretty light —books, pets, gardening, that kind of thing. No politics, and nothing too personal like dating or personal finances (especially when you earn more than others there). I realized I should have told you at the start so wanted to explain it now!” That last part is important — in the future, it’s worth setting up expectations from the start with new people so you don’t encounter this again. It’s easy to feel like people should just get it — and a lot of people will figure it out by observing — but not everyone will, and it’s a kindness to everyone to help newcomers avoid blunders.

However, it might be useful to think through what the guidelines really are and not just define them by Jane’s missteps. For example, is all dating talk really off-limits or is the problem that Jane has been inappropriately detailed? My hunch is that it’s the latter, and if that’s the case you don’t want your guidance to be overly broad or you risk changing the informal feel of the gatherings.

2. Disclosing PTSD at work

I’ve been working at a company that is extremely busy for about a year, but I have two excellent supervisors who really care about their employees health and wellbeing. I’m in my mid 20’s and a survivor of really severe child abuse. I have diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder, which I’ve been in treatment for. Nobody ever knew what was going on (my parents were very good at hiding this from everyone) so I stayed with them until I was 18. After a lot of therapy I finally cut them off recently, but they have been doing everything in their power to try to get in touch with me.

Prior to this job, every time I would have an argument with one of my parents, I would completely spiral. Nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, the whole nine yards. I ended up quitting/no-call no-showing/getting hospitalized for weeks at a time at several jobs. Basically, I couldn’t function, and the abuse was really, really affecting my career. Now I’m in this great job, and have cut off contact, but I’m starting to experience other symptoms at work. Whenever anyone is loud (even just laughing or doing a large presentation) in the office, I flinch at the noise and often vomit. If I have a pressing deadline, I have panic attacks because I’m so terrified of the consequences, and I’ve never missed a deadline at this job. I freak out some days because I’m scared my mom or dad might call my job to try and find me (they’ve done this multiple times before). I’m in intensive therapy, but I’m constantly scared and on edge at work, and I think my managers can tell. I’m torn between maintaining the status quo or just telling my managers what’s going on. For what it’s worth, this company has stated they care about employee mental health (and have backed that up with tangible actions) but I worry that this is so much more severe than the typical “I have burn out and need a break” conversation. Should I talk to them about this? Should I tell them I have PTSD but not why I do? I just worry about my parents calling my manager some day. If you were my manager, would you want to know?

I have a good relationship with both my bosses and they have been explicit that they care about employees physical and mental health, and that those things are more important than work. By far the best managers I’ve had during my short career.

First, you can definitely let your managers know that you have a difficult family situation, are concerned your parents may call some day to try to find you, and want to put safeguards in place in case that happens. What those safeguards are depends on what you’d be comfortable with — it could be that whoever answers your phones is told not to confirm that you work there, or that all your calls go to voicemail for screening first, or even just that your managers know this is a thing and that they shouldn’t speak to your parents if one of them calls. This is not a weird thing to raise — you’d probably be surprised by how many letters I get from people who need to do this. Good managers will want to do whatever they can to help you feel safe.

Second, if you think your managers are noticing some of your fear/trauma response, it might be worth letting them know that you’re dealing with PTSD. You don’t need to go into detail; it’s enough to just say you’re in treatment for PTSD. You can say it’s from family stuff if you want, but you don’t need to. Managers usually go into “what can I do, specifically?” mode when they hear this kind of thing, so if you don’t want them to do anything differently and are just telling them so they have context for reactions they might notice, say that explicitly — “I thought I should mention this in case it explains anything you see from me that seems off. I’m not asking you to do anything or for any accommodations; I just want you to have that context in case it’s ever useful.”

On the other hand, if there are specific accommodations you would like, talk about what you’d like! It could be working from home sometimes, or a quieter space, or anything that you think would help you at work.

For the sake of caution, I need to say that there can be risk to disclosing mental health stuff to your employer. There’s less risk with PTSD than with some other stuff, but there is risk. Based on what you said about your managers, though, it sounds like you would be pretty safe having this conversation.

I’m so sorry this is happening, and for what happened in your family. I’m glad you’re out and okay.

Read an update to this letter

3. Can I hold my new manager to promises made by my old manager?

My old boss made me a bunch of promises in my last review: professional development plan, promotional path, financially rewarding my volunteer activities. A week later, they stepped down and my new supervisor, who had been at my same level, took over. Can I hold my new supervisor to my old supervisor’s review?

You can try, but ultimately it will be up to your new supervisor. You could say, “I’d arranged with Jane for XYZ and wanted to find out how to keep that moving now.” Your new manager might be perfectly happy to continue on the path the old manager laid out. But it’s possible she’ll want to put those things on hold while she gets the lay of the land herself first (and might end up not pursuing them, depending on her own assessment and priorities).

4. Giving candidates updates during long hiring timelines

In my field (academia) it is very common for hiring processes for competitive tenure-track positions to last five to six months from the first job posting to the final, signed offer letter (shockingly, academia moves slowly — who knew?) It is also common for no updates whatsoever to be sent out to applicants during this process, save for scheduling interviews and such for those that are progressing. Having been in this position a few years ago, I know it is massively frustrating, and I would like to change it to be more transparent. However, HR at our university says that we cannot give updates to applicants until a final, signed offer letter is received. Is there anything we can do to make this process more transparent to people who are waiting for some type of response from us? I hate knowing that we effectively ghost people who put a ton of time and energy into applications.

If you’re bound by HR’s ruling, there are two early points where you can let people know what to expect: explain to applicants both in your ad and in interviews that you expect the full process to take five to six months and that candidates won’t be updated on their status (aside from interview invitations) until the end of it. It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot easier for candidates to tolerate a lengthy, opaque process when they know from the beginning what to expect and don’t have to wonder why they haven’t heard anything. (Also, your candidates who are used to academia’s norms won’t be terribly surprised by this.)

5. Boss is inviting me to meetings during my unpaid lunch hour

I started a new job a few months ago working in an administrative role and so far I have been really enjoying it. Recently, however, my boss has started inviting me to meetings with our vendors. Usually, I wouldn’t have a problem having a quick meeting and putting a face to the names I email all day. The problem is that these meetings would happen during my one-hour unpaid lunch. They also would be very minimally beneficial for me to be a part of due to the nature of my position.

I’m not sure how to approach this with my boss without it messing up my reputation at work. I want to be looked at as someone that goes above and beyond, but I also don’t want to set a precedent that I’m willing to do what is essentially work when I’m not being paid for it. What is a professional way to handle this without it looking like I want to do the bare minimum? Should I just suck it up and go?

Is there any reason to think your boss is assuming you’ll do these meetings during your unpaid lunch hour? Unless he’s said otherwise, I’d assume that he figures you’ll take your lunch before or after them, even that means eating at a different time than you normally would. If you’re not sure or if your lunch time is normally pretty rigid, it’s fine to ask, “Okay for me to plan to take lunch at 1 that day instead of 12, so that I’m available to attend this?”

But if he explicitly says you should do it during your unpaid lunch, that’s not actually legal. Assuming you’re non-exempt, which it sounds like you are, you’re required to be paid for work meetings, even optional ones. So in that case, you could say, “I think legally we do need me to log and be paid for that time since it’s a work meeting — but I could bump my lunch back so I can join you. Or could we schedule them for before noon or after 1?”

{ 289 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    LW3: I mean this in the kindest way possible: how were you planning on holding your old manager to the promises they made? What power did you have to do that?

      1. Koalafied*

        Yes, I interpreted “hold them to it” in this case to mean “expect them to honor it” not “force them to honor it.”

        In fact, I nearly always see that expression used in the context of “holding someone to their word” = “believing and relying on the accuracy of their statements.” Like, “I think I can get to the party early tonight to help set up, but don’t hold me to it,” is meant to convey, “something might come up so I’m not making it a promise,” rather than, “you can’t make me!”

        1. Fikly*

          And again, what makes what managers say reliable in terms of promising promotions and raises? What we see time and time again is managers heaping more and more work while promising promotions and raises that never come.

          1. Green Tea*

            And again, the people responding to you are saying that OP was likely asking if it was reasonable to expect they would (and reasonable to be unhappy/potentially job search if they would not). What you are talking about is called bad management. It is common, and it is also reasonable to be unhappy/potentially job search if they do it. Do you understand?

          2. Koalafied*

            Obviously the answer to any question about managers is going to be colored by an individual manager’s work style and character. Since the LW didn’t indicate he has any misgivings about the new manager, we can assume an implied, “Assuming my boss is a reasonable person…” prefacing the LW’s question, and reasonable/decent people usually try to honor their commitments and be honest about it when they can’t.

            Just because there are bad and untrustworthy managers out there doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable to trust the word of any/all managers across the board. By all means, lower your expectations for human decency if you know a particular manager is a crummy person, but it’s shooting yourself in the door to just assume without evidence that everything your manager says is bunk and that you can’t negotiate in good faith instead jumping straight to an ultimatum or starting a job search without even seeing what your manager can do for you.

        2. Office Lobster DJ*

          Agreed. It’s just an expression. LW is wondering if the new manager could reasonably be expected to honor the same promises. The ultimate power they’d have here is making the choice to leave.

    1. AlmostRetired*

      I think it is perfectly reasonable to hold them to what the prior manager promised in the review. If the review had said that the LW needed to improve timeliness, or anything else, the LW would be expected to comply even though they got a new manager. Why shouldn’t it work the other way? I’m my mind the review is from the employer, and delivered by the manager. The company should stand by it just like they are expected to stand by any salary increase or change in title.

      1. Artemesia*

        You can never hold a manager to anything, it is ultimately stay or go. BUT you can certainly sit down with them to bring them up to speed on the plans for your professional development and ask their help in bringing that forward. The attitude/touch here is critical.

        1. JustSomeone*

          If this were my scenario, I would approach it like *of course* the new manager intended to honor the commitments made. “Jane and I were working on getting compensation arranged for my volunteer work; is there anything that you need from me to keep that process moving now that Jane isn’t available to spearhead it?”

          If it’s tiny little nitty-gritty stuff, the new boss probably won’t care a lot about it. And if it’s larger stuff, it’s probably over their head unless it’s a very small organization.

          1. Pugetkayak*

            It’s definitely the best way! You are just assuming it would be like this and I think it actually works. They either don’t notice it should be different or your confidence in what you are doing makes them go along with it.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Well, I think that’s the point of checking in with a professional advice-giver; OP is trying to determine if it’s reasonable to expect the new boss to feel committed to a prior bosses’ workplan or not – and if so, what kind of language would be appropriate to pursue this. If it’s one of those secret rules of the workforce that new bosses don’t have to do anything an old boss committed to, OP wants to know that so they can proceed differently.

      2. ferrina*

        Eh, this is a little different than a performance assessment. An expectation of timeliness tends to hold true for many different managers; priorities may not. And I find it a little fishy that Old Manager made a bunch of promises when it sounds like they left voluntarily a week later. Professional development is something that often varies on a manager-by-manager level, so it’s reasonable that this may change (though def sucks that LW is in this situation!).

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      Well… It’s not entirely unheard of that the outcomes of yearly reviews are in actual fact noted down in a review platform, and then it would be quite reasonable to hold the new manager to them. They’re more a commitment the employer makes at this stage (when it comes to professional development and opportunities at least), and as such while not irrevocable, at least something that would mean going back on on the part of the new manager. I gather they are not in the OP’s case, but maybe they should be.

      1. RIP Pillow Fort*

        Ours are noted in a dedicated platform where I can go back and pull my old performance reviews. It would be very odd in my workplace for a new manager to completely revoke a development plan unless there was something inherently wrong with it. Like the employee needed XYZ qualifications to advance and you can’t get that through the training provided. Or they didn’t meet the base qualifications to even take the training needed.

        OP’s situation is unclear if this is just a verbal promise or was something laid out in writing. They really just need to sit down with the new manager and talk about if they can move forward with the development plan that was previously discussed/documented. Then they’ll have a better idea of where they stand.

        1. ferrina*

          Maybe not revoke a development plan, but you can get the same effect by not dedicating resources. I’ve had managers that effectively revoked the development plan they laid out by not having budget for trainings or shifting priorities (which would make a lot of sense in LW’s case) or me having too much work for the professional development areas (which might mirror the shifting priorities)

    3. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I’m curious why the old manager stepped down – was it the result of a disciplinary action because he was, among other things, making reckless promises to employees? That could have some bearing on what the new manager can do.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I am definitely curious about the old manager making promises on the way out the door. Best case for LW, old manager wanted to set things in motion for them and put all of this in writing somewhere.

    4. Phryne*

      Well, I’m aware that as a non American I am moving from culture shock to culture shock on this site when it comes to work and employment, but my reaction was the exact opposite. Why would career stuff promised by an employer in an official review (and therefore probably put om paper and in an HR file) suddenly become void on the whim of a new manager?
      That would not fly here…

      1. JSPA*

        Because in almost every state, work itself, and the changing of job descriptions, is at the whim of the employer. There are rarely if ever contacts.

        There can be repercussions in the sense that if you quit because the job is nothing like what was promised, to the point where it’s possible for you to do it (think, heavy refuse collection vs IT?) it can count as constructive dismissal.

      2. Smithy*

        I think the other context in the US market compared to others is that it’s not uncommon for annual reviews to include statements of “try” or “attempt” (from both sides). And while the phrase may be “promise to try”, it’s not the same as “promise to deliver”.

        In the case of compensating volunteer work, I can easily see that conversation going where the boss promises to “look into” whether that’s a possibility. Because of this language that does not guarantee delivery, a good supervisor will be upfront on where they have more or less capability to deliver. But that is very often the difference.

        I was hired into my current job being verbally told by my hiring manager and HR that there would be monthly cell phone compensation. Turned out my boss had received bad information from her boss and this was not true and no matter how it was presented during the offer process, it was something that could not be delivered and certainly was not part of a contract. While this example isn’t great, I’d also say that this is one of the best places in the US I’ve ever worked – but still has an example like that of a promise made to then be broken. And with no option for recourse.

      3. münchner kindl*

        Yes – it’s not a personal promise Manager Gru made to employee Jane – it’s made in context of work, what’s best both for Jane and for the company.

        So my question would be: what professional reason would be for new manager to not keep it?

        Alison only mentioned delaying it while new manager gets lay of the land – that makes sense.

        And if new manager is tasked with re-orienting the department, then Jane’s role needs to be looked at in new light – like all other team members’ roles.

        But just to show that new manager is different from old manager/ establish her own mark/ develop her own kingdom? That would be height of unprofessionalism for me.

        1. Antilles*

          I agree. For a development plan, I think the primary (professional) reason would be that the manager has bigger fish to fry – catching up on the overall department budget, a reorganization, etc. So it’d be less that the manager doesn’t want to continue the plan but more that it gets forgotten.

          That said, I can 100% understand OP worrying about the new manager coming in and changing it. We regularly see letters like “my manager and I agreed I could work from home but then the department was reorganized and the new boss doesn’t believe in WFH” – so the idea of a manager coming in and going “no, we’re not doing any of your planned professional development” seems dumb to me but also something that could totally happen.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Well, as others have suggested, managers get some leeway in their vision for their department – maybe the prior manager planned to promote someone to assistant manager or expand the teapot program or whatever; they may have been let go or chosen to leave because this wasn’t playing out the way they wanted, and the new manager came on with instructions to trim costs in the department. So the new manager isn’t going to implement what the old manager planned. However, the new manager should be aware that an employee who was previously told one thing about their future, that is no longer likely to materialize, is very likely to start looking elsewhere. New manager would want to keep that in mind when deciding how to proceed with OP.

      4. Person from the Resume*

        I agree somewhat. The LW’s question gives hints that these may be unusual “promises.”

        professional development plan, promotional path, financially rewarding my volunteer activities

        I really depends in part how common in the company these things are and if the boss said they would do something or would try to make something happen. And if this is extra work from the boss or nor.

        I’m not sure what us meant by “professional development plan” versus professional development. Is it the company will pay for an expensive class which they often do. I’ll try to get the company to pay for this expensive training for you because it makes sense, but they don’t normally pay for pricey classes or is it the boss herself developing a plan.

        Is paying for/rewarding volunteer activities something the company does normally for others and has a process for or was this a promise to look into seeing if it could happen. This seems extremely usual and unless there’s a process in place already it seems like something a boss may have to expend some capital on. The new boss may not have political capital to spend on it or may not yet value the LW enough to try to spend capital on it.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, it’s not at all fair to OP, but it’s true that a new boss resets your value in the office because you have to prove yourself all over again. Your old boss appreciated the value you brought and was willing to invest in you. Your new boss, even if they got a rundown on your performance, likely wants to see what’s up for themselves.

        2. another Hero*

          I’m reading “financially rewarding my volunteer activities” as giving them some bonus pay for their work with, like, a professional organization (or even just finding a way for them to do it during work hours). if it’s high-profile or influential work, it could absolutely be benefiting the organization. it doesn’t sound typical, but not that out there to me.

          1. JR*

            It’s not unusual for companies to offer volunteer time off – that is, allow people to volunteer during paid hours they count as part of their work week. Lots of companies had VTO policies, often around 16 hours per year. I’d find it fairly unusual for a company to allow an individual hourly employee to do this, in the absence of a policy, unless the volunteering is very aligned with the work (like board service might be). For an exempt employee, a lot of supervisors might be more flexible, though.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I know a lot of folks doing volunteer DEI work in the community and with professional orgs that their employers love to talk about, especially if they get awards.

          2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I think that those are still two different types of financial reward. For example, if I speak at a technical conference on a work day, I get paid my normal salary and don’t have to take PTO. But if I speak at a technical conference on a weekend, I don’t get any sort of financial bonus for it. (I can claim expenses if it’s out of town, but I get nothing if it’s local.)

            I suspect it’s a lot easier for a boss to say “You can do this volunteer activity during your work hours and not have to take PTO” than it is to say “I’m authorizing a bonus for you specifically because you’re doing this volunteer activity.” (And volunteering for an activity directly related to the job makes either of these a lot more likely to happen than volunteering for an unrelated passion project.)

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I have heard of corporation sponsoring an employee’s volunteer work. They give them time off to do the work (can be weeks even a month), sponsor travel, etc., sometimes donate to the org/project. For example, a friend was working with a LGTBQIA+ health org to get vaccination and HIV testing booths set up at our local Pride event. Her employer let her do the work during work hours, paid for volunteer hotel/food/travel, and sponsored the event.

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                A place my dad used to work did this; he volunteered in a local school a couple hours a week as a reading partner for students who needed practice, and was allowed to go during his work hours as the company liked being seen out in the community.

        3. Smithy*

          I used to work somewhere that offered employees a set amount of “volunteer hours” that you could essentially use like vacation days to have your volunteer time be paid. I think it was something like 40 hours a year? So depending on how you used it, it could just be an extra week that you took off to volunteer and were paid without using PTO, but if you volunteered two hours a week at night/on the weekends – it was basically adding two hours of pay to your paycheck a week for 40 weeks.

          All to say, I’ve seen how this can work organization wide – but making this case for on staff member – who knows. But I think you got it exactly when you called out extra work for the new boss or not.

          I think a big reason why a lot of these pieces get put on hold by new bosses is that they just don’t have the time/bandwidth to onboard and invest the time in putting those pieces in motion. Especially if those aren’t programs and pathways already in existence in the workplace.

        4. JSPA*

          It’s very much a thing in some companies.

          The benefits to the company are,

          a) they get to use it for their own self promotion (at a fraction of the bother of sponsoring a thing directly!)

          b) I believe they still can (or at least, I’m pretty sure they for a long time could) write off that part of the employee’s paycheck as a corporate charitable contribution, which may actually have them come out ahead? (I’m clearly fuzzier on this than I thought I was, when I started typing, so should stop here.)

      5. pinetree*

        In many cases I’m not sure it would be as simple becoming “void”. It’s going to heavily depend on the workplace and the personalities involved. There might be language in a Employee Handbook-type document that covers how reviews are governed and gives OP a basis to dispute deviations from their review. Also, in a reasonable workplace, a new manager coming in and disregarding an employee’s previous review is going to need a strong basis for doing so. They would be expected to clearly communicate and explain why they’re doing so, and the employee should have some level of empowerment to bring the matter to HR or a higher up and receive mediation as needed. There are unfortunately workplaces where the employee would have no recourse, but I don’t see that as the base level assumption. Of course, none of this is the same as having a contract that makes certain guarantees, but the flip side is that the employee could quit with little notice as a result, leaving the new manager in potentially a much more difficult position than if they’d sought to adhere to the performance review. Caveat, if the previous manager made a promise they didn’t have the authority to make, which I could see possibly being the case for financial compensation for volunteering.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      They took what the old manager said in good faith that they’d do it, not that they’d need to hold them to it. New manager probably has no idea of any of the things, hence the question.

    6. OP #3 here*

      OP#3 here:

      To clarify a little bit:
      My old supervisor (OS) voluntarily stepped down from a manager’s position. They are now a same level colleague.
      My new supervisor (NS) WAS my colleague but all of a sudden she’s my NS.
      Those promises? They were in our HR online review system.
      The compensation for my volunteer activities was about recognizing financially that I volunteer on multiple interdepartmental committees and I’m now considered to be a resource for my company.
      My NS seems to have no interest in anything I do, really. I’ve emailed her quite a few times asking for a phone call (I’m completely remote,) and she just doesn’t respond.
      I guess the better question would have been “how do I get my NS, who just lets me get on with my work, to honor my previous performance appraisal?”

      My NS isn’t a horrible manager. I’ve seen her interactions with her other employees. I just think she’s uncomfortable with our new dynamic and isn’t sure how to manage that, or me.

  2. Santiago*

    In my role, people move from administrative positions into specialist roles pretty frequently, and also, there is a lot of flexibility in terms of how admins run their schedule specifically. I would see how rigid your lunch is – in general – because the default may well be that you can take it as convenient/logical, as Allison said. However – I’ve recently learned this – so I’ll share it if helpful, is these meetings may be helpful in becoming a specialist if you are more interested in that progression than an EA / Office Manager route. (Those are both incredible jobs, I personally just want to switch into my fields specialty and realized that they were making me an understudy.)

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Agreed on both points. Obviously it’s not good to let your employer commit wage theft, so you should be paid for your time in the meetings. On the other hand, your manager seems to think it would be useful for you to attend these meetings. Is there a role they want you to take (e.g. note-taker, greeter) or are they interested in your attendance for professional development reasons?

      1. AmberFox*

        Also, thing that was non-obvious for me until my team started getting scheduled for client meetings by someone in a totally different timezone… put your lunch on your calendar if you have one, OP. Boss may simply… not realize that’s when you go to lunch, or may not be thinking about it when they send you the meeting.

        1. Eclipse*

          I’ve gotta say as a manager, I have no idea when each member my team takes lunch. It really does depend on the person and where they’re at in their workflow. When I have a mid day meeting that gets scheduled, everybody I pass the meeting invite to isn’t on the list as an optional person, I just expect them to move lunch around like I do. I eat my microwave meal anywhere from 11:30 to 3, depending on what’s going on.

          Diabetics are different, but that doesn’t apply to the OP as far as we know.

  3. coffee*

    Actually, I think an armchair would come across as more professional than a couch, probably because it’s obviously for one person rather than having space for socialising.

    1. Phryne*

      Is this some kind of secret code, or did it belong with another story? Cause I see no couches mentioned here? :D

  4. Observer*

    #1 – Not what you asked, but I had to reread this: the other departments are 100% male and very introverted (we are working to fix this, but turnover is low so there aren’t many new hires).

    I hope that you are actually only trying to fix the “100% male part”. Because while I’m not an introvert, I don’t see why this needs to be “fixed”. Introversion is not necessarily a flaw.

    1. Princesa*

      Honestly, a department with a low turnover rate sounds like there isn’t much of a problem with the employees. They probably arent going anywhere because it’s working. I’m an introvert and can say that a department of introverts sounds like a dream come true!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I read that as an explanation for why the OP’s team invited Jane to join their huddle — because she wasn’t getting a lot of social interaction from her own team.

      I don’t think she’s saying they’re working to change the introversion but rather the gender disparity, and I’m going to edit the wording so that it doesn’t cause a big derail (since either way, it’s not the question being asked).

    3. IT Squirrel*

      They could be working to ‘fix’ the introverted part too, but not in the way you read it – not trying to fix the introverts currently on the team (as you say, it’s not a flaw) but to looking to bring in different personalities when they do hire if everyone currently on the team is very similar. It’s just that with very low turnover it’s going to take a while to move away from the current mix of people.

  5. Warmestwishes*

    Letter Writer #2 from one survivor to another, wishing you a future of safety and contentment. Please remember that while you don’t need to hide anything or keep anyone’s secrets…you also don’t owe anyone your story or an explanation. You don’t need to convince your boss or your coworkers that what happened to you was “bad enough.” Alison’s scripts are great and your therapist can help you figure out what other accommodations might be appropriate. You’re in an intense time of healing right now, but with time and profession help it will get easier. Rooting for you!

    1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Please remember that while you don’t need to hide anything or keep anyone’s secrets…you also don’t owe anyone your story or an explanation

      Seconded. And in that vein, I would recommend writing out a little “disclosure script,” maybe even practicing with your therapist. This could include thinking about possibly intrusive questions or other triggering responses.

      When we disclose something like this, we can sometimes become a little overwhelmed and share more than we intend. Also even sympathetic listeners may sometimes say thoughtless things that we can never unhear – which can impact a relationship. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back, so it can help to have a clear idea of what you want to share and what you need re:support.

      Not discouraging sharing, btw! I think it can be really empowering.

      1. BokBooks*

        Scripting replies to questions is a really effective practice, OP I second this advice highly! The questions can be really invasive and triggering. And OP I wish you the best.

    2. Megan*

      More support from another survivor. The work you’re doing is so hard, and you’ve clearly made great strides already. It will keep getting better!

      Whether to disclose what happened is totally up to you. There is always a risk, but I’ve learned we have a unique instinct about whether people are safe to share with. You don’t owe anyone your story, and you’re not obligated to keep anyone’s secrets. I make the decision best when I can sit with both of those truths at once. Somehow, seeing both realities and remembering that I am already a whole, strong person makes the answer easier to find. It also helps to think about it with both feet flat on the floor in a safe space, so I feel firmly grounded in the reality that I am safe today.
      Good luck!

      1. Anon for this*

        I have a follow-up question on the not obligated to keep anyone’s secrets bit. What if you are keeping a secret for the victim, not the abuser? I ask this because (keeping things very vague) in my home I had a sibling that was abused by another sibling, but thanks to a variety of factors I managed to avoid the abuse myself. I’ve generally felt that it was not my story to tell so I haven’t, but it turns out there’s still a fair amount of trauma involved in being in an abusive home even if you avoid the abuse (including that this happened right under our parents’ noses, why didn’t they do anything????). Is this a situation where it’s okay to talk about my own trauma with a handful of trusted people (like my spouse), or should I keep it to myself to protect my abused sibling? Wanting feedback from someone anonymous since it’s hard to feel it out around people who know me without giving stuff away.

        1. also anon for this*

          This sounds like something to work out in therapy – that way you can be sure you’re not “outing” your sibling who was abused in some way to anyone who knows them. It’s honestly the best place to work out trauma anyway!

        2. learnedthehardway*

          Since there is another person (the victim) who would be affected, I would say start with a licensed therapist or other similar professional, who is bound by professional ethics to keep the circumstances confidential. You have a right to get counseling for your part of the trauma.

          After that, I would ask your sibling (the victim) what THEY are comfortable with. Since your disclosing things could directly affect them, they have a right to be consulted.

          The one person I would say you could relax this would be with a spouse, if your trauma would affect your relationship with that person, so long as you trust that your spouse would maintain the confidentiality of the information.

          1. JSPA*

            There can be reporting requirements for certain crimes (even for therapists) when a child has been abused. Not sure how “past criminal behavior / no current and ongoing / victim is no longer a child” figures into that; suspect it varies by state.

            Presumably also depends on whether this is already something that’s been dealt with by the legal system (in which case, I’d argue that your burden of secrecy is also lower, as it’s probably at least partially identifiably available via court records, even if the specific victim’s name is elided.)

        3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Keeping a secret for the sake of another victim is really something you should ask that victim if they want you to do. Please don’t deny a victim their agency (unless it is absolutely needed to stop and prevent additional/continuing abuse of other victims).

          As a childhood abuse survivor I have opinions about people who use the “I didn’t say anything because I was protecting you!” disclaimer. I never asked for your silence as my protection, and when no one else believed me about why I didn’t want certain situations to happen or people to be present, because no one else would corroborate things, well… that didn’t actually protect me at all, did it?

          Ask me explicitly what I want, rather than assuming you have some insight into it – because I’m the only one who is really in a position to know.

          1. Anon for this*

            I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, but I did my best to report it and get the abused sibling help when we were children, but it was a while ago and no one did anything of note either to help with the abuse or to help with the after-effects.

            We’re all in our 40s now (me and my siblings), and I’ve gotten some treatment for it in terms of therapy. But it’s astonishing how tricky it is to navigate even now my feelings and responses.

        4. Lady_Lessa*

          I would recommend a therapist who is skilled with working with abusive situations. AND I would ask up front about confidentiality issues. Just to make sure you are not running any risks of it getting out.

        5. cleo*

          I feel this question so, so deeply. I grew up in a family with multiple generations of abuse and I know a lot of dark secrets, some of them mine, some of them belonging to other survivors. I want to affirm that growing up in an abusive household is damaging, whether or not you were the target of the abuse.

          The answer that I’ve come up with is that it’s OK for me to talk about other peoples’ abuse to trusted confidants – in my case my therapist(s), best friend and spouse. It’s not OK for me to talk about other peoples’ abuse in general conversations. (Although sometimes I will speak in generalities if I’m certain I’m not giving away who I’m talking about.)

          My general rule of thumb is that I only discuss these things if I think it will help me or the person I’m talking with. And of course, I don’t keep secrets if I think keeping the secret will cause more damage than disclosing it will.

        6. cleo*

          I feel this question so hard. I grew up in a family with multiple generations of abuse and I know a lot of dark secrets – some of them mine to keep, some of them belonging to other survivors. And I want to affirm that growing up witnessing abuse is damaging in its own right.

          The answer that I’ve come up with in my life is that it’s OK for me to talk about my feelings about someone else’s abuse to a very limited number of trusted confidants – in my case, my therapist, my spouse and my best friend.

          I don’t expect my sibling, who wasn’t abused but was still impacted by growing up in our messed up family, to never disclose what happened to me but I do expect them to be discrete – I know that they’ve talked about their feelings about it in therapy and to their spouse and I’m glad that they have support. But I would be upset if they talked about my experience to random people in their workplace.

        7. Warmestwishes*

          Second all the recommendations for therapy, Anon for this. This is exactly what a good therapist can help with. But at the very least I think you are fine to tell your trusted people “I’m not ready to talk about details and may never be. But I witnessed some pretty bad things during my childhood and while I wasn’t directly impacted at the time it was still a scary situation to be in as a kid. That trauma impacts me today. My parents made some big mistakes in handling it and their decisions still bewilder me.” But if you’re confiding in someone like your spouse (who could hopefully respect your wishes not to discuss it elsewhere) and the whole story comes tumbling out, please don’t be hard on yourself. You haven’t betrayed anyone by privately talking about your own trauma.

      2. Anon for this*

        As another survivor chiming in, I agree with all of this.

        Even though I normally wouldn’t do this, I recently disclosed my own PTSD to my boss. He and I have a good relationship, and my gut said I can trust him with this. That instinct was correct, and it gave him some context for what may have otherwise sounded like an odd (but totally feasible) accommodation request.

        He did in fact go into “what can I do to help?” mode, and did not ask any personal questions. The discussion was all about what we could do to ensure that I felt safe at work, without getting into details about my history or the nature of my trauma.

        I realize I’m extremely fortunate and not every employer will be as great as mine, but they certainly can be. Sometimes it’s worth it to disclose if you feel comfortable doing so.

    3. ursula*

      For whatever it’s worth, as a manager (and not even a particularly experienced one), LW2 you wouldn’t be the first person who had needed these kinds of basic safety protocols due to unsafe family/ex-partners/others, and Allison is 100% right that the focus of the conversation would be on whether there’s anything you need in order to feel safe in the office and/or anything else you want us to understand. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this and so impressed with all you’re doing to take care of yourself. Wishing you the best.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Echoing. When you manage people there’s a reality that real life will spill over into work sometimes. Employee safety is paramount and if there’s something I can do to make someone feel safer at work I would want to know.

    4. ferrina*

      Sending love! Definitely take the steps you need to be safe, ask for accommodations you need, and if needed, give your manager a head’s up on any trauma reaction they may see (I used to tell manager’s that it would take me a few minutes to process changes in priorities- if I wasn’t immediately adjusting in the meeting, just give me 10 minutes after the meeting ends to process, then I’ll be fine). I would keep the history vague and focus on the future- “I have PTSD from a traumatic upbringing. I’m handling it with a professional, but in the meantime, here’s what I need…” I found it helped to be vague and not go into details- some people like to use that for gossip fodder, some will see you as unprofessional for disclosing, some will always assume that you’re wrong and your parents are right (that one still gets to me- Captain Awkward has some great things to say about this).

      Good luck! I’m so proud of you for getting out! It sounds like you’re doing really, really well given what you’ve had to go through, and I wish you continued recovery!

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      If you decide to go down the disclosure path, I’d also consider looking into FMLA in case you need a longer chunks of time to at short notice and maybe also look at WFH on days when you aren’t feeling 100% and just know in your soul going to the office is going to make it worse.

      Take care of yourself, LW, and please keep us updated. We are cheering for you to get through this!

    6. NervousHoolelya*

      I’m parenting two children with complex PTSD from previous child abuse and neglect, and I’m also a college professor who has students with a wide range of accommodations. When Alison asked whether you want any specific accommodations, the first thing that came to mind is an accommodation that my children and many of my students have: the option to step out (of a meeting, a presentation, your office/workspace) if you’re feeling overstimulated by noise or other issues. I agree with others that you might want to look into your sick leave / FMLA policies, but sometimes you don’t need the whole day. You might just need a few minutes of quiet to breathe and ground yourself — and raising it with your manager might also allow you to give yourself “permission” to take that time when you need it. It sounds like you have drawn on enormous strength to get where you are now — I hope your healing process begins to feel easier over time.

    7. TiredButHappy*

      I am also sending LW support and solidarity. It has taken me a long time to not flinch and hide at loud voices.

      But I still have moments where I reach a meltdown and have to have an exit strategy. I’ve been in unsupportive workplaces that have made it worse.

      This one is better.

      I have been able to disclose and have gotten help on how to bow out when I feel overwhelmed and I hope you can get the same, and have supports in the workplace.

    8. Pied Piper*

      As a survivor myself, I agree with all of this.

      One thing I would add for LW: I went through a very similar situation. I opted to tell a few supervisors/collaborators I worked closely with that I had exited an unsafe relationship and blocked all contact, but he knew their names and might reach out (it was a partner, not parents in my situation). I just asked them not to share any information with him, and to let me know if he had contacted them (I was tracking attempts at contact in case I needed them later).

      Every single person I told – six in total, five of them men – were overwhelmingly supportive. As Megan says, I had a feeling each of these people were safe to talk to, and they were.

      Only you can know if you feel safe sharing your diagnosis and asking for specific accommodations, but as Allison said (and the list of survivors in the commentariat here), it is unfortunately something they’ve heard before.

      Sending you good juju for continued healing. (And I highly recommend EMDR for trauma)

    9. knitcrazybooknut*

      I had a period of time after I left a similar situation, when I answered anyone who asked. I did feel like I owed them an explanation, partly because I was still figuring it all out! Some of those people showed their true colors later, and I do regret sharing all I did. Growing up in a situation where you have to constantly justify every move you make — it’s exhausting, and you find yourself with a running commentary so you can have an answer at all times. I’m so sorry, LW.

      Also, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This type of childhood is much more common than you think. I was terrified to talk to our receptionist and give them names of people who shouldn’t be allowed to talk with me. Until they said, no problem, I’ll add them to our list. That was a big relief for me, albeit a sad one.

      1. Former Employee*

        Not to minimize your feelings, but the upside to sharing with the wrong people is that they end up “outing” themselves. It’s a good, albeit personally difficult, way of find out who people really are as opposed to who they pretend to be.

        Congratulations on rescuing yourself.

  6. Therapist*

    #2 – I’m a therapist who also works in a large health agency as a supervisor.

    I definitely agree with letting your managers know to some degree that you’re having challenges. I would add that if you’re still having a significant startle reflex and are experiencing high anxiety then it might be worthwhile to look into your company’s sick leave policy. If you were my client or employee, I’d definitely be recommending that you take some time to build skills and find more effective ways of managing the anxiety. Even if you’re able to get through the days, I suspect that your work is probably not where it usually is as anxiety has a way of shutting off parts of brain and impairing our cognitive ability. I’ve seen too many colleagues and workers develop a reputation for not being good at their jobs when they were have trauma reactions in the workplace.

    Whatever you decide, please take care of yourself.

    1. Anon Supervisor*

      I’d hope someone on my team would let me know in some capacity as well. I don’t need the whole story, but I would be sad to know a team member was struggling in silence, especially if they were thinking they’re going to miss deadlines, etc.

  7. AnotherLibrarian*

    LW#4: I get wanting to change this. I 100% do, because I too hire in academia and I know how absurd it can be; however, people who are applying for tenure-track positions should expect this. This doesn’t justify it, but it does mean people tend to know that’s how it works. The one thing I would do is be sure not to promise applicants anything. I’ve seen way too many hiring committees be overly optimistic about their timelines. Another thing we’ve done in our department is added to our auto-reply where we confirm that we got an applicants materials some language like, “Unfortunately, we can not contact applicants to let them know if the outcome from the search until the offer letter is signed. Therefore, it may take many months before we can let people know the status of the position.” I have no idea if this helps or not, but we did it to try to stem some of the agony of the wait for folks new to the wild and fun world of higher education hiring.

    1. SK*

      The issue here is the way HR departments interpret a particular legal issue. Our HR folks tell us that by law, we’re not allowed to exclude anyone from the applicant pool without a legal defensible reason, of which there are few: they don’t meet the minimum qualifications; or we hire somebody else. That means for all those people and all that time in between, by law we’re not allowed to tell anyone that we’re not actively considering them anymore.

      I’m not 100% convinced the law strictly requires this stance, but I’ve also been told I’d be insubordinate for not following it when I was on a search committee, so I didn’t fight it.

      1. Brooklyn*

        It doesn’t. This is HR overreach and, frankly, an inevitability of giant bureaucracies with no actual management. There’s no legal reason why university positions must be treated any differently from industry positions, or government jobs if it’s a public school. The problem, as usual for academia, is that no one involved is given the authority and the responsibility of actually hiring a good candidate. Faculty want a well-received colleague because it raises the stature of the department, but so long as faculty are accountable to no one for anything except publishing, and so long as the academic brainwashing continues to tell grad students that nothing can fulfill them except a tenure track research position, nothing will change.

        Is it clear I’m bitter?

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            Fellow bitter academic here: let’s also remember that not everyone applying for a TT job has, you know, applied for one before. Brand new immediately-pre or very-slightly-post defense PhDs might not know to expect zero communication.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              That was me a few years ago. In the early part of the process, all the way up to the campus visit and job talk, the contacts were warm, helpful, and enthusiastic about my candidacy. After the job talk…crickets. Inquiries were met with some version of “the search is ongoing.” I hadn’t applied for jobs as a professor before, so no one told me that this was normal. I just figured I’d bombed my job talk or something. (Then again, I didn’t get the job, so maybe I did!)

              Now I work for the government, where I make more money, have better job security (given what “tenure” has turned into), and don’t have to write grant applications. Win!

              1. Dr. Rebecca*

                I did a TT interview a few months ago, heard crickets, had to withdraw to take my current job, heard crickets again, and then two weeks ago found out that the school PULLED THE POSITION. Academia is wack.

              2. Butterfly Counter*

                I was on a search committee last year and will be on one this year.

                What probably is happening is that 1) you were definitely a top 3 choice, but not the first choice, 2) the first choice also had another offer at another university, and 3) your university had to wait for job negotiations from from the first pick, along with attendant time it takes for both the candidate and the university to think on the offers put down. They didn’t want to tell you that you weren’t first pick in case you might take another offer and they needed you if the first pick turned them down.

                That’s what happened with us. After the interviewing week, the negotiation with our first choice took another week before they turned us down. So we offered it to our second choice (who accepted). However, it might have taken another week if they had another competitive offer. And if they had taken that, it would have been 2.5 weeks before we would have had an offer for our third choice (who was still incredible, btw).

                1. L.H. Puttgrass*

                  That checks out. I ended up getting some information through back-channels, and that’s pretty much what they said.

                  I do find it hilarious that academia manages to make federal hiring look quick by comparison.

                2. Butterfly Counter*


                  Yes. And it’s exacerbated by the fact everything needs to be put through committees. So for our department to vote on the top 3 candidates, we had to find a time that worked for everyone to discuss their interviews and make a decision. The same is happening for the candidate’s other interviews. Once we vote, it goes to the chair, dean, and provost to discuss salary and benefits to offer. Then the candidate thinks or waits to receive their other offers to compare. Then after they compare, they have to go back to each university to counteroffer or accept the position. If they counteroffer, it can mean another meeting in the university.

                  So yeah! A lot of moving parts. Sometimes I’m surprised we get anything done at all!

              3. NotBatman*

                Oh hey, I’m bitter too! I applied for a TT position, interviewed, heard nothing for 4 months, reluctantly accepted a non-TT position because I needed the housing they offered… Then I got asked back for a campus interview by the TT job, too late to do it. Luckily I worked the non-TT job for a year and moved to a different TT position that I love. But I literally could not afford to go through the full TT interview process, when I needed housing mid-COVID shutdown.

                1. L.H. Puttgrass*

                  I’m not actually bitter. The process was a mess, and I got a clue what my future would be when no one showed up to one of my scheduled interview slots (hints to hiring committees: make sure that someone is scheduled to show up to up for each interview slot, otherwise it gets really awkward). But I’m much happier in my current job and location than I would have been in the assistant professor position I applied for (that’s the other thing about academia: there’s not much room to be choosy about where in the country you’ll work).

                  But boy, was the hiring process not transparent.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        That is a ridiculous interpretation. I don’t see how ending consideration of someone (presumably based on legal criteria, like experience) equates to “excluding them from the applicant pool,” but if it does, then the university is violating the law by dropping them from consideration regardless of whether they tell them or not.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Ending consideration of an applicant is, quite literally, excluding them from the applicant pool. They are removed. Their application is not looked at any more. At my U, it’s all online. As soon as we (search committee) officially nope an applicant, I can no longer see their application materials. At all. Nor do I want to, since I don’t want or need to consider them any more.

          I don’t see how this can possibly be illegal. Our HR is maniacal about stuff like this, so I’m 99.99% sure it’s legal.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I don’t think it is literally excluding them from the applicant pool. They were included in the applicant pool. Their application was considered. They have now been removed from consideration. To me, “removed after due consideration” is a different thing than “excluded”. Excluded means they’re not reviewed or considered at all, from the start.
            It’s like, if I want to tryout for Major League Baseball, and can’t get a tryout, I am excluded from the applicant pool. If I try out, am deemed useless because I run slow and can’t throwfaster than 70 mph, I wasn’t excluded, I was rejected.

      3. Alice*

        Higher ed HR, oof. My favorite was when an HR person told us “the government forbids employers from offering more than $5250/year in educational benefits.” FTR, that’s not true in the US! Above 5250 per year, the recipient has to pay tax on the “extra” – but plenty of companies offer more than the untaxed amount.
        This was years ago but it really rankled. It was a high-up person in HR, not a newbie, and the setting was a big, well-advertised meeting *about* tuition remission. There is no excuse for an HR leader to disseminate incorrect information in that context.

    2. pie*

      I am 100% on board with telling candidates it’s HR’s fault that you can’t give updates.

      And… this is probably bad advice, but uh, during my 4 month wait for an offer, my current supervisor (faculty with a looooot of capital and no f*cks given) called me every few weeks to let me know I was still in the running, it was just taking awhile.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If you’re in the position to take that risk I don’t think it’s bad advice. It’s worth calculating if there are any consequences if HR finds out you’re doing it, but if you don’t care or know your ass is covered – yeah, do it. This process might be normal or expected in academia but it still sucks.

        1. Well...*

          Yea I don’t see why tenured professors should defer to unreasonable policies that actively hurt their field. I would rebel as much as possible (and there are many good strategies in lower comments. I like the one about openly posting job talk seminars on department webpages).

          Also, like, what is all this secrecy protecting the university from? If the faculty search is more transparent, are they worried they might be sued for discrimination or something? Is the solution to that really just to cover it all up? I’d say keep it transparent and also don’t discriminate! A little accountability might actually make things better…

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            My most generous guess is that when you have the scrutiny of a public institution and are posting competitive jobs, you get headaches from things like false discrimination claims or even just too many people wanting to give input. Now, that certainly doesn’t mean this is the answer, and there’s certainly no legal reason to be this opaque. But it might just be the path of least resistance to not give out any information. It sucks for candidates though.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              There are also candidates who request confidentiality as long as possible because they do not want their current institution to know they are on the market. This is especially common for non-TT folks, who may be in precarious adjunct positions on year-to-year contracts that their employer can, with short notice, decline to renew. Full confidentiality isn’t always possible – certainly folks at the interviewing department will know what someone is coming in as a candidate – but that’s one of the reasons that departments don’t typically publicly label a talk as a job talk.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Oh sure but communications between candidates and HR are not typically public, there’s no reason they can’t just be kept up to date on the process.

              2. Well...*

                When this happens on our rumor mill the short list says “more senior person” without naming them. Postdocs on fixed term contracts generally have to reason not to share their names

          2. Feral Humanist*

            Faculty went through the exact same process and it seems totally normal to them. Added to which, folks who get all the way to tenure often are not rebels in any way, shape, or form. Tenure is a deeply coercive disciplining process that reproduces the status quo far more often than not.

            The most honest answer I ever heard a faculty member give about why they valued tenure: “I’m very risk averse and I have a middle-class job I can’t lose.” I think about that ALL THE TIME.

    3. former professor*

      Some fields maintain anonymous wikis for this purpose, with a list of all the places that are hiring within a subfield, and any updates people have about status (e.g., “phone interview week of XX”) I’m guessing if you were recently on the market, you would know if your field has one, but this is the workaround some fields have found.

      1. Hanani*

        Yup, my field has a wiki to keep track of jobs posted and developments in the hiring process.

        OP #4, putting something in there (as was suggested above) that candidates shouldn’t expect to hear anything is a kindness to those who don’t know. Other things you could do (which may or may not apply to your dept/institution):

        1. make sure your job posting doesn’t require some special, unique to you document. I’ve seen more and more postings who want the usual documents AND ALSO some statement that responds to some particular aspect of the university’s/dept’s mission with particular emphasis on x and y. Those documents have to be written more from scratch, it’s very frustrating.

        2. Make your first-round interview virtual for everyone, just take out the travel to [Big Conference] altogether.

        3. As was stated above, don’t be optimistic about your timeline. Double or triple the amount of time you say something will take.

        4. If you reimburse candidates for travel, a) don’t do that, pay up front for them instead, and b) if you’re stuck with the reimbursement model, get that paperwork through immediately

        5. Consider approaches that, for example, strip a candidate’s name and institution out of the documents for the first read, so the committee isn’t getting swayed by pedigree. There are other recommendations along that line, like having one committee member read all the teaching statements, another read all the research statements, etc. for the first read.

  8. TG*

    LW #2 /
    First off I am amazed at your resilience so please be proud of yourself!
    I would absolutely let your Managers know about your PTSD but wouldn’t get too involved. They sounds great but just so you have a line between work and what you’re going through. You need the support and deserve it but don’t want the questions or to give too many details.

    I’ve survived a lot myself so big hugs to you and know you are on the right path caring for yourself. Cutting off contact while hard is often needed…my abuser passed away but even with that I’m still dealing with the after effects. But it does get better everyday.

  9. Ellis Bell*

    LW2, I think the key takeaway is you have “two excellent supervisors who really care about their employee’s health and wellbeing.” Since your parents clearly operate under the expectation of secrecy (they expect work to not know and to be able to bluff their way to you), it’s an easy avenue to close off. Good workplaces don’t hand over schedule or contact details of their staff anyway, but when someone has a stalker/abusive partner (and this is no different), it makes sense to improve the security a notch and let people know how you want things handled. I was in a situation where my ex partner wasn’t even what you’d typically call “abusive”, but I knew upsetting attempts to contact me would be made so I told security to keep an eye out for in person appearances, and screened my calls through a colleague. He did manage to get through one time and I just hung up. Your workplace wants to know if you’ve cut off contact with people and how you want it handled. If you had any concerns about your manager’s fitness to do a basic safeguard of your privacy, that would be one thing, but you don’t. Do take care of yourself. It’s not clear from your letter, but I wonder if your reluctance to have your parents contact work has paused your attempts to block the other gates in your personal life that they may use. If you’re protecting the work gate by keeping other avenues somewhat open, there’s all the more reason to seal this off at work so well they won’t even attempt it. It’s actually much harder for them to affect people who aren’t you.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “good workplaces don’t hand over schedule or contact details of their staff anyway”

      This is true, but it’s also worth noting how manipulative abusers can be and how even with a policy in place the person answering the phone or working reception may slip up when put on the spot. That’s a lot less likely to happen if they’re trained on safety protocols beforehand, especially if there is a real concern in place to be vigilant about. And like in your example, security can be made aware, management can know how to respond if there’s an incident. Work is just a much safer place if they’re at least a little bit in the loop.

      1. No Contact*

        I don’t take chances either. Even if the workplace policy is to not divulge information, it is still a good idea to remind people know there’s a reason for this policy.
        A couple of times when I’ve suspected people in my life may try to contact me at work, I’ve notified HR and asked them to remind the front desk of this policy.

  10. Well...*

    LW4, does your field have a rumormill? (Google particle physics faculty rumormill for an example). If you’re really passionate about this, you could start one. It’s a huge service to the field, as you can see when short lists are put together and whether or not your name is on it. Also a quick scan of the lists gives you a sense of diversity/gender equity (everyone put two women on their short lists, but it’s always the same two, except Oxford who had no women, etc.). I’m sure university admin hates it but faculty can rebel against that kind of thing, especially tenured faculty.

    Connected people will know even when you’ve finished the long list and short list, these things get around. You can encourage that by seeding that info to your own networks. But sites like the rumormill help with transparency for those who don’t hear through their networks.

    I know HR said don’t do it, but in my field it is so, so common. I’ve never had to question hiring timelines as the rumors spread so fast (even info beyond what’s posted on the rumormill, like long lists, who was invited to apply etc.)

    1. BlueberryGirl*

      I’ve never seen these used much outside the sciences. Are they a thing in the humanities and I’ve just missed it? 100% possible, since I work tenure-track adjacent and am not interested in that life.

      1. Well...*

        I don’t know, but humanities could start! I also don’t know of any rumormills for liberal arts/undergraduate-focused colleges. I wonder if the lists are more difficult manage for smaller schools or smaller/more interdisciplinary fields.

        Vaguely humanities has a reputation for fewer postdoc positions, which perhaps limits their network (straight from PhD -> faculty with only doing research at one university with one supervisor). The rumormill manager(s) needs to have a pretty good network until it becomes established and everyone starts sending in rumors. In my field people move around so much for postdocs that everyone starts to know each other by the time they are looking for faculty jobs. Liberal arts colleges could have the same problem since there are so many of them and they can hire straight from the PhD programs.

        It may be more challenging to start, but I also think more transparency is better, so I would call it a worthwhile effort if one is positioned to do so.

      2. Pippa K*

        There are at least two rumour boards that I know of in the social sciences, and they are complete dumpster fires. Too many vicious, misogynist, racist posts and even what looks like straightforward job info (e.g. “BigState U has interviewed its shortlist for the econ TT job, so if you haven’t heard from them, you’re not on it”) is often unreliable. They may have started out as useful spaces, but they’re notoriously awful now, unfortunately.

        1. Well...*

          That’s awful. Could someone step up and organize a moderated version? That way misinformation gets removed, shortlists are only posted when actual names are available (and people can ask for their names to be removed in cases of misinformation, etc)?

          Someone on our postdoc rumormill once posted that he got a lot of really nice, prestigious offers, and those institutes reached out to the rumormill and got those rumors removed as they were not true. Rumormill spam isn’t generally a good idea… it didn’t make him look great.

    2. Academician*

      Psychology has a page (psychjobsearch at wikidot) where people list whether they have been shortlisted, when interviews are happening, etc. It definitely helps with figuring out departmental timelines and some departments use that list to post positions too.

      1. Medievalist*

        I was also thinking of the academic job wikis. Candidates can anonymously list whether they’ve heard anything from the job at various points (e.g., had phone interview, invited for campus interview, been removed from search, had offer etc.). My friends and I found the wikis hugely helpful for following a search’s progress, when we were on the academic job market.

        I suppose someone on the committee, like OP could theoretically add anonymous info on search-progress to the wiki too, though that might violate the HR policy?

        1. Amsonia*

          A few years back, when my humanities department was hiring, one of us anonymously posted updates to the humanities wiki. Several readers there thanked the poster profusely. I’m sure HR would have been displeased, but I’m also sure our HR is oblivious of the wiki. This probably reached only a few applicants, though. I think people who are plugged into things like rumor mills overestimate how many people are in the know.

          1. Well...*

            How mad would HR be if, in the acknowledgement that you received the application, you put together a list of “helpful links” for job hunters, one of which was the rumormill?

        1. Rock Prof*

          I think links just go into moderation and don’t get posted immediately, but I believe relevant ones are fine.

  11. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3, I am side-eyeing someone who would promise the world with their hand on the figurative door handle. Like, I understand it, but grr.

    1. Intent to Flounce*

      Depends if they left of their own volition or were…moved out. They may not have known if it was the latter. Of course, then we might have to consider whether part of the removal were down to making promises they could not keep.

    2. WellRed*

      I hardly think career development is promising the world to someone. We also don’t know why they left.

      1. pie*

        Yeah, but like, if someone is asking you for support when you know you’re taking off, it’s pretty easy to say yes without doing the normal “let me consult with leadership,” especially if it’s access to programming that costs money, or adding duties, etc.

      2. ferrina*

        There’s some big promises in there- a clear path to a promotion and financially rewarding volunteering (additional compensation). And if LW hasn’t had much professional development opportunities so far, dangling that in front of someone is a big deal (I had no professional development trainings/programs for the first six years of my career- I wanted so, so desperately to finally get formally trained instead of having to figure everything out for myself).

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yea this caught me too. However there’s not a lot of detail, and “…a week later they stepped down” could mean a lot of things – were they fired, did they quit, did they take a demotion? Without knowing more, it’s hard to tell if this is a case of the manager knowing they were leaving so they were able to make any promise the LW wanted to hear because they knew they’d never have to follow through (super crappy), or if the manager truly meant every word and then something unplanned happened (lousy but not intentionally so).

      Either way it leaves LW3 in an unfortunate position, I agree with the advice to talk to the new manager. Hopefully the old manager was sincere and made note of this plan/promise in their transition notes, or even already started the ball rolling on them so it’s not just a “old manager promised me X” (which, depending on the reason for old manager’s departure, might inspire new manager to NOT do it). I’m hoping they were sincere and things work out for LW3, I’d love an update or to at least get some more info on old manager’s departure.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I think this is a leap considering we don’t really know how much was offered and we have no idea why the manager stepped down. Maybe their spouse developed a serious health condition, or some other thing that couldn’t be predicted and would require full-time attention for the foreseeable future.

      This doesn’t seem like it’s really that uncommon an occurrence, and the LW should just bring it to their new boss and see what s/he says.

      1. Anonym*

        Also, if I were a manager and knew I was leaving, I would want to set up my employee to get the development support once I was gone! I think there’s a much better chance of it if the outgoing manager makes a commitment than if they just leave a blank slate for the new manager. New manager could take the absence of a development plan to mean that old manager didn’t think one was called for. I think the old manager did the right thing if they knew they were leaving.

    5. ferrina*

      Seconded. It’s pretty likely that the manager knew they were on their way out (either planning to leave or was seeing the writing on the wall), and possible that they made promises to get LW on their side. That way if/when the manager couldn’t hold to the promises, LW would blame the new manager and morale would suffer.

      I’ve had several bosses do this to me- of course, these were each bosses that somehow never had time for my professional development when they were actually in charge.

    6. Esmeralda*

      People have to keep doing their current jobs even when they’re job hunting/considering job offers. They can’t just stop. After all, their job search/offers might not pan out, or get delayed.

  12. I would prefer not to*

    LW1, Jane sounds a bit lonely.

    I agree with the advice, especially about setting expectations in advance for things like this more generally.

    If Jane has been told it’s social, this is probably just how Jane socialises. She’s treating it as though everyone is in the pub after work. (Her topics might not be ideal then either but you wouldn’t quite have the same control over the dynamic.)

    These types of socials are quite difficult to navigate at times. They aren’t quite a work meeting but they aren’t truly social either.

  13. Green great dragon*

    LW2 – if for any reason you would prefer not to disclose the PTSD, you can still explain the bits of it that have an impact without giving the diagnosis. Eg tell them what you want them to do to ensure your parents have no access, and that you to have a strong reaction to loud noises, and so you would like them to…

    Can I also suggest you ask your managers what you should do if you ever think you’re going to miss a deadline? Because I bet the answer is something very like ‘let me know when you think it’s likely and we’ll reprioritise’. I know it will take a lot more than hearing it for you to fully believe it, but perhaps hearing it will help.

    Sounds like you’ve done an amazing job getting this far, best wishes to you.

    1. ursula*

      This is great advice, re finding out what you should do if you’re going to miss a deadline. I wonder if you could find an informal mentor within the company (even someone at a similar level to you, who is regarded as a high performer with good judgment) who is not your boss and could help you recalibrate your understanding of how your employer is going to behave and how to address issues that are coming up at work. Having someone you can email now and then and say, “I’m stressed that I’m not going to be able to get A, B, or C done. What would you do in this situation?” might be a huge help. I leaned heavily on people who were 5-10 years senior to me when I was coming out of a dysfunctional workplace and trying to reset my understanding of how a normal office works, and it was the very best thing.

  14. Sleeve McQueen*

    LW3 maybe for future – document these conversations! If you have a breezy email saying “thanks so much for our conversation on how I can progress from Teapot spout painter to Teapot quality control. I look forward to working with you to move up in the six months you mentioned on our call. Please let me know if there are any immediate first steps”

  15. JM60*

    #5 I’m wondering if the meeting is lunch with the vendor, and it didn’t occur to the boss that this would need to be on the clock because it’s still work (even though it’s also lunch). IANAL, but I believe that in states that require employers give meal breaks to their employees, this requirement can still be met with paid lunches, but there are sometimes caveats. For instance, in California, paid working lunches only satisfy the meal break requirement if the employer and employee agree to the arrangement (per

    If I were in your shoes OP, I’d probably ask your boss how to do the timekeeping should you attend those meetings.

    1. Mana*

      When we have lunch meetings I always tell my non-exempt employee to just not clock out if she wants to join – but we’re a bit fast and loose with the scheduling so I’m not actually sure if that complies with law. I should probably check…

    2. Pwandleland*

      #5 here. That is pretty much exactly the situation I’m in. The main problem I’m having with bringing this up is that we don’t actually clock in or out for the day or for lunch. I’m at a relatively small company and I think they’ve been doing things this way for a long time. Almost everyone I work with has been there for 10+ years or more. I am technically hourly but I feel like I’m being treated as salaried.

      1. JM60*

        I too have been in a situation where I was hourly, but was somewhat treated as salaried.

        How is your time tracked (or not tracked)? If you submit time sheets, then I’d ask you boss how to fill in your time sheet given that this is a work meeting, rather than an unpaid lunch.

        If your time isn’t tracked, and they just assume you’ll work the 8 or so hours they pay you, then it would probably feel harder to bring up. I’d probably use an approach similar to what Alison recommended in her answer, minus the “but I could bump my lunch back so I can join you”.

  16. LondonLady*

    LW1 – it sounds as if Jane is lonely with no-one to talk to about these more personal issues, she is working remotely in a non-chatty team, which is why you invited her to join your huddle and presumably single if she is dating. Maybe as well as gently setting some boundaries for the social huddle you might encourage Tim to offer her an occasional social 1:1 or identify a work buddy who could offer that?

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I’m usually the first one pushing back against some of the anti-social ness seen in these comment sections, but I think this is a bit far. It sounds like the boss setting Jane up with play dates, and that’s just weird.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Agreed. Jane is presumably an adult. If she is craving social interaction for personal matters, work is not the place for it. She can join a club, volunteer, or get in contact with college buddies. The solution is not — find someone else at work to listen to her personal life.

    2. Observer*

      This sounds like a very bad idea. I do think that the social huddles are a good idea. But it’s generally not a great idea for the workplace to be your sole source of social contact. And it’s a REALLY a bad idea for a boss to become someone’s primary social outlet, or the arranger of someone’s social life.

      In addition, some of what the OP is describing is just a lot. A lot if it is just not appropriate for the workplace and / or acquaintances (which is what coworkers are, in a social sense.) And some of it a level of negativity that would wear even on good friends.

      I don’t think that the OP should kick her out, but they CANNOT and should not try to be her entire social network.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I was reported to a lonely person whose entire social life was her work and who had zero filter. We had to do a 2 hour drive once. I kid you not, from the time her butt touched the passenger seat to the time we parked at the meeting, she told me more intimate details of her life (including her sister who owned a med-spa that used her as a guinea pig for any new technique – which explained some things I’d noticed but WTF!) than I know about most of my friends. I could not derail her and seriously considered pulling over and leaving her on the side of the road but I really needed the job

      2. Ellie*

        I have a weekly one-on-one with my manager. Its primarily work related but its also a source of support, where I can discuss anything that’s bothering me. I’ve done the same with lots of people who report to me, not everyone, but the ones who want that extra connection, or who are a bit more fragile. Its a way for me to keep an eye on them as well.

        It sounds to me like Jane needs some one-on-one coaching. Tim is probably the one best placed to offer that.

    3. Generic Name*

      I agree that it sounds like Jane needs some friends, but her company doesn’t need to be a friend yenta. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if Jane is lonely, she needs to be the one to do something about it.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh my goodness, Friend Yenta! That really describes what my coworker Betty tried to turn me into during the first couple of months of WFH.

        Betty’s so very social and outgoing (and I’m honestly not) but she’d lost her connections with her building friends and pub friends and it was just me and one other similarly not-outgoing coworker and it was terrible and when she left we were still not in a great working relationship.

    4. Bubba*

      The kinds of things that it sounds like Jane is bringing up in the huddles are the kinds of things it would be inappropriate to discuss with a 1:1 work buddy as well.

      I think the manager would be doing “Tim” a disservice by inadvertently setting him up to be Jane’s work therapist. Jane has already shown she does not have a good understanding of how to keep conversations as at a work buddy level, setting her up for 1:1 with Tim is not going to change that. The boss would not be helping Jane learn work appropriate boundaries and would potentially create a problem for Tim. In fact I have a feeling we’d soon be reading a letter from Tim asking Allison what do about a colleague he volunteered to take under his wing at the suggestion of his boss, who is divulging too many personal details to him and and making him uncomfortable. Can he get out of spending more time with this person without offending the boss who set up the arrangement?

      1. Bubba*

        Whoops upon a re-read I realized Tim is actually the name of Jane’s department head, not just a hypothetical employee the boss would set her up with for mentoring/social interaction.

        My opinion remains the same though. Neither Jane’s manager nor the manager running the huddles should get too involved in trying to set up social outlets for Jane. It may be well intentioned but, has the potential to cause more problems than it solves.

        If the company has a formal mentorship programs or professional groups she could join, her manager could suggest that. I still think that what Jane would benefit the most from though is a frank discussion of why it is important to avoid oversharing at work.

  17. JSPA*

    LW1, it may help to first clarify in your own mind,

    1. How much of the oversharing (if any) is “edgelord-y” (google the term, if not familiar)?

    2. How much of it is “too much for work” in an absolute sense?

    3. How much of it is not necessarily workplace inappropriate but nevertheless not in keeping with the general tenor of your chat and your department’s / your own preferences?

    4. How much of it would be fine in smaller doses, but (with this chat as apparently her only outlet) it’s swamping the chat?

    Category 1 has to be shut down pretty hard, for the sake of your team. Category 2 should be flagged to her as not only awkward but self damaging. Category 3 is, “you couldn’t have known, however” (the Alison language). Category 4 still needs to be addressed, but should be met with more sympathy, and perhaps an inquiry whether she would have ideas for other outlets (slack comes to mind, perhaps? Or an industry-focused support group?).

    Basically, if she’s using a pool float as a life preserver, at least attempt to direct her to an actual life preserver, don’t (only) tell her to stop hogging the pool toy.

    1. Smithy*

      I love this metaphor, because before creating rules/guidelines that are created with only Jane in mind….someone in category 4 can still dominate and overwhelm just by taking the majority of the time for themselves even if the topic is totally work safe.

      While keeping these half hours loose has worked before, I think it may also be a moment to consider other tools for teams that perhaps are less chatty or would benefit from more clear structure. I recently overheard a team at work would play “Never Have I Ever” at some Zoom parties. After my initial college party cringe assumption, I learned that someone had taken the time to make all sorts of answers hyper specific to their department. So examples like “never have I ever submitted an urgent Teapot Purchase Order request to the VP on a Friday at midnight for 1,000 units when I meant 100.” Obviously something like that takes a lot of work compared to doing an icebreaker on your favorite ice cream, but breaking up loose chat with more structure might also help offer a counter balance some of the time.

      1. Op#1*

        Thank you for your response! When it was just my team, we had actually been playing an couple of online games, like a collaborative card game, Pictionary, etc, but we stopped when Jane joined as she talks a lot and we were never getting to the game. I will talk to my team and see if they want to go back to this!

        1. Generic Name*

          Actually, this is a perfect example of how Jane has taken over the social huddles, and I think you can use this as an example of how the huddles were intended to go. So if she’s derailing online uno because she’s all, “let me tell you about the STI I just got from a hookup”, I think you could say privately to her that the purpose is to engage in light chat while playing a game, so the group purposely avoids heavier topics.

        2. Office Lobster DJ*

          That’s perfect. The right thing to do is talk to her first, but bringing back game day is a perfect reinforcement for that, assuming your team would prefer it. “Gotta cut you off Jane if we want to squeeze in some Pictionary!”

        3. Smithy*

          Happy to share! I will also add that if this is happening online, then it would also be a kindness to share that Zoom/Teams platforms are also not great for crosstalk. Therefore the reason why those types of games can be particularly beneficial in that medium is that they allow for a wider variety of team members to engage without feeling they need to talk over someone.

          Again, all of this can come from a place of kindness and all the better if you have existing online games you know that work for your team. Whoever from my workplace took the time around writing dozens of Team specific Never Have I Ever questions did something I could never….but it also sounded really cute and appreciated.

        4. Ellie*

          Can you rename some of the huddle meetings ‘Pictionary Time’? That sets the expectation and you can get straight into it.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      I love the analogy of the pool float. I was just thinking this morning about a forum I used to enjoy (about movies and actors and culture) that has a newish member who posts a lot about personal woes and current events and their very heartfelt big emotions about everything. To me it feels like they are swamping the forum and also I find it less enjoyable. I’m just a member, not a moderator, and don’t think it’s my place or valid to police their postings. Plus I feel compassion for whatever challenges they are going through. I was struggling to put my finger on what was bugging me about their posts and it’s that … using the pool float of a film forum with offshoot threads as a life preserver for whatever is going on in their life … making the pool float less available to others. I’m just going to take a break from that forum for now.
      But for LW, as the host/manager of these sessions, it’s on them to maintain the usefulness for intended purpose of the sessions while also guiding Jane on the norms and to other resources if she has things she’s working through. Your checklist to clarify what the real issue is in LWs case is great.

    3. Op#1*

      Thank you for your response! It is helpful to think of it in those categories to put it in perspective. It’s definitely not any edgelord-y stuff, but probably 60% too much for work, 20% not right for my department’s preferences, and 20% would be fine in smaller doses.

      1. JSPA*

        Oof. that’s a lot of, “not right in any workspace.”

        Though, talking about looking for other jobs, at work, isn’t an automatic no-no in all workplaces.

        Especially if it’s mostly peers…sounds like it is, except for you (???)

        But really, more generally if she feels like a square peg, and nobody’s able to make a square hole for her there (which is not your job! And not your chat’s job!) then it’s reasonable for her to reach out to her network, to network…and, well, sounds like the people in the chat pretty much are her network…so it’s not ridiculous to let them know she’d be interested, if they know of something.

        Your workplace may want to keep her in the abstract, but if the actual employee is miserable, they can’t hold on to her by force. If they want her specific flavor of diversity, they have to provide a climate where she can thrive.

        Otherwise, it’s like deciding you want to plant sunflowers in pots in your shady concrete side yard, because the shade needs more zing. (The outcome isn’t zing. It’s wretched, stunted, non-blooming sunflowers.)

  18. JSPA*

    LW2, I don’t know what it would do to YOU to disclose, or to have disclosed. But it’s not all-or-none.

    From THEIR point of view, as Alison says, it would be helpful for them to know exactly what they need to know- – which (with any luck) will not include most of the details from the past, but your needs in the present.

    And work on an accommodations list with your therapist!

    “Due to long-term childhood trauma not suitable for workplace discussion, my therapist suggests I’d do better with the following minor accommodations. In addition, and most importantly, can you tell me what procedures you have, that we can use, to prevent either of my parents from tracking me here or contacting me?”

    It’s not fair that many people still default, when hearing “PTSD,” to thinking post combat trauma, then jumping from that to, “this person could be violent in the context of a flashback.”

    It’s an awkward aspect of human psychology and biology, that talking about your specific (literally) visceral responses may make others queasy in sympathy.

    So I’d leave that out, at least for starters. (They can connect the dots on their own time.)

    Resist the urge to paint them a picture of how bad it is to get them to agree; allow them the chance to gracefully do what you ask on the basis of your say-so, and perhaps a letter from your therapist listing potentially useful accommodations.

    “Collaborate on keeping me safe, and support me in continuing to cope, and to cope more comfortably” is a good tone to strive for.

  19. JSPA*

    LW4: it may be impossible to give individual updates or directly contact, but it’s dead normal for there to be a seminar schedule that specifies which seminars are from job candidates.

    They should already know this, but…sure, tell them that they can keep an eye on the seminar calendar, and that (barring unexpected funding cuts) deliberations normally start X weeks after the final job seminar, and last for Y weeks, at minimum.

    And then be proactive about listing the job candidate seminars that are “upcoming/ not yet scheduled” or “canceled, to be rescheduled.”

  20. MissMeghan*

    LW5, to be honest your boss may not have even thought about the lunch hour or assumes you’ll just take it around the meetings (this is super common for my office, since we have many people in different time zones). It’s totally fine to say, “Thanks for including me in the vendor meetings, I really enjoy getting to meet them face to face! Do you have a preference on when I take my lunch hour when we have noon meetings?”

    I think it can vary a ton from office to office, but some places wouldn’t care at all if you worked through lunch and took off an hour early while in others that is just not done.

    1. Vanellope*

      This was my thought too, the boss is likely salaried so he doesn’t have the same implications around lunch breaks, it’s a completely different mindset. It may be that he just needs a nudge and will let OP reschedule her lunch; I feel that is more likely than expecting her to work unpaid.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes and if he’s used to salaried reports he may not think it through either. I was the only non-exempt employee in my department at a previous job and my boss always forgot my over time needed special approval.

      2. Antilles*

        Yeah, that’s where I land too.
        Boss shifts his own lunch hour as needed and just naturally assumed OP was doing the same. No malice, no intentional expectation of skipping lunch, just that he’s so used to shifting his breaks as needed that it never really occurred to him to tell OP “feel free to move your lunch hour to before/after the vendor meeting”.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Nah, if it did anything, it would just mean that OP doesn’t get invites to these meetings, which they appear to want.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes, I’ve had an employer who wanted lunch meetings to be unpaid, but most of my employers always let us have a break after those types of meetings. One would let us take the break even if the “meeting” had been something entirely frivolous or fun, like a nice catered meal and live music – there was no work, we just talked amongst ourselves for an hour and then took another break to do whatever we wanted!

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Was just getting on here to say this: I bet it didn’t even occur to the boss, who is probably salaried, that this was time off the clock for the LW.

      When my office does stuff like this, we hourly people just get a free hour either before or after the lunch event, or can leave early if there aren’t any patrons. We are absolutely not expected to work off the clock.

    4. Susan*

      When I become an executive assistant, my boss had never had an assistant before, so I kind of “trained” him. He is salaried of course, but I am not and had to explain things to him about how my role worked, including my lunch is unpaid and I have to clock out, so I can’t do work during it and if you want me to attend lunch meetings, it has to be on the clock and paid time.
      It’s very possible that he is just clueless or oblivious to it. You should definite speak to him.

    5. doreen*

      To be fair, the boss may not have thought abought the LW’s lunch because it didn’t need to be thought about. The LW sounds like they think they have a rigidly scheduled lunch hour – “The problem is that these meetings would happen during my one-hour unpaid lunch.” But not all jobs are like that – I never had a job where lunch breaks were scheduled that rigidly. There were some rules , such as you couldn’t take your “lunch” first thing in the morning and come in late or at the end of the day and leave early (because then it wouldn’t meet the legal requirement of a “break” ) and certain days/situations where it was rigid , for example everyone in an all-day training had to take lunch at the same time. But for the most part , no one would think to tell someone who was invited to a meeting at noon that they could take their lunch earlier or later in an environment where everyone ( exempt or not) takes lunch when it suits them.

  21. DJ Abbott*

    #2, if you decide to tell your managers about your PTSD I think it would be good to mention it’s family stuff so they don’t wonder and imagine it’s other things. I’m sure they’re too polite to imagine, but sometimes the mind does that on its own. Also it might be less prone to judgment because everyone has bad family members.
    I also have PTSD from abusive family and I’m glad you’re getting help while you’re young. Hang in there, it does get better! :)

  22. Taking care of myself, ODAT*

    Complicated PTSD due to childhood trauma and more (911 survivor) Triggers include sirens, alarms, sudden noises, raised voices, fireworks…balloons are evil.
    Yes, it can take years to deal with this stuff and…
    so tell to who you need to- that might be making sure your information is private, no public facing stuff and that HR and staff knows that your information is never disclosed.
    “due to complicated family issues.” I have never gone into detail nor will I.
    Also like any mental health diagnosis, it can be misunderstood or casually denigrated. Know your audience, keep yourself safe.

    I once punched a dean who came up behind me suddenly after summer break to “give me a hug from behind” whoops.
    My fight or flight reaction is hair-trigger still. Sometimes I have to recognize that I need to “go home and take the rest of the day out sick”
    That said, after ten years in this position, my supervisor knows (but I am not sure that since saying something to her that she even remembers) that if an alarm goes off in the building, I am gone and will be back tomorrow.
    I have communicated to peers that no one should come up from behind me without announcing themselves. (my desk faces the door) and no surprises.
    I have emergency anti-anxiety meds on me at all times.
    Sometimes I have to physically remove myself and go take a walk.
    I use a breathing app on my watch.
    I am still in therapy as needed.

    1. High Score!*

      The dean who tried to hug you from behind without getting consent first got what he deserved. Don’t feel guilty. I despise hugs from people who are not in my immediate family. People who sneak up on you and hug you need to learn to not do that.
      Sending good vibes your way – take care!

      1. Taking care of myself*

        In his defense-
        It was a very progressive “touchy-feely” school. Hugging was the norm.
        This was over 25 years ago. (I’m not sure I would have known what “consent” was then)
        He was super sorry.
        He wasn’t sneaking up on me (he thought I had heard him say welcome back, it was a noisy hallway)

    2. Chirpy*

      I have hit both coworkers and customers for grabbing me from behind, it’s 100% a defense mechanism and I don’t understand why people think it’s ok to just grab people unannounced (when it’s not an emergency, definitely ok to grab someone if they’re in danger).

  23. WellRed*

    OP 5. In addition to clarifying how to handle your lunch because your boss likely hasn’t even thought of it, don’t assume meeting vendors isn’t helpful to your role — or to you — in some way. It may not impact the work you do this week, but who’s to say you won’t build a connection or two for the future.

  24. For the PTSD OP*

    Fellow severe PTSD from former abuse sufferer here! Personally, I have had zero success by disclosing PTSD in professional environments and 100% success framing my symptoms as “a chronic ongoing medical issue I am receiving treatment for.” If I name it as PTSD, I’m fired or ostracized or have people go out of their way to harass me once they know what my triggers are (illegal, yeah, but reporting it did nothing and not economically feasible to hire a lawyer.) With the chronic ongoing medical issue, there seems to be more neutrality. After all, who wants to give much thought as to why you are vomiting into a trash can? Vomiting is unpleasant. That seems to be a thing people can relate to without blaming the victim. (Similarly, I have to reframe my triggers. Not “I can’t hear about shootings” but “The news is so stressful these days– can we switch the TV to something else?)

    It shouldn’t have to be this way, but there you are.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      When disclosing personal information, start out broad and vague. Give more specific information only if/when you have to. If your manager is any good, you really shouldn’t have to say more than “I have a medical issue and this is what I need.” You never know how someone will react and it’s not worth the risk. People react strangely to labels so avoid them where possible.

      Follow the same guideline for disclosing something such as “My family members might try to contact me and I can’t have that.” Details are not necessary and I can tell you that I have heard something like that more than once. It can be sadly common and there are ways to protect the employee while keeping things private.

    2. cleo*

      Fellow trauma survivor here and I was going to say something similar – I have never disclosed that I have PTSD in a work setting – instead I talk about specific things that I need and I frame it using language that most people use – stress and anxiety mostly.

    3. RC Rascal*

      I also have a PTSD diagnosis and was treated badly by disclosing it. I was treated like I had a hair trigger & would explode at any time , and also that i couldn’t handle responsibility because I might explode and that would be inconvenient for everyone.

      Had to leave that job & all those people. Don’t disclose.

  25. Retired (but not really)*

    Re the vendor meetings over the lunch hour. Do these not include lunch? Whenever I’ve experienced them it was a matter of the vendor treating my boss and/or me to lunch at a local restaurant. Those usually happened only two or three times a year. Basically when we were due to negotiate the next contract with that particular vendor. This was a small business so things might be done differently with a larger company. If it was a large group meeting with other affiliates the lunch was catered by the facility where the meeting was held. Of course all of this was also in the before times when sales reps came by our location in person.

    1. Aurelia*

      Whether or not OP gets to eat, she’s still entitled to an actual break. Free food doesn’t negate the need to pay her for working time.

      1. High Score!*

        If I go out to lunch with my coworkers, that is lunch. Her manager may be inviting her along with that kind of a lunch in mind – a lunch with coworkers and the bonus of it being paid for. It could be a courtesy invite and not mandatory.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          But the lunch is with vendors not with coworkers, so there is an element of work being done. Even if it’s just a meet and greet type of thing it’s still work and therefore she should be paid and have her break earlier/ later.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It doesn’t matter–it’s still time that she’s supposed to get an unpaid break. Some places are strict about overtime so she might have to make up that hour somewhere else, but if they can’t let her leave or come in early, she’s stuck.

      1. High Score!*

        If it’s completely optional then it is considered her break. Sometimes I take my lunch break to eat with my coworkers or vendors will offer to take us out for lunch. It’s completely optional and it is our lunch break. If you choose to spend your time with people you work with then it’s your unpaid break.
        IF it is required then it should be paid.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This really, really, depends on the dynamics. A lot of times when your boss invites you to something it’s not as optional as it looks–maybe it is, but maybe he’s thinking you should know these people because you’ll be interacting with them, too, in which case it’s optional, but kinda not.

          1. Pwandleland*

            Hey, #5 here. This is basically my situation. I feel like I’m eventually going to be expected to go to these lunches with vendors even though so far they’ve been optional while I’m still relatively new. I really have no interest in these lunches other than not looking like a bad employee, and it would still feel like work to me.

        2. Generic Name*

          I agree that going to lunch with coworkers socially is considered a break, going to lunch with a vendor is still work, and needs to be paid regardless. Even if the vendor buys lunch.

    3. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It doesn’t matter that she was fed, A lunch break doesn’t mean someone has to eat. Its a break from work. heck, some states have really strict laws that you have to take a break after X hours of work. So the OP needs to 1. look into the laws of her state. 2. Talk to her boss and remind her that even if shes fed this is a work meeting so she needs to be paid and take her break at another time.

  26. Academic Glass Half Full*

    I came to academia from academy adjacent and was flabbergasted by what was considered a typical timeline.
    Application in January.
    First job interview with prospective supervisor May 5. (five day notice)
    Second job interview with hiring committee. June 15. (five day notice)
    Mid July invitation by email for campus visit and job talk first week in August.
    Two days of interviews and job talk first week in August.
    Three weeks- crickets.
    Job offer last week in August.
    Yep- January to August.
    Now on the other side- try getting the calendars of 5 committee members, one director, hr director, and a dean to sink for interviews, meetings, etc.
    Turns out this timeline is typical for tenure track positions and NOTHING is going to move it faster and due to HR stuff there is NO communication with candidates.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Did the semester not start until September?? All my postings have been mid-August start dates, but even if that one had a September start, that’s *ludicrously* short turn around for syllabi/class prep.

      1. pie*

        I was thinking it was a second semester start date. I see those pretty frequently anymore. If not…dafuq

      2. Jerusha*

        In my current department, our last few hires have not had any teaching responsibilities in their first year after hire, to give them time to get their lab and research program up and running. So a late August 2022 start is fine if your first class doesn’t start until September 2023. (I completely agree with it being completely ridiculous if they’re expected to teach September 2022, and moderately silly if they’re supposed to teach later in Academic Year 2022-23.)

    2. Pippa K*

      Ours, roughly: job ad posted late summer. Applications due by October 1, interviews late November/early December, offer extended to first choice mid December, hiring letter signed January, position starts late the following August. We’re in North America at a non-unionised institution.

      Our ads attract anywhere from 80-200 applicants, and their application packets are lengthy, so it’s not just review of a cv to come up with the list of interviewees. That’s mostly why it takes so long. We used to let people who didn’t make the interview list know that, but I think in our last search HR said not to notify anyone until the position was filled.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I’ve been on the market (now thankfully off) for ten years, and I’ll freely admit: I don’t get why the applications ask for so much so soon. With 200 applicants, wouldn’t it make sense to ask for CV/cover letter, do a scan to make sure they have the relevant qualifications and specialty areas, and then ask the long-list for writing samples, teaching/research statements, and diversity statements, and THEN on the basis of those ask for LORs? Go from 200 to 10 *quickly* and from 10 to 3 on a more leisurely basis, and if necessary you can still go back to the original candidate pool if you need to.

        1. chargewiggle*

          I’ve been on a couple of these search committees recently. The problem is, from a field of ~200 candidates, we’ll typically get ~100 that look strong enough from a CV and cover letter that we need the detailed materials to make a decision on 10-15 for a first-round interview. Also, the vast majority of the applicants are applying to a large number of jobs in the field (at least 10, sometimes 50-100) that require the same materials with very little customization to the individual university. So adding an initial screening step wouldn’t actually save much time for the candidates, and would probably make the total search process take a few weeks longer while we wait to get the detailed materials from the top half of our candidates

          1. Pippa K*

            Yep, this.

            Also, I suspect that if people only had to send a cv and cover letter, we’d get even more applications than we currently do. Functionally, that’s not manageable on our end. But really so much of the process is, as Pie suggests above, the legacy of how things used to be done, which may have worked better when they were being done on a smaller scale. In my whole career (insert Titanic gif, “it’s been 87 years”), the only real change I’ve seen in the hiring process is that we can now do first-round interviews by zoom. In the olden times, they either weren’t done or were done by one person via telephone.

            As always in academia, sometimes it’s callousness, sometimes it’s inertia, and sometimes it’s both.

    3. Academic glass half full*

      yes. they wanted me to start right away with teaching responsibilities beginning in the winter semester.
      I did a job share on old job until October then started in November.

  27. Anonymous for this*

    LW#2 – you are not alone.

    I recently started a new job, and after working for my abusive parents for a number of years, I have a ton of habits that I am trying to break myself of while working on my PTSD in a new job where people don’t treat me badly.

    It’s okay. You’re okay.

    You may decide you need to tell your employer, but I want to point out to you how wonderful it is that you are finally in a place where that’s a realistic thing to do without fear.

    Good luck.

  28. toolittletoolate*

    re :PTSD. The less you share about “why’ you have it, the better. Basically, you have been diagnosed with PTSD, a chronic medical condition that you need to make them aware of. Your neurological system gets overloaded in certain situations. It can flare up occasionally and cause you to become sick at your stomach, or hyperventilate, or however else it presents for you. You are in active treatment and want your supervisors to know that you might have to excuse yourself in certain situations, or avoid them altogether if you know they are happening.

    Go through the proper channels and stick to the symptoms that sometimes show up, and the things you need to avoid. It’s no different than many other types of medical conditions that need certain accommodations. We have someone who needs low light in her office due to an eye problem, and someone else who needs a perfume/odor free environment as much as possible.

    When you start getting into the ‘why’ (child abuse, other traumatic events) you open yourself up to unwanted questions, advice, judgment, whatever. It doesn’t matter how it happened, what matters at work is what kind of accommodations you need so you can show up as your best self.

  29. Snoflinga*

    Last week I disclosed my PTSD diagnosis to my boss after I was noticed having a panic attack at work. I have been here for a year and really love it, and my symptoms are typically mild – last week was an exception.

    The following day I heard her on a call with my grandboss laughing about it and how dramatic I am. I’m devastated since I really trusted both of them.

    Always be aware that disclosure might not turn out how you want.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I am so sorry that your trust was broken.

      Hugs and your favorite beverage of comfort to you and all others in similar spots.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This breaks my heart I’m so sorry. For what it’s worth, they’re jerks and you’re valid.

      1. ferrina*

        Seconded. PTSD is a serious health condition, and folks that laugh about it are jerks. You did everything right, and you deserve better.

    3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      If you have a good HR department, this is the sort of thing to confront the two of them, and report them over… but I know how hard that can be to do.

      I’m sorry.

    4. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      I hope your boss and grandboss step barefoot on LEGO bricks every day of their lives.

      (What I WANT to say of them is far less nice, but also not allowed on this forum. I have zero patience for people whose awful attitudes make it harder for those with mental afflictions to receive the help they need and deserve.)

    5. Sylvan*

      I’m so sorry.

      I disclosed an anxiety disorder and was immediately put on a PIP. Definitely not going to talk about PTSD or any other mental health issue ever again. As far as my boss knows, I just have an anxiety disorder that I never talked about again.

    6. JSPA*

      Only you were there, of course!

      But it’s so common for people to cover discomfort (or unfamiliarity) with laughter, at least at first, as they get their heads around an unanticipated situation. (Or even an anticipated one; think of people who burst into laughter, rather than tears, at a funeral.) Or for people to hear a disclosure, and think, “but this person is so together, they can’t really mean it literally, they must be using it as a really elaborate and dramatic figure of speech.”

      Separately, the way an action looks from the outside (“suppressed” or “dramatic” or whatever else) is independent from what’s triggering it on the inside.

      I’m not saying “they’re laughing with you, not at you,” as that’s clearly not the case.

      But people absolutely can laugh at incongruity (whether in style or substance or expectations vs reality) while still feeling sympathy. And they can take a message seriously, while also finding the delivery, well, quirky, or unexpected, or (yes) dramatic. Or they can refuse to hear a fact as a fact, because for them, it does not compute that someone “like you” (whatever that means!) can have PTSD.

      Regardless, the real question is whether they’ll be supportive in practical ways.

      If it turns out they are actively supportive of your core needs and accommodations…maybe you can give them a pass to laugh at your dramatic flair, whether or not you intend to have dramatic flair? Or for responding to the messiness of life, not as something expected, but as “drama”? Or for hearing your direct statement as something that must be a joke, because how could it be true?

      Thing is, people find each other quirky. We all react differently. We (mis) communicate in what’s theoretically the same language, yet using the same words to very different ends. That’s practically the definition of being human in society.

      As a result, “I need for no-one to ever find me funny when I’m being deeply serious” isn’t something any of us can demand. But it is a reason to circle back for mutual clarification (ideally equipped with a letter from your therapist, about accommodations–even if it’s very small stuff, having a joint task really helps people get back into the swing of “working together to fix problems.”)

      Ask them to clarify that they don’t find your mental health issues silly. Clarify that when you referenced “PTSD” that was disclosure of a clinical diagnosis, not a dramatic turn of phrase.

      Now, if they fully hear what you’re saying, see documentation that you need accomodations, and then don’t support you on the necessities…that’s a whole different situation. But give them a chance to rise to the occasion, albeit more slowly than they should have.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        This comment is so grossly tone-deaf and ridiculously patronizing to Snoflinga. Ask yourself why you’re so quick to jump to the defense of the people being awful–not even in the moment, which is not great but forgivable (we all can react poorly at surprise news in the moment), but the next day? After the person Snoflinga told had plenty of time to realize that, hey, this is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously in the workplace, not something to call my boss and laugh about? And why should Snoflinga, the victim and sufferer of a serious trauma-related condition, extend more grace to them than they’re extending to Snoflinga? NOT a fantastic hill for you to be dying on.

        Even if the boss and grandboss ultimately step up and do the right thing by Snoflinga, their behavior here was out of line. Knowing you work for people who unapologetically mock your trauma is demoralizing. It erodes trust and goodwill. It will take a lot of good works and signs of positive change on their part to move past that.

    7. Bubba*

      I am so sorry you went through this. I have also experienced panic attacks at work and unfortunately, also had supervisors who dismissed them as “drama”. It can be devastating to get a less than understanding reaction from someone we thought we could trust. Please know, you are not alone, there are many of us out there who, though our specific circumstances may be unique, do understand what you are going through! Wishing you all the best!

  30. Anon for this*

    Wish I’d known about number 5 while I was still with one of my previous employers!

    They tried to make me attend an unpaid meeting once and I found info that showed them it would be illegal to require me to attend a meeting and not pay me.
    They paid me and they didn’t try that again (it was a client meeting).

    But after that they would sometimes schedule meetings that were important discussions about the direction of the company and they would be before business hours, unpaid, and optional.

    I emailed the owner and told him that while I was sure it wasn’t his intention, it came off as them trying to force us to work for free, by making the meeting something important that would impact our jobs.

    He replied, “Well, I guess I am”

    And I attended none of those meetings.

    1. Observer*

      I emailed the owner and told him that while I was sure it wasn’t his intention, it came off as them trying to force us to work for free, by making the meeting something important that would impact our jobs.

      He replied, “Well, I guess I am”

      So a jerk and stupid as well.

      One of these days it will come back to bite him.

      Anyone who gets an email like that should make sure they have a copy of it someplace safe so they can pull it out when they have had enough and want to go to the DOL or the like. I mean, talk about smoking guns!

    2. JustaTech*

      Ugh, I hate people who weaponize weird meeting times.
      Yours is way worse, but I had an internal group in another time zone decide that they didn’t want my group’s input (which they were required to have and really needed), so they set all their meetings at 9am their time, 6am our time, with the assumption that we wouldn’t call in that early.
      Too bad for them they pissed off my boss who would just call in from bed (no video).

  31. Op#1*

    Thanks so much to Alison for answering my question!! I did just want to clarify-we are trying to fix that the other department is 100% male, not that they are introverted. I included this information to explain why I invited Jane to our huddles as she was not getting the social interaction from other, closer departments.

  32. Michelle Smith*

    LW 5: If you’re receiving these invitations via Outlook or Google Calendar, I strongly recommend also putting a lunch hour on your calendar, so people don’t assume that time is just empty. Alison’s advice is all correct and you should take it without hesitation, but I’ve found it is a good way to prevent meetings from being scheduled at times I should be on break and it’s also a good way to remind yourself to find another uninterrupted hour that day to have for your lunch. If you can’t fit that block in anywhere else around normal lunch times (don’t make yourself take lunch at like 10 am just because that’s the only free block), that’s when you ask the boss about what to prioritize so you can both attend the meeting and also take a full lunch.

    1. Ama*

      I’d definitely recommend this — this might actually be enough to solve the problem. However, if OP is non-exempt it might not be a bad idea to remind your boss “because I’m non-exempt, I can’t work during lunch, so I’m going to block that off on my calendar from now on.”

      A few years back I managed one of only two non-exempt employees in our office and my boss was always trying to pull us into meetings during her lunch hour (which couldn’t shift at all because my employee was also the backup receptionist during the receptionist’s lunch hour). I just had to keep politely reminding her “if Jane needs to be there, we have to do it outside of these two hours.” A couple of times she insisted on a meeting over lunch (usually if we had an outside person attending that couldn’t do any other time) and I would just say “okay, as you remember Jane is non-exempt, are we paying her overtime or letting her leave early today?”

      It sucks for OP that her own boss can’t seem to remember this but some people who are exempt themselves and work primarily with people who are exempt have a hard time remembering how the rules change for those who are not.

  33. DiscoCat*

    #3 I’d assume that a manager is an extension of the employer for day to day stuff and also strategic issues, and therefore commitments made by one manager need to be honoured by the successor…

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      That’s really not true, though. We don’t even know if the first manager had buy-in from the company in the promises being made. The new manager should have the opportunity to assess the situation and then make decisions based on her instincts.

    2. Clisby*

      As far as I know, nothing requires the manager who made the commitments to honor them – much less a subsequent manager. (Assuming this was not a situation where the commitments were included in a contract.)

  34. PTSD, too!*

    LW2: You are not alone! I was diagnosed with PTSD, and decided to disclose it to my workplace when the stress of hiding my symptoms was greater than any negative aspects of disclosing. PTSD has a lot of stigma, and one benefit of disclosing is that more people are aware of colleagues and more affected by PTSD. A few things to consider:
    -Most people aren’t educated about PTSD. Could you, or manager/HR, do a training about PTSD? This could be a training or even an email. When sharing a PTSD diagnosis, the natural follow up question from well-meaning but misguided people are “well, what’s your trauma?” I think this stems from the assumption that PTSD is a “veterans, only” diagnosis. When I shared my diagnosis, I was quick to say “while I’m opening up about my diagnosis, I do not welcome follow up questions about what my trauma is. It’s important to know that I have mental health support and a trusted few who know my trauma”.
    -My mental health shifted dramatically when I sought accommodations. When I was place-based, I began working in a quieter office setting, door closed. When I switched to working remotely, most of my workplace triggers went away entirely. If making adjustments to your environment helps in any way, pursue that!
    -Ask your manager about flexible work hours, and when you’re triggered, it’s ok to use PTO/ sick leave. When I’m triggered, I’m not productive. It’s better for me to take care of myself rather than fight through symptoms. In the moments you’re triggered, step away from work if able to ground your nervous system, sleep, and do whatever else you’re working on in therapy. Kindly remember that you’re a human first, and employee second. And as a fellow trigger vomiter, you have my deepest sympathy.

    Above all, care for yourself. You are strong, and we’re all cheering you on as you pursue healing and peace.

    1. cleo*

      Thank you for this comment! I also have PTSD and I had a pretty visceral “NO! Don’t tell them to disclose” when I read Alison’s advice. Because I’ve never wanted to deal with all of the educating and pushing back on people’s assumptions at work.

      But sometimes it is worth disclosing, as you say.

      For the LW, I’d start with asking for help managing specific symptoms and depending on how that goes, decide if disclosing PTSD feels right. You can say that you’re very sensitive to loud noises without saying why.

    2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      I think this stems from the assumption that PTSD is a “veterans, only” diagnosis.

      ARRRRGH. As someone with C-PTSD who’s never been in the military, let alone an active warzone, I get so frustrated at all the people who still insist that PTSD can only come from war trauma. PTSD kills people who don’t feel like they can get treated for their trauma because they’re not veterans! I come down hard (but not in a mean way) on people when they start in with, “Well, you’re not military, so it can’t be something serious like PTSD that’s wrong with you….” We need to destroy this false perception of how PTSD is acquired in order to save lives. (But PTSD sufferers also shouldn’t feel like it’s always their responsibility to do so, especially in the workplace. We’ve got plenty going on in our personal spheres already.)

      ….Can someone help me down off this soapbox? I keep knocking over the ladder, and I am very smol. :(

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’ve known military people with PTSD, and never military people with PTSD. Trauma can cause it in even the most mundane environments. You can even end up with PTSD from an abusive work environment.

        I second your soapbox about educating people about this very common problem.

        But let me help you down from that wobbly thing… ;)

  35. Queen Ruby*

    LW2 – I can empathize as someone with some trauma (and mental health issues too). If I were your manager, I would want you to understand that you can feel totally safe telling me as much or as little as you want, and I will do whatever I can to keep things at work from interfering with your progress, and give you any accommodations you might want. So many people have had PTSD, mental health, etc ignored/kept a secret because of stigma and when I opened up about my own struggles, I was shocked by the number of people who had similar stories and were supportive. I’ve found those who promote a work/life balance by their actions, not just their words, genuinely prioritize it.
    So, all that said, it sounds like your managers would be supportive if you were to open up to them (as much as you’re comfortable with). I’ve opened up to most of my managers (except the ones who were total a-holes) in the past, to varying degrees, and they were all understanding. I think filling yours in on some of what you’re dealing with would likely be beneficial to you. We spend so much of our time at work; it’s easy to reverse or slow your progress in therapy if you’re still feeling the effects of the trauma so acutely throughout the workday.
    I wish you all the good healing vibes I’ve got! Your self-awareness and willingness to do the work in therapy is impressive and bodes well for your future!

  36. LCH*

    #1, i guess i would also make clear it’s ok to talk about salary at work. it just sounds like the way Jane is doing it is.. not good? demeaning to the others?

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      it sounds like she is complaining about her personal financial issues which may not be appropriate for these coworkers since they make less than her. She is on a different team and has different role than the others so it makes sense she has a higher salary but if your having problems (despite being higher paid) and are complaining about it at work (to lower paid coworkers) it doesnt come across very good.

    2. Op#1*

      My company is pretty transparent around salary. Each job description is available to anyone, and includes a rating of 9-20, each of which corresponds to a specific pay range. Anyone who wants to know what their coworkers make can pin-point it to about a 10k range, and then estimate from there based on tenure/experience. It is just really uncomfortable when Jane is complaining about being broke when her job is 2 levels above some of my staff.

      1. Observer*

        I can imagine. And given how much information is available about pay, it’s even worse. Because it’s not something that she has no way to know.

      2. Lady Kelvin*

        Yeah, its like an acquaintance of mine complaining that she did her budget for the next year and couldn’t get it below 250K (for a family of 4 where both parents work) to a group of people who made 40K a year. Like sure, you can’t survive on less than 6 times what the rest of us (with families) were making…

        1. Observer*

          That reminds me a a production of Persuasion I was watching recently. It was one of the earlier scenes where Lady Russel and the lawyer were presenting a plan that would enable the Baronet to start paying his bills and even make a start of paying his debts. And he gets all on his high horse – 1 team of horses and not 2? 2 horses rather than four? INSUPPORTABLE! How could they be expected to LIVE like that!

  37. Really?*

    For LW2 – First of all, I am so sorry that you had these experiences. I am in a similar situation / background. If you have not already tried this, I wanted to offer that EMDR therapy has been a breakthrough for me. You might ask your mental health professional if they are certified to do this, and if not, perhaps supplement your sessions with someone who is certified . Best of luck!

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you so much! I actually very recently started EMDR therapy and it has been truly transformative. After only a few sessions it’s already working. Best wishes!

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        EMDR made 90% of the positive difference for me! (The other 10% was finding a medication that worked for me. The medication wouldn’t have worked at all without the EMDR, while the EMDR wouldn’t have been *quite* as effective without medication. :)

      2. cleo*

        I’m so glad to hear this!

        Finding good, trauma informed therapies and therapists was transformative for me too. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. Over the years I’ve also had success with trauma informed art therapy, IFS (internal family systems) and most recently CRM (Comprehensive Resource Model).

        Best of luck to you and congrats on your healing!

  38. BellyButton*

    PTSD is listed as a disability. I didn’t mention it to my bosses when I was having a PTSD episode a few years ago. Thankfully, I was working from home and able to keep it hidden from work (at least I think I did), which doesn’t help with the anxiety and stress.
    I wonder if disclosing it as a disability directly to HR helps protect the employee. Does anyone have direct knowledge or experience with this?

    1. Risha*

      I disclosed my PTSD/depression/anxiety at work to both HR and my direct supervisor at my last job because I needed specific accommodations. I had to get an official request for accommodations from my doctor and give it to HR.

      I did get the accommodations I needed and legally you’re protected from discrimination/poor treatment. But my experience with my boss was not good. She took it as a personal insult against her. She stopped giving me opportunities that would help me advance. She stopped my career development. She would discuss my accommodations with others included on the email and got pissy when I told her to knock it off. She started watching the tracker that was on our work computers and would ask me to explain anytime I went to a nonwork site, despite the fact everyone did things like that when work was slow. She would IM me and see how long it took me to respond. These things are hard to prove as discrimination because they’re so subtle and she would deny treating me different. I had to quit and find a better place to work.

      The point of my story is to tell you that unless you absolutely need an official accommodation at work, keep it to yourself. In reality, you’re not as protected as you may think you are. Managers can and will treat you differently and unfortunately mental health is still stigmatized. If you do request accommodations, take note of anything your manager starts doing differently to you that makes you feel targeted.

    2. Elle Kay*

      Indeed. It is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

      I have sought ADA covered accommodations in two different jobs due to PTSD, and was successful in doing so. However, in one case, the people reviewing the request were part of a VERY large organization (Fortune 100) and they were somewhat firewalled group who didn’t know or work with me personally. In the other, it was the HR team working with a third party entity to assess the need for accommodation, which was somewhat more awkward, but the only information passed to the managers in this circumstance were the accepted accommodations that needed to be followed.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    If I understand it, Jane’s the only woman in this entire department? Maybe that’s part of why everyone is suddenly uncomfortable? Though I may be misreading because I can’t picture the whole group of guys wanting to only talk pets and gardening…

    1. Generic Name*

      I think the situation is that Jane’s current group is (introverted) men, and LW invitee Jane to their group (which is presumably mixed-gender and not as introverted) huddle so Jane could get some social time. And Jane has misinterpreted the group as “these are now my closest confidants” rather than “coworkers I engage in light banter with”.

      1. OP #1*

        Yes, that is exactly correct. We are mixed gender, Jane’s closer department is all men. When Jane was newer, everything was appropriate, but now that she has been here a year, she is more comfortable with us and lost her sense of boundaries, I guess?

    2. Myrin*

      No, Jane is the only woman in/adjacent to “the other departments” headed by Tim; OP’s team is mixed gender.

  40. kiki*

    LW#5: I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that bosses don’t actually keep track of/remember/actively consider everything about their employees. When a conflict like this arises, it’s almost always best to remind boss of your lunch and ask how they’d like you to handle the meeting invites. It’s possible that boss is salaried and forgets that as an hourly employee, your lunches are non-negotiable. It’s also totally possible boss is just throwing your name on the invite in case you’re interested, but not expecting you to move anything to go. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out the conflict and asking what the best way forward is– good bosses don’t expect you to be a mind reader!

    1. JustaTech*

      Yes to this!
      I’ve been salaried for so long I forget that some of the folks at my company are hourly and I need to remember their breaks and lunches when I’m scheduling stuff with them.
      (Though to be honest I love that I have a reason to schedule breaks when we have multi-day on-site trainings because otherwise those can just go on and on until your brain is mush.)

  41. Risha*

    LW2, from one child abuse survivor to another…you should be so proud of yourself that you have the resilience and mental strength to get past the abuse. Child abuse can affect you in so many ways as an adult so congrats to you for working on it.

    Most important-do not tell anyone where you work at, unless it’s someone you trust with your life. So called friends can and will tell your parents where you are/your contact into/address/etc because abusers have a way of making themselves look like the poor victims and you were the bad person who cut them off for no reason. If you already told people where you work, next time you talk to them tell them you now work somewhere else. If you have any friends that you even have a hint of suspicion that they speak to your parents, cut them off immediately. If you speak to any other family members, unless you know for 100% fact they are on your side, cut them off too. Consider changing your last name if you haven’t already done so. It’s not that expensive and just a one day court appearance.

    Next, give a watered down version to your boss. Let them know you have an abusive family that will contact your job if they find out where you are. Don’t get into many details, even if they ask. Let your boss and HR know they are to only speak to your emergency contact (if you have one). They are not to confirm you work there to anyone else. Also let them know if you need any accommodations (quiet area, wearing headphones, etc). Be prepared to get an official request for accommodations from your doctor before your job will implement anything.

    Finally, be careful with disclosing mental health issues at work. I know from personal experience that even tho a boss may say they support mental health, in reality it’s often very different. Hugs to you and I wish you healing and peace.

    1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      Most important-do not tell anyone where you work at, unless it’s someone you trust with your life. So called friends can and will tell your parents where you are/your contact into/address/etc because abusers have a way of making themselves look like the poor victims and you were the bad person who cut them off for no reason.

      Oh, jeez, this is so important. Those of us who’ve dealt with abusers and stalkers generally already know not to give out our personal information no matter how many puppy dog-eyed guilt trips we get. But for those of you on the outside, always err on the side of privacy!

      I ended up being stalked by a very dangerous person for over half a decade because a “friend” listened to and felt sorry for him, decided I was being too hard on him by refusing to talk, and gave him my contact info. Which I’d already locked down in advance because I didn’t want him to contact me. Ever. That situation eventually involved death and sexual assault threats (from him), cops and judges and lawyers (all of the above making legal threats against me for insisting they do their damn jobs), and was only “resolved” when I moved across the country and left no forwarding info.

      And all of this could have been avoided if one person hadn’t decided it was her duty to “save” my nonexistent friendship with this guy. In her hubris, she was so convinced of how right she was that my safety never crossed her mind. We are not friends anymore.

  42. jpalm*

    LW2: I also have PTSD, and I’ve started disclosing it whenever I have a new boss. They’ve all been incredibly supportive and have offered to provide any accommodations I need (for me, that typically just means sitting out certain company activities that would be triggering). Wishing you all the best <3

  43. Beornthryth*

    As someone who’s been on the other side of academic hiring, a possible compromise would be for the department provides a general expected timeline for different stages because then I can go “nope didn’t hear from them by the expected date for X, so I presumably didn’t make that cut”. That, or if you’re in a field that has a job wiki for academic job search statuses, make sure there’s an entry for your job and that it’s getting updated.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      This- if you want to improve things, give people something to go by.

      I also couldn’t tell from the letter, but is there any reason someone who isn’t being moved forward (at least in early rounds, so there’s no chance you will actually decide to hire them later) can’t be told that at the time? That’s the biggest thing that jumped out at me. If final rejections aren’t sent the moment that’s known, that’s the first thing I would fix- but I can’t tell for sure if that’s the case from the letter, it wasn’t really clear how rejection is handled.

      If the rejections are already timely, and it’s just that candidates who are actually successful might think they were ghosted, then the sharing of a general expected timeline would be a great addition to Alison’s advice.

  44. Vicky Austin*

    What exactly is meant by a “huddle?” The only definition that I’m familiar with is the football one, and I certainly hope it’s not that because that would be awkward.

  45. OP #2*

    Hi all – I’m OP #2. Alison kindly also responded to my email privately with some extra info, and I thought I’d give an update. I followed her advice and let my supervisors know I’m dealing with PTSD due to complicated family issues. They were extremely understanding and immediately asked how they could help. I was given carte blanche to work from home full time if I want to (or whenever I want to) or get a private office with a closed door to muffle sound, set up with HR and FMLA and was encouraged to use it whenever I need it, and security and front desk staff were given a quiet heads up about screening calls and visitors for me. I didn’t disclose much information beyond that and wasn’t asked to. Other than that, work has proceeded as normal!

    Thank you so much to everyone sending well wishes and letting me know I’m not alone. While it’s devastating to think so many of us have PTSD or similar experiences, it’s definitely healing to know there are others who understand! I appreciate the advice and think this is a huge step towards rebuilding my career.

    1. Sylvan*

      That’s such a good update, and I’m happy you’ve gotten a supportive response. Wishing you the best, OP.

    2. pie*

      Thank you so much for providing an update!! I am so glad to hear of your supportive office and hope your healing progresses well.

    3. Observer*

      I’m so glad that your managers and employer in general has been helpful!

      This stuff is rough so having your employer work with you is good to see.

    4. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      OP this makes me so happy for you. I also have PTSD and have debated with disclosing. I did disclose to my previous manager, but not my current one. I don’t think they told anyone because she was literally laid off the week after I shared. They had seen enough of the symptoms during a very stressful time and I think it helped put the pieces of the puzzle together.

  46. Junior Dev*

    OP 2 (the PTSD one): are you in therapy? Can you work with your therapist to brainstorm some accommodations and changes that would make your job easier? For example, if your desk is in an open area you may ask to have it moved somewhere quieter and lower-traffic, where your back is to the wall; you may want to watch presentations remotely as though you were working from home; you may want to work remotely or hybrid for a while; or you may want to wear noise canceling headphones. Some of these will be more or less feasible; some will be things you can do on your own without asking anyone, some you can ask for informally, and some may require a formal accommodation request. I bet if you take the time to talk through options you’ll find there are some things available to you. (I went through a similar process, I also have PTSD.)

  47. Nit*

    LW 2 are you me from 10 years ago??!! I am so sorry you experienced the childhood you did and so glad you cut contact. I had all of these same issues 100%, and it did take some time to get to a place in my career that I can confidently disclose and get the support I need. I also after many years have found a smattering of meds through an exceptional psychiatrist that help keep my symptoms in check. This last July was 2 years since my last flashback! I wanted to start off by saying that it does get better. Like way, way better, as long as you put the work in and advocate for yourself.

    When I first disclosed I was terrified of pushback, and while that initial team was not the most supportive focusing on the framing of “I have an intense medical condition that I will likely deal with for many years to come” was key. Because what you are dealing with IS medical. My manager knew my exact diagnosis because he had to sign off on FMLA paperwork, but he never told the rest of the team the specifics. You do not need to tell anyone more than is strictly necessary. When you are communicating this to management and HR, I would encourage you to use language like “disability”, and “accommodations”. If you are in the US, you are protected as PTSD is covered by the ADA, and using that language should clue management and certainly HR that you are protected. Document everything, if you feel even the slightest bit of pushback or judgement. They cannot legally punish or fire you for having a disability. I would also encourage you to take FMLA if that is possible in your situation. I used it to have one day a week, and later one day every other week off. Those were the days I scheduled doctors appointments or used as planned mental health days. They were unpaid, but I was able to make it work for a while and then scaled back as I didn’t rely on them as much.

    Definitely follow Alison’s advice about telling your manager(s) about your parents possibly trying to contact you. Mine was on strict “don’t confirm I work here” and the one time he tried to find me he got nowhere. This way he didn’t know where I worked because otherwise he would have tried to come in to my place of work to cause a scene.

    Eventually my career took me elsewhere and I was able to confidently tell my manager on day one about my disability and communicated the things I needed. Which for me was the flexibility of working from home and the chance to make my own hours if need be. I normally work 8 to 4, but on bad mental health days I will take a few hours in the afternoon to go nap and come back in the evening to finish up my work.

    I wish you luck on this tough journey, and my heart goes out to you and everything you have been through. We are better than our egg and sperm donors.

  48. M&M*

    LW2: The Job Accommodations Network website is an incredibly useful resource – there are suggestions for accommodations based on your symptoms or based by your diagnosis. There are suggestions on there for PTSD that I never would have thought to ask of myself, so I highly recommend it if you’ve never taken a look!

    And just a reminder that you’re not alone. :)

  49. Pyanfar*

    LW2: I had an employee disclose their PTSD to me (no idea their cause but some similar symptoms such as loud noises and startle response). I was so glad they told me and gave me the opportunity to adjust their work environment (quieter placement, no place for people to “sneak up behind”) and their assignments (supporting different people that were far less triggering). Please know that if you have a good boss/company they want to make it possible for you to contribute at your peak!

  50. Lady Kelvin*

    LW4: I work for the federal government and they won’t update applicants on their status until the new hire has started their job, which can be over a year after the posting closes. We warn people we know that are applying for a job that if they don’t hear about an interview within the first month, then assume they didn’t get through the selection process. Maybe you could have someone not making hiring decisions give some feedback on when you can expect to hear back if you’re moved forward instead of when you might hear back if you aren’t selected. Its basically the same information except if the timeframe passes you know you weren’t picked.

  51. Jasmine Clark*

    LW4, I’m so, so happy to see that you care about this issue. There are so many people who ghost job applicants and don’t care at all. Waiting to hear back from a job is such a long and painful process, especially when you have no idea what’s going on (you don’t know whether you’ve been rejected or are still being considered). So I hope more people will become like you and actually care about how job applicants feel.

  52. Rebel Teacher*

    LW w/PTSD… a suggestion is to schedule a meeting with both managers at the end of the day; I would anticipate that even if they are receptive and supportive, just discussing your situation will probably be super stressful and if it’s the end of the day, you can go home and hunker down rather than having to go back to your desk and working for 6 hours.

    Best of luck – I hope you are proud of how strong you are and how far you’ve come!

  53. HereKittyKitty*

    LW2, for what it’s worth, I work in a pretty old-school industry and also suffer from PTSD from rape/domestic violence. I also have agoraphobia as well and both of those feed into each other. Lots of anxiety barfing- unfortunately! I have disclosed to two managers and have been offered accommodations and flexibility and have not experienced anything negative. I would say trust your gut with your employer.

  54. cardigarden*

    OP4: What I do when I’m hiring (academia) is at each step (phone screen, round 1, potential round 2) is close the conversation out with “and I plan to be reaching out to candidates about the next step by [general date].” This might work within your HR directives because you’re not actually providing updates to candidates in the interim, and it gives the candidates a way to know “oh, she told me mid-March and it’s March 20 and I still haven’t heard” and they can have a reasonable idea about whether they should move on to other options.

  55. CoveredinBees*

    LW2 have you described your reactions to triggers/stimuli to someone with prescribing authority? I found that an SSRI helped my brain “turn down the volume” on triggers, which made daily life more manageable. In my case, it made therapy more effective because I wasn’t on high alert the whole time. Like an emotional tylenol while the injury was healing.

    Everyone’s mileage will vary on this but I just wanted to say that there is an option that might help and keep the past abuse from continuing to harm current you.

  56. OP #3 here*

    To clarify a little bit:
    My old supervisor (OS) voluntarily stepped down from a manager’s position. They are now a same level colleague.
    My new supervisor (NS) WAS my colleague but all of a sudden she’s my NS.
    Those promises? They were in our HR online review system.
    The compensation for my volunteer activities was about recognizing financially that I volunteer on multiple interdepartmental committees and I’m now considered to be a resource for my company.
    My NS seems to have no interest in anything I do, really. I’ve emailed her quite a few times asking for a phone call (I’m completely remote,) and she just doesn’t respond.
    I guess the better question would have been “how do I get my NS, who just lets me get on with my work, to honor my previous performance appraisal?”

    My NS isn’t a horrible manager. I’ve seen her interactions with her other employees. I just think she’s uncomfortable with our new dynamic and isn’t sure how to manage that, or me.

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