open thread – November 11-12, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 914 comments… read them below }

  1. Samantha Parkington*

    I’m in the process of interviewing with a company where I’m expecting an offer next week. Everything from the position to salary range is what I’m looking for, however they don’t offer a match to their 401K program. I’ve decided I’m okay with this, but I plan on asking for either an additional $5K added to my salary or at the top end of the range. I’ve never negotiated salary with a job offer (I’ve always been too chicken!) so what script should I use to see if I could get it? Do I email HR asking about the increase or do I email him telling him to call me for a quick chat to talk about the increase? If I email him and don’t hear a response, how long do I wait before responding back to the offer?

    1. EngGirl*

      Once you get the offer I’d email and ask for a quick call to discuss, then if things go neutral to well send a follow up email afterwards just to reiterate what you talked about and saying you’re excited to hear from them

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I have done both in writing and by phone; I’m not convinced the method matters! I like to just ask plainly: “Would it be possible to do $offer+5k?” (Fill in the blank with whatever that number is, so you’re citing a specific salary.) And just leave it there. I don’t provide an explanation unless prompted — usually they don’t ask why — but you have a good explanation in case they do. If you don’t hear back in a week, I’d follow-up.

    3. lost academic*

      Do the math on the maximum amount that a missing 401k match would be. Are you walking away from a 100% match? If so, at a minimum that’s $22,500 for 2023. Ask for more in lieu of that.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        I don’t think this is quite accurate. I’m not aware of any companies outside of maybe Microsoft that will 100% match the max you can contribute to a 401(k). In the majority of instances companies will match dollar for dollar or 100% of anywhere from the first 3-5% although I have seen it up to 8-10% in a couple of instances for strictly 401(k) matching.

        1. talos*

          Microsoft matches 50% of your entire contribution (or 100% if you only contribute up to, I think, 6k). Google is about the same, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that Facebook is as well although I’ve never worked there/seen an offer.

        2. lost academic*

          Hence my first question. The point being that there is a loss of total benefit when giving up a 401k match. I know of smaller companies that will also match 100%, though indeed, uncommon. It’s also relevant that the maximum contribution goes up year over year so it’s not a static benefit loss.

          The point is, look at the whole package and picture.

          1. Sunflower*

            I think what you meant is the MAX she would be losing out on 22.5k/year. She didn’t mention how much she contributes to her 401k but she would only get that much if she was in a dream scenario of maxing out her 401k and her employer matching 100%.

        3. Platypus*

          my company matched 100%- granted, this is a startup where everyone was underpaid, so only upper management could really take advantage of it…

      2. Parenthesis Dude*

        Companies will match 100% up to a certain amount of salary. I suppose if you’re making a million a year or so, then getting $20k is reasonable. But presuming a reasonable salary, it’s certainly no more than $10k.

      3. Clisby*

        At a *maximum* that’s $22,500 for 2023, and I’ve never worked for any place that would match everything I put in. That is, the most an individual can put in for 2023 (unless over 50) is $22,500, so even if the company matched dollar for dollar, the most it can put in is $22,500.

    4. Parenthesis Dude*

      What I’ve done is looked at the benefits and asked for an increase based on the difference between my current benefits and the ones that they offer. I’ve done it via a call.

    5. Sunflower*

      Usually a recruiter or someone from HR deals with the negotiations. They will expect you to negotiate. IME- to give you an offer, they call you to chat (hopefully they set up the time vs call you out of the blue) and give you a verbal offer with salary numbers (sometimes also PTO amounts). I let them go on their whole thing and write numbers down. After that, I thank them very much and ask if they can send over the details on their health plans, retirement, other benefits etc. I ask for 2-3 days to review everything and ask to schedule a follow up call.

      During the follow up call, you can say ‘After reviewing everything, is there flexibility to come up to $X salary’. Then don’t say anything. If they press for a reason, you can cite where their plan is lacking ‘no employee match, expensive benefits, etc’ but the key is know they are expecting you to negotiate. Read up on the other tips but I would recommend pushing the number a little higher as they usually will meet you somewhere in the middle. One time I was told there was no room for more $$ and I said ‘ok well I have just been given a raise at work, can you meet me there’ and they did. They may say they need some time and will come back to you either phone or email with another number. Unless I’m stupid happy with the number, I usually ask for another 12-24 hours before giving my final decision.

  2. JumpAround*

    Any advice on how to give cultural feedback without coming across like an insensitive ass?

    I, US based, have a new employee who is from another country, let’s call him Larry. Larry came to the US as a student and we hired him right out of school. He’s a great employee and I’m very happy with his work.

    However Larry has a tendency to eat very loudly with his mouth open, which based on the almighty google, is not considered rude in his culture and is in fact considered a good thing/compliment.

    Aside from driving me personally insane during lunch, the bigger issue is that I don’t think I could send him to a client meeting that would involve food. This type of meeting isn’t a requirement of the job, but it is the kind of thing everyone in the job wants to do. I could pretty easily never send him to one, but I don’t think that would be fair to Larry.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I assume there are, conversely, things that are fine in the US that are not cool in Larry’s home country–can you use one of those as an example of how this is just a difference of precedent and not a criticism?

      1. JSPA*

        This is fraught, as you can hit a false equivalency (which can vary a lot by subculture and age, or have other implications). You don’t want to end up accidentally implying that they’ve done something obscene, or that they have done something that dishonors the dead, or that eating loudly has to do with gender presentation, or whatever.

        “Larry, if I understand correctly from the internet, it sounds like eating loudly and enthusiastically can be a cherished part of [X-ian] culture. Do you happen to know, is that true?” [wait to gauge how emphatic his response is…or whether it’s just a Larry thing]

        “I’ve often wondered, because eating quietly is often considered an essential part of good manners in the US and much of Europe. I think I’d find it hard to make myself eat audibly in [X], but I suppose I’d have to learn how! Do you find it awkward, here, when you go to a fancy dinner or client meeting, and have to remember to eat quietly?”

        He will either say he does, or he doesn’t, or never thought about it, or it’s hard… but at least he’ll have been put on notice that it matters, and that people judge.

        However, your own distress at it is yours to manage. Misophonia is a spectrum, like most things, and even if OP is not clinically afflicted, they can borrow desensitization mechanisms and masking hints. IMO, dude should be able to eat in a way that meets his cultural norms, during the day- to- day world of work.

        1. Marketing Lady*

          This feels passive-aggressive to me. Being straightforward (but polite and empathetic!) would be a better route in my mind. With the wording above, there’s the possibility that Larry won’t pick up on the hint that he’s not following the manners and he may think it’s just a weird conversation.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think you can have a conversation with him about the fact that you want to be able to send him to meetings involving food, but that it will be important for him to conform to local norms around table manners. Ask if he is willing to learn this on his own or assign him a brief online course (there are some on LinkedIn Learning, for example).

      1. Greengirl*

        There are classes you can take on table manners etiquette for business! I took one as a fundraiser and it was great. Covered European style use of cutlery as well as American. Would be great if your company brought in this trainer for everyone and not just Larry.

    3. LizB*

      I think since there are actual work opportunities this is holding him back from, it gives you a good reason to bring it up in the context of those meetings. “Larry, I know you’re eager to attend a pitch meeting, and I think you’d be great at it. Before I send you, though, I wanted to make sure you’re aware that the expected etiquette in this region is that people chew quietly with their mouths closed, especially in formal settings like a business lunch. Would you be able to adjust to that if I sent you to a pitch meeting?”

      If there are any other things he’d need to work on before attending one of these meetings (put together a nice slide deck, sit in on a planning call), you can just fold the expected table manners in to your overall preparation talk. There’s no need to make it about rudeness or grossness, just about expectations for this kind of business event. Maybe he’ll even start practicing his quiet chewing skills during lunch in the office, too.

      1. Mayor of Llamatown*

        This is great scripting, and I think if you say it straightforward and kindly it will land better. Say it the same way as you would say “In order to attend that meeting you’d need to wear a business suit with a tie. Is that something you can do?” The more you feel awkward, the more likely it is to be awkward – and the inverse is accurate too.

    4. Future silver banker*

      It is great that you can link the desired behaviour to being around the client instead of your or other colleagues’ reaction to the sounds and visuals.
      If the client facing opportunities are something that is highly regarded, I would want to let him know that he has what it takes to be on such assignments, there are a few things to check off before taking the jump, one of them relates to business etiquette. Then I’d explain the norms around food, greetings, length and intensity of hand shaking etc. Would close by clarifying once again the points that he needs to address to be fully ready, if the only point is the loud chewing, then that shall be the only point in the conclusion.
      I personally would refrain from mentioning my aversion to some noises (I am ND).

    5. I should really pick a name*

      Please take the element of culture out of it, because if you approach it that way, it’s really easy to be offensive and condescending. Especially considering that you’re basing this on what you’ve learned from google.

      Treat this the way you would treat an American co-worker who eats too loudly. Address the behaviour, not what you assume to be the source of the behaviour.

      1. SereneScientist*

        As an immigrant to the US, seconding this. I understand you’re trying to understand why your employees behaves this way but that needn’t be a part of the feedback.

    6. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Do you have other young or new to the workforce people? An option is to offer a course on learning workplace best practices that include eating, shaking hands, asking personal questions of co-workers, how to ask for work help, almost anything that has unspoken cultural rules around it. It’s then framed in a way that doesn’t single Larry out specifically. This of course includes potlucks!

      1. Nesprin*

        I’d argue against this- it’s usually the people who need feedback the most who get the least out of this broad scattershot approach.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          I agree, this can also cause resentment when everyone has to sit through a training for one person and it is often clear to everyone else who it is for.

  3. Disappointment*

    How do you respond when your boss says they are “disappointed” in you or your decision? Specifically as it relates to work/ life boundaries? About a year ago I, and some of my coworkers, decided to try and be better about setting boundaries around our personal time. We’re a mix of managers and non-managers. We all have different things we’re willing and unwilling to do, and I would say that for the most part even with these boundaries we’re still on the “above and beyond” side of things.

    However as we’ve been pushing back on things (last minute travel, travel on weekends with no comp time, attending non-emergency meetings outside our scheduled work hours etc), we’ve been getting pushback from our management in the form of being told our decisions or lack of outside availability is “disappointing”. I’ve also personally had comments made about my lack of weekend availability as a salaried exempt employee who’s working hours are 8-5 M-F. My company does not offer any kind of comp time or OT to it’s exempt employees so the expectation was that I make myself available for free to work on a special project. Flexibility is weighted in the company’s favor as well, so if I need to leave an hour early I can flex to make that up upon occasion, but if I need to stay two hours late for a last minute request, I’m just expected to let that time go.

    It grinds on me the way management tries to treat us like we’re teenagers who forgot to take the trash out or got a C on a test. Especially when I want to just scream out about all the decisions the company has made that have “disappointed” me.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think disappointment is an emotion that can go both ways, but that perhaps yours is best expressed by getting a better job somewhere else.

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

        You’re disappointed in me for not working X amount of overtime without being paid, for not working during days off, and for refusing to travel at the last minute. I am “disappointed” that my employer is taking advantage of its employees, does not give us adequate time off and does not compensate employees for the hard work they do.”

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I’d probably say something like “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m trying to better maintain my work-life balance so I can be my best self at work” and try really hard not to make it sound snarky.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Disappointment isn’t in itself an action item, so you could just say something like, “I’m sorry to hear that.” But depending on the situation, I think you could say (in a matter-of-fact tone) “I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m disappointed that the company is asking me to travel over the weekend with no comp time.” Pick something fairly egregious if you’re going to cast that back.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I think this is the way forward .
        If you would genuinely be OK with it then you could add “I would be open to a more flexible arrangement where we received comp time for this sort of additional, out of hours work, although of course any availabilityto work outside of normal hours will always be dependent on availability”

        If you made the choice as a team then maybe talk to you coworkers and have a consisten response from all of you.

      2. Rex Libris*

        Yep, there are many disappointments in life… the inability to be actually be off during one’s off time, for example.

      3. SofiaDeo*

        Agreed. I have worked for US state government as salaried, and was *always* given comp time for anything more than an hour or so.

        Companies are “disappointed” workers are no longer willing to be salaried slaves, how sad.

    3. MediocreMeandering*

      I would be very tempted to say something like “I’m disappointed that you don’t care in the wellbeing of your employees.”

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Can you try deliberately misunderstanding them? I mean if they say something like “Well that’s disappointing that you can’t make this last minute trip.” Reply with “Yes it is disappointingly last minute. Perhaps going forward we can build in more notice and get a better outcome all around next time.” Or if they say “It’s disappointing you won’t do this weekend trip without comp time” just reply with “I’m sure the arrangements next time will create a less disappointing result. All we need to do is ensure its mid week or when we have enough time.” If they are disappointed… OK? If they want to be less disappointed they will have to try harder and plan better!

      1. Yep*

        LOVE THIS. Not sure I could think on my feet well enough to give these answers in a timely fashion, but these are GREAT.

      2. tessa*

        Agree with Yep. Ellis Bell’s script reminds the LW’s company that it is the cause of it’s own disappointment.

    5. DisneyChannelThis*

      “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’d be willing to commit to weekend hours if you’re willing to raise my salary to XXk. Otherwise, I’m still unable to work weekends.”

      That’s not as smooth as I’d like it, but the gist is to attach action to them not you and to get them to stop the passive aggressiveness. Maybe,

      Manager: I’m so disappointed no one wants to volunteer to work this weekend
      You: Have you considered offering incentives for weekend work? $$$ per saturday would definitely be motivating. Or a day off during the week in exchange for each saturday worked would be appealing to some.
      Alt you: Yeah, it definitely seems weird that so much work needs to be done on Saturdays, I think we should look at revisiting the timeline for our project goals and give more accurate estimates so we can avoid needing anyone to work weekends, are you free on Tuesday to meet about this?

      I definitely would avoid justifying your reasons for needing to not work. There’s a million valid reasons to not work free saturdays, but giving reasons gives the bosses something to push at instead of addressing the issue.

      1. Generic Name*

        If you go with this, make sure you actually would be willing to work weekends for more money. I turned down a job opportunity making more because I’m not interested in working 50 hour weeks.

    6. JelloStapler*

      “I’m disappointed that you don’t understand why we are putting these boundaries down”

      …and I am sure they will be disappointed when they get notices that people are leaving.

    7. Generic Name*

      Imagine how disappointed they’ll be when you get a job at a different company that values work/life balance and doesn’t expect free labor.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Well, you are intentionally disappointing him. He has unreasonable expectations and you have decided not to comply with them. He can be disappointed all he wants to, that doesn’t make you wrong.

  4. Tuba*

    I’m a first time manager wondering if one of my employees is testing me. I view work-life balance as crucial with 40 hour weeks and WFH up to 4 times a week. I have a new employee that I’m concerned will take advantage. He’s been with us for a month and over half of his questions to me have been about vacation time. He recently told me that he was concerned about back to back meetings due to an inability to take his lunch break. He doesn’t even have a full workload yet so my heart dropped. He’s taken an hour here or there for appointments which is fine generally, but shocked me during our training period. He’s exempt. Is this a valid concern or is this just what being manager is? After being underemployed for most of my life and finally being in a managerial position, I’m TERRIFIED I’ll mess it up. My gut says he doesn’t care about the job but his work is *fine* so far.

    1. Wiscokate*

      I think not being able to take a lunch break is a valid concern, but it does seem like a lot to focus so much on vacation. Then again – people work for the benefits they receive (pay, vacation, etc). As long as he is performing his responsibilities, that should be the most important part. I’d keep an eye on his work though to make sure he is living up to that, which as a new employee I am guessing you would be doing anyway.

      1. to varying degrees*

        I’m wondering if it’s more that he can’t take it when he wants vs. can’t take it at all. If he still doesn’t have a full workload yet I would bet it the former.

        1. Wiscokate*

          That would definitely be a concern. I was thinking it was more like chunks of meetings over the lunch hour – but if it’s just that he wants to go at 1 and can’t always – he should offer some flexibility back.

        2. Tuba*

          He was concerned about two days where he was booked solid in the middle of the day. We’re training him so he has triple the number of meetings he will moving forward. His job isn’t meeting heavy generally, but I can’t guarantee he’ll never have meetings from 11-2. That will happen a handful of times every year. He’s also asked if he can take his lunch in multiple blocks to ensure he can take the whole thing if he has meetings. Many questions from him…

          1. lost academic*

            You should be glad about getting the questions – this shows someone engaged in the company and the culture.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Lay this out for him — your meeting load should lighten, but sometimes you will have meetings between 11-2, and if that happens he should (do what? take his lunch late? leave a little early? suck it up, buttercup?)

            In some ways, I get it – I don’t usually take a full hour for lunch but I do need to eat or I get hangry. Maybe he’s diabetic, or on a special diet, or just really values his break time. Who knows.

            1. Tuba*

              We’ve certainly discussed this. He works from home 4 days a week and I’ve told him I have no issues with him eating through meetings with camera off if he’s booked solid.

              1. ThatGirl*

                So what do you think the problem is? Is he not getting it when you answer his questions? Or are you just concerned that he’s asking questions in the first place?

              2. Tau*

                I can think of some reasons why that would be a suboptimal solution, ranging from really wanting a break to decompress in the middle of the day over to logistics problems involving how to get or prepare the food if he’s supposed to be working the whole time.

                I get that this is the culture where you are, but I’d be pretty upset if someone booked me for an 11-2 meeting and expected me to have lunch during (plus I don’t think this would actually be legal where I am). Expressing concerns about it is very much reasonable!

                1. BadCultureFit*

                  Wow — having occasional days with meetings from 10-2 would be totally normal in every company I’ve worked in (5 so far over 20 years). I think it’s wildly unusual to push back on that, especially given his newness.

                1. tessa*

                  I can’t speak for Tuba, but I think what they meant was employee can eat during a meeting if hungry, a diabetic, etc., and not that he should combine his lunch break with work.

                  I find your comment unnecessarily harsh.

                2. lost academic*

                  Given the comments OP made down thread about the business…. yes, that really is what they mean, you should just eat while you work and not be upset that you can’t get a break to just eat (“no one’s stopping you from eating! just keep billing too!”). It’s a pretty common thing to do, not actually take a break in consulting because it’s hard to bill to your goals otherwise (hence the often long hours at some places).

                3. Esmeralda*

                  I’m with you. I don’t always eat on my lunch break. It’s the *break* at issue for me, not the lunch.

                  New employee doesn’t know that this is temporary. I’d be unhappy about getting no break in the middle of the day every day. I’d be asking about that for sure.

                  OP, why not just tell him what the break expectations are? I’d also suggest that you give some thought to adding in some short breaks at least, because three hours right in a row is pretty dang tiring. How well is your new employee learning in this case?

              3. Sadie*

                But what if he wants a break? It’s pretty reasonable to want a lunch break. It’s not just about the lunch.

              4. Tex*

                He needs a break break in the middle of the day. Especially if he’s being trained, expected to absorb all sorts of new info, remember who told him what. It is exhausting. Even all day seminars have down time in the middle of the day.

              5. Trysh*

                Eating during a meeting isn’t a break. It’s eating during work time. That’s fine that you’re ok with him being off camera for a meeting, but it’s not the same as a lunch break.

              6. what's in a name*

                Have you told him that if he needs to eat lunch while he’s in a meeting he can take his break earlier or later to make up for it? It’s not about the food, it’s about the break.

                In most places I’ve worked, the schedule is 8-5 with an unpaid hour for lunch, so you’re there for 9 hours and working for 8. If you’re telling him “just eat while you’re working” and not making it clear that he can take his break another time, you’re asking him to work a 9 hour day for an 8 hour salary, which is not cool at all.

            2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              I tend to get hungry when I can’t have a quick (15 minutes) rest stop between 10 and 3, so I have set up a recurrin, tentative appointment for 12:30-1 titled “lunch break, flexible”. I’ll be absolutely flexible about it and move it around or skip it altogether – it just happened once too often that I got back to back meetings for 6 hours straight (working internationally with many timezones does that; the Asian afternoon blends directly into the American morning and people just look for an available slot on everybody’s calendar).

          3. to varying degrees*

            Yeah these sound like normal things to me. Sometimes meetings happen during normal lunch hours. That’s just the way it is and he’s going to have to accommodate. I think it’s reasonable to let him have a small snack (maybe cheese cubes or something similar) if it’s a dietary issue, but otherwise he’s going to have to deal with it.

            I don’t get the wanting to take lunch in multiple blocks?? That’s weird and the guy’s exempt. Just no.

            1. Christina*

              If my manager says, in the middle of 3 solid hours of meetings in the middle of the day, that they would “let” me have a snack of cheese cubes, I wouldn’t even know how to respond. I’m an adult, if I need to say, hey I’ve been in solid meetings, I need 15 minutes to go to the bathroom, check my email, get some water, get something to eat, that in no way should be an issue.

              1. tessa*

                So you go do those things. So can employee.

                Wow, the way things can devolve here into thinking the worst about LWs is something else. Good lord.

                1. Christina*

                  Maybe the employee is trying to ask those things in a more roundabout way because they’re new. If I were new, and had 3 hours meetings booked over lunch, I don’t know that I would fully feel comfortable saying hey, I need 15 minutes or a half hour to step away, especially if I ask my manager and her response is, oh your can eat through meetings.

                  And sure, maybe I took the above suggestion too literally, but it’s a pretty equally absurd thing to suggest a generous example being “well you can let him eat a few cheese cubes or he can suck it up. ” That sounds like something you would say to a toddler so he doesn’t ruin his dinner.

              2. Old and Don’t Care*

                The idea that people can’t work for three hours without needing a break is interesting. No one is saying he is chained to his desk the rest of the day.

          4. Bon Voyage*

            I’d take this the same way–absent other red flags, this seems like someone who doesn’t know the norms/policies and *wants* to follow them, not someone who is trying to skirt them. If the norms are “you have some discretion about lunch as an exempt employee” or “sometimes you’ll have to eat during a meeting”, it’s worth saying so, since this person hasn’t picked up on them passively. If there’s a broader pattern about how he should be handling his schedule and you can spell it out, even better.

            Is there anything else that’s giving you pause, like a lack of engagement? If so, focus on addressing that!

            1. Annony*

              I agree. It sounds like he is trying to figure out how to meet his needs while complying with company policy. I don’t think the questions are too concerning on their own. Just make sure that he understands what is expected and keep an eye on his work output like you presumably would for any new employee.

            2. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

              Agree as well. I once had to sit down a junior-ish employee and explain that their constant pushback against things like (expected for the role OT) and getting the normal lunchbreak but half an hour later due to an urgent deadline needing their attention was coming across as an attitude problem and they were getting a reputation as a shit disturber.

              No one was trying to circumvent legally allowed breaks or otherwise suggest unfair outcomes but the things the employee was pushing back on were normal parts of the role and it was holding them back professionally that they were seen as a complainer or inflexible.

              The person had no idea that there was a pattern of behaviour and how it was being perceived and they immediately changed some of the behaviour afterward. So it is worth checking in to see if there are workplace norm issues or if the person understands that in their job, a huge focus on vacation right away might mean they aren’t taken seriously.

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

          Or being that the holidays are coming up was he wondering how vacation time works when presumably a lot of people are taking time off.

    2. EngGirl*

      As someone who would do unspeakable things for the level of flexibility your company is offering, I think you’re valid.

      I’d have a chat with the new employee and mention that you’ve noticed a pattern. Lay out your expectations and what “flexible” means to your company.

    3. Crazy Plant Lady*

      It doesn’t sound like this employee is “testing” you or that their expectations are wildly out of line to me? Appointments (e.g., doctor, therapy, etc.) don’t stop just because you started a new job, and wanting to be able to have a break in back-t0-back meetings to eat lunch is pretty normal. Additionally, for appointments, is it crucial for this employee’s role that they be at their computer from 9-5 every day, and therefore being out for an appointment is impacting their work?

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I was going to say this. I started a new job in July and had a lot of pre-scheduled appointments. Calling to switch a lot of those wasn’t rescheduling for a different time next week, it would have been months to find a work friendly time. Thankfully my new employer is very flexible and we have open PTO.

        Maybe the employee has a chronic condition or just happened to have a lot of appointments around the same time. Pre-pandemic it was much easier to reschedule, now it’s basically you take whatever they have open in the next 3 months. (No lie my husband needs to see a specialist and the earliest open appointment was the end of NEXT September)

      2. Tuba*

        I appreciate the gut checks. It’s not crucial to be at the computer 9-5 every day but a huge part of his role is coordinating different people which means being available, generally. Responsiveness is a big part of the role and keeps our department running. Of course doctor’s appointments and things don’t end. But I know most people are on best behavior during orientation and I find less likely to take off. That combined with varied questions around PTO and the lunch concern me. If you’re exempt I think it’s reasonable to ask for a 30 min lunch instead of a full hour lunch up to once every once if there is something urgent. The person training him was about to leave the organization and we needed him trained…

        1. SoloKid*

          Did you preface the lunch trainings with “this isn’t normal in our organization?” In my experience “once in a while” tends to get relaxed enough were people feel comfortable scheduling lunch meetings more often.

          The “best behavior” part works both ways – if I got saddled with lunch meetings my first few weeks on the job I’d be pretty unhappy with the lack of meeting hygiene.

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          I think it’s strange that your interpreting going to an appointment as somehow not being on his best behavior. Why are you associating it with doing something bad?

          Like, literally what are you concerned about? He is asking questions about his *benefits*. You are answering them. Has he ignored your answers or done the opposite of what you say is allowed? I’m not even able to understand why you are concerned and shocked (shocked! it’s unspeakable!). You seem like you expect him to bend over backwards in silence and the fact that he’s speaking up is offensive in some way?

          For example “The person training him was about to leave the organization and we needed him trained” – did you tell him this? Did you say, “Normally I wouldn’t ask you to work through lunch, but Bobby is leaving Friday and we won’t be able to fit all your training in otherwise.” Or did you expect him to just know this somehow?

          It’s a new job, he has questions. It doesn’t *mean* anything. I would suggest you stop trying to interpret hidden meanings in his (or anyone’s) behavior. If he does something that isn’t acceptable, tell him so. If he doesn’t, stop the guessing.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Nod. I need a several appointments a year ( lady part, endocrinologist, whenever I think ” woah this cold has lasted a month” or ” I can’t speak. Better get someone to look at that” Not bad behavior. Just a body.

          2. yellow haired female*

            Yeah the part about being “shocked” that he has appointments seems pretty out-of-touch. I have a few minor health problems that require fairly regular appointments. I have to keep the appointments in order to be prescribed certain medication that I need. These appointments are usually booked months in advance. So what, if I get a new job, I’m supposed to cancel them and just… go without my medication… until the “training period” is up? Because that’s an incredibly unreasonable ask.

        3. Aimless and Abstract*

          Companies and managers are also on their best behavior during this time. I mean, you’re already saying his workload is going to get worse, not better, and you’re already balking at his pushback on being expected to work straight through lunch and his taking time for appointments.
          So maybe take a look at your expectations here. Your employee is a human being who deserves a break (not an “eat while you work”) for lunch. Who deserves to be able to take care of themselves.
          If you didn’t plan adequate overlap for training, that’s on you.

        4. Pescadero*

          How in the world is using your provided compensation not being on your “best behavior”?

          “Best behavior” isn’t defined as “doing everything your employer might wish you’d do for their benefit”.

        5. LilPinkSock*

          Hmm, not sure that I like that “best behavior” expectation…at least, not if that cuts both ways. As a person who has been heavily involved in the onboarding process, I understand how critical training is in the first weeks, but also worked really hard to maintain meeting hygiene and clearly communicate expectations.

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      “You know, Oglethorpe, you’ve been here just a few weeks and I’ve heard a lot of questions from you about time off. Just for clarity, your workload is going to get larger, not smaller. I definitely support work-life balance and taking the time you need, but I want to set an expectation that you’ll be able to complete the full workload that is coming your way.”

        1. Annony*

          I wouldn’t use that speech yet. Asking questions to understand your policies and culture around time off is not a bad thing. He may just want to make sure he understands the policy so he doesn’t mess up, especially since you do have a lot of flexibility. Address actual time off requests or if he is being unresponsive when you need him more available. If you start expressing concerns over questions, he is just going to stop feeling comfortable asking you questions which is not a great outcome.

          1. tessa*

            “If you start expressing concerns over questions, he is just going to stop feeling comfortable asking you questions which is not a great outcome.”

            He’s asking many *specific* questions about time off during a training period, where time isn’t so flexible. Assuming LW doesn’t want to field any questions is such an overreach.

            This is just the intro. period. I’d think most people would smile and nod and then inquire about time-off culture if things are just as busy after several weeks.

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

              yes, but is he asking for time off right now or just in general? And asking about lunch when he has 3 hour meeting blocks repeatedly at the lunch hour is not asking too much. I can understand if he was aksing for a week off right now and asking to take long lunches. but if he just has a few appointments that he needs to flex time on and then maybe he is trying to ask about holidays or vacations in general. I think the OP is reading too much into this and is just so afraid of failing as a manager that she is making mountains out of molehills.

            2. Citra*

              Is he getting specific, straight answers to those questions? Or are they ambiguous? Because if I was asking a straightforward question about lunch and got a lot of hemming and hawing about eating with the camera off during meetings and being “generally expected to be available,” coupled, perhaps, with a tone that suggested this was a bad thing to ask about and that I’m being judged for asking…I’d be asking a lot more questions, too.

            3. ableism and cupcakes*

              yeah because people have doctor’s appointments, and a person’s health doesn’t magically get better because they’re in their “training period.”

              It’s great if you’re privileged with great health, but those of us with chronic illnesses who have to have regular medical appointments, whether or not we’re in a “training period,” aren’t so lucky. According to this commenter, the medical appointments that prevent me from having horrible health problems that could literally kill me are me “not being on my best behavior.” That’s a lot of privilege and ableism showing.

        2. Sunflower*

          Honestly- this speech comes off pretty aggressive and your enthusiastic response is a bit alarming as to how you may be reading this situation. This comes off as very accusatory and makes the assumption you aren’t happy with his work. You haven’t mentioned anything about his work product (I know he’s new) but you do seem a bit paranoid about a problem that doesn’t seem to exist. I also haven’t seen any indications that he is unhappy with your responses to his questions either. I am not even sure I see

          You’re rightfully annoyed about him having a lot of questions but the jump to ‘he’s trying to take advantage’ seems like you’re projecting a little bit. It’s possible he came from a micro managey place where all of this stuff that seems normal, may not to him. Maybe he was walked all over with benefits and wants to make sure he is rightfully using what he is owed. I think you should take a step back and wait for a real problem to come up before you start trying to solve it or figure it out. Also keep in mind he is new and feeling out how he likes working here as much as you are feeling out how he fits in. In your head, you’re alarmed he is only a few weeks in and concerned about his schedule. He’s on his best behavior since he’s new. In his head, he’s a few weeks into a job and already needs to skip lunch breaks for meetings. The company is on their best behavior to not scare him off. He may be expecting it to get worse from here.

          Also you say he WFH 4 day a week- why is it against company policy for him to work elsewhere except his own apartment/home? Is it due to tax rules?

      1. Spinel Sky*

        Wow – if my manager said this to me when I was still learning the norms of a new job, I would be alarmed and I probably start looking for a new job. This kind of aggressive language seems indicative of a communication gap – making an assumption and reacting to it. It also implies that you don’t care so much about his needs as a human, which contradicts supporting a w/l balance.

        1. yellow haired female*

          Yes… so far, his biggest “problems” have been going to appointments and wanting to have a lunch break. If me going to a doctor’s appointment and wanting to eat lunch (and not while I’m working) is the cause for that speech, I’m going to be trying to jump ship ASAP.

        2. The Real Fran Fine*

          All of this, but unfortunately, I feel the OP was looking for precisely this kind of response and will run with it regardless of what the rest of us say, lol.

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

        yeah i think there is some confusion here. the OP says that his workload is going to be getting larger. But they have back to back meetings now some days. Are you not thinking that meetings are part of his workload? Like what is going in here? I think OP needs to explain that normally there are not going to be meetings over the lunch time, it happens only a few times a year. When it does you can take lunch before or after or whatever is appropriate.

    5. lost academic*

      You sound, forgive me, a little paranoid. These examples are entirely normal for employees to do or express. Meetings that prevent a meal are a concern for a lot of people and should be avoided in general. Questions about PTO are normal especially early in a job because you need to plan around company rules AND culture, and this is the time of year where a lot of planning needs to account for all of that. Taking time for appointments during a training period – that just might need a little extra coaching around communication, but standing appointments, particularly medical, may bot be easily moved without delaying them many months these days. Use the questions as an opportunity to just coach around expectations and policy and don’t obsess over it.

      Unless there’s something you’re not telling us, nothing from what you’ve said suggests he doesn’t care about his job. Make sure you’re not projecting given your new role and your previous underemployment.

      1. lost academic*

        Also – I think you probably should get more support from your own supervisor and/or mentor at the company so you’re better situated to set expectations for your report and yourself. Talk these things over with them regularly.

        1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

          I agree with this entirely. It sounds like the LW is not getting any guidance from her manager about how to manage! Don’t be shy about bringing forward your concerns to your manager, so you better understand company policy and practice around this stuff.

    6. MediocreMeandering*

      I’m curious if this employee is new to exempt work, or new to work in general. If so, the questions might genuinely just be for information gathering. It could be worth having a conversation and just really going over what everything means (I know when I started working full-time after college, I felt like I had to navigate all of this stuff on my own).

      1. Tuba*

        Not new to exempt work, and most questions about PTO go to HR. The only thing he needs from me is the departmental context around requesting PTO. I’ve asked for at least a month notice anything planned vacation and to avoid our busy week in March. That’s it. I’ve asked if anything about the vacation policy or my preferences about taking PTO are unclear and he says it’s not but then has more questions.

        1. Her name was Joanne*

          He has to give you a month’s notice to take any PTO? I’m hoping you’re talking about a week’s trip to someplace and not “ I need a Friday off for a three day weekend.” I would hate to always have to know my plans a month in advance.

          1. tessa*

            “I’ve asked for at least a month notice anything planned vacation and to avoid our busy week in March. That’s it.”

            —-

            *sigh*

            1. Mailer Daemon Targaryen*

              “I’ve asked for at least a month notice anything planned vacation AND TO avoid our busy week in March. That’s it.”

              That reads like they need to provide a month’s notice *in addition* to avoiding the busy week in March. If that’s not what Tuba meant, it wasn’t clear.

              You need to stop passive-aggressively jumping down the throat of everyone providing constructive pushback.

            2. the charioteer*

              you know all of your sighing and pasting the original text never actually answers the question or gets to the point? you (sorry, i mean the OP) has been unclear in their answers to us and that’s probably also true with the new hire.

        2. lost academic*

          Is a month’s notice on par with other expectations at the company or in the department, or was it just an answer you gave off the cuff? Lots of roles need that level of notice, especially if approval needs to actually be granted or coverage acquired. However, there are also plenty of places where that kind of notice isn’t actually necessary but the practice may still be in place from a gut-check level of control. This is again a thing you need to talk with your manager about and align with expectations – if it’s the case that you’re setting expectations above and beyond the norm it’s going to mark you as an inexperienced and ill informed manager, not the opposite.

          1. tessa*

            “I’ve asked for at least a month notice anything planned vacation and to avoid our busy week in March. That’s it.”

            —-

            I’m frustrated on your behalf, Tuba. It’s like people don’t actually read what you write.

            Frankly, I’d go with your gut, based on everything you’ve written. Anyone already concerned about time off when not even having a full schedule (or not mentioning something along the lines of medical appointments lined up), unprepared to deal with intro. crunch time, etc. is worth watching. Ask me how I know.

            1. to varying degrees*

              I agree. Tuba is there, hearing both the way the requests are formed and the tone. If there gut is giving on alarm bells they should probably listen.

              To be fair, a month notice for planned vacation would be very normal in the field and job I used to work in. There may be issues of coverage, other employees leave to consider, and varying levels of work load at that time that needed to be worked out.

            2. lost academic*

              I think you’re not reading my question about this quite right. tessa. The OP said they asked for that, and I asked if that was a company policy, departmental expectation or just OP’s request. Those can all be three entirely different things and it’s important to differentiate them and for OP to know that too.

              To reiterate my point, if OP’s request is not in line with either the company policy or the departmental standard or expectation, then they should reevaluate the reason for the request or make it clear why it deviates – which can be role specific. “Planned vacation” is also not particularly specific. Do they need/want a month’s notice for a planned day off, or just when they want a week off?

              I’ve been in this business for a long time and OP is sending a lot of mixed signals over this.

              1. Spencer Hastings*

                Yeah, it’s not clear whether the month in advance is for any planned PTO, or just longer vacations. The latter seems pretty normal to me, but if it’s the former, there are a lot of things that just…wouldn’t work. For instance, I learned to drive as an adult, and when I scheduled my road test, the DMV was releasing the dates about 2 weeks in advance, so that was the maximum amount of lead time I could give my boss as well. That’s just one example off the top of my head — I’m sure we can all think of similar past experiences.

    7. TallGuy*

      Honestly, this is hard to answer for me. I think this really depends on your company’s work culture and your preferences. (There’s an off chance that this is normal for new hires at your job. What’s more likely, though, is that you do have valid concerns about his availability.

      The way I’d approach this to begin with – even if this might not be the case – is to assume that he isn’t clear on your expectations, not that he doesn’t care about the job. Clarify that – yeah – he might need to take back-to-backs on occasion. About vacation time…that is probably more concerning, as that should have been a part of his offer, but refer him to any documentation that’s available. Set whatever reasonable boundary there is – if he started a month ago, he probably started in early October…and he’ll have been there less than three months when Christmas comes around. (Which is a major holiday for most people in the Anglosphere and Europe.) But also be vigilant – see if there are other signs that he’s not appropriately invested in the position.

      And if he’s new to professional work, it’d be good to let him know that his constant asking about vacation time is off-putting!

    8. urguncle*

      He doesn’t have to care about the job to be a decent or even good employee and your talent as a manager is not to make him care about the job, it’s to have a mutually beneficial relationship that benefits the company you work for.
      Did you set the expectation that he shouldn’t have appointments during a training period? Many people have chronic or ongoing conditions that don’t allow them to take weeks off and if he had asked about that during the interview process and you’d said it was fine, I would take you at your word. Is there adequate documentation for how your vacation time accrues and how it can be used, or are you the only source of this information that he feels comfortable speaking to? Is he empowered to decline meetings if they fall during a lunch break, which is, by the way, a completely reasonable request and, in my opinion, a big indicator of actual work/life balance.

      1. yellow haired female*

        I have ADHD, and since my ADHD meds are considered a controlled substance, I have to have regular appointments with my GP or else he won’t prescribe my medication. Me being unmedicated at work isn’t going to help anyone, that’s for sure!

    9. Parenthesis Dude*

      Could mean he’s used to more vacation time and fewer meetings. I worked at one place that had 15 hrs of meetings a week and had a minimum amount of leave. It was really tough when I first started because the meetings made no sense and took away time I needed to acclimate myself to the environment. The low leave made me focus on vacation time and how I can hack the system.

      It’s not a problem in and of itself.

      1. Tuba*

        Maybe I need to double check my own thoughts about what’s an easy day of work. I’ve had 40 of 60 hours of weeks be meetings before. Left that job as soon as I could.

        He’s currently only in about 5-7 though.

        1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

          5-7 hours a day of meetings is a LOT for a new, not that senior level, employee!!! Too much.

          1. Mayor of Llamatown*

            Depends on the meetings, I’d say. If the meetings are actually trainings, or meet-and-greets with colleagues, that’s pretty normal in the first few weeks. OP mentions above that the employee’s meeting load should go down. It’s definitely worth taking a look at how crucial those meetings are, though, and how much down time he has to process things as he’s learning them.

        2. Green beans*

          5-7 hours of meetings a week and he’s had multiple days with no lunch breaks? That doesn’t seem like considerate planning on the meeting organizer’s part.

          Honestly, that’s a reasonable thing for him to complain about (but it’s also reasonable for him to book his lunch hour so meetings can’t be scheduled on it.) Meetings that are scheduled over lunch should come with a light apology/explanation so he knows this is an exception.

          There is a certain level at which your job becomes meetings and lunch may not be regular every day, but it sounds like he’s nowhere near that level. I would also gently say that good work-life balance includes the ability to seek medical care without judgment from your manager and daily access to regular meal breaks.

        3. lost academic*

          So you definitely can see, right, that you have skewed expectations because of your past that change the way you’re viewing the new employee? This is not to say he is or isn’t doing everything wrong ,right or in between. The point I want to make is that your past experience alters how you view what he does and says and you need help to recalibrate, and that will take time for you, but in the meantime, work hard to be evenhanded and fair with the new guy.

    10. Dark Macadamia*

      He doesn’t get a lunch break on a partial workload?

      Idk, I had to ask multiple times about how to schedule time off for appointments because that information wasn’t provided up front as a new hire. I was really worried I would give the impression you’re describing here but it’s not my fault no one told me in advance (or even the first time I asked).

    11. Ellis Bell*

      I think the unspoken expectations here of 1) don’t take appointments during training 2) don’t expect to guarantee lunch between 11 and 2, and 3) don’t be overly invested in vacation, will be just fine for some employees and catastrophic for others, depending on their circumstances. It’s a little bit best case scenario, which is not great planning. For example, any employee with young kids is going to have unmovable doctor appointments and will need to plan vacation time carefully. It’s also a tad ableist! I’m talking about the type of conditions which aren’t usually known…. because they’re usually managed over lunch and with vacation time. I know one person who would get a migraine without a lunch at a decent hour and another who would be unable to take their medication and that’s just off the top of my head. How would someone with IBS handle that sort of back to back meeting? Is it really something that’s required or have you just got used to the fact that some people can do it?

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        How would someone with IBS handle that sort of back to back meeting?

        As someone with IBS, I’d say that – for me – it would be handled badly depending on what I ate that day. I make sure to block out breaks in between meetings on my calendar for this reason now that I’m in management and everyone and their mother suddenly wants to plop random meetings on it all the time. I’d also never get any actual work done without those guardrails.

    12. I should really pick a name*

      Is any of this actually causing a problem?
      This sounds like stuff you should keep in your head for context later, but isn’t a problem in and of itself.

      Off the top of my head, I can come up with reasonable justifications for his concerns.
      1. Maybe he had a job where they didn’t let him take all his vacation
      2. Maybe going for long stretches without food affects him more than average.

      You say you’re concerned about him taking advantage. What would that look like? Until he actually does, I don’t think there’s anything for you to do here.

      The fact that you think he might be testing you suggests that you’re coming at this with a more adversarial approach than one of understanding.

    13. Ellen Ripley*

      With the context of being a first time manager who is terrified of messing up, yes I think you’re worrying about this too much. It’s okay for your employee to “not care about the job” as long as he is meeting all the job requirements. If there is something specific that he needs to improve, start there. Also I know it can be scary to be in a new position with new responsibilities, but it’s important to not let this affect your job performance. Can you see a therapist, get a professional mentor, or preferably both to help you make this transition in a healthy way?

    14. No Worries*

      Hi! I am a first-time manager as well, 6 months into my job but with the same company I’ve been with for a few years. I’ve had many of these same issues with an hourly employee that joined our team just before I became her manager. PTO issues/seemingly trying to take advantage, taking a lunch break even though there are several time-sensitive things that need to get done, etc. At first I thought I wanted to promote her and make her salaried, but many of the responses and things she’s showed me have confirmed that I don’t think she WANTS more responsibility or to spend more time working.

      It’s tough to figure out how to deal with people that maybe don’t have the same work ethic or desire to do everything they can to complete a task no matter the time. I have spent a lot of time stressing over her, which it sounds like you have too. Don’t overthink it, just reset your expectations and try to put yourself in his shoes – if he’s hourly, legally gets a lunch break, etc, how can you manage him and help him around those factors.

    15. Chris too*

      I would wonder if the questions about vacation are due to trying to coordinate time off with a partner who has already arranged something – I just started a new job but my spouse has already asked for two weeks off in March, can I assume I will be able to take that time off too? Do I need to ask for it now or can I ask in January? How does this work?

      My in-laws worked at the same very small government facility back in the 1970s. The rule was only one person was able to take vacation at a time, and this was firm. Apparently the manager pointed out *ahem just saying* that if somebody didn’t show up for work, the job wasn’t considered abandoned for two weeks.

    16. Tuba*

      Thank you everyone for your comments. I’m going to log off for a bit to protect my peace today, but will take a look at them in depth when I’m in the mindspace for it. I do want to clarify I have no issues with someone taking appointments. This would be a**hole behavior and potentially illegal. It’s taking time off on week 2 hereby limiting the times I could schedule meetings and then having so many follow up questions when I explained I was working around their schedule but he could eat lunch during the meetings. This is in addition to asking top over 50 very specific questions about PTO and lunch breaks when I’m positive he already has the information. If anyone is wondering, we’re consultants. He’s in a low-travel position and I work extremely hard to keep his workload at 40 hours a week in a profession that often requires 60-100. We can do this because we are a small group in the middle of nowhere with niche expertise. I’m stunned that someone who has been a management consultant doesn’t know how to take a lunch break.

      I’ve also been flexible as I’ve assumed that he was asking due to upcoming holidays. Our office closes between Christmas and New Years. We have off the day before and after Thanksgiving. We offer multiple floating holidays. I recognize that may not be enough and he hasn’t accrued much yet. I told him he can travel with his work laptop and put that in writing as a formal exception to our company policy. I told him if that wasn’t enough he could also take up to five days unpaid. (this is on top of paid office closures, paid time he accrued, and ability to work from a different location).

      1. lost academic*

        I’ve been in consulting for nearly 20 years now so my suspicions about your past experience and current role check out. When I was a young manager in your position I had similar inclinations and I’m at a point now where I know they are wrong. It’ll be good to get realigned.

      2. Green beans*

        Okay, I don’t mean this harshly but I think your expectations are very unrealistic.

        I schedule my annual appointments a year ahead of time. Most of the doctors I see once a year (and I’m not a complicated patient; this is derm, dentist if I remember, and ob-gyn, plus maybe one other.) I tend to schedule all of these in the fall. Rescheduling often takes 6+weeks to multiple months to get an appointment (especially for the derm – they book 3+ months out.)

        So if I start a new job in the fall, I’ll have to take time off for multiple medical appointments early on. I’m not delaying medical care for months for work. I forget when my annual physical is, but I can’t reschedule that because that’s when they do the blood tests for the one prescription I need. If any of that happens to fall on the second week of work, oh well. I’m taking the time off.

        It’s really concerning to me that you’re equating “prioritizing work-life balance” with “your medical care is inconvenient and should be rescheduled to make my work schedule easier and it’s concerning that you don’t agree.”

        Also, your PTO policies should be in writing, so you can direct him to those policies and HR when he asks.

        1. tessa*

          “your medical care is inconvenient and should be rescheduled to make my work schedule easier and it’s concerning that you don’t agree.”

          LW said that where…?

          1. Roland*

            > I have no issues with someone taking appointments. This would be a**hole behavior and potentially illegal. It’s taking time off on week 2

            So, OP is fine with taking time off for appointments, but not week 2. Or at least that’s one possible reading. You’ve made a lot of comments in this thread along the lines of “why didn’t you read the comment you replied to” but I think you’re perhaps the one not fully reading or assuming your understanding is the only possible one.

          2. yellow haired female*

            They said they had a problem with the employee taking time off in his second week. Since it’s his second week, that’s an appointment that’s probably been scheduled for a long time. Even just regular appointments typically schedule months in advance, and if it’s an appointment with a specialist, it’s even harder to get in. I have several conditions that aren’t even major, but missing one of my scheduled appointments would be bad for my health and potentially cause more health problems on down the line.

          3. the charioteer*

            LW was literally “shocked” by the new hire going to the appointments instead of rescheduling them

      3. Lissa*

        Reading through your replies so far, he has previous exempt work experience but is asking detailed questions about how breaks and PTO are handled at your company. You also mentioned that your profession routinely requires 60-100 hour work weeks, but that you are trying to prevent that for your team.

        Is it possible that his previous experience has mostly been at companies that expect 60- 100 hours and trampled over any attempts at work-life balance? His pointed questions could be due to a personal history of being burned on those fronts (like told X was okay but was later punished for doing X) and trying to protect himself.

        I think your concern is understandable and your reasoning is certainly possible. But unless that fits what you know of his character, less sinister reasons seem equally plausible.

        1. Annony*

          I was wondering the same thing. Having multiple days where he isn’t being given time for a lunch break may be setting off alarm bells. OP knows that isn’t the norm but he doesn’t. I think just like OP is expecting a new hire to be on their best behavior and so expects this to escalate later, he probably figures if he isn’t being given a lunch break during training when he doesn’t have a high workload yet, then it is likely to get worse when he does have a full workload.

      4. Eleanor Rigby*

        I’m shocked by so many of the replies here assuming ill intent from Tuba or that they are wildly off base in their expectations. Yes, it’s reasonable for the new employee to have questions about lunch and PTO; it’s also reasonable to be slightly concerned by someone asking a high volume of questions about lunch and PTO policies (which Tuba has clearly said the person has access to in writing) and not about the substance of the work.

        Also, sometimes meetings need to happen over lunch. Sometimes they need to happen back to back. The new hire should manage their own calendar – if there is a specific time they want to eat lunch or take breaks, I would encourage them to block it off on their calendar moving forward.

        1. Firecat*

          Fwiw I read most of the comments as people saying Tuba is reading ill intent into his direct reports actions when it’s not warranted or constructive. Not that Tuba has I’ll intent towards her direct report.

          Honestly my read is Tuba’s anxiety about being a bad manager is leading them to project hypothetical bad scenarios that they are trying to predict from “clues” and head off with a magic sentence or two.

          That’s a great way to be a terrible manager and tank your health. Simply observe and course correct when you see an actual problem. Don’t try to pre-empt a nebulous maybe issue of “taking advantage”.

        2. yellow haired female*

          I think it’s pretty unreasonable for a manager to be “shocked” that someone has a medical appointment during their training period. As someone with a lot of minor health conditions, it’s not like my medical appointments are fun! If he were missing work for fun stuff early on, sure, but medical appointments? No.

      5. anxiousGrad*

        I can’t tell if you’re saying that he asked for time off on week 2 for vacation or an appointment. But if it’s an appointment, I think it’s important to keep in mind that doctors are completely overwhelmed these days and as such offer no flexibility with times. Last year I was diagnosed with a disease and had some complications, so I had to go to three different specialists. Trying to get into each of them often put me in the position of having to choose between missing class to see them right away or waiting three months and struggling in class and at work because I would have go an extra three months without treatment. There were even two times when I had appointments scheduled in the afternoon after work and the doctor’s office called me on the morning of my appointment and told me that they had to change my appointment to the morning and that I *had* to come in at this new time that didn’t work for me.

        As for the lunch issue, I have a very fast metabolism and an endocrine disorder, so if I don’t eat every few hours I can’t think of anything except food. Having meetings from 11 am to 2 pm without food would be physically painful for me and I would not be able to focus at all. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to ask how they’re going to eat lunch during that time, and I think it could easily be about wanting to be able to take care of bodily needs, not just wanting a break.

      6. Tuba*

        Wow, hi. I finally read everything and here is my final comment. I in no way shame or think ill of people taking time off. I’m recognizing my scenario might be too nuanced for AAM and appreciate the commenters that have shown me grace when my mid-day scribbles were poorly worded. I do think there was some speculation in the comments reading too much into my posts. I have four other reports that all take time off when they need it. My report has access to HR policies in writing, had an onboarding meeting with HR when time off was explained, and had a more department specific overview from me. I in no way hemmed or hawed when answering questions about PTO. I answered questions 1-25 about PTO with an upbeat and solutioning perspective. Of course a new report has questions on these matters. I directed him to our written policies to reinforce what I was saying. It’s after questions 26-52 combined with PTO he already has taken or has planned after one month that makes me concerned that this guy is going to skate buy. HR even asked me to ask him for a doctor’s note this early on given the amount of time. I said absolutely not to this HR request and they’ve left it alone. But I’m still nervous because I don’t have a lot of work to judge him on yet. The few things have submitted have been fine, and are passable. I would have hoped he dug more in depth on certain data points and walked him through what that would look like for the future. I do not assume my report can read my mind about expectations for PTO or deliverables and deliver in depth feedback It’s very early and I’m freaked when PTO is dominating so many of our conversations. I am certain he has the PTO information already, and we have other things we need to focus on. He already has a handbook, a MS Teams channel dedicated 100 percent to these questions, prior check-ins with me, and a biweekly check-in with my boss who enforces the same things I’ve said about PTO.

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask someone to work three hours straight, once. I’m not sure why the chat went in this direction. Of course a new employee doesn’t know it will be a “once” thing right away. But I let him know I reshuffled things around due to the times he was taking off that week so it meant back to back meetings this one time. I’ll also note that I approximate he has around 2-3 hours a day left when he technically isn’t working at all until he is fully utilized. Noone can fully decharge if they are still on call, but it’s hard work all day with zero breaks. This is true of many new hires.

        No, I did not talk down to him and tell him to just eat through lunch. He took a half hour break after his series of meetings and I indicated that should be what he does moving forward if this comes up. But also if you are hungry in a meeting feel free to eat something–nobody is going to comment on that.

        No, he does not have too much work. I started at my company as a part time admin assistant 5 years ago and worked my way up. I’ve only worked over 40 hours twice ever. I do not know anyone under very senior levels working long hours. I know this is a problem with my field, but we’re a really small group and do not have this issue. It’s senior leadership that manages clients and takes on the most time consuming things. They work around 50-6o hour weeks are are certainly compensated for it at that level. That is not this.

        The tl;dr is thank you for your comments. I’ve considered each and mostly think there’s enough to the story that AAM isn’t a great forum for this conversation. I’ve mostly learned not to quickly type complicated things over my lunch break. I think a lot of assumptions were made about my post with text that wasn’t there, but also realize I worded it poorly.

        1. allathian*

          To clarify, you scheduled back-to-back meetings with him over lunch because he had other appointments during the second week that prevented you from scheduling more breaks in his training? If that’s the case, I can understand your frustration.

          When I started my current job (15 years ago), I asked my line manager about leave and HR stuff, but my coworkers trained me in the day-to-day things related to my job, mainly because my manager wasn’t an expert in our field. I think that you should ask your other reports about the questions the new hire’s asking them.

    17. Sherm*

      Are you perhaps concerned about what he’s *not* asking much of, work-related questions about how things work and where stuff can be found? It’s legit to ask about one’s benefits and to want a proper lunch break, but I can understand the concern if he’s not displaying a lot of curiosity about the work itself. If so, maybe you can say “Your workload is going to increase, and you will be expected to have more independence. I’m of course happy to train you, but I can’t anticipate everything you may be wondering about, so please do ask questions about the job as it ramps up.”

      1. Tuba*

        No question. Where is the close attention to the work? I feel it’s majority attention to lunch breaks when questions like that should slow by now.

        1. lost academic*

          Is it possible those questions are not getting asked of you? In my field, line managers tend to get asked the administrative type questions and often peers or others are getting the frontline work related questions to start, unless they need to be elevated.

        2. Reticular Giraffe*

          To me it sounds like the work was easier to pick up than your PTO policy is. What kind of work questions do you want him to ask? Does it seem like there are work things that he doesn’t understand, that is, are there work things that he is doing wrong?
          If he is doing his work correctly or at least with the same number of errors that other people make, then why do you want him to ask more work questions? If he is not actually taking excessive PTO or canceling meetings so he can go to lunch, why do you want him to ask fewer PTO/lunch questions? My advice is that you should place less importance on how many questions he asks on a given subject. Focus on whether he is doing things correctly, meaning both his work and when he takes PTO/lunch.

    18. Irish Teacher*

      I could be way off here or projecting from my own role but some of your post reminded me of how pretty much every new teacher feels starting out (or at least I did and I know lots of others who did), this idea that you have to watch everything in case people start taking advantage and that you need to look out for red flags that people might be testing you.

      The problem for new teachers at least, is that at that point of one’s career, one often isn’t very good at judging what is a red flag and it’s easy to assume minor things are indications somebody is testing you and to overlook genuine issues.

      Obviously, I do not know if that is the case here and I have no experience of managing adults and I suspect you live and work in a very different culture from mine, work-wise and teaching is it’s own little world anyway, so I may be missing stuff, but nothing he has done seems like testing to me.

      The only thing that would send up a red flag to me would be the number of questions about vacations. And that is mainly that it makes him seem naive about work norms.

      I think back-to-back meetings that prevent somebody from taking a lunch break are a pretty big issue. I mean, if it’s just from 11-2, then waiting until 2 for one’s lunch break isn’t that big a deal but…maybe he didn’t know he could take an hour then?

      I also don’t see anything shocking about having an appointment in one’s training period. I mean, yeah, it COULD be a sign that he is going to be constantly taking time off, but it could also just be bad luck that he is having say a health issue just as he starts a new job or has some other issue like he is applying for a mortgage or something.

      Of course, you also know the guy and we don’t, so it’s possible there is something in his body language or the way he raises these issues that is tipping you off that he isn’t going to work out, but I do think being nervous about being in charge can also make people inclined to see more potential issues than there really are.

    19. Fishsticks*

      Honestly, when I got my first job with dedicated PTO (after YEARS of working shitty retail jobs where all you ever got was unpaid time off and reamed out by managers for daring to get the flu at an inconvenient time) I probably seemed unduly focused on exactly how PTO/vacation worked, too.

      I also would have been far more focused on breaktimes/breaks than you might find appropriate, as I had, when I began that job, spent about seven years in the workforce having never once gotten a break when I was scheduled to get one, always late. I could see him being concerned about having time to eat before he really feels the aftereffects of hunger.

      This is not to say your instincts aren’t correct – you know your employee far better than I do, and know context I don’t – but just something to keep in mind if he’s fairly young and is otherwise getting satisfactory work done. The appointment may have been scheduled prior to training time, and any attempt to move a doctor’s appointment (if that’s what it was) right now is an absolute disaster, so I don’t blame him just taking the appointment.

    20. Kupo*

      Does he generally have good intentions, but execution of actions a bit different? Agree with people saying to establish what the norms are for your workplace.

      I was not given guidance once about expectations and so was erroneously labelled as not interested in extending myself. But my first-time manager didn’t tell me expectations so I couldn’t meet them. (Most of my poor work experiences have been due to first-timers.)

    21. Firecat*

      It sounds like you need to practice assuming positive intent. It’s pretty bizarre you are reading so much negativity into a couple of appointments, asking about lunch meeting culture, and asking about vacations (it’s holiday season and as an exempt staff if your PTO accrues they may be unsure how to handle TG and Christmas frankly).

      Also maybe you are blessed to not need specialists, but since Covid the healthcare sector is extremely understaffed. I frequently have to wait months for my hematology appointments. If my new manager said anything about being shocked I kept my specialist appointments when I should “be on my best behavior” that’d be a huge red flag.

      Maybe instead of worrying that an employee is going to “take advantage” instead set expectations in your one on ones and course correct as needed. Otherwise you are on the path to lose your sanity if you worry about what a direct report might do and spend so much effort reading into their behaviors.

    22. RagingADHD*

      With respect, I think the reason your employee has a lot of questions is the same reason so many commenters here have so many questions.

      You are not explaining things in a way that is easy to understand, and some of your follow up comments sound like you’re contradicting yourself.

      I’m sure it’s all very clear and makes sense in your own mind, but it isn’t coming across that way. I think you should assume that there is a bit of a communication breakdown, rather than that your employee is testing you.

      Obviously, nobody here has any reason to test you or try to “get away” with anything.

    23. cellist*

      I’m a little surprised no-one’s suggested Alison’s method of naming the problem and asking what’s going on. The best way to find out the reason for all the PTO questions might just be to ask: ‘I’ve noticed you have a lot of questions about PTO. Is there a particular reason for that?’ And if the reply is ‘In my last place I never managed to take the leave I was owed, and I’m anxious that that doesn’t happen here’, for example, then that’s something concrete to work with.

      1. Firecat*

        That’s partly what I was going for but it seems Tuba has taken the questions and pushback very personally.

        Your idea is another good one!

  5. Beth*

    I’ve been waiting for Friday just so I could share this!

    The Drawing of Lines

    Today we have drawing of lines.
    Yesterday, we had daily screaming.
    And tomorrow morning, we shall have what to do after retiring.
    But today, today we have drawing of lines.

    My coffee cup steams like fever in my simmering anger,
    And today we have drawing of lines.

    This is the lower wage bracket.
    And this is the upper wage bracket,
    Whose use you will see when you are not given a raise.
    And this is the cost-of-living adjustment, which in our case we have not got.

    Some branches hold in the office appreciative gestures,
    Which in our case we have not got.

    This is the extra work, which is always added with an easy shrug of the boss.
    And please do not let them see anyone asking for PTO.
    You can do it quite easy if you have extra hours in your weekend.

    The employees are quiet and motionless, never letting any boss see
    Any of them flipping their finger.

    And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this is to leave the job, as you see.
    Or we can simply work our duties:
    We call this working to rule.

    And rapidly backwards and backwards
    The employees are releasing and dropping the unpaid hours:
    They call it working to rule.

    They call it working to rule:
    It is perfectly easy if you have any strength in your backbone.
    Like the praise, and the break, and the extra staff, and the work-life balance,
    Which in our case we have not got;
    And the unapologetic silence from the bosses and the changes going forward,
    For today we have drawing of lines.

      1. Beth*

        Thank you! The original is “The Naming of Parts” by Henry Reed. I’ll put a link into a separate reply.

    1. Past Lurker*

      This is very timely for me and my coworkers, thanks for sharing it! We had a conversation very much like this today. Not as poetic of course.

      1. Beth*

        You’re very welcome! It was the one good thing that came out of a very bad day a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been looking forward to sharing it ever since.

      1. Beth*

        Go ahead and share, and thank you for asking! You can attribute it to “Beth Owen”, which is not my real name, but is a name I’ve used online in fandom for many years. At one point, I set up a FB account for that name — it was beth.owen.42.

        I’m delighted that you want to share it!

    2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Thank you for this! It’s terrific, and also my late dad wrote a version of it back in the early 90s, so it has also gone straight to my heartstrings. Sniff.

  6. Job hopping*

    General consensus is that the minimum amount of time you should spend in a role varies greatly by job and by industry. So, what’s your personal experience/observation on acceptable numbers, and what’s your field?

    Mine: I’m in content design for medtech, in my current role for 11 months. A colleague who onboarded with me just left for a new company, and everyone was acting like this was totally reasonable. (I say that not with judgment, but merely as observation of context clues.) Comments like “You will be missed, but we’re so excited for you!” were the norm. This surprised me, because my estimation of the minimum (based on previous experiences) was a bit over a full year, approximately 14 months.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      It would depend upon a number of things. Was he actively looking or did this job just happen to “fall in his lap”? Was he happy at this job? Was it a good fit?

      I agree with you that ideally a person should stay a year. However, if an unexpected job that is much better “falls in one’s lap” or if one is very unhappy at a job, it makes sense to move. As Alison has said before, one short job isn’t that bad. However, a series of short jobs does look like job happing and can be a negative.

      Also, I think the, “You will be missed, but we’re so excited for you!” comments were just politeness.

    2. londonedit*

      In book publishing, especially editorial, I’d be surprised if someone left after less than about two years; 18 months would be pushing it. We already have books in the schedule for early 2024 and – personally at least – I feel like you can’t possibly get to grips with how everything works until you’ve seen a book through from start to finish, which is likely to be around a year. I usually feel like I spend about the first six months of any job feeling like I’m still getting to know the list of books we have coming through, then six months feeling like I’m getting the hang of it, and then once I have my first books coming in that I’ve been involved with right from the start (as opposed to finishing off books that were already going through the editorial process when I joined) I feel like I’ve really taken the reins.

    3. Avocato*

      On the tech front: I did a bootcamp this spring. I was talking to another person from my cohort who got a job fairly quickly, and his plan from the day he signed his offer was to leave at the 8 month mark. This seemed fast to me, but I looked around in my network, and a decently large percentage of people did that at the start of their dev careers to get their salaries up. Similarly, my ex and his friends (established devs) always said that if you don’t change jobs or get a substantial raise every year, you’ll fall behind, but sometimes they’ll stay for as long as 1.5-2 years because they’re comfortable.

      YMMV.

    4. Sloanicota*

      See, in my field I think leaving in less than two years is a bit eye brow raising. The first year is a lot of learning so the second year is when you are executing what you’ve learned.

    5. Future silver banker*

      Strategy consulting; most people stay 3 years, a number leave on year 1 if they are managed out or after getting their first title change.

    6. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I was in my last role for 6 months before applying for and receiving a promotion to executive at my company. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer- opportunities come up when they come up. It is a cost of doing business.

      The caveat is that this happens a few times in our careers normally, if someone is moving every 6 months for years I think it could be a red flag.

    7. Llama Llama*

      So I think it really depends on how hard the job is to learn. Early in my career people moved after a year all the time. The role I am in now, it takes many many months to get a hang of. It was a year in before I didn’t think I was new to the role. Now I can’t see someone moving out, every few years.

    8. Hound Dog*

      Transportation Engineering, and it’s rather split. Junior levels tend to move around every 2 years or so, but once you get up to around 7-8 years experience, people generally settle in for the long haul with companies. However, it’s also not unheard of for some people to stick with the same company practically their whole career, nor is it unheard of for some companies to bleed all levels of talent. And if you’re on the government side of things, you’re sticking around for that 20-year pension.

      Leaving before a full year doesn’t look good in my industry, but if it’s one instance and all other positions held have been longer tenure, then it can be overlooked. Too many 18-25 month roles becomes a red flag.

    9. I should really pick a name*

      How else would you expect them to react?
      Even if you think someone is leaving early, why would you do anything but wish them well?

      I don’t fully understand your question. In my mind, there’s no minimum amount of time. It’s whatever suits the person at that particular time. Just because it isn’t acceptable to me doesn’t mean it’s not acceptable to the person in the actual job. It may have repercussions on future jobs, but it’s their job to determine if the potential consequences are worth it for them.
      If someone has found a better opportunity, should they pass it up just so they’ve stayed for an “acceptable” amount of time?

      1. Job hopping*

        Not sure what there is to understand; I asked what the norm is broken down by people’s jobs and industries. Others responded with exactly that info. You seem eager to fight.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I apologize if I came across as antagonistic.

          The reason I don’t understand is because I don’t see what benefit knowing these norms provides based on the rest of what you said. Is it in the context of hiring?

          You said that you were surprised at the comments people made when someone left earlier than you think was reasonable, and I don’t understand that surprise.

          1. Job hopping*

            Pure curiosity, no more or less than that. When I say she left earlier than I thought was acceptable, I mean that completely straight-forwardly and academically, not with disdain or disapproval. My experience in my field has given me a mental metric of what seems to be tolerated and what does not, and this particular experience suggests that either the field is changing, or this particular company is an exception. So I was interested in what others had observed in their own fields.

            I’m not claiming to be a social psychologist, but the well-wishes were truly excited and genuine, not just the expected platitudes. So yes, the words were expected, but the warm vibe everyone gave off during her notice period suggested that her timing was completely acceptable and reasonable. Thus, the need to recalibrate my mental metrics.

            1. the charioteer*

              i think you may be reading too much into their well wishes. if a new colleague left right after starting, and something obviously didn’t work out, i would never so much as think to express surprise or anything other than a “warm vibe”

    10. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Food and hospitality. There is a lot of job hopping. At the lower level, servers, dishwashers, prep cooks and back of house there is a very high turnover. At 4 different jobs I ran into the same people from other jobs. Sometimes people circled back a second or third time to a job depending on what they needed in terms of pay, location and hours. That being said as a manager now I’m more interested in developing my management skills than looking for the next job.

    11. Qwerty*

      Tech – Advice in my field is to jump every 2yrs, but I find that the really good devs I know usually stay 3-5yrs. I find the 2yr jumpers might get ahead on salary but can fall behind on skillset. People with 7+yrs run the spectrum from “great and super engaged” , to “solid and see no reason to go”, to “terrible but can coast here”.

      However, I think everyone is always nice when people leave no matter how short the timeframe. Sometimes cool opportunities come up a few months into a new job and its hard to blame someone for taking it.

    12. Kw10*

      Don’t read too much into it! In my field of someone left after less than a year it would definitely seem odd, but I would still say essentially that same thing to be nice to them. Also, you never know if there was more to the story behind the scenes- like the person wasn’t a good fit for the job and everyone agreed that resigning would be the best solution, or any number of other situations.

    13. Roland*

      Well, even if it was too short, or course people will be polite when the person hasn’t done something egregious. It would be very odd if most people said out loud “hm okay but fyi you should have stayed longer”. I really wouldn’t take “you’ll be missed but congrats” as a sign that the stay was long enough or not.

      1. Job hopper*

        As I said above, the vibe throughout her notice was warm and enthusiastic. I feel comfortable stating that I can recognize the difference between expected platitudes and genuine excitement.

        1. Roland*

          I guess I don’t see why both can’t be true, that it’s shorter than ideal and they’re also genuinely excited.

        2. Sascha*

          What do you expect them to do? Withhold their enthusiasm and express just the right amount of cold politeness to telegraph the fact that your coworker is leaving earlier than expected?

    14. Sparkle llama*

      I work in local government and I would say there is so much institutional knowledge involved in a lot of positions that it takes a good two years to really know the job. Anyone consistently moving more frequently than every three years raises my eyebrows.

  7. References upfront*

    Low stakes question. I’ve talked myself out of applying for a job. Can I get a second opinion?

    The job post asks applicants to send a list of references upfront. I’m only looking casually and to get back into the habit. I’m not ready to reach out to references until I’m more serious or until I get a better read on a job.

    For one reference in particular, the timing’s messy for several reasons and I think it might harm my current work situation to ask them now. That’s the biggest hangup. I’m probably also resentful about submitting references upfront.

    My feeling is I should just skip it. That said, it’s a specialty job with specialty skills and I have certain criteria (PT hours, mid-career pay) that make it a relatively niche job search. Am I being reasonable?

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I’d try Giraffe’s suggestion, because you’ve moved it to low interest.

        If computer based application, which might not allow you to leave the space blank, could you try Name: Upon Request, and perhaps a friend’s phone number and email, if needed.

        1. References upfront*

          Thanks to both of you! Ignoring the requirement seems obvious in hindsight. I haven’t formally applied for a job in a long time!

      2. SofiaDeo*

        This is what I used to do. If it was questioned, I went with the “oh, I’ll supply them if we get to an offer”. The ones that didn’t want to proceed probably weren’t worth for IMO.

    1. JustSewYouKnow*

      When I’ve been in a similar position, I’ve simply stated in the forms/requested docs that references are available on request–so don’t skip applying, but do skip the supplying references so early. I have actually gone on to accept an offer after doing this (in my instance a rigid HR department wouldn’t customize that language and the hiring department with more context understood why I said that, of course ymmv, etc.). If they throw out your application because of this, you are in basically the same place you would be without applying. But if they don’t, it could be a good opportunity? Good luck!

    2. learnedthehardway*

      It’s presumptuous of employers to ask for references up front. But it is also quite common on job applications, especially for more junior positions. One thing you can do is to make a written note that you do not authorize any contact of references until X point in the process, but whether people will adhere to that is very dependent on what the privacy rules are in your area.

      It’s very unlikely that your references would be called immediately, and I wouldn’t say you even need to notify them if you were to choose to apply.

      It would be a red flag for me if a senior role (manager or above) was asking for references before you had even talked to anyone.

      1. References upfront*

        I’d heard it was a red/yellow flag to ask for references upfront. That also gave me pause.

        The job is mid-career, listed through a recruiting agency. They have senior roles listed as well and those listings ask for references too.

        1. Dr. Prepper*

          Tell recruiters to pound sand. They have NO NEED for references up front. They will use those reference contacts and add them to their pool, and solicit those references for other positions, even if they aren’t looking. They may even name you as a “recommended” source.

          Don’t do it. Simply state that you keep references confidential until the company informs you that you are in the final stages of consideration and NOW references are being contacted. If they keep insisting, now you know they are a mill and the job may even be bogus.

      2. Luca*

        OT and long before Covid, I arrived for an initial interview where I had to fill out a bunch of background check paperwork first. The BC was required by some of their clients.

        I was irked because (1) I didn’t know about this in advance and my recruiter probably didn’t either; (2) the interview was during my lunch hour; and (3) I felt they should have collected that info only from the person they decided to hire.

    3. lost academic*

      It’s possible that they’re just trying to gather the information they need up front in case they get to the end of the process with you and want to make sure the endgame moves quickly. That’s a point in an interview process prior to an offer that always seems to drag on – getting that list from people in the first place. Everywhere I’ve been it’s at least an extra week onto everything and in this market that’s a delay that can easily be avoided.

      1. References upfront*

        I think that’s probably right. It’s through a recruiting agency so I imagine they want to be especially efficient.

    4. voluptuousfire*

      Since you stated that this ad was placed by a recruiting agency, asking for references upfront may be an attempt to facilitate new business contacts. It’s just a guess but it’s possible!

      I’d submit the app without references (or with the other things suggested by other posters) and if you don’t hear from them, it’s no problem.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        There was an AAM letter about this — an employee of a recruiting company was told they had to mine candidate references for new business opportunities. Yuck.

  8. New Mom*

    I’m currently on mat leave with my second child. I’m having the “should i stay or should I go” conversations in my head already even though my mat leave isn’t over for a few months. I’d ideally like to stay through the end of the calendar year because summers are really busy and stressful but in the Fall I have cool opportunities to present at conferences and would like to stick around for that.
    Here’s my question, I got a brand new boss right before mat leave and I don’t know them very well. They never reached out to congratulate me on the baby which I thought was weird (for reference, two former bosses from same company have both reached out with well wishes). My husband is from another country and would like to go for a visit over the summer, right before my busy time. I will be returning from leave about 6-8 weeks before he wants to travel. I have the PTO, I just feel weird and like it would need to be one of my first conversations with my new boss, on top of another ask to be allowed more WFH for my first month back to help with pumping.
    Any advice on how to broach it with brand new boss? If relevant, I’ve worked on my organization for over five years.

    1. Bagpuss*

      How far in advance is it normal for people to book time off ? I am wondering whether it would be better to make the request now even though you are not back yet, so the trest of the team can plan arround it. If you are ging to have been back for almost 2 months before you take the PTO then presumably you will have been able to get back into the swing of things and assuming that being off wo’t cause problems goinginto the busy period, maybe frame it to boss as ‘I’d like to book [dates] as PTO – it will let me use up my /some of my PTO before we go into the reaally busy period in [month] .

      Is there any possibility that you and your husband might be able to bring your trave lforward a bit? I am wondering wheter, if you have been out for several months on mat leave, it might be easier to tack the PTO onto the end of the mat leave. But I appreciate that changing the travel plans by 1-2 months might not be workble for all sorts of reasons!

    2. SofiaDeo*

      You got a brand new boss just before maternity leave. Why would you expect someone who doesn’t really know you to to reach out with personal, non-work conversation? Some folk was think it strange. The two previous bosses *know you personally* and have a relationship.

      1. theguvnah*

        agreed, i actually think most people would be annoyed if a new boss they don’t know reached out while they’re on leave.

    3. Qwerty*

      I wouldn’t read too much into your new boss not reaching out. I’m guessing you don’t have a history of texting each other about personal social matters?

      Plus, some companies don’t allow you to have *any* contact with reports who are out on mat leave (or medical leave). It’s to avoid the boss intruding with work during what should be a non-work period. It’s possible your boss might be in that school of thought, previously worked a place where that was the rule, heard from parents that didn’t want to be contacted by their boss, etc.

  9. Chloe Decker*

    I’m on a team with Trixie and Dan, our director Marcus joined the company 6 months ago. We all work remotely, but Dan is based out of our company headquarters in northern Florida, Marcus is based in south Florida, Trixie is in New England and I’m in Texas. A few months ago, Marcus wanted everyone to make a trip to our headquarters for an important end of year meeting with an important vendor we work closely with. This vendor is also based in New England. We were originally scheduled to fly into the headquarters in Florida this past Wednesday and fly out Thursday (see where I’m going? lol). Wednesday would include going to dinner with the vendor and some higher-ups at our company and Thursday morning would be the meeting with everyone. Trixie and I started worrying on Monday and really worrying throughout Tuesday about the incoming Hurricane Nicole. At the end of the workday on Tuesday, we expressed our concerns over flights getting canceled, especially on Thursday. Even though we are on opposite sides of the country, the estimated trajectory showed that Nicole would likely miss the city our headquarters was in, but both of us would hit it or close to it (I was flying out late afternoon to Texas and she was flying out late evening to the east coast) during our flights since it curved around Florida and then into Georgia. Marcus kind of pooh-poohed us saying the winds in the specific city we were in wouldn’t be as bad as where Nicole would make landfall. Trixie and I continued to text throughout the evening and around 11pm we both made the decision to cancel our trips. We each sent Marcus and Dan an email expressing how much we wanted to be there, but were too worried about the hurricane.

    Marcus responded back to our emails understanding our concerns. He wrote how Nicole was projected to hit way west of the city and the winds would weaken as it travelled inland. Then he wrote that a large number of senior leaders at our company had already flown in and were going to the dinner and meeting, and how these in-person meetings give us the opportunity to actually build rapport with key leadership members. Later on Wednesday evening I checked the flight I was supposed to be on out of Florida, and it was…canceled…lol. Trixie told me her flight out of Florida ended up being canceled as well.

    Trixie and I both called into the meeting yesterday. It included about 12 people total, there were a few others who also called in, but I think she and I were the only ones who canceled due to the hurricane. When I logged on I said hello and asked how everyone was faring with the weather. I got back “it’s sunny here!”. LOL okay. The meeting was fine. Honestly Trixie and I didn’t really need to be there. Our vendor went over some extremely high level stuff that concerned more of what Dan works on, nothing they talked about impacted what she and I worked on. The meeting ended around noon and that was that. I’m not sure if anyone else’s flights were canceled, however through some sleuthing I saw that the flight Marcus was supposed to be on was also canceled. However he’s in south Florida so he probably got another flight quickly.

    I’m worried that Marcus is irritated that we canceled. Since he’s joined the company, he hasn’t really fit into our team well. A TON of people at the company have left, but since then Marcus has really taken over Dan’s, Trixie’s and my jobs. None of us have ownership over everything anymore. Not to mention he gets patronizing if you try to correct him (which is often) or give context. He also makes sure all communication goes through him. None of us are in meetings anymore with stakeholders as Marcus has made sure he’s the one presenting to leadership weekly; we’re not in those conversations. I think he’s less annoyed at how us canceling would affect our rapport with leadership and more how us not being there makes him look. Even Trixie was telling me how she’s worried that she disappointed people by canceling.

    My question is what do I say if he says something sassy during our next 1:1? I think he’s going to be like “everyone else made it. My flight was canceled and I still got home!”. I’m glad I canceled but I’m nervous about what he’s going to say.

    1. to varying degrees*

      My 2 cents as a Floridian is don’t worry about it. They may be a little annoyed but it’ll pass, especially since the flights were cancelled by the airline eventually. I’ve lived in central Florida for almost 30 years and grew up all along the gulf coast. I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes including little miss Nicole and at some point Floridians just get resigned to them and go about life as normal. Hell I went work yesterday as did all my coworkers. And sometimes we forget that not everyone is just used to them. TBH I probably would have rolled my eyes a little but then I’d remember that yeah, hurricanes are a big deal (bigger than we tend to make them out to be) and flights are an issue. If there’s a way you and Trixie can casually mention what a lucky thing y’all didn’t head to the airports because your flights ended up being cancelled that might help. But you guys did the best thing for you and that’s what’s important. And fingers crossed we won’t have another hurricane this year.

    2. Beth*

      Since your flights WERE canceled, how likely is it that he’ll say anything?

      You might be able to pre-empt him by talking up the excellent decision you made, and that you were right.

      But given how much of a horse’s posterior Marcus is . . . have you started polishing your resume?

    3. Ann Ominous*

      “Yeah, seems like different airlines in various cities were making all kinds of different judgment calls [say this in a tone that sounds like you’re agreeing with him], I’m glad you were able to find another flight after yours was canceled!”

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I agree with Ann Ominous, sound like you are agreeing with him and are sad your flights got cancelled and you could not find another one.

        And what Beth said, polish your resume!

    4. MM*

      As a Floridian, it would depend on the city. Jacksonville or Tally, sure cancel the trip. But if it was Pensacola, then I’d be irritated, mostly because I would think you couldn’t read a map.

      Btw – I cancelled a trip Monday for this week, because the person I was scheduled to travel with was supposed to fly out of MCO, early Thursday morning, and I didn’t want him to get stuck down here.

    5. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Since you were not flying your very own planes out of your very own airports, where Marcus the Amateur Meteorologist thinks the winds will and will not be is not relevant. Where your particular airline and air traffic control at your airport decide to do with the weather information they have IS relevant. What are you supposed to do? Call and say “Marcus says the winds won’t be too bad where you are?” Cancelling a flight/getting a flight cancelled on you due to circumstances beyond your control happens all the time. Making a personal judgement call that you don’t care to fly into the teeth of the storm, or risk getting stranded in another city for days? Also common. Choose to interpret people’s “disappointment” as their sincere desire to meet you, not a judgement that somehow you should be able to control the wind and the airline industry.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        I agree…I don’t live in hurricane country, but I do live in a city that is notorious for its uneven response to snow. If there is any snow forecast, travel plans go completely awry. Some people cancel everything if the S word is even mentioned, some just forge on ahead no matter what, and most people just make the best call they can in the moment. Very often, some people will cancel things when it turns out they could have made it no problem. It happens. Nobody takes it amiss.

    6. RagingADHD*

      If your flights *on the way there* were canceled, then it’s not like there would be other flights later that would get you there in time for the meeting. Getting another flight going home is an entirely different matter, because you aren’t on a deadline to go home from an event.

      The airline decided that your flight path was unsafe. Has nothing to do with the weather on the ground at the meeting. Surely, as an adult capable of holding a managerial position, he understands how planes work. Surely?

      If he is bizarre and nonsensical enough to try to make an issue of it, you can say, “Well, I’m glad I made the decision earlier so I could give you a heads-up. If I had waited until the airline canceled the flight, it really would have been last-minute, which would have been even more of a hassle.”

  10. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Seeing the implosion of Twitter I wonder how people who use it for work are handling it. I don’t use social media for work and enjoy the respite from ‘ normalcy “.

    As for me, I’m working on being patient with folks who wonder why I haven’t tried exercise, energy drinks or vitamins for my fatigue ( which affects work). Anyway guys everyone struggling with low energy has heard of those and are trying to do those. They just don’t work for some.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      It’s reminiscent of the auto industry crash. You’ve got >14,000 fired employees between Twitter and Facebook/Meta with similar job skills now all looking for work. That’s a lot of competition for whatever job openings are available. That’s also a lot of talent, they didn’t fire just low performers they eliminated a lot of whole departments. So if there are tech adjacent industry companies (twitter had a lot of AI guys for instance) there’s a good chance to snatch up some employees. Also if anyone ever wanted to try and make a new social media site now is your golden ticket. So hopefully they fare better than the auto guys did.

    2. Green beans*

      Honestly, I’m just telling everyone at work to wait it through and see what happens. No point in getting fussed (professionally) when we have no idea what’s going to happen and at least in our corner of Twitter, very few people have actually left. So we’re keeping an eye on things, a few people have explored alternative social media options, and we’ll see what happens.

    3. StellaBella*

      I use it only for work. And ….Well since 29 October I now have to daily block spam, pr0n/cam accounts….in the 3 years I managed this account there was only 1 of these. Not even kidding. It is not fun.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I used to use Twitter mainly for social purposes but a bit for connecting with journalists in relation to my business. I’d logged out a bit before the takeover to have a break from some of the less enjoyable discourse and when Musk took over I decided never to log back in. I miss some of my friends and it’s inconvenient not to have access to journorequests but no regrets.

  11. Jazz and Manhattans*

    Just an open comment/vent – we are going through a small Reduction in Force at work which I’ve been through before when my entire department was let go. Please, managers, do not take this time to tell those being laid off that “this is business; you are valued”. Yeah…I just lost my job and my healthcare and have someone at home who is immunocompromised. Not caring that this is your way to assuage your emotions. I do not feel valued because, see…you are laying me off and not offering any support on finding me a new job in the org. I’m not going to feel valued so stop saying it!

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      What general area do you live in, Jazz and Manhattans? What do you do? I’d be willing to refer you into my company if we have something in your area.

    2. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      I was laid off along with about half my division at the tail end of 2008-09 recession and the president of the company issued a press release assuring clients that the effects would be “invisible” to them. Everyone was so angry by that word choice. Way to simultaneously make the people who got canned feel like they were contributing nothing AND those who were left feel they’d have to take on twice the work. Sigh.

      All this to say I’m sorry you’re going through it now, Jazz. Sending good vibes your way.

      1. Jazz and Manhattans*

        Thanks! After I was RIFd from my last company (sigh, two in a row) I was told a VP said, in the meeting to tell everyone we were gone, “now we can get work done faster now that X dept is gone”. Yup…we were “valued”.

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        Whoever wrote and approved that press release was clearly not a comms professional. Good lord, “invisible?!” Terrible word choice, and if I was a client that saw that, I’d be side-eying the hell out of that company.

  12. Sequinbug*

    Looking for some ideas for good, productive team meetings. I meet with my team once a week. Our typical agenda includes shoutouts/praise, individual updates for areas of work, updates from me re: next week’s work, and any little info. I encourage others to share first before I share (as manager).
    It feels…stale. Anyone have tips from great team meetings? I’d like to avoid weekly ice breakers if possible (we have a standing ‘coffee chat’ for mingling) and typically begin the weekly team meeting with a few minutes of chit chat.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      Are you looking more for tips on how to have a really energetic team meeting or for having a productive meeting?

    2. Dana Lynne*

      Sounds like you may not need to meet once a week! Updates on current work is the only thing you really need! Letting people catch up a bit at first is fine. You don’t need to be entertaining or do icebreakers if the people there have been working together a while and know each other.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yeah, I only meet with my team biweekly because we just don’t have that many updates and I address issues as they crop up during the week anyway. Additionally, we have a weekly program meeting with another small team within our slightly larger department, so it would be redundant. I also end our biweekly calls early if no one has any important announcements or have anything they want to ask me – giving very busy people time back is the best thing you can do to help your team be more productive, OP.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      brainstorming something work-related, like naming a product? demonstrations of particularly good work by team members that others might not have seen? discussions of recent trends or events in your professional field? As a team member, I want meetings to move the work forward in some way — if there isn’t much to discuss about our work, then help me learn something to do my work better.

    4. H*

      Coming from the perspective of someone in academia who has weekly lab meetings: If your team has time to do this, you could plan in advance to have a different person “lead” the meeting each time (on a volunteer/sign-up basis) to talk about something specific in addition to regular work updates, such as a new project they’re working on/want feedback on, or a new development in your field or idea they want to discuss with the group. Otherwise, though, I agree with Dana that you maybe don’t need to meet every week!

    5. A BA PO*

      You could borrow from the Agile/Scrum methodologies and do a “retrospective”, either on the past week or the past X period if you don’t want to do it weekly. There are tons of examples, but my team does “what went well” and “what could have gone better”. Usually, these points will lead to discussions on similar items, or discussions on how to fix an issue, etc. It takes some coaxing to get honesty, but I usually find things I maybe wouldn’t have. I would also set it up as a meeting/space where you as manager can’t take over the conversation necessarily.

      My small company also does a weekly meeting where we all share a weekend highlight. While sometimes it can feel performative or cheesy, it really does allow you to connect with team members that you don’t always hear from or work with. Many calls I have throughout the week will reference people’s weekend happenings during the initial chit-chat. And it provides a built-in topic, so you’re not scrambling to figure out your favorite christmas cookie or whatever.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yes, we do something like this monthly, maybe you could tag this on monthly to the meeting?

        How about demoing/presenting something cool that happened or a failure and how it was overcome?

        Or maybe cut the meeting shorter and keep it to the chat at the beginning and the updates? And yeah, I like the idea of opening it up for people to share something light that is more personal during their updates – not a requirement, just hey you are welcome to do this, maybe even say before your update – hey I’m going to share a little fun personal thing this week, if you have something like that you want to share, feel free to do that next time and then demonstrate.

        We actually have daily huddles and one thing we do to keep it from getting stale is put everyone’s names on a wheel to randomize the order people go. You at least have to pay attention to the wheel. When in person, we used to have a soft ball that we’d throw around the circle again to randomize it. Sometimes a simple change like that can make it a little less samey. And yes, someone else said to have a different person “run” the meeting every time, not sure if there is much to run in this meeting, but it’s nice practice for people and again keeps it fresh.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Or maybe cut the meeting shorter and keep it to the chat at the beginning and the updates?

          This is how my team meetings are structured (and they’re only 30 minutes).

    6. Policy Wonk*

      What is the purpose/goal of your meeting? If it’s just to keep up with what everyone is working on, you don’t need a long meeting – don’t hold people hostage to a hour if you could accomplish your goals in 15 min. If the purpose is team building, a weekly meeting probably isn’t going to accomplish that.

    7. StellaBella*

      Do you have a Golden Fish line in the agenda? This is a super cool thing that someone did/is working on/great news to share/event coming up with partners etc.

    8. Iris Eyes*

      Regularly invite members of a different department to give a chat on new things in their department you might need to know about or how a process or tool they oversee works more in depth, metrics they see and you impact. A guest speaker can be energizing or at least give something fresh or different to look forward to.

    9. Strict Extension*

      My team has special guests from other departments come in. If we’re coming up on the yearly fundraiser, it might be someone from Development. If there’s a big culmination, maybe a program director. A new employee would attend to introduce themselves. We’re a medium sized org with a lot of departments that don’t strictly have to talk to each other, but really should, so it’s nice to get some face time with the folks you otherwise only see in passing.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      It’s going to be studied in business schools forever. As someone who loves messy public meltdowns, it’s been a fun week.

    2. Elle Woods*

      Yes. I’m not a Twitter employee (or ex-employee) but wowza is that letter bad. Josh Bernoff, of Without Bull$hit, has a scathing review of it on his site.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        No, but I’d really like to see Without Bull$hit cover that email.
        Especially as the badly done layoff email said to stay home!

    3. TallGuy*

      Honestly, Twitter’s entire history as a company the past seven months over at The Blue Bird App have been an illustration of How To Make Alison’s Hair Go Grey. I didn’t think I would be yelling “CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL” at my phone on my week off, but here we are.

    4. Chickaletta*

      No here, but my employer also conducted layoffs last week albeit on a much smaller scale. There were a few bumps in the road but literally one of the comments at an executive meeting was “well, at least we didn’t screw it up like Twitter”.

  13. Writer Seeks $$$*

    Hi all! I currently write part-time for a niche website (I have a degree in journalism). I enjoy the content, I work from home on a flexible schedule, and I’ve had the opportunity to travel to several conferences (and even present at one). The flexibility has really been critical for me as my family has grown (my oldest is in kindergarten). The downsides: The work is VERY low-paying and I’m an independent contractor (so no benefits).
    Ideally I’d like to have a job/career where, if my husband couldn’t work for a few months for some reason (e.g. lost his job) we could manage comfortably on my income alone. What would that path look like for a writer? I’m at a loss – I feel like I don’t have any necessary/marketable skills. I’ve heard about technical writing – is that hard to break into? Should I look into some other kind of career? I’m feeling stuck and lost. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

    1. techie*

      A lot of marketing teams have both content and copywriting roles (sometimes, it’s a mix of both that’s needed). I’d say you can easily make $60-80k depending on the type of company it is, and benefits would be included.

    2. MediocreMeandering*

      I do freelance writing in addition to my day job, and man I feel you about the horrifically low pay for writers.

      However, as I’ve been looking at jobs recently, copywriters and SEO writers are really where the higher-paid, benefits-included work is. A lot of the job listings I’ve looked at have specifically mentioned journalism degrees. It might also help to look at positions that fit the niche you’re currently writing for, or a different niche for which you’d be a good fit (I’ve seen quite a few positions for parenting websites recently). I also know that google has a Digital Marketing certificate that you could get if you want to make your resume more appealing in that regard.

    3. Projects?*

      I too was a Journalism major along time ago and over time became an Instructional designer. You’ll need to learn about different learning theories (focusing on how adults learn if that is the route you want to take), have some graphic design skills and brush up on the current technology/software. If you don’t need to switch jobs tomorrow, then you could get in a Certificate or Master’s program that could get you started.

    4. OtterB*

      My not-for-profit has a Communications Specialist who writes content for our newsletter and reports but also manages routine website changes and works with outside contractors on layout of major documents and significant tech updates. It sounds like it takes the role you have now and expands it in the direction of website management and graphic design. Not sure about the pay, but it’s full time with benefits. Think about growing your job into adjacent niches that interest you.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I started out in journalism and have transitioned to marketing – content management first, since then a mix of e-comm, digital marketing, SEO writing and now I’m a copywriter on a creative team for a company. I didn’t really have ANY skills at first beyond the general ones of attention to detail, knowing how to use a style guide and some general technical proficiency. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I think you could easily move into an e-comm or SEO writing job and work your way up – and even those entry level jobs tend to pay better than journalism jobs.

    6. Not Your Trauma Bucket*

      That’s a great background for proposal writing/management (smaller places combine the two, larger may split the work out between dedicated writers and separate proposal managers). You’re basically translating input from technical and functional experts to create a winning sales document. Salaries vary widely by industry and company size, but you’ll generally land north of $60K.

    7. Westsidestory*

      I freelanced early in my career as a niche journalist for roughly 2 decades, and made a good living at it.

      On strategy I would recommend is to use your niche experience as a wedge to get into freelancing for mainstream outlets. For example: you may be an expert in turtles, and perhaps have a masthead listing on Turtles Today, your current gig. As an expert, you can now pitch the recent fascinating facts you learned about turtles to other info streams, such as:
      – a publication (offline or on) that focuses on environmental issues that affect turtles
      – a food-related outlet on turtle-based cuisine
      – a fashion website who might be thrilled to contemplate that tortoise shell is the next print replacing leopard and giraffe prints
      – a local daily or monthly where readers might want to learn about turtle species in their area
      – an alumni magazine from a college where the turtle is a mascot
      – a trade publication in the pet industry

      Get the idea? One good story idea can be turned into anything remotely related. And having those clips will just burnish your reputation as a turtle expert.

      Oh, and second suggestion: raise your rates. If you are like most freelancers, you are probably underpaid.

      Let me know if questions!

    8. Greengirl*

      Have you looked at marketing/or jobs for a large organization? I work for a university and the marketing folks have several people who write news stories for the university’s website and newsletters. Sounds very close to what you are doing now.

    9. Alicent*

      Seconding all the copywriter suggestions! I’d add looking into higher ed marketing team jobs, too. I was able to get my master’s degree for free while working full-time with benefits, and that really opened doors into other marketing jobs that were higher paid.

      Good luck!

  14. Mbarr*

    Any advice for how to start one on one meetings with someone who’s going through a hard time, but you find their depression hard to deal with?

    My boss is having a another family medical emergency right now. Every time we have our one on one, by habit I ask, “Hi Carl, how’s it going?” And Carl replies with something along the lines of, “Sigh. Not good.” And then of course I spend several moments providing a sympathetic ear, offering platitudes, etc. (Note: I don’t think Carl is expecting me to be a sympathetic ear – he’s probably only telling me because I literally asked.) (Really, I’m asking it in the insincere way most North American speakers do, expecting a generic “It’s good” and moving on. Problematic, I know.)

    I’m sympathetic, I truly am. Carl’s family member has a terminal disease (it could take years), and every few months something happens and of course Carl has to help out. I truly feel bad for their situation. But I find it emotionally draining to deal with their problems. I don’t know how to kick off a meeting without being rude and NOT asking how it’s going. Or I don’t know how to break the habit of asking, “How’s it going?” Any advice?

    1. just another bureaucrat*

      How about a question that’s more work related. Like “Hi Carl, Do you still have time right now? I’ve got a few things on my list.” Something that doesn’t lend itself to personal chatter.

    2. Little Mouse with Clogs On*

      Maybe something like, “Hi Carl, it’s good to see you!” Still polite, but not a question that would invite follow-up.

    3. Pool Lounger*

      I would stop asking. Just say hello and a sentence related to the meeting—“This week’s numbers were wild, huh?” Get straight to work.

    4. Kupo*

      Become English. “How are you enjoying the weather?”
      Be optimistic. “Anything you’re looking forward to?”

      1. Half an Apple*

        I’d recommend being careful with the optimistic question. My family and I are dealing with harsh ongoing circumstances that are generally known about at work, and honestly, if someone asked “Anything you’re looking forward to?”, it would feel to me as if they were trying to manage me and trying to get me to cheer up and ‘see the positives’ or something. And I’m afraid that would feel slightly enraging in the circumstances :) Optimism about your own affairs is cool, but leaning on someone else to *be* optimistic (when they’re dealing with a whole world of struggle that most people can’t even imagine!) – that could possibly come across badly.

        I agree with innocuous, neutral questions like, “How are you enjoying the weather?” It’s specific enough to give you both something definite to talk about (nice and distracting).

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Consider that NOT asking how Carl is doing might be doing Carl a favour. I know it’s a habit to ask, but it may be causing Carl to be brought back to his personal situation, and he might not be able to help focusing on it.

      I would say it was good to see him, or comment on the weather, ask him if he heard some company news tidbit, what does he think of some trend you’re seeing in the company numbers, etc.

      1. Mbarr*

        Normally I’d definitely take this tact, but a) it’s pure habit/instinct to let the “how’s it going” question out, and b) Carl… mentions it a lot. It’s legit in all his emails/meetings invites right now “My schedule might have to change due to a family emergency.”

        1. The Relief of Not Being Asked*

          But saying, “My schedule might have to change due to a family emergency” seems like a preparatory warning or a necessary, technical note for their colleagues. It seems a bit different from, “I really want to talk about how hard things are right now.”

          Carl might be one of these people (I am one too) who finds it hard not to take “How are you?” literally. I actually heartily dislike getting asked “How are you?”, and similar questions, when I’m going through tough times, because I always feel very strongly that I have to tell the truth and answer correctly and honestly. I find it a huge relief when people skip that enquiry entirely. I practice responses in my spare time – responses like, “Oh you know, getting by” – and it takes real concentration to remember and then to do them! I love when people skip the question and talk about the weather, work, “nice shoes”, etc.

    6. Actuarial Octagon*

      I don’t want to be flippant but I think you can say literally any other small talk opener.
      – Beautiful sunny weather we’ve got today.
      – Can you believe Local Sports Team won last night?

      Or make the “how are you” question about work
      – How’s the Johnson report coming?
      – Are you as glad as I am that marketing took over the chart formatting?
      – Is New Employee settling in?
      – I’m sure glad busy season is almost over.

      1. Mbarr*

        This is really good advice. I’ll definitely try to have some of these ready to go for our next meeting.

    7. DisneyChannelThis*

      A guy I worked with once told me something that stuck with me – he said it’s important to care about your employees as people not just as items that do a function. If your one on ones are daily yeah maybe cut back on asking how he’s doing, but if your one on ones are less frequent and long enough to get through all your work stuff I’d keep asking. Carl’s having a rough time. Two minutes at the top of a meeting once a week to listen isn’t a lot. Remind yourself it’s not your problems to solve, he’s just wanting to be heard.

      The other bit of advice I have is to look into what EAP employee assistance type programs your work has, you can offer those as alternatives maybe there’s a support group or they pay for some therapy costs. I’d probably share those as a generic “Hey our company offers this, we should make sure everyone knows about it okay if I send an email blast to your group?” type deal.

      1. allathian*

        That would work if OP was the manager, but they’re not, Carl is. I get it that managers are human, too, but they should be really careful not to burden their reports with their problems.

        I think that saying something other than “How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” as a conversation opener will help with this.

    8. SofiaDeo*

      IMO the insincere “how’s it going” is especially a problem if Carl is of an older generation, I think. I am an older person who was taught one didn’t ask questions unless one really did want an answer. I imagine there are younger folk who think this way, too. So if you aren’t interested in being supportive/knowing the answer, just use one of the traditionally polite neutral opening conversational statements like “good to see you” or keep everything work related, including questions.

      Society changes across generations, and while expecting us older folk to learn/go along with the newer changes, also recognize that old habits die hard. Especially if one even wants to change them. I personally go towards “malicious compliance” when it’s pretty darn obvious the person isn’t interested. It comes across so, so rude to me and others (see Miss Manners and Dear Abby and others) to ask personal questions when you obviously don’t care or don’t even know the person; IMO it’s ersatz politeness and sometimes nosiness. So maybe consider just staying strictly to work chatter or bland topics. Then you won’t be emotionally drained by hearing the answers you really didn’t want to hear, if you just don’t ask the question.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        I don’t think this is an age issue, though. I’m older but I was always taught that when someone asks “How are you?” the correct answer is “Fine, and you?” Unless you’re close to the person asking and you’re sure they want a complete answer.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I feel like I’m lying if I say I’m fine when I’m not. I also feel incredibly uncomfortable asking how someone is if I don’t know for sure that I want to hear the answer. I hate this sort of small talk.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I don’t think this is an age thing. My boss (who is a generation older than I am) opens 100% of our 1:1s with “how’s it going?” but it’s clear the “it” is “all the stuff you’re working on” and we go from there. However, since we can’t force Carl to react that way, the best course is to try to change the question to be explicitly about how work is.

    9. Not A Manager*

      “Hey Carl how’s it going?” – “Not great.” – “Oh Carl, I’m so sorry. I know things are really rough right now. I’ll keep it brief. My question is…”

    10. Irish Teacher*

      The only advice I have is to ask a warm introductory question that isn’t “how are you?” or “how’s it going?” Maybe something like “have you much on today?” “hope the llama reports aren’t too stressful,” “nice day, isn’t it?” “great to hear we got that teapot deal,” “are you doing anything for the weekend?” Anything friendly that doesn’t give too much of an opening for answering in relation to the terminal illness of his family member.

  15. Gigi*

    I posted on last week’s open thread about completely screwing up my first presentation in years and having to speak again at a conference this week.
    Thank you all for the nice comments! I spoke to ~75 people earlier this week and it went great :) a potential grad school advisor even reached out to me after to say it was a great talk!!
    Only thing I did differently was bring up a note card, but I didn’t even end up looking at it lol so I feel like I’m back in my groove again. I think it also helped that even though I was speaking to very senior people in my field, I knew they were from my field and genuinely interested in what I had to say VS my last presentation to a bunch of students from random fields

  16. Overwhelmed & Confused*

    Looking for some advice – I started a new position a little over three months ago now. I am brand new to this field, and was very up front in the interview process that I did not have much prior knowledge but was eager to learn. I know that I’m still very new, but I feel so overwhelmed almost every day.

    My manager and I have been having issues communicating with each other: for example, yesterday she mentioned “send a note to (external party) to tell him not to work on the report until we’ve resolved this”. I said “OK, so send him an email and tell him not to work on the report until we figure this out” and she said “No” and looked confused. I can’t seem to go a day without doing something wrong and frustrating her. This week she said something to the effect that “this project should have taken you ten minutes. At this point, I should have just done it, it’d be done faster”. I felt that this was unfair – of course it will not take her as long!

    I had a panic attack at my cubicle last week and have spent several lunch breaks over the last few weeks crying in my car. I don’t understand what is wanted from me and I feel like I am not a good fit for this role. I do struggle with anxiety and depression, and both have been getting increasingly worse since I started this job. I’ve talked with friends and family about this, and some have said “don’t give up yet” and some have encouraged me to move on.

    Is this normal for starting a new job? Should I tough it out, or should I start looking? I know three months is not long, and I’m worried about burning this bridge and hurting my work history for looking after such a short time. My manager has expressed she’d like me to stay in this role for at least three years but every day I’m worried about whether I’ll even make it through the week.

    1. Glazed Donut*

      Could you bring some of these concerns up with your manager? I think a 3 month check in is a great time to ask reflective questions about your progress so far and your fit in the role.
      “I’d like to talk about how I have made progress in these three months and hear your feedback.” “As I’ve been here three months, I am wondering how well you see me fitting into this role.”
      In my experience, I’d rather someone ask (self-awareness!) and have that conversation than worry behind the scenes. Of course, your manager should be giving feedback along the way–some managers are not as great at pointing out the good work as they are cleaning up any missteps.

    2. just another bureaucrat*

      Have you had a bigger picture conversation with your boss about your performance?

      I’m almost 3 years into my job and every day I don’t know if I’ll make it through the week. My boss still says he can do things (mine is apparently twice as good as yours because he always says it’s a 5-minute fix) faster than me. My boss is always always frustrated with me. But every time I sit down with him and we actually talk performance he has nothing bad to say about it glowing reviews, promotions, all that. Now he’s an ass and I’m not saying I, or you, should have to put up with it. But that someone expresses frustration in a moment, or is a magical elf who can do everything in less than a quarter of an hour, doesn’t mean that you are, or even that they think you are, doing a bad job. So definitely try to step back and get your boss to stop and have a conversation with you about how you’re doing. If she doesn’t say, “oh yeah, you’re doing fine, I’ve kind of been a little more edgy than I should be, sorry about that, I didn’t realize it”. Definitely look for something new. If she does say that — decide if you can stay and learn even if she never changes, because it’s possible, but unlikely to change.

    3. Kupo*

      This could be a communication thing. It’s happened to me with 3-4 different bosses. Do you want to stay in the job? Is the person nice enough outside of their boss-role?

      If you want-can build a good interpersonal relationship, then maybe they-you will be willing to learn different ways of communicating effectively to different people.

      My previous two bosses were very understanding about our communications, and were willing to own they perhaps didn’t convey their instruction in a way I understood. We got our jobs done, they knew they could trust me with projects, and my intentions were good even if I made mistakes.

      One boss just looked at me in frustration and didn’t manage me.

      1. Overwhelmed & Confused*

        Right now I’m not sure that I want to stay. I am having trouble motivating myself to get out of bed in the morning to get to work, and the panic attack I had was the first I’ve had in over a year. On the other hand, I know this is our busy time of year and it could just be that her stress is getting expressed to me in a way that I am taking too personally. (I am very quick to assume I am the problem, haha.)

        I’m hoping our communication will improve and things will get better, but right now every day is a struggle.

        1. Kupo*

          I’m glad to hear your boss acknowledges the communication issue, and I hope it is matched with trust in your good intentions.

          My unhappy (first-timer) boss was insecure, and felt I was being subversive by intent. One of my other frustrated (first-timer) boss was insecure too, but my work history was good and they just didn’t want to work on their line managerial skillset so they left our toxic environment. I idiotically stayed longer than I should have because Reasons which are stupid in hindsight.

          I don’t know if it is worth your while and energy to stay where you are, whether your manager will want to learn how not to load their stress onto you. But right now, you have a manager who is not supporting your development. You are also decreasing your quality of life with this unnecessary stress.

    4. Avocato*

      My first step would be to gather information and narrow down the problem. Does your manager have other direct reports you can talk to? If so, as them about how they communicate with the manager. If they do not have difficulties, the problem is possibly with you (or your manager’s perception of you). If they do, the problem is more likely to be with the manager. Ask how they have successfully navigated dealing with manager so far, but if everyone is struggling, this might not be an area where a new-to-the-field employee is likely to succeed.

      1. Overwhelmed & Confused*

        I’m the only direct report she has. I have no idea if she’s managed anyone before either. To be fair, we have both acknowledged we are having communication issues, and I am trying to restate what I’ve heard from her to make sure I am understanding directions correctly.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          From experience, the repeating back and paraphrasing instructions can backfire.

          One job I had here’s and example conversation I would have with my boss:

          Boss: So go ahead and fix A, B, and C in the TPS report and send to the accounting group
          Me: Ok, I’ll send to Mary(head of accounting) and team the report after I change A, B, and C
          Boss: Make sure B, A, and C are corrected before sending to Tim (asst head of accounting) and his team
          Me: Oh, sure I’ll get the Report to accounting after changing C, A, and B
          Boss: A,B, and C are the things that need to be changed. After that send to A/R
          Me (finally catching on to what is going on): Sure thing, I’ll copy you so you know it’s done

          Basically we’d get stuck in a feedback loop paraphrasing each other. Once I figured out what was happening I only asked clarifying questions and did not say anything that I understood. We got much better about communicating after I’d been there a bit and we got to know each other a little better.

          1. Everything Bagel*

            Yeah, I was wondering if O&C’s boss intended for her to use the exact language–resolved instead of figured out. Depending on the situation, these may not be the exact same thing and boss wanted the message to precise.

          2. Sally*

            In the examples you just gave it sounds like the boss either isn’t really listening, or she’s assuming that the order that the tasks appear in the words you said is the order she thinks you’ve going to do them.

            What you said is perfectly clear to me. But your boss seems unable to understand “I’ll do the red thing after I do the blue thing”. She’s not getting the word “after”. What she hears is “red thing, blue thing” and makes the mistaken leap that you’re going to do red thing, then blue thing.

            So she’s either not listening, or there’s something else cognitive going on. (I’m not diagnosing her BTW)

            My recommendation is whenever you repeat something back to her that involves tasks that have to be done in a particular order, you use the structure “ok, first I’ll do blue thing, then I’ll do red thing, and after that I’ll do green thing”.

            Yes this is a giant PITA but it might help.

        2. SofiaDeo*

          If your boss has acknowledged that *she* also is having communication problems, then she, too, will be making mistakes. It’s not all on you! For example, perhaps she wanted the email to be “more exactly what she said” and you repeated back “not exactly what she said”, and *that* was the reason she said No. Or, possibly looked confused because she meant to say exactly the opposite of what she intended.
          It sounds to me you are trying very hard to be conscientious, and are beating yourself up when not perfect. People will make mistakes, or be corrected, on a daily basis during an introductory period! I am sorry you aren’t getting some positive feedback on the things you *are* doing right, perhaps if you could realize out of the 927 things you did, only 7 of them were commented on as needing improvement, which is a really great percentage overall! If it’s only 1 every day, you are potential rock star in a new industry IMO.
          Also your boss is also saying some thoughtless things; the whole “I could have done this in 10 minutes” thing is weird if it wasn’t tempered with something like “you’re at 75% speed, the first few times it took you 4 times as long so good improvement” or whatever.

          Please cut yourself some slack on switching fields. Conscientious people with an awesome work ethic tend to beat themselves up during the learning period. It’s frustrating to go from “I know what I am doing, and doing it well” to floundering about. Hopefully taking suggestions as others have recommended re: speaking with your boss about your overall progress will help. FWIW, I spent years when switching specialized role inside my license qualifications (think pediatric nurse switching to ICU, or vice versa). Technically qualified but not knowledgable, and foundering. You are in a new field, they think you are bright and teachable, which I have been told over and over is one of the single most important characteristics one can have. I hope you can put some of this in perspective, and it helps calm you down. It’s awful when things trigger our anxieties.

  17. Database Developer Dude*

    One of my work colleagues took me aside and decided to tell me it was bad form to talk about salary. I’m wondering whether and how I should address it. Lack of salary transparency disproportionately hurts women and people of color (I’m black). Plus, it wasn’t like I brought it up out of the blue, it came out in the natural flow of conversation I was having with another colleague… and it’s illegal to try to suppress talking about wages, so the NLRB (in the US) would probably want a word with our company if we try to do that.

    So should I address this? It hasn’t come up since.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      “It may not have been a standard practice at this organization, but I’m talking about it because it’s important to share information to make sure we’re all being paid in an equitable way. It’s actually illegal to order people not to talk about salary, and I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but I just wanted you to know why I’m not following your suggestion.”

    2. Jessica*

      You don’t have to, but I hope you will. This guy’s attitude is garbage and deserves all the pushback from everyone who hears it.

      On the other hand, this is a societywide problem and it doesn’t have to be on your shoulders. I’d encourage a white guy more strongly to speak up, but you’re already Black in the workplace and likely to be seen more harshly for everything you do, so no shade if you choose to save your political capital for yourself. Keep telling your female colleagues what you make, though!

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I would tell him exactly that. “Actually, talking about salary leads to increased transparency and equity in wages, and our state has agreed that it’s important enough to talk about it that there are laws protecting our right to talk about it.”

      And if he continues to be an ass:

      “I find it strange that you’re trying to discourage me to talk about my salary, given that we aren’t legally allowed to do that.”

    4. Alex*

      I would just totally ignore them, unless it is your boss, in which case I would let them know that what they just did was illegal.

      Your colleague has a right to their opinion that it is bad form, but that doesn’t mean you have to do what they say or agree.

    5. Another_scientist*

      Colleague, I’ve been thinking about your comment regarding discussing salary. I’d really advise you to not repeat that to other employees, since we wouldn’t give staff the impression that we are illegally suppressing these discussions, which are crucial for pay equity.

    6. Girasol*

      I’d be tempted to say, “Yes, it certainly used to be back in the old days but now there are even laws to protect people who discuss salary!” Make him feel out of touch.

    7. Manchmal*

      Maybe you could find an article (or one of Alison’s posts on this blog) and forward it to your colleague with a note that says something like, “Hey Colleague, I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day about salary in the workplace. I thought you might find this article interesting.”

      That way you’re not explicitly, directly pushing back, but you are with the content of the article. Then you can leave it to that person to connect the dots and realize that “poor form” is just another way of saying you didn’t “respect” white privilege and all of the little outdated social norms that prop it up.

  18. Projects?*

    I have been talking with my boss about a promotion and he has me jumping though a bunch of hoops. His recent stall is asking me to tell him “what kind of project that I like to work on” and I have no idea what to say. I pushed back and asked about our goals for next year and what we were expected to accomplish as a team/department/organization, and he told me the leadership was working on that. So for now I just need ideas of what I can say. If it helps, I work for a Tech company on a small Learning & Development team.

    1. Kupo*

      Do you have a specific direction you want to develop? If so, be specific so you may work on something you like.

      But could be a trap, so they can say they don’t have that project for you, and don’t promote you.

      1. Projects?*

        This is exactly what I am worried about – so I am hoping to get ideas on lost of types of project I “might enjoy working on”, so I’ll habe my bases covered.

    2. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      Can you bring the hoops & stall tactics into the light? Tell boss that it feels like he’s stalling & actively trying to find reasons to have you jump through more hoops (site a few examples) and ask how can we push past that so we’re both successful.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      Maybe they don’t have specific projects and are willing to give you the green light to create your own?

      There’s not enough info here to give you specific project ideas, but in general:
      is there new techniques/technology that could improve aspects of your job if implemented
      do you interact with end users – do you have metrics that could be studied to identify areas to improve
      are there things your users ask for that you don t do
      are there inefficient aspects of your job, tools/things you find slow and cumbersome
      are there ways your division could be saving money
      are there ways your division could be attracting new customers

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Yeah this sounds familiar. Ive been having the same problem. Here’s what I would suggest –

      – Put together a list of projects that could hit on the areas DisneyChannelThis is suggesting – no matter what planning they are doing now, there will invariably be targets looking to achieve one of those. Think about how your function would fit into those areas.
      – Work your internal network. Find out what could be improved to land your department objectives better, what people like and dont like or what they want. A bit of market research if you will, and come up with a project addressing that
      – Are there any development things you would need to hit to also be considered for a promotion? Fold that requirement into your proposed projects (or at the very least think about where you would address the lack) For example, I cant be promoted unless I have someone to manage, and for that to happen, I need to essentially come up with a program of work substantial for both me and someone more junior.

      Keep an eye on this, though. If any of your suggestions are dismissed or it seems like they keep adding more and more hoops to get anywhere, or your boss isn’t forthcoming with helping you refine potential projects, then pull the plug. Try to take it in good faith at least – part of moving up is recognizing where strategic holes need to be filled and coming up with plans to do so.

    5. anon for this*

      I feel like some of my reports could say this about me. It’s not a stalling tactic; in my org, it’s people who take initiative and come up with projects who get promoted. To make the case for promotion to my boss and grandboss, I need to show that this person is a key contributor or leader, even at relatively low levels because we have a very flat org. Competence at doing what you’re told gets you from X to Senior X. From Senior X to Lead X you need to provide technical or people leadership on a project or be a bit of an expert on a particular thing. From Lead to Superlead, you have to lead in an area (like be *the* expert). After that is Director, that’s it. So I have folks who want to go from Senior to Lead and Lead to Superlead and just “doing what you’re assigned” is not enough. Part of the definition of the role is identifying areas where you can contribute and then taking actions to make it happen. Identifying an area where you can contribute, taking a crack at it, and finding that it won’t work is not held against you unless it’s the only thing that happens. But I have one person in particular where I’m like “I can’t promote you until you demonstrate that you can survey the field, identify areas that are gaps, and plan how you and others contribute.” It’s not a stalling technique, it is the job description.

      Of course I’m projecting my own experience all over this, but perhaps it is relevant!

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        This is similar to how it works at my company, and it’s something I keep telling my direct reports, especially the ones I know that want to eventually move up the ladder.

  19. krys*

    Obligatory work-from-home/flex/freelancing question. I know this topic pops up a lot, but…. Sorry, I know it’s low effort to ask again instead of going through previous open threads. So I’m working to get emergency foster custody of my niece. Because of childcare, I’ll have to stop working at my part-time job delivering pizzas (which is actually pretty good money, but I digress), which funds my extra money and my small business (which I will also have to cut back on because it’s not safe to do the work around a baby – lots of saw dust and sometimes chemicals that are dangerous).

    I’m just looking for legitimate resources for decent work that can be performed in my free time. I work in e-discovery/litigation support as my moneymaker, but can do data entry, research, things of that nature.

    I have a feeling I’m not including enough information. I’m tired and anxious. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    1. ThatGirl*

      I would start by looking for jobs you’re qualified for, and then filter by remote (if possible). I know LinkedIn jobs does a decent job of noting which are remote vs hybrid vs on-site. Obviously those may not all be flexible or things you can do in your free time only but it may give you some leads.

      Related, a friend of mine does e-commerce writing/support for a large e-comm company, and it’s remote only, with flexible work hours. Might be something to consider.

      1. krys*

        I already have a full-time job (remote), just looking for something to make up the extra. I have child care set up for when I’m working my main job, and I will have in-home help for any work outside of that, I just don’t feel comfortable being away. The baby’s very young, and I’m having to cobble things together on an emergency basis.

        1. krys*

          If this happened six months from now, it wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given an option to schedule my sister having a baby while actively using meth.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Ah, I apologize, I misunderstood; I thought the part-time jobs you mentioned made up your full-time income.

    2. Anon for this one*

      I say this with love, but you are not likely to have much free time once you have custody of an infant. Your energy on finances might be better directed to working with the baby’s social worker to make sure you get the foster family payments as soon as possible to help cover the cost of her care. Your niece is VERY LUCKY to have a loving, capable aunt (uncle?) willing and ready to take her in, and I wish you both a happy life together!

    3. WellRed*

      Have you looked into whether you’ll qualify for some sort of support that might offset some of the loss of income?

      1. krys*

        Yes, I know how much I will receive during the approval process (kinship custody is different as I can have custody during the process) and the post-approval process, and it’s a fair loss of income. (People would be surprised how lucrative working directly in pizza delivery can be, it’s quite a bit.) I’m just trying to find something to fill the short-term until long-term plans (that are already in progress) can actually be put in place.

    4. Scorpia*

      If you’re comfortable with data entry and admin work remotely, you might consider virtual assistant jobs. There are plenty of small business owners who need admin help but aren’t large enough to hire some full time. The work and time is really dependent on who is hiring but decent admins can charge upwards of $30/hour. The downside is that even using a platform like upwork, you’ll need to spend some time sorting through gigs.

    5. BubbleTea*

      I do academic editing freelance. I work while my toddler is sleeping, and it’s extremely flexible. I don’t know how the pay compares to delivery but there are fewer costs.

  20. Little Mouse with Clogs On*

    I’m 99% certain that I’ll be switching from hourly to salaried in the new year. My job function and hours won’t change, I’ll just be receiving the same paycheck every week (hurray for predictability!). Theoretically my salary will be the same as what I earned when I was hourly. However, I will now have paid vacation, which is currently not the case as an hourly employee. Am I off-base in thinking I should get paid more so that my PTO is actually paid? If the amount of money I make stays the same, then I’d actually be getting paid less per hour any time I take off work (is what my reasoning is). Complicating things is that my job has an unlimited vacation policy, so it’s not like I can say “Now that I’ll have 10 days PTO, I should get paid hourly wage x hours per day x 10.”

    1. ThatGirl*

      Ummm. I don’t understand your reasoning. For the sake of argument and simplification, let’s say you made $20/hr and now you’ll be making $41,600/year.

      If you didn’t have PTO before, any time you took a week off, your salary went down by $800. Going forward, if you take a week off, you’re paid the same. I’m not sure why you see this as a pay cut, unless you had guaranteed overtime before?

        1. Little Mouse with Clogs On*

          So sorry for the confusion! I guess I’m still a little confused myself, lol. My thinking is this: if I was paid $30k last year but took off 12 days unpaid, and next year I’m paid $30k which includes 12 days PTO, then I’m making less money per day because they’re basing my pay off of a year where I didn’t make money if I didn’t work. Does that make sense? So sorry, this kind of math is not my strong point (obviously).

          1. PollyQ*

            OK, that makes sense mathematically, but usually when an employee moves from hourly to salaried, what employers mean when they say “you’ll make the same amount” is “we’re keeping your hourly rate the same and multiplying it by 40 hrs/week.”

            I’m curious as to why you think they’ll be shifting you. In the US, whether you’re eligible for salaried/exempt isn’t a choice the employer can make, it’s a two-part test based on the work you do and what you’re paid. So if you’re not doing managerial or “learned” work, then you’re required to be hourly/non-exempt by law (at least in the US).

      1. Elon Musk For Real*

        Yeah, there’s no hourly conversion here. As my director put it when I was first converted to salaried position ages ago: Doesn’t matter if you are working or not, the money keeps rolling in. Salaried means that you get paid the same even if you work less. So if you make $1000 per week to work 5 days at 8 hours each and you take a day off, as salaried, you still get your $1K but you only worked 4 days (32 hours). If you were hourly, you’d have only gotten $800.

    2. Gracely*

      What do you mean you’ll get paid less per hour any time you take off work? Salaried, you should get the same amount regardless of whether you’re taking vacation or not. Hourly, you wouldn’t get paid at all if you were on vacation.

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

      If your job function and pay hasn’t changed at all, is the conversion to salary legal? Are you going to be salary exempt or still non-exempt? You’re not losing pay with vacation time, but if your pay is the same even if you work overtime, you’ll be losing that money (possibly illegally). And if you are still non-exempt, will they expect you to make up time if you arrive late or leave early?

    4. Chickaletta*

      You’re still thinking like an hourly employee :) There’s no need to convert how much you’re getting paid by the hour anymore, and PTO doesn’t factor into how many hours/year you work. You’ll find on your 2023 W-2 that your take-home income is actually MORE than it is now because you’re being paid for PTO whereas before you weren’t.

  21. Saraquill*

    I was laid off during lockdown. Afterwards, my then-boss reached out to me and asked to hire me back. Initially this was remote, as I had been doing for most of the seven years I worked for him. He eventually asked me to work in-office, saying there were things he needed me to do that could only be accomplished in person.

    Within a month or so, I was taken off my position of 5+years, got new tasks with little to no training, contradictory instructions or none at all. As a result, I went from employee to The Thing That Would Not Leave. I was also subject to regular screaming fits from the boss’ wife, whose desk was next to mine.

    At a couple of points, boss encouraged me to apply for work elsewhere. I refused to leave one bad office only to land in another, so I took my time. I also have a life outside of work and job hunting. Then-boss was not thrilled I was still around well after he first asked me to leave and wanted to know why I was still at his office. It was a relief when he finally laid me off two months later.

    I don’t think I’d be as upset if it was a bad work situation to begin with. The abrupt switch in management after years of service makes my treatment even more confusing. Thoughts on how to handle this baggage oldboss and his wife saddled on me would be great.

    1. LuckySophia*

      Based on the fact that boss’s wife has a desk next to yours, I have to wonder if you’ve been working for a small family business? If so, my spidey senses are betting that (a) you got laid off because boss’s wife wanted to keep more dollars within the business , or within her own pocket (rather than paying you) and (b) you got re-hired because boss really did need your expertise/skills and (c) wife remained unconvinced you were “worth” the money you were being paid, so she wanted you in the office, not remote, so she could keep an eye on you and (d) she probably engineered the shift in your job duties so she could set you up to fail, and thus achieve her original goal of using your salary for [whatever other purpose she had in mind originally.] In short, I’d guess that boss’s wife is a control freak, and boss can’t stand up to her, and you were just a blameless and unwitting victim of their toxic interpersonal dynamic. Not your fault, and no longer your circus/your monkeys — be grateful for that!!!

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

      So bad boss realized he would have to pay unemployment after laying you off, hired you back to stop the unemployment payments, and then made life miserable and abusively “encouraged” you to quit, so he wouldn’t have to pay unemployment. Did you laugh and ask him why he didn’t just let you go when he asked why you were still there? They were trying to cheat the system that protects employees and failed. I’m glad you didn’t cheat yourself by quitting, and you shouldn’t internalize their treatment of you as anything you did or deserved.

      1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        That’s not how unemployment works. It’s insurance essentially and the employer pays a premium (in my state, directly to a state agency). If I have a lot of claims, my rate would go up, but I don’t directly pay the (former) employee.

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

          I didn’t mean direct payments to employee…paying tax to the state and having claims against the business is exactly what I meant. The tax rate depends on many things and isn’t a set percent: the number of layoffs previously made by the employer and the period for which each laid-off employee collects UI benefits can raise the tax rate, so does the number of layoffs from other businesses paying into the insurance pool. If the OP was laid off at the start of the pandemic, it stands to reason that she would be on extended UI and the boss’ comments about her slow job search are pretty telling. Whether or not the business incurred a tax increase we can’t know, but they clearly didn’t want her there but didn’t just fire her.

          1. 1LFTW*

            Yes. I got exactly this vibe from OP. There are employers who will go to great lengths to force employees to quit, because laying them off means that the might, maybe, someday have to pay More Money to *somebody*.

    3. 1LFTW*

      I’m sorry this happened to you. Please remind yourself whenever you need to that none of this was your fault. None of it. Bad Boss, and Bad Boss’s Wife, are bullies who abused you. Their behavior is all about them, not you. It’s as simple as that.

      Which is not to say that it’s *easy*. It sucks and it’s not fair, but you did well by refusing to be intimidated into quitting (thereby screwing yourself out of unemployment) and by taking your time with your job search. You handled a terrible situation with calm and professionalism. I hope things continue to get better for you!

  22. flora_poste*

    I’ve just started a new job (yay!). The team is great and it’s similar work I’ve been doing, with a more high-profile organisation. It’s a small team managed by someone based in a different country. My role is a new one on the team, which has gone from two to three people, and we haven’t yet planned out next year, and therefore how the projects will be divided. Our manager is very un-micromanage-y, and expects us to figure it out ourselves. Which is completely fine, and we will, but my two teammates have been super busy on unexpected developments, so we haven’t gotten around to it yet – so I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do! I had one initial task which kept me busy for a few weeks, but that’s coming to an end. I’m doing a lot of reading up on past documentation, but we’ve had two programme-wide meetings in which everyone updates what they’re working on, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that so far I’m a bit of a dead weight. I KNOW it will get super busy soon enough, so I should try to make the most of this time to prepare as best I can for that, but how?

    1. H*

      Can you ask your teammates if there’s anything you can help them with on their current busy projects? There may not be if it’d take more time they don’t have to train you, but if there’s something simple/relatively quick to learn you could do and take off their plates while you’re less busy, I bet they would appreciate it! (If that is in the realm of feasibility/normalcy for your field, of course)

    2. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      I agree that conferring with the colleagues is a good starting point; they won’t necessarily be able to bring you up to speed on everything but would appreciate the help I’m sure.

      As an aside, that transition period where you have to actively help a colleague or subordinate to “find” work is always awkward and one of the most challenging things in starting a new gig. Hopefully it settles down soon.

  23. New Mom*

    Also general question for parents that started a new job when your kid was under a year old: What was your experience like? Were you able to get the flexibility that you needed when you did not have a long standing reputation at the organization. Would like to hear all kinds of experiences!

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      The main issue I had was with pumping. The space they provided was an office that I had access to but was primarily used by someone else, and they didn’t inform her that it would be used for pumping when she wasn’t there… and her posted schedule I guess was not accurate because she showed up one time when I was in there and it was extremely uncomfortable for both of us. I already didn’t feel great in there (it locked but had a window that looked out into a public space, with curtains but I was terrified of someone catching a glimpse of me anyway) and ended up just pumping in a bathroom for like 6 months because I felt so awkward asking for a different space.

      Everything else was fine though, in terms of my schedule, taking sick days, etc and they were flexible about things like people needing to have a kid with them occasionally when childcare fell through.

    2. JelloStapler*

      Even though my kids are older, this very issue has made me hesitate in making a move because the seniority and reputation I have now have given me a lot of flexibility.

    3. JustSewYouKnow*

      I started a new job when kid #1 was just over a year old, and it was a great move for me (old job got progressively more sexist and weird after I had a baby, long familiar story, sigh). I think it really helped that there were multiple people in my immediate division of the larger organization that had preschool age children, so the flexibility I needed was usually something someone else had already asked for successfully so there was some precedent/my reasonable supervisors knew they had to offer it equitably.

  24. MediocreMeandering*

    My question today is probably more of a need for reassurance.

    I work at a large public university as, essentially, a receptionist/admin assistant for a department in the arts. I’ve been here for over 4 years, and the job’s been good to me. It’s been consistently employment even through covid, and the benefits are great. I stayed at this job while getting an MFA (in the same area of expertise as many of the faculty I work with). The pay is fine, but the city I live in, like many, has skyrocketed in cost of living the past few years.

    Over the past year, it’s become very clear that there is no upward mobility at all. My supervisor and department chair have even shared that they’ve tried to get funding from upper admin to create a new role to which they could promote me, but they’ve been denied the past couple of funding cycles. I also was a finalist for a position in an adjacent apartment (marketing for all the arts departments) but wasn’t chosen.

    I graduated in May, had some job disappointments soon after that, and then the last six months… they’ve just been a mess of health issues and a lot of emotional strife (re: deaths in my family, etc). I’ve concluded that, at least for now, I’m going to try to take care of myself and gradually build up freelance work and my small crafting business to keep myself fulfilled.

    With this all in mind, here’s my question: is it okay that I’ve *really* checked out from my day job? I get everything done that I need to, but I’ve stopped putting any effort into anything I’m not told to do or that isn’t already my responsibility. I’ve stopped taking on marketing work, instead always forwarding those emails to our marketing rep. I don’t do anything that isn’t my job. My supervisor hasn’t seemed at all bothered by this “quiet quitting” but that “go above and beyond!” mentality is so ingrained in me that I’ve started to feel guilty. I definitely grew up in a family/culture of high achievement.

    However, right now this job is just a safety net and health insurance to me, nothing more. Is it okay to be a mediocre employee?

    1. Glazed Donut*

      I think that is okay! I have been through similar seasons of Work Above and Beyond to Work Just the Job. Doing just the work you’ve been hired to do is fine and doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel the spark to throw yourself into work in the future.

    2. Jessica*

      100% yes. Speaking as one who’s been going above and beyond for many years now at a public university that’s a swirling hive of dysfunction, if things won’t get done in your department without you doing more than your job? That’s the result of choices made by leadership to not staff up adequately. If you’re reliably showing up and getting the things done that are your job, you are fine.
      If your university is anything like mine, bad decisions are made at the top by people who (a) make enormous salaries; (b) are out of touch with the consequences of their decisions; (c) frequently are here short-term and just using our university as a stepping-stone to their next job. We’re the shock absorbers; they break it, we fix it, or at least hold it together when we don’t have the tools to fix it. Our dedication is leveraged to take the place of actually providing adequate resources to run the university. Do your job and then stop, and never feel ashamed. That’s not “quiet quitting,” it’s what should be normal reality.

      1. MediocreMeandering*

        Thank you! Yes, we recently changed university leadership (again) and it’s just exhausting as they try all these new initiatives and shake-ups. We just want to do our jobs!

    3. Gracely*

      This is basically what they’re asking for if they won’t promote you. If they rewarded the above and beyond, you’d have a reason to do more than expected, but they won’t or can’t. Save yourself the exhaustion. Put that effort into something that will actually benefit you.

      This is the right call.

      1. Bon Voyage*

        This exactly!

        MM, you gave the university an extended free trial of premium-tier service. They made full use what you offered, but have made clear that they are only willing to pay the basic-tier rate. Give them basic-tier service! That is literally the transaction they’ve agreed to. If you are doing your actual job well (or at least well enough), you are very much in the right!

    4. Bunny Girl*

      First of all – it’s totally okay to just do your job and take on nothing more. That’s what you’re paid for.
      Second – I mean no offense to anyone who has worked at a University, but I used to work at one and there are a ton of employees who are just coasting. I don’t really think it will be noticed.

    5. TeaFriend*

      I’d say you can probably get by as a mediocre employee, though that /may/ affect the reference you’re given when you’re looking at moving on.

    6. Kupo*

      Yes. Apply your talents elsewhere, where your work will be appreciated. Such as your crafting work. Great plan.

    7. Luca*

      Yes. I knew someone who adopted the paycheck-and-health-insurance approach to work, after being laid off by an employer where she started at the bottom and worked her way up to the top.

      When a recession hit, the layoffs were at the top because those employees made too much money.

    8. MacGillicuddy*

      Please stop calling it “quiet quitting”. You did not quit. If you have been doing extra work that is really the responsibility of other drpsrlike marketing, your job is taking advantage of you. They’re paying you an Admin’s salary to do work that is higher level AND that pays more.

      Now that you have your degree (I’m guessing that the cost was reduced because you got reduced or free tuition because you work there) it’s time to look for a public sector job. And cite that marketing work in your resume and go after marketing jobs.

    9. Manchmal*

      As a faculty member in an arts-related department whose admin has checked out…please check back in, if only slightly, when your decision to not take on certain things results in faculty members having to do it. I have had to find flights, make hotel reservations, and organize transportation for visiting guests–all of which are things our admin should be doing but is not for some reason. Sometimes she takes the easy path when just doing slightly more work (like a second phone call) would get our guests into a better cheaper hotel. She alternates being helpful and stand-offish in response to queries that are solidly within her purview. I just say all of this to bring up the impact that stepping back on such a role can create. This creates a lot of stress on me (and other FEMALE faculty members who have to pick up the slack, guess why!) when I have the pressure of doing research and publishing to get tenure. I know you’re not my admin, and that the things you’re stepping back from maybe do not have this effect, but just please look out for it.

      1. BubbleTea*

        As faculty, are you in a position to advocate for more admin support or routes for promotion for the existing admin? Might be no more work than covering the tasks but will have longer term benefits.

        1. MediocreMeandering*

          Oh my goodness, were faculty to advocate for more admin support, resources, and promotion, they’d have my heart forever. In my experience, most faculty don’t realize how much staff do.

      2. MediocreMeandering*

        Oh, I’m not *that* checked out. Like I said, I do all of my responsibilities in a timely fashion. It’s just the extras I’m no longer doing.

        I will say, as a female admin in my 20s, the vast majority of faculty take me and my work for granted. I have an MFA– equal education to most in our department– but frequently get talked down to and expected to do fetch-quests and tasks that faculty should be doing themselves. Even working here for 4 years, faculty express surprise when I show that I know the subject matter and industry. It sounds like it’s definitely a different situation in your department, but in higher education overall, low-level admin are definitely not viewed as equals to faculty and are taken advantage of. The number of times faculty ask what I did over summer break, believing I wasn’t in the office all summer…

    10. Stoppin' by to chat*

      LW – I understand you 100%! I’ve been out of university and in the workforce for about 17 years, so hopefully this will show you your mindset will likely shift throughout your life. Until recently I thought the same way you described here. Except, you AREN’T being a mediocre employee. You’re literally doing the job you’re paid to do. I’m guessing that you were more willing to do marketing-type work to try to get the job in the marketing dept? Or when your mgmt was trying to get funding to create a new role for you, you wanted to go above and beyond to show them you could do this new role?

      However, neither role worked out (not to say they won’t get the necessary funding in the future, but for now…) So of course there isn’t motivation to keep going above and beyond! Also, multiple deaths in the family! That’s awful, and I’m so sorry for your losses. Grief also takes a physical toll in addition to a mental and emotional one, so please give yourself grace to take care of yourself however you need to…including doing your job and nothing more.

      I.e., of course you’re forwarding marketing work to the marketing person, because that IS their responsibility. Again, you probably had many good reasons to do that work yourself (and maybe you will again as you recover from the past 6 months), but it doesn’t mean you’re being mediocre, it just doesn’t.

      Just keep following through on your commitments and the tasks assigned to you, and then leave work behind to live your life. Your job is not your life…your job is not your life. You do what you are being paid to do, and then you focus on grieving, spending time with loved ones, even just laying down and watching Facebook reels! Then point is, it’s okay to your job and nothing more, and then focus on self-care. I promise!

    11. 653-CXK*

      It’s fine to be a mediocre/average worker.

      The big problem of being a “superstar” employee – always getting Exceeds Expectations, getting praise/shoutouts, oversized raises – is that you either (a) burn out and fail spectacularly, (b) get taken advantage of by others who would prefer to slack than work, and (c) are expected to maintain that “superstar” level by others.

      It’s the same idea as the straight “A” student who got a four-year paid scholarship at a top university, but lasts only two semesters before being put on academic probation, dropping out, or being dismissed because they either burn out, party too much, or aren’t prepared for the rigor of work expected of them.

    12. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      Just dropping in to back up the gist of all the other comments, as a veteran admin employee of a large public university, in a low-mid-level role with little room for advancement (which I don’t want). I’m one who is often recognized for going beyond, but I do it not because my employer is owed A+ work for a B- C compensation and recognition package, rather because I take pride and interest in at least some aspects of my job. And even I don’t give my A+ effort all the time– I set limits around stuff that has to get done by someone but not by me, and I only pursue extra or stretch tasks that I enjoy or benefit me with skills or experience or connections or perks. My coworkers (faculty, staff and grad students) who give me their best effort get mine in return; the ones who don’t do the minimum and expect me to bail them out likewise get as much back from me as they give.

      Blowing off stuff that IS part of your core job is uncool, especially if it creates *extra* work/burden that wouldn’t have existed if your role was empty or filled by a coin-operated bot — but MHO it’s totally fine to just do your job competently and timely, and nothing more.

  25. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    How can/should I respond to former coworkers/boss emailing me about recent charges on the company card that are for stuff relevant to my former position? I have very little goodwill for these folks and want to put forth the absolute minimum of effort while not actively being unethical.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Are these charges you put on the card before quitting? Did you submit receipts or whatever the process was before you quit? If all your stuffs in order I think you can ignore. Or are they trying to ask you about what someone else is putting on the card? Do you still have their card and they need to cancel yours?

      1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

        Nope, this all happened after I left — mostly memberships to professional development stuff that I didn’t know would be recurring charges. I don’t have the card anymore.

        1. DisneyChannelThis*

          Oh then I would try and assume kindness, that they are checking to make sure cancelling these charges won’t affect you now. “Hi Former Boss, there were some monthly payments for [whatever professional development course was]. I am not using any of those now, please just cancel the card. Best Wishes, Georgiana”

        2. Everything Bagel*

          If the card had your name on it, why haven’t they canceled it? How long have you been gone from this company?

          1. Everything Bagel*

            In case I’m not clear, it’s not your fault that they didn’t immediately close the account and the card was allowed to be used for recurring charges. You can tell them you didn’t know the charges would be recurring, but also that you don’t understand why they’ve allowed the account to remain open and you aren’t sure how they should go about resolving the issue.

    2. Future silver banker*

      If you recently left, I’d invest 30 min and make it clear I expect them to resolve such things internally going forward. If it has been over a couple months since I left, I would simply respond that I don’t remember what this stuff was for as it’s been a while. This will be probably true, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast today, let alone a charge from 8 weeks ago

      1. M2*

        If the LW now realizes these are recurring charges they originally made for professional development and forgot to cancel the charges before they left just say that- or give them a heads up on how to cancel these charges. Or at least the info of the professional development places to contact and cancel. Even if you cancel the card sometimes if you don’t cancel the actual recurring charge they can send a bill for it.

    3. Dr. Prepper*

      “Sorry, I don’t work there anymore and have no idea as to what to do. As I did not make the charges I suggest you call Accounting.”

      “I’m confused – why has the card not been cancelled?”

  26. Mimmy*

    Panel interviews!

    I just had a panel interview (first round) with a community college. My stance has generally been that these types of interviews are better for second round/finalist interviews, but I actually enjoyed this one. What do you all think?

    I also have a question about follow-up: Do you send the “thank you” emails to all panelists or just the hiring manager for the position? My (wonderful) career coach at my alma mater suggests just sending it to the hiring manager and referencing things discussed with other panelists, but I wanted to see what others thought.

    1. JustSewYouKnow*

      I’m with your career coach! As a hiring manager, I always forward any thank-you I receive to the full hiring panel/committee, etc. When I’ve been on the panel, but am not the hiring manager, and I get a direct thank you from a candidate it can feel a little off: while it isn’t like my contact info is confidential, it does seem a bit intense that someone went out of their way to find it for that sort of communication. Especially if it is the first of 2-3 rounds.

      1. Kelly Kapoor*

        I wonder if this is different industry by industry. In higher ed our contact info is ridiculously easy to find.

        1. JustSewYouKnow*

          I’m also in higher ed. Perhaps a different niche? It just reads to me a little Extra to thank every individual on a panel after a first round interview.

    2. Kelly Kapoor*

      As a panelist in this type of interview (also higher ed) I’ve never expected it, but was always pleasantly surprised to receive a thank you email from a candidate and usually remarked positively on it to the hiring manager.

    3. CCsAreTheBest!*

      I think your career coach is probably right and one note is fine, especially for a first round!

      That said, on final, longer panel interviews where I had a wide range of interviewers (think, undergrads and deans together), I wrote l individual notes. The perspectives everyone brought were so different that one note would have been extremely perfunctory or too long. I doubt that it would *hurt* to have multiple notes if that applies here, but I really don’t think it’s necessary.

    4. Anon for This*

      New DEIA rules where I work require a diverse panel of at least three for all interviews. It’s possible others have adopted this, as I understand it is becoming accepted as a DEIA best practice.

      On the thank you, I agree with the career coach, but would add a line noting your thanks to the other panel members as well.

    5. Educator*

      I am going to go against the grain here and say that you should send them to every member of the panel individually. These panelists were presumably chosen because they have input on the hiring and because you will be working closely with them if you are hired–why would you not want to make the best first impression possible? Most of the email can be the same, but customize a few sentences referencing something each individual said that you appreciated. It will make a big difference in the political, ego-driven world of higher ed, and won’t take more than an hour.

    6. My Cat's Humsn*

      Sending to all does seem like a good idea – but how does one get full names of all the panelists? (Someone pointed out that higher ed’s – and often others – email addresses are online – but one still would need to know whom to look up.)

      As a candidate, panelists seem to introduce themselves quickly; I can’t quite picture writing down their names during the intros….?

      1. Educator*

        Thank goodness for the labeled boxes of virtual interviews. These days, I take a screenshot so that I can remember who is who later.

        But back in the before times, I saw the names on a calendar invitation or got them in the email from HR setting up the appointment. If for some reason HR did not tell me, I think that “with whom will I be meeting” is a perfectly valid thing to ask. How else is one meant to prepare personalized questions?

      2. Mimmy*

        In HR’s confirmation email, the names and titles of each panelist was included, but not their email addresses. I checked the college’s directory for the hiring manager’s email, but the email format didn’t match that of the HR recruiter (I compared his email too). Think jsmith @ school dot edu rather than jane.smith @ school dot edu. I suppose I could’ve just guessed and used the jane.smith format, but not wanting to chance it, I emailed the HR recruiter to confirm.

        I know I may be coming across a bit naive in my current search, but it’s been years since I’ve actively interviewed, and with all first-round interviews being virtual (plus one by phone) and most being panel interviews, it’s hard to know what the conventions are anymore.

  27. Chidi has a stomachache*

    I have a lot of qualitative research experience, but most of the jobs I’m looking that make sense for the next stage of my career at want a mix of qual/quantitative. I have a PhD already and I don’t really want to go for yet another degree. I’ve been looking for ways to self-train (eg, the google certificate for data analytics), but I don’t know if that would be taken seriously. I can get tuition remission through my current job for a “microcredential” (basically a certificate) in data analysis with a local liberal arts college, but it would take 18mos to complete. Thoughts? Does the credential itself matter or is it more about being able to speak the quant language in interviews?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      PhD usually don’t need second one. PhD has some level of qualifying that this person is capable of learning new information and managing new skills on their own. I’d apply anyway to those jobs and see how they go, do they name specific examples in the interview of types of software you could learn etc. Can you start adding some quantitative research elements to your existing job projects?

    2. J-Anon*

      I work for a research company, we do qual/quant and program evaluation. If we were hiring at the PI level we would expect a strong working background in both qual and quant (though would sub out the quant for an experienced evaluator). Now, we don’t actually expect a PI to be doing data analysis but we need for them to do things like design surveys and sampling and analytical plans for the analysts to work from. All that said, at your level, a graduate certificate in research methods in general, or quant research methods in particular, rather than simply data analytics, would definitely help to close the gap. We would consider hiring someone in the middle of such a program if they were already bringing a PhD and strong qual background to the table.

    3. QualitativeResearcher*

      I’m based in the U.K. so expectations might be different, but I’m a qualitative social researcher specialising in impact and programme evaluation. Every job I’ve had has been advertised as requiring quant and qual skills but, in reality, there are few truly mixed methods researchers out there and the fact I’m a qualitative specialist has never been a barrier to being offered (and doing, very successfully) jobs advertised as requiring experience in both fields. Really, the skills required for quantitative data collection and analysis, and that required for qualitative data collection and analysis, are so far removed that it’s incredibly rare to have someone who can comfortably and confidently do both. Every researcher and evaluator I’ve worked with (myself included) will say they can deliver qual and quant, but actually they have one they specialise in and one they muddle along in. In my case, I can design a quantitative survey and figure out quant sampling but rely on colleagues to assist with analysis. Likewise, my data scientist colleagues can muddle along with designing qualitative research but rely on me heavily to advise on delivery and analysis. In applications and interviews I’m able to somewhat “talk the talk” about my experience of quantitative survey design and sampling (which is mostly self-taught in addition to one class in SPSS when I was doing my MA, which I have entirely forgotten) but am also open about the fact I’m not a quantitative specialist and it’s never been an issue.

      1. Rosemary*

        I came here to say almost exactly the same thing. I work in research – mostly qual – and while I can write survey questions (because really, that is kinda “qual” in nature) I rely on the quant experts for the data analysis.

        Job postings at my company (which is probably 90% qual these days) always mention quant experience as ideal, but we definitely do not require it.

  28. FullTimeIsADrag*

    If anyone has any experience negotiating working less hours, I’d love to hear it. I’ve got some personal/health things that keep piling up, and while I *can* work full time, I’m not sure it’s worth the cost. But I can’t quit altogether, because I still need to pay rent and eat.

    1. MediocreMeandering*

      I’ve considered asking my supervisor about this possibility. Is there any norm in your organization about fewer work hours? I did some research and I know I could point to other positions that have a 30hr work week with full benefits, so I know it’s a possibility. Is there an equivalent role or would it be something you and your manager create together? That might be a good place to start.

    2. ferrina*

      How’s your normal productivity, and do you work remotely?

      I went through a time in my life where I just…..quietly worked less. I still had good productivity, I just stopped volunteering for extras and going above and beyond. This got me down to 30-35 hours per week (and I’d still work long days if needed; but I’d also work short days when the work was done).

      If your things are temporary while you get them resolved (or at least to the point of managed), you can also look into FMLA. Intermittent FMLA means you don’t need to take all the time at once, so you may be able to decrease your hours that way.

    3. Westsidestory*

      Just ask – they can always say no. Is there a day of the week that’s not really busy at work?

      My SIL has worked in retail for years and has always been able to get Thursdays off – that’s the day she handles medical family house upkeep and general chill self care. She is a high performer; if you are, try bringing it up with your boss.

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      I’ve seen it done. At my current employer, several new moms have gone to half-time. I also have a friend who decided he wanted to work a 28-hour week, in order to free up time for his hobbies; his then-current employer wouldn’t do it, but he did find one who would. It’s easier if you’d be hard to replace – if the company can just hire someone else who doesn’t have limited availability, they’ll do that instead.

  29. Jessica*

    To lunch or not to lunch; that is the question. I manage hourly employees, and am hiring for a very front-line office role. The work schedule I put in the ad was an 8.5-hour day, which would include a half-hour unpaid lunch break. I’m in the US and my understanding of the relevant law is that for a lunch break to be unpaid, it must be at least 30 minutes long and completely work-free. We do have a break room with kitchen facilities where this hypothetical future employee could prepare, store, and eat their lunch.

    The question on my mind is what my answer will be if the new hire says they don’t want a lunch break–they either don’t eat lunch, or will just have a quick sandwich at their desk while they work. Will I allow this, or insist on them having a lunch break? We have an informal office culture and eating at their desk isn’t a problem per se. It took on a new dimension in pandemic era when eating meant unmasking, but our workplace is now mask-optional, so I can’t require this person to ever be wearing a mask anyway.

    I would prefer that this employee take a lunch break, for two reasons: (1) it extends the workday so the span of coverage is greater; (2) they’re in a front-line position with people and requests potentially coming at them all day long, and I think it’s desirable to get a break. I think a genuine break in the workday would both improve their experience and promote their doing a better job.

    However, I might be a giant hypocrite, because I (though salaried/exempt) normally ate at my desk before pandemic, and never took a “lunch break” unless I was going out to lunch. And I know a lot of people would prefer to sacrifice lunch and have a shorter workday. Am I being stuffy, oppressive, patronizing, or unreasonable if I insist that this employee have a lunch break?

      1. Jessica*

        I have, thanks. I know there are states that require meal breaks in every X hours of work, but I’m not in one of them. Hourly employees in my state don’t have to get a lunch break at all, but if they do it must be at least 30 minutes and work-free.

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

          You can probably create a company policy that goes further than the minimum of the law, but not less than; and I would suggest that everyone in the company is held to the same policy, so that there is never a disproportionate impact…for example, all the admins are required to take a 30 minute lunch, and it just so happens that all of the admins are women or minorities. If only one person in the whole org is required, there should be a business need for it and not a preference — coverage counts, your belief they’ll be more rested shouldn’t.

    1. to varying degrees*

      I think you’re good just telling them no, they have to take a break. All your reasons are pretty legitimate, though I would focus on #1 as #2 is really more for them to decide. And you have a completely different job from them, with different needs and responsibilities so I don’t think you should compare it. Just explain to them that coverage is needed at these times and that’s it.

    2. MediocreMeandering*

      You mention a break room, but are there enough off-campus options or places to eat outside of the workspace? I used to take an unpaid lunch break at my current job, but it NEVER was actually a break. Even if I was in the break room, eating my lunch, people would come an ask my questions. And as a receptionist, the last thing I wanted during my lunch break was to talk to *anyone*.

      I know I would be a lot more willing to take a break if it 1) was actually a break, 2) the break was long enough that maybe I could run to the bank or something. I don’t think it’s oppressive or patronizing to insist on a break, but if I were you I’d make sure that that the is actually a break, and then back that up in workplace culture as much as I could.

      1. Jessica*

        We’re right near a ton of restaurants, plus there’s a sort of convenience store (but with above average food options) across the street. I’d be fine with them taking a longer lunch if they want to run an errand or actually go out to lunch.

        The issue you raise about people interrupting their lunch is very on point. I can probably offer this employee, if they want it, a private space to eat lunch that isn’t the shared break room. And I will back them 100% in enforcing boundaries with people who try to interrupt their lunch. But I won’t constantly be at their side, so they need some ability to set those boundaries for themself.

    3. TallGuy*

      So this depends on 1) your company’s state and 2) your company policy – if either requires a lunch break for that type of employee at a certain point, then they have to take one. But if neither does for the type of employee your front-of-office worker will be, then it gets slightly fuzzier.

      What you could say is that the break is there to ensure coverage throughout the day (as it’s easier to provide alternate coverage at – say – 12 PM than it is at the start or close of business). That alone is a good enough reason, since availability sounds like a core requirement. Honestly…you don’t even owe that much explanation, but I’m the kind of person who likes providing rationale.

    4. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      I don’t think you’re being oppressive or patronizing or unreasonable at all.

      We actually just went through this at my job. We had someone who had worked on our second-shift custodial team who wanted to transition to the open front desk position. In her custodial role, she was permitted to work through her ‘dinner’ (because she started at 2:30 and worked until 10 p.m., and the general expectation of the position was that you could take a dinner break if you wanted but you didn’t have to.)

      It was definitely a mind-set shift for her to not be able to eat at her desk (the front desk…where people are greeted when they walk in!) and to have to take a defined break. But it was explained as, ‘This is our business need. We need someone at the front desk to greet visitors, and we need that person to be not eating food when a client walks in. You may take a half-hour lunch, or two 15-minute breaks, but we need you to start at 7 a.m. and be here until 3:30 p.m.’ She was fine with it, and we’ve had no problems.

      The reality of life and jobs is that not all jobs are created equal. Yes, you eat at your desk and work through lunch and your new front office person won’t. I do the same thing! The flip side is, I was online at 530 a.m. yesterday trouble-shooting a problem and our front desk person never has to log in outside of her normal hours. It’s just the difference in the nature of our jobs.

    5. ferrina*

      This sounds really reasonable.

      I used to work childcare that was paid hourly. We had 9 hour schedules, with an hour-long unpaid lunch whether we wanted it or not. Because coverage was an issue, we were also assigned when our lunchbreak would be. So a common schedule would be 7-4 with lunch from 11:-12:30; 9-6 with lunch from 1:30-2:30.

      Front-line office workers are different from other roles by how exposed to clients they are. You have to assume clients could walk in at any time, and it’s not a good look to be eating lunch (As a client, I’m wondering if I’m interrupting, and I’m judging the org by not giving the receptionist a reasonable lunch break). You don’t have to justify your reasons; it’s a normal thing to write into the job description. Only thing I’d negotiate is if they want a 30 minute lunch, or hour long.

    6. SofiaDeo*

      People function better overall with breaks. I would insist on it. This person will want to make personal calls, or step outside, etc. at some point, and won’t be able to when covering the front desk. Or they will attempt it with a customer waiting. If you are really busy, they eventually will enjoy a break from phones/talking, even if they don’t think so initially. Just make sure a warm body actually arrives to cover for them, and no one calls out to them/tries to find them for carryover questions that might arise.

    7. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      As a front desk receptionist who works 9-hour days, five days a week, with no lunch or bathroom breaks,* I am SO glad this is something you’re actually willing (and wanting!) to provide. The inability to just walk away from my desk to use the bathroom, the being on public display while I’m eating at the front desk, trying in vain to keep from getting crumbs everywhere while juggling six phone lines and tons of in-person interactions–with every rando passing by making judgment calls about my food–is the second most major reason why I’m about to quit with nothing else lined up.

      (The primary reason, of course, is that the business is a toxic dysfunctional mess that allows the second most major reason to thrive.)

      If you don’t treat your employees right, eventually you’ll only have the wrong ones working for you.

      *I’m told I can take bathroom breaks, but there must be someone to come cover the front desk. No one is ever available. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just run to the bathroom at the beginning and/or end of my lunch break. But since I don’t even get one of those….

    8. My Cat's Humsn*

      If existing employees see the new person is working an 8 hour day (eating at desk/no unpaid lunch break), will any/all of them also be allowed to switch to an 8 hour day?

  30. ThatGirl*

    This week in yikes, our newly-merged corporate parent released a bunch of unified policies across the org. Of particular interest was the document about sick leave. We have both corporate offices and manufacturing/distribution facilities. The new doc specified a measly TWO days of paid sick leave. My coworkers in the corporate office started to freak out a little.

    It was clarified that actually, this new policy is only for hourly/non-exempt employees — MOST of whom work in the plants, but not all. Us salaried/exempt folks still have unlimited sick leave. But I can’t help but think this is still a pretty raw deal, especially since warehouse folks can’t work from home and are probably more likely to get sick or injured…

    1. TallGuy*

      …I sincerely hope y’all do not work in an area where minimum levels of sick leave are mandated.

      That said, this is STILL really bad, even if they have other types of leave available to cover absences. Two days per year is nothing, and it’s not like we’re not still in a pandemic (honestly, at this point, we’re always going to be in a pandemic at this point). We learned in graphic detail that penalizing people for being sick is a Horrible Idea, and then when we got the chance, we immediately returned to that.

      1. ThatGirl*

        We have offices and plants all over – Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, PA, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, California, Canada… as I noted below, one plant is even union. So there are a patchwork of better sick leave policies for some of those folks. You would think that they would basically raise it to the highest minimum, but god knows.

        1. TallGuy*

          My initial instinct was to throw hands (I still may throw hands), but what I think might be going on is that two days is the absolute minimum. So – for example – your Cali workers would get 24 hours, the union plant would get whatever was negotiated, so on and so forth.

          Actually, I still may throw hands, because frankly, it’d be better to just raise it to the highest minimum and not put payroll and HR through whatever they’re going through. (Also, the entire “penalizing workers for having the audacity to get sick” thing. That’s a problem, too.)

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yes, that’s what I mean – the places where law or union requires more will get more, but everyone else is stuck with the absolute bare minimum and would have to use vacation/personal days if they got sick (or I guess unpaid time off).

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

              This will result in workers unionizing, and they should, and the unionized shops should stop work in solidarity. Watch what’s been going on with US railroad workers and their demand for paid sick time.

    2. djc*

      Wow, that makes me so angry to hear. Seems like that’s going to create a lot of resentment and us vs. them culture in the company. I hope people start leaving over it. Everyone should have unlimited sick leave! What a ridiculous policy.

    3. Dino*

      You’re absolutely right. That’s some horseshit, and a great way to stoke management vs worker, us vs them sentiment that leads to unionizing, too.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s slightly complicated by the fact that one of the plants (only one!) IS union, and another is in California, so things are different for those folks. But yeah, I would fully support the other people unionizing.

    4. kiki*

      It’s definitely yikes and a raw deal, but unfortunately really common! It especially doesn’t make sense now that a lot of office work can be done remotely, so theoretically office workers are less likely to need as much sick leave (not that they should necessarily work while sick, just that they don’t need to take time off to ensure they’re not contagious if they can do work at home). It’s classist and bad form. And as you said, warehouse folks are more likely to get sick or injured, especially if other coworkers are coming in sick because they only have two days of sick leave.

    5. Lady_Lessa*

      And from ours and our neighbor’s problems (based on help wanted signs), that is a very good way to lose workers.

  31. Josephine Beth*

    Happy Friday!
    I’m going to be starting a new job after the holidays, after more than a decade in the same role with a very toxic supervisor. The new role is a great fit, new boss is someone I know to be low/no-drama, and I am simultaneously thrilled and terrified.
    I’ll be in a somewhat high-level position and want to get off to a good start, but I have worries about how my norms have been warped by this toxic environment. Any tips on getting started on the right foot? Things to consider?

    1. Dr. Prepper*

      In the first week, try to get names of colleagues in other departments but at your level that you may be working with. Schedule a lunch/meeting. Point blank briefly explain your history and ask them their advice as to how best to move forward or what are considered norms.

      Then, for the first month or two I’d schedule a biweekly 30 minute meeting with boss asking for a frank “How am I doing” conversation and LISTEN to what they say – try to clue in on between the lines or body language vibes.

  32. Eggo*

    Is it totally unprofessional to wear a pimple patch at work? I’m rarely client facing and my office is solidly business causal.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        Really? I find the little thin ones to actually be a lot less obvious than trying to cover a pimple with a bunch of make-up. Especially if you’re not client-facing, what’s the issue?

        1. Sylvan*

          I agree with you, and I’d like to use one because there is literally a zit on my cheek right now, but people just don’t do it.

    1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      One of the simple flesh-toned circles? No, it’s like wearing a band-aid. One of the cute colorful ones? Yes.

    2. Anonymously yours*

      I dunno, you might be OK if the pimple is in an inconspicuous place and it’s one of the patches that’s super thin and designed to be invisible. With a little makeup on top they can really disappear.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve considered this a few times and decided that while they look fine when you put them on, they look gross as the day goes on (at least all the ones I’ve tried – they’re semi transparent so you can see the “gunk” stuck underneath as it’s drawn out) and that’s worse than a regular pimple.

    4. Ragged and Rusty*

      I like using the dull fleshy/clear ones and then if it has to be during the day I put a lil concealer on it and it’s just fine.

    5. SoloKid*

      Is it on a part of the face a mask could cover? I had laser hair removal on my upper lip and a mask took care of me worrying about what that redness looked like!

  33. OTGet*

    I have my first ever Zoom committee interview (4 administrators; higher ed); advice?

    Some background: I applied for an internal job (one step up) and this is the first time that I’m being interviewed by a panel (2 deans, a director, etc.) via Zoom. The interview is expected to last 45-50 minutes.

    (I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been on two hiring committees since 2020, so I suppose it’s not wholly novel.)

    1. Rain+rain+go+away*

      Have a friend look at your setup (lighting, background, etc) to see what they will see. Try to do it at the same time as your interview, as lighting may change.
      Use a non swivel chair; I’ve interviewed so many people that are moving and it’s distracting. Not a deal breaker, but distracting.

      Good luck!

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Try to talk to all the committee, maybe prep some extra questions. They’re all going to have a vote in your hiring so you want to interact/engage with all of them. A lot of times one person takes point in asking the questions, so by having your own to ask back you’re more likely to interact with all of them. Remember that looking at your camera rather than your screen where their videos are gives a stronger impression. Don’t have notes out if you’re going to be tempted to read your answers straight off of them, had a candidate do that this week and it was very awkward.

  34. HeyNonnyNonny*

    I applied to a job where an alumnae from my school is a VP in another division. Another alum introduced us over email two weeks Avon but this VP didn’t reply to my email then or my follow-up email last week. Do I follow up a third time (with the VP or the other alum?) or should I just accept that this VP doesn’t have the time/inclination to network right now?

    1. Lynne679*

      I wouldn’t send a third email and just assume that the VP doesn’t have the time to network. Perhaps further down the line, he may be interested in connecting but if he was interested, he’d respond after the second email.

  35. What job titles should I be looking for?*

    I’m starting to consider changing fields but am not sure where to start. I’d be super grateful for some help!

    Background: I come from a military/blue collar family and don’t have a lot of experience in office-type roles. I got my BA in a very specific field without a lot of overlap and have been working in it since graduating. I overall enjoy my profession but it’s very hard physically and emotionally. I’ve been working in the specializations in my field that provide health insurance (disabled) and a full-time schedule, but market forces/working conditions are making those paths unsustainable for a single person to support themselves on.

    Looking for: full-time work (but not more than 40 hrs per week due to health issues) that offers health insurance. I’d love to have some meetings, check emails, work my job, and then not think about it once I leave for the day. I like being an individual contributor with long periods of quiet work. I’d prefer to not have to go back to school, but would be happy to do a certification course to become qualified for roles.

    What are some job titles or fields I should be looking at to start planning my next move?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If certification is an option, and especially if you have any sort of healthcare adjacent background, you might could look into medical coding. AAPC is currently offering 50% off most of their certification course packages through the end of the month, which still isn’t cheap but includes the training course, reference books and the certification exam. (They do discounts like that semi-frequently as well.) I would recommend specifically the COC exam, which is an outpatient specialty.

      I manage a team of outpatient coders for a large academic hospital system — my coders (who are all 100% remote with 24-7 time flexibility for the most part) have about three meetings a month, and otherwise they log on, code their charts, and log off.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        FYI, I just checked this out and they require Adobe Flash to run their online courses. Except that no browsers support and most actively block Flash due to security concerns. And have for over a year. So it seems like nobody would actually be able to take these online classes!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I suspect the info is somewhat outdated, they run their courses on the same e-learning platform my community college uses which is compatible with every browser I’ve tried in the last three years. But definitely something to check on before spending any money, yes.

    2. Baeolophus bicolor*

      Without knowing your field, I can’t give you specific advice, but is it the sort of work where there are adjacent consulting firms where your practical experience might be useful? EG maybe you work construction and there are architecture or civil engineering consulting firms that might have a sales position open? If you can find the right fit, you might be able to use your practical experience to be some sort of sales, writing, management, or consulting associate position in an adjacent field depending on your field and speciality.

    3. ferrina*

      Project associate, project coordinator or project assistant. Look at things that overlap with your current profession- for example, is there a professional organization that serves your current profession? What industries are close to your current one? (so if you work in horticulture, what about historic gardens? real estate?)

  36. anon academic today*

    I’m giving the tenure-track dream one last shot this fall, then transitioning to looking for work outside of academia in the spring… but the stress is killing me, and I could use some advice on how to get through this transitional period.

    Leaving academia is the most likely option (simply due to the number of job openings in each category). However, I’m not sure which direction to jump – do I focus on my writing skills? Tech skills? International experience? Something else? – so, I may need to up my skills come spring, but I don’t know which skills because I’m not sure which jobs to pursue, but also I need to continue doing my current job well despite antagonistic students and micromanaging administrators, and… around and around we go. I’ve developed a serious stress-based illness for the first time in my life.

    How have you dealt with similar transition periods? Do you have any suggestions for narrowing down the options?

    1. LostOwl*

      I’m dealing with this now while still doing my doctorate (have applied to two tenure-track jobs and one full time job so far). There are a lot of free resources out there to help think through your options (many of which offer paid extras that I’ve never used). There’s Beyond the Professoriate which has a lot of free stuff and there’s also a few LinkedIn Groups such as The Grad Grid for PhDs to network (LinkedIn has a lot of poeple, like Jennifer Polk, who are interested in this and are useful to follow!)

      One thing I’d recommend is thinking about what you enjoy doing most and then look/ research for careers that require that skill. So one option I’m considering is editing and I’ve followed a bunch of freelance editor groups on facebook/ reached out and had zoom chats with a few of them so I can get a sense of what that “life” is like compared to academia.

      I also know a few PhDs who have done tech bootcamps and then got high-earning jobs in tech where they’ve thrived so if you have a tech background already, definitely try to find those people on LinkedIn and talk to them. I found a few through Beyond the Professoriate who were really lovely to talk to.

      The main consistent advice I’ve seen is getting that first non-academic job is kind of difficult because you need to convince the employer (who probably doesn’t know anything about academia) that you won’t jump ship when you get a tenure-track job. But once you’ve done that, you will be fine! Good luck and I hope this is helpful. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot.

    2. MediocreMeandering*

      Have you tried job searching/applying to anything? I know for me that sometimes it just feels better to know what kind of stuff is out there. Go to indeed and put in a super vague keyword and just see what positions exist and see what skills are in demand. I think it would be more comfortable to do that now, while you’re not actively looking for that kind of job. It might also be comforting just to have it be less of an unknown.

      Best of luck!!

    3. Reba*

      Hey, I have been in very similar shoes.

      Given all you’ve got going on, “taking some time away” might seem like particularly glib advice… but even if it’s just a few days you reserve to yourself between semesters, it’s so beneficial to get some space to reflect. I recommend scheduling like a retreat for yourself where you spend time in reflection: making lists of pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, plus emotional checking-in — do you feel excited when you imagine working in tech? or when you imagine having more free time and financial stability, what does that look like to you?

      good luck!

    4. Nesprin*

      So there’s no way that this transition period won’t suck. The academic job market is a meat grinder and moving out of the ivory tower is a stressful thing, especially if you don’t know where you’ll land. I say this up top to recommend scheduling time off, and ensuring you take advantage of whatever resources you have (career center, counseling office, EAP) now because this will be hard.

      Now on to alt-academia. Sounds like your biggest issue at the moment is figuring out what your next job might be. Your career office or alumni association may have lists of alumni who are open for informational interviews, which I’d highly recommend. It’d be worth also looking in linkedin at other alumni- where did they end up. Theprofessorisin is a pretty good resource/blog for academic adjacent jobs.

      But at the end of the day, you’ll figure out if you like a job by working it for 6mo to a year.

    5. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I recommend checking out PhD to Life, Versatile PhD, and Careers Out There for some resources. Good luck!

    6. M2*

      I don’t know what your field is, but also lots of higher Ed institutions hire PhDs for senior administrator roles. A close friend works at a top institution and many administrators have PhDs. Some couldn’t get tenure track roles and others wanted to stay in higher Ed, but not on the teaching side.

      I second looking at tech roles (although as we have seen layoffs in some of those companies).
      You could also look at government roles and non-profit sector.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Unless you have experience however, you will not be starting with those senior positions. Phd and teaching experience does not by itself qualify you for those jobs.

        If you’re interested in such jobs, info interview to see how they ended up there.

  37. Rain+rain+go+away*

    One of my direct reports told me that took me by surprise.
    We were in a meeting reviewing a document that he was working on. This meeting was to review the changes he had implemented based on our discussion from the previous meeting. Let’s call that Meeting #1. We were going back and forth on a detail that we remembered differently. He then tells me that he recorded our conversation, so we can just listen to it. I was shocked. He never told me he was recording it. (These were both in person meetings.) He says he often records conversations to ensure he doesn’t miss any details. I didn’t say anything at the time (another manager was in the room). To be clear, he is a long time employee and has been a manager for a few years.
    I addressed it with him the next day, and told him I was not comfortable with him recording our conversations, and asked he not record me or anybody else without asking them. He said it wasn’t meant maliciously, just so that he could catch all the details. Is asked how he would feel knowing somebody had recorded him and he said not great.
    Anything else I should have done/said?

    For the record, our state is a two party consent state, so technically what he did was illegal.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      I think you handled it well. You told him how you felt, you asked him not to do it anymore, and you gave him something he could relate to (how he would feel if someone did it to him).

      You could go back to him and ask about the underlying reason he originally did it, and ask if he needs other ways to help him remember all the details.

      1. Reba*

        I also think it’s worth a follow up, and you can ask where he has been storing the recordings and ensure they are deleted.

        1. Everything Bagel*

          Good about deleting the files and also reiterate that it’s illegal because he didn’t get your consent first.

    2. Cordelia*

      I’d also make sure that he knew that what he did was illegal, to ensure he gets the seriousness of it. I’m wondering how the other manager in the room responded? I understand why you didn’t want to address it in front of the other manager, and for other types of negative feedback that’s entirely right – but in this case, your employee was doing something illegal that impacted the other manager too – I’d want to know, if I was that manager, that this was being dealt with. It is a serious matter. I’d want confirmation that all recordings had been deleted too.

      1. Rain+rain+go+away*

        The other manager wasn’t in Meeting #1, so he wasn’t recorded. They are peers, so I didn’t want to talk to him in front of a peer.

      2. zyx*

        Yes, please tell him that what he did was illegal. After reading your post, I looked up the laws in my own state (California) and learned that it’s illegal here—I had no idea. I have a much easier time remembering what I read than what I hear, so I am sympathetic to him wanting to record spoken discussions.

        He needs to understand that this is a problem beyond making people feel uncomfortable. Otherwise he might continue to do it with people he thinks know him well enough not to mind.

    3. samecoin*

      my thought is, it any different than recording a zoom meeting to go over the it later? if you have nothing to hide i do not see it as a big deal but hey that is just me.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The difference is a zoom meeting shows a pop-up about the meeting being recorded, and you have to consent in order to stay on the meeting!

    4. SpellingBee*

      Well, it isn’t “technically” illegal, it is illegal, full stop. It doesn’t matter if he’s not doing it with malicious intent. You’ve appealed to his better nature and asked him not to do it anymore, but you also need to tell him that he cannot continue to record conversations without obtaining the other party’s (or parties’) consent. Also, since he’s a manager, it could be tricky for his direct reports to tell him no, so it might be a good idea to ban the practice altogether.

        1. Everything Bagel*

          Oh my, if I found out my manager was recording our conversations without telling me, I would probably lose my mind. You better talk to your employee about this immediately.

    5. Dr. Prepper*

      This is a SERIOUS as in “you’re fired – we are walking you out” level of transgression. As stated, this is not a “technicality” this is a criminal offense. Even giving credence to his “ignorance” – I doubt it as the recording device was hidden from you and if he has it automatic/voice activated or leaves it on all day it could even fall under illegal wiretap statutes.

      I’d be afraid for my OWN ass if HR ever finds out that you knew and did not report it. It sucks that they may fire him on the spot but to protect yourself you need to report this to HR ASAP. If you review the company manual I’d wager it’s in there as well as a prohibition.

      Don’t wait for them to discover you knew this.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah, you have to go to HR right now. This wasn’t technically illegal, it was illegal-illegal. Your direct report was breaking the law in a way that involved other employees. Now that you know, if you help him cover up illegal behaviour you will be be complicit.

        The fact that he’s a manager and may be recording his direct reports without their consent makes it much worse.

        Also, this is a case where a mass email to all employees making it clear that recording meetings/conversations requires the consent of all parties at the beginning of each meeting would be appropriate.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      News for ya: he’s not recording only conversations with you. He’s recording conversations with other people, too, and he hasn’t told them, either, or gotten their consent.

      This is problematic and may be actionable if other employees, especially non-management, find out that they’ve been recorded and also that you, as a manager, knew that it was going on. He’s a walking liability and you need to escalate this.

    7. HR Friend*

      I would tell HR. Depending on the types of meetings he’s a part of, he may have secret recordings that could present a legal or PR risk to the company. Or maybe he’s been given an ADA accommodation to record certain types of meetings, and he’s going about it the wronnnng way.

      In lots of scenarios, HR would wanna know about this.

    8. allathian*

      It was illegal, and he could’ve been fired on the spot even in many jurisdictions where at-will employment doesn’t exist.

      I seriously doubt he’s only recording your conversations. I can sympathize with wanting to have a recording to avoid missing any details, but that’s why taking minutes or doing a recap by email are so important, at least in meetings that risk deteriorating into a “he said-she said” argument afterwards.

    9. design ghost*

      I would be careful about going hard on the legality of it, two-party consent is a bit more complicated than “you can never record anyone, ever, without their consent.” Some places, like California, allow for recording without consent in any place where you don’t have the “reasonable assumption of privacy.” It’s not that clear cut that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a work meeting.

  38. LabRat*

    I have a manager who’s pregnant and generally does not like to be the center of attention. Our department has a lot of people who like to organize parties, so when she let me know she was pregnant I asked if she wanted me to organize a party for her or do something else. She said no to the party and we decided that a organizing a group baby gift would be a better option. Now I’ve learned that the department has decided to hold a pizza party before she starts her leave at the end of the month. She said that she protested, but the other managers said it was just an excuse for everyone to have a pizza party.

    Our company has promoted a culture of making sure people feel their workplace is a safe and supportive environment and it’s really bugging me that they’re dismissing her request on this. I offered to say something to the other managers and tell them if they want to have a pizza party then just have one, but she doesn’t want to rock the boat and take anything away from the rest of the department.

    I’m still tempted to say something to them about how they’re doing the opposite of what their stated mission is, but I don’t want to upset her in the process. I know that some of this is coming from my personal feelings because I also don’t like to be the center of public attention and was subjected to it against my wishes growing up.

    Should I say something or just let it happen? There’s a chance she may not be there as she’s already experiencing difficult physical symptoms of late pregnancy and it’s only going to get worse by then.

    1. Reba*

      Maybe let it happen (as is now employee’s preference) but maybe you can still talk about it afterward! I’m not sure from what you wrote whether you are peers of the department managers doing this, or senior to them. I share this trait of not wanting attention, so that’s why I feel like bringing it up again is worth it.

      So a future quick mention in a meeting — “I’ve been thinking about the pizza party y’all organized ‘for’ Linda, and it’s still bothering me that you planned it against her express wishes. We might find ourselves in future with an employee who has even stronger objections to parties in their honor, so can we agree that we will listen to people’s preferences on this? Listening to people makes them feel valued, maybe even more than a party does.”

    2. to varying degrees*

      I agree with Reba, I would wait to say something afterwards. Your co-worker specifically said not say anything and you should respect that. I would wait until after the party and she is fine and then bring it up as you had and issue with them not practicing what they preach and try to leave your colleague out of it as much as possible.

    3. Ashley*

      You could also kindly let her call in sick that day. I would definitely wait until afterwards if you say anything and do it to the an instigator that could make changes and not necessarily to the group as a whole.

  39. kiki*

    Two coworkers are “secretly” dating. I say “secretly” because they are incredibly obvious about it. We all know! It’s not much of an HR issue because they work in very separate capacities in entirely separate divisions without either of them having more power or status than the other. Right now, all their coworkers have been minding our own business about it. BUT in the last few weeks they have been doing stuff to “keep things secret” that just make things weirder! Let’s say their names are Yuri and Louise. If anyone mentions Yuri (e.g. “His chili at the cook-off was really great!), Louise will say that she didn’t try his chili and she doesn’t know him very well (okay! nobody asked!). They arrive and leave together every day, nobody cares, but they make a big production of what a coincidence it is that they arrive at the same time.
    It’s not a big deal, right now it’s just one of those things about working with people in an office that makes you go “alright.” My only question is that I’m definitely what I’d consider solid work friends with Louise. She hasn’t told me that she and Yuri are together, but she has told me she’s seeing someone new and is excited to tell me more about it soon. Would it be okay to say, “Look, you don’t need to pretend– I know you’re seeing Yuri, we all do. No need to so aggressively pretend!” It’s not harming anyone but I do feel like the overwrought production of not being together is making them look a little foolish.

    1. Jessica*

      I think since you’re work-friends with Louise (I’m assuming you don’t manage each other) and she’s said that much about her love life, it would be fine to say that. I’d find it a little helpful, if maybe a little embarrassing, to know I could relax about it because people already know, and also to get a steer away from making myself ridiculous.

    2. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      Since you are friends I would tell her. When you are chatting with some privacy. If the dating is fine in your office then it won’t hurt her reputation, but honestly if the deception is as over the top and transparent as you say that might make some people take them less seriously.

    3. ferrina*

      Agree with Jessica and Haven’t picked a user name yet- you can just say “Aren’t you seeing Yuri?” I’d phrase it as a question, so if she denies there isn’t an argument that ensues.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah, if you’re friends you should tell her. This sounds like the Office episode where Michael and Holly make a really big deal of not engaging in PDA to the point that it’s grosser than if they just kissed, lol. Depending on the relationship I’d either take a “look, it’s pretty obvious that you’re dating Yuri and the way you’re acting about hiding-but-not-hiding it comes across as weird and unprofessional” approach or just nonchalantly “I know, it’s Yuri right? Y’all seem happy together” next time she starts dropping hints

    5. Aimless and Abstract*

      Next time she says something about her new mystery man, just say “I’m glad you’re so happy. Yuri is a great guy.” and just go from there.

    6. RagingADHD*

      We all look foolish every day to someone, about something. This is one of the most wholesome and least harmful ways I’ve heard about. Don’t burst her bubble unless it seems like she’s actually worried about it, then you can reassure her that it’s fine.

  40. Tara*

    Is there anything one can do, about morale issues in a different work group/division?

    Our IT team is imploding. I work with them extensively – my job involves managing my division’s technical projects and if IT implodes I can’t deliver on my deadlines or accomplish my goals. Things have been bad for the last year but came to a head about two weeks ago with the departure of the director who knew our ERP system end-to-end. I’m pretty sure a mass exodus is coming. The CIO and a couple of his direct reports are the problem.

    I brought the morale problem up with my director this week. He is an engineer and people issues tend to be a bit of a blind spot with him, and he normally doesn’t want to hear about them. But this is going to affect my ability to do my job, so I raised it. It didn’t go well….I was told I need to find a way to work around the problem, and I was told I need to handle it myself and not ask him to escalate or intervene. Going above his head is a no-go as well.

    I know HR is aware there are problems. My HR group is a different team from IT’s HR group, so speaking to my HR is not helpful. Our VP of quality called me to ask me questions about the ERP director’s departure a couple of weeks ago, so I know he’s interested and I could call to tell him more about what’s going on, and he might try to do something, but he’s generally not terribly effective at solving anything. Am I obligated to keep speaking up, is there a more effective way to handle it that I’m not thinking of? It’s so dismaying to see this happening, and to hear my work mates so unhappy with their jobs.

    1. ferrina*

      No, there’s nothing you can do, and doing nothing is the best way to go.

      It sounds like 1) the morale issue is very warranted, since the CIO is a problem; 2) you have no power or political capital where you could change the problem; 3) anyone you could speak to has no interest/ability to make changes either.

      Why would you try to fix this? Any solutions need to come from way above you, or the solutions won’t work. If you try to get involved somehow, that’s very likely to get messy and cause issues for everyone (including you). Right now the best way to support your coworkers is to be gracious with them and be reasonable in your asks. Collaborate with them- they don’t have a beef with you (unless you start making things messy for them), so say “hey, I need XYZ done by Friday. Is that doable? If not, what should I tell my boss is doable?”

      And if your boss thinks you can magically control other people’s work, maybe the CIO isn’t the only problem at this company.

      1. Tara*

        Honestly —I want to try to fix the actual problem, because being reasonable and gracious isn’t going to fly. I’m going to be expected to be pushy and difficult, and I’m going to hate that.

        I have some capital. I’ve worked there for a long time, and I’m well respected in IT and operations. I’m an exceptionally good communicator and problem solver.

        And heck yeah you’re right that the CIO isn’t the only problem…I’m frustrated at a lot of things. My resume is updated and I’m casually looking.

        1. SofiaDeo*

          Document Everything, as much as you can. Keep escalating your concerns in email up the chain of command, as needed. When things implode, you need to have protection. I am concerned about the response your direct manager had. I was in a similar situation once (people being pulled from a company wide software implementation such that the database wasn’t being keyed with the data needed for go-live, and could not *possibly* be ready without the hours of data entry. Since this was a hospital, patients would have been severely affected) and got an attempted blast-back in a regional meeting, since I was technically in charge of the software implementation team.. But I had documented my concerns, with not only my department head boss but also the head of IT. So my hide was saved at that particular moment…..but I had never escalated further to my boss’s boss….and earned her enmity. When it gets to where you have gone through the entires chain of command, and no one cares…..not your circus, not your monkeys anymore.

        2. Westsidestory*

          Don’t do this. You may see this as trying to fix a problem that will help your own work, but this problem is in another department and is not your problem to fix.

          Do not spend capital by being pushy and difficult- given the current dynamics you may even be pushed out yourself. Try talking yourself into realizing your own work is going to go slower because of the IT bottleneck, and do the best you can with what is given to you. Save your energy for moving your job search from casual to “actively looking.” Good luck!

          1. SofiaDeo*

            There is a difference between being pushy, and clearly documenting the impact another department has on one’s work. LW is going to miss deadlines and deliverables because of the problem in IT. If this significantly impacts monies coming in, even if the culture is generally “going above his head is a no-go”, it may be warranted. Because *my boss* didn’t want me to tell *her boss*, so I didn’t but *her boss* thought I should have. And this was the reasoning why, in a specific set of circumstances, it was warranted.

            I’m not suggesting it be done in a “throw Boss under the bus” way. But if there is an email chain asking what to do, and the response is “manage it yourself”, it wouldn’t be egregious to forward this up a level, asking for help. That’s what the chain of command is for, right? We don’t automatically run to the bigger bosses, but when it can’t be addressed at lower levels, higher input is needed. If things affecting company cash flow are being affected, IMO higher ups *do* want to know.

  41. Accidental Weeper*

    I commented a while back about getting screwed over by a promotion that moved me to exempt so that even with an increase to my base salary I’m making less money than before because of the amount of overtime I’m required to work. We’re entering our busy season and coming in on some weekends is expected for the next couple of months. I emailed my manager asking if I could get mileage reimbursement for coming in on weekends since making an extra trip into the office costs me money in gas plus wear and tear (my commute is long and my car is struggling) so I’m basically losing money on these days. I very much expected to be told no, but thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

    It hurt to ask! My manager straight up didn’t reply, but apparently she forwarded my email to her boss (the head of the department and a pretty high-up person in the company) without telling me because two days later I got pulled into a meeting with the aforementioned grandboss, who proceeded to tell me that mileage reimbursement was never going to happen and then sort of lectured me for asking in the first place (as though it was something hugely unreasonable). Being told no wasn’t a surprise, and unfortunately the company culture here is so awful that being scolded for having the temerity to ask for compensation for extra work wasn’t even a huge shock, but I recently stopped taking my antidepressants so my moods are all over the place (I’m at that stage where seeing a cute dog on a car commercial can make me weep) and so I started to tear up. I am not a crier in general, and when I’m on my meds it almost never happens even when I’m alone, so the shock of it happening at work led to a tear-spiral of “Wtf why am I crying this is so weird, oh no can she tell I’m crying, oh she can totally tell this is so embarrassing, I have to explain to her that I’m not actually that upset I’m just having a weird stress reaction, oh no she’s being nice about it in a way where I can definitely tell she’s thinking wtf is wrong with this person, oh no why won’t it stop, etc etc” and I ended up all red and blotchy and snotty. It was so humiliating.

    Anyway, due to the toxic company culture I’m 90% sure grandboss will have told my manager about my meltdown and if she did, I’m 99% sure my manager will never bring it up with me because she is allergic to uncomfortable conversations so I’m wondering if I should bring it up to her and just be like “Yeah, that happened, it’s a medication issue and I’m not actually sobbing in despair over working weekends” or if it’s better to just move on and pretend it never happened?

    1. Fabulous*

      Gosh, I’d start looking for a new job. It’s ridiculous to essentially have gotten a pay cut with a promotion, and then to have gotten scolded for simply asking for accommodations? No thank you.

      1. Accidental Weeper*

        Oh I’m definitely job searching. This place is ridiculous and it feels like every few weeks something happens that would merit its own AAM letter. But I’m going to need to use this manager as a reference in the future unfortunately.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Are you sure you need their reference and cannot use a colleague or a leader in a different area of the company?

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Given “toxic company culture”:
      Move on
      Pretend it didn’t happen
      Polish Resume
      Get out of that beehive.

    3. Wiscokate*

      In a workplace that responds so dramatically to a simple question, I would definitely not disclose any mental health struggles. Not because there is anything shameful about it but because these people aren’t trustworthy.

      I hope you are looking, if you can.

      1. Accidental Weeper*

        My manager has on more than one occasion shared private health information about my coworkers (completely unsolicited, I might add) so this is probably a good point.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Tbh I see no benefit to letting your manager know that, since you’re job hunting anyway…and it won’t hurt her or grandboss to think they *did* drive someone to tears with their crappy behavior. It might even do them some good.

    5. M2*

      Please start looking for a new job! I wanted to promote someone years ago and I did the math and realized they made way more hourly with overtime than they would with the new pay scale as exempt. I spoke with them and they agreed with me (the policies of HR would not have allowed for a pay bump as exempt). It stunk, but I wonder why your boss did not do the math and talk to you about all this before making the decision for you.

      Start looking elsewhere and I’m sorry this is happening to you!

  42. Widget*

    Because we’re approaching our annual review period, I want to send a “thank you” letter to a manager that’s been very helpful to me over the last 12 months — encouraging my professional development, answering questions, being a sounding board when I need one. All the things you want in a supervisor.

    The problem is that this manager isn’t my manager. How do I say “thank you for being great” without indirectly crapping on my actual supervisor?

    1. TallGuy*

      Send a thank you for what they’ve done without mentioning your direct manager! Just because this manager is awesome doesn’t mean your direct manager sucks. (They might suck. But I’m not going to judge either way.) Thank them for what they’ve been for you, which is a mentor.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As long as you don’t actually say anything bad about your actual supervisor, you’re fine — “Sandy is awesome and helped me out in XYZ ways” does not automatically translate to “Because Alex sucks and didn’t do any of that.”

      1. Widget*

        I think this is what I needed to hear. Because I know that Alex has not, in fact, done any of those things and my personal awareness of that contrast had me worried that somehow, some way, that knowledge would seep into the email.

    3. ferrina*

      Yep, you should be fine. Just say what it is that has made this person a mentor for you.

      I recommend putting it in a format that this person can share with their manager, and you can even CC their manager if you like (depending on your company’s culture- in some places this would be seen as sweet and helpful, and in some it would be seen as weird and overstepping)

  43. Fabulous*

    How can I stop comparing myself to coworkers? I know a lot of it is imposter syndrome, but know that that can only go so far…

    Last year, I was hired for a role on a new team. Shortly after, “Beth” was hired in a corresponding role on a different team – we do the same thing at the same level, just under different managers. Having near identical roles, we have worked together on a lot of the same projects. I can’t help but notice that, while my work is often lauded by my own team, she is getting the chance to lead a lot more projects than I am, whereas I still don’t feel wholly equipped yet and confident enough to lead those type of projects. She also seems to be doing a lot better job understanding and delivering on new projects that are outside our normal scope of work. I don’t know if she’s just a better BSer than I am, but if I don’t understand a subject fully, I have a really hard time delivering on it.

    I don’t know if she feels the “rivalry” of our roles that I have been feeling, but I’m getting really sick of feeling inferior. Being nearly 20 years into my career, I’m working already at a much lower level than I should be, and I don’t want to be shown up by someone else 10 years younger than me.

    I need to get out from under this dark cloud that’s been plaguing my mood for the last few months – help!

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m working on that myself. I’m quite jealous of coworkers who are well organized ( I’m so disorganized I feel disabled!) But maybe I should write myself a letter of the good things I do every day to improve my mood and to detect from work. Even if I don’t win at work every day life is still good.

    2. Wiscokate*

      Sometimes we work with people that are just stronger performers. I would focus more on your own understanding of the processes and contributions rather than hers. If she really is a rockstar employee, good for her, but I understand it can feel demoralizing to compare. I would be cautious of thinking things like “maybe she is a better BSer” without evidence that her work is subpar in some way because it can lead to undeserved resentment.

    3. ferrina*

      You don’t have all the information. There are so many things that could be going on…

      1. You have a slightly different skillset than Beth, and you’ve only been focusing on her skillset instead of hers. She’s been doing projects outside your normal scope? Maybe that’s the particular niche where she excels. If you were both good at the exact same thing, would that make your team as strong as if you had slightly different but complementary strengths? I find that when I’m trying to compete with someone by being them, I lose all the strengths I have by being me.

      2. Sure, maybe she is a better BSer. Or simply better at presentation and certain softskills. Presentation can create certain impressions, but you don’t have the full picture of what’s going on behind the scenes. And that’s okay! Your manager is the person that should be knowing and addressing this, not you. Maybe she’s great, maybe not, either way, it doesn’t detract or add to how great you are.

      3. You are already frustrated by what’s going on in your career, and Beth is a tangible target. You say you’re working at a lower level than you want, and that’s frustrating! You see a coworker who (in your perspective) is thriving at this level that you don’t even want to be at. It’s easier to be mad at a person than it is to be mad at intangible life circumstances, and our brains will pick the easier target without our permission. Do a little soul-searching to see if Beth is really what you’re frustrated by, or if it’s bigger than that. Maybe therapy is an option for a bit?

      Refocus on who you are and what you are good at. I have found that I have a wildly inaccurate view of myself, and I tend to focus on my negatives way more than my postiives. I focus on all the things I didn’t do, and I miss out on all the things I did. When I catch myself doing this, I pull out an Accomplishment Journal where every night I list things that I did that day. It’s always more than I expect, and I go to bed being proud of myself instead of kicking myself, which puts me in a better place for the next day. And my skills that show aren’t always what I expect them to be- like Stuckinacrazyjob, I struggle with organization (I’m ADHD). I have the weirdest methods to keep myself organized, and I switch methods every couple months. I think of myself as super disorganized, yet I have had multiple colleagues ask me what my secret is and how I stay so organized. (which then leads me down the rabbit hole…have I gotten so good at faking it that I’ve made it? Was I ever really faking it, or was I just building my custom solution all along? Or have I gotten so good that I’ve fooled everyone, including the productivity metrics, which are pretty hard to fool?) Point being…things aren’t always as they appear, both with other people and with ourselves.

    4. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Accept your feelings, validate them, then set them aside. After you do that, then focus on the facts. You have a talented coworker. That must make it great to work with her! Just imagine if she wasn’t good at her job and how much extra work that would be for you.

      Do you even want to lead projects? If so, ask your boss how to get to there. If not, then be happy someone else wants to so you don’t get stuck with it.

      Also, “I’m working already at a much lower level than I should be” <–who is defining *should* here? Why should you be at a different level? Who told you that? Is this negative self talk also?

      It's not a rivalry unless you make it one. If you don't like feeling inferior, then stop telling yourself you are inferior. Talk back to that voice in your head. (Check out cognitive behavioral therapy if you want some structure for how to do that.)

    5. Kupo*

      Hi. I was feeling this recently when a young upstart got tapped for a project I am interested in. I felt demoralized and unappreciated.

      In any case, I feel other people have offered great ideas to change your mindset.

      Keep being who you are, appreciate your own talents. If you can’t get where you want to be at your current org, you’ll have to decide whether to settle being pigeonholed or polish your resume.

  44. Former Disney Cast*

    Tell them that, legally, they have to have a half-hour unpaid break — they don’t have to eat lunch if they don’t want to, but they do have to vacate their desk and not work for 30 minutes. But honestly, most people in hourly positions already understand that, and you’re very unlikely to get guff about it!

    1. Jessica*

      Thanks, I spotted it! Unfortunately though it’s not a legal requirement in our state. It would be perfectly legal for them to just work 9-5 (or whatever) with no break.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        You get to say what the job duties are. Unless there is a strongly preferred candidate who is making a big deal about it, don’t worry overmuch.

  45. Radish Queen*

    How do you flex your time when you don’t really have 40 hrs worth of work – ever?

    I’m a salary employee, but my job is simple (thankfully) with vague deadlines, and requires a lot of collaboration from other departments. Some days I am just waiting for other to review documents I put together, and then scheduling a follow-up meeting a week when the whole team is available. My manager is aware and I try to be productive with my time, but it’s sometimes me looking at news waiting until my next meeting.

    The question comes when I need to flex time. My manager knows I try to schedule medical appointments before or after my work day, but may be 1-2 hrs late / need to leave 1-2 hrs early and expects me to flex my time to make it up during the week.

    The problem is, I don’t see the point in showing up early or staying late another day, or working through lunch, just to not really produce more work? I can effectively get all my work done in 30-35hrs/wk.

    My manager doesn’t track my hours but I still want to make sure I am meeting expectations. What would you do? Just only show up 35 hrs a week sometimes and not care?

    1. ferrina*

      I try to make sure I’m available roughly 40 hours per week. Available doesn’t mean actively working, but it does mean that I’ll flag for my boss that I’ve got extra time.

      If your job is regularly 30-35 hours and your boss knows that you can take on a little more (and your boss hasn’t given you anything), I wouldn’t worry about it. I worked somewhere that had a 35 hour work week, and it was every bit as productive as companies with a 40-hour work week.

      1. Radish Queen*

        I like the idea of making myself available for 40 hrs instead of truly working 40 hrs. That’s much more reasonable.

    2. ecnaseener*

      The point of salaried exempt work is supposed to be that you don’t have to work exactly 40 hours, as a trade-off for not getting overtime pay. So this is a ridiculous expectation, but my boss is the same way, expecting you to “make up the time” to reach 40 hours.

      I’m too chicken to push back on it and say “this is my understanding of salaried exempt work, if I get my work done without staying late I don’t see a problem” – because that might prompt them to actually pay attention to whether I make up my time :P
      If they ever do call me on it, I like to think I’ll push back, ask if there’s a concern with how much work I get done (there’s not), and be honest that time to recharge is important to me and I don’t love being nickel-and-dimed.

      If you don’t think your boss will notice, then IMO you’re ethically in the clear just ignoring the instruction. There is of course the risk that they’ll notice, and particularly if you explicitly agree to do it and then don’t do it, that’ll be bad.

      I don’t have many appointments, but I do a combination of a) ignoring it and getting all my work done during business hours regardless and b) just taking PTO to avoid the issue, and enjoying my full day off with one appointment. Option c would be staying logged on for an extra hour, refreshing your email while you make dinner.

  46. LostOwl*

    I am in the final stages of interview for a job – I have been doing this job part time while finishing up grad school and a full time position has surprisingly opened up. The job is advertised as full-time, salaried, with benefits, and hybrid. However, if I get an offer it will have to be a contract position as I’m not willing to move and the higher ups aren’t willing to hire anyone with benefits remotely.

    If I get an offer, what questions should I be asking and how should I be asking them? I am wondering if it’s appropriate to ask for a higher pay given I’ll be responsible for my own taxes/ how time off works/ how potential parental leave would work? Is there anything I’m missing? Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. Nesprin*

      Contract pay can be 1.5x what salary pay would be- time off, insurance, payroll taxes, severance etc all fall on you instead of the company.

    2. Pop*

      If you are classified as a contractor, assume that most things that employees receive you won’t be receiving, which includes ALL benefits (including parental leave). I’d ask about time off more broadly, because usually contractors don’t get any paid time off, so you’d want to ask how that works. And yes, salary 1.5 – 2x is a reasonable ask (although that’s not to say they’ll comply).

  47. Irish Goodbye*

    I’m quitting my job today with no notice, which I’ve never done before. I know that it flies in the face of professional norms and courtesy, but this company is shifty, toxic mess, and I’ve only been here a few months. I have a new job lined up and ultimately decided that giving myself a few weeks off to recharge overrides any desire to give notice at a job I won’t even be putting on my resume.

    But it’s still giving me anxiety! I would love any encouraging words and/or righteous anecdotes about people leaving their horrible jobs without notice. (I have read the rage quit thread many times, but much of that seem to be second-hand anecdotes.)

    1. C-Dub*

      I quit my job with no notice TWICE this year – the first job after 5 weeks and the second one after only 3 days. Both companies were toxic and disorganized and had poor work-life balance – and both wanted everyone to go in on the Saturdays going forward. It did not do my mental health well.

      My suggestion? Leave the job off your resume. A few months will not be a big deal. Any employer who asks about it do not need to know the details. I would say you just took a break. This is not a death sentence to your career; you will find another job in no time. Just don’t make quitting without notice a regular occurrence; in this case, it looks like you are at your limit and have no other choice.

      If you need further reassurance, I was hired by my my current employer in February (I quit both jobs in January) and am still employed here. I couldn’t be happier. A extra bonus here is I was able to negotiate an even higher salary than both the previous jobs.

    2. ferrina*

      How big is the bridge that you’re burning? Is it worth the mental health you’re preserving?

      Honestly, it sounds like you’re being really smart and have all your ducks in a row. I love this, because it leaves you time to heal and be ready to start your new job fresh. I’ve worked with people that haven’t recouped from their toxic job when they start, and it’s so much more exhausting for them and the people onboarding them. It takes them a bit longer to get up to speed, and they are more likely to miss information initially (because their mental health isn’t up for an information sprint). You’re putting yourself in a great spot to hit the ground running!

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Years ago I quit my toxic short-term job with no notice. In addition it to being a HUGE relief for me and good for me personally, it actually benefitted me professionally. The boss was well-known for being a toxic imbecile, so everyone understood why I had quit abruptly. In fact they wondered why I stayed so long. You obviously don’t need a reference from these folks, so quit and be free without any guilt whatsoever!

    4. Kupo*

      You have to suddenly quit because someone close to you needs immediate care.

      You need immediate care to detox from a toxic place.

      And to be fair, your new position will benefit from a refreshed you.

    5. Dr. Prepper*

      “a job I won’t even be putting on my resume.”

      This is the key. Just be sure to polish up your LinkedIn and other social media removing any references to the job and don’t EVER list anyone from that company as a reference.

      Leave, rejoice and never look back.

    6. Luck of the Irish*

      Best of luck to you. I feel anxiety on your behalf and just know you are being brave. I’d love an update after you leave.

    7. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      You’ve only been there a few months, so honestly I wouldn’t think much of it!

      I’ve been at my company 5 years and lately I’ve been tempted to just quit on a whim! I got a new micromanaging manager and we don’t get along, doubled workload and a crazy department. Im fed up!

      1. CSRoadWarrior*

        Sounds like you had a great boss that was replaced with a bad one. I can’t even imagine if I had to go through the same thing. My boss right now is wonderful. If he were to resign and was replaced with a micromanaging abusive boss, I would be tempted to leave on a whim as well.

    8. Alex*

      If you’ve only been there a few months, notice probably isn’t all the important anyway. A notice period is to prepare for your departure–transferring information that only you may have, etc. You probably don’t have all that much of that after just a few months. Make sure you have any work in progress documented so it is easy for someone else to pick up, keep your professional face on, and walk out that door!

  48. Marian*

    I’m doing pretty rough, so please bear with me– I started a new job about 4 months ago, and it had been going pretty well (I thought). It’s a different type of organization than I’ve worked for in the past, so that takes some getting used to (moved from academia to corporate, and in person to mostly telework), and while I like the work and my job, I’ve had some mental health flare ups that have resulted in my logging in later than usual some days, not getting quite as much done as I did last month, etc. Yesterday, I accidently overslept by 3 hours (thanks, depression…), and texted my boss when I woke up that I needed to take a sick day, but they were (understandably) frustrated by me not letting them know till 3 hours after I was supposed to be online.

    I apologized, wrote up a message expressing my desire to do better at my job and my regret at having let things fall through the cracks, but then got a reply saying that “Things don’t add up for me when it comes to you showing up, communicating, and the amount of work you are completing.”

    But… I thought I was getting better aside from yesterday. I stay late when I’ve logged on later than usual. I’ve been doing as much work as I should be based on our previous conversations, and while I don’t talk a lot in meetings, I’m just trying to absorb new information because I’ve only been here for a few months and I get nervous to contribute when my thoughts aren’t all put together. I don’t know how to respond, because I know I’ve been doing a good amount of work, and I just feel really small right now. I tried to own up to my mistakes, and it feels like I was just shoved back down.
    I don’t know how to respond, or what to do, and any advice or commiseration would be appreciated.

    1. shruggie*

      Caveat – not a manager, but this is how I would handle it… I would set up a time to talk to your boss. State that their recent message concerns you, and that you’re taking it seriously but would like some specific examples of what improvements they’re looking for at this stage. “I understand my attendance has been an issue, and I am actively prioritizing good rest so I can show up on time. I apologize for that and will improve. Your other points surprise me though, and I’d love some direction on how to work on those. What are you expecting from me in terms of communication and work output that you aren’t seeing?”

      The fact that they’re expressing disappointment without much structure for improvement is… not super helpful to you. So I’d ask for that explicitly, to at least demonstrate your interest in improving. You will have to prepare yourself for hearing their feedback (I know that can be really tough when you’re already depressed!), so maybe set aside some time after your meeting to process and frame this as a way to invest in your future and grow, and remind yourself you’re still in the early days – of course you might be misaligned with company norms, and this is a good opportunity to reset!

      Then, ultimately, you do need to follow through, so make sure you come up with some tangible steps to take. If your boss didn’t give you these directly, follow up and articulate your steps to them so they know what your plans are, and have the opportunity to weigh in.

      1. Marian*

        Thank you so much! I was really overwhelmed and not sure what next step to take, and this was super helpful <3

    2. Enn Pee*

      Marian,
      Once my husband was in a job where he was quiet, kept his head down, and got a lot of work done. His boss had an annual review for him where the boss said that my husband wasn’t getting as much done as his coworkers. My husband had kept a notebook of all his projects, and showed it to his boss, who realized my husband had been doing MUCH MORE than anyone else.
      What I’m trying to get at is: sometimes you need to let your boss know what you’re doing, where you have questions, etc. Your boss has mentioned the word “communication” – so plan on communicating better or more efficiently.
      If you don’t have a regular 1:1, that might take the form of a weekly summary email, just letting them know the status of different things you’re working on.
      If you do have a regular 1:1, send your boss a note beforehand with the items YOU want to discuss, similar to that weekly summary I mentioned, but focusing on anything that you may need their help or support for.

    3. SofiaDeo*

      Meet with your manager. You are having some health issues (leave out the “mental health” part, since it’s a legitimate subset of health) this past month, and have realized after you were so ill you couldn’t even notify them you were going to be sick that day until hours into the workday, that you need to inform your manager of the health problems. What you thought was a small nothing, may turn out to be something. You have a chronic condition that might be flaring. Moving forward, you are going to pay more attention to your symptoms so that a repeat of the “called in 3 hours after the day started” doesn’t occur again. And that you will let them know as soon as you do, if you have to arrange healthcare appointments during the work day. You can ask, does Boss want you to see someone ASAP even if it is during normal work hours/upcoming major work things? Then *see someone*. The stressors of the past few years have left a lot of us with depleted reserves, and many many of us have valiantly pushed through, past exhaustion. Make sure there isn’t a medical reason for the flare ups, and see a therapist for at least a “tune-up”. If this place is at all normal people with any reason, it shouldn’t be held against you. Whereas, if you continue to have problems, show up late, accomplish less than previously, they may think you’re just not a good fit/can’t do the work. You can, you’re just in a rough spot right now.

    4. Firefighter (Metaphorical)nd*

      I think others have given excellent advice so here’s some commiseration: it’s SO HARD starting a new job when you’re depressed! It sounds like you are doing a really good job at looking after yourself & communicating when you need to, and honestly I get that you are feeling small and crushed (I would too!) but from here it sounds like your boss is just reacting in the moment, and it will not be a big deal. Good luck! I hope the depression lifts soon <3

  49. Anon Exec*

    Question : As a manager/senior leader, how do you balance compassion for employee circumstances with ethics and honesty?

    Scenario : There is evidence of an employee deliberately falsifying their employee title and salary on company letterhead to qualify for a rental living space.

    Conundrum : The employee will undoubtedly suffer natural consequences of their housing not going through after employment verification was returned with true title and salary. They are not in a leadership position or HR (where ethics have to be part of consideration when there is wrongdoing), yet this calls to mind some other questions that have been raised around truth telling in the hours they are putting on their timecard for their work product.

    However, I am well aware of the current economy, as well as barriers and challenges they likely face due to their personal identity. I think I’m struggling not only on a personal level of how can I trust this individual, as well as the ethics clauses that are in our employee handbook as well as stated and company values around honesty and transparency — but I understand folks are sometime put into tough situations.

    Thoughts?

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Are they claiming they make less than they do in order to qualify for some type of assisted housing? That means they are stealing a spot from someone who actually does need that assistance. That should help you when you think about how to deal with it.

      Or are they claiming they make more, in which case they probably can’t afford the rent and will end up getting evicted?

      I don’t see where lying will ultimately help them. You can feel compassion and still support ethical behavior.

      1. Anon Exec*

        Claiming more, likely to satisfy rental requirements for 3x times monthly rent. I think my quandry lies more in — is there more I should be doing within the workplace to address this behavior or should I let it go since it’s not “work product”.

    2. ferrina*

      Well…..yeah, I’d assume that they are lying or jazzing up the truth on other issues. But at the same time, we all lie given the right circumstances. Sometimes scrupulously honest people suck, because they don’t act on nuances. So the real question is how okay this person is with lying and what they are willing to lie for.

      I knew someone that would lie any time he might be blamed for something. This was THE WORST. He would talk himself in circles and withhold crucial information because he thought it made him look bad. You would need to manipulate and trick him into telling the truth. It was unteneable.

      On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the hard-working junior employee who worked 65 hours the last two weeks, is at 38 hours this week, but HR says if they leave early they have to take half a day of PTO. None of us would blame that person for spending the last 2 “working hours” watching TikToks.

      The detail that they used company letterhead though….that one gets me. That’s some serious forethought and commitment to the lie. Consider what you know about this person’s personal circumstance (i.e., was this “I need a place to live or I’m couch-surfing/in a dangerous neighborhood” or was it “I really want to live in the #1 neighborhood of my choice”- speaks to base needs vs entitlement), how they react to stress/disappointment in general (do they lash out? blame shift? handle it with grace and nuance?) and how key their role is. This may be a case of let it slide but keep an eye out for any other issues, quietly block promotions, or start pushing them out the door.
      Good luck.

      1. Anon Exec*

        Thanks so much – you’ve landed pretty much where I’m at and the company letterhead to me was the clincher (it was essentially photoshopped over the original hiring information). It’s more challenging to address (oddly) with a junior person ; it seems much more clear cut if they are in leadership.

    3. urguncle*

      Property management companies put people in impossible circumstances to get an apartment. They require an income to rent ratio that is not compatible with the wages being paid in the area. Frequently, they don’t take into account other income (like a partner living off an academic stipend) or if someone is looking for roommates. It’s not unethical to not want to be unhoused. Frequently, management companies don’t follow up on this because they ultimately don’t care.

    4. RM*

      Shit, when I was working marginal poverty jobs, my bosses were the ones that falsified information for me when I needed to move! They offered without any hinting, just the knowledge that I needed to move. “Just tell me what I need to them..”
      I think you have a weird perspective on this. Recent dramatic rent increases have meant that a decent percentage of us have gone from feeling confident that we could secure basic housing to living in fear about how soon we’ll be forced to move, and what our shitty options will be at that time.

      1. Anon Exec*

        There are pretty severe legal ramifications for a business to provide false information on wages, so I don’t think I have a weird perspective. I understand the rental market and other challenges folks face – which (I thought) was pretty clear in my original post; but that doesn’t allay my ethical concerns about what else might be happening or whether this indicates deeper trustworthiness on the business end. It definitely sucks.

    5. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      First of all, let me say that in many, many places in the US, housing that is both safe and affordable is impossible to find, so I understand that your employee probably felt like she had no choice.

      You said ‘job title,’ which makes me think that the employee was falsifying information to get housing that’s job-restricted (i.e., teachers, nurses, etc.) That means her lie (although it’s been found out) would have taken housing from someone who legitimately qualified for it, and while she also legitimately needs housing, lying to edge out someone who qualifies for it does call into question her ethics.

    6. Radish Queen*

      1) What an employee does outside of work should rarely impact how they are treated at work. For example, I think it is unethical to cheat on your spouse. Most people agree it’s not a good thing to do. Unless this affair impacts your job (ex: you are having an affair with a subordinate), this choice should not impact how they are managed. Management at work should focus on work things (time cards should be addressed! but separate from anything else)

      2) Housing is hard for some individuals to secure. Credit is hard to rebuild. Rent requirements can be above and beyond what is reasonable given local wages. If you believe your employee is at risk of being housing insecure, in my opinion it’s ethical to try and help them. An unhoused employee is much more likely to miss work / be late etc due to instability. Helping doesn’t mean you help them lie if that would be problematic as others have stated, but hopefully you can find other ways like an EAP etc.

      1. SofiaDeo*

        But they used a company letterhead; they dragged work into it. Not the same as a cheating spouse or other “non work” thing IMO.

    7. Old and Don’t Care*

      I would have very little empathy for someone who used company letterhead to communicate false information. Who knows what else they thought they can justify and do something similar. I would have an extremely serious conversation with them leaving no doubt that this is Not Done.

      1. Anon Exec*

        Thanks – that is my concern as well. Still pondering my next steps but I appreciate folks chiming in on this!

        1. Another_JD*

          I’d definitely have a serious chat with the employee about what happened and why, then go from there.

    8. Educator*

      The correct way to fix the housing crisis plaguing so many of our cities is not to allow individuals to lie, which ultimately disadvantages ethical people who won’t do that, and individuals who genuinely should be the beneficiaries of targeted programs. Instead, we need to vote for policies (and leaders) that improve rental protections, support the development of affordable housing, and require jobs and benefits to pay a living wage. I don’t think it is helpful to cheat the system when what we really need to do, urgently, is FIX the system. I helped with some of that on Tuesday, and we need to keep going!

      Your employee lied while speaking on behalf of the company for personal gain. You can be very empathetic to the mitigating factors, but that is still a huge breach of professional trust. I would start by asking open-ended “what happened here” kind of questions. See how big of a deal the employee thinks this is. Ask about the timecards too. I think their reactions will tell you whether you can rebuild trust.

      I would also loop in HR, given the liability an employee falsifying documents can create. In many places I have worked, this employee would be automatically fired.

  50. Cruciatus*

    What do you do when you’re unsure about references?

    My previous manager might give me a good reference, but she could never just let you have a good review, it was always “you were fine, but this one insignificant thing is going to be put into your review…”. (And this wasn’t just with me specifically). It’s been 5 years so maybe she’d be happy to help out, but I could also easily not use her because during the pandemic she moved to Florida, remarried, changed her name. It could be “hard” for me to find her if anyone asked why I didn’t use my previous manager.

    My manager before that (different employer) loved me, but he retired. I can probably find his information (everything I had was his previous work info–work phone, work email).

    And then if I go past him we’re talking about a manager from 11 years ago, at one of my first serious jobs. It seems like it’s getting a little too long ago to use him.

    But employers generally want 3 references, and normally they should be people who actually supervised you, right? I just keep worrying about this and then never applying to other jobs because I don’t want to deal with it, but I’m trying to get past that now! I’m not confident in my references but I’m ready to think about moving on.

    1. Wiscokate*

      Your references definitely don’t all have to be people who supervised you. Some places will have a requirement about how many need to be supervisors, but I generally use one former supervisor and two colleagues. Supervisor input it great, but as someone who has hired, it’s also beneficial to know what kind of peer someone is.

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

        I think you can also include external clients or vendors depending, on your job, or people within the org that you work directly with (the higher their title the better). So an EA for the VP of Marketing could reasonably ask the VP of Sales (or their EA) to be a reference as well.

        For the OP, there isn’t anyone who might have kept in touch with your previous managers that could pass along a request to contact you?

      2. tessa*

        Actually, sometimes hiring managers and search committees do require a reference from a current supervisor, or a supervisor from no later than a few years ago.

    2. Cruciatus*

      And if you’re curious about the insignificant thing…I worked in an academic school office and for whatever reason, the director had faculty also rate us and even though like 99% of comments were about how great I was, ONE person said they “didn’t like my tone” when I answered the phone once. That person could have been having a bad day. I could have been having a bad day, but this got put into my annual review, but none of the other “Cruciatus is great!” comments did. Argh! So, this pettiness is why I’m concerned about using her as a reference.

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

        It could definitely be pettiness, but it’s possible they make sure to always include something to “improve” or want you to know positive and negative comments so that you never feel blindsided in the future. Your example doesn’t really strike me as odd for a review unless there were out of proportion consequences, like you were passed over for promotion or lost a bonus for 1 complaint.

        1. Cruciatus*

          I don’t know, I find it unfair that faculty had an opening to review the office staff in the first place (we don’t get to review faculty!), and I was the main phone answerer. There was no other context added. So one random, anonymous faculty member who just didn’t like my tone that day had an oversized say in my annual review when all the other comments were great. It’s possible I wasn’t the one who even answered the phone. It’s possible the line was bad. It’s possible I had 5 faculty standing over me demanding things and I was less focused on the caller than I could be in that moment. Not 1 other person had such a complaint (and I worked in a school with over 100 faculty). Meh, I’ll just never be convinced this was the best option.

        2. Luca*

          A staffer at PastEmployer is one of their top people, and absolutely no one even thinks about trying to B.S. her.

          If they ever found anything to criticize her for, I’d definitely be curious to know what.

    3. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      Coworkers are fine references, especially if you worked closely with them, and if you’ve had long tenures, which it sounds like you have, it makes perfect sense why you’re giving them people who can speak to your more recent work rather than a supervisor from 11 years ago. Ideally, you’d have a reference from at least one former boss, but it’s just not always possible if your current manager isn’t an option.

    4. Educator*

      Honestly, your previous manager sounds like a great reference. Someone who notes strengths and a few insignificant areas for improvement is much more credible to me as a hiring manager than someone who only offers praise. We all have things to work on, and it really annoys me when references pretend the person I might be hiring is perfect. The whole point of checking references is to get to know the candidate better.

      And a retired reference is also a win–he is much more likely to pick up the phone during the day!

      I agree that eleven years ago is too long. But if you gave me these two former managers, I could feel very confident that there were no performance issues, and I would be glad to have a peer’s perspective on your work for the third.

      Other possibilities–supervisors from volunteer work, clients, non-manager mentors?

      Don’t lie about people being hard to find. I would take that as a problematic lack of resourcefulness. It’s 2022, and everyone you ever worked with is finable if you use the internet and your professional network.

  51. Blargh*

    Next week, I get to lay off 4 well-performing people because my department leadership has made a really dumbass decision. (My director threatened to quit over it. Didn’t work.) If anyone has any thoughts on how I can do this as empathetically as possible, I welcome that. I want to do my due diligence both by the people I am losing, and the remaining members of a tight-knit team. So far I’ve reached out to my network to see if they’re hiring people with these skill sets in hopes of being able to refer them to work with people I trust; they will effectively not be asked to work (but will be paid) between the notification date and their official last day; and the remainder of their team will also be taking the rest of the day off to process if they want to do that.

    1. Kelly Kapoor*

      Take a look at how the Stripe layoffs went – the tone of their letter might be something to emulate.

    2. M2*

      I think it’s really commendable you are asking your network if there are any openings. Will these people get a severance? I think the best thing you can do is offer a great reference for all of them… and tell them that.

      This is so crappy especially around the Holidays.

      1. Blargh*

        These folks are receiving severance, though one is a relatively new hire and I am talking to HR about what theirs is going to look like. I’m afraid he’s going to get shafted.

        Three of them are really solid performers whose only sin has been that I’m now going to be running an underpowered team, which means I need to refocus the team’s priorities, and their best skills happen to be skills that are not as valuable to the work the team will be doing. Damn right I’ll be a reference.

    3. FrogPen*

      The last time I went through this, because of a specific situation we essentially gave my team 90 days notice while others in the company were term’d same day. It was good in some respects, but it also made things harder in others.

      After having the individual meetings with the affected employees (I told each one they should take the rest of the day to digest) I met with the remaining team. I told them what had happened. I made sure to state that it wasn’t performance driven. I was able to tell them at that point that I their jobs were not included in the RIF. I asked them to give space and be respectful as individuals were still being informed across the company. And really just told them that the situation sucked and I was sorry that it had happened. I told everyone that all expectations were off the table for the rest of the week (the announcements were on a Thursday).

      During that 90 days… I was able to suggest they go into the system to get copies of their performance evaluations to help with resume writing, (in some cases I was able to send copies that I had saved from previous systems) I offered (unofficially) to be a reference if they needed one, for the time they worked I gave them clear transition related work and told them I’d be as flexible as they needed for time off.

      For the remaining members of the team I ended up speaking with each one individually (eventually) to give them an opportunity to ask questions or vent.

      Going forward after the affected employees left, I gave it a few days and then focused on rebuilding the remaining team (in my case that included replacement/new team members because the reason for the layoff was the job moving to a different location).

      My situation was a little different than yours, so make sure you aren’t breaking any policies or rules. Sorry you’re going through this, worst day for a manager. Clearly also the worst day for the employees both affected directly and those that remain.

  52. Marmaduke Marmalade*

    Does anyone have knowledge of/experience with call monitoring software?  A position I applied for uses call center software, but this isn’t a customer service rep sort of job where anyone can call in.  The role is case management, so it involves a specific caseload and frequent/extensive follow-up with them.  It is not an emergency hotline of any sort.    I am a bit concerned because they monitor how long it takes you to pick up an incoming call, and the percent of calls that go to your voicemail (provided you’re not already on a call).

      I have a learning disability, and it takes me longer to review case notes/write up documentation.  The expectation for this job is that you pick up all calls as they come in.   So to meet the metrics, you need to pick up incoming calls even if you’re writing up case notes/doing email follow-up on another case.  Essentially, it sounds like to do well, you need to complete most of  your documentation/follow-up while on the call.  I get extremely distracted and overwhelmed when I constantly have to switch tasks, or write write comprehensive notes while on the phone.  Not to mention, for a case management job, this doesn’t seem particularly efficient.  From doing jobs like this in the past, it is usually easier to let a call go to voicemail, and then return the call once you have a chance to review the case/look into the matter they’re calling about, etc. Interrupting what I’m doing just to say “I’ll look into this, and get back to you later,” is a recipe for me losing track of what I was doing, forgetting to follow up with people, etc. I do best when I can designate certain times of the day for listening to voicemails, making return calls, completing other outbound calls, etc.

    I don’t really know what accommodations to request, other than asking if they could use a different metric – rather than evaluating me on the # of times my phone rings before I pick up or the percent of time I send calls to my voicemails, just focusing on me returning the calls in a timely manner. However, I don’t know if this would be considered a “reasonable” accommodation per say. Any ideas? 

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      It sounds like this isn’t the job for you. They obviously think this is a good idea, but it sounds like a nightmare.

    2. Phone Lady*

      I work on contact center reporting software. They are probably relying on built-in reports to the software that runs the contact center. They could theoretically build a special report that captures what you want, but I don’t know that would do that or want to do that.

      For whatever reason, this place feels that answering calls immediately is important. That is why they are measuring it. (Or this place is so dysfunctional that they measure and rate you on things that aren’t important.) So to me, this doesn’t seem like a good fit for you. You could ask why they do this. In a call center, we generally try not to call back because it can be difficult to get in contact with the caller again. But if it is important to them, then it would not be a reasonable accommodation to let the calls go to voicemail.

    3. linger*

      The only way to meet this metric is to spend a lot of the actual call time repeating back and confirming details, giving you the time to complete and check your own notes while still on the call.

  53. Mimmy*

    Forgot about one question from my post above about the interview I had this morning: When writing the follow-up, is it ever okay to clarify something discussed? If so, can y’all help me talk this through? Sorry for the length – more thoughts came to mind as I wrote this.

    There was one question in which I just could not come up with an example. The question asked about whether I prefer working on a team or as an individual contributor and to give an example of when I was most effective, e.g., when I felt like I really contributed to a team project at work or school. I’d said that I like doing both; however, I think the reason I couldn’t think of anything in either scenario is because I haven’t truly worked on team projects where I contributed to the group’s success.

    As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that maybe I’ve never really understood what it means to be on a team vs. what it means to be an individual contributor. I’m part of a “team” (of instructors) at my job where we discuss student progress and concerns, but I’m just contributing my perspective in the context of my discipline. What I say won’t necessarily impact how successful Jane is in teaching the student in her discipline. I’ve also been on grant review panels, but again–I just gave my assessment and scores. In short, I think I’ve been more of an individual contributor even if they say I’m part of a “team”.

    I enjoy collaborating with others because it helps me either confirm my thoughts or offer different perspectives; it’s always been a valuable learning experience, though I do sometimes have difficulty following discussions. I think I’d enjoy being on a team project, but I have to figure out what that really means since I don’t have experience with this outside of school projects.

    Please tell me that I’m on track with my thinking on this! Would any of this be appropriate to mention in a follow up email to this morning’s panel?

    1. ferrina*

      You may be overthinking this. “Do you work better individually or on teams?” is a really common question. It’s right there with “Why did you leave your last job?”- interviewers are just doing a quick check for red flags and make sure that we’re not offering you something you’ll hate. If you prefer collaborating and we’re hiring for the most solitary role at the company, well, not a fit. If you say you like working with teams but then have a snarky remark about “as long as the team is smart enough to keep up with me”, yep, red flag.

      It’s super normal to have candidates say that they are happy working with either. And from what you describe, that’s an accurate description of you. At this point it will probably be weird for you to re-open this question in the email; probably just let it go.

    2. Educator*

      I’ve circled back to interview questions in the follow up email. Sometimes the best responses for behavioral questions come to you after the fact! Just do it in a non-apologetic way. Something like “I enjoyed learning more about the collaborative culture at Company because I’ve always enjoyed both sharing my expertise in X and learning from my colleagues’ experiences during Current Job’s professional working group. It is exciting to think about how I might share my work in Y and Z with teammates at Company.

      I would also practice your answer to this, because it is such a common question. You can usually tell from the job description whether the role is more individual or collaborative (or both!), then answer accordingly.

  54. Tau*

    Somewhat silly question is somewhat silly, but I’m actually stumped about the etiquette here.

    Up until a few days ago, I was one of two Taus at my company. Other Tau was very much beloved and her quitting was met with a lot of tears from my colleagues. Tau is a fairly uncommon name here – I was the first other Tau she’d ever met, and I’d only known two others very peripherally. I do not expect another Tau to join anytime soon.

    Would it be seen as bad taste to change my Slack handle to @Tau? (it’s currently “@Tau Surname (role)” in an attempt to avoid us getting mixed up). Other Tau gave me enthusiastic unprompted permission the last time we talked, but I’m not sure if some of the people who’ve worked with her for a long time and were upset about her leaving would take it badly.

    Cultural context, for the record, is Germany but a highly international employee pool. (Who are generally from places where Tau is an even less common name than here.)

    1. LizB*

      Can you wait a while? I don’t think it’s in bad taste to make the change, but it’s kind of weird to do it as fast as possible after she quit. I’d give it a couple weeks after her actual last day, when it will be less on people’s minds.

      1. Tau*

        This makes sense! I’ve been thinking of switching to something like @A-Lonely-Tau or @Tau-Seeking-Other-Tau or something similarly jokey for a bit to “pay my respects”, so to speak – if I left that for a few weeks I could switch to just @Tau afterwards.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      What would you gain by changing it?

      It’s not really a big deal one way or another. Even if someone thinks it’s in bad taste, they’ll forget in a week or two.

      1. Tau*

        It’s not really a big deal either way, as you say, but most of the people with unique first names in the company just use their names, including both of us Taus before a merger put us together. It’d be different if I expected us to potentially hire another Tau in the near-mid future, but I really don’t.

        But LizB’s advice of waiting for a few weeks and then going for it seems like a good way forward!

    3. techie*

      I personally would just do it; they didn’t die, after all! shouldn’t be an emotional thing for anyone reasonable.

    4. Westsidestory*

      I wouldn’t change it. If your company is international, your current handle is established and remote colleagues may not “recognize” you, so you wind up losing any past good vibes from past communications.

  55. Gunk*

    For anyone who has taken a sabbatical/career break/leave of absence – what influenced your timing of when you took it? I’ve been dreaming of taking an unpaid break (company allows up to 3 years!) but keep sort of waiting for a ‘push’ to actually do it. I have nothing in particular pushing or pulling me, just a very real need for a rest and time to travel.

    1. M2*

      I did this twice. The first time I had a job lined up 6 months after and then the second time I didn’t have a job lined up but I had lots of emergency funds. I changed careers (private sector to public sector) and then the other was due to burnout.

      I would make sure you have the savings and extra in case there are layoffs at your company and you need extra funds while you apply for other roles.

      I’m happy I took that time and grateful for it, but I budgeted and spent the year before taking the time off to keep to a budget and make sure I had enough for international and US health insurance, travel expenses etc.

      I also made a plan of what I wanted to do with budget, time line, etc so I already had it (mostly) planned. It gave me something to look forward to as I was cutting my budget and saving like crazy. It also gave me the time to find cheap airlines. Good luck!

  56. Ellis Bell*

    The recent letter about it being challenging to bring in treats if a colleague is gluten intolerant made me think of some of the best things people have brought in to share which are readily available and pre packaged (for those who have a contamination sensitivity). I think my favourites are: Cadbury creme eggs/mini eggs, chocolate or vanilla Daim cake (every supermarket in the UK sells this, and so does IKEA,) corn tacos (Taco Bell!), Plain wrapped chocolate, and tortillas. Predicated of course on asking coworker in advance “hey can you eat this?” as people have different sensitivities up to the point they would not be eating anything they themselves haven’t bought. Anyone got any other tips?

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Crudites and dip (hummus, yogurt, cheese, you name it!). Fruit and dip. Mixed nuts. Lettuce cups. There are literally dozens of things that do no contain any type of flour in their natural state. It’s weird how people get hung up on flour substitutes.

      1. Gracely*

        The main issue I’ve ever seen with flour substitutes is ones that are made from other common allergens like nuts–and those you just have to make sure everyone knows “hey, this is made with almond flour.” Food substitutes can create problems for people if they don’t know what’s been swapped with what. My father-in-law had to avoid a lot of vegan food at his work–he’s deathly allergic to cashews, and there are a surprising number of vegan foods made with those.

        But yeah, if you go with snacks that are fundamentally what-you-see-is-what-you-get like fruit/veggie trays, cheese, charcuterie, you can easily avoid flour.

    2. Future silver banker*

      Bizarrely enough: single pouches of olives. Some with lemon and herbs, some with chili… most successful treat ever

    3. Jessica Ganschen*

      I’m not sure how widely available they are, but in my area, Target and Kroger-owned grocery stores have this brand called The Original Cakerie that sells really good gluten-free cakes. I usually get the chocolate or strawberry, and they’re always a big hit at potlucks at my synagogue.

  57. Tiny Food From Spain*

    Can anyone share their experience with renewing a union contract? I started a new job earlier this year and it’s my first experience being in a union. Our current contract ends on December 31 so we’re due for our renewal. The only contact we’ve had with the union was when they sent a one-question survey asking what we think a fair pay increase would be for the next five years. There was a section for additional comments so most of us added additional requests like more sick and vacation time, retirement benefits to match what another department has in their union contract, and longevity pay increases. Right now everyone with the same title earns the same salary regardless of how long they’ve worked here. I make the same as my co-worker who has worked here for 20+ years, which I find absurd.

    Aside from sending someone to pick up those surveys, we’ve been unable to get anyone from the union to interact with us. We don’t have a shop steward but our union is small with less than 10 members. I know at least four people have reached out individually to the union and never receive an email or a call back. I’m worried they don’t plan to discuss this with us and will just put together the new contract and present that to our management without involving us any further. Is this normal? What level of interaction and involvement should we have in this process?

    1. Anon for this one*

      You all are not being well represented by your union. You should have a business agent’s contact info, and all 10 of you need to call him/her and demand a meeting to get an update on the new contract. BTW if your entire group (or a majority thereof) isn’t happy with your representation, you can leave this union, join another, or be unrepresented.

      1. 1LFTW*

        I’m inclined to agree with this. My union was pretty badly broken during the Great Recession, but even so, our rep is more or less available to answer questions (he represents literally several thousand workers, so sometimes it can take awhile, but the point is that he answers questions eventually!)

        Which brings me to your worksite/bargaining unit having no shop steward: your union probably offers shop steward training of some kind, and your rep should be encouraging someone at your worksite to complete that training. The whole point of unions is to empower workers to act on their own behalf… and when workers can do that on site, it’s less work for the rep.

        The salary thing, though, is pretty normal. My position, for instance, requires a certain number of hours in order to receive the top tier of the pay band. The rationale is that Person A might have done all those hours at my org, while Person B might be new to this org, but have accumulated the same experience elsewhere.

    2. Billiards15*

      A couple of things, it’s not unusual for everyone to making the same amount regardless of years of service. Typically there is a pay band, the top of which can be reached within a few years. Beyond that, any raises are based on what is negotiated.

      The survey is a little sparse, but as long as they gave you an opportunity to provide comments, you should be fine.

      At lest one member, generally more, should be present during negotiations. Also, the membership needs to ratify the contract, so you need to vote on it.

      Since you are so small, you probably don’t “rate” when it comes to the Union you are part of. I’m not saying this is right, just the reality, but it’s not acceptable.

      In saying all of this, I don’t know how your Union is set up. What I’ve outlined is typical of my experience.

      1. Billiards15*

        One point of clarification, when I said everyone making the same amount, I mean everyone in the same position not everyone employed by the company.

  58. Tex*

    I have to write my annual self-performance result. As a subject matter expert, how do I show growth that I did the same work for the same sort of projects? I can say handled X% more projects this year, but they’re not all really comparable because they can go on preliminary track A, regular track B or expanded track C. So even if I had two C projects, it would be much more work than six A projects.

    1. ferrina*

      There are so many ways to grow! Increased efficiency, increased accuracy, more complex projects. It can help to give some context for why this is tricky- I once wrote “managed the largest contract in Department’s history” which I thought was unnecessary (it was 3x as big as any previous contract)- but it turned out my VP had no idea this was a historic contract!
      Say what made it tricky, what your success looked like (i.e., describe creative/ingenious/intensely hard solutions you applied) and what it meant for the company. That should speak for itself.

    2. Kupo*

      To prep for my latest performance review, it was helpful to identify what I could put in my resume, e.g., demonstrated increased % efficiencies in a KPI.

  59. Anonymous for this*

    My mentor and closest colleague went to a doctor’s appointment for some symptoms and walked out with a cancer diagnosis. We what the treatment steps will be. I will be stepping more fully into the planning role for our job function and working with the person stepping in to provide coverage when needed. If you have walked through this as a patient, with a colleague, or a friend, what things did you find helpful for them and for yourself?

    Thank you. This has rocked her world and all of those who work with her – she has been our rock and cheerleader through the panini.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      I’m so sorry. Depending on what kind of cancer and the kinds of treatments, your colleague might feel fairly fine (my exMIL who had a type of stomach cancer had it impact her physically very little; likewise the kind of chemo and radiation a close family friend had for her lung cancer slowed her down for a while but not very badly) or alternately could be “literally can not walk more than one or two feet without needing a break and cannot stomach eating anything” which was my mom’s experience with the kind of chemo she needed for her breast cancer treatments. I would plan based on the second scenario (she is completely out and unable to work for many months) that way you are prepared, and if things work out where she has it easier: awesome, you didn’t need to have all those emergency plans! But if you need them you will be MUCH happier that you planned them in advance as much as possible. You might also consider hiring temp coverage depending on the role and what kinds of things can be more easily delegated.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Thank you so much for your response. I’m a planner and I know that I will plan based on the second scenario. Its good for me to hear that there’s a gamut of responses to chemo – my only real experiences with cancer are when my grandfather had it and lived with it for 7 years when I was a child and when a much older colleague had it my first year in the workforce and passed 3 weeks after diagnosis. There’s my worry for her and then also my worry for keeping the work boat pulling in the right-ish direction.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I will say firstly that cancer covers an awful lot and her experience is likely to be very much her own.

      I had thyroid cancer two years ago. I was out of work for a month after my operation and…that was basically it. I only told a small number of people that it was cancer – the principal, my head of department and one other colleague who was good friends with my head of department so I didn’t want to put my head of department in a position of having to keep a secret from her. Everybody else just heard that I was getting my thyroid removed.

      My head of department simply asked what would help me, which was the best thing she could have done. In my case, I simply wanted things to continue as normally as possible.

      A couple of things that helped me were that my colleagues were extremely supportive. I got numerous messages while I was in hospital, asking how I was and a number of colleagues got me small gifts beforehand. I also had a teacher I knew covering for me, so I knew my classes were well taken care of (they did greet my return with “thank goodness you’re back. Sub teacher was making us WRITE ESSAYS,” the last said in tones of utter disgust).

      You may not have control over this but somebody should probably check with her about how much contact she wants from work while she is out for treatment, if she is out for more than a short period. As I was pretty much fine after a couple of days (but just needed to time for my neck and voice to heal fully as I needed to be able to turn my head quickly and to be able to make myself heard in busy classrooms without losing my voice), I was glad to be involved and actually did a course my principal asked teachers to do if possible while out. But other people might not want to be contacted about work at all.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Thank you for your response. I’m trying to be as vague as possible as I’ve turned some friends onto AAM – but we are classroom teachers so your response is SO helpful. I appreciate it so much – your comment has given me a lot to think about for the logistics of the humans that we are and also the teachers that we are.

    3. Best wishes to your friend*

      Oh, that is hard news. When a coworker in our office was diagnosed and started undergoing treatment, we set up a rotation of people to drop meals off at his house. He did not have the energy to cook, was single and had no family or close friends in the area. I would also look into Caring Bridge. It’s a website that lets you (or the patient) post updates (only if they want to, of course) so they don’t have to answer the same questions dozens of times. But it also has a scheduling feature where they can relate what they need and people can sign up for whatever works for them. A friend used this (with her daughter actually doing all the work to set it up and update it), and it worked very well both for patient and her friends. Instead of asking “how can I help,” which sometimes is too vague, a friend can go on the site and sign up for whatever need fits their schedule. Some things I saw posted were: “Someone to grocery shop on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday,” “Please visit to say hi for 30 minutes sometime in the next two weeks,” “Come over and do laundry for an hour,” etc.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Thank you so much for your response. She’s got a huge family in our area, but hates to accept help. I love the idea of a Caring Bridge – I may suggest that to her husband and her best friend. Especially after this Friday when she gets the treatment plan.

    4. Educator*

      I think the most important thing is to ask your colleague! Give her a few days to process, then say something like “Everyone here sees you as their rock and cheerleader, and is very eager to support you during your treatment. What would be the most helpful way for me to direct that energy?” And have a couple of ideas, ranging from the full meal train to being treated as normally as possible and never talking about this again. Different people have really different reactions to this kind of diagnosis and the role they want work to play in their lives while they manage it. The most respectful and kind thing is to make no assumptions about what a cancer patient is “supposed” to want and need.

      Also, because I see that you are teachers–it is really helpful to get the whole team on the same page about what is being shared with students and families, and exactly what language will be used. You want to protect your colleague’s privacy as much as they want to be protected–parents are nosy!–while also supporting students, some of whom might already have traumatic cancer experiences in their personal histories. It might be helpful to pull in someone with a counseling/social work background to help think this through–I’ve seen it handled both very well and very poorly.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Thank you so much. I love that language you gave, and I love that about pulling in the guidance department and our school social worker when the students and families find out.

  60. Other Alice*

    Some disappointing developments with the 2 projects I’m involved with (in a consulting position). Project A is going slowly, due to the customer scheduling many unnecessary meetings and also several database issues on their side. Customer is unhappy with the slow progress and wants me to put in more hours. My manager now wants to pull me away from Project B so I can work full time on project A. He thinks my coworker Katie who’s been working on B with me can take full ownership of the project.

    Katie is a wonderful person and she’s done a lot of good work on the project in the past few months, but I’m concerned she is still not able to be 100% autonomous. She often gets stumped on technical issues and has to ask me for assistance. Katie is my peer but I have several more years of experience in this industry and I’m afraid that if we leave her on her own we’d be setting her up for failure. I’ve shared all of this with my manager, but he thinks we should go ahead and pull me away from Project B and see how it goes. I already talked with Katie about this and she immediately said “but I can still ask you for support, right?” and I had to tell her no, if I have to commit to a full time engagement with Project A, I really won’t have time for anything more than a couple hours a week. I’m already working 45-50 hours a week (my choice, I like the extra money) and unable to take on more.

    I hope that my manager is right and Katie can handle project B on her own. I really don’t want her to crash and burn, and I’m invested in this project after working on it for months, but I don’t think there is anything I can do to help her. I actively can’t help her, or my own work in Project A will suffer. I’ve already asked my manager if it would be possible to at least get a 2nd person involved with Project B, but it might be difficult because staffing is planned well in advance and they’re only moving me to Project A because the customer pulled some strings. Anything else I can do, short of burning out which I won’t?

    1. Tex*

      I would stay out of it. Think of it as a growth opportunity for Katie. Also you manager might have ideas on training her, getting her resources, etc. It sounds like he wants a clone of you and is willing to put in the time to develop Katie.

    2. ferrina*

      Stay out of it. This is your manager’s call and they can/should handle it. And Tex is right- this is a growth opportunity for Katie. It sounds like so far she’s been leaning on you, and it’s reached the point where it’s untenable for you to give her that much support.

      I’m also wondering about Katie’s performance in general- is it possible that she just isn’t great at her job, but she’s been skating by because of your support? You say you have a few more years in the industry, but outside of the first couple years where one is really learning the industry, “a few years” shouldn’t make a huge difference on a basic project.

    3. Anon for This*

      Stay out of it. Maybe Katie will rise to the occasion. But I went through this myself, and when my “Katie” couldn’t handle the job I was expected to save the day. I politely declined, citing my project. My boss was gobsmacked – I think he expected I’d just do both? As he desperately needed me for other projects it didn’t hurt my career.

      Be prepared for this to happen, practice saying “No, I can’t takethat on right now, I don’t
      have the bandwidth”.

  61. Coffee and Plants*

    Thoughts on giving colleague feedback for review time? I have to give feedback on one colleague (to their manager) that is a bit difficult to work with and has some things that need to be addressed, but I’m having a hard time with trying to think of diplomatic ways to say it. I don’t want to come across like I’m just complaining.

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

      Stick to facts and quantifiable impact… when coworker does x behavior, that affects y in z ways.

      ie. Coworker argued with Purchasing over the paperwork, this slowed the approval for the widget expense and could slow future requests, and this caused your team to miss the project deadline in October. They have argued with Purchasing on x number of requests in the last 3 months.

    2. AnonyAnony*

      Make sure to focus on stating specific behaviors that you observed, and stating specifically how those behaviors impacted you, or your colleagues, or the work outcomes, or the work culture? If you can identify the specific negative impacts, then it’s much less likely that you’ll come across as just complaining. If you only made vague statements like “She is a difficult to work with” then it can sound like you are bad mouthing them.

      “In the team meeting last week, I noticed when someone asked Cantankerina a question to clarify something, she rolled her eyes, made an audible sigh, and said “How many times do I have to explain this to you people!” but she kept repeating the same things she said before without adding any clarifications. My concern was when she did that, not only did the team member not get the clarification that they needed to move the project forward, her actions also significantly contributed to an uncollaborative, negative work environment “

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

        “She is a difficult to work with” then it can sound like you are bad mouthing them.

        Agreed to avoid vague statements because they can also, perhaps unintentionally, be sexist/racist etc. if those vague phrases are ones that typically get hurled at certain groups. “Difficult to work with” is a pretty typical criticism for a woman or POC who speaks/acts with authority, or refuses to acquiesce to non-standard demands, etc. …a man doing the same behaviors would not get labelled.

  62. Alice*

    I was about to post a question, but then I realized the answer was — your annoying co-worker has not actually done anything wrong in this case, you are just at BEC stage with them. So, thanks Alison and commenters, for giving me enough perspective to recognize when I am being unreasonable. ;)

  63. Je ne sais what*

    Thoughts on when to ask about parental leave policies?

    I’m casually looking for a new job, preferably in a different area of the country. I’m mostly happy in my current position, but the pay is abysmal even for my field (non-instructional higher education, think campus programming and back-end educational support). The benefits and culture are really great and I truly enjoy my work, so I don’t want to leave unless I can get paid closer to the market value of my skills in addition to equitable benefits. In my area, it’s really unusual to have fully paid parental leave in any capacity; I’m eligible for 12 weeks fully paid, after the first year of employment, plus any accrued vacation time I want to use. It’s also unusual in that they don’t differentiate between the birthing parent and non-birthing parent. It’s a sweet deal, since my same-sex spouse is currently pregnant, due in late spring. The fact that my employer has set up the parental leave policy without many cis-het assumptions is really amazing, especially in my region.

    So as I’m looking at jobs, I’m being pretty picky about what I apply for. I don’t want to invest a lot of time and energy into an application process if the benefits and culture won’t be comparable. I’m especially focusing on making sure that if there is parental leave offered, it would kick in pretty quickly if I were to change jobs before the baby comes, and that it is actually parental leave, and not short-term disability, since non-birthing parents aren’t eligible for that in most cases. Any advice on how to ask about this in a tactful way before I invest too much time in the application process?

    1. Josh S*

      I would not ask about “Parental Leave” in particular, simply because it opens you up to too much discrimination (as illegal as that discrimination is, and whether it’s intentional or not–it happens!)
      Instead, I’d ask early on for a summary of their benefits alongside salary range. This would usually be appropriate to ask of an HR Recruiter-type after the first screening call, but you said ‘higher ed’ where normal procedures are not necessarily common. So I’d say after the first ‘real’ interview when you follow up to reiterate your interest, say something like “After our conversation I’m really excited about the potential for this role. [insert reasons why, blah blah] I’m looking forward to continuing our conversation and showing how I can be an awesome fit for your org [blah blah blah].
      Also, could you connect me with someone who can give an outline of the Benefits (Health insurance/401k) and policies around things like PTO/Sick time/Parental Leave/etc so I can have a better sense of that?”

      Hope that helps!

      1. Je ne sais what*

        So the issue I’ve run into with that approach, is often the benefits summary is just a summary, and doesn’t answer the specific questions I have, especially around eligibility. It is really common in non-profits and higher ed for employees to gain eligibility for parental leave only after a full year of employment. But often that isn’t mentioned in the summary of benefits. It’ll just say that they offer x weeks of leave at x% pay. I’m seeing immediate eligibility in my field more often than I used to, so I can’t assume one way or the other, and that’s where I’m stuck.

  64. Alice in Funderland*

    I’m a bit at my wit’s end with my department head and would love some advice. She’s a lovely lady but absolute chaos when it comes to projects. Here’s how things often go with her:
    1.) Project is decided on and we get her/executive input
    2.) Line manager and I spend weeks carefully crafting a timeline, writing copy, getting images, etc
    3.) Department head feeds back, then approves, and we schedule it all to go out
    4.) Last-minute, department head either decides she doesn’t like any of it or suddenly has no memory of making any changes/no idea what the project is about, throws in a bunch of last-minute changes that make no sense, and asks me to drop everything to fix it all by the deadline
    5.) I drop everything and change to her new specifications, then three hours later she decides she hates it and makes me sit down and make changes with her (like, typing on laptops in the same room) which often end up making it identical to the exact thing she approved in the first place

    Many times, steps 4 and 5 involve other departments who are involved in the project, meaning I’m having to ask them to scramble at the last minute for something that will likely get changed. My line manager is pretty okay at fielding my department head off from this cycle but not always, and when he is on leave I have no standing to really try and stop it so instead am stuck scrambling and dropping all my other work.

    This is on top of often her saying something very vaguely (or in her head) which she decides is a task for me and then later coming to ask me if said task is finished. I try to mitigate this (and the above issue) by recapping tasks at the end of every meeting, asking how high priority tasks are and clarifying that in relation to my other priorities, etc etc but it just seems to keep going on.

    I am neurodivergent and these kinds of unclear, last-minute changes put me in an absolute panic at least once a week. I rarely if ever miss deadlines (mainly because I know my brain and keep strict track of things) but it’s extraordinarily stressful and I can feel pieces starting to fall through the cracks. My job is fine and my coworkers are great, but I’m a bit at a breaking point with my department head and I don’t know what to do. Would love any thoughts and sorry for how long this is!

    1. ferrina*

      Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

      I’ve had a lesser version of this boss, and she sucked. Didn’t matter how many times we checked in with her, she’d always have last minute (stupid) changes. I’d cash in favors with other departments to get it done, and she’d just change her mind. She would go with whatever she liked at the given moment, never thinking about long-term strategy or the people around her.

      Some people can live with this. Some people can even mitigate this (I could mitigate maybe half the time). But people like this also tend to impact you in other ways- you’re constantly stressed, they don’t advocate for raises/promotions for you (since they don’t see/care about your hard work), and they don’t develop your skills in much.

      You should start updating your resume and making an exit plan. Things like this often get worse, and you want to get out before this starts taking a really big toll on your mental health. Most bosses are not like this, and you deserve better.
      Good luck!

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I used to work with a director who drove me similarly crazy. I assumed she was just flaky or didn’t understand how hard she made it for us until the day she walked in and we were doing our standard “24 hours to change everything before it goes to the client” scramble and she beamed and said “I just love all this energy”. She actually enjoyed the chaos! She thought it indicated something positive about energy / teamwork / creativity. Ugh.

    3. Dr. Prepper*

      If your boss is having selective memory in the likes of “I never told you to do that” and the like, especially if you are likely going to be thrown under the bus if it goes south, and conveniently for them there is never anything in writing to back yourself up, you need to be introduced to the CYA email. (Yes, that’s exactly what it stands for.)

      From now on, after each and every encounter – face, phone, zoom or anything else besides – send an email. In it state simply something like this:
      “after our meeting today at 12:00 you directed me (use that word) to perform the following tasks A, B and C. The expected deliverable will be X and Y. The due date is mm/dd/yyyy for the first draft of the deliverable for which a meeting will be scheduled by you (or admin or whatever) to review the results.”
      Please respond if there are any discrepancies in this recounting of today’s direction. If I do not receive a response within 24 hours I will begin the work on the tasks as directed.”

      Send this Every. Single. Time. If they go ballistic the first time or two then simply state that you needed to confirm that everyone had the same expectations and to prevent misunderstandings. If they forbid you to send anymore then it may be time for a meeting with boss, grandboss and HR with documentation of what you’ve been going through.

      1. Girasol*

        A project manager I know did that, and when it didn’t work, ended up printing an agreement and getting the requesting manager to sign it. So when the requesting manager gave us another U turn a week later (“I never said I wanted that!”) the project manager triumphantly pulled out the signed statement and said, “Yes you did, and you signed for it right here, see?” After a pause the requesting manager said, “Oh, that? Well that’s wrong. You’ll have to fix it,” as if she had caught the PM in an error and was asking that it be corrected. I imagine that written proof works on some scatter-minded bosses, but not all.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          The documentation isn’t for the unreasonable boss. It’s for when that boss inevitably throws you under the bus to THEIR boss. Keep the receipts. You’ll need them.

  65. Disgruntled*

    This isn’t a question, but I need to vent and just don’t have anywhere else to do it… I’m so SO frustrated about my compensation right now.

    Normally, my company gives bonuses in December alongside notice of the “merit raise” that takes effect Jan 1 of the following year.

    Earlier this year, though, our company was acquired/merged with another company that has a different Fiscal Year, and therefore a different raise & bonus cycle. Our bonus will still land in December (thank goodness for the kids’ Christmas enjoyment), but the current rumor is that raises won’t come til April (alongside a 1/4-sized bonus depending on whether we hit financial goals in the quarter inbetween, etc).

    With the merger, the cost of our current insurance plan is increasing +30% — for me to cover my family will cost an additional $3300/year starting Jan 1. There are cheaper plans too, but the benefit is so much less that I’d just be paying out-of-pocket on the backend for my family, so that’s really no help either.

    Then earlier this week, the new CEO gets up in a Town Hall and says, “It’s a hard economic year, and merit raises aren’t going to keep pace with inflation. They simply aren’t….”

    And a bit later he says, “We know there’s a lot of change through this merger, our priority is that every employee feels valued through this process.”

    So…summing it all up:
    -My raise won’t keep pace with inflation
    -The raise will come 3 months “late”
    -My benefits cost 30% more, reducing my take-home pay by $3300/year (1/4 of that cost hitting my paycheck before I see any raise at all)
    -Somehow I’m supposed to “feel valued”

    And this year…I’ve taken on a ton more responsibility, helped my business group be as profitable as it’s ever been, took over accounts when a director-level person quit, am spearheading development on 2 of the products that will position our business group for growth in the next 2-5 years, and brought stability when all other members of the 4-person team turned over in the last 12 months. I got top marks on my annual review a couple weeks ago.

    I’m a top performer doing more work more profitably for the company….and the ‘reward’ I get is a reduction in compensation as a result. And I’m walking out the door as soon as I can find a place that will pay me what I’m worth.

      1. Disgruntled*

        Thanks. Just…frustrated. A long year where we accomplished so much, and so little to show for it in ways that matter.

    1. Sympathize*

      Good luck to you. I know how you feel. My company announced we were being bought (hasn’t closed yet) last month. They said they were keeping compensation the same but while salary is the same the benefits are not. Health insurance is more expensive without a contribution to our HSA, fewer holidays, separate vacation and sick instead of PTO (which for someone who has typically rarely used sick time means fewer days off) and much worse matching for the 401k. I have family telling me that our health insurance is still a good deal and it is affordable but it is still a cut in compensation. Our raise usually comes in Feb and they won’t tell us what might happen with that. I am also disgruntled and would look for something else but my financial advisor said I can afford to retire in about 2.5 years and I don’t really want to make a change before then. My motivation is not good right now. I understand I still have a good job but I resent people telling me how good I have it when I am having some of my compensation cut from under me.

  66. N.J.*

    I posted in the open thread awhile ago about a presentation for a second interview for an Assistant Director position I was excited about with a non-profit associated with a University. While I didn’t ultimately get that job, they have a similar position posted now and invited me to apply, with the ability to go straight to the second interview and do another presentation on strategies, structure etc. The position differs from the first in that it will be a program to help new professionals, think students just graduating from undergrad or grad programs. One of the components for this is a mentorship program. What are some things that should be included in the parameters for a mentorship program for graduating students entering the work world? What types of mentors would you recruit? Specific topics? Structure? Best Practices? I really appreciate the commenting community’s depth of knowledge and just need some help brainstorming.

    1. Alez*

      As someone who very recently entered the working world and participated in a mentorship program similar to this, I think having a specific project or goal of the program that is explicitly outlined, with some sort of deadline or showcase at the end is a big one. In the program I was in, accepted mentees were all assigned a mentor to work on a project, but there was no deadline or end-date for when the project was supposed to be completed. Because of this, I think many mentors and mentees felt a lack of motivation to continue meeting and working together because they weren’t exactly sure what the payoff would be and there wasn’t really a deadline to do so. People brought this up to the program organizers and next year they plan to have a showcase several months after the mentorship begins where projects will be shown to professionals in the industry. Mentors and mentees will still be able to set their own meeting schedules and workflow, but now that there is an end date and a specific goal I think the program will probably be more effective.

      I also think making clear to both parties (but particularly the mentors) what the time committment will be is important. In this program, some mentors ended up not having time to meet a ton with their mentees, which made those mentees feel like they weren’t very well served compared to other mentees who got more facetime. I think something in the description like “mentors and mentees will be expected to meet a minimum of X times, with additional meetings to be set at their discretion. At the program’s end date, mentees will be expected to have produced/accomplished Y.” This will also help make sure mentees know how much face time to expect with their mentor and aren’t disappointed later on.

      Finally, I think in these programs it can also be important to have mentees networking with each other. Sometimes job opportunities can come not just from very senior people but from peers who you happen to know at other companies. Maybe having events where just the mentees can hang out and get to know each other, or at the least making a Discord/Slack channel where they can interact, update each other on their work, swap ideas, whatever, can be a huge benefit.

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

      I’ve been professionally involved with three programs in two countries as a mentor for people entering the work world, either through postgrad university study or through a coding bootcamp.

      Being very clear on expectations for time commitments and deadlines for turnaround seems to be key. What those actually are seems far less important than everyone being on the same page well in advance. For example in my AU program I meet two of my current cohort weekly and the third every two weeks (I offered everyone both options and they all chose what worked best for them). In my UK program I’ve had a mentee repeatedly ghost me for sessions, partly I think because there wasn’t such a strong emphasis on the commitment required.

      The UK program is heavily structured; the AU program much less so. I’ve actually ended up using some of the structure from the former for the latter, but my crew have been pleased that we can pivot on no notice when they have job application or interview developments they want to discuss. Structure is helpful but so is flexibility. I think the value of structure is there so everyone isn’t staring at a blank page wondering where to start – I think of it as “dead air prevention”.

      Another factor I think isn’t given enough attention to is ensuring the match makes sense, in terms of industries, job titles, and broad career trajectory. I was upfront with both programs that my background as a freelance IT consultant with multinational clients meant I couldn’t necessarily give perfect career and job advice to, say, someone wanting to work as a permanent salaried employee in smaller organisations. It’s worked out OK.

      I heavily reference AAM and often send links to specific questions. :) I think 50% of any “entering the work world” questions boil down to some version of “is this normal?”, with a lot of questions about work norms and the interview process.

      The UK program has an emphasis on DEI, which I think is great. The AU program seems to have had a lot of experienced people making later in life career changes which has been unexpectedly good for our rapport; I think I have more useful things to say to people in their 30s and 40s than in their early 20s.

      I think you can almost certainly reach out to established mentorship programs and ask for advice and lessons learned… it’s not like you’re really competing with each other for resources, and everyone I’m working with in both my current programs seem like the sort who’d gladly help out someone starting a new program.

      Good luck and you aren’t in this on your own.

  67. KoiFeeder*

    The first job in my search this year expressed interest!

    It’s for a company that will write student’s papers for them for money. I’d like to cry, please.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Nooooooooooooooo (at the company, not at you).

      That sucks. I hope the companies you hear from in the future are much better than this one!

    2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)nd*

      Oh no! How heartbreaking. I wish you better luck.

      (If it would be cathartic for you, you might like to check out a novel by Luke Kennard called THE TRANSITION – it’s a millennial dystopia about the effed up economic situation in twenty-first century capitalism, and the main character has a job writing student papers for one of those companies, so it would either depress you further or cheer you up with a glimpse into an even worse alternative reality…)

  68. Recognition Ideas Needed*

    My team has a space for shout outs in every meeting but we’re finding the same people are shouting out the same people every time for things that are usually essential components of their jobs, rather than highlights. I’m working on sharing a guide for managers with different ways we can recognize employees. So want to pose this question:

    What’s your favorite way to be recognized by peers and/or managers? Our team is hybrid and multi-site so not often in person together, but I’d love to hear any and all examples and ideas!

    1. Ragged and Rusty*

      Quiet “you did great” message or email just to me, honestly. I hate being the center of attention and called out.

    2. Kupo*

      You should ask your team this question. I also hate shout outs, however this seems to be the only way to get recognition (when the structure supports extroverts and lackadaisical line management who doesn’t know their reports).

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t need a big deal made out of me publicly (though I don’t object to it if it’s something legitimately awesome and not just my normal job), but I have a folder full of emails people sent me with compliments and thanks for various things. A couple of my direct reports have made noises about getting me presents as thank-you’s for whatever, and I’ve told them specifically, you definitely don’t need to get me a gift, but if you want to express appreciation for something I’ve done, a great way to do that is to email MY boss and say nice things about me, because I appreciate your thanks AND I get annual reviews every spring the same way y’all do. I also a couple times a year ask my team members something like, “What is something that would make your day better for $10 or less?” or “What is your favorite candy bar?” and then I send them all a thing. (We’re all fully remote and I usually do the “actually mailing them physical things” thing during a three-paycheck month, since that’s out of pocket from me and not a reimbursed thing.)

    4. Hermione Danger*

      I hate those situations. Sometimes, people who are also doing great work don’t get noticed because they’re not working with the people who regularly do the shouting. It’s sucky to be working as hard as everybody else and know you’re putting out good product but to not be recognized for your work because you’re doing solo stuff and the other people are on a team.

    5. Gracely*

      You could try challenging the people who are always doing the shout outs to broaden who they give shout outs to–“we love that you’re so supportive of X and Y, but we’d like to know if you notice anyone else”? Sometimes people don’t realize they’re as repetitive as they are.

      But also, as others have said, a personal email/thank you/etc. goes a long way, especially for people who don’t love being in the spotlight. Anything where they have something tangible to look back at and can include in a portfolio or job evaluation is probably especially nice.

    6. Girasol*

      I’m not that fond of public shout-outs but a manager who says, “Well done, you made a difference for our team,” is terrific in my book. But that’s just me. Some people prefer a certificate awarded in front of their peers and some say that only money matters.

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

      I hate shout-outs for doing the standard aspects of my job; it feels so infantilizing at this point in my career …like “good girl you went potty in the big girl potty.” Yes, I’ve managed that for many many years now, thanks. I would like to be acknowledged for new or challenging things and receiving kudos every week makes it meaningless. It doesn’t need to be gushing, just an acknowledgement of a real accomplishment.

      I would have the kudos vetted before the meeting; all shout-outs need to be submitted to manager by X time/date. This way it’s not the same thing each week. What happens if a kudos gets attributed to the wrong person? From experience, there’s no graceful way to say during a meeting, “actually that was my work” or “I’m on that project too!” It’s even awkward for the coworker, if they’re the ethical kind, to say, “oh that wasn’t me, it was 90% Curtain and Wakeen. I just distributed the report.”

    8. Educator*

      This is begging to be a Slack channel. People can post shoutouts when they genuinely feel moved, rather than for routine things, and you can get on with your meeting agenda.

    9. Polopoly*

      If done publicly, I would want all shoutouts to go through a manager, and be shared to the group by the manager to avoid the self- promoting clique phenomena you described.

      Other than that, if there is no tangible reward (money! – don’t give a gift card for something I can’t use), an email acknowledgement cc-ing higher ups at the time and incorporating it in reviews would be best.

  69. OyHiOh*

    I have to appear at a command performance lunch today. Major community stakeholder graciously provides a “holiday” lunch for our staff annually around this time a year. They have enough influence in our organization and community that this isn’t something a staffer can just decline to not show up for. Of course, we also have absolutely no knowledge of who they’re catering through and, as discussed in recent conversation here about food, this is a bit fraught for a bunch of us who won’t just eat anything.

    Scripts for gracious yet direct comment, if a bunch of us end up with dressed lettuce and rolls for lunch today?

    1. ferrina*

      “Thanks for the thought! Unfortunately I didn’t see any [DIETARY NEEDS] options that I could eat- maybe I just missed them? No? Oh, well, this decor is lovely.”

    2. Gracely*

      Is it not possible to ask the stakeholder who is doing the catering? Straightforward questions about medical dietary needs should be something they’re concerned with, if they’re really invested in providing the meal.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Logistically possible, sure. Politically, no, because there’s an organizational culture around these sorts of meals of “just be thankful they wanted to do something nice.”

        1. Not A Manager*

          The only gracious comment you can make in those circumstances is, “Wow, this dressed lettuce and yeast roll are delicious!”

    3. RagingADHD*

      There is no conflict between direct and gracious here. It’s indirectness that could come across as passive-aggressive.

      If anyone makes a comment about what isn’t on your plate, you can just say, “Aw, thank you, I can’t eat that because I’m (vegan, celiac, keeping Kosher, whatever). I’ll eat later, I just appreciate spending time with you!”

  70. 653-CXK*

    I have a few things I need to vent about.

    1) Every week, as a medical claims analyst for a senior citizens program, I review the weekly claims payout list (“checkrun”) from our third party administrator (TPA) for errors. Once this is complete, I send it over to my supervisor, who double checks my work, signs off on the approval form, and we send it to the TPA so they can cut the checks.

    Yesterday, I get an email back from the TPA, telling me they need a new approval form because I’m not the list to sign off on checks. I had to go back to them, give them full orchestration and five part harmony on what I do to get this approval form to them, and of course I am not on this list because I do not have the authorization to do so (the medical claims are from $200,000-600,000 a week on average). I also provided them with my supervisor’s signature as proof I didn’t sign off on this. I was (and still am) pissed that they wanted to accuse me of putting my signature on this approval, but I sincerely think something is going on with that TPA. There have been a lot of complaints from providers that eventually bubble up to me – up to a point where they refuse to provide services until they’ve been paid because this TPA pays so slowly, and we have to move heaven and earth to get them paid.

    2) Yesterday, a person who handles contracts sent me a pleading “rescue me from a mean person” email regarding a provider who wanted to know where to send claims. I replied back to the provider and said “use our TPA, and by the way, here’s what’s been paid…” but the response I got back was an annoyed, “the TPA is horrible; why can’t we sent them directly to you?” My response: “We use to pay claims in house, but we’ve been using the TPA. What problems are you seeing?” Obviously, this provider has had problems with this TPA in the past, but perhaps I should have told the contract person, “no, I’m not contacting this provider. They should have known well beforehand who and what they’re dealing with.”

    3) I’ve been helping a provider resolve a payment issue, and during a discussion with my boss, we discovered I had forgotten to send some monthly invoices totaling around $300K. We were able to submit them to the TPA, but my boss was “disappointed” that I held onto them for so long. It hit me like a ton of bricks…for months, she’s been telling me “I have too much to do” (i.e. my regular job duties) and that “I have to think things through” but how can I do that when there are 500 other things swinging around my head? I’m trying to pay attention to one thing, but someone else pulls the “help me!” card and I feel have to satisfy that demand before I return to what I was doing, and I get guilt-tripped and manipulated if I don’t. I think strict boundaries would help in this instance (“I’m working on an important project; I can’t contact this provider today but I will try to do so tomorrow”) and perhaps discussing the forgetfulness with someone outside of work would be a huge help.

    4) Not a vent, but a revelation: When my boss looked at my Outlook box (while we were on the Teams meeting for #3) she remarked that I had “too many folders, which is the reason why you could be missing important things!” I pride myself in keeping fairly organized and having things in easy reach, and having those folders made it a lot easier to look for things, but realized that maintaining the folders was high maintenance when it came to the end of the year, so I shifted all of these emails to the Sent folder (5,100 emails!) and deleted the folders. My boss suggested I use the search function to find the emails I needed, and it actually makes things easier!

    If you chose to read through all of this, thank you. I just needed to get it off my chest. I apologize for the vent for being so long.

    1. RM*

      Sympathy from another (non medical) payables person! This job is a firehose of minutia and accusatory upset people. And because it’s “mindless” and “easy” managers love to overload us with work. I can keep all the plates spinning in a normal week but there is no spare capacity for things going wrong.. which happens pretty regularly with these 3rd party services!

      1. 653-CXK*

        Thanks…after I typed all of that out, I feel much better.

        I had one instance a couple of years ago where someone from another department came up to me and said, “I have something for you that should take a half hour to do.” It took me four days and several phone calls to do, and my boss told them not to do something like that ever again. But I can definitely relate to the spinning plates syndrome!

    2. Kupo*

      Sympathies for the venting. Re 2) It doesn’t help to be too helpful. Redirecting is always a valid option. Re 4) Email management – it depends on the data management cycle of the work. Sometimes a search is helpful, and sometimes it isn’t. For example the same acronym in the same org means different things in different departments, and there is a high turnover.

      1. 653-CXK*

        Thanks…I should set harder boundaries so I give enough help, but not so much that I end up taking over, and then people expect me to do it in the future. No more – at least for my sanity!

  71. LookingToFlee*

    I know remote work opportunities are increasing out there but I’m wondering if this holds true for remote working from outside the US. Does your company include US employees abroad? Or if you’re job searching, have you encountered this in your searches?
    I’m considering moving abroad but all my work networks and employment history is in the US so I’d like to make that work if possible…

    1. part time consulting?*

      The “easy” (and less legit) way is to live abroad but pretend you live in the US. Obviously this comes with plenty of risks.

      There is a “study abroad for adults” program where you go live in 12 countries for one month each. A friend of mine is doing it and it sounds very cool. I presume that they figure out visas and the legalities somehow.

      And there are some countries that offer a “remote work visa” and make it really easy to do what you’re saying.

      I know people who’ve done each of these routes. Good luck!

      1. LookingToFlee*

        Thanks for the reply! I do have dual citizenship so the visa issue does not apply, I’m just trying to figure out if companies that are going remote are open to international remote as well as domestic. I imagine the tax implications are a bit of a headache but maybe they’re not?

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          Taxes are a problem, which go hand in hand with residency. You will still have to file US taxes even if you don’t owe anything, and your paycheck in the new country will have to have resident taxes (whatever they may be) taken out. Companies that aren’t that large may not have the capability to manage that burden if they dont have a presence in that country (which is how you derive healthcare and other benefits potentially).

          Ive seen a number of people going to 1040 contractor status in their roles to move overseas, though you would then have to set up whatever self-employed status in your new country so you are taxed effectively. You could potentially present that as an option to your company, though obviously that has some risks attached (out of sight out of mind, change in remote work policy, etc)

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      My company’s global employees have the same remote/WFH opportunities as in the US, but as is often discussed here you often can’t simply up and move to another place and work from there. The company has to have a nexus in that state/country. I just checked our policies and it looks like our US employees can request to transfer to at least one or two main countries we operate in and the company will sponsor them, if they successfully meet the immigration and work permit requirements.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Things like the European GDPR laws – and even more draconian local-hosting laws in some places – may make it impractical for you to work in another country, if your company can’t or won’t go through the expense of doing compliance for those.

      1. LookingToFlee*

        Thank you all, good food for thought. My current employer (and my current role) doesn’t really work remotely so I may have to go the contractor route, regardless. Or specifically search for companies with nodes in both countries and job search that way.

    4. Anon for this*

      Dual citizenship is helpful and perhaps necessary but very far from sufficient.

      The biggest obstacle is the company’s well-founded fears of allowing someone to work from a particular jurisdiction resulting in them being said to have formed a permanent establishment in that country.

      This has huge implications for them. They need to register the company and file company taxes, at an absolute minimum, and they are almost certainly held to all employment law and corporate regulation there too.

      Companies really really don’t want to do this. It can cost them millions. And they are aware that some courts in some jurisdictions have ruled that having a single employee work remotely from a country for more than a certain number of days creates a permanent establishment in that country.

      I’m dual citizen and dual-resident for tax purposes, so I report all income from one country as foreign income on my personal tax returns in the other country, and then sort it out via Double Taxation Agreement treaties. I naively thought that this meant there were zero immigration or tax law issues.

      It turns out that the companies I work for don’t give a fig about my personal tax implications. They care about their corporate tax implications. One client investigated whether they could transfer my contract to their subsidiary in the other country. This would have required a new contract, in a new currency, with different terms. Given I want to be able to float between two countries as I feel like, this was not going to work.

      The solution I now recommend to anyone wanting to do this: dishonesty. Lie like a lying thing with a degree in lying. Invest in VPN tech to disguise your IP when logging in for remote work, and get expensive paid ones for the lowest latency. Keep working hours for the time zone you’re supposed to be in. Be prepared to occasionally travel on little notice. It is expensive and a nuisance, and I’d prefer not to lie, but the laws in many countries do not allow companies to decide these issues on the merits. Just lie. And if you’re not OK with committing to a life of lying then don’t do it at all.

  72. noncommittal pseudonym*

    One of my coworkers, M, manages a space that we both, and several other people, use. He is responsible for maintaining stocks of materials and making sure the equipment is working, etc. The problem is that he is tremendously disorganized, and finding anything in the space is difficult. About a year ago, I broke down and starting labeling cabinets with what should be in them. He resented this as an overstep and complained to our mutual boss, who fortunately backed me up. Now, he’s taken to putting supplies in any cabinet EXCEPT the one that is labeled as containing the supply. The reason? He is convinced that other labs are stealing from us, and he wants to foil them. (I don’t think that’s likely. I think it’s more likely that stuff keeps getting misplaced.)

    End result – no one knows where ANYTHING is, and much time and energy is wasted looking for stuff. It’s also impossible to keep an eye on inventory, so we end up doing a ton of last-minute ordering because we ran out of something and no one could tell. It’s driving me batty. I told our boss the other day that I’m tempted to go in and reorganize, and she said that M would probably freak out completely. And, even if I did, it would certainly degenerate over time as he continued to squirrel different supplies in random places.

    Suggestions on how to have a conversation about this? How do you force someone to be organized if they’re not?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      If he’s your peer there’s not much you can do. I’d stop mitigating the fallout and start redirecting to M. Someone needs item X? Tell them to talk to M. Don’t waste your time opening every cabinet. Out of an item? M needs to handle the rush order. Make it visible for your bosses to see what’s happening so the ones with authority over M can give feedback.

      Regarding M’s worry about other labs stealing could your lab get locking cabinets or a locked supply closet then things could stay labeled?

    2. ferrina*

      You need to talk to your boss. This is ridiculous. And it’s definitely costing your company in productivity as well as costs for last-minute ordering.

      Odds are your boss doesn’t realize how big the issue is. She thinks it’s a minor issue and not worth M’s tantrum. So document what a normal week looks like- how many things you can’t find, how long you spend looking for them, etc. If you’re losing 25 minutes per day looking for things/ordering things you should already have, that’s a 5% loss in productivity. That’s a lot for something that has a simple solution!

      Bring her the evidence, and make her decide how much wasted time M’s antics are worth.

      1. LizB*

        This is great advice. I’d also add to your documentation to get proof, if you can, that M is intentionally storing supplies behind the wrong labels, or at least list out which supplies are actually in which drawers so the scope of the problem is apparent. (Something like a super quick spreadsheet with columns “label says” and “drawer actually contains”) It is so extremely reasonable for your boss to say, “Hey, M, the label needs to match the contents for safety/budget/productivity reasons.” It’s frankly ridiculous that the boss hasn’t said this already.

  73. Ragged and Rusty*

    I have some good news!
    After an absolutely amazing review this year and great conversations about where I’m going with my career, they told me I’d be getting a substantial raise to my base pay. It puts me at the top of my payscale for my experience, and I’m super proud and I feel acknowledged and recognized for my work!
    I’m getting along great with my new boss after the old one got promoted, it really feels like everything’s coming up in my favor.

    My question is do I look for the other shoe to drop or do I just enjoy the ride? I keep looking for problems.

    1. No Worries*

      Do you have any reason to believe problems are coming, or that they might unearth problems? If not, work is probably just that good for you right now.

      1. Ragged and Rusty*

        A client shouted at me in a meeting because he drastically updated the scope at 10pm and I hadn’t responded by 8am (I was asleep.) for a project that’s due in one week and my bosses didn’t say anything.

        1. Ragged and Rusty*

          Apparently an email went out to try and scold the client that we have core hours that they can expect a reply, and 10p to 8a is NOT those. I definitely cried in that meeting. I just moved to help this client and I’m overwhelmed.

          1. No Worries*

            Ugh I am sorry you are feeling so overwhelmed! Hopefully you now feel the support from your team with that email and everyone can move on and learn from it. It doesn’t sound like your company is expecting you to be working at 11pm unexpectedly, so hopefully the customer gets it and can work WITH you a bit more. Based on the email, I wouldn’t think you have anything to worry about with this one strange incident.

  74. just a thought*

    I was hired last year for a job in a big company in a new department. I was hoping to work on projects from conception to deployment, and learn more about the IT technology we’re using.

    Well it’s been a year and I’ve had almost nothing to do. I’ve done internal trainings, other made-up side projects, and volunteered for DEI committees and employee resource groups to fill my time. But so far none maybe 1 project for actual customers. My manager keeps saying work is coming in the next few months, but I heard that so many times, I just don’t believe him anymore.

    My boss is also working with the director on our role clarity and it sounds like our role is changing from implementation engineer to more business analyst that doesn’t actually work with the technology at all. My manager said he’s going to push his boss to keep the technical part of our job, but it worries me that he has to push to keep something very important to me as part of our jobs.

    So, is it okay to change internally after a year when there’s no work and the job changed?

    Any tips for telling my manager I want to look elsewhere within the company? He keeps trying to reassure me, but I just don’t believe him anymore. We also have to let our manager know before internally applying elsewhere within the company.

    Any tips for an internal job search?

  75. Anima*

    Am I judgemental here? I had several interviews this week where I sat on the hiring side, and the interviewee wore a hoodie in both cases. The interviews were online (workplace is fully remote), but I was taught to at least wear slightly nicer clothes even for online interviews. Me and my colleague both wore business casual (at the casual side). None of the interviewees were recent graduates.
    We won’t hold the hoodie against a candidate in any way, but I personally feel a bit miffed? I believe it’s a sight of basic respect.
    I sound like a hardcore gen Z here, but I’m millennial, for the record.
    I might just need an adjustment of expectations here, much appreciated.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As a hiring manager in a fully-remote team that has no patient/customer contact, I specifically tell my interviewees that they don’t need to bother dressing up, because I don’t give a hoot what they look like, I want to know what their skills are.

    2. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Nope. Middle of the road millennial here and I’d be very put off by this. He should be at least just worn a t-shirt.

    3. ferrina*

      I’m on team Dress Nicely. I still wear a suit, and I don’t like when candidates are overly casual.

      That said, unless this position relies on first appearances/suits, I would shrug it off.

    4. Qwerty*

      Acknowledge it is a bias / peeve and then let it go. It would feel too casual for me too but their outfit has nothing to do with respect for you. If a hoodie would be acceptable for your job, then they came dressed for the job they wanted. If that would go against your dress code, then the person setting up the interview should probably add some language to the invite about office wear – casual is the way the world is going and more places are fine with hoodies and t-shirts in interviews so you can’t expect the candidate to guess where your company falls in that camp.

    5. Anon for This*

      A colleague in IT tells me hoodies aren’t uncommon there, but outside of IT I am also on team dress nicely – at least business casual.

    6. Reticular Giraffe*

      I wear the exact same thing for online interviews that I wear for in person interviews. But that’s just me. I would be surprised if any of my peers told me that they had worn a hoodie to an online interview, and I would tell them that was a little too casual and they should at least wear what they would wear to work. (Do people at your job wear hoodies to work?)
      However, I think making it about respect is personalizing it too much. he wore a hoodie, he didn’t insult your mother. Let it go.

    7. SofiaDeo*

      It would bother me in the sense that “work clothes” and “workout clothes” are distinctly different things. And I can’t speak for everyone, but I would expect people to show up at an interview *at least* dressed for work. My experience in the past has been people who weren’t dressed like they were planning on *working*, weren’t great staff to have. If they weren’t taking a job seriously enough to make an attempt at looking like they were showing up for work, it would count against them, for me. As much as torn or dirty clothing would, or unwashed hair. The only “grace” I would personally feel inclined to consider, is if they were otherwise neat & clean and if this is an entry-level job where one may not have the cash for separate wardrobes. Plus, if the persona is in a physically cold region right now and the hoodie could have been more for warmth than a fashion statement. However, I am also a relic from before WFH was done, or even feasible. Most of my career was pre-computer and pre-internet, and people physically had to be there as part of doing the job with OSHA requirements coming into play to boot. You say this job isn’t “client facing”, but in some sense *all* jobs are. Our teams and coworkers are internal clients, no? Everyone is pretty much taught to “dress nicely” for something important. “Athleisure” isn’t “business casual” or even “casual” in my book. I think moving forward, perhaps request “business casual” for all interviews. Because people are colored by perceptions, and we are in a changing point with respect to “workplace norms” IMO. Ask for “business casual” in future, so subconscious bias will be eliminated. Because I too would bottom line only be interested in their skills, but would also be annoyed. I am human, with all the faults that entails. Leveling the playing field for everyone as much as you can up front, will only help. If the hoodie was for warmth, being informed “business casual” isn’t an undue hardship, one simply takes it off to interview. Or leaves it on, which also gives more information about a potential employee.

    8. Parakeet*

      I dress up (button-down dress shirt) for online interviews, but I think the norms on this are so varied (and my own work environments so informal once you’re actually on the job) that I wouldn’t blink at almost anything a candidate wore. I also don’t consider hoodies to be more informal than other casual clothing like jeans or t-shirts (I mention that because it seems like a couple of other commenters may disagree, so I want to make the point that opinions vary on that).

      Because the norms can be so varied (and have gotten considerably more so in the past few years IMO – I’m another millennial for the record), I think that if you prefer candidates to dress at a certain level of formality for the interview it’s a kindness to tell them so, so that they aren’t left to guess wrong (this applies just as much to the people/companies out there, and I’ve met them, who expect casual and would be put off by a suit, as the people who are put off by casual clothing)

    9. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      A hoodie seems really too casual to me unless this is some sort of ultra casual job in construction or outdoor type work where a hoodie is the norm.

      You can try putting “business casual” in the interview invite. But people gonna do what they gonna do.

  76. Lauren*

    So I lost my job a bit over a month ago now and am still job hunting. I’m having difficulty in terms of references; I’d love to put down my former supervisor, but she also lost HER job on the same day. I don’t know the protocol for something like this; should I try to connect with her on LinkedIn to ask her if she’s comfortable being a reference and for new contact info? She’s my most recent (and basically only) professional reference.

    1. ferrina*

      Was it a layoff? In that case, yeah, that’s just fine- use her for a reference! Reaching out via LinkedIn is great. She’d probably be happy to be a reference!

      You can also reach out to experienced/senior colleagues you used to work with. They don’t need to know exactly what you do, but have worked closely enough to speak to your work (maybe collaborated on several of projects with you)

    2. Educator*

      None of my references are still at the companies where we worked together! This is really normal. I would actually recommend reaching out to your former manager and anyone else from your old job that you might possibly want to use as a reference in the future to get personal contact info while things are still fresh.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      Not only is this normal, it’s actually a good thing – many companies have policies that say current employees cannot give references for current or former co-workers. Since they’ve already moved on…what is your mutual ex-company going to do, fire them?

    4. Lindsay*

      I used a former supervisor who left our organization to stay at home with his daughter and then I was leaving the same organization a few months later. I had his personal cell so I contacted him first and asked him if it was ok and he said yes.

  77. I'm just here so I don't get fined*

    I need advise and suggestions, please.

    My company announced that our performance evaluations will include how well we socialize with people in other departments. Management seems super excited by this, and they have a history of punishing people who don’t share their excitement for these types of ideas.

    We’re supposed to come up with our own idea of how to accomplish this and will be meeting with our first line supervisor monthly for follow ups.

    I’m an introvert with a time-sensitive job, so this is pretty much my idea of hell. I need this job for one more year, so I’m just looking to fly under the radar.

    What are some ideas I can list that will sound like I’m enthusiastic but will be hard/inconvenient for them to double check?

    1. No Worries*

      is their expectation that you are socializing with other departments outside of work hours, or just being friendly with other departments in your daily work interactions? Seems crazy if they were going to tell you you had to start socializing outside of work. Could you just grab lunch with a couple people and call it a day?

      1. I'm just here so I don't get fined*

        They gave us no parameters.

        I’m hoping during work, but they didn’t say.

        How many lunches a month do you think?

    2. ferrina*

      That suuuuuucks.
      Here’s my idea:

      Regular coffee get togethers to build 1:1 relationships (I’m an extrovert, and I do this regularly to build my company network- it’s great). Then plan these coffees with fellow introverts and ‘just happen’ to talk about things that you’d normally talk about at a regular work meeting.

      Or “impromptu chats with X number of people”. “Good morning, How are you?” counts.

      1. Kupo*

        When this pandemic is over, I’m gonna love having coffee breaks and lunches with my fellow introverts.

      2. I'm just here so I don't get fined*

        Thanks for agreeing it sucks.

        The impromptu greetings sound more my speed. Thanks for the verbiage.

        How many coffees a month do you think would sound normal?

        1. ferrina*

          You can probably go with 1-2. It sounds like your supervisor will have some oversight into your goal, so if they say it’s too low, I’d go up to 4 max. Certainly no more than 1 per week- more than that and it starts to encroach on your and other people’s work time. (though honestly, I’m wondering how this forced socializing will impact productivity in general)

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

      Are there any cross-department committees or even slack channels you can join and just attend a few useless meetings per quarter or post something on chat once a week? Something like the wellness club or cat photo channel.

      1. I'm just here so I don't get fined*

        There is a chat. I’ve never used it, but that is an idea.

        Honestly, I don’t think I could handle a committee, but the chat might work. Except now that I think about it, my manager is probably the kind to go on and count my messages.

        Maybe a combination of chats and coffees?

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      Do you already interact with some other department as part of your job – handing off work, coordinating access to a shared resource, anything? Feel free to talk about that like it’s the most awesome-sauce hyper-collaborative ~#*EVENT*#~ this company has ever seen.

      1. I'm just here so I don't get fined*

        That sounds hilarious!

        My job is one of two that only coordinates with others in my department. It’s time-sensitive and there are long periods when I’m the only person at work who can do it. This is mostly why it feels so burdensome.

        Honestly, it’s kind of tempting to wander off and socialize during some of those periods because it would probably cause our metrics to tank. Ok, this might actually happen. Let them enjoy the natural consequences.

  78. Layoff Questions*

    My friend was just part of the thousands laid off by a big tech company in the US this week – you can probably guess which one. She received a 6-month severance package and is told that she’s still employed by this company, so she can’t get a new job until February. Is this legitimate? It seems crazy. I’ve never heard details of a layoff from a company of this size, so have no clue how it works. Thanks!

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      When I got severance, I couldn’t draw unemployment until after the time had passed, but I could job hunt.

      I would suggest that your friend job hunt, and if they find one, ask about the problem then.

      (I didn’t find one in the time frame, so no clue about getting two checks from two different employers)

    2. Dr. Prepper*

      It’s unrelated to the size of the company – it’s a contract issue.

      Severance is usually a contract where you must sign documents that say “We’ll give you xx dollars in exchange that you won’t sue us or post bad reviews in that case we get to claw the money back.”

      I would wager that their severance docs state that IF they get a new job before February, they have to give all the money back or more likely any remaining money due just stops.

    3. Not a lawyer!*

      This is really a question for a lawyer, which I am NOT. There seems to be some confusion here between a severance and on-paper continued employment, but either way, I can’t see how they could possibly prevent her from getting another job, especially in California. As I understand it, severance is a lump sum goodbye gift in exchange for agreeing to leave peacefully (i.e., not sue them or defame them on the way out the door). Your employment has ended, so you can get another job. If you’re technically staying employed for X more months, well, you’re free to leave a job at any time. Presumably when you take the new job, you’ll stop getting the paycheck from the old job. If they’re trying to enforce some kind of noncompete, there has been discussion on this site before about how they’re pretty much unenforceable. But have her talk to a lawyer to be sure!

    4. Parenthesis Dude*

      In the US, an employer can’t just layoff a large number of people at once. Basically, they need to give 60 days notice before the layoff. During this period, they are required to pay you and give you benefits.

      The problem is that there are some employees that you don’t want working for you once you’ve told them you’re laying them off. At a company like Twitter, that’s pretty much everybody. So, the employer pays their salary for them to sit at home. During this period, you are indeed considered an employee. If you leave during this period, then it’s as if you quit freely.

      After this period, the company lets you go with severance. Once that’s done, you’re no longer considered an employee and you can do what you want.

      Short answer, it’s legitimate.

      1. Polopoly*

        They do that in finance too – its called garden leave at some places. You are paid to sit at home for a couple months so any IP you have becomes stale.

      2. No Worries*

        wow this is interesting! This sounds more like what she is dealing with, especially if she was told she will get a 6-month severance package but is only eligible to start a new job again in February, obviously not 6 full months from now. I’ll have to see what else she’s heard from them. Thank you for the insight!

      3. Layoff Questions*

        wow this is interesting! This sounds more like what she is dealing with, especially if she was told she will get a 6-month severance package but is only eligible to start a new job again in February, obviously not 6 full months from now. I’ll have to see what else she’s heard from them. Thank you for the insight!