my boss has terrible ideas about social media, video games on your resume, and more

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

1. My boss has terrible ideas about social media

I’m part of an academic research lab, and our PI desperately wants us (postdocs and Ph.D. students) to do an amazing job with our lab’s social media, but whenever it comes to concrete suggestions on how this would happen, he shoots down all of our ideas. This is ridiculously egregious. The first time my PI asked, I went to my friend who is a social media professional, and together we drew up a list of ideas (basically, fun science facts and photos of our adorable lab cats). This was destined for success! I mean, LAB CATS. Our PI refused, on the grounds that we had to show that we were very serious. The other postdocs and Ph.D. students proposed similarly practical, reasonable social media campaigns (interviews of us in front of attractions in our aspirational tourist city! March Madness style brackets of our favorite dromedary species!), only to have all of those rejected in turn. Instead, our PI wanted to post pictures of himself with notable politicians. You see, our PI was recently elected to a minor government position (think, member of the school board) and has since been rubbing elbows with those on the political circuit, and … you get the idea. When he asked for more suggestions, he got crickets, because … why. Why would anyone suggest anyone else only to be told they were wrong?

Later, my PI confided in me how sad and unreasonable it is that he is handling all the social media all himself, and none of the people who should be helping are. He has another meeting planned, and we are going to discuss social media again there.

Please send help. This is a recipe for a nightmare thankless time sink that takes away from our other work, work that actually furthers our careers, and I don’t know what to do other than feigning incompetence and being hopelessly noncommittal.

I can’t speak to the politics of academia at all, which can sometimes be quite different from other workplaces, but can you just decline? Can you say, “Social media isn’t my area of expertise, and I think I should focus my time on XYZ”? Or if that’s too straightforward, can you just be aggressively unhelpful about it — “Hmmm, I don’t know. You’ve heard all the suggestions I could think of.” … “I’m not sure what would be best, it’s not really my thing.” … etc.?

The other option would be for you and your fellow team members to push back on your PI’s preferred strategy, possibly suggesting some A/B testing so you get real data on what does and doesn’t work … but it doesn’t sound like you want to take that on, which is completely reasonable.

2. Putting video game playing on your resume

My daughter is in college and trying to create a resume with very minimal work experience (so far). She plays video games as a member of her school’s esports team. It’s actually very competitive to get on the team, but is this the kind of thing that many (most?) employers would find silly or even negative? Or am I just old?

She could name it as one of several hobbies or campus activities she’s involved in (like a single line reading “president of the climate action group, member of competitive campus esports team, and avid chess player”) … but I wouldn’t put more focus on it than that. She definitely shouldn’t make it its own item on her resume similar to how you’d list a job (if that’s what she’s considering); that would come across as giving it inappropriate weight.

Related: can I put World of Warcraft leadership experience on my resume?

3. Will I be allowed to work a standard notice period if I’m on a performance improvement plan when I resign?

I’m currently in the first month of a three-month performance improvement plan at my job. I made a fairly high-profile mistake at my job and haven’t made a mistake since, but was put on the plan as a result of the error. I had been thinking about moving on before all of this, so I began taking calls from recruiters and am at the references stage for a new role. I’m beginning to think about the timeline for my departure and was anticipating giving a standard two-week notice once I sign a new offer, and taking a few weeks off before starting the new role to reflect on what happened and recharge since this experience was pretty awful.

Should I anticipate being able to serve the notice period given that I am on a PIP? Our company policies request a standard two-week notice, but I’m concerned about being told that the day I offer my resignation will be my last day and being out nearly a half of a month of income. What’s customary in these situations?

If there’s a risk I’ll be asked to leave immediately, I’d rather quit with no notice period and start two weeks after that date, given the circumstances. I feel the relationship with my manager is already irreparably damaged in a way that quitting without notice won’t make worse, and the two weeks of unemployment insurance would be a tiny fraction of what I’d normally earn during that pay period.

It’s hard to say with certainty. If your work is going okay, they’re likely to let you work out the two-week notice period. If they felt firing you at the end of the PIP was a real possibility, most employers would be relieved to have you end things on your own initiative so they don’t have to, and will be glad to let things wrap up as harmoniously as possible. If they didn’t feel it was likely the PIP would end with firing you, they’re even more likely to treat your resignation like they would anyone’s else. I’d say there’s significantly more chance that they’ll let you work the notice period than not, but there’s no way to know for sure.

One possibility is to tell the new employer when you’re setting a start date that you’d like to start in four weeks, but ask if you can leave that tentative until you speak with your current employer to see if two weeks would make more sense (and then if your current job does have you leave right away, you can come back to the new job and say you can start in two weeks after all).

4. Should we be more clear that we don’t offer health insurance?

My office has five partners who own and manage the business, including myself, and 20 employees who are not owners/managers.

Seven years ago, we discontinued our group health insurance plan, as its cost was set to more than double upon renewal and other plans we investigated were comparably priced. We had never covered the full cost of our employees’ insurance, and through research determined that the out-of-pocket cost for our employees to obtain insurance on the insurance marketplace was going to be roughly identical to what they were already paying out of pocket under our group plan. We immediately increased our employees’ pay commensurate with what we had been contributing towards their insurance, in addition to their normal merit-based and cost of living increases.

Last month, we hired a new employee. On their first day, they asked our office manager what they had to do in order to participate in our group health insurance plan. Of course, we no longer have such a plan and haven’t for some time.

The new employee was offered their position in writing, and the letter sets forth their pay and benefits. Health insurance is not listed. Those who participated in the interview process are confident that nobody represented that we offer health insurance as a benefit, since we have not for many years now. We asked the new employee if they felt that they had been offered insurance at any point, and their response was that they “assumed” it was provided.

It goes without saying that this is not a great way to begin a relationship. Should we begin to explicitly disclaim in our written summaries of benefits that we do not provide health insurance? Or is the fact that we provided a benefits list that did not include health insurance sufficient? Obviously, it was not sufficient in this one case, but the fact that this has not been an issue in the previous seven years despite many other hires being made in that period of time makes me question whether we need to take any additional action for the future.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t include that explicitly on your benefits sheet now that you realize the potential for confusion! Erring on the side of clarity is always better, especially when the stakes are so high if someone doesn’t understand the situation.

5. Should I list my references on my resume?

I have a question about references. I was taught to include two as standard on a resume. But do people leave them off and only supply when asked? Would this be seen as a red flag?

Never include your references on your resume! It’s absolutely not expected (at least not in the U.S.; other countries have different norms). When an employer wants to contact your references, they will ask you for them.

Plus, you want to know when your references are going to be contacted so that you can prepare them, and you don’t want them contacted for jobs you’ve decided you’re not interested in. You also want the benefit of knowing when you’re at that point in the process with an employer.

Similarly, you don’t need to include “references available on request” on your resume either; it goes without saying that you’ll provide them when requested, and that line takes up space for no reason.

{ 618 comments… read them below }

  1. prof*

    I’d like to assure OP1 that their PI’s request they spend presumably unpaid time on social media for his own lab is absurd. Nope! That’s his job if he wants to do it or he can pay you. Especially since he won’t take.ylur excellent ideas.

    I’d suggest he look at March Mammal Madness and many other examples of actual successful scientists on social media. No one is gonna engage with a photo of him with his new paper or whatever…

    1. Heidi*

      In addition to pointing him to successful content, it might be enlightening to ask him to find examples of social media sites that match up to whatever he thinks is appropriately professional. Not that the OP should have to do any of this, of course, but for people who work in these kinds of labs, their careers can really suffer without the support of their PI, so it might not be feasible for the OP to tell him that he’s being ridiculous.

      1. OP #1 is here!*

        Have tried this, but they don’t spend enough time on social media to know of anyone whose accounts they’d emulate, and will shoot down any recommendations to check them out himself (see my other reply in this thread).

        1. Smithy*

          One question I have is whether this might be a case of directing him to utilize his own or set up a Lab LinkedIn and post there. For better or worse, LinkedIn is awash with far more earnest, blatant self promotion and dry content. Pictures of awkwardly posed professionals in their business best (or average) are just far more common and because it’s common, it’s less awkward/cringe.

          Similarly, liking or reposting your boss’ awkward photo next to a local politician or on the panel of an educational committee also won’t make you look silly in the larger LinkedIn social norms.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            This is really smart and will be a hell of a lot less work even if he does decide to dump this on an intern at some point (I have $$ on this happening)

            1. Smithy*

              Yeah – if his ultimate ambitions are route 1 professional promotion – LinkedIn genuinely isn’t where most people go to be creative. Posts can really just be “Happy to be invited to participate on XYZ panel with distinguished contributors ABC, DEF, and GHI. Join us for a riveting conversation!”

              And while yes….that may be a little over the top and corny….you just won’t be alone. If that style is too enthusiastic/familiar and he wants it more serious, that also works. All to say, nearly no creative brainstorming is required other than flagging whenever anyone speaks or has a poster at a conference, or something is published – you put that on LinkedIn and ask everyone to like and/or repost.

              The end.

        2. Empress Matilda*

          He sounds delightful. Honestly it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be any winning with him – you may as well just post the pics of him shaking hands with the school board trustee and let it go. Obviously the account will not succeed, but at the same time you can’t care more about it than he does!

        3. archivist in a university library*

          Does your PI’s department/school/college have a communications specialist? They will be versed in science communication for their social media channels and website news articles and could offer their professional opinion to him. If your department/school/college is too small to have its own comms person, check with your uni’s marketing and communications team and ask for their assistance. If those staffers do not pan out, well then, you are a grad student and it is time to put your fingers to the keyboard and do a lit review about science communication via social media. The science librarian/liaison to your department or a journalism/communications department could also be of help to you on the lit review.

        1. That One Person*

          I want to see an account for the Lab Cats and see how it does versus the PI’s if this involves something more generally social like twitter, instagram, tiktok, etc.

        1. Schnapps*

          Now I have visions of cats knocking expensive lab equipment off lab tables. But I still want to see the lab cats.

      1. Sam Yao*

        Yes! If anecdotal evidence would help sway this guy (which it doesn’t sound like it would): LAB CATS PLZ.

      2. Avril Ludgateaux*

        OP, you should start your own social media page with blackjack, and hookers! lab cats and science memes!

        When you go viral, you can casually drop your follower count and engagement numbers in the next conversation about this.

      3. Chirpy*

        I also want to see lab cats!

        And for what it’s worth, I would probably scroll past a boring profile picture with a politician, even one I supported, in favor of lab cats. Unless it’s a really compelling news item, the cats will almost always win on social media.

    2. OP #1 is here!*

      OP #1 here. I did! He cut me off before I could even get through naming even one of their Twitter handles. The response? “I don’t have time for any of that. That’s why you’re giving me ideas.”

      1. Green beans*

        I had a longer response down thread but it got eaten by the spam trap.

        But in this case, I’d reach out to your university’s communications department with the social media plan, tell them your PI plans to run it but you’re helping do research, and ask if they have any specific policies around endorsing politicians, since this content is going to basically walk that line. Emphasize that your PI is writing the content and providing the photos. Perhaps suggest some sort of training.

        I suspect your PI will quickly lose interest after they reach out to him to clarify exactly what can and cannot be said on a university-affiliated account.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, this was my thought. It’s one thing to have a “our lab” social media— that might reasonably be construed as part of your job. But “furthering our boss’s political career” is emphatically, dramatically, Not Your Job. If there’s anyway you can ouch back on it in those terms or if there’s any kind of union or HR facility in your university that you can “take advice” from, definitely do that.

          1. The OTHER other*

            A good friend of mine is a conflict of interest officer at a large university and this whole project sounds like something she would take behind a building and shoot.

            Grad students and faculty are mostly paid for by grants, to do particular research. PI’s are often trying to use these positions/grants to get people to work on their start-up companies, side gigs, etc. It sounds like this guy wants to use resources (people, systems, website etc) to further his political career.

            Leaving aside the fact that this boss is a jerk for asking for ideas and rejecting them all, what he seems to want to do is probably very unethical.

            I can’t imagine anyone wants to see pictures of the PI shaking hands with the assistant minister of flouridation.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Your friend would be right to do so, but the imagery of someone trying to shoot a twitter with a shotgun looney-tunes style is bringing me much joy.

        2. Ama*

          Yup — I spent 10 years in academic administration and though I left before social media was a huge part of communications work the work I do now (grant funding) requires us to spell out in our contracts what we will/won’t post on social media, when we will notify the university communications so they can co-post things, etc. I’d be very surprised if there aren’t some existing rules/guidelines for social media accounts associated with university researchers that your PI is unaware of. And I do think they will want to know he is posting himself with politicians — if your university is state funded that could be a particularly thorny issue (it may at least require him to post some language like “this picture does not constitute an endorsement of this politician by university”).

        3. Rock Prof*

          I think this could be a good approach. If he is wanting pictures of himself with politicians and things, there specifically might be policies about that. I know at my old public institution, while we could do generally whatever we wanted with our personal accounts (as long as we didn’t pretend university endorsement), we were fine, but putting more political stuff onto a lab-affiliated account would have been a big no.

      2. Green beans*

        As a secondary note, I’d also ask them about the lab cats and animal research policies (if these are research cats) for social media. Even if you don’t use them for research, putting lab and animals together can get sometimes unwelcome attention.

        You can do this separately from the politics question if it would be something you’re genuinely interested in or with the politics question if you want to create another roadblock.

        1. Sandi*

          I know of a lab where local strays were allowed to visit the offices. They had mini building passes. It may be animal research, but maybe not.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Right, but it’s about optics as opposed to the nuance of what’s actually happening. The point is the automatic association may be negative.

        2. Nesprin*

          Yeah, this was worrying me. The animal rights community can be really dangerous to animal researchers- it’s best if you don’t post pictures of your vivaria anywhere public, don’t post pics of your research animals, and don’t post pics of animal handlers.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Especially if it actually is animal research. That would make me sad if I saw it on social media. Even though not all research is bad for the lab animals.

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        OP1, your PI is awful at both social media and being a PI. My PhD advisor was so focused on me getting research done that, “Sure, you could do that, but how does that help your research?” started sounding like a mantra. Yeah, there were a few odd tasks for the research group—there always are, especially when your PI’s grants are funding you—but they were pretty minimal.

        So your PI is way out of line and isn’t good at believing that other people have expertise (almost hard to believe, in a professor…). But…it’s academia and a PhD advisor or PI has so much influence over the careers of their students and postdocs. It’s not fair, but that’s academia for you. Unless this guy is well known in his (and your) field as an unreasonable glassbowl, you’re going to need his full-throated support.

        My advice? Do whatever crappy social media he thinks he needs, spend as little time on it as possible, and make sure your name isn’t anywhere on it. This is a “do the minimum to check off the box and say it’s done” task to keep the boss happy. Because given the power balance, that’s about your only option IMO.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I think it migrated over from Not Always Right. There’s a surprising degree of overlap in the readerships.

        1. ferrina*

          I agree with this. I’ve worked with a couple not-great PIs, and once they get this full of themselves, it’s just not worth it to engage further. He clearly thinks that the social media should magically make him a minor celebrity and be centered on his greatness. Anything that’s not about him is being shot down. Disengage and spend your time and energy on more productive stuff.

          New mantra: “Gosh, I just don’t know enough about social media to give any further suggestions. Maybe someone in the Comms school can help.”

          1. L.H. Puttgrass*

            I wonder if the PI already has tenure. Because, “He seems more interested in politics and being a minor celebrity than in producing quality research” is the kind of thing that can get tenure applications rejected. Not always, but I know of at least one case at a top school where a famous professor was encouraged to move on elsewhere because he was a little too interested in being famous.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            The funny part is that social media can totally make you a local celebrity – but only if it is fun and eye catching and engaging. No one wants to see pictures of him shaking hands with so-and-so. If he took pictures of himself snuggling lab cats or having science brackets he could probably do pretty well for himself. There is just no saving someone who is determined to hold onto their bad idea.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              A cute TikTok of a cat in a little lab coat knocking beakers full of water with food coloring off a lab bench would be popular and harmless.

      4. DuckOffMotherClucker*

        OP, as a fellow labrat I can sympathize a lot. Academia is a deeply weird and power-imbalanced place and it’s hard to understand the differences from outside of it.

        My PI tried this too, mostly because it’s popular with some of the big names in the field (politics politics politics…). We all got together over a coffee without the PI and agreed that we’d stand together on not having anything to do with it. Your PI can’t fire all of you and if they make all of you miserable for not handling their social media, go DIRECTLY to your ombuds office. We didn’t have to go that far since it became very apparent that the whole lab was united on not giving in and the PI folded.

        Good luck, may your experiments always work and your statistics be easy!

      5. Michelle Smith*

        Okay yeah, sorry but with all due respect…this guy kind of sucks. Let him fall on his own sword then. He can’t complain that he doesn’t have time to look into anything and then also shoot down every idea that is presented to him. If he wants help, he has to be willing to accept other people’s suggestions. Time to disengage from this and make it Not Your Problem Anymore.

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        OP #1 – your research lab almost certainly has a public information office, comms team, something like that, no? At least if you’re in the US I am almost certain someone in your institution oversees this, and branding etc. You can make use of them!

        For example, you could invite one of the comms professionals to the lab meeting that woudl discuss social media – say, as a “presentation from a professional”. The goal could be to collaboratively draw up a comms plan for the lab. And *of course* bring up the number of hours you and your lab mates would be expected to dedicate to it, posting frequency, model/image release requirements… And if the PI wants to post braggy pix of themselves with the political bigwigs, not much anyone can do about it.

        Often it’s easier for a manager type – especially one like a PI who may just be oblivious that they *are* a manger – to accept a truth from a credentialled outsider.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Also, to give an example – my cubicle is in fact right next to our two lead communications professionals. *They* run social media, a podcast (depending on funding – not for free in their free time!), media relations etc. So if a PI wanted more of a lab social media presence and was inept at it, we could get them a special hashtag (#smithlab or #tropicalinvertebrae or whatever) to add to whatever hashtags the comms team uses, and voilà, social media presence. Minimal effort for the lab members, professional appearance, branding etc.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Sounds great, but it really sounds like this guy wants an excuse to post pictures of him with politicians. Which fine, he can do that on his own time under his own personal account. But he doesn’t want that, he wants his Post Docs to support his scheme to put it on the lab account so it looks better than one sad schlub bragging.

            This is a no win situation for OP. I think consulting the comms folks at the school might be the best option to get this idea dropped.

            1. Angela Zeigler*

              I think bringing someone in from Comms would play out well- they would suggest good social media ideas, hear what the PI *actually* wants to post, and discourage it for not being aligned with (I assume) school social media policy regarding political endorsements. Or, at the very least, let them down gently saying that idea wouldn’t do well in the current social media climate.

            2. tamarack and fireweed*

              That’s exactly where credentialled “outsiders” can be useful to corral him a bit. (“Oh, how nice, you posted another picture. We’re following the comms plan outline we agreed on in our meeting with the comms professionals, which was *so* useful!”)

        2. debbietrash*

          This! I wanted to check the comments in case someone else already suggested reaching out to comms team.
          I work as an admin in medical research, and sit in the same space as some of the comms team — they are a WEALTH of knowledge and are paid to think up things like how to get social media engagement for your lab/research. I’m also going to echo that hearing campaigns or strategies from a designated comms professional may go down more easy/be heard than if it’s coming from the lab team.

      7. The Person from the Resume*

        LW1, you don’t have time for this (crafting a social media campaign) either.

        Let it go. Have no further suggestions and not time to work on it.

        1. Office Sweater Lady*

          Fellow lab denizen here: focus on the research you are doing. Being a social media marketer is not what you are there for. There is zero upside to your long term career, here. Alison’s advice works: In the short term, if your PI is the type to retaliate against those who won’t appease him, then the feigning incompetence approach is the best you can do. If the PI is otherwise reasonable, you should tell him outright that your priorities are elsewhere. Unfortunately, if anyone does start helping him, it will likely backfire by diminishing their scientific standing in the eyes of the PI (which will come out when it is time for references), since they are so good at “fluff” and aren’t working on the serious stuff.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Agreed. It sounded like a fun project at the beginning and you brought fun ideas – that was already above and beyond, since this is not part of your job. Now, just opt out or play dumb or do whatever else to avoid it all together. The whole thing is full of bees and not worth your time or energy.

          2. Anonymous Koala*

            Agreed, this will have zero impact on your career and you shouldn’t waste your time with it. When I was in labs there was a lot of feeling that our PIs could “ruin” us if we didn’t suck up to them, so I can see some people feeling like they have to support their PIs pet social media project. But there’s no benefit to your career so if you don’t have to do this, don’t do it.
            Also it sounds like your PI doesn’t actually understand social media. If you do end up taking this on, it might help to ask them what they expect from social media and whether they are looking for engagement or just to put something out in cyber space so it exists.

      8. Mockingjay*

        Oh, I see now. He’s not asking for ‘help’ to advertise the lab. He’s looking for a personal social media coordinator/assistant for free, to promote himself.

        Use Alison’s suggestions and feign incompetence/helplessness/bad ideas/bad job, etc. and return the focus to work.

      9. Legal Rugby*

        I’m going to echo some of the other folks – I used to work in private higher education, as an attorney. We had to discipline/pull down social media from more than one professor who was using their official lab/department social media to seemingly stump for one or another candidate. Because of our nonprofit status, professors could use their own social media for such things, but they could not in anyway seem to take a stance on candidates or issues on their official media. If you are a nonprofit, might be good to point out to him.

        I know you mentioned reaching out to the institutions pr team. It might be worth it to set up a time for HIM to speak to them, and explain to them what you need – namely, he needs to understand what is allowed – and what works.

      10. Aggretsuko*

        Look, just because some people *ask* for ideas doesn’t mean they *actually want* ideas.

        I think your “gee, I dunno, dude, I got nothing” and continuing to gray rock/stonewall/not give any suggestions is the best thing you can do. You have to look out for you. He’s going to shoot down anything you say because he wants to do what he wants to do. He’s gonna dig his own hole and that’s what he wants to do and has the power to do.

      11. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This guy has a very Underpants Gnomes method going on.

        Step 1: Create Instagram.
        Step 2: ???
        Step 3: Instant Renown!

        If the guy doesn’t use social media, doesn’t know how social media works, and is uninterested in learning or listening to suggestions, he’s kind of a lost cause. If he asks you again, I’d respond with something like “I’m all out of suggestions, sorry!”

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Yes.

          It sounds like the PI just thinks bragging is the way to get followers, but that’s not how social media works.

          There’s engagement with interesting content (which PI nixed), mutual following and conversation with like-minded people (which PI nixed), and outreach and inclusion/tagging of other potential social media attractions (which PI nixed).

          The only thing I could think is to turn this back onto the PI and ask specific questions. “Who are we trying to reach? Fellow researchers or potential students? What would make YOU follow a fellow researcher? What would students find interesting besides politics?

          Basically, the things that work are the things he doesn’t want to do and he has no interest in actually mutually engaging in.

          It sounds like he wants you to run his vanity account. Honestly, that sounds reasonably easy. Have him send you pics; post anywhere between one a day to one a week, and be done with it and do your work.

      12. Chexwarrior*

        “I don’t have any ideas or guidance, that’s why you’re giving me ideas, and I don’t have time to research or define What I Want either. No no no, your ideas aren’t What I Want, try again and give me ideas that I want.”

      13. Joanna*

        I would love to add Lab Cats to my Instagram follows. In fact, now I kind of want Lab Cats to add to my Orange Cat Standing follow.

        Your PI really is out of touch with Sci Com on social. So out of touch…

    3. Well...*

      Do not get involved in this outreach thing, even if he is paying you extra for it! (Unless you’re desperate for cash). The money you would make isn’t worth the time you’re taking away from things that actually advance your career. This is clearly a vanity project for your PI, and he’s getting way too emotional and sulky about it. The more involved you get, the more you risk your letter of recommendation from him and the more energy you take away from your research.

      Just focus on publishing. If he tries to rope you in or complains about how no one is helping, remind him of important lab work you have to get done, mention how you don’t want to delay XYZ paper, etc. Keep this focus on publications, very few people running labs and needing to sustain them with grant money won’t be swayed by the lure of more publications.

      1. BethDH*

        This is one of those things where the stakes will go up if you give in and do it, not down. The less you can be associated with this already-failed endeavor the better — both in time spent and in his head.
        Just deflect: “I’ll let you know if I get any ideas!” “I’m bogged down with ___” “I’m not really up on __ platform so I don’t know what to suggest.”

      2. Nesprin*

        Yep, getting papers out, getting presentation slots, and getting grant money are always guaranteed to do good things in academia.

    4. Reader1*

      LW #1: You and your boss seem to be missing the purpose of social media [SM]. SM is a tool, only. The same as any other communications tool: providing information to a particular audience to help them act on that information in service of the business’s goals. So step back: what is the goal(s) of the company? How does the communications plan fit into that goal? Is SM part of that goal with your audience(s)? What messages will get them to act? What research have you done? (cute cats? why? how do you know? Because you like cats? Does your audience? You do research: will they think you are trying to deflect from the idea that you may be doing experiments on cats? How will you counter that potential message even if not your intention? Oopsy! Now you’ve got a crisis comms issue on your hands which is a much bigger deal and then you will need to spend $ on hiring a PR expert). What messages do you want them to know? What do you want them to do? How will you measure the SM success over the course of 3 months, 6, etc. in conjunction with other comms plans and outlets? Who will monitor and update the messages and convey the results to stakeholders? Etc. (Whoever your SM friend is: don’t take advice from them. They clearly don’t get the purpose of SM either and most importantly, they don’t know your business).

      1. Screen Porch Office*

        THIS. What would be the goal of a social media account? What is he trying to achieve? Getting donors? Recruiting students or employees? Is there even a reason to have a SM account? Move forward from there accordingly.

    5. Luna Lovegood*

      A few ideas that might help, depending on your PI’s personality:
      -See if an undergrad or group of undergrads could help with this. Presumably they have to be paid hourly, so at least they’ll be fairly compensated for the work.
      -See how other labs on campus handle social media. Assuming it doesn’t usually fall to grad students and postdocs, this could provide useful data points for the “not the best use of our time” argument.
      -If you want to push back and need support in doing so, look for allies at the university who might be able to take some of the heat off you. The grad student union if you’re lucky enough have one, someone in the dept who can convince the PI this isn’t your problem, the dean’s office, etc.
      -If your PI is unlikely to accept any argument for you not doing this and pushing back could jeopardize your standing with them, spend a few minutes coming up with random suggestions that you can throw out in future meetings. Either give them what they want with as little time and effort as possible on your part or suggest enough ideas they’ll hate so they’ll decide you’re hopeless at this.

    6. Some guy*

      As someone in academic science (biomedical research) I’m a little confused about who the target audience of this account is. It sounds like the PI wants his lab to run a personal account for him (which is obviously unreasonable and hopefully something they can get out of).
      But lab cats, etc sounds like fluff designed to go viral, but why? Then what? Do you want to start an outreach account to explain science in your field to the public? If so that’s a lot of work, tough to execute, and reasonable for the PI to push back on if he doesn’t want it for the lab.
      If the audience is other academics, then probably a small amount of cat/bracket content and your PI meeting people content would be okay, but neither of those categories would be a typical focus.
      As for the recommendations about having your university/ department comms team do it- you could try but that seems extremely unlikely and may come across weirdly (though it could vary by institution). My experience is at R1 schools that have >100 biomedical research labs. Communications May highlight your lab’s work if you have an exciting new paper, have been in the news, etc, but they very much work for the university/ department to highlight their work as a whole and not individual labs. Plus, im not sure grant money can pay for this even if it’s just science, but especially not if it has a lot of personal content.

      1. See you anon*

        Also an academic lab scientist and I agree that both plans seem… off. PI’s plan is just dead in the water but OP’s proposal may get likes and clicks but to what end? OP’s ideas are good for engaging the public, but it’s not really educating them (with the exception of the Dromedary bracket if that’s their topic of research and stats are given on each “competitor”). No one is mentioning a way to feature the lab’s research or the accomplishments of their people (besides the PIs political success in hand-shaking) so what is the lab account trying to accomplish?

    7. Kimmy Schmidt*

      As someone who does some social media work in academia, I’d say don’t spend any more time or energy on this. It’s not worth it, especially for someone who’s shown themselves to be unwilling to compromise or listen to new ideas.

    8. Dr. Doll*

      Yes, this is the very definition of a non promotable task. Also I’m betting that if there are men in the lab, they have already shrugged this off.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        Principle Investigator. It’s a faculty member who’s the head of a research lab. They oversee graduate students and research staff.

    9. Nesprin*

      Yep- you have science to do, and if he wants a twitter feed of pictures of himself with politicians, sounds like he can manage that himself!

      BTW successful science twitter is often “congrats to grad student X for their new fellowship!” or “congrats postdoc Y on their new paper, check it out in science!”

    10. See you anon*

      I can understand wanting to be a “serious scientist.” I think that the most effective sci comms accounts (geared towards scientists in the field for encouraging collaborations, recruitments, student interest) is a mix of updates on lab progress (news releases if appropriate, new article announcements, retweets of collaborator’s articles, student graduations and achievements), cool science images from your research (for example Micrographs, molecular structures, bacteria plates, pictures from field sites), and lab fun activities (annual lab picnic, lab outing, etc). Notice all of this is lab member and research centered. Not PI’s political aspirations-centered. Save that for your personal account and hire a PR specialist instead of pressuring your lab underlings to do it.

    11. Postdoc*

      Hi OP1,

      So your PI is not interested in promoting the lab, he is interested in promoting himself. If you are still a student, I would approach this in two ways. First, go to your program’s graduate affairs/student success advisor and explain the situation. Tell them that you’re concerned he’s treating the students like personal assistants rather than, you know, students, it’s distracting from your research, and you are afraid refusing will affect the tone of the rec letter he’d provide for you when you graduate. Then ask individual members of your committee to meet and tell them what is happening. Specifically, ask if they would be willing to write you a strong letter if it becomes clear your PI won’t simply because you prefer to focus on research. Historically, committees were formed in an attempt to prevent abusive behavior by PIs, so if this is affecting your ability to get your work done and move forward, they really need to know.

    12. Res Admin*

      Agreed. Our Department has a “Marketing and Communications Specialist” position that handles all kinds of social media. While they do have other duties that are tied into it, social media is a huge focus of their job! Frankly, my PI is way too busy with actual research and being Dept Chair to bother with micromanaging our social media presence.

      I should also note, papers aren’t really what gets posted on social media–there are professional sites for those kinds of things.

  2. Eric*

    #4. I’d definitely make sure to mention that you don’t provide health insurance. For full time jobs in the US it’s so standard, I wouldn’t think to notice it wasn’t on the list. To me it would be similar to finding out on the first day that I was expected to work Christmas on the job. Technically they never told me I get major holidays off, but for so many jobs it’s standard, that I wouldn’t even think to ask. (Obviously depends on the industry)

    1. Beth*

      Agreed. Getting health insurance through work is still the most common way of getting it–it’s really, really unusual for a full-time role with other benefits to not include it. It’s great that you adjusted your salary levels to compensate for lacking it (though, if that change happened 7 years ago, has it kept up as cost-of-living and inflation have increased over time?), but even with that, you really need to spell out that you don’t offer it.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        “[I]f that change happened 7 years ago, has it kept up as cost-of-living and inflation have increased over time?”

        It didn’t even cover it when they implemented the stipend. Note that insurance costs doubled, but LW4 said that their company only covered what they had been contributing toward employees’ insurance—i.e., the pre-increase costs. Employees were still on the hook for the increase in insurance costs.

        Also, unless there’s some special tax trick I don’t know about (a possibility!), the employees would be losing out even if the company increased salaries enough to cover the increase, thanks to taxes. When the employer pays the premium, that’s not counted as taxable income. But the same amount is given as a raise, it’s subject to federal, state, and local income tax (including Social Security and Medicare). And since medical expenses are only deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of income (and then only if you itemize), it’s not like the employees can make it up at tax time, either.

        So the existing employees probably took a pretty large pay cut. New employees definitely need to be told that the employee isn’t providing health insurance so they realize that whatever salary they’re being offered probably isn’t as good as it looks after paying for insurance.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          ah, I asked about this below – it does sound like the employer just started paying out to employees what they were paying to insurance before and washed their hands of the entire thing. LW very carefully worded it to make it sound fair and nice, but reading between the lines, the employees took the full hit of increased cost back then.

          1. Fikly*

            Also, the plans you can get on the marketplace are never better than plans you can get from employers, and often worse. Which is to say, you can get plans from employers that are just as bad as ones from the marketplace, but you cannot get ones from the marketplace that are as good as ones you can get from employers.

            So even if there wasn’t a difference in premiums, it’s extremely likely their actual costs per year went up a ton, if they use their insurance at all.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Ooh you’re right about the taxes, I hadn’t considered that. I am a freelancer who also works a PT job that doesn’t offer insurance (but does to FT staff, although not 100% paid) and I have noticed that, in my liberal state, I pay about the same on the exchange as I would for their insurance. Mostly because their insurance is lousy. But, as a mostly freelancer I get a tax credit for the insurance I pay for myself, whereas if this same scenario was a FT employee, I would not.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Right, this employer doesn’t offer healthcare, so but if I understand correctly, the employees are getting the worst of both worlds – no tax credits because they’re not self employed, but no pre-tax premium because the insurance is not provided by the company.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Should have said: Right, BUT this employer doesn’t offer healthcare, SO if I understand correctly, the employees are getting the worst of both worlds – no tax credits because they’re not self employed, but no pre-tax premium because the insurance is not provided by the company.

        3. A Manager*

          I agree!

          and honestly in this day and age, health insurance is a deal breaker for most. Marketplace plan of equivalent cost to an employer plan typically will be a much crappier plan and is subject to change every year. Also if they are just paying the employee that money then it’s taxed instead of all going toward the insurance.

          I would absolutely turn down a job without insurance (1. Because for me, I desperately need solid health insurance and 2. Because any employer who doesn’t see a need for health insurance is obviously one who doesn’t care much about their employees) and I agree, the lie of omission makes them seem dishonest and that’s a huge red flag in of itself. Insurance is a standard benefit for full time employees most places who have more than a couple employees so not explicitly saying they don’t have it is very deceptive.

          1. LTR FTW*

            100% agree on health insurance being a dealbreaker for me. Any company that doesn’t offer it (and then doesn’t even mention that they don’t!) would be a hard pass. As far as I’m concerned, providing DECENT health care for professional employees should be part of the cost of doing business these days.

            1. :)*

              I once got through a few rounds only for them to tell me (a single person) that the rest of their employees have insurance through their spouses so they don’t offer any health insurance. That was the reddest of the pink flags so I passed on the position only to get a nasty-gram email in response that they assumed I’d take the role so they sent rejection letters to their other candidates so I should at least start the job until they found someone else. …uh no.

            2. MusicWithRocksIn*

              Even if I was on my husbands plan and didn’t need my job to provide health insurance, I would never work at a place that didn’t offer it. I’ve worked for too many sub-professional level places that weren’t looking out for their employees to not recognize this as a huge red flag. I would immediately tag it as ‘sketchy af’ and nope out of that place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the person they hired leaves as soon as they can find a different job.

              1. Summer*

                That was my first thought – this new hire is going to be back to job searching asap.

                It sucks that health insurance is tied to employment; it shouldn’t be that way at all. But, until that is changed, any employer that doesn’t offer health insurance would be an immediate NOPE from me. Unless the salaries are so high for it to be a non-issue — which absolutely does not seem to be the case here.

                LW, you are misleading prospective employees. I don’t care that it’s not mentioned in the benefits sheet you provide; it is usually such a given that I doubt I’d think to ask. You are making employees purchase subpar plans on the marketplace and acting as if you’re doing them the favor. It’s insulting that you think otherwise.

          2. Cat Mom of 4*

            I agree 1000% – I would never take a job that didn’t offer generous health insurance. It is the main reason that I am stuck at my toxic job. I have some chronic conditions and take expensive medication for them. My employer offered a decent insurance plan for a decent price this year – though open enrollment is coming up so who knows if that will still be around. I can’t go on my spouse’s insurance because they are a vet and covered by the VA. I can’t just quit and have no insurance because one month of one medication out of pocket would cost almost all of my spouse’s VA disability payment. I am looking for new jobs but most of the ads state that insurance will not start until the 60 or 90 day point. The only other options would be super expensive COBRA, paying full price for a short term plan on the marketplace, or cobbling together old meds/rationing other meds while risking winding up in the hospital. I hate insurance and how it is tied to your job in America. And shame on this employer for not explicitly advising the new hire that they don’t offer any. Yes, the employee should have asked about it before accepting the offer, but definitely think the employer should have been more upfront.

        4. Johanna Cabal*

          Not to mention, it can challenging to find individual health insurance policies, especially if it’s a state that pushed against the health insurance changes from ten years ago.

        5. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Also, unless there’s some special tax trick I don’t know about (a possibility!), the employees would be losing out even if the company increased salaries enough to cover the increase, thanks to taxes.

          There is a tax trick, and it requires setting this up completely different. Instead of just increasing the salaries by $X/year, they would need to set up a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) and then fund each employee’s HRA account at $X/year. HRAs must be 100% employer-funded (unlike an HSA or FSA which employees can contribute their own funds to for tax benefits), and employees can use the funds to pay for qualified healthcare expenses. The employee must obtain Minimum Essential Coverage for the year in order for the compensation to be exempt from income tax, but whether or not the employee has MEC, payroll taxes (SS and medicare) are not levied.

          1. Le Sigh*

            My company does this. It’s a huge pain in the butt in terms of paperwork and tracking stuff, but it has otherwise worked fine over the years.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, this is better than doing nothing and expecting the employees to pay it all out of pocket after tax.

            But lots of small companies don’t have group health plans because they cost too much. This is part of what the ACA was designed to help with.

            My contract agency has a health plan, but it is such utter crap that I’m better off on COBRA from my old job or the marketplace. Their main plan has NO hospitalization coverage. None. Yet it’s expensive like it did.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I would not only mention very explicitly that health insurance is not included, but I would also add the information that there is a health insurance stipend included in salary, and I would break that figure out specifically for new employees and make sure that it is up to standard for today’s health insurance plans. I would provide this information along with the position offer.

      I also might provide a sheet upon hire with suggestions and tips and information about how to secure independent health insurance (like, maybe a matrix of several common companies and premiums for self, self +1, and self+family, then the sites where you can find copays and prescription prices). Many, many, many people have never had to seek out, price, and purchase their own health insurance, because people stay on their family insurance much longer than in the past, and then after that it’s included in jobs.

      I am well into my 40s, and I have never had a job that does not offer health insurance. In fact, I’ve had several part-time jobs that have offered health insurance. Not only would I assume it’s included, I wouldn’t think to ask. I would be fully expecting to receive health insurance sign-up forms on my first day of work, right along with direct deposit and 401K information.

      This would not be a dealbreaker for me, but it would be a big surprise, and people shouldn’t be surprised by this sort of thing.

      1. JustSomeone*

        I’m in my mid 30s and I’ve had two jobs where the organization was too small to offer health insurance. By the second I was married, so we just used my spouse’s, but I was still legally single during part of the first one so I had to do the whole shopping process.

        Both jobs did basically what @ GammaGirl1908 said; they didn’t lump everything together into one artificially-inflated salary, but instead laid out that they paid $X salary plus a $Y stipend toward purchasing your own health insurance.

        I would absolutely be upset if it wasn’t disclosed upfront that there is no health plan and no separate stipend for coverage. That’s not the kind of thing that you want to spring on someone.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I work in nonprofit where sadly some orgs do still try to get away with it, even some decent sized ones that offer reasonable salaries, so I would definitely ask if it didn’t come up – but in their defense, they are usually very clear about it in their job posting. You need to make it clear that up front bc there are some folks who would never be able to cover their costs on their own, so you’d be wasting your time interviewing them without letting them know this. Most people who didn’t mind before were probably married and able to use a spouse’s plan, so if this employee is the first single person over 26, that may be why it hasn’t come up before.

        What a disappointment, to go from thinking this is a decently generous salary and then realize it’s a small stipend to offset you covering all the cost of insurance, which will probably have them coming out behind on salary.

      3. ferrina*

        Exactly this. Eric is right that this is so standard in the U.S. that a candidate can reasonably assume this is part of the benefits. Some candidates (myself included) may have never worked for an employer that doesn’t offer insurance, and hasn’t navigated that process before. Definitely be up-front about this rather than putting the burden on the candidate to ask.

    3. Justme, The OG*

      I was looking for a new job a few years ago and a posting for a job at a small nonprofit put it in the posting that they didn’t offer health insurance. I knew not to apply because that would be a dealbreaker for me.

      1. The Original K.*

        I was approached and they didn’t tell me until the offer stage that they didn’t offer health insurance. I turned them down. I wouldn’t have gone through the process had I known they didn’t offer it. They did offer a meager subsidy but it quite literally wasn’t worth it. Even the head of the (tiny) org was on his spouse’s insurance – I think everyone was on either a spouse or parent’s insurance. I’m too old to be on my parents’ and don’t have a spouse, so it was a no.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Honestly, this is how it mostly happens in nonprofits – if everyone in the org is old enough to be on Medicare, young enough to be on their parent’s insurance, or married to someone with good insurance, it can slide under the radar for a while and seem fine. In nonprofits there can be a gross sense that people aren’t here for the money and are probably married to a spouse who makes a good living anyway, within the field. It’s definitely an equity issue.

          1. Waiting for the cable guy*

            This for sure. A new coworker at my non-profit said to me the other day that it sure seemed like a lot of the staff had side hustles. I said yeah, if you’re not married or in a dual-income household in some way, you pretty much have to. At one point, I had a part-time job and my side gig. It’s not a great thing.

          2. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

            That’s crazy to me. The one nonprofit I worked for had the best insurance package I’ve ever had, and I’m a state employee now.

            1. DisgruntledPelican*

              Yeah, I think sometimes people forget the breadth of organizations that fall under the “nonprofit” umbrella. It’s not all just tiny operations with a shoestring budget. I’ve worked for nonprofits my entire career and have always had excellent health insurance that was covered 100% by my employer.

        2. No Longer Gig-Less Data Analyst*

          I’m on my husband’s insurance through his work and I would still never take a job that didn’t offer it. What if some thing happens to my husband? What if he loses his job, or they switch to a terrible plan that costs a fortune and covers nothing?

          For most of our lives, we had no serious health issues. Between 2019 and 2021, my husband had a heart attack that required a stent, then he developed blood clots in his lungs, then I got colon cancer. He is on an outrageously expensive blood thinner for life, and all our hospital/surgery/specialist visits totaled hundreds of thousands, of which we paid very little. Having access to decent insurance is a 100% dealbreaker for me after all that.

          1. LT*

            Right, even if using my spouse’s insurance I would want to risk not using the option myself if circumstances changed.
            My husband has had the same job for 15 years, but the company has been bought and sold a few times in recent years, so we’re switched between mine and his a few times recently because their offering have changed so much.

    4. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, health insurance is so normal and standard that it needs to be stated very clearly when it’s not included. If a company didn’t explicitly explain that and instead expected me to notice it’s not there on a list of benefits, I would probably wonder if they were trying to hide it and hoping I wouldn’t notice until it’s too late. I don’t think OP or others at the company are being intentionally deceptive. They have all figured it out by now so it’s normal to them and they probably don’t think they need to point it out. But from the outside it might seem deceptive even if that’s not their intent.

      1. Antilles*

        But from the outside it might seem deceptive even if that’s not their intent.
        If I started at a job and found out that they didn’t offer health insurance, I would absolutely assume you hid this fact intentionally.
        It’s just such a departure for the norm AND such a potential deal-breaker that it very much seems like a “if we say this, it might sink the deal, so let’s cover this up” kind of thing. From the way OP wrote their letter, I’ll give OP credit that isn’t the case, but it would sure seem that way as a new hire.

        1. Sloanicota*

          When jobs in my field don’t offer it, it’s usually right there in the job posting. That’s what I recommend to OP. “No insurance but we offer a medical subsidy of X” and that subsidy is not counted in the salary number.

        2. The Original K.*

          Yep. I felt that way about the org that approached me and didn’t offer that information up front. It left a terrible taste in my mouth.

        3. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Conversely, at FirstRealJob, it was a “temp position” and it was explained that we were ineligible for insurance at that point. Further, our position lasted exactly XYZ days, and if we had not obtained a new position we would be done on such and such date. FirstRealJob was a step into my field, post-university. The statistics of those in that temp position who went on to be promoted into full time with amazing benefits was heavily weighted in favor of dealing with the added cost of pre-ACA independent insurance.

          I was extremely happy that it was clearly explained from the get-go, because it left no doubt about what I was interviewing for, and if I got the position, what I was going to need to achieve to move up. And further, it made it easier to deal with parental “WTF you mean there’s no healthcare! Surely you mis-understood” that happened. “Yeah, no, they were clear, I need to purchase my own independent health insurance while I’m in this position because ineligible is the word that applies here.”

      2. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

        Agreed. I would absolutely feel cheated and conned. I can’t even imagine being told not only that there was no health insurance available, but that the salary I had negotiated as fair market value for labor was seen by the company as covering labor plus cost of insurance (not to mention the taxes and 7-year difference mentioned above). I know insurance comes out of our paycheck anyway, but this feels very different.

        I wouldn’t necessarily quit on the spot, but I’d absolutely be spending every free second job hunting with the intent to leave as a matter of extreme urgency. Medical issues are the leading cause of bankruptcy for US citizens, and to me, this would be an employer that absolutely couldn’t be trusted.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          No way in hell am I taking a job with no health insurance as my main job (I wouldn’t expect it for part time). This is an anti-sell for your office. I am not kidding when I say I’d literally sell my soul to the devil for health insurance. That is EVERYTHING. If you can’t do it, then you can’t do it, but then you’ll have to deal with the consequences of that in some cases, like people leaving for it.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Nod. As you get older most people have something they need regular health care for and even healthy young folks have accidents

            1. Aggretsuko*

              I lived through my father being horribly handicapped for years and insurance paying to keep him alive on a ventilator for the last 2, and I know what diseases run in my gene pool. Insurance is everything.

            2. The Original K.*

              Yep. I’m young and have always been healthy (historically only needed preventive care; biggest health care cost was vision) but had some health issues this summer that I’m still paying for financially, and that’s with good insurance and in-network care. Everyone is healthy until they aren’t, and in the US that can be financially catastrophic.

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      I’m worried about the Special Enrollment Period – if I understand it correctly, the employee has 60 days from loss of coverage to get a marketplace plan, or else they might have to wait until Open Enrollment. If a new employee at this company has been out of work for a short period and was assuming they would be employed in enough time to get onto the new employer’s plan, could they be out of luck until then? Or does the ’employer doesn’t provide it’ offer a pathway into getting insurance outside of Open Enrollment?

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I would think starting new job that does not have health insurance would qualify as “qualifying new life event”. So if the employee lost insurance in July but started new job in October 1 they would have 60 days from when he started new job, as thats the most recent qualifing event.

        1. Sloanicota*

          They may (?) be able to do that retroactive cobra trick so that they can demonstrate they are within the time frame of losing coverage. Hopefully it will just be a month’s worth but it would still be expensive, yet another way OP’s job is costing them money.

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

              COBRA seems expensive to most people because you are suddenly paying the full amount (employer + employee) of the premiums. There’s an additional administrative fee, but it’s relatively small, only 2%. Even if the employer was only covering 50% of the premiums, your monthly cost suddenly doubles!

              OP’s employer is making employees pay the full premiums, too. So it’s kind of a wash. OP’s new employee’s old employer’s health insurance plan via COBRA might actually be a better deal.

              Part of the problem is that health insurance is gobsmackingly expensive in the US.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Well, in theory the state exchanges are subsidized – I don’t know how that plays out and I assume it varies widely by state of level of income. The state exchange is supposed to be cheaper than buying it on the open market from the company, which is what you’re doing with COBRA basically.

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

                  AFAIK the exchanges are subsidized only if the employees are making under a certain amount of income. It is still possible the premiums are cheaper because the pool is larger than most small employers, especially if there are some high-cost insureds in a particular small employer’s pool.

              2. Corrigan*

                This was pre Affordable Care Act, but when I lost my job in 2012 and was offered COBRA, my health insurance went from “free” to $900 a month, so it was pretty outrageously expensive

                1. Sloanicota*

                  I think this exactly the point though – your employer was always paying $900 a month for your coverage, minus a small admin fee that gets tacked onto COBRA. The cost never changed, just who was paying for it. This is in fact the cost OP’s organization is trying to get out of covering.

    6. Poppy*

      I was once told my job offered health insurance pre-ACA. It was Aflac catastrophic insurance that didn’t cover anything short of being hit by a bus or getting cancer (not that I would be diagnosed it didn’t cover much of anything). It also cost hundreds a month! I had to pay over $500/month for COBRA until thankfully the ACA came about and I was no longer screwed.

      I’ve started asking for details about health plans when taking new jobs because I don’t trust employers not to screw me over. You NEED to be transparent about this in this day and age.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, to be fair, the employee should have been asking about the details of the insurance plan before they agreed, even if they had no doubt there would be insurance, because some companies really screw around here and can, in effect, not be offering much coverage (only paying 50% or less; having one of those “Christian plans” that don’t meet ACA standards (I’m not trying to be insulting I believe that’s genuinely what those plans are called?) or having an incredibly high deductible that would wipe out most salary gains. I remember even at a past job where the coverage seemed good to me and pricey but not terrible, another employee told me it was a fortune to cover their spouse and children :( Like literally thousands.

        1. Sloanicota*

          However I don’t mean that comment to absolve OP – the company should have broken out the “insurance stipend” from the salary and run the numbers every year so everybody is clear on how much the employees are being screwed, which I have no doubt they are under this system, and they will likely find this affects their recruitment ability as it should.

        2. hopeful ex librarian*

          I recently accepted a full-time position and I would also have not thought to ask about health insurance in general (bc I’d assume it was included in a full-time position), and I definitely would not have thought to ask about the specifics of coverage beyond the name of the provider (ie: blue cross).

          if health insurance was not included at all, I would have expected that to be clearly spelled out in the job description itself.

    7. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

      Not offering something as basic as health insurance is a *huge* red flag for how the company treats its people, so I’m not surprised they’re not making it clear.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Yeah the whole “It was really expensive, so we dropped it” isn’t a good look. It is expensive, even more when the burden is placed solely on the employee. I absolutely support universal health care so insurance isn’t tied to one’s employer, however this is the system we currently have.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Right, the price increase got passed along to the employees, it just happened out of the employer’s sight. Unfortunately, I do not find exchange plans comparable to a good employer plan at the same price. You can shop for cheaper prices but the coverage is deficient. If you want a high quality plan, the cost is almost certainly more unless you are very low income and qualify for a subsidy. Since these are employees of a company and apparently got some kind of raise in lieu of insurance, I doubt they would qualify for the subsidy since the cut off is pretty low even in my blue state (I want to say it’s 30K? Might be less.)

          1. fhqwhgads*

            My understanding is it’s not a solid-single-mark cut off, and not a single subsidy. It’s all tiered. So someone making 30k might be elligible for one subsidy amount and someone making 45k would be elligible for some smaller subsidy. (These are fake numbers for example purposes only. I don’t know the actual caps.) And it varies by state.

            1. Sloanicota*

              See, in my state, I believe 30K is the point at which you receive no more subsidy (but I believe there’s a tax credit or something) and it goes down stepwise below that amount.

              1. 1LFTW*

                30k? Yikes.

                My state does income tiers, AND adjust those by COL/poverty line by the recipient’s county of residence. So it’s possible that someone living in a rural, low COL area might be penalized for making more than 30k? I don’t know. I *do* know that in my urban area, their income would need to more than double to get kicked up to the next, less-subsidized tier.

                My plan also compares very favorably with the employer-sponsored health plans I once received through my ex. I’d even say it’s among the best, since they authorize non-formulary medications within hours, as opposed to making me and my doctor run a months-long bureaucratic obstacle course, only to stick me with a much larger copay at the end of it.

                But you’re right: if I ever make enough money to get kicked off, the next-level plan is vastly more expensive *and* covers much less. Fortunately (?) I’m in the arts, so there’s little chance of that.

        2. MapleHill*

          +1 to all these comments!

          Also, does the employee get to use company time to research and price and call around to health plans? Because I’d be annoyed to find out that not only is it not provided or paid for, but I also have to now figure out the entire private insurance thing (which as many have pointed out, most people have never had to do) and waste my personal time doing it. So are employees doing that on lunch breaks and after work or are you at least ok with them doing that during paid time?

        3. LB*

          Yes, this is like if they said that office furniture was expensive, so on employees first day they find out they’re expected to purchase and assemble their own desk and chair and watercooler… and upon expressing surprise were told, “Well we never said we give you a place to sit!”

          Except even that example is significantly less expensive than the cost to employees of not having insurance provided by a full-time job. It’s bizarre enough that you’re going to waste your own time if you don’t very explicitly call it out in the job posting and interviews.

        4. Tracy Flick*

          Yeah, it’s up there with “We got sick of shelling out for payroll taxes every year, so we decided to convert all our employees into independent contractors.”

          1. See you anon*

            Don’t give them ideas. We’ve seen plenty of improperly classified “contractors” writing in on this site.

            1. Summer*

              Ding ding ding! That would be my husband! His boss classifies all employees as independent contractors and they get 1099s. Know what they are not? Independent contractors. They work for her, at the hours she sets, etc. because she “didn’t have the money to pay all those taxes when she started the business” and, according to her, this is more beneficial to the employees anyway. It’s such a joke but we’re afraid to say anything so we’re just trying to get him to a point where he can open his own business. But it sucks!

      2. Mockingjay*

        I wouldn’t say it’s a huge red flag; health insurance is a prohibitive business expense. Even a minimal plan can eat most of a small company’s profit – profit that would otherwise be invested in salaries, facilities, training, etc. And as OP4 described, rising costs can make a company health plan unaffordable – I’ve seen this at other companies myself.

        The company should have made the lack of a plan plain to prospective employees. In this case, I would urge the company to offer some assistance in helping the new employee find and pay for coverage. And definitely follow Alison’s advice to make the lack of insurance clear going forward.

        1. Antilles*

          I know that health insurance is expensive for businesses, that it’s always rising, that it can eat up a lot of money that could be spent other ways. All totally true and valid facts, but also ones that as an employee, I don’t really care about.
          Health insurance in the US is a very normal and standard business expense for salaried jobs. Not covering it very much seems like a red flag – either that you’re very tight against the wall fiscally or that you don’t prioritize taking care of employees. Whether your reasons for doing so are valid or invalid, it’s still reads the same.
          (Exception if you’re in an industry/role where “not offering insurance” is the norm, but that doesn’t seem to be the situation here)

        2. Witch of Dathomir*

          It’s a prohibitive business expense but it’s still a business expense, just like the lease and utilities for a company with a physical location, or tax and unemployment insurance costs. A company that can’t afford to insure its employees can’t afford to do business; they certainly can’t afford the turnover or sick leave time that the lack of insurance will cause.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah, I remember when we were talking about raising the minimum wage in my state there were a lot of folks saying “if your small business can’t afford to pay employees a livable wage, then you can’t afford to be in business.” It’s not about your ego as a restaurant owner or whatever; you’re not profitable if you can only “make it” by gauging your workers!! I bet this business managed to absorb other cost increases as the price of doing business. It’s sad how our economy considers goods to be essential and employees are just a waste of money somehow.

        3. LB*

          It is expensive, but the fact that this company would go so against norms by dropping it would make me curious about what other basic expectations and protections they’re willing to get creative about in order to save themselves money at the employees’ expense.

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

          It’s not inherently unethical to not offer health insurance, and I assume OP’s employer is legally allowed not to. But it is definitely not cool of them to not clearly disclose it BEFORE salary negotiations. It’s also short-sighted; I would expect that OP’s new employee, who just took an unexpected pay cut and found out their new employer is not cool, will resume their job search and will be gone ASAP.

          1. Lydia*

            It depends on what you mean by unethical. In the US, where employment and health insurance are almost inextricably linked and a lot of people don’t have the luxury of being on someone else’s insurance, I’d say it’s unethical not to offer it.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Honestly, if your company can’t afford to provide its employees with adequate compensation and benefits, it can’t afford to stay in business.

    8. Beth*

      I would absolutely expect any full time position in the U.S. to include health insurance. I would also expect that I would have to pay towards it in most cases, but would be aghast if it were not even offered. That it is not offered needs to be explicitly stated in both the interview process and offer letter.

    9. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes, yes, yes. I haven’t job searched since a member of my immediate family was diagnosed with a very expensive ongoing medical condition, and now I’d be asking questions about costs and coverage before accepting an offer. But if I got to my first day and found out we would have to go shopping on the exchange, I’d start panicking. For starters, my son’s monthly prescriptions are thousands of dollars out of pocket. If it took weeks or months to choose and get enrolled in a plan and start coverage on the exchange, and then to get all the approvals and paperwork through for his specific prescriptions, it could have real consequences.

      When I was single and had no medical issues, I would have found this a minor annoyance. For someone with significant medical needs, this would be very important to know up front.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Also, I don’t have experience with the marketplace, and plans aren’t allowed to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, but I’m willing to hazard a guess that the plans would be overall more expensive and more resistant to paying for some of my son’s costs than many employer-sponsored plans.

        (My son has type 1 diabetes. Our current insurance has been great about covering his insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor, the prescribed brand of insulin, etc. I hear from other people with type 1 that fighting for coverage with insurance companies can become a part-time second job.)

        1. Cat Mom of 4*

          I am with you there. Last year I used up most of my lunches for a few weeks trying to get prior authorization for one of my diabetes prescriptions. The prescription insurance company kept insisting they hadn’t received the form from my doctor’s office and we went round and round. Before it got approved, my husband had asked what I wanted for an anniversary present and I asked him if we could pay out of pocket for a refill. $300 for a 3 month supply and that’s a bargain for some diabetes meds.

      2. Smeep248*

        I have some physical and mental health issues – I always get the highest tier insurance and max out my FSA each year and still come out of pocket for a lot. When I was offered a job, I carefully considered what I’d be paying for all of my routine medical appointments and premiums, not to mention what a mid-year change did (I’d just hit my out of pocket maximum and spent my entire FSA so was starting over and out of pocket completely). I definitely asked for a breakdown of their coverage and negotiated a higher salary because of this.

      3. Katrine Fonsmark*

        I’m curious why you wouldn’t always have asked about this up front – I guess I’ve always thought that getting details on health insurance plan options/costs was a part of the normal due diligence you do before accepting an offer.

        1. Lydia*

          I’ve never worked somewhere that didn’t tell me before I was in the door, so I still could make the decision to not accept the offer.

        2. Retired Accountant*

          Agree. I wouldn’t take a job without health insurance and I would ask about it when I got the offer. Too many variables even with companies that do offer it to wait until after I’d accepted an offer.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          In the past I’d have made sure there was health insurance and that the premiums and copays weren’t outrageous, but I basically would have been like “there’s decent health insurance, cool, that box is checked.” I wouldn’t have looked at the plan’s formulary, noticed the difference between a $15 and a $45 copay for a tier 1 prescription, etc.

          1. Cat Mom of 4*

            Exactly. And you never know what the cost will be at your local pharmacy – it may be higher. Some companies try to steer you into using their preferred mail order pharmacy.

    10. Anothergloriusmorning*

      Agreed. I would be so upset if I got a new job only to find out I had no insurance. I would seriously consider walking if I wasn’t told.

    11. Ghostlight*

      That’s simply not true though. My US industry does not have standard health insurance through employers. There are plenty that do, but my first response to that was “oh you poor innocent one thinking you automatically get health insurance just from starting a job, you must be fresh out of school.”

        1. Ghostlight*

          Nobody said it’s a flex. It’s a huge problem. My point is that based on the industry you’re in things are very different so if someone is changing industries or working in certain ones, it’s not at all surprising that it’s not even thought of by some.

          You all seem to be lucky that you are in an industry where it’s the norm, but how about you check your privilege and realize that you are actually not correct that the majority of US employers offer health insurance. (As of 2021, it was about 50-50 and who knows what or who that leaves out without far more research.)

          1. fhqwhgads*

            OK but there’s nothing in the letter so suggest this new employee is taking a job in a different industry, nor an industry where not offering insurance is the norm. So, how does what you said help the LW?
            I’m also sort of surprised to hear you calling it industry-specific, since the ACA applies based on number of full time employees. So you’re basically saying your entire industry is companies with less than 50 FTE? I do realize there are A TON of small employers, so maybe the employee’s assumption was bad if they knew how small the new company was, but it’s either misleading of you, or a misunderstanding you have to be calling this industry dependent.

          2. Parakeet*

            As of March 2022, 73% of all workers in the US and 88% of full-time workers in the US had access to employer-provided health care. The 50/50 stat is because not everyone with access uses it (some people are on a spouse’s, for instance!). While it is indeed industry-dependent, as the data at that link shows, and indeed correlates with wages (jobs in the lowest wage quartile are way less likely to include health insurance access), it is in fact the norm for employers in the US to offer health insurance, and the exception for them to not offer health insurance. Even among employers with fewer than 50 employees, more than half offer health insurance.

      1. Lydia*

        Or, maybe, you poor exploited worker who thinks it’s normal and acceptable that your employer doesn’t offer healthcare as a standard part of your employment benefits. Someone’s out of touch, here, and it’s not who you think.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Your industry is in the minority. The vast majority of full time employees in the US are offered health insurance through their workplace.

    12. Heffalump*

      20 years ago I went to work at a company that had about 150 employees. I naturally assumed that there would be at least a few days of sick pay per year–after all, past employers of mine with 10 or 15 employees had offered it. A couple of months in, I was sick for a couple of days and was unpleasantly surprised to learn that there was no sick pay. Not as bad as no health insurance, but same principle.

      1. Katrine Fonsmark*

        You didn’t ask about time off benefits before accepting the job? Like insurance, this is something that’s so crucially important to me that I would never accept a position without knowing those details in advance so I could make an informed decision.

        1. Sarita*

          Honestly, I’m at the point in my career and payscale my jaw would drop if I learned I didn’t get sick leave at a new company. Like I would just assume of course there is sick leave. So it’s a good reminder to check on stuff like that.

    13. Katrine Fonsmark*

      While I agree that it’s so standard in the US that I would just assume it’s offered, I would never accept a job without detailed info on the insurance options in advance!! My current position sent all that info without my even having to ask, along with the offer. If they don’t offer it I always ask. A previous job did in fact offer health insurance, but it covered so little, and was so expensive – it ate up 11% of my salary just paying my portion. One of a million red flags that I should never have taken that job, but I digress.

      I just don’t see how a person accepts a job without knowing the health insurance costs/benefits in advance.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I think it takes a few jobs to know what to ask about! In my first job after college, it didn’t even occur to me because I’d never had to think about my own insurance. My first two jobs both happened to cover employee premiums 100%, so it didn’t occur to me to ask about coverage and premiums at my 3rd job. At that time I was single, healthy, and had no dependents so good coverage really wasn’t a dealbreaker. It honestly wasn’t until my 5th job, when I was 30, that I knew to scrutinize the benefit details.

        This is one of those things you don’t know until you know, and if no one tells you when you’re young you have to figure it out by yourself through experience.

    14. See you anon*

      I agree that insurance is so standard that I would expect it to be there, but wouldn’t you also ask about your premiums and plan details before signing? They can vary widely! For example my out of pocket premium is zero and my mom’s is 500/month for her and my dad. And my coverage is better. Obviously that has major impacts on take home salary! If when I asked about premiums and coverage details they said that they didn’t offer insurance I’d turn down an offer. But I wouldn’t just assume the plan was a good one even if they said they offered one.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Part of it I think is that young invincibles don’t use their insurance much, so even though they should absolutely check what the monthly premium will be for them (something that I actually find weirdly hard to determine from the standard package info) they may figure the cheapest plan will be somewhere around $100-300 and they can absorb that with their new salary. A lot of the trickiness comes when you actually use the insurance, when things like deductibles, copays, poor in-network options etc come up. People who know they have chronic illness and will absolutely hit the out of pocket max are good at confirming the details of the plan. A 27 year old newly off the parent’s plan who doesn’t go to the doctor much or at all does not (have been fortunate not to go to the doctor myself in, what, three years now, and my friends are all in the same boat).

      2. Tracy Flick*

        I think part of the problem with this is that you don’t really know the math unless and until you get sick.

        For example, if I have a health problem that requires a lot of specialized medication and specialist care, I’m in a completely different situation from someone whose health problem requires generic meds but can also land them in the ER every few months.

        And if you’ve never been sick at all, this stuff makes about as much sense as compound interest does to your average 19-year-old theater major.

    15. Pumpkin215*

      This is not the same situation, but similar when it comes to assumptions. I was offered a position and the salary was on the low side. I asked the internal recruiter how much the yearly bonus was. His reply was “Bonus? What bonus? Who said anything to you about a bonus?”.

      It came across as snarky and rude. I pointed out that normally positions at this level have a yearly bonus. There was none. My assumption was based off of this being a large, nation wide company. But even working at Ma and Pa places, I have always gotten some sort of bonus. This company did not offer them to any of their employees.

      With the lower salary and no bonus, that was an even less enticing offer. When in doubt, ASK!

    16. oranges*

      This situation reminds me of when my husband bought a 2015 Toyota sedan, specifically for the gas mileage efficiency, and it DID NOT HAVE CRUISE CONTROL.

      He was baffled, since he just assumed cruise control was a standard feature on cars. When he double-checked, it wasn’t listed on the features list, but he would have never thought to look for it.

      Lesson learned, but it left a very bad taste with us. He’ll never go back to that dealership again.

    17. Sleepy*

      Totally agree. Most people will assume and it will be a dealbreaker for a lot of people. Plus, they ought to break out exactly how much is considered part of the health insurance stipend.

  3. GingerCookie*

    Tell your PI “Well… am out of ideas” since you already gave him ideas. Some people… they just can’t… be… pleased!

    Also in my different jobs over the years I’ve found PIs… more likely to be subject to… mopping fits and the like. Like if he wants to delegate it he can it’s his lab. PIs… some don’t know how to manage…

    1. Sloanicota*

      Sadly I think it’s totally clear what the PI wants – they want a social media platform that puts their accomplishments front and center, showing interviews with them, media hits about their research and the important people they meet, etc. They want to raise their personal profile to further their political ambitions. It’s just that this is a PR job and no researcher in the lab is going to find that fun or rewarding to take on, and it’s the kind of thing most people either have to do themselves or pay someone to do for them.

    2. sam_i_am*

      I work in academia and, on the whole, professors *really* do not know how to manage people. And I don’t really blame them: that type of soft skill is not a thing that’s valued in academia until you’re suddenly thrust into it. Their performance metrics come from a lot of solo work while they’re in grad school and post-docs, so they just never really get a chance to learn management skills.

      1. Bread Crimes*

        Sigh. Very true. My department had some very blunt conversations with ABD grad students going onto the job market about what sorts of skills were actually valued when it came to getting tenure at different types of institutions, and a lot of things we should care about on a practical/ethical level will, in fact, not be rewarded in the slightest by that process.

      2. JustaTech*

        As someone who left academia partly because of this total lack of management skills, what I wouldn’t give for PIs to have at least a few basic classes in management. Like, really basic stuff like “berating and belittling your staff until they cry is not an effective method of improving their work product, and no it doesn’t matter if that’s how your PI treated you”.

    3. Underrated Pear*

      The problem with this, and with Alison’s advice, is that with most academic advisors, I know, you just… can’t say that. Speaking as a PhD who now works in an academic-adjacent-but-not-academia career, there are so many practices in academia that any other workplace would consider borderline abusive, and the advisor/advisee relationship is frequently one of these practices. Of course the majority of advisors are perfectly decent people, but still, they have SO MUCH POWER over their students and their students’ career prospects that the student is pretty much beholden to do everything they ask, no matter how unreasonable.

  4. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW1, your boss should be on LinkedIn if that’s the kind of content he wants to share. Most other social media sites are ideal for lab cat pics and dromedary brackets!

    1. Mangled Metaphor*

      LinkedIn contains pictures of cats too!

      It sounds more like the PI wants a *personal* social media presence, not a lab-wide one.

      Buy him a trumpet – he can toot his own darn horn.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Seconding this. The key aspect your boss is missing is first identifying a demographic. Social Media is marketing and marketing requires a target audience. Is he trying to secure funding? Then maybe LinkedIn with his political photos. But if he’s trying to drum up public interest in the sciences, the “fun” ways will work. In your next meeting, have him elaborate on what the end goal is for social media work.

      I’ve workee with far too many orgs that say “oh! Social media, we need it!” But then don’t know where to go for corn because they don’t realize that most folks under 25 aren’t on Facebook- folks over that aren’t on TikTok, and nobody outlines the image they want to share (your boss with politicians doesn’t work for a YouTube short for example).

      So lay out for your boss which social media outlet is for what, show him examples of campaigns on each, and see what he says.

      Also, if this is all about him and not about the lab it might be worth showing him the audiences and leaving it for him to do.

    3. amoeba*

      Although, to be fair, academia twitter is also full of people posting about actual science (publications etc.) – there’s definitely tons of “serious” content out there, it’s a weird parallel world.
      However, photos posing with politicians… not so much.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I work in government, & we don’t have a lot of photos of people posting with politicians!

        We like pics of cute kids. (Also, for anyone who does visuals for large photo libraries: Please create more showing kids with disabilities. We tend to recycle the same photos all the time. I’m pretty sure some of the models are grown with their own kids now.)

  5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    The PI doesn’t want ideas about social media for the LAB, they want personal validation. What does an academic lab need social media for anyway? A lab cat would garner a bunch of likes, sure, but what’s the purpose?? Attract prospective students, Fellows, grants, private donors…? Figure out what the PI hopes to accomplish, because it sounds entirely like a vanity project.

    1. Jessica*

      Maybe it’s pointless and would have been a waste of the LW’s time, but I still would have liked to see the lab cats.

    2. Language Lover*

      The lab cats would probably attract followers and attention. And the eyeballs that came for the fun posts (cats!) will eventually also see the serious posts.

      That’s why the proposed strategy is a good one if they’d like a social media presence to highlight their work.

      But you’re right, this guy doesn’t seem to really want that.

    3. Green beans*

      As someone who runs research (non profit but formerly academic) social media, (1) sharing your actual research to other researchers and laypeople, (2) talking to other scientists and laypeople about their field in general or about problems in academia, (3) sharing advice or asking for advice on career stuff, including highlighting pathways for under represented minorities, (4) highlighting culture (5) promoting change (6) publicly celebrating lab achievements

      1. linger*

        … and in academia, (7) ticking the “community outreach” box. This should be primarily about engaging with (i) communities directly affected by the lab’s research; (ii) the general public, to raise awareness of and interest in the field. The plan proposed by OP’s Magnum PI does neither of these things. Instead, Magnum PI seems to have misinterpreted “documenting community outreach” as recording their schmoosing of community leaders.

        1. Pied Piper*

          The only thing I can add to this conversation is that, as a postdoc in an academic lab, I am TOTALLY stealing “Magnum PI” for the very special PI on our current grant.

          Thanks, linger!

      2. Underrated Pear*

        I love it when academics branch out into more “real-world” communication, like popular press, social media, etc. The issue is that while I think this is completely worthwhile, the labor of it can’t fall onto the grad students/early career scholars, because as any academic knows, its value on an academic CV is approximately zero, and students are stretched thin enough trying to keep up with the overwhelming demands of academic competition these days.

        The tenured faculty member can and should engage in this sort of social media/public communication and use their position to move the needle in terms of what is valued in academia. But until that needle moves *a lot*, they should also be helping their grad students play the academic game properly, which means having them do things that will eventually help them find a career in academia, if that’s what the students are aiming for. Acting as free publicists for the advisor’s political aspirations is a waste of their time and will harm their own careers by taking time away from what they need to be doing.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      I work in a comms and events tole for a scientific institute at large university. There is a huge science community on Twitter and a pretty sizeable one on LinkedIn too. It’s especially useful for public engagement (video from a patient tour of our facility was one recent example) and for promoting events and job listings. Posting events and job listings from other departments and institutes has been a great way to build relationships with their comms teams, and also with the speakers at our events, who will help us to promote their talks.

      We can do all of this because we have an incredible social media manager. Our university does offer optional training for researchers who’d like to use it to promote and discuss their work – but it’s entirely optional and comes with the expectation that department and institute social channels will be managed only by comms staff. OP #1’s boss needs to either hire a comms person (or consultant) and then get out of their way, or stick to the self-promotion on their personal account and settle for the odd retweet from the lab account.

      Also, I really want to see the lab cats!

      1. OP #1 is here!*

        I like this “hire a comms person” or “see if the university has comms people who can do this” idea. Because, yeah, not our area of expertise. Thanks!

        1. Michelle*

          OP #1, push for University Comms because they will take note of any inappropriate “lobbying” with political figures (a huge no no at our university).

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yes, University Comms/PR are not going to do your social media for you, but they will definitely have standards and guidelines that you have to follow.

            A couple of other things to bear in mind:
            1. Video generally gets good social media engagement if used sparingly and the videos are short (3-4 minutes max), but video editing is incredibly time consuming (ditto podcast editing), so you will need a dedicated comms person if you’re going big on either of those things.

            2. Your PI needs to decide if he wants to use social media for self-promotion/ego stroking or to promote the lab’s work. If it’s the former, he needs to put thar stuff on his personal LinkedIn or Twitter. “Doing” social media without a strategy or an idea of exactly what you want to do or achieve is a recipe for disaster.

          2. Artemesia*

            Yes universities have very firm rules about who can approach whom about what. Any attempts to privately lobby for grant support or approach possible private donors is a giant big ‘no’ and a giant big deal. I have seen people who casually contacted acquaintances who are big cheeses run afoul of these rules.

          3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            I’ll also note, too, that when he shoots down their ideas they will be in a much better position to push back on him that they are the experts in this area.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Bet you a box of Krispy Kreme donuts he nixes bringing in the comms people. He KNOWS that what he really wants to use SM for is a big no-no. He’s hoping by dumping it off on you all he can work around it.

          1. Green beans*

            That’s why you don’t ask before reaching out – you just do it and let the university regulations people, who can say no, do their work.

        3. TPS reporter*

          Definitely stick to hiring someone who does this as per of their nob. Are you certain there are no kiss butt types in the lab who will undermine the rest by catering to him? That’s the only thing I would be worried about. There is strength in numbers if you all decline!

      2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Non-scientist, non-academic here. But my Twitter feed is about 50% academic-museum-science adjacent. And there’s ways to build accounts that keep a specific mission in mind while still being charming and accessible (e.g., dromedary brackets). It’s one way that people can remind an audience that science/historical eels/obscure farming practices etc can be interesting and relevant to anyone, which could lead a sceptic to that major or field of research. (And, tells me that I can be a person of knowledge and interest too, in the things that I’m good at, which is pretty empowering.)

        1. Lydia*

          There’s a whole world of science communication that exists to make science more accessible to people. I have a friend who is doing post-grad work, does science communication, and is really good at it. There are awards for posters at science conferences. Being able to communicate your research is necessary if you want people to appreciate the importance of science and research.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      As soon as I heard “very serious”, “notable politicians” and “minor government position”, I too thought “vanity project”.

    6. OP #1 is here!*

      Yep, I think you pretty much nailed it on the vanity project. But I do like the idea of being specific about what he hopes to accomplish, beyond “engagement”…because engagement is a means to an end, and not an end in itself, after all.

    7. Well...*

      There are lots of great reasons for a lab to have a social media presence. It increases the impact of your research to spread the results to the public. You’ll get more citations if more of your colleagues are aware of what you’re working on.

      Social media metrics can be cited in grant applications as evidence of outreach AND impact of research. Some grants (the Marie Curie posdoc fellowship, for example) explicitly ask for this.

      Check out CERN’s social media presence, IP policies, and professional training programs. That’s all partially engineered around EU grant requirement.

        1. Artemesia*

          But whether personal puffery or making the lab’s work more valuable, I would think things like camels and lab cats would come across as juvenile and unserious. I dial up the cancer research lab and see lots of silly it is going to make me wonder about who is running the joint. Yes — old and out of touch, but still I visit a fair number of internet sites and those devoted to serious work tend to not have a lot of silly stuff.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            It depends on wha is understood by social media, no? I could see having lab cats and fact of the day on instagram or tiktok (or whatever the youths are now using), and a link to the website, where the serious science is.

            I you are looking for info on your cancer research lab, chances are you’d go to their website, not their instagram (where information content is veeeery limited by design anyway).

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              There is no contradiction between the occasional cute content and communicating actual science. Even the odd politician visit can find room there, if it’s not too much of a foreground topic. We certainly have cute baby animals (big hairy beast from around the Arctic) in May that are very well liked, picturesque weather phenomena etc. as well as links / information to new long-form content.

          2. Meowsy*

            I feel like this is actually the PI commenting.

            Science Twitter is a beautiful balance of “serious” information (new discovery) and showing that scientists are, in fact, whole ass people with interests and a sense of humor beyond their research. It makes their actual “serious” content more accessible.

            1. iliketoknit*

              I’m not the PI, but I do think it’s a defensible position to want to be “serious” on social media, depending on what you want to accomplish, who you want to reach, and what kind of image you want to present. I’d personally love to see lab cats, but I’m also not a PI running a lab who wants to position the lab in a certain way. So I think it’s the PI’s prerogative to shoot down the more fun/quirky/humanizing approaches, and to be honest, once he’d shot down the lab cat list of approaches, coming back with March Madness dromedary brackets doesn’t seem very responsive. The problem here is that he’s not being helpful/productive about what he wants to see instead (srs lab is srs =/= PI schmoozing political figures), and expects the people in his lab to take on the work of figuring out how to articulate and execute what he does want, when it’s not what they’re paid for, not what they’re trained to do, and not what they’ll be rewarded for in the context of a conventional academic career.

              I mean, I agree that the PhD student/post-doc recommendations are much more likely to lead to broader social media success, but the PI’s still allowed to dictate the social media image even if his approach will have a narrower reach.

              Of course, that also depends on the PI having a realistic expectation for the outcome. It sounds like he’s the type to want to be SERIOUS (or here, promote himself) but also want the kind of broad-reaching results that come from lab cats and dromedary brackets, so getting involved in this is a no-win situation (you’re doing it wrong because you’re not serious enough, or you’re doing it wrong because you’re not getting enough followers/engagement/etc.).

          3. Lydia*

            This really isn’t the case now as much as it used to be, and there is a vast difference between a website and a Twitter account. If you look up the website of Knight Cancer Institute, you’re going to see a big difference between what they put on their website compared to what individual labs will put on their Twitter feed. Part of science communication is making science accessible and if you come across as distant and stiff, you aren’t really communicating there are people doing work on these big projects. This isn’t the world of the man in the white lab coat droning on about cell reproduction anymore.

    8. DataSci*

      I see two potential Twitter accounts here. A cute “lab cats” one, and a semi-serious scicomms one sharing new results and cool stuff about how the lab works. I follow a ton of scientists on Twitter! It’s a great way people share quickly with others in their field and interested members of the public. PI posing with politicians? Unless it’s POTUS, that goes on their personal account.

      (Too young for Facebook, too old for TikTok, so Twitter is my social media of choice.)

  6. Passionfruit Tea*

    LW1 push for them to hire a professional for a meeting. Declare since they’re so set on this looking professional they need an expert. And then wash your hands of it.

  7. Emily Bembily*

    Social media manager here: This PI is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks anyone cares about pics of him with politicians more than cats. So many bosses focus on what they think is “professional” and miss that the key to being popular on social media is often precisely that it’s NOT a perfectly polished platform for “professional” content

    1. John Smith*

      Entirely agree. We had a social media platform for an aspect of our work, and the one post that got the most likes was the one that ended our presence. It was regardng a goofball of a mistake we made, but we moved heaven and earth to get it sorted, much to the clients satisfaction and praise. The post took a humorous self deprecating approach with bits of seriousness and was well regarded by a lot of our service users, peers and other organisations who asked permission to use it as an example of excellence in complaint management and quality assurance. Our manager flipped, demanded the post be removed and emailed anyone who liked the post to demand they remove the content. It didn’t go down well and received some rather colourful metaphors as to our boss’s attitude. In reality, he was jealous because it wasn’t his idea and, though his sole contribution was to cause the mistake made to begin with, he didn’t feature specifically in any part of the post. With some people, you just can’t win.

        1. John Smith*

          A couple told him where he could go, some repeated their descriptions of him (my fave being “absolute bellend who’d fuck up a one piece jigsaw puzzle”) and others asked how he managed to keep his job. A question we would all like an answer too!

    2. Allonge*

      I think the point is that before the ‘cats or politicians’ question comes up, you need to be sure what you want to achieve with the social media channel for the lab. Both cats and politicians might be totally inappropriate depending on what your objective is.

      I mean, sure, there will be more people who are like ‘awww, lab cats’ than the same for handshakes, but this is not the point.

      In communications, all too often people start at the wrong end – I want social media, let’s make a video, let’s have branding – instead of ‘I want these people to pay attention because X’ and then select the appropriate tools.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, unfortunately the content most likely to go viral on social media and attract a lot of eyeballs is exactly the kind of content least likely to demonstrate your expertise unless you are very, very skilled. It’s fair to want a serious social media platform and accept that you will have a smaller reach with it. That’s certainly the route most of the orgs I’ve been in have taken. And yes, they all want their interview with some boring political figure about some dry regulatory matter to “go viral” haha.

        1. Green beans*

          You’re a postdoc, I’m guessing? If you can, also spend time getting your own funding. Then you basically do what you want and it’s easier to get another job because you’re paying your own salary and have money for research.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Oh no, I’m not in Academia and can’t comment on that, but I’m in nonprofit where they all want to have an active social media but want it to be issue-focused and serious (I’m not arguing with that, in fact) but are then confused why they don’t go viral, don’t have big follower counts, lots of comments, etc. It’s *social* media, it is intended for fun stuff, those are just incompatible goals IMO.

    3. Sylvan*

      +1

      I’m a content writer in digital marketing, not social media marketing, so I don’t think I can give detailed advice for this letter writer. Being straightforward and personable is good, though. Readers can tell when you’re trying to impress them and they really do not like it.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Yep. The problem with people like the PI is that the question “will anyone care about this?” never enters their minds – as I’m sure you well know! I’m in marketing as well, and so many of the requests I get to send an email or post a blog follow a train of thought that’s roughly: me/my team/the company did something impressive -> other people will think this is impressive -> tell other people so they can be impressed!

      A former colleague used to compare this style of social media to going to a party and then just standing in the middle of the room talking loudly about yourself the whole time.

      People on social media are not a captive audience. They have the option to just keep scrolling if you’re not interesting them. The same rules of being a good conversationalist apply to good marketing communications: Try to find something to talk about that will hold the other person’s attention. Spend at least as much time listening as you do talking. Tailor your responses and follow-ups based on the feedback you hear during the listening.

  8. KayEss*

    I worked somewhere that didn’t offer health insurance for spouses/dependents, and didn’t find that out until after I started… and my spouse really needed coverage because their job didn’t offer any at all. I chalked it up to my own naivete (it was the first job I’d ever gone through a full interviewing and hiring process for) rather than them being deliberately deceptive, but then it wound up being a workplace full of misrepresentations by management, deeply weird internal politics, and generally toxic seething resentment, so looking back I kind of wonder. If something like that somehow happened again with a new job, I’d be taking it as a big red flag. So yeah, as a workplace you should volunteer that info and spell it out very clearly at or before the point of the offer.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Wouldn’t this be the kind of thing said explicitly as part of the onboarding/paperwork handover process? It sounds like too important a matter to hope that they read that particular bullet point in the paperwork. Someone who doesn’t have particular concerns will just see the words “health insurance” and possibly not see that the phrasing is negative. I would verbally confirm with them that they got the message. That said, I’m English and possibly missing why the absence of insurance would be obvious.

      1. CravingLemonMeringuePie*

        In the US, “onboarding” usually happens on the 1st day the employee reports to begin the new job, or certainly within the 1st week of employment – so clarity around the lack of insurance benefits wouldn’t be explicitly apparent until that time.

        The risk of waiting to include the info in the new hire onboarding (as opposed to highlighting it prior to a hiring discussion) is that upon discovering the lack of coverage, an employee who desperately needs health insurance may then feel forced to quit. Or he/she/they may say nothing during the onboarding beyond mildly expressing surprise….but immediately begin to quietly
        look for a new job with insurance coverage.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Actually the case here as well – I forgot that only teachers have all kinds of documents to produce as part of the offer!

        2. Sloanicota*

          It should be in the job *posting* at the bottom under “benefits.” It should say “no health insurance provided” and/or list what the medical stipend amount is, if they were genuine about that, which they probably were not and it’s just lumped into the salary. No one should be applying for this job without understanding this. They should also mention it in the initial phone screening call.

          1. Tracy Flick*

            I think it’s extremely dishonest to refer to a ‘stipend’ if it’s not money on top of the listed salary. I would assume that if a job posting listed a salary range of $Whatever and then mentioned a ‘stipend’ that my compensation would be $Whatever + stipend, just like it would effectively be $Whatever + $Premium if I did get health coverage.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I agree. Especially since tax-wise it’s going to be treated as salary; as an applicant I would wonder if the stipend was going to be a tax-advantaged HSA account or something.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                Exactly. A company I used to work for would categorize some items as “reimbursement” since it was the easiest way for accounting to give us stipends for cell phones and car usage without it being counted as income and paying taxes on it. That was a tiny company with less than 12 employees, so it was much easier (they way I understood it) than going the route you mentioned. I would be angry if I’m given $100/month to cover my cell phone but I only have end up with a percentage of that!

          2. Tracy Flick*

            Actually, there was a counterexample in a letter a while ago.

            Remember when a company sent out an email to all employees explaining that their compensation was actually $[large number] because in addition to $[measly actual pay] they were getting $[life insurance] + $[parking passes] + $[access to the watercooler] or whatever?

            This would feel about as honest.

        3. Johanna Cabal*

          I think OP should be prepared to restart the hiring process very soon. New hire is going to leave for a job that provides health insurance.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Honestly, I would, if I had previously thought I was going to be making a decent salary with insurance, but then realized part of that salary was intended to be some kind of partial insurance stipend situation. That’s essentially taking a huge salary cut right after hiring. (I would also, however, have learned about investigating insurance more thoroughly, because even in companies that offer it, out of pocket costs can vary wildly between jobs and you can end up in essentially this situation anyway). I *guess* there’s an exception if the salary was truly so high above market rate, but based on what OP says I seriously doubt that’s the case. It’s probably low wage + small stipend = decent seeming wage.

  9. AceyAceyAcey*

    LW 1: can you point your PI to your school’s PR department? Consider giving them control of the account if possible. Or if not, then someone administrative in your own department.

    LW 5: If this question is about academia (faculty especially), you will need to include the references on a separate PDF, and/or enter them into the system, and they will have to send a letter for every application you submit, before you know if you will be in the first round of interviews.

    1. Green beans*

      The university’s PR department won’t run a lab social media (and it’s the kind of ask that would get, uh, talked about at the water cooler.)

      It’s also not something that should be handed off to an administrator in the department. They’re not there to manage lab stuff. At most, the professor’s admin assist might be asked, but even then that’s pretty uncommon.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I work for universities in the UK, and whilst they wouldn’t run an individual lab’s social media, they would certainly have some interest and guidelines and what you can/can’t/should/shouldn’t use it for. And “promoting the PI’s political career” would not usually come under the “can/should” heading.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        The *university’s* PR department wouldn’t, but the *scientific research lab* would, or would be able to provide substantial, on-point help. The former are professionals in higher ed PR, eg with a slant depending on whether this is a public or private institution. The latter are, in our case, people with STEM degree + formal education in science communication, usually educated at the master’s level.

        1. Green beans*

          Hmmm. Those aren’t common in American universities as far as I know (and I’m a person with a STEM degree and formal education in science communication at the master’s level.)

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            We’re a small state institution (though one with substantial federal research funding), and we have these, separately for the overall university, the research institutions and the academic departments.

            1. Green beans*

              We have department comms people but they’re not responsible for lab social media – they may provide some guidance or policies but they don’t run it, don’t want the passwords, and aren’t going to waste time trying to talk the PI into developing an effective social media (they will make it clear what can’t be done.) And it’s really uncommon for an individual lab to have a comms person (sometimes they have a scientific writer who also does scicomm, but they’re usually not experts in scicomm; they’re PhDs who do scientific research.)

              This could be field dependent, though – I really have no idea what is done outside of my field. I do know that there are very, very few individuals with masters in scicomm in the USA – usually it’s master’s in museum studies or occasionally science writing.

      3. eggplant*

        University’s central PR/Communications team probably won’t, but I’m betting that your department or school, depending on how your university is set up, will have a Communications team that can definitely help.

        (Source: I am the Social Media Strategist for one specific school at a large university, and this is absolutely the kind of thing I do.)

        1. Green beans*

          It must be university dependent – ime, departments have one or two comms people, mayyyybe three, who are usually also responsible for outreach, events, and/or webmaster duties. So while (in my former role) I would be happy to chat with a lab about their social media it would be mostly focused on “don’t do these things” and a lot of smiling and nodding on their overall social media plans with a side of “here are some basic comms questions you should answer before starting and why they help.”

          I would not have drafted a social media plan or spent any time trying to convince a PI I was indeed an expert at what I did and that is, in fact, why my stuff did so much better than theirs. I just did not have the time (and frankly, in my experience, a lot of people think they’re experts at science communication when they’re not. PIs who came in with the “I’m right and I know better” attitude were just pointed to policy or kicked up the ladder until someone who they would listen to said no.)

    2. References Required*

      Government jobs, at least at my agency, also require reference contact information be submitted at time of application.

  10. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW2, it depends on what kind of job your daughter is going for. Esports is a billion-dollar industry and growing. The university I work at has a varsity esports team that also collaborates academically with the game design degree program, and is looking at ways to integrate with the journalism and sports management degree programs. If it’s relevant to the kind of work your daughter is looking for, she can expand on it. If not, she can list it as she would membership on any university sports team. (Since she doesn’t have a lot of work experience, in Alison’s example I would give a separate line each to President, Climate Action Group and Team Member, University X Esports. Random chess playing could go in a one line list of hobbies and interests.)

    1. Roland*

      Idk, I feel like the only jobs where “varsity esports player” deserves a lot of space on your resume are like, professional esports player and professional esports trainer. Anything else, it’s just not that compelling. Like even if the job is “esports PR” or “esports journalism” or whatever, surely it’s more important to highlight your skills in PR/journalism/what-have-you on your resume. The playing experience could be expanded on in a cover letter if it’s relevant to why you want the job.

      1. Wintermute*

        in eSports PR or especially game marketing… it’s a really huge deal, and for working for a games company in general it’s probably a strong positive.

        right now the big eSports games are generally “lightning in a bottle” situations where the game was never designed as an eSport but took off, Overwatch is the only real exception and it’s also had real popularity struggles and attempts to “make it happen” have met with middling success– and the company’s other attempt to force an eSport, Heroes of the Storm, basically flopped.

        As a result, experience in the eSports scene is seen as really valuable to those companies that would like to have a hit eSports game. Many if not most major games publishers are chasing having an “eSport-worthy” game that will go viral and take off, bringing with it a massive revenue stream, positive publicity and long-tail income for minimal continual expense. And do have an eSport game, you can’t just be popular or well-liked by casual fans you need to attract talented competitors, and what talented competitors value in a game and look for are in many ways totally different than casual fans, and game publishers want to understand that culture and what it would take. If you have contacts with up-and-coming players that’s also valuable.

        It’s not going to be the most important thing, but it would be a significant edge over other candidates for a position at a games publisher or major dev house.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Anything else, it’s just not that compelling.
        We’re talking about a young person with very little work experience–including your college sport on the resume makes sense for a 21 year old with 2 jobs so far in life, both tangential to the field they are applying in. But would look odd for a 35 year old applying for a job, unless they were trying to do a career shift toward something that touched on esports.

      3. Real Games Person's Advice*

        Nope.

        Anywhere in the games industry, being part of a competitive esports team- especially as a female-identified person- will add value.

    2. WorkingMom*

      +1 to include based on job that she is applying for. I have always customized my resume skills and summary section based the industry/position to highlight things most applicable to it and then list job history the same each time.

      eSports are big and growing. Lots of universities offer eSports scholarships. It is hugely competitive and requires hard work and dedication to make the team or win a full scholarship award. I think that speaks highly of the person who was able to earn such reward for their efforts.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I feel like playing esports on the school team is akin to playing volleyball on the school team. At worst it’s neutral–an employer may not care about volleyball, but very few people are violently biased against volleyball. At best it either has aspects that clearly map over–like teamwork is big–or makes a connection because Bill’s wife also played college volleyball so it’s a natural point to touch on.

      I am hopeless at video games other than “wander around and look at things”–I would attempt to play them with my preschooler and just immediately be encased in a bubble. But I know he has friends who have made actual money with a Twitch channel, and friends who play esports in college. It makes as much sense to include as debate or lacrosse.

    4. Llama*

      Seconded! I was scrolling through to make sure someone said this. Esports is a big deal, and in any tech or media related field, it would read as a positive, not at all as a juvenile or vaguely embarrassing hobby. People are getting scholarships for it, and it’s just as respectable as being a major participant in a college football team or theatrical program.

      1. Lyonite*

        But neither of those things should get major placement in a resume. Extracurriculars can be a “nice to have” when you’re very early in your career and have nothing else to point to, but they aren’t work experience and treating them like they are will mostly make the applicant like they don’t understand the difference.

        1. Llama*

          That’s the point though – she *is* early in her career. Having a short list of extracurricular activities won’t hurt at this point in her job search. It suggests a host of soft skills and shows she didn’t spend all of her college free time partying or something.

          The parent is asking whether she should leave esports off the resume entirely because employers will find video games off-putting. I’m saying that’s not the case in the fields she’s likely applying to.

    5. TLC*

      I’m getting the sense that many of the folks on this thread really don’t understand eSports and the impact the industry is having. Just recently I met with a friend who works in esports professionally and was talking about how many Fortune 500 companies are all trying to get involved as it’s the next big thing.

      Think of it like social media – 10-15 years ago it might have sounded silly to put on an application, but now it’s a valuable skill set that every company needs with full teams managing accounts.

      1. LTR FTW*

        Also, I feel like a lot of people wouldn’t bat an eye at somebody putting a Division 1 college athletics role on their resume. If that’s fair game, so are eSports, IMO.

        1. Hen in a Windstorm*

          Again, no one here is saying leave it off the resume. They’re saying it’s not a job, it’s not employment, so it doesn’t belong in the *employment* section, it goes in the same sections the athletics would go in. Or the Spanish National Honor Society. Or whatever accomplishment that is not work.

  11. Anblick*

    Lw4: honestly I think it’s approaching a moral imperative to be up front that you don’t offer health insurance. It’s a huge deal. I have chronic health problems and despite the fact that my husband’s job has WAY better insurance (that has probably saved both us owning our home and MY LIFE), having things like disability insurance etc has saved my job and my life. Tell people upfront.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Since it would really be a deal-breaker for some people, they should definitely be explicit about it, in their ads and in their interviews. If you just rely on it being left off a list, not everyone will read that list closely enough to realise what’s missing – or in this case, make an incorrect but understandable assumption.

      1. LB*

        Agree, it’s more reasonable for them to assume it’s there but not mentioned (like that the list is a benefit ms highlight document, and that insurance details are covered in an different step) than to read the list and go, “Ah, no insurance then. What a chill and normal business.”

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes. As someone who also has chronic health problems I’m looking at health insurance, disability insurance, sick time, and how the company handles things like FMLA and maternity leave (I don’t personally plan to have kids but I think parental leave signals how accommodating the company will be to Major Life Events).

      And I think an important point to remember is that candidates are going to be super hesitant to ask this up front! It can open you up to all kinds of discrimination to say “I need to know how you’ll handle it if I can’t work for a period of time or have major health expenses”. Be transparent about what you do and don’t offer so no one is put in that position.

    3. Minimal Pear*

      I’ve actually been looking through these various comments and wondering if you could argue (legally–obvi you can argue this in a non-legal sense) that not having health insurance constitutes discrimination against disabled people in your hiring practices.

      1. LTR FTW*

        Not only against disabled people, but against single people (they can’t rely on a partner for health care). The latter aren’t a protected group, but it’s still problematic.

    4. oranges*

      I suspect someone in management KNOWS it’s morally reprehensible to not offer health insurance in this country and in this day and age.

      They know that if they state that in the interview phase, they’ll lose good candidates.
      If they don’t say anything, they can blame the candidate for not looking carefully enough at the offer package.

      1. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

        This was my thought. The company knows that, at least in the US, employer-sponsored healthcare is the rule not the exception, and they’re lying by omission so they can avoid losing good candidates who don’t ask specific enough questions during the process.

        And in this current labor market, they’re going to keep lying by omission because they’ll lose out on even more good candidates.

  12. SW*

    LW4: Having had Obamacare insurance out of sheer necessity, I would definitely not take a job that required me to go back on it. It was so very clearly substandard compared to even the mediocre insurance I had with my job and even compared to Medicaid.
    Yes, definitely put that it’s a necessity with this job and make it very clear from the job ad onwards!

    1. Double A*

      This is interesting; when I had my daughter, it was cheaper to privately insure her through the exchange than to add her to my work plan (union government job!). The benefits were comparable. But we have Kaiser so it’s pretty standard no matter how you get your insurance. I guess this would vary in different locations but I don’t see why ACA insurance would be that much worse if you’re not on the lowest tier.

      The amount that the company pays toward health insurance would make a big difference to me. It would be helpful if they did help navigate the system and give you some ideas of what you can purchase with the amount they raised pay.

      1. Twix*

        “…if you’re not on the lowest tier.”

        Well, that’s kind of a big part of it. In my state the plan tiers range from criminally useless to excellent. Did OP’s company look at the price of obtaining an insurance plan on the public exchanges, or obtaining a comparable insurance plan?

        1. Retired Accountant*

          In some states there really aren’t comparable plans on the exchanges, mostly due to the quality of the provider networks. I’ve had ACA insurance for years, and my options did get somewhat better when the biggest local insurer got into the market. Prior to that the “best” plan had only second tier hospitals in its network. Since my biggest concern with health insurance is what kind of treatment I can access if I get *really* sick, this was a big concern for me. And my insurance covers nothing out of network. If I had required surgery and gotten stuck with the out of network anesthesiology and second assistant surgeon thing it could have been catastrophic for me. And again, in my state you can’t buy a plan that’s as good as a (good) employer plan at any price. I pay $7,000 for a plan with a $9,000 deductible and still have a more limited network than I’d like. Other states may be different.

      2. Johanna Cabal*

        It really depends on the state. A lot of states were super resistant to the ACA and it resulted in certain states having terrible plans on the exchange. I read one news article about a person who was so excited to finally get health insurance but found that none of the local doctors accepted the plan, so for all intents and purposes, they had health insurance they couldn’t use and were still no better off than when they were uninsured.

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          This. We’ve been looking at ACA plans in our state and comparing to a few others. It is very state dependent. We’re in a major city in a red state and all the ACA options are essentially useless. You’re out of network for almost all of the major hospital systems. Good luck finding a doctor to take your insurance. Health insurers know they can be save money with subpar plans here.

          Other states? I found cities where all the major hospital systems I could find were in network. Night and day. If we don’t have work provided health insurance, we have to move to another state.

        2. Filosofickle*

          I’m realizing that I’m reacting a bit differently to this situation because I live in California, which has a strong insurance market. I’ve been self-employed and therefore buying my own health coverage for 20 years. While it’s very expensive it’s been easy for me to get good coverage — ever since ACA helped with pre-existing conditions at least. So a lack of insurance wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me, as long as the salary made up for it. I didn’t fully realize how bad it was in other states.

      3. My 2 cents*

        In my experience, the reason is because you were covering a child. To cover an adult costs a lot more especially when you are 40+.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think it’s pretty common for insurance through your employer to cost more for the people you add on than for just the employee so I don’t think your experience is counter to SW’s experience at all. My company offers much better insurance than my husband’s job so we considered both using it, but while the cost for just me is pretty reasonable the cost to add him (or any other dependents if I had kids) is *much* more expensive so he is using the crappier insurance from his job.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        From what I’ve heard, a lot depends on how strictly your state regulates the minimum quality of the packages on offer. In California, it even varies between Northern California and Southern California because there’s less competition in the Nor Cal insurance market.

        1. Velociraptor Attack*

          I briefly had a job that was headquartered in northern California. Their “employer-provided” health insurance was 100% a marketplace plan. It even said it was a “Silver PPO”.

          The cost was INSANE and the employer only paid $75 dollars toward it. So they offered insurance but they absolutely did not. I felt misled and there’s a reason I said I briefly had that job. Luckily I had a few irons in the fire so I was only there 3 weeks and I told them why when I left.

    2. nope*

      There is no Obamacare insurance. Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act created a marketplace of private health insurance plans that allows people to easily compare plans. It also set standards of what plans needed to include, raised the age that kids could be on their parent’s plans, etc.

  13. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, if you can push for and succeed at getting him to focus on fun science facts and photos of the adorable lab cats please please come back here and post a link for us. I would LOVE to subscribe to that kind of thing (and I normally ignore social media completely). Fun science plus cats? Count me in!

  14. raincoaster*

    OP #1 is in a great position to ask if their boss is looking for help with strategy or execution, and point out that he’s shot down every strategy which has been suggested, including those which have been successful for other scientists over a period of many years. If he just wants execution, that’s easy. Queue them all up in Hootsuite or whatever tool you use, and make sure you do that on the clock rather than on your own time. If he doesn’t push back against paying for your time, ask if he wants you to track tweet metrics as well, what the heck. Doing social media does dress up a resume, even if the strategy sucks.

    1. Fierce Jindo*

      Doing it on the clock vs on their own time is not a meaningful distinction for a postdoc when it comes to this kind of thing. A postdoc has a limited window of time to get enough scientific accomplishments (articles, grants, maybe other, applied things depending on field) to get a job as a PI themselves at a different university. Their “on the clock” time needs to go to that work, or their chance to possibly become a PI will have been wasted. Running lab social media will never be in their interests, unless it somehow builds their own national network.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I would rank running a lab social media account as a minor plus on the CV, along with other types of public outreach. But it won’t help much if they want a research position and don’t have the publications. If they’re planning on going into public outreach it would be more useful – I have several former colleagues who ended up in outreach/education positions where it would be an asset.

        You point about the meaninglessness of “on the clock” as a postdoc is a very good one. What matters at the end of the post doc is primarily research output, the connections you’ve made with other institutes and researches, and possibly some emphasis on teaching experience if you’re applying for a more teaching heavy position. Significant time spent on social media output during the day will mean more evenings and weekends to fit in the important parts of the job.

    2. Green beans*

      That’s probably not an argument worth having with your PI. And social media skills can be valuable but I don’t actually think they’ll be useful on the OP’s CV if they’re going a traditional scientist route.

      1. Meowsy*

        At least, not *this* type of social media. If you have social media skills in the kind of work that actually gets engagement, it can be value added if you’re working anywhere in academia. Maybe not so much industry… they tend to be better at not expecting the kitchen sink from their research staff.

  15. Cambridge Comma*

    What OP1’s PI wants sounds exactly like the social media most groups have, and it’s really common for PhD students and postdocs to take care of it. It’s so common I don’t know whether there’s much point in pushing back on the tasks or the content, and it may seem a bit out-of-touch to suggest that the institute’s PR team take care of it or to come up with strategies that are more in line with what actual successful social media does. They can’t not do social media, either, because they’ve probably committed to it in their grant proposals. I would save the good ideas for OP’s personal social media or future lab. Tell the PI something flattering about him being the focus of the group and his ideas being the most important. See yourself as technician rather than the first/last author in this task, your job isn’t to design the posts, just get them on line efficiently and get back to your ofher work. Suggest some routines to follow (papers get posted, presentations, conference attendance) and get the PI to think of the important and interesting things he’s doing each week and take a photo. He’s asking for unconventional and uninspiring social media like all the other PIs. Just give it to him with as little trouble to yourself as possible.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Agreed. What LW and her peers are suggesting would be way better and more interesting, but she doesn’t have the clout in the situation to make it happen. Putting up enough of a fight to win isn’t worth it, and just doing it is basically harmless, so this is a place to just do what the PI is asking with as little time and effort as possible.

        You gotta pick your battles, and this isn’t a battle to pick. Each person in the lab should take a turn devoting 10 minutes a week to this, and then you all get on with your lives.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I don’t think OP is thinking of trying to convince him anymore. I think the issue is that he is now complaining about doing it alone and going to subject them to another “ideas” meeting. And honestly, I wouldn’t be volunteering to post anything or handle it because, even I tried to follow his ideas, I would assume he will get annoyed over any tiny thing he doesn’t like. Sure, if ordered to do it, I would do it, but I wouldn’t volunteer.

          As for the meeting, OP, just say that you really do not have any new ideas beyond the ones that he mentioned last time, and then redirect and ask him what he thinks or what concerns he has with the current state of the social media. Hopefully that will lead him to go bother someone else in the group or just go on a rant about nonsense. Just don’t volunteer to help (do it if you are directed to, but let someone else volunteer).

    1. Green beans*

      Depending on the research focus, I’d be really surprised if it was in the grants (at least it’d be shocking in biomedical fields.)

      I agree the university PR/comms department isn’t going to run it and I wouldn’t suggest asking.

        1. Green beans*

          Oh, EU might be different – in the USA it would be odd in my field for a research focused grant. There don’t tend to be any outreach/comms goals in those.

          1. NSF funded PI*

            Depends on the funding agency. Could absolutely tick a box for some NSF agencies as community engagement and count towards the Broader Impacts score. (My lab’s social media presence was noted as a positive in those reviews on a grant.)

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Yeah, our new NSF grant also explicitly includes funds to engage one of our science communicator in the education/outreach bit. Another, much larger, NSF grant pays for at least 0.5 FTE of a comms director (could be all of it, though I think his salary comes partially from another source).

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                Oh, and I remember years back, when my own advisor at the time was part of a NASA Mission’s Science Team, we had a conversation with another science team member with a very productive lab, and this PI sung the praise of hiring a full-time writer. They must have budgeted for that through that grant, too.

            2. Green beans*

              That would make sense – I’m in biomedical research and we don’t typically get NSF grants; they’re either NIH, nonprofit, or sometimes industry.

    2. amoeba*

      I mean, I do find the “photos of PI with politicians” thing strange.

      But I agree that it’s pretty normal to have a twitter presence run by people from the group where you highlight recent publications, open positions, new group members, conference visits, interesting papers from other research groups (“check out this cool publication from xy lab!”) – if your boss would be fine with that, I don’t really see the problem. Actually, at least in my field, a twitter account that isn’t actually at least 80% about science would stand out as quite strange! (Occasional cat pictures are great, of course, as are photos from lab outings or whatever. But I definitely expect scientific content when following a lab on Twitter. Academic twitter is really, really not the same as regular social media…)

      Also, I actually don’t find it boring at all – it’s not your typical social media thing but it’s a really good way of connecting to the science community and staying up to date. Also, I’d say you can actually benefit from the connections you might make there in your academic career. And no, I wouldn’t spend a ton of time on that – just a post every few days or weeks whenever something interesting (see above) happens.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        It’s likely vanity in this case to a large degree. However, in a public institution in a relatively small state there tends to be a lot of contact between, say, a congressional delegation and the principal public research hub. Also, if the work is related to policy – pretty common in a lot of fields, such as geography, a lot of engineering disciplines, climate/climate change, natural resources … – then there’s another good reason for political staffers to hang about. Last, we for example get (sub)heads of government departments that fund research, representatives of relevant planning commissions, high-level staffers (who may be political appointees), all sorts. It’s a good idea to sort through them, but if the OP is thoughtful about which meetings to attend, there could be some insight into how the sausage is made.

    3. Meowsy*

      Unfortunately, this is the realistic advice. You’re not wrong, OP. This is annoying. But it’s time limited and the power imbalance creates a precarious platform for pushing back.

      (There’s always the option of hiring an undergrad to do the social media. Normally I hate making or hearing that suggestion, but this is such a rote and low stakes task – post what the PI wants- that paying some $15/hr for 5 hours a week would save the rest of you from wasting lab time on your PI’s ego fluff.)

    4. Indubitably Delicious*

      Agree with this.

      If you can’t get out of it, some thoughts: I do see posts from the PIs in my department that are a little more “lab cat” (in chemistry, actual lab cats are Right Out) — mostly things like social hours or alumni visits or end of year celebrations that add a little bit of humanity. Otherwise: stick to publications, presentations, conferences, graduations, advancing to candidacy if that’s a thing in your field, people joining and departing the lab… try to get some group photos in the mix, or photos of people “doing science” (you know the ones), to cut the frequency of the politician pics. (You can sometimes get a central communications office to hook you up with a photographer so you have a set of photos to work from.)

      It’s not as fun as lab cats. But it also takes a lot less time and energy.

      (And I hope your PI isn’t this resistant to ideas about other things. If they are, then my thoughts are with you.)

  16. Green beans*

    OP #1: a couple of strategies are possible

    1) say yes, do nothing. Agree with PI’s ideas, put it on your to-do list, and never get around to it. When he brings it up, cheerfully go “oh right! I need to [run a Western blot/analyze data] today and tomorrow but I’ll try to get to it Thursday.” Never bring it up yourself. It’s academia. With the right touch, you can do this for years. Make sure he has the passwords so he can post if he wants.

    (2) bureaucracy. You’re at a university, right? Tell him you’re reaching out to the comms department to see what their policies are before starting. Consider mentioning some vague rumors about hearing something about policies from someone. Take your time about this – weeks, months, academia is slow. Casually mention to him one day that “of course, university policies don’t apply to personal accounts. A lot of professors have their own accounts instead of/alongside lab ones so they don’t have to deal with this.”

    (3) actually reach out to the communication department. Mention that the professor wants to post pictures of himself with politicians. Ask if there are any policies around endorsing politicians. If you really want to drive it home, suggest that they give your PI a training on what to avoid and mention it’s his pictures and friends and he’s writing a lot of the content. I suspect they will be very interested in making sure he knows exactly what he can and cannot post. I also suspect his interest will inversely correlate with their interest, as that’s likely to come with meetings and emails and, if you’re really lucky, paperwork.

    (4) if you’ve got capital to spare, or a big grant or paper coming up, you can consider just saying no and taking the hit. That’s risky but it can work in the right labs.

  17. Double A*

    One thing LW 4 could include in the benefits is a line about “$X monthly stipend to purchase health insurance on the healthcare exchange.”

    This is a little tricky, because it sounds like you give people that money just as salary so it’s not really a stipend, but it highlights that you don’t provide company health insurance but that pay has been bumped up to allow people to purchase it. If people see the salary is $5000/month plus $500 to buy insurance, that is somehow more comfortable than accepting a salary of $5500 then realizing you have to spend $500 of it on health insurance. Even though often that’s close to what people’s premiums are anyway on a group plan.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The danger with that would be people assuming that if they didn’t need to purchase insurance (still on parents’ plan, or covered by a spouse) they would be paid less money than someone who did.

      1. Double A*

        Yeah, that’s why it’s a bit tricky…but then it could be a pleasant surprise when they find out they will get the stipend. I feel like you could find a way to word it that explains, “We give you extra money to buy insurance if you need it.” I mean…that’s kind of what a group plan is anyway, it’s just way more convoluted and the employer picks the plans. And also if you don’t take the plan most places, you don’t get extra money that the employer does spend on other people.

        Also hopefully this company assesses the “raise” they gave everybody so it’s keeping up with what it actually costs to buy the insurance.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        A lot of places offer cafeteria benefits to offset this. If you don’t purchase insurance you can put extra money in your 401k or take it as taxable income or something similar.

        I have mixed feelings about that which are long and complicated and off topic here, but it is a possible approach to address what you’re describing.

    2. Email in the morning*

      Back when I was employing people in the US, an explicit stipend for getting insurance on the exchange was prohibited. That was a long time ago, though, so I don’t know if the law is still the same.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        That changed in 2017. The 21st Century Cares Act allows employers with fewer than 50 employees to set up Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements. There are limits and details and rules, because of course there are, but small employers are no longer prohibited from directly reimbursing health insurance.

        Even when direct reimbursement wasn’t allowed, employers could still give raises in lieu of health care benefits—but those raises wouldn’t have the tax-advantaged status that reimbursements would have.

  18. JC*

    Isn’t brth insurance a requirement for full time jobs?? Or is that just state by state?

    Either way, they should still say they don’t. Th current employees got a raise to make up for the missing benefit, but the new employee agreed to the salary without knowing it was meant to include them having a private health plan.

    1. Double A*

      Although I wonder if the new employee would have batted and eye if they found out the premiums for a work plan we’re $X a month that was going to be deducted from their pay.

      It would be annoying to learn you have to choose a plan from the exchange, but if the employer did the math and is reassessing those payments every year or so, then the employee goes home with the same amount in their pocket.

      1. Double A*

        To be clear, the employer should still be upfront about this! But if it’s actually a competitive offer, the employer should be able to explain it pretty clearly. And if it’s not competitive, the employer will need to make some choices.

        Theoretically it would be great if health insurance in the US were decoupled from work so honestly I kind of like this approach. As long as compensation is fair.

    2. Ash*

      There is no requirement in any US state that an employer has to provide health insurance to employees.

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

        Yes there is. The ACA has that requirement. The only thing is if you have less than 50 employees the company does not have to provide insurance.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      The ACA’s mandate for employer-provided health insurance only applies to employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees.

  19. OP #1 is here!*

    Hi, it’s me with the PI who wants social media! I’ve already tried the “I really don’t know…social media’s really not my thing,” and have repeatedly said I only understand Twitter, so now I re-post Facebook posts another guy makes on Twitter. It’s a total waste of time, because no one engages with them, but it’s a two-week waste of time, so that’s not too terrible, at least. But I don’t think the PI would take it well if I flat-out said no (need to use that political capital for other things, like the terrible research ideas), and the demand for more meetings continues, because the PI is not getting the engagement he wants.

    I think I’m just going to say, “If this is something you’re really committed to, I think the best thing to do would be to hire a social media expert, if only for an initial consultation,” and let that be my sort of “have you talked to a therapist about that?” kind of response.

    Or any other ideas?

    1. Lex*

      I like this approach. If he really wants this type of social media, he can ask you to do it, but he needs to be really clear about what it is and how much time you should be spending on it (in order to not let research fall by the wayside).

      Can I say, as someone who dreamed of being a professor and left for the private sector immediately after grad school, this guy is such a huge part of why people are leaving academia. You are an incredibly smart, capable, talented scientist, and yet you have to cater to this guy’s ego for the purposes of politics. I’m sorry you are dealing with this. (And I love your original ideas for the lab page! Lab cats and Dromedary Madness both sound amazing.)

      1. ferrina*

        +1 I also think you’re going the right way. Complying to the bare minimum, disengaging (including not engaging in a fight about this), and spending your energy and focus elsewhere. Don’t even offer the suggestion of an expert, just a shrug and “don’t know”.

    2. Parenthesis Dude*

      Absolutely don’t say hire an expert. The PI wants you to do it, and telling him you can’t just makes you look bad. The point isn’t to get engagement. The point is to make your PI happy.

      He wants posts that make him look serious and respected, so create them. Then, talk to your friends and ask them if a few of them can like the posts and write a few comments. If there’s a team of people working with this PI, then you can all work together to get different names. The PI gets his serious social media that he wants with engagement. You and your team look good, and you can save your capital for important things instead of pushing back on something like this.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            yeah, you really do not know how little free time post docs have, clearly!

          2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            But will it take 30 minutes the FIRST week? Probably not. Probably not for the first several weeks, while they get the system going.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        It does not make OP look bad to not be able to make social media get engagement when she is not a social media expert, and from what OP says, he is demanding more “idea” meetings (where he refuses all the ideas) because he is unhappy that there is so little engagement. The problem is that he wants engagement but doesn’t want to do the things that will actually result in engagement. I think OP will be fine suggesting he consult an expert. It’s better than continuing the same thing because he insists on it and then being blamed for the fact that it is not working.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Oh no.

        The job of the post doc is not and should not be ‘keeping the PI happy’ just like the job of any other employee should not be ‘keeping the manager happy’. Ideally, your actual job duties should align with ‘keep manager happy’. When they do not, the answer is not to become a doormat for the PI.

        OP has made several perfectly reasonable suggestions that have been turned down by PI. PI refuses to put any effort into what seems to be a self-glorifying social media campaign (that might not be allowed under university rules).

        You have a point about saving capital but this is the point where “sorry, you’ve rejected my suggestions” comes in, not “let me bow to your demands”.

    3. to varying degrees*

      If you’re affiliated with a university you may want to tell him (or do it yourself as recon) to check with them. If he is using the social media in his role at the school there are likely rules in place that he should be following. Additionally, depending on where you all are located, there can be laws that he needs to be following in his role as n elected official. For example where I’m at if you use social media to discuss, promote, engage any work that has to do with your political job those records (posts, chats, etc.) become public record and need to be archived in some fashion. And as someone else mentioned above, there may be some conflict of interest if his posts indicate support of other politicians while he is in the course of doing his role as an employee of the university.

    4. thisgirlhere*

      If he’s a scientist will be respond to data? I like Alison’s idea of A/B testing but that involves him actually letting you post stuff. Would he go for just a couple different posts? If you think something might reach him put together screenshots of good posts with huge numbers and some official research on how the only way to win the internet is cats (maybe throw in Jorts) and bring to the meeting. Then any time he asks refer back to your extensive research and give up.

    5. Another STEM PhD survivor*

      Remember this: you don’t care if your PI has an effective social media presence. That’s not your job. You care if your PI is happy with you. That is the only thing that matters.

      I will say this also – if the guy is really that unreasonable, and ESPECIALLY if he’s got “terrible research ideas” to be fended off in a similar manner – you need to run. Seriously. Even if you’re several years in and you’d have to start over from scratch. I worked for this person. I should have run. I did not. That was stupid, and I was very, very lucky to graduate at all. (He put some things in writing that he definitely should not have; the department arranged for me to get my degree and leave quietly.)

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I dunno, all those smartening activities that lady dreamed up for Jorts could count as some kind of scientific experiment…

  20. Silver*

    LW#2 – Playing games competitively may be considered a plus in the following scenarios:
    – Twitch streaming,
    – casting Esports competitions,
    – applying to jobs in the games industry (along with other skills),
    – or applying for an Esports org like 100 Thieves or G2 Esports to be on their roster.

    Game Devs, Artists, Journalists, Publicity and other Gaming related careers usually have to show portfolios of work or relevant skills during hiring from what I’ve been told.

    1. Firecat*

      I think it’s helpful in any industry to demonstrate that you were part of a sports team. Unlike other clubs, sports are generally understood to be a daily multi-hour time commitment with days long weekend and evening competitions. There is a push in many schools to pay students, and at least at my school athletes were not allowed to have another job as part of their scholarships.

      I think the OP should treat their eSports the same way they would treat if they were part of the basketball team. It’s not traditional “work experience” but it’s also not the same as being a member of the chess club like Alison suggested. Your performance is monitored in sports and your coach can “fire” you so honestly a lot more like a job. I’d put it in at the bottom of my work section with a clarification of the time commitment and any accomplishment OPs team had and how they ranked on the team etc. Anything that demonstrates the formal performance expectations and results.

      Also the “related” article is not related at all! That’s like saying an article where a guy wrote in asking if he could put his coordination of weekend basketball pick up games on his resume as “related” to Dukes point guard writing in asking how to demonstrate his job as a basketball player during college.

      1. DataSci*

        Unless someone is straight out of undergrad, in which case it would be neutral as “this person needs something to put on their resume”, having sports (either physical or e-) on a resume would be a negative for me, as “this person cannot move beyond their college days and has nothing relevant to speak to since then”. And we don’t hire people straight out of undergrad.

      2. Esports Mom*

        OP here. This is incredibly helpful. I think including the (massive) time commitment is a great idea. It really is as time consuming as traditional team sports. I guess maybe one thing for her to think about is whether she will be happier working someplace that views it as a positive.

    2. Sylvan*

      I’m a content writer for a digital marketing company and our hiring managers really like niche interests, hobbies, and experience.

      Because, eventually, we’ll get a client who sells something in that niche, and we’ll have someone who knows EXACTLY what their customers are looking for.

    3. Leia Oregano*

      Yeah, I think the eSports addition is definitely valuable to add! Like Firecat below, I’d rank it along the lines of being on any other competitive sport or team — my sibling-in-law is a competitive gamer and their best friend is a professional gamer, and they’re both still in college. It’s a big time commitment and requires a ton of skill, strategy, and mental and physical agility. (I’m 27 and have arthritis — even if my brain could process the characters and actions fast enough, which it can’t, my fingers don’t move that fast!) The university I work for just added a very high profile eSports program and it’s gotten lots of traction in the news and is really popular among those students. eSports and competitive gaming are big industries, and especially if OP’s daughter is interested in doing anything in the gaming industry this is good experience for her to list.

    4. Butter Bonanza*

      Absolutely. Op’s daughter playing college-level esports is not at all akin to having played a bunch of WOW in her spare time or being an avid chess player. I hope she sees your comment and can tailor her resume to list her specific achievements.

      Excellent input!

  21. Academicadmin*

    OP1 – does the PI have a lab manager or administrative assistant or staff lab scientist? Or even a department director or student affairs person?

    Find a staff member that he seems to respect or listen to, and try to talk to them. They can be more direct with your PI, especially because their future career isn’t dependent on his reference. Most departments have at least one staff member who’s willing to be blunt with faculty.

  22. Emmy Noether*

    Non-american asking for context here. Please help me make sense of this:
    “determined that the out-of-pocket cost for our employees to obtain insurance on the insurance marketplace was going to be roughly identical to what they were already paying out of pocket under our group plan.”

    How can a group plan not be advantageous over all? What were they comparing? Google tells me “out of pocket” is in addition to monthly premiums? Wouldn’t one have to compare premiums *and* out-of-pocket? Even if they increased pay to cover the previous employer contribution to group plan premiums, one wouldn’t find a comparable individual plan for the same price, no? So employees still lost out?

    1. Ash*

      Depending on income, many states have subsidies for people in different income categories to use towards purchasing a plan on the marketplace. So it could be that with the subsidies, the OOP cost of insurance for their average employee would be similar to an employer-sponsored plan.

    2. Perfectly Particular*

      Out of pocket in this case just means the portion of the insurance premium the employee would have to pay. It’s hard to include out of pocket medical care costs in your calculations, as you never know what care you may need in a year.

      As far as the group insurance not offering an advantage, in some states, the Insurance Marketplace acts as a large group plan, so the marketplace can be more advantageous than a small-employer plan.

      The problem in this case is that the employer knew the costs would double, so they threw their portion at the employees and let them deal with it. So if the employees were paying 50% before, they are now paying 75% after the raise.

      And also, salaries are way up compared to what they were 7 years ago – I doubt that their offer with the additional money for insurance even stands out.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I actually assumed the OP meant out of pocket for premiums. Everywhere I have worked in the US my employer pays part of the premium for the group insurance they select and I pay part of the premium. The employer decides how much I pay and it is deducted from each of my paychecks. I thought OP meant the cost of group insurance went up so much that if I got insurance on my own, it was about the same as the group insurance before it doubled, both the employer and employee payments.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        This is what I assumed at first – but group insurance rates doubling, while individual insurance rates are the same as the old cheaper group insurance seemed really implausible to me, so I thought maybe this means something else?

        So I think they were either pushing off the increase to employees, or they were comparing apples to oranges in some way (not the full cost, or not the same benefits). The letter makes it seem like the employees didn’t lose money, but I don’t see how that can be.

        1. Squidhead*

          The employees may or may not be losing money here. My out-of-pocket cost for “family” coverage is nearly $500/month. (According to my employer, they contribute about $1000 a month in addition.) It’s pretty good coverage but we are both healthy (knocks wood) and our family is not going to grow. So $1500/month is kind of a lot on both sides!

          My employer doesn’t offer self+1 coverage, but my spouse is self-employed so can’t get it through another employer. We keep my coverage because it’s pretty good, but $500/month plus co-pays for even routine visits does add up and I could see a person deciding they wanted to seek out cheaper coverage (with probably fewer benefits) and roll the dice that it will work out.

        2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          If it’s a small group of people and they are “unhealthy” as a group, their group insurance rates could certainly double while other companies’ rates (or the individual marketplace rates) stay the same.

          Basically, if their company was costing the insurance provider “too much,” they would come back the following year and say “we’re spending too much on your group, so if you’re going to stay with us, we have to double your rates.”

          At least, that used to be possible. Maybe post-ACA it’s not? But the company I worked for prior to this one was fewer than 50 people. And, every year, they had to shop around for new insurance because our rates were going up. Then, we would get a good rate, but after a year, they’d raise it because we were “too unhealthy” and cost them too much. (With few people, one or two people with above-average medical bills will make the entire group “cost too much.”)

        3. fhqwhgads*

          I took it to mean, say before the change (these are fake numbers): employer paid $400/mo and employee paid $400/mo. Under new potential employer plan employer and employee would both pay $800/mo each (that’s the “double” referred to). Employer then looked at the exchange and concluded their employees would also likely pay $800/mo for a comparable-ish plan on the exchange. That’s the “roughly identical” bit, I thought. So the employer then said, eff the group plan, we’re giving everyone a 9kish raise and from now on they buy their own.
          It’s either that or they meant they looked at the exchange and concluded their employees would likely pay $400/mo for a probably not at all comparable plan, then said said, eff the group plan, we’re giving everyone a 5kish raise and from now on they buy their own.

    4. Parenthesis Dude*

      It’s roughly a 25 person company, which makes it a small group. Health insurers can charge more based on age, so if the employees are older rather than younger, it could be very expensive.

      As an American, I’d presume that the LW is accurate about what they wrote and that employees didn’t lose out. Especially those employees who get their insurance elsewhere or those that can get subsidies on the marketplace.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Let’s say that insurance was 1000/month before, of which the employer paid 500 and the employee paid 500. Try to renew, it’s suddenly 2000. Employer says, here ya go, 500 extra, but you’re on your own for insurance.
        You’re telling me the employees could find an individual plan for 1000, when the group plan is 2000? So now they got a raise of 500, but have to pay around 2000 for insurance… which puts them 1000 behind, or with a much worse plan. That’s loosing out.

        1. Parenthesis Dude*

          That’s not what’s happening.

          Say group insurance was $1100 before, and the employer pays $500 and the employee pays $600. Say a similar individual plan on the marketplace costs $1500. Next year comes, the group insurance is raised to $2200, $500 of which is paid by the employer and $1700 by the employee. The similar individual plan is raised to $1600. So, the employer disbands his insurance, and gives the employees an extra $550 each per month.

          In this case, the employees could pay $1700 a month for the group plan or $1600 a month for the individual plan plus receive a subsidy of $550. That’s what the OP is describing.

          Your confusion seems to be that you don’t think that an individual plan can ever be cheaper than a group plan. But if I have 5,000 individuals in my individual plan and 50 people in my group plan, then my individual plan may well be cheaper. Remember, an insurance company offers maybe 12 plans for an area on the marketplace, and individuals have to choose one of them. There’s no mixing and matching. So, if there’s 12,000 individuals on the marketplace and only 12 plans, then each plan will have on average 1000 people.

          I’d note that this happened to me at one employer when we were a small company and had a few catastrophic injuries costing millions of dollars each. The insurance company used that previous year to determine our potential costs for next year, and premiums skyrocketed.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            You are right, that is my confusion. I’d assumed the group joined one of the preset plans at an insurer and that their risk would get pooled with everyone else at that insurer, just with a slightly better rate because usually when you buy the same thing as a group it’s cheaper and a company is a more reliable payor. Health insurance systems, man. Not the most logical (anywhere).

            One last question: would those people that made the company group plan be expensive (because they have expensive conditions or had accidents) then be reeeeeaaaallly screwed when they have to get an individual plan, or are those plans blind to that?

            1. Parenthesis Dude*

              Before the ACA, insurers were able to take your medical history into account. So, those people were indeed screwed. Simply put, no one would insure them. After the ACA, insurers are not able to take your medical history into account, so those people aren’t screwed.

              Insurers can charge a plan extra based on expected cost however, so the employees are screwed. That stated, the US makes insurers put at least 85% of premiums from each group to medical costs. If they spend less then that, they get penalized and also have to return the excess. So, if they charge a company $1M, and only spend $600k, they have to return $300k to the company. They also have to pay a penalty to the govt. That $300k has to be used by the employer to subsidize future health insurance costs. So, insurers have an incentive to get things right.

  23. OP #1 is here!*

    I posted another response, but I guess the spam filter ate it? Anyway, unfortunately I have tried the “out of ideas” approach, but the further meetings to discuss the social media situation keep coming, unfortunately. And I can’t flat-out refuse (I need to save that political capital for other, more serious problems, like demands that I cut off contact with other professional colleagues, and requests for me to cobble together obviously faulty data sets. No, this isn’t good, and yes, I’m looking for a new job.) Any other suggestions?

    1. Weegie*

      There are only two things I can think of here. I’m assuming your lab is part of a university structure, rather than being completely independent. If so, there will be someone further up the tree whose responsibility it is to oversee research activity and make sure it’s being properly conducted. I’m not sure of the relevant job titles where you are (it would be Pro-vice-chancellor (Research) or similar where I am), but if you are attached to or part of a faculty, find out who holds that office and then approach them to see if you can shut this down. You mention postdocs and PhDs, plural, so if you band together and do this as a group it might be effective.

      The second thing is to tell your PI that you would need training in order to be able to take this on, as it’s a skill you don’t have. Point out that it’s an increasingly complex area that needs specialised skills (true) and ask him to find out if your university offers this training or if he will pay for it out of his budget. That might be enough to stop him pursuing it (though he sounds unreasonable enough that it won’t). Alongside this request, you can also try asking him what his main purpose is in engaging in social media. If it’s to increase his profile in political circles and he just wants to post photos of himself with local politicians, then offer to take/post such photos on his behalf. Or suggest posting links to his papers when they’re published, or tweeting from conferences he’s attending: most academics do this type of thing, and although it’s not particularly inspired it’s common enough activity and might satisfy him. Posting about his papers wouldn’t take up too much time, even if you end up having to do it for him.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “like demands that I cut off contact with other professional colleagues, and requests for me to cobble together obviously faulty data sets”

      What. The. Hell?

      Forget what I said above. You don’t need this PI’s recommendation. This PI is a research misconduct scandal waiting to happen, and the sooner you’re disassociated with him, the better.

      1. Moo*

        Oh god yes – focus on your own research and tangible research outputs. Keep up the connections with your own network, especially those not directly linked with or through your PI, and let all your people know you’re looking for a new role.

        If you’re primary networks are connected with your PI, work on making links separately -mentoring schemes, other groups and associations, attending university training etc, can all help you to have your own network distinct from your PIs

        1. OP #1 is here!*

          For research output, I am a bit in a bind? Because my PI has “forbidden” me to work on any projects they do not directly approve. However, when I present them with research ideas, they shoot them all down. (Note: When I was interviewing, I asked whether I would have the freedom to choose my own projects, and they said “yes.”) Two months into my time here, they also axed a major project I had signed up to do (and one of the major reasons I agreed to take this job). So now I am stuck on a project that got halfway through development without any expert input from someone in my field, and as a result, has a series of major flaws on the data side. I have presented everyone with the options and steps required to obtain data that would make the project publishable quality, with estimates of the time and effort involved. This resulted in a very productive e-mail discussion with the person who would be implementing the technical details…until the PI shut that discussion down, saying the e-mails were too long for them to read, and everyone needed to have an in-person meeting. But the PI is constantly out of town on their unrelated political adventures, and so that delays work by two weeks. And “we really need to be making progress.” Except that they managed to have a meeting with the tech person yesterday, by themself, and without even inviting me! They sent me an e-mail about this meeting while they were *in that person’s office,* still *in* that meeting. Even if I couldn’t come in, they could have invited me to hop on Zoom! Jesus Christ on a llama.

          Meanwhile, my existing prior research collaboration, which took my advice from the get-go, basically got everything working smoothly in a fraction of the time. Now I’m just looking for other data sets to publish on that don’t have any overlap with the ones I’m working on with the group that currently employs me. To avoid a conflict of interest. But current PI will blow a gasket if I get papers out without them, apparently.

          And yeah, for the new job thing, I am definitely working all the angles. Luckily I am already well-known and well-respected enough that there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance to hire me if they had money…and one of these might actually pan out, but we won’t know if the money is there until January. In the meantime, I’m applying for everything that might remotely be a good fit, as well as looking into MA problems in an adjacent but related field (like, data science for the sort of data I’m an expert in, boning up on the CS side).

          1. OP #1 is here!*

            I know the obvious question is “why did you write in about the social media, and not the house that was on fire,” but…I didn’t see the burning shingles falling off the house until after I’d gotten the social media question off. So here we are!

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Yeah, you have bigger problems. You need a mentor, stat. Someone who is sane, on your side (eg, encourages you to get papers out!) and experienced in the landscape in your field.

              Also, if you are sure you’re moving on from there in the next 8 months or so, don’t worry about them blowing a gasket over a paper.

            2. Heidi*

              I’m guessing that the readers are not surprised that the social media thing is just the tip of a dysfunction iceberg. It would be extraordinary if the boss was a self-absorbed jerk over just the one thing and a great boss otherwise.

              1. Aggretsuko*

                Yeah, the PI’s entire behavior gave off the bad vibe. Unshocked that PI is super problematic otherwise as well.

            3. Sylvan*

              Been there! It’s funny how one issue can stand out to you, but you pull on that one little thread and discover a complicated tangle that has been twisting around itself for ages.

            4. Green beans*

              Can you get your own funding? That would both give you autonomy in projects and make it easier to get a different job.

          2. Observer*

            Wow!

            The only question I have is whether having your PI blow a gasket is worse than not publishing some work?

          3. FashionablyEvil*

            Please document all of this. People on the sidelines often get caught up in the mess when an academic integrity issue blows up and it’s important to have your ducks in a row. Depending on the severity of the issues with the data, you might also consider filing a complaint with your university’s office of research integrity.

            1. OP #1 is here!*

              It’s really hard to know what to do. A lot of this is just…really basic? Like, imagine making a study comparing how words are pronounced, but it’s only based on the way they’re written, and nobody wants to look up the spelling rules for each language. I’m over here waving my arms like “GERMAN CH AND ENGLISH CH ARE NOOOOOTTTT THE SAME THING” and nobody will listen, they just want to do the ch = ch thing anyway. So of course the results will be bad! But is this intent to deceive, or merely aggressive laziness or incompetence? I don’t know!

              1. Observer**

                Document your head off. Because from what you say, there is a good chance that at least some of it is intent to deceive. And when things blow up, everything is going to be looked at through that lens.

                1. Indubitably Delicious*

                  Oh no.

                  Yes, this. Document so you can give an accurate account if/when things blow up. And definitely keep looking, and good luck!

                2. sometimeswhy*

                  This this this this this. Document the hell out of it. Emails, contemporaneous notes, meeting minutes. Keep a file. If something shady in the research blows up and it comes down on your PI, they sound very much like the sort who will blame it on you and your peers and the ones who have left will seem like really easy targets to them. To keep your reputation when that house burns down, make sure you have a pile of evidence that you spent your time there exalting the benefits of fire extinguishers and flame retardant upholstery.

            2. Sutemi*

              A discussion with your university ombuds office may be in order. I found mine to have great advice when navigating an ethics/PI/publishing issue. They were experienced, practical and familiar with university politics.

              1. OP #1 is here!*

                Excellent. I am in a foreign country, but I’ll see if there’s anything equivalent here.

                1. Green beans*

                  What country are you in, if you’re comfortable sharing? That can make a huge difference for advice (or you can open this up in the Friday thread.)

          4. Meowsy*

            My desire to save you is strong. My university is currently dealing with a PI/grad student misconduct case and there are so many allowances in place for the PI it makes me murderously ragey. Can you keep us updated on your quest to escape in the Friday threads? I’m going to worry about you forever!

          5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Shiiiiiiit.
            This lab is full of bees. I’m assuming there’s no value in going to the department chair in your particular circumstance? Or even the dean? As I’m sure you know, that kind of move could be helpful or could cause you significantly more problems. Do you have a previous mentor who could give advice, based on the specific people involved?

            Seems like your plan to get the heck out of there is the best option. This is a terrible situation and I have a hard time seeing how it’s going to get better.

          6. DataSci*

            This is one case where the natural short-term nature of a postdoc works in your favor! We don’t need to tell you to GET OUT because you’re already expected to get out anyway. How influential is your PI in the field as a whole? Will ticking them off by publishing without their involvement hurt your future career advances? Do you have enough other good letters (from your PhD advisor and other collaborators on current projects) that you can afford not getting one from your current PI, or do you need to keep playing nice for awhile longer?

          7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Ok, with this new information, and every sign your PI is a narcissist (I mean that colloquially and not as a mental health diagnosis), I think you need to suck it up and attend these meetings and try to dodge and weave questions, offer very small and pretty much useless ideas (“ummm, can we make the picture of that politician bigger?” or “maybe we can adjust the commas in that caption” or something else stupid), and redirect by asking him what he thinks would improve the social media. But there really isn’t much else you can do, because he is not going to listen and he is going to do it the way he wants, and he is going to get upset when it doesn’t work, and then he is going to try to blame anyone and everyone else. And all you can do is hope you get out of there before it goes sideways!

            1. Aggretsuko*

              “Make that picture bigger” type advice is an excellent suggestion here. Perhaps a bigger font? (Comic Sans?)

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Uh, yeah, if he’s asking you to falsify data, that would be reason enough for me to hit a whistleblower line. Either the university or the professional society for the discipline.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          I’d just be cautious about this. “Cobb[ing] together obviously faulty data sets” shows a sloppiness with research that’s a big red flag, but isn’t necessarily whistleblower-worthy by itself. It’s too easy for the PI to explain away by saying, “Yeah, the data isn’t perfect, but we were planning to address all that in the limitation sections of our paper.”

          What OP1 describes doesn’t quite rise to the level of “falsifying data,” IMO, but it does suggest that the PI wouldn’t be above doing so—especially if it would help his standing with his politician buddies (ugh).

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        THIS.
        And when research misconduct scandals hit, the PI’s grad students and post-docs can get seriously screwed.

    3. Observer*

      I’m not an academic, but it sounds to me that even as you search for another job, you need to put as much distance between yourself and your PI as possible. Document everything and figure out if / how to report this up the chain so you don’t get thrown under the bus when the garbage hits the fan.

      Keep on giving him suggestions. They don’t have to be GOOD suggestions, just ones that he will NOT accept. But that will minimize the amount of capital you have to burn. Also, if at all possible try to schedule “unmovable” appointments for when those meetings are scheduled if you can.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Blah!

      I would say bare-minimum it as per Cambridge Comma’s suggestion:

      1. Create a follower list with a couple of dozen other labs in your research area, some big ones with lots of engagement and some smaller ones, and then things like national funding bodies, professional organisations, scientific libraries, private companies working in your research area.
      2. Schedule 2-3 posts a week on things like, “Research seminar coming up!” “Excited to hear our paper on Blah is coming out in March 2023!” “It’s Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s 80th birthday! Read more about her discovery of the first radio pulsar here:”
      3. Ask your boss whether he wants to post photos of his activities himself or whether he’ll send photos through to you.
      4. Schedule ten minutes twice a week to look at your feed from the people you follow, and retweet 6-12 posts.
      5. Once a week, report, “We posted content on Twitter on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. We got six likes and four retweets. I’m planning on posting something next week to coincide with National Biosciences Day asking people for their favourite bioscience fact, so hopefully that will get us some engagement. Please can everyone remember to Like and Retweet our content so it spreads wider!”
      6. Identify a couple of short “social media for researchers” training seminars and if your boss asks for more, suggest that he gives you the budget to go on them. Then come back and keep doing all the same things and maybe one or two things extra. Or just learn how to copy posts from Twitter to FB.
      7. Try really hard to stay away from Instagram, Snapchat etc– IME you can do a very basic Twitter account on barely more than half an hour a week, but even a very basic Instagram account requires more way more time because of the need to come up with visual stuff. (plus, you get way less back from it– even a bad Twitter account can report two or three hundred views, which sounds pretty impressive.) And if you do occasionally have photos of stuff to share, you can do that on Twitter perfectly easily.
      8. Put “Ran lab social media” on your CV.
      9. Leave.

    5. emecheta*

      I’d stop looking at this problem as something to solve and just see it as a regular meeting where you need to be able to pitch an idea. Find a way for this to take as little of your time as possible. Like, keep a running list of ideas that you add to whenever you have a random thought or brainwave and select 1-2 for each meeting. Or allocate 10 minutes before each meeting (either right before or earlier in the week) and come up with an idea (possibly by scrolling through social media for ideas).

      Whatever happens, it sounds like he’ll continue to shoot down ideas so don’t get invested in your ideas at all in terms of time, mental energy, and expectations

    6. Meowsy*

      I posted above, but do you have a bit of money laying around to pay an undergrad to post his boring tweets? I think you just have to do it. Someone else suggested getting a fellow faculty or department chair he will listen to… but IME faculty gonna faculty and they won’t listen to that, either. You’re feelings are justified, but unfortunately I think y’all are going to have to post his stupid ego fluff. At this point get together and try and figure out how to make it less intrusive on your lab time.

      How much longer do you have left in the program? Your ideas are spectacular, so I hope you can have free reign on Twitter soon.

    7. Parenthesis Dude*

      The PI wants you to do it, and telling him you can’t just makes you look bad. The point isn’t to get engagement. The point is to make your PI happy.

      He wants posts that make him look serious and respected, so create them. Then, talk to your friends and ask them if a few of them can like the posts and write a few comments. If there’s a team of people working with this PI, then you can all work together to get different names, so it’s not obvious it’s fake. The PI gets his serious social media that he wants with engagement. You and your team look good, and you can save your capital for important things instead of pushing back on something like this.

    8. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      As someone who was in a similar position and successfully escaped it, I can offer moral support.

      Your PI cannot forbid you from having contact with other colleagues (this was explicitly stated by my dept chair). Start contacting your network and references; there’s a good chance they are already aware of your PI’s reputation. Speak freely with your peers. The grad student and postdoc network spread the word of my situation and offered tremendous personal support. If you are in a reasonably safe financial position, consider taking a short break between positions to recalibrate mentally. Mine was a couple of months, during which I moved >1000 miles. Nobody questioned the gap in interviews. It certainly did not tank my career.

      It sounds like you are handling yourself well with everything you described here. I think you will be OK when this is all behind you.

  24. Viette*

    LW #4 – now that you’ve had this happen once, why WOULDN’T you list that you don’t provide health insurance?

    There’s absolutely no reason not to let people know that upfront, except that it invites questions and possibly turns people off, but that’s not because you told them, that’s just because of the reality. If the question is, “do I have to fully disclose this situation, even though it kind of looks unappealing when I say it out loud?” then the answer is (maybe unfortunately for you): yes.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      I’m trying really hard to find a reason other than “deliberate intent to deceive,” but I’m coming up short.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      Yes, you need to. There are a lot of people who will make that assumption these days. If the right person to hire is someone who is willing and able to pay for their own insurance, you should let the others weed themselves out.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      And if that’s a problem, loses you good candidates, makes you unappealing as an employer….think on that.

  25. Irish Teacher.*

    I’m interested in the US approach to health insurance. In Ireland, it is fairly unusual to get it through work, though it is less vital here.

    And we have a huge choice of plans through three or four companies. Choosing a plan gets annoying as there are so many to compare and you don’t necessarily know what your needs will be.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “In Ireland, it is fairly unusual to get it through work, though it is less vital here.”

      We know.

      Every time the topic of health insurance in the U.S. comes up, someone from anywhere else in the word (rightly) boggles at how messed-up the U.S. system is. And then lots of people in the U.S. say, basically, “We know; you don’t have to rub it in our faces.” It’s happened so often that Alison often posts a comment with letters like this one asking people please not to make the U.S. health care system’s messed-upness a topic of conversation. Again.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to comment on your system being messed up or being worse than ours. Believe me, we don’t get to criticise anybody for health systems. Ours is pretty messed up for a whole load of reasons.

        I didn’t mean to criticise the US system. I was just wondering about whether there are healthcare plans that individuals rather than companies can buy and whether the situation in the letter would make it more difficult for people to get health insurance or if it would give them more choice.

        But I can see that I did phrase it badly and I’m sorry if it came across like “ye should just have a different system.” I know that’s easier said than done.

        1. Goldie*

          Companies can definitely have access to better plans. It sounds like this company is rather small and negotiating and maintaining health insurance requires a level of expertise they might not have.

          Of course 25 individuals navigating this marketplace alone is even worse (oh I didn’t realize that isn’t covered!).

          Sorry for the previous poster’s crankiness. Our health care system is broken and basically out to screw us. We are sensitive. Many of us are stuck in jobs simply because of a good insurance plan. I know I am.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          It’s seriously complicated, but yes, individuals can buy into plans. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), health insurance companies could deny coverage due to various pre-existing conditions (aka daring to have a health history prior to getting on the plan) and could skip out on covering a lot of essential things (like pregnancy/childbirth) in their plans. (There were plenty of horror stories of finding yourself diagnosed with breast cancer and suddenly the insurance company would find a notation of a dermatology exam noting acne on your chest and they’d deny due to undisclosed pre-existing condition and drop you.) If you didn’t have insurance through your employer, you could buy a plan. This was generally expensive and/or lacking in certain major coverage types. And if your pre-existing condition was considered risky enough, you might find yourself unable to find any coverage.

          The ACA cut the pre-existing condition limitation, and set a basic dozen or so things that plans must cover. In 2017, employers of 50+ people were made to provide a plan – this case has few employees and so the employer can opt out due to the overhead costs of finding/negotiating/paying into a plan themselves. (In the US, generally the employer directly covers a portion of each employee’s plan, and the other portion is taken from your salary.)

          There is a “marketplace” for each state (and sometimes multiple within a state because your state may be divided geographically) where you can opt to buy into a plan yourself because your employer doesn’t provide one / you are self-employed or not employed* / your employer’s plan is too expensive (more than 9.6% of your monthly household income for single person coverage**) – you go online to an official site for your area to hunt for options. If your employer’s plan is too expensive, you can get a tax credit to help make up for buying your own health coverage.

          *Medicaid is the US health insurance coverage plan for poor/disabled people (vs Medicare for elderly people), but requirements for obtaining it vary wildly between states. It can require you to be mindbogglingly poor in order to obtain this coverage, depending on where you live, and not every doctor is required to accept Medicaid. ACA put in a plan where states could loosen their Medicaid requirements to allow more of their citizens to get healthcare coverage via the ACA market, and in return the federal government would cover 90% of the costs of that ‘Medicaid expansion.’ About 75% (?) of US states have done this to a greater or lesser extent.

          **Yes, the income of one or two+ working people goes into determining if insurance for just the employee on the cheapest plan the employer provides is too expensive or not. Naturally it costs extra to insure spouse/kids.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            As a USian, here to say this is a good top-level explanation of the health insurance system. Thanks for explaining it so well!

          2. Tracy Flick*

            Other important info: the “too risky to insure” was a low bar – you could become “uninsurable” for:

            – any chronic health condition whatsoever
            – history of any health condition you might seek treatment for, especially one that might recur
            – extensive family history of serious health conditions
            – any reference to any mental health issue whatsoever, no matter how temporary or trivial
            – let alone any mental health issue requiring intensive treatment

            This could include stuff like taking antidepressants temporarily after the death of a spouse, or having febrile seizures as a young child, or extremely treatable diseases like hypothyroidism.

            And, of course, if you were “really sick,” as in, dealing with a problem like clinical depression, HIV, or congestive heart failure, you were untouchable.

            Underwriting is a complex process, and different companies have different criteria. But health insurance providers are in the business of insuring, and they don’t want to provide coverage to people who are likely to cost more than they pay.
            They only want to insure healthy people.

            So prior to the ACA, people who needed health insurance coverage generally couldn’t get it on their own. Medicaid was available for low-income people, and some states created (horribly expensive) limited-risk pools for people in this situation, but those were totally inadequate.

            Health insurance companies also solved this problem by offering junk insurance plans, which were written to obscure the fact that they offered virtually no actual coverage. Many people purchased these plans and then were left with no access to treatment and no protection from financial catastrophe.

            Employer plans and family plans are different – if LlamaGroomers Co. provides insurance to its employees, and you’re an employee, their provider can’t exclude you. You can have as many heart defects as you want! Ditto your spouse and kids!

            And as many people in the comments have been explaining, this system created two strata: people who progressed from parent plan to employer-provided plan to employer-provided plan, and thus never encountered this mess directly; and people who lived in these gaps.

            This is the crisis the ACA was created to address – and it’s one reason why employer-provided health insurance plans are so entrenched and so expected. The ACA is still inadequate, but it’s important to understand what it was like before – and why the ACA intervened to guarantee access to insurance first. Before, that didn’t exist.

        3. MissElizaTudor*

          You didn’t phrase it badly, it was clear to me that you were wondering, not boggling at how horrible the US system is. There’s just a bit of a hair trigger here on this issue. Alison’s request for non-US people to avoid bemoaning the fates of us unfortunate USians is reasonable, but it seems to result in some US commenters being more likely to read non-critical comments about our system as critical ones.

        4. Sylvan*

          I don’t think you phrased it badly.

          So our system is complicated and bad, which renders any explanation of it that I’ve tried to write also complicated and bad.

          But yes, there are health care plans that you can buy as an individual. They vary in quality and affordability, and they vary from state to state.

          The letter writer’s situation makes it more difficult to get health insurance in the typical way, but it might open up more choices. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on their location and their employees’ income.

        5. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Sorry about that. I interpreted “I’m interested in the US approach to health insurance” as “OMG, the US approach to health insurance is sure messed up, amirite?” Which I realize, now that it’s no longer 4 am and I’ve had a morning cup of tea, was reading more into the text than was there.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Thank you for pointing this out. Yes, we know we have problems in the US. No, people from other countries constantly pointing out what we already know doesn’t fix those problems.

        1. Uggghhhh*

          Way to be judgmental of someone who was speaking up to get clarification about something they didn’t understand.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        Did you? I, for one, did not know anything about the insurance system in Ireland. Did you know that for example in France, it is usual to get part of your health insurance through work? There are at least as many systems as countries out there, all with their own little idiosyncrasies. It’s not your way or the other way.

        Taking every comparison as a criticism is due to your frustration with your system, not the fault of international commenters just stating their background.

      4. MissElizaTudor*

        This comment isn’t a “look how messed up this is” comment, though. It’s curious comment, not a critical one.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      (I also live in Ireland)

      Everyone I know (and I truly mean everyone because I talk about this often with my friends and colleagues) who has a full-time job and is not a contractor has health insurance through work. Heck, I even had health insurance when working customer service. My friends who work retail get health insurance. Every job I’ve had here, except internships, provided insurance.

      I know that teachers get compensated very poorly here, but I had absolutely no idea that you don’t even get health insurance! This is definitely not the norm.

      1. Alex (they/them)*

        that is very yikes. i live in the us and in my state at least the pay for teachers isn’t great but the health insurance is pretty good. my mom is a teacher and i’m staying on her health insurance as long as i can!

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      Employer-based health insurance in the US is a remnant of WWII era wage freezes—the government imposed wage freezes to keep labor costs from skyrocketing during the war and employers started offering health insurance as a non-wage benefit to attract employees and it stuck. Economists across the political spectrum agree it’s a bad policy (ties people to jobs that may be a bad fit, prevents people from starting their own business, the tax implications are regressive, etc., etc.) but we are still stuck here.

    4. Parenthesis Dude*

      Insurance for a family costs roughly $20-25k a year in the US. The insurance you’ll get for that amount isn’t particularly great. It costs this amount even though insurers are required to spend 85% of the cost of the plan on medical expenses or else they get penalized.

      This is financially prohibitive for most people, so there are three ways that people get insurance.
      The first is to get it from their employer. The employer works with an insurance company or companies to develop a few plans for their employees. The employer also pays a high percentage of the cost of the plan. If your employer pays $15k, and you pay $8k, then your insurance is much more affordable.

      The second is to get a subsidy on the marketplace. If you make below a certain amount, then the gov’t will subsidize your plan. The gov’t might pay $15k, and you’ll pay $8k and your insurance is more affordable.

      The third is to get a plan on the marketplace, and not be eligible for a subsidy. In that case, you’ll pay $20k, but you can afford it because you’re making a large salary.

      There typically aren’t very many options. You need large volume in a plan to make costs predictable, and that prevents people from being able to customize their own plan.

    5. LB*

      If you want a great basic (and entertaining) primer, look on YouTube for Brian David Gilbert’s video about health insurance.

  26. ScienceIsFun*

    #1: I’ve worked at a university for 20 years and handled the communications and social media either as an aside or as a primary part of my job. My suggestion for getting a PI to actually listen to you is to get a communications expert (a peer to the PI) from your institution in the room for the next meeting, if possible. Most academic institutions have one or more senior level folks in their strategic communications department that can help facilitate this awkward discussion and talk about best practices. Alternatively, ask around to find your institution’s leading science communications prof or PhD candidate. It’s a big, blooming, hot field right now. A stratcomm person may really discourage the idea of your lab having a random account or suggest you just send stuff to them to handle. This scenario will likely make them CRAZY and may violate institutional branding standards. A scicomm person will very likely back your great ideas up and love your creativity (I do!!) Good luck!

  27. Still*

    OP#4 you may have adjusted the salary to cover the employees insurance costs, but if your new hire didn’t know you don’t offer health insurance, they took the entire salary at face value when negotiating. Which means that the overall benefits package is still worth significantly less than they thought.

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

      Yes, the candidate was wrong to assume, but since candidates have been heavily discouraged from forthrightly discussing benefits in interviews (and this is only recently starting to change), I can see myself making the exact same mistake. It would feel like a serious bait-and-switch and I would be continuing to job hunt. Any interviewer in the US wondering why I was looking to leave my job so quickly would balk for a second at “I found out on my 1st day that they don’t provide health insurance.”

    2. Dancing Otter*

      This, 100%.
      Had this happened to me, I would never trust the employer again, which is a lousy way to start a job. Do you want to give new employees a sense of grievance from day one?
      That new hire probably still has applications pending from the job search that brought them to you. A rapid departure wouldn’t be an unforeseeable consequence.

  28. Practical Criticism*

    LW1 – I’m also in academia though not in a lab. I wasn’t clear what the purpose of your lab’s social media accounts are and I think your PI needs to be clear on this.

    If it’s just to post about results/papers/grants won to an audience of other academics, just do that – probably on Twitter only. This should be one person’s job: they can email monthly for updates.

    If it’s aimed at public understanding of science, could you suggest someone do a fine minute presentation about successful accounts? Perhaps from the university’s marketing team? Again, social media should be one or two people’s jobs in this case.

    If you have standing, I would also be tempted to note that many “science leaders” (or however your PI likes to think of themselves) have their own professional accounts as well as a lab one, to build their reputation as an individual.

    Ultimately, if you don’t have a huge stake in increasing the reputation of the lab or a funder you need to deliver to, this is a low stakes problem – another perennial item to be deferred at department meetings. Just let it wash over you.

  29. Ary*

    LW1: I have no experience in the academia circuit, but I do in the political one and this sounds like he wants you to do some of his campaigning (even if he isn’t running right this second, he could point to the posts during an election as well as keep it up during an election) so he doesn’t have to pay for it later. Most of the school board members I know will mention their professional lives in their personal social media (“As a teacher and now a member of the school board, I have a unique look at what needs to be done”) but they aren’t using the school social media to be like “Local school board member and teacher shaking hands with mayor at dinner”. It has to be beneficial to the school, not the person. So to me, this would smack of using school resources as a campaign platform even if he’s not actively running at the moment. My work would have SERIOUS words with someone doing that so I don’t know if yours would if that is an option.

    That said, if AAM has taught me anything, it’s that the academic world seems to think normal rules and the like are for everyone else and they’ll do things in their own, often not great, way.

    1. bamcheeks*

      In my experience (work in UK universities), it would be OK for an academic to promote their political / public career on their own, university-affiliated account– in a way it probably wouldn’t be in a private sector job– but v dodge to get their staff to do it for them.

      1. academic fibro warrior*

        My university (big state one US) just sent us a policy document on rules re political activity for school affiliated social media accounts. The basic upshot is don’t take sides. So if school has a similar policy he might not be able to do what he wants anyway.

      2. Green beans*

        In the USA, you can’t do that from a university-affiliated account like a lab account. It violates non-profit status.

        You could do that from your personal account. But that’s different.

  30. nonny*

    OP1: From your additional comment, it sounds like you have way bigger issues at play here, and I trust that he’s being unreasonable about shooting down your suggestions– but also, everything you list falls very much on the cheeky sci-comm side in terms of vibe. Your friend is surely right that that’s a path to success, but it’s also clearly hitting the wrong energy for your boss. If you need to make suggestions, can you come up with some more vanilla, project-focussed and less labour-intensive ideas? It’s less fun, but what you’ve suggested here is definitely a very distinct energy and maybe not one he wants the project associated with (no comment on whether that’s a good idea or not!).

    I also second suggestions to check in with your department or school’s PR or comms teams, as it’s possible they have policies about individual project accounts that could just help you wash your hands of the whole thing.

  31. kanej*

    OP2 – if your daughter is applying for work in the games industry or associated industries where familiarity with esports is common (like tech and startup culture), her esports experience is likely a pro. and always, there’s the opportunity to reframe what the achievement is on the resume – i was very successful in my niche and not well understood hobby at college, so i would rephrase my achievements on my resume from “Champion of Schmergerberd Cup” to “ranked best at national competition” or “winner of north american championships” etc etc

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Your daughter should also specially call out any work she does to help manage the team. Just thinking to my marching band days… someone handles financial paperwork. Takes attendance. Arranges travel to events. Solicits donations from the community. Maintains school-owned equipment. I imagine the troubleshooting for an IT heavy team like this would be a big deal on its own.

  32. Deirdre Barlow*

    LW1- presumably your university has a Comms team- this is exactly the kind of thing they’re there for! I can tell you that most Comms people would be absolutely horrified with what your boss has suggested, and can push back that what he’s suggesting is out of step with the organisation’s image. Get a Comms person in and let them tell him no :D

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Agreed, and isn’t this the kind of thing the university would want their comms team to vet anyway?

      1. Green beans*

        For a general lab account? No. Most universities have understaffed, under-expertised (in research areas), and overworked comms departments. And there are likely hundreds of labs and research groups.

        But a lab account promoting a political career or doing other Big Nos? Yeah, they’d be interested.

  33. Zircon*

    #1 – this is where I’d really wreck all hope for future support or advancement by saying “but we all gave you excellent ideas and you didn’t like any of them. I don’t think anyone wants to go on trying” – and then I’d be surprised that the PI got upset with me. Autism bites me sometimes!

  34. Luna*

    LW1 – Boss, it’s lovely that you got to become a big cheese. But nobody on the internet will care. They will see pictures of you with politicians and ignore it.

    Honestly, I would suggest the boss go on social media himself and check out what is clicked on a lot there (as you say, LAB CATS! Animal pictures are a goldmine)… but at the same time, I have made the mistake of diving into the trending pages of Twitter sometimes, and it was a cesspool of horrendous, disgusting stuff. I call it the dark pits, and I do my best to stay away from there. So, going and checking things himself might not be good, either.

    You could be blunt and say, “The other members and I have given you our suggestions, and you have declined them.” As they say, the ball is in his court now.

  35. Madame X*

    LW4: You need to make it abundantly clear that your company does not offer health insurance. Unless otherwise stated, most Americans assume that their employer will provide health insurance. Simply leaving off health insurance in your benefits package is clearly not enough. In fact, you should proactively inform job candidates either in the job ad or during the screening interview. This will likely mean that there are some people who will not apply to work for your company because they are specifically seeking companies that offer health insurance as part of their benefits package. However, there will still be some that will continue to apply because they either get health insurance through their partner or they’re fine with using the insurance offered through ACA. Either way, people need to be fully informed before day agree to work for your company.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      This. Disclosing this needs to happen at the earliest possible stage–in the job posting or at the very latest, in the initial screening interview. Don’t waste people’s time interviewing and tell them at the last minute–“gotcha” moves are never a good look for HR topics.

        1. Madame X*

          Right. I’m really trying to give the LW the benefit of the doubt they are not trying to intentionally mislead. However, the way they are choosing to “inform” candidates that no benefits are included is very obtuse. We thankfully are moving into an era where discussing salary earlier on in the job application process is becoming the norm. For example, I regularly get emails from recruiters with job posts that include info on the salary & benefits. Benefits are part of an employee’s compensation, so whether or not a company offers healthcare should be clearly stated as early as possible.

  36. The Mansplainer*

    @LW3. Maybe it’s considered normal in your locale, but I think the fact that you are expected to give two weeks notice while they don’t give any guarantee you will be employed/paid during those two weeks a pretty one-sided deal anyway. So if you can’t afford to miss out on two weeks of salary I would give no notice at all. Regardless of whether you are on a PIP or not.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      There is no guarantee that we can work out our 2 week notice anywhere in the US (except in very rare jobs that have a contract I suppose).

      1. MountainWalk*

        I came to ask about this, are employers not obligated to give pay in lieu of notice in the US? I am in Canada and here your employer doesn’t have to allow you to work for the 2 weeks but they have to pay for you the 2 weeks instead (or potentially more depending on how long you’ve worked there). So AFAIK in the case of LW3 if they had quit with no notice then employer doesn’t have to pay but since they are offering the 2 weeks notice, if the employer shortens it they’d be obligated to pay out the remaining time.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Nope, here the employer only has to pay for time worked except in the unlikely event you have a contract stating otherwise. If you give notice and they decide today is your last day, you will not get paid for anything past today.

          1. MountainWalk*

            Thank you for the reply! Yeah I can’t see any incentive for giving notice if there’s a risk of just being dismissed without compensation!
            (Obviously it’s different if you want to maintain the relationship but I’m assuming that’s not the case here).

        2. Witch of Dathomir*

          I don’t think anyone is obligated to, but places often do. I had to terminate a report not long ago and we decided to pay out his two weeks rather than have him work it.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yep, conscientious places have this option – similar to a severance package. It definitely signals positive things to the employees who see how you handle resignations. But it’s not an obligation or even a common practice, it’s very company and industry dependant.

    2. Won't Get Fooled Again. Maybe.*

      I hate that companies expect a notice period but have no problem ushering you out the door when you DO give notice…with no pay. I had occasion to be the usher once upon a time, but we paid the 2 weeks anyway. It was a win/win. Terrible employee left immediately and they got paid.

    3. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      Speculating here, but would it be possible to split the difference? Tell new job two weeks, tell current job you’re sorry but the new job needs you to start in one week, and you’ll do everything you can to ease the transition during that time. One week of work, one week to relax before new job.

    4. ferrina*

      2 weeks notice is the norm in the U.S. for most industries/roles. That time is so the worker can wrap up any last projects, prep documentation on common tasks they do, and do any knowledge transfer necessary.

      LW- what kind of time would you normally want to wrap up/transition your role? If your manager is reasonable and decent, give them that time. It sounds like your mistake was grievous but not fireable- you haven’t mentioned whether the PIP is reasonable or not, which makes me think it is (usually folks mention it if the PIP has ridiculous goals). I’ve been on both sides of this; managers that want you out will write a PIP that kicks you out. Managers that have your back will write a PIP that lays out the job description and try to get you the tools to succeed (even if you may ultimately decide to leave/don’t end up meeting the PIP). This happens sometimes in business. It sucks, it stings, but it’s not always personal (yes, there are vindictive managers who will use this as a personal attack- you’ll know which type your manager is)

      What about a 1 week notice? When you talk to your manager, bring a transition plan with you- what are your current projects, what parts are you responsible for, what’s the status and next steps, and who can serve as SME when you leave. You’ll have provided the support for the transition, but in a way that less transition time will be needed (and you’ll only be out 1 week if they decide to have you leave early)

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree with you. It sounds to me like OP can’t afford to miss the extra salary, and this seems like a risky situation. Just don’t give notice.

      Not my typical advice in this situation but if the relationship is shot anyway, don’t take the risk.

  37. Blackthorn*

    The social media bit.
    Ah, so many companies do not understand how to use social media! Sure, a lab is serious, but an architect or law company is also serious. ALL workplaces are serious, when it comes to work. But social media is not about work, it’s about engagement.
    My company is a nationwide membership organization. Many colleagues have got the job to manage their area’s social media accounts. But because “we are a serious company”, all of the posts and tweets must be “on brand” – aka effin boring. Never a joke, never some lighthearted fun, never an interesting trivia. Nope. Only the latest company news and achievements are allowed to be go out.
    I can see the engagement stats. They are hurtfully low. I’m talking about 4 post likes, 2 new followers, 6 retweets. Per week. When they have to post/tweet every day, several times.
    I suggested to change this a couple of times; actually, specifically mentioned cats, because who wouldn’t want to see kitties??! – management have none of it.
    Well, then go, be stupid. Why do I even care??

  38. Kotow*

    LW4: Yeah, health insurance is so expected in full-time employment that you have to be explicit you don’t offer it. For whatever it’s worth, I just dropped group insurance and signed up for an ICHRA. The employer sets a reimbursement amount, employee selects their own plan, employer reimburses tax free (both to the employee and employer). There are no minimum participation requirements. There’s a bit of legwork getting set up, but I’ll probably never go back to standard group insurance. It’s something to look into.

  39. Real Games Person's Advice*

    LW2:
    I am a woman working in gaming. If your daughter has ANY interest in games development/creation/ideation in the future, 10000000% she should be putting this league membership on her resume! Not only are female-fronted esports leagues on the rise, but this kind of activity is super valuable to recruiters in this industry.

    It’s not some silly extracurricular interest, it’s equivalent to joining a varsity college/university sports team and demonstrates massive interest in gaming. Again, if your daughter wants to work in video gaming in any capacity, please encourage her to put this front and center.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes, it really depends on the roles she’s applying for! A lot of people won’t understand and it may come off oddly for say – a retail job, if she’s trying to just get work experience. But if this is an industry she wants to break into it’s a centerpiece!

      So the lesson to teach here is really about tailoring your resume to the job as opposed to whether or not the esports league is appropriate.

    2. Rebecca*

      This is obviously heavily dependent on industry (and on the person reading the resume, which you obviously can’t control for), but I’ve been in positions where I was hiring between 5-10 people every year, often for their first (or one of their first) jobs. When you don’t have a lot of work experience, you can do a lot worse than list things that a) show a commitment to/interest in something (like playing video games at a high level) and also b) show off your personality a little. I realize that B can easily tip into a problematic place, where people are hiring people that they think will “fit the culture,” but honestly it’s just so much easier to remember “The person who plays esports” over “The person who also got a BA last year” when you’re winnowing down resumes to decide who to interview/hire.

      I agree with listing it amongst other clubs/accomplishments, and not setting it too far apart, but honestly I don’t think it’ll hurt her chances at a job, and (even in jobs that don’t center around esports) might be a positive. If anyone doesn’t want to hire her because she mentions esports on her resume, she probably didn’t want to work for them either.

    3. betty (the other betty)*

      There are a lot of job types for which esports experience is a plus.

      My son spoke about being an officer of his college esports club and a member of one of the teams in his interview for the data analyst job he wanted (and got, woohoo!).

      I think that his esports experience showed that he had leadership skills, the ability to think quickly under pressure, and that he could work together with a team virtually (which was pretty important during covid times).

  40. Nikki*

    LW3: I’m confused about why you’re mentioning unemployment insurance in your question. If you’re quitting of your own volition, to take a different job or for any other reason, you’re not eligible for unemployment insurance. That doesn’t change if your employer asks you to leave immediately. You’re still the one making the decision to leave, they’re just moving up the timeline. Even if you were to file for unemployment, it takes several weeks for the state to process the request and by that time you would have started your new job and they’d see you’re employed elsewhere and deny your request.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      My understand (which may be wrong) is if I give notice that my last day will be November 2nd and my company says “no, today October 20 will be your last day,” then I will be eligible for unemployment payments for the period between October 21 and November 2 (unless I did something worthy of firing for cause on my way out the door on October 20). The reason is I chose to leave on November 2. My company chose for me to leave today. This is where letters of resignation with an end date can be very important.

      Your point about filing for unemployment taking several weeks still stands in that the OP shouldn’t expect to be paid right away, but (again just my understanding, could be wrong) the state should see that you were unemployed from October 20 – November 2 and pay you for that period, even if you are working when they process your claim on November 15 or whenever.

      1. Lab Rat*

        Yes, I got my last UI payment after starting another job. It had been contested because a high percentage of labs used a sterilization system I was allergic to, so I was ruled “unemployable in said field” and therefore ineligible for benefits if I was seeking that particular position. I had to actually get a job to prove I was employable, and therefore subsequently received previously withheld benefits.
        Go figure.

  41. FashionablyEvil*

    #1 reminds me of some misguided companies my friend was hired to support in the earlier days of social media: one was a machine company that wanted more likes on their FB page (because people look for specialty machine companies based on FB likes…?) and another wanted to know why people online didn’t like them (they were a law firm known for filing nuisance patent lawsuits.)

    1. JustaTech*

      So many companies still don’t understand the purpose of social media. My in-laws had a distribution company (ie, not to the general public) and kept trying really hard to figure out the social media thing. They even hired a guy specifically for social media! (And then expected him to do outside sales and got mad when he wasn’t good at it. Uh, not his area of expertise?)

      Then there are companies like mine that are in regulated industries that limit what they can say (reasonably) so it’s very hard to do social media at all, let alone *well*.

  42. Michelle Smith*

    OP2: You’re a bit out of touch, yes. Playing video games in your room alone (like I do) is very different than being on a college esports team. She absolutely should list it on her resume like any other extracurricular activity. It demonstrates an ability to work collaboratively with others in a team environment and an ability to communicate effectively to solve problems. If her GPA is high, it also shows that she is able to achieve at a high level academically while juggling other time consuming commitments, which is also an advantage. She’s n0t putting “I play Fortnite on my cell phone” as a hobby on her resume; she’s putting membership in a competitive sports team on her resume. These are two very different things.

  43. Hiring Mgr*

    On #4, yes you have to make it clear up front. If the amount the employee pays is the same in the end for similar coverage, it sounds ok, but has to be mentioned as it’s such a standard benefit.

    it could even wind up as a plus for the employee if they’re able to ultimately go on a spouse or someone else’s plan

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      The way insurance seems to have gone the past decade or so, that (going on a spouse or someone else’s plan) isn’t even guaranteed.

      Over my past three jobs, I’ve had to:
      1. Certify annually that my husband is self-employed and does not carry his own insurance. There is a low 4-figure penalty of sorts for insurance if your spouse is eligible elsewhere (so if the spouse has access to insurance but its of a ridiculously expensive sort, you’re able to just pay the thousand or so extra to add them).
      2. Provide paperwork indicating that my husband has opted out of his insurance plans through his employment (because it was banana crackers level of expensive) and pay an access fee (might’ve been $750 for the year?) to add him to my insurance.
      3. Fill out paperwork so that my husband could get the one time “bonus” for not taking company insurance (see 2 about – the bonus was about $50 more than the access fee, hence why we did this. The insurance I had was far better.)
      4. Get a letter from my boss indicating that the small firm I worked for no longer offered employer provided group plans so that I could be added to my husband’s insurance at no penalty.

      Then there’s the local Catholic hospital system that charges a ridiculous fee for spouses, regardless of whether they are even working/self employed/work for someone who offers insurance. Its insane. I’d argue misinterpretation of the situation, but when you know multiple people who work for the system and they all say the same thing (a doctor’s SAHW gets an access fee because she “could” go find a job that offers her insurance, same for the MA with a self-employed husband, same thing for a nurse’s husband who works for a small employer) you have to think that its a thing.

      Yeah, our healthcare system is completely broken.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I’m confused as to why you had to do all that. I’m in Massachusetts and don’t know if it’s a state by state thing but I’ve always added spouse and kids to my insurance without having to do any of those things.

        1. EJ*

          I believe it is an employer situation rather than state/locale situation. More and more employers are meeting the letter of the law by offering health insurance to their employees but not necessarily to families of said employees. And this is is perfectly legal and meets all criteria of the ACA. But it should ALSO be communicated up front!

          My brother just left a job after 5 months that didn’t communicate this exact thing during the hiring process, simply saying of course they offer health insurance as required by the ACA. He went to sign up and there was no option for spouse/children. He stayed only until he found a new job with family coverage.

          Not being open about available options will only lead to high turnover of new employees and loss of goodwill.

      2. Tracy Flick*

        Wow. I hope your employer explains in interviews that they have health benefits with family coverage for employees who are willing to go before the charity panel from Angela’s Ashes.

      3. JustaTech*

        Thank you for confirming that #1 does exist! My husband keeps insisting that no, of course there wouldn’t be a penalty if I was on his insurance instead of mine, but I was sure that, at least at some point, there was a serious fee if I decided to drop my insurance in favor of his.

        Glad I’m not *totally* misunderstanding what can happen.

  44. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: Yes, you should clearly explain it. I have never worked a full time job anywhere in my life that didn’t offer health insurance. It was a reasonable assumption to make. Why not make it an explicit disclaimer so that people are on notice before accepting the role and you don’t unintentionally generate ill will from people who don’t ask about it. This new person hasn’t worked at your company for years, so how would they possibly know you got rid of this very basic benefit a long, long time ago?

  45. Wintermute*

    LW2– for any job in gaming, game development or publishing, I would say it’s a huge advantage.

    Every publisher wants an eSports game, and are trying to “make it happen”, but so far the formula has proven elusive and many eSports games are basically accidents and coincidences, attempts to “force” an eSport have met with middling success (Overwatch) to complete failure (Heroes of the Storm or Amazon’s MOBA the name of which I forget).

    End result: companies are very interested in hiring people that understand the culture and what would attract sport players to their games, because the things that attract a professional are totally different from what sells to the masses and publishers, developers and the like are desperate to get people that understand that culture.

    Gaming-adjacent companies, like hardware manufacturers and gamer accessory companies it would also be somewhat valuable– having contacts and knowledge of that world (which is a major source of their marketing partnerships) is valuable.

    For any other company I would treat it like I’d treat being on any college sport team, it says some good things about teamwork, dedication and ability to balance a tough schedule, but it shouldn’t have a ton of weight.

  46. Maurynna36*

    OP3: I’ve always been told to never assume your company will allow you to work after your notice, especially if you are in a position where you have access to sensitive information. My current company in is a very competitive niche industry and has a policy that if you are leaving the company and going to a competitor or choose not to disclose where you are going then you will not be allowed to work out your notice period but you are still paid for it. It’s a bit of a pain because there is no time for knowledge transfer but industrial espionage is absolutely a thing in this industry so you can’t blame the company either.

    Basically, even if they do not let you work out your notice period, I wouldn’t automatically assume that this is because of a PIP.

    1. L. Ron Jeremy*

      If that’s the case, I’d give a several months notice and take a great vacation, since they pay for it!

  47. Shanders*

    I have one addendum!

    If you are in high school and applying to work in a coffee shop or the local mall, do NOT put “references available upon request”! It looks silly, you aren’t a professional with many to choose from and no time to spare, put down your handful of babysitting or character references, every other resume in the stack will have them and yours will move to the bottom.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Per Alison you don’t need references per request for anyone. It’s already standard that you would provide references if they are needed

  48. Dinwar*

    OP1: The idea that science has to be Super-Duper Serious is extremely outdated. One of the big pushes for science as a whole right now is to humanize the field. Quite frankly we lost a lot of credibility in the pandemic (mostly because the public saw the actual process and reacted with “Wait, you mean it takes TIME to learn new things?!”) and pretty much anything to help fix that would be a good thing! There are a bunch of examples of science being humanized to the benefit of everyone. “Cosmos”, for example, was driven as much by Sagan’s personality as anything else. Same with Bill Nye.

    If your boss wants you to continue to work on this, I would ask him what his target audience is. If it’s the general public–a sort of “Look at the cool stuff we’re doing!” thing–than personality is going to be better than data. Show the lab staff having some fun. If it’s donners, you want to emphasize the accomplishments. If it’s your peers–folks who work in the lab with you–in-jokes are the way to go I’d think, the sort of thing that you need five years experience running the machine to get. If it’s politics….run.

    I do have to ask: Lab cats? How does that work? I’ve worked in a few geology and geochem labs, and cats were never allowed du to the risk (kitties and multi-ton rock corers do NOT mix). I spent some time in a marine biology lab and the cats would view that as an all-you-can-eat buffet!

    1. JustaTech*

      If I had to guess “lab cats” are “cats who own the people who work in this lab” rather than, like, bookstore cats that live at the bookstore.
      (One bookstore where I worked had to put up a sign saying “We’ve never had cats, that’s the place up the street” because so many people kept asking after them, very concerned.)

      I work in a immunology lab and cats would just not work. Not safe for the cats, not safe from the cats (even if they didn’t knock anything over, they’re still not wearing lab coats and gloves).

  49. Yellow+Flotsam*

    LW1 how much effort would it take to just do the social media the way your PI wants? If it would be easy, maybe just do that even though it won’t be good (unless you’d get blamed for low views etc).

    OTOH it’s not technically your job. OTOH often your PI is the reason you have a job, and the person who decides what is and is not funded (travel, papers, experiments, assistants etc) using “their” money. If putting up boring social media posts of their latest paper, or photo of them with local politician will get you what you need from them – it is could be worth it.

  50. I should really pick a name*

    LW#1
    What is the goal of this social media campaign?
    Cat photos and pictures of attractions might get views, but would they be views from people who are actually interested in your research? It sounds like a generic strategy to get views, not a targeted one to get views from a specific demographic.

    To be clear, your PI’s suggestions sound weird too (what does PI stand for anyway?). But what if you just posted what they wanted and washed your hands of it? Minimum effort, and if it doesn’t get engagement, you can say you did what they wanted.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Principal Investigator– basically the person who “owns” the lab. They don’t usually formally own the buildings etc– they’ll belong to the university– but the funding for the lab is attached to the PI themselves rather than the lab research group or physical space itself. So they have an awful lot of power.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      PI is Principal Investigator. They are the ones more permanently connected with the institution. (I am making a distinction between them and the researchers like OP1)

    3. CharlieBrown*

      Part of social media is to show the people behind the *whatever*, in addition to showing the whatever. So yes, cat photos could be very appropriate as they bring people in and then those people get to see the research as well.

      Mind you, a social media campaign that is nothing but cats would not be appropriate, unless you were in a field that’s devoted to cats (cat food, cat rescue, etc.).

  51. L-squared*

    #2. I MAY slightly disagree with this. While I wouldn’t say it should be actively listed as a job. E sports is a big thing these days. I don’t personally get it, but I know it is. I know someone whose job is a college esports coach. There are esports scholarships for college. So I’m not sure exactly how to list it though. I’d say its more akin to a club hockey team for a college that doesn’t have an actual team than anything else. So however that would be listed would probably be similar. If that would only go on as a “hobby” or interest, than sure.

    #4. Yes, you need to make this crystal clear, I’d argue this should be specifically told even in the stage where you discuss salary. Insurance is such a standard part of any full time job that I can imagine its not something you are even actively looking for on the benefits sheet. Especially if you are a younger employee with no health problems. I’d almost argue this is a lie of omission. Yes, you didn’t say you did offer it, but you didn’t clearly say you didn’t.

    1. Minerva*

      Re #2 I think you got the comparison correct. While eSports probably deserves more respect than it gets in the current times, it is like being on the school hockey team rather than a job. At least in the context this letter is presented.

    2. This or That*

      In my experience, companies that don’t offer standard benefits (like health insurance) tend to be bad companies to work for in a myriad of other ways.

      If I saw an ad that stated “we do not offer health insurance” it would throw up a huge red flag for me. Even if I was already insured and didn’t need it through my job, I’d wonder: what’s wrong with this company?

      I’ve found out twice in an interview process that the company did not offer health insurance. Both turned out to be companies that treated their employees poorly.

      I’m not saying that’s true of the LW’s company, but if they are up front with their lack of insurance options they may not get any applicants.

      1. L-squared*

        I don’t think it necessarily needs to be in the ad, but I do think that once salary comes up, it needs to be made clear then. Just something like “We do not currently offer health insurance, but we have adjusted salary to make it easier to afford to purchase your own”

          1. blood orange*

            Yeah, I agree. It’s so easy to note that too. Most job boards allow employers to select tags of the benefits they offer. I for sure wouldn’t wait until the offer stage. This is just like discussing salary up front. Just talk about your benefits package along with that.

  52. DramaQ*

    L1 I would definitely reach out to your university’s media department. When I worked at one it was made very clear that anything that used the university in any capacity fell under their department we were not to be creating content on our own and could lead to us getting in trouble.

    Animals definitely would have crossed the line. Doesn’t matter they aren’t research animals people seeing your content don’t know that and there are a lot of groups that target animal labs for protest. At my university that content would be grounds for potential termination.

    Your PIs vanity project is also a no no because since it’s a lab sponsored page it can look like the university is endorsing certain candidates and can cost the donors and prospective students. It’s going to be seen as a conflict of interest.

    More than getting your work done is at stake. I encourage you to talk to them. They will slap your PI down hard and fast. He knows the rules he’s hoping you don’t or are too intimidated to look into it. Then when it blows up he can chuck you under the bus and his career remains in tact. Quite common in academics unfortunately.

    He wants to have a career in politics he can make his own private social media not affiliated with the university.

    Believe me any media you see that associates with a lab is controlled by the media department with permission from the university. Nobody is going Rouge.

    You guys need to stand your ground and get the university involved asap.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      “Nobody is going Rouge”. That would be a great slogan for animal rights protests of the lab

    2. Ama*

      Yeah as someone who used to work in academic administration and now works at a nonprofit that funds academics, this letter set off all my alarm bells. I would bet money the university communications office would have some very strong feelings about this account.

      1. DramaQ*

        I forgot to also say that anything in academics is public information. Nowadays I would not risk, and the university certainly isn’t going to want to risk having themselves associated with political candidates so openly. It is not hard to find out what labs people work in and where they are located. I had graduate students who would find me and stalk me looking for recommendations to my boss (they didn’t get one because creepy). It wouldn’t be hard for someone to find you or your lab and harass you because they don’t like who your PI is associating with. And sure you have badges, secure acesss etc etc but all it takes is ONE person just pushing a button in the elevator. Happens all the time. Usually in our case it was a poor misdirected patient/visitor for the attached hospital but it could have been worse.

  53. Angelinha*

    I have always thought it’s silly when employers post things like “great benefits: health insurance, major holidays, and sick time!” as though they’re somehow going above and beyond by offering what should be considered the bare minimum. But if you DON’T offer those things, you 100% need to be explicit about it. I agree with others that you can include a line about salaries being x% higher than they would otherwise be to account for the need to purchase insurance independently.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Definitely two ends of the spectrum, and both are signaling “I’m out of touch as an employer” in different but equally alarming ways.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      Agreed. Two weeks of vacation time, and standard insurance offerings are not “great” benefits by any means.

      Employers either have wildly unrealistic ideas about what “great” benefits actually are, or mistakenly think that they are going above and beyond by even offering benefits, or are just trying to blow smoke up applicant’s asses. Either way……

  54. Lacey*

    OP1: Is it possible to just be blunt & say, “We gave you the ideas we had, you didn’t like them. All future ideas would be similar, that’s why you’re handling this.” ?

    I know it’s not always an option at work, but when you can say something like that, I find it’s pretty effective.

  55. ABCYaBye*

    LW1 – IF you wanted or needed to keep engaging in the conversation, offer to make two different posts to see how well they perform. One can be what they want and one can be something like you’ve suggested. Perhaps showing them with actual results and data might help them see that their ideas are terrible.

    Building up social media with unique and interesting posts helps bring an audience. Then you can post some of the more dry stuff in and amongst the other things. You will have a larger audience first, and then can share some of the “look at me” stuff the PI wants to share, too.

  56. Minerva*

    Tangential to LW 2- I think we can all agree that hobby gaming (no matter how competitive or organized you are) doesn’t belong on a resume…but ARE there circumstances where gaming or other forms of online activity belong?

    For example, there is such a thing as a professional eSports player. If that has been a legitimate source of someone’s income that belongs on a resume, right? If been getting into Twitch streaming. While I would consider a Twitch Affiliate streamer as a “serious hobby” akin to a hobby Etsy store (some income made but probably not resume appropriate as a “job”), a Twitch Partner is at minimum a part time job level of commitment and probably actually makes a fair amount of cash even at the lower levels, and a full-time job/brand at the higher levels.

    How do you deal with things that “feel” like they aren’t “real jobs” on a resume?

    1. RFlaum*

      I feel like this kind of thing varies a lot based on culture, field, and personal tastes of those doing the hiring. I interviewed someone who listed his career as a semiprofessional Starcraft player on his resume, which worked well here — but this is a programming position, and the culture of the field is a lot more friendly to things like this than a lot of other fields would be.

    2. kiki*

      I think the key is identifying what relevance it has to the jobs you’re applying for and thinking if a hiring manager would realistically be impressed by your accomplishments. If you’re a Twitch streamer with a somewhat significant following and high production value, that’s probably worth including when applying for a job in comms. But if you’d be embarrassed to show your Streams in a professional setting or know the production value is still low, it’s best to keep it off. Also, if the role is something with no comms or video element, I’d also leave it off.

    3. Rebecca*

      Part of the problem is the vocabulary, I think. Something like Twitch Affiliate/Twitch Partner you need to be able to explain very very quickly to justify why it’s on a resume (if you can’t explain your Twitch Affiliate status in less space than you take listing your job duties/accomplishments, for example, I’d leave it off). But “varsity esports team for X University,” while I may not know that esports is a thing that has varsity sports teams, I at least know what “varsity” is and can infer that OP went through a selective/competitive process to achieve it.

  57. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #1. I’ve heard that fake followers can be surprisingly cheap. Not that I would suggest this normally, but OPs further comments show that her boss is exceedingly awful in other ways, so I don’t feel so iffy about it. She’d have to spend her own money, unfortunately, but if $20 could get her boss off her back so she can continue her job search in peace, it might be worth it.