open thread – December 23-24, 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.

{ 505 comments… read them below }

  1. FrozeninOntario*

    There’s a new job opening at work and it’s asking for knowledge of teapot design and teapot blueprints. I have a very little of either but I would learn both very quickly once immersed in the work.

    I feel like due to the nature of the job and the department it is in, there won’t be much competition for the job and most applicants are not likely to have much experience in teapot design and blueprints either.

    Is it ever appropriate to say something along the lines of “I’m a quick learner!” or find other examples from past jobs that can somehow relate to design and blueprints? (I may have answered my own question…)

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I’d say do a combo. Find examples from your past work that are similar to the task, and also examples from your past work where you were able to pick up a new skill and learn quickly

    2. Silver Linings From Dreamland*

      I’m not sure how to spin “I’m a quick learner” in a way that could work in your favor.

      Definitely try to emphasize any past knowledge you think could be even somewhat transferable.

      Since it sounds like you’re not expecting there to be many great matches for this position, I wouldn’t worry too much about your specific lack of teapot design and teapot blueprints.

      Good luck!

    3. Intermittent Introvert*

      Would you also consider beginning some sort of online course in one of the things you’re lacking? Even if you’re only a day or two into it, it still demonstrates active willingness to learn.

    4. Love to WFH*

      I work in IT, and every single person in this field describes themselves as a quick learner. ;-)

      If you can point to a time in your career where you picked up something new quickly and successfully, that may help?

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Oh yes, people don’t realize that dozens of other candidates are also talking about how they love learning blah blah blah but only two or three of the applicants actually started self-learning the topic – and those people are the ones getting shortlisted.

    5. Asenath*

      I once used an past example of my ability to pick up how to use new software easily as a point in favour of my application for a new job which required getting up to speed fast of some specialized software that wasn’t used outside the company. I don’t suppose “quick learner of unfamiliar software” would have worked if the software in question was MS Word, but I don’t think it hurt when my “quick learner” claim was backed up by similar but not identical previous experience.

    6. kitryan*

      Depending on the application process, you can maybe (in addition to including concrete examples in your cover letter/interview) ask your references to mention or focus on that sort of thing- I applied to a ‘stretch’ job a while back and they were waffling on hiring because while I didn’t have what they’d prefer experience-wise, they didn’t have any stronger prospects and at least one of my references had confirmed/emphasized how quick I was to pick up new skills, which pushed things over the edge and I got the job (and did in fact pick things up pretty quickly).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yes to having references that can speak to you picking things up quickly. I’ve often gotten “hits the ground running” which might be my most common compliment from managers throughout my career, and I bet they would have mentioned that if contacted.

        It’s more compelling to show not tell, but having people back up your claims is highly effective too.

    7. Malarkey01*

      For an internal job, so much more is based on what they already know about your work (even if it’s different departments) and things like how you jump in and pick up new things are already a known quality. Not having to learn the company culture often offsets needing to learn the technical side.

      If you have a good relationship with your supervisor or grand boss, I’d go to them and mention you’d like to throw your hat into the ring, mention that you are a little lighter on x but based on your success at y (something that you hit out of the park recently) you think you’d be a real asset. In a healthy environment you’d get feedback like oh that job is actually super technical or they’ll speak highly of you to the internal team.
      Good luck!

    8. the archivist*

      I applied for my present job in a special collection archive with NO archival or rare book experience. I did spend my own money and take a two day course in managing archives for the non- archivist from the Society of American Archivists. What I found out was that yes, I could do this job and my adjacent experience was applicable. This stood me well in the interview process. I knew what I knew, I knew what I had to learn, and I knew the pitfalls in the profession.

    9. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Other examples from past jobs, and a realistic, well-informed plan for how and when you will learn on the job. I’ve just been involved in recruiting for several positions which involve teapot design – all the candidates were highly experienced at painting the teapots when given the design, and some also had design experience, but some had little or none. We asked in the interview what people thought were the key issues & challenges in teapot design, and some of the candidates with no experience were able to give such realistic, smart and thoughtful answers that they stood out above people with more experience. We also wanted to hear about a time when candidates hit the ground running – so a concrete example of “I learned X skill in Y amount of time when I was immersed in the job for Z reason” would really help.

      For me, the less good candidates talked only about abstract principles (teapots should be well designed and easy to use!) but the better ones demonstrated an understanding of what is involved (getting up to speed with XYZ design software, working with clients, building relationships with the handle suppliers, etc).

  2. NaoNao*

    How do you deal with feeling competitive at work?

    I’m on a small team and have the same title as a coworker. I like him generally and he’s a solid person but he’s paternalistic and condescending whenever he explains something or offers help.

    He also has a way of taking over projects and swooping in and volunteering to handle all aspects of shared work/”can someone do this?” type stuff if it’s at all related to his assigned projects.

    My boss recently checked in with me and asked how it was going (I’m in my first 90 days) and said she’s going to adjust her initial plan on delegating work. Annoying Coworker will be handling Big Visible Projects and “am I okay with him asking me for help” while the implication and reality is I’ll be doing as-needed ad-hoc one-off stuff on the topics and projects I’m passionate about.

    I said yes, it’s fine but I noted politely that I wanted to think about the bigger picture and didn’t want to wake up 5 years from now with no major projects to show having frittered away the time.

    I kept it to myself that I don’t want to be delegated work by my own same-level teammate, which I think is a real risk.

    The thing is, I think I’m being a little unreasonable here and I’m having trouble talking myself down. I’ve been on a work trip for a high profile project the rest of the team isn’t on and I was asked to assist with a big-wig leadership-jammed seminar that the rest of the team didn’t go to as well.

    I keep trying to remind myself that I’m edging close to doing the same thing I’m accusing him of–trying to hog all the work! My concern is the work I’m doing “feels” less prestigious (he’s doing technical stuff, I’m supporting HR with compliance) and going into a recession, I don’t want to be at risk because no one can point to what exactly I’m doing that’s so urgent and needed.

    Are there any tricks or tips to gain perspective and eyes on my own paper here?

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Nah, your instinct is correct. If you share the same title as your coworker, you should be doing the same work, not waiting for his hand-me-downs. I’m concerned the real problem is your boss. Your boss should share this same view, but instead it seems she’s treating you like an intern. You should try going back to her and explaining that you’d like to take on your own projects. If she’s unwilling to agree to that, then honestly I would think about looking for a different job. You’re only going to become frustrated with this setup, and yes, you might wake up 5 years from now and find that you don’t have any significant work to show for it.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I think job hopping in the first 90 days because you are still being treated junior to coworkers (assuming he was not hired at the same time) on major projects would be unwise.

        Industries can definitely vary but it would be unusual in the majority of them for the brand new person to say give me major projects to manage on par with someone that has been here for awhile.

    2. ferrina*

      You’re only 90 days in- you’ve just finished onboarding! It’s normal that the more tenured person would be on the bigger project. The point to worry is when he’s the only person getting assigned big projects, but it’s too soon to see that.

      The delegation component is normal! If you have one person leading a big project, it’s normal for the project lead to delegate work for that project, regardless of title. As project lead, I’ve assigned work to VPs and even the CEO (i.e., we’ll need you to review and sign off by DATE to keep this project on time). Honestly, that’s good project management. He shouldn’t be managing your workload or components outside his project, but it would be normal for you to support him when you have time (and I do mean support- he is the lead on this project). When you are leading your own project, presumably he’ll support you as needed as well.

      Focus on the results that your team is getting rather than who is higher title. I’ve found that results speak louder than “seniority”, and part of results is making sure that you are able to work with everybody (including your coworker). Focus on being competent and easy to work with- it’s amazing how those two things will make you stand out.

      1. Yangtze River*

        Yes to the implications of tenure. NaoNao, you might have the same title, but he has seniorityAt this company.If you have more years of experience doing this thing overall than he does, then you have a case for dividing up the big projects between the two of you rather than giving all the big projects to him and all the ad hoc work to you. However, at this time, at this company, you are only three months in, which means the senior person is getting the projects and the junior person is getting the ad hoc work.I advise revisiting the larger picture conversation with your boss When you have reached the six month mark and again when you have reached the one year mark.Be realistic regarding your experience level and performance with regards to the expectation of the job title, not just what the job title says.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      You’ve not been there 3 months yet. Getting to assist on lots of projects will give you a good idea of the scope and type of projects company has, as well as lets you network and meet all the other people on them. I think that positions you well for when you do start your own big projects. You’ve already gotten that work trip and that seminar, so you know they’re not trying to hide you in a closet or something. With your boss you can focus on skills you want to learn, “I’d love to get involved with a projecting involving technical skill X I’d like to learn more XYZ”. Coworker may have his own career goals, be angling to get promoted leaving you the only one at that title and leaving behind his projects too.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. Like I was jealous lately that my newer coworker gets to be delegated important tasks but then I realized that she probably talked about getting into management and I never do. OPs time will come.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      In addition to the good advice you’ve gotten already, what about mapping out your annual plan and goals?

      What are your major projects the rest of this year? What do you hope to accomplish in each of them? What differentiates success from excellence in each accomplishment?

      Draft what you can, and take it to your boss at your next 1v1 and ask for input. Then, bring that list to each performance review (hopefully you’re having them quarterly but you can schedule this if it’s not already part of your company’s routine), tell your boss what you have accomplished in each area, ask for feedback on your performance and each particular sub goal, and in 9 months (at your annual review) set new goals. At that point you should also have a solid handle on what 3-5 year goals are.

      Being able to define success in your role (increased x output by y metric in z time) or even define HOW you’d define success even if you don’t know what the exact metrics would be, can be a big confidence booster. Basically saying “here’s this cool thing I did/my team did”. If you don’t know how to define those things, ask your boss but also talk to other people in this industry (or read their articles or join a professional group online or even follow a subgroup on Reddit) and get input there.

      Also, is there something else you can put your focus on other than him? That way you’re comparing your performance against X instead of against him.

    5. Marz*

      I’m in kind of a similar position, in that I’m at about 90 days and finding myself competitive in a way that I wasn’t before and so maybe I’m a little too close/blinded by my own situation that I can’t see clearly yours, so feel free to disregard as always – but I feel like it’s a result of the environment/leadership being kind of problematic. Just kind of shades of boys club and messages that I have to be present/do certain types of work/volunteer for extra stuff in order to get ahead, and even though I don’t want to do that or think I should have to, I just feel like while I like my coworkers, way more than leadership, I just can see that I’m kind of more suspicious/less trusting here! Which is not who I want to be. But for you, is there any messages you’re getting that make you think they view HR compliance as less important or they might be looking to get rid of people? I think it may help to take a kind of less-stressful view on that, or even slightly more fatalistic take, like if that happens, it happens.

      Also contributing – I’m in a position that I think is not a great fit for me, so I kind of feel anxious about moving up/onwards/somewhere else.

      So what has been helping me a little – you know the old AA serenity prayer? The strength to change what I can, the ability to let go of what I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference kind of thing. I find it a little funny (I first encountered Calvin’s version in Calvin and Hobbes) but mostly I need reminding on the letting go of what I can’t…and that it can be genuinely hard to know the difference sometimes.

    6. JSPA*

      1. Collaboration may be quite normal? (Depends on field and job.) If so, remember that people who work collaboratively still have accomplishments and still have items to put on their resume and still get good references.

      2. If individual projects are more the norm…Write yourself a timeline. In the first 90-180 days, you should, in many fields, expect to be functionally junior to a same-title with long experience. But you should already be getting some sense of where you’re stronger, what the “known unknowns” are, and in what areas there might still be “unknown unknowns.” For the strengths: what have you already used / what can you demonstrate? What might they not be aware of?

      3. Next, use that timeline (and list of strengths vs “things yet to be proven” as a topic to discuss with your manager. if you explicitly ask to be in charge of some projects by [date], and ask what they’d need to see, for that to happen, that can help align your goals and their feedback.

      If your manager is feeling unsure about you taking charge because of information gleaned from Mr. ‘Splainer, the timeline is a way to get the issues in the open, but without conflict.

      You may need to highlight the dynamic to your manager. “Boss, I have a theory about why you and Joe ‘Splainer seem to envision me more in support roles. When Joe ‘Splainer tries to teach me basic concepts– which happens frequently–I often just nod along, to be pleasant. But I’m worried this may be giving both him and you the impression that I don’t already know these things cold–when in fact I do! I’m a big believer in collegiality, but not if it comes at the expense of people underestimating my knowledge, skills, training, and independent ability. I’m going to start pushing back on some of the intro-level tutoring. I wanted to give you a heads-up, in case he’s not comfortable hearing that from me, after three months of me nodding along and smiling.”

  3. Silver Linings From Dreamland*

    Any wordsmiths who can help me with what to say? Since 2022 was a career-altering (positive) year for me, I’d like to make a Linkedin post to acknowledge so.

    -I don’t want to “tag” anyone (some of my coworkers either don’t have LI or aren’t very active on there) and don’t have a picture to share unless there’s some corny ‘2022’ graphic or use one of LI’s templates for sharing an update.

    -I feel that finally reaching career satisfaction and my professional growth has also helped me become a better person so I’d like to maybe include a point reiterating the “golden rule” or even just a blanket “thank you”.

    Some backstory:

    In January, I was hired into a role (Job A) where I finally felt like my skills were being utilized and the team was great. I also feel like my time there helped boost my overall outlook on life and even to break out a little socially for the first time in years. I decided to look for another job because of several changes resulting from the company being acquired. Despite the fact that I chose to leave after less than a year when I’d stayed at my previous 2 (dead-end) positions for several years, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

    In July, a promising opportunity arose (Job B) so I joined a consulting organization where I’ve already made several leaps (getting my 1st professional certification and being chosen to join a subteam with higher responsibility).

    1. NaoNao*

      What benefit would readers get from this post? Or is this a ‘press release’ highlighting some big moves and career leaps?

      I’d figure out the WIFM for the reader and focus there. “I, I, I, me, me, me because this and this specific circumstance” isn’t a compelling read for anyone but friends and family typically :)

      Possible answers are “To understand how someone did it, to be inspired, to note a company that is hiring or promoted someone” or similar.

      Why would *you* read such a post? That’s the angle and approach I’d take.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yknow, there’s nothing wrong with it just being a personal announcement/reflection on the year. It’s Professional Facebook, not everything has to have a KPI attached.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          If that’s what they are going for I think they need to get more specific, I’m a bit lost with what their point is. “Some good stuff happened, some bad stuff happened, most of it is normal stuff that happens to all of us in the course of day to day life” doesn’t feel like fodder for a post, especially on a professional post. If anything these type of posts can backfire if they try to apply to stretch roles where they need someone who’s able to push through difficult situations and periods without getting emotionally stuck analyzing it all too hard. It’s hard to pinpoint unless you’ve been there but I had an employee who wrote things like this and they eventually burnt out in a flame of glory after a year of annoying their coworkers with their “personal journey” and acting like everything was a huge struggle

    2. ABK*

      How is this – it’s your own words:
      At the end of the year, I’m reflecting on what a great year 2022 was for me professionally and how thankful I am!
      In January, I was hired into a role (Job A) where I finally felt like my skills were being utilized and the team was great. Although it was brief, my time there helped boost my overall outlook on life and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.
      In July, a promising opportunity arose (Job B) so I joined a consulting organization where I’ve already made several leaps including getting my 1st professional certification and being chosen to join a subteam with higher responsibility.

  4. NotaManager*

    Are there jobs/fields/industries where its possible to continue advancing throughout your career as an individual contributor rather than a people manager/project manager? I feel like I’ve hit a ceiling in my career where I can’t be rewarded/promoted for developing extensive industry/subject knowledge without also managing people. I could get a little further by becoming a project manager full-time (rather than managing projects of day to day work). But I don’t really want to go that route either. I’d rather just get better and better at my industry knowledge.

    1. Behind the curtain*

      Can you narrow down a bit what general area you’re in? For example, people with IT managerial experience would give very different advice than those with medical/scientific experience. Managers need to have knowledge of the basic nature of the jobs of those they manage.

      1. NotaManager*

        Sustainability — background is environmental science, working on corporate responsibility stuff right now.

        1. Spearmint*

          Is consulting an option? This seems like an area of expertise some companies would pay good money for. You may have to strike it out on your own, but if there are consulting firms in your field you could join one of them.

        2. Behind the curtain*

          Ah. Pharmaceutical research hires individual contributors to audit clinical trials. But, usually you need a degree in human physiology or similar & ability to understand medical charts. Don’t need to become a manager.

        3. Yangtze River*

          What you might need is a different company rather than a different field. Start researching large companies and look for what the job titles on their ICs are. You’re looking for a progression that goes through something like X I > X II > Senior X > Principal X, where X is the job title.

          1. KathyG*

            This. At one of my previous employers there were two tracks for advancement: the usual management ladder, and then the Technical Specialist progression.

        4. Rhymetime*

          I relate to this because I share the same perspective. I’ve declined management roles because I’m much happier as an individual contributor.

          Is your field fundraising adjacent? Nonprofit development work is a field where you can advance without having to manage people. My field is grants fundraising, and although I have the title of director, I don’t have any reports.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Could you ask for a new title and more pay commensurate with your experience? E.g. from Llama Groomer to Senior Llama Groomer? I think there is some limit on advancing in hierarchy as an individual contributor.

    3. Love to WFH*

      In software development, smart companies have career paths for people who don’t want to be people-managers or project managers. “Senior”, “Staff”, and “Principal” engineers are paid more, commensurate with their contributions. While they aren’t official managers, they do need to build relationships across teams, and mentor people.

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      I’m a technical accout manager and my company has two tracks: individual contributor or team lead. Like you, I don’t want to take the team lead track, so I’m going to go for senior technical account manager as my end goal. I work in the energy division of a company that does property management software.

    5. TX_Trucker*

      My local municipality has a Sustainability Office. Their conservation “managers” (energy, water, etc) are in charge of programs, but don’t actually have staff reporting to them. I’m not sure if that’s unique to this city, or common in other locations.

    6. MurpMaureep*

      This isn’t so much about a field as about an environment. Consider looking into academic staff positions. For example, if you are in IT look at academic IT, if you are in analytics, look at academic healthcare analytics, if you are in HR, look at University HR, etc.

      I currently manage an analytics group within a major academic medical center (focused on quality and patient safety reporting). I have many staff who are very content as individual contributors but we have a robust career ladder so promotions and advancement are possible. There’s also plenty of work to allow for learning new skills and/or refining existing skills.

      It’s also not uncommon for people in management positions to move back to senior level individual contributors later in their careers. That’s likely the path I’ll take as I get closer to retirement.

      Keep in mind that many of these jobs won’t pay as much as private sector/corporate positions but benefits, vacation time, and work-life balance tend to be better.

    7. Stoppin' by to chat*

      Yes! I work for one of the largest software companies in the world (are we allowed to name our employers here?), and we have a career track for both individual contributors (IC) and people managers. So I would look in the technology/software industry. Or even if a completely different industry, you could always inquire what career tracks look like for individual contributors.

    8. Generic Name*

      I’m a consultant, and I have “manager” in my title (it’s not project manager, although I do that too), and I’m considered “middle management” at my company but I have zero direct reports and the position is not designed to have any direct reports.

    9. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Business Analyst is a good one. I’ve worked with ones that were individual contributors and worked with executives and had access to huge amounts of data and company secrets and got to analyze and eventually contribute ideas (related to processes and best practices) to a wide variety of high level decisions.

  5. Loopy*

    Anyone have any tips for working while dealing with pain? I’m facing a stressful time at work in January, and may have some longer than usual hours for a few weeks. On top of that I’m dealing with pain that is becoming almost constant and feeling panicky about the work stress on top of pain.

    I’m working with a chiropractor and looking into PT but a lot of the exercises and visits result in pain/don’t relieve pain so I’m not sure if anyone out there has tips for how to help work through an experience like this without….bursting into tears in frustration?

    1. Cat Herder*

      I mean, first things first — have you thought about filing for short-term disability/FMLA just in case your pain/injury prevents you from working? Being proactive might help with some of the stress.

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        Yes seconding this. Please look into the process for FMLA and possibly temporary ADA accommodations. They can take some time since you’ll likely have to work with both your doc and your HR dept, if there is one.

        I’ve recently gone through both. Was approved for intermittent FMLA, denied ADA, and approved for temporarty FT telework (though I do go in from time to time when it’s needed for my team). The process took about 5 weeks for me but as Cat Herder says, taking charge of the parts of it I could has been a huge stress relief. I keep reminding myself that my career doesn’t exist separate from my body. And barring any disasters, I have many years left on both, so need to play the long game.

        Good luck and take care of yourself!

    2. ABCYaBYE*

      Without knowing all the specifics of your job and the pain, I make this suggestion that can hopefully be of some assistance: Are there ways to program in little breaks so you can get some time to walk, stretch, etc.? I deal with some chronic pain myself and find that I can manage it somewhat more successfully when I force myself to move around a little bit. Walk to a restroom that is farther away, fill up a water bottle, take 5 minutes to zone out, do some stretching if you’re able to (not like full-on yoga or anything but just the kind of stretching you might do to release some muscle tension). Heck, even force yourself to move to a different location to grab a quick snack or eat a meal. Give yourself a break to walk to buy a beverage at a nearby store or coffee shop. Even though you’re coming back to the work, having those breaks might allow your body and mind to reset a little bit.

    3. Just a different redhead*

      Oof : /
      Is there any chance that you can have, if not fewer hours, flexibility? I know when I’m in this situation, what helps me most of all is spreading a pto day out over a week and leaving a couple hours early each day, but if you can’t do that, could you potentially at least place a few hours’ break into your day earlier than you’d *leave* but then come back to the work for a few hours later?
      Other than that… Is there a chance that you could work in breaks for exercises for 10 minutes on the hour throughout the day? I know you said the exercises don’t necessarily help the pain level though… Do they work towards that as a long-term goal though? Is there anything that alleviates the pain temporarily or at least makes it reverse course if it gets worse throughout the day?
      I’d hate to say “yeah there’s really nothing to do but cry”, even though I do that myself sometimes…

    4. sarillia*

      A lot depends on the type of pain and what exacerbates your specific type.

      Is it affected by temperature? Mine is worse in cold, so making sure I have things like gloves that I can still work in is helpful if I don’t have control over the thermostat.

      Obviously not feasible at work, but I find hot baths, especially with epsom salts can help on my own time and that makes it easier to deal with the pain at work since it wasn’t quite so constant for so long.

      Does the position you’re in affect it? I need to move regularly because I can only stay in the same position for so long before my joints and muscles revolt. Getting up and taking a walk can help if I’ve been sitting too long too.

      There are a lot of other variables, but those are the ones I deal with most and so are the ones that come to mind for me. I hope you can come up with some good ways to make your pain easier to work with.

    5. Morning Flowers*

      As someone who’s had a lot of chronic pain from different sources in her life, sometimes literally disabling, sometimes not, five important takeaways IMO:

      1) Set aside time to breathe out. Even ten minutes at a time. I know when I’m stressed and in pain, I tend to try to cope with it by keeping busy busy busy … which only puts off dealing with it, physically and emotionally. Whatever’s “breathing out” for you — YouTube comedy, meditation, I dunno you know your jam — make *sure* to do it. Don’t save up all your processing the pain till you burst, ’cause you *will* burst.

      2) Experiment with every possible solution for the pain — not sequentially, all at once — no matter how unlikely or nonsensical it might seem that it’ll help. Medical help is great but it can be slow, slow, slow, first to figure out the problem, then to solve it; I’ve noticed a lot of people seem to think they need to wait for a doctor’s or therapist’s instruction to try things. But you don’t! Buy a shiatsu massager; get a heating pad (or three, I have two by my desk right now, one shaped especially to sit on my neck); get a yoga mat and try learning yoga stretches so you can figure out what helps over time (I’ve been to a lot of PT appointments over decades and wish I’d learned yoga sooner because it’s given me more tools for muscle and tendon problems than the PT ever did); get a sit-stand desk; google different stretches/exercises that might be related to the problem you have and try those instead; get an ergonomic keyboard; whatever’s in your budget. You never know what might help. For example — I have thumb pain that a good solid year of doctor’s visits thought must be (and treated me for) tendonitis, before I finally found out it was basically permanently aggravated nerves. I’d already found through trial and error that heat was the best treatment, so while I did try some of the things the doctors recommended (ex. nothing rigid in my sleep braces), my main treatment for the pain is just wearing 1-2 layers of fingerless wool gloves at all times to keep the sensitized part of my thumb nerves warm, and retraining myself to type without using my thumbs. It wasn’t a suggestion from anyone else, and it was probably like thing #25 I tried, but trying 25 things did in fact eventually get me there.

      3) Don’t downplay your pain, to yourself or others. A lot of people (me included) have this sort of first instinct to Suck It Up. That can work for short-term problems … less so for long-term problems, or worsening problems. Tell your family and friends the pain is bad. Ask them for specific things they can do to help, even if it’d be a little out of their way (ex. “I *cannot* unload the bottom rack of the dishwasher because I have to bend over, can you do that until further notice”?). Let them help you; allow your pain to be seen. Your support network isn’t assholes (statistically) and will help however they can.

      4) Trust your judgment about what is and isn’t a good idea. I have argued with half the PTs I ever saw and I was almost always right when I did it. If they tell you to do X exercise 10 times and by time 2 you’re screaming … well, see my previous anecdote about a misdiagnosed problem (which the misapplied treatment likely exacerbated, too). Now, it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes between “this is starting to work so it hurts” and “this HURTS LIKE HECK and is NOT GONNA HELP,” but there’s what I call the “scream threshold” — if doing something causes you to scream or restrain a scream, dollars to doughnuts it’s the wrong approach for your problem. (Ex. fixing a chronic problem with my back took me six weeks of learning yoga in near-continual severe pain, but I could tell I was getting somewhere; doing the thumb exercises a PT gave me made me screech instantly like a banshee as I simply further aggravated what turned out to be an already upset nerve, I stopped immediately and found other solutions.) You are the expert on you; anyone else you go to see is support for that, they’re not the ones steering the ship — or dealing with the pain. (This is part of why not downplaying your pain is important — you aren’t in control of a situation you’re hiding or downplaying. Strange as it may sound, being forthright about pain can be empowering and confidence-boosting.)

      5) Don’t avoid medication on principle (unless you’re worried about addiction, but you’ll know better than I do if that’s a worry for you). Muscle relaxants don’t solve underlying problems, for example, but they sure can help back your body down from an acute unbearable condition so you *can* start addressing the underlying problem with muscles. Ex. I have muscle relaxants (and even narcotic pain medication), and I use them when I need them, but taking every other step I can means I barely ever need them. They’re one tool in my toolbox, it’s not a failure to need them (or want them!).

      1. JSPA*

        There are some muscle groups that are famously unpleasant to have deep-massaged or stretched (teres, e.g.) but even then, something about the process should feel better, not worse, with repetitions.

        I’ve had much more success with deep myofascial therapies than standard PT. (In fact, I’ve had more success with YouTube videos than standard PT, on average.) In textbooks, there’s an idealized bone structure, and one standard branching and routing for nerves, circulatory system, muscles… but real bodies can vary wildly from that idealized picture.

        I avoid people with a strict recipe for “treating X condition” in favor of people who have greater awareness that they’re treating my body in a state of having X condition. It’s not just semantics; the resulting process of finding what helps (or, how to adjust it so it helps) is vastly different.

        At work and at the doctor’s, the first step is believing that you matter, and that seeking reasonable physical comfort, as a living being, is not something anyone should be treating as optional, or a bother.

        If you treat it as, “I have a pinched nerve, of course I need to [do X] every few [time period],” there’s a fair chance people will mirror your “of course, yes, that’s normal and fine” attitude.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Hello from a fellow chronic pain sufferer.

      Internal Family Systems has been pretty life changing for me.

      I’m going to post a link in a separate comment. If the link doesn’t work, Google “how to do IFS on symptoms” and “integral guide”

    7. Ouch*

      I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.

      You asked about suggestions:
      Good idea pursuing PT. While I’ve had chiropractic treatment be very helping, it’s been PT that has really addressed the root cause of problems.

      I’ve found working from home to really help. I had neuropathy, and could use a heating pad to diminish it until I got treatment. I can also work-from-recliner, which is easier for me that sitting at a desk.

    8. Me ... Just Me*

      I can’t offer too many suggestions, because I’m just limping along myself. I had constant pain that I deal with, which exacerbates during work and with increased stress. Try to get some rest at home. Limit things outside of work that might contribute to your pain while you’re having the increased work stress. If it’s musculoskeletal pain, you might try dragon balm — it’s the best OTC “rub” that I’ve found. Get the white as the yellow can stain clothes. I buy mine from amazon. Ice packs (even at work) and ibuprofen (with food). I’m sorry you’re going through this and I hope that your pain doesn’t get worse!

    9. Jenna Webster*

      As someone who worked full-time with constant chronic pain for 19 years before the miracle drug Humira came along, you have my deepest empathy. Please make sure to keep your expectations reasonable. If you have to work 8 hours, it is unlikely that you can also make dinner, do dishes, keep the house clean. When I got home, I mostly laid on the couch and whimpered a bit until bedtime. I hope you have a support network who can help with some of the rest of those things. Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself, be proud of what you do accomplish, and rest as much as you possibly can. Working through pain is not only hard in and of itself, but it is draining emotionally and spiritually too, so just remind yourself that doing your best is going to look really different for a while. Hang in there!

    10. Alex*

      Be gentle with yourself. Don’t be afraid to a) call in sick when you don’t feel well enough to work b) ask for flexibility casually and c) go through the FMLA process if you need to. Pushing yourself and working through the pain is not going to make things get better! Your body gets priority over work emergencies. Setting that healthy boundary in your mind ahead of when you need to make in a pain/stress moment might help.

    11. WoodswomanWrites*

      Do you have a diagnosis for what’s causing the pain? If not, that may be why your current regimen hasn’t been helpful.

      I’m a believer in the best of all traditions in medicine. My acupuncturist put it well. She said that western medicine excels at diagnosis. Once you know what’s going on, you can choose treatment from a number of options and practitioners.

    12. DJ*

      Is it possible to link in with a pain management clinic to see if more can be done either for your pain or managing it/pacing so it’s more bearable?
      Do you have control over when and how you perform your work tasks so that you can reduce pain flare ups. i.e. do a standing/walking task at regular intervals?
      Is working from home some days an option as that makes it easier to pace yourself?

    13. Alternative Person*

      Simplifying meals and meal prep was a big step for helping me to manage my stress. Making one large batch for lunch during the week, and keeping things that are easy to prepare for breakfast and dinner in the cupboard means I always have nutritionally good food on hand which in turn helps me keep my energy levels up, my productivity decent and in turn, my stress more manageable.

    14. In Case Helpful*

      It depends on what kind of pain you’re dealing with, but with my own kind of chronic pain I’ve had a lot of success with a book/method called Unlearn Your Pain, by Dr Howard Schubiner. He explains his approach in this great podcast episode with a Dr. Rangan Chattergee (if you Google both their names, you’ll find the podcast).

      1. In Case Helpful*

        Ps. Oh lord I didn’t mean to sound like one of those folks who say “just do this and you’ll be cured!” No waaaaaaay. I know everyone’s different

    15. Silverose*

      I’ve been working with chronic pain for about a decade now. It depends on the type of pain and the type of work you do. If you do physical labor, you may need to consider a career change or talk to vocational rehab for assistance. If you do office work (or office work combined with home visits – looking at you, social workers), it’s easier. Things like nursing and education are somewhere in between.

      First, if your pain is joint (or spine) related, talk to your doc about prescriptions and OTC topicals to help with inflammation. Second, figure out if cold or heat works better for you and keep the preferred method at work – and tell them it’s a needed ADA accommodation if anyone tries to push back on it. Use that relief method as often as recommended or needed, whether it’s a heating pad or an ice pack that you need space in the break room freezer for. Third, use ADA accommodation language to take breaks as often as your doc recommends for your condition – this may require a written doctor’s note to your HR. Fourth, set up intermittent FMLA before you think you will need it so you can take occasional days off if it gets to a point where you’re having too much trouble moving or have excessive medical appointments to attend. Fifth, consider counseling with someone who specializes in chronic health or medical trauma. It sounds unbelievable, but there are some mental tricks and visualizations than can help manage pain, and it’s generally the therapists that specialize in medical conditions that know them.

  6. Only Person In The Office Before Break*

    The majority of my role is to create policies and procedures so that things don’t get missed and common processes run smoothly and consistently.

    The issue? While everyone is happy to contribute feedback in the development and is excited to “finally have a standard policy!”, there is very little follow-through on actually using the newly established procedures.

    For example, I just created an entire onboarding and offboarding complete with checklists of common tasks–but people seem to continue just doing stuff as they remember to and skipping parts all together resulting in staff not being properly trained or missing information (like benefit sign-up stuff).

    I guess my question is how to make sure people follow the established guidelines? I don’t have any managerial power, but all of the staff’s managers have buy-in. And the people needing to execute all agree it’s a good idea–but they just don’t do it. It’s demoralizing for me to work on something for 3-6 months just to have it sit and collect dust.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I’ve worked in jobs where I had to implement changes, and getting buy-in is half the battle. So congrats on having that already. But really, any culture shift needs to come from above. Since the managers are on board, can you work with them directly? Ask them to remind their employees to use it and to (politely and discreetly) remind the employees when they’re not using it. It often just takes time and a lot of reminders, but it will have more weight coming from the top.

      1. Lucy P*

        I 2nd that, that it has to come from above. We’ve made so many policies for our production dept that are supposed to make things run smoother. At the end of the day when things are in a rush to get out, upper management let’s the rules slide for the sake of getting things out the door.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Is there any measurement of compliance? E.g. when we onboard/offboard, we get a report about whether it was done timely (and “done” includes all the steps). Also, are there specific people responsible for specific things? It could be part of their review standards–you’d need management support for that.

      1. Vanellope*

        This is where my thoughts went – the whole “inspect what you expect” effect. I know you said you don’t have managerial authority over people, but is there an internal audit or compliance department you could loop in? Or even HR if it’s onboarding, just check a sample of new hire files for the checklist, etc. Even if there aren’t consequences, just the threat of managers receiving violation reports on their departments might nudge people to remember to fall in line?

    3. Dear liza dear liza*

      Since you have buy-in but not follow through, I’d meet with the contributors and ask them why it’s not happening. In that meeting, have them develop a way for there to be accountability, and then all together schedule a meeting with them in X weeks to see if the checklist is being used. If it’s still not working, then I’d work with their managers to find an appropriate carrot/stick.

    4. ferrina*

      Ugh, that is the worst!!!!! If I knew how to make people follow procedures of their own accord, I’d write a book and be a millionaire.

      Until then….it sounds like the pain point is the transition process. How do you get people to break old habits and go through the mental lift of learning something new? You need 2 things: buy-in and accountability.
      Buy-in is more than a nod or a signature- it’s actual excitement. Talk to people in small groups or 1:1 to get them hyped about the new process. I know that sounds hokey, but it works- if people are emotionally invested, they are more likely to lean in to the transition process. Acknowledge that the transition will feel weird but it’s important. It can help by telling them that you want them to try it a couple times then give feedback- showing that you want their opinion on the completed process will help them feel more valued and invested.
      Accountability is often more a reminder than discipline. It’s reminding people that there is a new process, then following up with them to check if they followed the new process. Usually this is best approached as supportive- they aren’t in trouble, you just want to see how you can help them. This is also where the feedback element comes in- you can say “Hey, we’ve got a new X coming up and we’re going to try the new process. I’ll check in with you periodically to see how the new process went and if we should be tweaking anything”. That helps with buy-in, but also let’s folks know that you’ll be checking in to make sure they followed the process. You can even put meeting times on their calendar in advance to help remind them. I’ve also offered to shadow people the first time they use it- sometimes there’s a bit of fear around trying the new thing, and just having someone with them helps.

      If these don’t work, then it’s time to loop in the manager for support and possibly reprecussions.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Seconding this approach. If nothing happens (or others don’t notice) if people don’t follow the steps, they stop thinking they’re important.

        So I’d consider scheduling the check ins and publishing measures of compliance (x/y people have turned in their onboarding checklists; we are at 75% compliance with Z) that managers have easy access to.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        OMG yes, I was going to say “hello me!” The narrative du jour at my job is me pushing back on upper management asking for new reports and system checks with me reminding them that no one uses the ones we made for our previous problems, but it also costs a lot of money to have staff here actually following up on the checks and new processes and maintaining them!

    5. Me ... Just Me*

      Are these materials readily available to those who need them? Often with new procedures, there is a problem with roll-out. Communication regarding the new process might be lacking as might be actual availability of the new forms. You could offer to inservice staff on their use and the new procedure.

    6. Tinkererbell*

      What incentives, positive or negative, are there for folks to follow through? What are the pain points that are contributing to the lack of uptake? I think those questions would be at the heart of next steps for this implementation stage.

    7. Tio*

      You need some sort of measurement for the compliance with the SOPs, showing who’s not complying and how often. (i.e. 7 people missed the benefits deadline, Sally skipped this step 3 times, etc) and then follow up with those managers and have them enforce the metric. If they’re not enforcing, you may need to go over their heads and request help from other management.

      Also, depending on what your title is, you may not have direct managing authority but you may have broader general authority. For example, going off the benefits statement, if you’re in HR, you are usually seen to have a general authority over most workers. Everyone is supposed to listen to HR.

    8. Adrian*

      Some people just don’t want to take responsibility, or do things themselves.

      PastEmployer made some vast improvements in its online conference room booking system. One was enabling assistants to book all the rooms for an internal multi-office conference, themselves in a single reservation. Previously one had to go thru the CR manager or the receptionist, who had access to the entire system.

      However, someone had to be the designee to coordinate the participants and make the reservation. Not all assistants took that initiative.

      Then some people just wouldn’t learn to use the system themselves, period. They’d always email the CR manager or receptionist to make their reservations for them.

    9. Polopoly*

      Even without managerial authority, can you keep track of how often each particular process is being followed correctly and/or how often there are variances ?

      Sometimes just compiling that info and sharing it is enough to motivate people to keep their metrics up

    10. Alternative Person*

      Could you organize training sessions?

      One reason for the miserable roll out of a new system at my job is the lack of training we’ve had on it (the rest is the system is a mess, but that’s a different topic).

      Also, are these procedures easily available and are you proactively following up on them?

      Part of introducing new work flows is getting people to use it enough to create new habits, making it easily accessible and making sure it is used when needed. This means putting forms in trays, relabeling things, maybe even putting up notices and just plain reminding people. It can feel weird to e-mail someone saying ‘make sure you do X with Y, form is attached’ (or similar), but it can be an effective way of making sure the new habit is formed.

    11. Bob Howard*

      My experience is that unless there is a top-management driven internal audit process complete with public Nonconformance Reports, 5-Why root cause analysis & Corrective Action Reports , it simply is not going to happen. This kind of process is the sort of thing you have in place if you work to the AS9100 aerospace suppliers standard. Otherwise people will do whatever is easyist at the time, and see anything else as extra work that can be avoided.

      Of course, I am assuming that there is an easy way for people to find the documents, be sure that this is the latest version, and raise change requests if there is an issue.

      There can be difficulty even with an internal engineering safety standard, where an accident due to non-compliance will lead to prison time. Again, internal audit is often the only way to find deviation before it leads to an issue such as a near-miss.

    12. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      You need an implementation plan too! Communicate with the managers. Find out when the next person is to be onboarded and set up some meetings with the person doing the onboarding. Is one of your checklists for the new employee? We have a checklist for both sides. We also use a task-tracking software. All the tasks are in a template which makes it easy to create a new task list for that person.

  7. HamSandwich*

    tldr: is there a polite way to show/tell a higher up that my boss is taking credit for my work and plans to use that credit to get a promotion?

    My grandboss is likely getting a promotion, bringing the department into a restructuring phase. He outlined this new structure with us and there will be an opening in the position above mine (my current boss’s position will be eliminated/moved/changed). I would like to get that new higher position.
    At the moment, my current boss is incompetent. She’s claimed her direct reports’ wins as her own with literally zero to show for herself. In our line of work, there’s a certain level of political savvy + institutional understanding for processes (ie we cannot make decisions on our own without bringing in other departments like legal, comms, etc) and she simply does not have any background with these things. She’d be working over finance, comms, PR, as well as day to day operations. She has zero experience here. I have experience with 90% of it.

    Is there a polite, non-sassy way to let the grandboss that I’m better qualified? I don’t think he is going to do Legit Interviews for the position and may just take the next-highest and move her up (which would be my current supervisor). If that happens, it’s going to be a disaster and I’ll likely leave soon after.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Not having an actual vetting process for a position that high is terrible management. Anyway, I think you should talk to grandboss about what the process is going to be and indicate your interest in it.

    2. ferrina*

      You can’t critique your current boss, but you can promote yourself. Often the grandboss isn’t aware of what you’re actually doing. So first- let him know you’re interested! He won’t know to talk to you until you say something!

      Next, guide him through what he needs to know. He may be ready to stamp off on the move without the process, so make it easy for him to do the process with you. Bring an updated resume with you (make it really well formatted) and ask for half an hour to chat with him about why you think you’d be a good candidate. You don’t need to call it an interview- in fact, it may be better if you don’t. During this “chat”, be prepared to lead the conversation. If he doesn’t want to do interviews, don’t make him do the work- do the work for him! Talk through some of your greatest accomplishments and what your vision for the future is.

      Finally, reclaim credit. If your boss has been presenting your work as hers, you can say things like “I redesigned the quarterly TPS report and reporting process to highlight the metrics that are most important to shareholders. I was very proud when Boss selected my design to share with the shareholders, and she didn’t even make any edits to what I had given her!” This wording 1) tells the grandboss that it was your work and 2) doesn’t bash Boss- you don’t know if she’d mentioned it was your work, or if she was supposed to ‘lead’ the redesign or delegate it or what.
      Good luck!

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        This is great advice! Take pains NOT to bash your boss or you’re just not going to look good to the grand-boss. But, you can point out your accomplishments without comparing them to anyone else.

  8. Hello*

    This blurs the lines with business and personal… I guess I’m asking for advice on both ends. I feel silly writing this.

    For those of you who mail physical holiday cards, would you be offended or think it was unprofessional to receive a hand made greeting card (birthday, new years, Xmas)?

    Years ago as a stress release I started an online Etsy shop with a few crafty items including greeting cards. Given that I had trouble sleeping in and wanted to something not involving electronics this was a fun thing to do before work and family tasks began.

    Surprisingly things took off on Etsy and locally at some odds and end shops… I’ve got a cute, fun side gig.

    Side note like everyone over the years Ive gotten to be friends with former co-workers, networking contacts in a social setting.

    Cards are hand drawn, water color, scrapbooked, and many other forms.

    Not many people know I do this. It all started because I’d forget to buy cards when my children went to birthday parties!

    I’d love to start giving out greeting cards for the holidays but feel like I’m saying- I did an arts and crafts project please hang me on your fridge. Selfishly my company name is stamped on the back, so while I would be sending them out of love I am hoping this segways into “advertising “…anonymously. I’ve never given my own cards out personally.

    So dear readers, would you be offended personally or networking friend wise receiving a hand made greeting card?

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Yes, I would be offended. Horribly so. I’d probably file a police report.

      Obviously, I am joking. No, no one is going to be offended. You win the award for “Overthinker of the Week.” Just send the handmade card. Handmade cards are charming.

      1. Hello*

        lol I’m overthinking yes. Im looking at this as something fun and “worry” a networking acquaintance would think it’s juvenilE

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          That one acquaintance can think whatever he/she likes. If someone is really petty and small enough to try to hurt your professional reputation over a greeting card it’s going to say a lot more about them than you!

    2. ABCYaBYE*

      I think this sounds awesome! We just got one that featured artwork that the family did and it was incredibly unique. Not that other cards aren’t appreciated, but those that are unique or different make them a whole lot more fun to receive, I think.

    3. cat socks*

      I would not be offended. I think it would be wonderful to receive a handmade card. And I would definitely make note of your company for my future card buying needs.

    4. Barbara Eyiuche*

      No. My sister and one of my former bosses send out handmade cards, and they look just as good or better than store-bought cards.

    5. Bird Lady*

      I would be delighted to receive such a card. A colleague gave me an adorable felted pumpkin and I asked her if she would make me another if I paid her. It was the perfect gift for my Halloween obsessed friend!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        One of my colleagues knits between calls and she made our cat two knit mousies for Christmas! You can bet I handed her a twenty right away!

    6. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’d be vaguely charmed, put it on my mantel and not worry about it. Everyone is doing their own thing.

    7. ICodeForFood*

      I love it when I get handmade holiday cards from my artistic friends! I can’t imaging anyone being offended… and if they are, maybe they should not be on your list of card recipients!

    8. RagingADHD*

      A nice, handmade greeting card would be lovely. The only reason they aren’t common in the business world is that you can’t pre-print them in bulk, so they are expensive.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      For context, I despise TV, radio, print, and Internet advertising, but I would not at all think of even a logo that takes up the whole back of the card as “advertising”! It’s more branding, and if anything I would probably be really grateful for it if at some point I forgot who made it (which I doubt I would, I still remember the co-worker who I bought hand-painted mugs from over 10 years ago and who left the company soon after)! You shouldn’t consider it advertising any more than an artist signing their work, IMO.

    10. Irish Teacher*

      No, of course I wouldn’t be offended. One of my colleagues makes handmade cards and sells them at work. She was unsure about doing it again this year, but somebody asked her to. She also makes them to send herself.

    11. Third or Nothing!*

      I LOVE getting handmade cards! I have some watercolor ones displayed in a place of honor at my tea station (I’m super into tea, so this is just barely below the fridge level, which is reserved for my daughter’s masterpieces:) ).

    12. Blomma*

      I paint watercolor holiday cards for family, friends, and coworkers. My coworkers are so thrilled to receive them each year! One coworker has the cards from the past few years on display in her WFH workspace. This year one of my coworkers and two of my coworkers’ husbands (via their wives) suggested I should be making cards professionally. The cards make people so happy, which brings me joy in return. Go for it!

    13. goddessoftransitory*

      Absolutely not! My mother does handmade cards every year and I treasure them.

      If these are for work/networking specifically, I would stick to pretty neutral subjects: Happy Holidays, winter scenes, a cardinal in the snow, and so on. For friends you can of course tailor them to their whimsies and fancies.

    14. Elle Woods*

      I *LOVE* handmade cards and if I got one I would definitely be considering your store for my future card needs.

    15. kitryan*

      I received a hand painted (watercolor, abstract geometric design) holiday card from a work friend a few years back. I thought it was very sweet that they gave me a card at all and +1 on that they’d put forth that extra time/effort to hand make their card(s).

    16. Bluebell*

      A friend of mine usually makes handmade greeting cards and I love them. This year she sent out the standard greeting card with several photos and I was disappointed. So please, you should do handmade ones!

    17. Evy*

      A coworker at my former workplace makes handmade cards and they would give them out on birthdays, special occasions, holidays, etc. We all really liked them. I have several that I’ve kept because they are so cute.

    18. Ainsley Hayes*

      I would love it! And I would appreciate it so much more than some of the preprinted cards we receive.

    19. Generic Name*

      Aw, bless. I’d love it! It sounds like they are professional quality given that people pay you for them. But even if they were more home craft level and not “people buy this”, I’d be appreciative.

    20. DJ Abbott*

      My friend across the hall just gave me a card that’s a picture of her pet with a glittery note attached, and written on the back. So sweet and touching, I love it! It’s a keeper. :)
      I think anything that shows you were thinking of the person as an individual and wanted to give them something nice will be very much appreciated. They may not even realize the company is yours, unless you tell them.

    21. allathian*

      I’d never be offended. Before the pandemic a coworker who loves paper crafting made personalized greeting cards for everyone at the office that she’d worked with during the year. They were personalized, but the last one wished a happy new year without mentioning the year, so it’s still hanging on my bulletin board. I don’t want to throw it away because it’s so pretty.

  9. Keeper of the books but not a librarian*

    Quick question – I work for a CPA firm as a Bookkeeper in the Tax Department. However, the job duties and the rules/standards I’m held to are exactly the same as for the associates (entry/mid/senior level) tax accountants in my department. Should my title be changed?

    Now the context –

    I have 5+ years experience as a tax accountant but this is my first job at this kind of company. I’ve been here about 6 months. I had been looking for more bookkeeping jobs so I saw this listing and applied. The process was very quick. The salary range was $50,000-$65,000. I was offered $65k. I was hired with the intent to replace someone who would be retiring in a few years. I report to one partner primarily but other partners can give me assignments.

    Recently, my peers expressed surprise that I was part of their department. They thought I was my own department. I’ve sat next to them for months and been a part of several conversations and mentioned many times that I do “everything”, so I was confused as to why they didn’t think I was one of them.

    Now, I’m not too upset by their confusion but its now making me wonder if I should ask about a title change. I dont’ recall exact parameters, but few months ago I checked a salary guide and my current compensation was very close to what an entry or mid-level tax accountant would be. However (and I have not done the research yet), I’m not sure how my future earnings will be impacted by having the title of bookkeeper.

    I am NOT expecting nor asking for a salary change at this time. Evaluations take place in the summertime and I am expecting them to be fair and reasonable. But I also know that tax associates get bonuses after tax season – I want to make sure I’m eligible to receive them as well as fair pay increases. I’m scared if I work busy season hours I’ll be told Im not eligible b/c of my title. To be clear – nothing the company has done has indicated they would do that but I’m a little burned by things that happened at my previous job.

    Otherwise….I truly like working here. My coworkers are reasonably pleasant, and the partner I work for has expressed several times he likes me and is satisfied with my work, and the person I’ll be replacing has been an amazing source of guidance and help (dare I say, mentor???) I like this company, and I intend to stay here for as long as I reasonably can. Many people here have stayed for 5+ years, some even spanning decades!

    So given everything I’ve mentioned, is my thinking reasonable? If yes, how do I approach this conversation? If no, should I wait to bring it up in my annual eval?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I would want to know how your duties and job description vary from that of a tax accountant. I also think you should ask your manager about whether you’re bonus eligible regardless of your title.

      1. Keeper of the books but not a librarian*

        I’m sorry, do you mean post the duties and job description here for you all to advise on or research these and bring them up if/when I meet with my manager?

        1. ThatGirl*

          No, I’m saying /you/ should know what your title’s duties are vs what the accountant role’s are. There may be a good reason for keeping them separate, or they may be functionally the same. Is there anything you hope to accomplish with a title change beyond the bonus?

          1. Keeper of the books but not a librarian*

            Oh okay. I can’t find the job listing anymore nor did I save it back then; my company’s website also does not have any job duties posted anywhere so I’m not sure I’ll be able to compare. I just know that functionally, I am doing everything the tax accountants do.

            I did learn a while back that multiple people had applied for that position; once they were hired they were put in different roles (obv after discussion and all, so not a bait-and-switch), one as admin and one as controller. I think they had just advertised for one position and figured if they liked a candidate they would make room for them.

            My biggest concerns about a job are my job duties, the organizational structure/who I report to and the compensation. I’m satisfied with the first two, and I’m content with my current salary, but I am now concerned about the bonus and future raises.

            1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

              Is there a reason can’t just ask your manager directly? “The other accountants made this comment and that made me wonder, does that affect me in x y z possible ways?”

              1. Keeper of the books but not a librarian*

                Umm well yes, I can ask him directly. But my whole reason for asking here is to make sure I’m not being unreasonable or off base in any way.

    2. Sindirella*

      Is it education related? You don’t mention your education level, only experience. Does the Tax Associate require a 4-year degree, while the Bookkeeper position only requires an Associates, or something like that? We have a few “associate” level employees that are fully capable of doing “senior” level work, but we can’t give them that title because of HR bureaucratic bullshit around education levels.

      1. Keeper of the books but not a librarian*

        That’s a really good point! I do have a Bachelor’s but not in Accounting. I am unable to locate any job descriptions including the one I applied to so I can’t say for sure what it was.
        If education is part of the criteria for title, then that’s OK – I understand the limitations my degree can hold.

    3. Spencer Hastings*

      I am an associate at a CPA firm who does tax, so I’m coming at it from that perspective. These sound like extremely reasonable questions to ask your supervisor. If it were me, I wouldn’t wait for the evaluation — I’d just bring up in my next one-on-one meeting that I had some questions about what the similarities and differences are between my job and the associates’ (in terms of expectations for busy season hours, compensation, etc), or that I’ve heard that the associates do X and I wanted to make sure if that applies to me too because I’m also preparing tax returns.

      Also, are there any clues you can gather from looking at what the job duties are of the person you’re replacing? (Do they spend all their time doing bookkeeping, or do they also prepare tax returns? What does their schedule look like in terms of overtime? Whatever their job is now, is that going to be Future You’s job, or is the firm going in a different direction by combining bookkeeping and associate duties in one position?)

      1. Keeper of the books but not a librarian*

        When I was first hired, I spent a lot of time with the person I’ll be replacing (let’s call her Mary) so I got a good sense of what she does. She does everything as well, including the extra hours; the best way I could describe it would be seniority but not supervisory/managerial responsibilities. But I don’t know her official title or if she even has her CPA license.

        My theory is that Bk is what she’s really skilled in, and that’s what she became known for, and by extension, what I would be doing. You raised a really great question on if the company may go in a different direction and combine the two duties; I think that’s likely. I have actually been wanting to sit down and talk to her about The Future but I wasn’t sure how to bring that up either (I was actually going to post another thread in the coming weeks ha!)

        Fortunately, Mary is very approachable, so I think these are things I can reasonably ask her next time I see her. While I do get along well with my manager, she’s more of the “hey I wanted to bounce something off of you because I’m still new” kind of person and has been helpful.

  10. Joe's Manager*

    I’m having some problems with a recent direct report. I know based on reading this site that the answer is probably just “use your words” but I’m open to any advice too.

    I recently started managing people about a year ago, and I’ve had 4 direct reports although one person recently left for a different job. We’re part of a bigger group where I was sort of a mentor/trainer to many of the folks but our business is growing so we hired more people and I became a co-manager because it became too many for one person. But I have expertise is in this job and have met a lot of new folks so I have some idea of what to expect.

    But currently I have one employee, Joe, who is just surprisingly slow at getting up to speed. So far I’ve had one incredible worker and two who took a bit longer but got where they needed to be. Joe’s work is sloppy and seems careless. He entirely lacks basic problem solving skills. For example, he had a technical issue with online training. I told him to email a certain mailbox, which he did. They emailed him back saying they weren’t the right group to fix it but gave a list of 3 things he should do instead, including contacting the correct group. And he just … didn’t do any of it? It was so bizarre. I asked him to forward me that email and then literally told him to just do exactly the things on the list. This is the toughest thing for me to fix because how do you teach basic problem solving to someone who can’t figure out to do exactly what’s told to him unless his manager tells him to?

    This next part is more of a rant. I have been reminded from managing entry-level employees that I often need to explain things that have become normal to me, but Joe takes this to another level. We generate a bunch of reports which each have to get reviewed by several people, including me. So he sent me his first one and had kept on track changes from a previous similar one used a template, but kept all the old text there with the red underline. I didn’t think I would have to tell him to send a clean finalized copy, but apparently I needed to so I did. He sent that one to the next round of reviewers all polished up (also needed to fix some weird formatting/font stuff). But the next time he sent a report, it was a huge mess again. So I guess I need to tell him that when I give him feedback it applies to that report and all future reports. I never expected that I needed to be that explicit, but here we are.

    He also makes tons and tons of careless mistakes. He’ll copy from older versions of reports and ignore the more recent edits. He’ll put seemingly random stuff in various fields. When I send it back with a detailed list of 4 things to fix, he’ll only fix 3 or will somehow change something that was into something wrong. And he doesn’t ask for help! I don’t know if he’s afraid to ask even though I specifically told him to ask me or another coworker. Or if he’s confidently incorrect?

    In January I’ll talk to him about his performance and explicitly state that feedback on one report applies to all future reports. I’ll tell him that he needs to make fewer mistakes and that he should be checking the SOPs regularly and asking for help when he’s unsure. But what can I even do about the complete lack of basic problem-solving skills? I’m not very hopeful but I don’t want that to cloud my judgment in case he does improve.

    1. ferrina*

      You can make problem-solving skills a requirement for the job. “Own XYZ” or “figure out ABC, escalating as necessary” is a reasonable job requirement. You’ll want to talk with him more about what that looks like, but “when I tell you that you need to reach out to ABC and solve Y, you need to be able to take proactive steps to do this.” Talk with your boss to make sure that you have the right wording.

      But it may be a non-issue. From what you’ve said about Joe, he’s in PIP territory. You should be talking with your boss about writing a PIP for him. Part of that PIP should include owning his work (which is another way of saying “basic problem-solving”), but it sounds like that will only be part of the PIP. Make sure you have structures where he can ask for help (like 1:1s or being available- it sounds like you may already have all this), but it’s fine to respond, “Joe, this is something that doesn’t need to be escalated to me. I expect you to be able to know and take the next steps on your own. Is there a reason why you aren’t doing this here?” There’s a slight chance he’ll flag a legitimate issue of concern; more likely he’ll word salad something, and you can respond “This is firmly in the category of things you can deal with on your own. In fact, managing this kind of issue on your own is an expectation of your job, and I need you to be able to do this.”

    2. Tio*

      Yeah, he’s in PIP territory. You need to be making notes of his mistakes – address them with him in the moment, so he knows there is a problem and is not surprised by a list of mistakes in january, but you need hard numbers. You’ve made a lot of mistakes usually gets pushed back on – you’ve made x mistakes in Y weeks is concrete. Also see what kinds of mistakes they are – are they in very different areas, showing a general lack of knowledge, or concentrated on one area that may need improving?

      Once that’s set, you’ll need to put him on a PIP, if not now then soon. Make sure there are specific goals – less than z errors per day/week, must take a certain training/retraining course or session with a coworker, does not bring problems with clear solutions. Make note of how he adheres to these metrics so you again have specific evidence and examples when he’s ready to get on or off the PIP, and ensure he knows that his job is on the line.

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      Sounds like PIP-time to address the larger pattern of careless work and disregarded feedback. Best of luck… doesn’t sound like he’s a good fit for your company.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      It’s good that you’ve been giving him feedback all along, and have reiterated that the feedback you give applies to all FUTURE work, not just THIS assignment. But I think you need to address the overall pattern. “Joe, I’m seeing some patterns in your work that are problematic. First, you make a lot of errors that you shouldn’t be making by this point. These are errors that you should catch if you are deliberate about your work and take the time to review it before submitting it. [Give examples.] I need you to start reducing those errors. Start taking more time to review your work for errors before submitting it to me. If you are uncertain about a policy/procedure, I need you to be proactive about asking me or a coworker BEFORE submitting your work, so you can get it right the first time.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Oops. Hit submit too soon. I’m Joe. LOL. Anyway, I would add:
        “Second, you will take feedback on board for one assignment, but then will make the same mistakes on the next assignment. I want you to assume that unless I specify otherwise, any feedback I give you applies to ALL the work you do here.”

        I think a PIP is absolutely going to be necessary here. Hopefully he’ll be able to turn it around. I too managed a Joe once. The employee was intelligent and experienced in a related field with transferable skills, but for some reason, it took FOREVER for them to learn things like “in situation X, we provide product A. In situation Y, we provide product B.” And even when I explained, they would do the wrong thing and then give it to me for review, rather than say, “hey, I’m still not 100% clear on what I need to do in this situation.” Eventually, the penny dropped for them, and they are now a very good employee in most ways. We never got to PIP territory with this person, but for a while I was afraid they might not make it past their probationary period.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Agree with the PIP suggestions. Also want to ask: does Joe take notes?

      He sounds like someone who might benefit from a written record to consult. ( If there’s no written training manual, that might be something to invest thought in.)

      But more to the point, he doesn’t seem to be able to transfer “do this for X report” on to “do this for all reports.” If he’s writing things down you can say “I need you to consult your notes on what to do in this situation.” And since in theory they’re his own notes, he should be able to interpret them to grasp the task.

    6. MurpMaureep*

      Adding another voice to the general consensus of Joe not being a good fit and likely needing to be put on an improvement plan and, potentially, managed out.

      In my previous position I inherited an employee like this (I knew before taking the job that there was someone with performance issues). She’d gotten a ton of coaching, feedback, mentoring, and advice but simply could not keep track of details or learn/retain basic parts of the job. She was causing a ton more work for the rest of the department and it was a mess. I ended up overseeing the end of her PIP until she decided to resign rather than get fired. It was a bad situation all around, but the lesson I learned was to heed warning signs early and start formal performance management as soon as possible. Sometimes people learn and improve, but if they can’t or won’t it’s better for everyone for them to move on.

    7. AnonyAnony*

      Manager here. I agree with other commenters that PIP is in cards.

      What you described in the 2nd part of your post are actually significant performance issues, I’m not sure why you qualified it as “more of a rant?” It is not. Joe’s work quality is poor. His mistakes create loads of extra work for you and other staff. Sounds like he is not able to create the report on his own without a great deal of extra oversight.

      I don’t think trusting your gut on being unhopeful is clouding your judgment. At some point, it doesn’t matter WHY Joe are making all these mistake. Whether Joe has the capacity to improve may also not be important. What matters is Joe isn’t doing the job he is being paid to do.

    8. Glazed Donut*

      Sounds like you hired the guy I let go a few months ago! Realistically speaking, from an optimistic standpoint: Sounds like he is thinking he’s following YOUR directions and because of that doesn’t want to listen to others. Have you given him permission to take direction from others (ie with the email example)?
      For projects, can you force a check-in before the report is due? Have you covered how to turn off/clear/clean up track changes?
      If those are all yes (and they may very well be), then I’d be really clear: if X doesn’t happen, then Y will need to — hopefully a PIP.

    9. Yangtze River*

      Blizzard Warning down below made a comment that reads like a mis-threaded reply to this. It’s an excellent comment, and I encourage you to read it even if it was not a mis-threaded reply to this.

      I would not jump right to a PIP just yet. What you are calling problem-solving skills are sometimes known as adaptive skills. They are different from cognitive skills. Just as people have different levels of ability and cognitive skills (for example, some people are great at calculus and some people are not), people also have different levels of ability in adaptive skills.And just like people who are not great at calculus can get better at calculus, people who are not great at adaptive skills can get better at adaptive skills. However, neither group of people gets better just because you slap them with a PIP. Both groups of people can get better with some coaching, though.

      It sounds like you need start making things explicit that maybe you believe he should be able to figure out on his own (I think people should be able to figure out a lot of things about calculus on their own). Accept that he needs extra coaching, and provide the extra coaching without judgement.

      If you absolutely must do a PIP, be sure to read your company policy regarding initiating one. Coaching a struggling employee before hitting them with a formal process is in general a good idea, and some companies actually require you to go through a period of coaching first. Even if your company doesn’t have such a requirement, fairness and transparency dictate that you should warn your employee that he is doing so poorly that a formal PIP could be next.

  11. Spearmint*

    I’m trying to transition my career in a more technical direction, and I recently had a phone interview for a data analyst position. After the interview, I was given a take home technical project to complete as part of the process. The interviewer said it was “a simple project” but that it would take about four hours and he wanted it back within a week. I looked it over and I think he’s right that it will take four hours. If anything it might take more than that.

    Am I right in thinking this is excessive? Or am I out of touch (the only technical tests I’ve done before were simple Word and Excel tests)?

    I feel like one week to do four hours of work is a lot, especially around the holidays. Luckily for me I’m taking next week off and I don’t have a ton of holiday plans this year, but in many other years this would have been difficult for me to complete on time.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I’ve had 45min in person tests for that sort of position. 4hrs seems like a lot. I know there has been a huge wave of “I watched a youtube video and followed 1 (one) tutorial so now I know everything about python!” lately, where people heard you can self teach data skills and assumed that meant low effort needed. So I know we don’t trust their word that they have skills but are stepping up using technical questions and tests.

    2. ferrina*

      Ugh, my company does stuff like this, and I’m not a fan (but also not able to make them change it). You’re right, 4 hours is generally excessive, but it may also be what you need to do to get the job.

    3. Love to WFH*

      In IT, a 4 hour project isn’t unusual. They can be quite a bit longer. The best companies pay a stipend to candidates.

      1. Love to WFH*

        I think IT gets away with take-home-projects and long rounds of interviews because the jobs pay well. The interview process can be ridiculously onerous.

        The most ghastly part is when there’s a “program at a whiteboard” section. Take-home projects are at least preferable to that.

      2. Spearmint*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if I got a stipend, or if I was given more than one week. But one week to complete a long (>1-2 hours) project, especially around the holidays when many are traveling or have family plans, annoys me. I’ll do it anyway because I really want the job, it’ll be a really big increase in my income if I get it, and as someone transitioning their career I don’t have a ton of leverage when applying for these positions.

    4. hello from the freeze*

      I think it’s excessive.

      I’m also in that field, and when they wanted me to do that, they did it during the interview and gave me set time. That was better on both of us: they could see that I could do it, and they could also see how I solved problems.

    5. MurpMaureep*

      I hire primarily data analyst types and I think this is excessive. I try to gauge skills using situational interview questions, reference checks, and some in-the-interview problem solving. I also have candidates interview with members of my team who are closer to the day-to-day work and use their input to evaluate competencies.

      I see it as my job to do my own due diligence and vetting of a candidate, not to make them jump through hoops for me. If we can’t get a good sense of aptitude through several interviews and reference checks, we are not doing our jobs.

      The only way I’d see this as reasonable is if, perhaps, you didn’t have the combination of education and experience they were looking for but they were really interested in you and wanted/needed some demonstration of ability to justify making an offer. But if that were the case, they should be up front about it.

  12. cowtools*

    I’ve been at my job for almost a year. I started a few days into last January. It’s got a weird PTO tier system based on how long you’ve been there, and your first year is counted separately than your first full year (not told to me until I had started). This meant that someone who had started four days before me would be a year ahead of me on the benefits tier permanently. It would have taken me two years to get two weeks PTO instead of one. It’s all based around the January 1st date. It particularly stunk because I had accepted the offer and been ready to start in December and they asked me to start after the holidays so there would be more trainers available.

    Back in June, when I realized the details of this policy, I brought it the problems with this policy up with my boss. I asked that 2023 be considered my second year here (since it will be, short like four days). It didn’t make sense that someone started Dec 31 would have a year of seniority permanently over someone who started Jan 1. I guess they’ve been working on it this whole time! She told me yesterday they have had multiple meetings with the CEO (!!!) for him to make the decision. Apparently since I’ve done “such a great job jumping in, taking on new responsibilities, clients love me” etc. the CEO wanted me to know that they would make an exception to the policy to show their gratitude. So I will get the PTO I was expecting.

    But I feel really angry about it, even more now! It was phrased like a bonus (which I’m not getting) or a raise (which I am planning to ask for next year). I feel like I’ve used up all my capital, they are treating this normal compensation like a gift, and they haven’t reconsidered the policy at all. I didn’t say anything to my boss about this framing- do you think I should go back to her with my concerns about this being framed like a gift, and it affecting my ability to advocate for a raise next year?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yes, but wait till you’re not so frustrated by it so that doesn’t come out in your tone. And you can think of it like, this company is weird enough that they did have to expend significant capital on their side (meetings with CEO) to get it changed. So you could be grateful that they were willing to expend that capital in this weird system. Even if it shouldn’t have taken any capital in the first place.

      I’d also wait like 6 months to let the dust settle around this before bringing it up.

      “I’m grateful for the decision and advocacy in my behalf. I know it took several meetings with the CEO to make the change. I do want to check in to see if this will affect any future requests raises – I see this as a quirk of a system that should be changed so as not to disadvantage people, but wanted to verify with you whether it’s seen differently by the company – such as a perk that I received, similar to a bonus or a raise, instead of something being made right”

      And do excellent work between now and then.

    2. ferrina*

      I don’t’ have much hope for this company. That’s really stingy PTO, and I generally side-eye any company that expects gratitude for basic benefits (benefits are a business transaction- I give you this stuff, you give me good work product).

      Nothing productive will happen from raising your concerns. I’m more worried about blow-back on you if they label you a “complainer”. I’d say “thank you” and quietly start planning a long-term exit plan.

      1. Jessica*

        I’d love it! If you were my friend, I’d be glad to hear from you in any way. Even gladder if you sent me a holiday card. Gladder still if it was something unique that you made yourself!

    3. Let it Snow*

      Totally makes sense that you’re upset about the tone deaf framing of this as an acknowledgement of your hard work, rather than making it right. I would be upset too! I see you also commented that the pay and other benefits are below market. There are red flags everywhere in this organization. Prioritize yourself. Know your worth. Keep your eyes open for other better opportunities.

      1. cowtools*

        Yeah, I’m hoping to leave sooner rather than later and looking for new opportunities. I’m trying to stick it out a bit longer as I’m a recent graduate with mostly temp jobs previously so I don’t have a very stable work history. I think this PTO thing is annoying me more because of all the other reasons I don’t like working here (including feeling stuck because of my resume)

  13. cowtools*

    I’m so sour about it because the pay and time off are already quite low, and it’s combined sick and vacation so even lower. The CEO makes ten times my pay so if they had just adjusted it the company would have probably saved money over wasting his time with it.

    All the new employees leave within two years and they have no idea why.

    1. E*

      This sounds so annoying! Definitely a policy that needs updating for the betterment of the company and not just you. I think this would be good to try (in a few months as others noted) with a strength-in-numbers approach. Can you rally any other newbies or sympathetic longer-term staff to help advocate? Is there an HR person with whom you could broach this as “wanting to give my feedback to hep company” rather than your own personal gripe? But also… look for a new job :)

  14. Fresh grad*

    How do I (and should I) invite my more senior coworkers to hang out.

    I am six months into my first job from college and really enjoying it! I work in a small very technical department so most of my coworkers are in their 30s and 40s with PhDs. There are a few that I really like and we have lunch together and I would enjoy doing a non-work activity together but I’m not sure how to go about inviting them to something or if it would come across as odd or juvenile. We have a pretty flat organization structure so we all report to the same boss but they are definitely senior to me and are the ones who review my work and give me feedback before we present it to our boss.

    So, 1) would it be weird to ask (in a no pressure way, lots of them have kids and obligations) if they wanted to get together some time 2) if not any phrasing or activity ideas

    1. Tio*

      Start with lunch. I’ve used a script like this before:
      “Hey, I’ve been hearing (Restaurant) is really good and wanting to try it out for lunch sometime. Any of you want to come check it out with me? I’d love some company!”
      If you do it when there’s at least a couple of you, then if one person says yes the others are more likely to say yes as well.

      Go to lunch a few times and see who you click with, and what their interests are, and then see if they would want to get together after work sometime. Maybe pick a dinner somewhere with a trivia night the first time out; food is easy because everyone needs to eat. Once you’ve been out with them more you can suggest different activities based on overlapping interests (Hiking? Board games? Golf? Movies? etc)

    2. SereneScientist*

      Not weird, I’d say! Sounds like you and your colleagues have good rapport already–you can totally suggest a team building or bonding thing (not even using those words if you want it to be more informal). Only suggestion is to keep the activity relatively low-key and accessible so no one is inadvertently excluded!

    3. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      You know, I think it’s a little guache, especially since they review your work and you’ve been there so little time. I would continue to be friendly during the work day etc. but continue to “read the room” longer before extending any invitations for after work time.

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        Honestly, I agree that it may come across this way. If they review your work, it might feel like there’s a dotted line reporting there instead of a solid line so no they aren’t technically your boss but they do help supervise your day-to-day work.

        Only you know if that’s true, we can’t tell you that, but I’d avoid trying to do outside work activities with people who indirectly supervise me, it could come across a little naïve.

        Stick with the lunches, if there’s a rapport with a specific person, maybe add in a coffee run here or there during the workday, and then see what happens.

    4. DJ*

      I’d stick with lunches, coffees during work time/lunch breaks for now. But if you are having a party or weekend bar b que in say a few month’s to year’s time inviting friends and neighbours also invite your work colleagues.

    5. fresh grad*

      Thank you guys for the thoughts!

      Lunch is a great idea but unfortunate our office is in a Barren Office Park and so the culture is very onsite cafeteria or bring from home.

      DJ, I really liked your idea about inviting people to a pre-existing shindig. I might do that in a few months!

      Re: the reporting structure: My current project only has a few people involved and everyone else I haven’t worked with directly. That being said it’s a weird grey area because we’re in a very technical field so it’s a lot more facts based than like, performance feedback? Stuff like “hmm that graph doesn’t look like what I’d expect, maybe change the llama coat hair parameter and rerun your code and see if that fixes it.” but at the same time they’re definitely like… supervising me.

      Also, compared to the rest of the company we’re a tiny department and there is only one other person with my job title so with that + the specific nature of our work I get the sense that I’m treated way more like a peer than people at my level in different departments.

      Sorry for the whole paragraph, but it’s been something I’ve been trying to nail down because my company has an ostensibly very very flat organizational structure but there are a lot of Not Written Down nuances.

      Thanks all for the advice and validation that maybe I should wait a hot sec.

  15. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    Finally the end of the year! I’ll be on vacation. I will of course plan to straighten up my resume. Any good tips for facing the depression of the job search?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      One of my siblings recently told my young nephew that he would have to fall 100 times while learning to ice skate before he got good.

      Then, rather than getting frustrated my continually falling, he was proud of his progress! He would skate to his dad and proudly proclaim he had fallen 45 times already and was therefore nearly halfway to his goal.

      Elizabeth Gilbert (the author) talks about getting rejection letters and treating them like a giant tennis/ping pong game. You get a rejection and turn it right back around into the universe.

      So success isn’t defined as ‘I have a job’ so much as ‘I took 3 actions each day on the interview process’. (Actions can be defined however you want – ‘opened a website’ or ‘thought about my cover letter’ can be one action on days that you’re feeling particularly demotivated)

    2. ferrina*

      Yay! Congrats on embarking on the Oddessy of the Job Search! (I remember reading a few of your other posts, and I’m glad you’re getting out of there!)

      Here’s my tips:
      -Set a very reasonable minimum number of applications per week. In my last search, this was 2 per week. I was really busy and that was all I could commit to without burning myself out. I could always do more, but even if I didn’t, I was proud of my 2.
      -Make it easy on yourself. I made a master resume that was six pages of bullets. Then for each job, I edited it down to the most relevant jobs and accomplishments. It’s easier to cut things down than to write from scratch. I did something similar for the Cover Letter- three pages with six content paragraphs each highlighting a different skill. Then I’d pick the most relevant 2-3 paragraphs, then would just need to write the transitions. Yes, it’s nice to tailor the CL every time, but if you’re tired and just can’t, this helps it be customized without a huge time commitment.
      -Reward yourself. It could be weekly, or every X number of applications, or whatever. During one awful job search, I’d buy a lottery ticket for each application. They’re both numbers games, after all- surely I’d win one eventually.
      -Have set job search time, and set time outside the job search. Make sure there is space and time for you to be outside of the job search and the job and focus on the other parts of life. I had to set limits on how long I looked at job posting each week to keep myself sane.
      -Keep your files organized. Always save the job posting, and put it in a folder with your customize resume and CL.
      -If you’re a data-loving person, track the data! I’d record each job I applied to, if I had a response or not, etc. This way I could also experiment with my techniques and have empirical data about the results. It was also thrilling when I realized 30% of my applications were resulting in calls.
      -Use the little things to make you happy while you do your job search. This might be a favorite music playing, a certain way of organizing your files, getting high-fives from your dog, whatever. Those little things that make you happy matter.

      Good luck!

    3. hello from the freeze*

      Combine it with something tangible. Knit, crochet, &etc, but since job searching is such a grind where it’s hard to see any progress being made, it can be good to have something to point to and say I did that.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Everyone’s advice was so good! Thank you. I have a hard time but I think I’ll be able to do it

      2. kitryan*

        I really like this idea for those tough to quantify tasks- being able to have a ‘twin’ project where you can see progress might really help.

  16. Finger in a lot of pies*

    I was at the office all weekend, working late into the night on Monday (went home for a client project that was due. The next day, one of my managers said–to a colleague– that I have “[my] finger in a lot of pies.”

    I’ve always heard that phrase used to mean someone is meddling where they don’t belong.

    It’s almost like my manager doesn’t realize that I’ve worked for one of the principals on the project for nearly 20 years. I don’t take it to heart, because I was specifically requested to work on this project by the leads. But was my manager being a bit of a jerk by saying that to a colleague?

    1. Finger in a lot of pies*

      Ugh… don’t type and talk on the phone at the same time — “(went home at 4 am) for a client project”

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Oh, I would have thought they meant ‘involved in a lot of projects’. No negative connotation for me, but I could be wrong. You can always ask your manager, if you want. ‘I overheard you say I have my finger in a lot of pies and I wanted to check in to see if you have any concerns about my work’

      1. Clisby*

        That’s what I’d have thought it meant – someone is juggling a lot of different projects. I wouldn’t think it referred to meddling at all.

    3. ICodeForFood*

      That expression can also just mean that you’re involved in a whole lot of things. I wouldn’t take offense at it…

    4. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’ve always understood it to mean that someone is involved in a lot of things, but without implying meddling. Maybe your manager meant it that way (and perhaps she and I have been using it incorrectly all this time).

    5. excel jockey*

      Are you sure your manager knows that meaning? I’m only vaguely familiar with that phrase and my first thought until you explained was it was similar to “wearing a lot of hats”.

        1. Finger in a lot of pies*

          This really makes me wonder if there are people going around sticking fingers in random pies, thinking nothing is wrong with it.

          THINK OF THE PIES.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve never understood the phrase, or heard it used, to mean meddling like in a negative sense, just involved (neutrally) in a bunch of different things.

    7. LG*

      I’ve always read that expression as “having a lot of stuff on one’s plate”, meaning you’re busy with a lot of different things. It wouldn’t mean anything negative to me, but maybe my interpretation is wrong.

    8. Katydid*

      I‘ve usually encountered that phrase in a neutral context, but a quick google-check shows that it is indeed often used negatively. Channeling Alison Green as best I can—since this is one of your managers, why not talk to him/her about it, and ask if s/he has any concerns about your work that you could address? Alison Green always stresses doing so in a warm and inviting manner rather than an accusatory one. Do you think this approach might be helpful?

      P.S. I’ve used this name the handful of times I’ve posted, but I am not sure it’s unique. If it’s been used before 2022, will someone let me know?— and I’ll think up another username. Thanks!

      1. Finger in a lot of pies*

        I’ve already had issues with my managers (I have 2) thinking I’m acting bigger than my britches (i.e., encroaching on her territory)– but I’m always doing what I’m asked. I’ve also had issues with my managers writing me up for being terse in my emails (they read it as rude, I see it as efficient). So maybe I’m just inclined to be defensive about what they say… especially when it’s to other people and not to me.

        Also … I’m curious about people sticking their fingers in pies and thinking nothing of it now.

        1. Tio*

          There’s an old tale I THINK it comes from about a kid who stuck his finger in every pie on a windowsill to taste each flavor and got in trouble for ruining the pies. Given how old and obscure that reference is, pretty sure that it’s lost a lot of its connotation, so whether or not they meant it negatively is a coin toss

        2. Alternative Person*

          Since you’ve already had issues, I would be careful but it’s hard to judge from one indirect, possibly off-hand comment.

          Sometimes fingers in pies is someone picking up work to the detriment of the main tasks, sometimes it’s someone successfully spinning a lot of plates because spinning the plates is their job.

    9. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Finger in a lot of pies = Someone who’s involved in a lot of projects or things.

      Stirring the pot = Meddling in a lot of things.

    10. Roland*

      From context it doesn’t sound negative. Like yeah I myself would use it in a negative way, but that really doesn’t sound like the situation here. That would be very weird of your manager! Sometimes people just use phrases in unexpected ways.

    11. *daha**

      I don’t read that as a criticism or complaint. I don’t think it means you’ve been meddling, just that you are working on multiple projects.

  17. Marco*

    I was hired on a part-time basis in an intern role. 20 hours/week for a pretty low hourly wage. I took it because it fit my schedule and seemed like it might turn in to more.

    I took my job really seriously, and got nothing but praise from my two leads. I have screenshots!

    Two months later, the company laid off 11 people (25 people in the whole company, so a pretty significant downsizing). I was let go also.

    My supervisor told me -and I believe him- that I did great work, was a pleasure to work with, and that he had no idea this was coming down the pipeline. He and my other lead both offered to write me letters of reference to use as needed, but I feel like that raises more questions than it answers. Interviewer: “Oh, your reference says you are great! Why were you there for only 2 months?” I don’t even have this company on my resume, obviously.

    So my question is, wtf.

    I’m upset not just because I thought this was a good fit, but because I turned down another position when I accepted this one.

    There isn’t anything I can do, and I am being completely professional. It’s not the end of the world. But I’m upset! Has anyone gone through something similar?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Interviewer: “Oh, your reference says you are great! Why were you there for only 2 months?”

      You: I loved that job! Unfortunately it went through a major restructure right after I joined.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        And – can you reach out to the job you turned down and explain? If they liked you they may have a role for you in the future, or maybe the person they hired isn’t working out and they’d love to hire you, or maybe they haven’t filled it yet.

      2. JanetM*

        In my case it was, “Shortly after I was hired, the company lost a major contract and pretty much everyone was laid off.”

    2. RagingADHD*

      “Because unfortunately they downsized almost half the staff” is a reasonable and normal answer under the circumstances.

    3. Bacon Lettuce Tomato*

      Just want to give you some encouragement. This won’t be a big thing at all when you are job hunting. Layoffs happen and interviewers know that. Just focus on presenting yourself well and highlighting your skills and the rest will follow. I worked at a well known organization for only a few months before it became apparent that negotiations with the union were going to fail and there would be layoffs. I was the last one hired, so I’d be the first one let go. I started looking immediately and all I had to say to interviewers about why I was back in the job market so soon was one or two sentences about the labor negotiation, and the conversation would move on. I got a new job within a few weeks and no one has ever asked about it since.

      1. kitryan*

        Seconded that last one hired/first one let go is a thing, so if someone I was interviewing said something like ‘when they restructured a couple months after my start date, as a recent hire, I was part of the first round of layoffs’, that would make perfect sense to me. Especially with good references confirming that it was part of a more general lay off.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Your feelings are your feeling and upset and disappointed are entirely appropriate.

      That said, there’s no hint they hired you while knowing the downsizing and layoffs were coming. Certainly not your manager and the team lead. I don’t think you should think of it in terms of blame or getting screwed by someone. You were unlucky and had bad timing and bad luck.

    5. Tio*

      You can always contact the company you turned down if the other position is still open and explain the layoff to them. And I would put the job on your resume; it’s not bad to be laid off, and you can let them know it was a last in-first out ort of situation, which is VERY common in layoffs and generally not an indicator of your performance at all

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Not only do good workers get fired during restructurings, but awesome employees do. In fact, during the largest layoff I went through, it felt like they fired the most skilled people. Maybe it was due to their pay, but it also felt like they just wanted to keep the doors open and sort of kill all of the “extra” projects all of the stellar employees were doing, and their is no reason to have a Jeff Bezos sitting around there when all you need done for the next year is basic bookkeeping.

  18. ScatterOfLight22*

    I am really stuck on what I want to study. I’m an older student and I’m currently getting my Bachelors degree in Business Administration but I don’t know if that’s what I want my degree in. I took some accounting classes and did really awesome in those and the professor said I should think about doing an accounting career. I’ve been in healthcare doing admin work for 20 years and I just really want to do something different. But I’ve also thought about majoring in Public Health and then getting an MPH. I just want to make a difference but also make money. ha… Any advice?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Hah well. I have a bachelor degree in public health, a MBA and MPA, and am in health care administration (specifically I currently manage medical coders for a large academic hospital system) for going on almost 20 years now. The public health degree is less useful (on paper) than the bachelor degree in health information management I went back and got after grad school — the HIM degree is required for certain certifications I wanted, though I wouldn’t recommend the program I went though to someone who didn’t already have a lot of experience in the field – but it depends on whether you want to stay in admin or move to a more clinical area of study, or if you even want to stay in health care.

      1. ScatterOfLight22*

        Funny enough, I received an associates degree in health information technology. I ended up working in the field but got burnt out after 7 years.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      If you like accounting, you could always do accounting for an organization whose cause you believe in.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Yes this! I’m an academic in the humanities, increasingly interested in critical accountancy – also most institutions with a strong mission/vision will have lots of people with generalist degrees/skills, and MANY FEWER with accounting skills.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      MPH here. If you like the business side of health care (like accounting) I wouldn’t do an MPH—a business degree is going to be much more applicable. An MPH is much better if you want to do public health practice, research, or policy work. If you think you want a master’s degree, I’d consider an MHA or MBA instead.

      Also, as someone who hires entry-level staff, my general impression is that public health undergrad degrees aren’t terribly robust—when I’m hiring bachelors’ level candidates, I prefer to hire people with a hard science or social science degree because I know those programs are more challenging.

      1. E*

        Another MPH here — just to add, if you do want to get an MPH you don’t need to major in public health undergrad. They might appreciate a more diverse background. And either way you’ll be a better MPH candidate once you’ve had some public health work experience (which again doesn’t require a bachelor’s in that field)

  19. Tabby Baltimore*

    Anyone out there who’s a professional functional tester for software apps: can you give me any advice about how to functionally test an application in a test environment (as opposed to a dev environment)? Are there any general guidelines to follow? Informative links on the internet about how to do this? Our contract with our functional testers ended this year, and we haven’t hired any more yet (we’re looking), but it means the rest of us have to test the apps. I keep thinking there’s probably some kind of generic process I should be following, but I have no idea what that is.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I imagine there are some subreddits dedicated to this if you search for Reddit + your specific type of software.

      I know there’s an excel subreddit where people post all kinds of questions and others help them develop their formulas and shortcuts, so I am pretty confident there are subs for whatever software you’re working on.

    2. Albert "Call me Al" Ias*

      It should be pretty much the same as testing in a Dev environment, although in a test environment, whatever software you’re testing may be a little more complete and ready to go.

      Basically, you’re going to want to go through every screen of the application, and every function, and make sure it’s working the way it’s supposed to. It helps if you have a copy of the requirements as you go along, and compare actual function to the requirements.

      Then, try to break it. If a field is supposed to be a dollar amount, try entering words, or a negative number. If it’s a date field, try entering something like February 30, or year 2.

      As you try to break things, take screenshots, and document the steps you took to cause each break. Be as specific as you can, because that will help the developers fix the issues.

      For example: “System displays a video of Rick Astley when you enter ‘Feb 30’ as the employee’s birth date on the new hire screen” (granted, this is probably not likely to happen, but it’s a better description than “There’s an error on the new hire screen”)

      1. Albert "Call me Al" Ias*

        Forgot to add, make sure all the defects are tracked in the appropriate system, which could vary depending on your company. Some companies use Jira, some use ALM, some use other software, some email the bugs straight to the lead developer, some companies tell you to send a slack message to the junior developer, some have a different intake/reporting system, etc.

        1. Tabby Baltimore*

          Although I’ve clicked some buttons and tried things out, I’ve never tried to deliberately “break” anything yet, nor have I documented (at least not in any formal way) what I did, or the defects I found, so your suggestions on that aspect, in particular, are very helpful. Thanks.

    3. Just a different redhead*

      You may want to make sure you know where all the “inputs” and “outputs” of your particular system are – this varies a lot depending on whether your app has a ui that users interact with, or is an api that users call endpoints of, or [lots of things it could be]

      You’ll want to test normal input and ouput that you’d expect a typical user to do, but covering edge cases if there’s a new field or something is always beneficial too (even if the app already handles it gracefully, that’s a test too). Some edge cases to look out for/test how your app handles them dependent on data type:
      Strings – null/blank, whitespace-only, really long strings, strings containing apostrophes, internal spaces, or semicolons (or other special characters… This is a broad stroke)
      Numbers – null/blank, 0, 1, 2147483649 (i.e. above max int value), negative numbers, decimals, formatted numbers (i.e. 1,000,230.7765)
      Dates – yesterday, today, future, far future, invalid (i.e. 02/29/2021), first/last day of month/year (especially 10/31 as both Sept and Nov have only 30 days and index-off-by-one is a thing), far past (or at least something before 1970)
      Times – host server time, local machine time, future time, midnight, 23:59, 00:01, timezone/offset on either side (+/-) of UTC/server timezone/local machine timezone by a few hours, formatted times (11:57 PM)

      I’m quite sure I’m forgetting some common edge cases, but a lot of these can bite if they go completely untested.

      Oh right, and if there are any app-specific or server-specific configurations/settings that apply only to dev and are different in prod (which means ideally they’d be different in qa as well), you’d want to cover testing that those are pointing/working as expected in qa specifically as well.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        This level of specificity about how to incorporate edge cases into testing is *very* helpful. It would never have occurred to me to insert null/blank characters, for example, or to “mess up” the date(s) deliberately to see how the system would respond to that. Thanks!

    4. Anon for this*

      I’m a developer, but our test team have sets of test cases with scripts/instructions.
      Your testers may have similar resources that would be useful.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      I agree with all the advice the others gave you. One thing I’ll add is when you look at the acceptance criteria and do your testing, don’t just confirm it does what it’s supposed to do, although think about the opposite. So if it’s supposed to do Y when you X, and it does, good. But make should when you Z it doesn’t also Y. This is sort of a flavor of “try to break it”, but it’s something that can easily be overlooked. I know some testers sometimes think “well, I confirmed it does the right thing, I’m done”, but you also need to confirm it doesn’t do the wrong thing, which might not seem like a different task, but it is.

  20. Nicoslonica*

    Just want to say … I wanted to look good for my recent promotion so I didn’t want to take extra days off around the holidays. I figured I’d work most of the week, fly out the 23rd, and still have time to make merry with the family in the midwest. My parents asked me if I could change my flight to the 22nd when we saw the forecast, but … it was too late. Now I’m stuck here alone over the holidays, with no flights in to Minnesota before the 25th. Too bad work can never love you back.

    1. Currently in Hibernation*

      Oh my, SO sorry this happened. I hope you can salvage the holiday for yourself somehow. Sending you good vibes and wishing you all the best.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Oh dear, that really sucks. At least you and your parents are all safe and not sitting in an airport or on a icy highway, but that still really really sucks.

    3. Elle Woods*

      Oh, Nicoslonica, I am so sorry. I live in the Twin Cities and it’s a mess right now. I hope you’re able to make it here to see your folks soon. Sending good vibes and wishing you safe travels.

    4. New Mom*

      I’m so sorry! Just to commiserate: during our busy season at work I opted to not attend my very close friends wedding because we were “too busy” and really because Stockholm Syndrome? We were totally drowning and now I just found out that the higher ups won’t be increasing our staff for the next busy season. Work definitely doesn’t love you back but so hard to know that in the moment!

    5. Yangtze River*

      That does suck! I hope you can get rebooked on a flight to have you there on Christmas.

      I advise easing up on the thoughts that lead to “too bad work doesn’t love you back.” Your work didn’t cause this winter storm. You have no guarantee that there is never going to be a winter storm that will interfere with a holiday flight regardless of when your holiday flight is. This is just bad luck.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      I’m sorry, but let’s put the blame where it deserves to go: Mother Nature. Your plan wasn’t really flawed, just upended busy the extreme weather.

    7. Stoppin' by to chat*

      So sorry this happened! Although now you have concrete evidence not to prioritize work ahead of your non-work priorities, so hopefully this won’t happen again. Hop you can still get to see your family soon!

  21. Seahorse*

    Found out this week that I’m getting a merit raise of less than 1% of my salary, and no cost of living raise. I’m in a field that isn’t known for high pay, but that’s just insulting. The email was full of enthusiastic language about my exemplary work, and how I’m soooo appreciated. I don’t feel appreciated, and I resent that I’m apparently supposed to feel grateful for a few hundred dollars a year more. This is what they think my “above and beyond” is worth?

    They’re hiring multiple high earners in other areas, so I don’t think money is overly tight for my employer.

    Anyway, I’ve always felt like I maintained solid boundaries and good work / life balance, but… this may tip the balance heavily in favor of “life.” I also applied to a long shot in a tangentially related field yesterday, mostly out of spite. I guess I’m officially joining the ranks of the quiet quitters.

    1. Seahorse*

      Oh, there was no question in that. I suppose I’m just looking for commiseration from anyone who can relate.

    2. ferrina*

      Ooh, that’s really crappy. It’s possible that they really don’t’ have the money but they need to invest in the high earners to raise their bottom line, but that doesn’t mean you should feel happy about it. Especially when they could give you more intangible benefits (more PTO? flexible hours? more interesting projects?). That sucks. I’m sorry.

      1. Seahorse*

        There are tangible metrics to prove I do killer work, but unfortunately, I don’t have a flashy job title. They could invest in me, but that wouldn’t make for a very good press release. Cynical maybe, but I don’t think I’m wrong.

        I really do enjoy my day-to-day work, and I’d have been disappointed but not mad if they just said they didn’t have the money for raises across the board. It was all the platitudes about my contributions combined with the insultingly low raise that feels like a slap in the face. *Grumble grumble*

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Sorry you’re going through this. I am on your side and since crossing the boundary into “higher earner” circa 2013 I always remind management of what lower paid staff is making, should be making, etc., since I find most have outdated ideas about pay from when they were younger (and now I’m falling into the same trap, thinking $50K is a good salary because it was the gold standard when I was their age, but it’s not now!). It’s frustrating to watch someone get hired for let’s say $90K but get told they can’t give you a bigger raise. Especially when lowering their offer to $85K would probably have much less of an impact than raising your pay by $5K

    3. Currently in Hibernation*

      I hope you get the new role! Keep looking regardless. If there’s one thing I learned when I rage quit my job a year ago, it was ALWAYS bet on yourself. You are the one who can make things happen for you!

    4. Stoppin' by to chat*

      Yeah for treating work as a job and nothing more! So sorry your raise is so low yet was treated as such a huge raise. That sucks. Agreed with prioritizing your life!

    5. Alternative Person*

      I feel you. The pay/contract structure at my job is an utter mess and its looks like we’ll be getting a small COL adjustment at best after several years of pay freezes. It also looks like some positions won’t be opening soon, meaning my plan is likely going to be holding out one more year while I finish my MA before moving on.

      I get so frustrated with the way companies hinder themselves by not taking care of their employees. I get the economic situation is difficult, but this is decades of problems coming due.

  22. Cordelia Drexel Biddle*

    How do you continue to work when your personal life is falling apart?

    I know Alison’s done a few posts along this vein, and Captain Awkward has a great post about working when depressed (or otherwise mentally ill). But I’m struggling to know how much mental energy I should devote to doing the absolute best at work when in the meantime my husband and I are in therapy. Unless he decides to actually deal with his childhood trauma instead of shoving it continuously down to Moria, therapy is only delaying the inevitable until, idk, sometime next year.

    That’s the absolute shortest short version, but needless to say my personal life is fraught right now. Besides being kind to myself what advice to y’all have?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Do Internal Family Systems therapy on yourself! There’s a subreddit that has a good stickied comment with resources.

      1. Cordelia Drexel Biddle*

        I actually do have my own individual therapist (thank GOODNESS, she is saving my sanity). But this is a great resource, thank you!!

    2. ferrina*

      Hugs and love! I am so sorry. I’ve been there (our therapy was a waste of 10 months and thousands of dollars- he had already decided that he wouldn’t change but continued to lie and future fake, I guess trying to wait until I gave up on my own happiness and decided to take care of him full time?). It’s the worst, and it’s exhausting and painful.

      For work- can you mentally disengage from home while you are at work? Make work almost a safe space for you? You can also drop your commitment level- it’s okay if you’re a little quieter. What do you actually need to do for your job right now? Do that.
      I also found it was helpful to have regular coffee meetings with coworkers. I never talked about my home life there (and usually we’d end up happily chatting about work), but it felt really good to connect with other people.
      You might be able to mention it to your coworkers a little, if you trust them. “My family has some long-term issues going on. I’m working to resolve them, but it may take a year. It may mean that I’ll have the occasional day where I’m exhausted or distracted, but other than that it shouldn’t impact work too much. Just wanted to let you know.” Good people will respect and support that. It’s not TMI- it’s what they need to know.
      Oh, and don’t switch jobs unless you have to. I switched jobs shortly after leaving my ex (I got the interview within a week of telling him we were done; I don’t know how I aced that one). It was awful and stressful. My new team had no onboarding and a lot of crises- I’d been able to manage similar situations in the past, but this time I just didn’t have the mental agility or energy to navigate it. It’s much better to manage one major life thing at a time (though sometimes you have no choice- I was between a rock and a hard place)
      Good luck, and I hope you’re able to take care of yourself and find your happiness!

      1. Cordelia Drexel Biddle*

        That is a great script, thank you! And I needed the reminder to talk to other people about non-home things. And thank you for the support <3

        Luckily my job is great. I’m happy with where I’m situated when it comes to work right now, thank goodness. And we’re in a slow season so I can be very quiet.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      I’m sorry! That’s incredibly rough. I would check in with your boss and make sure you understand what their highest priorities are for your work right now. Focus your energy primarily on those, and give yourself more of a pass on the less-important stuff. Make sure you’re doing stuff like meeting deadlines and checking your work for errors, but don’t push yourself to go above and beyond.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      This feels enormous, and I completely understand why you’d be struggling to give your all at work. My favorite advice about balancing work with personal stuff is from the author Nora Roberts. She says she imagines herself juggling a set of balls, some of which are glass and some of which are plastic. If you drop a glass ball it shatters, but if you drop a plastic ball it bounces away and you can pick it up and add it back in when you’re ready.

      So for now, I’d say when it comes to work, focus on the glass balls. Do the things that have to be done and give yourself some grace if some of the minor tasks don’t get done every day/week. Those balls are plastic, and you can pick them back up once you’ve safely disposed of the glass ones.

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I hope you find some form of stability in the new year.

      (And off topic: you have the best username, and I need to find my copy of The Happiest Millionaire now)

    5. Tio*

      Make a priority list of your job functions, including how visible they are and how long they can be put off. If you have KPIs or other metrics, check in on those frequently. take extra time off to get a mental break – Literally, just go sit at a coffee shop or walk around a park or something so you’re not using all your focus on intense stuff like “how do I keep my marriage together” or “how do I force myself to work”.

    6. Not A Manager*

      “But I’m struggling to know how much mental energy I should devote to doing the absolute best at work when in the meantime my husband and I are in therapy.”

      Just for another perspective on this: I notice that you like your job and it seems to be treating you properly, while this isn’t the case with your spouse. You don’t have much faith that this will change, and you’re more or less planning for the inevitable.

      Maybe you should continue to do your best at work, and put less energy into your relationship.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        I like this perspective, but I also think that ending things well (or as well as possible) and grieving them takes a lot of energy – deprioritising “saving the relationship” might be a really healthy thing to do, but it won’t necessarily spare Cordelia time, energy or pain. (Sorry! And wishing you all the best at this hard time, Cordelia. I hope you find ways for your work to provide some positive energy & respite, lots of great suggestions here.)

  23. soshedances1126*

    Any advice from people for the partner of someone who just lost their job a few weeks ago? He was fired for performance issues, but there were only a couple of issues and no improvement plan (they went straight to firing) so it was pretty unexpected. He had been on a third shift schedule for the last few years and it seems that finally caught up with him and his work performance (he was also pretty disillusioned in general with the company). We were nearly equal earners and were both on his health insurance, so now we’re down 50% of our income and it’s very stressful. We also are still waiting to hear on unemployment, and of course, it’s the holiday season so most places don’t seem to be pushing their hiring right now. I’m trying to figure out how to be supportive without being annoying, while also worrying a LOT because we really can’t be down this much income for very long. Has anyone else been through this? How did you balance being supportive with taking care of yourself, while also managing the financial stress and impatience for a job to come to fruition? He was already looking, and I really want this to be an opportunity for him to find something better, but this is not how either of us wanted to go about it.

    1. Katydid*

      I ‘ve been there, more than once, but after the first time I was permanently unemployed due to a disabling condition. It was a shock every time. I could have used therapy, but was too worried about money.

      I’m going to talk about a couple techniques I learned that helped me maintain my inner strength.

      When the going gets rough, daily gratitude practice holds me upright. I’m alive! Spouse is alive! I can breathe deeply without pain! I start with these basics every morning when I wake up, and really focus on them. Things could be worse, and at this moment they’re not, and I let myself feel how glad I am about alllll the things that are okay right now. I go to the bathroom, and think how lucky I am not to need help with that. (Someday I may, and then I’ll be grateful for any help I get!). I make breakfast, and think about how glad I am to be able to taste my food, to chew and swallow on my own. After a few days of this, done every morning and then whenever I think of it, I start to feel better spontaneously.

      Because I have a censorious inner voice, I counter-act with extremely positive self-talk. If the day is going badly, I ramp it up to a ridiculous level (hey, great job scratching the old nose! That was perfect!) Lay it on thick, make yourself laugh; maybe it’ll work for you too.

      Praising your spouse for everything you can also helps. It’s easy to slip into criticism when we’re tense, but if you can—this is the time for appreciation.

      Those are my fallbacks (which I learned in therapy during a period of good income), and they keep me going when things are bad. Maybe they’ll help you.

    2. Just Unemployed, Not Funemployed*

      As someone who unexpectedly lost their job over the summer, I can tell you some things that were good/bad for me in regard to how my husband reacted. We have a toddler so things had an extra level of urgency since they are not cheap (and yes, we were all on my insurance).

      I had been searching for awhile because I was unhappy with my job. At the time of my firing, I also wasn’t on a PIP (disclosure: I had been in the summer of 2020 because of performance issues when I was home with the little one at the beginning of COVID but I completed it). Luckily, I ended up with a job offer the Friday of the week I was fired so I was technically only job searching without anything lined up for 4 days.

      First things first, my PTO was paid out and I had 2 weeks so, between that and starting a new job 3 weeks after I was fired, we only had one week of being a single-income household. I got unemployment, so that definitely helped, but I also went 4 weeks without a paycheck, which was hard.

      I highly recommend sitting down immediately to see what your window looks like. Does he have PTO that will be paid out? When will his last paycheck be? Knowing that was really helpful for both of us to make a plan. We knew that we didn’t want to completely blow through our savings and decided that if I didn’t get the offer I was expecting that I couldn’t be picky about jobs I was applying to. For me, this felt demoralizing because I was in later round interviews with a few places but I recognize that for my husband it meant he felt like we had a PLAN and this wouldn’t turn into a never-ending job search.

      He had a lot of questions at first about if there was anything I wasn’t telling him, if I had been on a PIP, if it wasn’t as unexpected as I let on, etc. I think if you’re wondering those things, it’s fair to ask. Honestly, your partner might be wondering the same, I know I was, and talking things out with my husband was helpful.

      Honestly, while I understand Katydid’s thoughts above on gratitude and praising instead of being hard on them, that wasn’t my husband’s style and it wouldn’t have worked for me either. It would have done us no good to pretend that it wasn’t a really stressful situation that needed to be over quickly, and personally I would have felt like he was condescending if he was like good work applying for jobs today! So on that front, I think it’s a know your spouse type thing.

      All in all, it was a tough period to navigate and we talked a LOT and very honestly so I would recommend doing that. If your husband is anything like I was, he’s feeling the financial stress too AND feels awful about him being the one who lost his job and put you guys there. We were most successful in getting through it by acknowledging those things and not dancing around them.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        I think you misunderstand how gratitude practice works. It’s not delusional, you don’t pretend that you’re not in a stressful situation. But *within* that stressful situation, it helps to see the silver lining and to remind yourself of what you do have instead of only what you don’t have.

        For example, it’s below freezing here and our power flashed 3 times this morning. I was worried the heat would go out. And then it didn’t. I am super grateful to have heating, even though my husband is unemployed.

        Also, being appreciative of your spouse is not being condescending. You wouldn’t pat him on the head and say good job for all those applications. You would put effort into noticing things you may normally take for granted. Maybe even phrased like, “You know, I realized I’ve never said how much I appreciate that you do all the little handyman tasks around the house so I don’t have to deal with them.”

        Personally, I also feel more secure when I have a plan, so I would also do the detailed planning you describe. For instance, “This is how long the money will last with no cuts, but if I drop Netflix and DoorDash, we can go this long.”

        1. Velociraptor Attack*

          I understand gratitude and I understand how to appreciate my spouse, thanks.

          I never said appreciating your spouse is condescending so please do not put words into my mouth. I was discussing a very particular situation that was tricky because there were a lot of emotions involved and what would or would not have worked for US in that time. Which is also why I said it’s clearly a know your spouse thing.

          1. allathian*

            Are you writing under two nicks? Because otherwise your second post makes no sense since it’s unrelated to anything else here.

    3. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      First of all, ouch, this is really hard & scary.

      It’s always hard to give advice because you know your spouse & your situation best, but like Katydid and Just Unemployed, I can share something from my own experience, which is that I noticed in your comment a sense that being supportive to your spouse involves managing all your negative emotions internally and not letting him see them. This is something I have a tendency towards, so if it doesn’t apply to you, ignore me. But I find that putting this burden on myself (“manage all the fear & anger & sadness inside”) leads to resentment, which either boils over into snapping & meanness, or just becomes one more negative emotion to manage (and feel guilty about). I’ve also found that it makes me and my partner feel more disconnected. What works better, though it’s really hard, is finding a way to do the fear and anger and stress *together*. One thing that works for us is to clearly identify a (ridiculous) common enemy – it’s not your fault you broke my favourite cup, it’s gravity and/or our evil landlord, for putting the tap just there! (If all else fails, we borrow from Animal Farm and blame Snowball the exiled pig – “Snowball must have sneaked in and put oil on the cup to make it slippery!”) It’s not super evolved but as a hack, it works to let us be angry and sad together, without slipping into blaming the other person. In fact, it lets me side WITH my partner against [gravity/landlord/Snowball] and turns the broken cup into something that has happened to both of us. Could you do something similar, like “I can’t believeEvil Company put us in this awful situation, it’s freaking me out and I’m really stressed! Damn them!”

      Good luck and I hope you find some things that help.

      1. allathian*

        Great advice. It also helps if you have friends or a therapist that you can vent your stress to, if your partner really can’t deal with it at all. Losing your job is a stressful life event, on a scale of 1-100 where the death of a spouse or child is 100, dismissal from work is 47 when getting married is 50 and divorce is 73 (obviously the relative stress levels can vary depending on the people involved and your affection for each, but it’s the general idea). It’s a grieving process, so the ring theory of “support in, complain out” can apply, at least for a while.

        Obviously it’s very important that things get more balanced out at some point, a relationship where one person does all the supporting and the other all the complaining probably won’t be sustainable for very long, at least not without seriously affecting the mental health of the person who does all the supporting and gets nothing in return.

  24. Penny*

    I’m looking for a “side hustle” if you will. I’ve never done it professionally, but I’m very good at writing emails/correspondence. Whenever my friends or family need to tell people bad news, ask difficult questions, or ask for awkward favours, they ask me to help draft their letters. Is there a way I could expand on this as a way to make money? Where would I even look to do this type of thing?

    1. Not Australian*

      It sounds like you might want to look into offering ‘adult literacy’ support in the first instance, helping adult learners with reading and writing tasks more generally. Depending on where you live, your local library might be a good place to start.

    2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      There’s an Ethics Hotline in Australia where you can get an hour-long consultation to talk through ethical dilemmas in your life. Your skill is different but I think a Difficult Conversation Coach or Awkward Email Writer would fill a similar niche need – set up a website with a description of what you do, maybe offer a free 15-minute Zoom consultation then a flat fee for writing the email, put up testimonials from friends & family, then spread the word! I think it’s really intriguing.

  25. Peterpie*

    I’m looking for a “side hustle” if you will. I’ve never done it professionally, but I’m very good at writing emails/correspondence. Whenever my friends or family need to tell people bad news, ask difficult questions, or ask for awkward favours, they ask me to help draft their letters. Is there a way I could expand on this as a way to make money? Where would I even look to do this type of thing?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      No idea how to get paid for it – maybe Fiverr or thumbtack?

      You could also start an online advice column geared to this! And then your portfolio would be public. Captain Awkward and AAM do this.

  26. Grateful but I still don't want to be two feet from the next patient*

    I would like advice on how to best be very polite and respectful to Medical workers while still trying to protect myself from covid, given that I have underlying conditions which make it more dangerous for me. Here is one example that just happened and I don’t know how to handle it. Or what I should have said. I broke my ankle, and I was given physical therapy exercises to do at home, because I was on a road trip. Necessitated by severe family illness that I had to attend to. Not for fun.

    Anyway, when I got back home, I was supposed to go and receive physical therapy in person. The first time I went, the physical therapist took me into a room and I felt comfortable. Everyone was wearing surgical masks, but I didn’t even notice the state of the outer room, because I went straight into the examination room. Everything was fine. He did his manipulations of my ankle, checked my range of motion, and all was proceeding. My second appointment, we went into a large room where all the tables were lined up right next to one another and people were 2 ft away from me. I didn’t feel comfortable. I said to the physical therapist that I was surprised to be in this crowded room, because the first time we had been in our own room. He said oh that’s only the first appointment. And if you’re worried about covid, we’ve been working the entire pandemic.

    Well, I feel immensely grateful to people who for whatever reason, be it their own financial need, or the goodness of their heart, put themselves in grave danger at the beginning of the pandemic to continue to work in healthcare. And continue to do so. I don’t know how to essentially say what seems like a totally rude and selfish thing. Which is, well I’m sorry you had to do that, and I’m grateful for your sacrifice, but I don’t want to be exposed, even though you’ve been exposed for the past two and a half years.

    Same thing with a doctor that I see. All we ever do is quarterly go over my lab work. But she has decided that for her the pandemic is over. And now requires all of her patients to come in person instead of on telehealth. I don’t see any reason that we can’t go over my labs on telehealth. She’s not examining me or giving me any medicine or doing anything that requires an in-person visit. But she too said, well I’ve been working since the beginning of the pandemic! As if somehow that means that I should be willing to risk my health. Which she knows is precarious due to these underlying comorbidities. How can I convey my gratitude to these people while also setting a limit? Or am I just being a complete jerk by wanting to set a limit? And I should take the example of their self-sacrifice and amazing compassion and nobility, and try and practice it myself, by putting myself in a situation where I could become severely ill.

    I really have no idea how to walk this line. I would love to know from medical workers what my attitude should be, and what my actions should be, and what my statements should be. Apparently all the physical therapy places around here do the same thing. Way before the pandemic, I have been to both chiropractors and acupuncturists who practice in large rooms with multiple tables and multiple patients at the same time. I didn’t care for it then, and there wasn’t even a pandemic. I switched providers. But I don’t want somebody to lose business that has been in business this whole time. And I don’t want to be a jerk. And I might not even have the option of switching to a practice that has different procedures. But I don’t know how to respond to the idea conveyed to me by more than one medical worker that essentially I shouldn’t care about whether or not I get exposed to covid because they’ve been being exposed since the beginning. Any constructive ideas from medical workers on how they prefer to be treated and what they think my obligations as a patient are to protect myself when they have been unprotected the whole time would be greatly appreciated. thank you

    1. nia*

      You’re waiting for them to make decisions that you want them to make and hinting rather than clearly stating your needs. Instead you need to clearly ask for what you want. “I still need to be very cautious–I would need to do this in a private room. Is that possible?” And if a business won’t do it the way you want, look for a business that will. If they reply they’ve been on site the whole time, say “I appreciate that but unfortunately I still need to be very cautious. Are you able to do __ for my appts instead?” And try to arrange it by phone before you come in so if they won’t do it you can cancel the appointment and explain why. But also once you’re there you can leave if you’re not comfortable with the setup.

      1. OP*

        Thank you. I pretty much felt that I was not supposed to ask for that, since “they have been working the whole time” but I think you are right. I did not want to be rude or disrespect their heroism, but I guess it is still ok for me to want to stay safe even if they can’t?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          The safer you stay, the safer they stay! Masks and telehealth protect both you and your caregiver.

      2. cncx*

        My elderly mother got covid from a PT place that had no masks and distancing and she does this now- she won’t go to places that don’t do distancing, don’t do the bare minimum etc. i agree with you, it’s time to shop around.

    2. TCO*

      You might be overthinking how your provider will react. Lots of people have probably expressed the same concerns to them. Can’t you just say, “It’s really important for me personally to limit my exposure because I’m high-risk. Is there a reason we can’t use a private room? Are there certain appointment times when that might be more possible, or when it might be less full in the main room?” You don’t need to get into some long debate about their safety, what they’ve been doing, etc. Just state what you need in a straightforward way that keeps the focus on you and your comfort. You are the client.

      I’ve heard that some providers aren’t allowed to do telehealth appointments any more–they were only temporarily allowed. So it might be worth asking your doctor if there’s some real reason that your appointments need to be in person.

    3. WellRed*

      I don’t see why you need to conflate your gratitude for them working during Covid with your need for treatment. One has nothing to do with the other. Admittedly I’ve also never been to any sort of appointment where other patients are in the room. That’s just weird to me (except maybe a Rehab gym). If you are uncomfortable for ANY reason, speak up. They need to fo what’s right for you. I don’t care if they’ve been exposed to Covid for two years. Literally not your concern.

      1. Op again*

        Thanks everyone! Yeah I didn’t conflate my gratitude with my needs. The provider did by telling me, when I expressed my concern about the crowdedness of the gym and covid, that they had worked all through covid. That was his answer to my concern. So I think he was conflating the two. And then I just felt like I’m not supposed to mention to a healthcare provider that’s been working throughout the pandemic that I’m concerned about getting sick myself. But today I took your advice and when I went to my appointment I inquired about any times that it was less crowded and I made my appointments then. I forgot to say that at the time, I asked about going back into the private room, and they said that’s only for first appointments. Thanks for everyone’s advice!

        1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

          Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*
          December 23, 2022 at 10:50 pm
          Many, many health care providers have died during the pandemic. And the pandemic is not over. Having people who did not die telling you “Look, this is fine, I’m ok!” is not a guarantee of your safety.
          The important thing for you to consider is what will increase your safety while having treatment. If I said to you: “Hey, I’ve never been run over and I cross the road everyday” , how does that keep you safe? It doesn’t. You still have to take the personal responsibility to look both ways and make a judgement about your own safety before you cross the road.
          And remember, this work is how they make their living. They have to downplay the risks. But as the customer, you can be as specific as you want to be in looking out for your own self!

    4. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Just wanted to recommend the 3M Aura respirator masks. I’m not saying do anything you’re not comfortable with just because you’re wearing a mask, but they’re another layer of protection, and one which generally doesn’t require asking for anyone else to go out of their way.

  27. Blizzard Warning*

    Make him a checklist of “must do” items to review before he submits a report. Assign him some trainings to complete on the particular software he uses to do the job. Meet with him regularly and give specific, actionable and above all – respectful – feedback on what is going well and where improvements are needed. Ask open ended questions during those meetings. Be curious about his perception and understanding of what you are asking him to do and what obstacles he’s encountering in his work. There are all kinds of people in the world – it’s important not to assume that we know what the employee’s motivation and intent is before we talk with them about what we’re seeing. You will learn more about the employee’s capacity to make improvements through this process. Then you’ll have the information you need about whether the role is a good fit for them, and you can take it from there.

    1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Many, many health care providers have died during the pandemic. And the pandemic is not over. Having people who did not die telling you “Look, this is fine, I’m ok!” is not a guarantee of your safety.
      The important thing for you to consider is what will increase your safety while having treatment. If I said to you: “Hey, I’ve never been run over and I cross the road everyday” , how does that keep you safe? It doesn’t. You still have to take the personal responsibility to look both ways and make a judgement about your own safety before you cross the road.
      And remember, this work is how they make their living. They have to downplay the risks. But as the customer, you can be as specific as you want to be in looking out for your own self!

  28. Alien*

    I don’t know where else to do this but I’m thinking of going back for grad school (I graduated in 2020) and I was wondering if there’s a student equivalent of AAM where I can get some realistic and practical guidance or insight. I once went to the career center as an undergrad and it was a joke.

    1. Bon Voyage*

      Which kind of grad school? There are some resources like The Professor Is In that come to mind for PhDs (though, blech, I have some qualms), but I think it really varies by degree/field. There’s also a post somewhere in the AAM archives about the parallels between academia and Hollywood that I found really helpful for clarifying just how whack that job market is.

      1. Alien*

        Thank you for the suggestion. Do you have qualms about the site or about the idea of getting a PhD? I don’t see myself getting a PhD though. I’m thinking of maybe doing a master’s in accounting. All I know is that if I do go back, I want it to be something finance related even it turns out to be something different.

        1. Bon Voyage*

          Both, honestly, but the site was what I was referring to. It doesn’t seem very relevant to your professional ambitions, so no worries. Best of luck pursuing next steps in finance!

    2. Quincy413*

      If you search the AAM archives, there are multiple questions about going to grad school. I read them a year ago when I was applying. Good luck!

      1. Alien*

        Ooh I went looking for those posts and it’s a good reality check lol. I was a humanities major and while I don’t regret the decision, I do know I would be miserable if I had to work in that field so I certainly know better than to spend even more money studying it. At any rate, the itch has been scratched and I’m happier for it. And thank you. I hope your experience with grad school has been good so far =)

    3. Polopoly*

      Why are you going back to grad school ? What would you do with your degree ? There are some fields where an advanced degree is necessary to advance past a certain level. In other fields where a degree would barely be noticed and not worth the cost / time.

      1. Alien*

        That’s true. I was a humanities major and I learned very soon after that it would be a waste of time and money if I got a master’s in something I did not want as a career. But how do you know for sure what career you want? I keep finding myself gravitating towards (both at my current job and at my previous job) positions like bookkeeping, HR, payroll, billing etc which I do not strictly need to (or want to) go to grad school for. If the timing works out, I might get my foot in the door at my current job but we’re not there yet. The reason I’m asking about grad school though is because I’ve also considered becoming an auditor or an accountant which do require a degree.

  29. Second Rodeo*

    What are some small ways that your best manager or workplace supported you as an employee?

    For context, I know the small stuff is no substitute for the big stuff–like supporting professional development, advocating for appropriate compensation, cultivating and respecting strong work-life boundaries, etc.–and the big stuff will win hands down for me every time. That said, I’m trying to match those big-picture supports with smaller ways of helping a team feel valued and supported.

    1. ferrina*

      My manager spotted my strengths even when I was struggling and gave me responsibilities that matched those strengths. It was a win-win; I was much happier doing work that aligned with my strengths, and she got some incredible work product out of me (she’s actually been consulted by our corporate bosses on some of the projects that she moved me too- our results were so strong that they are seeking her advice for what our other offices can learn).
      Just hearing someone say “You are really good at this” and “I fully trust your abilities” and watching them put actions behind it is amazing.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I had a wonderful manager who made me feel supported on a regular basis. He always listened, which sounds small but is huge. If he disagreed with my plans or ideas, it was never, “you’re wrong” but rather, “let’s start with X instead.” He also asked regularly about my life outside of work, not in an intrusive way, more like, what podcasts did I recommend this month.

      He got me a holiday gift last year that was generous and tailored to my tastes– a gift card to a store connected to one of my hobbies. This year, his replacement got me an Amazon gift card delivered in a Christmas box– not the worst gift, but generic, and…. I don’t celebrate Christmas. Seems like a tiny thing but the contrast was stark.

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      My former manager, one of the best I’ve ever had, recognized that giving me the longest heads up possible for future changes made the difference between me having massive anxiety and feeling excited/challenged. I’m one of those people who isn’t good at processing things in the moment and gets a little shut down, but give me a weekend to think about it and I’ll find at least one silver lining in even the worst change. She knew that I was fine if she told me about something early on and then it didn’t come to pass, so she’d often tell me things that she would hold back from say, my co-worker whose biggest pet peeve was when she was told something would be happening and it didn’t (this co-worker considered this sort of thing as being ‘lied to’ by her employer). So my manager would wait until something was set in stone before bringing it up.

      Basically, she was a great manager because she understood how her reports *as individuals* responded to things, and proceeded accordingly with how she managed them. It must have been exhausting to take on so much of that emotional labor, but she really was the best boss for being willing to do it.

    4. Specialized Skillets*

      She noticed my strengths and assigned me new work that played up my talents. She enthusiastically praised me and my skills to upper management. She understood my preference for autonomy and trusted me to manage processes.

      She was directly responsible for my promotion/career shift via these methods, and now we are peers and good friends. I’m eternally grateful for her support.

    5. JanetM*

      Okay, this one was probably 40 years ago, but I still remember it pretty vividly. I was a receptionist at a jobshop when someone came in and was really snarky to me. My manager came out of his office, took the person’s resume out of my hand and gave it back to them, saying, “If that’s how you treat my staff in my office, how can I trust you to treat my clients properly?”

      When I first started in my current job, I got sick and stayed sick for the worse part of six weeks — I was missing at least 1-3 days a week. My manager took it all in stride. (That may not be what you’re looking for since I had the sick leave to use, but it made a difference to me.)

      My manager and grand-boss have given me stretch projects throughout my time in this job and have given me the support I need to complete them.

      This week because of the projection for freezing rain last night and icy roads today, my manager told me on Monday that I’m working from home today. (It’s also the last day before winter break so that’s nice.)

      Oh! My manager takes me out to lunch a couple of times a year — once around the holidays, and usually once during the middle of the year. Sometimes he brings me candy (nothing spectacular or weird-making, just a couple of Kit-Kats out of the candy jar on his desk).

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Mine doesn’t watch the clock which I really appreciate because when I worked in an SP500 company we literally put in 2:00 PTO requests to go to the doctor.

      We’re also allowed to mention if a person screwed something up without it being taken as “unprofessional.” I feel like there is a big taboo in corporate America for ever pinpointing a problem if it’s rooted in a person. We need to pretend it’s the entire team or process or software or lack of documentation. So it’s a relief to just say “Sally is horrible please handle it” than pretend we’re all perplexed with Sally is so awesome yet there has been 100X errors in their area over the year (which is the charade you’d do at multiple jobs)

      Also he let’s you do stretch assignments

    7. Double A*

      Making my contributions visible to the higher ups. Like, if I have an idea they she supports, she’ll bring it to leadership.

    8. Girasol*

      Insulated us from a horribly abusive grandboss. That’s such a hard thing to do and we so appreciated it.

    9. Tio*

      Flexibility, in both start times and WFH. It’s so easy and shows so much respect and appreciation.

      Also, make sure that you give them enough projects/assignments that they enjoy. Either because they’re good at them (because being good at something makes you feel good) or it’s just an area/type of work they like doing.

    10. Irish Teacher*

      Ooooh, I have some for each.

      My best manager was really supportive when I was a young person in her first week in retail and a customer started yelling at me because I accidentally overcharged him by like 50c or a euro by keying in the wrong code. She made me go and take a break and told me nobody had the right to speak to me like that and to call her or one of the other managers in future if a customer got aggressive.

      My current workplace is really awesome and my last direct boss was too (she left because she got a deputy principal post elsewhere). She was awesome at recognising people’s strengths and at the start of my second year in the school (my first full year), she told me “I think this would be a good thing for you to work on” and suggested I look at the newly developed short courses and consider which would be good ones for our school to offer. She also once told me she wouldn’t give me a particular student because “I need you for some students who need help with literacy,” which was a polite way of saying, “no, this student primary needs help with organisation and that is way too unstructured for you to deal with.”

      She also seemed to grasp that I sometimes need fairly clear…not instruction exactly, but clear communication.

      And a very small thing, but we went to a wine bar for part of our Christmas party and…I froze (don’t know how to explain this exactly; I just got confused and couldn’t respond to the waiter taking my order) so she and another colleague just ordered for me and acted like the whole thing was completely normal.

      This is probably a fairly big thing, but…I was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer my third year in the school and she, the principal and the deputy principal were all incredibly supportive as were all my colleagues (though all my colleagues knew was that I had to get my thyroid removed). The deputy principal told me “the job comes a long way down the line after your health.”

      The best thing about my workplace is the way everybody’s input is valued, even people like the student teachers, who get overlooked in some schools.

      Oh, my current direct boss consulted me last year about my timetable. He couldn’t make promises but asked what “would be the ideal,” as in whether I’d prefer to have a couple of later starts or early finishes or if I’d like to have a few frees together, so that I could finish up early one day or whatever.

  30. just another bureaucrat*

    I’m putting together an end of the year wrap up for my team’s stuff and keep going back and forth on tying things to a person.

    If I call out Jack did xyz, Jane did rst, etc
    …it’ll have to say just another bureucrat did a lot of line items
    …there are some people who haven’t done much of anything and are on performance plans
    …there are some people who did good operational stuff which is going to just be a single line or two but is REALLY important stuff

    I’m leaning strongly away from it, we are a pretty “we” kind of organization (government, and we mostly talk in we not I)

    But I do want to recognize some folks have really done an outstanding job personally, but the best of those are people who do NOT like public recognition and are the most senior people on the team cause they do the most outstanding job. It feels strange to say Senior Manager behaved like an excellent Senior Manager. Team Lead stepped up and is ready for a promotion as soon as someone retires.

    I really think not doing it and then doing something personal and direct to folks who stand out? Am I missing an opportunity here?

    1. Glazed Donut*

      I’m not sure of the norm in your workplace or the size of your team, but I was planning something similar with a slight difference:
      for everyone:
      1 paragraph of appreciation with specific examples
      Some bullet points of specific outputs achieved this year (# of this, increase in that)

      + one small paragraph to the individual that is more personal and shows attention to that person’s contributions/growth/strengths.

      1. just another bureaucrat*

        This is helpful.

        Most of the people I’ll be sending to don’t report to me directly so I only see the stellar folks and the really poor performers which makes this harder I think. Maybe I should do the broad thing and then have my managers who more day to say see what folks do give something more directly?

    2. linger*

      If the (general-audience) wrap-up has some official standing, you could keep that to team accomplishments and status, especially if the same document is also to signal next year’s projected developments.
      But then you should also, at minimum, separately acknowledge individual contributions to the individuals concerned, so there is some documentation of their performance.
      Also consider whether some details of the individual contributions may need to be seen by others: by coworkers as examples of e.g. how to progress their careers; or by higher management, e.g. for raises or promotions. (For such purposes, above-and-beyond tasks possibly do need to be signalled; standard line-item performance, not so much.)

    3. E*

      I just left a municipal govt job and we often acknowledged above-and-beyond specific people in newsletters, town hall meetings, and even with annual awards in a few diff categories. Also good to acknowledge the whole team while you do that but I think it’s fine to name some particularly high performers. It’s really hard to financially reward/ retain talent in govt so use all the tools you can!

  31. Blank Mind*

    I interviewed for a Development Associate position at a college recently and am confused about a question I’m supposed to prepare to answer during the next interview.

    The hiring manager rambled about it for a while, but the gist of it seemed to be that the previous person in the position was good at writing donor profiles in the “very unique and quirky” style of the college. She wanted me to read the profiles and discuss my thoughts on them and how I would write them.

    I read the profiles, and they range from a few sentences to a few short paragraphs. Basically just quotes from the donors, some biographical info, and a mention of the type of gift they give or what they designate the gifts for. I assume someone just interviewed the donors or had them fill out a questionnaire, and then put it together. Not much to it and not really “quirky” or “unique.”

    When she e-mailed me to schedule the next interview, I asked for clarification on what kind of thoughts she wanted about the donor profiles because I thought I misunderstood.

    She said marketing and stewardship is part of the job (most of the job is gift administration) and she wanted my perspective on how I would contribute (and that she expects a learning curve and coaching will be needed for whoever is hired).

    I have no stewardship or marketing experience, and I’m drawing a blank. Does anyone have any ideas on what kind of answer she’s looking for? I don’t have time to research donor stewardship and marketing and come up with plans or ideas for them if that’s what they want.

    1. ferrina*

      Does the hiring manager actually have experience in Development? I’m guessing not- she probably saw a pretty normal industry template and mistook it for original genius because it’s not something she would have thought of (and wouldn’t have been familiar with based on her own experience). If you assume that she has little to know knowledge of Development and is using incorrect terminology, how would the intent behind her question change?

    2. Dr. Snax*

      I work in stewardship and donor relations in higher ed, and you might be overthinking this a bit. I doubt that there’s a “right” answer or some highly original contribution that they’re looking for—they probably just want to see that you understand the purpose of the genre and have some ideas about how to contribute. So I’d be prepared to talk about how the profile might resonate with the donor featured—how does it make them feel appreciated and special? How might it inspire other donors to give? Is there a distinctive voice or tone that the profiles are written in that you could point out? What do you think it might be important to take into account when writing one? Stuff like that should give you plenty to discuss.

    3. Nonny*

      Any chance the person before you just read the school’s style guide and then…followed it? Because that can be sadly surprising (I say as former developer of visual branding guides at the school I worked at) and maybe the hiring manager felt that having guides for writing styles is both quirky and unique (when it’s actually both just common place and a best practice).

  32. Help!!*

    I manage a team of 4 people and am having some major issues with two of them. One person, Lisa, is very slow at EVERYTHING she does. I feel that her workload is not too heavy – the issue is everything takes her so long because she refuses to use a mouse, her dual monitors at the office, etc.

    The other problem child, Michelle, currently assists Lisa with the major account Lisa manages. Michelle is responsible for an ongoing task directly related to Lisa’s account but doesn’t need to be done immediately. Michelle has been unable to keep up with it and now has a hard deadline (coming from the president) for clearing all open items that is in a few weeks. It’s become clear that Michelle isn’t going to finish – she cries to me every week about the stress, and talks about how she doesn’t want to get burnt out if she works overtime to get it done. I asked the rest of the team yesterday if they would be willing to assist Michelle on the task, and two people said yes with no hesitation. Lisa, however, said no, she doesn’t have the time. Even though it’s directly related to her account and their overall happiness. It was exactly the answer I thought I was going to get from her, but I am still shocked with her refusal to help the team, and especially step up for her own account. Not sure how to address this with her or handle it going forward. Lisa and Michelle have been really tricky to figure out how to manage (I am also a first time manager) so I am looking forward to 2023 to get them both in the right place/with the right workloads. Any advise is greatly appreciated!

    1. ferrina*

      Oh boy. This is a tough situation for a first time manager.

      Good news is that it doesn’t sound like they are causing too many immediate issues (i.e., negatively impacting the 2 that are doing well), so you can deal with one at a time.

      I’d deal with Michelle first. Focus on getting her through the deadline that she’s so stressed about, then about a week after that (give her a chance to breathe), sit down with her to debrief. How did she get so behind? What steps is she taking to make sure it doesn’t happen? What does she need from you? Treat this as a fact finding mission- you may discover that she wasn’t trained in something or is spending a lot of time on Project Y or something. Move forward from there. It may be that she’s not getting the right support but wants to do better, which is very fixable. Or maybe she’ll have a ton of excuses. It sounds like one of the issues is that she didn’t let you know when she was falling behind, so set up safety nets on that. Have weekly 1:1s with her, and make part of the 1:1 “what is falling behind?” Let her know that this isn’t to get her in trouble, it’s to help you figure out the workflow. Give her a few months with the new practices and see how she does. You may see marked improvement, but if not, think about whether she’s the right fit for her role.

      Now, Lisa. She’s clearly an attitude problem. If she won’t use the time saving devices given to her and won’t help out the rest of the team, that’s an issue. First step is that you can stop waiting for her to volunteer- you can step in and assign work. If Lisa has a problem, ask her to walk through her bandwidth with you. Figure out where her time is going. Again, start by approaching this as fact-finding, but you’ll likely need to set some boundaries with her. Even before you talk with her you can start documenting how long she takes compared to the rest of her team (and you NEED documentation. This can be as simple as a Word doc with dates, times and project/conversation notes).

      For Lisa (and possibly Michelle if she doesn’t improve), loop your manager in. Share your concerns in terms of productivity and impact. If/when it’s PIP time, you’ll want your manager to review and support you in the PIP (especially if you haven’t done this before).
      Feel free to come back here and keep us posted. Good luck!

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        This is some great advice. I also want to kindly point out that you’re leaning back way too far—the point at which you have an employee crying in your office over workload and stress once is a problem and a serious sign to start investigating. Also, Lisa’s persistent slowness and lack of accountability is also a problem to be managed more intensively.

        Your role as a manager is to support your team with the tools and resources they need to be successful and to hold them accountable for the outcomes. It seems like you might have a more limited view of your role and need some training and mentoring especially for managing performance issues (which is totally normal for a new manager!). I’d consider finding out what your company offers.

      2. Help!!*

        Thanks for the feedback!

        So for Michelle first – the project she has been assigned is something she’s had on her plate since September. I trained her on how to do it and she has just not been performing as I hoped she would since then. I have weekly one-on-ones with her, as well as a lot of other communication in person and over the phone throughout the week and I know what she is spending her time on and I have known that she’s been behind on this task. She has never cried to my face – only when we are on Teams and she has her camera off, and I always make sure the calls end on a positive note. Her having trouble to keep up isn’t something that I just realized, though I have been hoping she would be able to manage it all on her own as time went on. I have been helping her with steps of the task for months now just to move it along. I have her sending me a breakdown of the work she gets done towards this project every day, and general breakdowns of what else she’s spending her time on so that it can help me understand how much she’s able to do every day.

        With Lisa, I also know exactly what she is spending her time doing, and I know she thinks she doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle what she’s currently doing. I also know (and IT and my boss have noticed this too) this is because of how slow she is at every task. There are times when she’s showing me something and I am watching her work and I am blown away with how long even just opening a new window takes her. So I really do think this has a lot to do with it.

        My manager (who is also the president) is well aware of these dilemmas and also works closely with Lisa so she is familiar with how she is. I have been saying for months that I need another body in my department, so I am excited that we finally have plans for early 2023 to hire someone who will remove some of Lisa’s workload and leave her with just this one major account to manage. That should then free up some work Michelle is going so she can allocate more time to this ongoing task that she is having trouble keeping up with. We also have a part time person who will be transitioning departments and I am hoping will be able to help Michelle with some menial tasks that take up a lot of her time. I really think mid-January is the light at the end of the tunnel, but just need to keep the morale up to get the big project caught up in the meantime. Thanks for the advice!

        1. Tio*

          See, I see you saying you need another body to free up time – but you don’t. You appear to have two people half performing their jobs, and letting it go unaddressed. You need to set specific metrics on these performances – i.e., I need you to build at least 3 chocolate teapots a day and you’re only building one. We need to get you up to speed, why are you only building one? This would happen in your 1:1s, and you should see specific improvements. By week 3 they should have at least two teapots, by week 4 you need to be at 3. You’re not setting them specific goals to hit so they can keep brushing you off by being “overloaded” when the overload is really just the scope of their job. They have to be able to keep up with that, not get it pushed onto a new person, or you will continue to have problems

          1. Don't Let The Bad Ones Get Away With It*

            Yes! Plus enabling two poor performers to continue is likely to be extremely demoralizing to the two good workers. This is the kind of thing that leads to good workers quitting.

          2. Help!!*

            The reason I am thinking I need a body is because the task that Michelle is in charge of is something that hasn’t been just one person’s job since before COVID, and we have completely changed systems and the process since then. So while I THINK this should be a task one person can manage, it hasn’t been proven yet. I think so w if that has to do with Michelle, but I also could be wrong and it could just be too much for one person. Before she took it over in September, it was a process that was being broken up by multiple departments but it was so fragmented and inefficient so we decided to change it up and bring the responsibility back to our department like it once was.

      3. Help!!*

        Also do you think I really should force Lisa to help with the rest of the team to meet this deadline? She straight up told me no yesterday and started explaining all the tasks that are reasons she can’t help. I already emailed the rest of the team with the breakdown of responsibilities and left her off it.

        1. Yangtze River*

          Good heavens, yes, you get to decide who works on what. Besides, the thing that Michelle is behind on is directly related to Lisa’s work!

          Since everybody is full up with tasks, you will want to think ahead to which of their tasks are going to slip in order to get this one task finished.

        2. ferrina*

          Maybe not on this one- let this go while you get your ducks in a row and decide on a strategy. Especially as a new manager, you want to make sure that you feel confident in what you are doing.

          You also want to align with your boss on the next steps you’ll take. They can offer advice, and can help cover you if Lisa or Michelle try to complain against you (I’ve had an employee do that; I talked to her about performance issues, and within a week she complained to my boss about me). You’ll also want your boss in the loop if you move to a PIP- the sooner you can start documenting and put it on your boss’s radar, the easier it will be to get the PIP set up.

          1. ferrina*

            Adding on- if it looks like your team won’t get it done or someone needs support, assign to Lisa (unless you have your own reasons not to: Lisa doesn’t get to choose). You get to assign work, and if Lisa needs help prioritizing what needs to be moved to make room for this task, you can also help with that.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Can you function with a team with two really weak links? Start documenting failings and objectively thinking about which one needs to go first

      1. Help!!*

        The problem is that this major account is the so important to our business and Lisa has managed it for 15 years. I’d like to find someone new to manage it – when Michelle first started I thought she could probably take it over but it’s become clear she doesn’t want that responsibility/commitment. Michelle is doing support work that if she doesn’t do it, no one else on the team has the bandwidth to do it every day so it would be a huge adjustment that would certainly strain myself and our other team members. There are benefits to keeping them both in their roles for now, but I am definitely looking to Q1 2023 to see how people react and handle their roles once the push of Q4 is over.

    3. Happily Retired*

      Have you told Lisa that it is NOT ok to not use a mouse, and that it is NOT ok to do or not do whatever it is with the dual monitors? Plus whatever other preferences or refusal to learn new techniques that is getting in the way? As you added in a reply, both IT and your manager have seen this and commented on it.

      I would insist on her using proper work practices, something that is easily measurable and should impress her speed, before tackling attitude, which can be more elusive and frustrating to correct. Of course, if she gives you attitude when you insist on mouse usage, etc., you can address that then and there.

      1. Help!!*

        Lisa is someone who gets very defensive when you suggest she do ANYTHING differently. I have suggested this before, as have others, but it hasn’t gone well. Whether it’s the way she runs a meeting to the use of technology to the way she writes emails, her response is always to get defensive. She has been in her role for 15 years and is very much in the “this is the way we have always done it so this is the way we will continue to do it” mindset that I am trying very hard to force her to change. There is a nepotism factor there with my boss as well, and I would remove the major account from her if I could to give it to someone who could more wholly manage it, but I have tried suggesting that and my boss didn’t think that was right. I wish I could make this decision on my own but I really can’t.

        1. MoMac*

          I entered into a position where I inherited a team where all but one were Lisas. I spent six months trying to get them to make the changes that were necessary by our contract with our funders. And I then spent the next six months counseling them out. They were absolutely insistent that things needed to remain the way they had always been, despite a new funding contract with different requirements. One left at the seven-month mark, and the rest trickled out over the next 4-5 months. I had to get extremely specific about what was expected in the job role. One was actually good about responding to the new parameters but had inappropriate interactions with a co-worker’s client. When she would not stop interacting, I told her it was insubordination. I made it clear that was the verbal warning, and the next would be a written warning. She left within two weeks. The others continued to be unwilling to change, and I documented the problems clearly and precisely. They all moved on. Then I was able to hire new grads and train them in the way that we were required to work. Look at the new year as the time to set specific expectations of meeting the job requirements or helping them to move elsewhere. Alison’s line of this is what is required, are you able to do that would have been helpful to me back then.

        2. E*

          Personally I’d focus more on the output rather than the “how” of not using the two monitors. (Though not using a mouse? I can’t even…)

  33. Burning Out on Burn Out*

    I’m on the job hunt but I’m going to be pretty picky so it may be a while before I’m able to escape. This question relates to a question I asked a few weeks ago. My job’s new leadership is toxic positivity. They don’t take too kindly to push back or people telling them that unrealistic deadlines are not possible, KPIs cannot be completely if we are severely understaffed, or trying to explain the nitty gritty realities of their “big innovative ideas”. I have a feeling that anyone who is not a Yes-Man will be gone within the year.
    I’m potentially going to have to slog through a really horrendously busy season at work and leadership will not be increasing our staff size for it. We were drowning last year and I am dreading a repeat of that. Last time AMA people suggested forwarding inquiries and issues to leadership when the inevitable problems arise, but this would be taken VERY badly and I might get fired for doing that. They’ve laid people off in the middle of large projects, so even though it would really negatively impact our vulnerable clients if they fired me during the busy season, I wouldn’t put it past thee new regime.
    I live in a high cost of living area and have two young kids so I can’t leave without another job lined up.
    From people who had to deal with toxic positivity, how did you cope before you got out? I was able to tell my old boss the truth, so I really feel uncomfortable in the new environment they have created where anything that is not “wow, AWESOME suggestion!” is treated like you are being a complaining, negative, poor employee.

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      I did what I guess some would define “quiet quitting”. Enough day-to-day work to avoid leaving anyone in the lurch when I logged off, and then, all focus on the job hunt. Plenty of documentation of where projects were at and how the software worked – both covering my ass, and starting my handover files long before my last day was in the diary. I kept (calmly and professionally) raising issues and objections with my line manager, not because I thought they’d listen, but because it didn’t sit right with me that an entire team was burning out, and by that point I’d stopped caring about being the problem child in the eyes of higher-ups (long story short, a few months within my job search I realised there I might be pushed out before I had something new lined up, and was so burnt out even that would have been a relief).

      Last I heard of my old managers, they were scrambling to save the very projects I’d been sounding alarms about, and had no choice but to pick up my documentation that they’d ignored for months. My leaving opened the floodgates for the rest of the team, and it was so satisfying to see my ex colleagues’ LinkedIn updates about their new roles.

      Best of luck to you – hope a much better new job is on the way!

    2. Nonny*

      I got laid off in a similar situation. Me bringing up best practices and my experience in the industry was seen as making excuses and being insubordinate. (And I’m super laid back and low key and hate confrontation! I don’t think I even know how to be insubordinate.)

      In hindsight, I should have stopped raising concerns and just done exactly as told and worked to not care that a lesser/ineffective product would be the result. Basically go in with the attitude that I’m exchanging my time for money.

      I would still have to deal with meeting impossible deadlines and goals, but I may have lasted a little longer. That said, getting out of there, even not on my terms was a giant relief. Everyone else on my team saw the writing on the wall and left within the next year after that.

      1. Alternative Person*

        Same. I worked in a place where industry best practice was considered essentially ‘just my opinion’ and I had a snowball’s chance in hell of gaining traction of two theoretically peer employees who were embedded like ticks despite being acknowledged as the top person across three branches.

        Best thing I could do was do what I could for my clients, finish the certification I needed and pick my battles very, very carefully, then leave. And I did. My current job hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows of course, but it’s a darn sight better than what I was dealing with.

  34. MT*

    Does anyone know definitively whether onboarding/training for a new job is considered “paid work”? I’ve been the the process of apply for part time work at the Census and while I’ve never been hired for a 100% remote position, some of the things they are asking me to do prior to hire seem like they should be paid work.

    Background: I’ve been having to fill out official forms back and forth for a few months now, mostly for security clearance, which seemed reasonable because they need to do a background check on me before I start. But I first became concerned when they told me I had to do this training on data security and send them the certificate prior to me having a job offer. I’ve never had pre-training for a job that was unpaid but I decided to move forward and ask questions later.

    At the beginning of this month, I got a letter from the Census with a bunch of forms to fill out. The letter said they were offering me a position with all the details and I was required to fill out this stack of paperwork and send it back to them by a certain day. I thought, okay I’m conditionally hired, they sent me onboarding paperwork. It’s a long list but I filled out my declaration of federal employment “oath of office”, employee contact info, direct deposit sign up form, agreement to work an irregular schedule, employee responsibilities and conduct, W-4, etc. These are all forms I would be signing on the first day on the job and I would be paid to do so. I filled all of them out and sent them back.

    A few days later, I got an email saying that I was required to do the 2023 data security training (I did the 2022 training before) and I needed to do it ASAP. At that point, I thought of all the unpaid work I’d done and I pushed back, asking about compensation for the paperwork I’ve done up until this point and asking if I could do the 2023 data training when I was issued a laptop. The responses I’ve gotten from that email have been somewhere between, idk do you still want the job? and no, that’s required training you need to have before we hire you.

    I plan to call next week, to try to get through to someone in HR or payroll, but am I out of line to expect the work they have told me to do so far should be paid? Who would I elevate this to within the organization? From what I have read, this seems like a clear violation of FLSA if I am not compensated for the time to do this paperwork.

    1. Just a Name*

      The data security training for feds is a yearly requirement. If you don’t do it, they shut off access to your computer. In my agency, you had to do it within a set time of onboarding. Not sure how other agencies do it. But with onboarding, to get a computer, access to the network, and an official email address, you had to that computer security training first. So maybe they are trying to get you set up so you can hit the ground running. It’s not work so much as a condition of employment, liking getting the background check and security clearance. You can start without a complete check (conditional employee badge) but you can’t get access to an official computer without that training.

    2. Not a Lawyer*

      In California, all that you described should be compensated. In other locations it depends. Generally, you should be paid for time spent on paperwork and all onboarding activities, once you are hired. But it’s unclear to me if you are actually an employee or not. I work in the gas industry and we require our techs to complete a specific federal certification to work for us. Generally we hire folks that already have this certification. But sometimes we make a conditional job offer that they need to have it in place before they start “working” for us. According to our lawyers, they are a not an employee at this time, so their time studying and actually taking the exam is not covered by FSLA. However, if we hired them without the certification and they are actually an employee, then any time they spend studying for the exam, either at home or at the office would be subject to compensation. 15 years ago I worked for the federal government part time and there was a similar practice before I got hired. There was some training that I had to complete before I got hired and I was not compensated. But I only did the training before hire, no W4, direct deposit, etc.

      1. MT*

        I’m reading the letter they sent me and I can’t figure out if I am an employee either! The letter states “we are pleased to confirm our offer to the position of “teapot maker” at the Census, stationed in “hometown”. While I’m seeing conflicting information on the training being paid work, it seems pretty clear from what I am reading that the paperwork is paid work, so long as it is not voluntarily done. The letter is clear they need the paperwork before the next steps so it’s required.

        I don’t actually need the job (I work full time for a municipality, I just liked doing the Census in 2020) so I’m willing to push the issue more than I normally would.

    3. just another bureaucrat*

      Good news bad news. It’s the feds.
      Good news: there is a process and an official list of what is included and what isn’t
      Bad news: they are the feds, they can exempt themselves from any and every law they want to

      You can push back but if it’s not in the rule book it would be wildly unlikely for anyone to break the rule for you.
      The background check is certainly out of scope because you don’t work there until that’s completed.
      Some of the other documentation it does seem has been pushed into pre-hire rather than first day hire which is weird, but I think not wildly unusual.
      The data security I would have expected to be paid, but I’ve not done anything since they did the fully remote work.

      That said calling the HR contact is exactly what I’d do.

      1. MT*

        Thank you. This isn’t my first federal job but none of the other jobs I had at this agency and others were like this. Definitely remember filling out the W-4 form the first day of in person training for Census 2020…

  35. I said brr it's cold in here*

    What do you think of this piece of a LinkedIn recommendation from a former supervisor to an individual contributor –

    “XX was one of the hardest working team members I had at Dunder Mifflin. I often times didn’t even know what was on her plate because she’d be doing so many projects at once. Not to mention, always with a great attitude and smile on her face!”

    I think I see how it’s supposed to be overall positive but the more I think about it, I see some yellow flags. (1) The supervisor gave very a superficial review with no specifics (2) The fact the supervisor didn’t even know what was the employee was working on! That would tell me (a) The supervisor was clueless and had no idea of the workload or (b) lack of communication somewhere between employee and supervisor or (c) “so many projects at once” tells me there might be a problem with prioritizing work

    I would almost not even want to have this on my LinkedIn profile at all and I think it does a disservice to the employee, who most likely is a hard worker

    And I detest LinkedIn recommendations that say “smile on her face!”. Not I mentioned “her”, because it’s only women people feel the need to include that for.

    1. Yangtze River*

      1) It’s a LinkedIn recommendation. What exactly are you expecting?I would not expect a detailed recommendation from a social media site.
      2) I guess this depends a lot on your company. In my general field, not just my company, people often take on projects that are not delegated to them from their supervisor and which their supervisor actually has no authority over. At my company, direct line supervisors trust their people to get their stuff done and typically have a hands-off approach so they might not actually know everything that somebody is doing.I don’t find the description any kind of flag at all. It’s about equivalent to saying “affirmative, she does work.”

    2. TX_Trucker*

      1) I think any recommendation on LinkedIn is fabulous because they are completely voluntary. There is no incentive to write something nice about a former employee unless they were fabulous. All the recommendations I write on LinkedIn are short and vague. It’s a social media site and I’m not posting details on projects for our competitors and recruiters to see. And I also include smile on “HIS” face when appropriate, because truckers aren’t know to be cheerful and it is worth mentioning when they are.

      2) Perhaps this is industry specific, and/or seniority specific, because I have no clue what my top-performing employees are doing some days. I trust my superstars to keep busy and find projects from other mangers if they finish the work I give them. I don’t want to be bothered with updates that have nothing to do with my own assignments. Eventually, I will get a nice email from another manager that says something like: Thank for letting Bob work on the widget project. His assistance was helpful.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      LinkedIn recommendations are always meaningless, regardless of their content so it isn’t really worth reading into the particular language used for any specific one.

  36. Manfred Longshanks*

    How do I avoid oversharing in interviews?

    I (24F, UK) am a physics graduate who was really delayed starting any kind of work due to having severe depression during and after university, and then, uh, pandemic happened, so not the best time to be job hunting. I’m currently mostly well, in my second entry-level job in the education sector, but I want to get a better paying, full time graduate level job in a different sector (probably tech/software?).

    My issue is that, in a lot of previous interviews, I have been asked about the gap in my work history, or why I’m only applying for grad jobs after 1/2/3 years, etc, and I end up ranting about what a bad time I’ve had health-wise – sometimes even to the point of crying in the interview – and it’s clearly not a good look, so it torpedoes my chances of getting the job. (I think I have undiagnosed ADHD, and this is a manifestation of the impulsivity side of it. I would definitely benefit from therapy, but can’t really afford it unless I can get a job that gives me disposable income to throw at it, hence this comment…)

    I would massively appreciate anyone’s ideas of what I can say in interviews to explain my patchy work history/lack of clear direction in my career so far, and direct the conversation towards things I can actually be positive about.

    Additionally, I had to stop using a smartphone for ADHD reasons – how do I spin this in a tech environment where everyone Loves Technology and you are required to demonstrate that you also Love Technology in order to be a culture fit for jobs?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      “I took some time off to attend to some health issues that are now resolved.” If you feel like you need to keep going, add something like, “I am really excited about this opportunity because…” or “I’m excited to dive back in/take my career to the next level.”

      And then stop. talking. It’s hard! I know! But that’s the answer they want and need.

      For the smartphone issue, there are a lot of smart (and somewhat contrary) tech writers who have written about the risks of distraction. I’d probably play that off as “Oh, I’ve found it detracts from my focus at work and decided to ditch it. A little unorthodox, but so much better for my flow and work style to not have one. Of course I have ABC to endure people can reach me promptly/deal with issues when I’m in the field etc.”

      1. ferrina*

        FashionablyEvil’s script is great. The trick will be to stop talking. I’m also ADHD, and when I’m interested I like to talk and engage and talk and….yeah. Practice doing non-talking things with your mind. I’ll try to focus on the microexpressions on my face and minor adjustments to my expression (might want to practice in a mirror), or mentally relaxing different muscles. Just something to occupy your brain that is not talking (especially true if your brain is constantly running multiple trains of thought). I found that meditation exercises can help. I’m bad at meditating, but I’m able to steal some of the techniques to do outside of meditation settings, like when I’m listening to a boring presentation.

        For the Technology- just be excited and knowledgeable and you’re set. This is where ADHD can be a superpower- I’m capable of getting genuinely excited about things like administrative software and Excel formulas, and my excitement gets other people engaged. It’s to the point that my company likes to tap me for any kind of rollout, as a pseudo-corporate process hype man. (Bonus that I can test the process and find any holes- I’m amazing at finding any kind of process issue because my ADHD doesn’t let me behave in the way people assume and I can run multiple use-case scenarios in my head at once)…..and now I’m talking too much ;D Anyways, just be excited. Honestly, most people won’t care about your phone during an interview, and it’s not worth bringing up unless asked. If they ask, just laugh and own the phone as a personal quirk (no need to explain about the ADHD, just that you really love your phone)

        1. Manfred Longshanks*

          So glad it’s not just me with the excessive talking!

          I am thinking that rather than just shutting down the train of thought (hard), if I can have a script that lets me answer the question very briefly and then segue into something actually useful for the interviewer, that is the way forward. Although that runs the risk of wandering off into another, overly personal tangent…

      2. Blue Clue*

        This more or less exactly. I had a very similar situation and said “I had some health issues at that time. They’ve been resolved, and I am happy to be able to focus on (work that I enjoy doing) now.”

        I also practiced, but thankfully didn’t need to use, a response to probing for additional details: “Oh, it wasn’t a great time, I avoid rehashing the details. Thanks for your concern!”

    2. RagingADHD*

      1) “I had a health issue immediately after graduation that has since resolved, but of course it was difficult to look for this type of work during the height of Covid. However, I feel that my last 2 positions gave me a lot of valuable experience in X and Y, and I’m looking forward to a position where I can work more on Z and utilize my coursework in ABC.”

      Work out your prepared statement, practice saying it in slightly different ways so it sounds natural. Once you have delivered it, STFU. Of course, the shutting-up is exactly the most difficult part with ADHD, but practice helps. One way I have found is to harness my curiosity. If your statement is relatively boring to you because you have practiced it so much, the interesting & important part is hearing / seeing the other person’s response. You have to shut up so you can find out the interesting part.

      2) “I’m exploring digital minimalism right now. Have you read ‘Deep Work?’ Some really interesting ideas there.”

    3. Healthcare Worker*

      Do you have a friend who can practice with you? It’s easier to stop talking when you’ve practiced a few times. Great suggestions above – good luck!

      1. Manfred Longshanks*

        I have friends who can help, but none who have ever interviewed anyone before, so rehearsing hasn’t been super effective in the past. Worth trying again though! Thanks for the suggestion :)

    4. Roland*

      I think your phone really will never come up in interviews so there’s nothing to worry about. And tbh I don’t think you have to Love Technology to work in tech, as least not in the places I’ve worked. I feel like knowing how computers and software work made me like them less, not more lol. Yes my company’s “watercooler chat” slack channel is full of tech buzz but it’s like the same 5 people out of hundreds of engineers.

      You will likely be an outlier in not having a smartphone but that shouldn’t really be much worse in this industry specifically. And still unlikely to come up beyond maybe “oh that’s interesting” if you pull it out in front of someone. If they want you checking emails on your phone 24/7 it’s probably a bad job anyway.

      Good luck with your job search!

  37. Sockster*

    So we’ve had a few letters here from people who were fired or laid off from their company, and then were hurt when none of their colleagues from the company reached out after. It seems the general consensus is that it’s nice to reach out? But I truly have no idea what to say. Context: this guy worked for the company for about 15 years, was my supervisor for about 7 years, so I know him pretty well (met his family, invited to his wedding). I’ve since moved on to another branch of the company, and he was just fired for performance issues last week. I’d be comfortable sending him a text, but I truly don’t know what to say. Any suggested scripts?

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I mean, you’re not obligated to. But if you were on good terms something like:

      Hi X, I’m sorry to hear you’re no longer at X Company. I hope you’re doing ok. Please feel free to stay in touch via LinkedIn (or whatever, but LI is usually best).

    2. Anon for this*

      I think keep it positive and simple. I don’t remember what people even said to me when they reached out after I was fired, just that they did it and it was nice. I think something like this would be good: “Hey, I’m sorry to hear you’re no longer with the company. I always enjoyed working with you! Best wishes on your future endeavors.” Plus offers of help if you’re willing to give it.

      1. Sockster*

        It’s good to hear from your first-hand experience that you appreciated the messages from others- thank you!

  38. anon for this one*

    Anyone heard of including a provision in a PIP that says there’s no severance if the person’s fired at the end of the PIP? It’s not a thing that happened to me, but to someone I know and it just seemed so odd, since it’s not like there’s an obligation to come to a severance agreement when firing someone for poor performance or inappropriate workplace behavior, so having someone sign away that possibility just seems like a unneeded dig when the situation’s already pretty stressful and you’d want to focus more on how they could improve and turn things around.
    But I haven’t worked that many jobs where PIPs are even a thing and have never been in that situation myself, so possibly it’s more normal than I’m thinking?

    1. Decidedly Me*

      Never seen that, but my guess is that a specific situation triggered that. EX: Someone on a PIP was fired and expected severance and put up a huge stink over not getting one, so they make it clear up front now.

      1. ferrina*

        Seconding. I’ve never seen that in a PIP before, so it’s probably a CYA after someone had a fit.

        Expecting a severance after being fired for cause is weird. I’ve usually seen severance used for lay-offs or to get someone to leave quietly.

        1. anon for this one*

          Company has not, to my knowledge had any prior situation that would warrant that sort of CYA thinking and *has* had prior history of, if an employee is borderline, like, some performance/behavior issues but not enough to skip to firing, to discuss w/said employee if they’re still happy at Company and if not, did they want to work something out so everyone could feel good about the end of the relationship and providing generous severance (2-4 months) in such cases.
          And yes, I wouldn’t think that someone being fired after not meeting the terms of a PIP would expect severance, it seemed weird to make it part of the PIP terms.
          I don’t think the handbook says anything on severance at all.
          We’ve had some management shakeups and the whole thing was weird in other ways (that are identifiable so I won’t be getting into that), I just thought this particular provision was kind of… mean? Rubbing things in maybe? And was looking for some ‘is this normal’ level setting. So thanks for the confirmation it’s not common but not necessarily *super* weird.

    2. Not a Lawyer*

      It’s not specifically on our PIP form, but our employee manual states that severance is not paid for terminations due to performance issues, drug test failures, and a few other things.

    3. Formerly in HR*

      Usually severance is paid when the employment is terminated due to the employer and employee had no role/ choice (re-org, cost cutting, merger etc.). When the employement is terminated for cause, or due to the employee’s role into it (like the fact performance hasn’t improved as part of PIP) there doesn’t have to be severance. Some employers may pay severance even in such cases just to be able to clean the house.

      1. anon for this*

        I totally get that being fired for cause at the end of a PIP (because you hadn’t fixed the issues) wouldn’t normally involve getting severance (and that there’s no customary requirement to provide it), which is kind of why it seems so off to me to make that explicit- like it’s some sort of punitive measure and not just what is likely to happen anyway if they are fired at the end of the process. And it also feels like you’d put that in if you weren’t really expecting the person to stay on one way or another, like you were encouraging them to quit instead or that they didn’t expect them to complete it satisfactorily.
        The vibe to me is sort of like if you break up with someone and they very specifically tell you that they won’t be helping you move next month anymore. Yeah, I didn’t think you would, after we broke up and all, but it’s kind of mean and unnecesary to specifically call that out, like you’re rubbing it in?

        1. Formerly in HR*

          Maybe it has to be laid out so it’s clear for the employee what will they get? So there’s no ‘ I thought company would pay me x because I know they paid Y for Jane when she was let go’, or no possibility of suing over lost pay. Also, if this provision is included from the time of hire, or even from when the PIP starts, it might deter the people who don’t have any intention to make a change and just want to ride the PIP and get a lump sum at the end of it. Many times certain things that made it into policies/ documents are because there was a case in the company history that they now want to prevent from happening.

          1. anon for this*

            I would be incredibly surprised if this were in response to a prior incident, as it’s a small company and I would likely have heard. It is possible that it’s intended to set expectations to avoid later disappointments, that would make more sense and be a more charitable interpretation of things. It definitely wasn’t taken that way by the recipient though, based on how it was presented when I heard about it.
            It’s definitely not something that’s part of the hiring process and it’s not in the manual.

    4. HR director*

      Some employers use aggressive PIPs to get rid of employees that it might be a little harder to terminate for any number of reasons. It’s quite possible that when the PIP is delivered, the employee is given two options: 1) leave immediately and take severance, or 2) do the PIP. If the employee chooses to do the PIP, then it is important to specifically state that failure to successfully complete the PIP means no severance.

      1. anon for this*

        The whole putting someone on a PIP to get rid of them would not be in keeping with the prior ethos of the company as I understood it, but is how the scenario had sounded when I heard about it, which was why it was leaving a bad taste w/me.
        I am glad that I asked for opinions about this because the interpretation that it might be to manage expectations and keep the employee from being disappointed and hurt at the end of the process if things don’t work out is a more charitable reading and makes me feel a bit better about the whole thing.
        Whether it was the intent at the outset when they initially prepared the PIP, the 1) leave w/some form of severance or 2) do the PIP and forfeit severance if it does not go well is what ended up playing out and the person picked 1.
        I just heard about the whole thing 3rd hand, which is not great for getting a full and accurate picture, I know, but the whole thing seemed really cold (of which this is only one element). It made me feel pretty crappy about my employer and how they were approaching things when I’d previously been pretty confident that they were committed to treating people fairly. Hopefully it wasn’t intended to be punitive and was just coming off that way because of the heightened emotions surrounding everything.

  39. Librarian with extrovert reports*

    Okay, I know there are some other library people floating around this blog, so a question:

    Is it against your library’s policy for staff to take their breaks on the floor, and/or how would you feel about library staff doing that? Honestly, I’ve never witnessed this happening at any library but my current one, so I hadn’t even thought of it as a policy before.

    To me there are two problems with this:
    1) People cannot easily tell if my staff are on a break, as we often sit out on the floor while working to supervise our rowdier younger patrons. So a patron might reasonably assume any staffer in a public space is on the clock and ask us for help, only to be rebuffed if the staffer is on their break.
    2) If a non-exempt staffer ends up helping someone on their break, we would technically need to pay them for that time and/or have to find someone to cover for them later so they can have another break.

    But I don’t know if I’m just being uptight about this. For the record, we do have a break room!

    1. Fellow Librarian*

      I don’t see an issue with a staffer on break saying, “I’m on break, but you can get help at the reference desk!” It’s okay for a patron to be redirected, IMO, that’s fine customer service, as long as the staff person isn’t rude. If you have to remind your staff not to work during their breaks, that’s a separate issue.

      But making it a rule that staff members MUST take their breaks in the break room does seem uptight. The library is a public place after all. What if I wanted to get a book to read for my break? What if I’m stopping by on my day off to use the library?

      Does your staff wear name tags or any other identifying thing that says “I’m on the clock”? That could help patrons identify who is working and who is not.

      1. Librarian with extrovert reports*

        Yeah, the day off thing is what gives me pause. I definitely want the library to be available to staff on their days off. But we’re a small town library with a loyal base of regulars who know us all on sight, some of whom are extremely bad at taking no for an answer and refuse to speak to anyone but their favorite staffer. Others are youngsters who need to see the rules being applied consistently, so if they’re breaking the rules near my staff, I can’t have the staff ignoring the behavior…but I also can’t have them addressing it while on their breaks.

        1. Academic Librarian Here*

          I’m at an academic library, and I would recommend that you ask any on-break staff person do a formal hand off of the question. This would mean in our library: walking the patron to the desk (or calling the desk in front of the patron and saying “I have a patron in the YA books that needs help, can you come over?”, describing the request to the person on duty, and letting the patron know that you will be available at X o’clock if they want to talk to you in particular. For policing behavior (my least favorite part of public services), I would go to/call the person on duty and report the problem.

          I would let the staff know, if you are taking break time in the public spaces, please do formal hand offs. If you don’t want to do that, please don’t use the public spaces for breaks.

          Me personally, if I’m actually on break (and usually in public spaces on break only to heat up food or use the restroom, I just tell the person. “I’m on my lunch hour, I’ll call someone for you.” Or if it is someone I know well, “I’m at lunch, can we schedule something?” This works for me, but I’m not lounging around in the public spaces, just moving through.

    2. Also librarian*

      We don’t have that rule, but I can see where it might be necessary or at least highly encouraged in some places. A previous job required us to take off our company name tag if we were on break in public view, and that seemed very reasonable.

      If patrons directly recognize workers though, that makes it a little more difficult. Having a polite script ready for patron inquiries could be a good compromise. Government employees are allowed to take breaks, even if the public doesn’t like it.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I think patron frustration with being told somebody apparently working is on break might necessitate use of the break room (and if they’re supervising, are they still on break? What’s the difference between supervising and other job duties?)

      However, if your break room, like far too many, is a grungy and windowless space with gross furniture and burnt coffee smell everywhere, I can sure see why a break there would be less than relaxing. Is there anything you can budget for/do to improve the space if it needs it? Maybe ask the staff what they’d like to see done (within reason, of course)?

      1. Librarian with extrovert reports*

        Our break room has windows! We even have a private outdoor patio where I always loved to take my breaks in nice weather before I got promoted. We just updated the outdoor furniture, but maybe I can convince someone to change the indoor stuff to something new and comfy in a year or two. Unfortunately, we do run on a shoestring.

    4. WellRed*

      I have worked retail(books) not a library but yeah, I think junk it’s reasonable to require staff to take breaks off they floor for the reasons you mentioned. Also, if staffers, even off the clock, are hanging around, they need to be well behaved. I’ve also seen this in restaurant/bars where servers can’t sit at the bar after their shift but can sit at a table in the bar.

    5. Jenna Webster*

      Their time is their time, and when else are they supposed to browse for something to read? Let them know they need to remove staff identification and, if they’re hourly, that they need to pass along anyone who asks them for help. And then keep an eye out or have the staff who are on the desk keep an eye out so they can step in if needed. It isn’t a perfect solution, but staff on a break are just regular customers and have the right to look around and find their next thing to read (watch, listen…)

  40. Not Mad Just Disappointed Scientist*

    Is it ever appropriate to disclose to a new boss that you were forced to resign from your last job? (Spoiler alert, I’ve submitted an unfortunate update to this post:

    I’ve already distinguished myself as highly competent at my new office. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, and my boss has taken note, so I suspect I will be promoted in the near future. It will be long overdue for me from a professional standpoint (and a monetary one, lol), but my experience at my last job has really wrecked my confidence. My new boss is really kind and I suspect he will not only not care but be very surprised. (So far everyone, even my former coworkers, are in disbelief over what happened.) Part of me wants to because I feel like I’m hiding a dirty, shameful secret, even though I did nothing wrong. Ugh. Thoughts?

    1. Fiona*

      Unless you misled your current employer about something or lied about your experience, I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t really think there’s anything to gain and it will look like you’re dragging last job’s drama into this job. People leave toxic jobs all the time (or are forced to resign) – there’s nothing unique or notable about it and it’s not anything to be ashamed of. Repeat to yourself “it wasn’t a good fit” and say that if anyone asks. (Which they won’t – I doubt anyone cares). It’s also helpful to remember that people spend far more time thinking about themselves than others – so nobody is really wondering what happened at your old place of work. Look to the future, continue to be great at what you’re doing, and soon your old job will be a faint memory. Good luck!

    2. BRR*

      I wouldn’t say anything. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to accomplish with this? I see very little if anything to gain from this.

    3. Polar Bear*

      Do not do this. Just. Don’t. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose. I get wanting validation that you’re doing well here and the previous place got it wrong, but that needs to come from someone else (like a friend, partner, mentor, etc.) If a new employee disclosed this to me as a manager, it would seriously make me question their judgement. There are lots of other options for processing what happened and you deserve to do that, but not at the new job where you got a fresh start.

    4. Yangtze River*

      Only if directly asked in a way that forces you to be candid or lie. Otherwise, no, there is no need for your current employer to know

    5. Observer*

      Part of me wants to because I feel like I’m hiding a dirty, shameful secret, even though I did nothing wrong. Ugh. Thoughts?

      What do you expect to accomplish by telling your boss? And why do you think he has a need to know?

      Unless you have a solid answer for at least one of these questions, don’t bring it up. Not because it’s inappropriate per se, but because it’s irrelevant, and just brings up the potential for drama.

      1. Not Mad Just Disappointed Scientist*

        Thank you. I have been going with the “it wasn’t a good fit” angle, especially since I had been trying to find a new job for months before I left. Part of it is also that everyone keeps asking why I moved *here,* which isn’t the most desirable location in the US. Also also, I guess I worry that if I don’t tell him first he’ll find out some other way and I’ll somehow be in trouble(???). But that’s probably because that was the kind of culture my former office cultivated.

  41. Bananarat*

    I work as the Executive Director of a nonprofit. I’ve been ED for about seven years and for various reasons (stress level) I’d like to move into something more specialized at a larger organization.

    We don’t have a dedicated HR person and that means I handle a lot of HR stuff myself, which I’ve learned on the job with the help of an occasional consultant. I’m thinking about getting a certification in an HR specialty. I’m looking at CEBS (Benefits) or CCP (Compensation). Does anyone have insight about these certifications, and if my general management experience + a certification might help me get into those roles at a management level? I can highlight HR related accomplishments on a resume, like an overhaul of our health insurance package. I’ve been at my current org for a long time (was promoted from within) so it’s kind of terrifying to think about leaving, so any guidance would be helpful.

  42. hello from the freeze*

    They chose not to give us today off. I have been “at work” (at home, telecommuting) since before dawn.

    I have not gotten a single e-mail.

    But hey, I’m getting paid.

    1. Silver Linings From Dreamland*

      LOL, for the first time this year I’m working somewhere that gives employees the option of exchanging Christmas for a floating holiday and I was very excited to do so.

      So, I can’t complain XD. Luckily, I have a few tasks to work through, doing as much as I can before everyone else is back on Tuesday.

      1. hello from the freeze*

        I would love being able to do that. I don’t celebrate christmas at all, so yes, I will happily work Monday in exchange for me not having to use up all my PTO on my own fricking holidays.

        It really is annoying that they bend over backwards to give me off a day I don’t need to take off, and I have to waste all my PTO on time I do need to take off.

    2. WellRed*

      We were open half a day though most in my division took the whole day. I covered what needed to be done today and then enjoyed coffee and the NYTimes while my status showed me as present. Technically I was.

  43. goddessoftransitory*

    Here’s a work thought experiment:

    For New Year’s Eve, you receive an old lamp. You rub it, and out pops a genie! The genie is going to grant you one wish, with specific parameters:

    You will be granted the ability to change one thing about your workplace, but only one. It can involve coworkers/clients behaviors but not their actual lives or belief systems. What would you pick?

    I’ve narrowed mine down to the following:

    1) Before you call me to order, you:
    A: Go get your credit/debit card.
    B: Go get your reading glasses.
    (If I never hear another variation on “I can’t see this, it’s too dark, where are my glasses, hang on” it’ll be too soon.)


    No customer will ever, ever again call me while barreling down the highway at sixty miles an hour, argue about every aspect of the order with the kids they have in the car, then complain about “having to find their card” when I ask for payment. I’m not the one endangering everyone around you, lady/sir!

      1. hello from the freeze*

        HARD SAME.

        ngl my current big reason I hate my job right now is someone requiring cameras on. I find it so distracting. He doesn’t care.

        1. allathian*

          If you’re using Teams, you can switch off incoming video and hide your own video once you confirm it’s working. I’m not sure about Zoom.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      This is easy. We’d have enough of an increase in student numbers to ensure the retention of all our staff and to avoid threats like amalgamations/closure (the latter isn’t even on the table at the moment but could be if our numbers continued to fall).

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Saaaame. My school was going to be one of the last in our district to get an updated building, and they just paused all new construction because of enrollment/budget concerns.

    2. just another bureaucrat*

      Modernize the way that budgets for federal programs are set up to support the technology costs for a modern day tech stack. (IE annual subscriptions/saas products.)

      1. Observer*

        This would certainly be on my short list.

        I would update that to ALL government funders, not just Feds.

    3. Glazed Donut*

      all papers requiring a signature are returned within 24 hours.
      would be SO NICE for planning, moving projects along, getting people paid/hired, etc. (government work)

    4. ecnaseener*

      Right now, it’s as simple as making our IT put a system in place for a process that’s somehow on my plate – and following that system in a timely manner. I spend so much of my time requesting access to a system for other users, one by one, and nagging IT when they take weeks to grant the access (supposed to be done within a few days), and this is actually a two-step process where two different IT teams handle the different steps and both are non-responsive. Aside from the time and frustration on my part, this setup makes me and my team the face of the problem for these users. So by the time they get access and need to be taught how to use the system (which is part of my job, unlike the IT stuff), they’re already annoyed – sometimes with me personally, always with the need for this system – and expecting the experience to suck.

      (Obligatory #NotAllIT – I know there are great IT depts out there, ours unfortunately is not one of them.)

    5. Sparkly Librarian*

      New, clean, attractive, functioning buildings instead of the mishmash of locations we currently have to deal with. (No more pest infestations, leaky pipes, nonexistent HVAC, out-of-order elevators….)

      1. Square Root Of Minus One*

        Exact same wish.
        I’ve changed sites in September, from a 2003 building that has it’s issues, to a 60 year-old one where most people have their desks in the labs. Most of all: it’s noisy and I’m cold.
        (Off-topic but I feel for you in the US storms right now…)

    6. I Need More Chocolate*

      All the people who are secretly working second remote jobs, doing both jobs badly (and therefore dumping extra work on the rest of us) leave the company! Bonus: mansplaining instantly ceases when they go!

    7. kitryan*

      50+ percent of my job is basically processing new ‘purchases’ and instructions on how to set up the purchase is provided by submission of a form. The submitted form is often full of typos and answers that are misinterpreting the question and misstating what they want done. I would make it so the form as submitted/filled in reflected accurately the data for the purchase and the intentions of the submitting person/team so we no longer had to ask 1-5 questions about nearly every submission.

    8. Inkhorn*

      “Surge capacity” will mean extra staff, not staff working nights/weekends/public holidays when a big project hits.

    9. Cedrus Libani*

      We have wonderful, highly-skilled technicians. They produce data so beautiful that it makes the angels weep, and they do it consistently. How do they do it? RTFM, that’s how. They follow all the directions, even the annoying ones, and they follow them to the letter.

      I want a clone army of them, and I want to send at least three of them home with anyone who buys our instruments to generate their own data. If that’s too ambitious, then I’ll settle for having the customers’ techs read that fine manual at least as well as ours have.

      (I’m a data person who supports a science product that is…well, let’s just say that I was a lab person once, and I understand the temptation to cut corners on a long and tedious protocol. But it’s like that for a reason, I swear. If you get cute with it, your data will be ugly, and then you’ll end up coming to me so I can try to fix it with computer tricks.)

    10. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      We eliminate the two-tier system of tenured/research-active vs sessional teaching staff. Everyone is paid a salary (with paid rec leave, sick leave, parental leave, etc) on rolling six-month contracts, scaled according to role complexity/experience/ hours worked in different capacities. And the research component of salaries is funded by the government/taxpayer in recognition of the importance of independent academic expertise in this period of competing knowledge systems.

      1. Cece*

        Respectfully, I’ve been research-active staff on a rolling six-month contract, and it was exceptionally damaging for my mental health. It took years to recover from that experience after I got moved to a contact with no end date! I’m genuinely interested to know what problem is fixed with your solution here.

  44. BellyButton*

    I have one last hurdle before getting the official written job offer. The CEO said yesterday that everything has gone well and after I present my 30-60-90 day plan there will be a written offer. It is a big leap from being a Director at a huge international company to being the head of a department at a very small company. I am both nervous and excited. I keep reminding myself I was basically doing this job anyway at my previous company, but without the title and $ and with all the bureaucracy of a large company that was slow to change and evolve. I will have so much autonomy and ownership in this new role.
    OK- back to my 30-60-90 plan- I’ll present it to the CEO after the holidays.

  45. Lowry*

    I work for a non-profit and our principle donor is giving us a 10% increase on our total salary budget for next year to reflect inflation, increased general cost of living etc.. If this were your organisation, how would you distribute it? What method would you consider best or fairest? A flat 10% of each person’s respective salary or something more nuanced? I’d love to hear of how this is done well!

    For context our staff are broadly across three levels – CEO (only one of those!), middle managers and then everyone else. Everyone is a professional in their field so there are no interns or junior staff and no-one is on a particularly low salary. The $ top end of ‘everyone else’ is the entry point for middle manager and then the CEO is in a stratosphere of their own.

    1. ferrina*

      A previous organization I worked at did a sliding scale. At that time inflation was around ~3%, and the raise scale was 2%-4%, with up to 7% for high performers. They did annual reviews and had a numeric scale for part of the review. If you were meeting expectations, you got 3.5% raise (slightly above COL to reflect growing value). High performers got 4%, and managers could make a case for up to 7% raise. Lower performers would get COL or less- most people that got <3% raises were going on to PIPs, though in some cases there were decent workers who had just had a bad year. (I knew one person who got a 2.5% raise but lots of praise- her boss hadn't adequately staffed the team so she couldn't meet her goals, but she worked so hard that year. That made me so frustrated for her).

      I really liked that system because it meant almost everyone got COL adjustments, and high performers got a little more. Just like in all systems, if your manager didn't advocate for you, you were in a tough spot. But that's the best I've seen. Only thing I'd add is to treat the CEO/really high earners a little differently. Since their salary is so high, a % for them is a higher dollar amount from the others. This impacts the financial pot, but also can be weird for others who may be struggling (for example: I made 42k and was denied a bonus of $500. My VP shrugged it as an inconsequential amount; for me it was huge). If you can, maybe cap the CEO's increase at a set amount (exact amount will depend on CEO's current compensation, market value, and how different it is from the other staff). Obviously this can be tricky, so get your CEO to weigh in.

      1. Sloanica*

        I wonder how companies are approaching inflation this year. IIRC it was up like 8%. In past years, my COLA has always been very mild (2-3%, which on an already-low salary is just a couple extra bucks per paycheck) and supervisors have pointed to low inflation as the reason. I do think if you want to be truly equitable, it’s possible you’d have 8%-10% COLA at the lowest levels, and a decreasing amount at the highest, because 10% of a huge CEO salary is probably more money than everybody else’s raises combined, and it’s the lowest paid workers who will feel cost increases in things like groceries and gas the most.

    2. Alternative Person*

      I’d try to look at a higher % for lower paid workers if possible. Flat percent increases across the board benefit higher earners more.

      Also since it sounds like this is a budget increase to reflect inflation, I’d be a bit wary of attaching performance expectations to it. Sometimes low performance is a poor co-worker, sometimes its the best someone can do on limited resources and the pay increase can give them the space to become a better co-worker.

  46. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    Help me put into words why this is upsetting, please!

    I had a veterinarian emergency a couple weeks back. I have a lot of flexibility in my hours, but I let my boss know that I was waiting for a surgery time to open up and I didn’t know when it would be. Time passes, surgery happens. Boss follows up conversationally. I say Dog is doing well, we’ll all be happy when the Cone of Shame is no longer needed, but aside from the first couple days, when I had to carry Dog up and down the stairs it’s been fine. Boss makes nice words about glad to hear it, and closes with, “You’re a good mamma.”

    I’m not sure if it feels unnecessarily gendered or if it’s because it’s equating my dog with my kids (I am not Dog’s mother!) or what but… It REALLY is bugging me. Can you help me pinpoint the problem with this?

    1. Velociraptor Attack*

      A LOT of people equate pets with kids. My vet’s office always refers to me as “(pet)’s mom”. I understand being a little unsure about it, we never refer to our dog as our son’s sister but being called her mom is kind of a whatever for me.

      So here’s my question with pinpointing your problem with it – are you stressed by what happened with your dog so it’s something to be annoyed at OR is there something about your boss you’re annoyed with and this is an easier thing to fixate on?

    2. WellRed*

      Your boss meant it as a compliment and so many people refer to themselves as pet parents (which I’m personally not crazy about) how are we to keep track of who doesn’t? You had flexibility to take care of the dog and your boss cared enough to ask. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important.

    3. Yangtze River*

      It’s really common language, and it’s also really common for people not to like it. I would let it go.

    4. cmcinnyc*

      I remember being introduced by my boss to a colleague with the phrase “CMC is a mom.” Not a dog mom, mind you, a people mom, but I wanted to kill him. Colleague started blathering on about “oh that’s great hardest job in the world,” and I said, “No, I think that’s working for this guy.” Ha ha ha we all laugh it is not funny.

      So I wonder if it was just the “mama” comment by itself that has you tweaked? I love being a mom, I love my kid, but being ID’ed “the Mom” at work is always, always a negative. I wish it was not, but that word drags such a train of gendered crap behind it.

    5. Firm Believer*

      Please let this go. Your boss was trying to be sensitive. Many bosses wouldn’t have been so. My cat is in surgery today and if someone said that to me it would make me feel good.

    6. But not the Hippopotamus*

      I’m seeing the comments about letting it go – I assure you that I’m not wound up about this so much as it’s bugging me that I’ve been struggling for the words as to WHY. Folks here are usually better at words for this kind of thing than I am :)

      I wasn’t stressed at the time of the comment (the surgery was a week past by the time the happened). It WAS kind, and I was feeling valued and positive about it and all… until that last comment which just hit really wrong! I’m not mad or anything, but it sorta left me feeling a bit icky.

      I’ve been thinking on it and, while I generally dislike the “pet parent” thing, I don’t think that was the driver. Rather, I think it was something closer to feeling like I’m being thought of as “a mom” rather than as a professional. I think if I was a dude, I wouldn’t have been called “a good pappa,” and it felt a bit undermining professionally in that sense – like being thought of as the Office Mom instead of “Mary who rocks the budget files every month.”

      I dunno – maybe it’s that I’ve always hated the word “mamma” I appreciate the input!

      1. Specialized Skillets*

        I think “mama” is more infantilizing or patronizing or something? I know what you mean but can’t really verbalize it either. Like I don’t go around calling other people “mama.” That was for my baby to call me when he was a baby.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        I dislike the term and don’t want it applied to me… in your shoes, I think it would bug me because it equates caretaking with ‘mothering’ (parenting a human, and particularly a female person who parents a human). And, of course, applying that as your primary identity *without asking you if it applies*, in a particular situation or overall, when you may not identify with it at all.

      3. Yangtze River*

        “feeling like I’m being thought of as ‘a mom’ rather than as a professional.”

        You were having a conversation about your dog, not about your work. If you had been talking about something you did for an intern, and your boss told you you were a good mama, that would be a serious problem. But when you’re talking about some thing in your non-work life and somebody refers to you in a non-work way, it kind of makes sense.

        “I think if I was a dude, I wouldn’t have been called ‘a good pappa’”

        You have got me thinking there. If you had been called a good mom rather than a good mama, would you have felt as undermined? I do hear men being referred to as dads to their animals, but never papa.

        Even so, you were talking about your dog. I would wait until you were talking about office stuff and someone calls you a good mom/mama before feeling undermined professionally.

        1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

          Fair. And I’m not really sure that’s what’s bothering me. I do think I wouldn’t have minded AS MUCH if he’d said I’m a good mom… But calling me a good mom about my dog would have confused me since I have actual kids, so I wouldn’t have liked that, but probably for entirely different reasons.

          Maybe it’s the whole problem is making it about parenting when it’s about caretaking? Like if he’d said, you’re really compassionate to do that or you’re a good caretaker, that wouldn’t have bothered me at all.

          Something to think about anyway.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      I think it sounds icky when people refer to someone as mama like that regardless of who/what the “baby” is, and it feels especially weird in a work environment. I don’t think it’s a big deal, and you should do your best to take it as the kindness it was intended to be, but you’re not wrong for feeling off about it.

    8. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      It feels like a massive overreach to me – like you are trading information about how your dog is recovering from surgery & suddenly he’s evaluating your parenting skills? Like I would usually hear “you’re a good [friend, auntie, or whatever relational term]” as either (a) a response to me fishing for a compliment (I am not above this, ngl) or (b) picking up on some hesitation/uncertainty and reassuring me (“Yeah it was a bit tricky, I hated having to give him pills & he went and hid under the bed” “He’s a lucky dog to have you as a human, he needed those pills!”). And from what you’ve said here, it really doesn’t sound like you were trailing those “please provide reassurance/appreciation” vibes, so being called a “good mamma” would feel to me like… my boss had a very different take on the emotional/professional subtext of the convo than I did.

      (Agreeing with you and others that he sounds like he was trying to be nice & it’s broadly fine, btw! But I also would feel like this was off, and it’s interesting to me to figure out why – not to judge your boss, but bc it’s interesting!)

      1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

        Thank you, Firefighter! I think you understand that it was just “so off” to me. Not like I’m going to tell him where to shove it or anything, but that it was like “whoa! Where did THAT come from?!”

        Yes, he was definitely being nice and it’s nice that he asked. But… He did not land the dismount!

      2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Yes, this is pretty much what I was thinking. It’s a form of judgement! And you didn’t ask to be judged. It’s like he’s ported your work relationship (where presumably it _is_ his job to judge) into an area that’s none of his business. So it’s a kind of intrusion, and also getting into territory where you’re going to know much better than he does whether you are, in fact, doing a good job. I might have a thought like “I’ll be the judge of that – you’re not even here”. The word “momma” would probably get up my nose a bit as well.

        I’m not saying I wouldn’t also realise he meant it in a nice way, but I can quite see why it might feel icky :-)

  47. cactus lady*

    What do you do if you don’t want a hiring manager to contact a previous employer? I left my last job due to FMLA retaliation by my boss and I worry if someone contacted him he would torpedo any opportunity for me. I have good relationships at my current workplace (I’ve been here 3 years) but I don’t keep in contact with anyone from the old one. I’m ready to move on from my current role and I’m a little worried about this.

    1. ferrina*

      You’re probably fine. Most employers just contact the previous employment to verify dates, job title and maybe whether they are eligible for rehire, if that. (Some places don’t even do that level of verification.) They generally talk to someone in HR, not the boss. Even if they go out of their way to talk to that boss, they’ll also talk to your other references who will say stellar things about you.

      Is there a non-zero chance that the hiring manager is Bad Boss’s cousin or some such? Yes. But odds are pretty small.

    2. MoMac*

      I gave them the contact number of the HR office at headquarters, which I knew would only confirm dates of employment. And for references, I gave other professionals with whom I worked at the agency. When asked why I left, I just said I wanted more control over my schedule. I had three job offers out of the four places that I applied. You’re fortunate in that you have another job in between. I did not.

  48. Lucy P*

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about boss wanting me to put offspring in charge of certain aspects of accounting but knowing it still would fall on me to fix if offspring messed up. Determined to watch things, I spoon fed offspring their first assignment. Gave them a bill to pay, told them where to find the list of account numbers to pay with, and wrote down the last 4 digits of the account number they were supposed to use.
    In the end they paid with the wrong account. After that I have ignored boss’s directive. Will deal with it if boss brings it up again.

    1. Sockster*

      Ugh, so frustrating! Yes, I think this is the kind of thing that you can hope boss forgets about, and maybe show proof of what happened the first time, if boss brings it up again.

  49. Cookies For Breakfast*

    Low-stakes festive question!

    There are a few people from my old job I wanted to keep in touch with, and I’ve left it way too long now. No surprise: I’m socially awkward as hell, and now we no longer speak daily, it’s been very easy to convince myself they surely never liked me. But also…I kind of feel guilty over our shared past in a dysfunctional workplace. One person burnt out and left right after me, after they got stuck with my already impossible workload. Another is still there, but treated unfairly over management failures that would 100% have been pinned on me (not a manager) if I’d stayed.

    I’m thinking of sending them a casual happy new year message, on social media or LinkedIn – I’d love to chat to them socially now and then because they are good people and we used to get along. I’m overthinking the awkward feeling, right? And what’s a good way to say “let’s keep in touch”, when I know my mental health keeps playing tricks and it takes me ages to get the energy to contact even my closest friends?

    1. Sloanica*

      LinkedIn is a great way to do this and will feel very natural – that’s literally what the site is for! You can connect with them, and send them a “thinking of you, happy holidays” message, and then be guided by their response.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes! Exactly this.

        Last year I reached out to a few folks on LinkedIn asking for virtual coffee. 2 were thrilled and delighted that I’d asked; the third person declined but didn’t think any less of me (presumably).

        You’re fine, and I think this is a great thought.

    2. Awkward Same*

      I totally understand your feeling about this. And yes, the whole thing can feel awkward and self-doubty! But trust me, it is not a lost cause. Please reach out to these people. You can’t be in any less contact with them, so the only outcome is that you might have people you like back in your life.

      I would lead with something like this: “I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people, as is obvious from my complete failure to reach out to you before now. But I miss talking with you. I would love to get back in touch and have lunch sometime if you are up for it.” (Substitute ‘lunch’ with whatever thing you are comfy with offering.) Follow that with a brief update on where you are in life and holiday wishes of your choice.

      If you hear back from them, great! If you don’t, you haven’t lost anything. And since you don’t seem to be running into them in the regular course of life, you don’t need to worry about being embarrassed if they don’t follow up.

  50. Tiger Snake*

    I’ve just discovered that my manager must read this site.

    Our business traditionally makes the last workday before Christmas a half day, and our director encouraged people to take the day off completely.

    My manager told me (very jokingly) that she’d consider it insubordination if I and my way-too-many-hours-of-flexitime came to work.

  51. Fluff*

    ADD/ADHD at work

    Looking for some online / podcast resources from the Hive mind for new ADD/ADHD professional. I recently got diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and am working with specialists. Of course, now that I am aware of what has been obvious (very supportive co workers who were like “you had no idea?!!!”), my brain is even more into – squirrel. All my little tricks are working less well because my brain goes “oh, look, that’s your ADHD, neat.” Now even more ‘very little’ gets done though I am trying so hard. My emails are piling up because of the frozen-cannot-get-started-on-to-dos and I am falling even more behind. I am doing therapy, homework and there may be meds in the future.

    What are some of your favorite resources?

    1. greenie*

      I recommend “How to ADHD” on YouTube!

      Also some things that majorly helped me at work (disclaimer everyone is different, etc):

      1) Working from an office. Obviously this depends on if there is an office, covid concerns, etc but I learned that working from home is an absolute unproductive, shame-spiral inducing nightmare for me.

      2) If you use Outlook, look into the follow up flag feature for prioritizing your inbox and/or try to keep very detailed to do lists. I’ve found a fair amount of my paralysis is actually a prioritization issue.

      3) What are you doing when you aren’t doing work? Is that something you can change? Something I’ve started doing is putting my cell phone on silent and physically in a different room than my desk during the workday and only checking it on lunch/breaks. If you work on your own computer you might be able to block certain websites during work hours (I would recommend having a friend come up with a password because I know my self control is Not Good Enough to not just turn it off)

      4) I hate to say it but sleep. I needed like 10 hours a night before I was medicated and noticed a strong correlation of having a Very Unproductive Day if I got 8 hours :/

      5) Meds were an absolute game changer for me. obviously that’s a discussion between you and your care team but I don’t want to pretend that outlook task flags fixed all my problems

    2. But not the Hippopotamus*

      Overwhelming things are harder, so to avoid getting stuck behind a mountain, I find the stuff I like best and dive in. That lets the ADHD hyperfocus thing work in my favor. Example: I don’t like working on the end of month report or mandatory training videos, but I do like making pretty graphs. So, I sit down and go, “I’m going to treat myself to making the pretty graphs first” (maybe for that monthly report, maybe not). Then at least one thing gets done and the pile is getting smaller rather than larger.

  52. HomebodHouseplant*

    Does anyone have advice for how to approach internal job transfers when your employer expects you to loop in your manager? I’ve been working in an administrative role for a little over a year in a small office where I work with exactly 1 person, my boss. I’m realizing that this might not be for me long term but the firm I work for has recently made most home office roles remote. I worked remotely for a year and a half because of Covid and I miss it. I miss the control over my environment and not having to commute (my commute is currently a half hour each way which isn’t the worst but I’d rather not). I miss my cats and I miss being able to make breakfast and lunch more easily and get dinner going before my husband gets home. I’m keeping a loose eye on internal postings, but I’m honestly a bit concerned about the rule that our manager has to be on board. Doesn’t that put me at risk for retaliation (not necessarily in the legal sense)? My boss isn’t going to want to give me up and now I just feel stuck. I’m considering waiting another year and then seeing since my husband and I want to relocate in the next few years, and frame it as “I’m leaving anyway but want to stay with the firm.” It’s just really awkward to feel like I can’t have career mobility without potentially risking my current job which I need. Sorry this is rambling, I don’t know if it’s the winter blues or what but I’m so over this. This job is a piece of cake but I don’t feel engaged mentally and my bosses laissez Faire working style doesn’t help me stay motivated as much as I do like them otherwise.

    1. Kenny*

      I know this isn’t going to be the answer you’re looking for, but I would start looking at external opportunities. If your company’s policy is that your boss needs to be on board with an internal transfer and your boss isn’t going to be on board with an internal transfer, it’s probably not a transfer that’s going to happen.

      That said, it’s definitely not the case that you can’t have career mobility because of this rule! I think your best shot is to get an offer from another company for a remote role. Then when you bring that offer to your boss, say something like “I’ve decided that I need to move to a fully remote position. I’d ideally love to stay at X company, because I love the team here (or whatever it is), but the in-office requirement is no longer feasible for me. Is there any arrangement we can work out that would allow me to stay here?” And if the answer is no, you won’t need to worry about losing income — you can take the other offer.

    2. DJ*

      When it’s performance review/development time could you raise possible secondments/transfers as a means of career development?

    3. Turtle Dove*

      I had to tell my boss as part of the process for internal applications, and I was worried she’d retaliate. But I was so ready to get out of there that I was willing to take the chance. She was a crappy boss, just in general, but handled my news pretty well. I guess she did retaliate, come to think of it, by insisting on giving me my performance review months after I transferred “because I was your manager for most of the review period.” Then she threw the book at me, even though she’d assured the team we’d get no surprise criticisms in our reviews, and I had no idea I’d hear anything but the usual praise. Like I said, a crappy boss. Anyways, I’d go for it and tell your boss and keep your reason light and impersonal (e.g., “feeling the need for a stretch role and new challenges”). Or can you admit the remote part is important to you? If you’re mentally checking out with this job, it sounds like it’s time for a change, either internal or external. I did have to get VERY fed up before I found the courage to take the chance, so I understand if you want to wait. For me it all worked out well, and I hope it will for you too.

  53. LadyVet*

    The idea to send my boss-to-be a holiday greeting just crossed my mind, though she may have already left the office for the day, especially since the bomb cyclone’s hitting and there’s already been some flooding.

    Should I send a greeting at all (I was thinking something like, “Happy Holidays, looking forward to meeting you and the team and getting to work,”) and if so, should I wait until next week?

    I don’t have a start date yet since the city’s HR is still processing my paperwork.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        And you could do it now or whenever – they’re going to get your email eventually, so when you send it doesn’t really matter.

  54. Cheshire Cat*

    I recently applied for a position in my company as a Llama Wrangler. This is in a different department than where I work now, but I’ve worked with the hiring manager on a few projects. Llama Wranglers, among other tasks, keep the flow of llamas needing grooming steady so the Llama Groomers always have something to do, and also check in with the Llama Herders so the llamas most in need of grooming are taken care of first—so Llama Herder 1’s llamas aren’t all groomed twice before Herder 2’s llamas have a turn.

    My company used to have a more informal process on determining which llamas would be groomed when, and I have about 5 years’ experience in working as a “quasi-wrangler” with the groomers within that process. I’ve also been working closely with the team of groomers needing a new Wrangler. While I’m a herder and not familiar with the standards the groomers work with—how often the brushes and combs need to be cleaned and replaced, and so on—I do have all the skills listed as requirements in the job posting. The only requirement I lack is x years’ experience as a wrangler.

    I’ve been interested in moving into a wrangler role for awhile, and the Hiring Manager set up an interview. I’d rewritten my resume and wrote up a new cover letter emphasizing my wrangler-like experience, while acknowledging my lack of actual wrangler experience. (I included the last part because of it being an internal role.)

    The days before the interview, I combed the archives here looking for potential questions to prep for, as well as ideas for questions to ask. The hiring manager didn’t ask any of the dreaded behavioural questions; they were more interested in talking about why I was interested and what I could bring to the position. I asked the “magic question” among others. The hiring manager told me that I asked good, thoughtful questions.

    At the end, the manager said that the years of experience were truly a requirement for this particular team, and why, so they wouldn’t be able to offer me the role, which wasn’t a surprise. But, they also supervise other Llama Wranglers that don’t have the same requirement and encouraged me to apply for one of those in the future.

    All in all, in spite of the outcome, it was a good experience overall. Thank you to AAM and the community here for giving me the confidence to apply without meeting all the requirements, and for helping me prepare for the interview!

  55. Kenny*

    Hello! I am a US citizen and currently have a job at a large multinational corporation in the US that I like a lot. The team is fully remote. My partner is in academia and recently received a job offer from his dream university in another country. He is probably going to take it, and while I haven’t 100% decided to move with him, I am leaning towards doing it. I have begun researching jobs in that country and talking to contacts there about what’s available.

    Since my job is fully remote, it could theoretically be done from anywhere. If there were any chance that I could continue my current job and also move with my partner, I would take it in a heartbeat — I would much rather do that than have to change jobs. We have an international team with remote employees around the world, and I do have coworkers who I know have been approved for transfer to other countries before, but I also know it can be a very complicated process. We’ve never had employees in the country I’m looking at, so I really have no idea if the transfer I’m looking for would be possible. But I would hate to leave this job I really like if there was any chance I could’ve stayed.

    My question is, how would I bring this up with my boss? My worry is that if I go to her and say “My partner is moving and I want to move him, could I do this job from X country?” and she ends up saying no, she will assume I’m on my way out and could push me out before I’m ready or put me at the top of a layoff list. This would be a problem because the process of moving to this country, with visa approval etc., will take several months, and I will very much still need a US-based income during that time.

    1. Anonanon9*

      Perhaps don’t tell your boss you want to move? Frame it more as “I’m really not sure if I want to go with him, but if I did, could I do this job from X country?” And if the answer is “no,” you can say, “okay, thanks, just checking!” and then you can decide what you want to do, or start job hunting, without the worry/pressure of being forced out.

    2. ferrina*

      You should mention it to your boss, but your boss probably isn’t the right person to talk to about logistics. When you check with your boss (and Anonanon9 is right that it should be posed as a long-shot theoretical, so you have less risk of being pushed out), if your boss is onboard then ask who would be the right person to talk to about the details. This will likely be HR, Finance or Legal. If you work from another country, that carries financial and sometimes legal implications for the company. They may need to set up infrastructure or file with the new country so they can have you work there. And they may opt not to do that, even if your boss says it’s fine.

    3. Girasol*

      Before you pull the trigger on that consider what you’d do if your boss moves on and her replacement insists that everyone must show up at the office. I know a good few people who got the boss’s approval to work remotely from a new city and then got fired without severance when the new boss wouldn’t accept “but I’m hundreds of miles away” as an excuse for not coming into the office as ordered.

      1. Kenny*

        We have a TON of employees in different countries around the world (maybe 50% of our staff?) since our business model require folks to be online 24/7, so fortunately I think that’s unlikely to happen here (at least, not more likely than getting laid off for budget cut or other reasons).

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

      Can you ask about relocating to the other country without mentioning your partner’s job? Frame the question as something you are thinking about in general — like you’re making New Year’s Resolutions — rather than a specific need… would you be allowed to work remotely from another country in your position? are there any countries that you wouldn’t be able to work from? what is the process to be approved?

      The alternative seems to be to wait until your visa and other plans are all in place and, in essence, tell them that you would love to stay on remotely or give two weeks notice.

  56. Stay At Home Dad*

    What is best way to explain a 2 decade gap (sahd) on CV, and is it worth mentioned experience from that long ago when there is no recent work experience?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I’ll pipe up as I’m currently hiring and seeing a lot of resumes with gaps, temp gigs, and other weirdness due to the pandemic. This is what a cover letter is for. Most people use their cover letter, if they use one, for nonsense like “I am a self-starting go getter with excellent attention to detail!” Better were the ones that said: “long employment gap while caring for a dying parent” or “my company went out of business early in the pandemic and I did a lot of different short-term gigs to stay afloat, this is what I learned blah blah.” Just say it undramatically and yes, put your old experience in your resume.

    2. DJ*

      Was there any child/school related, volunteering or community work you did during that time. i.e. stalls, fundraisers, parents and citizens groups, sporting clubs. If so include those on your resume.

  57. Hannah*

    Hey! I’m going to keep this a bit high level so as to not identify myself. But I work for an agency that has sub agencies that they contract with. We are hearing whispers that some of the sub agencies are not providing everything they need to the people who are actually doing the work. So my agency decided to put together a survey for workers across all agencies (to protect the anonymity of those who were whispering) about what else our agency could so helpfully provide the people doing the work. My agency can then help provide some of those things / encourage a culture across sub agencies to encourage them to provide others. This will be framed as a way of supporting the work of the larger agency that I work for.
    So thinking of things like a functioning computer, clear goals set by bosses, sufficient funding to buy needed daily supplies, etc – what else would you add to a list like that? We are trying to ground it in actionable items and try to keep it non-political. This will ultimately be a checkbox list with an opportunity (although not requirement) for them to add additional details.
    Thanks for any help! I tried googling and it’s mostly coming up with barriers that stop people from being employed, not those that stop those who are employed from being able to do their job.

    1. Hannah*

      Just as an FYI, this is not unprecedented. When everything had to shift so fast for COVID, we knew certain software was going to be needed that would not be typically provided by the sub agencies so we just did a large purchase and started handing out software licenses. We’ve had a few things along these lines. So it’s not as weird as it sounds :)

    2. Adrian*

      If not Adobe Acrobat, then Kofax PDF or a similar program that does the job while being cost-effective.

      PastEmployer enlisted an army of contract employees to review a ton of documents. Each final PDF had to include a certification page signed by the individual reviewer.

      The contract company didn’t have PDF software, so the reviewers had to send us the final PDFs with Word versions of the signed certification page. Guess who got to convert every single Word document and attach it to the corresponding PDF?

    3. DJ*

      Being included in planning and implementation meetings on projects they are involved with. Or at least being able to discuss and negotiate what parts they will be included in meetings about.

    4. This Old House*

      Sufficient space, inc. private space for meetings/phone calls.
      Appropriate access to shared resources (everyone who needs to print/copy/scan can do so; everyone who needs wifi has the password, etc.)
      Clear explanations of what resources are available and who they’re accessible to/how to access them (like, if you have a database/subscription service/portal, who has access? Do they know they have access? Are these the same people who need access? Who makes that determination? Who do you contact if you need access? Does anyone know who that person is? (Not based on personal experience or anything . . . ))

  58. ugh*

    My work posted a really unflattering photo of me at the Christmas party on their Instagram. Our communications department is a mess at the moment and I think the socials are being run by an external company, but I had no idea that any photos of me were going up. That photo just tanked my self-esteem.

    Is it reasonable to ask them to take it down and/or ask me next time?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Yes, ask the to take it down. I wouldn’t say much about it, because I hate the oh but you look so happy/good/whatever the photo definitely doesn’t make feel.

    2. Winter is Definitely Here*

      Yes! It’s your image, they should respect your wishes about how it’s used. Send them direct messages on the social media platforms where they posted your image and ask for it to be removed. You don’t have to give a reason. People have lots of personal reasons for opting out of putting about their images on social media, like privacy, safety, keeping a low profile on social media, or something else. Sorry this happened to you. I hope it doesn’t continue to bother you too much. Remember: you are perfect, exactly as you are, and a less than flattering photo is the fault of the lens – not you!

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

      It’s reasonable to ask, and they should honor it simply because it would be a weird flex not to, but from my experience they really don’t need your specific permission for something like this. If they were using your photo for paid media or marketing like you were a spokesperson, yes; “editorial” photos of employees attending their events, no. If they sub social media out to a contractor it might take a while to wind it’s way through so you’d be better to try to send a DM to the IG account and ask them to please remove “photo number 3” in their gallery. One reason they might not remove it is if you are in the background of a photo that is primarily of org VIPs like a CEO.

    4. Anonosaurus*

      It’s reasonable. I have agreed with our marketing department that no images of me will ever be used on our social media. I have a specific reason for this. I find that works better than “ask me first” which they won’t have time to do, especially if their social media management is outsourced.

  59. Job transitioning*

    Hi – I’ve commented a couple times before but I wanted to be a bit more anonymous with this one. :) It’s pretty specific so not sure where exactly to ask.

    I’ve been a social worker in a hospital for several years and realized I want to transition to a more clinical role. Ideally I’d like to be a physician assistant – obviously this requires a lot more medical education than SW, which I can work on, but most schools also ask for minimum of 1000 hours of clinical or direct patient care experience.

    I have a *lot* more hours than that as a hospital social worker since it’s been my full-time job for a while, and I don’t want to start at the bottom of the food chain as an EMT or similar. So if anyone is a PA/knows about PA education…how hard is that clinical hours requirement for PA school admission? Are they looking for experience in a medical setting, or experience with specific clinical skills?

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      Almost 20 years ago, I was thinking of going back to school for PA training, and ended up–through a PA contact of mine–talking in person with the dean of a PA program based at a university in the area where I was living. That talk gave me a very realistic picture of the extent of academic prep I would need to do even before applying to the program, and what the timeline of program study would look like for me. As a result of this talk, I elected not to pursue this option.

      So if you don’t know any physician assistants who could connect you to contacts working in any local PA education programs, I would consider just finding a PA program (or programs) in your city/county/region and then cold-calling the administrative support for the department chair/dean of the PA program, explain your situation, and that you’d like to conduct an informational interview with the Dean/Chair or Assistant Dean/Chair about their program’s requirements.

      Best of luck, and let us know how things went.

  60. Serious Pillowfight*

    I’m starting a new job on January 4th and very excited about it. What tips do you have to make the most of it and set the stage for success? Dos and don’ts?

  61. KatoPotato*

    Does anyone have advice or recommendations for developing my writing process? Writing is about 25% of my job responsibilities (blog posts, proposals, even Instagram captions, etc.), and I really struggle with feeling like I’m good enough. When I have finished something, I think it’s decent (and I got the job in part because my cover letter smashed it,) but getting to something finished is a total slog. I know writing is harder than people think, and I have a lot of respect for anyone with this skill. I just think I’m missing out on some kind of process or training or fundamental understanding of how to get from a blank page to even the first draft, without the mental torture.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Outline. Work out as much as possible the points you want to make, why you want to make them, and how you want to make them (directly, indirectly, with evidence, with persuasion, with humor, etc).

      Then fill in the outline with notes.

      Keep filling in / expanding the notes, and at some point you will transition into writing a draft.

  62. DJ*

    I give work to a less senior colleague. I’m not their line manager just supervise on work I’ve given them which has been oked by the line manager. This person does have some learning difficulties however is also very disengaged and actively seeking other work (which will take time given scarcity in that type of work and competitive applicants). This leads to they not completing work given. I check in regularly, include in planning and implementation meetings, take notes which I distribute and if the work isn’t done verbally note this with them in a catch up, ask why and talk it through and ask them to complete it. I’ve also reiterated if you’re not sure on something come back to me for clarification. I ask for this person to estimate how long they think it will take to do.
    I’ve considered asking them to take notes and provide hints i.e. do you bookmark folders/ documents you’ll be working but am unsure whether I’m overstepping. I’ve also offered to show them work that will make them more competitive but get a lackluster response.

  63. Laid Off for Christmas*

    I found out this week that I am getting laid off at the end of this year. I have always heard that the time around Christmas and New Years is the worst time to look for a new job because decision makers are out of the office/otherwise distracted by the holidays. When does this period end and its “safe” to job hunt again?

    1. Roland*

      It’s not a problem to start applying whenever. They might not read your materials right away if they are out, but they’ll see them when they get back to the office.

      Sorry you are headed into the new year with this news and best of luck in finding a great new role.

    2. Alternative Person*

      I’d start getting on things immediately. Some jobs advertise over the holidays with the aim of doing interviews in the 2nd/3rd week of January. There can also be a mini-glut of postings in the new year as jobs look to fill gaps that have appeared outside of their main hiring cycle. If temp/fill in work is relevant in your field, you might also want to reach out to those kinds of places as you could be able to book some short term cover jobs while you search for full time work.

  64. Reluctant Cheerleader*

    RTO for my company is right around the corner. On January 9th we are all expected back in 3 days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I am not thrilled and neither is my team, but this is the mandate and I want to keep my job, so back to the commute I will go.

    The company is trying to make it all sunshiny and happy with promises of social events, name tags, welcome breakfast, an added $60 contribution to our commuting costs (which is a good thing), and other various incentives. But it’s still going to be a slog and I have to keep morale up while not being enthusiastic myself.

    Has anyone gone through this already? How did it go? Did people eventually settle back into the routine? Was there rebellion?

    1. linger*

      Ugh, I feel you. Not content with cramming you back into the office, they’re believing social events and shared breakfasts are entirely welcome, risk-free activities. That’s not just sunshiny and happy, it’s delusional “Covid’s Over” toxic positivity. (Sung to the Beatles’ “War is Over”, and about as accurate.)
      I’m guessing your work duties don’t actually require physical presence in office, either.

      1. Reluctant Cheerleader*

        No, it really doesn’t. We’ve been working from home for close to 3 years and there has not been any slacking in productivity. I’ve worked from home for far longer than that and never had a problem. Unfortunately, our CEO has a real bug up his butt about RTO. If it was solely up to him, I think we’d have been back long ago and 5 days a week, not 3.

        I am in the NYC area while the majority of my company is in CA. They don’t seem to understand how exhausting the commutes are around here. Working from home I get up around 6:30 AM and I am at my desk working by 7:15. I work straight through (lunch break – what’s that?) until at least 6:30 PM or later. But once I start commuting again, those hours will be severely curtailed – I’ll be getting up around 6, getting into my office in NYC by 8:45 AM and by 5 PM, I will be out of there. The rush hour commutes on the subway and the railroad are long and tedious. So that is at least 2 to 3 hours a day that I won’t be working There’s your loss of productivity.

        And I can hardly wait until people start getting sick because – newsflash – Covid is still very much here.

    2. DJ*

      I’m sure you’ve all pointed out the ramifications including:
      * Increased sick leave (as ppl will get sick more often and call in when sick as working from the office after a lengthy difficult commute is just too much and they’ll call in sick rather than doing a short day at home
      * Needing to take lengthy time off for life happenings and commitments such as tradies, medical and other appointments etc etc rather than purely an hour here and there.
      * Morale
      * Reduced productivity as you won’t be able to do the same hours
      If not point this out.
      If so let them experience those consequences.
      Sometimes even if it’s mandated for three days pw you can offer to WFH the days you have appointments (to avoid the lengthy half day off arguing you’d be losing just a hour that you’ll easily make up), tradies etc etc. Also ditto if bad weather, public transport issues prevent you from getting to work (we’ve had both in Sydney Australia where I’ve come from i.e. floods)
      Hopefully once they see the decrease in productivity and increase in time off plus and mass exodus of staff they’ll see the error in their ways.
      Sad we needed a pandemic to unrust employers from their 8-6 and longer, with no flexibility style hours where employees had to call in sick when needing time off rather than being able to be up front and plan for it mentality,

  65. Broken scones*

    I’d like to talk to my boss about scaling back my work hours since I’m going to be starting an online certificate program (which my boss knows about and is very supportive). I work full time at the max amount of hours per week, but I want to go down to the minimum amount of hours that would still keep me at full time status. Does anyone have any advice/scripts for this type of conversation? I have a very good working relationship with my boss but I’m super blunt and I don’t have an eloquent way of saying “I want to work less because I need time to study and have a life” lol.

    1. Happily Retired*

      Completely spitballing this; maybe you could use some variation of “I want to be able to give full energy to both my work here and to the certification class work. To do so, I need to dial back my hours to ___. Would you be willing to help me with this?”

      I think most reasonable people realize that, all else equal, almost as much is accomplished in 32 hours as in 40.

      1. Broken scones*

        Thank you for this! My boss is reasonable and he can read between the lines… I’m just not good at “professional talk.”

  66. Zweisatz*

    What do you answer to the polite chit chat about recent vacations at work when the vacation sucked?
    I know it’s just social lubricant to ask “How was your vacation?” I always feel compelled to say the truth, but “I felt like shit for half of it and didn’t get a lot of my planned paperwork done.” seems overkill. But I also don’t like breezily lying…

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I’d probably give a toned down version of the truth. “Honestly, I wasn’t feeling too well so didn’t really get to enjoy it” or “fine apart from getting sick a couple of days into it. Just my luck, eh? Hope yours was better?” Tells the truth while still keeping it fairly light.

    2. DJ*

      If a few have had vacation at the same time, if you can stomach it, answer it was OK “How was yours, tell me what you got up to?” Otherwise deflect by saying “What’s been happening here?”

    3. Zweisatz*

      Thanks you two!

      I’ll probably have to prepare a vague answer for next time that doesn’t sugarcoat it too much.
      When I tried only deflecting last time people seemed to trip up in their script and just asked again.

  67. Hop Holiday*

    An employee we had left due to the feeling they were unwelcome at work and as if upper management was looking for a reason to end their employment. As their supervisor, I’d told them it wasn’t the case and they were overthinking the situation. I found out the employee was right and that management had been looking for reasons to terminate that they’ve looked past for other employees in the same role. It’s a weird situation since we’re in an at-will state. What makes it more complicated is that they were doing this after the employee filed a complaint against a coworker that was backed up by evidence and witnesses (SH-type things).

    Is it something I should try to clear up or report, or do I just leave this be? The employee doesn’t seem to want to return because of how they were treated, but they also don’t know that this was unwarranted.

    I should also add that management doesn’t work directly with these employees, and there have never been any complaints or issues against my employee.

    1. Yangtze River*

      Sounds like management retaliated after they filed a complaint. And now they are gone. I don’t think there is anything you can do at this point. You should consider carefully whether you want to stay there, now that you know what management is like.

  68. feline outerwear catalog*

    Laid off around the holidays support/venting thread!

    How is everyone doing? I’m hanging in there and trying to enjoy the holidays as much as I can without feeling guilty I’m not job hunting. I’m going to need to tell extended family when I see them and hoping for minimal drama. Hang in there everyone!

    1. allathian*

      Good luck! I hope you can enjoy the holidays and that your extended family doesn’t give you any extra grief over this. Most employers aren’t hiring during the holidays anyway. But if you have a plan in place to start job hunting after the holidays, you can mention that and hopefully they’ll get the message that you’ll deal with it in your own time and neither need nor appreciate their input on it.

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