too much driving, belt bags at work, and more

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

1. I’m worn out by the weekly driving for a new assignment

Recently, my supervisor assigned me to make weekly trips to another destination that is approximately 1.5-2 hours away from my home each way for the next six months to a year. My organization is reimbursing me for mileage, but the drive is absolutely exhausting me. They have not offered to put me up in a hotel and, because this is a nonprofit, I don’t know if it is something we could actually afford.

The worst part is that it is a for an extremely worthy cause (I can’t give out too much info without being identified, but think along the lines of making a Make-A-Wish kid’s wish come true; it is that level of “do good.”) I am honored to be selected for the assignment.

I want to have a conversation with my boss about the drive, but 1) I don’t know if there is another practical solution and 2) I don’t want to seem like I am unsupportive of the cause or don’t agree with its level of importance.

Well, let’s dispel concern #2 right away. There are lots of things one could do for a good cause but which would be exhausting, draining, unreasonable, and not in anyone’s interests because it would burn you out, leaving you unavailable for other important work in the long run. Any decently run nonprofit knows it needs assignments to be sustainable (unless their model is to just burn through people, but even then you still get to protect yourself from burn-out).

Talk to your boss and frame it as a business problem that needs to be solved like any other, just like if you had to flag that shipping costs were exceeding your budget or that the printer was on its last legs. And if you have solutions, bring those too (the hotel is one, but are there others, like taking a train instead of driving or splitting the trips with someone else?). Say something like this: “‘I’m so glad to be working on X, but I’m finding that driving for four hours in a day that frequently is absolutely exhausting me. Could I get a hotel and stay overnight so I’m not going and coming back the same day? Or take the train there and back, or maybe split the trips with Jane or Cecil?”

If there’s not a practical solution, then you can cross that bridge when you come to it but I’d want to know you were struggling with this if I were your manager.

2. My coworker reminds me every day about our shared assignments

I share a daily worklist with about half a dozen other people across more than one job site. “Judy” is one rung up the ladder and in charge of ensuring the worklist is done each day; she emails our small team when the list is ready to be worked. The items must be finished by end of day as they are highly time-sensitive and can result in losses if not completed in time. Management has made it clear that these items take priority over any other work we may have to do.

My issue is with one particular coworker also assigned to this list, “Jane.” Jane sits near my desk and asks me every single day if I am working the list. This is infuriating for several reasons: Jane is not my boss, nor any higher up than me (we both report to the same boss), nor is she the person responsible for distributing the worklist. She is assigned to work this list the same as me and the other assigned employees. She always uses the excuse that she is too busy with other work, She doesn’t ask any of the other employees, just me.

The first time she did this, I tried to keep things pleasant and reassured her that yes, I check the list every day, and I always inform Judy when the list is complete. This did not stop her daily check-ins. She continued to ask me daily, usually phrased like, “You’re working the report today, right?”

I asked her to stop asking me, but her response was that she “needs to know that it’s done.” I asked her about the other people who are assigned to the list, and she said they don’t work it, just me and her. I reached out to Judy to tell her what’s going on, but I’m not very optimistic anything will be done since they don’t seem to care who does it as long as it gets done.

How do I get Jane to stop without causing waves? So far we have been friendly, and I don’t want to ruin that, but the resentment has been building.

It sounds like Jane is checking in with you about the list every day not to keep tabs on you but to make sure someone is doing the work so that she can feel free to continue ignoring it herself. She’s assuming you’ll handle it all yourself and is just verifying to make sure that’s happening.

What if the next time she checks in on the list, you answered that no, you’re not able to work on it today? Or even proactively told her before she asks that you’re not able to work on the list today and so she’ll need to? You could also address the problem head-on by saying something like, “I’m finding that the list always falls to me but it’s supposed to a shared responsibility that takes priority over anything else on our plates, so can we start distributing it more equitably?” If she tells you again that she’s too busy with other work, point out that your boss has told you these items trump everything else. (By the way, where is your boss in all this? I don’t love that a whole group is responsible for getting the list done but in practice only one person is doing it.)

3. Belt bags at work

Are belt bags (aka fanny packs) okay to wear at work? I’ve been suddenly seeing them everywhere on social media, sold by brands I buy from — some high end, some more appropriate for an athleisure look. I work on a college campus, and the belt bag trend has definitely been embraced by our student body. Can I wear a belt bag, too? I am all about a comfortable, hands-free option like this and currently wear one in my personal life… just don’t know if this look translates to the office.

Go for it. I wouldn’t recommend it if you were in a field with a business formal dress code, but on a college campus it’s likely fine. I’d stick to ones that are a little sturdier and more businessy-looking though — and not, for example, something made of nylon with writing on it. Lean more toward high end and less toward athleisure.

4. Will I turn off my interviewer if I ask these questions?

I read your article about what types of questions to ask when you’re interviewing, but am still struggling to learn what I need to know at interviews. I am very sensitive to company and team culture and want to deeply understand as much as possible how the company works and team dynamics before accepting an offer. The issue I have is that I find interviewers either just lie or present an overly rosy view of everything. Everybody always says that the team is great, company culture is awesome, etc.

A mentor of mine has recommended that I switch to bold, specific questions. For example, questions like:

* What is the worst thing about working at your company?
* Has the company ever not given you your agreed yearly bonus? (For context, I work in an industry where bonuses are 10%-20%; while not contractually obligatory, they are expected and agreed upon in advance)
* How many times over the last month have you stayed up past 8 pm working on something?
* When was the last time you worked on a project that you thought had little value, but did it because your manager told you to?

While I find questions like these compelling, and think that interviewers are less likely to lie about specifics, I am a bit concerned that these questions will turn me off to the company. What do you think? Is there a way to have my cake and eat it too by somehow asking these types of questions but not being seen as overly aggressive?

Rightly or wrongly, if you ask those questions to the person who would be your manager, the first and fourth will come across as overly aggressive — and you’re still not likely to get fully honest answers. You have a lot more room to ask things like this of would-be peers. Even then, though, it’s hard to know if you’re getting honest answers; you’re a virtual stranger to them and they have more loyalty to their company than to you (and also potentially reason to worry about a particularly negative answer making it back to their manager).

The best way to get real info about the culture and manager is to find people to talk with outside the constraints of the interview process (here’s advice on how to do it). If you can’t do that, talking with the people who would be your peers there is the next best thing. I would not rely on answers from managers themselves on these topics; they’re too likely to have blind spots, be uncomfortable disclosing real negatives, or bristle if the questions aren’t phrased diplomatically enough. (And yes, you shouldn’t want to work for someone who would bristle at an honest discussion about the job, but it’s a common enough response that it’s got to be accounted for, and especially when the chance of real payoff — honest answers — is low.)

Read an update to this letter

5. Success story

A small chain of restaurants is opening a new location in my town. They have a sign up in their window inviting people to apply for jobs, and initially it asked applicants to submit their name, contact information, age, gender, experience, and working hours. The request for age and gender set off all sorts of alarm bells for me, and I figured that since I’m not looking for work here, I had nothing to lose by raising my concerns with the company. I used past AAM columns to figure out exactly how I should word my email since it would be illegal to use this information in a hiring decision, and I sent them a polite, concerned message, using language that indicated I was sure they would want to fix this as quickly as possible.

And they did! They never replied to my email, but when I walked by the location today, I saw that someone has put a piece of duct tape over the part of the sign that said “age” and “gender.” I hope that this creates a fairer, better experience for applicants.

I would not have known how to handle or express my concern without AAM, and I thought you would like to know that it worked out so well!

Well done.

{ 420 comments… read them below }

  1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    If you are driving 1.5-2 hours each way and its not all stuck in traffic then the mileage might pay for a hotel by itself. Thats assuming they are paying you IRS standard mileage rates. If they are not then they are using you to subsidize the travel costs since your car costs a lot more than just gas.

    1. Pop*

      But OP should be getting both mileage reimbursement AND payment for a hotel! So this doesn’t really matter.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Sure it does.

        Every night she stays in a hotel saves a 4-hour round trip. That goes a long way towards the costs of a hotel etc.

        And if she is working shorter days (or accruing TOIL) to account for the driving time (which she should be) then that could also be important for the calculation.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            That is what I was picturing too. Leave early am, do the drive, do the work, home by 7-8pm. There is one site I work with that is 3 hrs from me and the closest hotel to the location is 2 hrs away (3 cheers for rural health – sometimes there isn’t even a no-tel-motel for 50 miles). A hotel never made sense because of this, so I just gut out some really long days. In a terrible pinch I can do it for a week, but usually only have to do it 2-3 times a month. Luckily the folks I am working with get it (many have 1.5 hr commutes on a bus back to their park-and-ride), so they try to make sure we never need more than 3-4 hrs to get what needs to be done done scheduled in between 10-2.

          2. Ellie*

            I got that impression too. In which case, OP could ask for some time off in lieu in order to help them recuperate. This is likely the cheapest and easiest solution for the company as well – either get a half-day off once a week, or a full day off once a fortnight to compensate for the travel.

            If they won’t do that, can you negotiate to work from home the day before or after?

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I wonder if they’re treating the drive as not work hours, because if that’s the case, it should change. I was also wondering if she could work shorter hours those days or the following day. If she’s driving four hours on Monday, come in at noon on Tuesday.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            That’s a solution I hadn’t thought of. If they can count the drive time as work hours and take the next day as a half day, that might help the OP recover.

        2. Grey Squirrel*

          I’m confused by this take. Staying at the hotel doesn’t negate the need to drive to and from the site?

          1. Jen*

            They thought the poster was driving back and forth every day. In that case, staying overnight would eliminate one round trip. But I’m pretty sure that OP is only making the drive once per week.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I mean, even if OP #1 spends the night there, she still has to get home somehow, so the org still has to pay for the mileage anyway, just for the next morning. Maybe they should cough up for a hotel anyway, but it won’t save them money.

      1. Laure001*

        I guess it depends if OP stays at the location two days or only one.

        I think the commenters thinking the hotel room will pay for itself think that OP would have to drive there again the next day, and by staying overnight she avoids one round trip, but I don’t think it is the case here. I understood it as OP stays at the location only one day a week.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yes, it seems like this could be a possible solution as well! Maybe not, given that we don’t know the exact nature of the work, but if it were possible for OP to combine trips that would be a much better solution than even going there every week and staying overnight. It’s possible that whoever did this before OP didn’t mind the drive at all and so no one ever thought of a different way of doing the job.

    3. TW1968*

      LW1: While I don’t think you should use your mileage reimbursement for a hotel, I think your company should consider getting you a hotel…because that takes away one drive and keeps you refreshed! Also I’d consider asking for a rental car for the trips instead of using your own vehicle. Can’t tell from your letter if you’re driving 2 hours there and back every day of the week not but you absolutely don’t want to burn up your own vehicle for this. With new and used car prices what they are, you’ll end up wearing out your own vehicle. And when would you get all the needed maintenance? Oil changes, tuneups, tires, all those other things. I don’t think mileage reimbursement is really going to cover all that anymore with prices what they are.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        It’s weekly trips, so, LW1 goes to the other location for one day of each week.

    4. Love to WFH*

      Highway driving is really hard for me. It doesn’t always happen, but some times I struggle to stay awake. This is both miserable, and dangerous. This assignment would be a nightmare for me.

  2. OyHiOh*

    OP 3 – my organization was very recently involved in a high end, business formal event; the sort of thing that businesses pay tens of thousands of dollars to be premiere sponsors for. My organization’s event planner showed up to do her part of the work in a gorgeous business formal dress and shoes – and a fanny pack stuffed with all the last minute things an event planner needs (scissors, tape, bandaids, etc etc and so forth). I noticed the fanny pack only because I was near her when someone else needed scissors. Otherwise, probably wouldn’t have even noticed.

    We femme dressing humans should be demanding functional pockets in our formal clothes, but until that day comes, fanny packs serve a useful purpose in some cases!

      1. sometimes outside engineer*

        On the other side of formal, you can even get these packs for hiking sorts of things; everything goes around your waist! The last one I saw was someone who had shoulder problems and had a Mountainsmith brand model. Apparently they use “lumbar packs” as their term for the larger ones. (and the marketing copy says these have been A Thing since the ’80s) I kinda want one, but it might also end up in my closet full of spare packs…

    1. Yahoo mama*

      I have never gotten this obsession with demanding pockets from a certain subset of women. They really do often ruin lines in clothing, and make something more frumpy looking. It’s one more thing you have to smooth down when getting dressed. Whenever I have a garment with unexpected pockets (like a dress), I find it really annoying.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I won’t wear any pair of trousers that has those weird triangular pockets that you usually get on chinos. I really hate those things – they look awful and are 100% useless as pockets because things fall out so easily. I usually wear trousers with a different type of pockets if I’m working an event.

        1. Nicola*

          Check out mens chinos and you will find that they have actual functional pockets – Even when we get pockets they tend to be far smaller than mens and that really irritates me!

      2. D*

        I prefer being a functional human who can carry things I need to function than looking pretty and not having any of my stuff.

      3. Plumbum*

        It’s far more annoying to me to not have a place on my person to stash my phone while I’m indoors and need both hands for something. I don’t carry a bag around at the office or most social events, but I do need my phone on me – it’s basically a disability aid for my lack of working memory and poor executive function, both things also meaning if I put it down somewhere there’s about a 90% chance I’ll “lose” it and need to retrace my steps.

        That my phone is a behemoth that’s too big for my hands when you consider my lack of coordination is another rant, and means finding pockets that can actually accommodate it is a rare treat.

        1. April*

          My newest phone is a “mini” and even then I need a pop socket to hold it easily. I don’t understand how people hold/use/carry those huge phones!

        2. Snow Globe*

          A friend of mine has her phone on a black leather strap worn around the neck. Easier than carrying a purse, and not as bulky as a fanny back.

      4. MK*

        And this certain subset of women don’t get this obsession with lines and being labeled frumpy for preferring comfortable and practical clothes. Also, if pockets ruin the fit, you bought a badly designed/constructed garment.

        1. Raven*

          Yep, this here. Masculine clothing typically always has pockets without ruining the ‘look’. (By the by, masculine clothing is typically better quality anyway). It’s certainly possible to make nice-looking, practical feminine clothing it just isn’t worth it to many brands when they can save money in design and production and sell handbags etc. on the side.

          1. Tired and Confused*

            So true! Just look at men’s shirts vs women’s. Also pockets only ruin the look if the clothes are very tight. Modern clothing brands often skip the pockets because the garment will take longer to saw and it will need more fabric (but mostly is the time).

          2. bamcheeks*

            Back in the 90s a lot of financial institutions wouldn’t lend to or insure gay men, and Ivan Massow got rich off being the first provider to start marketing financial products directly to gay men. I used to see his adverts in Pink News, which said things like, “HOMOSEXUALS! Applying for a mortgage? Don’t forget to disguise yourself as a straight — try ruining the line of your jeans by stuffing your pockets with your wallet, keys, change etc!”

      5. April*

        I literally cannot picture how pockets would make a dress look frumpy??? Maybe if it was a really tailored shift dress but not even then? Like what???

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          It’s not necessarily the pockets themselves; it’s the weight of anything in the pockets.

        2. philmar*

          They can puff out when you sit, or squash unevenly and cause a lump underneath, and when you stuff them full of things, you ruin the silhouette. Generally the less sleek something is, the more frumpy it looks.

      6. londonedit*

        I love dresses with pockets because it gives you somewhere to put your hands when you’re standing around chatting to people, but I’d never use those pockets to actually carry things around in. I’d be far too worried about something important falling out of a pocket – I’d much rather have a small bag.

      7. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Totally agree. Even when a dress looks okay with pockets, once you put anything heavier than a tube of chapstick, the garment looks awful.

      8. Gnome*

        I have a shirt that has a chest pocket. It is an annoying and had these issues… AND it is completely sewn shut… Not tacked, sewn tightly. It is a useless pocket (not just a fake pocket either). It is mildly infuriating.

        That said, purses are easier to snatch, easier to pickpocket, easier to misplaced, and there are times it would be weird to take them with you (to a conference room for an hour meeting, for instance). That means we have to leave our phone and/or car keys. We can’t bring small emergency items with us (sugar pill for diabetics, inhaler, etc.) And we are more likely to have our stuff stolen.

      9. Asenath*

        I like pockets and don’t worry about line (or wear clothing in which line is terribly important, so I basically come to the issue from exactly the opposite point of view as you do. And that’s normal; not everyone is looking for the same thing out of their clothing.

      10. Semaeria*

        I primarily wear skinny jeans from the brand Universal Standard, and I find they do pockets very well. The pockets are large enough that you can easily fit your phone without much bulge and without fear of it falling out, and if you don’t have anything in the pockets they sit flat/are not noticeable at all. It is possible to design flattering women’s clothing that is functional!

    2. Everdene*

      I have refused to buy clothing without useable pockets for about 4 years now, this includes my wedding dress. It has been a game changer in my life and on days I wear older dresses or trousers without pockets everything is much harder.

      For those saying pockets ruin the line of the clothes, I do not have this problem and regularly carry at least my phone in my pocket and sometimes work ID badge, money, keys, medication etc. I’m hardly a fashionista but am often complimented on my clothing. Yesterday I was stopped twice by a random to compliment me on my dress (first wear!) and they both liked it more when I said ‘Thanks, it has pockets’.

      for t

      1. Bronze Betty*

        I estimate that 99% of my female friends are Pro Pockets. It’s a huge selling point when I compliment a friend on a new dress or jacket and she comments, “It has pockets!”

        1. Baby Yoda*

          There’s even a facebook meme that goes something like “Women are so cute. When they wear a dress with pockets they will tell you about it, then put their hands in the pockets and show you.”

          1. smeep248*

            there is also the meme that goes:
            my best friend at my funeral: oh they buried her in her favorite dress!
            me, still dead: IT HAS POCKETS!

        2. Mockingjay*

          I bought a dress this summer in three colors because it has big roomy pockets. I can put my iphone in and it doesn’t ruin the line at all.

          I just bought new jeans and they have real pockets! Stuffed phone, car keys, and tissues in the pockets; you can’t tell.

          I think designers are finally getting wise and looking at clothes from a practical, not fashionable viewpoint. (I still miss the flowing and pleated trousers I had in the nineties. Very flattering fit and deep pockets.)

          1. Tierrainney*

            you can’t post about getting a dress and jeans with real pockets but not share the brand or store!

                1. JustaTech*

                  Not Mockingjay, but the best jeans for pockets I’ve found are from Duluth Trading company – the pockets are really deep, more than big enough for my iPhone12 mini. It’s also good material, nice and sturdy. The biggest downside is that the dark wash bled dye everywhere (my chair, my hands) for *months*. The next time I get a new pair I’m going to wash them in vinegar first to try and set the dye more.

                  For dresses, if Mrs Frizzle is your style then I highly recommend Svaha – super cute fancy-nerdy prints in sturdy cotton knits in several styles. (They might not all be cotton, I’ve only gotten one dress and two tops but they were all really heavy cotton.)

            1. Akitayaya*

              Most of my work wear and dressy clothes are from a Swedish Lagenlook designer, Gudrun Sjoden. (I adore her tunics and embroidered garments ) most of her tunics, dresses, skirts, and trousers have at least one pocket. Depending on how many items I’m wearing, I may have multiple pockets.

        3. cosmicgorilla*

          Agreed. “Certain subset of women” is, oh I don’t know, MOST WOMEN.

          And +10000 to the commenter who said if pockets ruin “the line”, the garment is poorly designed and constructed.

          The subset of women who care about something as meaningless as “lines” is far smaller than the subset of women who want some gd functional pockets.

          1. Philmar*

            “Lines” aren’t meaningless if you want to wear clothes that are flattering, which a significant subset of women also want.

            1. This Old House*

              Luckily for the subset of women who are primarily concerned about lines, they have a multitude of pocket-less options to choose from. The subset who appreciate (real) pockets are still waiting. That’s why they talk about it so much.

            2. Duckles*

              When you realize men don’t care about the “lines” of their clothes, the rest of your life can begin #pursefreesince2019

              1. Curmudgeon in California*


                I buy men’s clothes because they are better made and have pockets. I loathe pocketless junk with good “lines”. Good lines are useless if you aren’t comfortable because you have to worry about a purse! And poorly made junk is not worth the money you spend.

                I am so glad I’m non-binary now. I can do the male thing of not worry about “lines” or wearing dresses with no pockets.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  I’m not non-binary and I don’t worry about lines. I make a lot of my own clothes and will always add pockets, and I will sometimes add pockets to garments I have that don’t have them. And I tend to wear baggy trousers or harem trousers where a set of keys, packet of tissues and phone won’t ruin the drape.
                  There are some dresses that won’t work with pockets full of stuff, but then I’ll add a cardigan or something that will.
                  I was really upset the other day, putting on a dress I hadn’t worn in a while: I made the pocket to measure… for my previous phone, and the new(er) one wouldn’t fit inside! Luckily I had also made a little shoulder bag with some of the leftover fabric, and I was accompanied to the event I was dressing up for, so I didn’t feel as vulnerable having all my precious stuff in the same small stealable bag.

            3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              I think it’s worth interrogating the idea of “flattering” and why certain things are deemed attractive for women. See also, The Beauty Myth.

              1. Coconutty*

                Flattering doesn’t have to mean the same thing for everyone. It’s okay to want to feel like your clothes look good and that they look good on you. It’s really odd to me that so many people here are acting like such a desire is outrageous or, like, sets back feminism.

            4. I should really pick a name*

              At yet somehow men’s clothing can have pockets and be flattering at the same time…

            5. Loulou*

              Especially…to a formal event requiring a gown????

              Do you guys think that men’s tuxedos have functional pockets that they are meant to use?

              1. doreen*

                I’m thinking they must since I’ve never been asked to carry my husband’s keys or wallet when he’s wearing a tuxedo. Which I could – since of course whatever I’m wearing has no pockets and that means I have a bag of some sort.

              2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Mr. Gumption has a tux and uses the pockets. He carries my junk on those rare occasions we do something black tie. It is bespoke so you can’t tell.

                1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  Actually, come to think of it. I have 2 friends who are diplomatic security service, one male and one female. Both have all evening wear tailored to cover guns and pockets for extra magazines and other crap so it isn’t obvious. With good tailoring good lines can be had in any situation. For these 2, their stuff looks weird if they don’t have all their junk with them because it was designed for that purpose.

              3. JustaTech*

                Yes? Because my husband has had to use the pockets in his tux to hold the things I can’t put in my tiny formal purse and (most of) my formal dresses don’t have pockets. (Unless a formal event is at the hotel where I’m staying, at minimum I need my phone, my wallet and my keys, and since women’s wallets are enormous, grr.)

                These days I’m a good enough, and brave enough, sewist to just put in pockets.

                What I want to know is why maternity jeans don’t have pockets. Any “line” of the pants is already completely disrupted by the fact that they’re maternity jeans, why take away a place for me to put my phone? (And I don’t count back pockets because that’s how phones end up in the toilet.)

              4. Princesss Sparklepony*

                The thing about formal gowns, if they are ballgown-y (with a big billowy skirt) it would be super easy to have a nice sized pocket. Even two. If it’s body hugging, then you are a bit out of luck.

            6. Bee*

              Right, I want my JEANS to have pockets I can fit stuff in – if I can’t at least shove my phone in the back pocket they are worthless – but I don’t use the pockets in the dresses that have them, because my phone is a large heavy object that pulls the whole garment askew, and I wear a lot of close-fitting dresses and skirts where they’d ruin the shape and be super annoying to wear. Full and a-line skirts can fit pockets, yes, but those are unflattering shapes on me.

              1. JustaTech*

                Yes about skirt shape. I prefer A-line or fuller skirts because they take pockets well (and I like the swoosh), to the point that I don’t actually know if I look good in a pencil skirt, because I hate the way the one I have looks when I put my phone in it, and pockets are that important to me.

            7. Lenora Rose*

              You can have both, depending on the garment. I will happily grant that not every outfit can accommodate pockets, but not every “attractive” or “flattering” outfit *cannot* accommodate pockets, and behaviour around pockets seems to be directed to the assumption there’s no possible way to have one and look nice. If you like everything close-fitting, then naturally many pockets don’t work without very clever tailoring and wouldn’t look right in an off-the-rack version. But frankly, those are outfits I avoid because they also punish human imperfections; my own body ruins the lines long before a pocket could.

              I prefer loose skirts and dresses which flare a bit from the waist – fairly generous pockets are pretty easy to add without ruining the “line”, and I have gotten compliments on the fancier items while carrying my work ID in one pocket and my phone in the other. There are many cuts of slacks which would easily accommodate pockets.

              I’m also of the opinion that, while you might need to be careful just how heavily you fill pockets at a given time, if someone judges your entire outfit inadequate because you had your phone in a pocket for one meeting and the line was therefore only perfect 85% of the day, *they* have bigger problems.

          2. vinegary anon*

            Makes me wonder about the intersection of no pockets + ridiculous heels. A certain subset of women would rather be in pain or inconvenienced for ‘a look’.

      2. Madame X*

        Most of my trousers have pockets and some of my dresses do as well but I always carry a purse or wallet-on-chain because pockets are inadequate to carry most of the things I need when i go out. I have one dress with deep pockets, which I appreciate for holding things like Kleenex or an extra mask but it I would never feel secure using those pockets to hold more valuable items like my phone or personal ID/credit card. If i’m going to an event or activity in which I am going to be very active or moving around a lot, then I stick to trousers because it is easier to carry a phone in pocket of a pair of trousers. However, that is assuming that i need absolutely nothing else.

        I think the popularity of belt bags has grown so much because even men / people who don’t use purses have situations where they need more than their trouser pockets to carry their things. (Book bags are also used for this reason but even the small ones can get quite bulky).
        Pockets are great but there are some situations where it makes more sense to carry a purse or belt bag.

      3. Liz in the Midwest*

        I was traveling in Europe for almost 2 months this summer, and I like to wear dresses when traveling (only one decision to make), but many of my casual summer dresses don’t have pockets, and I wamted my phone handy. So I paid a local tailor to add pockets! It was an excellent decision. And I promise I did not look frumpy. (though if I did, I still regret nothing)

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Baloney: Unless something is very clingy or very tightly fitted, pockets don’t ruin the line of it. They do, however, make sewing commercial clothing more time-consuming, complicated, and expensive. I guess manufacturers would rather, uh, pocket the difference when they don’t include them but charge us just as much for the clothing.

      5. Nancy*

        Where are people finding these dresses? I have yet to find one that looks good on me and has pockets that are actually useable.the ones I find are either too small or flimsy to trust, or make my hips look even wider than they already are.

        1. Leenie*

          My Boden dresses have real pockets and look good on me. They aren’t sheath dresses or clingy, but I think they have clean lines, even with my phone in my pocket.

      6. Cee*

        My wedding dress had pockets too! It was amazing and the pockets certainly didn’t ruin the line of the dress as it was A-line you couldn’t see them at all.

        Its hard to imagine being annoyed at additional functionality in an article of clothing. I mean maybe if like you bought a body con dress that for some reason had pockets, but generally, dresses with pockets are designed to accommodate them without needing smoothing or looking frumpy.

        1. Parakeet*

          I MOSTLY agree with the pro-pockets crowd – though as a chubby female-presenting person I will note how often people like me are told how especially important it is for us to wear clothes that are “flattering” – but when I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding, all the other bridesmaids voted on a particular dress, from the choices my sister presented, because it was the only one that had pockets. And the other bridesmaids had a rather different body type than me, and while this dress did indeed have pockets, I also, uh, had to cover a lot of chest with a shawl (kindly crocheted by my sister) to not attract stares, or rebukes from my grandmother if I leaned over, etc. So while I am pro-pockets, I do have a bit of sympathy for the “pockets don’t always need to be the most important thing” minority. Just a bit lol, but it’s there.

    3. Roo*

      I’d go for a bag or pack over pockets any day. A word of advice though – be very careful discussing “fanny packs” in the UK (I am English). Over here “fanny” means something quite, quite different to what it does in the US…

      1. Ana Gram*

        We know. The trend now is to call them belt bags but they were fanny packs when I was a kid and I’ll probably always call them that. We all giggled a little when my grandmother said she brought her thongs to the beach but we knew what she meant.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        …and it is NOT used in polite company. (Eyeballs wiiide open shocked face shaking head nope, what with having a British Nan myself.)

      3. sofar*

        haha yep I had this conversation with my mom before going to London (she’s an avid wearer of this item). In the U.S. “fanny” can mean “the behind,” but it means …well … ya know … in the UK. So I told my mom not to use that term, and and I remember my mom going, “Well goodness Sofar, I know the other meaning, and I think everyone will survive if they think I’m talking about ‘my butt’ and chalk it up to cultural differences and we’ll all laugh about it … I’ll say ‘fanny’ if I want to.” And I was like, “Well, Mom, as it happens, in the UK it refers to … well … another part …” And her not getting it and my anxiety rising.

    4. Lucy P*

      I love pockets, but personally can’t imagine putting scissors in them unless they’re front facing. I like Lilith’s idea of the leather-like carpenter’s apron.

  3. Heidi*

    Re Letter 4: I think asking all 4 questions in a row would be off-putting because they all kind of assume that the employer is doing something wrong. Strung together, they come across like:
    1. How evil is your company? 2. Has the company ever done this particular evil thing? 3. How many times has the company done this evil thing? 4. How recent was the most recent evil thing? Did you see Goody Proctor with the devil? It might be even more off-putting if the company is not toxic and has a great culture. Great coworkers probably aren’t used to being accused of things.

    1. c buggy*

      LMAO. I just actually laughed out loud in a cab when I got to “Did you see Goody Proctor with the devil?”

      1. TransmascJourno*


        The gleeful cackle I had while reading this comment should give it mooooooreeee weeeeeight.

        (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

      1. Kit*

        I’d wonder if your partner is my spouse, but the only person who thinks he’s the devil is my sister’s neurotic dog.

        Although now I’m imagining that dog going on interviews and barking out a string of questions like this, in full-on alarm mode, without pausing for breath or response…

    2. BethDH*

      Agree. But I think you can get at some of the issues without being so confrontational and still being specific.
      Questions like these have worked for me:
      -what parts of this role/ these tasks have people struggled with in the past?
      -how does the team handle it when the workload is higher than normal work hours (and what does the daily schedule look like?) how does the team decide how to allocate work?
      -how does (boss) prefer to give feedback? How do they check in with (role) about progress and issues?

      1. Colette*

        – what does a typical day look like in this job?
        – many jobs require occasional overtime. How frequently does the person in this role typically work overtime?

      2. Sunflower*

        To reframe the first question about worst thing about the company, you can ask ‘if you could change one thing about the company or your role, what would it be’.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I think this is good; I’ve also phrased it as “what challenges do you face as a department/company”.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I tried asking “favorite and least favorite parts of the job”, but I usually got wishy-washy rather than honest answers.

      3. EPLawyer*

        YES. The same questions but less aggressive. In an interview, you are trying to get information you can use to make an informed decision. Not prosecuting someone in court for practicing witchcraft.

      4. Smithy*

        I think all of these are great questions – but I think they are often likely to elicit soft or job-specific euphemisms. For people who are better reading between the lines, have good industry mentors or networks – that alllll helps know how best to use these questions.

        However for people who are more literal or new to any given industry, I do understand a preference or desire to go for those more direct questions that risk sounding confrontational. Because those softer questions get answers back that are soft and you need more time and experience to know what’s yellow/red.

        In my sector, it’s uncommon for there to be a true onboarding handbook or written guidelines for our specific teams/jobs. However, I have met some people who’ve taken that norm as equaling a norm for no onboarding process at all. And during interviews and other places, are happy to talk about joining their team as being “thrown in the deep end”. In my world, I’ve learned that this means that in addition to the lack of written materials – they’ve done little to no thinking of how someone would learn about the job and have a lot of assumptions that new hires will pick information up “exactly as they did.”

        Now I did not know that when I first started working. And I’m sure there are other sectors, where that kind of a phrase is far less concerning. Even in mine, in regards to other parts of our work, I might dismiss it. But with onboarding, it’s an immediate yellow flag and an area where I want to dig more.

      5. Parakeet*

        I’ve asked people what their favorite thing and least favorite thing about working for the company are. Not just for the individual person’s answers, but, if you’re interviewing with more than one person, to see if there’s any patterns in either direction (and to see what your potential future coworkers value and don’t value, which can be valuable information about company/team culture). I came up with this question in college when I had no idea what to ask in job interviews and wanted to sound smart, but in retrospect, I absolutely should have listened to the pattern that came up when I interviewed for my first job, because it was actually very valuable information. And asking people for a favorite as well as least favorite thing, in addition to being potentially informative, gives off less of a “so, your company, is it full of bees? where are the bees; I know they’re around here somewhere” vibe.

      6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Some of my favorites are:
        Are there any times when the workload is heavier/lighter?
        For this role, what do you think the greatest challenges are?
        What is your preferred management style and what type of employee fits it best?

      7. Lenora Rose*

        One I saw recently that nudges a particular part of culture is “What is your process for handling a situation when a coworker says something inappropriate?”

    3. hbc*

      I agree. The questions all together make me think of certain high-maintenance, negative-worldview employees I’ve had even though I usually *volunteer* the answer to #1 and have positive answers to #2 and #3 (never, and never.)

      But the last one has the potential to be a candidacy-ender all by itself. It’s not like I love wasting my or my employees’ time on pointless projects, but the people who complain about “pointless” projects are often people who don’t see the big picture. Like, sometimes you write the grant application for something we have zero chance of getting so I can get someone else to say “we see you’re low on funding and have done everything, we’ll help you get money” versus “seems like there’s lots of potential grant money out there you haven’t chased, try that.”

      Maybe OP sees the difference between indirect value, opportunity/risk, and actual time wasting, but unless that’s put really carefully, they’re going to come across as someone who’ll need to regularly be convinced to do their job.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah. I’ve worked on projects that didn’t go anywhere – but we didn’t know that when we started! Things change over time; if you can’t roll with that, that’s a problem.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Shoot. I just did one that we killed 1/2 way through. Sometimes ideas look great on paper but do not survive contact with reality

      2. Unaccountably*

        This, absolutely. Doing things you don’t see the point of doing but that your boss thinks are important is part of almost any job. If a candidate asked me that like it was a strong negative I’d assume that they are (a) very, very new to the workplace, and (b) much more high-maintenance than I want to deal with.

        In fact, almost all of these questions would be potential deal-breakers for me.

        * “What is the worst thing about working at your company?”
        This sounds like you want drama and/or dirt and I have no idea what answer you expect. I’m not going to sit here and diss my company to someone who ostensibly wants a job here.

        * “Has the company ever not given you your agreed yearly bonus?”
        If I’ve only been there a year or two, I probably haven’t hit a case where the company didn’t give me a bonus, because if it happened more than once or twice, I’d have left. Also, see: not dissing my company to you, above.

        * “How many times over the last month have you stayed up past 8 pm working on something?”
        I stay up past midnight working on things all the time, because I am a night owl and I’m able to start late when I work from home. Also, I am probably not hiring you to do my job.

        * “When was the last time you worked on a project that you thought had little value, but did it because your manager told you to?”
        Are you implying that it’s going to be a problem for you to let your boss set your work priorities, or are you telling me that out loud? Either way, not on my team. We have opportunities for people to pursue their own interests, but if I tell you something has to be done by a certain date, I don’t care whether you think it has value or not. I care that I told you to do something and you did it/didn’t do it/had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing it.

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          Yeah question number 4 would be a real red flag for me. I love managing and mentoring and strive to have great relationships with my direct reports… but sometimes I just need them to do something whether they see the value or not. The point is that I do. I have more context, more exposure to the big picture and more expeirence. I always try to communicate all of that as much as possible but sometimes you just have to do the thing. The same goes for my boss. She is an incredible advocate and totally trusts me. If she needs something from me, I do it.

        2. bookworm*

          In addition to the reasons you mention, as someone who’s worked in industries where it’s important to be on the lookout for bad faith actors looking to record employees, take quotes out of context, and publish misleading “exposes,” these questions would absolutely be triggering my spidey senses and make me less likely to say anything candid (and also very wary of hiring the person)

    4. A.P.*

      I think question 1 is not so bad as long as it’s preceded by first asking about what they like best about the company. Then when you ask about the worst, it doesn’t seem as disagreeable.

      Questions 2 & 3: are weirdly specific. I’d be tempted to turn it around and ask them why they are asking about that and if it’s happened to them in the past. (I’d especially be curious about the bonus question and if there was a performance reason the company reneged on the agreed amount.)

      Question 4 is just obnoxious.

      One of these questions on their own may not be too terrible especially if it’s mixed in with more neutral ones. But this barrage of negativity is a bit like when you’re on a first date and the other person can’t stop talking about their awful ex. At some point you wonder if their previous experiences have tainted them enough that it will negatively affect their next relationship.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, I’ve had people ask me “what are your favorite and least favorite things about working here?” I’ve felt more comfortable answering that. I suppose it helps that the honest answer to my least favorite thing isn’t anything too awful, and is a common problem within my industry. It’s not something like “Bleminda screams at us because she thinks it’s motivational” or “Wilbur pulls us into an hour-and-a-half meeting every single Friday at 5 pm just as we’re heading out the door.”

        1. The Original K.*

          We just finished a hiring process and the majority of the candidates asked favorite/least favorite. I think it’s a fairly standard question.

      2. ConfusedAcademic*

        I’ve asked “What is something that you like about working here, and something that you don’t really like?” Similar question, but the tone sounds quite a bit different than LW’s first question. And sometimes the juxtaposition is interesting and informative, too.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I think I prefer this phrasing to “favourite / least favourite” because there’s less onus to come up on the spot with the actual top #1 thing (which may not exist if you like several things), and instead whatever thing you can describe at the moment.

          (I got a bit of a surprise asking my now-manager the “what do you like?” question – I’d been working here for months and was applying for a permanent spot, so I thought I knew her, but the answer she came up with was something I hadn’t thought of at all as something her role does. It made sense of a lot of how and why she manages the way she does – and in a good way.)

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I actually kind of like #3 as a question for peers (if not for a potential boss). It will be less useful for some jobs than others (BigLaw? The answer is, “Every damn day, including most weekends. You even need to ask?”) But it brings a level of concreteness where more generic questions about workload could get vague answers.

      And even as a question for a manager, a job where that question might turn them off may be a job that you don’t want anyway (because it says something about the answer).

    6. Khatul Madame*

      There are ways to rework the LW4’s questions to be more benign.
      For example:
      Are bonuses paid in full every year?
      What was your least favorite project? (asked right after “What was your most favorite project”?)

  4. Cranky lady*

    #5 – I’m happy that you were successful. I once saw a sign in a shop window that specifically said they were hiring *men* to work in the stock room. When I politely mentioned the problem to the manager, she didn’t understand what the issue was. The sign stayed up for weeks and I haven’t been back to that store since.

    1. Phryne*

      I once long ago worked at a place that put signs up they were looking for under 20-ies to apply… (cheaper wages). That particular eff-up was removed pretty quickly, but they still wanted us to give verbal warnings to people asking for a form to fill out that over-20 year olds probably would not be considered. I did warn people. Just possibly not in the wording they wanted me to use though.
      (In the meanwhile, we were constantly understaffed because they could not find enough personnel. Gosh, wonder why)

      1. Koli*

        So weird to screen that way. Why not just pay the same rate to everyone, and if over-20s don’t find it adequate, they won’t take the job?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          No Phryne, but some places may have a “teenage” or youth minimum wage that is lower than the standard minimum wage. So it could be the case that it is/was legal for this business to pay a 19-year-old $6/hr but a 20-year-old would legally have to be paid $8/hr. (Numbers for illustration only)

          1. Phryne*

            Yes, this is not the US, so different rules apply. There are varying levels of ‘youth income’ that top off at 21. Most work here, especially service etc, is covered by collective labour agreements (made between the government, branch of industry and unions) and some have this youth income in them. Probably justified by the ‘young people still have to learn a lot, no previous experience’ line of thought, although on the other side it makes hiring young people (with less experience) more interesting for businesses. These collective agreements generally have very firm agreements on wages. You won’t be able to bargain your wages up much, but you also will not likely be underpaid compared to your coworkers. You also cannot be fired at will, wages generally go up every year to compensate for inflation (‘- normal levels of’) and it is legally required to have a contract, so once you work there they cannot get rid of you when you are too old/expensive.

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      In a certain large, liberal city, it is not uncommon to see signs that say “Men working above”.

      1. ecnaseener*

        But those signs aren’t used to discriminate in hiring, I have to assume…bit of a difference, don’t you think? The point of the sign is to warn you of a danger above, it doesn’t materially matter if the sign says men or people.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I do think that sort of stuff matters, though, because it normalizes in people’s minds either that “men” are the standard kind of people and women are an alternative to men, or that this job is for men. (Fun fact: In crowd scenes in movies, only 17% of the people are women, unlike a real world crowd where they’re likely half.)

          1. ecnaseener*

            I don’t disagree that it would be better for the signs to be changed, in an ideal world. It’s just so not on the same level as what’s being discussed here.

      2. Cee*

        I recently saw a sign on a scaffold that said “men and woman working above.” I wasn’t sure if it was a mistake and they meant “women” or there really was just a lone woman up there who made it onto the sign.

        1. Jen*

          I love it! They’ll have to update their sign if they hire another woman, or if that one woman quits and it goes back to being all men.

      3. PersephoneUnderground*

        I always wonder why not use less space and just put “workers above” or “construction above”. There could be good reasons to keep 3 words but of course it’s likely no one has thought about the standard phrase, the assumption is so ingrained. Minor thing but I have noticed it too.

        1. Phryne*

          Tangentially: In Europe, sign like these have no text at all… Maybe because traveling any amount of time by car might put you in an area with another language altogether, but pretty much all road signage is in symbols and pictograms. There are some exceptions and small differences from country to country but most are uniform across Europe, meaning you don’t have to understand the local language to drive there. When I was in the US I was surprised by the amount of text along the roads.
          That makes issues like ‘not enough room to be inclusive’ much less of a problem.

    3. a tester, not a developer*

      For food service I can kind of see why you’d ask for age – where I live students have restrictions on the number of hours they can work during the school year, and if they’re quite young they may be allowed to work a cash register but not do kitchen work. And of course if they serve alcohol they have to be over the legal age. Age is an easy way to sort the applications into categories. Personally if I was applying I’d just put that I’m over 21 so that they’d know there were no restrictions on the work I could do.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah this seems like this could be resolved by an application with checkboxes for student/over 21, or something similar. Definitely a valid reason to collect the information but still wouldn’t advocate for a blanket “submit your age” requirement.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Yeah, I like the idea of a checkbox on an application for only the age breakdowns that matter. I’m envisioning options of:

          – 16-17
          – 18-20
          – 21+

          or whatever the age categories that have different restrictions on working hours/ability to serve alcohol/etc. are.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          That’s what the applications are like where I work. “Are you: a) under 18, b) between 18 and 21, c) over 21?” We have the information we need to categorize potential employees based on what job tasks they’re legally allowed to do, but not enough information to commit age discrimination.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh, we are simply adding another reason that an employer would need to know an age for someone who is younger. The state I live in doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 19 to work flattop griddles, and no one under 21 can work in a bar or bring an alcoholic beverage to someone who ordered it.

          But like others have said, that’s generally covered by a question on the application.

      1. Kella*

        Then they will run into problems because there are lots of men who are not beefcakes and cannot move big boxes!

      2. NICS*

        In college I had a roommate who did crew. 6 foot 4 and more muscular than an Amazon. I was in awe of her. I think it would be really foolish to exclude someone like her from your box-movers search on the assumption that no women could be strong enough. She was unusual but she exists.

      3. helenteds*

        If they need strong people to move heavy boxes they can note on the job description (as many jobs do) that the job frequently requires lifting up to x number of pounds.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Unlike the companies that include “must be able to lift 50 lbs” in every job description, including the receptionist, so they have a reason to exclude applicants with disabilities.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      I recently quietly rewrote one of our contracts’ boilerplate to swap out “men” with “persons” — but honestly, since it was “persons” in other clauses, I think it was a case of missed-in-edit when they changed it years ago and nobody had read the boilerplate closely enough to notice since. At least, nobody has complained to me, and since several of the people who process the contracts along the way are women, I’d be surprised if anyone did.

  5. Warrior Princess xena*

    For #4, my concern is that these questions assume a negative that may not exist and that would be considered very combatative. If you go into interviews assuming that companies are trying to screw you over, you will not have a fun time.

    Additionally, for the fourth suggested question: if you are a first or second tier staff, or a new hire, you may not know enough about the company or industry to really accurately assess what is bringing value and what isn’t. Entering my time doesn’t feel like it adds value to me, but it sure helps our admin staff who are responsible for working to bill clients. Not only is it a combative question, it’s going to make you sound hugely out of touch with the way a workplace functions.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**

      Yeah, I think this is similar to dating, wherein I’m very sympathetic to the desire to weed-out possibly hurtful partners, but it’s also weirdly combative to be asked on a first date if I’ve ever cheated on anyone, or if I value partners for their money.

      To Alison’s point: the people who truly don’t care are unlikely to be honest and self-reflective, and the people who do are likely to feel scrutinized.

      To me it feels a little like being started with a deficit, where instead of having the opportunity to demonstrate that I’m a good person, I first have to prove that I’m not a bad one. That’s exhausting at best, impossible at worst.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I think the first 3 questions can be rephrased to not sound like they’re presuming the worst, and then probe more as indicated. “What type of hours do people typically work? … Occasionally into the evening? How often would you say people work past 8?”

      I agree the last is a little more inherently…precious-sounding. If it’s about admin stuff like entering a time sheet, I think you could ask how much time is spent on admin tasks but not in such a disparaging way. If it’s about your main work, only wanting to work on projects you believe are worthwhile, you could ask about how much ownership you would have over your work and how dissent is handled, but again without the implication that you should never or rarely have to work on anything you don’t personally see the value in, unless you’re applying for senior enough roles that you can expect to have input on wider strategy.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I also thought the “working past 8 pm” one problematic–someone who puts in 40 hrs/week, with flexible hours and good management, might routinely work “past 8 pm” because that’s when the kids are in bed.

      1. Antilles*

        Personally, it sounded strange to me because 8 pm feels like a really late target to set – like even if the answer is “no, nobody ever stays past 8”, that’d still leave open the possibility of working till 730 pm which is still a heck of a long day if you have the ‘normal’ business start times of somewhere in the 8 to 9 am range.

        Maybe it’s industry specific like OP’s industry runs on a noon to 8 pm shift? But if it’s a more typical mid-morning start time, then I’d really stick away from asking a question which implies 11 hour days are normal. Instead, I’d go with something along the lines of “how often do people have to work more than an hour or two past normal ending time”.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          8:00 pm may have been chosen as the time to ask about exactly because it is really late to be at work (unless you start at noon, of course). Asking how many times a person has stayed at work after 6:00 (or worked more than an 8-hour day) would make it seem like the candidate would be watching the clock every day and would refuse to stay late for any reason. But 8:00 is late enough (in most jobs) where staying that late should be a less common occurrence.

          1. Antilles*

            I don’t see that actually addressing the issue though – because it leaves plenty of ways for the hours to still be miserable (which is presumably what you’re worried about) while only occasionally not working past 8 pm.
            If you want to know about regular working hours and how much work is required outside of that, I feel like there are better ways of figuring that out rather than simply picking “8 pm”.

    4. a tester, not a developer*

      For the last question you could *maybe* ask something about if staff in that role are involved in project rankings/reviews, or if they only come on board after project kickoff.
      You might also be able to ask what percentage of projects make it from proposal to charter, and from charter to implementation – basically a polite way of asking if they have a lot of ideas, but don’t/can’t follow through on most of them. But that’s not really the question OP wants to ask – and I can’t think of an acceptable way to ask “are your projects dumb, or just pointless busywork?”

      (If I was applying for a new job, I’d ask about proposal>charter>implementation, but that’s because I’ve quite literally been on a project that has made it to charter 9 times over the years, but never got to implementation. I can live with it, but it would be good to know if a new company is ‘one thing at a time’ or ‘let’s see if we can do all the stuff we want to this year – if not, we’ll try again later’. There’s pros and cons to both approaches).

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      I agree the last question is not appropriate to ask, but I thought important part of the last question was if the person FELT it had little value. Maybe it did for the company, maybe it didn’t, but that’s not the point.

      In that way, I could see the relevant issues being (1) feeling connected to the mission and
      (2) how leadership approaches these tasks, e.g. is it a “shut up, head down, do as you’re told” type of place.

    6. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, the last question would give me pause as the interviewer. I work in a highly regulated industry and we have so much paperwork. It is so common for new folks to complain about it and passive-aggressively do a half-assed job, then take offense when someone tells them to correct it.

      We all hate filling out forms. Nobody likes it. I certainly don’t like it. But it’s part of the job. I’ve been here long enough that I’ve had to go back and rely on someone else’s documentation from years before so I understand why it’s important. And I try to explain that context to new hires but it’s hard to understand with experiencing it. So lots of people fill out these forms and think it’s pointless. I don’t want to hire someone who will constantly need reminding and will only grudgingly do it when I insist.

  6. My dear Wormwood*

    #2: so, what’s Jane going to do when you’re away sick or on vacation? Might be worth pointing that out to your boss too. One day you won’t be available so are they just going to drop the ball?

    1. The OTHER other*

      I echo Alison’s question about where is the boss in all this. Supposedly this work is time sensitive and takes priority over other work yet one of the two people asked to do it for this team is always too busy? Sounds like the boss needs to talk to this coworker about the priorities.

      1. Tau*


        One slightly indirect way to approach this would be to talk to the boss going “I’m not sure I understand the prioritization system. I thought the list is always top priority over everything else we’re doing, however Jane generally tells me she’s too busy and can’t work on the list today. What topics are more important than the list items, so I make sure I prioritize them appropriately as well?” You can still shift into “I’m concerned that I’m the only one working on these items” if the boss tells you that no, you’re right, list is 100% priority and doesn’t add about talking to Jane.

        (Hell, if the boss isn’t an option, one possibility for making this awkward would be to ask Jane about this. But you need to be verbally adept enough to react to any bogus explanations she gives for why she’s too important to work on the list.)

        Also, if there are *any* issues involving you falling behind with or not being able to do as much of your other work because you’re constantly saddled with an unfair share of the list items, raise that – now. That not only makes a really good business case for going to your boss, it could come back to bite you badly at review time… especially if the other work is what has visibility and what your boss will be looking for when consider promotions.

        1. Green great dragon*

          This last para, definitely.

          I am confused about the other people assigned to the list though. Are they doing their share, or is LW carrying the burden for everyone? If you’re the only one doing it then you really need to say something soon. If it’s everyone-but-Jane it’s a bit trickier, but you can still point out the disparity.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I found that confusing as well.

            OP says that there are about seven people total who get assigned this list. So at first, I read it as Jane always asking her about it simply because their desks are close (and she would pester the others too if they were in her sight).

            But then Jane says “You’re working the report today, right?” which makes it sound more like the seven people are rotating in some way and Jane always wants to foist off her share on OP.

            BUT THEN OP “asked her about the other people who are assigned to the list, and she said they don’t work it, just [OP] and her” which… huh? Has the assignment been changed so that now only Jane and OP are responsible for it but someone OP was never informed of this? Or is Jane just saying whatever so that she can get out of doing it? What, exactly, is going on here?

            1. bamcheeks*

              yeah, I don’t think OP should ask your boss about prioritisation and who works on the “urgent” list as an indirect way of dealing with the Jane problem– I think they should ask because it’s legit confusing and it sounds like What’s Supposed To Happen and What Actually Happens are different. It’s quite possible the Jane problem is a symptom of a confusing situation which isn’t being managed properly, rather than the problem itself.

              1. Tau*

                Yeah, when I reread my comment I realised I’d been too biased in assuming Jane was trying to dodge work (serves me right for commenting before tea). It’s possible Jane legitimately has higher priority work and the other people are only on the list as CC and not expected to work on it but nobody’s communicated this to OP, in which case they should get that cleared up stat before they get any more resentful!

                1. I just work here*

                  No, it’s not a situation where the others are only CC’d on the email. All are “supposed” to be equally responsible for checking the list as soon as it goes out and working any outstanding items. I did address my concerns with the person who distributes the list…waiting to see if management does anything about it. In the meantime I’m heading Jane off at the pass by doing a “reply all” to the team email (as soon as it goes out), that I’m either working it, need help with it, etc.

              2. learnedthehardway*

                The OP should also raise the issue that they are being left with the entire execution of the list, and should request that the manager clarify and set expectations as to who is responsible for what on the list. It may make more sense for the list to be formally split up between workers or rotated between people to ensure the work is divided evenly.

            2. I just work here*

              Ha. No, the assignment never changed. It’s basically nobody wants to work it and is hoping somebody else will if they ignore it. So Jane is saying out of the half dozen people assigned to this worklist, only her and I ever actually do it. Since I can confirm she hasn’t touched it when I’m in the office, I can only infer she’s saying she works it when I have a day off. If that is true however…

          2. Office Lobster DJ*

            Having half a dozen people across different work sites responsible for a highest priority list sounds like a challenge to handle fairly, even before we get to Jane. Jane may do better with clearer assignments….or she may just be trying to get out of work. Why does Jane think they are the only two working on it?

            OP, I’m glad you told Judy, and I hope you can come to a fair solution. If it comes down to it, could you just make it official that you’ll handle the list and push some lower urgency tasks onto Jane?

            1. This Old House*

              I think Jane thinks, “Ugh, this thing has to get done but no one really cares/actually works on it . . . better make sure OP is handling it so we don’t get in trouble.” It is quite possible that in reality, only Jane views it that way and the rest of the group works on it as assigned – otherwise I think OP’s questions would have been more about how no one else is working on it. Jane’s attitude really seemed to be the primary problem, not how much work OP has to do.

              1. I just work here*

                “Ugh, this thing has to get done but no one really cares/actually works on it . . . better make sure OP is handling it so we don’t get in trouble.”
                That is exactly what is going on. This work list is like playing hot potato. Nobody wants to work it and is hoping or assuming somebody else does it. In theory everyone should be checking it daily, but in practice that’s not what happens.
                Judy responded to my concerns that everyone is equally responsible for the list, and nobody should be assuming or asking others to complete it. Judy is supposed to be informing management of what is going on, who will address this with the team. Will update…
                I agree with others–this distribution system doesn’t work and that’s the root problem. However, sending lists to individuals on rotation also creates problems when people are unexpectedly out or a site is closed due to weather or tech issues, etc.

                1. Tau*

                  However, sending lists to individuals on rotation also creates problems when people are unexpectedly out or a site is closed due to weather or tech issues, etc.

                  There are ways around this. I’m on an on-call rota at work where we must have one person on-call at all times and we are not legally allowed to be on-call when off sick or on holiday. We swap shifts all the time and it works pretty well.

    2. Big Bank*

      Exactly. This sounds very similar to the checklist in my company, and it’s important to make sure everyone knows how to do all the items and can cover at a moments notice. The best way we managed this was to have a set assigned schedule that rotated monthly. This made sure that everyone was doing the tasks semi regularly and knew how to do them, and no one was getting saddled with the “worst” or most time consuming tasks forever. I would really suggest OP take this as a recommendation to the manager.

    3. Generic Name*

      I was thinking it sounds like a great time for OP to take a vacation and see what happens to the daily task list during that time.

      1. tessa*

        Yep, that, or:

        Next time Jane asks if LW is working on The List, LW just says “No,” and keeps on walking.

        I would pay good money to see Jane’s reaction.

    4. I just work here*

      OP here. Good question. I assume she’s working them. Somebody is, or we get a team email that it wasn’t completed.

    5. Faith the twilight slayer*

      Exactly. Jane sounds insufferable. Since the boss already makes a list, why don’t they just dole out the tasks as well? That way it’s not “who’s doing what today”, it’s “has everyone finished their tasks”. Just having a random list with no guidance of who does what is almost like having no list at all.

    6. I just work here*

      When Jane said that only her and I work the list, I assumed she meant she’s the one working it if I’m not there. Of course, I’m not sure if that was a true statement!

  7. Passionfruit Tea*

    #2 you need to get in ahead of her and ask her if she’s working on the list every single day. Let’s see if she gets the hint.

    1. EPLawyer*

      That won’t work. Jane already says she’s too busy to work the list because of other priorities.

      Thisis not a Jane problem. This is a “group project at work” problem. The list is created and then people are told get it done. Which leads to what always happens — everyone knows OP will do the list so they just ignore it. The list needs to be broken up and specific things assigned to specific people. If it is truly top priority, then everyone knows to do those things they are assigned first. If Jane keeps expecting others to do it after that happens, then Jane will suffer the consequences of her own actions hopefully.

      1. Koli*

        And if OP is doing it all every day, they should just tell the boss that, and maybe some of their other (apparently lower-priority) work can get reallocated, or if OP can do the list AND their regular work, they should get recognition for it (ideally a raise).

      1. Wisteria*

        She is not going to get the hint.

        Did the conversation go any further when she said she needs to know if they are done? Why does she need to know (ie, is she impacted by the task)? It sounds like the main source of your irritation is that Jane is not the boss of you. If she has a legitimate need to know, then whether or not she is your boss and what her job level is are not relevant.

        Are you sure there is not some larger picture irritation going on?

        When you informed your boss, did you ask for her to take any particular action? I recommend that you talk to Jane and Judy together about what the best line of communication is to ensure that your coworker gets the status info she needs. By leading the conversation, you can establish a method that works for you.

        1. I just work here*

          No the convo with Jane did not go any further. She asked me out loud, and we work on an open floor with zero privacy. I did not want to get into an argument with her. That was the point that I brought up my concerns with the person who distributes the list, and she confirmed nobody should be asking anybody else if they are working the list, as ALL are equally responsible. Judy is supposed to be looping a manager in who in turn “should be” addressing this with the team.
          There is no impact to Jane other than the same impact to us all–that is, if nobody works it, we all get in trouble. So by checking in with me everyday to confirm I’m the one making sure it gets done, she can safely ignore it. This is not just a Jane problem, since others are also shirking the work, its simply more obnoxious because she is the only on our team who asks me daily for a status report, and she doesnt ask anybody else. Its easier for her to just turn around and ask me.

  8. Passionfruit Tea*

    #1 they’re exploiting you. NP’s are the actual worst to work for because they will almost always pull the guilt-trip and the worthy cause as an excuse to work you to the bone. Tell them no. Being a good cause does not mean they get to treat their employees like shirt.

    1. The OTHER other*

      I agree that some nonprofits do this but certainly not all. And I don’t find requiring a
      3-4 hours driving one day a week to be “treating your employees like shirt”. I’ve done a *lot* more driving in the for-profit sector.

      Unless (and this is really missing in the letter) this drive is being treated as a commute and not work. LW, are you working an full day on top of this drive? Even then, I have known people who commute 3-4 hours a day, every day. It’s a lot of driving but it’s not unheard of. People commute to Boston from New Hampshire.

      1. bamcheeks*

        “Other people do it every day” isn’t a useful metric when the situation came up long after OP made the decision to take the job and it’s exhausting them, though. Other people can choose to do 3 hour commutes all they want: that doesn’t make it less exhausting or mean it can’t affect OP’s work and wellbeing.

        1. Plumbum*

          But it’s a useful framing compared to “you’re being exploited”, especially if the other people doing it every day includes any of their coworkers. It’s completely reasonable for the drive to be too much for OP, but it could look very out of touch to take such an extreme stance over a subjective hardship.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            I actually disagree that a commute taken on willingly for the employee’s personal reasons is a useful framework for an employee being required by the job to do that commute. Otherwise, no one is being exploited for working 12 hour days because BigLaw lawyers do it willingly.

        2. MK*

          Yes, but that is more an argument for the OP refusing the task than the organization paying for a hotel room (and this is not a one-time expense, it’s the cost 4 times a month, every month). Frankly, in her manager’s place I would be more likely to try to find another employee who doesn’t find the driving onerous than authorize this constant expense.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Typically you don’t get mileage reimbursement for a commute so I don’t think it’s being treated that way.

        1. Double A*

          That’s not necessarily true; if you have to go to a site that is far from your regular worksite but you have to be there at the usual start time, many companies will reimburse for this. I think it’s pretty common actually.

          1. Koalafied*

            If it’s not your regular worksite, it’s not a commute. The reason those trips to other sites get reimbursed is because they’re considered travel, not commuting.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        3-4 hours a day is a normal commute for a lot of people. Mine is that long because I can’t afford big city rent, not because I so love living outside the Loop. Yeah, it’s exhausting. But the OP is only being asked to do it once a week.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It is, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for OP. People have different thresholds for things.

          1. The Original K.*

            Yeah, I’ve said before that I’ve had a 90-minute-each-way commute and I will never do it again. If affordability were the issue I’d sooner get a roommate, and I’m out of the age bracket when you’d expect to see roommates. It’s a deal-breaker. And OP has said this drive is taxing, so it’s established that it’s a problem.

        2. Unaccountably*

          That was a normal commute for me when I was younger too. I wouldn’t do it now. I’m old and that long in a car makes all my joints hurt.

    2. FallingSlowly*

      Passionfruit Tea, this is a much more negative read of the situation than I got from the LW’s words.
      It sounded to me that ideally they would like to keep doing the task, but not have to drive that distance twice on the same day.

      We don’t have evidence that the organisation is exploiting LW. Putting forward suggestions for a hotel, or alternative travel such as rail, could solve the problem without the need to get combative with the employer, IMO.

    3. JSPA*

      “EI’ve lived places where 1.5 to 2 hours each way was a pretty standard commute. No mileage allowance, of course.

      It’s not environmental. LW1 is not required to find it comfortable just because plenty of other people are totally comfortable with long drives. But enough people find this length of drive to be totally comfortable and normal (or even kind of relaxing) that calling it “exploitation” is way off the mark.

      It’s not a good fit for the OP.

      They can wait and see if it becomes second nature; ask for whatever they need (a cabbie-style beaded chair cushion, if anyone still makes them?) to be physically more comfortable behind the wheel; a medical workup (or chiropractic or bodywork) if it’s something about their body; or a hand off to someone who finds the drive more comfortable.

      But, ” This is exploitative / you are exploiting me” is not a constructive approach, nor a defendable assessment of the situation (as described).

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      It’s not fair to state that the entire nonprofit sector is the worst to work for. From the letters here alone, it’s clear that workplaces vary in how they treat their employers–public, private, academic, nonprofit, whatever. I’ve been with nonprofits for most of my lengthy career, and working people to the bone in the name of a good cause has been the exception not the rule.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I work for a nonprofit that is definitely not the worst to work for. It’s vastly better than the small for-profit business I worked for in the past.

        1. UKDancer*

          In my experience it’s size that can make a difference between functional and dysfunctional. Bigger companies and non-profits tend to have more codified processes and rules for how to do things whereas small and microbusinesses and non-profits can be a bit more idiosyncratic and a bit more at the mercy of one or two people in charge.

          Obviously this is general and just my experience.

          1. Koalafied*

            Exactly this. In a small workplace, the person at the top is often not accountable to anyone or anything else, whether that’s a small business owner operating like a petty tyrant, or a small nonprofit founder who appointed a “friend board” that rubber stamps whatever the founder wants.

            Once an organization or company gets large enough that it has functioning legal and HR departments staffed by career professionals, and particularly once there’s been a peaceful transfer of power from the founder to a new leader, the CEO/ED’s power is usually reined by having clear policies, and because a middle layer of management emerges that often has tools they can use to push back, do damage control, and/or shield junior staff from experiencing the full brunt of an erratic leader’s whims and angry outbursts.

    5. Constance Lloyd*

      I is worked for a non-profit where the nature of my work involved driving around the state. Some days this meant leaving home at 5:30 and driving 3 hours one way to reach my destination, and this was a weekly occurrence. Here’s how we handled it.
      -Time driving was time on the clock
      -We were given a rental car instead of being reimbursed for mileage (these are interchangeable to me, but it was nice not behaving to wait for reimbursement)
      -We received a per diem for all days on the road
      -Hotels were always an option, as long as your commute was over half an hour or your work day (including drive time) was going to exceed 8 hours
      -We never worked over time, so long travel days usually resulted in a 3 day weekend

      LW, maybe some of these practices can be suggested as a way to bring balance to a stressful schedule. Best of luck to you.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I think the difference here would be that driving was understood to be integral to the job, not just a commute to a job site. Most people who have to drive to work don’t get paid to do that–it’s just how you get there. Also, this was an all-the-time thing, not a once-a-week and only for a few months thing.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          I wouldn’t expect their employer to implement all of the above, but if LW is looking for ways to make this additional work-related burden more manageable and their employer isn’t willing to pay for a weekly hotel room, these are some other concrete examples they can suggest.

    6. hbc*

      Driving four hours one day a week is not exploitative. It might not be comfortable for OP, but climbing a flight of stairs to get to your office is uncomfortable/impossible for some, and I assume you wouldn’t consider that exploitive.

      If OP goes in with the attitude you’re suggesting, it will work against them. “Hey, I thought I could do this, but it’s pretty draining for me and not sustainable. What can we do?” That’s all.

    7. Nancy*

      It is not exploitive. There are plenty of jobs where people may need to make occasional or weekly long drives for site visits or other reasons. Some people find it tiring, others not a big deal.

      LW: can you switch off weeks with another employee?

  9. Playing With Puppies And Kittens All Day*

    #3 – I have a colleague who often wears name-brand fabric/leather belt bags, they are clearly a fashion accessory (as opposed to workout gear) and look professional. I also have friends in nursing who do wear more of the “athleisure” type bags, although I’m not sure how well that would translate to an office.

    1. RC Rascal*

      I have a black leather one I bought for trade shows where I had to have my phone and business cards on my at all times. Job requires me to dress professionally and fashionably an ladies clothing just doesn’t accommodate it.

      Here’s my tip— choose your outfit so it coordinates with the belt bag. Do not buy anything that is nylon or looks like a Fanny pack. Mine came from Nordstrom and was under $100.

      1. The OTHER other*

        Off-subject but WTH is it with women’s fashion that professional attire cannot accommodate carrying a cell phone and business cards? Madness.

    2. Rekha3.14*

      I worked clinically in a hospital and often had to visit a second site, and it wasn’t long before I bought a leather belt-bag-fannypack whatever you want to call it. It’s a few pockets, space for larger flatter items, pens, cards, phone, etc. I loved it. Only downside was it’s max size for hip/waist meant that my ~40″hips were at the largest. It was from Roots, fairly expensive ($75-100?) and this was at least 8 years ago now. I only ever got compliments! so I am ditto-ing the “needs to not look like sports gear” look.

    3. hayling*

      My roommate works in an elementary school and has to run around campus a lot. She wears a black Lululemon belt bag to hold her essentials.

  10. Fikly*

    LW1: You can’t pour from an empty cup.

    Your honor at being chosen for this task doesn’t pay your rent, your medical bills, or anything else. You’re working for actual compensation, like money and insurance and time off, and the time off is supposed to be more generous because I know the pay is terrible.

    If your organization cannot afford the hotel room, then they cannot afford what goes along with it. That’s their problem, not yours.

    Make-A-Wish says no to plenty of wishes because they are not practical. There’s a reason they do.

    1. MK*

      The org can afford to pay for milage, so yes, they can afford this task, as long as the person doing this is willing and able to make the weekly trip. Many people would be fine with this; not fine because the cause good, fine period. It’s not an objectively unreasonable requirement, just one the OP isn’t suited for. And they probably should be prepared to have their manager assign this project to someone else, who doesn’t find it onerous.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes, I think it’s a mismatch in duties rather than a terrible thing that that the employer is doing. The OP finds the drive particularly draining, while other people would find it no big deal. A colleague of mine was travelling by train to a nearby town about once a week for a while, for on site work related duties. The employer covered the train tickets/taxi fare and food costs, but would never have considered paying for a hotel room.

        The main question I have is whether the driving is on top of a full day work. If that’s the case, then it could be reasonable to, say, start later the day following to get some rest.

    2. What's in a name?*

      I wonder if LW1 is sticking around in the destination city any extra due to trying to hit 8 hours a day or being available for a meeting or during core hours. A good boss would be able to waive one or more of these to allow them to get on the road earlier.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I was thinking more if the OP is driving 4 hours for the day that if she is doing this not on a Friday she might be allowed to come in later the next day. Maybe being able to sleep in the next day might make it less exhausting over all. Still a long driving day, but you can recoup a little of that the next day.

      2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        My impression was that this is more about the exhaustion of driving, rather than the time taken up outside of core hours, since OP brings up the possibility of a hotel for a “weekly” (which I interpreted as once-weekly) trip contained to one day.

        I would personally need a long break between two 2-hour stretches of highway driving. I know many people commute longer than that, which, good for them, I couldn’t do it. Even if I was doing the driving in place of some of my work for the day, during core hours, for some people (me) that’s an exhausting activity.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Your honor at being chosen for this task doesn’t pay your rent, your medical bills, or anything else.

      It does, though, since it’s part of the job that provides her paycheck. Not the honor part, which is subjective, but the “this is part of the job” part.

      1. Fikly*

        This is, however, I guarantee you, hours and hours of driving on top of her usual hours. So that not only takes away from time she could spend on other things, but it’s extra time that I bet she wouldn’t be spending working (so she’s losing money) and she’s now extra exhausted from the driving, so it’s harming the time away from work that she does have left.

        So she’s losing money on this.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          We actually don’t know if the driving is included in her working hours or not.

        2. MK*

          One, we don’t know if it’s on top of normal hours or not. And two, all time you spend getting to work is time you wouldn’t spend working and time you can’t spend on other things. Her job now has a different location, 1,5 hours away once a week. If it’s too hard for her and she doesn’t want to do it, that’s OK, but it’s ridiculous to say she is losing money or bring exploited. Her employer could have moved two hours away permanently and her only resource would be to quit.

  11. The teapots are on fire*

    #4: One way I’ve worded the first question is to ask, “If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your company, what would it be?” It’s helpful to ask of potential managers and peers–there’s a slightly positive spin on it, on the one hand, and despite that, it seems to bring up comments about problems that feel entrenched and unsolvable, which sometimes you want to know about. People were dying to tell me about some daily work process that drove them crazy.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Brilliant! It makes it a positive — same way many companies stress ‘continuous improvement’.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I was coming here to make this same suggestion for wording. People have asked me this, and I’ve given them a pretty honest answer (in my case, something along the lines of, “the organization is really methodical and well-run/ stable, but that does mean it can be pretty risk-averse and if you have new or big ideas, it can be hard to get traction.”)

      Another one I’ve found that I think works well/doesn’t come off as too aggressive is, “If you had to describe the culture here in one word, what would it be?” It doesn’t dwell on the issue, but you can also tell a lot from how people answer it (do they hem and haw? or just blurt something out?)

      1. BethDH*

        I love this question. I thought about how I’d answer it for my org and honestly it told me a lot about who would be happy working here much faster than trying to describe it.
        Also seems like a good exercise for taking your own temperature about staying at a job! Very quick way for me to assess “do I overall feel a positive balance here?” without second guessing or trying to be too objective.

    3. Rainy Cumbria*

      I love this! I’ve also been asked before “what’s the best and the worst thing about working here/your job” which I really liked.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**

      Yes. This is great, IMO.

      I have also asked what people in X role have gone on to do. This isn’t a question that is explicitly designed to get at flaws in the company, but the answers can be very telling.

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

        I assumed it was an AAM-specific injoke, because a common way of generalizing/anonymizing letter writers’ job details is using teapots (or sometimes llamas– if there are others I haven’t noticed, I hope someone else will chime in!) So there’s a lot of talk about Lead Teapot Designer this and Assistant Llama Groomer that.

    5. Be kind, rewind*

      I ask this, too. I really like the wording because “magic wand” gives it a sort of genie in a bottle sense, like asking someone what they’d do if they won the lottery. People feel more comfortable giving an honest answer because it’s “make believe.”

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      I was just coming to say this! I’ve found this to be a great way of getting at the truth of a company/job without being negative.

    7. bookworm*

      I’ve learned a lot asking this question in interviews! I’ve also often used some slightly different questions that get at similar issues, such as “what types of people tend to thrive here and what types of people struggle?” and “what do you anticipate will be the biggest struggles for someone coming into this role, and what do you (as a supervisor/manager) see your role as in helping with those struggles?” I’ve used the last one when I already have a suspicion of what the biggest struggles are likely to be, and want to see how clear/forthcoming my would-be boss is about them.

  12. Tuba*

    #4 I’m a hiring manager and I’d feel attacked and on the spot if you asked me those questions. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, but I know that’s what my human reaction would be. It’s human nature to want to proceed in the process with people we felt good interviewing. The tone is unnecessary and reads to me as trying to be edgy rather than direct.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t ask company culture questions. Those are encouraged. Small tweaks will save you a lot of lost interviews here and get more at what you’re looking for:

    “How often do you need to work past 7PM to complete the job tasks?” or “do you ever work more than 50 hours a week?” and “what are the schedule expectations for X position”

    “What are some challenges your company is going through, and how does that impact your department, and my potential role?” and “Who do you go to when you’re facing these challenges?”

    “Approximately what percentage of employees earn end of year bonuses? and “Are there clearly outlined procedures on how to earn one?”

    Phrase in more of an inquisitory/fact finding way rather than leading with the negative or putting a lot of conditions in the question. That will make me think you want to know more about a job, which is always good. I don’t want my reports interrogating me every time I speak with them and if a candidate does it in an interview I’d think they’d be unhinged when they got the job.

    1. JustSomeone*

      Yes! Small tweaks can do wonders for these!

      A few positions back, I started asking something like “what’s the biggest structural/organization-wide challenge someone in this position should be prepared to face?” That’s basically the same question as #1 but not in an attacking way that’s bound to make folks defensive. I’ve gotten really insightful answers every time I’ve asked this.

      Similarly, it could work to ask what percentage of the time folks get an annual bonus. “80%” feels a lot nicer to say than “we got screwed out of it once in the last 5 years”

      For the one about working hours, maybe “what time does the office clear out, and are there any times of year or recurring circumstances where someone in this role would typically stay later than that?

      I can’t think of a way to ask the “useless project” one nicely.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Something like “how much of the time are you working on tasks that you find meaningful, and how much do you spend on compliance-type tasks?”

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I will often ask “How many hours of meetings per week does the average IC have? Do you have no/low meeting days?” Because too many meetings for individual contributors makes it hard to get work done.

    2. londonedit*

      I like asking the ‘challenges’ question – I usually ask ‘what are you most excited about working on in the coming year?’ and then also ‘what do you think will be the biggest challenges facing the department in the coming year?’ Interviewers have responded really positively to both of those questions, in my experience.

    3. Chickaletta*

      Agree these are good ways to rephrase the questions. I’ve had luck asking tough questions in an interview and I think it’s a way to either dispel or confirm concerns. In particular, when I was interviewing for my current job, I had been warned that I would be working late and on weekends and at the beck and call of my boss (it’s an EA position, so not an unfounded concern). So, I asked in the interview! I straight up said something along the lines that I had been warned that the job would require a lot of time outside of normal business hours, so how many hours a week does your typical EA work, and how often do they work evenings and weekends? I got an honest answer that turned out to be spot on (I work an average of 40-45 hours a week but my boss would rarely text/call for anything outside of business hours). It was a lot better than I had been warned about, and looking back the person who told me the hours would be awful had an incentive for me to not take the job anyway.

  13. Luna*

    I wear a belt bag because it’s a place that fits the stuff I need, and I can easily put it on and take it off, and I am free to wear what I want around it, so I don’t have to wear a certain jacket because that’s where my wallet and keys are inside. I wear it to work, but I don’t wear it while working, as private items are not really allowed on your person during shift.

    I think I wore it once or twice, though, because I had a very runny nose, and it was convenient place to have hankies in, place the used ones into, and carry my own hand santizier around. Nobody said anything, though that’s because it was just my colleagues or my immediate boss, I don’t know how the higher ups would react to it.

  14. Raven*

    Letter 4: Altogether those questions come across too combative to the interviewer and Alison’s advice is spot-on as always.
    However it seems those questions are focussing on the transparency and reliability of the company and you might gain some insight for asking how they dealt with recent issues.
    It’ll depend where you are and what industry, but for example asking how the company dealt with the pandemic can give you some insight (did they give staff regular updates, enforce mask mandates and testing, how did they approach sick leave etc.). There will be some outliers but in general a company with good management and provides good support would have been proactive in these things.

  15. Green great dragon*

    I wouldn’t write off asking broadly about the company culture, as long as you read between the lines. I would probably talk about work-life balance and fair treatment, and if you asked more, I would have good answers. A very different company might talk about socialising with colleagues and giving people space to innovate, or about potential for promotion and increasing earnings. They’re only talking about the good things, but you can see what good things they choose to discuss. And then of course follow up and ask for more details about the most important things to you and don’t assume their definition of work-life balance is the same as yours…

    And once you’ve opened with a soft question, there’s more scope to ask more direct questions without coming across as too blunt, including asking about anything they haven’t mentioned.

  16. Charley*

    OP1, could you do two consecutive days every fortnight instead of one day a week? Then the argument for the org paying for a hotel makes more sense as you’d be halving the mileage.

  17. Phryne*

    I’m having trouble imagining a high-end business like fannypack that would be not weird in an office, but I’m quite intrigued… can anyone point me towards examples?

    This is cultural, I know these are not uncommon in the US, but around where I’m from I don’t think I’ve seen anyone over the age of 12 using one that was not essentially a toolkit, like a builder or a barber, and only in that work context… Except for American tourists I guess… And I do work on a campus where dress is very informal.
    How normal are fannypacks in the US, or elsewhere for that matter?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I hit Google myself and even Gucci & Coach have variants.
      The ones that are basically a wallet threaded onto a belt would be easy to see in an office.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Regarding your second question, they were totally out of fashion for many years. Gen Z seems to have picked them up as practical, cool & retro. (My teen also scorns low waistlines and searches out 80s/90s styles. Too bad I purged my attic in the early 2010s…)

        1. Phryne*

          Gen Z picks up many things as cool and retro I (late X/geriatric millennial) was glad enough to see the back of. But then, the stuff my mom considers old fashioned crap is my retro, as so it ever goes around :)

          1. londonedit*

            I remember as a teenager in the 90s being absolutely scandalised that my mum had thrown away all her amazing 60s clothes, because it was all back in fashion! Now I’m horrified by the teenagers wearing the exact same stuff we wore 25-odd years ago…

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I still don’t understand why, when they finally put a few inches of fabric back on top of the pants, they took it away from the bottoms of shirts.

          1. Damn it, Hardison!*

            Right?! Every top seems so short these days, even the ones not marketed as cropped. I’m short-waisted and they are too short for me (looking at you, J Crew). Also, I hate high-waisted pants and am waiting for the day mid-rise is everywhere.

          2. Plumbum*

            Especially when the most common way for shirts to lose their shape in the wash is to get even shorter! At this point I’m exclusively shopping for tunic tops.

            1. Kacihall*

              I have a bigger than average chest and any top that ISN’T a tunic (or an oversized unisex t-shirt) is too short in the front. I hate it. I just want a shirt that fits that I don’t have to make myself.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          As the parent of an elementary school kid who has to carry a medical device (insulin pump) around with him all the time, I’m pretty pleased with Gen Z for bringing a variety of belt bags, waist packs, cross-body bags, and sling bags into popularity. He’d be carrying something of the sort regardless, and it’s really nice that at the moment it doesn’t make him stand out too badly.

        4. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

          I think the resurgence was also driven (at least in my major metropolitan city) by the pandemic. Instead of loading up a backpack or messenger bag with everything one needed for the 10+ hours one spent away from home each day, more people were staying at home and only leaving to run quick errands or get some fresh air. When all we needed to carry is a wallet, phone, keys, hand sanitizer, and an extra mask, fanny packs became a really refreshing alternative to all of our other big-ass bags.

    2. londonedit*

      I’m in the UK and I’m definitely seeing a resurgence of the bum bag (as we call them…’fanny’ has an altogether different meaning). But people are wearing them as cross-body bags, with the actual bag bit sitting across their chest. And the ones I’ve seen have mainly looked much more high-end than the brightly coloured ones we had in the 90s – they’re black or brown leather, or a plain-coloured canvas fabric. I’ve mainly seen men wearing them, but enough to say that they’re definitely ‘having a moment’, and there’s no reason why women wouldn’t be wearing them as well. However I do think it would be weird to wear one during the day in an office – I’ve never seen anyone do that.

      1. Phryne*

        Yes I’ve seen the cross body bags, but I thought those were marketed as such…cross body bags. But I’m no fashion follower so might be wrong :)
        Also indeed mainly on men (as a woman I would not wear a bag like that, my anatomy would get in the way) and as you would use a bag: to carry stuff in the street, not to walk around the office with it around your waist. And that is how I read the letter: as something to keep on inside, not as ‘like a bag but a different type of bag’.

        1. londonedit*

          The ones I’ve seen are definitely bum bags that are being worn as cross-body bags, rather than actual cross-body bags. They have the shape of a bum bag, the zip across the front and the plastic click-clasp to open/close the strap, but people are slinging them over their heads and wearing them diagonally across their chests.

          1. Phryne*

            Which brings up the rhetorical question, is it still a bum/fanny bag if the item is not worn in the vicinity of bum/fanny… :D

            (I always thought the US/UK fanny pack thing was hilarious btw, as in the UK fanny pack would still technically work, depending on which way round you wear it…)

            1. ecnaseener*

              Yeah, I don’t see the problem – people wear them in front, next to the fanny, more often in my experience! I’d be worried about pickpockets with it facing to the back.

                1. Plumbum*

                  It’s not quite that rude, Fanny is an old nickname for Frances or Francesca, so it’d be more like calling it a dick bag (which is also a fairly apt name, position-wise).

                2. 00ff00Claire*

                  I’m not sure what marketing genius thought of this, but Levi’s calls their fanny pack the “Banana Sling”. I had forgotten about that until I saw this thread.

                  *I would not recommend googling banana sling at work unless you specifically add Levi’s + bag to the search.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          I was looking up pictures of how they’re being worn, and yeah, I said “nope, too much going on there already.” But I do see them being worn that way by people with breasts: I suppose if you’re built a bit on the smaller side it’s not as much of an issue. It does seem a bit more practical than the cross-body bags that are worn on the back, like a cross between a backpack and a messenger bag. Those are a pain to get into.

      2. voluptuousfire*

        I have a belt bag that’s a copy of a black nylon Lululemon one and it’s really nice. The zippers are a bit of a tacky yellow gold, but overall I like it. I wore it as a belt bag yesterday while running errands and it was so much easier to not worry about my bag.

        I’ve also worn it as a cross-body bag and it worked just as well. I’m planning a trip in October and that may be my personal item. It holds my kindle, wallet, phone, hand sanitizer, keys, mask, backup mask, and any other odds and ends. It was $19.99 on Amazon.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Everlane’s ReNew Transit bag fits the bill, I think, and is reasonable priced. I usually see them at the farmers’ market in my suburb in Massachusetts.

    4. alienor*

      Even in the late 80s, fanny packs in the US were more of a “thing your dad wears on a family day out at a theme park” than a cool accessory. I was a teenager then and wouldn’t have been caught dead with one. I have heard that they’re becoming popular with teens now as a sort of ironic dad-fashion thing.

    5. No Tribble At All*

      I think the increase of music festivals / other big events like that has really helped popularize them. Most places have restrictions on the size of bag you can bring for security (yay, USA) so it’s fairly common to see people wearing them to sports, festivals/outdoorsy type things when you don’t want a full backpack.

    6. Captain Swan*

      I mentioned this elsewhere but the heroine on Burn Notice (American TV show), Fiona Glenanne, often had belt bags that looked nothing like a fanny pack. You could probably find pictures online.

    7. Just a different redhead*

      I started up with a belt pouch several years ago, partly because I wanted something to carry my phone (which was no longer small enough to fit in my pocket) on my person, and partly because all the game and anime characters have them and they’re awesome. Anyway I did wear it to work (got a leather one and got a men’s braided leather belt to put it on since I was going to be wearing it over/outside vests or jackets – I’m a woman). Couple of comments about it being practical. That was all.
      My doctor approved of my choice since it would then not strain my neck or arms or whatnot.

    1. Zeus*

      I had to read it through twice to get it, mainly because I tend to rely on just the colour of the first letter to tell names apart when reading quickly. So you’re not the only one :)

        1. Raven*

          Not sure whether Zeus is referring to it but there’s a condition called synesthesia which is essentially the cross-wiring of sensory inputs. Hence, you may hear smells or associate a specific colour with a letter etc.

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              The funniest thing about mild synesthesia is how subjective an experience it is. For instance, Js are purple to me, which feels like the furthest color possible from brown.

              1. Just Another Zebra*

                Not really! My coworker is color blind, and he confuses purple and brown all the time. Especially a true violet and like a chocolate brown.

          1. Sylvan*

            Oh, yeah, that kind of makes sense. My coworker has synesthesia. She says the color of the first letter of a word is usually the color of the whole word.

  18. Traveling zombie*

    OP1, you don’t mention how many miles it is to your destination (depending on region and time of drive, 1.5 hrs could be 30 miles or 100 miles). If it is a long distance drive, ask your employer to consider that the cost of mileage is pretty close to the cost of staying at an extended stay residence.

    That assumes of course that you are comfortable staying away from home overnight routinely.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      They’re making a weekly trip, so the cost of staying overnight is in addition to mileage, not replacing it.

  19. Gnome*

    OP1. Trying to think outside the box here…

    If you have a junior employee or intern – even some of the time – maybe they could come with on occasion for development and help with the drive? Or maybe it doesn’t need to be every week, but could be three out of four? Or are there other days you could telecommute to give you some extra bandwidth?

    Would things like listening to audiobooks (standup comedy) make it less exhausting?

    If part of the length is traffic related, maybe you could leave early and then late (making a very long day but avoiding traffic and hopefully having a shorter drive) and then work a shorter day the next day? Would it be better on certain days of the week -either because of traffic patterns or because of other pulls on your energy?

    I feel your pain – my regular commute is 45-60 minutes one way and 60-90 the other!

    Some of these things might not work, but it can be helpful to say to your boss, “I’ve tried some things to reduce the impact, like changing the times I leave, but I’m still struggling with the overall effect.”

    Good luck!

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      I was thinking about the shorter day solution, too. It’s not clear to me from the letter how long the trip days are, but if driving + work event is over 8 hours, then it is reasonable to ask for a late start or half day the next day.

      1. Gnome*

        I was also thinking, given the time range, that traffic might be an issue, so maybe leaving early and staying later, might make sense regardless of whether the travel time is ‘in addition ‘ to the regular day. Sometimes timing can make a huge difference in traffic.

  20. Somebody Call A Lawyer*

    OP #4: Now is the perfect time to call upon the words of job hunting wisdom posted by EngineeringFun yesterday (which a bunch of us AAM-ers screenshotted for future reference):

    September 8, 2022 at 8:18 am
    When interviewing I really try to ask about the environment. Words that are red flags: family, stay until done, this is important work that is mission critical, really fast pace, dynamic goals/requirements, changing/nimble strategies. This all signals to me that the place has no operations plan and they will bully you into staying late because the underestimated the time and cost to get something done.”

    In other words, even a simply phrased “How is the work environment here?” can reveal a lot if you listen for the red flag phrases above.

    Good luck!

    1. ecnaseener*

      Jane says so, but yeah it seems like LW is just taking their word for it. Which is confusing – can’t LW tell whether any tasks on the list ever get done by someone else?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I’m having a hard time understanding too, it would be great if OP can clarify. Like surely they’d know if they were doing the entire list every day, right?

    2. I just work here*

      I know I am the only one because when the email goes out, it always says “there are “insert number here” amount of items to work today”. Then if there are 5 items for example, I work 5 items that day, and then the queue we pull from is empty. The number I work matches the total items in the email.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        So Jane the coworker is not the only shirker, just the only one on your site that shirks. That is very much worth bringing up to your manager AND to Judy (assuming that she is not your manager).

      2. I should really pick a name*

        One solution might be when she asks to say “I’m going to be able to get X number of items done on the list”. That way she can’t assume that you’re going to do all of it.

  21. Irish Teacher*

    LW 4, this may be partly cultural difference but to me, some of those questions sound a bit like there’s no winning. I mean, in a lot of roles nobody would ever have worked past 8pm on a project and also ideally people wouldn’t have worked on a project they felt to be of little value. “Have you ever had to work past 8pm?” or “what are the longest hours you’ve worked in a day?” would make more sense to me. As those two questions are, they seem to me to be assuming an unhealthy culture and leave no real space to answer in a way that shows a healthy culture without sounding defensive or as if one is evading the question. “Um, that doesn’t happen here” or “I feel all our projects have value” sound kind of evasive, even though I would say they are often the truth.

    I’m certainly no expert here, but I do find those questions a little closed and as if they are already assuming a certain answer.

    1. TechWorker*

      Yea plus asking ‘you’ isn’t very helpful as the interviewer is often not in the role they’re hiring for! I work past 8pm probably 4-5 times a year, my junior reports? Basically never.

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    I think it’s ok to ask the boss about a hotel, but a 1.5-2hr drive once a week isn’t really that out of line… so be prepared for boss to say no or that someone else can do it

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Note that it’s a 1.5-2 hour drive each way, so 3-4 hours in total.
      YMMV how much of a problem that is.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think it also depends what you’re driving conditions are. 2 hours on an empty motorway is a lot easier than 2 hours on windy single lane roads or difficult one way systems.

    2. hamsterpants*

      I think it depends a lot on the person doing the driving and their personal experience and comfort level. For me, 2 hours of driving would be a fun break to catch up on podcasts, but then, I love driving and find it relaxing. I have to remind myself that there are people who are not like me!

      1. Phryne*

        I don’t drive a lot and I find 2 hours tiring when I do, but I assume when you do it every week over an extended period of time, one would get used to it eventually. For me it is mostly tiring because of lack of routine.
        But if for OP this is a continuing energy drain, they can certainly try to find ways to mitigate that as much as they can.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        That’s a really good point. I’d be completely fine with the drive for the reasons you mention but when I think about it of course not everyone is like that

      3. Nobby Nobbs*

        I see where OP1 is coming from. My job involves a lot of driving to job sites, and 2 hours is the very outside edge of comfortable for me (and only with some very good music or podcasts!). The work itself and the length of the workday are also factors, as is the amount of concentration the drive itself takes (think highway vs city driving). My advice, if the organization won’t spring for a practical solution like a hotel or a second employee to trade off driving duty, is to minimize the amount/difficulty of the work you have to do onsite. Is there any admin/prep work you can take care of the day before? Then do something to make the ride feel like a special treat, like reserving a favorite playlist or making a routine out of buying a particular snack as you set off for home. I know it sounds like a bandaid on a bullet wound, but sometimes the proverbial spoonful of sugar really can shift your mindset enough to make a chore like this less onerous. And if the problem is physical discomfort, give yourself permission to stop for a stretch break. There’s no rewards for powering through with an achy back, at least at a good employer, and comfortable driving is safe driving.

  23. JelloStapler*

    #3 This Gen Xer has had a lot of very fun conversations with our college students about the resurgence of fanny packs.

  24. hamsterpants*

    #1 if you are driving 4 hours in one day, I hope you are getting comp’d four hours PTO for it. Would having a paid half-day the next day help you recover from the exhaustion?

  25. Person of Interest*

    OP 1 – I had a similar situation in a previous job and one solution that you might try is negotiating to work a half-day the day after your drive, starting at noon, so you get a little more recovery time. Or some other flex to your schedule.

  26. GigglyPuff*

    Ha I did not realize fanny packs were totally back in fashion until this week! I just adopted a puppy and wanted something for puppy/training classes and bought one on Etsy. So many styles!! And then I got a message that my seller had a run on bags! Had to switch my color choice.

    Honestly if I worked in academia (and not in admin or a Dean’s office), I’d totally go for one of those Ren fair/attaches at the leg styles.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I wear some kind of pocket belt (a fair chunk of them off Etsy) most days, with any outfit without pockets. Love them. Nobody has complained about it, albeit I do admit a few of them don’t quite look right with fancier stuff…sigh.

  27. WillowSunstar*

    #2 Are any of the things, like reports, sent out to people via a group e-mail? Could you just add her to that e-mail list and then she’d know automatically when the report was done?

    1. ecnaseener*

      But it doesn’t sound like she’s asking whether the tasks have been done yet, she wants to confirm at the beginning of the day that LW is going to do them. So that she can safely ignore them.

      1. Big Bank*

        if it’s anything like our list, it’s also not enough it be done, it has to be signed off for audit. so she might still pester about whether they signed off the task. I don’t think continuing to make it easier to coddle her is a good strategy.

      2. I just work here*

        Yes exactly, she usually asks at the start of the day for this reason. I can try heading her off by replying to the group email as soon as we get it.

    2. linger*

      One thing to check first: LW2, are these tasks defaulting to you because you actually do have more spare capacity? Or are everyone’s “regular” workloads equivalent in amount and urgency, so that you should not be assumed to have more capacity?

      If the latter, one approach would be to deliberately misinterpret Jane’s opening question as an offer.
      Jane: Are you doing the listed tasks today?
      LW2: Oh thanks, you can do those today, I did them all last time.


      1. linger*

        …or, less confrontationally, LW2 could answer Jane by explicitly choosing to do some tasks, but equally explicitly put others back on Jane. LW2’s default answer does not have to be (and should not be) “Yes, I’ll do them all”.

  28. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    The list thing is so frustrating. Is there tracking for who accomplished each item? Perhaps a bit of data collection on who is doing what for the next few weeks is in order, and a chat with management to do some problem solving.

    And then some self-assessment about whether this is saltiness about a peer “checking in” so that they don’t have to do their list, or whether OP is shouldering too much of the burden and getting behind in other tasks. Because either way, it’s not that hard to say at the beginning of the day, “Hey, it looks like there’s 12 items on the list today. I can probably get 5 in today … what about everyone else?”

    1. I just work here*

      There is no tracking that I can see, so it would be a matter of management caring enough to bother themselves with that task. Thus far, they don’t seem to care how evenly this worklist is distributed as long as it gets done.

  29. A More Brilliant Orange*

    I would be hesitant to use my car for any business travel given that car prices have skyrocketed lately. I seriously doubt the mileage compensation is coming anywhere close to offsetting the loss of value of your car.

    But, I think the core problem is the LW doesn’t want to make the drive.

    I’d ask for a rental car. Simply tell them you don’t want to make the drive in your car because the mileage reimbursement isn’t covering the wear and tear on your car. You want to hold onto this car because the cost of replacing it would be astronomical in this market.

      1. Jen*

        Yeah, the hassle of getting a rental car every week would far outweigh the hassle of taking my car to the mechanic a couple times a year.

  30. Nancy*

    LW2: how is this list getting tracked so multiple people aren’t doing the same thing? Why not divide everything at the beginning of the day?

  31. A More Brilliant Orange*

    Fanny packs have been out of fashion for a while.

    The only consistent use of them recently has been for concealed carry purposes. In fact, when I see someone with a fanny pack, I just assume they are carrying.

    1. Phryne*

      There are several comments up above about them making a comeback with gen-Z. As going out and coming back in is what fashion does, this seems a far more reasonable explanation than yours. ‘Everyone with this type of bag is secretly carrying a gun’ is a bit weird.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep, the Young People are wearing them (though as I said above, I’ve mainly seen them worn slung across the body). A friend of mine bought one the other week and everyone went ‘Ooooooh, down with the kids eh!!!’ when they saw it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t know where you live or where you’ve visited, but in my city they’re everywhere and considered almost de rigeur for walking down the street. I just bought one, and I’m old and plan to use it for practical purposes, but they’re very much on trend right now among many people who decidedly do not carry.

      1. Parakeet*

        Yep, they’re everywhere in my area too, especially for people under 40, and I live in a state and part of the state where carrying is quite uncommon. I have a shiny gold one that I use as a small first aid kit for outdoor activities, or as a supplementary bag if I don’t have enough pocket space for things I’m trying to carry with me (a water bottle just manages to fit in it). Many friends who bike frequently wear them for carrying small objects while on the bike.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yup, they’re suddenly everywhere in my city, to the point I was like “did I miss a memo?”, although most everyone I see wearing one wears it as a cross-body bag and not around their waist.
        And unlike the original I still have from the 90’s they’re generally not neon pink nylon, but are more purse-like (dark colors, leather).

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Damn, I think I wore out the last one I had years ago. I used to love that it freed up my hands from having to carry a purse when wearing clothes with no pockets.

    4. Gumby*

      I also thought they were out of fashion (and not just ‘no longer popular’ but ‘generally considered mockable’) but it turns out they are in again. I am very much not a person who notices or follows fashion trends but finding out that the fanny pack is back is making me wonder about the status of tube socks with sandals which seemed like the natural companion to fanny packs for a while.

      1. Rose is a roseis a rose*

        A few months ago I was getting on a ferry at the same time as group of teenage girls who were all wearing some version of socks with sandals (mostly Birkenstock-ish), so perhaps that is another trend the Youth are resurrecting? I didn’t notice if they were also wearing fanny packs!

    5. Pikachu*

      Fanny packs have been making a comeback for a couple years now. They were EVERYWHERE on a recent amusement park visit. I really wished I had one. Then they were the big free giveaway at a recent MLB game here, and now I have one :)

  32. Me (I think)*

    For LW #2, this sounds like the worst sort of “group project” in college, in which everyone’s grade depends on the project being done well, but most of the group slacks off knowing that someone else will do all the work.

    The manager needs to apportion the work to each individual then make sure they do it.

  33. Gen Z in Higher Ed*

    I wear a belt bag to work! I also work on a college campus & it is convenient. Do I get teased a bit by my older coworkers for bringing more Gen Z trends into the office, yes, but as the resident Gen Z cusper on staff, that’s my job. I’ve been meaning to get a “nicer” one (both personally and professionally) but I really only wear it at work entering/leaving the office & if we go to lunch as a team.

  34. EMP*

    LW #4, I’ve gotten asked “what’s the worst part/your least favorite part of working here” a handful of times when interviewing and it always throws me for a loop (even though it’s been asked before). The thing is, when I want to hire someone I want to hire someone who will be happy in the job, but I am still trying to sell them the job. Plus, whatever is the worst part of the job for me is likely fairly personal as in, related to my personality, or company stuff I don’t want to discuss with a stranger who we may not hire.

    When I get asked this I try to answer honestly but still somewhat euphemistically. “We spend a lot of time painting teapots because investors like to see them painted, but I wish we got to spend more time on new teapot design” is true, but I’m not going to go into my frustration with last minute teapot painting requests and the top-down paint color decisions I wish I had control over, which is really what bothers me about this.

    I don’t know how useful this really is for someone interviewing and I think they’ll glean more about culture with other questions, but the question isn’t off limits and you can try it if you want.

    1. EMP*

      Adding, since OP specifically asked if it’s a turn off for interviewers – it does put me on the defensive and depending on how the rest of the interview goes it can make me think you’re looking for reasons to turn down the job. I’ve had some people come off as “new to the work world and naive” with this question and some come off as “ready to find fault and don’t want the job” and more rarely people come off as “genuinely curious”. You want to aim for that last one.

  35. AvonLady Barksdale*

    For LW #4, I’ve had some success with, “Is there anything you would change about the company?” I’ve had “we’re perfect!” from recruiters, but, “I wish we had health insurance” or “I would like to see more diversity among the staff” have been really helpful answers.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      My variant of this is:

      “As you know, every company has it’s challenges or things it could do better. We’re all human, after all. What would you say were the drawbacks, or areas of improvement for this company?”

      It’s not an attack, and acknowledges that pobody’s nerfect. But it also lets you see if their drawbacks are deal killers for you.

      For example, I can work with heavily siloed organizations if I know about it up front. But organizations that don’t plan and are always fighting fires? I might have second thoughts. Whereas others hate silos but thrive in just in time firefighting mode.

  36. Captain Swan*

    For LW3 (belt bags), the first thing that came to mind was the character Fiona Glenanne, Gabrielle Anwar’s character on Burn Notice. She rocked many a high fashion belt bag during the course of the series. I always wanted her belt bags because I hate that I need to carry a large bag and trouser pockets either are too small or don’t lay right and make me look extra chunky.

    1. middlemgmt*

      when found my hip bag, I had literally googled “Fiona bag” because i was trying to find something just like that.

  37. skadhu*

    Apologies if this is not an appropriate question here… Alison, I wanted to reply to something but several posts within this comment thread have no “reply” function available. Is that a glitch at your end, or my end, or intentional, or…?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I am (clearly) not Alison, but what that generally means is that she’s closed replies to that thread because it got off-topic or nasty.

    2. Myrin*

      I flagged that thread to Alison because it was already starting to become derailing and argumentative this morning, so Alison closed the subthread (meaning precisely what you saw, taking the “reply” button away). She does that when she doesn’t want to delete a whole thread but also doesn’t want it to go on and on.

      1. Jessica*

        thanks! I just wish she had posted that she was doing it. I was confused too and searched in vain for some time. It would also head off the possibility of people thinking “huh, technical problem, oh well, I’ll just start a new thread to continue the discussion of this point.”

        1. Myrin*

          If I remember correctly, she’s mentioned before that when she’s on her phone, it’s a bit cumbersome to create an announcement like that, and then sometimes when she’s back on her computer, she forgets.
          (To your second sentence, I do think topics which lead to subthreads being closed tend to be ones that spiral from one single comment and end in a sniping back-and-forth which isn’t generally something others would take on themselves to start a new thread about but I agree with you in general.)

  38. middlemgmt*

    LW #3 – you can get fancy/professional ones like a purse! I have a hip bag from an Australian company called “Happy cow” that uses recycled leather. My pants never have pockets. i need to be able to carry things as i move around the office and especially when i’m working events. this was a game changer for me.

  39. Yeah, I am super direct*

    #4 A different take from years ago. I was interviewing in academia and had those meet everyone in the world interviews. If I was alone in a causal situation with a person not making the final decision, driving to lunch for example, I would ask what was the best thing about working here. Once answered I asked the worst thing. Most responses were typical ‘too many meetings’. But one time it was “Bob”. That was a huge red flag. This person was so awful that it was at the tip of their tongue, bypassing all censors. When I met with the boss, I asked her to tell me about Bob. She physically deflated and sighed. Since the job I was interviewing for would work heavily with this person, I declined the offer. I am SO glad I asked.

    It might also be useful to be this direct in the interview of you are this direct in regular life. Might as well show them who they are getting. Some love my directness. Some don’t.

  40. Government Director*

    #4 – I’ve been a hiring manager for about 10 years now and I’ve definitely had people ask what the worst thing about working for my organization is and I thought it was a good question. I would suggest pairing it with ‘what’s the best thing’ or moderating the wording to be a bit less aggressive (one person asked what my least favorite thing was, which felt gentler) but I like it when someone is clearly trying to assess fit. By that point in the interview, I have usually tried to signal the worst things about working in government by the questions I ask but I’m happy to explicitly state them as well.

    One time we were doing interviews right after a media report on negative results on an employee engagement survey came out. One of the candidates asked about it in the interview and we hired him. I thought it was bold of him to lay it out there, it also showed he followed the news, which is a plus for the job, and he was appropriate in how he asked about it.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I often ask it as a thing that every company has.

      “Every company has areas where it can improve. What do you see as those areas in your company?”

  41. Zach*

    #1- Ask for more accommodations. I’m sure you’re doing good work, but non-profits take advantage of people just as often (if not more) than for-profit companies and often use “the mission” or low funds as an excuse to underpay and under-compensate. I’m not saying 100% of them do this, but it is absolutely a thing.

    Don’t feel bad asking for more- the worst they’ll say is no. If they say no (or even if they don’t) and it becomes too much, don’t feel guilty about seeking employment elsewhere- you deserve to have a decent quality of life too.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think this is a “jump to quitting” situation. Even if it’s not sustainable, this assignment is at most 20% of OP’s job. It’s fine to say you can’t keep up with this or need to split the duties or something else short of throwing the whole job out.

  42. Observer*

    #5 – Well done!

    I’m pretty stunned that no one even realized that this could be an issue. Especially the gender piece!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      People who hire – especially small businesses – aren’t always trained in employment law. It feels like it should be common sense but if you’re never taught it doesn’t occur to everyone.

      1. CLC*

        Yeah unfortunately though changing the sign doesn’t mean they will change their practices though. I know of restaurants that only hire women table servers and only hire men as bar tenders or kitchen staff. Age discrimination is huge too.

          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            It still has potential for change- if they actually interview someone they wouldn’t have looked at before, they might actually like them (of course this is more likely to happen with age than gender because names give things away, but still). It’s a baby step, but in the right direction.

            Example: They assume they need men for a heavily physical job. Then they interview a woman with a neutral name for that job who is obviously much stronger than the men they’ve seen, and also has other qualities they really need like reliability. If they were just assuming only men would be strong enough, rather than consciously not liking women in those roles, they now hire the woman. Progress!

    2. Jen*

      There’s no excuse for asking about gender, but age could be incredibly relevant in the 15-21 age range.

  43. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    I’m a college librarian and I not only have a fanny pack/belt bag–I have a “notebook holster” that I got from a ren fair that sits on my belt! I’ve gotten so many compliments on it, from both students (It’s a pretty nerdy student body) and staff/faculty (who realize how entirely practical it is to ALWAYS have a notebook on you, and never forget it on your desk…which was what I did before. I’d end up in a meeting and realize I couldn’t take notes!). I walk 2 miles to work, and I used to use a backpack, but 90% of the time all it had was my notebook and my kindle! Now I get to go hands-free, and no awkward back sweat from exercising with a backpack.

    (For those interested, it’s from Goblinworx Leather)

  44. Fabulous*

    #4 – I recently saw a TikTok where the person suggested flipping the script on the interviewer and asking behavioral questions back to them. “Could you tell me about a time when…” I actually submitted the video to Alison to get her take on the advice, but I think it’s a pretty neat idea and I may try it at a future interview!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’ve thought for a while that I would love to flip the script on gaps in employment history by asking about specific years/incidents in the company’s history (layoffs in the news, financial statements if they are public, etc).

      1. Cat Tree*

        This feels more like a “gotcha” than a sincere interest.

        I’m a hiring manager and I strive to be as honest as possible, because if someone will hate it here I’d rather them figure that out before we go through the whole onboarding process.

        But middle managers have minimal power over finances and layoffs. I don’t think I even know any info beyond what is already public knowledge. I can talk a little about company strategy and say that the company has decided to invest in our branch for a few years, but I usually mention that organically during other questions.

        I guess I just don’t really understand what your goal is with these questions, except maybe to make hiring managers feel bad about the questions they ask?

        1. Koalafied*

          I actually think asking questions about things that you can see from the outside that look concerning is totally fine – it’s the framing of it as “flipping the script on gaps in employment history” that makes it sound like it’s being asked as revenge for a question that candidates don’t like being asked, rather than because it’s information that’s legitimately of interest and could influence your decision to work there or not. And it’s very likely that the way the candidate words those questions will make it clear which of the two perspectives they’re coming from.

          “There was a story in the paper last year about mass layoffs here. Can you talk a little about what happened to cause the financial troubles, what measures the company tried to cut costs before resorting to layoffs, and how much risk there is of it happening again now that you’re staffing up again?”


          “How do I know I won’t be laid off in six months like all those people you fired last year? What could you have done differently that would have prevented them from losing their jobs?”

      2. Unaccountably*

        Are you applying for jobs in finance? Because if you’re not, the odds are pretty good that the person interviewing you won’t have any idea what’s in the company’s public financials, let alone be able to answer questions about them. That would come across as weird and derailing to me.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          It is actually a big deal when applying to a startup. You want to ask about stuff like funding, burn rate, income streams, profitability and roadmap when it’s a startup, because these things strongly influence whether the company will still be there in six months.

          The questions I ask of a small companies are very different than what I ask about organizations with thousands of employees. Small companies are often much closer to the road.

          1. EMP*

            Do you get answers to this? I work for a start up and this is the kind of thing we discuss when someone is getting an offer, but not in an interview outside very high level terms (“we have VC funding.”)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Actually, yes. Mind you, I don’t ask individual contributors, I ask the big boss who usually has the final interview. Companies that are viable usually don’t have a problem discussing their future plans and status, IMO. It’s when someone who should know gets hand-wavy that I have concerns.

          2. Unaccountably*

            That’s true, I can definitely see it being something to ask at a startup. I still wonder how relevant or useful an answer you’d have gotten from, say, a database architect at WeWork.

  45. Essess*

    If there is a shared list that multiple people are to work on, of course each day you should coordinate with the others to determine who will be doing each task on the list to avoid duplicate work and to ensure they all get done. You should be pre-emptively going to your coworker and saying “For my half of the work on the list, I am planning to do a, b, c which leaves d, e, f. Will you be working on those or do I need to switch one of my items for one of yours?”

    1. Essess*

      To add to my comment, if you don’t want to sound like you are overstepping and assigning work to a coworker you could reword the comment to say “Which half of the items on the list do you want to do today and I will take the other half?”

  46. CLC*

    #4: there are ways to word some of these questions that will be still be direct, still getting you the info you’re looking for (to the same degree these would), and be less off-putting.
    #5: restaurants can be VERY discriminatory with age and gender. They want attractive young women waiting tables and often men behind the bar and in the kitchen. It surprising that they actually put it on the sign and great that they edited the sign, but unfortunately I don’t think they will change in practice.

    1. Essess*

      I was working down in Mexico a couple years ago and went out to a local food court for lunch with some of my Mexican colleagues. On one of the food shop windows there was a help wanted sign. On the sign listed “requirements — female, age 19-26, ….”

      I was stunned and asked my coworkers if that was allowed. They confirmed it was allowed and very common and they were surprised to hear that wouldn’t be allowed here.

  47. Murph*

    For #1 – I used to have periods where I would make weekly work trips several hours away. A few things that helped me:

    – Not working a full work day in my new location. It’s untenable to drive four hours a day and work a full work day!
    – Counting driving as part of my work day. If you end up driving/working late one day, come in late or leave early later that week.
    – Books on tape :)

    In all seriousness, adding a four-hour trip to a regular work day is a huge ask. You may be getting less office work done, but you’re still working by commuting that far. After a few trips with hellish hours, I started to come in late or leave early. It made me feel like I had control over my schedule again.

  48. Enn Pee*

    OP1 – I used to work in a job where we had to work very late one night every other week. Something my coworkers and I were able to negotiate with our boss was to take a day off later that week. Would that be something that you could discuss with your boss?

  49. Okapifeels*

    #2, my organization has tons of these sorts of tasks and Alison’s read is accurate. Employees who don’t want to do the work love assuaging their guilt by going around and reassuring themselves that you, and employees like you, are doing the work. What’s interesting in what I’ve seen is that a lot of these people are actually those who struggle in some way with their normal workload—so, they’re actually telling the truth that they’re “too busy,” in that they are going to struggle to complete their work if they do the daily tasks like they’re supposed to. In my experience they’re rarely the lazy employees, just the ones that struggle with/over stress about their workload.

    There’s not much you can do about it on a peer to peer level beyond what Alison suggested, but yeah, your boss really needs to know that your coworker keeps putting off this duty.

  50. Senior Consultant*

    OP# 1- If the project you are working on is really as impactful as it sounds, a hotel might be willing to donate nights to your company to cover your stay. They often have extra rooms, and the cost can be a write-off for them. They would be especially willing if you can negotiate a rate and use other hotels under the same brand for other travel.

  51. Ayla K*

    For OP#4 – in my last job search, I used the question “what does a good day look like in this role (or on this team, or in this company), and what does a bad day look like?” The answers gave me a lot to think about in terms of what I’m okay with and what’s a deal-breaker, and it’s not a super common question, so interviewers don’t usually have a canned answer ready, meaning they’re more honest. It may help!

  52. Velociraptor Attack*

    For #3, I recognize that Alison says since you’re on a campus, go for it, but I really think that depends on a few things, particularly what your job is and who you interact with… plus maybe a little of how old you are and what your credentials are.

    When I was in higher ed, I worked in student affairs but worked a lot with administration and I was in my mid-20s at the time so that combined with not having a graduate degree in a field with a lot of credential bloat kept me really aware (honestly, paranoid) about wanting to be taken seriously.

    Long story short, I think it’s not necessarily a blanket you’re on a campus, things are more relaxed, go for it, but requires you to really examine your role and could backfire.

  53. Purrscilla*

    LW #4 – I always ask about crunch time or overtime in interviews, thought just a general “how much overtime do you usually do” kind of question, and I always assume that it’s worse than what the interviewers tell me. I’ve gotten a surprisingly wide range of responses, though, which can be really informative – if they tell me “we automatically schedule everyone for overtime during the last X weeks of the project” then I don’t work there. If they tell me “we do no overtime”, I assume there might be some occasionally, but I figure the company at least tries to avoid it.

  54. Birch*

    hmm i ask best/worst, and while yes they’re not what you’d get over an adult beverage, you can do some reading between the lines. when everyone says worst is “OMG the politics of the family owned business” that’s a quick no. or “the area is too liberal” well shouldn’t be your direct report. if the best is “boss hands out beer at 6 on Fridays” that’s not for me either. i guess it’s more looking for red flags, but I’ve gotten useful gut feels, and asking for best really softens the worst

  55. Emilu*

    Hi LW that mentioned fanny packs, please know that in places that aren’t America you may as well be saying cu** packs. I get places are different, but just wanted to highlight.

  56. Paul Zagieboylo*

    * What is the worst thing about working at your company?
    Inter-team communication is not always the best, especially when the teams in question are separated by 14 time zones and a language barrier. Whenever we are working on a major project that involves other teams, there’s always an unacceptable amount of waiting around involved.
    * Has the company ever not given you your agreed yearly bonus? (For context, I work in an industry where bonuses are 10%-20%; while not contractually obligatory, they are expected and agreed upon in advance)
    Nope. Usually it’s a little more than I expected!
    * How many times over the last month have you stayed up past 8 pm working on something?
    This has literally never happened. If my boss caught me doing this he would order me to go home in no uncertain terms, just like when he realizes I haven’t taken any vacation in 6 months.
    * When was the last time you worked on a project that you thought had little value, but did it because your manager told you to?
    It’s not common, but…. it happens. All of our projects are named after Muppets, so the engineering team named this project “Rathernot” after the Muppet Dan Rathernot in protest. Seriously, that’s the inspiration for the name; there’s nothing else. It’s still running in production, barely, although we’ve been encouraging our (internal) customers to please stop using it.

  57. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#4: The first question can easily be re-framed. (“If you could change something…”). The fourth question is a complete nope – don’t ask that.

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