HR jokes about firing people, I want to stop giving reasons for my time-off requests, and more

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

1. HR jokes about firing people

This is less a question and more a grievance. HR at our podunk local government has a framed 12×12 meme that reads, “I came here to watch cartoons and fire people. And I’m just about out of cartoons.”

I find it really offensive that they are so flippant about something like that. Am I off-base that this is inappropriate?

Wow, no, that’s breathtakingly horrible.

It’s true that people often develop a sort of gallows humor about the harder parts of their jobs (which can result in jokes that seem really callous to people outside those fields), but displaying something like this on their wall (!) shows a remarkable lack of concern about other people. When you have power over people’s ability to buy food and pay rent, you can’t say things that imply you take that lightly … let alone indicate that you think there’s something funny in what could be the worst day of someone’s life.

Someone with authority over this person should have intervened as soon as it was noticed, and should be taking a closer look at their approach to their work in general.

2. How can I break the habit of giving reasons for my time-off requests?

How can I break the habit of giving reasons for my time-off requests? I seem to be unable to stop giving reasons. I am firmly in the work/personal boundaries camp in theory, but was trained in a give-all kind of mindset. It’s been three years since I left that environment, but I seem to be unable to break bad habits.

As an example of boundaries I am enforcing, so far I have been successful at resisting my urge to give my phone number or be available for questions during time off. To be clear, my managers are not asking me, and my boss mentioned I don’t need to explain myself. But my emails just don’t sound right without it! When I split my bereavement leave up, I wanted to explain why. Or if I need to take off during the busiest part of the month. Or if I want flex time for an appointment, etc. I just can’t do it! How can I break this habit?

I bet it would help if you saw other people’s time-off requests and could see how very normal it is not to include reasons. Without those, your only frame of reference is your previous training. So here are some examples of very, very typical time-off requests (and these could be, and often are, the entirety of the emails):

• “I wanted to let you know I’ll be out this Friday and not online at all.”
• “I’d like to take off May 10-12 if that works for you.”
• “Is it okay for me to plan to use vacation time on May 10-12?”
“I’ll be out next Monday. I’ll have X finished before I go, and Jane is going to handle Y that day.”
•  “I’m under the weather today and am going to take a sick day. I’m hoping I’ll be well enough to be back in tomorrow.”

You need to adjust for your office, of course. Some offices are very “just let your manager know the dates you’ll be out and assume they’ll speak up if there’s an issue” and others are more “ask for permission first, don’t just announce it” (generally with the exception of sick days). But in none of those cases, as you can see above, do you need to include details about why you’ll be out.

Since you’re struggling with this, try copying whatever language above feels the most comfortable to you and use that as a template. Your boss has already assured you that you don’t need to explain further, so presumably you’ll get a positive reply back, which you can take as confirmation that this works.

Keep in mind that your measure of success right off the bat shouldn’t be “I do this and feel perfectly comfortable about it” … but should just be “I do it.” Feeling comfortable with it will come in time, after you’ve done it a bunch and seen it be fine.

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3. Should I trade free time for more money?

I have been at my current company for eight years, and hold a pretty high role as an internal consultant. My salary is decent (low six figures), and benefits are pretty good, along with an okay bonus structure. The work itself is … meh. No excitement, no real challenges. The CEO is the owner, and can be very demanding. The upside? I realistically only work 20 hours a week, and am fully remote (even pre-Covid). There is just not that much work for me to do. On occasion (2-3 times a year) I have extensive travel and work around the clock, but it is manageable.

I get great performance reviews and have asked for additional work. My manager is convinced that I am overworked already and doesn’t believe me when I tell him I can easily take on more. Even outlining my hours makes no difference. I have taken up keeping the house clean and doing most of the laundry on company time due to my open time frames.

There are chances for advancement at my job, but it will take 2-3 years before I can be considered, and there are factors outside my control that will influence it, like new clients and their timelines.

I have a former coworker who works at a large, well-known company who is recruiting me for a position that is right up my alley. It is a step up from where I am now, and would be a 30%-ish pay bump with more vacation, etc. The rub? I would be working 40-45 hours a week.

My wife is saying that I should stay, due to the open time I have, and that the pay may not be worth it. I understand that, and get that some people would kill for a job with these benefits/pay and limited hours. Would you recommend moving on, or staying? I am afraid that staying will limit my career down the road, but moving on may end up with me working a lot more than I am used to and that the pay may not balance.

It depends on what you value most! A lot of people would be thrilled for the work set-up you describe, and would value that enough to stay even if it meant earning less and sacrificing some professional growth. Others wouldn’t; they’d start to feel stagnant and would itch to take on more. Neither of these is right or wrong; it’s just about what you personally want from work and from life.

But you do need to think about how well this job is positioning you for the job market in the future. Are you keeping your skills fresh enough and having enough work accomplishments that you’ll be a competitive candidate the next time you need to find a job? Or is the nature of the work you’re doing (and the quantities you’re doing it in) going to hold you back at that point? In the situation you described, it’s entirely possible it won’t be an issue at all (and it’s not something I have enough info to assess from here) — but make sure you’re including that in your long-term thinking. If you do have concerns along those lines, it’s worth thinking about whether there’s more you can do to alleviate that now. (For example, could you propose a specific project to your manager, even though he’s convinced your plate is full?)

Read an update to this letter

4. Should we do first-round interviews in-person or remotely?

Before the pandemic, we almost exclusively did interviews face-to-face unless the candidate was not currently in the same city as us. Then during the pandemic, we interviewed and even hired people completely remotely.

Now that we’re hybrid or more remote, we tend to do a mix but I’ve been wondering if it’s better to do the initial interview on video and then move to face-to-face in a second-round interview because obviously, a candidate would want to see where they’ll be working and meet potential colleagues face to face. My thinking is that it’s a much smaller ask on their time before things get more serious because they don’t need to leave work early or whatever. Thoughts?

Yes, absolutely don’t do first round interviews in-person — that’s a huge demand on a candidate’s time (they may have to take a half-day off work, buy an interview outfit, travel to you, etc.) before you’ve done any substantive screening yet … and before they’ve had a chance to ask their own questions to determine how interested they are.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of phone interviews as the first conversation (and was pre-pandemic as well). Phone interviews are usually a much lower burden on candidates than video interviews are; it can be a lot easier to find somewhere to take a phone call (whereas video presents a higher burden) and they don’t need to worry about what they’re wearing or what they look like. You can talk face-to-face in the next round.

5. CEO said I’d be good at her job — and now she’s retiring

The answer to this one might be obvious to most, but I grew up far from the world of office jobs and I’m pretty unpolished when it comes to business etiquette. (I’ve become pretty senior in my field via subject matter expertise.)

A few years ago, I interviewed to be deputy CEO of a mid-sized nonprofit. In rejecting me, the CEO raved (in writing) about how overqualified I am for any role other than CEO, and how I should be doing her job, and how she’s going to retire fairly soon and I should have her job when she retires. We’ve corresponded a bit since, and she remains encouraging of me applying for CEO jobs.

Now she’s retiring. How do I proceed? Can I apply and talk in my cover letter about what she said? Should I ask her blessing before doing that? It’s a field with sufficiently formalized hiring processes that I can’t just ask her to pull some strings and get the board to hire me. I dropped her a quick note to congratulate her on her retirement and she wrote back a quick thanks without mentioning, “Hey, you should be my successor!” Should I read anything into that other than her maybe being inundated on the day she announced her retirement?

Yeah, I would definitely not assume that her comment a few years ago would translate into her believing you should be her replacement now. Even at the time, I doubt she meant “if I left tomorrow, I would anoint you as my successor”; it’s more likely she meant “you could be a plausible candidate who we would be open to considering alongside other candidates.” (And really, she might not have even meant that; sometimes people puff up their praise, although obviously I have no idea if that was the case here.)

Since now it’s been a few years, she might not even remember the specifics of her assessment of you back then, and I think mentioning “the CEO said I should have her job” in your cover letter might come off strangely — like you’re putting more weight on it than you should, especially to people who don’t know the context. The best thing to do would be to just apply and then send her a note letting her know you did. Include a line like, “When I originally applied with you a few years ago, I recall you said I could be the right match for a role like yours. If you continue to think it could be a strong fit, I’d be grateful if you’re able to highlight my application to the board.”

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{ 281 comments… read them below }

  1. Beezus*

    I know HR is there to “protect the company” but I always try to use my role (in HR) to err for the worker and this kind of HR people I’m sure exist or ppl wouldn’t keep asking about them but just… WOW. who is hiring these folks?

    1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      At an internal HR conference for an organisation I worked for, one of the attendees wore a t shirt that had some “funny” message about hating people (the HR team was called the People team for added irony.) The conference was at the company’s office where all sorts of non HR people worked too. The VP of the team specifically called out the t-shirt wearer as an example of our great culture that everyone could “bring their whole selves to work” unapologetically. I blame the popularity of that phrase in HR circles for a lot of ills – some parts of ourselves need to stay home.

      1. o_O*

        This reminds me of when my company used to have an internal “social media”, and some Project Manager started a “funny” thread on how much developers suck (we are a software company), and so many PMs contributed to it. I guess they didn’t know everyone was reading their hilarious thoughts about how much better off we’d be with no developers (we are a software company).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          To be fair, project managers at your company would have *so much* less work if it weren’t for software developers. Heck, they’d have no work at all!

    2. On Fire*

      At my workplace, we have a fairly spineless but at least not cruel HR department. It’s the senior management and one of their pets who make jokes about firing people. Grinds my gears, because people’s livelihood is not a matter for jokes. The HR department LW wrote about is wildly inappropriate.

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

      Taking care of people and treating them with dignity, respect and empathy is protecting the company though. I wish more people, especially HR, really understood that. If people don’t hate the company, the company won’t get sued.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I also think fewer organizations would get sued if they weren’t so afraid of getting sued. A sincere apology and fixing the issue would prevent a lot more lawsuits than the typical corporate blame-shifting and gaslighting.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I worked with two people who sued the company, and the lawsuits were pretty much retaliation for years of disrespect in both cases.

    4. Veryanon*

      I’m also in HR, and while firing people unfortunately goes with the territory, I never, ever take it lightly. In contrast, I once had a colleague who had a specific blazer he would wear on days when he knew he was going to participate in a termination. He totally got off on that power. He was creepy in other ways and I sometimes wonder what happened to him.

      1. Elsewise*

        A firing blazer is absolutely bananapants. (Bananablazer?) Did anyone outside of HR realize what he was doing, do you think? I’m imagining the terror you’d feel seeing him walking around in his firing outfit if you thought you might be on the line, but maybe most employees wouldn’t know enough about firings to recognize it.

        1. RVA Cat*

          If he had to fire someone on Halloween, would he come dressed as an executioner with a black hood and bloody prop axe?

        2. Veryanon*

          Everyone knew. People would joke about it! “Fergus is wearing his firing blazer today, wonder who’s on the chopping block?” It was awful.

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      It is so true that in HR, amongst ourselves, we can develop a little “gallows” humor. The reality is some aspects of our jobs are very hard and emotionally draining. Do I occasionally trade memes with fellow HR colleagues that those not in this profession might find offensive – absolutely. But it is 100% not ok to display a sign like that in the office. The truth is the vast majority of HR folks lose sleep over RIFs, terminations, investigations, discipline, employee issues, all the -isms and the health issues we regularly are faced with on a daily basis. It drives me crazy when non-HR folks believe they should come into this profession because “they love people and culture” and think working on that would be fun. Sure, believing in the importance of talent and organizational culture is imperative, the day to day is much less fun than that.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        The OP had mentioned that it was a government office, and I suspect that this HR person is seldom involved in firings or layoffs. I could see this being considered a funny rather than mean joke in such an office.

      2. Eater of Hotdish*

        Oof, I was that person coming into the field for the wrong reasons…

        It was at an organization that was going through a great deal of change, not very gracefully. I’d been super stoked about the position, which involved a lot of onboarding and training–things that were a good fit for my skill-set as an ex-academic.

        I wasn’t prepared for the level of bananapantsery. Special shout-out to the unionization process that went on while I was there, in which both management and the bargaining unit did some completely obnoxious things and as the junior HR underling, I was caught in the middle.

        It’s a difficult job, and I have so much respect for people who lose sleep over it.

  2. Jolene*

    #2 I feel you! I feel irrationally guilty about being out, and can’t stop taking about my reasons. Makes no sense! 3 years ago I had a serious medical emergency and life-saving emergency surgery, like legit 100% I would have died in a few hours had I not gone to the hospital and been rushed to surgery.
    But, I didn’t want to get into details (pregnancy related), and I just kept trying to convince everyone that I needed to be out (when no one was pressing me). It became a “doth do protest too much” situation and I think people think I went to Cancun and was trying to cover or something.

    1. Quinalla*

      I also have the problem of not wanting to not give a reason, my baby step to getting better about it is to give a more general reason. Instead of “I have a dentist appointment tomorrow, I’ll be in at 10am”, I will now say something like “I have a medical appointment tomorrow, I’ll be in at 10am”. Or “I’m sick with the flu, will be out today and will update on tomorrow.” to “I’m sick (and if you are in the office I would say not COVID as I think that is still something that makes sense to include), will not be on today, will update on tomorrow.” That is my compromise for now between no information and specific information.

      1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        Quinalla, I was going to suggest the same thing.

        “Can I use sick leave next Tuesday afternoon, I have an appointment to have a dental crown replaced/allergy treatment/ psychotherapy appointment” becomes “I need to take next Tuesday afternoon for a medical/dental/health appointment, that’s sick leave not vacation, right?” becomes “I’m using sick leave next Tuesday afternoon for an appointment.”

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        I think it’s good to point out how COVID impacts this situation for those who work on-site. I am otherwise firmly in the camp of “Not feeling well and need to use some sick time,” but on a personal level, I’m willing to share a little more information on my end so that my co-workers can take whatever precautions they need to, and so they can feel more at ease knowing that I have tested and that I am taking their well-being seriously.

        With the CDC guidance still in play, I’m sure it also doesn’t hurt for managers to have the reassurance that it’s a day out and not the start of a required 5 day isolation.

        1. Cyndi*

          Yeah, when I call in (usually for mental rather than physical health reasons) I just say “feeling unwell” but also clarify that I don’t have COVID symptoms.

    2. English Rose*

      Yes, but there are times when a reason can give context to a request. If it was medical I would say medical without being specific. But for example I had to request a day at very short notice recently for family reasons, so I did give give that reason.

      1. Allonge*

        Also, a lot of people will comfortable sharing some level of detail (e.g. saying I go to a dentist or for an eye exam instead of ‘medical’) and that’s ok too, just as it’s ok to want to stick to ‘medical’.

        This is not an issue in and of itself – overexplaining can be a problem, or feeling like you have to disclose info beyond what you prefer is of course a major issue. But giving some detail you are comfortable with is just part of interacting with other humans.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think it’s also fine to give specifics *if that would make you feel more comfortable* (unless the info is NSFW). I disclosed a fair amount details to my manager when I found out I had a possibly-cancerous tumor and the surgery would take me out of work for over a month. I think it gave context for my distraction from work, upcoming time off and accommodations I would need when I returned.

        2. Anon for this one*

          If you get used to saying “medical” when it’s something boring and routine like an eye exam, it’s easier when it’s “a follow-up on the mammogram”.

      2. Verthandi*

        I’ve got a good relationship with my manager, so pre-Covid when we had to use up all of our time off or lose it, I’d let him know which of my time off requests were just to use up time and which were actually important.

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      It took me a while, but I eventually got to the point where I stopped thinking of it as “asking for permission” but to “telling them” I was going to be out. The first baby step was really internalizing that I was entitled to take time off and that time lost at the end of the year was actually earned money going down the drain. (We can be roll over X hours to next year, otherwise it’s use it or lose it system and I was routinely losing 3-4 days each year.)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My job has some coverage requirements, so I’ve settled on “I’m planning to be out from [date] to [date], let me know if that would cause an issue.”

    4. TMI Overload*

      As a manager that has previously been told that I come off as uncaring when I suggested to an employee that I don’t need all the gory details (think 6am text message with a 20 sentence rundown of the events leading up to an emergency dental appointment and a late arrial at work) please know that you’re actually doing us a favour by minimising details. We’re both adults and if there’s a problem with your timing I’ll let you know. The “Why” is none of my business.

  3. Sue Wilson*

    #3: I would be shocked if your boss actually didn’t believe you and I’m more inclined to think that a) there is no more work and your boss is maintaining a polite fiction or b) more work for you means more work for your boss and that isn’t in your boss’s interest. I say this to make sure which is which before you create a project for yourself and take it to your boss.

    That said, it sounds like you’re really frustrated with inaction AND you’re not fully thinking of your work time as your own time so it doesn’t feel like you can get any use out of it. So before you decide if this is something you simply cannot stand, I would stop holding onto the possibility of work filling your days. What could you plan to do during downtown at work that would make your off-work hours easier or more enjoyable but wouldn’t make you unavailable to work? Plan that into your day. If you’re still dead bored, I would find another job.

    1. Blue wall*

      I’m getting a graduate degree because my full-time (much lower paying job) is really only 3-10 hrs/week.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This was my thought; maybe OP can start an industry blog or write a non-fiction book related to the work they do, or something. But I personally would do anything to avoid having a high-stress, long-hours job.

        1. Spearmint*

          Working 40-45 hours a week doesn’t sound that bad to me. It’s a step up from what LW3 currently has, and maybe a tad on the demanding side, but it’s hardly a “long hours job” imo.

          And I wouldn’t underestimate the negative effects of intense boredom at work. At my last job, I got good enough at it I could work only 10-15 hours a week, but the boredom and feeling of stagnation really did a number on my mental health after awhile. Like LW3, I could do chores around the house but I couldn’t go out and do anything more fulfilling with my downtime, nor could I take that time to pursue hobbies at home that required more focus or time commitment (because I always had to be available if someone needed me). So it felt like I was chained to a laptop for 40 hours, and I spent most of my time browsing the web.

          1. Caliente Papillon*

            This is a great point- if you’re on standby for the 40 hours why not work during that time?
            That said if I were in LW3s position I’d be very happy to use the time doing my art! I could run my own business during the downtime. If you don’t have a thing that you do, though and are just cleaning or doing laundry, I’d prefer to just do real work because you’re gaining skills or at least using your skills.

          2. Angua*

            On the flip side, I tend to work 25-30 hours per week, and I love the extra time. I’m a single parent with two small kids, and the set-up is a life saver. I work from home and while I need to be able to be responsive, my phone is connected so I can run errands and quickly respond (responses like “I can have you the data in 30 minutes” is fine). I’m able to run errands and keep the house clean, and even go to my kids’ mid-day school events. My boss is really happy with the work I do, I’ve got a great reputation at my company and the work I’ve done is something that would cost 2-3x my salary to get an external firm to do, so it really does work well for everyone.

            Echoing Alison- it really, really depends on what you want and what works for you.

          3. The Original K.*

            Yeah, in my opinion there’s a marked difference between going from 20 hours to 40 hours and 40 hours to 60 hours. That additional 20 hours feels different when it’s extended well into the evening.

          4. Slow Gin Lizz*

            This was me at my last job too. When we went remote it was a blessing because then I actually *could* do things like laundry, cleaning the bathroom, cuddling with cats, etc. instead of sitting at my desk on an endless loop of FB/Twitter/Reddit literally pulling my hair out (yes, I’m a puller, sorry). But even working remotely was still soul sucking because I’d have to be somewhat available, so I couldn’t just go for a hike all day or something. My current job keeps me a lot more busy but I still can do a lot of it more quickly than I think my boss and grandboss thinks I can, so I do have some downtime even now. (There’s a big side task related to my job that I think I would be great at and I keep saying I could do it but they keep telling me I am too busy for it, so I don’t think telling them I’m open to more work is going to make any difference whatsoever.)

            I was thinking that if OP takes this job he might find himself in that situation, where TPTB tell him the job is 40-45 hours a week but it takes him less time to do it because he’s one of those fast workers like me, and he’ll end up working fewer hours than they say he will. If he’s finding his current situation soul sucking in the ways I found my previous job, it sounds like he needs to move on. Maybe not necessarily with this opportunity if he’s worried it’s too much work, but I doubt he’d be able to find a position where they’d say “Oh yes, we only have 30 hours a week of work.” Or he could find one with a substantial pay raise that will make 40-45 hours a week seem worth the hassle, as it were.

            1. My Useless 2 Cents*

              I agree with everything you said and would like to add that the potential challenge and work opportunities new job could provide are nothing to sneeze at. It is much easier to work 40 hours at a job that is slightly challenging and takes more focus, than 20 hours at a job that has become so routine and boring you feel like your on auto-pilot as the day drags on into eternity.

          5. Lady Danbury*

            40-45 hours definitely isn’t bad, but it’s important for LW3 to have a good assessment of whether that 40 hours is really 60 hours or more before taking the plunge. I’ve definitely had past roles that were 40 hours on paper but required much longer hours to meet the requirements of the role. That also ties into organization/department/manager culture because sometimes making a switch becomes the devil you don’t know.

            1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

              Part of the concern is the friend who is trying to hire me was famous for working long hours- think 7-7 daily. So I am a little cautious of that, that maybe 40-45 will actually be 60 and I have no way of knowing ahead of time.
              I have a young family, and the ability to eat breakfast with my kids, take them to school or pick up a few days a week is a big deal.

          6. Cmdrshpard*

            “And I wouldn’t underestimate the negative effects of intense boredom at work. At my last job, I got good enough at it I could work only 10-15 hours a week, but the boredom and feeling of stagnation really did a number on my mental health after awhile.”
            I want to second this so much! At a prior job we did not have a boss/manager for a couple years when I started, we had work, but there was a lot of down time. I was in person at the time everyday so it might be different if it was work from home. Once we got a boss they steered the ship in the right direction and we had more consistent work. It was a transition at first for sure to go from having x down time during work to working most of the time. At first I didn’t like it, but now several years in I realize I am actually much happier to have work to do for most of the day. Working makes the day go by much faster.

          7. DJ Abbott*

            This is how I felt at my old pre-pandemic job. I sat in my office bored as my boss got less and less interested in his job, and that’s when I started reading AAM every day.
            I knew I should be advancing my skills and knowledge of my field, but wasn’t able to do much more than watch videos without guidance. Then upper management eliminated my position just before the pandemic. After two years of under-employment and working at a grocery store for customer service experience, I transitioned into a job where I get to work with people. It’s more difficult and demanding and I don’t have my own office, but I like it much better. :)

          8. TootsNYC*

            and with a higher salary, those household chores can be farmed out to someone else, which may actually feel more restful.

        2. Science KK*

          I was thinking maybe they could do some sort of professional development during the rest of the work time but this could work too. Plus the OP could see if they actually like working 40-45 hours a week or not. A blog/book/other activity is a lot easier to quit than a job.

          1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

            I actually do some professional development- I am a certified PM from years back, and a certified Product Owner. I am working on a few other ones as well.

      2. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

        I would love to go back to school, but have 2 young kids in day care…..once they are in school I will consider going back for a graduate degree.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I think when you reach a certain level of seniority, 1) you’re often “paid” to problem solve, and 2) with experience comes efficiency. I can perform routine tasks in a fraction of the time it took me 10 years ago, which often leaves me with free time as well. I used to worry about the lack of tasks until I realized I make up for the lack when a problem comes up and it takes all of my resources plus others to fix.

      Our 40-hour work week is factory-based, but modern work has been streamlined through processes and tools. We’re still stuck with the 40-hour week through inertia, government billing, and accounting practices. (My hope is that most salaried positions become truly salaried: if you can get your job done in 20 hours, great!)

      Advice: if you are early or mid-career, you may want to move on to keep skills sharp and to keep your pay from stagnating.

      1. ferrina*

        Great point! There’s a few common reasons why someone would have downtime at their job (and they aren’t exclusive):

        1. There isn’t enough work. This can be a real problem, and can easily lead to being laid off (since there isn’t enough work to justify the role).

        2. The worker has special expertise or skills that makes the role faster or easier for them. Think of that person that has incredible Excel skills and can automate half of their work with formulas and macros. Or that person that can write incredible content extremely fast. Or that person that looks at a machine and somehow knows exactly what’s wrong in. These folks will get (or should get) extra flexibility because they can do in 1 hour what takes others 3+hours to do.

        3. The work is seasonal or tends to have a certain cadence of busyness. During the down time, you won’t fill 40 hours, but during the busy time, you’re needed to do long stretches (sometimes with particular skills). This can be common in consulting (internal or external), but regular 20 hour days is not common and may indicate a breakdown in your business development pipeline (which internally may mean that folks don’t know what your skills are or how to utilize them).

        The key to this is to make sure your skills aren’t getting stale and you are happy with the arrangement. OP sounds pretty bored.

    3. WillowSunstar*

      #3 Are there any training classes you can take on company time that would pertain to your job or even a job one step up? Many companies will pay for Linked In Learning. If not, it might be worth seeing if you could at least get reimbursed for training.

      1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

        Company is stingy with paying for classes- they will pay for certification (Think PMP exam) but not the classes. The CEO is an “interesting” person, and feels that is fair.

        1. Kit*

          You can always look into the free courses offered by various institutions; many of them are audit-only (you have to pay to actually be tested/graded), but if your company is willing to pay for the certification, it would be a way to make sure you’re prepared for the exam… or just learn something interesting in a new field, if you wanted to.

    4. Ama*

      I will say that the most demoralizing job I ever had was not the super dysfunctional workplace where my workload was enough for two people and the big bosses were in denial about it, it was the job before that where I got moved into a new department and the new boss thought very little of my abilities (she tended to not trust anyone she didn’t have a hand in hiring directly) and so gave me nothing but super basic clerical stuff I could get done in a couple hours. It was so hard to get myself out of bed in the morning knowing that I was going to spend the day doing nothing particularly interesting.

      The only reason I made it until I could find a new job (this was also unfortunately at the height of the 2008 crash so it took me 18 months to even get transferred elsewhere) is that the second in command in that department realized I had skills and an interest in editing academic papers and had me start assisting her in proofing a small academic journal the department ran as well as other projects she thought I’d be good at. So if there is maybe another colleague doing work you are interested in that you could offer to assist that might be an option.

      I will say that these days I have a side creative business I’m hoping to grow and would actually love to have a job where I don’t have 40 hours of work to do and they don’t care if I’m doing something else as long as I’m on call for when they need me but I wouldn’t have been able to get away with that at that other job.

    5. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      My Boss is the CTO, and has a ton on his plate. Its not an issue of him not having enough work, it is just ability to offload. Part of the issue is my company is bifurcated – we have a digital set of products, and a set of physical products. The team running the digital side of things is distributed between several locations. I am a SME and the only consultant for the digital. When I first moved into the role (18 months ago) I revamped all the documentation and tools, which apparently backfired as they are used by everyone and I am only called in for special cases. I sit outside of all the teams as an individual contributor.
      The physical product actually has a security component that requires you to be onsite- it is a legal requirement. As such, there is not much from that side I can take on. Its a weird position.

  4. Bugalugs*

    I’m wondering if the advice for LW 4 would be the same for an entry level position. typically we do a very short phone screen think 3 questions to make sure they caught the important details in the job positing like location, etc and then have them come in for an interview and hire solely off that.

    1. Mid*

      I mean, a phone screen and then an in person interview is exactly what the advice was, so I don’t think the advice would be to change your process. The only thing would be to make sure to do remote interviews for remote work, and in person interviews if the work is in person, rather than making everyone come in for the sake of it. I don’t think anyone would advise adding more rounds of interviews or more hoops for entry level positions.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I think Bugalugs was wondering if the in person part was required for entry level jobs?

        I would say probably, but it depends on the job and how much you and they would value seeing the workplace.

        1. Mid*

          Oh, that makes sense! Also, my apologies to Bugalugs—upon rereading my comment, I realize it could be read as a little snarky which was not at all my intention.

    2. Qwerty*

      I think it depends on how successful the in person interview is likely to be. Entry level folks still have jobs or school to work around or may be traveling from further away. It sounds like your phone call is less of a screen and more like verifying a couple details – can you add a couple questions to screen out people who are unlikely to be successful in the in-person interview?

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        I agree if the phone screen is really just confirming they read the core portions of the job ad like: location, in-person not remote, and pay range, I think that leaves a bit more room for asking more questions like you suggested.

        But at the same time if @Bugalugs has consistently resulted in good quality candidates the process may be working. Could they hire better candidates with an newer system maybe? Would it be worth the additional time investment maybe not.

    3. Quinalla*

      I doubt it as Alison has said before she recommends phone screen/interview for all for the first. But I agree, a phone screen makes sense even for entry level candidates. It might not be long, but it can clarify if someone is a definite no – whether from candidate or employer side – to waste less time. But yeah, for entry level it might not be a full interview but more of a screening.

    4. ferrina*

      We do a phone screen, then a virtual interview for entry level roles. Our company is a mix of hybrid and remote workers, so it’s actually more important that they can connect in a remote situation that in an in-person situation.

      1. Bugalugs*

        These would all be in person, warehouse work, and zero experience necessary so there’s not a lot of things that we find screen candidates out except the transit situation or the hours and pay which are what we clarify before booking an in person interview.
        Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

    5. Hiphopanonymous*

      At my office we do an informal phone screen first, which is done by our internal recruiter and takes ~20 minutes. We’ll verify the candidate understands the job duties and pay range, but also ask them some key questions to ensure they’d be a potential fit for the job. I agree with Allison that you should always do an informal phone screen, it’s a good way to find out quickly if there is anything that would be a deal-breaker on either side.

      Then, I (the hiring manager) offer either a virtual OR in-person interview for the first interview. For my positions which are hybrid (basically 90% remote but do need to come into the office 2-3 days a month), I find that probably 75% of candidates opt for an in-person interview. I also offer early or late interview slots if the candidate can’t come in during regular business hours, but candidates basically never take me up on that.

      Last, if they move on from the hiring manager interview, we do an on-site peer panel interview with 3-4 people who they’d be working with day-to-day (some in their same role/some in the larger office). This does need to be during regular business hours and we offer limited time slots, since they are interviewing with non-managerial people who need it to be a part of their workday.

      I really like this setup overall, I think it is considerate of the candidates time and needs while ensuring we have an opportunity to vet the candidate appropriately.

  5. JSPA*

    #3, you have additional options. First, the obvious:

    1. side-hustle, if not against company policy

    2. additional training / education on company time

    3. the rule is not to take a counter-offer, but that’s not hard-and-fast, especially if you don’t insist on a full match: “find me an extra 10% pay and an extra 15 hours of work per week or I’ll need to move on out of feeling underemployed, despite otherwise being happy here” seems like something one can reasonably say, without burning bridges. Especially if you’d be happy with 8% and 10 hours, and doing a certification on the side. (There’s some value here in, “I tried to stay with you,” in case the new job doesn’t last, and you’d like the old job back.)

    4.If you stay, start asking other employees if they have unrelated tasks you can pick up. “Jermin is so bored that they asked to do my flimmery floofing” may do more to convince your manager to add work than your own self-reported boredom. And if it turns out that flimmery floofing is the bottleneck that’s stopping the operation from growing, that’s useful data. (If anyone is boggled by your offer, you can be “studying our workflow.”)

    IMO, the ideal is that you go, but with an offer of getting your old job right back, if the new one is not what you’d hoped.

    1. ferrina*

      I’ve done #4 in several different companies. Do not ask to do things outside your paygrade and outside your scope of work- that might unintentionally send the message that they don’t actually need your role. Instead, look for efficiency or growth opportunities that tie into your current role. If I have a couple hours of down time, I’m starting a new initiative. Some things are pretty easy to update, but more often it takes some finesse and at least some knowledge of your organization’s politics.

      This can’t be done in every scenario- you need to find things that intersect with your role (you can’t take over someone else’s job), you need to have some level of leadership buy-in (they will not thank you for being blindsided), and you need to have buy-in from other impacted parties. I usually start by saying “hey, I’ve got an idea for how we might be able to streamline the flimmering. I’m going to talk to Susy to see how viable my idea is, since she’s the expert in this.” After talking with Susy, I’d then map out a quick plan for what changes can be done, what people and resources are needed, and what a timeline might be. Your boss may or may not have the authority to do the things. Remember, there are two types of people you need- the bosses who make executive decisions and the doers who work with it every day. Sometimes the doers have an official or unofficial lead- for example, maybe Supervisor Steve is the one that everyone looks up to and who drives things forward. You need his buy-in, or the team just won’t adopt the changes. If you struggle with this, that’s not a mark against you! Being able to create and drive adoption of new processes is a skill that not everyone has- my company has a lot of brilliant and talented people, and they decided to create a separate role to help increase the adoption and efficacy of new policies (the woman that does this is incredibly good- part consultant, part trainer, part hype man). She certainly isn’t the only person that does the improvement initiatives, but she’s usually involved somewhere to support.

      tldr; this is a great option for some folks at some organizations, but not an option for everyone.

      1. JSPA*

        Agreed. If the holdup in the process is an understaffed loading dock, no, you can’t put your back out doing loading / unloading; if it’s CPA or notary stuff and you’re not a CPA or notary, you can’t stick your nose in; and you can’t “helpfully” act as shadow minister for someone in upper management, without their say-so. If OP is male, there’s probably less risk of being treated like a glorified typist if they offer to update contact lists or do data entry (but it’s good to be mindful of that).

        But there’s some flexibility, all the same, even outside subject matter and pay grade, if you pitch it as “finding the bottleneck” or “some day I hope to make it to upper management somewhere, and by the time I get there, I’d like a real sense of what people’s jobs entail.”

  6. J*

    #3, is it going to burn a bridge if you go through the interview process at the potential new place but don’t accept the role if you’re offered it? It sounds like giving it a try for size for interview would give you some really helpful data but if you’re going to then rule it out anyway it might tick them off so caution advised.

    1. BRR*

      It’s not burning a bridge when you withdraw your candidacy or turn down an offer. If it ticks them off, we’ll then bullet dodged.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      That’s silly. People turn down offers all the time! You do the interview in order to find out if the job is right for you and what you’re looking for. Having the interview doesn’t obligate you to the new company in any way.

    3. ferrina*

      Echoing the other commentators- it doesn’t burn a bridge. Organizations lose good candidates all the time for all kinds of reasons. If you are professional in your communication, you’re fine. When we lose out on a good candidate, we don’t think it’s something wrong with the candidate- our logic is if it’s not the right time, we’ll keep an eye on their career for when it is the right time. If it’s something about us, we’ll see if there are things we can do to make ourselves more appealing to strong candidate.

      An organization that takes a withdrawal personally is an organization you didn’t want to work for. Odds are, that’s not the only unrealistic expectation they have.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      Um, no. Just removing yourself from the candidate pool or declining a job offer is not at all a big deal for any normal workplace. It’s just part of the hiring process. Applying for a job is not making a commitment to that company.

      You’d burn a bridge if you formally accepted an offer and then backed out. Once you accept an offer, the company stops the hiring process so you would be causing them a problem as they’d have to start all over again and their second and third choice applicants may no longer be available.

    5. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      I actually ended up interviewing and declining the job, as it would have required relocating which was not disclosed until after several interviews. The new company had recently decided to move to a hybrid approach, and not updated the job listings, which led to some confusion during the interviews as I was under the impression it was remote, and they thought I was moving across the country.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        The idiots deserved to lose money flying you across the country for a pointless interview.

      2. Observer*

        As the ad says “The easiest decision in the history of decisions”.

        Wow. I sure hope they cleaned up the posting!

  7. Rich*

    OP3. There’s no right answer, just like there’s no such thing as work/life balance. There are only work/life choices. Ultimately, that’s what you have, a work/life choice. You’re the only one with the answer — and probably the only one who can even know which questions are the right ones.

    Does your work need to be fulfilling or just a job?

    Are the advancement options at your current job likely to lead to more satisfying work, or just higher status work? 2-3 years can seem like a long time when you’re looking at it from the front end, but looking back on a career, it can be gone in a flash.

    How important is challenging work, advancement (professional or financial), recognition, etc?

    How would a change in your work schedule affect your relationships? But also, can those relationships adapt to a change, or could they be deal-breakers.

    If you opt-in to more demanding work and it’s bad, is there a good path to opt back out?

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I think #3 should think about the “advancement opportunities” too, but in the way that if those happen you’ll be working 40ish hour weeks again, surely, right? If that happened now – would you hesitate? Als0 – you are asking for more hours and work NOW. So you are willing to work more for the same money you make now… why would you not be willing to work more for More money?

      I think you should also talk to your wife to see what her exact concerns are. Does she think you should stay as things are because she likes that you’re able to handle so much of the mundane house chores during the day, freeing up both of your evenings and weekends? Or have you overworked yourself in the past and she is concerned that the increased work hours will stress you out and your health and home life will suffer?

      If it’s nothing like that and it’s just that SHE would definitely like to work a lot less at her job… well that’s her, not you. Her opinion carries a good deal of weight when it comes to how a new job will impact the household, but less so when it is just about personal preference.

      1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

        In terms of more work, I am more concerned of getting stuck in a groove where working more than 20-30 hours a week feels like to much- hard to explain.
        I have talked to my wife- and you nailed it, it is a combination of a few things. At a prior position in this company (more technical, less high level) I worked a lot- luckily I was able to eventually set boundaries after my first kid was born. And she likes that I am able to handle a lot of the house work, food shopping, etc. She is an Occupational Therapist, and works part time- it is her calling and she is very happy with her workload.

    2. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      My career is a job- I work to pay the bills, my enjoyment comes from my family. The advancement opportunities would be a combination of more satisfying (more in where I would like to be down the road) and higher status. If I opt in to more/more demanding work, it is not something I can back out of.

      I ended up interviewing and declining the other position, so I am now in a different spot.

  8. Alternative Person*


    It really does come down to what you value vs long term growth (+ future proofing you skills).

    By quite a few metrics my job has a good work/life balance but I’m likely going to be examining jobs with less favourable balances in the next year or so because the promotion opportunities are painfully thin on the ground. A senior manager has told me that if an appropriate position becomes available, I’ll definitely be a top candidate, but I can’t keeping waiting for that opportunity or count on getting it.

    I’d say it’s worth doing a little investigation into the chance from your former co-worker to see what that company is like and see what their promotion track looks like.

    1. amoeba*

      The question to me would also be whether you actually enjoy your current low workload! I mean, there is such a thing as bore out, and to me, your letter doesn’t really sound like you like the way you’re currently working very much.
      What do you do with your spare time, except some household tasks? Are you actually using it actively or do you stretch out tasks, stare at the screen and wait for 5 p.m.?
      I mean, sure, 40 h of work are much more than 20, but if you spend those 20 extra hours mostly bored to death, time might actually pass much more quickly if you have something to do… ( I know that busy days are much more enjoyable for me than slow days, and as long as there’s no overtime involved, I’d probably be much happier in a job where more things happen!)

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        Absolutely agree. Work mostly filling the days (not overwhelming or stressful) are more pleasant and pass faster. Breaks are needed but not the moments where you feel like you’re killing time.

        Actually for me it’s best that I have time to get involved in a task that requires some concentration and I’m not distracted from it for a bit.

        I’m certainly not counting meetings where my mind can wander and I’m bored because I’m not actually enagaged, but a meeting where I am engaged in discussion and decisions is pleasant and fulfilling.

        Being bored can be a morale killer. It sounds to me that for the LW it is time to move on to something more challenging because his current job is not working for him.

      2. Spearmint*

        As I wrote above, I was in a job like LW3s until recently, and “bore out” definitely happened to me. Even though I had tons of downtime, I had to be available if someone needed me, so I felt chained to my laptop. I couldn’t run out to the gym, go on a hike, pursue involved hobby projects at home, etc. In theory I could have done self-directed professional development (online classes, etc), and I did some, but when you know you won’t be using it at your current job it’s a lot harder to be motivated.

        So I spent most of my downtime surfing the web, feeling like I was wasting my life away. It really got to me after awhile.

      3. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

        I like to be busy. I will admit I have started working out a lot more (including buying a weight set for the house) than I use to, and my dogs get quite a bit of walking through the neighborhood. I think part of the issue is the past two months have been slow- which is good for not travelling, but bad for my day to day.

  9. Tulipmania*

    It’s the size and the frame that make #1 so bad. A post-it sized printed meme on a bulletin board among many others, page-a-day calendar pages, printed out comic panels, etc, ehh, not a funny joke but not that damning. But a 12 x 12? They really think it’s hilarious, I guess.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The frame really stood out to me too. I would personally tell them to take it down even if it was a meme on a bulletin board, but framing it and displaying it proudly is so out of touch I might think really hard about the people I have in that department.

      I am in HR, I get gallows humor, there’s a time and a place.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I am in HR, I get gallows humor, there’s a time and a place.

        I think “I’m headed to the gallows” or “we’re all headed to the gallows” go over better than “I’m here to send you to the gallows,” which is what the framed meme LW#1 describes.

        1. Baron*

          Thank you – you perfectly worded what I was hoping to say and why there’s a difference between gallows tumor in medicine and in HR.

        2. Silver Robin*

          +1 it can absolutely suck to send people to the gallows, but…you are not actually the one *in* the gallows. Keep your gallows humor among the other “executioners”. (And even then, be careful that your humor is not making you callous to those in the gallows.)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yes. It’s careful ground to tread when you’re in the position of power.

            It’s absolutely stressful to have to fire people, and it’s normal to need some kind of release valve, but you can’t take the humanity out of the process for your own comfort. It’s supposed to suck, and even if you’re commiserating, you’re acknowledging that it sucks, not taking lightly the impact you’re having on people’s lives.

  10. Cathie from Canada*

    #1 These joke posters can backfire too easily — anyone who works with the public needs to rid their space of anything that could be misinterpreted or could come across as hostile.
    At the university office I worked in, one of the advisors has a little joke poster that said “good advice $10; poor advice free” until one day a student from another country sat down, read the sign, and started to pull out her wallet. The advisor was very embarrassed and immediately trashed the poster. We wondered later how many other students may have been bothered by that type of “joke” without any of us realizing it.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      If I was that advisor I would have felt so embarrassed!! You have to realize that people from other countries, especially those who come from places where the corruption of public figures is the norm, are not going to get those jokes. I’m glad that he took down the poster.

  11. Roland*

    4 – It’s very easy to unconsciously bias more towards in-person interactions than zoom interactions, so whatever you settle on, try to keep it reasonably consistent.

    1. Artemesia*

      We always did a phone screen of our top 6 or so candidates for pretty high level positions and then invited two or three in for a rather arduous 2 day on site interview that also involved them performing in a couple of settings. Especially if you are doing national recruiting, but even if just local, it is a huge burden on a candidate to have to come in for what is not a finalist situation. We usually had 3 people doing a committee phone screen; it worked great and we were usually easily able to identify the people who were obvious finalists. We had a loose set of questions we asked everyone and an understanding about who was going to lead different parts of the interview. It is stunning how easily you can identify the strong candidates this way and often it is not the people who looked strongest on paper. This might not be true of a highly technical position but in one that required flexibility, the ability to do extensive public speaking and offer leadership those capabilities come through very well in this sort of screen. And then we didn’t waste anyone’s time preparing for presentations and traveling and taking time off from work.

    2. Pierrot*

      Yeah, I had a 30 minute zoom screening interview for a nonprofit job a few months ago and I think that bias might have played into the interview/rejection. It was just a weird situation where I signed on and based on how they spoke to me,it felt like they immediately made some judgments about my ability to do this specific job. Not that I was entitled to move forward or anything, but I felt like they were not taking me seriously in the first place.

      Additionally, I like Allison’s suggestion about using phone screenings. I feel like a 15-20 minute phone call is enough to screen people, it’s more convenient, and there is less potential for the interviewers to judge a person’s appearance from the get go.

  12. Tau*

    Hey OP#3, since you mention that you think a lot of people would kill to have a job with that little actual work, I want to give you a counterpoint:

    The setup you describe would drive me to despair (and job-searching) in short order.

    Part-time is great… but this isn’t part-time. I’m guessing that despite nominally only working 20 hours a week, you can’t just, say, take off after noon every day to go visit a friend/go for a long hike/take an afternoon class/etc. Or front-load your hours and just take Thursday and Friday off. From the sounds of it, you’re expected to be nominally “working” for a full-time allotment of hours, even when there isn’t enough work to fill those hours. Personally, when this happened to me it was the single most demoralising experience I’ve ever had at work, and I started job-searching pretty much immediately.

    Obviously, everyone is different! It sounds like you’re taking it better than I did! But the situation you describe is not the obvious positive you think it is, and you are not out of your mind for wanting to change it up for a job that actually has enough work to keep you busy. And that’s without getting into the stuff about career progression and how well this is setting you up for the future that Alison mentioned.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I would feel the same way.
      I always say that I am very ambitious.
      But I’m not necessarily ambitious for status, or for power.
      I’m ambitious to DO something. I want to spend my time on things that are worthwhile (and I can frame a great many things as worthwhile!!). And I want to feel that I have accomplished something.

      A job where I twiddle my thumbs for much of the day would be really hard for me. Demoralizing.

      I’d be like that little kid in the cliché: There’s nothing to DO!

      It’s also so important to future-proof yourself by reaching into new areas and technologies.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I have that job right now, and it is draining. Basically, I’m just killing time half or more of every day. I get some things done around the house, watch TV, read…but i do feel honor-bound to be on standby at or near home so that limits me to home projects and trips for groceries. (However, I would rather do this than work 40 hours. Previously I worked part time.)

    3. Elsewise*

      Last summer I was in a similar position as LW3. It drove me up the wall. My boss kept saying that it was a super flexible work environment and I was so lucky. He’d give me no work and also no real supervision, the training he promised never materialized, and I was permanently on the clock without any real structure in my day. I binge-watched a whole lot of TV, tried to pick up extra projects, renewed my anxiety disorder, refreshed my resume, and quit after five months.

    4. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      I can get out of the house for short stints (run to grocery store, etc) but keep my work line open and answer anything that may come in. Part of my job is SME- so sometimes I will not have to answer anything for a week, sometimes I get 10 calls a day about different pieces of technology. Some I can handle from memory, but some are very technical and require a bit of research from my laptop.

      For career progression, that is where I am mainly focused. I ended up not taking the other job, so now I have time to sit back and really come up with a game plan.

      I do want to say my boss is awesome- he just can’t seem to grasp that I have more bandwidth and open time.

  13. bamcheeks*

    LW5, it would also be really reasonable and OK to ask the outgoing CEO whether you could have a conversation with them about the role as part of deciding whether you want it. She might say that wouldn’t be appropriate and direct you back to the board, but it’s a perfectly reasonable request and might be very helpful in terms of both understanding the role and strengthening your application.

    1. Enginerd*

      I was going to suggest this too. Even if you don’t directly ask her to recommend you to the board, the act of saying you’re interested and doing your research might lead her doing that unasked.

    2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I’m actually a little confused about Alison’s advice on this one. The OP states that she’s still in contact with the CEO, it seems to make perfect sense to contact her and find out if she’d be okay with that sort of language. If she says no, fine, but I doubt she’d hold it against OP

  14. Brain the Brian*

    LW3: How possible is it taking on additional some responsibilities — whether at your current job or a potential new one — could spiral out of control and lead to a total destruction of your work / life balance? If you took on, say, ten more hours of work per week at your current job, would that spiral into 30 more hours quickly? What about at this other new job? That should factor into your calculation, methinks.

    1. Stitch*

      I’ll add, LW3 mentions a wife but it’s not clear if they have kids. Would this job result on an additional burden of chores or childcare on their wife? That may be part of her objection, especially if she’s working a demanding job herself.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw that but I’m kind of surprised I’m this far into the comments before seeing it.

        Listen to what she’s telling you. And also, while you’re at it – take a look at the amount of time you’re spending on the “household” and determine what and how things will be handled between the two of you if you suddenly don’t have an additional 20-25 hours a week with which to do these “chores”. Is there anything that you will need to/would like to subcontract out (Housekeeping? Meal delivery services? Laundry?) in order to NOT have to spend your now very limited time doing these things? If I had an extra 20-25 hours a week, I would not have a housekeeper, and my weekends would not be filled with meal prepping and laundry.

        I’m not saying that you aren’t allowed to keep your skills current, improve yourself, and grow. But it sounds as though you’re in a partnership. Decisions, including careers, need to be made with your partner’s input. And yep, I’d be saying the same thing if the genders were reversed.

        1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

          My wife and I have 2 kids- and 2 dogs. I can luckily say we have a great relationship and discuss everything openly- a true partnership. We have had discussions on this, and her hesitancy is more in line with the when I was laid off from a prior job many years ago- I took what we thought was a great job, relocated and bought a house (with a 6 month old in tow) and got laid off 6 months later due to the company having a bad quarter. It was a rough time. She is worried if I change companies something like that could happen again.
          If I took on more hours(with commiserate pay) , we would hire a housekeeping and yard service. Child care is not an issue, both my children are in daycare/school already.

      2. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Exactly what I came here to mention. If LW doing certain chores on work time has become a standard thing, they need to have a frank talk with their spouse about division of labor going forward. Is LW going to continue those tasks, but not on work time? Are they going to hire a service to clean every week, or get a meal prep plan to make dinner easier? Not saying LW should stay in a stultifying job so they can do chores, just that they need to consider the overall effect on the household.

    2. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      At my current job, if I took on more work it would be manageable- I am not concern3ed about it spiraling just due to how the company is built. The side of things I am on is limited on how much I could take on in this role- taking 10 more hors would equate 10 hours, not to concern3ed about it spiraling.

      The new role did not work out due to the new company wanting me to relocate, which was a nogo.

  15. londonedit*

    Phone screens aren’t really a thing in my industry (UK book publishing). The only times I’ve spoken to someone on the phone it was because the process was being handled by a recruitment agency, and if you applied for a job they’d do a brief phone screen to make sure you were a suitable candidate before they’d agree to submit your application to the company itself. That makes sense, because the whole point of a company using a recruitment agency is to cut out the process of going through applications to find suitable candidates for interview.

    Otherwise, applications are direct to the company with a CV and cover letter, and then it’s straight to an in-person first interview. Usually that’ll be with whoever would be your line manager, and someone else from the team (so in my line of work it’ll usually be the Editorial Director or the Publisher for the list you’re applying to, and then another senior editor). There’s also usually a short editorial test at first interview stage. Then a few (usually only four or five) candidates move forward to a second interview, where you’ll meet the Editorial Director or Publisher again and usually their boss, which might be the owner/CEO of the company if it’s a small outfit, or might be the head of the department or whatever. Then that’s it, they’ll make a decision after the second interview. It’s usually quite a quick and straightforward process, maybe two or three weeks in all from the time applications close.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      UK processes generally seem to be less interview heavy than US. I think partly its because most industries in the UK put a lot more upfront in the advert, and there’s no health coverage to worry about, so you don’t need that initial screen to make sure expectation align and you’re not interviewing candidates who’d turn an offer down. You have to be above middle-management to bother with more than one interview, though I get the impression tests and presentations are more common here as part of the process.

      All of my recent interviews have been online only, even though the roles would have been at least two days a week in the office, because the interviewers were geographically dispersed. I have to be honest, it was a bit weird not seeing the office until my first day; I do think a role that has an in office element ought to have an in person interview, though working for an organisation that has offices in most major cities means the candidates are as spread out at the interviewers, so I can see why its not practical to drag everyone from Glasgow to Cardiff to Blackpool for interviewing unless you want to only interview one candidate per day.

      1. allathian*

        I’m in Finland and I work for the government. Here, the name and phone number of the hiring manager is included on the job posting for government and other public sector jobs. Interested candidates are expected to call the hiring manager during the times that are announced on the job posting. My team’s currently hiring for two positions and my manager spent most of two days answering queries from interested candidates.

        After that, they submit the application, and a certain number of candidates are invited to interview. I’m not saying that a candidate who doesn’t call never gets an interview, but the expectation is for potential candidates to call, and to reference that call in their cover letter.

        After that, there’s one interview and probably a writing test (I’m comms adjacent). But for non-managerial positions, one interview is pretty standard.

        That said, as government employees we’re covered by collective agreements, and there’s no room to negotiate benefits and vacation, etc. And for non-executive positions, there’s very little room to negotiate on salary.

    2. Grith*

      From a UK industrial science perspective, agree with this 100%. 3-stages has been pretty standard for every job I’ve had:
      1) Phone screen with recruiter to make sure they’re happy to put you forward.
      2) In-person interview, usually with HR and/or the person you’ll be most directly working for.
      3) Second in-person interview, usually with someone more senior but also to include a tour and a bit more of a “this is what your day will be like” vibe.

      Some variation can exist within this, but I’d be pretty surprised if anyone who wanted to do more than 3 stages or more than 2 in-person stages, that would feel very indecisive and start ringing alarm bells for anything short of a Director-level role.

      1. alienor*

        Something that seems to be gaining traction in the US is a phase where you get interviewed by your potential colleagues, sometimes as a group and sometimes one by one. It’s an extra layer, but it ended up helping me out the last time I was job searching – for one job, I met with two separate people who were lovely and warm, but also asked very pointed questions like “how would you handle burnout?” and “how do you feel about a lot of stress, like a LOT?” I had already read some Glassdoor reviews of the company that were less than flattering, and I figured that if the current employees were trying to warn me in the actual interview to run for my life, I should probably take their advice. I ended up getting an offer and turning it down, and still feel like I dodged a bullet.

        1. PeerInterviewingIsNormalInterviewing*

          interesting perspective – in my experience this has been a normal, expected part of the process in multiple industries at companies of all sizes for all sorts of jobs since at least the 70s. It’s even pretty normal for short term contracts. If this didn’t happen as a matter of course for a full time position I’d see it as a danger sign and wonder what the company was trying to hide.

  16. Roobidy*

    LW2, I used to be like you, maybe still am a bit but I’ve found things like this come easier now I manage someone myself. It might be helpful to imagine if a direct report requested leave, what information would you need/want to know and therefore let yourself off the hook? E.g. a reason isn’t necessary, it might be helpful if I am having to balance a lot of leave requests at a busy time, but in that case I will ask my report to clarify. Hope that helps!

    1. Jojo*

      I take this approach. So I’ll say something like, “I’ll be out on Friday, but Bob is covering the llama grooming meeting for me, and I’ll make sure I have the TPS report completed before I sign off on Thursday.” That’s what my boss really needs to know.

  17. Introvert girl*

    LW 3: Don’t take the new job for a mere 30% more income if the workload will more than double. If you’re being paid 100$ per hour for 20 hours of work, you’ll be paid only 30$ per hour for the remaining 20. You’ll be taking a pay cut.
    I usually have 5 hours of work a day and use the rest of the time to work around the house and do some work-related trainings (or trainings that will help me later on). Remember that when you’ll be working twice as much as now, you won’t have the energy to do all the things in the house you do now. You’ll need to delegate them and pay someone for it.
    I would suggest you use the time you have now for additional trainings or/and a side hustle that one day can become your main point of revenue.

    1. Anna3*

      I came here to say exactly that use the free time to develop new expertise, or a sidekick. Time is money, and your current workplace is giving you plenty of it, so enjoy it!

  18. Friends of English Magic*

    LW4, no one can answer this for you, but think about whether the current role is really satisfying for you. In my previous role, I also had a lot of downtime, and I feel like I am still recovering from the hit I took both to my mental health and my productivity habits. Like, I am having to train myself out of working slower and procrastinating and distracting myself, because I used to have to spin the work out to fill the time. (However, in my case, the reason was because they had stopped giving me stretch projects after my maternity leave, so I was also feeling deeply undervalued and my confidence was on the floor – this might be different for you if you feel highly valued for the work you do and it is rewarding, even if there isn’t enough of it).

    Also, 40-50 hours would be way too much for me, but just because that’s the opportunity that fell into your lap, it doesn’t mean it’s the only one out there. Maybe if you went looking, you could find a job that’s a happy medium!

    1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      Opportunity ended up falling away- the new company moved from fully remote positions to a hybrid, and had not updated the job posting when I applied. My friend was not aware of that either, and my wife and I are not willing to relocate across the country.

      Parts of my job are satisfying- I do a lot of couching and training, which is fun. The Project Manager stuff, not so much.

  19. Betty Flintstone*

    #3 – if they don’t have enough work to keep you busy full-time, is there a possibility your role may be eliminated if there’s a downturn? That would be my biggest worry. Also, a 30% raise is nothing to sneeze at – I was in a similar position several years ago and traded my job that had maximum flexibility for a more demanding but much higher paying job. No regrets here, especially as my kids approach college and I will more easily be able to afford it.

    1. Llama Llama*

      Honestly, this is what I thought. Eventually someone is going to realize you are only doing .5 FTEs worth of work and the job is going to be eliminated and/or combined.

      1. Spearmint*

        This isn’t always possible in cases like this. For example, sometimes a job is full time for a new person who is still learning the particular ins and outs of the particular role, even if the have prior experience elsewhere, but can be done more quickly by someone with experience and knowledge of they particular role. Or sometimes these roles need someone who can put in 40 hours occasionally but not all the time, but as such they can’t really have any other major responsibilities that might hurt conflict with that.

        1. Llama Llama*

          My perspective comes from having worked for a giant company where work was consolidated from its hundreds of locations and moved to my location. So I obviously see it happening a lot. Sometimes it was a smart move and had lots and lots of benefits. Sometimes benefits were iffy at best.

          It may not happen to this person or may be 10 years from now but alas its a possibility.

        2. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

          You are spot on. My job is very specific- think SME on certain technologies and software. I have a unique background that helps (Combination Trainer/Tech/PM). The job was more hours when I started, but in the past few months has moved to the structure now as I master more and more- in addition, I use to run a training program and have documented/generated a lot of guides to assist others. Now updating them is a lot less time than creating. In addition I have to travel a few times a year (Trade shows/User group conventions) and work a ton during those windows.
          My filed is a niche one- there are other jobs out there, but it is not a large field. In addition, we deal with some things that are required to be handled domestically- as such, there are no overseas SMEs so I am less worried about my job being offshored.
          One final thing- my boss is great, and we have had frank conversations- he believes in finding a talented person, and then a role for them. If my job disappears is rolled into another, I have no doubt he would either find something else for me, or help me land a job at another company. When I took the role we talked over if it was nto a good fit, and he committed to keeping me on in some capacity.

  20. Hiring Mgr*

    Agree with the advice on #2, especially where Alison says don’t worry if it doesn’t feel completely comfortable right off the bat.

    On the other hand, while of course you don’t have to give reasons for time off, doing so isn’t necessarily trampling any boundaries.

  21. Rosacoletti*

    #4 I think it depends on the role. If it’s going to be a face role or in-house, I’d definitely push for an in person interview.

    Our work environment is a real plus for our employees so it’s important to get them to see it early on.

    I’m on the fence with phone interviews, I think there are a lot of people who wouldn’t do well in that setting so unless phone comms is part of the role, I only do a very brief call to see if they can string a few words together on the pretence of asking a question of clarification from their CV.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      They’re not talking about never having an in-person interview, though, just the first round. The people who get through to the next round would be in person.

    2. amoeba*

      In my field, Zoom/Teams meetings are super common (like, probably at least 2 on any average day), so I think nobody is fazed by one of those as a first round interview!
      As we hire a lot internationally, this is how it’s been done as long as I can remember, anyway… First round on Zoom, then second round full day on-site with multiple panel interviews, including at least one technical interview, a scientific presentation, lunch at the canteen… Most people actually don’t live in the area or even the country so have to be flown in. This just makes no sense for all first-round candidates.

      Phone, however, is quite uncommon, and I, personally, am glad about it. I had one and it felt super weird not to be able to see my interviewer, and I also felt like it was harder to understand the questions. Also, even the first round often involves two interviewers, so doing that on the phone would be hard! (And, if possible from a technology point, at least very confusing…) In addition, we often actually discuss subject matter questions and screen-sharing is occasionally used. So all in all, video is great, phone probably not so much.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I agree. It really does depend on the role and the company. For example, it might not make sense to have a phone interview and then an in-person interview for a part-time role. The last time we hired for admin we didn’t do any phone interviews, BUT, the hiring manager was very open and communicated via email exactly what the expectations of the job were, salary, etc, and was open to any questions that came up before the in-person interviews. However, we did have a smaller applicant pool. I think if we had a larger group, say more than 6 we would have had to do phone interviews, especially if they all met the qualifications we were looking for.

  22. MorningCoffee*

    #1: I’m a little surprised by the vehemence of the OP and of Alison. I’m a nurse, which is a field that is definitely known for the gallows-humor she mentioned. It’s not unusual to see t-shirts, mugs, etc, with things that would be really disturbing if taken seriously. Stuff like how your nurse can decide to take a rectal temperature if she doesn’t like you, she holds the keys to the pain meds so you better behave, etc. I’m not saying all of it is in good taste, but I do think people generally roll their eyes and realize it’s supposed to be a joke.

    1. Wait, what?*

      Those kinds of nurse jokes are horrible. Absolutely horrible. They’re not “in bad taste”. They’re threats of violence. They’re threatening to physically violate or cause pain to patients based on the nurse’s perception of the patients’ behaviour. Those kinds of t shirts or mugs should never, never, never be visible to patients. Those attitudes should not be normalized in healthcare settings.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        They’re not threats. They’re jokes.
        Agreed that they should never be visible to patients, but that doesn’t mean they can’t exist.
        Jokes like that are stress relief for high-stress jobs.

        1. Observer*

          They’re not threats. They’re jokes.</i.

          TO YOU they are jokes.

          To the people who you actually need to dispense pain medication? Whose temperature you may need to take? It doesn't matter what you "mean". It's a threat. Please don't deploy the "Lighten up! It's just a JOKE!" on people in the hospital.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            I am saying that these jokes should never be heard by people in the hospital.

            1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

              See that’s the diffrence HR is like the nurse in this case, where the paitence are the employees who may need to come to HR office. It’s not a joke between other HR people like your nurse jokes are being said just to other nurses. This is open to where the employees can see it, so essentially they ARE saying these jokes in front of them.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            I think given all that nurses have to deal with (including sometimes physical violence), they’re entitled to a little dark humor.

            1. Samwise*

              With each other. Not with patients. Unless the patient initiates it (you’d be amazed at how mordantly funny a 9-year-old chemo patient can be, at times)

    2. Expelliarmus*

      Just because people may roll their eyes and realize it’s supposed to be a joke doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, and joking about people’s job security is a particularly fraught area.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Asking out of curiosity: where do you and your fellow nurses wear those T-shirts and use those mugs?

      As someone who only ever interacts with healthcare as a patient, context matters a lot. I think for me, my reactions would be:
      – seeing those items in a non-healthcare setting–amused
      – seeing those items at a doctor’s office or healthcare setting where I’m not receiving acute care–neutral
      – seeing those items in a hospital or healthcare setting where a nurse might be taking my temperature, dosing pain meds, etc.–concerned

      Similarly, I would think the meme was funny if my (hypothetical) friend who works in HR had it hanging in their house and would not think it was funny if the HR person at my company had it hanging in their office.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think you’ve got to consider audience and punching up vs punching down. If you have that stuff around patients who are in a vulnerable situation and depending on you for care, it could come across like punching down. (I suspect to nurses, it feels closer to punching up — because of what they deal with from patients, etc. — but I don’t think it will always come across that way.)

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think it’s possible for it to NOT come across as punching down for patients, with the exception of the folks who get a whole corridor, floor or wing assigned to them.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I think I would be somewhat uncomfortable if I saw my nurse with one of those items when I was attending an appointment with her (I think having it at home is different from ensuring it’s visible to those it’s about). I would know it’s a joke, but it would feel like a joke that plays on the power dynamic and would also make me feel like the nurse is trying to send a somewhat passive-aggressive message to patients not to bother her.

      This may be a “me” thing. I do take things somewhat literally, but it is a reaction some people will have. It isn’t so much the joke itself as having the item where work people can see it.

      The HR thing seems to me very much like a joke that plays on the “I have power over you” idea and would make me uncomfortable around that person.

    5. Heather*

      I agree somewhat, but HR already has such a PR problem (“HR isn’t there to protect you, they’re there to protect the company” etc) which is totally different to how nurses are generally perceived. I think most people would be a lot more willing to give the average nurse the benefit of the doubt than the average HR person.

    6. Observer*

      Stuff like how your nurse can decide to take a rectal temperature if she doesn’t like you, she holds the keys to the pain meds so you better behave, etc. I’m not saying all of it is in good taste, but I do think people generally roll their eyes and realize it’s supposed to be a joke.

      Do nurses wear these t-shirts around patients? !

      That’s really the key. Gallows humor is a thing, but that’s not an excuse to make jokes at the expense of people who are vulnerable. When you make these jokes among only other staff, that’s one thing. When you are making those jokes around the people you could actually DO this to? That’s a joke at someone’s expense.

    7. Anon for this*

      As the partner of someone who has doctor anxiety because of a pediatrician that used rectal thermometers through college… don’t. Just don’t joke about that around the patients.

    8. Fiona*

      I think it really matters whether those things are public-facing. People often need gallows humor to get through things – but it’s meant to be internal and not for the public or for the people they serve. In your case of being a nurse, it would be like if your boss wore t-shirts and had mugs about how expendable nurses are or how they’re such a pain to work with. Maybe it would be a “joke” but it wouldn’t be fun to see it and it certainly wouldn’t make you feel comfortable about going to your boss with concerns or issues.

    9. Samwise*

      No, that is not a good message to give patients and their families/support, even if it’s “just a joke.” If I or my loved one is sick, I want to feel reassured that the medical staff is kind and caring. Save your rectal temperature threats for each other, back in your break room, not out where I’m trying not to cry from fear and anxiety. (Yeah, I know it’s a joke. It’s not funny.)

    10. anon for this one*

      The fact that they’re supposed to be jokes is exactly why those kinds of comments are in such bad taste, though. As someone in a demographic that is often subject to discrimination and hostility by medical professionals, and for whom being in a hospital or clinic is inherently terrifying as a baseline — knowing that this is how nurses like to speak about patients (even if only behind closed doors) makes me feel pretty justified in avoiding medical care as much as possible. Alongside the reality that nurses face horrible behaviour from patients sometimes, medical abuse of patients — e.g. withholding pain medication, intentionally causing unnecessary pain/discomfort or sexualised humiliation — is also a thing that happens, again, particularly to members of certain groups. I don’t find that funny to joke about, and I wouldn’t want to be at the mercy of someone who does.

    11. NotAnotherManager!*

      All of this swag will look fantastic in discovery of a medical malpractice suit, especially being nice to the person who can withhold your pain meds, if they are being worn in the medical setting in front of patients. If this stuff is on display to patients, many of whom are vulnerable and reliant on nurses for care, I would hope that it was a joke but roll my eyes at the poor taste and wonder if the lapse in judgment carried over to professional competency. At home in your kitchen? Have at.

      There is a big difference between owning these things and wearing them in a personal context v. having them on display at work. HR can have a coffee mug or a t-shirt AT HOME that make light of firing people, but framed on the wall of their office is also a big question mark on judgment with a group whose judgment you want to be pretty sound. It’s also a liability. One of the first management lectures I went to with an employment lawyer included the wisdom, “In a lawsuit, a double-entendre only has one meaning.” When you have power over people, it’s better to be boring and nonthreatening than have a wicked sense of humor that you get to explain in your deposition.

      I am all for gallows humor – I spent a substantial portion of my professional career working with attorneys, and I have received a number of books of lawyer-related humor over the years. You do not survive some of these professions without a pretty dark sense of humor, but that humor has a place.

    12. NotHelpful*

      I will never forget going into a blood lab as a kid and finding Dracula posters all over. I was hysterical and had to be physically held down. The vast majority of patients apparently thought it was hysterically funny but for me as someone who has a physically painful reaction to needles and thus a horrible time even in a vanilla lab, it was a bridge too far.

  23. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    For LW2, what about adding a reason that’s not a reason? That might help you meet that need to give a reason while also weaning yourself off it.

    “Hi, I’d like to take PTO next Friday so I can have that day off”

    1. LW3 (Pricilla Queen of WFH)*

      LW3 here! I love this suggestion a lot. It arranges the sentence in a way that makes me release my social anxiety/authority anxiety shut up. I’m definitely going to try this one (along with the good olde fashioned practice suggested by Allison)

    2. Carlie*

      I love that! Plus it has the benefit of making the other person think you’ve given a reason, unless they stop to think about it more later.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Haha yep. Makes me think of that study where people were more likely to let people cut in line if they get a reason, even if it wasn’t a reason.

        In a line for the printer:
        “Excuse me, would you mind letting me cut in front of you so that I can make copies?” got more yeses than “excuse me, would you let me cut in front of you?” even though they were all presumably in line to make copies. Something about just offering any reason met some need for people.

    3. Allonge*

      To be honest this reads really weird to me. Maybe OP could type it out but then delete it, if this is a written request?

  24. Keymaster of Gozer*

    2: I used to be guilty of the same thing! One of my earlier bosses would deny leave requests if they didn’t fit into her criteria of ‘necessary’ (e.g. only parents could book summer holiday time off, you couldn’t get a week off unless you were actually travelling somewhere) so it got into a trap of me over explaining why I wanted time off.

    Basically, practice got me out of it. Drafting the email requests to remove any ‘because’ statements or rehearsing speech in the car on the way to work (‘I need/would like to book x date off’ ‘why?’ ‘got stuff to do’)

    The more you practise conversations and redraft requests the easier it gets.

    1. Cat Lover*

      It depends on where you live, if you have dependents, etc. I live in a high COL area is low 6 figures is okay but won’t get you anywhere “nice” to live if you don’t have two incomes/a roommate/etc.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. That’s a studio apartment salary where I am, if you want a short commute and don’t have another income.

        We should assume letter writers know what is decent for their area and industry. Given that they have an opportunity for a 30% move, the assessment seems to hold up to scrutiny.

      2. Too Many Tabs Open*

        I’m able to support a family of four on half what the LW makes, but that’s because we bought our house when this city was still a low COL area; if I were moving here now I’d need the LW’s income to afford a house.

        That said, I’d love to know what kind of work the LW does, because I have hobbies that fit well with “work remotely, get my work done in 20 hours, and spend the rest of my work time on call” and could do a lot of deferred home improvement with that extra money.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      This is the sort of pearl-clutching that is always one of the first tools used to shut down legitimate criticism. “Oh, no, I am totally sympathetic, I *agree* with you, but you can’t expect anyone to listen to you if you take that *tone*! In fact, I’m going to make this conversation 100% about your *tone* until we have completely left behind the actual problem you were trying to discuss.” And then it’s just a mystery how the original issue never gets addressed.

  25. Purely Allegorical*

    OP #3 — I was in this exact same position for the last year and a half. In some ways it was amazing, I was being paid a pretty decent salary for my HCOL area to do almost nothing! I rediscovered hobbies, got a certification, and generally was able to recover from pandemic malaise.

    What prompted me to move on was my crushing boredom. I’m the type of person who needs to feel a certain amount of impact or fulfillment from work, and the job just wasn’t giving me that. Not only that, I felt some bad (lazy) habits starting to form that I was worried would impact me in a future job. That’s something I would watch out for if you choose to stay.

    The q’s Alison asks in her last paragraph are really good. If you choose to stay, how can you maximize this time for a future move to a new job? Can you get a new certification? Can you take some classes on the side? Can you get another part time job that would be more impactful and more of a resume builder? This job can’t last forever, so how can you set yourself up well for the future?

    I’m three weeks into a new job now and the hours are more standard. It’s an adjustment, but it was also a 25% raise and a shift into a job title that makes me more marketable for the industry I want.

    1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      I am one of those who think you work for a paycheck- my fulfillment comes from my family. I am worried about my a=habits and slacking off more than any job satisfaction. I am not worried about my resume, it is in good standing- and a part time job would not be something I would be to worked up for.

  26. WellRed*

    OP 3: I get the sense that your current role isn’t as fuflfilling or busy enough for you. The new role could be a great opportunity. The only hesitation I see here is your wife’s. Maybe a conversation with her about family impacts could help you move in one direction or another.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. You’ve asked for more work, you seem like you’ve hit a wall with your boss, and this seems like a good opportunity. It’s more work, but you say you want more work. I’d talk it through with your wife and get on the same page. Are you picking up a significant portion of household responsibilities, and she’s worried about having more put on her, perhaps? I think her concerns are about more than just your workload, since the low demand doesn’t seem to be something you value quite as much.

  27. ecnaseener*

    LW2, if you feel the need to tack on a second sentence to avoid feeling brusque, slot in something logistical instead of an explanation. Alison’s example about work coverage, or “I’ll put it on the shared calendar” or something.

  28. Juniper*

    For #2 I like the answers that are “can I be off May 10-12” “I’d like vacation on X days” and “I’m under the weather”. I can’t think of a single boss where if I said “I’ll be out Friday” that they wouldn’t do a double take. I know in a perfect world that bosses will treat employees like adults but I also feel like if you’re being paid to show up for X number of hours (whether hourly or salaried), it’s tough to think I can just get away with not showing up. Sometimes it was due to coverage (at least one of the jobs I’m referencing was salaried but required coverage and my boss would need to appropriately dock a sick day, personal day, or bereavement day OR would need to know if I’m going to an appointment but working part of the day and thus can use my Flex Time. I’m not saying that it therefore means I should provide details – I could see saying “I’m using a vacation day on Friday and Sansa agreed to cover me, I’m sorry for the short notice” as opposed to my life story about how I need to go see my grandma cause she broke her hip or whatever else would cause me to need a day off short notice. My points is mostly that I’ve experienced administrative/staffing/logistics issues that would require more context than “I just won’t be here”. It’s not right or wrong IMO, it’s just context for how I’d handle it if you, like me, know you can’t just announce you’re intention to be gone on a particular day even if you don’t really need permission (eg even if you just need to make sure it’s documented correctly and coverage is in place) OR if you work in a place where you do need it cleared / permission (eg due to coverage, etc ) and want to practice boundaries to at least not over share on why you need it.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Your time off is a benefit. If I’m sick or have a medical appointment, I just take my sick leave without asking.

      My job doesn’t truly require coverage so for an brief appointment or even a day, I use a declarative statement that I will be off. If it’s a longer period I do try to do a bit of deconfliction with the person who would be my backup to ensure someone is around to handle any urgent decisions while I’m out.

      ** Administrively I submit leave requests into a system that requires supervisor approval so there’s that, but the system is more a formality for tracking the hours in the time off tracking system and not the request itself.

      1. Juniper*

        Exactly. I did have one job where I could take time off at my discretion (it would be reflected in my schedule) and I actually only needed to tell my boss I’m not working that day. She didn’t care about why. So it’s 100% job dependent – I also want to emphasise that I don’t think it’s a negative thing to need to provide context OR to just make your plans and submit any administrative requests for approval knowing it’ll be approved. It’s just 2 realities.

    2. SarahKay*

      I think the “I’m going to be out on Friday” definitely depends on your manager. Mine is very much of the opinion that we’re adults who manage our own time and this is all he wants from me. As in, when I used to ask his permission (per the HR guidance) after two or three times he specifically told me to stop asking and just tell him.
      (Since I am a rule follower I split the difference between him and HR rules by telling him when I’ll be out and adding a “please let me know if you have any concerns with those dates” to my email.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My team members ask me, but I treat it as the same kind of “asking” as when I ask my husband “Hey, can you take out the trash tonight?” — I assume the answer will be yes, and if it’s not that there will be a good reason for it, but it’s phrased as a question -a- for courtesy and -b- to allow for the unexpected answer.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly! This is how I’ve been unconsciously approaching it.

          I think it also depends on your role. Some roles can take a day off without any significant impact to work flow, but if you work somewhere with really tight timelines or that’s coverage-based (retail, teaching, etc), you need to make sure that there’s enough coverage for the work that day. Part of the expectation of the role is that you’ll coordinate with your supervisor on PTO to ensure coverage/deadlines can be met (so having a conversation, not just telling them; for the manager’s part, they are expected to say yes when they can).

        2. I am Emily's failing memory*

          For me it makes a difference how flexible my plans can be. If I have to be out that date for a fixed event that I can’t move, I’ll say something closer to, “I’ll be out next Friday afternoon for an appointment,” or “I have to deal with some things next Friday and won’t be able to work that day.”

          If I could potentially be flexible on the exact day(s) I’m taking, I’ll often phrase it more like, “Unless you see a problem with it, I’m tentatively planning to take off next Friday. There are a few things due that day but I’ll just wrap them up on Thursday before I’m out – does that work for you? I could take the Monday instead if that would work better.”

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      The coverage aspect makes sense, but I take issue with “I also feel like if you’re being paid to show up for X number of hours (whether hourly or salaried), it’s tough to think I can just get away with not showing up.” Using your leave is not “just not showing up,” and your compensation includes that leave, so you’re paid for X number of hours a week minus x number of hours of leave.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Agreed, “not showing up” sounds like a no-call-no-show, which is obviously different from what’s being discussed here.

        Maybe if the norm is to put in for vacation days a couple weeks in advance, announcing you’ll be out later that week feels sort of cavalier? But it’s not something you need to get away with, it’s just nice to give lots of notice for other people’s convenience.

    4. Dulcinea47*

      I nearly always say “I’ll be out Friday, if that’s okay with you” for vacation.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “I can’t think of a single boss where if I said “I’ll be out Friday” that they wouldn’t do a double take.”

      That’s how my workplace operates. We don’t ask we just put it on our calendars and let people know, whether that be a day or two weeks. You should know the norms of your particular workplace, but there’s a whole spectrum of policies and procedures.

    6. alienor*

      If there’s coverage required, that’s one thing. But I’m a manager in a non-coverage organization and don’t expect my team to ask for permission to use their PTO, or to tell me why they’re using it (they usually tell me anyway, but that’s their choice). They enter the day(s) in the automated PTO system, and I approve it, and that’s that. It’s understood that they’ll arrange their calendar appropriately and give me a heads-up about anything that might come up while they’re away.

    7. ferrina*

      Agree. I work in a industry with a lot of tight deadlines, and someone suddenly being out means the rest of the team has to hustle a more. Sometimes we have the bandwidth to easily absorb the time, but sometimes we don’t. Everyone understands that sick days and emergencies happen and we’re happy to cover, but if casually announce a vacation day only a couple days in advance, the team would be rightfully mad. We plan our bandwidth carefully.

      I recently moved into an unusual role in the industry where suddenly my work isn’t a deadline based. My boss doesn’t care when I take PTO as long as I meet my annual goals. I could say “I’ll be out on Friday”, but I tend to say “I was looking at taking Friday off- would that be okay?”

      I’ll caveat that my current boss is incredibly reasonable; I’ve had unreasonable toxic bosses that would go on an authority trip any time I asked permission for something. With most of my toxic bosses, I found it more effective to tell rather than ask, because if I asked, they’d find a way to say no, just so they could ride an authority high.

    8. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I don’t know, my job definitely needs coverage too (those 12-year-olds won’t teach themselves for some reason), but I just text my boss that I’ll need a sick day tomorrow. Sometimes I do apologize, but I’m in a culture where “I say sorry to acknowledge inconvenience” is very much a thing and finding a sub for me does add work to her plate. As for how specific, it varies. Usually I’ll just say I’m not feeling well, but since I’ve been doing the out two days, back two days, out sick again today dance with this fun little virus, I decided to be specific (laryngitis = very hard to do my job).

      1. Juniper*

        But I think this is what I’m getting at “I’ll be out sick tomorrow” feels different than “I’ll be out tomorrow”. Obviously you should get to use your leave however you please, but when it comes to short notice use, I feel like some context often helps,,and maybe it’s a testament to what kind of environments I’ve worked in that I don’t feel like it’s ok to just take an impromptu day off without “I’m under the weather/sick” “I need a day off vacation wise”. But here we are…

        1. Velociraptor Attack*

          Definitely. I’d imagine a teacher isn’t dropping a last minute vacation announcement.

  29. LW5*

    Thanks for the gentle and helpful advice, Alison! Update: yeah, having talked with more white-collar colleagues, I’ve learned that people sometimes say “you should have *my* job!” much more casually than I’d realized, and it’s not literal or inherently meaningful. As Alison said, it just meant that she liked me and thought I had some skills that might make me an interesting candidate, not that she was actually anointing me as her successor. (Again, I kind of come from a different world—nobody’s saying, “Wow, you’re so great, *you* should work overnights at the gas station!” unless they’re trying to hire you to work overnights at the gas station.)

    So I did apply (making no mention of any previous interactions with their CEO) and did reach out to the outgoing CEO to tell her I’d applied. Very “thanks for telling me that, and also, who are you, again?” vibe in response. My application will either proceed or not on its merits, which makes sense to me.

    Thanks for the helpful response, Alison!

    1. ferrina*

      Glad you applied! Sounds like you handled this exactly right.
      Love the comparison of “you’re so great, *you* should work overnights at the gas station!”- that made me laugh because I know exactly what you’re talking about!!

  30. Peanut Hamper*

    If I could make low six figures, work from home, do laundry on the clock, have decent benefits, and have time to work on my novel and bad poetry, there would be no question in mind.

    But that’s because I am internally motivated. Outside recognition and pats on the back are nice, but that’s not what gets me through my day. I don’t need those things to feel good about my week. I would have no problems with this set-up.

    But if you are the kind of person that needs some sort of external motivation, where how you are seen and viewed by others (i.e., “Jim has made some great contributions this quarter”) helps to shape your perception of yourself, then perhaps it is indeed time to move on.

    Thinking about what motivates you and where that motivation comes from may help you figure out what you ultimately want to do.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      It will also be good if LW does some serious thinking about what they want out of their career and how they want to spend their time. If they sit down and think about it and come up with “I’d love to fill my time with more work, but I also don’t want to do Job Duties X and Y” that would come with a promotion/moving up, then it’s unlikely to benefit them to go for a new job. If they come up with “I definitely would love to have L number of reports and be able to set strategy in the future, so I need to take on more now, at a higher level”, then apply for that job!!! Not everyone has the same goals or wants the same progression, so some real thinking about your path can inform next steps better–maybe the job you’re looking at isn’t the next best step, but you need to start looking for that step.

    2. Spearmint*

      I don’t think it’s just internal vs. external motivation here, but also whether the hobbies/projects that provide meaning can be done during the downtime of a job like this. Often you still need to be available for 40 hours even if you don’t work all of it, so you have to be around your laptop. So sure, if your passion is novel writing this is a great setup, but if it’s hiking not so much. And if your passions are social, pretty much all events are in the evenings, so you won’t be able to do much there either.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree. I can think of a few things I could do in a setup like this, but overall I think I’d get really bored and listless. But for other people I can totally see how it would be their dream job! That makes sense too. That’s why OP has to figure out what’s best for them, we can only project our own experiences onto the situation.

      2. J*

        Oh yes, this for sure. I am very much internally motivated and have a lot of downtime but I can fill my day with chores, reading books, sewing and even potentially writing in that downtime. I love hiking so getting my indoor hobbies out of the way on weekdays helps me to take more hikes on the weekend without feeling like I’m falling behind on other things. But if hiking was my only hobby, I’d be bored to tears sitting inside waiting for work.

    3. ecnaseener*

      I think an internally-motivated person might also struggle with this much free time at work, to be fair! Lacking a sense of accomplishment *at work* can absolutely bother people, it doesn’t have to be about craving praise for your work.

      1. NB*

        Yes, I am internally motivated but have to feel I’m doing something useful, just for my own satisfaction. Otherwise the days drag on.

    4. J*

      I also think it has a lot to do with how you feel about structure. I love to plan my own time. During unemployment a few years back I had a very rigid schedule, including scheduled fun. Same with trip plans. But my husband needs others to tell him how to structure his day. He has a steady flow of work that tells him what to do but with downtime he falls apart. It’s hilarious because we’re both project managers but he can’t handle being “off the clock” so I have to be the default partner and assign tasks to him at home too. Even on my very boring rest-only trips, I have to designate a beach v pool v food v nap time kind of structure to the day for him or he is lost.

    5. Pam*

      This isn’t about internal/external motivation.
      I currently make low six figures, work from home, do laundry on the clock, have decent benefits and have a bit of down time on the clock to do other things. I am also very much externally motivated- I thrive on praise and recognition.

      For me, the difference is in what I want to spend my attention on right now. I’m a single mum, and right now just keeping the house running is hard. All my extra energy goes to taking care of my kids and trying to repair the house and fix all the broken things- those are my main goals. I’m glad to have a low-key job because I just don’t have the energy right now. In the time Before Kids it was different- I loved having the work challenges and goals, and without that I would be super bored.

      1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

        The other job did not work out, but in reading through the replies I think I realized I would much rather spend time with my family, and my spare time on chores during work hours while my kids are young. When they are a bit older, I can focus on moving into a role where I can dedicate more time to work.

  31. English Rose*

    LW4 I agree that first screenings should be remote, for all the reasons stated. However I disagree slightly with Alison’s comments about phone calls being easier for the candidate.
    As a candidate I would prefer to be given a choice between phone and video screening. I am much more comfortable having a conversation with someone I don’t know if I can see their facial expressions. Relying only on someone’s tone of voice on the phone can be off-putting. So allowing the candidate to choose is probably the way to go.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      This is what I came to comment too. If I applied to a company and they only offered me a phone interview for 1st round, I wouldn’t continue. Phone interviews are not natural and I personally don’t do well on the phone. Video meetings I do fine in though and would prefer a remote option for the 1st round so no time is wasted traveling if neither of us is serious about me as a candidate after the interview.

      We do all our initial interviews on Teams and then the top candidates are invited to the office for the final interview. We’re a hybrid environment so both remote and in-person are expected at the job so I think it works well for our positions.

  32. rayray*

    Similar to #1, my company has had a few rounds of layoffs the past year. After the first big one happened on a Thursday, my manager had a birthday on the Monday. We have some random birthday decorations that get used over and over, so when we decorated, we just took random stuff out. There was one that was a cat’s head with a caption bubble saying something along the lines of “Wow, that’s a lot of candles!” I didn’t think anything more than that it was a cute cat so I put it up. She wasn’t actually mad, but was making jokes about giving someone a pink slip for it. Suuuper bad timing and that actually pissed me off.

    I just don’t think anyone in a position like management or HR should ever casually joke about firing people.

  33. Dulcinea47*

    LW2, I almost always go with the “I will be taking vacation on XX dates/times, if that’s okay with you.” I feel like it acknowledges that I need their permission/approval, and keeps it work relevant. If I am sick it can just be “I’m feeling under the weather and will be staying home today.” Think of these emails as official work records that are just for documenting your leave time.
    If you get along with your boss you can talk to them outside formal emails…if I’m going somewhere on vacation it’s likely that I’ll mention it to my manager in person, which might sound like “thanks for approving my vacation the other day- I’m going to exciting locale!” and then we chat about whatever. Obviously this will depend on your relationship with your manager.

  34. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    “Keep in mind that your measure of success right off the bat shouldn’t be “I do this and feel perfectly comfortable about it” … but should just be “I do it.” Feeling comfortable with it will come in time, after you’ve done it a bunch and seen it be fine.”

    This final comment for OP2 hesitating about not giving reasons for taking time off is just brilliant and can be recycled endlessly for basically any situation where you’re out of your comfort zone. I realise I’ve been trying to say something this to many people in many situations.

    I can also see how it applies to myself. I recently decided to change how I do my estimates, and charge a lot more if I feel that the work might take longer for whatever reason.
    I was *literally quaking* as I sent in my estimate. But then the client agreed to the ridiculously high fee and the extra money is making it worth it.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Moral of the story is that while comfort zones can be great, it’s a good idea to edge out of them every now and then. Mostly, you can grow your comfort zone.

    2. EPLawyer*

      I was going to comment on this too. Give yourself some grace. You aren’t going to be perfect at changing right off the bat. There are going to be days that you still explain. That’s OKAY. Just try to do better next time. Eventually, as with any habit, you will get better at it.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I used to run courses on assertiveness, and one of the exercises that always got amazing engagement was getting everyone to shout out the positive, negative, long-term and short-term impacts of non-assertive behaviour (treating other people’s needs as more important than your own) and aggressive behaviour (treating other people’s needs as less important thank your own– the framework is from Ken and Kate Back _Assertiveness At Work_.) Everyone could identify some positive short-term benefits of being non-assertive, and a few longer-term ones. Everyone could identify negative short-term impacts of being non-assertive, and LOTS of long-term ones. So we could all agree that over the longer term, being non-assertive and taking on too much work wasn’t a good thing. But it was really important to recognise that there WERE short-term benefits — being confident the job was going to get done, saving someone else from having to do it, not having to have a conflict then and their in the moment with whoever asked you to do it, being seen as a nice and helpful person and so on — and that when you started trying to break the habit you would lose out on those short-term benefits and you had to account for that and expect it.

      I use that framework for loads of other things about changing behaviour: you can think it’s 100% the right thing to do, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour, but it doesn’t mean that there won’t be short-term costs and you need to factor that in. Makes lots of things a lot easier to handle IME!

  35. LB33*

    Is the objection to #1 that it’s HR specifically? My favorite boss ever used to have one of those “the beatings will continue until morale improves” signs, but we all loved her and she was amazing, so we knew it was just a joke. I guess maybe it’s a “know your audience” thing..

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah I think it’s totally a know your audience thing. If any of my bosses had had such a sign, I’d have wanted to sue for moral harassment. But if my partner’s boss had one, it would have been funny.
      In many firms, HR is seen by many as an anonymous root of all evil, because they hire jerks and fire your friends. I mean, the very name represents clearly that we are not people, just resources, like the stationery room.
      A further cause for concern in the OP, is that it’s a government department, so the “watching cartoons” bit is pretty tasteless, like they’re being paid with taxpayer money to watch cartoons.

    2. Juniper*

      I think the difference isn’t that it’s HR and not a manager… it’s that you describe your boss as amazing and that you loved her so you knew she meant it in a haha way and she was treating you all well, whereas I bet you’d feel differently if morale was low and your boss wasn’t great. As in your boss wasn’t making jokes about their role (beatings) to fix a problem (morale). I think that’s the 2nd piece (the first being that you know your boss is awesome), the second being that your boss wasn’t joking about a reality and not caring how people like you would be like “ok well the low morale sucks and it’s not a joking matter, please do better”. A reality of HR is that they have to fire people and it’s just not cute to make light of a real and often devastating situation – I’d question if they’d take it seriously. For example, I was a social worker for several years and gallows humour was real as a coping mechanism to deal with the secondary trauma I was experiencing almost daily and I DO NOT repeat it around people who don’t know me well – like family, close friends, other social workers I know well – because I wouldn’t want it to hurt someone who doesn’t understand

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s HR, it’s government, it’s possibly externally visible though I’m not clear about that. As HR, I would discourage the sign you describe as well. There is some amount of “know your audience”, but staff and staff culture are not a static thing and you never know how the next new hire or person who comes in to interview might read into something. It’s not advisable in most circumstances.

    4. Some words*

      It’s HR, more than anything. Walking in and seeing that sign would immediately give me “We don’t like the staff and enjoy firing people” vibes. Am I too sensitive? Only if one thinks there are no such things as optics.

      I get that HR is mainly there to serve company’s best interest, rather than an employee’s, but they still need to be at least neutral toward staff.

    5. Alice*

      I had a boss who would joke about firing us, and we would respond ‘nah I think I’ll stay”. Or “but then what would you do without me”. It was certainly odd, but also funny and perfectly fine. But its very very context dependent and was openly discussed if new people joined etc.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      To me, “the beatings will continue until morale improves” lands differently than “I came here to watch cartoons and fire people.” This may be irrational on my part but I think it’s because nobody is really going to be beaten, whereas people do get fired. Jokes about firing people come across as sort of reminding people “I have the power to get you fired, ha,” whereas your boss does not have the power to beat people up without consequences.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That’s not irrational, that actually makes a good amount of sense. I still don’t love either, but I think the fact that one is clearly ridiculous and the other is vaguely threatening is worth calling out.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep, it’s the power dynamic. I don’t love your boss’s sign either, to be honest. I think any time you have hiring/firing/compensation-determining power over others, you have to be extra mindful of what you say/do and how it may be received. The first time that boss has someone that doesn’t think she’s amazing, it’s going to land very differently.

  36. 40HoursDoesntAlwaysMean40Hours*

    OP3, just be aware that many jobs that say 40-45 hours/week become 50, 60, 70 hour/week jobs.

    1. Lady Danbury*

      This!!! Obviously it’s a risk with any change, but OP3 should do as much due diligence as possible to avoid jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    2. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      That was one of my worries- it ended up being NA, as the job would require relocation which was not disclosed until well into the interview process. Plus the friend who sent me the job was a 7-7 is no big deal kind of person.

  37. Poison I.V. drip*

    Aren’t they basically admitting they’re goofing off on the taxpayers’ dime? I get that it’s a joke but in public employment you can’t really joke around that way. And then there’s the irony of claiming your job is firing people but you don’t have enough firing to do so you’re goofing off.

  38. Samwise*

    Re OP 3:

    I know this is not answering the question, but… low six-figures is not “decent” pay. It’s good pay. Most folks are making a lot less than that. Check out the annual salary survey posted on AAM recently.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It can be good pay when compared to everyone, but decent pay for the LW’s role and experience.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It depends on your area and industry. There’s a comment thread about this already, not everyone is operating with the same cost of living.

      1. L. Bennett*

        That’s the big thing — low 6 figures in NYC or San Francisco is way different than low six figures in Detroit.

        1. Samwise*

          It’s still more than the 5-figures most people are making, including in NYC, SF, LA, Seattle…

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I make five figures, low six figures would be more but it wouldn’t turn my world on its head or allow me to live independently without my husband’s income. 30% above low six figures on the other hand….

      1. Samwise*

        You and me both. I’m fortunate in that with together with my spouse’s pay, we’re juuuust into 6 figures.

    3. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      I say decent, that is for the industry. I know I am very privileged in that I do not have to worry about keeping the lights on every day- I should have said “good” pay. I live in South Central Texas (I know, I would like to move but I have elderly relatives nearby and want my kids to have a relationship with them- I grew up not close to extended family) and make a lot higher than most in this area. My wife is also a Occupational Therapist and makes decent money (about half of what I make) so the 30% raise matters less than some might think.

  39. SbuxAddict*

    LW #2

    As a manager, when someone asks for time off, I really don’t care where they are going unless it’s something I need to know to make special accommodations like bereavement. I’m also in a situation where employees ask instead of just putting time on a calendar so there is an expectation that I say OK to it.

    I usually say, “Hope you have fun!” or something similar because I feel compelled to say something to acknowledge “Message received” without sounding cold. I don’t expect a big answer and the question/statement is just to fulfill a social contract of sorts. If an employee says, “I will!” and walks off or if they spend twenty minutes telling me about their great aunt Sansa and how they want to see her tea cup collection, it doesn’t matter to me.

    OK maybe it would matter because I do love a good teacup but really, I’m just confirming I’m fine with them taking X time off.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Pretty much the same thing universally, except that I don’t say “I hope you have fun” unless they’ve already told me they’re doing something fun, because I don’t want to stick my foot in my mouth if they’re taking time off to help a relative with life-threatening surgery or clean out the house of their grandma who passed last year or something. Heh. (If they do actually email me directly and don’t include any details beyond the dates, I go with “no problem, submit it through Kronos,” and if all I get is the Kronos request, I just hit approve and go on with my day.)

      1. SbuxAddict*

        I like this method. Mind if I steal it?

        We’re a small firm so I usually know if something tragic has happened but I often don’t want to get into it as much as they don’t want to tell me. “No problem, just make sure it’s on the scheduling calendar/in outlook” is perfect.

    2. L. Bennett*

      Agreed. And sometimes the information that people give you can just be way over the top, as well. I have one employee who feels the need to give me a run-down of flight schedules, etc. when he’s requesting time off and it’s info that I neither require nor want. I’ve told him several times that I don’t need that info but it hasn’t stopped.

      1. SbuxAddict*

        We finally got rid of the admin who wanted to give me every details from conception until that day. I told her multiple times to please just give me the dates but instead I had a story and itinerary every time. That’s not why we fired her but it was a nice side effect of that.

  40. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    LW1: Since it’s government, they’ll have some kind of customer service hotline or email. I’d send the text of Alison’s response and the link to them.

    “It’s true that people often develop a sort of gallows humor about the harder parts of their jobs (which can result in jokes that seem really callous to people outside those fields), but displaying something like this on their wall (!) shows a remarkable lack of concern about other people. When you have power over people’s ability to buy food and pay rent, you can’t say things that imply you take that lightly … let alone indicate that you think there’s something funny in what could be the worst day of someone’s life.”

  41. HonorBox*

    OP3 – I think it would be really interesting to attempt to “ramp up” your current schedule to 40-45 hours a week for a week or two, just to see how that changes your overall situation. I know there’s not that much work in your present role, but if you can figure out some random things to do just to keep you “working” rather than doing other things around the house, you might get a sense of how things will go if you make a change. While the tasks you’re creating likely won’t be as stimulating as things you’d be doing at your new job, you’ll at least have a sense of how the hours impact and change other things in your life.

    Maybe you’re happier at your computer longer or reviewing documents longer or developing work plans longer. Or maybe you realize that the flexibility you have presently gives you opportunity to be more balanced and it provides you a chance to take on something new that does provide the stimulation you crave.

    1. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      Part of the issue is that there just is not an additional 20 hours of work in my current role- I would be stepping out of what I do to take on the hours, and my company has a very “You do it once, now it is your job” mantra that would quickly backfire.

  42. Sheik YurBooti*

    LW #3: Alison’s response is spot on. Is there something that doesn’t quite work for customers, an process that is not efficient, a place where the owner can save money and/or time? Don’t ask permission to do the analysis! Do this on the side — while still maintaining your normal work load — and then go to the owner with your findings and a plan to improve. He/She would be likely to listen to you (as you are performing well) and then see if the go-ahead is given.

    This way, you can stay at your role, you’re no longer bored and you’re doing something proactive for the company. Everyone wins.

  43. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I absolutely agree about phone interviews. I have found them very helpful and much more relaxed than video interviews. Back when I was hiring, I would routinely do phone interviews for out-of-town candidates and then we would fly them in to interview live if the phone interview went well.

    I can’t say, why but I find video interview awkward in a way I never found phone interviews.

  44. Gyne*

    LW3, I highly recommend working with a coach or therapist to clarify what your goals are. Work is one part of your life and while some people find fulfillment and meaning from their jobs, it can also be nothing more than a steady paycheck that allows you to do the things that really complete you. it sounds like your work is flexible enough to allow for you to take care of a lot of the “daily grind” housekeeping tasks while being available for work, which should free up evenings and weekends entirely for more fulfilling pursuits. And other commenter have suggested other things to do “on the clock” such as take career or personal development courses, take up a hobby (knitting, needlework, drawing) you can do at your desk. Heck, schedule some time in every day to medidate!

    I have no connection to the authors but I found the book “Designing Your Work Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans really helpful. They have a lot of exercises aimed at helping you identify what you really want to get out of your job/career and how to do that.

  45. Wait, what?*

    LW 1: Gallows humour is for the person on the gallows. Otherwise, it’s part of the execution.

    1. Cyndi*

      Thank you, I was trying to remember this expression but you got there first! Making a joke out of the suffering you could inflict on someone else isn’t “gallows humor,” it’s just cruel.

    2. HannahS*

      YES! I think people really don’t get that. Gallows humour is when you make light of the horrible things that affect YOU. Gallows humour isn’t the same as “making jokes about work” or even “making jokes about things that are horrible.” If you’re a service making jokes about your clients, you’re just punching down.

  46. El l*

    OP3, I’m going to disagree with a lot of the commenters, and give this perspective:

    40-45 hours (even if it ends up being 45-50) is IMHO not a workload to worry about. If the messaging on workload was a >50 or coded as “commitment” or “whatever is needed”, then you should be more worried about sacrificing your life for your job.

    But I’m really not hearing any red flags, and it’s worth considering if much of the response is just old-fashioned…call it conservatism, loss aversion, or preferring the devil you know. A ~30% pay bump and more vacation is honestly worth a lot of trouble and risk.

    Finally FWIW, as someone who made a similar move about a year ago: Yes, I have an intense 45 rather than a laid-back 35, but I’m paid a lot better and the work is a lot more meaningful.

  47. another manager*

    #4 – I’m a manager of a hybrid team, and when hiring I do an initial phone screen, followed by a zoom interview, and then an in-person interview. I’ve found it to be really effective, especially since part of being on a hybrid team is being on video calls and I want to assess how comfortable a candidate is with that. I only bring finalists in for in-person interviews, which maximizes my own time as well as theirs.

  48. Bean*

    LW3, I’m in the same situation you’re in. My job is fine, not exciting, and pays adequately but not exceptionally. I’m as advanced as I’m going to be in this position, and I’ve been here three years. I work maybe 15-20 hours per week and am fully remote. I recently decided not to apply for a job that would be 40 hours per week, in-office, doing more exciting work at a company I’d like to work for eventually… because I LOVE the flexibility I have right now. I love being able to bake and pursue hobbies “on the clock”. I just can’t see giving that up. I’ve learned that I’m much more fulfilled by non-work life, and as long as I make enough salary to live relatively freely in that context, it would take a whole lot to make me switch to a busier and/or in-office position – like at least $30k more base, which is an unlikely stretch for my current title unless I wanted to go into tech, which I don’t.

    No, my job isn’t perfect, but on the whole I’m very happy with my life.

    1. L. Bennett*

      I’m in the same boat and, having come from a position where I was working a very intense 50 hours+ per week and always stressed, I definitely prefer working approx 2o hours a week and just being on call otherwise. Much better.

    2. OP3 Underworked and Overpaid*

      Part of my worry is I enjoy my life now- kids are young, get to have meals with them, weekends we are not cleaning all the time. My pay is actually on the higher end for what I do, so not going to be massive raises but we are in a good spot financially so I am not to concerned about it.

  49. neeko*

    I had a boss that would openly say that he’d rather fire and rehire than give people raises. Shockingly, not the worst boss I had? But number 2.

  50. TootsNYC*

    Keep in mind that your measure of success right off the bat shouldn’t be “I do this and feel perfectly comfortable about it” … but should just be “I do it.” Feeling comfortable with it will come in time, after you’ve done it a bunch and seen it be fine.

    This is so important! I’m very glad Alison spelled this out.

  51. No Tribble At All*

    LW1: If I ever had to go to that HR person about something that could plausibly blow back at me, I would immediately turn around and leave the office when I saw that. HR at my current job has messed up payroll and benefits for people. That’s bad enough. If I was about to do something fraught, like report discrimination or ask for accommodations, that cartoon would really make me reconsider.

    We all know HR holds the sword. No need for them to hang it over the doorway.

    1. Observer*

      Absolutely. Because even if they don’t do anything blatantly illegal, it’s clear that they don’t give a flip about the humans in the workplace and they are only going to do the bare minimum to cover their rears.

      As a manager that would concern me, because even through the lens of “HR is there to protect the company, not staff” this opens you to all sorts of problems.

  52. Delta Delta*

    #1 – A flag for me here is that this is HR in local government. There should be some sunshine on this since it’s all taxpayer-funded.

  53. Pants*

    LW2: I’m disabled, and my specific disability constellation means I get a lot of practice letting my job know what I need and how we’re going to approach the situation.

    For me, I’ve found that it helps to give as lighthearted of an update as possible. Instead of “I am way to sick to get out of bed but I guess I’ll answer emails on my phone today,” I say “Good morning! I will be working remotely today due to symptoms. Please be in touch if you need anything, I’ll have my phone with me the whole day.”

    Or- “Good morning! I hope you have a great day – I will unexpectedly be taking PTO/FMLA. Please email me any requests, I expect to be back to work on [date] to complete them.”

  54. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    With respect to interviewing, for an on-site position the candidate should absolutely want an on-site interview. You need to experience the commute, see the workplace and meet some of your coworkers. I withdrew from consideration for a job once because I hated the commute and I didn’t like the office either.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s definitely useful, but there’s no need for all interviews to be on site if there are more than one.

  55. Former Steward*

    There is a HR person at the place I worked at for 30+ years whose comment under their Facebook profile photo says “crushing hopes and dreams since 2006”. As a union steward who interacted with them many times on investigations & disciplines, I 100% believe the comment was not made in jest.

  56. ZoomOverPhone*

    I am actually surprised for Alison’s preference for phone interviews over video interviews with LW4!

    When I was job hunting, I have always found phone interviews much more stressful and nerve-wracking than video interviews. When doing a phone interview, I was always more nervous that I would miss something said or have something be unclear. I also found the audio quality of phone calls to be much lower than with the various video conferencing programs I used (Zoom/BlueJeans/WebEx/Skype, etc.). Focusing on a phone call also made me less likely to concentrate on my own previous experiences, answer questions, and process what was being said. Phone calls take up much more mental resources for me than video calls. I even found referring to my own resume and other resources easier to do on video than on a phone call! I can take a quick glance at my papers when on a video call, but phone calls somehow limited my ability to do so, even though they logically should not have.

    I also find it easier to find a location to take a quick Zoom call than a location that is quiet and private enough for a phone call.

    Am I the only one that feels that way? Is there some consideration that I am not thinking of?

    I would honestly take a dozen Zoom calls over one phone call in a heartbeat.

    (I am still completely on board with having first-round interviews remote. In-person is much more burdensome and resource heavy than remote, and there is no reason to ask people to make such a significant commitment so early in the processes.)

    1. ZoomOverPhone*

      To be fair, I likely would be wearing the same interviewing outfit whether the interview was on phone, via video, or in-person.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. Phone interviews are way more stressful to me. I can’t read body language, I don’t know why there are long silences (usually it’s because someone is taking notes, but it’s less scary if you can SEE them taking notes), I don’t know how my answers land – not my favorite.

    3. tg33*

      If possible, I find landlines are much better than cellphones (mobilephones). Cellphones drop and fuzz out, and are not really designed to speak on (I find the fact that they are flat instead of curved a big issue, you can either hear or talk, but not both clearly, and your cheek will hit off the end call / mute / something else button. Landlines have (generally) better sound quality.

    4. PhoneOrPhoneOptionLogisticallyMoreFlexible*

      I would look askew at a company that wouldn’t do at least a phone screen as a phone call, and most companies I’ve interviewed at did the first real interview by phone or allowed you to call in to a video service by phone. And if I’m interviewing while working (except from home) most of the time I can’t do anything but a phone call unless/until I’m willing to take a day off – even basic cell service is iffy in many places I’ve worked so even phone calls can be difficult but more is usually unmanageable.

  57. Fleur-de-Lis*

    Re #1 and terrible signage that is antithetical to the goal of a particular department: I’m wondering if a former colleague, a faculty member who worked with students on the regular, still has their “I’ll be nicer if you’ll be smarter” desk plaque that they proudly displayed, face out, visible through their office window. The kicker? It was the first office that people saw upon entering that particular hallway full of faculty who met regularly with students who needed help. The opposite of being welcoming and kind.

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