open thread – January 27-28, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 1,157 comments… read them below }

  1. Muffy Crosswire*

    I work in marketing. My company A (huge revenue driving, premium products, yearly growth) had a merger with another company B (mid revenue driving, lower cost product, no growth) 20 months ago. Since then, most of the people from my company A have quit. This means 97% of the people who made company A so successful have left.

    Anyway, our current CMO came from company B, and has no idea what she is doing. About a year ago, she fired the SVP of marketing growth (who worked at company A for 15 years, was a big reason why it was so successful, and was beloved) because the CMO didn’t understand the products of Company A, so the SVP wasn’t telling her what she wanted to hear. The CMO ended up hiring a new SVP of marketing growth, but he ended up quitting after 6 months. During his short time, he hired someone at the Director level of a team; that Director was actually let go 2 weeks ago. The other Director he hired was my boss, who is an incompetent, controlling tyrant, and who the CMO loves. The CMO brought on a new SVP a few months ago to replace the 6-month SVP.

    So far I haven’t been impressed with the new SVP. My boss is making errors and performance isn’t meeting goals…which she should be catching but she’s not. I’m now included on a weekly call with her, my boss, and other departments for the top brand. The second week in a row, she has no agenda for these meetings, and when my boss presents performance data, but with limited information and confirmation we’re missing goals, she literally has NO questions! It’s just so odd! Then yesterday it was a discussion between her, some of the other leaders and the product person (who was originally from company A). Basically he kept trying to explain to them why the website testing needs to be more methodological so we know what’s working, but they weren’t really listening. They were saying very empty sentences with lots of buzzwords. It was like the SVP has no experience in this area.

    How does something like this happen?! The new SVP and my boss had all the right stuff on their resumes, but they seem to lack critical thinking and past knowledge. I’m not sure about the laid off Director, but I can only assume he wasn’t performing well. Is management not vetting these people and digging into their past experience? Because it seems like something is happening. Such turnover and poor performance from Directors and SVP isn’t normal. And happening almost 2 years after a merger? Yikes.

    Has anyone seen something like this happen at your company? How/why does this happen?

    1. Science KK*

      The only thing I can think of is did the CMO either know them already or have mutual contacts so maybe she just assumed they would work out?

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        That was my thought as well. No actual vetting of qualifications took place and the CMO gave a former friend or colleague a job thinking everything would be fine.

    2. Tio*

      Several reasons.
      One, they can’t find anybody to hire, so they hire someone with less qualifications to fill the role. They person takes it because it’s more money and a notch on their resume, so they’re in and have no idea what they’re doing because they’re in over their head.

      Two, nepotism – a friend of a friend is hired, they have no idea what they’re doing, nobody wants to fire them and face social consequences.

      Three, the people above them don’t know what they’re doing, and so it’s hard to find out that they’re off target and/or why.

      Four, everyone knows that something is wrong, but think firing one or more people would make it even worse because now you’ve gone from a half-assed job to a no-assed job, so that’s automatically worse, right? Right??

      Five, they think the person just needs a little time to learn the ropes/adjust to the new company’s way/ settle in/whatever.

      Mix and match the above to suit your situation! There’s often more than one of these in play.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yeah, I was going to say (after reading your amazingly exhaustive breakdown of possibilities), or Six: All of the above.

        1. Tio*

          I’d say if I added a Six, it would be: They straight up lied about their qualifications to get in, then add in some of the other options (three pairs well) and ta-da, you’ve got yourself a Problem

    3. Chickaletta*

      Incompetent people don’t know how to spot competent people. It starts from the top, and since CMO doesn’t know what she’s doing, she doesn’t know what to look for when hiring people working for her. It may sound too simple, but I think that’s really all there is to it.

      Oh, and ditto Science KK’s comment: many incompetent executives will just bring in people they already know without doing a non-biased, critical evaluation to see if they’re a good fit for the role they’re coming into. Might be part of what’s happening with CMO. Nepotism/favoritism runs rampant among incompetent people because they don’t understand how to do this evaluation, say “no” to their friends, they want to surround themselves with “yes” people, and they’re resistant to considering other viewpoints about the people they hire.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        There’s a business adage: A performers hire A performers, and B performers hire C performers. Usually it’s said about confidence — the best feel secure and want to work with other top performers, but the pretty-good-but-not-stellar B folks feel threatened and hire down to avoid being overshadowed — but it does also work here, thinking about their ability to recognize talent and hire for it.

      2. Alternative Person*

        This

        I’d also add, even if/when they do manage to find competence, they don’t know how to support it.

    4. RagingADHD*

      I don’t understand why Company A would want to merge with Company B in the first place, if everything is as you describe. What value did Company A get out of it? Successful companies don’t merge with stagnant companies for no reason.

      Either there is some value to Company B and its people that you aren’t aware of (maybe in another division, maybe some asset on the books that Company A needed), or Company A actually has bigger problems than you realized, and some of those those senior people were already planning to depart before the merger was finalized.

      1. Inigo Montoya*

        Merger is generally a misnomer. It is entirely possible that Company B bought company A. Even with low growth, they could have been cash rich. company B could have bought company A in the hopes of spurring the growth of the combined company.
        The problem is that the buyout is only step one. The senior management would have then needed to make the hard decisions of whom to put in charge at various levels as they combined the 2 businesses. Buying companies often have a bias against promoting people from the purchasee over people from the purchaser with whom they have worked for many years (although in this case possibly not with great success).
        I have seen this problem happen many times and usually results in the failure of both companies.

        1. Tio*

          In addition to the good reasons above, sometimes A needs a market presence in the area B occupies, sometimes they just want B’s client relationships, sometimes they want to decrease competition, sometimes they want a product that synergizes with their own without actually making one so they buy a company who already does, and sometimes they want access to a certain part of the other company’s business/product but don’t really care about the other departments.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah, I have absolutely seen companies buy other (often not-great) companies because they wanted their clients.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Well, yes. That would be why I mentioned value or assets that the OP is not aware of or not talking about.

            I don’t think the mindset of “Company A is brilliant, Company B sucks and nobody in it knows anything about anything” is going to help OP navigate the situation. If there is value in Company B that made the merger / acquisition a good strategic decision from Company A’s point of view, then understanding that point of view is going to help the LW manage their frustration and be equally strategic in the way they navigate the new leadership.

            If there is no strategic value in Company B and it was a terrible decision, or Company A was in debt and needed a buyout, then Company A had problems that preceded the merger. Again, it would probably help LW to think clearly and strategically about how to deal with management if they understood this dynamic.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          Another case is when it’s Bigger Company A acquiring Smaller Struggling B but framing it as a merger, and B’s aggressive corporate culture is such that their upper management and C-suite dominate the org chart.

          Of course, the problem there is that the profit-first culture of B was what caused their eventual market share loss and brain drain. So after B execs pushed their culture onto A’s business practices, it was wildly successful for a handful of years and then horribly disastrous.

        3. Kes*

          This is how I would read the situation. Company B bought company A because they want their success, but they also don’t necessarily want company A running everything so they keep mostly their top people at the top. But if part of company B’s problem is the top people, then the problems will continue and they’ll fail to capitalize on the abilities and knowledge they’ve just acquired because they’ll ignore or worse, be antagonistic to what they don’t understand, so they drive out the very people who contributed to company A’s success.

      2. Muffy Crosswire*

        An equity firm bought both of us, but have heavily favored Company B. I have no idea what else happened behind the scenes, but I think the C-level peeps at Company A at the time weren’t aware of the merger before it happened.

    5. frustrated trainee*

      I’ve definitely seen mergers go this way before! Leaders sometimes really want to put their stamp on the new company they have authority over to make their mark without considering that they don’t know nearly enough about new company to do that, people want to work with THEIR people, not NEW people, and it’s all incredibly short-sighted. As to why way higher ups let it happen, or how they vet people, I’ve never been one of them, but I have helped hire for them, and unfortunately a lot of them are truly, TRULY awful at hiring. They get impressed by degrees or projects without really digging into things like can they apply that degree well? What did they actually do on that cool project?
      People know that mergers have growing pains and are often desperate to get those dealt with as quickly as possible, when sometimes (most times?) getting a feel for how things run first and only then making changes is the best way to go, but it’s not always viable when you need to slam together different workflows and processes immediately.
      Mostly just I’m sorry this is happening to you, I’ve seen it before and it’s awful!

    6. JB*

      All I can say is sometimes very, very stupid people get put into leadership positions and decide that they feel threatened by competence. So the incompetent leader fires all the decent employees and surround themselves with less competent people who don’t threaten their egos.

      Also, never underestimate the ability of some people to lie their way to the top by having good interpersonal skills to cover up their incompetence.

    7. A.P.*

      I once worked as a consultant in a company that had been acquired two years prior.

      It was almost a weekly occurrence to see emails sent out about some senior-level exec who was “taking time off to be with their family” or “pursuing new opportunities.”

      I wasn’t there pre-merger so I couldn’t judge if they were just culling dead weight or if they were losing valued employees.

      But I think it’s very common for the senior ranks to be cleared out by the acquiring company and new people installed in their place. (And even when the companies are said to have merged, there’s usually a winner and a loser in terms of who ends up in control.)

    8. Mill Miker*

      It also sounds like anyone too competent would have sounded too much like the SVP who was let go for not telling the new CMO what she wanted to hear.

    9. Narc*

      I used to work for a large corporation that 1) only promoted from within 2) was extremely hierarchical/political 3) really valued a certain type of personality (type a, charismatic, able to “play the game”). Almost all the leaders were like your SVP. People did not get promoted for their knowledge or technical know-how. They got promoted for most part because they played the politic well.

      I was once in a meeting and the VP of Engineering asked a question that anyone who had taken an intro class in the technology she was in charge of would know. And she was THE DIRECTOR OR ENGINEERING.

      1. xl*

        We have a saying in my (government) organization…FUMU.

        F up, move up

        My current supervisor is someone I spent a year and a half training and they were not able to achieve certification. The powers that be had to put them somewhere, so they made them the supervisor for my shift since supervisors aren’t required to have the certifications and license that the workers have. So now they’re in a management role and making more than me. And I have 23 years of experience and have been trying to move up out of my staff job for about the last 8 years, to no avail.

        It does wonders for morale, as you can imagine.

    10. yep, same thing here*

      A version of this is happening at my company. A coder guy took a thing, and made it popular/useful in the company. It’s proven sufficiently popular/useful that it now takes a department to do it, so coder guy was made director of the department. We’re going to need this thing as we grow from a small company to a large one, so coder guy gets to hire all the new people. So far 4 or 5, but will grow to 15 or so. Here’s the main problem: coder guy won’t hire anyone with experience in this field, or smarter than he is, so we’re losing a *lot* of potential good hires with experience in doing what we need to do. This is to not threaten coder guy’s ego. (note: he probably hasn’t thought sufficiently deeply to understand that). Another major problem is that the only technical test coder guy does is to have each candidate write a particular algorithm, in real time. The thing is: that is not at all a usefull skill for the job. So, he’s testing for the wrong things, and some of the very good candidates bow out at this point. This is the equivalent of hiring someone to write ad copy and testing them by having them write the intro chapter of a novel in an afternoon. Vaguely “writing”, but not the writing you need in the job.

      1. Momma Bear*

        We have a rule in my company that you need at least 2 people, preferably 3, in a hiring team for a role. So if I’m looking for a Llama Groomer, I might invite another groomer, the stable manager, and someone else reasonably relevant. Then we have a discussion afterwards and fill out a formal interview sheet which is taken into consideration by the higher ups/HR. It has its pros and cons, but a major pro is that if I were to say no to someone because of my personal bias but they’d be an asset, my teammate could make the case and keep the person in the running.

        Secondarily not everyone should be a manager, let along a hiring manager. Sounds like your coworker is an excellent coder, but not so much a good manager or good at selecting new hires. He might benefit from a team hiring approach or being the PE but not the actual department manager.

    11. Texan In Exile*

      At my old job, the new VP marketing was hired because she was friends with the CEOs next-door neighbor. CEO might have trusted new VP some as well because they had both been GE people. But new VP was a disaster – she either fired or drove away valuable people.

      She was fired last spring after two years there and so many happy of my happy former co-workers texted me to make sure I knew.

    12. Girasol*

      I went through a merger like that: successful company A bought dying company B and then put all of company B’s people in charge. It started with bitter tiffs on the board and at C-level. It was “old guard” vs “new blood” and everybody was scrambling for power and alliances. The merger was a win for the side that wanted to chuck everything old and go with new blood. So senior B managers replaced senior A managers. B leaders wanted B people they knew and trusted as their subordinate managers. Naturally there was the prickliness that comes with mergers and all the “Well, that’s not how we do it here!” from both sides to further enrage everyone. In the battle to see who would be left standing, political conniving often trumped talent. Like you I expected logic but that wasn’t what guided the situation.

    13. JSPA*

      Sure. Too many companies are essentially people puffing smoke up each other, while readying their own parachutes. It’s not predatory…it’s parasitic.

      You can sometimes follow people’s trajectory from board to board, or leadership role to leadership role, and watch the series of implosions, explosions or quiet disintegration in their wake.

      I’m assuming there’s some health care, location, vesting, nearly ready to retire or other reason that you’re still there (besides inertia)…but at some point, the decision may be made for you. Having some “ugh, least worst, maybe even good?” options lined up would be wise.

    14. Misty*

      Find out where the previous SVP went and start applying there.

      Did they maybe start a new company?

  2. Grant Writer*

    fellow grant writers! what do you typically use for a writing sample when applying for new positions? i transferred into my current role from within the organization, so i wasn’t applying as an outside candidate. is it okay to use part of a grant proposal i’ve written for my current org, or no? am i vastly overthinking this? i really enjoy my work, but the organization is unstable and leaves some things to be desired; i’m very casually searching now with a mind to do so more intensely once a few things in my personal life ease up. thank you!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Certainly, if the position you’re applying to is a grant writer, you can use a grant you wrote as a writing sample. Just pick one you didn’t get a lot of help/editing on to demonstrate what *you* would be capable of, and not one that would be super-confidential or something (most are not, obviously, just flagging it).

    2. Stephanie*

      Yes, it’s fine to use a grant application you wrote. Most of the jobs I’ve applied for didn’t request a writing sample, but for the ones that did I submitted something I wrote alone.

    3. Watusi*

      You should probably check on whether your current employer allows you to share work that you did for them. Employers own work that they paid you to do, so make sure you understand any restrictions on sharing your writing for them outside the company.

    4. Grantee McGee*

      Keep portions of *funded* proposals, ideally with a compelling needs assessment portion, project goals/objectives, and implementation plan. Be selective, noone has time to read a full proposal. If they are interested they could ask for more. Redact any names or information that could be at all sensitive, err on the side of overcautious with this.

      If you have had consistent success with public grants, it could be worthwhile to link the program awardees page where relevant in your resumé or cover letter.

  3. Fundraising Q*

    I could really use a reality check on fundraising goals for my tiny nonprofit (three staff). I am the main fundraiser. Our Board president, acting as ED, set the development goals for the next year. I was hoping the board would help out more, but as far as I can see these are mostly expected to be my goals, what I will be evaluated on next year (if I’m still here, which is not super likely, but I’m viewing this as an opportunity to learn). All of the goals are that we will not lose any ground with existing funders, but will gain two new funders in each category (grants, corporate, major donor). My sense is that this is not very realistic; we have some people who make a one-time gift, and certain grants are project-based and unlikely to be renewed next year. If even one is not renewed I’ll now have officially failed at my goal, but it feels beyond my control. I was hoping for a goal of increasing the overall pot of money. Also, it suggests a growth model where this year we manage five grants and three corporate sponsors, next year seven grants and five sponsors, presumably next year nine and seven, etc, but we’re certainly not going to get any new staff to manage these grants and sponsors. We need this money pretty much just to keep the lights on and hopefully hire a new ED so the Board President doesn’t have to keep doing it. A new ED could help with fundraising I realize, and I am committed to trying to get us funds for that, but I’m a bit uncertain looking at these goals. Am I out of touch and this is very normal? I’m quite new to the field, although not the nonprofit sector.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Can you show data that illustrate the fact that one-and-done donors are common, and that this is a characteristic of your donor population/your particular field, rather than a failing on the part of fundraising staff? And maybe there’s room for compromise on the “new funders” side of things, if you can provide data that show how many funders can reasonably be managed by one fundraiser.

      1. RedinSC*

        Yes, there is national data on donor retention rates which overall are about 40%ish. So a 100% retention rate is basically unheard of.

    2. ursula*

      Hi, I’m the ED of a small nonprofit (5 FT staff) with 10 years in the game. IMO, these goals are insane. If you had a dedicated fundraiser, or a history of working with corporate sponsors or securing major gifts, such that you already had a bunch of tools/approaches in place for that, then *maybe* you could meet those corp/MG goals. I’m guessing that for a team of 3, fundraising/development is not your only role.
      The thing about retaining 100% of your funders is even less realistic, if they are project-based and all of the projects have set end dates. Some of them may have opportunities for renewal, but in my experience the vast majority do not. That’s why the sector is pushing so hard for all funders to offer some version of core funding as part of their grant programs. This is not a good way for them to evaluate you!

      Although part of me also wonders: sure, they’ll see that some of the funders were not retained. But does that automatically mean you’ll get a bad review? Different supervisors have different interpretations of what a “goal” is: do you know whether your ED views these as aspirational targets, such that they’ll be thrilled if you hit them but don’t really expect you to hit them all, or actual performance expectations? Assuming it’s the latter, my (minimally informed, outside) impression is that they don’t know enough about the sector to be in this role.

      1. Fundraising Q*

        It seems like they had similar goals in past years, which were sometimes met and sometimes not met, and it’s unclear that we’ve really gone back and even done the work at the end of the year to evaluate if our goals were met or not, thus unclear that I would be penalized in any way for not meeting the goals. However, I’d hate to have a new ED come and get to know me as the person who did not meet the development goals for the year. I’d be extra frustrated if I did actually increase the bottom line amount of money year over year, in however small a way, but not in the way this goal was structured (say, got a bigger grant from an existing funder, which is a much more reasonable goal for us, in my opinion). Unfortunately, I have repeatedly expressed that it’s not very likely a brand new corporate sponsor is going to drop out of the sky and make a big gift, even if I send them very nice emails or bug them on the phone. It’s more likely we could walk up one of our existing sponsors or at least someone we’re already talking to.

        1. ursula*

          Absolutely – totally understand why you don’t want these “failures” to be part of your record/perception by your boss, even if they weren’t your fault and aren’t reasonable! Maybe your goal here is to come to the end-of-year conversation with a nuanced, informative, helpful perspective on why the organization should revisit its development goals with an emphasis on flexible, sustainable growth. Maybe if you approach it from the perspective of, “I am a capable professional who has spent a year working on this issue, and here is a summary of my findings to help inform your future planning,” you will (a) feel less vulnerable, and (b) be able to demonstrate your value to the org regardless of whether the numbers went up the way they were hoping. Of course, your boss might also be kind of whack. There’s not much you can do about that in any scenario.

          FWIW, your intuition here sounds right to me.

        2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Is there a reason you couldn’t just say ‘increase funding from x to y by end of year in each of the three categories’ and be measured on whether or not you did that.

          And then your methods could be finding new donors or expanding existing donors or whatever, but you wouldn’t be measured on whether those were successful because how they heck can you control that?

          You could also be measured on the elements and methods that you can actually influence, like number of contacts made and quality of interactions or whatever.

          1. Fundraising Q*

            Ha, see, as a newbie fundraiser, I’d much rather be evaluated on, say, the number of proposals I submit, because that’s within my control – BUT, I do appreciate that being good at the job (unclear if I am, honestly) would be measured not in effort so much as success. They don’t care how many grants I write, or contacts I start, or whatever, they care about how much actual money we get through them.

            1. Tio*

              Maybe at the end of the year, if you’ve lost one timers but gained money overall, you could phrase it like “We retained donor A, did not hear from B and C, but gained D E F G so we now have 2 more donors from previous year and are up X dollars”?

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m thinking about my experience in marketing of subcription based publications — We tracked income based on New sales, first renewal, and subsequent renewals. We knew that not everyone would renew, but we had a sense of the percentages of funds that would come from each category. That help keep the eye on the different sales challenges for each type of buyer.
      If you have data about where funding came from in the past, you could use this to help guide your expectations and efforts in obtaining and keeping donors.

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

      They should be doing a feasibility study on current donors and identifying prospective donors
      Looking at their financial information, history of giving — amount and to what charities, their stated mission or their own goals, etc., and setting fundraising goals on that analysis; but I imagine at such a small non-profit, and if you don’t have a consultant or in-house person that does prospect research, they are just pulling “goals” out of a hat. No that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

    5. Dolores Van Cartier*

      I wonder if your Board President doesn’t realize this is not possible on many levels. Based on their commitment to the org, they may just assume that once a donor is in the door, they’ll never leave. Currently, donor retention rates are averaging about 40-45%. Many granting organizations restrict how often you can apply through their organization, and just within my org and a few others I know, corporate giving has dropped over the last year. I think it’s certainly normal to set goals per target area but also to understand that some pools have more challenging timelines or things that you may not have as much control over. You may want to pull together some resources like donor averages, and grant cycles for current grantees to show that this isn’t a viable goal. It may be better to take the current fundraising totals and create a more reasonable growth plan based on current individual donors contributions/grants submitted/ and corporate partners engaged.

    6. Malarkey01*

      If I can also add- not only are these goals unreachable, but they don’t seem to take into account what we’re seeing in my non-profits. I sit on a couple of boards that are localized but with a diverse mix that tend towards higher donors…we’re hearing from all of our regulars that they’re going to need to cut back this year. Our corporate sponsors are all still engaged but their in kinds are looking to be about half what we usually get. Our goals our to firm up our outreach so we don’t lose donors this year with the expectation that we’re happy with them just buying tickets to an event or contributing a modest amount so they stay engaged and we’ll see a bump when whatever “this” is passes.

  4. Lalalala*

    When you are interviewing, is it better to say “I” or “this position”? Example: “who would I be working with?” “what do you expect from me?” vs. “who would this position be working with?” “what do you expect from this position?”

    Wondering if would actually help during interviews

    1. Accounting Gal*

      I go with “this position” or “the person in this position.” I think it’s less presumptive and more accurate, plus the interview is when I’m still figuring out if I would even want the job

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Same here. I think when you’re asking questions, you want to ask about the position. Sometimes, though, you might get asked how you would address a certain problem or handle a certain situation IF you were in the position, and in that case, “I” would be appropriate.

        1. Julie*

          I think the opposite. ‘Would’ is subjunctive. “Who will I be working with”, in the other hand, is presumptive.

          But as the the original question: I’ve interviewed many people and I don’t care either way.

    2. A Penguin!*

      If you’re interviewing with me, it doesn’t matter. They mean the same thing to me. I’m sure you can find hiring managers with a preference in either direction, but I don’t think there’s a universal choice.

      When I’m the one interviewing for a job I use ‘I’ phrasing, because it feels more natural to me.

    3. A Manager for Now*

      I used “this position” when I interviewed externally, but recently used “I” for an internal position I was asked to apply for (and am transitioning into now!).

      As a hiring manager, I preferred “this position” for reasons I can’t quite explain. Maybe a little less presumptive.

      This said, I recently listened to a Hidden Brain podcast episode about persuasion and one thing that they noted was that using “we” instead of “you” during interviews helped candidates, so who knows!?

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        I use “we” a whole lot when talking with patients — “we need to work on getting your blood sugars under control”, for example. With staff, I also use we, even though I’m likely not the one who’s going to be doing the actual work, just because it seems less accusatory and more teamlike.

    4. Nebula*

      I think it depends on what you’re saying. With your examples, I would go with “Who would I be working with?” and “What do you expect from the person in this position/role?” I would probably preface the “I” question with “If I were to be offered the role,” or similar, so maybe that’s your solution.

      I don’t know whether this is just a difference in terminology (I’m from the UK), but I definitely wouldn’t ever use “this position” or “this role” in the way that you have there. I would consider “the position” the job role rather than the person in it, so the way you’ve phrased it there sounds a little confusing to me. But as I say, could just be different norms.

      1. Nebula*

        OK, more replies have been posted while I was composing mine and it seems like this is a cultural difference! You learn something new etc.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        I would do similar to you. I tend to say, “if I were to be successful, what classes would I be teaching?” or whatever.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I had the same reaction as you (US) – “would” questions feel better with “I” because you’re asking about the hypothetical case where you’re hired, non-hypothetical questions better with “[the person in] this position” depending on how much it’s about the person vs the job. (“Does this position involve XYZ” / “How will you measure the success of the person in this position”)

    5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I would say “person in this position,” rather than “this position.” (Or possibly “role”).

    6. RagingADHD*

      I think it’s better to sound natural.

      If you’re asking about the role, its functions, and its place in the organization, ask about the role: “What are the expectations for the role?” “What would you say makes a person outstanding, versus simply meeting expectations, in this role?” “How does this role fit in with the functions of X and Y?” “Can you tell me why this role is currently open?”

      If you’re asking more about settling in or interpersonal interactions, particularly if it’s a more conversational-style interview, refer to yourself: “Who would I be working with?” “Would I be based here, or in the satellite office?”

      There’s also a natural progression as the discussion moves from the general to the specific, you move from referring to “the role” to “I.” So you’d use “the role” more at the beginning, and “I” toward the end, or use “I” more in the second or third round.

    7. Workerbee*

      A memory has crashed back into my head when I was interviewing for a very entry-level position while still in college. I used a conditional “Would I be doing” -type statement and the interviewer immediately snapped back with, “I haven’t offered you the position yet.”

      Which effectively shut down any other questions I might have ventured to ask. Too inexperienced at the time to chalk it up to an asshole interviewer who was making no allowances for that same inexperience, if my phrasing was really so offensive.

      1. Rage*

        I would have snapped back “And I haven’t accepted, either, which is why I said *would* as conditional phrasing.” Because I’m a snarky B-word. But, yes, bullet probably dodged.

      2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        YIKES.

        I don’t find your phrasing at all offensive, FWIW, certainly not offensive enough to snap at a candidate for. Definitely sounds like a good thing you didn’t get that job.

    8. Educator*

      Honestly, as an interviewer, I am not nitpicking anyone’s word choice to this degree! I think it is much more important to sound natural and confident than to phrase things perfectly. I am listening for skills, ideas, and experiences that align with my hiring needs. As long as you express them clearly, you will do great!

    9. Anon for This*

      I tend to use “were I to be the successful candidate, who would I be working with” etc. personalizes it, lets them picture you in the role, but doesn’t presume you’ve been hired.

  5. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

    Kind of a legal question for everyone… So my husband is an office manager, and he started a new job on Monday, in MA (this is relevant). The office was apparently a mess, and they hadn’t had a manager for a while. Other than one of the assistants and the doc, no one had worked there for more than 6 months. He came home on Monday wondering if he had made a mistake by taking this job, because the office was such a mess.

    On Wednesday, he told me that he had a weird conversation with one of the receptionists and the doc, where they thanked him profusely for staying, even though it had only been 3 days.
    Then, yesterday, they let him go. The doc said it was because she “had a feeling”. They wrote out a check (in pen) on what looks like an official, albeit blank, office check. No paystub, no tax withholding, nothing. Just a straight paycheck for 32 hours of work. They didn’t even give him a chance to get used to the office, software, or business before letting him go.

    Other sketchy things include: the offer had been sent the Friday prior to him starting, and they didn’t check any references… The doc tried to get my husband to fire the receptionist on his first day, and he said no. Also the doctor is OBSESSED with this management training she’s a part of but doesn’t actually implement them, she just references the program every chance she gets.

    My questions are: does anyone know if he can collect unemployment if he’s only worked there for a week and it is kinda sketchy? Should we get in contact with an employment lawyer? Do we have any recourse at all? Is there any way we can help this from happening to anyone else?

    1. Sloanicota*

      Shoot, in most states I don’t think you’re eligible for unemployment in the US unless you work there for a set amount of time – in my state it’s also how they set the base rate they’re going to pay you (based on what you were making over a certain number of quarters there). It sounds like the doctor fired your husband over this issue of firing the receptionist, to me. She wants someone who will do whatever she says. Unfortunately that was probably never going to be a good role for your husband.

      1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

        I agree, I think it was a bad fit, but he was willing to stick it out for a while.

        I am actually going to have him call the unemployment office (or go down to one) because I THINK in MA as long as you were let go for something out of your control (ie “bad vibes”) you can collect, but I wasn’t sure if anyone else had been in this boat before :(

        1. WellRed*

          He should call unemployment. He would qualify based on money earned in previous quarters (the formula for which varies by state). This happened to me in Maine, but I had similar in Mass at one point(and found Mass as a whole vastly better for UI).

        2. Nea*

          I can’t answer your question about unemployment, but if the receptionist who thanked your husband for staying is the one the doc wants to fire, it would make sense for her to be very grateful for the continued presence of the person who preserved her job.

          Can’t help but wonder if the “vibe” was “Okay, if he won’t fire her, on to someone who will” although why the doc herself simply doesn’t do it is odd.

              1. JSPA*

                She pinky-swore not to? (She’s clearly not operating within standard parameters, so, really, who knows. Could be the flying monkeys, could be the color of her aura, could be a hard rule in her management program designed for a mid-sized-or-larger company that she’s trying to apply to an office of 8 people, could be she’s been sucked into her own toxic mind games; the list is endless, and rational explanations are unlikely to play much of a role.)

        3. A Penguin!*

          Definitely talk to the unemployment office. Worst thing they could do is say no. It sounds like the reason he was let go would allow for a claim. I don’t think there’s a minimum amount of time at the last job requirement, but if I recall the available benefits will be based on his total employment over the last year.

          Have worked (and been laid off in) MA before, but not currently.

          1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

            me too! I was let go for being a “bad culture fit” and the UI office was amazing for me. But that was 5+ years ago… I don’t remember all the little details.

          2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah, applying for unemployment in MA isn’t terribly difficult — I’d say either call the office or just fill out the online form and see what happens. At worst it’s wasted effort, at best it’s unemployment benefits.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I don’t know if Unemployment Offices are still swamped like they were in 2020 and 2021. If so, you might have to wait a while for a response, and may not be able to get through by phone.

    2. to varying degrees*

      I just search the MA unemployment site and found this:
      To be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, you must:

      Have earned at least:
      $5,700 during the last 4 completed calendar quarters, and
      30 times the weekly benefit amount you would be eligible to collect
      Be legally authorized to work in the U.S.
      Be unemployed, or working significantly reduced hours, through no fault of your own
      Be able and willing to begin suitable work without delay when offered

      1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

        Thank you, I did a cursory search last night and found similar information.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yep, sounds like my state. Unfortunately this situation won’t look good for “$5,700 during the last 4 completed calendar quarters, and 30 times the weekly benefit amount you would be eligible to collect.” Unfortunately, our system is set up that the employers pay in to unemployment insurance and it’s specifically to cover the income you were making at that job, so a job where you had only very brief tenure and didn’t make a lot of money is rarely eligible (but I was hoping MA would be unique). It never hurts to talk to the unemployment people if you can get a person, mind you. As for how to prevent others from falling for it, Glassdoor is your friend, and cheaper than the cost of an unemployment lawyer who’s unlikely to be super helpful.

        1. Excel Jedi*

          This isn’t true if the husband was employed elsewhere before this job. If an employer hires someone away from a job and then fires them within a few days or months, that person is still eligible for unemployment based on their overall history for the year.

          The big question here is how much the husband worked before taking this job. If he had been unemployed for a year, he wouldn’t be eligible. But if he just left his last job last week and is not unemployed again, he almost certainly is.

          1. Just here for the scripts*

            Came here to say this…I took a job that “wasn’t as advertised” and was able to collect unemployment under my prior job (nyc/state)

    3. Doc is In*

      That place was crazy (speaking as MD with her own office). Looks like they wanted to bring him in to get him to fire a problem employee and then they probably would have let him go anyway. In our state it is 12 weeks before you qualify for unemployment. Bet they never even set him up on payroll or withheld (or paid) any taxes. Probably would try to say he was a “consultant” if questioned. You could report the doctor for that perhaps. Sorry this happened to you.

      1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

        Thank you! Yes, he never submitted his W4 information, it’s sitting in his folder half filled out.
        Do you know what to do about the non-withheld taxes? I don’t even know where to begin with that part.

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          I wouldn’t worry about the amount they would have withheld for taxes. It’ll all get rolled in with his total income for the year.

          But your DOL will also have a wage & hours department who may be interested to know about the not reporting of wages paid.

        2. Internet Accountant*

          Don’t worry about the taxes that weren’t withheld. Don’t worry about the paperwork that the employer should be completing and filing, even if the amount exceeds the $600.00 threshold for a Form 1099. It’s not your problem.

          Unless your husband is under an obligation to file quarterly, he doesn’t need to worry about paying the taxes until he files next year. Take the check and deposit or cash it; put 1/3 of it aside unless you know you’ll have disposable cash in that amount next year to cover the taxes on it; keep a scan or a photocopy where you keep all your other tax-related paperwork during the year. Then next year, include the amount on the check in your tax return as miscellaneous income.

          I’d suggest talking to an accountant, but how big was this check for only 32 hours, you know?

          1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

            it was a little over 1k for his 32 hours. But we do have slush fund (currently saving for a house) so we should have the money then, even if we use it now. 300 isn’t enough to break the bank for us, even with him being unemployed. I thought we might talk to our tax guy when we file taxes this year (still waiting for all the paperwork to come in) so that will probably help.

            Thank you for your help; taxes scare me a bit.

            1. JSPA*

              $1K is over the $600 limit, so they should be reporting it one way or another. It’s the business who will be at fault if they don’t.

      2. JDT*

        I am experienced in both income taxes and have been a payroll professional in MA for years.

        The office should absolutely have withheld taxes – which you know. Even when someone quits or is fired and a physical check needs to be written ASAP, nearly every payroll company has a way to calculate the taxes to withhold and report them afterwards, and this employer skipped that step. They *should* send him a 1099 next January for the wages, however they probably will not based on what type of mess this place sounds like, and that they may not have collected his SSN yet, AND because he did not meet the requirements to be paid as an independent contractor anyway (if they had continued paying him as a 1099 vendor doing office work with a regular schedule, they would be in the wrong).

        He is obligated to report the income on his 2023 taxes, whether or not they ever send a 1099, so don’t worry about getting it. I’m glad he was at least paid and promptly – this sounds like a terrible experience.

        It is also unlikely that this office has been doing what they’re supposed to in terms of paying UI insurance and reporting wages appropriately. If he files for unemployment (he should talk to someone in that office about his situation and they can direct him), the employer would need to approve and submit information, so heads up that this could be a pain. Documentation is important. Good luck to you and I hope he finds something much better!

        1. JDT*

          Also forgot to mention just for the heck of it – that employer owes their share of the medicare and social security taxes and they could get busted if they don’t pay. Not sure if anyone actually does get caught for this unless they’re large-scale avoiding reporting wages, but it’s a fact that they are dodging their own taxes here as well as sticking employees with an obnoxious situation.

      3. Cj*

        You are no doubt going to have to get them to correct what they paid him to indicate that he was employee and not a contractor.

        If he quit his prior job to take this one, he won’t be eligible for unemployment since he quit. And since his most recent employer paid him as a contractor and therefore won’t be reporting his wages to unemployment as required, he won’t be eligible, at least not in my state or in any state which which I am familiar.

        In my state, the employers unemployment rate doesn’t go up if the former employee receiving it isn’t collecting unemployment based on wages received from that employer. Unemployment is based on the first four of the last five completed quarters in my state, so the employer at the job he just lost would not have their rate go up. So that shouldn’t be a concern for them if it works like it does here in Minnesota.

        It sounds like their just being really lazy about payroll and not wanting to pay employment taxes on 32 hours. But that’s their problem since it’s required. And if they’re doing this kind of thing, I wonder how much other hinky stuff is going on there.

    4. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

      just want to add a bit here – i did do a cursory look through the MA UI website, and it appears he’s eligible, but was wondering if anyone could expand if they had their own experience on something similar.

    5. Empress Matilda*

      Ooh, that’s an entire parade of red flags! Overall, I would say they did your husband a favour, although I understand it’s probably hard to see that at the moment.

      Was your husband working elsewhere before he took this job? Check if the minimum earnings applies over multiple jobs – ie, if he earned $2800 at this job and $3000 at his previous job, does that make him eligible? (I would assume yes, but I am very definitely not a lawyer!)

      Also, there *may* be an argument for damages if he left his previous job, or turned down another offer, in favour of this one. That depends on a whole lot of things that I’m not aware of obviously, but I do think it’s worth talking to an employment lawyer. Sometimes you can get a half-hour consultation for free or at a reduced cost; or if you have an EAP through your work they may offer legal assistance as well. There may not be anything you can do, but it’s worth asking the question at least. Good luck!

      1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

        In retrospect, I agree with you! I think the worst part is that his self-esteem has taken a hit. He’s a good worker, and he cares about his job a lot!
        He actually had left the job before this one in December because of their treatment of patients – he didn’t want his name on the line when his patients were coming back unhappy. We’re in a unique position that I can support both of us with my job, which gives him some leeway to find a better fit.

        Thank you, I hadn’t considered EAP – I’m sure we must have one since I work for a state university. I’ll look into that!

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I think the worst part is that his self-esteem has taken a hit. He’s a good worker, and he cares about his job a lot!

          I know feelings are feelings and don’t go away with logic alone, but it’s worth reminding him that this firing has nothing to do with him being a good or bad worker. No one at the office has been there longer than six months! The doctor fired him because of “a feeling!” This firing was very much about who the doctor is, and not at all about who your husband is.

          I hope he finds a good, stable job soon!

          1. Observer*

            This x 1,000

            If you need anything else – the Office Manager THANKED him for sticking around for 3 days. Which means that she knows that this place chews people up and spits them out.

    6. Aitch Arr*

      Whoa.

      Yes, he should file for UI. The state will go back to the employers over the last X quarters (I forget how many, it’s been a while).

      I’d also possibly consult with an attorney about the fact that no taxes were taken out. Were they employing him as a 1099 contractor? If so he’ll need to make a tax payment.

      1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

        He has an unfiled w4 in his folio – he was going to fill it out and submit it this weekend but they let him go before he could. I think you get 14 days or something like that to file as a new employee (I can’t remember; it’s been a few years since I was a new employee and it was overwhelming) so it’s not odd that he hasn’t filed. But definitely not a contractor!

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Consult with a lawyer and spend some of this check on their fee if it’ll make you feel better, but really your husband doesn’t appear to have any exposure to legal liability here, based on what you’ve posted. He should report it on his taxes next year, that’s all. Unless he’s regularly making 1099 income (self-employed, side hustle, etc.), he shouldn’t have to pre-pay taxes on this check.

          What the employer does or doesn’t do with that W-4 won’t matter at all for your husband, seriously.

          1. Been There (but not actually, this time)*

            good to know, thank you :) the IRS and Taxes make me nervous so this has been really helpful.

          2. Cj*

            It won’t for income taxes, other than having him have to pay the 7.65% of social security and medical care taxes that the employer should have paid.

            However, if he doesn’t get the records corrected to show that he was employee instead of a contractor, he wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment in my state. You have to be let go from W-2 job to be eligible. The only time contractors and other self-employed people were eligible was when the rules were changed for covid.

    7. Tess SPHR*

      Question – did they ask him for I9 documents or to complete an I9? Or complete any tax forms? As a CHRO the 4 day thing is making me question if they are in trouble with the state and avoiding paper trails.

  6. Dovasary Balitang*

    How do I get my boss to stop touching me? They’re innocuous enough touches, nothing that would really merit a conversation with HR, but I still don’t like it. I think I unconsciously shifted slightly away from her one time mid-touch and she said something like, “oh, that’s just how I am.” The touching has not stopped. Any advice on how to have this conversation as politely and matter-of-factly as possible would be great.

    1. londonedit*

      I’d try ‘Would you please stop touching me? It makes me uncomfortable’. If she does the whole ‘Oh, that’s just how I am’ thing (which, frankly, is horrible) then go with ‘That’s as may be; it still makes me uncomfortable, so I’d appreciate it if you’d stop’. And if she still doesn’t stop, definitely go to a higher-up boss or to HR.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        And she gets one time saying “please,” any other time is just “I need you to stop touching me.”

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          This. I probably wouldn’t even say Please a second time since this was said before with no change in behavior.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            Just re-read this again: I thought OP had already tried it once, but apparently hasn’t used this phrasing before. Yes, you’re right that the “Please stop touching me,” thing should only need to be said once.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I honestly do not know why ppl say to tell the person, “it makes me uncomfortable.”?

        Half the time I think that is the goal, to make the person uncomfortable.

        Why not just say, please stop touching me. If they say it is no big deal, that is the way I am. You can reply, I’m glad it is not a big deal, that should make it easier for you to stop.

        Some variation on, I’m very serious, please stop touching me. And then go to HR.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I agree that it should be enough just to say “Stop touching me” without anything else, and hopefully that will work. But I also think there’s power in naming the behavior and calling specific attention to its effects. If it’s called out specifically and they still continue after that, the next move is “Why are you still doing this when I told you it makes me uncomfortable?” Puts it back on them to defend themselves or admit they don’t care, which is more information to bring to HR.

          1. Chilipepper Attitude*

            Is discomfort the right measure tho? Everyone uses it so I guess so. But if I said, stop correcting my mistakes at work, it makes me uncomfortable, well, I’m sorry, but it is my job to correct your mistakes. Your discomfort does not matter.

            I feel like saying you should stop it because I am uncomfortable being touched (or otherwise harassed) puts the focus on the discomfort instead of on stopping the behavior. Like we could now have a convo about whether or not I should be uncomfortable. Like in the work scenario, my boss needs to keep the focus on my mistakes, not my discomfort.

      3. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        Yes, you start with nice and escalate if needed (physically move or step back when you say I need to to stop touching me). If this doesn’t work, seek HR and report. No on should have to continue to put up with this if you’ve clearly told them to stop.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Shoot. I don’t like to give this advice but make it a big “me problem” I think. Move away or even flinch and then say, “Oh whoops, I have a weird thing where I don’t like to be touched. Thanks for understanding.” Unless this makes you feel crappy, in which is totally fine to be more assertive and set a firmer boundary – I just think this advice is the most effective when you’re looking to defuse conflict and don’t suspect the other person of like, malicious ill-will.

      1. Yorick*

        Yes, if you feel uncomfortable saying anything, you can make it a “me thing” and act as though she’d be doing you a favor. This isn’t necessary, but it can make you actually feel like it’s ok to say!

      2. Cj*

        I don’t think I would say that “I have a weird thing about being touched” (because it’s not weird, it’s extremely normal), but when they say that’s just how I am, I would counter with “I don’t like to be touched, and that’s just how ‘I’ am”.

    3. Rage*

      My guess is you have not actually spoken up and said, “Please do not touch me.” I would suggest you do that first. You shifted away and she clearly dismissed your obvious discomfort, but I would speak up the next time. You don’t have to be rude or mean or loud about it, just a quick “Hey, I really don’t like physical contact. I would appreciate it if you did not touch me anymore.” If she says, “Well, it’s just how I am” you can say, “Well, it’s just how I am too. I do not want to be touched.”

      After that, if it continues, then you can certainly escalate it. But you probably do need to actually verbalize it first – and who knows, it might actually get through to her.

      1. Observer*

        I agree that it’s probably a good idea for the OP to say something. But, I *totally* disagree that they actually “need” to verbalize it. People shouldn’t be touching people at work in any case. But here the OP clearly is uncomfortable – their reaction was stark enough that the boss explicitly responded to it! No one “needs” to explicitly ask someone to stop doing something that they have already clearly expressed their discomfort with AND that functional adults should know better than to do.

        Some people are stupid about this stuff, which is still bad. But the boss here is not being just stupid. They are explicitly ignoring the OP’s discomfort. At this point the fact that the OP hasn’t said anything is no excuse.

        1. Rage*

          No, true, they shouldn’t HAVE to. But HR is probably going to ask OP “So have you actually TOLD her to not touch you?” It’s just making sure all of your bases are covered before you escalate.

    4. KB*

      Her response is not appropriate or acceptable. The next time it occurs explain to her that although it may be the way she usually interacts with people, it makes you uncomfortable and you would appreciate it if she refrained from touching you. If that request is ignored then it’s time for HR.

    5. Let me librarian that for you*

      Seconding others’ advice above and adding if those don’t work or don’t work consistently, “No, thank you!” Accompanied by stepping away and putting your hands up, palms out.

    6. Qwerty*

      “I prefer not to be touched”.

      First time – say it warmly to balance the directness of the words. Like if you are telling someone that you prefer to go by Liz when they call you Elizabeth. If you sound relaxed, the message goes over smoother because it doesn’t trigger that “oh no, I screwed up, wait, justify my actions!” thought spiral that a lot of people have

      Second time – neutral and direct tone. It’s going to sound cold if you go anything beyond neutral, but you don’t need to do anything to warm it up this time. By this point she knows she’s crossing a boundary for you.

      She probably respond with something awkward in the moment like the “oh, that’s just how I am” from before, your response can be something like “still, I prefer not to be touched. I appreciate you respecting that”. Maybe practice it to finesse the words first. Basically, the non-touchy desire trumps the touchy-habit. Acting like Of Course she’s going to stop touching you now that she knows your boundary makes it more likely that she’ll stop.

      If it doesn’t stop and you have a decent HR that’s integrated with the rest of the office, you can try talking to them not to make a report but to ask for advice. “Hey, I don’t like people touching me and my manager is touchy type of person. It’s innocent social touches but it make me uncomfortable. Can you help me navigate this? Here’s what I’ve tried…” A good HR person is going to see the potential for this get worse and can coach you. But more importantly, they will probably say something to your manager unofficially too because they won’t like where this is going. It might be direct or it could be a sudden “training” for a group of managers with reminders like “don’t touch employees”

      1. Observer*

        Hey, I don’t like people touching me and my manager is touchy type of person. It’s innocent social touches but it make me uncomfortable.

        The problem with that script is that it gives HR an out for dealing with a sensitive and difficult subject. And it is NOT “innocent”. In general, I would tend to be a bit skeptical. But the second the OP made it obvious that they don’t like it and their boss dismissed it, it stopped being possible to call it innocent.

        That’s true even if it’s not sexual.

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          I don’t think it “gives HR an out” to say that the touches are not sexual. I think that is an important clarifying question any competent HR person would immediately ask anyway.

        2. allathian*

          I agree that it’s probably not sexual. But it definitely *is* a power move, and needs to be stopped.

    7. RagingADHD*

      Well, if you ask her directly and politely to stop, and she refuses or keeps doing it, it certainly does merit a talk with HR right away.

      Not because you’re trying to “get her in trouble,” but to CYA. Because someone who is that invested in being touchy feely is going to interpret your boundary as a personal rejection, and worst case scenario could start attributing soft-skill problems to you, like being “not a good fit” or “unapproachable” or “uncooperative.”

      I’m not even talking about conscious retaliation. I mean that managers with sloppy personal /professional boundaries can also be sloppy about keeping their personal feelings out of their perception of your work and their management decisions.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yup, unwanted touching definitely merits a chat with HR. Though I would also assume they’ll want to know you’ve made it clear you don’t want to be touched. (Which is… interesting… since I think the default should really be not touching people).

    8. Samwise*

      Say, very clearly, Please stop touching me, it makes me uncomfortable.

      If that solves it, ok, but make a record for yourself of as much up to this point as you can remember.

      If it doesn’t solve it, it does NOT matter if they are “innocuous” touches. They’re not innocuous. Your boss is TOUCHING you, even after being told not to. It’s creepy, wrong, inappropriate.

      Document it.

      Take it to HR. This **IS** an HR matter if your boss does not stop. (Or if they stop and then restart, even “accidentally” or “sorry, I forgot, it’s how I am” — NO. Take it to HR and do not tell your boss you’re doing so.)

      This really makes me incredibly angry. You do NOT have to worry about your boss’s feelings or trying to get them to taper off or whatever. It is so wrong. It needs to stop yesterday. Arrrrghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Observer*

        Yes.

        To all of it, including the anger. Because no one should ever need to deal with this as the price of keeping their job!

    9. Data/Lore*

      Before being promoted to remote I worked on site with quite a few folks who are “touchers”- hand on shoulder, upper back, nothing creepy but I am not big on casual touches outside of family and VERY close friends. Coworkers are not on that list. You want to be very clear: “I don’t like being touched/prefer to maintain a physical distance/have a big space bubble.”. End of statement and move away- noticeably away. It was pretty obvious when my space was invaded and I moved back almost two feet. I could be funny about it with some coworkers, but others it was just a very obvious step back and carry on.

      If that is not respected, HR. “That’s just how I am” is a way of saying “I don’t care to respect your established boundaries”, and you can’t do that in the workplace, especially with someone who reports to you.

    10. no touchy*

      I would recommend just saying, “Not a toucher, thank you” or “Please don’t touch me” or “No thank you” + a physical dodge. If after a polite request, it doesn’t stop, it really is something that is worth going to HR. It is NOT innocuous to continue touching someone who’s expressed discomfort with being touched. Why should you have to accept that “it’s just how [she] is” if she’s not accepting that discomfort with touch is “just how you are”? It harms literally no one to keep your hands to yourself in the workplace.
      I’ve also had this happen and unfortunately not spoken up at the time, but give how frequent it is for people to not want to be touched + not feel comfortable speaking up, I really think people should just . . . not touch their colleagues unless it’s someone they’re independently friends with and they know for certain the person would be comfortable speaking up if they didn’t want to be touched.

    11. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I can’t remember if I saw it here or on Captain Awkward. One option is to gasp or give a strong startle response every time she touches you. I mean, you can’t control your reaction when you’re surprised, right? This may make it too awkward for the boss to persist in touching you.

      Sucks that you have to deal with this. We teach – and expect! – children to keep their hands to themselves. Too bad that some adults apparently can’t manage to.

    12. J. Bearimy*

      I know a lot of commenters are telling you to be clearer with her, but I want to chime in that shifting away obviously enough that she noticed and said something to explain why she does it SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH for her to stop doing it. I’m sorry you’re going through that at work. You have a right to be more matter-of-fact about it than polite.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        YUP! The manager clearly saw that OP didn’t like it. Otherwise she wouldn’t have busted out the old “it’s just who I am” chestnut.

    13. Ellis Bell*

      I think as well as a big picture statement like: “I should have mentioned that I don’t like being touched; while you said that’s just how you are, please remember this is just how *I* am”, you might need to rinse and repeat in the moment if it’s habitual for her. It sounds like you are trying not to move or visibly react if you only shifted “unconsciously”. Just go ahead and move away more consciously and definitely if you want to! I assume she’s touching your arm, or something? Just take a big purposeful step back every time she touches you. Even if there’s people around it’s pretty innocuous to just say “Oh I just need some space for a minute, anyway as I was saying…” If that sounds too much you can just lean away from the touch, or move your arm away with an “excuse me” like she bumped you (but that might be a British thing where excuse me really means excuse you!) What is she going to do insists you get back there so she can touch you? Or you can recognise the gesture at the same time as correcting it: “Ah, you’re touching me, but I don’t do that remember?” Or “Oh please don’t, it’s a bit startling”. Just say it matter of factly.

    14. Stop touching me!*

      Good advice from the commentariat. I wanted to note that boss putting their hand on your shoulder or arm and pushing down juuuust a bit is a classic dominance power move. Because they’re the boss, and already feel in power, they truly might not realize they’ve doing it. Or they’re surprised when it’s unwelcome bc they’re, you know, in power. You see politicians do this. If you talk to HR it might help to frame it as, “Boss keeps unwanted touch. It feels like a power move and is unwanted.”

    15. Observer*

      They’re innocuous enough touches, nothing that would really merit a conversation with HR, but I still don’t like it.

      No, they are NOT innocuous. There is no reason for your boss to be touching you. You don’t like it and it’s clear that she *knows* this because she saw you shift and responded to that. That’s is NOT innocuous, and it DOES merit a conversation with HR, unless your HR is stupid and incompetent.

      If you want to try talking to her once, do NOT have a conversation with her. Because there is nothing- NOTHING! – to “discuss”. Simply tell her next time she goes to touch you “Please don’t do that.” When she says “Oh, that’s just how I am” respond with “Please don’t do that anyway.” And if (or when) she does it again, GO TO HR.

    16. JSPA*

      “I hear and understand that you touch people without meaning anything by it. I get that many people find a passing touch to be friendly and grounding. But touching is way, way too far within my comfort bubble. You’re a great boss and a kind person, so I’m sure you don’t intend to trigger a low-level panic response, but that’s the result. Can you set yourself a much stronger mental reminder that I’m on the ‘no touch’ list, or do I need to carry and deploy an actual physical barrer?”

      then,

      a) document each touch for your own files

      b) have a plastic folder or other fairly large but harmless object that you can place between you, until she gets the message that this is truly unwanted touch

      c) go to HR if she doesn’t retrain herself within a VERY brief period, once it’s been made entirely clear that this is an actual problem, not a difference in style, or a misunderstanding of intent.

  7. Squirrel Nut Zippers*

    Has anyone had success negotiating more PTO in a union contract for a local government job? If so, how? What arguments did your union use? Is it even an option for me to go directly to the town administrator to make a case for more PTO as a way to make us more appealing as an employer? Several employees will likely retire in the next five years and I’d like to approach it from an HR standpoint in order to ensure we can recruit and retain employees in the future. I’m unfamiliar with being in a union but I’m assuming that’s against the rules and everything needs to go through our union rep.

    Everything here seems to be very much stuck in the past, including the PTO policies. I’m struggling with only having 10 vacation days + 2 personal days for the next four years. While I know this is sadly generous in the US, I really hoped we could negotiate for more PTO with our new contract. Our union rep said any attempts to request additional time off for our union or others in the town were met with a simple “no” from the town’s management.

    I can’t help but wonder what the heck the union’s doing for us if we can’t even get a back-and-forth going about additional PTO. Of course, the problem is that once employees have been here 15+ years they get a generous 20-25 days. The union sees no problem with the current policy as it pertains to most of our union members, many of whom have been here for 10+ years. They don’t want to lose the ability to bargain for a 2.5% annual pay increase in exchange for pushing for additional PTO. My question is, why can’t they ask for both?

    1. darlingpants*

      Who’s on your bargaining team? I think you’re stuck with the policy until your contract is up for negotiation again, but at that point… you can ask management for whatever you want. Your ability to get it depends on how well organized you are, and how far your members are willing to push.

      1. Squirrel Nut Zippers*

        We’re currently in the process of negotiating our new contract. We don’t have a shop steward so one member of our union got reluctantly roped into the process. I’m eager to join in but after meeting with him and our union negotiator, it sounds as if the union rep is trying to dissuade us from asking for more PTO. We don’t have much leverage since we aren’t allowed to strike, so why would the town even agree to giving us anything they aren’t already prepared to offer? I just hoped there could be a dialog where we present our reason for wanting more PTO and, if the town still refuses, they would offer their justification.

        The situation feels kind of hopeless. I guess I thought our union rep would be on board with asking for more rather than just trying to get our small annual pay increases. Before I fully commit to being part of the negotiation, I wonder if my energy would be better spent on a job search.

    2. Spearmint*

      I can’t give you advice on your situation, but 12 PTO days is *not* generous even by US standards. If you have separate sick time, I’d say that’s on the lower end of normal, and if it’s combined PTO that’s starting to get stingy.

      1. Squirrel Nut Zippers*

        Sorry, I just meant vacation + personal = 12 days. We do get a semi-generous 9 sick days on top of that (which is way better than the 5 days most employers around here seem to offer). We did ask for 3 additional sick days with no other PTO increases and that got shot down by the town.

        1. JSPA*

          They may want to primarily be appealing to candidates who already live in town, and who are reasonably average, by way of there being jobs for…people who grew up in the area, and are reasonably average, and who will provide continuity by staying for 15+ years.

          That’s not necessarily wrong!

          If the job can be done adequately by someone average, there’s no reason to try to hire hot-shots who’ll come in, try to change what can’t be changed, then leave for greener pastures. And in local government, knowing the local lines of power from having grown up there, has value. (It also means that problematic people and attitudes can remain entrenched; that’s the bad part. But there’s legitimate value to knowing your public intimately, and being recognized as one of them.)

    3. Governmint Condition*

      If your union has a negotiating team, only they can really make this case to the town. If they don’t want to, and enough of your co-workers agree with you, your union’s leadership can be replaced at the next union election. However, if your coworkers are satisfied with what you have, there’s not much you can do.

      It’s one of the disadvantages of a union – you’re pretty much stuck with whatever the majority of your coworkers want.

      1. to varying degrees*

        This right here. I used to work for local government on the admiration/elected officials side and the only one’s municipality will be able to negotiate with are the official union reps. You may be able to sit in on the negotiations as an observer (you can here) but that’s about it. Your best bet is to work through the actual union to see if there are grounds to replace/join the negotiation team (but that’ll be iffy).

        1. JSPA*

          A friend or family member could probably speak up at open sessions of your city or county council meeting, but if it’s family, they’d possibly have to disclose the connection (I’m not sure at what point it becomes a “vested interest”).

    4. Llama Llama*

      I have no experience with bargaining but maybe it’s because I have always been with companies who offered more, but 10 days is not good even for US. Don’t let companies make you believe otherwise.

    5. billiards15*

      The Union can ask for anything, but there is a dollar value attached to most items. Typically management has an idea of the total compensation package. If you increase benefits, it most likely means less of a wage increase. The same can be true for vacation time.

      The one way to approach it is when someone is off, do they need coverage. If so, they are paying double for that position when someone is on vacation. If this is the case, it can be challenging.

      It’s different if someone is off and no one technically fills in. The work gets done by others, but it’s more of a case of lost productivity instead of additional costs. If you are in a service based industry it’s harder to attach a dollar value to this.

      The issue we found with negotiating vacation time is we had a lot of members carry over. Whenever we said we needed more time, management would pull out the numbers showing how many people didn’t use all their vacation in any one year. It was a lot. Their response was always how can you justify more vacation time when a large percentage of members aren’t using the time they currently have. That’s a whole other issue of people not using vacation time.

      As noted in a another comment, it will only be looked at during the next round of bargaining.

    6. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Speaking as a government auditor…. you are approaching this from a very reasonable stand point and failing to recognize that the background here is likely not reasonable. You can’t logic someone out of a position that they emotioned themselves into – same concept.

      As far as priorities of what to ask for, union negotiations with a government entity can be extremely complex, and there’s a lot of things that determine what’s possible. Given the complexity of parties involved, your issue could be the union, the town, the shop, or any combo of the three. It could be petty stuff, there could be valid concerns, or anything in between. Maybe the union rep is bitter because they don’t get better PTO and don’t want you to either. Maybe the town major hates the union rep. Maybe the board/council is made up of crusty old folks who don’t think anyone deserves time off ever because they never had time off. Maybe the town doesn’t have the money to give more PTO.

      However, you are stuck with whatever your contract says. There’s good and bad about unions, and this is the downside. If you don’t like it, you have 3 options: get the contract changed, live with it, or find a new job. Good luck.

      1. Squirrel Nut Zippers*

        Thanks for the insider insight. You pretty much echoed everything I already suspected. We’re in the process of negotiating our contract now, which is why I was hopeful for change. I’m guessing for any number of the reasons you listed that it won’t happen. It’s especially disheartening since the town just hired a new employee not in a union position who starts with 15 vaca days + 3 personal. He didn’t even have to negotiate for that; it was what they offered from the get-go. I really hoped we could use that as an argument for a PTO shift for us all.

        I guess I fail to see how giving additional PTO costs the town anything extra. No one covers when we’re out, we’re not producing widgets where our revenue would drop as a result of less production, and none of the town’s income is affected when any of us goes out. We’re in behind-the-scenes positions. We just work extra hard before and after leave to prep and play catchup. I suspect it really comes down to “this is how it’s always been done and I worked my way up through the system so you should too.” Guess it’s time to job search again as I was holding out to see what our new contract negotiations would bring.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          They’re paying you even when you’re on PTO. Even if you’re correct about the lack of impact of you being out, there can still be a perception that they’re paying you to go on vacation.

          Change can happen. In a government, when change happens, there’s often a reason and that reason is generally disruptive. In my clients, the ones who have had major changes are also the ones that I really wouldn’t want to work for because of WHY that change happened.

        2. to varying degrees*

          Hmm, that’s surprising that they hired one new employee under different PTO rates than everyone else. Are you sure they didn’t negotiate that? In my experience, most government entities, even small ones have a flat policy for employee leave applicable across the board for all, unless an individual negotiates something extra or they are under a contract as opposed just being a hired employee. Because of this our three unions have “me too” clauses so they always match what non-union employees get if there is a change in policy.

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            The new employee isn’t in the union. Different rules apply. Negotiation is very much a possibility when you’re not covered by the union contract.

          2. Squirrel Nut Zippers*

            Nope, no negotiation needed. I’m in charge of tracking PTO and he was very confused when I told him he had the standard 10 days of vacation and 2 personal days. He said he didn’t negotiate anything but that they offered him more than that. He wasn’t aware the rest of us only got 10 vacation and 2 personal.

    7. Jaydee*

      As a former union bargaining team member, they absolutely can ask for both. And they probably do. But then in the course of negotiations they have to give some things up to get other things. And if current employees are already receiving the max PTO and are happy with that amount of time off, they probably prioritize salary increases and/or maintaining healthcare benefits over increases to the PTO.

      I think it’s absolutely worth talking to your union rep to explain that those priorities are likely to change as employees retire and new employees are hired.

      But also keep in mind the union is always going to focus on what is good for current employees and not on what makes it easier for the employer to hire people. Those things are often going to overlap, but not always. And sometimes from the union’s perspective it makes sense to wait and let those things be management’s idea. The union isn’t going to *oppose* more PTO for new employees. But if management proposes to increase PTO for newer employees, the union can then negotiate to *also* get something that benefits longer-tenured employees or all employees resulting in even more benefit to the employees overall.

    8. Not a union rep*

      Good question. I can wait to get out of the union. They literally made me take a pay cut, my new manager was happy to maintain my wage, the union wasn’t. The union rep said that I should be happy to be unionized because they protect workers from getting walked off even though all the unvaccinated people were fired…

      1. JSPA*

        A hot economy isn’t where you feel the benefit of being unionized. And you were at least marginally more protected from Covid (depending, of course, on your outside-of-work behavior and contacts) by the unvaccinated people being fired (presumably after being given multiple chances to get vaccinated).

  8. Bit o' Brit*

    Does anyone have any tips on recovering from burnout without quitting your job? I have two weeks of leave booked for the end of Feb for a break, but I’m concerned that won’t be enough.

    Below is just backstory.

    For the last ~5 months I’ve been in the throes of an incredibly stressful once-in-a-decade work project, caught in the middle of my sibling’s wedding drama, my dog has had (more) health problems, and to top it off in December a close family member was diagnosed with (very treatable, caught early) cancer. I burned out hard.

    Now the cancer has been removed and confirmed not to have spread anywhere else, the wedding drama has settled, the dog is back to his normal level of health, and the work project is winding down, so I can maybe move past pure survival.

    This company is generally a very supportive, understanding place to work, and at this point I am fully institutionalised. If I can’t recover on the job here then I can’t work at all, and as the breadwinner for my household that isn’t an option.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Ugh I hate this. I have not found that two weeks of relaxing is enough to confront burnout. Maybe if you did something really radical, like, erm, went mountain climbing in the himalayas so that you were truly excited to return to your old quiet life at the end …? Can you add in some sick leave or FMLA at all and get to a month?

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      This is me too – I was actually about to start writing a “what advice do you all have for burnout for me?” column on this thread.

      First, I think that it’s wonderful that you have a couple of weeks off at the end of February, so your task is just to hang on for one month until you get some relief. I think once you get that time away, you’ll be in a different headspace and better able to come up with some strategies for what you need, how much you can take, etc.

      I guess — since I’ve been reading lots of articles on this (!), first things first. How is your…

      -sleep?
      -exercise?
      -nutrition?
      -relationships (like friendships, support network)
      -sources of fun, diversion, joy (like a daily Wordle or book club or knitting habit)

      Those always seem like great places to start unless you just can’t manage them. (The solution to burnout can’t really be more effort!).

      I think a whole lot of, “it’s okay I’m feeling this way. It makes sense given all I’ve been through,” is also really important.

      I can’t wait to see what others write!

    3. Onward*

      I feel you, Brit. I had a massive case of burnout earlier this year and I feel like I’m still not totally recovered. Time off helps (which you’re doing), and also just taking a huge step back from work duties (if you can). Even then, be gentle on yourself and remember that this takes time. I still keep thinking “I should be over this by now” but that isn’t helpful thinking, and I think just sets you back even more. Better to think “I’m recovering, and it will take as much time as it takes.”

      Also, a book I recommend on this topic is Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski. It talks a lot about the science of burnout and how stress, if not released, basically builds up in the body like a bunch of clutter in a house. To clean out the stress, you have to essentially counteract it by ‘closing the stress cycle.’ They give tips on how to do that and it’s not just like bubble baths and candles — you have to find some actual fun in order to release the stress. Not to say that candles and relaxation aren’t great – they are – but also find things to do that are kind of playful and make you laugh.

      Best of luck to you!

    4. by golly*

      no advice, just solidarity. One question to consider is whether you could add a week of mental health leave to the vacation you have planned. That would probably take a frank conversation with your supervisor, since sick leave is generally not intended to extend vacations, but in this case, might be well worth it. Use that week to deal with all of the life things that you haven’t gotten to in this stressful period.

      1. Ins mom*

        And make sure you are really unreachable for your two weeks- maybe use sick leave for a third week/ mental health days.

    5. Heremione Danger*

      I highly recommend “Fried. The Burnout Podcast.” It’s all about surviving / addressing burnout, and there was an episode last November about this very question.

    6. Qwerty*

      Are you able to be just an ok employee for a while? You said that it was a once-in-a-decade project, so I’m hoping yes. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your manager, so talk to her about how you are getting back to equilibrium after the hard project and stuff in your personal, so your plan to aim for “meets expectations” this year rather than “exceeds expectations” (or whatever the equivalent review jargon is).

      The two weeks off is a start. It won’t heal you completely. Burnout takes months to recover from, but I’ve almost always had to do while working. You need to take care of yourself for a while. Start with getting caught up on sleep. Getting your meals and exercise. Doing hobbies that fulfill you. Spending time with family/friends – the one who make you happy and don’t cause stress. Recovery is silent, you don’t notice it for a while. It kinda gets worse when you start healing because you’ve let go of the flight-or-fight response and adreneline isn’t helping combat the exhaustion.

      1. Ama*

        This. I am working my way out from burnout that started before the pandemic did (and only got worse after I wound up running my department alone for two years). The best thing you can do is cut yourself some slack at work — if you are the type to be the one who notices, say, something is off on a work project that isn’t actually your responsibility, maybe just let someone else pick up that slack. If you are involved in any voluntary projects or leading committees that don’t have to be led by you, see if you can take a step back.

        I was lucky in that I was also able to make the case to my work that my job responsibilities had grown to the point that my portfolio wasn’t manageable by one person any longer and I was able to hand off half of my projects to a new team (although I will note, that transition wasn’t super easy and brought its own stresses, but it has been worth it). But I now find myself on the “other side” of the circumstances that brought me to burn out and it has been *really* hard to get back to feeling like not working at full tilt all the time is okay.

        One thing I find has helped is keeping a running to do list I can check off as I complete items (I use OneNote for this but there are any number of programs ), it both helps with my burnout brain (I find my short-term memory is basically shot these days) and gives me something tangible to see that yes, I actually did get quite a bit done today/this week/this month even if I feel like I stared out the window a lot.

        1. Anonnyia*

          But if someone wrote with a question about how to be a transman or transwomen in the work place and I changed the tread to be about me that is not transgender that would also be derailing the tread.

      2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I’d encourage you to take as much pressure off the “vacation” to solve your problem as possible. Just do stuff and enjoy yourself, and spend some time to figure out how you’ll be cooling off the burnout going forward.

        Maybe it’s setting up a steady hobby date with a group or individual. Hiking or knitting or museum visits or whatever.
        Changing habits that have allowed work to drip into your home time. (Like arriving/leaving at your official time and taking actual lunch breaks, not checking email after hours. This might mean radical things like scheduling events after work so you can’t talk yourself into staying late.)
        Start something that is ongoing that builds your confidence outside of work. Like journaling for 10 minutes before getting out of bed, or crocheting a granny square every Wednesday, or joining a social media group where you can share experience/advice about something a few times a week. If you can get an accountability system or human involved, all the better. Changing habits is visible and can start to redefine your sense of self.

    7. Totally Minnie*

      Talk to your doctor about intermittent FMLA. There are FMLA plans that doctors can recommend for you that include things like shorter days or one day off per week. If your two weeks off isn’t enough for you to recover, it might help you to have a month or two of four day weeks that would allow you to rest more on a consistent basis.

    8. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Did you work significant overtime during the projects? We had a large project due with a short timeline last summer, and worked a ton of overtime (my grandboss worked together until sunrise more than once). I was tracking hours, and managed to negotiate three weeks of lieu time for recovery. I wonder if you could use the scale of the project to request some extra time?

      I see that you’re the breadwinner, but later on in the fall, I also took 2 weeks unpaid leave, and it helped so much. It might be worth asking for if you can afford it and they decline extra paid time off.

    9. Robin Ellacott*

      That’s a lot – no wonder you’re feeling it!

      I just listened to a How To podcast episode about burnout and they said burnout often comes from feeling helpless, so you often feel better from doing something that makes you feel more in control than from trying to force yourself to relax. YMMV as to what that means for you. So if work is feeling stressful, taking steps to feel in charge of your tasks/work might help. Or planning out some next steps.

      It sounds a bit counterintuitive so I found it interesting, because it does make sense in a way.

      Good luck! I hope the few weeks off are lovely.

      1. Ama*

        Oh that’s interesting, I commented above I found a to do list helpful for managing my burnout but I had no idea there was a real rationale behind it.

    10. incredible pear*

      I haven’t shaken burnout, but I have greatly reduced how much it’s affecting me. I actually just took a very needed 2-week break earlier this month, here’s what I focused on:

      – I got as close to 100% disconnected from work as possible. Didn’t check email, moved the slack app off the front page of my phone so I didn’t have to look at it, and only checked in ~3 times a week in moments where I was time-bounded, like waiting in line at a museum, with an easy distraction coming up so I didn’t get sucked in.

      – I structured my vaca days to indulge in any luxury work usually prevents. I set my alarms a little later than usual and let myself lie around in bed without doomscrolling work. I ate when I was hungry instead of when my lunch break would be. If the weather was nice and I found myself wistfully staring out the window, I’d immediately get up for a walk instead of waiting for a break in my current activity. The quicker you can shake your brain out of the “routine” of work and stress and responsibilities, the easier I find the rest of the steps.

      – I’m about as far from a “mindfullness and journaling” kind of person as you can get, but I did take the time to mentally call out when I was having a good time. My therapist would call it “embracing the joy”. Remind your brain that there’s good in the world. Pat yourself on the back for spending a while doing without watching the clock, or really lean into that full-body feeling of satisfaction when you finish that home reno project you’ve been putting off. I got a clay kit and slammed blocks of clay around for a couple hours and made an absolute mess, it was a blast. Something physical, that you can shape with your hands, works great here.

      – I also wrote down a very short list of things at the end of each day that I had done/experienced/enjoyed/hated. I’m talking 3-10 words a day max, just reminding myself that days were unique and that I had done fun things and had interesting experiences. For example, one day might be “finished 3 loads laundry + ate incredible pear” where a more glamorous day might have “visited aquarium – fat seal!!!”. It helps to look back and be able to pick days apart as distinct rather than one big, blobby blur of sitting on the couch.

      – reconnect with your support network as much as you can. I spent a lot of time with my partner, just doing little things together. We caught up with both our friend groups a few times, and went on excursions together. Our jobs often pull us apart, so it was nice to get to focus on each other and feel like we were supporting/there for each other.

      – having the vacation is amazing, but be sure to carry as much of that self-care back into work as possible. Stepping back makes it easier to see where you might be over-invested at work. I’m now trying to take actual lunch breaks instead of sitting hunched over my desk catching up on slack while I shovel food in. Sure it’s sometimes only 10mins, but it counts! See if there are any little changes you could make, you’ll be surprised how much it helps mentally.

      – also a shout-out here for eating in a way that’s kind to your body, and moving it gently every so often. Therapy helps too. Remember that you’re a big ol’ pile of electricity and soup and like any other animal in the zoo you need enrichment and a little kindness. Good luck!

    11. Dinwar*

      I can relate…At this point, I don’t consider what I’m experiencing burnout anymore; after a certain point I just accepted that this is how it is, and adjusted my baseline expectations. I DO NOT recommend that–I have never pretended to make good decisions for myself–just saying I can sympathize.

      A few things I’ve found help:
      –Go for a walk. I mean a long one. An hour if you can. Leave your phone behind if you can. This does a few things. First, it’s good exercise (an hour should be 2-3 miles, depending on walking speed). Second, fresh air helps. Many of us work in offices, and the air in offices can be more polluted than on remediation sites. Elevated CO2 concentrations can reduce cognitive function as well. Fresh air helps that. And third, it gives you time to think. You may not solve anything, but maybe you come up with a list of things that need solved, and tamed chaos is easier to handle. Or maybe you think about a TV show you like, or hobbies. I’ve spent more than a few walks pondering the function of adjective placement in language. Just something different, you know? Finally, no one’s going to bother you. It’s time carved out of your schedule to just BE, something that’s sorely lacking in today’s world.

      –Make time for hobbies. Doesn’t matter what they are (as long as they’re not actively unhealthy). I know folks who play video games an hour every night, to give themselves that brain break. Others read. Some practice a musical instrument. My son plays chess in the evenings. Importantly this is NOT a side hustle; the intent is to do something just to relax.

      –Delegate what you can. Obviously your workload is too much for one person to handle–if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t burn out. Figure out what can be passed off to others, and figure out who you can pass it off to. This may create a period of increased workload as you train the new folks in how to do things, but once you get over that hump it makes life easier. The goal is to establish systems that allow the work to get done without driving anyone over the edge.

    12. Person*

      I went through a bit of a burn out period a while ago and while time off will help immensely, it wasn’t enough on its own. For me what has been helpful is completely disconnecting from work when I’m not at work ie weekends, after 5, holidays etc. This means no checking email, no answering IMs, no thinking through work problems, etc. I had to give myself more mental time away because actual time off isn’t enough if you’re still mentally at work. Another thing that helped was to spend some time thinking about what kind of activities outside of work actually made me feel more mentally recovered. Like a lot of times, I’d come home and all I’d want to do was sit down and watch tv, and while sometimes that can be good, I think overall for me personally, at the end of that, I might feel slightly better, but it was almost like I was too mentally unengaged to really appreciate the relaxation. Kind of like the time went by and had already passed before my brain caught up and I had a chance to appreciate or enjoy it. I found that things like working out, reading, hanging out with my spouse, etc tended to make me feel better mentally. But this likely is different for you and you probably will find that different activities will make you feel better than others.

    13. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      As others have said, can you arrange to have a fairly light workload for a while as a way to balance out the intensity of the ~5-month project? Can you have more time to accomplish things? Have fewer urgent requests to deal with? Cut down on the tasks you hate to do for a while? Give you relatively simpler work for a bit? Heck, is there any possibility of doing 4 days a week for a while without making those 4 days any longer, even if it requires a pay cut?

      Rest is so important. If you have the energy, try to do things that bring you joy. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. The first time I got super burned out, I did basically nothing for like 3 months and I regret nothing.

    14. There You Are*

      My mentor at work, a woman who has risen to stratospheric ranks, helped me last year when I had setback after trauma after heartache after massive loss. She has always been an “Extra Type A” person but, when she had her first (and later, second) child, she said that she absolutely just phoned it in during their first year of life.

      She’d been such a great employee that “coasting” by merely getting the bare minimum done for a year was more than acceptable to her then-employer.

      Beyond giving yourself the gift of temporary mediocrity, what about short-term FMLA leave? I know my doc would sign off on whatever paperwork was needed if I told him I was so burned out that I needed, say, a month-long break.

    15. Zweisatz*

      Literally doing as little and going as slowly as possible. And seeing about whatever I can hand off that doesn’t need to be handled by me.

      My go to phrase (for myself, not in front of colleagues) became “that’s none of my concern”.
      I’m a fixer when it comes to seeing problems around me or somebody asking a quick question or just seeing a situation that looks like it is about to become a problem – and I’ve mostly trained myself out of jumping in when it is not a clear part of my job.

      Also if you’re very responsive it can be in your own interest to give it a few beats/hours/whatever is appropriate in your job before you respond to requests.
      It ensures you won’t always be the first option people try when there are more appropriate ways to solve an issue (same as “I do not know off the top of my hat. What does the manual/website/documentation say?”)

      1. Zweisatz*

        As for the non-work side my best advise is to truly rest. When you have a moment to yourself during the day, do not play on your phone, do not start a quick load of laundry, don’t listen to a podcast: lie/sit down (whatever is comfortable), make sure you’re warm enough, close your eyes and take the 5/10/20 minutes you have to literally do nothing, ideally not even using your muscles to keep yourself upright.
        If you find that sort of thing relaxing, you can meditate instead, but I’m more of a do nothing person.

        I made the distinction about activities because reading or listening to something is still low-level activity, which is distinct from rest. Low-level activity has less potential to recharge your battery.

        Taking a walk can be useful too, if you’re not tempted to combine it with 5 errands and you actually have a nice environment. However if you’re at the level of physical exhaustion, I would start with the above for a few weeks.

    16. JSPA*

      Sometimes 2 weeks does the trick, unexpectedly, at least when the sources of stress have been removed, and you just need to hit the biological “reset” button. Prioritize sleep and no screens in the evening, and daylight all day (whether or not there’s sun). If that doesn’t do the trick, you can look into a couple of weeks of paid sick leave (for mental stress) or unpaid FMLA leave*; but first, give your body a chance to breathe out, and notice (on a biochemical level) that so many of the crises have passed.

      I’ve found that I decompress in stages, and that I get anxious about work building up in my absence, such that two x 2 weeks can be more beneficial (and easier on the re-entry) than 4 weeks all at once. Or even, 2 weeks off, followed by three months with a half-day off on Wednesdays.

      Part of being burnt out is being more susceptible to catastrophizing and to all-or-none thinking. It can help to make a conscious effort to realize that you don’t have to be anywhere near 100% healed and energetic at the 2 week mark. All you need is to be feeling closer to coping, and more able to plan the next steps in your recovery. And two weeks will almost certainly find you in that more coping, closer-to-functional state of mind.

      *Many companies, even if they’re too small to be required to offer FMLA, still allow it; only you know if you have decent backup for a couple of weeks unpaid.

  9. Onward*

    For people who have switched career fields — how does that work? How did you choose what industry you wanted to go into? Was it really difficult? Did you need to go back to school or have to take a massive pay cut/start at the bottom? I hear about people switching industries part-way through their careers all the time and using “transferrable” skills, but it seems like everywhere I look every job is in some way niche and requires special training or experience.

    1. urguncle*

      I think it’s going to depend on how close your fields are and how accommodating the target field is. I see a lot of ease of movement in and out of education, for example, because you can definitely teach the skills that you used to work in, or you move out of education into a training role.

      For awhile, I was considering going back to school for a completely different career, but I knew that in that industry I would have to start from nothing, and I wasn’t really willing to do that when it would mean putting off important life milestones outside of my career. Instead, I decided to figure out what was adjacent enough that I could market my skills in my old line of work with the target line of work to avoid taking the pay cut, while bringing a new perspective to the work.

    2. Marz*

      I feel this; I feel like I can’t even get a niche job in my niche field with 10+ years of experience for entry-ish level jobs that would be a pay cut from a job I took so I could move (that isn’t a good fit) that was already a pay cut from my job that I was in for ten years since the start of my career.

      So I’m thinking about changing fields, because I think that is part of the problem (non-profit-y field that attracts people due to mission), but I feel a bit discouraged from my search so far, and don’t have an idea of where to start with a different field, or a lot of confidence in my transferable skills, much less my less-than-polished interview skills. Daunted by the idea of picking a field and starting training/paying to do it. I don’t dislike my field, I just want to have options! So, how did people pick their “second career” field?

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I just wanted to say to you, and everyone else is thinking about this, don’t go back to school, unless you absolutely have to! How many people have you known who went back to school, trained for a whole new career, and still didn’t get a job in the field? I’ve known several.
        I think the best approach is to look for a way to use your current skills and experience in a job/field you will like better. If you need a specific certificate or training course, get that. If you need specific experience, find a relatively fast and easy way to get that.
        I wanted to switch from being an analyst to working more with people. I got nowhere applying for mid-level administrative positions, so I worked for seven months in a grocery store deli to get customer service experience. After about five months I started getting interviews, and started at The type of job I wanted almost a year ago.
        Don’t automatically go back to school and the trouble and expense of getting a whole new degree! Look for a more straightforward way to get where you want to go.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve switched careers a couple of times. One time it was very difficult, and one time it was relatively easy.

      When I made my first pivot, I was honestly just trying to leave my profession (the only profession I’d ever had), so I was applying for all sorts of random stuff that I wasn’t even remotely qualified for (on paper, at least). The job I ended up getting eventually I also wasn’t on-paper qualified for, but they paid so little that no one actually on-paper qualified would ever take it.

      The second time I made a career change, I ended up being the de facto tech support for a certain part of the building, and the IT director lobbied for me to be hired, so I basically had an unofficial unpaid internship.

    4. DivergentStitches*

      I was a recruiter and worked my way into a benefits data career. I lucked into the first job, they just happened to need a person who was analytical and needed them yesterday. But when I wanted to work closer towards an official data analytics title, I took a Google Data Analytics Certificate, and I think that helped.

    5. Heremione Danger*

      I took an online aptitude test that said I would excel in two careers I’d never heard of before. I researched both of them, picked the one that I thought I’d enjoy more. The great thing is, all the work I did researching the other one has also served me well in this new role.

      I did have to go back to school for a certification. I found a fully online program that took 10 months of evenings and weekends while I worked days. By the time I had my certificate, I already had a new job in that new role. Now? I’m 5 years in and working toward becoming an industry expert.

      Yes, I had to start from the “bottom,” but it’s a skilled knowledge worker role and I had a lot of prior experience in what I do now only in a non-tech field. So even with my first role, I was making a living wage.

      Transferrable skills: Writing, strategy, strong soft skills
      I’ve even been told I’ve shifted company approaches to hiring for that entry level role from people just out of school to career-changers, because everything in our background makes us better at this than someone brand new is expected to be.

      1. Squeebird*

        Super curious as to what the field you moved into was; I’m also looking to make a shift and my skills are in the same vein.

    6. Hen in a Windstorm*

      My husband is a chemist and is switching to regulatory affairs. It is common for this to happen. Most regulatory affairs roles only require some type of science degree and an understanding of say, FDA regulations or Good Manufacturing Practice. There is a lot of overlap in the skills, so no extra training is required.

      But for instance, he wouldn’t apply to ones that required experience running human clinical trials because he never did that. Or ones in the regulation of utilities, because that’s a different field entirely.

    7. Strider (I wish)*

      My partner and I are both right in the middle of this effort. We are researching a lot, mainly online and by talking to people who work in the fields we’re looking at. I’ve been researching for about a year, my partner about half a year. Neither of us have the The Thing yet!
      Cost-of-school is a factor, and suitability-to-the-job-and-lifestyle is…all kinds of factors.

      But I guess I’m proud we’re doing our due diligence and not just dreaming about switching.

      I know you asked to hear from people who have succeeded, but I thought it couldn’t harm to send some mid-effort solidarity your way….

    8. The Real Fran Fine*

      I’ve switched careers a few times and have never taken a pay cut (thankfully) – I have, however, moved laterally and when I did that, only received about a $2k increase from what I had been making in the old industry.

      The first couple of times I pivoted industries/careers, I didn’t do any extra schooling. I really just played up the transferable skills I had in project management, writing, editing, and customer service (apparently, my conflict resolution and de-escalation skills are desperately needed in a lot of workplaces) – this allowed me to bounce around until I ended up in the career field I should have been in all along, but couldn’t break into right out of college thanks to the Great Recession.

      I will say that it took me awhile to find new jobs in new industries, though. Many of my job searches took months – one took a little over a year – but that ultimately ended up working out in my favor in the long run because I built up my resilience in some not-so-great to flat out toxic workplaces. Now, I’m very rarely rattled by anything that’s thrown my way.

      The last career switch I did was nearly two years ago, and this time, I did in fact manage it because I completed a course in technical writing where I created a fantastic portfolio of work that showed my proficiency as a writer/editor and a designer. That job switch was also a 13% increase over what I was making before, and nine months later, I was promoted with a 15% increase, which finally put me in the six figure salary range after 12 years of industry/field hopping.

      Basically, it can be done, but it can also be a slog to get through.

    9. Henry Division*

      I changed from publishing to audio engineering, and though they’re not really related fields, I was familiar enough with Adobe products to be able to more easily learn a new one (basically switched from InDesign to Audition).

      That being said, I did a LOT of free work to build up my portfolio and practice – far more than I should have. It wasn’t until I already had a lot of unpaid experience that I got paid work (working side jobs to make rent). Honestly – it wasn’t even the experience that got me real jobs, it was being in the right place at the right time and then being associated with people who knew people. But internship laws are much better in some places than they used to be – it’s possible you can find paid internship work, no matter what age you are. I cannot advocate for doing unpaid work, and in retrospect I’m really mad at myself for doing it for so long.

      Meanwhile, my partner is doing a lot of code training to pivot careers, but he has a lot more universally transferable skills – project and program management, customer service, so even with his at-home training, he’s likely going to find something related to his experience. I hope. I have to keep from stopping him every time he applies for a job that is underpaid . . . he’s very likely going to be underpaid when he starts out, but I know it’s more important to him to get a foot in the door.

    10. Anonymous IT-ish person*

      I’m in the middle of this right now. I was in IT roles before. I always liked security but never pursued it. Then I was assigned a few security-related tasks and I really like it.I started taking some coursework, and am now trying to transition in to a full cybersecurity role. I might have to take a pay cut, the entry-level jobs are all over the map. I’ve also done some content development so hoping I can find a training or technical writing type job at a security company so I can pivot with more of my existing skills. Good luck!

    11. Parakeet*

      I started in Field A, was a volunteer in Field B (a field generally found in nonprofits) for several years while working in Field A, and eventually switched to Field B (which was considerably lower-paying, but I realized I was never going to be better than okay at Field A and was burned out on it). Then I got a job in Field C, which is a combination of Fields A & B (which are very different and rarely combined, though IMO they should be combined more often), and pays less than Field A but more than Field B, and I’m a lot better at it than I was at either Field A or Field B. Turns out I’m very good at this unusual combination of fields where few people have even basic skills in both.

  10. Anon for this one*

    Is it ever OK to volunteer for a pay cut if it means keeping your job? I have been working at a small company for the past ~6 years, and really, really enjoy both my work and the company and its people (management and co-workers alike). I am mid-level (Director), and my job is pretty low stress, and I am paid fairly/decently (although I could perhaps make more at a larger company – but would also likely have more work/stress). But I worry that if it comes down to doing layoffs, I might be the first to go – as I am on the more expensive side relative to other employees, and realistically, they could probably get away with hiring someone more junior and dividing my tasks.

    Here is the thing – I don’t NEED to work, because I have a trust fund that I can more than easily live off of. If I lost my job I might have to cut back on some luxuries, and might have to put off home renovations I want to do, but I would be fine. But I LIKE my job and want to keep working…and would be willing to work for less if it meant keeping my job. Given that my relatively higher salary could be what gets me cut…is it OK to tell my employers I am willing to work for less? Does the equation change if me keeping my job means that someone else (who may need it more) loses their job?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I wonder – could you offer to go part time to spare costs? I hate to recommend you just voluntarily take a significant pay cut for the same amount of work, on principle. We’re not compensated by what we need.

      1. Anon for this one*

        I have thought of that (and honestly that would be ideal) but the role isn’t very conducive to that. I worry they would rather hire a “cheaper” person full time. But definitely something to think about.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      It might not be POSSIBLE to pay you significantly less in the same role. In my workplace, we have strict salary bands for each position, and we simply can’t offer someone a salary below that band for equity reasons: all people at that level must be compensated in an equitable fashion, though obviously work experience, time in the role, and performance can mean variations between people–but still within the band.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, I recognize this isn’t OP’s fault, but I’d be really weirded out if I was hired as a future Director in this org and then realized they were somehow able to pay a different employee like 30K under market, so that was either anchoring their paybands or what they had in mind for a position, or whatever.

      2. Anon for this one*

        It is a small company (10 full time employees) and not likely to grow significantly more than that anytime soon. But it could feasibly be bought out in the future by a larger company (that happened at my previous company, albeit the sale happened after I was long gone)

    3. WellRed*

      Please don’t do this. Don’t devalue the role. Don’t set a possible precedent for other current or future employees m. Honestly, reducing your salary isn’t likely to make a big difference anyhow.

    4. Alex*

      No, I don’t think it is OK, because it is setting the precedent for people to be paid according to what they “need” and not according to what they earn. Think about those who don’t have the option to take a pay cut–they suddenly become “more expensive” because they need a reasonable wage.

      Offering to go down to part time, as someone else said, might be a better choice, because you are offering less in return for less, and that is much more fair.

    5. Jessica*

      This might be an insane and terrible idea, but what if your organization received an anonymous donation in the amount of what you’d have been willing to take as a pay cut? It wouldn’t be connected to your role, but would it improve the financial situation so there would be no layoffs?

      1. Anon for this one*

        It is a for-profit business, so I think it would be pretty weird for it to receive a donation. But maybe that would work for a nonprofit?

        1. Polly Hedron*

          It sounds as if that might work for a nonprofit (and I wonder if such a donation could be earmarked “for staff salaries” or even “on condition that there are no layoffs for [x] amount of time”).

          In your for-profit case, could you use some of your trust-fund money, maybe anonymously, to buy something that would beef up those profits?

    6. Trebek*

      Similar to going part-time, what if they adjusted the scope of the role so that it paid less? If, as you mentioned, they could probably get away with re-distributing tasks and hiring someone more junior, could you just… take the more junior role? It wouldn’t devalue salaries because it would be a different less work for less money. And practically, it’d be more like an internal transfer for the company, which seems like it’d be a value-add anyways, since hiring someone new — even for a more junior role — can be expensive.

      1. Anon for this one*

        It is a small company, so I don’t think it would be quite as simple as just changing the scope – reality is, I would end up doing my old job anyway. When I said they could redistribute my work if they ended up having to let me go, they could, to some extent. But if I am still actually there…it would be weird I think (because it is not exactly delineated tasks). And to be honest, I like what I do/the scope of my job and don’t particularly want that to change. And not going to lie – and I know this is pride/ego talking – but I don’t want to take a demotion in title.

    7. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Don’t offer to work for less money.
      Many years ago I worked someone’s that was going through a slow period and we could choose to do voluntary layoffs on a rotating basis This would allow for them to not have to make permanent layoffs. Our state unemployment laws at the time would pay for the weeks we were laid off. But our company didn’t reduce our salary. Eventually things picked back up and no one was laid off permanently because enough people did the voluntary weeks.

    8. Bagpuss*

      Don’t do it. It may be affordable for you but it’s a disservice to anyone else doing the came or a similar role, who may be less able to afford it.
      MAybe suggest that you reduce your hours , or ask about taking some unpaid leave .
      If there are elements of your role which could be carried out by someone more junior, maybe suggest that you work fewer hours and that some of the less ‘senior’ or complex parts of the role are taken on by someone else. Your reduced hours could be a 4 day week, or it could be 9-3 instead of 9-5, or whatever would work for the business and for you on a personal level

      1. Anon for this one*

        Honestly that would be my ideal – work 4 days a week. I would love to do this anyway, not just as a way to lower salary to be avoid being laid off. But not sure it would “fit” with the organization. But it is definitely something for me to keep in mind.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      I think if anything, it would be better to offer to take unpaid leave (we called this furlough in one of my old jobs that was trying to save money and avoid layoffs). If you are willing to give some salary back to help with a cash flow crisis, then you really should get something back in return; no one is ever really going to thank you for devaluing yourself, and I don’t think it will make you any less replaceable. I think you might need to have a big picture look at how safe your industry/role is overall if you can’t picture working anywhere else and you think they’d lose an established and successful employee just to save some cash with a junior person. I’m also puzzled about the idea that someone more junior could do your job if your tasks are “divided”.. I assume that means among more than one person? So, really a junior person couldn’t do your role! Possibly your team has some bandwidth to take on pieces of someone else’s role, but that would be really cheaping out, and it would cost the company in other ways by stretching employees in a way that doesn’t respect your role or theirs; are they really that short sighted? The other thing is you really don’t want to work for a company that only gives people what they “need”, even if you can afford to do that. I know your company is small and might not have to consider legal equity issues; that’s exactly the thing that makes small companies suck, though. The only other thing I could suggest is a contractor type role where they aren’t on the hook to support you financially like a permanent employee. In the UK this would mean they wouldn’t have to pay you sick leave, in the US would it mean a health insurance saving? You’d need to consider if that makes sense for the role, and for people who would do the role in future though.

  11. NeedRain47*

    Sooooo….. I’m wondering how other people feel about the “phone interview by committee” thing. I’ve had two of these now, and I’m finding it really difficult to communicate well with multiple faceless people. How do you have a good conversation with no visual cues? Anyone have any tips for getting comfortable with this? I bombed the first one (there were other extenuating circumstances as well) and the second was just okay.

    1. Puzzled*

      No advice, but I once did a phone interview with a group of three people who were on speakerphone, and it was horrible. I had to keep asking them to repeat themselves because I couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t keep track of who was who. So awkward!

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ugh, that sounds like a nightmare! I don’t mind talking to people on the phone, but it is super hard talking to multiple people on a phone call, even if it’s not as high-stakes as a job interview! I wonder if you could push back when one of these is scheduled and say something like, “would it be possible to do this as a video chat over Zoom or Teams or something similar? I find that being able to see the faces of the people I’m talking to makes it much easier to have a conversation when I’m speaking to more than one person at a time.”

    3. DivergentStitches*

      In today’s Zoom/Teams/Webex world, there’s really no reason to do a phone interview and not a web conference interview. I’d see it as a red flag if a company wouldn’t do a conference interview, honestly.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        I just found out that this is not true. My BIL works for the Feds and it is a security concern for someone to see his office and possibly see something they should not, so they are always cameras off, even with existing employees.

        1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          Hmm, but even with cameras off, at least on Zoom you get the cue of the person’s name being highlighted when they’re talking, so it’s easier to work out which person you’re hearing. And probably most people will have uploaded a photo as well. So I’d think it worth switching to that if possible.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      A phone interview with multiple people? That is super odd.
      It makes me wonder how up on technology these folks are. A Zoom call with multiple people is totally fine imho, but phone call? No way.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I agree – a phone call is not a great forum for multiple people to try to hold a conversation. I think I’d end up trying to pretend that everyone on the other side of the line was a single person and I for sure wouldn’t remember names for each voice.

        It’s kind of the opposite problem of doing a round of in-person one-on-one interviews where the interviewers ask the exact same questions. I felt like that was some kind of memory test and that I was repeating myself all day long. It would have made far more sense and taken a lot less time if they had just done one big group interview. Find the right forum for the kind of interview you want to run!

      2. NeedRain*

        It was a Zoom call, so peoples’ names/photos (only one was a photo of an actual person) were highlighted, but it’s like….. you give an answer and it’s dead silence, no nodding, no facial expressions, no cues as to if the person is done talking or not. It’s a large university, technology is not the problem, and I’m assuming central HR has mandated it. (same situation at previous place that interviewed this way.) That’s why I”m trying to figure out how to deal with it, b/c I don’t think it’s going to go away in the type of jobs I apply to.

    5. Sitting Pretty*

      I will say that in our office, we have moved away from Zoom and back to phone for first round interviews because of DEI issues. The idea is to do everything we can to avoid unconscious bias in the initial stages of the process. It definitely makes that initial group phone interview a little weird but I appreciate the reasoning behind it.

      1. NeedRain*

        I believe that’s most likely what’s going here. (I used to work there, so I have a little insight.) I support making things less biased as there are aspects of my appearance people might be biased about. But it’s a challenge for me personally to interact like that.

    6. Interplanet Janet*

      Very normal in my experience in academia & academic support. I would always set out the job description & my resume with my highlights and notes, and try to set myself facing something with a nice visual – a window, a clean table, a cozy corner of my house, whatever. And I smiled when I talked, it’s cliché but people really can hear it.

    7. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I haven’t had to do one in the past decade, but my first “real” interview ever was like that and I HATED it. I couldn’t keep track of who I was talking to, and it felt like the pace of the conversation was REALLY fast because the next person had a question 2 seconds after I finished answering. I think I could do two interviewers via phone fine, but I did not like three at all.

  12. Neurodiverse Programmer Lady*

    I don’t know if I want advice or reassurance or what. But basically I am neurodivergent and didn’t learn a lot of social skills til later in life. I also was raised by parents who I’m realizing are sort of the classic “be very technically skilled so you don’t have to learn to work with people” types. I work in software and unlike my parents (who work in science and healthcare) don’t have any sort of formal credentials in it so I really can’t ride on that in the same way (and don’t want to).

    I am in my early 30s. I look back at the ways I behaved at workplaces in my 20s and cringe. Stuff like directly going against what my boss told me to do or showing up 15 minutes late to 30 minute meetings where I was one of the key participants. I’ve had social dynamics I misread and was rude to people when I thought I was being funny. A lot of the nebulous stuff people lump under “professionalism” and “soft skills” is hard for me, especially things that most people look at and say “you should know this by the time you’re an adult”—I didn’t learn it growing up, sorry, and got to learn how little patience people have for figuring it out when you’re older.

    I now am picking back up with work after having to take some time away to deal with health issues and I literally wake up in the middle of the night a few times a week feeling horrible and ashamed about something I did at work. Yes I’m in therapy. But my therapist is more focused on reassuring me that I’ve gotten better and I guess I’m not convinced I have, or that being less of a jerk now can make up for the years I spent screwing up my career in this way. I’ve had a bunch of short stints at companies for 6 months to a year before getting fired or laid off. I’m coming to the end of a contract that’s short by design now and I want to find somewhere I can stay longer but I’m worried I’ll inevitably screw it up and don’t know how to find a place where I won’t. It doesn’t help that I think my current (contract) workplace is genuinely problematic and I’m trying to figure out how to improve my own behavior while my boss is being mean/sarcastic and project management is in a chaotic state.

    How can I find stories from other people who really didn’t “get” how to fit in in the workplace despite being bright at their field? How can I stop feeling imposter syndrome about being someone that people want to be around and work with long term?

    1. Sloanicota*

      One thing I’ve always found unfortunate is that neurotypical people naturally assign moral value to certain behaviors, like being late, on the assumption that the person deliberately decided other people’s time was less valuable and thus acted “jerkishly.” Or answered shortly, which was interpreted as a sign of disrespect, etc etc. We can’t see other people’s intentions and there’s a lot of assumptions that go on in NT communication. I don’t know if this helps you reframe, but you were not being a jerk, even if you now reflect that your behavior was the same as someone who was a jerk, and even if others might have wrongly assumed you were being a jerk. In the same way I have to empathize with my past child-self who didn’t understand things, and forgive them, you may be able to find a way to sympathize and forgive the person who did these things without the intention of being a jerk.

      1. Neurodiverse Programmer Lady*

        This is somewhat true but sometimes these behaviors really do impact others. My mom has a lot of the same struggles as I do but with less self-awareness, and I do find myself being hurt when she’s late to a family event or says something insensitive, even though I know she doesn’t mean it. If my choices at work have a negative impact on others I want to learn to do better.

    2. Nonny anon works with dogs*

      The book Unspoken Rules by Gorick Ng was mentioned in the comments recently, and I wonder if it would be a good starting point. I’m looking forward to reading it myself.

        1. Not Totally Subclinical*

          There’s a book by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron called Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships that might also be useful; I have it but haven’t read it yet.

          1. anonymous ADHD'er*

            I recently read Weird in A World That’s Not by Jennifer Romolini, she’s not ND but does have a lot of stories about navigating work life as a non-intuitively business-y person and how she ended up working in the fashion industry with no style, etc. It was helpful for me to hear about her experiences. Good luck!

    3. Ginger Baker*

      There’s a few letters Alison answered from people who wrote in basically saying “I am the office jerk, help” that might be helpful for you. I will post links below but you can also search the site for “I was a jerk” and that will pull them up. I hope you find them helpful!

      1. Neurodiverse Programmer Lady*

        Thanks! I’m especially interested in ones where the person learned to do better. I think a lot of the letters where someone is a jerk and gets called out with no improvement will just upset me. Some of them might be worth reading with my therapist or something but it can also be a way for me to beat myself up if I read too many of them.

        1. DivergentStitches*

          I might warn you not to read the comments on those posts. Sometimes the commenters are all like “WOW WHAT A JERK” and I just think, “I dunno I can easily see how that person could be ND” but we can’t armchair diagnose.

        2. Ginger Baker*

          I think these are all pretty positive! They are definitely no “I ghosted my partner [of three years, by suddenly Surprise!MovingOut and blocking all calls] who now will be my new boss” level jerks, that’s for sure.

    4. Frankie*

      I definitely think EVERYONE has very cringe stories from their early work history, and the best you can do with those memories is remember how far you’ve come. You can’t change those moments, but remember you wouldn’t do those things now.

      Training and development focusing on communication skills could be really helpful for you–in particular, trainings that help people with one communication style understand people with another communication style. Crucial Conversations is one example, and I’m sure there are a ton of others–but a training where you’re working with people instead of just reading a book might help you practice the skills in a safer setting.

      1. Neurodiverse Programmer Lady*

        I will look into it. My concern with trainings is I’m quite good at socializing in casual, low-stakes settings. I interview well. It’s once we get into the day to day when something complicated needs to be done, and I can’t put all my efforts into being charming and funny, or doing so won’t solve the problem that is happening (or even offends people who think I’m trying to escape accountability) that stuff gets rough. I think books might actually be better because I can relate them to real scenarios I’ve experienced and not just simulated exercises where the stakes are low.

      2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        I was going to say something really similar; I think we all do cringe stuff! The point I think your therapist might be trying to make is that you can’t change the past, you’ve been putting in the work to make the future better, so forgive your old self and don’t dwell on it and upset yourself with things you cannot change.

        My coworker sent me this meme awhile back when I did something that I told her made me feel cringe. It had a poem that said:

        I came.
        I saw.
        I said something weird.
        But I went on about my business.

        But it was bugging me, so then I made it significantly worse by apologizing and explaining and nervous laughing.

        And then I over-analyzed the situation for the next 12 years

        The end.

        Only it wasnt the end, because I’ll think about it later tonight at 2am.

        1. Anonymous cat*

          That is so on the nose!! Thank you for sharing it!

          And NPL, I also second the comment that we’ve all done cringey things when we were starting out. I look back and go, Yikes! And really wish I could retroactively fix a few things.

    5. Watry*

      There’s an older post/comment thread about working with neurodivergency, and stories came with it. As I recall it’s mostly ADHD comments rather than anything else, but it might be worth reading.

      1. ND Programmer Lady*

        I’d love to see that if anyone can find it

        (Changing my posting name as I think something in the old one was tripping the spam filter)

    6. DivergentStitches*

      I’m also ND and wasn’t diagnosed until 39.

      I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t change the past or how people thought of my behavior before I knew I was ND. I also have some short stints in my past, but ever since my diagnosis I’ve been able to stay 2+ years at almost every position. The good news is that having shorter terms at jobs is becoming more common, especially in tech/software. I doubt a hiring manager in those workforces would bat an eye at a shorter stint, especially if it was contract.

      I used to feel like everything was my fault and everything I did was wrong and there was no way to fix it. But with a supportive boss and gradual increase in confidence in my abilities, I’ve gotten there (and recently was able to increase my salary by 51% by believing I could do the thing). It takes time and therapy will help.

      My best advise is try not to worry about the past – try to move forward and look to the future, work on being the best you that you can be NOW and going forward. It’s not your fault that you were undiagnosed until your 30’s, but now that you are diagnosed you can work with what you’ve got. Good luck!

    7. theletter*

      I try to tell myself that at the very least, looking back even as closely as two years with a sense of cringe is an indication of growth. Add to that the slate of articles about things that “used to be ok ten years ago but are not anymore” and I think we have to take general societal growth into account. A common thing that might give you cringe now might be something that many people are collectively regretting together. Remember when we all wanted weird job titles like “Rock star” and intended to “crush it”? Ugh. Cringe.

      I also regularly experience the nighttime regret anxiety insomnia, but I’ve found that anti-depressives, melatonin and sleep hygiene can help me sleep through the night, and I’m a better person for it.

      As for the current workplace, I don’t think a history of unprofessional behavior means you’re required to put up with it in your current position. You can be compassionate to people who don’t know better, but that doesn’t mean they can push you around.

      My career didn’t really stabilize until I was in my thirties, and it was three more job switches before I found somewhere that I stayed more than two years. Run to projects that build on your strengths/joy and then keep your head down on your work once you find it. That’s the best formula for success that I’ve found.

    8. Hen in a Windstorm*

      My husband has ADD and is likely autistic (therapist suggested it, but he doesn’t like the idea). I’ve noticed he sometimes thinks in a way where The Thing that just happened reminds him of a thing that happened in the past and therefore he concludes it will also happen in the future and he feels it as though all of those (millions?) of times are happening all at once and he will never get better and he’s a failure… and gets very upset. I try to remind him to stay in just this moment, which helps.

      But also, you don’t have a time machine. If you did, you would go back and undo those things. But since you don’t, you have to accept that they can’t be changed and forgive yourself. Dwelling on them won’t change anything, but will make you feel bad *and* prevent you from moving forward.

      You know better now, so you can do better now. Imagine if someone else did these things – would you forgive them? Give yourself the same grace.

      1. ND Programmer Lady*

        I wonder if there’s a pattern-seeking personality/brain type that 1) makes us good at technical/science fields and 2) makes it so we can’t just let a single instance of something pass by without fitting it into some big pattern, which of course we could solve (“debug”) if we could just analyze it enough.

        Hearing this about your husband helps because I definitely do the same thing.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          Great comment! I think that explains me too! For more ideas, I recommend The Pattern Seekers: How Autism Drives Human Invention, by Simon Baron-Cohen, 2020.

    9. AnAnonHereToday*

      Please remember that everyone on the planet earth has an area of social skills where they are deficient in, and social skills aren’t even universal (think cultural misunderstandings). You will never reach a point where you will never again make another social blunder and everyone will always like you, and take comfort in that fact. It’s neither expected nor required.
      As someone else who could be described as a “neurodiverse programmer lady”, I’ve found that simply trying to be kind to my coworkers and do a good job covers for my lack of social graces. A lot of it will also be just finding a decent company culture. I still marvel that there are tech companies that champion open-offices and constant pair programming and people are still willing to work there. I like my job where we have roomy cubicles with 6-foot walls where there’s plenty of quiet self-directed work. It’s a good thing that the place you’re currently working at is a short contract, because you don’t want to spend much time in that sort of environment.
      Also, here’s a story for you – the most productive and valuable coworker I have is the most socially inept of us all. He was assigned to mentor me in my company’s mentorship program (I’m still pretty early career) and he spent 1 sentence acknowledging it and changed nothing about his behavior. He refuses to attend any team building activities and will not answer get to know you questions we do during standup. He wears the same too-big outfit every day and his hair looks like he just rolled out of bed. He hardly ever speaks in meetings – unless he has very strong opinions on something. When he does speak though, he’s usually right. He’s the best programmer we have, works lightning fast, and is really good at figuring out complex software problems. I love working with him. Everyone else on the team does too.

    10. Strider (I wish)*

      Long shot, but it could help to look specifically for companies that are run by neurodivergent and disability-aware people. Such companies are rare, or they rarely trumpet it publicly, but there are companies who make it a part of their raisin d’être and brand.
      Disability-aware, neurodivergent co-workers and bosses can make work easier because they just “get it”.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        That was what I was thinking, but you said it better. I don’t know if I am autistic or just have something like sensory processing disorder, but I work in a school that a) seems to have a number of staff who seem in some way possibly neurodivergent and b) has a autism class and such a high rate of students with special educational needs that we have the highest number of resource hours in the county, despite being a small school (there are literally schools with four times our student numbers and they have less resource hours).

        So most people are pretty aware of diversity and used to making accomodations. As a result, I regularly walk around tossing something in the air and catching it, laugh with coworkers about “oh sorry about that, just me not understanding normal human interactions again” and I have a couple of coworkers who actually get kinda protective of me on staff nights out and stuff because they know I don’t really deal well with crowded situations and they are good about giving me clear information or clarifying if I ask (occasionally with a “sorry, just me missing the obvious” comment).

        But I wouldn’t have known this when I applied, so…it can be a hard one to screen for.

    11. MissMannersDidn'tPrepareMeForThis*

      My neurodivergence went undetected until my 30s and I grew up in an isolated rural area with standards for interaction that are so shockingly different from the broader culture that I may as well be feral, but have domesticated myself enough to at least function socially and professionally in the wider world. How about advice that is hopefully reassuring, with some commiseration thrown in?

      Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress already, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue.
      Some things, like not following your boss’ direction and showing up late, have a simple (if not always easy) solution of letting yourself default to following the instructions you are given. The nebulous professionalism/soft skills stuff requires so much of your effort because you have to first determine how you are expected to behave and then expend more effort in actually behaving that way/accomplishing the task/whatever; if you are told what to do, that is one less thing you have to think about and can focus your energy on doing whatever the thing is.

      Organizations may have policies and procedure manuals, employee handbooks, codes of conduct, or other documentation that can give you an understanding of how folks are expected to behave in your new workplace to be confident starting out and adjusting if practical expectations differ from the instructions written down. Embarrassment is my strongest meltdown trigger, and I can lose verbal function when stressed; having a “good enough” reason for doing things, can explain that logic to another person, and move the conversation forward constructively gives me a basic template for a script (something like “Oh, I’m sorry, I was following the process in the handbook, but maybe I have an outdated copy; how should [whatever thing] be done?”, said while smiling) has been super helpful in improving my ability to be trained and accept corrections. Even if the policies are outdated or overly formal, knowing what the documentation says can ensure you have a polite, professional response if someone asks why you did something or corrects your work.

      The rest is more complicated, but you can learn most of those soft skills. Even as a hyperlexic toddler, I primarily gravitated towards instructions and lists, especially things like advice columns, etiquette books, and magazines like Martha Stewart or Good Housekeeping. I guess I found comfort in knowing the protocol for as many situations as possible, and sought out content that helped me understand, at least intellectually, the things everyone else seemed to intuitively know about how humans are “supposed to” behave. As you may have inferred (we’re posting in the comments of AskAManager, after all), I get my fix more from digital sources these days, but the content is still being shared. When situations are more nebulous, and official rules and expectations are not made clear, you can use the questions people ask and how others respond to them to learn more about social dynamics and behave in ways they perceive as collegial and professional.

      Finally, if you are still unlearning your parents attitude of valuing technical ability over soft skills, it may help to consider things like manners, courtesy, approachability, patience, and even small talk as technical competencies, as essential as new software. Taking a few extra minutes to say good morning or thank someone for doing their job may feel like a waste of time, but doing those things well and consistently, builds strong relationships with colleagues and/or clients, making communication and collaboration easier, ultimately increasing the efficiency and quality of your work.

    12. Kiki is the Most*

      The fact that you’re here and seeing/wanting to be the best you IS a big deal. Even non-neurodivergent 20 to 30-somethings have cringeworthy interactions so moving forward, I’d think that I’d just try to be…better. And it seems that is exactly what you’re doing. I don’t have solutions for you but I do believe in the GOOD HYPE and think that can be a wee bit helpful as well.

      While not neurodiverse but not exactly naturally empathetic, I do understand certain scenarios of missing social cues. I think you’re on a good path of self-reflection and progress, and with this knowledge, will see the changes you want to see in the workplace. Good luck to you.

    13. SofiaDeo*

      Re: question #2…..I realized mid career that I was easily bored. Which let to my particular reason for job-hopping. So I looked at consulting/contract work, which by definition was “short enough to where I wouldn’t be bored” (even though a contract may be up to 2 years) yet allowed me to be seen as a steady, reliable worker. Instead of simply job-hopping every few years. Perhaps if your particular skill set allows you to do this, it may give you confidence when you see you can successfully navigate periods of time where you *are* appreciated for your work! I found that even if the short term assignments weren’t great, it was easier to navigate them when I knew it would only be for a shorter time. And people will generally be grateful for folks who can cover pregnancy leave, FMLA’s, whatever, which should be a confidence booster.

      1. ND Programmer Lady*

        I’m considering this. I thought I had such a situation with my contracting agency but it turns out I need to apply to jobs through their platform and I don’t know how much work it’ll be. But I’m gonna try and look for something to apply to there this weekend.

        1. SofiaDeo*

          Great! If it helps, remember, 90% and above is still generally an “A”. We aren’t robot machines that will always be perfect. And as long as we are learning and trying, we are being an optimal human being IMO.

    14. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      I’m a neurodivergent person (some features in common with Autism/ ADD though my actual diagnosis is something else). I’m also generally considered to have okay to solidly good interpersonal and communication skills, though I often don’t feel like I do, and be generally easy and pleasant to work with. I attribute both the good external reviews and my private greater effort/lesser confidence to the fact that these skills and behaviors are explicitly learned, not instinctive, for me.

      I’ve definitely been more awkward and failed more earlier in my learning — as with any skillset. Once I was so nervous about giving a presentation in front of an important potential sponsor that I accidentally said some of my (cussword filled) internal monologue out loud. In front of the sponsor. Who was a priest. And then I said “Oh my God, I can’t believe I said that, Jesus, I’m so sorry–” before I could get myself to shut up. Sometimes I go nonverbal under stress; it would have been nice if that could have happened then, instead of of my brain-to-mouth filter failing.

      What has allowed me to progress from there to (pre-pandemic) regularly and confidently giving similar presentations to the one I once spectacularly failed, are, I believe, a few things:
      I recognize (and really emotionally accept) that social skills are *skills* not character, and like any skills can be learned well or badly and applied in a variety of ways by anyone. Therefore 1. my not automatically being good at them doesn’t make me a bad person or jerk (and someone else being naturally skillful doesn’t make them a good person), and 2. I’m not doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes– I can learn and grow, even if I’ll never achieve perfection (no one does), even if I need to use a more effort or a different method than other people, .

      Remembering 1, that social skills are morally neutral and don’t define my character or identity, reduces shame and anxiety about them. Which is good because shame and anxiety don’t just feel unpleasant, they impair emotional/behavioral regulation and learning. Having less shame/worry about doing badly makes it easier to do better. Remembering 2, that I can learn, gives me something useful to focus on instead of the memory or fear of failure. I can plan ahead: What do I need to know or be able to do to succeed? How can I learn about that? How do other people learn about that, and how can I adapt their method to work better for me? How can I simplify that into smaller subunits so it’s not too much at once? How can I practice it in a supportive and low-stakes environment, and ensure successes/progress get reinforced and mistakes get corrected and not punished? When I make a mistake, what can I learn from it and do differently next time? When I make success/progress, what did I do that helped it to go well?

      Developmental and educational psychology are some of my pet interests (I am not professionally an expert in either one) so I have enough broad, basic knowledge not to feel bewildered and overwhelmed just thinking about it–I feel energized and encouraged. If that is not the case for you, it’s fine to outsource the *hows* of learning social skills to others — self-help resources, professional development programs, mentors, therapist(s)…

      You can ask your current therapist for coaching or feedback on specific skills instead of general reassurance that you’ve gotten better. I’ve had to ask my therapist for this. Now when I describe a situation I’m bothered about, she no longer says things like “I think you handled that fine” but instead like “You checked your understanding of the situation with [other person] before responding, and chose one of the response options you’d practiced in advance to be confident delivering. It sounds like that worked well for you, what do you think?”
      You can also ask your current therapist for recommendations of other therapists or resources to learn from or practice with, especially if that’s not your therapist’s specialty, or you don’t actually trust them to be able to give you useful and accurate feedback, but you think someone else might.

      If your imposter syndrome is so strong that you don’t trust *anyone’s* feedback to be accurate — if you’re convinced *everyone* incorrectly thinks better of you than you deserve… Consider that the outside perception is the only one that matters for purposes of social interactions. You don’t have to stop feeling imposter syndrome or feel socially adept on the inside. You just have to do appropriate behavior on the outside, like an actor playing a role or a computer running a program.

      Some resources that have helped me with my own self-acceptance and social skills development:
      The academic writing of Carol Dweck, on fixed versus growth mindsets. Here’s a short summary from Harvard Business Review:
      https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means

      Cynthia Kim’s writing on being a late-diagnosed woman with ASD (Relevant even for people who don’t share her exact gender or dx, I think.)
      https://musingsofanaspie.com/about/

      Neuroscience based social-emotional learning principles such as but not limited to those described by the Conscious Discipline Program (Uses some specific gimmicks that are more suited to young children, but the principles are sound for all ages– look at the “7 skills” and “7 powers”. Website has a few free resources; if you can get hold of a workbook for educators, that’s got more detail.)
      https://consciousdiscipline.com/

      Most of the Real Social Skills blog by Rabi Ruti Regan. Formerly on another platform (maybe tumblr?), all the posts have been copied to a new site in a way that lost some of the crosslinks and indexing, so it’s not easy to navigate or find specific topics. But with few exceptions mostly very early on, most of the information/advice is excellent.
      https://realsocialskills.org
      There’s also a facebook page and a substack.

      This might be a good place to start:
      https://realsocialskills.org/2017/02/27/lacking-social-skills-vs-using-social-skills-to/
      or this:
      https://realsocialskills.org/2014/07/02/stop-romanticizing-neurotypicality/

      Good luck. I am rooting for you.

      1. ND Programmer Lady*

        This is all really great, thank you.

        RE: impostor syndrome, it’s that I worry that people like me *at first* but then come to dislike me as they learn what I’m “really like.” Which I know is reductive. But I feel like the “socially unacceptable” part of me is this secret that inevitably comes out eventually.

    15. Grad School Attempt 2*

      Not sure I have any advice, but just wanted to say, I relate to your struggles! I’m probably some form of neurodiverse (not diagnosed) and am also mid-30s, female, and in CS. I’m also from a cultural background (New York Jewish) where people tend to be pretty direct about stating their needs/preferences, and it took me a long time to adapt to “guess culture” social norms and learn to read hints and body language.

      Reading yesterday’s thread on “What workplace norms surprised you?” hit pretty hard, because everyone else listed such innocuous things. Whereas I once spent several months living under my desk in a shared office, sleeping on the floor from 4am to noon, while other people were trying to work their normal 9-5 hours in the same space; I figured it must have been ok because no one ever asked me to stop. I also rarely showered, had visibly greasy hair, didn’t always brush my teeth, and probably didn’t smell great. Since then, I’ve become a lot more conscientious about hygiene and, uh, appropriate use of office space, but there’s still things I miss. I had to learn the hard way that dirty jokes are not appropriate in the workplace. I almost never wore a bra in my 20s, and didn’t realize, until reading several AAM threads on the topic, that people might be able to tell. (I still don’t always wear one; it’s a tradeoff between modesty and sensory issues, and I’m grateful that CS tends to be pretty forgiving about this.)

      After a lot of effort, I’ve improved my social skills, to the point where I was even praised for them in an annual review. I’ve gotten much better at reading facial expressions, picking up on hints, and anticipating what other people might want or need. I feel really lucky/grateful/etc. that I was able to learn these skills, but they come with tradeoffs: it takes a ton of conscious processing power to interact with people now, and I’m experiencing the same thing you are — that I have a ton of social anxiety stemming from awareness of my past social failures. I also think I tend to overcorrect when it comes to social skills. One heuristic I’ve implemented is “before doing something, check whether anyone else is doing it; if they’re not, don’t do it either”; this is definitely overcautious, but it’s correct most of the time. Also, sometimes I read advice (on AAM and elsewhere) which notes that “women are socialized to do X” and I’m like “wait, really? I never knew that and definitely don’t do X”; in those cases I often start doing X as a result, just so I won’t stand out, probably to my own detriment. I’m a little sad that I’ve gone from “weird and smelly, but generally viewed as vivacious and interesting” to an anxious conformist… but at the same time I cringe every time I remember my past behavior and definitely don’t want to go back to how I was.

      Anyway, again, I don’t really have any advice, since I’m still in the middle of figuring this out as well. Just wanted to express support and solidarity, and to wish you luck!

      1. ND Programmer Lady*

        > Also, sometimes I read advice (on AAM and elsewhere) which notes that “women are socialized to do X” and I’m like “wait, really? I never knew that and definitely don’t do X”; in those cases I often start doing X as a result, just so I won’t stand out, probably to my own detriment. I’m a little sad that I’ve gone from “weird and smelly, but generally viewed as vivacious and interesting” to an anxious conformist… but at the same time I cringe every time I remember my past behavior and definitely don’t want to go back to how I was.

        I relate so hard to all of this. My anxiety got worse after a few years in the workforce and I think it is largely because not knowing this stuff became more consequential.

    16. Teach*

      May I suggest that you look up Social Thinking and Michelle Garcia Winter? She’s done a lot of work around teaching the unspoken rules of social engagement that the neurodivergent often miss.

  13. Anon for this for sure*

    How do I professionally tell a recruiter ‘I’m looking for a new job because my current one has turned into a toxic dumpster fire composed of bees. Oh, and they’re revoking my work from home access which I have as a disability accommodation. GET ME OUT OF HERE!’

    Thanks!

    1. ERG leader*

      “We agreed on me working remotely, but they later revoked it. Remote work is a must-have for me.”

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        This. Also, as far as getting out of the toxic environment, just turn it around: “I’m hoping to find a workplace where collegiality and collaboration are strongly valued and are a notable part of the culture,” or whatever traits you want to find in a new workplace.

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I don’t know how useful it is to say you’re looking for a better culture fit because it’s so hard to judge but you could maybe say something like “Remote work is a necessity from me and my workplace has recently changed their policies around that, so that’s my primary reason for moving on. I’d be most interested in an organization that values/prioritizes X.”

    3. A Manager for Now*

      Is this a recruiter for a specific company or generally?

      Would something like, “I have been doing llama grooming at Llamas LLC for X period of time and am interested in applying my llama grooming skills in a new working environment.” feel comfortable?

      Or maybe “I’m finding that the direction of Llamas LLC is having me do less of the llama grooming I really enjoy and am looking for an opportunity to bring my skills into a company that needs more focus on their llama grooming goals”

    4. A Penguin!*

      Silly question: do you need to? Most recruiters I’ve worked with just want to know that you’re looking/what you’re looking for in a new position.

      1. Nebula*

        Yeah, this is a good point. I would still say bringing up the wfh thing is worth it, just to make clear it’s non-negotiable.

      2. DivergentStitches*

        I recently finished a job search and every single interview they asked why I was looking to leave my current position.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      Focus on the work from home access — “I had specifically negotiated work from home as a condition of the job, and that is being revoked.” No need to get into anything else — that’s enough.

    6. Nebula*

      I would say focus on your employer revoking your wfh access (which is terrible, by the way!). Something like “I need to work from home due to my disability, and unfortunately that is no longer possible in my current role.” That way, you also are more likely to avoid ending up with that problem in whatever role(s) you’re applying for as well by raising it in the recruitment process.

      1. Kay*

        Do not say this. Do not say this. Do not say this.

        You do not want anyone to evaluate you using information they shouldn’t be evaluating you on. You can say that same thing without referencing any disability, and that is how you should. “I am looking to work from home/remotely and unfortunately that is no longer possible in my current role” conveys the same information without giving anyone the opportunity to insert bias. If an accommodation down the road is needed, even if it is at the time of the offer, that is fine – but not until then.

    7. Redaktorin*

      Wanting WFH is enough. Lean on that, don’t mention the toxic dumpster fire full of bees or anything remotely disparaging, and don’t directly mention your health either. Badmouthing a previous employer or disclosing major illness are going to be problematic in the interview. Literally just say that you currently need to work from home.

    8. Accounting Gal*

      I actually find this is easier with a recruiter than directly with a company! Like you can be honest with a recruiter in a more blunt (but still professional way). Tell them you need remote work and your company is no longer offering it. Then the recruiter is better suited to find roles that are a good fit (i.e. fully remote) so you’re not having to worry about that as much when you do get interviews (the recruiter has essentially pre-vetted them for you the way they are vetting candidates for the companies). Good luck with your job search!

      1. Nicki Name*

        Yeah, recruiters just want to match up people and jobs as quickly as possible, and letting them know your must-haves will help them out. You don’t even need to give them the whole explanation of why, just that WFH is one of your requirements.

    9. Science KK*

      Maybe something along the lines of they decided to revoke my disability accommodations? Or if you don’t want to disclose say perks maybe?

    10. Yes And*

      Others have offered the advice I would have in response to your direct question, so I’ll just add: if your WFH arrangement is a disability accommodation that does not cause undue hardship to your employer (and you have a good argument that it doesn’t if you’ve been working from home successfully so far), then they may be breaking the law by revoking it. Talk to a labor lawyer.

    11. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Honestly? I started with your quoted text, left out “dumpster fire composed of bees”, and replaced it with “culture that no longer aligns with my morals, values, or my skillset. Your assistance in securing a new position within a company with good morals and values is appreciated.”

      Because at OldJob, we went from fantastic to really sh!tty, culture-wise, in the course of a about a month. The obvious-choice-for-replacement-of-head-honcho, who was respected by all, died suddenly in an accident. Corporate got involved with the replacement of respected Obvious-Choice, and they opted for the Smooth Talking charmer as opposed to the respected hard worker (Obvious-Choice) who would literally sit down with your team if it looked like things were going to go waaaaay late (“all right, we’re going to get through this, roll em up what do we need to do?”), sometimes stepping out long enough only to grab dinner and snacks for the team. When it became obvious that Smooth-Talker did not have the respect of any of the teams (“good night, looks like you’re going to be here late, see you on the flip side”), they brought in My Way or The Highway.

      I understand that they’re still reeling from the fallout left from 10 months with My Way or The Highway, as he torched professional bridges all over the place.

    12. PsychNurse*

      I haven’t come up with a good answer for this either! Why did I leave my last job? Well, it was a shitshow, with a narcissist for a CEO and a complete idiot for a manager. I mean, “I was looking for a new challenge.”

  14. Looking To Jump*

    I’m in my early 50s, with 15 years at my company, and am looking at moving to another department. My team got a new manager in the middle of last year, and my current role has morphed into something I am not enjoying and don’t want to continue.

    There is a role open in another area in my company that interests me, but is a step down in pay grade/level. I’m not worried about the effect on my pay – I doubt I will ever “top out” of the pay band at either level – but am unsure about taking the step down in pay level and what impact that might have on future role opportunities.

    Has anyone done a “step down” in order to get out of an undesirable situation, and how did it work out for you?

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I absolutely cannot speak from experience here so huge grain of salt, but it seems to me like this could easily be explained/justified in any future opportunities as pursuing the kind of work that is most interesting/challenging to you and moving where you feel your skillset contributes the most value.

    2. M2*

      I am in the process of hiring someone who is taking a grade level down to work on my team. I don’t know how it works in your industry, but although this person is going to be a grade down they are getting (or HR rather it depends on parity within the grade) a small raise.

      I see potential for promotion two or three grades in the future. I believe this person sees the potential for promotion and growth too. I train and believe in growth for my team and it’s pretty well-known.

      Even if you are getting a lower grade don’t take lower pay. Ask about growth opportunities, etc. good luck!

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

      Yes, not within the same company, but I took a step down from my job prior to this one and it has worked out GREAT for me.

      I was listed as a Director* level at my old job; but like the game show “Whose Line is it Anyway,” the job descriptions don’t matter and the titles are made up. It was a small business and the owner would just make up new titles without tying them to any sort of job description, pay scale or industry standards — I was director* of myself and did whatever he told me to do. I also did take a hit on take-home pay, but only because I went from having a job with no benefits, to having a job with benefits that more than made up for me paying out-of-pocket for everything. So when I “stepped down” into my current role I was honest with my interviewers that the title did not reflect what I had been doing and I did not see this position as a step down.

      Businesses are making steps into transparency and pay equity so it may or may not impact your future pay scale if you eventually change jobs again — you don’t want a new job taking into consideration what you were making at your previous job — they should be paying what the job is worth. It will probably set you back on future raises at your current company.

      What it may also affect is your long-term finances for things like retirement savings or social security payments — depends on how long you have until you plan on retiring and whether the lower salary really impacts those things. At 50, a lower salary might impact your timeline to retire and how much you will receive in retirement. For me, I was 30, I didn’t have a retirement plan through my old job so no matching, and all I had was a personal IRA account. Over time, I have more than made up the lost salary.

    4. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I just did! I even took a very very minor paycut, as I was slightly above my new band. But I have a higher title, much more visibility on important projects and with exec, and much more room to grow. It’s new but working out well – I say to at least apply and interview! If you’re happier doing your job, you’ll also likely be more successful, which is probably more important in the long term than your band? (True at my org at least)

      Also, are you sure that you’d be taking a pay cut? It depends on how your org does bands, but maybe they could keep you at the same?

  15. Well That's Fantastic*

    Can a business deduct accidental damage from your wages? My husband dropped something expensive at work, which broke, and his boss told him to work off the clock to fix it. He knows that’s illegal and said so, and the boss said, “Well, my only alternative is to deduct the cost of what broke from your wages.” It just seems super sketchy to me.

    1. rayray*

      That seems super sketchy. How on Earth would working off the clock pay for anything anyway? It’s not like he’s a child doing extra chores because they broke a window. I don’t know too much about whether work places can charge for broken items, but I really don’t think it’s typical.

      1. Well That's Fantastic*

        It just feels so off to me. He’s definitely hunting for a different job since this wasn’t the first red flag, but as someone without a degree whose past 20 years have all been in retail, he hasn’t seen many good options out there.

    2. by golly*

      The implication is that then employees cannot work with equipment they cannot afford to buy. So I guess the way to push back would be to say “Since I can’t afford to accidentally damage X in the future, I won’t be able to work with that item any more.”

    3. irene adler*

      Damage to work items is part of the cost of doing business.
      This is sketchy.
      I would check with HR and the employee manual about this. Union if you’ve got one.

      If no HR, then an attorney who specializes in employment relations. Often you can consult one for free. They can offer actions your hubby can take that do not involve the cost of an attorney.

      Or, the attorney can draft a letter for you explaining to the boss what’s not okay here.

      I believe the USA tax laws allow you to deduct work costs not reimbursed by employer. Not saying this is the solution, here. But boss might think twice knowing this cost will be identified and included on a tax form slated for the IRS.

      Local labor board might be able to offer suggestions on how to handle this.

      1. Cj*

        You can no longer deduct employee business expense since the 2018 Jobs and Tax Cut Act. Back when you could, it was an itemized deduction, and even then only deductible to the extent that it exceeded 2% of your adjusted gross wages. So it was never really was a big help

    4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I’m neither a lawyer nor an expert, but if you’re in the US I think this qualifies as wage theft. Definitely completely unreasonable no matter the legality of the situation, but if in the US there should be a bunch of legally-required employment posters at his workplace that spell out if this is allowed.

    5. Spearmint*

      It’s definitely sketchy and bad management. As for the legal side, I am not a lawyer, but some googling suggests that this varies a lot by state.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Even then, they can fire them, but I don’t think they can make them pay for the item or work for free.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Oh yeah, most states have at-will employment, & being clumsy is not a protected class. But you don’t have to pay for it.

        2. Observer*

          Actually, most states do allow a company to recoup money for deliberate damage (from non-exempt workers). But NOT accidental damage.

    6. Rage*

      Yikes, that does sound sketchy. Technically, I believe they *can* deduct the cost from his wages, but if it would put him below minimum wage for that pay period then I think not. But it probably depends a lot on your state or local laws.

      We will deduct the cost of issued work items (think: safety gear, iPods for data collection, key fobs/keys) if a employee terms and doesn’t return them. But they do get a “freebie” on lost items. It’s hard to prove intentional damage for things here – working with the population we do, stuff gets broken all the time.

    7. Reba*

      I agree that “My only alternative” is BS, and working off the clock very BS, it’s not like businesses are forced to do this. That said, they can with some limitations, so you need to check the regulations for your state. It depends on if he is salaried or not.

    8. DMLOKC*

      This is what insurance is for. If the value isn’t high enough that they’d want to file a claim, then the company should absorb the cost as the price of doing business with human employees.

    9. Anonymous Educator*

      It may depend where you live. At my last job (which was in California), we had employees breaking and dropping super expensive laptops all the time, and there were zero consequences, because my boss said that California law prohibited charging employees for the damage. While I don’t think the employee should be held financially responsible, there should be some consequence of some kind.

      1. Trotwood*

        The consequence is that an employer could fire someone if they thought they were being cavalier about company property and dropping their laptop down the stairs every month. But assuming that OP’s husband wasn’t engaging in horseplay/sabotage that lead to the broken item, that should definitely be considered a business cost that the employer is responsible for.

    10. HTH*

      How much money is he requesting to be paid back? If they deduct anything make sure it doesn’t drop him below minimum wage as that’s illegal. I think that manager knows company won’t deduct it because it creates a paper trail. If he’s salaried in US there is a still a minimum wage. Also in many states you have to sign a document for any additional deductions to be taken so check which state you are in because without that they cannot deduct even over payments. I would reach out to HR or someone above manager.

    11. TX_Trucker*

      You cannot legally deduct from salaried employees. You “might” be able to deduct from hourly employees, as long as the deduction does not drop them below minimum way, but that depends on local rules. For example, in California you can deduct only for items broken through gross negligence; dropping would not qualify, throwing it against the wall would.

      1. Adrian*

        This reminded me of PastEmployer, a law firm. IIRC, at hire they had employees sign an agreement to pay for company property the employees damaged or lost.

        It could have been a sneaky maneuver. I do remember my lawyer boss telling me the agreement trumped our state law that employees didn’t have to pay for damaged/lost company property.

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

          I’m in California and when employees take org equipment home, we also sign an agreement that we will assume liability for the items. I have no idea if it’s truly enforceable but I imagine that it might be — we have an in-house legal department. I think that might be the key though is that all of this is agreed upon up front rather than after the damage has occurred. If the LW’s husband did not agree before using the equipment that they would assume liability, I’m not sure how enforceable a demand afterward would be.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            That’s not enforceable in California. The cost of the item is a business expense they are not permitted to pass on to you by CA law.

    12. Observer*

      Almost certainly illegal.

      If he’s exempt that can’t be done at all. If he’s non-exempt, it would have to have been already spelled out in a policy that your husband had signed, and would have to be little enough not to put him below the minimum wage. That’s the Federal stuff. Most states have additional prohibitions.

  16. ThatGirl*

    The question: Has anyone successfully appealed to a coworker to use someone else’s correct pronouns without it being a huge hassle or involving HR?

    My situation:
    I have a nonbinary coworker (P) who came out to our larger marketing team in 2021. P has worked for the company for 6 years so has a lot of coworkers who knew them before, but it’s been about 18 months for folks to get used to they/them pronouns. Since then the company as a whole has done somewhat better about that sort of thing, but it’s not mandatory or companywide. We did have companywide harassment training back in December that specifically mentioned using people’s correct pronouns.

    I have another coworker, N, who is seemingly just… locked into P’s old pronouns. Almost else uses they/them and N just keeps on her merry way with the wrong ones. She never corrects herself or apologizes. She is known as a very nice person who avoids confrontation, and she doesn’t seem to be doing it maliciously, so I feel like nobody wants to be the Mean Person who sits N down and says “you have to use P’s correct pronouns”. Including me, honestly.

    I’ve been thinking about sending her an email saying “hey, I know this might be an adjustment for you grammatically, but you’re really hurting P’s feelings by continuing to use their old pronouns” or something like that. I feel like appealing to that side of it might help.

    Thoughts??

    1. rayray*

      I think that’s a good idea. Is N maybe a little older? I have noticed that older people have a harder time sometimes adjusting to or grasping pronouns since it just wasn’t a thing they grew up with. I think they often slip up really not thinking about it, and sometimes your brain might really know one thing but say another. I have someone in my personal life who has done this, and she tries her best but sometimes it just slips.

      I really do think it’s a good idea to approach this kindly with her first before escalating to HR. While there absolutely are people who purposely mis-gender others in a malicious way, it really may be an honest mistake on her part. It may be better to assume the best in someone and go from there. If she keeps it up, then you escalate it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        She is older (early-mid 50s??) but not ancient. She is also religious, but I don’t want to ascribe bigotry to her; she’s very friendly and kind to our queer coworkers and in fact seems fond of P – she just can’t seem to get the pronoun thing right.

        I’m friends with P, so I should probably ask them first if they WANT me to approach her, but they are also very non-confrontational. (We are in the Midwest lol)

        1. Heremione Danger*

          I’m mid-50’s, and I have Absolutely No Trouble with calling people what they wish to be called. You want me to use they/them? Of course I will honor that request. I might mess up the first time out of habit, but I will also apologize because treating other people with care and respect is important to me. I don’t know that N is all that kind if she’s not making an effort here.

          1. Unpleased*

            Yeah. My husband of a similar age has had colleagues transition after years of knowing them. He adjusts just fine and reminds others of the correct pronouns. A colleague who refuses to try is making a choice. It is a confrontational choice.

            1. Gatomon*

              Agreed. Just because the tone isn’t malicious doesn’t mean the actions aren’t. Some people have learned that having a sweet demeanor allows them to act in an offensive way without the consequences that those who speak with outright disgust or disdain do face.

              As a trans person, I’ve been misgendered most often by this type before. They can be the hardest to deal with because their behavior doesn’t read as obviously hurtful to others, as we see here, so other people don’t always see the problem.

        2. Dancing Otter*

          Also Midwest born and bred, and probably 15 years older than P. I think “they” as a singular pronoun is a grammatical abomination, but I will damn well use it if that’s what someone wants.
          In fact, I use it whenever I don’t know a person’s gender. After all, names aren’t a reliable indication, and haven’t been for decades. Just ask my classmate Renée, who was assigned to the boys gym class freshman year. And people who go by initials or gender-less nicknames give no clue.
          So she and geography are absolutely no excuse.

          1. Richard*

            Singular “they” is a grammatical abomination? Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and Chaucer would like a word.

    2. Puzzled*

      I don’t think I would say N is hurting P’s feelings, because N might think P actually told you that (i.e. is talking behind her back) and it might make N feel defensive.

      I’d say something more like, “Hey, I noticed you’re still using P’s old pronouns. I know this can be a hard adjustment to make since I had trouble remembering initially too, so I figured I’d just point it out to remind you. I’m sure P appreciates when we get their pronouns correct.”

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, P did tell me/a small group that every time they hear their old pronouns it hurts. It wasn’t specifically about N, but she is part of the problem.

        I do appreciate the thought, though.

        1. Hen in a Windstorm*

          So can you sit with this thought? You’re saying you don’t want to be “mean” to N. But you know that this is hurting P. So you are being mean… to P. You’re prioritizing your own discomfort over P’s. And you are telling yourself ahead of time that it will be awkward and terrible, etc., which just makes you less likely to deal with it.

          Please reframe this – you are not being mean to N by reminding her P uses different pronouns now.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Look, I appreciate where everyone is coming from. But I also wish people realized that scolding someone who’s trying to figure out the best way to do a hard thing is not very helpful.

            1. TechWorker*

              In the nicest possible way I don’t think this comment is scolding at all… it’s asking you to rethink how you frame this. Change it in your head from Im asking someone to do something hard for them, when I know they don’t have bad intentions / to asking someone to stop something that’s hurting someone else, which you know does have a bad outcome.

            2. Not that girl*

              Again with the prioritising your discomfort. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to be told you are doing something wrong. But you aren’t going to do better until you accept that and learn to deal with your discomfort.

              Tone policing those trying to help you is pretty mean. And unhelpful. And smacks of privileged person not getting it, and virtue signalling, and the rest of the usual bull.

              1. ThatGirl*

                what’s unhelpful is people telling me I’m a privileged jerk who’s virtue signaling, but thanks :)

          1. ThatGirl*

            Right. I don’t want to take P’s agency away. They always introduce themselves with their pronouns but have not yet made a fuss about it. They’re not a child. I do make a point of properly gendering them when talking to others. I do correct people regularly. But I also have had a tendency in the past to like… “help” people who didn’t ask for it, and I don’t want to do that so much, broadly speaking.

      2. Ginger Baker*

        I like this (assume N means well and approach from that angle) BUT I would revise and instead of the last sentence, I would replace with “I’d be happy to practice with you! Practicing definitely makes it easier and that way if we mess up, P isn’t hearing us get it wrong while we re-train our brains.” (Practicing is a HUGE help and the main reason my sister and I almost never trip up with my kid’s pronouns – we had a LOT of random “talk about Kid” conversations to practice in the first few months.)

      3. Let me librarian that for you*

        The Better Allies newsletter and book would be a good resource here!

        I might suggest that every single time the person does this, immediately correct it in the moment with a simple “they.” And maybe you can enlist coworkers to do the same.

        1. DataSci*

          I like this. It doesn’t matter if N is being hurtful deliberately or accidentally, the behavior is what matters, and at minimum this lets her know it isn’t supported, and lets P know N doesn’t speak for others.

    3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      In my experience, face-to-face conversations are better than an email if that’s an option for you. But typically if you appeal to a person’s humanity and explain how their behavior is actually impacting the life of someone you know, that works. I had to do this a few different times and folks were really receptive, they just needed a personal invitation to change for whatever reason.

      It would be an incredible act of allyship for you to address this and save P from having to deal with it.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        I should caveat, it’s really important to use language that makes it about the action and not them as a person. And as was suggested above, sharing that you struggled with it too helps allay the defensive response.

    4. Nebula*

      As someone who uses they/them, I would absolutely love it if a co-worker gave someone else a quick correction about my pronouns. You say that no one wants to be the Mean Person about it, but in doing so, you’re all kind of putting the burden on P to either a) be the Mean Person themself or b) be fine with someone misgendering them all the time because “We know N doesn’t mean anything bad by it really.”

      Talk to P first, but don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s like if someone was consistently mispronouncing their name or something, you’d want to correct that, but it doesn’t have to be really high-stakes. Personally, if I was sending an email about that, I wouldn’t go down the hurt feelings route, I’d just say something like “I’ve noticed you’re still referring to P as [x] – just fyi the correct pronouns are they/them” and see what N says. But you make that call depending on your knowledge of N.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I work closely with both P and N. I’m also queer and want to be a good ally. But P is very non-confrontational and I don’t want to make them uncomfortable if they don’t want me to make a big fuss about it. And N used to be my manager (that’s a long story) so there’s that added awkwardness too.

        1. Tio*

          Do you think P is more uncomfortable being constantly misgendered or seeing someone corrected and swiftly moved on? It doesn’t sound like the current situation means P isn’t uncomfortable, just uncomfortable in a different way, a way that will continue until someone changes something or N snaps out of it, which seems unlikely. And since you mentioned P has already mentioned this is upsetting to them, I don’t think avoiding this is going to be a good solution. Talk to N, and use the old trick of assuming that of course someone is going to do better! that Alison often uses to sort of make people live up to their imagined better behavior.

          1. Rhiannon*

            False premise and false choice. Sometimes, people would rather advocate for themselves, and sometimes, it takes time to gather the strength to do so. I think P’s coworkers should continue to correct N, but it could be that P would prefer to be the one who has the 1:1 conversation with N.

        2. Katiekins*

          You don’t have to “make a big fuss about it.” N says “she” (or “he”), you say “they” or “P is they, not she (or he)” and move on. That’s not making a big fuss.

          It would make me uncomfortable to hear a coworker continually misgender someone, so I would speak up on that basis.

          Especially if P only uses they/them. If they are okay with other pronouns too, maybe I wouldn’t say anything, but if their pronouns are solely they/them, I would.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          Could you do it gently in the moment? “P said she needs the llama reports.” “P uses they/them pronouns; anyway, that’s no bother. I’ll e-mail them those reports immediately.”

          A friend of mine has a friend (who I have never met, but who she occasionally mentions to me) who uses they/them. At one point, I forgot and asked something like “hey, how is your friend’s PhD going? Has she finished?” and she replied “they” and I said “oh, yeah, sorry” and that was that. I didn’t think my friend was being mean. It was no different than if I used the wrong name or if it had been a cis guy and I said “she.” I made a mistake, she reminded me, no big deal.

    5. ERG leader*

      1. Check in with P before taking action – make sure they’re ok with you stepping in.

      2. You might start (face to face) asking N, “hey, is there a reason you’re not referring to P as they?” In a tone of genuine curiosity and caring.

      (I hate to say it but a long time ago I was being slow to use somebody’s pronouns, and a good friend called me on it kindly like this. It worked.)

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’ll be honest, part of me doesn’t want to ask N that question because I’m afraid of what the answer might be. Or she wouldn’t give me the real answer but she’d be thinking it (something something two genders).

        My thought was that appealing to her good nature might give her a different perspective — you’re nice, right? you want to be nice to your coworker? this is how to be nice! but maybe that’s not the best approach.

        1. Echo*

          Yeah, I don’t think I would recommend asking N because it implies there N could have a good excuse for not using P’s pronouns.

          1. epizeugma*

            It also frankly doesn’t matter what the “reason” is; the behavior would be a problem whether the reason is “oops I’m just not used to using they/them pronouns and I haven’t practiced enough” or is “[bigoted rationale].”

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I think that approach is a good one, given what you know of N. Something along the lines of “hey, I noticed you (sometimes) use the wrong pronouns for P. I know you’d never intentionally misgender someone, so I just wanted to remind you that P uses they/them pronouns.” You can also add in Ginger Baker’s suggestion to practice with N if you think that will help the message come across well.

        3. Dark Macadamia*

          If you honestly think she’s a nice person and not doing this maliciously why would you be afraid of her answer?

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      I have a friend who was diagnosed with PTSD this year due to ongoing misgendering and lack of support about harassment at work, so I have less than zero patience for a “nice” person who repeatedly, happily, and unapologetically denies someone’s identity. It’s dehumanizing whether she’s doing it maliciously or not. Please be the Mean Person for P’s sake.

      1. SweetestCin*

        I agree.

        I look at it as “regardless of their intentions, they’re still stepping on my foot and it still hurts, even if they’re stepping on my foot with a smile on their face”. Whether they have good intentions or not, the end result is the same.

    7. EastCoastGrump*

      I think everyone needs to start correcting N in a short and to the point manner when she uses the wrong pronouns.

      “N, P uses they/them. You need to use their correct pronouns.”

      N is being just plain rude with this behavior.

      Would people still let N use the wrong name if someone did a name change just because N knew them for 6 years under their old name?

      If P gives their blessing, I think it would be worth it to raise up with N’s manager.

      I know that there are a few posts on here about how to handle people’s pronouns changing that have good scripts.

      Harness that inner East Coast briskness that I know can lurk deep in your Midwest soul.

      1. ThatGirl*

        The last time she did it, it was in the middle of a ballroom full of people who had just introduced themselves one by one. If we’d been in a small group in our office, it would have been much easier to correct her.

        N and I share the same manager, who is remote and not in our office. But I could ask P’s manager to step in. (We all work closely together.)

        1. Pheebs*

          Why not? Quickly and politely correct N. Just like you would if N accidentally misspoke about something else. Assume that’s what it is.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        I was going to say the same – N is being rude. No matter how friendly and kind she is to other people, I have a hard time believing that she’s “just not getting it” after 18 months! It sounds like everybody else has made the transition just fine. If she’s still not getting it at this point, I have to think it’s deliberate.

        Definitely talk to P first and see how they want you to handle it. But regardless, it’s time to be pretty direct with N – she needs to change her behaviour, immediately. I’m not sure about your (or P’s?) reasons for not going to HR, but if HR is generally trustworthy, there’s nothing wrong with getting them involved at this point. You say you don’t want a big hassle, but sometimes you need to create a big hassle to get things done!

    8. Geek5508*

      She is not a “very nice person” if she cannot use P’s correct pronouns after 18 months.

      That makes HER the “Mean Person”

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Right? It’s nice to actively and repeatedly harm someone but it’s mean to stand up for them? Ok.

      2. Cordelia*

        yes I agree – it doesn’t sound as if she is even trying. And if no-one ever corrects her, she never will. I wouldn’t do it by email, I’d do it directly every time she uses the wrong pronoun – not accusingly, but matter-of-fact “you mean they” and move on. Hopefully there are other coworkers who will back you up with this. If she stands her ground and refuses to use the correct pronoun even when clearly pointed out to her, she is not Nice. Currently you are all more protective of the feelings of N, who is hurting P and doing nothing to avoid doing so, than of P, who is getting hurt through no fault of their own.

    9. Echo*

      I’m nonbinary. I would LOVE for you to be the coworker who reaches out to N! Good allies are worth their weight in gold. For me, the best thing to do would be to correct N in the moment. Whenever N uses the wrong pronouns for P, please speak up and say “P’s pronouns are they/them”. Say this in a very matter-of-fact tone, as if N said the meeting was on Thursday when it’s actually on Tuesday, or as if N said P’s title was Llama Groomer and it’s actually Sheep Inspector.

      For me personally, I would prefer if you did NOT talk about hurt feelings or acknowledge that this is a difficult adjustment for N. We need to treat pronouns like a normal thing about people rather than something that has to be handled delicately.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Appreciate the thoughts, thank you.

        The last time I heard her do it was in a big 55-person meeting in a hotel ballroom and NOBODY said a thing. Not that I shouldn’t speak up – but P had other allies in the room who were also quiet. I think it will be easier next time because we’re likely to be in our office in a smaller group, and I will steel my resolve to say something.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          My main tip here is to decide in advance what you’re going to say the next time it happens and practice saying it out loud. It will feel silly at first to be walking around your house saying “P’s pronouns are they/them” to nobody, but it will make it easier for you to say in the moment.

          I’m hoping that once you’ve done it once, your other coworkers will see it as permission for them to do it too. Somebody has to be first, so practice and prepare for it and you should be okay.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            ^This. Practice speaking up (a full sentence, and also envisioning (and practicing) just inserting “they” over and over again), it will DEFINITELY make it easier. And, I think it might help to reframe it a bit: I get the impression no one wanted to say anything in the large group because it feels rude, but *actually* I think it’s more akin to telling someone they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe: here is this embarrassing thing and you are helping get it fixed! (Which is definitely the case: I would proceed as though OF COURSE N will feel embarrassed getting such a basic thing wrong and will welcome the gentle nudge to get back on track [whether you believe this is the case or not, carrying that attitude in that since N is a Nice Person she OBVIOUSLY wants to get this right, will help set the stage for her to rise to that good image you have of her].)

    10. mreasy*

      “Hi! I’ve noticed you’re using the wrong pronouns for P. Can you try to remember to use they/them?” Then correct them every single time you hear them use the wrong ones.

    11. Jigglypuff*

      Nonbinary manager of a nonbinary staff member here.

      First, please speak with your nonbinary coworker and see if they want you to speak up for them. If that’s something they want, then you can ask if they’d like you to correct the other person verbally when they make a mistake. An email may possibly be effective, but most importantly, please get consent from your coworker before standing up for them.

    12. Educator*

      I would do this in person, not by email. It makes it more real and human. I’ve had good luck asking people who are not doing the correct and reasonable thing why they are not doing it, i.e. “I noticed that you are not using N’s correct pronouns. What’s going on there?” It either jolts people into awareness or forces them to justify their bad behavior.

      I once took a DEI training led by a trans facilitator, and she had the best response to the people who say that they/them pronouns are hard to remember or grammatically awkward. She told people to imagine that people who use they/them pronouns have a pet in their front pocket, and you need to address them both every time you reference the person. I thought that was a cute response.

    13. Agile Phalanges*

      If you ARE willing to talk to N about it, maybe also offer to help her with practice? Like, you and N can sit around and talk about P to help enforce the “new” pronouns in N’s head? Not gossip, just boring stuff like “P is one of our best llama groomers. They are good at brushing and combing especially. I like the when they show off their work by parading the llamas around. Maybe someday I can be as good at llama grooming as them.” Maybe a good 10-minute session once, followed up by a couple short ones every few days until N really internalizes it would help? Of course, this assumes she wants to use the correct pronouns but they just don’t “stick” for her.

    14. Joielle*

      I was in a similar position to you at a previous job, with a trans coworker who had come out about a year previously and changed pronouns, and one coworker who couldn’t seem to get the new pronouns right, or even really notice that she was getting the pronouns wrong. I mentioned it to the trans coworker – something like “Hey, I’ve noticed that Jan gets your pronouns wrong a lot. I correct her when it’s just me and her talking, but do you want me to speak up when you’re there or when it happens in a group? I know I’m new and I don’t know all the group dynamics, but I’m happy to do whatever you prefer.”

      My coworker appreciated the question but preferred to talk to Jan privately about it. I was glad I had asked!

    15. Enbious*

      I don’t know if this suggestion is “more” or “less” confrontational than others have suggested already, but if I were you I wouldn’t sit N down for this talk or send her a private email – I would just start correcting her, out loud, in the moment whenever it happens.
      N: “P just called and said she’s running late.”
      You: “You mean they’re running late.”
      Etc. Just do it every time and, if possible, get other coworkers on-board with doing the same thing. Eventually it will either click for N, or it will become (even more) apparent that N simply does not care and this needs to be escalated to HR.

    16. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Honestly, the most effective way would be to publicly correct N each time she does it. Maybe ask her to stop in front of everyone.

    17. Bromaa*

      I’m nonbinary, and you need to start unlearning the idea that you are being a Mean Person by correcting misgendering. She’s not accidentally using the wrong pronouns; she’s misgendering. This really sucks for P. You and everyone else in your department needs to get on this immediately, and if it’s a huge hassle or if it involves HR, *that’s actually fine*. Every single person in that department is showing P they don’t really care that P is being misgendered — or rather, they care more about their own momentary comfort than the very bad time P is having every day.

      This isn’t about “P’s feelings”. People who misgender me (after the first time, or without correcting themselves and working to be better) aren’t “hurting my feelings”. They’re being transphobic and need to be stopped.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s not like non-stop constant though; if it were it would be SO much easier to fix. It’s happened with some regularity, but not even every day (at least that I’ve heard). And P’s feelings do matter to ME … I obviously need to talk to them, but I actually think there’s at least a 40% chance they will downplay it.

        I do appreciate your thoughts, and everyone’s – I’m thinking about it over the weekend and will talk to P on Monday. They are the person I care about most here.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          It doesn’t always need to be a big thing. If you’re talking to N one-on-one or part of a small group, and N uses the wrong pronouns for P, just say “they” or “P uses they/them pronouns.”

          As an example:
          N: “I sent the email to P but I haven’t heard back from [him/her].”
          You: “P uses they/them pronouns. I’ll ask them about the email.”

          Or:
          N: “I need to talk to [him/her] about–”
          You: “them” (then let N continue talking)

      2. Rhiannon*

        Often, it’s after the 3rd or 4th “Hello” that I discover or am told that “they/them” is the correct pronoun for a particular person. Most people do the best they can with the details they have.

    18. debbietrash*

      It looks like there are a lot of non-binary, trans, genderfluid/queer and other folks offering their first-hand experiences in the comments here, so I’m just going to offer some links to similar situations/letters on AAM. Maybe you’ve already read them, but there may be something in one of the links to help you make your plan of action.

      https://www.askamanager.org/2023/01/getting-people-to-use-the-right-pronouns-finding-trans-friendly-workplaces-and-trans-inclusive-hiring.html

      https://www.askamanager.org/2021/03/my-employee-refuses-to-use-her-coworkers-correct-pronouns.html

      There was also a recent episode of the Work Appropriate podcast about identity politics in the workplace (Your Identity is Not a Problem with Morgan Givens).

    19. Btdt*

      Don’t bring anyone’s feelings into it- don’t tell her it hurts P’s feelings or feel like you’re being ‘mean’.

      Be factual and neutral, and then MOVE ON- “oh, remember it’s ‘their’ not ‘her’, N, but yeah P’s TPS report was great this week.”. And do it every time. Keep light and friendly but firm. Easy for you to address without (more) awkwardness on your part, and easy for her to accept the correction/reminder that she’s said something incorrect as it hasn’t come with censure. Remember: facts not feels!

      If she continues to mis-pronoun P, that’s an issue for HR.

    20. epizeugma*

      I would check to see what P would prefer that you do.

      I had a coworker who misgendered me repeatedly and my boss corrected him every. Single. Time. In the moment. He would immediately interject and correct “they” or “them” the second my coworker used the wrong pronoun. Every time. He didn’t make a speech out of it, he didn’t sit the coworker down and have a “stop misgendering your colleague” talk (at least not in front of me), he just consistently, but uncompromisingly, corrected my coworker for WEEKS until finally my coworker got his act together.

    21. LilPinkSock*

      There’s a lot to unpack here, but on the off-chance that N is in fact using the incorrect pronouns maliciously, they’re not going to give a crap that P’s feelings are hurt.

      Regardless of perceived intent, I think it’s possible—no, essential—that someone say to N, kindly and firmly, something like “P’s pronouns are they/them. It’s an adjustment for me too, and it’s a really important one.”

  17. rayray*

    How many people get VTO from their workplace? This is probably one of my favorite perks at my current workplace. We get 30 hours a year which is more than most places I have seen. I’d recommend anyone who would have any sway at their workplace to give this benefit. It seems to go unused for many people, but I really like having it so I can get out and do some volunteer work during the day and not worry about missing pay or using the few PTO hours I get. I volunteered a few hours yesterday at a place that receives and sorts donations for refugees. I had a great time and I am planning to go back weekly since we are so slow at work, it’s a much better use of my time than staring at my desk or browsing pinterest in between the few tasks I have each day.

    1. ThatGirl*

      We do – we get 20 hours – although we also have to use that if we do company sponsored events, weirdly. I appreciate it, though.

    2. Former Retail Lifer*

      We get 8 hours, but I have enough trouble getting my tasks covered when I’m on vacation that I’ve never attempted to use this benefit.

      1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        We get three days, so 24hours (7hr working day) but there are certain things that count. Fundraising doesn’t count, so if you wanted the time off to do a charity run, that would come out of PTO.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      When I was working in nonprofits, we’d sometimes have days when our corporate partners would send a whole team over to us. It was so useful if you’re doing something where you need a lot of people on hand, like preparing for an event or organising a storage area.

    4. Paris Geller*

      We don’t yet, but it’s been discussed and it’s something that the Powers that Be seem to be prioritizing. I don’t think we’ll get much — I think the proposal was 16 hours for full-time staff (so two work days) and 8 hours for part-time staff per year, but I still hope it’s something that does happen. We’re a municipal agency, so I think it would be really beneficial to both staff & the community to allow employees to work in the community a little more.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Sometime within the last 5 years my company started doing volunteer days. This is during regular business hours and we get paid as a typical day.
      There is no provision for volunteering on projects not sponsored by the company.

    6. Sparkle llama*

      I have volunteer time off (8 hours) and am on the board of a nonprofit and despite taking at least a week of vacation a year to do work for the nonprofit I can’t use the volunteer time off because of the restrictions on where you can volunteer. I love the places that offer it in a more flexible way since it does help us get volunteers and some even match your volunteer hours with money, which is fantastic!

    7. Data/Lore*

      I get 8, and if I volunteer for at least 10 hours with a single org, the org I volunteer with is eligible for a grant from my employer. The grant opportunity makes up for losing 8 hours when my smaller employer was bought out- I used to get 16, but the company didn’t offer any grants or charitable donations.

    8. A CAD Monkey*

      I would love this. I have to use PTO for my volunteer shifts and while it’s typically only 1-2 days worth of time off (mainly afternoons 2-4 days), that still burns 20% of my PTO for the year.

    9. Anon. Scientist*

      24 hours here and although you can technically do it for anything that’s not expressly political, people get a bit of side-eye if none of it is related to something the company is sponsoring in some way (we sponsor and/or send official teams to a lot of stuff). The only real stipulation is that if it’s not company sponsored, you have to send Marketing some sort of selfie at the event/work session so that they can promote it.

  18. Wordnerd*

    Office etiquette question!
    If you and a second person are having a one-on-one conversation in one of your offices, but with the door open, and a third person comes by, pretty clearly looking to ask a question – how quickly should the two people address that third person/pause their conversation?
    Is it rude to leave the new person just standing there for longer than a sentence? Or is it rude to expect the two people present to immediately address them?
    Does the answer change if the new third person is the boss?

    1. Nea*

      1) NEVER leave a boss hanging!

      2) Unless the original conversation is “How can we contain the chemical fire in the children’s nursery?” it should be immediately paused to address the third party, because they presumably can’t go back to work until their question is answered.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      If the new third person is the boss, you should pause right away, no matter what. Even if you’re having a work-related conversation. If it’s a time-sensitive work conversation, I might say something like “hi [boss], I was just talking to Wakeen about finding a new conference room for the meeting at 3 since the room we were going to use is infested with weevils.” That way the boss knows you’re in the middle of something vital and can either say “never mind that, all the chocolate teapots are melting!” or “ok, carry on, I’ll come back later.”

      If the third person isn’t the boss and your conversation isn’t work related, don’t make them wait. Finish your sentence and pause to invite them to speak.

      If the third person isn’t your boss and your conversation is work related, maybe finish your sentence, say, “hi Fergus, can you give me just a sec?” and then wrap up your conversation or at least come to a reasonable pausing point. Then give Fergus the chance to ask the question.

    3. A Manager for Now*

      New Third Person My Level or Lower:
      If I’m facing the doorway, I will nod at a natural break in the conversation (usually a couple sentences) and get to a wrap up point if the third person likely has a more important question than my conversation. If my conversation is critical, I will use that natural break to say, “Hey, I need to work through this, can I come find you when I’m done?”

      New Third Person My Boss or Higher:
      I will pause my conversation after completing the current sentence and say, “Hi [Boss], did you need something right away or can I meet back up with you in a few minutes”

      As The Third Person:
      I will listen to a couple sentences of the conversation and walk away if it seems more critical than my question and I am not acknowledged. I will gently knock if it seems non-critical and my question is very important.

      I think more than three to four sentences is an awkward period of time to wait, but unless the conversation is about like… what color to pain your cat’s claws on Sunday and my question is about the burning building behind me, I think it’s unreasonable to expect immediate acknowledgement. A sentence or two seems socially acceptable.

    4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I usually find it very easy to pause a conversation to acknowledge someone at the door, and then it’s just the same process as always of evaluating if the new thing is higher priority than the current thing I’m doing. It’s very much a culture thing of how into hierarchy you are, but in my org I would do the same thing no matter who is at the door, but whose asking does impact how I prioritize their request.

    5. Wordnerd*

      I’m just going to reply my original comment rather than pick a response below, but I appreciate all the responses!
      Generally – I have been leaning toward acknowledging the third person pretty much immediately, but the person I am most frequently having my original conversation with seems extremely reluctant to acknowledge the new person, and I end up feeling like I’m interrupting them to acknowledge the person.
      I appreciate everyone helping me normalize my gut instinct!

    6. RagingADHD*

      This is all about seniority and body language.

      The most senior person gets addressed first, whether that means continuing the conversation between the 2 and letting the junior person wait, or interrupting the conversation between 2 juniors to give attention to the senior person arriving in the doorway.

      If everyone is on more or less the same level, or one person in the conversation and the arriving person are peers, with the second person in the office being a junior, then it’s a judgement call based on how urgent the conversation is vs. how urgent the interruption is. Obviously if the interruption is quite urgent the interrupter should indicate that.

      If everyone’s a peer and none of it is particularly urgent, the 2 people conversing should visually acknowledge the interrupter and briefly finish the thought before including them. Maybe a sentence or 2 to finish, if the topic is very complex and would be difficult to pick back up.

      But an awful lot of this is body language, and could go in nearly any direction based on how everyone is behaving.

    7. Kes*

      I would quickly wrap up whatever you’re saying – if it’s something really quick or you’re almost done, settle the matter, but otherwise just finish the thought you’re in the middle of saying, and then address the other person. I would also probably glance at the person when they arrive so they know they’ve been seen. I agree there’s some body language here – if it looked like they needed something urgent I’d be more inclined to immediately break off and address what they need. I see a lot of people talking about seniority but I think that also depends on your workplace and how much more senior – mine is fairly casual/flat so I would probably wrap up the thought even before addressing a boss, unless they looked like they needed something urgently

  19. Puzzled*

    This is probably a weird question, but what’s a good way to explain why I don’t donate money to the college I went to undergrad for?

    When I first started my current entry-level job at a nonprofit, my grandboss (an executive director) was trying to explain some concept to me, and asked, “So you donate to [college I graduated from], right?” I said I didn’t, and she was very puzzled. “Really?! Why not?” I don’t remember how I responded, but I remember feeling very awkward about not donating.

    I was interviewing for another entry-level development job at a college recently, and the interviewer (also very high up on the command chain), asked me if I donate to my alma mater. She was also confused and wanted to know why I don’t. I said my experience there wasn’t particularly special and I didn’t feel compelled to donate to them. Again, awkward. Even feels kind of intrusive since it’s like a financial question?

    I’ve never had above an entry-level job even though I graduated many years ago, and on my low salaries I simply don’t have any money to spare for philanthropic causes. (If I did have extra money, it would go to charities I cared about, not a college!)

    Anyway, what’s the best way to respond to this?

    Is it really expected/common that everyone donate to their college? Or is that just something people who have high paying jobs do? I actually have both an undergrad degree and a masters degree, and regret getting both, so I really don’t understand why I would owe them more money.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I donated exactly ONCE to my alma mater, when I was graduating because I got some kind of special freebie (they wanted to be able to say X percent of the graduating class had donated. also it was like $10.)

      Frankly, my college doesn’t need the money. But the why is not really relevant. Just say “oh, it’s not really in my budget” or “oh, they’ve gotten enough money from me!” with a laugh, and move along.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        “oh, they’ve gotten enough money from me!”

        I’ve only been asked about donating to my alma mater a couple times in my life, and I’ve always said some variation of this, lol. As far as I’m concerned, my tuition was the donation. They better never ask me for a single red cent more!

    2. No Tribble At All*

      If you’re in the USA just say “I’ll donate when I don’t have to pay student loans” :'(

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Some of the weirdness is because both examples you gave are institutions that rely to some degree on donated money. If you were interviewing at an automobile manufacturer, and they asked you what kind of car you had, and you answered “I don’t drive”, they’d probably do a double-take too.

      That being said, there’s nothing wrong with replying “I have other philanthropic causes that are more closely aligned with my values”. You don’t have to say anything about how much $ you donate, if any, or what those causes & values are.

      1. Anon4This*

        Being in the metro-Detroit area, it’s common when interviewing in automotive for them to ask what kind of car you drive, and it’s very frowned upon to drive a foreign car. My husband would be asked to park his German car in a back lot when consulting for an American car manufacturer, so no one could see it.

    4. DataGirl*

      I honestly have never encountered that so I don’t have much advice, but I also don’t understand why anyone who wasn’t Phil Knight (founder of Nike) levels of rich would donate to a college. 1) they have more than enough money in general 2) They got more than enough money from me when I was a student there, why would I give them more and 3) I have WAY better organizations to donate to.

      I guess if someone brought it up and I was feeling like being polite, I’d say there are other organizations I prefer to donate to. If I was feeling snarky, I’d say there are far more worthy organizations that actually help people in need that I’d rather donate to (maybe don’t say that last one in an interview).

      1. Rex Libris*

        This. Besides my generally apathetic feelings about my alma mater (who’s interest in me seems limited to a once a year postcard that basically says “Happy Birthday, Send Us Money!” it just seems wildly entitled to me to assume everyone donates to their college. I donated when I went there. It was called tuition.

      2. PoolLounger*

        We donated to my partner’s college because they’re small, they traditionally are run by/have values based on a small religious group that doesn’t have a lot of money (and whose values we support), he had a great experience and great scholarships there, and they were going through a rough time and contemplating changing their offerings and focus. Donations and activism prevented the negative changed. I don’t donate to my university though bc it was a huge state school that doesn’t need extra money.

    5. ERG leader*

      It feels super strange to me that two different high-up people assumed that you donate to your former university!

      For what it’s worth, I’ve never had that experience (and I’ve never donated to my university). Maybe you’ve just had a string of weird coincidences, or maybe your field has strange expectations, or out of touch senior leaders?

      In any case, I like the previous commenter’s suggestions for light answers that move it along. It’s none of your boss’s business!

    6. rayray*

      I think most people don’t donate. We paid our tuition, graduated, and moved on. I think there are some people who are still big fans of the school, whether for sports or something else.

      I have never donated, and in fact, when I kept getting calls that I ignored since I knew what it was, I called the number back and left a message giving my information and asking them to please remove me from the calling list and I haven’t received a single call since.

      I think this is a bizarre question for an interview, it’s intrusive and has nothing to do with anythin. unless you were interviewing to work in donation solicitation I guess. A simple “Oh I paid well enough for my tuition” or something is fine.

    7. Alex*

      WTF, I’ve never ever been asked that, and I’ve landed four positions in academic institutions. I don’t think it is the norm to be asked that! I would be very offended if asked anything at all about my charitable giving in an interview.

    8. A Penguin!*

      I’ve never been asked, but if I ever am I’d just say ‘they got more than enough out of me in tuition.’

    9. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’ve never donated to any of the universities I ‘ve attended. (I did donate an old car to the auto mechanic program at a local community college I’ve taken continuing ed from. )

    10. WantonSeedStitch*

      I’m in advancement at a university. When people from my own alma mater call me asking for money, I tell them, “I don’t feel a particularly strong connection to [alma mater], and I have other philanthropic priorities, but I wish you luck!” In your situation, I’d probably have said something very similar: “I don’t feel a strong connection with the university, and there are other organizations that are higher priorities for me, philanthropically.” That kind of avoids talking about your financial situation, while acknowledging at least that you’re on board with the concept of philanthropy. You don’t have to tell anyone that you can’t afford to give–the prioritization is still true even when you don’t have the disposable income to make the gifts.

    11. Ranon*

      We give to our local community college and not our alma matters and I’m happy to tell anyone who asks that I think my dollars go further there (and about the many cool programs they have to help people get an education, community colleges rock!). Of course, I don’t work in education/ non profits so it also doesn’t come up…

      1. DataSci*

        I donate to a tribal college in the state I grew up in. My money helps a lot more there than at my alma mater where they’re getting millions from tech CEOs.

    12. to varying degrees*

      In my 30+ years of employment (non-profit’s and education) I’ve honestly never encountered this question. I think maybe this was some just weird one-off’s that you got.

    13. JB*

      I’ve never heard of this. You already paid them tens of thousands of dollars.

      Also demonstrates your boss is completely tone-deaf and out of touch with reality if they think people have enough money to donate like that.

    14. Jenna Webster*

      It’s a horrible question to be asked, and also really weird. Most people don’t donate to their colleges. I haven’t been asked this, but when the ubiquitous United Way campaign rolls around, I just say “I’m sorry, I have other organizations I support.” Luckily, most people let it go. I’m not sure how I would respond politely if they asked which organizations. How I spend my money is no one’s business but my own.

    15. university administator*

      I have worked at 4 different universities in the past 10 years and have never been asked this, and it makes me wonder if the places you are interviewing are financially solvent. A lot of universities were in precarious positions during covid. Are these small private institutions by chance? I don’t have advice on how to respond, but this would be off putting to me and I would remove myself from the candidate pool.

    16. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      “Recently, my charitable giving goals are focused on some other topics. I wouldn’t be surprised if I might loop back to my alma mater in the future.”

    17. RagingADHD*

      I think this is unique to your career field. I have never been asked such a thing in the whole of my life, except mailers from the college itself (which I ignore).

      But I don’t work in nonprofit development.

      If a senior person in your company asked such a tone-deaf question, I think replying with your pay rate would be sufficient answer. I did that once when a senior person at my company asked me why I’d never been to Aspen.

    18. Trotwood*

      Can you just say “my charitable donations are directed to other causes”? It’s definitely nobody’s business whether you’re donating to your alma mater or not.

    19. Trebek*

      I have worked in nonprofit development for 10+ years, and your interviewers reactions are so odd. Anyone who expects entry-level fundraising candidates to have expendable income to donate to their alma mater shouldn’t be a fundraiser because they clearly don’t understand how to evaluate a prospect’s capacity. That being said, inevitably in fundraising the topic of people’s philanthropic activity will come up, and if someone mentions my school (which will not get another red cent out of me) I generally laugh and say I’ll consider their solicitations once I’ve paid off my student loans. Or just matter-of-factly say, “I’m not in a financial position to contribute more at this point in my life.”
      Lots of people do donate to their alma maters because they had great experiences there, or learned a lot, or formed valuable relationships, or bought into a culty tribalist sports fandom, or whatever. You don’t have to be one of those people, and you definitely don’t owe them anything.

    20. Clisby*

      I have donated to one of my alma maters (maters? no idea what the plural is). However, I drew the line when they sent me an email asking me to set up an appointment so I could discuss estate planning. No, I valued the education I got there, but you ain’t in my will.

    21. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Haven’t you (or any other student) paid them for your education though? You’re more of a customer. The reason you don’t donate money is the same reason you don’t donate money to Walmart (or wherever) after you’ve shopped there….

      1. RagingADHD*

        I think it’s more like paying for the drive-thru order of the person behind you. A lot of donors contribute toward scholarship funds to help other students.

      2. Lyudie*

        I’ve donated a few times to the English dept of my alma mater, as the arts are continually undervalued in general, so even if they didn’t need donations (and I don’t know if that is the case or not), it shows that alumni value the arts.

    22. Dinwar*

      I handle this question (which has came up I think twice, both times involving folks from the university) the way I handle any other questions about donation: “My wife and I have carefully selected our charitable donations for the year, and are focusing on cancer research and the local emergency responders.” If pressed, I explain why. I have enough justification to shut them up. 8 relatives with breast cancer, 4 fire fighters, another 4 EMTs in the family; yeah, they realize quick they’re not winning that discussion.

      For anyone other than an unmitigated ass, “I’ve already made my charitable donations this year” would be sufficient. And remember, $0 is a valid amount to donate!

    23. Another Jen*

      My Alma Mater has a HUGE endowment, but they also aim to have upwards of 50% of students receiving some level of support. I give a completely token amount (it was $5/year, I think I’ve upped it to $25 or so) so that they can report high % participation in their grant applications. But that’s a decision, and you’re fully entitled to spend your charitable dollars however you choose!

      1. Not Totally Subclinical*

        I do the same with my alma mater. They have a fund that’s specifically for undergraduate scholarships, and I’m happy to donate a little to that since I benefited from such a scholarship when I went there.

        On the other hand, my annual takehome pay is about 3/4 of the current annual cost of attending my alma mater, so I’m not going to be giving them big dollars.

    24. Bagpuss*

      It sounds like a really weird question to me. I would feel it’s completely inappropriate to be asked a financial question, as well as the intrusive nature of it.

      I think I’d be inclined to say something like “I prefer not to discuss my personal finances / charitable giving.” I don’t think you should need to give a specific answer, you shouldn’t have to justify whether or why you donate to any specific cause!

      (If it weren’t a job interview I’d probably say something like ‘that’s a very personal question, why do you ask?’ but in a job interview you probably don’t want to be as blunt as that!)

    25. PassThePeasPlease*

      I know they probably didn’t mean for it to come off that way but an Executive (who presumably makes gobs more money a year than an entry level employee) asking who you donate to, even just for illustrative purposes, seems like an overstep that they should be more considerate of.

      For what it’s worth, I’m 5 years out of college now and don’t think I have ever/would ever donate to my university. I had an amazing time there and am very thankful for the education and connections it unlocked for me but overall I just think there are more worthy causes to donate my hard earned money to! They also have proven that for them sports programs (usually) take precedence and I don’t agree with that. And that’s not anyone’s business other than my own :)

    26. DataSci*

      Some people do this. I don’t. My alma mater has plenty of money, and lots of very wealthy software alums (think “founders of Google” level of wealth), so my donations wouldn’t even register. I send my donations where they make more of a difference. In your case, “they already have enough of my money” should be a fine response.

    27. lilyp*

      It sounds like both those people were starting to make some sort of point about donations made from a sense of loyalty/nostalgia/connection and wanted to use college donations as an example that you would have personal experience with, but are actually out of touch with the financial realities and philanthropic priorities of young people

    28. Double A*

      All I can’t think of is the John Mulaney sketch about this.

      “Roughly speaking, I gave my college $120,000. So you might say, I already gave them ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. And now you have the AUDACITY to ask me for MORE MONEY? I gave you more money than the Civil War cost and you SPENT IT ALREADY?”

      1. arjumand*

        “WHERE’S THE MONEY?!!”

        I’ve watched that standup so many times!

        “In the letter, college said something like ‘It’s been a while since you gave us some money!’ Well, it’s been a while since you housed and taught me!”

    29. Knows too much*

      Not everyone donates to their alma mater! Those questions are clearly an example of them overestimating the importance of their own field to the average person, I think. It’s easy to think things go without saying when you’re immersed in them all day, when in reality they’re things most people never think about.

      I think your answer about the experience not being particularly special is a good one. In my case, I taught at universities for a dozen years and my answer would be “I’ve seen how universities allocate money, thanks, so they’re not getting any of mine.”

  20. Nameless Faceless*

    A younger male coworker was recently sexually harassed by a visitor to our office. My coworker is quietly “out” – no rainbow flags or Pride marches, but he’s Facebook official with his partner, and they frequently appear in public as a couple. The male visitor, who is about his age, is *allegedly* deeply closeted. This visitor came into our workplace on official business, and while Coworker was assisting him, made a wildly inappropriate sexual remark (essentially a come-on) to Coworker.

    Coworker was flustered and kind of laughed it off – nobody else was around to hear, of course.

    He told me about it, but said he isn’t going to tell anyone else. He doesn’t want to report anything: his own career aspirations might be damaged. And, more immediately, this visitor is part of the governing body of our organization, which determines our budget and is currently weighing whether to approve a major project we’re counting on for this year. If he swayed the governing body against it, it would have a massive impact on our operations for the year. (Not an employee; think more like a nonprofit’s board, or a school board member.) So I definitely think Visitor knew he had some power in this situation and used it to his advantage.

    I told Coworker I think it should be reported. He declined, and of course I’m not going to violate his wishes by doing so myself. But I’m older, have been there/done that as a woman, and have no patience for this kind of nonsense. Younger Me would have been equally flustered, but Current Me wouldn’t hesitate to shut that mess down. As far as Visitor being closeted … if you don’t want to be outed, maybe don’t make creepy, sexually harassing comments?

    Coworker was horrified; said he knew women experience this regularly, but it was the first time he’d ever faced it.

    We’re equals, and I didn’t witness the interaction, so by policy I’m not required to report (this is why he won’t tell anyone else; he doesn’t want it to become official).

    Other than listening to him, encouraging him to not tolerate it, and keeping an eye out for the creep, what can I do to support him?

    1. by golly*

      You might offer to your coworker to make a plan so that he never has to be alone with the creep again. Whether that means you’ll just hover within earshot or make a point of assisting the creep yourself, or whatever, if it were me, that would feel supportive.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Does your employer have an EAP or similar resources for employees’ well-being? EAPs tend to be anonymous. You could point that out to him.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Without knowing exactly what was said, I wouldn’t think reporting it would necessarily out the creepy visitor. People make sexually harassing comments to victims they’re not attracted to all the time, because it’s usually about power/insult/etc rather than real attraction. I’m sure you know this, but I wonder if your coworker doesn’t since he’s never experienced it – does he realize he can report this as “this visitor made inappropriate sexually charged comments” rather than “this visitor hit on me disrespectfully”?

      1. Nameless Faceless*

        I agree with your sentiment in general, but in this case, based on what was said, it would almost certainly out the visitor. It was pretty raunchy.

        Now, for all I know, Visitor does this kind of thing regularly, but Coworker seems concerned that any complaint would impact both him and our workplace (re: Visitor being part of our governing body). You know, all the same things women get told when we try to file a complaint.

    4. Empress Matilda*

      Strangers on a Train? You could team up with ThatGirl above, and sort out both her “N” and “Visitor.”

      I mean, it’s probably not a great idea in real life, but it is very satisfying to imagine…

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I think in this case, your best role may be to rehearse a strategy for what your coworker could do if it happens again.

      Maybe a script like “Visitor, what you just said isn’t appropriate or welcome. I need you to stop. Our sexual harassment policy is clear on this sort of thing.”

    6. Nesprin*

      I would write down notes+ email to yourself so if it does become a thing you have a time stamped set of records.

      Make sure that Visitor is never alone with Coworker ever again- in the best of all possible worlds, Visitor should be escorted by someone senior enough to prevent another incident, or at minimum, you can sit in with Coworker to “take notes” or the like.

      I also used to work at a hospital and brought this to my current workplace -if you asked someone to page or go find Dr. Leslie, it was code for needing security/help.

    7. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

      I tend towards: It is totally his decision whether to report it or not, and all you can do is be there as a listening ear. He gets to judge what level of risk he’d be taking by reporting it, and he gets to decide if the risk is manageable for him or not.

      Having said that – I get that now that you KNOW this visitor behaved awfully, you know he might be a serial creep and you might feel helpless that you can’t protect others from him! I don’t know the answer to this.

      1. AABBCC123*

        Is it possible for you to unofficially monitor the visitor, i.e. shadow him or offer to be his guide/escort so you can keep an eye on him. You don’t need to tell anyone why you are doing it, so you aren’t violating your co-workers privacy.

  21. EPLawyer*

    This is actually for hubby but he asked for my help. He is looking to leave his current maintenance in a factory job. He wants me to help him on his resume.

    1. I suck at resumes.
    2. Its a trades job and I only know office jobs.

    So much bad advice out there I don’t want to steer him wrong. Resources? Suggestions?

    1. ERG leader*

      I think Alison’s advice (check the resume tag or search this site) would be a good starting point.

      And then if you know of anyone who works in maintenance or factory leadership, see if they have specific advice.

      I’m guessing the hiring manager will be relatively attuned to office norms, so it wouldn’t hurt to follow them. At least where I’ve worked, the maintenance manager is usually an engineer by training, and initial screening might be done by HR. But I could be off base here.

    2. rayray*

      There’s lots of resume resources and help on this site. You can also google “Harvard Resume” and they have some good resources as well. You can also see if there are any local Workforce Services or similar where you live. They might have workshops to help with resume writing.

    3. Mockingjay*

      It’s really not different than any other resume. Write out tasks, responsibilities, stats.
      Include any licenses, certifications (equipment/system, safety), etc. Then pare all that to what’s relevant to each job he’s applying for.

    4. Trotwood*

      Trade skills are SUPER in demand…I work in a manufacturing setting and we are desperate for pipefitters, machinists, electrical workers, HVAC techs…highlighting the kind of tasks your husband is experienced in, the kind of equipment he’s worked on, any certifications he has will be very appealing. Definitely focus on skills even if his previous work doesn’t lend itself so well to describing “achievements” the way they are typically presented on a resume.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I briefly worked HR-adjacent for an engineering-consulting company that was hiring contractors for turn-around inspections on oil production facilities. The resumes that went across my desk were front-loaded with certifications and licenses. Basically nothing else mattered. If you didn’t have the certifications and licenses that the project needed, you couldn’t be hired.

      After that, we needed to see a history of relevant skills. After that, we liked to see candidates who were frequent flyers on the inspection work. We never, ever needed to see cover letters, objective statements, volunteer experience, or hobbies. We didn’t care about employment gaps, because, again, we just needed to see certifications and valid licenses. (Also proof of current insurance, but that likely isn’t an issue for your husband.)

      Some of the resumes were simply atrocious. Bizarro formats, misspellings, xeroxes of xeroxes, and so on. The project needed bodies who had the knowledge and skills for the work, so some of the worst-looking resumes were hired. So don’t sweat it too hard.

    6. TX_Trucker*

      Beam jobs has some good samples of resumes for trade workers. The samples on Zety are awful for non-office positions. Be sure to include any tools that hubby is familiar with. And if he is comfortable working in cold/hot/wet factory positions, include that also.

    7. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Try not to use templates from websites for anything but reminders of what you might need to include. The “fancy” ones won’t impress anyone once they start to read it, and their formatting/fields will make you nuts when you try to change something.

      And use the job posting to remind you of what to include. That’s their wish list, so really the main job of the resume is to tell the employer that you have what they need, and to refer to the places you got that skill/expertise.

  22. TeenieBopper*

    I’m a fully remote worker and have been since 2020. I love the flexibility it offers. I’m supposed to work 35 hours a week but often find myself working less (I’m writing this post during work hours, for example). But all my work gets done and I’ve had nothing but positive performance reviews.

    I’m ramping up my job search because of a hiring and pay freeze and the fact that I’m already well underpaid for my experience and skills. I’m looking mostly at remote positions are hybrid with a heavier emphasis on remote work and I’ve got an interview scheduled for later today. What is the best way to ask “How do I know you’re not going to green dot police me on Teams because I ain’t got time for that sh–.”

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Ask about response time for online stuff maybe? Ask about “if I have an appointment, can I just run out, or do I have to clear it in advance” and that’ll get them talking about their butts-in-seats-or-not policy?

    2. ERG leader*

      Can you ask for an opportunity to talk to a peer on the team 1:1? They might have the best perspective.

      1. TeenieBopper*

        Oooh. I like that idea, but I don’t know how well that it would work for this particular job. I’d basically be hired as the first member their data analytics department. I’ll keep that suggestion in mind for other interviews though.

    3. CheeryO*

      That’s a good question, and I’m interested to see other answers. Maybe just mention that you enjoy the flexibility that your current job offers and are looking for something similar in a new position, and then ask about the general culture around taking time out during the day for a quick errand or to get a walk in, while still getting all of your work done. I would hope that that would reveal any particularly rigid expectations about responsiveness without making it look like you plan to goof off all day.

    4. Nobody*

      This is a question I have struggled with in interviews as well – even before being a remote employee. It’s hard to strike the balance between asking about flexibility and sounding like you are asking how much you can get away with. Also, everyone’s definition of “flexibility” can vary SO widely: so someone telling you in an interview that they are “super flexible” can mean anything from “you can take a half hour lunch instead of an hour long lunch and leave a halr hour early” to “I don’t care when you work as long as your work is done.”

      Can’t imagine any hiring manager would admit in an interview that they monitor Teams for activity but then again, I was asked once time how I felt about being micro-managed – so you never know – sometimes you do get tossed a nuggest of honesty!

    5. Cj*

      I used Teams extensively and a couple of jobs, and still don’t really understand how the availability that’s work.

      I think that if you gave something on your calendar, it shows you as unavailable. Does it show you as unavailable if you haven’t logged any keystrokes on your computer for a while, or what?

      Can you set your status manually, or does that change if it doesn’t show you using your computer for a while?

      1. Cj*

        Speech to text used, got some stuff wrong and I didn’t edit it. I think it should be easy to figure out what I meant, though.

        Also, my kingdom for an edit feature.

    6. Manchmal*

      “Can you describe your management style when it comes to remote workers? How do you communicate workload, and how is performance evaluated?”

  23. brianna_the_banana*

    I’m currently working on my resume, and am unsure how to list something. I’m a software developer and that’s the vast majority of my work, but over the past few years I had a sort-of volunteer position with the inclusion and diversity team at my job. It’s not what I was getting paid to do, but it was good leadership experience so I’d want to include it. Putting it under a separate “Other Experience” header feels a little strange cause it was for my company and was factored into end of year performance conversations, but it also feels weird to put it as part of my job as a software developer. Thoughts?

    1. Alex*

      I think you as put it as part of your job. If you think of it as a list of your accomplishments and not a list of your responsibilities, it might make more sense to you. While not related to software development, it IS related to your employment and employer, and part of your contribution to the company.

      1. Kes*

        I agree with this, I would just include it as a point under your job, it’s still something you did at your job which shows your skills and abilities

    2. Anon for this*

      I would split them. This isn’t exactly the same, but when I was in grad school, I was one of the organizers of a departmental event series (this was a year-long rotating position). I have a “leadership experience” section that includes that, and the graduate position itself is under work experience (I was a PhD student). I gave it a heading that was something along the lines of “Underwater Basketweaving Colloquium Organizer, Miskatonic University Department of Obscure Studies”, so it’s easy to see that it was in connection with my overall position there but also that it was an extra thing.

    3. Watusi*

      Have two subheadings under your job:
      Job Title, Company
      Software development
      accomplishments
      DEI Committee
      accomplishments

  24. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m busily trying to think of how to schedule low yield assignments ( like driving across the city for a single form that people may or may not give you).

    No progress on job search because I realized I have to break it into very tiny steps and I do not know what those steps are

    1. Kes*

      Update your resume, compile a list of jobs to apply to, write a cover letter, submit application? You can break this down further if needed, obviously. Also, you don’t need to know what all the steps are to get started necessarily, you just need to determine what the first thing you should do is

      1. dude, where's my cheese?*

        1. Create a comprehensive master version of an updated resume – don’t worry about length because it’s supposed to be a comprehensive reference to help you with step 3
        Can break into:
        1a. Think about the big buckets of work you do and what you’ve accomplished
        1b. Brainstorm without worrying about a polished, final version
        1c. Polish up your rough draft

        2. Compile a list of jobs to apply to
        Can break into:
        2a. Think about the types of jobs you’d like to have. You can approach this by job title, by qualification (for example, searching Indeed or LinkedIn for a type of software or certification and seeing what jobs are looking for people with those skills), by looking at companies in the field and seeing what positions they have open
        2b. Set LinkedIn/Indeed/etc. job alerts for keyword searches and companies you’d want to work for
        2c. Save the jobs that catch your eye. Dig into the qualifications, the company, their glassdoor. Make sure you feel like the job, work style, salary, company, etc. are a good fit. The goal is to weed out all the “meh” jobs before applying – quality over quantity.

        3. Tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for and write a cover letter

        4. Submit application

        1. Squawkberries*

          1a (make a master resume or cv) can be broken up further into :
          -Make a list of all company you worked at. Include location and dates.
          -For each org, make a list of all roles / titles held at each position.
          – For each title, see if you can track down job description / key responsibilities
          -Each role / title list your biggest accomplishments.
          – perhaps include names/contact of managers potential references (IF YOU HAVE) from that role…
          Not necessary or even desirable to include all that info in resume for job application but I found useful to keep info handy for refreshing my talking points for an interview.

  25. ERG leader*

    I’m the leader of an ERG at my company. We do really good work and I love doing it. But I’m having a really hard time reconciling my passion for the work with the reality of working with our DEI department which makes me want to rage-quit on a regular basis.

    The good part is that the DEI department gives us a few thousand dollars a year. The bad part is that they don’t communicate with us, ignore our requests to meet, and then swoop in at the last minute to nix our plans. This has happened two or three times over the past few months.

    There’s also a severe mismatch in expectations over who’s in charge of what. We’ve had several conversations about this, but we’re still far from aligned. Clearly.

    There’s a new hire in the department which I’m hoping will help with the communication, but holy crap this is enraging.

    If you have any advice speak up, but I mostly wanted to rant.

    1. Rogelio*

      Have you tried having a formal meeting to discuss the issues with the DEI team? Can you get several other ERG leaders/members to band with you? You could try to pitch it as a way to better accomplish the organization’s DEI goals.

      Another option is to figure out where to focus your energies if they’re not letting you do what you need. Can you do less for your own ERG and get involved with a national ERG that might be more active? Shifting those priorities and still doing DEI work might make you feel better about the whole situation.

      1. ERG leader*

        Yes – we’ve had two formal meetings so far and I’m trying to schedule a third, but the leader has a busy schedule (and doesn’t seem to prioritize this). We are definitely using that positive framing – one of my co-leaders is really good at the politics thing. The meetings were sort of helpful, but we’re just so far apart that an hour isn’t nearly enough time to figure this out.

        And you’re right that disengaging and focusing my efforts elsewhere might be the best bet. Or I could try to find a company that does DEI for more than just PR purposes.

        Thanks for your help.

    2. Kes*

      Have they given you reasons for why they’re nixing your plans?
      I agree on having a meeting to discuss in order to try and get on the same page on what they expect from you and what you can do that they are willing to support you in

  26. Dark Macadamia*

    I’m feeling discouraged. I started this job last summer and because of budget stuff going on in my district right now, they’re only converting a limited number of new hires to continuing contracts – and the pool of continuous employees who will be “shuffled” around is likely to be bigger than usual, so the chances that my position will remain open for me are pretty low. This is the first job that’s felt like a really great fit for me! It doesn’t help much to have my boss tell me she’d LIKE to keep me when the process is mostly out of her control… I’m really bummed. I probably won’t find out one way or another until at least April. I’m still doing my best because I enjoy it but there’s also a “what’s the point” feeling since my performance won’t be the deciding factor. Kind of hoping if I complain the universe will be like “ha ha! You spoke too soon, you’re hired!” lol

    1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

      I’m sorry this is happening to you, especially since you’re finding that the job is a great fit for you.

      The only motivating things I can think of to say are: a. They might actually hire you, and b. If you are let go, then how you handle these few months could determine if they hire you in the future.

      But – sorry that you’re in this uncertain situation.

  27. jasmine*

    Thoughts on not having a LinkedIn? I’ve been thinking of deleting mine for online data privacy. I do get recruiter messages about good jobs every once in a while, but I’m wondering if job hunting wouldn’t be so bad without it (not an immediate concern since I’m not hunting right now).

    And a slightly related question, is it unethical to apply for jobs if you have no intention of switching? Say, if I wanted to test out how easy it is to get interviews without having a LinkedIn profile.

    1. MissGirl*

      I’ve found two of my last three jobs on LinkedIn—the last at a company that was completely off my radar. All of my interviewers viewed my profile. It’s such an easy way to utilize my network.

    2. rayray*

      I think you can deactivate your profile so it just goes away, but then you can log back in and it’ll be back up.

    3. A Penguin!*

      I think it depends on your industry and location. Some seem to use it more than others. If you can find more than enough leads without it then feel free to delete. As a hiring manager I would look up candidates briefly on LinkedIn but wouldn’t hold lack of a profile against them.

      And yes, it’s unethical to apply if you have no intention of switching. If it was unlikely but possible, fine. But if it’s 0% chance that you’d respond favorably regardless of the opportunity then don’t do it.

    4. Ewesername*

      I don’t have one. I also don’t have FB and my Insta handle is my cat. When I was job hunting last fall, it only came up once. An interviewer mentioned that they couldn’t find me on any social media so I told them I found it to be too distracting. They accepted that.
      I think you’re fine without one.

    5. Educator*

      I have never had one—I think it is incredibly invasive and weird to be expected to share your whole work history with the world at large, and I cannot believe the practice is so mainstream.

      Do you network in other ways? Attend industry events? Meet old colleagues for coffee? Send your last boss a periodic check-in email? Reach out to people for informational interviews? Making meaningful connections is, in my experience, likely to advance a job search. And you don’t need social media to do that—I find it much more authentic to do it offline.

    6. Colette*

      IMO, the big benefit of LinkedIn is being able to find people you used to work with. I don’t see it as a big benefit to a job hunt in general, but being able to contact references or see if you know anyone at a particular company is valuable.

      But I don’t imagine it would make much difference to the typical hiring manager.

  28. Alex*

    I got a new job! I’m really excited about it.

    The problem….I’m SO NERVOUS about giving my notice. I have worked at the same place for a long long time. I know it is time to move on, and I don’t think my boss will hold it against me or treat me poorly. But I’ve struggled a bit lately–made a few mistakes, let a few things drop that I shouldn’t have. I have this fear that I’m going to leave and it will be discovered that my work wasn’t as good as everyone thought, when they dig into my projects. And it is true that my performance has been slipping. I want to leave with people remembering me well, not right now, which is when I’m not at my best.

    I haven’t liked my job for a long time now and I know it is time to move on. I thought I would be gleeful about giving notice but that isn’t what I’m experiencing–I just feel dread and anxiety about it.

    Any tips on managing these weird feelings? I’ve spent more than 25% of my entire life working at this job and so moving on feels SO WEIRD.

    1. Erika22*

      I’m in the same place, but slightly further along – I’ve been at this company for half of my professional life but have been ready to leave for a while, just too anxious to actually make the leap till recently! I gave notice and am trying to wrap up my project handovers well enough to not feel self conscious about how the work will be perceived when I’m gone. I’m also not at my best currently, what with anxiety about leaving and feeling like a fraud, which is causing me to perform poorly and then exacerbating those feelings! It’s quite a cycle.

      I’ve also had a couple colleagues leave recently and have seen how me and my team react to looking at their handovers and project progress. Ultimately, there will always be questions of “why did Alex do this instead of that? What happened to that contract? This report makes no sense!” but I’ve never thought “wow Alex did poorly”, I just think “Alex did this differently to me, but I have a fresh perspective so see this differently” or “Alex didn’t have a chance to wrap this up before they left, which sucks as a situation but doesn’t mean Alex sucks.”

      I basically have to keep reminding myself that I tend to view myself more negatively than my coworkers do/will, and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Right now I’m really working on telling myself that a new job is a fresh start, and to really take advantage of being a new starter, getting things done well and efficiently, and take forward any lessons I’m learning now as I’m wrapping up my projects. Tbh, I even got feedback on how I’ve slipped recently, and though it wasn’t a surprise, it still sucked to be told. But I know it’s almost over, and I can only do my best to make up for it while I’m still here.

      And if none of this helped… then at least solidarity? You’re not the only one feeling this way!

    2. Nicki Name*

      Been there! The important thing is to get on with moving on. You’ll feel a lot better when the whole process is over with and you’re settling in at your new job.

      When you’ve left, if your coworkers had a generally positive view of you before, they’ll probably attribute mistakes to you being unhappy and distracted recently– I mean, you left!– rather than revising their entire opinions of you.

    3. Cookies for Breakfast*

      I’ve been in a similar position. While the lead-up to the moment I gave my notice was stressful, once it was done a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. While working my notice, I felt relaxed and carefree at work in a way hadn’t been able to be for years, consumed as I was with impostor syndrome and struggling with the workload (I too worked at the same place a long time, and my last role there was in a very dysfunctional department that was crumbling down). I even got the feeling people who made my working life difficult were kinder to me because they realised how unmanageably large my remit was, which made me feel vindicated but was still too little, too late.

      I think that, to some extent, it’s inevitable that some people will look down on your work once you’re gone. Part of it is because the people who stay are rarely invested in learning a soon-to-be former coworker’s job while they’re still around (they may not realise how challenging it is to take on someone else’s workload; they may be too busy with their own; or other reasons). Part is because people in leadership positions often mess up the timing of hiring and rearranging teams, so by the time someone’s last day rolls around, they still have no idea who will take on the work or how to get back to business as usual. Part is because blaming someone who’s no longer there to defend their choices is easier than looking at the root causes of what’s wrong.

      What worked for me was:

      – Accepting all of that (tough, as a people-pleaser, but I reached a point where I was truly at peace with knowing it)
      – Being as professional as I could during my notice, so that looking back I could honestly tell myself I did my best to leave things in order. I wrote the most comprehensive set of documentation that existed for that role, set aside as much time as I could to take people through it, and insisted on my line manager knowing exactly what was available and confirming it was what they needed. While part of me doubted anyone would actually use it again, that was truly all I could do to pass on the years’ worth of knowledge I’d piled on
      – Having a list of admin things to get done before my last day, to be sure I wasn’t forgetting anything important that would haunt me later (what did I need to ask HR before leaving? What benefits or payments should I check I got until the end? What documentation from the old job did I need for admin at the new one?)
      – Reminding myself I was heading to a new job, and giving my notice officially kicked off the time to feel hopeful and excited about that

      Some time off in between roles also helped. At the end of it, I was almost completely switched off from my old job and ready to start from a clean slate at the new one. I was able to carve out two weeks. The hiring manager actually told me “”, and I took that to heart. It may not be an option for everyone, but if it is for you, take it :)

      All the best for your new role! I hope it’s exciting, interesting and a success.

    4. Alex*

      Thanks all for the reassurance! Yes, I’m lucky in that I am getting to take two weeks off in between so I hope I’ll feel like this job is just a memory before I have to get into my new one.

      ACK. I wish I could just get it over with today but I’m still waiting for the official written offer (already got a verbal offer, confirmed salary, passed background check, and settled on a start date).

    5. onyxzinnia*

      That was me back in October, half of my career was at the same organization. I was more than ready to move on from the company but I still had a panic attack the night before I was going to deliver the news to my boss. It was scary, but I was relieved when it finally happened and the world didn’t end.

      Anything you can imagine is going to be worse than the reality. The truth is most people are going to be so focused on themselves and their own projects that they’re not going to have the bandwidth to care about others.

      Something that helped me manage the anxiety was creating a comprehensive handover document. The document has not project statuses but also contained the historical background behind the projects so people reading could understand why certain decisions were made along the way and recommended next steps. I also walked not only my boss, but select coworkers through the document so that there were no surprises and I could correct or add to the record if needed before I left. Will anyone read it? Maybe, maybe not. But I know at least that I left them in the best possible place I could before I moved on.

      Congrats to you! I’m sure it’s going to be a great move.

  29. Lil*

    I know Alison has answered work questions about fictional characters but I was doing a rewatch of The Tudors and I keep thinking about Thomas Cromwell writing in circa say April 1536 and how bonkers it would be.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Oh, can we do a fictional thread? :D

      I was just rewatching Veronica Mars and hardcore judging Veronica’s manager at the café for agreeing to hire Veronica’s friend with the caveat that if she sucks, Veronica (not a manager) has to be the one to fire her.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        I’m rereading the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I’m imagining Simon Illyan writing in to AAM: “I have an employee who is unquestionably intelligent and good at his job, but who takes the concept of ‘showing initiative’ and ‘being a self-starter’ to utterly ludicrous levels. How can I rein him in and get him to acknowledge that I’M HIS BOSS while still allowing him to do what he does best?”

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      If you haven’t already, you need to read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy! All 3 books are written from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell and are basically one long AAM letter of the “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change’ genre.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Also, I’d love to see a letter about Gina from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and how she was (although hilarious at times) a walking HR complaint and possibly the worst admin staffer in TV history.

  30. Amber Rose*

    I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon for this business trip slash training thing and I’m sick with anxiety about it. I’ll be fine once I go, but there’s so much networking and I am so very bad at networking. D:

    I’m carrying my portable charger with me as well so my phone doesn’t die, since we’ll be out first thing and not back until very late at night. But is there anything else I should carry? I’m trying to get away with having the world’s tiniest purse, since I’m going to be lugging around my laptop bag a fair amount.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Chapstick, a water bottle, an emergency granola bar/snack if you’re the type to get hangry.

      If you have business cards, some business cards? Or at least carry a pen.

      You’ll do okay!!!

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        And put all of it in your laptop bag — you don’t need to be hauling around a purse AND a laptop bag. I would nix the granola bar and water bottle unless you know that the training location won’t have water and snacks available (most do).

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Definitely put it all in the laptop bag! Wrangling two bags somehow completely undoes me and I end up feeling like an even bigger mess than usual.

        2. Squawkberries*

          Disagree about the snack and water… You never know if youre going to be delayed en-route. You wont regret having one if you dont need it. But you will regret it if you end up needing it and dont have.

    2. ERG leader*

      In my work “comfort” bag (which goes inside my laptop bag) I carry chapstick, hair tie, tampon, Kleenex (10 pack), gum, hand sanitizer, earbuds, extra pen and post it notes. Plus chargers. And sometimes snacks, in case of emergency :) I should also add some sort of fidget object tbh, although a pen or hair tie totally works.

      Good luck!

    3. On Fire*

      My never-be-withouts:
      Meds if you use them, including Tylenol or similar
      A granola or protein bar in case you feel you’re about to crash
      Hand sanitizer
      Mints/breath strips/gum
      Lip balm

    4. Workerbee*

      If there’s time and it wouldn’t be out of touch with the tone of the place, backpack it instead of lugging a laptop bag. Balances the load plus more pockets to stash things, even a tiny toiletries bag to extract when needed.

    5. Robin Ellacott*

      Can you put it all in the laptop bag and skip the purse? Two bags would drive me batty.

      I always need to have lip balm, kleenex, pain killers and a decongestant allergy med, nail file/clippers, and these days a hand sanitizer and a mask. And I recommend 2 bandages – they can go on your heels if your shoes hurt, tape up a hem, and so on.

      For a good selection of this kind of item maybe google “pinch kits,” which are little pouches you can buy with the kind of things you may need in a pinch. That might give you ideas for what might apply to you.

  31. No Tribble At All*

    Tips with dealing with a workaholic coworker? My counterpart was promoted to the same level position as me, so now I feel threatened by his workaholic-ness. He does things like (a) insists we should check everything by hand (b) checks in early morning and late at night (c) checks in on the weekends. (By “check in” I mean we monitor hardware that runs 24/7, but we’re not required to work 24/7…. or even beyond 9-5….)

    I took this job specifically because our boss said it’s 9-5 with occasional “best effort” work, and so far, it has been. But this coworker is just so damn judgy all the time. He’ll say things like “the hardware doesn’t sleep!” and lectured me for not wanting to check something by hand, when I’m working on something to automate its checking. I just feel like I can’t do anything right because I can’t run at 110% all the time like he does. I’m a big fan of “work smarter, not harder”. When I was one level above him in seniority, I could ignore him. Now I feel like none of my accomplishments will ever look good to our bigbosses because Coworker does the work of 1.5 people because he works 70 hours a week.

    Any tips for dealing with this other than irrational hatred??

    1. ecnaseener*

      Sounds like there’s two separate questions, how to respond to his judginess and how to continue looking good to the bosses.

      The best way I know to respond to judginess (especially when i seriously disagree with the person’s opinion) is to just own it and grey-rock him. Agree that your approach is very different than his, eg you really value work-life balance so you will not be checking the hardware at odd hours but he’s free to do so. You prefer to spend your time and energy on more productive things but he’s free to check whatever he wants by hand. Etc.

      As for the bosses – if you’re really doing smarter work while he’s doing 24/7 busy work and burning himself out, I have to think that’s apparent. For example when you can tell your bosses you’ve developed an automated check which saves you time for other projects, that reflects well on you.

    2. Nea*

      “I understand you have a different process, but [ thing that you are doing ] works with equal efficiency.” or “I know you prefer to [ thing he does ] but [ thing you do ] has never failed.”

      Or, if you’re really at the end of your rope, simply: “I am not hardware.”

    3. Nobody*

      This is my new coworker too. Working on holidays and weekends – that is not my jam at all and that is one fo the reasons why I have this job. On the other hand, she seems to think weekends and holidays are great opportunities to get work done “undisturbed.” SO MUCH EYE ROLLING. These people need to be force fed chill pills.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Ignore him and do what you did before he was promoted.

      Keep working on scripts and SOPs. Keep Workaholic out of the loop on what you are doing, then present these cost/time-saving and more accurate tools to the bosses as your special contribution. “The script runs autochecks every X hours, which is sufficient according to Industry Best Practice/Policy. It outputs a report so we have current stats for system functions.”

      I’m not a fan of monitoring coworker time (Alison has many posts), but in this instance I recommend you find a way to mention his OT to the boss. You don’t need OT to get the job done; why does he? “Boss, Workaholic spends twice as much time as I do on tasks, resulting in a lot of OT to get things completed or checked. Do you think he needs training on X?” *tone is concerned coworker

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Could it help to see his attitude as some kind of need on his part? Rather than framing it as “I can run on 110% all the time like he does,” framing it as “I don’t feel the need to run on 110% all the time like he does” or “I feel comfortable switching off and delegating even though he doesn’t.”

      Running on 110% is not a good thing and maybe rather than feeling threatened, you could see it as something he is doing that is possibly unhealthy or at least would be unhealthy for you to imitate.

      The other issue here is his attitude. Even if he feels the need to work harder than is necessary or expected, it’s not really OK for him to lecture a peer, who was up to recently on a level above him (the latter shouldn’t matter but had he previously been on the level above you, I would think he was maybe adjusting to getting used to you as a peer, but that is clearly not the situation here).

    6. Malarkey01*

      I’m not sure if this is the best advice for everyone but I find that turning that judgement around on them can help you establish norms (even if just to yourself). It may or may not be appropriate to speak it out loud but if he’s making judgey statements it may be. So if he makes a comment about hardware not sleeping, return with why in the world are you checking that after hours instead of living a life with a confused and mild mocking like (or just think that while internal eye rolling) or when he wants to hand check something return with why would I use an outdated method instead of the tools at our disposal? It’s 2023 Todd get with it. Failing to accept their judgement is really empowering.

      This was incredibly helpful with my MIL who had all kinds of food and weight snide comments that used to make me feel judged and horrible until I snapped back with why in the world are you so interested in what I’m eating and I find people who constantly talk about weight to be super obsessive busy bodies. (I mean 10 years in I snapped). I never ever heard another comment and now I embrace that yes actually I would like to put gravy on my mashed potatoes instead of each raw vegetables for thanksgiving.

    7. Bob-White of the Glen*

      “Now I feel like none of my accomplishments will ever look good to our bigbosses because Coworker does the work of 1.5 people because he works 70 hours a week.”

      Are you sure about this? I mean it’s a tech person doing processes by hand that could be automated! What a waste of time and company resources. It sounds like one of those people who are always incredibly busy (!!!!) but not in a way that really makes a difference. Do your job your way, remind him he is not your supervisor, and keep bringing the automated processes and other improvements to your actual boss. They’ll usually see thru a person like that.

  32. Nervous Nellie*

    I am a mid-level supervisor/manager of a small team and have been tasked with my first write-up of a relatively new employee and I am so irrationally nervous about it! The employee in question, Employee A, has had multiple attendance issues to the point that other same-level employees have reached out to me about it, wondering if they have misunderstood the attendance policy (they haven’t.)

    Any advice for proceeding? I am, by nature, a very conflict-averse person but also somewhat of a stickler for rules. I do not think it is difficult to stick to the required hours, take the required period of time for lunch, etc., so I have no qualms about the writeup itself…just the discussion. Luckily I won’t be alone as my lead is required to be present, but he is also very conflict-averse so I have no idea what to expect, especially if I have to guide the process along. I have personally never received a real writeup, so my only frame of reference comes from this blog and my Google search history.

    1. Trek*

      Don’t think about it as a conflict but as a way to warn someone their behavior may cost them their job. You would tell a friend if they could lose their job, your direct report deserves an opportunity to improve.

      Have you had any conversations with them regarding their attendance? Usually at least one conversation should be had prior to a write up but maybe there were too many missed days in too short a period of time a write up is needed.

      I would sit them down and explain that regular attendance is mandatory. Provide them with the number of days they have been out over what period of time, i.e. 30 days out of 4 months. Ask them what is going on. If they are in their first 90 days (if you are in the US) I would consider terminating them rather than trying to keep them. Outside of first 90 days I would tell them you need an immediate improvement in their attendance and that they are receiving a write up because of their absences.
      They will make excuses, i.e. health issues or random things happening that caused them to miss work. Explain to them that while those things are unfortunate emergencies need to be kept to a minimum. Even if they are great when they are at work no one is great if they miss work often and others have to cover.
      Ask them to commit to being at work. They can of course schedule PTO according to dept. policies but PTO needs to be limited until they can prove they can come to work regularly.
      Their reaction and willingness to improve will tell you a lot. Don’t get into an argument with them if they disagree with the write up. Explain that you are documenting their absences and they need to be aware they could lose their job if they do not improve. They do not have to agree with the policy but they will be held accountable to the policy.
      Then you need to track their absences over the next 60 days. Meetings are not needed just keep track of absences and if they miss more than x days in the next month another write up and/or final write up is needed. Make sure to note all of this for their review.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Thank you so much, I really appreciate the well thought out response!

        Employee A was hired about 6-7 months ago in a group of 4, and she is the lowest performing one of the bunch. I would be ok with terminating her position but I think my team lead wants to have at least one documented meeting prior to any termination actions. I think this has been a difficult time for him and honestly the branch — we’ve had a lot of turnover lately and it’s really just been treading water with new employees to even get them access to systems, approve clearances, etc. I think we are at a comfortable enough point now that we could afford to lose Employee A if needed (and I know it is almost always better to terminate a bad employee than to keep them just to have a good number of staff).

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      I was always told that a good model for feedback, both positive and negative, is:

      1) state the observed behavior
      2) state the effect the behavior has
      3) state expectations going forward
      4) ensure understanding and document the conversation

      “A, you’ve been coming in late/leaving early/missing days of work without notifying me. [Give some examples on specific days, or number of days missed, or something concrete here.] Not only does this mean I can’t rely on you to be here when I need you to work, but it’s also confusing and frustrating your teammates, to the point where some of them asked me if they had misunderstood the attendance policy! The policy states [give the policy on absences/lateness/core hours/etc.], and abiding by that policy is a requirement of your job. Going forward, I expect you to adhere to the policy without exception. If there’s a true emergency, you need to communicate with me about that as soon as possible. Knowing that this is a requirement of your job, is this something you feel you can do?”

      Then you write up a summary of the conversation and send it to them, maybe cc’ing your boss or HR or both.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Thank you, I really like that formula for the conversation piece! I’m working on the typed version of the PIP right now and will definitely incorporate your suggestions into it. :)

      2. Alice*

        I might avoid mentioning the teammates. That could start the report down the line if thinking, who dobbed me in, which is a distraction.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I think it’s a good script, I might take out the bit about the coworkers being frustrated / confused and maybe instead say ‘this puts added pressure on your team mates as they have to cover for you, which is unfair’, because that frames it as you pointing out the consequences of the actions and also avoids the risk of sounding like someone has ‘tattled’
        I’d also add at the end ‘this is a serious issue and it is something which could result in dismissal if you aren’t able to meet these requirements’ – I think particularly since you are considering termination and your boss is also thinking of that but subject to an initial arning, it’s appropriate to be clear that this can lead to them losing their job if they don’t change their behaviour.

  33. Savannah*

    Does anyone have a manager who is successfully managing an in-person team remotely? My manager moved 5 states over during the pandemic when we were mostly still working from home but now we have been back for about a year at 80% in person (because our work product is 80% in person educational events) and she is still remote and it is going very poorly. There was some leadership talk about her moving back but she just told us she sold her house locally and our director doesn’t give us a clear answer on her plans. We have sporadic 1:1s with her but she’s also two time zones away and not very reachable and her grasp of what is going on day to day with her 7 full time and 70 part time employees is not functional.

    1. A Penguin!*

      This isn’t going to answer your question at all, but I don’t think remote is your problem. I don’t see how anyone can manage 77 employees day-to-day whether they’re in person or not. This situation screams for another layer in the org chart.

      1. Cordelia*

        yes thats exactly what I was going to say. I did have a manager in a previous remote job who did it very successfully, but telling you how she did it is not going to be relevant, as she didn’t manage 77 employees. I can’t imagine that the best manager in the world could do that effectively, even if they sat in the same office as the 77 employees all week long. Sounds like this is what needs to be addressed in your company, and the remote working issue is a red herring.

      2. Savannah*

        The 7 full time employees schedule and supervise the 70 part time folks but we are not their managers and she meets with those part time folks only 1-2 times a year virtually.

      3. Just here for the scripts*

        Same issue–it’s # of reports, not distance.
        I was always told that every direct report takes 10% of a manager’s time–with the caveat that new employees and problem employees take way more. 77 direct reports means your manager is being expected to work 770% of their time managing staff. And I assume they have some direct responsibilities as well.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I agree – remote isn’t the problem. My boss is a state away and most of my teammates are 2 states away, and it works fine. But his team (none of whom are local to him) consists of only 7 people.

      1. Savannah*

        Sounds like your team is also remote? or at least also not all in the same location besides your manager? I feel like there is a difference between managing a team remotely and managing a remote team.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Well, before covid, we all went into our respective offices (three offices in three states). Now, some of us go into an office, some do not. He’s finally travelled to the other state, so he’s met in person all of his people. I still haven’t. But we still work together – we’re a pretty good team.

    3. Morgan Proctor*

      My manager lives several states away. We are hybrid. It works just fine. In fact, he’s the best boss I’ve ever had. No micromanaging, he trusts us, etc. However, there are only 8 of us on our team. YOUR BOSS HAS 77 REPORTS! That’s outrageous, and for her own sake, I hope she quits!

  34. ecnaseener*

    I’m just curious about the strategy around this (and it’s topical with the layoff question earlier!)

    My employer just laid off about 75 people (of a workforce of several thousand) and announced a partial hiring freeze. Other cost-cutting measures have been in place for a few weeks already.

    The week after layoffs were announced, they sent out a follow-up to say all eligible employees would be getting a 3% raise. Not complaining, obviously! But it strikes me as odd – what’s with the layoffs if they aren’t going to be saving any money on personnel? I know very little about financial strategy and whatnot so I’m wondering if this is common. Is it that they’ll save money overall by redirecting 75 people’s salaries into retaining the rest of us?

    (Context in case it’s relevant: we just got a 3% COL increase on Jan 1 so this is effectively doubling that. And if this raise is like the COL raise, it excludes union workers with a separate collective bargaining agreement so that’s a chunk of the remaining staff not getting the raise.)

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      The layoff could have been a way to pay for that 3% raise. It keeps labor costs at the same proportion of overall expenses (which may be important to owners, stock market, benchmarks for management incentives).

    2. Spearmint*

      I don’t have experience in this area, but perhaps with inflation they felt that they weren’t able to retain employees without these CoL increases, and yet also couldn’t afford to give these raises without some layoffs. With a layoff they can choose to layoff the least valuable workers whereas if they don’t keep up with market rate pay they might lose some of their most valuable employees.

      1. Anecdata*

        Also, even if their salaries were decent before the extra 3% raise, they probably know the remaining employees after a round of layoffs are probably thinking about dusting off their resumes, and the company may be trying to head off a surge in extra departures

        Also, sometimes layoffs are less about the company not being profitable at it’s current headcount, and more about an overall change in direction – maybe closing down XYZ high-risk-high-reward projects in anticipation of tighter economic circumstances, or refocusing on your best growth markets, so some companies might do layoffs without particularly worrying about how much overall labor costs are cut

    3. Kes*

      I mean, for easy math, say you all make the same. 75 * 3 = 225 so you would only save two people’s jobs by not giving that raise. Layoffs can be bad for morale and it wouldn’t really help the company to cut costs by laying off people only to lose other key employees they need as a result, so it’s probably a retention measure.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I do not follow your math at all LOL, I was trying to do say 5000 people * 3% of a salary = 150 salaries

  35. MakeLikeATree*

    Has anyone successfully lobbied their company for better parental leave? If so how did you do it? My company currently offers no paid leave. I’m sure the easiest option is to find a new job with better benefits but I love every other aspect of my job.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yes! I happened to catch the CEO’s ear at a time he was receptive, but my pitch was that offering paid parental leave was in keeping with our company’s stated values (it clearly was), would make us more competitive, and probably wouldn’t be as cost prohibitive as they thought—we did some back of the envelope calculations about that. The policy (6 weeks fully paid leave) was implemented about 6 years ago and I recently heard that the board has been pressing the new CEO to expand the policy further.

      I’m still kind of surprised it worked, but truly, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of at my job. Good luck!

      1. MakeLikeATree*

        Wow I’m so glad that worked for you! This method may work for me as well. They’re really pushing the “company values” right now

    2. ERG leader*

      Yikes, no leave!?!

      I’ve been talking to a few coworkers about lobbying for more parental leave (but no results yet).

      I recommend you find your allies, figure out your pitch (“our benefits aren’t competitive” is probably a good angle; find out other local employers’ leave policies), and find someone high up to champion the cause.

      If you have a Women’s Employee Group or similar, see if they’d be willing to take this up. Not that this is solely a woman’s issue, but it ends up impacting women a lot. Or if there’s a parents/ caregivers group, etc.

      Fwiw, I’m told that many birthing parents like to take 12 weeks off, and non-birthing parents 4 weeks (2 at the beginning and 2 at the end). I understand that it’s hard to find daycare for babies under 3 months. That being said, most companies in my area don’t give 12 weeks paid leave, so maybe consider aiming lower, like 4 weeks.

      Hopefully, if your company’s leaders are on board with, like, providing basic benefits, this should be an easy sell… but if they’re penny pinchers, they might balk. Good luck.

      1. MakeLikeATree*

        Yeah yikes indeed. There’s FMLA for birthing parents but for non-birthing parents there is nothing. I would be the latter. It’s a small company in a male-dominated industry which is why we have the archaic policy. But they’re starting to hire more young people and more women so I think the policy is really going to lead to high turnover. They are penny pinchers though so we’ll see.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          FYI, FMLA covers new parents regardless of whether they gave birth. FML is not paid leave, only job protection, so obviously it would be better to have some kind of paid leave from the employer. But if you are eligible for FML (size of employer, length of employment, etc.) then you can take covered parental leave as a non-birthing parent.

          1. DataSci*

            FMLA only covers you if you’ve been at the current job for a year and the company has 75 employees or more. It’s far from universal.

    3. maternity shmaternity*

      I had a similar question last week :) https://www.askamanager.org/2023/01/open-thread-january-20-21-2023.html#comment-4150375

      The general advice was pointing out insufficient (or non existent) policies were below industry standard and hurting retention, and to present the issue as a group.
      I don’t have any obvious co-workers to push for this as a group with, but I’m in a weird situation because in Massachusetts I could get the same “benefit” they offer even if I quit my job (state will pay), so I have no downside here

    4. TechWorker*

      I sort of did, although as it happened we were then acquired so I don’t think it was ever relevant for anyone. For me I raised that it felt like from what was said if I ever wanted to have children I’d definitely have to leave, and that wasn’t ideal from a gender perspective (at the time 90-95% employees were male, and they definitely struggled with retaining women). They somewhat begrudgingly put in place a policy of allowing part time if you were the ‘primary caregiver’ for a child (male or female). But I don’t think anyone actually used it before we were acquired (and now there’s a whole bunch of people who do 80% for childcare and other reasons, although still only one woman who’s less part time than that).

  36. They want to call my current employer for a reference!*

    I recently interviewed for a role, didn’t
    get it, and during a call around feedback, I asked about a hiring policy of providing references before the interview, including your current reference.

    I asked if it was possible to omit your current employer and provide former employers instead, or if it is possible for them to contact the current employer once a conditional offer was on the table.
    The reply basically was “during the finalization of candidates we’d reach out to current employers for references as part of our HR procedures”. So basically, if I’m uncomfortable with them contacting my current employer for a reference…I shouldn’t apply for other roles at this organization?

    1. Workerbee*

      Correct. They care more about their odd hiring practices than about putting job candidates/prospective employees at a very real risk in regard to their current job and livelihood.

  37. Disappointed*

    I have been working 2 roles for over 3 years, without a raise or a promotion. I asked my grandboss for one today and he said he would consider it and thought it was about time. Then he added that he needed to ask my direct manager and ultimately it is her decision. She has been my manager for 3 months, I have met with her twice and she neither knows me nor likes me.
    It took her 10 years to go from director to senior director so there is no chance in hell she will allow me to grow or get promoted.
    I’m really disappointed because it feels like a real cop out from my grand boss’ side.
    What can I do to push this promotion? I really deserve it and have the results to prove it. But my new manager will never allow it.

    1. A Penguin!*

      Find a way to switch managers – whether that’s internal to your company or a move to a new one. There’s pretty much no way you can force your boss’s hand when your boss has your grandboss on her side.

      But first bring it up with your current manager, even if you’re 100% certain it will be shot down. Both because it’s hard to know 100% what she’ll do with the request until you make it, and also because it means she can’t say on your way out (either of the company or just of her team) that she would have done it if only she’d known…

  38. Meghan*

    Small, silly, but still annoying question. As you can see above, my name is Meghan with an H. Now, as some may guess, it is occasionally spelled wrong by coworkers, but in the past it was a once every few months occurrence. I’ve since switched jobs to work at a university and I’ve found that my name misspelling is now *constant.*

    Is there *anything* I can do to stop this? Or am I just doomed to the spark of annoyance that I see when people contact me and misspell my name?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I have the same kind of issue. I’ve just learned to ignore it.

      Give people the benefit of the doubt – they most likely aren’t doing it to be malicious. If someone had to guess at how to spell your name after hearing it out loud, they’ve got a 50-50 shot at getting it right.

      Also – is there a prominent Megan at your university (eg, the associate dean that holds the entire administrative structure together) that everyone has to contact regularly? Typing habits die hard.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, or they don’t even have to be that prominent. I was the only “Lily” at my job and I had no problems…. until a “Lilly” started working here and now it’s a crapshoot what I get. I try not to let it bother me.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      As someone with a common name spelled in the less common way and who has been employed for over 20 years – nope. And I wont even get into the people who unsolicited use diminutives of my name that I have never ever used.

      And as annoying as it is, its not worth your time/effort in most cases.

      If it’s someone you