open thread – September 9-10, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 1,022 comments… read them below }

  1. Maggie*

    My new boss joined the company almost 4 months ago and is a bad hire. He lacks the skill set needed and I think he fudged his resume. What should I do?

    For reference I work on an in-house marketing team, our company consists of about 5 brands. I chatted with another teammate a few days ago, and she is seeing the same issues with him.

    Even though he has been trained on basic things, he is still making mistakes and looking at the wrong metrics. Each brand has different conversions (when our product is purchased) and looking at the wrong conversions skews the data and aren’t the correct numbers sent to finance. I, and my teammate, have had to correct him but each time he blows it off or deflects. He was still doing this yesterday!

    There is a budget document our team, and other people, use that gets updated daily and finance uses those numbers for the total budget. We have very strict budget goals so it’s a very important document because it shows the daily numbers. He told both my teammate and me he doesn’t look at that document, which is concerning because I’m not confident he’s even looking at the right numbers everyday! And WE use it! As a boss he should be looped in with the documentation and pacing numbers we are using. In fact, he told my teammate not to update one of the tabs for one of the brands because he doesn’t look at it and she’s like, “what? I use that to do my job!”

    He’s at the director level and he’s getting too into the weeds of the marketing campaigns (that’s my job, and my teammates’). He’s only been with the company a little over 3 months so he does not know the businesses. He’s also making too many changes way too fast, without any testing methodology (a big no no in marketing). Even when I disagree with his direction and give reasons why, he blows it off. At least I have this all in writing. Earlier this week he told me about a big campaign set-up change (that he made last weekend…). He made it without talking with me first and, again, was looking at the wrong conversion actions so his numbers weren’t correct, I told him going forward to run things by me before doing them. He wrote back some stupid and empty response then at the end went “P.S. I won’t run things by you before implementing, but I’ll keep you in the loop about what I did and you can give feedback.” wtf

    Last week a brand director I work with reached out to me for something and when I emailed him and copied my boss, he went, “what is this for? [brand director], keep me in the loop on everything for Brand A”. Which was such an overreaction. Then this past week, he emailed us the new budgets and said in the email: “[teammate] don’t reach out to [brand director on the brand she manages] on this”. WTF! It feels like he doesn’t want us to communicate with anyone.

    I did some digging on his past positions because he clearly lacks the technical and management skills to do his job. On his LinkedIn, everything before 2016 looks fine. He has a position listed from 2016 to the same month he started at my company. When I tried to go to his old company’s website, it said the site can’t be reached. I looked on a U.S. business finder site where it says “status: inactive”. Under ‘events’, in Sept 2016: “admin dissolution for annual report”; Oct 2016: “reinstatement”, Sept 2018: “admin dissolution for annual report”.

    Now, he lists this position as up in a few months ago, but it looks like the company hasn’t been active since 2018? Our job is to send ads to a website, how could he have done that if the website doesn’t work? Something seems off…Was due diligence even done when they interviewed this guy? LinkedIn current shows 2 other people still work there, where is the website? I googled the owner of it, and there are numerous bad reviews, a few calling the owner a scam artist and how terrible the products are.

    The guy who hired him was only with the company for 6 months (another bad hire…), he decided we needed a director in his role (we didn’t). Now my boss reports to the CMO who seems very ignorant about marketing. We had a merger last year and she still doesn’t understand the businesses and doesn’t listen to people that do. I don’t think she recognizes basic paid marketing performance metric trends They’ve also cut the paid media budgets for the rest of the year, so I’m not sure how much she’ll notice.

    Yes, I’m actively applying to new jobs, more actively this week. I’m thinking if the issues keep happening, I could chat with the brand director I work with? Or I could chat with the person from finance who manages the budget doc? I could go over his head to the CMO, but honestly I don’t know how to approach that. She’s very short-sided and phony. And I don’t know if that would get me on a “bad” list. But he is doing my teams’ jobs, keeps making mistakes and seems out of his depth.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh geez. What a mess. Sounds like the new guy wants to “shake things up” to prove himself.

      In re: your final paragraph, communicate often with any trusted colleagues who you’ve worked with reliably – brand managers, finance. I wouldn’t throw shade at your new boss unless you have a really good rapport with these folks, but definitely talk about “new guy gives me conflicting direction; I’m worried the numbers are being screwed up; are you getting the info you need?”

    2. Kel*

      I was gonna say, I think much like Alison’s response a few days ago, you need to let this person get hoisted on their own petard.

      You need to let him fail and take his own accountability. Document what he’s doing, email him to get his instructions in writing etc.

    3. Roscoe da Cat*

      I would look for a new job – none of these problems are ones you can fix.

      Just document everything and make sure you can’t be blamed for when things go bad. But two bad hires in a year is worrying. Although, I will point out that your boss has the right to make decisions without looping you in – although it is not wise. He does have to inform you of the changes, but he can make them on his own authority.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, technically he can, but it removes autonomy and ownership from OP. I’m assuming OP is a fairly experienced and senior marketing manager. Usually this means you’re used to owning your own campaigns and marketing plans, without much input/interference from above. For your boss to come in and make changes to your campaigns behind your back is akin to your landlord coming in and remodeling your apartment while you’re out: yes, technically he has the authority to do that without telling you, but it feels very invasive and undermines your sense of autonomy. I would also be a bit “wtf?” The more respectful way would have been for the boss to tell OP what changes to make and have OP make them, since OP is responsible for the campaign.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I really hope you find something new soon. It sounds like a no win situation where anyone with authority doesn’t understand your concerns and aren’t willing to take them seriously. Keep documenting the heck out of everything and get out quick. Sorry.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Are the brand directors effectively your internal clients? If so, maybe chat with them, they may have more leverage to be able to raise concerns and go over his head to senior manangement.

      It sounds as though it may be a ‘let him visibly fail’ sitaution- in which document your concenrs (e.g. keep the emails asking him for specific information / rinstructions / raising any concenrs) but also don’t cover for him.

      I think ins some ways if you are in-house you may be able to be a bit more open with the ‘clients’ if they are part of the same company

      1. Maggie*

        while I wouldn’t call the brand managers clients, kind of? The brand manager I work closely with I do trust and I know he trusts my work, just the with the other brand manager and my teammate. I think they report to the CMO. The brand manager who my teammate works close with is actually at the VP level, and while I haven’t worked super closely with her, I worked with her when I first came to the company a few years ago, then I got moved over to the premium brand. So both my teammate and I have them probably in our corner.

    6. Tex*

      Maybe go to HR if you can trust them to be discreet. I wonder how much due diligence they did on this guy as a hire. They might also prick up their ears if they are reminded that old hire who didn’t work out hired this guy.

    7. Observer*

      Document your head off, including via emails to the appropriate people. Not in a way of complaining, but as FYI, confirmation or communications about next steps.

      But, also start looking.

    8. FashionablyEvil*

      I think you have two very separate problems here: 1) how to communicate with your boss/adapt to his communication preferences and 2) the fact that he appears to be unqualified and fabricated/significantly embellished his resume and that you have an incompetent/unlikely to be helpful grandboss.

      #2 just completely dwarfs #1 to the extent that I think your only real option is to leave.

    9. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Try not to conflate the company’s success in this instance with your personal success as a professional. Because…they aren’t giving you the leadership or tools to succeed, and there’s only so much you can overcome.

      I agree with you- keep looking at options, and jump if the right situation comes along. They way you describe things…it sounds like you might be ready for more responsibility aligned with your bosses position anyway.

      If it’s as bad as you say, this has an expiration date. Presumably, your finance team is competent and these numbers won’t add up. Presumably, your clients will not appreciate working with a jerk and will not hesitate to either notify leadership or switch to a competitor. Presumably, your coworkers are also looking, and senior management will put those pieces together. Things generally sort themselves out- the business world is ruthless, marketing doubly so. But unfortunately, it’s not always on our timeline.

    10. Anon for this*

      I’m in a similar situation as you, although without the potential resume fabrication. Your best bet is probably to transfer or get out. That’s what everyone on my team did within 6 months of my current boss joining. I’m sticking it out because I was here first and I’m more stubborn than the others. But I will admit that every week brings new aggravations. I cope thru a combination of managing upwards, taking matters into my own hands, and hedging on or outright ignoring ill-advised instructions. You gotta pick your battles, conserve your patience because it will run out.

  2. Heather M.*

    Should I modify my job title on my resume to better describe what I do?

    My job title is “Client Experience Coordinator” for a national hair restoration and replacement company. Sounds a bit vague though, right? My responsibility consists of handling the front desk duties and mail room support for our clients. However, everyone at our regional location shares the same CEC job title — from the stylists, to customer service reps, to me at the front desk. I want to start a new job search soon and am considering altering my resume’s job title to something like “Client Experience Coordinator – Front Desk” or even simply “Client Experience Coordinator – Mailroom Assistant” to better reflect what I actually do on a day-to-day basis.

    I’m an introvert who is already wore out by the constant face-to-face interaction with customers and other corporate executives on a daily basis, so I plan on venturing into a more full-blown mail clerk role at my next job. I just truly like doing that kind of work more. Would this be a good explanation in answering the “why are you looking to leave this job?” when asked by future employers on my upcoming job search? Just saying that I’m doing receptionist and mail room duties now, and that I want to concentrate more on just doing mail?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I think adding the clarification would be fine — in my division there are three of us who are Specialized Crockery Managers for various teams, and we distinguish ourselves as SCM – Coffee Carafes, SCM – Teapots, and SCM – Sugar Bowls and Creamer Pitchers. But do leave your official title on there first, with the clarification to follow.

    2. Kel*

      I think specifying exactly what you do could be helpful, since you’re not changing the job title; you’re adding to the title.

      For the second part, I totally get what you’re looking for. Is there a way to phrase it to focus on what you’re good at and what you want and push that vs. not wanting to do front-facing jobs? Like ‘the organization and structure of the mailroom really appeals to me’ or ‘i really find my strengths lie in the mailroom aspect and i want to pursue that further.’

      1. Robert*

        Based on your personality and mannerisms, they may realize why you’re looking to move on without even having to explain it. I would imagine that most hiring managers can spot an introvert from a mile away!

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

      You should leave your title as what your employer says it is so there isn’t any discrepancy, but the bullet points on your resume would show what you do, or more importantly, your accomplishments at what you do — the size of the mail distribution, deliveries are on-time, etc.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is fine to put the preferred or more descriptive title in parentheses after the official title — she wants it there where people see it — they may not read further down. The main thing is you cannot change your title, but you can do Rockstar Omega (mail sorter) with no issues.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, I would recommend this. Put your actual job title but then put in parentheses what the more common job title is for that set of responsibilities. This helps to both help you past lazy screeners and also to make it easier for people to make sense of the discrepancy between your actual title and your actual responsibilities.

      2. JSPA*

        Parentheses or brackets–holding a sentence or phrase rather than a few words that could be mistaken for part of the official title– can also work.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      Would this be a good explanation in answering the “why are you looking to leave this job?” when asked by future employers on my upcoming job search? Just saying that I’m doing receptionist and mail room duties now, and that I want to concentrate more on just doing mail?

      This is a good answer to the question. And you can tack on a sentence along the lines of “I am particularly excited about this job because ____.” Companies generally care way more about why you are excited to come work for them then why you are leaving your last job.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      I think you should, yes – you’re not changing your title / role. You’re just providing detail so people know what you do. Recruiters will very likely appreciate you doing so, and you’ll get contacted for the roles you are qualified for, rather than the ones you aren’t.

      I’m running into this exact issue right now with a difference between “client experience” as it relates to “customer service” versus the “client experience” marketing function that deals with customer journeys (among other things).

    6. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Q1 yes, that’s totally fine.

      Here are examples of when it would matter. First, you don’t want to throw off your references- the first question they’ll ask is, “Can you verify Heather M. worked as ‘Client Experience Coordinator – Mailroom Assistant’ at XYZ, inc.?”

      Second, I’d be slightly more careful for any position that includes a background check. They will contact HR at your former employers and you need to list a position they can verify. But generally, this happens after initial interview, and you’re offered a form where you can provide more specific information.

      Q2 Also ok. But, remember, you’re not on the stand :) and you can color your response a bit so it doesn’t sound like you’re looking for less responsibility. Try to articulate reasons that align your professional goals with their need. E.g., “I have an aptitude for organization, I really enjoy mailroom work, and I felt this position would offer me more independence to implement my ideas.”

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        Genuine question, is someone who wants “more independence to implement [their] ideas” going to be an appealing candidate to a company looking to hire a mailroom assistant? I personally haven’t worked in a mailroom, but I’ve known folks who have, and I’ve also done receiving for retail. All I’ve ever heard of/seen is places where there are already systems in place that the higher-ups are pretty resistant to changing. I just worry that unless they’re explicitly looking for someone to revamp their system, they’re not going to be excited to hear that you have “ideas”.

  3. Green Goose*

    I work from Company A full-time and I’m about to go on maternity leave. I’ve always enjoyed writing and have wanted to write professionally since I was a teen. Recently, Company B hired me to do some very part-time paid writing (2-4 billable hours a month) and I was/am so excited. I’ve done this for one month and was planning on doing this for part of my maternity leave, but have gotten some conflicting information if I can do this during my maternity leave.

    I definitely don’t want to do anything illegal but this opportunity will not still be available if I can’t do it until my maternity leave is over. Does anyone know if this is okay?

    1. Friendly Internet Stranger*

      Will you be using short term disability while you are on maternity leave? There was a question Alison answered recently about working while on disability… let me see if I can find it.

      If you won’t be using short term disability, I can see any reason at all why it would possibly be an issue.

      1. Green Goose*

        That is part of my leave. I believe the first 2.5 months and I was not planning on doing any writing during that time. This is my second so I know how intense the first two months are and don’t want to overcommit.

    2. NICS*

      1) You could call a legal advice line (there’s usually one in each region) for one question or a quick free meeting with an employment lawyer. That said
      2) I doubt this kind of side hustle is illegal in the USA, but IANAL. that said
      3) In some ways babies are more trouble on the outside. Think about how much time and energy you’ll have to write while dealing with a demanding and adorable new person who is no longer physically connected to you for nourishment and rocking.
      4) Good luck and congratulations!

      1. NICS*

        I forgot 5) Make sure that working doesn’t conflict with company policy or short term disability regulations.

        1. Green Goose*

          My company just says it can’t be a conflict of interest. I got verbal permission from my previous boss who is now no longer with my organization. The part about SDI is the part I’m unclear about and I don’t really want to ask our HR department because they are being kind of frustrating with my leave stuff already.

          1. anon for this*

            You can call customer service at the insurance company – tell them you’re planning your leave and want to make sure you understand what’s allowed under the policy. They’re usually able to explain it in layperson terms or put you in touch with someone who can help.

    3. Savvy*

      It’s not illegal on the federal level, and I think it’s unlikely a state would have a law against it (but always good to double check your state). This would be a policy question – does your employer have a written policy prohibiting or limiting outside employment while an employee is on a leave of absence, FMLA, disability? Considering how minimal it is (2 – 4 hours a month – and maybe less considering you will be busy with a newborn), I’m not sure it’s even worth bringing up to your employer, but if you want to be careful then check your policies.

    4. Coconut Parade*

      If you run out of time/energy to figure it out before your leave starts, would it be reasonable to offer to do the relevant months for free (to not lose out), and then return to billable once you’re back at work? Obviously not ideal, but just helping you brainstorm. :)

      1. Green Goose*

        Appreciate the brainstorming! One idea I had was to pre-write a few assignments before my leave officially starts and then they can publish after my leave starts. Then I’ll be taking off 2.5 months from writing but wanted to start again about 2 months before my official maternity leave from Company A ends and ask Company B to not pay me until I’m back. It’s a really small amount of money, so that’s not really why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I love writing and the subject matter, and I want to network and Company B is a great connector.

  4. Anon Babyface*

    TL;DR: My early-career personality is coming back to bite me, and I don’t know how to fix it. 

    I’ve been at my current employer (higher ed) for about 9 years now, which is also where I went to college. I get stellar annual reviews and positive feedback from my ‘customers,’ and I’m proud of my work. Unfortunately…I’ve been here for 9 years, and I was a different person when I started — immature, oversharing, and still learning to separate my professional from my student self. In general, I’m also one of those people who looks younger than I am — so add in my over-enthusiastic personality and I came across as VERY young. 

    Over time, I’ve received feedback to “try to seem older,”  including in otherwise-complimentary reviews, and I’ve taken this to heart and worked hard to reform my image. I’m really embarrassed about my past behavior. But, there’s not a lot of turnover among the more ‘established’ staff, so most of my colleagues knew that immature version of myself. People like me personally, but I sometimes feel that I am not taken very seriously and easily dismissed– treated like I’m very young instead of mid-30s and mid-career for my field. It doesn’t help that ageism (the legal kind) is…pretty rampant in my workplace, and that many colleagues have children my age. Folks in my own generation/life stage haven’t tended to stick around as long. 

    I acknowledge that this is completely my own fault, and I am looking for other jobs where I could start over, but that’s a very slow process in my field, and there aren’t many options right now with comparable pay/benefits/etc. So while I’m still here: any advice for how I can move past those immature early years? My supervisor insists everything is fine but it’s very obvious to me that it’s not and that I am treated with less respect than others, including colleagues who do not have my track record and/or years of experience. 

    1. NICS*

      I had a similar issue — my first two jobs were at the university where I graduated. When I went to the second job in the same department/with many of the same people, I ‘renamed’ myself — I started using a longer, more formal variant of my name (fortunately I have a long name that can be carved up like a turkey into many different nicknames). That, plus adjusting my dress to be a bit more formal (I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate pantyhose but it helped) seemed to make a plurality of people take me more seriously. I did eventually end up leaving for a different organization, but it mostly wasn’t due to my early immaturity.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      No ideas, but sympathy. That is one reason I’m skipping my HS class reunion next month. The first time I went to one, which was our 40th (I think), I wanted to show off the New Lady Lessa, who is much more confident and out going than the HS Lessa. Did not work.

      Tried again at another one, same experience.

      Will not try again.

      I wonder if part of the problem is that a lot of them were friends back then, stayed friends and didn’t get too far away. I wasn’t part of that group, and I have never lived in that area since college.

    3. Green Goose*

      I think with all that you wrote, maybe it’s time to move on? I don’t say that lightly because I know finding a new job is not as easy as snapping your fingers and Viola a new job is there. My three closest friends all work in higher education at our local flagship university and experienced this to varying degrees. They all needed to move around to get better jobs and more respect. One of them stayed at her first post grad job for almost 15 years and it was similar to you, she was getting so overworked (the way a green employee who had to prove themselves would be overworked) and she finally left, which was hard for her but she’s at a much more relaxing position now and has a better work/life balance and is treated with much more respect.

      1. Nonners*

        I agree with this (and absolutely empathize with the original question). I’m a babyface, too, and higher ed staff really stick around forever and I absolutely see ageism everywhere. I’m FINALLY getting to be old enough that it’s less of a thing (and I have a kid so that helps a bit with perception) but…yeah. It’s a thing, it’s real.

        Generalizing here, but it’s a decent time to move around in higher ed as it’s also been impacted by the Great Resignation. I think it depends on how large a barrier this is to your career growth. I finally got an opportunity here due to turnover–is that likely to happen for you? With old management in place I doubt I would have gotten this opportunity. Otherwise I’d absolutely be looking.

        Honestly it’s SO incredibly common to stagnate in higher ed, and with your specific context, I’d move. I would honestly never want to work where I went to undergrad–I like barriers and separation and I was such a different person at that age. 9 years is a good time to explore a new place/new challenges. Also, higher ed typically means you have to move jobs to get a real salary increase. Get a bump and your future self will thank you.

      2. Quinalla*

        Sometime you have to move on from a “starter job” to get more respect and it sucks. I would try a few things if you are willing – don’t do any of this stuff if it won’t work for you but I’ve had success with some of these myself:
        1. New hair cut – some hair cuts just seem younger or older to people, fair or not
        2. New wardrobe – take it up to the next level, if you wear jeans and tshirts normally, take it to business casual, if business casual, throw on a suit jacket
        3. Change your look in other ways – accessories, bag/purse, etc.
        4. Try to get put on a new project/team/etc. with people who don’t know you as well and knock their socks off. Get some allies in the changing hearts and minds mission.
        5. Take a new approach at work, try to identify if there are any lingering phrases you use, over enthusiasm, etc. that is reminding people of you from 9 years ago and try to change those things.
        6. If people are dismissing you, call them out right in the moment or follow up soon after one on one. Remind them you have 9 years of experience.
        7. Your other peers, maybe make a pact to help boost each others ideas. Sometimes you can raise the importance level of someone’s idea just by backing it up.
        8. Try and get a conversation going with someone else in the system that has BTDT and if there are any good ways to move from Fresh face to experienced in folks eyes there that they’ve seen work.

        And yes keep looking because it sounds like the culture there is inhospitable at the moment. I’d keep trying to change what you can while you are there and see if you can get anywhere, but don’t stop looking. I know I really felt a huge “level up” when I moved on from my started job of 13 years and when I made an effort at work to show people what I could do and push back when dismissed, I “leveled up” again here recently in people’s eyes. It is much harder to do when you are in a company already, but it can be done.

    4. J.B.*

      Who is doing the treating differently? Is there someone you could reasonably approach other than your boss about how to address this problem?

      1. Anon Babyface*

        Some of it is coming from my boss (who is also dismissive when I ask for constructive feedback), most of it from others in my department. A small amount from a select group of faculty, but that I can deal with (and some of that is inevitable without a PhD). I do have peers that have confirmed they’ve noticed what I’m seeing, so it’s not all in my head, but they don’t think I’m doing anything wrong.

        I struggle with knowing who else to ask. The hierarchy in my department is pretty condensed — my boss reports to the department director, who reports to a VP at the university level (someone staff at my level would never have direct interaction with). My boss has one peer, but that person is one of the worst ‘offenders’ and is not someone I could ask.

        1. J.B.*

          it’s academia which is definitely weird and people stay forrrevvvver. can you move to a different department?

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Looking for a new role is definitely one way to deal with this issue. It may be the best way, but you could also do some things to change the perception at your current company, while you’re at it.

      You might also talk to a mentor (not your manager, but someone a couple levels above you in the business, who you respect) about how you’re coming across to colleagues, etc. Ask for their honest opinion. Perhaps you’re not coming across as maturely as you feel you are. If they feel you’re still not coming across well, ask their advice and implement it. Or perhaps discussing your career goals, etc. and your challenges will help that person see that you HAVE progressed and they can influence how others perceive you. (Just make sure it is someone who is well respected in the business themselves, and who seems to be supportive of you.)

      You could also look at doing some education / certifications in your field, if you haven’t already done so. That may help some, esp. if people in your industry commonly consider a certification a plus (and it could help your job search).

      You mention that you’re very enthusiastic – perhaps dial that back a bit. Not eliminate it, but take a breath before enthusing, and make substantive comments, not just general expressions of support/agreement. Eg. instead of “Wow, that’s a great idea! We could do this, that and the other!!!” add in some analysis: eg. “this proposal would cost $X, but would deliver $Y, which looks good, if we can do it in Z months. After that, the cost / benefit starts to slip.” Showing that you are putting real thought into your support, in other words.

    6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think you take too much blame on yourself. If people can’t reflect that you’ve changed in nine years (9! years!), that’s on them. I think there’s a good mix of ageism and stodgy culture in there with whatever youthful indiscretions you may have committed. And sexism, I’m guessing, maybe too. “Seem older” is not legit feedback. Specific things, like use “like” less as a filler, don’t upspeak at the end of a sentence, are fine, but “your face needs more lines on it” is absolutely not. I think you need to keep looking and maybe look for a culture that allows a little more expressiveness, in keeping with your personality. Meanwhile, the only thing I can suggest is asking your boss for more specific feedback about what is coming across as young/unprofessional.

      1. Doctor Whom*

        This. What does “seem older” even mean? Tie an onion to your belt? Occasionally yell at clouds? I’d start with finding a mentor or colleague who could give you some specific, actionable, and objective feedback, if your boss isn’t willing to do it.

      2. KatieP*

        This. Anon Babyface, this isn’t your doing. This is part of maturing, and your colleagues should recognize it.
        I’ve worked in higher ed for a couple of decades, and I sympathize – I faced something similar at a department I worked in for 15 years. They just never could seem to understand that 40-year-old KatieP =/= 25-year-old KatieP.
        Don’t wait as long as I did. Move now.
        I moved to a completely different unit that had zero crossover with the old one, and finally got to bring all the rest of the stuff I was to my office and be appreciated for it! After ten years of career stagnation, moving departments led to two promotions in 5 years, and increasing responsibility in a career that excites me again.
        I’m also trying to use it as an example of how not to manage an employee.

    7. Savvy*

      Is the way you are perceived actually inhibiting your ability to be effective at your job, or blocking career progression that you would like to make? I’m curious about some examples of others treaing you “with less respect than others,” what does that look like exactly? It’s hard to tell if it’s having a measurable impact on your career or if it’s just based on the opinions of a few coworkers who don’t really matter. So that is something to consider – if they want to think you are young and immature, but you are continuing to be a rock star at your job and your boss thinks you’re doing well, then screw them and just keep on keepin’ on. However, if you think it’s really having a tangible impact on your professional growth and want to actively work to overcome it, I think the best strategy is just to win people over by demonstrating with your work performance, behavior, and appearance that you are mature, professional, and need to be taken seriously. Could you step up your professionalism a couple of notches in a few areas, for instance, speak and write with confidence and use language that sounds more formal, dressing just slightly more professional than most of your coworkers (especially any younger ones – you want to differentiate yourself as much as possible from them), if you ever run meetings, make sure you have an organized, written agenda that you share with everyone to show that you are prepared and value their time. Those are just a few ideas, and since I don’t know your industry I’m not sure how relevant they are, but maybe you could think of other ways where you could ramp your professionalism up just slightly

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am curious about examples also.

        I remember how much my 20s and 30s sucked because of dealing with this stuff. On top of being a woman and all that complexity.

        I can’t tell you it will be better some place else because this stuff just creeps in. But I also don’t know exactly what your boss is telling you so that is a factor that is important.

        You’ve been there nine years? Can you take on a project that would put your work efforts more to the foreground? Can you volunteer for an activity where others need you in some manner? Sometimes we can sway people by working right beside them on something. When they see who we are and how we operate they settle down and behave themselves.

        In a simple example, in some places I have volunteered to hold a spare key that everyone needed to access something. This gave me an excuse to chat with a good number of people and it was a chance for them to get to know me a little. Here the important point is that it put me with people outside of my own department. This can be a powerful tool if others who are not in your immediate group know you and have some awareness of your efforts.

        I don’t think you can change everyone’s behavior. It might be useful to set a goal to reduce it by x%. How much of a reduction would be noticeable to you and would make a difference for you?

        People who actually know us are less apt to judge us on superficial things.

      2. Anon Babyface*

        That’s a good question! It hampers me in quieter ways — ideas being dismissed in meetings; getting chastised for bizarrely minor things (like…font choice on a sign, minor); juggling a crushing workload that is barely noticed while others are constantly praised for their accomplishments; not being selected for leadership roles on committees. And, morale. It’s not inhibiting progression directly in part because there isn’t much room for progression in my current position (which is fine, because another level up would be a different job that I don’t want really). But, it’s a bit of a morale killer to know that “if Boss gave notice today, I probably wouldn’t be considered for her job because half the department wouldn’t take direction from little ol’ me.”

        I’ve been working on trying to speak more confidently. Wardrobe I’ve definitely addressed — I’ve tried every variation from pencil skirts and pantyhose (way out of sync with my department’s culture, and impractical for my job) to jeans and sweaters; haircuts; jewelry; makeup. I’m known for being super organized — just, like in a “cute” kind of way if that makes sense? (not that I’m passing around pink scented agendas or anything like that!…more that it seems to come across as a cute quirk rather than a professional asset).

    8. TechWorker*

      I don’t have amazing advice because I think what made the most difference for me was just ‘getting promoted’ – I think that gave me quite a confidence boost and I tend not to worry about seeming young so much. (Though covid did also give me a chance to reset my wardrobe and I definitely dress a bit more professional now – no more hoodies!)

      Good luck with your job hunt – I think it’s pretty exhausting to feel like you have to prove yourself, so a new start might make all the difference.

    9. Star Struck*

      Thats annoying. In addition to modulating your mannerisms, voice, and appearance, would it help to explicitly refer to your tenure… bringing up things that happened in olden times? Eg. “The last time xyz happened was 9 years ago – I think we handled it by doing [blah blah blah].. has anyone kept up with him since he retired ?”

    10. seps*

      Similar thing happened to me, but instead of trying to seem older, I just… stopped letting people shit on me for being “young” and “inexperienced” and “not a PhD” when it suited them (they didn’t appreciate that). I switched departments for two years (different field, different division of the university and everything, no crossover with my contacts) and recently returned to the one I started in, but reporting to a different faculty member. Everyone remembers the things they loved about me (energy, great work) but now realize I am a fully grown adult. The people who were maddest about me setting appropriate boundaries are still big mad, but they are no longer my concern.

    11. Somehow_I_Manage*

      May I suggest you begin graying and thinning your hair in earnest? ;)

      The simple answer to this is to just be REALLY good at your job. The scoreboard won’t lie, if you’re constantly crushing it. But I concede- easier said then done if they’re actively holding you back.

      While a few folks are suggesting you leave…if you’re mid-30s and they’ve got kids your age, at this point, you can possibly wait ’em out. In 5 years, they’ll all be in their mid-70s, and you’ll be sitting pretty in your prime, overseeing the new crop of young bucks.

      Finally- give yourself a break. If I acted like I was 35 when I was 22…life would be boring. Academics in particular have an irrational disdain for their students (the phrase “ivory tower” comes to mind). I’d be certain some of that spills over into the way they treat young people in general. Haters are going to hate.

    12. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      A former colleague of mine had a team member she tended to dismiss easily and considered to have a “negative” personality, so she wouldn’t consider the employee for promotion. I had worked with the person in question and didn’t think they were negative at all! I later learned they had been louder and not savvy about workplace politics when it came to difference of opinion in the past, but they had grown up a lot. But they were working for a boss who still saw them one way.

      It’s not everyone. Just be aware that some of your co-workers may similarly not be very self aware or willing to change their minds. Many of the suggestions above are great to help with this in general – dressing a step above your colleagues, preparing for meetings with written notes, agreeing with other people’s ideas verbally and with body language, sending detailed memos or outlines about upcoming projects etc. Just remember some people will recognize the growth and others unfortunately may never see you in that new light.

      If there are more people at your workplace in the second category, or if the people in that category are the ones with the ability to help or hinder advancement, it may add some urgency to your job hunt or push for a new department. If there are fewer, it’s less of a problem and you can put their opinions to the side (still hard to do, just less consequential for your career).

      To be clear, I’m on your side here and this is B.S.

    13. Irish Teacher*

      To be fair, I don’t know if it’s COMPLETELY your fault. I know I do sometimes struggle a little to see some of my late-20s colleagues who have been working with us a number of years as fully-fledged professionals because they came to us straight out of college and…5 years isn’t that much of a professional journey for me now – being qualified for 18 years isn’t that much different from being qualified for 13 – so I have to remind myself that it IS for them and that they are not the same people who came to me for advice when they were starting out.

      I do not treat them the way you are being treated – at least I hope I don’t – but mentally, I have to make a conscious switch from “newly qualified colleague who needs some support” to “established professional in the field.”

      I mean, yeah, mid-30s is different from mid-to-late 20s, but I am just saying that I think a certain amount is your colleagues not making the effort to make that mental switch and remind themselves that immature and inexperienced at 23 does not mean being the same at 33 and that we were all there once. Some of us were just lucky enough to get it out of the way in a different place to where we currently work.

      I’m not sure this is much help, but just to say that making mistakes in the early years is normal and while it can take a mental switch on the part of those who knew you then, they should be doing it and it’s not your fault they haven’t.

  5. Melanie Cavill*

    What are your general feelings on workplaces where management is given the resources for hybrid work but non-management staff are expected to be fully in the office? Assume in this hypothetical that there’s nothing specifically about the work that would require their in-office presence (as opposed to, say, a welder or a high school teacher or an astronaut).

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      That sounds like my former (pre-COVID) workplace. It was pretty ridiculous. Especially since we live in an area where winter weather can affect whether you can come into the office. My area was responsible for some set federal deadlines & a couple times this policy negatively affected that. But I figured the company dug its own grave there.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Agreed. There’s a lot of “it sucks to be you attitude” that rains down from above.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      That sounds stupid. Like I want to be able to lay in bed and work if I have a stomach ache or have fewer respiratory viruses. It’s just less efficient all around

    3. ecnaseener*

      If there’s truly no reason why non-managers need to be in the office, super annoying and gotta be terrible for morale.

      The only work-related reason I miss being in the office (ie other than socializing etc) is face time with my manager.

    4. Grey Squirrel*

      I feel very, very negatively about this. I hate business jargon/pithy sayings, but I am a fan of “Leaders Eat Last.” There is no reason management should get perks that other employees don’t if hybrid work is feasible for non-management staff.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I side eye these employers pretty hard, and one of the employers I’m side-eyeing is my own.

      A few weeks ago, I was leading an interview panel that would be interviewing 22 people over the course of two days. I frequently get interrupted to deal with customer issues throughout the day, and my office is really close to the customer floor, so it gets noisy sometimes. I asked for permission to work from home for the days of the interviews, and I was told that work from home was only being granted for people who had tested positive for covid but didn’t have symptoms and still wanted to work. Imagine my astonishment when the day after I was told this, I attended a virtual meeting where it was extremely obvious that at least two people who are the same level as me were working from home. Or when, on the first day of the interviews, the person leading the pre-interview meeting was able to take the 7:30 AM meeting from home while the rest of us had needed to come in to work an hour early for it.

      I think I would have been less upset about my request being denied if that denial hadn’t come with such an obvious lie.

      1. Venus*

        Alison had a post about current workplace rebellion and the big one was that employees were being ‘forced’ to go in to work and… they weren’t going. They had no good reason to go in, and they were in jobs that have high enough demand that they were unlikely to get fired.

    6. Quinalla*

      Not some place I would be interested in working and if my workplace tried to pull some BS like that, I’d call it out.

    7. This Old House*

      I get some perks being available to management more than to non-management, but especially when it’s a hard-line requirement, in these post-COVID days, it seriously impacts morale. (Source: not management at a workplace where this is the case)

      We’re being told by HR that we can eg either come to work with cold symptoms or use sick days, and meanwhile the head of HR is in the office . . . quite infrequently. Some managers let their staff work from home, but we’ve been explicitly told they have no authority to do so. Some departments are told they can UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES work from home, while others have a lot of flexibility as long as they keep it under the radar. Some people have hard external deadlines that will not wait for cold symptoms to pass or the roads to clear and know that their job requires they do the work anyway, while also knowing they are not allowed to do the work, and the whole system – where those people are expected to work from home but have also been told they are not to work from home – causes unfair confusion. It causes resentment from staff against the administration, and between staff members who are subject to different, confusing, unevenly enforced rules.

    8. aubrey*

      My feelings are very negative haha. I think the only reason people should be required to be in the office ever is if there’s an actual real business need, but if a company is going to require hybrid or in office when there’s no real need, it should require it fairly of everyone. It’s just demoralizing when regular workers are punished with nonsense requirements that don’t apply to managers.

    9. Doctor Whom*

      Sometimes the thinking is that management is usually salaried exempt, so their actual hours don’t have to be tracked as closely as long as their responsibilities are being met. Non-management is often hourly non-exempt, so it’s more important to make sure their actual hours at work are clocked, which is more difficult to do if they aren’t in the office.

      Not saying it’s necessarily right, or that there aren’t ways to make it work, just that this is sometimes the rationale.

    10. RagingADHD*

      If you mean specifically about resource allocation? It sounds completely normal for management to have more resources allocated to their work, more freedom of movement, more discretion over how and where to get their work done, and more flexibility to their schedule than line staff have.

      I have never worked anywhere that wasn’t the case in some way or another.

    11. Glad it's the end of the week...*

      The whole “rules for thee but not for me” mindset about remote and hybrid work and a person’s place in the organization is quietly becoming a morale issue at MPOW. Only a couple areas are really doing well with remote work. The areas that aren’t handling it well are HR and leadership, two areas that create work policies and lack the awareness that they aren’t executing their own policies well at all.

      I’m in public higher ed in a state with a Democratic governor in a tight reelection. I’m worried that if the Republican, a businessman who is the product of nepotism and has no prior experience working in the public sector, that the state workers who got any form of remote work approved will lose that perk. The Republican’s campaign strategy seems similar to Glenn Youngkin who won in Virginia with a wolf in sheep’s clothing strategy to conceal his far right extremism.

      I have other issues with our HR, especially in how they seem to manage their priorities. It says a lot about how rank and file staff that make the organization function are viewed when HR has time to conduct a sham investigation that verges on a witchhunt on a whistleblower but can’t find the staff time to get hiring paperwork done for part time staff needed for the organization to function efficiently.

    12. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      You say “managers are given resources for hybrid work.” You mean like laptops with a VPN? Are the staff made to use something different like a desktop computer? You say staff “could” do their job from home, but can they really if the tool is not provided?

      Ideally, staff ought to have the same resources as managers that could enable hybrid work.

      I can tell you (I work for a tech company that provides tools & systems) that there might be workplaces where this is an expensive or difficult proposition to equip ALL the staff, and that may be why they don’t. Thus, it’s a manager level perk.

      Now, if all things are equal and everyone potentially has the access to the same tools, but still aren’t allowed to work remotely on occasion, I would say it isn’t fair or productive. Employees could push back by asking for a policy that allows WFH in certain requested/needed circumstances, at the very least.

      1. HE Admin*

        It lasted three days. Weirdly saying he needed to step away meetings and then asking to reschedule them, etc. Didn’t show up for an in-person day (we have a hybrid schedule). When reminded that this is a full-time job (and really does have full-time work associated with it) said that his manager (not me) was being hostile, and quit. So definitely a case of “working two jobs but not well” rather than “was doing fine and fired on principle.”

        1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

          I’m increasingly convinced that a hire in my last department was doing this, very similar behaviour. He left before passing probation so I’ll never know.

        2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I can’t imagine the cheek of being in the first 3 days of a new job and acting like it’s appropriate to reschedule a meeting. I mean, what’s the pressing business concern that would justify that during the earliest of onboarding? Other than, you know, having another job.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Two full time jobs? How’d they get caught? Can you allude to what the field is? Very curious.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Yikes!

      I honestly don’t know how people manage this. My job is not super intense, but if I had to do two of them and try to coordinate meetings not to conflict with each other (or juggle two simultaneous meetings), I couldn’t do it.

      Plus, I just don’t think it’s ethical two work two full-time jobs at the same time without disclosing to both employers that you are.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        There must be a correlation between number of meetings & success at juggling two jobs. I’ve had remote knowledge type jobs that had at most a few meetings a week, and i mainly worked independently — I’d have been able to dual-track two of those without direct conflict. Right now I’m in one that has multiple meetings a day — it would be impossible to meet my obligations for two jobs like this without inconveniencing others.

  6. Let's Talk About It*

    My colleague was invited to a meeting with supervisor and HR, probably about a new role in the organization. They have been told not to share any information. Is this legal? It doesn’t involve trade secrets, confidential information, NDAs or anything of the kind. They are probably being offered a new role and maybe a raise under a hurried restructuring.

    If you’re allowed to share your salary why wouldn’t you be allowed to share this? Or do they just say this to scare people — like they might rescind the offer if you spill. This is not the first instance of this happening. And if it is allowed, under what law? This is the US.

    1. londonedit*

      I can’t really think of any reason why it would break a law (I’m not in the US, but still) and I wouldn’t be surprised if a company did this – when there are things like restructures afoot, it’s extremely common for higher-up management to keep things quiet until the details are worked out. If your colleague’s new job is part of a bigger-picture thing that isn’t all finalised yet, I don’t think it’s surprising at all that they’ve been asked to keep quiet. Companies don’t want to alarm staff unnecessarily by having rumours and speculation flying around about someone having a new job and someone being called into a meeting and what do you think is happening – until they have all the details sorted and they can present it all as a package, they generally do try to keep things under wraps.

      1. Alternative Person*

        Yep. I’m involved in a reshuffle right now and I can’t talk about it to anyone outside of the people in the know which is not fun for me because I desperately want to reassure people that things will get better soon (hopefully), but until all the pieces are in place I have to keep quiet.

        I get that it’s also definitely not fun for the people who are feeling the scale of the issues/tension in the department right now, or for the people who know/suspect something is going on behind the scenes but aren’t a part of it, but that’s the way these things tend to go.

    2. Anonymous Koala*

      It doesn’t sound like they’re legally prohibited from sharing, but rather that the company doesn’t want them to share it. It’s way easier for management to control the narrative and avoid answering tough questions when they scare their employees with “do not share OR ELSE” edicts. On the flip side, your coworker might not want to share what the meeting was about and is using management as an excuse.

      1. Let's Talk About It*

        I feel like it’s a control the narrative situation and to try to scare people. For context, it’s a library!
        And the colleague is already sharing the ‘secret’ meeting was scheduled.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Was it said in a threatening way? “Keep this under your hat” is not an uncommon request before news is official.

        2. Doctor Whom*

          It’s very often just because there is/was another internal applicant or hopeful who didn’t get the job/promotion/whatever, who HR or management wants to talk to before the news is public. It’s sometimes simply that a supervisor wants to announce it themselves at a particular time or meeting. Occasionally it’s because it will raise questions about someone else’s employment or plans that they aren’t ready to address publicly.

          In my experience it usually isn’t anything nefarious, unless the organization is wildly dysfunctional.

        3. RG2*

          Controlling the narrative and trying to scare people are two totally different things. It’s super super normal for a company to want everyone relevant to hear news like a coworker’s promotion in a consistent way all at once (why changes are happening, what they mean for other roles, what the timeline is for hiring replacements, etc). Otherwise, people will invent the wildest stories as rumors spread. There’s absolutely no reason for your coworker’s meeting to be scary to you or them, though it is a little pot-stirring for the coworker to have told you they had a meeting they can’t tell you about. It definitely feels like *they* might be trying to stir up drama, not the company.

        4. linger*

          Being asked to keep quiet goes with the territory, then! But seriously…
          As long as the request for secrecy isn’t being used to hide something that would adversely impact your own work, you shouldn’t be asking your colleague to spill all, or otherwise unnecessarily heightening the potential workplace drama, before they’re free to share details.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Unless you have a union or work in government that requires the job to be posted, probably legal. But unethical if it’s against company policy.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I agree with londonedit, aside from legally protected speech (like non-managers discussing salary, whistleblowing, etc) there’s no legal issue with telling an employee not to talk about a given topic. They’re not the government, they’re not infringing on your first amendment rights or anything.

    5. Colette*

      Sometimes there are strategic reasons not to share something. For example, someone is getting fired and you will be taking over some of their role; a division is being sold but if it gets out there are concerns about insider trading; a re-org is coming but it’s not final so having word get out is premature.

      It’s not illegal (generally) to share that info, but it is career-limiting.

    6. Princess Xena*

      I notice you say “probably being offered a new role”. There are a whole lot of other reasons HR and a supervisor could meet with someone and want to keep it discrete.

      Also, why wouldn’t it be legal? There’s a big difference between “we are deliberately concealing your salaries and roles to pay you less” and “this is part of something that’s still fluid and we’d rather not have rumor and speculation blow it out of proportion before it’s final”

      1. Bess*

        Yeah…depending on the content of the meeting, there are a lot of reasons “please don’t share this” protects everyone involved. I generally advocate for transparency where possible but full transparency in any workplace is not always possible or helpful or good for morale. This question is framed so suspiciously…

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Exactly! Especially if the meeting is something like “we’re investigating into coworker B’s reports of bullying – could you share what you saw at DATE and TIME?”

          Just as one of many possible examples

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This.

        Seriously, controlling the narrative and keeping stuff under wraps until it’s more settled isn’t always nefarious–sometimes it’s just sparing everyone a lot of drama over something that will ultimately be OK or even good.

        1. seps*

          Right. The irony here is, more discretion is often needed the closer you get to the top, so if the coworker is not being discrete about something they were explicitly asked to keep to themselves for now….it is possible they are not the right person for the potential new job.

          (this, coming from someone who prefers to be as transparent as possible in all situations but even I have learned that sometimes we must be patient)

    7. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I used to work for a library system that would trade staff from branch to branch at least twice a year. If you were one of the people who was selected to be transferred they would usually call you in for a meeting to inform you, and then ask you not to tell your coworkers about it until the official announcement was made. It’s not shady or illegal, it’s an attempt to manage the rumor mill.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      It would be entirely legal, and your colleague would be doing themselves a disservice by disclosing the situation before they were told it was okay to do so.

      There are lots of reasons why details of a business discussion aren’t allowed to be shared broadly, but why the person concerned might need to know.

    9. Not A Manager*

      You say, “And if it is allowed, under what law?”

      Are you looking for a law that specifically entitles an employer to tell an employee not to discuss certain things? I think this misunderstands how employment law works (and how laws in general work in the U.S.) Very broadly speaking, people (including employers) are allowed to do (or require, as employers) anything that isn’t legally prohibited. Your question seems to assume the opposite, that people are prohibited from doing anything that isn’t explicitly legally allowed.

    10. PollyQ*

      IANAL, but it’s possible that this could be illegal, since the law that allows non-managerial employees to discuss their salaries also allows them to discuss “working conditions.” That said, why make a fuss over it? It’s not strange to me that an employer would want to keep information like this confidential until they’re ready to make an announcement.

      But to answer your question about “under what law,” as a general rule, employers can do just about anything unless there’s a law prohibiting it. So can most citizens, for that matter. There’s no law that “allows” to you go check your mailbox any time you like–there’s just nothing that says it’s illegal.

    11. Fabulous*

      Part of upper level jobs is maintaining confidentiality of information, especially the higher up you go. So while the info might not be “confidential” per se, it could still be sensitive or pending publicization.

    12. Canonical23*

      It’s entirely legal and it’s best practice when a reorganization is involved. I also work in a library that’s overgone several reorgs in the past 3 years and they keep things under wraps until they can announce everything at once. That has not always been practice, and let me say, people will drum up huge panic about layoffs if they know a reorg is happening but no details have been announced. (Despite no reorgs resulting in any layoffs.)

      Your colleague may also have been told to wait to share the info if all the details aren’t hashed out – if there are two different roles they could be a good fit for, HR might not want them to say anything until the role is selected and salary is negotiated.

    13. Madeleine Matilda*

      Usually management will ask you to not share something that is not finalized yet to avoid the speculation and gossip that is happening particularly if the reorganization impacts other people who may not have been informed yet. Because your co-worker decided to share something he was asked not to, his co-workers are speculating on what is happening to the extent that you are now speculating on a blog. Frankly if I was the person who asked your co-worker to keep the information private and learned he hadn’t, I might change my mind about whatever new role I had in mind for him as he has shown he cannot be trusted to maintain confidentiality.

    14. RussianInTexas*

      This is not illegal (I can’t think how it would be), and perfectly normal. There can be a bunch of very valid business reasons for the employer to ask not to share information prematurely.

    15. RagingADHD*

      Yes, management can tell your colleague they don’t want them to share any information. And yes, they can decide that the colleague may not be suited for a more responsible role if they can’t be discreet. That seems like simply a sound management practice. Discussions about roles and reorganizations are not done by committee with the entire staff. It is nobody’s business who is being considered for what role until there is a final decision (on both sides) and an announcement. Gossip is poison.

      When you ask “under what law” I think you have a completely backwards way of looking at the law in the US. People and companies in the US don’t need laws to “allow” them to do things. The baseline assumption is that anybody can do anything they want or believe to be in their best interest. Laws prohibit things. Everything is allowed unless there is a law *against* it.

      Why do you think you are entitled to information about your colleagues’ (apparently plural) discussions with HR? Have you considered the possibility that your coworkers are (apparently repeatedly) telling you they can’t talk about it so you will leave them alone?

      You should back off and respect your colleagues’ privacy. And if a colleague is teasing you by saying they are invited to a secret meeting but they can’t talk about it, then you should ignore them and stop playing along with their head games.

      1. seps*

        “And yes, they can decide that the colleague may not be suited for a more responsible role if they can’t be discreet.”

        +1 – made a similar comment above before reading this one

    16. Squirrel!*

      (I have no intent as coming across as rude, more compassionate, so I hope this comment is taken in that spirit.)

      That being said, based on your original comment and your reply to Anonymous Koala, I am getting the feeling that you are suspicious of the management at your library. You might have completely valid reasons for it, but you’re taking a typically innocuous request (“Please keep the details of the HR meeting under wraps for now”) and treating it as though it is potentially a criminal activity. Can you ask yourself a few things about this situation?

      – What makes you think management is trying to intimidate or scare people?
      – Why do you believe that it is illegal for HR to ask people to be discreet about private meetings?
      – Why do you feel “secret” meetings are automatically suspect?

      Obviously you don’t have to post the answers to these questions here, but maybe answering them for yourself will help you figure out why you are framing this event in such a negative way.

      Reading between the lines, you clearly don’t trust your management or HR, and you think something nefarious is going on. So, maybe it would be helpful for you to look into leaving for greener pastures, if possible for you.

    17. mollie*

      Genuinely asking: who cares? How is it your business what’s being discussed in a meeting you’re not in, that’s seemingly not about you?

  7. Watry*

    I work in local government, let’s say going reports for the vanilla teapots division. Yesterday I got a call from the chocolate teapots division about my coworker, Sarah. He asked to speak to our shared supervisor about a reference check for Sarah–and then asked me not to tell Sarah he was calling. I ended up doing the transfer, but I spoke to the supervisor this morning and she was not aware Sarah was seeking a transfer.

    Should I tell Sarah he called? I absolutely do not think our supervisor will push her out, but it seems like an awful thing to do and something she may want to know.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      This is odd – the chocolate teapots manager is doing a backdoor reference WITHIN the organization?

      I feel like Sarah needs to know – she may not even be considering a move at all, and now her supervisor thinks she IS thinking of moving.

      Before that, though, I would clarify to the supervisor that chocolate teapot guy asked you to not mention the call to Sarah, which struck you as odd. (ie. you’re wondering whether she really is considering a move or if chocolate teapot guy is trying to poach her by making her dept think she is contemplating a move.)

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      This is very weird. Why did he tell you why he was calling in the first place, as opposed to “can I talk to Bob?” Secondly, asking you not to tell Sarah seems sketchy.

      1. Watry*

        He told me because he was going to do the check with me–I’ve actually worked with her longest in her current position–but I didn’t feel comfortable and couldn’t actually speak to her work anyway.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      Since it’s internal – how bad would it be for you if you did tell tell Sarah and the Backdoor Referencer found out? Could you weather any fallout from him? Could your supervisor be the one to tell Sarah?

    4. Jackers*

      I guess I don’t find it odd at all. In my company it’s common practice that if someone has applied to an internal position that the hiring manager will reach out to the current manager to learn more about the candidate.

  8. Minimal Pear*

    I’m the admin person who’s supporting hiring efforts at my job. One of the people we want to interview just emailed me and screwed up my name impressively. I have a difficult name and people make mistakes all the time, but he didn’t even make one of the common ones, he went for something really weird. It’s odd enough–combined with his email being kind of weird and pompous in general–that it feels like something I should maybe flag to the team who’d be interviewing him. Am I just being petty because he really annoyed me?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I think it’s good to flag this for the interview team. Not in a “don’t hire this person!” way but in a “here’s more information about this candidate for you to factor into your assessment of him” way.

    2. LibrarianJ*

      As someone who’s served on hiring committees, I care a lot about how candidates act with any admin/support people. Something like this wouldn’t prevent me from interviewing a candidate, but it is definitely information I would want to add to my general picture of the candidate. YMMV depending on the culture at your workplace and what kinds of things the interview team looks for, but in my workplace, this would be worth mentioning. It’s not atypical here for members of the hiring committee to forward any individual communication with a candidate to each other just as an FYI, so especially if you think the email is pompous, I might forward the whole thing.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        With the way we have it set up, the hiring committee will get pulled into this email chain later, but I have no idea if they routinely go back and look at all of the previous logistical emails between me and the candidates. This is a very good point–I think I’ll mention it to them so that they know to go back and look at that initial email.

    3. NICS*

      As another person with a difficult name, I suggest you spin this as a matter of his attention to detail, with a dash of being condescending to those he feels are “beneath” him (as you mention his being pompous). Make sure you sound as if you’re passing on information, not as if you’re personally insulted.

      (That said I hear you on being personally insulted. Some people use it as an aggrandizing tactic. “I’m so important I don’t need to get your name right, peon.” Feh.)

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah. I’ve had many experiences of people being generally lovely and respectful but still getting my difficult name wrong, so if I were in OP’s position, this guy’s pomposity would be the main thing for me.

    4. Princess Xena*

      Out of curiosity, is there a way he could have easily gotten your name right (like an email signature or a business card) or was he attempting to transcribe a name he heard? If it’s the former, I’d say definitely flag it. If the latter, I would keep it in mind for later but maybe give him some grace. People have some odd spelling understandings sometimes, especially if they are from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

        1. Nea*

          So potential Face Of The Company saw your name in writing yet didn’t check his spelling of your name against the very email he was replying to?

          “Here is an example of Potential Face Of The Company not checking easily verified details in a manner that could potentially harm the company brand” is VITAL information for the hiring committee! You’re thinking that because it’s your name bringing it up would be personal, but the way to frame it is “If this is how he is about co-worker’s names, one shudders to think what he might do to Major Moneybags’ name when representing us.”

          1. Nea*

            What you want to point out to the interview committee is egregious lack of attention to detail. That the detail messed up was your name is beside the point – he did not double-check his work and that’s bad for your company.

          2. Minimal Pear*

            It’s not quite a spelling thing–think something more like calling me by my middle name and then also calling me “Ms.” even though my name is gender neutral. (I mean, maybe he looked me up on our company website and saw the long hair and she/her pronouns, but still. No one else in this hiring process has used an honorific while emailing me.)

            1. PollyQ*

              I would completely remove the “Ms.” issue from your consideration. He may very well have looked you up in order to try to be more polite/formal, and I don’t think he should be penalized for that.

              The first/middle thing–eh, I don’t know. Yes, it’s a mistake, so you could flag it, but I don’t think it’s as egregious as coming up with a new spelling despite seeing it correctly.

              1. Minimal Pear*

                IDK how to explain what the precise mistake he made was without doxxing myself, but the way in which he screwed up my name wasn’t as… neutral? as my first/middle name example suggests. It’s not at the level of “white person mangling a person of color’s name” (I’m white, my name VERY MUCH matches my heritage lol) but while it probably is an innocent mistake, the way in which he made the innocent mistake feels slightly sexist. I think that’s why the “Ms.” feels weird.

                1. RagingADHD*

                  Wait, I didn’t see this before. The candidate gave you the correct honorific (possibly by verifying your publicly available pronouns).

                  Why is that sexist? I took your original comment at face value, but this string of comments has me more confused about the situation and your reaction to it.

                2. Nancy*

                  It is really difficult to understand the issue without having an example that shows it.

                  Using Ms for someone who has she/her pronouns is not an issue. He very well could have looked it up. I would have done exactly that because addressing someone by their first name only in a first email to them is rude to me. I prefer to be more formal and I know many others have also been taught that. Ms/Mr first name is another common way to show respect in some culture and regions.

                  If it is using your middle name as your first name, I have found that people seem to get confused when more than 2 names are listed. Misspellings? My difficult name is misspelled all the time. I learned to stop caring so much. Something else? I can’t tell.

          3. Nitpicker*

            This happens to me all the time. There are 2 alternative spellings of my first name which is not only on my emails but part of my email address. I have lost track of the number of people who use the other spelling in a reply.
            Most amusing was when I was job hunting and had attended a resume workshop. After emphasizing the need for accuracy (i.e. no misspellings) on my resume, the instructor sent me a pitch for his services as a job hunting coach. Yep, he got my name wrong!

            1. Minimal Pear*

              I complained about this in a previous Friday thread, but the person who onboarded me misspelled my name in a few places (and in a different way every time! impressive!) and it’s caused SERIOUS problems.

            2. jane's nemesis*

              People reply to me addressing me as though my last name is my first name, when I have signed my emails as “Thanks, FirstName” and have in my email signature, FirstName LastName.

              I don’t know why my last name seems more like a first name than my (unusual) first name to people, but apparently they aren’t actually reading my emails to them very carefully…

    5. Chestnut Mare*

      I’d be inclined to let it go unless there are other red flags. Autocorrect is sometimes frustratingly obtuse and aggressive.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t care how bad auto-correct is. In yesterday’s comment section there was a discussion about the importance of attention to detail. THIS is a perfect example of why it’s important and how it can damage a company.

        It doesn’t really matter how the mistake happened. It’s the kind of thing he should have been extra careful of. What happens when it’s a customer or VIP that he does this to?

        1. tessa*

          That’s pretty rigid. We can all go out of our way to not make a mistake and still make it.

          So when it’s a customer or VP (or anyone), and someone makes a mistake, hopefully, they’ll apologize, correct it then and there, and privately find a way to never make that mistake again.

          The real problem here is the pompous attitude in the email.

      2. Nitpicker*

        Auto corrupt (term not original with me) is terrible. Which is why it’s essential to proofread before sending something out.

    6. Observer*

      It’s odd enough–combined with his email being kind of weird and pompous in general–that it feels like something I should maybe flag to the team who’d be interviewing him. Am I just being petty because he really annoyed me?

      No, I think that this is a genuine issue to flag. For one thing, don’t annoy the admin who is scheduling your interviews! It doesn’t inspire confidence. For another, what you describe sounds like something that should be taken into consideration unless the role has no interaction with the pubic and minimal interaction with other staff.

    7. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I’d flag it. I’m thinking of it along the lines of an in-person interview where the candidate is really rude to the receptionist. It gives those making the hiring decision a view of how this person might fit into the company (or not).

    8. Midwest Manager*

      In this instance I’d defer to letting it go. If the candidate persists after gentle correction, then it will tell you a lot about how they percieve administrative support staff and may be worth mentioning. If the hiring manager is any good, chances are that arrogance will come through during the interview and they will get the boot anyway.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        I did go ahead and flag it for them in a very “not a big deal, just a small factor to keep in mind” way.

    9. Pithy is not Pejorative*

      I’m a hiring manager and I often personally handle a lot of the admin coordination with applicants/candidates. It’s always interesting to see how people treat me and follow instructions, particularly when they don’t realize I’m the hiring manager for the position at a fairly large, fairly prestigious company. I’ve come to use it as one of the decision criteria for the position; it can be very telling.

    10. RagingADHD*

      You should always flag a problematic candidate. The hiring team will choose what weight to give it, but feedback on how they interact with the rest of the organization is always important.

    11. Somehow_I_Manage*

      I’d forward the email to the team so they a can be aware of whatever he emailed about (because that’s probably what you have to do with it anyway) and leave it alone. They’ll see it. There’s enough reasonable doubt- autocorrect, taking really bad notes when he heard your name, not a native speaker, etc. But if they engage further, it might help construct a pattern.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        They’ll get cced into the thread later when I get him scheduled for a time–I just don’t know if they bother to go back and read the exchanges with candidates about finding a time, etc. I did tell one of them that she should take a look at that initial email once she gets cced.

    12. Ed123*

      I’m a bit confused. They used the title Ms. which seems to be the correct one to use based on the public information on your company website. The mistake they made with the name was kind of like using middle name instead of first name. But not really. It also wasn’t anything like an ethnic name being anglicised. Nor was it a spelling mistake. I’m not sure which part of this is sexist.

      Af for flaging it. You can talk to someone and say your opinion bur based on this it’s really difficult to say what it actually happening.

  9. ThatGirl*

    I referenced this last week/in prior weeks, but my company merged with (let’s be honest, was acquired by) a slightly larger company in the same industry/complementary space. It’s been… interesting. I’m in marketing, and there are eventual plans to make us one large marketing team. There isn’t a TON of overlap, so I’m not worried about losing my job, but my manager is now reporting to a guy at the “other” company. We only JUST met him last week, which was … interesting. He was pleasant enough, no bad vibes, but the company culture is clearly VERY different than ours.

    Best way to describe it is that when I was onboarded, I was given a TON of resources, lots of meetings set up for me, lots of oversight, kinda warm and fuzzy. At the other place, they’re basically told “okay, here’s your equipment and a list of resources….figure it out!”

    When one of my teammates asked him to describe the company culture in three words, he said “professionalism” and “rugged individualism”. We all just kinda went… :-??? (and now if any of my coworkers are reading this, they will know it’s me, ha.)

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      Yikes, sounds like there’s going to be a bit of a culture shock. But since there’s a layer between you and him hopefully you’ll be a bit insulated.

    2. Myrin*

      Maybe it’s because I’m not a native English speaker and primarily encounter “rugged” in a “romance novel hero”-kind of way but “rugged individualism” sounds weirdly macho/”everyone fending for themselves like untamed cavemen” to me.

      1. ThatGirl*

        You’re not wrong! It makes me think of like… camping on a mountain or something. A pickup truck commercial. There are other “bro” vibes I’ve gotten from a few things… I think what he MEANT was that the company rewards people for figuring things out for themselves/seeking out the resources they need and problem-solving. But he didn’t say it well.

      2. Cj*

        I start a new job at the beginning of August and my insurance kicks in in october. We aren’t able to log in until after our September 21st benefits meeting. I’m really worried I won’t have the info I need by October 1st, just like you. I need my meds refilled on time every month, and it’s going to be a huge hardship if I don’t have my insurance card on time.

      3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Rugged individualism an extremely American idea, and it totally means that. It ties into westward expansion, manifest destiny, and other American ideals about going it alone and conquering shit.

        Definition of rugged individualism
        : the practice or advocacy of individualism in social and economic relations emphasizing personal liberty and independence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, self-direction of the individual, and free competition in enterprise.

    3. Beth*

      For me, “rugged individualism” in this context means “You’re on your own, nobody will help you, people will tear you down if they think that will get them ahead, and when you fail, we’ll tell you it’s your fault.” And “professionalism” means “If you make any objections or push back, we will tear you down harder and tell you that it’s your fault because you have a bad attitude.”

      In your place, I would start my job hunt yesterday.

      1. ThatGirl*

        The thing is – I don’t think that’s what he meant. I think he just phrased it really poorly. Because when asked to expand upon that, he did mention finding resources and getting help, and we’re in a creative team within marketing — the work is collaborative by nature. He’s also two levels up from me and not in the same location, although in theory he’ll be dictating at least some of the work we get.

        That said, my resume is up to date should the need arise.

        1. Somehow_I_Manage*

          If I may “glass half full” this situation. Some people thrive when they’re given the independence to build their work the way they like. While it’s good to have support, often the more corporate an organization gets, the more strangled you can be by the bureaucracy and endless procedure. Particularly in creative fields (like marketing) this new culture might be a more free space for you to implement your own ideas and try things “your way” without fear of getting micromanaged- and even better, if you’re successful, you’ll get recognized!

          Granted, some people really need tightly structured and managed positions, and don’t feel confident unless someone is looking over their shoulder. That’s why culture matters in the job search. Hopefully this works out for you!

          1. ThatGirl*

            I, personally, am happy to wait and see what happens. I’ve seen a lot of corporate BS and I know by now what I am and am not willing to put up with. Things are certainly going to shift; if I find myself miserable, I’m not shy about job-searching. And it’s not that I need to be tightly managed, per se – my boss is not super hands-on. It’s more that we’re moving from warm and fuzzy/family owned to All About the Numbers/justify why you’re here/publicly owned and I feel like there has to be some kind of happy medium between the dramatic pendulum swings.

  10. my cat is prettier than me*

    I’m a little frustrated at the moment. My health insurance at my new job started on the first of this month, but I haven received a card or any other information. I have some appointments that I really need to schedule, but I can’t do that without any information. My direct supervisor is our HR department (one person, started when I did). I asked her about it and apparently the benefits coordinator is asking for stuff she already has. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it, so I’m just venting.

    1. Sassenach*

      Most companies who offer benefits have a broker. Ask your HR department who that is and contact them directly. If that does not work, contact the insurance carrier directly. Do not wait. If there is an issue with your enrollment, time is critical in getting it resolved. Do not wait! I am speaking with 25 years in the insurance industry.

      1. my cat is prettier than me*

        I think the broker is the person HR is actually talking to. If I call the insurance company directly, will they be able to do anything without a lot of information?

        1. Sassenach*

          you should be able to call the broker directly as well. The HR person should also have online access to the group account where they can view and print your ID card for you, look up your ID number, check to make sure you are enrolled etc. It is not this hard, I promise! I would keep insisting. It’s YOUR coverage and part of your benefits package.

          1. HoundMom*

            I am a broker and I regularly speak to employees, but most of my colleagues do not. It really depends on the size of the clients you handle. Small group brokers (under 50 employee lives) often do but as companies get larger, it is less common. I work in in the over 1,000 market. The only way an employee can get my contact information is if the HR/benefits person connects us.

            Most of the national carriers still allow you to set up an account with your SSN and/or date of birth. If you cannot log in, they do not have your information on file yet, so you need to chase HR.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      That stinks! But talk to your medical providers. Some would know if they can work with or bill your insurance without the cards. (Don’t underestimate how much CSRs can look up with just a name and date of birth.)

    3. OnetoFindTheGiraffe*

      I just switched jobs and had a similar situation. It’s probably worth a shot to call the insurance company and say you just started and know they’re still processing your card, but can they give you your ID?

      (This only works if the benefits coordinator has let the company know about your hire, but I was able to get my member ID # this way weeks before my card arrived in the mail. I still haven’t received the full policy documents!)

      1. my cat is prettier than me*

        I can’t find the number. The carrier is in a different state and only has numbers listed for certain cities.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Did you try one of the numbers anyway? My carrier is out of state and all the contacts are out of state, but that’s where the company is so I call there.

    4. Merci Dee*

      Depending on your insurance carrier, you can go to their website, register for an account if you haven’t already, and print a temporary card from their website until your regular card arrives. I’ve had to do that once or twice, and my providers didn’t have any problem accepting it.

    5. J.B.*

      Blue cross did this to me! I had to get the number from our benefits office and they hadn’t flipped some necessary switch.

    6. shannon*

      Hi, I work in hospital billing. If you know the name of the company, and it’s common (Blue Cross, Aetna, etc) the staff at your office should be able to find it with your name and birthday.

    7. Parenthesis Dude*

      Talk to your doctor’s office. If they have a relationship with you, they’ll understand that your insurance is changing and will work with you. If they don’t, you can always submit the bill to your insurance yourself when you get it, and they’ll reimburse you. It’s not great, but if you really need to schedule the appointments, you should be fine.

    8. BellyButton*

      Usually, you just pay it and once you get everything you submit it to the insurance. Or you can ask your doctor if they can wait until you receive the info. I start my new job on Monday, right when I need to get some prescriptions filled and I don’t have the info. I’ll just pay and submit when I do.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Stay on it– something similar happened to me at an old job and it turned out HR had never submitted my info to the insurance company. I was inadvertently uninsured for much longer than I expected. It wasn’t difficult to correct, but I was so pissed when I found out.

      If the benefits coordinator is asking for info, your supervisor should re-send it. She started the same day you did– does she have her card?

    10. halfwolf*

      i’ve always been told that if you don’t have your insurance ID yet, a doctor’s office is able to look up your coverage with your social security number. i believe i have done that in the past, but i don’t totally recall! definitely reach out to your providers and explain the situation and ask what they’d like you to do. as frustrating as this is as a patient, doctor’s offices encounter this kind of situation all the time.

    11. RussianInTexas*

      If your new medical insurance is one of the big names, they would have a website from which you can download and/or request your insurance ID card and the break down of the benefits.
      They will usually ask your SS#, name, employer, stuff like this.

    12. KuklaRed*

      I had a similar situation when I changed jobs in July. My benefits started on my first day, but I didn’t have any info (policy #, etc.) and I had to schedule a doctor’s appointment and get some meds refilled. I contacted the insurance company directly and they were able to help me get set up, emailed me my insurance card, and were really great.

    13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I may be cynical but are you 100% sure they have actually enrolled you in an insurance plan…

      1. my cat is prettier than me*

        I am 100% sure. HR is fantastic and we’re working together to try to get better benefits for the company in the future.

    14. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Recently happened to me. At checkout at the doctor’s office, I explained the situation and offered to just pay the entire bill if that was their preference. I knew the name of the new insurance company though, and the coordinator was able to look me up! She even printed out a copy of my card for me, which was great since they were sending me for some lab work and I would’ve needed it there, too.

      If a card still hasn’t arrived by the time of your appointment, tell the office and maybe they can help you out.

      1. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

        Oh, sorry – I missed the bit about you not even being able to schedule the appointments without the info.

        Might still be worth a try explaining when you call.

    15. Foley*

      This happened to me this January? Takes like six weeks for paperwork, but I had a follow-up appointment from a December procedure…in January.

      I called (Blue Cross) in this case, and they were able to give me the ID number which I gave to the doctor’s office and it worked out. But the doctor’s office said if I just gave them the company, they’d reverse engineer it. The broker had COVID at the time otherwise I’d have gone that route first.

      Like you I wasn’t able to get it online because I was missing some piece of necessary info. But once I got the ID number, I was able to create an account online and get all that other info and print a temporary card. Now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if the cards ever came…I was just at the doctor’s today and once they had the info, they never asked again – or today.

  11. JewishAndVibing*

    I ended up turning down my first job offer (of my current job search) after researching the area I’d be relocating to. It’d be a very conservative area that’s apparently gotten worse with COVID and the increase in anti-LGBT sentiment in the last few months. I still feel back because I’d have gotten an in with an employer and it’d be working with badly underserved communities… but I also have my own safety as a Jewish LGBT+ person to worry about.

    Still sad, though, since it was work I really wanted to do.

    1. NICS*

      You have all my sympathies. That is terribly unfair and the people who caused this will never know what they have lost.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Sorry to hear that. I don’t think less marginalized folks recognize this enough when they say “Hey, just move to this lower-cost-of-living area” or “I love this totally remote place, which is so beautiful.” There are lots of places that are visually beautiful or that are cheaper to live in that are just not safe for certain folks to live in. Not that “blue” cities are immune from various *-isms, but there are often resources and lots of community support there. When you’re limited in where you can live, you’re limited in where you can work, too.

      1. Starbuck*

        “Hey, just move to this lower-cost-of-living area”

        Totally, it’s usually lower-cost for serious quality of living issues that are keeping people away for a REASON.

    3. Carpe Manana*

      No matter how great a job is nor how much I believed in the organization’s mission, I could not feel safe in a community that didn’t value me (at best) or was outright hostile to me (at worse). I look forward to reading your post when all the pieces fall together for you.

    4. aubrey*

      You have to take care of yourself first, and that’s not something you should feel bad about. The whole situation really sucks though.

  12. New Mom*

    I work in a time sensitive high-stakes industry that involves financials for vulnerable people. I have a crunch time where literally every minute counts with the type of work I’m doing. I do the work for hundreds of clients. My issue is that some of the clients have point people in my organization who will want/demand status updates or try to get their client’s unique case pushed up in the queue. I have tried ignoring, I’ve created automatic responses, or letting them know that I need to focus on my work but the point people will usually involve higher ups which will then require me to stop my work and deal with the specific case.
    The issue is, when I pause my work, it causes delays for all the other clients, including ones who may not be as good at advocating for themselves as the one that the point person is calling about. Delays will cause more urgent situations for a larger amount of people but the point people don’t seem to grasp it or maybe don’t care. I’m finding it difficult to be productive with these interruptions but the higher ups are so out of the loop that whenever they hear about an “urgent case” from one of the point people they become very reactive. My frustration is that it’s really urgent for all the clients, not just the ones that the case workers might be calling about.
    Any advice? Anyone in a similar situation.

    1. Colette*

      Two questions:
      1) Can the people asking for updates view the status on their own?
      2) Can you direct them to your management, and have them run interference?

      1. New Mom*

        1) Sometimes, everything needs to be manually updated so it’s only as fast as my small team can do. And with the interruptions, that work tends to get pushed to the bottom.
        2) Management has really let us down. They are so out of the loop and I guess uncomfortable saying no, that one day a few weeks ago I said a firm “no” to a few point people and then I had to have four separate 30-60 minute meetings with higher and higher up people explaining the situation. I was so frustrated I almost started crying during the last meeting, and that was HOURS that were taken away from my time sensitive tasks that I was then forced to do late into the evening.

        1. Colette*

          You need to have a conversation with your manager about the trend, and about what she wants you to do. Maybe she wants you to drop everything; maybe she doesn’t – but you need to be on the same page.

          I’d also like to push back on “I was then forced to do late into the evening”. That sounds like a choice.

          I understand you are working on important stuff, but you can’t be the only one trying to hold it all together. If your manager takes you away for 2-4 hours to talk about your priorities, that is time that those important things won’t get done – and that’s your manager’s call.

    2. NICS*

      Is there any way you (hopefully with the support of your direct supervisor) can tell the higher-ups that every case like this is urgent and you have a queue organized to get the most cases done in the least time, but whenever they force you to stop your queue and deal with X case it makes everyone else’s case take longer and decreases yur efficiency?

      Good luck!

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes, if you can manage it, figure out how many other client’s work is *not* getting done while you respond to that One Pushy Person or worse, the “why didn’t you do this” meetings.

        “When you pulled me into a 60 minute meeting about That One Person 4 other client’s finances did not get processed on time. How would you like to address this in the future?”

        Metrics may make a stronger argument for managers who don’t understand the system.

    3. Bagpuss*

      That’s really frustrating.

      Is thre anyone more senior that you you could speak to with a view to creating a protocol you can refer people to, and perhaps having that more senior person explain the problem.

      Do you have a standard response for higher ups ? e.g. “I am currently dealing with a high number of high priorty cases. I deal with cases strictly on the basis of their urgency, please don’t ask be to take cases out of order as this causes delays as it disrupts the process, but also prejudices those clients who have equally urgent, or more urgent cases but do not have direct access to a senior manager / board member.”

      Ideally it sounds as thoug you need someone with more power than you to instruct you *not* to let anyone skip the queue – is there anyone you or your manager could approach to give that instruction? e.g. if you were able to say “I can’t override the queue unless it’s authorised by the CEO, if you get his authotiryt to priortise Mrs Jones’ case, forward that on to me and I will of course take that next” then it makes it much harder for them to pull rank on you.
      (and hopefully also reduces or cut s short the number of times people ask)

    4. Tex*

      I think you need a presentation to management/hire ups that shows that when you stop to help one individual client, it makes overall productivity go down. They may have your back if you can pinpoint reasons for negative outcomes to the current system.

      The real question is – are there people who need to jump the queue or is this just a case of a squeaky wheel? Maybe designate someone on your team who can handle special requests? Or have a special time (last hour of the working day people can contact you, but all your time before that needs to be devoted to the big list.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Step 1: Do a big picture thing with the higher ups/management, explaining the process, how you’re tracking, consequences of being late, etc. Then explain the domino effect that’s happening and ask for help in changing the situation. Give them specific things to do/not do that will help.

      Step 2: Setup and communicate guidelines, which include a very obvious reference to no special cases, no updates unless xyz, leave you and your team alone except in cases of abc.

      Step 3: when step 1 and 2 have happened and the situation hasn’t changed. Be late. Yes, it sucks. But you’re not the one causing this, and your management has failed. So, just do the best you can and if you’re late, oh well. But do CYA so that when you’re late, you can point to all these unnecessary interruptions and say, well, I spent 3 hours responding to these status requests/meetings/whatever, which was 3 hours I didn’t spend on actually doing the work. Put the consequences back on the people who are causing them.

      Step 4: For when you get fed up, find a new job.

    6. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Oh, that is so frustrating. I was in a similar situation once but my work isn’t so urgent or important.

      My situation: I received work from half a dozen project managers, did my portion, and handed job back to PM. Urgent jobs were flagged so that I could turn them over quickly. One PM marked 85% of her jobs as urgent when maybe 5% of her jobs were actually urgent. I got to the point that I would just say okay, put her “urgent” job at the top of the list, after which I would return to job I was working on, after that I would complete the job 2nd on the list, if that didn’t take too long I do the 3rd on the list. If anyone asked, her “urgent” job was next on the list to-do. In no way did I give her the special treatment she wanted so she complained once to my manager. But when manager looked at the numbers they couldn’t see any problems, the work was getting done and within a reasonable time frame.

      I guess, I’d go against some of the comments I see here. Make the queue a little more opaque if at possible to give you and your team some wiggle room when deciding on priority cases. When asked… “I’m just finishing up this one I’m working on and that “urgent case” is next on the list.”

      1. LizB*

        This strategy is actually kind of brilliant when what you really need to manage are external expectations!

    7. LizB*

      I’m not in your situation, but I have coworkers who are in very similar-sounding positions. I actually have access to their department’s task queue so I can field as many external questions as possible for them and let them focus during crunch time, and during the really key hour of the week I have a secondary person who jumps on the phones with me to also help out. Is there an admin or adjacent department that can act as a buffer between you and case managers during peak work hours? Could look something like this:

      Case Manager: Hey, is Susie Participant’s check cut yet? She really needs it for [details details legitimate but not unique sob story etc etc]
      Buffer Person: I can see that New Mom received Susie’s request on time and is processing checks right now. Susie Participant should have her check on time, which is to say by 2pm today [or whatever your timeline is].
      or,
      Buffer Person: Looks like Susie’s request was received after the deadline. New Mom is working on processing the on-time requests now, but I’ll flag this one for her to include with the on-time batch if possible. [And then that gets done in some way that doesn’t require an immediate response from you or interrupt your workflow.]

      It’s also been very helpful in my org for our time-crunched department to be really transparent with the whole org about their timelines. They’ve presented in multiple staff meetings about their process, who is doing what kind of work when, why their various deadlines are set when they are, etc. They also have full backup from our management to put their heads down and do their thing when it’s crunch time, so I do think a big-picture conversation with your management is crucial.

    8. Banana*

      When I have worked with similar heads-down time critical work, I gave my leadership a space to make a priority list for me of things that needed to be pulled ahead, I limited the number of things that could be on the list (my number was 3, including any I was still working on, if there were 3 on there and they wanted to add one, they had to remove something, and they could not remove something once I had started working on it.) I also scheduled one 15 minute meeting every morning for them to discuss those items with me, they could not contact me prior to that meeting to discuss things. It helped keep the noise down, and helped them self-select and self-prioritize the escalations. I also saw them starting to set criteria for what they would add to the list and what they wouldn’t (clients who had been affected by a natural disaster, yes, clients who just tended to be demanding, no, etc.)

    9. P*

      I have seen similar situations where people are confusing important with urgent.

      When one of these point people contact you try pushing back by naming the problem. Have a prepared template response (so it causes minimal interruption) saying you acknowledge their query is important but it comes at the expense of causing other clients to miss out on , which is an urgent need that is time sensitive. If their request for an update can’t wait then they will need to supply evidence why it’s now urgent. It might not work every time but most people are reluctant to be identified as someone who’s so impatient their actions caused someone else to be denied what they need.

    10. Professional Cat Herder*

      Ugh, I’ve been there and I so feel for you in this issue. I eventually had to go for the “procrastination on your part, or your clients part does not constitue an emergency on my part” approach. It’s not the most “team player” attitude, but after getting work dumped on me at the last minute by multiple people it had to happen.

      I did the following three things:
      1. I had to give a submission deadline for Sales and other departments if they wanted certain projects to get priority.
      2. I instituted a rule that projects would be done in the order received and could only be rushed if there was a really good reason. Such as, it was a personal client of the CEO or something.
      3. As we were a smaller company and I worked directly under the CEO, I had a very illuminating conversation (for him) about priorities and the bottlenecks they were causing to my department (with metrics).

      My advice to you, would be to quantify as to how this is causing delays in writing. Such as, “the normal timeline for Client A’s teapot production was on track for 3 days, but when we got a priority request for Client B’s saucers this added 2 extra days to the production of teapots.”

      Wishing you luck!

  13. Justme, The OG*

    More of a complaint than anything. I applied for a job (dream job) and felt that I tailored my resume and cover letter well to what they were asking for, making my experience relevant. The night before the job closed the hiring manager emailed with a new job description, very different from what was published. I can’t go back and edit my stuff, system won’t allow for it.

    1. Colette*

      Do you want the job with the new description?

      If yes, and you were applying for that job, how would you change your resume? If it’s a significant change, can you reply to the email with the new version?

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I’m missing a lot of the required technical skills that’s in the new description. And maybe I don’t want to work for a department that can’t put out the correct job description.

        1. PollyQ*

          If all you had known about the job was the revised description, would you still have applied for it? Sounds kinda like a “no,” so probably best to just mentally let this one go and focus on other openings.

        2. Observer*

          That’s a bad take in that the problem with the job description doesn’t necessarily reflect the department.

          There are a lot of possible ways this could have happened, and most of them don’t mean that this is a bad place to work. Not that you shouldn’t try to find out what happened. But don’t draw any conclusions till you have more information.

    2. Anonymous Koala*

      Can you send your edited stuff directly to the hiring manager, and explain that the system wouldn’t let you edit it?

        1. Anonymous Koala*

          I’m actually in gov too, and if they happened to me and I had the hiring manager’s email address (it sounds like you do) I would absolutely send over the updated stuff directly. It’s not going to hurt you, and sometimes hiring managers have more discretion about these things than it appears from the outside.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            When the jonb listing tells me to not email the recruitment contact directly, I tend to follow that direction.

            1. ...*

              Gov hiring manager here, email the POC and explain that the system isn’t letting you / didn’t let you upload your materials before close. We recently extended several listings to give candidates the opportunity to update or add materials because of this exact issue & candidates contacting us.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Can you email the hiring manager directly and ask if this is the same position? It’s possible they sent the wrong job description.

      Alternatively, maybe HR posted one description and the Hiring Manager has a completely different view of what the role is about (this is NOT unheard of, by the way). Getting clarification on that will help you understand whether you want the role, and whether you need to tailor your resume (again), which would be a pain. I’d tend to leave it as is.

        1. TechWorker*

          This then feels like it is *totally* ok to respond back ‘thanks for letting me know! I have updated my cover letter to better highlight my experience for the updated job role, attached’. That’s not ‘trying to get around process’, that’s totally reasonable!

    4. CheeryO*

      This doesn’t surprise me at all, unfortunately, as someone who is in state government and has been involved in the hiring process a few times in the last couple years. I wouldn’t necessarily let it color your view of the potential job too much. A lot of government agencies just suck at hiring, procedurally.

  14. JumpAround*

    Do the workplaces and resources Alison often describes actually exist anywhere? And if so in what kinds of industries and jobs?

    Through reading AAM I’ve realized that my workplace is pretty dysfunctional at best and super toxic at worst, but I read some of Alison’s advice and I can’t imagine a workplace where that’s an option. The idea of being “encouraged to take a few days off” or managers who are able to grant time off without using PTO is foreign to me. I don’t think any of my friends work somewhere with an EAP. Are there places where saying “If you want me to accomplish X, Y and Z will suffer” and that’s acceptable?

    I guess I’m really just looking for assurances that there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel and wondering if I’m just in the wrong industry.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Hm we have an EAP but I can’t imagine hearing about all this bad stuff happening to kids without at least your own therapist. My boss at least tells me to take a day off if I’ve gotten myself worked up lol.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yes, they do, or she wouldn’t mention them. My manager has given us all freebie days off on occasion, and would encourage me to take PTO if she saw me getting burned out. I haven’t used our EAP, but everywhere I’ve worked has had one.

      Some industries lean more dysfunctional than others, but within any industry there will be a range of great-okay-bad-terrible employers.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      From my own experience working in engineering: yes, these workplaces exist.

      I have been able to take a few hours off not using PTO when moving (I relocated for the job, so the company was OK with me taking a few hours to have my furniture delivered). The companies I’ve work for have had an EAP (never used it so I can’t comment on how good the services are). And I have had conversations with my manager about needing to move a project deadline back, or asking “which of these tasks is the highest priority?”

    4. Decidedly Me*

      These things exist! I encourage people to take a few days off for folks that aren’t taking much time or due to other circumstances; this isn’t just me, though, but part of company culture. We offer an EAP. And I have totally told my own boss “If I focus on X, then I need to delay Y”.

    5. OnetoFindTheGiraffe*

      I can’t speak for your industry, but: my current workplace is about as close to the ideal scenario as I’ve ever seen Alison describe. Supportive managers, lots of training, lots of professional development, very caring atmosphere, great benefits and salary.

      It still feels like a bit of a mirage to me—but even recognizing that it’s far and away the best place I’ve worked, I still can say that other places at least were attempting to get there. Both my past two jobs had EAPs; both of them at least paid lip service to taking PTO.

      So it’s possible! Truly.

    6. Lynn*

      I have worked for three big companies in different industries, and they all did. I think it’s not necessarily the industry, but how direct vs indirect work outputs are; i.e. time off seems less of a big deal when it mostly means shuffling meetings around, and more of a big deal when it means we won’t produce enough widgets for our customers.

    7. londonedit*

      I have worked for them! It isn’t particularly common for managers to just say ‘take some time off’ without an employee having to actually use holiday or sick time, but an old manager of mine would say ‘go home and get some rest, and don’t worry about recording it as a sick day’ if you weren’t feeling well. My current workplace has an EAP and we’re reminded on a regular basis about it – it’s completely anonymous if you call (they like to know which company you’re calling from so they can build up an idea of the spread of use over the companies they work with, but you don’t even have to give your name) and you can access all sorts of legal help and counselling whether it’s a workplace issue or something completely personal. And I have a good relationship with my boss, so if I say to them ‘Look, I’m really concerned that the schedule for this book just isn’t going to be feasible’ or ‘I understand you want to rush this book out for the end of the year, but realistically we have six other books in the same time frame and I won’t be able to get them all done without something falling by the wayside’, they 100% take my word for it and – as much as is humanly possible – will work with me to come up with a solution. Even in my first publishing job, the CEO’s mantra was ‘If you can’t fit everything into your working hours, speak to your line manager because that means we have a problem with workload and we need to fix it’.

    8. calvin blick*

      I’d be interested in what industry you’re in. My company has a 3.7 rating on glassdoor with 66% of people recommending it, and are trying to deal with turnover. So, not an amazing place to work based on that. But we have an EAP, fairly casual relationship to PTO (I’m flying to a wedding soon and I just told my boss to let him know, but I’m not taking PTO for those hours), and we have the option of taking every other Friday off assuming our work is done.

      At the job before that, PTO wasn’t really tracked and while we didn’t have too many days off (12 days), it was kind of understood that if you were doing a good job and needed more no one was going to look too closely. Both places have a decently open door policy where if what your boss is asking isn’t possible, you can tell them.

      So short answer is your job sounds super toxic, and “pretty dysfunctional” is giving them too much credit. I don’t know what industry you’re in but I bet there are better companies out there even within the industry.

    9. JimmyJab*

      I work in state government, and I have lots of the positive things Alison talks about. Not universally true about government jobs, but mine is pretty good.

        1. Lives in a Shoe*

          Coming here to echo the above. I’m in higher ed admin, and while there are departments less happy than mine, I’m in my second with great, transparent leadership, good benefits, supportive colleagues, important-feeling work in the big picture sense, and GREAT pay. Often I feel as though I should pinch myself. It’s not perfect-perfect, but if I have to work (I do!) this is the perfect spot *for me.*

    10. MB*

      I’ve worked in a couple different places that had EAPs – I currently work in state government, but I also used to work retail for a large chain and they had an EAP available to even part-time staff. Maybe size of employer is the correlation there?

    11. Lady Ann*

      I work for a nonprofit and we have an EAP. I could not give my employees time off without them using PTO, though. Whether or not you could push back on work assigned to you would vary based on your position and who your supervisor is.

    12. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, they exist. I work at a large university, and we have an EAP. I have encouraged my employees to take time off. I DON’T have the ability to grant time off for non-sick reasons without using vacation time, really, but we don’t have any restrictions on advance notice when requesting vacation time. Someone can say “I’ve had a crappy week, can I take tomorrow off? (or even “this afternoon?)” and I’ll say yes. I don’t think I have ever turned down a request for vacation time at all. (FWIW, we don’t have a situation where there’s a strict amount of coverage needed at any given time.) If an employee told me “I can’t do X without giving up Y or Z or doing less on those things,” I would sit down with them and figure out priorities, or possibly even redistribute the workload so a colleague with less on their plate could take one of those tasks. I might even say, “OK, I’ll handle Y myself” if I have the time. We have a strong culture of stepping in to help your team when you can, since the way we work means that some people might be super busy while others are less so.

      We also have fantastic benefits, and while pay might not be as high as it is in the corporate world, it’s not bad (my exact field doesn’t really exist in the corporate world, unlike, say, IT or something), and we have upper management advocating for market reviews to ensure fairness and parity with our peer organizations. Also, the people here are great for the most part. Do we have some problems? Yeah, of course. But good places to work do exist, and I’m fortunate to be in one of them.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Same here in higher ed. We also get a ton of PTO, so it’s easy to take a day here and there AND a solid amount of vacation.

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

      They exist in my org — higher ed; but what you listed can either be manager specific (ability to push back on work) or organization specific (offering an EAP). I’ve been here 15 years and had even skip level managers suggest that we take more of our earned vacation to prevent burnout and have better life balance. Our EAP resource is publicized, I would say quarterly. Professional development is hit-or-miss; they “encourage” it, but haven’t been real great about providing it on their end unless I do the work of finding courses or workshops. They’re nebulous on what sort of budget there is, but so far I’ve been reimbursed for any of my out-of-pocket. I’m salary exempt and they’re really fine with me taking a half day for appointments without any penalty to my PTO (that’s actually the law on that one for salary exempt), but they don’t expect me to make up the time.

    14. Catherding Specialist*

      Yes. Several years ago, I needed emergency eye surgery and could only work a few hours a day for the first couple of weeks. That surgery failed and I had to have a more serious surgery with no work for two weeks, and limited for about 6 weeks after that. I told my boss I was going to use short term disability and asked him for advice as I’d never needed std (that’s a terrible acronym) before and wasn’t sure how it worked. He was horrified and told me not to worry about that he would make sure everything was handled. No PTO was taken out of my bank and the next year, our company switched to unlimited PTO. I’ve definitely made sure my team knows that I understand their jobs are very stressful and they should use the time when they need it, with no explanation needed of why they’re taking time off.

      I have had to say that if we add x, we’ll be unable to do y or z, but it our case y and z were outside of our job scope anyway. We were taking on extra projects as a favor to other departments so while it was frustrating because y and z long-term would make our jobs easier, no one was upset when we could no longer keep up. I’m trying to get a new hire that we can dedicate to y and z and maybe help us out with x when they have time.

    15. LadyByTheLake*

      I have worked in a lot of yucky places and some really good ones, but I have never, ever worked anywhere in my entire long career where it wasn’t okay to flag “If you want me to accomplish X, Y and Z will suffer.” That’s just ordinary work allocation. If you are someplace where you can’t even say that, get out — that is an unusually toxic situation.

    16. mreasy*

      I work on this type of job and companies in my industry are getting better about this in general. Working in dysfunctional places for a long time makes it hard to understand that there are other options out there. It’s taken me years to realize just that being yelled at in the workplace isn’t normal…

    17. TechWorker*

      We don’t generally get ‘free’ PTO but only because it’s built into the system, fairly good PTO to start with plus ‘emergency time off’/bereavement leave etc. Management is generally reasonable and saying something is impossible in the time is fine (I mean, they will be annoyed if you agree to something and then day of the deadline say you can’t get it done, but as long as you’re raising/reporting any problems, those problems are not yours solely to deal with).

    18. Hillary*

      Everywhere I’ve worked in the last 15 years has been like Alison describes, mostly for manufacturers, with the big caveat that I’m an experienced professional who manages my own hours. Part of my job is to manage my capacity and raise flags when I have too much on my plate, which is always. I never have enough bandwidth to get down to number five on my to do list. It’s also my job to manage my boundaries and not get completely burned out. I blocked two hours today to go get my covid booster and flu shot. I mentioned it in passing to my boss but only because I happened to see him. I choose to travel on Sunday nights because I’d rather spend an extra night in a hotel than get up at 4:00 for a 6:30 flight.

      In general larger for-profit places are going to have more formal support, although of course that isn’t universally true. Places focused on “the mission” can be more difficult because they can expect you to make an emotional commitment for less compensation. No one’s going to claim I need to be committed to the mission at an industrial manufacturer (I mean, it’s cool product and I’m proud of what we do, but we’re not saving lives). Roles that have more responsibility and are more knowledge based are usually more flexible, the tradeoff is higher stress and usually longer hours.

      No workplace is perfect, but lots of places are better than where you are now. Think about what’s important to you and why it matters. From there you can figure out what kind of work you want and start looking for functional workplaces. I’m a big fan of working to live, it’s 100% reasonable to find a job where you’re putting in your 40 hours to pay for the rest of your life.

    19. JumpAround*

      Well thank you all for basically confirming what I kind of already know lol. I worked at another place that was worse than this one previously (I think some of it is the field I’m in, but I’m very willing to leave the field and my degree isn’t super specific), so I was beginning to think some of this stuff was only in like 10% of work places. Most of my friends are in a similar field to me or startups so I can’t really use them to judge.

    20. RussianInTexas*

      My previous company, that laid me off, did all that.
      My current company, small, family owned – LOL

    21. Dino*

      My company has an EAP, but it’s useless. I brought up a really negative, egregious situation I experienced calling the EAP to our benefits director….. and nothing changed. He told me to call them again. *facepalm*

      Our perks are def just lip service.

    22. Moths*

      I would definitely look around at other workplaces/industries if you’re not seeing those things at your workplace.

      We have an EAP and I’ve utilized it a few times. And just yesterday, an employee came to me about both of those other things. They told me that they were having trouble getting to project X because projects Y and Z were still taking a lot of their time. We chatted about options and time frames and decided that project Z could be put on hold and that time on project Y could be reduced to just a few hours a week so that project X could be the priority. We’re planning to check back on it in a few weeks to see if that was a functional solution. The employee also let me know that a close family member had just been diagnosed with a serious illness and that they might need to travel a few times over the next few months to help out with things. I let them know that they were welcome to work remotely if they wanted to during that time or that they could take the time completely off if needed and to not worry if they don’t have enough PTO for it, just to go.

      The reason I felt comfortable saying these things is that my boss has extended the same support to me before. When I’ve raised problems with workload, it’s always been addressed and when I was coming back from parental leave recently, my boss let me know to take all the time I needed to transition back slowly and to not worry about putting the days into the time off system.

      I think the big things to look for are workplaces and management with high levels of trust (if you can find ways to screen for that). I know my employees work hard and put in extra time when needed to get projects done, so I have zero issue giving them flexibility when they need it. I assume my manager feels the same. I think that’s a general feeling around my company, though certainly it probably varies by department.

    23. Rosyglasses*

      My company is like this – I encourage use of PTO and grant time outside of it when the need arises. We have thorough on boarding and training and try to create a culture that is supportive and collaborative. So they do exist – but I don’t think they are the norm.

    24. Starbuck*

      “Are there places where saying “If you want me to accomplish X, Y and Z will suffer” and that’s acceptable?”

      Yep! That’s how it is at the small org I’m at.

      “I don’t think any of my friends work somewhere with an EAP”

      My org I think is too small to bother with this; my friend who works at the hospital does have access. I think it’s a large institution kind of thing.

      ” being “encouraged to take a few days off” or managers who are able to grant time off without using PTO ”

      I wouldn’t feel bothered asking for this, and I know other staff actually have. But we get so much PTO that it’s not a factor for me.

    25. Irish Teacher*

      Well, my name tells you I’m a teacher in Ireland and…while a lot of what Alison says seems very foreign to me, not only the stuff that IS foreign, but just because most of it seems to be assuming huge companies, which exist here, but certainly aren’t the default (I don’t know many places with a HR and so on), nonetheless, I could certainly say to the head of my department “if you want me to do x, y and z will suffer.” In fact, the previous head of the department specifically encouraged me to tell her if she was asking me to do too much and not to work beyond the hours I was paid for – I had 11 hours my first year in the school before getting full hours the second year. Teaching is NOT a job where we time-watch; our hours are just those in front of students, everything else – planning, correcting, discipline, etc is on our own time. But she was careful about asking too much.

      My current head of department even asked me at the end of last year what my ideal would be for my timetable – whether I’d prefer to have a few free classes first in the morning or last in the evening or combine them all one day to give myself an extra half day or whatever. He couldn’t promise I would GET what I asked for, as it depended on the school’s needs too but he tried to accommodate it where possible. And with both heads of department, I can say to them, “hey, I’d prefer not to schedule a class at x time if possible” or “I rather not take last class on Friday as the last two are currently free and it would mean hanging on for two and a half hours for one class” and they would accommodate that if possible.

      And when my dad died, I was told I could take extra days beyond what is technically allowed if I wanted and that I didn’t need to give any evidence.

      I do have more leeway than most teachers as I am a learning support teacher and while some things are set in stone – if a student is exempt from Irish, we need to provide supervision while the rest of the year are doing Irish – we do have quite a few situations where “this kid needs some extra support and we could take him out at this time or that; which would work better for you.” That is not possible if you have a main subject but it would still definitely be possible to make it clear that you cannot do certain things.

      We also have a lot of say. We vote for example on days off beyond what is prescribed by the government. In effect, this is a handful of days each year, but they are voted on by the whole staff. When it comes to things like…we are having a sort of open day for children only (there will be a separate one for parents but this is just for children in 5th class, so two years before starting secondary) and we are currently signing up to what we want to do for that. We can choose to do a demonstration of our subject or an extra-curricular subject or we can just choose to supervise on the day/lead tours, which means much less preparation.

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        Totally off-topic, Irish Teacher, but I 100% misinterpreted your name. I’ve grown up entirely in the Northeast part of the US, where “Irish” means something very different from actually being in Ireland! (If I could use emojis, there would be a series of facepalm and sweating-laughing and embarrassed emojis here.)

    26. ShinyShoes*

      Yes, absolutely. I work for a midsized manufacturing company that offers all the resources you mentioned and more. I think this can be attributed to our company’s values, not our industry itself though.

  15. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Yo! What are your favorite wonky brain tips? I use a list and use forest ( to block internet fun) but I often get brain tired and complex tasks are not done ( complex for me: scheduling several people w different schedules who do not talk to each other, complex plans , etc)

    1. ecnaseener*

      Using a task list sorted by priority (due date + time needed to complete), so if I don’t have the brain juice to decide what to do next, the list can decide for me. Doesn’t directly help with tasks that are themselves complex, but saves some energy! I’ll post a link to one I use in a reply.

        1. September Ninth*

          These are really cool. Thank you for posting. They remind me of an Eisenhower Matrix but way more detailed.

    2. Anonymous Koala*

      Super detailed lists and protocols! Like sometimes I’ll go so deep that my list will look like:
      1. Pull up Jane’s calendar
      2. Pull up Fergus’s calendar
      3. Overlay both calendars
      Etc.
      When my brain’s checked out it needs all the help it can get. I’ve learned to use functional brain to compensate for OOO brain in advance as much as possible.

      1. Anonymous Koala*

        I also consider making this list a “task” in and of itself, and I make mental space for it. I used to feel like preparing and organising didn’t “count” towards my work for a day, so if I spent a whole day making a detailed plan for the rest of the week I felt like I wasted a day. Getting out of that mindset really helped me.

    3. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Pomodoro- I forget about it and don’t use it often, but when I do it, it does work.

      Reverse to do lists

      Eat the frog – do the thing you dread first.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I pomodoro. I’m not sure what reverse to do is and if I eat the frog I’ll procrastinate the entire day rather than eat it.

        1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

          Reverse to-do is writing out what you have actually done all day, it does wonders for my motivation (I use the IDoneThis app to capture it).

    4. sb51*

      I also have a backlog of non-urgent very simple/bordering on tedious tasks that if I’m just fried I pull out. Accomplishing one of them can boost my energy enough to go back to the complex tasks, and at least I got something done.

    5. Jenny Islander*

      I have good days and bad days. During my good days, I created a task list that specifies everything that has to be done periodically, when, and in what order. Originally this was in Outlook, but due to issues not relevant here, it’s now a Word document that I print off every Monday. It has space at the end to allow for addition of one-time tasks with extensive notes. When I show up at work with a foggy head, I can just follow the list. As a bonus, since my new boss has “stepped back from an authoritative position with which he is uncomfortable” = “allows anybody who feels like it to treat me like their personal assistant and makes vague noises when I exhibit frustration,” when people come to pick at me about why their special project isn’t ready yet, I have documentation that shows them why.

      I also take notes and send “Per our discussion this morning” emails about everything. It’s all kept in one place, marked with dates and topics. I don’t have to trust my foggy memory.

      I am allowed to control the lighting and music in my work area, so I keep the overhead off and play long tracks of instrumental music that I find on Youtube. Good days: Jeremy Soule et al. Bad days: the kind of repetitive stuff that includes New Age buzzwords plucked from assorted cultures and a frequency in Hz in the track title. They don’t realign my chakras with the Oversoul or whatever, but they do help me focus.

    6. Fluff*

      Coming late – I bought a Time timer which is a visual timer. It shows the time you have left as a “piece of pie” that shrinks as it counts down. This has been HUGE for me in conjunction with other tools. I think the visual cues my brain to fit into the time I have left. There are others. The time timer does not tick and you can silence the alarm.

  16. Crackerjack*

    Is anyone else’s workday being affected by Queen Elizabeth’s death? I’m in the UK but maybe this is happening elsewhere in the Commonwealth too.
    I have spent the day ringing round trying to co-ordinate events and our response and now have to rewrite a weekly newsletter that would normally go out this evening and make it a special edition. And Friday is kind of my (mostly) day off. Hey ho. But I’ve got a headache. And I’m not nearly done.

    1. Colette*

      I’m in Canada, and I read a twitter thread about a citizenship ceremony yesterday – they started the verification process before she died, then had to wait for the oath to be updated before they could do the actual ceremony.

      There is no impact on my job, but I’m sure there are people in the federal, provincial, and municipal governments here who are making a bunch of changes today.

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        As a fellow Canadian (and an operations nerd), I’m very interested in seeing how these changes roll out over the next couple of weeks. Reading about Operation: London Bridge was a fascinating look into how much work goes into abiding the Commonwealth monarchy.

        1. londonedit*

          I read an article about it all YEARS ago and have been fascinated ever since, and let me tell you it was so bizarre yesterday seeing it all play out just as I’d read about. The BBC news bulletin announcing her death was word for word, as was the content of the official Palace announcement etc. It’s particularly interesting seeing how it’s all playing out because the establishment and the BBC got it so very wrong when the Duke of Edinburgh died last year – people did NOT want an entire weekend of special TV and radio broadcasts, rolling news and sombre programming. There was a huge backlash. This is very different but I think last year’s experience has definitely informed a lot of what’s going on now – you can tell things have been subtly revised from how they might have been originally laid down.

          1. Melanie Cavill*

            the BBC got it so very wrong when the Duke of Edinburgh died last year – people did NOT want an entire weekend of special TV and radio broadcasts, rolling news and sombre programming

            I barely remember his passing but that makes perfect sense to me. A person’s death isn’t a situation that needs to be closely monitored for additional reporting. It’s pretty final. If it isn’t, then yes, I would love to hear more. But until then…!

          2. EvilQueenRegina*

            I read that article at the time, and did go back and read it again yesterday.

            Yes, definitely interesting in the Prince Philip context – I did find myself thinking back to the Queen Mother back in 2002 where the opposite happened and the BBC were criticised over their coverage, specifically Peter Sissons and his burgundy tie (which I have to admit I hadn’t noticed before it was reported the next day that people had complained.) After Alastair Stewart’s comments about how he didn’t think Huw Edwards should have been wearing black tie when she wasn’t, at that point, confirmed dead, I did feel like they can’t win whatever they do.

      2. Valancy Snaith*

        Federal govt here. Not only today, the changes will quite likely take several months to years to fully change over. From the physical (i.e., removing the Queen’s picture from buildings) to renaming everything that needs it is going to be a long process. We will be seeing things that have been printed with the tag “Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada” for many, many years.

        1. Colette*

          Oh yeah, agreed, it will take time for things to change entirely – but things like the citizenship ceremony and passports are more visible, quicker to change, and (I assume) had a plan already in place. I’m kind of wondering if the mint is still doing it’s thing, or if they are holding off on new coins until they are updated. (Or if they are making Canadian coins at all at the moment.)

          1. Maree*

            In Australia the mint is continuing its run and has announced new coins for 2023. Just a point of reference.

      3. Robin Ellacott*

        I read the same thread and found it fascinating.

        I’m in Canada too, and it didn’t affect our operations, but I expect a lot of wording and imaging in official documentation will change. And of course we were all talking about it.

    2. londonedit*

      There’s no direct impact on my job (apart from a lot of Teams chat about it!) but it must be a nightmare for our social media team and anyone who routinely posts on social media as part of their job – we had several messages yesterday asking people not to post from company accounts, and today there’s been one main statement post from the company account but there’s still a ban on anything except reposting that. I think normal service on that will resume from Monday, but people are being asked to check any scheduled posts very carefully and consider the wording of future posts so as not to end up posting anything with any unfortunate wording.

      1. AngelicGamer, the Legally Blind Peep*

        The social media part – the Hamilton West End twitter was blasted for putting out a message. So was Les Mis’ cast, also in the UK, but they took theirs down.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Just in the sense that the news is EVERYWHERE and inescapable, and nobody seems to be able to talk about anything else. (I’m finding it a bit hard to deal with, as my mother died recently, and now another constant “presence/existence” has been removed.)

      I’ve been reflecting that I’m VERY thankful for a peaceful transfer of power in government (and in the monarchy), and think that this shouldn’t be under-estimated as vitally important to the continuation of civil society. (It might not be perfect, but it sure beats a lot of other options.)

      1. Ella Kate (UK)*

        Also recently bereaved and finding it hard to deal with – sending lots of empathy and good wishes.

    4. Not my usual name*

      Yes. We’ve had to pull scheduled socials, an e-newsletter, and a workshop. This has meant pausing a fundraising appeal. We’ve had to add statements to social and out website.

      We had a protocol all ready in case, but it’s still taken time to implement, taking us away from other urgent tasks.

      Although we are a charity, we don’t have a Royal patron, but it seems to be expected we do this as a ‘mark of respect’

      Of course, I am being very professional but inside I’m finding it all very cringey. All the time, money, floral tributes could be better spent sorting out the mess the country is in…

      1. Courtney Portnoy*

        The £30 million spent on Prince William’s wedding could have also been donated to the NHS or been given as repatriation to any of the countries harmed by colonialism instead. I won’t get too political here, but sadly, I think cringe is inherent to a monarchy in 2022 and is only going to escalate in the coming months.

      2. Crackerjack*

        I work for the Church of England so we need an official response, and the Church had one of course but individual churches like mine weren’t particularly ready. We don’t have huge events, but some have been cancelled and this has taken a bite out of our plans for Harvest (the next big season). Plus all the new commemorative things to plan for the next two weeks.

      3. Starbuck*

        It does seem like a staggeringly wasteful expense, but then that’s the monarchy summed up for you.

    5. Scot Librarian*

      I’ve had to pull socials for today and the weekend, plus my workplace had a govt minister coming to visit next week to talk about the work we do, but that’s been cancelled. I’m sick of it all already as a Scottish anti monarchist

    6. Yay, I’m a Llama Again!*

      Not directly related, but I found myself feeling really out of sorts this morning. I didn’t really know how to start my workshop – should I mention it or not? Should I assume people would be upset? I found it tough not to have been given a bit of steer by my team (I’m in the UK). And my brain wobbles every time I hear ‘His Majesty’ or ‘The King’ – it feels odd!

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      (I’m in the UK.)
      There were 2 big award dinners in our city yesterday – 1 went ahead as planned, 1 was cancelled last-minute (news came through around 6pm) after event crews had spent the whole day setting up. We will probably send out our newsletter a bit later than planned – otherwise, no major changes because we don’t have any events scheduled till October.

      I pity any event planner who has a big event coming up in the next week or so – what a nightmare!

    8. EvilQueenRegina*

      I am in UK local government, so far most of the day to day operations are proceeding as normal, things like formal council meetings have been suspended but other things like social workers visiting families are still going ahead.

      Anyone public facing / attending any external meetings that are still happening was asked to wear dark clothing by the Chief Executive but our immediate director has issued a different email saying to use our own judgement re clothing, don’t think they talked to each other.

      We were supposed to be hearing the outcome of an inspection next week but that has been postponed to a date TBC.

      In the event that the funeral is on a weekday I think we will be closing that day.

    9. Adrian*

      OT, but kind of similar story. When Elvis Presley died in 1977, People magazine was only three years old and nowhere near the pop culture iconic publication it would become.

      So it didn’t occur to the publisher to stop the presses and change the cover story (Mia Farrow). Afterword they caught so much flack, they vowed that never again would any public figure’s death go unacknowledged on their pages.

    10. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      My workday hasn’t changed, but NY state is flying their flags at half mast. I thought that a nice touch.

    11. Bagpuss*

      I’m in the UK, and no, not really.
      It’s mildly irritating that they haven’t announced when the funeral will be, as we will have to make a decision about closing, and it would be useful to know if the courts will be closed.

    12. Aliens are (un)Real*

      I work in content moderation, so some of our teams were impacted with needing to issue guidance on conspiracy theories / funeral pictures / misinformation. Thankfully / sadly most of this was in place already, since the major types of conspiracy theories people tend to use don’t shift that much.

      1. Frustrated Freelancer*

        I posted about this separately but I have had work cancelled – performing street theatre – as the town council that was hosting the event pulled it. And 2 other days as part of the same project have been postponed so I am out 3 days income (I am freelance)

    13. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Yes. Planned strikes called off, events cancelled, lots of meetings.

      And there were quite a few people crying. Myself included.

    14. Office Gumby*

      Here in Australia, it was present, but low-key. We have a belltower at work, so at noon, we did the 96-toll. Quite lovely to hear that solitary bell ring for about five minutes.

      But then our marketing department filmed it and used it for our official online response. They spent the next several hours editing it, so our area spent the rest of the afternoon hearing echoes of that tolling bell. Not that I minded too much, as it was better than ringing phones.

      Nobody felt like doing much work, so nobody called us much.

  17. Minimal Pear*

    I actually have two questions, hope it’s okay to post them separately. I’m helping my friend, who is a freelancer, raise her prices. She is SEVERELY underpaying herself. However, she is worried that if she asks for the correct price, she will lose clients. I only got her to reluctantly agree to a $2 increase because I pointed out that that’s the bare minimum to keep up with inflation. Any more than that and she starts worrying, so I suggested a sliding scale, with the hope that at least some of her clients would be willing to pay more. How does this part of the email template I wrote up for her sound?

    I’m reaching out because I am raising my prices due to inflation; unfortunately, it is no longer sustainable to charge only $16/hr. [There may be a sentence here about how she also needs money to pay for a direct billing setup.] I understand that times are tough for us all, so I’m implementing a self-selecting sliding scale of $18-$25/hr. That way you can choose how much to pay within that range.
    Please let me know what rate you’re able to pay! If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll default to the minimum of $18/hr. This increase will take effect starting with [event on date].

    Also, with the direct billing, she tried to set it up in the past and said she couldn’t figure it out. Does anyone know of resources to help here?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I would recommend she default closer to the higher end of that, because who’s going to self-select paying $25 when they could pay $18?

      Would it be possible for her to start with a new rate (say, $20) for new projects or clients?

      1. Minimal Pear*

        She REFUSES to go higher, I love her so much she’s one of my best friends but I did have to spend about an hour cajoling her just to get her to agree that she should in fact go up to $18 just to account for inflation. She’s very very worried that people will drop her if she goes for too high of a price–apparently when she gave herself a $1 raise last year, one of her clients said that it cost too much and they dropped her.

        1. ThatGirl*

          okay, ONE client dropped her, but the rest paid? so presumably that made up for the loss of business? Like, wouldn’t she rather work, say, 30 hours a week for $30 an hour than 60 hours a week for $15? I’m not formulating the thoughts very well, but basically … if you set your rate too low, you eventually run out of time in the week to make enough to pay yourself. If you raise it, the ones who don’t want to or can’t pay self-select out, and you give yourself more time and either the same or more money.

          1. Minimal Pear*

            I think part of her worry about losing clients is that she is doing this specific thing for groups of people (like I said below, think clown who performs at birthday parties), so having one person drop from a group can seriously change the vibe of the group and might make the whole group eventually drop the service. She also has a lot of emotional attachment to all her clients and feels really bad if they have to drop out because they can’t afford it.
            I thought about making the same argument re: other clients making up for the one dropping out, but I wasn’t sure if she’d buy it because of the emotional component. Like, I think her problem was less the loss of the money and more that she really liked that client and was sad to see them go.

            1. Reba*

              Kindly, Minimal Pear, you can’t do this for her.

              I totally understand there is a lot of emotional weight with caring-type work. I think your friend might benefit from some chats with someone in her same field who might be able to help her with balancing the work needs and emotion entanglement.

              1. Minimal Pear*

                Yeah, I’m definitely trying to keep myself from getting TOO emotionally involved, but at the same time it’s very much a “sometimes you need someone else providing external motivation” situation. (To be clear, I offered to help and she explicitly consented.)
                I let her know your idea of talking to other people who do similar jobs!

      2. Jess*

        I was just asked to self select a price for socks and I decided I’d rather not have them at all then over or under offer.

    2. NLR*

      Sliding scale isn’t usually “pay what you want.” It’s more like $X for companies of a certain size/budget, $Y for companies of this other size/budget, etc. I would find this email from a contractor a bit amateurish, to be honest. She should decide what to raise her prices to and let clients know. It can be a different rate for different clients. Also, don’t include the language about needing money to pay for a billing setup; that isn’t clients’ problem to care about.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        The problem is that she really should be getting $25/hr but she refuses to SAY that because she’s so worried that people will just say “oh that’s too expensive” and dump her. $18 is just the bare minimum to keep up with inflation, it’s not actually a “raise” at all. The only way I could convince her to bring up the possibility of more than $18/hr was if I phrased it this way.
        This is in a very informal setting–I was actually worried this email was too formal and structured. Think something like… I don’t know, a clown who performs at birthday parties or something?

        1. NLR*

          It’s not too formal, it’s the opposite, too informal. I would be annoyed to get an email from a contractor asking me to figure out what to pay them. That’s just shifting the burden from them to me when it should be on them. Do not let her send this sliding scale message. (Sorry to be blunt but to explain how it’s landing–I would accept this from the teenager who babysits for me, not an adult professional.)

          If you can’t convince her, then you can’t convince her. It’s up to her how she runs her business.

          1. Minimal Pear*

            Babysitting is actually a much closer comparison to her job than birthday party clown was! That’s why there’s such an emotional aspect of getting client-dumped–it’s like if she’d been babysitting this really awesome kid who she got along with super well, and then the kid’s parents stop hiring her because she raised her price by a dollar, or whatever.

            1. felia*

              The babysitting example was a red herring. NLR was saying they would accept this from a teenager who is too young to know any better, not from an adult running their own business.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              But also, fwiw, in a lot of parts of the country (if you’re in the US), $25/hr is what babysitters get.

        2. Beer Me Some Common Sense*

          Even with an informal job you can still make formal statements. Maybe see if she would raise her current clients to the $18/hr and then make her new client price $25/hr. Let the current clients know they are being given a special loyalty rate. People always love getting a discount, and framing it that way shows she’s valued their business so far. Hopefully she does raise her rates, it can be hard but you want to have clients that understand your worth and know you get what you pay for.

        3. Starbuck*

          “she’s so worried that people will just say “oh that’s too expensive” and dump her.”

          What’s the competition charging? Could people really find a cheaper option, or are her prices as rock bottom as you think? I am not clear what the work is, but even $25 / hour sounds like a very low rate for a freelancer!

    3. Sassenach*

      I would not provide a sliding scale. I would give a set amount like $25 and if a client reaches out directly she can say “Ok, I’d be willing to go down to $20 for six months, will that work?”

      1. Minimal Pear*

        I suggested this to her but I will say I’m not sure it’ll work–the clients all know each other and might talk about it/realize they’re paying different amounts.

    4. Lynn*

      Someone… maybe Wired or the Cut? Just did a piece on the Picasso principle that your friend might benefit from reading (and then some of this will come from a neutral third party instead of you)

      1. Minimal Pear*

        I’m not seeing anything on Wired or the Cut. Is “the Picasso principle” used as a name for multiple things? The article I did find didn’t seem related to this situation.

        1. sagewhiz*

          Has to do with an apocryphal story, the gist of it being (and not verbatim to original):
          Picasso and a friend were dining one evening. A lady approached, gushed about how she loved the artist’s work, and asked if he would draw her something on a napkin. He did, handed it to her and said, “That will be $40,000 (or some-such).” Aghast, she said,”But it took you only seconds!” His reply, “No, madam, it took me 40 years to learn to do that in seconds.”

          We don’t base fees on how much time we spend, we base our fees on our level of expertise.

    5. Hlao-roo*

      Can you do some math with her to show her how many clients she can afford to lose for each increase in rate? And then try to work out a good assessment of how many clients she is likely to lose for each increase in rate to find out where she will end up ahead.

      Simple math just for an example:

      Currently has 20 clients. Each client wants 100 hrs of work per year (2000 hrs/yr total). Current rate is $16/hr.

      20 clients x 100 hrs/client/yr x $16/hr = $32,000/yr

      If she raises the rate to $18/hr, she can afford to lose 2 clients (even losing 2 clients, she’ll still be slightly money ahead):

      18 clients x 100 hrs/client/yr x $18/hr = $32,400/yr

      If she raises the rate to $20/hr, she can afford to lose 4 clients:

      16 clients x 100 hrs/client/yr x $20/hr = $32,000/yr

      So then the questions are: will she lose 2 clients by raising rates to $18/hr? Will she lose 4 clients by raising rates to $20/hr? Will she be able to find new clients at those rates?

      1. Minimal Pear*

        I adjusted this for my best guesstimate of the number of clients and hours and sent her that info, thanks for the example!

    6. Anonymous Koala*

      Instead of a sliding scale, can she institute a pre-paid package of services? So if someone books 1 hr at a time, they pay $25/hr, but if they book 3 hrs the price goes down to $20/hr, etc? That might feel more palatable to your friend and give her more of a buffer against changing costs.

      1. TechWorker*

        +1 came here to say this

        First x hours/month (or whatever makes sense): $25/hour
        After that price drops to $22 then $20 or whatever

        The price reduction has to make sense for her and the customer :)

    7. Chapeau*

      Try Lori Widmer’s blog, Words on the Page. It’s for writers, but she’s very passionate and articulate about why you should charge more and how to go about doing it. She also specifically addresses your friend’s issue with losing clients, including letting them know in the next month or so that rates will change at the first of the year and similar things.
      It’s wordsonpageblog . com

    8. Reba*

      Agree with others, this is not a good idea. She can use a sliding scale, but it’s a scale that exists *in her head*/her work planning process. Freelancers can — perhaps should! — quote different rates for different clients/projects.

      You do *not* need to reference everyone’s tough times. Also, clients can always try to negotiate rates, there is no reason to openly invite them to pay you less! You can just say, I’m raising rates, thank you for understanding.

      To soften the blow, she could offer existing clients a longer ramp up to the new rate, while starting new clients at the new rate. “My rate is now $X. For current clients, as a courtesy, I am extending the old rate to you for the next 3 months/end of this project/whatever makes sense”

    9. learnedthehardway*

      I am self-employed, and periodically raise my rates to match inflation. That’s usually pretty easy to justify. Occasionally, I’ve given myself a “raise” as well, when I have well-established relationships with clients, there’s been some kind of change in their business or mine, and I can point out that the value I bring merits it.

      One thing I typically do is to start new clients at the higher rates, and then tell longer term clients that other clients are paying $X now. I value their business and want to remain able to pay them full attention, but the new client rate is really attractive. That often helps…

    10. Not A Manager*

      Seven dollars is too great a range at those prices. And frankly, she might be right that a jump from $16 to $25 will seem huge to people. Can you convince her to send that letter with one price jump to, say, $20/hour, and put in a sentence that she is willing to work with longtime clients to transition them to the new pricing structure if necessary?

      That way, she’s forcing people to opt-out of her new structure, rather than the current language where they need to opt-in to the higher price. She’s also making it clear that price reductions are on a case-by-case basis and won’t last forever. And I do think that $20 from most people will work out better for her than $25 from very few people.

    11. PollyQ*

      My sense of pay scale is badly skewed by living in California, but $18-$25/hour is what people working in fast food make here, and that’s as employees, not freelancers. Does your friend know the rule of thumb that contractors should charge 2x as much as W2 employees to account for payroll taxes, SS, lack of benefits, etc? If she’s charging $18/hr, then that’s the equivalent of a regular salary of $9.

      But ultimately, you can’t fix this for her. It’s her job and her business, and she’s the one who gets to make the call on how to run it.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Ah, California… (I’m originally Californian.) No, luckily our cost of living is better here, but I did just remind her to think about taxes!

        1. Velociraptor Attack*

          I’m in an area with a middle-ranked cost of living for the states (it’s actually right around the average) and fast food workers are being hired at $15 an hour here.

    12. RagingADHD*

      As a freelancer, I think the idea of a sliding scale sounds incredibly unprofessional and like she’s a charity begging for money. Either her work has value or it doesn’t. She is letting her self-doubt sabotage her business.

      If this takes place in an informal setting, it’s a bad idea to broach the topic by email. If she usually talks to clients face to face or on the phone in a real-time setting, then she needs to bring it up the same way and send the email to confirm. Clients will be much warmer to the idea if they have a face to face relationship, and more likely to agree in person/real time. Hearing it first by email is going to put people off even if they are not all that price sensitive in the big picture. (That would not be the case if email were the normal mode of communication).

      Either way, yes, she will lose the clients who aren’t willing to pay what she’s worth. The strategy to deal with that is to *find new clients*. Losing deadweight is a feature, not a bug.

      If she needs to step into the rate increase gradually, she can segment her client list and propose different rate increases according to what she knows about the clients’ budget and processes. Or she can do a small increase now, and another small one later.

      But she has to be out looking for new business at the same time. I agree with others that you can’t manage her business for her. This is one of those areas where “gumption” is not a bad word. She has to have her own. You can’t have gumption for her.

    13. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Well…first things first. It’s her business, she can do what she wants!

      But let’s indulge anyway. If she’s a professional, keep it professional.

      “Good morning,
      Thank you for supporting my business! This email is to notify you that I am updating my pricing from $16/hr to $25/hr effective September 30, 2022. As always, I am here to support you and would be happy to discuss how I can best cater my service options to your future needs.”

      As for what rate is appropriate, it depends on the market. Generally, $25/hour is low for an independent contractor. A rule of thumb would be 2.5-3x your base rate (covering base salary, plus overhead, plus profit). If a business charges a client $25/hour, they’re likely paying their employee around $8.30/hour. So depending on the state, your friend is awfully close to minimum wage.

      My piano lessons cost $45 for a half hour. My teacher is a well credentialed professional and I respect his time and expertise…I have actually thought quite a bit recently about whether he should raise his rate.

  18. Vegas*

    Part of my job involves recruiting and I message people on LinkedIn that match the profile we’re looking for about jobs that we have open. I try to be as transparent as possible – I give a one-sentence summary of the company, the title of the role, the pay range, what benefits we offer, and then I ask them to reach out if they’d like to learn more about the role. Recently I’ve been encountering people who respond letting me know that they make way more money than the role offers (often they make way more than I make), and they are acting offended that I reached out with such an insulting opportunity. Saying stuff like “Good luck with that.” Is there any way I can respond and provide some clarity on why this happens? It is often very difficult to tell seniority levels from job titles so although I don’t cast a wide net, inevitably sometimes I’ll message someone who’s way more senior than I could tell from their title. I admit it ‘gets’ to me, and I feel an impulse to correct their rudeness. Something like, “I apologize, it can be difficult to gauge seniority levels by titles but I can see now that this role wouldn’t be a good fit for you.” But probably better to just ignore it, right?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Just ignore it. You’ve given them information they need to make a decision; they’re letting you know why they made that decision.

      The only thing I would consider is looking at whether there’s a common factor among these folks (location, years of experience, etc) that means you should rule people with that factor out going forward.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      Yeah, just ignore it. When I get opportunities on LI I am not interested in, I just send a polite “no thanks” email, or if it is way off-base, just ignore it. These people are just being rude.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      I’m also going to say ignore it. Don’t engage with folks like this. I get the impulse, but it doesn’t accomplish anything in the end.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      If they are unreasonable maybe “blacklist” them and respond “I will keep this in mind.”

      It depends on what the job is though. I make low 100s and still get spammed for jobs in the $17 an hour range.

      But if someone responds with a job > 70K I consider it a “real” job and am polite with the recruiter, otherwise I ignore it

    5. Anonymous Koala*

      Echoing advice to ignore it, but I also wanted to ask if it’s possible you’re not reaching out to people with jobs significantly below the expertise you’re looking for, but it’s just the salary that’s way off base. I’ve been reached out to for jobs that wanted 3-5 years of experience after a PhD that only pay $30/hr without benefits (most people with that experience would make closer to $60-70/hr in my field). I know recruiters don’t often control salary, but I just wanted to suggest you look to see if there’s a pattern to these responses that you’re missing.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ignore it. BUT, if it’s making you suspect that your company is paying under market rate and it’s happening often that people are saying this, I would recommend you bring that back to whoever determines salaries and say “At least half the people who I determine to be good candidates for this role are telling me that they make 25% more than the high end of the salary range. I’m concerned that unless we raise the range for this position, we won’t be able to fill it with someone who is qualified for the role.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Just ignore, or write back that you’ll be happy to consider them for more senior roles or if/when you have the budget to do so for this role. Then ask for referrals – they might know a more junior person who would find the comp range attractive.

      Also, don’t read negativity into a short social media response – they may genuinely be wishing you luck in filling the role, but are coming across tersely. These messages are in a low-context medium, so intent is hard to determine.

    8. lost academic*

      Ignore it, but also use their responses and information to adjust your targets. I’m sympathetic to new recruiters or people outside their field of expertise targeting the wrong individuals but you have to use the information you’re getting to learn and calibrate. It’s one thing if you think you might be in the right range, but in the past I’ve had recruiters target me for jobs directly in line with my current and past positions/field/experience where the experience and subsequent pay were half of what I had. That’s just sloppy. That’s an obvious mismatch. I get casting a wide net but there’s got to be some nuance.

    9. Nesprin*

      Those are ‘no thanks’ emails.
      I’ve dealt with recruiters who don’t take no for an answer- often ‘the I make 40% more than you’re offering’ is the most effective way to say no.

      If you keep a database of contacts, update them as more senior than their job title reflects and move on.

      1. HoundMom*

        Exactly this. If you are targeted by the same company multiple times for roles that are very junior, it is frustrating. I usually just say no thanks and don’t engage, but I remember one situation where I literally asked to be blackballed from their list.

    10. RagingADHD*

      If this happens more than occasionally, have you considered that there is a problem with your job listings/requirements, or that your profile-screening process may need adjustment?

      Linkedin contains date information for each role a person has had. It contains job descriptions. It usually contains their entire work history.

      Why can’t you tell how senior they are?

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        This is my question too- aren’t you able to see position details under their title and get a sense of seniority from there? Or are you getting matches from, say, LinkedIn itself and not checking to confirm the match is good before sending out your messages?

    11. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Ignore it and don’t take it personally as it’s misdirected at you. Many of these candidates are bombarded by unsolicited messages from recruiters, and many of those messages are unprofessional and careless.

      But also, continue to work with your client on better feedback for the position to help you target the best candidates. I know recruiting is a numbers game, but narrowing the field always helps.

  19. Alpaca Bag*

    Not a question – just excited because I just had a job interview and used the magic question about the difference between what would make a great employee instead of just a good one, and asked if they have any reservations about my candidacy that I could address. I think it went very well.

    1. Alice*

      Bravo! Fingers crossed for your Alpaca.
      I will comment that I also used the “difference between a great employee and a good one” in an interview once, where the interviewing panel was the hiring manager and the team. Not a good move in those circumstances :( I don’t know if they ghosted me because they thought I was a glory hound or just impolitic or maybe it was something else altogether…. Anyway, glad it worked well for you!

  20. tiny*

    I wish saying “that’s not my job” wasn’t viewed as such an absolute no-no. I am currently two months into a task that someone whose job it IS could have done in literally one day. Who is winning here?

    1. ecnaseener*

      I mean, I don’t think saying “this isn’t the type of work I usually do, wouldn’t Fergus be able to do it much faster than me?” is such a no-no.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, tone and phrasing matters here. Projecting confusion rather than, say, contempt is going to go over much better most of the time. Like, ‘Oh, that would take me X amount of time since it’s not my expertise, wouldn’t someone in the expert role who could do it in X/10 time make more sense?’ or similar.

    2. Lynn*

      IMO “that’s not my job” is viewed negatively partially because it just shuts the door; you can broach the conversation collaboratively and with an open minded but point to the same end in a more positive way: “I would be happy to do X but I don’t have the skillset or experience to do it quickly and I may have some questions along the way. If this needs to be done quickly is there anyone else like A who may have that experience?”

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Is there a way to hand off the task to the proper person? For example, if someone says “tiny, I have 20 llamas for you to groom!” can you respond with “oh, let me introduce you to Joe, the llama groomer. He can take care of those llamas for you.” A warm hand-off is much more professional version of “that’s not my job.”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I would recommend this route. “It’s not my job” sounds like both “it’s not my job” and “I don’t want to help you.” But you can help the person by finding out whose job it is and getting them in touch with that person.

        That’s assuming, of course, that the person trying to get you to do thing-that-isn’t-your-job is acting in good faith…

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      It is right that a flat “that’s not my job” with nothing more is rude and negative, but a slight rephrase “oh, I don’t handle X, Jane can do that for you” is fine.

    5. Beer Me Some Common Sense*

      My boss and I have a tendency to yell “not my circus, not my monkeys!” when our clients try to get us to do things out of our scope :) Straight up saying this isn’t my job doesn’t normally go over well, but you can always put the professional spin on the words. Things like, “That’s normally handled by Fergus but I can definitely help out. Is there someone that can give me an overview and answer questions I have? My experience is in tea pots more than saucers so I may need extra guidance.” Putting it in a way like that makes you sound like a team player but lets them know you’re not going to be the quickest person to get it done, or that there may be mistakes they’ll have to help with. They may decide to help you learn it, or they may realize they want it done quicker and leave you alone.

    6. CheeryO*

      Who gave you the task? If your supervisor doesn’t know that you’re working on it, I think they would want to know. That doesn’t sound like an efficient use of resources.

  21. Bitsy Brandenham*

    I need the collective memory of the routine commenters! I’m due to come up with some professional development goals for the next year and I remembered an “Ask the Readers” style column here where everyone commented on trainings and classes they had found most useful/worth the investment. I asked Alison about it and it didn’t ring a bell for her, but I swear it happened! Maybe it wasn’t an official Ask the Readers but something that happened informally in the comment section? If anyone recalls it and could link to it I’d be forever grateful. And if it doesn’t exist and I just made it up, Alison, I think folks like me would get a lot of use out of a column like that. Thanks!

    1. TradeMark*

      I will validate you that it did happen. I remember it too. It might have been on a Friday open thread sometime this past year?

      1. Chapeau*

        I was thinking it was in the last several weeks. There was a Friday open thread where someone talked about their company slashing their training/conference budget and asking for suggestions on low-cost but valuable training.
        I remember wanting to note it for myself, but I didn’t. Or at least I didn’t do it on my phone.

    2. Amey*

      Any chance it was the ‘what fields have hiring booms right now?’ Ask the Readers in July? Alison specifically asked people to list the kind of qualifications that people would need to switch into their field and there was some really interesting discussion about different qualification and training for different fields.

      Although as I think about it, I’m pretty sure there was a post more accurately covering what you’re saying here…

    3. Cavalcade*

      I think it’s this post from April 22, 2022, “employee is too focused on typos, can I put my cat’s TikTok account on my resume, and more”, question 5 was asking about the best professional development courses people have taken. I’ll post at link in another comment.

        1. Bitsy Brandenham*

          YES!!!! Thank you so much, Cavalcade, and everyone who took a look to try to find it. I am bookmarking it this time.

  22. Mimmy*

    I was talking with my counselor last night about my job search and how helpful behavioral interviewing has been. She said something I found odd and wanted to run it by you guys:

    For the “tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker” question, she said I should start with something like, “I usually don’t have conflicts but here’s an example of when I did…” (I don’t recall the exact wording she suggested). I would think saying I usually don’t have conflicts would turn interviewers off. Am I right?

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think the key is to separate out constructive disagreements from disruptive arguments. If the question is framed like they’re asking about arguments, it’s a very good idea to say something about how you value maintaining good relationships with colleagues and keep disagreements constructive (aka you don’t usually have Bad Conflicts with coworkers). But you’re right to not want to sound overly defensive, or like you’re afraid to disagree.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      Yea, don’t add that. There will always be conflict (and conflict is not all bad!) and answering that question doesn’t mean that you have a lot of conflict – you’re just answering the question about a single instance. The suggested wording feels like the same sort of answer where someone answers what their weakness is by giving a strength instead.

      1. NewJobNewGal*

        Agreed. Conflict doesn’t mean fighting, just a differing of opinions. And different ideas should exist in a modern workplace.
        I always answer with some form of:
        I thought we should do this. They thought we should do that.
        I said why we should do my idea.
        They listened and 1.) Agreed, or 2.) Disagreed and I respected their decision.

    3. JelloStapler*

      Yea, it seems a little weird. I think it is assumed that everyone has had at least one conflict/disagreement/difference of opinion with someone else. It also seems odd to say you don’t but then give an example of when you did. If you really want to, maybe you could change it to “Thankfully, I have not had a lot of experience with this, but here is an example of…”

      But I don’t expect people to claim they don’t usually have conflicts while answering a question like that.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      I find that many, many work conflicts are caused by misaligned expectations–personally, I would use this question to talk about how you’ve dealt with a situation where expectations clearly weren’t aligned (in terms of that the work product was, the quality/level of polish needed, the timing, etc.), how you addressed it, and how you decided to move forward.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I don’t think that you should add it. It would probably make me think that you saw conflict only as a negative to be avoided, rather than as a normal part of work. Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean raised tempers and heated arguments. It can mean something as simple as “team X and my team have overlapping duties, and we were finding that we had a different understanding of who was responsible for what.”

    6. Librarian of SHIELD*

      A lot of people want to lean into “I’m not the kind of person who has a lot of conflicts” in interviews because they think that’s what interviewers want to hear. But when I ask “tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker and what you did to resolve it,” I’m not testing to see if you’re a drama magnet. I’m asking because everybody’s going to have a coworker who they disagree with at some point and I need to know you’ll handle it professionally and appropriately when that happens.

      I categorically do not trust people who respond to that question with “oh, I never have conflicts at work, I get along with everybody.” Nobody get along with everybody 100% of the time. One of your coworkers will annoy you eventually and I need to know that you’ve thought through how to handle that.

    7. BellyButton*

      I would say something like “it wasn’t really a conflict, it was more of a difference in approach/strategy. We worked through it by making sure we both understood where each was coming from and being respectful of the other’s experience and understanding the bigger picture as each saw it…”

    8. Hillary*

      You’re right. If someone says they don’t have conflicts I worry they don’t stand up for themselves. Healthy disagreement is a normal part of working relationships. I usually reframe the question to talk about when I didn’t agree on a course of action and how we moved forward.

    9. Qwerty*

      Nope, don’t take her advice. You are correct that it won’t play well to interviewers.

      Trying to avoid the conflict question is a flag for me if you work with others. (People who work almost entirely solo don’t have much material for this question, so I usually have back up questions for them) Anything where people try to downplay it or say “it isn’t really a conflict, but X” reads poorly to me. It isn’t this question alone – usually these people have yellow flags in other team related answers, but you don’t want to make that association in the interviewer’s mind.

      Usually people who try to skirt or downplay the conflict question view conflict as bad. That could mean only associating conflict with arguments and dramatics. Or it could mean being so conflict avoidant they won’t have simple conversations with coworkers or won’t state their opinion in meetings. Or they are only used to working with a homogeneous team that always thinks alike. Or are trying to appear “perfect” for the interview and are saying what they think I want to hear.

      Similarly, the best responses to this question are practical ones that are likely to come up again. Talk about when you and someone else had different creative approaches or vision for a product. Or when half the team really wanted to take the same days off but there was a coverage issue. These tell me what it would be like to have you on the team (and my response will probably tell you about the culture too) Don’t give something trivial – it’s like saying your weakness is that you work too hard.

    10. Stephivist*

      Hiring manager here. It wouldn’t turn me off or send up a red flag on its own, but I’d also just assume that you’d been coached to think that conflict = negative and you have to spin it away in your answer.

      Sounds like your counselor is thinking that conflict means drama when it really means “I disagreed with this person on how to approach work.” Preface your example with something about how you value maintaining good relationships like ecnaseener suggests and you’ll be good.

    11. RagingADHD*

      You’re right.

      Your counselor is telling you to “well, actually” your interviewer. That is not going to go well. It’s going to make you sound pompous and like you are focusing on the wrong thing. Nobody wants to work with someone who routinely reframes questions to make themselves look better instead of giving a substantive answer, or insists on it before addressing the substance. People like that are exhausting.

      It think it points to a surprising lack of understanding about conversational dynamics/interpersonal skills from someone who is supposed to be a counselor. Does your counselor “well, actually” you a lot? Because I wouldn’t keep going to one who did that to me.

    12. Mimmy*

      Wow, thank you all for the responses and confirming my instincts.

      In fact, you all just gave me a new perspective on workplace conflict. I too thought it was more negative than not. The example I’ve given at my last couple of interviews was when I had a disagreement with a coworker that was slightly heated but then I later texted her with an apology and context for why I was upset, and she responded favorably, sharing her perspective.

      AAM readers are so wise! ;)

    13. Dark Macadamia*

      I think it would sound silly. They’re not asking because they assume/care about the amount of conflict in your life, they want to hear about your skills

  23. salary band issues*

    Happy Friday, everyone! I found a copy of my job description from 2016, and the stated pay range was…exactly the same as it is now. If it had kept up with inflation, the upper limit of the range would be about $15k more than it is. I know my boss is going through a salary survey now to re-evaluate the salary bands, but I am not sure if mine will actually change. I’m not sure whether I should bring this up with her now, or wait until our year-end retention interview (when we get asked about our priorities for pay, PTO, advancement, etc.)

    On one hand, I don’t want to seem like I’m jumping the gun if my range is already going to change. On the other, I’m not sure if it would be more difficult to change the salary band after the survey is completed. I’ve only been here a year, and already my pay isn’t keeping up with inflation–which I know is common this year, but it’s pretty demoralizing in combination with finding out that the range hasn’t shifted in 6 years.

    1. Cookie Monster*

      Don’t wait. Like you said, if you wait until your year-end interview, it might be too late by then. Ask to speak to her now and just lay out the facts calmly, as if you’re giving her the benefit of the doubt, like “of course you’d want to know I’m making the same as I was in 2016 because you are a reasonable person and will also find this unacceptable without me having to say that outright.”

      1. salary band issues*

        Oh, this was before I started at my job. So, my predecessors were making the same range as I am now.

        I am making slightly more than I started with (still within my current range) due to an organization-wide COLA, which did not keep up with inflation either. I do not think that merit-based pay increases are common in my organization unless the employee is promoted.

  24. RMNPgirl*

    Money vs time?
    I currently work in a non-profit healthcare industry. My company offers pretty good healthcare, 4% 403b matching, and amazing PTO. I currently get 32 days off a year and every 5 years it goes up by 5 days, maxing out at 42 days a year. They also do a PTO buy down program each fall. The culture is also good and very accepting of remote work and flexibility.
    However, since it’s non-profit salaries are a bit lower. I am wondering if I should look at moving into industry where I could get 20,000-30,000 more a year. But most of the positions/companies I’ve looked into don’t offer nearly as much time off. I know this is really a decision I have to make for myself, but am wondering what others would think of doing? Would you trade fewer days off for more money?

    1. Paris Geller*

      That’s so individual, but I (probably) wouldn’t! First, though-your salary is lower than it could be, but is it still enough to support you? If you’re struggling with bills and life necessities, then yes, potentially going to a new opportunity for more money and less PTO would make sense. However, if you can afford your necessities and also save some/reach any financial goals you have, then I personally wouldn’t move. Time off is important to me for many reasons and I would be hard-pressed to give up a good PTO package.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      Personally, I would stick with the PTO over more money. Does the salary meet your needs? Are you on target for meeting any financial goals? Unless my answers were no to those, PTO all the way for me.

    3. NewJobNewGal*

      I was in the same spot and ended up leaving. Just like you, I thought I was underpaid by $30k, but I was actually way, WAY, underpaid. It’s been 5 years and I now make $70k more than at the non-profit. Switching jobs and collecting experience allowed me to move up the payscale. I would have been in the same spot with the same salary if I had stayed.
      Not having my PTO was a kick for a while, but I’m now at another non-profit that pays well, has an excellent 401k, and generous PTO. So you don’t necessarily have to make a trade. There are companies, and non-profits that pay well and have good benefits.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      The questions I would ask myself in this situation are:

      What do I currently do with my PTO?

      What would I do with the increase in salary?

      Which option (stick with current PTO/leave for higher salary) fits better with my values and the life I want to be living?

      Like Decidedly Me, unless my needs/financial goals were not being met, I would likely stick with the higher PTO.

    5. Qwerty*

      Do you actually get to use your days? If you were to take advantage of the buy down program to pair your PTO days down to 2-3 weeks (or whatever matches the industry you are moving to), what is the salary difference then?

      More importantly – what is your current job satisfaction? Are these other industries faster paced, more stressful, less good-for-the-world, etc?

      I’ve often debated switching over to working for the local university, where my friends have oodles of holidays, time off, and overall low stress. Some of them work 4 days of 10hrs each and do all their errands/life stuff on Wednesdays – meanwhile I’m usually working the same long hours but at 5 days a week. I think I would have been very happy if I’d switched to that life earlier in my career, but I’m at the point where a paycut would hurt a lot since I’ve become accustomed to a certain way of living.

      I’ve rarely been able to take all my vacation time in the private sector. So even though on paper I often combine good salary with 20+ days PTO, the reality is that I take half that off and always feel like its an imposition. Currently I have unlimited PTO and have used that almost exclusively for “recovery days” from working too much during regular hours.

      1. TechWorker*

        Not being able to take all your PTO isn’t true everywhere in the private sector fwiw… your options probably aren’t just ‘stay where you are’ and ‘go to a worse paid job’

        1. RussianInTexas*

          My old company insisted we took all PTOs (not sick time, but they never grumbled when you took sick time).
          They were generous too, most people had around 25 vacation days. Somewhere in the middle of the year managers would get the stern word from above that “your employees have not used much of vacation, make sure they do”.

    6. AnonyMouse*

      Since you asked for our opinions, I work in the nonprofit industry and would personally not trade my good PTO + flexibility + getting to work for a cause I care about, for a company where I’d get less time off, less flexibility to fit with my family needs, and work that I am not as passionate about.

      I would say that in addition to considering your family needs, it’s good to consider the tradeoffs with a long term view when thinking about this question. Will moving industries give you possibilities for exponential salary growth in 5 years? Or you have to do your time and in 3 years or so you might have the same PTO? Just some questions to consider!

    7. I take tea*

      Personally I absolutely value time off and a good culture much more than money, because no money is worth being burnt out and/or dreading every day at work. As long as I make enough to get by and save something, that is. What would I do with much more money and no time or energy to enjoy it?

    8. RMNPgirl*

      Thanks everyone for the responses, they definitely were leaning where I was which is to keep the generous PTO. I do make enough money to live comfortably, save, and travel. I had some large expenses this year (good ones) but it’s made me a little stressed about money even though I had plenty to cover the expenses and plenty left over.
      I am able to use most of my PTO each year. I actually have yet to participate in the buy down because I’m never close to the limit in which I would have to do the buy down. Our company also doesn’t allow you to buy down if you did not take 80 hours in the last 12 months, so they try to make people take at least 2 weeks off each year.

  25. Running with scissors*

    I need advice on dealing with a coworker.

    I work on a team of 4 and we are paired up to cover each other when we are off.

    In March I was selected for jury duty and needed to take an unpaid leave of absence. The trial concluded in mid June and I have been back to work since then.

    The team member I am paired with has been difficult to approach since I came back. I thanked them more than once for their help. However, anytime I ask them for something I either get silence or snippy response.

    Recently when two other team members were out of the office I suggested a way to manage coverage in our team chat. they once again chose not to respond. when I said something further to it they got very upset with me claiming I was the one delegating.

    My manager has said nothing about this and I am documenting this.

    any suggestions on what to do?

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Sounds like you need to force a conversation? We can’t give you tips without you first having a conversation with one or the other. All we can do is guess that something happened in those 3 months, or they missed an important personal event because they had to cover for you 2X, for a long period.

    2. Roland*

      Were they covering for you with no help for those 3 months? That would be an epic management failure but I could see how that would lead to resentment, rightly or wrongly. And if they did cover for 3 months and are now feeling like you’re trying to split external coverage “fairly” going forward, I can see how that would rankle too. I know jury duty wasn’t a fun vacation you planned, but people be human. If they are mostly just being kind of cold I’d give it time, and probably don’t proactively ask them to cover for someone else unless it’s your job to find coverage. But if you’re having work issues because of this you really need to get your manager involved.

      1. Running with scissors*

        management didn’t get any help while I was on jury duty. That’s not my fault and it should not be taken out on me
        and the coverage was just for one day. I just made a suggestion and it got the other coworker upset.

        1. Roland*

          I didn’t say it was your fault, but I’m also not your coworker. Just because it’s not the “correct” reaction doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility.

        2. Starbuck*

          Probably she’s assuming after covering for you for three months, you’d be willing and eager to return the favor and do some coverage of your own. Of course the real fault here is with management but I’m not surprised she’d have feelings at you if you presumed she’d be the first to step up and do even more coverage now that you’re back. She probably wants more that just words/thank you. And if you were unpaid for three months – where did that money go if she was doing your work?? Again, not your fault but definitely another reason for her to be bitter.

      2. Observer*

        That would be an epic management failure but I could see how that would lead to resentment, rightly or wrongly. And if they did cover for 3 months and are now feeling like you’re trying to split external coverage “fairly” going forward, I can see how that would rankle too.

        It should rankle – but NOT at the OP. The OP was forced to take unpaid leave! There is no excuse for not getting coverage. And to go as far as refusing to communicate and being rude?

        No, that is not ok. It’s not something to expect and it’s not even something to “understand.” Coworker gets to feel how they feel, but they don’t get to take it out on someone who is not at fault.

        1. Running with scissors*

          thanks for the support. I will be discussing it with my manager at my next one on one. I am not at fault as I had a legal obligation to be in court. Management can’t or won’t get help it on them not me

        2. Roland*

          I feel like I’m being lectured on someone else’s behavior… Didn’t realize speculation was limited to Good Behavior tm. Where did say I was excusing the coworker or blaming OP?

          1. tessa*

            Nowhere, of course.

            There is a bit of “You’re wrong!” that shows up here from time to time.

            I wish it’d be addressed.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Could you ask your manager if something happened while you were gone to have caused the current problem?

    4. CheeryO*

      Have you brought up with your manager directly? I would wait for the next time you have something concrete to point to (i.e., you asked them for something and didn’t get what you need to do your job), and then bring it up. Snippy is annoying but not really actionable, imo.

      I wouldn’t get too worked up about them not liking your coverage idea. I’m sure that was salt in the wound after they covered for you for several months. If you think it’s a good idea, I would bring it to your manager and see if they agree and would be willing to implement it.

    5. Four of ten*

      I’d like to thank you for your jury duty. While it surely created some issues for your employer and coworkers, it would have been particularly difficult for you. And having to take unpaid leave. You’re a citizen hero for participating in society in this way.

      I’m sorry this has caused problems with work and hope you can work through this.

    6. Pisces*

      Scissors, please send us an update when and if you’re able.

      At PastJob, I had an issue covering a long-term absence because the management initially made it sound like my colleague was on vacation, or at most out for only a few weeks. When I raised the issue, they said they couldn’t do anything because of privacy reasons.

      I eventually knew the reason my colleague was out, because she told me. Still, it was difficult. It had been six months and counting when I left.

      1. linger*

        To be clear, PastJob was correct not to give any specifics about Coworker. Nevertheless, PastJob still should have been able to give an estimate of how long you would be expected to handle Coworker’s duties — something that does not invade Coworker’s privacy, but does directly affect your work.
        (If Coworker’s situation was such that PastJob could not give an accurate estimate, then PastJob should have been upfront that no accurate estimate was possible.)

  26. Summer Hot Chocolate*

    I posted last week about how I wanted to leave my job because “set up to fail syndrome” from my boss was making me miserable, and I wasn’t sure how to explain why I was leaving when I find a new job if she asked for an explanation.

    Now I have another issue. My grandboss wants to start having regular meetings with everyone on our “career development.” I plan on leaving this organization as soon as I’m able to (which admittedly might not be any time soon), so I don’t know what to say at these meetings. (I don’t even know what to expect because none of my previous jobs did any “career developement” stuff.) I’m in an entry level job, and the other jobs on my team don’t interest me at all, so I don’t know what I’d say even if I wanted to stay.

    Any advice?

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I will say, the internet consistently and incorrectly falls back on incorrect tropes. One being that companies routinely set up people to fail. It’s actually really really rare. At best, it’s a “leave them to their own devices to see how they do.” If they really wanted you to fail, they wouldn’t have you there. So start by not being so paranoid! If you are entry level that means you have a lot to learn, so try to roll with the punches and learn!

      1. Summer Hot Chocolate*

        My boss started treating me completely differently a few months after I started. I’ve had a few other jobs, and did not have the same issues at any other. I’m not paranoid.

      2. Observer*

        This is not about what “companies routinely do” but about what the OP’s particular boss is doing.

        Without that context calling someone paranoid is a major overstep. And I would point out that what the OP describes is actually not so uncommon. Google “quiet firing” (which is a stupid term, but still being used) to see current articles about a phenomenon that has also been called “managing out”. (That’s not what managing out is supposed to mean, but it’s used that way in many cases.)

      3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        WTF? This is incredibly unhelpful and completely misses the point of the original comment.

    2. NaoNao*

      I’d go with tools and skills that are generally applicable. That’s development too! Not all development is climbing the corporate ladder. If you want to get a cert or learn a new fun tool in your field on the company’s dime/time that will help you in the future, that might be worth it to make your goal.

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

      Career development is mostly about progressing within what you do, not changing to other jobs. You’ll eventually want to stop being “entry level,” so the development is how you can accomplish that — it could be hard skills like learning new software, or soft skills like getting better at public speaking — as they pertain to your job.

      I think the “set up to fail” is probably less intentional than you think, but yes, managers sometimes have conflicting or unreasonable expectations and may be in denial about their short comings in managing.

    4. MJ*

      Approach the career development as if you aren’t planning to leave as soon as you can. And it doesn’t have to be moving into another job on your current team. As an entry level employee your company probably isn’t expecting you to stay around forever.

      You know your company better than we can. If you think they would be unreasonable, you can just stick with basic upskilling that might fit with your role there.

      If the company is supportive, think about what your goals are long term. And is there anything you can do in the short term to advance them? Any courses you can take, online learning to explore, shadowing other jobs to see what they do? You can also lean into your grandboss and see if they have any suggestions on things you can focus on.

      In short, “career development” doesn’t have to mean “locking you into a job here for life.” It can be “we want to see you succeed, even if that means you eventually leaving this company.”

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        That last paragraph is exactly what I was going to say. It can also mean “finding a place for you within the organization on a completely different team that does stuff more in line with what interests you.” I know folks who started out as, say, assistants to the teapot salespeople. But they didn’t want to sell teapots–they wanted to paint them. So when a position opened up on the teapot painting team, they applied and got it.

    5. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Are there any professional certifications you’re interested in, but haven’t had the time or resources to do it yourself? I.e. if you worked in a project or program management role, maybe you’re interested in pursuing your PMP certification, etc. You could use the career development discussions to be more vague (i.e. not focused on specific roles at your current company,) but broader skills you’re interested in improving.

    6. BellyButton*

      Don’t think of your development in relation to just this job or the opportunities they offer. Think of what skills you want or need to develop.

    7. Somehow_I_Manage*

      “Grandboss, In my entry-level position, it’s hard for me to see beyond the day to day work, and understand what options will be available to me in the future. I’m thankful you’ve made time for me. Can you share your perspective on what opportunities will be here for me at this company if we make progress? I want to make sure we’re working in the same direction.”

      …see what they say!

      1. Star Struck*

        Yes. Doesn’t hurt to ask what the usual progression is from the role.
        To be honest, I’ve never been comfortable telling my boss that id prefer a role in another department or org. Do people actually say this to their boss / grandboss ??? I wouldnt know that they have any leverage to advocate for me there, the other department might be a nightmare from the inside and i dont want to hear “well this is what you asked for”, and / or I might lose the possibility of advancement where i am. Ymmv

  27. The OG Sleepless*

    Can I please pick this very smart group’s brain? You all seem to know so much about so many different fields. My 22 year old son is having an existential crisis. He graduated from high school in 2018 and initially thought he would do a skilled trade. He was interested in welding at first, and ended up spending a year as an apprentice pipefitter. This all sounded great, but it turned out to be full of dysfunctional construction crews and 70 hour weeks outdoors in our hot climate.

    So he enrolled in our local technical college, but he can’t quite find his niche. He has taken most of his core classes for his associate’s degree. He took a couple of computer networking classes (nope) and now he is working on Mechanical Engineering Technology. He’s liked the MET classes so far (manufacturing processes, materials etc) but his two biggest problems are 1. He really struggles with math, and the MET degree requires pre-calc and calculus. Like, I’m not sure he’s going to be able to do the math. 2. He can’t figure out what to do with his degree. His school lists a few local internships for various degree programs, but nothing has really grabbed him yet. Student advisors seem to be nonexistent.

    What he’s really good at is anything that involves working with small moving parts…things with ball bearings, springs, that kind of thing. It’s probably worth mentioning that he is both slightly neurodiverse and has inattentive type ADD. Any suggestions welcome!

    1. quailfail*

      It sounds like this man was born to be a small engine mechanic, based on your description. I say small engine mechanic over cars or other things because small engine mechanics have a much more laid-back work environment – it’s lawnmowers and motorcycles, not people’s livelihoods. There’s some degree of interacting with the public, but if you can happily chat about the shared interest (whatever they want you to work on) then you’re good to go.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      This might be too niche, but someone in my hometown fits this description almost exactly and he now owns a musical instrument repair shop.

      Is he interested in any other trades, such as becoming an electrician or HVAC technician?

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I was thinking of the watch repair niche! People own old/antique watches & need them kept running.

      2. RagingADHD*

        There’s a guy in my town who repairs /refurbishes brass and woodwinds out of his garage, and has built up connections with a lot of folks in the jazz scene. He’s making a killing.

        If you can find out which music shops in your town have the rental and service contracts for the middle school and high school band, they stay busy all year long maintaining the marching band instruments. IDK how lucrative it is starting out, or how often they need apprenticeships, but it’s a place to look.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      If he is able to follow instructions clearly, then Quality Control in a company that makes parts might be good. Or testing labs that do mechanical type testing. For an idea of the type of testing, google KTA.

    4. CheeryO*

      What about water or wastewater treatment? Those fields are facing huge retirement waves and need all the young people they can get. Generally reasonable hours, municipal benefits, very stable work. Wastewater in particular is a very interesting mix of mechanics, chemistry, and biology. Certification does require basic math, but nothing beyond algebra. I’m sure your local treatment plant would love to give him a tour if it sounds even remotely interesting to him.

    5. Nesprin*

      Sounds like a machinist /tool&die maker/lathe operator, especially if he can handle CAD+ computerized lathes, there’s good money out there. Look around for local machining shops and see if they’d take on apprentices.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        +1 the machining shops. Also metal shops/suppliers.

        Another avenue could be local fabrication factory type jobs. They don’t always pay the greatest but shops like that can have a lot of varied tasks if he likes working with his hands. The company I work with has shop personnel that regularly work with presses, routers, saws, occasional welding. There are more small manufacturing facilities out there than we are lead to believe.

      2. Hillary*

        +2 to this. I’d add manufacturers that work in metal + assembly. We have welders, CAD designers/operators, machine operators, mechanical assembly, electrical assembly, and QA. I think we might have some CNC now, but I’m not positive. Those are all skilled jobs that pay reasonably well, and we also pay folks in less-skilled jobs to upskill if they want to learn any of them.

        Did he like welding in general? There are lots of well paid opportunities that aren’t outside with ridiculous hours.

    6. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      These are all great suggestions. The other one that sprang to my mind is plumber. But if he were my son, I’d try to start him down the water/wastewater route as someone else first suggested. I work in local govt and those teams always seem very solid, with a nice mix of indoor/outdoor and solitary/team work, OT available if you want it but you don’t have to take it, good camaraderie.

    7. Angstrom*

      Random thoughts…machinist(manual or CNC), precision assembler, prototype technician, clock/watch/camera repair, test engineer, gunsmith, microfluidics, micromanipulators, medical devices, assistive devices, prosthetics, robotics.

      A job where he’d be involved in building mechanical prototypes for new devices — could be a variety of fields. Engineering R&D firm?

      Most universities have a machine shop to build lab equipment for professors, so he’d be working on lots of one-of-a-kind builds.

    8. Yet Another Unemployed Librarian*

      In the absence of advisors, could he talk to his teachers and pick their brains about related fields and/or resources that might be available?

    9. HIPAA-Potamus*

      My husband went through these struggles but now he is pursuing a career as an electrician. He’s not great at math or science either, but if he can at least get a passing grade in the required schooling, he won’t need to be calculating formulas while on the job.

    10. Educator*

      It sounds like your son is doing an awesome job of trying different things to see what he likes. That should be celebrated. Two other thoughts:
      1) At institutions where student advising is weak, good instructors often step into more of a mentoring role. And for students who process things better by working on a shared project instead of talking over a desk, that can be a really good thing. Does he have any instructors he would feel comfortable engaging with about next steps? They know the different ways students can use what they teach better than anyone.
      2) In my career as an educator, I have seen many, many students who struggle with math in a traditional classroom setting thrive when they learn it in an experiential context. The numbers actually mean something and matter in the real world, and too many “traditional” math classes are just about memorizing patterns instead of engaging in higher-level thinking. I would not rule anything out based on his pre-existing math skills if it is possible to find classes that let him use math in real ways.

    11. acmx*

      He could work in aircraft parts repair. Lots of parts with bearings, springs etc and many need welders.

    12. The OG Sleepless*

      Wow, thank you all so much! He and I read the comments together and there are some great ideas here. Lots of stuff to pursue!

    13. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      This may be way more out-of-the-box than you were thinking, but I’ve known a couple people in various hands-on trades who have gone and worked for half a year in Antarctica, and LOVED it. It’s a government job, and the application process is a real pain, but I feel like if he’s young and having trouble figuring out his next step, he may as well have an adventure (that also pays good money).

  28. Nonikoa*

    I (late 20s, POC, cis-female) appear to be getting a reputation for being ambitious at work. Several higher ups have mentioned this in meetings, not in a bad way but not really in a good way either – and always in the context of me asking to take on stretch assignments. I’m objectively good at what I do (I get great feedback from external and internal stakeholders, including these same higher ups) and I’m getting bored, so I thought asking for stretch assignments was a good thing. But something about the way the word ambitious is used is giving me pause. Is this something I need to watch out for? Should I modify my behaviour in some way or stop asking for stretch assignments?

    1. Princess Xena*

      I agree that what you’ve presented is reasonable – good feedback + monotony should be a good case for stretch assignments. I would not be thrilled by the term ambitious either, especially as a woman. To me that would smack a little too much of the “bossy/leadership” problem that can happen.

      Any chance you could ask one of your higher ups if there’s something you don’t know about those assignments? Maybe something along the lines of “X as described to me seems to be within my wheelhouse, but you have been saying that’s ambitious. Do you have concerns about my ability to complete X or are there some additional things I should know about X?”

      1. Nonikoa*

        I have asked those questions, and I’ve never gotten any response suggesting that they think I can’t do the work. It seems more along the lines of “well A, B, and C were hired six months before you and they’re not asking to do this”. More like there’s an unwritten rule I’m not getting. I don’t want to seem like

        I’m insecure about my position within the department, so I’m concerned about asking too many questions about the nebulous disapproval that seems to accompany words like “ambitious” when directed at young POC women. Or maybe I’m just being sensitive.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yeah, that smacks of “Nonikoa is getting ideas above her station!” to me. If you’re asking to do work that they have already said needs to be done, but making it sound like you don’t have the right to volunteer…ugh. I’ve had employees who were super eager to learn and grow, who wanted to do some work that was really above their current level of experience. I always had a REASON why I turned them down for those assignments: “this really needs to be done by someone who already knows how to do X and Y, because there isn’t time to train someone on those skills with the deadline we have.” But it sounds like they are telling you that it’s not that you CAN’T do the work, it’s just that they’ve decided you MAY not. And that means they are holding you back.

        2. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

          My generous interpretation of this usage of ambitious is that maybe they’re worried about burnout? If it were me, I would try and make the point that indulging my curiosity and keeping my brain excited by learning new things is actually a strategy I employ to prevent against burnout (because I know that I get restless when things are too routine/not challenging). Your motivations may be different (you may, in fact, be ambitious– that’s not bad!), but I think it’s worth trying to reframe it as what you get out of doing the tasks that isn’t just tied to them being an investment in future promotion or a chance to “show off”. Hopefully you’re enjoying something about the projects in themselves, and I think the more you can communicate your appreciation for that, the better.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Not everything is a red flag! Only thing I can think of is it can be hard to consistently come up with stretch assignments for people.

      1. Nonikoa*

        I’m actually asking to take on specific assignments, not asking for stretch assignments in general. And I’ll get feedback like “yes, we know you’re ambitious”. Something about the phrasing or tone feels a bit disapproving, though not in a way I can clearly articulate.

        1. DisneyChannelThis*

          I feel like that is a bit of a microagression. Would a white male colleague asking to the projects be perceived as ambitious as well?

          I’d try laughing that off, “yes we know you’re ambitious” with “Yes, I can’t wait to be CEO someday, but in the meantime what about that TPS report” . I’d also keep track of who is saying it.

          If you don’t ask for the assignment, who gets it? How does the assignment get decided? Is this like your manager should assign it at their discretion?

          1. PollyQ*

            Would a white male colleague asking to the projects be perceived as ambitious as well?

            1000000% this. Nonikoa, sounds like you may need to find another employer that’s happy to have an “ambitious” employee.

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Wow, yeah, that does not come over great. I can’t pin down exactly why but that really rubs me the wrong way. I would say that they are not interested in giving you these stretch assignments, for whatever inscrutable reason.

        3. FashionablyEvil*

          Recognizing that this kind of thing can be pretty fraught/a space to tread carefully, have you thought about saying something like, “Yes, I’m really excited about how I can best contribute to the organization! I like to volunteer for things like that because I enjoy challenging myself in areas A, B, and C and hope to do X longer-term. Do you have advice for me about how to succeed in that space?”

          Basically, call out what they’re saying, say why you’re doing it, and ask for their advice on how to be successful at your organization. I do think that they’re, at best, a bit oblivious to how what they’re saying comes across, but pivoting it back to the organization and appealing to their own ego can be disarming.

          1. Nonikoa*

            I’m going to try this next time, thanks! Maybe (nicely) calling them out in the spot will be more effective.

        4. CheeryO*

          I’m reaching here, but is there not any room for advancement in your position in the near/middle term? I could maaaybe see side-eyeing someone for being “too ambitious” if there wasn’t anywhere for them to go, since I’d assume they would be looking for the exit if I didn’t give them enough interesting work.

          1. Nonikoa*

            So because of our corporate structure they’d have to create a new position for me in order for me to advance. Which they’ve definitely done before for *many* people before, but is a little more work than just promoting me to the next level.

        5. Qwerty*

          How’s your relationship with your manager? Can you try having a big picture conversation with her? The higher ups may have have different perspective on these assignments than you – maybe the assignments are seen by the higher ups as a big stretch vs you see them as a little stretch. Or they are typically given to someone with a much higher title/more experience/etc. Or the frequency feels different to them vs you – say it only happens once a month, but those higher ups only discuss assignments with you monthly so they associate it as “every time we talk to Nonikoa” rather than “once a month”

          The higher ups might also think that you are asking for those assignments in order to get a promotion/raise or climb the corporate ladder faster, hence the “ambitious” comments. I think it has a lot to do with stereotypical white male behavior – when I work with dudes that frequently go after stretch projects, they are usually going after something they aren’t ready for and its tied a lot to their ego. You read to me as eager, but I think eagerness manifests differently across gender lines. (I’m in tech so eager dudes don’t go after projects, they just go refactor some code into something cool and kinda avoid the limelight).

          I got some of those same comments back in my energetic 20’s. Both jobs I had to get my manager to realize that I wasn’t targeting his job, I was just really excited by what we were doing and wanted to be more involved. Then I fell down the trap of doing all the unglamorous work that needed to be done and got stuck there for a while, so don’t follow my path that far.

          1. Nonikoa*

            I am afraid of falling into the trap of doing more of the unglamorous work because I’m eager and have the energy/time. I’m trying to be more strategic about what I volunteer for to avoid that, but perhaps it’s coming off as over reaching?

            That said, I *am* asking for stretch assignments to speed my rise up the corporate ladder. I’m interested in the work and I want to make a difference, and I can make a bigger difference from a higher position. I didn’t realise that was a bad thing – I don’t think I’m asking to take on things I’m not ready for (at least, I’ve never gotten that feedback) and I’ve gotten great feedback on every assignment I’ve completed. But maybe this is weird silence / ‘ambitious’ stuff is management’s way of giving me feedback?

            1. Observer*

              I didn’t realise that was a bad thing

              It’s not a bad thing.

              But maybe this is weird silence / ‘ambitious’ stuff is management’s way of giving me feedback?

              If it is, it’s a bad sign. Either they don’t communicate clearly or they are letting you know that “your kind” of person really should not reach “too high”. And if that’s what is going on, then you need to find a better place to work.

              1. Irish Teacher*

                Are you sure they mean anything bad by “ambitious”? You said it was said in neither a bad or a good way, so I would take it as a simple statement of fact, that you seem like somebody who wants to take on stretch assignments and possibly move up the career ladder. That’s not necessarily either better or worse than somebody who is happy where they are.

                I think you would only need to be worrying if they were saying it in a snide or begrudgery way. Calling you ambitious for wanting to take on extra assignments could be either positive or negative, depending on tone, and coming from higher-ups, I’d kind of feel positive is more likely, but you know your culture and colleagues best. Is there something about the way they are saying it that makes you think they mean it in a negative way or is it possible that you have had other people in your life in the past who see ambition as negative and you are assuming your current colleagues see it in the same way, when they may not?

                I hope this comment doesn’t read as argumentative or anything; I don’t mean it that way, but looking at it, I’m not sure I’ve phrased it in the best way and I’m not sure what to change. I am not saying you are wrong about how it was said; after all, you were there. But it is also possible to bring our own assumptions about a term to the table and misread people as a result. So I just wanted to put forward the possibility that they might have meant it as a compliment or as a neutral comment, to assess whether you would be interested in advancement.

          2. Nonikoa*

            My manager actually just left. I asked him this question when he was leaving as a final feedback sort of thing. He kind of hinted that I should be looking at other things if I wanted to get ahead quickly, but I’m not sure if that’s because he was unhappy with his role (they were underpaying him), because my company is slow, or because there’s something more insidious in the culture that I’m not aware of.

    3. Observer*

      But something about the way the word ambitious is used is giving me pause. Is this something I need to watch out for? Should I modify my behaviour in some way or stop asking for stretch assignments?

      If you are right that there is something disapproving or just skeptical about the use of the word ambitious, then you probably should start looking for another job.

      Is there anyone in the company you can talk to about this? Assuming that you are not asking in an unreasonable manner (like demanding, yelling, etc.) and that these stretch assignments are such that it’s not unreasonable to think you could actually do them, this sounds like a really problematic pattern. So, if there is someone you could talk to, I would want to ask something like “I’m getting turned down for a lot of interesting assignments and when I ask for an explanation so I can do better next time, I get rather puzzling responses. I’m also being told that I’m ambitious in a way that seems less than approving. How can I take on bigger projects that I should be capable of doing?”

      1. Nonikoa*

        I will ask this at my next 1:1. I am low-key looking, but I really like my job otherwise so I hope this isn’t an unfixable thing.

    4. Parenthesis Dude*

      In my experience that means that they want you to develop in your tasks more. Are you demonstrating that you can not only do your tasks but understand why you’re doing them and the thought process behind them?

      Alternatively, they could be jerks.

      1. Nonikoa*

        I think so? I’ve never gotten feedback to suggest I’m not doing that, and my work tends to be pretty thorough. But maybe management’s looking for something more that I’m not aware of. I would hope that my managers would tell me if it was something like this, because if I knew the problem was something concrete like this I could fix it.

    5. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Yeah. This is weird. Mostly because you seem to be alone. Talk to your manager about this and have a discussion. Tell them you are ready to contribute more- but have struggled to create opportunities. Ask: “How can we work together to make it happen?” /I’d see how that discussion goes before advising next steps.

      1. Nonikoa*

        Thanks, I’m going to try that. Most of my other coworkers don’t seem to want to do more – they’re all a bit older than me with small children and seem pretty happy with the way things are. But we’ve had quite a bit of turnover lately, and I know some people left for more money at other places. Perhaps gatekeeping was part of it too?

    6. Moths*

      As someone who manages an employee who asks for a lot of stretch assignments, I will say that it can be a little exhausting at times. Even though this employee comes up with the assignments on their own, it still ends up resulting in more work for me, even if it’s just tracking their progress on that assignment or talking with other teams to facilitate their new role on that assignment or meeting with them about what new stretch assignment they’d like now. And they’re a phenomenal employee — one of the hardest workers, gets stuff done super fast, and always quality work. Because of that, I try to accommodate as many of these stretch assignments as possible. I want them to feel like they’re always growing and aren’t dissatisfied with their role. The employee also expresses desire for career growth in titles and pay (not in an inappropriate way, just commensurate with the work they do) and I try to ensure I’m matching that with the work that they’re doing, but as a result, I also end up having to spend capital to push for bigger raises and faster promotions than is normal at our company. In 3.5 years, the employee has already had two big promotions, whereas the norm at our company is to receive single promotions every 4-5 years or so. All in all, I end up spending more time and effort and capital on keeping this employee engaged than I do on probably all of my others combined. Selfishly, I’ll admit that there are times I wish this employee would just do their current job for a while and be satisfied with it. I know that isn’t who they are though and who they are is a great employee, so I’ll keep putting in the extra effort to keep them engaged.

      Nonikoa, I’m not saying this is the same as your situation and I think the other commentors have some great thoughts on the potential for this being a microagression or otherwise inappropriate in your situation. I did just want to highlight the other side of things — from the perspective of someone who manages an employee who is truly ambitious (in the best sense of the word, not a negative one). I would think about the norms at your company and if your wanting frequent stretch assignments is outside of those norms. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, just that it may not be the right company for rapid development and growth.

      1. Nonikoa*

        Thank you, this was a really helpful perspective that I hadn’t considered. It sounds like I need to do some thinking about the culture at this company and whether it’s time to look for other opportunities.

        1. linger*

          One thing that Moths’ comments about the possible impact on supervisor workload suggests is: the interpretation of “ambitious” may depend considerably on just how far a stretch for you the assignments you’re requesting are. How you’re seen by your management could be very sensitively determined by how much time you’re needing from others for these tasks. E.g.:
          100% within your capabilities without outside help = not really a stretch for you => the “ambitious” label would suggest management is underestimating your capabilities.
          ~95% within your capabilities, requiring occasional check-ins to keep on track = a slight stretch => “ambitious” seems a fair (positive) comment.
          ~90% within your capabilities, requiring occasional assistance with the actual task as well as with its assessment to complete to the standard required => “ambitious” could be an entirely accurate (and neutral) label.
          “ambitious” could encode the negative sense of trying too hard, too soon.

          1. linger*

            The last line started with a less-than symbol, thus creating an inadvertent comment tag sequence, so it got eaten. It should read:
            less than 75% within your capabilities, requiring considerable assistance with multiple steps of the task => “ambitious” could encode the negative sense of trying too hard, too soon.

  29. Analytics wannabe*

    Advice for reaching out to someone I’m hoping would be willing to be an informal mentor? She graduated from my masters program 5 years before me and quickly rose through the ranks at my company in the kind of roles I wanted to be doing. However, I was sidelined by illness and having kids after graduating, and now it’s 3 years later and while I’ve been doing an adequate job in a related but non-technical role, I haven’t been the star employee I see someone wanting to mentor. I’m planning to start by asking if she’s willing to meet and talk about her career, but I also need a brief script to explain what I’ve been doing between graduation and the present.

    Also, if anyone has advice on getting my career back on track, I’d appreciate that too! My interest areas haven’t changed, I just worry my skills may be too stale to jump back in directly, when I never used them on the job.

    1. Qwerty*

      Mentorship tends to happen naturally (unless forced through a mentorship program). So I’d start by adjusting your expectations to just having this one meeting. Do you actually know this woman from your masters program? Or is that the connection you are using as an intro? If the latter, then less is more when sending your opening message – you don’t need to explain your whole background, just the connection that you both having of going Llama State University before joining Teapots Inc. and that you’d love to hear about her experiences if she’d be interested in meeting for coffee / going for a walk / etc.

      I’ve been a high profile woman at a tech company, which has led me to the conclusion that there’s overlap between finding a mentor and finding a date. Sometimes those both can spring from acquitanceships, friendships, and working relationships, but are awkward if someone springs it on you outside of a clear “searching for mentor/date” environments like mentorship groups or dating apps. I’m always happy to talk to people in my field/company, but it puts me in an awkward position when they want me to be their mentor right off the bat – we’re at work, so I have to be delicate and might not feel that I can actually decline.

      I’m bringing up that point not to scare you off, but to help reframe this for you. There’s a lot of advice out there that tells people, especially women, to go ask people to be their mentor and how much you need to acquire one. The reality is that a chat with this woman could be useful on its own! Maybe you two will click and keep talking with either a friendship or mentorship coming out of it. More likely she’ll tell you about which skills turned out to be the most useful ones to keep fresh and maybe that XYZ group was useful early in her career.

      1. Analytics wannabe*

        Thanks, that really helps. I haven’t actually met her. One of my professors told me about her while I was in school and said I should reach out at some point, but I never did. I do feel like I need a mentor, especially since I don’t work with anyone but my boss, but maybe I just need to focus on finding a role that’s a better fit.

  30. Andjazzy*

    I’m in kind of a weird place. I worked at a company for 5 years, and left at the end after an extreme workload increase due to covid and being threatened with a pip.

    The next place wound up being horrible. 2 or 3 people a week quit. In a department of 70 they had over 100% turnover over the course of a year. I lasted 9 months, it was wild.

    In my current position I’m underpaid but it’s relaxed and I enjoy it. I was not planning on leaving until a merger was announced. There was a meeting in which I found out they already have someone doing my role, and he’s been around a lot longer. I was told “consolidation” will be up to the board of directors.

    I got a job offer for a 30% raise, fully remote and double the PTO and have decided to take it. I’ve done as much vetting as I can, a number of people I have worked with in the past work at this company and have told me the pros and cons.

    How do I explain the job hopping on my resume in the future? Did I resign too soon, I really like my current job and the people I work with but the meeting about possibly being laid off really freaked me out.

    1. JelloStapler*

      I don’t consider 5 years a short stay. ( months maybe, but this last one- this was an offer that you could not turn down, especially with some uncertainty due to a merger in your current position. Anyone would understand that.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      I would describe it mostly honestly. The first company, leaving after 5 years is fine, so just say you were ready for a change or something bland like that. The second job, you can say the company was unstable and had extreme turnover. In the last job, you can talk about the merger and that there was a possibility you would be laid off due to consolidation, so you found a new opportunity. But, also, stay at your current position as long as you can manage and hopefully if you are there long enough the previous small hops won’t be a big deal.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      If you stay at the next job for awhile, it will likely be a non-issue. Whether you resigned too soon at this job really kind of depends on what would have ended up happening. However, I assume you don’t have a crystal ball, so you made the best decision you could with the information you had. Plus – 30% raise? Double PTO? Seems like it was a good call either way.

    4. calvin blick*

      Assuming you stay at your new job for a few years I don’t think it will be an issue. If they ask you about it I’d just say new job #1 wasn’t a good fit and new job #2 had a merger and you wanted to avoid layoffs and got a nice raise at a new position. But I’d imagine hiring managers in 2026 will kind of view 2020-2022 as a super weird time with covid, the great resignation, and inflation causing a strange job market with a lot of churn.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      I think it unlikely that anyone would even give this a second glance, and if they do, “merger” is understood as a legitimate reason to leave.

  31. tiny_strawberries*

    I GOT MY FIRST EVER RAISE!! I actually asked for kind of a lot – about 12% of my salary – becuase I considered the new responsbilities of my promotion to be a big step. I honestly did not think they would approve it, but they did! Now I have to get over my immediate imposter syndrome of “why am i making this much” but oh well!!

  32. IWon'tPay*

    Just need some input to tell me I’m not ridiculous – my husband has been working as a bus driver with the local university for the past 4 years and really enjoys his job – always going above and beyond, covering shifts, volunteering to do bus maintenance tasks. He’s run the entire system when his boss was out sick with COVID for a couple weeks. There’s issues about him taking on all this additional work without any sort of title change/raise/what have you, but none of them have been really bad until now. They’re ordering some very nice new buses, and the company building the buses wants some people to come to their plant in person to ensure that the order is correct and will fulfill their needs – great, good business practice. Here’s the hitch – my husband’s boss wants him to come, but says that his boss won’t approve/pay for the low-level employees to come. I’ve told my husband he absolutely should not go if they aren’t paying for airfare and the hotel, especially not for a job that pays $13.50/hr and refuses to hire anyone full time because they can’t afford to pay for benefits. He’s really disappointed that he might not get to see how they build the buses, and feels that he’d be letting his boss down. Do you think there’s any way I can get through his head how much they’re taking advantage of him?

    1. JelloStapler*

      Is he an employee of the University itself or through a different company that the University contracts with?

      I understand his sense of loyalty, but if his bosses are not helping him make it happen by covering airfare, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

      1. IWon'tPay*

        He is an employee of the university’s parking and transportation department, which gets a small amount of money from student fees and then is expected to generate the rest of their money on their own – mostly through parking tickets, but they’re also allowed to pay the university grant writers to write grant applications, but that’s hit or miss.

        And yes, they are shooting themselves in the foot – they’ve had to reduce their bus routes by fully half of what they had at the beginning of 2020 because their buses are falling apart and they can’t get enough drivers because they pay a pittance. Surprise surprise, but you can’t run an effective bus service off of parking ticket revenue.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I am from a higher COL area but that’s what bus drivers were making here in 2006/2007! Yeah, this definitely seems above his paygrade, though that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t go (IF they can expense it)

    3. Hlao-roo*

      It’s so standard that companies pay the cost of company travel! If the company can’t/won’t pay, then he should not go. Disappointing for him, yes, but if the company really wants or needs him there, they will find the money in the budget for airfare and hotel.

    4. PollyQ*

      Any chance you live in California? If so, the employer is legally required to pay any business expenses. But no, it’s ridiculous for his boss to expect him to travel on his own dime, just to look at a bus being built.

      And let’s be real, this is nothing more than a PR move. If they don’t value your husband enough to pay him a decent way, give him benefits, or pay his way to the factory, they’re not going to be interested in anything he has to say.

      1. Angstrom*

        That’s a good point. If he goes, will his comments and ideas be taken seriously? Will the people making decisions about the new buses listen to him and be willing to make changes based on his recommendations?

        Involving the people who actually use the equipment in the purchase of new equipment is usually a good idea. Not paying for his trip is an indication that his opinion really isn’t that valuable to his bosses.

    5. BellyButton*

      This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. You can’t ask an employee to go on a work trip and have them pay for their own airfare and hotel! That is insane. He should talk to his boss and clarify that this is really the case. Let them know he really wants to attend and be part of the process but there is no way he can or would cover the cost of this trip.

      1. TechWorker*

        It sounds like his boss would want him to go, but grandboss has said no. In which case boss either needs to suck it up and stop pressuring him to go, or push harder with his own boss. This is not a problem your husband can solve or should attempt to solve!

        He should treat it like it’s obvious he won’t come if the company isn’t expecting him to be there. If he has a good relationship with his boss he could seed that idea (yea it’s a shame I can’t make it but I guess grand boss just couldn’t be persuaded!’)

    6. I'm Done*

      Your husband should absolutely not go unless he’s paid to go. That means not only the associated expenses but his hourly wages. If he works, and this is 100% work related, he needs to be paid. As far as being disloyal, they want something from him not the other way around and if they were loyal to him they would pay him. Employees should never care about their jobs more than their employers.

    7. WantonSeedStitch*

      If I were your husband, I would tell his boss, “Gee, I really would LOVE to come. But if Grandboss won’t budget for that, then I get the feeling they don’t think that it’s a priority for me to be there. If you think it is, can you convince him to approve and pay for me to attend? If so, I would jump at the opportunity. If not, I’d be happy to provide feedback on any info you or others bring back from the trip, and will try to come up with some suggestions for questions you can ask and things you can look for while you’re there, if that might be helpful.”

    8. RagingADHD*

      You Do Not Pay To Do Your Job.

      For crying out loud. If he wants to pay someone else so he can work at a loss, I will be happy to send him my Venmo. He can pay me and call me his employer. I’ll even put him straight into our employee appreciation program. “Employee of the Month” certificates start at $50, but I offer a bulk discount of 5 months for $200.

      How many should I put him down for?

    9. Hillary*

      So if he drives a full length bus he has a CDL. I looked up home-every-night (city) jobs for one of the trucking companies I work with and chose a random low cost of living location (Enid, OK). Their starting pay is $23.93/hr. If he doesn’t have his double/triple, tanker, and hazmat endorsements they pay driver apprentices $22.61/hr in another low cost area while they get their CDLs at company expense. In my higher cost state CDL jobs start at $25 and go up from there. If he doesn’t have a CDL any of the LTL companies I work with would hire him anyway and pay him to get his CDL, he’s already demonstrated he can drive safely and interact with people.

      Great people don’t make up for poor pay. The university is demonstrating how little loyalty it has to your husband, he doesn’t owe them any more loyalty than he’s given.

      1. Hillary*

        If he wants to learn more about companies to look at, drop a comment here with your general area and I can make a list of companies that I know treat their drivers well.

    10. Loredena*

      Do the math. The cost of going there on his own dime is the equivalent of almost a months pay assuming total out of pocket of 2000(likely). And would they be paying him for his full time on site? If not that’s an additional cost to him and to you for something he won’t receive any credit for

    11. Somehow_I_Manage*

      No. Nobody works for free.

      Unfortunately, this seems like an example of layers of low level managers playing gatekeeper. Your husband sounds friendly with his boss, but…you guys should take a moment to think about whether there are examples of his boss being his champion and clearing obstacles for him, rather than throwing them up. It’s really easy to say “sorry Bob, the higher ups said no.” But remember, it’s the bosses job to be his advocate when it’s the right thing for the team.

    12. it happens*

      If they won’t pay for a low-level employee to go, and your husband’s opinion is so important, then his boss should promote him. Just sayin’

      And, no way no how he does a self-pay business trip. That’s nuts.

    13. Observer*

      He’s really disappointed that he might not get to see how they build the buses, and feels that he’d be letting his boss down.

      He’s not letting the boss down, he’s PROTECTING them. Because this is a business trip, which means he needs to be paid or they can get into to major legal trouble.

      If anyone is letting anyone down it’s either his boss who is not pushing for this trip to be approved or his boss, who won’t approve having someone who actually drives the buses to go.

  33. Okapifeels*

    I’m 34 weeks pregnant and I just finished my last piece on my work to-do list yesterday in terms of preparing work for my absence. I trained my employee on the tasks she’ll have to do in my absence (whether she’ll do them is a whole other ball of wax I have no control over, sadly), I’ve made contingency plans for all of my projects to be completed, I’ve even got my out-of-office pre-written.

    So, my question: any last minute details I should make sure to take care of?

      1. Okapifeels*

        I did! It’s way too long, but my direct report has some Issues with being unable to follow basic instructions and then claiming she was never trained properly, so it’s both a procedures manual as well as an ass-covering.

    1. Chapeau*

      Have you checked your work space for things that aren’t a big deal if you leave them at work because you’ll be there again tomorrow/Monday, but could be a big deal if you’re not at work for several weeks?
      I’m thinking log-in info for the health insurance; the direct extension for the helpful person in HR; the brand new, full hand moisturizer that you have on your desk that you might want while you’re at home; the book of short stories you read at lunch sometimes, etc.

      1. Green Goose*

        Good call out. I’ll be on maternity leave shortly and I’m taking all my personal belongings home because my office has hinted at doing some rearranging and I don’t really want people going through my stuff.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve heard rumors that my work completely cuts off our computer access when someone’s out on maternity leave, which makes sense except that then you can’t access the long-term leave company’s info to do things like submit your “cleared for return to work” paperwork, so maybe check on that kind of thing and get all those numbers/emails?

    2. Green Goose*

      I’m so jealous. I’m about a week behind you, congrats fellow October mom! My work has made it so difficult for me to do a leave plan, I’ve been trying to get answers to what can be paused, what type of coverage I’ll have, who my reports will report to SINCE MAY and these things were not confirmed until last week. Now I’m being told to scramble a plan together and I really, really hate doing things last minute.
      I also came up with suggestions during the past few months of what can be paused, who could take the work over, I even researched outside consulting support and everything has been shot down but then I’m still being told I need to figure out the leave plan.

    3. Anon for This*

      Lock down or take home anything you want to still be there when you get back from your maternity leave. You’d be surprised at what will walk off when you are gone for an extended period. And copy any files you really care about and file them in a different place. Someone will pull them out because they need them during your absence and when you return either you won’t get them back or stuff will be missing.

    4. Fikly*

      Is whatever needed in place just in case something happens and you go into labor tomorrow? Happened to my grandboss 12 hours before the scheduled meeting to discuss how everything was going to be handled when she went on parental leave. She was at 34 weeks exactly (happily she and baby ended up being fine).

      Babies do not respect schedules, even before they are born.

  34. Mountain101*

    Im curious whether anyone can weigh in on whether they’ve experienced this kind of policy and how they worked with it.

    I recently learned that our IT data privacy/destruction policy extends to Slack, such that (a) slack profiles of former employees are fully anonymized, to just say “Deactivated User” and (b) DM history with deactivated users is fully removed/inaccessible (though their messages still appear, anonymized, in channels). This happens within a couple of months of employment end.

    Can anyone weigh in on whether you’ve seen this before and how you worked with it effectively? I’m accustomed to searching Slack for shared files, links, conversations, discussions/decisions, etc and a little freaked out that I won’t be able to do that predictably anymore. Do you save/screenshot/bookmark Slack info throughout the day? Or just, not use it for important stuff?

    Also, can IT folks weigh in on whether this seems like a normal policy? I’ve never heard of anything like it before. (Why Slack DMs and not email???)

    I’m frustrated with how this was rolled out (without any warning or notification) and recognize that it may be coloring how I see the topic as a whole so trying to take a deep breath and a step back.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s pretty normal yeah. Frankly I’d recommend not using Slack for this purpose and store important documents and notes somewhere else. It’s not really intended to be a database and this is one of the ways that manifests.

      1. Mountain101*

        That’s helpful to hear, thank you. It’s never been the case in the past for me (~10 years working in tech) so it’s definitely a mental adjustment.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Our slack license isn’t the high tier one so after 6months everything goes away. I tend to screenshot or c/p the useful stuff into OneNote or powerpoint decks.

    3. Qwerty*

      This sounds pretty normal for Slack. Don’t rely on instant messaging apps in general for permanance as the pricing plans are different than email. To answer the question on Slack DMs and not email, is that it is stored differently on the backend. When Fergus and Jane are emailing each other, they each have a copy in their allocated space. If Fergus deletes an email chain it disappears from his inbox but Jane retains her copy. Slack is different – if Fergus deletes an IM that he sent, its just gone.

      Slack specifically has different pricing tiers – they might stay for a certain amount of time, or the company is only allowed to keep the last X messages sent overall, etc. People send A LOT more IMs than emails. Plus with email, they can allocate a certain number of memory per person and its own that person to decide how to manage it – Gmail normally shows something at the bottom of the page like “5GB of 15GB used” to let you know how much space is available. If your company has been growing or has become more active on Slack, it’s possible this isn’t a new policy but just that you are running into the limits faster than before, or they weren’t deactivating slack accounts right away because they needed something / weren’t at the user limit.

      When people leave my current company, they disappear from Slack that day. It’s actually how we know when people leave or are terminated since they don’t announce it – I just go to message someone one day and they are gone.

    4. Observer*

      Also, can IT folks weigh in on whether this seems like a normal policy? I’ve never heard of anything like it before. (Why Slack DMs and not email???)

      Unless I’m misunderstanding, this seems like a very normal policy.

      What do you mean that this policy is for Slack but not email? I would hope that when an employee leaves their email gets turned off!

      1. anonymous IT drone*

        Slack probably has worse privacy settings than email, most social media does. You can’t control slack accounts the way you can control email accounts. Most corporate email systems can shut down accounts and keep the content for a while in case something is needed or if emails are legally required to be kept for a certain amount of time for some industries.

  35. Out & About*

    Ugh, I had a complaint made against me by a coworker claiming I edited answers to an internal anonymous survey that was suppose to be used for a team activity that never happened.

    Super easy to prove innocence. I just gave access to the tool for corp HR to confirm answers were the same as the excel extract the director received. No one but the director saw the answers, not even me. How could an accusation even be made without seeing the produced document personally?

    Anyways I was clued in that the survey had a really inappropriate response. Wondering if my coworker didn’t fully understand the concept of anonymous and actually took credit for it accidently with the accusation.

    Corp hr is finishing up their investigation. I feel I can’t work with this person without fearing they’ll report me for every small suspicion they may have. Anyone else dealt with this before?

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Hopefully this problem solves itself when the person who accused you is demonstrated by the evidence to be lying. No future accusations from them would be credible after that.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      If I understand correctly, your coworker put in an inappropriate response, realized that it could be traced to them, and then lied that you had changed some answers (to implicate you for that inappropriate response)?

      It doesn’t sound like they’re overly suspicious but that they are willing to throw others under the bus and that is always a problem. However, you already proved once that they can’t easily catch you out so they might move on to someone else. If you have a good HR, they should give a warning to the coworker not to do stuff like this again. But if you do have to work with them, try to keep it civil and professional.

    3. RagingADHD*

      It would seem that your coworker is either erratic, unpredictable, and willing to throw blame anywhere they can think of, or else they are malicious and scheming but not very competent at it.

      Either way, keep an eye on them and make sure you always have receipts. If the comment they input was inappropriate enough, you may not have to deal with them for long anyway.

    4. tessa*

      I left a job 6 months ago mostly over a co-worker who was just absolutely vile, and a boss who buried her head in the sand rather than deal with co-worker.

      Co-worker made all kinds of general accusations about a hostile workplace (apparently not knowing that the term is based on specific legal definitions), and tried to get people run out of town. I was slated to become her direct supervisor. Hell effing NOPE.

      I suggest you try to find out if the investigation will be on your employment record, no matter the outcome.

      Also, if it’s possible and feasible for you, look elsewhere. Don’t suffer her if you don’t have to. If you do have to, be polite and professional and stay away from as much as possible in the meantime.

      Good luck. Your co-worker sucks.

    5. River Otter*

      I had a coworker report me for a conversation that never happened. The thing I regret not thinking about and asking for was oversight of this employee to prevent him from spreading the story to other people (which he did, and it harmed my reputation and negatively impacted people’s willingness to work with me) and also for greater investigation on anything he might say about me in the future (I wasn’t informed of the complaint for weeks or months, and they believed him implicitly). I recommend that you think about what along those lines makes sense for your situation and ask for that. Then hold them to it. I did think to ask that all future complaints be brought to my attention immediately, but that request wasn’t really respected.

  36. Decidedly Me*

    If you stay at the next job for awhile, it will likely be a non-issue. Whether you resigned too soon at this job really kind of depends on what would have ended up happening. However, I assume you don’t have a crystal ball, so you made the best decision you could with the information you had. Plus – 30% raise? Double PTO? Seems like it was a good call either way.

  37. KayDeeAye*

    The organization I work for has a respectable though not generous vacation policy. I have four weeks of vacation, but that’s only because I’ve worked here a long time, and those who haven’t been here that long have to skimp by for a few years on just two weeks’ vacation.

    As a fairly uncomplicated way of addressing this skimpiness (which people have complained about for years), the organization recently announced that we’re going to be officially closed the week between Christmas and New Year, effectively adding four vacation days to everybody’s tally. In addition to giving us those days off, it also frees up the days that we might have used then for something else. I realize not everyone likes to take time off then, but I do, and most of my coworkers do, too, so we’re all pretty pleased. Apparently they are even going to try to come up with some plan to even things up for those people who for work-related reasons can’t take time off then.

    How common is this? I’ve never worked any place that did this, though I know other people who have. For example, I used to work at a trade-specific newspaper (farming), and while the specific publication that I worked for didn’t close then, just about every other farm paper or magazine in the region did. I was always soooooo jealous!

    1. londonedit*

      It’s common in book publishing in the UK, which is where I am. Historically the printing presses would shut down for the Christmas break, so publishers closed too. In my experience the companies that give the minimum 20 days’ holiday (plus bank holidays; sick time totally different) would generally close between Christmas and New Year and not require people to take the time off, so you’d get three days ‘extra’ (Boxing Day or the nearest weekday to it is also a bank holiday here), but the companies that offered more than 20 days would be more likely to close, but require people to take the time out of their holiday allowance. Where I work now, it’s brilliant because we get 25 days’ holiday but we also close between Christmas and New Year and we don’t have to use our holiday allowance, so we effectively get 28 days’ holiday (though obviously can’t choose when to take those three days).

      1. KayDeeAye*

        That’s interesting, londonedit. I’m actually slightly thrilled that my vacation allotment (holidays and sick days are both calculated separately) is even close to that of somebody in the UK. It’s too bad it’s not the same for all my coworkers, though. But it seems to me that acknowledging that most people here don’t want to work between Christmas and New Years but deserve to be paid for it is a good sign.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Somewhat common in manufacturing. Some places shut down for a week or two during the year in order to improve/update/change machinery on the production line. So standard production workers have the time off (and this sometimes spills over into office support staff, sometimes does not), and the people who are working on updating the line will be working that week.

      1. djc*

        Yep, I’ve had family members work on the assembly line for Honda. They used to be closed the week between Christmas and New Years and I think also the week of 4th of July.

        1. JustaTech*

          Seconding. I work in medical manufacturing, and that’s our slowest week of the year (shockingly, people don’t want to get long medical treatments in the middle of the holidays!), and many (but not all) years I’ve worked here we all got that week off (and the facilities folks who did the overhauls during that time got to take the time off at a different time).

    3. Can't think of a funny name*

      My company did that last year and are doing it again this year…but they’ve said it’s something they will determine on a year-to-year basis so don’t assume we’ll always get it.

    4. Educator*

      The nonprofit where I used to work did this. Everyone appreciated the days off, but many found it frustrating that that they were tied to holidays that not everyone celebrates. It would have been much better to make them floating holiday days so that people could use them for the holidays that were personally or culturally important to them.

      Tying them to the Western Christian calendar was particularly unhelpful at our org because we operated all over the world, so it was much harder for us to keep projects moving during, say, Lunar New Year than it was at the end of December. I never understood it.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Yep, that’s the problem, of course – they are not really “vacation days,” they are extra holidays, which means they are tied to particular and specific days on the calendar. So it’s great for me because I love taking vacation then, but not so good for those who don’t. We’re pretty homogenous, culture- and religion-wise, here, but management is considering ways to make us more diverse, and so they’ll probably want to rethink this if those efforts bear fruit. But in the meantime, I must confess, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of my new extra days off. If they become floating holidays or something like that, I’ll still enjoy the heck out of them. :-)

        1. Educator*

          It is awesome that your management is setting diversity goals! And enjoy the PTO–a little more work-life balance is such a wonderful thing. I always spent those days with a cup of hot chocolate and delightfully boisterous family members.

    5. M&M Mom*

      Had this at my old company and I loved it. We worked some state/federal holidays, and those days were then used to make up the days needed to cover the days. I’m really going to miss this at my new job.

    6. OtterB*

      My organization does this. We’re a nonprofit in the higher-ed space, and since most of our members and volunteers are not working between Christmas and New Year’s, we’ve always closed with no requirement to take PTO. It’s very nice.

    7. Friday friday*

      My American CEO did this to my Canadian company (so, for us, it’s only 3 days of holidays, because Christmas is two stat holidays). We have no people who *must* work in that time, we can fully shut down. I assume the CEO did this because he was a religious nut, but no one complained of having 3 extra days holiday. Enjoy!

  38. Mbarr*

    Should I notify a colleague’s manager that their direct report starting to annoy me again? Or am I overreacting because of my dislike of them?

    The Village Idiot (VI) on our team is absolutely lost without step by step guides for EVERY SINGLE TASK. They literally ask things like, “Can I put a graphic in this field?” and it takes all my willpower not to ask, “Well have you tried putting a graphic in the field?!”

    Every other member of our team is willing to experiment, try things out on their own, and figure it out, etc. If others get confused, they’ll reach out to me with educated guesses or showing they’ve done the background research. But not the VI. He wants his hand held for all tasks.

    I had to shut them down very firmly a few months ago, where I literally told them, “Stop asking me for help. You need to ask our colleagues first, or go to this and that resource.” I also notified my manager (based on her reaction, I could tell this was an ongoing problem) and his manager (who had my back), and he stopped pestering me.

    I support a team of 20ish people in using specialized software. I’ve documented best practices and how-tos for all basic tasks. But now VI is asking about random fields that aren’t covered in the wiki, because we don’t use them. I somewhat jokingly told them, “If I documented every field we don’t use, the wiki would be 100 pages long and then you really wouldn’t be able to find the instructions.”

    Needless to say, I have a bad taste in my mouth from all interactions with VI. Despite that, I’m very pleasant when I do talk to them. (Even though seeing their name appear in my chat sends me into an instant rage.) But I don’t know when/if I should mention to their manager that the questions are starting up again. (As in, I don’t know if I’m overreacting to them asking a couple of stupid questions, or if this is the start of the pattern re-emerging.)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think you’re overreacting a little bit, but I do understand why. I’m sure this is like nails on a chalkboard to you at this point. I would keep redirecting, asking about something not in the wiki isn’t blatantly ignoring your previous instructions. It does seem like he tried to look it up first. But right now I’d focus more on trying to work on your own reactions to this guy, that’s not going to be a healthy dynamic in the future even if (maybe especially if) you’re bottling it up and being nice to him.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      I would take a deep breath, step back, and see if the same pattern forms again first before going back to the managers. I totally sympathize with you, I would feel the same way, but if you run back to the managers too early it won’t help if these couple of questions are it and then he stops. If he starts pestering you all the time like he did before, then you have a clear case to bring up that it is happening again.

    3. Blink*

      Are the questions by email/ chat? If so, reply to each one with the same thing you already told them – ‘as I mentioned before, you need to check with x or y for support, or look in this or that document. If you’ve already done this, tell me the things you’ve already tried to resolve this issue’ – if they don’t die down, forward them to your manager and ask them to pick it up with his manager. Be blandly professional – you don’t have the time to support people in this capacity.

      If this is by phone/ stopping by your desk, and your work culture supports it, try ‘I don’t have time, can you email me your question so I don’t forget it’

      Stop calling him the Village Idiot, even in your head. Your contempt for him will become noticeable, or you’ll wind up smacking him down over something reasonable, and you’ll look like an ass.

    4. TechWorker*

      Agree that stopping calling them the village idiot is a good idea, even if it’s just to yourself.

      I would also (if you know your boss would support it) just be a bit less available. You don’t have to respond instantly and *sometimes* (not always… but sometimes) making someone’s life a bit harder means they have to go looking for the answer themselves and work it out. Or they start bothering every person in shouting distance – but at least then it’s not just your problem…

    5. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Tricky one, given you don’t have any direct control over their performance. End of the day, they’re not performing well, and that’s a management issue. Keep it professional, but try to quantify it and report it to their manager. Hopefully they get the memo and either put them on an improvement plan, or rehome them somewhere they’re more comfortable.

      On a separate note, I’ve seen this issue before, and while I know for a fact people can improve at becoming a problem solver rather than a robot- I’ve found this is a very hard, sometimes impossible transition to guide someone through.

    6. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

      Hmm. My reply is biased by my experiences working in places that were disorganized and didn’t have good documentation/checklists.
      It sounds like yes, the other people on the team are getting by with a mix of trial-&-error and asking other people for help, but that doesn’t actually sound to me like there is an efficient, supportive system in place for people to quickly find the answers they need. The wiki doesn’t have important information (fields that should be left blank/ignored) because it would make finding other useful information more difficult? That to me also sounds like, ok, so why isn’t the wiki better organized so that finding information is easier? I dunno, it’s possible that this is one of those situations where this person genuinely isn’t trying to do their job (which would be maddening), but to me it sounds like they are trying and something is making it harder for them. Could be a learning difference or disability, could be they’re scared of breaking something or getting yelled at if they do it wrong. But either way, unless your system genuinely is perfect, wouldn’t it be better to think of this person as a stress test that shows where it needs improvement as opposed to a willful obstacle?

    7. allathian*

      Sounds like you’re at BEC level with this person. His behavior is understandably annoying you, but if his manager and upper management won’t manage him, there’s not much you can do about it. Good luck!

  39. Laney Boggs*

    Give me your mandatory work fun stories!

    We are having a mandatory team building picnic (2 hrs, outside, and on my busiest day of the week no less) and I am dreading it! We passed around the potluck list, so at least I know if the fried chicken is inedible there will be fruit/veggie trays and chips. I also bought a microwave freezer meal to be on the safest of safe sides. (when it comes to potluck/picnic/cookout/gen.Americana I am… so picky)

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      My workplace is currently in its annual six-week charity fundraising drive, complete with pay-to-play “fun” activities. I am not enjoying it.

    2. Kowalski! Options!*

      My team leader, who was appointed to the role not long after she came back from maternity leave last fall, decided that our team wasn’t communicating enough and that it would be good for us to have mandatory fun coffee time every Tuesday morning. At first everyone kind of bought into it, but it turned into forty-five minutes of her bitching about her kids and her internet connections. Nnow the conversation lags after about 5 minutes and I’m wondering what would happen if I played the “I would prefer not to” card.

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I used to work at a place that made its all-hands meetings into huge all-day productions they expected people to be in constant awe of, and then attached forced fun activities at the end of them.

      There were the open-bar, no-food-in-sight fancy dress parties that pretty much only catered to big drinkers, and/or people willing to spend big money on elaborate costumes each time. There were the outdoor activities in support of this or that charity, involving physical activity not everyone was up for. The treasure hunt that was meant to take people to a party venue on the other side of town, which would have taken ages even with public transport. All with a professional photographer in tow, so pictures could be posted on all social media, showing everyone we truly had the Best Employer Ever and Lots Of Fun At Work Every Day.

      Opting out was basically getting up from your seat at the end of the work meeting, saying your goodbyes and heading swiftly to the exit (“sorry, double-booked, behind with work, blah blah, yes, yes, next time”). Depending on who managed you, even asking in advance whether opting out was possible could be frowned upon, so a convincing excuse in the moment was key. And you didn’t get to do it without the peer pressure of listening to everyone big up the event in the previous days, and look at you like a wounded puppy when you finally announced you were about to go.

      Honestly, though? A lot of the time, sitting on my sofa staring into the void or even working felt more appealing to me, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

    4. Jellyfish*

      After getting chastised for refusing to drive six hours for the corporate office’s Christmas party, I very grudgingly spent a weekend day going to a shooting range with my coworkers.
      I didn’t mind the choice of activity, but the whole thing was such a waste of time.

      My current employer doesn’t believe in fun, and most of the time, I prefer it that way. Let me have my own fun with my own people on my own time!

      1. HoundMom*

        A few years ago, my office leader thought it would be great to a visual treasure hunt in NYC on a 100 degree day that required several miles of walking. Once you found all the items and noted the location with a picture, you had the joy of meeting back at a bar where you were gifted with one free drink and no free food. The kicker was that the senior people had to kick in money to pay for it. If you did not go, you were docked a vacation day.

        The team included people with heart conditions and other physical limitations. We had a number of people who became dehydrated.

        Good times.

    5. tessa*

      I am so sorry. I know exactly how you feel.

      May I offer that it could be worse. I recently attended a training session for managers and a manager in another department proudly boasted that she leads her team in daily cheers. “Who’s the best?? We are!! We are!!” kind of thing. DAILY. In professional roles.

      But I hear you. Forced bonding is just so…..just….NO!

  40. Blomma*

    We have a new coworker starting on Monday. Her primary role as she learns more about our industry will be to assist me (yay!) in my role. She won’t report to me but I found out yesterday that I will be responsible for most of her training, which was a surprise as I expected our team lead to handle that. Her first week will primarily focus on our corporate onboarding stuff, but after that I need a plan of action. Any tips for creating that plan? I’ve never been responsible for training someone like this or had a (kind of) assistant so I also welcome any advice about making this a positive experience for myself and my new coworker. Thanks!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      The first thing is that she (and you) will probably spend a fair amount of time hunting down logins to accounts, links/bookmarks to important websites, making sure she has the right software installed on her computer. All typical new hire admin stuff.

      Identify some tasks you think she will be able to understand relatively quickly. When you are explaining a task to her, explain both the broader context of the task and the how-to details of the task. Encourage her to take notes and to ask questions. Also check in with her at various points along the way to make sure she is following the steps correctly and not stuck at any point of the process.

    2. Blink*

      It’s suport dependent on what you actually do, so this might all be useless but:
      try and have a 4-6 week plan mapped out by the time she’s handed over to you. The first two weeks should be pretty detailed, as in each day should have the tasks/ processes/ whatever that you want to show her listed. Try and split it into AM & PM, even if PM is just ‘revise what you learned this morning’.

      The idea is that you can present her when she starts with a document (I used to use a spreadsheet) with everything that she should know in six weeks. Not the granular detail (if you don’t have process docs, now’s the time to start), but something that functions like a training framework.

      At the end of the week you can sit down with her and go over the plan – were you able to show her everything for that week? Does something need to be rolled over to another week? You can check for understanding as well, so if something isn’t making sense you can spend more time on it.

    3. Educator*

      A few ideas:
      1) Ask her about her learning style and what would be most helpful to her. Does she learn by observing you, by listing to instructions, by reading an SOP, by taking some time to explore new software independently, etc.? Try to make the process work for her.
      2) Connect her with other people. Help her set up 15 to 30-minute meetings with your closest collaborators so that they can tell her how their job interacts with hers and what they need from the person in her role. Think about both directions on the org chart, i.e. the manager of another team who often receives your work and does something with it, as well as the mailroom clerk who can show her how to send packages out correctly.
      3) Few people can learn all day, every day, and you need time to do your own work. Identify a couple of projects that don’t require much training for her to take over early on. Maybe something more clerical? Then she can do training for part of the day, and work on those projects the rest of the day. If she is particularly excited about an area of your work and one of these early projects can tap into that enthusiasm, even better.
      4) Keep a written record of the topics you cover in training, and share it with whomever she reports to so that they can suggest other areas and see how much work you are putting into this!

    4. MacGillicuddy*

      If any tasks are ones that she does on the computer, have her “drive” while you tell her what to select, click, fill in, etc. She might have to take notes on this, so allow time for that.
      Having someone you’re training watch while you sit at the computer and do the task is only marginally helpful (unless you demonstrate once and then have the trainee do it while you instruct.)
      When tasks like this are new to someone, they don’t even know what part of the screen to look at for each action, because it’s all new. And because it’s all so familiar to the trainer, the trainer typically moves along fairly quickly without realizing they’re going too fast.

  41. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    My completely remote team is meeting in person for the first time ever next week! I’m excited to meet my boss and coworkers face-to-face, and get to know the wider team as well. There’s a lot of fun activities planned, we’re going to be meeting in a city that I’ve never been to and have wanted to go to for a while, and it’s my personal first experience with business trips.

    A couple of issues:
    – It’s going to be mid-90s F (mid-30s C) there the entire time we’ll be there. I do not do well with heat. Unfortunately, one day we’re doing a morning outdoor food tour (where shorts would probably be necessary for me), followed by meetings (where shorts would probably be fine, but I’d feel a little weird wearing them), followed by a casual indoor team-building event (shorts definitely fine), followed by a VERY nice dinner (shorts definitely not fine), followed by an optional swimming thing that I’d like to go to (which obviously involves swim clothes). I’m a guy, and trying to pick out the various casual/business casual outfits I need to pack, and I’m having trouble trying to fit an outfit to this day. My guess is a nice button-down short-sleeved t-shirt and nice shorts for most of the day, and then change into pants for the dinner, and then have my swim trunks for swimming. Do I need a jacket for the dinner if it’s going to be ninety degrees (and so probably won’t be wearing it anyway)? Other thoughts?
    – My skip-level has brought up (at the last minute) that we’re doing a non-work-related “Open Mic” and I have no idea what to do. I get 5-7 minutes to do, basically, whatever (as long as it’s somewhat work-appropriate). It’s a way to kind of get to know the whole team, and I would like to participate (even though it’s optional) but anything I’m thinking of would take me a bit to prepare (singing a song or presenting something I’m interested in) or are not work-appropriate (I already have some stuff from powerpoint parties I’ve done with my friends but the subjects are Definitely Not Work Appropriate). Any ideas?

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Your outfit options sound great, I wouldn’t worry about a jacket, and don’t be afraid to bring along a hand fan or anything you need to stay cool.

      For the presentation- I’d stick to a simple format like talking through the top 5 things you’ve learned at work or something, 3 people you admire (fictional characters are great for this), advice you’d give yourself 10 years ago, things you can sort of bullet point and work through.