open thread – November 25-26, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related 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 talk 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.

{ 573 comments… read them below }

  1. Gnome*

    Migraines and work – how do you manage and have you asked for accommodations?

    I have developed migraines over the past few years. Some I can work through, some I can work badly through… and some require me to curl up in a ball for 1-2 days (abdominal migraines). And sometimes after the later ones, I have to sleep for a day or so to be functional.

    I’ve taken a bunch of time off for them, and my work allows flexible hours. However, I’m a minority religion and spend most of my time off for religious holidays. With the migraines I don’t really have any time off for actual R&R/vacation. Are there other options? I’m full-time exempt, but my time has to be billable (contracting company), so I can’t just work fewer hours one pay period and make it up the next (I can do that within a pay period).

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      I know you’re looking for a work-related answer, but I take 10mgs of amitriptyline every two weeks and my migraines have completely stopped. It’s my holy grail. I’d say it might be worth discussing with your GP.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        I am SO glad you found something that relieves the pain for you. I am not OP but suffered with a different kind of chronic pain for a decade (before a stem cell miracle cure) and two important people in my life suffer from migraines.

        I’ve only had one margarine in my life and it was a doozy, I cannot imagine going through life with them all the time…well, I guess I can! With chronic pain, you just…do.

        The amount of spoons I have now is amazing. If I want to unload the dishwasher, I just do! I don’t have to weigh all the steps of getting up and walking over and bending up and down however many times it takes to unload the dishwasher and is that going to use up all my spoons for today and do I have to save them for something else. The first time I realized that I had made it all the way across the room and the dishes were already halfway unloaded and it didn’t feel like any work at all, I just wanted to cry.

        Anyway, genuinely happy for you.

    2. time for cocoa*

      Mine are triggered by poor lighting and some artifical fragrances. I was able to get a “Cube Shield” to block the fluorescent lights above my desk. Eventually a VP decided they were ugly and made me take them down, because feng shui is more important than my health. I then started wearing a giant straw hat and sunglasses to work.

      Since I’ve gotten a fully-remote job, I’ve been able to adjust my home office to my needs. If you’re in a type of job that makes remote work possible, I’d highly recommend it.

    3. Observer*

      Can you find the triggers? If you can find even SOME of your triggers, you might be able to avoid some of the migraines.

    4. Trefoil*

      Not me, but my wife has migraines. She asked to work at the desk that had the broken light due to her migraines and that worked out well. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for flexibility for a medical condition in order for you to work effectively. Maybe that means asking to work from home/leaving work early to work out of the office. If you can do your job effectively at home, why not try to be home more? Plus, it’s good to have it documented that you’re taking so many sick days because of a medical condition.

      They moved to hotel desks, and then they moved fully remote. She has way fewer migraines now, but does have a neurologist and has tried many medications (and found two that work, qulipta and nurtec).

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Qulipta has been a godsend for me as well. Nothing else worked to curb my migraines – I was having near daily migraines most days of the month, and now it’s been cut to (on average) 6 days a month of minor pressure headaches thanks to this once a day pill. My neurologist hopes that I won’t even need it anymore soon (I’ve been taking it since June), and it looks like it may be going that way thankfully.

    5. rock paper scissors*

      How often are you suffering? Without the medical cocktail I’m on, for the last 10 years it’s 4-7 days a week in shades of pain. Even 2 migraines a month pushes the limits of most managers’ patience if you’re billable hours – I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been pushed in various shady/illegal ways by managers and HR who have tried to only pay me part-time or tried to get me fired for attendance (both at companies with generous or unlimited PTO) that I don’t trust for a second any arrangement with managers that is not filed with HR.

      Definitely put in a request with HR for medical accommodations for a disability (as in send a an email to HR with the title “accommodations for disability”). HR probably has a form or question they want your doctor to fill out, but if not, get your neurologist on board with helping pull together a note/letter to support you with the following:
      1) List out how frequently you get a migraine, the post-migraine affects, and how long each lasts. Give the average and the range.
      2) List out what life activities are affected: driving? Can’t read or write coherently? Unable to retain information? Can’t cook/eat? Affecting sleep?
      3) List out what you need as an accommodation: flexible work times? Remote work/ability to work from home more often than company policy? Ability to take PTO on short notice?
      4) List why/reasons the accommodations work for your role/job (e.g. other colleagues fully remote, job is not reliant on client coverage, etc., or you’ve been working remotely during the pandemic and exceeded expectations, etc.)

      I switched to a job that lets me work remotely as often as I need to, and lets me “make up the hours” outside of business hours, e.g. if I’m completely useless from 8 am – noon, I can work from noon – 8 pm. Same for weekends. I also don’t hesitate to work 10+ hr days if I get in the zone on a good day, because for me long hours at home are not a trigger. Video calls are extreme torture and 100% a trigger for me so I limit those to the important/senior/client meetings (or meet in person) and have an arrangement to be off-camera for the mundane calls.

      Migraines are extremely personal devils, so please don’t be shy to advocate for what your body needs, not what others think you should be doing.

    6. Amy*

      I had to go see a headache specialist, keep a headache journal for a number of moths , and try out a number of preventative medications and treatments. Eventually, we figured out a protocol that worked for me and I now have to take off much less time from work than previously. The thing that makes migraines so tricky is that what triggers them and what reduces their frequency differs from perso to person. You really need to do the time-consuming work 0f finding the right treatment for you. The good news is, there are a lot more options available now than there used to be and people are experiencing a lot of relief from their symptoms and a great reduction in frequency.

    7. Cookie*

      I’m hoping you’ve seen a headache specialist and you have access to prescription meds that help – if not, that’s your first call, because migraines sideline you from your whole life, not just work! There are some better treatments now than just triptans, which I personally cannot take (they make my chest tight, can’t swallow properly, trouble breathing). There’s a guy on TikTok called The Headache Doctor who does consults via video if you have no good medical solutions near you; his work is in physical therapy and occupational fixes, not meds. I consulted with him before going to spine physical therapy locally.

      I’ve had migraines since age 18 but only frequently since about age 35 (just over 20 years). Plus “chronic daily headache,” which isn’t daily but it’s “more than one day per week.” Currently I’m on about day 10 of a headache and it’s so tiring, so I absolutely get where you’re coming from.

      Some things I’ve found at work that help: sitting in a darker place (we have flexible desks so I go into a dark corner away from the bright LED overhead lights and the big windows); avoiding smells (I work in a small closed-door area if possible); good ergonomics (wearing my “work glasses” so I don’t hunch over my laptop or lean to get closer to a big monitor); breaks as often as I can (stretching, quick walk around the floor/house/block if I can manage it, or foam rolling when I’m at home). Officially Not Medical Advice: my spine PT recommended a thing called the Da Vinci Tool Extra Firm – it’s a wedge you put under the occipital area while lying on the floor, to release the muscles that make your head hurt. I don’t take it to work, but I use it while working from home, when my head hurts and I need a break.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Thank you for the tip about The Headache Doctor. My sweetheart has looking for a non-medical solution and I’ll share this with him.

      2. Researchalator Lady*

        +1 for the good ergonomics. It is worth taking the time to set up your desk completely (I have a memory foam footrest, two monitors both on stands to be at appropriate height, etc)

        Be sure you have a “care package” at work for when a migraine starts. It would be great to have 7-up or Coke, an ice pack, an eye mask, ginger caplets, your prescription medication(s), a pair of earbuds and a do-not-disturb sign all at the ready.

        I have found (migraines my whole life) that the earlier you treat, the better your chances of success, so if at the first sign of a throb or aura you can take an hour and a half off, take your medication, put on an eyemask, apply a cold pack and listen to something soothing (Meditation Rx with Mary Maddox has numerous pain- and stress-related guided meditations that are superb) so you aren’t tensing your muscles as you give the medication a chance to work, it can really work wonders.

        You might also look into FL-41 tinted lenses (boysenberry coloured), which have been found to help with light sensitivity and reduce migraine attacks. I originally ordered a pair from one of the big companies catering to migraine but subsequently my optician has been able to get my regular prescription lenses tinted with this coating as well. I love them and they are definitely different than transition lenses or sunglasses.

        Keeler’s Migraine Method book has been the most comprehensive and helpful I have read about migraine as a neurological disorder and how triggers work. For me it’s barometric pressure and flickering lights (fluorescent or lights and a ceiling fan combo) so I have an app on my phone, WeatherX, set to alert me when the pressure will change over a given amount.

        Do see a neurologist if you are able. I am on Topiramate, Botox, Aimovig (CGRP inhibitor) and tried numerous triptans before I found the one that worked best for me. Best of luck OP!

    8. TechWorker*

      I get migraines and at my lowest I go through periods of being like ‘can I even hold down a full time job’ and sort of hating my life. But! Medication makes a huge difference – I’m on Amitriptyline, plus sumitriptan for actual attacks, and Aspirin if it’s ‘on the edge’. I have learnt that once I take sumitriptan I really need to stop work vs power through, if I power through I will likely feel awful the following day and need to take it off.

      I don’t know what country you’re in, but I do use sick leave (averages out to probably 3-4 days a year, though it’s been worse in the past) – could you apply for intermittent FMLA? I’ve also found using an app useful for tracking triggers and talking to doctors (in terms of being able to tell them how frequent & how often I am taking medication).

      Good luck! Hope they improve soon

      1. Lpuk*

        I use amitryptiline AND propanol daily and sumatriptan at the first sign ( along with sleeping the first hour or so after taking it in a dark room – have used a prayer room at work ( with permission) or a first aid room. I’ve worked with companies who understood this and didn’t blink when I trotted off with my hand covering my left eye to find somewhere dark to be, or when I called in in the morning to let them know I’d woken up with a migraine, taken a pill which I was now going to sleep off and I would be in around 11am instead. My boss, HR, the office manager and the H&S manager were all aware of my issues and supportive though they did use to cluck around me at times. When I had an office, they switched the fluorescent light above my desk for a natural daylight one over my desk which also helped. My main trigger was fatigue and especially getting up early, so when I had to travel for work ( I was in a European role), I always used to book an evening flight and a hotel rather than the red-eye – it helped that they used to cost about the same as evening flights were so much cheaper than early morning ones. No one ever said anything to me about that. Also find the original Sundoe – with the muscle relaxant doxyalamine sulphate, works well if taken before bed when I was feeling achy. Finally, I did have some luck a couple of times visualising a golden glow at the back of my head loosening my blood vessels, though it does take a lot of concentration

    9. anon24*

      First, commiseration. I’ve been getting migraines since I was in elementary school. If you are eligible, get intermittent FMLA. My last job had a points system regarding call outs and the FMLA allowed me to keep my job while I was finding the right medication to treat them.

      My primary care doctor was willing to fill the paperwork out, but if you have a neurologist they can do it too. I was able to just call work and say hey I have a migraine I’m taking FMLA today and that was the end of it.

      And definitely get them treated, if you haven’t already. I still get them occasionally but I went from 20-25 migraine days a month to 1-3 mild migraine days a month on proper medication (topiramate). I no longer have health insurance but I am able to get my medication prescribed through Cove, an online service for uninsured/poorly insured people with migraines.

    10. Gnome*

      Thanks for all the replies. I’ll look through them post-migraine.

      Haven’t been able to ID any triggers other than dehydration, which is no longer a trigger insofar as I don’t let it happen any more. The ones where it’s like I have a stomach flu are impossible. Otherwise it’s just horrible pain and no amount of adjustments to the lighting will help.

      FWIW, I took today off to have some R&R and was up every couple hours over night in pain and am just not able to get comfortable.

      I’ll probably have to see a specialist…

    11. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Second intermittent FMLA assuming you/your company qualify. It’s unpaid but will protect your job.

    12. One of the many Jennifers*

      Mine are less pain and more neurological wonkiness (including getting to a point where I’m unsafe to drive). Which is great on the less pain front (I had the ‘more pain’ version for about 15 years, from the time I was 15), but harder to medicate for.

      A magnesium + B2 supplement (Migrelief, originally recced by a doctor) has helped a lot.

      Otherwise, having as much control over light and background noise as I can is a huge help. My current work has my own office, filters over the fluorescents for other reasons than my migraines (but they help a lot) and also would not blink at all if I just wanted task lighting from a desk lamp. (I have an office I am currently sharing on alternate days with a coworker.) Earbuds so I can have sounds that I’m fine with are a lovely thing, and I’d go get something with noise cancelling if I were around noisier spaces at this point.

      Working at home has been fantastic on the migraine front: more control over light/sound/other triggers, I can work longer on iffy days because I don’t need to worry about getting home, etc. We’re currently in the office 2-3 days a week, and home the others (with a “X came up, I’ll be home today instead” option most of the time.)

      Being rigorous about my triggers helps too (I can’t do much about the weather, but I can do stuff about sleep, and managing others.) I use an app called MigraineBuddy to help track a bunch of things when I do have a migraine. (The free version has a fair number of tools, there’s a paid version I haven’t tried yet)

      In the past, I used FMLA when I was having huge issues, but that has its own challenges.

    13. Vaguely Saunters*

      Again, not a work but a life suggestion – google Watson headache therapy. I know one person where it was beneficial for their family member suffering from post-concussion headaches weeks after
      Another who found it helpful with migraines. I’m getting my husband to look into it too.

    14. Quinalla*

      I’m “lucky” and usually only get a migraine 1-2 times a month, used to be once a month or less but damn it pre-menopause got me again :( Anyway, finding my triggers helped a lot and agreed that when one comes on taking meds (sumatriptan for me too) and laying down for an hour or two immediately helps me recover faster. If I try to power through I feel pretty crappy the whole day and have to recover the next, but sometimes worth it.

      Lack of sleep and then hormonal changes with my period are the two major ones for me. So I’ve really been working on getting 7 hours average a week which I’m finally doing, working on moving it up to 8 as I think that is what my body actually needs.

      Caffeine does help me so I make sure I have a drink handy with it. Smells/sounds/etc. don’t trigger me, but once I am in migraine mode, having a dark, quiet, smell-free place to be helps immensely. If I was working in an office still I would ask for whatever accommodations I could for that for sure.

  2. Melanie Cavill*

    Apostrophes and the working professionals that don’t know how to use them: thoughts?

    (Or, as several people in my office would say – thought’s?)

    1. Jenna Webster*

      If you have direct reports who are using them inappropriately, especially in emails to external folks or upper administration, let them know and then work with them to learn proper usage. Anyone else, grimace internally and move on.

    2. WheresMyPen*

      It frustrates me, but then I remember that everyone has different experiences of education, language and learning difficulties. If their job requires them to know how to use them (e.g. if they’re a proofreader or sign writer, for example), then it’s worth flagging, but if it doesn’t affect their message or appear on a product or website then I’d leave it alone. I used to be one of those people who corrected people’s Facebook statuses, but then I realised that it shouldn’t undermine their message and if they did have some kind of learning difficulty I’d be making them feel like shit, so I stopped.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…as an editor this sort of thing drives me crazy, and I have also been ‘that person’. If an editorial colleague was regularly making mistakes like this on, say, cover copy (or regularly not spotting mistakes like this) or if there was a colleague in the publicity department whose press releases were going out with errors, then I’d want to say something. But generally, no, these days I wouldn’t say something. As you say, not everyone has had access to the same education, not everyone’s brains work in the same way, and – as much as it pains me to say it – not everyone’s job needs them to be able to use proper punctuation and grammar and spelling.

      2. MaryLoo*

        My tolerance limit for this was reached when I got a card addressed to “Ms Jone’s”

        There are people who think ANY final S must be preceded by an apostrophe.

        And don’t get me started on “Mom took Sally and I to lunch”

        Overcorrecting is what preschool kids do when they’re learning language rules. They apply one rule to everything. It’s like these adults are still overcorrecting.

        1. Roland*

          Correcting adults who didn’t ask (when it doesn’t affect their performance) is also preschool behavior.

          1. NeonFireworks*

            Yeah…a couple of my colleagues have linguistics background and I’ve heard this kind of thing is called “hypercorrection” and often comes from *anxiety*. Like, “I’m going to be judged if I don’t use this right so I’d better use this right *everywhere*.” Same reason why “whom” sneaks in all over the place even where the grammatical “rule” doesn’t call for it. If the intended meaning is there, I just take it in stride. Language variations are totally normal.

        2. Mr. Tumnus*

          “Mom took Sally and I to lunch” drives me insane! I don’t correct it; however, someone corrected me for saying, “Mom took Sally and me to lunch.” (I did take that opportunity to explain subjective “I” vs. objective “me”. If I’m not correcting your grammar when you’re wrong, please don’t correct me when I’m right.)

          1. Ann Ominous*

            Haha yes, this – and ‘if you have any questions, feel free to ask Sally or myself’.

            It’s become so widely used that people look at me like I’m saying something wrong when I invite people to ask ‘Sally or me’

            1. Edwina*

              There’s something worse cropping up, and it’s “Sally and I’s” as in “it’s Sally and I’s opinion that ….” It makes me physically cringe every time I hear it (and you’re going to start noticing it now). But the sorry truth is there actually is no efficient way to easily express that — you either have to reconfigure the sentence (“Sally and I both think that…”) or use the somehwat clumsy existing correct usage (“It’s Sally’s and my opinion”) so I have a horrible feeling this will actually come into common usage. Or, should I say, it’s Sally and I’s opinion that it will come into common usage. (UGH!!!)

          2. Unum Hoc Scio*

            If, and only if, I correct someone on this, I invite them to drop ‘Sally’ and see how it feels. It’s a losing battle though. This crops up in the books I read, on newscasts, and in every day vernacular. Still makes me cringe every time.

            1. WheresMyPen*

              Same, I’ve been pulled up before for writing ‘Sally and me’ even though it was correct. I’ve done a lot of language study though, and know the difference between a subject and an object, whereas a lot of people look at me like I have two heads when I explain it to them!

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      Apparently grammar, spelling, and punctuation aren’t always taught in school. I have a teenager who relies on spell check for all of it, which is maddening to me! It drives me crazy when people use apostrophes for every word ending in S.

      1. Bagpuss*

        This is certainly true.

        I wasn’t taught English grammar. A lot of what I learned was due to reading a lot (espeically older novels) so for things such as how to use apostrophes, it was mostly a case of lerning what lookedright based on reading a lot of (reasonably) accurate material. A little was individual teachers deciding we ought to know something but it was very piecemeal. Same with spelling. I had one teacher in my last yer at primary school, who was approaching retirement and was mostly teaching as she always had with very little regardfor what the power-that-be said she should be eching, so we have spelling tests once a week. IT was actually quite useful as while the number of wordsI actually learned in that wy was relatively small, it did allow me to work out how I, personally, could learn a specfic word, and how to find it in a dctionary if I couldn’t.
        I haven’t ever been formally diagnosed but I am dyslexic, and I read by looking at the shape of the word not the individual letters, so I cannot spell and I also can’t easily spot spelling errors.

        I can, however use an apostrophe!

        For the original question, I agree that it depends on the situation – if the errors are in material which is going to be presented publically or sent to clients (or client’s!) then I think you need to be able to correct it, if it is purely internal then you may need to grit your teeth and let it go.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Spelling and grammar checkers are problematic. The Big “M” purchases a third-party checker to install in Office. Its global updates to the software suite often screw up the proofing options. Recently I noticed that the checker was not picking up obvious errors. The last few MS Office updates apparently reset/deselected some items, including very basic items such as Subject/Verb agreement.

        I wish more people understood that grammarians are not compiling these checkers. (These are algorithms using grammar ‘rules’ to look for patterns and so-called spelling lists from a cheap dictionary (not the O.E.D).) Checkers are fine to proof an initial draft, but can’t substitute for actual writing and editing skills to produce coherent communications.

        That said, as a technical writer I don’t correct casual conversation, social media posts, or restaurant menus. I save corrections for work products and outward communications. (I still grit my teeth and groan silently at least three times a day.)

    4. NeonFireworks*

      Ignore unless it’s causing problems with client reputation or (unlikely) actual ambiguity. Standard language and standard writing are just conventions, and some people have had more exposure to them than others have. Language doesn’t suffer from having normal variation, even where stuff like this happens. Rigidity (in the Lynne Truss model) isn’t very scientific and only causes a good deal of frustration in the onlookers.

      1. Jessica*

        Sure, spelling and punctuation are conventions, but they’re conventions that facilitate communication. Inability to write standard English will limit your opportunities (note the replies above about websites, product labels, communications to external customers, etc.). If I were deficient in a skill this basic, I’d rather have my manager identify the problem and show me how to correct it than assume I was incapable of improvement and would need people to make excuses for me for the rest of my career.

        1. Observer*

          In most cases, the added apostrophes do not create real ambiguity nor do they actually make it harder to get the message. So that’s not really relevant here.

          The issue with outward facing materials is that it’s a reputational harm, not that it actually creates a risk that someone will actually misunderstand. Of course it’s legitimate for a company to not want their employees to create reputational hazards. But it’s important to understand the difference in appropriate reaction to different situations. Internal emails simply don’t have the same kind of reputational danger that external facing materials do.

    5. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I take the position of “Why care?”

      Was anyone actually harmed? Did it create actual confusion? Okay, then it may make sense to care and point out the issue

      If none of those are true – well, why do you actually care?

      Most of the folks who seem to care about this sort of thing just want an excuse to point out someone else’s failings so they can feel superior to the person making the mistakes, in my experience – which is pretty unflattering look, and probably means you shouldn’t do it.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Interesting observation. In my experience of myself, I notice details on all kinds of things and one of those things is spelling and punctuation errors. It doesn’t mean *I* am perfect – I make mistakes, of course, and spell check is my friend. I used to get stuck on its/it’s.

        I don’t care about feeling superior, whatever that means. I care about intention and conveying ideas to my audience, and many people do not. I think in many cases people are rushed and not paying as much attention as they could because it isn’t as important to them as I think it should be. But I have a masters in communication, so it’s not surprising that I think that way. They could better convey their ideas with more thought, but they don’t want to expend the effort. It’s a difference of opinion of what’s important in communication.

        1. londonedit*

          I’m the same. It’s not about wanting to appear superior, it’s just that the way my brain works is to notice details like spelling and grammar. It’s one of the reasons why I’m an editor. For some reason, I’ve always had a natural ability when it comes to spelling, and the rules and conventions of grammar and punctuation came very easily to me (I was also fortunate enough to go to a primary school where we were taught the rules of grammar and punctuation, despite it not technically being part of the national curriculum at the time). When something comes naturally to you, it’s also natural to think ‘Come on, if I can do this, why can’t everyone? It’s not that difficult!’ And it can be tempting to say those things out loud. But with a bit of maturity and perspective I can appreciate that this just happens to be something that comes easily to me, and it doesn’t come easily to other people.

        2. Observer*

          In my experience of myself, I notice details on all kinds of things and one of those things is spelling and punctuation errors

          NOTICING is not the same as CARING, though. And that’s the question being asked. WHY does the OP care? Absent an actual problem, there is not really a good reason for going from “noticing” to caring.

          I care about intention and conveying ideas to my audience, and many people do not.

          That may be true. But given that in most case (such as the example the OP noted) there actually is no barrier to understanding that the writer was trying to convey. Thus, I have to ask why it is that you jump to “people don’t care” just because they make such errors, or don’t care that others make such errors.

          But I have a masters in communication, so it’s not surprising that I think that way.

          Actually, it IS surprising that you think that way. With your educational background, I would think that you would be aware of what actually does and does not interfere with the conveyance of ideas.

          1. NeedRain47*

            Language as conveyance of ideas rather than a set of rigid rules is under linguistics. (in which I have a bachelor’s degree, and I have mixed feelings about the apostrophe thing, but I blame the educational system not the people who didn’t get taught properly.)

          2. Bagpuss*

            I think one issue (particuarly for anything going outside your immediate team/ group) is that there are significant numbers of people who will see errors as unprofessional or a sign of carelessness andthat has an impact on how the team / company / individual is sen. That perception matters, when the people holding it are clients or customers or the people who get a say in decisions around promotion and pay.
            Whether it *should* matter is a different question.
            (I have had clients who cannot see past it at all – in the most extreme case an individual who would complain not only for the occasional genuine error but also for things such as word order being different from what they would have used. It wsa exhausting, especially as they were not able to address the actual, relavant issue the message was about until they had picked at every perceived error . They were an extreme case case, but if someone has the perception that poor grammar is a sign of carelessmness it results in a lack of donfidece which can harm the busines or work relationship

            1. Observer*

              I think one issue (particuarly for anything going outside your immediate team/ group) is that there are significant numbers of people who will see errors as unprofessional or a sign of carelessness andthat has an impact on how the team / company / individual is sen.

              Agreed. That’s why I (and others) are adding a caveat regarding external communications.

          3. Redaktorin*

            It’s highly difficult for the sort of people who notice stuff like this to force themselves not to care about it. All humans have stuff we like. I derive genuine pleasure from well-placed apostrophes and feel for errant ones about the same feeling I get when I find a surprise my cat has left outside of the box. When I was younger I’d point out incorrect apostrophes to people because it felt like the only way to get the cat poop off the floor, not because I wanted to feel superior. Then I matured and took in other people’s perspectives. Now I understand that my annoyance isn’t universal and correcting Facebook posts hurts people.

            I think the reason you’re getting pushback here is because you’re ascribing *evil intent* to something that’s often more of a (very) clueless phase nerds go through.

            In the end, I do agree that OP shouldn’t correct this stuff even if it’s annoying.

        3. just another bureaucrat*

          Part of it is what are you actually trying to do? Is the writing the thing or is the thing you’re trying to accomplish the thing. If I want a cookie and it’s sitting in front of you and I point at it and smile and you slide it across the table to me that was incredibly successful communication. If I say, me want cookie and you slide it over to me, again, incredibly successful communication. If I say “Excuse me, could you please pass me a cookie I’d appreciate it?” and you slide it over to me, again, incredibly successful communication.

          I’d say those are all equal in value if the thing I want is a cookie. There is no “better” because they ALL got me the cookie.

          And apparently, I really want a cookie right now.

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            And apparently, I really want a cookie right now.

            Doesn’t everyone?

            I like the way you point out that successful communication should be defined by whether others a) understood you and b) the desired outcome was manifested.

        4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Feeling superior, in this context, means knowing that you are right and they are wrong, and forcing them to confirm to your definition of being right – which you do seem to care about, but you’re not being honest with yourself about it. You openly say “I care about intention and convey ideas… and many people do not.” and that they’re “not paying as much attention as they could because it isn’t as important to them as I think it should be.” You’re making a set of statements that leads directly to you passing judgement call on them, which allows you to feel better educated and more virtuous than those who don’t share your values.

          They could better convey their ideas with more thought, but they don’t want to expend the effort. is another judgement you’re passing on them. You’re assigning a failure of will and desire to their communication style, simply because it doesn’t match your preferences. The implicit assumption to the statement is that you are a reasonable person who can arbitrate what they should desire, and how much effort they should expend on it.

          r u sure m8? Is a perfectly comprehensible piece of communication. It simply conforms to different expectations of how someone is going to read it, and how much attention and time someone is willing to expend on it. It may not be your chosen form of communication (it isn’t mine either) but it is a perfectly valid form for those who chose to use it – and so, why should I care that they made that choice, any more than I should care that they put on sneakers instead of boots today?

          Sometimes the choice does matter, and it’s okay to care about the impact it has when that is the case. But most of the time it doesn’t, and we need to recognize that. They aren’t making their punctuation choices or errors AT me, any more than someone speaking with an accent or regional dialect is doing so.

          1. Roland*

            Love this response. I definitely used to be the kind of person who would point out SPAG when no one needed it pointed out, and if I’d been called out on it I’d have responded much like Hen. It takes a lot of work to unpack that kind of impulse. I still always always notice but I like to think I only point these out when it actually matters now.

            1. allathian*

              Yup, I notice errors like that, too, but I don’t generally point them out, unless it’s my job, which it often is. I’m a translator/proofreader and often have to proofread text written by others in English, when it’s their second or third language. English is my third language as well…

              I also have the opposite of dyslexia, in the sense that when I’m learning a language, I only need to see a word written down once, and I can spell it forever, even if I forget the meaning of the word. This includes diacritics, as long as I’ve studied the language for long enough to know how they influence pronunciation. I basically don’t make spelling mistakes, ever. I do make typos when I’m writing extra fast, but that’s not the same thing. Granted, I’ve never tried learning a language that uses some other writing system than Latin. I’m not sure it’d work with pictographs, for example.

              This doesn’t mean that I always write clear, perfectly composed sentences, though. Bad spelling can make basically clear syntax hard to understand if there are enough errors, but that doesn’t mean that a text with no spelling mistakes can’t be improved by judicious rewriting…

              I’m not particularly proud of past me, there was a time when I wouldn’t hesitate to point out people’s spelling mistakes, or worse, ridicule them for making such mistakes. Granted, it was mainly an issue in my online life when I first started exploring various forums in my mid-20s.

              I was also ruthless with anyone who had the misfortune of writing papers with me when I was in college, although to be fair, their spelling mistakes affected my grade, too, so I wasn’t totally out of line. That said, once they got over the shock, and my reputation as a proofreader grew, some of my coursemates would spot me lunch if I proofread their papers, so it wasn’t all bad…

              In my college, some professors definitely espoused the idea that perfect spelling is essential to clear communication, and if you can’t spell, you’re stupid and should go work in an environment where you don’t have to communicate much in writing, basically manual labor or some services.

              This would definitely be considered ableist today, and I suspect that they still consider good spelling to be important, and ask that bad spellers use spelling and grammar checkers, proofreading by others, etc. to improve their spelling. In their view, being a bad speller is forgivable, but not caring about the impression your bad spelling may make on others isn’t. A much younger cousin with moderate dyslexia is studying at my former alma mater, and their most important accommodation is that they’re allowed a certain number of spelling mistakes in their exams that don’t affect the grade.

        5. Bagpuss*

          I think it’s also true that you can care very much about intention and conveying ideas, but still get it wrong no matter how much effort you put in.

          To take myself as an example. I care a great deal. I’m a lawyer, correct and exact meaning, and effective communication, are what I do.

          BUT – I can’t spell. And a lot of the time I can’t see that something is not spelled correctly. Of course I have lots of ways to try to deal with that – I always use spellcheck for everything work related, I make a conscious effort to look for thing which might have passed spellcheck despite being wrong, I proof read and look for words I know I am prone to get wrong. But things still slip through, and I am sure they slip through more than they do for someone like you or LondonEdit who notice that type of thing.

          (as an example, I originally typed ‘which’ in the paragraph above as ‘whcih’. And I wouldn’t see that unless I was carefully checking (and maybe not even then!) , because the word is still the right shape. Spellchecker would catch that one, but there are others where it wouldn’t. And a word like occasion – ocassion, occassion, and occasion all look equally good (or bad) to me. I know which is right because I have learned it by heart, but none of them would leap out at me if I were reading something to check for errors. Again, spellcheck is a huge help but it’s not infallible.

    6. Baron*

      Yeah, like a lot of people, I was socialized to believe that proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation were a sign of intelligence and/or competence. But…not always. As WheresMyPen alludes to, learning disabilities are a thing, and increasing mainstreaming means that more and more folks with learning disabilities are ending up in professional jobs. I’ve had two bosses, senior-level, bright as hell, who would ask for thought’s. When it was my job to proof their writing, I’d proof their writing. But if it weren’t, I’d let it go.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        And sometimes people just…have different skills and experience. I mentioned before how shocked I was as a student teacher when one of our lecturers showed us an example of an excellent assignment, which looked extremely poorly written to me. But then, the assignment was about evaluating one’s experience of teaching. It wasn’t a writing assignment and while I am an English and History teacher and obviously writing skills were very important in my undergrad, teachers of Maths or Business Studies or Science would have done no English since their Leaving Cert. (equivalent to final year of high school) and may or may not have written essays as part of their degrees. I really don’t know how those degrees are assessed. I think my brother had a mixture of labs and final exams. Not sure he ever had to write an essay in undergrad. (He’s a science teacher.)

        As far as I know, the person who wrote that assignment didn’t have any learning difficulties. They had just specialised in a different area. I know little about science beyond what is general knowledge (heck, I don’t even understand some of what is in my 1st and 2nd years’ textbooks – 12-14 year olds) and I have forgotten all my French and much of my German. So it makes sense that people who don’t need to write much might have forgotten a fair bit of their writing skills.

        As a teacher, I do feel it’s quite unfair that we, as a society, tend to judge people’s intelligence based on their reading, writing and Maths skills far more than other skills. I had one student who could barely read or do Maths at all, but then I gave them a worksheet about drawing a picture using grid references (like draw a line from (2, 3) to (6, 7) and woah! Without even using a ruler, he had a recognisable picture while I was trying to help another student who didn’t even understand the instructions and was getting confused myself. I have a student this year who draws amazing comics but is struggling in class.

      2. Thegreatprevaricator*

        Yeah I think the distinction between ‘my job to proof their writing’ and ‘I am their manager’ is helpful. I have a fairly high standard of written communication, but I picked up a lot of my grammar from studying foreign languages and applying to my native English. I wasn’t formally taught grammar. I was at state school in the eighties, what can I say. So I probably don’t apply some key rules correctly, particularly placement of commas. A former boss pulled me up on a fairly niche grammatical error (I’m talking placement of commas rather than apostrophes) in an external email and that was just him being a tool. I apologised and explained I didn’t really understand the rule and was never taught it. But more importantly, it neither took away from the meaning or made my organisation look stupid. He was just being obnoxious, which to be fair he did acknowledge and apologised to me.

        1. Susan*

          You also have to remember that different languages – and indeed different regional variants of English – can have VERY different grammar rules. As I (American) found when including a quotation at the end of a sentence (cue horrified colleague in Scotland). And that’s not getting into Russian and Turkish comma rules …slightly different!

    7. Ann Ominous*

      As someone who also ALWAYS notices these and who grimaces internally even when my autocorrect erroneously changes to , I second the advice to let it go unless it’s someone you manage or it matters because it is being published somewhere external.

      The way I let it go is to connect to compassion. I don’t want to be always grimacing internally and then letting it go. I instead want to treat people the way I want them to treat whatever my version of atrociously incorrect apostrophes is to them.

      Where it becomes interesting is when I discover I don’t have much grace or compassion toward my own shortcomings either! Then I work on identifying what I’m worried will happen if I stop being so hard on myself (and my if that doesn’t that yield some interesting discoveries). I ask if that situation is still true and take the inner critic on a tour of my life now, and figure out a way to give it a different job now if it wants that.

      Makes it so much easier to feel compassion toward others when I can feel it for myself.

      Now I generally still notice incorrect apostrophes but more often feel a little warmth inside in response, like a mini-hug toward the writer.

      I think that’s because noticing mistakes now feels like an opportunity to offer someone a little bit of ‘feel-good’ instead of a little bit of criticism, if only inside my own head.

      1. Aelswitha*

        I volunteered for a literacy non-profit for years, and it really brought home to me how confusing grammar rules and the English language are, so I try hard to stifle my more judgemental impulses. I often pass a rural house that has a large boulder at the foot of the driveway, and it has the family name engraved on it. Let’s call them the Browns. The boulder reads “The Brown’s”, and I badly want to pull in and ask if they mean The Brown’s Place, or The Browns live here.

      2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        What a lovely, gracious comment. I’m a literature academic and I very strongly believe, on the basis of twenty years research and teaching around this, that the notion of “correct grammar” is deeply problematic for all the reasons others have unpacked – especially Cthulhu’s Librarian (awesome comments on this thread!)

        But! My personal/emotional responses are not in line with this at all, and I do inwardly grimace at incorrect apostrophes and hypercorrection in general. I am also working on self-compassion* and I am going to start actively connecting to compassion when I see these errors from now on – thank you!

        * Speculation: is the Venn diagram of “grammar nerds” and “people who need to work on self-compassion” a circle?

    8. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I can’t help cringing over obvious errors and chuckle to myself when people don’t use the Oxford comma. If the writer doesn’t report to me, or their message isn’t going public, I don’t say anything. Heck, punctuation is easy for me but I depend on Grammarly more than I should. We’re all in a hurry, right?

      People who report to me are a different matter. Some of my recruiters have written emails and InMails with the following actual examples:
      Thank’s for your time today
      Your resume peaked my interest
      I found your LinkedIn profile……….and really want to talk to you………..are you open to a call……..
      I heard your looking for a new role?

      My company is a leader in our industry, and recruiter messages are part of our brand. In this case, I have a valid reason to speak up and also review outgoing messages for errors and sloppy writing. My company has an online course in basic writing skills, and it helped a lot.

      1. Observer*

        and recruiter messages are part of our brand. In this case, I have a valid reason to speak up and also review outgoing messages for errors and sloppy writing.

        Yes. Public facing communications are absolutely a place where one should pay attention to this.

        1. Shoebox*

          OMG my old supervisor would use ellipses ALL THE TIME and it bugged me so much. Subject lines would be: “Timesheets……..” or “Next week…….” and she would absolutely do things like “I need to speak to you……about your work plan……are you available for a phone conversation at 3pm today……let me know.” And it definitely did convey a weird ominous tone for perfectly innocuous, normal work things. Super weird.

          1. Aelswitha*

            OMG my Mom does that in e-mails, sometimes to divide one sentence from another, which often makes it difficult to figure out what she’s trying to to say. I don’t think I rarely get an e-mail from my Mom where I didn’t have to phone her to clarify. We’ve recently weaned her off all caps, but then she learned to text, so there’s a lot of “……..” mixed with unrelated emojis.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Me, too, and I said as much when I explained to the recruiter in question what ellipses are and how they should be used. She wanted to create interest and thought a lot of dots built enthusiasm. I said we could use our words to build interest and helped her create some templates that didn’t look angry or aggressive.

          She probably thinks I’m a hopeless fossil, but she stopped using the drama dots. That’s good enough for me.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Forgot to add that all those dots aren’t actually ellipses, which is why I shall forever call them ‘drama dots.’

      2. Lily of the Valley*

        Use of ellipses has evolved as pragmatic communication has evolved. I see that type of use as a new way of communicating in much the same way that new vocabulary words and new speech patterns emerge. Not only does it not bother me, but I occasionally adopt this usage of ellipses.

        Meanwhile, “peaked” is making me grind my teeth.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I don’t have a problem with actual ellipses, by which I mean three dots.

          The problem starts………….when people throw periods around like decoration…………because they’re attempting to be attention-getting, unique, or provocative…………..or they think periods can be used instead of dashes. That’s why I call ’em drama dots.

          Also, peaked gets under my skin, too.

          1. Artemesia*

            Peaked isn’t a typo or sloppy spelling though; I suspect the people using that just don’t know the correct word. Their/There is easy to screw up as a genuine typo — but peaked is just limited vocabulary.

            1. Clisby*

              Yeah. Like “phased” instead of “fazed.” I have come to the conclusion that tons of people do not know the word “fazed.”

            2. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Whether it’s sloppy or limited vocabulary, it’s not okay when it’s part of business messaging.

    9. RagingADHD*


      In other words, correct or mention it when it is your job to do so. Ig note when it is not.

    10. marvin*

      I think idiosyncratic use of language is actually quite natural and interesting, and it’s why language evolves over time and is culturally and regionally specific. My personal stance is that there is no such thing as truly incorrect spelling or grammar, which is of course ironic because editing is a major part of what I get paid to do. Over the years I’ve really learned to appreciate linguistic “errors” and thinking about what motivates them and how they change the way we use language.

  3. I need a new name...*

    I’m helping out with the office building’s event planning for next year and, as it’s something that seems to come up reasonably often here, I’d love to get people’s thoughts on acknowledging non-Christian holidays.

    We are able to invite/pay for local sellers to set up a stall. As well as set up small displays.

    Ideas so far:

    Ramadan – participating in a large donation drive we see advertised in the city
    Diwali – traditional decorations & sweets, as well as info on the local community events
    For Judaism, would it be appropriate acknowledge Passover or Purim? And if yes, how?

    (Christmas & Easter – will be marked by typically Western traditions)

    Any input at all would greatly appreciated! Including suggestions of charities to look at/avoid. We do have large communities practicing Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism in the region, so it is more than just a passing nod. And I will be encouraging management to reach out to them as well.

    1. HannahS*

      For Judaism, Purim is a relatively minor holiday–it’s not strange to acknowledge it, but would be strange to acknowledge it and not acknowledge the major ones. Also, it’s mostly marked by costumes and alcohol so maybe not so workplace appropriate! The ones I would most like to see acknowledged are:

      1) either Rosh Hashanah, or The High Holidays in general, which are multiple holidays in the span of a month.

      2) Passover

      3) Sigh. Chanukah. I have feelings about it. I think the expectation is that if Jewish holidays are acknowledged, then Chanukah will be one of them. From a religious (as opposed to an ethno-cultural) perspective, there are other holidays that I’d rather people know about (Sukkot! Shavuot!) but I also think it’s worth noting that almost all Jews will do SOMETHING for Chanukah, partly because of the overwhelming presence of Christmas in the winter (history, hegemony, blah blah blah.) Anyway. Yeah. Set up a Chanukiah, hand out chocolate coins, etc.

      If you’re curious, I’ve found “My Jewish Learning” to be a reasonably reliable site for introductory information about these holidays.

      1. LadyAmalthea*

        Sukkot could actually be a really fun one to acknowledge- it can be very participatory (in high school I used to invite friends whose Christmas trees I had decorated over to decorate my Sukkah) and easily involves a wide variety of food.

      2. I need a new name...*

        Thank you.

        My only concern about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the ‘how’. They seem more personal and lend themselves less well to engaging the whole staff (which I didn’t say in my original message, apologies). Unless you have suggestions for that?

        I deliberately left out Chanukah because the ‘Jewish Christmas’ vibe seems unfortunate and unwanted and I’d like to avoid adding to it if possible. But if needs must…

        Passover is one I’m most familiar with after Chanukah (my maternal grandfather was Jewish), so I’d probably want to go there. I might start looking for a matzah bakery…

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Why are you looking for a matzah bakery? And what do you mean by “engaging the whole staff ?” Are you looking for an activity of some sort?

          If you have Jewish staff, I would at least talk to them before you make decisions about what you’re doing to do. Everyone will respond differently (not even taking into account that if you have N Jews, you will have N+2 opinions). I am very open about my Judaism and my observance and I’d still be uncomfortable if my office suddenly started trying to celebrate Jewish holidays.

          I realize that food in the workplace can be fraught because of allergies and dietary restrictions, so this may not be helpful, but I’ve engaged my colleagues in the Jewish holidays with food. I bring in challah, apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, soufganiyot for Chanukah, and hamentaschen for Purim (I agree with HannahS that Purim is a relatively minor holiday but hamentaschen are delicious).

          Constructing and decorating a sukkah could be a lot of fun!

          1. I need a new name...*

            Not an activity. We are building made up of a few dozen businesses and our department runs the building and ‘placemaking’.

            For example, if baked goods are a part of a celebration then we would look for a local bakery connected to that celebration then we would reach out to them, discuss what we were thinking and invite/pay them to come on-site and sell their items from a stall to the 300-500 staff (though probably in the middle/after/before depending on the specific holiday’s custom on working). We’re not planning to celebrate any particular holiday in a religious sense, just acknowledge and support.

            Unfortunately, we couldn’t just invite the bakery in, which would be preferable, we have to tie it to something so the budget can be authorised.

            Hopefully that’s a bit clearer?

            1. Estimator*

              As a worker this would annoy me. Not because the holidays are being acknowledged, but because they are being acknowledged by what sounds some vendors being invited to sell things to employees. To me this is like a craft or food fair with a theme, not an acknowledgement of a holiday.

              1. I need a new name...*

                I appreciate your reply. But everyone seems pretty happy with occasional pop-ups in the foyer as far as I can tell.

            2. kr*

              I don’t know, are any other Jews here bothered by this? I am.

              Just give us our holidays off and don’t schedule meetings on them and we’re good. I don’t want my employer trying to do things for my holidays that they don’t observe because they will inevitably mess it up in some way. To me this sound rife for some kind of error, which could vary from mildly annoying to very offensive. We don’t need that. We need other stuff; give us the other stuff instead please and stop looking for novel ways to include us that we never asked for, especially when the bare minimums that we do ask for haven’t been done.

              1. Nitpicker*

                +1. Especially about not scheduling meetings. Including meetings that run late the afternoon before Yom Kippur. Hey, I have to eat before sundown folks!

              2. I need a new name...*

                I didn’t explain well our role in the original post, but expanded further down.

                The office building houses a few dozen individual offices and our department runs the building and ‘placemaking’. We have no bearing at all on holidays, bonuses etc. General maintenance & security, plus pop-ups in the foyer.

              3. HannahS*

                Tbh I’m not bothered by it. It sounds like if I worked in a stall in a market, and the lw is the manager of the market building but not the manager of my stall. A local bakery selling honey cake at Rosh Hashanah or latkes at Chanukah would be fine. I want time off too, but it doesn’t sound like the lw can control that.

        2. HannahS*

          Hm, true. I feel like the classic participatory activity for Rosh Hashanah is eating. Apples and honey, honey cake, tayglach, imberlach—I mostly know the Ashkenazi sweets but I think being more inclusive would be great.

        3. Roland*

          I’d steer clear of Yom Kippur. Seems overly religious and doesn’t have any observances that are appropriate to ask your staff to do.

          Rosh Hashana is easy though. Just feed people honey-flavored foods and apples with honey.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            And round challah, if you want a bread type thing. Yeah, I don’t mind Rosh Hashanah being used so much for this, but I’m very skeptical of either Yom Kippur or Pesach. The former is too solemn and personal, based around meditations on one’s own failings that one’s job has no business getting involved with, frankly. The latter is too ritualized. Every detail is prescribed, to the point where it would be practically impossible for a gentile who’s trying to set this up for the company — even with the best will in the world — to get it right. And if you did, you’d be doing too much and making the non-Jews uncomfortable, I would guess. The problem with Pesach is that each detail connects to the next, and so there isn’t a ready place where you can just step off and say, “We’ll do *that* much, and no more. That’s enough.”

      3. anxiousGrad*

        Purim is a minor holiday, but since OP mentioned donation drives, that actually would be an appropriate way to acknowledge Purim. One of the four Mitzvot (commandments) on Purim is too give to charity, so a donation drive would be very nice. As for the more major holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Passover) I think the most important way to acknowledge them is to allow people to take time off to observe them.

        1. I need a new name...*

          We run the building not the companies in the building, so time off is outside of our power.

          But thank you about the info on Purim donation drives! That could be a great one.

    2. Ihmmy*

      I’d also suggest looking at some classic winter solstice traditions from around the world, some have religious connotations but some are just more regional, and it’s a really nice event to mark that the days will be getting longer again (finally)

      1. I need a new name...*

        I did suggest Solstices! Unfortunately that was dismissed out of hand and I’m very new so I didn’t push it :(

        1. King Friday XIII*

          Not gonna lie, as a solstice-celebrating pagan I’m side-eyeing the people who dismissed your suggestion.

          1. Girasol*

            As a solstice-celebrating Christian, I agree! It’s the longest night of the year for everyone, regardless of their faith, and that was important to all of our ancestors. If Christians stripped all the wonderful solstice traditions from the holiday it would be dull one indeed: no tree, no holly, no mistletoe, no lights and candles, no feasting with friends, not to mention that some of the best carols are solstice songs with Christian wording dubbed in. Rather than force fitting others’ nearby holy days into a Christmas celebration, celebrating the solstice seems ideal. It’s disappointing that the OP’s suggestion was vetoed.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Oh that’s terrible. Solstices are the great unifier! Every religious tradition I can think of has something that is related to a solstice or equinox.

          Plus, there are plenty of traditions that are very specifically For The Solstice and the company is trying to be inclusive.


          1. Artemesia*

            I actually find the idea of celebrating lots of religions at work sort of icky; not going to say anything when people champion it, but how about religion being a private thing? But the solstice seems as neutral as it gets. Yes there are people for whom it has religious significance, but for ALL of us it is the longest and shortest days of the year and a signifier in the passage of seasons.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Taking into account that if there’s 2 Jews in a room, there’s a minimum of 3 opinions, my position is that if a company (!) is looking to honor Jewish holidays, it would give all the Jews and the Gentiles the day off. I mean, Jews are supposed to give their non-Jewish employees the Jewish holidays AND the employees’ holidays off. [Don’t get me started on the concept of the “Sabbath Goy”, either.]

      Of course, this isn’t useful.

      Check with your Jewish employees.

      Personally, I’d say Sukkot is the most conducive to sharing in a work context. If you have a sustainability mandate or are conservation-adjacent, Tu B’Shevat is good (Trees’ New Year).

      Those are two where work is permitted (at least mostly during Sukkot, not the first 2 days) and so for closely observant Jews, it wouldn’t be odd to have a celebration at work, I think.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        PS: Not particularly observant Jew by birth here, from a religiously complicated family and upbringing. Just for the record.

      2. I need a new name...*

        I didn’t explain well our role in the original post, but expanded further down.

        The office building houses a few dozen individual offices with about 500 employees between them and our department runs the building and ‘placemaking’. We have no bearing at all on holidays, bonuses etc.

        General maintenance & security, plus pop-ups in the foyer. That’s us.

    4. LabTechNoMore*

      For Ramadan, there are also traditional foods you can highlight (it could be a little awkward to have actual food depending on the time of day, for obvious reasons. But for a booth setup, plenty of other mediums to convey the information about cuisine besides handing out food). Because of fasting, food ends up being a big part of Ramadan.

      Off the top of my head, maamoul cookies would probably be a hit. Traditionally a date is used to break fast. Each country and region of the world has very different traditions surrounding food culture during Ramadan, too, so there’s a lot you can choose from. In cities in Egypt, for example, they’ll set up giant tables outdoors along the streets for breaking fast. Each night is basically a festival. Food, faith, and charitable giving are the major themes here, so a donation drive is a good call.

      Also don’t forget the Eid, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan!

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        That was my thought- not Muslim- but from celebrating with friends, having something for Eid might be good? Lots of nice good during sunlight hours :)

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re asking vendors from the religious community in question to come in and run a booth selling traditional [whatevers] as appropriate for their religious holiday, you’re asking them to do One More Thing at their busiest time of the year. It may be the only time all year that they’re fully booked and/or the time they rely on to make sales to survive during slower periods of the year, so they may not have much capacity for “outside” events during that time.

    6. Vio*

      Use the communities! Definitely encourage management to reach out to them and to ask them what events they feel are most important and how best to acknowledge them. When you want to make a community feel included the best way to do that is often to ask them what would make them feel welcome and what they would like to share with others. A simple “We’d love to learn about and celebrate your culture, how can we do that?” works much better than an awkward attempt that only shows how little you understand (which is often what companies end up doing when trying to be inclusive).

  4. SMT*

    Waiting on a start date – how long is too long?! I had my interview and was subsequently offered the role a month ago. They are refusing to give a start date until all pre-employment checks are completed but am I being unreasonable in wanting an approximate timeline after 4+ weeks of waiting? I’m beginning to think I should explore other alternatives…

    1. Jessica*

      That does sound ridiculous. This isn’t a government position involving a security clearance, is it?

      1. Office-issued square of sheet cake*

        On the off chance it is govt and SMT is new to the hiring process, to give you perspective SMT, I’ve hired for govt positions that did NOT require a security clearance (aka, the faster kind), and entire process from my end was seven months. For the candidates, it was five months from job posting to start date.

        Trust us, the hiring mangers would love to move faster. It’s just not how it goes though.

      2. De Minimis*

        Even with the government, in many cases the person is hired provisionally and they have a preliminary background check done, get a provisional clearance, and they begin work with the full background investigation being done later on. In theory, they could fail the actual investigation but I’ve never seen it happen.

        In my experience with the federal government, the big slowdown in filling positions is HR. They operate in their own universe.

    2. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      That seems long unless there are heavy background checks required for government contracting or financial roles. Also, you have holidays in here. Did they not give you any info on this this upon the offer? It’s not uncommon for some industries, but that is usually made clear upfront.

      Hm. I don’t think unreasonable to go back and inquire asking how long this process typically takes. Is 4-6 weeks the norm, or is it more like 6-8 weeks? Are they preferring to wait until the new year because of budgetary or contractual reasons?

    3. Dr. Prepper*

      An offer with a contingency clause (here the background checks) is not an offer at all.
      Do not give notice and make no definitive bridge-burning plans.

      Always presume that until you have a final, written, binding offer in hand you should keep searching and interviewing.

      1. Bagworm*

        Agreed. My current employer gave me a contingent offer with a firm start date in it. I had to say, I’m sorry but the start date is just as contingent on me getting a firm offer as your firm offer is on me passing all your background checks. I was surprised that they were unhappy about that but we, fortunately, were able to come to an understanding.

      2. Artemesia*

        Yes. I do think the OP should continue to job search and see what else is out there. This would make super nervous unless I was told on the front end ‘it always takes 8 weeks here for background and paperwork’. I’d be worried that something was going on that was not going to be good for me.

    4. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Geez, you could have a really long wait. My husband once worked for a contractor with the Navy and his security clearance took like 10 months because they were backlogged. They let him start without it, he just couldn’t work on the classified stuff.

    5. Roland*

      What would you do with a start date if they gave you one? You shouldn’t give notice until an offer isn’t contingent anymore. Any date at this point is a guess. I feel like them not choosing one is MORE transparent then choosing whatever and maybe having to walk it back.

    6. Hamburke*

      We’re still waiting on the background check for my new coworker – it’s taking forever! The last person we hired in 2019 took 10 days to come back and that was bc they lived abroad immediately prior. We’re going on 3 weeks now and there’s no timeline.

  5. Portofino*

    Do y’all enjoy listening to your spouse/partner about their work? My spouse talks about his job to me all.the.time – what he’s working on, the challenges, his proposed solutions, his frustrations, etc. He always wants my feedback but I have usually have none to give because I’m not in the same field. I know it’s his way of wanting to connect with me but it’s driving me insane. It’s like 20-30+ minutes at a time, first thing in the morning, during meals, when I get home, and every available moment in between. WIBTA if I said I don’t want to hear it anymore?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I do enjoy hearing about my husband’s work (we’re definitely not in the same field) and he mine – but that’s not what you’re really asking. It sounds like work is the only thing he talks to you about, or close to it. I don’t think YTA for wanting to talk about other things, but it will take a conversation – maybe give him a time limit? Explain that you love him but you don’t feel like you can really be any help? And then work on other things you can talk about or ways to connect.

    2. MythicPlasma*

      We tell each other about work all the time. We’re both the type that figure things out by explaining them to others and act as sounding boards for each other from everything about the best way to deal with people, strategies for doing things, or just blowing off steam. We’re in different fields, but can still ask questions that help the other look at things from a new perspective and come up with a solution to their problem.

    3. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      You have a couple of options.

      1. Tell him to limit how long they can talk about their work day (10-15 minutes tops ONCE) and then move on to other topics.

      2. Suggest limiting work talk to ONLY major happenings or big news rather than the day to day annoyances /issues and they need to edit the convo down to only the really important bits.

      3. Telling them you don’t want to hear about their work, period, because it’s driving you nuts.

      Usually people who do this are somehow unhappy with their work situation and need an ear. But you’re not obligated to listen to it constantly. There are therapists and career coaches for that!

    4. MissLibby*

      I get this from my adult child. We both work for the same company, but in different locations and different areas of expertise. I try to let them vent for a while and then gently change the subject. Sometimes I can offer feedback and do so if I feel it is welcome and helpful to them. I am not going to say you would be an AH for saying you don’t want to hear it, but it is not how I would personally handle it.

    5. londonedit*

      Could you maybe try having a dedicated work-chat/work-vent time? Say your partner (and you!) would get 15 or 20 minutes of work-chat time when you get home, and then that’s it, the work chat goes away for the rest of the evening? Personally I don’t mind hearing about my partner’s work, but if it was morning, evening, during meals…that would definitely get a bit wearing!

    6. Hen in a Windstorm*

      You might review this Captain Awkward post about the husband constantly complaining about his job. It’s not the same, but has good ideas for how to constrain it.

      It’s okay for you to want boundaries on his work talk (or any other topic!). Tell him when you *are* willing to listen, for how long, and then say, no work talk at any other time, please.

    7. EmKay*

      Generally no, because my guy is an civil/building engineer and his explanations are never brief. If we’re speaking face to face he can see me zone out past a certain point, but if we’re on the phone I have to speak up or he prattles on forever.

      “Honey, give me the layperson’s bullet-point explanation. And if you can’t, this is a discussion for engineers, not your girlfriend.”

    8. Mill Miker*

      My wife and I fall into this pattern a lot, especially as we head into winter. Most of our friends and family are out of town, so we have weeks where we’re either at work, or talking to each other.

      She’s tried to put bans on work talk, but then we end up sitting there quietly because neither of us has done anything else for a while.

    9. Ann Ominous*

      That’s a LOT of work talk! When I was going through a particularly terrible time at work with an incredibly abusive boss, two things were true:

      1. I needed support – both in the form of space to vent and also advice.

      2. My dear spouse, Andy Ominous, needed space that wasn’t filled with ‘and here’s this other thing, here’s how it made me feel, I was thinking of doing x but that would risk y, what do you think?’

      He asked me to talk more with my therapist and friends, and to add more non-work things to our discussions. I was hurt but totally understood and also hadn’t realized just how much space it was taking up.

      You’d be well within reasonable bounds to say, ‘hey not sure if you realize but we talk about your work strategies an average of 3-4 hours per day. I admire the way you handle things and want to be a sounding board but I also would like to talk about and do the other things that bring us together. Can we limit work talk to once per day, say 30 mins after work, and that’s it?”

    10. I should really pick a name*

      I might suggest just asking for less of it as opposed to getting rid of it completely.

      I really appreciate being able to talk to my partner about stuff that I can’t talk to my coworkers about.

      Maybe arrange it so it’s a single discussion at the end of the work day?

    11. Trefoil*

      You’ve got to talk to your spouse about this issue – otherwise you risk building up resentment and saying something shitty when you’re at your wits end.

      Take some time to think about what you’re really asking for: do you want to connect about other topics, do you hate feeling helpless when you can’t help, do you use too much energy on his problems, is it boring, etc.

      “I’ve noticed that we talk about our work (you’re being generous with “our”) first thing in the morning, after work, during dinner, after dinner, and it’s starting to bum me out. I loved when we were connecting on (these topics) and I’d like to consider setting aside a specific time to talk work, and try to stick with only talking about it then. Do you think we could do that?” Captain Awkward has great scripts too about boundaries – I’m thinking about the parent who won’t stop texting their adult kid while she was at work. Setting aside specific time to talk (and then talking at that time) was helpful. “Okay, great, we’ll talk about that at work-talk-time!” when they forget and start a work story. Because I bet he doesn’t realize how often it is – if you respond every time by saying “cool! Let’s talk about that at work-talk-time” – they’ll start to notice that it’s ALL THE TIME.

      It’s probably good to have this talk at a time that isn’t in the middle of one of these work-venting sessions!

    12. Gyne*

      Maybe my experience is different because I’m a physician but I’m very “don’t talk about work” at home. And it is FINE. We have plenty of other things to talk about. I share general frustrations occasionally or sometimes funny stories (about coworkers) but that’s about it. There are definitely times I wish I could talk more- currently dealing with a situation involving someone we know that is weighing on my mind a. lot. but that’s just how it is. I feel like it’s totally reasonable to ask your spouse to rein in the work talk.

      1. AGD*

        Same. I work in higher ed (mostly student advising, some teaching) and a lot of what I see is sensitive/confidential, so I talk pretty vaguely and generically about most of it to family/friends/etc.

    13. Generic Name*

      I think it’s less that you don’t enjoy average amounts of work talk from your spouse and more that you don’t enjoy being monologued at for what equates to hours of your day. At least that’s how I’m reading it. I was married to a man who would feelingsdump stuff about his job the instant I would walk in the door. I would literally be standing there in my coat with bags in hand and he’d expect me to stand there and listen to him talk at me. He’s not the type of person who accepts feedback graciously, so I couldn’t say anything to him about it or ask him to do anything differently. Well, not without dealing with major unpleasantness for days or weeks. We are now divorced. I’m not at all saying that this is the ultimate answer for you. With my ex, it was a symptom of a larger problem he has with pathological self-centeredness.

      My now husband works in a different field, and I do enjoy hearing stuff about his job. The big difference is that he has appropriate other outlets to talk through complex technical problems (so he’s not externally processing at me) and doesn’t dump on me emotionally. I can say (nicely) to him, “Honey, I have no idea what you are talking about”, and he’s able to either give me the layperson’s version or will talk about something else.

      I think you can say that you are feeling overwhelmed with how much he talks about work and ask that certain times be “no work talk” times, or designate a “now we vent about our jobs” time where you BOTH get to discuss frustrations about work.

      1. Gyne*

        That’s a really good point – it might be that it’s less of a “conversation” about work and more of a “captive audience for ranting.” There might need to be more give and take and for the OP’s partner to back off and ask questions or listen to the OP more.

    14. Koifeeder*

      I’m with I Should Pick A Name in that you probably can’t ask for none, you do have to ask for less.

      Your mileage will vary considerably with this suggestion, but if he just needs to talk it out so he can process it, you could get him a rubber duck or something for if he needs to discuss job-stuff outside of designated discussion time. Given what you’ve said, the duck’s gonna be just as useful to him as you have been, so I think it really is just that he needs to chatter to process job stuff. If he really needs some sort of vocal input, you could get him a furby instead.

    15. Cringing 24/7*

      I do like hearing about my spouse and their work. We trade stories all the time because we’re in two completely different industries and it’s fun to see the vast difference in industry-culture. We’re both subject to government oversight, but in vastly different ways (education vs banking), so it’s super interesting to get to experience second-hand the inner workings of another career.

      1. Cringing 24/7*

        Oh, I’m spacey today. I realized I didn’t even answer your final question, but it looks like several of the suggestions above cover what I was going to say. Best of luck!

    16. JSPA*

      I often do.

      But more generally, caring how people are doing in their work lives, in some detail, is commonly part of relationships. I can’t imagine not asking about a partner’s day, or not sharing mine.

      As far your role,

      Non-specialist reactions are useful in their own way. (He has specialists for subject feedback, I assume?) If he’s asking you to track some of the names and terms, that’s not like he’s expecting technical feedback.

      Could be he’s hoping that you can read his demeanor, and say something like, “that seems to make you more stressed than normal for a work- decision–are you aware of that, or is that something you need to unpack?” Or, “last time you updated the frim-fram-flooie, you had high expectations for increased efficiency, but then it didn’t really happen. Are you feeling better about it this time?”

      If he’s never listened to you talk in detail about something that’s fascinating only to you, or only comfortable for you, then the lack of reciprocity is absolutely problem! But if he’s game to put on a listening face for your work stuff (or friend stuff)…or watch the movies you enjoy just for the pleasure of watching them with you…or he’s willing to opine on whether the wallpaper should be mustard or ecru, when he literally has no preference and does not care, but you want to make the decision together… then he’s holding up his part of the “sometimes I’ll play the role you need me to play” relationship contact.

      You have some leverage, all the same, to make it less of a drag. “Write it down / Not before my coffee” in the morning? Or saying, “frankly, the part of this I’d be curious to hear more about is [only tangential detail that seems potentially interesting]” can turn a monologue into a conversation. As can any of many Big Picture questions.

      But if all of his life, you included, are tangential to work, and the only real person in his worldview is him… that’s a problem.

    17. marvin*

      Maybe I just don’t have all the details, but this sounds like more of a communication problem than anything. There seems to be a pretty big mismatch between how much he wants to talk about work (basically all the time) and how much you want to hear about it (not at all).

      Have you said anything to let him know that you’re not up for this volume of work talk and that you don’t have much to contribute? Have you tried introducing other topics instead? This sounds to me like the kind of situation that can happen when you don’t talk about something that’s bothering you and it just builds up until you can’t stand it anymore. Or maybe I’m projecting because I have a bad habit of doing this.

    18. Hamburke*

      I work in the same home office as my husband. We work in completely different fields. We bounce ideas off each other occasionally – usually “does this sound as frustrated as I feel” but sometimes taking thru a problem to find the solution. Also, we both do work for clients who don’t necessarily have too much of an idea what we do so it’s nice to have someone to explain something to before talking to a client and being caught out without an answer to a question. All this getting along, but I still glaze over occasionally when he’s telling me some particular tech-y process or find that he’s excited about. I’d set him on a path to tell someone else if it was every day, but it’s not, so I feign just enough interest, ask a couple of questions and move along bc I’m genuinely happy that he’s excited about his job. There’s been days when I just say that I’m not up for the technical details but I’m really excited for him, then tell Google to call our oldest kid who speaks that language.

    19. Nina*

      I’m currently (changing jobs soon) in a very intense, very high-stress and high-stakes job, that is located several hours away from my actual home and about an hour from the nearest service town. I wake up. I go to work. I go back to my boardinghouse room in the service town and go to sleep. Repeat for five days in a row but on the fifth day I leave work and drive several hours to my actual home where I proceed to spend the weekend frantically doing all the things normal people do on evenings/lunch breaks/weekends. I see people who aren’t coworkers on exactly two days of every week. I see people who are neither coworkers nor my partner maybe once a month.

      tl;dr: does your spouse have anything to talk about that isn’t work?

    20. kiki*

      I think it’s about finding balance. Listening to a summary of what went on at work for 10-20 minutes a day is pretty normal (your spouse did just spend 8+ hours there), but it’s okay to have limits and “no work talk” times, like meals and when you’re decompressing from work.

      One thing I would say is don’t jump straight to a hard ban. In a previous relationship I was the person telling my partner about my work too much. I was really struggling to find my stride in the role, the company, and was struggling as a woman of color in a male-dominated industry. My partner was in the same field, so it just felt very natural to talk to him about things. One day, my partner told me he didn’t want to talk about my work at all anymore and I complied. But work was a huge part of my day and really affecting me emotionally. I had a therapist and other outlets, but not being able to share anything with my then-partner really hurt us. It’s not what ended our relationship by any means, but basically being told “hey, that thing you spent most of your day on? That thing that’s making you upset? Don’t tell me anything about it” really sucked.

  6. BrillianteBrunette*

    I graduated from a professional graduate program last year and was lucky enough to get a job working for a large, well-known company (think a popular, consumer-facing company with lots of brand recognition) right out of school. That kind of trajectory is unusual in my field – let’s say most new farm school graduates work for large farms and work with all kinds of animals before moving on to working with one specific animal, and I was able to get a job doing llama financing, a particularly popular animal and specialty, at Llamas-R-Us, a very well-known llama retailer, right away. Because of my unusual trajectory and the well-known company, I get lots of requests on LinkedIn from current students and alumni from my school who want to network and ask about working at Llamas-R-Us.

    The thing is that my role is an 18-month fellowship program that provides specialized experience, and the position is ending in a few months. The fellowship does not come with a guarantee that my current company will hire me or even have an appropriate position for my experience level available, and I’ve been applying and interviewing internally and externally for a permanent position in my field. When I get requests from current students, I’m usually generally happy to chat about the fellowship program. However, when alumni reach out to me, it’s often along the lines of “I just applied to a Junior Llama Financier role at Llamas-R-Us and would love to get some insight about your experience working there” – and the Junior Llama Financier is a position that I’ve also applied to. I really don’t want to respond to those kinds of requests, at least while I’m job searching, because my inside knowledge of the company is an attractive quality to a hiring manager and sharing that with another candidate could undercut my own candidacy AND I don’t want to feel pressured to discuss my job search with people I only know vaguely or not at all. Is there any way for me to politely decline (and imply that I may be willing to chat in the future) or should I just ignore these networking requests entirely?

    1. ThatGirl*

      The alumni in question obviously don’t know your story. They’re just looking for information or an in. It’s okay to ignore them, it’s okay to say “hey I can answer questions about x but not y” …whatever you’re comfortable with.

    2. BubbleTea*

      I think you could say “I’m afraid that’s not something I can help you with, but if you’re interested in the Llama Farmer Fellowship Programme I can tell you more about that” without it being too clear that the reason you can’t help them with X specific job is because you also want it.

      1. JSPA*

        I like this.

        Or have an actual form email about the Llama Farmer Fellowship Programme with a brief introductory note saying that you’ve done a roundup of information on the specific program where your insight could be useful (unless that’s already more than you’d want to share with a competitor).

  7. LadyAmalthea*

    Sukkot could actually be a really fun one to acknowledge- it can be very participatory (in high school I used to invite friends whose Christmas trees I had decorated over to decorate my Sukkah) and easily involves a wide variety of food.

  8. Camelid coordinator*

    I’ve tried to take in the comments about what folks like and dislike about a holiday party at the boss’s house (hope I got that apostrophe right per the thread above). Here’s hoping the party goes well and folks have fun! My spouse is the boss. The plan is that the direct reports are invited over for a holiday open house on a Friday in December. We’ll start at 4 so that the office part of the work day ends early. I am also inviting my friends from other parts of the company and from outside the company to mix things up. Spouse will be behind the bar, where we will have festive beverages, including nonalcoholic options. We’ll have sweet and savory treats of various kinds spread throughout the rooms of the first floor to encourage moving around. Now I just have to declutter the house! If you have any suggestions or advice please chime in.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I think the best thing your spouse can do is make it clear to their staff that attendance is utterly optional and stand by that. To tie into another thread above, I’m Jewish and I don’t attend work functions on Friday night – if I were invited to this and it wasn’t clear that it was optional, I’d feel obliged to show up for at least a little while and I would not be happy no matter how delightful the food and drink.

        1. JSPA*

          Carpool, rideshare, designated driver, taxi (wheelchair, power chair)…”I don’t want to” is fine, but I don’t see the utility in presuming this is in a place where access is problematic. We don’t know if the local temperature is 70F and balmy with wide sidewalks, or 7F and unlit highway, but Camelid Coordinator doesn’t strike me as someone who’d not think to mention seriously limited transport options.

      1. JSPA*

        Depending where in the world, 4 could be well before sundown (or not) which obviously can make a difference for this sort of thing.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I say this as someone who loves a good office holiday party– 4pm on a Friday in December at the boss’s house would be tough. My week is over and now I have to schlep to my boss’s house and feel obligated to stay for a while. (A bar is easier to leave after one drink.) Can you start earlier? Make it a(n optional) lunch/early afternoon? That feels like a treat rather than one more thing between work and the weekend.

      1. ThatGirl*

        There seem to be a lot of antisocial people on AAM, but I agree that it would be great if it started earlier, and people could leave at whatever time they were comfortable with.

        1. Peachtree*

          There are SO many antisocial people in this thread! My old work did stuff like this and tbh we all really enjoyed it. Your spouse knows their staff better than we do – do they have a trusted deputy or someone who might be able to pass on any feedback from the staff in advance? I think it sounds nice

          1. nnn*

            What? Where are these antisocial people you’re speaking of? I count 2 people pointing out that’s Shabbat, 1 person mentioning child care concerns, 1 person asking about distance, 1 person saying Friday nights are a popular time to do things with partners, and 2 other comments, neither of which are explicitly antisocial.

          2. Zzzzzz*

            Yup. But we’re not anti-social. We’re anti making it a longer week than needed. That’s our choice to make on a weekend after a full week–to prioritize personal time. I am not schlepping to someone’s house to mingle and make small talk with ppl also from another office (in this instance) at 4 on a Friday, in traffic. Especially after/still in a pandemic, I am NOT mixing in a house where I don’t know vaxx status and related issues. You want to treat employees? Do something during the work day where all can feel like it might be a treat. Better yet? Give them a half day off. Or send all $25 VISA gift cards to spend how they like. That’s how you treat both in-house and remote employees the same.

          3. the cat's ass*

            I don’t think it’s antisocial to not want to sacrifice a Friday evening during a busy season/have to drive way out of my way/arrange alternative pickup for the kids after school/in order to attend a command performance by my boss who’s letting everyone leave a whole hour early! for drinks and nibbles.

            My team and i have a work thing like this coming up on a Saturday night-even worse in our opinion-and we are all RSVP-ing no and doing an alternative party at a centrally-located dim sum place today-we all have today off- and having our secret santa as well. So i guess it depends on the circumstances!

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Offering another view: People who don’t want to use their Friday evenings for a work party might have already made plans to Be Social with people who aren’t at work…because they are, indeed, social people with active social lives outside of work.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            That’s exactly it. When I worked in an office I was always down for a post-work drink with my co-workers and I often stopped in for one before meeting friends for dinner.

            We always had holiday parties on Thursdays for this reason. Even the massive company-wide party was on Thursday (with a late Friday morning start). I’m pretty social– was way more so then– but I liked my weekends separated from work.

        3. Empress Ki*

          I am not sure there are more antisocial people here, but maybe we feel free to express ourselves here.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        I’m not very antisocial, but I agree it should start earlier, maybe 2 or 3? Than folks won’t feel bad if they leave at 5 (and therefore have a regular work day).
        And it sounds like a lovely party!

    3. Ann Ominous*

      I would change it to a lunch thing and not an evening thing. Childcare was always an issue with my work people who had kids. Plus people often have other evening things they’d prefer to do.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I tend to like free food, but often Friday nights can be bad. I frequently choose concerts that are on Friday nights, so I go from work to out-to-eat to a concert, and then finally home.

    4. Mill Miker*

      One thing I’ve found goes over better is if the early end time and the party are not tied together.

      I worked at a place that did half days on Friday all summer if you worked longer days all week. On the Friday of the bosses party, however, you had to be either at the party or at work, even if that meant working overtime to skip it (we found out about that rule after most people had already put in the extra time).

      So if your spouse can avoid the whole “If you want to leave early, attend my party” effect, I’m sure the others would appreciate it.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Attending during work hours makes it a work event. So then it would make sense to me that you either at at your normal place of work or the holiday party place of work, but it’s not a free time off event. You’re right, if OP’s spouse wants it to be completely optional, outside of work hours, then it shouldn’t be linked to work time. I just think the purpose of these events is to make it accessible to as many people as possible, and so it’s easier to do it during a time where they’ve already made plans for home/pet/child/elder/whatever care because they were already going to be away at the office/worksite. Not infallible (due to things such as transportation considerations) but more accessible than after hours.

    5. the cat's ass*

      OMG, I would try desperately to get out of this unless it was COMPLETELY optional, close to the office, and at lunch so everyone could go home at the regular time on a Friday afternoon during a very busy holiday season, after being a little festive.

    6. WellRed*

      I can’t offer suggestions because you can’t do anything about it, but is your house local/close? Easy to get to? If it’s far enough of a drive and through a part of a city that People loathe driving in, especially at night, that’s a big sticking point for many people.

    7. Manchmal*

      Are spouses / significant others invited? I think what other commenters are pointing to is that Fridays are a hot commodity for people who want to attend the parties of friends and family. It would make it even worse if people had to dedicate an evening without their partners. If this is really meant to be a happy hour party and people can get to other events after wards, maybe even start it a bit earlier?

    8. HannahS*

      Oooh…seconding that starting earlier would be ideal. I actually am going to a faculty party without my spouse and child on a Monday night, so I’m not at all curmudgeonly about holiday parties AND I would still be peeved about a) feeling like I had to do it on a Friday; that interferes with Shabbat and b) on Friday, the work week is OVER. I want to be with my family.

      I’d suggest either starting at 2:00 or 3:00 pm and having exactly the same event, so that people can come at 2:30 and leave by 5:00. It’s dark so early anyway; it’ll still feel cozy and festive.

      My spouse’s holiday event is actually in the morning–they’re going skating and then returning to work.

      1. HannahS*

        For context, my work party is for hospital staff; we can’t actually jet off early which is why it’s on a Monday night. If you similarly cannot leave before 4pm, then I’d suggest a different night of the week.

    9. Maggie*

      I’ll be the lone person that says it sounds totally fine and fun – I’d go for a couple hours. Have enough food that people can eat a meal sized portion. Don’t want people getting too drunk or going hungry haha.

      1. WellRed*

        I’ll join you in saying it sounds like fun. I just have a few concerns as noted above, about driving. Otherwise I’m all in.

    10. Camelid coordinator*

      Wow, thanks for all of the replies! I consulted with a long-time person in the office on this, and the intention is that the office will just close whether people attend or not. I’ll make sure the trusted deputy and spouse make it clear that attendance is completely optional, and I appreciate the point about Shabbat. The house is a short walk from the office (8 minutes maybe?).

      1. rr*

        And for people who have trouble walking and/or for people who might not want to walk in weather? Or for people who don’t want to attend a party in their office clothes or are concerned about looking bedraggled after an 8 minute walk? For people who are driving, but aren’t comfortable driving home after a party because of weather/alcohol/vision..

        As already pointed out, there are a ton of variables to account for and arrange for. I just think it is a lot to expect from people.

          1. WellRed*

            Yes, let’s trust the adults to manage their needs on an individual business as long as they are otherwise clear on ability to opt out. If I look bedraggled after a short walk, ok.

          2. rr*

            True. The question is, for me at least, is exactly who this person is trying to please? I just think many employers are dishonest, even to themselves, about this. This is actually part of what I almost said. If you want to have the party, have the party. But isn’t it really about what you want? It is a party for you, not the employees.

            Just let’s be honest about it. I’m sure I fall on the anti-social spectrum myself, but a party isn’t what I’m looking for from my employer. If you are doing everything else for your employees that both can and should be done, then maybe a party, under certain conditions (see other people’s comments) could be nice. Depending on the other people you work with, of course, and only if you didn’t feel forced or pressured (in any way) to participate for one reason or another. Particularly if you don’t celebrate the obvious holiday being celebrated even if the party is called something else.

            1. ?*

              Many people enjoy these types of events. Given that this event is entirely optional, presumably the people who choose to attend are people who will enjoy it, or at least not loathe it. Why worry about accommodating people who don’t want to come and don’t need to come?

            2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

              I mean I guess it could be about the boss rather than the employees, but… not necessarily! I never went to work parties (or only briefly & grudgingly), until I became a manager. I hate work/social events. I don’t celebrate Christmas, and my partner is high-risk for Covid, so we haven’t been to any non-work gatherings for nearly three years now.

              But it’s really clear that my team are going to feel underappreciated, hard done by & miserable if we don’t have an in-person, face-to-face end-of-year party… and it’s my job to host it. This will suck for me, but it’s part of my job. (My least favourite part, pretty much.)

              It won’t be nearly as nice as your party sounds, though, Camelid coordinator! You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into it and I hope it goes well.

        1. Maggie*

          It’s completely optional and it’s impossible to have something that everyone will love, which is why it’s optional. An 8 minute walk is like… 3 blocks. Most people walk that long or farther to get to and from a parking spot for a restaurant or off the train to work or whatever. If there’s bad weather and someone is unable to walk in it, cars also exist. And again it’s OPTIONAL. Going somewhere 8 minutes from work for one hour after work (or still during since you could just go from 4-5) is something that works for a lot of people believe it or not.

        2. jj*

          People who can’t walk 8 minutes will presumably get there however it is they usually get places. OP was pretty clearly indicating the length of distance not implying a demand that people walk. An 8 minute walk is a 2 minute drive, a 4 minute bike ride etc. Unless her house is inaccessible to the guest list there is no need to assume in a kinda hostile fashion that her plan isn’t meeting access needs.

        3. Lady_Lessa*

          I interpreted Camelid’s comment as just being very close, not specifying how the guests would get there.

    11. Extranonymous*

      As long as people know it is optional it is fine. Always assume that people have very busy Decembers so they may not be able to make it to your party. Make it clear that this is your PERSONAL holiday party, not a WORK holiday party. Which it is since you will have people from outside the company.

      I have worked in a lot of places and it depends on the culture. I have had boss/coworkers I would not want to hang out with and others that we have had great times being work-social. I would completely go to a party at my current boss’s house.

      Also since it sounds like you are a couple hosting the party, significant others should of course be invited.

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        Thanks! I did specify in the invitations that partners and spouses are welcome, and I sent the invites, not spouse. Hopefully the open house wording I put in the invitations makes it clear this is a drop by if you like event.

    12. Alice*

      Do you have an outdoor space for people to eat and drink, for people who don’t remove their masks in indoors shared-air spaces? Do you have air filters? Do you have ventilation, either natural or mechanical?

  9. Ihmmy*

    I’m starting a new job in early December and I’m having sooooo much anxiety about it. I’ve been in my current role for 8 years and only left the one before that because it closed down, so it’s been a long time since I chose to leave a place. It’ll be mostly WFH come 2023 but they want me on site for December for training and I’m worried about what the space will be like (non binary so ungendered washrooms, SAD so lighting, how much privacy I may or may not have etc.). And what if I do bad at it, or if they don’t like me after all? Gah

    1. Jessica*

      I have a new hire starting soon, and I can tell you that (a) we picked her because we’re convinced she’ll be terrific and make a great contribution to our team; (b) everyone who works with this position or has been carrying some of its workload while it was vacant is absolutely thrilled by the prospect of getting someone into it; (c) we’re absolutely committed to setting her up to succeed. So maybe your new manager & team feel the same about you!

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Seconding this! We have two people starting next week and we hired them because we think they will be wonderful additions to the team and we can’t wait for them to start. We only hire people we’re excited about.
        I’m sure your new company is the same and you’ll do a super job!!

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I hear how anxious you are. That sounds terrible. Do you have any idea why you are fixating on possible problems instead of things going well? Does change make you very uncomfortable? Do you have unrealistically high expectations for yourself?

      In my experience, the best way to deal with “what if” anxiety is to literally write down the things you are worried about and make yourself answer those questions. “What if I do bad at it?” First, define bad. That’s so vague and vagueness is what increases anxiety. Make it concrete. Then figure out what you would do. Would you talk to your new boss and ask for help? Would you ask questions of your new coworkers? Would you change your name and move to another country? :-)

      I would also challenge yourself to come up with opposite questions. What if I do great at it? What if everyone loves me? Then what?

      1. Rocks are neat*

        To add to above, you can also go in with an investigative mindset – what is different from my last job, do they do it better or worse and why. It helps me channel the panic of everything is new until I learn my way around. Good luck with your new position!

    3. BubbleTea*

      For the ungendered bathrooms and the lighting, it would be completely reasonable for you to ask for what you need, either before (in the case of the bathrooms – they might need a bit of time to figure out how to change things if they’ve not got ungendered bathrooms yet) or once you know it’s a problem (the lighting). My office got rewired so that the two people who suffered migraines due to the glare of our horrible lights could be more protected.

      Approach it the same way as you would if you were letting them know you needed step-free access or an ergonomic chair: with the assumption that of course they’ll accommodate you, because they’re decent and reasonable people (who also have legal obligations).

      It sounds like you might feel like you’re being demanding or needy but you’re really not. “Can you let me know about the layout of the office, and in particular whether there are any ungendered bathrooms?” is not something I’d find egregious from a new hire. If the answer is “we only have multi-stall, specified-gender bathrooms” then you’d be asking them to help you figure out how to proceed, not subsuming your need for an appropriate and safe place to pee to avoid awkwardness.

      What if you do badly or they don’t like you? What if you do great and they do! It’s at least as likely, and arguably more likely, that you will and they will – they’ve hired you for a reason.

    4. marvin*

      Aw, I’m sorry to hear about your anxiety! It sounds very similar to my anxiety so I know how much it sucks. I am also non binary so I am with you on the washroom struggle as well! I have no constructive advice but solidarity, based on the details in your post I assume you are amazing and if your new colleagues don’t appreciate you, they are ridiculous and don’t deserve you.

    5. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Can you go and check out the space? I hate going into new physical environments without being able to check out in advance how safe they are for me / what I might need to do to stay safe. Even if there’s nothing I can do, I feel better if I’ve done a solo walkthrough in advance!

      I know this might not be possible (I work in universities so they’re usually quite easy to wander round unnoticed, unlike most office buildings!) but just thought I’d offer it in solidarity. Good luck! I hope it goes amazingly.

  10. Asking Questions*

    This is going to be 40% advice and 60% rant, based on my 20+ years of experience working for companies experiencing hardships/layoffs/industry problems.

    For the love of dog, when you have the opportunity to ask questions in a company town hall, stop asking softball brown-nosing bullsheet questions. Eric wants to know the date for when layoffs are officially done, so people will know if their jobs are safe. Lisa wants to know if the XYZ division might be sold off, since it’s doing so poorly. And here comes Kiss-azz Kevin, who wants to know what we can do to keep up morale during this rough patch.

    Well of course the Vice President is going to latch on to the life preserver Kevin just tossed, and use up the ENTIRE Q&A session bloviating about that. Why wouldn’t he? It lets him avoid all the actual hard questions. Now all of you are still stressed as hell, because you got no real answers.

    STOP. Stop giving these people an out, you freaking tools.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Wow! Ok.
      Not disagreeing but unfortunately there will always be people like Kevin. Often they’re fed those questions by HR or the corporate comms team precisely for this purpose. Just saying.

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        Agree, as someone who worked in corporate comms for a company going through a merger with a lot of staffing uncertainty… this has strong “planted by the comms department” vibes.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      STOP shifting the blame. I hear you’re angry, but it’s not Kevin’s fault there will be layoffs. It’s not Kevin’s fault the VP is a coward. It’s not an unreasonable question for the rest of the staff who aren’t getting laid off.

      You are doing the exact same thing the VP did – ignoring the real problem. You are putting your anger on Kevin, because for some reason you don’t want to put it where it really belongs.

      1. Pool Lounger*

        You can be angry at both of them. I get annoyed when this happens because it’s a waste of time and boring, but I’m still angry at the company leadership and broader economic and government systems that make things so difficult.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Yeah I’d probably ask a question and say something like, “I think a better question to ask is what is management doing to improve morale? I don’t think that is the responsibility of those of us with no authority or capital.”

    3. The New Wanderer*

      In my previous job, I absolutely hated those town halls with “open” Q&A. Since there was always a request to submit questions ahead of time, I strongly believed that either the questions were planted or they were sincere but chosen specifically because they were softball questions. I don’t remember a single town hall with a legit hard question or straight answers. The few that could have resulted in Real Talk were answered with execu-speak that meant nothing.

      In a sharp example of why they do that, a senior exec in that company had an off the record meeting with some very unhappy stakeholders and gave them some straight truth (not his opinion, stuff backed entirely by facts). Someone recorded it, it leaked, and that exec doesn’t work there anymore.

      My advice is, don’t hate the askers, hate the system that only allows those softball questions to be asked.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        And sometimes comms will take a hardball question and edit it into a warm and fuzzy softball. That happened to me once and I’m not sure how it can be avoided, since if they want only softballs they’ll simply not ask the hardballs that can’t be transformed.

    4. Roland*

      My last company had big looming layoffs and when they did choose the Lisa and Eric questions to answer, they still just said a whole lot of words that came out to nothing. I fully get the annoyance at the Kevins of the world and felt it a lot too but higher-ups gonna higher-up and they aren’t gonna give us the info we want.

    5. Gatomon*

      If it’s anything like my company, the CEO will simply require all questions be submitted in advance, then use up the entire window with the speech and state he won’t answer any of the questions, then announce he’ll join some of our staff meetings instead so he can get feedback or something.

      Even if Kevin is for real, I’ve never actually seen a CEO answer tough questions in a town hall.

  11. Bubo Bubo*

    I’d like to solicit some opinions about dressing in a, I guess, eccentric manner in the workplace. During the 2 years I worked from home due to the pandemic, I came out as queer and experimented a lot with fashion. When we came back to work I almost didn’t notice that my wardrobe had went from very typical (if uninspired) work garb to color explosion. As an example, I wore an outfit the other day which was a neon yellow sweater with black and white patterned leggings and large plastic earrings shaped like orange wedges.

    Honestly, I looked and felt fantastic in that, but I’m starting to worry that it’s branding me as unprofessional. I know it depends on the workplace. Mine is a university – our dress code is “no holes, no hate speech” and I’m definitely not violating that. Thing is, aside from the one teacher who always wears paint-covered overalls (he isn’t an art teacher) and the one admin known for wearing bunny slippers everywhere (she gets cold), pretty much everyone dresses somewhere between casual and business casual.

    I guess what I’m wondering is if I should tone it down despite having the space (on paper at least) to dress how I like. My current fashion sense makes me happy and my boss doesn’t care, so am I just worried because I’m not used to being visibly different?

    1. Jessica*

      My university is public and ill-paid so I regard the relaxed dress code as a significant workplace benefit. I think unless you’re in development or something you should keep right on rocking your new style! If it makes you feel confident and happy, that vibe will come across to people as much as any noticing what you’re specifically wearing.

      1. Bubo Bubo*

        You know, it’s totally true that the relaxed dress code IS a substantial benefit! It’s helpful to frame it like that. And just like most workplace benefits people will take advantage of it to varying degrees.

        I do think I come across as more confident now. Part of it is having figured out my own identity but feeling like what I present to the world corresponds better to who I am is definitely helping.

      2. Auntie Matter*

        First of all, that sounds like something Claudia Kishi would wear, and I mean that as a total compliment.

        Also, I think you’re fine. I teach at a university and dress pretty wild when I feel like it. Never skimpy clothes, but bright colors, interesting patterns, etc. I dress outrageously enough, apparently that the other day when I was doing a lab where I pretend my students have gone back in time and are lab assistants for Michael Faraday, so I wore an 1820s-style dress, and a coworker just said “oh I figured you were just dressing a little more eccentrically than usual.”

    2. Alex*

      I too work in academia. I think you’re fine. Do what makes you happy! You might be noticed–people who stray from the ordinary usually are–but probably not in a bad way.

    3. Shelley*

      I think that outfit sounds cute, and although I haven’t worked in a university I have worked in some smaller non-profits and I feel like there can be somewhat similar ‘vibe’, and people wearing brighter/bolder clothes hasn’t been an issue. My only question mark would be over wearing leggings tbh. For some reason patterned leggings seem more dressy to me, but some people really have a bee in their bonnet about leggings. But I also acknowledge that some leggings are more leggings than other leggings.

      Also just more generally, my clothes have become more neutral as I’ve gotten older, but I spent my teens and 20s wearing varying degrees of ‘out there’ clothing, and I’ve found that the people who feel the need to make snide or rude remarks about other people’s clothes are just really unhappy in themselves (it would take real unhappiness to balk at ‘expressiveness’ and ‘fun’ I think). Your outfits are genuinely probably brightening some people’s days (as well as your own!), which I think is absolutely a net good!

      1. Bubo Bubo*

        Haha, I had an inkling that the leggings would raise some eyebrows, but they’re definitely not the most “leggings” of leggings (I do love how you phrased that). They’re fairly thick, not overly tight and look like form-fitting pants. That sweater I paired it with was also quite long, kind of like a sweater dress, so I think the look worked.

        I think you’re very right about the judgement from others too – people who are comfortable with themselves are likely to just live and let live.

    4. Waiting on the bus*

      Are you okay with being visibly different in the workplace? You said you felt fantastic in what you wore but also that you’re getting worried. Which one of these two feelings is stronger? Because it’s okay to be uncomfortable with sticking out at work and toning it down. And toning down doesn’t have to be forever! You can try it and figure out that it’s not for you and go back to your actual style.

      But if the fantastic feeling outweighs any negative feelings anyway I’d say stick with your own style. Your work allows it and your boss doesn’t care, so you should take advantage of that to go with the style that’s more comfortable for you – both in terms of actually style but also emotionally comfortable.

      1. Bubo Bubo*

        You know, that’s a really good point. Some days I think the worry and insecurity is actually stronger than the feeling good, and I think it’d be nice to have more tame options when that happens.

    5. Zephy*

      I think as long as you’re clean and generally pleasant to be around, you’re good. You will probably come to be known by your fashion choices to at least some people at your org, but that’s not inherently a bad thing; most of those folks will be the ones who don’t really see your actual work day-to-day, so they don’t have much else to mark you by other than your physical appearance. And really, IMO if someone is going to remember me for something about my physical appearance, I’d rather that something be a choice I made.

    6. the cat's ass*

      This sounds so delightful to me! Especially the bunny slippers. I think you ARE dressing ‘business casual”, just colorfully. Carry on!

    7. Observer*

      I think that the only thing I would skip are the leggings. Anything that’s fitted enough that it would be possible to see if you’ve got something underneath is best left for other occasions.

      1. Bubo Bubo*

        That’s pretty much the kind of places I’m bound to work at for the rest of my career, so that’s encouraging! Thanks.

    8. just another bureaucrat*

      In addition to what others have said, if you’ve already established yourself in your role it’s going to be a lot less likely to be a Thing. If you’re already the person who can get the TPS report processed or the person who handles the payroll problems or whatever, if you’ve got a Work Thing then folks are going to be far less likely to even note it. I think it’s a little harder to do at the start of the job because people might grab onto it and you’ll be Orange Wedges instead of Processing Champ in their head, but that’d entirely overcomeable by being the Processing Champ.

      And what you described isn’t that wild anyway.

      1. Bubo Bubo*

        That’s a good point. I had already been at this institution for a couple years when the pandemic hit, so I think I was already established professionally when I changed how I dress. I’m the only one doing my specific job so it’d be hard not to know me as that (and I don’t think I’d mind too much if I got known as “Bubo the Trainer AKA Orange Wedges”).

    9. Rocks are neat*

      I like working with happy people, it makes my life easier. To see such a cheerful outfit that someone felt good in would make me happy and hopefully easier to work with. All signs point to yes, carry on!

    10. AGD*

      I also work in academia. I pretty much wear whatever the heck I want, and some days I just feel colorful. There was a day this week when I wore an outfit that was both very green and very pink at the same time. My clothes are also getting more exuberant because I’ve started making my own, and often what I want is a little bit wild. Anyway, your clothes sound delightful!

      My colleagues dress in all sorts of ways. One has exactly two distinct outfits (white-shirt-and-black-pants or black-shirt-and-black-pants). Another owns a very large number of dresses, but doesn’t wear anything else. We have two people who wear only T-shirts and jeans, and one of them occasionally has the T-shirt inside out (professors are allowed to be charmingly scatterbrained).

      I try not to comment on other people’s appearances even if what I have in mind is a compliment, but I’d probably quietly enjoy seeing your outfits.

    11. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I feel like you are asking “if I wear bright eye-attracting things, will it attract attention” to which the answer will always be “yes,” even if the person loves what you are wearing. IMO you should tone it down some days and can spice it up on festive days like the days before holidays or last days of classes. The point is to keep the attention on your work and the university running, not yourself or any one person. I’d also get rid of the notion that this has anything to do with being queer. It doesn’t. I feel like that is a setup for take offense anytime someone doesn’t like what you’re wearing, as if it’s a reflection of you as a person, when it is not.

      I think it also helps to step back and look at what “professional” means. Wearing an over the top ensemble may be great and entertain people but it also gives the message that clothes take up an inordinate amount of brain space, which isn’t a great message. This is why the image of an executive in jeans/tshirts is so respected. They are so busy and immersed in their work that they don’t care about what’s going on around them. And TBH I’ve experienced this too the past few years as I’ve gotten more responsibility and ironically feel the need to tone stuff down. Too many meetings have me in them, I’m cc’d on every email, so I also don’t want to be in everyone’s face in terms of my clothes and persona. Too much me. Just food for thought

      1. Bubo Bubo*

        I was happy to see a different point of view, and it was an interesting read. However, I feel a lot of your comment is based on assumptions that weren’t actually in my original comment.

        You said that what I’m really asking is whether dressing brightly will attract attention. I think I know why you drew that conclusion, because I remember a letter being published in recent months which had that exact theme. That’s however not my situation – I provide trainings and 1:1 support so I’m always being looked at, and I don’t mind (would suck for me if I did).

        Mostly though, I bristled at the implication that I talked about being queer as a setup to claim offense, when I didn’t actually do that. I mentioned my coming out because that’s the thing that motivated me to change my wardrobe. I do understand that in life, most people don’t get to express themselves through their appearance at work, whether it’s about being queer or some other important aspect of their identity. I was prepared to take it seriously if someone told me that in their experience of academia, eccentric dress was a bad idea.

        From what I just said you might get that I disagree with the idea that queerness and clothing are not related. If that’s true, I want a refund on my entire adolescence (which was spent being told by basically everyone that I “looked gay”).

        But that’s another conversation.

        Lastly, the t-shirt exec is an interesting example. In my first academic job, I was pretty young and that’s mostly what I wore. I didn’t come across as serious and job-focused though; people just mistook me for a student. I think you have to be pretty damn high in the food chain for casual wear to read as “so dedicated to the work, they have no brain space to devote to outfits”.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          It seems you sort of over-assign value to clothes. You are there for a job, not there to “express yourself” in most if not all industries. If you want to “express yourself” it should be through creating work that is above and beyond, not by focusing so much on your clothes. If you’re doing one on one trainings you should be mentally focused on your students/clients’ needs. I feel like you are too much in your head being self-conscious and that is not serving you

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          What part is a mess? You’re saying it’s a mess is ironically the mess. I feel like people here want to throw out every professional norm so me repeating what are regular norms will get discounted, but please don’t insult people in your quest to be contrarian against “the system.” It’s actually not cool or edgy to do what you just did.

          If all people posting here want to here is “great choice! you did everything perfect” then they shouldn’t post

          1. nnn*

            Huh? This thread is full of people saying they work in the OP’s industry and their outfits wouldn’t be out of sync there. Your comments might be true for some industries but apparently not for theirs.

            1. Prospect Gone Bad*

              Removed. The commenter above is right that you’re giving advice that’s contrary to the norms in the OP’s field, and getting pretty aggressive with others about it. Move on please.

    12. EUXlead007*

      I wear what I feel since my clothes are an expression of me. Look up Caroline Wanga – CEO of Essence. You get to be your authentic self, even if it means you stand out.

      I type this while wearing two color shoes!!

    13. Jenna Webster*

      If you are planning to stay in the job you are in for a long time, then I think you can dress exactly as you please and enjoy it! If you are thinking about looking to move up, you might take a look and see if there are any people at that next level (or the next one up) who dress more flamboyantly. If there aren’t any, it might be a sign that you could have trouble moving up the ladder.

    14. marvin*

      It probably depends on the culture of your university (your department, etc) but if it’s unlikely to create obvious problems for you, I think being visibly queer at work is a great thing. I too am the lone rainbow in a sea of beige separates, and while this may cause some friction in my work relationships, for me it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

      For what it’s worth, your wardrobe sounds reasonably restrained to me. I’m over here wondering if a rainbow mesh shirt with strawberry appliques is too much for the office.

    15. Divergent*

      You’ve said you work in academia, which I consider to be a safer/more accepting space in general so thsi manot apply as much, but: it’s definitely reassuring to queer students to see queer-flagging adults in positions of power within their institution, and succeeding in those roles despite their appearance. Especially if you’re feeling great about doing it and that shows!

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        YES THIS. And everything else people have said – I am a queer woman in academia (I’m a butch in Humanities though so my queerness expresses itself more thru drab colours and no makeup than big earrings!) and you’re fine. Enjoy!

  12. HannahS*

    I need a dress-code related reality check for something that was going on in the summer:

    One of my supervisors, who is generally highly scatterbrained, frequently wore dresses so short that her underwear was visible when she sat down–like, she’d cross her legs and her skirt would ride up showing her upper thighs and a good three inches of her skin-coloured anti-chafing undershorts (I saw enough to know what brand they were.) I did not feel entirely comfortable with seeing that much of someone’s body at work, and I could see my male junior colleague assiduously not looking.

    I’m not interested in being the body-police and I don’t come from the perspective of “COVER YOURSELF, WITCH.” I imagine that I would be equally uncomfortable seeing a male colleague’s upper thighs at work. I also acknowledge that I personally dress very conservatively, so my perspective might be skewed.

    My questions are:
    1. Were her clothes office-inappropriate?
    2. Should I/could I have pointed it out to her? If so, how?

    1. Ann Ominous*

      1. Probably not, but not egregiously so. She was wearing shorts-underwear, not panties-underwear. Like a skort.

      2. Maybe next summer it will go away. And if it does happen again, just say discreetly and neutrally, ‘oh hey your underwear is showing’ same as if her shoelace was untied, she had sometime him her teeth, or her fly was down.

    2. Dr. Prepper*

      The shortness of the dress is a factor in your office culture in general. If others in the office are wearing the same type of dress then she should be allowed to as well.

      Since she is a supervisor, there is a potential negative blowback to you if you tell her directly. I would think this is the perfect place for an anonymous note in the “hey, when you wear the yellow dress, everyone can see see your underwear when you sit down” mode.

      1. Cordelia*

        ooh, anonymous note feels very creepy to me, she’ll be wondering who sent it, who is looking up her skirt…I think anonymous notes are generally best avoided in the workplace, but definitely in something that could possibly be seen to have sexual connotations.
        I’d say yes, probably office-inappropriate, but no you are not in a position to point it out to her. It would be different if you were friends at work, but she’s your supervisor. Just don’t look.

      2. Reba*

        Like Cordelia, I strongly disagree with the anonymous note idea!

        Treat this as you would a spinach-in-teeth moment — it’s a kindness to tell people these things, and it’s not a big professionalism goof to either point it out or to need it pointed out.

        I think that for OP it’s feeling more fraught bc it relates to body modesty standards and gender, but if it happens again I would try to treat it neutrally exactly as you would notify someone that they have sauce on their chin.

        You’re not criticizing their dress, you are letting them know something that is safe to assume they would want to know!

    3. Despachito*

      I’d say:

      1) yes, very
      2) no, I’d not do that. She is your supervisor, so you are not well positioned to do that, it would be awkward and if she is that kind you could face retaliation from her. Not your circus, not your monkeys. If her superiors want her corrected, let them do that.

    4. Zephy*

      1. Were her clothes office-inappropriate?

      Probably, yes. It doesn’t sound like you have a written dress code anywhere (maybe you do? dig out an employee handbook and see, usually there’s at least something in there about workplace-appropriate attire), but I think you’d have to be in a pretty niche industry for visible underwear to be OK in just about any context. And you’re right, your boss’s specific bodily proportions and anatomy don’t enter into it; upper thigh (with or without visible underwear) is not going to fly in almost any office.

      2. Should I/could I have pointed it out to her? If so, how?

      This is the tricky part, isn’t it. The general etiquette rule I learned was if it’s something the person can fix in 20 seconds, it’s OK to mention – TP stuck to the shoe, skirt tucked into tights, shoe untied, zipper undone, tag sticking out, lipstick on teeth. You’d want to take them aside and mention it privately, of course, not call them out in the middle of a meeting. This kind of toes the line of being immediately fixable; if you had an opportunity to take her aside and say something like “hey, I don’t want to embarrass you but your underwear was visible when you were sitting down just now,” that could maybe work if you had that kind of relationship with your boss. I would have focused on the “visible underwear” part because that bit is objectively A Problem, regardless of the specific proportions of the body wearing said underwear.

    5. CdnAcct*

      1. Yes, I’d say anything that shows your bottom underwear (as opposed to bra straps) is office-inappropriate, or at least something that a person would probably want to be made aware of. I guess if her underwear goes down her legs a lot, like bike shorts-length, it might change it from being inappropriate to just something she probably would rather avoid.

      2. I think my ideal way would be in the moment after I first notice, I would quietly exclaim “Oh! Just to let you know, your skirt/dress is riding up a bit” or something similar. Hopefully only loud enough for her to hear.

    6. Pool Lounger*

      Anti-chafing undershorts aren’t generally underwear—many people wear underwear underneath them. “Inappropriate” depends on your workplace. If this is a supervisor maybe it’s fine in this workplace.

      1. Lily of the Valley*

        OK, then, foundation garments. If they were any colored but skin colored, I would be on Team OK to be Seen. They are skin colored, which I interpret to mean they are undergarments, even it they are not panties/briefs.

        I would tell her matter-of-factly, including that fact that people are studiously looking away, and then stop letting it occupy my head space.

    7. Tikal*

      The appropriateness is totally dependent on your office culture. In my office, seeing bare thigh or underwear is not acceptable. BUT, anti-chaffe shorts are neither bare nor underwear, and my office would be okay with it. I personally would cringe, but it wouldn’t violate our office norms. Both men and women cover legs and arms with rash guards and/or sunburn guards. As to what to do about it – nothing. It is not your responsibility to police your supervisor’s judgment. In the moment, you could of pulled her to the side and said, your underwear is showing; even if it’s not technically underwear. But days later it would not be appropriate to say anything.

  13. Dr. Hyphem*

    I have what feels like a low stakes question–I am the showrunner (Executive Producer, lead writer) for an audiodrama podcast, and I’m wondering if I should put it on LinkedIn. I would put it on LinkedIn as an ongoing project, not as a job. It highlights both creative and technical skills that I would be open to incorporating into future if such a role were to emerge, as well as skills that are transferable–leading a cross-functional team, for instance. The arguments for it seem strong, the arguments against it is that while I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I worry that it might look juvenile having it on there (I think that is more of a fear of mine in general, that people I know are talking amongst themselves like middle school bullies “look at Hyphem and her stupid little podcast.”)

    1. WheresMyPen*

      I don’t think it sounds juvenile at all, it sounds really impressive to me. I still have my university societies on my LinkedIn and have seen lots of others who do too, so I don’t think there’s a problem with putting your podcast on there either. Especially now podcasts are everywhere and people are more familiar with them. It’s not like adding ‘fanfiction writer’ to your profile, which could be interpreted as juvenile or alternative, a podcast producer is a genuine job so I think it would only benefit your profile :)

      1. WheresMyPen*

        Also I realise this might sound like I’m looking down on fanfic writers, but I have written and still do read fanfic from time to time so am definitely not criticising it!

    2. Zephy*

      I would put it on there. Writing and producing are skills you have, which you’re open to getting paid to use. Podcasts are mainstream enough at this point that no one is going to think it’s weird – plenty of grown adult people work in podcasting these days. I think anyone who would look askance at you for doing this work is not someone you want to work for, anyway.

      1. NeonFireworks*

        Yes, do it! My job is related to audio production (I can’t really specify because it could identify me, but two separate big aspects of what I do are directly relevant here), and this would be a HUGE plus for anyone from our podcast division hiring.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          One of my colleagues started her own podcast just for fun, built an audience, and got a book deal from Major East Coast Publisher for it. No guarantees, but I watched it happen.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Juvenile is literally the last thing I expected you to say. Do you have some leftover ideas that podcasts and gaming and the internet in general are “for kids” or something?

      So, it sounds like there are no arguments against, and you should put it on LI. Sounds like a lot of work!

      1. Dr. Hyphem*

        It’s less that I think podcasts are juvenile and more that I worry that everyone secretly thinks my creative projects are ridiculous and that I’m delusional. Like, I have the voices of middle school bullies in my head mocking me.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I mean no offense, but that’s a you problem – or at least an anxiety problem. Few people think about us as much as we think about ourselves.

        2. nnn*

          So then with all respect, based on that, this isn’t a work question at all. It’s a therapy question. I mean that kindly.

          1. Dr. Hyphem*

            I get that, really I do, and I own my anxiety/baggage.

            I do think the work question is whether it is appropriate for LinkedIn, the perception check, etc, which people have been helpful about giving guidance for.

            1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

              It’s a both question! I have this too, Dr Hyphem, and have only just realised that I do. So yes, therapy is the way I will be able to work on fixing the problem (imagining the meanest response possible and fantasising that others in the work world are thinking/saying that about me) – but to be effective AT WORK, I need to be aware that my judgement around this may not always be accurate, and seek out a reality check before deciding on a course of action. Exactly as you’re doing!

              Like with a lot of AAM questions, actually. Work won’t cure your migraines, but you have to work out how to operate effectively at work while the migraines are ongoing. Same with psychological knots or mental health stuff. Sounds to me like you have really clear boundaries around that, which I’m finding is the key.

              Also your podcast sounds awesome and I want to listen to it.

    4. Nea*

      Put it on. It shows distinct, specific, useful skills.

      Also, podcasts are getting a lot more respect these days, now that niche podcasts have become multi-national powerhouses (Welcome to Night Vale, The Magnus Archives, Old Gods of Appalachia) and podcast producers are running not-so-small businesses (Rusty Quill, Maximum Fun Network).

    5. Melanie Cavill*

      I know it’s not the point of your top level but are you willing to talk a little how you ended up doing that? That sounds awesome, honestly.

      1. Dr. Hyphem*

        In 2020, I started channeling my homesickness into writing about a place in my hometown, and a story sort of emerged as a result. I am a huge fan of audiodrama, so I was open to the idea of the story taking that form, and the structure of the building felt like it worked well with the episodic structure, because each room could be a framing devise for an episode.

        Plus it gave me some outward accountability, having written approximately two dozen first chapters of novels over the years, I wanted to make sure I didn’t give up on it. Feeling an outward accountability to produce a monthly episode, and also having to write in shorter bursts (a 20-ish minute script is about 8 pages, the way we do things). I had some friends who had relevant skills on the technical side, though having worked on it for over two years at this point, I’ve also learned many technical skills associated with sound editing, mixing, etc. to be able to support that work.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          This sounds fantastic! Like the audio equivalent of Chris Ware’s “Building Stories,” which still haunts me (in a good way) all these years later.

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      You left off what your main job is and your life goals are. If you’re a doctor then yes I would say it’s a distraction. If you’re an Accountant looking to climb the corporate ladder, it’s a distraction. If you’re in the entertainment/content creation space, it’s a huge plus.

      1. ronda*

        yes this. but even if you are in a work that it is not a real benefit in job skill….. it can be included as an interesting hobby.
        Just balance the amount of focus on it to how much it might help with a particular job opportunity

        but I dont think having it on linked in is a problem…. just do you list it as a current “job” vs as a hobby.

  14. Quin*

    Cover Letter related question – I currently work in a temporary position and have only been working in the role for about 2 months. There will be an opening for a permanent position for the same role that I am currently doing. My manager has encouraged me to apply to the permanent position when it is posted.

    My question is, when I write my cover letter for the permanent position, do I include that I currently am doing the same role just in a temporary position. Any suggestions on wording would be appreciated.


    1. Zzzzzz*

      Yes, of course. HR may not make the connect that you Quin are the same Quin currently filling in for the role, and mention Manager Name encouraged you to apply (all in PP1), what you’ve accomplished in the last 2 months, why you enjoy working there/the mission, what full time opps mentioned in the ad appeal to you that you can’t do currently as only a temp, other skills you have that may help flesh out those parts of the job. Good luck!

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I think you might mean that it’s a permanent position under a different manager? If so, then you definitely want to include your current experience. I’d probably say something like, “In my 2 months working in X role in Y department, I’ve learned…”

    3. temporarily not a temp*

      Been in this situation a few times, and absolutely.

      I’ve usually opened mine with something like, “In my temporary tenure as Llama Groomer, I’ve loved the opportunity to [blah blah blah] which is why I’m excited to apply for the role on a permanent basis.”

      Then at the end, I usually do another call out, something vaguely like, “I look forward to discussing the permanent Llama Groomer position and how I can continue to contribute to Llamas R Us.”

  15. Indisch blau*

    People working in writing, editing and academics – can you help? I’m correcting the translation into English of an academic publication originally written in German. The author references works in several footnotes as “here and in what follows”. (German original: “hier und im Folgenden”.) If it were just for the following cases (i.e. an abbreviation used in future references), I would expect “hereafter”, “hereinafter” or possibly “henceforth”. “Here and hereafter” sounds strange. But maybe I’ve been an expat for too long.
    Likewise, the translator writes “the next but following paragraph” (“übernächsten Absatz”). I would say “the paragraph after next” but the sounds strange in an academic footnote (“Cf. the paragraph after next”). Is there a better way to say this?

    1. I need a new name...*

      Native English speaker with negligible German language knowledge.

      Both ‘here and in what follows’ and ‘here and hereafter’ sound fine to me. I actually prefer the latter.

      ‘next but following paragraph’ is very clunky, I agree. ‘The paragraph after next’ is better but I understand while it still feels a little off. I can’t think of an alternative off the top of my head though! I’ll think on it.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Henceforth sounds best to me. Or subsequently? Sounds less old-fashioned.

      Could you number the paragraph or would that be too clunky? Cf. the 3rd paragraph.

      1. Indisch blau*

        But it needs to be “here and henceforth” or “here and subsequently”. Is that ok?
        The “paragraph after next” refers to the primary literature under discussion, so they can’t be numbered. Reference point is a paragraph quoted in the article.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Is it like “Llama Training Incorporated, henceforth LTI”, or something else where the “here” is fundamental to the meaning? I’m having trouble imagining a scenario where “here” makes a difference.

          1. Indisch blau*

            It refers to the edition of the work being cited (i.e. “Here and in what follows the English translation by X is used”).

            1. Bagpuss*

              In that contesxt I would go with “here and in what follows”

              The paragroagh one I think “the paragraph after next” is better than “the next but following paragraph” – it’s shorter and clearer.

            2. Weegie*

              Academic editor here.
              ‘Here and throughout this book/ paper/ chapter, the English translation. . .’

              Or, preferably, just: ‘Throughout this book/ paper/ chapter, the English translation. . .’ (the ‘here’ is implied, so you don’t actually need to include it).

              I agree with Ovidius that referring the reader to a specific paragraph is unusual – it’s more common to write ‘see below’ or ‘see Llama section below’, and let readers find the relevant paragraph for themselves once they get there. If it really does have to be stated, then ‘the paragraph after next’ reads most naturally.

    3. Ovidius*

      Hello! Copy editor here. I’ve worked with quite a lot of academic German text translated into English, and with German native speakers writing in English. :) These are both great questions!

      For the first one, I’d recommend something like “here and in the following [footnotes, paragraphs, etc.].” The hereafter/hereinafter/henceforths are faithful adaptations, but I agree with you and other commenters that they’re a bit overly formal. Then, unless it’s 100% clear from context, I’d add a word or two after “the following,” both to round out the phrase and to make sure the reader can follow without any confusion.

      The second one is definitely tricky! I agree with you that “the paragraph after next” comes across a bit oddly, but I think that’s mostly because the original text itself seems pretty unusual to me (I’m not used to seeing academic text use signposts in quite that way). Any chance there’s a section or topic header attached to that next paragraph that you could refer readers to instead? If not, then I think the best bet is to go for clarity: maybe something like “cf. the paragraph after next, beginning with ‘According to llama experts…'”

      1. linger*

        “Henceforth” is specifically signalling a term or abbreviation being introduced at that point and used subsequently. For bibliographic references, “here and in all following references” would work better.
        It also makes a difference how the notes are positioned. With footnotes (at the bottom of the same page), you can use the less formal “2 paragraphs down” because the reader can immediately see where to look. But with endnotes (at the end of the chapter or work), you’d be better off reversing the coreference, by inserting a new numbered note at that point, with content “See note [earlier note number] above”. And if there is some other intervening note, then the latter is probably the better solution to adopt regardless of formatting.

        1. linger*

          Afterthought: it occurs to me you might not have freedom to change the note sequence. If you have to keep the same note numbers as in the original, then insert a parenthetic comment, e.g. “(See note [earlier note number])” at the point the original note refers forward to.

  16. A Girl Named Fred*

    Hi all, hoping for some good vibes and also a reality check/advice in case the good vibes don’t pan out!

    I’ve been on the job hunt since March and have made it to four final-round interviews, many more first-round interviews and phone calls, but no offers yet. I have an interview next week for an org that picked someone else after a final round interview in October, but specifically said they wanted me in their department and asked me to apply to the position I’ll be interviewing for. Good vibes that this is the one that gets to an offer would be appreciated!!

    With that said though, I’m getting really tired of the job hunt and am at the end of my rope with my current role. If this interview doesn’t pan out, I’m seriously considering checking into some smaller, retail or retail-adjacent jobs just to get something that’s not my current role. I need time to recover and build up a new skill set so I can figure out a long-term career trajectory before I become branded as a job-hopper, but I worry that pivoting from office jobs to retail will end up setting me back even if I go for a career change afterward. I can’t decide if taking some retail time while building up skills is a genuinely smart move to get some breathing room, or if I’m just so desperate to get out of current-job that I’m wanting to make a rash decision. Any thoughts or advice would be welcome!

    1. Becky*

      I’m not sure if I’m in a position to give advice because I can’t seem to figure myself out (see below), but I wanted to offer solidarity as I can relate. I have thought several times of quitting office work and going to work at an Amazon plant, becoming a cop, or anything to get myself out of the white collar headspace for a bit. Where that’s gotten me is a. Glad that I didn’t, because I have a stronger resume from staying in my current field, but b. Incredibly stressed and having anxiety attacks. I will say, I think I would be more stressed if I had taken a low paying job (or just quit) and had financial issues on top of everything else. I’ve never worked retail, but from what I hear that is a stressful environment as well.

      In your situation, two things stood out to me – is the position you’re interviewing for in your long term career trajectory, or just something to hold you over while you figure out what you want to do? And, the fact that you’re getting to the final round means they like you and you’re qualified. You may want to work on some interview skills, since it sounds like that’s where you may be struggling a bit.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Solidarity is appreciated, and I’m sending it right back atcha! The position I’m interviewing for isn’t necessarily in my long term career trajectory – truth be told, I’m not sure I even HAVE one of those – but it’s closer to things I’m interested in doing than current role. Mostly a hold over role that I’d like to be able to sit in for 3-5 years to build some consistency, get a break, and build my skills on the side.

        And that’s the annoying thing about getting to the final rounds, is that nobody has any negative feedback for me! (That they’re willing to share, but I’ve also been working with a recruiter who doesn’t have any feedback and can’t get anyone to share anything either.) So far it’s always come down to someone else being a better fit, which makes it hard to know whether it’s anything I should change or just others genuinely fitting their needs better or having more experience overall.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Could you do some office temping instead? Still white collar, but if the job is terrible, it goes away in a few weeks/months. Usually less pressure than if you were a permanent employee, so that would give you room to upskill?

      1. BubbleTea*

        I like this idea, and if alongside the temp work you can do something that positions you better for the role you want (relevant volunteering, additional training etc) you could frame it as “I took a series of temporary roles to allow myself the time and space to do X extremely relevant and excellent thing”.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          Thank you for the suggestion! I’ve been working with a recruiter both for some full time roles as well as for temporary/contract. It seems like I’m hearing back less from the temp/contract roles than I am from the full time, but those haven’t panned out either so far. I’m definitely keeping it in mind as an option though, and remembering to phrase future interviews as “allowing myself time and space to do X” is good to note too!

      2. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Temping has its own set of issues that very well may be worse than their current job. I tried to get into it in 2013 when I was unemployed and every $14 an hour desk job had 100 other people fighting for it. So even if you got an assignment it was expected you be grateful and grin and bear it and TBH the one job I “luckily” did sucked big time.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          I do think that strong competition is something that’s messing me up a lot in this hunt, for both FTE and temp/contract roles. I don’t have a “specialized” skill set – I’m looking for Executive Assistant and Admin Assistant roles, though I’m open to learning new things and pivoting depending on the role/industry – so I think on some level I’m just up against a lot of other really experienced, really good folks and that’s why I’m struggling to get to the finish line even though nobody has anything “bad” to say about me. Which makes it better, because I’m not doing anything wrong! But also makes it worse, because I’m not doing anything wrong!

    3. Bagworm*

      It’s just one person’s experience but my partner pivoted to retail after a lay-off so that he would have some income while job hunting for another office position. He then moved to manufacturing after another lay-off. He’s now been job hunting for over two years and had very little luck. Employers don’t seem to understand why he would want to move back to an office job.

      I do understand the desire to get out of a position that is having a negative impact on your quality of life. I hope you’re able to get some resolution soon.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Thank you for sharing his experience, and I’m sorry he’s having such a hard time! This is exactly the sort of thing I was concerned about, especially when combined with some letters Alison has answered in the past with similar themes. I don’t want to unintentionally land myself in an even worse spot a few years down the road, so I want to be thoughtful about my next move while not sticking around any longer than I have to.

        Thank you again for the response, and for the well wishes! I’m hoping for good things for your partner as well.

  17. Becky*

    Is is possible to have the right job at the wrong time?

    I have two offers. One is a type of work I’ve always wanted to try, but the monthly-to-semimonthly cross country travel is making me balk. It’s visible and has big potential. The other is…safe. I’m pretty sure I’d like the work and there is no travel, but there is less upward mobility and less visibility (especially because I’d be remote). It would be challenging but I doubt it would be as demanding.

    I feel like I’d need a full battery to do #1, and…I don’t have one. 2022 beat me down hard in multiple ways, personal and professional. I’m a ball of stress almost constantly, to the point where I struggle to relax even on weekend trips away or while doing things that are supposed to be fun. I’m finally in therapy, but I’m at the very beginning of the healing journey.

    I feel like that points toward taking #2, but I don’t want to miss my chance to do the work in #1 and I don’t know if I’ll ever get an opportunity like that again…and if I did, being in that line of work already would put me in a better position to land it. I feel like if I take #2, I’d be stunting my career. I’m used to being an ambitious overachiever in school, though I’ve struggled to see myself that way so far in the workforce (I’m late 20s, female).

    How do I make this decision? Having a couple of breakdowns over it hasn’t worked. /s

    1. Hanani*

      One thing that was really helpful for me to remember during my own similar decision-making process is that this isn’t the end of my job offers. Like you, I’m tired and overwhelmed and fell into the “what if this is my One Chance at Job X?!?” pattern of thinking.

      It probably isn’t. You’ve been offered Job X once, which means you have the skills and experience to get that offer. Those skills and experience (very likely – I don’t know your field) won’t disappear.

      A couple of things I kept in mind/asked myself:

      1. If you imagine that another Job #2 offer will come around in a couple/5/10 years, does that change your feelings at all?

      2. What is the likelihood that you’ll do either job poorly? Job #1 because you’re bored or feeling ignored, Job #2 because you’re overwhelmed? Doing a job badly is going to have a negative impact.

      3. Is either job similar to the professional circumstances that make you so stressed and overwhelmed now? In my case, one of the two job offers was very similar to what I’d been doing before…and what I’d been doing before was making me unhappy and prompting me to look for a new job.

      It’s a hard place to be! Sending lots of strength.

      1. Becky*

        Thank you for the reply. These questions are helpful.

        1. If I knew it strongly thought I’d get another Big Job offer in 3-5 years, I’d feel more comfortable taking Medium Job now. Big Job is research oriented, so it’s less that I have hard skills and more that they see the soft skills in me (intelligence, interest in the subject matter, ability to communicate) and are willing to take a chance on me. I’ve had 2 other interviews for similar roles out of maybe 10 I applied for.

        2. I think I could manage at Medium Job. I’m afraid of not being good/intelligent enough to succeed at Big Job and being embarrassed for it. Which kind of leads to #3…

        3. I was in a job for several years where I had a manager who I had a bad relationship with. I was constantly walking in eggshells and terrified of making a mistake to the point where I’d wake up in the middle of the night to check a calculation in a spreadsheet for fear I’d done something wrong. I had a rough start (partially my fault) and dug myself out, but by that point the damage was done. He put down almost everything I did, my output, my insightfulness, and by the end I was so burnt out and stressed that I probably wasn’t performing as well as I could have been, which only reinforced his perception of me as an underperformer.

        So I got a new job earlier this year, and they loved me, which really helped my confidence – until they told me I couldn’t work there (it’s not this exact situation, but think of it as they told me they’d sponsor my visa and then, after I came on, told me they can’t do sponsorships but gave me a few months to find something else). Basically, as soon as things started looking up for me, I got kicked down again.

        Big Job, as a research position, requires me to be insightful and I think my experience with my former boss is making me scared I don’t have what it takes/am not smart enough to make it in that field. Medium Job requires writing reports, which my former boss also didn’t like my performance on, but is probably lower stakes and easier to “get right” than something that speaks to a personal quality like intelligence. So I guess I’d say Big Job is more similar, but it really depends on the relationship I have with my manager.

        1. Ann Ominous*

          Do you know who your BigJob boss would be and what they are like? Could you manage to find out, if you don’t know?

          Someone who has also been burned out in the way you describe and wishes you all the peaceful things.

        2. Velociraptor Attack*

          I left a job earlier this year that completely wrecked my confidence. I had a few job offers (which you think would help with the confidence but… did not) and narrowed it down to two.

          Similarly to you, one was a bit of a high-risk, high-reward position, definitely more visibility in the community and the other was a safer position, not much option for upward mobility without switching to a different department in the organization etc.

          Ultimately, after a lot of discussion with my husband, I went the safe route. He made the point that if I wasn’t feeling more confident after getting more than 4 job offers, taking the high-risk job was really likely to burn me out and that the safe route didn’t need to be a lifelong job. It felt like a better choice and something I could excel in felt really appealing.

          I’ll admit, I regretted the choice at first when I started and it took some time to stop thinking about what if but I’m at a point where now that I’ve settled in I’ve gotten really positive feedback, and my confidence has definitely improved. Ultimately, it was the right choice for where I was at the point/still am.

          As Hen in a Windstorm said below, it definitely seems like you’re leaning toward 2 so I just want to weigh in and say you’re not giving up, you’re not going to never get an opportunity like 1 again, go with your gut.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Wow, that sounds hard. I’m sorry this year has been so bad for you.

      First, you can’t know the future, so stop telling yourself that if you don’t take #1 that’s an opportunity lost forever that will haunt you ’til the end of time. That’s creating part of your stress. Take it down to manageable size. Fact: You are already in a position to have a #1 opportunity without being in that line of work. Therefore, it is not impossible that such an opportunity will arise again.

      Right now, you have assessed that you cannot do #1. Therefore, you already know you need to take #2. But instead of accepting that decision, you are beating yourself up for not doing what you “should” do and dragging this out and creating even more stress for yourself. You’ve already decided. Accept who you are right now and what you can do. Try to eliminate the word should from your self-talk.

      You are telling yourself #1 has “big potential” and #2 will “stunt your career”. I seriously doubt that they are so hugely opposite. I challenge you to think of #2 in the way you are thinking of #1. Don’t decide ahead of time that it is somehow going to limit you, when you are limiting yourself. You’re pretty sure you’d like the work! It would be challenging! That’s great! Stop painting that as a negative. Be kind to yourself.

      P.S. If you examine it, being an overachiever is likely more accurately described as being a perfectionist with unreasonable expectations of yourself. It’s okay to let that go.

      1. Becky*

        Thank you for this. Your assessment is spot-on; I have been leaning toward #2 as the person I am today but I’ve struggled to accept that that feels like I’m giving up.

        I went into a lot of detail on this in my reply to Hanani, but basically I got out of a job earlier this year with a manager who really hurt my confidence in myself and my intellect. I WANT to be the person who can do #1 and be great at it, and I hate that I’m in a headspace where I doubt myself so much. #1 could be really redemptive for me – or it could solidify that I’m not the person I thought I could be. #2 doesn’t make me face that, for better or for worse.

    3. Rocks are neat*

      Taking job #2 now will set you up for success when job #1 comes around again. And it will! Giving yourself time to heal is kinda a big deal and will make your whole life much more enjoyable, not just your work life. So yes, right job, wrong time, nothing wrong with knowing that.

      1. Westsidestory*

        I may be ridiculous but I say rise to the challenge and accept job #1. It will be the hardest thing you have ever done but you are YOUNG and that is the time to take risks.

        At this point in your career you need to stretch your skills and learn. Tell yourself you’ll try it for 6 months and then reconsider your options.

        In 6 months, Safe Job will be a prison for you.

        I think you know you want to be the person who can do #1. Don’t fear failing. At your age, there is no failure, only experience. It sounds like the company has faith enough on you. Have faith in yourself. You express yourself very clearly here and it’s clear you have an analytical mind. You can do this!

    4. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Lots of awesome advice/questions below but I haven’t seen this perspective, so I’m going to add it, which is:

      Prioritise therapy. In my experience, therapy is unpredictable in its effects and can take a lot of energy. I think it’s absolutely brilliant that you have the chance to do a safe, unchallenging job while you’re “doing the work” in therapy – take it! In a couple of years you won’t recognise yourself – you’ll have so many more internal resources. If you’re already getting offers for Big Potential Dream Jobs when you’re in your late 20s and burned out, wow! The sky will be the limit when you’ve unlocked Therapy Level Becky.

      Good luck.

  18. Catalyst*

    If possible I would ask for some accommodations such as a scent free workplace (something I think should be standard) and if possible to be moved away from florescent lighting or work from home and whatever else you think may help.

    Also, as much work as it is I suggest from my personal experience to start a diary tracking things like food, water intake, stress levels, etc and you may find a pattern to help you know your triggers. If you can afford to see a naturopathic doctor they can be really helpful in helping you find triggers and things to help (I know they can be expensive and not everyone can swing it).

    Also, if you are on instagram following @the.migraine.dietitian she has a lot of fantastic free information for migraine sufferers. I wish you the best of luck! I totally understand what you are going through and I know it’s so hard to explain to employers and even your friends & family.

    1. Observer*

      If possible I would ask for some accommodations such as a scent free workplace

      Scent free workplaces are a lot harder to implement than people realize. Also, not all migrain sufferers are triggered by scents, and even those that are are triggered by some and not others. Which means that it makes no sense to ask for this as an accommodation unless they know that this is something that actually triggers their migraines.

      That’s one of the reasons I suggested seeing if that poster can figure out their triggers. Once you actually know what sets you off, you can start talking about accommodations that help YOU. I suffer from migraines. A scent free workplace would have done ZERO for me. So would getting rid of fluorescent lights. Why would I have wasted my capital on pushing those accommodations, when what I actually needed was reasonable temperature control in my office?

      1. Catalyst*

        I get your point Observer, it may not help the OP, it was just a suggestion and I did also mention finding triggers. I’m sure OP knows what would help them and what wouldn’t for accommodations and wouldn’t use capital on something they thought wouldn’t be helpful to them.
        I know A LOT of people who get headaches or other reactions to scents and it’s why I think all workplaces should be scent free. I also think you are thinking scent free to be you are never allowed to use scents ever for anything. Every scent free workplace I’ve worked in means don’t put your scented hand lotion on before (or at) work, don’t use cologne or perfume, no air fresheners in washrooms, etc. Not don’t have shampoo that is scented or change your laundry detergent.

      2. Nina*

        Seconding the ‘scent free workplaces are hard’. I work in one, which is scent-free (and makeup free, and nail varnish free, and handcream free, and clothes-that-have-not-been-washed-enough-times-to-fully-discard-new-clothes-smell free…) for reasons related to the nature of the work, not to anybody’s allergies. The only exception is a single type of hand sanitizer that was deliberately chosen by the company for its aggressively neutral odor. I have fragrance allergies and it’s a godsend. But discovering that my ‘unscented’, not-an-allergy-trigger shampoo is not ‘scent-free’ by the standards of the workplace was a surprise. It’s hard!

  19. Alex*

    I’m trying to figure out how I should approach the next phase of my job search due to my unusual career trajectory.

    I’m an attorney and never worked at a law firm. I was hired directly into a company after doing an internship for them, worked as in-house counsel 4 years before being laid off, and then got hired by a contractor to support a governmental legal department where I’ve been for 2.5 years. The position description called for an attorney but frankly what they need is a good paralegal, and I’ve had to ask for stretch assignments to get writing samples for my portfolio.

    What I’d like is a government Attorney Advisor position, but I’m nervous about applying. It’s not that I’ve been doing *nothing* for almost 3 years (and I’ve been in a legal niche that’s super specific and hard to get into) but it hasn’t been hardcore “attorney work.” No court, nothing with my name on it (as a contractor I couldn’t put my name on final work product anyway), and even though my skill level is that of a solid GS-12 or GS-13 due to the experience in my first job, I obviously don’t have the experience in those exact roles.

    Should I be going for GS-11 positions? I’ve seen some applications that ask you outright what level you’d like to be hired at. Or would that make me seem like I’m not confident enough in my skills? Should I be trying to explain away my current position somehow?

    1. Zzzzzz*

      Gov positions ask you for those levels (do you want to be considered for GS12, Gs13 etc) and then the Qs asked fit within those levels. You can review the Qs before answering anything (always a link within the job post). Answer all as expert as possible without lying (if you’ve never managed ppl, don’t say yes) in order to get into the system for consideration. Look only at general public jobs and know that Veterans still get preference regardless. It takes MONTHS for them to fill most positions so keep looking elsewhere too. It also takes awhile to fill out the online resume and you can have 5 or 6 at the ready to use and the write a customized cover letter (both of these “live” in your account for future use for all jobs). They generally do let you know more quickly if you don’t fit the criteria vs fitting criteria and interviewing. Good luck!

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      With government, go for what you are qualified for. Different jobs have different requirements for 11/12/13, so don’t look at the grade, look at the KSAs and job duties.

      Government HR does not think anything about you or your skills that you don’t tell them – they aren’t allowed to make assumptions or inferences. As long as you can answer the KSAs, you’re good. They aren’t asking what level you would like to be hired at, but what level you *qualify for* – btw, if you apply at 13 and they assess you as 11, they will tell you that. So if the job is hiring for people in a range from 11-14, you apply for 12 and 13, they might come back and say you don’t qualify for 13, but you do qualify for 12. So if you had only applied for 13, they would reject you because you didn’t qualify for 13.

      My husband has been both approved and rejected for GS13 for different postings – it’s not a constant, it’s specific to the job.

      Also, if you are not a veteran, you ought to focus more on Direct Hire openings, where veteran’s preference doesn’t apply because they need someone with specific skills ASAP. You should apply to any job you are qualified for, but it will be easier if it’s Direct Hire.

    3. 1qtkat*

      So I am a relatively new Attorney-Advisor for a 3 letter agency (interviewed last Nov and started this past April). I would take a close look at the job descriptions for the skills they’re looking for, not all attorney advisors make court appearances (like mine doesn’t, a different office writes the formal complaints and makes appearances. Mine does a lot of advisement on our specific statute, issues civil administrative enforcement actions and writes policy guidance). I came from a state agency that specialized in enforcement of the state version of my current specialized federal statute and technically it was a lawyer job in all but the name.

      A posting will specify the number of years of experience to meet the GS level. So a GS 12 in one posting can be different from a GS 12 in another posting. If you have options, I would say go for both or the highest one you think you reasonably can meet. You can always ask if you get a contingent offer and see if they would consider you at a higher step level (there are 10 steps within each GS level and that will influence your salary).

      I’m happy to talk offline since my trajectory to the fed was not at all straight.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Just reflecting back what you wrote, it sounds like you’re going for a stretch assignment but want to frame it as well within your skill level because you’ve held some sort of niche job before. My opinion based on what you wrote is that you might be stretching a bit. Careers don’t need to be a straight line to the moon, they can go up then down a little then up alot then down a little….as long as the general trajectory is up, you are good. I won’t stop you from applying, but is it really the end of the world to start a tad lower and aim to work your way up? I’d rather be in a role I’m confident in than feeling overwhelmed every day. You have way more years ahead of you than behind you, be happy time is on your side – more time to get any experience you need to build a solid foundation

  20. matcha123*

    I am the kind of introvert that is drained when being around a lot of people, talking to many people, etc.
    Some parts of my job occasionally have me being around and attending to guests for a large part of the day.
    Those times often include lunch with guests.
    When my battery runs low, it shows. My eyes look hollow and tired, I often have tears (not crying) running down my cheeks, I have a hard time making conversation and just can’t.

    Obviously I don’t want my coworkers or guests to feel like I am angry at them, and this is something I would prefer to do easily.

    Those of you that respond similarly to speaking with lots of people and basically acting as a more beefed up version of your usual “on,” are there any tricks you’ve learned? Vitamins you take to stay charged up? Sacrifices to the spirits?

    1. WellRed*

      I’m a bit similar in terms of only having so much extroversion I can turn on but tears and hollow eyes? Are you over engaging? Maybe you can sometimes let others take the lead on conversation? Are you eating enough? Is the rest if your day overstimulated or can you build in extra down time to offset the “on” times?

      1. matcha123*

        I never noticed my eyes until I realized I looked a lot worse in pictures where I was already worn out from being around people or just tired.
        My eye will feel dry? and even if I use eye drops it feels like my energy is being sucked out of my eyes, face, body. My eyes then start watering a lot and if I’m not fast with a tissue, they stream down my face.
        It’s a level of engagement that probably looks restrained to most people. Sometimes I just need to make simple chit-chat, but compared to my manager I’m sure I appear very quiet.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Dumb question, but are you blinking enough? If you unconsciously tense up and stare when you are engaging with people, your eyes would water to avoid drying out.

          I have had that happen when I’m very tired but my brain won’t shut off, so I overdo screen time and wind up with eyestrain.

          1. matcha123*

            I’ll keep this in mind, but I do think I blink enough. I do think I should try putting in eye drops before my eyes feel dried out, however.

    2. I need a new name...*

      I would focus more on limiting the time you’re socialising where you can (like coworkers) and make more of your recharge time.

      Rather than focusing on tricks or vitamins.

    3. Dr. Doll*

      Ooof, tears running down the face is a fairly significant physical reaction that there’s no way to make look okay. I’m an extreme introvert too, so I do get it.

      I don’t think you can tip-and-trick this. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to need disciplined self-management (I don’t mean to imply that you are not disciplined).

      Carefully schedule your time to allow for the recharge you need; you may need to work with your boss or team on this. You may also need to manage your personal time for it, e.g. don’t attend a party the weekend before you have some of these days at work. Manage your energy in terms of sleep, hydration, good food, exercise, etc.

      1. matcha123*

        I’m not really sure why I get that kind of reaction. It’s not limited to work, either.
        I have the same reaction when I spend a long time with friends. Some more than others.

        1. 1LFTW*

          FWIW, I’ve always gotten watery eyes when I’m tired. If you’re concerned about how others might perceive this, can you blame allergies? I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that, using it to excuse watering eyes and seeming zoned out or tired. People generally seem pretty sympathetic.

    4. Hanani*

      It sounds like this might fall into “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. I can be “high-wattage on” all day, and that requires several days of hermiting before and after. Occasionally that’s what’s needed and I do it, but it’s an “expensive” (in terms of energy, etc.) thing to ask of me. I don’t take jobs that require it regularly – maybe this just isn’t the right job for you?

      Alternately, as WellRed noted, maybe 70% effort is enough and you’re currently giving 100%. I don’t know what this would look like for you, but for me, 70% effort means things like 1. I’m not constantly scanning to see if someone needs something (I let the group know they can come chat with me if they need something); 2. I disappear for longer bathroom/rest breaks (10-15 min) several times; 3. I let there be silence/small side convos for some time if other people aren’t taking turns leading the conversation.

      If you’re job is one where guests must be having So! Much! Fun! All! The! Time! things like that probably won’t work, but in a lot of situations, it’s okay to expect other people to do some of the lifting in terms of attention, engagement, conversation, etc.

      1. matcha123*

        Yes, I need a ton of time to decompress after being “on.” Fortunately I am not expected to act as an entertainer, but someone they could ask questions to about our organization, make chit-chat while they wait for the higher-ups to come in, etc. Tasks that would generally be considered pretty easy and low-level.
        They are friendly when I say that I’ve recently started and I’m still learning. It’s a pretty relaxed environment. No one is yelled at for mistakes, if a mistake happens, it happens. The conversations can be dense, but I have a similar reaction when I’m with some friends, or doing non-work, so I’d like to find a fix…

    5. Cordelia*

      Matcha, I feel for you, this sounds really hard. I’m also an introvert and find too much interaction exhausting. But it sounds like you are really struggling – are you absolutely sure this is the job for you? Do you like other aspects of the job, is there a different role you can move into? Or would you rather do something else completely? Obviously as introverts we do have to learn to be around people in the working world, and so the suggestions would be about taking breaks, making sure you have time before and after the event to recharge e.g. a quiet evening at home – but i suspect you have tried all this. I’m not sure there is a magic answer that is going to make this ok for you. I know you asked for help in fitting into this job, but its ok to decide that you don’t fit, and to try something else. It might be worth talking to your manager to see what they suggest – if you are regularly interacting with guests with tears running down your cheeks, they may have concerns already about how you are coping in the job.

      1. matcha123*

        I really like this place and the people I work with. My previous jobs have been fine content-wise, but with harassment from usually one other coworker that is ignored by my supervisors. In my previous job, a coworker would openly talk about how crap my work was, without mentioning my name, in front of the team and got other team members to harass me, too. With no issues when she was out of the office.

        In this case, meeting with people is a minor part of the job. I’ve done similar tasks in previous jobs (presentations and audience engagement, guiding people around our company, talking to clients for hours daily, etc.). Those times I did have to have my time to shut off the outside world and be in quiet for a bit between talks or immediately after a long talk.

        But talking to my manager would be best. I think they would be responsive in a positive way.

    6. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Have you ever considered you might be autistic? My husband has recently thought that he might be autistic, so I’ve been reading up on it and the tears streaming and inability to respond sounds like autistic shutdown or overwhelm.

      Regardless, your brain can’t cope, so you’ve got to give yourself a break somehow. Find out what your triggers are so you can step back before this starts. I assume you aren’t the only employee at these lunches, so maybe you could trade off with a coworker to give yourself a break, or maybe skip the lunch but do everything else?

      Also, I think you need to start from a place of accepting yourself as you are, rather than trying to “act” like somebody else. There are no vitamins or tricks. Be kind to yourself. This sounds really hard.

        1. matcha123*

          I’ve thought of that, but I’ve also had some pretty unique experiences growing up that affect how I interact with people. And even as an adult I have been in countless situations that are just weird because of how the other person reacted to something simple about me.

          Now that I’m replying here and thinking about when this happens, I think it happens more when I’m expected to take care of other people or when they (or it feels like they) are moving their emotional and other responsibilities onto me and expecting me to give them a perfect answer.

          With some more reflection, these tend to be interactions where I need to put myself in the speaker’s shoes and give answers based on what they could be expected to know at their level, which I don’t know much about myself since I’m new. The questions from the speaker are often based on their assumption that I know more about the inner workings of the company and higher-ups than I actually do and are asked when my manager isn’t around to give them an answer.

      1. Koifeeder*

        Yeah, professional autistic here, this is sounding like my shutdown symptoms, not what people consider to be normal introvert social exhaustion.

        And to be fair, I get it! I could not have matcha123’s job, at least not the guest attending part. I would be destroyed half an hour in.

    7. just another bureaucrat*

      I get the tears on cheeks when I’m really tired, I manage to brush that one away by just saying “my body is weird and leaking out my eyes, bodies are weird things” and shrug and move on.

      My other tips would be having prepped conversation things and don’t be afraid to reuse them. I use my niece and nephew a lot, and I have like 6 stories about them that I reuse the snot out of. They are all cute, they can all be told anytime someone wants a personal story and they are all things I’ve told enough that they don’t require serious dipping into thinking about engaging with people. They are all things I’ve practiced enough that they are nearly rote.

      I also do cheater things like drink more water so I can go to the bathroom more often and go to the far one whenever I can. I 100% am not above faking needing to take a phone call or send an urgent message to step away from the group for a few minutes.

      I also have a stack of stock phrases that can be used in a lot of situations “tell me more” “wow really?” “oh that’s interesting, how did that work?” Kinds of things that are engaging and that let you continue to not have to talk and have you having others engaged. I have an easier time when people are fully interested in something that’s weird and esoteric so I lean into encouraging people down those paths. Everyone has a thing that they can talk about so just ask them, you can sit back and listen better.

      If it’s all communal and you’ve got multiple conversations going on at once and you’re “between” them you can check outish for a bit. But that’s hard so I try to sit on the end of longer tables, more likely to have a one on one or small group than having to try to tune in or out of 2.

      1. matcha123*

        That is true about a few prepared convos to build on.
        I usually try to sit back and listen and learn, but I do get pulled into some conversations from time to time. Having some scripts to use/deflect when I’m in over my head would help.

        1. just another bureaucrat*

          The thing that’s helpful there is to do visual engagement stuff on it. Nods, the continue hand gestures, mmhms, yes, interesting. They show that you are engaged so that people keep going with their own things. People are more likely to stop and try to pull you in if they think you are disengaged, so like every so often (more often than you think) do an encouragement/engagement action to try to make it so they keep going and don’t think they are being impolite.

          I don’t know if that helps but for me it does. Those people who pause and shift and try to pull you in are trying to be polite and kind. They think that they are not sufficiently including you in the conversation, so if I give them the social cues back that they are then we can continue for longer.

          Pre-scripting things out has been a huge help for me. Does it mean I use them exactly? Absolutely not, but it means I’ve got a plan and a back up and a back up back up, and if all else fails “Sorry I’ll be back real quick!” Gesture vaguely and make apologetic face.

    8. Turingtested*

      I used to be prone to tears running down the face while tired. Getting glasses and staying hydrated really helps and though I haven’t used them frequently, moisturizing eye drops help too.

      I also learned a few phrases that fake conversation and get the guest talking without me talking much for the extrovert guests. “What brings you in today?” “Your table seems happy! Are you celebrating something?” At appropriate times of day: “How was rush hour?” “Any big plans for the day?”

      But don’t assume everyone needs to be chatted up. I’d say 70% of my guests were fine with polite service without frills.

  21. Moonlight*

    How should I explain a recent gap in my work experience due to mental illness? It seems every 3 or 4 years, I have a bought of severe depression and, BAM, it came around this summer. I was severely burned out following finishing grad school where I trained in a field that is really prone to burn out. I had an internship for a year (May 2021 – Apr 2022). I also still teach a fitness class during all this. So cue severe burn out, severe depression, etc. and I didn’t look for a job for about 3 months because it was so bad I couldn’t work and I was also re-evaluating how to use my graduate degree and experience in a related but less burn-out inducing field (example: think doing medical research instead of being a doctor). So now it’s been about 7 months since I graduated, but I have only been looking for a job for about 2 to 2.5 months. I don’t know how or when to address this. Do I address it in a cover letter? Do I just make something up? (E.g., do I say that I was in a position to take some time off so I did?). Do I say I had health issues that are resolved and no problem? The problem is that I am Autistic and I know that I have recurring depressive episodes (this is probably the 4th time in 15 years – like I said, it happens every 3 to 4 years), but usually when I am in school or working I can just power through but my bosses might notice a shift in my mood or energy (e.g. quieter than usual, more tired looking). Do I wait until an interview? Do I only say something if they ask? If someone asks, what are they asking? Like I said, I am Autistic, so I genuinely struggle to understand what someone means. For example, if they ask, is it because they’re genuinely curious? Is it because they see it as a red flag and want me to reassure them? Am I screwed if someone thinks it is a red flag (e.g., they assume that I am a dud that no one wanted to hire)?

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      So, first, you have got to stop powering through. That is clearly not working and clearly leads to terrible outcomes, so I wonder why you keep doing it? I hope you have a therapist.

      Second, I don’t think you need to explain a 7 month gap, since you only just graduated. My husband has been unemployed nearly 4 years now (he had to quit a job due to anxiety, then the pandemic happened, then we moved). He doesn’t mention it at all unless he is directly asked. Then he says nearly the same as above, “There was a family illness I had to deal with, but that’s resolved now. Then the pandemic happened, then I moved to be closer to my family here in New Town.” And they say, “Oh, that makes sense.”

      If someone asks you, it doesn’t matter why. Your answer won’t be different, so you don’t need to guess what they’re thinking. “Moonlight, I see you’ve been unemployed since April, can you talk about that?” And you will say something like, “Yes, I graduated from BNQ University in April and have been job searching since then.” or “Yep, that’s when I received Degree X from BNQ University.”

      It doesn’t matter if they think that’s a red flag or not – you can’t control them by saying some magic combination of words. Stick to the facts and try to leave your emotions (and what you imagine are their emotions) out of it.

    2. Zephy*

      First: you’re overthinking this, but that’s probably normal for you (hello, fellow neurodivergent person).

      “I was in a position to take some time off after finishing grad school, so I did” is a perfectly fine thing to say in an interview. It would be perfectly fine even if you hadn’t gone to grad school during an unprecedented global public health crisis followed by the start of the collapse of Western civilization, so if anything, people will be even *more* understanding about it. I don’t think you need to proactively address it in your cover letter; if anything, you might briefly reference taking some time to really consider your next move after graduate school, but then use that to segue right into what drew you to this company and why you want working for them to be that next move for you.

      Your interviewer does not need to know about your recurring depressive episodes. There is no benefit to bringing that up at the interview stage. If and when you start cycling in that direction again while actively in a job, then you can start the conversation with your manager if you need any accommodations during that time.

    3. Ann Ominous*

      I think they’re asking to find out if this is something that indicates they have to worry about you.

      If you answer that it was a health issue that’s now resolved, I think that would answer any underlying concern about that question. I also like your idea of ‘I was in a position to take some time off so I did’ and if you still taught your fitness class during that time I’d consider mentioning that. ‘…so I did, and enjoyed continuing to teach a fitness class’ even if you went from teaching every other day to teaching a couple times a month. You’re still teaching after all, so it’s true.

      You could explain it on your cover letter that way too, as if it’s not something you’re apologizing for but rather just ‘I was in a position to take a break and so I did and am ready to jump back in with both feet!”

      You don’t have to tell them (and I wouldn’t tell them) that it flares up every several years – you may not even still be at the job if it’s only twice or three times a decade, and you can’t predict the future, so you’re not lying by omission. And you should request FMLA or a disability accommodation if it does happen again.

    4. Trefoil*

      It’s been 7 months since you graduated into an economy recovering from a global pandemic. It’s perfectly normal that you haven’t found a job. If anyone asks what have you been doing since the internship, can you point to any volunteering or training that you’ve done since then? It’s okay if not – you can just say “Unfortunately, I had some health issues that I had to deal with, but now that I’ve taken care of it, I’m excited to start job hunting. And part of what’s exciting to me about this position is…”

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        I want to comfort OP too, but the general narrative is very tight labor market and great resignation, so “economy slowly recovering” isn’t really what is happening. If anything, the job market had gotten too hot.

    5. G*

      Honestly, that’s not terribly long of a gap right after graduation. It takes time sometimes. I’d wait until an interview (although different fields have different norms) and if asked say that you had some health issues to deal with, and you dealt with them. I don’t think you need to be any more specific than that. Any future health problems can be dealt with at that time.

      I think a gap right after graduation is a very self-explanatory gap, so if I was reading your resume I wouldn’t question it.

    6. Ready for a Break*

      I agree with Trefoil that there aren’t any red flags about the 7 month gap in the first place – it’s reasonable to take a break after finishing a degree. And the pandemic can be a very useful (and truthful) part of the explanation here in the sense that it changed many people’s plans.

      It’s also true that burnout and depression have many commonalities – lack of concentration, excessive tiredness, etc. I say this not to suggest your depression isn’t real but to flag that you can sometimes use those similarities in your favor when it comes to explaining depression-related concerns within a workplace, particularly if you are otherwise concerned about disclosure on mental health. Being physically and mentally ready for a significant break after completing a graduate degree is something people who don’t have mood disorders may be familiar with.

      I have major depressive disorder and had depressive episodes that last for months recur as frequently as 20 months apart for much of my 20s and 30s. It is something that you can manage through in the working world and choose to offer as much specific information as you feel comfortable with. You will continue to find ways to cope as and when you need. There is no reason to bring that level of medical information up early on. You can’t know how your condition will play out in the future and that’s okay.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      If it’s any consolation, the other day, a paper in Ireland was expressing how positive it was that over 80% of graduates were in employment 9 months after graduating. Now, I don’t know how many of the 18% who weren’t were unemployed and how many had continued on to post-graduate education, but it does indicate that it’s not unusual for people to be searching for work for quite a few months after graduation.

      I don’t think 7 months is anywhere near long enough for them to think you “a dud that nobody wants to hire.”

      You could mention “I had some health issues after graduating so I didn’t start job searching until I was well.” That’s absolutely true (and as somebody who may or may not be autistic, I know the whole “but is it really true to say my health issues are resolved when they are likely to reoccur?” typed thinking, not about health in my case, but I do that about other things, whereas “I was ill and took some time to recover fully before starting to job search is completely true) and honestly, in the current situation, they are more likely to think covid than depression.

      But I wouldn’t say anything unless they ask.

  22. Bagworm*

    Another holiday-related work question, I know there have been questions/discussions here in the past about Christmas trees and lots of Christmas-related things so my apologies if I am repeating. I am getting ready to make some little Christmas tree crafts for my co-workers but I am at a new organization (almost a year now so not brand new) and I do not know the traditions/habits of many of my co-workers but I know for a fact that at least a few do not celebrate Christmas (Regardless, in a group of 20-30 people it would be reasonable to assume a few do not celebrate Christmas.) I have two questions:
    1) Would it be ok for me to make the little Christmas tree crafts and set them out in our breakroom along with some snacks and a sign that says please help yourself to a treat? I don’t want people to feel pressured or ignored by the trees so I was hoping the additional treats would make it more inclusive.
    2) Is it appropriate to get my direct report a gift? He is Jewish and does not celebrate Christmas but most of our staff does exchange gifts and I would like to get him something to say thank you for his hard work this year.

    Thanks for any input!

    1. BRR*

      1) I try and keep religion out of work instead of trying to figure out exactly how much religion I can insert into work. I find this keeps things as broad as possible.

      2) Get him a gift and say it’s for a great 2022.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would say yes to treats, no to crafts. And yes to a gift. It’s an end-of-the-year gift, an acknowledgement of his hard work, not a Christmas gift. (I’m Jewish and I like a good gift as much as anyone, and I’d be pretty ticked if I didn’t get a gift at work simply because I don’t celebrate Christmas. )

      1. the cat's ass*

        Totally what you said! LOTS of food, no crafts, and when gifting at work, it’s a “New Year’s gift.” I get to say thanks and it neatly sidesteps the Christmas thing.

    3. Buggy Crispino*

      I think putting the crafts out in the open for anyone to take is probably OK. Definitely do not put them on someone’s desk. I’ve been in a situation where someone found some really cute decorations for her own desk, and asked everyone else if they wanted some too. She was 100% OK, that I said I didn’t want anything, thanks. But the following Monday I came in to find some of that on my desk from a 3rd coworker who said my not having anything made me stand out in a bad way. It got ugly when I told her to take it away or it was going into my trash bin.

    4. Bagworm*

      Thanks everyone for the feedback! I will stick with neutral treats at work (which I do occasionally anyway) and save the crafts for folks outside of work that I know will enjoy them. I also really like the idea of getting my staff member a “New Year’s gift”. I definitely didn’t want to skip giving him a present so this is a great suggestion.

    5. Observer*

      Agreed with the others. And make VERY sure that what you give him is not Christmas and / or Santa themed.

  23. The Lion's Roar*

    This is low stakes, I was just thinking about this yesterday and I’m curious what others would do in my situation.

    I have some respiratory/sinus issues that are more of a nuisance than anything else, but one of the results is that it comes through in my voice – I usually sound like I have a stuffy nose because, well, I do. My job involves talking on the phone with clients and with vendors, and every so often someone will comment on it, usually along the lines of a sympathetic “oh, do you have a cold?”

    I just play along with it. Not to the extent of spinning a story, but a quick agreement, and then back to whatever we were talking about. Occasionally, depending on the situation, I might just say it’s allergies. The reason is that I know from experience that if I say “oh, I’m fine, that’s just how my voice sounds,” it’s going to get weird – people feel like they’ve stuck their foot in their mouth, they try to apologize, and not only is that just awkward generally but it’s especially awkward because when I’m on these calls I’m in client service mode. So they feel bad, and then I feel like I have to smooth that over and salvage the mood of the call.

    So the lie is easier! Granted, saying I’m working with a cold feels a little different now than it did pre-pandemic, but ultimately my goal’s just to get back to the topic at hand, so I usually just give whatever response I think will get us there the fastest.

    I’m just curious what others think of this as a tactic – what would you do in my position?

    1. Dainty Lady*

      “Oh, just a little stuffed up today, I’m fine!” said while smiling because people can hear a smile in your phone voice.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        I’m not sure I’d say that because they may worry it’s something contagious. I’d lean more toward allergies or ‘just some ongoing sinus issues’.

        1. Dainty Lady*

          If it’s on the phone as Lion’s Roar says, is contagious a problem? In person, I agree, and in that case it’s fine to give a little more explanation.

          1. The Lion's Roar*

            Yeah, this is strictly a phone issue. If it were happening in face to face conversations I’d handle it completely differently.

    2. NeedRain47*

      I have terrible nasal allergies that can flare up any time of year, so I tell people I’m having allergies regularly. No one ever wants to talk about it. So you might stick with that.

    3. Linda*

      I have a similar problem. I’ve gotten the best results with a vague “oh, something like that” when people ask me if I’m sick. If I’m in person I’ll tack on “it’s nothing contagious though.” For some reason people will laugh and (the most important part) move on with the conversation. I haven’t figured out a smooth way to handle it when I interact with someone more than once, though, because people who are bold enough to tell strangers they sound ill are pretty committed to making things super awkward if you run into them again

    4. Beets*

      In person, definitely say it’s allergies. I’m losing my mind at work with people coughing. Our hospitals are at capacity with covid, RSV, and flu, so I’d want to know that it’s not contagious

    5. PollyQ*

      “Nah, it’s just a chronic sinus thing, annoying, but no big deal.” I can’t imagine anyone would feel awkward hearing that response.

    6. Thistle Pie*

      I usually just tell people “oh I’ve got sinus problems” and leave it at that. It’s simple and lets people know that this isn’t an acute, contagious issue.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I also have sinus issues, though the effect is different. I tend to tell people “oh, just my sinuses. It’s an ongoing thing. Been happening since I was about 5.” Basically, what Polly Q suggested. Mind you, people still respond with “oh, right, hay fever. I get that too” if it’s the summer or “oh, right, it’s just a cold?” or something completely different to what I’ve just said.

      So you may not be able to win with some people. I think “just allergies” or “oh, just my sinuses. They’re a nuisance, but nothing serious” is a reasonable answer.

  24. Poinsettia Flames*

    I have some $ left on my budget for learning and development. My manager is ok with purchasing a few books. Do you have any recommendations for the following topics:
    – instructional design (I’m not a beginner so looking more for recent developments)
    – gamification
    – design thinking
    – customer education
    Thank you, hive mind!

    1. Pool Lounger*

      There’s a new book on gamification by Adrien Hon, the Zombies Run guy, called You’ve Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All. He discusses what makes for good, helpful gamification and how/why so much of gamification is poorly designed.

  25. Dee Dee*

    The boss’s boss’s boss is talking again about coming into the office and how it’s important for us to come in one day a week. There’s not much of a justification behind it except that “good things happen when we come together.”

    I’m fine to go into the office if there’s a good cause but take yesterday: I went in for a big meeting because I thought it would be a good topic to hash out in person. There were two of us in office on a Zoom call with a bunch of other remote people, because everyone comes in on different days.

    I’ve been really resisting coming into the office some arbitrary number of days. Like I said, I’m fine if there’s a good reason, but it seems silly to commute, pay for parking, and deal with all that sorta stuff just to sit in front of a screen as I could at home. (Not to mention that our emergency rooms are still jam-packed with various illnesses and COVID is of course still running rampant out there where I live.)

    I’m worried that ultimately they’ll start to somehow enforce working in office once a week, but I’m also asking: am I being unreasonably stubborn about this? I just want to check myself a bit.

    1. NeedRain47*

      IMO, once a week isn’t overly burdensome if you were originally hired to work in the office. However, it is pointless unless everyone (or a significant number) are coming in at the same time. You’re not overly stubborn in not wanting to do it.

      Ultimately the question is, how stuck in this mindset is the person making the decision? Willing to listen to reason, or not?

    2. Sandwiches*

      I don’t want to call it gaslighting but some of my colleagues are… treating me in a way that just makes no sense to me, and I have no idea what to do about it.
      Communication has been kind of terrible since the pandemic started, and now that we’re still working remotely 4 days a week it’s still pretty bad. We have a team meeting every other week where our boss updates us on things, then opens the floor to comments or questions and no one says anything except occasionally me. There have been lots of changes in procedures and staffing throughout the company over the last couple of years, so I’ll bring up things related to them. And I always feel like everyone else is trying to make me feel stupid. Examples:
      – there were a few staffing changes recently in one department, so I updated that dept on our contact sheet and asked if anyone knew whether there were updates to be made for depts or regional offices they have contact with. “I just keep mine updated every time there’s a change”, says a colleague who hasn’t sent her updates to anyone in months.
      – Is anyone else struggling with the new task management platform or found shortcuts to make it less time-consuming? “No”, followed by me overhearing a barrage of complaints about said task manager the next time we’re in the office together
      – I had to do X task for the first time since a major change in which dept handles what, and told the team I’d keep them updated on how X task works now. “Obviously you should have contacted (person we barely ever hear from), didn’t you know that?” No, because we never got any notice about it. I checked.

      Our meetings are really short so it’s not like I’m that jerk who’s keeping everyone there when we’ve already been there for an hour. I just feel like I’m going crazy. Right now my only solution is to just not speak during meetings… which is the entire point of meetings. I’m not sure if I’m just being targeted by two co-workers who want to feel superior, or if there’s just no hope for communication ever.

      1. Sandwiches*

        Oh crap, just noticed this posted as a reply instead of as its own comment. Please ignore!

        FWIW, I think going into the office once a week isn’t so bad, but it would help to have some structure (like knowing there will be people there that you collaborate with) and some support from the company, like incentives to come in and some health and safety measures.

    3. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I work somewhere where many people WFH very well and there is no reason to see them in person.

      But some people do not work well from home and aren’t producing as much as they were and I don’t think it’s bashing the entire concept of WFH to point out that some people need outside motivation to get them to produce.

      The logic in your letter is 100% obvious – some events should be mandatory in person, and you don’t get to pick the day you go into the office that week. If someone truly can’t come in, you have zoom on, but on one person’s computer, not with everyone at their individual desk looking into the screen

      1. Rebeck*

        Nope. Pre-pandemic my workplace had cross-campus meetings with 5 people looking at a single computer and one person on the other end. It was hideous. The person on the other end generally couldn’t hear as the five in the room together would aim their conversation at each other and not the computer. The improvement in my work life when we shifted to each person on their own computer was absolutely phenomenal and I never want to go back to the way meetings used to be.

    4. Moonlight*

      It sounds like you’re in a similar position to my husband where working in person can be beneficial for specific reasons, but there might only be 1 or 2 days a month, if that, where it makes sense for the team to come together in the office, and most of the teams work is in person. So that said, I don’t think you’re off base at all. I know how his manager seems to be handling it is making clear they’ll do UP TO 1 day a week when it makes sense for the team, as opposed to saying 1 day… just for the sake of it, but the team has agreed on what 1 day will work (e.g., Tuesday – I don’t know if it’s Tuesday though), that way on the occasions where they need to be in person, they have that pre-selected / pre-agreed upon day as the day that works or whatever, but if they don’t have a reason to go that day (e.g., cross training, working on a project where there’s some sort of meeting or sometihng taking place) then they don’t really have to do.

      I don’t know how you can make this useable, but it might be worth a conversation with your boss that looks something like “I know some teams at some orgs are doing things like X”

      1. Alice*

        No advice, just commiseration. At MPOW we have to do two days in person per week. We have two monthly “everyone in person days” which are supposed to be “in person collaboration days” but they have ended up being the days for baby showers etc. I was ticked off when the last departmental all staff, in person, required attendance meeting turned out to be a presentation about how two people in another department provide a different support from our department’s specialty to a subset of our customers.
        The upside is that, while introducing everyone to the presenters from the other department took a full fifteen minutes of the all staff, in person, required meeting, that time wasn’t needed for anything more useful…..

  26. No longer single*

    I currently work in a field where I’m salaried and supposed to bill a minimum of 20 hours per week. My boss just told me that because I didn’t work 20 hours this week, they are going to dock my pay. Doesn’t that defeat the point of being salaried?

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I think it’s dependent on whether you’re exempt or non-exempt. I don’t know if they can dock your pay (which also sounds wrong to me for a salaried position), but they might be able to make you take PTO to make up whatever hours you don’t have for the week.

    2. Observer*

      Salaried is a meaningless term in US labor law.

      If you are non-exempt, they can decide to not pay you for time you didn’t work. When you say “billed” do you mean bill to clients? Because if that’s what you mean, then they still have to pay you if you actually worked on non-billable items. But if you mean “bill” as in marking time worked on a time sheet, they can decide to only pay you for the hours you worked.

      If you are exempt, then they need to pay you your whole salary. But they CAN dock vacation time if you have any and they choose to.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      That seems illegal.


      This is a week (if you’re in the US) with normally 2 holiday days, so, that would make only 24 potentially billable hours and that’s if you didn’t take any other time off.

    4. Alex*

      Yeah this is dependent on whether or not your job is classified as exempt or nonexempt, which has nothing really to do with whether or not you are paid a salary or not. If you are exempt, this would be illegal. If you are nonexempt, it would be legal–but they also need to pay overtime if you work more than 40 hours.

    5. Blinx*

      We also have a target of billable hours/week, but it’s used for annual departmental metrics. We’re now entering our slow period period with very few billable hours. This should pick up in a few months. During our busy months most of us bill near 100%. Management realizes that it all evens out eventually. I’m a salaried contractor, so my pay is always the same. For our hourly contractors, if the work is not in, they don’t work. Hopefully their overtime in the busy months compensates for the deficit.

    6. I edit everything*

      Sounds like a recipe for 20 billable hours precisely whenever possible, because I bet you don’t get extra if you go over 20.

      1. No longer single*

        I do get paid an hourly if I go over 20 actually. It’s rare that it happens lately due to illness unfortunately.

    7. Girasol*

      Did you actually work less than 20 hours or did you work more but some of the work wasn’t billable? Non-billable hours like staff meetings, general email management, training, admin work, and so on need to count too.

      1. No longer single*

        None of that is considered paid work in my field because insurances don’t reimburse for those tasks. I definitely worked less because the families were sick or went out town last minute.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          Are you in the US? Unless you have some sort of unusual compensation structure (such as being 100% commission), you need to be paid for that time.

    8. Lily of the Valley*

      It depends on whether you are exempt or non-exempt, as others have noted.

      If you are exempt, it also depends on whether you worked non-billable hours to make up the 20. IANAL, but I believe that if you worked 20 hours period, they have to pay you your salary.

      If you are exempt and did NOT work 20 hours total, it depends on whether it was your choice or their inability to give you work. If you chose to work less than 20, I don’t think they have to pay you. If you could not work 20 hours bc they did not have 20 hours of work, then they do have to pay you your full salary.

  27. J-School Michael Straczynski*

    Hi again. Thank you all for talking me out of journalism school, lol.

    So here is my follow-up question: a couple people I’ve chatted with have mentioned technical writing as a career at which I might thrive (and in which the pay scale is higher). That sounds great! Only problem is… I don’t know how to do that. How do I break into technical writing as a field? (For reference, I have a generalist background, a liberal arts degree, and no particular aptitude for STEM stuff.)

    1. Amber Rose*

      I have no specific advice for jobs, but as someone with an admin background, a useless degree and also no aptitude for STEM, you’d be surprised how useful that is when writing STEM related documents for other non-STEM folks, like in instruction manuals.

      Our techs have to explain things to me so I can understand them, and then I, with my lack of technical knowledge of any kind, ask a bunch of questions that they wouldn’t think of because it’s “obvious.”

      You’d think the people using our technology would be good at technology but no. They are not.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I’ve read enough manuals, and sat through training in how to use a new computer program, to know that technical types are the WORST at writing manuals. They/we know too much and don’t realize how a novice user would see and do things.

        Please try your hand at it.

  28. Amber Rose*

    I’ve rescheduled which classes I’m taking at this training course next year like five times. I keep second guessing which ones would be most useful to me. D:

    There’s like 50 courses and I can only take 3. To be fair, most of them are not relevant to me, but there’s at least 5 or 6 that are. I’m also not sure if I want to sign up for the “women in tech” networking stuff because I’m not really in tech. I suppose I do a lot of technical stuff, but that’s not really my primary role. That said, learning how to network is a useful thing I think?

    My entire life is overwhelming right now and I’m starting to hit the end of my rope where I overthink absolutely everything. :(

    1. Ann Ominous*

      Can you pretend to irrevocably choose some and see how you feel?

      This is probably not as high stakes as it feels. If you take one and it turns out your time would have been better spent elsewhere, so what?

    2. Gyne*

      Don’t stress about the “women in tech” networking. If you’re tech-adjacent, and it’s a networking event, it seems like the perfect way to build a diverse network both for you and whoever you meet. If you go and it’s really not relevant (like very specific workshops or topics geared for people who are working directly in tech) then don’t go back.

    3. WellRed*

      If life is overwhelming can you hold off on the classes or us there a time limit? If there’s a limit, take what interests you. They are just classes after all. Nit job opportunities, not interviews, they don’t sound like networking opportunities or certifications. If I’m wrong in those last two, plz disregard.

      1. Amber Rose*

        No, I have to travel to the US to take them, and they’re only being offered that week at the end of January. It’s not about what interests me either, I really need these classes to be able to do my job. I’ve been doing my best with google and help files, but I’m really lost with some of the more technical things.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      I feel like networking events are meh and if you need the technical classes to do your job, I would prioritize those—you are going to meet people there too and they’re likely to be working in a field that’s closer to yours/be a better resource in your network anyway.

  29. Gyne*

    I’m pretty bummed and angry about the Medicare fee reduction coming next year. (For context, Medicare announced they are reducing payments to physicians by 4% in 2023.) Even keeping payments stable would result in a pay cut for us because we give our staff cost of living increases to keep up with inflation as best we can. I just don’t see how this is sustainable.

    1. Analyst Editor*

      It’s absolutely not sustainable. This is one of these policy items that I am aghast gets passed, kind of like employment or supply restrictions on jobs or goods that are already scarce.

    2. Doctor is In*

      Yeah, it sucks. Solo private MD here. I pay more for every single thing. Medicare is 40% of my practice. So it will be a hit. I may decide to retire sooner than I planned because of it.

      1. Gyne*

        Solidarity! We sold to private equity just before 2020, otherwise absolutely would have gone out of business. If I was closer to retirement I absolutely would do that. As it is I’m solidly mid-career and not sure whether to stick it out or abandon ship.

      2. Doctor is In*

        I pay over $700/ month each for 2 of my employees for Anthem health insurance. That is almost as much as my rent. (I cover all the cost ).

  30. Sandwiches*

    I don’t want to call it gaslighting but some of my colleagues are… treating me in a way that just makes no sense to me, and I have no idea what to do about it.
    Communication has been kind of terrible since the pandemic started, and now that we’re still working remotely 4 days a week it’s still pretty bad. We have a team meeting every other week where our boss updates us on things, then opens the floor to comments or questions and no one says anything except occasionally me. There have been lots of changes in procedures and staffing throughout the company over the last couple of years, so I’ll bring up things related to them. And I always feel like everyone else is trying to make me feel stupid. Examples:
    – there were a few staffing changes recently in one department, so I updated that dept on our contact sheet and asked if anyone knew whether there were updates to be made for depts or regional offices they have contact with. “I just keep mine updated every time there’s a change”, says a colleague who hasn’t sent her updates to anyone in months.
    – Is anyone else struggling with the new task management platform or found shortcuts to make it less time-consuming? “No”, followed by me overhearing a barrage of complaints about said task manager the next time we’re in the office together
    – I had to do X task for the first time since a major change in which dept handles what, and told the team I’d keep them updated on how X task works now. “Obviously you should have contacted (person we barely ever hear from), didn’t you know that?” No, because we never got any notice about it. I checked.

    Our meetings are really short so it’s not like I’m that jerk who’s keeping everyone there when we’ve already been there for an hour. I just feel like I’m going crazy. Right now my only solution is to just not speak during meetings… which is the entire point of meetings. I’m not sure if I’m just being targeted by two co-workers who want to feel superior, or if there’s just no hope for communication ever.

    1. Linda*

      I hear you, I’ve gotten that vibe in workplaces before and seen others be subjected to it. Is it possible to use a different mode of communication for your questions? Like posting them in the office Slack, or sending them to targeted people through email? It won’t change people’s underlying attitudes, but the odds are good that you won’t be exposed to it as much and/or people who aren’t helpful in meetings could be more helpful in a text-based medium

    2. RagingADHD*

      Sounds like your coworkers don’t trust your boss, so they don’t want to say anything in front of him that could make them look like they are having difficulty, or they are trying to show off to him / get brownie points by being know-it-alls. Nobody else usually speaks, and when they do they say one thing in front of him, when the reality behind his back is the opposite.

      IDK if that’s a cultural thing that they are holding over from prior jobs, or if they have history with this boss that makes them not trust him.

      1. Sandwiches*

        You’re on to something here – our boss was replaced last year, and I was happy about it because she had created an unhealthy environment and obviously played favorites, but her favorites obviously felt differently about it. The new boss has her flaws, but playing favorites isn’t one of them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they resent her just because she doesn’t give them special treatment.

        1. 1LFTW*

          My mind went to the same place as RagingADHD. If your coworkers are griping amongst themselves, but denying problems when NewBoss is in the meeting, it’s probably not about you. They may be trying to ingratiate themselves with NewBoss so that they’ll get picked as favorites, they may be freaked out by a boss that *doesn’t* play favorites, or they may be trying to low-key sabotage NewBoss by gatekeeping information.

    3. Generic Name*

      I agree that communication seems to be an issue, but I don’t understand why you are coming to the conclusion that your coworkers are actively trying to make you feel stupid or they feel superior to you. To me your colleagues do sound unhelpful, and it also sounds like they actively avoid speaking up in this meeting. I assume the questions you are asking need answers. Have you tried asking people one on one? Or maybe tell your boss that bringing up stuff in the meeting is less than fruitful and if they have any thoughts how to accomplish what you need.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        IDK, I will be ungenerous here and say that if a person is hoarding such petty information, they have issues and may be trying too hard to hoard small amounts of power and areas of work. I have one of these at my job and he gets defensive at every question or asks “why do you need to know” but overtime as I’ve taken over more areas at our company, I’m realizing it’s because he doesn’t do much and probably doesn’t want people finding out. So I am not sure it’s helpful to assume good intent when coworkers push back on such small things.

        You ask “Have you tried asking people one on on” but they clearly have already tried this.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I am on your side here, you have legitimate gripes! If I were you, I’d raise one issue at the next meeting. Pick one. For example, contact lists. Ask boss if you can have a shared one on a shared drive since everyone is keeping there own updated separately. Then let there be silence and let people respond.

      1. Sandwiches*

        That’s actually what I’ve been doing :( I generally only bring up one thing per meeting, even if I have a couple things I want to address. The examples I gave were all separate incidents, it just took me a while to piece together that I was logging out of every meeting feeling disappointed. I feel like my boss is aware but I’m going to bring it up to her again.

    5. Eyes Kiwami*

      I was on a similarly uncooperative team, and it was exhausting being the only person who ever spoke. I had to release myself from the task of being the team mood maker, the person who suggested things, the “what do you think everyone?” person. It greatly improved my mental health and frustration because it was no longer my problem to solve–I focused on getting the answers I personally needed. You could talk to your boss and see if your boss wants to take on the role of changing the dynamic. But I don’t think you can force your coworkers to be more cooperative in meetings.

  31. Flowers*

    What’s the general “rule” behind saying “I don’t know” at work? Not being inexperienced or finding ways to explain but just plainly, literally saying “I don’t know”?

    Its been drilled into me that while it’s ok to not know some things you should always be at least trying to learn about it (even if it’s enough to say you don’t know) and that there’s many ways to answer when you don’t know something – that you don’t have enough information, you’d have to research it etc. but it’s never OK to just shrug and say “I don’t know.” This was taught to me at a past job that was heavy on client interaction and I guess I’ve applied it across the board.

    So a little while back i was working on something assigned by my boss and I told him we had given the client incorrect instructions. He was surprised and asked how is it possible the software could have given incorrect information. I thought it was a rhetorical question but I still struggled to answer. Obv I know it wasn’t my fault but I was still cringing internally afterwards like, should I have just said “idk” and shrugged?

    (What I had really wanted to say that – yes the software is supposed to be correct but someone still has to actually *know* if the end result is off or not and if it is incorrect an override may be necessary – and I wasn’t sure how to say that while not coming across condescendingly.

    1. Lily of the Valley*

      “I don’t know” is fine. The shrug is not. “I don’t know, but I will make a note to find out,” is better. To use your example, if I were the boss asking about the software, I would expect to you to say something like, “I’ll look into what inputs we gave that might have caused the software to give the wrong answer, but if we gave all the right inputs, we’ll have to go to the vendor to find out what’s happening.”

      1. RagingADHD*

        It’s fine to say you dont know, you’re not sure, etc. It’s not fine to say (nonverbally) that you don’t care. Which is what the shrug would be.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      The key to saying I don’t know well in a working situation is to follow it up with your next step – “I don’t know, I’ll have to do some research on it” falls a lot different than simply I don’t know. You might not be the right person to research it, in which case “I don’t know, we’ll have to wait to hear back from a Subject Matter Expert” at least tells someone where you are in the process.

      In the situation you describe, your boss was probably looking for you to give him something he could share with the client – “We’re not entirely sure why X happened” doesn’t create a lot of faith in your organization, while “we’re still investigating, and think it might have to do with an exception that wasn’t caught, and thus an override that wasn’t applied” at least gives the client some reason to believe you are looking into things and will resolve it.

    3. Zephy*

      “I’m not sure, let me go take a look [at my notes/the documentation/the logs, whatever] and I’ll let you know.”

      “That would be a question for [someone else], I’m afraid. I’ll reach out and see if they have any insight.” Or “That would be a question for [someone else], I’m afraid; you can reach them at [contact information],” if it’s something the asker can ask someone else directly.

      “I don’t have that information right in front of me, but give me just a moment to look into it.”

      As a person who writes things down and keeps meticulous notes because I can’t remember a damn thing anymore, brain too full of 90s buttrock and early-00s memes, these are my go-to phrases. I’ve been in the position of telling my boss we effed something up, and usually being proactive about offering to follow up with the client and/or research the issue and figure out what went wrong has been enough to feel like there’s not a target on my back anymore.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      “I don’t know is fine” if it’s something that is clearly beyond your paygrade. Get asked “how do we get more sales and build brand recognition” when you’re a lower level operations worker? “I don’t know” is fine. Get asked about why the system you work in all day has a glitch, I hope you have something to offer besides “gee who knows”

    5. Observer*

      I thought it was a rhetorical question but I still struggled to answer. Obv I know it wasn’t my fault but I was still cringing internally afterwards like, should I have just said “idk” and shrugged?

      No, you should not have done that, because that’s ridiculously cavalier. Even as a rhetorical question your boss is expressing something important, and a dismissive response would have been inappropriate.

      If you had the ability to do the research, you could answer with something like “It IS strange, but I’m going to talk to the developers” (Or whoever you would check with.) If you were not in a position to check it out you want to indicate that you realize that it’s still odd and a problem. So something like “That’s a question I would an answer to as well! Very odd.” Perhaps with a suggestion who the Boss could talk to about it, if that’s possible, practical and appropriate.

    6. Blinx*

      I had always thought that saying “I don’t know” was taboo until I heard a director say it. He probably said “I don’t know, I’ll look into it.” Up to that point most people (at all levels) come up with some kind of corporate-speak garbledy-gook. It was so refreshing to hear someone admit that he didn’t know everything!

    7. WellRed*

      I don’t know that you mean this literally but if you do, never, ever shrug in a work context, it’s never anything other than rude and conveys the “ I don’t care, stop bothering me” message that I doubt you want to give.

  32. FloralWraith*

    My colleague was one of several people in our (university) workplace that was abused by her line manager; department heads from other parts of the university also submitted complaints as well as an external partner. Now we know that the bully in question was allowed to keep his position after an employment tribunal. My colleague is going to hand in her notice ASAP (and probably contact legal advice). Note, based in Europe, not the US.

    My question is now: how the hell are the rest of supposed to work with this person who is a condescending asshole when they return from “stress leave”, aka avoiding the tribunal for as long as possible, next month? My team works relatively closely with this person. My gut response is to respond to any of their requests as slowly as possible (I’m a very quick and efficient person).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        And job searching. Nothing says “no confidence” like an entire team leaving because they won’t fire one a.hole.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Do you have the full story of what went on? There is a knee jerk reaction to always want every person fired every time they do something, are you sure that is needed to solve this problem? I think a company-wide-known investigation is embarrassing enough to knock some sense into this person, perhaps.

      I also hope people realize that this is the downside of not having employment at will, which is often advocated against in online spaces. You give good people second chances but also need to give bad people second and third and forth chances in equal measure.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      First: Colleague should get legal advice THEN give notice, not the other way around.

      As tempting as it is, don’t process the asshole’s requests more slowly, that will just reflect poorly on you. What you can do is minimize you interactions. Interact as is required by your job, but nothing more than that. There’s a kind of icy politeness that can actually be more effective at communicating displeasure than rudeness, and it doesn’t open you up to accusations that you aren’t doing your job.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        Indeed. You don’t need to go above and beyond, but definitely do your job at the baseline you’d do for others making a similar request.

        Taking the high road sometimes sucks/feels like way more than the other person deserves, but I have honestly never regretted it.

    3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I’m really sorry to hear this. I work at a uni too and this is all too familiar a story. Icy politeness for sure and also, read Sara Ahmed ‘s book Complaint!

    4. LB33*

      I don’t know if “stress leave” is a suspension or what, but either way performing your job poorly is only going to make YOU look bad, not him

  33. Grace*

    This is going to sound moderately nuts, but: how do you deal with cases where you ask for help with something and are told that you cannot have that help because policy is that the problem does not exist?

    More concrete example: Llamas enter the system and are given to me, or one of my co-workers, to be sent to the team that handles that type of llama for detailed processing. Each llama must be sent to the correct team. Only a few people can decide what type of llama something is and therefore what team it should go to. These people have a lot of work to get through, and it takes a very long time to rule on a new type sometimes – up to a year unless you can call in a favor with one of them. However, I am expected to send my llamas to the correct team within a month.

    When I raise this with my supervisors, I am told that there cannot be any changes to the rules on my end because the llamas should all have decisions within a month. They’re aware that the problem exists, but because the policy is that it does not, they will not make changes.

    What do I do about this?

    1. Zephy*

      Return awkward to sender, or perhaps, return stupid rule to stupid rulemaker. “Grace, why haven’t you sent the Quaxcartlian Hyper Nega-llamas out yet?” “I haven’t gotten confirmation as to which team is handling them. I did ask Janet about it back on the 3rd and was told we should have a decision within a month, I haven’t heard back from her yet.”

      Document every conversation about this and if it matters that damn much to them that you send off your llamas within a certain timeframe, they need to issue a ruling about it for you, or else empower you to make that decision.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Follow up with asking what sort of help you can get to fulfill policy – If you can’t get a delay, what sort of suggestions do they have for how you can get a new rule expedited?

      Also, is there any chance you can get the people who decide what type of llama something is to create a “pending classification” classification, or something? ie, an intermediary classification that will say “we’re waiting on a rule revision” and allow you to assign it to the right team?

    3. Lily of the Valley*

      I’m a little confused by what the policy is. Are you saying that the policy says that all llama types already exist in the system, therefore there is officially no problem with new llama types existing? So, you have Red, Yellow, and Blue Llamas, and when a Plaid Llama comes in, it takes up to a year to get a Plaid Llama type in the system? Meanwhile, this Plaid Llama still needs to be assigned to the right team within a month?

      1. Grace*

        Policy/ideal is that when the Plaid Llama comes in, it will be matched to an existing team (maybe it’s close enough to Tartan Llamas) or made part of someone’s responsibilities (maybe the Red Llamas people wouldn’t mind handling it on the side) within a month. Therefore, when my month is up, I send it to the team that it’s been assigned to.

        My understanding is that this is how it worked years ago, before I started working here, but we’re getting bizarre colors of llama faster than they can be sorted.

        1. Lily of the Valley*

          That sounds like a resource problem, not a “Policy Says that Problem Doesn’t Exist” problem. My advice is the same as Prospect Gone Bad’s. Give status updates to your boss with the llamas that have not gone to the right group and make it their problem.

          “There are 10 llamas which have been pending sorting by the Llama Sorting Team for 26 days. Next week Thursday, if those 10 llamas have not been sorted, our group will not be meeting our KPI for sending llamas to the team that processes them within 30 days.”

          And that’s all you can do.

    4. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I’ve had “This is going to sound moderately nuts, but: how do you deal with cases where you ask for help with something and are told that you cannot have that help because policy is that the problem does not exist?” in a very similar situation where I’d ask my boss if I could hire someone to do X and they say “we have X team to do X” and I have to respond “but X team sucks and watches youtube all day and you don’t care” to which they respond “but X should do X”…

      All I can do is document specifics. So say Llama 2032020 is hitting the 30 day mark and the other departments haven’t even begun to look at Llama. Email boss “the Liver Dept, Lung Dept, and Intestine Dept hasn’t looked at Llama 2032020 yet so I decided they go to the Hair Dept based on the hair analysis and the 30 day mark being hit.”

      (also can we switch up the “llama” and use better analogies here? I get wanting anonymity but we can get that without such clunky words that make it harder to write responses)

      1. Westsidestory*

        Someone has to make a judgement call which type of llama it is. It will be an erroneous call in some cases. This is not your problem. If your job requires you to process llama quickly by putting them into only available type categories. That is what you do.

        With the regard to the llamas languishing in a pile because there is no realistic category for them, is it possible for you to retrieve them and then re-categorize them into existing types? Or is there someone else who can be empowered to retrieve them and change them, in order to reduce the backlog for proccessing?

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          It would be helpful to know what specifically we are talking about. The llama talk is really unwieldy here!

          1. Westsidestory*

            I think it’s fine, as the problem is applicable to many industries.
            I had a similar experience – it involved distributing requests for certain paperwork that had to be done with specific template forms. On my arrival at this particular company I found that a large number of requests hadn’t been touched for as much as 9 months. This was because some requests didn’t really have a relevant form, so staff did not know how to process the paperwork. So they just piled up.
            I just took the pile and got to work shoehorning the oldest requests myself into the nearest likely form. I also created new form templates for the odd requests that could be somehow grouped, and taught the staff how to use them. In this manner the team reduced turnaround time for complicated requests from 3 months to one week.
            Granted, it is easier to do this with things that process as actual documents. In other systems, adding a category is an IT issue – for example adding currencies to a pricing engine. Creating a policy that simply allows creation of a newly relevant price code is likely to be done on the grandboss level and in some organizations it would take years.
            While it doesn’t appear that the OP can easily create new categories or types, the OP can start creating in their minds what would be the easiest new type to implement – perhaps all Multicolored llamas can go into one new type. Then perhaps this could be presented as a business case.
            In the meantime, sorting llamas on the fly into existing categories will move things along.

    1. Maryn*

      I reread that one just today and desperately want to know if she got Grandpa’s heirloom caboose returned from the CEO to whom it was gifted by her manager-thief.

  34. Victoria, Please*

    Starting in January, my division of the university is mandating 3 in person days, with up to 2 remote days allowed. (This is a significant forward development from pre-pandemic, when telecommuting was absolutely verboten.)

    We have a team of 10. We agreed on one day per week all-in-person, other days range from 4 to 6 people in person.

    What can we do to get the most value out of that one day per week?

      1. Victoria, Please*

        Yes, roger that. Any ideas for maybe enhancing those meetings, making them truly worth attending, any special touches, ordering in lunch, making it a really good day?

        1. The teapots are on fire*

          Send the agenda out a couple of days in advance making it really clear what people need to do to be ready for those meetings to make them efficient and productive. And send good minutes out after with who is doing what. And keep things moving in the meeting so you can start and end on time.

  35. Lurker variable*

    Looking for recommendations on where/how to find a resume writer, and what to look out for. I’ve been in my current job for ~4 years and need help framing it for the job I want next (will start looking in Q1). Also after reading this site I realize I need to revamp descriptions of my previous jobs as well, so feel overwhelmed by it (on top of ongoing job stress, big reason I’ll start looking for something else).

    1. Moonlight*

      What are you hoping to get out of the experience? I know you say “framing what you want next”, but I mean… do you struggle with writing? Do you know what you want next? How do you hope that a resume writer will help you in ways that you’re writing your resume alone won’t?

      I feel like I’ve heard horror stories on Ask A Manager about resume writers being… awful and/or writing crazy stuff. So if you’re married to this, I would look for someone who’s going to consult a lot with you and/or will teach YOU how to write your resume/cover letter.

  36. Sparkle llama*

    Any suggestions for having a positive attitude or outlook when working in local government related to change over in elected officials? I am finding myself and my colleagues stressed and discouraged related to election results and the impending changes when the winners take office. At this point we have had a tremendous amount of turnover in the last five years so we have no clue what they want us to do and the plans of the new officials run contrary to a lot of hard work we have been working on over the past few years.

    1. Thistle Pie*

      I don’t have any advice, only a big virtual hug from another local government employee who works on projects at the whim of elected officials. We have a great group right now, but the next election has the potential to be a rough one for us.

      1. Helewise*

        Also sending virtual hugs from another spot in local government. My office won’t change much this year, but some other locals… woof.

        Two thoughts on managing this sort of thing. One thing that’s been helpful to me is Stephen Covey’s distinction between a circle of concern and circle of influence – the latter being the only area we can do something about. When I’m overwhelmed or upset about something happening in the world, one of my go-to questions is whether it’s in an area where I can personally affect change or not and focusing hard on only putting my energy into those places. That doesn’t help when an elected comes in and actively dismantles years of work, though.

        The other thing I do is remind myself that the work I/my team did wasn’t in vain – it made a positive impact in the time we were able to do it, and those good things that happened don’t get erased even if an entire program does. It’s (sometimes crushingly) disappointing to see hopes for future goodness evaporate, but the done work remains good work.

  37. Not Alison*

    Family Heirloom – caboose

    The “you may also like” links on the Thanksgiving open thread included a link to “My manager stole a family heirloom from and gave it as a gift to someone else”. Was there ever a follow-up to find out if the LW got the caboose back? If not, I hope there is a follow-up in the “December updates” this year.

  38. StellaBella*

    Y’all I need advice to say something or keep my trap shut.
    Today our org got an email from the deputy in charge saying that the World Cup would be streamed in the main room of our building.
    Advice needed -should I point out to the higher ups these issues?
    1. Can you point me to scientific studies (social science) on the human trafficking and workers and human rights aspects of this and similar events?
    2. Can you point me to science on how much environmental impact the new stadium had? Carbon footprint alone is very high but am sure there is more here to dig into.
    3. We are an environmental org. How can I share with this person and others that sportsball like this is not good for nature on so many levels?
    Or should I just not say anything?

    1. LuckySophia*

      I would say nothing — even though I am a person who has ZERO interest in or affection for any type of sportsball, televised or live. It’s likely that either:
      — your deputy is an avid World Cup fan, and would feel personally affronted by your comments linking (what deputy probably sees as a wholesome, sporting activity) to human trafficking/worker exploitation/environmental damage.
      — your deputy is just trying to do a nice thing for any sportsball fans who must work today and miss the game(s). Again, deputy is not likely to react well to you objecting to what they thought was a nice benefit to offer your co-workers. (And, isn’t it possible that at least some of your colleagues will view this as a perk/benefit, even though you don’t see it that way?)

    2. RagingADHD*

      The answer would depend on:

      What is your role in the org?

      What is your org’s culture around internal feedback? Is it a pretty flat / open structure, or is it more hierarchical?

      Do you believe that the person who made this decision is actually unaware of the statistics you are crowdsourcing here?

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Assuming preventing the screening is your goal, what would it actually achieve?
      This seems like a situation where saying something is high effort, low impact.

    4. Morning reader*

      The deputy in charge of what?

      My vote would be no, do not bring up these issues. My reasoning is that 1) unless you have some high-level standing on these decisions, you’re unlikely to have any influence, and 2) your organization not streaming the World Cup is unlikely to have any impact on the issues you mention.

    5. Fluff*

      You could approach it a different way. The World Cup is a lot of matches. They are split into groups of 4 and each plays the other to determine who goes into the final 16. It may be reasonable to ask them to stream only the knock out matches which start 3 December. During the group play there are multiple matches pretty much every single day.

      Disclaimer: I am a world cup fan. I also get that non sportsballers would be completely tired of the football especially since it does go so dang long. At our workplace, we found that limiting the cup to the knock out matches made the football heads happy and the cannot-stand-it crowd more able to tolerate it.

    6. Observer*

      I agree with the others.

      You sound like you know that it’s not going to go over well, and also like you just don’t like it but are looking for reasons to object. Now, I realize that it’s quite possible that I’m reading you all wrong, but the thing is that I’d be willing to bet that others will see it that way too. Which adds to the negative effect for you.

      If you do want to bring up the human trafficking, skip “scientific” studies. You won’t find any, and it’s irrelevant. There is a lot of good reporting on the matter, enough to know that it happened. That’s all that matters here.

      1. Generic Name*

        I think of someone asks you about a game or tries to engage you in a conversation about it, you can say you don’t watch because of human trafficking/environmental concerns.

    7. Maggie*

      Absolutely DO NOT say anything. I don’t mean to be rude, but you will not come off looking like a balanced person if you do. They turned a TV on to show the World Cup, they didn’t fund the stadium build or something. Strongly strongly advise you don’t bring this up.

    8. Anon for this*

      I say this as a Middle East politics professor and feminist: this is not a useful or meaningful objection to raise. Yes, Qatar’s labor practices and general human rights conditions are appalling. Yes, the men’s World Cup shouldn’t have been held there. But not watching the matches on tv will do nothing for any cause whatsoever and is so detached from any meaningful analysis of injustices, let alone action to remedy them, that it’ll produce only eye rolls at best – even from people who probably share your views.

      I’ll also say, major sports events are pretty regularly held in places with appalling rights records, but this World Cup venue seems to be drawing a lot more “boycott even watching the events” commentary than is usually the case. I hope that’s because awareness of such issues is improving, not just where these games are being held.

    9. Mewtwo*

      Agree with others to not say anything. I share your frustrations about both the World Cup (and other large sports events like the Olympics) – I work for an environmental org that still serves beef at events while providing no vegetarian options.

      However, I want to push against the idea that an entire hobby/pastime should be eradicated because of these issues. While I’m personally not interested in sports, it’s a valid pastime that is okay to have as long as it is ethically done.

  39. Gym worker*

    I work at a gym in massachusetts. Until the end of the year, the law requires “premium pay” for sundays and holidays for retail establishments. Is a gym considered a retail establishment? The manager says no, and therefore no premium pay is needed. But also, things that are not retail establishments typically aren’t allowed to operate on Sundays–it was my understanding that if a business was allowed to operate on Sundays, it was probably a retail establishment and therefore workers get premium pay. No? Anyone know about this?

    1. Linda*

      I submitted a link in a separate comment about the relevant laws. In my quick gloss I didn’t see whether a gym is considered a retail establishment, but there was a pretty extensive list of non-retail establishments that are allowed to operate on Sundays, maybe it’s somewhere in there. Probably your boss is right, but you can contact your state’s Fair Labor Division and ask: (617)727-3465

    2. iamfrank*

      i worked at a spa years ago, and we were considered retail. (unless things have changed) in massachusetts, a retail establishment is any place selling goods or services (whether tangible or not).

    3. BuildMeUp*

      I Googled “State of Massachusetts definition of retail establishment” and the MA Legislature website has it defined as “any premises in which the business of selling services or tangible personal property is conducted, or, in or from which any retail sales are made.” I would say a gym is selling services and would count, although IANAL.

  40. Meetings Everywhere*

    I work at a job where about 25% of my time is in meetings where I’m expected to do nothing but listen. It’s almost certainly not going to change because when there’s twenty people in a meeting there’s only so much time to speak. To maximize my time, I’m thinking of getting a under desk treadmill.

    I’m wondering if there are other people that use one of these at work, and if so if there’s anything I should know. Do people have any recommendations of what I should get? Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

  41. Confused student*

    Is it still necessary to wear a suit for job interviews nowadays? I have a few virtual comms/development internship interviews lined up for next week and since I’m traveling long-term for another two months, I really don’t want to purchase a suit (especially since it’ll already be a struggle to get all the rest of my stuff back home). But if it is truly necessary then I’ll do it — would appreciate any feedback!

    (If I don’t wear a suit, I’d be wearing a neutral blouse and black slacks.)

    1. 1qtkat*

      I think it depends on the job you’re interviewing for. But what you described will probably will suffice for most job industries.

    2. PollyQ*

      Do you have a blazer or a tailored cardigan you can put on over the blouse? I would still err on the side of formality for a job interview, whenever possible.

    3. Tilal*

      Are you interviewing for a job where you will likely have to wear a suit at work? If so, you need one for the interview. If not, usually a nice sweater will work. Or go to a thrift store and get a blazer in a neutral color.

  42. NaoNao*

    Work clothing question:

    I’m mid-career and a manager of process/product, and an IC on a team. One of my goals with my outfits and clothing is to appear polished and authoritative. I’m 5’10” and in my early 40s and a size 14 with a full hourglass figure that can very easily slip into pinup girl or, on the other side, Frumperella territory. A great hairdo, done nails, makeup and up to date glasses does not help with the Mrs. Doubtfire appearance when wearing khaki chinos and a chambray shirt, before we go down that road :)

    I’m a bit of an oddball and a creative person although I like to think not self consciously “quirky” and I 100% keep it professional with clothing. But…I do prefer interesting clothing, like blazers with peplums, asymmetrical buttons on a button-front shirt, wide legged pleated pants, draped-neck silk crepe shells–classic with a bit of a twist. No band tees, fandom, goth stuff, etc. No sequins, embroidery, novelty items, sheers, lace—I think you get the idea here. MM LaFleur, Vince, a few French brands known for feminine artsy cuts.

    I am facing a dilemma I keep encountering:

    When I wear my favorite clothing I feel fantastic in, it’s dramatic and unconventional. It does look “fashion” to my eyes. I do feel a touch out of a place and I’ve always struggled to fit in and feel like part of the group, and I suspect clothing might play a role in this.

    When I try to dial it back and appear middle of the road, “work is not for expressing yourself”, appear approachable, etc, I feel odd, off-kilter, and frumpy.

    Various sources (not work related) seem to keep advising me to dial it back, invest in basics/simple pieces, only one “hero” piece per outfit (which to them means a black tee, black simple pants, black loafers, and a fun blazer), but I feel stuck and like I’m hitting a wall when I search for high quality classic basics I want to invest in and will feel good about or putting together these kinds of outfits successfully.

    Is anyone else facing this or a similar struggle? Other than “be yourself! Wear whatever!” or stories about experts walking around in slippers and jogging gear and making 7 figures (hee hee) what advice can y’all share to figure this out?

    TIA :)

    1. Generic Name*

      Here’s what I’m reading from your post: you don’t feel accepted/part of the group, and you have concluded that it’s because of how you dress. For starters, do you WANT to dress more toned down? Or are you looking to find ways of feeling camaraderie/acceptance at work?

      1. NaoNao*

        That is a very good question! I think it’s a *relatively* quick fix that jumps out at me as one small, easily controllable way I could smooth the bumps, so to speak. My personality, way of thinking, sheer height and strong presence…those things are here to stay. Whereas switching out Ulla Johnson cropped balloon jeans for Micheal Kors mid-rise skinnies in a dark wash is done and done easy peasy lemon squeezy.

        …except it’s turning out to be a bit more of a challenge than I thought!

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Can you maybe accept that your role on the team is to look absolutely outstanding in your own way? And that by being that way, you can inspire others to dress their own best selves as well?

      I am short and chubby, and always admire taller folks who dress the way you do since I could never pull it off. They always look so confident and polished to me.

    3. Annony*

      What you describe doesn’t seem that out there to me. Is it the colors/patterns? Maybe you could try to find some clothing in the cut your like that are neutral colors and it may tone it down just enough. Or it could be the overall look. Try pairing the clothing you like with subtle makeup and jewelry and see how that feels.

    4. LuckySophia*

      I don’t know, your style “classic with a bit of a twist” sounds pretty great to me!

      But if you’re looking to “dial it back a bit” I’d invert the advice people are giving you. Instead of “one hero piece per outfit”…maybe do “one simple piece per outfit”. So… a pair of simple black pants teamed up with a pair of fabulous shoes, one of your silk crepe shells and an interesting blazer.
      But only if you can manage to feel fabulous while doing so. Otherwise, you do you!! Cause “you” sound pretty great!

    5. Ann Ominous*

      From a fellow not-fitter-inner for whom clothing is also kind of activating, hello!

      I’d first question the basic premise of your comment about work not being for expressing yourself. Why would you take advice that doesn’t result in a wardrobe that makes you feel good? There’s another comment on here (I think from yesterday) about someone who wears totally funky clothing and wanted to confirm it was okay to keep wearing it as their work transitions back to in person in the office.

      People who FEEL great and whose clothes make them feel good, radiate a kind of settled-ness that is attractive (as in, you want to be around their energy). The clothes can be funky or stylish (within the bounds of your work organization). The black and white leggings with neon yellow shirt and orange earrings from the other comment probably looks great in academia, less so in a conservative law firm.

      You could start with a Pinterest board. What would your ideal wardrobe be if you didn’t have restrictions on what you should and shouldn’t wear? Design design design…completely unrestricted by evaluating ‘is this appropriate’. Your only criteria are ‘do I like this’ and ‘do I think I’d feel good in it’. No evaluations at this point. This is info-gathering.

      Then make another board from that initial board, called ‘How would this feel to wear to work?’ Heck, feel free to share it here if that’s allowed, and we can weigh in! Just make an anonymous Pinterest name if you do that so you don’t get doxxed by accidents.

    6. Been There...Done That*

      no advice, because I LOVE and wear all your fashion choices and am older than you. I envy your height! Always feel like a boss (which I am) in my peplum blazers. My all time fave – a faux leather peplum blazer! woo hoo. Paired it with a black pencil skirt, black tights and pumps and a stunner silver statement piece necklace. However, I have to admit, I am in a public facing roll in a city known for its fashion. Be YOU and Rock on baby!

    7. OyHiOh*

      I’m similar height, age, and size/weight to you, though more pear shaped, which is equally likely to veer into frump territory, although less likely to go pin up on the other side. I’m an artist and overall creative person, working in an organization and industry that tends towards the somewhat formal end of business casual.

      I just decided to be me, wear what I love, and figure out how to fit in to my team in other ways. I love fitted dresses in basic colors, with fun blazers or cardigans, and/or bright scarves. Also love tailored wide leg pants in suiting fabrics. I stick with a small palette, and solids and texture, but not prints or patterns. I get regular compliments from colleagues.

      Advice – I would pick a palette that works for you, and shapes you like (love peplum blazers myself). At that point, your sense of style will seem more cohesive, while giving you lots of room to play with texture, prints/patterns, and accessories.

    8. Edwina*

      I am similar, in a similar field, where I want to look creative but not like Mrs. Frizzle, right? So I’ve found that Eileen Fisher has some really great choices, you do have to look carefully because some of it can be shapeless, but her pants and tops and jackets are really classic and, for me, beautifully made and beautifully tailored. Add an unusual scarf or necklace, and you look creative but sophisticated and polished. Everything is designed to go with everything else, and if you keep checking every few weeks, she’ll put out something in a great color that can be the signature piece of that season. You’ll want to check on her website but also Neiman and Nordstrom and Bloomingdales, which get some exclusive pieces as well. A LOT is black and white, but she will also put out clothes in really interesting creative colors, like tarragon, or raspberry, or indigo blue, that kind of thing, and it just all works together. I like her shoes, too! Another source of fairly nice but interesting clothes is Garnet Hill, but again, you have to choose carefully, because some of the stuff is too juvenile. Anyway, these are two websites that work for me.

  43. Daphne (UK)*

    Anyone have suggestions on how to walk back taking on extra responsibilities at work that I now know I won’t be able to manage?

    I’ve had a really rubbish year keeping on top of things work wise and ended up breaking down in front of the boss. We were already in the process of having a colleague take over some duties that I was struggling with, but then boss asks what I would want to work on instead so I made some suggestions. She’s now pushing ahead with me taking on these extra duties but they would now be on top of my original job. Boss is retiring next month and we’ll have a new person start, so I don’t know whether to bring this up with old boss now or wait until new one starts?

    1. LuckySophia*

      If you can quantify the workload in some way, you might be able to convince the old boss.

      e.g.: “Colleague took over tasks x and y from me because those 2 tasks required x amount of hours per week on top of my already-full schedule. Now you want me to assume tasks a, b, and c, which represent x+10 additional hours each week, on top of my already full schedule.
      This was not sustainable with tasks x + y, and I think it will be even more unsustainable with tasks a+b+c, since they will take even longer. I could commit to taking on task “a” if someone else can take over my current task “d”.

    2. Ann Ominous*

      Bring it up now, for sure. Bringing it up can help stop things before she takes steps to formalize the role or whatever your organization does to make things official. It is also your opportunity to stop tasks from transferring to you from the person currently doing them (or the person expecting them, if no one is doing them right now).

      If I came in to manage a new team, it’s much easier to not take on a new set of tasks within my team than it is to stop something my team member is already doing and return it to where it came from. Especially if it’s a new task altogether and the new manager doesn’t know all the history. They may not want to rock the boat.

      If that doesn’t work, then definitely bring it up with the new manager. But don’t wait till they arrive.

  44. HelpMeWithCoffee*

    I’ve got a bit of a minor question for everyone, but what do you do about going out for coffee? My issue is that I hate drinking coffee (and I’m not looking to learn how to love it), but I don’t want to say no and lose out on the opportunity to meet/network. However, I also don’t want to get there and drink water while the other person is drinking coffee because, to me, it comes off as rude or at least weird. Any ideas?

    1. 1qtkat*

      I don’t think it’s weird or rude to not drink coffee when someone else is. I see the invitation as one that simply offers itself as an opportunity to socialize with that person. I too normally don’t drink coffee, and would go for whatever I feel like drinking at that moment (it can be tea, juice, water, etc…,)

    2. looking for a new name*

      I hear you. I can’t drink coffee any more (though I love it), or even decaf. Herbal tea, maybe. And I don’t drink juice, and rarely drink soda (has to also be decaf and low-cal). So even socially, when someone wants to meet over coffee, I don’t know what to do.

    3. Observer*

      It’s not rude. But if it would make you comfortable, see what other flavored drinks the place has. Most coffee shops have non-coffee drinks as well.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t like coffee.
      Places that have coffee often have tea and hot chocolate (and in one lovely circumstance, whipped cream topped milkshakes).

      Think of it as a euphemism for hot beverage.

    5. HannahS*

      Identify your least least-favourite coffee shop option. Mint tea? Chai latte? Even just asking for a hot water (and paying 25c for the cup or whatever) would allow you to sip with a regular paper coffee cup.

      Source: I hate coffee. I love tea, but when it’s too late for me to have caffeine but we’re all “getting coffee” I get a mint tea. *Shrug* It’s not my favourite but I don’t mind it.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Hot water with a lemon slice is also pretty good, and lemon slices are pretty ubiquitous at places that sell coffee. You could also bring some ginger powder (Trader Joe’s has a really good one).

      1. WellRed*

        My goodness. I see others have the same concerns. An invitation for coffee is basically an invitation to have a non alcoholic beverage. Get whatever you want whether hot or cold, bottled or handcrafted. Get bottled water, raspberry ice tea, lemonade, hot chocolate. Seriously. Just get a beverage and enjoy. The only caution I have is not to get a “free” water. Pay for something.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Yes, I would be tempted to opt for a pastry as someone else who doesn’t drink coffee.

    6. Decidedly Me*

      Not rude at all! There are other options at coffee shops, but if you don’t want any of it, water or even nothing isn’t rude.

    7. Asenath*

      I also hate coffee, and I’m not that fond of tea either. Years ago I used to be a bit anxious about that issue, but realized that almost always the other person is perfectly happy if I drink something – water, lemonade, soft drink, hot chocolate, whatever. There’s usually some alternative. Some people will, if they don’t know me well, ask an extra time or two if I’m sure I don’t want coffee, but almost always drinking something else is seen as a satisfactory substitute.

    8. marvin*

      I hear you. My issue is that I can’t have caffeine. My preference is to get a hot apple cider, and it feels like it’s a beverage in a similar spirit to coffee.

    9. HBJ*

      Drink tea. Or something else not coffee. I hate coffee, but I still say yes and just get something not coffee. I don’t overly care for tea either or drink it otherwise much, but there’s at least one type of tea I can tolerate. I dislike the aftertaste of many herbal teas. I’m told this is the hibiscus that’s in a lot of them. I generally choose mint because that’s always available.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        Hibiscus is in a lot of teas? As in, read that don’t explicitly list it as an ingredient?

        I recently read about something else in teas that is used in preparation but shows up in the finished product in such low amounts that they don’t have to list it as an ingredient, but many people have a reaction to it. I guess I could Google and figure out what it was!

        1. HBJ*

          I’ve been told it’s in lots and that’s what gives the bitter aftertaste I don’t like. I don’t know for sure, and no idea if it’s unlisted in some.

    10. Been There...Done That*

      have never liked coffee flavored anything….most places usually have hot tea, hot chocolate, fruity drinks (in the summer). And drinking water is never weird.

    11. Mailer Daemon Targaryen*

      You are way overthinking this. I promise you that whomever you’re meeting with doesn’t give a hoot what’s in your cup and if they do, they’re the weird one. Get whatever you want and relax.

    12. Nancy*

      There are plenty of drink options, plus pastries. Pick your favorite. No one actually cares what you order when you are there.

    13. RagingADHD*

      “Let’s get coffee” is a social convention that means “let’s go sit and talk in a casual public place that isn’t a bar.”

      That is all it means. No actual coffee needs to be involved. The person who invites you may not even intend to drink coffee.

    14. Foley*

      Tea! I always get mint tea. No bad coffee breath. Comes in a cup with a lid. Honestly, if you order yourself, no one even notices.

      And I like coffee. But I can’t have it out because it’s usually too high in caffeine and I get jittery or more fidgety than usual. Or it’s too late in the morning/afternoon.

    15. LilPinkSock*

      I don’t drink coffee. I have never in my life been to a coffee shop that didn’t also serve some option of hot and cold tea, hot chocolate, juices, apple cider, or at least one drink that wasn’t water or coffee. Many times when people ask to go to “coffee” they’re just talking about socializing with some kind of refreshment.

      Don’t overthink your beverage!

    16. Edwina*

      Herbal tea is a good choice, and another good choice is sparkling water. As you say, it’s just something to be sort of “keeping busy” with, while you’re chatting.

  45. Sister George Michael*

    Recommendations for trainings for making public presentations?

    I’m not talking about Toastmasters (which I know is awesome), I’m looking for training to:
    –create presentations that keep the viewer engaged
    –present presentations in a way that keeps the audience engaged

    Our work often involves explaining complex llama regulations to sheep. I have a lot of experience doing both of the above, but I’m not able to train others to do that. And I’ve sat through some doozies recently. :( I’m hoping there’s some kind of on-line class that others have found helpful.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. BellyButton*

      I teach a presentation design and delivery class based on the book Design Zen by Garr Reynolds. He has a website, google it. It is fantastic. I am often teaching engineers how to design a presentation, they like a lot of bullet points and information, but my key lesson is a presentation is NOT documentation. Look up Design Zen, he gives a lot of helpful hints on why and how designs are used effectively.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Presentation Zen.

        I just looked it up and it looks very useful. Thank you for the recommendation!

  46. sewsandreads*

    How do you come up with titles when a job is so… varied?

    We’re doing a reshuffle of duties at work. My role is currently a bit of everything, and I’m titled as EA as my primary duty is assisting three execs. However, the role is now becoming assistant to the one exec and managing our communications, and supporting our department exec in managing the department — and we’re all a bit stumped as to what I should be called. Someone else is taking on the EA title, as they’re going to be assisting the two execs being taken off my plate. Any suggestions? The only thing that HR has mentioned to us is Manager should go in the title somewhere.

    1. LuckySophia*

      Kind of tough to answer without understanding what your exec does/what their title is, but how about:

      Operations Manager?
      {Name of Dept} Operations Manager …or… Manager, {Dept Name} Operations
      Communications Manager
      Manager, Customer Communications (or whatever type of communications you’d be managing)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. That sounds like the most accurate title.

        At my previous company we had this position and I honestly thought it was an HR position since it has “staff” in the title. But her responsibilities were the same as what sewsandreads describes.

  47. Maybe I want a new role?*

    I am considering a change from public education to Higher Ed and would love some thoughts from those with experience in either of those settings. I am a school psychologist (doing evaluations and planning for students who require special ed) on a one year leave of absence mostly to accompany my partner on a short term work assignment but also to relieve burnout. This short term assignment may turn permanent for my partner and I am thinking about my work options in this new place. There is a position at the local (highly regarded) university working to develop and support the implementation of disability accommodations. I love many things about my K-12 job, but it pays much less in this state with shorter summers. The higher Ed job would almost match my previous income and sounds really exciting-learning a new thing is always something I enjoy. But I know both K-12 and higher Ed have their own cultures- what changes in work culture should I expect? Will I be more able
    to go home at night and not worry about my students? Will it be a highly litigious environment?

    1. just a random teacher*

      I’m assuming this is in the USA, based on your wording choices here.

      Biggest difference is that k-12 education has a different legal framework for special education than higher education does, so a lot of your instincts would need retraining on what kinds of services schools would be expected to provide, and what lens they’d been looking at things through when making decisions about accommodations. I’d suggest spending some time researching those differences to get a sense of how different the higher ed disability accommodations space is than the k-12 one.

      I can’t speak to the different working environment piece since I’ve never worked in higher ed, but I see the differences in legal framework play out in a lot of discussions with high schools students on IEPs who are considering college.

    2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I think this depends greatly on your institution. My (large, Canadian, research) university values this work, and from my understanding it’s a great unit to work with, and the few people I’ve ever talked to or worked with in it has been great. As a grad student at a different uni, I also invigilated exams for undergrads with accomodations, and my feel from that (somewhat removed) post was that the unit was similarly solid. If you were up here, I’d definitely recommend at least applying for the role!

      I can’t speak to the litigiousness in the US but I would hope that it wouldn’t be? Students are choosing to be there, and for the most part are adults. One challenge you might have is establishing boundaries with parents, who often struggle to adjust to the fact that they no longer have access to their child’s education information/entire life.

      I can only imagine that you’ll worry less about these adult students than you do about your current ones. These are adults who are choosing to be at university (and to pay tuition!), and while I imagine many students that require accomodations will face extra pressures from the transition to uni compared to those that don’t have them, I think that overall this population will need less from you than children who are required to be in public schools with fewer resources.

      I’d love to hear where you end up!

    3. Pam+Adams*

      I work in academic advising, and work with disability services. We still go home and worry about our students, but that’s why we are in service fields.

  48. Syl*

    My 7+ year relationship is coming to an end I think. I’m not married but this is still devastating. I’ve lived with my partner for 5+ years.

    How do I deal with this at work? I will probably need to take some time off to move. I am absolutely crying all the time and making more mistakes than normal (all minor).

    I don’t know how to address this change with my colleagues or manager. Should I address it?

    1. Doctor is In*

      Hugs. You could let them know you are dealing with “personal issues” that you expect to work through soon. Hang in there.

    2. WellRed*

      I’m sorry! Definitely take time off. I don’t think it hurts to let people know and if they are good people they’ll understand.

      1. WellRed*

        I just came back to say take a day off just to cry if you are able and have the time. You don’t have to just stick to the practical like moving.

    3. Been there and I'm sorry*

      First of all, I’m very sorry. I’ve been there and it sucks.

      When this happened to me, I was completely blindsided by my spouse. I thought I had it somewhat together when I went to work and had no intention of saying anything, but the second two of my coworkers saw me, they asked what was wrong.

      I ended up giving my manager and coworkers a head’s up about what was going on and everyone was really supportive. I’m also sure it helped when I would make uncharacteristic mistakes that they knew that it was likely due to what was happening to me on a personal level and not job related.

    4. kiki*

      Definitely let your manager know you have a personal situation going on. You don’t have to provide the exact nature of the issue if you don’t want to, but a good manager will try to find ways to lighten your load for the time being or make sure you can take additional time off to deal with stuff.

      Sending hugs. I know it’s so hard, but you’ll make it through <3

  49. Luna*

    Probably a minor thing.
    When I got to work today, I had two li’l presents waiting for me for Christmas. One by my boss and one by a colleague from the other store, whom I’ve not met. I know gifts should only flow downward and/or on equal levels.
    Do I give an equal-y gift to the colleague? (She gave me a box of chocolates) I will say thank you when she’s on shift again, at the very least, of course.

    1. Edwina*

      I would! Starbucks and other coffee stores have a lot of nice sort of “token” gifts (box of cookies, little chocolate-covered espresso beans, attractively packaged, that kind of thing) that would make a nice return gift, I’d think.

  50. AnnaS*

    How do you handle training a colleague who appears to have a lack of attention to detail?

    Note they are young and their first admin role.

    For example, part of the role involves sending documents to companies, they will often reply with an answer and forwarding the document back to us. However the colleague will flag things like the dates not being correct, but miss our address/document title at the top of the document indicating it has come from the company we work for.

    Or I will give them full instructions on do something such as “Please contact X for Y, as we need the information by 2pm to complete Z”, and I will be asked who to contact.

    Love the fact the little/more overlooked details are being noticed, but a little confused as to how the bigger more obvious details are being missed. It feels like they need to read the document/email more thoroughly but I am a little unsure how to feed this back to them because they are noticing details, but .. not all of them.

  51. LondonLady*

    Coming late to this as I have just had an OMG/WTF moment and welcome advice on whether/how to respond….

    Context: I work for a specialist body which gets contracted to work on some public sector policy & research projects. I was part of a team working on a project over a year ago which operated in three specific locations, known to the team as the 3 pilots. Today [Monday] we had a video call with some government folk about extending the project to some new locations.

    A new colleague on my team, “Jack”, who is my peer in the hierarchy but new to this field, started talking about lessons from one of the pilots – except it wasn’t, it was a different project. I have no idea why as the 3 pilots have been well-documented. When he was gently corrected by “Helen”, one of the Government experts, he doubled down, saying he was sure it was, and expanded on his (irrelevant) points.

    It made me think of that New Yorker cartoon, “Let me interrupt your expertise with my confidence”. The moment passed and we finished the call positively, but I am mortified and annoyed, both for Helen in a sisterly way and for the reputation of our organisation and my team. I certainly would not want that situation to recur.

    So my questions are: should I let it go? Should I say anything to Jack? To our shared boss who was not on the call and rates Jack highly? To Helen? And if so, what should I say?

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