ask your behind-the-scenes questions about Ask a Manager

Last month I answered a question about the behind-the-scenes running of Ask a Manager, and readers said they’d be interested in an opportunity to ask more of those questions. So now is your chance!

If you’d like to ask me a question about how the site functions behind the scenes, leave it in the comment section here. I’ll pull together a Q&A answering a bunch of them soon.

{ 352 comments… read them below }

  1. Otter L*

    One thing I’ve always wondered is, how do you decide which questions get posted on the blog? I imagine you have a lot of submissions to go through! What factors decide the ones that get answered publicly?

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        And do you have time to read them all each day/week/month? How do you decide what to answer?

      2. Also Alex*

        Yes, I’m curious about the volume, and also the normal lag between a question being emailed to you and being answered on the blog. (Many problems seem so time-sensitive!)

        1. Corporate Goth*

          Also very curious about the time lag – on both ends. Alison’s response, certainly, but I wonder if many people don’t write in until it’s (close to) too late. I’m not sure whether that’s discernable from the letters, though.

    1. Clefairy*

      Alison has answered a couple of questions for me publically, and one privately. I’m guessing she goes off of what she thinks readers will be the most interested in, but still takes the time to privately answer some that she can give a quick answer to because she’s a kind person- but I’d be interested in hearing from her what her process is! Really great question :)

  2. alldogsarepuppies*

    What letter made you the most surprised that in went “viral” (either being reported at places like buzzfeed, or just living in AAM lore?

    How often do you talk out your answers with others before writing them.

      1. Kotow*

        Cheap a$$ rolls is a legend! It’s led to everyone posting about the quality of rolls at their families Thanksgiving gatherings!

    1. Dumpster Fire*

      Or “a coworker stole my spicy food, got sick, and is blaming me”… although maybe it wouldn’t be surprising that that one went viral!

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      I always think of the employee who had to hide her boss’s affairs. There were several updates before an ultimately happy ending for her.

    3. nobadcats*

      Or the entire team of interviewees who had to make a full five course dinner for the CEOs of the company they were interviewing with.

    4. CharlieBrown*

      IIRC, the letter from the Dress Code Interns (which is, incidentally, the name of my next band) went pretty viral in a lot of different places.

  3. Timothy (TRiG)*

    Occasionally, you collaborate with other columnists. How does that process go? And how do you select letters for it?

    1. Red Lines with Wine*

      In addition – is this a live interview or an email exchange? Seems like it would be a lot of work to transcribe a conversation.

      1. My Cabbages!*

        This makes me wonder…how much do advice columnists interact with each other? Do you know many of them on a professional basis? (Do you guys swap stories about the craziest letters you gat?)

  4. BoratVoiceMyWife*

    I’ve been meaning to email you to ask this, but do you keep any kind of demographic data or any kind of patterns you notice that exist in your letter-writers? As a longtime reader it feels as though writers skew female and those in non-profit roles, although the contributors who have the most audacious questions or overconfident stances seem to be men.

      1. ThatGirl*

        You’d be surprised what traffic metrics can show you. I don’t know Alison’s setup, but her hosting provider might be able to tell her a lot of general demographic data.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        She’s done a few salary surveys, which include: age bracket, industry, gender, and race. If you search for “how much money do you make?” you should find the post with the link to the spreadsheet with the data.

    1. Baron*

      It’s funny – I would say the writership skews very-white-collar for sure (maybe one letter in twenty seems like it comes from someone who my dad would deem as having a “real job”), but I tend to assume they’re mostly from very corporate, Office Space-y environments with the occasional nonprofit mixed in. Of course, a nonprofit can be that kind of environment too!

      1. irritable vowel*

        There are a lot of folks in libraries and academia as well – both hotbeds of workplace dysfunction! (In particular, the specific dysfunction of libraries is so universal to all libraries, it’s immediately recognizable to anyone who’s worked in one, even if the letter-writer doesn’t say they work in a library.)

        1. Casual Librarian*

          You’re so right that a librarian/former library worker can spot the toxic library culture stories from 17 miles away. It’s amazing how many stories I just automatically assume are library-based.

    2. nobadcats*

      Ooooooh, this is an interesting question. I’m getting some popcorn.

      I’d speculate that the demographic seems to skew female is due the the fact that here at AAM, Alison and the commenters use female pronouns to actively reject using male pronouns as a default.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I have a vague impression that readership of advice blogs/columns skews female generally, too, though I have absolutely no data to back it up.

        1. Professional child wrangler*

          Yes, that’s my understanding too. Readers of advice columns tend to be women. Certainly true for me!

  5. Thistle Pie*

    How long does it usually take you to answer questions? Do you read an email and the answer just comes to you quickly because you have so much experience with these things, or do you usually take time to mull them over before responding? I imagine this isn’t the same for every question, but I wonder what your process is.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Similarly, how much time a day do you spend on the blog? How has it impacted your full-time job?

      1. Baron*

        I may be mistaken, but I didn’t think Alison had a full-time job – I thought she did this, plus taking on the occasional consulting contract or what have you. I could be entirely wrong.

    2. Rebelx*

      Relatedly, how do you handle letters that have a “deadline” on the LW’s side? Do you ever “fast track” responses to make sure they get an answer before it’s too late?

  6. Loredena*

    Some of the questions you answer in the blog are clearly time critical. Do you email your answers beforehand in those cases or prioritize posting them sooner?

    1. Nannerdoodle*

      I can answer a tiny part of this from the letter writer side. I wrote in a time sensitive question, and she answered me later that same day. My question wasn’t posted on the blog, probably because there were similar questions that had been answered already.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        That’s so cool! It also leads me to my question which is: Alison, how often do you respond to letter-writers when it doesn’t end up on the site?

        1. I edit everything*

          I wrote in with a question she was kind enough to reply to directly, but not post on the blog. It was modestly time sensitive, but not “If I don’t get this right tomorrow, I’m going to get fired or the world will explode” time sensitive.

        2. Ormond Sackler*

          At least once Alison responded to my email (which was a very similar question to one that did get featured here) with a nice bit of advice and a link to the article responding to the other question.

      2. S*

        I also wrote in once, and she responded same-day saying she’d like to publish it next week – I agreed & she did. I remember the tone of her email feeling like if I had asked her not to publish she would have given private advice same day. (It’s been a few years!)

    2. Baron*

      Yup, Alison is super-responsive to e-mails, but can be slower to publish – I think when I wrote in, I heard from her within two minutes (not counting the auto-reply) but then she published maybe a month later.

      1. nnn*

        She answered one of mine within a few days but a different one took a few months. I think she has said before that it just depends on what grabs her when she is writing, what the recent mix of questions has been, etc.

      2. nobadcats*

        Same here. I posted a long … well, dissertation on my previous work situation. Then 24 hours later, emailed Alison to pull it back because of too much identifying info. She responded within about an hour of the second email.

        Also, that person has since retired, so no more issues with them.

    3. Taylor*

      This is always my number one question when reading responses to questions that include a time limit (“I just gave my two weeks but…” “I’m about to leave on new parental leave, and….”)

      1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London (ish)*

        I have never written in asking for advice but I did once ask whether writers make up their own pseudonyms (Wakeen, Fergus etc) and substitute companies/industries (teapots, llama grooming) and she kindly emailed me back saying no, writers tend to do that. She said that sometimes, writers do try to provide additional information, but requesting that it not be published and Alison said that actually makes things more difficult as the additional context that can’t be published could make the answer sound nonsensical.

        But yeah, she answered quickly and super friendly—ly.

        This was my subject line: Of Llamas and Teapots. Anonymisation, Disguises and the Etiquette therein

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I was the person who originally came up with the (Chocolate) Teapot, and am very proud of its little corner on the internet. It was to try and make the comment I was making clear, but not give any details about my role or industry.

          1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London (ish)*

            That is very cool – I often use a variation of the expression … ‘about as much use as a chocolate fireguard’ (the original was indeed teapot).

            Also, sorry for posting more or less the same comment twice – it hadn’t looked like the first one posted then mere seconds later it was there, but alas, I was too late.

    4. to varying degrees*

      I can tell you that for myself I asked a question in 2016 and she published and answered within a couple of days (weekend included).

    5. Accidental Cat Mom*

      I was the one who asked last week about whether I should lie about how many cats I have. She answered and posted my question the next day.

      1. Eat My Squirrel*

        I laughed so hard when the answer started off as “well I have more cats than you, sooooooo.” Thank you for writing in!

        1. Accidental Cat Mom*

          I knew she had cats, so I thought the question might interest her, but I had no idea she rivaled my numbers!

      2. Kotow*

        Your post is up there among my favorites because…cats! I never thought the day would come when a bunch of people would get on the internet and brag about how many cats we have (9 here!)

  7. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    What is your approach to inquiries which seem too ludicrous to be true? Do you assume that all questions are legitimate? Some columnists answer questions that they believe are fake because the topic is a good one to discuss anyway. Plus there can be a robust discussion in the comments as to whether certain posts are real.

    If you have rejected some as fake, would you mind giving us some examples?

    1. Eat My Squirrel*

      I’ve wondered this too. There were a couple where her answer even said “I think this might be fake, but I’m answering it anyway.” Really made me curious what sets off her spidey senses.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’m going to guess that she might not want to tip off future fictional workplace dilemma pranksters RE what sets off her spidey senses.

    2. CJ*

      I’d like to add in the related question of do you ever get a letter where you think it’s written by someone else involved or aware of the situation but not actually the person whose perspective is being presented in first person? I sometimes wonder about this when the writer is clearly in the wrong but seem to have zero self awareness.

      1. Worker Bee*

        I’ve wondered that sometimes myself. The “My best employee quit because I wouldn’t let her attend her graduation” letter was one that I thought might have been.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        And also, does she ever get multiple letters from different people talking about the same situation?

        I remember a Captain Awkward post where she provided advice to both halves of a couple, each who had written to her separately. IIRC the advice was short and sharp, basically “you both need to knock it off; either be kinder and more respectful to each other or just break up already”

    3. Starbuck*

      Yes she’s said the same thing before, she doesn’t worry about something potentially being fake if the advice could plausibly help someone who really did have a similar issue. Or if it’s interesting enough. She’s cut off comment threads before speculating on if a letter was fake or not, with that explanation.

    1. Outside Earthling*

      Do you ever yearn for some proper time away from the blog? I know you take time off in December but there is still lots of content then! Are you ever at risk of burning out due to the blog? If you’d like to take time away but don’t, what is stopping you from doing that?

    2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      She’s mentioned that “Is XYZ random thing a new trend?” has started cropping up more recently.

    3. Marthooh*

      My guess is: “How do I address this embarrassing situation without embarrassing myself or anyone else?”

  8. DisneyChannelThis*

    What’s something you’ve always wanted to talk about but no one’s ever had a relevant question?

    1. Frank Doyle*

      Yes, I would like to know this too! I get the impression Alison still does consulting . . . is it difficult to stay current on management trends, and to grow and learn as a manager if you’re not actually managing anyone anymore?

    1. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Same – wondering if you’re still managing people in addition to writing Ask a Manager. That seems like a lot :)

  9. ProfessorPlum*

    Are there any old letters you re-read and go “oof, that was wrong.” Sometimes when I troll the archives I notice some change in thinking or things that may have been perfectly acceptable in 2016 but the working landscape has changed now.

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      Building on this question, how would your approach to management change were you to go back into full-time management, based on your time working this blog?

    2. lb*

      This is my question too (especially since it seems like Alison, like so many of us, has gotten a lot madder/less able to deal with shenanigans since about 2017.) Is there a specific question you wish you could go back & give new advice to?

      1. old curmudgeon*

        I kind of wonder if she already does that, with the posts at places like Slate and Inc where she notes that she is refreshing a letter from the archives.

  10. Nosy Nelly*

    Why have you decided to keep the blog pretty old school?

    How much ad revenue do you pull in a month?

    Do you still have a day job? If so, what is it and how do you divide up your time?

    How many people work at AAM? How do you assign responsibility?

        1. D-wight*

          Well the website looks EXACTLY the same as it did 15 or so years ago. There are ever so slight modifications, but nothing significant.

          Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

    1. Daily Fan*

      The “old-school” comment has puzzeled me. Often Alison will comment on how norms have changed in workplace situtations.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          Quite frankly, I appreciate it being “old school”, without the bling, flash, bright colors and moving crap that some of the newer style blogs have. I don’t watch videos, or even listen to podcasts. I like a plain text blog and comment sections without gimmicks.

          1. wordswords*

            100% agreed! It’s one of the big reasons I love this blog — the fact that it IS an old-school blog with a comments community, not something that’s pivoted to video and social media and listicles.

          2. MEH Squared*

            Same. I hate when videos audio-play on a website, anything is flashing/blaring at me, and a bunch of other things that seem to be the norm these days.

            A clean look with paragraphs of writing and no sound? Count me in!

            1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

              Ditto. I usually go somewhere else when stuff starts playing automatically. I don’t need moving pictures to keep my attention. Plus, I read faster than most people talk.

      1. Roy Donk*

        I am not the original commenter, but IMO, “old-school” means in words, not audio or video as many other places are moving towards. And thank God for that because I can actually read AAM in public!

      2. Spearmint*

        I think they mean “old school” in the sense that is a blog with anonymous comments sections. Most online writing has moved to social media or newsletters these days.

        1. Haijlee*

          I’ve shared this blog with a lot of people in my teams in recent years and one of them mentioned to me there is no daily digest that comes to her inbox — she has go to the site and read everything (gasp!) to find what is relevant to her. She said that was too overwhelming. I know there are RSS feeds that can be set up, but seems like some folks want their blogs to come to their inboxes with headlines and they can decide what to read from there. Perhaps that is part of what was intended by “old school” of this site. (Personally, I don’t want my blogs in my inbox and find joy going to them to settle in for a diversion.)

  11. DisneyChannelThis*

    How do you handle determining if a letter writer really is a crazy situation or if its “troll bait” fake one?

  12. Nannerdoodle*

    Have you ever had letters where you’ve wanted to contact their company or a news site for them?

    Have you ever had a letter writer you’ve wished you help find a new job (or did connect them to someone in your network about a new job)? I fully understand if you can’t answer this one due to being inundated with more people wanting the same.

  13. RetailisDetail*

    What types of questions do you wish more letter writers would ask? Or ask more frequently? On the flip side, are there any types of questions that you get tired of receiving?

    1. Amcb13*

      And building on this, are there things letter writers can do to make your life easier and/or increase the chance of being featured on the site? (Other than working with someone really wild, that is!)

  14. longtime lurker*

    How much editing do you do to original questions? Is it just SPAG or do you also edit for anonymity if the submission has personal info?

  15. SLG*

    How much time do you spend every day or week (however you like to think about it) reading questions and writing your answers?

    And, do you “just know” the answers most of the time, or do you have to reflect for a while before writing an answer? Your answers are always so graciously clear and to-the-point that when I imagine the Q&A as a spoken conversation, I imagine you having the right answer immediately. But I realize that’s an artifact of how it feels for me to read your site, not necessarily how it feels for you to write it!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I believe there are other ppl behind the scenes but I was also wondering how much Alison does and how much other ppl do, and especially who’s in charge of comment moderation (because that seems like a full-time job by itself!).

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        There’s a way for other commenters to flag a comment for moderation and I’ve used it several times. You can see it on the commenting rules link that shows up every time you post a comment (basically just comment on it with a link to the comment in question). But I am also curious as to who is checking up on this, which of course falls into my “who is moderating” question above.

    2. a raging ball of distinction*

      … and if money were no object, what tasks would you most like to outsource to someone else?

  16. Purely Allegorical*

    I would love to know how you organize and manage your inbox. Are you in inbox-0 person? Do you have staff to help you read and flag questions? Do you sort questions into potential categories or types? Flag others for lpng answer vs short answer? Multiple folders to organize ones you’re answering vs ones you are not? Follow ups?

    I am a huge nerd for organization and knowledge management, would love to hear how you approach, filter, and respond to the deluge of questions you do doubt receive.

    1. Amy A*

      Me three (or 4 or 5) to learn about sorting incoming emails. Thanks, wonderful Alison, for all you do!! I’m also interested if/how you use assistants, and in how spontaneous your answers are. It feels like you always know the right thing to say and how to say it. But I’m sure it’s not as easy as your smooth writing makes it look.

  17. V*

    More a remark than a comment: would be good to link to previous/related posts when you post the Q&A (or even here already) as I could swear some of the things top of my mind like question volume and the history behind chocolate teapots have been answered by you before.

  18. Meow*

    I’m not sure if this is really the type of question you’re looking for but I’ve always been curious about how the blog is viewed by those in your professional circle? Now that it’s a hit I’m sure it’s positive but in the beginning did you face any doubts or negative comments from folks you knew professionally or personally? I guess this is kind of an imposter syndrome question too – did you ever have any nervousness when you first started of like “am I the right person to be giving this type of advice?” To be clear, I think the blog is amazing and your advice is spot on, it’s just that any time in my career I’ve considered taking a leap, especially to something a little different like trying to get into consulting, I’ve worried that I’m not “enough” of an expert or that other people won’t think I am, and I’m wondering if you’ve ever faced those kinds of thoughts and how you worked through it?

  19. T.N.H.*

    When is the Podcast coming back? (Soon, right?!) Also, I know you’re mostly a one-person show but tell us about the rest of your team (copyeditor, web designer, PR person etc).

        1. old curmudgeon*

          Isn’t the total six cats now?

          However many there are, I am confident that they are an integral part of the team, of course.

  20. Dawbs*

    What has changed in the time you’ve been doing this?

    (I know the answers have felt more pro-labor over time… and i know that my own feelings have followed that same progression. Is that just the reaction the the way the world is or were there things that specifically triggered that change?)

    1. Spearmint*

      A slightly different version of this question, (maybe just a rephrase?): what have you changed your mind on? I know you did a post about what you changed your mind on in the mid-2010s, but I haven’t seen one since then.

      1. lilyp*

        I’d also be curious if there have been any specific arguments/letters/events that have changed your mind about something, or is it always more of a gradual accumulation over time?

    2. Academic Librarian*

      I have noticed the pro-labor trend over time as well, love to see it (I’m in a union myself!)

    3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      She’s said something to the effect of “my email inbox would radicalize anyone.” I think it was in a comment on a post somewhere, so I will never find it in a million years.

  21. SJ*

    Breakdown of time spent on AAM vs. your other consulting work – like are you full time AAM with a consulting side gig or part time both or full time both… and what kind of consulting is it? Recruiting, HR consulting, outsourced hiring?

  22. Emmie*

    You have a big job. What can the commentariat do make it easier?

    You’ve built an engaging, open minded commentariat. How did that happen?

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      this is perfect about my curiosity too — how do you manage to create an oasis of sanity in a bite-y social media world? And how can we make that easier?

      1. Margali*

        Thirding this one!!! Love that AAM is one of the few exceptions to the “Don’t read the comments!” rule.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          I sent a post from this site to my boss once and he said, “How in the world did you find a site with a good comments section?”

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Other than a few Instagram accounts I follow that generally have good comment sections, this is the only place I comment online. I can’t stand the comment sections anywhere else!

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      IMHO I think Alison’s moderation is spot on and her objective and generally NICE answers really set the tone for the whole thing.
      I’m with everyone else in that this is the only blog (or anything) where I not only read the comments, but love them!!

  23. Sassenach*

    Do you have a staff and if so, is there an office building or are you all remote? What are the “job titles” of your staff. To your knowledge, has one of your staff ever written in a question?

  24. Fleabag's Inner Monologue*

    How do you coordinate collaborations with other advice columnists and work experts? Is there anyone you’d love to work with, but haven’t yet?

  25. Middle Aged Lady*

    How do you keep up with the changing world of work? Laws and regulations l, customs, supply and demand for jobs, best practices in management, etc.? Do you have a researcher on staff?

    1. t-vex*

      Along this line, I’m curious how you keep up with general trends in how people interact with one another in the workplace, especially if you are self-employed.

  26. Higgs Bison*

    How long does it typically take to answer a question? I’ve gotten questions answered within a couple days, but I’ve seen other people mention in updates that a couple weeks had passed (and I think I remember a good news letter you noted had been sitting for months once). Are there any questions you intended to answer but gave up on when enough time had passed?

  27. ZSD*

    I think you also have a business consulting company, but I might be misremembering. If you do have such a company, have you ever converted a letter writer into a client? Or their company? If so, how do you handle that?

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      It seems like it would be similar to the IT Crowd’s “Have you tried turning it off and then on again?” except it would be, “Have to tried having a direct conversation about it?”

  28. Spearmint*

    Am I right in thinking you haven’t been a manager in over a decade? How do you stay in touch with changes in workplace and management norms over time? And how do you inform yourself about how those norms might be different in fields you have little experience in?

    1. NeonFireworks*

      I’m curious about this too! I don’t have any reason to doubt, but I’d love to hear about where that astute finger on the pulse with respect to workplace norms comes from!

  29. Savory Creampuff*

    I know you put a general call out for updates every so often. Do you ever reach out to specific LWs, either because you’re worried about them, because you think the update could be juicy, or whatever other reason? I find myself reading old letters and sometimes thinking, “I WISH I knew what happened!”

  30. DrMrsC*

    So many of the answers revolve around the common theme of communication, do you every have to just stop and take a breath to avoid an all caps response along the line of “YOU HAVE TO USE YOUR WORDS!” ;)

    1. NeutralJanet*

      I’ve been a regular reader for years and I don’t think I’d recognize Alison on the street! I think her relative anonymity–I don’t think she’s ever shared a picture of herself on this site, though I’m sure it’s not hard to find one online if you look–as well as how easy it is to comment without linking to your own real life identity is one of the best features of this site, tbh.

  31. KT*

    How do you keep track of the original letters to tie updates to? Do you match email addresses? Sending an update to “my letter that complained about my boss” doesn’t really identify the original item.

    1. ferrina*


      How do you track the posts and letters in general? There’s been..(tries to count)….a lot of letters you’ve answered over the years. How do you track what you’ve done, and how they might tie together?

  32. Jedi Mike*

    Always been relatively curious how the scheduling goes. If you take a long vacation I imagine you can probably schedule post several days in advance? Also is there a length limit as far as how posts go ? I realized some of the longer interviews can take quite a while to go through but contain a lot of useful information

    1. Phony Genius*

      Part of me hopes that the answer to this question is tied to the answer to the question about whether she has a staff. Or even some of the other questions.

  33. What's in a name?*

    How do you feel about the comments on the website? Is there anything you want commenters to know?

  34. The Prettiest Curse*

    Are there any topics that you feel have been so thoroughly discussed and debated that you don’t want to answer letters on that topic any more? And are there any newer topics that you wish people would write in another more?

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      There are a lot of topics where people write in and my first thought is “She’s covered this seven thousand times, do you even read this blog?” And then I realise, no, they probably don’t, they’re probably just someone who googled “work advice blog” or whatever and landed here. I think there’s also the aspect of people thinking that their situation has some unique factor that all the previous letters didn’t that would meaningfully change the advice, even though most of the time they don’t and it wouldn’t.

      Alison is much more kind than I would be in her place to answer their questions like they’re brand new, rather than just replying with the links to the dozens of times she’s already covered the topic.

  35. ferrina*

    How do you do the moderation? Is it just you, or do you have a team or a vendor? What’s the biggest moderation challenge?

    What are some of the things that automatically get a comment flagged for moderation (for example, we know posting a link will always get moderated)?

  36. More questions*

    Do you moderate the comments yourself?

    Have you ever regretted removing or not removing a thread of conversation?

  37. Ground Control*

    How do you cultivate relationships with other advice columnists? I’ve seen you referenced by Captain Awkward, Dr. Nerdlove, Slate, Carolyn Hax, and probably others that I’m forgetting about. Do you actually know these people, or do you refer (and get referrals) by reputation only? And most importantly, is there a secret society of the nation’s (or world’s) top advice columnists that meet for yearly vacations, have a group chat, and maybe have a secret handshake?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I love the idea of an advice columnist convention! I imagine them all downing margaritas and swapping stories about their wildest and most unpublishable letters.

      1. Ground Control*

        Yes! A Davos for people who are actually trying to make the world better. Thinking about Alison and Carolyn Hax chilling by a pool in big floppy hats makes me so happy.

    2. SeluciaMD*

      And if so, do you need staff at these yearly retreats or to coordinate this League of Extraordinary Advice Columnists and where do I send my resume (and well-crafted cover letter) to apply?

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      There was definitely a time when Alison and Captain Awkward met in person! I can’t remember if they answered questions on each other’s blogs or what, but the fact that they do know and like each other warms my little grinchy heart.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, the posts I found that were co-answered by Ask a Manager and Captain Awkward are:

        “can I talk about my boyfriend’s other girlfriend at work?” from February 10, 2020
        “everyone at work is hanging out without me” from February 12, 2020
        “Captain Awkward and I answered some letters” from March 15, 2021

  38. Isben Takes Tea*

    Have you ever considered switching from ads on the site to a Patreon- or donation-based revenue stream?

      1. COHikerGirl*

        Thirded! I would happily pay a little each month to not have ads that make the page jump around!

    1. kristinyc*

      I would pay for a Patreon/subscription too! I’ve been reading AAM since it started and have benefitted SO MUCH over the years from what I’ve learned here.

  39. Nathan*

    Two burning questions:

    1. I’m sure for everything you post, there’s at least one comment saying that you got it wrong. How much weight do you give these comments, and how do you stop yourself from thinking about them?

    2. Do you sometimes look over and see one of your cats being so cute you have to stop working to give him or her a cuddle, or is that just me?

    1. Green great dragon*

      Mine’s similar to 1 – have you ever changed your mind about your advice when you see the comments – perhaps when the LW’s added more detail? Or seen suggestions in the advice you’ve gone on to adopt?

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      #2. Definite not just you. I also have this question of Alison, though. (BRB, gotta go hug my cats….)

  40. Crazy Plant Lady*

    Do you edit questions to take out identifying information (like talking about chocolate teapots or llama grooming instead of whatever actual industry the letter writer wrote about or changing names)? Or do most letter writers do that themselves?

    1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London (ish)*

      I asked this question by email a while back (and mentioned it upthread) – my subject line was Of Llamas and Teapots. Anonymisation, Disguises and the Etiquette therein.

      Alison replied (by email): “Hi! Sometimes letter-writers include specific details in their letters to me that they ask me not to print. That actually can complicate things a bit, because if those details affect my answer, I’d need to be able to explain why in the answer I publish … so it can make the letter less publishable overall, if that makes sense!”

      It was lovely to get a reply!

    2. Aphrodite*

      Once she posted a letter from someone who had a job in a highly sought after industry (and included it for Alison’s information only) within the general entertainment field. She forgot to take out the job and industry so I emailed her immediately to point that out and within a couple of minutes it was gone from the post. So she was probably tired and just missed that necessary edit.

  41. Kn*

    Is there a letter topic that used to seem very common but is less so now? Conversely, topics that feel prevalent now but were almost never asked in the early days (disregarding clear time-bound issues like Covid concerns before 2020, etc.)?

  42. NeutralJanet*

    How do you keep up with changing professional norms? I seem to remember that you haven’t worked in a “normal” office in quite some time–is there anything in particular that you do or anyone in particular you consult with to make sure that your advice is still relevant and appropriate?

  43. Green Mug*

    Do you have the questions and answered prepared and automatically set to post at certain times of the day? How far ahead do you write the responses? Meaning, are the responses for this week and next week all ready to post, or do you write a day or two ahead? Do you have someone edit your work?
    Thank you for this insight into the mechanics of your job!

    1. just another queer reader*

      I’ve noticed regular posting times at midnight, 9 am, and two afternoon times every day (eastern time)

  44. oceanstella*

    I’ve been hoping you’d do a feature like this!!

    -Do you have a staff for AAM, or how many people work on it total?
    -How long is the typical lag time between receiving a question and it being answered? i.e. if we send a question in, should we expect it to be answered in the next 1-2 weeks/months or not at all, or do you sometimes answer a question that was sent in a long time ago? Or do you sometimes combine multiple similar questions that were sent in at different points?
    -Are there “best practices” you recommend for asking questions? I’m sure you have to balance what’s entertaining with what’s helpful and what’s broadly applicable to other readers. Should we be really specific to our own situation or try to be vaguer so the Q&A could be more relevant to others?
    -What other career/job search “experts” do you recommend/endorse? Are there things you look for to identify if someone is legit/trustworthy? There are so many people out there with advice on how to do your resume, cover letter, job app, networking, etc. and it’s hard to know who to pay attention to and who’s just BSing. Of course I love all the AAM resources, but would love some insight on who else to trust or not trust :)

  45. TheActualA*

    This is not directly related, but can you please please give us a profile complete with photos on each of your cats please? Pretty please?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        When I started reading, there were the two marmalade cats, Sam and Lucy, sadly no longer with us.

    1. M. from P.*

      Have you always been a cat person?
      Do you think you have to be born a cat person or is that something that can be learned?
      How did you come to have SIX cats?

      Other than the US, where do your readers come from?
      Do you know how many people read your blog?
      Do you read advice blogs?

      Could you see yourself writing another book?
      Could you see yourself creating an online course?

      If you could change something about current workplace norms, what are the three things you’d most like to change?
      In a fantasy world where you could be anything you wanted and money wasn’t an issue and you had all the time and resources you wanted what would be your dream job?

      Also, thank you for this awesome site!

    2. MissCoco*

      Seconding this! I used to be able to mouse over to see the photo titles which helped me recognize the cats, but on mobile I can’t figure the trick out, and I’d love a “who’s who” post or answer

  46. Dona Florinda*

    Oh boy, I have some:

    1 Do you have someone to help you with the blog, like sorting through the letters or comments?
    2 Do you make a profit from it?
    3 Have you ever got different letters with two sides of the same situation?

  47. the cat's pajamas*

    Fun question: Do your friends and family ask you for career advice off the clock? (like how IT workers can inadvertently become family tech support) or do they avoid talking about career stuff making the incorrect assumption you’d give them unsolicited advice? (like how you might not talk about certain things in front of family member who is a member of the clergy)

  48. Wocka Wocka*

    I asked this last week, but When is Cat Dat at AAM?

    hehe, seriously, cat/pet themed day will be amazing!

      1. Quaint Irene*

        But seriously, someone should make an app or something called Cat Dat that replaces everyone’s face in an image with a cat”s face.

  49. Lore*

    How do you index old content to make it easier for you to add relevant links in new posts? Thanks for doing this!

    1. NeutralJanet*

      I know that a regular commenter (Elizabeth West) added update links back in March 2021–previously, when you read an old letter that had an update, there was not a link at the bottom to bring you to the updates, though the update always did link to the original letter. That’s definitely been a helpful change!

  50. Koala Tea*

    What have you learned about human psychology during your AAM journey?

    I know the importance of communication is one that is visited over and over. I appreciate that point being drilled home as I’ve taken it to heart, implemented many of your suggestions and seen a profound improvement in my professional and personal interactions.

    I am so looking forward to your responses on the wonderful and insightful questions folks are throwing out, thanks for all you and your team do! (and yes please to the request for cat profiles!)

  51. CharlieBrown*

    Are you as sick and tired of teapots and llamas as substitutes for actual job roles as some of us are? Have you ever thought of alternatives?

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I like llamas and teapots as the already-accepted shorthand for our anonymized workplaces.

  52. Keymaster of Gozer*

    From a technical perspective: do you have a database storing the posts and subject matter that you can search back on (for related links in your posts) or is it done from memory?

  53. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    How do you decide when to email someone back for more clarification, vs answering the question “as-is”?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes! Also – how often does this happen? Do letter writers generally respond to you? Are there times where further correspondence just makes you say “Nope, way too specific/idiosyncratic to make the column”?

    1. Llama Zoomer (not groomer)*

      OMG, I would love to know this too! And maybe an interview with them about the actual challenges ;-)

  54. Apocalexnow*

    Is there anything (beyond spam/crank questions) that you default never answer or never answer publicly?

    And is there anything looking back that you’d wish you’d done differently? Either in a response to a letter, or more generally in answering questions/running a blog with a commentariat?

  55. CanRelate*

    What made the podcast more time consuming and draining compared to the blog? Did its short life help you gain a new audience?

    Always curious about that, as I became a reader after hearing the podcast, and stuck around here when the podcast ended.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Obviously, I can’t speak for Alison, but we were producing a podcast series at my job and we had to outsource all of the production process because it was so time-consuming. Audio editing in particular seems to just take forever!

      1. Roy Donk*

        Fledgling audiobook narrator here. Audio editing (with just one input–my voice track!) generally takes 3-4x the length of the finished file (so, a 60 minute chapter requires 3-4 hours of editing). I imagine when you factor in multiple voice tracks, music, and sound effects, it’s even more time-intensive.

  56. LGP*

    Do you choose the pseudonyms used in the letters, or do people write their own? I always enjoy when there’s a theme to the names used (like TV characters), and I’m curious if that comes from you or from the letter writers themselves.
    Thanks for all that you do!

    1. fhqwhgads*

      They write in with the pseudonyms already in place. She’s mentioned before she doesn’t try to anonymize what she gets because she doesn’t necessarily know the writer didn’t already do it and she might accidentally change it to be more identifying. The TV characters definitely come from LW’s too. She’s said as much back in the day when commenters used to complain about too many Game of Thrones names – but people were writing it that way.

    1. SarahKay*

      Yes, this! I was just wondering that myself today after I saw that you had several comments on your first post of the day, which I think goes up at about midnight your time?

  57. CitySociologist*

    Oh! This is something I’ve wondered about over the past few years. How do you think the pandemic has influenced how you consider and write your advice? I know the pandemic introduced new topics (work from home, sick leave, etc.), but I’m more interested in your approach to advice has changed.

  58. Jane*

    How do you handle time-sensitive letters, like the ones where someone has to have a conversation with their employee within the next few days (or sooner) of submitting the letter? Do you categorize your letters into time-sensitive ones that should be published in the next few days, and other, evergreen letters, that can be published whenever (like the ones that ask about how they should have handled an incident from years ago)? Do you ever send an answer privately back to a writer so that they can use the advice right away, and then you can publish your answer a few days later?

  59. LG*

    If you had to match each of your cats with a letter writer (or a person described in a letter), who is who? Or, what is the office management structure of your cats? Truly I just love your cats so I guess I’m trying to work them into the Q&A.

  60. JustAnotherTues*

    “Toxic” has become more common in the lexicon, when describing workplaces, bad managers, etc. As someone who hears all kinds of bad situations, do you make a distinction between the “truly toxic” (illegal, harassment, abusive, etc.), vs. the run of the mill bad management?
    When friends complain of their toxic managers, they seem inept or annoying, not really toxic. I wonder if I should be more empathetic, or if you have a clearer delineation between “toxic” and “just bad”.

    1. lilyp*

      I normally read “toxic” as a middle ground between ineffective/annoying and truly heinous. Like a bad-ineffective manager changes their mind at the last minute, a toxic manager changes their mind at the last minute then blames it on another team and pressures you to work the weekend to finish, and an abusive manager changes their mind at the last minute and then screams at you and throws things when you can’t work the weekend because it’s your sister’s wedding.

  61. Millie's Mom*

    This was touched on above, and maybe this isn’t quite the right forum for this, but I’ve been noticing and wondering, so……it seems that most letters are from office/corporate environments, including non-profit, with the occasional warehouse or retail sprinkled in there. Yet I feel like the vast majority of actual workers have jobs that don’t fall into the “office” category – I’m thinking of food service, hospitality, truckers, corner store clerks, maintenance/custodial, etc, all the jobs that make it possible for us to live our “normal” lives. So I guess my question is, do you ever get any questions from those type of workers? Am I right in my generalization above? Why do you think it skews this way?

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      People who don’t sit in an office don’t have time to surf the internet and find, read, comment on and write AAM. LOL!

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        People who don’t sit in an office may not have time to actively participate in the community here because they’re not in front of a screen for eight hours a day, but it doesn’t take eons of non-work time to find the website and shoot an email to Alison about a problem they might be having either. The site gets lots of letters from people who are working retail, for example, and I wouldn’t describe those folks as having ample internet time during their workday.

  62. fish*

    How did you come by such excellent advice in the first place?

    Lots of people have been managers for a long time but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it.

  63. Hermione*

    Setting aside anything straight-up rude or nonsensical, what question(s) would you prefer to never receive/answer again? What questions stick out to you as some of your favorite low-stakes questions? High-stakes? Best worded? Best question not answered publicly?

  64. Albert "Call Me Al" Ias*

    Do you ever find yourself wanting to contact law enforcement or social services based on some details from a letter? Have you ever actually done it? And if so, are you privy to the results of your intervention?

  65. D-wight*

    I’ve been following this blog pretty close to it’s inception. It’s part of my daily routine/distraction.

    Do you still manage a team/have a day job? If you do, how do you find so much time to dedicate to the blog? Do you have some sort of arrangement with your employer that you can dedicate a portion of your day to the blog?

    If you don’t still work a regular job, how do you stay current and relevant, as far as workplace norms and management, and continued experience?

  66. Neeul*

    A few years ago, you did a few answers giving advice for fictional characters working at their fictional workplaces. Did you enjoy those posts and have you ever considered revising that idea again? April fools day might be a good excuse for another round.

    1. Office Chinchilla*

      Yes! I would love to hear Alison’s thoughts on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, since a major plotline was that it was Zoey’s first management position! (TW: another major plotline was that her dad had a terminal illness)

      Not to mention Quantum Leap, So Help Me Todd, What We Do in the Shadows…

  67. Excel-sior*

    You’ve had quite a few weird, strange and downright crazy situations come your way, but i imagine most of those are relatively easy to answer (clear idea of who’s in the wrong etc). Have you ever been genuinely stumped by a question and how did you resolve it?

  68. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    How in the heck can you stay so balanced and coherent every day?

    Subquestion 1: How often do you write an entire answer The Reckless Way and then reluctantly dial it back to AAM Standard?

    Subquestion 2: If you hear about wild and wooly workplace scenarios “off duty” do you still click into AAM mode, or can you let loose?

  69. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

    Has there been an overall shift in the subject matter of the questions? I sense that is started out more about how to get jobs and seems to be more advice on dealing with different situations within jobs.

  70. River*

    What do you like to eat and/or drink when you are answering letters? I imagine Alison in her home office with a warm cup of coffee and some scones while she is answering the letters. :)

  71. booklovver213*

    I’d love to see just a day in the life, how much time are you spending with each question, going through your email, managing comments, etc?

    1. Wolfie*

      Day in the life would be really interesting. I wonder how much time on each part of the business. We tend to think of writing the answers but not eg website development or moderation, or doing finance.

  72. GreenDoor*

    I am curious about your origin story…what led to you starting this website? Did you rage quit? Did someone important to you encourage it? Was it a side gig that turned full time? So many of us fantasize about quitting our 9-5 to do something else, but never do it….or think we can’t do the “something else” until post-retirement. What prompted you to do it when you did?

  73. Jay*

    I know this is not a question you will want to answer directly, but I’m curious if there is anyway you can comment on how much money you make doing this. Is this mostly a labor of love or are you making bank? And how do you baggage doing all of this along with your regular job?

  74. CM*

    Three questions!

    1. This one is self-serving, but I’m also curious about how it works. I’m a longtime reader and do online teaching and coaching on negotiation skills and decisionmaking — similar to the decisionmaking coach interviewed here a couple of months ago. (But I do NOT weigh in on baby names.) I’m wondering if you’re open to hearing from readers on possible collaborations, or do you get so many random requests that you don’t have time to consider them?

    2. You’ve had columns at other publications on work advice or general wisdom. How did these come about — did you pursue them, or did they ask you?

    3. Do you have a strategic planning process for yourself, or some other way of regularly reflecting on what you’re doing, what your goals are, and what you should be focusing on (or adding, or subtracting)? What is that process like?

  75. Lee R*

    The questions posed above are great!
    I only want to say that I am grateful for your column and all of the effort and sage advice you put into it.
    Thank you

  76. irritable vowel*

    Do you ever get “hate mail”? Either from people whose letters you answered and they didn’t like the answer, or people who think a letter was about them (and/or maybe it was), or people who take issue with some of your stances?

  77. Ex-Teacher*

    Every now and then, you post a letter from a manager or employee who is just so completely wrong about their situation, it makes us (and, from your responses, you) go “how could you not realize you’re the bad guy in this situation?” For example: “my best employee quit on the spot because I wouldn’t let her go to her college graduation” or “My employee wasn’t respectful enough when the company screwed up her paycheck.”

    I’m wondering: how often do you actually get letters where the writer doesn’t realize just how awful they are? How do you choose when to post such letters? Were there any letters like this that were so egregious that you chose not to post it solely so you wouldn’t have to moderate the comments?

    1. Heffalump*

      “I emailed my girlfriend’s boss to complain that he encroached on our relationship”

      “I was fired after disabling my coworker’s caps-lock key”

      “can I get my wife’s ex-boyfriend’s company to send me the emails they sent each other?”

      And of course, cheap-ass rolls. Alison knew better than to try to argue with the LW.

      IMO the guy with the “Lift it–fat girls can’t jump” sticker on his truck was pretty bad, but didn’t quite rise to the level of the others.

      I don’t put the dress code interns in the same category. What they did was understandable at their age.

  78. Casual Librarian*

    Is there any future direction plan for the blog or maintain it as-is? Not saying it isn’t amazing and wonderful, but more wondering if you are looking at exploring other avenues of question-answering or thinking of what the future of the blog may look like as a part of strategic planning.

    Also, how did this blog start/grow? Was it organic, or did you do some targeted promotions/collaborations?

  79. Blisskrieg*

    2 questions:

    1) All of the letters are so well-written (different voices, but written well). Do you ever edit them before publication?

    2) Last week it became very apparent that the commentariat is uniformly pro-cat. I myself have 7. This does not seem to match the general population. Do you read this as a reflection of the sensibilities (and impeccable taste) of those drawn to AAM?

  80. OSL*

    I know you try to maintain the anonymity of the writer, but do you have any explicit policies about this? For example, if you receive an email from it would be pretty easy for someone to trace the letter back to a specific person if this information were not kept confidential. In that vein, have you ever had anyone attempt to breach the confidentiality of the letter writer (ie, via legal action, inquiry or outright snooping)? Also, do you have general advice for someone who is worried about maintaining their anonymity while submitting a question?

  81. HannahS*

    Disregard if this is too personal. Do you find that writing AAM has changed you? Do you find that you have a “read” on workplaces that you didn’t have before when you, say, go to a bank?

    I ask because I was reflecting on the way that my work in healthcare has changed me (some for better and some for worse,) and wondered what effects peoples’ fields have on them (hmm…maybe something for the open thread this weekend.)

  82. Three dollar bill*

    What would you say is the most outlandish question or insane situation you’ve gotten a letter about? Do the “wait, what?!” letters generally seem crazier than things that have come up in your nonprofit/other work? What is the weirdest work situation you, personally, have been in? This is my favorite category and I’m fascinated by the odd things people do at work.

  83. A Genuine Scientician*

    As someone with workaholic tendencies (no aspersions here; I have them too): how do you decide that enough is enough? You obviously get many more questions than you can reasonably answer, but how do you decide what number truly is reasonable, and build it in as a limit?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think she could cut way, way back – no other blog I follow updates as frequently as this one! Her schedule must be insane, even with a lot of pre-scheduled posts – and then she pops up all the time in the comments, too!

  84. The Dork*

    I am always impressed with the wording you use when I seem to be such a clod trying to explain something. Do you have any suggestions of books or resources you use to help finetune how to say things?

  85. An American(ish) Werewolf in London (ish)*

    Hey Alison – a question of my own!

    Have you ever been tempted to (or would you be willing to) to either work with someone abroad (UK, Canada, Australia or wherever most of the third (according to the 2015 AMA) of overseas readers come from?

    As my username probably gives away, I’m an American ex-pat, but I’ve been here well over 30 years (here being the UK, if it’s not obvious) and I’m learning a LOT about American law (I was a very young adult when I came here) and employment practices but wondered if you were ever tempted (even as an individual post) to write about some of the key differences? (I know that many of those differences come up fairly frequently in the comments section, especially when holiday entitlement or maternity pay are mentioned – we get both! But, for example, most UK employees…at least white collar and probably also blue…get employment contracts which specify notice periods – usually between 1 and 3 months depending on level and more for top execs.)

    I’m not an HR lawyer, nor HR professional, so this isn’t me trying to get a guest spot :)

  86. Wordsmith*

    The anonymity makes this hard to gauge, but do people often submit multiple, unrelated letters over time? Or do you even notice/recognize “repeat customers”? I’ve always wondered how many of the letter writers here actually overlap with “other” letter writers from the archives. And selfishly, I’m wondering how often I can ask your advice without it becoming weird!

  87. Cataclysm*

    How do the “you may also like” links at the bottom get chosen? I’ve been wondering this forever. I assume there’s some kind of algorithm, but what is it matching on? Are you tagging keywords behind the scenes to make it easier?

  88. Venus*

    “Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?”

    Sorry, I’m doing interviews this week and couldn’t help myself!

  89. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    I remember you had a post together with the “real” Evil HR Lady (Suzanne Lucas). Would you consider interviewing another HR person (not me) from a small or mid-size company to see how they’re faring? You direct many of your readers to reach out to HR, but reading today’s post about the lying HR manager makes me remember all the crappy HR people that I have worked with and the great ones don’t get featured as often.

  90. XF1013*

    Why do you bundle small questions together into a single daily update? I’ve always found these hard to follow: The comments get jumbled, and it’s hard to remember who was OP2 vs. OP3 and so on. (Even the commenters forget — “oops, that was for OP4” etc.)

    By posting each answer separately, you’d have more ad impressions and more updates throughout the day to attract readers. Plus, it would be easier to link back to specific questions, and to remove a single question when needed.

    I love the blog and this is pretty much the only thing I’d change about it, so I can’t help but wonder. :-) Thanks for taking these questions!

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I recall when short answers (multiple question posts) started, and I think they were specifically short answers to short and simple questions. They’ve since become less short and more complicated and often the comments blow up about one particular question.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah, that is the problem I have with this format – almost without fail, everyone’s attention is drawn to one or two letters out of five, and the other three LWs get almost no love in the comments. When they probably would’ve received more advice and information if their letters were separate posts.

  91. Emma*

    What proportion of your work is ask a manager relates, and what proportion is other, unrelated projects?

  92. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I’m in a role that could be called customer service or at least with a big chunk that is customer-facing. As you know, we get sh*t on a lot by customers. Do you?

    Do you get complaints or do you have bad “customer” experiences?

    Do people YELL AT YOU in all caps in emails or anything similar?

  93. Gumby*

    IIRC, you once mentioned that you look for certain requirements when choosing whether to interview people about their unusual / interesting jobs – what are those?

  94. Suzanne Brown*

    Do you have any employees working on the blog with you? What doors do you think have opened for you strictly from having the blog?

  95. JustMe*

    I’d love to know more about how you built the blog into a business and what the day-to-day looks like. I know you started doing it while working full-time, but how did it morph over the years? You’ve since published articles and books–did the publishers/editors reach out to you as the blog grew? Did you reach out to them? Does Ask a Manager have an agent? And what does your day typically look like?

  96. Mack*

    How are site backups handled? Have you ever had to restore from backup?

    Have you ever had a question from someone you know who didn’t realize they’re writing to you?

    What was the book cover design process like, and was it different for some of your books vs others?

    What differentiates your top-clicked posts (if this is even something you know?) How much visibility do you have into the metrics of which posts are getting viewed/commented on/linked elsewhere?

    Are there other platforms you’re not currently on that you’re considering trying out?

  97. Lola*

    Who does all the posting/content moderation/general website upkeep? Is it all you, or do you have people helping you?

  98. The Prettiest Curse*

    I thought of two more:
    1. Do people ever write to you from their work email addresses?

    2. There have been a few cases where 2 different commenters have (unintentionally) posted with the same username. Is there a behind the scenes process for resolving these situations, or do people just sort it out between themselves?

  99. Irish Teacher*

    Do you enjoy visiting the blog and reading the comments or does it become sort of a chore as you are keeping an eye on the comments to ensure people are being respectful and so on? I know those aren’t mutually exclusive, but I was just wondering if it remains as enjoyable as if you were just running it for fun and it was a small thing or if there comes a point when it becomes more of a job and you’re thinking “oh no, I suppose I should go and check the comments on that post to make sure people aren’t piling on.”

    Are there many of the moderated comments that you actually have to reject?

  100. Meera*

    Seeing as it’s a big part of many queries – What are your work conditions? What does a typical day/week look like? How much holiday time do you take? How do you manage health insurance (I’m from Australia, so I don’t fully understand this but I know it’s super important). What about your superannuation (I think that’s what America calls 401K?). How much of your day is spent in Deep Work/writing researching answers vs like project management/admin?

  101. XF1013*

    Stephen King said two things about his writing that make me wonder about yours.

    First, he said that as a genre author, people ask him constantly about things like where he gets his ideas and what other writers he likes, but nobody asks him about the craft of writing itself. Drafting and rewriting are a huge part of his job that go unappreciated. Similarly, people wonder about your advice, but I wonder about your writing process too. Your answers are so well-organized, with useful examples and (when the subject matter allows) droll humor, but above all, your writing is very precise; it’s impossible not to understand exactly what you think. How much of your total working time is spent just on crafting and perfecting the words themselves? And do you know of specific authors who have influenced your writing voice or how you think about writing?

    Second, he said that if he wants to know what he really thinks about something, he writes about it. Do you find that your advice or opinions evolve as you draft your responses? And are you one of those people blessed with the ability to get fully-formed arguments out of your head and onto the proverbial page, or do you have to spend time just getting down everything you want to say and then go back and sort it afterwards?

  102. JustAnotherTues*

    Disclaimer: Not intended to be snarky!

    For job hunting questions, you sometimes tell letter writers to ignore outdated advice from family members, or even straight-up wrong advice from college career counselors. In part, because these people have never been a hiring manager, or haven’t been in a hiring position in many years.

    Similarly, given that your own career has changed, and probably aren’t involved in hiring decisions at this time, are you ever concerned that you’re not as up to date on hiring norms?

  103. Leave Hummus Alone*

    Do you come across any questions that you don’t feel qualified to answer? What do you do with those questions?

  104. JustAnotherTues*

    Why do you bundle (short) letters into 1 post? You could post all 5 at the same time, while also making it easier to follow the comments for only Letter #3, for example. But I assume you have a good reason to bundle the letters, so I was just curious!

  105. anna*

    In your consulting work, do you have encounter situations that you’re tempted to write about here and is that something your clients need to be on board with before working with you? I guess just…how does that work for your clients?

  106. Wren*

    Do you have a moderation system or do you mostly do the modding yourself? (I know you’ve gone on record of trying to stay away from the commentariat due to the uh…wild nature of it, but I wasn’t sure whether you were diving head first into comments or had a system set up. Also, how did you decide on your blog theme?

  107. I'm fabulous!*

    1 – What are some of OP letters that you wish you got an update to but never have?
    2 – Has running AAM changed your perceptions on the functions of HR/management?

  108. DJ Abbott*

    Do you do everything yourself, or do you have a staff? I hope you have a staff, because it seems like too much for one person! Or even two people.

  109. Tabby Baltimore*

    Thought I saw a graph posted here a few years ago (2017?) showing the increase in visitors to the site, almost from its year of creation. IIRC, the last figure was something like between 22-25 million (surely I’m misremembering, but I don’t think I am) unique visits. So I’d *really* like to see some visualized statistics again about visits to the site. Or visualizations for some of the statistics already mentioned in the comments above (e.g., questions per day/month/year over time, or even the increase in the number of places that AAM has been mentioned or that Alison has written for). Thanks for allowing us to ask these questions.

  110. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note that I’ll leave this open for a couple more hours and then will close it since there are already a ton of questions here and I won’t be able to get to all of them!

    1. Polly Hedron*

      Fair enough, Alison, but this is so interesting that I hope you’ll make it a recurring feature.

  111. Aziraphale the Cat*

    I’ve always wondered about the posting schedule for vacations or holidays. I assume you prepare and schedule posts well in advance of vacation days and holidays but do you do extra work when a a holiday or planned vacation day is coming up or do you spread out the “day off” posts over the year so you’re not doing extra work to keep a more steady workload?

  112. WorkerBee (Germany)*

    How many letters from Non US employees do you get?
    Being a German who has read your blog for over 10 years now, I’m curious.

  113. nnn*

    I’m sure there’s a lot of work that goes into running the site that we don’t, beyond writing answers and posting them. Can you talk about some of the other work you have to do behind the scenes?

  114. nnn*

    It seems like some people send their letters to multiple advice columnists and so we’ll see it appear here and in Dear Prudence and AITA, etc etc. Does it bother you when people do that?

  115. lazuli*

    Does it annoy you when commenters say, “I disagree!” and then say the exact same thing you said?

  116. CharlieBrown*

    What do you do to relax besides read and cat care? And since you are self-employed, do you ever worry about work-life balance?

  117. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Are there any comments from readers that have stayed with you personally over the years? I have a few things in my life that came from discussion in the comments section, such as watching the IT Crowd, buying clothing from Universal Standard, understanding relationship-orientation versus task orientation, and who knows what all else. I just wonder what small or large parts of your personal life have been picked up from the comments section.

  118. Anonymouse*

    Have you ever gotten an update/follow-up to a letter you answered that made you regret the advice you gave?

  119. foobar*

    My understanding is that you left full-time work to manage this blog. What, if anything, do you miss about having a “typical” job?

  120. Polly Hedron*

    Do you ever get letters from two people that are obviously / coincidentally about the same situation?
    And do you ever get posts from people who recognize the letter writer and want to give their side of the story (e.g., “I was OP’s boss and I fired her because….”)?

  121. marvin*

    A couple of questions!

    1. As someone with progressive values, how do you find a balance between advocating for individuals’ best interests and speaking to the larger, flawed systems they’re operating in?

    2. Is there any specific flavour of letter that you can’t resist reading or responding to?

    3. Do you ever get questions that you wish you could answer but don’t feel able to for any reason?

  122. Rosacoletti*

    I’m sure you’re as frustrated as us about this antiquated platform for managing comments. Are they any plans for an update that to improve the user experience, Eg being notified if someone replies to a comment/question one has made (I have no way of knowing if you answer this without manually looking and scrolling possibly thousands is comments to see). Also being able to filter comments?

    Thanks Alison, this is by fav blog of all time!

  123. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Closing comments now since I have many, many questions to pull from. Thanks, all! (I’ll plan on doing the post for sometime next week with as many answers as I can manage.)

Comments are closed.