open thread – October 7-8, 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.

{ 1,055 comments… read them below }

  1. Syl*

    Do you have any suggestions on how to handle a previous employer not paying out your PTO?

    I resigned from my old employer in April. It is their policy to pay out unused PTO. I have had a really hard time communicating with HR. It takes multiple attempts to get them to respond to email or calls. I have a form listing how much I’m owed (over $5K). So far it has not been paid and I’m at the end of my rope. I just received the forms in August and signed them and returned them, but I have not been paid yet.

    Do I contact a lawyer? The department of labor? I’m in Colorado if that makes a difference. Thanks!

    1. WellRed*

      Have you put something like request for PTO payout as required by Colorado DOL in the subject line and then cc’ing the hell out out of it, including head of hr (if applicable), your former boss, the big boss and corporate counsel?

        1. Syl*

          My previous organization is exempt from the state DOL rules since they are a university.

          Their *own* policies state that they will pay out your PTO when you leave.

          I don’t know who the big boss and head of HR are since I worked for a department within a university?

          1. Velawciraptor*

            If you’re having a hard time sorting out who to contact in hr, the two places I’d consider going are or former supervisor and, if the university has one, the ombudsman.

          2. BupBupBup*

            I work at a university but it’s definitely hit or miss on how transparent and easy to navigate the HR website is. I am also in CO so I started googling different “X university HR org chart” and while I didn’t always get results from the university’s website, there are websites out there, like the yellow pages for org charts, that are capturing that information. How? I don’t know, but may give you another name and then with information you know about your university, you might recognize someone or know another way to verify that person is correct.

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

            The VP of Operations or President’s Office would likely oversee HR, but they aren’t going to get involved (most likely) on payout of PTO for a former employee. If your org has a General Council office (legal group) they might care if you are at the point of potentially making a legal case.

            Is your former Payroll Department actually under HR? In my university it is not — it’s part of the finance department which includes the Bursar, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, etc.

          4. University worker*

            Does the university HR website have a page listing the contacts? Given the amount of time you’ve been waiting on this, I would go to the highest person in HR – a title like VP of HR. In the email I would list all of the different ways you’ve tried to contact HR to get paid and the amount of time you’ve been trying to resolve this. Other people you could copy on the email are your old department chair and someone high up in the dean’s office of the college your department was in.

            One other thing you might want to check is whether your staff handbook had any timeline for when unused PTO would be paid out (usually it is supposed to be paid out within a certain amount of time, like within 1 pay cycle after you leave) and reference that in the email.

          5. Esmeralda*

            Go in the university website, find HR and look for the staff listing. Find the director in that listing; you should be able to see other likely contacts. You may also be able to find an org chart.

            Your department likely had an assigned rep or officer. If you can’t figure out who that is, contact the admin asst for the dept chair. You could also contact the deans office.

            Ombudsman would ordinarily be a good recommendation, but if you don’t work there anymore, you probably can’t use them.

            If you were staff, contact the staff senate (chair Or one of the other officers) for their suggestions on how to get things moving. If faculty, similar with faculty senate. If you’re not sure how you were classified, contact both.

            The university will also have an office of legal counsel or a university lawyer’s office, which may be able to give you some suggestions (and may be interested in keeping the university from getting sued or subject to some state labor office hassle). Contact them in the spirit of, I know you’re not the right office to assist, but maybe you know who I could talk to.

            This is why we need unions…

          6. WWW.*

            I would go to a lawyer. Given it’s the employers policy and not law that it’s paid, it’s a matter for a lawyer. You are absolutely owed your leave, but looks like you won’t be paid it unless you fight them for it.

        2. Snow Globe*

          If the employee handbook/employee policy manual says that accrued PTO is paid out, then they are legally required to pay it out, regardless of what the state law says.

          Saying something like that in the email subject line can often get the request to the correct person, but at this point, I’d be contacting the state dept. of labor.

    2. Hillary*

      It’s probably better to start with internal channels before you lawyer up. If your former manager is decent, you could ask them to intervene. Or is there an admin in the department who knows everyone? Since it’s a university, is there an ombudsperson?

      good luck!

    3. Team Lawyer*

      Here’s what I did: I had a free consultation with an employee-side lawyer about the issue, and he outlined the options. He confirmed was clearly a legal violation in our state, and he could take the case; it should bel clean-cut and if they didn’t settle, an award would end up being the PTO payout + a penalty (this was based on state law) and his legal fees (or those were a cut of the penalty or the total… I can’t remember those details). His main question was: Do you know if they have the financial resources? (The company was folding.) Because the main risk was that if we got a judgement, but they just couldn’t pay. If your company is still operating, this isn’t an issue.

      From there, I sent one last email/formal letter to HR and the CEO, referencing that I’d talked to lawyer Guy Smiley, ESQ, and if Company didn’t respond/pay by X date, we would have to retain Guy to take legal action. They responded within a day or two and set up a plan to pay out what was owed (to me and several other colleagues who had quit and were in the same boat).

      I probably could have also paid Guy to write and send that letter for us — in fact, that may have been his first step if we’d retained him. But we tried the “one last time on our own” route first.

      I didn’t think of contacting the Dept of Labor… so I don’t know about that. But the lawyer angle got things cleared up FAST. It seemed scary to me, but he was just a professional who knew his stuff and just the threat of him getting involved resolved things immediately. Good luck!

    4. October Tenth*

      Thanks for posting this and thanks to all the commenters! Really great advice here. I’ve been dealing with the same issue, after a protracted battle with HR at my previous employer to get them to communicate the most basic details with my new employer. It sucks there are so many of us dealing with this but it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  2. Ring a Ding Ding*

    A colleague and I had a tense meeting months ago, after which she told her boss I said that she should not have been hired. I said that my office had flagged that a portion of the job description was problematic because it was claiming ownership for something that was already managed with no leadership level announcement that there was a shift. It did cause issues, because those issues were what we were meeting about. 
    Her boss told his boss, who told mine. So a game of telephone adding 3 additional people between what was discussed. My boss understands what happened, supports me, but has also asked that I just let things be and let everyone cool off.
    I’m super frustrated that I’m being misrepresented. If my colleague truly believes I said she should not have been hired, I want to clarify for her that I never meant that. I don’t even want to touch that she twisted my words, I want to frame it as an obvious misunderstanding that I must correct. But my boss says no. 
    How does this impact work? I’ve noticed definite chilling from that whole team and I’m being left of of emails or not being responded to since this occurred.  I feel stuck and it’s weighing on me.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Follow your bosses advice. Maybe ask boss if you can apologize to coworker. Don’t seek her out on your own.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This sounds really frustrating, and I understand how you must feel, but your boss is correct. Try to let it go and focus on a good working relationship moving forward.

    3. Trawna*

      Hi. There is only one way to “just let things be and let everyone cool off”, and that’s to let things be and let everyone cool off.

      I totally get the annoyance, but it’s something you’re going to have to live with while the situation plays itself out. The colleague misrepresenting you will probably reveal themselves in other ways, and has already been foolish enough to notify three managers of their MO.

      If there is still lack of clarity over the overlapping portion of work, address only that with your manager, so you are doing the work you need to do.

      1. Ring a Ding Ding*

        That may be why I’m having a hard time… my boss has not had any success in getting the other team to agree to roles and responsibilities. So both of us feel like the thing we’ve been asked to do is “my job” (because it is) but now I’m cagier about asserting myself as someone with authority to make a decision. My boss says it’s my job. Her upline says it’s her job.

        1. Disco Janet*

          So she’s in the exact same situation as you then regarding this job duty, so I understand both of your frustrations. (And depending on your wording, I can see why she might have felt that you were saying she shouldn’t have been hired.)

          Are your boss and hers at the same level? Do THEY have a boss who can clarify this? Because I feel like the concern over your words being twisted is losing sight of the real problem here, which is the dispute about who is responsible for this task.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I think your boss is coming from the perspective (which I agree with) that there is nothing constructive to be said. If she truly believes you insulted her, you can’t clarify it. She will just take any further comments from you as lying/trying to save face or as an infuriating non-apology. After all, when one is deeply offended, the other person saying “but that’s not what I meant” doesn’t fix anything. It sounds like “I’m sorry you were offended by what you thought you heard.”

      By the same token, her team isn’t going to believe you over her.

      The way it impacts work is exactly what you are experiencing – the team is going to be chilly to you for a while. If their non-responsiveness causes problems with your work, take that to your boss as a separate issue that needs to be solved.

      After several months, the tension should be dying down. Leave it alone a bit longer and keep behaving in a professional way. Try to resolve or flag for management any practical issues in as neutral a way as possible.

      Sometimes misunderstandings or misrepresentations can’t be talked out. You have to ride them out.

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

      Follow your boss on this one. It sounds like you said out loud what might already be a high level internal politics issue — the other department hired someone to do a job they maybe shouldn’t have. That’s happened in my org — a department will hire their own “marketing and communications” person, but the org HAS an entire MarCom department that handles external campaigns, social media, graphics, logos, press releases, etc. Then we get two high level VPs or C-suites battling out over territory, and the lower-ranking employees, whose jobs overlap, are caught in the middle.

    6. Qwerty*

      Your boss is right about letting people cool off and you need to be one of them. Let your boss and her boss work out who owns this and what the protocol moving foward is. It’s unfortunate that they left you and your colleague to figure this out between you in the first place when neither of you really had the authority to determine who owns it.

      To be honest, I had to read your second sentence a couple times to understand what you meant. I’m guessing the situation is that you owned the TPS reports, your boss thinks you still own it, Jane’s boss thinks Jane owns it, and Jane thinks she’s supposed to be writing TPS reports. I can see how this got interpreted as Jane shouldn’t have been hired. Your criticism is for the job description, but that is *her* job. Add in that this was a tense meeting and you are frustrated with the situation, your wording may also have been less than measured. It’s also possible that your frustration at the situation – both of you trying to own TPS reports – came off as frustration at Jane.

      Keep in mind that it’s also possible that the “should not have been hired” line might not have come directly from Jane (unless you saw an email or something). You already brought up telephone – it’s possible that phrase came from Jane’s boss interpreting her version of the conversation. Or that without this task the budget for Jane’s role wouldn’t have been approved, or her experience in related work to this task being one of the reasons she feels she got the job, etc.

      The situation sucks and letting time pass is probably the best way to move on, especially given that it has already been months.

      1. Ring a Ding Ding*

        I left out some details but I do know it came from Jane. And I know we use TPS reports as a placeholder, but in this case, her job description mentioned TPS reports in the opening paragraph as an example in a list but nowhere in the actual “job duties” and Jane doesn’t intend for it to be her whole job. She views it as about 10% of her job. I work in the department called “The Department that Creates TPS Reports” and the meeting was tense because she told me she was going to build a new way to create TPS reports… my whole job is to build the ways we need to create TPS reports.

        All that to say, and to assuage my guilt at how this went down, I did not think my statement could be construed as an assault on her whole job. I even listed the other things in her job description to say that I was not taking issue with any of them.

        But the comments are landing with minimal turbulence here so point taken.

    7. CootersGarage*

      Honestly, I think it’s possible you did come across as if her role wasn’t needed or that she wasn’t suited to part of it.

      You admit this was a “tense” meeting and that both you and your boss is irritated that this work isn’t clearly owned by you anymore. Its highly likely that those feelings showed.

      Also once the meeting became tense you should have ended it. From the sound of things your boss is at least a skip level above her boss so I assume that means you are sr to her on the org chart which means you bear more responsibility in keeping relationships smooth between departments.

      Lastly the theme of my 20s – sometimes you look like an asshole and there is nothing you can do about it even though you are not an asshole and weren’t an asshole. Just got to let it go.

  3. Time for leveling up*

    If you need to upskill with software/knowledge that isn’t part of your current job, what are your tricks for finding the energy to do this?

    I have long hard days that are mentally draining, and I desperately want to work in a less dinosaur-ish organization. I need to sit down and teach myself the “newer” way of doing my job that my company refuses to embrace, but by the end of the day I’m completely wiped. Even if I am not physically doing something else and can technically spare the time to study, my brain is mush.

    1. callmeheavenly*

      no advice, only empathy. I need to upskill in a hundred different ways and partake of resume-building activity in a thousand others, but the spoons are just nonexistent.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, unfortunately the only way I’ve found the energy to upskill or job search was to quit my current job, which I realize isn’t something most people can/should do.

        I will say that accountability is essential for me getting stuff done, so I look for something structured like an actual class. Good luck!

    2. Miette*

      Are you fresher in the mornings? Perhaps getting up an hour earlier per day would work.

      Or treat it as a workshop you are going to, and set aside 4 hours on 4 consecutive Saturdays (or whatever works) for focused learning.

      I can also recommend LinkedIn Learning for this kind of thing–I am able to access it through my grad school’s portal as an alumni benefit.

      1. I take tea*

        I have a friend who managed to write his thesis by rising two hours earlier and writing it. I couldn’t do it, I’m mushy in the mornings myself, but it worked for him. He always said that he had better focus in the morning anyway.

    3. Spearmint*

      Is there anyway you can reduce your workload and do some raining at work? Since you want to leave soon anyway, maybe you can scale back and just do the bare minimum core responsibilities.

    4. mymotherwasahamster*

      This doesn’t help with the energy and you already have the incentive, but maybe an extra accountability mechanism would help? Stickk.com has worked wonders for me in the past and it’s probably past time for me to start another project on that site.

    5. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Really tiny steps and focused goals. I have a big long list of stuff I need to skill up in, and I find that makes me freeze, so pick one that you are actually amped for, then fo something very small- 5 minute YouTube video, read a short blog post, write down 3 questions you have. Start small and aim for once or twice a week max. It will snowball!

    6. 3lla*

      I like using Udemy for this. the courses are broken up into segments of 15 minutes or less for you, and then you get a certificate after you watch all the videos. I can usually manage the 5-15 minutes for one lesson. if you can’t, is there something you can outsource to make room? cleaning service is less expensive than you might expect.

    7. Chaordic One*

      Although it did require some effort on my part, I took classes at my local community college. After I got to class, even though I was physically tired, I kind of relaxes and was able to focus on the subject at hand. I really learned a lot and it really helped me in my day-to-day job.

    8. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I second tiny steps. And sometimes kicking in a few of your own bucks if it means you learn faster.

      I made a list of what skills/work style I need to upgrade to (also in a dinosaur org!). Next project at work I tried to work in some of those skills (after taking a short course – which I DID get work to pay for) and bought and used the software on my own. 10 bucks and 10 hours later (and a FAR more successful workshop than had ever been delivered before, with rave reviews and pushes to do this approach more often) I can now confidently check THAT off my list and move to the next item.

      Ive also just found that some meetup groups offer online 1-1.5 hour teach ins. I joined one for a specific area Im interested in (see above). Itll be a good intro and bite-sized enough for me to pursue in another work project. Also – its on a Saturday and I can watch in my jammies.

      I guess my point is to try and not work both paths, but see where you can cross over your learning into your current job to optimize your time and brain power. Try things where its low risk. Learn by doing. Seek out conversations with others in professional groups outside of work to get out of the culture bubble. Find what learning style energizes you and look for opportunities to learn that way.

  4. CootersGarage*

    Admin assistant faked being our boss

    I had a decision that I needed input on from my boss, and I asked “Jen” her admin when she would be available. Jen stated that our boss’ decision would be X. I let Jen know that I appreciated her thoughts, but I knew this was a decision our boss would want to be in the loop on, but Jen refused to look at the calendar and insisted she knew best.

    I shot our boss “Sarah” a quick email. Hey Sarah, I know you are busy but I need input on this decision for the Y project. Jen thinks you will want X but I know you have considered Z and you wanted me to keep you in the loop on these. I need to let the vendor know by Friday. What are your thoughts? 

    Shortly after I got a curt email from Sarah stating that Jen has her utmost confidence and I should respect her judgement and trust when she says that I’m too busy to work on something.

    Well the next day Sarah called me into her office for an update on the project. I let her know I put the X order in and she asked me why I didn’t consult her first because she wanted Z. Confused – I showed her the email I received in response to me checking and it turns out that Jen wrote that. Jen had full control of Sarah’s inbox, and could reply as her, not just reply on behalf of her. Jen had also deleted my email and the sent email to cover her tracks but I was able to help Sarah search her deleted folder.

    Well Sarah revoked Jens access to delete and send emails as her, but that was it. I let Sarah know that several people had complained to me in the past that they thought Jen was deleting emails addressing concerns with ber, but Sarah said she felt this was a one off. I pushed back and said that if Jen was willing to react this strongly to me not taking her advice on a project she wasn’t even a resource on AND go in and try to hide her tracks that this has probably happened before and I would absolutely believe her capable of hiding criticisms about her. Sarah told me I needed to not take Jens mistake so personally.

    Am I taking this too personally? Would most people assume this was a one time mistake?

    I am job searching and admit I don’t like Jen so that could be coloring my perspective.

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Holy guacamole this is full of bees! The fact that Sarah thought it was ok is a real worry, while Jen was way out of bounds I am more shocked at Sarah. If I were you I’d think about if there are other dysfunctional signs about this workplace.

      1. CootersGarage*

        I wouldn’t say Sarah thought it was OK, she did tell me that she warned Jen that was unacceptable and that a consequence was losing access to the inbox, but she was pretty dismissive when I brought up the other deletion concerns.

        I’m a team lead and staff have grumbled to me about this a few times, but I didn’t know Jen had this level of access. The one time I brought that up before (with the prior boss) I was shut down hard.

        So when this was discovered to me it was pretty damning evidence that she was probably deleting emails after all! And even if those complaints weren’t there I would have personally fired Jen.

        Being in a place like this can warp your brain. I sometimes wonder if I’m the one over reacting so I appreciate the gut check.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It sounds like Sarah is treating this as if Jen made a mistake, rather than what it was: Jen impersonated someone with a higher level of authority to *lie to you* and then tried to cover her tracks in order to *lie to her boss*.

          That’s not a “revoke some access” level offense, that’s “revoke all access and have security escort her out” level. She has shown herself to be untrustworthy, dishonest and manipulative, and her manager is leaving her in a position of trust. Get out!

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Right?! This is an immediate firing situation, not a slap on the hand situation. We had someone in my old university department who did something similar, and the campus police escorted her off campus and said she isn’t allowed back on.

        2. Chickaletta*

          It could be that Sarah is trying to respond in a neutral manner to you and may be more upset privately by Jen’s actions. A good leader won’t create more drama by reacting to drama – so she may be signaling to you “hey, I’ll take it from here, please don’t worry about this or concern yourself with it anymore” while privately escalating the issue to HR or IT.

          I’m an assistant and would never have done what Jen did – that’s a potentially terminable offense. Also, my advice above is based on how I’ve seen MY boss respond to personnel issues – they’re just simply not discussed or escalated with anyone outside of HR and the employee who it’s about and my boss’ response to anyone else is of the gray rock variety.

          1. CootersGarage*

            It’s been a week and Jen is still here so I doubt she is getting fired. Those tend to be quick around here.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              There is something wrong with your boss’s judgement. This isn’t some small-potatoes mistake; this is a hugely fireable offense. Now nobody can trust anything the boss communicates by email, and how far back does this go?

    2. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      This isn’t a mistake! This is deliberate subterfuge. I doubt it’s the first time, because I doubt your colleagues are suspecting this without reason, and if it is the first time, I doubt it will be the last.

    3. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      You’re not taking this personally. This is a very legitimate professional concern. But your boss has shown that (for now) she’s not interested in investigating further. At this point, I think the problem is with your boss, just as much as with Jen.

    4. A Penguin!*

      Yikes. That’s a fireable offense on a first offense. Ultimately not a battle/decision you can push if Sarah doesn’t see it, but I wouldn’t trust Jen OR Sarah at this point.

    5. anna*

      I think what Jen did was a fireable offense… I think you’re probably smart to be job searching!

    6. CatCat*

      Woooooooowwwwww. This isn’t a mistake, it’s a deliberate scheming and dishonesty. Sarah is super incompetent to let this stand (Jen should be fired, imo!). Yeesh, it makes me wonder if Jen has some kind of dirt on Sarah.

    7. My+Useless+2+Cents*

      I don’t think you need to take it personally but definitely CYA with any dealings with Jen and Sarah. Sarah is downplaying this way to much, I agree. That amount of brazen-ness on Jen’s part is not a one-off but it is not something your going to have luck convincing Sarah of.

    8. Robin Ellacott*

      It’s very weird to me that Sarah isn’t upset abut someone pretending to be her (and making a decision she wouldn’t have made while doing so).

      If I were Sarah I’d be firing Jen, or at the very least telling her if she did it again I would fire her. The fact that she isn’t doing that makes me think you’re wise to get out. Something is really hinky here.

    9. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      Um, Admin with Access here. Unless specifically told by the executive that I should send the email “as her,” I always, always, always include “Snarky, EA to Executive.”

      As opposed to say, including her email signature. I agree that this cannot be the first time Jen has done this and I also question her professional judgment. She should have been fired.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Exactly. Anytime my boss ever wanted me to send something as them, as opposed to on behalf of, they were in charge of exactly what was to be said. I wasn’t on my own recognizance to just make something up.

    10. WellRed*

      I’d fire Jen but yes, you are taking this too personally. She’s Sarah’s admin, not your and it sounds like she does this stuff to everyone not at you alone.

      1. Honor Harrington*

        I’d also make sure the rest of your team knows what happened, as quietly as possible. That way they can all watch out for the same thing happening to them.

      2. tessa*

        …which means everyone who Jen is doing this to should take it personally, as it could potentially harm (as in follow) one or more of them on a job hunt, etc.

        Take it personally, OP, and flee ASAP.

    11. Casper Lives*

      It’s not a one time mistake. But Sarah doesn’t care. So Jen will probably get email access back in the future, you can’t trust emails from Sarah or Jen, and you should job search ASAP.

    12. EMP*

      what the f*, Jen is WAY out of line but Sarah’s response is what’s really throwing this into bananas territory for me. Maybe she cares more than she’s letting on but still wants you to drop this one thing, but this is a serious problem and I do not think you are wrong to think this is not OK! I don’t think you’re taking it too personally but if Sarah wants you to drop it I don’t think there’s much you can do besides keep up that job search and assume any communication from “Sarah” may not be legit.

    13. Fiona*

      Job search and from now on, don’t do any communication with Sarah by email. Everything in person or over the phone. This situation is truly bananas!!

    14. Moths*

      I don’t think you’re taking it too personally or that most people would assume it’s a one-time mistake rather than a serious error in judgement. However, if I were Sarah in this situation, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to continue the conversation with you beyond what you discussed at that point either. I might have responded a little differently, but at the end of the day, after it had been flagged for Sarah, it was now an issue between her and Jen and I think it’s fair for her not to want to go into major discussions with you about what this means for Jen and how/if she’s going to address it with her.

      If one of my employees brings to my attention a major issue, I usually ask a couple of clarifying questions and then thank them and let them know I’ll look into it further. Part of that is because I want to think a little more about what happened and how I’m going to address it. And part is because I don’t want to discuss employment or disciplinary information about an employee with another employee.

      I completely understand your being frustrated and upset — what Jen did was so far out of line that I do think it could be a fireable offence. But you brought it to Sarah’s attention and now it’s her job to decide what to do about it. Her response wasn’t great, but I would have been concerned if she had discussed much more with you. Generous reading: Sarah is addressing things behind the scenes and Jen is receiving some disciplinary actions you might not know about. Less generous reading: Sarah truly believes this doesn’t matter and trusts Jen despite this. Either way, I would keep up the job searching and make sure to CYA in any dealings with Jen from here out.

      1. CootersGarage*

        The part that got the “Don’t take this personally response” was when I pushed back about Sarah’s assertion that my staff (I’m a team lead) were wrong to think Jen was deleting emails. Sarah flat out said “No I think this was a one time mistake” so I pushed back once that I think if staff are complaining about emailed issues never being answered and Jen was willing to overstep this much then I think she probably has been deleting their emails and it’s not a one time thing”.

        Then Sarah said I was taking it too personally and that I needed to not talk to other staff about this. I admit I didn’t follow that last part, I thought it was important for staff to know that emails to Sarah aren’t necessarily safe so I did let a few Sr staff know on the downlow.

        1. Despachito*

          I do not know where it falls tactics-wise but from the personal POV I am glad you told them. It is fair for them to know their suspicions were well founded.

      2. miss chevious*

        Yeah, this is my perspective. If I were Sarah, I would not be at liberty to discuss what else might be happening with Jen (although I wouldn’t have thought OP was taking it personally). I hope that is the case here, and things with Jen will be addressed, but I don’t find Sarah’s disinclination to discuss it with OP especially surprising.

        1. CootersGarage*

          Would you have dismissed the concerns about deletions in order to not tip your hand? I’m not sure what other part would be declining to discuss Jens discipline tbh. Sarah was the one who told me she she was revoking Jens access, I didn’t ask Sarah just responded with that the second we found the error. I didn’t tell Sarah Jen should be fired or anything like that (that’s just the in my head thought of whoa I would have fired her).

          All I did was bring up the deletions when it was discovered Jen had impersonated Sarah, then pushed back once when Sarah dismissed those and asserted Jen probably only did this once.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          I can understand confidentiality during disciplinary processes, but it shouldn’t rise to the level of gaslighting the person who was wronged. Telling someone they’re taking it too personally and you’re sure it was a one time mistake and brushing off related concerns, when you’re dealing with what should be a locked out of the system and escorted out of the building firing, is the kind of thing that has employees losing trust in their employer, and looking for new work. And rightly so!

          For the OP, looking for new work is not an over reaction, and I’d maybe put some thought into finding a good reference who doesn’t have Jen controlling her inbox, and maybe discretely letting your team know they should talk to Sarah face to face for any significant communications.

    15. too many dogs*

      This goes beyond snooping and pretending to be Sarah. This is a question of integrity, & as a supervisor, I would wonder what other things Jen has been lying about.

    16. learnedthehardway*

      Your manager is an idiot if she thinks that Jen isn’t doing the same thing with other emails.

      This is NOT a mistake that Jen made. This is a deliberate decision. A mistake is accidentally erasing an email, NOT impersonating the manager and faking their approval for business decisions and then lying / altering emails to make it look like you never did what you did.

    17. Inigo Montoya.*

      ” Shortly after I got a curt email from Sarah stating that Jen has her utmost confidence and I should respect her judgement and trust when she says that I’m too busy to work on something.”
      Impersonating the manager in order to impose your will more easily in the future and covering it up without the manager’s knowledge would be an instant fireable offence in most companies. This was not an accidental thing that she thought Sarah would want it done this way. Sarah is being extremely Blase about it. At a very minimum a conversation would be needed that she had broken Sarah’s trust and if Sarah saw or heard about any similar behaviour in the future, it would be grounds for instant dismissal. You wouldn’t generally know if such a conversation occurred but Sarah’s dismissal of your concerns is bonkers.

    18. Irish Teacher*

      No, I definitely wouldn’t think it could possibly be a mistake. A mistake is saying “oh, Sarah told me she wanted X.” Still COULD be lying but I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she misheard Sarah, but I cannot imagine how somebody can send an e-mail pretending to be somebody else and have it legitimately considered a mistake.

      I wonder is Sarah taking it as lightly as she appears to be. It is possible she is gathering evidence on Jen, but does not want to “gossip” about her with you.

    19. Qwerty*

      Wow

      Ok, so I probably would have responded the same way as you, but you probably overstepped with your last round of pushing back. It shifted the environment from “resolving an issue that directly affects you” to “being too involved in the discipline of a coworker”. And may have pushed your manager from planning to quietly investigate more to defending Jen.

      It is really odd that you have gotten multiple complaints that people thought Jen was deleting emails from Sarah’s inbox unless there was a known history of her doing that. So it probably sounded really strange to your boss and came across more of “If Jen did this once to me then she’s probably doing it to everyone” rather than “huh, here’s some info you might want to check on”. Managers aren’t a fan of when someone says “other people agree with me” – they want those people to come forward themselves.

      Managers shouldn’t discuss disciplinary steps with other people, so Sarah really couldn’t talk to you much about Jen. It’s also possible that she received those complaints from your teammates and chose not to respond. This place is weird, hopefully you find something soon.

      1. CootersGarage*

        I’m a team lead. Some people on my team have complained – the most diplomatic being from Sr staff who say things like “It’s so odd that Sarah quickly addresses all staffing issues, except when someone sends something about Jen it’s like it disappears”.

        I brought these concerns up to our former boss (Sarah started 6 months ago) and that boss said there is no way he would hire someone like that so it’s not happening (he got promoted to the C suite of course).

      1. Security Consultant Rin*

        This is a security nightmare. If you wanted to, might be worth reporting anonymously if your handbook has a whistleblower policy or other anonymous reporting option. Just saying…

    20. Dragon*

      @CootersGarage, did Jen come with Sarah to your company? If they worked together somewhere else, Sarah’s trust in her might be that much stronger. If Jen has become untrustworthy or was so all along, that’s a bitter pill for Sarah to swallow now.

      I agree that you should look for another job, in case nothing is done about this.

    21. Cacofonix*

      In person to Sarah: “Respectfully, this was a significant breach of ethics and it impacted me and my team perhaps more than you realize. It has also made me lose some confidence in the guidance and instructions we receive from you. While Jen is still on this team, we will be documenting your decisions in (file location) and verifying them with you in person.”

  5. boring fed*

    Does anyone have tips / strategies for getting people to complete training? I have a committee where I’m responsible for the associated training program, which is mandatory – but I don’t have great enforcement mechanisms since many members are not in our immediate chain of command (and most are senior to me). We can’t afford to kick people off as they are needed for operation of the committee which is very necessary.

    So far all we’ve come up with is 1) miscellaneous email reminders 2) having my grandboss (a director general) eventually email their bosses with a note saying they haven’t done it. Any additional ideas welcomed!

    1. happybat*

      The biggest challenge I see around training is people having time to do it, even when they want to. Is there any way you could make sure people get the time to do this training by taking something else off their plate, explicitly so they can do the training? This also creates a sense of obligation – we have done this for you, so please do this for us!

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      First address consequences for not completing it, if it takes 4 hours out of my day making me 4 hrs behind on everything else, and nothing happens if I don’t do it? Yeah I can see people skipping it. If you really can’t implement consequences, look at maybe the opposite, can you schedule a half day for those who have the training done and once you get the completion certificate anyone else can leave. (That also frees up time for people to do it if its a barrier). Or a box lunch or a breakfast for those who completed it.

      Second address the barriers for why people aren’t doing it (Too long, too slow, needs long chunks of uninterupted time, outdated, boring, low priority compared to other tasks, etc). Ask the people. If training requires audio, cube farm super noisy, easy fix by adding captions and a transcription to it so you don’t have to be able to hear.

      1. Princess Xena*

        Our will let you expense a lunch if training is being done during the normal lunch period.

      2. Buffy will save us*

        Our training dept. will send out company-wide shame emails with either the dept.-wide stats for completion or list of names of people who still need to complete it and have in the email when the next training is.

    3. Ina+Lummick*

      I have a similar issue where I train people on using a software product at my org. I’ll often have a no call no show from people at a particular dept. (Including the reason “I didn’t look at my calendar sorry”.)

      This is something that I’d send an email directly to them checking in (Eg: I missed you at today’s session – everything ok/slammed in the lab?) . The next no call no show I’d inform my manager about it for them to liaise with the person’s manager. Although admittedly I’ve still not had much success even then…

    4. Time for cocoa*

      We do company-wide blackouts. Like, no meetings allowed from noon to 4:00 on the third Tuesday of the month, during which time everybody is required to be head-down on trainings. They don’t mess around because we have regulatory consequences for trainings not being 100% compliant. People who don’t complete them get written warnings from top brass, which can lead to termination.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        I’m used to this kind of system — you don’t do the training, you may be fired. However, before it gets to that, you might get locked out of the system. In fact — I had a bit of an emergency this week because I had completed the training but that wasn’t captured properly and I was worried about getting locked out of the system.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      In teaching in Ireland, there are what are called Croke Park hours (the name refers to a deal done between unions and the government during the recession that teacher’s pay would not be cut if they did X number of additional hours -meetings, training, etc) so the best way that principals can get us to complete training is “this training will take 1 and a half to two hours. I will put it done for 2 hours so that means we don’t have to stay late for a two hour meeting sometime after school.”

      I realise this is very specific to education in Ireland, but maybe you could come up with something similar. Some hours people get off as a result of doing it.

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

      Stick and Carrot. If you’re able, have some reward for completing the training early by X date (a nominal thing like pens, post-it notes, cookie), then have a window of no reward or penalty, and then after Y date there is a penalty — for my org the penalty fits the training; so blow off the annual online cyber security training and they suspend your email access until you do; blow off FERPA training (I’m at a university) and lose access to the student info database, etc. If these are very high-level folks that have fancy perks, you could try suspending those — lose their reserved parking space, put a hold on their discretionary budget, hold expense reimbursement… but those are pretty Nuclear Options…

    7. DistantAudacity*

      In my previous organisation – if you had not completed all mandatory training by the end of the fiscal year: no bonus for you!

      It was a key requirement for bonus eligibility, and it was Enforced. There were some instances were people who Thought Themselves Above This lost some significant bonuses ( and subsequently left the org), but that really really worked.

      This was for the quarterly 15-20 min stuff about basic IT-security, reporting of security issues, anti-money laundering reporting, etc.

      Very effective. Very large global consulting organisation.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Oh – and they also worked to make them slightly less dreary; game-ified some, animated interactive stories etc.

    8. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Make the training relevant, engaging, and time-efficient?

      Those are usually the top 3 barriers to me completing training; it’s so far disconnected from my role that I cannot put anything into context, I can’t stay awake through it, or I can’t block off a week to sit through every droning frame.

    9. boring fed*

      Thanks for all the suggestions everyone! Unfortunately I have essentially zero authority to “give” (I am not in a position to take things off people’s plates, fed so no giving of Stuff or cash) and haven’t had any success persuading my boss that the trainings are too long (they are hosted externally so I can’t change the content within the courses), so I guess it’s one of those things where it just kind of sucks.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Could you try the “logical conclusion” conversation with your boss? Like, “well, if it’s not important enough to make people complete it, can we eliminate it?” Then assuming they say no, ask why not, and just keep drilling down to the logic of it. Either it’s important and necessary and should be treated that way, or it’s unimportant and unnecessary so we can eliminate it, great!

        Um, also, you’re responsible for it, but not able to make anyone do it? How does that work when performance reviews come around? I successfully got zero people to complete training, as planned! :-)

      2. Not A Manager*

        I’m stuck on “mandatory,” “we can’t kick them off the committee,” and “no negative incentives.” I don’t think all of these things can be true at the same time. If these people are allowed to stay on the committee, and suffer no consequences for failing to complete the training, maybe it just isn’t as mandatory as you think it is?

        What would be the actual consequences *to you* if these people don’t complete their training and they just stay on the committee? If your larger organization is going to suffer some regulatory consequences or some other penalty for non-compliance, is there a way to CYA from the fallout?

      3. JustaTech*

        Oh the external trainings on Federal stuff … I always tell myself that they could be worse (because they can).
        Is there a way to play the trainings at 1.25x or 1.5x so they at least don’t take so long, and if so, can you quietly suggest that to folks?
        For the trainings where the audio is just someone reading the text on the screen I plug in my headphones but don’t put them on because I can read significantly faster than the narrator talks, and the system lets you go on to the next slide before the narrator is done.

        For us there aren’t any carrots, only consequences (“this is required by law”, “your on-time completion is used to calculate bonus/rating”, “you mess this up enough and you’re fired after a zillion warnings”).

      4. Hydrangea*

        You say the training is mandatory, but who made it mandatory? I see that you are a fed–is there a compliance or legal issue if people don’t take the training? Are there larger consequences of having people untrained, things like losing funding or losing an accreditation? If so, try adding an appeal to the larger picture to your reminders:

        “Please take the training by X date. If we do not have 90% compliance on completing training by X, we lose our TPS budget.”

        Either way, I recommend being ok with people not taking the training. Continue as you are doing with reminders and notifying line management. If you are not already regularly reporting on the status of training completion, start doing that. Give X/y people trained and the names of people who aren’t trained yet. Maybe keep a matrix of how many times you have reminded people and when you notified their manager. If there are consequences, mention them: “We need 90% compliance by MM/DD or we lose our TPS funding. We are currently at 67% compliance.” And then … let it go. You have done your job. Let the next level up worry about increasing compliance.

        1. boring fed*

          To answer a few questions:

          No compliance consequences – the thing is that most people HAVE done them, so it’s not like the current model is a total failure.

          By “responsible” I mean that it’s my job to track who does the training, try to get them to get it done, and I also deliver another component of the program personally (that one has much better completion, which is flattering…). My boss is aware that this is an issue and I don’t think would hold it against me if we have issues getting 100% completion, as long as I’m making a best effort.

          The committee is for emergency management and we need the very specific skills of the individuals involved; they are hard to replace and it would cause way more trouble than it’s worth to kick people off, especially since a lot of the job-completion is because they’re very busy and in-demand for other things. We have good relationships with most of them and I do leverage those as much as I can. The mandatory requirement comes from well above me, so that’s just kind of what I’m working with.

          Also, it’s funny to see that everyone assumes they are videos! They’re actually online text-based courses. I don’t think that makes a big difference, it’s just interesting to see what people are used to.

          Anyways, I think we’ll just have to keep going with the “grandboss contacts their managers” as needed. I kind of thought that might be the case when I posted it, but you never know if there might be some glaringly obvious thing I hadn’t thought of! Really appreciate all the effort people have put into this though!

          1. Hydrangea*

            Yep, your best bet to just do as you are doing and let people be untrained. Now go enjoy the extra space in your head.

    10. MoMac*

      The agency for which I previously worked withheld raises for people who had not completed training. Reviews were in June for July 1st raises. In January, a list of required trainings was sent out from corporate, as well as the completion dates. As a director, I reminded my team in April and then spoke with them individually in May if trainings were still missing. If June 30th came and went with empty spaces for completion dates, there was no raise even if the person scored exceeding in all categories. None of my people ever missed out on raises. Our trainings were required due to state funding requirements.

    11. Sunnydale*

      I know I procrastinate online training when I have no idea how long it’s going to take—I feel like I have to block out lots of time and set aside other important tasks. Sometimes when I eventually settle in for an afternoon of training videos, I discover that the “course” is a single eight-minute-long video. Other times, I find that the course is broken up into smaller sections, and I could have just scheduled ten minutes a day to work on it until it was done.

      In your reminder emails, could you include any information that would make the training less intimidating? Since it’s external, committee members might not realize that it’s not very time-consuming or that their progress is saved unless that information is part of the email.

  6. Noelle*

    TL;DR: I do research in a scientific field in academia but am trying to transition into industry. Any advice from hiring managers would be very welcome!

    Hi everyone! I’ve been a huge fan of this site for at least 5 years now, though I’ve never commented or sent in a question. But I just realized that maybe people here would be willing to give advice about my current job search situation. I have a PhD in a soft science field (think sociology or psychology) and have been doing full-time academic research—NOT teaching—in my field for the past 4 years. By academia’s standards I’m doing great: I’ve published a lot of papers, I’m grant-funded, etc. However, I’m tired of academia and want out. I’ve been ramping up my job search in industry for the past couple of months, targeting jobs where the skills I’ve gained in my current role, like data analysis/interpretation, scientific writing, etc., could be really valuable. I’ve done the obvious things I need to do, like making a normal resume and getting feedback on it from as many people as possible, learning new relevant software, and spending a ton of time on LinkedIn networking. But it’s still a huge challenge, and I know I’m fighting against a lot of general biases about academia. I’d be really curious to know, from people in industry who may have hired (or considered hiring) science-y candidates from academia: What made those particular candidates seem hirable (or not)? How were they (or weren’t they) able to prove to you that they could transition to the faster pace of an industry job and make a meaningful contribution?

    1. happybat*

      Mewburn, I, Grant, W, Suominen, H et al 2016, ‘What do non academic employers want? A critical examination of ‘PhD shaped’ job advertisements for doctoral employability’, Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Annual International Conference 2016, SRHE and Open University Press might be of interest?

    2. Juniper*

      It’s a leap on both ends, and I only have very specific, limited exposure to this, but I’m currently on a hiring committee to replace a science-based PhD in industry. We’re working on improving the job description, but I’d be OK with hiring someone from academia (our last person was, and was excellent but has moved on).

      What I would look for is the demonstrable ability to provide real-time troubleshooting and adjustments in a highly technical, complex process, the ability to translate recommendations from the theoretical to the very practical instructions for implementation, interaction with regulations/regulators, and ongoing continuing education in our particular field. Data analysis abilities are actually being called out specifically, so don’t short yourself on that. Communication skills are important both to staff and steering teams.

      I’d look at projects on their resume, and try to interpolate from that. The larger, more complex projects where they are managing other people would be indicative. Our industry isn’t entirely fast paced though; you’d want the flexibility to fix things right now and also a more strategic mind to support longer term goals.

    3. CharlieBrown*

      I work in a contract research organization, and while a lot of our bench workers have degrees in chemistry, we have at least one with a degree in psychology, and a sub-manager with a degree in geography. We mainly hire for your ability to be methodical and logical and to use sound scientific judgment. So yes, I think you could probably make the leap without too many issues.

    4. EMP*

      So I’m coming from a slightly different angle, hiring for software positions, but hopefully this is helpful for someone.

      When I interview a candidate with only academic experience, one concern is usually that they are not really an entry level worker, and yet they may be unfamiliar with some core parts of product focused software development that an entry level worker is expected to learn. So one thing I want to establish is if they are familiar with processes like code reviews, bug tracking, and QA, and assuming they aren’t, if they are at least familiar with the concepts and are willing to learn them. Examples of generic “quick at picking up new processes” things will help a candidate here but also just a good attitude. If your lab has published anything you maintain for other people, that is a great thing here.

      Secondly, I tend to be more concerned about fit with an academic candidate. If they are coming from a research background, do they want to continue doing research and does that align with the open position at our company? This is very much a fit thing on both sides so I think it’s up to the candidate to show that they are looking for this change.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more specific but I hope someone finds this helpful!

    5. Moths*

      I have a PhD in molecular biology and have been working in industry since shortly after finishing my degree. I’ve also hired several people from academia. One thing that always stands out to me is more attitude than skills. We can teach skills, but we can’t make someone function well in an environment that isn’t a good fit for them.

      I look for people who are confident, but who also have a measure of humility and seem like they’re going to collaborate well with other teams. Often in academia, the collaborations really are just working in parallel with other researchers (each carry out their own part of a project), where I want someone who can do back and forth, giving and taking. I also look for people who recognize that industry is different than academia and can adapt and move from project to project quickly. Specifically, that won’t get caught up trying to get all of the data before they make a decision. Obviously, if hiring someone at the PhD level from academia, I want them to care about the data and analysis, but it’s easy to feel like you need all of the data to make a perfect decision, but that’s going to hold our projects up. I need someone who is comfortable making a “good enough” decision and who can recognize when we have enough data to do that. Finally, I want them to be confident in themselves and their skills and knowledge, but they need to recognize that what they think is best may not be the decision that’s made. My team will make recommendations based on the best and strongest scientific rationale, but Marketing, Finance, and our Regulatory teams have equally valid positions. If someone can’t understand that and feels that the *only* thing that matters is the science, we’re going to struggle with them as well.

      In an example: One of my coworkers was hiring for a position and the interviewee was combative and argumentative in a way that is often encouraged in academia when we were discussing a project. She thought a different approach to the project would be better than the one the hiring manager was suggesting and was very blunt about it. In our post-interview debrief, I pointed out that this person was likely going to struggle in a non-academic environment and I had concerns. The hiring manager decided to hire her anyways and we ended up having to let her go about two years later after she had burnt bridges with literally every team in the company and had butted heads with her manager severely. Last I heard, she’s been through a few different companies and has finally ended up at one where she essentially works as a consultant on a team of one.

      In summary, usually I look for someone who expresses sentiments like, “There are things I love about academia and there are things I’ll miss, but I’ve recognized that the things I enjoy the most are a better fit with industry. Bench research is interesting, but I want to be doing something where I’m more directly having a positive impact on people’s lives right now. And I’m excited to be working with other teams and learning about the business side of things too. Obviously, I am a scientist and care the most about the science of a product, but I recognize that we can’t sell that product if it isn’t financially feasible or there isn’t a market for it. I think of it kind of like a puzzle, where all of the teams have pieces, but we don’t know what the finished image is. Working together, we can make something bigger and better than any of us could have imagined with just the pieces we had.”

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes on the “combative and argumentative in a way that is often encouraged in academia” – we recently turned down a candidate (for a position that really needs to get filled) because he managed to argue with every single interviewer, and was upfront that he had no intention of changing his approach. (Honestly, after the pay this is one of my favorite things about industry.)

        The other big thing I’ve noticed about folks who have just come from academia to industry is their writing style. Too Many Words. I know (and have written) in an academic style and in the industry style and the big difference is that industry gets to the point quickly. I recently had to re-read a report by a former coworker that was written at the same time as he was finishing his dissertation and it was at least 60% longer than necessary just because of the academic style. It was nearly unreadable. So for things like cover letters, be ready willing and able to take a chainsaw to your writing.

        (The thing that folks coming from academic generally get over more quickly, in the lab-based sciences is the painful thriftiness that comes from lack of funding. The joy on people’s faces when I tell them they can have as many gloves and tubes as they want, not just the absolute bare minimum, is delightful.)

      2. sweeps*

        My org recently hosted a webinar on this very subject and this is essentially what all the industry panel said. Genuine curiosity, collaboration, willingness to adjust measures of a successful project.

    6. Santiago*

      University Compliance loves social scientists. They are good at processing grants / sifting through information / writing. You may need to find a pivot into the field, but once you get a toe in your golden. If there’s a policy office that’s a good place to start.

      1. Santiago*

        Double comment – compliance is also interesting work, because in the right environment, you feel like you are facilitating work (to happen in a legal fashion) and you get to learn about other people’s fields.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          Ooh, if you see this, can you say more about university compliance? I am thinking of getting out of academia and what you say sounds like a good fit for me but I haven’t heard the term before (I’m in Australia)

          1. Santiago*

            Sure! So I’m U.S. based, so you will need to translate it into the Australian context. But, that said, in University compliance is effectively an in house lawyer to the University’s processes, whereas the University council manages legal advice to the University on issues. Sometimes compliance lives under a sponsored projects / research unit, and sometimes it doesn’t.

            Normally things like Conflict of Interest / Conflict of Commitment, University Policy, Export Controls, Central Compliance, Privacy, sometimes IRB related stuff, Environmental Health and Safety are the offices that compose a compliance program. They work with the contracts the University receives, to complete the necessary documentation to protect the University (and researchers) during audits.

            University Policy works to make the University more transparent, and help people not say conflicting information. Technical writing is the functional skill there. Exports manages the legal components of activities such as international travel, teleworking, shipping, visa sponsorship, and research to protect the institution, and researchers, during audits. In that field, being able to read research grants to identify scope of work is helpful. Also, being able to classify objects based off their characteristics is important for shipping. Environmental Health and Safety benefits from anyone with a science background, and it makes sure that labs have the appropriate credentials (and physical safety) so that University is able to receive the grants that are processed.

            One thing I’ve noticed as well, is that at least in my program, they do hire from within re: University Compliance. So if the “lower” positions constantly shadow the higher positions, and perform less complex compliance work, and over time they can move into the higher fields. It’s also common for people to take courses or work on degrees while working in compliance. (There are also a lot of people with JDs, unsurprisingly.) As someone in the field, sometimes it feels like I do a lot of paperwork, but my hours are set and I do feel like I am helping people. However, it does come down to the fact that I believe the people I work with care about doing the right thing, not just being “lawyers” to the University, and so we get really clever when it comes to helping people do things that are “hard” to do through the legal system.

            Feel free to ask any follow up questions if you see this! Oftentimes, the ethics branches of Compliance will hold events in Universities (in the name of encouraging transparency), so you should see if your University has one, and if it has any events where you can learn about the field / meet people.

            1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

              Thank you! I think those functions are split across different units here – that sounds like either our policy unit or our Business Information & Assurance division. But it sounds very much like something I’d like to get into – I have always described my ideal job as “bureaucrat for the revolution” and this would be very like that (doing the things that make it possible for the people on the “front line” to do their jobs!)

    7. Ruth*

      Federal government agencies contract out A LOT of social science research. Some of the big shops are RTI International and Abt Associates, but there’s a lot of others including smaller firms. Especially if your sociology training includes any policy work, this could be a good path for you.

  7. Johnny Karate*

    I am currently trying to find a job in a different state. I know (think) that it’s a good idea to give some explanation in your cover letter of why you’re relocating, so employers take you seriously. However, the reason that I need to move is that I have a trans child and my current state isn’t going down a great path in that area. I don’t want to out my kid and I think it’s probably TMI anyway for a cover letter, so does anybody have ideas of what I could say instead? My career path isn’t one people relocate across the country for, so it’s going to look strange without a good reason, but I can’t afford to move without a job lined up.

    1. Observer*

      What you have are long term family commitments. No one wants the details, but that says you are serious and not a flake.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        This language was effective for me when I was moving across the country and not interested in sharing specific personal details with strangers. Most people don’t push, but on the one occasion an overly enthusiastic recruiter DID push (during a cold call, no less) I gave a dismissive, “Oh, I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m really looking forward to seeing [hilarious landmark] in person!” yuk yuk yuk, nobody pressed, interview moved on.

      2. Murfle*

        Yeah. Maybe something like “I’m moving to X to help support my family.” What kind of support, and which family members need it, can be left unsaid.

      3. Hillary*

        Yep. No need to go into details about what kind of family commitments. People will assume whatever reason is going on in their family – the need to take care of an aging parent, be closer to folks to help with childcare, whatever. It’s also a very good reason because it implies you’re in it for the long haul and you know what (living expenses, traffic, etc) look like.

    2. PivotPivot*

      Could you say that you are looking to relocate to a location that is more beneficial to your family? Or that you and your family is looking for a new start and think X location will give you the clean slate you are looking for.

      1. Frickityfrack*

        I would stay away from the new start/clean slate language – it kind of sounds like there’s something negative in the applicant’s personal life, and I would wonder if they were going to come with drama. Or like, legal issues. That’s not necessarily fair, but that’s often the context for that kind of phrasing.

    3. ChubbyBunny*

      I don’t think you need a reason, just “I’m planning to move to X city this winter.” Good luck!

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, if I heard that, to the extent I thought about it at all (which I probably wouldn’t), I’d assume either “spouse got a job in this area and moving to be with them” or “elderly parents or other vulnerable relatives in the area who need support.” Both of which are benign, uncontroversial and understandable. It’s absolutely true but doesn’t SEEM vague.

    4. Foods for thoughts*

      Can you maybe refer to liking the ideological climate of the state you want to move to?

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I would stay away from anything potentially political. You never know what the hiring manager thinks about the climate in that state vs. OP’s!

  8. Laughter Ban*

    I have a New Coworker who sits right next to me and is dealing with some mental health issues. One thing he is doing to address these is watching Tik Tok videos at work. I am not his supervisor (although I am senior and am training him) and have no reason to think he’s not getting his work done and his work is not impacting me in any way so I really don’t care if he’s doing that (and don’t think there’s a problem with it anyway); HOWEVER, he laughs out loud at least three times a day. It is very disruptive for me. He tries to stifle it which makes it even more disruptive to me. So, is there a way to ask him politely and kindly to not laugh so much or am I just being an old grump?

    1. Observer*

      I can’t imagine how you tell someone that they are not allowed to laugh without sounding very, very strange.

      1. Cyndi*

        Agreed, especially since he clearly already knows it’s an issue and is trying to control it. Sorry, Laughter Ban, this would drive me up the wall too.

    2. Everything Bagel*

      I don’t know how you can go about asking someone to not laugh at work without coming off as a grump. However, if this is something he’s doing because he’s wearing a headset and doesn’t realize his volume, you might be able to tell him, “Hey fellow coworker, I don’t know if you realize this but it is a bit jarring when it’s been very quiet for a while and you suddenly start laughing loudly and unexpectedly! Would you mind trying to dial that back a bit?” Saying this with a smile will probably go a long way.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Wow, I totally missed the part where your co-worker is already trying to stifle his laugh. But still, maybe you actually saying something to him about it will get him to be more mindful of it.

        1. Laughter Ban*

          Thanks for the suggestion. We are friendly so I might be able to pull it off. The stifling actually makes it more jarring for me for some reason. Like how whispering can be more distracting than someone just having a conversation at a normal volume. It really wouldn’t bother me if he guffawed a couple of times a day but this noise really startles me.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            Since it is the stifling that seems worse than the actual laughter, just mention it to him.

            I know that I tend to sneeze very loudly, and my stifling does make weird noises.

    3. WellRed*

      Would you find it disruptive if he was laughing for reasons other than TikTok? Maybe ignoring the TikTok aspect will help.

      1. Laughter Ban*

        I appreciate the thought and it probably doesn’t help that I know that but it was bothering me before. It’s just very jarring me and I will be physically startled when it happens. Maybe that’s just my own issue I need to address.

        1. Hydrangea*

          I have a strong startle reaction, so I have some sympathy for you. Laughing 3x a day isn’t very much, but being startled 3x a day is a lot. Actually, being startled once a day every day is a lot.

          I would kindly bring it up in a it’s-not-you-it’s-me sort of way. Say something like, “Fergus, I know how weird this is, but something about the way you laugh really triggers my startle reflex. I’m sorry to ask bc you aren’t doing anything wrong, but is there anyway you could be a little quieter?”

          1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            I love this framing – it’s not the laughing but the startle trigger that’s the problem

    4. Me ... Just Me*

      Three times a day isn’t a huge amount. I laugh out loud far more than that over the course of my day, usually when interacting with colleagues, but sometimes just while doing my job. I’ve got my own office, though. And maybe because I am a bit of a LOL kind of person, but I wouldn’t have any problems with my coworkers laughing.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        I thought that too. We used to laugh all the time at my old job.

        That said, it’s different when you’re laughing together, and it’s just one person across the room laughing loudly when you least expect it. It could be disruptive, especially if they laugh like Jerry Lewis.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I laugh out loud every time I receive an email about one particularly FUBAR project, because if I didn’t laugh I’d cry. Fortunately for my coworkers, I’m remote.

    5. chalk*

      Yeah, you can’t bring this up. I guess you could, in a friendly tone, ask “what’s so funny?” when it happens to make him realize you’re noticing it. But anything else, or bringing in any tone other than laughing along with him, will be seen as pretty weird, and making you a bigger problem than him.

    6. Maggie*

      Laughing 3x a day is very reasonable. That’s less than once every 2 hours. I’d kindly suggest earplugs, headphones, white noise app etc.

    7. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Laughing three times a day is hardly laughing at all. Laughing three times an hour would barely ping my annoyance radar. Get earplugs.

    8. Jovial Juno*

      Sometimes there is a way to ask an unreasonable question in a way that makes it sound reasonable! I don’t think this is one of those times, though.

      Laughing out loud three times a day is an extremely normal thing to do in a public setting. Your reaction to this needs recalibrating. Maybe you could look into some emotional self management techniques?

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

      I think you need to let this go, and find a way to not let the noise bother you (headphones, white noise machine, ) It doesn’t sound like it’s continual, just a few laughs. I wonder if the reason this bothers you is because it is a TikTok. If he was on a phone call and laughed because the other person said something really funny would that bother you?

  9. Cyndi*

    Hey, I’m new here but I’ve been reading back a lot, and I really appreciate the comment section being willing to bluntly dissect social skills issues. So here’s a social question: do people have any advice for making small talk about an extremely boring job?

    My job is mainly key-what-you-see numeric data entry and generating a string of daily reports about how much data entry we’ve done, with the occasional exciting foray into a report about whether the daily reports were on time. I’m happy with this—I’m a total work-to-live type and prefer having a job where I can turn off my brain and listen to a podcast or book. During normal small talk with someone new I’ll just go “oh haha my job is so boring, you don’t want to hear about that, trust me,” get a sympathetic laugh most times, and redirect to something more interesting.

    But I’ve been going to speed dating recently, and I can mostly roll with having the same conversation over and over, but something about droning “I do data entry for a business services company, how about you?” a few dozen times in a night really gets me down. I’m giving myself a Manchurian Candidate vibe in a way other bits of my speed-dating script don’t, and it’s certainly not charming or fun in the way you’d hope to be at a dating event! Can anyone suggest a better line?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Maybe watch some old episodes of Friends and take a cue from Chandler? He had a boring data-processing-ish job that the writers very cleverly never really explained. A dollop of humor about your job is something that’s completely normal for speed dating.

    2. Generic Name*

      I think you could say a version of what you said here. Something along the lines of “I’m more of a work to live person and my day job is data entry, which leaves me loads of time and energy to focus on X hobby/traveling/whatever”. The point of that type of small talk is sharing small, surficial details about yourself so the other person can get a sense of who you are.

      1. Actuarial Octagon*

        I agree with this. People ask this question because they want to know more about you so tell them you’re a work-to-live type and the folks that are a good match for you will get it.

      2. ursula*

        Agreed – I think saying what you like about it is (a) a full explanation and (b) actually tells the person something engaging about you! I’m a very careery person but if you told me, “I like it because it gives me good work-life balance, it doesn’t follow me home at the end of the day, and I get to listen to music or podcasts during the day,” I would think you were an interesting person who had your priorities straight and knew yourself well.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        The thing about small talk is that what the subject is doesn’t really matter; most people will accept (or even appreciate!) a redirect into a more interesting subject. If you have a handful of interesting subjects (hobby you’re passionate about, pets, etc), work definitely doesn’t need to be one of them.

        Or redirect to the other person and ask them what they’re passionate about; in my experience, most people find themselves to be a fascinating subject.

    3. Ranon*

      Something like “I do data entry and then generate data about that data, my job is just data all the way down, doesn’t make for good stories but gives me time for (hobby)- what about yours?” Own the boredom with a slight self deprecating manner, throw in something that is interesting, and move on?

      1. Annony*

        I like this. You can also focus on the fact that you can listen to podcasts and audiobooks. “I do data entry. The best part is that I can listen to podcasts while I work. Today I started (insert podcast here).” It redirects the conversation to something you actually like.

      2. IT Manager*

        Data all the way down.

        *snorts with laughter*

        Great answer, great advice. May swap “meetings” for “data” and steal this :-)

    4. seahorsesarecute*

      You could just say you’re a work to live type of person, so the data entry job is boring, but you can do it while listening to books and I just finished this great book about…. and talk about the book. The last part of that answer will always be different based on what the latest book or podcast is.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Sympathy. I tell people I work in occupational health and safety and their eyes glaze over.

      I try to do the vague and switch: “Oh, just your average desk job. It pays for my sword collecting hobby.”

    6. Parcae*

      How about “I do data entry for a business services company. It’s perfect for me because I can turn off my brain and basically get paid to listen to podcasts all day.”

      I have two basic rules for surviving small talk about things you don’t want to talk about: first, you have to give people *something*. If you’re evasive or curt, people get uncomfortable and might press. Second, whatever color you decide to add, give it a positive spin. “Ugh, my job is so boring” risks making people feel sorry for you, and then you have to field their sympathy about the thing when you really, really just want to move on.

    7. Volunteer Enforcer*

      I would say “I do numeric data entry as I’m a work to live person. I don’t want to bore you so moving on…”

    8. Miette*

      Is it possible to focus on the industry rather than the job itself? “Oh, I work in business services for Fortune 500 companies–boring stuff–how about you?”

      Alternatively: if you’re an aspiring artist of some kind, you could provide that detail “I’m an aspiring novelist, but my day job is data entry at Boredom Incorporated.”

    9. Jujyfruits*

      I agree with Generic Name. You could also mention a podcast or music you’ve recently listened to and then ask for a recommendation.

    10. ecnaseener*

      You have a couple good options just from what you wrote here! There’s the cheerful “data entry – it’s actually great, I get paid to poke at a keyboard while I listen to podcasts” and the joke about “mostly data entry, with the occasional exciting foray into data checking!”

    11. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would probably say something like, “Oh, my job isn’t particularly interesting–just data entry stuff. I do it for the paycheck, not the excitement! But it pays for my travel hobby: I just took the greatest road trip…” So basically explain that your job is kind of boring, but show that YOU aren’t, by describing something fun that you’re into. You can always give the other person the option to talk about THEIR work if it’s a big part of their life–or the opportunity to avoid talking about it if they’re in a similar position to you–by then saying something like, “so what do YOU do for work and fun?”

    12. RagingADHD*

      What you need is a conversational springboard. Asking about your job isn’t really about the job, it’s a proxy for finding out things about your lifestyle, temperament, and interests.

      So you want to give a perfunctory answer to the question and immediately segue into something interesting about your lifestyle, temperament or interests. Business services encompasses a lot of things. If it’s a huge company with a recognizable name, I’d mention it, or you could say you work for a company that does (one example of the services). Then pivot to the “live” portion of work-to-live.

      “Oh, I’m a cog in the wheel at NameCorp, but what I love about that situation is that it gives me plenty of opportunities to take time off and travel” or “supports me while I work on my novel” or whatever you want to talk about.

    13. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Can you use your reply to segue into hobby talk? Something like “I’m in data entry, which is exactly as boring as it sounds but covers my [triathlon fees/wig weaving supplies/high-end saffron habit]!”

    14. hot buttered anon*

      ‘Data! Data! Data! I cannot make bricks without clay’ (Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, 1892)

    15. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Does your company do anything interesting or publicly visible? This was always my technique at my boring data analyst job in a larger, more interesting company. I would say, “Oh, my job is boring analyst stuff, but I work for Company. They do this interesting thing you’ve probably heard of.”

    16. Joielle*

      I’d just go with “I do data entry for a business services company, I mostly enter data into a software program and then generate reports about it. It’s kind of boring but it pays the bills! How about you?”

      I think in speed dating, the most important thing is to quickly let people know that you HAVE a steady job with decent pay, and you have a relatively good attitude about it. Nobody wants to date someone who’s just going to complain about their dead-end job all the time (not saying you would do that!)

  10. Amber Rose*

    October is a write off. I know nobody is doing it on purpose, but all I asked for was two weeks clear (or as clear as possible) to finish my audit so I don’t have to spend my weekends doing it again, and that entire two week period is flush with meetings, orientations and other such stuff that can’t be put off.

    I technically have 25 days to finish but as we expand rapidly in size, so does the extent of my audit. I’ll be lucky to get the data gathering done in my usual one week.

    I’m so busy this month I feel like crying. I dunno how people survive industries with regular crunch times.

    1. Not my usual name*

      What would happen if you declined the meetings, orientations and such?

      I’m in a similar position at the moment, and anything that is not *priority task* is getting a no, and if I get pushback, my manager intervenes.

      There are literally two small things I’m doing next week which aren’t priority task, although they are part of my wider role. And I’m only doing those to meet press deadlines.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Nobody else knows how to do orientations or has any interest in learning, and the company policy I wrote to comply with our certification standards is that they have to be done on an employee’s first day. A bunch of the meetings are also mine. I run them. I don’t schedule them, necessarily, but I’m controller.

        Some of the other meetings I can maybe just tune in on Teams and work through them, but… I don’t know. I’m support for this huge software rollout. Design, permissions, security, flow. All of it needs my input.

        Which is why the core problem here is really that I have three disparate jobs and they don’t mesh well together sometimes.

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

          Could you go to your boss and explain I cannot do X amount of orientations AND Y amount of work to finish the audit? I either need more time for the audit (if that’s something that can be done), have someone help take over my part of the audit, or I need someone else to learn how to do these orientations so they do not all fall on me.

          It might be a good idea to also explain that if you were to suddenly get Ill or in the hospital there would be no one left to cover the orientations and that the company would not meet certification standards.

    2. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Regular crunch times are survivable ONLY if they ebb and flow. For every crunch time, there’s an off week where sometimes we don’t do much beyond “hey, there’s this webinar…” or “you know, maybe we could improve (software we use daily) like this….”.

      Hugs. I understand and have thrown down the “Nope. Cannot do.” already today via three declined meetings with a “Nope, impending deadline, unable to accommodate until XYZ.” in the reply.

        1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

          I cannot help you with this problem because I also routinely have people scheduling meetings over my meetings and blocked-out time. I’m at my wits end for how to deal with people doing it.

          Any suggestions from others?

          1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

            Following myself up:

            I did read recently that Meta (Facebook) now tracks focus time for their software engineers: average duration uninterrupted by meetings per day and per week. Engineering Managers are measured partially on this.

            What a great idea!

    3. Educator*

      I am in an industry with big crunch times and I hate that overwhelm feeling! Two things help me:

      First, with my supervisor’s blessing, I delegate and collaborate a lot! If I need to be focused on a particular task, then someone else who is in a slower period or who reports to me needs to go to the meetings and send me a summary, do other tasks that cannot be put off, etc. My motto becomes–I am going to start with the thing that only I can do.

      Second, I make sure some time is uninterrupted. I block off work time for crunch tasks on my calendar. When I can physically go somewhere other than my desk, like a spare conference room or home, I do.

  11. ThatGirl*

    In the continuing saga of “my company merged with/was taken over by a slightly larger company and is now public” … we all got word Tuesday that we’re expected back in the office 4 days a week (Mon-Thurs) with Friday as a WFH day “with manager approval.”

    Which is BS, honestly; we’re always going to have remote options for meetings because we’re split across multiple offices and cities. And they claim their “flexibility” is not going away, but the line was something like “so if you leave early, you can take work home with you!”

    I suspect this is going to drive a lot of people from my office/business unit out and it’s just… very frustrating.

      1. ThatGirl*

        That does apply to the corporate HQ as well, but yes, I agree – they don’t seem to care about employee retention.

        1. Honor Harrington*

          I think many of the Powers That Be are convinced what is happening now is a fluke. Remote work? Attrition? Lack of applicants? Insufficient employees? All a fluke. It will go back to “normal” as soon as the recession hits.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, instead of seeing it as a real shift in work.

            I also get the idea that our new leadership is very “butts in seats” which is yet another thing about the shifting corporate culture that I dislike. The whole email was rather condescending.

          2. JustaTech*

            Yup. Sadly it’s a thing in lots of industries and companies large and small. (And it’s nonsense.)

            I wish I could point out to my VP that every single time there’s a change in leadership or anything goes wrong/is weird his first response is to eliminate WFH and demand everyone be on-site every day (again). I’ve been here long enough to see this pattern maybe 4-5 times.

            And the joke’s on him because even if we were all on site (even the people who have been primarily WFH for years and years) only 11 of the 18 cubes and 5 of the 8 offices would have people in them due to the attrition he insists isn’t happening. Oh, and 3 of those people work a time-shifted schedule and so are in at 7 and leave by 3. (And that assumes that we’re all at our desks and not in in-person meetings or in the lab, two other things he insists he wants.)

    1. Dragon*

      Yes. Maybe they want the people who are willing to leave over WFH, to self-select out of the company.

  12. callmeheavenly*

    Is it reasonable to request that a new employee not play radio on speaker in an open office area. I think she has some anxiety issues so hate to deny any potential coping mechanism, but if I have to listen to Country’s Greatest Hits every day for the rest of ever, I’m going to put my face through the wall. Unfortunately the position is such that ear buds would be problematic too.

    1. Observer*

      I think it’s reasonable. Can neither you or your coworker use earbuds or headphones?

      This is one of the reasons I hate open offices so much.

    2. WellRed*

      I think it’s unreasonable of anyone to think it’s ok to play music in an office without headphones. I’m always surprised when it happens and have no qualms about asking them to use headphones or turn it down.

          1. NotARacoonKeeper*

            seconding – I love mine so much! I bought them for safer running, but I also bike commute and even occasionally drive with them. they’d be great for this!

              1. NotARaccoonKeeper*

                Wow, I’ve never heard of that happening! Do you think it’s from pressure, or the bone conduction, or something else? I’ve gotten very mild headaches from the pressure of my Aftershokx after a few hours, but no worse than headbands, or french braids, or tight sunglasses, or any of the other things that dare to touch my delicate head.

    3. londonedit*

      Totally reasonable – I’ve never worked anywhere where it would be allowed! When I worked for a really small company we’d occasionally put the radio or a playlist on when the bosses weren’t in, but that’s because everyone was in agreement about it, and we’d switch it off as soon as someone got a phone call or someone said they needed to put their head down and concentrate.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Was that in an office that wasn’t open to the public? I know that when the issue came up in my old job (same country) someone didn’t like the radio, did some research and found out that if the office was open to the public, as that one was, it needed a licence to have it playing. Once our manager was aware of this, goodbye radio.

        1. londonedit*

          No, it wasn’t open to the public. But you’re right, there could still be PRS issues in a lot of situations!

      2. JustaTech*

        The only places I’ve worked (aside from doing my time in holiday retail) where people played music out loud was in labs where we couldn’t wear headphones (for sterility reasons).
        That was an exercise in compromise finding, since in one lab we were trapped for 4-6 hours at a go, so you had to find the least-annoying-to-everyone radio station.

        In another lab folks played music out loud 1) so they wouldn’t be oblivious to other people in the space and 2) so their headphone cables wouldn’t catch on everything. The person who was in the lab the most played music off her phone and it was a lot of the same. One day I was in and playing my music so I asked my coworker if he was OK with music that had swearing in Spanish. “If it’s not Adele, I don’t care.” (The other playlist was all Adele and Amy Winehouse, and any music gets annoying after a few months.)

        I did have to tell another coworker that he couldn’t listen to business radio while I was training him (or ever, I made the ‘not ever’ pretty obvious).

    4. Toodie*

      Typically I use the big over-the-ear headphones, and while that might not work directly … could you ask her to play her music through headphones, which she wears dangling around her neck? There are times when I have to be listening to both in-person things and what’s on my headphones, and that works for me.

    5. Be Gneiss*

      If ear buds are a problem but listening to music is not, could the coworker wear open-ear bone conduction headphones? I like them in the office because I can hear what’s going on around me, but they are also great for things like running or walking outdoors, where not being able to hear your surroundings is a safety issue.
      The sound quality is at least decent for the wearer, and doesn’t “leak out” for others to hear.

    6. No Tribble At All*

      There are bone conducting headphones that don’t block your ears but still allow you to listen to music without disturbing anyone!

    7. Random Bystander*

      It is completely reasonable. I don’t know if “one bud in, one bud out” would work–that’s what I used to do in-office while listening to my podcasts/music, but also needing to make outgoing calls (I’d pause whatever I was listening to when the live person came on the line, but not for hold music). So I’d be listening to my stuff when working unless a situation came up where I needed to talk to someone (on the phone or face to face–I’m make a big point of turning off/pausing the device for a face-to-face, even drop the ‘in bud’) by having one ear free I was clearly paying some attention to what was going on around me.

    8. Well That's Fantastic*

      100% reasonable of an ask. Would a single earbud still be problematic? That’s the standard fix in my open-office layout so that people can hear the phone/other people as needed but still be able to listen to music while working.

    9. Mr. Shark*

      It’s absolutely unreasonable. It is a distraction to others in the office. Sometimes even music I normally enjoy is a distraction for me when I’m working. I had an officemate playing his radio at a very low volume, but that was even worse, because I could hear it, but couldn’t hear it. Either way, I just asked him to not play it, and he complied.

      Headphones are the way to go if they want to listen to music. I guess there are different situations that if everyone agrees to the music, that would be fine, and at a reasonable level so people can still get work done (I’m thinking in an auto shop, or doing something more manual labor I would be fine with music. But more technical jobs/mental jobs, it is a distraction).

    10. MigraineMonth*

      I think that you should talk to her and try to find something that works for both of you. Maybe that means playing it really quietly while you play some white noise, or bone-conduction headphones, or only listening on breaks when she can wear headphones/earbuds, or switching the type of music if that’s the core issue. You don’t need to figure out what her needs are in advance; just approach the issue with an open attitude of collaboration.

  13. Mid-career questions*

    How do you decide whether to pursue other opportunities if you haven’t been in your job long, or haven’t made enough impact yet? I’ve only been in mine a year and a half, and feel like I could build a lot, but most of our projects take 2-4 years to see through, and I feel like I’m still in the early stages of building a network of partners. So in theory, I’d like to stay put for at least another year or two. But a couple of interesting higher-level vacancies opened up in my large organization. I would like to make more money and advance in the longer term, which I can’t do without seeking other jobs, and you never know if/when there will be more opportunities. So how do you decide when to search and when to stay put?

    1. WellRed*

      I don’t see the upside in staying in your current role if you can advance at the company without doing so.

      1. Mid-career questions*

        Feeling like you’re making a difference where you are, mainly. I worry a little about “job-hopping” too much within an organization where people know each other and reputations matter, but I think generally people understand moving for promotions.

        I think moving could also involve a hit to work-life balance (negotiated a pretty fantastic flex schedule during covid that might not be possible in a new position). But it still wouldn’t require tons of overtime.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Job hopping doesn’t apply when you’re making internal moves that show a clear progression. I’ve done this many times at many companies, and I’ve not encountered reputational damage. If you’re interested in the job, follow your company’s internal protocols for transfers, and go for it.

    2. Volunteer Enforcer*

      If it would reflect badly on you to leave the program before that 2-4 years timeline, ask you boss about how to get promoted in future if you are overall happy with your job. If you have a good relationship with boss, also ask about applying for one of those promotions – if they consider you a viable candidate.

      1. Mid-career questions*

        The promotions are in our organization, but not in our office (and in a couple cases not even in our state), so my boss has nothing to do with hiring for them. Knowing how promotions in our organization work, it’s pretty clear (and he has said) that my only path “upward” within our office is if he or one of his peers leaves and I successfully compete for their job. Neither of those is a given, unfortunately. So it’s “apply now” or “hope more good stuff comes up in a few years.”

        1. Alternative Person*

          I think applying to one or two now would be a good idea. If you have to wait for your boss or one of his peers to leave to get a promotion at your local branch, you could be waiting a long while and you might end up having to look elsewhere anyways.

          Applying and interviewing at least gives you a chance to move up and even if you don’t get it, you can get an idea of what moving up in the organization will look like. Sometimes even just getting a little face time with some higher ups can be a long term positive.

    3. WheresMyPen*

      I had this situation. I started at my current company three years ago as an assistant, and after 6 months someone left who was doing a higher-up job that I wanted, but didn’t feel I’d get as I was so new. My manager subtly suggested I applied and I got the job. There’s nothing wrong with going for jobs, even if it’s just for the experience of interviewing or to see if you could be successful. If they don’t feel you’re ready yet, they won’t hire you. If they do, then no problem. I wouldn’t be doing it every six months, but worth having a go now if you think you could progress already. But otherwise, give it another year or two and then go for something higher up, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got a solid basis of skills and experience.

  14. my cat is prettier than me*

    Quick question about being exempt: What happens if I run out of sick time/PTO and need to take a day off? I’ve heard that if you work at all during a week they have to pay you your full salary, but that sounds too good to be true. Can someone explain this to me? Thanks!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It depends on your state laws and your company policies. The most common scenario is that they dock your future PTO.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        yep – my org allows salaried folk to go into the red up to 40 hours of PTO before it becomes a disciplinary action. I have no idea what they do if you go 40 hours in the red and still can’t come to work.

    2. Sotired*

      I never heard of that. I have heard if you are on salary, they cannot dock you for leaving early one day. But they can not pay you for not showing up for the entire day.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, Alison has a “what the hell is all this talk of exempt and non-exempt about?” (I will link in a follow-up comment) and that post says for exempt workers:

        There are some exceptions to this though; they can deduct for full-day absences when you’re out for personal reasons or sickness if they have paid sick leave and you’ve used it up. They cannot deduct for partial-day absences unless it’s your first week of work or your last week of work.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          I’ll also note that if you exceed the allotted days at any place I’ve worked, you run afoul of attendance policies and could be subject to disciplinary action.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Yes, that definitely is the case. When I was much younger and not very responsible, I ended up having too many “sick” days after particularly fun nights out, and it caused a lot of problems because it became a disciplinary issue for me. Normally companies are pretty understandable if something comes up causing an extra day or few days due to unforeseen circumstances, but repeated offenses could end up getting you fired.

    3. Disco Janet*

      At my work you would be docked pay for that day if you have no remaining sick days or PTO. I’m a salaried employee who technically works for the state (public school teacher).

    4. Anon for This*

      If it is a just a day, ask if they can flex the time. You are sick but out of PTO, so when you return you will work an extra hour on or two on [x days] that work for you. Or will volunteer for that Saturday project to make it up.

  15. L-squared*

    I sent this to Alison a while back, and I’m guessing at this point its not asking, so will post here.

    If you have been at a company that scaled back benefits, how have they done it? Like what is the least bad way lol.

    I feel as though recently, my company handled it horribly.

    For context, my company is still fairly small (less than 100 people). However, we aren’t struggling financially. Due to the nature of our business, the pandemic didn’t hurt us at all, and in a lot of ways we did better in subsequent years. We are still hiring a lot of new employees (many people would argue too many if I’m being honest). No layoffs or anything have happened. So, in general, while I don’t know all of the specifics, I don’t think we are struggling.

    I think its also important to note that the company started during a tech boom. So the pressure to have great benefits was probably a big deal to attract talent, and honestly was a big perk for me taking the job.

    Recently in a staff meeting, they announced a lot of changes. Essentially, a lot of items listed in our benefits package we were getting were being cut. The biggest example was a CUT to parental leave, which also included separating out leave for “birth parents” vs. non birthing parents. These days, I don’t see how they think that is a good idea at all, since it seems most companies are expanding leave policies. But a few other things as well, such as perks we got after different milestones. One of those things was cut altogether (think a cash bonus) after X number of years, and another, a paid sabbatical after Y number of years had the time cut in half.

    Early 2020 is when they started hiring at a much more rapid pace than before, and its clear that now a lot of those people are coming up on these milestones in the next year or 2, so they decided to cut the benefits. It almost seems like they created the benefits package and didn’t think about the future costs, and now that the bill is coming due, they are saying “just kidding”. And it just left a really bad taste in people’s mouth. They gave, what seemed to be, arbitrary cutoff dates for who was grandfathered into things and who was just losing it altogether. People just see it as really shady to promise certain things at hiring, then take them away as people are getting closer to using them.

    It seems to me that a better way would have been to say “this is the policy for any new hires after today, but everyone already here keeps what they were promised”, but I’m not sure. I’ve never had a situation like this, so I don’t know if this way is “normal”, or if its as bad as it seems to most of the employees.

    Thoughts?

    1. Generic Name*

      Frankly, these days, ANY cut to benefits is bad, no matter how they are framed. I agree that grandfathering people for the bonuses would be preferable to how they are currently handling it. It is shady to make promises during hiring and then claw them back later. It’s also short-sighted and shows a lack of foresight and planning. And it’s just a tad dishonest. As in they were willing to make big promises to get someone hired but then go back on that promise. Did they make the promise but never intended to follow through? If that’s the case, they’re basically lying to candidates. I’m guessing that’s not the case, but it does make one wonder.

    2. NotRealAnonforThis*

      One of the MANY (and there were many) reasons why I left OldJob was the institution of a change in PTO from “Vacation + Sick” to a single bucket PTO (and we all LOST a day FFS), as well as how the PTO accrued. The accrual didn’t impact me negatively, but I had five coworkers who were at the brink of the next tier of accrual wind up having it pushed back by three (!) years. Understandably, to a one, those coworkers left for other employers within a year’s time.

      I’ve had pay cut, I’ve had my healthcare costs jacked up, I’ve had my healthcare benefits cut, I’ve had all myriad ways of benefit cuts at previous small jobs prior to OldJob. They were never handled well. (Don’t announce the 10% gross pay cuts the DAY after the owner is showing off his brand new model year Cadillac Escalade. Don’t announce 5% austerity pay cuts and as the owner leave your personal W2 on the copy machine showing that you have over a million in income. As an owner, don’t cut our healthcare to the bone while announcing you’re having cosmetic surgery because you’re on your spouse’s insurance. )

    3. Snow Globe*

      There are two times I’ve seen something like this. First, back in the 90’s a lot of companies that previously offered pensions began eliminating that, often grandfathering in people who had a certain # years with the company. The company I worked for did increase their 401(k) match to (sort of) offset some of it.

      The other time I saw something like this, soon afterwards there was an announcement that the company was being acquired. Does this seem likely?

      The way they are doing it does seem problematic – if there are promises such as bonuses after X years that were made when people started, I’m not sure of the legality of just eliminating that.

      1. L-squared*

        The problem is they weren’t exactly cash bonuses. It was like if they offered an Amazon credit of $200 (that isn’t it, but its something like that).

        As for the company being acquired, I have no idea. Anything is possible I guess. Though with the amount of hiring they are doing, I’d think that is less likely though.

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

      I’ve never been in a place that had two sets of benefits; what a nightmare to administer and also a terrible morale killer that will severely undercut their ability to hire. But as for cutting benefits, usually I’ve seen it announced at the open enrollment time and taking affect on the date that a new benefits year starts — that could be a calendar year or fiscal year — so picking an arbitrary date is also odd.

    5. BookMom*

      I once found out the number of days of annual vacation time for employees in my tenure tier was being reduced when I was asked to proofread the memo that was going out to staff about it. I negotiated some “bonus/appreciation” PTO that actually got me back up to my original amount for that year, but I felt unappreciated and somewhat deceived, and left before I reached the next accrual tier. (That wasn’t the only factor, but it was a big one.) Our president seemed genuinely surprised I was upset.

      1. L-squared*

        Ha. I discussed this with one of the hhigher ups, and they too seemed surprised that I was upset.

        1. linger*

          I wonder if the cut-off date was set precisely so that no higher-ups were affected by the changes: none of them are upset, so why should anyone else be? /s

    6. Foley*

      I worked at one org that did this. So (exempt) people hired after – say 1/1/2010 – worked 8 hours instead of seven, accrued vacation at a different rate, and had a different 401k match. What happened is that new people had high turnover because the pay rate was the same (such that new people essentially earned less, had less vacation, and those who had those benefits lorded over the new people as if being hired later was a fault). But there wasn’t a retroactive removal of anything…. I think they’d have alienated the older workers – not to leave – but to work a lot less – like quiet quitting.

      1. Alternative Person*

        My company has done something similar (different country, different benefit rules), with some similar reactions from the staff. I wouldn’t call it quiet quitting though, more of a work to rule. Some corners of management just don’t understand why everyone is so ticked off about it.

  16. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I need advice in the midst of a grievance re my direct boss. Trust me that the grievance is legitimate. How do I cope with her in the lead-up to a resolution, and if my preferred resolution (changing bosses) doesn’t come through how can I move on in my relationship with her? I will definitely job search if my boss doesn’t change.

    1. Observer*

      I think it’s hard to answer without knowing what the issue is in a general sense. And whether your employer is reasonable. Like if the issue is that your boss is being illegally bigoted to you (at one extreme) it’s one thing. If it’s a legitimate situation, but very unusual and easy to see how someone would mishandle it (at the other extreme) that would be a different scenario.

      1. Volunteer Enforcer*

        The issue is interpersonal, but I am far from the first person to complain about her. So, basically she is very harsh in tone and content of critical feedback.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      I might think about it from a perspective of “I’m going to be as professional and reliable as I can possibly be, so anyone looking in from the outside will see a manager who has wronged a really great employee.” That might give me the patience I need to let things roll off my back for a while. And remind yourself that one way or another, your time with her as your boss is limited: either you’ll get a new boss at your current job, or you’ll get a new job. It’s not forever.

    3. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      Start job searching now so you feel like you have your exit route secured if you don’t get to change bosses.

      1. Not A Manager*

        I agree with this. The fact of job searching will make it easier for you to deal with her until you receive your official resolution.

    4. Alternative Person*

      Boundaries (+ related scripts) and cover your ass would be my starting point as short to medium term measures.

      That said, I’m not sure moving on will be possible unless your boss makes an active effort to change.

  17. Американка (Amerikanka)*

    I had a virtual interview for an internal university position and borrowed a loaner laptop from work to go somewhere private off site. Sadly, the video camera did not work on this laptop. Besides the camera mishap, the interview went well. Will this issue likely remove me from consideration?

    I am so disappointed that the issue happened and plan to buy a new laptop asap.

    1. Seal*

      It shouldn’t. Technology issues happen all the time, regardless of how well you plan and prepare. You were still able to do the interview and it sounds like you didn’t let the tech mishap throw you, so you’re fine. Hope you get the job!

    2. Observer*

      I have no idea what academic hiring is like, so I can’t speak to that aspect. But I would hope that no employer would seriously ding you because your video didn’t work.

      That said, given some of the comments I’ve seen – including here on AAM, it’s hard to say for sure that it wouldn’t be a problem. Hopefully you have a good enough reputation to outweigh that, if it’s an issue.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I wouldn’t expect that the lack of camera itself would be an issue, but it’s possible that the way you handled it might have given a poor impression. For example, if you got extremely flustered and had a hard time getting the interview going or it was an ongoing distraction, that could make it seem like you weren’t good at problem solving or coping with minor difficulties.

      You said the interview went well otherwise, so the video thing probably won’t matter.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would hope not. If someone said to me, “I’m sorry about the camera not working, I’m on a loaner laptop so I could get some privacy for the interview,” I would completely understand. It’s not as if someone said “Sorry about the camera not working. It’s like this sometimes!” with their own camera. If it’s your own equipment and you know it’s not reliable, that smacks of poor preparation. But you had a reasonable plan for the interview and it went awry due to no fault of yours.

    5. Miette*

      I wouldn’t think so. Tech mishaps happen, and the fact it was on in-house equipment should negate it entirely. Look at it as something to joke about later when you meet in-person: “Now you can see me for realsies!” or probably something better lol.

    6. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      Thank you for the replies everyone. Am hoping for the best.

      When the camera did not work, I voiced disappointment and told them that I had “dressed so nice” for them too! I did not tell them the laptop was a loaner and wish I had done that. Oh well…live and learn.

    7. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I have hired people twice in different circumstances when their cameras failed, don’t sweat it I think.

    8. Manders*

      I work at a university. We recently had a position open and had 2 candidates – one could not get the camera to work on her computer so it was audio-only, and the other one interviewed at lunchtime from her car, and had an awful eye infection. She apologized once for the way her eye looked, but otherwise didn’t dwell on it. Neither of those things were a factor in hiring AT ALL. They were both excellent, competitive candidates who were dealing with, you know, life. I think this would only be a problem if you were interviewing for a laptop-camera expert position :)

    9. Free Meerkats*

      Local government hiring here. We just went through something similar with a candidate; his microphone totally failed mid-interview. We did the, “No, still nothing” dance for a few minutes, then he called in by phone. That meant his voice and mouth weren’t in sync, so really distracting, but it didn’t change our decision. We’re currently going through the background check/reverence check for him.

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

      I doubt it, especially since its an internal postion. Especially if you told them that this was not your laptop and you borrowed it from IT. From my expericnce if there are known issues with items like laptop loaners people will be understanding, because everyone on campus knows that the laptops that IT loans out are crappy.

    11. NotARacoonKeeper*

      Higher ed manager here, and definitely not for our office!! We better than anyone know the fun of institutional IT support…I think you can put it out of your mind.

    12. Jessica*

      Higher ed here, and I wouldn’t hold this against you in the least. At worst it might cause me to schedule one more meeting if we thought you were our top pick but wanted to have a face to face. I wouldn’t dream of eliminating someone over a tech issue like this. And especially not now—I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but we are consistently getting smaller and worse applicant pools and struggling to hire. I can’t afford to discard people over trivial stuff (not that I would have anyway).

  18. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Ugh, while disobeying my doctors orders to quit my job ( I could take a pay cut but health insurance is a must in virus soup! ) I realized that I have no idea what my career goals even are. I like being helpful to society, but am bad at organization, stamina and health. I’m not good at math, I’m not a charming sales person. I’m really drawing a blank here. Have I had a job I was good at? No.

    1. OyHiOh*

      I am also neither good at math, nor a charming sales person.

      I am good at admin – organize, schedule, plan/execute meetings, clean data, answer general questions about the industry I work in. Humorously, my industry is full of charming salespeople – we essentially convince growing companies to stay in our market and/or encourage companies to move to our market – and it takes a bit of mental strength to remind myself that I was not hired to be a charming salesperson. I was hired to keep our projects on track, and keep the department head on track.

      I have ambitions in this industry, but I won’t follow the usual track from support to attraction, to project management, and then leadership. I will probably skip over at least the attraction role precisely because I’m not the charming salesperson that a business attraction specialist needs to be and go straight into project management.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I’m jealous!!! People think administration skills arent important and that they can just be crunched onto your job, but they can not.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      What are you good at? What are your interests? Have you a qualification in anything?

      As a teacher, I don’t think you’ve mentioned anything that would prevent you from succeeding in education roles – teacher or support worker/teaching assistant.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Hm… sometimes children who don’t speak will speak to me. But children don’t obey me so….

        Ah, by ” health” I mean minor viruses will knock me down. When I had covid I was real sick for two weeks.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I wouldn’t worry too much about the former as honestly, teachers have authority by virtue of their role – I am hardly a disciplinarian myself and weirdly, it works (I think they figure that they are getting their own way quite a bit, so worthwhile remaining on my good side) – but yeah, the health thing probably wouldn’t make it a great fit, as being around children = lots of viruses.

    3. Squidhead*

      There are a lot of heathcare-adjacent positions that don’t necessarily require healthcare experience? At my hospital, off the top of my head: Inventory management, food services, environmental services, administrative assistants for any number of internal and external departments, etc. Plus some clinical positions that require maybe a certification but not *tons* of training (outpatient lab, specimen receiving, patient care assistants, etc) Many of these use computer systems that keep things organized, though you’d need to be using the computer system correctly. I’m not sure what your background/education/salary expectations are, so I don’t know if these types of jobs are affordable for you? They tend to be at the low end of the hospital pay scale, despite being essential to our operations.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        There are a lot of hospitals here and my boss works at one part time. My talent is mental health, but I’m not detail oriented.

        1. Squidhead*

          Our behavioral health unit has patient care aides/safety watchers! As was asked above, what skills *are* you good at? And are you okay with taking a job that fills practical needs in your life (salary, insurance, hours, etc) if it is one or two steps removed from something you’re passionate about? Like, the behavioral health unit needs a secretary or needs to be cleaned or needs food trays delivered every day, even though that might not feel as fulfilling as directly talking with a patient. Or what about outpatient mental health or substance abuse/recovery settings? Maybe more direct client interaction, not sure what the training is like.

          Are there resources you can tap to improve some of your weak areas? Or mentally subdivide them instead of all-or-nothing…like, I would really struggle to organize building a table because I don’t even know what to do first, but I am very organized when it comes to doing our taxes. (Fortunately, my spouse is the exact opposite!) But I also know…because I taught myself how to do our taxes… that “being organized” is something that I can practice and gets better with practice. If I had to start building tables, the first time would be a disaster but the 2nd time would be better and the 10th would be better still. Some workplaces also have very specific procedures to follow (“start by cutting out the table top, and then put it face-down over here”), which can be helpful.

    4. Khatul Madame*

      Do you enjoy figuring things out? (analysis)
      Can you convey concepts and ideas? (communication)

    5. Coming to You Live from The Pit of Despair*

      If you have the money and are near a location, I would highly recommend Johns0n-O’Connor aptitude testing. I loathe my job and vehemently do not want to do the same work elsewhere but wasn’t sure what I pivot to. The testing is 7-8 hours long and goes over a wide range of skills, but nothing related to personality. I found the results very useful a) because I dig that sort of thing, and b) because it gives me a place to start when thinking about what sort of jobs to seek out. Also, as a person with terrible self-esteem, it was nice to have a third party say, ‘objectively, here are the things you are good at.’

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        That might be fun. I’m in the dumps about our broken job system but there’s nothing more fun than psychological testing. I only administer and haven’t done one for ages

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I found that when I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do, that temping was helpful. I experienced a bunch of different jobs in a short amount of time, and actually landed in something that was perfect for me. The temp agency helps assess your strengths and get you something that matches what you are capable of doing, and you get to try out different industries that can use your talents.

      2. No smart name ideas*

        I second the Johnson O’Conner aptitude testing—they’re a non-profit and have data going back 90+ years as to what jobs/careers specific aptitudes align with. I’ve recommended them to everyone from hs students figuring out what they should study/train for (go to college or not, and if so what to major in) to retirees (who are also looking for ways to lead a meaningful m ext 30 years)—including a number of potentially career-changers.

        Be a waste that the testing is over two days, and then it’s another half-day to get the results and ask questions . So it’s not a quick fix, but a great resource.

    6. Rekha3.14*

      I haven’t used it yet myself but I’ve heard good things about the O*Net interest profiler.

      Not sure what you’re looking for but many laboratories (genetics) or gamete donor agencies have customer services support, which is usually remote. Does require use of some technology, of course.

    7. Annoy mouse*

      may I recommend that you make a list of what you absolutely hate / are horrible at. Then make a list of what you *can* do. dont have to be the best, just passable. many jobs dont require you to be a superstar at one specifoc thing, but to be good enough at multiple things (organization + communication for example). some of those combinations can be rare but highly marketable. once you have that list, you can look into jobs which meet those skill combinations. dont sell yourself short, you can do this.

  19. soontoberetired*

    Yes that’s reasonable. So reasonable a lot of companies have specific rules saying you can only listen to radios or MP3 players or whatever else now available via head phones.

  20. Anon in space*

    I have been invited (with a select group of other people) to lunch to meet upper level managers (not c-suite) in a very large corporation. It would skip over the level of management I usually report to by 1-2 levels; I have never met any of the managers at lunch. Obviously, it’s to evaluate us for something, but there were no details given.

    My thought: These managers sometimes have people as special assistants (who know the technical side of the business) to handle their overflow work; and it’s a fast track launching pad position for lower management positions. Maybe it’s for that position, but again I have no idea.

    My question: what are they looking for during lunch? – ability to small talk? meet clients? click with one of the managers personally? be grilled about my background like an interview?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It’s impossible for us to know– so much depends on the invitation and what details were given to you. You can always ask if you need to prepare anything. Or go in expecting lunch and be prepared to talk about what you do, and be flexible.

    2. RagingADHD*

      How would the answer to your question change the way you behave at a work lunch with your skip-level boss?

      1. Anon in space*

        Because if they want feedback for processes, the ways things are done by a younger generation, that’s one thing.

        If they are interested in career paths, there are many available at the company but some involve a lot of change. (2-3 years at a remote site, changing countries, rotating among industries.)

    3. M_Lynn*

      It also might not be an evaluation or test or any kind? It could be that they don’t have clear connections with staff at your level, and that’s impacting their ability to make good decisions. It might be about building a relationship and creating a new line of communication, and learning more about what you do. Sometimes things can be taken at face value…

    4. Miette*

      Prepare like it’s an interview, i.e. remind yourself of your accomplishments so you can easily talk about them, do a little cramming on the company’s strategic direction (it can be easy to ignore that when you’re a worker bee), and be knowledgeable about recent product/corporate news/announcements.

    5. BellyButton*

      Often these are done to give employees visibility to leaders from around the organization. having relationships and visibility is beneficial. I would just go with the flow.

    6. FJ*

      My company did “skip-levels” intentionally for a while. It could be because they want want a wider range of feedback than they are normally getting. You could guess based on what you know of the other invitees (high performers, thoughtful, or special skills?). If it’s lunch, I’d start by assuming professional friendly discussion – have a few key project accomplishments, and a thoughtful professional way to give constructive criticism on one (just one!) thing. Like, how can these higher level managers make things better for you and or the team?

      I had a skip-level one on one once with a VP that I sorta knew and it turned out quite good and we keep in touch now still. So, could be positive.

    7. Nikki*

      I work for a Fortune 500 company and skip level lunches like this are pretty common. In our case, there’s no real agenda or long term plans being made. It really is just a casual lunch meeting. It gives upper management a chance to meet with the people doing the day to day work in the company to get a better understanding of what they do and what their challenges are, and it gives lower level people a chance to learn more about the broad direction of the company and to ask questions of upper management that they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to ask. If you haven’t been given any indication that there’s an agenda behind this lunch, I would just approach it as an opportunity to have a conversation. Think of some topics or questions you might want to ask but don’t create expectations in your head that might not pan out.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Yeah, my former nonprofit used to do quarterly lunches like this. All staff met with the bigwigs in rotation, so you ended up only going once a year.

    8. Hiring Mgr*

      Can’t you ask whoever invited you for some further details? With no other info it could very well just be a skip level mtg where they’re looking for feedback etc.. But nothing wrong with asking if you’re curious.

    9. I should really pick a name*

      Why do you feel it’s obvious that it’s to evaluate you?
      My first thought would be that they’re looking for feedback.

      1. Anon in space*

        They did not BCC the guest list, so I saw who else was invited (from my peers). There are some names in there that I know are being groomed with stretch tasks.

    10. Ginger Pet Lady*

      I don’t think it is “obviously to evaluate” you! It might be they want to learn more about what things look like at your level. It might mean They want to open a line of communication with you. It might be about evolving job duties or a change in organizational structure.
      And yes, it might be evaluating you for potential to move up in the organization.
      My advice would be to (at least try to) set aside your worries and assumptions and just go get to know them and see how it goes.

    11. talos*

      When I used to have these, it was often so that the exec would have more visibility about what the people in their organization were working on, worried about, needed fixed, etc.

    12. Girasol*

      Do you happen to know any of their admins? You can often ask a senior manager’s admin what it’s about so that you can come prepared, and they’ll give you an idea of the objective.

  21. Bluebonnet*

    I am on track to earn a MSed in Higher Education in May 2024.

    Is this degree applicable in other fields or only within higher education? If applicable in other fields, which fields?

    I am just hoping to know what options I have. Thanks!

    1. Velociraptor Attack*

      It’s a very, very specific degree. Are you looking at other fields? If you’re graduating in 2024, you’re probably not too far into it, would it make sense to re-assess?

    2. kbeers0su*

      It is very specific. As someone with the same degree, I decided to go back and get an MBA to get more broadly relevant skills. If you don’t KNOW for sure that you want to go into Higher Ed/Student Affairs and stay for an amount of time that balances the cost for the degree and opportunity cost of not doing something else…I’d honestly look for something else. The field as a whole is struggling right now (too much old-school, butts-in-seats management, combined with terrible pay and notoriously bad leadership). Because of that I know many positions have opened to Master’s preferred in order to get a decent candidate pool. It might be worth your time to look at job openings for the types of jobs you think you’d want post-Master’s and see if you can get one now. Then you can pause on the Master’s to see if you actually like the work before you put in the time on a degree that is very hard to explain to folks in any other field.

      1. JelloStapler*

        Open to Master’s but still paying very low.

        Consider a M. Ed in School Counseling, MSW, etc- they are more open.

    3. Glazed Donut*

      I think it COULD be — and given that you’re a ways out from graduation, I’d consider tailoring your coursework and/or projects to be a bit more broad, if you (1) have the ability and (2) cannot quit the program or switch to a different track.
      For example, if you complete some data projects and can learn SQL or Stata or whatever, that is transferable. If you take a class or two on management/business/etc, that can transfer. But if all your projects are very higher-ed focused, then you may be a little stuck.
      For what it’s worth, my master’s in education was very broad (teaching and learning) and I used my options to learn about literacy and dig into some more specific topics outside of instruction. I can use that research to apply to other educational and education-adjacent settings.

    4. OtterB*

      It would possibly be applicable in my organization, which I describe as a higher ed-adjacent nonprofit. We do various programs, workshops, etc., for academic audiences. Somebody mentioned stats and data training; that would make you a good fit for some of our positions. So would some training in program evaluation. If you don’t want data/research, we have people who essentially do events management, running the logistics of workshops while volunteers from the field manage the content. That’s much more people-oriented.

  22. Bippity Boppity Bummer*

    For those of you in in-office/hybrid situations, how are you handling Covid now? I’ve been informed after returning from a long leave that I’ll likely need to be coming in a few times a month, but the office is open plan, people sit fairly close to one another, and no one appears to be masking :(. Covid’s still very much a thing where I am, though my bosses have happily declared it over (indeed, I am looking elsewhere, sadly to no avail so far), and I’m stressing over the comments people will definitely make when I show up in a mask. Thoughts?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      The bivalent booster is available at most pharmacies now. It made me pretty confident about being around people. I still mask at work most the time though (yay flu season). I live North but no ones said anything re masking – most know I have elderly relatives I’m worried about exposing anyway.

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      Hi. At the beginning of Covid, I was a nursing home inspector. Things were bad. I know this was in the news, but people seem to have moved in from that horror. If it helps you to have a response planned in case someone does comment on your mask, you can say something along the lines of “My friend was a nursing home inspector when this all broke out. She has some horror stories. In light of those, I really don’t mind wearing a mask while this is still floating around.” We are now internet friends. And fwiw, I live in a very anti-mask area and nobody has ever commented on me continuing to mask while I’m out and about. Best of luck in your job search!

      1. Bippity Boppity Bummer*

        Always thrilled for a new internet friend, thank you so much! I am sorry for what you witnessed, can’t imagine how difficult that job was/still is.

    3. Rara Avis*

      I’m a teacher, so we’ve been in person for a long time with a lot of contact with a lot of people. Masking has been optional since last April; about half still do. We stopped weekly Covid testing at the end of the last year. Our Covid rates have been very very low this fall. I wear a mask when I am inside with a group. (i.e. not while walking down the hall, but in my classroom or a meeting) Wear your mask; maybe try to shut down comments with, “This works for me.”

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m in the office 2 days a week. I don’t wear a mask, and nobody I work with does. If you would feel more comfortable wearing a mask, wear a mask and ignore the snark.

      1. Ginger Pet Lady*

        This isn’t about “feeling comfortable” it’s about disease transmission. And every person who doesn’t mask increases the risk to everyone else.
        I am SO SICK of this “if YOU feel more comfortable, you wear a mask” because of the always unspoken but VERY real “I’m not going to do anything to reduce the risk for anyone else, even if they’re high risk!” that goes with it.
        It’s selfish.

    5. Hlao-roo*

      I’m in the office almost every day. Masks have been optional at my workplace since March 2022, and very few people still wear a mask. Maybe around 5% of people. I have not heard any snark related to anyone’s choice to mask/not mask at my workplace.

    6. RagingADHD*

      “It’s for my personal risk level.” Immediate subject change.

      At this point, people shouldn’t be commenting on someone’s choice to wear a mask any more than they’d comment on their choice to wear a watch. It doesn’t hurt them and it’s none of their business.

    7. Bippity Boppity Bummer*

      Thank you all for the comments! I’m also dealing with a workplace that doesn’t really know how to handle pumping in-office, so I’m trying to navigate that and keep my little one at home safe and fed. At least I’ll feel confident masking, even if I am the only one doing it.

      1. JustaTech*

        Well right there you’ve got the perfect explanation if anyone gives you a hard time about masking; “I’m protecting my baby”. (Anyone who argues with that is just clearly a butt and should be ignored.)

        I’m about 30 weeks and masking (most of my coworkers stopped masking a few months ago) and no one bats an eye. We have an open office but not very many people on site so there’s plenty of space (and good air exchange).
        I also got my bivalent booster (and I know that all of my coworkers have at least had their original vaccine series), and our immediate management is very in favor of WFH if you’re not feeling great/worried you had an exposure.

        A few months back we had a bunch of people come up for a week of intensive close-quarters work. Of the group four of us masked and the rest didn’t. Turns out several people got COVID that week or the next, but they all seemed to have gotten it outside of work (at home or while traveling) and no one who masked got sick, so that’s made me feel a lot better about the efficacy of masking.

        I hope your pumping goes well!

    8. Ins mom*

      So far I have manages to stifle the urge to reply “ Bite me, B$@?h” when questioned about my wish to mask. To my cautious friends, I say I wish I thought they ( who believe Covid is over) were right. And when I wear the mask I tell them it’s not you, it’s me meaning I’m concerned for myself… even if it’s a lie

    9. ThatGirl*

      My office is open and we were just told we all need to come back 4 days a week, and they definitely cited “vaccines and public health measures have made things better” (which is kinda funny, sanitizing surfaces really has no effect). But regardless I still see people in masks, and nobody blinks at them.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Improved ventilation is also a public health measure, and like masks, useful against other respiratory viruses as well as covid. But if they were thinking of that specifically, I would expect them to say that they think it’s safe to come back in four days a week, because of vaccines and the improvements to the building ventilation.

        1. ThatGirl*

          No, they referenced …. let me see.

          “The severity of the COVID virus has subsided throughout the world due to availability of successful vaccines, better hygiene practices and less severity of the variants.” And then they referenced hand sanitizing stations later.

          So no, ventilation was not part of the consideration.

          1. allathian*

            But they’re right, the current variants are a lot more infectious than the original ones, but if you’ve been vaccinated, they’re less severe in the sense that the number of patients in hospital and ICU with Covid have been going down, in spite of a larger number of cases. At the very least in an area where vaccine coverage is above 80 percent. In my health district, there are currently 3 people in ICU (pop. 1.5 million) with Covid, before vaccinations were introduced, that number was something like 300.

            I wear a mask when I suspect I’ve been exposed, like two weeks ago when our son was sick with Covid. I got it a few days afterwards, and was possibly infectious at an in-person meeting at the office, but since my home test that morning was negative and I wasn’t showing any symptoms, I had no option but to go in. I got diagnosed a week ago (Friday) and returned to WFH on Wednesday this week. I’m more or less recovered now, although I find that I still have to rest after folding a load of laundry or filling and emptying the dishwasher. But I’ve been far sicker with the flu, even when vaccinated against it, and with tonsillitis.

    10. Bucky Barnes*

      I still wear a mask all day and am about the only person on my floor who does. It sometimes feels weird being the only one but at this point, I don’t care what people think of it. We are somewhat spaced out with some in a hybrid setup and some in all the time. I was in office through the whole pandemic until this summer when I asked for a hybrid schedule.

    11. Four of ten*

      I have sometimes worn a mask when others don’t. If I feel the need to justify it-which I usually don’t- I say I walk regularly with a friend who is immunocompromised and want to limit risk. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me about it, though.

    12. El Camino*

      I go in once a week currently, and I’m one of the few still wearing a mask both in the office and on the train. But I don’t care and no one’s said anything to me, fortunately. Just got my COVID booster and flu shot too. I’m in a cubicle and take the mask off when I’m sitting there but don’t have anyone at the desks immediately next to me so I’m more comfortable doing that (still having all virtual meetings, which is another rant for another day). I know the whole thing is not easy to navigate though – hang in there and good luck in the job search! Do what makes you feel more at ease in the interim.

    13. something about sharks*

      I’m still masking in all indoor public spaces, work/bus/stores included, in a fairly anti-mask area. I actually don’t get many comments, but I usually respond with a jokey brush-off – “hey, these masks were expensive, I’m getting my money’s worth!”, “I can’t tell if I’ve got a cold or allergies, but I’m pretty sure nobody wants me sharing!”, or even “yeah, I know, but the AC’s right over my desk and my nose is freezing”. A cheerful upbeat tone and dodging the Covid question entirely seems to work really well on people who might otherwise want to argue about it, and people who see me regularly get used to it.

      1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        Same as Something About Sharks, here, for another data point. Still masking whenever sharing enclosed spaces with anyone whose health status I don’t know.

        Family and friends have actually given me more pushback than coworkers and the general public. Some of them seem to feel uncomfortable with the idea that it’s possible to endanger people even if you you care about them, and take out their discomfort on the masks/mask-wearers.

    14. just another queer reader*

      My work is in-person with a cube farm layout. I’m pretty much the only one who wears a mask. Fortunately nobody has commented in a negative way; if it ever comes up I just cheerfully say “masks aren’t required but I prefer to!” or “I just don’t have time to get sick!” or “I have high risk family members so I’m being extra careful.” People don’t seem to really care, honestly!

      Best of luck!

    15. Disco Janet*

      I work at a high school that’s been back to fill time in person since September of 2021 and had masks optional since March of 2022, and the comments about some people choosing to still wear a mask stopped pretty quickly – even amongst the teens. People adjust.

      Being back in person, and others not wearing masks, stops feeling scary faster than you would think. Is that a good thing? I don’t know – yes and no, I suppose. I have my updated booster, and literally just 3 days ago is the first time someone in my house ended up with Covid – and it’s my son who isn’t eligible for the new booster yet due to age (he’s quarantined to his room, but literally his only symptom is a cough). I was someone who was very scared to go back in person, and to have the mask requirement dropped, but realistically, Covid is moving more and more towards being like a cold or the flu. Yes, people die from those too, and that’s awful, and I am mindful of the high risk people in my life and in my classroom – but the attitude I see in some of the comments here, where people have the same attitudes and 24/7 expected protocols they did pre-vaccine just seems unrealistic. Your brain can’t be in crisis/emergency mode forever.

      1. jane*

        Ha, tell that to my brain! ;) Nah but I don’t see wearing a mask as “crisis mode”! It’s a sensible and effective precaution that’s very easy and simple to maintain so it seems pretty calm and reasonable to me

        “Being back in person, and others not wearing masks, stops feeling scary faster than you would think“
        I’m happy that’s your experience, but that hasn’t been mine. I’ve worked, traveled, seen movies, shows, and dined in and I still haven’t gotten used to nobody wearing masks

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I don’t think maintaining precautions like continuing to mask, social distancing, ensuring adequate ventilation has anything to do with being in crisis/emergency mode. I see those as on a par with not drinking if one is going to be driving, wearing a seatbelt, etc.

        And the way people compare it to “a cold or the flu.” Those are very different things. The flu is a serious illness and I actually worked in one school where students used to stay home sick when they weren’t during those couple of weeks each year when the flu is spreading, in order to avoid it. That is a greater level of precaution than masking, etc, and this was apparently a yearly thing in the school – it was assumed there would be higher absenteeism those weeks even among people who were not sick. And while that was extreme, it is very normal in general, for people to be extra careful about their health when there is a flu around (and heck, in the days before international media, EVERY year, our news used to report “there is no flu in Ireland; it has not arrived here yet” until it had passed, to stop people panicking; it was a source of mirth, that there would be reports of how there were no cases of flu in Ireland when there might be 7 or 8 people out sick in a class of 30), so yeah, I think the level of concern about covid at the moment is lower than what you often see with regard to the flu.

        My point is that one does not have to be in crisis mode to take reasonable care. In fact, I would see those as opposites. I very much suspect that some of the people rushing back to “normal” are doing so BECAUSE they are really scared of covid and want to pretend it’s over now and is no longer a threat to them. If one isn’t worried about, then what is the harm in making small adjustments like ensuring adequate ventilation and masking in busy environments. There are no disadvantages to some of these things (unless reminders of covid worry the person, which is understandable) and avoiding covid is not the only advantage. It also helps prevent things like the flu and may also be helpful against pollution. I suspect some of those in crisis mode are among those wanting to remove all precautions because covid scared them so much that they want to pretend it is now gone completely. If one is relaxed about it, then hey, wearing masks are no big deal. Working from home is a nice benefit.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Thank you. There’s no way I can will my body to recover as quickly as required so anyone who helps reduce disease is thanked by me. And remember- many people have illnesses that are made worse by infectious disease. A reduction of disease makes it possible for them to participate in society

      3. M.*

        I feel exactly the same way. I mentioned below, but now that my husband and I caught it, I’m just not scared of it in the same way I was before. And mine lasted for nearly a month, so I really got walloped. I think you can be unafraid of it now while still wanting to make sure others who are more vulnerable are safe and protected, and I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. If I know I will be around someone who is immunocompromised, I’ll wear a mask around them, keep my distance, etc. If I know someone is still extremely anxious by it and would prefer I wear a mask, I’m totally fine with that too.

        At some point, though, unless you are immunocompromised, you have to trust the science–vaccines, boosters, antivirals, and other treatments. But if my colleagues still want to wear masks, I certainly don’t begrudge them that. I’ve been there, and I totally get it.

        1. tessa*

          Aren’t you concerned about long- Covid?

          I trust the science and the vaccines, and appreciate folks like you who still mask up, but scientific inquiry is still collecting long-Covid data, which is exactly why I fear we are normalizing too soon.

    16. M.*

      We’re required to come in at least twice a week, and most colleagues don’t come in more than that. My husband and I both had COVID last month, so I don’t really consider it a major risk anymore and no longer wear a mask (but will if I know I’ll be around someone who’s particularly nervous about it). There are still people who wear masks in the office, and—to my knowledge—they don’t receive any pushback or anything. I would find that incredibly inappropriate if they did.

      1. M.*

        I would add that, once I get into the building, there’s very little face-to-face time with other colleagues throughout the day. If I were constantly meeting with people or working in big groups, that might change how I approach it.

    17. atexit8*

      Not in an office. I work in retail.
      I wear a mask in the store although most employees and customers aren’t wearing masks.
      Fortunately, I am not near anyone for long periods of time.
      I will be getting the bivalent booster on Monday.

    18. 22five*

      I’m facing a similar situation and am working on an extension of WFH via an ADA accommodation, but it’s a rough road, because my doctor believes he cannot “tell my employer where the work can be performed,” but that’s an issue for another thread…

      More importantly, the pandemic is far from over and every SarsCov2 infection is a roll of the dice – death and/or disability is on the table, even if vaccinated/boosted and even if you’ve already been infected one or more times. With SarsCov2, herd immunity is a fantasy, and will never exist.

      This article is a great overview of where we (worldwide) are wrt the pandemic: https://fortune.com/2022/10/06/strokes-heart-attacks-sudden-death-america-long-term-risks-catching-covid-carolyn-barber/

      Protect yourself, your family and friends. SarsCov2 is vascular and as such is not comparable to a flu or common cold.

      1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        I was just thinking about posting this article in this thread! I’ve been following the person who tweets articles about sudden post-COVID clot-related deaths (linked near the top of the article) for a while, and am glad to see this receiving media coverage. It’s so hard not to slip into the ‘well everyone else is treating this like it’s over!’ mindset, but pretty healthy young people are dropping dead every day.

        Also in my twitter feed today was a scientific analysis suggested that COVID will be a pandemic for 7 years, and another one confirming that based on its known evolutionary characteristics, it will never become endemic.

        I used to be fun at parties.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          Yes – what I’m taking precautions against is not the Covid bit but the exponentially increasing risk of Long Covid, strokes, rhabdo, Alzheimers, etc….

          I’m actually glad to hear it’s only going to be 7 years. Is that 7 years total or 7 more years from now?

    19. TiredCatMom*

      Hi,

      I’m invisibly disabled, and this has already come up for me at New Job. I usually say I’m more comfortable masking and I have high risk family members. Unless I cannot rapidly put one on, or the windows are open, mask on. I have resorted to eating in my car on a field site. I am also not the only one doing this, but if I was, “honestly I just prefer it” and “nah” or not replying makes people stop asking. New Job is pretty good about respecting boundaries.

      My disability is only relevant when I get sick, really — I get fatigued easily and it gets much worse when I’m sick. It makes for long recoveries and me being irritable, lol.

    20. Gatomon*

      Management has no plan, as far as I can tell. We already have people getting sick right now from just swinging by someone’s desk for 10 minutes. I don’t know if it’s actually covid being passed or just a cold, but I personally don’t want to find out.

      I wrote in the open thread a few weeks ago about my boss scheduling a meeting about “changes,” and it was exactly what I feared – we would have to start coming in 1-2 days a week. I pushed back as I thought the justification presented was very weak, but I was pretty alarmed to hear that there’s no real mitigation plan to prevent in-office spread or contingency plan if we do have an outbreak and that management hasn’t really considered this despite it actually happening to us in 2020. Masking is long since over here and honestly, I don’t want to wear a mask for 8 hours in the office when our team has worked successfully for over two years now fully remote. We have low vaccine uptake and abysmal booster uptake locally so while I’m freshly boosted, I doubt we’ve got enough herd immunity in the office to make this work if covid spikes this winter. And I don’t want my health to be part of the test.

      I’m willing to try 1-2 days a week in case my assumptions about the spread of covid in the building are wrong, but I’m also going to do a light job hunt because remote work has been much better for my physical and mental health, covid aside. My hope would be to start seriously job hunting in the spring if hybrid sticks and I don’t feel it works for me. This year has been so awful that I was honestly hoping for a quiet winter to destress but… alas.

  23. Pam Coleman*

    I called Lowes home improvement store this morning, asking to speak to Mr. X, the specialist in a particular area (let’s say, bathtubs). He was not available, so I asked what hours he works tomorrow, Saturday. I was told that they can’t tell me, because it’s a violation of HIPAA. How is this related to HIPAA?
    I have the person’s business card, because I went to the store on Sunday, and was not able to get the help I needed because he was not working that day.

    1. Annoy mouse*

      it’s not a violation of HIPPA, but it does invade the employees privacy. imagine if a worker had a stalker who used a trick like that to get information about the employee. the person answering the phones was right to not share that info, though the reason was incorrect.
      maybe ask to speak with a manager to set up an appointment ?

      1. introverted af*

        Yeah, not HIPAA. But also, if it was me, I definitely wouldn’t tell you either. It’s especially the “what hours do they work?” question that would set off alarm bells for me. I would try a more open-ended, generic question like, “when can I meet with them to discuss bathtubs?” and possibly additional details like, “my project is complicated because of the plumbing in my house, and they were really helpful last time so I’d like to keep working with Mr. X.”

    2. Bronze Betty*

      Hmmm. HIPAA stands for The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. I also fail to understand how sharing a person’s working hours violates it, even if that person’s health status dictates their working hours (say, reduced hours or the like).

    3. Bogey*

      Of course that is nonsense. If he has a health issue that prevents him from eing there regularly that might be confusing them.

    4. Educator*

      It is not. You only need to keep information confidential under HIPAA if you are a healthcare provider, a health plan, or a healthcare clearinghouse. Unless Lowe’s has diversified in a way I am not aware of, the person you spoke to was wrong to reference an irrelevant law rather than an internal policy. But I can understand why people might now want their work schedule broadcast. You could have been his stalker, been trying to plan when to rob his house, etc. I would just ask that he call you to schedule a time to come in.

      1. azulita*

        This is misleading.
        You are correct that providing the availability of a subject matter expert whose services are specifically advertised at any company is absolutely not covered by HIPAA.

        You are incorrect about the specifics of HIPAA coverage as it engages ALL businesses for the specific criteria quoted below:

        Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

        under covered entities:

        Business associates: A person or organization (other than a member of a covered entity’s workforce) using or disclosing individually identifiable health information to perform or provide functions, activities, or services for a covered entity.These functions, activities, or services include:
        – Claims processing
        – Data analysis
        – Utilization review
        – Billing
        (From: https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html#:~:text=The%20Health%20Insurance%20Portability%20and,the%20patient's%20consent%20or%20knowledge.)

    5. CheeryO*

      We never gave employee scheduling information over the phone when I worked in food service. I imagine retail is similar.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t see how it could be related to HIPAA, but I suspect that they don’t want to provide that information and that’s the first excuse they could come up with (though saying “we don’t provide that information” would be perfectly reasonable)

    7. Disco Janet*

      I don’t think the terminology matters much – yes, they used the wrong term, but it is still a privacy concern. As a former retail employee who had a stalker, I am grateful that most places have a general policy of not giving out employees schedules. If I was working with customers who needed to come back later for further assistance, I’d give them a general idea of when I work, or tell them they can always call the store before coming in to ask if I’m available. Retail schedules can be super inconsistent/change regularly.

    8. Girasol*

      Perhaps if you worded the request as “When would be a good time to call back so that I can talk to him?” instead of “What hours does he work?” it would go over better.

    9. Not A Manager*

      I’m pretty sure whoever you spoke to isn’t an expert in health care law. They wanted to protect the employee’s privacy – either on their own initiative or based on company policy – and they used a term that is frequently associated with information (non)disclosure.

    10. WellRed*

      We should have a thread some about all the inappropriate applications of HIPAA we’ve come across

    11. Policy Wonk*

      HIPAA was probably their way of saying they have privacy concerns. If you want to speak to Mr. X, rather than ask what hours he works, tell them you met him on whatever day it was, got his card, want to make an appointment. See if they will schedule one. Good luck.

  24. fantasy costco bargain hunter*

    any advice for how to handle finding out i’m underpaid? i just found out someone with a fraction of my experience is making a few thousand more than me and has been since they started. i was under the impression i was at the top of the range for the job so this was a bit of a surprise! i don’t begrudge anyone their own salary, and i am looking, but i have a pretty niche job so it’s likely going to be a long search and i would at least like to get up to parity in my next review before our percentage based salary increases put us any farther apart. we have the same education and i have had zero indication anyone is unhappy with my work. i’m trying to figure out the best way to address this without being brushed off but i’m so frustrated i’m not even sure how to start!

    1. Hillary*

      Step one is discharge the frustration and other emotions. It absolutely sucks and you’re right to be angry. Wallow in it until you can talk about it without getting angry.

      Assume positive intent. Offers are often constructed without regard to current pay, and companies often forget they need to do parity raises when they’re making offers, especially for small teams/areas. Plan a conversation with your manager (if they’re decent). Role play it with someone you trust. You learned (other person) is paid more, and of course the company wants to ensure pay parity. Paying differently for the same work is wrong, even more so if you’re a woman or POC and they’re a white dude. If they’re a US federal contractor they’re violating the law.

      Have the initial conversation in person if possible, then send a follow up email documenting what you said and what they said.

      If your manager isn’t great, is your HR rep ok? Or someone else in HR? Or is there another leader you trust to help? I work for a large company that has an entire department for compensation. A complaint to our ethics line would end up with them, but it would also put the manager/VP on the defensive.

    2. Rekha3.14*

      I did this a year ago, using lots of info from this site and making a plan. I didn’t reference the other team members, but the general salary range published for my position and experience (and had points to support how valuable I am – which I didn’t even need, ultimately), and asked for a salary adjustment (not a raise) to bring me to parity. I work for a large org that has a team that looks into that sort of thing, and it was shown that I was under- compensated. It wasn’t a raise and therefore does not affect any other raise or considerations at review time. Maybe that will work for you. Good luck!

  25. Emotionally invested OP*

    I’m the OP of the letter that re-ran earlier this week, “how do I get less emotionally invested in my work?” I saw some comments about wanting an update (that was 5 years ago) so here it is.

    I was not doing well. I’m in my early 30s now, I spent a lot of my 20s in terrible mental and physical health. It was a vicious cycle of taking terrible care of myself, feeling horrible, and fixating on trying to “fix” things that either weren’t real problems or weren’t within my control. It was terribly unhealthy and unproductive. I look back on that period of my life and cringe.

    I got fired from that job for basically the behavior you’d predict based on the letter. It wasn’t a great place to work but in retrospect it wouldn’t have been easy for most people to work with me. I also got obsessive about various things where I felt I had to be perfect. Basically, anxiety that came from broader issues in my life made it impossible for me to be effective at work.

    I’m doing a lot better in a lot of ways but it took having my health get so bad I couldn’t work at all, having to sort of rebuild everything and rethink everything in my life, for that to happen. I’m actually pretty happy with where I’m at right now in most ways, all things considered. It’s really hard for me to look back on that era of my life without cringing. I think Alison’s advice was very good, and it also was really hard for me to read, both the first time around and in the reprint. It was kind and compassionate, and the first time I was not ready to have my worldview challenged, and the second time I was just so ashamed of how I used to act. I’m not responding more concretely to it because it’s still too hard to think about.

    The one thing I can call out as generally useful without going into my personal history is that the way people on social media talk about work can be toxic as hell, and in particular can encourage people to take things overly personally, or act rude and entitled in the name of “asserting yourself.” In my case it was SJ-leaning tech Twitter and women in tech spaces—no, not every instance of professional self-doubt is “impostor syndrome,” especially when you’re new in the field, and not every instance of not getting along with your coworkers is because they’re sexist. But I see this all over the Internet, people being told “you don’t need to give two weeks notice, that’s for bootlickers” or that being asked to be polite to their coworkers is “unpaid emotional labor” or whatever. I don’t use TikTok or Instagram (or Twitter anymore either) but when bits of content filter down from those places to wherever I am hanging out online, I see this sort of thinking pretty often.

    It ends up being a really exhausting and damaging way to move through the world, even when some of the core ideas may have merit in some contexts. It’s not the whole reason for my terrible approach to work, but it was definitely something for my anxious brain to latch onto and obsess over.

    I’m now a couple months into a contract gig after taking nearly a year away to focus on my health. I’m working on finding that balance between wanting to do good work, get along with my coworkers, and not be overly emotionally invested. I think having better self-esteem in general helps—in retrospect I was really invested in trying to get some sort of validation for being smart or good at my job or whatever. It took getting so sick I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do any type of work again to move past that, I think. I won’t say I never get overly involved in things anymore, but my work is much more detached from my self-image at this point. I try to stay humble, check in with my coworkers if they think I need to move on from something or if it’s worth taking the time to do it right.

    There’s this sadness of feeling like I wasted so many years being on edge all the time, burned so many bridges for stupid reasons. I mostly wanted to give an update since commenters mentioned wishing they had one, but if anyone has advice on how to stop feeling so sad and ashamed about the way I used to be—at work and in life generally—it’d be appreciated. Recognizing there were things in my past that led to the situation has helped, I think—I come from a family where people build their whole self-image around work, and also get defensive when their poor social skills get them into trouble with others, so it’s understandable that I’d learn to be that way myself. But it’s still really hard to think about. If anyone has advice for moving past the cringe when I think about how I used to act not so long ago, it’d be helpful, I think.

    1. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      Thanks for updating us! I really like your thoughts on how intense the whole internet can be.
      Regarding the cringe factor – it sounds like less than a decade has passed? Your original letter said late-20s and this update says early-30s. I have a particularly cringe period in my past (like you, some of it me and some of it factors outside my control), and I really wasn’t able to fully process it and think about it without utter mortification until about 8-10 years had gone by. I think this is a form of grief, and unfortunately, grief always needs time.

      1. Emotionally invested OP*

        Thanks. It was 5 years ago, but I kept a lot of those habits past then. And a lot of where they ended up changing was in the context of the pandemic, and the chaos and isolation that came from that.

        Reframing it as grief helps. I’m sad for what could have been if I’d been better. But I guess that’s a pretty common experience.

    2. Amber Rose*

      There’s no need to cringe. You were at the very bottom of a huge mountain, and now when you look back, you should see how very far you’ve climbed. That’s an incredible achievement, and something to be proud of.

      1. ferrina*

        Seconding! It sounds like there was a lot of growing that was needed, and a lot of growing that you did! There’s a lot of people that never make that journey, because it’s long and it’s hard and it’s often messy and not at all glamorous. But you did it, and you made really good time! (seriously, I know people who struggle a lot with this who are in their mid-30s to early-forties).

        Congratulations on being where you are!! You earned that in a very real way- just because the struggle is internal doesn’t mean it’s not real.

    3. WellRed*

      I think we all cringe at ourselves to a degree when recalling our 20s. It sounds like you are so much happier and healthier. Focus on that.

    4. Generic Name*

      Oh honey. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot in the years between this letter and now. I understand the feeling of looking back on your life and cringing. I went through something similar, and I basically had to make the space to forgive myself. I was angry at myself for staying in an abusive marriage for so long. I learned to have compassion for my younger self and I realized that there were reasons that made me stay longer than I should have. Maya Angelou said it best: when you know better, you do better. I did what I thought was best at the time, with the information I had at the time. I think you did the same. You did what you thought was best based on the information you had at the time It sounds like you’ve made a lot of headway in understanding why you acted the way you did in your past job. Many people don’t even make it to that step!

      I agree with Jean that sometimes it just takes time to process this stuff. If you like, you can speed it up some by talking to a therapist (that’s what’s really helped me). Much of this is part of being human. Nobody is given an instruction manual when we become adults, and most of what we learn is through the hard way. :) If it makes you feel any better, even though you got fired, I doubt anyone who worked with you then is thinking about this even half as much as you are.

    5. Johanna Cabal*

      All you can do is look ahead and take steps to be better. Staying away from social is good.

      I had a rocky start to the workforce and made plenty of mistakes. It didn’t help that my parents didn’t really prepare me for workplace norms (mom dropped out of the workforce when she had me and never returned; dad worked in sales and was constantly on the road). Not to mention, I am on the spectrum and can come across as “socially awkward.”

      I’ve done so many cringe things that I hate looking back on my early career. But I try to take solace in that I’ve grown emotionally and my goal is to always improve myself.

    6. Emmy Noether*

      Thanks for the update, and congratulations on taking steps to healing! It takes a lot of work to rethink life and your relationship to your career, and I hope you can celebrate how far you’ve grown since then.

      Re: your ask for advice for “moving past the cringe”, one thing that let me move past a broken relationship with a family member and rebuild a relationship with them was declaring emotional bankruptcy on our past relationship and moving on from there. Would it help for you to declare emotional bankruptcy on your past and mentally “close the books” on how you acted back then? You’ve done a lot of the restructuring work on your life already (which is really hard!)

      1. Free Meerkats*

        “Emotional bankruptcy” is a great way to put it, I wish my therapist had used that phrase. I don’t remember what she used (it was 25 years ago), but the vision we ended up using was the scene from the movie Gumball Rally where one of the characters rips the rearview mirror off the convertible and says, “What is behind, does not matter!”

        Your actions then harmed no one but yourself; forgive yourself, rip the mirror off, and move on!

    7. Bippity Boppity Bummer*

      I don’t know if this helps–I hope it does!– but I read somewhere that cringing over your past behavior means you’ve grown out of it. You’ve moved on, you’ve changed for the better, and now you can look at how far you’ve come! I haaaaate remembering all of the dumb, cringe-y things I did in both my personal and professional life, but I try to remind myself that I’ve matured enough to never make those missteps again. I hope you’re able to be proud of yourself, or at least be easier on yourself, with that in mind!

    8. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’m in my twenties and cringe at my teens, and I’m sure in a few years I’ll cringe at my twenties. It’s a sign of growth and self-knowledge that we are able to look at something we used to do, recognize it as a problematic behavior, and do our best to grow from it. Best of luck to you!

    9. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m glad you’re doing better. I mostly take social media prickilness as blowing off steam. Me online: I am anti work! Don’t oppress me with happy hour!
      Me offline: I work til 7 pm every day! Yes boss, drinks for your birthday is fine as long as there are mozzarella sticks

      1. Emotionally invested OP*

        This is a good point. So much “advice” people give to strangers is not actually about being helpful, it’s about expressing some feeling or value on the part of the advice-giver. I appreciate how AAM is one of the few places on the internet where I feel like the advice is actually primarily motivated towards helping the OP.

    10. Hillary*

      I wanted to give five-years-ago you a hug when I read the letter, and I want to give now-you a hug reading this. I’m so proud of you just reading what you wrote here. You didn’t waste those years, they were part of the journey to become who you are now. I know future-you is going to be amazing.

      We all change as we grow, and things that were huge at the time will fade. The fact that you feel different emotions about how you used to behave means you aren’t going to repeat them.

      If you’re not in therapy, it can be valuable for processing this kind of thing safely. It’s hard for me to talk about things like this with my partner or friends and it’s also hard to process them by myself. I agree 100% on giving yourself space to grieve, but I’d also challenge you to be proud of your journey. You’re doing the hard work.

    11. The Prettiest Curse*

      I would second the recommendation of therapy, as it can be especially helpful in stopping or reducing negative thought patterns.

      I’m glad that you’re doing better. I also look back and cringe when I think of stuff I did in my 20s (I’m in my 40s now.) The cringe factor will lessen over time. And I also find it helpful to tell myself that I cringe at my past behaviour precisely because I know better now. If I find myself repeatedly thinking back to a specific situation and cringing, I try to tell myself that I’ve spent enough of my life thinking about this situation and it’s time to re-direct my thoughts to something more useful.

      One weird technique which can help yo re-direct your thoughts is to actually speak a message to yourself out loud – for example: “this is not helpful, why are you doing this?” Obviously, this is not always practical, but it can jump-start your brain out of a negative thought pattern.

      You sound like you’ve made a lot of progress and learned lessons from the way you behaved in the past, so congratulate yourself on the changes that you’ve made.

    12. SansaStark*

      Those cringe moments/tough times were tough for me to let go of, too. Time really helped me. As did reframing of those experiences. I got fired from 2 jobs in 3 years. I could not have imagined telling a stranger that info 10 years ago because I was so deeply ashamed. But those firings put me on the path that I’m on today and I am so much happier. I’ve had a winding career path and it’s not until recently that it’s become something that I’m proud of. Things were not easy for me but I persevered and I’m proud of that.

      I don’t agree that your earlier years were wasted – they put you on this path. So figure out where you want to go from here, how you want to live, and how you want to feel. Please trust that time is going to heal the past and I hope you’re able to look at your former self with kinder eyes soon.

      You should be proud of the changes that you’ve made! Seeing the past clearly, taking accountability for your mistakes, and going a step further to see why you made them…….those are big accomplishments and I hope you find a way to see them that way.

    13. EMP*

      Thanks for the update, I’m glad you’re doing better, and I hope you can also find some compassion for your younger self. It was a rough time but being able to look back (or move on) is its own challenge.

    14. kina lillet*

      I think I’m about the same age as you, also work in tech. If you were my friend, or a coworker who just joined my company, or (for example) an advice-seeker whose letter I’d read on an advice column, I’d tell you to have more generosity for your old self.

      As your friend, I’d probably tell you that your old self was struggling really hard, and I that I wish I could speak back in time to her and tell her she’ll be okay because it sounds like you are okay now. As a coworker, I’d say–as I have done to coworkers who got kinda fairly fired from previous jobs–that your old job sounded pretty awful but glad to have you on. As an internet commenter I’d say, none of that sounds cringe, that sounds like you lost time to sickness, but your life ain’t over yet and may you have many more years of good health, so that you can look back on Late Twenties You and say girl you did not know how good it was gonna get.

      Best wishes–side note, I was nodding vigorously at your imposter syndrome point haha. It’s so true and it’s pretty annoying to analyze your job performance (to yourself), determine some weaknesses, and then have someone else be like “no way, you’re doing great, sorry about that imposter syndrome!” For me, I’m like, no!!! I have a big ego, I’m fine, just let me be realistic!

      1. Emotionally invested OP*

        Thank you :)

        And yes about the impostor syndrome stuff. It is kind of like when you have some practical problem and you try to talk to your friend about attempting to solve it and you get a bunch of “you’re doing great! Don’t worry about it! You do you!” in response, which is well-meaning but not helpful when you need to change something on a concrete level.

    15. Not A Manager*

      I just want to give you a virtual mom-hug, and maybe offer some perspective.

      You come from a background that stressed the appearance of success, and that was quite judgmental in some ways. You already know the effect that your background had on your early work experience. But I think that now you are bringing some of that learned judgment behavior to how you think about that early work experience. You’ve shifted the judgment from “I need to be the smartest person in the room” to “I failed to intuitively know things that I was never taught.”

      I bet that if a close friend of yours – someone that you feel affection toward, and good will – were to tell you this story, your thought would not be “wow, how shameful.” I bet you would think, “what a wonderful story of personal growth and progress. It’s really admirable that my friend who I love was able to overcome their early training. Look at where she is now!”

      I’m pretty sure my internet mom-hug is not helpful to you at all. But maybe you can find your internal friend, or a less judgmental parent inside you, who can empathize with the person you were in your 20’s, and who can be proud of you for moving past behaviors that no longer served you well. In the end, the only person you live with all the time is yourself, so I hope that you will find a way to be a kind and loving friend to yourself.

      1. Emotionally invested OP*

        > You’ve shifted the judgment from “I need to be the smartest person in the room” to “I failed to intuitively know things that I was never taught.”

        This is a GREAT way of putting it, thank you.

    16. Picard*

      Getting past the cringe….

      I don’t know if this will help or not and I absolutely dont want to make you feel worse but one of the things I tell me friends who beat themselves up about…anything…

      Think about someone you love and care for. Now, if this person came to you with YOUR life story/situation, what would you tell them? That they are lousy people and dont deserve happiness/contentment/joy? No, of course not! This is someone you love and cherish! You would commiserate with them on their past, compliment them on their progress, encourage their future.

      Give yourself the same love and grace. Be kind and gentle to who you were because thats how you became who you are. Good AND bad.

      Hugs.

    17. tired librarian*

      One thing that I’ve found help in terms of feeling shame about past behaviour is to think about where that behaviour came from, which it sounds like you’ve already begun doing. You talk about specific beliefs and behaviours that are part of your family system – so it makes sense that you also had the same beliefs and behaviours – that was what you had to do as a child and young adult to fit into your family, make sense of the world, and survive. It’s a natural consequence of growing up in that environment, not a personal failing.

      But also, you are not that same person now. You have grown and changed and better understand who you are now. I don’t know if this will be helpful to you but I often think about my child self and my adult self – when I sometimes have an over the top reaction at work (which happens sometimes to all of us I think) that is my child self reacting how I learned to react growing up in my family. That’s not the same person I am now, but I should also be kind that part of me who was just doing their best and trying to learn how to exist in an environment that didn’t teach really teach them how to exist in a healthy way. I hope you can also be kind to all parts of yourself – it sounds like you’re doing a really great job growing and changing in healthy ways.

      I wonder if the level of shame you are feeling is still an expression of your younger self who holds those beliefs about work defining your value as a person. I think that would be worth unpacking with a therapist, if you haven’t yet.

    18. MoMac*

      So I have been through this at various times in my career. Maybe not as deeply as you have but still cringey for sure. What has helped me is to reframe it in my mind. They’re not the time periods where I was an ass or unprofessional or a total mess. They are time periods where I was struggling but learning how to sustain myself in my career and set limits and boundaries around what I would accept in a work environment and what I would not. They were learning opportunities that have helped me to understand myself better and get me closer to being who I wanted to be. This was a learning opportunity for you and you’ve made use of it.

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

      Thanks so much for the update! As someone who also has been many different kinds of Hot Mess in my lifetime, I have been working with my therapist on focusing on naming and being proud of what growth and progress I have made. I also try really hard to be kind to myself when I feel that cringe feeling coming on, and rely heavily taking a deep breath, shaking my hands out, and telling myself: “You’re human, and you’re still learning.”

  26. just wondering what's out there*

    Looking for encouraging stories about changing industries/careers. I think I know all the right things to do but can’t help feeling like my application won’t get anywhere because of all my experience being in libraries. If you successfully changed industries and/or successfully got out of people management without slashing your salary to unliveable, I’d love to hear about it. tia :)

    1. something about sharks*

      I switched from libraries over to university administrative work at the end of 2021 after management changes at my library made it no longer somewhere I enjoyed working, and it went great! The pay and benefits are significantly better, I can take the bus to work, I do more work I enjoy, and I have more free time outside of work (no more evenings and weekends!). Library work translated really well to a communications/administrative assistant position, since I’d picked up some promotional materials skills from helping advertise summer reading, book displays, etc. as well as organization and data entry, and I was able to point to my interest in doing more of that work as a plus in my cover letter and interview.

      Caveats: I’m in a relatively low COL area, the library pays abysmally even by local standards, and I got hired right around the same time as the university did a significant pay band overhaul, so the substantial pay increase was kind of a “stars align” thing that brought me up from “barely livable” to “reasonable but nothing sky-shattering”. I also don’t have an MLS/MLIS and am only about seven years into full-time work (started at the library in college), so it’s not the same as a career librarian switching industries. It’s also a big enough university that it’s not having enrollment issues. But even with all that, so far it’s made 2022 a much better year than the previous couple!

      1. just wondering what's out there*

        Congratulations! “No evenings and weekends,” *drools*
        I actually just applied for a job at a university that I thought had a lot of transferable skills, and I’m getting ready to apply for a communications job that I feel the same way about (it also has a really broad salary range and desired experience/education range).
        *I* know that working in libraries has given me a broad range of transferrable skills, but I worry that the “wow, what a quiet job reading all day” stereotype will get in the way, no matter what my cover letter says.

        1. something about sharks*

          Good luck with both of your applications! I hope to hear you’ve gotten the perfect job with no evenings and weekends soon.

          I was expecting to deal with the same issue, but it never really came up! I think that stereotype might be less of a thing when transferring over to academia, since some majors and fields of study also kind of get the “wow, you did nothing but read for four/eight years?” assumption. I also put a lot of emphasis on wanting to learn about my department’s field in my application materials – trying to hint without really saying it that if I *did* spend all my time reading, it’d be because I was trying to learn more about what we do (science department that I have no background in). I don’t know how much it helped, but it made me feel better!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      There was an Ask the Readers question about this in 2020. If you search “let’s talk about mid-life career changes” you should find plenty of stories!

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I have not left libraries, but four of my friends have. One is now happily working as a very high level Administrative Assistant for a CEO at a company and the other is working in databases for the State Troopers and loves it. Another is now a teacher at a private school where she teaches Latin and German. So, yeah, it is 100% possible. The fourth one entered a nunnery (literally, like she’s now a nun), so I don’t know how her salary stacks up… but last we spoke, she seemed happier then I’ve ever seen her. You can make the switch!

      1. just wondering what's out there*

        Librarian-to-nun is the best career change I have ever heard.
        Thank you for sharing these stories! I am so burnt out, and it’s so easy to feel like I’ll never get out (setting aside the vocational awe and compassion fatigue that make me feel really guilty about considering leaving!), so I really appreciate the hope you’re giving me!

    4. Dragonfly7*

      I’m a former library support staff worker who did a lot of helping patrons with minor tech questions. I’m still pretty new, but I found an entry-level position at a large financial company where I do that same type of troubleshooting and web navigation, plus some financial transactions. This company is willing to train me to do more advanced work and pays me the same as what the MLS-holding librarians make to do it.

      1. just wondering what's out there*

        Wow! This seems silly now, but I never even considered leveraging all the tech help as a marketable skill! Thanks for this great idea and success story!

  27. Newbie*

    My manager isn’t great at communicating. She doesn’t take the time to look over my work and often tells me to add things that are already included. She also gives feedback in a way I find passive aggressive, and we have had a few issues where she doesn’t provide me with the correct information/full picture upfront and then gets frustrated with me when what she wants isn’t included. I know I’m one of her best employees (for a while I was her only direct report and called me her “lifeline” in an interview for another candidate) but I rarely feel appreciated. It seems like she is quick to criticize and slow to praise. She also started making passive aggressive comments to me about my new coworker’s performance (her direct report, my senior)in ways I feel are unprofessional. All that to say: I think I’m ready to leave. It’s my first job, I’ll have been with the company for 2 years in December (I started originally as an intern) and have been in my full time role for a year (started last October). As I’m starting the job search again, I’m realizing I want to avoid a manager like this more than anything but how would I go about doing that? What kinds of questions / signs should I look for?

    1. FJ*

      This is basically my question today also. I feel your pain and hope we get some magic questions.
      I think asking references/networks/other employees is probably the best bet – that is something I didn’t do last round of interviews.

    2. ferrina*

      Good for you for leaving! This manager sucks.

      First thing I’d say is: Trust your instincts. If something is telling you to run away, there’s usually a reason (even if you don’t know what the reason is yet).

      Next, I’d think about your interview for this job. Were there behaviors that stood out? Are there any red flags that you’re seeing in retrospect?

      Listen for how the manager talks about their team at the interview. If they are actively critiquing their own team to a candidate, you can bet that they are talking badly to others. I cannot tell you how ridiculously unprofessional it is to criticize your team to a stranger! Especially when you’re the manager and you’re supposed to be the lead- the criticism says that you’re a bad leader and you’re willing to blame your team for that.

      And finally, talk to the people who would be your coworkers. If this isn’t a part of the process, you can ask “Can you put me in touch with a couple people who would be my coworkers? I’d love to get a little more context on what this job is and learn more about the company culture!” Ask them about the manager’s working style.
      Good luck!

      1. Elle*

        I agree with all of these things. When I look back at my dysfunctional bosses there were things in my interviews that were red flags. Being dismissive of the program, staff and the community. Telling me all the negative things happening with staff. A very long hiring process with many interviews.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m not sure about what to look for in that hour or two of interviewing, but I’m going to suggest that you remember that this next job does not have to be your ONLY next job. Ask some good questions about how assignments are given, how training is done, and how your success will be measured.

      And then, use this new pair of boss glasses to monitor how things are going for you as the employee, and to identify what’s working with the new boss, and what isn’t. It’s very possible that even if you weren’t able to crystal ball every red flag in the interview, you’ll still be able to learn from and grow from your next job(s) until you get to your happy place.

  28. WineNot*

    Maternity leave questions! I am sure this has been discussed a ton, but I am going to ask it again.

    I live in the Northeast US, and we are going to try to have our first baby in 2024. I was curious so decided to ask my HR person what my company’s policy was. He told me the company policy is 8 weeks unpaid. Now, I know there is the FMLA which would allow me to take off 12 weeks at a percentage of my salary, and my employer would not be required to pay anything.

    Some people I’ve talked to so far let me know that even though the FMLA is in place, the fact that my company says they only offer 8 weeks fully unpaid is ridiculous. I am wondering what other people’s experiences with this have been?

    My company has a new HR director and is starting to try to turn the corner and pay people better, promote a better culture, etc. People are generally older and haven’t been having a lot of babies, so this probably isn’t something they get complaints about often. We are also a medium-sized company, but on the small end of that spectrum. Looking for all feedback and advice on how to potentially bring this up with HR to help promote change. Thanks!

    1. This Old House*

      FMLA does not offer a percentage of your salary. It’s possible your state does (in the northeast, I’m aware of at least NY and NJ offering some amount of paid leave). It may be that your company offers 8 weeks unpaid without needing to invoke FMLA, or that it offers an additional 8 weeks unpaid on top of FMLA. But they should be required to offer you at least the 12 weeks that FMLA covers (assuming that, as a “medium-sized company,” they meet all the requirements for being covered by FMLA – if for some reason they do not, you might not be eligible for FMLA).

      1. ferrina*

        Yep, all this. Also note that most parental leave policies kick in after 1 year of employment at the company (I think FMLA also applies only after 1 year, but I could be wrong)

        This company doesn’t have a great parental leave policy. My company paid out 60% of my salary for 6 weeks (which is the absolute youngest at which a daycare will take an infant). It’s not uncommon for daycares to have 6 month waitlists, so you should be looking at childcare options when you hit the second trimester.

        1. lost academic*

          This is pandemic times. Daycares have MUCH longer waits here and in every city I’ve talked to parents in this year, especially for an infant as there’s a higher adult ratio required. Many places before the pandemic you needed to be on a list well before conceiving. Don’t wait!!!

    2. Llama Llama*

      FMLA is just that you are allowed to take 12 weeks off without a risk to your employment. It does not give you any money. This is entirely up to your company (or insurance if you have that).
      FMLA also only applies to cover companies over a certain size (50?). So if your company is smaller than that then they can have different policies.

      My previous company only partially paid for 5 weeks. I prepared by using as little PTO as possible so I could take 10 weeks.

      My next company paid 8 and had a better PTO policy so I was able to save up to take 12 weeks.

    3. Velociraptor Attack*

      As others have said, FMLA doesn’t pay. I was able to hobble together my PTO and comp time (I worked at a university) to take my whole 12 weeks of FMLA coverage technically paid.

      I guess the question is if FMLA would cover your work and if their 8 weeks is in addition to that, otherwise, if they’re both unpaid, I’d probably invoke FMLA so I also have protections in place from that.

    4. Moths*

      I won’t repeat what others have said about FMLA, but I wonder if that’s actually a short-term disability benefit? Often STD pays a percentage of salary and can be used for parental leave.

      My company is medium-large and provides 12 weeks of 100% paid leave for the primary parent (usually the birthing parent, but not necessarily if it’s an adoption or other situation) and 6 weeks for a “secondary” parent. However, my sister worked for a similar sized organization and didn’t have any paid leave when she gave birth 5 years ago.

      I agree that 8 weeks unpaid is ridiculous! I would recommend fighting back on that. If you don’t have a ton of people having babies, it’s a small thing your company can do that will have a large positive impact and will just look good to recruits. My company didn’t use to offer any sort of leave (people would use STD and PTO, running concurrently with FMLA to protect their job), but myself and several others raised the point repeatedly that it wasn’t a competitive policy and that it was an expectation that a company of our size would provide something.

    5. EJ*

      Do you have short term disability insurance thru work? Most STD plans cover 6-8 weeks post partum at some percentage of income. Many companies offer std automatically but if your company has an option to opt in, I would do so at the upcoming open enrollment period.

      If the employer really only offers unpaid leave, I would sign up for a plan thru aflac or similar in sufficient time to be eligible on your schedule. Good luck

    6. EMP*

      For everyone saying FMLA doesn’t pay – OP mentioned “Northeast US” and Massachusetts *does* have a 12 week paid leave program, so I would assume OP is referring to this or something similar.

      I have no experience with this myself but if HR is actively trying to promote a better culture I would just bring it up with them! If you can point toward other companies in your field having better offers (more leave, paid leave), that is always good.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      Short term disability, if you are the birthing parent, will pay a percentage of your pay while you are out on disability.
      If you are in Massachusetts, there is a state specific parental/family leave program that all companies with employees in MA pay into that will pay you something while you are on leave.
      FMLA will not pay you anything, but it is for 12 weeks.
      Then there is whatever, if any, parental leave program your company has.
      I think you need to speak with a different HR person as the one you spoke with may not be familiar with all the options.
      Good luck!

    8. SallyAnn*

      Does your company have short term disability? Before many companies had parental leave, giving birth was considered a medical reason for using short term disability. (Don’t get me started on the philosophy of putting having a baby in the same category as having a coronary bypass. But I digress.)

      The short term disability paid partial salary for 6 weeks if you had a vaginal birth or 8 weeks if you had a C-section. Not a real maternity leave but was better than nothing.

  29. Mari*

    This is a fairly low-stakes question / pet peeve and I’m not sure how to address it or if it’s even worth trying.
    I have multiple roles in our small company, one of which is part of the hiring process and then later overseeing most of the employees in a sort of coach role. Fairly frequently during the hiring process, I see people who have email addresses that don’t include their names – think “iluvdogs@” or similar, which is fine as long as their email display name is their actual name so that I can easily see who it’s from.
    My issue (or annoyance) is when neither their email or display name contains their name and I have to search through our hiring spreadsheet to figure out who it is (b/c they only signed their first name in the email to make it extra challenging). Sometimes the display name is random, like “Gaby123” or “MJK”, sometimes it’s a previous name (like Jane Smith but her paperwork all now says Jane Jones).
    Is this worth trying to address? If so, how would you frame it? Eventually I get to recognize the weird display names as “oh that’s Jane” but I would like to not have to spend that extra brainspace remembering who it is.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      For the ones that work for your company you can redirect to whatever the policy is. “Hi Gaby, here at XYZ company we really prefer if all employees include a signature with their full name and contact info. You can see examples and branding logos at internal link.” I’m really surprised your company doesn’t automatically assign emails and contact details with full names.

      For the ones not yet employed, just email back. “Hi Gaby, thanks for sending your XYZ form. Would you mind telling me your last name, we’ve got multiple candidates with your first name this round, thanks!”

      1. Mari*

        we don’t assign employees emails b/c it doesn’t really make sense for the type of business…think something similar to hiring a bunch of writers for a specific project, and after their project is done they may or may not continue. they are w-2 employees but because it’s project-based people tend to come and go too frequently to justify the expense of giving out emails. and since they aren’t communicating w/ each other or outside the company , just with their project manager, there isn’t a formal signature policy since it’s their personal email. i know i need to just get over it probably, but bleh.

        1. DisneyChannelThis*

          Might be worth making sure when you first email them that you save them as a contact in your own email client with their full information then. There’s some good tutorials for importing contacts from a spreadsheet form into outlook, gmail etc online if you need to do a ton at once.

    2. ferrina*

      It sounds like this is happening with job candidates, not employees.

      No, I don’t think you have standing to address it. Yes, it’s a pain, but it’s their personal email address. I’m more curious about why it takes so long to look up the person. Do you not have an automated Applicant Tracking Software(ATS)? If this is a frequent issue, I’d look into an ATS. There’s a lot of ways that a good ATS will streamline this process and take care of these million-papercut type issues.

      1. Mari*

        at this point the company is too small to justify using an ATS – everything is done via spreadsheet. so it’s not that it takes a ton of time to figure out who it is, it’s just an extra step that is frustratingly common.

    3. Parcae*

      Would anyone be offended by a simple “by the way, as you go through our hiring process, it would help me a lot if you included your full name in all your emails” in your first communication? Not everyone will do it (and even well-meaning ones will forget), but it would reduce the sheer number of lookups you have to do.

    4. Moths*

      During the hiring process, I agree that it’s probably not something you can address besides writing back and asking for their full name. But if they’re using their personal email addresses for work, which it sounds like in your responses to other comments, I think it’s fair for you to set a policy where either signature lines or display names are full names in company communications. If it were me, I would probably recommend to employees that they set up another email address that they only use for work. And if they don’t want to have to monitor two inboxes, most email providers like Gmail will let you auto-forward from multiple accounts to a single inbox and will also let you default to replying from whatever email address received the mail rather than the inbox being used (for example, if I set up a work email Jane.Doe.12@gmail.com, it would auto forward to my ILoveCats@gmail.com inbox and when I reply, even though I’m in the ILoveCats@gmail.com account, it would reply from Jane.Doe.12@gmail.com without showing that ILoveCats@gmail.com is involved at all). This is probably good practice to recommend anyways, so that they do have all of their work emails in a separate account rather than mixing them. If there were ever a legal action against your company (heaven forbid), it’s easier for them and the company to need to pull all of the emails from the work account rather than for them/lawyers to have to dig into their personal account.

    5. Specialized Skillets*

      You should be able to control the display name by adding them to your contacts and editing the fields there. Then you only have to figure it out once at least.

  30. Rara Avis*

    Those of us who can’t travel for work are given other assignments, among them giving airport rides to colleagues who are traveling. (Yes, I know that this is weird. But I’m in education.) Some of my colleagues are concerned about liability. Should I be concerned?

    I think if I were to crash while giving a ride to a colleague it would be covered by worker’s comp. I’m not volunteering to give a friend a ride; I’m performing a task assigned by my employer. (My contract states “… and other tasks assigned as needed.” I’m wondering if it would also be covered by worker’s comp for my rider. Is their ride to the airport part of work-assigned travel, or is it more like their commute, which is their responsibility? Is it different to take a ride arranged by your employer as opposed to getting there on your own?

    I promise that I’m a safe driver, but this is my first year in a long time not being able to travel, and it never occurred to me to worry about this type of liability. We have pushed for coverage for Uber, or transportation on a school van, but I don’t know if we’ll succeed.

    1. Passerby*

      This sounds like a question for HR, or something where you should get it in writing.

      If you’re being required to provide travel assistance to your coworkers, then I don’t see how it would be considered as a regular “commute.” It’s a job assigned task. If anything, are you getting mileage reimbursements?

      I myself don’t know how accidents and injury would be handled in the event there is an accident or injury sustained. Presumably your company has some sort of liability and compensation that this would fall under but its best to consult someone with these concerns.

    2. Educator*

      I was freaked out about this too when I had to drive for work! My employer’s insurance carrier, who I was connected with after asking the COO a bunch of questions he could not answer, was able to tell me exactly what was covered (company vehicles, clients, people I hit, etc.) and what was not (my personal vehicle and property, things already covered by my health insurance, etc.) under their insurance plan. Every plan can be different, so I was glad that I asked someone familiar with my employer’s.

      For extra peace of mind, I also got an umbrella personal liability policy in addition to my auto policy. It is really cheap–less that $100 per year–and protects my assets from anyone who might try to sue me personally for a whole long list of things. Even though I no longer have to drive for work, I still have this policy to safeguard myself in other parts of my life. Very reassuring.

      1. Rara Avis*

        There are, but the airport(s) are over an hour away, so it would add up for the school to cover it.

        1. WellRed*

          Ah, ok. Still unusual. We can or drive ourselves or have a partner drop us off. Company pays for parking or cab. Are they reimbursing mileage at least? And your time if outside of work hours?

          1. Educator*

            Not that unusual for rural U.S. education/nonprofits. Transportation is an all-hands-on-deck affair because hiring drivers would be cost prohibitive. It is very annoying, but not an outlier, and there is not a lot of space to push back. Having a license and clean driving record is often a requirement for hire in the more rural parts of my state for exactly this reason.

    3. Ina+Lummick*

      my other concern is that if I crashed in that scenario. I *would* not be covered under my car insurance and could be charged as driving without insurance (which is a criminal offence where I am).

      which just lends it further to either not driving myself or making sure I use a company car

    4. Adequate Archaeologist*

      Check with your HR/whoever deals with insurance and workers comp as well as your own auto insurance. My parents had a policy for a bit that had a clause where if you were using your vehicle for a work reason other than commuting (ex. using your car to deliver pizzas or doing a ride-share) that it basically voided your auto insurance and they didn’t have to cover anything that happened. So I would definitely check it out.

    5. MacGillicuddy*

      If you’re using your personal car, and driving a coworker somewhere is a task that’s assigned to you by your work, I would also check with your own insurance company.

    6. Foley*

      Triple-check your auto insurance. MANY policies have what changed/limited used to be ‘standard’ coverage upon the explosion of rideshare.

  31. Cautiously Hopeful*

    I just quit my job because I signed an offer for a different job with what I can accurately call “gobs” more money.

    Thank you all for answering my questions, both direct and indirect.

      1. mymotherwasahamster*

        If you thought “gobs” of money was good, just wait til you reach the “gods” level…!

        Oh autocorrect, such joys. Also, congrats!

  32. mymotherwasahamster*

    Newish reader but this has become a regular lunchtime treat the last couple months.

    Short: I’m trying to figure out how much of Alison’s wonderful job search advice translates for finding work in Germany.

    Long: In 2019 I brought my solo litigation practice overseas for an adjunct teaching position, which I ended up leaving for various cost-benefit reasons. Since then I’ve been continuing the practice with US and some German clients, but after 3 years and 1 plague I’m sick of operating on the outskirts and eager for a German job. (Not necessarily in law, in fact probably not, but that’s just where my brain has been the last ~10 years.)

    I’ve been trying to combine advice for US applicants with German resources but for all I know my materials read like a dreadful Frankenstein’s monster, terrifying and deterring all poor souls unfortunate enough to cross their path.

    Granted, I haven’t pored over the job-search archives here yet because I don’t want to inundate myself with info that doesn’t apply. But what I’ve seen so far makes a ton of sense for the US. So what translates, and what doesn’t?

    For example, I have the sense that German cover letters involve more detail about why one wants the job, rather than what they can offer the company. And I’m sure there’s more, but I don’t know what I don’t know. Socialization is weird and culture is hard!

    Anyway, any thoughts (or AAM-esque German resources)? Thanks all!

    1. Volunteer Enforcer*

      I don’t know about any AAM-esque German resources, however I can apply AAM advice from the USA to my work in the UK. I don’t know how similar or different Germany is.

    2. Random Bavarian*

      I’m German and used Alison’s advice last year to find a new job. As far as I can tell it translates very well but I also hate cover letters and write them as minimalistic as possible (reasons for searching for a new job, why I’m interested in that job, maybe one or two sentences what I did in may last job. I completely ignored answering why I would want to work for that company in particular).
      I also found a German blog which helped me a lot. I’ll post the link in a new comment.
      After I got an interview I ignored Alison’s advice about dress code and thank you notes (no thank you notes in Germany and I work in IT so I showed up in (black) jeans, sneakers and a nice shirt).

        1. mymotherwasahamster*

          Thanks, this looks helpful. I’ve been looking around of course, but there’s so much stuff that it’s nice to get a specific recommendation.

    3. amoeba*

      I think the biggest difference, at least in my field, is that resumés are really uncommon – you usually use pretty comprehensive CVs.
      For the cover letters, I haven’t really seen too much of a difference, but yes, I’d agree that it’s generally pretty important to indicate why you’re interested in that specific position at that specific company. (Although obviously that can be hard depending on the company – I’ve mostly applied for big, well-known ones so wasn’t too hard.)

      And in general I’d say at least in my field it would be actually quite unusual to list achievements in the CV, and definitely not stuff like quoting praise from coworkers etc. but really more “traditionally” listing responsibilities. Although I’m sure there’s industries and companies that would like it, but definitely not in the more “traditional” and German companies.

      Oh, and I’m sure you already know that having a professional photo in your CV is unfortunately still considered the norm and people don’t tend to like it if you leave if off. (For international companies I’d say both with and without photo would be fine, for German ones would definitely include one!)

      1. mymotherwasahamster*

        Interesting, I’ve seen several postings specifically saying WE DO NOT WANT YOUR PHOTO, which made me think that pattern is shifting overall. But it sounds like that’s probably limited to the NGO/progressive sphere—good to know I shouldn’t overthink it and just assume photo is required.

        Do you know how representative the photo has to be? I had some nice ones done just before coming here i.e. about 4 years ago, but my hair was extremely short then (somewhere between buzz and pixie cut) and now it’s normal chin-length.

        1. linger*

          In Japan, too, photos are generally required on resumes … but there’s no requirement for them to be current, just recognisable as you (bearing in mind, most interviewers will receive only a photocopy of paper files, with some loss of quality, unless an original PDF is shared). 1-2 years out of date would usually be no problem at all; 4-5 years could be pushing the limit, but if the only apparent difference is hairstyle you probably don’t need to worry. (For comparison: photos for other ID purposes, e.g. passports, drivers’ licences, residence cards, must be current when the ID is issued, but subsequently remain valid for 5-10 years. So if you’ve needed to get a more recent photo for other official ID, that’s probably the photo you should use with your CV.)

        2. amoeba*

          Sorry for the late reply! Yeah, I think these postings specifically include these directions because it’s unusual in Germany. If nothing’s stated, you’re definitely on the safe side with a photo.
          Wouldn’t worry too much about the hair etc. as long as you’re still generally recognisable – mine’s about 5 years old and so far, nobody has complained.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      Because you are a lawyer, and think like one, may I suggest looking into regulatory departments. Health and safety is a big, important area.

      1. mymotherwasahamster*

        you are a lawyer, and think like one

        I resemble that remark! ;)
        Kidding of course, that’s a good suggestion, and I’ve been doing some contract work for one such company so it’s not entirely starting from scratch.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I learned a long time ago, that lawyers and chemists, like myself, speak different dialects.

          I like working with regulatory types because they have the knowledge, I don’t intend to get, but give me an interesting product to develop and I am a happy camper

    5. Hillary*

      You might find it useful to look at companies with American parent companies (or Irish, a lot of “Irish” companies are run from the states) – my employer is one of many that loves hiring American expats overseas. Our legal team in particular is global – our EMEA legal team has people in at least six countries. Barred in the US plus practicing in Germany would be amazing. Privacy is a fast-growing in-house practice area and I suspect contracts are going to be big in the next couple years. The economic uncertainty is going to drive companies towards formal agreements that are informal today.

      Assuming you’re authorized to work in the Schengen area, you might also find good options in Belgium and the Netherlands. There are a lot of remote jobs there with international companies. Chances are very high an international company will have a German subsidiary you can “work” for.

      1. Hillary*

        drop me a note at marguerida @ gmail if you want to learn about my employer btw – we’re hiring two legal roles in Europe right now, including one that strongly prefers english and german bilingual.

        1. mymotherwasahamster*

          Just did that. Thank you!

          You’re right, I’ve been seeing loads of postings for privacy law. I’m an autodidact so diving into this would be a no-brainer. (As in the obvious thing to do, not that it’d be super easy.)

          Side note, I’m heading to the US later this month and already steeling myself for the opt-out-of-facial-scan chat with the immigration folks. Crazy how much each country takes their own privacy norms for granted!

          1. Hillary*

            Shoot, I’m so sorry. That not-my-name email is marguerida1 at gmail – I remembered it wrong. I’d love to connect if you see this.

    6. Bryson*

      Not exactly the same but Evil HR Lady is American but lives (lived? I can’t remember) in Switzerland so you may want to check her site or ask her a question.

      1. amoeba*

        Yes! Also can attest that Swiss and German norms are really similar, having lived in and applied for jobs in both countries.

    7. Schmitt*

      I’m in Germany and in tech, so not as conservative as you might need to be, but I just added a cover photo to my otherwise unapologetically American-style resume. (I do include all my jobs back to college, but as one-liners for the older ones.) I have gotten an offer from every interview I’ve done, but that might just be because I’m awesome. ;)

  33. ManagerMystery*

    I am nearing the end of an exciting interview process…with one lingering unknown that I am not sure how to resolve. I feel great about the role and the company. I’ve gotten a lot of helpful information from HR, the person retiring from the role, and even the CEO, with whom I had a 1:1 interview.

    But the one person who remains a mystery is the woman who would be my direct supervisor (the VP to my prospective director role). I only met her once, as part of a group interview the first time I came to the office. She shook my hand when I arrived, was clearly paying attention, and asked a few thoughtful questions, but she was generally quiet. I love working for introverts–that’s my style too!–so that is not a problem, but I just feel like I have zero sense of what she would be like as a day-to-day supervisor. Because she is the hiring manager and that group interview was early in the process, I assumed that she would pop up again in a future interview, but she has not. I’ve met with a lot of people over many weeks, and the process is winding down.

    Any advice for how to manage this? Do I take the gamble and hope she is good? Push to know more, which feels weird to do when my questions are just about her as a manager and not anything broader? Thanks for any advice.

    1. WineNot*

      I wonder if it’s possible to ask if you could meet with her again briefly? I don’t know if that’s something job candidates ever do, but you are obviously going to spend a lot of time working with this person so as long as it doesn’t hurt your chances of getting the job, maybe that could be an option.

      I also think that as long as she hasn’t given you reason to be concerned about working for her, and you like everything else you’ve seen, you should go for it and hope it all works out!

      1. FJ*

        In my last interview process, I asked for an extra call with my manager when they sent the offer because we didn’t have much time during the interview process. It was well-received at the time.

    2. ferrina*

      What did the person leaving the role say? How long did they work under the manager?

      If they were generally happy working under this VP, then think about how closely your working style is to theirs. Unless it’s wildly different, that’s a pretty good sign. If her people feel like she’s caring and competent, that would be enough for me. (though I think you’d be totally fine asking for a quick call with her so you can learn more about her working style)

    3. irene adler*

      I would request an opportunity to ask follow-up questions directly to the hiring manager.

      Hiring manager will have expectations for the candidate who takes on this role. You should find out what these are. What is their management style? You need to know this. What are her plans for this role 2-3 years out? You need to know this so that you are on the same page.

      If the hiring manager has stated something like “if you have any questions, please reach out to me”, now would be the time to ask these questions. IF the HR contact has made this statement, you can ask them to facilitate your request to ask these questions of the hiring manager.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would say wait until you receive an offer. If you do, say you would like to get to know the hiring manager better before making a decision, and ask for a 1:1.

  34. Keep searching or settle for now?*

    Hello, advice on how you would feel/act upon this job offer, or just an objective input on:

    I received an offer that was about 5k short of the minimum salary range listed, reason cited due to my lack of direct experience in X even though I have tangential experience.

    Small company, maybe 5 employees. CEO called me to extend the offer. I negotiated but she said their was little leeway but my neotiated offer still fell short of their minimum on the job posting.

    I was mildly upset but I asked about flexibility in schedule, as that’s something I currently value more at the moment due to being the primary caretaker of a family member who has health issues that needs my occasional care (dr. appts mostly). CEO expressed that’s completely fine and she even encourages remote work or folks can take half days etc etc.

    We hang up. Literally five minutes later, I get a call from the admin assistant who essentially expressed concern and wanted to gauge how much “personal” time commitment I was going to need, and reiterated that this was a full time position and wanted to ensure my personal commitments didn’t take away from my work commitments.

    I mentioned the CEO had already stated scheduling was flexible with remote work etc. Admin said remote work isn’t a possibility until at least 7 months in due to onboarding. I was like “Hmm…ok. What if I decide to flex and work a weekend to make up my hours?”

    Admin responded that may be difficult because our work is collaborative and everyone needs to be present on the same day (assumedly).

    This is a small company so no formal HR. I’m just… baffled by these conflicting details. I’m also baffled why admin is the one following up on with their concerns, when the CEO didn’t express any of those concerns to me.

    On the one hand, the position deals with time sensitive work so I understand wanting to keep deadlines in mind but I’m just getting a lot of bad vibes from this admin person, who was also the person who did my phone interview screen and preliminary interview.

    Again, flexibility is valuable to me and I do understand the admin’s concern(s) but this pushback from them concerns me in general for how future life events (unexpected and expected) will be handled and taken, or even things like sick days and vacations.

    It’s making me question whether I should take the offer or not. What are your advice or input on this situation?

    1. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      No advice, just thoughts. This gives me pause. Two possibilities come to mind for me: one, the admin has a tendency to over-insert and would be really challenging to work with; or, on the other hand, two, the CEO has a tendency to just say stuff that doesn’t pan out in reality, and the admin is tired of dealing with the fallout and trying to get ahead of it.

    2. ferrina*

      I wouldn’t do it. In an office this small, having one person that has an issue with your schedule could cause major issues. Also the CEO isn’t always the person with the best read of the day-to-day. CEOs have very different roles/responsibilities/expectations than the rest of the company. It’s very possible that the CEO is saying one thing to woo you, but the admin knows something different to be the case (again, even if the admin is wrong, now you have 1/7th of the company who is already critical of your flexible schedule)

      I’m baffled that “onboarding” will take 7 months in person. That sounds more like they want the new person to prove reliability before granting remote work, but that’s not what you’re looking for at all! It’s also a bit out-of-touch; with Covid, most of us now have proven reliability while remote.

      And falling short of their own minimum salary….that would be a yellow flag on it’s own (sometimes there genuinely are mitigating circumstances that make this make sense), but add this to the other flags, I’m not getting a good vibe from this place. I’d pass it by.

    3. very anon for this*

      can you call or email the CEO and bring this up? If the Admin is someone you are going to have to work closely with, I would see this as a pretty big red flag! They overheard the CEO’s conversation, then called you to discuss THEIR concerns. Does this mean they get the last word, or at least think they do or want to? I would want to be absolutely sure about the dynamic before going into this. I think this is also valuable information to have at this stage so that’s a plus for you.

      1. WellRed*

        This is an interesting take. I assume the CEO asked the admin to follow up, not that the admin has nefarious powers.

    4. Cordelia*

      It could be that the CEO is making vague well-meaning promises and the admin assistant is the one who has to work out the logistics and practicalities of this, and is more realistic about what is actually possible. You could ask for another call with the CEO to ask about the specifics, or ideally with the CEO and the admin person together, to negotiate the remote/flexible working more formally

      1. 1LFTW*

        This was my take, having taken a job where a similar dynamic was evident. It was a tiny company; just the CEO, who liked to make what turned out to be grandiose and unrealistic promises, and his VP, whose unpleasant job is was to adjust those promises to mundane reality. Things turned out… poorly.

        Of course, it’s also possible that the admin is officious and overreaching her authority, and that’s *also* bad. Whatever the admin’s reasons, I can’t imagine how this indicates anything good about the office culture.

    5. RagingADHD*

      I mean, my first response would be to email the CEO for clarification and tell her exactly what the admin said, cc ing the admin. Then say that in order to accept the offer, the flexible schedule is non-negotiable, so it needs to be in the written offer letter before you can accept.

      I agree there are a couple of things that could be going on:
      1) The CEO is out of touch with the company’s real needs and procedures, and promises things they can’t actually support because she’s a big-picture type who leaves actual execution to the admin.
      2) The CEO told the admin to give you the real story, because she’s the kind of person who says yes in person and delegates others to do her dirty work.
      3) The CEO is correct and sincere, and the admin is trying to manage up by asserting her own opinions of the way the company should run (and is used to getting away with it).

      None of them are great situations to walk into, but #3 (admin is out of line) is the least problematic if the CEO steps in and straightens her out. It could be a viable position as long as you have everything in writing before you accept.

      1. ferrina*

        I wouldn’t trust that the CEO would keep to her promise, even if it’s in writing. “Jobs change”, after all. Unless you have an air-tight contract, she can always go back on her word, claiming that something changed and she can’t possibly grant you flexibility now (whether she’s promising it at some future date that will never materialize, or will flat out say “actually, no”). Or she’ll allow it, but you’ll be punished in other ways, like not getting critical information or resources you need.

        The only situation that would be acceptable is if it’s a variation of #3 and the admin is immediately disciplined and/or fired. (I wouldn’t be furious if I’d made an offer to an candidate, then find out that my direct report walked back parts of my offer). If the admin actually thinks it’s okay for her to regularly contradict the CEO, that’s going to be a toxic and confusing place to work.

    6. WellRed*

      I’d move on. First, the salary is not as advertised and then you get conflicting info about flexibility. I agree with other commenters that the CEO will just promise anything but not follow through.

    7. The New Wanderer*

      My first thought on reading that the offer was below their own minimum was that you should decline on that alone. That solidified with the unwillingness to negotiate and then the back and forth on whether you would actually have any schedule flexibility.

      I don’t find it surprising that the CEO delegated to the admin to find out what you really mean by flexible. Either the CEO wanted to be the “good news” person (although a low-ball offer is not exactly good news), or the CEO had second thoughts about discussing flexibility after you hung up and told the admin to follow up ASAP. But you’re right to suspect that the attitude might be stricter about flexibility than you want, especially if you wouldn’t be granted any for the first 7 months (!).

      So, bottom line – lowball offer and not much flexibility. If you have other options, don’t take this one.

    8. ThatGirl*

      I realize you’re trying to keep things brief, but you haven’t mentioned ANY positives to this — do you have any really solid reasons for wanting this specific job? Because there are a lot of red flags there in my opinion.

    9. Lady_Lessa*

      I’d continue looking. Between the salary issues, and the fact that you are getting different answers from the CEO and Admin asst. that only bodes no good.

      I suspect that the Admin tends to run the place on a day-to-day basis, and the CEO does the big overview. You would probably have more dealings with the admin, than the CEO.

    10. BRR*

      I’d pass unless you really a need a job. First, the salary thing is BS. You don’t offer less than the minimum. If they do this with the offer, I would bet they do this with raises and benefits.

      And second, either these are the CEO’s concerns and he had his admin ask for him or the admin is on a power trip. Either way, one toxic person can have a much larger impact in a small office compared to a larger one.

    11. sweeps*

      bees. I can hear bees buzzing everywhere. Either the CEO doesn’t have any sense of what’s actually going on (or is just a liar) or the admin thinks they are in charge and will make your life harder. Both are unpleasant. And for a salary less than posted? nope.

    12. JelloStapler*

      It sounds like there is a bait and switch on the horizon. Not maliciously, necessarily, but even one out of miscommunication or lack of organization is bad.

    13. Policy Wonk*

      Run. The CEO will say whatever you want to hear, then turn to the Admin as her enforcer. Do not take this job.

    14. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I’d seek to clarify this “flexibility” in detail and get it in writing.

      I have a feeling the CEO is promising something that may not be how the company actually functions. At best, you’ll be a weird exception that has to me managed differently in payroll. and at worse those “promises” will be revoked pretty quickly once you start. Is it worth the hassle for a job that’s gonna pay $5k less than you wanted? $5k may not be a fortune, but think how long it takes you to save five thousand dollars.

      Of course if you really like and need/want the job perhaps you won’t care.

  35. NoLongerFencer*

    What is normal to expect from work as a new parent? I returned from parental leave awhile ago and they expected me to give a presentation during my one daytime pumping time. Then I had a once a year writing deadline with being online after work hours 7-8 pm plus now an invite to join a work planning group that meets around 4:30 biweekly, right when I have to pick up baby from daycare (I mean, baby can’t drive themself!). I never had meetings weirdly scheduled like this till I came back and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m doing good work or they’re purposefully messing with my schedule/boundaries or both. They’re normally very flexible but it’s like they forget I’m a parent.

    1. ferrina*

      You shouldn’t be asked to re-schedule your pumping time. I think there’s legal rights around that (maybe as medical accommodation- not a lawyer). That said, most people won’t know/remember your unavailability, so remind them as it comes up. They should adjust with no repercussions (if you start facing repercussions, that’s another story)

      Definitely push back on the planning group. Folks that haven’t had to deal with daycares often don’t realize the limitations that daycares still have (i.e., pick-up times, closures, sick child policies). Treat it as a small issue that you’re all solving together, and collaborate for solutions (same as you would if you had any other resource limitation- in this case, the resource is your time/schedule).

      Having a once-a-year late night is a reasonable expectation for a new parent. I had frequent late nights as a new parent. In my case I would work from home when I was working after hours, but it’s not unreasonable to have one really late night. If it’s a usual thing, that’s something to talk to your manager about.

      1. Nikki*

        There are legal rights around pumping time, but it just says the employer needs to provide reasonable break time throughout the day to pump. It doesn’t say they have to provide breaks exactly when the mom wants to pump so they can ask you to reschedule pumping times. You can try to push back on that, though! Block off times on your calendar and if people schedule stuff during those times, let them know that doesn’t work for you. I pumped for two kids and did occasionally have to reschedule pumping time for important meetings that couldn’t be moved, but people usually respected the times I had blocked off on my calendar and were ok with moving stuff when they could.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      When in doubt assume with kindness, not with malice. So let’s assume they aren’t familiar with your daycare/pumping schedules rather than deliberately messing with it.

      What happens when you push back, are they receptive and willing to change times or accommodate you being late to the meeting or joining virtually etc?

    3. Rara Avis*

      I think people do forget, or don’t factor it in. I was assigned to chaperone a field trip while I was pumping. After a number of back-and-forths about them finding me a place to pump on the trip, and someone else to supervise my group while I was pumping, they decided it made more sense for someone else to chaperone. Can you use the “of course a reasonable person would not want me to miss my pumping window” language?

    4. FJ*

      Also new-ish parent here. Taking the positive view – they probably do forget! It’s pretty new for you so it’s obviously new for them and they don’t have the baby at home reminding them.

      Or they weren’t that good about flexibility in the first place, so this just makes it more obvious. I doubt anyone has the energy to be purposefully messing with you in a normal workplace.

      I took to blocking daycare drop-off and pickup on the work calendar and mentioning repeatedly “I have a hard stop because kiddo” and that seemed to work over time.

    5. CTT*

      Have you been blocking out these times on your calendar (even just with a generic “unavailable” if your coworkers can see the calendar entry, not just that it’s blocked)? People can know you’re a parent without knowing the time specifics, like when the daycare closes or what time of day you reserve for pumping.

    6. OyHiOh*

      Multiple women in my office use the lactation room on a daily basis. Their time is blocked on their personal calendars as well as the calendar for the room. Those women have authority from on high to kick out anyone else using the room if use overlaps their scheduled times and we have a strong culture of not scheduling meetings for them on those time blocks.

      While they don’t run around announcing their facts of life, they’re pretty blunt when they need to. The ones who have seniority have made a practice of pushing back on calendar invites. “That’s my pumping time, I need you to find a different time,” which makes it easier for less senior people to know they can push back as well.

      You might need to actively participate in setting the company culture around this. “this is my scheduled mom time/family time/pumping time, I can’t meet, please find an alternate time block” and similar.

    7. Esmeralda*

      You’re a parent and you know your schedule intimately.

      Nobody else knows your schedule. Nobody. BTDT. Even if they love you and think you’re a fabulous employee/coworker. Unless it’s your own assistant or secretary, there is zero reason for anytime else to have your schedule at the forefront of their minds.

      Block off your calendar so that everyone knows you can’t meet then. If someone schedules over your pumping time, turn down the invite and tell them you have a standing obligation at that time everyday and cannot move it. If they press, say “it’s my pumping time. “ (I always just said that right out when I first got the invite, but you can do it as the second step)

      If you have to leave at 4:30 every day, make sure your calendar reflects that.

      It’s worthwhile to confirm your hours with your boss. If there are folks you meet with often, you could then share your schedule with them, with a “just a heads up, my schedule is different now that I’m back from maternity leave”.

      But you kinda need to knock off that shoulder-chip — yeah, you’re a parent/new parent, but that is just not priority number one for anyone but you, and you need to make it easy for others to know and work with your schedule.

  36. rosie in london*

    Ah, the politics of office grocery shopping… I’ve come in as an office manager for a smaller office of a much larger company. Previously, the office management was done mostly by an IT guy who stepped up to help, and is still in the office. I hate to say it, but the staff really took advantage of this guy. We use a grocery delivery service to stock the kitchen, and he clearly just bought whatever people asked for, including alcohol, out of fear that people would be mad at him if he didn’t (his words – he is clearly very afraid of confrontation and will interpret someone asking him a question as “yelling” at him). Everyone gets their preferred cereal, snack, etc, so our office of 15 employees has 15 different boxes of cereal, 15 different bags of crisps, you get the idea. One guy gets oat milk AND almond milk. Another has thrown away full containers of yoghurt if they’re not the “right” brand. No one has shared any dietary restrictions with me, so it’s not like I’m buying more to accommodate for nut allergies or anything.

    We have a budget of £50 per day that I think a lot of people saw as a goal rather than an upper limit. I came onboard and upper management told me to shut this down. There’s still a budget for treats, but they suggested that I instead get a mixed box of cookies, brownies, doughnuts etc, rather than taking individual orders for bougie desserts. I’m talking tiramisu, creme brulee… and the office is growing so this will just keep getting more out of hand.

    We’re trying to keep things in line with the offerings at our larger European HQ, where employees get free breakfast and lunch, as well as fruit and healthy snacks, but if you want chocolate, crisps, etc you have to buy it from a vending machine. The HQ canteen serves dessert on Friday so management wants to keep desserts to once a week in my office.

    But how do I handle moving towards this… without being seen as the evil office wench who swooped in and took away the goodies? It doesn’t help that I also do HR and am currently the only woman in the office. I have the “management said so” backup, but I think this office has gotten used to being spoiled.

    Of course, I fully expect all these £6-flat-white types to eat supermarket cakes if they’re free, but I digress.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Blame management. Approach as you hate this too, oh man can’t believe we have to match HQ pattern for snacks. Redirect all the anger/blame/hangry moods to management. It’ll keep things smoother for you. And it is the fact, HQ says no more endless snacks at 1000/month. Present it more as a this has happened we are offering this and this now. I would probably not take any requests even little ones for a month or two. I would make a clear policy/plan in writing that you can refer people to, if your bosses are cool with it.

      Also good luck with IT cant say no guy, that seems like a nightmare waiting to happen if he’s in charge of setting up passwords,managing access, blocking websites, etc.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        Also for messaging – setting it up as a “healthy living initiative” might give you some mileage against the I want my tiramisu crowd. HQ wants to promote healthy living so our free snack options are now XYZ etc.

        1. it's me*

          I’ve heard this is the route our parent company went when they took chocolate and other less healthy things off the offerings list.

    2. Educator*

      I would explain that the change is coming, and why. Lining up with HQ makes sense. Things changing as your team grows does too.

      Then I would send out one very official survey asking for dietary restrictions just to make absolutely sure none exist, and to ask for general preferences if that would help you choose things and build some buy-in (at the level of “sweet snacks or salty?” and “sandwiches or salads?,” not individual orders).

      And then I would not take one single individual request, because once you do it for one person, you will be doing it for everyone again. Just say “we have a set grocery list now based off of the survey” and refuse to debate it.

      Custom dessert orders are so wildly outside the norm!

    3. talos*

      The above comments are good, but do also make sure to check in after a few weeks of the new system and make sure people are generally happy and don’t have specific complaints.

      I’m vegetarian and occasionally a person just…does. not. know. how to buy food for me (the big one being that meatless salads and sandwiches contain basically no calories, and some people seem to not realize this). So make sure that when you satisfy dietary restrictions, you do so in a useful way and people are not unsatisfied with the non-personalized food they receive.

  37. What's her face*

    In the name of salary transparency, I shared my salary with a current coworker. she is much more tenured than I am, yet my salary was $10k above hers. She’d long suspected she was underpaid but this really confirmed it. I obviously like my higher salary, but it gives me the icky feelings about a lengthy future with this company. If you could predict the future, how would you see this playing out long term? Will the next person in be higher than me? Will it ever even out?

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      This can be good but it overlaps with so many other aspects. For example, everyone on my team is “Business Analyst” but some can do amazing things in Tableau and Python and others just do pivot tables. Some find opportunities and some only find small errors here and there. Not everyone is the same and their pay should be different. Being there for 20 years doesn’t make them worth more money. That’s what their existing salary is for.

    2. Qwerty*

      I’d watch how things play out with her though that depends on whether she says anything or just looks for a new job. The media hype about the “great recession” is starting to shine a light that longer term employees tend to get paid less than new employees coming in at market rate. If you are in a male-dominated space, hearing that your coworker is underpaid might prompt them to do a general equality analysis.

      My last two companies did evaluations to even out pay and bring longer-tenured employees up to the rates the new hires were getting. Both of them had grown from <100 employess to 250+ employees and there was a really big pay disparity as result. One of them got rid of COLA and merit increases all together in favor of a general market adjustment for "what would pay to hire this person now", which worked really well and freed us from percentage increases.

      I guess my point is there is hope, but someone has to shine a light on this. Discovering the inequity is what kicked off the process at one of those companies – a female employee was mentioned her pay level as one of the reasons she was frustrated at not getting a promotion, the HR rep looked into why it was lower than recent male hires and discovered that all of the long-tenured employees were paid less than their newer peers, triggering an overall evaluation for everybody.

  38. Grace*

    I’ve seen some discussions about this issue before, so hopefully the folks here can help resolve the problem before it gets to the point where anyone would be writing in about it. I’m in charge of buying matching T-shirts for our organization. We’re a tiny nonprofit organization and I know everyone who’d be getting one, so the current plan is that everyone tells me what size they want (possibly through Google Forms), and I place the order and pass the shirts out when they arrive. I know this isn’t optimal, but given that I do need to pass the shirts out when they arrive, I don’t see a better option.

    The seller we’re currently looking at, who I’ve gotten good products from in the past, goes up to men’s 4XL (33 length, 28 width)/women’s 3XL (30 length, 28 width) and down to men’s Youth XS (20.5 length, 16 width)/women’s XS (23.5 length, 16 width). Is this an acceptable size range? If not, what sources are available that go further than that, don’t have an order minimum, and are cheap and decent-quality (our current candidate will run us $25/shirt, and that is about the top of our price range)?

      1. ursula*

        Just a note that for plus sizes especially, there can be HUGE variation in what a 1x, 2x, 3x etc actually is – so your fat coworkers will probably need to know what brand you intend to order from so they can check the measurements in the size guide. If you’re at all concerned about whether everyone will be easily caught by this size range, definitely make sure you include a link to the actual shirts you plan to order when you survey them for sizes.

          1. Melina*

            But they are fat? We are making words dirty and bad when they dont need to be. Nothing wrong with saying skinny or slender, so fat or large shouldnt be a problem either.

            1. Fat and Fine*

              And as a fat person, I would very much prefer a factual use of the word fat. I. Am. Fat. That is just a fact. Using euphemisms like large when you mean fat make me feel I should be ashamed of my size, and I refuse to be.

              You can feel however you want about the word, and you don’t have to use it. But shaming others for using the factually accurate term is unfair, unkind and unhelpful.

              1. Gigi*

                ^All. Of. This.^

                Fat is not an insult, it’s a description. Unfunny, boring, unkind…all these are insults. Let’s stop putting people’s bodies in that category.

          2. Dark Macadamia*

            It’s literally just a description, which is relevant to the conversation. I’m fat, how is it shaming me to say it? How is it ignorant to acknowledge it? (No, I’m not “body positive” and I would not appreciate someone calling me fat to my face, but that’s because it’s rude to comment on people’s bodies, period, not because it’s bad to be fat)

            1. Dark Macadamia*

              Should’ve added: it’s fine to not like that word, but your comment makes it sound like the phrasing is objectively wrong and Ursula is a bad person for saying it, when obviously there are different opinions on the matter. It’s fine to stay you’d prefer they say “plus size” or that you find it offensive, but don’t try to speak for everyone, especially in a time when there is so much activism surrounding that word and how we talk about body size.

          3. JimmyJab*

            It’s not universally considered shaming. Lots of fat folks (myself included) describe themselves that way.

          4. Marna Nightingale*

            I am also team “that is the correct term, please don’t act like something I very obviously am is a dirty word” …

            with the caveat that not everyone who needs a larger shirt is in fact fat. Some are incredibly tall, unreasonably jacked, or have, um, vast tracts of land, or all three. Or one or more of the above AND is fat.

            So in this particular case, “coworkers who need larger sizes” probably is the way to go, but not because fat is a dirty word.

            And I also want to put in a good word for my short and extremely slightly build friends, who find it hard to exude professionalism when they are handed a shirt they could invite two friends into and spend the day feeling as if they were wearing a branded blankie.

          5. bunniferous*

            I’m fat. I’m not offended by the word. As long as it’s not used in the commission of an insult I really don’t care.

    1. Bagworm*

      I know this doesn’t answer your question but I just wanted to suggest you consider using the terms straight and tailored instead of men’s and women’s. They are tailoring terms but remove gender from the equation and can help a lot of people feel more comfortable. I only know about it because we having been working on it at our work right now.

      It’s great that you are working to include all sizes and I hope you find a good answer. Please feel free to disregard my unsolicited suggestion.

      1. CootersGarage*

        Tailored isn’t the same as a women’s shirt though. There are tailored men’s shirts and they tend to be reverse triangle. Women’s shirt are hourglass shaped. A women’s straight cut is usually a triangle shale for more of a tunic flow.

        It’s ok to call the shirt cuts what they are.

        1. Moryera*

          I’ve heard the word “fitted” thrown about instead of “tailored” as a non-gendered term for what we’d usually consider a women’s shirt, if that one makes more sense.

      2. Observer*

        I just wanted to suggest you consider using the terms straight and tailored instead of men’s and women’s. They are tailoring terms but remove gender from the equation

        Please do NOT consider this suggestion, because in THIS context, gender is a relevant issue. As @CootersGarage notes, tailored and straight are different for men and women.

        1. Bagworm*

          I admit that I am not a tailor so if I have the wrong terms or the ones I suggested are not accurate, I appreciate the correction. However, clothes do not have gender so gender is not a relevant issue and assigning gender to certain styles perpetuates stereotypes about how certain genders should dress and full out excludes people who are non-binary.

          As was mentioned in another comment, provide the dimensions of the shirts and allow people to pick the ones that fit their body and style.

          I do appreciate your sharing your thoughts but I’ll bow out now since I don’t want to derail the conversation further.

          1. Observer*

            Clothes don’t have a gender, but the biological gender of IS relevant to the fit of the (gender-less) clothes. There is no need to obscure that fact.

            The words are not being used to describe STYLES but FIT. That’s not about stereotypes and societal gender norms. It’s about relatively typical body shapes.

          2. Despachito*

            How do you say in a non-stereotyped way that fitted t-shirts for women would usually need extra space for breasts, unlike those for men?

            But to provide the dimensions and let people choose is a good idea.

    2. CootersGarage*

      I’m not sure why you think it’s problematic to pass out shirts the shirts in person honestly, and I’m a woman’s 3X/Mens2X

      As for the range, that’s pretty accommodating but if it will be acceptable depends on your coworkers. If the shirts have to be worn and you get a Google doc order outside your range, you’ll need to find a solution for them.

      1. londonedit*

        This is how we approached it when we did a special order of running vests for my running club (it was to commemorate a particular event so they were slightly different from the usual vests available to order through the club, and for one reason or another required a different supplier). The size range was fairly broad but sports manufacturers are notorious for assuming anyone who runs is lithe and athletic, so there were a few people who contacted the club and said hey, those sizes aren’t going to work for me. So we asked anyone who wanted a vest outside of the size range to let us know, and we found a separate supplier for those. It was more expensive for the club, but it was also important that everyone who wanted one of the commemorative vests could have one.

      2. Observer*

        If the shirts have to be worn and you get a Google doc order outside your range, you’ll need to find a solution for them.

        Yes. Very much this.

        Either you’ll need to find a different vendor, or you’ll have to special order. But you simply cannot mandate that something be worn then refuse to provide the item because someone is “too fat”

        1. Despachito*

          I see the practical issue to be:we have a vendor who suits us in terms of prices and quality, but we will only know whether we can use him after we collect the sizes from people and see whether they are within the offered range.

    3. Llellayena*

      I highly recommend including the size chart with measurement in inches (or cm if you’re not in the US) when you ask for sizes so people can choose their size off of something other than S/M/L… I ordered a M for one of these things once and I swear it came in as a size 00, and I wasn’t the only woman with that issue (men were fine). I looked at the size chart from the company after and I would have had to order an XL.

    4. Snow Globe*

      The thing missing from that size chart (and honestly most T shirt makers, so you probably can’t do much about it) is Tall sizes. My husband is XLT and my son is LT, and it is so hard to get shirts that fit – XL isn’t long enough and XXL is way too wide. Occasionally when my husband was with an organization that did “team” shirts, he’s buy a plain XLT shirt in the right color and give it to a friend who does shirts using a cri-cut to have the logo put on.

    5. Qwerty*

      If you are planning to hold onto sizes for future orders and this isn’t just a one off, a form that I received once gave a sample size chart and gave people the option of entering a men/unisex size AND a women’s size, with a final question asking which cut they preferred. Most of the guys only filled out the guy field, but it gave a fallback for if we could only do a unisex run of shirts and some women prefer men’s cuts.

      If it’s a one off, probably best to send out the size charts and have an field for people to indicate if that brand won’t work so you can follow up with them. I love that you have options for youth size included

      1. HBJ*

        This is a good idea! Once, someone ordered shirts for a group I was in and asked for sizes. We were all women, so I asked if they were going to be women’s cut or unisex. I was told women’s, so I gave that size, which is one size larger than my unisex size. They ended up ordering unisex, so I was stuck wearing a baggy shirt. It happened again the next year. :(

    6. Marna Nightingale*

      Since you have been smart and gotten the measurements as well as the sizes, and since it’s a tiny org, is there an option to just email everyone all the measurements and say “if this won’t work for you can you let me know and I’ll look into other vendors?”

    7. MaryLoo*

      Keep in mind that the circumference of the shirt, which would be twice the width quoted by the vendor, is NOT equal to the circumference of the person. Clothing has “ease”, the amount of extra room that allows a garment to be worn without being skin-tight. For example, if a person with a 40 inch chest measurement buys a shirt that the vendor lists as 20-inch width, that shirt will fit the person as tight as a leotard, because they didn’t allow for ease.

      Ask the vendor for body measurements for each size. These will be different than the length and width of the shirt. If the vendor measured the shirts and sent you the measurements, telling your workers those measurements will cause confusion. Many people won’t realize that the “width” quoted by the vendor is half of the circumference. And even if they do, unless they’re people who sew or are knowledgeable about clothing fits, you are likely to end up with lots of people whose shirts are too small.

      Ask the vendor for sample sizes so people can see them and try on if necessary. You can send the samples back to be included in the print run.

      I don’t see a problem with passing out the shirts. You’ll just need to sort them by yourself ahead of time. Roll up each shirt and attach a paper with the person’s name, held on with a rubber band. This avoids having to call out “Susie, you ordered a large” as you search through the pile. Also avoids having to ask “Susie, what size did you order?” in front of everybody.

  39. Sandy*

    I have been so frustrated in the past weeks, and I am trying to imagine a better world.

    I have been working with a big team on a huge project at work. It was always going to be a huge lift, but there is one person making everyone’s life miserable.

    He doesn’t have the skills, he doesn’t have the background, meetings upon meetings get derailed by him, he comes up with make-work projects for the team so that he can be seen as “leading” them, he edits group documents like itineraries and roles and responsibilities to give himself puffed-up titles (the latest was Senior Strategic Advisor on Strategic Issues”), etc.

    It’s been at least as much work managing him as it has been trying to get the project move forward.

    I know that this is hardly an isolated case, and that many of us have had our own versions of this scenario play out in our workplaces.

    Fantasize with me: What would your job look like on the day to day with this kind of behaviour just magically deleted, deus ex machina-style?

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Wow I feel your pain, it’s sort of tied into my comment below about software testing. She is a nightmare to deal with with similar things you said, and our mutual boss either doesn’t see it or doesn’t care. She is always shooting around pointless texts and emails and doesn’t take a hold of any of her work. It all runs more smoothly when she’s not there.

    2. Gigi*

      I think it looks like a workplace where the supervisor knows the difference between conduct issues and performance issues and handles it accordingly. What you’re describing sounds like a mix to me, and I would probably counsel him on inflating his title, including laying out the consequences of his behavior and the potential actions I’ll take if he doesn’t change it. And I would also try and get him the training he needs to be able to do the job better. It’s stunning to me how many managers don’t do this. You don’t even mention a manager here, which leads me to believe they’re either non-existant or useless.

    3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      My job without incompetent/arrogant people? It. Would. Be. Heaven. Smart, thoughtful people mainly in their offices or classrooms, occasionally converging on the tea room for a chat about That Thing which turns into informal brainstorming which turns into someone calling That Other Unit to see if we understand their processes around That Thing correctly, before figuring out a solution and taking it to the manager (me), who is not having to spend all her effing time fighting fires started by arrogant & incompetent people and is thus free to make sure the suggestion is acted upon.

      Every month or two we would all get together in a Covid-safe way to brainstorm bigger ideas, decide on strategy, and decide who is going to do the pilot/scoping exercises to check out the feasibility of a new plan, or who is going to write the business case for the resources that we need for the plans.

      Sigh.

  40. FJ*

    I’m interviewing for some new roles – both senior level individual contributor and manager of a small team. I know asking prospective employers about “what’s your management style” is kinda useless. It turned out at my last job that the position advertised “setting priority and making strategic decisions” but the boss ended up just wanting project manager to do whatever the boss decided on.

    Does anyone have any magic questions that help understand management styles and work cultures? I have been trying “What happened the last time you and your boss/team had a disagreement about a priority?” which seems pretty good but not a great way to filter out everything.

    1. one L lana*

      I generally find pretty open-ended descriptive questions to be, paradoxically, more helpful at getting information that I want, because a sharper question might nudge them toward telling you what you want to hear. “How do you handle it if a competing priority comes up?” “Tell me about the process you use to prioritize your project.” “Can you tell me a little more about how a project goes from conception to execution, and who’s involved? I know every company is a little different.”

    2. NewJobNewGal*

      I ask directly, “How often do you have meetings with your team?” or “How frequently do you check in with your team?” That will give you an idea if they are a micromanager.

  41. one L lana*

    Wrapped up my performance review cycle as a manager today. Because I am a terrible procrastinator, I left the worst one for last — someone who started the review period really struggling, has been on a good trajectory, but still isn’t meeting expectations for their role. (They started the review period new on my team with process issues and work product issues. The process has improved a lot. The work product isn’t there yet.)

    I was very nervous about this one because it was the most straightforwardly “needs improvement” reviews I have ever written. Ultimately, it was one of the most honest, meaningful and productive conversations I have had as a manager.

    On my boss’s suggestion, I made sure they had the written review 24 hours before and then let them open the conversation by telling me how they think the last six months went. This was really helpful and started us off on the right foot. We went nearly an hour and had a thoughtful retrospective on what went wrong in the past six months and a good conversation about what they’re going to do going forward. It definitely helped that I was able to honestly say that I had seen a lot of progress from them.

    I really struggle with straightforward negative feedback and this is a good reminder that people really do want to know where they stand. (I had a frustrating experience with my boss, who gave some pretty sharp constructive feedback in my written review and then kept saying “You’re great, none of this is really a problem!” when we met in person.) I’m hoping that having had this good experience makes it easier to do this going forward.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I sympathize. It’s hard giving that kind of feedback, just as it’s hard receiving it! I feel more comfortable when I stick to a formula of “name the thing that you’ve observed, discuss the impact it has on the work/other people, state expectations for what you want to see going forward, and check to make sure the person understands and is willing to make the change.” Having that formula makes it easier for me to frame things in a professional and unambiguous way.

      1. one L lana*

        That formula has been really helpful to me, too!

        In this case, what helped was using a large part of the review document to clearly detail all the expectations for the job. I was struggling to balance acknowledgment of the improvement we had seen with the fact that doing the basics OK most of the time is not enough for someone with a more senior title/salary (I think this employee was misclassified when they were hired, but it is what it is, since a demotion is not on the table).

        So “We expect senior contributors to X, Y, and Z. Employee is doing a good job at X and making progress on Y. Going forward, we need Employee to keep up the good work on X while doing Y and Z consistently.”

        This felt clear and helpful rather than personal or demotivating, and it’s a technique I will definitely use again.

  42. ETheGOAT*

    My friend’s boss is driving her to work and she feels a bit nervous about it. It’s her first day and she starts after school today. Is this weird? Should she be concerned?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      What type of job? In high school I babysat and parents would give me a ride home after often. I usually only did that with people I knew or friends of my parents etc.

    2. Marna Nightingale*

      Man, it would be nice if she could work a few shifts before having to make this call. Does she know anyone else who works for him?

      Meanwhile … can I ask for more info? Which, answering these may answer her question for her.

      1) high school or college/university?

      If she’s in high school, this feels more like reasonable consideration and kindness for a new, young staffer. If it’s university, it’s a bit weirdly paternal — maybe. Depending on more questions:

      2) Is he going out of his way, or is he going to be at or near the school anyway and this is just a casually kind offer?

      Going out of his way is odd. The thing is , it could be “wow this guy is unreasonably great to work for” odd, or it could be “this is gonna get weird, fast” odd. So:

      3) Is this going to be every time, or the first time only?

      If it’s the first time, it’s more likely it’s just the boss trying to start off smoothly and set her up for success.

      3) Is she nervous because she feels as if it might affect their professional relationship to be driving together?

      In which case, keeping any chat on the topic of work is probably the way to go and