my employee asked a colleague to help her fake a deal, I’m constantly interrupted when I need to focus, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My employees constantly interrupt me and I can’t focus

I recognize that my employees generally want to do a good job and not waste a lot of time. For them, it is easier to come and ask me something that may take five minutes, instead of them spending an hour figuring it out themselves. While I appreciate this, and I do not want to stop their momentum, I find it is very disruptive to my ADHD brain. For me, the problem is not the five-minute interruption. It’s the 15 minutes afterward that it takes my brain to get focused back to what I was doing. I have explained this, but it continues on a daily basis. I regularly work 12- to 14-hour days because I simply cannot get my work done with so many distractions during the day.

Is there a non-rude way I can ask my employees to save up their questions and we can have a meeting at a designated time each day and I can just answer everyone’s questions at one time?

Further, I have already spent countless hours creating documentation for common tasks. This is extensive documentation with photos, arrows, screenshots, etc. Everyone knows about it and where to access it from the server. But nobody does this when I am in the office. They come and ask me how to do everything.

On days when I have had to come in late or leave early, the work still gets done. Therefore I know the people are capable of solving their own problems without my help. Why do you suppose they can’t do this when I am in the office?

Because it’s faster for them to ask you and you’ve trained them that you’ll answer immediately. You need to retrain those habits.

Not only is there a non-rude way to tell them to save up their questions so you can answer them all at once, but it’s a completely normal thing for good managers to do! Otherwise a lot more people would be in the situation you are: unable to focus and get their own work done. Be straightforward: “From now on, please save up all your questions for me rather than asking them piecemeal, and we’ll do one meeting a day to get them answered.” (I’m saying daily because that’s what you proposed, but in a lot of jobs that would be overkill and weekly or twice a week would work fine. Adapt based on the nature of the jobs you’re managing.) You should add, “Obviously if something is an emergency like X or Y, alert me immediately.” (Make sure to give specific examples of what qualifies as an emergency so you’re all on the same page about that.)

Then if you get interrupted for something that’s not urgent: “Can you hold this for our one-on-one? I can’t interrupt what I’m doing.” The key is being disciplined about saying that, because that’s how you’ll train people in a new habit. Otherwise this won’t work.

You should also block off “work blocks” on your calendar where you’re unavailable for interruptions. (You can try the reverse too — scheduling “office hours” where everyone knows you are available for interruptions.) And if it’s not contrary to the culture of your office, consider closing your door when you need space to focus, especially during this period when you’re trying to instill new habits.

Doing this will probably nudge people to find answers themselves in the same documentation they use when you’re out. But if they bring you those questions in your scheduled meetings, make it unrewarding by saying, “Where have you looked for the answer so far?” and “Check the documentation and if you’re still having trouble, come back to me at that point.” No one is going to use the documentation as long as you’re right there saving them from having to.

Read an update to this letter

2. I was a really late bloomer and I’m nervous about job searching

I’ve had trouble getting off the ground in my life. I was an excellent student in high school, then had a long period of uncertainty and romantic drama after high school and before beginning college (seven years). Then it took me a long long time to get my undergrad (nine years). Followed by more aimlessness (nine years) before landing a job in my field, and I’ve been in this role for 10 years. Now I’d like to move on to another employer, but I don’t know how to explain why I’m in my 50s but only have (relatively) a few years of experience. I wasn’t raising children. I wasn’t traveling the world. I wasn’t doing anything important. I was busy being fearful of everything. I was ashamed of how long it took me to graduate, so I didn’t apply for jobs, because how could I defend that?? I had horrible anxiety and depression in the 25 years after high school, and while I’ve made great progress, the fear of failure is surging back now that I have to face interviews and a possible new job again.

I don’t want to spend another 10 years at my current employer just because I’m afraid to leave. I just don’t know how to sell myself when such a large percentage of my life seems like blank space on a resume.

You are assuming all this will matter to employers a lot more than it actually will! It is really, really common (and usually advisable) for people to only go back 10-15 years on their resumes — you don’t need to get into any of the stuff that happened before then. Focus on the job you’ve had for the last 10 years. Really flesh it out and focus on what you’ve achieved there. If you’ve held multiple titles there, break those into separate jobs. Then create an Other Experience section and put any particular highlights from the previous 5-10 years there. You don’t need a ton of detail about those if they don’t strengthen your candidacy; that section could just be a short bulleted list of selected employers, job titles, and dates. That’s it! You don’t need to get into what happened in the time between high school and college, or how long it took you to graduate college (you don’t even need to list your graduation year, and you definitely don’t need to list the year you started). Just focus on the current job and add a tiny bit of detail about the jobs right before that one.

Employers aren’t likely to be interested in anything before that anyway. Even if you’d had some sort of ideal job history for the last three decades, most employers would only care about the last decade or so anyway, and I’d be telling you to take the early details off your resume at this point anyway. So while you know you had a rocky start, employers won’t care about that period. They want to know who you are now and in recent history. Enough time has passed that the stuff you feel ashamed about doesn’t matter in a professional sense at all.

3. My employee asked a colleague to help her fake a deal

I’m a new manager of a small team of sales development representatives whose charter is to help the salespeople they’re aligned with create pipeline. They do this by setting meetings with potential customers, and they receive commission if the salesperson puts that potential customer in their pipeline.

In a meeting today, one of my SDRs asked a salesperson if he’d convert a prospect from lead to pipeline, and he was hesitant because he didn’t think it’d be a good fit and he didn’t want to open up that opportunity record just to have to kill it. There was no business opportunity because our product did not fit their needs.

Her response was, “C’mon [Rep], I’m pregnant, I’m about to have a baby” (which is true, she’s due in June). He looked very uncomfortable with it but hesitantly agreed. I felt about as uncomfortable as the salesperson looked, and I’m not really sure how to address it. It’s essentially faking a deal to earn money because the commission portion of her compensation is paid on the creation of the deal, not closing the deal.

I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but I’m not sure how.

Whoa, that’s a big deal and they did it right in front of you!

Is it too late to undo it now? If so, you should. And either way, you’ve got to have a conversation with your employee, explaining this wasn’t okay and why.

You might also consider talking with the salesperson who felt pressured to say yes and let him know he shouldn’t agree to that kind of pressure from your team and that you’re making it clear to your employee that that wasn’t okay for her to do. Maybe loop in the sales team’s manager too in case she wants to reinforce that message to her team.

Also, it sounds like you were in the meeting where this went down. Make a point of getting more comfortable speaking up in the moment if something is happening that you don’t want to happen. Ideally when you your team member proposed this, you would have cut it off right there by saying something, “That’s not something we can do because of ___” and then having a private conversation with her about it later.

4. I feel snubbed at work — should I quit?

I have worked at a construction company for 10 years as an administrator (been doing this for 18). I feel I’m being snubbed!! I got a significant promotion last year that wasn’t announced in their social media while everyone else got a shout-out. Also, on our highlight reel for the year, I was nowhere to be seen while a new girl was on there three times — and she doesn’t do shit compared!

This is a relatively small, family-owned company run by a grandson and so there is that dynamic. Am I being an overly sensitive schmuck? Should I quit?

I can see why it stings to be overlooked when everyone else is getting recognized! But you can’t make the decision based on just these two instances, which are relatively small in the scheme of things. What’s the rest of the situation like? Are you paid fairly, given interesting work, treated with respect, recognized in other ways? Do you like the job? If so, those things should carry more weight. On the other hand, sometimes when stuff like this really burns, it’s because there are bigger issues that have already been bothering you. Whichever the case, the bigger stuff — good or bad — will be more valuable to focus on.

Read an update to this letter

5. Taking over the office of a colleague who died

In my office we’ve had two colleagues die, one about six years ago and the other about six months ago. The first time, it took me some time but I definitely got used to somebody else being in his office. However, I have now switched jobs and I’m scheduled to take over the office of my second colleague.

I miss her. Every time I think about the new job, I think, “Oh, let me go ask…” and of course realize that I can’t ask her anything about the job. And it just feels weird to take over her office.

I haven’t found anything online about this although I have had two ideas so far: (1) Create some sort of ritual for myself upon moving in. (2) Leave something of hers in the office as a nice memory. I’m also planning to speak to my new boss about possible alternatives. Do you or your readers have any other suggestions?

I think both your ideas are excellent ones, but I’m happy to throw this out to the readers for other things that might help. I’m sorry about your coworker!

Read an update to this letter

{ 389 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I think you can nip this kind of thing in the bud by going over the rules of what qualifies a deal with the team. Make it clear that X and Y have to happen before Sales will recognize a deal. You don’t have to call out the person who tried to get the sales guy to fake the deal in front of everyone. Just point out that you don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or mistakes.

    Obviously, it would make sense to have a private conversation with the person who tried to pull this to tell her that this isn’t allowed, too, and that pressuring colleagues isn’t a good look.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I suspect from the apparent casualness of the SDR when asking the sales rep to do this that her request was not the first time she asked. OP, you might want to explore this further to see if she has done it before, with what sales reps, and how often.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’d suggest OP go back through opportunity records that have subsequently been ‘killed’ (involving these people and others) as I feel this is probably part of a pattern. Of course not every “pipeline” opportunity will get completed so presume you’d expect a few, but it’s worth auditing.

        1. Varthema*

          Possibly the timeframe before entry and removal? A lot of opportunities don’t make it, but it should generally take a while for that to happen, no?

          1. Snow Globe*

            Perhaps, or just a conversion rate. If typically in the department about 50% of referrals lead to sales, but for this SDR the number is closer to 5%, then that is a pretty significant clue that they are not referring genuine prospects.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I think that’s a good way to go back and look at this – overall patterns to see if anybody is a long way above or below the team’s average. Because the person who is way above average is probably somebody to talk with and see if they have any tips for the rest of the team; but anybody who is consistently really below the average and not still in training probably needs a look at to see if they need more training or what else may be going on for why they are so far below the team.

            2. MassMatt*

              I’m still scratching my head about someone getting paid a commission when it turns out there was no actual revenue generated. In any sales position I know of, your commission depends on actual revenue being earned.
              In cases where there’s a “trail” of revenue (as from a subscription service), if the customer winds up cancelling shortly after signing up there is a “clawback” of a commission that was out paid for it.

              I agree that it makes sense to audit these, and the fact that the employee was openly badgering another employee to do this in front of their manager is a big red flag.

            3. Sandgroper*

              I agree with this – that there should be some kind of measure/KPI on conversion.

              Anyone can toss things into a hopper, but it’s a complete waste of resources if they don’t actually add value.

              Introduce a new metric on conversions, explain that leads won’t be accepted if they have a less than 50% chance of conversion (so must meet specifications), and that bonus and incentives are tied to the final conversion rate as well as quality of leads entering the system.

        2. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

          Since she casually mentioned it in front of her manager (?!) it does sound as if she regards it as “no big deal” – a routine favor to ask. So yes, she might indeed have done this before, and done it regularly. Her attitude is at least a small red flag…

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yes. LW, you need to have a SERIOUS talk with your employee. You need to say flat out — we do not fake deals here. It can damage the reputation of the entire team. It is dishonest and unethical. If you do it again, I will have to terminate you.

            Don’t get hung up on the fact she is pregnant, you can still fire her for genuine work related reasons like — faking deals to up her commission.

            You also tell her you are going to be closely examining her work not only going forward but looking backward. Tell her to come clean now, because if you find anything you will consider termination.

            Here’s the thing, you are going to have to manage. I know you felt uncomfortable as the saleman, but as the manager in that situation it was your place to step in and say Whoa, Whoa, Whoa we don’t do that here. And stop it right then and there.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I feel sorry for the uncomfortable salesman, because OP should have intervened right on the spot instead of letting him dangle like that.

              1. MurpMaureep*

                Yes! My first thought reading that was how awful it must have been for the salesman to, likely, feel as if there was tacit approval from the manager for shady dealings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to his management to report it (I probably would).

                Being in management means having to be the voice of authority. And not speaking up when you should sends a definite message of its own!

              2. Observer*

                Yes to both – I feel bad for the OP, but I feel worse for the salesperson, and the OP should absolutely have stepped in right there to stop it.

              3. Meep*

                I am non-confrontational and I can think of a few ways to handle this in the moment to boot! Something like “let’s revisit this at a later date and focus on x” would be fine. Then talk to them separately (salesperson first so he knows you will back him up!).

            2. LW#3*

              Thank you so much for your feedback! I was so laser focused on getting advice on how to address it with my rep that I didn’t mention this, but I did in the moment say “hey Sales Rep if it’s not a real opportunity, don’t feel obligated to convert the lead, we only want real deals in your pipeline.” He apparently did still feel obligated, so I might have a 1:1 discussion with him to make sure he knows he has my support if he doesn’t convert a lead for a business reason.

              1. Lydia*

                Well, and that he shouldn’t, too. Telling him he doesn’t have to makes it sound as if it’s an option, but really, it’s not.

                1. Kes*

                  Agreed. OP, I think you need to be a little firmer here. I’m glad you said something, but this still sounds like you’re okay if he does do it, and you know he is already under pressure from the SDR. I think it would have been better if you said something to her in the moment, like “Wait a minute, we don’t want deals in the pipeline that aren’t real” to make it clear that she shouldn’t have said this and that you’re not okay with it.

                  At this point, I think you need to talk to both of them individually (and then likely to your team in general) to make it clear that this isn’t something they should be doing, as well as making it clear to your SDR individually that it’s not okay that she did that and that she tried to pressure the rep into going along with it, and to the rep that you’ve talked to the SDR, that he should not feel he needs to accept these fake deals, and that you’ll have his back on this.

                2. LW#3*

                  That’s a really good point @Lydia – I’ll adjust my language to make sure it doesn’t come across that it’s an option.

                3. Loch Lomond*

                  I would go even further on that- saying “don’t feel obligated to” is actually explicitly telling him that this IS an option. It’s not just a milder version of “don’t do it.” I would clarify this vigorously with both of them.

              2. Empress Matilda*

                I think it’s worth a group meeting as well. Normally it’s not a good idea to create a policy to address the behaviour of one person, but *so many* things about this are wrong. The SDR asking in the first place was wrong of course, and others have pointed out that the salesperson was probably uncomfortable, and that you should have stepped in more assertively in the moment.

                But how many others were in the meeting? Everyone in the room saw this transaction go down (or attempted transaction), and they all saw how you handled it. Would any of the others see this as tacit approval to fake leads as well?

                You definitely need to talk to the two individuals involved, but I think you should also have a meeting with the whole group where you confirm the criteria and whatever other rules you need. Try googling “group norms” if you’re looking for a place to start outside of the sales criteria. Good luck!

                1. LW#3*

                  Hi @Empress Matilda, thank you for your comment! It was just me, the SDR, and the sales rep in the meeting. You have a REALLY good point about setting the expectations early and addressing it in a group setting and I’ll definitely be googling group norms.

                2. Sandgroper*

                  I’m wondering if this is the only SDR doing this… or if there’s others.

                  Time to audit the ‘failed’ propositions and find out the conversion rates, who is doing what.

                  And time to rethink your incentive payments – 10% on referral, 30% on conversion/contract sign, 60% on completion? I don’t know, but something needs to change!

              3. Nic*

                Up until 2 years ago I was manager for an SDR team, when I moved over to a quota carrying Sales Rep role and now I work as a manager for our Sales Reps.

                There will be “less quality” opps from SDR converted leads by the SRs, there’s no way to catch all of those and it’s not really desirable to put a stop to it entirely. SDRs are the talent pool for your future Sales reps.
                A big part of the SDR job is to “learn the ropes” and build relationships internally as well as externally.

                With that said…. an SDR who ask an SR to fake a conversion when there is no potential deal and does this in front of you deserves a PIP and if repeated should be managed out of your team and the company.

                Dishonesty should be nipped in the bud and if you let this slide you will hurt the SDR, the team and your own career in the long run.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        It does seem like it was not the first time this came up.

        If that IS the case, there are several issues here:

        #1 the sales rep trying to pad their numbers with prospects they KNOW aren’t going to pan out. That speaks to an ethics issue … they are purposely trying to inflate their numbers in ways that can negatively impact the company’s ability to accurately project actual sales and create meaningful changes to product, process as a result of deals that don’t close. This needs to be addressed head on with the sales rep, in a way that makes clear this can never, ever happen again.

        #2 the SDR being willing to do it, even if they are hesitant. Why do they not feel ownership of the validity of the pipeline numbers, reporting? Why do not feel they can push back on these requests?
        Those and other questions should be discussed with the SDR, including leaving the door open for the possibility they were hesitant to act because LW was the “authority” in the room, and they may have assumed LW would shut it down and became uncertain of how to proceed when LW was silent. This should be more exploratory and collaborative than the discussion with the sales rep. You want to understand what the SDR was thinking, how you may have contributed to it (if at all) plus you want the SDR to willingly bring questionable entries to your attention, even if to just fine tune the lines between addable and not for the short term.
        #3 Actually the biggest issue here: WHY does the sales rep think it’s a good thing to pad their numbers? My guess there is a systemic compensation design issue that is rewarding sales reps for stuff that doesn’t in the end actually increase sales or benefit the company and/or there is no downside to loading the front end of the pipeline up with stuff that falls out before actual payment is received by the company. Are their spiffs, bonus structures that ramp up bonuses if things are done by x date or if reps exceed some level each month, quarter, whatever? Is there no look-back on what listings generated bonus payouts vs what actual revenue came in?
        Tying compensation, rewards to interim steps in the lead-to-revenue, quote-to-cash processes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially in industries where there’s a high fall out rate or a really long close cycle, you’ll likely need some incentive at the front end to prime the pump.
        But there also needs to be a mechanism that DISincentivizes folks from adding stuff in bad faith, stuff they know has zero chance of ever landing. How that looks and works will obviously depend on the situation, but someone at LW’s company should absolutely be figuring it out, and that someone may well be LW. At our company, people get bonuses based on when the deal is recognized as revenue, and there’s a claw back provision if the customer doesn’t pay due to a sales-process issue. (ie if the customer goes bankrupt, that’s not usually a sales rep issue… it’s someone else’s job to determine credit worthiness)

        1. anon today*

          Yeah, it seemed like this person was exploiting a system that may be incentivizing the wrong behavior.

          Years ago, I lived in a large apartment complex in Southern California. Every time there was a vacancy, the leasing agents would start badgering me about “upgrading” to a larger unit or whatever. I wasn’t interested in moving, and I wasn’t sure why they seemed so annoyed I was happy in my current unit.

          It turned out that they got a “signing bonus” on all new leases… even for current tenants signing a lease on a different apartment. So they figured out that if they could talk existing tenants into moving into other units on the property, they could get extra signing bonuses. Never mind that this is going to cost the company money while those extra apartments are prepped for a new tenant.

          This went on for at least a year after I moved in before the owners figured out why they had so many tenants transferring units. They stopped paying “signing bonuses” except for NEW tenants. I don’t remember if the leasing agents kept their jobs or not–this was over 30 years ago.

    2. John Smith*

      LW2, I’m in a similar situation and fully sympathise. For my job roles (in the UK), a full work history from school is usually required, and it’s annoying and time consuming. On my CV, I focus on my current role and just group my pre-graduation period into one time frame (e.g, 1995 -2004, various jobs in X industry). I’m happy to explain that I was a late bloomer and focus on my achievements since graduating.

      The problem arises with electronic application forms which usually have to be filled out anyway and don’t allow any gaps in history. Even when I call HR and explain briefly, I’m told pre grad history that long ago won’t matter (so long as, e.g, not in prison) but still have to fill out Every. Single. Job. And the gaps.
      Even worse is when they ask for references from 2 previous employers. Past employers no longer exist and anyone who worked there certainly won’t remember me. I’d love to use my professors but they’re either dead or retired or abroad somewhere!

      I helped my neighbour with his CV last year. He’s had the same (skilled labour) job since leaving school in the late 70s and his entire CV was not even half a page long. I was jealous. Best of luck to you.

      1. FrenchCusser*

        It took me 13 years to graduate from college, and I have a 10-year gap on my resume that no one has EVER asked me about (I was working as a nanny during that time).

        LW will be fine. As Alison pointed out, employers want to know what your skills are NOW. How you acquired them and how long it took is not important.

    3. STLBlues*

      OP#3 is a manager who sat in a meeting where fraud was openly discussed and let it happen. That is SHOCKING. The SDR is literally stealing from the company.

      OP, if nothing else, imagine if YOUR manager were in that meeting. Would they be happy that you sat there and let fraud get openly discussed? If I were your manager and knew about this:
      1. We would have a lengthy discussion about what being a manager means – and how you need to have backbone and always follow the rules.
      2. The SDR would get talked to and also I’d have intense metrics tracking in place to understand what her win/loss rate was compared to other SDRs. Substantial? Then it’s all fraud and she’d probably be let go.
      3. I, as your boss, would have a conversation with the sales rep stressing that his agreement wasn’t okay— but also stressing that YOUR behavior was out of line.

      1. Blue*

        I can’t help but wonder if part or the reason the sales rep reluctantly agreed to the request is that the manager was silent and thus passively allowing the sham deal to go through.

        On the other hand, I wonder if there is a culture or doing this, as others have said.

        1. RebeccaNoraBunch*

          So I’ve been on sales teams like this before in several roles and it’s really not that shocking at all. In my experience it happens all the time; it’s extremely common. The SDR is probably making a nominal amount of commission on a converted opportunity. It’s less often that it happens right in front of a manager but it’s still pretty common. Qualifying potential opportunities correctly is something I’ve spent more than a decade of my professional life either doing myself as an SDR or training SDRs/account executives to do.

          I would advise LW#3 to go over the qualifications of a lead turning into an opportunity (or however they phrase it) with the whole SDR team again, and then work with the sales rep’s manager(s) to really enforce that on their side. I’ve just seen it happen so very many times that it doesn’t strike me as fraud or a fireable offense – after all, it’s possible the lead could turn into an opportunity in the future and oftentimes it’s very murky – but definitely an opportunity for retraining.

      2. Me (I think)*

        This was my reaction, too. This person is straight up stealing from the company and asking the sales person to help them do it.

        This is a firing offense. No warnings.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          I think LW3 has to consider that the SDR feeling so comfortable making the request in the first place, pushing it with the rep when the rep seemed uncomfortable, and all in front of LW, who didn’t shut it down (thereby reinforcing the belief it is ok), may well mean that the SDR genuinely sees nothing wrong with it. Other people mention coming from work cultures where this is the norm, did SDR come from somewhere like that? Did former manager approve or encourage? Is SDR getting other signals that this is okay? It just seems unlikely that someone who thought it was fraud would do it so blatantly.

          I’m not saying it is okay, I’m saying that LW shouldn’t jump straight to firing without more context. If SDR has been previously warned this is fraud, sure. But otherwise warn the SDR, have a serious convo with everyone, and then monitor and evaluate going forward.

      3. Too Stunned to Speak*

        Imagine how uncomfortable that sales rep must have been to not only have his peer make such a request, but for a superior to sit there and seemingly condone it! He probably felt like he wasn’t in a position to refuse.

        I often experience verbal paralysis when shocked by someone else’s behavior, but this is so blatantly wrong that I can’t comprehend how a manager could sit by and do nothing.

        1. Observer*

          but for a superior to sit there and seemingly condone it!

          In Halacha (Jewish Law), there is a concept that Silence is consent. Yes, there are some well mapped out exceptions, but this situation would NOT fall under any of those exceptions. The manager most definitely did approve it. Not in the sense of moral approval, but in ALLOWING it to happen.

          Note that they say that they were “uncomfortable” and would like to prevent this from happening going forward. No mention that “This CANNOT happen again”, recognition that they SHOULD have stepped up to the plate, or any suggestion about undoing this deal. Not “I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say or do in the moment” or anything remotely like that.

          If this goes up the chain, the salesperson is going to say “OP approved it.” And they will be correct.

          1. JSPA*

            That’s a strong statement, and it’s based on norms that are not universal.

            In communities where that’s the stated norm, it’s easier to speak out; in communities where silence is ambiguous (or where there’s no norm, or where silence tends to mean disagreement) it’s much harder to speak out. (I’m thinking of Japan, where getting a, “that’s not actually possible” can be like pulling teeth.)

            For that matter, I’m going to guess you’re on board with “yes means yes” in matters sexual? (That is, consent must be active, and un-coerced, for it to be valid.) That’s only one of several situations where we do not (or where we no longer) assume silence = consent.

            1. Smurfette*

              This needs more context. The principle is that if you are in a position to prevent others from doing something wrong, you are obligated to speak up against it.

              Although it’s often phrased as “silence is consent”, I think that “condonation” better conveys the meaning.

              The text is as follows:

              >> Whoever can prevent his household from committing a sin but does not, is responsible for the sins of his household; if he can prevent the people of his city, he is responsible for the sins of his city; if the whole world, he is responsible for the sins of the whole world. <<

              You can see that this would not apply to a situation where someone is being pressured to do something they don't want to, whether sexual or otherwise.

      4. LW#3*

        Hi! Thank you for your feedback. I was so concerned with how to manage the SDR that I did not articulate in my message to Alison that I did, in the moment, tell the rep that he should not feel obligated to convert if it’s not a real opportunity. But he clearly DID feel obligated.

        To me, it’s fraud plain and simple. But when I asked a couple of trusted resources in the company, they weren’t as concerned as I was, so I wasn’t sure if I was blowing it out of proportion.

        1. Observer*

          It doesn’t have to be outright fraud to be absolutely unacceptable, though. So no, you are not blowing this out of proportion. And you need to frame it as “not acceptable” when you follow up on this.

    4. Colette*

      I disagree. This is fraud; it absolutely needs to be addressed with the individual employee.

      If there is genuine confusion on the team, it could also be addressed with the team as a whole, but the individual conversation is not optional.

      1. Lydia*

        This is where 1:1 conversations with the individuals happen and then a training for the team. I suspect this person has probably pulled this with other coworkers.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m a little confused about #3, because it doesn’t sound to me like they “faked” anything. It sounds like they were just planning on selling to people who were likely to back out before closing the deal. To me the issue sounds like a commission system that encourages exactly that. Is that a common setup?

      1. darlingpants*

        Yeah I’m not that horrified? Maybe I’m wrong, I’ve never worked on commission, but it seems to me “you get what you pay for” and in this case your company is incentivizing her to add everyone she ever meets to the pipeline.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I see a lot of people calling it fraud, which seems like a big stretch unless I’m misreading what happened. I think if a salesperson were to say to a customer “hey, sign up so I can get the commission, don’t worry there is no commitment on your part and you can back out after” then THAT would be fraud. But this sounds like they just asked another sales person to help them genuinely convince the customer to sign up, and that second salesperson is just not confident that the customer will stick around. Which presumably isn’t something you can really know for certain, so why *wouldn’t* the sales person try to sell to them anyway?

          1. EPLawyer*

            LW says the product is not a good fit for the lead. So it would go nowhere and the salesperson knew it. It would not be a case of not being able to close the deal, its a case of a no on the first offer.

            And it is most definitely fraud. It is known at the time of inception it won’t go anywhere, the SDR is only doing it to get the commission from the company.

            1. darlingpants*

              To me “fraud” would be making up a fake person and adding them to the queue. What this SDR did is like… referring a friend who you know will quit the day after your referral bonus is locked in. That’s manipulating the rules to get paid for something that doesn’t benefit the company, but it’s following the written rules.

              1. MurpMaureep*

                It might technically be abuse rather than fraud. In the healthcare/insurance/billing world those are different things. Fraud is generally seen as intentional misrepresentation (a.k.a billing for procedures that didn’t happen) and abuse is seen as actions that are improper and outside normal guidelines (a.k.a ordering unnecessary tests or double billing to get paid more).

                But the LW says “There was no business opportunity because our product did not fit their needs”, so the employee was asking the salesperson to misrepresent that the lead was, in fact, a potential customer. That’s at least borderline and involves some level of falsehood.

                (note that I am not a lawyer or compliance expert, but I do have some experience in those areas in a specific industry)

                1. EPLawyer*

                  This is the best way to explain what it probably is. It might not be fraud, but it is abusing the system which is still wrong.

                2. Splendid Colors*

                  As a small business owner, I find it really annoying when I make an inquiry, find out that the product/service isn’t a good fit, but I keep getting sales pitches. If this is a situation where I might need the product/service later when my business has grown, and there’s a lot of competition in the field, I might decide NOT to pick the company that kept badgering me. I’m also less likely to recommend them to other businesses.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                It doesn’t even sound like referring a friend who you *know* will quit, it sounds more like referring a flaky friend who you know isn’t necessarily reliable but it’s still kind of possible that this job will work out. And that’s why most companies that pay referral bonuses have a condition that the person has to stick around a certain number of months for you to get the bonus!

                I don’t work in sales, but I work in finance so “the fraud triangle” was a big part of what we studied in school, and we take various fraud prevention courses every year. Pretty much the #1 rule is don’t set up pay structures that incentivize bad behavior!

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Here’s how I see this particular situation: if you tell the sales team that you will pay them for every person they put in the pipeline, regardless of how likely that person is to close the deal, then you are telling them that their job is to put as many people as they can in the pipeline, regardless of how likely that person is to closed the deal.

                2. Hannah Lee*

                  Yeah, this is a compensation, incentive program design issue at its core. It could be about what gets counted, when it’s counted, how it’s weighed vs other steps in the process, when it’s paid out, whether or not there’s any look back. But in general, you’re going to get what you measure and reward … especially in sales and especially if there is no downside to padding numbers, no look-back on close rates or pay rates and no claw-back on bogus items.

                  Because if there was no upside to padding numbers with known bad leads and there was a downside to doing it, no one would be trying to do it in the first place. (well, actually now that I think about it, IME not very bright people might do it, but they won’t make much of a living)

              3. Kevin Sours*

                “referring a friend who you know will quit the day after your referral bonus is locked in”

                That also sounds like fraud. Maybe not in the legal sense but this isn’t a court of law. The expectation in both cases is that you are putting things forward in good faith and getting rewarded for it. If the intent is to get rewarded by deception then fraud is a good description for it.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Well it’s definitely somewhere along the fraudulent – shady spectrum. It doesn’t rise to the level of Bernie Madoff, but it’s still very shady.

              1. EPLawyer*


                Everything doesn’t have to Bernie Madoff level of fraud to be fraud. We also scream about time theft if someone fakes a timecard — even by 15 minutes. This is the same thing. She is getting a deal added in order to get money for herself.

                1. Observer*

                  The key is that she is getting a deal that she KNOWS will never come to fruition. At the very least, she is misrepresenting her work to get extra pay.

                  Maybe not illegal, but in the best case it’s a SINGLE warning.

                2. Empress Matilda*

                  Yes, and I think the question of whether or not it’s *technically* fraud is missing the point. Whether we call it fraud or abuse or plausible deniability, doesn’t matter. We know for sure there’s something ethically shady going on here, and it’s up to the manager to put a stop to it.

                3. Cmdrshprd*


                  I do think the employee was wrong, but I don’t necessarily think it was fraud.
                  There is KNOWING (for a fact) and knowing (a certain likely hood) to me those are different.

                  I “know” if I buy a lotto ticket I am not going to win, but I don’t “KNOW” for a fact because people do win the lotto and I could be one of them.

                  KNOWING would be if that customer already said no to the sales/service, but here everyone “knows” that the lead likely won’t go anywhere, but really you never know, aka a pretty woman type situation.

                  I do think this situation needs to be stopped, and it certainly is bad practice, but I don’t think it is fraud.

                4. hbc*

                  @Cmdrshprd–I wonder how’d you feel about someone using the same logic at you. Saying “I’m going to be on time” because it’s possible they’ll hit every green light and sustain 70mph in DC rush hour traffic. Your kid saying “Sure, I studied enough” because it’s possible they just needed 5 minutes to review material for the final.

                  They have criteria for judging whether an opportunity is good enough to move it to the next level. No one in that room believed it met the criteria, but they did it for the personal gain of that employee. No “it’s not *completely* impossible” makes that okay.

            3. JSPA*

              Eh, the SDR may know the salesperson to be somewhat pessimistic, or may otherwise believe there’s a small but non-zero chance of converting their “no” to a “yes.”

              So while there’s a problem here, we’re not completely sure what sort of problem.

              Yes, it could be intentional fraud (and adding someone who might as well be imaginary to the list is as fraudulent as making up a name, IMO.) Or maybe the SDR is ridiculously overconfident in their persuasive skills. Or maybe the SDR doesn’t believe that this salesperson, or the sales team in general, know(s) their stuff. Or heck, there may be kickbacks! Or someone higher up may be encouraging the SDR to play the system!! Write your own fantasy here. But the point is, OP needs to figure out if the company is full of cheaters and cheating (and then look elsewhere, probably!). Or whether OP will end up on the hook for their report’s willingness to fudge the truth. Or what.

          2. Qwerty*

            “There was no business opportunity because our product did not fit their needs”

            The sales person doesn’t have a shot at closing this deal. Talking to this non-customer is a waste of both the sales and non-customer’s time because the mismatch has already been identified. The way the system is set up, the SDRs are supposed to be filtering out leads like this and only putting leads in a sales pipeline that have potential to convert to a contract.

            The SDR also is pretty clear that they are only putting the non-customer in the pipeline to get the commission. They didn’t make an argument that there was product fit that the sales guy didn’t see, or that this was a good person to talk to because they might come back in the future. There was no genuine belief that the lead would turn into a sale – they straight up just wanted the commission and pressured the sales guy to accepting the lead knowing it was a dead-end.

            To put this in other terms, assume 3rd party recruiters got paid when they get a candidate signed up for an interview, rather than having to accept the offer. You tell the recruiter that you want a fully remote job, the recruiter knows the LlamaCorp has a strict in-office-only policy. Recruiter sets up an interview for you with LlamaCorp anyway knowing there is no way you would accept a job with LlamaCorp and then pockets the commission.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              When I first started reading, I thought the model was that the scouters would, in perpetuity, get a percentage of the sales off their pipeline placements. I don’t know if that’s in play, but it sounds like maybe they get a one-time commission only when their recommendation is made active by a salesman, and that’s it?

          3. LW#3*

            Hi! I wanted to add some color that my team doesn’t close sales, our function is to find new business for the sales team according to specific criteria. So we support the sales team, and get compensated on finding new business opportunities and not closing business (which is out of control since we don’t work the deals).

      2. Antilles*

        I was wondering this too. The way it sounds, it seems like the commission comes for merely getting the opportunity set up, *not* for actually landing the deal and getting that signed contract.
        Whereas everywhere I’ve worked, it’s the opposite, you get your commission when we get the signed legal contract. – not merely “creating an opportunity in the pipeline”. And that’s the only way that makes sense IMO because there’s usually more proposals sent out than actual contracts – the client changes their mind, they get another bid they like better, they lose funding, unexpected personnel turnover, or a dozen other snags that come up last minute to kill an otherwise promising opportunity.

        1. Antilles*

          To clarify, in my industry the “signed contracts” actually come with money alongside them – if you’re in an industry where you don’t get paid for months, it might make sense for the company to not pay out commissions until even later.
          The idea that OP’s company pays out commissions on work they haven’t even won yet seems baffling.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I agree this is quite confusing to me.

        The commission/incentive system seems kind of broken; however, for it to work at all the only legitimate leads should be converted to the pipeline. The SDR was incredibly aggressive about inappropriately converting that lead IN FRONT OF HER NEW SUPERVISOR. (This shuold greatly worry the new boss/LW. Either she does this so often she imagines it doesn’t matter/won’t get her in toruble or every does this with regularity too.) We don’t know how much she knows, but did she know enough in advance of this meeting to know this was a bad prospect and then wasted everyone’s time in order to get her commission.

        This is wrong. Not sure that it rises to fraud, but it’s a broken system rewarding the wrong thing. The LW/new manager needs to take a good long hard look at the process to see if it needs to be fixed or if this one SDR is abusing a system everyone else uses correctly.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          The reward system not need to change, if there is very clear guidance on what should should be converted to the pipeline and if the outcome is monitored to see if potential sales entering the pipeline are meeting the expected percentage for conversion to actual sales.

          If one particualar SDR’s numbers on what is sold is much lower than others, that’s potentially a sign of some funny business like what happened here.

      4. elle*

        I think the issue is that everyone involved seemed to know that no sale was going to happen– “There was no business opportunity because our product did not fit their needs” so this wasn’t an unlikely but possible sale. It sounds like they’re asking for a blue model airplane and the company only sells yellow toy trains, but the SDR wants to push it through anyways, knowing they can’t deliver a blue model plane.

      5. Kevin Sours*

        Sure they did. They put forth a customer as a prospect for a product that they knew the customer had no use for. They faked the prospect that the customer would purchase the product.

      6. Smurfette*

        I agree. When you incentivise the wrong behaviour, it results in … the wrong behaviour!

        It does sound as though they need clearer criteria for potential sales leads. I.e. a specific way to vet these and get a clear yes/no outcome.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Everybody here *knows* that the lead in question isn’t valid. A better way to evaluate leads isn’t going to help.

    6. lifebeforecorona*

      Also, if the sales guy kicks this up the chain then the LW is trouble for allowing the deal to happen in front of them and not stopping it. This is why managers get paid to manage.

    7. Czhorat*

      The employee was clearly out of line, but it also appears to be a terrible system; if you get commission based on the sales person’s best guess as to whether or not it hits the pipeline that can feel very arbitrary.

      It would probably be better if the system were based on something measurable, like receipt of a purchase order.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes—at best, it feels arbitrary, and at worst, it creates a perverse incentive, as happened in the letter.

        Obviously, the employee shouldn’t have done this, but it shouldn’t have been an option; the system shouldn’t be structured to encourage behaviors the company (presumably) wants to prevent.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          I don’t think there is a way to set up a commission system that doesn’t create perverse incentives. If you change the system so that leads only generate commissions if they convert you’ve extended the time it takes for the SDR to get paid, they’re now dependent on the skill of the salesperson for their commissions (which could create incentives to funnel leads to particular salespeople if that’s possible), and you still have an incentive to push low quality leads into the pipeline (it can’t convert if it isn’t there).

          Aligning commissions to business goals is necessary and tricky but you still need norms and people acting in good faith which means active management and people doing their jobs beyond maximizing commissions in the short term.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            A very good point. If you’ve got a setup – like commissions – where there is a strong incentive to game the system, you do need to think clearly about what you’re incentivizing, but you also need a strong audit function, and the ability to tell someone to knock it off if they’re figured out a loophole. Spirit and fact of the law, basically.

    8. LW#3*

      This is great feedback, thank you! I did bring it up on our 1:1 and it was not well-received but the expectations are more clear now.

    9. Marshmallow*

      I’m generally against doing this approach of making it a vague group issue when it’s an individual issue because, in my experience, the person you actually need to hear it is the person that rarely does.

      It’s best to tackle that stuff clearly and quickly so that it doesn’t continue and become an even bigger issue.

      I’ve had waaaay to many managers over the years do the soft shoe “reminder to the team” approach when it wasn’t a team issue and it always just makes bigger issues.

  2. DEJ*

    Check out the comments section of previous article “after an employee died, her team has driven off anyone we hire to replace her” (March 1, 2017). A lot of people had really great stories about what their workplaces did after the loss of a colleague that was helpful. Maybe ask for a little remodeling so it feels more like yours? New desk, chair, paint?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Good call, #5 reminded me a lot of that old letter too. I remember the comment section having a lot of good suggestions on easing the transition, definitely check it out!

      Also, LW5 make sure you’re taking care of yourself too, I’m sorry you lost someone who sounds like they were important to you.

      1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

        Yeah. We always shared movie / TV / book rec.s. And we consulted on work issues, etc. etc. Sigh. Thank you.

      1. Paula*

        I took over the space of a deceased colleague when I joined a new employer. I did not know him personally but the way he died was so horrific that none of my colleagues had been able to use the space for several years. I felt honored to use the space that he had spent so many hours in doing the work that he loved. I found two scrap books he had made of images of his experiments, looked thru them many times and could see the pride and care he took in his work. I kept those books (still have them 20 years later). I felt like I was continuing his legacy by taking pride and care with my work even though it was very different than his. I have since moved to bigger, better, sparkly new space and another more junior person took on the role of continuing the legacy of our late colleague. I miss that comfortable, used and appreciated space.

    2. PerraFortunata*

      Loving the idea to sort of remodel the space a bit. Rearrange furniture, or maybe add wall color with paint or posters/removable wall coverings. Drape a pretty scarf over the backrest of your chair perhaps.
      Maybe imagine your lost friend looking over your shoulder lovingly and helpfully. I bet your friend would have LOVED the idea of you in the same office. Very sorry for your loss. ❤️

      1. LW5 here*

        Thanks Paula – what a gentle and lovely approach and memory.
        PerraFortunata, thank you for your thoughts and comments. Good point re how she would have been happy to have me sit there.

  3. Observer*

    #3- Fake deal.

    You were in the room when this happened and you didn’t stop it in it’s tracks? In some ways that’s a bigger deal than this mess. Because this salesperson is not going to listen to you when you tell him that he shouldn’t do this again. He’s going to listen to what you *did*, rather than what you say.

    So, you need to own this when you speak to him. Tell him upfront that you were too shocked to really respond appropriately, but that’s not going to happen again. And he shouldn’t be opening opportunities that he knows he’s not going to be able to turn into a sale.

    And then you need to make sure that this “deal” gets undone; that you have a serious conversation with SDR that you were shocked once, but there is not going to be a repeat of that; that you monitor all of the conversion to pipeline that come from her; and watch her very carefully going forward. Because on the one hand, you know she’s doing this problematic thing – you just don’t know whether she’s done it before. And you’ve given her a very strong signal that you’ll let it pass, which she may give more weight to than your conversation.

    1. Artemesia*

      sounds like rules for compensation may need to be revisited. Perverse incentives are what lead IRS agents to close lots and lots of cases on grandma for $500 per and ignore big complicated tax frauds by well lawyered billionaires and what caused fake accounts or unrequested accounts to be created at a major bank to pump numbers. If your pay system rewards fraud, what you get is fraud.

      1. Sharpie*

        If your pay system rewards fraud, what you get is fraud

        Isn’t this what happened with Enron? I mean, the sheer scale of fraudulent accounts there was incredible but it didn’t start out at that scale. As a wise man once said, “Once you start down that dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”

        If this is allowed to slip and the ADR isn’t held to the highest standards of integrity, who knows what might happen. Arguably, in fact, she’s shown a total lack of integrity, maybe enough to warrant a PIP, and almost certainly enough to warrant a serious conversation and coaching.

        1. Terranovan*

          I think that this is Wells Fargo you’re talking about here instead of Enron. Although I might be mistaken – it could be “as well as”, not “instead of”.

          1. Sharpie*

            Wells Fargo – that could well be the one! I’m in the UK and wasn’t paying much attention to exactly what was going on in the States at the time, but I do know that a number of companies collapsed due to whatever shenanigans in a pretty short space of time!

      2. Janet Pinkerton*

        While I don’t want to get into a whole political discussion about the IRS, this is demonstrably false. IRS employees haven’t been allowed to be evaluated on the “records of tax enforcement results” since 1998. You can Google “IRS restructuring and reform act of 1998 section 1204(a)”.

        (Does the IRS have other perverse incentives? Almost certainly. But this one hasn’t been one for over two decades.)

      3. Observer*

        sounds like rules for compensation may need to be revisited.

        I hear that. But that’s a separate issue, and one that’s probably above the OP’s pay grade.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Worth raising with the higher-ups, though, once the immediate mess is sorted. Because there’s no way this one particular SDR is the only person to have identified this loophole!

          1. GreenDoor*

            It could be raised as potential auditing nightmare. Because one of the things we auditors look for is patterns that don’t make sense. So if I saw one salesperson that had an unusual number of deals created that didn’t result in deals completed…or one sales developer with a pattern of deals that didn’t make sense, I’d be exploring that way more.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      In addition to all this, the salesperson may have agreed to being pressured by the sales development rep specifically because you were there and didn’t object. You saw how uncomfortable they were initially. Not wanting to cross a manager, it’s possible that they took your acceptance of the fraudulent offer as unspoken encouragement. Given that they find it stressful, it’s likely that they will be relieved to know you’re validating their initial impression and that they won’t be put in that position again.

    3. Grey Coder*

      Yeah, OP3, you are going to need to explain why you didn’t say anything at the time. You can either say you were so shocked that you were speechless, or say you wanted to check that you had the full context in case it was a viable lead for other reasons, or something, but you need to make it clear to the two of them and to the rest of the team that this is Not Okay.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Yep, I’ll also add that it’s useful when something feels off but you’re not sure what to say, to just say, “let’s put a hold on that idea until I have time to think about it a little more.”

      2. Penny Pingleton*

        This hits home since I also have a new manager who lets people get away with rule-breaking when she knows better. She has no spine and never says no to people who push the envelope like this. That makes my ethical, rule-following self (equivalent to others in the room not described in LW’s story) very resentful of the manager. (I lost all respect for my unethical colleagues long ago.). I’m at the point where if this happened at my job, I’d speak up and ask *my* sales rep to do the same. “Oh, well I’ve got a kid in college. Jim, can you add this lead to your pipeline so I can pay tuition next semester?” I’d do this in the moment to prompt my terrible manager to take a stand. Like “oh, is this what we do know? Cool.” And if she didn’t stop it, well at least I’d be getting that tuition money. I guess my point is that although the LW is talking about three people in this scenario (themselves, SDR, and sales rep), the other people in the room are seeing this, feeling resentful that they are following the rules and others are benefiting from breaking them….. This is sowing the seeds of major dysfunction and rebellion. LW needs to take a strong stand immediately.

  4. Rich*

    LW3, I’m in sales and you’re absolutely right this is a big deal. I’ve seen good managers in action in exactly this situation.

    In the meeting — where others are present and you may not want to have as ‘assertive’ a conversation — something along the lines of “The comp plan and the targets are designed to pay you for finding opportunities, not giving [Rep] pipeline that you know will never amount to anything. Let’s focus on finding real OPs”. That shuts down the inappropriate request, focuses your SDR on the right things, and is pretty gentle sales management, all things considered.

    One on one, I’d suggest being a lot more blunt. “There’s a difference between working the plan and gaming the plan, and gaming it doesn’t fly here. Giving [Rep] opportunities you know are worthless just so you can get paid is unethical, and it makes his job harder for your benefit. That can’t happen again.”

    Also, I’d recommend starting to keep track of the win rates from that employee’s opportunities and how they stack up against the rest of your team and learning from her reps about the quality of her leads. They certainly know if she’s giving them real pipeline to work with. Sales can be a fickle business, but there’s always a lot of data to work with to see if she’s inflating her numbers with bogus pipeline.

    1. El l*

      Well put. This is a big deal as-is, and LW should be actively investigating whether this was a one-off or part of a wider pattern.

      Best case for SDR, she gets a hard conversation (which also has to include LW stating, “I should’ve said something right there.”).

      Worst case, if there’s enough smoke LW needs to seriously consider firing them or giving them a “You will not get another chance” warning.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think you need to do a big picture look at everybody’s lead conversation rates first. You need to know if this is a whole department gaming the system to artificially up their commissions, or just one or two bad actors.
        If everyone is gaming the system then you need to have a very different conversation then if it’s only one or two people gaming system.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’d also check if this is part of a pattern among all the SDR. The brazenness of the request makes me wonder if this is something a lot of SDR are doing.

  5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (bogus sales lead) Is this a normal commission structure for companies? My first thought was it sounds like this system is so easily corruptible that it isn’t the right system (but I am a techie and far from the sales side of things).

    Really she has defrauded the company in doing this – and it probably isn’t the first time. Especially if the others witnessed this in the meeting – although I expect it is generally known anyway – they now have the impression of you as a manager that you will accept this and let it go. I do wonder if all the sales development people are up to this and this was just a way of testing the water with you…

    1. Amy*

      I’m a B2B salesperson with a team of sales development reps back in the office.

      This payout system seems bonkers. Of course it’s going to result in fraud. I can imagine designing something this way and not seeing that.

      We get paid quarterly off billings, not something more nebulous like created opps.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Esp if the ops don’t need to lead to actual sales to get paid out!
        LW3, at the least you need to 1-apologize to the guy who was uncomfortable creating the lead, and 2-speak to your rep and make it clear that what she did was not OK with you and she can’t do it again. And as others have said, you should consider auditing at least this reps leads, if not everyone’s, to see if you are getting a reasonable return rate. But really, this whole system is ripe for abuse. If you do an audit and find that you aren’t getting a good return rate, you may want to think about different ways to make your leads happen.

      2. Susan Calvin*

        Honestly, having been on the delivery/services end of things, I’ve long advocated (at least 60% seriously), that the churn rate of a rep’s previous year’s deals should be factored into their bonus!

    2. Georgia*

      I’ve worked in sales before and this was the structure that the company used – SDRs got paid when the opportunities they generated moved to 10% viability, and there was a separate team that closed deals. I don’t remember the parameters for 10%, but I remember that their manager decided whether or not the opportunity had hit that level. This was software sales.

    3. daffodil*

      I wonder if systems like this are why I get so many emails from sales reps for stuff that have so little to do with my actual job I don’t even know who to direct them to. They have an incentive to “create a lead” and “follow up” even though a minute of googling would indicate I’m not in a position to buy whatever they’re selling.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I own a one-person business, and besides all the bogus SEO/follower scams, I get solicitations for all kinds of products and services I’d have to have a multi-million dollar company with hundreds of employees to need.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      It sounds like it’s two separate things? It reads to me like the person who did the asking gets paid for the referral (can’t think of a better word), when it goes from lead to pipeline; ie when a sales person thinks it’s actually a worthwhile lead. The salesperson gets a commission when the opportunity closes successfully, ie when they make an actual sale.
      I don’t know how normal/common that is, but if I’m reading that structure right, it makes sense in a twisted way why she’d ask the sales dude. And why the OP didn’t smash this with a hammer from the start. If that piece of the process is always a judgement call from a salesperson, if they think the lead is worth pursuing, I could see how someway, sometimes, there might be a borderline one she might nudge to get pushed forward. That’s not what happened here, clearly, but I can see that being a not-completely-unethical thing.
      What OP needs to clarify with them both is when it’s blatantly obvious a lead won’t pan out and makes no sense to, it’s not appropriate to badger sales to push them through anyway AND sales has not only the authority but the obligation to reject the leads that they know they’re going to need to kill immediately anyway. The lead’s gotta pass some minimum threshold before it really becomes a judgement call.

    5. lilyp*

      I really feel bad for the sales reps in this system. I know I would feel deeply uncomfortable evaluating a colleague’s (peer’s?) work knowing that my decisions on what to accept/reject would directly impact their compensation, much less having to give my evaluations live to their face! I would really struggle to be unbiased about what leads to accept, knowing that I have to maintain positive relationships with the SDRs to get good leads in the future (but also presumably meet my own conversion rate metrics). Maybe most salespeople have more backbone than me but it feels like this system puts them in a really tough position and gives them more direct control over their peers’ compensation than is really appropriate.

      Maybe a better system would be to combine some objective facts/metrics about the lead with a salesperson’s anonymized rating of it and then you as the boss decide which leads are “strong enough” to count for commission? And then the salespeople get to pick from that pool which leads to actually pursue.

  6. Allonge*

    LW2 – gently, you were sick in the years you feel so ashamed of. Depression and anxiety are illnesses and can influence your life just as much as a physical illness.

    Let’s turn this around: if you heard that someone graduated “late” because they were dealing with something like malaria or long COVID for ~25 years, would you feel they need to justify this forever?

    You have a degree and years and years of experience. Prepare for the job interviews (Alison has a lot of good advice on resumes and such). You will do just fine.

    1. Retired To The Morning Room To Write My Letters*

      Yes, and I wonder if you (OP) could prepare to acknowledge that period of your life if asked to or if you need to – by saying simply that you had been ill.
      It has the merit of being true, so you needn’t feel as if it’s a cover-up.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      LW2-less gently, but with mad respect and as a contemporary, I assure you: the people interviewing you are far less concerned or interested in your life story than you are.
      If they ask about jobs before this one, it’s not an interrogation, it’s a line item on their list:
      “You’ve been in your current position 10 years, correct?”
      -yes, I started after school.
      -no, I started as X and moved to Y

      Good luck and go easy on yourself.

      1. Emily*

        And if for some reason an interviewer pushes, you can say something like, “I came to this field later in life.” It is so, so normal to see applicants in this age range who took time out of the workforce or switched careers.

        1. irritable vowel*

          Yes, for sure. I would read OP’s resume as indicating that they had included their relevant work experience, and feel that asking them about how they spent the time not included on their resume was not relevant, aka none of my business. (Doesn’t matter if they were in a different field, raising children full-time, traveling the world, dealing with illness or family illness. Not my business!)

    3. Random Dice*

      I love the idea of thinking of anxiety / depression bouts as if it were malaria. That actually made my own a/d spirits lift a little. It’s a real shame-reducer for what truly is a medical condition (but isn’t always looked at that way).

      But as other people have said – as a hiring manager, I just want to know that you can do the job. (And these days many to most of us managers have anxiety/depression too.)

      If it does come up (which I doubt it will), mentally imagine you’re taking about a rare tropical disease and then make true statements about your a/d.

      “I had a medical condition that took a long time to get diagnosed and treated properly, and made everyday life very challenging. Fortunately we were able to figure it out eventually. [smoothly transition to your last job] In the last 10 years at Acme Corp, I really enjoyed X challenge…”

      1. Lily Rowan*

        But seriously, with ten years of relevant experience on a resume, I wouldn’t even ask the question. I would figure career change/late-bloomer/who cares, and move along.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Speaking as someone who a) attended college for 8 years and never graduated, and b) changed careers in my 30s after a medical issue, after you have 10 years in your current field employers don’t ask what you did “before”!

          Seriously, in your case it’s:
          Q: Do you have a degree?
          A: Yes, in Teapot Design
          Q: How long have you worked for Acme Teapots?
          A: Ten years
          Q: Tell me about that position…

          If they ask about anything else, just tell them you were dealing with medical issues. If the time to get the degree comes up, tell them that you could only go part time, between medical stuff and needing to work.

          Being a career changer, or getting a degree in your 30s or 40s as part of a reinvention of your career is not that unusual. Lots of people start working right after high school, and then decide they want a career, not just a series of dull jobs, so they start college as a working adult and can only go part time, because they have to work and pay bills. The good thing is that you can do that these days – when I was in school they only wanted full time “dedicated” (poor and naive) students. But it’s not an easy thing to juggle, even without depression and/or anxiety chewing up your brain.

          Go forth and interview with confidence. You’ve got this, and you are not “odd” for how you got where you are.

    4. Linda*

      Depression and anxiety derailed me early in life, too, and I didn’t get my bachelor’s until I was in my forties. I’m now three years into a professional career and not one person has cared about what I was doing before. I interview at other jobs pretty frequently, in case something better comes along and to keep in practice, and the only interest anyone has shown in my “before” jobs have been in the crossover skills, like customer service and managing people. Most hiring managers don’t even care about that anymore, since I have hard to find experience in a specialized software. Good luck, LW2!

    5. Nesprin*

      One of my favorite interns had had a bit of a story like yours- failed out of college, did a bunch of jobs that barely paid the bills & was unemployed for a while, then got things together, excelled at community college then at a university and is now a dentist. The extra decade and a half gave him a chance to figure out what he liked and didn’t like doing, and gave him the maturity to follow through and really excel in a way that he wasn’t able to first time through.

      It’s worth recognizing that people love to root for an underdog- coming from behind is often more impressive than getting things right in the first place.

    6. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

      Speaking as someone who graduated in their forties, I have noticed a palpable difference between the way a nongraduate and a graduate get treated/spoken to when applying for jobs. When applying for nongraduate admin positions, I was given the third degree (assuming I even got to the interview stage) about “how I would handle” simple, everyday tasks and situations, such that it felt like I wasn’t to be trusted to be a competent, adult professional unless every possible relevant skill and personality characteristic had been scrutinized in detail. Applying for my first graduate gig (higher education), I was offered the job after a 15-minute informal chat on Skype. There was no vibe from the interviewer whatsoever of “are you competent?” even though I had only taught before in a voluntary capacity in a completely different field. I don’t know what field the LW is in, or their pre-graduate field, but I wonder if this may be of some comfort? I confess I was seeing applying for graduate jobs through the jaded lens of my previous working life.

    7. chronic illness anon*

      I started back at work after spending nearly a year away and the explanation I gave was “I had health problems that meant I couldn’t work” and nobody asked any follow-up questions.

      Obviously the time scale is different but I think most people will be understanding and don’t want to be rude.

  7. philmar*

    LW1, I would say to the people I managed, “I don’t know the answer, so I’m going to check the [cheat sheet/process documentation/whatever] and then google it. If I find the answer in 30 seconds, you have to explain to me why you didn’t do that first.” Usually they would rabbit out of my office at that point. I also had the kind of relationship where this came across as kind of joke-y, because they were aware they were taking a shortcut by asking me rather than looking it up themselves.

      1. OhNo*

        FWIW, I work with graduate students and the first question I always ask when they come to me for help is “What have you tried already?”

        If the answer is “nothing” then I redirect. Maybe I’ll walk through the process with them if they seem super confused. Usually repeat question-askers will figure out what is expected of them pretty quickly, and within a couple weeks they’ll start off their questions voluntarily with “I’ve tried X and Y, and I still have a question…”

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I think this is a great approach to students, and especially grad students who you are teaching to think critically and learn how to learn on their own. For employees, it’s a little different (see: all of Alison’s posts on how school and professional workplaces are different). Again, yes, you’re trying to get the employee to learn how to learn but you have to use a different tone than with a student where there’s a different power relationship.

          1. Allonge*

            I am not saying that the tone will work in all circumstances, but I don’t see here a major difference between students and employees.

            I would take the words as they are said and if I have a good reason not to check documentation before going to the boss with a question, I would say that (client is threatening to stop all orders unless we do X in an hour!).

            But it’s a really bad habit to go to your boss with every question and from the side of the boss, it’s not sustainable to address this always with a long, kind explanation. Start with one, for sure! But in the moment – just remind.

          2. Kes*

            I think this is fine, especially with junior employees who need to learn how to problem solve and become a bit more independent (and even with more senior ones who should know but don’t seem to apply it).

            I have used this in the past, I think it works well because it’s not accusatory or threatening, it’s a legitimate question and knowing what they already tried gives you important information both about the problem and also about their problem solving abilities. It also helps set the expectation that you do expect them to try and solve it themselves before immediately coming to you for help.

            From there you can either show them how to get the answer or just point them in the right direction and encourage them to investigate it on their own and just come back to you if they encounter any issues, so you can gradually encourage them to solve problems more independently

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              IMO, from a problem solving perspective, in a problem solving field, asking someone (junior, customer, etc) what they’ve already tried is a good way to avoid the “have you tried rebooting it” cycle over and over. If you know what they’ve already tried, and what the results are, you can more quickly pinpoint the issue they are having. Plus, you get them out of the habit of coming to you “first” and not trying on their own.

          3. OhNo*

            True, the power dynamic could make it a little different between a manager and their employees.

            There are some secondary benefits to this method that might still make it worth using, though maybe as a later plan once you’ve gotten them more used to trying things independently first. You both learn which skills they do have (e.g.: maybe one employee always checks the manual first – now you know that, and don’t need to worry about training them to find it), and you don’t have to worry about repeating things they’ve already tried (e.g.: they looked in the manual, but it doesn’t cover this very specific case – now you know that, and can skip right to the next step for solving the problem).

    1. Cat Tree*

      I don’t think you need to be this circumspect about it though. It really is Ok to just directly tell them too look for the answer before coming to you, then asking whether they have done so, and directing them back to look first if they haven’t already. It really truly is acceptable to just state that plainly.

      If people are lying and saying they looked for it when they actually didn’t, that’s a different kind of problem. But if that’s the case it really is OK to just address that directly too.

      1. elizelizeliz*

        In a lot of elementary classrooms, the students have the expectation of “Try Three, then Try Me”—meaning, don’t come to me with a question that you haven’t tried to answer three ways (in this situation, examples could be looking at documentation, trial and error, googling, asking a colleague, looking through old emails, etc). I’m not suggesting that it’s necessarily the right approach… but if it is I’m sure you could get a bunch of printable visuals about it on TeachersPayTeachers! Some sort of clear expectation like that (as Allison said, backed up by action) is completely reasonable.

        1. Yoyoyo*

          I had to take a somewhat elementary school style strategy with a team I managed who before I took over were so used to operating as if everything was a crisis that they felt everything needed to be addressed RIGHT NOW (when really, a lot of it could wait for a 1:1 or be asked via email instead of pounding on my door). I asked them to think about whether their questions were green light (can wait until their 1:1 to be resolved), yellow light (email me), or red light (true emergency, interrupt me). And yes, we are in a field where there are true life or death emergencies sometimes. At first I was worried about implementing it because I felt it might be condescending, but I was open with them about how the constant interruptions were making it hard for me to get my work done, and I also didn’t want them to be operating from a place of fight or flight all the time because that causes burnout, so we needed to work on recalibrating how we look at things. It actually went over well and helped a lot.

        2. Burger Bob*

          I’m a pharmacist and this is what my partner and I tell our technicians, although for the opposite reason. We have too many who feel bad about bothering us, and so they just keep banging their head against a problem, often trying the same thing repeatedly with the exact same lack of solution each time. They stay stuck on stuff so long that it becomes a total waste of time, and we could have told them how to solve the problem in thirty seconds. We want them to try, but we also want them to stop wasting time when it becomes clear that they need help.

          1. Kes*

            This is an important point, too – there’s a balance where employees need to learn both to try and solve things on their own, but at the same time to put a limit on how long they spend on it to ensure they don’t end up in a rut/going in circles on something instead of reaching out for help. I find junior employees especially often tend to struggle with one or both of these aspects.

    2. Colette*

      That’s pretty harsh, especially if you haven’t set the expectation that they will look before asking.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I don’t think it’s harsh to expect an adult to problem solve on their own at work, and to clearly (though jokingly) tell them so.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          It’s a little bit condescending. Asking the employee to google it or check the documentation before they ask you is a good idea, but making them tell you why they didn’t do that first could be damaging to the relationship with your employees, no matter how jokingly you think you’re saying it. I think it could train the employees to hesitate to ask questions in situations where they really need to and also could make them feel awful every time they fail to find the answer they need before they ask you.

          (For context, my fantastic boss has in the last few weeks started doing something like this to me and it’s driving me crazy. Do I sometimes need to take a few min before asking her a question? Sure. But now I’m feeling like every time I ask her a question she’s going to be mad at me. I realize this might be my own anxieties at play, but a lot of people could probably have similar anxieties.)

          1. Antilles*

            I’m also going to note that “jokingly” is very much in the eye of the beholder. And *every* boss who makes these sort of sarcastic jokes with their employees thinks it’s totally fine, my employees are in on the joke, it’s all in good fun. Nobody thinks they’re the villain; nobody thinks “I’m the boss who my subordinates secretly hate because they think I’m a condescending and sarcastic horsebutt”.

            Maybe philmar really does have a close enough relationship with their employees that it really did come across as funny-jokey.

            But I will say that IF we imagine a boss who was wrong and his employees were bothered by their boss being sarcastic to them…that boss sure as hell isn’t going to recognize he’s wrong due to the power differential meaning employees can’t say “whoa, that was pretty harsh” or “that was kind of a condescending way of handling it” or etc.

          2. Allonge*

            I would not start doing this before an explanation that it will happen and why it will happen.

            But if this helps, it’s really unlikely that your boss is mad at you and it’s very likely it’s not about you at all – it’s about her workload.

            Imagine getting every question that comes up from all members of your team immediately! You don’t need to have ADHD to find it distracting, and it takes up a lot of time.

          3. fhqwhgads*

            It depends. Not the case for the LW since they haven’t been pushing back yet, but if you’re dealing with someone you’ve directly told repeatedly: check the intranet, check the documentation, google before asking me, and they keep jumping straight to asking you, I’d say it’s not really condescending (unless the tone is) to ask why they didn’t do it first. That’s one of those “we discussed this before, what happened?” sitchs.
            Whereas if it’s someone who doesn’t generally jump to asking prematurely, or has otherwise shown good judgement/follows instructions, then making them tell you why they didn’t first could come across as patronizing. Or it could come out as a genuine question since it’s a break from the norm. Depends on the delivery.

        2. Colette*

          It doesn’t sound like a joke to me – it sounds extremely aggressive, and I wouldn’t work for someone who did it.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        If OP#1 wants to nip this in the bud, she may need to act like this. She mentioned her team can manage to get the job done when she’s not around; her giving the answers just makes things a lot more convenient for them. So, OP#1 needs to stop being so convenient and start focusing on her own work. “I’m not here, check [documents/FAQs/Google] and if you can’t find the answer, email me your question and I’ll get back to you at my earliest convenience.” Of course, if their need falls under a specific set of emergency situations, then yes, OP should step up with an immediate response. But if it’s not a matter of life or death, then they need to be taught to figure it out for themselves or wait for an answer. This hopefully will motivate them to stop looking for the easy way out.

        1. Colette*

          If she does this as a first step, this problem will stop – no one will ever ask her a question again, possibly because they’ve taken a new job somewhere else.

          1. AnonInCanada*

            I wouldn’t have made this a first step. This would a gradual weaning off the proverbial knowledge teat to train them to figure out things on their own that aren’t mission critical. First steps would be “I’m sorry, I really need to focus on [project X with short deadline]. If you can’t find it in [the manual/FAQs/the server documents] can you shoot me an email with your inquiry and I’ll look into it when I’m done?” Maybe this in itself will entice them to find a way to answer their own question without waiting for OP. The whole goal here is to not burden OP with questions her team can find the answer to if they bothered looking. The sterner words would come much later after the weaning period.

          2. hbc*

            I dunno, if you’re told this and are reasonably sure that your boss *will* be able to find the answer in 30 seconds, you’re probably better off looking for an easier job. I can’t imagine interrupting someone without having done Ctrl-F through the documentation, hitting Google, and/or grabbing a coworker who’s walking by to see if they know.

            1. Colette*

              It wouldnt matter if the boss couldn’t find the answer – that’s not how you talk to people – especially when the current process is asking the boss. and there are legitimate reaspns why you might not find it – such as “the boss searched a historical name for the tool”.

              It’s fine to refer people to the documentation. its not ok to be condescending and hostile.

              1. Allonge*

                If you looked for it, and there is a legit reason you could not find it (boss searches by old name), then you take boss on their word and explain that though.

    3. Everything Bagel*

      I think a better way to approach it would be to ask the employee where they’ve looked for the answer first, rather than being more adversarial, even if it’s in a joking manner. Either way, if the manager doesn’t have time to consider the question in that moment, they need to tell their employee that they’ll have to discuss it later and to group questions if possible as Alison suggested.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        This. I’m sure I have gone to past managers who could have given me that same “If I find the answer in 30 seconds, you have to explain to me why you didn’t do that first” answer. There would be a few differences between their search and mine though…

        -In my current job, documentation is stored all over the place, with a very rudimentary search function. My manager knows the file paths, which means it’ll take me a lot longer to get to that point (I do write things down or save shortcuts).
        -I often find the instructions unclear or incomplete – they might be missing steps, or not updated with significant changes to the process.

        Being put on the defensive for doing exactly what was expected of me but not having sufficient resources doesn’t help anyone.

        1. GreenCrayon*

          I agree that the best approach is to ask where they searched (and how), but there’s a teaching opportunity with file system quirks and lacking instructions. The employee might be looking at the individual trees, but the better approach is what’s the forest. I’m in a research field, so dealing with the unknown is a needed soft skill. The tone and approach should be more from a mentoring frame rather than just google it. Even if the question has been asked multiple times.

          Sometimes you have to explore and poke. And ask for context on why is structured that way. Instead of focusing on a specific files, there might a larger method to the madness. That doesn’t mean the file system can’t be improved. It’s more that the guidance should be how to self-serve rather than specific files.

          One of my employees seems to want quick answers and tends to get too wrapped up in details. I’ve asked them to think about what they would do and walk me through their thought process. The hope is that they would focus on what is truly important and what resources to use when. And have a better idea where is disconnect exists when they jump to something that doesn’t matter. Giving them the opportunity to think it out develops skills with research and maximizes everyone’s time. It may be slow at first, but it’s better in the long run.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      I could see this working, but the tone has to be Just Right.

      Based on LW1’s relationship to their team, what about telling them the impact of their interruptions? No need to disclose ADHD necessarily, but telling the team that every interruption has been taking them out of their work and they’ve been putting in 14 hr days to compensate, which isn’t sustainable, so going forward we’re going to [X].

      Assuming the employees don’t actively want LW1 to be miserable, I think having that context would help immediately cut down on unnecessary distraction. Coaching them where to look first is all well and good, but it doesn’t help LW in the short-term.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah. I’d want to start enforcing consequences for people who didn’t check the documentation.

      And I’d start by telling my staff very bluntly, using LW1’s words, “I have already spent countless hours creating documentation for common tasks”. Now maybe, just maybe, the documentation that LW1 wrote isn’t sufficient, or is poorly organized, or something, and therefore people don’t want to use it. And LW1 should probably ask that question explicitly if it seems like there is some hesitation about using the documents other than “well the boss is right there”.

      1. 3co*

        If the documentation is in a format that allows the whole team to make edits, I’d want to set an expectation that when someone has to interrupt a coworker to ask a question, they should update the documentation with the answer.

        If the documentation is organized in a way that doesn’t make sense to some team members, or if it’s gotten out of date or is missing something (which can easily happen with hyper-specific screenshot-based directions after system updates), this will help fix those issues over time. And if team members know that they’ll have to update the docs, they may start checking them before asking.

        With collaborative documentation, it is a good idea to go through everything periodically to remove anything redundant or correct any less-than-optimal processes, but IMO a periodic cleanup of the docs is easier than handling a constant stream of questions.

  8. AcademiaNut*

    For #5 – I would suggest not having some sort of memorial to the previous employee in the actual office, as I think that would reinforce the habit of thinking of her every time you come to work and stretch out the adjustment period. Instead, I would rearrange the office as much as possible to make it look different. Move the location of the desk if you can, (if your boss agrees, even swapping the furniture with that in another office), put up different decorations on the walls, arrange the desk differently. If you want to do a memorial of some sort, do it someone other than the office you’ll be working in.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I agree with rearranging significantly. I think it’d be fine to keep something small as a momento (a knickknack, a potted plant, etc) but put it in a different type of place than it was in her office, and not somewhere you’ll be looking at it seventy times a day. Moving furniture around, if it’s possible, will go a long way toward it feeling like a different office.

      1. Dumpster Fire*

        As an overly sentimental person, I would suggest that the memento NOT be something like a plant that you’d need to maintain/keep alive, because of how you’ll feel if/when that plant dies. I’d go with something that is easy to pass on to someone else, or simply leave in the office for the next occupant.

        1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

          Ooh good point.
          What made me chuckle is that she had a plant – and it died. So having a dead plant might be a good memorial lol (no, I won’t do that but she shared my sense of humor and would have thought that was funny).

          1. Ginger Baker*

            I am trying to remember now if my mom did this or just talked about it (I think she DID, it was 100% her kind of humor) – she gifted a colleague a “pre-killed plant” in the same vein (def to someone who shared her sense of humor!). My mother also passed recently; reading some of these workplace tributes and ways of incorporating small memorials into life routine has made me smile/cry today but nothing made me laugh so much as the great “pre-killed plant” gift callback so thank you for that!

        2. nobadcats*

          If the OP knows what the colleague’s favorite flower was, get a small print (or even a greeting card), frame it, and put it on a shelf/hang it. It’s a small, subtle reminder of your friend.

    2. Blythe*

      A friend and colleague of mine died, and his classroom was inherited by another teacher. When she left, that classroom became mine. I have totally redesigned the room (more because of different teaching styles than anything else), but I do have a memento of him in there. It feels like a good balance.

    3. Haha Lala*

      I agree, keep the memorial out of LW’s new office. At my last job, we lost a coworker to cancer. The boss put a framed photo of him in our conference room, on the book shelves with several other things— books, award plaques, photos of previous projects, framed news paper headlines, etc. It was a great balance of not feeling like we erased him completely, but not feeling overshadowed by the loss.

      1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

        Thanks for this. You (& others) gave me plenty to think about.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      I think it also depends on your own traditions. In my family, it’s quite common to get a memento upon a relative or close friend’s death. These aren’t shrines & often not known to be mementos to others. It’s a nice balance.

      1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

        Not relevant to my question – but ohmygoodness I LOVE Pride & Prejudice. Austen is so very wry & funny.

    5. Antilles*

      This was my thought too. The more you try to memorialize it, the more it’ll reinforce that it’s still X’s office and make it more awkward to adjust to the fact you work here now.

    6. Office Lobster DJ*

      I agree that the line between momento and memorial is going to be fluid. LW5, if it feels right for you to have a keepsake, by all means do it. Just pay attention to whether the keepsake is helping or hindering you. If it is making you feel like the space isn’t fully yours, it’s okay to get rid of it.

      Having a formal memorial somewhere else in the workplace, like a picture up in the break room, might help relieve you of feeling any unfair burden to honor your colleague’s memory.

      1. cardigarden*

        Also, think about what might happen if the memorial is in your office but in five years you need that space for something else. If your coworkers are the kind of people who would give you grief about relocating [Person]’s memorial, it’s probably best to have it in a communal area.

        1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

          @Office Lobster DJ & @cardigarden – yeah, after an earlier comment, I also started thinking – what about a few years from now? Yeah. Definitely things for me to ponder. Thanks.

    7. Ex-prof*

      I agree with this, and would add that if there is an alternative to moving into this office, spacewise, the letter writer should ask for that alternative.

    8. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

      To all of you who wrote about moving the furniture – really interesting point. Thank you.

    9. Kcmc*

      I moved into the office of a late colleague about a year ago. Before I moved in, the office manager called in a priest to do a blessing of the space. I would not recommend this specifically lol but a brief low-key moment of gratitude and remembrance could be beneficial depending on the culture of the office. I work for a Catholic organization that also employs several priests so it was an easy thing to arrange and not too entirely out of left field like it would be at a secular company. Nevertheless, I was VERY uncomfortable with it. But I went along with it because I was important to my coworkers who were closer to the deceased than I was (I greatly admired her professionally but considered her a pleasant work acquaintance). She passed away in the early months of COVID when everyone was strictly working remotely and they could not have a memorial gathering so her friends and close colleague really felt like they lacked a sense of closure. Since the blessing no one has referred to it as “[Colleague]’s Office” so at least it did that.

      1. LW5 here*

        Yeah I’ve been thinking about having some kind of small ritual for myself if/when I move in. Thanks.

  9. Tbs*

    LW3 – is it possible the salesperson felt pressured to say yes to the request because you were there and didn’t speak up? If so, I think it is important to acknowledge this to the salesperson and perhaps also to raise to their boss that your presence might have hindered their judgement. This action could have consequences for both people, but it sounds like your employee was the main person in the wrong… not the salesperson.

    1. KateM*

      I was wondering what made the salesperson so hesitantly agree:
      1) Because it was the first time they were asked to do this and they thought it wrong – but OP was there and didn’t say anything so they thought it was probably OK?
      2) Because they did that often – but had never been asked in front of a supervisor before and didn’t want OP to know?

      1. Tbs*

        Good point! I read it as option 1 (hence my response), but option 2 is totally possible. Some previous commenters suggested doing to deep dive into records (like, how many deals leads killed and between which employees) and that probably would help determine what is what.

        1. KateM*

          I’d lean more towards #1, too, because I’d think OP would have noticed some side glances and shushing… but then maybe the other person, based on OP’s employee’s rather brazen asking, also in that case determined that OP was fine with that – they would assume that OP’s employee knows that better than themselves. OP should definitely take into account that their presence had influece on the salesperson, especially if that person is in hierarchy lower than OP.

      2. Observer*

        Because they did that often – but had never been asked in front of a supervisor before and didn’t want OP to know?

        Good point.

        But in that case, the OP has just basically given their official imprimatur on the practice.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Agree with this. I didn’t see your comment before I added similar thoughts in reply to Observer.

  10. Stitch*

    I train people and I’ll literally respond to some questions with “I know the answer to that is in our manual” or “Did you check X”. Sounds harsh and irritating, yes, it would be faster for me to just answer the question, but it’s literally on my trainee checklist and report as to whether trainee can work independently. Obviously, if they made an attempt or the questions is more complex, I won’t do this. But if I know they could find the answer through the provided resources, I’ll direct them to the resources.

    1. Cat Tree*

      It’s not harsh at all and it’s perfectly fine to expect them to look for it themselves and then hold them to that.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Yes, whether it is harsh depends on the tone, but the words themselves are not harsh at all. It doesn’t benefit anyone – not the employees, not the manager – for the employees to be allowed to continue not knowing the basic and intermediate elements of their jobs.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      It’s not harsh, especially if you have a kind/supportive tone when you say, “Have you checked the X manual?”

        1. SofiaDeo*

          This isn’t evil, and it’s actually a kind, helpful way to remind people to *think of a resource* instead of memorize the answers. My health care profession reached a point where it became impossible to simply memorize all the commonly used data, as previous generations like myself had. So the profession started having us teach our students/interns “how to Find the answer” as opposed to “memorize the answer”.
          I actually like this, it makes the staff person *think*. As opposed to simply saying “remember to check the manual first”, which doesn’t involve much thinking. Sometimes, learning to think/process has to be taught. Especially in recent decades with the emphasis on test tasking, as opposed to critical thinking skills.

          1. Reality.Bites*

            My intent in wording it that way is pure evil. I’ll concede others may use it for non-evil purposes, but that’s not my intention and I can’t endorse its use for that. ;)

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            To me, it seems like a great way to ensure that the conscientious employees will become willing to waste hours spinning their wheels uselessly rather than ask for help and, when they finally do, will give you cringing and defensive wall-of-text justifications for why their question is legitimate — and the less-conscientious ones will just keep doing what they’re doing.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      One of the things I do when I train people now is tell them that while I don’t expect them to remember everything I show them, that if they do ask me something later that I know is covered in our manuals, instead of answering the question I’m going to send them a link to the place where it’s documented. This reminds them that a) it exists, and b) lets them work through it at their own pace. I also say if they still have any questions after going through it, let me know and we’ll talk through the problem together.

      Saying in advance that this is how I work helps cut down on some of the “Yikes, that was harsh!” that this might have otherwise received if I did it without warning. I still get derailed in the same way the LW does because whether I stop for ten seconds or ten minutes to explain something doesn’t make much of a difference, but I think it cuts down on the number of interruptions overall, which is my goal.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I have one co-irker that I used to ask this if all the time – because I knew the answers were in the training notes and step-by-steps, but it was faster for co-irker to ask me instead. The first manager made me always help co-irker, I couldn’t refer them to the documentation because that was “mean” no matter that always having to help that person was slowing my workflow. We got a new manager, and they had no problem with me telling them to check their notes or ask the actual leads (which I’m not – I’m just a longer tenured employee at the same level). Co-irker has finally stopped coming to me, and I’m grateful because I don’t get paid enough to think for this person. It’s not wrong to expect your coworkers to think or try and find answers on their own first.

  11. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I love everything about #4 and the way it was written. So concisely captures how I think many of us feel at work.

    I myself noticed throughout my career that I was often left out or snubbed. Peers got offices and I got a cube. They got incentives and I got ignored for harder work. It does suck to feel that way.

      1. Random Dice*

        So very human.

        But also we humans overblow things. In this case she got a huge promotion … But was seething about it.

        As a manager I’d be taken aback – the money and title are the reward! That takes a lot of managerial capital to promote an internal person in a big way.

        1. Well...*

          LW isn’t having this conversation with their manager though, they are writing into an advice column in their off-hours specifically asking whether or not they are blowing this out of proportion.

          1. Sally*

            And even though the title and pay raise are the reward, it never feels good to be treated differently (worse) than other people in the office! That matters too.

    1. ProcessMeister*

      Definitely captured the regime at my work under our last HR manager.
      Some birthday cards would do the rounds of the office for everyone to sign; others would skip a team. Some staff got a badge when they reach a tenure milestone; others got a cheap certificate. There’s no pattern between the value of gift vouchers and the reason for which they’re given. Some staff successes get recognised on our internal social media; others don’t. This culture wasn’t driven by politics or spite. It was just that the people driving it are fake.

      1. Sally*

        I’m really surprised by the
        many comments below about whether the OP should feel the way they do. Or speculating about why they feel the way they do. I don’t think it’s a small thing at all to feel taken for granted or forgotten. Even if the job is fantastic and a great fit for the OP, being left out of things – even if some people think they’re insignificant – is bound to be a factor in job satisfaction. I agree with Alison’s advice that the OP should NOT make a decision based on this factor alone, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      So, I actually think this is a fundamental difference in how people see the world—I read #4 as being unwilling to assume good intentions or take action to address the issue. Mistakes happen! Especially with things like milestones. Politely point it out and give them a chance to fix it. If they blow you off, okay, move on, but the level of hostility in the letter point to a pretty fixed and unproductive mindset, IMO.

      1. Well...*

        I guess I don’t think every emotion or moment of frustration has to be immediately productive (in fact long term productivity is more likely if one can acknowledge and accept their difficult feelings). The LW was writing in for a temperature check, and that should be okay.

        Also I think there’s some irony here. Your negative reaction to LW is that they are being unwilling to assume goodness in those around them and jumping to hostility. Maybe LW is also deserving of assuming good intentions and non hostile reactions.

        1. Hen in a Windstorm*

          There is no irony in recognizing someone has a negative mindset and pointing out they could benefit from changing their outlook. If I say it’s rainy today, that’s a fact, not me being negative. You can react badly to something and have good intentions the whole time.

          No emotion is productive, so not sure what you are disagreeing with. They just are. You can validate them and then set them aside and do something productive *after* having the feelings. And I agree it is okay check in.

          But the LW was saying her coworker “didn’t do shit” compared to LW. LW is also offended for getting left off social media and thinking of quitting because of feeling snubbed. That’s pretty hostile to the coworker. Maybe you don’t know what a positive outlook actually looks like? That would be something like, “New coworker deserves recognition, but I do too, and I’m upset that I was left out. Am I overreacting?”

          1. Well...*

            The me spell out the irony for you: this whole thread started with OP saying they loved LW’s comment. That triggered a reaction of “BUT didn’t you see all these bad things about it???” If that’s not taking something positive and making it negative, I don’t know what is. You can say it’s pointing out a fact or whatever, but context matters.

            Regarding your last bit… I’ll just reiterate that I think it’s fine to write into an advice column when you’re upset and haven’t figured out exactly how to articulate everything you want to say. I don’t think that should trigger the level of criticism (honestly, it is starting to feel hostile) that has been leveraged at LW. Again with the irony.

      2. Christie Devon*

        Huh, I actually read the tone as being humorous by exaggerating and being self-effacing but I suppose you could read the exclamation marks as hostility.

        1. White envelope*

          Yes, I read the exclamation marks as agressive and also the negative comment about the “new girl.” That seemed petty and unnecessary. It reminds me of the letter from a woman a couple of years ago who was overlooked during introductions of new staff at a meeting and was also raring to quit. I’ll post the link if I can find it.

          1. londonedit*

            Same. I suppose the LW could have meant it in a joking way, but to me the exclamation marks and the ‘new girl who doesn’t do sh*t compared to me’ comment really make it sound like they’re taking all of this very personally. Most of the time, work isn’t really a competition and it isn’t about how many mentions you get in the company round-up or whatever. OK, yes it can feel like a snub when someone else is mentioned for getting a promotion and you’re not, but honestly these things happen and I feel like there must be other things going on in the background for the LW to get so riled up as to be asking whether they should quit.

            1. e271828*

              If this “new girl” is younger and cute and being promoted/profile raised on social media while not doing a whole heck of a lot of actual work, LW#4’s resentment is understandable and justified. It’s demoralizing to be invisible and taken for granted, and it sounds like maybe LW#4 is sensing that happen.

              I would say to LW#4, with your experience and work ethic you are valuable, and there is never anything wrong with looking around to see whether there is a better job for you out there. If this small family business does not have pension, generous benefits, and the works, then you have nothing to lose by leaving, and looking costs you nothing.

          2. EPLawyer*

            Yeah I thought cheap ass rolls got a new job. I mean it is just so ANGRY about thing. Could be an overreaction or could be a sign of other dysfunction, but LW needs to back up and think about what is really going on instead of Taking! It! Personally!

          3. blam*

            Yeah, I got a cheap ass rolls vibe off this letter – a tendency to ascribe things to malice rather than error.

          4. Observer*

            Yes, I read the exclamation marks as agressive and also the negative comment about the “new girl.”

            Yeah, this creates a sense of hostility and negative energy.

            I’d say that it’s good that the OP wrote in for a temperature check. And my response would be “You need to turn it down. A lot.”

            Also, if this is how you generally communicate, that would help explain why you are getting rewarded for your work but people aren’t flocking to you. Because whether you mean this humorously or not, it’s just so negative that it really puts people off.

      3. Helvetica*

        Yeah, honestly my first reaction was to think about Hawaiian rolls…
        I feel there must be some deeper dissatisfaction here because these seem small instances but perhaps a long career in one place has made the LW more sensitive to these oversights. It is okay to feel slightly stung but to me, the reaction to be willing to quit seems quite extreme.

        1. GrooveBat*

          I thought of the Hawaiian rolls immediately!

          There seems to be more going in here.

          I will say that I am inclined to be on sympathetic to the LW, just based on their referral to a coworker as a “girl.” It’s 2023 and everyone should know better by now.

            1. Seashell*

              I think “on sympathetic” was an autocorrect screw-up for unsympathetic.

              Calling an adult a girl bugs me too. I wonder if the new person is younger/better looking, so that’s why all the pictures showed up in the highlight reel.

              1. Well...*

                uhh with whatever point you were making about respecting women in the workplace, you lost me with that last sentence

        2. Allonge*

          Yes! When every sentence you write ends in an exclamation mark, that reads as agressive! Or upset! So there!

          Seriously: I know we talk about softening messages wiht exclamation marks here, but this usage does not work that well. I too thought of Hawaiian rolls and read this as an “I am very upset” message.

          1. Well...*

            I think LW is pretty upset, while being aware that their feelings are perhaps unreasonable, and that’s why they are writing in. These two sentences paired together: “Am I being an overly sensitive schmuck? Should I quit?” feels like they are communicating a strong emotion swirling around in the presence of self-awareness.

            I think that’s why the letter charmed me. It feels pretty honest. I don’t think everyone who writes in (or exists in the workplace) should only be permitted anger when that anger is justified. People have feelings, that’s okay, the next step is deciding what to do about them. I feel like LW is post-having the feeling pre-decision-making.

            1. Allonge*

              I get this, and fully agree that it’s great to write in to get a reality check.

              I just don’t find this level of anger charming, especially as OP directs it to themselves too (what you quoted). But that is really a matter of taste.

          2. Observer*

            Seriously: I know we talk about softening messages wiht exclamation marks here, but this usage does not work that well.

            Well, context matters. In some cases it does soften but in others it does the opposite. In THIS context it doesn’t soften anything, and even if this was supposed to be humorously self-deprecating, I don’t think it was meant to be softening.

            The letter almost reads like a parody of a workplace newbie throwing a tantrum. Or, as others have mentioned, the “cheap a** rolls” person.

      4. Colette*

        And I read it as someone who is very dissatisfied with their job and needs to move on.

        She wants to be appreciated – and she is, she got a promotion. But she didn’t get the public recognition she wants, so it sounds to me like she should find somewhere where she’s appreciated the way she wants to be.

      5. spcepickle*

        Me too! If someone on my team had this attitude – One of things happen to me, instead of asking how they can make the things they want happen. I would be questioning if they were a good fit for our team.

    3. goddess21*

      LW writes in a culturally working-class idiom, in which statements of anger are more expected than they are in many white-collar workplaces. So in other words, yeah, there’s anger here, but not because LW is unusually emotional. Rather, to LW, expressions of anger are not that big of a deal, and especially not for people who are not directly involved.

      By contrast, the detailed discussion of the need to suppress and hide emotion in public that’s going on in these comments is classically the middle-class mode for enforcing class boundaries, delegitimizing working-class speech, and stigmatizing working-class people in the US.

      My credentials: doctoral degree in a relevant subject, live in Philly.

      1. Well...*

        Whoa you just blew my mind. Thanks for laying this out clearly and putting your finger exactly on something that was really nagging me about this discussion (and my own complicity in this type of thing as well).

        1. Well...*

          At the risk of going off topic… I reread the whole thread with this dynamic in mind, and I noticed something else. The negative reactions to LW also come with messaging that moves the blame for this situation off of management/institutions and onto LW. Sentiments encouraging employees not to point out workplace unfairness, but instead have a can-do attitude about how to fix the situation for themselves; urging people to individually leave jobs they don’t like rather than address institutional inequity; urging people to have productive attitudes rather than righteous anger; and even one person reducing LW thinking things at work are unfair to a case of being jealous of other worker’s age and beauty.

          None of these sentiments are necessarily bad advice on their own (except the last one) but in aggregate this is exactly the kind of language that is used to suppress activism and clamp down on organizing. If everything is the individual employee’s fault, then management/institutions/the workplace is never to blame.

      2. gmg22*

        This is reminding me of the fascinating discussion on this site several years ago about navigating white-collar work when you grew up in a blue-collar family/community, well worth a read again for all the useful comments:

        LW’s feelings resonated with me because I’m experiencing something similar at my job right now, and apparently not coincidentally, I am (and always in this job have been) very much aware of my working-class background in a way that I didn’t have to be earlier in my career.

        1. Nina*

          If the LW is an administrator in a pick/pack warehouse or a trucking company (or, as they noted, y’know, for a construction company…) it’s a different environment to being an administrator in a university or a law firm or a shopping mall, and LW’s position is going to mainly match the tenor of the people around LW, rather than some nebulous idea that administrators are ‘always’ white-collar and should behave like it.

          1. Laika*

            Currently work for a medium-sized construction company (I’m not admin but admin-adjacent). There are some field staff at the office but mainly folks who actually work out of the office tend to be office-based. Of course lots of people still go out to site but generally the admin side seems not substantially different from the admin I used to do when I worked at a university. The usual professional norms apply.

            This is a weird thread full of weird stereotypes.

      3. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Lived in Philly 20 years, and I’m going to slightly disagree. I mean, yes, it’s common to speak angrily. It’s also not just statements of anger, it’s actions of anger that are more expected and accepted by blue collar folks. Taking offense and getting into fights over tiny incidents is the norm. Seriously, my hubby was threatened by a bartender in South Philly for saying something like, “football team uniform colors sure are weird, aren’t they?” – not a specific team, just a general, non-sportsball-person observation.

        I disagree that suppressing emotion is the goal: learning to validate and process your own feelings without acting out and spewing them all over everyone else is the goal, for everyone, of all classes. Middle class people express it differently, but they aren’t any better at actually handling their feelings.

        I’ll add in some gender here – as a woman, I get tired of helping men process their feelings all. the. time.

        1. Well...*

          This is exactly what I was pushing back on though… LW is trying to process their emotions. There is no indication in the letter than any of this has come out at work at all. The fact that LW even experiencing the feeling of anger led to pearl-clutching in the comment section says something.

      4. What*

        This is incredibly insulting. My credentials: worked in a working class environment from 18-30 and somehow managed to handle my emotions like a “middle class” person anyway. Believe it or not you can’t curse at your coworkers in every single working class environment.

      5. NeutralJanet*

        You realize that saying that “working-class people” (by which you very obviously mean “poor people”, being as the American middle class also has to work in order to survive) are unable to regulate their emotions is, in fact, extremely classist, right? Casual swearing might be more common in blue collar environments, though I’m not sure that someone with 18 years of admin experience can necessarily be assumed to be blue collar, but I promise that blue collar workers are not toddlers.

        I also live in Philly, by the way.

        1. Well...*

          I don’t think OP was saying working-class people can’t regulate their emotions, just that language norms used to communicate said emotions are different. Also this wasn’t about cursing — the comment section was fixated on the use of exclamation points, so this was really digging into small nuances in tone.

          Btw I love your username.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I definitely picked up on the cultural humour (self aware, emotionally controlled humour where you call yourself an idiot) and I’m working class British. I get what’s being said about middle class people not doing this. Dunno why they don’t! It makes the day pass more pleasantly.

      6. Robin*

        Hi uhhhhh respectfully can you not talk about “working class people” like we’re an anthropological study you’re conducting in your spare time. “Writing in a culturally working-class idiom” what does that mean. You and I and everyone else here do not know this person. Yes, they could be feeling genuinely upset! They could be letting it out at work! We don’t know! I think the advice of “take stock of what these feelings mean and act accordingly” works across all classes, and treating working class people like they’re a monolith and don’t understand how emotions work or don’t how to hide emotions because of their class is like, kind of weird?

        1. Please Don't Study Me*

          Talking about “class” always gets weird around here. There was definitely a conversation a while ago about birthdays being celebrated at work only by lower-class people. It makes me feel pretty icky (as a person with working-class roots, an admin job, and a penchant for birthdays).

          1. Ginger Baker*

            Wut. The BigLaw partners I know who celebrated birthdays in the office on the regular would be…very surprised to hear that take, that’s for sure. And this was a very VERY well-known firm that is definitely “upper echelon” in law firms.

        2. Random Dice*

          Yeah. Like, thanks for riding in on that white horse to deliver a PhD lecture about how these very strange specimens talk.

        1. Wow, that's something*

          Because she lives in Philly, which is apparently–I guess she’s implying–is nothing but angry Poors shouting at everyone all the time, and that means every Poor in the world behaves that way.

          Funny, my spouse manages a distribution facility and a team of warehouse workers, some of whom are ex-cons or ex-gang members. Angry, exclamation-point-filled outbursts are not at all common. Angry outbursts of any kind are not at all common. One guy got a little heated about something once, and the others all told him to calm down because it wasn’t cool to behave that way, especially not at work.

          But you know, keep claiming that “working class people” get emotional and angry over the littlest things all the time, instead of recognizing that people who get unreasonably emotional or angry, or yell, come from all classes and income levels but apparently you just don’t notice it when it’s a wealthy white-collar worker behaving that way (or you see that person as just one jerk with a chip on their shoulder), while if it’s a blue-collar worker, you sigh and think, “Yeah, they’re all like that.”

        2. Parakeet*

          It’s because there’s a certain kind of Philly person who’s obsessed with the idea of Philly being the realest of cities, where all the people are the most authentic and unpretentious.

          (Obviously this is not all Philly people, but it’s a type – as a friend once put it, Boston is obsessed with itself as being the smartest, NYC is obsessed with itself as being the coolest, and Philly is obsessed with itself as being the realest)

          1. Sunflower*

            Sorry did i miss something in the letter where the LW said she was from Philly? I’m not sure why this commenter thinks being from Philly gives her perspective on this letter (BTW i am from Philly and understand the stereotypes, I just don’t understand why this commenter thinks any of this has to do with Philly)

      7. Yeah, nah*

        Is the relevant subject “Being Completely Oblivious And Ragingly Condescending Towards The Working Class”? Because that’s what it sounds like. For heaven’s sake, working-class people aren’t zoo animals.

        My credentials: Working class roots; not a solitary person I grew up with or worked with would have had a lick of patience for the OP *or* you.

        1. Well...*

          I’m a little curious why everyone is fixating on the use of “working class idiom” (a bit academic, I admit) and nobody is picking up on the second, more important point, that respectability politics of the *middle class* are at play in this thread in a way that is particularly unkind to LW.

      8. e271828*

        Commenters are really blowing LW#4 off. It’s a real-world thing that the reliable, background employees get taken for granted, and it is not wrong to resent that. Especially if recognition is being given to others.

      9. You're being gross*

        For someone who claims to be so well-educated and “for the poors,” you sure are showing your classism and ignorance in spades here, not-a-goddess.

      10. What*

        Do you think working-class people don’t have to hide their emotions when they’re doing their jobs catering to white-collar PhDs like you?

    4. Your Computer Guy*

      Yeah, I see this as “this is the canker sore I’m going to poke at because I can’t do anything about my chronic back pain” kind of issue/venting.
      I do something similar with my wife – complain about the penny-ante stuff in very coarse terms while internally ginning up the energy/will to start a job search and make a change.

  12. Allonge*

    LW1 – beyond what Alison and other said, can you direct your team to use a specific (electronic) communication channel when they have questions and not to walk to your office/call?

    A channel you can mute (so no notifications to break your concentration) and one you would be checking between your tasks. This would come with the added benefit that if it’s really urgent, they would message you but try to look for the answer in the meanwhile – I get a lot of questions and it happens quite often that if I cannot respond, people will try to look for a solution themselves.

    1. Well...*

      A group channel is a really good idea: they can spread info faster between themselves without you having to serve as a middle man. Also, helping out coworkers is rewarding in itself, which may encourage them to figure out answers to other people’s questions, reinforcing their own knowledge.

    2. Kiki is the Most*

      I concur–a group channel to easier have discussions for work-related items that you can mute until you can address questions is a good idea. (I’d also make the norms clear for using the group channel for questions, too. Ex: 1) check the training doc 2) google (?) 3) ask a colleague 4) ask me
      Also, instead of a daily meeting, what about “office hours”?
      “From 1-3 I am available for questions that you still might have” Of course, this depends on when you prefer to get the most work done and when your team usually has questions.

      1. N_M*

        Cane on to say just this. Also, if there’s anything genuinely new ask the person you explain it to to document for your review. If possible it can be worth creating minor areas of expertise if there are tricky specialty areas but if it all needs to be known by everyone in their day to day then don’t bother as you’ll see them play leapfrog with each other in terms of knowledge.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      This is a good idea and LW1 should be aware that this will also require a training period. Because the employees are used to an immediate response from LW1, they will likely put their questions in the channel and then follow up in person a few minutes later. So LW1 will need to hold firm for a while until the team is trained out of the in-person follow up.

      1. Jackalope*

        I agree, but also think that’s part of the beauty of making it a group chat. Other people can also chime in with the answer, and if it’s a lot of basic stuff coming to LW then much of it will potentially be answered before she even has to look at the channel.

    4. AnonInCanada*

      This! If the team can help each other out, not only does it encourage team building, it also encourages them to figure it out for themselves and not constantly beat a path to OP’s office door/cubicle/broom closet. OP can moderate and guide at first, but ultimately it would be great for the colleagues to use that channel to brainstorm a solution together without OP. Win win!

  13. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    LW 2 – I used to work with a woman who would occasionally joke (or talk seriously) about her wayward youth — she had spent a lot of time in her 20s and 30s aimlessly goofing off, not taking jobs seriously and not working for long periods of time.

    The thing is, that was all in her past. She was reflective about it. And literally no one cared. She was the go-to in our department because she was efficient and wonderful at her job. She still got promoted and won an award or two. To this date I occasionally find myself wondering how she would handle a tricky situation.

    You don’t have to talk about your past if you don’t want to. But I just want to reiterate that at a healthy workspace, people are only going to care about the work you’re doing now.

    1. Well...*

      I think LW 2 was more nervous about applying for new jobs when she hasn’t earned the reputation you describe. Agreed that plenty of good workplaces will care more about her recent track record.

    2. Magpie*

      This (and all the replies in this vein) are very reassuring to me, because I just turned 30 and I am in a similar situation to your former co-worker. Though I wouldn’t call my 20s goofing off necessarily, I dropped out of university following a mental health crisis at 19, didn’t have any ideas or desire for a career, and so I just bounced around and pursued quirky personal goals. I’m heading to university next September to start fresh and hopefully after undergrad will be able to get a Master’s for the career I’ve finally decided I want. It’s a total 180° change from the field and lifestyle I’ve been in, and I’m feeling a little intimidated and embarrassed by my late start – if all goes well, I won’t start New Career until I’m 36! – but this discussion is making me feel a lot better about it. I don’t know if I could have been successful if I had tried to start earlier, but I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m capable of succeeding with ten extra years of life experience.

      1. Avery*

        If it helps, you’re far from alone. People start new careers all the time! I went to paralegal school in my mid-20s (somewhat similar situation, though I graduated from college before bouncing around some random admin jobs in between mental health crises), and I was the youngest one there–all my classmates were from varying stages of life and realized that going back to school to be a paralegal was their best option for one reason or another. It may not be the “norm”, but it’s still not nearly as far from normal as you might assume.

      2. Random Dice*

        My best friend went back to school for a completely new career in her late 30s. She rocked it even thought it was hard.

        Then her husband and sister did the same, a few years later.

        You’re not at all alone!

  14. Greasy monkey*

    OP5- I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation except the office is a work truck and there are 2 mechanics per truck. My work partner of 10 years passed away in December of 2021 and it hit a hell of alot harder than I thought it would. The hardest day wasn’t when I was told he had passed or the funeral…It was when I had to go through the truck and take off all his PPE, tools and personal items. Not gonna lie, I was ugly crying while doing it because to me, that ment he was really gone.
    Something that I do to ease the hurt is to carry on any small traditions that he started. He was a dog person and he always brought in doggy biscuits for any that we met running around and I have continued to do this. I also kept a small wrench that was his “favorite” to use and the fuel key lanyard on the truck. They are hanging from the mirror in the cab, kinda like a sign that says he was there. Maybe the thingsbI mentioned can be reworked to fit your situation. Like leaving a favorite picture or decoration up in the office to show that your coworker left thier mark or carry on doing something they did, like if they always had a bowl of candy on the desk, continue bringing in candy. I hope this too long of a comment helps somehow. I know its hard and you have all the internet hugs you want.

    1. Forgot my name again*

      This is really sweet, lots of lovely small things that honor their memory. I’m sorry for your loss too.

      1. Rrach*

        This was very touching to read – I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the things you have done to try to cope with the grief, it was helpful to read.

    2. Yoyoyo*

      I am so sorry for your loss. I’m super hormonal today and now I’m crying about your colleague!

    3. HugeTractsofLand*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, GM. The doggy biscuits are such a sweet way to remember your partner because it continues the happiness he brought into the world, like a mini legacy. The wrench is also a perfectly small but meaningful memorial. I wish you and your new work partner the best!

    4. OP 5 - taking a colleague's office*

      Those are lovely memories and very sweet ideas. It helps a little even to know that other people have gone through this. I teared up too reading your story and I’m sorry for your loss, also.

    5. Greasy monkey*

      Thank you all for your kind words and condolences. Now I’m sitting here cursing the onion cutting ninjas myself. Even after a year, I have my moments when his passing is felt more. But it does get easier and the memories of the fun we had working on a big project, when a repair went so smooth it was scary, or that time I got both my hands stuck in a vacuum truck and couldn’t get out and he quite literally rolled on the ground laughing are the ones that are thought of most. And as long as those stories are passed around, he’ll never be really gone.
      Op, I hope you have some good memories and stories to share with your current coworkers and new ones alike. My workmate was the lead of a 3 person crew, and when he passed, I was moved up to lead position and after a year of Temps riding with me, I have a shiny new apprentice to train who’s only halfway through his probation. I can only hope to fill those shoes and make my workmate proud, wherever he is.

  15. Emmy Noether*

    People like the employees in #1 are fascinating to me, because I’m the polar opposite. I will avoid, to a fault, asking someone else if it is at all possible to find out myself. I always have to remind myself that, really, it’s ok to ask for help rather than waste half a day floundering.

    I had an eye-opening experience once when I was working together with someone on a computer and we had some kind of problem. She just casually reached for the phone and called IT! I was aghast, we hadn’t even rebooted yet! When I call IT, I’ve usually rebooted three times and have a list of ten things I’ve tried unsuccessfully, hah.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Oh, sure, IT loves me, but my boss may not like that I’ve spent half a workday on it. There’s a balance somewhere.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Yeah, I always made sure to tell my team “… and if you can’t figure it out after x minutes, ask for assistance” because at some point asking for help IS more efficient. Even though I always wanted them to check on their own first.

        2. Emily*

          Yes! When we were young, my brother used to brag about being a self-starter at work. He worked at a pizza restaurant, and when asked to make something he hadn’t before, he just used his best judgement to put the ingredients together. But surely the restaurant prefers to give customers some measure of consistency!

    1. Cat Tree*

      See, I rarely contact IT because they are always supremely unhelpful. So I guess Alison’s advice is correct that if you make it unrewarding people will stop asking.

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, yeah. Every time I contact IP, they first take remote control of my computer for a significant amount of time, thus making it impossible to use, and then usually create several new problems while trying to solve the old one. (Stuff like randomly uninstalling completely unrelated software…)
        I then usually try and figure out the solution to the original problem and the new ones, anyway, and try and guide them through it. Because, of course, we don’t have admin rights. Doing it myself would generally be much quicker and more efficient but well, we can’t…

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Yeah, making it unrewarding by being unhelpful or wrong definitely works. May hurt the reputation though.

        In defense of IT, I’ve mostly dealt with fairly helpful people. Some more competent than others, but overall positive. I’ve also been able to talk them into giving me admin status of my computer at most jobs (see: IT loves me, or maybe they just trust R&D people more than most, which is probably a mistake).

    2. Keyboard Cowboy*

      yeah, people with your stance on it are really common in programming, to the point where when my team takes on an intern, we make plans about how long to let them spin on a task before intervening because it will be faster and easier for everyone to have someone more senior tell them exactly what to do. It’s an interesting balance, because either extreme is bad!

  16. TheLinguistManager*

    LW1: Alison’s suggestions are both good and exactly what I would recommend, but I want to emphasize the second part more than she did. Asking “what have you tried so far?” (and possibly following up with “what could you try?” instead of giving the answer straight out) every time will not only train your staff to think or search a bit before they come to you, it will also highlight any other problems with the documentation you’ve painstakingly put together.

    Maybe the docs are in a weird place and no one remembers the Sharepoint path, or the connection is flaky, or IT did an upgrade and now PDFs don’t display in the browser anymore. Or, maybe, it turns out it’s actually only one person who is allergic to using it. In all cases, you’ll learn about underlying problems with this approach as well.

    In general, I’m not a fan of “don’t come to me with a problem if you don’t have a solution”, but asking “what have you tried?” as an automatic first question is a great way to at least get the easy stuff out of the way — or highlight the folks on your team who need more direct training.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Agree. Start with “what have you tried?” Then in your next regular meeting with the team, remind everyone what resources are available and that they are 1) expected to use them and 2) encouraged to add to these. My team has an internal library and we all contribute tips, info, and links that we can easily check. If a chat program is available, create a team channel so they can help each other. Make sure the team feels empowered to problem-solve without feeling the need for ‘permission’ or reassurance to move forward, but also let them know what real problems to escalate to you. This situation is fairly easy to resolve; just be consistent in reinforcing the boundary once it’s been explained.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yep – and I do think “don’t come to me with a problem if you haven’t taken 30 seconds to look in the obvious places for a solution and/or think through it yourself” is a fair line to draw.

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      “What have you tried?” also gives you a starting point. Maybe they are at step 5 and stuck vs. you starting with step 1 and repeating things/steps.

      1. GreenCrayon*

        Along the same lines, they might be asking about step 5, when they need to go back to step 1. Maybe step 5 doesn’t apply because step 1 has a if-then component that leads them down a different path.

  17. FashionablyEvil*

    LW2–I’m not even sure it will come up given that you have 10 years of experience. I have a colleague who got a later start in her career (I really have no idea why) and we all just treat it as, “Tracy got a later start, but has 10 years of experience in the field. She’s great.”

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      As someone who is on my second career, thank you.

      I changed to my current career after a major medical event 27 years ago. While changing careers was very hard, now that I’m established in it I don’t worry about explaining the change.

  18. I should really pick a name*

    Your strong reaction and the fact that you seem to have contempt for your new coworker makes me think there are other issues you have with this job, but you’ve latched onto the social media post and highlight reel.
    I’d suggest digging into what your real issue with the job is, because I think these are just symptoms.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      This also stood out to me as well, I think there’s more at play here then just a social media post.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Yep, I’m on board with Alison’s comment that there are likely other things afoot. The two mentioned in the letter are pretty surface level issues. The vibe in the letter is pretty contemptuous and angry.

    3. Martin Blackwood*

      Yeah, to me these examples are the ones that are easy to put into words, and so stick out more, and so are vented about. I bet theres a hard to articulate problem, maybe based on “vibes” and not any obvious actions other than social media and the highlight reel

  19. entry level emily*

    LW 2- I have a semi similar story to yours. I am a bit younger than you (late 30s). However I graduated college by the skin of my teeth with an incredibly basic degree. I got terrible grades in college and mostly goofed off. I graduated mid-recession. My first job out of school was a nightmare and laid me off less than a month in. I got laid off 2 more times. I have had entry level jobs most of my career and had trouble advancing. I FINALLY surpassed a certain level of pay and responsibility in November of this year.

    A good resume is key, highlighting your accomplishments and achievements. A good employer will see this and not care I promise! Good luck

  20. Mommy Issues*

    OP 4: same thing just happened to me; I got promoted and while my boss liked my linkedin post there was no mention on the company’s official accounts, which would have meant a lot to me because they have a much further reach than my own. I work at a small creative firm (also in arch/construction!) where the structure is pretty lateral, so promotions dont happen often. last time someone got promoted about a year ago there were posts across our channels and we went out for a team happy hour! it’s hard not to feel snubbed but for me at least, I know I have issues with needing external validation and feeling like I am “caught up” (I was a career changer so I am usually a little older than my peers at my level, at least until now). It’s hard not to take these things personally but some people just arent sensitive to making sure mentions, etc are fairly distributed.

  21. DJ Abbott*

    #2- You don’t have to tell your age when you’re getting a job. If possible, let them think you’re younger.
    I started a new job last year just before my 60th birthday. I expect they think I’m around 50. Like you, I have a varied history, and unlike you, I never finished college. IME employers look for stability, so they know you’re not going to quit the first time there’s a little problem. I started getting interviews for good jobs after I had stayed at one job for five years.
    You have that part in the bag! Showcase your good work history and skills and be honest in interviews about what you’re looking for, and you’ll do fine and get a better job. :)

  22. Totally Minnie*

    LW1, my supervisor has a daily Office Hours meeting on his calendar that’s specifically for the purpose of us asking him questions. Does that seem like something you could try?

  23. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    For #1, you can also make it clear that it’s ok for them to take an hour or so to find the answer on their own. That’s how they’ll get faster at finding answers on their own. The first time might take a few hours, but then they’ll remember the next time how they figured it out before, and it will only take 30 min. Eventually they’ll get efficient at it. This is what you want. So make it known to them that it is ok if they spend a bit longer finding their answer on their own. Now if it’s always taking them a long time, that’s a different conversation.

  24. Irishgal*

    LW1 I worked on a very large project with 25 people in an open plan office that required a lot of collaboration. One thing I did was have pink (red) and green post it notes. I explained that I too needed focus time so if the pink (red) post it note was sticking out of the top of my screen it meant do not disturb but I would make a point of having green time later in the day. It worked very well, people respected it but got what they needed too. It’s much easier now working from home to block of my calendar with focus time. Sometimes if it was something urgent they would pass me a post it note to bring the matter to my attention and allowed me to decide if it should break my focus.

    1. Random Dice*

      Great idea!

      As an aside I replaced all my red/green coding to orange / blue, since red/green colorblindness is the most common kind.

  25. Irishgal*

    LW3 I think you have a lot of ground to make back here. Essentially you were complicit in the fraud as you did not shut it down in the moment. This will have had an impact in terms of your reputation in protecting right and wrong. An employee that you could see was uncomfortable was left to fend for themselves when their manager was in the room … in the long term I think this will have caused you the most damage. We all want to know that our manager has our back and in the moment you didn’t. I think you need to own that with the colleague, it’s ok to say hey I’m new and still finding my feet but you need to acknowledge what happened so they know it’s not your way of working.

    Separately I think you should make higher ups or whomever aware of the problem the reward system creates

  26. Jessica*

    LW2, are you good at your job now? Will you be able to be good at a new job? That’s what matters! As a hiring manager, what I want to know is whether you’d be good in the job I’m hiring for, not whether you’ve been perfect your whole life (I haven’t). Focus on what you can do to show me that.

  27. Holly*

    For LW 2, from another late bloomer, don’t forget to look back at far you have come and be proud of yourself. It is easy for me to compare myself to peers and think I should be there by now and I’m not. But I know the hard work it took me to get where I am and it’s pretty great. It took awhile and was hard but you’ve managed to be successful in your job for 10 years and that is something to be proud of.

  28. fish*

    OP 2, as someone who hires – when I see a nontraditional background (anything that’s not college at 18, immediately to career ladder), I am impressed. I assume that person had to go through more challenges but here they are. For example, I know an accountant who started that career by getting his GED in his 40’s. He’s a great accountant.

    (Not that, per Alison’s advice, it seems like people even need to see your background!)

  29. A Simple Narwhal*

    #1 I’ve had to deal with this exact issue with our interns! They’d run into an issue that had either been well-documented or was easily solvable if you just tried a few things (and our system/job is built around a lot of trial and error), but they’d instead come to me and ask what to do, and the interruptions were really eating into my day and productivity. I realized it was quicker and easier for them to ask me what to do than it was for them to look it up or experiment, so I tried to make coming to me the less instant solution and encourage them to try and figure it out on their own first.

    For non-urgent problems that I knew they could solve, I started saying (nicely) “I’m in the middle of something right now, why don’t you take a crack at solving it and we’ll touch base in 30 minutes/an hour/some time in the future”. 9/10 times they messaged me 5 minutes later saying they had figured it out! And after a few times of this they started solving problems on their own and would only reach out for things they truly needed help on.

    So TLDR – Stop being the fast and easy solution, try making self-sufficiency the fast and easy solution.

  30. sb51*

    For LW#4, it might help to reframe in your head what the purpose of the company social media feed is; most are not targeted at the employees. (Assuming this is external-facing; if it’s internal, I’m with you that you’re being overlooked or snubbed for some reason.)

    An external feed is either a marketing tool or a recruitment strategy, and a company highlights what works for that; if it’s for recruiting and they’re trying to mostly hire at an entry level, showing the new people having fun doing their jobs is way more important than “our senior administration continues to be excellent at administration”. And if it’s more customer/marketing, “we’re a young hip company” is still often an impression places want to give.

    1. gmg22*

      I mean, highlighting the kinds of things you describe is indeed good marketing for the company, but it could legitimately also be seen as ageism — “only fun young people work here, you’ll love it!” Both those things can be true.

      1. sb51*

        Yeah, I wasn’t necessarily endorsing the strategy because of things like that (or “we put our three non-white employees (out of 300) in the picture to look diverser than we are (even if the reason is that you’re trying to appeal to diverse candidates to change that).

        But whether good or bad reasons, they seem likely to be unrelated to whether or not the LW’s work and the LW themselves is well-liked.

  31. MuseumChick*

    LW 1, how much of this could be mitigated by a robust manual/cheat sheets? I would do all of what Alison says but also start putting together reference materials your employees can go to first. I’m sure your job is very different from mine but this is an example I went through. Many years ago I managed a large-scale digitization project for a huge collection of historical documents and photographs. It is amazing how many questions would crop up! Computer issues, the scanner bed not being large enough, sensitive material (we found several SSNs!), and so much more. As the manager, they all of course came to me with these questions. After a few months, I put together a manual and suddenly I had days with no one asking me anything! Things would still come up from time to time. I keep a record of them and updated the manual once a year and hand out the updated version to my employees at the beginning of January.

  32. A Pound of Obscure*

    #3 – I happen to be listening to the latest episode of the Hidden Brain podcast while reading this. The topic is persuasion, with psychologist Robert Cardini. Have your SDRs listen to it. What that employee did was clearly unethical and will hurt your business, and it’s important that you train them on it.

  33. Shy Turtle*

    For LW #1, 2 things, is it possible the documentation is too detailed with no indexing? When I came on to my current role, the person I replaced (who is now not exactly my manager but a higher position on the team) and I did hours of recordings. Only issue is that months later when I have the process down 99%, it’s really hard to find something for that 1% and I didn’t think to index the recordings in some way for my own reference later (a lesson learned on my part)
    Otherwise, 2 things, I’m not a manager but as a report, if I was constantly told the answer was in a well indexed (if its written documentation then just a find on the page should work), I would be a bit embarrassed (in a good way for you, you want them to search first).
    If they’re really new employees, maybe they don’t know to search those options first. Can you outline the documentation and the expectation to reference it? At my company, it’s hard to find things if you don’t know exactly where/how to look (old company, constant system “revamps” mean there’s several versions of things that may or may not be the current). Could you open the next meeting with something like, “now that things are ramping up on X or now that I’m taking on more responsibility or just the obvious that you said of needing to focus on X so that you can work Y number of hours” and explain the ways to solve their question.

    For context, I’ve been in the workforce for only 5 years post grad so I’m at the point where I work independently and I don’t have an expectation of my messages being answered quickly.

    One other option, if you have several reports and they work a similar role, can you create a shared channel (my company uses slack but assume other platforms work similar) and have them post in there?. 1) if someone else had the same question recently, they can respond with what you shared previously 2) you can allocate a specific time to review and respond there (effectively creating additional reference material depending on the systems ability to search channels).

      1. Observer*

        Yes. Absolutely. If your documentation is the equivalent of a shelf of books with no search-ability, you haven’t improved your documentation. (Although I guess it’s good that at least your documents did require a tree to be cut down…)

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Counterpoint: I literally had to teach a trainee how to use an index, and they didn’t get it!

        If you have a ToC and/or index, you may still have to teach someone how to use it. Some wikis have good search functions, some don’t. So you should probably check to see if it works and that your people can use it.

        Maybe something like “Show me where you looked already and what you’ve tried so far.”

        This will also help you find any disconnects in the dcocumentation.

  34. No Tribble At All*

    #4 — is the “new girl” younger and pretty? That’ll be why she’s featured in the highlight video.

    I’m sorry you’re feeling snubbed. The lack of shout-out for the promotion is pretty egregious.

    1. Observer*

      Is it?

      We don’t know enough to know why it happened. And I can think of a number of reasons, some of which are bad, and others which are not so bad.

  35. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    #1 – You answering questions over and over is also stunting their growth as an employee/person. Each time you answer something, you’ve taken away their opportunity to become more self-sufficient, more resourceful, learn new things, navigate the company/documents, etc. Maybe thinking about it from that angle could help you be consistent.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yes! My interns run into this, and I find half the issue is their lack of confidence to try things on their own in the beginning. Gently forcing them to experiment (trial and error is a big part of the job) helps them realize that it’s truly ok to make mistakes and the world won’t end if what they try doesn’t work the first time.

      I felt so nervous the first time I told someone not right now when they asked for help – but constantly holding their hand kept them in a nervous stunted state, it was amazing to see them grow once they gained confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

      1. They see me cheap ass rollin'*

        I wish that had been my experience. A former employee of mine was truly enraged at any suggestion that he should be looking for answers or finding materials for himself, rather than having someone tell him everything. That’s part of why he and my company eventually parted ways.

        Having said that, I’ve been working for going on forty years now and this experience was unique in all that time. It’s much more likely that the LW’s experience will be the same as yours, but they should have a game plan for what to do if it’s the same as mine.

    2. AnonAnon*

      This is a great point. I had an employee who legit thought my role as his boss was to be available at all times to feed him information that he could and should find out on his own.

      He was shocked when I redirected him to take initiative to look for the answers. I had to spell out the steps on how to solve problems for him. I was surprised too because he wasn’t new to the workforce when I hired him. I don’t know his previous bosses but there is a chance that they just gave him the answers and their approach stunted his growth. He did get better after we had this discussion.

  36. I Work for Cats*

    #1 My manager started scheduling a weekly one-on-one with me and asked me to save up all my non-emergency questions for this meeting. That sounded great, and I did just that. However, after a few weeks, they canceled the meeting until the following week. OK, stuff happens. This happened again and again until after about 2 months there were no more meetings scheduled. When I asked when the meetings would resume my manager said they did not have the time to do them anymore.

    Should have known something was up, as this was all right before a massive company-wide layoff. Many jobs were eliminated, mine included, and ultimately off-shored.

  37. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

    LW2 –I recently changed career paths, and I think some of the advice I got from my instructor (which worked well for me) might work well for you too! At the top of my resume, after the candidate summary/goal statement (or whatever it’s called) but before the work experience and education, he had us add a section called Projects. Here, we highlighted several projects we did in our program, the platforms we used to make them, any impressive stats about how they were used or what they achieved (high user count, profit generated, etc) how quickly we produced them, awards they had won, etc. I think you could use that, too.

    Ultimately, you may have been at the same company for 10 years, but you likely didn’t do the same thing every day. Focus on the projects you built there, and then in the regular experience section, put all of the other parts of your job (increased clients by X%, negotiated deals, etc)

  38. Mimmy*

    #2 – I want to start by saying that it is very reassuring to know that it is okay to get a late start! I’ll be 50 in October and am just now working on achieving my long-held career goals.

    I went to college at the traditional time but have had a bumpy road with long periods of unemployment over the years. I’ve been at my current job almost 6 years but am working on a job search to break into my new field after graduating with a related graduate degree.

    I’ve had a few interviews, and no one has asked me to recount my entire career journey. Also, while I have all of my education listed on my resume (minus the years, except for my most recent degree), my experience sections only go back about 15 years.

    You’ve been at your job for 10 years, which employers will definitely look favorably upon. I think you’ll be fine focusing on that period as you will have a lot of experience to draw from, especially if you get a lot of “behavioral” interview questions.

    Good luck!

  39. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    For LW #5: I think your ideas are great! The only thing I’ll add–and this is because you said “I miss her”–is that it’s very, very normal to feel weird in your situation. I won’t get all the way up on my “destigmatize therapy” soapbox right now, but if it’s an option for you, talking to a therapist could be helpful.

    1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

      Thank you, yes. I just set up an appt. w/an EAP counselor. I don’t feel like I need counseling re the sadness & grief; I’ve been through that before and it’s sad – and it gets integrated. But I feel like I need specific support re the _work_ issues of using her office, etc. So I’m hoping EAP has some good ideas, too.

  40. Donna Noble*

    LW1: I could have written that letter word for word. What Allison said is exactly what I had to do. We developed desk guides, I was very intentional about “Office hours”, weekly meetings for two of our main activities and questions about those activities had to be saved for those meetings. Everything else, touchpoint at beginning of day. Closed my office door with a note (meeting, focusing, doing payroll (nobody every interrupts that!), etc. My emergencies were defined as “Interrupt me for fire or food” ;)

  41. The Beagle Has Landed*

    Getting a late start in one’s career happens far more often than you might think, and for various reasons. I took a gap year after high school, started college then dropped out, then joined a cult and didn’t get out for 14 years! None of which I would want a new employer to know. i didn’t really enter the job market as a regular human until my late 30s. I finally finished my degree at 60. As another commenter said, focus on the relevant experience, avoid any discussion of your age, and, especially if you look younger than your age, nobody will notice or care about your life other than experience or education directly related to your job.

  42. Generic Name*

    #2 You have absolutely nothing at all to be ashamed of! Human beings do not exist solely to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. You were living your life as best you could during those years, and that’s really all anybody can do. As long as you have the skills and experience to do a job, that’s all employers care about. They don’t care how fast you got there. As someone who is too hard in herself, I recognize that you are being way way to hard on yourself. Please give yourself permission to stop feeling ashamed. When I start to go down that path, I remember the words of the late Maya Angelou: When you know better, you do better. It helps me feel compassion for myself. I hope you can feel that too.

  43. Workfromhome*

    #1 Id be very tempted to tell them :If you have questions or want to set up a meeting email your question or meeting request to the special “questions’ email box or come see me during office hours.
    When they ask “what’s the email and what are our office hours? ”

    They are in the header of every page of the FAQ/Process document on the server. Im surprised you didn’t know. I assume you checked the document for answers before you asked me the question. ”

    I created a ton of documents and process for my staff in the past. Step by step arows the whole 9 yards. I’d email them out “here is a new process to do the TPS reports just follow the steps” within minutes I’d get phone calls and messages :So what’s this about new process for TPS? What do I have to do can you walk me through it?

    Answer: “Go through the document and if there is a step you dont understand email me and I’ll help clarify it”. 99% of the time I never heard from them again once they knew that I wouldn’t answer if they were too lazy to read it in the first place. 1% of the time they would find something in the instructions that wasnt perfect, I’d correct it and it would be perfect going forward.
    I only give unconditional help to family. My condition to help co workers is that they make an honest attempt to use the tools available first

  44. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – Not only should you train your staff to save up their questions until a designated time, but you should also train yourself not to just answer their questions. You mentioned there are resources for what they do that they use when you are not around. Next time someone asks for help instead of telling them the answer, prompt them to find the answer themself.

    “What do the instructions say?” “Are the instructions not clear? What can we change about them to help you to understand?”

    Obviously, if it’s something major that they can’t figure out themselves you should jump in but after a while this will train them to look at the instructions first.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I often plead forgetfulness “I don’t know right now, I’ve forgotten the details. I wrote down the process in the wiki, that’s where I look for it now.”

      It’s not a lie for me. If I worked out the process and then documented it, I don’t bother to remember the details for months after I’ve touched it. I wrote it down because my memory is a sieve. If I have to tell someone else how to do it, I’m just going to refer to the document anyway, because I don’t remember the details if I haven’t done it recently.

  45. Tesuji*

    LW #3: Honestly, it feels like this is just a symptom of the real problem, which is:

    LW doesn’t seem to understand that she’s now a manager. She describes this as a strange interaction between two people that she was just an audience for, and doesn’t appear to even grasp that she was very much a key player in the entire scenario, because she now has enough power that even just staying silent is making a statement.

    As has already been mentioned in other comments: This was LW’s responsibility to to deal with, *not* the employee who was being pressured. And, more to the point, LW is going to get blamed for this if anyone reports it as fraud, because she stood there and tacitly approved.

    To be fair, I’m honestly not going to make assumptions about the ethics here: This seems like a very bizarre compensation structure to me. I don’t understand why any company would pay commissions in this manner. This makes no little sense that I’m not going to read in ethical guidelines from systems that do make sense. It is entirely possible to me that the SDR actually didn’t do anything wrong–the company may actually be deliberately incentivizing a firehose method of handling sales, where they don’t want people to pre-screen leads and do want them to refer as many as possible for salesmen to take a crack at.

    But, that’s kind of secondary to the fact that LW thought this was wrong and ethical… but her response smacks of “Gee, it’s a shame there wasn’t an adult around to set these people straight” without realizing that she’s supposed to be the adult here.

    So, leaving aside this specific situation, it feels like the LW needs to come to grips with what her job is, on a very fundamental level.

  46. Meep*

    LW#2 – If it makes you feel better, your experience is pretty common. And people change career paths all the time. My dad went to school for biology. He ended up as an insurance salesman before getting another Bachelor’s in Teaching at 40 after being a sub for several years. He got his Master’s in Math when he was 50 and retired as a college professor after teaching middle and high school for 15 years. It happens. It is called life.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yep. I have a friend who do PhD in arts and taught in college, then went to law school and did law for several years, then became a software QA and content management person.

  47. Diatryma*

    LW1: What has worked for my supervisor in terms of getting me to look things up rather than asking her is to look things up herself. She doesn’t take a second and answer the question from her own knowledge, she looks it up exactly the way she expects me to. Sometimes that’s Google, sometimes that’s a dive into the procedure manual, sometimes that’s a different resource, but she models how to get there and makes it clear that 1) this is expected from me, and 2) asking her isn’t actually faster. I try to do the same thing with my trainees now.

  48. spcepickle*

    LW4: I got irritated at our social media recently because my team was NEVER featured – I reached out to them, only to find out that if I want things published I had to submit them! Nobody told me when I was promoted to manager that this was one of my tasks. It is a 100% possible that your promotion “snub” was not intentional but the result of miscommunication somewhere. The result should not be to stew but to fix it – Figure out who makes your posts and tell them you got promoted.

  49. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    LW5 – any way your company can make this a multi-person move?

    Instead of you taking over the physical office *and* the role of Deceased Colleague 2, why not have Bob move into Colleague 2’s old office, and you move into Bob’s office. This would serve to interrupt or soften the unease that you and all your coworkers may have.

    1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

      Yeah, I’m setting up an appt w/my new supervisor to discuss possibly using a different office. B/c of the setup and a few other reasons, I don’t think a multi-person move will work but it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind. Thanks.

  50. Meow*

    #1: I feel like a straightforward solution to this is to ask your employees to send questions via Slack or email. That way they don’t have to worry about forgetting the question, and you can block off times to check your messages and respond to them. The main exception to this is if their inquiries are urgent and they need an answer right away.

    Another solution is, if the inquiries are about an ongoing project or training (like onboarding new employees), schedule recurring check-ins dedicated to answering any standing questions about the project. Constant, unstructured interruption throughout the day is just not a good way to do things for anyone, not just ADHD people.

  51. ScientistAtLarge*

    OP#1 – I struggle with this too and for a while I had an “office hour” time everyday for drop in questions while I worked on the quick items. Outside of office hours questions had to wait for meetings or the next day. This might help transition from answering on demand to once daily to during checkins

  52. Adrian*

    @Emmy Noether, I’m like you. My first career was in IT, which I ended up leaving early on. But I know my layperson tech stuff well enough that the trainer at one employer wailed I was going to put him out of a job. :) And the IT dept at another place knew I came to them only if I was either truly stuck, or zombied out from stress.

    Agreed about the balance between DIY, and not spending too much time trying to DIY. On the flip side, I’ve been in situations both tech and non-tech, where people I consulted should have known the answer but didn’t for whatever reason.

    @amoeba, agreed that if only we could do certain things ourselves. At ExEmployer I eventually learned that Outlook delegate access and Zoom delegate access are two different things. I could authorize myself if I could get my hands on the boss’ computer, but who even comes into the office anymore?

    ExEmployer’s IT dept gave itself a way to provide Zoom delegate access to others from their end. It was out of necessity, because it wasn’t a given that bosses could follow the directions even if they took the time to do it.

  53. Someone Else's Boss*

    LW #1 – I practice the “check three, then me” approach. My team knows that their first step is to search their email (I send weekly emails with all new procedures, so these are easy to find), their second step is to check our shared files/how to guides, and their third step is to ask their colleagues. If they still can’t solve the problem, they can come to me. This was an absolute game changer. By giving them the specific steps, they don’t feel lost and know at least where to start. If someone still comes to me often, I ask “What happened when you asked your colleagues?” or a similar question to see what steps they took. I am not demeaning (I never say, “Did you try the three steps first??”) but nor do I give in and answer every question they have.

  54. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, unless there are other problems with your job, quitting over this strikes me as likely to be an overreaction. It sounds more like an irritation than something to lose your income over.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      These snubs may be a symptom of other problems, or the product of the inevitable in-group dynamic since it’s a family-owned business. Or, the LW may perceive slights where none are intended. In any case, LW has two courses of action: train self to stop caring, or leave for a new job. There is no guarantee that the new job will be a better fit or they will get more airtime.

  55. knitcrazybooknut*

    LW#1, I had this experience too, and the job was complicated with lots of nuance. But I created a zillion pieces of documentation, and after a few months of intensive training, my answer to any question was, “Have you checked the documentation?” (For the record, we were all on friendly terms, and I usually said it with a smart-alecky smile.) At a certain point, they would step into my office with the question, then turn around and say, All right, I’ll go check the documentation! without me saying a word. It takes persistence, and yes, sometime it would have been faster to give them an answer. It also takes them trusting that they can come back if the documentation doesn’t help them, at which point we could dig in and work on it together. But it worked, and years later, I get stories from all of them about them using it their own training!

  56. Spotify Thinks I'm Adventurous*

    LW #2 – I agree completely with what Alison said, and the commentariat at large. I’ve interviewed a number of people with nontraditional backgrounds or who had a slower professional start, and it truly does not factor in at all as long as you meet the basic requirements for the position. However, what can become a concern is when people undersell their experience, are sheepish about their background, or spend too much time explaining the reasons why they are where they are professionally in an interview when it really isn’t relevant. I’d encourage you to avoid spending time talking about these years – focus entirely on your professional experience and where you are now. You can have a short, factual sentence of explanation prepared in case it comes up, but I think you’ll be best off not bringing it up unless prompted and knowing that there is NO SHAME or need to justify your background. Good luck!

    1. LW2*

      Thank you for pointing this out! Over-explaining is definitely a trap I fall into (especially when nervous) and I needed a reminder to be vigilant against this.

  57. cabbagepants*

    #1 — if they ask a question that you know is in the documentation, take out the documentation and go through it with them! Sometimes people are disinclined to go through documentation for whatever reason. Going through the documentation with them will help teach them how to use written sources. (Some people, somehow, make it all the way through school without ever having to look up anything, it seems.)

  58. Pdweasel*

    OP #5: my department went through a similar situation when I was in residency, and a dear colleague died. The colleague who got moved into that space had had a messy office that was the stuff of legends—we’re talking open suitcases on the floor from his latest work trip, piles of paperwork and books everywhere, broken equipment on the floor, rumpled up lab coats everywhere. When he moved, he said his goal was to keep his new office tidy in memory of our late colleague (who was a neat freak), and last time I saw, he’d done so.

  59. Elm*

    LW1: Send out a survey (anonymous or otherwise) asking for feedback on the documented instructions. I found that a lot of the questions I got asked came from instructions that made sense to my ADHD brain but not to other people. Too many details, too many “do nots” without “do this insteads,” an imbalance of written, visual, and video instructions to meet everyone’s needs, etc.

    It’s a lot of work up front, but it could save a lot of time later. And if it feels daunting, remember: Teachers are expected to do this for almost every single student, which could be in the hundreds, and still answer these questions! Bosses get way more leeway. (I’ve been both.)

  60. Cathie from Canada*

    OP#5 – I was in a similar position last year, so I have one further suggestion for you – to be upfront and open about your predecessor’s passing.
    I developed a fairly standard email opening that I used often in my remote job, as I was contacting anyone at the university that my predecessor had worked with – some of whom were not in frequent contact and so may not have been aware of her death. I used words to this effect: “first, let me introduce myself. I am acting as the administrator of…. The college of …has hired me on a temporary basis following the tragic and untimely passing of …. to deal with her workload until a permanent appointment to this position is made.”

    1. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

      I had thought about this in terms of talking to new clients (of mine) who might have known her. But, given the parameters of the position, that’s really unlikely. Still, in thinking about it more now, it’ll likely happen w/organizational contacts. This is a great script and I really appreciate it.

  61. Pink Candyfloss*

    Day Schildkret has written a beautiful book called Hello Goodbye which would be perfect for you, LW, and anyone else finding themselves in a situation similar where they want to recognize and honor a moment of change in a meaningful way. The change can be a loss or just a change in general, a big life event, etc. I hope you will check it out.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        Apologies that I did not specify LW5 (unintentionally, because the 5 key on my laptop sticks and I didn’t realize until after posting) but I’m so glad you found the comment lol

  62. Happy Temp*

    LW #2–I just wanted to say I’m in a similar boat as you! You’re not alone. There’s great advice here, especially from Spotify Thinks I’m Adventurous, about reframing how you talk TO yourself as well as about yourself. I also just want to say thank you to ALL the commentariat about this letter because it helped me in the moment, too. You rock!

  63. Cookie Monster*

    #1 – I’m a bit confused – it would take them an hour to figure out something themselves…but you’ve also created extensive documentation for common problems?

    If they’re coming to you instead of checking the docks, redirect them to the docs. But if they’re doing that and it’s still taking them an hour to figure things out, maybe revisit the docs. They might not be as clear as you think.

  64. ABCYaBYE*

    LW5 – I had a coworker who was a dear friend pass away suddenly several months ago. I can’t speak to your situation perfectly, because I didn’t move into their office, but I can speak to the, sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful, shadow that someone casts after they depart. I would highly recommend trying to memorialize the coworker in a way that isn’t focused on your own office. If there’s something of theirs that you want to keep on a shelf or on your desk that provides a happy memory, by all means you should. But if you can separate “your” office from “their” office, especially for others in the office, that will help the grieving process. Your coworkers need to be able to grieve, too, but making some changes in the office (paint color, furniture, etc.) will help others from feeling like you’re in the former coworker’s office. And that might make things a lot easier for you, too. When we hired someone and they took our departed coworker’s office, we all made a point to not refer to that as “departed coworker’s” office, and rather “current coworker’s” office. That’s not easy, but helped all of us a lot. And there are ways their memory remains, but it isn’t in someone’s personal workspace.

  65. OP 5 OP5 LW5 LW 5 - taking a colleague's office*

    Others have made that point, too, and I appreciate your perspective. I will certainly hold off on having a memory of her IN my new office. Thank you.

  66. Melissa*

    LW#4 here:
    If you can imagine a woman teetering on the precipice of an important decision, uncharacteristically pleading to the Universe (Alison in this case) for some guidance, then you see me. I posed this same scenario to “Ask an Elder,” so weird right? ( No answer) Considered going to a psychic! I thought wow lady – now you’re flirting with fire. What is it about these couple of slights that are probably not intentional to grip you this way? I consider myself to be pretty tough and while I am extremely grateful for all of my many blessings there was something so hurtful about not being recognized for my hard work, loyalty, being dutiful, giving all of my life efforts to this cause.
    The promotion I got was the only one I have seen in my 10 years here. I hoped they would acknowledge it like they did the others who have gotten one. I wonder if the only way they will see all the contributions will be in my absence. That’s all.
    Thank you for all of your feedback, in all it’s forms. Interesting.

    1. Observer*

      You’ve gotten a lot of good advice.

      I do think that it’s worth keeping in mind that even with a slowing down labor market, you should be able to find a new job if you think this through and decide that you’ve had enough and / or this job is never going to give you what you want and need. Not that you should quit without anything lined up, but it’s very empowering to make concrete plans to change your situation, whether your employer likes it or not.

  67. One HR Opinion*

    For LW3, I’d definitely suggest talking to your boss so it doesn’t put your job in jeopardy for appearing to be complicit in the fraud… Hey boss, I really messed up, I know I should have said something in the moment, but I was just so shocked. I would like to do xyz to fix the situation, what do you think?

  68. PotsPansTeapots*

    OP2- I’m younger than you are, but I’m also a childhood high achiever who had a lost decade of mental illness and general flailing around.

    Now, even though I’m finally building skills I’m proud of and planning a career trajectory, I still have a lot of shame about the years I’ve lost and it can make a lot of run-of-the-mill career topics oddly emotional for me.

    You’re not alone in feeling weird about your past. If you haven’t already, consider talking to a counselor or an EAP at your current job. You may not need long-term therapy, but it might help to have someone to bounce your thoughts off of.

    (And part of my work involves helping people with resumes. Alison’s tips are great. In most cases, no one really cares about anything besides your last decade or so of work.)

  69. Apricot*

    OP #5 – I’m so sorry for your loss. I had a colleague that I worked very closely with; she trained me when I first started and a few years later I became her manager. She was an older woman and I knew she was having health issues, but it never even crossed my mind as a possibility. I was devastated when they told us. I kept her photo in a frame on a shelf, so not directly on my desk where I’d see it all the time, but where I knew it was so I could see her face when I missed her most. When others would notice it they would say, “Aw, [Name]!” so I still got to hear her name spoken, and I didn’t feel like her or her contributions were being forgotten, which was important to me. Good luck in your new role, and big internet hugs to you!

  70. LW2*

    Thank you so much Alison, and especially the commentariat, for this much-needed reality check and boost of confidence. And – it makes me feel really good to read these comments from those who ALSO needed to hear that encouragement today. I’m going to make myself a little booklet of your kind words and great advice, for when I get caught in an anxiety whirlpool. Thanks AAM!

  71. Hillary*

    OP#1 – I have two methods. Digitally, I keep my outlook calendar open to staff so unless I make a meeting private they can see not only that I’m busy but what I’m doing. I put blocks of “protected time” on my calendar for concentration, so people can see I’m doing “budget prep, protected time” and decide if a conversation needs to happen. Physically when I was with a smaller team, I would close my office door and put up a sign that read “BBBB”. That meant “Unless it is bleeding, burning, brandishing a weapon, or you are my boss, do I need to know about it right now?”. The code was because my office door opened onto the public floor of our work so we used codes. For my current office I do the same, we just don’t need a code and the sign can be clearer so it just says “busy, email ok, call or knock if urgent.”. Otherwise, my door is open or the sign says “just working, come in”

    Both worked and work well for teams.

  72. Hydrangea McDuff*

    LW 5, I work in a department where we have also lost two colleagues. My boss is in the first colleague’s office and a different colleague has the second one’s role and space (in a different location, but we worked closely with them both). I joined the team between the two losses.

    One thing we did was to do minor changes to mark the space as the new person’s, without erasing the the colleague we lost. Moving furniture, small redecorations, and so forth. We did this after about a year had elapsed from the loss, and together as a team. (In our case, the first colleague died very horrifically and unexpectedly, so this was also part of the grieving and healing process for the team.) We kept a couple of small and meaningful mementos of the colleagues in our space to honor them. For example, their photo is up on our small team bulletin board with the rest of us and our families. We also talk about these colleagues a lot, up to and including, “I’m channeling my inner Colleague 1, and I think we should do XYZ…” or sometimes, “Colleague 1 was so good at XYZ, I wonder what she would have advised?”

    Another thing I keep in mind is that our team will continue to change and grow, and new team members won’t have the same associations (and grief) over the loss of these colleagues. It’s also appropriate for us to move forward without turning our offices into a shrine, which could make new colleagues confused or weirded out, while still keeping our colleagues memory alive by referring openly to them and what we learned from them. I was personally closer to colleague 2, who also died in a horrific way (this could be a much longer comment) and I have a small item in my space that reminds me of her, but that just looks like a knick knack to anyone else. It’s my quiet way of remembering her daily.

    I’m sorry for the losses on your team. I hope their memories are a blessing, and that you keep their work alive through the good work you continue to do.

    1. LW 5 - moving into colleague's office*

      I teared up at the end and, as others have also pointed out, it’s nice to be reminded I’m human. Thank you.

      I spoke w/an EAP therapist yesterday to, ostensibly, talk about practical ways of handling this better – only to have a whole ton of stuff come up lol which is normal. And it’s good to have that stuff more clearly visible so I can address _that_ in regular therapy.

      I’m sorry for your losses, too.

  73. Blue Daisy*

    LW4, at my team meetings, everyone takes turns offering the reflection. I haven’t been invited to give the reflection in 2 years, while another person, who fits in much better with the local culture, has offered their thoughts 3 times. It makes me feel like my office doesn’t value diversity of opinion. I shrug it off and I don’t say anything. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but it still stings.

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