open thread – December 2-3, 2022

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 1,110 comments… read them below }

  1. Chloe Decker*

    Should I tell my new grand-boss how challenging it’s been since my newish boss joined the company 6 months ago and how I literally have nothing to do because he’s taken over my job?

    I’ve been at my company for 3 years. Over the past year, a ton of people at the company have left, however, two other people on my team, Trixie and Dan are still here. A little more than a year ago, the CMO fired my grand-boss who was beloved by everyone and knew what she was doing, because, allegedly, CMO wants “yes” people. She brought in Uriel to replace her. Uriel came in, made a bunch of changes that created more work and hired several positions that weren’t needed. Trixie, Dan, I, and the rest of our team reported to Cain (who reported to Uriel) at the time, but Uriel told the company they needed to hire a Director to oversee the specialization Trixie, Dan and I work on, which we didn’t. Cain ended up quitting, and Uriel “hand-picked” Marcus soon after. Then Uriel quit a few weeks later – his entire length at our company was 5 months total…

    I actually mentioned this part of this in a separate post here a few weeks ago – but with everyone leaving at the company, Marcus has really taken over all our jobs. None of us have ownership over anything anymore. He also makes sure all communication goes through him. None of us are in meetings anymore with stakeholders as Marcus has made sure he’s the one presenting to leadership weekly; we’re not in those conversations. He doesn’t seem to care what our jobs are and he is so patronizing. Not to mention for what I’m supposed to be managing, it has not hit the monthly goals since he took over a few months ago. He pooh-poohs all of my recommendations and I suspect our CMO is so ignorant that he’s able to sell himself well so she’s not seeing it. When I’ve tried talking to him in the past about how he’s taken over what I do day-to-day and what I’m not sure my role is because we’re working on the same things, he told me I come off as combative and not a team player. In the past when I tried to bring up any idea or feedback, he is so bullish and abrasive in doing things his way, without listening. Like this past week we got an email from the VP of the brand I work on, and he needed me to explain what her email was asking and then he responded to her email.

    Present day – The CMO hired Linda, to replace Uriel, last month as my grand-boss and Marcus’s boss. I’m debating about telling her how disappointed I’ve been with all the changes and how I don’t have ownership over what I used to, how all my recommendations are immediately vetoed by Marcus and how I literally have nothing to do all day because he’s taken over everything. And how I feel extremely out of the loop on communication because I’m in no meetings with the stakeholders. But I don’t want to speak too negatively about Marcus to her and I’m super nervous to tell her how I don’t do anything all day, especially since we work in tech and so many tech layoffs are happening now. I could tell her how good it used to be and see how she’s seeing the future over the next year.

    The reason I kind of want to tell her is that it’s been extremely hard finding a new job, so I have a feeling I’ll probably be here for a while. It’s worrying because I have nothing I’ve accomplished I can put on my resume this past year, all the accomplishments and everything is all pre-Marcus. I don’t know if I should say something to Linda, or if that would just backfire on me, or if I should keep my head down and not do anything.

    1. muffin*

      Given the state of things in the tech world right now, I think I’d go cautiously here, especially if to higher-ups it seems like Marcus is doing a good job. I’d probably quietly focus on skill-building and get out (or transfer to a different department, if possible) ASAP. I’m sorry!

      1. Triplestep*

        Exactly. Never say you have nothing to do. Find more things to do or ask for things to do and/or learn.

        1. Hello*

          Agreed! My magical phrase here “it looks like I’m gonna have a little bit of extra bandwidth for the next few weeks, is there anything I can takeoff of your plate?”

          It kind of implies that you’re busy, but in the short term, you have a little bit of time and you just want to be helpful because you’re so amazing. I have used it frequently when I was in this kind of situation and it really helps. Best case you can identify a person or project you’d like to work with or on, people are often excited when you offer help!

    2. irene adler*

      Frustrating!

      If nothing else, Linda should be sitting down with you to discuss your role and what plans she has for it- and for the dept.
      Maybe you can approach Linda and ask about what plans she has for your role.

      1. I edit everything*

        Chloe should mention the problem to Mazikeen, who will take care of Marcus in her own way.

    3. ferrina*

      The only thing you should do is keep looking for another job.

      Don’t talk to Linda yet- she’s too new, and she’s still figuring out how things work. You don’t know what her vision is or where her loyalties lie. There’s too big a risk she’ll convey the conversation to Marcus who may retaliate to you. Or maybe she’ll like what Marcus is doing and see you as a complainer. You just don’t know yet.

      If you do say something, present it as helpful suggestions. “Hey, I’d love to help out here! I actually have experience in this- part of my role used to include llama grooming, and I was responsible for giving all the llamas mohawks on a monthly basis. I’d be more than happy to pick that up again!” That lets you advocate for what you want without risking the “complainer” label.

      Your resume can and should include old accomplishments. It’s a pretty normal thing to want to leave a company after a re-org meant that you weren’t able to pursue the higher level work that you love. Your resume should highlight that you are capable of that work (and excel at it!), and you can leave any follow up info for the interview.

      Also….are these all Lucifer names?

    4. UShoe*

      Don’t tell a manager in your organisation that you have nothing to do!

      There are ways to have a conversation about getting back into meetings you used to attend and ask for help in “enabling Marcus to delegate more effectively to his team”. Go with a business case for it (since Marcus took over X and Y, Z result has been 200% lower) or your job description (I should be handling these things, and I was effectively, how can we work to get them delegated back to me so Marcus can focus on excelling at his role). Expect her to want a conversation with both of you present, or fo you to have another conversation with Marcus first.

      But, especially if finding work is hard right now, do not tell her you have nothing to do! And best of luck finding something new soon.

    5. NYC Taxi*

      I’d be careful here about wasting your first impression with the new grandboss. You run the risk of sounding like you’re resistant to change – Instead of complaining about how great things were pre-Marcus why don’t you use this as an opportunity to talk about how, and in what way, you see yourself adding value to the team and what you would like to accomplish in the upcoming year both in terms of projects you’re working on and in career development. I’m the grandboss at my current job and when I started I wanted to hear ideas, solutions and goals, not complaining. In the 5 years I’ve been there I found that the initial complainers continued to be complainers and derailing to the team.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      It sounds like you’d be telling her in hopes that she’d make some changes and those changes would result in you feeling more meaningfully employed.

      Based on what you said here (especially your new boss’s desire to do all the things himself, and the other boss’s desire for ‘yes people’), I haven’t seen any indications that anyone would be receptive, and at the same time you’d be risking being penalized (even indirectly) and therefore even more unhappy.

      I would keep looking. Is there a way for you to get detailed/loaned to another team for a project in the interim? Does your organization have educational or professional development opportunities? Can you take some courses in your newfound free time?

      I’m sorry you are in this position.

    7. IsbenTakesTea*

      I think it it might be reasonable to request a short meet-and-greet check-in and ask (out of curiosity!) about her vision for the department over the next year, perhaps citing the transition of the last year, and see if you can organically bring up that you’ve seen a loss of communication/input/ownership (whatever words feel right) recently, and you’re looking forward to being more engaged in [something reflective of the company’s mission and your past successes].

      I would steer clear of all mentions about how you feel about Marcus, or even mention him specifically unless asked. This would really be a test-the-waters situation to get more explicit or implicit information about your grand-boss’s vision, work style, and openness to more feedback.

      Then at least you’d have that information, and not be stuck feeling anxious and unsure.

    8. JSPA*

      I’d put the effort into refining your resumé, while looking for ways to go outside the chain of command in an approved way (like one or another committee on diversity / inclusion or outside activities, if those draw on people from levels above you and your peers, as well as entry level). That’s not normally the best option, but

      a) you’re being largely blocked from your real work anyway.
      b) you’re being entirely blocked from recognition and normal growth of contacts.
      c) it is at minimum another item for your resumé.
      d) you have a chance to be recognized and make connections.
      e) you’ll be making something better for others, which is good in itself, and a good boost to one’s sense of self-worth.

  2. Not+So+Super-visor*

    Am I being unreasonable here?
    I’ve been in a supervisor/manager role with my department for almost 8 years. Two years ago, I was demoted from manager to a supervisor due to a merger with my company (Small Corp) and Big Corp. At first, my duties didn’t really change, but gradually all of the projects that I enjoyed were taken away as I was “just a supervisor.” The team at Big Corp also made it pretty insufferable. While the CEO said that there was no more Big Corp or Small Corp but now New Corp (they did change the name), it’s been made pretty clear by my new coworkers that it’s Big Corp way or no way. I’ve been explained basic industry terms as if I was a total newbie and not someone who’d been in the industry 15+ years. Because of my experience and previous role, my boss would often ask me to join her on meetings where I was more of an expert on certain things (she came from a different part of the business), and it was always met with “why is Supervisor on this meeting? She’s just a supervisor.” Worse yet, if I’d raise valid business concerns on one of these meetings, the Big Corp folks would then create a committee to look into the “problem” but only include Big Corp members and only people that disagreed that this was an issue (ie — nothing ever gets fixed).
    The last occurance of this was really the straw that brok the camel’s back: they launched an employee performance evaluation tool that completely lacked transparency and uses the wrong data set to evaluate performance metrics — the way that is set up is completely unfair the employees that we supervise/manage. After the formation of the newest committee to do nothing, I went into my manager’s office and told her that this was a hill that I was willing to die on.
    Fortunately, a few days after this, a VP that I’d previously worked with on several projects for Small Corp but had integrated into Big Corp as well approached me about a role in his area. It’s different than what I’m doing but considered a promotion (with a pay bump). I advised my boss that I was applying and then went through all of the normal interviewing steps (about 2 weeks) before being offered and accepting the position 3 weeks ago. I am excited about this new role as I really needed a change. I was supposed to start this new job yesterday. Unfortunately, current VP, the director, and my manager are now all freaking out about me leaving. VP even offered to promote my manager to another role in the company and give me her job. I turned it down. I told him that he was missing the point about why I was moving on and that I’ve already done her job and needed something new. Now, they are dragging their feet. They posted my role as soon as I informed them that I’d accepted, and I know for a fact that several people from my current department have applied (they’ve been asking me about the status). They haven’t even started interviewing, and now I’ve been told that I can’t start my new role until after the first of the year. New director asked if I can be allowed some time each day (1-2 hours) to train on my new role during this extended time, but current leadership declined by saying that we’re just way too busy (this is our slowest time of the year).
    New VP is not happy, and I’m concerned that they will rescind my offer. I’m ticked, and kind of quiet quitting/passing off things to other supervisors, but I feel like I risk burning major bridges (which is a bad idea since I’m staying in the org).

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Are you sure you want to stay here? What are the chances that the things that are frustrating you – which btw are valid and you are not being unreasonable about them – will be different in your new role?

      1. ferrina*

        Yes, I recommend starting to apply externally. That way if Current VP refuses to move you, you don’t feel like it was wasted time.

        My only other suggestion would be emotional management. Prepare a transition plan for Manager. Talk up how you recommend Person Who Applied For Your Role because they are strong in kitten skill building curriculums, and how you think they’d do an amazing job taking the department farther than you could; but Other Person Who Applied is also a great option, as they are great at puppy toy building, should Old VP want to take the role there. The goal is to try to get them to see this as an opportunity for them and make them excited about leaving. You shouldn’t have to play this level of politics, but unfortunately it may be necessary. I’m sorry.
        Good luck!

      2. Not+So+Super-visor*

        you’re right — it’s risky. The most important thing about the new role, to me at least, is that it focuses on some key skills that I’ve wanted to develop and that I’d need in order to take the next advanced step if I wanted to move to another company in this same industry. In fact, I’ve applied and interviewed with other companies in hopes of making this step, and it’s always boiled down to that I don’t have experience in this area.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I was in a similar situation about 8 years ago at a former company. What I would recommend you do is contact New VP and explain exactly what’s going on – that you are all caught up with your work, your department is now in a slow period, but your old management is reluctant to let you leave. Advise that you’re really excited to start the new role and could do so in the new year as planned. Say all of this as calmly and unemotionally as possible. New VP will likely be savvy enough to pick up what’s happening here and if NVP is good, NVP will go over your current VP’s head, possibly even looping in your HR team, and will get you a start date ASAP.

          When this happened to me, this is exactly what I did, and the New Senior Vice President I would be working under went to my manager’s manager and then his manager as well (the SVP) and demanded that they stop blocking my transition since once I signed the offer letter for his department and it was signed off on by HR, I was officially their employee – the notice period was a courtesy. (HR must have co-signed this as they were looped in on the email from New SVP to Old SVP.)

          This process took about a week and a half and then I finally got an official start date in my new division (which was two months earlier than the time frame my old manager had the audacity to suggest). I was gone three weeks later (Christmas break caused another delay).

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      No advice but sympathy. I had a similar but not exact situation when Big Co took over my company two jobs ago. I had been there five years and was well known in the industry so it was awkward when they started treating me like an intern and then VPs from competitors were saying “I want to talk to Prospect” and the new managers with less experience obviously took offense at it but also never thought “gee, why do they want to talk to you.” Instead they dug their heels in more and tried to hide more things from me (which was impossible since I saw almost everything going on due to my job).

      It was almost as if they were trying to annoy long term workers from Smaller Co. It was bad. I eventually left. A lot of stuff imploded after I left but it wasn’t really a victory story because it meant customers I had like got screwed and more former coworkers I like had to job hop when they’d have preferred the stability Small Co had offered.

    3. Starchy*

      I thought I was reading about my previous company. I just went thru the exact same thing this year. My advice is to get out. They will always associate you with small Corp and you will always be treated like the red headed step child. Sorry you are going through this.

      1. WellRed*

        Even without all the bs around the promotion and transfer, the company has shown how it valued OP and how it treats what it considers low level people. Neither us impressive.

    4. KatEnigma*

      I would be polishing up the old resume and applying to other companies immediately.

      If you stay, your promotion will keep getting pushed off, if it’s not canceled entirely.

    5. Mouse*

      Is there anything you can do to help push the promotion through? Talk to HR, a mentor or friendly ally who is higher up in the org, or anyone who can influence this dispute in New VP’s favor?

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I should have kept reading before I commented because I said the same above. OP needs to talk to New VP to express excitement about starting the new role and concern that they haven’t gotten a start date yet. New VP will read between the lines and could potentially go over this current management team’s heads to get this promotion and transfer fast tracked.

    6. Aitch Arr*

      Have you talked to your HR Rep/Business Partner?

      At my company at least, we will get involved in such situations to make sure the internal promo/transfer goes through in a timely fashion and the employee doesn’t get stuck in between the jobs and managers.

    7. Pudding*

      In my similarly complex company, what might work is talking to HR and the hiring VP in your new division and ask for them to use their influence to get your start date moved up. Point out (with numbers if you can) that now is not a busy time for your old group m. Point out that if they want to retain people by letting them transfer and not seek roles outside the company, they need measures in place to allow them to move on in a reasonable timeframe and access their agreed upon raises, too.

      I hired two people internally a couple of years ago and was told it was such a bad time for their group to lose two people, they were so busy, blah blah. There were valid issues and I was sympathetic but their old manager was a loon and proposed an eight week wait and then a 50/50 share for a while. I saw red and threw a fit. I got them their raises effective week 3 (it was a huge bump) and got them moved by week 5 (no sharing).

    8. catalystic*

      Keep in touch with New VP. I was in a similar situation that ended up working out well for me; the department that wanted to hang onto me eventually gave up and let me go, after doing some haggling over my transition date. Making sure New VP knows you’re still enthusiastic and ready to make the switch — that could go a long way!

  3. DisneyChannelThis*

    What’s your best advice for networking more at work?

    I tend to work on projects with the same 3 people, 2 of whom are probably leaving the company soon. I’d like to form connections with more people.

    1. Back on the Clock*

      If in person, I had great results with organizing casual get-togethers after work and inviting cooworkers I didn’t see often, plus asking those who came to bring others. If remote, options are more limited and I struggle with this too – the general slack channel only gets you too far. Ideally, you might volunteer for a new type of project that requires you to get input from some new coworkers.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        Your last line, that’s exactly what I want to be able to do, but I keep only hearing about stuff after the fact. So I’m hoping if I know a few more people better, then I might get looped in. I hadn’t considered inviting people outside work, thanks! That really opens up a lot more options for getting to know people.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Do you have an informal Slack/Teams channel, even if you work in person? Somewhere you can have mini conversations about pets, family, holidays, celebrations, hobbies, things like that?

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        We have one but no one comments in it. The last post in that channel is from 2 months ago, ouch!

    3. Triplestep*

      If your company has events like webinars that others join, pay attention to the chat and see if you have anything to contribute to people individually. I have “met” people when I see they have a question I can help them with offline, like how to use a particular technology differently, but it’s not something the webinar will cover. I typically will message them directly so as not to disrupt the group chat, and suggest we can meet offline some time soon.

    4. Keener*

      What about arranging a 30 minute coffee or walk with different people to learn more about their projects? Cross pollination of ideas/making connections is great. I don’t know the culture at your firm but it is something that should be part of work hours.

      Alternatively, are there any committees/groups you can volunteer to join to give you exposure to other people. Health and Safety? Branch strategy? A special project?

    5. ferrina*

      If you’re remote, virtual coffee invites go a long way. “Hey, I heard you were an expert on X/worked on a project that dealt with Y. I’d love to hear about your experience and pick your brain!”
      If it’s someone you click with and that does similar work or work that intersects with yours, set up a recurring coffee. I have a monthly meeting with folks whose work intersects with mine for us to exchange tips and ask questions. I love that group.

    6. Quinalla*

      Are there any committees/work groups/casual stuff you can join in? Usually these types of things will pull from anywhere in the org so it is a good way to meet and work with people in your company.

      Is there an outside organization related to your field that other people participate with? Join it and go to the meetings/whatever with them. Or if there is an org but no one is in it, maybe try and organizing a small group joining and getting involved.

      And yeah, organizing a 30 minute meeting to talk to someone about their area of expertise is a great idea. Ask them questions and learn and they’ll get to teach and lean into their expertise. Win win!

      1. Rainy*

        The committees/workgroups (also stuff like ERGs!) is a good idea. My office has a committee that fell by the wayside when the old organizer moved on–people had been kind of meh on what the committee was doing toward the end, but I think that part of that was the way the organizer approached the work. I just spoke with a colleague the other day about a perceived gap, she agreed, I said I’d been thinking about pitching a revival of that committee with a better approach and asked if she wanted to participate, and she said yes very enthusiastically, and I went to my grandboss and pitched it. With my new approach, I easily convinced her of the necessity, volunteered to head it up, and said I already had another colleague who’d signed on to help.

    7. Helvetica*

      Honestly, just ask people for a coffee. I network for a living, basically, and this is really the easiest way. Of course, YMMV, but this is perfectly normal in my field and organisation.

    8. Rainy*

      When I hit my slower time, I like to reach out to people I correspond with for various things about my work and schedule a coffee or a lunch or even just a walk around campus. I also try to do the same with people in my office. I’m a one-person program, responsible for a lot of different pieces, so I am usually working flat out essentially by myself, and it can be easy to lose track of even office friendships during my busy times.

      I have a regular check-in with my people manager, but nothing specific or one on one built in with anyone else, so I regularly reach out to my grand-boss, my director, members of other teams, people in other divisions, etc, and even my opposite numbers at other organizations in the area and schedule a casual catch-up. People are always very receptive. Sometimes we talk about work and sometimes we don’t. I’ve recently had a couple of awesome collaborations come out of these casual meetings!

  4. Prospect Gone Bad*

    How do you manage disruptions? I’ve long held the belief that I am paid to be interrupted with questions to a certain degree and even thought people here and in real life have been too rigid when they have elaborate processes for dealing with disruptions. But now I find myself overwhelmed and annoyed with them. I’ve tried to be patient with people and it’s not working. Has anyone successfully pashed back or stopped constant interruptions? My problem is I’m getting more “do you have time” messages without any context. Then I need to decide whether to call them, and more than half the time it’s something unclear or non-urgent or something they could research themselves. And then suddenly half an hour passed and I’m behind on actual work. Then rinse lather repeat and suddenly I’ve accomplished two hours of work all day.

    I’ve been tolerating this for too long because I’ve worked with people who use the “email me don’t call” to avoid requests or hide the fact they weren’t actually in the office. But now it’s gone too far and when I’ve pushed back with “what’s the specific question” people act like I am in a bad mood.

    1. Back on the Clock*

      I found myself getting really irritable and snippy with colleagues about this kind of thing at a previous job, and it was not my usual style so it was a big concern for me. I found I needed to time-block certain hours to do actual uninterrupted work, and during those time blocks, not be available. If I was outside the time block, I would try to be available if possible. I realized I had become the go-to for stupid/lazy questions that people had no incentive to try and figure out for themselves. Also, it was a small shared open office (I would do my time block work away from my desk). It helped.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      The response to “Do you have time?” can and should be in this case “Maybe, what’s this about?” with an optional softening “I’m triaging/ranking tasks by urgency today, what’s this about?” You could also do like – “I’ll have time tomorrow at 2 unless this is about something due today, I’m working on getting the ABC report finalized by 5pm”

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        This, plus the liberal use of the “do not disturb” feature on my office phone, can work wonders.

        If the question or issue sounds like something I don’t want to interrupt myself for, I’ll ask that it be put in e-mail and assure the person that I’ll try to get back to them as soon as I can.

        1. 653-CXK*

          Oh, yes…nothing has helped me more than setting my phone to “Do Not Disturb” so I can focus on what I’m doing, and then if there’s a voicemail or anything like that, I can answer it later at my convenience. I will also follow up with an email if they have it.

      2. Malarkey01*

        This. I get a lot of things on message system and when busy I respond “I’m on a call/right in the middle of something/focusing on x, if it’s a quick answer I can respond on chat/email, otherwise how about 1.

        The other thing- if your office culture/job fits is to get comfortable not immediately replying to things. It was a big shift for me mentally not to open every email or message when it came in, but I’ve retrained myself to set a timer for heads down times and not even look at the message. I’ve found that it was me putting the pressure on an immediate response.

      3. Ama*

        Yes — “Do you have time?” requests directed at me can be truly urgent or they can be “oh I just had this vague idea of a project we might do months from now and wanted to get some background from you.” They also can be looking for info I can pull right off the top of my head or I might need to do some research in the files to get what they need. So I have no problems responding to vague “hey do you have a few minutes” requests with — “Could you tell me a little more about what you want to discuss? If it’s something where I need to refresh my memory in our files I probably don’t have time today.”

        I have also been known on occasion to respond to vague voicemails with emails (if I know the person) saying “hi got your voicemail, I’m really swamped today but if you can tell me a little more about what your question is I can let you know when I might have time to discuss.”

    3. Binky*

      Are you getting the “do you have time” messages on email or messaging? If so, can you just reply with a “what do you need?” That way you don’t have to get on the phone if it’s quick.

      Or can you block off time on your calendar for focus time? Our calendar syncs with Teams and shows us as unavailable for those times. That would at least give you some time without interruptions (or at least fewer, hopefully.)

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I’d respond with something like ‘Hi there! What are you looking for?” Or “Hi there! Let me know what you need and I’ll be happy to set aside some time”. That puts the onus on them on to do the work on figuring out and clarifying what they need, rather than processing it with you.

      If they are kind of vague about the response, you can then ask them something like “what’s your intended outcome from our meeting” or “I want to make sure I’m respecting your time. So that I can prepare, what are you looking to get out of our discussion?”

    5. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      It’s OK to answer “do you have time” with “Not at the moment.” Try sharing with your team that you’re available between X and Y times for questions, and the rest of the time is blocked off for deep work (or however you feel it’s best to phrase that). And don’t be afraid to nudge/encourage people to check other resources and do solo research on some things. I have had success with using “What did your notes say on that?” or “Have you run an Outlook search with the case ID?” to push back on people who were habitually coming to me.

    6. SoloKid*

      I never answer no-context “do you have time” messages until I stop whatever task I’m working on. If it’s urgent, they will learn to say that, or get a manager/other teammates to chime in with more context.

      Most of the time when I get back to people (usually near the end of the day when I’ve finished my “actual work”) they’ve figured it out or bothered someone else.

    7. Quinalla*

      When it gets to be too much, I start putting focus time on my calendar and not answering during that time, even putting teams on DND. I will also let my team know that I’m swamped that day so don’t bug me for non-urgent things. Setting expectations helps a lot!

      I will also say “I don’t have time right now, can you put something on my calendar for tomorrow/next week or at 2pm or after if it is urgent today.” or “I don’t have time right now, can you tell me what it is about and I’ll recommend someone else who can help.” or if they told me what it was about just recommend someone else immediately.

      I will say folks at my work are really good about giving context when they ask for a minute. It’s probably 5% of the time someone just says “Hey, got a minute?” and usually those are higher ups, peers or below almost always give context. And asking someone to create a calendar invite is also normalized so that helps too.

    8. Tio*

      A lot of the interruptions I used to get as a manager were cured with very specific written SOPs – so I could redirect people there. Built consistency, independence, and reduced my disruptions.

      Another thing that helps is redirecting them to other team members – question about Excel? Go to Joe. Software problem? Check with Jane, she knows all the tips. Know other people’s strengths and know managers don’t have to fix all problems by themselves.

    9. Moonlight*

      I wonder if there is a way to do anything like telling people to email you for issues like X and Y; like maybe you are a llama groomer manager, and people are coming to your office to find out when the next team meeting will be, and maybe you could be like “could you email me about that sort of thing in the future?” or maybe you get a lot of disruptions to ask where the llama brushes are, and that’s something better for the llama barn supervisor.

      Also, maybe track who the “worst” offenders are. Like lets say Sansa only approaches you with the most serious of issues, and that might be biweekly, but meanwhile Bran approaches you for pretty minor issues practically every day. Maybe it could be good to work with the people who come to you the most and coach them on ways to be more independent in their work or how to find info other ways? You don’t even need to show it as a punishment; just a “I’ve noticed some people come to me for help more than others so I want to take the time to coach you on some of the reasons I noticed I see you more, but I want you to know this is more about a me thing than you; I’m not punishing you, I just need to get more balance in my work and I also think it’ll be good for your sense of confidence in your work”.

    10. allathian*

      It’s a bit culture dependent obviously, but it should be okay to answer vague “do you have time?” messages with “not until 2 pm, unless it’s really urgent”.

  5. Back on the Clock*

    I’m about to make a big change – going from freelance to full time work. I’ve gone over and over the decision, but basically, although there’s no way to be sure it will be the right one for me, I’m committed to giving it a try for at least six months, and I have good reasons to be making the switch. My biggest concern is how I will react emotionally to “having” to be on the clock during set hours, which has been my favorite part by far about freelancing. What are some tips to take it easy on myself during the transition and set myself up for success? I worry I will panic-quit and blow what could be a good opportunity to at least build up some savings and enjoy subsidized health care.

    1. Baeolophus bicolor*

      Can you build a “get ready for work” routine that includes some time for you to do something you really enjoy? Have a cup of tea or whatever while reading for half an hour, go for a walk outside, cook a nice breakfast, whatever, that you can use right before you start work? While transitioning from grad school to a conventional full time job I found that if I can build something I want to do with a specific time frame into my morning schedule that ‘signals’ it’s time to work I do better, because I trick myself into doing something I like that then transitions into working.

    2. Two Dog Night*

      I did this back in 2018, and tbh I still miss being able to work when I want. I hope your job is going to have some flexibility built in–I can pretty much start/end whenever I want, and take breaks during the day, as long as I don’t miss meetings and am generally around during business hours.

      This might sound counter-intuitive, but I’d suggest getting onto a reasonably regular schedule. You might even want to be extra-strict about it at first, then flex things a little once you’re back in the full-time routine. Those first few months of 8-hour days were rough for me, but eventually I did get used to it. And I do like having a definite end time each day–when I was freelancing I was much more likely to work in the evening.

      Assuming you’ve got a reasonable amount of vacation time, take a day here and there. It’ll make you feel a little more free.

      (I still work from home–if you’re in an office I’d also say make an effort to be social and meet a bunch of people. Being there all day will be easier if there are enjoyable bits. But I haven’t worked in an office since 1999, so take that for what it’s worth. :-) )

      1. Back on the Clock*

        I know I’m going to miss it. It was a huge perk and I loved it. However, the flip side was the lack of dependability in income, which is a pretty huge downside haha.

    3. Auntie Social*

      I second Baeolophus’ idea—my ‘get ready’ was to pack myself a great lunch. I’d have fun making it, and I had the lunch to look forward to. Plus I got a reputation as being quite a chef (“Auntie brought shrimp creole!”).

    4. Ama*

      It may take a bit of trial and error, but give some thought to what morning routine sets you up for the best day. Some people prefer to get up with enough time to fix and eat breakfast before they leave the house and have plenty of time to get ready for the day.

      I’m not a morning person so I prefer the most efficient routine possible — make sure I at least have an idea what I’m going to wear the next day by the night before, keep all my work stuff in the same place so I don’t run around looking for it. I also prefer to eat breakfast after I get to work (I don’t eat big breakfasts, just coffee and a protein bar or those breakfast “cookies”) so I also make sure that’s very easy to grab in the morning.

      But my biggest tip is to be kind to yourself — it’s always mentally and physically draining to make a major change to your day-to-day (especially since you’re also starting a new job), so if you are really tired the first month (or few months) don’t think it’s necessarily always going to be that way.

      1. Westsidestory*

        I would second preparing the night before – it takes a few months to get used to a new routine, and you need to set yourself up for success by having everything ready for your day – clothes, lunch, your morning coffee setup etc.

        After a while the routine gets easier. One thing I like to do is focus on something during the commute that makes me smile – it can be the seasonal landscaping in a car park, what the manikins are wearing in a particular storefront, whether that funny looking dog is going to be walked the same time I go down the street. Build happy moments on the way in and you will be ready to seize your day.

    5. Jim Bob*

      It could also help to reframe as “I get to be 100% off the clock, not thinking about work, during set hours.” And hold yourself to that.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        This!! If we didn’t live in capitalist hellhole, this SHOULD be true!! And that would definitely be an improvement. It possibly WILL be true, but this is not my first FT job so I’m very apprehensive about all the subtle pressures that can be applied.

    6. IsbenTakesTea*

      What really helped for me was taking every minute of my breaks/lunch and physically leaving the area, and the entire building if possible, even if it’s just to a bench across the street. This really helped me retain my sense of agency.

      Also knowing that you’ll go through a few emotional swings (especially during the initial transition period) will help you ride them out: “Ah! Right! I was expecting this. Whoo, boy, it’s a strong one. I’m going to wait until I feel calmer before making a decision.” Good luck!

    7. New+Mom*

      One positive to focus on is that there will be down time or unproductive time and you are still getting paid! That can be a big source of stress while freelancing (I’m sure you know) and that constant guilt over not hustling. I’d say try to focus on enjoying not having to feel “on” all the time and worrying about the next paycheck.

  6. DisneyChannelThis*

    What desk gear would you suggest as presents? What has made working at your desk so much better? Footrests? Coffee mug warmer? I feel like there’s got to me more ideas.

    1. Elle*

      What’s the temperature/air quality in the office? Ours is awful and we have given each other desktop humidifiers, fans, air purifiers. All were loved and used.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’d like a cup with a cover that I could sip liquids out of but still not spill it on my computer. Or some nice mindfulness bs. Like what if people had lil zen gardens in their desks

      1. A Beth*

        I had a little zen garden at my old desk and a couple coworkers loved to come rake sand and chitchat. I rarely thought to use it myself but it was a nice distraction when people needed a break. (Do with that info what you will!)

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I really like the Contigo travel mugs with the autoseal lids for this purpose. Since they’re sealed unless you’re actively holding down a button, you can knock them over without spilling anything. (I’ve even dropped one of mine down a flight of stairs without it spilling anything, and while it accumulated a couple of dings on its journey it still works and it’s still in the rotation of travel mugs I use about a decade later.)

        I buy the plain stainless steel ones (rather than the ones that are different colors) so I can put them in the dishwasher.

      3. JustaTech*

        Someone at my work won a mini zen garden years and years ago and goodness if it isn’t a precious object in the office! It has survived two moves with more care than most of our electronics.

        If you go for the cups-with-lids, maybe also include some way for folks to personalize them: one year we all got identical travel cups which got all mixed up immediately so most people just took them home. Now I cover mine in stickers so it’s clear that this one is mine.

    3. Flowers*

      My favorite thing on my desk is a bladeless fan I got from Amazon for about $40ish. But I run hot so I need one – obv everyone is different. I guess it comes down to knowing the person – since I run hot, I also don’t do hot drinks so a mug warmer wouldn’t be much use to me. For someone you don’t know too well, you can’t go wrong with a mug that somewhat matches their style?

        1. Flowers*

          I just posted a link but in case it doesn’t show up eventually you can search for “Bladeless desk fan” that will show the same thing but at slightly different prices and various sellers. Mine was from SmartDevil but I imagine if the reviews are good any brand will work.

    4. Back on the Clock*

      I think cute or unique office supplies can hardly ever go wrong, as they’re functional and something most people wouldn’t buy for themselves. I won a whimsical stapler in a white elephant one year that was very in-demand.

    5. BossLady*

      My standing desk from IKEA was my best purchase ever. I’ve had it for about 7 years and starting the day standing and being able to change my desk height even by an inch or two to change how I’m holding my neck when I sit is the best. https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/bekant-corner-desk-left-sit-stand-black-stained-ash-veneer-black-s99282265/
      I also have a foot rest, Tonor microphone, and a ring light – I would consider those my favorite desktop WFH items.

    6. BossLady*

      Tonor microphone, ring light, cute novelty post-it note holder (my daughter gave me a cat and the post it’s slide in. I also can always use some more velcro cord ties if you are looking for something stocking size.

    7. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I will forever cherish my nice Post-it holder!

      Also maybe things for ergonomics? Foot rest, lumbar cushion, wrist rest?

    8. Roland*

      I did get a mug warmer last year and use it multiple times a day. Great value for something so cheap.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Mine still doesn’t keep my coffee hot enough for me, I like mine just under scorching, lol. I asked for an Ember mug this year after I saw my boss had one and she said it was her most loved gift ever.

    9. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I have a 24″ external monitor and I bought a very nice curved wood monitor stand. I have a bit of extra room underneath for small items and it looks great on my desk – it’s the same light wood tone as the desktop and it looks like it was made to be there. Gets the monitor to the right height for my eye level, reduces neck strain, and its appearance makes me smile.

      Other things on my desk that I love: a little pottery bowl that is glazed a shiny red because red makes me happy. A high-quality lens cleaner for my glasses because I always seem to notice the dust on my glasses when I sit down. Uncommon Goods has a great little tool for this. A coaster for my coffee cup or cold drink. A multi-plug extender that clamps on to the back of my desk so I don’t have to crawl underneath to plug and unplug – it also has USB-B ports so I can plug in various chargers when needed. I also have a little ramekin of sweetener packets, a cloth napkin, and a spoon. When I have a whole day or work, I brew a pot of coffee and take it upstairs and I’m all set.

      One thing I would like and probably will buy for myself: I keep a pump bottle of hand lotion on my desk and I want something nicer-looking.

    10. Trina*

      Assuming the reciever has access to a microwave, a rice bag! Easily accessible, portable heat is great for quick headache relief, cramps, or even just “it is too cold in here.” I like SacksyThyme, though the lavender scent may be too strong for smell-senstive folks.

    11. Rapidgirl*

      Depends on your budget. Standing desk attachment. Standing mat (the squishy kind used in front of sinks). Big/second monitor. Ergonomic keyboard/mouse. Footrest. Hydro flask instead of coffee mug warmer. No outlet required, can take with you to meetings, keeps coffee warm a LONG time.

    12. IndyDem*

      for WHF – I’ve bought a high end desk lamp that allows you to change the tone and brightness, a foot rest, a better set of headphones than the company provided and my own docking station (I use it for work and non-work).

      For the office – I’m only in 1 day every two weeks, and we don’t have any locker space, so we have to bring everything when we go in. I bought a lighter usb mouse/keyboard combo, and also a lightweight electronic picture frame.

    13. L.+Ron+Jeremy*

      A small lava lamp. I got one in a Christmas white elephant gift party and I really enjoyed it on my desk.

    14. Ama*

      Alison linked some USB warming fingerless gloves in her gift guide one year that I purchased for that year’s Yankee Swap at work, because parts of our office were quite chilly. The person who got them didn’t initially realize what they were but once she realized they heated up she LOVED them (she happened to be in one of the colder corners).

    15. Rainy*

      Laptop riser! I work on camera a lot, so I love my laptop riser, external kb/touchpad combo, and my ring light. The riser and ring light were both 20-25USD. Wrist riser, ergonomic seat pad, foot rests are all nice. If you feel like spending a little more, depending on office environment, a tabletop humidifier or dehumidifier is nice (stay away from things like essential oil vaporizers or anything with scent unless for someone’s home office setup, and knowing they like that stuff). For something cheaper–a pretty or tasteful photo frame that comes with a photo mat so that it takes either a 4×6 or a 5×7 photo depending on whether you use the mat. Everyone always has more photos than nice frames! Where I live, everyone has a water bottle that just lives at work on their desk–nobody is ever mad to get a new, nice insulated desk bottle, or even a nice coffee or tea mug. If someone is a tea-drinker, a sampler of teas is nice. I know a lot of people who really like having an office throw that they can put over their lap if chilly.

      Something that sounds weird but is super practical for the right person in the right climate: A BOOT TRAY! If people are walking in or walking in from parking and you have a snowy climate, a boot tray for your snow boots is SO helpful.

    16. Karen*

      If you’re buying a gift for someone who works with a laptop, try a laptop stand! Using a laptop placed on a desk requires you to look down or hunch a bit, but placing the laptop on a stand so that it reaches eye level makes you sit more comfortably. I have a stand for my laptop, as well as a mechanical keyboard beneath the stand.

  7. Flowers*

    I have never been in this situation so I have no idea what the etiquette behind any of this is (except for what NOT to do after reading this blog). A coworker’s husband passed away earlier this week and we were provided with a link to the obituary which has detailed information on the funeral (which is tomorrow).

    I am wondering if I should go? From what I’ve gathered over the last few months, a lot of ppl here have known each other for years/decades inside and outside of work. I have only known her for a few months BUT I’ve worked with her more than others and she’s been really helpful and…idk I guess I want to show my support? Would any of these details even matter?

    1. Back on the Clock*

      I would struggle with this decision as my understanding is that it’s very cultural. In some communities it would be common to attend a funeral to support someone you like, even if you don’t know them super well and/or didn’t know the deceased at all. In other communities that would be odd unless you were extremely close to the family member, like best friend level – not colleague. In the latter, it’s usually better to send flowers or a group card to show support, but not attend the actual service. I have no idea how anybody decides what community they’re in.

      1. Redwinemom*

        I suggest you talk with a few other people in your department to ask if anyone is attending the funeral. That would be the first step, because you do not want to be the only co-worker attending.
        I am always in favor of showing support for the co-worker and family. If I decide to attend, I usually stand toward the back during the services, and then walk through the ‘receiving line” (I’m not sure what it is called after a funeral service). I quickly give my condolences, then move on back to work.
        I’ve never been sorry that I attended.

    2. ThatGirl*

      It is entirely up to you – if you want to show your support and want to go, go. She will probably appreciate it. But if you don’t want to go, I am quite sure nobody would hold it against you.

    3. Audiophile*

      I think it’s fine to attend and show support for your coworker. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.

      *Reposting because it wound up below as its own post.

    4. Colette*

      I lean towards going. I don’t think you have to go, but it’s a nice gesture. (Other options would be sending a condolence card, or leaving one on her desk for when she returns to work.)

    5. DisneyChannelThis*

      Generally in my area coworkers don’t attend funerals for coworkers unless they were close. They do often send flowers if the obit had a mention of the funeral details (sometimes obit suggests donation instead of flowers). It depends on your relationship, is coworker close enough to you that they’d be comfortable crying in front of you? If not, maybe not go to funeral.

      1. Cj*

        In the situation the OP is in, I would probably go to the visitation but not necessarily the funeral. For one thing, the visitation is generally in the evening and the funeral during the day, so you wouldn’t need to take off work to go to the visitation.

        It does very greatly by community.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      If there’s a separate wake/visitation, that would be when I would expect coworkers who aren’t especially close to come, pay their respects, give condolences, then leave after about 30-45 minutes.

      1. KatEnigma*

        This. Even if the visitation hours are right before the funeral, for a coworker I’ve only known short term, I would go to the visitation and leave before the funeral. It wouldn’t even need to be 30+ minutes. The grieving spouse will be swamped. Just enough to make it to them and tell them how sorry you are for their loss, and then you can leave.

      2. Tea and Sympathy*

        I agree. Go to the visitation instead of the funeral. When my brother-in-law died, so many more people came to the visitation than the funeral, and a lot of them seemed to be coworkers and people who had known him and liked him, but weren’t necessarily friends. It was the same when my father died. People who we wouldn’t have really expected to show up came to the visitation, including a couple of nurses who cared for him in the hospital. We were incredibly touched by people who surprised us by showing up. Also at the visitations I have been to, unless you’re family, you offer your condolences and then leave – so it’s more set up for condolences than for mourning. I’m sure your coworker will appreciate your show of care.

    7. Lady_Lessa*

      I would tend to go the viewing vs the funeral, because you will have a better chance of saying hello, and being there. Also, at a viewing, you might have a chance to stand around with co-workers. But go to at least one or both. I went to my boss’s funeral even though I had only worked under him for about 2 weeks. (there were a number of his co-workers there)

      1. ECHM*

        My personal philosophy, schedule-dependent, is if I know the deceased’s relative but not necessarily the deceased, is I go to the visitation; if I know the deceased, I go to the funeral. If you aren’t comfortable going to one of the events, a card or donation would be a thoughtful gesture.

    8. Gigi*

      Personally, I wouldn’t recommend going to the funeral. A few months isn’t enough to gauge if she’d want you, or anyone outside the family, to be there.

      Some other options to show support are sending flowers, or making a donation in their name Either to a cause they’re interested in, or depending on the cause of death, to an organization tied to that. Cancer research, Alzheimer’s, etc. If all else fails, a national or global charity that does universally beloved acts, like Unicef, St Jude’s, or The Red Cross will do.

      I’ve done the donation thing for a few colleagues I was fond of but didn’t know well, and it’s always gone over positively.

    9. Rapunzel Rider*

      The only time I have attended a funeral for a coworker’s family member was in a smaller office where we were a family. We had all been working together for years and we closed the office down for all of us to go to the service. In my newer job (3 years at the time of the last family death), I have not attended funerals. Part of it is that we are a bigger office/school and do not really interact with extended family. For reference, I do live in the south (US) and work in higher ed offices.

    10. Golden*

      My dad’s boss came to the funeral when my grandfather died, I (as a kid) and I think my dad found it to be a really nice gesture. My husband’s coworker lost a husband and we went to that funeral, and the coworker was also very touched. But as others have mentioned, this is largely cultural.

    11. learnedthehardway*

      Since you have only worked together for a few months, it’s really up to you.

      I would probably send a donation to whatever cause they have flagged as the one they would like to receive donations in memory of the person. The organization will send them a list of who donated so they can write thank you notes.

      I would also send a nice card.

      If there was a wake, I might go to that, but I would probably not go to a funeral for a coworker’s family member, not unless we were really close.

    12. Bird+Lady*

      In my community in upstate NY, we tend to attend the wake/ viewing hours for colleagues or acquaintances. The funeral is usually viewed as a family/ close friend affair. You go in, pay respects, say hello to the colleague or acquaintance, and then leave once appropriate. It’s also completely acceptable to send flowers or, more commonly here, a donation in memory of the individual. Even a sympathy card works!

      When my husband’s grandmother passed away, my office-mates signed a card enclosed with a gift card for Chipotle. Honestly, it was a life saver because after a very long and emotional day, we had a plan for dinner and no one had to cook. Recognition that it was a hard time for us both meant a lot.

    13. Glomarization, Esq.*

      The answer to this is, I think, so context-dependent that it seems to me you’d get a better answer by asking around to see what your colleagues are going to do. Without seeing the obituary, and without knowing your workplace and co-workers, I honestly don’t know if there is an expectation for co-workers to go to the funeral (or wake, viewing, or Mass, or graveside service, or whatever combination of events, of varying levels of family intimacy, there are).

      I would say that if the obituary includes “donations in lieu of flowers may be made to X,” then you really can’t go wrong by making that suggested donation.

      1. doreen*

        I agree that it’s very context-dependent. At my job, people would typically attend the wake/visitation which usually was held on one or two days prior to the funeral ( so the wake might be Tues and Wed and then the funeral on Thurs). A co-worker’s mother passed away and the wake was for an hour at the church immediately prior to the funeral. I wasn’t able to stay for the funeral , so I didn’t attend because in my culture it would have been unacceptable to drop in for 15 minutes right before the funeral. Turned out, I pissed off a bunch of my co-workers because in their culture it was just fine to drop in and leave before the funeral.

        1. Flowers*

          Wow, I’m sorry they were pissed off at you! That seems like an overreaction on their part over a cultural misunderstanding

    14. Wednesday*

      Where I am from, it’s customary, acceptable, and respectful to go for the visitation/viewing before the full funeral service or mass. You’ll have a chance to say some words of sympathy and support to your coworker, but do not have to participate in the heaviness of the service that seems more for family and close friends. (That wording doesn’t seem quite right to me, but I can’t come up with a way to rephrase it.) Of course, if you want to stay for the whole funeral you certainly can. If you do stay, you definitely would not need to go to the burial if it’s held right after (again unless you want to, but I feel like that’s getting into weird territory.)

      A former long-time (10+ years working together) co-worker’s husband recently passed, and several of us went to the viewing. I had never met her husband and she and I were good colleagues but not particularly what I’d call friends. There was a receiving line, for lack of a better term, and I just said that I was so sorry and that all of us at work were all thinking of her and her family. It took less than 45 minutes out of my day including travel time, but I think she was touched that her old work friends hadn’t forgotten about her after she retired.

    15. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’d say it’s entirely appropriate to attend. If there is both a visitation/viewing/wake and a funeral service, you can attend either or both. (I’d pick the visitation if I was only attending one.)

      When I had a comparable situation (coworker’s father), I made sure to seek out my coworker at the visitation to express my condolences and hug her. (We’re both huggers – this is not a requirement.) When I paid my respects to the rest of the family, I followed my introduction with “I’m Tangerina’s coworker” and no one found it unreasonable or expected further details.

      Also, this is the situation where the phrase “I’m sorry for your loss” is really helpful. You don’t need to be unique or creative here, so a stock phrase is appropriate and easier for people to respond to.

    16. irene adler*

      A sympathy card with some kind words from you might be a middle ground here.
      Or flowers with the sympathy card.

    17. The Lion's Roar*

      I’d check in with other coworkers and see if anyone else is going – for starters, if they’ve known her longer they’ll be better attuned to what her preference might be, but you’ll also probably feel more secure in the decision to attend if you’re there with other coworkers.

    18. Just+Life*

      A sympathy card would be fine. For someone you are not too close too, I would not want to risk exposure to illness. 6 people in my town got Covid from one visitation

    19. OtterB*

      Agree with others to ask around about expectations and that a visit to the wake/viewing may be a better arrangement than the funeral itself.

      Another possibility I haven’t seen mentioned, depending on scheduling and so forth, you might volunteer to hold down the fort at the office if that’s needed, so that people who have known your coworker longer can go.

    20. RagingADHD*

      In my area, the correct calibration for the relationship you describe would be for you to attend the funeral and give condolences to your coworker in the receiving line, but not attend the “visitation” before or the reception afterward. It’s a pretty traditional area where life events are almost always religious whether the person practiced / was devout or not. Funerals are considered public and viewings or receptions are for longtime friends / neighbors and family.

    21. Flowers*

      Wow thank you everyone. I’m a little overwhelmed at all the comments but I’ll try my best to respond to individual ones. But thank you all <3

      1. Flowers*

        To give context – my first experience at a funeral was my father’s funeral a few years ago. Because the death was in another country and we’re a different religion (not to mention the sheer chaos – [we’re very loud + emotional]), I really couldn’t use that as a frame of reference…

        1. Flowers*

          And at my job at the time beyond a few individuals approaching me I got nothing at work. No email announcement, card etc. Afterwards another coworker’s mother passed away and a collection was taken up to give her money and a signed card (and of course I signed it and donated I’m not a jerk but I definitely felt the difference). But based on what I’ve seen here, usually an email will go out with details although I haven’t yet seen any cards being passed around or asked for donations.

    22. Might Be Spam*

      I would go to either the visitation or the funeral to show support for your coworker.
      It would also be a real kindness to introduce yourself to whoever is standing next to the coworker. They will be under a lot of stress and may blank on your name. I can’t recognize people out of context and it really helps when people remind me who they are.

  8. Not a Real Giraffe*

    When your boss asks you a question about your work and you realize you’ve made a mistake/error/forgot to do something, how do you respond? For example, if your boss asked you to update a spreadsheet but then notices the final totals of the data aren’t what he expected, so he emails you to ask you to double-check your edits — and in doing so, you see you’ve transposed a number or deleted a row of data, how would you reply to his email?

    A) “Double-checked everything — should be all set.”
    B) “Looks like I [did error], it’s been fixed.”
    C) Something else (please elaborate).

    Trying to gauge my internal response to something that happened at work this week!

    1. Colette*

      B. “Yup, found the problem, the corrected version is attached.” “Good catch! I’ve fixed the error.”, etc. – acknowledge that there was a problem and you’ve fixed it.

      1. Triplestep*

        I wouldn’t tell my boss “Good catch!” but I might thank them for pointing it out while telling them I’d fixed it. Your boss doesn’t want your praise for finding a mistake in your work.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          “Thanks for catching that” is a much better way to say “Good catch” to your boss, the latter of which could come off condescending.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      I am on team B. You acknowledge that you made an error, have discovered what it was, and also signal that you have fixed it.

    3. Back on the Clock*

      I would not like the first one as a boss. Assuming the employee has trust in the supervisor, I might do something casual like, “Oh, it looks like cell 34B was wrong, I fixed it now and double-checked the final totals to confirm. Sorry about that.” Bad supervisors aren’t going to get this level of transparency though.

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      In your A you don’t mention fixing anything so boss may think you’re denying there was an error. I’d go B. If it’s a major error I usually make sure to add a sentence outlining how we’ll prevent this from happening again and/or explaining what went wrong this time. If it delays something or now boss has to repeat another step I’d add in “my apologies” to the start.

      1. Rapunzel Rider*

        This would be my thought as well. A good manager/boss realizes we are all human and while we strive for perfection, sometimes it just does not happen. As long as it is not a common thing that they need to be worried about your overall work quality, caught mistakes are usually not end of the world.

    5. Geriatric Millennial*

      I do some version of (B). Indicate that I did find an error and corrected it — so he knows if he looks again the totals will be different. Depending on the error and its complexity I usually include a brief description (transposition, pulled numbers from the wrong source, etc) and whether anything was necessary to keep it from happening again (updated documentation, etc).

    6. KRM*

      I would just say it–“Oh, looks like I accidentally transposed X and Y, fixed now!” or whatever it was. That way you are acknowledging that yes you did mess up, your boss wasn’t wrong to check (always good to have a second set of eyes on things), and you’ve fixed it quickly and competently.

    7. Web Crawler*

      B, usually at a level of specificity that the person wants to know. For example “Whoops. I made a typo in the code, I just fixed it” for a non-technical person and “I forgot to uncomment a line after I implemented the fix, but it’s good now” for my team lead. It’s better for my team lead to know what happened, because they can suggest specific things I could do to check, if they notice a pattern. Non-technical people on my team don’t care as long as it’s fixed or I can tell them how long it’ll take to fix.

    8. I should really pick a name*

      I would use B, and also add what steps I’m taking to avoid making the same mistake again.

    9. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Thanks, everyone! I’m a B responder as well. Everyone is human! Mistakes happen!

      But my employee responded in an A manner (also tried to act like the mistake never existed, which was odd when I could blatantly see it…) and when I ran this scenario past a trusted friend, they responded with “They don’t need to write their mistakes in an email,” so I worried I was off-base in my approach and how I expected my employees to approach their mistakes as well.

      (FWIW, I am a pretty “no worries, it happens, thanks for fixing” kind of manager so there should be no reason to fear the repercussions of making a mistake.)

      1. Squidhead*

        It’s weird (and kinda gaslight-y) that your employee made it sound like the error had never been there. Presumably older versions of the file exist or can be rolled back…they should know that their lie is easily discovered (and lying is never a great look) OR they actually don’t know what the problem was and happened to fix it by accident (which doesn’t speak well of their competence). Depending on your relationship with them, pointing out that *neither* version of that scenario looks good for them might promote a more forthcoming conversation next time. Or they’ll double down on their response, which will also be important information for you.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I would suggest explaining to the employee that admitting a mistake isn’t going to get them fired and you would prefer them to acknowledge the mistake so that you know they’re aware it existed.
        If they don’t own up to the mistake, it looks like they didn’t catch it when they doublechecked it which could be concerning.

        Shifting from a mindset of covering mistakes probably won’t happen right away, but talking about it will hopefully start them down that road.

      3. Nekosan*

        Wow, okay, yeah. I’m b all the way – I always admit that I made an error, what the error was, and if it’s fast/relevant how it happened and how I fixed it. (For example, “I pulled from the old database by mistake” may remind other people to update/check their queries.)

        Making mistakes isn’t a problem, but hiding them is.

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

      B. “I’m sorry, I see I made an error in x spot and fixed it; an updated file is attached/shared. Thank you for catching that.”

    11. Nea*

      It kind of depends on your overall work reputation. If it’s bad, go straight to “The problem is fixed and x,y,z will prevent a recurrence.” Error acknowledged and corrected.

      If your work reputation is good, you can be a little breezier without sounding like you’re not taking it seriously. “Whoops! Thank you for bringing that to my attention. The problem is fixed and x,y,z put in place.”

    12. Rainy*

      “Whoops–[thing] got in there. Fixed now, thanks for the heads-up!” (Can sub “sorry about that!” for the thanks, depending on context.)

    13. Purple+Cat*

      B) I mistyped number, wrong formula, whatever, whatever consise summary of the issue. Impact was $x. New file attached.

    14. T*

      Definitely along the lines of B. Specific wording depends on the situation – for example, a typical human error I’d respond to more casually, but if it’s an error with consequences (ex. went out to a customer with the error) I’d probably include an apology and advise what else I’m doing to further fix things (sending out the correction to the customer, etc.)

      A is definitely (IMO) not the way to go. It’s obfuscating to the point of being confusing; your boss will be left to hunt for what was changed, and might feel like you’re trying to cover up that you made an error.

    15. EarlyMorning*

      If it’s over email, I don’t like to have my errors in writing, but I do make it a practice of verbally owning up if I fumbled something. I’m a woman & so I do my best to swallow apologies and just be Frank & to the point/brief about it. In this case, I think I would go with option C & say, figured out the error and it’s all fixed now. If it was in person, I would admit what the error was- esp bc it is so minor- & let them know it’s fixed. But, over email I wouldn’t make a big deal focusing in on why there was an error, just that you fixed it.

    16. Me+...+Just+Me*

      if there was an error, I’d go with an option C. “Thanks for asking, it looks like I transposed the numbers on one of the data points. All fixed. I also verified that the other data was correct on the report, and so we we’re all set.” I might even do a “thanks for the feedback” or a “great catch” — neither would be inappropriate in any of the organizations I’ve worked. Reporting that you went a step further and verified that there weren’t any other errors can help increase confidence that the report is correct.

    17. WantonSeedStitch*

      “Thanks for catching that! Looks like I had some errors in there. Should be all set now. Let me know if you need anything else.”

    18. Flowers*

      If I apply my own circumstances I would go with A. But generally, B sounds like the best option. C I would have done early on in my career because I had a micromanager who would tear me down over a transposition.

      I would only use A if my boss was emailing me and I know that I’d be seeing him in person the shortly. I’ve figured out that for any back and forth it’s better to talk to him in person.

  9. Elle*

    How hard do you push for staff to give you ideas and feedback on projects? I have someone on my team who hardly ever contributes to discussions about updating our website, presentations, team needs, etc. I’ve repeatedly asked her to do so and let her know we all value her ideas and experience. I listed it as something to work on in her annual eval. When pressed she’ll often tell me whatever the rest of the team decides is fine with her. The few times she has contributed her ideas have been good and we’ve incorporated them into planning. Should I let this go?

    1. Back on the Clock*

      I’m not sure – is it part of her job title or experience? If she’s in communications, even if she’s usually social media, I would coach her on this. If she’s like the office admin and it’s not part of her role, I would not.

      1. Elle*

        We do public health education so a part of her job is helping the team update and create promotional and educational stuff. There’s four of us on the team who work on this. I know she has some anxiety issues that she’s working on related to past toxic bosses. I try to be as encouraging and sympathetic as possible but I hate to keep nagging. The work gets done without her so nothing is left hanging.

    2. Let me librarian that for you*

      I am this person at my work!

      For me, part of it is that I am just not an ideas person, I’m more a “how does this idea fit in our strategy” person and an “execute the idea” person.

      Part of it is that there’s a lot I am not an expert on, and because I value specialized expertise, I defer to people who know better than me (even though I exist in an overly collaborative environment that places essentially no value on expertise).

      Part of it is that 99.9% of the time my ideas get immediately shot down or committees to death, so they’re not worth the effort to even bring up.

      So on the rare occasions I DO come up with an idea of suggestion, it’s because I think it is really stellar enough to overcome all those hurdles.

      So as long as this person does good work on the day-to-day, I wouldn’t worry they they have a different way of contributing to the team than being an ideas person. At least, that’s how I hope my colleagues feel about me.

      1. Redwinemom*

        If she and other members of your team are all brainstorming together – it is hard to push on this at that moment.
        Alternatively, you might want to bring it up to her during a 1:1. I would share with her the options you are considering, and then ask her feedback on each of the options. Encourage her to come up with the pros and cons as she sees them – and any ideas she could add to each one. Don’t push for immediate responses from her – allow her time to think about each one (during your meeting with her). Sometimes people like to quietly think about things, and here is where your silence could allow this to occur.

    3. Mynona*

      Can she contribute ideas later in writing? A lot of people struggle with spontaneous contributions in meetings.

      1. Web Crawler*

        This. And the absolute best thing for me personally is a suggestion box where I don’t have to attach my name to it if I don’t want to. (I get if that’s not possible or desirable though.)

        For our review meetings, we switched to a digital whiteboard that’s optionally anonymous. The speaker posts the link at the beginning of the meeting, and after some talk, there’s a 5 minute quiet period for people to post things (highs and lows of the current team cycle) to the board and upvote them. Then the speaker goes through each suggestion and we talk about them. We used to get one or two things per category, and now we get 5 or 6.

      2. Elle*

        That’s a great point. It’s usually not a spontaneous ask. We discuss the need in a team meeting and put the document on teams for people to share ideas over a few days or a week.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Oh, okay, then yeah – that’s problematic that she doesn’t at least have one idea she could drop in the document.

      3. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I changed the way I do brainstorming a few years ago after seeing it done differently. I think quickly on my feet; a thought can emerge coherently from my mouth seconds after it’s occurred to me and I’m an outgoing extrovert. So “let’s all toss around ideas” works great for me. It doesn’t work well for a lot of other people and I was missing their voices and their ideas, and they felt less valued.

        So now I start brainstorming sessions with five minutes of quiet thinking and/or writing. I usually suggest that people jot down their ideas. I never ask to see those notes and I don’t compel people to share. I also do one go around the table where everyone gets the chance to say something. It’s totally OK to pass. After that I ask if anyone who passed would like to add something and then we move on to a less structured discussion. People who need time to gather their thoughts are much more likely to contribute in this format and even I find it an advantage to have time to decide if my thought is worth sharing. Win/win.

      4. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yup. I consider myself an ideas person (strategy planning is part of my job description after all), but I also need time to process information before I make a recommendation, so impromptu brainstorming and workshop sessions where I’m asked to contribute ideas often don’t work out for me because I have very little to contribute on the spot. Once I’ve had a few hours to let the creative juices flow, then I have ideas and I provide them via email or Teams to my manager.

    4. Baeolophus bicolor*

      How do you ask her contribute? Is it open to however she wants to contribute or is it limited to Zoom or in person meetings? I can’t speak to how hard you should push, but is it possible that she’d contribute more with a different format – an agenda ahead of time with specific requests to prep for a specific topic (“We’ll be talking about potential ways to handle X, please prep a suggestion”) or a weekly email with her thoughts? Or if that’s how y’all already do it, more unstructured casual meetings or discussions with her peers?

    5. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Can you ask her how she feels about this item on her annual eval? What is keeping her from contributing?

      You may find she would like to but is unsure in the moment, that another way to give input works better for her, that she had a toxic last boss and is still working through that, or something else that might make a difference to you.

    6. Paris Geller*

      Have you asked her for ideas one-on-one? I tend to be more of an ideas person, but I get a bit anxious bringing up ideas in meetings with my peers. It’s something I’ve personally been working on, but I also know my natural inclination is that I’m much more willing to bring up an idea if it’s just me + my boss or me + one other coworker I trust.

      1. Elle*

        She is at her worst during one on one’s. We’ve discussed this and it’s related to her anxiety and assuming she’s in trouble. I like to think we give her enough time to think through ideas. Even with a week or more she declines to share anything.

    7. Grey rock with a trashcan*

      I could also see this as not wanting to think that hard. Especially with anxiety, coming up with ideas might feel like having to think about the job all. the. time. This could be exhausting.

    8. T*

      It sounds like you’re assuming she always has ideas, and is just holding back on contributing them. Are you sure that’s the case?

      It sounds to me that she may just only contribute when she does in fact have a good idea, and otherwise isn’t pressing herself to come up with something just for the sake of contribution. Personally (not knowing the details of her role) that sounds reasonable to me.

      1. Kay*

        This was my thought. Also – does she really NEED to contribute ideas? If someone else thinks of an idea I think is a good idea and don’t have anything better I will simply stay out of it. If it isn’t causing a deficiency in her work, or causing extra work for the rest of the team, I would certainly keep asking for her ideas but wouldn’t push the issue.

    9. allathian*

      Does she really need to share her ideas? I get it that you would like everyone to feel psychologically safe enough as your direct reports that they would be willing to share their ideas. But this won’t happen if you try to force her to share her ideas, because that won’t help with her anxiety. Sure, avoiding all anxiety triggers won’t help in the long run, either, but exposure therapy requires the assistance of mental health professional to have a chance of success.

      You’ll probably get the best result if you keep gently encouraging her to share her ideas in whatever form she finds most comfortable (at a team meeting, in a 1:1 with you, in writing on Teams) but stop pushing. She probably sees you listing this in her annual eval as pushing, so maybe reconsider it next year.

      If she’s otherwise doing good work, she may simply not be an ideas person. Some people contribute a lot of ideas, while others are better at implementing other people’s ideas. Both are equally valuable contributors in a successful team.

  10. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Right now I’m trying to figure out intermittent FMLA for medical treatment and hoping that my boss won’t be too weird about it. I have a hard time communicating about health issues since I just describe what’s happening ( I run out of energy at 2 pm or sometimes have bad brain days where even though I want to do things I can not). Then she assumes I have never heard of walking around the block or taking energy drinks (lol) Ugh anyway my boss will be weird. * Dread*

    1. ThatGirl*

      This varies by company, but be aware that you may need documentation of a serious health issue to qualify. If you have that in advance it might help your case and help your boss be less weird. (The documentation doesn’t have to say what it is, just what it requires. Also I am not a lawyer.)

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Oh the doctor will give me the paperwork to help. I’m not sure if it’s a ‘ serious’ issue. It’s just a combo of mental health issues that will not actually harm me, but I just like to get things taken care of.

        1. Former Recruiter, Current HR Generalist*

          FYI: The wording that the Family Medical Leave Act uses is “serious health condition.”

    2. ferrina*

      I’m sorry. That sucks. At this point, I think vagueness will be your friend.
      “Hey boss, I’ve been running into a health situation that I need to get taken care of. It means I’ll need to take intermittent FMLA/[say what you need]. It shouldn’t impact my work beyond this. Thanks!”
      If she wants more details- “It’s complicated and I don’t really like talking about it. Thanks for understanding! So about work thing….”

      Practice saying vague phrases until they come naturally.
      I hope your health situation goes smoothly, and that your boss causes minimal stress!

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        This. Your boss isn’t entitled to the intimate details – as long as you have your documentation squared away with the appropriate department at your company, all your boss needs to know is that you will be taking intermittent FMLA and the estimated amount of time you plan to take, so that they can plan for coverage and backup.

    3. Lunch+Eating+Mid+Manager*

      Well, the point of getting FMLA authorization is that it doesn’t matter if your boss wants to be weird about something or not – it’s the law to give you the leave. You just need to get the authorization from your medical provider for it. I might suggest that an accommodation(s) might be in order as well or instead though, and it’s worth discussing that with your doctor when you have the dialogue about what is needed. Usually accommodations are less disruptive to your workplace than leave.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          I am doing the leave because my doctor wants experiment with a procedure. Accomodations would be difficult because mostly my limitations are based on energy, social battery, etc. I can mostly drag myself around for 40 hours a week but if you add anything extra or I get sick with any viruses it’s like setting fire to my work.

    4. Sitting Pretty*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with medical issues but glad you’re pursuing FMLA! I’ve been dealing with some medical issues for the last year and a half, with some new tougher ones cropping up in the last 6 months or so. At the beginning I was fairly open with my supervisors and colleagues about what was going on. Transparency seemed easy enough on my friendly team so I ignored Alison’s advice to keep things to “just dealing with some medical issues” and leaving it at that.

      Oh how I wish I could go back and take her sage advice! Now that my health challenges have gone on for all over than any of us had expected and are getting a more complicated, I’m having to really walk back my sharing. My supervisors and other people on my team ask really invasive questions now, offer all kinds of useless suggestions, and pester me about my treatment timeline. It’s hard to project warmth and collegiality while suddenly putting everyone on an information diet.

      I mistakenly thought that since my medical thing wasn’t a big deal at the beginning, I didn’t mind sharing openly. Now I realize that this creates a workplace culture that really disadvantages people who have disabilities and medical issues that are more stigmatizing. And you never know when you are going to land in that camp, if you aren’t there already.

      My suggestion (and what I’m trying now!) is to keep it really boring. “I’m getting treated for some ongoing medical issues, nothing to worry about.” “I’ll be using FMLA time to take care of these issues.” “Oh, my doctor and I are in discussion about the treatment plan, it’s pretty boring stuff, I’ll let you know if anything changes…” Etc.

    5. Just here for the scripts*

      If it’s a medical condition, that’s all you need to say…some companies’ accommodation processes require medical statement of need, though HIPPA prevents statement of diagnosis. Not sure that their FMLA processes are the same.

      1. HoundMom*

        Just be aware that you need to have your FMLA approved before you take off the time. It is a safety net provided by the government to provide job protection (not pay) for those who are ill. However, there are medical necessity standards that must be met in order for it to apply.

        FMLA does not prohibit requiring medical forms to be completed by your medical provider (or in the case of a family member’s illness, by their medical provider) before it is granted.

        Way too often, I have seen people in my practice (I am an insurance consultant) that assume that their FMLA or STD is automatically approved to find out after that it was not and that they are at risk of losing their job.

    6. MurpMaureep*

      Disclaimer – I’m not in HR nor do I have detailed knowledge of FMLA aside from my own experiences managing staff who have taken it and following guidelines from our own HR.

      That being said, once you’ve been approved for FMLA, you don’t need to disclose to your manager the specifics of why you are taking FMLA time. You only have to say that your time is going to FMLA for tracking purposes.

      Is there a separate office in your organization that helps administer leave? Many places don’t involve managers in the administration of FMLA specifically because they don’t need details. Perhaps you can work with that office if your boss tries to push for information or crosses lines in other ways.

      To be clear, advising you to drink an energy drink or go for a walk to deal with symptoms of an approved medical need is absolutely not ok. I suspect your HR would want to know if someone is doing that.

      Good luck!

    7. Sarra N. Dipity*

      are you me? I just asked about intermittent FMLA down below before reading the whole comment section!

      I’m planning on talking to my psych next week to ask him if he’ll sign off on the paperwork (pretty sure he will). Good luck!

  11. Audiophile*

    I think it’s fine to attend and show support for your coworker. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.

  12. Lizard Queen*

    So this is very much a hypothetical as it would depend on getting a new job, my finances becoming more secure etc. etc. but I wanted to hear from anyone who has gone back to school to retrain in an entirely different field and then try to break into that field at an older age (30+). And how/why people decided to do that. I can’t decide if it’s worth keeping in mind or not.

    For example’s sake, say that my bachelor’s degree is in a broad Environmental-type field, but for the past [insert significant number] years I’ve been working in generic project management-type roles in unrelated fields. But now I’m thinking of applying for a Masters in field related to that first degree.

    I can take some small verified courses to strengthen my application, do some volunteering etc. But I just wanted to hear other people’s opinions/experiences/ and even questions/concerns they come against when making this kind of move.

    Thanks!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I suspect this very much depends on the field. I’m in libraries and it seems like *everyone* wants to retrain as an MLIS, and the field is pretty saturated. But that’s not going to be the case with all disciplines.

      1. TradeMark*

        Second this. Did it myself and was successful, but boy-howdy was I lucky. I would not advise anyone to go get an MLS unless they were already working in libraries and knew the degree was required for their next step.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Had to laugh at this post. Dust Bunny is so right. But I’m one of the lucky ones.
        I got my MLIS in my 50s and have a job I love in an academic library!

    2. Back on the Clock*

      Solidarity. I’ll be reading the comments. I’ve contemplated making a huge switch, like from office worker to nurse. I just don’t think I can afford it, considering what I make now in a year versus what I would lose not working/retraining for the length of time it would take. If I could slightly shift to an adjacent field and do a night program for a reasonable cost, I would take that option more seriously, but I’d also be looking at the program’s placement options and if that degree would really make me more marketable in the jobs I’m aware of. When it’s closer to what you do now there’s often a better opportunity to make shifts in your role *without* the debt and while collecting a comparable paycheck.

      1. Aglet*

        If you’re not interested in anything this specific, or you’re not in the US, just ignore this, but I have a friend who did Western Governors University, got a masters in teaching in his 40s and got a job right away as a teacher. It’s all at your own pace and very affordable, though more affordable the faster you do it. Another friend went there for a higher degree in nursing. They also have a lot of IT degrees.

    3. SaltedChocolateChip*

      My master’s degree was pretty generalist but opened doors to sectors I didn’t have a network in. I was early 30s when I finished.

      I did it because my original field (related to my BA), while I love a lot about it, especially people and mission, did not pay well, did not have a great ladder, and for me was getting boring (not enough diversity in responsibilities even through promotions).

      The very true advice I’m sure everyone will give you is that a master’s degree is what you put into it. As an older student you will have insights to the working world your younger classmates won’t, and they may have knowledge about the field (if they just did a relevant degree) that you don’t, so it can be a good exchange. But you have to decide what you want out of it and then make sure you pick a program that will give you that.

      I decided I didn’t want to pay much for mine BUT that I also didn’t want to work full-time during it because I wanted to try out internships in various fields. For me that meant picking a couple programs that were similar where my unusual (for the program) background made me an attractive candidate and playing them off each other to get the best merit scholarship package. For a friend who was willing to work full-time, keeping costs down meant a job at the university so she would get tuition remission. I ended up at the somewhat less flashy school but as someone who knew key people/leaders in my program from Day 1 and had some cool opportunities because of it (and now have manageable debt).

      A few years later I’m in a job that pays well at an organization I respect, that I wouldn’t have gotten without my degree and the door it opened for my last job. It’s not perfect — I’m a little bored and I’m worried I’m pigeonholing myself — but I do have a whole network I didn’t before that I can tap on when I’m ready to make a move. Oh and I got to study abroad!

      The tldr: Figure out what you want out of it (me: time to look around, new network, new city, travel), pick a program that will help you get it, and try to pay as little as you can for the degree.

    4. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’m definitely older! I did it in my 40s and again in my 50s and could not be happier! I heard someone say that it might take a long time, but a year from now you will be glad you started today. And I have found that to be so true!

      You are so young if you are in your 30s! I remember feeling like retraining in my 30s+ meant I was older and it was already so late, etc. But think of it this way — you have something like 30 or 40 more years of work ahead of you. Do you want to keep doing what you are doing now?

      I went back to school in my 40s in an area that interested me (history) and I had only a dim idea of what I wanted to do with it (I was hoping for museum work). I got an unexpected whole new job/career out of it teaching history in a private high school. But 7 years later, I left teaching and got a job in a library working the reference desk and teaching classes. If I wanted to move forward in that job, I needed the MLIS (and got some tuition help from the job). That led to my current job in an academic library.

      I was fortunate to have a spouse who could cover basic living expenses while I was in school and I was able to cover tuition with part-time work or tuition assistance at work. I never expected the direction my new coursework took me in but looking back, there is a clear pathway. You might not know where the new skills or interests take you but that is part of the adventure!

      Having said all that, if you don’t love school work or the idea of going back to school, the idea of short courses and volunteer work is just fine too!

    5. bluepants*

      I am 37 now, 35 when I applied to grad school, so I’m in the midst of doing this. I was a in a career for many years with which I had become quite disenchanted. To try and buck myself up creatively, I volunteered at arts nonprofits and did some other creative work (freelance writing, recipe testing), but all they did was sap my energy further, though I did enjoy those experiences. At 34, complaining about my job while visiting my parents, my dad asked me what my 5-year plan was, and that started me thinking about what it was I really wanted to do. During lockdown, I figured out I wanted to pursue a career that made me feel I was contributing to my community in a positive way and that gave me some everyday satisfaction and solace, and–funnily enough, given the comments in this thread–that career has been youth services librarianship! Haha. I am in library school now, and have been steadily working my way through campus library jobs, then a practicum/internship, and now a part-time public library job to get my foot in the door at my local system, where I would love to work in youth services someday. I am grateful to be here instead of back in my old job. For me, being mired in my former workplace’s awful corporate hierarchy (so many approvals to get…) and feeling like I wasn’t doing anything with my life for the betterment of society were key things that helped me make that move. I will also note that financially, I am a good saver and have a healthy savings cushion, which is allowing me time to inch my way up into public library positions. All of these factored into my decision. Hope my experience can help you somewhat. Luck to you!

    6. FromCanada*

      I did this. I was in account and project management for advertising and I went back to school did my MBA & got my CMA (now called CPA) accounting designation. I was in my early 30s.

      Bluntly I made less money out of school than I did before the MBA, but I work in the public sector (and it’s slowly gotten better because I was able to get promotions faster than I would have been if it wasn’t a second career). I love my job and I have better work life balance. It was 100% worth it.

      It’s not easy, but it’s doable if you are committed and sure. I was “Lucky” because of tragedy I had the money and didn’t have to take on debt.

    7. Sparkle llama*

      I attended a professional masters program in my twenties and the people in my cohort that were late 30s or older seemed to have more difficulty finding jobs in the field or abandoned it altogether and returned to their previous fields. I think that is likely due to the importance of internships in my field and those students seemed to have a harder time getting internships that were directly in the core part of the field. I would guess that there was some age discrimination at play since most hiring managers are expecting to hire interns in their 20s.

    8. Sally*

      When I was 50, after a life of being a professional artist and a secretary/office manager, I went back to school and got a graduate certificate in Instructional Design. My employers since then have all appreciated all of the other things I bring to the table as a result of being an adult who’s been working for decades and the experiences of my previous worklife.

      Things that helped me were focusing on how my experience and skills transferred to the new career in my cover letters and interviews. I also built some demo projects to show what I was capable of so that I had a portfolio to share with prospective employers even though I didn’t have any work experience in the new field at that point.

    9. anonymous reader*

      I have a background (and two bachelor’s degrees) in the life sciences, and I had been working in the biodefense field for about 20 years. About half of that time was working in laboratories, the other half was more desk-job stuff (leaving out a lot of details here). Biodefense isn’t exactly a huge field, and I kept running into the problem of having to compete with people who had advanced degrees but limited actual experience, for the handful of jobs that would open up periodically. I wanted to make myself more employable.

      Initially, due to the life science background, I considered going back to school for a graduate certificate or master’s degree in bioinformatics. Even though the field didn’t (and still doesn’t) thrill me, I figured I might be more marketable in my region. But all of the programs I looked at required some intro programming classes. As I was looking for local affordable options to knock out that requirement, the thought hit me that I should just go into computer science. Yes, my rationale was exactly as weak and pathetic as that. It sounds totally lame.

      But, I did go back to school for CS and found that I really loved it. Got a master’s degree and found a job with a group of great people who were willing to take a chance on me. (I also have a clearance, which simultaneously opens a lot of doors while weeding out some otherwise great candidates, so I do have that to thank for my ability to get a job with no experience.)

      I’ve always enjoyed puzzles and problem-solving (my favorite lab projects were the ones where the clients would say “we want to test X” and it was up to us to figure out exactly how to do that), and those qualities are definitely useful in software development, so maybe that’s why I took so well to a field that I really hadn’t considered before.

    10. Kesnit*

      I got a BS in chemical engineering, but never worked as an engineering after graduation. 10 years after finishing undergrad (age 33), I went to law school, which had almost nothing to do with any work I had done up until that point.

      Now 10 years after getting my JD, it was a great decision. (No, I do NOT work in patent law!)

    11. Shirley+Keeldar*

      Recently went to school to train as a massage therapist in my 50s! It was a completely 180 from my old job, which was freelance writing/editing. Now I do both.

      There were challenging things. I had forgotten just how overwhelming it can feel to be totally new at something. Honestly, it had been a long time since I’d felt so stupid. I had gotten used to a base level of competence and I just didn’t have it anymore. Massage therapy also turned out to be more physically strenuous than I’d anticipated, and that’s tougher when you’re older. I envied my younger classmates their endurance. I worried it would be hard to find a job.

      On the plus side, it was really fun to feel my brain waking up to an entirely new field. When I started making progress, I already knew how I like to learn and was able to use that self-knowledge to master new material. I interviewed for two jobs very shortly after I graduated and got offered both! And my stamina is slowly building up.

      So that’s my experience in case it’s helpful. Good luck!

    12. Bananag6*

      I just turned 39 and I am finishing up my first semester of law school. I am one of the older students in the full time day program.

    13. Mztery23*

      I love that you consider being older 30+ – I was 50+ when I went back to graduate school and now I teach at 2 Universitys as an adjunct. The pay is not great, but I was lucky enough to get a job at the State University, or when I retire next year, my health insurance will be paid for life.

    14. New+Mom*

      I got a pretty generic BA and then immediately moved overseas to teach English with no credentials. I got my masters in Education at 28 and moved back to the US to work in education (but not as a teacher) and turned 29 while on the job hunt. I applied for months and months and ended up accepting an entry level position that was $1k below my absolutely lowest salary goal. I was desperate. I luckily got promoted quickly and my salary is over double my starting salary.
      At the start most of my peers (people in similar roles) were 3-6 years younger than me but we all got along and I didn’t let it bug me.
      I’d say go for it! You just may have managers younger than you and just don’t get in your head about it.
      When I started, my grand boss was six months younger than me but he had been in the field for eight years at that point. He was great!

  13. Bi Bi Bi*

    Jobs that are good for people with bipolar, where you can work for a few months and then stop for a few months, when those cycles don’t always happen on a set schedule? Also, are there any jobs that fit this, where you don’t have to create your own structure (aka freelance)?

    I’m collecting ideas for my partner, who’s trying to figure out what jobs she could potentially hold without having to quit and start over repeatedly, or be entirely self-driven.

    1. The Only*

      The only one I can think of is substitute teacher, and that’s forcefully unavailable in the summer. But you do get to decide when you work and if you don’t want to work for a few months.

    2. Back on the Clock*

      So, it wasn’t a lot of money, but I did some hourly tutoring that would be good for something like this. You chose what shifts you want to take or not take, and just log in to catch what’s available when you’re ready. Again, it was basically minimum wage hourly, but it was very flexible and I found it fun and satisfying, and there’s a wide range of subjects they need. It was with Princeton Review. Their busy season is late Fall, weak in the summer.

      1. Bi Bi Bi*

        Did you have to stick with the same student over time? And is it online tutoring? She did SAT tutoring for a year, but got fired for lateness and missing sessions once she got to depression

        1. Back on the Clock*

          No, it’s just this online portal where any student whose school pays for the service (and there are many that do, mostly smaller schools without a lot of student support staff) can upload, say, a term paper they want feedback on, or a specific question they’re stuck on. You may never see that student again. They *can* request to work with you in future but for what I was doing, that wasn’t really a thing. They do want you to work a certain number of hours in a week – I think it was 7 – and there’s a cap/ceiling so you can’t get as much work as you might want, so you basically can’t live off of it FT, but it was a good gap filler for me. Particularly if you are able to work unpopular hours. If you were gone for months without logging in you’d probably have to communicate about that so they didn’t cancel your account.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I worked with someone who had a PT job in catering (serving, not cooking). There are seasonal cycles, & she just turned down jobs if she didn’t have time.

    4. lunchtime caller*

      Working with a temp agency is a lot like this, especially in the admin sector. The one I work with is used to working with creatives who might be auditioning or have a gig or whatever for a few months, and then want to pick up temporary contracts again. Since you’re under the agency the entire time it looks less spotty, you can build up a track record of good work at your placements and move up the hourly pay scales a bit, and when you don’t want new placements they don’t hassle you until you reach out again.

        1. Gigi*

          As someone that’s also doing the temp thing, yes you can leave a placement if it’s a bad fit, but if you do that too many times, or one after another, the agency may see you as unreliable.

          However, for longer term temp assignments, you usually get an interview with the company similar to a job interview minus salary negotiation, so you still get a chance to see if the place would be a good fit for the duration of the assignment.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Yes, but it helps if you have either a concrete reason at the job (which you should raise as an issue with the agency contact), or if you can give a notice period for personal issues like “I’m having some health problems. I can finish out the week (or the day, or whatever) but then I need to step aside.”

          Communication and flexibility are key.

        3. lunchtime caller*

          Agreeing with what Gigi said, that you can leave if it’s bad fit but usually you want to stick with it so you don’t seem unreliable or screen them well in the first place before agreeing to avoid that. Also, frankly, there are a lot of situations you can put up with if you know from the start you’re only there for a few weeks or months and then you don’t have to see any of those people ever again, and they don’t have your personal contact information. If the agency is good then they’re really helpful to have in your corner to mitigate any issues too; for example, they handle paying me so you’re never worried about paycheck shadiness, they’ll enforce rules about breaks/meals/overtime, etc.

    5. HannahS*

      I have a relative with bipolar disorder who runs a summer camp (think soccer camp.) He does have to be able to work during the two summer months, but a lot of the prep work and logistics (registering kids, hiring counsellors, etc) can be done on a more flexible schedule throughout the year. Unfortunately, that’s pretty self-driven.

      How about jobs like leading exercise classes or art classes or something at a community centre? You sign up to teach 6-12 sessions at a time, and once they’re done you can take a break. Things that are more seasonal, sign-up-for-the-shifts-you-want, like being event staff might also fit the brief.

    6. Watry*

      Someone I know has severe ADHD and has found that short-term contracting works well for her. Your partner would have to decide what contract length would work best for her, but if she finishes a contract and realises she can’t take another just yet, she wouldn’t have to.

      1. Bi Bi Bi*

        I’m not sure I fully understand. How do you find a contract? And is there built-in structure when you find one?

        1. Lyudie*

          You can go through agencies (Manpower, CTG, Robert Half, others). You can register with them in general or apply for a specific position (I’ve only been a contractor for specific positions, I’m sure it varies how much you can rely on getting a call about something actually relevant if you just give them your info). Benefits vary, I’ve worked with a few agencies and most have not had much in the way of benefits or paid time off. I was a technical writer in another life and I still get lots of emails and LinkedIn messages about short-term contracts, often as short as two months but six months is more common.

    7. Back on the Clock*

      Oh, I should have said, this is basically the entire appeal of something like working for Uber or DoorDash or similar. I have zero experience in this and there are many pitfalls, but the concept is that you can work hard sometimes and make money, and not work other times at all.

      1. GingerNP*

        My husband is an actor and does Doordash between contracts. It’s decent money (he averages 20-25/hr) and he can set his schedule so he’s available to get the kids to and from school etc. And then when he has another 4 or 6 or 10 week contract, he can just stop for those couple of months and then come back when the contract is over.

        1. Back on the Clock*

          I know OP said executive functioning might be an issue without enough structure, but I also struggle with that and I think I could say “Mondays and Fridays I’ll log into the app and be available, unless I’m really feeling too terrible” and that would feel like structure to me.

    8. Reena*

      If she hasn’t signed up with a temp agency yet, that’s an option. The way some of them are structured, you can basically go and see what short-term gigs they might need people for whenever you want.

    9. T*

      Very low paying jobs, like retail and food service, tend to be more tolerant of this. I wouldn’t advise that she disclose that that’s the plan or why she needs to leave, but most places will allow her to leave for any number of months to, for example, ‘see to a family situation’, and will happily take her back again when she’s ready to return, as long as she’s able to be a reliable and competent employee while she’s with them.

      Obviously, there are a lot of drawbacks to these types of position, starting with the fact that they’re generally underpaid and overworked, and the fact that they tend to take a wild west approach to labor laws because they know their employees can’t afford legal representation – either money-wise or time-wise. But I worked in food service with a similar months on/months off schedule for about a decade while I was getting my sh*t together, and it’s an option.

    10. irene adler*

      Tax returns. That is seasonal (first 4 months of the year). Not sure if that is too regimented for the bipolar aspect.
      H&R Block hires and trains.

      A co-worker’s husband worked at a local concert venue setting up and striking sets. The schedule was varied. He’d primarily work one or more days from Thurs through Sunday for several weeks during the busy concert season. Then the pace would be less frequent for the rest of the year. There might be various forms of this work at local venues (stadiums, playhouses, arenas, etc.).

    11. just another queer reader*

      A few medical field ideas:

      EMT for events (concerts, sports games). An EMT certification requires a 3 week class, then there are ambulance companies where you sign up for what events you want to work. Might be hard to get full-time hours though; this is usually a side gig for people.

      PRN – this is like an on-call nurse job, where you only sign up for the shifts you want. You typically don’t get benefits. I think there might be similar positions for nurse assistants, hospital clerical staff, etc which would involve less training than an RN license.

      Travel nursing – filling in where hospitals are short staffed, or when nurses are on strike*. Pay is very good, I hear. Requires RN, obviously.
      *ethics are complicated, but people in hospitals still need care even during a nurse strike

      1. AnonRN*

        Travel nursing pays well (usually better than staff, but doesn’t necessarily provide benefits). Some TN contracts are local, so she could be a temp at a local hospital (housing stipends wouldn’t be paid in this scenario). Contracts are usually 6 to 13 weeks long. However, an AAS degree takes about 18 months to two years & is the minimum required to sit for the exam that lets you be an RN. Most travel companies then want at least 1-2 years of FT experience before they will sign you on. OP, long story short: travel nursing could be a good option, but it will require 3 to 4 years of steady, sustained work to get there.

    12. Citii*

      I’m not sure what jobs/skills your partner has (had) but you could try to reach out to a non-profit where part of there mission is to serve the mental health community and see if they have any volunteer opportunities/part time positions available. My friend is bipolar and while he has been able to hold a full time job for many years, he has worked for non-profits, some of whom have mental health programs. He’s told me they are open to workers who have mental health struggles, usually as volunteers but sometimes paid employees. It could be helpful to get specific experience to help open the types of jobs she is qualified to do.

  14. Polka Dots and Stripes*

    At my company, once you reach a certain level (Master Llama Groomer), you have unlimited PTO. I have a coworker who I work closely with (Sam) who is at this level. Sam and I have the same manager (Joan). Sam misses at least one day a week. Its becoming increasingly noticeable by our immediate team and other internal teams we frequently partner with.

    Ordinarily, I wouldnt care or notice how much time someone takes off. However, its becoming an issue because Sam has recently asked me to take over several of his projects because he is “just too busy.” Our entire team (including myself) is completely strapped due to a huge workload and many coworkers leaving earlier this year and none of them have been replaced.

    Other teams are noticing Sams frequent absences as well and making comments. I work closely with several folks at Sams level and no one (not even our manager) takes nearly as much time off as Sam does.

    Joan is very much of a hands off type of manager, which usually works great for my personality, but with this situation, Im not sure if she is even noticing how frequently Sam is gone.

    Im job searching now (both internally and externally) for a myriad of reasons. Im not sure if/how I should approach this with my manager.

    1. Annony*

      Can you just refuse to take over the projects? Ideally you would just make sure that his time off doesn’t affect you and leave it to his manager to address (or not address) his PTO.

      1. Polka Dots and Stripes*

        I am planning to have a discussion with our manager soon to get clarity. Im going to mention that Sam asked me to take over this work and that I can do that, but will need to drop something else.

        1. Everything+Bagel*

          If this is true, then this is exactly what you should tell her. She may have no idea how Sam’s work schedule is affecting you and others.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Do you want Sam’s projects? It’s perfectly okay to tell your manager that you already have a full load and can’t take on Sam’s stuff. If you think Manager might assign you his stuff anyway, try to head it off with workaround suggestions: Sam’s project isn’t due for six months, so he’s got time to catch up; X Department might have someone else to help; you’re at a critical point on your project and if you pick up Sam’s slack, your own will be adversely affected. And so on.

          Keep it about the workload and the effect on cost/schedule/performance.

          One other note: why does Sam ask you to pick up his slack? Should assignment swaps be run by Manager for approval? I’m wondering if Sam is trying to avoid Manager from noticing how much of his work is late or undone, lest he not get to skip out as often. If Manager is remote, he’s probably counting on sliding under the radar.

      2. Back on the Clock*

        Yep, this is an issue between you and your manager with what you are willing and able to take on. Sam may have an arrangement you’re unaware of and it’s probably not something you want to get into. Your manager can choose to deal with Sam if she wants.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Approach as a workload issue: With Sam out as much as he is, the work redistribution to you is becoming too much–what is Joan’s plan to manage it?

      1. ferrina*

        Seconding Dust Bunny- It’s a workload issue. You don’t have bandwidth to take on what Sam is asking of you. What would your manager like you to prioritize?

        Be sure to list all that Sam is asking of you, and hold firm on how much bandwidth you have. Make the manager deal with your bandwidth issue- if she’s a decent manager, she’ll figure out that this ties back to Sam. It also sounds like there’s other bandwidth issues going on outside of Sam, and your manager will have better insight on what these are and why they are occuring.

    3. KatEnigma*

      Bring it to your manager, but don’t frame it as “Sam takes too much PTO” but rather only about the work that’s not getting done and how burnt out everyone seems to be getting.

      Because, “unlimited” is almost never unlimited. My husband got into a conversation about that with his Director at a company mixer, and she shared that no one at his company will say anything for up to 6 weeks, but at hour 241 as PTO, you will be sat down for a discussion about it.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        Sadly, in my experience unlimited PTO is mostly just a scam so that companies don’t have to pay out leave or carry the leave on their books. If they put it that way employees would revolt so they came up with this framing, but obviously they don’t actually mean employees can take as much PTO as they want.

        1. KatEnigma*

          He knew that when he took the job, that it wasn’t really unlimited. He was just curious to what the limit really was and it came up organically in conversation.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I mean, they are hiring you to do a job, not just to get paid to take PTO, so calling it a scam seems like a bit of a stretch. I think the agreement is that they don’t nitpick you for PTO but you hold up your end by actually working.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            This is true. But I think that this situation is strictly worse than if they said “you get 6 weeks of PTO, use it or lose it”, since that’s the limit in practice. At my job and level, we only get ~4 weeks, but at least it’s understood that we get to take it all and we don’t have to worry or guess about “am I taking more PTO than my peers?” and such.

            1. Back on the Clock*

              Also, because I’m mostly familiar with it as a change from the old system, where they try to sell it as an advantage – “we get UNLIMITED pto now!! Wow!!” but they … don’t actually mean that in practice and it’s not an upgrade.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Focus on the work and the affect to your work. Don’t fall in to the trap of discussing “Sam’s taking too much leave”.

      While you might be right your manager doesn’t notice, there’s always the possibility that Sam has discussed his leave with her.

      So your issue is that Sam has indicated he’s too busy to complete all his projects and has asked you to take on some of his work. The effect on you and your workload will be x,y,z.

    5. Reena*

      I would bear in mind that you don’t know the specifics of Sam’s situation — there could be a medical reason he’s taking so much time off, or maybe he’s dealing with a family situation, or whatever it may be.

      Ultimately how much time Sam is taking off isn’t your responsibility — all you can worry about is how it’s impacting you. If you don’t have the bandwidth to take over Sam’s projects, say you don’t have the bandwidth to take them. If your manager says you need to take them, tell her you’ll need to move something else off your plate to make room.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        Came here to say this. If Sam is taking off the same day every week it could be a medical issue for himself or a family member.

        Ultimately his reason doesn’t matter—what matters is the effect on your workload. Talk to your manager about what projects o prioritize!

    6. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      To Sam — “Gosh, I’m not sure I have capacity. Why don’t you check with Joan to see what she’d recommend?”

      To Joan — “Sam asked me if I could take on some of project X. I’ve got projects A, B, and C on my to-do list and I’m pretty much at capacity. Would you prefer that I stick with my own list, or should we juggle priorities for Sam’s Project X ?”

    7. Foley*

      You have two issues. A too much workload because there hasn’t been any hiring (!!!) and a too much on your plate issue. Not a Sam issue.

      Are they avoiding hiring by piling on? Sam decided to quiet quit or USE the PTO or whatever, which maybe a great push back to burn out. Your manager needs to manage: your workload, Sam’s workload, and HIRING.

  15. Meg Murry*

    We are looking to do some re-arranging in our small open plan(ish) office – anyone has suggestions for easy to use software I can create a floor plan in and then test out moving around some of the furniture? I’d like to look at some options before we start physically dragging around filing cabinets, etc.

    If it makes a difference, I’m talking about a room that is about 25 ft by 30 ft (I think, if I’m counting ceiling tiles correctly), where we currently have desks/cubicals for 6 employees, plus an area for a photocopier, and a TON of filing cabinets.

    1. LimeRoos*

      Floorplanner is pretty good at that. You can set up the size of the space you want to design, and add furniture you want. It’s easy to move things around too. I’ve designed a bunch of random houses with it during the covid shut downs. And it’s free! Which is super nice since a lot of the online design websites require subscriptions.

    2. Triplestep*

      Office Designer here. If your company has a Designer or Facilities Planner (or even a Facilities Department) whose job it is to make modifications to space, please do not do not design it yourself. It is more helpful when working with a designer to tell that person your priorities and goals and let them do their job. If you hand them a plan they are forced to walk backwards into your priorities and goals and they may not be able to figure that out from where you’ve placed things on the plan or even ask the right questions.

      If this is truly DIY (and it might be by the reference to “drag furniture around”) then I’d be happy to give you some tips. Let me know in a reply.

    3. Alice*

      Super old school, but – measure the space and the furniture, draw the space on graph paper, cut out furniture-shaped pieces, and start playing. When there’s an arrangement you like, tape everything down and photocopy it. (Or just snap a picture.)
      Don’t just count the ceiling tiles ;)

      1. Roland*

        Yup, done this before and it’s a lot easier than messing with tech if all you want to figure out spacing.

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

        Yes this is the easiest way! But I use Adobe Illustrator for pretty much the same thing: grid, little shapes to scale, move things around. I would also strongly suggest that you note on your layout where outlets, phone/internet connections, wall switches, windows, vents (intake and out), door clearance (the area that the door needs to swing freely — and note which way the door swings in/out and left/right handle), and clearance around furniture for fire code (typically 3 minimum feet for walkways/exits), how much room you will need for drawers to open, etc. It may look like it all fits, but then you move the big file cabinet right across the outlet you need for the copier, and the drawers open into the door clearance, and it all falls apart.

    4. ErgoBun*

      Floorplanner dot com! It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it comes with lots of pre-loaded furniture options so you can get a good idea of what actual furniture will look like in your actual space. You can specify measurements for everything and sometimes even colors and textures. Plus you get a 2d top-down and a 3d view — and it is FREE.

      I input all my furniture’s exact measurements before I moved and it helped me figure out exactly where everything could go. It also saved me from buying an expensive headboard because the additional inches would mean I couldn’t open my closet door!

  16. K*

    Where are we buying our affordable business casual clothes these days? I’ve been in a medical setting wearing scrubs for a few years and am trying to move back to an office, and no longer have any of those clothes that fit. I used to get a lot of cardigans and blouses at Old Navy and Target but their selection seems to have changed a lot the past few years. I’m a women in my 30s so need to be dressing like an adult/not just starting out type, but my budget is very limited (thus the job hunt). Thrift stores around me are pretty terrible. It seems like all my go to stores have really gone downhill in the past few years so I’m at a loss. With the holidays coming up some family have asked about gift card requests so I’d love to know some stores I could tell them.

    1. Corrigan*

      If you’re ok with secondhand and buying online, I’ve had pretty good luck with ThredUp. You can get some higher quality brands for not much.

      Otherwise Kohls has a good amount of business casual stuff and isn’t too expensive.

      I’d recommend getting a few basics that all mix and match with eachother so you can really get a lot of outfits out of a smaller number of items.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        I was going to say Kohls/Marshall’s is sort of the key place for the low wage employee who needs to dress to match white collar office expectations, in my area. LOFT is my favorite but even at outlet malls building a whole wardrobe from LOFT/Express and similar would be pricey. I do some “anchoring” with staples – like pants that are those brands, or that are second hand (via thrift stores or online resales) or Banana Republic / Gap, which totally priced me out at some point unless I find some magical piece in the off-season clearance – and then add cheaper tops or sweaters or whatever, or the sweater is the nice piece and the pants are cheap, or just the shoes or whatever. Nobody has mentioned yet that I look like crap so I guess I’m getting away with it.

        1. Back on the Clock*

          Marshall’s is literally the same brand names so I really think I’m getting away with it. I also don’t work for like, a fashion company in New York who would really notice if I was a bit out of style or in last season’s blue or whatever.

        2. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Seconding this. I lost a lot of weight a few years ago. Before my weight stabilized I changed sizes every couple of months and I had to have a decent work wardrobe. I found ThredUp and never looked back. It helps to know what size you are in different brands and it can be overwhelming – I went to look for a black cardigan the other day and even narrowed to my size, three specific brands, and a price range there were over 1,000 options. But the prices can be great – I have some Eileen Fisher pieces I bought for about 25% of their retail value. Definitely worth a look.

          I’ve also done well with consignment stores in upscale areas. I don’t live in one of those areas; I often visit a friend who does and I pop into the consignment store almost every time I’m there. I’ve scored some great pieces there.

        3. Cj*

          I’ve gotten lots of Loft stuff from thredup that cost about 25% of new. I always search for the stuff that’s new with tags or just like new.

          I got two huge boxes from thredup this past week that cost me just over $300. I know I’ll only probably keep about half of it, but I think there’s like 13 pairs of jeans, 12 tops and a pair of boots in for that price.

          I’ve lost weight recently, and I’m working remotely, so that’s why all the jeans. They have lots of really nice brands of dress slacks also.

      2. Polka Dots and Stripesd*

        I second this. The vast majority of my work clothing is black, gray, white or cream colored. It makes it so easier to mix and match.

        Also, i tend to go for classic pieces (cardigans, crew neck sweaters, pants in classic styles, etc).

      3. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        I’ve also been buying things from Thredup recently (fellow trying to slowly adapt my wardrobe to be less “resident” and more “attending”, without making attending dollars) and I have found it to work well if you have a general idea of your size in various work appropriate brands. Dresses are generally the most forgiving size-wise, so I have been stocking up on work appropriate sweater dresses (often VERY reasonably priced).

        1. Longtime+Lurker*

          Probably a tangent and possibly a rabbit hole, but can you explain why you find dresses most forgiving? I always feel like if the bottom fits, the top doesn’t and vice versa…
          thx!

      4. Joielle*

        I second ThredUp. There are a few specific pencil skirts from Express that I like, and I’ve bought them in different sizes/colors on ThredUp over the years. If you know your size in a particular brand, you can get some amazing deals there! And they have a lot of sales too.

    2. Elle*

      I got a bunch of work clothes from Stitch Fix, which is a personal shopper site. They really tailored the clothes to my budget and style. Almost all are good quality and have lasted over the years.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I’ve been happy with stitch fix as well. I grabbed some basic sweaters and a few blazers that feel like sweatshirts, so I can easily dress up a basic tee, which is appropriate for where I work. White House Black Market also has some nice staples, and while they can be expensive I’ve only ever shopped their sale rack and paid Target prices.

      2. ferrina*

        I also like Stitch Fix. I hate shopping in person, and this makes it easier. The algorithm needs data to figure out your size and style, but once you do a certain amount of liking styles and providing feedback, it is impressive. I think Stitch Fix knows my size better than I do.

        They also have a FreeStyle option, where you can pick what they send you. You pay up front, but if you don’t like it, just send it back for a full refund. I’ve done this several times, and they make it easy.

        1. Minimal Pear*

          I will note I had the opposite experience–I don’t think Stitch Fix ever sent me a single item that fit!

          1. Triplestep*

            Same. Kept nothing of what they sent me and I was super clear about areas of my body where form-fitting clothing would not work. It was ignored.

          2. JustaTech*

            I had a very mixed experience with StitchFix: I had a couple of great boxes, where I bought everything, and a few pieces I still have and love, but they were also stuck on sending me this one style of blouse that just doesn’t work with my body shape or my personal style.
            I could forgive them sending those tops once or twice, but after the third time where I clearly stated that I *HATED* the top and they sent another one in the next box I canceled my subscription.

            It was also on the pricier end for me; I’m more of a Nordstrom Rack kind of shopper.

      1. Another JD*

        This. They have the only dress pants I wear that don’t need tailoring to fit, and they routinely go on sale for $40. They went on sale for $15 once, so I have four pairs of the same black pants that I rotate with colorful tops.

        1. Back on the Clock*

          Yessss every once in a while I really hit the motherlode with them. But, if I needed to build an wardrobe right now, I couldn’t promise they’d be having the sale you need. A big outlet store is a good option for that. I remember snagging a lot of good stuff at Dress Barn one year and that’s not a store that would have come to mind usually for me.

      2. J*

        Usually once I confirm my size in a pants style or a specific button up style name, I end up on Poshmark and stock up. Half the time they are new with tags and everything.

    3. CTT*

      H&M has some surprisingly good work basics – I have a lot of tops that are good base layers in neutral colors from there.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        Which is a shame because I have some really quality Target stuff from like the late 90s that I still get compliments on! And it has held up.

        1. Dear+liza+dear+liza*

          Yes! I have some Mossimo pieces from Target which are still wearable after, what, a decade plus? I went this summer thinking I could pick up some basic t-shirts and was horrified by the options. All prairie, some cheap peasant looking line, and clothes that looked and felt like they wouldn’t last one wash.

      2. K*

        Even the work line at Target has been weird lately. They seem to have more fashion-y or statement pieces and less versitle staples :(

    4. Polka Dots and Stripes*

      Nordstrom Rack has some nice workwear too that is more budget-friendly. Even Nordstrom proper has some good sales on their clothing these days.

      You might also check the clearance racks at Dillards and Von Maur. They have some awesome deals there if you can catch them. Im 40 and have bought several pairs of work pants, blazers and so on there.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        Rack is where I get my office shoes now. I’m lucky because I have weird sized feet (5) so I find good deals in the clearance section.

    5. Melanie Cavill*

      I get my jeans at American Eagle and my tops typically at Ardene. Sometimes I’ll throw in some Suzy Shier if I’m feeling a bit extravagant. My recommendation is to find stores you like and get on mailing lists for sales if you’re trying to be cost-conscious.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’ve had good luck with Dress Barn & Nordstrom Rack. (I’m short & curvy, & some places just don’t cater to my size.)

      I like DSW for shoes.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        I feel like DSW used to be my absolute go-to and at some point I got priced out. Now I can only buy from their clearance section, which to be fair, is pretty good. But I’m not sure how anyone else is swingin’ it if I, a middle class professional, is limited to the clearance section of discount brands. (Possible I’m just cheap?? I think $30 should buy a decent pair of office flats).

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I don’t wear leather, so that makes a difference. Also, I wear the heck out of walking shoes but can make dress shoes last for years.

          But I tend to like classic styles, so I shop end of season for discounts.

        2. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yeah…$30 for shoes is Payless prices. DSW is still very affordable, they just have horrible online shopping practices (mainly, shipping clearly used shoes out that have been returned after heavy wear – if I wanted to wear someone else’s old shoes, I would have bought them from thredUP or The RealReal).

    7. DisneyChannelThis*

      Thredup has never worked out well for me.

      I did have good luck for warmer winter tops at J C Penny’s of all places, I had always thought of that as old lady but I guess maybe 30s is old now, because I liked them??? Black friday sale got multiple long sleeve sweaters for 10 bucks each. St John Bay was the sweaters brand.

      Kohls is more casual wear than I like to wear to work, but they do sometimes have decent work tops in the apt 9 brand.

      1. Lunch+Eating+Mid+Manager*

        I also have gotten some cute pieces at JC Penney’s that have lasted! So funny, it was totally “an old lady store” when I was little (now 40s).

      2. just another queer reader*

        Agreed with JCPenney! I’ve been getting all my work shirts there: button ups and sweaters. They tend to fit me pretty well. (I’m a medium-height, medium-sized person in my 20s.)

        The sizing can be confusing, imo, so I recommend trying the specific style on in the store before buying lots of things online (ask me how I know!!)

      3. LadyVet*

        I unabashedly love department stores. I have a bunch of great dresses from when I used to live within walking distance of two different JCPs, and those kinds of stores are always what my mom and I hit up when I go home for a visit.

        I got a great blazer from the Lauren Conrad line this fall, and I typically have a hard time finding blazers because I’m busty.

        But I definitely go through phases with almost all the stores. Some seasons I’ll want everything Old Navy has, and the next season nothing will fit me well or I’ll I just won’t like anything.

    8. XMasVacation*

      I was in this boat too….Old Navy, Kohls and their prices are just getting out of hand and boring.
      I have started shopping at TJMaxx and have gotten a lot of great high-quality tops there.
      I am not a Walmart shopper typically, but have also found a few cute tops there.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        Boring is my *go to* when I’m looking for office wear though, on my budget. I want dull pieces in basic colors that are going to last forever, that fit comfortably, and look “fine” in the $30 range. I can always brighten up an outfit with a fun top or jewelry or a scarf or whatever.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Another advantage of “boring” office clothes is that no one will notice if you wear the same thing often. I’m confident that no one at my work has any idea how many pairs of black slacks I own or how often I re-wear a given pair, but would eventually notice if I wore the same “statement” blouse every Tuesday or something. When just starting out building an office wardrobe you’ll be repeating pieces a lot so boring is the way to go. (If you’ll be sitting behind a desk most of the time and on a limited budget, I also suggest buying cheaper, plain slacks and spending more effort and money on tops since that’s what people will spend more time looking at. Pants just need to not be noticeably “weird” to be ignorable.)

    9. Nanc*

      Lands End or Eddie Bauer. Both can be expensive but they do last quite awhile. I don’t know if it’s true everywhere but I’m in a rural area and the Eddie Bauer at the mall in the county seat lets you order online and have it shipped to the store. You go in, try on the stuff and if it doesn’t fit you can return it right there in the store. As a 6′ tall woman I use it because most stores don’t carry tall sizes and I like to try it on if it’s a new to me style.

    10. Eh,+Steve!*

      I haven’t bought from them in a long time, but maybe Lands End? I browsed recently because I need some new long sleeve polo shirts, wound up not buying any yet, but they seemed to still have that kind of style you are talking about. A bit pricier than Target but not outrageous. Quality used to be great, them more recently it was less great but still pretty good but it’s been probably over ten years so can’t speak to it now.

      1. Lola*

        Lands End sizes used to run really big. I’ve also had issues with inconsistent sizes in tops and dresses. I like to get multiples when I find something I like (example: cardigan in different colors) but have been disappointed when the green one that I tried on fits just right, but the blue one is slightly too tight and the purple one is baggy.

        Old navy is another store with inconsistent sizing.

        If your local store doesn’t have multiples in your size or colors, their “order on line for pick up in store” usually has no shipping cost, and you can at least try them on in the store. (Disadvantage is having to stand in the returns line)

    11. Bird+Lady*

      I’ve done well with Loft (Ann Taylor), Banana Republic Factory Outlet, and Nordstrom Rack.
      J. Crew also has great blouses, and they run 60% off sale twice a year (July & December). I got a great pair of linen pants for about $22 this summer over the July 4th sale.

    12. HannahS*

      I’m on the casual side of business casual, so I rely on LL Bean outlet, Banana Republic (better if you can get it on sale,) some random hand-me-downs, some Gap.

      I recommend considering a capsule wardrobe for work if you’re budget-limited, starting from scratch, and don’t find capsule wardrobes depressing lol. There are four thousand pinterest boards, but the basic idea is that every top matches every bottom, so you can “get away” with fewer clothes. For me, that would mean trousers in navy, brown, and black, and a selection of sweaters in various jewel tones, each with a plain t-shirt underneath. Not pinterest-worthy, but it works well for me.

      1. Educator*

        Another way to approach the capsule wardrobe thing—

        Many years ago, I decided to eliminate all brown and navy from my wardrobe, and lean hard into black and other colors instead. Brown, navy, and black-based outfits all require different accessories, like shoes and bags, and pieces in those three colors rarely work with each other. So picking one made sense. I went with black because I like grey too.

        This means that all of my basics, including expensive things like shoes, coats, and bags, are black, grey, white, or a statement color. So everything goes, and outfit making is so much easier. I feel much lower maintenance (hello, manageable shoe collection) and have saved a ton of money just as a result of eliminating those two “frequent clash” colors.

        1. Triplestep*

          I’ve tried to do this but I think I just look boring. Most of my slacks, bags and shoes are black, but maybe I need more colors in my tops.

          I’ve thought about having a “uniform” ala Steve Jobs but could only come up with “white button up plus jeans” and virtually all white button ups are sheer. Hate seeing bras through them. I actually work in a creative field but cannot seem to manage my wardrobe except when I have a special occasion to dress for. I want to be one of those people who has simplified her life by eliminating unnecessary choices, but haven’t gotten there yet.

          1. Educator*

            I think you have exactly the right idea. I go big on colorful tops and keep the rest of my outfits pretty neutral. It allows me to fulfill my societal requirement to be stylish (snark) while minimizing the mental effort it takes to do so.

            Today I wore a pink and gold printed dress, black booties and tights, a turquoise coat, and a black bag. I’ll wear pretty much the same thing on Monday, but with a purple sweater dress, and it will look totally different. On weekends, it’s generally black jeans and colorful sweaters. It’s totally a uniform, but people only remember my crazy dresses, coats, and tops, so it never gets boring.

            I source my workwear from a lot of different places–mostly local shops–but I particularly love the sale racks at big department stores. They have great deals to move inventory ahead of new seasons, so it is worth the treasure hunt for for quality pieces at fast fashion prices.

    13. Bernice Clifton*

      I have found acceptable officewear at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx & Nordstrom Rack when I was on a shoestring budget. I didn’t LOVE the stuff I found but once I started earning more money I could buy some more outfits that I liked better.

    14. Robin*

      I have sworn by the Macy’s sales racks. The discounts can get pretty high, which is nice for the budget, and they have a wide range of professional things. Depending on how you pair the items, they can dress up/down the causal/formal scale.

      1. Triplestep*

        I actually signed up for sale notifications and there are many. You can also buy online and have it shipped to the store, go in, try on, and immediately return what you don’t want.

    15. Nesprin*

      Make a list- X skirts/pants, Y tops, Z toppers + pick like 2 neutrals + 2 colors you like.
      Start at marshalls/ross/tjmaxx/thrift store, get whatever fits and fits the color pallette you like, then go to H&M/target for the rest.

    16. T*

      I’m also in my 30s and present at work as a woman (for now). I’m also pretty chubby so finding clothes that look professional on me can be a challenge. New items in my wardrobe are sourced from a combination of Kohl’s (more pricey, but you can sometimes find stuff on sale) and Target. Lately I’ve been adding items purchased on Depop, which is a second hand app. It’s a way larger selection (especially plus sizes) than any thrift store around here, you can negotiate prices with the seller or buy straight-out at the listed price, and you can read reviews left by other buyers on a seller’s profile to see how reliable they are on accurately photographing/describing an item and on shipping. The only bad experiences I’ve had are a couple of times where I bought something I really wanted and the seller had to refund me because they already sold it elsewhere (I guess on other similar apps or maybe in person) and hadn’t taken the listing down, which was disappointing.

    17. just another queer reader*

      I get my jeans at Old Navy. They’re $25 a pair and very boring and dependable!

    18. Philosophia*

      I had to step up from thrift stores to consignment shops when I was job-hunting after having been laid off during the Great Recession, and (once my initial trepidation about encountering snobbish clerks was proven to be utterly groundless) never looked back. The quality of the stock depends on the quality of what the manufacturers put out, true, but you’ll be looking at better-made items. Good luck!

    19. WantonSeedStitch*

      TJ Maxx and Marshall’s are always among my top choices. I also am a fan of the sale racks at Macy’s.

    20. Foley*

      Banana Republic Factory. I have some great well fitting (not needing tailoring) pieces. Inexpensive and have lasted for the last couple of years. These are VERY neutral clothes. I don’t like colors, so I’m fine. But it’s really black, tan, gray.

  17. It's beginning to look a lot like job hunting time...*

    I got called into the manager’s office today to be asked why I was following some of my coworker’s friends on Instagram (which is a platform that I follow over 800 accounts on). This particular coworker doesn’t like me and has tried several times to get me in trouble with management. Now, our manager didn’t pursue it once I told him that I had no idea I was following some of her friends online, but I still felt that this was highly unprofessional for A) this coworker to have complained about it to management, B) for management to have even asked me about it. Am I wrong? Is this really something that our management should’ve gotten involved with in any way?

    1. Back on the Clock*

      This is seriously weird. Unless your job is social media, your social media outside of work should be pretty out-of-bounds to management. I’d be concerned.

      1. It's beginning to look a lot like job hunting time...*

        Our jobs have nothing to do with social media. The organization we work for has a separate marketing department that deals with all of the social media for the organization (and as far as I know, staff outside of that department usually don’t have access to the organizations social media).

    2. ferrina*

      This is beyond weird. As a manager, if someone came to complain about a coworker’s instagram account, I’d just be baffled. This is just bad management. Is this a new or conflict adverse manager?

      1. It's beginning to look a lot like job hunting time...**

        Well, one of the manager’s at my location is (and it’s the assistant manager and I and this coworker report to them); the manager that spoke to me this morning is the main manager (who the assistant manager reports to). I’m suspecting there’s several reason why he might have been the one to speak to me, including (but not limited to) admittance by this main manager that the assistant manager has some issues with boundaries with subordinate staff (i.e. the assistant manager has a tendency to be too buddy-buddy with certain staff, and this person who complained about my instagram is one of the staff they are buddy-buddy with).

        I just feel like my privacy outside of work had been violated because, like you said, this whole thing is just baffling. If I had made a threat, a nasty comment to this coworker online….something along those lines, then I would understand work getting involved. But just because I exist on the same social media platform as she does? I mean, my attitude towards social media is if you don’t want someone to see it, or would be concerned if someone from work came across it, don’t put it on social media (or don’t let your friends put it on social media). I feel like now I have to be concerned if I cross paths with this person outside of work (either online or in person).

        1. ferrina*

          Yew, so the main manager is letting their performance conversations be swayed by assistant manager’s nepotism? Yeah, get out.

          This is not normal or healthy. Your reaction to it is normal and healthy, and your expectations are normal and healthy. Don’t let them warp you.

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      WTAF? That’s bizarre. My boss once had to approach me about violating our social media policy based on a comment I made on someone else’s Facebook thread. He said “Look, I’m not concerned about this. The only reason I’m telling you is that it seemed odd to me that someone reported it and you should know that someone’s trying to make trouble.” Which was true (because apparently some people hold grudges about preschool classroom assignments. For ten years). Unless you were making outlandish/racist/bigoted comments on those IG posts, there’s absolutely no reason anyone at work should even care. I’m concerned that the manager actually went as far as bringing this to your attention and I would definitely follow up in some way. If it were a manager I was comfortable with, I’d say “Hey, I was thinking about that convo and I’m confused about how that feedback was related to work. Can you explain?”

      1. It's beginning to look a lot like job hunting time...*

        I just don’t even have the mental energy to try to follow up with the manager after dealing with this coworker for the past year. If it’s not one thing with this coworker, it’s something else. They’re the type of person that if they can’t do exactly what they want to, how they want to, they (for lack of a better way of putting it) throw a fit, or retaliate in some passive aggressive way, and I’m tired of it. I’m at the point where I’d much rather put my energy into job hunting than trying to sort out the dysfunctional messes around this workplace.

    4. Rainy*

      This is super weird and I would 100% have a conversation with your manager about why your coworker is looking so closely at your social media.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      Unless this is some sort of roundabout accusation of stalking, management being involved in this at all it completely bizarre. This makes no sense.

      1. It's beginning to look a lot like job hunting time...*

        Given the arguments/reasons that this person has given in the past for why they should get their way about things (or why someone has done something wrong), it wouldn’t surprise me if they were trying an angle like that. And for multiple reasons, having anyone at work involved in this makes no sense, especially not how they decided to get involved. I mean, if someone in the organization truly felt that I was stalking a coworker (and they had evidence to support that), why the softball meeting about it? Why not have formal disciplinary meeting with HR present (or something along those lines)? Part of what got me so angry about this was I felt like the manager asking me about this at all was to placate my coworker, which seems to happen a lot. Rather than just telling this person they’re out of line and to knock it off (or the professional version that), this person gets patted on the head a lot when they get upset about something (because I’ve seen this person respond in ways that none of the rest of us would get away with, and, as far as I know, not get in trouble).

  18. TheOnly*

    Kinda silly problem to have, but… I have a medical issue where I experience a lot of pelvic pain. It hurts less when I wear clothes that don’t put any pressure in that area, so wearing pants can make the situation worse. Cool, I can just wear a loose dress/flowy skirt. Except that I am a software developer, youngest person on the team and the only woman, and I just feel really uncomfortable wearing such dramatically different clothes than my coworkers. (The standard around here is jeans and a polo.) My coworkers are very professional and have never once commented on my appearance unless I brought it up first, but I still feel uncomfortable about it. So I guess I can be physically uncomfortable or emotionally uncomfortable… :/

    1. Corrigan*

      Would elastic waist pants help? There are a lot more options for that these days, even some joggers that can look more “dressy” then yoga pants, but don’t feel very far off.

      1. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        That was what I was thinking! I have some pants from Athleta that are exercise / athlesiure fabrics, but are cut like regular pants. They have a LOT of stretch, so they are very comfortable, but in a basic black they look very work appropriate.

        I know I’ve seen other brands with similar styles (I think Banana Republic?)

    2. Another JD*

      Are your skirts and dresses causal? Fabrics like cotton read much more like jeans-and-a-polo than silks and other smoother choices.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          this – I do wacky print skirts (my favorite color is “a paint factory exploded”) with graphic tees and/or denim jackets.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        I agree with this. I realize any skirt/dress is going to read as feminine, but as someone who gets BAD cramps, I have some loose cotton skirts and dresses that do not make me look like a style maven but do solve this need.

      2. EMP*

        This depends on other things, but opaque tights/stockings and a casual flat/boot/even a sneaker can also “dress down” a dress compared to a e.g. a cute heel.

      3. TheOnly*

        I’ve actually only got one or two “professional” dresses. Most of my skirts are very cutesy/bold/feminine, which I think is primarily why I feel so out of place. Think bright yellow or big watercolor flowers or poodle skirts. I’ve historically used skirts/dresses for when I’m feeling colorful, so when I wear them now I just end up feeling very unprofessional and out of place in an office, where I usually try to avoid drawing attention to myself.

        1. KatEnigma*

          The only comment my husband has ever gotten on his button downs in polo/tshirt offices is that he DOES prefer brightly colored ones. But the comments were always positive!

          You really need to get away from the idea that “feminine” = “unprofessional”

          1. AGD*

            To be fair, everything feminine-coded gets devalued easily, especially in male-dominant environments.

        2. Rainy*

          Denim or corduroy boot-length skirts tend to read like jeans to the casual eye, in my experience, and work with the same kinds of tops as you would wear with jeans.

          1. Chicago Anon*

            Or a denim jumper, which would hang from the shoulders and put no pressure on your mid-section at all.

        3. Rosyglasses*

          I think I would lean in to comfortable leggings (there are ones that aren’t too tight around the abdomen) with longer tunic sweaters or even some plain dresses over it (like Wool& brand) or flowy pants made from light wool (I have a couple pairs made by a local artisans) so that you don’t have to wear “hard pants” or skirts/dresses but still be in moveable clothing.

          One of the instagram accounts I follow – Nutritious Movement – also has some good clothing ideas that enable better ability for movement; but the cross over for you is that the fabrics are softer and more stretchable so that it won’t put pressure on those areas that are sensitive.

        4. Sparkle llama*

          You might feel more comfortable in hiking dresses. They are made out of athletic type material and read less feminine. I have a few from Duluth Trading Co I love but I think REI, LL Bean and similar places also carry them. They are so comfy that they are my go to after work clothes in the summer.

      4. Lyudie*

        Jersey knit skirts and dresses are a great option. I don’t know if anyone makes anything like them now, but several years ago I got some jersey skirts from Target with wide, soft waistbands like yoga pants sometimes have. They were nice enough to wear to work when I was still recovering from abdominal surgery and pants were NOT happening.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      A female engineer I knew in college deliberately wore dresses to point out that yes there is a woman in the room. Her mindset is more “I refuse to change to blend in, they need to accept differences instead”. She’s got moxie.

      In your case, are there any pants that are comfortable? Like some soft leggings or sweats or maternity pants with the extremely elastic stomach? Or those rompers with no waist? That might be an easier middle ground to feel less self conscious about not being jeans+polo. I’ve been amazed at the fake jeans that are actually leggings, they really blend in.

    4. Geriatric Millennial*

      I totally sympathize with “cannot have pressure on my abdomen”!

      My summer uniform is a denim pencil skirt that is two sizes larger than “fitted” would be. It holds its shape so it doesn’t look sloppy when I stand up/walk, but the size means it’s not putting pressure on my waist/abdomen.

      For winter, I’m moving to loose flowy black wide -leg elastic waistband trousers. It’s not my favorite style, but it’s way better than being physically unfomfortable all day.

      1. TheOnly*

        It’s the waistband, mostly. Any bunching where the legs meet the torso when sitting can cause issues as well.

    5. ThatGirl*

      In my experience, as long as you fit the dress code, it’s not a problem to wear something different than everyone else. The key, though, is to both feel comfortable in the clothes themselves and feel comfortable in the atmosphere you’re in.

      I very much doubt anyone is judging you, but you do have to embrace being different and be OK with that.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Female software dev here, and I will wear skirts/dresses reasonably often at the office. The only time one of my male peers has commented was when I wore the galaxy-print dress – and even then the comment was on the fabric rather than it being a dress. I’ve come to the conclusion that so long as you aren’t wildly out of step with the formality of the office (say, wearing a skirt suit in a jeans and t-shirt office) most people won’t care, if they even notice.

        That said, I’m also comfortable with standing out among my peers. Getting there is mostly a matter of practice. If you wear a skirt or dress every day, it won’t take long to normalize it as just the way you dress. Maybe think of it as your equivalent to the person who wears all black everything as their work uniform?

        1. AGD*

          I’m a woman and dress very femininely, to the point that the only times I get comments on my clothes are on days when I wear pants!

    6. EMP*

      Sorry you’re feeling this way! I’m a female software developer and often the only one on the team and while I am comfortable dressing “engineer causal” I totally get that feeling of not wanting to stand out. All I can say is I hope you can push through the emotional discomfort, and if your team isn’t commenting on it then that’s good! It sounds like they are focusing on your work and not your appearance.

    7. ferrina*

      How do you feel about nerd-style dresses? Something with a professional cut but a print with tardises, for example? Not sure if this would work for you and your team, but I’ve bonded with coworkers over my D&D and Star Wars wear.

      1. ferrina*

        Just add cardigan:

        https://www.etsy.com/listing/1001042296/skater-dress-doctor-who-galaxy-dress?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=tardis+dress&ref=sr_gallery-2-5&pro=1&frs=1&organic_search_click=1

        https://www.etsy.com/listing/1240369319/i-find-your-lack-of-faith-disturbing?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=star+wars+long+dress&ref=sr_gallery-1-7&pro=1&frs=1&edd=1&sts=1&organic_search_click=1

        https://www.etsy.com/listing/1080551936/original-galaxy-adult-dress?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=star+wars+long+dress&ref=sc_gallery-1-6&frs=1&edd=1&sts=1&plkey=3d70d352a83b7d56cc30222273b3e6900fa3d43f%3A1080551936

        1. JustaTech*

          I’ll chime in with dresses from Svaha (they’re more on the teacher-nerdy end than the software nerdy end, but they’re incredibly comfortable, have pockets, and are well made). They also have tops and skirts.

          If everyone wears polos you might want to look and see if you can find a polo-necked dress (they were a thing for a while but I don’t know if they’re still around). Or wear a polo shirt with a more plain skirt.

          You might also want to consider if you feel like you’re sticking out for wearing skirts/dresses, or if it’s because you’re wearing bright colors. If it’s the bright colors, then add a few dark/plain skirts and you’ll visually fit in more.

    8. KatEnigma*

      If your coworkers are all men, there is a very high likelihood that they don’t even realize what you are wearing or that it might be viewed as more formal than what they wear. The only time my husband has ever noted what a female coworker is wearing is when his one much younger coworker in ND spent her days with a Star Wars blanket wrapped around her, because she’s always cold. And HE is a Sr level software engineer, who wears khakis and casual button downs most days, noting that his coworkers usually wear polos or t shirts, but that’s not what he’s comfortable working in, and no one has ever mentioned it, ever, in now 20+ years.

      Cotton dresses are totally casual with a pair of regular sandals or sneakers, anyway. I really think you’re overthinking this.

    9. shruggie*

      I’ve had some pelvic issues that made pants uncomfortable, but was okay with a fitted waistband. If the waistband is okay for you, I’d suggest full and partial elastic waistband pants with a wide leg, parachute cut, or dropped crotch. Often they’re a little more on the casual side with a cargo pocket, elastic ankle, or other sporty details – search for “joggers” if you like this style.

      I also size up to make sure I have enough space in the areas I need it – if they have a drawstring, sizing up is even easier, because I can still get the waist to fit right.

    10. Brownie*

      Been there, suffered for a few years in ill-fitting jeans and a polo to fit in with everyone else on the team (all men). Then one day after going home sick because of the pain I said screw it, I was physically suffering because of trying to be one of the guys and wasn’t going to take that anymore. I am so much more comfortable now and the only comments I’ve had on my dresses were that, thanks to the fact they’re all floor length (hate tights and leggings), I always looked far more polished and professional than everyone else on the team. After that comment I had to go sit down and boggle over that for a bit, but it turned out to be true. It’s a really odd thing, but changing to comfy clothes that didn’t match the rest of the team was a great way for me to stand out and have folks start noticing me and my talents instead of being part of the amorphous blob of polo shirts. I’d say go for the physical comfort, the emotional discomfort will eventually lessen but the physical pain will never do that.

    11. No Tribble At All*

      I hate to say that you’re already going to stick out because you’re a young woman. But sometimes that’s a good thing — it’s much easier to network because you’re memorable (am woman engineer). I promise the other engineers don’t care. They have no idea what women wear, so you showing up in a long sundress is just “that’s what she does”. I know exactly one (1) engineer who dresses nicely of his own accord.

      Get a hawaiian-print dress and then you can get the office to do Hawaiian Shirt Friday. Get a dinosaur onesie and you’ll have a bunch of jealous coworkers. And somewhere you have a guy engineer who’s having a bad stomach day who’s insanely jealous because it wouldn’t occur to him to wear a skirt.

      Please don’t put yourself in physical pain!! Compare this to everyone else wearing high heels while you have bad ankles. It’s unreasonable to expect you to wear physically uncomfortable clothing. To give yourself permission, you’ll be a better worker when you’re not in pain. (I know for sure I got more done once I realized I’m lactose-intolerant and wasn’t concentrating on holding in farts).

      If you feel like spending money, Princess Awesome has some excellent nerdy dresses with eg, math equations, test tubes, books, sort of thing. I’ve gotten compliments on their rocketship dress :)

      Finally, overalls might fit the bill for “more casual” / closer to jeans for you. My mom swore by them during pregnancy when she had a similar problem re: no pressure on the waist.

    12. teacupz*

      I’m an engineer: I wear dark (navy, grey, black) corduroy skirts with a t-shirt + fleece/hoodie. Blends in about as well as can be expected.

    13. CharmedForce*

      I recently had a gastric sleeve and have started losing weight. I switched from slacks to dresses to help offset the cost of having to buy work clothes at each new size I get to. Specifically, I got casual dresses from Amazon that I can wear with sneakers or fancy up with dress shoes. I have about 7-8 that I cycle through.

      Here’s the link: https://a.co/22t7nRg

    14. Moonlight*

      So as a fellow dress lover, I have a lot of dresses and skirts that are loose, flowy, AND casual. I hate to suggest you buy things, but if that’s accessible to you, maybe you could do that.

      Could you dress down your dresses a bit? Personally, I am have been known to wearing a hoodie with a dress, or my Doc Martin combat boots; I’ve done this even with a more formal or dressy dress. Granted, this might not be your style, but I find that you can take off the edge of the “fancy” a bit with kind of going for a bad ass look.

      I know it’s easier said than done, but you could also just be The Fancy Person. I have often been that person in my office because apparently if you wear a dress, people assume you’re going for a job interview or something and then there’s me being like “umm this is just how I dress, but ok?”

    15. Self Employed Employee*

      What about really soft overalls underneath a hoodie or other top? They have a ton of different fabrics, not just heavy denim, and they will read as pants if you layer a top, but have no waist pressure at all.

  19. Jazz and Manhattans*

    Need help on determining if this was a company policy, law or just an incorrect assumption (in the U.S.) – when someone gives their 2 weeks notice and the employer tells them to leave that day, is it mandatory that they be paid out for their 2 weeks? I heard this well over 10 years ago and also just recently but I think this must have been a lone company policy as I doubt there would be a law that would give that benefit to an employee. I’m thinking the answer is no, that is your last day and you will only be paid for that day not the 2 weeks notice that you gave. Thoughts?

    1. Another JD*

      You are not entitled to be paid for hours not worked unless you have a contract that states otherwise.

    2. Back on the Clock*

      Yeah ugh this is not required and it’s a crappy thing for employers to do. They can tell you to leave that day and not pay you. That’s why most people hesitate to give any more than two weeks, to limit the amount of time they might not be getting paid. Companies that do this can expect to start receiving same-day final resignations, and that’s what they deserve.

    3. Bernice Clifton*

      I don’t believe it is mandatory, but the dismissed employee could be eligible for unemployment for the two weeks.

      1. Liane*

        But in most/all US states the first week you don’t get unemployment paid. Still, one week of 2/3, at best, pay is better than $0. Bonus for Peppermint Petty types: your claim means former employer pays higher unemployment premiums.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      Check your employee handbook, or check with HR. Beyond the two weeks, there are other pay issues including unused leave, COBRA, details of transferring retirement accounts, etc.

    5. doreen*

      It’s not a law- but I don’t think it’s a lone company policy either. My guess is that it’s a fairly common policy because if people aren’t permitted to work out their notice and also aren’t paid for it, they will just stop giving any notice at all.

    6. KatEnigma*

      It’s not federal law, but I do think there may be a State or two where it’s mandatory.

      The companies that perp walk you to the door when you give notice, though, tend to pay for the 2 weeks, at least for professional jobs.

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

      Not law, but if the company has a policy to walk folks out immediately because of security concerns, it’s fairly common that they will pay a severance — it doesn’t have to be 2 weeks salary though; it can be longer/shorter time or a set amount regardless of salary, or nothing at all. If they don’t have a policy, or they don’t pay out any severance, or they sometimes do and sometimes don’t, in addition to encouraging employees to quit with no notice, they also potentially* open themselves up to a lawsuit (whether or not it’s a viable case).

      *if they only pay severance or walk out some people, is there a pattern for who is and isn’t eligible?

      1. KatEnigma*

        Two companies ago, the pattern was if you were going to work for a competitor or wouldn’t tell them who you were going to work for, you got perp walked out the door.

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

          I don’t think that would cause a legal problem unless it turned out that only women/POC were walked immediately, denied severance, or given less. Even if the company reason was that they were going to a competitor, I think the law cares more about impact of the policy and not motivation.

  20. cardigarden*

    Career change advice?

    I’m thinking about a career change (away from academia/higher ed/ libraries) and having a really hard time identifying opportunities that jive well with my transferable skills. I’m a department head, so I have pretty extensive experience in people and workflow management, presentations, relationship and coalition building, etc. etc. etc.

    What’s a good way to pitch “I’m trainable in the content you do, and I’m really good at [what I described above]”?

    1. I need a new name...*

      TV and Film Production roles? I don’t know where you are but there seems to be a rather large lack of production staff in several countries

      Event / Festival Management

    2. Back on the Clock*

      I think I’d just talk about how much I love management and focus on any job that involves a lot of that, particularly if the management area seems likely to not be too subject-specific. Ideally you’d find something that relates to a topic you have some academic experience to point to generally, whether science, english, or policy.

    3. Lunch+Eating+Mid+Manager*

      What about library service in local government? Sometimes it gets combined with other departments, like recreation/leisure services/human services, so you could flex into those fields once anchored in the organization.

    4. Pivotttt!*

      Hi! Your situation sounds similar to mine. I was a program director at a uni until six months ago. Like you, I had a lot of different skills, so I focused on the areas I enjoyed the most and started applying. It worked! Not only that, but I had my six-month review today, and one of the things they like most about me is how curious I am and how that translates into my work. They also really like my leadership ability.

      (I moved to digital marketing, for what it’s worth.)

        1. ND Designer*

          It’s really normal NOT to have a marketing background, actually! Is there a specific flavor of marketing you’re particularly interested in moving into? I just moved out of it, myself haha.

        2. Pivotttt!*

          I really pushed the branding and promotional work I did on campus. I put together a portfolio which included that and some freelance stuff, but I think they were also really attracted to my other skills.

    5. ND Designer*

      Could you change into tangentially related field? An education-related nonprofit might be an easier sell than the corporate world, for example. Then you’ll be established as a communications professional, or chief of staff (or whatever the specific job title is) to move onto the next thing if you want.

      1. ND Designer*

        p.s. folks are always looking for good grant writers as well as people to manage social media ads in my freelance group, usually to the sound of crickets because they are not popular specialties.

  21. Anon JD*

    To my fellow associate attorneys: Our partners have recently asked us to start using our paralegals more since we’ve got better admin support now. But I’m not quite sure how to do this. What tasks do you give your paralegals aside from subpoenas? They’re pretty fresh out of school, so detailed research projects aren’t something they can do yet. I asked one to draft some discovery for a new topic area and it was unusable. I don’t have the time to teach/redo the work right now.

    1. CTT*

      I’m transactional so I’m not sure my standard paralegal task list would be helpful, but you are going to have to deal with a certain amount of training if you ever want to delegate. I don’t like doing it, but a few rounds of comments on a checklist is ultimately better for me than having to always do it myself when there’s other work I should be doing.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Off the top of my head: Transmittal letters. Phone calls and e-mails to court, opposing counsel, clients, etc., when the question is purely procedural or informational. Scheduling depositions and arranging for the court reporter. The bulk work of assembling discovery responses so that all I have to do is flip through it to make sure it’s accurate and complete.

      A paralegal should be able to do the basic drafting of a complaint in a slip and fall or MVA. They should also know the requirements around formatting and the corresponding paperwork that has to be filed and served with the complaint.

      I have an assistant in my office who knows the probate filing rules — written and unwritten — better than any of the lawyers. They’ve actually caught things I’ve missed before I’ve sent things in that would have been rejected for procedural deficiencies.

    3. Ainsley Hayes*

      Scheduling and filing with the court, harassing the court for orders since we’re in an overwhelmed jurisdiction, answers and counterclaims, assembling clients’ discovery responses, working with a client to get their story for an affidavit, financial statements, anything else basic that a client doesn’t need to pay attorney rates for. Hope this helps!

    4. Pivotttt!*

      Do you have a firm style guide and some samples you can ask them to study? I agree that you’re going to have to do some training in order to effectively delegate work.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        When I was a paralegal, some of the things I did were: putting together exhibits for court cases and supporting docs for new filings; going to the courthouse to file cases; calling other attorneys’ offices when we had a case 6th on the docket for a given week to see if we would actually be able to present the case; checking that cases cited in briefs are still valid; writing (internal) legal memos; aiding attorneys with legal research.

  22. BerryOrdinary*

    Have to tell my boss today that I’m leaving for a new job because of health issues (but also, which I won’t be mentioning, because she is a terrible manager), and I’m very nervous!

    I think I’m specifically worried that she won’t understand why I’m leaving because she seems to genuinely believe that this is a pleasant flexible work place. I’m not sure how to respond to a comment like “oh but I’ve let you work remotely here” without explaining that she has also on multiple occasions made clear she doesn’t think remote work is real work and doesn’t like it when I do it, even though I have only been doing it when truly absolutely necessary at great cost to my health.

    1. Annony*

      She doesn’t have to understand and you don’t have to explain. Just tell her that this job seems like it will be a better fit for you given your health issues. If she asks for details you can just say that you aren’t comfortable discussing your health issues or say that while the accommodations have helped, this job wouldn’t require accommodations and that works better for you or that they are better able to accommodate your needs and refuse to discuss specifics.

      1. irene adler*

        Exactly! The only thing boss must understand is when your last day will be.

        If “better fit” brings on unwanted questions, “opportunity I could not pass up-I’m sure you understand.” may also work.

      2. Everything+Bagel*

        Yeah, you could even start by just letting her say oh but you’ve had Flex time here, and then say nothing in response just move on with whatever else you were going to say. Annony’s script is good if you feel compelled to say more.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      It doesn’t matter if she understands or not.

      You’re leaving is none of her business aside from her needing to know she will be down an employee.

      You don’t have to give a reason for resigning at all. If she presses, you can say something non-committal such as personal reasons. Repeat ad nauseum.

      I will add there is usually zero point in trying to tell a bad boss or a toxic company that you are leaving because they’re awful. The whole reason they are awful is because they don’t care how it affects people.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      I would honestly just say, “I wanted to let you know my last day will be X. I appreciate everything I’ve learned here and am looking forward to making it a smooth transition.”

      And then just stop talking. If she ask questions, just be as vague as you like, “Oh, this was an exciting opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up,” or “I’m eager to do more of X in the new role.”

      But really, don’t feel like you need to keep talking. You appreciate what you’ve learned there, you’re excited about your new opportunity, and you’re going to make it a smooth transition. That’s it.

      1. Bernice Clifton*

        This! If she presses for a reason, just say this opportunity is a better fit for you and you couldn’t pass it up.

      2. Jay (no, the other one)*

        This. She doesn’t need to agree. You don’t need her permission. You are (I assume) giving her appropriate notice. I’d stick with “couldn’t pass up the opportunity” and not give any more details than that because details will spur her to argue with you. You are not responsible for how she feels about this.

        Since it sounds like this will be a challenging convo for you, can you plan something nice for yourself afterwards? Some special self-care or some time to decompress or even a cup of really yummy-smelling tea (OK, maybe that’s just me)?

    4. Call Me Dr. Dork*

      One piece of wisdom I treasure from Captain Awkward is that “reasons are for reasonable people”. It sounds like your boss is not reasonable, so come up with something bland (“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” for example) and stick with it a la gray rock technique.

      I feel your pain: I am an overexplainer/justifier due to family of origin issues, and it always bites me in the butt. I have to exert a lot of effort to keep my actual reasons private except for reasonable people, and to warmly and pleasantly gray rock with the unreasonable ones.

    5. Two Dog Night*

      You don’t have to give any reason at all–just say the new job is a good opportunity and looks like it will be a good fit. If she mentions she’s let you work remotely, say “And I really appreciate that, but I’m really looking forward to this new opportunity,” or something generic. You don’t need her permission to leave, and it doesn’t make you ungrateful.

    6. ND Designer*

      I left my last job without anything lined up because of health issues exacerbated, and likely even caused outright, by how bad my boss was. When I reached out to let him know my current employer was going to call for a “reference” check (really just verifying dates and role, since I had the offer in-hand) he was snarky whether I’d be “up” for the new job, given why I left.

      I called my best friend and gave them my REAL response, which was “I was being diplomatic, you ass.” Then I responded with the great news that I’m doing much better, thanks so much! Oh also, here’s what I put on my resume so you have it handy when they call, with a list of undeniably rockstar results I achieved for you, complete with revenue increase dollar amounts.

      1. ND Designer*

        Oh was that not advice? That wasn’t advice. I do that sometimes.

        Anyway, you don’t need to explain yourself. You have a new job! It’s just a great opportunity you’re excited about. You’re not leaving your current job so much as going to the new one. The only reason I even cited my health stuff is because I had no new job to go to at the time.

  23. Vanilla latte*

    Ive been at my current company for two years. My role will be wrapping up next year due to the initative wrapping up. I knew this when I took the role two years ago, so ive been trying to plan ahead.

    My current manager has said they will have a place for me once my work wraps up – however, he is yet to give me specifics about the work I would be doing. He is like this with everyone, not just me, and is known to announce that someone has a new role or promotion without discussing it with the person prior.

    The project im on now has been so challenging that I almost quit earlier this year because i was so mentally burnt out.

    Ive been exploring internal opportunities, but im nervous how to approach this with my current manager. Basically, i want a change and a little bit more..structure and mentoring I guess from my next manager, but dont feel I can say that to him. At my company, if you apply for an internal role, you are supposed to reach out to your current manager and let them know, which adds a layer of complexity.

    Does anyone have a good script or ideas I might be able to use for this conversation?

    1. Back on the Clock*

      Well, the good news is here he can hardly be surprised you’re applying for internal roles, since your work has an end date. He’d have to be out of touch not to be expecting this. I would not trust a single assurance that he’ll find you something, as it’s greatly to his benefit to have you stay on until the bitter end and bad for him if you leave one minute before they don’t need you any more.

    2. irene adler*

      Back on the Clock makes an excellent point!

      It should not be a surprise if one day you inform your current boss that you have applied for that open position in another dept. Two things will happen: he will ask why or he will simply acknowledge the information you just told him.
      If he asks why, you can explain that this position is the one that provided the greatest details about the job. Which you need in order to pursue a new position.
      Or you explain that it is a position that greatly interests you and hope that this signals to him not to quiz you further on things.

  24. Amber Rose*

    The good: Everyone’s on vacation today, the office is eerily quiet, and I’m in a holiday mood rather than a work mood. So I put up lights in my office and turned my wall mounted deer head into Rudolph by sticking a red bell to his nose. With the googly eyes I got for him last year, he looks very dashing, but I think he needs a bow or something.

    The frustrating: Our Christmas party is next Friday, the first real one in three years, and I’ve been frantically scrambling to make the last arrangements. On Wednesday, apparently one of our managers commented that some of the staff felt excluded because they couldn’t get child care, and we should have arranged child care for staff with families. I shut that down harder than I probably should have, but I mean, come on! You want me, with my budget already maxed out, a week and a half before the event, to try and find or reimburse childcare for half the staff?

    And anyone claiming they feel excluded can just… ugh. They have been getting monthly updates on this party since July, which is when we finalized the date. That’s like 4 months to sort their own lives out. You’re not being excluded just because you have to care for your own children and plan your own schedule accordingly.

    Entitled people make me so irritated.

      1. Geriatric Millennial*

        No, but holding the party during the work day makes it much easier for anyone with commitments outside of work. (Parents, caregivers of their own parents, people with recurring hobbies, etc).

        Holding it outside of work hours is automatically going to exclude some folks unless you make it mandatory to attend, in which case… you’re going to get some people who fall ill the day of. Just saying.

        1. Back on the Clock*

          So many jobs mishandle this. If you ask them why they are having a holiday party, they’ll say it’s a “thank you” to employees, it’s a morale booster, it’s about creating good feelings within the team etc. But if you require people to basically work unpaid outside regular hours, particularly on a weekend night as my old work did, that is not a good feeling generator. I realize it’s supposed to be “fun” but mandatory fun is … not fun. If it’s mandatory, it should be during office hours. If it’s optional, then they can’t pout if people need or prefer to prioritize care work, hobbies, or family.

        2. Amber Rose*

          We have a choice. We can do a party during work hours, which we’ve done the last three years and nobody enjoyed because it was like mandatory socializing since it took over the building, or we can do a party elsewhere, have food and alcohol and dancing, and people can choose to come. Personally, I feel like the second option makes it easier for people. I’ve had a few people straight up say they hate parties, so this way they don’t have to go.

          There’s literally no way to hold a year end party that everyone will like. I’m tired of people whining about it. Sorry your kids/hobbies mean you have to choose one or the other sometimes. Welcome to life, where schedules don’t always line up. I’m also giving up things to run this event.

          1. CTT*

            Yeah, it’s impossible to create a holiday party everyone will enjoy and perfectly aligns with their schedule. I’ve found that during the work day compresses people’s schedules if they have a lot going on or means they have to miss it entirely because of work commitments that can’t be moved. No one can win!

          2. Reena*

            Have you done a poll? I’d do a poll with a few day/time options, see what wins, and then say “We’re holding the party at this day/time because that’s what the majority of people want”. That should probably help shut down some of the grumbling (but it also will make sure that you’re actually doing the option that is the easiest for most people).

            1. Amber Rose*

              I’d be lucky to get three responses. I gave up on any kind of polls at this company 5 years ago. Much like with political voting, many people would rather whine afterwards than participate.

              1. Reena*

                I think you take the three responses, then if people whine after the fact, refer them back to the poll, say this was the most popular time, and ignore them after that.

                1. Reena*

                  If you know they didn’t vote in the poll (maybe have the form collect email addresses?) you could add like — “Oh, was this time prohibitive for you? That’s odd — I didn’t see your vote in the poll! Well, make sure to do that next year so we can take that into account. Hope to see you next year!”

          3. Meh*

            Honestly, people whining about how doing during the workday makes them feel weird is lower priority than ensuring parents can attend.

          4. tessa*

            “We can do a party during work hours, which we’ve done the last three years and nobody enjoyed because because it was like mandatory socializing since it took over the building.”

            I guess ymmv, but my work life experience is hardly what you describe where office parties are concerned. Sure, some people will grumble about such parties, because they’ll grumble about anything. But I have found that most others don’t consider it mandatory. They show up for as little or as long as they want to, get food, go back to their desks eventually, maybe come back briefly for more food, and that’s it.

            A work party outside of office hours, for which some people might have to secure child care or a home health aid, and can’t afford to, sounds…cliquish. You’re overthinking it. Just have the party during working hours and be done with it. Those who complain about it don’t have to go.

    1. Someone Online*

      I wouldn’t spend a hundred bucks or so for childcare to attend a work party either. I don’t know that it’s really your problem to solve – it just may be the reality of the situation.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Nobody is expecting anyone to. Only a little over half the staff can make it, and that’s fine. This is meant to be actual fun, not “mandatory fun.” If it was mandatory fun, I would find a way to pay for childcare.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I think if you plan a holiday party you want people to enjoy, but you know that about half your staff can’t come because of a financial barrier, it’s not really fair to call them entitled.

      Your manager should have brought up the concern when there was time to do anything about it. And they should make sure it’s considered in the budget.

      But neither of those things are the fault of staff who would like to come if they didn’t have to pay out of pocket to do so.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I know for a fact that at least three of the parents who can’t come, just can’t find childcare. Covid makes it tricky and I’m sorry for that. But I also know that some of my coworkers just aren’t bringing their spouses for that reason.

        Besides, it’s a slippery slope. At what point do we stop paying for everyone’s inconveniences? There’s literally no cost to the actual event for them. All they have to do is be able to come. If they can’t come, that’s a shame, but that’s life. I’m not taking on responsibility for other people’s responsibilities. It is in fact entitled to complain that the kids you chose to have sometimes prevent you from participating in evening activities.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I’m sorry you are feeling put-upon by your manager’s feedback. As I said, I don’t think it was fair to bring up new parameters this late in the game.

          You’re doing the best you can with what you have. I still don’t think it’s a great look *for management* to plan a work party that they know half the staff can’t come to.

        2. Reena*

          I don’t really think it’s a slippery slope. Nobody here is saying that you should be paying for people’s childcare (at least not that I’ve seen). What people here are saying is that it might be reasonable to consider whether scheduling the party during the day might make it easier for more people to come. I know you’ve said you “feel personally” that it’s easier for more people to come in the evening, but it seems like you have a contingent of people who feel otherwise. Ultimately you may decide they’re in the minority and therefore overruled (although I’m not getting a sense here of whether you have data to back that up — it sounds like there are just complainers wherever you put the party) but that doesn’t make them entitled.

        3. Any Mousse*

          Think of it like this – you plan a party for people who have helped you get where you are over the last year – you want them all to be there, at the same time, and want them all to have a great time. One is a vegan, one is kosher and another is deathly allergic to seafood – so you make sure there is specific food there for them to eat. About half of them live over an hour away from where the party is being held – so you arrange for transportation so they can enjoy the wine you had specially bottled for this event. You have 2 people in wheelchairs so you made sure the venue you booked is handicap accessible.

          If you want your employees to be able to enjoy the party you are throwing for them – and take their unpaid personal time to do so – the charitable thing to do is to try and make it as easy as possible for the employees. If the holiday party is planned with the mindset that their legitimate hurdles are looked at by the company as too bad so sad – and that is very much what “a shame, that’s life” sounds like, then I wonder what sort of other hostility towards them they are feeling. At least some compassion would go a long way in acknowledging the fact that some people are leaving their family at home due to childcare and others aren’t going to be able to participate in a perk supposedly for them.

        4. tessa*

          “At what point do we stop paying for everyone’s inconveniences?”

          At what point do the rest of us stop paying for yours? We all pay for one another to some extent or other. Seems this isn’t about a party, but a general grievance against people who you perceive as feeling entitled.

          Maybe you shouldn’t be the party planner, if it’s causing this kind of reaction within you.

    3. Purple+Cat*

      Wow. I can’t even imagine expecting my work to pay for childcare. It’s an optional fun event, attend if you can, skip if you can’t. Bring a spouse or leave them at home to take care of the children. Really not the work place’s issue. (Source have 2 kids and just attended evening holiday party).

  25. Salary talks*

    I am SO BAD at salary negotiations. I’ve read a ton on them, I practice with my husband, and yet every time the topic comes up in the initial screening, I end up fumbling the conversation in a slightly new way.

    This last time, the salary was 10k was under what I currently make, for a role two steps higher at another company. She kept hammering at it over and over that I had to agree to the range, and I kept saying I currently make more but I’m sure we could come to an agreement, and she’d just circle around with the same phrases that demanded me to agree. I am so, so, so tired.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      You’re not bad at salary negotiations. You can’t negotiate with someone who doesn’t want to which is exactly what you are describing.

      In this situation the salary was too low for you to consider. She was making it clear that there wasn’t going to be room to negotiate. If that happens, you part ways – its not a good fit.

    2. lunchtime caller*

      It sounds like you don’t know how to gracefully exit the conversation. In this example at least you kept saying you were sure you would come to an agreement, but that’s blatantly not true and she may have been circling around because it didn’t seem like you understood her range was final. You could not, in fact, ever come to an agreement unless you thought 10k under your currently salary was acceptable. It’s super awkward in the moment but in that case you might have to say something like “unfortunately that does feel lower than what I can tentatively commit to, but I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today” and bail.

      1. Salary talks*

        You’re right. I just started internally panicking, and wanted to verbalize that I wanted a bit more, but my brain just got stuck in agreeable peacemaker mode. Ugh!

    3. Back on the Clock*

      I’m confused. In those circumstances, I would not say “we’ll make it work” – I would think “you sons of b*tches are lowballing me” and I would say “it sounds like we’re too far apart on salary but I wish you luck in your search” and then get up and leave. This is not a failure on your part of effective negotiating.

      1. Back on the Clock*

        Let me add (I took a negotiating class) – the thing to keep in mind is your Best Alternative to Negotiating. In this case, doing more work for less money than you already make is not logical because you have a Best Alternative – which is keeping your current job (more money and less work) and trying to find another job. If she can’t match your best alternative, there is no point in the negotiating and you should walk.

        1. Salary talks*

          My dumb arse slipped up and admitted that the reason I was looking was because my company is doing layoffs. So I handed over the power that I may NEED another job, rather than just want one. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

          (But thank you for sharing this. Where do you go to take a negotiating class?)

          1. Everything Bagel*

            Just because you’re getting laid off doesn’t mean you would necessarily resort to taking a job that pays $10,000 less than you currently make. Just act like you’re entertaining other jobs as well and it’s a shame that they can’t come up on the salary, then move on.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, you may need to work on some skills, but in that case you cited as an example, that person was giving off major red flags:
      She kept hammering at it over and over that I had to agree to the range

      You dodged a bullet (at least in that case).

    5. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Wow, she sounds really crappy.

      You were operating from what this one verbal abuse author/trainer named Patricia (last name escapes me) calls ‘Reality 1’.

      Reality 1 is when you say something in good faith, the person responds in good faith, the issue is addressed.

      Abusive (or just unreasonable) people are operating in Reality 2. Reality 2 is about power (or whatever specific paradigm they’re operating under). So a Reality 1 person will approach things from a reasonable perspective. If a reasonable (Reality 1) person says they have a problem, they are bringing it up to me because they want to resolve it. If a Reality 2 person brings up a problem, they’re saying that because they want to mess with your head somehow. So as long as the reasonable person keeps acting as if the abusive person is operating from a reasonable reality, they will always leave each interaction feeling confused, frustrated, and perhaps gaslit.

      In your interview, were operating as if you were having a normal professional interaction with the associated norms and power dynamics, because of course you were.

      This woman was operating from a perspective of ‘I only have this range and you will take this range and I don’t care how you feel or what you think’.

      So all those Reality 1 (normal!) statements you were making? A Reality 1 (normal) person would have picked up on them and responded accordingly (‘oh, maybe we can increase this other benefit to offset the cut in salary’, or ‘sorry, I don’t have any flexibility to do that, would it make sense to end this interview here?’).

      Your interviewer was not! She was operating in Reality 2.

      All you can do (and all you have to do) in this case is stop playing her game. Step out of the discussion altogether. You absolutely have that right.

      ‘Sorry, we aren’t aligned on salary, do you have any other benefits you could increase to offset the salary cut? If not I really appreciate your time and I think it makes sense to part ways’.

      If that feels scary to do, therapy has helped me TONS.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      And you’ll be paid depending on how well you negotiate, not on how well you can actually do your job. I hate that part of the equation. It’s why I’ve always been underpaid.

      But yeah, I agree with others – in that case, she was just low-balling you, and there shouldn’t be an agreement.

    7. NaoNao*

      Honestly if someone is “demanding” that you agree to a salary range, the conversation is over, in my mind. I’d politely end it. “It seems like this isn’t going to be a good match on either side, so let’s go ahead and end this call. Thanks and best of luck. CLICK.” hang up phone.

      Sometimes people take advantage of social mores and your good nature and politeness that says it’s rude to terminate a conversation someone else wants to continue, or to terminate it all at abruptly, or to call out “this isn’t working” but it’s just business.

      Another approach is that it’s not a conversation or even a negotiation. It’s a “can you meet this number?” if not, we’re done here. Bye. Choose a number you can live with as your basement/starting point. At the beginning of the conversation, you can say “I just want to make sure we’re on the same page. I’m targeting XX,000 or higher as my salary range. Is that what you had in mind?”

      Either they agree or not.

      The other thing too is even if you “agree” to a salary range you don’t like, you can ghost that person! You can decline to continue the process or drop out at any time.

      You got this!

  26. Frozen no more*

    I posted on the Friday thread two weeks ago looking for advice staying warm in a too-cold office and I wanted to thank everyone who gave me advice and also give an update:

    It wasn’t anything malicious, just a legitimate malfunction of the heating system. I don’t know the exact details but I heard through the grapevine that there was some issue with a pipe that meant the boiler wasn’t getting enough gas to heat the building. No idea why it took a whole week for them to do something about it, but it’s possible we were just a low priority since there were less than ten people in the building at the time.

    Whatever they did to fix it involved venting some gas from the pipes and we got to go home early because of the smell which is why I didn’t update as this was happening, then of course nobody was in that next Friday because of the holiday.

    Anyway, thanks so much for all the comments and advice on keeping warm! I bought myself a pair of fingerless gloves that I’m keeping in my cabinet drawer in case I need them again. I hope not! But we’ll see.

    1. ND Designer*

      Ugh, I’ve had a similar thing happen where the AC was on full blast nonstop, no temperature control or ability to turn it off. And the person in charge of pushing facilities for a fix was actively trying to brush me off! I made him come over and stand in my office and he called it “refreshing” since it was the summer. Then I made him stay for another 10 minutes. Then the HVAC got fixed.

      1. somebodyelse*

        Reminds me of the day I was in a visitor’s office while visiting my team. Their wing was boiling (early winter and the heat was stuck on)… and the office I was in that had the thermostat showed 80+ degrees. I IM’d the guy who was in charge of facilities, didn’t hear back, so I started texting him pictures of the current temp in the office as it continued to rise. I think at 87 degrees and texts of the sweating frowny face emojis coming every 10 minutes he sent someone to fix it. I mean that’s really all I wanted him to do in the first place… I wasn’t asking him to fix it himself.

        After talking to my team they mentioned it had been like that for about two weeks

  27. AnonForToday*

    I’m kind of in a weird (dream?) situation at work right now and need some perspective for how long to let it continue. Tldr: value of high work life balance (with baby) vs stagnation in career

    I’ve never been very busy at work, always able to complete everything in about 4 hours per day or less. My supervisor never took me up on my requests for extra work and actively forbid me from helping other functions, so I’d fill my time with job-related webinars. Despite this, I’ve always been regarded as a high performer, received promotions, etc.

    I recently returned from maternity leave to find that there is even less to do. Most new work is being given to my (male) coworker and I’m being left out of the loop. I’m essentially a very well compensated mouse-jiggler /stay at home parent. I realize that this is a very privileged scenario, but I’m not gaining any new skills or exposure.

    Recruiters have been contacting me with exciting opportunities, but I’m wondering how long I should eke out my current situation. I’m very lucky to be able to nurse, play with baby, and not need daycare especially in the current climate, but I feel like I’m stagnating in my career. Where is the tipping point, or signs I should look for telling me it’s worth it to change jobs but have to put baby in care?

    1. Temperance*

      I would look for childcare and then make a move. Infant care is basically the Hunger Games right now.

    2. Gigi*

      It depends. You have to ask yourself this: In five years time, will you be happier to look back on career growth or one-on-one time with your baby?

      No one here can answer that for you; it’s a matter of soul-searching. Good luck!

    3. Another JD*

      I’d keep that up as long as you’re nursing. Pumping is awful. Can you get a part-time job to fill some of your time?

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      I’d be fighting to take back some of the projects/new work. If there are layoffs coming, the less essential people go first usually. So if coworker does tasks ABCDEF and you do tasks GH, you’re more at risk. I’d bring it up with your supervisor, ask about longer term is this a lull in tasks or is this the new normal.

    5. EMP*

      At this point in my life I’m over the mindset that we need to always be pushing to advance in our careers. That said this is a complicated question though and I’d consider (1) the scenario where you’re laid off (2) the scenario where you just don’t do much work for a year and think about what your life might look like with regards to: your general hireability, your financial cushion, your healthcare situation. If you’re in a field where you are generally hireable, if you’ve got a history/resume of achievements you can show, if you can brush up on hard skills quickly, and if you’ve got a financial cushion, I see nothing wrong with coasting for 6-mo/a year.

    6. Back on the Clock*

      This is a highly individual answer. My honest opinion is that most/many jobs are trumped-up BS. People act busier than they really need to be as an ego thing, they make work for themselves and others to feel important, and most things are not as urgent as bosses pretend they are. As proof, we know darned well that other Western nations do not work like Americans do, yet somehow Europe also manages to keep the lights on. So, it doesn’t seem weird to me that you can do a good job in 4 hours a day, it just means your company is less infected by silliness than others. I would absolutely stay in my role until my child was older and more independent and *then* go out and see if I liked something else better. I might also take up a hobby like writing a novel on the clock. However, others would feel unfulfilled in these circumstances and want to be a better capitalist.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I would stick it out during the baby years if you’re okay and it’s working. Starting a new job while also handling the madness of baby daycare would be very stressful for me.

      If the situation was worse I’d say jump in but at the little baby stage things sometimes seem calmer than they’ll be later if that makes sense.

    8. ND Designer*

      Here’s a different perspective on it being a personal choice: how enjoyable is it having work be so slow for you, baby aside? Some people love it, some are fine with it, and some find it extremely, agonizingly boring.

      And boredom can burn you out just as badly as too much work stress.

    9. Despachito*

      It is, of course, fully up to you, but my personal take is – what a godsend! You have enough time to be with your new baby with no stress.

      Your career will likely be several more decades long, your child would need you just a few years. If you leave your work, how likely is it that anybody will miss you or even remember you? Most of us are totally replaceable at work. The only people for whom we are NOT replaceable are our children. And let us be sincere – how many of as have a CARREER worth speaking of? I certainly don’t.

      If I were you, I’d enjoy being able to have interaction with my child AND a job that does not suck the blood and marrow of me, and I’d try to keep it as long as possible. There will be time to get more responsibility when the kid is older. But it is me, you of course may see it differently.

    10. Gary+Patterson’s+Cat*

      I would eek this out as long as you can.
      In your spare hours build your skills for when your baby is older, or heck, write your novel or start your side hustle.

  28. SE III*

    My husband has been at his company for a year and a half working as the head of his department. One of his direct reports has been there for 10+ years and knows their systems and processes better than anyone else. She had wanted his job when it became available but for a variety of reasons my husband’s boss decided she wasn’t a good fit which is why he opened it up to external candidates and eventually hired my husband. She’s clearly unhappy about this and has seemingly responded with a number of power plays. A few examples:

    1. Whenever my husband asks to talk she always says she’s too busy. She’s not, he knows what her workload looks like and that none of it is so urgent that she can’t find some time to talk. After getting frustrated with her repeated refusal to talk unscheduled, he asked her to put some time on his calendar so they could chat. She did but then didn’t show up for the scheduled meeting, saying that something had come up and she couldn’t interrupt it to meet with him.

    2. Their department handles customer calls and their call volume increases around the holidays so they’re open for longer hours. She’s in charge of scheduling everyone and she decided on her own without consulting my husband or anyone else in the company that they would start holiday hours a couple weeks earlier than usual this year. When there was understandable backlash she claimed holiday hours had always started that early and tried to blame my husband for telling the employees the wrong thing.

    3. Earlier this year he worked to implement some new software to help streamline some of the work his department does. There were a few hiccups during the rollout but nothing major and it was all resolved quickly. Every time anything at all happened, she sent a message to everyone above her and my husband in the chain of command including the CEO and made it sound like a catastrophe. Thankfully they saw it for what it was but it was annoying for him to deal with.

    I keep urging him to push back on this kind of thing and make it clear that it’s not ok, and to institute consequences if she keeps behaving like this. He’s very afraid that if he pushes too hard she’ll resign and take all of her knowledge with her. He feels insecure about how much knowledge he has about their systems, in part because she’s been reluctant to teach him everything he should know so she can continue to be the go-to person, so he’s worried he’ll be in a tough spot if she leaves. Any suggestions on what I can tell him to help fix this situation?

    1. cardigarden*

      Problem 1 can be solved by implementing regular, formal 1:1s with the report. I could be wrong, but it sounds like he might just be swinging by her desk with “hey do you have 5 minutes”, which gives her an easy way to respond “sorry, I don’t”.

      I find it pretty alarming that she unilaterally decided to change the holiday hours. That’s a problem that needs addressing.

      I get that your husband is worried about losing her institutional knowledge, but she can’t hold the company hostage because she’s mad she didn’t get the job. And based on the the behavior you’re describing, it’s pretty clear why she was passed over for the promotion in the first place.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        So true, he needs to have regular 1:1s with all his staff. He should have a list of everything each staff person does (they have written goals & objectives, right?) and ask everyone for documentation of their unique duties. (This will help her not to feel singled out.) He should assign due dates as well so no one can skip out of doing them.

        Good luck, this sounds awful.

    2. Sherm*

      Yeah, she needs to shape up or ship out. Most concerning for your husband perhaps is her badmouthing. I’d worry that the CEO and other higher ups are developing the wrong impressions about your husband even if they haven’t said anything.

      Your husband can’t let himself be held hostage by the employee’s knowledge base. She could be gone tomorrow for a number of reasons, including that she very well might be job-hunting. It’s never good for only one employee to know the essentials, so your husband should work on changing that.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      If she’s his direct report, he needs to tell her that these incidents are performance issues, and start documenting them and then perhaps putting her on a PIP.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      I mean, I think he really needs to step it up here and manage this employee. She’s refusing to meet with him (insubordination), making policy changes that she’s not actually authorized to make, and bad-mouthing him and the team. This is definitely PIP, if not actually firing her, territory and he needs to recognize it as such. This post might have some helpful perspective:

      https://www.askamanager.org/2016/11/you-cant-be-held-hostage-to-a-bad-employee.html

    5. Liminally Maple*

      Another thing to consider is that the higher-ups considered her for the position and decided not to offer it to her. They were willing to take the risk that she would leave.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Yeah, and your husband should schedule time to go over the parts of the employee’s job that he doesn’t know. She can’t just say she doesn’t want to teach him or she doesn’t have time. He can schedule it and make her show him. He can tell her that no team should have just one person who knows things, and that he needs to learn those parts of her job so that they have coverage in case it’s needed and that he wants to know those things anyway.

    6. Lori*

      I guess you could tell him he needs to start actually doing his job and managing her, but I’m honestly not sure he’s capable of that from your description. He’s allowed this nonsense for so long and been so passive that it’s hard to imagine him successfully addressing it now.

      Would pointing out that he is failing to do his job motivate him, or would he give up even more than he already has?

      1. tessa*

        Seems to me it’s more complex that the binary doing job/not doing job.

        In fact, a new manager (18 months is new-ish) shouldn’t have to deal with a crisis employee from the get-go. OTHER people weren’t doing their jobs to contain this problematic employee; she should have been fired well before. It’s unfair to kick her down the road for someone else to handle.

        @OP: I do think he should step up and require her to pass on her knowledge via documentation. If she doesn’t, it’s subordination and a performance issue. A few of those, and she’s out. That particular workplace world will go on without her.

  29. Science KK*

    Anyone have ideas for how to bring up that we need to be teaching/demonstrating professionalism, without making it seem like I’m just upset about people doing some of these things to me.

    Was I irritated when a student rolled his eyes at me when I made a totally reasonable request? Sure. But he also needs to know (since he wants to go to med school!) that if you did that at a clinic to a patient it would go down like a lead balloon. Same with a group of 6 on another team who keep pestering me about when an order they all refused to place, and didn’t tell anyone about until they were completely out of an important product they needed. Not knowing what to do is totally ok, but as one of them said verbatim: “I don’t have access to that folder and I didn’t know what to do*shrug and sigh*”. That’s not an acceptable attitude in a workplace!

    Obviously I am frustrated, but I cannot think of a way to bring this up without sounding too angry or coming across as overly critical, because this problem is becoming RAMPANT in my lab.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      What’s your relationship in the hierarchy? Are you these peoples boss? Are you coworkers with them? I think that changes how I’d approach it.

    2. Postdoc*

      I think you have two separate issues here. One problem that is very common in labs is that some tasks do not have a clear owner. Whose job is it to order supplies and make sure you don’t run out? When the answer to that is “everyone” then everyone assumes someone else will do it. For things like ordering issues, make sure you have a system in place that everyone can access to make their requests. Then teach it in lab meeting. After that make sure to redirect anyone pestering you to that system. Bring up inventory management in lab meeting and possibly have a lab chore chart where someone checks commonly used supplies every week and places the order if needed. Then make sure that people who cannot place their own orders are assigned other lab chores so that you are not simply doing everything.

      The second problem is harder. When students are acting unprofessionally like rolling their eyes, what you can do really depends on you position in the lab and how your PI wants to handle it. If you are not their supervisor, sometimes it is better to just ignore it unless it is actually causing a problem other than annoyance. If you are their supervisor, it is best to address it in the moment.

      1. Science KK*

        Re point 1: we used to have a more structured system but people would refuse to do that or they wouldn’t want another person to order their stuff because they don’t trust them. Everyone has access to the ordering system, which is very simple and has extremely detailed instructions. When asked, the sigh and shrug person said I don’t know what I have access to and what I don’t, I didn’t even look.
        Re point 2: that’s what I’m having a hard time bringing up to the PIs in the first place. Anyone else would have done the task themselves to avoid this particular student being annoyed at them and I just don’t care, it his responsibility he has to do it (and should have done it in February), so it comes off as I’m complaining about a slight against me. He’s also screamed at me before and I was told well he was having a bad day and it turned out he had COVID, it’s ok that he repeated yelled YOU NEVER SAID THAT when not only did I, he had notes about it too.

        I’m torn because I want him and everyone in our lab to be able to move on and be successful, but when you call someone out it ends either in crying or the person is “just being mean”. And I’m not the only one who has this issue.

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Before he ever gets near a patient, he’ll roll his eyes at someone above him in the heirarchy and natural consequences will ensue.

      That said, if I were in any way supervising someone who did that I would call them on it. What I would say would depend on my relationship with the student in question. It might be something relatively light-hearted (“I raised a teenager. I’m immune to eyerolls”) to more direct and serious (“You should know that comes across as disrespectful, which I’m sure was not your intent”). In either case I’d deliver the feedback in private.

    4. Koifeeder*

      I agree with everything you’re saying, but also as a chronically ill person I appreciate doctors being visibly unprofessional about not believing or wanting to deal with me because that means I can fire them and start searching for a decent one sooner.

    5. Double A*

      Ha! So I work with high school seniors and some of them who are slacking I tell them, “Look, I know this doesn’t seem real to you because it’s not paid, but 1) you play how you practice. The habits you create in school you will carry into work and 2) F is for Fired. So pretend that when you get an F, that means you lose your job.”

      I absolutely think you can have a meeting where you go over professional norms writ large. Specially having a positive attitude/hiding annoyance and being proactive. You could also go over how to provide constructive feedback.

      You can tell them that you can’t fire them (because you can’t right?) but in a job that kind of behaviors would get you put on a Pip and eventually fired.

      If they’re acting like teenagers you can lecture them like teenagers (not all the time. But sometimes).

    6. Redaktorin*

      In the moment, act equal parts surprised and bemused by the eye rolling and related antics. Let out a small chuckle and say, “Wow!” I’ve trained multiple people to stop acting like sullen teenagers this way. Embarrassment is a great tool.

  30. Anxiety is Me*

    Anyone have advice on what I should keep in mind/bring up for an approaching annual review? I haven’t been here for a year yet (only about 9 months) and my supervisor came on a few months after myself so will also be their first time doing these (though another dept head who’s been here awhile will be there during our reviews). All I can think about are (relatively small) mistakes I made during training, about 4 months in, with changing job tools (not something we control, just updates that happened with them). My stats have been overall great and the supervisor every month goes through them all one by one and has even noted everything looks fine. I just constantly feel anxious that I’m not doing as well as I’d like or I’ll be let go out of the blue, etc. (my very first post-college job did that 6 months in so that still lingers a bit for me) so I’m not sure what I can focus on here to try and show I am doing well here.

    1. Reena*

      I think if you’re being told every month that everything looks fine, then you don’t have too much to be worried about. Under a good manager, a firing will never be a surprise — a good manager would tell you about any performane issues you needed to fix and give you a chance to fix them. If you were randomly fired out of the blue after being told that your performance was fine for all the months leading up to it, it’s probably not someone you wanted to be working for anyway.

      Regarding the small mistakes, everybody makes those. What’s important is whether you continued making them as a repeated pattern of issues, or whether you were able to fix whatever caused them to happen. If those issues haven’t been issues since the beginning, and that’s been confimed by your manager, then I think you should be fine. But if you wanted to bring them up as part of a broader assessment of your performance this year, I think you could frame it as like, “When I first arrived here, I knew that I was going to find X and Y to be a challenge, and I’ll admit that I struggled with that in the beginning. I’ve worked hard to improve my skills/process by doing A and B, and I’m proud that those those mistakes are no longer an issue in my daily work.”

      1. Anxiety is Me*

        Thanks! My first job it was a sudden lay off so hit me out of the blue, and with a string of contract/temp. style jobs, I’m always worried I’ll suddenly be let go again (though where I’m at now I’m perm and has a very low turnover so hope that remains true for me). And yes, I’ve been trying to show during our monthly reviews where I noticed I made a mistake what I’m doing to try and be better about it so I believe that will help there :)

        1. Reena*

          Unfortunately there’s not much you can do about getting laid off — the economy’s gonna do what it’s gonna do. But firing is performance-based, and if your performance is putting you on track to be fired, you should know about it.

    2. T*

      There’s no need to bring up minor, routine mistakes at an annual review. Your boss is probably expecting to do most of the talking unless she’s asked you specifically to prepare something; I doubt she expects you to prove that you’re doing well. Annual reviews aren’t generally a debate where you have to defend your worth as an employee, it’s more like a check-in where your boss lets you know how she thinks you’ve been doing, and if there’s a big difference between what she thinks and what you think, you’ll have more chances to discuss that.

      As far as what to bring, think about what you might want to do differently in the future. Not in terms of correcting mistakes you’ve made, but as in opportunities. Is there some kind of project you’d like to take on, something you’d like to be cross-trained on? Do you want to take extra trainings etc but aren’t sure what might be useful/what the company offers? This is all stuff you can ask at any time, obviously, but the annual review is a great time to reflect on it and ask your boss about opportunities like that.

      1. Anxiety is Me*

        Oh that’s good then, as I always blank out on what to talk about during monthly reviews already (occasionally I have something to bring up, but most times nothing).

        Ah, I didn’t consider future opportunities with the company! I’ll definitely look into that before my review as I can see myself staying here for the foreseeable future/would love to move into other roles down the line with them, thanks!

  31. Alice*

    My colleague was sick enough that to be sniffing constantly, and having to get up from the meeting table to blow their nose. They decided A to come in to work even though they have sick time and WFH options, and B to not wear a mask.
    I didn’t handle it great — in the moment I just pretended I wasn’t worried and tried to trust my own mask. In hindsight I wish I had suggested rescheduling the meeting; that’s what I’ll do next time.
    I am so tired of trying to figure out, how much sensitive, personal medical information do I have to disclose to get colleague X to take extreme measures like… checking my notes… not breathing all their cold germs on me while actively sick?!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      You were well within your rights to say “Hey, if you’re sick, please stay home.” That would have been true in even pre-Covid times. You don’t need to know people’s personal medical details to see that they’re “sniffing constantly” and “blow[ing] their nose.” Even if it’s just really bad allergies, they shouldn’t come in.

      1. Reena*

        I might’ve asked if you could call into the meeting from a different room before suggesting rescheduling — less inconvenience for other attendees, but you can still easily get away.

      2. Maggie*

        Lol I’d never leave myself if sneezing and blowing my nose from allergies meant I should stay home. I’d literally never go anywhere

    2. cncx*

      This happened to me in October, a coworker who has every reason and opportunity to home office came in with “the sniffles.” It was Covid.

      I will never understand people who live in countries with both paid sick leave and flexible home office arrangements still try to come in sick. It wasn’t the reason I quit but it was part of the smaller things that annoyed me enough to start looking for jobs.

      I would totally be more empathetic if we were hourly workers with no PTO but we’re not. Just because someone younger than me just gets the sniffles is not a reason to power through with Covid in the office.

      I wish we could make people understand that airborne illness is airborne, and regardless of how well you handle being ill, it doesn’t mean that your coworker with health issues who you breathe on is gonna handle it just as well. People need to see home office and masking as things that help their coworkers and break the chain of transmission (of course with the caveat that I’m talking about people whose jobs can be done remote).

  32. Not the boss*

    My supervisor wants me to take management training and supervise two people (one I technically already do and one to be hired soon). I really have no interest in managing people. It’s a whole different skill set and I am ok to lead projects but I really just want to do the work, not all the people/politics wrangling that is managing.

    I DO want to be more involved in higher level strategy decisions, but again I am not good at the politics of who-likes-who-and-what to figure out how to catch the right person on the right day to make a decision that is honestly just logical.

    So am I just not cut out for office work? What else do I do? Is it possible to try NOT to move up? I am not really motivated by the prospective of ‘career growth’ since it seems to mean all the things I dislike most.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you need to ask if it’s possible in this org to get promoted without managing people. Is there an individual contributor path upward? Sounds as if there isn’t. But other workplaces do have that path.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’m in a similar situation. I am super senior / high achieving contributor and I declined to be promoted to people management. My employer is pretty cool about it — it’s not what serves them but they are working to find the things I do want to do to keep it interesting. But of course that won’t come with the kind or raise or title I’d get otherwise.

      However, I will flag that making higher level decisions means understanding the people who make them. The most logical decision in the world won’t go anywhere if people haven’t bought in to it — you have to make a case (both business and personal) and get the humans on board. If you’re not into that, that may limit your options.

  33. OneTwoThree*

    I think you could find loose dresses/ shirts that would also fit that vibe. You could wear a loose flowy t-shirt dress with a jean jacket, a polo dress, etc. I also think that patterns and accessories can/ will have a major impact. I’d stick with more solid colors and muted patterns vs lots of flowers, bright colors, etc.

  34. Non-Profit Yellow and Red Flags*

    Interviewing for non-profit jobs: we get a lot of non-profit horror stories here. Some features of non-profits make them more vulnerable to chaos/disorganization/toxicity so my questions to you are…

    1) What are yellow or red flags for you when interviewing at a non-profit?
    2) What questions do you ask to suss out toxic non-profit environments?

    1. Elle*

      Ask how the project and org is funded. Is it stable? Where does it come from? What development staff do they have? You also want to look for an Exec Director who has experience running a business and is not just the founder who wants to do good in the world.

      1. Educator*

        Trust but verify on this. Nonprofits have to make their filings public, and many are also reviewed by third party groups.

    2. cardigarden*

      “How many initiatives/projects/events are Board-directed and how do they relate to the mission?” (I worked at a nonprofit that bent over backwards for board member vanity projects and events that really had nothing to do with our mission.)

      “Where does the bulk of your funding come from?” (big donors vs memberships vs gift shop sales all have varying levels of stability. I worked in a department that was generally seen as a cost center and that really affected how leadership treated us, even though if we didn’t exist there would be nothing for the development team to base their fundraising on.)

      Also, 503(c)s have to report their executive compensation on their publicly available tax forms. Look at what the director makes and compare that to what you can find on glassdoor for regular staff. My director was making 500k and I (master’s degree in a high COL city) was making 40k. That tells you a lot about how they value below-senior staff.

      1. Elle*

        Another one related to funding is to make sure they have multiple sources of funding. Try to avoid places that run off of one grant. If that grant goes away the place closes.

    3. Macaroni Penguin*

      1) Ask how often funders increase program resources. My field is 100% government funded, and they haven’t changed funding in nearly a decade. The cost of living goes up, but funding stays the same. No one gets into this job for fame and fortune. But we’re constantly asked to do more with less. And it’s gotten to the point that some of us can’t afford to keep our jobs.

    4. 1LFTW*

      I’d ask a few questions specifically based on publicly available information, like 990s/state financial documents/founding documents. The hiring manager should be comfortable answering questions about this kind of thing, or refer you to someone who can.

      Do they seem nervous or fearful? Surprised that you would know that information? Taken aback, as if you were questioning them about a private social media post, instead of information they are required, by law, to make public? Any of those would be red flags.

  35. Tuckerman*

    To anyone who has worked as a tutor: What skills/training did you find helpful, and what did you think you needed more training on? I train and supervise tutors.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Recognizing when to try a different method/approach vs a student just needing to hear the same approach again (and again). If the student almost has approach A, but some confusion in completely A introducing approach B will just confuse them more. Meanwhile if A isn’t clicking for them, explaining it via B might be what gets through.

      How to handle parents.

      De-escalation, when student is getting frustrated they can’t get.

      Steering student back to focusing on coursework without coming off like you are cold and dont care about them (especially with little ones who want to tell you about recess for 20min).

    2. Educator*

      Here are my top four, based on the most common tutor pitfalls I have observed:

      TEFL certifications if they are working with language learners—that is really a separate, specialized skill set.

      Executive functioning coaching training—how to start a project, how to break up and organize tasks, etc.

      The role of the tutor—how to support students without doing the work for them, how to set goals and frame sessions, how to document, etc.

      Multiple ways to teach common content, especially to students who learn differently than you do.

    3. Annie+Edison*

      I’m a piano teacher- not exactly the same but a lot of overlap in what’s challenging. One thing that would have been helpful when first starting out is a brainstorming session of how to explain concept x in as many different ways as possible. Because I know how I was taught to do x, but little Jane might not understand that way and need a totally different approach to get the concept. And Lucinda might need a third way of explaining in order for it to click.
      As an experienced instructor, I have tons of different approaches in my bag of tricks at this point, but it took a lot of trial and error to get to that point.

    4. just a random teacher*

      Growth mindset rather than deficit mindset communication when talking about skill gaps, particularly phrasing things as the student “still working on [skill], but I can see that you’re making progress in [aspect] and I know you’ll keep improving as we keep working on it” or “now that we’ve figured out that the reason that you’re feeling stuck is [skill gap], that’s something we can work on together, and I bet that’ll help other things fall into place too!” rather than “fractions is an elementary school skill and you should know how to do that already since you’re in Algebra 2” or “bridge is a third grade spelling word, you really shouldn’t still be making mistakes like spelling it brige in high school” or similar.

      Also, how to zoom out and make sure that you’re re-teaching them the actual skill they’re having trouble with and not a “weird trick” workaround that will get them through their current assignment without that skill.

  36. FashionablyEvil*

    How do you know when it’s time to cut your losses with an employee versus letting them stay and continue to try to make progress?

    I have an employee who may move into my group who has struggled for several years. There were a number of factors related to this (a bad previous manager, health issues, the pandemic), but the employee has been working hard to turn things around. I would say he moved from a D to a C. He’s currently reporting to a manager under me on an interim basis (long story) and has asked to make that permanent.

    He’s really eager to be successful, but he was hired in at a higher level than his skills turned out to warrant so there’s really no chance of promotion unless he can make vast strides in his skill set (especially in his critical thinking and leadership both of which I worry may be beyond him).

    He wants to do good work and is open to feedback and is a nice guy, but I just can’t quite see a productive end game for him here. His manager is really advocating for him (and I like and trust his manager a lot), but I worry that both the manager and I are entrenched. The manager thinks he really deserves a shot and has worked hard to get to where he is; I think the employee is in over his head/can’t actually achieve the growth we’d need.

    What would you do or think about next to figure out how to move ahead?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you have to decide whether C work is good enough or not. If C work is good enough, or you think he can make it up to a C+ or a B- (and those grades are good enough for you), then you should keep trying to help him improve.

      But if you need B or B+ or even A- work, you need to get this employee on a PIP, and if he can’t make it to that level, he needs to be let go.

    2. IndyDem*

      I just want to highlight that you said this employee went from a D (below average) to C (average). And that you’re not sure it’s worth keeping an average employee. To me, that means they won’t advance, unless they get to B or A territory, but also isn’t a reason to let them go. It’s more of a question for you and how you see your team – does everyone on it have to be a A/B or is an average employee enough?

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        Yeah, he’s senior enough that A/B work is really what’s required. (I think! I am also an A student/overachiever sort myself which is contributing to my difficulties in sorting this out.) If he’s at a C level, he’s going to get passed over for projects; at his level of seniority he should be able to lead projects and he can’t.

        1. HoundMom*

          I find it interesting that his current manager thinks the employee should have an opportunity to prove himself on your team. So, if the employee is let go, it is on you, not the current manager.

          Do you have budget for a C employee? Are your other team members A and B folks who could potentially resent someone achieving less?

          Could you find an A or B employee to do the role you have? If not, C is familiar with the role and is the providing some support.

          1. Chrysanthemum*

            That’s an unusually suspicious take. It also doesn’t fit the facts, which are that the employee’s current manager is OP’s direct report. The move is making a current interim arrangement permanent, not creating a new arrangement. If the employee is let go, it’s on both OP and the current manager.

        2. Chrysanthemum*

          So, let him get passed over for projects. It seems like you are really stuck on his job grade, but what if you focused on his capabilities, instead? Instead of thinking “Our Llama Groomer V will get passed over for projects they should be leading,” try thinking, “John works at a Llama Groomer III level. Do we have Llama Groomer III work available in our group?” As long as you are transparent that he can’t get promoted into Llama Groomer VI until he works at Llama Groomer V+ level, and that he can’t get project lead opportunities until he grows his skill set to Llama Groomer IV at a minimum, then you are being fair with him.

          I’ve seen people hired in at a level that is above their actual skill set, and they stick around as long as their is work that matches their skill set, even if that is below their job grade. I don’t actually know how those people did in terms of growing into the role. I didn’t have that level of insight into their work. But, to be honest, I see someone who can grow from a D to a C as an asset. They’ve demonstrated growth, which is a thing that not everyone does.

    3. Parenthesis Guy*

      It sounds like you hired a Llama Groomer IV and he was only qualified to be a Llama Groomer II. But he’s worked hard and now he’s at the level of a Llama Groomer III. He’s a hard working Llama Groomer, but he’s still not at the right skill level.

      The productive end game for him here is obvious: he gets an opportunity to develop into a Llama Groomer IV. This is the same productive end game he’d have if you hired him as a Llama Groomer II originally. There’s no promotion opportunity because he’s not close to be a Llama Groomer V, but there’s still room for growth. He may never be a star, but even a grunt has value.

      As from your perspective, I think you have to give him his shot. He’s showing growth and is trying hard. If he really can’t make it, then it makes sense to discuss demotions. But I’d try to keep him.

    4. Foley*

      I have a different concern. Are you worried about others at that grade, performing well, and their perception of an employee who’s not performing up to level, but is getting (some) of those projects and perhaps pay not commiserate with his grade?

      I think that’s a second level worry – a low performer affecting group morale…

  37. Some of you hated my ice breakers*

    It’s me – some of you hated my ice breakers but if you didn’t or want to learn more, here are a few more thoughts/responses about the ice breakers:

    First, obviously, know your audience – not every prompt is right for every group!

    For “favorite person at the company” that’s not intended to be framed like a popularity contest – it’s who you enjoy working with and a quick why. Can illuminate what your coworkers value (eg I like working with Cheryl because she’s really responsive or I like working with Frank because he helps me see the light side of challenging situations) – so I could be like okay, it’s cool to joke with you or wow you value responsiveness, maybe I’ll make sure I shoot you an acknowledgement/timeline email if I’m taking a minute to work on something before I get back to you. I tried this one with a group that knew each other and was able to read immediately that many were uncomfortable with the prompt and was able to pivot to a different question – so if you’re leading, also read the room

    For remote workspace – I that’s definitely a know your audience one. I have only done this one with teams that are already established and I always go first to model. I am a messy person any my home office is also my laundry room/room of requirement. So I start this one by showing my washing machine and the 6 foot long 3 foot high pile of crap next to me that looks like I just moved into my house to make it safe – and I was in a position of privilege to do that as the team’s manager, and also provided the option to pass. That softened people up and it was really humanizing to see the side of the ex-marine’s desk was covered in Barbies. It was of a moment during lockdown, but it was a good “we’re all in this together” moment for our team.

    For favorite least favorite activity – Again, this is one I always kick off to model and then really really stress that it’s not what you like/hate about your job – it’s more what is the thing you’re excited to do on your daily to-do list and what do you try to avoid. I don’t want to hear about what gives you fulfillment working with clients or for you to expose a weakness or insecurity. When I’m leading I usually give a few examples – I like responding to emails with receipts (Per. My. Last. Email.) I like when something requires going through records that are more than 30 years old and finding mimeographed files. I hate scheduling large meetings and approving time sheets.

    When I created this for my peer team I think it was really an aha moment for them that seemingly innocuous topics like favorite place you’ve traveled or hobbies can highlight class chasms. Two truths and a lie puts people on the spot and is often humblebrags that don’t help you work with people (congrats on meeting David Bowie)

    I’ve also been in teams that tried way too hard create vulnerability and trust in spaces that Were. Not. Safe. (What was something hard you overcame as a child???!!!) My hope with these is they provide options that don’t require real vulnerability and create insight among teams that is usable beyond bonding over a shared favorite ice cream flavor.

    Not everything will work for every group, but I’ve had positive results with these and I hope you may take something useful from them!

    1. Nela*

      wanted to make sure you see someone a few threads down is saying they liked those! i liked them too. sorry people can be such…people.

    2. to+varying+degrees*

      I didn’t see the responses but add me to the people who like ice breakers. Sure some are bad but I appreciate that someone is putting good ones out there. Thank you.

    3. Web Crawler*

      I liked these! And I definitely see the “favorite places you’ve traveled” or hobbies as class markers, or just magnify other kinds of divisions. The most recent icebreaker my team had was “if money was no object, what car would you drive?” and the question-asker then answered with a very specific make, model, and its features. But most of the team didn’t answer because we weren’t that into cars. Halfway through, the team lead said “I’d rather have a bicycle” and that helped- after that, the non-car-people said “a bike” or “better public transit” or “my current car is good enough”.

      1. Web Crawler*

        Also relevant- I’m in software, and a large majority of the team are men, including the one who asked the question, and 10/11 engineers who are paid more and whose needs are prioritized. I’m not saying that cars are inherently a male hobby, because they’re not. (And I wish every space was free of sexism so that those male-coded hobbies might be safer for the rest of us.) But in this case, it highlighted some of the disparities that already existed on the team.

    4. Jessica*

      I think your whole philosophy here is amazingly excellent. I’ve been on the receiving end of many icebreakers, from tedious to intrusive; I’m not really in a role where I ever have to lead any, but wow, if ever I am, I’m going to think about what I learned from you.

    5. Nesprin*

      I really liked them! I’m so sick of “what’s your favorite ice cream” style ice breakers and focusing on sharing institutional knowledge are really helpful ideas!

    6. JustaTech*

      I really like the “favorite/least favorite” work activity because it can highlight what people like vs what they are good at, and could potentially help you rebalance activities. Like, I never expected it, but I like taking inventory. My coworker who had that job before me? She loathed it, but did it well and never explicitly complained or asked to have someone else do it, so we thought she was fine with it.
      Or my other coworker, who it turns out, is one of the few people in the department who isn’t afraid of our ordering system. Several people were doing her orders (even though they hated it) because they thought *everyone* hated it and were trying to protect the new person.

      I might even try “what’s your favorite boring work activity”? Like, I like folding our special boxes, Bob finds the data entry really soothing, and Shelly likes the alone time of running the weekly control samples.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I’ve had similar experiences (“most people hate doing X, but I actually enjoy it!”) in serious one-on-one conversations with my manager or department head, which might be why the idea of doing an icebreaker about it in front of a larger group seems so weird to me. (Especially if it’s *not* something I’ve talked about with my manager before.)

        Looking back at the infographic, one of the examples for the job activities was “giving presentations”. I don’t think I would say that was my least favorite job activity even if it were true — I can just imagine walking into my next performance review and my manager being like “I’m concerned because you mentioned you don’t like giving presentations — what can we do to get you more comfortable with that?”

        That is, I think that icebreaker questions like this may incentivize lying, especially the negatively-framed ones. Depending on who exactly was there with me, I might not feel comfortable saying anything more serious than “my least favorite thing about work is driving to the office when it’s snowing, haha, I hate snow.” In which case we’re back to small talk about the weather.

        I didn’t get a chance to read the comments on the post, though, so maybe this point was done to death already.

        1. allathian*

          I think saying “My least favorite activity is giving presentations, but I realize it’s a part of this job and something I have to do, and do well, to stay in this job” should be okay, at least as long as your manager is decent and reasonable. It just goes to show that people don’t necessarily like doing everything they’re good at, but they’re willing to put up with the occasional unpleasant task if the position’s otherwise good enough to make up for it. Only unreasonable managers expect their employees to love every task they’re assigned.

          My least favorite task is dealing with job-related admin, like our expensing system. I hate it. People who travel a lot learn it eventually, but I haven’t gone on a business trip since October 2019. Normally I travel once or twice a year, and every time I have to basically relearn it from scratch. I’d love to be able to delegate this task to someone else, but it’s not an option at my employer. Only our President has an assistant, and I’m an IC. Just the idea of using the clunky system gives me anxiety, and I’m not particularly anxious generally. I had an opportunity to go to a conference in the fall, but I kept postponing booking tickets and hotel rooms for so long that when I had to go to the ER on the last day that they were accepting bookings, it fell through. In the end it didn’t matter, because I would’ve been forced to cancel anyway because I got Covid the week before the conference… In previous years I always booked early enough for my employer to benefit from early bird discounts, so next year I’m going to have to deal with my anxiety before it paralyzes me again.

      2. Some of you hated my ice breakers*

        Ooh I really like the addition of “boring” to the framing of favorite/least favorite. I think that keeps it in a safer, lower-stakes space

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, I think keeping it low-stakes is important. I agree that some traditional ways of “making icebreakers fun” (two truths and a lie, stuff about vacations) are less useful and may highlight class differences, and “doing vulnerability on purpose” is even worse.

          However, I also think that the low-stakes ideal is inherently in conflict — at least somewhat — with what you described in connection with the “favorite person to work with” question. Is this a safe and low-stakes activity, or are we analyzing each other’s answers to gain insight into what they value? I think this is *really, really hard* to have both ways, but it can be done. “What are your least favorite boring work tasks” instead of just “what are your least favorite work tasks” is a step in the right direction, IMO.

    7. allathian*

      Thanks for coming back! I only saw your post after Alison had closed and deleted the comments.

      The show us your workspace probably only works if the person who’s highest in the org chart shows their space first, and it’s really messy. If the manager’s space looks like it could be in a home decor magazine, it’d risk intimidating some employees.

      The favorite and least favorite activity is a good one, my team had it last week at our biannual development days.

    8. Clisby*

      I don’t mind 2 truths and a lie – that’s cropped up a couple of times on the first day of college classes I’ve audited. So far I have 1 truth and 1 lie nobody has gotten right: My grandfather served in the Spanish American War; and I have a phobia about snakes.

    9. Eyes Kiwami*

      I thought they were great! I really like the “favorite person outside the team”, I think that would be great for teams that don’t work very closely with each other/each person covers a different area, so it could be an opportunity to introduce people from different departments to other team members.

    10. Cheshire Cat*

      I also didn’t see your post while comments were open, but I liked how they were work-focused and not the”tell us your most traumatic experience” type.

      At my job, we had a staff day that started out with an icebreaker that worked well for us. It was essentially speed dating, but the topic was books. Everyone asked and answered the same 3 or 4 questions (your favorite character ever, your favorite childhood book, questions like that)

      I work in a public library, so talking about books is as natural as breathing here. :)

  38. Anonymous Educator*

    For those of you who have been doing remote work for 2+ years (almost 3?) and then have suddenly had management tell you you have to go back to the office, if you aren’t able to get some kind of exception made, have you just sucked it up? Have you been job searching? Doing both?

    1. Colette*

      I just … didn’t. When my manager asked, I said “it’s not safe. If it becomes a big deal I will come in until I find another job”, and it hasn’t come up again.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        This is funny! I like how you told your boss exactly where you stand. I suppose you can only do that if you’re fully prepared to be let go, but in the end they have to weigh the need of having you in the office versus having to replace you.

        I went back when I had to, but job searched and got another job that is fully remote.

        1. Colette*

          Yes, I’m in the privileged position of having marketable skills, and the ability to handle some time being unemployed. And I really didn’t think they’d fire me for it, but I was willing to take the risk.

    2. beach read*

      I was about to face that myself when I was laid off. I would be thrilled to be able to go in to that office and get to do the job I loved and earn a salary again. If you spin it that way for yourself it may help.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I sucked it up and didn’t look for an exception. It’s really not the hill to die on for me.

    4. Eyes Kiwami*

      I got a new job. In the exit interview they asked if my next job offered WFH and I said yes, and they said “Guess each company is figuring this out differently” and I said “Yep….”

    5. J*

      I immediately posted on LinkedIn that I was looking for remote positions. I had an offer within 72 hours. I gave a week’s notice. My org acted shocked that I would leave without full notice and I told them I was returning the favor on the return to office notice of 1 week while dropping all Covid precautions. We were an org that had an equity focus, especially for disabilities and promoted we hired disabled employees like myself, but the chose to exclude us and demand a return to office in the middle of Omicron. I have no regrets burning that bridge, especially at double the pay (now nearly triple). If I need to leave, I’ll look for remote work or use the extra I’ve been saving to pad a freelance role in my niche.

  39. JustaTech*

    Question about *being* an employer.
    I have a cleaning guy who does medium-light housecleaning at my house every other week. He’s good (if not brilliant) and very reasonably priced (and friendly, and OK with me not wanting to chat, which I appreciate). The thing is, he’s absolutely never, ever on time. Like, regularly 2 hours late.

    In the before-times I maybe would have parted ways with him over this, or I might have said “good enough” and just given him a key and let him clean in his own time, since my husband and I wouldn’t be home anyway.

    But since we are mostly WFH we’ve kept up the “wait for the cleaner to come and let him in” method, which doesn’t always work well (if we have meetings we can’t get out of when he shows up).

    I talked to my friend who recommended this cleaner and she said they just gave him a key and about every other week she comes home and the house is clean. (I’d want a schedule so I can pick up before he comes, but close enough.)

    It’s been so hard to find any decent house cleaners, let alone one who’s so reasonably priced, should I give him the flexibility he clearly wants and stop expecting everyone to work to a schedule?
    (Complicating this is that I’m about to have a baby, so I’ll be home all the time for a while, but might not always be able to get up to get the door.)

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Have you asked the cleaner about it? “Hey we need more rigid schedule, can you text us a week in advance what time you are coming that following week?” . Maybe he can do your house first or last so it’s not effected as much by schedule flux during the day. Cleaners are hard to get right now.

      1. JustaTech*

        The only reason I haven’t done that is that, really, we don’t need a more rigid schedule. Like, I personally like fixed schedules, but that’s a me thing, not an actual requirement thing, and (especially with a new baby coming) I’m trying to loosen up about when schedules do and don’t matter.
        (It took me the better part of two years to stop being grouchy when my immediate coworkers would have spontaneous WFH days, even if I didn’t need their presence for anything.)

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Ours has access to the house (we have a garage keypad – it’s the same as giving her a key). I figure I leave her alone in the house so what difference does it make if she lets herself in? She comes somewhere between 9 and 10:30 – I’ve asked her not to come before 9:00 and to make sure she’s done by 3:00 and other than that it’s up to her. She does text us most of the time to let us know when she’ll be there.

    3. AlabamaAnonymous*

      Could you give him a key but ask him to text you when he’s on his way? That way, you don’t have to get up to answer the door, but you do know when he will be coming in the house.

      1. JustaTech*

        This is probably the best idea. Heck, if I can have him text me when he leaves I can even set the alarm remotely and not have to explain our weird house alarm.

    4. Xyz*

      Get a key pad lock, or put a lock box outside the house with a key, or just unlock the door in the morning so he can knock and then come in.

    5. RagingADHD*

      This is entirely based on some bad personal experiences, but I believe that people who are consistent & reliable in small things will be consistent and reliable in larger things (and vice versa).

      Two hours late without calling to rearrange is a lot. If he needed a different schedule, he should have said so up front. He’s not great at the job, just good. And “so reasonably priced” sounds an awful lot like “desperate for money” or “knows he can’t get work if he charges more.” How long has he worked for your friend? Have you talked to any other long-term clients?

      Personally, I wouldn’t want him in the house without me there. I’m glad it’s working okay for your friend, but it would make me uncomfortable to hand over a key. The last story I witnessed that started this way with a low-budget, unreliable, not-very-good cleaner ended with the cleaner stealing the client’s prescriptions. And the one before that ended with the cleaner tipping off their druggie friends to rob the house when the client was out of town.

      Hope I’m wrong. He may be lovely. But that’s what’s in my head based on your description.

      1. JustaTech*

        He’s worked for my friend for probably 4 years (before the pandemic started for sure), and he was recommended by one of her friends then. And he’s worked for us for about 2 years now, so if he was going to steal stuff he probably would have done that already.

        I think we might be some of the only people he works for who ask for a specific time, which might be why he has a hard time making it. Honestly it feels like he actually has more work than he can reasonably get to in a week.

        He’s very fast and good and hasn’t had any of the problems I had when I used a service (they kept throwing the trash in my yard-waste bin, among other things).

    6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I have a yard guy who is like this. I’ve eventually accepted that he’s a force of nature and will come and go on his own schedule, and his negative consequence for him not telling me which day he is coming in advance is that sometimes I will not be home and he will have to come back another day to get his check, and that’s really the only incentive I can offer for him to plan ahead and communicate.

      On the other hand, I hate mowing the lawn and this way my lawn gets mowed more regularly than it would when I did it myself, plus he cleans the gutters, trims the shrubs, and was able to drop everything and come over the next day to do a bunch of tree-trimming work when I got a “fix it” notice from the city that my street trees were out of code. (The school district complained that basically every house in my entire neighborhood was out of code and that school buses were getting hit by overgrown street trees along all of their bus routes. The city inspector came by and put notices on everyone’s door, so it was not just me. That was a fun week for everyone.)

      Figure out how much notice you really need for this cleaner to work for your lifestyle, and then see if he can work within that.

      1. JustaTech*

        I hired an arborist who was like this: it was only chance that I ever saw him, and he and his team managed to remove an entire tree without me noticing for two days. (My husband and I were home at the time, napping, and they were just that fast.)

    7. Educator*

      No one should be ringing your doorbell or knocking at random times when you have a newborn who will presumably want some sleep during the day.

      It is totally reasonable to use the baby to reset expectations. Since you are otherwise so flexible, I would make it a conversation. What would work best for your cleaner? Let him know what you need, then ask what he needs to make it happen.

      Or, if you are going to be physically recovering from a birth, delegate this whole thing to your husband and let the two of them figure it out!

    8. Chief household creation wrangler*

      To be honest, I would not want someone that unreliable in my house at all, whether I was home or not, but especially not when I have a newborn to take care of.

  40. Gigi*

    For all my fellow World Cup watchers; how are you sneaking in matches during work hours? Personally, I’m following a few live tweeting accounts and two group chats, but I would love to know how everyone else is checking in!

    1. CTT*

      I’ve been trying to keep up via Guardian liveblogs but it’s really hard for the simultaneous games! I also had a huge closing this week so I turned off all notifications on my phone except from emergency contacts so I could watch in the evening without being spoiled. I actually managed it!

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      I have students embedding videos in their OneNote docs (YouTube is meant to be blocked on student laptops but this is a workaround I can’t really stop because they use OneNote for schoolwork lol)

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t watch the World Cup, but…it’s being put on in our staffroom, as people want to watch it during free classes, at lunch break, etc. I guess those aren’t really work hours, but they are during the working day.

  41. Stressed and confused*

    I’ve been a a new job for about 6 months that was a step up in responsibility, pay and title. It’s a much smaller org than I was at previously, I am one of 3 on the finance team, and the most junior. We have been down a junior person for about 3 months. I find that my boss has unreasonable expectations of my time and ability. Almost everything is urgent, and priorities are all over the place. I have been struggling to balance speed and efficiency with accuracy, and have had some mistakes from this. Mistakes that were fixable, but still mistakes. I feel like I can’t be accurate enough at the speed she wants. How can I effectively communicate this without seeming incompetent? Maybe it is just imposter syndrome, but I am so stressed and overwhelmed. I feel like I may have traded one dysfunctional job for another.

    1. Educator*

      Sorry this is happening. Jobs like this are so stressful. One thing that I have gotten better at over the course of my career is over-communicating in situations like this. I want my boss to know exactly where things stand and where my time is going, rather than having it be some stressful, shameful secret. You are reasonable and your job is not. Do what a reasonable person can do in the time you have, keep everyone in the loop, and don’t feel bad about it.

      One possible tool: In overwhelming jobs, or when I am covering for someone, I really love having a written record of my priorities that I share with my boss. It lives in a document we can both access and edit, and I literally rank things priority 1, priority 2, etc. When I finish a project or subtask, I cross it off and note the date. When we have check in meetings, I pull it up and ask her if my understanding of the priority order is right, or if she wants to make any adjustments. And if she has a new project for me, my first question is “where does this fall on the list?”

      I developed this system when I had a young manager who was all over the place and had trouble remembering what he told me to do. But I have also used it with managers who have unreasonable expectations so that we both had a record of where my time was going and they had to look at their expectations (and all that I was accomplishing!) in black and white. And I once had a job where I needed to add a “Things Educator is Not Going to Have Time For” section. It’s not perfect, and it evolves for each manager, but it helps me do one thing at a time rather than panicking.

      1. Stressed and confused*

        Thanks Educator! I think that this is a good way to move forward. When everything is a priority, nothing us. I’m hoping that over communicating will help me manage my boss’s expectations and my own stress levels.
        Also having everything written can really help CYA, just in case.

  42. Red Tape Specialist*

    Shout out and Thumbs up to the “icebreakers don’t have to suck” post on Tuesday (comments were closed so I wanted to mention it now). I have a new person on my team and it was perfect for our first staff meeting together. I like how the questions are work-related, which can keep it from being too personal. I led off with the first question to give an example. Highly recommend!

  43. Getting ahead of future food culture issues*

    I’m in a small, tight-knight department that has a rare opportunity to thoughtfully establish an office culture around sharing food almost from scratch, as many of us came on during / after the pandemic and it’s our first holiday season all together in person.

    That said, I’m probably the only person who is aware of the precedents we’re setting and concerned about their impact on future staff.

    Right now, we’re all pretty much on the same page about food discussions — in favor of them, but not to the point where they overwhelm the work. There are a couple of accomplished cooks/bakers on the team. We were talking about the possibility of doing a holiday potluck, just for our department, where we bring in whatever special dishes we’re excited to share, whether it’s a beloved family recipe for jerk chicken or just a really good bourbon caramel chocolate cake someone discovered online and makes every year.

    One of my coworkers is diabetic but she has explicitly said this is totally fine by her. No one else has brought up dietary restrictions, though I will still make a point of proactively asking for any. I will also adapt my dish to be diabetic-friendly just in case she wants to have some. No one on our team will try to force anything on anyone. One coworker is pretty open about his health goals, and has decided that he will eat whatever he wants over the winter and just be stricter with his exercise regime during this time. He does not have the impulse control my diabetic coworker has (and nor do I!)

    I’ve been actively watching my colleague’s reactions to see if anyone seems unenthusiastic, awkward or otherwise signaling this will be a problem for them. But everyone is on board.

    So at least this year, we’re all clear to go.

    Is there anything I/we can do to build in support for folks with a more complicated relationship with food in the future? I’m thinking we just leave the dishes in the kitchenette area for people to get in their own time instead of having it be a big group meal, as a start. What else?

    1. Getting ahead of future food culture issues*

      tl;dr: We like food. We are talking about sharing a bunch during the holiday season. Right now everyone is actively in favor of it, and also not going to be weird and high-pressure about it. What precedents can we set NOW to make sure we’re inclusive moving forward?

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I vote for a common time to pull potluck items out of the fridge and set up, with a quick Teams message saying “Food’s out! Feel free to fill your plate when you’re ready”

      Also, a habit of providing a card with ingredients is a good one. Suggest that folks put one together while they’re cooking and bring it in.

      If you think you’ll be doing this frequently, you could also set a “theme” of sorts when you’re picking out dates — “We were pretty indulgent in December — what do folks want to do for our February Feast? Do we want to scale back the indulgence – or was that part of the fun? “

      1. Loulou*

        This last suggestion feels off to me — “indulgent” has a kind of moralistic connotation that I don’t think you intended. I do like your other suggestions, though, and think keeping it very clearly optional and low key seems best.

        1. T*

          Agreed, that would read to me as ‘were you all really not embarrassed to be pigging out like that at work?’

      2. RagingADHD*

        I mean, if you’re going to make it a work priority to be sensitive about people’s food issues, I really don’t think policing the contents of people’s potluck offerings and trying to impose one particular framework of what is “healthy” vs “indulgent” is the way to go.

        It’s just food guilt (aka “sinful” or “naughty,”) dressed up in slightly euphemistic language.

      3. Red Tape Specialist*

        Provide a card with ingredients or bring in copies of the recipe to share! That way people know the ingredients. Starting this now as a tradition normalizes for any current or future dietary concerns. Sounds like it is going to be pretty low key, which seems good.

      4. Agile Phalanges*

        The theme idea is great. We do this. In the summer, we had a BBQ theme and people brought sides and someone grilled various meats out on the patio. In October, we had a “scary” theme, and I suspect December will be some version of bringing your holiday favorites or something. It’s fun to have a theme to plan around, and shakes it up a bit from everyone bringing the exact same thing every time.

    3. Agile Phalanges*

      At my workplace, we have potlucks every other month. The sign-up sheet (on the break room door) includes food aversions/allergies (without names), and those who can or want to accommodate do. (I’ve kept a portion out before adding a final ingredient, or made a dish that fits everyone, but also just picked up something store-bought that might not work for a person and made sure to label it.)

      Some folks are good at including ingredients on a little sign next to their dish, or at least “tomato-free version” next to the one that is, but not everyone is as good. Those with aversions and/or allergies seem to feel comfortable enough asking, though.

      It seems to work for us, but we’re a pretty laid-back bunch. Obviously a much more serious allergy (like to peanuts even being in the building) would require a much greater amount of care. Our current employees’ issues seem to be only with actively eating the food, so having the ingredient present on the table isn’t an issue.

  44. STEM and Leaf*

    Anyone have advice navigating the application/interviewing/negotiation process when seeking to relocate? I am a mid-career STEM professional looking to move back to the Midwest from the East Coast, and struggling with how to explain this in a professional way. My resume says “Current City | Open to Relocation,” but beyond putting something about moving closer to immediate and extended family in a cover letter, how could I frame this? Unfortunately remote work isn’t really feasible without a significant career change. Bonus points if anyone has advice for how you navigated selling a home/buying a new one in the new city. Are companies generally ok with pushing back start dates if your house doesn’t sell right away?

    1. Lunch+Eating+Mid+Manager*

      I think the way you phrased it on your resume is good, and definitely mention it in your cover letter as you say you plan to. You could also post on LinkedIn about how you’re looking for a new role in the midwest and especially open to networking with folks in your target industry(ies) in that region.
      I think that you should approach the house stuff as being prepared to pay double rent for a couple months while you are renting in the new location and your house is on the market in the old location. (If you could work remotely in old location for new company during the transition, that would be ideal, but you say remote work isn’t likely.)

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Have you considered simply not listing your current city? Sure it will kind of be obvious from your current position but not as in your face as listing it under your name or something. I don’t have it on my resume at all.

      I would address the desire for relocation in your cover letter.

    3. Getting ahead of future food culture issues*

      For a start I would absolutely change “open to relocation” to “relocating to New City / Area” for those jobs. You aren’t just widening your net, you’re actively working to move to the Midwest! That removes a ton of concerns about hiring someone who isn’t local. And “getting away from the East Coast to be closer to home” is going to be seen as a good, even inevitable, choice by a ton of hiring managers, lol.

      So the “why” is a big hurdle you can easily clear. The timing is trickier, and I don’t have suggestions there, sorry.

      1. STEM and Leaf*

        Thanks for this! I think the thing I’m struggling with is that making the move is 100% dependent on having a firm offer in hand (not happening without one) – is this an important distinction?

        1. Getting ahead of future food culture issues*

          Not at this stage, no! Maybe they’ll ask for that nuance in the interviews, like “what’s your timeline?” but you ARE moving, just a matter of when. You can answer “I’m not able to make the move until I have a firm offer in hand.”

          They might also ask if you require relocation assistance — if you don’t that’s all the better on their side. But also… don’t proactively say you don’t need it unless they bring it up, in case it IS an option.

          1. Getting ahead of future food culture issues*

            And even if the move doesn’t end up coming to fruition, that falls under “total change of plans” alongside “no longer looking for work in this field.”

    4. Todaloo*

      I am currently trying to relocate (also to the Midwest, but not in STEM) and I’ve kind of been acting like the move is already happening, I’m just looking for a job. It helps that I already have a location picked, rather than being open to multiple areas because I feel like I’m able to sound more… committed? If that makes sense. I feel like it’s harder to get a foot in the door, but I’ve been applying for jobs where I’m not quite overqualified but my experience is hopefully on the higher end of what they’re looking for.

    5. Reena*

      My dad just did this process, and what he did was wait until his house had sold, then moved to a month-to-month rental, then started applying from there.

      1. Reena*