I don’t want to go to our holiday party, I think my coworker is working two jobs at once, and more

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

1. I don’t want to go to our holiday party

At out last meeting, we were discussing what to do for our holiday party and were asked to vote. The decision hasn’t been made yet, but most of the choices were in the city that is an hour-long drive from where I live. I said I would go if we chose to do something in the town close to where we work, and otherwise I probably wouldn’t go. I don’t want a two-hour round trip in winter for something that I wouldn’t enjoy. I live the farthest of all of us from said city so it would be hardest on me, but I am also aware that I just don’t really want to go in the first place. (I do not enjoy parties in general.) Am I being unreasonable?

It’s not unreasonable not to want to go, especially given the length of the drive.

It is worth asking, though, whether you’ll pay a professional price if you don’t go. In many workplaces, not going would be a complete non-issue. If you’re in one of those, skip it and have no qualms about staying home. In other workplaces, though, it can be A Thing if you don’t go — there are managers who will see you as not interested in being part of the team and there can be an opportunity cost to not attending. To be clear, this is ridiculous (unless you’re a manager, in which case it can be a part of your job to show up) but it’s still the reality on some teams … although definitely less than it used to be, given the pandemic (and if you have safety concerns about, say, indoor dining, that is a completely legitimate reason to skip it, even with a manager who really wants everyone there).

2. My coworker might be working two jobs at once

We recently hired a new scrum master for our team. Until he was hired, I was filling in for a few months in addition to serving as a product owner for two teams. The person we hired interviewed really well, but has not been working out as expected. As the scrum master he is supposed to facilitate our ceremonies in addition to other meetings we regularly have. He will regularly ask me to fill in at the last minute or will take off unexpectedly and not arrange for coverage. On two recent meetings, he has left his phone unmuted and we can hear another meeting unmuted in the background. Based on what is being said, I can tell it is another project-related meeting but does not include any participants from our team. It is highly unlikely that it is a simultaneous meeting for our company.

I don’t want to say anything to my leadership, because I do not have proof. The simultaneous calls and spotty meeting attendance is not concrete evidence. Even if it were, I hesitate to say anything because I am worried that it would backfire on me. I am at the point where I am getting burned out (in addition to his work, I am also taking on the responsibilities for someone else who recently left our team), but leadership does not care. I also don’t want to look like I am not a team player. I am unsure of what to do. I love the company I work for and don’t want to leave, but it is taking its toll.

You don’t need evidence that he’s working a second full-time job to talk to your boss about what you’re seeing. Regardless of the cause, it’s a problem that the new hire regularly asks you to fill in at the last minute or takes off unexpectedly without arranging for coverage. It’s also relevant that he seems to be participating in other meetings while he’s supposed to be meeting with you. Those things are all getting in the way of him doing the work you rely on him for, and are increasing the burden on you. That’s fair game to talk to your boss about (and would be even no matter what was causing it).

But also, this isn’t a court of law where you have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. If what you’re seeing gives you the strong impression that your coworker is doing two jobs at once, you’re allowed to say, “While I don’t know for sure and can’t prove anything, X and Y and Z make me wonder if he’s working two jobs at once.” Your boss can (or at least should) take a closer look from there.

3. How to tell doctors they’re bad writers

I’m a senior employee in a field that is … not really adjacent to medicine, but it uses “medical” in the job title. My field requires a combination of two very different types of skills: 1) knowledge of medical terminology/the ability to understand articles in medical journals, and 2) strong writing skills.

Here is the problem: Most people, including most doctors, believe they are strong writers. Almost nobody, including most doctors, is actually a strong enough writer to do my job, which requires special training that is not really part of coursework offered at most universities, especially to pre-med and medical students.

The doctors do not know this, and a steady stream of people (strangers to me) who are looking to get out of direct care work contact me on LinkedIn and other platforms asking me to recommend them for a position. Each one assumes they are already overqualified by virtue of having an MD, even though nearly all of them send me letters full of basic errors demonstrating that they don’t have strong writing skills. (I think they believe they’re good writers, since they’re smart people who got good grades in school, but they’re really not.)

I hate to see so many people barking up the wrong tree and genuinely want to help them. But I often don’t respond, because I don’t know how to tell them they’re obviously not ready for the work. Also, I’ve worked for doctors before and find this is not a group that takes setbacks well! I don’t want to get a ton of hate mail from people who are disappointed they can’t waltz into my job.

What’s the gentlest possible way I can phrase a form letter for the MDs who want my job, are definitely not equipped to do my job, and don’t know that yet? Should I point them to the few places that offer the right courses and hope they get the hint?

You don’t need to tell them they’re not ready for the work or that they’re bad writers. They’re not asking you to assess that; they’re just asking if you can recommend them. It’s perfectly reasonable to decline to recommend someone you don’t know and have never worked with — you can’t vouch for someone if you can’t speak to their work — and that’s all you need to do.

It would actually be fine to just ignore these requests completely. These are strangers asking you for a favor (and a pretty audacious one); you’re not obligated to spend your time crafting responses explaining why you won’t. But if you want to reply, you could simply say, “I’d recommend simply applying on our website to get your application into our system. I’m not in a position to recommend you since we’ve never worked together but I wish you luck.” If you want, you could add, “One thing I’ve found helpful for people trying to move into this field from medicine is taking some of the courses in X and Y from Z.”

4. Should my time logging into work be paid?

I recently started a part-time job that is fully remote and paid hourly. In order to do my job, I need to log on to several websites and apps, a process that takes about five minutes or so. I can’t starting doing my job until I’m onto all of them. I usually start with a couple of tasks already in the queue as soon as I’m set up.

I’ve been clocking in and then start the process of logging in, but I’ve wondered if that’s appropriate, or if I should only clock in once I’m actually ready to start work?

You should clock in first, before you start the process of logging into the various websites. You’re only spending that time logging in because it’s part of your job, and so it’s time that counts as paid work. That’s not just my opinion; it’s straight from the Department of Labor, which has fined companies that don’t pay for that time.

{ 385 comments… read them below }

  1. Former GM*

    Employees that have the ability to write well in ANY field are becoming a dying breed…

    I’d (usually) rather hire a strong writer who needs training on the specifics of the industry over someone who knows the industry but cannot write an email to a client without it full of errors.

    1. Double A*

      I think you can be a good writer and bad proofreader. Sometimes it’s essential that the person writing content also be able to polish it (like, direct client correspondence), but not necessarily.

      I’m a good, fast writer. But I’m not an accurate writer. I make a ton of typos, because I write quickly. To truly polish something takes me a lot of time and focus; I can do it, but if I were in a job where large quantities of polished writing were essential, it would be better to divide the jobs of writing and proofreading because they’re different skills.

      When I teach kids writing, I’m often amazed when parents focus on spelling and handwriting in extemporaneous writing as evidence their kids aren’t good writers. I focus on structure, ideas, clarity, and so on. Spelling is something you focus on in the revision stage.

      To me, saying someone makes errors doesn’t tell me anything about their skill as a writer. Are the errors ones of fact and logic that make the writing difficult to understand or inaccurate? Then that’s bad writing. Are the errors typos? Then that’s bad proofreading. And it’s fine to value proofreading and error-free writing! But then what you’re looking for is a good writer AND proofreader. Which can be reasonable, but in some situations could cause you to pass over people who would be the actual better writers.

      1. a tired writer*

        I’ve been a writer in tech spaces for 15 years.

        In all of that time, only *once* did I see a company hire a proofreader.

        While I wish more than anything that companies would hire dedicated editors and proofers, writers are almost always stuck self-editing or — in a best-case scenario — peer-editing.

        So yes, you do need to be a good writer *and* a good editor in almost every case. It’s really unfortunate.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          I work in PR, and write for an entertainment website as a side hustle. My manager proofs my stuff in my day job. In the side hustle, I have to do it all myself, which is definitely easier in some situations than others (eg liveblogs where you’re pretty much having to type as the thing is happening and often there are errors I have to go back and correct because I hit the wrong key or something trying to dump all my thoughts quickly).

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Tech writer here. One of the hardest things to make time for is that final self-check. And one of the most frustrating is knowing that I’ll still miss things because I’ve seen it too much already.

          Subject matter experts who are also good at the writing craft are worth a lot…but I’ve seen specs so confusing that I know the overlapis lower than thise SMEs think.

        3. Mockingjay*

          As a technical writer for 30+ years, I always have someone else proof my work. You are correct about the difference between editing and writing. Early in my career, those were separate roles. Over the years the positions have merged. (I blame the 90s mantra of “Do more with less” – the big conglomerate I worked for at the time certainly bought into that concept.)

          A lot of aspiring technical writers ask me for advice on how to get started. Serious candidates have researched the role and have specific questions I am quite happy to answer. The others I normally provide a vague answer or none – because clearly they have done no investigation at all and want to get into the field “because I write good!” or they think it’s lucrative right away.

      2. AJoftheInternet*

        I am a great writer, and a good proofreader, but when I am writing professionally I hand my work over to a proofreader before it goes public.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          I so agree with you on this. I’m a strong writer and editor and have been doing both professionally for many years. However, I’m not perfect and another set of eyes is crucial for any external writing. For me, this includes review for content as well as typos. My standard line for people who are just getting into writing is that even Pulitzer Prize-winning writers have editors and proofreaders.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I’m a decent writer, and a very good proofreader, but I was taught early that one cannot proofread or edit one’s own work effectively. If there’s really no other person available, then one can try tricks like reading it backwards, but it will never be as good.

          1. WS*

            Yes, absolutely. I’m not in that field currently, but when I was there were fortunately two of us in the department so we could edit and proofread for each other!

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I’m now in a field (patents) where proofreading by someone with the same technical competence is rare, except for training purposes, and people get really territorial about their work. The results are often predictably suboptimal, tbh.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Absolutely this. You’re too used to your own voice and if there are errors, you’ve seen them too many times already.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              And at least for myself personally, my brain will insist on putting in that word I meant to but skipped, or other similar errors. I do my best to have somebody else – even if just for grammar and spelling, check over my writing first.

              1. nobadcats*

                As an editor in educational publishing, I call this “your eye is infected.” Fortunately, in our field we have several passes because our work is going to be front to small people and their instructors.

        3. inko*

          Absolutely – I write, translate and proofread, and it is very difficult to proof your own work. You see what you intended to write, not what’s really on the page. I’d be horrified if no one checked my stuff before publishing it.

          1. Caroline+Bowman*

            Agree. I too work in editing and writing and it is not possible to proof one’s own work properly. It just isn’t.

        4. ThatGirl*

          Yep, I have pretty strong experience in writing, editing and proofreading (editing and proofreading are two different things, even) and I always want someone else to read my copy for work. It’s hard to edit/proof your own stuff.

        5. Jukebox Hero*

          “Never proof your own writing” is a mantra I learned at the very start of my career that has paid off numerous times. My favorite story to tell is when, during a final review, the person reading it discovered the “l” had been left out of the word “public.” Not something spellcheck would ever catch, and would have been *extremely* embarrassing to the writer and the organization had it gone out that way.

          1. Anonymous Cat*

            I used to have a job that involved typesetting but more like data entry, and I would do a search and replace for “pubic” and similar embarrassing typos before I released it to the next person.

      3. LW3*

        The errors are nonstop typos and grammar errors while asking for a recommendation in a field in which that’s unacceptable, but also disorganization and errors of logic.

        I’ve also taught writing, I have multiple writing degrees, and I promise these are bad writers no matter how we define that.

        1. Littorally*

          Ah, yeah, that’s more than can be expected from proofreading. It’s one thing if someone is bad with typos, but if the actual content they’re writing has substantial errors, there’s no saving that.

        2. One of the Annes*

          I like your clarification, L3. This is what I took from your letter. “Proofreading” is not the same as editing, but people use the two interchangeably. Good editing requires a heck of a lot more.

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            Yup – One of the major mistakes I see people make when they come into the library with their friend’s novel/newsletter/poems/whatever is thinking that the editing part of it will be easy. Just a quick favor they agreed to do for a friend, they need a little technical help with the editing tools, can’t I give them a crash course?

            Editing is HARD – it requires being able to see or discuss what an author’s goal is, evaluate if specific passages are readable to the audience and convey the desired message, consider the work critically while you look at it, and then clarify and modify things as necessary. And then you’ll have to deal with the person not wanting to take feedback simply because it is *gasp* changed! Or alternately, not bothering to read what you’ve done for edits and just say “sure go with yours” and you’ll be like “no no, I don’t know anything about particle accelerators, that’s why I asked to you clarify if you meant the meson burst radiation measurement device or the tachyon inverter measuring device was important here…”

            At all levels of skill, I suspect it is much harder to find editors than writers of the commensurate skill level.

            1. Lydia*

              My friends and I used to proofread and edit our writing together, sitting across from each other, so that we could ask and discuss what was written. Typo? No question, just mark it as needing fixed. This sentence that describes a scenario, but it meanders. What are you trying to describe? What do you want the reader to take away from it? Make a note.

          2. londonedit*

            Yep, working in book publishing I often have to explain to first-time authors the difference between the copy-editing stage and the proofreading stage. Speaking from a non-fiction perspective, the copy-editor will brush up the manuscript so it adheres to house style, and will fix any grammatical errors and typos as they go, but they’ll also query things (like ‘Will readers know what this acronym means? Spell out in full at the first mention?’ or ‘Llama groomers also need a certification in health and safety; you should clarify in this paragraph’), they flag up anything that doesn’t make sense or that could be expressed more clearly, and they sometimes also suggest that bits and pieces are moved – if, for example, the author suddenly introduces a concept that would be better explained earlier on. They’re checking for consistency as well as looking to make sure the structure makes sense and the book flows nicely and contains all the information it needs to so that the reader can get the most out of it. By the time the copy-editor has finished, and the author has reviewed the edited text and queries, you should have a final manuscript that doesn’t need much more work. Proofreading, in contrast, happens after the book has been typeset, and that’s mainly focused on catching typos, making sure there aren’t any typesetting errors (like missing running heads, inconsistency in layout – like you’ve used a grey tint behind some lists and not others, etc) and doing things like filling in page references. The proofreader will also flag things in the text if they’re inconsistent or aren’t making sense, but you’d hope to have sorted most of that out during the copy-edit.

            If you’re not doing the copy-edit properly, then you’re going to end up with writing that’s potentially inconsistent, doesn’t contain all the information it needs to (or obscures the information for the reader) and is generally more of a slog to read than something that’s had a bit of an edit and a polish. And that’s before you get to the issue of typos.

          3. nobadcats*

            I run a couple of teams of CEs. The work we do is hard and time consuming. We also have to read for context/content. Some of those same CEs work on a proofing team I also run, and that’s, depending upon the client’s timeline, probably a day or two, still hard work, but we’re not reading for context or subject matter unless something makes the proofer say, “Huh. Really?”

            Whether it’s a CE or a proofer, that triggers a “query the client/editorial” email from me.

            Working in educational publishing, as CEs we often encounter topics in which we are not subject matter experts (SMEs), like physics, science, and maths, because we were all mostly English/Classics/Educational majors. But that’s where my company excels, because the initial writing and editing is done by SMEs, so we, as CEs or proofers can kick it back to that team if we’re like “eh? I’m not sure if this is correct.”

        3. Cassandra Mortmain*

          I’m also a professional writer and editor, and I fully agree — the fact that this discussion immediately swerved into proofreading almost feels like a category error.

          You can be a great writer with a shaky grasp on commas or homophones or, occasionally, usage (comprises vs composed of, reticent vs reluctant). Context varies for how much that matters. As a professional editor, I expect writers I work with to self-edit to the best of their abilities, but I anticipate having to make some corrections.

          What I can’t fix as easily — and what I consider the essence of good writing — is the ability to communicate ideas clearly to the intended audience. Good writers can also intuit and adopt the style of the institution or publication for whom they’re writing without falling into cliché, and vary their sentence length and structure to make reading more pleasurable. These aspects of writing can be improved and polished with editing, but they can’t be conjured up from thin air if the writer isn’t able to do them at all.

          Proofreading and polishing is important, imo — but it’s downstream from good writing.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Adapting style is so important, not just to fit with institutional norms but also to suit the intended audience.

            I had a boss who was a decent writer for things like policy documents, but she wrote everything like it was going to be picked apart by a team of angry lawyers: complex sentences, highly specific but unnatural-sounding vocabulary and grammar, etc. That’s fine for policy documents and contracts. It was completely inappropriate for internal all-staff memos (we’re garbage workers, most staff are not strong readers and don’t need to be!) or community outreach materials.

            When I pointed out that those pieces should be written at an 8th-grade level or lower to make sure most people understand them, she admitted she had no idea how to do that.

          2. Brain the Brian*

            Fully agree with all of this. It’s even more complicated when proofing, revising, and editing complex content in English that someone who’s not a native speaker has written. Usage errors are typically rampant given that many languages don’t even have different words to account for the slight variation between words like reticent and reluctant, and trying to seduce whether a person meant reticent or reluctant when their comma placement is also a mess and their paragraph structure mirrors the way that ideas usually flow in their native language rather than English can be a bear. Editing like this can take a month for two pages when time zones and the back-and-forth are added into the picture, and upper management where I work just does not understand the time commitment required. Sigh.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I gotta say, I love the typo in here with ‘seduce’ instead of ‘deduce’. Just to show that even experts make little mistakes here and there.

        4. TrixM*

          I wouldn’t even bother replying to these randos, given they’re out of the blue and you have no professional relationship.

          Some people seem to use LI as their personal spam bot, or as the platform for an unholy alliance of technology and “use your gumption and just walk in and ask if they’re hiring!”

          I mean, it’s possible that someone wants to step back from a medical career – semi-retirement, etc – and may even have some writing skills. But assuming that you can waltz into a skilled profession with no training or experience is just the epitome of arrogance to me. I wouldn’t recommend them on principle even if they didn’t litter their writing with egregious errors.

          As it is, since they’re strangers, I’d treat this the way I treat so-called recruiters that obviously haven’t read a single word of my profile – with complete silence.

          Perhaps you’re a freelancer and need to make connections via LI, but if not, it might be worth locking down who can “InMail” you to cut down the noise a bit. Alas, it doesn’t mean you don’t get spam from people asking to be added to your network, but at least it’s one more hurdle for them to clear. Or perhaps a hybrid approach might work, if you get regular work from contacts already in your network – they can still InMail you if you have it locked, but if you need to drum up some business, you can unlock it as needed.

      4. hbc*

        I suppose everything you’re saying is true, but if the only writing sample I have from a potential writer is full of proofing-type errors, there better be gold in that writing. If someone can’t bother to put in the time and effort to polish a request for a favor, I’d put money on them being a pain to work with.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Right. Unless LW’s industry has proofreaders for everything, this distinction isn’t very helpful.

        2. Rain's Small Hands*

          I think its hard in the modern era to have anything full of simple proofreading errors – the computer flags everything from spelling to word context now – you have to seriously not care. Which is part of the reason proofreading and copy editing has become less common as a function.

          Now punctuation is hard for the more obscure stuff. And organization is really hard.

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            While an accurate statement of how many programs interact with written text, you would be shocked at how many people simply do. not. care. about the errors that software is flagging for them, and leave their content in error riddled states. Or they will actively disable auto-checking and auto-correction tools.

            There seems to be a large overlap between the sort of person who thinks they are good at writing when they aren’t, and the sort of person who gets upset that ‘that machine’ dared to change their content.

            1. Lydia*

              The other problem with automatic proofreading is that it can only focus on the mechanics of writing, it can’t really account for the voice, so there are things you want to sound a certain way that might be flagged, but there are also things that aren’t flagged that can be improved.

              1. TrixM*

                And sometimes these systems are outright wrong, especially with grammar.

                Also, the best spell check in the word won’t detect if a word is spelled perfectly correctly, but is misplaced or simply wrong in the context. For example, maybe some are smart enough to know that if “reign” is followed by “in”, it is incorrect 99.999% of the time, but unfortunately I don’t see much evidence that’s the case. (I have yet to see an actual sentence like, “King Harald and Queen Sonja reign in Norway,” but at least that’d be correct.)

    2. bamcheeks*

      Employees that have the ability to write well in ANY field are becoming a dying breed…

      This is simply not true. There is an increasing need for people who can write good copy as more and more areas of work require documentation, written policies and marketing materials. The number of people who can write well has not declined.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yes, the *need* is absolutely there. But the comment is lamenting that there does not appear to be enough *actually competent* people to meet the need.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          But that doesn’t mean there are fewer than there used to be; it could very well mean that the need has increased without the pool of writers/proofers having increased.

    3. raincoaster*

      It’s particularly ironic when this comes from doctors. Everyone who knows the alphabet seems to think they’re a good writer, but nobody goes up to a doctor at a party and says, “Hey, I’m pretty handy with a knife and fork. How do I get your job?”

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        In a previous job, I sometimes had to edit text that was originally written by medical professionals. I was mesmerised by the absolute refusal of many doctors to ever use a comma. They didn’t use commas incorrectly, they just never used commas at all.
        It was so consistent between so many doctors that I wondered if they taught it in medical school.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Which, according to the jokes of every writer, editor, or proofreader of my acquaintance, is the exact opposite problem actual writers have!

          1. Sophia Brooks*

            I have a similar, adjacent observation. I work with nurses, and they seem averse to compound sentences and to using a varied sentence structure. I think it comes from how they are taught to write nursing notes- short and to the point.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Seconding this suspicion. Writing in medical charts is intentionally the literal opposite of “readable” writing–the whole point is to remove as much ambiguity as possible (which is good in that setting).

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                As the non-clinical person getting charts in order to transfer to specialists or other practices – that is also my suspicion. It’s also how I have been trained to notate in the chart where I am sending it: “Transfer of chart. Sent to Dr Purr’s Cardiology Office.”

                No, I am not allowed compound sentences.

          2. ThatGirl*

            My husband was an English major and is an aspiring novelist, but his master’s degree and dayjob are in counseling. So he’s a good writer, but doesn’t have some of the technical skills I do, and he uses commas like they’re going out of style. (He is also pro-Oxford comma, which my AP Style-loving heart fights against.)

          3. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Oh for sure. I always over-comma, it’s one of the primary things I look for when I’m reading back a first draft.

        2. word nerd*

          That is so weird! I am an MD but don’t practice anymore and work as a writer and editor now. Sometimes I read what other MDs have written, and maybe I’m just lucky so far, but I’ve never seen this lack of comma business you speak of!

        3. ecnaseener*

          I haven’t noticed that particular problem, so hopefully it’s dying out? If anything, the opposite — too many complex sentences in what’s supposed to be plain language. Man, do some doctors stink at writing in plain language!

        4. Nightengale*

          At least when I was there, doctors aren’t really taught anything about writing in medical school. They are taught how to write notes but that doesn’t address anything like grammar or punctuation. This is probably how we end up with notes like “The patient admits to headache. He denies chest pain” rather than “Mr Smith states he has a headache but no chest pain.” It gets worse in pediatrics where notes are written about “patient’s mother” rather than “his mother” or “her mother” or “Jayden’s mother.”

          I specialize in care of children with developmental disabilities. It’s a very small, niche branch of pediatrics where I play with kids, talk with their parents and then put together reports where word choice matters. Really, in a lot of ways, I write for a living. But I definitely was not taught anything useful about writing in medical school.

          1. kendall^2*

            Oh, I loathe “patient denies”! It always makes me (the patient) feel like the medical person is saying I’m lying about my lived experience. Every single time I’ve brought it up, I’ve been told that it’s just how they’re taught to convey information (in med school or wherever). I find it ironic that this was at a hospital where they had committees and questionnaires about improving the patient experience. It feels like a fairly small language change could buy a bunch of goodwill…..

            1. Boof*

              You know I’m a doctor and on the one hand I cringe a little at the “denies” but it’s also so prevalent it creeps in anyway as it’s a clear shorthand for subjective vs objective, symptoms vs signs – it really is supposed to be literal. I have had a patient who was laying in a hall due to getting too short of breath walking saying they weren’t short of breath (heart failure with volume overload + schizophrenia- I totally believed they didn’t feel short of breath in that very second even as I was sure they weren’t able to walk down the hall because of what most people would describe as shortness of breath). Anyway I do try to avoid it but it’s like trying to avoid an accent – it creeps in when your focused on other things!

              1. TrixM*

                I totally get that, but it’d probably help if better language were modelled in training and published material, and by senior staff. It’s way too easy to pick up style along with jargon and keep repeating it! I say this as someone who works in IT and who uses terms like “leverage X thing” way too often (i.e. not never).

                I’d probably lean toward relying heavily on “reports” or “states” as mentioned previously. “Patient stated she is ‘not short of breath’, but is unable to walk unaided due to respiratory difficulty”. “Patient reports he feels feverish but has no headache”. Added quotes around the patient’s actual words might help with context.

                Anyway, not to preach to the choir, but I have been on the wrong end of language like “claims” or “denies”, and I feel it’s never quite as neutral as we’d like, in any context.

            2. Nightengale*

              Yes I never use the terms “admit” or “deny” in my notes. Maybe I might consider it in the absolute rare case when, for example, I had a positive substance test and a patient said they were not using any substances. Maybe. Even then I would probably say more like “[Name] states he is not using marijuana and does not have an explanation for the positive marijuana test.”

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        In a previous job, I sometimes had to edit text that was originally written by medical professionals. I was mesmerised by the absolute refusal of many doctors to ever use a comma. They didn’t use commas incorrectly, they just never used commas at all.
        It was so consistent between so many doctors that I wondered if they taught it in medical school.

      3. HannahS*

        *laughs until crying* Believe me, a huge number of people at parties think they have a better understanding of clinical medicine than we do and are MORE THAN HAPPY to tell me how the illnesses I treat could be better managed by going gluten-free (true story,) “finding balance” (also true story,) and sucking it up (also true story.)

        It’s selection bias at play. Most laypeople have a reasonable sense of what they know and don’t know, and most don’t come up to me at parties to tell me that, actually, their naturopathic degree meant that they had learned “everything that you did, but more” (also a true story.) Most physicians have a mostly-reasonable sense of what kind of writers we are and don’t ask strangers on the internet to help us get jobs in writing.

        Also, the way doctors learn how to write is to be borderline incoherent. Part of it is because of dictation software–if you don’t dictate the commas, the don’t show up, and part of it is the distanced, 3rd person writing we all get instructed on plus getting information across as efficiently as possible. It’s not intended to be readable, and hoo boy, it is NOT.

        1. Claire*

          My professional experience with doctors is that in 50% of them, minimum, their “sense of what they know and don’t know” is nonexistent. They absolutely believe they know everything, and more about everything than any expert in any field, and there is literally no task or job for which they are unqualified.

          Fortunately, at least some of them manage to retain reality contact all the way through their medical training. Everyone hates working with the other ones.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          HannahS, I’m not in clinical medicine but a field that studies human behavior. The number of people who think “Hey, I’m a human and therefore an expert on all human behaviors but especially the one you’re studying” is significant. I once worked with a guy who had no background at all in my field, but after several conversations with me (an advanced-degree holder with 10 yrs experience at that point), he started posing as an expert in my field to his boss by reciting back things that I’d said. It came back to me because he started injecting his ill-informed opinions and screwing up the project – he understood what I was saying but not why. I let management know, and they shut him down but wow that was annoying.

        3. bleh*

          Yeah, had an MD decide they were a humanist because … I guess because they were interested in novels, and an MD qualifies you to do anything. As a humanist who studies health related topics, I guess that makes me a clinician. Sob/laugh

        4. JustEm*

          I am also a doctor and have a similar experience to yours. I am fellowship-trained in a subspecialty focused on conditions that some people can indeed treat with lifestyle/mindfulness, but also has evidence-based targeted pharmacological treatments. A LOT of people seem to think they know more about it than I do because they read a book touting some out-there “cure.”

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I was shocked when I was training to be a teacher and a lecturer showed us an example of an “excellent” assignment. It was very poorly written, to the point that I doubt it would have been acceptable at all for my undergrad. But then I was studying English and History, where writing is obviously central. People with Maths degrees, etc may not have spent to much of their undergrad writing essays.

      But I am talking “so badly expressed, it was hard to get the meaning,” not just had a few typos.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Thing is, if you spoke up, they’d have just told you that as a student of English and History, you were obviously not capable of understanding the assignment given that it was about Maths.

      2. Empress Penguin*

        When I was at uni, I lived with a guy doing a Masters in Maths. When the time came to submit his dissertation, his tutor proofread it for him and corrected all the typos. Apparently it wasn’t important for Maths students to be able to write!

        1. Asenath*

          I’m astonished! When I did a master’s thesis, my supervisor gave me a lot of feedback on my writing, some of which I thought at the time was a bit picky – but the thesis was approved with very minor revisions, so she obviously knew what she was doing. I cannot imagine her doing a final proofread for typos! That was my job, unless I could get someone to do it for me. Feedback on grammar, structure, organization, sure – but even then I had to fix things. But the thesis wasn’t in math, although it wasn’t in English language or literature either.

      3. As Per Elaine*

        I think my education was atypical, but the best writing critique I got came from math professors. They were concerned that the writing was as readable as possible, and that the content was accurate and unambiguous. Now that I think about it, those were by and large the only classes with much of a revision process, either, with the possible exception of some of my foreign language classes — though those, including an Advanced Composition class, were just about proofreading, not about improving the writing. I was pretty disappointed in that Advanced Composition class; we barely wrote anything, and I felt like it was a waste of a class.

      4. Joielle*

        I’ve recently been hiring for a position that requires both math knowledge and writing skills and LET ME TELL YOU that is not an easy combination to find. We ended up picking a person who I think will be great, but English is not their first language so we’ll have to do a fair amount of polishing before the work product goes out. But at least their logic and reasoning is sound. Some of the other candidates, though… how are you so smart but your writing is so incoherent??

        1. kendall^2*

          I used to edit high school math textbooks, and loved it for a long time; I still see news articles and think of the interesting word problems I could turn them into….

      5. Katy*

        I am a teacher and I’m often horrified by the articles on pedagogy that we’re given to read at staff meetings. We’re supposed to sit there discussing the points the reading makes, and I’m just going, “Okay, but can we address the fact that this is a pile of gibberish that frequently jumps topic in mid-paragraph, makes multiple assertions it fails to back up, never actually addresses its ostensible thesis, and contains several sentences that grammatically are not sentences at all?”

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Late to the party, but my district once paid 5+ figures for a program that was “scientifically proven” to improve behaviour. So being scientifically minded, I went to read up on said research on their website (not peer reviewed, quelle surprise!). Their initial sample size was 50. They disqualified two-thirds of the test group for doing the program wrong and the end results were like a 7% increase in “kindness” defined, as I recall, as holding the door open for people with their hands full. Why they didn’t ask one of their many math teachers to explain a confidence interval before signing on to this program, I will never know.

        2. coffee*

          Oooh I am with you on that! Not worth the paper it’s written on, but you’re supposed to gush about the wisdom it contains. Nope.

    5. Saraquill*

      I’m still sour at one Boss Spouse who randomly decided I’m incompetent at the writing job I had been doing for years without incident. She said she could do my job better than me, despite no evidence presented. Long story short, she wanted to be a bully.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Yikes, insulting! It’s hard to let go of things when someone like that, who has some authority by virtue of her relationship (but no responsibility) says some craziness like that. I think it’s hard because there is no clear avenue that you can take to change her mind or stop her from acting/talking like that.

        She doesn’t have to agree with you for you to be right…you can rest assured in your own competence. Maybe do a lovingkindness meditation toward her where you look at her insecurities with compassion (because really, who says stuff like that? It strikes me as so incredibly insecure…which is kind of sad) and genuinely wish her well (that she comes to peace with whatever is going on inside her – she can’t be a truly happy person if she is acting like that, and that’s just what you see on the outside!).

    6. fort hiss*

      Yeah, as a former teacher who got sucked into the world of business (content editing) that was something that came up quite a bit in my interviews. My current boss said he would much rather teach me about the industry than about grammar.

    7. cats and dogs*

      LW3, your role sounds a lot like my previous job and yeah: just ignore those requests. They’re doctors, they’ll be fine. The field is over-saturated as it is, we don’t need non-writers too.

    8. jobbyjob*

      Said with all respect and humor: isn’t it ironic when a comment about the dearth of strong error-free writers has a glaring error in it?
      “…but cannot write an email to a client without it [being] full of errors.”
      Unless this is a contraction in sentence structure I am not familiar with (which I accept may be possible).

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        Proving that all of us are human… and most of us have wished at one point or another for an “edit comment” button! :)

    9. Meep*

      I took Junior Level English in Summer School before my Junior year because I was just sick and tired of how bad the English teachers were at my high school. The plan was to take community college English that year. I got perfect 100’s except on the assignment to write a continuation of a story using the same style and diction as the author. I did. But the online teacher didn’t like the style. It was one of the more amusing instances, but I was just there to get out.

      Now my colleagues come to me to review their emails because “I can do it so well and quickly”. /facepalm

    10. Flowers*

      Agree – I don’t think writing is as “easy” as people make it out to be. (thinking of the “any semi literate person can write, it’s not hard!” comments I heard many years ago). I majored in creative writing in school, but when I began working (tax/accounting) I had to change the way I wrote emails and correspondence. I’ve been praised at my jobs for my writing skills. (now if only I could *actually talk* the way I write and maybe I wouldn’t have been questioned for plagiarism in college….).

    11. Haijlee*

      I’m in medical publishing too. We always have editors review and edit content after the clinicians are done. A medical degree does not a publishing professional make. I also get contacted a lot by teachers looking to switch professions. I tend to throw their resumes on a pile as teaching, even English teachers, are usually not experienced with medical terminology in AMA or APA style. (No disrespect to teachers! I love teachers!)

    12. Texan In Exile*

      I told my boss not to hire this woman for a job that required writing because her resume and the blog to which she linked from her resume were both so poorly written. Grammatical errors were the least of it, although I was impressed by her bold decision not to capitalize the first words of many sentences. She could not even express a simple idea. No Strunk and White thesis, supporting statement 1, SS 2, SS 3, conclusion. Nothing. It was like trying to read mud.

      Reader, my boss persisted.

      And three months later, he admitted to me that I was right – she could not write so what could we do about it? Maybe he could send her to training?

      I pointed out that a 42 year old woman with a degree in communications was not likely to learn how to write now.

  2. Shieldmaiden793*

    In regard to LW 4, I have debated the topic of commuting for work with my partner multiple times. So let’s hear it from the experts: should commuting time be paid? Because nobody is traveling to a job site for amusement.

    1. Double A*

      This is a wildly unpopular opinion, but yes I think, say, 15 minutes on either side of the day should indeed be paid commute/work preparation time. I can understand how you can’t pay for everyone’s unique commutes, but pretty much everyone does at least 30 minutes of job related preparation to get themselves ready for or to or from work. So companies should compensate some of that transitional time. I actually think about this with my cleaner; she has to drive unpaid from job to job. This cost is built into her hourly price I suppose, but I also could see how it would be fair to charge like a transit fee to cover her time. So maybe her hourly fee would be a little lower, but there’s a $15 per job transit fee so she can work an actual 8 hour day.

      (I also don’t think lunch should be unpaid but maybe that’s a rant for another time).

      1. Allonge*

        I would argue that this is built into everyone’s wages or salary.

        Of course, especially if you are paid hourly, you don’t get paid extra for the prep time, but if it’s not worth 30 minutes out of your day to show up at work, then the issue is that you are underpaid in general, not that this is not accounted for separately.

        1. Allonge*

          And just to be clear, by prep time I mean what Double A proposes above, not things you still need to do to be able to actually start working after arriving at your workplace. Logging in to databases etc is work time, not ‘prep’, as in LW4.

        2. GythaOgden*

          I agree. Also commutes vary — my colleague can walk in in 20 minutes, but I take two hours door to door (one of the reasons I’m looking for something closer to home). It would penalise people who live closer and artificially pad my hours; if we got paid for sitting at a cafe sipping coffee, which is something I do when I’m closer to my destination so I only have to cross the road and have time to relax and wake up properly en route, everyone would leave home at that time and claim for their half an hour breakfast.

          I regularly do come in and set up and am working ten-fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, but it is a bit awkward to spend that amount of time fiddling with my phone in the breakroom and getting immersed in something that then makes me late. I also don’t get paid hourly — we have a different system in the UK that guarantees a stable wage but means that the extra won’t be paid for, and I’m OK with that because the time isn’t enough to be doing anything else with.

        3. Cassandra Mortmain*

          I think this is basically right. There also are subsidies for commuting built into the system in the US, although they are subsidies of the direct cost of commuting, not for this. You can use pre-tax dollars to pay for transit or parking. Some employers provide an additional subsidy. If you commute by car and park in a parking lot owned by your employer, unless you are paying market rate for a parking place in that lot, they are subsidizing your commute through the cost of land for the parking lot itself. (In places where parking is plentiful and paid parking is not the norm, this might not seem intuitive — but businesses are paying for the land, the upkeep, etc. for you to have a place to park.)

          Paying for time commuting feels like giving people an allowance for business clothes in offices with a dress code — at some point, people have to decide at what point the money is worth it to them and make choices accordingly, even in an imperfect housing system rife with inequities.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        This is an interesting point. There are some services where there is a fee for transit time. I’m thinking plumbers, electricians, repairmen, that kind of thing (I don’t know if that’s the norm everywhere, but it is here). Taxis also get paid a fee for showing up at your house. I actually think this should be true for cleaners and childcare too.

        I do think it’s different having the same daily place of work (like an office), and being able to plan where to live accordingly. It’s my choice if I live across the street from work or an hour away. When the place of work changes all the time, that’s not possible. This is actually also reflected in the law where I am: if my employer sends me to a place of work different from the usual, he has to pay my travel time door to door from home. This seems fair to me: I’m responsible for the commute time known beforehand when I accepted the salary. My employer is responsible for anything else.

        1. Observer*

          Paying for transit time is not a norm in any field in NYC that’s “on the books”. Of course if someone is an employee and they have transit from one site to another during the workday that’s different, but the transit to the fist site from home and from the last site to home is never paid.

          The professionals who charge just to show up are not charging transit time per se. And in most cases, the amount they charge to show up is not dependent on how far they need to travel. But also, these are folks whose primary “stock” is their time, so they need to make sure that they get paid for every visit. Because even if they don’t do any work, the visit takes time.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Interesting, different system. Professionals here *do* charge transit time per se (charged per km distance and 15min time block). They have to inform about the charge before accepting the work, though.

            For employees, transit time to any site that is not home base has to be paid. Seems fair to me.

      3. Brain the Brian*

        Nope. Paying people for commute time has a real potential to introduce biases and inequities into compensation. Should the white guy who bought a fancy house in the suburbs with money he inherited from his parents be entitled to more hours of wages every day than his black coworker who can’t be approved for a mortgage because of excessive student debt burdens and thus lives in an apartment just a few blocks from the company’s downtown office?

        It’s one thing for a company to offer commute cost reimbursement (gas, parking, transit, etc.) up to a threshold. It’s another thing entirely — and potentially deeply problematic in the way it varies from one employee to the next — to pay for time spent commuting.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          This must be highly variable from one place to another, though. Where I live (and many other places!) the people living in the ‘suburbs’ with a 2 hour journey into the city are living so far out because the city itself is too expensive. Cheaper house prices and rents further out are “paid for” in commute time.

          The thing I take issue with though is the concept that people can make a choice to move closer to their workplace… that might be true on the “in the moment” level but what do you do if that company eliminates your job or whatever… I think the more pragmatic choice is to move somewhere with max flexibility/options in terms of potential commutes to different employers.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yeah, the “you can choose where to live” is always a bit— well, sort of, within an awful lot of constraints. What if it worked the other way around, and employers were the ones making the trade off of, “well, we really want to hire Arabella, but she’ll cost us an extra £70 a day compared to Friedrich, or she could cost us the same but work a shorter day.”

            And with hybrid working, there are a lot of places where this kind of question IS becoming a factor. Employers might well be looking at a choice between a remote worker who lives two hours away and could come in a few times a month for important face-to-face meetings vs someone who lives 4-5 hours flight away who could only come in a few times a year, and factoring that into their decision making.

            To be clear, I’m not saying this is a clear argument for employers paying for commutes, just that I don’t think the idea that workers “decide where they want to live” is particular accurate or simple. There are a LOT of constraints on where people live, especially as you get older. If the labour market continues to move away from lifelong commitments to workers and the expectation that people will move employers every ~5 years continues, I think it’s inevitable that some of the decision making and cost-benefit analysis will shift to employers.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I see your point, but (A) do we *want* to shift this decision to employers? Arabella may be fine with the longer commute and not want to be out of the running for a job over this. Maybe she enjoys audiobooks. And (B) to a certain extent, this is already priced in. Maybe Arabella is *already* asking for more money than Friedrich to make the commute worth it to her. For now, it’s her decision how much money the inconvenience is worth to her. Shifting it to the employer means the employer makes that decision for her. It also means the employer may fire her if she moves further away.

              Of course, realistically, Arabella may not have much of a choice even now. She lives where it’s affordable and works where she could get a job, for the maximum money they were prepared to pay. But I don’t think that taking agency away from her even more is a solution.

              1. londonedit*

                I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said! In London it’s the opposite way round from what Brain the Brian describes – the further into central London you go, the more expensive rents are. I don’t know anyone who could afford to live anywhere near our central London office. So then you get two different groups – the people who rent, and who are maybe younger and happier to live in a shared house (or whose only option is to live in a shared house) who are maybe half an hour to an hour away from the office, paying more in rent and less in travel costs, and then the people (usually couples and/or those with children) who live in outer London or beyond because that’s where they can afford to buy a house big enough for their needs, whose commutes are an hour plus and who pay less for housing but vastly more in commuting costs. I don’t know how on earth you’d begin to unpick all of that in order to make it ‘fair’ or equitable for everyone. Some of it is choice (I choose to spend more on rent because I want to live in a particular area, and I understand that means I’ll probably never be able to buy a flat) but some of it is necessity – if I needed to rent a house or a flat big enough for me and a partner and a couple of children, then I’d have to move further out of the city and my travel costs would go up.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  Precisely what I was citing, if using a different example than you. In my city, apartments in the true downtown core are horrendously expensive, and then there’s a ring of apartments around that core that’s cheaper but still fairly close to most downtown offices, and then there are houses in suburbs and exurbs that are beyond expensive — but are houses that most people own rather than rent (unlike apartments). Having the wealth to buy a house is a different type of privilege than the income to afford an apartment downtown or in the desirable inner suburbs — all of which is different still from an employee who lives in a cheaper apartment, which are often in more dangerous neighborhoods and often behind racist redlines leftover from the 1950s — and unpacking all of those factors to generate an equitable commute-wage system would be an HR nightmare. It’s common here for employers to offer some form of commute benefit — parking reimbursement charged to a company account in our building’s garage, funds added to employees’ metrocards, etc. — but it’s about the expense of commuting, not the time doing it, and it’s usually capped at some amount. If employees really can’t afford to commute with the wages the company is paying… the company should just raise wages.

                2. Becca*

                  In my area it’s mostly like that, but downtown is actually a mix. You get the really expensive housing, but you also get the subsidized low income housing, homeless shelters (and the homeless population that doesn’t live in shelters), assisted living housing (thinking of the cheap ones for people who are living solely on social security), and student housing.
                  But I’m not sure how many people think of anything but the rich housing, and maybe the homeless population, when they think of downtown. The others are only on my radar because I had a job where it came up often.

              2. bamcheeks*

                I didn’t say I wanted to or didn’t want, just that as labour market expectations continue to change I see it as some fairly inevitable.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Everything is a trade-off. I have a lot of disposable income because I don’t have children, and that’s not always an absolutely free choice. Maybe parents should be paid more because they ended up having children? Then you get people deciding not to employ parents at all because they have to pay them more.

            So if the company pays, the company gets to add that into the calculations. We really, really don’t want to go down that route, because for every one inequality you appear to correct, there are several more created elsewhere in the system.

            Also what gets paid out has to come in in income. Inflation is fuelled at the moment by fuel costs, but wages going up without a corresponding increase in productivity will just mean prices for company output rise. That’s a big problem because suddenly, you’re paying the energy workers’ commute as well as their wages, and that goes on your fuel bills because the company can’t not pass it on. (Some utilities companies have already gone out of business due to the discrepancy between what they pay out and what they’re allowed to charge for energy to the consumer.)

            I’m looking for a job closer to home because I’m paying out a lot in terms of wellbeing and money and getting diminishing returns even from the job I loved. Employers can’t take everything like this into consideration — at some point, no, it isn’t much of a choice, but it’s a cost that you need to pay out as part of living in a functional economy.

          3. mlem*

            Or your multi-building company sells the building you moved close to, after you’ve settled into a community and can’t easily uproot. Or your company decides that all widget designers just have to be centralized at the building across the state, and too bad for you that you’re going to have to drive right past your former office to get to your new one. (My company has done both.)

        2. doreen*

          The housing cost is issue is variable – not just from one area to the next but sometimes even same area. It might be expensive to live within a few blocks from a Manhattan office, get cheaper in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx and then get more expensive in the suburbs.

          And there’s another thing – people who choose where they work. Their employer has multiple locations and although they could work close to home, instead they work far from home. The people I am talking about could transfer but for some reason, they choose not to – I’ve know people who could have shortened their commute by an over an hour each way. ( I can understand why someone might take a further away location because of where the opening is when they first get the job – what I don’t really understand is why they choose not to move closer when they can.)

        3. to varying degrees*

          I would imagine it would also affect not just wages but hiring in general especially in rural/farther spaced areas. Where I live it could take anywhere from 20 – 45 minutes to commute (due to traffic patterns) but 20 minutes was the bare minimum. I have quite a few colleagues who travel farther to come “into town” because the job prospects and pay were radically different in our county seat than in surrounding towns.

        4. MigraineMonth*

          This is far from universal. My city’s downtown is crazy expensive, which is why I live on the outskirts.

      4. Dust Bunny*


        Paying for my commute invites opinions on where I live, the route I take, and what kind of vehicle I drive, and that’s way, way, too far into my personal business.

        Where does this end? Should my workplace pay for my groceries because I need to eat to go to work? For my clothes because I can’t work naked? For . . .

        They pay me for the work I do. That’s all they owe me.

        1. It Might Be Me*

          Having just read The Every by Dave Eggers (sequel to The Circle) I’m already on edge with tracking devices.

          How this would work and the privacy implications squick me out. How much time am I allotted? Can I run errands? Take my kids to school? What happens if I speed?

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          I think the key is whether work is dictating something about the thing.

          For example, clothes: if you can wear whatever you want to work (with a few general constraints for safety/modesty/formality), then they’re your clothes and you pay. If a job has a highly restrictive dress code, uniform, or highly specialized clothing requirements (like scrubs, protective clothing, or specific required colors), then the employer should pay.

          Similarly, if my job requires I use a certain form of transportation for my commute (whether that’s public transit or a company vehicle), the employer should pay costs associated with transportation. If the job requires I live in a certain place or get meals from a particular source, they should pay for those things too.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            I worked as a ski instructor for a year, and I always wondered whether the resort should be paying for part of the upkeep for my equipment — e.g. discounted ski tuning — as well as whether I should be paid for the time spent getting into gear. I know SCOTUS handed down an opinion in 2005 outlining the distinction between (a) situations when employees are required to pay for maintenance of and time spent putting on specialized safety gear (e.g. a Hazmat suit), and (b) situations when employees are not required to pay for upkeep of or time spent “donning and doffing” regular clothing (e.g. a uniform that can be but is not typically worn outside of work). But whether ski boots — which have a safety function and without which teaching skiing is impossible, but which I can wear whenever I’m skiing, including if I stayed at the mountain after a shift ended — fall into the former or the latter category was unclear to me. FWIW, I never pressed the issue, as the free season pass was enough for me, and being paid to teach adorable kids was icing on the cake.

      5. HoundMom*

        I think employers should pay for the elements they have control over. The OP has to sign in to these websites by her employer and that is in the employer’s control. Employers cannot control someone’s commute time.

    2. SemiAnon*

      Counting the commute as part of the work day would get really complicated due to the details of individual choices. Say Person A lives ten minutes from the office, Person B lives 1 hour and 10 minutes away. If the commute is counted as part of the work day, Person B works 10 hours a week less at job duties than Person A.

      What I *could* see, in jobs that are a mix of remote and in person, is paying a flat rate commuting fee for when people are needed in the office, on a per day basis.

      1. GythaOgden*

        They’d have to pay commute costs for in-person workers before they start paying to get remote workers back into the office. If my company did this, you bet a lot of us in the IT infrastructure/facilities parts of the office who are in every day would be asking for a pay rise.

        WFH is a privilege, don’t forget — most people can’t do it, and those who can are often higher up the payscales altogether. If you’re asking for more money to come in, employers would end up increasing the inequities in the system rather than reducing them.

        1. Phryne*

          My employer pays €0,18 per km travelling expense (up to 100 km I think), but it only kicks in if you live over 10 km away. Any closer and you are expected to travel by bicycle, and I live 6 km away so I don’t get any. (I used to when I lived closer, but the distance is measures as shortest by car, and the route was so convoluted due to the street plan that that came over 10km. I only cycled 5 or so)

          But since the big C, we do get a couple of euro’s compensation for working from home, for heating and coffee and such (due to lockdowns wfh was not optional for months on end the past years, so unions negotiated for this)
          So I do get that for the days i wfh. I’m actually about €40 per month better of now.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            How would your employer handle an employee who had a medical condition preventing them from biking? What if that was a disorder that wasn’t obvious at first glance (e.g. neurological)? How would they ensure they are not inadvertently discriminatory in the way they make such people disclose that they cannot bike before considering alternate commute methods and resulting changes to compensation?

            And, of course — how do they handle rainy days? Do people who live within 10km of the office not commute those days?

            1. Mid*

              1. There are many different kinds of adapted bicycles.
              2. They aren’t forcing anyone to bike to work, you just get a commuting payment if you’re over 10km away. They aren’t penalizing anyone for biking or not biking.
              3. You can bike in the rain. And snow. If you’re in a place with a half decent bike infrastructure, it’s not difficult to bike in non-sunny weather. Even with good bike infrastructure, plenty of people bike year round.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                I have epilepsy and am medically disallowed from biking — ever, on any kind of bike — despite my medication regimen’s effectiveness. I don’t particularly love having to disclose this, since some managers have a bias agains neurological medications and/or might assume I also can’t do things like fly in an airplane (which I can do) or represent the company publicly (which I also can do).

                How would your company handle my situation if I chose to live within 10km of your office?

              2. Emmy Noether*

                You can always tell the sunday cyclists from the bike commuters by whether they think it’s possible to bike in the rain. :-D

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  Frankly, I’d love a Sunday bike ride in the rain — but commuting on a bike in the rain, with a work laptop strapped to me and wearing or carrying clothes that have to last the whole day, sounds awful.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I’d think the REAL issue would be why do the car commuters get a subsidy and bike commuters don’t? Making it equal would also solve all the other issues.

              1. Brain the Brian*

                Yep, it’s the “bikes or bust” logic that has me hung up. I would find it fine if the logic was “under 10km, we expect that any method of commuting you choose will be so cheap that it doesn’t require a subsidy,” but the fact that it’s premised specifically on bike vs. nonbike commutes irks me. Bicycles have maintenance costs, too, and if the company provides a commuter stipend, I would want them to provide it to bicyclists who commute longer than 10km for that reason. Or just provide a flat-fee stipend to everyone for commuting… which gets us back to the original point of this post, which is that distance- or time-based commute reimbursement for people who commute to the same worksite every day are bad, inequitable ideas.

                1. Lilipoune*

                  If it is indeed the Netherlands, (I have exactly the same benefits and I live there), it is kind of expected that you will bike (no matter the weather). But if you decide to drive it is also fine.
                  If I live more than 10km away, I can bike too and I will get reimbursement as if I was taking the car. They are not checking who is using what which day).
                  I really believe that the bike culture is so deep here that you would really need to have an extremely severe condition to not bike. As a non Dutch myself it was surprising at first but I have Dutch friends, colleagues, etc who bikes with multiple sclerosis, narcolepsy, leg paralysy, down syndrome, 39 week pregnant, heavily drunk…. They have bikes adapted for nearly everything, and they just bike no matter what.

                  Also, most company subsidize the purchase of a bike every 3 to 5 years.

    3. Aphrodite*

      I believe the answer is no. We all have the power to make our decisions about where to live in relation to where we work. It would be wonderful–but also very fracturing to a workplace–to pay for commutes. If that were the case I’d probably choose to live two hours away rather than ten minutes because both would be paid. But would that be fair, paying the person two hours away that commute time vs. paying the person living ten minutes away.

    4. PollyQ*

      I vote no. Yes, commuting is a thing you do for the purpose of eventually working, but it isn’t work itself, any more than taking a morning shower or brewing a cup of coffee is. And even the most arduous commutes allow a certain amount of “amusement”, perhaps in the form of reading on public transportation or listening to music, talk radio, or podcasts for drivers.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        This is a good analogy, in my opinion. I feel like it parallels the question of whether employers should pay for work clothes – where I think the law has come down is that they should pay for uniforms, since those can’t be worse elsewhere, but not for general work clothes. It’s true that if I didn’t work anywhere I might wear pajama pants all the time and wouldn’t need to own as many button-down shirts, but that doesn’t mean my employer should give me a company card to use on clothing. They just need to pay me a salary that can reasonably include me buying clothing that lets me adhere to their dress code and norms. (This is why teachers are not required to wear Armani suits or designer shoes.) Similarly, they need to pay me a salary that lets me live a reasonable commuting distance from my workplace, but they don’t need to pay me for the actual commuting time.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          And as I pressed “submit” I did realize that I do feel like an exception is that hourly employees shouldn’t be scheduled for super-short shifts without some additional inconvenience compensation, since it generally takes the same amount of time and money to get to and from work no matter how long you then spend at work.

          1. doreen*

            In my experience, laws and policies don’t exactly specify inconvenience compensation – it’s usually something more like the “minimum shift is four hours.” Which is not really the equivalent of paying for commuting time, because the employer is free to have you work four hours for the four hours of pay but does eliminate two hour shifts.

        2. cncx*

          I once worked at a law firm with a strict dress code even for support employees. They gave us a monthly allowance to offset some clothing costs, like pantyhose.

        3. Phryne*

          My sister used to work at the main office of an international bank. They were literally told upon being hired (mostly fresh out of uni or the like) that they were supposed to use a good portion of the first couple of pay checks to invest in buying appropriate clothes for meeting with clients seeking multi-million euro loans.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I agree. If you have the ability to work during your commute (e.g. working on the bus), then yes it’s working time. If you aren’t doing work during the commute, it’s not really work time.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          It’s only working time if you’re actually working on the bus, though. If you’re taking a nap, that’s not working time — same as it would be in the office or during WFH.

        2. GythaOgden*

          I can’t work at all outside the office. So that would mean — as always — the rich people who can work anywhere get paid more, and the poor get shafted, as usual.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      He who pays the piper picks the tune. Don’t ask people to pay your pipers when you don’t want them involved in the music.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this is not a philosophical discussion! It’s very much a be careful what you wish for thing – do you really want your workplace to dictate where you can live? People are already up in arms about their employer having a say in where they can work.

    6. raincoaster*

      When I worked for Elections Canada I brought up that it was a three hour round trip to the office from my house on the bus system, and literally everyone at my polling site got three hours’ travel time paid. Even the woman who lived a block from the office. She tried protesting but we told her to can it.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      I think it could be hard to figure out. Like I commute by train, then have a 40 minute walk, so over an hour’s journey in total. If I drove, it would be less than half that time.

      I like the idea of an extra half hour a day, paid, for everybody. Otherwise, you could have people increasing their commute or as somebody else implied, employers could start favouring those who live nearby for jobs, in order to pay less.

      1. metadata minion*

        If you’re paying an extra half hour for everyone, how is that different from just advocating for higher wages? People working from home also potentially have increased costs (faster internet, a better desk/chair, etc.) that their commuting coworkers don’t.

        1. ecnaseener*

          For hourly workers who might get shorter or longer shifts, it would make a difference (no “I’ll barely make enough at this 3 hr shift to cover transit”). If everyone works the same 8 hours, no difference.

        2. Allonge*

          Exactly. Totally symphatize with the desire to get a raise, no idea how it helps to separate this into a little extra box of compensation (which probably is a pain for accounting and so by the way).

          The money you get is for the full [you] experience: show up, do your job, be polite, go home, or the online version; expenses are of course separate. If you are underpaid, that is a real issue.

          Not sure why but this reminds me of how prices and tax are treated as totally separate things in the US, even though you need to pay both at checkout.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            The latter I think is largely because every state sets their own sales tax rate and policies and the federal government generally doesn’t get involved. State governments are perpetually cash-strapped – unlike the feds they cannot constitutionally run a deficit – so they don’t want to take on the massive administrative overhead it would require to reconcile messiness around someone who lives in one state but bought an item in another while traveling, or from an online retailer based in another state, so the state makes it the business’s responsibility to collect and remit the correct sales tax on every transaction, rather than collect a default amount and then have customers file paperwork with the state governments involved to sort out interstate issues.

            Maybe one state doesn’t have sales tax at all and others charge different rates – if you’re an online retailer, what’s the alternative to displaying the price before tax – do you list 48 different prices for all 48 states you ship to?

            Maybe one state exempts some of your products from sales tax while others exempt all of them or none of them (many states exempt things like food or medicine or period products, but many don’t). Maybe some charge a different tax rate on some of your products vs others (alcohol is commonly taxed at a different rate than other items). Maybe your primary location has a sales tax holiday every year in the second week of August, while 10 minutes in one direction the next state over has a sales tax holiday every weekend on August, and 15 minutes another direction a state has sales tax holiday over the September Labor Day holiday weekend that only applies to clothes and school supplies. And that’s before factoring in that nonprofit organizations and government entities are exempted from sales tax no matter what they buy or where (in the US) they buy it!

            Weirdly some states actually make it illegal to price things with sales tax included, often with specific legislatively carved-out exceptions for things like fairs and amusement parks where payments are commonly handled entirely in cash and those vendors want to be able to set the final price in whole dollars to avoid dealing with coin change.

            I somewhat understand why big corporations would prefer to be able to set one price they can advertise across many states without factoring in sales tax, and without the reputational risk of a customer who isn’t familiar with the sales tax rates in a state they’re visiting blaming the retailer for price gouging if the difference in total cost is entirely due to different sales tax rates. But other than assuming those corporations lobbied those state governments for that reason, I’ve never quite understood why states would really have a compelling reason to ban tax-inclusive pricing.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Interestingly, the European Union has somehow found a way to deal with this where all prices are including tax, even though tax rates also differ.

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                It’s no mystery – the governments involved are willing to take on the administrative overhead of dealing with it in the EU so that business and customers don’t have to. But as I mentioned at the outset, US state governments are not well-resourced. Overwhelming most of our taxes are paid to the feds and a randomly small proportion goes to the states, and states are prohibited by our constitution from deficit spending, so most any state level program that isn’t federally subsidized is perpetually underfunded. This is both why states often need sales tax revenue so badly, and why they have the outsource the administration of it to businesses at the register point.

    8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      But then you’re the one who chooses to live an hour away rather than just round the corner.
      If it comes to that, just putting on clean smart clothes should be paid in that you only dress like that because of the dress code.
      In France, if you have to wear a specific uniform, getting dressed at work is included as work time (important if you’re wearing complicated safety gear, like in nuclear plants).

      1. ecnaseener*

        This has been touched on upthread, but the idea that you can “just choose” to live round the corner from the office is unrealistic for most people. Office buildings tend to be in high COL areas. Transit from cheaper areas a few miles away can easily take upwards of an hour.

        1. Yorick*

          Sure, there are constraints. But everyone is able to make the choice that this particular job is too far away for them and look for another job.

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          My coworker and I make about the same amount of money. I live 12-15 minutes away in a large but elderly apartment. She lives an hour away in a trailer park near her family and is saving to buy a house. On the other hand, she carpools with her dad, so she usually doesn’t drive and could spend her commute writing the next great American novel or scrolling tiktok.

          How much should each of us get for our commute?

          Answer: it’s none of our job’s business.

        3. I am Emily's failing memory*

          The point being made about it being a person’s choice isn’t that people can easily live anywhere they fancy without any limitations to consider beyond convenience to work. It’s that the decision of where to live ultimately resides in the personal sphere, not the business one. As soon as you ask employers to pay for a cost that varies, their interest in efficiency means they will start looking to make that variable cost as small as possible and will use the fact that they’re footing the bill as leverage to insert themselves into the decision in some large or small way.

          That’s why companies who want to help employees offset commuter costs usually employ some kind of flat rate or capped elective benefit. Most people would rather get to weigh all the factors themselves and decide whether to take the job or not, to move to new neighborhood or not, to commute by transit or by car, etc., in full context with the rest of their needs and wants and what they value.

          I do think it’d be a brilliant move if hourly work came with a shift wage + hourly wage, but it’s also not hard to see how that could backfire if it was legally mandated. Companies who didn’t really want to offer it but were forced to, being proft-seeking companies and always looking to reduce costs for greater efficiency and profitability, would quickly realize they could save a bundle by scheduling 1 person for 10 hours instead of 2 people for 5 each. Shifts less than 8 hours for hourly workers would likely become as rare as salaried jobs with benefits for less than full-time hours, driven by similar economics – even at the same hourly rate, it costs more to pay the benefits for two employees to share a full time job than to have one person do it all.

      2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        Most of the housing around my office is classified historic. I cannot afford a mortgage on such a house as a single person working in public service. The rent on the apartments near my office start around $1,000 US (and those are the cheap ones). That’s half my take-home pay for a one-bedroom with no washer/dryer or utilities included. I can’t afford that either as a single person working for a state agency.

        So, no, I don’t not choose to live around the corner. I’m financially unable to, as do most of my coworkers.

    9. Tinkerbell*

      It’s certainly something you can ask for, in certain situations. Right after I left my library job to become a writer, they asked if I could come back part-time to fill in at a branch way out in the country for four hours a day a few days a week. This would be a 45-minute drive each day for me (so 1.5 hours round-trip for a 4-hour chunk of work). I said I’d be happy to, BUT only if they were willing to pay me for my commute time. They ultimately found someone else to do it, but my ex-manager certainly understood why I asked and didn’t fault me for it! Conversely, my SIL got hired as a “floating” nurse who rotated among the several medical practices in the city owned by the local hospital, and she does get compensation for mileage as if she were first coming into her closest office and then driving from there.

      1. WS*

        Yeah, in Australia you don’t get paid for going from your home to work to home in most circumstances. But if your job requires you to move between worksites during the day, you at least get travel allowance for that – and you can claim some of the travel expenses on your taxes.

        1. BethDH*

          This is true in at least some parts of the US too, based on things I’ve seen. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know whether it’s federal or state.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Most companies would pay mileage for that sort of thing wherever.

            Mine is paying for me to go to Southampton for a training day — I get the train fare and overtime pay for anything over my regular five hours a day door to door. They’re not the best employers in the world, but there’s an enthusiastic new regional manager on the team who I’m hoping to get some transfer help from as well to find something closer to home.

    10. Phryne*

      No, as commuting time is very dependant on a lot of choices the employee makes, mainly where they want to live. Some will want to minimise their commute in time or distance, some will prefer living further away because houses there are cheaper or it is a better environment to raise kids. None of this is the employers concern. The exception is travelling for work, not the normal daily commute, that is time you spend doing something for your employer and should be paid.
      I do think travel expenses should be (partially) compensated though. For instance a amount per mile up to a maximum distance, or by (partially) paying for a public transport subscription.

    11. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I had an annoying edge-case situation many year back as a temp. The company had expanded enough at this particular site that they had run out of parking, and temps had to park in a satellite lot. The company ran a free shuttle to pick people up from this satellite lot (and also the closest transit stop, which was further away than the satellite parking), but it would arrive at the main worksite on the 15s and 45s. (You could also walk from the satellite lot, but it was about a 10 minute walk on a road with a ditch rather than a shoulder or sidewalk, so this was not a popular options.)

      I tempted there twice, and I definitely wasn’t giving them a free 15 minutes every morning. My first temp job, since it had a defined start time, I eventually settled on reading a book in the break room each morning before my recorded start time. My second job there I was a in a position with so much backlogged work to be done that they were fine with overtime, so I’d just make sure to be there before my official start time each day and start my timecard as soon as I got there. (They were fine with me showing up as much as 2 full hours earlier than my scheduled start time and getting started right away if I wanted to, so paying me for an extra 15 minutes was nothing.)

      I was always irritated that I had to be at work before my start time because of the shuttle though. I would have much preferred to be paid for that gap between the shuttle arriving and my shift starting when I was in the job with a firm start time.

    12. Delta*

      I drive nearly an hour each way to work, while most of my co-workers drive less than 15 minutes. The very real possibility of being paid for commute time is I wouldn’t have been offered this job, which leads to the very real deception of applicants stating they live very close by only to miraculously “move” shortly after getting the job.

    13. Turingtested*

      I think there’s too much room for unfairness in paying for commutes. My boss has a 1.5-2 hour commute (each way) and the thought of him getting paid even more because he wanted affordable acreage rubs me the wrong way.

    14. Purple Cat*

      Nope! It’s a personal choice where you live and how far you travel for work. It’s a different scenario if a company forces you to move far away or switches your “home” office to a different location that’s further away from where you initially worked.

      1. Lydia*

        Choice is a privilege. That doesn’t mean a company should pay for commute time, but it’s important to keep in mind a lot of people don’t have the luxury of a lot of options when they have to pick where to live.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Which is precisely why a company should *not* get into paying for commute time. It’s an equitability nightmare.

          1. GythaOgden*

            And also the less choice you have about where you can do a job, the better paid it’s likely to be. Employers pay more for people who are less easy to replace; the trade-off is that I can probably get a basic reception/customer service/gofer admin job nearer home far easier than someone with a highly specialised line of work.

    15. Snow Globe*

      No. You get to choose where you live; there is no reason that an employer should pay some people more because they choose to live farther from the office. If you are interviewing for a job that is going to be a long commute, then you should do the internal calculations when you are deciding whether to accept the job or not.

      If a company decides to move offices, they should probably consider the impact to the commute for their employees, and provide some type of reasonable compensation if there is a huge difference, but that is as far as I think they need to go.

        1. DisgruntledPelican*

          Yes, we get it, you responded this multiple times. I don’t think you’re understanding what people are saying when they mention choice.

          If a company has to pay wages for a commute time, they are going to hire people who live closest to them and will require the least pay for that commute. We are saying an employer should not have the right to decide they won’t hire me because I can’t afford to live closer to them. I get to “choose” not to move to a more expensive area because the commute is shorter.

    16. NotThatAlison*

      This is complicated for many of the reasons stated here! For that reason I feel that well-meaning payment for the commute time runs the risk of introducing unintended inequalities into the workplace. However I have noticed that technology means that the commute increasingly blurs home and work. Those with access to a table seat on a train (pause for hollow laugh) may be working on tablets and laptops, others may be handling work-related social media and emails on the mobile, even those driving may be taking work calls. This can’t be claimed as work time, but there is a growing expectation of availability during a commute. So maybe in these situations the issue isn’t so much pay as building a culture of respect for the home / work boundary? Remember it’s not so long ago that the commute was actually promoted by some employers as a benefit of the return to the office!

      1. Emmy Noether*

        If you work during your commute, that should absolutely be counted as work time. If there is no mechanism in place to enter it as work time, and amount of time entered factors into compensation, then DO NOT work during the commute. Do not gift your employer your time. Do something for your own benefit during the commute.

        I did something for work on the train this morning, and I’m sure as hell going to enter that time as telework.

    17. Falling Diphthong*

      “I need a raise; better move an hour farther away from work” and “Joelle, you spent the night at your sister’s so you could come in early–that’s a shorter commute and so we’ll need to cut your pay” are both lines of reasoning that have no place in negotiating the exchange of labor for money.

      I’m not inviting work to analyze and make suggestions re the location of my home, my mode of transport, etc. They should care that I show up on time and ready to start, and whether that involved a kayak or a helicopter should not come into evaluating me on those two things.

      Paying for unusual travel, such as to do an install, would be not just reasonable but expected. I am totally on board with paying, for example, a traveling nurse for the time spent traveling between patients. You’re paying for travel between different points, that must happen to do the job.

    18. Meep*

      I am the person whose former boss wanted them to go out of their way to pick up non-driving interns they were already paying $3/hour extra for commuting. If your boss liked to call you during your computer (like mine did), I 100% agree. Otherwise, I think it depends. Like do you need to be in the office or not?

    19. Nancy*

      No, they shouldn’t.
      My organization provides benefits in the form of discounted public transportation passes and parking, and I think they offer something for people who bike to work too. I think that’s a good idea.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yep. Paying for a portion of the actual costs incurred while commuting is fine; paying for the time spent doing it is fraught with inequities.

  3. Brain the Brian*

    Caveat for LW3 if you actually *do* know the people: you can still decline to give a recommendation even in that case. “Sorry, but I really don’t think I know your skills in X, Y, or Z well enough to provide an accurate recommendation.” Or something like that…

    1. Viette*

      Yes, the obvious thing is just to say that you don’t give recommendations to people you haven’t worked with, and they can apply via the normal routes.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Even if you *have* worked with them, though, you can still lean on not knowing enough about their skills X, Y, or Z as an out.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yes, because the field is new to them so it stands to reason that you haven’t seen them using the necessary skills.
          I have much the same problem, as a translator. Now, a bilingual doctor will be able to produce a decent translation of a medical file, and will get the terminology right without having to research it extensively. I would say that the file should then be edited for clarity, polish, typos etc, because doctors won’t necessarily make an effort to make sure their writing is clear.
          On the other hand, someone who has studied translation rather than medicine will need to research the terminology very thoroughly to translate the same document, but their text will probably read better. So I would then want to hire a doctor just to check the terminology.

          1. inko*

            Absolutely – this is why translators with proper technical/legal/medical expertise alongside their language skills can charge a whole lot more! (Should still be proofread either way though.)

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Alternatively, you can pretend they were asking for general advice to break into the field: “I’m sure you have the medical background covered, but most places hiring for jobs like this will look for ABC certifications and evidence that you’ve been writing professionally for X years. Local College has classes in ABC if you’re interested in broadening your background!”

    3. Anon for this comment*

      100% agree. I work with many people tangentially, and I’m often asked to serve as a reference by people I only know through committees, short term projects, occasional correspondence. I will decline and explain that if I’m called I will explain the limits of our interactions, and that I have no direct/supervisory evidence of their work habits or abilities. That usually provokes a retraction of the request – but I have had at least a few people go ahead anyway. Those reference checks were pretty brief, and for those that wound up with “why did they put you down as a reference?” I was able to respond that I was also puzzled since had declined the request. I suspect that provided useful information to the hiring committee.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Even better – the OP should tell people looking for referrals that roles in her field require X certification in writing, which they can obtain by contacting Y university / association. That way, they don’t have to assess anyone’s writing or provide any feedback, just tell them that they can’t refer anyone who doesn’t have the requirement.

  4. a tired writer*

    LW3: I know this pain far too well.

    I think the vast majority of people don’t understand that professional writing isn’t just putting words on a page. It’s being your own editor. It’s adhering to a consistent style — and sometimes establishing and documenting that style. It’s understanding the various ways that people read and how that shifts across mediums. It’s knowing how to make language accessible. It’s keeping a mental dictionary of phrasing that can get you sued. It’s being extremely aware of IP law. It’s guarding against misinterpretation. It’s cultivating trust over time. It’s conducting successful interviews. It’s spending far too many hours hunting down information, verifying its accuracy with eight different people, and pushing back when the facts (inevitably) don’t line up. It is never trusting a “final” document. And it is, of course, about writing *well.*

    Can most people write?
    Yes, of course.

    But there’s a *massive* difference between writing an email (or even working on a novel in your spare time) and writing for eight hours a day, five days a week, in a way that is consistent, clear, and functional.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      It’s definitely analogous with graphic designers who are always pulling their hair out when their main purpose in a company is to make documentation look good and then some department manager sends a clip art monstrosity out to 2000 clients because “how hard can it be? It looks fine!”

      I’m a writer. I’ve had nine novels published and I’ve been doing this a while. I wouldn’t be qualified for most technical writing without a LOT of extra work, because it’s a totally different skillset. Unfortunately, you need to know at least a little bit about writing before you know what you don’t know :-\

    2. bamcheeks*

      I think part of it though is that what you’re describing here is not just “a good writer”, but someone with 5-10 years experience and seniority in a particular field. People tend to talk about “being a good writer” as if it’s a natural binary talent that you have or you don’t have, and not something you start off with an aptitude for and then get better at over years or even decades.

      And of course, “writing” is not one single skill: being able to structure and write a long technical document over several weeks (or coordinate multiple contributors to do that) is very different from being able to sit down and bang out 400 words of good, persuasive copy that meets multiple accessibility standards in an hour. Both might have perfect spelling and grammar, but that does not necessarily mean either of them can turn their hand to the other!

    3. Beth*

      It is astonishing how many very smart people who get advanced degrees and then move directly into well-paid careers have no knowledge or experience outside their remarkably smooth life trajectories, and also have no idea of just how ignorant they are.

      Since their (extremely privileged) lives have always reinforced the idea that they’re smart and capable and are good at everything, they tend to assume that anything they really don’t understand isn’t really important, and can be picked up easily if needed. These are the people who ignore expert advice (professional, financial, medical, technical) and end up crashing into avoidable disaster areas.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        You’ve just described the stereotypical computer geek. You know, the arrogant ones who thinks other people are ignorant because they need help with their computer.

        1. TrixM*

          Thankfully, I’ve only encountered two of those in my 24 year career in IT, in three countries. Granted, I work in Ops rather than programming, but even programmers I’ve met/worked with are collegial and helpful, not utter w@nkers.

          Sure, we might make jokes about some unbelievable incompetence at times among ourselves and gripe about executives and project managers who refuse to listen to staff whose expertise they pay good money for, but unless someone is outright rude to our faces or throwing us under the bus, we’re almost always keen to help – our job is to get things working so other people can do their thing, after all.

          I haven’t worked in the US, though, so I wonder if techbro arrogance is more pervasive there. I had a friend once who was an extremely well-renowned programmer in a certain language. She was headhunted by Google and offered a job in SF, with all international moving expenses paid and a very nice salary. She struggled through maybe two years before returning home, basically because she couldn’t hack the culture.

          So if that’s the case, maybe it’s about that geeks vs jocks cultural trope that the US has taken to extremes (naturally,there are techbros of all genders and nationalities all over). But if it’s not much worse in general than my own experience, I wish the arrogant tech-douche trope would die off in media, any time now. Elon Musk’s antics aren’t helping right now, but at least there’s only one of him (and I’m all in favour of his type being taken down a few pegs via satire).

    4. Katy*

      Yes, absolutely. And people who think they know how to write can be the worst about conforming to a house style. I once took a grad school class where I had to co-write a chapter of a textbook with five other people in about two weeks, on a subject we knew nothing about. (The idea was that this was project-based learning and we would learn by doing. The teacher then published the textbook for free on iBooks. It was a terrible class.)

      Every other group divided their chapter in six and had each person write a section. I got my group together at the start of the project and suggested that we divide it in five instead. Each of them would write a section and I would edit the work together, give it a consistent style, write an intro and conclusion, and format the citations. I made it clear that this would mean me editing their words and changing their writing style to make the chapter consistent, and they all agreed to it. It meant insane amounts of work for me, but in the end it produced something that was recognizably a chapter of a textbook.

      But my god, the anger and resentment I got from the other English teacher in the group. She was a competent but clunky writer – lots of passive voice, lots of “individual” instead of “person.” And she was outraged every time I changed a word of her precious draft.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Oh, god, this would be me. I could absolutely see myself as your nemesis other English teacher in this scenario. Proxy apology?

    5. higheredrefugee*

      I’m a lawyer, so we all took additional writing classes as part of our education, and my profession is notorious for having so many poor writers and self-editors. I now write for up to 8 hours a day in my current job, and not only remaining consistent but also building the stamina to do so with little human interaction is an important skill to build. And some days, I’m better at that than others!

  5. Viette*

    For LW #3, “how to tell doctors they’re bad writers” — there’s just no point. From the letter it clearly feels presumptuous and insulting to the LW, but I would let this go. You’re never going to convince these doctors they’re not good writers.

    More importantly, you’re never going to convince them to respect you, which is what it sounds like really irks the ^$#! out of you.

    And really, you have nothing to gain from convincing these doctors they’re not good writers. You don’t even have anything to gain from these doctors becoming good writers. They’re not out there causing you (or anyone) problems by writing badly.

    You feel dismissed and that sucks, but these are literal strangers. They mean nothing to you. Just delete their messages and let them be blithely sure of themselves far away from you.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, these kinds of unsolicited messages from strangers asking for an unreasonable favor are what the Delete key is made for.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      OP #3, It may make it sting less to remind yourself that the doctors you’re hearing from aren’t a random sample – that doctors (and others) that recognize that your work takes special skills and training aren’t going to message you on LinkedIn because they know they’re not qualified for your job.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      That’s easy to say when they ARE literal strangers, but it can get harder when they’re a friend of a colleague or your kids go to school together or you’ve worked with them for years in other roles. Having a polite shut-down is definitely worth the effort in those cases.

      1. Viette*

        That’s very true. My above advice is only for when it’s “a steady stream of people (strangers to me)” like with the LW, and you can just delete it and never think about it again. It’s a lot more delicate when you have to maintain some kind of civility.

    4. LW3*

      It really doesn’t sting at all or make me feel insulted, but I’m uniquely bad at watching people be this wrong and saying nothing. These letters from people who are clearly flailing around for anything but the job they’ve spent over a decade training for give me something like secondhand embarrassment? Painful sympathy? That feeling you get when trying to watch the British Office?

      1. Viette*

        Oh, sorry to misinterpret your letter! I suppose I don’t have whatever that secondhand embarrassment is that you do, but I think it might help to not ascribe so much humiliation to them? Or just don’t ascribe feelings to them for you to feel, you know.

        They’re way off base, but maybe they’re flailing around for anything but the job they’ve spent over a decade training for, or maybe they’re acting on a silly whim. You don’t know that they’re miserable or distressed or desperate, and even if they are they’ll still probably be fine in the long run. They’ll find some other work that’s suitable, and the only harm from them sending the message is you having to delete it.

        1. LW3*

          Yeah, I think I’m having trouble articulating this because it’s a neurodivergent thing? Like many of those with late-in-life diagnoses, I spend a ton of my time thinking about how I look to other people and how to hide my weaknesses from them—what people call masking. I often ask myself if I’m missing some key detail and feel very foolish when the answer turns out to be yes!

          Your point that the people writing to me probably don’t think this way is very helpful and well taken, thank you.

          1. Katy*

            Whoa! Is this an ADHD thing? I have ADHD and I cannot watch any show or movie in which I’m embarrassed for the characters. I will literally dive under the nearest pillow and stick my fingers in my ears until the secondhand embarrassment goes away.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              No, I think secondhand embarassement is a thing that exists independently of ADHD. I’m neurotypical, but I was raised to never show weakness, and my instinctive reaction to others weakness/mistakes alternates between secondhand embarassement and schadenfreude.

            2. TrixM*

              I don’t think it’s exclusive to ADHD, but like RSD, it seems like it might be something that goes “along with” for a lot of people. https://www.reddit.com/r/ADHD/comments/gsda87/hyperempathy/

              I don’t know if I’d call it “hyperempathy” myself, as in the Reddit thread, but I absolutely can’t watch any so-called cringe comedy – not The Office (either version), Borat, any of that stuff. I can’t watch overly-syrupy sentimental stuff either, because that makes me cringe too!

              Almost anyone has and can relate to awkward moments, but honestly, the clearest memories of my childhood are about awful, embarrassing stuff (most of it pretty standard, really), and I think that might go along with RSD.

              Seeing someone else endure a cringeworthy moment is a reminder of those awful moments we’ve endured ourselves (and maybe even still dwell on), so it’s no wonder we have a strong aversion to witnessing them.

              Conversely, sometimes watching someone go through it in a fictional way and constructively model a way of dealing with it can be really helpful. But that doesn’t much happen in sitcoms where everyone just repeats the same dysfunctional tics over and over for laughs. And even the show or film is not like that, the cringe is often too strong to watch all the way through and glean any useful messages.

          2. KN*

            I wonder if your own negative reaction to these messages might be leading to a kind of emotional spiral. That is, you feel bad for them because of “how they look to other people” who might judge them for missing something, but you ARE the person who’s judging them, so you end up playing both roles of the imagined conflict in your head.

            I think if you follow Alison’s advice (and maybe even have a short script somewhere you can copy+paste), you might feel better about it because your own response will be more automatic and not have to involve so much judgment of whether or not they’re doing the “right” thing. And if you give them some helpful advice, then maybe you can frame it as them reaching out to you not being so misguided after all–after all, you pointed them in the right direction.

      2. word nerd*

        So I’m an MD who’s moved away from clinical medicine and discovered that I love editing and proofreading. I promise I am not asking you for a recommendation, but I am curious about what field you’re in, if you wouldn’t mind sharing more specifics. I’ve been happy with the editing work I’ve gotten, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to know more about fields where my dual skills could be useful.

        1. LW3*

          Medical writing and editing can pay much better than other kinds, but pharmaceutical companies pay best of all. Look for ways to get into regulatory documentation or pharma advertising (agencies, not in-house), depending on whether you think you’d do better with descriptive or persuasive copy.

          1. Glomarization, Esq.*

            Interesting! On the surface it seems very simple to write, “You should not use Drug X if have an allergy to Drug X or to any of the ingredients in Drug X.” But I imagine that there’s a whole regulatory and litigation background that the author of TV advertisement drug warnings needs to be well-trained in, and their compensation would reflect that.

            1. LW3*

              So you’re talking about the important safety information, which gets written up (usually with a few typos) by someone working for the manufacturer when a drug or indication is approved. It is much more complicated than telling people not to take things they’re allergic to, since you also need to know how to read a few hundred pages of documentation and reduce it to a single page about the most pertinent risks that can be understood by patients.

              But actual persuasive copywriting for ads promoting medicines and devices, which is more what I’m talking about when I say Word Nerd should look into working for pharma agencies, requires, among other things, that every single statement about said medicine be marked up with the exact page, paragraph, and line of the acceptable study that proves your point. Even what you might think of as simple consumer-facing ads for medicines that are widely understood actually require a lot of research on the back end to be approved.

          2. word nerd*

            Thanks for sharing! Yes, I occasionally write copy for a pharma advertising agency and have been kind of gobsmacked by the money they throw around compared to some of my other gigs, assuming they are charging the pharmaceutical companies a lot more.

            1. LW3*

              The benefits are very sweet and the work is often permanently remote, too, if you ever want to leverage that freelance experience into doing pharma copywriting on a full-time basis. ;)

              If you really are one of the unicorns who has an MD and can write well, and it seems like you are, then you can pretty much write your ticket.

              1. word nerd*

                Are they really that rare, though? Atul Gawande, Paul Kalanithi, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Lewis Thomas, Oliver Sacks, and Khaled Hosseini are just some of the incredible MD authors who immediately come to mind, and I appreciate that the science in their books is right on point. Of course I can’t write like them at all, but mightn’t there be some overlap between the logical thinking required for problem-solving in medicine and the ability to write lucid prose? At least some of the doctors I’ve mentioned above seem like they are/were probably excellent clinical physicians too.

                As for myself, I pretty much do this stuff just for fun, and my brain hurts if I try to write or edit for more than several hours a day, so I can’t ever see myself working full-time. I’m also a volunteer project manager and proofreader at Project Gutenberg, which is just a passion project that obviously doesn’t bring in any income.

                1. Katy*

                  I used to teach college composition. One of the 200-level courses was called Writing about the Social and Natural Sciences, and it was really up to the instructor to decide what kind of class it was. I always taught it as a science magazine-writing course, and the focus was on taking a complex scientific subject and presenting it to a lay audience in an approachable and interesting way. My rationale was that any science teacher could do a better job than me at teaching them how to write lab reports, but that making science accessible to a general audience was a rare and valuable skill that would be a huge asset to them if they went into a scientific career.

                2. LW3*

                  It’s rare in the field—I don’t know if it’s rare in the world. The thing about someone like Atul Gawande is that he’s not applying to work with me!

      3. Allonge*

        This is neither a problem you can fix, not worth your time and brain-space. I know, if only it was so easy :(

      4. EPLawyer*

        NOt your problem to fix. Hit the delete key and move on. You can’t fix all the world’s problems. And this isn’t even a World Problem.

      5. Claire*

        Oh, jeez. LW3. I am also uniquely bad at keeping my mouth shut when people are this wrong. The combination of that and working with doctors in a medical-adjacent field gave me scars on my tongue from biting it so hard, so often.

      6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        In that case then I would go with something along the lines of just pointing them to the normal application process while declining to be a reference as you do not know them or have never worked with them.

      7. SpringIsForPlanting!*

        AAHH THE BRITISH OFFICE, I CAN’T DO IT. THE PAIN. *cough * thank you for this moment of connection.

        1. LW3*

          You’re so not alone! The premise seems to be something like “painstaking re-creation of every work scenario that ever has or would make your head explode with a combination of cringe and rage.”

      8. Dr. Hyphem*

        I think you can have a script with two points:
        1. I am not able to recommend people whose writing I do not know on a professional level.
        2. If you are genuinely interested in a career transition to this field, I recommend you look into the technical writing requirements. Many people who work in medical fields are surprised to find that the type of writing we do is not something their training and education included in its coursework. My background in X prepared me for this career. [you could say more about what types of courses they could look into if they are serious, etc.]

        Obviously, you are under no obligation to reply, but it might be helpful. From there, if they start to argue, you can ignore, if they ask genuine questions about how to move forward, you may offer advice if you see fit. This avoids saying that doctors, on the whole, are bad writers, or implying that something is wrong with their writing in particular.

        Also, in grad school, I worked at a writing center for five years, which is much longer than most writing center employees, and as such, my boss started sending me to lead more specialized writing clinics, and the one that sticks out in my head is a clinic for medical students writing their residency statements. I understand, intellectually, why they needed the statements, but I always felt bad about how these statements required them to do a sort of writing that had been trained out of them over the past 8 years.

      9. Boof*

        That’s interesting- i know being a doc can be pretty tough; it would be sad to see people desperate to change gears but doing it badly. I suppose that would for me just be overall sadness at someone in distress tho.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: I am very experienced in getting out of events I don’t want to go to.

    Bit of background: I’m disabled, VERY introverted and have a lingering ED that means I will not eat in front of others. A long drive is painful, a social event after a long week is really goi g to flatten me and dinner is problematic.

    So ‘sorry, can’t make it but hope you have a great time!’ has been used. But when the stakes are a bit higher (like it’s the team I manage, or my higher ups) I will try to workout a compromise. If the event is too far away for my broken spine I’ll try some kind of ‘can I get a hotel?’ Or ‘I can arrange an informal meeting at work where I’ll bring in some drink (no booze) and we can just socialise a bit’

    For the eating thing, I’ll meet them for coffee or something before the event instead. I am not joking – I can not eat dinner in front of other people.

  7. Allonge*

    LW1 – this is not what you asked about, but I would probably try to remove myself from the party discussions if I was 99% sure I would not want to attend.

    I think you made your point about the distance already, maybe if you see that that creates an issue or the others are coming back to it, say it again (even spelling out that you are ok if you cannot attend the party based on this), and then let the ones who want a party arrange it for what they want it to be.

    If this is the first year this comes up, it would need to be a pretty unreasonable boss to instantly penalise you for a one-off. Unreasonable bosses exist of course!

    1. Lyonite*

      I agree. Unless this is the sort of place where you’ll be penalized for not attending, you have more to loose by opposing the general sentiment than just spending the evening at home. (Assuming your coworkers would prefer the other location, due to restaurant options or whatever.) Work parties are never that great, so if it’s too much trouble I’d say just shrug it off.

    2. Snow Globe*

      LW should consider that if everyone decides to have the party closer to the LW because of their comments, then they’d almost *need* to attend, because they basically asked for the location to be moved to suit them.

      So, yes, stay out of the discussion for where the party is located, which will make it easier to decline to attend, no matter where it is.

    3. BethDH*

      Also, if they decide to hold it closer to you after you object to the city location, you pretty much have to go and stay for a larger percentage of the event. Unless you know you have to go anyway, keep quiet and opt out gracefully rather than trying to compromise it into an event you’ll hate anyway.

    4. St Paul Ite*

      I agree. I was required to be on a holiday party planning committee. I knew I would not be attending it so I kept quiet on the discussions of where it would be held and participated more in the discussion on decor, menu etc. I really enjoyed planning that party.

      **I have chosen the stance that I do not attend company functions outside of work hours unless it is mandatory, at which point participants would be paid fir their time. If it’s not mandatory I never go. My work/life balance is too important to me and my family.

  8. Empress Ki*

    4 : In one of my former jobs, I was surprised to see that everyone clocked in as soon as they arrive in the office. When I started the job, I only clocked in once I finished to start my computer ( which was very slow). Imagine that there is an IT issue and you can’t do anything for 30mn or even more, why shouldn’t you be paid for this time ?

    1. Emmy Noether*

      In every job I’ve had, the badge reader was by the front door (if hours were clocked at all). Walking up the stairs, taking off my coat, putting my lunch in the fridge, starting the computer, running updates, getting a coffee: all on the clock. As it should be.

    2. Fledge Mulholland*

      You are in the office, doing your work, which is preparing your computer for the day. You deserve to be paid for that time. You wouldn’t clock out in the middle of the day if an IT problem delayed your work. You would remain on the clock doing the best you can to get the work done. Even if there is no productivity due to circumstances outside of your control, you are still working.

      1. Empress Ki*

        Yeah sorry it’s not clear. I think the middle way is the best: clock in when I sit at my desk. When I started I though I had to be all logged in before I clocked in but my manager told me I don’t have to do that.
        Before that, I had a job where the manager were upset if we went to the loo more than twice/day while on the clock. He said he wished he could tell us to make up for this time (but that would have been illegal in my country.)

    3. Terrysg*

      I can’t work out if you are ageing that you should be paid from when you arrive in the office, or if you should be paid from when your computer starts up.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’m curious what system you used. Where I’ve had to clock in, you couldn’t do it until your computer started up. (Although some have had you manually enter your start time, so you do some of your own tracking.)

      I have worked somewhere with an old-fashioned time clock where you physically punch in. It was in the entry to the work floor, & you just punched in before walking past. (This was getting pretty outdated even by the mid-90s, but punching in & out did feel very satisfying. Like you really felt your workday beginning & ending.)

      1. Observer*

        I’m curious what system you used. Where I’ve had to clock in, you couldn’t do it until your computer started up.

        That’s not uncommon, but if computers are slow to boot up, the employer can get in trouble for this. The idea is that if log in is only 1-2 minutes, that’s considered “de minimis” but if you are getting to t10 minutes or more, that’s generally considered compensable time.

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      At my current remote job the rule is computer on and VPN sign-in started prior to you clock on time. Then you get 15 minutes at the start to look over your emails, load databases and other programs, etc before diving into your workload. That seems fair to me.

  9. GythaOgden*

    Yeah, the thing with these two-jobs issues is that the deception and burden on others will end up getting you found out. Even if your company is ok with it (and I’ve seen some instances online that are evidently Not A Problem), the two-jobs person has given it up within a year thanks to burnout because trying to do two FT jobs simultaneously is more than they can handle.

    People start out thinking it’s OK, but stuff like this happens and it’s clearly not within their ability to fit the two jobs together without shortchanging anyone. There’s probably another person at the other company that is suffering the same sort of issue and I’d imagine they’re noticing things as well.

    Hang them out to dry.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Doubling up on the job can work when one is entirely at your own pace AND the other one tends to have big gaps during the day. A friend of mine is a receptionist in a business that has very little walk-in traffic, which means she has to be *prepared* to drop everything and show someone around but only actually needs to do so a few times a day. She does take care of some paperwork for the business, but it’s really not 40 hours a week worth. Her boss is fine with her writing professionally while on the clock, because she can drop it the moment her other job needs her.

      I’ve never seen the two-job thing work successfully when both require attention at a specific time, though – sooner or later, they’re GOING to both need you simultaneously!

      1. Overemployed*

        It is possible that LW2 was writing about me. I am currently working for two financial companies as scrum master. It has been amazingly easy to get one over on people at J2 because they have a supportive culture and haven’t pushed back or said anything when I need time off. I’ve faked illnesses and a death in the family to get time away or to catch up on J1 work which is more demanding. I was recently put on a PIP for this job so I need to show some improvement there so I don’t get fired. It gives me a big sense of satisfaction to know know that I am taking home two good paychecks for minimal effort. I secretly laugh to myself knowing I am getting away with it and don’t care if it causes more work for others. I was even able to get J2 to adjust all of there meetings so that they don’t conflict with J1 schedule. There are some adhoc meetings that have overlapped so I take both at the same time and just listen for my name and ask them to repeat the question. The risk is worth the reward and if I get fired from one I will find another. I interview well so I am not worried.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I think a lot of people really overestimate their ability to do two jobs simultaneously and their ability to hide it.

      People think that they don’t spend 100% of their time working at their job, and that’s true. But if you try to fill in all your breaks or slow time with another job, that means you need to work at 100% all day every day without any little breaks to recover during the day. People underestimate how important breaks are.

    3. Artemesia*

      the focus of the OP should not be on WHY the person is not doing there job but on their failure to do their job. They should long ago have gone to their boss and said ‘I don’t think Paul is working out; we hired him to do XY and Z and he is consistently not showing up or arranging coverage and drops the ball on X and has done a really sloppy job with Z. We are not getting the help we hoped to have by hiring him. When he is on line for meetings, he seems to have another meeting going on in the background. This is just not giving us the help we need.’

      1. GythaOgden*

        Actually, I think it does matter.

        Someone simply struggling with the workload might be asked whether they have issues that need fixing/accommodation. When my husband was going through cancer treatment and then died, my boss was happy to give me what I needed to look after him, including the odd mental health flakeout when anxiety got the better of me. My co-receptionist covered for me when I was off sick twice in two years (one pandemic-induced panic attack, one badly broken ankle).

        Someone working two jobs and imposing this burden on their coworkers for no good reason would get far less sympathy and would probably get the sack because they were shafting their colleagues for no reason that should be accommodated. They bring it on themselves if they find it a struggle, but the office is likely to be less happy if they investigate a struggling employee and find that their greed has simply got the better of them.

        That’s why reasons for productivity issues do actually matter.

  10. Luna*

    I’ve been asking myself the same question as LW1, as the original plan was for me to have the closing shift and going to the Christmas-y dinner after, which would mean going to the other side of the city. Not that long away, technically, but I do not like late shift and I tend to have no patience after it. But now I have ‘fortunately’ caught a cold (Yes, just a cold, I have gotten a PCR test, it was negative) and I can use its frequent-ish sneezing and having to blow my nose as an excuse to not go. Not very fun for everyone involved, especially if you plan to eat.

    LW4 – This pertains to Germany, but if part of your job duties involves prep work (turning the computer on; arriving at the job place to switch into uniform; yes, prepping coffee; logging into apps and programs like you have to; etc) do count as ‘being on the job’ and it does legally have to be paid. Bosses cannot expect you to arrive early and do that stuff without compensation.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      This is true in the US also. Once you’re in your workplace, anything you have to do to be able to do your work is work time and should be paid.

  11. LDN Layabout*

    For LW1, these situations are where polite fictions come in handy. Fair or not, there are workplaces/people who will judge ‘I don’t want to come if it’s not convenient for me’ more harshly then ‘Oh, I have a family event that night/my heating’s gone out and we have an emergency appointment/[insert any other reasonable excuse]’.

    It doesn’t sound like you care about these parties in the first place, so there’s no need to say ‘I’ll go if it’s in X location’. It also allows for the situation where, if it ends up in X location and you’re not feeling it, there are still smoother ways to duck out.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, “Ooh, sorry to miss it! I have another commitment that evening,” (even if said commitment is digging into a new novel or watching tv) tends to go over a lot better than, “I don’t want to drive there,” (which can read as “I don’t care about making an effort for my team.”)

      The former doesn’t feel personal, but the latter does.

      1. Ashley*

        Yup! My best friend just happens to throw a Christmas party every year on the same night as my company! What a coincidence! >.<

    2. Llama Llama*

      I don’t want to go to my office party and I was excited to see that its on the same evening as a competition my daughter is in.

    3. Other Alice*

      Yeah and absolutely you need to give zero details about your prior commitment. My grandboss was very pushy this year about me skipping “Christmas” dinner (it’s actually December 7th lol) and was making jokes about crashing my other event… I was tempted to say “if you and the other coworkers want to crash my DND session, please come with 6th lvl characters already rolled”. But I just stuck with my vague “previous commitment” line and suggested next year we do a team lunch instead. It’s not very reasonable to have company events during the employees’ free time.

      1. the cat's ass*

        “It’s not very reasonable to have company events during the employees free time.”

        Especially when it’s the last weekend before Christmas, is a 70+ mi round trip for me, and all they are serving is “drinks and appetizers.” I really like my colleagues for the most part, but nobody really wants to go to this.

        I was relieved to have a prior commitment.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        It’s 100% reasonable for the office’s annual holiday party, summer families’ day, gala fundraiser, etc., to be held “during the employees’ free time.” The context is once-per-year events held after hours or on a weekend day, held as a perk for the employees, not weekly meetings.

        If you don’t like the gatherings, then that’s absolutely your opinion and I can’t say that I enjoy all the “fun” at my firm’s Christmas party, myself. But holding that party after 5:00 p.m. isn’t in any way unreasonable.

        1. Roland*

          Agreed. If it’s truly fine not to go, it’s not some horrible thing tomhave occasional events after work.

        2. cranky cat pants*

          respectfully disagree. my job gets enough of my time without me sacrificing my time off, especially as its not a “perk” that’s appealing. in the past the holiday party was a luncheon and everyone got the afternoon off after eating together at a local restaurant and that was fun. now theyre too cheap to do that, so im not attending.

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (scrum master possibly working 2 jobs) Since I presume you are doing Scrum, this is something that could initially be brought up within the team / in the retrospective.

    If he takes off unexpectedly have you thought of rescheduling those meetings? (I know that is anathema to scrum, but I think it’s more important to be pragmatic than follow the “ideals” of a methodology no matter what).

    Have you considered that the other meeting you can hear in the background could be a partner / housemate on their own WFH calls?

    1. GythaOgden*

      It’s entirely probable LW knows what he’s saying — she can hear him because he’s left himself unmuted.

    2. Terrysg*

      What on earthis Scrum? I’m only familiar with this in the context of Rugby, which is completely different!!

      1. Emmy Noether*

        It’s a fairly formalized project management method, most often used for software development. There are specific ways of running meetings in phases, roles of different people, documentation, etc.

        1. Artemesia*

          So the third time he misses his scrum master role, he should have been fired. You hire a guy to do just this and he doesn’t; why is this tolerated at all. Presumably if there were a medical issue or something like that he would have arranged that with the boss. New guy hired to do X, doesn’t do X the first couple of months reliably. He should be long gone.

        1. TrixM*

          As someone who works in IT and just wants to get the job done, I wish people would spend less money on expensive methodologies and consultants that rebrand simple words like “meeting”, and instead, concentrate on practical ways of streamlining this stuff.

          I don’t mind a bit of whimsy on the job, where it evolves among the people doing the work. That kind of top-down branding is just eye-rolling at best

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        It’s a fairly rigid and formalized “Agile” method for managing software projects. Many development groups follow it religiously, that is to say ritually with no thought to the why. Many companies adopt it in a “cargo cult” fashion, for all workgroups, assuming that just following the rituals will guarantee success. It doesn’t. While Scrum can be done well, it usually isn’t.

    3. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

      All possibilities worth considering, but the practical upshot is still that Scrum Master’s inefficient handling of his own job is creating an undue burden on OP2 in the performance of theirs. Whatever the actual reason, it calls for an investigation and appropriate action by management.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. We can argue the toss as much as we like, but LW is probably fairly sure what they heard and doesn’t have to spend their energy in the comments reassuring us. LWs aren’t fallible, and some can be unreliable narrators and also terrible human beings (see also ‘I won’t let my employee have time off for their own graduation!’), but in this instance trying to nitpick them is unnecessary.

        Also, it’s really hard to get meetings arranged as it is. ‘Just reschedule!’ isn’t as easy as all that. It’s inconveniencing everyone else for this one guy’s own vanity and greed, and why LW should have to work around his other job when he’s being paid for full time employment in this one is just not fair. The tail should not wag the dog — they need to lay down the law here or else make his position part time.

    4. JayNay*

      also wondering for OP2, are these meetings that OP is already part of, and New Scrum Master is asking them to lead those meetings on short notice? Or are they meetings that OP wouldn’t be part of initially? Because in case 2, I would start responding with “I’m sorry but I already have something else scheduled there and can’t jump in on such short notice” (what I have scheduled = getting my own work done).
      Giving a new person a bit of leeway is really nice & helpful, but when it happens repeatedly you don’t have to keep picking up someone else’s slack.

      1. mlem*

        I’m not the LW, but I’m betting that these are meetings the LW is already in. I fill a similar role in my team, and if I have to be away during specific team meetings, I ask another team member to fill the role. (But I don’t consistently dump the role on a team member without advance notice while collecting all the “benefits” of the role myself!)

    5. No longer working*

      I also thought that the other meeting that was audible in the background could easily be the meeting of someone else in the home.

      1. time for cocoa*

        I listen to news and/or podcasts during the day, and if someone calls me unexpectedly, it takes me a bit to reach over and mute the second computer. Now I’m wondering if this makes me sound suspicious.

    6. Kes*

      Partner or roommate in their own meeting is definitely what jumped to mind for me as well. I’ve worked with people where this was the case and I could hear them in the background. I wouldn’t actually bring up this possibility at all, I would just bring up the issues you’re seeing in terms of him not being available when needed and let boss deal with it from there.

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

        I was also thinking that perhaps the new person is over his head and he is taking classes or something to try and catch up. So it’s not exactly a meeting that the OP overheard but an online conference or something

    7. Observer*

      If he takes off unexpectedly have you thought of rescheduling those meetings? (I know that is anathema to scrum, but I think it’s more important to be pragmatic than follow the “ideals” of a methodology no matter what).

      I think that this is a bad idea. Not because of ideological purity, but because of pragmatics. In a best case scenario rescheduling meetings on short notice disrupts workflow, and in many cases it’s just not that easy to find a time when everyone is available. So, disruptive and a lot of extra work for the OP.

      Have you considered that the other meeting you can hear in the background could be a partner / housemate on their own WFH calls?

      That’s a very real possibility, as is the suggestion that there is some training in the background. The thing is that it doesn’t really matter. Because the OP shouldn’t be presenting this fact as *proof* that this person is holding two jobs at the same time in any case.

      1. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Also, scrum meetings are typically with a large team. It’s very inconvenient to everyone else to cancel/reschedule at the last minute (or even reschedule in general) because the scrum master disappeared without much explanation.

  13. Irish Teacher*

    I think the party question is largely a question of culture. In my workplace, it is perfectly fine to attend the party, to attend part of the party or not to attend at all, depending on what you want (we are going for a meal and then to a pub afterwards, so some people will go home after the meal, some people will skip the meal and just join us for drinks afterwards, some will go to both and some will skip the whole thing). Our previous principal only showed up for maybe an hour, so she didn’t even know whether people attended or not.

    Some people don’t go because they have prior commitments and some just…don’t enjoy parties.

    In other workplaces, there is more of an expectation on people to attend.

    1. Artemesia*

      And Alison made that point. It is really job specific. I have worked and my husband has worked in settings where the fancy dinner was really required and expected as part of the job. Not showing would be an issue. I have also worked where the boss’s Holiday party was terrific and most people enjoyed attending but it was completely voluntary; no one cared who did or didn’t come to the party.

  14. Kate, short for Bob*

    LW2 When you raise this with your manager, start with the really strong point that you don’t have the bandwidth to cover this guy, whatever his reasons for wanting you to do his job are. Really make clear that you need to do your own work and can’t continue standing in. Your manager will hopefully see that they need to start recruiting a replacement Scrum master, whether or not this guy is working another job

    LW3 “I’ve worked for doctors before and find this is not a group that takes setbacks well” +1000 to that. About 30 years ago I was training GPs (family doctors?) on how to use new medical software. Some had never really used a computer before but the vast majority had the attitude that ‘if it was important for me to know this I already would’. So frustrating.

    1. Whomever*

      Doctors do seem to often have a huge case of Dunning-Kruger (aka I’m smart therefore it must be easy to understand this for any given this). I used to work on Wall Street and Doctors are legendarily the worst investors in the world; if a Doctor recommends an investment to you run FAR FAR away.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think it’s partly about the training model. Medicine training, like law, overwhelms you with vastly vastly more information than one person can retain, and part of the process or professionalisation is becoming brutally efficient about deciding what you will learn, what you will know where you look up, and what you will simply refuse. It’s pretty much a survival tactic. Some people unlearn that reflex as they get more confident but for others it’s kind of a permanent setting and not all of them are self-reflective enough to realise that it isn’t a useful approach in other settings.

      2. Artemesia*

        My husband used to prosecute securities fraud. Doctors were often the marks in these schemes. They are rich; they think they are smart; they don’t get good advice. Because they are excellent body mechanics doesn’t mean they have a clue about finance and investing and they often get taken by fraudulent schemes.

  15. LawBee*

    LW1, I support your non party ways. I’m not going to ours either. Ten hour round trip bus ride that leaves at five am for a four-hour office party in another state with people we tangentially work with? NOPE.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Ouch ouch ouch. I don’t actually get office parties or why I would need to go. In these troubling times I would need more than ” people need to be discomforted by your attempt at small talk”. Seriously my coworkers will not enjoy it! Nor I. It is like putting pants on a cat.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Whaaaaat? I enjoy my office holiday party, but I would definitely nope out of this one too.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Wow. The one way trip is longer than the party?! I thought our company anniversary party a few years back in another (cheaper) city in another state with a 2 hr commute was ridiculous (and I skipped it). At least in that case they got a discount hotel rate for people to stay over.

  16. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: “As the scrum master he is supposed to facilitate our ceremonies…”

    You have ceremonies? Cool! Do you wear robes and funny hats? Does a working knowledge of Latin help?

    But seriously, I have no idea what “ceremonies” means in this context.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Do they really call their meetings “ceremonies”? Why? It seems simultaneously confusing and pretentious.

        1. Qwerty*

          Agile makes a distinction between meetings and ceremonies. The goal of a meeting is to arrive at a decision. Either the meeting runs over or you schedule a follow up if the original invite wasn’t enough time. A ceremony is tied to the clock – when time is up, you stop with what you have and move on.

          There also isn’t a 1:1 ratio of ceremonies to meetings. The framework has actions to do but you can schedule your meetings anyway you like.

          1. Zorak*

            That’s cute, although it seems like they could have devised a new word for that idea instead of using “ceremonies”, which already has a broad definition and I agree makes you picture everyone wearing Shriner hats or something.

        2. Claire*

          I’ve given up on IT jargon. So much of it is so twee and precious that I honestly think someone made it up as a mean-spirited joke just to see who’d go along with it.

        3. Calla Lily*

          Agile is a set of buzz words that people who are bad at project management can use to fool themselves and other people into thinking they know what they are doing.

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          Because it’s “Agile”, thus “important” that we adhere to all of the formalities and rituals. These “rituals” are meetings with a specific purpose and agenda, with certain people taking different roles to “keep it on track”. It’s very pretentious.

          IMO Scrum is useless for anything except a greenfield team writing new software. It is horrible for software maintenance, and just plain dysfunctional for operations work. The “daily standups” are either a farce, a long drawn out recitation of work with rabbit holes on odd topics, or both. I’ve worked with scrum teams for over a decade now, and maybe two out of ten teams do it even close to well.

        5. TrixM*

          Yes, I don’t care how they justify it, the branding is BS.

          Just call it milestone meeting and be done with it. All these things have definitions about how they’re supposed to be run and their purpose, and the cutesy language doesn’t actually help with absorbing any of it.

          I lean to the conspiracy theory that someone thinks it’s a awesome joke. Or, at best, some D&Der who likes to use it as an analogy for everything. (No shade on the game, but analogies based on it tend to go over my head )

    1. Another Fed*

      This is part of Agile project managment usually seen in software development. I just completed a two day bootcamp on it. Ceremonies are essentially milestones. As part of the methodology you work in sprints usually lasting a 2-3 weeks but can vary per SCRUM team. The idea is to breakdown the overall project into smaller steps that can be completed and delivered each sprint cycle.

      1. lost academic*

        It is a relief to have an explanation because I definitely thought that OP had really gone off the rails with the analogies of workplace events and situations. Scrum master is a pretty cool term no matter what.

    2. Russell T*

      Preach! It’s been hard enough for me to swallow teapot painting and llama grooming since following AAM. Not to mention “grand boss” which somehow still makes my skin crawl.

      1. E*

        Haha. I don’t think this corporate jargon, which frankly makes my brain feel like it’s going to explode, is the same as the funny stand-in titles /jobs used on this site. Personally I think grand-boss is so much easier to say than “boss’ boss”

  17. AmericanExpat*

    LW2: does it matter if he’s working a second job? What matters if he is performing on this job and it sounds like, no. I would just go to manager and say you don’t have bandwidth to cover anymore, and great if manager can find another solution. Then it’s left on manager to sort out with employees, with no mention of any speculation or getting yourself involved in a solution that is manager’s job anyway

    1. inko*

      Hm, maybe, but I do think LW should be specific about overhearing parallel meetings that don’t seem to be at their company – that is important context for his poor performance, because if he is working two jobs then things aren’t likely to improve, and it’s evidence that he’s not dealing honestly with the company. A manager could waste a lot of time treating this as a training/expectations issue or something, if Flaky McTwojobs manages to spin it as such to keep drawing two salaries for a bit longer.

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

        But the LW doesn’t know that that was a meeting or not. If he was working remote it could have been a roommate who was in a meeting at their job. Or maybe it was just a video or something like an online class. I wouldn’t mention anything about what was overheard. It’s not needed. Just give examples of what the LW is sure ofm, which is that the new Scrum person is passing work onto the OP at last minute and doesnt seem to be doing a good job.

        1. Claire*

          That’s a good point. A lot of our vendors work from home or are in zoom meetings in their cubicles and it’s not at all rare to hear someone else’s meeting going on in the background.

        2. Yorick*

          LW is sure they heard another meeting, and they should tell their boss. The boss can then investigate. The coworker will be able to say that he was in the same room with a roommate who also works remotely if that’s the case, and now he will know to mute himself or find a more isolated space or whatever.

          Whether he’s working another job, watching videos during meetings, or distracted by his partner’s meetings doesn’t matter. What does matter is he’s not doing his job and this incident might help the boss figure out why.

        3. Observer*

          But the LW doesn’t know that that was a meeting or not.

          Correct. Which is why the OP should not say that CW was taking a meeting, but that they heard this background sound when CW was in this particular meeting with the team.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Yup. It matters because he’s not struggling because of a health or welfare issue, or because he’s looking after kids or family. He’s double-dipping and it’s having a bad effect on his colleagues because of his own greed.

    2. This*

      100% agreed. LW2’s theory that their colleague is working a second job is completely irrelevant, and also none of their business. All LW2 should bring up is the problems they are experiencing in their own workload. That’s it.

  18. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–it might help to have a stock answer in your repertoire like, “Yeah, a clinical background is certainly relevant, but it’s not sufficient on its own. People who make the bridge from the clinical side are really committed to the writing process and willing to hone their craft. Successful applicants need to have—at a minimum—a very strong cover letter and writing sample. Hope this is helpful and best of luck in your search!”

    It doesn’t say “you suck,” but it does give a better sense of what they can expect in the process.

  19. Alice*

    Incidentally, the doctors who think they are great writers may also think they are great at understanding research, but:
    Windish, D. M., Huot, S. J., & Green, M. L. (2007). Medicine residents’ understanding of the biostatistics and results in the medical literature. JAMA, 298(9), 1010–1022. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.298.9.1010

    1. Claire*

      They also think they’re good at *doing* research, but medical research is notoriously the most poorly-done of any industry. And it’s not just residents – the editors of medical journals are terrible at understanding and evaluating anything more complex than correlation coefficients.

      I honestly don’t mean to sound like I’m piling on doctors. I used to work with them, and the majority (if a small majority) had both a decent awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and also a respect for the expertise of others. But the ones who thought they were better than everyone at everything? Oh my days, they were just intractably bad at everything that was not medicine, and they were ineducable because you couldn’t convince them there was anything they didn’t know.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I think it’s because doing medicine is not doing science. Science is the research portion but most doctors aren’t doing research, they using the tech that is the result of that research. (There’s a reason why pharmacists are the experts at drug interactions and you should get all your meds at the same pharmacy.)

      2. DJ Abbott*

        Oh, God, yes. As a young patient with chronic health condition, I had my fill of doctors who didn’t listen to me because they thought they already knew everything. I got so discouraged I did without medical care for 10 years and since then, I’ve been very carefully choosing doctors who respect me.

  20. LW3*

    Hello, third letter writer here. I do want to clarify that I don’t feel disrespected by doctors trying to get my job as a fall-back option, but I do feel painfully weird about it in a way that I’m realizing might just be neurodivergence?

    It is sometimes physically painful for me to watch and say nothing to people who are just … wasting their own time with the wrong approach.

    1. Zorak*

      I would just try to focus on the fact that you don’t know what their journey will be- it’s not up to you to give them a reality check. You just need to do your piece (in this case, safeguard your time by not responding to unsolicited requests like this) and wash your hands of it.

    2. This*

      I can 100% relate to this, LW3, and to your letter. I was diagnosed with ADHD at 30, and as a professional writer, spend way too much of my time dealing with people who cannot write at all trying to tell me how to do my job.

      All I need from a subject matter expert is their expertise, not their attempts to butcher my writing. I don’t understand why they aren’t so busy that they can’t just stay in their own lane. Their interference makes me being able to do my job impossible at times, and it is infurating.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This is totally a “know your workplace” kind of question. Is it a huge company and no one will notice? Probably not a big deal. Is it a workplace of 6 people and everyone will notice? Maybe a big deal. If, however, when you’re asked to confirm if you’re going, it’s perfectly fine to say you’re not going because it’s too far of a drive home afterward and you’re concerned about driving at night/bad weather/sketchy road conditions. It’s possible the organizers hadn’t considered the distance.

    1. WellRed*

      I agree! An hour drive is a perfectly legitimate reason to bow out of attending. Especially at night.

      1. Roland*

        It is, though if you don’t want to go anyway, it’s a great excuse to make after details have been set, not during the planning phase like OP is doing. If the party ends up being moved to accommodate someone who doesn’t want to go, no one will really be happy.

    2. Verthandi*

      Agreed on “Know your workplace”.

      Good workplace. I work evenings, which includes the evenings most people have their parties (Fri/Sat). Holiday party was on Sat, but I worked my normal shift, quietly not mentioning going or not going. The following week I was thanked in a dept wide email from the boss for working so other people could go.

      Bad workplace: Not a company I worked for, but a bullet I dodged years ago. Someone who did work there told me that attendance was so mandatory that having a broken rib wasn’t a valid excuse to stay home.

  22. Wrench Turner*

    I declined the office party invite; I didn’t want to be stuck on a dinner cruise for several hours with a boatload of bullying, overtly homophobic harassment from management that is just more of what I deal with every day except now unpaid and in a tie. If it was at a restaurant or something I could escape from discreetly, I would go. My 2 bosses made it pretty clear they were upset I’m not, so I’ll probably face some kind of retaliation for it. One said it “looked ungrateful for all the company does” – which so far has been paying me for my work, as expected, and shorting me on some unwritten promises. At this point, the job is so toxic that if I am let go, it would be a blessing.

    1. Purple Cat*

      I have a super-vague understanding that it has to do with project management.
      Request to Alison to do an interview with one! The language used to describe it is very particular and it would be interesting to learn more.

    2. Ask A Manatee*

      Scrum is a popular flavor of so-called “agile” software development project methodology. The scrum master facilities the various steps that are required to adhere to the methodology. The steps include meetings with very specific formats and a specific way of organizing tasks.

      Other scrum terms include “sprint,” “epic,” and my personal favorite, “backlog grooming.”

      In 20 years of software development, I’ve never been on a scrum team where this actually works but I’ve heard of it working.

      1. mlem*

        A good friend of mine works at a company that adopted it pretty early, and he was very enthusiastic about it. It apparently worked very well for them.

        My company later adopted it … which mostly meant adopting the terminology and then contorting it to fit our longstanding contract-deadline model.

        And then my friend’s team got shuffled around, and he found that the whole process could be broken down by just one new team member who didn’t care to keep it working ….

        Ultimately, it’s like any management process — it probably can work well in specific conditions but has been seized on as “the hot new thing” by a wide variety of workplaces that don’t use it “correctly” or are poorly suited to the model.

      2. Qwerty*

        I’ve had it work great ….before it got turned into corporate buzzwords.

        When Agile/Scrum first became popular, “scrum master” was a hat worn by a team member. It specified that the role should not be held by someone in a position of power (manager, PM, PO, etc). Often times we would rotate the role every few weeks, which helped the team members really understand the goals and be active participants in meetings/ceremonies.

        I’m not sure when Scrummaster turned into a full time job. Every place I’ve been at that had full time scrum masters were just a mess.

        Nowadays I feel like executives think Agile/Scrum = magic word for faster output.

        1. Claire*

          I honestly thought for a second that you were saying it was a literal hat, and I desperately wanted to see one. I pictured it as being a Shriners-type fez, possibly with “scrum master” written on it in glitter.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Nowadays I feel like executives think Agile/Scrum = magic word for faster output.

          Ding, ding, ding! I believe you are absolutely correct.

          IME, many companies and their management “cargo cult” Scrum as “THE” agile methodology for software. They believe that making their employees follow all the rituals and ceremonies will magically produce better software faster. As someone who is software adjacent I hate being on Scrum teams. It actually goes against my viewpoint that software development is a continuous process, not a chunk (sprint) process.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        It might work in the software development or other rapid dev/prototyping environments, I can’t say. What I can say is that I briefly had a manager who *loved* the concept and tried to force me to bring on a scrum master and start holding daily standups for my project. My *research* project. My multi-year, very slow-moving research project. I flat refused because it’s just not a workable model for the kind of work that I do and he told me that I clearly didn’t understand the Agile process. To this day I doubt he ever understood why I couldn’t solve this multi-year Gordion knot of a research problem in a couple of three week sprints.

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’ve worked with about 10 Scrum teams. I’ve seen scrum work only twice. Once was not a team I was on, but was doing greenfield development of a hardware/software product. The other was doing modernization of software for the government and scrum was mandated by the contract.

        IMO, if you want to do “Agile” but you are not writing original software, go with Kanban. It makes more sense in ticket based or variable workloads. More backlog curation and allocation, fewer meetings.

      5. fhqwhgads*

        The term “backlog grooming” has fallen out of favor, and is now usually referred to as “refinement”, fyi.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Oh thank God. I acted in a scrum master capacity at my previous job, and this was my least favorite thing to say.

  23. Purple Cat*

    LW4 – In my company factory workers have to be in specific uniform, so they are *expected* to arrive and clock in 15 minutes BEFORE their shift starts so they can get changed and be ready to WORK at their shift start time. I put remote workers booting up and logging in in the same category. You are “on prem” and taking the necessary steps to start your day.

    1. Zephy*

      This. Even for fully remote jobs like LW4 has, as (presumably) an hourly employee, you shouldn’t be accessing company materials (logging in to all those sites and databases) off the clock. It’s not equivalent to your “commute,” since you would presumably have to log in to all of those sites and databases after you arrived at your workplace if you had an on-site job, and in that case I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at you clocking in first before doing any of that.

      My job is on-site but 100% of what I do is computer-based. We switched from a physical, mounted-on-the-wall, scans-your-hand punch clock system to a web/mobile app because of COVID. I clock in on my phone through the app before even turning my desk computer on.

    2. Snarky McSnarkson*

      If you are in the U.S., that time should be paid because you are required to be there. There is case law about this subject.

  24. No thank you to parties*

    Can we please normalize NOT going to holiday parties or any external function? Any employer who penalizes you for not going to a party or corporate day out is creating an environment that does not value people who have caretaking responsibilities and people who are neurodiverse or people who don’t like parties. It’s regressive and retro and a misalignment of priorities.

    I’m autistic – parties are sensory and social hell for me. I show I’m team player by doing my job to a very high standard and helping people out at work. I should not have to go in my off time to a terrible party to show that I value my work.

    1. Observer*

      Alison has a policy of answering pragmatically. So, although she makes it clear that it SHOULD be ok to not go to the office party, she also makes it clear that OP needs to know what the possible consequences are at THIS particular company, and then decide whether it’s worth the risk.

      If all employers were Alison’s followers, not going to the office party would already be normalized. But they aren’t. And neither Alison nor the commentariat have the power to normalize this (or much of anything else, for that matter.) However, one can hope that enough people read this blog and draw the right lessons to have some wider effect eventually.

  25. Tacos McSalsa*

    Why I am not attending another holiday party:

    Last year we had a holiday party for the first time since 2019. It was at 6 PM with no food and three bars. There was seating for approximately five people. The invitation said “festive attire” but literally every other person read that as tuxedos and evening gowns so my wife and I looked like hobos in our nice-ish sweaters. As teetotaling introverts there was absolutely nothing for us there so we left after 15 minutes.

    This year if asked I just say I’m not going. If asked why I say because I don’t want to. If pressed I say exactly why.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Why I’m not attending our holiday party: I give 49% of my waking hours to my job and I’ll be d*mned if they take literally one more second.

  26. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I hate work holiday parties too. Two jobs ago, it was mandatory to attend in the first year, because through a weird hazing ritual we were required to provide sketch entertainment for the other attendees. I went to that party and participated in the skits, despite complaining about it and feeling like it was degrading. I also went the following year, because I got word that the new class of hires was going to be making a skit that lightly ribbed me and I thought it would be a bad look if I didn’t go. After that, I’d been in the job for over a year and my work spoke for itself so I stopped subjecting myself to it.

    That party was $80 a person. It was hosted at a restaurant where they moved all the tables and chairs to the side for people to stack their coats on. I’m disabled and can’t stand for long periods of time, so for me that meant sitting with the coats and waiting for someone to wander over and speak. Boring and annoying. The money was primarily for the food, most of which was not vegetarian and didn’t fit in with my diet, and the open bar, which was a waste also because I don’t drink much. Even with NYC prices, I probably got about ~$20 of food and drink out of the whole thing.

    Figure out what your goals are, figure out whether they require you to attend the holiday party, and then act accordingly. If it won’t affect you at all, just don’t go. People might be weird about it, but they’ll get over it. Every year I got pressured to go to that stupid party, every year I explained why it didn’t work for me, and nothing changed about the way they set it up, so I kept my $80. If it will affect you, figure out if there is a way to make it less frequent or less painful. So for example, maybe you can figure a way to go every other year and explain that you have a conflict or something and you’re really so sorry to have to miss it this time. Or maybe you can plan to take off after an hour because of the long travel time. Blame a dog or blame needing to do something medical related that can only be done at home, etc.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Am I understanding that you had to pay $80 to attend this mess? That’s the icing on the terrible party cake.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Oh, I had to do the skit thing too at a job. Thankfully, my dad was in from out of state the same night, so I had an excuse to duck out as soon as the skit was over.

      I’m sorry they were so terrible to you.

  27. ABCYaBYE*

    OP2 – Leadership may not care when you’re covering for your coworker and things are still being accomplished … but if you go to them and indicate that with your new responsibilities from other coworker’s departure, you don’t know how to cover everything that is being thrown on your lap.

    Perhaps presenting it as “I have my responsibilities, plus that of (coworker who departed) and when (two jobs coworker) is absent unexpectedly or asks me to cover last minute I’m not sure how to prioritize everything” that might help them care. Some things, or many things, may end up being put on the back burner, and you’re going to need to point out that you only have so many hours in the day to accomplish tasks. While it might provide (two jobs) opportunity to slide more when they tell you to prioritize his things, it may provide you some relief when you get the blessing to drop other tasks. Or it might show them that he’s not actually doing what he’s supposed to do and things are going to have to change.

  28. Still Negative*

    I’m in the annoying position of declining invitations to some work holiday parties because of boundaries… I’m the only one wearing a mask in my office still and I’m still not taking my mask off in public (aka: not eating inside restaurants). So sitting around at a holiday party watching others eat and drink doesn’t sound fun… especially out of office hours when I’d rather be home in my pajamas… inside my own house without a mask. It’s alienating but I have to stick to my guns. Even though I wish everyone else wasn’t pretending Covid no longer exists.

    1. Roland*

      I’m tired of people on both ends shaming others for their choices. People with different risk factors and tolerances can make different choices. Doing a social activity isn’t the same as “pretending Covid no longer exists”.

  29. Bernice Clifton*

    #1 Sounds like a small group because most holiday parties for large groups would have to be booked by now if you want to have it in December

  30. SwampWitch*

    Honestly let people work two jobs. A flat of store brand chicken breasts cost me $14 last week. Granted this guy should manage his time better but prices are getting out of hand and people need to live. In my experience employers aren’t stepping up and providing cost of living adjustments so let people live.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      The people doing this do not need money to live. They are already being paid 6 figures and want to “get away with” getting another 6 as long as they can. I have no sympathy for them.

      The people who work 2 jobs to live would likely never try to get away with doing them at the same time, they would miss sleep to cobble 2 together, they’d be afraid of getting caught and fired.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      Scrum master job typically pays $80-100K per year, give or take. We are not talking indigent here.

    3. ADidgeridooForYou*

      I may be biased because I’m currently in a situation where I’m 95% sure my boss is working 2 jobs and it’s wreaking havoc on my ability to do my own work, but no, I don’t agree with this. People who work 2 jobs always think they’ll be able to handle both adequately, but the truth is that they don’t. It takes ages to get ahold of them. I’m not one of those reply-immediately-or-you’re-dead-to-me people, but seriously, I’m talking entire days for really urgent tasks. Asking questions is like shouting into the void – you might get an answer, you might not. Emails and Slack messages pile up, and meetings frequently get canceled last minute. My friend at another place just had a coworker fired for working two FT jobs, and she said it was the same situation.

      Also, based on what I know about the hierarchy of my company, my boss is making well over $200k/year. This is not the sort of situation where she needs another job to make ends meet.

  31. kiki*

    On the Scrum Master potentially working two jobs: I think sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the mystery of why a coworker is not performing well at their job. At this stage, though, it’s more important that LW is making sure Scrum Master’s manager is aware that Scrum Master isn’t fulfilling their duties and let them communicate that to Scrum Master and work to make sure expectations are clear. I know LW may feel like they’re “tattling,” but it’s actually a kindness to make sure Scrum Master is aware of expectations sooner rather than later. Whether they’re working two jobs, just unclear on expectations, or having some sort of family emergency, it’s best to ensure Scrum Master’s manager is fully in the loop so they can communicate expectations appropriately.

  32. UKgreen*

    I’m not going to my work Christmas party this year because HR, without consulting anyone, have decided to do an all-company family-friendly evening thing instead of the nice team lunches we all used to have. As a CFC*, being forced to spend an evening (and a Monday, to boot…) with dozens of other people’s children is really not my idea of a ‘reward’, however many ‘drinks tokens’ and ‘street food’ and ‘winter wonderland entertainment’ you throw at me.

    *Child free by Choice

    1. TechWorker*

      Obviously don’t go to anything you don’t want to, but fwiw when I’ve been to family friendly work parties I’ve spent next to no time with anyone’s children. People tend to naturally sort themselves into groups of ‘those who came without kids & want to have a drink’ and ‘those who brought their kids, maybe plus a few folks who specifically want to chat to them’. I agree this is not enjoyable if literally everyone you interact with at work will be bringing their kids, but otherwise you’re unlikely to be forced to interact with other people’s kids

    2. Non-toxic CFC*

      As half of another couple that’s chosen to be child-free, consider that the company holiday party isn’t all about you. Child-toting parents are already excluded from many social events us without children take for granted. It’s not a slight that you “weren’t consulted” about making the holiday party more accessible to your coworkers with children.

  33. partingxshot*

    LW3 reminds me of reading applications for higher ed student life positions, especially the intensive or high-level ones. There’s always a subset of apps who are PhDs trying to move away from teaching or research. They figure they’re overqualified by virtue of their education–sometimes they write as much in their cover letters!–but many aren’t able to point to any student development work (or even basic admin work in many cases!) on their resumes.

  34. n.m.*

    I have a friend who was accused falsely of having a second job (the manager who did this was racist and was fired) and this prompted her to start job searching, intending to bail. But when she finally landed a new job she thought hmmmm…2 jobs? Its been about a month and she is still working both jobs, prioritizing the new one.

    1. This*

      Good on your friend! I hope she continues to reap the hard-earned rewards of the injustice she was subjected to.

  35. Cosmerenaut*

    Wondering if I’m about to dox myself here, but here goes!

    At my last job (in Baltimore Maryland), one of the C-Suites was absolutely fixated on having the company’s holiday party at the Maryland Club. Because he liked the “ambiance” (aka, being in a fancy place and feeling like he was doing some politically savvy schmoozing).

    If you were to look up information on their website *today*, you would see that ladies are only allowed to wear open-toed shoes. Even in December. And the “no electronics” policy is very restrictive so people aren’t glued to their phones. When I was debating whether or not to waste an evening on this event (which was three years ago), a male coworker warned me that if I went, I would likely need a male “escort”, since I was a FEMALE non-member.

    I’m not saying the building should be demolished and such outdated conceptions with it, I’m just saying the aquarium is a million times better.

  36. Two Meetings*

    Re: 2 jobs (LW2)

    Benefit of the doubt here, but could the other meeting be someone else?

    I have a coworker who shares a home office with his wife. I don’t know why they need to be so close as he has mentioned he has a spacious house, but he and the wife are often competing over another to be heard during different meetings. It’s very strange, but we’re in different departments and it’s not my business. I dunno, maybe they’re going through renovations.

    I also have a married couple of friends who share a home office space in a small brownstone, but AFAIK, they’re respectful of simultaneous meetings and will separate to a patio or the living room when necessary.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Any number of things are entirely possible, but the repeated last minute absences and requests for coverage are big red flags. Usually people do this kind of J1 and J2 shuffle until they get caught out. Your company might be their J2!

      Seriously, I don’t know how people manage this, but I think that’s part of the game to do it until they get caught. You should report it given you’re the one covering their work all the time.

  37. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    4. Should my time logging into work be paid?
    I’m salaried so it doesn’t matter for me, but our company computers can take up to 10 minutes to startup and log in to everything we need (VPN, Outlook, Teams, etc.). I start at 8am sharp but start working when the computer and software is all up. This is part of your job and you should be paid.

  38. TG*

    LW #2 – I feel you. We had a Scrum Master who we suspected of the same. Luckily I think there were enough complains from many that they put him a short leash and had someone join in in his meeting to observe.
    He was often unprepared and would brush off the items raised that we were looking for him to resolve so we could move forward.
    He went from hired to fired in about 10 weeks.

    I’d note your concerns and be very calm about it but list the impacts this is having; certainly it’s putting you out but if it is also causing some negatives with the work itself that’s even a bigger problem.

  39. Rivka*

    Re: the professional cost of being seen as “not a team player” for skipping a holiday party…

    I’m 46. And I’m still salty about the writeup I was given by my store manager, when I was 19, for my “lack of team spirit” in not attending the holiday party.

    That was an overreach, but might have been somewhat understandable…if I hadn’t been 2 years under the legal age to enter the BAR where the holiday party was being held.

  40. Anon in Canada*

    LW#4 – My previous job was just like that – we had to log in to numerous apps, taking around 5-8 minutes depending on how many clients you took. They never paid us for that time, and when one employee brought up that topic, management’s response was “all jobs require this” and “it’s company policy and there’s nothing that can be done about it”. (This is in Canada, if that makes a difference.)

  41. This*

    LW2, do not mention any suspicions of this person having a second job. I think you are right to be concerned that this could blow up in your face, and I’ve seen this happen myself a few times during the pandemic (I’m in HR).

    Your employer is not being fair to you, and you need to take care of yourself, but while you need to speak to the relevant manager, or to HR, to advocate for yourself and the support and resources you need in order to be able to do your job, do NOT bring your suspicions about your colleague potentially working two jobs into it.

    For a start, the meetings you are overhearing could be meetings at or for your company that you are not privy to, or aware of. This is perfectly possible, especially if this colleague is senior to you. (This is the assumption I would go with.)

    If these meetings are for another company, it is also quite possible that any external work/consulting your colleague is doing is something your shared employer is aware of (and I have seen this a lot, especially more recently, when a specialist or other hard-to-fill job is needed fairly urgently).

    The other issue is that the frustrating absences could have nothing to do with work or another job, and could have everything to do with a personal and/or health issue, which it is perfectly possible that your employer is already aware of.

    If this person really is working two jobs, and it is impacting so badly on their job that they cannot perform, they are likely to crash and burn all by themselves. You do not need to get yourself involved by being in the middle of the messy politics of it, and I would advise staying out of it.

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