open thread – October 28-29, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 1,141 comments… read them below }

  1. Over It*

    Are there any PAs here? I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school and getting a clinical degree in fall 2024. I’ve been looking into PA school, but I’m concerned about the 1,000 hours of clinical experience most programs seem to require, and was wondering if anyone could speak more to that specifically? I have a public health degree and worked in social services, so I’ve always been very healthcare-adjacent, but don’t have any direct clinical experience and don’t see how I could possibly get 1,000+ hours in over the next two years while maintaining my full-time job, especially since shadowing doesn’t seem to count for many programs. Thanks in advance for any input!

    1. Over It*

      I’m also looking into other clinical degrees and am open to input from clinicians as I attempt to narrow this down. I’ve confidently ruled out medical school at this point as I’m most interested in primary care and psych, and I don’t have the stamina or finances to spend the next 8-10 years in medical training.

    2. Dr. Nurse*

      Generally PA schools will require that you do not work full time. (Some will not let you work at all.) I completed a nurse practitioner degree (1025 hours) while working full-time, but I had to cut back to part-time for the final year to complete all of the required hours.

      1. Over It*

        Ah maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my original post–I’m looking into applying for cohorts starting in fall 2024, and working full-time between now and then. For PA school they seem to require 1,000 patient contact hours as a *pre-requisite* before you even apply, which doesn’t seem to be the case for either nursing or medical school. I would not attempt to work more than a very part-time job once I was back in school, unless I end up picking a different degree that has a part-time program.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      My daughter is a PA. She did so later in life (late 30s). She had some veterans’ benefits but also a husband who supported her. She used the time on his deployment to get through one year of the program.

      She didn’t have 1000 hours of clinical experience. My nephew is now in PA school, he didn’t have it either, as far as I know.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        CORRECTION = mrs-Anon-2 just informed me that she DID some hospital work before entering the PA program – I don’t believe it was 1000 hours but she did do SOME.
        Same with my nephew, but probably not 1000 hours… that’s like, half a year full time.

    4. ferrina*

      Do you mean 1000 hours as a graduation requirement? Yes, that is very common. It’s well-known in PA circles that in your second year, the PA program is your life (there’s a running joke about how second-year PAs are only available at 2am after their rotation and homework). It is an extremely intense program; I don’t recommend trying to hold down a full-time job at the same time (PA school is more than a full-time job). It’s assumed that your will be in school full-time + any overtime needed for studying (and there is a LOT to study)

      Almost every school (if not every school) has a program to help you meet the requirement. The clinical placements are one of the benefits of PA programs and how you can learn so much so fast.

      If you’ve got more questions about being a PA, reach out to the American Academy of Physician Assistants. They occasionally work with pre-PA folks like yourself and may be able to recommend some resources.

      1. Over It*

        I wasn’t clear enough in my initial post–I would not attempt to work full time while in school, and clinical hours would of course be something I’d expect from a PA program. But I’ve been seeing that a lot of programs seem to require 1,000 clinical hours as a *pre-requisite* to applying to the program, and I’m concerned about getting those hours before becoming a student, because I currently work full-time. Am I just grossly misunderstanding the pre-req here?

        1. ferrina*

          PA programs originated to help folks that already had medical experience find a path to practicing that was faster than med school. IIRC, the first program was for WW2 vets who were medics in the war. They had medical experience, but didn’t want to spend 7 years completing med school when they already had tons of experience. That was when the first PA school came about (at Duke). It’s a pretty cool history.

          Given how intense PA programs can be (and how much knowledge they cram into 2 years), having the clinical experience is probably really, really helpful for the students.

          1. Banana*

            This. My sister is a PA. She was an RN first and left her nursing job to go to PA school. Hers is a very common path.

    5. AtticWife*

      I am not a PA but I work for a university PA program in the admissions part. Patient care hours are an important part of our application but we do look at applications holistically and not just that one part. If you have a local program, I would suggest setting up a meeting with them and asking what they are looking for. I am also happy to answer some questions for you.

    6. it's all good*

      My daughter’s goal was to apply to PA school after undergrad. Her goal was 4,000 hours. She was an EMT during college and interned at a hospital during HS. Her goal was that high as PA school is so competitive and that was the safe amount of hours according to her research and advice by those in the know.

    7. Ann Ominous*

      You could get a degree in social work (MSW) and then get paid for your clinical hours that you need for licensure. Most MSW programs (the good ones) require an internship both years, though, and that’s usually unpaid. I went full-time on GI Bill and could afford it while also working weekends and nights, but I wouldn’t recommend it, it was exhausting.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        To be clear – I love my degree and clinical path, just working all the time while going to school and interning full time was the exhausting part.

        1. Over It*

          I’ve ruled out social work. Social workers are amazing! But I’ve worked with a ton of them over the years (including MSW interns placed at my org) and I know enough about what MSW programs entail to decide it’s not for me.

          I also wasn’t clear in my initial post. I wouldn’t attempt to work full-time while in school, but need to continue working full-time until if/when I go back to school. Many PA programs seem to require 1,000 clinical hours as a pre-req to even apply to the program, and I can’t reasonably see how I could balance that while working full-time.

    8. AnonyNurse*

      I’m biased (obvs) but I always recommend nursing school and an NP if you want. Once you get your RN/BSN, which you can do on an accelerated path in a year or two if you have an undergrad degree, you are totally employable and can make a good income. You can also continue straight into an NP program if you want. Most RN programs don’t expect prior patient care experience, though they appreciate it – pre-reqs are usually anatomy and physiology and a microbiology course. I did all my pre-reqs at my local community college, with my original BA being in sociology. (I was working at a hospital at the time, which is how I was convinced to go the nursing route rather than the MSW I planned).

      It’s super important to look at scope of practice and supervision requirements in the jurisdiction where you live or might hope to live, for both PAs and NPs. What you’re allowed to do, whether you can work independently, how much a physician has to directly oversee your work, etc. varies GREATLY. There’s nuance everywhere and sometimes really weird/stupid quirks in a specific practice area in a specific place.

      1. Over It*

        I appreciate this insight! I was originally considering the NP route, and tbh it’s still on the table. I have a BA, but not a nursing degree, so I’d need to do some sort of accelerated BSN program first, then an NP degree, and that just seemed like a lot of school. I’ll also admit it’s been confusing to navigate AASN-to-RN vs accelerated BSN vs entry-level MSN programs (too expensive!) Whereas PA programs seem to be about 2 1/2 years long and just much more standardized. But I am reconsidering PA school as an option if the 1,000 patient contact hours as a pre-req don’t count. Shadowing or volunteering doesn’t seem to count, they expect you to be an EMT/phlebotomist/CNA etc for most programs, which I am not.

        Scope of practice is also something I’m looking into! I feel like I’d end up somewhere with considerable physician oversight regardless, but point taken. I currently live in a state where NPs can practice with semi-autonomy and PAs cannot, but I’m considering moving long-term and not sure what state I’d end up in.

        1. AnonyNurse*

          Yea, just if you’re thinking about 1,000 hours … think post-RN with RN level pay, versus pre-PA at CNA or EMT pay. Def get a BSN; there are a lot of places that won’t hire non-BSN nurses (which I think is stupid, but I don’t make those rules). And some (not all, but some) hospitals and such do tuition reimbursement for NP programs, so you can work as an RN and get the NP paid for. Some NP programs are shifting away from MSNs towards DNPs; I’ve seen less of it as a practice requirement (like facilities only wanting to hire DNP NPs instead of MSNs). Boards are the same, it shouldn’t matter. But some in the nursing profession want to “compete” with physicians. As one of my nursing school profs told us, “when people ask why you didn’t go to med school, tell them you’re too smart to be a doctor.” [Mostly, so glad I didn’t have to go through the nightmare that is medical residency; little pay, no sleep, no thank you.]

          I thought I’d get an NP, but didn’t because I quickly grew disillusioned doing direct patient care. I moved into public health and got an MSN in admin (no clinical hours, and was cheaper than the NP tuition OR the MPH tuition and got me to the same “master’s degree required” place). There’s also international flexibility for RNs (and NPs) that doesn’t always exist with PAs.

          1. Moi*

            FYI there is evidence that shows patient safety is increased when cared for by BScN prepared nurses. Check the admission requirements, here in Ontario nursing is one of the hardest programs to get into

    9. Ann O'Nemity*

      Most of the top PA programs require 1000 or more clinical hours as a prerequisite. Competitive programs will not only look at the number of clinical hours but also the type of work completed. There are many routes and options. Some folks will pick up a “quick” certification like basic EMT or CNA. Some will find work as a phlebotomist or medical scribe that has built-in training. We generally advise students to think about the type of work they want to do as a PA and prepare with aligned clinical work. For example, if you want to be a PA in an emergency room then the EMT route makes good sense.

    10. GingerNP*

      I applied to PA school three years in a row and was rejected three years in a row despite 10,000+ clinical hours as an emergency department nurse.
      I eventually had to have my own come to Jesus moment and decide that, even though I knew a PA program would have been a better academic fit for me, I would ultimately come out the other side of an NP program similarly trained and licensed, and as an RN (BSN) with an undergrad GPA higher than a 3.0, I would basically get in to any NP program I wanted.
      PA programs are intensely competitive – and yeah, they require a certain number of direct patient care hours (500 or 1000 usually), and usually scribing doesn’t count (even though it is incredibly useful experience in terms of witnessing medical decision making), but more direct patient care won’t overcome a mediocre GPA when most applicants are floating a 3.9 or higher.
      Many PA schools are programmed in such a way that you really can’t work while you go. Most NP programs are created with working nurses in mind.
      And (while I have a lot of experience) I made about $40/hour on average working my ER job through my NP program (in northeast wisconsin).

    11. Parent of a pa*

      My daughter is a PA and she got her hours by being an EMT for a volunteer ambulance for our town. This allowed her to work as many or as few hours as she wanted. They also allowed you to sleep there so she could do an overnight night shift getting tons of hours (EMT hours are usually high quality hours for most programs). Good luck!

  2. Russian In Texas*

    I want to start a thread on the most absurd/bizarre/strange work advice you’ve received. I don’t want the standard old-timey gumption ones, more modern ones.
    I will start with the one straight from the AAM comment thread from last week:
    if you don’t like your call center job, breaking in to freelance writing is an easy thing to do, everyone can do it.
    For me, that sounds exactly as if someone said “breaking in to the competitive ballet dancing is an easy thing to do, everyone can do it”.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      You need to show your dedication by always being available – share your cell phone, add work chat (slack/teams) and work email to your phone, constantly be checking them.

        1. HigherEdEscapee*

          Oh, I worked for someone who not only gave this advice, she lived it. The only time she wasn’t available was when she was in the shower, sleeping, or on a plane. It was absurd.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Government jobs are low stress (???)
      Part time jobs are good for burnout (you mean jobs where you don’t get food breaks and everyone yells at you)
      Temp jobs (I’m not sure why people want me to work at Amazon or in a factory?)

      1. Former Recruiter, Current HR Generalist*

        There are so many different kinds of part-time and temp jobs outside of what you describe here. That feels like an extreme reaction to either of those. There are plenty of part-time jobs not in retail (what I’m assuming you mean) or temp jobs in an office (not at Amazon or a factory).

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          It’s not extreme, that’s just how I talk. I’m just very honest online! After trying to get an office temp job for years in the 10s I might privilege my own experience a little.

        2. talos*

          Where I used to live (near a small city whose main industry was agriculture), every temp job was manual labor. Every single one. Lifting heavy things in the July sun, 8 hours/day of industrial-scale gardening/lawncare, construction.

          Temp jobs are so regional. There are places that just don’t have any good ones. Your good experience with temp jobs is not necessarily universal.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            That might be true. I live in a city but it’s all warehouses or factories. If I move into a new job I might have to work at a hospital *
            * there are many, people at my job work at hospitals, I could level up.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        The other poster is right about temp jobs – there are temp positions that are beyond that, like Kelly Professional and similar. I signed up for Kelly Professional years ago, and with my science background, I once got a temp position where worked in a paint and dye factory in their lab, testing their products for density and the like.

        I now work for a large hospital that has its own temp pool, plus they use temp agencies specializing in healthcare employees for temporary and temp-to-perm hiring.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Edit: Kelly Sciences/Scientific at the time, I think.

          And as others noted, region makes such a difference. I live near a very large city.

      3. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I mean, I’ve worked in jobs in all 3 of those categories and I can’t say that my experience in any of them has been problematic in these ways. My government job was, simply, not a high-stress job, though I’m sure it’s different for others.

        I worked low-key part-time jobs throughout university and law school, and I don’t think I can recall being denied my break times on any regular basis. And there are temp jobs in any industry, not just Amazon or manufacturing (mine have all been as office clerks or lawyer-adjacent).

      4. not good at naming stuff*

        YES. “Just call a temp agency, they’ll find you a job” is the worst bit of advice I’ve been given in my current search.

        I’ve tried five separate temp agencies. You don’t just give them your resume and they find you a job, you apply for each job individually and then nobody ever gets back to you.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh yeah.

          I got a lot of “just apply with the temp agency” a while back when I was employed but underemployed, and they called me once for a job that conflicted with my existing job, and when I told them that, I’m pretty sure they blacklisted me and I never heard from them again.

        2. Eff Walsingham*

          *shrug* It varies by area. Where I live now, there are at least 5 active agencies, lots of workers, lots of hiring. Different agencies for different sectors. I left one agency because they kept sending me to assignments that weren’t as good a fit. I’ve been temp-to-perm in 2 major cities now, and in office and warehousing. So it leads me to make the suggestion, if I know of someone who’s looking, “Have you tried any temp agencies in your region?” Just in case (a) they haven’t thought of it, and (b) it might be worthwhile for them.

        3. J*

          I did things with a legal temp agency. They didn’t do much diligence to ensure I was the right fit for roles, despite rigorous testing and interviewing on their end. Instead, I spent time doing constant interviews just to be disappointed or to get placements that were not a great match. I once showed up for what was an interview and they sat me down to work immediately. I called the temp agency after an hour and they said that happened all the time and why was that a bad thing that my 1 hour interview at 9:30 am was not an interview at all but rather doc review. I wasn’t prepared and had an afternoon appointment elsewhere; they could have at least warned me.

          It was worse for my health than my stint in Big Law. And I’m not even an attorney.

        4. The Real Fran Fine*

          I’ve tried five separate temp agencies. You don’t just give them your resume and they find you a job, you apply for each job individually and then nobody ever gets back to you.

          Yeah, temp agencies expect you to stay on top of them, calling and checking on your resume – the complete opposite of what we’re told to do during a regular job search. They won’t respond to you unless you’re a current placement with a track record with their agency of good work. Then, they’ll reach out to you for years for placements, even when you have a permanent position somewhere else. It’s annoying.

      5. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        I think Temp or Contract jobs might be true in a general sense, but it might not be true for everyone everywhere.

        > When I lived in LA office and creative temp jobs were very prevalent and relatively easy to get with little notice. Not so much in other states.

    3. Russian In Texas*

      There was another one from this week, on another board.
      If you don’t like your desk and want a different one, just move, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness.
      Sorry, but that would not work in any jobs I worked. You had to get approval from your manager, IT had to open the ticket, you couldn’t leave your department’s “geographical” area, and some more prime desks/cubes were not for the mere peons, even if they were empty.

      1. Love to WFH*

        I did that, but it was at a startup. I hated my tiny cubicle so I moved into an empty office until they hired the person it was for, and then I found an old freestanding desk and moved into an empty space.

      2. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Mileage varies. We literally moved my desk one day when we were bored at OldJob, and everyone in upper management and IT realized it about three weeks later.

        CurrentJob though? It takes an act of congress to get a desk switch approved.

        1. starsaphire*

          100% mileage varies, and bigger companies usually make it harder. We had someone in my row apply for a cube switch (she was on the end and trying to do focused work) to move One. Cube. Over. You’d have thought she was asking permission to dance naked on the front lawn.

          Three years later, she’s finally in that cube, but it took the lockdown, two retirements, and three new hires to move her off the end.

          (If you’ve never worked in a cube farm, being on the end suuuucks because you are privy to everyone’s conversations as they pass by in groups, chat on their phones, or lean on your cube wall while they wait for the conference room across the way to open up.)

      3. Like a River*

        I once wrote to AAM about the problems I was having moving one desk over (it was about 5 feet away) because being right next to floor-to-ceiling windows (and under fluorescent lights) was just all migraines all the time. It was truly a huge PITA and after reading the responses in that thread I’m like, “…have any of all y’all ever actually worked anywhere before?????”

        1. Russian In Texas*

          OMG, that was about 3-4 years ago, and it was written to Dear Prudence for some reason and not AAM. A new employee suffers from SAD, and live in the northern part of the US. She wants the newly available window cubicle. So does everyone else. The company will give it out based on the seniority in the department (as they tend to), and what can she do to acquire this desk?
          The answer proved 100% that Danny Lavery have never worked in a regular corporate office. Because yes, the War for The Window is a real thing, and it can be vicious.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            No, it was AAM, because I remember it and I don’t read Dear Prudence unless someone here mentions an interesting letter. I will hunt down the link with my sensitive barbels, give me a moment.

            1. Russian In Texas*

              It might be the case of a LW sending the questions to everyone, because I distinctly remember “Daniel has never worked in the office, huh” wall of comments.

              1. Allison*

                KoiFeeder IS the LW! It’s very possible that some else with a similar problem wrote to Prudie.

      4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        “some more prime desks/cubes were not for the mere peons, even if they were empty.”

        This brings me back to a previous job I had where the VP ordered the office doors removed in a particular suite because the occupants of those offices were in job categories usually assigned to a cubicle, and he didn’t want them to get used to having a door in case they were moved back to cubes at any point (higher ed, departments move around a lot).

    4. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      Oh, my god. As someone who HAS done writing for a living and was even considered highly successful in my field, I feel the flames on the side of my face every time someone says, “Just be a writer!” Even your favorite big-name authors are pretty much all grossly overworked and underpaid. Your favorite big blogger is spending all their spare time and late nights working on their side hustles to pay the bills. The “lucky” ones who do write full-time are often being supported by a spouse or inherited money.

      And because everyone thinks writing is “easy,” most writing-related fields are oversaturated, which is why it’s such a low-paying, unstable career to get into. Definitely a labor of love, not of money or needs met or even stability.

      1. Russian In Texas*

        I don’t think writing is easy!
        I would have to write professionally!!! In English!!! About what? For whom? I wouldn’t know where to start!

      2. WellRed*

        Yes, also writer for a living and at least weekly, someone in the comments suggests freelance writing as a viable option. It’s low paid, over saturated and does require a bit of ability and talent.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Much of my day job is editing what others write. Many people think they’re really good writers. Not as many are. (Don’t even talk to me about terrible document design in general.)

          I think people think because they have to be able to write semi competently to graduate, they’re really good. But that’s like me thinking that I can carry a tune without people throwing things at me, I can be a music star.

      3. Mockingjay*

        All in the last 10 years.

        Colleague: “Here’s a resume (from my son-in-law, but no one is supposed to know) for a young man who would be a great tech writer.”
        Mockingjay (peruses resume): “Umm, this kid is a car salesman, has no degree, and no technical or writing background whatsoever?”

        Boss: “New engineer is not working out (the entire software team – devs, engs, and testers – refused to work with this idiot), so I’m putting him on your doc team.”
        Mockingjay: *speechless
        New So-Called TW: “I updated my email signature!”
        It said, Idiot Name, Documentation Engineer.

        Wannabe Tech Writer (in TW forum): “I wanna be a tech writer!”
        Mockingjay: “What makes you interested in the field?”
        Wannabe Tech Writer: “I hear you can make lots of money!”
        Mockingjay: *blinks
        Wannabe Tech Writer: “How do I become one?”

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            I’m changing my title at work to this. It’s amazing, and my company also used to be fond of made up titles that had no basis in reality too, so no one will probably even notice, lol.

      4. WheresMyPen*

        Yes! And as someone who works in publishing and has written for young non native speakers of English, I’m gonna slap the next person who says that ‘writing kids’ books must be so easy’ (not talking about celebs who use ghost writers though, that’s another argument altogether!)

    5. Llama Llama*

      I am pretty sure he was kidding but my great grandboss told me I should take up smoking to socialize with management more (which honestly was probably true…). This was only 10 years ago.

        1. linger*

          Can confirm it was genuine advice given in Japan as recently as the late 1990s, and it still had some validity then, because the majority of the most senior (male) staff smoked. Things had changed markedly by 2005, partly through a concerted anti-smoking campaign, but mostly through that generation reaching retirement age.

      1. Kelly L.*

        My mom once advised me to pretend-smoke to get more breaks. Just stand outside holding an unlit cigarette. Apparently it worked for her!

      2. Felicity Flowers*

        In a similar vain a few weeks ago my sister during a discussion on how to deal with an out of control coworker my sister’s HR manager (of a medical practice) completely seriously said to her “Have you considered taking up smoking to deal with the extra stress you’ve been experiencing”.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        That’s why my dad took up drinking coffee. Many years ago (he’s now retired) his job required him to visit offshore oil rigs (so no smoking), and he noticed other people took coffee breaks while he kept working so he eventually joined in on the coffee breaks.

      4. Unkempt Flatware*

        Oh lord I had forgotten this one and should have entered this story instead: my female boss who loved talking about how she held a degree in chemistry and therefore was a super female told me literally out of the thin blue sky–I had not asked for such advice–that when you attend your husband’s work party, carry around a cocktail even if you don’t drink. This was in 2012. It was the strangest thing I had ever heard and very odd coming from a woman who bragged about how different she was from other women.

        1. Fishsticks*

          I mean, I do the same thing (I will carry a drink in my hand that LOOKS alcoholic even if it isn’t) in any serious drinking setting, as I stick to one or two drinks per event. For me, it’s because otherwise I found people would constantly ask if I needed to get a new drink, or try to get me one, or just bug me about not drinking. Having a cocktail/mocktail in hand solved the problem.

    6. Anon for This*

      Get a dog. This was to someone who was complaining that as a single person she was always expected to stay late because her colleagues had kids.

      Weird advice, but she actually did it and it worked. Sorry, can’t stay – have to get home to walk the dog.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I have used that. I actually did have a dog who needed to be walked, and also was on a complicated medication schedule.

      2. Loopy*

        I have a dog and people have me side eye over this sometimes. Like a dog could wait (which, no they are living beings who don’t deserve to suffer waiting for a bathroom break).

        No one outright said anything except once but I got the vibes this approach not always as useful.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        Just get a fake dog. A real dog is a lot of work and expense especially for a single person (with no partner or kids to split the pet care with).

    7. Just Want A Nap*

      “Sit in on meetings with teams you might be interested in joining! Just invade a conference room!”
      No, thank you. That’s a terrible plan.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        This is insane, and I wish someone at my company would do this (preferably during a Teams call).

    8. Irish Teacher.*

      Not EXACTLY advice, but it did imply advice. Back when I was a young teacher applying for jobs, my grandmother told me, “I don’t like the way you do your hair for interviews. It makes you look like an ould school teacher.”

      Um, yes, that is exactly the impression I am TRYING to give when applying for teaching jobs.

      1. Zap R.*

        Irish grandmother advice is its own special category because it’s typically a scathing personal insult disguised as a friendly suggestion. Like, “Ah, child, have ye not got attin else to wear?”

      2. Veryanon*

        Irish grandmothers are the best! They’re your worst critic but also your fiercest and most loyal friend.
        I’ll never forget years ago, when I was going through my divorce, I saw my grandma at a family holiday gathering. She had been very sick and this was just a few months before she passed away. She asked me how I was doing and I told her I was hanging in there. She then looked me dead in the eye and said “When I think of [ex-husband’s name], I get murder in my heart.” At that point she was maybe 80 pounds dripping wet and was in a wheelchair, but she was deadly serious.

    9. hamsterpants*

      My university career center had us practice elevator pitches in advance of a job fair, which would be great, except their exemplar came down to “I’m a problem solver, any issue your company is having, you just bring it to me and I’ll find a way to solve it.” Yeah I’m sure Microsoft has just been waiting for the perfect fresh BA graduate to sweep in to solve EVERY PROBLEM.

      1. Bess*


        That’s just…chef’s kiss level of absurdity

        Would not hire someone who said that to me, I’d see it as a sign of delusion

      2. Jessica*

        This reminds me of the AAM letter from the young man who wanted to get hired to be some company’s Ideas Guru.

    10. Kelly L.*

      From an ex’s mom: Why don’t you start writing Regency romance novels?

      Mind you, I did fancy myself a writer at the time, but I’d never said anything that could have given the impression I was into that very specific subgenre. She just thought it would be easy money for me.

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        As a romance author (contemporary though), the number of times I have heard people express that writing romance is “easy and anyone can do it” is…a lot. Then these folks write books that don’t follow the rules of the genre – like not having a happy ending, main character death, the romance only taking up 10% of the story – and wonder why they can’t sell any books or get raked over the coals on Goodreads.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          Writing romance is still…writing. And that’s not something that just happens.

          Plus, romance writing is, as you pointed out, very formulaic. It’s kind of why readers like it, because they know what to expect and what they’ll get out of it. But to adhere to the formula and be interesting and not just like every other romance novel out there requires a HUGE level of creativity that, let’s face it, most people simply lack. I know for sure I couldn’t do that, and I’m a pretty good writer myself.

        2. Kelly L.*

          And Regency in particular has a *lot* of rules. You’re not even just writing a love story with a happy ending, you’re writing it in as much the style of Georgette Heyer as possible, and I haven’t even read any of her stuff.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And the dialogue has really high standards in that genre! You also have to be good at the witty repartee.

        3. Hmm!*

          A guy I knew tried something similar. He thought romance novels were dumb, so therefore, all of the readers must be dumb, therefore the quality standards will be low, therefore he could just crap out 50,000 words and everyone will instinctively flock to his genius and give him money and accolades.

          I’m not even a romance reader myself, but everyone I know who is has EXACTING taste and extremely high standards. Just because it’s not *my* thing doesn’t mean it’s low-effort crap!

      2. NaoNao*

        My mother keeps pushing Regency on me! Along with “clean Hallmark”. There’s little to no money in those as a self published author *and* I’m actually writing a different sub-genre/niche (vacation/steamy/contemporary) so it’s extra annoying.

        I think this is just what people think of when they think of “romance novels” is either that or the stereotypical bodice-ripper historicals with Vikings and stuff.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I wonder if it’s just what the advice-givers are into, or if (because it’s often mother figures) they don’t want to imagine us writing Teh Sex, they pick something clean.

      3. PenNamesAreFun*

        As a romance author who started writing when she hated her job (which I am quitting today!), this is the most hilarious advice. I’m doing relatively well with my debut (self-pubbed) and this is in no waaaay a replacement career.

        1. starsaphire*

          I have three novels out, published through a solid mid-level romance publishing house.

          I think last quarter my royalty check was $3.50.

          Just sayin.

          1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

            Mine were traditionally published first and I made around $50 a quarter because they were pretty good with marketing. I self-published them all after they went out of business on KDP and I make about $3-5 a month.

            Unless you’re Nora Roberts, you’re not going to be rolling in piles of cash by any means.

        2. Pisces*

          I discovered that most people who consider quitting hated jobs to write full-time, hate their jobs. Period. It has nothing to do with how much they like writing, or how good they are at it.

      4. RagingADHD*

        The number of book franchises that have a team of writers churning out content under a single pen name gives a lot of genre readers wildly unrealistic expectations of how quickly most people can write books.

        I’ve known a couple of people who can bang out a first draft in 2 weeks, rewrite in 2, send to the editor, over and over. But that’s not typical by a long shot.

        1. BadCultureFIt*

          Former ghostwriter here (of some bestselling YA series). I would turn in 60k words in a 5-week deadline. It was WILD.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Fastest I ever did was 65K in 21 days, but it was nonfiction based on interview transcripts & research that were already done. I didn’t have to make anything up from scratch.

            It was hellish and I never want to get stuck on a project like that again (someone else dropped the ball and we were pushing deadline).

      1. Jaid*

        *Looks at the new hires on campus* Side eyes comment…

        If these people are the best of the best who got hired, I shudder to think about who didn’t make the cut.

        1. Janeric*

          I think to some extent the PROCESS is extremely byzantine — for example, to get an entry level job I had to
          1.) take an exam
          2.) wait for the exam to be graded
          3.) sign up to be notified of new jobs
          4.) put together a profile on the website where I pre-filled out forms showing I was eligible to work in the US and had the degrees I was claiming
          5.) found a job posting I wanted to apply for
          6.) the whole resume/cover letter but also some essay questions on likely job situations and a document that listed my specific experience with internal processes and software
          7.) 2 interviews, both with preset questions that were asked by the panel in turn, with no variations.

          It was a PROCESS that required a mentor to lead me through, and I don’t think it selects for the best applicants (though high tolerance for bureaucracy IS a significant plus.)

          1. starsaphire*

            6.5) Wait years for the process to catch up with the list of applicants.

            (In my case, it was three years between me applying and me getting the six-month gig. And I took it because it got me out of a call center. I had seriously forgotten that I had applied!)

      2. AnonyNurse*

        A federal job I recently applied to got over 3,000 applicants in a 3-day open window. GS-13 nurse job.

    11. Shiba Dad*

      I wanted to get graduate certificate. My employer’s reimbursement policy has some vague language in it (“…qualifying programs include, but aren’t limited too Associate, Bachelor and Masters degrees…). I sent HR the info and they approved the first course. When I went to take the second one, they denied it and cited the vague language.

      Advice from folks above me: tell HR I was getting a Masters degree. What could go wrong?

    12. Johanna Cabal*

      Not sure if this counts but when I was laid off in ’09 my mom (who has not worked since the early 1980s) kept insisting that I would be shoe-in for a government job because I had a master’s degree. Well, you can’t “just get a government job,” you have to go through USAJobs and there must’ve been hundreds, if not thousands of applicants back then. Not to mention, master’s degrees are a lot more common now than back then.

      1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        I think I was one of those in ‘09!
        I actually got a couple of interviews based on my degree and experience only to be told they couldn’t hire me because of military and other preferential hiring.

    13. Panicked*

      “You’re young, you shouldn’t take any position in management. You should leave those jobs for the people who really need them.” -Said to 32 year old me by my mother after I told her of the management position I got (and was extremely qualified for.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh good. That’s what the world needs is “needy managers.” What could possibly go wrong.

        Why do I think you are a daughter. Bad, bad advice, mom, where ever you are.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yikes, not only is it ridiculous to assume “need” based on things like age, but if one WERE going to, I would think 32 would be stereotyped as the age when people MOST “need” a well-paying job. That’s just the age when a lot of people are thinking of getting married or are just married or are looking to buy a home or have recently taken out a mortgage or are either planning to start a family or have young children. Now, like I said, it would be ridiculous to think ONLY people in their early 30s have those kinds of expenses and that everybody under 25 or 30 is living at home with no children and no immediate plans for marriage or children and that everybody over 50 has their mortgage paid off and their kids moving towards self-sufficiency, but if I WERE going to choose an age that stereotypically is less likely to need a well-paying job, it sure wouldn’t be 32.

    14. Dark Macadamia*

      “You should try (insert thing I’m already doing, that the person has seen me do in the recent past)!” Multiple times. Well golly why didn’t I think of that!

      1. Mill Miker*

        Someone I know recently got the following advice, presented as if it were a piece of obscure sage wisdom:

        “You should try looking on Indeed”

        1. EmKay*

          Dame Edna Everage vibes…

          “We’re newlyweds hoping for a baby. What would you suggest?”
          “I would suggest se*ual intercourse.”

    15. Morgan Proctor*

      Honestly, I broke into freelance writing pretty easily. I started by writing essays and pitching them to various online magazines, which gave me the experience and some visibility. Then I just searched “hiring copywriter” on Twitter, which lead to gigs. Of course, to do any of this, you have to be a good writer, which, unfortunately, almost no one is. YMMV!

      For me, I’ve come across a lot of bad advice around job hunting. Back when I was laid off of my job during the pandemic, I came across this absolutely nutso guy who has this absurd guide to applying for jobs, which includes basically volunteering free work and lightweight stalking the hiring managers. You can… simply apply for a job, interview for it, and get it. None of his or any other wackadoo “job coach’s” advice helped me in the slightest.

      1. mreasy*

        I am good at writing (the craft of it), not a brag, just a fact, read a lot as a kid and I’m just a very verbal person. What I’m not good at is a) doing the writing part for more than half an hour or so and b) handling rejection. So being a professional writer is hard in a LOT of ways, I admire people who do it immensely!

      2. No Bees On Typhon*

        Same, but I’m writing in a niche where you need a very solid technical background. I have a PhD and postdoctoral research experience in a relevant field, more than a decade of experience of doing similar writing/editing work in-house, and a truly great network that got me my first couple of clients. I’m in a couple of Facebook groups for freelance writers in any field, and people trying to break in to more general writing gigs seem to have a really, really rough time.

      3. Russian In Texas*

        Yes, the “you have to be a good writer” is the main thing. Most people aren’t, and that particular commenter had the attitude “well, I did it, and so it’s easy, anyone can do”.

    16. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      When I wanted to advance out of computer operations to technical levels …

      “You don’t need no education. Stay put.”

      When I left one job (stress machine! heart attacks all around! middle of the night calls three times a week!) I took another – job, tech support (yes, SOME customer calls but it wasn’t a “help desk” – very specialized), teaching, consulting, trade shows, etc. = what I wanted to do, lower stress, no middle-of the nights, etc. “yeah but what about the future? Your FUTURE????!!!”

      Hey, Bozo, I (was) 44 at the time. MY FUTURE IS NOW.

    17. ecnaseener*

      There was one circulating on tumblr recently that boiled down to: if an interviewer presses you on whether you have a car, say (verbatim) “I see what you’re doing. You’re attempting to stonewall me into answering a question that you’re not legally allowed to ask, because of preconceived prejudices you may hold.”

      (Is it even true that you’re not legally allowed to ask that?)

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Even if you were 100% correct about their motivations and 100% about the accuracy of your statement (which I doubt, because having a car/being able to reliably get to work is not a protected class, and in fact is considered a requirement in a lot of jobs), saying this would definitely mark you as someone no interviewer would want to hire. Calling people’s prejudice out to their face tends to burn bridges. It’s just that they’re not normally bridges we mind burning.

      2. not good at naming stuff*

        There are very few questions interviewers aren’t legally allowed to ask. There are a lot of questions that it would be unwise of them to ask because they wouldn’t be allowed to consider those answers in their hiring decisions and it would open them up to accusations of discrimination, but very few things that they’re straight up not allowed to ask.

        Also, car ownership is not a protected category, so it wouldn’t make the cut either way.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Car ownership is not, but a lack of car can point to either socioeconomic or disability issues. That said, the script given is awful!

      3. Nope.*

        No, it’s not true. Owning or not owning a car isn’t a protected class. To add, most of what people think are illegal interview questions aren’t – it’s the action of using the info to discriminate that’s illegal, not the asking itself. Granted, any interviewer with common sense is therefore going to steer clear of those topics, but slipping up and asking about something that would determine membership in a protected class* isn’t the “gotcha” some people think it is.

        (*Which leads into another misconception people sometimes have – that being a member of a protected class, any class, is notable. It is not. EVERYONE is a member of at least one protected class. It’s when people take action specifically because of that membership that you have an issue.)

      4. Annie Moose*

        I did some digging, and I think I’ve found where this idea comes from. Apparently the federal EEOC laws do make it illegal to discriminate based on financial information, which includes things like car ownership. But like any of the discrimination laws, I don’t think it’s illegal to ask, what’s illegal is discriminating based on the answer to the question.

        I found this bit from an HR site:

        “While federal law does not prevent employers from asking candidates about financial information, the federal equal employment opportunity laws prohibit employers from illegally discriminating when using financial information to make employment decisions. The EEOC notes that an employer may not have a financial requirement if it does not help the employer to accurately identify responsible and reliable employees, and if, at the same time, the requirement significantly disadvantages people of a particular race, color, national origin, religion or sex. […] Unless the use of a personal vehicle to travel between worksites or other locations is a primary job duty, the question of whether an individual owns a car is irrelevant and could result in claims of discrimination in the hiring decision.”

        Either way, of course, it’s still terrible advice. There’s no way you’d get a job after saying something in that manner, so you might as well just excuse yourself from the interview rather than playing gotcha with the interviewer! And if it’s a job where you actually do need a car, then you just make yourself look silly.

      5. Maggie*

        Of course that’s not true. You can legally ask someone if they plan on getting pregnant soon. You’re not allowed to base your hiring decision off of it, which is why the vast majority of people don’t. You can ask someone if they’re gay or catholic or have a boat or how old they are.

      6. Rex Libris*

        Most of us are just trying to get at whether the candidate has reliable transportation because because we’re wondering if they’re going to show up two hours late every other day because the bus runs too early/ they couldn’t get a ride/the wheel fell off their skateboard/whatever. I don’t really care how they get here as long as they have a reliable plan for it.

        1. DataSci*

          Then maybe ask about reliable transportation, not the particular method you consider to be most reliable. I once worked somewhere where the only guy who made it into the office the day after a major snowstorm was the one who biked to work every day. But somehow there’s this common misconception that car troubles are just a thing that happens, while being late once every few months because the subway had problems is an unforgiveable sin indicating that all public transit is always unreliable.

      7. Russian In Texas*

        I do not believe there are questions that are illegal to ask. There are answers that are illegal to discriminate based on.
        Most HRs do not want you to ask these questions so there is no basis for any kind of discrimination lawsuit.

    18. Dust Bunny*

      I work in archives and can’t do most of the work from home because it’s, well, paper-based and materials don’t leave the building.

      I had a guy insist that almost all jobs could be WFH and so could mine if we had everything digitized.

      I mean . . . yes, it could, but who did he think would do that? Me. I would. It’s a big part of my job. Also, having stuff just digitized wholesale would be monumentally expensive and it’s not like archives have ever been over-funded.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I also had a researcher insist he didn’t need photocopies until like twenty minutes before closing, when he suddenly needed like 60 pages of them. “Don’t you have one of those auto-feed copiers?”

        Yes, we do, but I’m not feeding a bunch of irregularly-sized, mostly onionskin, 75-year-0ld letters through it.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’ve had similar conversations about my job.

        “What do you mean they don’t let you work remotely?”

        “Well, about 50% of my job is staffing the customer service desk and helping people use the computers and the copy machines. How do you propose I should do that remotely?”

        1. Hmm!*

          I taught remotely for a year and I would really like to invite the “all work can be done from home” crowd to try that one out for a week.

          There are plenty of things that fall into the category of “could theoretically be done remotely, but at a huge deficit” and I think that nuance gets flattened in so many of these conversations.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I was thinking the exact same thing. We were online from March to late May 2020 and then from January to about March (different classes went back at different times) 2021 and yeaaah. Physically possibly but definitely NOT a substitute.

          2. Agile Phalanges*

            I don’t want to go to a dentist or surgeon who work from home. (I mean, paperwork and stuff is fine, but let’s keep procedures in the appropriate environment.)

          3. Alternative Person*

            This. As much as I like WFH for some aspects of my job as a teacher, there’s no substitute for face to face contact sometimes.

      3. AnotherLibrarian*

        I have also had this conversation. The work I do can not be done remotely. I get one work from home day which I devote to a million pieces of tiny admin work, but otherwise- my job involves paper.

      4. Alex (they/them)*

        I worked as an analytical chemist and could *occasionally* wfh if I was just doing data analysis and report writing. My dad kept suggested that anytime I needed to schedule appointments, I schedule them during the workday and then wfh. He did not understand how I couldn’t always plan to wfh even through most of my job is IN A LAB.

    19. irene adler*

      After 6 weeks on the job, start asking for a raise.
      Keep doing so weekly until you get it.
      Then wait 6 weeks and AGAIN start asking for a raise.

      1. Kelly L.*

        At the risk of taking the thread in a gumptiony direction, also “Ask for the job at the end of the interview!” Like…how do you even do this? Just go “Can I have this job plz?” And then what is the interviewer supposed to say? They’re probably not the only decision-maker. And they already know you’re interested, or else why are you there?

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’ve done this, but it was only the one time. The interview had been really great and the way they described the job sounded like so much fun, and all the questions I had been planning to ask had already been answered, so when we got to the end and the interviewer asked if I had any questions, I blurted out “please my I have this job? It sounds like exactly what I’m looking for.” I did get it, but I really hope it was on my own merits as a candidate and not because I asked for it.

          1. inkheart*

            I had an interviewer (who would become my boss) say at the end of the interview, “You don’t seem very excited, do you even want this job? You haven’t explicitly said you want this job.”

            1. linger*

              How did you actually respond at the time?
              I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from saying something like
              “To be fair, you haven’t said you want me for the job, either!”
              — which I suspect would not have ended quite as well.

    20. Zap R.*

      I went to school for broadcasting between 2008-2012. My profs told us to focus all of our creative efforts on short-form mobile/web content because “the one-hour TV drama is dead. People only want to watch short-form content on their phones now.” They also told us that no TV show could succeed without “cross-platform experiences like tie-in iPad games.”

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            That’s why Fabulous said “sort of.” Of course, long form content is still a thing, but short form video content is becoming more prevalent and desirable, especially from a content marketing perspective. I mean, look at the success of TikTok.

    21. Bernice Clifton*

      Last time I was job searching, Indeed was sending me emails telling me to message jobs I had applied to in order to “stand out”.

    22. Well That's Fantastic*

      Right now, between a job vacancy and someone out on leave, I’m balancing responsibilities for three different jobs. Management is NOT expecting me to do the work of three people, but there are aspects of each job I need to make sure get done. There are things in my normal job I’ve been told can wait until we’re more fully staffed again, so it’s not just piling extra work on my normal job. Multiple people have told me to “just refuse” to do any aspects of the other jobs to make sure they fill the vacancy and “give yourself job security.” Not sure how refusing to do work would give me job security…

      1. Russian In Texas*

        Yeah, that drives me crazy.
        “Refuse to do X/Y/Z”
        Sure it may feel me better in the moment, sure won’t make me feel better when I am fired for not performing job duties.

    23. germank106*

      Absolute strangest advice from a former co-worker that is my age (I’m 62) when she found out that I had to go back to work after a few years of early retirement: “Don’t worry if you are confronted with new technology and new techniques. Being our age means you can just do the things you’ve always done without having to change.” SMH

    24. ILoveCoffee*

      If you get a PhD and decide you don’t want to go into research you can “just get” a job at a community college….
      I did manage to get a job at the community college but the positions are very competitive so there is no “just get the job” about it

    25. Alternative Person*

      I’m a teacher and my most recent previous manager was an advocate of no-textbook, no-worksheet lessons. Now, I’m all for minimal material, high communication lessons and even the occasional no-material lesson, but regular no-material? That just does not work for what we are teaching.

    26. Chauncy Gardener*

      When I got out of the military, I got ALL the way out. No reserves, no inactive ready reserves, nothing. (this was in 1990) My parents told me I wasn’t thinking about my future. I could retire from the reserves! I could have benefits!
      I said “I could get activated” And that could ruin my non-military school and career
      They were furious with me and said that reserve units never get activated. They brought it up relentlessly
      The next year, my old reserve unit got activated. TO THE MIDDLE EAST.
      They never said a word, but they also never brought it up again!

  3. Technical Writer Advice?*

    I’m looking to jump into technical writing as a new career path in my 40s. I’m in a get-out-NOW emergency situation with my current awful job as admin assist, and I’m tired of only ever being offered these min-wage administrative jobs for the past twenty-plus years, when I’ve spent my life learning and developing new skills.

    I’m quitting soon and taking a hiatus. Doctor’s orders; my health took a *huge* hit from current job. I’d like to use that free time I’ll have to train for technical writing, maybe also UX design, and make an entire career leap. (Not a spur-of-the-moment decision–I have a small history in published writing, creating and revising process documentation, that sort of thing.) But I’m pretty much a novice. I looked up some older threads on technical writing and UX here, but some of the info may be completely outdated by now.

    What training/certifications would you recommend/not recommend for these things, and what are reputable places to get that kind of learning? How/where do you get jobs in this? Anything you wish someone had told you? It’s a huge leap from office desk job to a completely different career, and one where I may end up largely or entirely self-employed, and I don’t want to mess it up.

    Thank you! :D

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Twelve-odd years ago, I got certification through the UC Berkeley Extension program, which was 4 remote classes that focused on basic copyediting that you could then specialize with technical writing. I was told by book-industry professionals that it was widely recognized and respected. They were not cheap, but I felt I learned a lot, with a lot of hands-on practice and feedback.

      I went on to in-h0use trade editing and then part-time freelance work rather than fully technical freelance, so I don’t know how much transfers. But in both my work with freelancers and as a freelancer, it definitely helps if you can get at least part-time stable work with a single company, who can then recommend you to others. Networking is a huge factor in freelance work, so it will be much more feasible if you were going into technical writing within your current industry, for example, rather than switching straight out into something new.

      There’s lots of practical advice around here for freelancing in general (always! have! a! contract!), so definitely look for those.

      I wish you luck!

      1. Technical Writer Advice?*

        Copyediting is a really good complementary gateway. I’ll definitely be looking into brushing up on that as well. I’ll do some research on the Berkeley program.

        (I don’t know if I’ll end up freelancing, but it seems to happen a lot in that field, so I want to be prepared and really appreciate your advice!)

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        it will be much more feasible if you were going into technical writing within your current industry, for example, rather than switching straight out into something new.

        This is the exact advice the instructors I had during my certificate program in technical writing gave to my cohort – all of them were professional TWs themselves, and all of them pivoted into the job at the same company they were already employed with (they all started in software as engineers or project managers).

    2. time for cocoa*

      It really depends on what part of the field(s) you want to enter. UXD is different from UX writing, which is different from technical writing. API technical writing is different from product technical writing is different from gov/aerospace/clearance technical writing.

      Do NOT get the Society of Technical Communication certifications (they have several levels). There was a dust-up in the recent past about STC trying to steamroll other programs to be seen as the One True Path, and public opinion of the org has soured. They’re seen as a bully and a dinosaur.

      It can’t hurt to learn Madcap Flare and Figma, though the recent Adobe acquisition has the industry in a frenzy and its userbase may be shaky, long-term.

      UX Writing Hub has a good free intro course, and KickassUX just released a free course this week that’s getting good press.

      1. Technical Writer Advice?*

        This is extremely helpful because trying to narrow down my options in a field I’m not an expert about has been daunting, to say the least. And thank you for the warning! If I’m spending my time and money to train, I don’t want to waste it on a subpar or known-bad entity that will just end up looking terrible on my resume.

      2. Ulla*

        Tech writer here: I was a senior member of STC and a chapter leader in several roles — came here to agree completely about not doing their certification program. I paid a LOT for just the book for the course and was unimpressed (sample content, paraphrased: “College graduates will find that modern offices use email to communicate”). It won’t help you. My mentor, who is an STC Fellow, also cautioned me not to waste my time and money on it. And he’s one of their biggest advocates!

        Do read the books and blogs by Ginny Redish. She’s amazing at UX stuff.

        1. Technical Writer Advice?*

          Oh, wow, yeah, STC does not seem like the way to go, so far. I think I’ve heard of Ginny Redish. I’ll be sure to check her out. Thanks!

          1. CindyLouWho*

            I so disagree, Technical Writer Advice?. I am an STC Associate Fellow, similar to Ulla. All my professional development comes from STC, and most of my jobs, too, through STC connections.

            Even if certification isn’t for you, there are several courses and webinars that will help you. The boot camp course I mentioned in my other comment is taught by an excellent instructor.

            1. Technical Writer Advice?*

              I’m going to be checking out all my options! There is very little I know about the industry and its tools other than the widest, least detailed picture.

      3. Lyudie*

        I’ve been out of the field for a few years, but my impression is that Madcap Flare is on its way out…not sure I’d spend a lot of time learning that. Markdown and DITA, maybe Adobe FrameMaker, are likely to be more useful. Learning a bit about authoring tools/technology is good, a lot of people think tech writers work in Microsoft Word etc. but I have almost always used other tools specifically for large, complicated documents that Word would choke on.

        I still get a lot of emails from recruiters about contracts, often 6 months and many are remote. A lot of TWs do contract work and it can be a great way to get experience in different fields/types of writing and it seems like it hasn’t slowed down much even with Covid.

        1. Technical Writer Advice?*

          This is good to know, thank you! All of the older resources I was seeing talked only about Madcap Flare. I’ll be sure to read up on whether it’s still among the needed tools of the trade these days or the near future.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            It is at some companies (I’ve seen it mentioned on job ads), but Adobe and DITA are becoming more prominent as the other poster mentioned. It wouldn’t hurt to learn the basics of all three just to be safe.

    3. Baeolophus bicolor*

      I can’t help you with UX or freelancing, but I got my masters in Technical Communication last year and just passed the 1 year mark at my technical writing job.

      There are technical writing concentrations and masters programs available, and one of those might be good. Depends on how much you like school and what your focus is. Happy to talk about my masters experience if you like. You don’t necessarily need formal education to get into the field but it is there.

      In terms of skills to focus on, I recommend focusing on understanding topic based writing/“every page is page one”, learning DITA (XML based tech writing language), and getting familiar with a DITA program like Oxygen. Not sure what the cost is for an individual copy of oxygen, but it’s a very good program and will be very helping in learning DITA. Two books that should be helpful: DITA 101 by Rockley, Manning, and Cooper. Developing Quality Technical Information by Carey, Lanyi, Longo, Radzinski, Rouiller, and Wilde.

      Once you’ve got a handle on the basics, I recommend finding an open source software project and developing documentation for it. Software documentation applies in a variety of fields, and working with open source communities is seen as a big bonus in many smaller tech companies.

      UX, as far as I can tell, is a specialized field that often requires some sort of specialized education and training.

      Good luck!

      1. Technical Writer Advice?*

        I’m planning to start with technical writing (and am narrowing down THAT big field even now) and possibly branch out into UX-related work later, if everything else is working out for me. I actually hadn’t given any thoughts to getting a master’s for it, but it’s been over 20 years since college graduation, so there’s probably a lot that’s different now and I don’t know much about. I cannot wait to dig into some of these books you’re recommending!

      2. Lyudie*

        Seconding DITA and Oxygen. I thought there was a free version of Oxygen but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s only $5 for the academic version so if you are looking at an online certificate etc. that might be an option.

    4. Mockingjay*

      You may not find a course on it, but research industry standards and scientific style guides. Tech writing, especially for software and coding, can often defy expectations for “normal” business writing. It’s very scoped and often has its own “lingo” – acronyms, terse sentences for procedures (Action ->Result), etc. You’ll learn or be given a style sheet on the job, but being aware that these stylistic conventions have purposes will make your transition to this field much easier.

      1. starsaphire*

        Fall in love with bullets.
        Start every step with a verb.
        Tighten down your writing.

        I agree re: DITA XML, but keep in mind that every company has different needs, so there’s no one true software you can learn that will make you a shoo-in. Some of the Big Tech companies hire “technical writers” but insist that they must be able to code, because surprise! they’re not TWs, they’re less-expensive programmers who will be “writing and editing” code.

        There are a lot of jobs out there, but most of them are contract, and many of those are short-term, so know what you’re getting into.

        One more thing: This is the job for which your resume and cover letter must be absolutely perfect. At a long-ago past job, any resume with more than one typo got thrown out – because catching typos WAS the job.

        1. Technical Writer Advice?*

          Re: your last paragraph: that one makes me laugh because the one time I WILL make a mistake is the one time I can’t, so proofreading everything ten times over (and then still finding a stray error a year later??) is something I have learned is my fate. XD It’ll be proofreading twenty times for relevant resumes for me….

        2. Tundra dog*

          Huh. I work at a “Big Tech Company” as a tech writer, and I do indeed need some programming understanding — not because my company wants me to be a programmer, but because the documentation I write is intended for programmers.

          But the bulk of my work is not writing code, it is writing words to tell developers how the code works.

          API documentation / developer documentation is definitely a niche within tech writing and it isn’t for everyone — but if you like some aspects of coding, but not enough to be an actual programmer, it can be a nice place to land.

          (Been a tech writer for close to 30 years now, though I did lots of other software work before landing in dev docs)

      2. Lyudie*

        Yup! Also writing in second person (“You can do blah blah blah”) and passive voice (sometimes you need to avoid blaming the user, even in error messages when they’ve done something dumb…and sometimes the thing doing the action is the nebulous “system” and/or doesn’t matter, so it actually works). Both felt super weird after so many years of learning not to do those things.

        Microsoft’s manual of style is online now, so looking through some of the more general sections of that can be helpful too. IIRC there’s a section on naming UI elements etc. that would be helpful for UX.

    5. CindyLouWho*

      STC offers a tech comm boot camp. Here’s the page with information:

      I have the foundation certification and will soon work toward practitioner. To me, without a tech comm degree, certification is worth the price, and I studied both independently and through an online course.

    6. Hen in a Windstorm*

      There’s an extremely active LinkedIn group for Technical Writers called Technical Writer Forum. Lots of good advice there from working professionals.

  4. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Next week is the dreaded employee conference! Let’s pray I don’t have a panic attack or am off two weeks AGAIN with some bug. ( yes I have tried vitamins, walks AND yoga) I miss last year where people who needed to be in a big crowd could go and the rest of us could get some much needed work time in.

    1. Calamity Janine*

      though the conference may not be requiring masks at this point, i think the pandemic has given you a perfect opportunity to just show up wearing a mask and slinging hand sanitizer. god knows con crud is awful at the best of times. you can even say that you’re worried about the rather severe and intense flu and RSV seasons we’re having instead of covid!

      okay the real advice is to just sort of plaintively whisper hope for your survival. but even if i’ve encountered it in fan spaces, con crud is real and awful and i also have an immune system that likes to wait until the local bit of ick has simmered into potency before making sure i’m flat on my butt with it for two weeks solid (at which point the bug will have mutated just enough in the community so there’s a good chance i will end up getting it AGAIN)… though if you want an annoying little bit of health advice, if your sinuses like mine are inclined to self-destruct into green gunk at the drop of a hat, neti pot rinses are great. but having your doctor check if you need the pneumonia vaccine is also really useful. despite being quite young, my doc got suspicious and checked my levels and it turned out that i did, in fact, hella need them! so that has helped!

      …of course, speaking of vaccines, i’m not saying you should go get your covid booster like a day or day and a half before the start of conference so that when your immune system reacts to that live-fire exercise, you can go “oh nooo looks like i’m running a fever, guess i’ll just have to work at home while y’all go”… but… if you wanted to engage in some unprofessional chicanery LOL… (okay don’t actually do this thing. that bit of advice is for entertainment purposes only. do not attempt at home, only appropriate for professionals in controlled environments, et cetera,)

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Poor health club unite! I rinse my sinuses a lot but it’s the fatigue that gets me. I’m hoping to avoid the eating inside too.

        1. Calamity Janine*

          when will science invent a replacement sinuses where we can just pop them out and slam them in the dishwasher on sanitize setting… only then will we truly be living in the space-age future…

          you’re probs already on top of it, but when it comes to fatigue, maybe try also slamming some allergy meds. not the drowsy type lol, but it’s not inconceivable that there’s something in or around conference centers that you’re mildly allergic to or is mildly irritating to your body which then gives the nasty germs a huge opening. i mean hell why not really, con crud is one of those things where throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks is where you end up eventually LOL

    2. Love to WFH*

      How _tragic_ that you’ll be sniveling and coughing on Sunday night, and obviously can’t go to an in-person event when you have symptoms that might be COVID. It’s too bad that home tests are reliable.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I assume a truck that’s jacked up on big wheels. What some of my relatives from further south refer to as a “hillbilly-go-faster.” Bonus points for a rollbar with floodlights. And an American flag or eagle in the rear window.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        I have so many questions now! I’ve only heard that phrase used to mock women with ridiculous hair, was it meant sincerely? Did the email owner have large hair??

          1. DEJ*

            Unfortunately this same philosophy is also used by the extreme religious group the FLDS (the Warren Jeffs group) that the higher the hair, the more righteous you are.

    1. urguncle*

      A customer had her entire multi-day destination wedding schedule in her email signature for months before her actual wedding.

        1. urguncle*

          I can only assume the implication being if you needed her to answer a question during her ceremony, you’d know exactly what villa to go to.

      1. Jessica Ganschen*

        Oh boy. I could see making that a signature for wedding-related correspondence among the wedding party/to guests, maybe, if you’re getting a lot of questions about it and don’t want to keep repeating yourself. But as the default signature for everything? Whew.

    2. Over It*

      Can’t wait to read these! Not the worst I’ve ever seen, but recently I exchanged some emails with someone who has a less common spelling of a common name, and put instructions on how to spell it in her signature. Think “Rachael with an ‘ae!'” then the rest of her normal signature block. Not egregious on its own, but she proceeded to misspell my first name in every single one of her emails to me. My entire, very short, first name is part of both my email address and signature.

          1. Calamity Janine*

            a variant: keep the ae. put it in way too much. true malicious compliance hours. it’s with an ae, and you’ll MAKE it be with an ae, so help you god! (for style points, go find the unicode character for that ligature… æ or bust!) (if that æ doesn’t show up in comments as too special of a character, i’m going to look like booboo the fool, mind you, but oh well.)

            Good morning Raechaehael, as per my last email…

        1. Flash Packet*

          My name has a single consonant in a place where there are usually two. My manager cannot get it right for the life of him. After a few gentle corrections I started replying to him by adding extra consonants to various parts of his name.

          “Thanks, Nnathan!”
          “Natthan, FYI the XYZ section is ready for your review.”
          “Hi Nathhan, do you know how to do Thing in SAP?”

          Now he spells my name correctly about 70% of the time. Any time he gets it wrong, I make sure my reply has a misspelling of his name.

      1. WheresMyPen*

        Every time you email only her, add an explanation on how to spell your name too! Play her at her own game!

    3. AnotherOne*

      I didn’t receive the email but was shown it. It involved a picture of Betty Boop, there was color, and a “fun” font.

      The idea of having that as your work signature, even at our laid back job, floored me.

    4. Calamity Janine*

      three words and they are “professional Blingee signature”

      though if i’m being honest at some point showing up with enough glitter sparkles in a gif becomes sort of a refuge in audacity. it’s like seeing someone riding their lawnmower on the freeway at a 60mph clip as they cruise in the carpool lane. is it not something they should be doing? oh absolutely, that’s not where lawnmowers go, you shouldn’t be in that lane driving a lawnmower. but i cannot help having a bit of respect and amazement for someone who will simply go out and do that. if you’re going to do something wrong, you may as well do it as stylishly and strangely as possible, i guess?

      true Bunny-Ears Lawyer energy, though i’m not going to actually link that TVtropes page so everyone will be able to work today instead of tipping headfirst into the wiki warp zone. (or maybe that’s just me and my hundred-plus tabs, but still.)

    5. ONFM*

      I have a coworker who has a quote from himself as part of his email signature. That’s pretty off-putting.

    6. ursula*

      I regularly encounter senior government employees and/or legal consultants with embarrassingly basic inspirational quotes in their professional email signatures. Nothing like receiving a deeply petty email from some lady in accounting with Ghandi in her sig.

      1. I'm Done*

        Better than the religious ones of my former colleagues. I worked for a federal agency that apparently thinks it doesn’t have to comply with the separation of church and state. Meetings having the chaplain saying prayers, religious pamphlets right in the entrance of our office, etc. I just couldn’t escape. I seriously thought about filing a formal complaint. But it’s pervasive throughout that whole agency and ehen I said anything I got looks like I was a two headed sheep.

    7. Constance Lloyd*

      The content was standard, but the color scheme followed Disney’s The Little Mermaid (purple and teal) and it finished off with a stock photo of a kitten in a meadow.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Actually, worse was a high school athletic coach whose signature included an inspirational quote from a college athletic coach who had years prior been embroiled in a child abuse cover up.

    8. Bernice Clifton*

      Papyrus font with a flashing Minions gif.

      A bible verse praying for Obama’s death when he was president.

      A link to the person’s MLM wine website.

      After the name, where some people put their pronouns in parentheses, he put (American / Patriot)

      1. Watry*

        I don’t know if I’d be able to stop the malicious compliance on that last one. “Well, american says american can’t do this because there’s too much on patriot plate…”

        1. Bernice Clifton*

          For real tho. The worst part is it’s a client and no one else at that company I’ve dealt with has any pronouns in their signature, so it’s not mandatory, he just feels trolling apparently.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        The only thing funnier than any one of these is if it was one person with all of them. Omg.

        1. Bernice Clifton*

          The first time the Minions person emailed my counterpart and me, I dropped the gif of Phoebe on Friends screaming “My Eyes!”

        1. Bernice Clifton*

          Yes, I always cite these examples whenever I hear someone complain about that their work mandates designs and wording of email signatures. “This is why we can’t have nice things!”

    9. PenNamesAreFun*

      It is very common for some admin in the school system I’m leaving to sign their emails with


      Recently Read and Loved: Book Recommendation with a link
      Currently listening to: Podcast recommendation
      Currently reading: Book Recommendation with a link

      I don’t need every email to be an attempt to prove how in touch with trends and how smart you are. Also, your signature is longer than your email.

    10. Anonymouse*

      Rankings graphic (#1 for something)
      Rankings graphic (#4 for something)
      List of five other rankings
      #2 for something
      #3 for something
      #5 for something
      #5 for something
      #6 for something

      1. Anonymouse*

        Oh shoot. I forgot they also had:
        Job title
        Office name
        Company name

        It was easily a full sheet of paper if you printed the email out.

    11. AnonyNurse*

      I never did this, because I am a grown up. But I was responsible for implementing a huge, state-wide system change that was generally well received but a lot of “but what if…” and “can I instead…”

      I told my boss I was going to put a GIF of Miranda Priestly saying “No, no, that wasn’t a question” in my email signature.

    12. Elle Woods*

      Former coworker had one which looked like it was created in about 1995–neon colors, flashing text, Curlz font.

    13. Flash Packet*

      Eight dense Bible scriptures in italicized, cursive font, and a tag line at the bottom of it all, in bold, 18-pt, military-stencil font: “!!!!TGBATG!!!! (TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY)”

      I mean, that seems a bit excessive for an AP clerk in an outpost of an international manufacturing company. Like, maybe just have the company logo and the corporate AP contact info in case a vendor needs immediate assistance.

      Plus, we all know that if I put the seven fundamental tenets of The Satanic Temple in my signature block with “!!!HAIL SATAN!!!” at the bottom in 18-point font, I’d be whisked into HR so fast my head would spin.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        I’m in Facebook jail for 30 days for praying to Satan on Christian ads that constantly showed up on MY feed.

        1. Flash Packet*

          Farking FB.

          A couple of weeks ago my feed was suddenly full of Christian ads. The ratio was 1 ultra-right religious ad for every 2 posts from my friends and groups. I reported every single one of them as either “Violence” or “Fake News”, depending on whichever one was closest to the top of the list of choices.

          I didn’t comment on any of them because that gets FB what it wants: engagement. If I comment, FB will notify the people on my friends list. If they like or comment on what I’ve said, FB will notify the people on *their* friends list. And so on, and so on.

          It was so wild because even the dumbest, most poorly written algorithm would be able to pick up that I am *not* the target audience for anything religious, let alone right-wing douchebaggery.

    14. All Het Up About It*

      It’s a different type of worst email signature, but at a past job we had a rebranding and Comms sent out a document with new email signatures for everyone. I diligently copy and pasted mine in to Outlook and began using it.

      Weeks and weeks later I realized that my own name was misspelled in said email signature that I had be using on all correspondence. My own first name.

  5. Never Really Safe*

    In spring I left a dead-end, underpaid job at a rock-solid privately-owned company, for a promotion and large salary bump at a huge international publicly-owned company. Now Q3 results came out at my new job, shareholders are gathering pitchforks, and the C suite is promising tons of cuts and layoffs to fix the stock price.

    I knew the difference intellectually before this: a company owned by generations of the same family makes long-term decisions and plans decades in advance, while an F500 cares about results from quarter to quarter. But living this reality is incredibly stressful, and while I’m making 50k more at this job, I didn’t realize how much I would miss that feeling of safety. I’m a careful spender and I’m building an emergency fund as quickly as possible, but (as with most Americans) I and my spouse desperately need medical coverage.

    I know I’m not special, and this is just the state of business for most employees. So, how do you get used to this constant undercurrent of anxiety in your working life?

    1. the cat's ass*

      It’s so stressful, I’m sorry. I’ve always made sure i had a cushion for about 6 mo of emergency $ and went through the insurance exchange in my state when i was unexpectedly laid off. And I’m sort of in denial about it otherwise.

    2. AnotherOne*

      yeah, that’s my fear. I want to move from university admin to private sector. But my job is really secure now.

      The private sector is the wild west in comparison. And with this economy? It’s scary to think about.

    3. Estimator*

      You just get used to it. I work in construction, my industry is stable but not always the jobs themselves. There was a period where I worked at 4 places with 3.5 years due to customer contract changes. Many of us move companies as large customer contracts shift. It’s terrifying at first and then you get used to it. Build a network you can reach out to, I’ve worked with the same 100 people in various configurations for 15 years and we help each other out as needed.

      1. Hillary*

        I second getting used to it. I keep a financial cushion, I’m always upgrading my skills, and I know my value in the market. What’s the worst that can happen? Even when I got fired I got a 10% raise at the next job. I’m trying to also not give them any more than they give me, but that’s a constant work in progress. My partner and I work at different companies in different industries to increase our overall safety net.

        I also remind myself rock solid private companies are great until they aren’t. The owner retires or gets divorced, or maybe the company doesn’t keep up and suddenly doesn’t have customers. The changes tend to be less frequent but much more shocking.

        signed – ten companies in nineteen years

        1. Never Really Safe*

          I also remind myself rock solid private companies are great until they aren’t. The owner retires or gets divorced, or maybe the company doesn’t keep up and suddenly doesn’t have customers. The changes tend to be less frequent but much more shocking.

          There’s no way for me to hint at this using llamas or teacups, so I’ll just say it outright: The old company is owned by European royalty, and has been handed down for centuries. There is just no way it will be torn apart in the way you’re suggesting, short of complete geopolitical collapse.

          1. Violet Rose*

            Well that’s nice I suppose, but it’s not the case for the vast majority of companies of that kind so most people won’t be equipped to answer your question if that’s a factor.

          2. LadyB*

            I worked at one of those. You can still be made redundant, or jobs can change as the Monarch changes. The organisation/institution continues, but in a different form.

          3. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

            Cue a European geopolitical collapse caused by Russian invasion of Ukraine.

            I mean, we hope not, but it’s a real possibility we’re all looking at potential WWIII

    4. Love to WFH*

      You asked a big question. This is just answer to your (legitimate) fear about health insurance. You can sign up on the ACA exchange immediately if you lose your employer-provided health coverage. If your income has dropped to the unemployment insurance amount, your premium should be subsidized.

      1. TCO*

        A note on private plans purchased through the exchange market: those ACA subsidies are tax credits and are based on your annual household income, not your income in the moment. So even if your income drops temporarily that doesn’t mean that you’d automatically be eligible for a tax credit, especially if you have a spouse still working.

        But yes, it’s possible to buy health insurance outside of an employer’s offerings (or to purchase COBRA coverage from a former employer). It just may not be cheap.

        1. darlingpants*

          BUT Medicaid coverage is based on monthly income, not yearly income! Not super helpful if your spouse is still working, but if you’re single or the breadwinner health care is freeeeee (in states that have expanded Medicaid).

    5. Lora*

      If there is some kind of professional society you can join, do that. They usually have a lot of networking type events and guest speakers + networking hours and that’s how you learn about new startups looking for hires, facility expansions and rumors of job openings. That way you always know the general trends in the field, and often if one company is exiting a site or a space, there’s someone else who is expanding. Or if there’s a general downturn in Subfield 1, Subfield 2 is holding steady or hiring and you can talk to someone about switching.

      That said, there are definitely fields which are just inherently unstable and have huge peaks and valleys – petroleum engineering, certain types of basic research that simply become unpopular (virology and bacteriology were really boring, thought to be nearly extinct fields about 10 years ago), publishing / news broadcasting has gone through some huge transitions, I’m sure there’s a lot more examples. I personally dealt with the ups and downs by becoming more of a generalist and going back to school for various and sundry degrees that could be applied to lots of things, but most of my friends who are in highly specific fields have a spouse with a steady income or family money.

    6. Bess*

      Build the cushion and then remind yourself that you have the cushion every time you get anxious. Remember there are safety nets as well, such as unemployment, COBRA, etc.

      I work in an industry that long term is going to see reduction and declines. For now, the benefits of working in this area outweigh the risks, and I have significant transferable professional skills, and try to remind myself of that every time I get nervous.

      And what would the risks be of staying in that other job? Seems significant. Stability isn’t always the best choice.

    7. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Be networking. CONTINUALLY. If your line of work has any professional organizations, join them, and participate in them. Keep your CV handy. Even if your job is “safe”.

      I don’t know what you do – but I was in the computer/IS/IT business. After a short unemployment period, I not only worked my tail off – I *buried myself* in a professional computing organization. I had contacts, and built a professional reputation in the industry specialty. I never worried much after that.

      Yes, it is stressful, but you also were probably getting by well on your combined (with your spouse’s) incomes. Contrast your situation against the one-income household.

      But NETWORKING NETWORKING NETWORKING. I retired a year ago – just short of 70.
      I still get calls and e-mails from time to time.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      After you weather a few of these, you can develop an attitude that will help you get through it.

      For me, I often thought to myself that if I behaved this way then I would shown the door. “Boss, you know what? My 3rd Q isn’t looking good and I think I can only show up for work half the time. If things continue as they are in the next few quarters I think I can only show up 30% of the time. Yeah, I know you need productivity- but if I just don’t have it then that’s the answer. You will have to deal. Yeah, I know you will lose Big Important Contract and planet earth will stop revolving. But hey, that’s life.”

      It takes strength to lead. Good leadership includes keeping your people working. This means putting thought into what you are doing so the people can stay working.

      Growing up it was a bfd if an employer said they were going to lay people off. Now… it’s just Tuesday.

      Loyalty is a two way street.

    9. Flash Packet*

      In a meeting with my mentor last month, I expressed concern for what now appears to be a certain economic downturn, and she said that the way she has dealt with all the ones she has lived through was to be the best Whatever she has been hired to be.

      The idea is that, if/when cuts come, they’ll come for the less productive people first. If the cuts get deeper, then someone excellent like her will have a solid record of accomplishments to make her attractive to a new employer.

      On the one hand, it makes sense. Why would a company get rid of their best employee in any department if they have a choice in who gets laid off?

      On the other hand, it means being in constant competition with your peers, to make sure you’re always the one floating on top. Which seems like it would come with a constant level of stress and anxiety, and could negatively color relationships with peers.

      For me, I deal with it kind of the same way I deal with the knowledge that I and everyone I care about will die. It’s there. It can happen. It’s a good idea to have a plan for what to do when it does happen. Nothing and no one is ever truly safe. From anything. And you (the general you) can be frozen with fear and anxiety at the inevitability of it all, or you can choose to set it aside and make the most of what you’ve got now.

      I was laid off *twice* in the Great Recession. It sucks. I’m sorry.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        I never thought if it as “constant competition with my peers” so much as “best version of myself”. Because even the most highly competent rock star will get let go if employer is crazy, and only interested in cost cutting, to keep the doors open as inexpensively as possible. (Ask me how I know) You just have to learn to live with it….like there is a statistical probability of getting into a car accident when one drives, but you can’t focus on it. Same at work, I think.

    10. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Make a plan. Then make a plan B. Then C. This is what I did in 2020 when shit went sideways. I literally wrote out the worst things I could imagine happening at the same time (like me being fired, so no unemployment, and my husband becoming disabled), and the steps we would take to deal with them. One, it helps remind yourself you aren’t really facing “the worst thing possible” and two, when you have a plan, you can stop worrying, because worry is all about uncertainty.

      1. Dimity Hubbub*

        I thoroughly recommend Hen in a Windstorm’s approach. I applied it myself some years back when a previously ok job went full on toxic. I had options A through D, D was ‘I’ve been fired. Now what?’ I was sure i needed to think about that BEFORE it might happen since I wouldn’t have the spare time to panic if it did!
        Whenever I started to panic I reminded myself about The Plan and that all I needed to do was keep on with it. It helped me break down the various horrible tasks (e.g. redoing my resume) into manageable chunks in service to The Plan.

  6. A Genuine Scientician*

    I work in higher education at a public university, so all salary information is publicly searchable. My institution just did salary adjustments, and so we have new numbers starting this month.

    Someone in my unit who started at the same time I did, teaches in the same courses I do, and has consistently been rated as a lower performer than I am (they’ve been on a PIP basically the entire past several years, and have been described as being adequate as a teaching assistant but not performing at faculty levels; I’ve gotten highly positive reviews while doing a lot more in these same courses than they do) is now somehow making several hundred dollars more per year than I am. It’s not a huge amount financially, but it’s a pretty heavy blow psychologically.

    I know the standard advice is that you shouldn’t care all that much about the salaries of other people at the same company, but is this a case where I’d be justified going to our mutual boss and asking “Can you help me make sense of what’s going on here?” Especially in light of said boss telling us when the salary adjustments happened that if we had any questions about these adjustments to come to him?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Better angle is to come asking for a raise with several salary comparisons. Make the narrative “I do XYZ really well, I should be paid more and here’s some numbers to show it”, not “George sucks at his job and earns more than me, I should be paid more”. Use that salary website get a few more examples, use similar salary website for other public universities as a reference too.

      1. anon for this*

        And consider the path of asking HR for an equity review/justification. I’m going to make a couple bets here, privately, based on my own experience in academia and sharing an office with a dude who typeset math homework problems while listening to football games with frequent breaks to browse vacation destinations, eat snacks etc, who was paid the same as PhD myself teaching grad-level classes, mentoring undergrad and grad researchers, writing grants including an R01 that got funded (not that I was allowed to get any of that money because the structure of my contract precluded buying out any time), etc etc. I quit, to be frank.

      2. Just Want A Nap*

        I agree with this. I recently found out someone incompetent was making more than I was (before he was fired).
        My boss told me that this infuriated him when he found out after the incompetent worker was fired and practiced asking for a raise with me because my annual review with grand boss is in the next couple weeks.

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      If you have a good relationship with your boss, it can’t hurt to ask.

      Based on my experience working in public universities, there is no merit behind the salary; it is all qualifications and time. If this person has been there longer, they could be making a big more money. If this person has a higher degree, they might have been classed higher by HR.

      However, things can be different at each university and it can’t hurt to ask. Particularly, if you have similar seniority and degrees to this person, you want to make sure there isn’t an error in your own classification.

      1. Annony*

        My guess is that there is some sort of checklist involved. They probably aren’t looking at ratings, so they have you as teaching the same classes and having been there the same amount of time. If she is on an extra committee or the advisor for a student group it could be what caused her to get slightly more. It’s definitely worth talking to your boss about it.

        1. A Genuine Scientician*

          She’s on no committees, I’m on several, including the advisory committee for our unit.

    3. KatEnigma*

      I would take it as a sign of dysfunction that you are privy to a peer’s PIP and review feedback.

      1. to varying degrees*

        In some places, especially ones that have broad public records access, it would be a matter of public record available upon request.

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

        Depends on how they came by that info…the coworker may have been openly telling folks in a brag that he can’t get fired, or lamenting that “they have it out for him” etc. People who operate under a PIP for 7 years are usually spectacularly clueless and indiscreet in my experience.

      3. A Genuine Scientician*

        The main reason I know is that both the other person and I were given an initial temporary contract at the same time. Mine was made permanent a year later; they were given a new temporary contract. There was a unit-wide discussion about whether to offer that person a permanent contract or not, and the consensus was initially not to due to performance concerns. Our mutual boss also asked for feedback about how the other person was performing from the development teams on both of the courses we both work in; I am on those development teams, while the other person is not. Information about the PIP was discussed in those settings.

        We both have PhDs in our subject, and were hired here at the same time; our salaries were initially identical.

        1. Bunny Watson*

          I’m guessing what likely happened then in this case is that they got a new contract a year after you then. New starting salaries increased in that time but as you know in academia there is never an effort to address salary compression so your salary was not raised. We frequently have new people who make more than those who started within the last several years. I’ve had success asking for raises so I would go ahead and ask (though I know that is not the norm).

    4. jane's nemesis*

      IS the standard advice that you shouldn’t care all that much about other people’s salaries? Because I think it’s pretty important from an equity and fairness standpoint to care. Especially since your employer makes salary information publicly searchable. (I worked in higher ed at a public university and we were not privy to what our colleagues made unless we specifically shared with each other).

      Given your boss said that you SHOULD go to him with questions, I say definitely go to him with this question!

    5. Esmeralda*

      It’s academia and the salary info is public. I would ask my boss directly about the difference. I would not point to anything specific about the other worker’s performance, because you shouldn’t be privy to that info (even if everyone knows). Point to your own numbers and accomplishments.

      If Mediocre Max is male and you are female, you can bring this up — I would say something like, “I’m concerned about the equity issue, too.” Your boss knows exactly what that means. You can ask if the dept is doing an equity review; if the answer is no (or “next year” or “uuuuhhhh, maybe”), then ask boss if they know what the procedure is to request an equity review from HR.

      That couple hundred bucks multiplies over the years.

      BTW I’m at the same rank as a number of other folks in my office but am better paid than almost all of them, including some folks on the leadership team (asst directors). That’s because I retained an increase from years ago for a promotion that I later gave back so to speak and because I’ve been here since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I’ve heard folks over the years ask why I was getting more (some people are highly indiscreet, and loud). I always find those folks for a 1-on-1 and explain why, and encourage them to ask for a raise/look for a position that pays better elsewhere on campus, because that’s the best way to earn more $.

      1. to varying degrees*

        Same. Something similar happened in my previous workplace. When the persona in question brought it to their attention they did a salary re-adjustment (it was low enough it didn’t have to go through formal approval).

    6. Lorraine*

      Did your colleague receive travel money or overload pay? In my state, what you can see is not base salary but everything earned and that includes reimbursement for travel and conferences and if you got paid extra for teaching an extra class.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        Here, what you see is base salary. I’ve gotten overload pay at various times; it’s never shown up in this viewable system. Same with travel stuff, etc.

  7. Pet project new owner*

    In my small team, McKenna and I are two senior staff who functionally contribute to the unit with the only other staff being the Director and admin assistant.

    McKenna is covering another post in another unit (due to a mat leave) and is back soon. When we worked together, McKenna and I were quite congenial and had a good rapport. Although McKenna did have a habit of taking on extra tasks that they didn’t have the bandwidth for. One such item is an Intranet page update. I offered to help McKenna on this, to be collegial, with them taking the lead. I really don’t have the knowledge or skills on the specifics to move this task ahead and just provide minor level support when needed.

    During this leave, this project has been on the back burner. However during a recent meeting, the Director indicated that McKenna wouldn’t be able to work on this project when she is back and it is with me now. And that she cannot commit any more hours to it. So, now this project is on my lap and I don’t know the ins and outs.

    The Director doesn’t also know about the details of the Intranet project either as it was solely led by McKenna.

    Do I need to suck it up and take on this Intranet project even though it’s not really in my job description, and I am already busy, even though was a pet project of McKenna….

    1. Venus*

      I would interpret this as the Director doesn’t want it to move forward. You don’t have to do anything, and McKenna shouldn’t.

    2. BAgpuss*

      I would be inclined to say tothe director that you are not familiar with the project , having only provided minimal support to McKenna and that you don’t really have the skills or knowledge about the specifcs to be able to move it forward. Perhaos say that you dont feel that you are the right person to deal with it, and suggest that it is put on the back burner until McKEnna is in a position to resume work on it, when she has fewer more urgent projects to deal with .(And if the director pushes for you to do it, then perhaps ask which other tasks she wants you to drop to take this on, and what training you will be provided withas you don’t currently have the skills or knowledge to enable you to take it on)

    3. AnotherOne*

      honestly, i’d ask. be clear that you are happy to arrange a time for McKenna to explain how to handle this project but that you don’t really know anything about coding/whatnot.

      If this is something, the director wants dropped or back burnered, he’ll let you know.

    4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Is the Interanet SharePoint based? If so it’s pretty easy to pick up. I’m working on one now for everyone who reports to my grand-boss. It’s not what I was hired for and didn’t have any experience in, but with some YouTube tutorials and trial and error, it’s not too bad.

      If it’s a matter of time, I’d ask for some direction from your boss what the timeline is for certain deliverables.

    5. Annony*

      I think you should tell your boss that while you were happy to provide minor level support to McKenna, this project is far outside your job description and skill set. Let him know exactly how far you feel you can take it (even if that is “I wouldn’t even know where to start”) and see what he says.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I got hit with a project that would add 2 hours to my work day, every day.

      What I did was let the boss know that I needed X in order to do the job (this involved training so paying for courses and paying for time to take the courses) and since it was very clear that it would add 2 hours to my day, I needed to be paid for those two hours.

      End of problem.
      The whole thing just dried up and blew away. It was almost magical.

  8. AnotherSarah*

    I am a professor, and I also volunteer my professional expertise for my religious community. I’m looking for scripts to address a delicate issue–I tend towards being very open and blunt, but my local community is not that way, and I need to act accordingly. A few years ago, I had a student (in a few courses) who was quite difficult to work with. Talking over me, answering questions directed at me, resistant to feedback, etc. She graduated and I breathed a sigh of relief. I addressed these issues with her from time to time but nothing changed. This summer, she said something quite egregious on social media that caused myself and some colleagues quite a lot of grief (essentially, spreading a rumor about a colleague of mine).

    Now we are both on a volunteer group of people helping plan a series of events. I am happy to work on the event and think that I would do a good job; my area of expertise is really needed for the program. But I absolutely cannot work with this person after this summer. I have asked the main event coordinator for a phone call next week, but I’m at a loss of what to say. I fear coming off as petty when I was this woman’s professor and she’s so much younger/just starting out. What I would say in a place where being blunt is more acceptable would be “I’m sorry, but Jane caused a lot of issues this summer for a close colleague of mine, it was very unprofessional, and I really don’t think that I can work with her closely on this program.” That won’t fly. Other ideas? TIA!

    1. A Genuine Scientician*

      Can you explain why it wouldn’t fly? I’m willing to trust your judgment that it wouldn’t — you know your community better than I do — but the reasons why might be important for figuring out a better framing.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        I would say that this community (not just the religious community–the region in general) is known for being indirect, passive-aggressive. People avoid directness like the plague. In this group and others, I’ve worked on an idea forever only to have it not go anywhere, because no one would tell me that there was no budget for it, or no one else liked it, etc. I’ve seen that happen to others as well. I’m worried that my choices are 1) be direct and be seen as being “mean” or 2) flake out, citing vague issues, and be thought of as unreliable. Neither would be good for my communal and professional reputation and neither is true.

        1. I edit everything*

          Even though the community is passive-aggressive, this situation calls for directness, and you could open with something like “I need to be direct about an issue involving Clarabell,” say something positive about her, if you have anything at all (“I admire her passion for our mission”), then use your wording, which I thought was excellent. You’re talking about you not being able to work with her, not saying “Clarabell is a dishonest twerp and shouldn’t be working on this project.” Then propose some suggestions for how you can contribute while on a different orbit from Clarabell. And ask for clear communication in return. If they decide not to have you involved in the project, that’s fine, but you’d like to be told directly and not shut out or left waiting.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I’d have zero patience for the setting, but that’s me.

          It seems to me that if they are P/A with you then they will be P/A with Jane also.

          The problem is not Jane. The problem is their inability to filter out rotten apples. So if it wasn’t Jane then it would be someone else.

          I’d say limit your time. I have no idea what the project is, but let’s say it’s reasonable that a 6 month window would do it. You could say, “I can commit for 6 months. At the end of six months I need to attend to other things.” We can do sprints easier than we can do marathons.

          Going the other way, you could always say, “I believe i was asked to join because of my specialty X. When you get to the part when you are ready to do X, call me. I will come.”

          If you get stuck, nothing works, never forget the power of the silent stare from across the table/room when she does something stupid. Just stare at her as if to say, “You’re doing it again!!!”.

        3. JSPA*

          “Awkward” is a good word. So is, “unfortunate.”

          “There’s a complex professional history, and ongoing inescapable awkwardness.”

          “I’m still processing my responses to some unfortunate media assertions that caused pain in the department. To avoid bringing awkwardness or discord into this place of mutual refuge, it would be best for us to maintain some distance, for now.”

          “I’m still in the process of regaining equilibrium and serenity after a recent unfortunate contretemps that rocked our department. For the sake of mutual equilibrium, let’s ensure she and I are on different teams.”

          “Normally I’m thrilled to have a student become a peer. However, this particular student-professor relationship isn’t yet suited to that situation.”

          Faith community volunteering often involves contributions from people who are not professional, in the usual sense of the word, so I’d avoid leaning hard on that.

          Equally, faith communities tend to go big on second chances, forgiveness and growth.

          Talking about your point in the process and about mutual benefit will probably work better.

          Or, y’know, step back… let the student float or flail… let them know you’ll have time set aside to step in if the student bails on them.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      If it’s a “her or me” situation, and you are really willing to bow out (and I don’t blame you!), it might be less adversarial to “take the blame,” as it were? “I’ve worked with Jane before, and her disrespectful behavior / poor judgment not only caused professional and personal harm to colleagues of mine, but I have found her resistant to feedback and unwilling to change. I really want to work with and support this program, but I cannot trust myself to work professionally with Jane in this capacity, so I’ll have to withdraw my participation.”

      That would give them the opening to make the choice and invite you back, or give you a graceful way to 1) warn them and 2) keep your sanity.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        Ah, well seeing your comment above, this may be a “there’s no magic script” situation. If the community is socially dysfunctional enough that it doesn’t allow for directness (let alone conflict), and the only way to “maintain your reputation” is to passively (or enthusiastically) endure whatever circumstances you find yourself in, then you have to choose which pain is worth your ultimate goal: the pain of working with Jane and maintaining (possibly) your current reputation, or possibly being seen as “mean” but never having to work with Jane again.

        But at least making a clear, intentional choice ahead of time will help you endure, either way. Good luck!

      2. AnotherSarah*

        Ooh, this wording is better! I’m still pondering the question above, and what’s “mean/too direct” and what’s acceptable and why, but this somehow sounds much better, putting Jane’s behavior out there as a fact that’s actually quite separate from me and my feelings about her. Thanks!

      3. Bagpuss*

        I like his approach, although rather than ‘I cannot trust myself to work professionally.. ‘ I would suggest maybe ‘I don’t think we could work productively together’,or, ‘I don’t feel I ‘could work productively with Jane’ and then go on with the ‘ so I’ll have to withdraw my participation’ – I think saying you can’t trust yourself to work professionally could come back to bite you, especially if it were taken out of context, and it still leave it ipeopne for them to say that they will decline Janes’s offer to be involved, if they decide thatthey would rather have you, but you’ve gracefully withdrawn and left it up to them to either ask her to go and ask you back, or involve her and make do without you this time.
        If you want to soften it you can add in something such as saying that you respect her enthusiasm, or whatever on those lines you feel you can say and be hinest about!

      4. Esmeralda*

        Or even leave Jane out of it: Im so so sorry, but I won’t be able to work on X event! I was looking forward to it, but I have to attend to some family things / work things/ health things/ something that they’ll buy and won’t pry into too much.

        Just passive yourself out of there.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Could you say that you would probably end up treating Jane as a student instead of an equal co-worker? And that wouldn’t be good for her growth in the area?

      1. AnotherSarah*

        Yeah that could also work, encouraging the program leader to just have us work on separate aspects. Good idea, thanks!

    4. anona-ope*

      If it’s a series of events, is your and Jane’s expertise needed at every event? Or would it be feasible to delicately figure out which events she’s volunteering for and self-select to work on portions where she won’t be? In which case your call be about, “I’m excited to contribute but need to be smart about where I distribute my time. Could we talk about staffing / workload distribution?”

      In general I feel like I shouldn’t endorse being so coy, but I also come from a passive cultural region, so I do get where you’re coming from in wanting to avoid it. That being said, the person who wants to avoid the awkward is almost always the one who feels it more intensely and thinks about it longer after the moment passes. I don’t think you’d be super out of line in addressing it more frankly, and I don’t think it would ruin your reputation forever either.

    5. Observer*

      To be honest, I think that the director needs to know that she’s difficult to work with and that she has spread false rumors in the past.

      I’d be tempted to say something like “I don’t know if I could watch her being so disrespectful to people. And I would definitely worry about people’s reputations being harmed by false rumors that she might spread.” But that’s probably even worse.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        That’s the problem with a group that’s this conflict avoidant. AnotherSarah wants to protect people from being hurt, but if she does that, she’s mean and heartless and faces unpleasant social consequences. But the person who’s spreading the harmful rumors just gets to keep spreading them with no consequences at all. An absence of conflict isn’t necessarily peace.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      Could you say something like that you feel that it would be difficult for you and Jane to work together due to an incident related to a mutual acquaintance? That’s awkward phrasing, but I mean rather than making it clear she did something wrong, just imply some incident over which you are both in conflict. Perhaps she dated your son or daughter and it ended badly, perhaps she failed your course and you would feel awkward around each other… Just leave it vague.

    7. Hiring Mgr*

      If you’re both involved in the same religious community to the extent that you’re each volunteering, I can’t imagine this is the only time this will come up. Is there any chance of talking to the student and trying to make peace?

      1. AnotherSarah*

        This would be quite mature…although I do think we might come to an understanding about the social media incident (though the damage has been done and it’s not me she owes an apology to), I would really want to see that her attitude towards her teachers had improved. (She basically just made stuff up in my classes, but also had some knowledge other students didn’t…and really used that in an unpleasant way.) It’s not that there’s not peace between us but I just would rather not deal with her as long as she has more or less the same MO.

    8. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      Can’t you just say that you’ve worked with her before and your personalities don’t mesh well? That part is (kinda) true, without citing what happened this summer – which had nothing to do with you (or was peripheral, at any rate). Or… as her former professor, you’ve seen the way she works and you don’t approve? I don’t like that one, actually…

      Or… do you know her to be flaky? Do you think she might not last in the group? Wait her out! I would say not to turn away from this group – they need YOU! They don’t need her as much as you, since you’re the one with the most experience/expertise (I’m assuming, but I’m probably right). Be the most reliable one, or the most knowledgeable one, and let others seek you out and not her. Be nice to her but assertive, as in, “excuse me, but I was speaking, let me finish my thought” kind of language. She’s obnoxious and unprofessional, so your niceness and professionalism will win out.

      Other than being blunt, which the group will listen to but won’t do anything about… because they’re not about to say to her not to volunteer… am I right?

    9. Calamity Janine*

      this is passive aggressive, but it seems like that is parlance of the situation, so…

      frame it both like it’s a little silly foible of yours, and that you are actually doing everyone – especially Jane – an enormous favor by keeping your distance so magnanimously. “oh, we’re just like oil and water, really! you know how it is, some people just aggravate you like that. we spent so much time with each other when she was my student that i think we both know that would end up with us arguing back and forth at each other, and then everyone else would be standing around so awkwardly about it, and it’d completely derail the event! i’m sure she was also SO relieved when she graduated to not be caught up in disagreements, i too. i would hate to make it seem to her like this is just more of the same classroom quibbling. so i think it’s better if we simply aren’t around each other much… after all, this event is important enough that i don’t want to take up time with petty little squabbles of how we’re on two different wavelengths, as i’m sure you agree!”

      gushily going forward with an attitude that this is already done and decided and you’re just informing everyone about the excruciatingly obvious solution is also a great tactic here. of course it’s the right thing to do. you’re doing the event a huge favor, as well as Jane herself a huge favor, by not letting it become a repeat of classroom quibbles. everyone has already agreed to this. (even if they don’t know they have already.) why, you’re doing the most loving and gracious thing possible by making sure Jane isn’t stressed out by all of this, because Jane would surely hate to be dragged straight back to school stuff after she’s graduated! especially because the event coordinator wants it to be about the event, not a rehash of old conflicts, right? of course the event coordinator does! (now, as you were saying, about the chocolate teapot dedication ceremony…)

      you might be asked to be charitable enough to go along with it anyway. i’m afraid this is when the polite fiction needs to drop, and you will have to be blunt about it. “she has a tendency to talk over me and be very rude, even when i was her professor, and this past summer she created and spread a very harmful lie that hurt me and my colleagues.” but then you can roll it back towards the focus with: “so as you can see, i’m fairly sure that if we’re trying to work together, she’s going to be dedicated to making it all about these old conflicts. i would hate for all your effort to be turned into that. this event is far more important, after all, and it would be irresponsible of me to expect precious resources to be wasted on some nonsense instead… not when we need to fundraise for those poor starving orphaned kittens up in alaska! so i’m sure you agree, it’s better if Jane is kept well away from this. it’s just the most sensible solution.” …and then moving swiftly on to a detail that your expertise is needed for. because the attitude is that you’ve said just the most normal and commonplace thing that everyone has already agreed on, so there’s no more that needs to be said about it.

      majorly passive-aggressive? oh yes. absolutely. however if that’s the local dialect, well, it’s what you need to speak in order to get things done on occasion lol

    10. AnotherSarah*

      I’m so appreciative of everyone’s comments! You also make me feel like this is not just a small thing I’m making a mountain out of. Thanks!

    11. Annony*

      I think you do need some level of directness but hopefully phrasing it as objective facts about her behavior rather than your preferences will help it go down better. Maybe “Jane did quite a bit of damage to a colleagues reputation over the summer by spreading untrue rumors. I value my professional reputation too much to risk working with her on this program.” If you want to soften it (and lie a little) you could change it to “Jane did quite a bit of damage to a colleagues reputation over the summer by spreading untrue rumors. I hold no ill will towards her. She is young and hopefully will learn professional norms given time, but I value my professional reputation too much to risk working with her on this program.”

    12. SofiaDeo*

      Something along the lines of ” from previous association I know we have different communication styles; I am not willing to work with her on this project.” You aren’t throwing any shade. If really really pressed, perhaps something like “I have already had to manage problems caused by her stating things as factual before verify her information, and the repercussion of her misstatements. I will not open myself to that possibility any more.” It’s about you, not her, right?

  9. Funfetti*

    Happy Friday!

    I’m on the job hunt and met with a family friend who used to work as a recruiter at a firm. He gave me some solid resume tips, but one bit of advice I am having trouble wrapping my head around because it goes against all AAM I’ve read here.

    He said it’s OK to contact the Hiring Manager when you submit your resume! Like message them on LinkedIn and say you’re interested! Whatttt?

    I’m totally stumped and went down an internet rabbit hole of LinkedIn articles and posts saying mostly to do it – but felt it missed a lot of the nuance that I value from this site.

    Soooo what do you all think? To message or not to message?

    For context: job I’m applying for is a software company of 200-300 employees and their website says a real human will (allegedly) read my resume. Their culture got great reviews so part of me wants to message because their HR guy is all Mr. LinkedIn on his profile but on the other hand if their site (and Glassdoor) say how much they care, do I trust the process?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      LinkedIn articles and posts saying you should use LinkedIn to contact people more – hmmm I’d want some sources not directly benefiting from you using it saying so.

      Pro – Hiring manager sees your chat and knows your name
      Con – If it comes off aggressive, annoying hiring manager, getting flagged as pushy or unclear on boundaries

    2. londonedit*

      I’m not sure I see what messaging them would achieve…it’s obvious that you’re interested in the job, because you’ve applied for it! I think it would be slightly odd to apply for a job and then send a message saying you’re interested in the job.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Agreed. Alison has pointed this out before, as well.

        I mean, would you apply for the job and then send them a message saying “I applied for this job, but I’m not really interested. Just a head’s up.”?

        You just don’t apply for jobs you’re not interested in.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Just my opinion, but Alison is the person to go to. Not someone from LI or any where else.

        FWIW, I have sent that follow up email and it was not worth my effort. I won’t do it again.

    3. CharlieBrown*

      1) I tend not to take anything recruiters say terribly seriously. They are salesmen, after all. The degree of sliminess varies, but there is a certain amount of it present.

      2) I also tend not to take anything on LinkedIn too seriously, either. There are just too many people out there with “gumption” making ridiculous posts and articles in an attempt to get noticed. It’s not a networking site; it’s social media. It’s not quite descended to TikTok levels, but it’s awfully close.

      1. Funfetti*

        You’re right – my mind was getting warped from living on LinkedIn searching for jobs (which has been good) but the social media elements of everyone trying to be a thought leader definitely diminishes it.

    4. Middle of HR*

      No reason to message unless you actually know the hiring manager or are being intro’d by a mutual connection (who has agreed to connect you).
      Unless you’re applying for a sales job, maayyyybe. Some old school sales managers love that gumption stuff.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Unless your message adds to the conversation, don’t bother.

        However, note that if you apply for a job through the LinkedIn platform, it flags the activity to the person who posed the job. So you’ll be popping into their inbox and it’s easy for the poster to take a quick peek at you, even if your resume might not have been high up in their search of the database of apps. So it’s a sort of passive extra message.

    5. shruggie*

      Ha! I actually tried this once – I was brand new to professional norms, and hadn’t found AAM yet. Hilariously, the person I reached out to didn’t even see my message for weeks. I think there might be more of a chance your contact see the message quickly if they’re listed as the hiring manager on LinkedIn, and are using LinkedIn to conduct the search… but if you’re reaching out cold, it’s entirely possible they won’t see the message in a reasonable amount of time.

      On top of that, yeah, don’t do it. There’s literally nothing to gain; they can’t tell you anything at this point, and if they want to reach out to you to move you forward, they will.

    6. Kara*

      Just N=1, but my partner got his current job by submitting his resume and an intro email directly to the CEO of a moderate-sized business in his field (IT). That approach worked when a year of applying through job aggregator sites got only a few terrible interviews. I would suggest trying to find their company email rather than messaging through Linkedin, though.

    7. Morgan Proctor*

      Here’s the thing… I’ve done it, and it worked.

      Now, this probably wouldn’t work most of the time, but it worked in this case because, 1) it was a niche industry, and 2) the business was in a small town and had very limited access to qualified people.

      But basically, I wanted to work at Organization, but Organization wasn’t hiring the position I wanted. I sent messages to everyone in the department I wanted to work in introducing myself, and a day or two later I got an invite to interview. I was offered the job, and I accepted.

      So, sometimes this works. But you have to read the room!

    8. Aglet*

      I was listening to a presentation by a Google internal recruiter, and they said to search for the hiring manager’s name and email them directly. I knew that was opposite Alison’s advice, but it’s it what Google looks for? Is it a tech thing? Or is it just bad advice by one Google recruiter?

  10. Radish Queen*

    Asking for a friend. Say you work in a high technical field on R&D, on highly proprietary research. How do you effectively talk about your work and demonstrate clear communication when networking / interviewing? I suggested coming up with an example from a related but separate field (like if your work focuses on the hair cutting part of llama grooming, have a fake example of llama hoof cutting or something), and focusing on really specific aspects of what you *did* to problem solve vs the problems you actually solved. Is this the right approach? What is your experience?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I would not use anything fake. I really don’t understand how to translate the real life to llama around here so I am going to just stick with the actual example. “I work at ZYX Company in R&D, I’ve signed too many non disclosures to share details sadly but we’re doing a lot of really neat work with increasing the energy output in chips” . You can network by talking about academic articles you’ve read, thoughts on the conference speaker, “Did you see Stevenson’s new paper disproving capacitor degradation? I’m not sure I trust the methodology they didn’t consider ABC that Michaelis’s lab has been developing”.

      For interviews, check with your boss and your HR, sometimes you can share some details with the understanding that those will not be shared further. I’ve presented slide decks in interviews and the HR announced at the start not to share information from the talk as it is unpublished and confidential still.

      1. Radish Queen*

        I should have been more clear. This is friend is interviewing to leave their current role and start at another company. Presumably, if they are switching to an R&D role elsewhere, the hiring manager will understand. But they still want to be able to talk about the highly technical and unique work they have accomplished.

        1. Llama Fiber Art Specialist*

          R&D support here for a HIGHLY technical and niche field (I have about five peers nationwide, and the R&D scientists I support sometimes have none – they’re literally one of a kind.) I tend to talk about my work to non-peers in a couplet kind of way, the very technical and then general that brings it into focus for them:

          “I manage a collection of research and legal technical standards materials for Llama Product Development that supports Llama Fiber Arts and Yarn Re-utilization. Yeah, it does sound fancy! The Llama Handlers I support are doing some very cool science like (XYZ.) My day-to-day work is a lot of (paperwork, contacting vendors, spreadsheets, etc.) though.

          I find that puts it out there very briefly but opens both doors – if someone is ambitiously curious and wants to chat STEM, we can, but I also offer the route of talking more generally relatable work in our field.

        2. Hillary*

          One option is to focus on older products that have already gone to market. The other option is what others said – talk about the processes without going into specific details. R&D folks will appreciate that your friend has to respect their current confidentiality obligations, and frankly it would be a red flag if they didn’t.

          It’s not a perfect example, but I do a lot of financial analysis. I might talk about my steps to build and validate the analysis without mentioning the amounts involved.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      I think there’s a difference between talking about the process and talking about the product.

      In my field, we use HPLC and UPLC a lot (and also a little GC). There are a lot of system parameters involved, and a lot of work involved in method development, validation, and application. So there’s a lot that I can talk about without ever mentioning a single product that we’ve worked on.

      There are online forums devoted to chromatography, and people actively ask questions and give responses, but none of them ever mention products, just commonly available reagents. Perhaps you could search out similar forums in your online field and see how people discuss things there?

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I usually start off by saying I can’t talk about the exact details due to proprietary nature, but have been able to talk about the relevant aspects because they tend to be context-independent. For example, “tell me about a time you disagreed with a colleague and how you handled it” – the disagreement might be specific to the details of the project (I wanted design A for X reasons, they wanted design B for Y reasons) but the general situation is not. I can talk about how I advocated for a particular approach or presented on a topic to a hesitant or uninformed audience, or set up a study, without saying what the topic is or what the study focused on.

      If your friend is interviewing for similar jobs, the interviewers will be well aware that the details can’t be shared and will expect to hear genericized stories.

    4. Lora*

      There are some details that you just say “compound X” or “proprietary reaction” and it’s fine, everyone understands why you’re saying it that way. You can also refer to publications, preprints, patent applications/pending (even if the patent itself isn’t approved yet). But yes, focusing on the method of how you figured it out is the way to go. Show your thinking process, your observations, how you reasoned that you needed to solve this problem instead of that one.

    5. KayKay*

      I’ve worked at early start up companies still in the “stealth” phase where you can’t say ANYTHING about what you are working on. Not even in the vaguest terms, like for example “we do protein therapeutics”.

      The best way to get around this IMO is to talk about the techniques that you yourself are proficient in without saying that you have done them specifically in your current position. So instead of “I work on protein purification at XYC company” you would say “I am proficient in protein purification techniques, including x approach and y instrument.” or even vaguer, “my background is in protein purification, I have experience developing novel proprietary methods.”

    6. Nesprin*

      Ironically, being clear about your limitations is a good way to demonstrate clear communication: Say it upfront- I’m covered by a NDA/classification/etc so I can’t give specifics about X.

      Its worth figuring out what there is that your friend can talk about- is there stuff that’s been sunsetted out into the public? Can she give an older example of a project?

    7. Cedrus Libani*

      This is hard. You have to respect your NDAs; failure to do so is a bad look, because then they know you won’t respect their NDAs either. I’ve found that behavioral questions are generally fine, the precise details of the problem at hand aren’t the point. Also you can talk about technical stuff in the abstract. The fun part is trying to find non-trivial problems that you can actually talk about as an example of how you solve problems. Anything you’ve managed to get out into the literature, via presentations or publications, is fair game – but yeah, sometimes the really neat stuff doesn’t get out. If you’re desperate and the nature of your work lends itself, you may consider doing a side project that you can in fact present. Maybe you’ve spent the past 15 years grooming quadrupedal aliens in Area 51 and you can’t even admit that you worked there, but you’ve learned some skills, so call in a favor or two…give your neighbor’s scruffy poodle a good trim and take photos for your portfolio.

  11. Rara Avis*

    I have an annual work event coming up in 9 days on a day that’s not usually a work day. A couple months ago we were told that it would not be done the same way it was done pre-Covid, and not everyone needed to be there. That’s all the information we were given. I’ve contacted the person in charge twice to ask for more information (like do I need to be there, or can I make other plans) and was told she’d be sending out information when she was ready. How far ahead of time do you think is reasonable to expect information about such an event? I’m pretty sure it’s not even on the radar of some of my colleagues, and it’s going to be a rude shock when she does send out the information.

    1. CTT*

      Honestly at least a month; I’m not someone with copious weekend plans and have happily would pitched in/attended these things in the past, but for an annual event, the level of planning should be such that they’ll have a good idea of who they need to be there way more than 9 days out.

    2. Anika*

      Nine days is cutting it way too close. Personally, I think it’s close enough hat you could justifiably say “Unfortunately, I have an unavoidable family conflict at this time and I can’t be there,” if you were told you were required to go and had already made other plans. But how wise that would be depends how important this event is — if it’s something where lots of networking or face-time with the CEO or stuff like that will happen, it may just be worth holding your schedule open if you can.

      As to the current situation — is there anyone else you could try asking? Is there anyone else involved with the planning of the event that you have a rapport with? It sounds like they don’t have information for you right now, but maybe you could ask about the timing of the information — something like “I have the opportunity to go llama riding this weekend and I need to let them know sooner rather than later if I’ll be taking the slot — any chance you have a rough timeline of when you’ll know who’s required to attend this event?” or “While I know you don’t have a finalized guest list yet, is there any sense you could give me of who might and might not be expected to attend?” Regardless of who you’re asking, I think they key is to be understanding, and phrase it like you’re trying to work together to come to a compromise, rather than continuing to demand information they don’t have yet, for whatever reason.

    3. Ama*

      At the bare minimum, a save the date should already be on people’s calendars of anyone who needs to be there (at my work this happens months in advance, and then we usually have a staff meeting about the event two weeks ahead of time where we discuss the details of people’s assignments). If she has not even done that, you are right there are going to be a lot of upset people when she informs people that they are being required to work this event.

      1. OtterB*

        This. Detailed agenda will probably follow closer to the date of the event, but save the date should be out sooner with approximate start/end times if anyone is traveling to be there. Although I guess your issue is whether you and the other staff are required.

  12. Amber Rose*

    How do you encourage people to report bullying?

    Last week we had an incident where an employee picked a fight with someone we really need to not pick fights with (fights are always bad but like, there’s picking fights with a dude and picking fights with the mob and both are bad but one has wider consequences.)

    After the fallout from that I heard from another manager that he’d been calling one of her employees a “little b**ch” as a joke. The guy wasn’t really comfortable with it, he just didn’t feel like he could say anything. Apparently one of my other coworkers was also occasionally in tears from this guy’s antics.

    I really, really want people to say things. I don’t usually see these things happening because I’m holed up in my office so much and I can’t step in if I don’t know. How do I convince people to let me know?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I’d go to HR with what you do know. Ask HR about how they want to handle needing to get more information from the employees involved (probably a sit down with you HR and the employees in question).

      As a manager you can get people to trust you as they see how you handle things they do tell you now. Open office hours (I’m free 12-1 every day, you don’t need an appointment to talk about something) type things can help (less barrier of let me schedule a meeting to tell my boss im upset. You can also make blanket statements requesting information (“I’m aware of an incident with XYZ group – if you have any details please come talk to me or email me by 5pm today”) but be careful not to be just encouraging gossip. Some crappy bosses have done the leave the aggressor and the victim alone in the room to talk it out, they may not have enough examples of how you operate to trust you yet. Your actions will speak louder.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Call each person in individually and tell them they need to tell you what happened because you will be taking action on any bullying and need to get the full picture. Do not give them the option of not talking to you. Make it clear to the victim of the bullying that they can always come to you and you will have their back.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I want to know if this employee is twelve. Twelve year olds pick fights and call each other LB’s.

      (Yes I deal with the age group referenced. But I’m not sure how exactly to translate how I handle the situation with middle schoolers/high schoolers to “working adults” who are in theory older than that)

      Is there anything/something that you’re able to do to make it very clear that this (fighting and calling names) is unacceptable and that you need to be told about it in order to handle the fact that its inappropriate behavior? Is there a clear statement on what is and isn’t acceptable? Is there a clear and known method for submitting feedback about bullying/reporting bullying?

      1. Amber Rose*

        He was a very bro-y kind of guy, if that makes sense. Like a stereotype of a stoner without the drugs. Probably mid to late 20’s.

        We do have policies around reporting, but we’ve been an overly casual company for many, many years. Changing the office culture to make it clear that nobody has to tolerate name calling is a struggle.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          re: stereotype of the stoner without the drugs. Bro-y dude. Absolutely makes sense. Its also why I’m trying to (not physically) beat some sense into these youngsters, so that they aren’t this arsehole once their frontal lobe develops!

          Is there any disciplinary option with bro-dude? Maybe a “sent home for the day”? (Works well if hourly and is not afoul of any union agreements)

          And depending on the industry, I feel your pain. Hardcore. There’s a lot of “wait, we can’t say the “R word” anymore? #$%&ing snowflakes.” in my own industry. Even in this industry though, its kind of an unwritten that you can’t “@someone”. As in yelling “Fvck off” isn’t too much to raise on eyebrow about, but “fvck you, Kevin” is going to raise serious eyebrows.

    3. Sherm*

      Are you in a position where you can do something about bullying, where you can make the warnings/PIPs/firings happen? If so, you could say “I want to assure you that I take bullying very seriously. It is not allowed here, and those who do it will face consequences and will be told not to retaliate against those who report it.”

      If you’re not in such a position, but you know that your company is adept at addressing bullying (good HR, etc), you can relay this strength to the employees, perhaps with some details about what would happen if bullying is reported.

      If the company, on the other hand, is not good at addressing bullying — nothing happens to the bully, those who report it are punished despite what you can personally do — well, then, unfortunately, it might not be smart to report bullying, and I wouldn’t advise people to do something that will just hurt them further.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m in a shadow position. Although I do have the power to issue warnings, that’s the end of my direct power.

        Indirectly, I have the ear of upper management, and if I insist that something happens, it usually does. Hence the reason why the fight last week wasn’t brushed over but was actually addressed.

        Historically, nobody is ever punished for reporting things, it’s just that nothing really happens at all. We’re making a lot of efforts to change that.

        1. Rubber chicken*

          Yeah, most people aren’t going to see any point in telling you, sorry. No HR, no real power, relies on you deciding to bring random pressure to bear on management (so depends on your whim), and nothing really ever happens.

          I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t report anything to you either. If you want people to be willing to report things, you need to have the structures and procedures in place to support that. “I’m a good person and I want to help” isn’t enough.

        2. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

          This is tricky, but I’ve been in this spot. For context, I am a senior manager now but ran into this a lot when I witnessed bullying of folks not on my team/not involving my team as a frontline manager. Here’s my take — ultimately it’s about building trust:
          – Your power here is limited, but you do have some. Get clear in your own head about what your power can accomplish. You can’t deliver solutions, and you shouldn’t just be a meddler, so how do you define your role?
          – When people come to you for anything – not just bullying, or conflict, but everything from low-stakes work problems to the rather horrifying things you name above – do what you say you’re going to do, don’t say you’re going to do anything you can’t actually do, and get the consent of anyone directly impacted before you do anything (provided it’s not required you report something like sexual harassment). If you miss deadlines in your regular work, no one is going to believe that you’ll actually follow up with senior management about a serious problem. If a colleague vents to you, you tell your boss without their permission, your boss has a different take and your colleague ends up being accountable, that isn’t going to build the trust you’re looking for.
          – Since the solutions are outside your direct control, be totally honest about that from the beginning. Name what you can do (“I can raise this with Tom”) and caveat it with what you can’t control (“I think it’s 50/50 whether he’ll be receptive, and fairly unlikely he’ll take visible action, but he might do something behind the scenes. Neither of us will likely be informed if he does something.”)
          – If you develop a reputation for making people feel heard in your regular work, they’ll start coming to you with harder stuff. Even if you mostly work independently, aggressively seek input and feedback from anyone who ‘s perspective you’re curious about. You’re never going to build trust staying in your office and only interacting with your computer! (But also — if your job is to stay in your office and only interact with your computer, maybe you aren’t positioned to push culture change.)
          – If you start telling anyone who isn’t directly positioned to take action, you risk developing a reputation as a gossip. You won’t be able to control the rumors.
          – When people share bad or emotionally charged news (whether about bullying or in the course of routine work), react calmly and professionally, make them feel heard, but don’t position yourself as “savior who can fix it.” If you take on other people’s outrage on their behalf or have even the slightest reputation as a hot-head, they will likely see a lot of risk in bringing things to you.
          – If you take action on a few things by escalating them and none of them yield a result/solution, people will stop telling you stuff. If you can’t deliver resolutions consistently, you can’t expect people to bring concerns to you no matter how well-intentioned you are.
          – when you observe bad behavior, react in a collected way that demonstrates that you don’t think it’s ok. Like if you hear name calling: “wow, that is really inappropriate.” Show that you know where the line is and you’re willing to call it out, but that your reactions also de-escalate.
          – Through your routine work, develop a reputation as having a highly nuanced understanding of the company’s politics, and demonstrate a high level of skill in navigating the politics successfully. This reputation is especially important among staff who have less power, and it’s also a lot harder to build as they also likely have less of an understanding of the landscape and your role in it, so this requires some creativity. “Have the boss’s ear” is different from “has boss’s ear, but realizes Boss is more receptive to input from Senior Coworker, who will also be more sympathetic to the problem, and is skilled at leveraging relationship with Senior Coworker to get Boss to hear them. AND understands the messy trust dynamics between Junior Colleague and Senior Coworker that will lead Junior Colleague to be resistant to that approach.” One way I’ve built this reputation is by talking through how I navigate the politics to my junior or new-to-the-company colleagues.

          Obviously none of that happens overnight, but you can build that foundation of trust if you’re really committed to it. It’s hard, hard work.

        3. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

          This is tricky, but I’ve been in this spot. Here’s my take:
          – Your power is limited, but you do have some. Get clear in your own head about what your power can accomplish. You can’t deliver solutions, and you shouldn’t just be a meddler, so how do you define your role?
          – When people come to you for anything – from low-stakes work problems to the rather horrifying things you name above – do what you say you’re going to do, don’t say you’re going to do anything you can’t actually do, and get the consent of anyone directly impacted before you do anything (provided it’s not required you report something like sexual harassment). If you miss deadlines in your regular work, no one is going to believe that you’ll follow up with management about a serious problem.
          – Since the solutions are outside your direct control, be honest about that. Name what you can do (“I can raise this with Tom”) and caveat it with what you can’t control (“I think it’s 50/50 whether he’ll be receptive, and fairly unlikely he’ll take visible action, but he might do something behind the scenes.”)
          – If you develop a reputation for making people feel heard in your regular work, they’ll start coming to you with harder stuff.
          – When people share bad or emotionally charged news (in the course of routine work), react calmly, make them feel heard, but don’t position yourself as “savior who can fix it.” If you take on other people’s outrage on their behalf or have a reputation as a hot-head, they will likely see a lot of risk in bringing things to you.
          – If you escalate things in your routine work and it doesn’t yield a result/solution, people won’t enlist your help to escalate bullying issues.
          – when you observe bad behavior, react in a collected way that demonstrates that you don’t think it’s ok. Like “wow, that is really inappropriate.”
          – Through your routine work, develop a reputation as having a highly nuanced understanding of the company’s politics, and demonstrate a high level of skill in navigating the politics. “Has the boss’s ear” is different from “has boss’s ear, but realizes Boss is more receptive to input from Senior Coworker, and is skilled at leveraging relationship with Senior Coworker to get Boss to hear them.”

          Obviously none of that happens overnight, but you can build that foundation of trust if you’re really committed to it. It’s hard, hard work. I’d argue that it only makes sense to take on if you’re in a role where there’s a mandate to improve the culture.

    4. Calamity Janine*

      this may be counterintuitive but it may take giving the employee some severe consequences *first*.

      i imagine that right now he’s allowed to run amok because everyone has gotten into the attitude of “well if nobody’s done anything about him, nobody will care, so if i bring this up to anyone, i’ll just get yelled at instead of getting any help”. bullies often take advantage of such spirals and actively work to keep people thinking that help will never come, as to better continue being bullies. it’s a fiction that they use to prey on others. so to fight it, you’ve got to bust that myth directly.

      if consequences are already rolling, then it’s a good time to bring up that the company does indeed care about this stuff. don’t come in with an attitude of blaming them for not reporting issues sooner – just stress that this is, indeed, something management really does want to know about because management really will take action. this might work well when you also pair it with making an effort to get out and be seen more. even if you’re just walking through with a “how’s it going, y’all?”, it might help you from being out of sight and thus out of mind. an oddball suggestion might be pairing this with something like a candy dish. that’s a reach, i know, but the idea is you are making a good and easy excuse for people wanting to report issues to come talk to you. that way it’s not seen as someone popping in your office is surely getting in there to tattle to teacher. they have a convenient cover story. (and if they happen to alert you to a problem while unwrapping their fun-size snicker’s bar, well, system’s working as intended!)

    5. Everything Bagel*

      I’m curious what the consequences were for the guy who started the fight and was calling a co-worker a little bitch. Does he still work there? If so, I’m not sure how you would convince anyone to ever say anything in the future. That guy needs to be gone like today. Then you could encourage your employees that there will be consequences for people who mistreat other employees and that anyone experiencing mistreatment should come to you so you can help resolve it. Not sure what else to suggest as far as exact language to use, but if there have been no or too little consequences for the instigator, then why should anyone speak up?

      1. Observer*

        I’m curious what the consequences were for the guy who started the fight and was calling a co-worker a little bitch. Does he still work there? If so, I’m not sure how you would convince anyone to ever say anything in the future

        This is a really important point. You may not need to fire him, but there NEEDS to be clear and visible consequences. And his victims need to be protected – and to know that they are being protected.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this. If somebody were calling me or my coworkers this and didn’t get . . . I’d like to say fired, but at the very least severely reprimanded, moved out of the department, etc., nothing you can do or say would convince me that you actually cared.

      3. Amber Rose*

        He does not still work for us, no. I… didn’t ask for that exactly, but I put a strong word in a few ears that SOMETHING needed to happen immediately or we were gonna have a serious problem.

        I don’t think anyone knows why though, since the email that went out was just, “he’s not working here anymore, best of luck That Guy.”

        1. Observer*

          I think it’s fine that there wasn’t a formal announcement. People can put two and two together.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          At least around here, there’d be a lot of mental “2+2=4, if it walks like a duck…” going on over that email. Frequently they say more with what they don’t say.


    6. Observer*

      After the fallout from that I heard from another manager that he’d been calling one of her employees a “little b**ch” as a joke. The guy wasn’t really comfortable with it, he just didn’t feel like he could say anything

      A manager knows that someone has been calling an employee “little b**” and a “joke” and didn’t feel like he could say something?!

      Either this manager is incompetent or you have some serious culture issues. You do realize that this manager failing to step in is a HUGE failure, no? Does anyone also realize that it also opens the company to major liability? Because it’s one thing when one employee bullies another, even when it’s pretty clearly a legal harassment issue. But when a manager actually KNOWS about it and does nothing, that is squarely on the company now. Totally liable for not stopping it.

      So, one thing you need to do is to get some REAL training in place. Not only should staff feel comfortable reporting stuff like this, and have a real set of solid options for doing so. But your managers MUST understand their *obligations* here.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        I took OP to mean that the person being called names didn’t feel like he could say something and his manager didn’t know about it until later. The question remains though, has done anything about it since then? I hope, like you, that the manager of the person being called names has done something by now.

      2. Amber Rose*

        The employee requested that the manager not do anything, so she didn’t. Later she was ranting at me about it as part of her frustration about the fight, and I took it on myself to take it up the ladder, employee request be damned.

        We do have a culture issue, but most importantly what we have is about 8 newly promoted managers who have no idea what power being a manager grants them. They are still basically acting as workers because we’ve never bothered to define what being a manager actually means. We haven’t traditionally had managers, really. Just upper management, and then teams.

        It’s a growth issue. We’ve nearly tripled in size in a short amount of time.

        1. Observer*

          I think that one of the things you need is training. For instance, managers need to be explicitly told what their powers ARE. But also what they are NOT. They need to know that sometimes they cannot honor an employee request – if they see or hear harassment, they HAVE to report it and take action. etc.

          It’s good that you are doing what you are doing. But it’s important that you are not the only thing holding it all together. Training is one piece of creating that shift.

    7. Gnome*

      If you want people to report bullying you have to take it seriously and you have to develop a psychologically safe work environment (there are books in this).

      The fact that this is ongoing tells people you won’t act on it. You don’t need to see it yourself – this isn’t a court of law. You can address it generally, by saying early and often what you want to see (a positive professional team) what is not ok (name calling, mocking, etc). Tell people you want to know if there are issues they see but you don’t… And be ready to protect people from retaliation if they raise stuff to you.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I don’t need to see it myself, but I probably won’t see it myself, is all I meant. Because I’m usually in my office and so I don’t see everyone as much. If nobody tells me things, it’s unlikely I’ll find out.

        People are so good at reporting incidents. I hear about everything from small explosions to small papercuts. I just want them to feel good coming to me for other stuff.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Okay, back to middle school again – can you make the reporting structure for bullying and other such nonsense look just like the incidents that they are reporting well?

          1. Its not something new. They’re familiar with the system.
          2. If the same system is used for all reporting, its not obvious like dropping a report into a neon pink flashing drop box labeled “sexual harassment reports”.

          I’ve seen it used in schools near me – the same “drop box” is used for…everything. You can drop in teacher kudos, suggestions for the lunch menu, bullying reports, and just about anything else you can think of except maintenance, into the same box and know that the principal/assistant principals are going to review it all with equal weight.

        2. Polopoly*

          Perhaps tap into the infrastructure / culture regarding incident reporting, to hammer home that bullying are also incidents that need to be reported.

  13. Anxious Annie*

    Has anyone found successful methods to combat work-induced anxiety? If so, can you please share?

    Background: I’ve been pretty successful at what I do in that I’ve always been rated meets or exceeds expectations and have advanced in different companies to a senior individual contributor or first-tier management roles. My current workplace is very demanding and fast paced and while I’ve been told I’m doing well overall, management can be critical. I get knots in my stomach ahead of meetings, feel overwhelmed at what I need to achieve, and have developed insomnia. I’ve tried meditation and medications for the insomnia and it’s a roller coaster over the last year+. Is there more I can do in such a work environment or is my anxiety telling me this job is not a good fit for me?

    1. Elle*

      I have similar insomnia related to things I need to do. I’ve started journaling my fears around upcoming events and tasks. I write down the event/task and what I’m scared about. Then afterwards I write down what actually happened. It has helped me see that I am often driving myself crazy for no reason and my anxiety is mostly unfounded.

      1. Bess*

        THIS–reflecting on what is driving your fears is so helpful, especially as many times they are unfounded.

        Also, exercise is a must in stressful roles, I believe. At least 3x per week if you can’t swing daily. Ideally cardio.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Ok I don’t know. I am anxious at work and my boss is like …did that work thing traumatize you? And now I have to get a new therapist. Do you think an EAP can help?

    3. Ellen Ripley*

      Can you see a doctor or therapist? Therapy is more broadly available recently, and it sounds like your anxiety is to the point where it’s affecting your quality of life… Time to see a professional if you aren’t already. If you are, talk to them about your anxiety issues. What you’re experiencing seems past the point where “take deep breaths,” or “use x supplement” would be useful.

    4. Just Want A Nap*

      Are… you me? Because same. My yearly review is coming up and I’m stressing out!

      At work I make sure I try to find a way to move my body, I do a 2 minute walk around the building, I do the stretches… and I doodle and fold used “garbage” post-it notes into origami when I have 2 minutes of breathing room.
      Outside of work I try to find some hobby I can do that’s mentally consuming and physical, like crochet or painting so instead of “These Reports Must Be Exact And Are Due In 2 Days” I’m thinking about colors and did I count the stitches right.

    5. Queen Ruby*

      Have you tried an anti-anxiety med? I went on one for the reasons you explained, and it helped so much. It calmed me down enough to be able to get a fresh state of mind and develop ways of dealing with the anxiety, without the actual anxiety getting in the way. I went off of it after about a year, and haven’t needed it since, and my anxiety is pretty much nonexistent. YMMV, of course…

      1. tessa*

        Seconding this hard, and for the same reasons. Still on it, and things are great. I didn’t struggle with insomnia, but would wake up in the night paralyzed by thoughts of specific work tasks and debt. Gone.

        A caveat: the medication I take works so well that I haven’t had a good cry in a long time. I feel the emotions but the tears don’t come. I’ve managed that, but just fair warning.

    6. Sherm*

      I wouldn’t use anxiety as a sign of whether the job is a good fit for you, but if you don’t like a fast-paced, demanding workplace, that’s okay! Workplace culture (which is maaaaaybe changing) has told us that a fast-paced workplace is “cool”, that being a stress junkie is the way to go, but you are free to reject this frequently toxic viewpoint.

    7. Hillary*

      For me it was both the workplace and me. I went to therapy and am about to start again, but I also found a job that was a better fit for where I was then.

      I might be reading too much into what you wrote, but it sounds to me like your problem is with management/culture, not the work or pace. Fast paced and challenging can be fantastic in the right culture and hell in a bad culture. If managers are jerks it isn’t going to get better and you should get out.

    8. Sunflower*

      Oh man. I could have written this (former BigLaw and Consulting employee). My main questions are how is your relationship with your boss/your boss overall? What kind of industry are you in and who are you supposed to impress at work? I just took a new job in tech and I have to say…the stress is WAY less than what I was experiencing for a few reasons.

      – Removing partners from the equation was a huge change. Because of my nature of work, I was usually working with partners who were gunning HARD to move up the ranks and competing against peers. It was a move up or get out type situation. Now the people I support are sellers. Many of them are quite happy with their income and not as stressed about client optics
      – My boss is great and goes to bat for my team. I was ready to leave this career and she is the main reason I took this job. If she stays here and things continue this way, I don’t see myself leaving for quite a while
      – What is helpful for me is to always think in terms of worst case scenario. I realized my primary fear around work relates to fear of getting fired and losing my income. Whenever something is going on, I think ‘what is the worst case scenario? Is it me getting fired?’ and the answer is usually No.

      I still do have periods of insomnia at night during busy periods. I accept that it’s part of who I am and I deal with it because I like the salary I make. I plan to one day leave the industry and go into something less stressful once I feel more financially secure

      I would suggest looking for a new job and focusing on finding a good manager vs changing the work- IME in this and past jobs, it makes all the difference.

      1. Anxious Annie*

        Thanks for all the ideas and the sharing. I’m going to try Elle’s suggestion of documenting when I do get anxious and the outcomes to remind myself that nothing is ever that serious. Which is also what Sunflower mentioned (what’s the worst that could happen? Would they fire me? And of course the answer is No)

        I have tried bouts of more regular exercise but I don’t feel that helped much. Indeed YMMV.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          The app mind shift is made by Anxiety Canada and is based on cognitive behavioral therapy and is great at helping you think through actual vs perceived consequences. It is by far the best app I have encountered and is actually scientifically based.

  14. GoldenMaple*

    My employer rolled out a new policy for “safety” reasons and I’m curious to see what others think of it. We are no longer allowed to wear earbuds or headphones in the building because listening to our own personal devices might cause us to miss fire alarms or active shooter warnings.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Immediate thought: “Do they not have strobes and lights? Because I swear those are necessary under various codes. Further, how are they handling someone with a hearing impairment? Oh man, this could be fun….”

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        As an aside, we had a day at our office where the fire alarm started going off for some glitchy reason, but the sound didn’t trigger. We do have strobes & lights but about 1/4 of the desks face the window, and a lot of us wear headphones for calls. End result: our office admin had to actually make a lap of the office to poke us all and get us to leave.

        So make sure the strobes/lights are visible from all seated positions!

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Most bigger offices I’ve worked in have had people assigned to make that lap anyway, to be sure everyone has left.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          We have that (required to accommodate the deaf & hard of hearing). But we also get text messages & emails. (Also handy for WFH staff, so you know why people aren’t in a meeting.)

        2. tessa*

          Huh? I don’t work in an open plan office, and I can see the strobes clear as a bell. So can my colleages.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        That was my first thought. I do not wear headphones or earbuds because I have hearing loss. The alarms in my building all have strobe lights. I can (sort of) hear the alarms, but I can’t tell the difference between a building alarm and a passing emergency vehicle except for the flashing.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Are they allowing one earbud/headphone on one side only ? That was a good compromise for a lot of places. We had concerns not just for alarms but also for someone yelling “hey look out” and double earbuds not hearing them.

    3. Dinwar*

      Safety theater at best, overreach at worst.

      Most headphones don’t cancel out noise–mine don’t, for example–and as I understand it those that do often don’t cancel out alarms. Any fire alarm worth having will be loud enough to hear. And anyway relying on a single alarm system is asking for failure. What will they do if the fire is an electrical fire that knocks out the alarms? Or the shooter cuts power first? Emergencies are giant balls of entropy; you absolutely need redundancy in your procedures.

      Second, from a safety standpoint, this is a right-of-boom solution. Safety is supposed to focus on left-of-boom solutions. Why are you getting to the point where there’s a fire or a shooter anyway? Especially fires–you should be inspecting on a regular basis and correcting fire hazards. It’s not that hard. Shooters are something different, but despite what the news shows they remain a high-impact, low-frequency event. Most people will never face one. Living our lives on the premise that we’ll be shot at any time, in contradiction with the data, isn’t healthy.

      There’s also the psychological aspect. Making people miserable is not good. In an open office it’s worse–you’re GOING to have distractions, it’s merely a question of WHICH distractions.

      If we were talking a factory floor or a jobsite, where there’s a lot of moving equipment and things that could injure or kill you, that’d be something else. But at your desk/cubicle? There’s zero reason for this policy from a safety standpoint.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Sorry, but safety has to focus on both left and right of boom.

        Even with the best safety measures in the world, fires and other things will happen. Safety can’t just throw up their hands and say “Nope, not our problem, we only do things to prevent it.” Alarms tend to be wired independently so that they don’t get knocked out and have battery backups for power outages. Just like safety lights have battery packs. (I have replaced plenty of those in my life.)

        If safety is only left of boom, there really is no need for fire extinguishers, fire alarms, emergency lights, etc.

        And a lot of people have noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds.

        I agree with your conclusion, but people need to have correct information about safety, for reasons.

      2. Observer*

        Second, from a safety standpoint, this is a right-of-boom solution. Safety is supposed to focus on left-of-boom solutions. Why are you getting to the point where there’s a fire or a shooter anyway?

        This is terrible safety practice. Of course you need to focus on prevention. But the idea that you ONLY focus on prevention is dangerous nonsense. And effectively illegal in many cases.

        Take a look at fire safety codes as an example. Different jurisdictions have different specific rules but ALL of them have rules that focus on what happens if (or rather WHEN) you have a fire. Because it simply is not possible to prevent every single possible fire situation. Sure, there are rules that lower the risk. But 100% prevention is just not possible. Especially if you are in a building or complex that is shared with other entities.

        The same if true several times over for things like “active shooter” type of situation. Even in a place like NYC, with extremely tight gun control laws, shootings happen! And most organizations simply don’t have the capacity to prevent them.

    4. Sylvan*

      This is dumb. They don’t want people to listen to music and they’re just coming up with reasons you can’t argue with.

      I was listening to earbuds when someone fired a gun in public and I did not miss any aspect of that. Guns are loud, announcements are loud, running people are hard to miss. This is very dumb.

    5. CharlieBrown*

      Is this just in the office? Or is there a warehouse or manufacturing facility included in this policy? (People need to be able to hear so they don’t get run over by a forklift, but this is a much more complicated situation.)

      Overall, it seems reasonable to me. I think the reasoning is a bit off; perhaps they are more concerned that people be focused on their work and not the details of the true crime podcast that they are listening to. That’s a reasonable expectation, but if that’s the reason, then they should just state that. It’s just like having music playing at your desk–it shouldn’t be so loud that it is a distraction.

    6. David's Skirt-Pants*

      That’s an excuse with a flimsy premise. Buildings are required to have accessible alerts; not everyone has the ability to hear. Yes, horns will sound and prerecorded messages might be broadcast but strobes will also activate. I know of an employer who installed soundproof pods for phone rooms in an open office space and the fire marshal said that was fine as long as each pod was placed in the line of sight of a strobe.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      I would ask about ADA Compliance – how do they expect hearing-impaired employees or visitors to learn of fire alarms or active shooter warnings? (And I agree with others that the “one ear” policy is the usual compromise I’ve seen to ensure awareness of one’s surroundings.)

    8. Not Today, Satan*

      I wonder if your employer is aware that many folks who use hearing aids can listen to music via Bluetooth hearing aids and their iPhones.

    9. Amber Rose*

      Safety Manager here: ridiculous. We (sort of) have that rule in place, but it’s so people don’t miss the movement of the forklift or another worker shouting a “look out!”, which is more subtle than the ear shattering shriek of the fire alarm. And that is only for people on the shop floor, office workers may do as they please. And even then, we allow one ear bud for floor workers.

    10. Alex*

      I’d ask them to please point me to some earphones that could drown out the ear-piercing sound of a fire alarm, because I’d like to buy them please.

    11. Weekender*

      That seems extreme. I have large, over the ear, noise canceling headphones that I wear on airplanes, etc. and can still hear when they are making announcements.
      I would think regular earbuds/headphones would still be ok.
      Did they test this hypothesis to see if you really can’t hear these warnings when wearing these devices and listening to something?
      What is their accommodation for someone deaf or hard of hearing?

  15. Avery*

    I did actually send this to Alison in a message, but hearing from the commentariat might be useful too:
    What do you wear to a work holiday party?
    This is the first work holiday party I’d be going to, for a job I got fairly recently with a small law firm. My position’s remote, and it’d be the first time I’d meet some of my coworkers face-to-face. Normally I work in a T-shirt and sweatpants given the remote nature of my job, but I’m aware that’s far from the legal world norm! And it’s not taking place in the office but at a local restaurant, one that’s fairly nice but not to the point of having its own dress code (afaik).
    Do I need to break out a suit? Is business casual acceptable? Do I need to have nice shoes to switch into, or a relatively professional-looking winter jacket?

    1. BellyButton*

      Just wear what you would normally wear to that restaurant for a special occasion. Business casual is probably fine.

    2. Just Want A Nap*

      If you have someone you trust who’s been their longer, ask them what they’d be wearing.

      My general go to for those situations is slacks/khakis and a blazer, or maybe a holiday sweater.

    3. londonedit*

      Depends what sort of party it is but for a Christmas lunch at a nice restaurant – which is what we usually do where I work – people would wear something along the spectrum from ‘smart jeans and a nice top’ to ‘smart/casual dress’, maybe with some sort of festive sparkle to it, or Christmassy colours or whatever.

    4. to varying degrees*

      Black slacks or even nice dark jeans (no rips, etc) if you’re female, paired with a holiday-ish top or jewelry should be fine. Since it’s a holiday party people will probably be wearing something a little more festive than basic business casual. If/when you know the name of the restaurant you can sometimes get a feel of the vibe based on their social media and/or menu.

    5. cactus lady*

      Ask your coworkers! My normally stuffy office gets silly for the holiday party (think men in snowflake print suits, ugly sweaters, elf hats, etc). Coworkers can be your guide :)

    6. Educator*

      For ambiguous situations like this, I like to have an outfit I can switch up on the spot. In this case, that might mean a dressy top with a blazer over it. Keep the blazer on if people are in work clothes, pop it off if they have switched to party clothes. Nice black shoes work for both. Or for a more masculine look, stick a tie and a pocket square in your jacket pocket—pull them out and keep the blazer on if things are fancy, take the blazer off and skip the tie if the vibe is casual.

      A nicer jacket is good if you have one, but any warm coat in black/brown/blue is probably fine because you will take it off when you arrive anyway.

    7. Calamity Janine*

      i am biased because my little gremlin brain would go straight to “ooh, a chance to dress up!”, lol. but if it’s a holiday party, at a nice restaurant, i think you will be safe following that restaurant’s general vibe.

      however i think you also have a lot of room to be a bit more fancy! it’s the type of restaurant where people are going for a date night treat, so feel free to get into that groove too. i’d honestly shop a lookbook for something like a cocktail party. if it’s a special occasion, feel free to bust out something with sequins or a fun print, too.

      it’s my personal fashion taste speaking here, but modcloth i think has a lot of really nice things to fit this bill. the retro styling of an a-line / fit-and-flare dress is very flattering, but also comes across as ‘ooh, you’re dressing up i see! how lovely!’, while being easy to be office-appropriate modest. (no super-tight bodycon dresses with plunging necklines and itty-bitty skirts!) you don’t have to bust out a petticoat, but given it’s going to be cold, a pair of nice tights could be just the thing. pair with a little cardigan for indoors – maybe one with a little bit of modest holiday flourish, like snowflake embroidery pattern around the collar or a holly berry brooch. plus it means you have more control over your own temperature – if it’s still a little chilly indoors, keep the cardigan on; if they’re really blasting the heat for full luxury, you can shrug it off, and have that dress be at short or no-sleeves (or three-quarter sleeves) and, well, fancy dress weight instead of heavy-duty winter clothing weight. but i admit i’m down in the south, so i’m biased there towards layers and dressing for the possibility of people going ham with the central heating, and we don’t really have to deal with severe winter weather to that extent.

      if it’s cold enough where you are thinking about switching out shoes, i think everyone will know that the coat room is there for a reason and that’s fine. i don’t think you have to buy professional snow boots or a fancy peacoat. if it’s particularly slushy and gross, i’d say to bring a nice pair of shoes to switch into, and everyone will completely understand why you didn’t want to trot through that in a nice pair of heels or ballet flats. the materials of some fancy shoes are a great double excuse for this – you don’t want to ruin that new suede, or have to clean the sidewalk de-icing salt off the leather…

      in general i think going for ‘classy but perhaps a little more dressy than needed’ is a safe bet. not full-on ballgown length bling. but a nice dress, a nice pair of tights, some nice heels or flats, a pair of earrings and maybe busting out the pearl necklace inherited from your great-grandma? yeah, i think you’ll be good. it’s a party so people are expecting the chance to get to dress up when going somewhere nice, but not so nice that you’re going to be full black tie or white tie with the maitre d’ checking everyone at the door.

      i also think it’s easier in this situation to recover if you end up being too overdressed, rather than under. then it’s more to set yourself up for some light teasing (even led by you personally, lol) about how the new employee was wanting to make sure they were showing up at their best to impress for meeting everyone face-to-face, and next year you’ll know that it’s more of a tacky-novelty-christmas-sweater type vibe.

      i admit, again through bias, that the specific advice above is for if your gender is somewhere aligned with the feminine and you’re cool with going more high femme. a more masculine point of view i don’t know the intricacies of. however i’d say that if you’re dealing with lawyers, then ‘what’s court-appropriate’ is a pretty good place to go to. which means, yes, probably a suit and tie, and probably some dress shoes to change into. the good thing is that a suit comes with its own layers and that’s how you dress it down. if you get there and nobody’s in anything fancier than shirtsleeves and khakis with no tie, then just leave the suit jacket in with your winter coat, take off your tie to put in your coat pocket, hang that up, and look like you were perfectly dressed to the exact level of fanciness all along lol. if you want to appear festive, maybe an appropriate tie – more of the ‘silk stripes of a pleasant burgundy red and deep evergreen’ type instead of the ‘if you press this one at the bottom, rudolph’s nose flashes red and it plays the song’ type. but doing it up masc means there’s also less expectation to show up looking like a fashion plate, so if you show up obviously making an effort to be fancy enough to fit in with the nice restaurant’s vibe, you won’t have a problem at all. :)

    8. Lost academic*

      Since you referenced the legal world I would default to (holiday) cocktail. If you’re not sure, see if someone can share previous years’ party photos.

      1. Two Dog Night*

        I agree–because it’s law I’d go a bit dressier–maybe black pants with a dressy top, or a dress if you’re willing. I’d probably break out my black velvet pants for this. Definitely something more cocktail-y than office wear.

    9. RagingADHD*

      In the Beforetimes, I’d wear “client coming to the office” base layer, with a festive top.

      So for example, work pants with a bright colored silky blouse or maybe a pullover top that had shimmer, and slightly bigger than normal jewelry.

  16. Be Gneiss*

    I just want to say that I love the helpful scripting from Alison that I can make use of in all kinds of situations – especially things like “It’s really weird that you keep bringing that up…”

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      That one is a favorite of mine as well. I also love, “I notice X, what’s going on?”

    2. Flash Packet*

      “I think we need to come up with a different idea for a team building activity. Not everyone on the team can zipline / rock climb / play paintball / other athletic activity, and it’s hard to build a team if you exclude some of the people.”

      “I’m happy to sign a card for the Big Boss, but I’m not contributing to a gift and I don’t think anyone should even ask that of the people in levels below mine. They don’t get paid as much as you, Intermediate Boss. Their name on the card will make the gift inclusive of everyone, regardless of who actually pays for it.”

      “I’m going to opt out of ‘my turn’ at bringing in baked goods to the office. (1) You’re only asking the women, which is really problematic, and (2) I don’t think we should be telling anyone who isn’t a manager to provide food for the department. Even if the company were to pay for it, it’s still infringing on their personal time.”

  17. Hmmm*

    I’ve written here before, some details may be familiar from my posts eight months ago.

    I worked for a very public family media business with less than ten employees for 14 years and kept it going with an absentee GM. I never had a management title. When the GM retired suddenly, instead of allowing anyone to apply, he hired his political buddy to be GM. After two tense conversations about not being given a chance to apply, and feeling pushed aside and pushed out by the new GM, I quit. The company lost 35% of its business within two weeks (accounts left) and two other critical employees followed me out the door. What you must know is until this happened, I loved my job and place of work.

    After six months of PAIN on their end, the owner called and begged me to come back and “fix it,” his words. For public perception, he didn’t want to fire or demote the GM. I was offered a job “equal” to the GM. The GM was unaware I’d been called, and I was told if the GM got mad about me coming back, they were going to let him quit and I’d be GM. The GM now handles sales and I handle the rest of our work, including the people. I negotiated a 75%raise, walking back in with all my seniority, twice the PTO and monthly profit sharing. I’m making more money than ever before. Everyone in our small town knows why I was begged back, and that I was begged back. GM is crystal clear that we are equal and I have more responsibility. He’s not coming in very often, claiming illness. He actually said “I think my body let me hang on until you got back, but now it’s falling apart,” and my former GM (that hired him) and I both think he’ll quit in the new year. For reasons, we think he’ll stay till then. Still, every now and then, he’ll make a subtle little comment that insinuates he’s my boss. He does this most when we’re in front of other people. He’s not, and while I think most people get it, he still has that GM title. Any advice on shutting this down?

    If it came down to him or me, the owner and his family aren’t going to let me be the one who leaves this time. Everything else is fantastic. Business has followed me back, just this one tiny little thing.

    1. Not Today, Satan*

      “It’s so odd that you’re referring to yourself as my manager. What’s up with that?”

      1. Hmmm*

        It’s more subtle than that. I think. As an example, I was meeting yesterday with two women I’ve met with before. They know me, they know what I do. He popped in to introduce himself, which is fine, but went on to say “Hmmm handles all of our xxx and xxx…” I looked at him a little puzzled and just continued my meeting. It’s stuff like that.

        1. Roland*

          If I’m in a meeting with someone whose job I know, and someone pops in and says “Hmmm handles all of our xxx and xxx”, that doesn’t make me think “oh he’s the manager”, it makes me think “who’s this guy and why is he introducing a person I’m clearly already working with”.

        2. Green Beans*

          I think your response of looking puzzled and moving on is fine. Make it clear with your behavior and decisions that you are the authority and treat it like a confusing mishap when he implies otherwise. Your work should speak for itself.

    2. I edit everything*

      I’d probably just wait it out. Turn it into a game. Every five comments, buy yourself a new pen or cupcake or bottle of whisky or whatever. The end of the year is only two months away.

      1. Hmmm*

        Probably my best bet. I suppose if he ends up staying past the new year I could address it then. I’ve been back about six weeks, and it does seem like he’s naturally kind of reducing his role.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        This is the best way to handle the BEC stage of dealing with someone I’ve ever heard of.

    3. Mill Miker*

      Since they let him keep the title due to concerns around public perception, is it possible this behaviour is part of that? Was it to save the public perception of him, or the business? If the goal was to make it look like the company hadn’t made a mistake, then it kinda makes sense that he’d make the occasional comment to support that. Still sounds very annoying though.

    4. OtterB*

      I can see why it would be annoying, but if it’s not affecting what you get to do, or even people’s impressions of you, then I think your best bet is to shrug it off. He’s making some uncomfortable adjustments, and it sounds like he’s making them reasonably well if not totally gracefully, so I’d let the odd moments pass with a quizzical look unless they get worse or more frequent.

  18. Murfle*

    I found out this week that some members of my department/team are getting laid off. But the way the company is going about it feels weird:

    – The affected people will not be terminated immediately; they will be working with us “for a while, going forward”. This will cascade out over “several months” and they will have opportunities to find new roles within the company.
    – We’ve been told to not try and figure out who is being let go in order to respect people’s privacy – which means that the people who *are* being let go aren’t getting any condolence messages. I worry about how isolated they feel.
    – When asked for further detail about the layoffs and why they’re happening, my grandboss read out the official statement from the company, and added the following: “There’s not a lot of information here, except to say that this has happened”

    AAM has said in the past that you should contact your laid-off coworkers – but how do I even know if they are if the company won’t say who, and we’ve been discouraged from trying to find out for ourselves?

    1. Everything Bagel*

      It will probably become evident over time who is leaving. Don’t have to start transitioning their work and will be looking for other jobs, possibly within the company. I think at that point it’s safe to reach out to someone who has made it known they’re leaving.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*


      I wonder if they’re hoping that people will just quietly rearrange their deck chairs and/or abandon ship enough that they won’t have to go through the awkward firing process and/or severance payouts.

      And how is anyone to believe that there will be stability in the new internal positions?

      This seems to be a place to leave regardless of whether they’ve told you you’re on the list.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Well, it sounds as though the company is trying to redeploy people internally so they haven’t yet been let go, and presumablhy when they actually leave you will know and will be able to contact them and offer sympathy at that point.
      Presumably also there is nothing to stop people sharing the information if they have been told that they are going to be moved or let go .
      If you are in person or have staff chat then perhaps you could meantion something about how you hope that those who ae affected feel they can talk about it if they want to, and if you think your manager would be receptive you could perhaps suggest to thrm that they clarify that and make clear thast while peopl shouldn’t speculate, affecgted staff are of course free toddiscuss the situation with their coworkers if they want to

      1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        This is similar to how my old department did it, and as one of the people in the situation of being let go, it was really hard. There was so much gossip and speculation about who was staying/going – the department never made a formal announcement, people just gradually kept disappearing. It was horrid. I knew I was impacted and wondered why people didn’t say anything, they found out that they’d assumed I wasn’t impacted. If there is any way of acknowledging it to a group even though you don’t know specifically who it is, I’d do that. I don’t understand why companies do this! Being told ‘not to try to find out’ won’t work, there will be loads of speculation, and someone will be hurt that the fact they’re leaving hasn’t been acknowledged. We lost 75% of the department; an email from bosses that ‘these are the people staying, please reach out to your impacted colleagues’ would have been so helpful. Sorry, I think this has turned into a rant that I’ve been suppressing for a year…

          1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

            Thank you. It was the disaster we knew it would be and they’ve been trying to recruit for almost six months now.

    4. introverted af*

      I know on MS Teams you can have a status message that shows up whenever anybody messages you. If there’s anything concrete you wanted to offer (going for coffee, to be a reference, to help navigate internal applications for other roles), you could put a message there. It opens you up to possible requests from people you don’t want to hear from, but lets you offer proactively.

    5. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Ugh. My company recently had layoffs but we didn’t know who…since they were leaving immediately I was able to search for colleagues I like on Slack to see if they were still active. I get the reason for not publishing a list but it felt really crappy all around. (Also, language like “we are unable to offer them continued employment” versus “we’re laying people off” was ridiculous. They continue to call it a “staff action” which makes me stabby.)

    6. time for cocoa*

      If your org is big enough and you’re in the US, the advanced notice could be mandatory via the WARN Act. So handling this sloppily/begrudgingly could be a reflection on the fact that they were forced to preshare, rather than doing so willingly.

    7. Girasol*

      I’ve seen that model. For us it meant that some people being laid off would be notified early of a future layoff date so that they would stay long enough to train their offshore replacements. That did give people a chance to say goodbye. Some were told then immediately escorted out, boxes in hand, without the opportunity to say goodbye to coworkers who were staying. That was really rough on both the leavers and the stayers. “Don’t try to figure it out ahead of the announcement” is standard advice in these cases. Managers want heads down and deadlines met even when people are afraid they’ll lose their jobs, and they don’t want to be asked tough questions before they have been given the answers by their own bosses. Some things you can do now: encourage coworkers to share contact info or link up on Linked In so that if worst comes to worst, goodbyes and offers to support one another’s job searches can be exchanged outside the office. Any personal records (positive evaluations, kudos, etc.) and work samples that aren’t restricted by non-disclosure could be saved off on personal storage and any personal business that might have been placed on company equipment could be erased.

  19. LeftAcademia*

    How do you network with researchers out of a tiny R&D department of tea cup painters? Our R&D was originally founded for tea cup design research. The tea cup painters were meant to be supporting personnel. By a strange twist of fate, after two years my role shifted to being the only tea cup painting researcher in the company. Before joining R&D I was a tea cup painting researcher for two years, having switched from a previous academic career as a tea plate design researcher.

    1. Policy Wonk*

      Is there any kind of professional organization you could join, or conferences you could attend? If not, maybe reach out to former colleagues for a networking lunch or happy hour, see if people respond.

      1. shruggie*

        This! You can also check for less formal groups in your local area (probably city size dependent but worth a look); I’ve found industry-specific happy hours, lunch & learns, and similar on and just by googling.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I found that linking up with one or two professional organizations enabled me to extend my career another 20 years.

  20. Anika*

    For the past few months I have been the primary employee working on a project, which just wrapped up. I have stayed up late many nights working on it and worked over many weekends. I was also the most junior person involved — there were a few senior people involved in a more supervisory, less time-intensive capacity (my grandboss, Jake, was technically in charge of it) but it was very publicly known as my project and I did 95% of the work.

    Our company has a weekly meeting where teams that have recently completed projects present those projects to executives and other stakeholders, explaining the finished product and walking them through the process that led to it. In the past, when I’ve been the lead on projects like this one (with the same supervisory group) I’ve always been part of these presentations. However, a few weeks ago I found out that my project was presented at last week’s meeting, and that Jake and all the less-involved senior people had done the presentation without me. I watched the recording — Jake and the others did not mention my name once, and kept using the pronoun “we” as they walked through the process as if they had done all the work. It was incredibly upsetting to see, particularly because I was the only woman involved in the project and already had had imposter syndrome throughout the process.

    I went to my boss, Theo (who was not directly involved in any of this) and expressed my concern. He was also very upset that I hadn’t been invited to the meeting, and said he would speak to Jake about it. The answer he got from Jake, which he relayed to me the next day, was very unsatisfying: Jake apparently just told him that the meetings are time constrained and they can’t accommodate everyone who wants to present every time, but that the company does hold workshops for junior employees who are looking for presentation practice.

    As someone who has presented projects like this at these meetings dozens of times before, this felt like a dismissive and condescending answer. I also don’t really believe it; I’ve asked around, and I haven’t heard of any other junior-level project leads being snubbed like this recently. I’ve cried about it, I’ve lost sleep, and I’m having trouble focusing on my job. I’m constantly wondering if I messed up in a recent presentation, if Jake thought I didn’t perform well, or if there’s some other reason that’s being concealed from me. I love everything else about this job and I want to stay here, but this incident has really impacted my work.

    My question is: Would it be inappropriate for me to message Jake myself and ask what was going on? I don’t want to go behind Theo’s back, but the answer Theo relayed to me was worse than no answer at all. Would it be better for me to ask Theo to push for more information? Am I just overreacting to this in general?

    1. jane's nemesis*

      You’re not overreacting, but I don’t think you should message Jake. I would push Theo for more information. Ask him why Jake said you should go to presentation practice when you’ve already been the presenter on projects like these dozens of times.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      No, don’t go around your boss, and no, you’re not necessarily overreacting. I think you are upset because fundamentally, it has been brought home to you that your work for this company is not going to be acknowledged or valued in a meaningful way. I would start looking for a new job and use Theo as a reference for this one.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I agree. I did leave a job over a similar situation where I (the woman who did the lion’s share of work in a specific area) was passed over for the official lead role in favor of a male colleague with little experience, since ultimately that was just another clear example of how my hard work was valued by everyone except the few people who could do something about promotion/recognition.

        It might not have been deliberate (as in malicious) that the senior people didn’t credit you by name, but I’d still consider it a huge oversight and speaks poorly to the culture if that’s the norm. The response from Jake missed the point entirely, and is pretty condescending in framing it as “oh she can get presentation practice at less important meetings.” Sure makes it sound like the seniors don’t care who puts in the actual effort as long as they get results attached to their names.

    3. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Well, on the next project, keep asking questions. “Should I be doing this?” “Is this in my wheelhouse.” Let them be on record saying “yes!” Then you can gently push back and say you were confused by roles, being newer with less experience, becuase it seems as if the last project wasn’t really yours.

    4. CatCat*

      You’re not overreacting and you should not go around your boss.

      The simple answer here is that Jake is an asshole.

      It’s his nature. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. You haven’t done anything wrong. You’re second guessing yourself because you’re a conscientious and reasonable person and are operating with that as a norm that your mind expects other people to adhere to. But that is not Jake’s norm. Because he’s an asshole.

      The question for you is not something like “how can *I* fix this ” because you can’t. Jake will keep doing asshole things because he is an asshole. The question for you is do you want to keep working there knowing this.

    5. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Honestly, I would start looking for another job if you’re able. Maybe in the same company, but for sure externally. I know it may seem extreme, but the management in your company is telling you who they are, so believe them. That you are wondering if somehow YOU messed up a previous presentation, and thus weren’t included when you should have been, is textbook gaslighting. Also, please take this as a push to NOT work late nights, or any other extras for this employer. You sound like a wonderful worker, and your current employer doesn’t seem to appreciate that.

    6. Jessica*

      I’m not sure what to do but you are NOT overreacting. Also, you sound awesome and I bet a better employer would appreciate you. :-)

    7. anonandold*

      I would actually probably (because I am difficult this way) find a nice open forum and literally ask Jake about technical details about the project and how he solved them. I also would ask him what about his presentation style made it better. As in how he presented the information stylistically that made him effective.
      Or depending on my mood I would simply state the next project he was the lead on that you couldn’t do all that work, when obviously he needs to know more about it, since he is doing the important presentation work.
      Or I would be very nice to Jake and always talk very technical to him about everything.
      BTW if the senior group is actually smart, they will immediately know who did what work on a project. By how Jake presents. And unless Jake is a brilliant presenter they will question why he was standing there kibitzing at them.
      Eh, I will probably go with being very nice to Jake and documenting with a huge trail all the work you do. Make sure Theo includes your work on this project in your review. (I freely admit to being nice to people just to annoy them)
      Do remember Jake’s behavior isn’t a reflection of your work or behavior, it’s a reflection of his.

  21. Just Want A Nap*

    I won some tickets in a raffle for a sports game, supposed to be 2 tickets just in the rows. I was pumped, I never win raffles.
    I was psyched because I love the sport, and I have exactly 1 friend at any given time who is able to go with me. (Only person in the friend group who works a 9-5)
    The admin in charge of ordering decided to upgrade the tickets to 3 tickets, box seats “to be nice”, and the office manager told me not to waste the last ticket because “They’re expensive.”
    I don’t HAVE 2 friends with schedules that work with this, and while I love the sport I don’t care about the team: I have no game gear, so I’d feel weird being in box seats.

    Turns out the Admin never ordered the tickets, my one friend is disappointed but we’re rescheduling. Now I’m looking for the script for a polite but firm “Do not get me 3 tickets, please let me be in the rows and not in the box seats” since “I don’t have enough friends” sounds… upsetting?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Claim its a date – Oh I was actually going to ask someone out with these, would it be possible to just get 2?
      Invite the admin to go with you on the 3rd?

      1. Just Want A Nap*

        I’d invite her but she wants to bring her toddler, which puts me back in the same “I have 3 tickets and I’m 3rd wheeling my own prize”

    2. Anika*

      Can you offer the third ticket to a coworker, or offer to let the friend you’re inviting bring someone? Could be a good opportunity to get to know someone better!

      Do not worry about feeling weird in the box seats. I’ve been to a lot of these games — I promise you will not be the only ones without game gear. Lots of people get these tickets through work/clients/whatever.

      These tickets sound like a nice bonus to me – I would take them!

      1. Middle of HR*

        This, especially about game gear. So many people just roll in wearing whatever. No reason to feel self conscious.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I agree with the team gear. I live in the smallest NFL city and people of all fandoms and non-fandoms come just to be at the stadium. I’ve been in the box seats and while there are some dresses in team apparel, there’s plenty not. It’s not a big deal.

      3. Allison*

        I’m known in one of my circles for being the person who will show up to games. I love box seats, no matter who’s playing. Enjoy!

    3. bicality*

      Have you said anything back to the admin yet? I’d say something like “Actually this works out better. I really only have one person who is able to go with me. And don’t worry about box seats, we like the atmosphere of the rows better. Thanks!”

      1. Anika*

        “Actually I already invited one friend, and I was really looking forward to just catching up with her, so I’m only going to ask for two – thanks!”

    4. BellyButton*

      “I know you were going to order the box seats, but I would prefer the regular seats and just need 2. “

    5. Peachtree*

      Just say you’ve checked with your friends and you only need two tickets, so can you be upgraded to the original prize?

    6. Esmeralda*

      Fuck the office manager, if you can’t use the ticket, you can’t use the ticket. It’s a prize, it’s given to you to USE AS YOU WANT. Don’t ask for the rows. You can ask for just two tickets, but if you get three, then you get three.

      I dunno, maybe offer it to a nonprofit you support to give to someone. But only if you want to.

      What an asshole the office manager is!

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Yeah … why upgrade the prize and then apply all the guilt about fully “appreciating” all that they have done for them?

        What are they going to do? Attend and monitor how many seats are filled in that box? Dock your pay if your 3rd friend is in the bathroom?

        You could also take the 3 tickets, then swap with people waiting in line for ordinary ones.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Why are they an ahole? All they did was get an extra ticket and upgrade for Nap. I agree with the advice to just take your one friend regardless of how many tickets you have, but as far as I can see the admin did nothing wrong

        1. Everything Bagel*

          Giving someone a gift and then telling them not to waste it or to make sure they use all of it because of what it cost you is pretty rude.

        2. WellRed*

          Not the admin, the manager told Nap not to waste the ticket because they’re expensive. You don’t guilt someone into doing something (look how much this is stressing Nap out) and you don’t imply the recipient of a prize or gift better appreciate it all the more because it’s expensive.

        3. Esmeralda*

          Not the admin, the office manager, who said “now don’t waste it” — thats the obnoxious bit.

    7. Sunflower*

      I think you should just send a friendly email ‘Hey! It’s actually better for me to just go with the 2 tickets vs 3 in a box. Let me know if you have any other questions before ordering’.

    8. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

      I’m not sure what sport this is, but I’ve been to a *ton* of hockey games over the years, some of which were in boxes, and I promise you that not wearing a bunch of swag won’t make you stand out in any way. If you have clothing in the team’s colors that might be nice to wear, but it’s certainly not going to earn you weird looks if you’re just in everyday street clothes.

      That said, if you truly do just want the two seats in the rows then I’d say “I really appreciate the consideration of upgrading me to three seats in the box, that’s very thoughtful! But I’d honestly prefer just the two seats in the rows.” and leave it at that. I’d also tell you not to worry about feeling like you don’t have enough friends – I’ve got a ton of friends, but most of them aren’t into sports and wouldn’t want to go to a hockey game with me, and that’s okay! Nobody’s going to assume that you’re friendless, I promise.

  22. juniper*

    Question about applying for a job.

    Found the posting for a job I really want, talked to a friend/former supervisor who works there about it, she was mostly encouraging. Then I had three weeks of life happen, never worked on my resume and ultimately talked myself out of it thinking they would have filled it by now.

    I checked today and the posting is still open. Is it worth applying?

    I keep talking myself out of it, thinking they’ll judge me for having waited so long, but I think this may just be my anxiety talking.

    1. bicality*

      You won’t know unless you apply! All positions are different. If it’s still open, it’s worth a shot.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      they don’t know when you first saw it! You could have just stumbled upon it this morning for the first time. I know you talked to your friend who works there, but they’re not going to tell the hiring manager the exact date you asked them about the position.

    3. Middle of HR*

      3 weeks is probably not enough time to fill it! I’ve been interviewing and so many places schedule at a pace of one interview a week, and candidates drop out all the time. And some places don’t even start reviewing resumes for weeks after the posting was added. Just apply as you planned! No one will judge you. (If they do, they’re not really going to be a good place to work.)

    4. urguncle*

      Three weeks in business time is not that many weeks. Definitely not enough to be considered judgement-worthy.

    5. I edit everything*

      Yes, send something in!

      I applied for a job just as the job description disappeared, and though I wasn’t hired, my kick-ass cover letter got me a lunch meeting with the hiring manager and a higher-up. So at the very least, I’ve made a connection there if anything comes up again. And lunch. Not saying that will happen for you, but there’s no harm in applying.

    6. Morgan Proctor*

      Why wouldn’t you apply? Why would we tell you not to apply? Don’t be your own worst enemy! You won’t get the things you want if you don’t try to get them.

    7. Green Beans*

      Definitely apply! Sometimes I take three weeks just to see if I’m actually interested in the job and it’s because I’m a fairly strong candidate. Nobody’s going to judge you for when you apply to an open job position, I promise. Stronger candidates tend to come in a little later anyways.

  23. DeeDee*

    I’m feeling annoyed about something and wondering if it’s valid or if it’s just a general bad mood I’m in.

    My boss asked me to put together PowerPoint decks for a couple of presentations she has to do. I did it, and she told me she was very happy with the results and that I did a great job. The first presentation happened, my boss sent me a message to say thanks and that it went really well.

    Then the day after the first presentation, I met with a colleague who told him she called him in a panic on Friday (the presentation was on Monday) and they ended up spending 4 hours over the weekend “rejigging” the presentation. (I saw a couple of the slides and it seemed like it made it worse. I’m a pretty decent designer, and it looks like the slides got turned into the kind of slides I’ll often see from folks without a lot of design experience—very busy, weird colours, no visual hierarchy, that kind of thing).

    The second presentation is today. Yesterday, my boss sent me a message about a diagram I had put on one of the slides and said something about it was wrong and sent an updated version she’d put together with my colleague and asked for what I thought. I had to point out that they’d actually made the diagram inaccurate with their changes. There were other superficial changes, too—just adjusting some colours and what not.

    I’ve been feeling actually really annoyed by this. If the slides were not going to suit, I wish my boss had just reached out to me instead of pulling in this other person. She didn’t have anything negative to say about the slides to me at all, and it’s left a sour taste in my mouth about the experience as well as this colleague (who is new). Am I over-reacting here?

    1. ecnaseener*

      No, I agree that’s super annoying. Even if she was right about the improvements, she should give feedback! Now you have to wonder how many other times she’s praised you to your face while privately thinking your work stank.

    2. ferrina*

      I’d have the same reaction as you. I’d be really annoyed that my boss lied to me and said she liked my presentation when she didn’t. Like- really? Just give me some feedback! I’m not personally attached to this! It would also make me wonder what else she’s not saying to me. Is she not giving me feedback about other things I should know?

      Do a quick moment of reflection to make sure it’s not you- do you usually take feedback well? If so, this is a boss problem. Is this something you can mitigate? Maybe, maybe not.

    3. NaoNao*

      Something very similar happened to me! My boss asked me to reformat some presentations last-minute and was over the moon excited about the results. Then I see she’s taken another pass at them and added some stuff/changed some items. I chalked it up to liking my version fine…for those circumstances. She got antsy pre-presentation and decided to go over it with a fine toothed comb but that doesn’t change how she did like my original work.

      I think both are true. She liked PPTX 1, but for whatever reason she needed a different approach, needed to add more information, was second guessing stuff, freaked out, etc.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Correcting work. My husband used to say if you do not give it back to the person who did it then that person never learns what was actually wanted.

    5. None the Wiser*

      Been there done that.

      Former boss asked me to make slide decks. Made great slide decks. Colors integrated, good composition, content and spatial. They proceeded to completely undo all my work to the point of it being unrecognizable.

  24. allornone*

    Today my office is celebrating take your pet to work day! It’s actually for our United Way charity drive (we give to them, they give back to us majorly), so for ten bucks, I get to work with my cat Catsby sitting on my desk by the window (a crappy view for me, but brand new and exciting to him!). It’s lovely and actually made me simultaneously wish I could work from home more, while realizing exactly why I shouldn’t. Another coworker brings his human baby in (with permission) on slow days (aside from being impossibly adorable, the baby is very well behaved, hardly fussy, and causes no problems for anyone else). I don’t know how he does it. My cat is asleep, just being a cat, and I want to fawn all over him. Precious little vicious muffin.

    1. snarkfox*

      CATSBY! I love it.

      I brought my dog to work for like a week last winter because my power was out for the whole week and my house was freezing, so I couldn’t leave my dog. It was actually kind of stressful and I couldn’t fully focus because I wanted to make sure my dog was doing okay, lol.

    2. Cookies for Breakfast*

      Catsby! What a brilliant name. I don’t have a cat (yet), but would gladly donate the ten bucks to spend time with my colleagues’ cats in the office.

    3. Queen Ruby*

      Oh, how I would love to bring my dog to the office with me, but I work in pharma and there can be no animals in the building. I think she would be a bit of a nuisance, though, wandering into each office, demanding attention and treats! And she’s way too big to ignore lol

    4. Bagpuss*

      Cute!. I don’t think my cats would enjoy going to the office as they are not fans of the carrier or the car.
      We do however have a cat who has joined our accounts department. He did not submit an application, just used his gumption, walked in, sat down and acted like he’s always been here. His name is Sid. He spends a lot of time sleeping on the job and doesn’t seem to know much about accounts, but he gets on well with his colleagues and is happy to be paid in scritches and admiration, so we decided to overlook his poor interview technique.

        1. Bagpuss*

          That’s our view. Sid is not very productive but he has excellent people management skills. In only a couple of weeks he has his staff perfectly trained to open doors, move chairs and our head cashier has rearranged their desk to accommodate his desire to sleep in their in-tray.

    5. allornone*

      Picture time just came. Apparently, Catsby is the only cat in this whole experience. Thankfully, I have one of those ventilated bubble backpacks to keep him in, because he DID NOT like all the other dogs. But he’s back safe in the quiet of my office now. And back to his window. Ironically, this is my first office with a window, and I’ve only been in here a couple of months. So it’s fate.

    6. Melanie Cavill*

      I just finished my second week at a new job with a dog friendly office and I couldn’t be happier (despite not being able to have pets my own self). I am making it my mission to befriend ALL THE DOGS.

  25. Sylvan*

    Any thoughts on Christmas parties without plus ones?

    My company’s holding a party with no plus ones this year. I’m not going, it’s just not my kind of thing with or without a date, but my coworkers who usually enjoy these parties are upset.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that had a Christmas party that included plus-ones. So from my perspective, it’s a bit odd anyway! To me a work Christmas do is about having a nice evening/lunch out with your colleagues.

      1. Cookies for Breakfast*

        Same here. I’ve worked at startups where the number of extra guests would have been very small, as well as for a bigger company that didn’t hold back from involving people’s families in other ways (a Christmas gifts day for employees’ kids comes to mind), and never saw a Christmas party where plus-ones were allowed. No one I know has had parties like that in the UK, in fact. Could it be something that’s more common in other countries, like the US?

        Personally, I wouldn’t mind any of the possible scenarios (no plus-ones allowed at all; bringing a plus-one; going alone to a plus-ones allowed party). What I have seen happen often is colleagues going on to a different location after the “official” event, to continue the party at their own expense with others joining them (partners, friends, ex-colleagues, etc.).

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Are they during the day, or outside of working hours?

      That was the benchmark my former employer used. During working hours? No plus one. Outside of working hours? Plus one.

      1. Sylvan*

        It’s outside of working hours. Also, people will be drinking, which raises some concerns about transportation IMO.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      It’s tacky but not egregious. I’d bet probably budget constraints (venue limits or catering charges per plate) or dealing with RSVP issues like more than +1 creep. (Well if my spouse is coming why can’t we bring the kids, and if the kids are coming why cant we bring our cousin…). No plus 1s is a easy headcount of employee lists for per plate charges.

      FWIW my partner hates the state of the company type address at parties anyway, and 90% of the conversations are shop talk they can’t really contribute to.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Mr. Glomarization has the same attitude towards my workplace’s holiday party. He’s in a very different industry to mine and the conversation — when he can even hear it over the music and noise — tends to be very boring lawyer shop talk.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah, I’m starting to get the impression that my company was unusual for previously allowing plus ones! It’s helpful to get a sense of the norm here.

    4. Nicki Name*

      I wonder what the prospective plus-ones think. At a past ex-job, the Christmas party was done that way, and several of my teammates shared that their spouses and partners were glad to be free of that social obligation. (As was Mr. Name.)

      1. Roland*

        I worked for a company that stopped doing +1s and plenty of +1s were disappointed. They were good parties! Though they also became bad parties when they cut the +1s since it was all a budget thing.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I think I’m literally 50%-50% on offices I’ve worked at where the holiday party allowed plus ones versus no plus ones. But Mr. Glomarization has mostly worked places where the holiday party was no plus ones, because the workplace holiday party is for the employees only. I don’t care one way or the other — I like the free food and socializing.

      People will get upset when they perceive that something they deserve is being taken away. Whatever. Better a holiday party without plus ones than no holiday party at all, I say.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Most of my workplaces did not invite plus ones, so this is pretty normal for me. My previous company did, and my partner joined me, but after we moved away he had zero interest in attending– he only liked one of my co-workers and that guy didn’t attend.

      I’d prefer a party without plus ones, to be honest. There’s so much work talk, for starters, and I find holiday parties to be a good opportunity to hang out with people from different teams. When my partner is there it’s a bit more formal and I have to introduce him to everyone and make sure he doesn’t repeat some of the stories I’ve told him.

    7. Not Today, Satan*

      I think your coworkers need to… grow up. It’s 3-4 hours spent among coworkers. If they’re mad about something that’s basically a corporate gift to workers, they can express their displeasure by not going at all.

    8. Irish Teacher*

      That seems completely like the norm to me. I have never attended a work party that invited plus ones and to be honest, I wouldn’t like it much if they did. At my college reunion, we were allowed to bring plus ones and like one person from my year did. Poor guy; he must have been completely bored while we all talked teaching stuff and compared the schools we were working in.

      Like I said, I’ve never been to a work party that had plus ones, but I sort of feel people would feel they had to stay with their partner who wouldn’t know anybody else and wouldn’t really be able to chat properly to their colleagues. Maybe schools differ from offices here as we often jump back and forth between personal and school chat.

      I definitely wouldn’t want to bring anybody with me to a work party. I’d feel awkward about how much time I spend talking with them versus with my colleagues. And honestly, I think even if plus ones were allowed, it would make me less likely to attend a staff party as it would make it more of a party-party and less of a nice relaxing evening with my colleagues. I’m comfortable with my colleagues. Having to make small talk with strangers…sounds a lot less fun to me. (To be fair, this may be personal to me as I sort of have a number of autistic like traits, including difficulty with things like banter and small talk.)

    9. Sunflower*

      As someone who has never had a plus one, I prefer this. It’s a work party- I came to spend time with my coworkers. If you don’t want to spend time with your coworkers and would rather spend the night with your spouse, stay home?

      1. Rose*

        SAME. While I actually enjoy my colleague’s significant others (small company, so I have met them all), it is nice to spend time socially with just my colleagues (we are 100% remote now, so are not together in person very often). Plus, it is one less reminder that I DON’T have a plus one if no one is there with one…whereas previously, I was usually the only one without a plus one.

    10. I should really pick a name*

      Doesn’t make a difference to me. If there’s a plus one, I bring one, if not, I don’t. Doesn’t have a major effect on my enjoyment.

      I get that people will be upset because they’re losing something that they used have.

    11. Bernice Clifton*

      As someone who has planned a lot of them, I do not care either way, except when people bring +1s without asking.

      1. Allison*

        This! I wound up planning the holiday parties for my last company, and we’d have a lot of people announce they were bringing several people.

    12. WantonSeedStitch*

      Holiday parties where I work are held during work hours, and there are no plus ones. It’s nice because it means we don’t have to take time away from families and friends to attend, and it’s time we’re getting paid for when we don’t have to actually work. If I worked somewhere that did a party that WASN’T during work hours, I would want it to include a plus one so I wouldn’t have to ditch my significant other to spend time with my coworkers, even if I enjoyed my coworkers.

    13. Morgan Proctor*

      Super weird. I briefly worked at an agency that did this. Not only was the Christmas party no +1’s, it was also no alcohol, in the middle of a workday, and we had to go back to work after. This was indicative of the larger company culture, for which I was NOT a good fit. I’ve never worked anywhere else that didn’t allow +1’s.

    14. RisRose13*

      My previous company did not allow +1s, and my husband’s (very small) company did. For the first few years our holiday dinners fell on different dates and I went to mine alone and accompanied him to his. My final year with previous employer they decided to allow spouses/fiancés, so my husband would finally be allowed to attend and meet some of the people I had been working with for the past 3 years! Unfortunately our companies scheduled the holiday dinner for the same date that year and we both went alone to our respective employer’s event. I had to do a lot of answering “Why is spouse not here tonight?” and some of my higher ups seemed put out that they finally allowed spouses and mine did not attend.

    15. Eff Walsingham*

      My former company had (pre-Covid) rather legendary holiday parties with plus-ones, but employees only, no contractors. My spouse was (still is) a contactor with the same company. This caused some confusion, as he was both invited and prohibited… Schrodinger’s guest, if you will? Anyway, we ended up sharing a table with his colleagues and supervisor. So there wasn’t anything sneaky about it, but we did catch sight of a few funny looks on management faces before they remembered, Oh yeah, we ok’d this!

  26. TMI sorry!*

    This is kind of a weird question, but the other post from today about hearing everything going on in the bathroom got me thinking about a work situation that I found to be awkward and I really don’t know how I should’ve handled it.

    I have a digestive issue that’s basically akin to IBS, so when I go to the bathroom, I really don’t know how long I’ll be in there or just how bad this particular bathroom situation is going to be. I don’t want to get graphic here, but I think you can use your imagination as to what might be occurring. As such, I use the disabled toilet because it’s a single stall and I really don’t want the added anxiety of people hearing/smelling my issues.

    A few months ago, I was in there and yeah, it was taking a while. I heard a knock on the door. I said “someone’s in here, I’ll just be a moment.” My coworker recognized my voice and is like “TMI, is that you?” I’m like “uh yeah?” very awkwardly.

    The situation was, her client is a wheelchair user, so she was waiting for the bathroom. She needed someone to help open the door, and my coworker said she didn’t have time to wait, so she left the client out there for me to hold the door open for when I was done. Which was already embarrassing, but then the client started muttering to herself how much she needed to go. So then I “stopped the flow” and let her in and just… held it… until she was done and I could go back to the bathroom.

    It was just so awkward. They don’t know about my personal bathroom situation, so I think the wheelchair user just thought I was using the disabled toilet because I didn’t want to use the other one. But I feel like it’s even more awkward to explain to your coworker and her disabled client that you’re in there having… graphic issues.

    Was I wrong for using the disabled toilet? I’ve done some research online, and everything I’ve read says people with IBS can use the disabled toilet, but I technically can use the other one, whereas the wheelchair user can’t. I feel like my coworker was wrong for leaving her client stranded in the hallway (and she could’ve taken her to another floor in the elevator to use the disabled toilet, to be fair). I just… never want to have to deal with something so awkward again.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I think if you know you’ve got some people who cannot use the regular stalls then there’s reason for you to not take that one out of commission for long periods of time. Bathrooms have people pooping in them, that’s just facts of life. No one expects the bathroom to be scentless.

      1. snarkfox*

        I guess I can make sure to use the regular bathroom (or go to the family restroom on another floor) but it’s not about the bathroom being “scentless.”

        I really don’t want to get graphic, but these aren’t normal bathroom smells! And it’s incredibly loud… and painful. And when someone walks in the bathroom, my anxiety makes it harder to “go” because I know how bad the sounds and smell are, and then it hurts even more.

        1. Random Bystander*

          So, if I understand correctly, this is actually just a single-user restroom that has a door that can accommodate a wheelchair + the other elements that make it accessible? I don’t know if there are other single-user restrooms with narrower doors, but I suspect not.

          The basic premise is that, unlike parking spots (which are reserved to those disabled identified by a license plate or hangtag in jurisdictions I’ve lived in), the stall is accessible for but *not* reserved to disabled users. Now that doesn’t mean that you should gleefully run ahead of someone who is using a wheelchair to “snag” the bathroom, but there are plenty of reasons why a person might need this more accessible stall that aren’t obvious and aren’t the business of anyone else.

          As far as co-worker’s actions, those all seem inappropriate (calling to you by name ) *and* leaving the client alone.

    2. Sylvan*

      I mean, you did use the wheelchair-accessible toilet because you didn’t want to use the other one.

      It’s very understandable that you would prefer the wheelchair-accessible one. But I think it’s best to leave those toilets for people who aren’t able to use the other ones. I am disabled and I try to avoid the wheelchair-accessible toilet because it’s not my only option, while for some people, it is.

      1. snarkfox*

        I mean, yeah, I guess it’s that I “didn’t want to” because the experience is very painful on a good day, and it’s even more painful when someone else comes into the bathroom because my anxiety makes my stomach seize up and I can’t “go,” which hurts even more.

        Honestly, I was more making mention of how awkward it is for my coworker to call me by name outside the bathroom and then leave her client with me, and less about using the disabled toilet (and IBS is considered a disability). Like… that’s really not okay, right??

    3. Gatomon*

      I think it’s fine to use the accessible toilet. You have a medical need, period. I doubt the person using the wheelchair is unfamiliar with invisible disabilities.

      Your coworker should’ve offered to take the client to another accessible toilet since it sounds like there’s more than one there, and absolutely not left them stranded outside the door!

      1. TMI sorry!*

        You’re the only one that thinks this, actually. But yep, there are at least 14 disabled toilets in the building, she would just need to take them there, but she said she “didn’t have time” so she just left her in the hallway.

        Most of the comments are focused on why I shouldn’t use the disabled toilet, but like… I was really talking more about the part where my coworker yelled my name outside the bathroom and then just left her client there. She later apologized, but I felt even more awkward because I didn’t really want to explain.

        I also need access to a sink in the stall for obvious reasons, which is another reason I use the disabled toilet aside from privacy, but that I didn’t want to have to explain to my coworker either!

        1. Irish Teacher*

          In that case, your coworker was definitely the one out of line. I didn’t see a problem with you using the disabled toilet anyway, but I guess if there was only one, one could argue that there were other people who need it more, but if there 14 toilets that people with disabilities can use, I see absolutely no reason why they should be reserved only for those whose disability means they absolutely cannot physically use the other toilets.

          I think your coworker also behaved fairly poorly to the client. Did the client hear her saying she “didn’t have time”? If they did, I think that would make them feel like she felt they were a nuisance/didn’t want to assist them.

          1. TMI sorry!*

            I can’t remember exactly what my coworker said in the moment, but she definitely indicated that she had to go and couldn’t wait to hold the door open for her client. And actually, I was being vague, but my coworker is a therapist and the client is her patient, so I’m now really realizing just how inappropriate that was for her to treat the patient that way…..

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          As far as I can see it, you needed the accessible toilet for medical reasons. Those reasons are no less valid than being a wheelchair user. If there were other accessible toilets in the building, your coworker should ABSOLUTELY have brought their client to one of those. I bet the client felt awful!

        3. Reba*

          I 100% think you are using the right bathroom for you. *Especially* since there are other options your client/your coworker could have used! Sheesh.

          Even if there was only the one stall, this would have been an unfortunate instance of conflicting needs, not you being in the wrong.

        4. Gatomon*

          Well maybe I’m an oddball or something, but I don’t believe toilets should be reserved only for those who visibly “need” to use them. It’d be one thing if you were occupying it to do a long makeup regimen or you were sitting there scrolling on your phone and lost track of time, but using the toilet as a toilet is what it is there *for.* Trying to determine who has a valid need to use an accessible/single-stall toilet is just gatekeeping and intrusive. I would suggest we trust people are making the appropriate choice unless/until we learn otherwise.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Since you can and wheelchair users can’t, I would leave it open unless you can be very sure there won’t be anyone else around who needs it (shortly before closing, or whatever, or if you know this person usually comes during X time of the week).

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I also wonder if the “IBS sufferers can use the accessible toilet” is intended to prevent companies from insisting GI sufferers go to another floor or something if the regular toilets on their floor are occupied, simply because they’re not literally in wheelchairs. But it’s not the same level of need as someone who is in a wheelchair and can’t even get into the stall of a regular bathroom.

      2. snarkfox*

        Well, I didn’t want to get graphic, but one of the main reasons I need it is because it has a sink in the stall. I often need to “clean up” after these particular excursions. I can’t do that in the regular bathroom since the sink is outside the stall.

        But it’s true that I can physically use the regular bathroom… I just would be uncomfortable and unhygienic until I could get to the other bathroom.

        1. snarkfox*

          aaaaaaand I just realized I was replying with my regular username instead of the TMI one. cool. cool cool cool

        2. By Golly*

          I am with you on this. I always like Alison’s insistence that we all maintain a polite fiction that people in the bathroom are invisible/inaudible. Your coworker violated this by calling you by name and asking you to do something for her client while you were in the bathroom. Ideally she would have taken (or directed) the client to another accessible bathroom. I would think that the client muttering about how much she needed to go should have clued her in to that (unless the colleague had already left?). You have a need for the accessible bathroom. You are fine using it. There are many others in the building. (I’m not sure that should matter, but it does provide some additional cover.)

          1. TMI sorry!*

            Yeah, so I’m not even particularly shy about “bathroom stuff.” It happens, you know? But AT WORK, it’s just different.

            My coworker was long gone by the time her client was muttering about much she needed to go. And to be clear, I don’t blame the woman for saying she really needed to go because she was stranded in a hallway and maybe she couldn’t wait. and the bathrooms are locked and my coworker took the key, so there was no way for the wheelchair user to even get into another bathroom.

            1. linger*

              Possibly coworker called to you (by name) merely to confirm there was someone else with a key there, so that she *could* leave her client? Still not great all round, but a little more understandable. And trying to determine “who has the most need” for a handicapped loo is, by definition, a pissing contest; all needs are valid, the most urgent need is simply the one felt first, and no apology should be required (especially since the resources available are in fact sufficient for the demand).

    5. ferrina*

      I think it depends on the situation. Are there other options for the wheelchair users or others that may need to use the disabled toilet? How long would you be asking them to wait?

      In general, I want to say it’s okay, but really, if you are blocking someone else’s access when you don’t have to, well, it’s not really okay. I don’t think you should never use it, but also not default to it. Use your discretion based on your knowledge of your body (and if you know that the wheelchair client is visiting, default to a not-disabled toilet so the client is able to use the bathroom)

      1. snarkfox*

        It’s actually a family/unisex/disabled restroom, so it’s not exclusively for wheelchair users, I guess. Everyone at work uses it, tbh, not just me, but I think I’m just the only one unlucky enough to be in there when my coworker decided to call me out by name and leave her disabled client with me.

        But it’s not just that it’s private, it’s also that there’s a sink in there. I frequently have to make use of the sink in ways that I wouldn’t be able to in the public one down the hallway… unless I waddled out with my pants down and just… smiled at whoever is in there, I guess? And then waddled back into the stall to clean up.

        1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

          I think you should carry on using that stall, there are other bathrooms that the client should have been taken to – your colleague was wrong.

          If it had been another wheelchair user in there who needed time, would your colleague have left the client there?

          You had valid reason to be in there. Carry on.

        2. ferrina*

          I’m changing my answer, then. I missed that there were other bathrooms that the client could have used. If the client had access to other bathrooms (your coworker just didn’t take them there), then that is on your coworker, not you. You aren’t limiting access, and you clearly have a need for it. NTA.

    6. Roland*

      There’s not rules for who can or can’t use a specific toilet style that you can find by doing more research. Unless there is a situation where it’s like you know this specific wheelchair user has IBS and you run ahead of them to beat them you just aren’t “taking a bathroom away from someone”.

      The reason this was awkward is because your weirdo coworker thought it was okay to converse with people using the toilet. And the if the client truly wasn’t able to wait and also for whatever reason could not wheel to another toilet or call the coworker back, then again it’s the coworker who dropped the ball by abandoning them. You will never be able to change your behavior enough to prevent other people from behaving badly.

      1. TMI sorry!*

        Thank you… I was a bit baffled by all the comments telling me I shouldn’t use the disabled toilet… I mean, their opinion is relevant, but my real focus of this question was what my coworker did because she “didn’t have time” to take the woman to another bathroom.

        I truly didn’t know what to do, and I still don’t know what to do, because in my coworker’s mind, I was just an able-bodied person using the disabled/family toilet… and I don’t want to explain the pain, the mess, and the need for a sink to my coworkers!

        1. Roland*

          To be fair, you asked “Was I wrong for using the disabled toilet?” So people with opinions on that will respond. I just don’t think it’s that helpful of a question I guess.

          It’s easy to say this as a stranger who wasn’t there, so this is not a criticism at all, but if something like that happens again I would really try to ignore it. You do not need to act based on overhearing someone muttering to themselves. And if someone wants to go through life mad that people without wheelchairs are using a single-stall restroom (in a building that has many of them) that will just have to be their problem.

    7. Calamity Janine*

      i admit that as a disabled person, though not one in a wheelchair, i’d give you a pass for this one. you’re still dealing with a health problem that makes that extra space genuinely useful, plus you really do need things like that sink in the stall. (in the case of IBS, it may be totally legit in terms of ‘whatever bathroom i can best quickly access’, especially!)

      however there are plenty of disabled people who totally disagree with me on this.

      for this specific client, i feel like just disclosing a teeny little bit so that you can show “hey i’m not a completely ablebodied person using this just to be a jerk” will go a long way. you don’t need to say it’s IBS. you can just say something like “i’m so sorry that you had to wait for the bathroom the other day, i was in the middle of a flare-up, it’s super embarrassing…” and honestly if you do that, odds are good all will be forgiven. if you really don’t want to disclose specifics, then that’s the perfect opportunity to be shy about it then move swiftly on. “oh gosh, i would hate to burden you with the gross specifics! anyway, i just wanted to reach out and apologise. now, about your case…”

      odds are good that the disabled client will come back with “oh my gosh, i know that feeling, i am absolutely not mad at you at all, aren’t our bodies so awful for letting us down” pure sympathy. that moment of Oh! They’re Not A Jerk – They Get It! is extremely valuable. and you are also likely to find that being disabled means that ableism says you are able to answer 20 questions about your medical conditions at the drop of a hat, which gets extremely tiresome extremely quickly. so if you are politely demure about it, they will very likely take the hint and be grateful that they can give you the kindness of not prying! so i know it’s scary how they grumbled at you – but that little bit of disclosure will, in all likelihood, make that attitude completely turn on a dime. and it will also build a significant bit of goodwill. it is very rare when society isn’t ableist in little death-by-a-thousand-cuts ways, so simply getting an apology for that is often quite refreshing and a true delight :)

      1. TMI sorry!*

        Thank you! I’m really not sure the client will even know who I am because we never interact aside from this one time, but if she knew me, I’d definitely explain. I wish I’d said something in the moment, but I was just so embarrassed, it was like my brain wasn’t working. All I could do was hold the door open for her and slink back to my office in shame.

        I wasn’t even upset with her for grumbling because, for all I knew, she may have been having trouble “holding it,” just as much as I would in that situation! I think I’m the most upset at my coworker for leaving her in the hallway instead of taking her to one of the other 13 disabled toilets in the building. She said she didn’t have time. And I guess I want to address the situation somehow, but I don’t know how to do that without disclosing what was really going on/my need for a sink :(

        1. Calamity Janine*

          it could be something to tuck into your hat if you see the client around next time. and i think the same strategy of being demure and nebulous about the health issue can work just fine with the coworker. maybe frame it not as an apology, but as a heads-up: “Fergusina, just so you know, when i’m in that bathroom i’m there dealing with specific health issues. that day was a pretty bad flare-up. please, instead of having someone wait for me, next time will you help them get to another accessible bathroom, even if that’s just pointing them in the right direction instead of walking them there?” describing it as a flare-up indicates it’s a chronic condition that waxes and wanes, not something you can simply try harder to fix. and that your need for it is completely legit. so that it’s on coworker to not just leave you out to dry, but to acknowledge this is part of your existence, and be able to work around this – and that’s why you bring it up, because it may reoccur. then you can say “oh the details are just so embarrassing – and i’m sure you don’t want to hear them! – but it’s a real thing, i just wanted to let you know.” and not have to disclose further.

          but also i have utmost sympathy for you and want to say that if you can disclose this to HR as a genuine need, i would totally suggest pushing for a bidet. or at least looking into one at home. honestly lifechanging and i don’t even have IBS lol

          1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

            I really like this approach. Put some of the burden back on the person who brought the client there and then expected the bathroom occupant on the other side of the door to abandon their activities to give way to someone else.

        2. SofiaDeo*

          You don’t have to say anything, except to the co worker who called you by name. IDK how friendly you are with that person, but I would go to them (alone) and say something along the lines of “excuse me, but why did you think it was necessary to know who exactly was in the bathroom? That’s really weird, please stop” because it is. Not all disabilities are visible, and you *don’t need* to justify to *anyone* why you are using that particular stall. You don’t need to justify anything to anyone why you are using that particular bathroom, we are all adults and any polite, reasonable person will be assuming you are in there out of necessity. I say this as a disabled person who doesn’t “look ill” (whatever that means/looks like) and get a lot of flak for using handicapped parking, shopping carts, etc. Haven’t yet had anyone give me grief over the handicapped bathroom stall, but if it ever occurred, I probably will be doing a chilly “and you need to know this why/and how is this your business” depending on where I was at. I did get stuck outside an airport handicapped stall with a broken leg once, in a wheelchair, waiting to use the lone large stall while it was obvious the person inside was using it to change clothes (suitcase near door bottom opening (this was in the US), seeing hands pulling clothes out/putting clothes back in, etc. and even then I simply knocked and said “please hurry, I really need to use the bathroom and this is the only handicapped stall” and then merely added “please don’t use these to change clothes, others really need them” when she came out. It’s awful enough to have GI or other health problems without others sticking their nose where it’s not wanted. No explanations, nothing, I disagree with others saying you should offer something to that coworker other than “please don’t do that again, to anyone”.

    8. matcha123*

      If you or anyone else needs a way to muffle sounds/lessen smellz, when things hit, or are hitting, flush the toilet. There may be multiple flushes. Flush. Don’t let it sit.

    9. I should really pick a name*

      Offhand, I feel like your coworker is in the wrong here. I think it needs to be a very high bar to talk to someone through the bathroom door, and since there are other accessible washrooms, I don’t think that bar was met.
      Even if they weren’t other options, let’s reimagine the situation where another wheelchair user was using the washroom. Would it have been reasonable to interrupt them?

      Based on what you’ve described, I think you were completely justified in using the accessible washroom.

    10. Anon for This One*

      You should not feel one ounce of guilt for using the appropriately designated restroom to manage a legitimate medical need.

      I have a friend who is in a similar boat—she is missing some of the anatomy required to use a standard bathroom stall and has to have access to a sink, but you would never know it to look at her when she is fully dressed. Someone once grumbled about waiting for her to finish in the family restroom when we were at the airport together, and she looked them dead in the eye, said “Not all disabilities are visible, and mine is not up for discussion,” and went on her way. I think that is the right attitude.

      As a backup, she also has sanitizing wipes and baby wipes in her purse, which have come in handy on more than one occasion.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      So I have no idea of your setting however, I spend a decade in human services. If one of us left a client in front of a bathroom that the client was not able to gain entry to, that would be considered abusive (neglect) because of the abandonment.

      I think your boss should instruct everyone to bring their client to a bathroom that is not in use.

      1) It’s rude to yell through a closed/locked door.
      2)It’s rude to identify the person using the bathroom (in addition to yelling the name).
      3)It’s rude to “make” a person hurry up. (Generally speaking, does not include bathroom readers/texters.)
      4)She left a client unattended.
      5)The unattended client could not use the bathroom located near them. She left them with a bathroom they were not able to use. This is neglect.

      The fact about your IBS is really not relevant because this could be anyone of us on a bad day. Anyone of us could have a bit of food poisoning or whatever and get stuck in a bathroom. Just because she figured out who was in the bathroom is also not relevant. If a bathroom is in use, then it’s in use. These details aren’t important. Move the client to the next available bathroom- that’s pretty basic and should be SOP. Why she failed to do that is beyond me. But she failed to take proper care of this person.

      1. TMI sorry!*

        Yeah… I already felt like it was inappropriate, but the more I think about it, the more egregious it is. The person who left her client in the hallway is the client’s therapist, so that’s… really not a good way to treat patients, right? (I work in the same office, but not as a therapist). All the bathrooms are also locked, and my coworker took the key with her, so the client couldn’t even get into another restroom.

    12. RagingADHD*

      I think it very much depends on what kind of work you do, because that governs the level of care/obligation both you and your coworker have toward the client, and the reason why the coworker didn’t have time to wait with the client.

      If your coworker didn’t have time because you work in an ER and an ambulance was coming in with someone dying, then of course it makes sense to leave the less-severe patient for a minute.

      If you are accountants, it was rude.

      Different types of scenarios would be somewhere in the middle.

    13. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to use the disability stall. Especially if you’re going to be in it for longer periods. I avoid them unless there is no other choice, and try to be quick about it.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        But she has a disability. One disability does not “trump” another. If you don’t have one, that’s another issue, but there isn’t any “well this disability gets priority over another disability. OP has a medical condition, and needs the sink in that bathroom.

    14. Late Answer*

      I am late to this, but really want to say: You are disabled (in my view) and you are allowed use the disabled toilet! I am disabled and a partial wheelchair user. You have an invisible disability, and disabled toilets are not just for wheelchair users, they are for disabled people. It’s a pity that the image on the door is a picture of a wheelchair user, because it creates a false impression. It means “disabled”, not “wheelchair users only”.
      I have urinary problems and yeah, if I was out in a wheelchair and had to wait for the loo that would be difficult, but I don’t own the disabled loo!

  27. Non-customer service*

    Non-customer service
    Is there a good term for a customer-service-esque skill/approach when working with people from your own institution rather than actual customers?

    In my particular case, I’m in research administration/compliance, so the researchers at my institution have to go through my team to get their projects started. In many ways this mirrors the dynamic of customer service: they tend to see as an obstacle, want to be done with us ASAP, get disgruntled if we can’t give them what they want or if we ask for too much from them — but in the best-case scenario they will be happy with us if we’re responsive, helpful, and clear.

    So we have a focus on that, try to hire people with customer service experience, etc. But they’re not customers, we’re all part of the same institution, so it feels weird to call it “customer” service. (Feels overly deferential to me, but that might just be me.) Curious if there’s a better term for this I’m not thinking of!

      1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

        I came here to say the same thing. It’s still customer service, just for internal customers. I’ve worked with internal customers my entire career vs external customers.

    1. David's Skirt-Pants*

      When I train new employees, one of the first things I say is, “Customer service begins at home. We can’t take care of our clients and customers if we don’t start by taking care of each other.”

      Drop the “customer” if you want. Service is service irrespective of recipient.

    2. Middle of HR*

      In jobs I’ve interviewed for (or been interviewer for) it’s been called a client service mindset, and just clarify that we’re a resource for our colleagues, so they’re essentially our clients. (despite my handle I’m thinking back to non-HR jobs I’ve had, more similar to what you do)

    3. BellyButton*

      I often say “internal customers” because that is what they are. The skills needed to navigate them is close to the same, but also adding in “organizational knowledge”

    4. By Golly*

      How about just “service”? FWIW, I LOVE our research admin/compliance folks, because they are excellent at customer service, but I get why you wouldn’t want to call it that. One of our contract administrators gave a presentation recently and said something like “I love my job because I get to take care of the details so you can do the science.” Maybe something like “enjoys a support role”?

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      Client service is how I would phrase it. I too have internal clients rather than customers for my work. And you can be general in the questions you ask in interviews, too: “tell me about a time when you had to deal with someone who was disappointed with the work you provided or with an answer you gave them.” Doesn’t have to be a customer, could be a coworker or an internal client.

  28. PAC man?*

    My (~ 150 person) company has apparently founded a Political Action Committee (PAC) and is encouraging employees to donate. The PAC will support re-election of people who support policies favorable to the company, without regard to partisan politics. To encourage us to participate, the company will match PAC donations to a non-profit of our choice.

    Now, in the USA right now, we’re very polarized. In the powerpoint introducing this, they gave examples of members of the house committees relevant to our industry, which is fine, but one of them is someone I’m very strongly opposed to & would donate to their opposition. I also think this PAC is gross in general because it’s a way for the company to increase its lobbying budget outside the rules.

    In some ways I like the matching donation idea — I could “balance out” donations to people I don’t like with donations to nonprofits that oppose them. But so could people on the other side. It honestly seems like money laundering to charities of our choice. The whole thing seems like money laundering.

    Safest option is to politely decline to participate. We have a Q&A session soon. Any fun questions I should ask (other than “whose idea was this??”)

    1. Gatomon*

      Wow that sounds absolutely terrible! I would be disturbed if my company did this – the people who “support” the policies my company favors are almost all from a political party I don’t support, to put it mildly. Smells like they’re trying to get around campaign finance rules to me.

      I would refuse to participate and simply donate to the nonprofit of your choice. If they won’t leave you alone about it, chip in a token $1.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      Who has access to the list of employees who donate? (and by extension knows who does not.) Will there be any work impact on those who do not donate?

      1. PAC man?*

        The PAC is run by senior management. There is a disclaimer that donations are “completely voluntary”. Not all employees are eligible, but the first I’d heard of the PAC was this email inviting me. They will give out hoodies to PAC contributors. The PAC has existed since before I joined the company.

        It feels really gross imo.

        1. Policy Wonk*

          Thanks for the info – those were suggested Qs for your Q&A session – that’s what I would ask.

    3. By Golly*

      So, the company will receive the tax benefit of donating to the non-profit rather than the employee, correct?
      What are tax benefits of donating to a PAC? (there are none.. this is just to point this out.)

      I agree, this is gross.

      1. Rose*

        Agreed. Instead of donating $10 to the PAC so your company will donate $10 to a charity of your choice…just donate $10 directly to the charity of your choice. You are “out” $10 either way, and your preferred charity is getting $10 either way… you are just avoiding giving money to the icky PAC.