open thread – April 14-15, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 1,010 comments… read them below }

  1. Corrigan*

    tldr How do you deal with poor performers when you essentially cannot fire people?

    I work for a department of about 2 dozen in a state institution where we in our department have no control over firing people. It all has to go through big HR. and they want a very specific basically year long process to fire people. (We sent them a package desribing months of poor performance in an attempt to fire someone and they wouldn’t let us do it.) We have 2 extremely poor performers. I’m talking no work done in an entire week, not responding to internal clients or coworkers, and no call no showing then lying about it.

    Can we (and if so, how?) get these people to perform better when there are essentially. The other people in the department know that these people aren’t pulling their weight, but probably not that we in leadership are trying to do something, and I can’t imagine it’s helping morale. My hands are tied and I’m very frustrated. Help!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Honestly, you go through the year-long process. There’s no other way in environments like that. Make sure you follow their paperwork requirements very carefully.

      1. Frankie*

        Yes, as someone who had to do this, it’s the only way. It’s exhausting and awful but the alternative is the morale impact on others. Luckily mine only lasted several months because I’d been meticulously documenting since the beginning. Like, time/date stamps, shared notes, extensive conversations, all documented where the problem employee could see it so there was no way they could claim to be unaware of the issues.

        1. Victoria*

          I have also known situations where the problem didn’t last long because they got upset when managers finally called them on their behavior and they left for another job. In both cases they were helping their spouses with their private business and they had an easy way to be employed when they left. They weren’t working very hard and it was easy to document that they weren’t meeting their goals, as opposed to situations where an employee is working hard and doing bad work.

          It will be more work at first, but I suggest to start with being obnoxious in asking them to document what they have done every day, and ask them constantly. Hopefully they will quickly find something else.

          Thinking about it, there was also a bully and as soon as a new manager started to address the problem she suddenly found another job. She was excellent at the technical parts of her job but didn’t like the criticism of her personality and that drove her away. We have also had employees who were incompetent and played the system to the end, so those exist, but in many cases the employees left quickly. The one who stayed was miserable, incompetent, and unlikely to find employment elsewhere.

          1. Corrigan*

            I’m not the technical manager of these two (but I am involved in supervising their work). We had everyone document their activities for a week and one of them flat out lied about working on stuff when our system shows no work activity!

            They have both been spoken to multiple times. One keeps apologizing and making excuses. The other just doesn’t give a shit (and I also think they have a second job, but I can’t prove that). They know we’re stuck with them.

            1. Quokka*

              Can you require employees to undergo physical and/or mental health assessments?

              So normally this doesn’t enter into workplaces much, but in schools we have to manage students who are like this. There is always something motivating their behaviour, no matter how bazaar or self-destructive, that meets an underlying need. If you or they can identify that need, you/they can look and try out better ways of meeting that need. It can sometimes be as simple as reframing your thinking about something. You need to rule out mental and physical illness/conditions first though, as that will impact on this being successful. Underlying needs are: sustenance (food, air, etc), shelter, sleep, safety, control, competence, connection.
              You would be right in thinking that this is the role of a therapist, not a manager, and people who are underperforming this badly but don’t leave of their own accord should be seeing a therapist. No one wants to be this bad at their job (there would be an exceptionally small number of people who genuinely believe that it is ok due to how they were brought up, but these people aren’t the ones who don’t seem to care, they are the ones to try to convince you that things are actually fine).

      2. Corrigan*

        Ugh, thanks. What really pisses me off is that at least one of these people has been a problem for well over a year and the leadership at that time could have done something about it, but chose not to. So we could have been done with this person if leadership hadn’t ignored our concerns.

        1. Frankie*

          I understand why people avoid it because it’s so awful and demoralizing even as the leader to do it, but I think it’s part of the job you take on so, yeah, that was their responsibility and they let it slide and made it harder for the next person to deal with. That really sucks.

    2. Corrigan*

      That last paragraph was meant to start “Can we (and if so, how?) get these people to perform better when there are essentially no consequences for doing a bad job?”

      1. HonorBox*

        How does HR respond to the no call-no show stuff though? There’s nothing in your policies for this? While documenting poor performance is one thing and I understand that takes time, they’re OK paying someone to just not be at work?

        1. Another Academic Librarian too*

          yes it turned out that lateness and no showing were the perfect documenting. It is or it isn’t.

        2. A Fed Too*

          To add to this do you have a policy of wellness checks or anything for no shows? What finally started getting traction for me in one case was when I reported to HR that we needed a wellness check every single time I had an employee no show at the 3 hour mark- in my agency it triggers a bunch of paperwork even if they decide not to order a check.

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        Sadly, I don’t think you can. If you have been coaching these people and setting clear expectations for what’s required in the role and they’re still not even doing the basics, nothing you do is going to make them want to start now, especially when they know they can’t be fired anytime soon. They are going to have to want to change on their own, and it doesn’t appear that they want to. Just document, document, document every problem, follow your employer’s procedures for starting the removal process, and wait out the year in the meantime.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      I’ve worked in state institutions before, and you have my sympathy. But just document, document, document and go through that year long process. And try your best not to let their poor performance fall onto other people (your high performers). It really sucks having to pick up slack from people who refuse to do their work and it causes a lot of resentment. This is from a high performer who has repeatedly had to do 2-3 other people’s work because they were freaking lazy and people “couldn’t be fired.”

      1. Sitting Pretty*

        I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I will say though that it is important not to insulate the team or organization from the bad effects of the poor performer. I say this as someone who tried to do exactly that, and it just meant that HR saw fewer problems with the employee. That means it’s taking even longer now to do anything about the issue.

        For us, person’s work is to support a whole office. While we were trying to mitigate the problem, a whole lot of people in the office (for a short time) were getting all the support they needed because we moved some work around to make sure they received what they needed in a timely and effective manner.

        We’ve had to change gears and give all of the responsibilities back to the person who is the poor performer so that HR can have clear documentation of every place that their work is affecting everybody else. That means it’s really really painful right now for everyone and there’s a bunch of stuff falling through the cracks. It is agonizing to go through this and we’re very likely going to lose some good people as a result.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I get that. It is stressful! And some people who have experience in state employment will cut you some slack as long as you are open about it. You obviously can’t tell people what you are doing specifically because that should be between you and the poor performer and HR, but by assuring your team that you are addressing it how you can, and explaining that it is going to be a slow process, you might be able to buy a little grace from your team.

      2. Corrigan*

        Yup, I agree. I took on some extra work from one of them recently because I didn’t want any more blowback on my other people.

    4. The Dude Abides*

      Go through the process, and every step of the way touch base with HR in writing to verify that you are following the process they lay out.

      I went through this with a new hire who was let go before being certified, and even the union reps advised the former employee to resign in lieu of fighting the charges.

    5. LB33*

      This is just mind boggling…it’s hard to imagine doing no work, not responding to anyone at all, not even showing up!, and getting paid, AND your bosses don’t even care? (on second thought, you hiring?)

      1. Corrigan*

        Yeah, we can see people’s activity in our work system and one person clearly shows no activity for days. The other one ignores all instructions, doesn’t respond to anyone’s email, and only does simple tasks. They know we can’t fire them.

        1. A. Nony Mouse*

          When I read your post I wondered if you were my Grandboss for a moment lol. The person in our org that is driving me up the wall is kind of a combination of both of your problem people.

    6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I agree about going through the process. But also, most HRs – especially the convoluted government ones – have progressive discipline processes. Meet with your HR, explain your situation, get the list of progressive discipline, and go down it.

      Talk openly with your poor performer, too. Don’t soften the language. Maybe they’ll improve.

      And at the end of the year you’ll have done your best and you’ll have also followed all the steps, and they’ll have either improved or not.

      1. anon on this one*

        Seconded. I have been through the year-long process (it’s awful, and it’s worth it 100%, my life changed after my person was let go and I realized I wasn’t failing to get other stuff done, I had simply not had the time to do it because so much of my time was being spent managing one employee and the fallout of their problems) as well.

        The push to go down the process actually started after I met with HR with the specific purpose of asking what interim disciplinary measures I could take. HR pushed to take the most serious steps because they finally got a full scale understanding of the problem.

    7. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Echoing others to go through the process. I work in a state where the protections for (most) government workers are among the strongest and the process CAN eventually work, but you HAVE to stay on top of it. Constant meetings. Performance feedback. Put in yearly perf evals and make sure they are ON TIME.

      No call/no shows and time and attendance issues are, funny enough, some of the easiest to deal with (still long, mind you), because there’s very little grey area. Get HR involved early and often for advice (I know some are better than others, even within different agencies in the same state, but TRUST ME when I tell you that they are way happier when they see you’re following the steps vs. ignoring it and throwing your hands up!)

      Also – and I realize this may take a level of privilege that your role may not have, but your managers might, so raise it – if deadlines have to be pushed because you have poor performer(s) who cannot/will not do the work, be honest about that with your upline! They can’t advocate on your behalf if they don’t know.

      Good luck. I know it is frustrating, and I sympathize.

    8. spcepickle*

      I am right there with you – I also work for a state institution and we tell stories of the 2 people (out of >2000) that have been fired in the last ten years. It was all years of documentation. We also tell stories of the people who did not get fired (the guy who gave a tiddy twister to another man and HR says it was not sexual harassments because they were both dudes!).

      In the mean time I have been successful with:
      1) Very very clear communication – While I hate being a micromanager – I have one person that I meet with twice a week for 30 min to go over a checklist of what they are going to do that week and then look at what they have done.
      2) Trading people – I have convinced difficult people they wanted to go work for a different teams. It might not be nice and I try to limit who I push bad people off on – but sometime it is just about getting people in the right position with the right tasks. I had one guy who was always sleeping at his desk – I traded to a group that does way more hands on outside work (instead of inside paperwork) he was SO much happier.
      3) Document all the work arounds. Make sure your management and HR knows when you have to work around someone. I tend to set up informal accommodations – which can be good because they allow me to flexible with different peoples needs, but they can also bite me when it turns out I have people in the same band / job title doing wildly different rates of work and I have to admit that maybe what I am asking is not an “essential job function” because I have allowed the person to not do it for years.
      4) Have a safe space to complain about it – I set up a monthly lunch with a few other managers just to have a space to talk about our people where everyone understood and we could vent safely.

    9. Another Academic Librarian too*

      I went through this with a report. It can be done.
      She did nothing.
      She was a compulsive liar.
      She blamed her peers and students for her own failure to meet deadlines or deliver work.
      A 14 month PIP after six months of documenting.
      What helped.
      People who said there is someone out there who would be grateful to have this job and would want to do this work.
      It is not personal.
      Examine the job description.
      Remove all tasks that impact the department. (or if you can’t do that, this is time to micromanage- all emails ccd, incoming requests ccd to you.)
      Create specific tasks that will have no impact on the department, be clear in writing the expectations and deadlines and create a rubric of what successful completion is.
      Work closely with HR for step discipline keeping them and your supervisor in the loop.
      Document, document , document.

      Use EAP for yourself.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Thank you for this. I am not the OP but I work in academia and… well, thank you, with my hand on my heart. Often I can’t see how to implement Alison’s excellent “reality-based” management advice in a highly unionised Australian academic workplace (I am a union member too! I like our employment laws!), and this concrete list is making some lightbulbs go off in my head.

        1. Another Academic Librarian too*

          I feel your pain. The irony of my situation is that I spent six years as a union representative for my class AND lived through negotiating two contracts.
          In this instance every written warning triggered the employee to file a grievance against me which also meant more meetings.
          Imagine a conference room at least once a week with me and the hr rep on one end of a wooden table, the report, the local union rep, the state union rep , and the union lawyer on the other.
          It was exhausting.
          Yet I am still in my position, the job is great.

    10. learnedthehardway*

      My spouse dealt with this with a couple of his reports – the company simply wouldn’t recognize that they were problems because they were hired by the president from among his family friends. Very bad attitudes, know-it-alls, with no work ethic, incompetent, and a lot of resentment that they weren’t in charge.

      It was a very long, frustrating process to get rid of them. My spouse raised and documented the issues exhaustively. He also documented the impact on the business. Still nothing happened until he managed to get one of them to quit in a huff. At that point, he flatly refused to hire them back when they went to the president, and he told the president it was them or him. At that point, the president had to cave because he knew that the staff were incompetent.

      Personally, I thought my spouse should have found another job and left.

    11. AnotherLibrarian*

      I hate to say this, but as someone who has worked in places like this- you have to go through the process and let them go. It’s horribly demoralizing to work with people and know they aren’t working. The harm keeping them around is doing to the rest of your staff is really great. There’s no way to “make people be better” and you have to just work through all the steps. It’s awful for everyone, but you’ll lose your good people if you don’t do something.

      1. Corrigan*

        Believe me, I *want* to do something. That something is firing them. I’m just not allowed to.

        1. Generic Name*

          But you are allowed to fire people. You just have an onerous process to follow. You are choosing not to follow the process and then telling yourself you’re “not allowed” to fire anyone.

        2. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

          I’ve seen this mentioned a few times in your thread Corrigan — put it on your own supervisors’ radar and increasingly make it their problem.

          Did your team have trouble making a deadline? Oh, Sam was a no-show twice in the week leading up to it and there was one thing the team needed from them.

          Are there success stories to share? That’s right, Buster and Anjalie are really hitting it out of the park right now. It’s really showing even more that Sam can’t keep up and you’re worried about retaining the superstars.

          Have you seemed stressed or behind this week? Things were going OK until there was a problem with Sam and you had to sit down with them yet again to explain a required job function they should be able to do without coaching; it meant you had to stay two hours later/delay writing that memo/other thing your bosses care about

          Sometimes you need to hammer this home again and again to get the support to start toward the road of real consequences from above your pay grade.

    12. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      When going through the process, you have to be careful that your goal does not appear to be “fire this person at the end of it”. I worked in Government, and I have seen it happen where a manager did all the documentation, but in the end, it was “what did you do to help this person succeed? Sorry, you didn’t do enough – you were clearly aiming to get rid of this person,” even though it was obvious to everyone that the person was not going to make any effort to succeed.

    13. hi there*

      Use the process as it is given to you (unfortunately). Along the way, within the scope of accepted policies/practices, increase performance supervision and check-ins with the under-performers. Can you require weekly deliverables? Are there daily/weekly deliverables related to the full project that can be requested? Can you meet weekly to discuss performance?

      1. Corrigan*

        We require all sorts of things, but the problem is that there’s absolutely no consequences for not doing it.

    14. Pete*

      Does your state have a mechanism to report waste or corruption? Ethics investigator may have expedited termination authority. Maybe a local reporter might do a story and shame HR or management into action.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        If they have union or civil service protections, it isn’t HR or management that’s not acting. They’re telling the program what they need in place before they are ALLOWED to act. Sometimes these discipline cases go before an independent arbitrator who makes the final disciplinary decision. It’s incredibly frustrating.

      2. just another bureaucrat*

        This absolutely does not work unless you’re in a very red area and then frankly those employees are unlikely to have the layers of protections mentioned. I know this sounds good, but it’s dangerous to do because it will only create more layers of waste.

    15. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’d recommend finding ways to support the good employees, even just thanks! You cannot tell other employees what you are doing in regards to these two problem employees, but you can let them know that you appreciate them and if they say anything, you can say that you are addressing it.

    16. Corrigan*

      Thanks everyone! We are going through the process but it’s extremely slow going. I was hoping there was something I could do in the meantime to mitigate the effects.

      1. Miss C.*

        I would try to make their lives as miserable as possible. Are they in the office? Move their desks to a miserable spot, under a cold vent or somewhere noisy or really visible. What do they do all day instead of work? If it’s something on their work computer, give them a really slow/buggy computer so they can’t do anything else on it. Do they sit around and play on their phones? Put them in a room where there’s no internet/wifi/cell reception. Make their lives as boring and miserable as possible so that it’s not worth it for them to stick around.

    17. just another bureaucrat*

      Give them clear, simple, small tasks that you know they won’t do. Document every single breathtakingly dull step even when you are tired, even when you’re worn down.

      Honestly, I recommend you only deal with one at a time, it’s going to be most of your job while you do this. Managing a bad employee out becomes the only thing you can do, and trying to do 2 at once will take you under. Especially if your HR is anything like ours. Pick the person who either has the most morale killing ability, or sort of preferably the person who is most consistently unable to do the work. If they can sometimes do it they are harder to get rid of because they’ll meet one of your metrics and then you’ll have to start over from scratch.

      Find a management person who is a tiny bit removed and you can use to help you. You need someone to bounce ideas off of and frankly to help keep you motivated on this. Ideally it’s someone not in your direct chain of command but in the same area or situation.

      Figure out if there are things that will get someone fired quickly and watch carefully for those things. (This may not be possible, literal theft and violence didn’t work at my workplace, both of those people HR wouldn’t let us fire until over a year later.)

      If this works in your world, support your other staff, and others in other areas filing complaints against your offenders. Sometimes this can do something that you can’t. Your other staff need to do their best to not blame you for the problems, but if your offenders are in any way being not kind to your good staff make sure they understand the formal complaint process.

      You also want to make sure that you’re documenting (to a lesser extent surely) the good performance, so that you can say that the work IS doable at the level you are asking for. Even when it’s absurd, you still need to write it down. The this person is indescribably bad will never work, you have to find absurd ways to describe it.
      Good person: responds to emails from internal clients within 1 hour, handles 50 incidents a week, maintains documentation and records
      Bad person: does not respond to emails from internal clients, handles 0 incidents a week, deletes files and does not maintain records as documented in xyz document

      I always make this how can you not just see this hand gesture and then sigh and write it down. Someday, someday we will get a new HR and then maybe I can get rid of mine.

      (And sometimes even all this doesn’t work, our HR director said at one point no one should ever be fired – see above the puncher and the thief, so yeah, sometimes you just stick them in a corner and throw up your hands and make sure they don’t hurt anyone and stop caring that they don’t get any work done because you can’t care more than your agency will let you.)

    18. As A Manager Fan*

      Many years ago I had to fire a state employee. Meticulous documentation over a long time frame before she could be let go. She appealed to the union. I was tracked down at my new job in private industry as her complaint went through the system. They let me know she was trying to get her job back but due to the very detailed notation of counseling, training, offering EPA, etc. even the union agreed letting her go was the right outcome.
      Too too long, cost the agency too much money, cost me too much grief.
      Will never take a state job again.

    19. Anon for this, definitely*

      The morale effects on everyone else cannot be overstated.

      The best people can and will leave over this. Word gets out that this is a place that people can’t be fired from and people who have been fired from everywhere else will gravitate there. Often they know how to ingratiate themselves with decision-makers.

      As soon as an organization is perceived as having no consequences for underperformance, there will soon be only under-performers, those complicit in their underperformance, and those who have quiet quit while continuing to draw a salary.

    20. retired3*

      I have fired state employees in a system like this. Have you made an effort to have human contact with the HR people? Ask them for help? Understand their situation and issues? Then do everything the right way at least 3 times.

  2. Irish Teacher*

    Having seen a couple of recent posts, I was just wondering what are the most ridiculous questions people have been asked in interviews (any kind of ridiculous).

    I haven’t come across too many that were too bad, but one of the more bizarre was “how do you think childhood obesity affects the teaching of English?”

    1. No Tribble At All*

      “Have you ever physically fought someone?”

      At the time I was a scrawny girl just out of undergrad. As I recall, I just sort of blinked at them and said “why?” It was a screwball question designed to throw people off their game. They wanted to see how people thought under pressure (actually relevant for the position).

      I ended up taking the job!

      1. Me (I think)*

        “Have you ever physically fought someone?”

        I have so many answers, depending on how I feel about the interview and the job.

        “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
        “Yes, but he needed killing and the jury agreed.”
        “I cannot break the number one rule of Fight Club.”
        Long, slow, wordless look directly at the questioner with a deadpan expression.
        “Do you have a list?”
        “Your job description seems….incomplete.”

        1. Stunt Apple Breeder*

          “Does this fall under ‘Meets Expectations’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ with regard to performance incentives?”

        2. jasmine tea*

          Unfortunately, my mind went in the direction of “It’s none of your business, but I tried and failed to fight off my r*pist.”

      2. Llama Llama*

        I would go with ‘One of my teachers in elementary school would tell classmates not to mess with me because I once knocked out my brothers tooth. It was not me, but I chose to never correct him’

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

          Along that line, I’d probably say something like, “I’m the middle child in a family of X. We fought Hunger Games style for a second breadstick.”

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        “Yes. I got in a rolling-around-on-the-floor fistfight with another kid in third grade. It was a draw, at least I remember it that way. I’m Facebook friends with him so I can get his side if you need it. So, do I get the job?”

    2. Cyndi*

      At my first ever job interview, the manager’s opening question was “Did you bring me a gift? You’re supposed to bring me a gift.” Which, I was 15 and this sounded totally plausible to me at first–but then he progressed to hitting on me outright and even then I knew that was too far. I forget whether I didn’t get the job or got it and didn’t accept, but also that had been my favorite record store and I didn’t want to go in there any more after that, which sucked.

      1. Blarg*

        That really, really sucks. I’m so sorry. The experience AND losing a place like a favorite record store. Ugh. I’m angry for your teenage self.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, man, that sucks out loud! Having special things ruined by creeps is a particular hell, isn’t it?

        1. Monkey and Bear*

          Ha! I was quite serene in that interview, but at other times I am more expressive and extraverted. I suspect that this interviewer was expressing that she wanted more personality from me! It was my second interview for that role and I was up against one person. I didn’t get the job. I had done so much work on not-being-nervous that perhaps I didn’t show enough of myself – I’ll always wonder…!

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        I mentioned to a long-time friend once that she always seemed so serene. Her reply: “Bovine, dear. Bovine.” It’s my favorite answer ever.

    3. Watry*

      This was an application, but since it was also basically a screening I’m going to count it–“Which of these colors best represents your personality?”. I finished it because I was on unemployment and had an application minimum to meet, but I did not try very hard. Or at all.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      Not an interview question, but many years ago I applied for a job at a hardware store & had to complete a 100-question “personality test.” It could have been summed up in one question: “Are you a violent thief with addiction problems?” There were several questions on the theme of whether you believed in solving problems with violence.

      The other weird question I’ve gotten was: What one word describes you? I am a writing person & I froze. I know too many words to just choose one!

      1. Watry*

        Those ridiculously long personality tests are way more common in retail jobs than they really ought to be. I must have filled out 30 or more between 2009 and 2011.

        1. sundae funday*

          Yeah those are about the years I was looking for a retail job, and I filled out so many of those. It was absolutely ridiculous! And I wasn’t even contacted for any of them. I doubt anyone even saw my application and resume. I finally got a job at McDonald’s, and they didn’t make me fill out a questionnaire.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            This was back on the 90s. They called me for an interview, but I had a job by then. (Where I hadn’t even interviewed but was hired on a reference alone.)

          2. The Real Fran Fine*

            I only got contacted by one of the retailers after doing a dozen of these things, and it was Walgreens. I had one in-person interview that was basically a waste of time (and a waste of the little bit of money I had to take the bus back and forth at the time) and the hiring manager passed saying she would have loved to hire me, but with my degree, it would only be a matter of time before I left for something else (duh – so why bring me in?).

        2. Cyndi*

          I had to do a super long one last week–I’ve already forgotten what job it was for, but it was over a hundred questions and they were timed, 30s each, so I couldn’t stop. My pizza arrived while I was still taking the test and I let it sit outside my front door, cooling, until I was done, because I would have timed out of the job application if I went to get it.

          In hindsight I should have just bailed from the job application and eaten my pizza hot.

        3. uncivil servant*

          Same here!

          I was young and naive and maybe I overthought things because I thought there would be trick questions in there, like in the psychological tests I’d read about where they put questions in designed to root out liars.

          No, I finally got a call when I gave myself basically a 100% in employability. Customer services skills on a scale of 1-5? 5 of course! Am I ever late? Never!

      2. Shiba Dad*

        I ran into “personality tests” a couple of times back in the 90s. I can’t really remember much about them other than the companies pretty much ghosted me after taking them.

      3. Helewise*

        I had one of those at a temp agency years ago! It was so strange to me – people actually say yes to these questions??? (I mean, apparently so, but…)

    5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      “Do you walk on water? You essentially have to walk on water to get a job here in this economy.”

      Answer: “No, I don’t walk on water.” Proud of my young self for that.

    6. TypityTypeType*

      Years ago, at an interview for an admin job, the very kind person in the front office warned me (and presumably other candidates) that the interviewer was going to ask what the salutation should be on a letter to “Evelyn Crabtree.” The right response was not “Dear Ms. Crabtree,” it was “Is Evelyn a man or a woman?” Apparently there had been an Unfortunate Incident.

      He did ask the question, I gave the recommended answer, and we moved on. I don’t know if I’d have thought to ask about Evelyn’s gender without the prompt. As a Waugh-reading English major — I might have.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I was actually wondering if he’d just been reading a certain Agatha Christie novel where the solution hangs on just that point!

      2. MsM*

        I don’t know that I’d have thought of it in the moment without a heads up, either, but I think the “real” correct answer is “what does their record say?” Evelyn could also be a Dr. Crabtree, or Judge Crabtree, or…

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I once did errands for an elderly woman who wanted her correspondence addressed to her husband’s full name, so something like “Mrs. George Crabtree”.

          Then again, she also corrected my pronunciation of “croissant” as insufficiently French, so I mostly just shook my head in wonder.

      3. Strict Extension*

        Did he ask the question out loud? In my neck of the woods, there’s a pronunciation difference between male and female Evelyns.

        1. TypityTypeType*

          He pronounced it EH-ve-lin — but I don’t think I’ve heard of an American using “EVE-lynn.” (Though indeed it’s not a common name here.)

          1. Jojo*

            My best friend has a young boy child named Evelin, pronounced EVE-lynn, but it’s a family name on her British husband’s side.

      4. Anne Wentworth*

        The real answer is “Dear Evelyn Crabtree” and then you avoid all that silliness.

      5. Nightengale*

        I had to address a cover letter for a teaching position to a “Robin” back when business letters were generally written to “dear sir or madam” if the name was not known. In this case the name but not gender was known and I wrote my letter that way. I got the job. (Robin was a woman.)

      1. Artemesia*

        I wonder how far you would get with, ‘I am an animal; I’m a human being and that is working for me.’

        1. sundae funday*

          ‘I am an animal; I’m a human being and that is NOT working for me. I’d rather be a house cat so I can sleep all day and be served by humans.”

          probably wouldn’t get the job, tbh….

        2. Joie De Vivre*

          I answered “human” to that question during a team building event. A co-worker argued that humans aren’t animals. Nothing I said would change her mind. From then on, she was very chilly towards me.

      2. LadyByTheLake*

        This used to be a super-common question — so common that I went for year or so of getting it in Every Single Interview. It eventually died out when it became obvious that it didn’t show anything about whether the person could do the job. (Plus, everyone soon learned that the right answer was lion or wolf – they are aggressive but work together for a common goal).

        1. Peter*

          You’ve just made me realise that next time I get this question I jump straight into my Scout volunteering – and quote Kipling at them…

          NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky, … For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack

      3. Ask Stupid Questions*

        When asked “What is your spirit animal?” Which is so culturally insensitive, I said, “Kombucha. The answer to all these types of questions is always Kombucha.” Question asker: “Okaaaaay. Do you really like kombucha or something?” Me: “Not particularly.” Silence. Silence.

        1. Zennish*

          I’ve probably spent way too long pondering Zen koans, but my go to answer for every stupid question is “The cypress tree in the garden.” It’s hilarious if you’re a Zen Buddhist. No, really.

    7. Alex*

      Not exactly a question, but the first thing the interviewer said to me was “Everything I really want to ask you is illegal.”

      1. Elsewise*

        I assume the rest of the interview went great and you got the job immediately, took it, and have been happy there ever since?

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

        Well, at least they demonstrated that they really don’t know anything about hiring or laws. Alison has pointed out in the past that questions about your religion or family status/plans for example aren’t illegal, at least not in the U.S. — they won’t be fined or thrown in jail for asking — but the answers can’t be used to discriminate against you in hiring, and so it’s just smart not to ask because why would they need to know.

    8. Sad State Employee*

      I was about 19 and interviewing at a dental office for office work with occasional dental assisting. One of the questions on the application was “What color crayon would you describe yourself as?” Honestly, I have no idea even HOW to correctly answer that question! And what did that have to do with anything?

    9. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I’m going to play on your question – when I was doing coding jobs, twice I got asked ridiculous but technical questions. when I answered them correctly, the interviewers still didn’t look impressed. I always thought, if you’re going to ask someone to do our version of the theory of relativity, be prepared for some people to answer correctly. If you just don’t like the person’s personality, then don’t put them through those questions makes you look bad

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I once had to do a recorded video interview where I answered the question, “In object-oriented program, if you were creating a deck of cards, what would the objects be?”

        They didn’t seem impressed with my answer, “The actual physical objects in your example.”

    10. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

      25 year veteran teacher in a large urban school district and my position was eliminated due to budget restraints. I had to interview in June for desired positions or be placed in August.

      Interviewers were very young teachers.

      Q: Could you describe your student teacher experience and how it would relate to teaching in this school.

      A: After 25 years in the school district, there is nothing that I remember about my student teaching experience, and I do not think any of it would be relevant today.

      I do not think I would be a good fit for this position.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, that question seems like it would only be relevant for teachers who had no experience beyond their student teaching.

        I do remember a certain amount about my student teaching experience, but…anything that would be relevant, I have plenty of other examples of from my years of teaching since.

      2. Rebecca*

        I learned (as an interviewer actually) that it’s not necessary to answer the question they ask. you can answer with the things that are actually helpful to share. So, if they ask about student teaching experience, it’s ok to pivot to your actual teaching experience!

      3. Rex Libris*

        I’ve been a librarian for about 20 years, and applied for a job some years back where they started rapid fire quizzing me on the Dewey Decimal system. It’s kind of like if you’ve been an English Teacher for 15 or 20 years and they started quizzing you on nouns and verbs.

    11. Old Fart*

      I was changing careers in my 50s, had just got a degree, and was applying for entry level roles. One application had the question “Where do you expect to be when you turn 35?”
      I answered “Well, I could tell you where I was at 35, but I think what you really want to know is where I see myself in about 10-15 years, so that’s how I’ll answer.”
      Never heard anything from them.
      The assumptions built into that question were a bit icky as well.

      1. Tiny clay insects*

        oooo that makes me mad. I would have wanted to answer something about the time machine I would have to have invented in this scenario. (I probably would have answered similar to you, but I would have WANTED to reference a time machine.)

    12. NewJobNewGal*

      “If you were a pancake, would you be a top or bottom on the stack of pancakes. ”
      I refused to answer.

      1. ecnaseener*

        …I have no idea how you’re even supposed to approach that question. Except for as a sexual innuendo, which can’t be right!

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Well, my thought is “I’d be at the bottom because whoever is eating the pancakes might be too full to finish the stack and that might save me from being eaten,” but…I doubt that is what they are looking for.

          I wonder if they are expecting a kind of “I’m the top of every pile” typed answer.

          1. PhilG*

            I would be tempted to answer: “I identify as a waffle and, as such, occupy the plate alone.”

    13. Soontoberetired*

      I was asked what was my biggest life disappointment. my immediate thought was this interview, which was confirmed when the interviewer pressed me on it.

    14. ecnaseener*

      “What would your enemies say about you?” was very weird. I assume it was an attempt to reframe the “what are your weaknesses” question but…no, too weird. If I had Enemies™️ our beef would hopefully have nothing to do with my behavior at work.

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        “Don’t worry, they never have a chance to say anything after I’m done with them.” Say this in your fakest and sweetest voice possible, while looking straight into the interviewer’s eyes with an evil grin.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I am thinking of de Valera’s comment on the death of a foreign leader who he…did not get on well with, which was something along the lines of “he did great things for his own country, but we in Ireland had reason to consider him a dangerous adversary.”

        So…something like “they would say I did great work for my company but as representatives of our competitors, they had reason to consider me a dangerous adversary!”

        1. ecnaseener*

          I said something roughly along those lines, not so eloquent, but “they’d say I just don’t know when to quit!” Total bull, but the interviewer liked it lol.

    15. Elle Woods*

      Several years ago a hiring manager asked me if I was an a**hole. She later sent me an email apologizing for asking that. Apparently she’d gone a few rounds that morning with the employee I’d be replacing and it had put her in a mood.

    16. Elsewise*

      “This job involves getting reports from the major gift officers. Of course, they’re all older men and are pretty set in their ways. How will you deal with coworkers refusing to work with you since you’re such a young girl?”

      I was fresh out of college, but I was pretty proud of myself for having the guts to tell the interviewer that if her employees refuse to work with someone because of their age or gender, that was an HR problem, not my problem. She straight-up told me that was the wrong answer! Weirdest part: I got the job. I did not take it.

    17. Elle*

      I was asked questions about legalizing marijuana. The job I was interviewing for had nothing to do with drugs, addiction, etc and I have no background in the legalization of it. I have no idea why they would ask.

      1. irene adler*

        The company: a soap manufacturer.

        The question: Would you be okay working with people who smoked marijuana-including the owners of the company?

        My response: on the job? That’s gotta be good for the bottom line.

        My mistake. They meant working with people who supported legalizing marijuana.

      2. irene adler*

        The company: a soap manufacturer

        The question: are you okay working with people who smoke marijuana-including the owners?

        My response: On the job? That’s gotta affect the bottom line.

        My mistake. Interviewer meant people who are pro-marijuana.

    18. spcepickle*

      Actual question that we use to ask all candidates for secretary positions- I deleted it when I became in charge of questions!

      You are setting money aside for three weeks to buy a departing gift for a co-worker. The first week you contribute $1 on Monday, and $1 more each day compared to the previous day (Monday $1, Tuesday $2, Wednesday $3, and so on) until Friday. For the following two weeks you follow the same pattern except you make you contributions twice as much as the previous week. How much money have you set aside at the end of the last (3rd) week?

    19. Seahorse*

      If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? (For an admin position in no way related to tree knowledge)

      Would you come in even if you were sick, or would you call out and leave the team hanging? (Another admin position for a service that wasn’t remotely life or death)

      Would you be okay with [pushing a financially harmful service] even if you thought the person didn’t fully understand it or would regret it later? (Retail job that I didn’t expect to involve ethical quandaries)

      Do you do illegal drugs? You don’t look like you do hard drugs, or at least you hide it well. (Food service, and I worked there for a while)

      What was a popular or highly regarded book that you read and disliked? (This was for a library, so actually relevant. The unexpectedness of it me laugh, but I had an answer and got the job)

      1. Seahorse*

        Reading through some of the other responses brought back memories of being asked whether / when I was going to get pregnant, if I had “a family,” and whether I had any regrets in life.
        Interviewing is wild sometimes.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        That last one is a neat question for a library position! I would have had to say “The Da Vinci Code.” When I finished it, I rued the several hours of my life I would not get back.

        The wording of “would you come in even if you were sick, or would you call out and leave the team hanging?” is appallingly bad. Like asking someone, “have you stopped beating your wife?”

        1. Echo*

          I would be so tempted to answer “thinking about the impact on my team is ALWAYS my first priority. For example, if I am sick, my first priority is to avoid infecting my team”

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        Ooh I want to discuss that last question on the weekend thread! That’s a fun one.

      4. Anne Wentworth*

        Oof, that one definitely would have gotten me in trouble. Librarians are often broad-minded, but I doubt it would go down well if I told the truth and said Harry Potter.

        1. Seahorse*

          I think they just wanted to make sure their new hire could be diplomatic when doing reader’s advisory. It’s easy to insist you’d never judge a patron’s reading choices, but people quickly get passionate about books they don’t like.

    20. kiwiii*

      Our new HR person came in swinging a couple years ago, insisting we ask candidates to explain to us how to make an omelet.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I’m guessing it was to see if they can communicate clearly and precisely. If you leave out any key details like how EXACTLY to crack an egg, you risk them getting it wrong.

          I did the same exercise once with making a PB&J…in my 8th-grade science class. A bit weird for a job interview, unless the job involves technical writing or something.

          1. JustaTech*

            There’s a fun video of a dad doing the PB&J one with his kids, but the point is to talk about programming and precision of language and not making assumptions.

          2. kiwiii*

            It was for this reason, and to be honest the guy we ended up hiring had an excellent answer, but … surely there was a better way

    21. J*

      What’s worse, coming to work drunk or high?

      I said drunk and they told me I was wrong because drugs are illegal. I told them I’m a 16 year old child so both are illegal for me. Apparently they had never been pushed back on that. I still got the job but it was helpful to know at a young age that job interviews don’t always make sense.

    22. MadCatter*

      “What is a quote that you particularly identify with and why?”

      My mind literally blanked, I could only think of two, neither of which were appropriate so I just picked one. I did not hear back from them.

    23. Hillia*

      A former manager used to ask people, “If you were a vehicle, what kind would you be and why?”

    24. irene adler*

      I was handed a schematic of a very complex apparatus. It was a very unprofessional drawing. Didn’t resemble anything on their products web page.

      Then asked questions about the apparatus:
      If this valve were closed, what do you think would happen?
      If these three valves were set “open, closed, open”, what would happen to the contents of this chamber?
      How about “closed, closed, open”?
      Where would liquid emerge if this valve were open and heat was applied here? What if you close that vent?

      This was for a QA position in a biotech company that makes test kits and equipment. Interpreting drawings was not part of the job (although obtaining specs from the drawing would be). Secondly, shouldn’t they use real drawings?

      I started to study the drawing, doping out pathways. But the interviewer kept pointing to various parts, repeating the question at hand. Didn’t really give me much time to understand what was going on. I did, however, correctly answer the questions.

      To this day I am puzzled at what the point was putting me through this exercise.

    25. Mandie*

      When I was interviewed for a role at a past company, the hiring manager hand picked a few people from my prospective department to interview me and didn’t include Bob, because he was an obnoxious know-it-all. Once I was hired, my manager asked me to schedule 30-minute meet & greets with various team members, one of whom was Bob. Bob was still offended and carrying a grudge over not being asked to interview me, and he told me as much. Then he proceeded to use his 30 minutes to conduct the most bizarre, insulting interview I’ve ever been subjected to. He questioned my credentials for the job. He quizzed me on common terms used in our field. I caught on to his game pretty quickly and gave him short answers in a bored tone of voice so as not to encourage him. At one point, I misspoke, mostly because I was totally appalled and pissed off by his stupid interview. He pounced all over my error and proceeded to mansplain a topic I’ve been familiar with for 20 years. Then he aggressively interrogated me about my vote in the previous year’s election: “I bet you voted for Trump, didn’t you? Huh? Did you?” When I politely told him I don’t discuss politics at work, he leaned back in his chair and said, “That was a test. I wanted to fluster you on purpose to see how you react under pressure.”

      I instantly hated Bob, and my opinion of him never changed.

    26. DutchessofDork*

      Wasn’t a job I applied for but as a job for a role where you transport prisoners to and from the courthouse to the jail and security of the courthouse itself.

      “After you poop, do you look at it or no?”

      To them, they want to see that you look after your health, look behind you, look for details.

    27. AnonForThis*

      “Would you spend the night in a haunted bookstore?”

      The job had nothing to do with bookstores, reading, or ghosts. Apparently it was some sort of inside joke for the staff.

    28. nobadcats*

      I was applying for an editorial role at a small environmental non-profit.

      “Do you like the environment?”

      “On this planet, yes. Don’t much care for the one that Mars has.”

    29. Vanilla latte*

      “What kind of animal would you be?”

      I really wanted to say “sex panther,” but I played it safe and said tiger.

    30. BeeMused*

      “Who would you root for if [my alma mater] were playing [nearby university to this job] in March Madness?”

      My honest, knee-jerk answer: “Uh, I’m not a big sports person.”

      L’esprit de l’escalier that might have gone over better: “I would paint one half of my face [alma mater colors] and the other half [local U colors].”

      I did not get the job.

      Another interviewer, after spending most of the time asking how I would solve a big problem they had, suddenly asked, “What’s your favorite kind of pie?”

      Remembering the basketball flub, I rambled a bit, basically insisting that all pies are great, hoping I wasn’t insulting their favorite.

      There was a pause, and then they explained that they like to buy pies on birthdays instead of cakes. It was a signal they wanted to make me an offer. D’oh.

    31. LuckyClover*

      One time I participated in an interview for front desk admin support at a small engineering firm. The interviewer was giddily proud asking “riddle” type questions and subsequently also telling me the “right” answer after each time. Things like
      Interviewer: Who is your biggest competition here
      Me: ummm, in this solo office support role? Answering phones, scheduling appointments, and maintaining office supplies? Can you help me understand what you mean by competition?
      I: The correct answer is you should be competing with yourself to be better each day
      Me: Ok??? Do you want to know about my experience with managing XXX and X systems?
      I: Proceeds to another riddle

      I got a call to come back for a new interview because they decided to change their process for the role. NO KIDDING. I withdrew myself from consideration.

    32. Owlrighty*

      I applied for a fast food job in college and during the interview they asked me if I was a car, what kind of car would I be? I was young and dumb and didn’t know anything about cars, so I said I didn’t know anything about cars (lol). They said, well, any kind of mode of transportation.
      I told them steam locomotive because I was old-fashioned but a workhorse. They loved it and after I got the job they always told me that was the best answer they ever got and that everyone else always answered a Honda Civic.

    33. MigraineMonth*

      I was filling out a technical skills survey and was asked how comfortable I was with machining tools and whether I could assemble metal parts to match a blueprint. They were somewhat alarming questions for a software development job interview.

    34. There You Are*

      I was greeted in the lobby by my interviewer for a software sales position. He wasn’t the sales manager I would be reporting to but the manager / director of the tech people that the sales people partner with.

      We rode the elevator to the top floor, went down a long hallway and into a dark-paneled conference room with one of the biggest oval tables I’ve ever seen. He pulled the 2nd or 3rd side chair out from the closest end of the oval as you entered the room and said, “Here, have a seat.” So I was almost at the head of one end of the table.

      He then proceeded to walk to the other end of the room and sit in the chair at the far end head of the table. Like, 20-30 (?) seats away from me.

      He leaned back, smirked as I was opening my portfolio/binder to get my resume and notes out, and then said, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be… and why?”

      I know I sat there for some realllllly long seconds, just trying to make sense of the scene and what he’d said.

      And then I closed my portfolio back up, picked my purse up off the floor, and said, “Thank you for your time, but there’s been some misunderstanding.” And walked myself back to the elevator bank, out of the lobby, over to my parked car, and got the hell out of there.

      1. allathian*

        The tree question keeps haunting this comment section, LOL!

        Recently someone said mallorn tree and someone else said Ent, depending on my mood I could be either.

        But you did great just walking out of there.

        1. Despachito*

          I am just reading about sandbox trees whose trunks are full of thorns and their fruit explodes when ripe. Might do the trick.

    35. A. D. Kay*

      Earlier this year a techbro asked me what superpower I would pick if given a choice. I said I already had more than one superpower and listed them (I’m a tech writer with 25 years of experience, so trust me, I have a LOT). Still annoyed me though!

    36. sad alumna*

      At the end of a summer internship in undergrad, I did an interview for a special fast track program for new grads (full time position in my field plus extra mentoring/opportunities). I was one of the last interns to interview, so I’d been waiting for a few hours, growing more and more nervous.

      The interview was with a panel of 5 people, including some higher ranking people I’d never interacted with. No one who worked with me during my internship was present, and I’d only met the HR people a few times. Halfway through my 30 minute interview, Big Boss starts aggressively questioning me about my degree program and university. I was in a STEM major at a women’s college and the program was new and pretty unique at the time. At first I thought he was just being skeptical about my program, but eventually he asked me why HIS daughter, who was a biology major at my university, was too busy partying! I don’t really remember what I said in response, and things got pretty awkward for everyone when it became clear that he wouldn’t stop ranting about how much he was spending on his daughter’s education. The women from HR kept trying to steer the conversation to other, less potentially illegal topics, but the whole interview was a disaster.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Honestly at that point I might just say “I would assume she’s rebelling against her home life, sir.”

  3. Called Birdy*

    Had job interview for a government job. The team sounds awesome. The projects sound awesome. I really want this job! I didn’t bring up my other offer. I cannot work for the other place – they were dishonest and the road to HR was draped in red flags – but do want to leverage the higher salary. I hesitated to bring up the other offer in the interview because it applies pressure and they might not be able to budge on the hiring timeline, which they said would take a few weeks, or they might not be able to budge on the salary, which is tiered and commensurate with experience. I don’t want to be pulled from the running for the job I really want. Am I overthinking this? 

    1. Katness*

      I think what I would personally do is decline the job I *know* I’m not taking, but possibly reference it honestly in negotiation if I thought it would help (would depend on the situation).

      “Based on other offers I’ve received, I believe the market rate for this work would be $X. Is there any flexibility for you to come up to $Y?” (Y might be same as X, or might be a middle number based on what you know of their range.)

      Others might prefer to hold onto the other offer as long as they can, so they can honestly say “another offer I’m considering”, I think that’s OK too if that’s what you want to try. Good luck!

    2. Lbam*

      I wouldn’t bring up the other offer until you’re at a point where you’re getting an offer from the government job, especially if this other place isn’t somewhere you’d consider even without this awesome government position. Once the government comes back with an offer, that’s your cue to say, “Thanks so much, I’m really excited to join the team! I do have another offer at $X salary I’m also considering, is there any chance we can get closer to that?” However, I do want to temper your expectations a bit—I’ve done a stint in government work, and at least in the US, those salary bands don’t have a lot of wiggle room to play. It’s up to you to determine if the juice is worth the squeeze for that conversation.

    3. Goddess47*

      There are articles on AAM about negotiating salary that you should check out.

      But the bottom line is to be polite and ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t get more. The worst they can do is say that the salary is not negotiable and then you make a decision.

      Go for it!

    4. InterplanetJanet*

      Is this federal? You are very, very unlikely to be able to leverage another offer to make any kind of impact on the salary they can offer. For most agencies it is super structured and you need to be able to provide paystubs to back up any request for higher than step one (maybe all, but not committing to saying all since I don’t have firsthand experience in all of them.) Also, those requests typically need to go through your HR officer after the tentative offer is issued, and once you have that TO in hand, they won’t pull it for asking questions about negotiating. The committee often won’t even find out you asked.

      1. Called Birdy*

        State government. The higher offer from the other place is within the range of the job I want (at its high end), but it isn’t clear which rank I would fall into.

        1. Squeakrad123*

          This may be location dependent, but given all the layoffs here in the bay area I don’t know that I would mention another offer and try to use it specifically for leverage. I like the verbiage in the first response – “based on other offers I’ve received, I believe the market rate is closer to x…” and I, too, would wait till I had an actual offer from the first organization.

        2. CheeryO*

          Are you sure that the range is for the starting salary? At my state agency, we provide a range, but there is no room for negotiation. You start at the bottom and work your way to the top with step increases over 7 years in accordance with the union contract.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Similar, but I was able to negotiate a different starting step based on my years of experience in the field.

        3. Jaydee*

          Often for a state government job, your ability to negotiate is going to be pretty limited. If the other job was for essentially the same type of work, and if the salary was within the salary range for this government job it might be worth a try. But government jobs usually have pretty strict rules that new hires are started at the bottom end of the salary range or maybe no higher than the 25%ile. Also, the salary ranges for a given job classification are usually fixed, so that top end of the range is the max you can make unless you move to a different position. If you start near the top of the range, you might hit the max after a year or two with COLA increases/merit raises and then be stuck at that salary unless you get a promotion or different job.

          The one area I could see it working in your favor is if they are hiring for either a Lion Tamer 1 or a Lion Tamer 2 depending on qualifications and you can use this offer to argue you should be hired as a Lion Tamer 2.

    5. Victoria*

      Keep in mind that governments often pay a bit less because they offset with better benefits and job security. I agree with some of the wording that Katness and others have suggested, and also support the comments that government tends to be inflexible so don’t expect much. Our pay structure is public, and when I started I could argue the number of years of equivalent experience (for example I got them to count some student jobs) but that was it. Treating everyone equally is one way to work toward equality.

    6. spcepickle*

      I also work in state service and am in charge of hiring people and setting their salary step.
      One thing I would encourage you to look at is if the position is union covered (all of ours are) and if so are you guaranteed steps every year. Where I work all the salary bands have steps A-L and you can go to step M after 6 years at L (each step is 2.5% pay increase). You get a two step increase every year automatically till you get to L per the union contract.

      If that was the case you might be okay with just accepting what they offered at the beginning knowing you were going to get automatic pay raises. And like someone else said – Gov jobs are normally slightly less pay in exchange for better benefits and more stability.

      All of that as a long story short – If you ask for a number within the salary band it should at least be a discussion and not a red flag and you may get it, but I wouldn’t bring up the other offer I would just ask for a higher starting salary.

      1. Called Birdy*

        Apparently there are sub-tiers within the tiered salary system for my state. Thanks for your insight!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I wasn’t able to negotiate a starting salary for role [X], but I was able to negotiate my starting role to [X + 1], which came with a higher salary. That won’t work for every position, but it might be possible even if the salary itself is non-negotiable.

  4. Funny Cide*

    I’m a few steps into the hiring process for a role with an organization – have done a phone screen and a couple assessment things. My in-person interview is a couple weeks away. I have perfect experience for this (have essentially done it before) and think they really want me. However, another role more aligned with the direction I want to go literally just posted. Do I apply? It’s a relatively big org but within the same division, so I’d guess it’s possible the same HR rep is likely to be working on it.

    1. Megan*

      If you have a recruiter contact, you can reach out to that person and explain you’d also like to be considered for job B. I work in a very large company and we once had someone apply to two slightly different jobs in our same broader team. They were qualified for each, and as hiring committees we basically had to fight it out for her. It was no big deal at all for our team or company. If there isn’t a recruiter, you can apply again online. Applying online is a necessary step in our org even if you reach out to the recruiter, as it officially establishes your candidacy. But I would start with the recruiter if there is one. If you’ve only been dealing with the hiring manager, it gets a bit trickier, especially if you don’t want to signal to them that you are anything less than focused on the current role. In this case I would still apply online for job B.

      1. Pam Adams*

        My university often sees people apply for multiple positions- you do have to apply separately for each.

        1. Funny Cide*

          That’s reassuring that it’s common – I know it can be a thing that people are desperate to work someplace so they just apply for everything open, and I don’t want to seem like that. I’m only desperate to work anywhere other than my current role ;)

          1. Megan*

            My company does have a rule about only applying for like three roles in a certain timespan (I think in a month?), so we get around the “spamming” issue. But 2-3 roles that you are suited for is totally fine!

          2. Pam Adams*

            What I’ve seen is similar jobs across multiple departments- example an academic advisor or financial analyst.

      2. Funny Cide*

        I do have contact with a recruiter! This is helpful, thank you. I think my perspective on this has all been a little clouded. I’m honestly leaning towards not wanting the role I’m further ahead for for a couple of reasons, but I’m sticking it out to the in-person at least because interviews are a two-way street, after all! Frankly, I really can’t stand my current supervisor and organization and I’m desperate to get out, so I’m trying to give everything a chance.

        1. Megan*

          Internal recruiters are often happy to connect folks with other internal jobs. They are often evaluated on the number of people they get through each phase of the interview process, and if they can get you to an offer accept to either role, then it’s a win for them. They sometimes might need to pass you to another recruiter if the role is outside their scope, but are still happy to do it. Good luck! I’d probably stay in the process for both roles, to hedge my bets, especially if your current role is not good.

        2. Tio*

          You may not have to redo everything for the second posting if they’ll consider you. I’d tell the recruiter “I’m interested in the position we’ve been discussing but a new position of Llama Feed Specialist just opened and I find it even more in line with my skills. I’m liking the company overall and I’m thinking I will put an application in for that position.”

          We actually have hiring panels where several managers will interview candidates together and then we sort out who gets what candidate (if they’re good)

  5. UKDaisy*

    Mental-health related question.

    Does anyone have any tips for working whilst dealing with mental health stuff?

    I took some time off my Master’s degree over the winter after a really tough period of depression, anxiety and burnout caused by a sort of perfect storm of difficult-to-deal-with life events. I’m on the up and am now back to work, and finding it easier than in the Autumn – when I could barely work at all and was feeling absolutely awful – but am still finding it really hard to concentrate, find motivation, have any sort of self-esteem or belief that my work is worthwhile, put in a ‘normal’ amount of hours during a day, and have access to the deeper parts of my brain that I really need for academic study. It’s a research-based course, so I have next to no structure or contact with my university, and trying to get out of a rut with it all is really hard. It’s also difficult to justify building in time off when I feel like I’m not working enough as it is.
    The course takes a year to do full-time, part-time isn’t really an option financially, and I really don’t want to just give up on it! I’m also nearly 30 (was a late comer to university education) and would quite like to get a job and start earning/saving after I finish studying, so I’m very reluctant to defer for another year.

    I feel like I’m trying to do all the right things – trying to maintain an active social life, eat well, exercise, etc., and have been exploring options for therapy, but haven’t yet found anything right (I would find it difficult to pay for private therapy and NHS options are limited with long waiting lists.) I’ve been talking with the university and am trying to restructure deadlines as much as possible to make the workload more manageable. But, inevitably, they are approaching, and I will have to submit some work!

    Any advice for when the time to ‘just get on with it’ is now – but that’s not coming very easily?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Yes! Captain Awkward has the best blog post on this. Will reply with a comment. “How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed” is the title.

      1. cabbagepants*

        I was going to recommend this! It’s amazing and I reference it often. It works great regardless of why you’re off your usual game — depression, health stuff, new employee, Just Not Feeling It These Days.

    2. Monkey and Bear*

      I am sorry you’re going through this. It sounds like a really challenging time.

      I have a hunch that a structured, science-backed programme of self-help activity might be helpful to you. (I say “self-help” because it would be inexpensive. And “structured” and “science-backed” because – like most people – you need a real, meaningful intervention.)

      You could look up this book: Unlearn Your Anxiety and Depression: A Self-Guided Process to Reprogram Your Brain. It’s a bit pricey to order if you’re in UK, but you can get it on Kindle for much less. I’ve heard really great things about it.

      There’s another book I’ve heard of called, “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time”. Haven’t read it but…! Also, there’s a good series of books called “Overcoming…” (Google “the overcoming series”) which guide people through self-help CBT processes around common mental health issues. I had success with one of them years ago.

      Very best of luck to you!

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        The OP can use health tracker ( like bearable) and a mood journal ( paper lol) to see which ones are helping most. Be gentle with yourselves!

    3. Earlk*

      Make sure you set aside time to work and time to not work, it might initially feel like the not work periods are a waste at first but you will notice an improvement. This will depend on how your work work is structured, whether you manage to allot a solid lunch break or find it easier to take shorter breaks throughout the day. Also, maybe not relevant to the work you’re doing but you reference difficulty concentrating at work, I was (and still do) have this problem and I found that it led to anxiety related to missing pieces of work and so was recommended by a therapist to schedule myself “panic time” each day (like 5-10 minutes) to go through all the things in my mind I could have missed and assure myself that I hadn’t- or at least let myself know that I’d tried to capture everything.

      Try to do something similar with your studying, to create a structure for that work. I found it easier to not study at home and make sure I was at a library/cafe to do the work. Also when I was studying and working I would sometimes stay an extra 45 mins- 1 hour in the office to do some uni work. My line manager was aware it wasn’t work-related and was outside of working time, so it was no problem.

      In regards to mental health: the therapist I mentioned earlier was through an employee self referral scheme, I don’t think all companies in the UK have them but a lot do so see if you can get something through that (usually just 6 weeks and usually virtual/ telephone so not perfect but is something) and if you haven’t tried self referring to IAPT (waiting times still apply and also largely CBT so not good for everyone) then it’s worth ago. Also, do not underestimate the importance of a vitamin D supplement, especially in winter. It’s so important that the mental health organisation I worked for during the pandemic gave it out free to all staff during the winters.

    4. Earlk*

      I thought I had (or tried) to write a fairly lengthy reply to this but when I went to add to it I couldn’t find it, so sorry if this pops up along side another longer one but to summarise what I meant to say:
      As hard as it sounds you’ll need to build your own structure to the academic work, I found it easier to do this when I was not at home e.g. setting aside enough time at a library/cafe to do my work or, staying slightly later at work to do some bits so when I was actually home I could relax.

      Having time to relax/not be constantly working is incredibly important even if it feels impossible: allot time for this. It will feel bad and wrong at first but will result in better productivity.

      If you can’t get therapy through the NHS your work might have a self-referral system (very similar to self-referral through IAPT but sometimes quicker) and your university will definitely have something you can use.

      Also, if you’re not taking a vitamin D supplement: do. Might sound like it won’t help but it’s genuinely important, to the point that when I worked in mental health during the pandemic our organisation provided it to staff for free.

      1. glouby*

        Ooh – intentionally taking time to relax “will feel bad and wrong at first but will result in better productivity.”

        Really appreciate this framing, Earlk! Can definitely co-sign the benefits of doing so, even (if not especially) in deadline crunch times.

        1. Pine Tree*

          When I was working with my therapist to get through a burnout period, she had me schedule time to relax and consciously give myself permission to do something other than work or chores. Every time I had a thought that started with “I should be doing…..” I was supposed to stop myself and say “I choose to be [reading, watching TV, walking, hobby X] right now and can do [work or chore task] later”. It actually was super helpful just to think about it very intentionally.

    5. 1234ShutTheDoor*

      That sucks and is hard.

      When I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety getting in the way of my productivity, I’ve found “junebugging” to be useful. It’s something I heard in the context of “how to clean your house when you have ADHD”. Essentially, you give yourself some sort of anchor point, and let yourself meander from there, but bring yourself back to your anchor point when you’re in that natural break between activities.

      For cleaning, it looks like “clean by the bathroom sink” and you start cleaning the sink and notice that you need to clear off counter clutter, so you grab and item and head to the bedroom where you notice you need to wash your sheets, so you throw them in the wash… Oh, need to get back to the sink, start clearing more clutter, etc.

      For more academic pursuits, it’s like “go over notes on X” is my start point, and I start going down research rabbit holes or write some stream of consciousness ideas about the topic or start listing related things I would like to read later… I may not get done what I “need to” get done, but I do get something done, and it reminds me why I wanted to do the thing in the first place. Just try and find as many engaging things surrounding the topic as possible, and engage with them in a way you find actually engaging.

      The most important part of this exercise is looking back and seeing all the things you accomplished without the looming dread of “I need to do X” paralyzing you, and then riding that high as far as it will take you. It’s very easy to train yourself to dread work because whenever you sit down to work, you just end up telling yourself that you are stupid and useless and “why is this so hard, just get it done?” and you start to associate your work/project/school with self-flagellation. This is a process of training yourself to enjoy the project again and releasing expectations as much as possible.

      Of course, this is just me sharing something that I have found helpful, and it may not actually apply to your situation and person. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember that this too shall pass.

    6. Sparkle Llama*

      Step one is to give yourself permission to do less well than you want and acknowledge that you are dealing with something that is tough and it is ok for that to impact your work. This is very helpful if you get caught in not being able to do something as well as you want to, so you don’t do it.

      I find it easier to manage when my anxiety is taking over if I break things down to tasks that can be completed in an hour or less so it seems less overwhelming. Telling myself (out loud if possible) that I can do it and once I have completed the bite sized task congratulate myself for doing it. It is called positive self talk and it is one of the most effective things I have learned for dealing with mental illness.

      Also, as much as I sometimes wish it wasn’t true, taking a walk outside during the day really helps.

      Lastly, not sure how things work in the UK but getting a prescription for an as needed medication (in addition to my daily meds) has really helped with my anxiety. Took a few tries to find one that worked without making me super sleepy, but now that I have it, it is quite helpful in getting my brain to be willing to focus on things other than what my anxiety is saying to focus on. So a conversation with a doctor about medication might be a good step as well if you aren’t already on meds that are working for you.

    7. Kingfisher*

      UKDaisy, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! I went through something very similar while doing a master’s in the UK and it is HARD. I had a family emergency and I was very far away from home and though there was some baseline university support, I was mostly also left to get on with it. Do you by any chance have university-related counselling services that you could access? There may be a longish wait (I think I waited about two weeks), but it was a free service that could be of use.

      In my situation, I let myself coast as much as possible and did the bare mininum for a few months. Weirdly, the thing that helped pull me back into world was the research itself. I found that one thing that would let my brain get absorbed and excited again in my work and it gradually helped me shed the numbness I was feeling.

      I would also let myself do absolutely anything I needed in my downtime (in my case, I watched every single episode of QI for hours, it was the only thing that would make me laugh and put me to sleep). Otherwise, meditation apps at night and walking somewhere beautiful also really helped to ground me in the physical world and my body rather than in my head, if that makes sense.

      I hope some of this might be useful and I’m wishing you the best of luck.

    8. Eng Girl*

      Ah yes, the grad school burnout/anxiety/depression hellscape. I remember it well if not fondly.

      Here’s what worked for me when I was in your position.

      1. As many others have said, make time to not focus on school. For me this looked like Friday night movies with my roommates, a hard cutoff/set bed time, and about once a month I got the hell out of dodge and left town for the weekend. Usually this was to visit with family

      2. Allow yourself timed mental breaks outside of that scheduled time. You’ve been staring at data for 3 hours and it’s all starting to look wonky and you’re spiraling? Sounds like it’s time to go for a walk/grocery shop/meal prep/watch an episode on Netflix. This time doesn’t have to be “wasted” it just needs to break up your schedule

      3. See if there is therapy available through your university. Not sure if that’s a think in the UK but mine was great

      4. This is a killer, cut out caffeine. I wasn’t sleeping well at all. I was constantly jittery. It was awful. I went cold turkey for the last 2-3 months of my program and it was a huge help.

      5. Remind yourself that this is a temporary situation with an end date. Don’t put a countdown on the wall because that will stress you out (learn from my mistake). I found that when it got really really bad if I just reminded myself that this was not forever it really helped

      6. Plan something special for when you’re done to give yourself something to look forward to.

    9. Ms. Frizzle*

      I went through something similar during my STEM PhD.

      What worked for me was:
      Every day I set a length of time that I intended to work. I started with 2 hours. I used the pomodoro technique (20 min on 5 min off) timed until I hit my 2 hours and then I was done for the day. No guilt. No more work no matter how I felt. When I could consistently do 2 hours every day I added one 2o min session. In this way I saw progress (more time worked) and I hit goals (planned hours of work that were doable).
      I think you (or I was) will be surprised how far even a small amount of time goes for getting things done in research.

      For a long time, I stalled out at 4 hours a day. And honestly, I got a lot done. Dont add more time than you can consistently do. The goal is to feel good about the work you ARE getting done, not to spiral about what you’re not doing. I eventually went between 5 and 6 but never more than 6. This allowed me to have structure and finish my PhD (took 4 years). If you don’t like the pomodoro technique there are lots of other ways to time yourself- I would experiment with what works for you, but make sure the timed portion is ONLY work related to your program (no email, no meetings). For me the most important part was the timed breaks because otherwise my breaks got longer and longer. Good luck!

    10. Mandie*

      My advice is to take a step back and really evaluate the amount of effort you’re putting in and how other people are perceiving you. When you’re a high performer, operating at 50% capacity can feel like slacking, but in reality, it might be on par with the performance of “average” performers, and you may be doing just fine.

      I’m speaking from experience here – I have been dealing with severe PTSD and anxiety for the past several years. During that time, I took on my first management position and it was incredibly stressful. I felt like a failure every single day because I was too overwhelmed to give it my all. Sometimes I had to close my office door and listen to a meditation podcast just to keep from spiraling into a full-blown panic attack. And you know what? During that time, I received “exceeds expectations” performance reviews, raises, bonuses, and my boss and peers raved about me. I had the reputation of being the best manager in our facility.

      I think we are often so, so hard on ourselves. For better or worse, I also think the bar is set considerably lower than our own internal expectations when it comes to performance. Give yourself a break and do what you can. On your strong days, do all the things and be a rock star! On your really bad days, give 20% effort if that’s all you have to give. Take time off when you need it, take little sanity breaks in your car, work from home – whatever helps you cope. It will balance out, I promise.

    11. Mouse Chords*

      I have depression. What works to make things….less…for me is to get outside. Yes, the exercise is good, but get out-of-doors, even on the not-sunny days. Go wander if you can, and breathe. If you have green space near you, this works even better.

      1. Mid*


        I found I needed a reason to inspire going outside, so I actually got rid of my coffee maker, and walked to the coffee shop a few blocks away from me. (I’m aware not everyone’s finances allow for this! But it was a nice way to start my day, made sure I got dressed/semi-presentable, talked to another human, and went outside all in one go.) Also there are a lot of apps that you can use to motivate yourself. FitBit has weekly challenges that encourage you to get more steps, Pokemon Go has you walk to catch Pokémon and collect eggs, etc. Find something that helps encourage you when going outside is hard.

    12. Alternative Person*

      That sounds rough. I’ve got my MA dissertation and a separate work sponsored training programme on my plate right now and here’s what’s been working for me:

      -Writing out deadlines in my diary. This way I know what is due when and can build in soft deadlines for getting specific things done and buffers to give me breathing room if something takes extra time.

      -Spending time breaking down tasks into bite sized chunks. Big tasks like ‘Research/Write about X can feel impossible to start. Find six key facts about X and add a couple of references/draft 400 words on Y/spend an hour sorting references/etc. is much more doable.

      -Assigning a chunk to a specific day to do it. I do this once a week. This way, when I’m tired or low on decision energy, I already have something decided for me to do which is then usually easy (easier) to start doing. Building in days off/catch up days is also important.

      -Prioritizing what can get done. There can be a tendency to think things have to be done on the schedule of the course (and some of it is true), but I figure if I can at least outline/draft some of the smaller assignments now, that’s (probably) less work later.

      -Rewarding myself. Right now it is usually game time or fancy snacks/restaurant trips. I will be giving myself a big reward when I finish both the MA and work course, but I haven’t decided what those will be yet.

    13. I take tea*

      Thank you all for this thread. So many good tips and such compassion. I’m a bit overwhelmed myself at the moment and it feels good to know both that I’m not alone and that there are things that can help.

      I’m adding: don’t cut into your sleep if you can avoid it. It feels so tempting to go on and on late into the night, but I only do that now if I have a really good flow. No forcing, better to sleep properly and try again tomorrow.

  6. Sabotaged by Manager*

    This year I signed on with a nonprofit, and my manager was completely out to sabotage every aspect of my life. It was really simple jealousy and envy, she hated the fact that she was a manager but I had more experience than her. So weird. She started saying horrible things about me to everybody at the company. She would do things like tell me not to come to work, or not to come to company trainings. She made up an entire lie about me getting injured and not being able to come into work. So for three months my upper managers thought I wasn’t working because she told them so. She was truly sociopathic. She was so two faced and would lie and gossip and be nice to people in front of their face, and say horrible things behind their back. I was working on all of these specialized projects for the company (we are a national nonprofit) and she sabotaged everything. For example I was working on a national advertising campaign, she reached out to marketing and they decided to not use my materials. I was also interviewing for a senior leadership position and she reached out to HR and told them not to hire me. I reached out to my other managers, upper leadership, the C level executives of the company, human resources, nobody believed me or wanted to help me. I even told HR that she threatened me with a gun and they did not care. Anyway I resigned for very obvious reasons. Is there any kind of justice that can be brought to this situation? Companies like this shouldn’t be allowed to exist! And people like her shouldn’t be managers.

    1. LG*

      Did you have any documentation to back up your allegations? I would have been documenting everything after only a few incidents like you describe. Otherwise it would be your word against hers, and if she’s been there longer, they’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Yikes! Well, threatening you with a gun is a crime, so you could fill out a criminal complaint, but that would likely require a lot of your time and mental energy if it goes anywhere. I’m sorry that happened to you, how horrible.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Even if it doesn’t get very far maybe the police getting involved will at least get HR to take their job a little more seriously.

    3. Rosemary*

      YIKES ON BIKES. I unfortunately do not have any advice, except to say I am sorry this happened to you. This manager takes toxic to the extreme. Can you leave a Glassdoor review? Not that it will necessarily “do” anything, but might at least warn others away…

    4. sundae funday*

      Wow!! I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. Unfortunately, I don’t know for sure how you could bring any kind of justice to the situation. But managers can’t just threaten people with guns and have it swept under the rug….

      Maybe there’s some type of organization you can report them to? Or maybe you could talk to a news outlet or something to bring what’s going on to light? This company should NOT exist and this woman should NOT be managing other people.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        “ some type of organization you can report them to”

        – law enforcement

        – any ethics boards they may be governed by

        1. sundae funday*

          tbh I have absolutely no faith in law enforcement to do anything in this situation, but making a report would at least have a paper trail, I guess.

    5. Anastia Beaverhousen*

      If you have documentation you can file a lawsuit against them. Talk to am employment lawyer.

    6. Anonymous 75*

      you say she threatened you with a gun, what does that mean? she threatened to use a gun on you or did she actually pull over in you? if it’s the latter and your can prove it you need to talk to Jay enforcement. as for everything else, you could post Glassdoor reviews, social media, etc but that’s probably it.

    7. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      “She made up an entire lie about me getting injured and not being able to come into work. So for three months my upper managers thought I wasn’t working because she told them so.”

      I’m not clear how this worked? I mean, other people must have SEEN you there at work over three months. Plus, if you really were off due to an injury, you’d have to file that with HR.
      I’m sorry this happened to you! It seems like your HR really fell down doing their job.

  7. Xoxoxoxoxo*

    How do you format your resume to keep it easy to read? I work in paid media/digital advertising as a side note, it’s more on the tech and numbers side than creative

    I have 7 jobs on my resume (10 years experience) and it’s 2 pages long. My current role and past 3 jobs are the main ones I want to highlight and they are on the 1st page. For each of them I have sentences in a justified paragraph form (the day-to-day responsibilities) and accomplishments bulleted out below. With my current role and last role, I have a lot of experience and I want to make sure important notes are included. I’ve done a ton of re-writing as well to make it more clear with more specifics. The font size is 10.5, and each role is a dark blue color, while other text is black. It is a lot, but I feel like I’ve cut it down as much as I can and don’t want to leave off important accomplishments and responsibilities relevant to the jobs I’m applying for.

    I had an interview this week, and the hiring manager was a pompous rear-end. There was a lot of other stuff too, but he made a comment twice about how my resume was overwhelming and there wasn’t enough white space, so he just looked at my LinkedIn. Based on his demeanor and his other comments, I do think he was negging me, but that doesn’t mean that comment was completely off base.

    I’ve since made adjustments on the formatting, so I’ve left the job titles on the left, and then slightly indented the description and bulleted accomplishments underneath and made those ‘justify’ indented, when before the job title and description underneath were justified, so it might look melded together.

    Does anyone have any other tricks for making your resume easier to read when there are a ton of words on it?

    1. Not Your Trauma Bucket*

      First and foremost, just left align your text. Full justified is actually really hard to read. A ragged right margin is normal and fine.

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        Interesting! Would you keep both the job description and title both aligned to the left, with no indentation for the description?

    2. ecnaseener*

      Well, if you’re going to keep the full sentences (but maybe reconsider those?) left-aligned paragraphs are supposed to be easier to read than justified.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        For reconsidering the full sentences/paragraphs:

        Can you change the full sentences in paragraph form into bullet points? If that would make your resume too long, you can look at only keeping the most important/relevant responsibilities or you can shed the 7th (and possible 6th) job.

        Another thing to consider: do you have a master resume? I have a document that’s a few pages with a lot of bullet points under each job (and had every job I have ever had, even ones that are old/no longer relevant). When I apply to a job, I look at the job description and create a slimmed down resume with only the jobs/bullet points that I think will most strengthen my candidacy for that particular job.

        1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

          “Can you change the full sentences in paragraph form into bullet points? If that would make your resume too long, you can look at only keeping the most important/relevant responsibilities or you can shed the 7th (and possible 6th) job.”

          I could try, it might make it a lot longer though. I can play around with it. And by doing this, how can you separate the description vs. accomplishments?

          “Another thing to consider: do you have a master resume? I have a document that’s a few pages with a lot of bullet points under each job (and had every job I have ever had, even ones that are old/no longer relevant). When I apply to a job, I look at the job description and create a slimmed down resume with only the jobs/bullet points that I think will most strengthen my candidacy for that particular job.”

          I do, that’s a good idea

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I wouldn’t necessarily separate duties and accomplishments. MsM (below) suggested phrasing responsibilities as accomplishments, which is the direction I would go in. Yvette also gave some good examples of turning complete sentences into shorter bullet points, which might take up roughly the same amount of space on the page.

    3. Still*

      Why not just cut the other jobs, or cut them down to just a single line, so that you have more space for the four you want to focus on? I see that you wanted to keep them on the first page but it doesn’t sound like it’s serving you.

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        I’ve honestly tried to cut them down as much as possible, but even in jobs from 10 years ago there is relevant stuff. I can try playing around with it

        1. Still*

          It might be relevant but is it all that helpful if people aren’t reading it? It’s up to you but you might be better off losing some of the relevant stuff so that people actually pay attention to what’s left. The way you describe it, it sounds like many people might not even get to the second page.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on the font, of course, but more often than not 11 point is the absolute smallest I’d go on a resume. You want people to be able to easily skim, including people with older eyes who may have trouble with tiny print, and you also want it to not look daunting. You do need white space and an easily skimmable font size. That may mean cutting some of what you have there; that’s just how this goes.

      I need to get out of the open thread now.

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        I love that you responded! My day is complete! lol

        Thank you!! My font is Arial, but I can play around with the 11-pt size

    5. ursula*

      2 pages doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. YMMV, but I don’ t think people who have a bunch of meaningful experience should have to try to cram their content onto a single page. If you’re straight out of school or only have 2 jobs worth mentioning, then fine. But especially since many jobs have bogus titles that don’t explain much, or job responsibilities that the average person or hiring manager wouldn’t necessarily understand, I would rather people give me the info I need and take 2 pages.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        2 pages is fine when you’re no longer right out of school — but it needs to be an easily readable font size with reasonable white space and not so much text crammed in that the reader’s eyes will glaze over (which sounds like it MIGHT be happening here although impossible to say without seeing it).

      2. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        Yeah, and I feel like now since most people are remote, they’d be viewed resumes on their computer screen instead of a print out. It’s easy to just scroll to page 2

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope — plenty of people still read them printed out. Do not rely on people reading on a screen. It needs to be easily skimmable on paper.

          1. Tio*

            When I’m interviewing people, I print a copy of their resume and take notes on it of things to ask about, both about things on there (tell me more about this function) and things that aren’t (have you ever used X?)

    6. MsM*

      Are the day to day responsibilities really necessary? I feel like if you pick the right accomplishments, you can give enough of an idea of what the job entailed, and then use the cover letter to highlight or elaborate on anything you’re worried might not have gotten enough focus that way.

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        That’s an interesting though, I’d have to figure out a way to do this. My fear is that if I remove the responsibilities, HR or the hiring manager might not think I have experience in X,Y,Z. But maybe I could remove some of the responsibilities that aren’t the most relevant to the job description

        1. Tio*

          I would not necessarily want to see all of your day to day responsibilities. If it’s something generic, definitely remove it.
          For the most recent job, I’d want to see the most info on what you’re doing. Then, for the next 3 you say you want to highlight, note any responsibilities or achievements that weren’t a part of any of the previous jobs. No duplicating. The point is not to know what you did at each job all the time, it’s to see your general experienced as a whole. (since I can’t see it it might be like that, but just in case)
          The other jobs that are the main focus at this point should probably just be one liners – Company X, 2000-2003. If you have specific achievements to discuss, those can go in the cover letter or interview unless they’re very standout. The older a job is, the less it matters to a manager, and the less likely I am to read it, tbh, especially for anything over a page.

      2. Quinalla*

        Agreed, came here to say this, I think you ditch day to day responsibilities entirely or super condense it if your job title doesn’t make this obvious. For that case I’d go with Alison’s suggestion of Llama Wrangler (Llama Senior Engineer) or switch it the other way for (Understandable title) Actual Title.

        And like the commenters above, anything you do need to keep for day to day stuff, I’d also make bullets. You don’t have to capture all day to day, but I usually have 1, maybe 2 bullets for this kind of thing and I would likely only do it for the first 3 jobs.

        It is hard to tell without seeing it (and I understand not posting it) and feedback giver may be a jerk, but don’t throw out the feedback if it might be relevant. Can you show your resume to someone trusted who’s looked for a job recently? I know when I need a resume I get it reworked, have my husband review and then send it to 2-3 others I can trust to give harsh but fair feedback :)

        And yeah, I’d cut down the less relevant jobs a ton. Like 1-2 bullets for the older jobs max if you can. And keep your bullets to 1-2 lines for easy reading, 1 line preferred that doesn’t take up the entire page. Left justify everything, indenting is fine

        I’m also a black & white only person for resumes, but having the blue doesn’t sound wild. I like minimum 12 for most fonts, but 11 is likely fine.

    7. Purple Cat*

      I hope you mean one “front and back” as 2 pages, and not 2 sheets of paper, front and back of each. If it’s the former, length is fine based on your years of experience.
      Otherwise, I second what others have said. That font is really small. You don’t need full sentences, you should only have accomplishments listed (they will reflect your day-to-day responsibilities so no need to list them twice).
      Dark Blue vs. Black feels like a meaningless distinction to me. Especially if people are printing on a B/W printer anyway. I use Bold for Job Title and regular text for bullets.

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        Dark Blue vs. Black feels like a meaningless distinction to me. Especially if people are printing on a B/W printer anyway. I use Bold for Job Title and regular text for bullets.

        Yep, the job title, company, location and dates are already bolded

    8. Yvette*

      Without actually seeing it (so please don’t be insulted if I have stated something you are already doing). A resume is not the place for complete, grammatically correct sentence structure. Not “I created a process that resulted in the turn around response time for ad-hoc report requests from ten business days to one business day.” But “reduced ad-hod report turn around by 90%” Not “I taught users how to navigate the system and helped them with their issues.” But “responsible for user training and support”. Did you ever highlight textbooks or manuals to distill the important parts? Look at your resume like a report that you have to take notes on.

    9. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Left justified. Bullets. 11 point.

      And then, cut 50% of the words. Really. Do a word count and actually cut half of them. It does not matter which ones you cut. Just keep snipping until you’re there.

      THEN, read the resume, read the job posting, and put back only the detail that supports your case that you are are an excellent candidate based on their wish list.

      You will learn that at lot of that super important content is just clutter.

      1. Fishyfishy*

        Nit-picky former typesetter (yes, I’m old…) here: You mean “left aligned”.

        “Justified” means aligned at both left and right sides. And justified text is harder to read than left-aligned (which by definition means ragged right).

        No such thing as “left justified” or “right justified”. It’s either justified, or left aligned, or right aligned.

        1. A. D. Kay*

          I learned it as FLRR: flush left, ragged right. I’m old too! I used to do pasteup armed with hot wax and an X-acto knife!

        2. linger*

          New Oxford American Dictionary disagrees with you:

          having been adjusted so that the print fills a space evenly or forms a straight line at one or both margins: [ in combination ] : the text is left-justified.

    10. Eng Girl*

      Unless the job has a crazy random unusual title I’d take out the job descriptions and let that come up in the interview. If your title is “teapot painter” I’m going to assume you paint teapots. You don’t need to say “Took information from design team and incorporated it into teapot manufacture using a variety of paint based mediums” or ya know whatever version you do.

      Also chiming in to say that the blue and black text may make your resume appear busy.

      Do you have a “personal statement” on there. If so, get rid of it, it’s usually just a fancy version of “I want you to hire me” which I know because you’ve applied for a job. “A highly motivated teapot painter with 10 years of experience looking to grow with the right organization” is fluff I don’t need lol

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        Do you have a “personal statement” on there. If so, get rid of it, it’s usually just a fancy version of “I want you to hire me” which I know because you’ve applied for a job. “A highly motivated teapot painter with 10 years of experience looking to grow with the right organization” is fluff I don’t need lol

        No but I do have “core competences” up at the top

        1. Eng Girl*

          Are they actually core competencies or are they things that any reasonable hiring manager would expect someone with your background to know/be able to do?

          If there’s a specific program that’s relevant to your field then list it (like for engineering I want to know what CAD software you know because there’s a ton) but don’t put “Excel” down.

          1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

            I use them based on the job description that I tweak each time, like Multi-Touch Attribution | B2B Lead Generation , etc

            1. Eng Girl*

              You might be ok there… I would just limit the number you put to no more than 10, 2 line maximum.

    11. AnotherLibrarian*

      Honestly, it sounds exhausting to read and I’m not even looking at it. I would not use colored fonts- people still print resumes and often do so in black and white. Often color fonts get rendered in weird grey scale and end up fuzzy and hard to read. Instead, I would use font size, bold, and italic to make your text stand out.

      As a general trick, I keep a “master” resume which includes everything I’ve ever done and bullet points for each job and such. It’s like four pages long. I have never sent this to anyone. For each job, I pick out the most relevant aspects of the most relevant positions and put them together. The phrase “selected experience” is super useful.

      Lastly, I would take the whole document, shrink it way down or print it out and stick it on the wall and walk 20 feet away from it. From a distance, does it feel easy to read? Is there enough space for the eye to rest? Can you tell (without looking) what the most important information is? That’s how you’ll know if you have enough white space.

      1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

        What do you typically bold and italic? I think I might do your print out idea. I might play around with having the title bolded and a larger font, then bold for company, and italicize the location and dates

        Thank you!

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          Usually, I use italics for places and dates. I use font size/bold to distinguish job title and name of employer. I use font size to also break up the sections- Selected Employment History, Selected Education & Training, Professional Service, Selected Publications, Additional Skills- those sections are, of course, specific to my resume and my field where my resume is acting as a quasi-CV.

          1. Xoxoxoxoxo*

            I’m still doing the print out idea, but I played around with italics. So far I really like:

            [job title] – Bolded and 12.5 ft size
            [company] – Italics and 11.5 ft size
            [location] – regular font and 11.5 ft size
            [date] – regular front and 11.5 ft size, but also has ( ) around the dates on the right hand side

    12. Past Lurker*

      All the recommendations here are good, but my workplace just hired someone whose resume was in Comic Sans font (not normal in this field) and it seems they simply filled in a resume template. Meaning most sentences were like this: “Energetic [teapot painter] with a solid history of achievement in [hand painting ancient teapots]” with the brackets still in place. So don’t let the pompous rear-end get to you too much!

  8. Anonosaurus*

    What do you do when you’ve become good enough at your job that it’s boring? I work a mentally and physically demanding job but after a few years, I’m at the point where most things are autopilot. How do you get through the day?

    1. ecnaseener*

      Look for new things to learn or new projects, maybe leave the job / seek a promotion if you’re bored enough that you can’t get through the day.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I’ve basically handled it by just giving myself stuff to do that’s interesting, and it usually either directly or indirectly benefits my job, but that’s been at office jobs. If it’s a physically demanding job, you may not have the luxury to just do online tutorials and whatnot while working. I don’t know. Listen to audiobooks? Start looking for a new job?

    3. ursula*

      I think the question before you is whether you are okay with being bored at work! Some people don’t really mind it, and appreciate being able to relax and cruise a bit. But if you aren’t one of those people, then maybe you’re ready to move on. (I do my very worst work, and have my worst moods at work, when I am bored. Personally, I have learned that I should always move on before my output starts to deteriorate.)

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      Find a goal. Maybe its learn a new software or a new technique. Maybe its cross training on related work tasks. Maybe its add read articles about developments in your field. Maybe its become a mentor for the newer employees. Maybe its become a volunteer for kids/students interested in your field (high school job shadows, girl scout career day events etc). Maybe its automating the tasks you do. A lot of people set the goal as get promoted or get a new job, but it doesn’t have to be those 2 things.

    5. nonprofiteer*

      If you are able to be present and do high quality work and don’t mind the routine and lack of challenge, you can focus on other areas of your life – write that novel you’ve been wanting to write, train for that ultra marathon, learn a new language, etc. So your day job becomes a thing you do to allow you to do your passions, and you get fulfillment outside of work.

      If you are struggling with the day to day slog and boredom, consider either adding responsibilities to your role, getting a promotion, or looking for a new, more fulfilling role.

      My wife is in marketing, and she gets a new job every two years just given the volatility of the for-profit world. I don’t move jobs as much as her, but she has inspired me to search out new challenges when I feel bored.

    6. Mid*

      I’m struggling with a similar thing, so I’m going to hop on this thread: my job is fairly autopilot currently, and I’ve noticed that when I’m bored I struggle to perform as consistently. As in my speed of work varies greatly, because I have ADHD and have a hard time working fast when something is boring. How do you manage to keep motivated when bored?

    7. Eng Girl*

      If you like your company talk to your supervisor about potential growth opportunities. Maybe there’s a new skill you can learn. Maybe there’s some work you can take on to break up the day.

      That being said make sure you’re being appropriately compensated for additional responsibility/activity.

    8. Cheezmouser*

      I have this problem too. I get bored if I don’t have something new to tackle every 6-12 months. Luckily my department always has a new initiative/project/emergency/etc going on. If yours doesn’t, then talk to your supervisor about how you can contribute more. Be aware that oftentimes it’s on you to find something interesting to do, so be prepared with a list of ideas. Maybe you could learn a new skill, brush up on new trends or best practices in your industry, improve an existing process to make it more efficient, tackle a perennial problem that everyone thinks “this sucks but that’s just the way it has to be,” figure out how to better collaborate with X department, mentor a junior employee, etc. If there are new responsibilities or projects up for grabs, volunteer to take them on.

      It may also help to talk to your supervisor about growth opportunities. What would it take to get promoted? What responsibilities would you need to handle at that higher position? Can you start learning some of those responsibilities now? That will give you something to work toward and help keep you engaged. I try to get promoted every 2-3 years or else I’ll get bored.

      If you’re already at the top of your career ladder, like I was, see if there’s opportunity to create a new title or career track just for you. For example, I was already a senior manager and the next step up would’ve been my boss’s title (director), so at first it looked like I had no room for growth. But I pushed for creating a new track that would allow me to continue taking on more responsibilities and earning more while staying under my boss (and not leaving my company).

      Existing track: assistant, associate, associate manager, manager, senior manager (me), director (boss)
      New track: assistant, associate, associate manager, manager, senior manager, executive manager (what I got promoted into), associate director, director (boss), senior director, executive director

      Another strategy is to add levels to job titles (i.e. Llama wrangler I, llama wrangler II, llama wrangler III, senior llama wrangler I, senior llama wrangler II, senior llama wrangler III, etc.)

    9. Not a slacker*

      Allegedly, Bill Gates once said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” I love that quote/idea, as that’s more or less how I operate.

      I wouldn’t consider myself lazy, but if there’s an easier, more efficient way to do something, I’m all over it. I work on the corp side of a retail company and when we get product in, we create SKU’s for it that our staff knows and can track. We might order 200 different products from a particular vendor, so that means 200 new SKU’s.

      A couple of years ago, I accidentally discovered we could upload data changes to existing items, so I poked around to find out if we could upload new data. We can and it’s been such a game changer. I did a test run of this with 600 items. Using the old way, it would have taken me about a week to do. The new way took me about a day and a half, and much of that was triple checking the data and going very, very slow to minimize mistakes.

      Things my company swore we couldn’t do, I’ve found a way to do it. It’s just that no one had the time and/or motivation or confidence to try something new.

      You might not be able to do this, but several years ago, I made it a point to spend two hours a week “learning”. For instance, if it’s 4:10 on a Friday and I have nothing I can get done in 50 minutes, I’ll read a trade magazine. I try to do the same on Mondays, but I’ll poke around our system to see what I can learn. At first, I felt so guilty, like I was being a slacker, but it’s been very beneficial to my company for me to do this kind of stuff.

    10. Engineering-Life*

      I do not do well with boredom. So I had an honest conversation with my supervisor about this. I told him that I was bored and needed some new challenges. He told me outright that it may be time for me to move on. He’s been trying to find a new placement for me, but it’s not getting much traction. He is also trying to find incentives for me, new brain nuggets for me to work on to try to keep me engaged. He has offered limited advice if I were to look outside our current employer.

  9. Rayray*

    TGIF. So tired today, just exhausted this week and I can’t wait to get home and take a nap. I guess an upside to having my hours reduced is that I have a couple early days each week and today is one of them. My industry and company are not thriving lately which is why I am on reduced hours, which brings me to my next point….

    I’ve been trying to escape this place for a while but being super picky in my job search. I don’t totally hate it here, but it is a job I just fell into after being laid off just days before Covid lockdowns really happened. I have avoided three rounds of layoffs the last year. Anyway, I have tried a few times to get into a company where a friend works. I avoided applying for one position because it was the same job she worked and I didn’t know if it was a good idea. I saw a position open the other day and on a let’s-just-see-what-happens whim, I applied since it genuinely did look like a good fit. I listed her as my referral, and she let me know the next day it’s on her team but a different role since she recently moved to a different role. I don’t actually feel weird about it though. I’m trying not to psych myself out because my confidence has taken a hit due to many rejection emails and failed interviews. I have a phone screen on Tuesday for it though! I am going to prep and practice. It’s a different field but I really think I can apply transferable skills, I feel confident about that but it’s hard to convey it sometimes: luckily she can help me understand more about it and what to expect should I get an actual interview. This company is consistently listed as a top workplace in my state and has a very high rating on Glassdoor. It would cut my commute in more than half of let me work from home, benefits are better, culture seems better, and it seems more stable. I really really hope it works out.

    1. Midwest Manager*

      Good luck with your screen next week! The one thing I advise you is: even though you have a friend on that particular team, do not rely on them to provide you all the information regarding the job. Be sure to ask the interviewer questions about the role, the company, the team dynamics – anything! Don’t assume that you already know what they’ll tell you, because the hiring manager’s answers are likely to be different than your friend’s and you’ll want to know their perspective on these things (and how different it is from management vs. worker bee).

  10. Worried mother*

    I have a question about whether or not this is normal? I have never worked in an office setting so I don’t know. My daughter works an office job since last summer (after she graduated from college). She works for a well known Fortune 500 company. One of the largest employers in our province.

    Recently her boss called her into a meeting. My daughter was reprimanded and written up for working too much. She was told that if she works outside of working hours again she will be fired. On her next pat day she was paid for all the extra hours she worked.

    My daughter never asked for this extra money and she tried to give it back. This made her boss angry and she got told no. She also tried to tell them no one forced her to work any extra hours but they said it’s not allowed under any circumstances and she is only allowed to work during regular business hours.

    My daughter is distraught. She has never been one to get in trouble and this has really rattled her. It’s her first problem at her new job. They say it’s in her contract but no one forced her to work extra.

    I want to know if this kind of thing is normal and if she can push back? Since she didn’t ask to be paid that money and she worked extra because she wanted to I don’t see why she should get in trouble.

    Thank you from a worried mother.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      Sounds like she’s hourly instead of salaried, and is costing them much more than they budgeted for. I wouldn’t advise pushing back–do the work in the time allotted. If it take more, let the manager know, but don’t charge the company for extra hours without getting the okay in advance.

      1. LG*

        For an hourly worker, she probably has to get prior approval to work overtime, which she obviously didn’t do. Funny that she wasn’t spoken to when someone noticed that she was working extra, because someone else had to have reported her extra hours. They should have spoken to her at the time.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Point of clarification (but the main advice from @Not teenage but still ninja turtle still stands):

        This is about being exempt versus non-exempt, at least in the U.S. A salaried employee can still be non-exempt (i.e., paid overtime).

    2. rayray*

      This does seem really weird. If working overtime was a problem, this should have been clearly communicated to her.

      I think what she can do is just do as they have asked and only work during the designated hours, and if she has a manager or even teammate she feels comfortable talking to, she could go to them and ask questions.

      This really should be explicitly stated to her in the first place though.

      1. Worried mother*

        The company says it is in the handbook and in her contract. But my daughter wasn’t aware it was this serious or that time she chooses to work herself counted in that. She wasn’t asking the company to pay her or anything.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          If she signed the handbook and contract and is an hourly worker she needed to take it seriously.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            That part. It doesn’t matter if she didn’t ask to be paid for the extra hours – she worked them, so the company is now legally required to pay her for those hours. If she saw the section in the handbook that says “do not work outside of your allotted/contracted hours without prior approval” and just did it anyway, that’s why she was reprimanded. She can’t just take it upon herself to do what she wants here because her company could be fined for not paying her for those extra hours worked.

        2. Feral Humanist*

          Legally, that doesn’t matter, as I’m sure you saw below. Ethically, people should not work for free (with, perhaps, some caveats: if they are in the process of setting up their own business, for example, but that is not the case here).

        3. RagingADHD*

          By the way, the reason it is illegal to work overtime for free (for hourly workers, anyway) is to keep employers from exploiting people like your daughter who don’t understand their rights or their value.

        4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Oof. If it’s in the handbook claiming she didn’t take it seriously or didn’t know is not going to go over well at all if she pushes back. She’s a new grad at a Fortune 500, and while I’m sure she bright and capable, she’s very replaceable to them. She needs to reread the handbook and do those things. If it’s in there, it’s serious.

        5. rayray*

          Sounds like this is just one of many lessons she has to learn as someone new to the workplace. As others have stated, it is illegal for her to work for free – and she shouldn’t be doing so anyway. I am guessing she just wants to do a good job and impress her bosses, but we have labor laws like this for a reason. Working overtime and claiming she isn’t being asked to be paid is also kind of a bad look, it really will make her look like a martyr.

          She should just work her designated hours. She’s been warned, and if she acts accordingly, she will be fine.

          1. Tio*

            It will also make her look like she doesn’t understand how basic employment laws work (which, sounds like she doesn’t, so maybe have her read through the site a bit before arguing with her boss again). To her bosses, this is common knowledge, particularly for a college grad. The fact it was spelled out in the handbook & contract on top of that is really not helping her case.

        6. Falling Diphthong*

          Her intentions don’t count. Doing the work for the company counts, and that’s it.

          This could be a valuable life lesson for her:
          • In most work contexts, outcomes matter much more than intentions. (Also true in many outside work contexts.)
          • Sometime you are wrong. The people above her want to see that she can understand this correction and act differently going forward, not argue about how her intentions were good, her understanding was skewed, etc. Apologize once (we’re probably past that point), with no excuses, and then demonstrate with actions that it won’t be a problem in future.

          As someone with a lot of goody two-shoes tendencies, I wish her luck in realizing that sometimes those will be unhelpful to her.

        7. mreasy*

          The law requires them to pay her for hours worked, regardless of whether she chooses to work more or they order her to.

        8. MaryLoo*

          If your daughter is hourly, or even salaried with opportunity for overtime, there is no “hours she chooses to work herself” (which I’m guessing means she works but doesn’t put it in her timesheet).

          Companies can get in big trouble for having their paid employees work “off the clock”.

          Some companies require prior approval for overtime. If your daughter’s company does, then it is NOT something she can negotiate differently.

          Her manager/general company management factors the amount of time it takes to do various work tasks. If someone is having to work lots of extra hours to get their assigned work done, one or more of the following situations exists:
          – there’s too much work for one person
          – the person is new and not up to speed, or not new and slower than the job requires
          – the person doesn’t understand the scope of the work. Examples: the assignment is to do a quick review of an article and list the 3 important points in shirt bullet sentences, but the person instead writes a 5 page analysis of the article. Or assignment is take this feather duster and do a quick dusting of the teapot shelf, but the worker instead carries all the teapots to the kitchen, washes them all in soapy dishwater, dries them, and puts them back on the shelf.

        9. Winter*

          If I may make a big-picture recommendation for your daughter:

          She should never approach any legal or policy document that she is signing her name to with the assumption of “it’s probably not that serious” or “they probably don’t really mean it, right?” Always assume that whoever is issuing the document means what they say, down to the letter. Get outside legal advice if you like, but otherwise, don’t bank on “probably.”

        10. Anne Wentworth*

          The handbook and contract are serious. She needs to learn that pronto. You need to learn that pronto. The current prevailing attitude that we don’t need to read the things we sign is SUPER dangerous.

    3. Watry*

      They cannot let her work off the clock, it’s literally illegal. That she wants to doesn’t come into it–too easy for the company to pressure people to do it and then claim they wanted to. They also legally must pay her for all work done.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, that’s correct!

          It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t want to be paid for those hours, they legally must pay her.

          There’s no room to push back when her boss is already angry that she doesn’t understand this.

          1. Watry*

            I thought I had misunderstood the question*, but re-reading again I find I’m not certain–was Daughter off the clock or not? Either way they still have to pay her and it’s not a great idea to push back, but if it was off the clock it really explains the reaction more.

            *Originally I read it as she was working off the clock, but the second time as her working unauthorized overtime.

            1. InterplanetJanet*

              I think she thought it was “off the clock” and volunteered so to speak, but somehow they found out.

              Something similar happened to me at my first job as a teenager. Somehow something was miscommunicated and I didn’t realize I was supposed to be taking 30 minute breaks and not 15 on shifts that were less than 8hrs. I got in trouble for “overworking” and was strictly told that I NEEDED to take the full 30 or I’d lose my job.

              I started taking the full 30 and had no more issues. Daughter can bounce back from this, worried mom! She just needs to take the ruling to heart and not push back.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I pictured someone checking time stamps on files and realizing “… Gosh dang it, the new person has been working off the clock” and going back and realizing “for a couple of months now. Oh the paperwork!”

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

              I think she was “off the clock,” thinking that she’s doing the company a favor or something; but if she submitted a timesheet that didn’t include those hours worked, it’s timecard fraud — it’s just as bad as submitting a timesheet for 8 hours when you only worked 6. A timesheet needs to be 100% accurate.

    4. ecnaseener*

      It sounds like she’s an hourly worker? The business can’t let her work without pay, they could get in legal trouble. I know it seems weird to be reprimanded for putting in extra work, and maybe they were too harsh in tone, but it’s a very normal rule to have and they’re not wrong to say “we can’t keep people on who are putting us at a legal liability”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Per this morning’s letter on tone, I can see the harsh tone being in part to make it very clear that this isn’t a pro forma chiding–they really are very annoyed that they have to do extra paperwork and pay extra money to make sure they are within the law, and she ABSOLUTELY NEEDS to not put them outside the law again. And that “but my intentions were wholesome” doesn’t affect the legality.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          I wonder if daughter’s original response when the conversation started prompted an escalation in tone so that it was very very clear this was not optional it was mandatory and actually a really big deal. Her manager may have done her a kindness by making it absolutely crystal clear that this is not an option in the future.

    5. GigglyPuff*

      Yeah it’s illegal whether the person has good intentions or not (if they are non-exempt). She could get fired for this. I’m pretty sure Alison has written about this before, so you can probably a find a better worded answer in the archives. But yeah if she continues or continues to push back, she’ll probably get fired.

          1. Snow Globe*

            The laws may be somewhat different, but based on the reprimand, it certainly sounds like the issue is that the extra work is causing legal issues (and payroll expense) for the company. Many countries have similar laws around working “off the clock”.

          2. Nancy*

            Doesn’t matter what the law is, it is what the employer wants, and as long as what the employer wants is not against the law, she needs to comply. The law may say someone can work up to 60 hours in a week, but if they only want their employees to work 40 that’s fine. They can’t make them work 65.

    6. FearNot*

      Overtime hour rules are pretty strict, and it sounds like the company doesn’t want to pay overtime. My company also does this, and prohibits people from working overtime. Seems normal to me.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Yep. Every non-exempt job I had working any OT that wasn’t pre-approved by the manager was not ok and yes would get you in trouble. If you had to stay late one day for a work related reason, the expectation was to work less a different day. If that wasn’t possible, you needed to talk to your manager.

        I’m not sure if jumping straight to a written warning was the best way, but we don’t know if this wasn’t something stating in the employee handbook or communicated another way prior.

        OP I’m sure your daughter has good intentions but she can’t do this. It’s not bad and it doesn’t mean she can’t be successful in this role. It’s part of learning. She needs to to what they are asking her to do, and she’ll be fine.

          1. Lucky Meas*

            You are all over this thread arguing this, but the truth is that most English speaking (and non English speaking) countries have laws requiring workers to be paid for overtime.

    7. Decidedly Me*

      The company has to pay her for the time worked – she can’t just give the money back. If the company has asked her not to work overtime (and it sounds like she has a contract stating this as well), doing so anyways is an issue.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It sounds like your daughter is non-exempt, which means that even if she’s salaried, she’s paid on the assumption that she works 40 hours/week and the company is required to pay her overtime. I was non-exempt in my second office job (entry-level) and had to submit a timecard that included all hours worked. My manager needed to approve overtime.

      In short, yes, this is normal if she is non-exempt, and no, she should not push back. If they’re required to pay her for overtime, they can tell her not to do it. It sounds like that’s the case and she should listen. She can ask for clarification, but she should not continue to work the extra hours.

      If she is supposed to be exempt, then this is weird. But basically she needs more information. My guess is that she is non-exempt and that was not explained completely to her. Regardless, “do this again and you’re fired” is serious and she should listen to that. And she should re-read her contract.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Doesn’t change the advice. She’s hourly. They have to pay her for overtime. She worked unauthorized overtime. She was reprimanded. Conclusion is the same even if the terminology is different.

        2. Rosyglasses*

          Okay – you’ve said this on so many comments – I think you’ve made your point. But clearly if the company is pushing back, there IS an issue.

    9. Jo F*

      Not sure where you are based but if she is in US and non exempt it’s a big deal for the company not to pay her for time worked. They legally can’t turn a blind eye and not pay – but yes they can make doing it after she’s been told not to a fireable offense.

      They don’t want t risk her taking them to a Tribunal saying she wasn’t being paid

        1. ecnaseener*

          5 times making the same point in the same thread is probably enough :) by “right there in her post” you mean the mention of a province?

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The only indication I see in the post is the term “provence.” Hourly/salaried is not a distinction exclusive to the US–and the large company that employs daughter seems very clear that it IS a problem there.

    10. TypityTypeType*

      Daughter should really, really not push back on this. The company knows what the job entails, they know the hours and money they’ve budgeted for it, and they’re not going to let her illegally work for free.

      She should not be trying to donate her time to a job, really under any circumstances, but especially when she’s been explicitly told — even in her contract, it appears — not to do that. This is almost the definition of Not the Hill to Die On.

      (And there’s no reason for her to be distraught — she’s early in her career and it’s a misunderstanding. But this is one of the times when the only thing to do is exactly what her employer is asking her to do: work her regular hours, then clock out and go home.)

      1. Janeric*

        I agree.

        If your daughter wants to take additional steps, she can apologize for the misunderstanding in her next 1:1 and say she had some incorrect assumptions about how things worked, and that she’s glad her boss is looking out for her.

        1. Janeric*

          (And in a year or two a write-up for “working too much” isn’t going to be a liability on her record as compared to say, chronic lateness.)

    11. RagingADHD*

      It is entirely normal to be told that you are not authorized for overtime, and for that to be made into a performance issue if it persists. They are legally required to pay for all hours worked, whether it was asked for or not. They can’t take the money back – that would be illegal.

      However, it sounds like they came down unusually hard on her, verbally. It would be more common for her to be told / clarified the first time, before jumping straight to threatening to fire her. But if it was a lot of hours, they may have felt it was a serious problem.

      Or, since it’s hard to gauge tone third hand, it may have been more of a “serious talk” in tone, that your daughter got very rattled by because she is new to working.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wondered if a manager (possibly lower level like a team leader) had already had the conversation with her and got a “but I don’t mind” sort of response which the TL didn’t know how to handle, so this isn’t really the first time.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Also possible, since OP mentions that the daughter was aware of the policy in the handbook.

    12. Alex*

      It’s weird to get a reprimand and writing-up as the first indication she is doing something wrong, but it is not weird that they are putting their foot down about her working more than her scheduled hours. They probably do not want to pay her overtime but if she works more than her hours, they must or they can get in big big trouble!

      But they should have explained that to her calmly the first time it happened if she truly didn’t know.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        I think it depends on how many hours we’re talking about (I could be completely wrong of course). If daughter worked one or two hours of OT in this instance it might have been cause for a quick conversation and heads up. If daughter worked something like 20 hours of OT then yeah, that’s going to get flagged and daughter is going to get a stern conversation.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I pictured the overtime being a pattern over many weeks that they just now realized was happening. So the correction kind of includes the intensity of all those weeks they would have warned her if they’d realized she was working off the clock.

          If it was a first offense and just 1 hour so far, it seems a little harsh… but clearly they want to impress upon her that this is seen as very serious and she absolutely needs to never do it again.

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            Yep, I agree with you that the scenario your laid out is far more plausible than mine.

          2. Drago Cucina*

            I think that it’s addressed in both the employee handbook and the individual contract leads me to believe that they think they were already clear. The response seems to be wanting to make sure she understands the gravity of what she did.

    13. Drago Cucina*

      I’m in the US and this is normal. Had she been told not to work extra hours before? If so the write-up is appropriate.
      I had to have very serious conversations with people that they could not work extra hours that they didn’t get paid for. In the US non-exempt workers cannot work off the clock or volunteer to do their job. It would have cost us back pay and fines, plus my personal liability as the person who okayed their time sheets.

    14. Feral Humanist*

      What strikes me about this is that she’s very early in her career and might not yet have had the shift in mindset that needs to happen when someone goes from school to work. In school, going above and beyond like this is considered universally good –– but if you are an hourly employee, as it would seem that she is, then the extra time costs the company money. The company can’t *not* compensate her for the extra time, since that would also be both illegal and wrong; no one should be working for a Fortune 500 company for free.

      It sounds like they were harsh in the way they did this, but it is not the end of the world. “Getting in trouble” can feel terrible (especially for those of us who have been socialized to be “good”), but I think all she really needs to do from now on is exactly what they say –– no more extra hours unless she is told to do them. That’s the only fix, but it should be an easy one. I wouldn’t push back, as that’s likely to prolong the issue unnecessarily.

      “I understand, I’m sorry, it won’t happen again” –– and then try to move on.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the harshness was necessary to get the message across. The daughter thinks she’s doing something good (working extra – something that would be rewarded in school), but she’s actually asking her employer to break the law. She’s already tried to push back to get them to illegally keep the money – that’s worth a “do this again and you’re fired” talk. And really, they’re doing what they Allison repeatedly advises in performance based talks – being very clear about the nature and magnitude of the problem, and not using gentle euphemisms for “you’ll be fired”. That’s way better than thinking it’s not a big deal, continuing to work off the clock and hiding it and getting fired and escorted out of the building by security, and possibly denied unemployment/severance.

    15. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

      Some employers require a supervisor’s/manager’s approval in advance of working overtime, and some don’t allow it at all. She should chalk this up to still learning basic workplace rules as well as her employer’s culture and try to put it behind her, knowing not to do it again.

    16. Artemesia*

      If she is hourly then she cannot unilaterally work longer hours. And yes it is a firing offense to do so and yes, they have to pay her the hours she worked and in some cases overtime. She should have been made aware of this; perhaps she was told but didn’t understand how important it was; perhaps she didn’t have this made clear when she was hired.

      And it sounds like either this was handled incredibly badly by her boss or your daughter overreacted. He should have told her that she was not allowed to work beyond her scheduled hours and that they were required to pay for that and not to do it again. And frankly ‘trying to give back the money’ makes it worse; the whole point is they cannot legally allow someone to work unpaid hours.

      So she needs to just be aware of the rule and cheerfully follow it and not worry about the error; she has already apologized for that. Being distraught is an unprofessional response. If the boss was nasty about it, that was also unprofessional. The boss needed to make it clear and then drop it and she needs to do so as well.

      Everyone has this unhappy moments when starting their work life. It isn’t the last mistake she will make. We have all been there. I hope she can calm down and carry on.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Her trying to give back the money definitely points to the necessity of the boss coming down so hard on this but also probably should have made it clear as to the why the policy is the way it is and why it is so strict. I can see an internal conversation where the more the daughter talks the more the boss is like “crap she is not getting this, she thinks its no big deal, how does she not get that this is illegal and that it got ME chewed out because they thought I did this, *increase sternness*”

        1. Zephy*

          How often does Alison have to ask LWs if they’ve been clear enough in telling their employees XYZ? I could absolutely see someone being told “oh, you don’t have to work until 9 PM” and hearing it as the Guess Culture “oh, you don’t have to do that” = “I am being politely humble by pretending to decline or refuse this favor, but really thank you for doing this thing,” when it actually means Corporate-ese “you must not work past 5 PM for legal reasons X, Y, and Z.”

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It has always seemed a bit crazy to me (from the UK) that an employee can unilaterally decide to work overtime / off the clock, and incur a liability for the company to pay them. I appreciate that they could subsequently be fired for it. But just the act of creating the financial obligation for the employer has always struck me as strange. Of course, depending on how they found out, you can be sure her time sheets will get submitted with exactly 40 (or whatever) hours on them from now on… what gets measured gets managed.

        1. Winter*

          My guess is that limiting it to just “approved” overtime would be seen as giving employers a chance to weasel out of paying.

          “No, we didn’t tell you to work those extra 8 hours. We only suggested it. Do you have Forms A, B, and C that need to be signed and submitted in triplicate two weeks in advance in order to be paid? No? Then we don’t have to pay you.”

          It’s probably also assumed that an employee won’t be able to secretly work enough overtime to make it truly financially onerous for the company before they get caught and fired.

    17. Prospect Gone Bad*

      It’s not “getting in trouble,” it is a conversation, though I am mad at their HR for writing someone up. First violation should definitely be undocumented IMO.

      I’m a bit concerned by your phrase “all the extra hours.” Was it enough to actually be alarming?

      I know this is going to get taken the wrong way because it’s the internet, but it’s how the world of work works: many people aren’t good at evaluating how important their work is in the larger picture, especially when they are new to the work world and don’t know how the fit into the larger picture. It’s also very likely your daughter was doing something non-urgent thinking it needed to get done at any cost, or was doing something the slow way, in which case, her manager has no leverage to push back against HR. This is a pretty common thing with entry level staff that you need to coach them through. For example, I just found out one person was manually typing in some data that was supposed to come in through an API. API broke. No one told me. Person who noticed it was entry level and just copy and pasted everything manually. If they did overtime for that and HR push back, all I could do is apologize because I’d have to agree the work shouldn’t have been done like that. But it’s hard to keep track of every little thing people are doing especially with WFH

      1. Rosyglasses*

        It absolutely should NOT be undocumented. It can create a legal liability for the company, and if there were ever audits or suits brought, the company needs to have a paper trail that they did their due diligence in ensuring that people were not working off the clock FOR the benefit of the company.

        The rest of your advice is solid – but there is critical need for a clear paper trail in these kinds of scenarios.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          What is the “legal liability” of someone working and getting paid for it? I feel like I’m missing the context here. I have never been in a situation where there was a legal side to this (unless if they got underpaid for it). Thanks for any information

          1. Lucky Meas*

            It’s the legal liability of having people work and not get paid for it. That is what it sounds like you’re advocating for by “undocumented.” But I’m guessing you mean that the daughter shouldn’t be penalized for the first instance, not that she shouldn’t be paid.

    18. Some words*

      It doesn’t sound odd to me (in the U.S.). I work for a very large employer, office setting, as an hourly staff member. We were just reminded that OT is currently not approved. Working off the clock is also illegal and I don’t remember ever hearing about a manager pressuring anyone to do so. Just the opposite. They’re very clear that they take wage laws seriously and the staff is expected to also. It’s all about legal liability.

      As Ninja Turtle said, if your daughter can’t complete her tasks during her scheduled hours she needs to discuss options with her employer. Hopefully they’d be able to shuffle some responsibilities around. Sadly, sometimes trying to be a go-getter can backfire.

    19. theletter*

      Her boss is correct – employees cannot work overtime without pay because they want to. If she’s hourly, she cannot work more hours than scheduled.

      I think it’s easy for recent graduates to forget that they are working for business to earn money, and whether they like the work or their coworkers is not relevant. Her work is not a charitable donation, nor are the projects they give her.

      It can be difficult to break out of the mindset of college where a student can work on a project for as long as she wants before the deadline, without the expectiation of payment per hour worked – the rewards in academic environments are much more subjective.

      In Corporate America, employees basically have to be little cogs in a big wheel, taking care of small projects and learning as much as they can about the business until they are trusted with bigger initiatives. The rewards at the start are clearly outlined – work these hours, receive this pay, at rates that have been carefully calibrated to balance the value of the work and the price paid by the clients.

      But there’s a big pro to this! If she’s done working for the day, the rest of her time is hers to do the kinds of things that make youth fun. Be there for friends and family! Meet new people! Nurture hobbies! Plan trips! Go to shows and events! Apply for grad school! Leave the hard stuff to the managers – that’s what they get paid for.

    20. HigherEdAdminista*

      She should not push back.

      I can imagine that your daughter was a great student and a conscientious person, used to going above and beyond –and likely used to being praised for it, so this likely comes as a really confusing blow. Something that has gotten her positive attention all her life is now something that has almost gotten her fired. It must seem very unfair.

      Something similar happened to me when I first started working. I was a successful student and I got to be successful by putting my head down and getting the work done without making a fuss to my teachers. When I started working, I kept this up. I did my work and then moved onto the next thing. No one was asking me about things, so I assumed everyone was satisfied with my work. Except it turns out, they actually didn’t know the quality of my work because I wasn’t collaborating. I got a negative review that felt totally unfair because I had been trying hard and doing what I thought I was supposed to do!

      I’m sure there is where your daughter was. She thought working these extra hours unprompted would have people seeing her as the ambitious, bright, going-the-extra-mile to get things done person she wants to be seen as. But the rules in the work world are different and so are the expectations.

      My advice is that she let herself grieve this experience. She likes feels embarrassed and wishes she could get this mark off her record, but the way to do that isn’t by fighting the mark, but by showing she can meet expectations. You said she didn’t know the policies… well, this isn’t a good look. She should spend some time reading that handbook and her contract and making any notes that she finds helpful. If she ask questions, she should ask.

      She doesn’t have to wear a scarlet letter over this at work. She should act professionally, keep her bosses in the loop, and get comfortable asking questions when she is in new territory. She can apologize, if she hasn’t done so and talk about how she reviewed the employee manual and the contract to be sure to avoid this in the future. Bosses generally want to see solutions to problems and results, so this would be a good thing to do moving forward.

      It is really hard when you make your first mistake that comes from when you thought you were doing something really good. It’s hard to bounce back from. But it happens to I think almost everyone at the beginning of their career! The good thing to do is not to let it sink you. Decades later, I still remember my experience but I look at it now as a way to grow.

    21. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      It is normal. Do not push back. When I was in my first professional job, I really really wanted to work extra hours. I was a visual designer, and a few more hours on concepts/designs can truly make the difference between good work and great work! And it wasn’t only a desire to earn a gold star at my job — if I couldn’t do great work, I couldn’t build a great portfolio and get a better job. But the boss was clear, no overtime without approval. That’s how being paid hourly works.

    22. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Her boss cannot legally not pay her for hours she worked, and she can totally get in trouble for working more hours than she’s allowed to without approval because the overtime isn’t budgeted.

      I had to go through this with an hourly team member last year — they thought it was okay if they were working off the clock because they wanted to, but it’s 1000% not legal and opens the company up to a whole boatload of potential trouble. We had to go back and pay them for all the off-the-clock hours, and HR said that if they hadn’t come in and fessed up right away, it would’ve been straight to a last-stop-before-termination level of corrective action, that’s how big a legal issue it is.

    23. Mopsy*

      Even if she wasn’t hourly, I would highly recommend that she doesn’t work extra hours off the clock. Getting a crazy amount of work done in a small amount of on-paper time can really skew project scoping and scheduling for the whole team, because often managers don’t know how long a task *should* take. Not just her immediate manager, but especially someone higher up who only looks at metrics. She is not only shooting herself in the foot by setting unrealistic expectations, but she’s also setting these expectations for everyone else on the team, who shouldn’t feel pressured to work extra hours. (Again — hypothetically if they weren’t hourly)

    24. spcepickle*

      I had this exact issue – One of my guys was working overtime without prior approval and I had to call him out about it.
      The thing is that if someone is working and not getting paid the company can get is all kinds of trouble, from unions, from the state, just from public perception.
      I understand that we are taught to work hard! Go above and beyond! But this is not what a good manager / company wants. They want people to have work / life balance. They want to treat people fairly by paying them for the hours they work.
      So I know it seems counter intuitive – but your daughter needs to have a talk with her manager. Explain why she was working overtime, ask what work she should prioritize, and ask what she should do if she can’t get the work done in her set hours.
      Have her put the extra money in a rainy day account and stop trying to give it back. The company can’t take it back it reads really poorly.

    25. Jay (no, the other one)*

      My daughter is the same age (or at least also just graduated from college last May) and I spent the last six months telling her that she shouldn’t be working off the clock because it was illegal. She had the opposite issue – her boss assigned her work in a way that required her to work more hours than she was paid for and told her there wouldn’t be any overtime pay. She was afraid to push back because she wanted to be seen as a team player and demonstrate her strong work ethic. The company could have been liable for back pay and fines if this had come to light. It’s a small company not quite out of the start-up stage and so they don’t have the kind of processes a Fortune 500 company would have. I’m not surprised your daughter was written up – unauthorized OT puts the company in a very bad position financially and legally. If you’re in a non-US Anglophone country, I suspect the protections for workers are better, since in the US they’re pretty much crap, and the same rules still apply.

      That said, I think the most important thing for your daughter is to recognize that this isn’t the end of the world. She did something wrong, she now knows it was wrong, and she can stop doing it. If she continues to do excellent work, this will go away and not have an significant impact on her career. Those of us who were driven, well-behaved, and academically successful often manage to get all the way through school without ever getting real corrective feedback and the first time it happens it feels AWFUL. Be her soft place to land. Let her know that her emotional response makes complete sense, that lots of people in her position would feel the same way, and that it will get better. If you’re geographically close by, cook or buy her favorite food or do whatever else would be most comforting. My kid is 3,000 miles away so when she had a Very Bad Week at work I sent her a two-lb container of sprinkles – the good kind.

    26. Emere*

      “she worked extra because she wanted to”
      This was down at the bottom, but it’s the key issue. She can’t work overtime just because she wants to. She needs to get approval to work overtime.

    27. Dark Macadamia*

      I feel like the main answer to your question has been pretty thoroughly answered but just want to say you should encourage your daughter to have good boundaries about work and not be a martyr.

      I’m a teacher, which is notoriously a “passion career” where people either choose to put in a lot of extra time or get pressured to do so because “think of the chiiiiiildren,” so I totally get wanting to do more and/or feeling you can’t get everything done adequately during work hours… but her boss has made it VERY clear that part of doing a good job is explicitly NOT doing more hours. If her goal is to excel in this job she needs to be able to take this feedback to heart.

    28. AnotherLibrarian*

      The company has to legally pay her for every hour worked regardless of wether or not she wants to work those hours and regardless of wether or not they asked her to work them. This is a serious issue. It opens the company to major legal liability. Your daughter can bounce back from this. My first non-family job (previously I’d work in commercial fishing where there are no time-clocks or office hours) I had no idea how this worked. I got a pretty stern talking to from my boss at the time and paid for hours, which confused me. Why was I getting in trouble and getting paid? I also tried to give the money back and my boss got more upset and I was even more confused. Fortunately, someone explained it to me. I never did it again. And a year later, I got a small promotion. Your daughter can 100% bounce back from this.

      1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

        How did the company know how many hours she worked? did they piece it together from time stamps on documents or stuff? Key card records? Or did she report it in some other way?

    29. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Sounds like she is classified as an hourly employee. In that case, any overtime beyond the designated hours (more than 40 hours per week) often needs to get approved by the manager beforehand. There are laws around this.

      If she were salary, you’re paid the same every week, and they generally don’t care how many hours you work because they pay you the same regardless.

    30. D. B.*

      It seems to me that the company may have done a poor job communicating the reason for their response. The OP, and evidently her daughter, seem to see this as just a matter of company policy, as if this particular company has just chosen to adopt this hardass prohibition against something that isn’t really hurting them. The idea that the law doesn’t allow them to accept free overtime work seems like it has not been communicated at all, and that’s the managers’ fault. They shouldn’t assume that workers already know the relevant laws. It would have been easy for them to say, “We’re not angry at you for doing the work, but you might not know that it’s illegal for us to let you do work without paying you for it. We are not permitted to take the money back, either. Therefore you must stop doing this, because it forces us to pay you extra whether you asked for the money or not.”

      By the way, OP, since I want to make sure we’re 100% clear, your daughter is not going to get in trouble with the law. It’s the employer that risks legal penalty if they allow this sort of thing.

      1. Rick Tq*

        OP’s daughter WILL be in trouble if she continues to work unauthorized overtime after this. The company seems to have made it clear what the rules about worked hours are going forward.

        Her employer could rightly consider doing so insubordination and terminate her.

  11. Plant Lady*

    I’m not sure if I should ask a previous manager to be a reference for me.

    One reason I’m unsure is because of how my layoff was handled. I was pulled into a meeting with my manager and an HR rep, my manager read a few sentences off a piece of paper, then asked if I had any questions. I asked if I could use her as a reference. She left the room without speaking, and the HR rep explained that it’s against company policy to provide references. I felt like if she was willing to be a reference for me, she would have reached out to me. It’s been five years and I’ve had no contact with her.

    The second reason I’m unsure is that, during my second year, she got in trouble for having my coworkers do unpaid overtime, and seemed to change after that. Without getting long winded with examples, I would say she was sometimes irrational and hostile.

    So, should I try contacting her over LinkedIn? If so, what would I say?

    Or should I just provide a coworker as a reference from this job? (I already reached out to one coworker who has moved on to another company.) How would I explain not providing a manager to an employer who is asking for references?

    1. Bacu1a*

      Is there no one else you can ask? Five years with no contact and parting under those circumstances makes me think they wouldn’t be a good reference for you now.

    2. Still*

      I mean, you can literally say that it is against the company’s policy to provide references, and give them a number for the HR if they want to confirm your dates of employment.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        This is what I would do if I couldn’t get any former employees who could speak to my work there.

    3. Binky*

      Are they asking for references from each job? Or someone they can call to confirm your employment? Those are very different. The latter is normal, the former is not. Generally you get to pick your references.

      If they really want to speak to a reference from each job, I’d tell them that HR told you it was against policy, but that you can provide a co-worker’s reference. I would not use that manager.

    4. Somehow_I_Manage*

      No WAY you provide them as a reference.

      Your references should always be people you trust and maintain a relationship. You must be certain they can vouch for your professionally. And you must be close enough to discuss their reference beforehand. If the best you have is a coworker, that’s what you go with.

      9 times out of 10 they won’t ask you for details. And in the 1 time out of 10 in which they do, you can just say “I left during a layoff event over 5 years ago and as a condition of my severance, my supervisor was not able to discuss references or maintain relationships with those of us that were let go. As you can imagine, it was a difficult situation. The colleague I’ve provided can speak to my performance because they were…[explain your relationship]” (alter as necessary to be accurate and truthful).

  12. DEI Job applications*

    This is a first for me and I would love some suggestions. I am about two years out of school looking for a new job. One of them is support staff at a local college. The application requires a DEI statement, which I’ve never encountered before for entry level-ish positions (which it is). Does anyone have any suggestions about what a non academic DEI statement should look like or where to find examples?

    1. Pam Adams*

      I would recommend checking the college’s website to see what they say officially. Some of the department websites or faculty webpages may also give you hints.

    2. Wordnerd*

      These are required for most positions at my university, so I’ve read quite a few as part of hiring committees.
      Generally, they can include information about any professional or academic experience you have working with populations of underrepresented populations, or courses/certificates you might have. You could also include how you see the role you’re applying for as part of creating opportunities/reducing barriers for underrepresented populations.
      Anything that indicates you are familiar with DEI issues and systemic inequalities is good.
      If you personally are part of any underrepresented groups, you can mention that but I wouldn’t say you have to. At our university, we are required to do implicit bias training regarding hiring, but if you were still uncomfortable sharing that information, you don’t have to include it.
      A few paragraphs will be fine, and it shouldn’t need to have citations or research.
      These are just from my experiences on university hiring committees. I hope the info is helpful.


        I imagine you could also add a statement that you are a member of an underrepresented group without indicating which one.

        “When I was studying my undergraduate degree, I appreciated the support of my school’s Diversity Center. As a member of an underrepresented group and first generation college student (if accurate to you), I felt their guidance was helpful to navigate the challenges of being the first in my family to go to college. I felt their work help me feel more like I belonged…”

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I’ve had luck searching “DEI statement” and then the type of job “Admin at Enginneering”. You don’t need citations. It doesn’t need to be long. Just include any work you’ve done that might relate to DEI- working with people unlike you, etc. If you’re comfortable including your own ethnic background, you can, but that’s 100% a personal call. I almost never do, but I know other people do feel 100% comfortable doing so. If you don’t have a lot of specific DEI experience to pull from, consider just talking about how you see the role supporting the DEI mission of the University- which you can likely find on their website.

    4. Aphrodite*

      I can’t say what many. others look like but basically they’d like to know what you have done / are doing to help change the status quo. Any solid examples from work and or your personal life would be good. I will copy and paste what I wrote for the diversity statement for a job I applied for about a year ago. Feel free, if you think it worthwhile, to use it a guide for yourself.

      Diversity must mean more than fairness in the traditional way we think of fairness, that is, that a project or result has something more or less equal to everyone else involved in the situation. It means that we should handle situations and people with an innate consciousness that fairness in the traditional sense is not really fair and never has been. Fairness must expand its boundaries to recognize that diversity is an inherent part of fairness. For it cannot be said that everyone—regardless of background, race, age, gender, religion, sexual preference and other important, not just legal, factors—has the same “qualifications” if they have not had the same opportunities to acquire those qualifications.

      I don’t know that in my various positions at [college] if I have had the opportunity to gain too many experiences in commitment to that. But from childhood on, I have been taught to respect all others and to reach out to help if I could and if it did not hurt or impose. During the sixties and seventies, I was involved in the “women’s liberation” movement. During my adult years I have demonstrated through my work a commitment to kind treatment of customers, fellow employees, and others in general but more than that I always attempt to make a situation better beyond solving the initial problem or issue.

      In this AA3 Human Resources position, I see a much greater opportunity than I have had in the past to explore and develop my skills and expand my thinking about what diversity means. It is a highly sensitive position where tact, diplomacy, sensitivity and equity should balance so well they could party on the head of a pin. (Or to put it more professionally, the four parts should function as a single good human heart does with its two atria and two ventricles.) I am committed to that should I be selected.

  13. ecnaseener*

    Hi all — can I get some eyes on an email draft? I’m trying to say “you’ve either overestimated my place on the org chart or you just want me to waste my time taking notes on your sales pitch” without undercutting myself too much (and without outright backing out of a meeting I already agreed to). We are their client.


    Thank you [for responding with what you want to talk about in the meeting]! In all honesty, I’m wondering if you wouldn’t rather talk to someone in the mammal office about most of those topics. My role is fairly limited to llama grooming operations; I wouldn’t really be able to speak to training or consulting needs, let alone what’s in the budget.

    I don’t know what their availability looks like, but I’d be happy to pass along your contact information. Or of course we can still have our coffee, if you think there’s enough about llama groomer needs to fill the time!

    (If relevant, my team is not within/under the “mammal office”)

    More context: We’ve recently started outsourcing slightly more of our llama grooming to this company, and I’m the person who largely handles the logistics of sending the llamas, so our assigned client partner asked to meet me for a coffee while she’s in my area. I said yes but asked for more details because I suspected she would want to talk about things above my pay grade, and from the response it sounds like that’s the case — training and consulting offerings (at least some for completely different depts), “what is new at [org] and how we might partner now or in the future. What is working, what is not and how we meet your grooming needs.” That last part may or may not include things I can actually speak to — if it’s “what would it take for you to send us more of your llamas” I’m not the decision-maker there but I’m involved.

    1. cabbagepants*

      do you have an account rep for this person? if so, loop them in. it’s really that person’s job to manage the relationship.

      If not, I’d ask her for a list of topics and goals for the meeting. if you think you can’t easily answer all the questions, invite her to your building for an onsite meeting and invite the right stakeholders from your company.

      1. ecnaseener*

        So, this is in response to the list of topics and goals.

        And no, I don’t have an account rep or possibly she is the account rep? She’s our “institutional partner,” idk if that’s the same thing.

    2. theletter*

      It could be that she wants to sell you more business, but it could also be that she’s in charge of maintaining the relationship and meets with clients to keep that human touch.

      You could let her know that you love coffee and shop talk, but you’re not a decision maker when it comes outsourcing projects and services.

    3. RagingADHD*

      If you are the client and she is the “institutional partner” (which does mean account rep), then I think you are fine being more clear and direct. It is not rude to avoid wasting her time.

      You could distill out a lot of the “you might want to” softening language and say directly that you are not the decision maker.

    4. Anonymous 75*

      I think you’re fine if maybe a little to wordy. what I’ve done in things like this is call the person I would be referring her to and loop them in and then email her back and explain it’s not quite your field but you think she should probably talk to XX who you have cc’d on the email. everyone is introduced and no reason for them to come back to you for further help/info.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Thanks all! Removed a bit of the softening fluff and sent. (I didn’t take your suggestion, Anon 75, because I suspect the mammals contact will not be interested in talking with this person lol!)

      I kinda would enjoy the chance for coffee and shop talk if only for the novelty of it, but probably for the best if she doesn’t keep our meeting.

    6. Hillary*

      I saw you already sent a reply – your message was great for someone you know. I just wanted to mention in general these folks are used to rejection and it’s just fine to be direct. I’ve sent a lot of “our program is closed, I’ll keep your info on file for future opportunities” or “I’ve passed on your email to the appropriate team, they’ll be in touch if it’s a fit” emails. The folks who responded well, were actually kept on file, the ones who argued or responded angrily went on our do not use list. One important thing is I didn’t share my colleagues’ contact info without prior approval. We all got too many cold calls as it was.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Oh totally, if this had been a cold message I wouldn’t be agonizing over it so much. It’s because it’s an existing relationship and I do want this person to still see me as an authority in my limited sphere.

    7. Somehow_I_Manage*

      I’m sure you’ve probably already sent this. But my 2 cents.

      If they do good work, it’s reasonable to discuss shared opportunities. Why don’t you connect them to the decision maker directly and make an introduction? Or invite the decision maker to join you for coffee? They asked you because you’re their point of contact. And guess what? You guys might actually want to hear their pitch! You’re already a customer.

      This kind of networking and sales is completely above board. Most people benefit in their careers by growing skills in facilitating these kind of relationships. This sounds like a great opportunity to learn, build a relationship with the decision maker, and strengthen the relationship with your contractor.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I know it’s above board. (Not sure where that came from? Obviously I wouldn’t connect her with another team if I didn’t think it was above board.)

        I most definitely do not want to hear their pitch, it’d be a bad way to spend my time, kindly take my word for it. (If it helps set your mind at ease, my manager agrees.)

        Like, I asked for feedback on the *phrasing* of an email and your response is that I must be wrong about the decision I already made, in a rather patronizing tone as if you think I don’t know what networking is. Do you see how that’s rude?

  14. cabbagepants*

    Any success stories of taking 2-4 years off from a technical job and then bring able to get back into it after without major additional schooling?

    I could afford it and I really want to spend more time with my daughter (born last December) but I’m the primary wage earner and we can’t afford for me to quit forever or take a permanent major pay cut.

    1. 1234ShutTheDoor*

      Depends on what sort of technical job, to be honest. Some things move really fast and you get outdated quick, some things don’t, some technical areas are always short staffed and you’ll be able to get back into it relatively quickly.

      I can speak to software development – if it’s web stuff, even a couple years gets you out of date, but you can get back in with a lower-paying job or maintain skills with some occasional freelancing. If it’s more like embedded software, if you’re good at c++ you can almost always find a job.

      My uncle is a civil engineer and the job market is tighter, but you’re not going to go out of date, the gap can make you less attractive than other candidates though.

    2. Friday, this*

      I’ve done it a couple of times, including when my daughter was young, and my partner has done it 2 Or 3 times now. Expect it to take longer to find work than you think. And keep up relationships with your work friends.

    3. Not So Little My*

      I returned to software engineering after 2 years trying out Technical Project Manager jobs – I have 15 years of experience so I returned at my same Senior level. But I didn’t take time out of the workforce. And I was working in the same tech stack so I just had to learn the latest language features and get comfortable with Cloud stuff.

    4. Quinalla*

      I haven’t done it, but I think 1-2 years would be doable – wouldn’t be really out of the loop especially if I read trade magazines and attended CEUs courses/conferences to keep up my profession license which I would need to, but 3-4 would make it quite a bit harder to get back in the door. I think you would want to lean on what you did to keep up with the industry while you were out and that you are ready to jump right in again even though you and interviewer will know you’ll be a bit rusty.

      Some fields move faster than others. I’m construction adjacent so we’re on the slower moving side.

  15. Awesome3*

    Has anyone here done travel allied health or travel nursing? For your first contract, how did you pick a start date? What did you do with your pets?

    1. Bacu1a*

      I haven’t but a friend has! She picked her start date based on when she could get moved out of her apartment (she owns her own place and is sub-leasing it to other travel nurses). She’s brought her pet cat with her to all of her assignments. In between contracts, she’s stayed with her parents for short periods of time (1-2 weeks).

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      My BFF does travel nursing. She chose a start date with a month gap, wanted time to go visit her family and sell/drop a lot of belongings before starting. She basically lives out of her car, anything that’s going to the contract location needs to be able to all fit in car to go to next contract. I don’t think you can have pets in the travel lifestyle, at least not easily. Finding short term (3-6month) rentals that are at least partially furnished is already hard, adding pet friendly might really limit you. Do you have any friends or family you could rehome them to? What type of animal? A lot of places are more cat friendly than dog friendly…

    3. AnonRN*

      I know TNs who travel in an RV with their pets. Obviously the pet needs to be okay with being confined to the RV when the human is at work.

      Others have roommates/family/partners who hold down the fort at home and they go home at regular intervals. Every TN I know (I’m not one) works with an agency and a recruiter. My understanding is the agencies have contracts with various hospitals, so you’re more likely to get hired at a hospital with a contract. Your start date will depend, in part, on how urgent their need is and when they have the next batch of onboarding classes scheduled. Most TNs arrange their contracts so they have some time off between contracts (unpaid; they budget accordingly) if they want a vacation, but often they request a 3-on/4-off schedule so it is feasible to go home every few days if they choose. (We also have a lot of TNs from, say, 50-200 miles away so they can drive home, but some do fly back and forth.)

    4. Elizabeth Foster*

      I recommend the website Furnished Finder for finding short term, furnished housing. Some of the rentals do allow pets.

  16. DisneyChannelThis*

    Academia people – what’s your IT policy on non university owned laptops connecting to wifi networks and VPN to campus wifi from home wifi?

    Our IT is massively changing the policy and I’m curious if there’s some wider recent issue that they’re aiming to address or if they’re just overstepping…. They seem to really have it out for linux operating systems in particular.

    1. anyjennywaynest*

      Well, at my uni, most up-to-date Linux OS versions have to use a “legacy” (i.e. less secure) setting to connect with the new VPN software, and not enough IT people use/know/care about linux to develop a better workaround. So far, IT has allowed the old setting, but that could change at any time.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Are they not providing you with a university-owned laptop to do your work?

      From a security perspective, I wouldn’t allow non-university-owned laptops to connect over VPN to internal resources. There should be a separate guest network that is on a separate VLAN that can’t access internal resources, if you allow non-university devices to connect to Wi-Fi.

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding your question?

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        We have a boat load of graduate students (masters 2years, phd 4-6years), as well as shorter term undergrad student workers (3-6months) that don’t get any university owned PC or laptop. They use their own. It seems really strange to me that they’re banning them from connecting to the wifi, even if they are physically onsite (no vpn). Everyone on our side of things is perplexed as to what we’re supposed to do about it? Magically expand the budget to get a set of loaner laptops for the students?

        Then the linux thing is including university owned linux laptops. They want those users to switch to windows, which is being met with a lot of resistance as you might expect.

        We always treated the VPN as the secure way to access internal files from offsite (ie WFH). It’s unclear what prompted this big shift, I haven’t heard about any new vulnerabilities or breaches…

        1. AnonForThis*

          Non-US – we can log into the VPN from a personal device as long it wasn’t made by a Chinese company (this is a legitimate issue – my employer is a major target of Chinese government hacking).

          At work, we have two wifi networks; one for employees, which you log into with your account and gets you access to internal resources, and one for guests, which does not.

          Banning Linux machines would go over like a lead balloon – much of my work is done on *nix like systems, which Windows being not particularly useful, and Macs being much more expensive.

    3. Anna Badger*

      not specifically academia but if you’re in the UK (and possibly elsewhere), they might be going for a cyber security certification – i think limiting BYOD usage is standard in several of the main certifications here.

    4. Jen (she or they pronouns please)*

      Not from the US, and a student. Own devices are completely fine here (wifi is open for anyone actually). To get to vpn you must agree to some security stuff (have a virus protection etc and an account at the university to show you’re a member) or you can remote-access one of the internal computers. As far as I know, staff have the same options, not sure if there’s a more restricted network for them for some things.

    5. Random Bystander*

      One of my children works in IT for a community college, and based on the things that he’s said to me about his job, it may very well be the case that the institution is trying to revert to pre-Covid policies regarding network security. My son said that there had been a lot of BYOD and not doing the physical inventories, and now one of the things he is tasked with is, essentially corralling all the horses to get things back to standard.

      This is particularly important at the institution he works for because almost all of the tech was purchased through various grants and devices purchased through a grant for, say First College Student in Family program need to stay with that program and be allocated only to students/faculty associated with that program and not migrate into that “empty” slot in the general computer lab or the nursing program, etc. He’s currently getting all the ducks in a row with people up to the college president for authority due to one of the faculty trying to prevent him from doing the physical audit that is required by institutional policy (but hasn’t been done since before he started there). There also had been BYOD going on during the early Covid days, but they are reverting to the old policy of only permitting institution-managed-and-issued devices onto wifi other than the separate guest network.

    6. Hillary*

      I’m not in academia but pay way too much attention to endpoint security. I just looked at Stanford’s policy since they’re a huge tech research university – they require all computers and mobile devices to have specific encryption and security software to connect, whether personal or university-owned, for faculty, staff, and grad students. It looks like they have the undergrads and guests on separate networks.

      In general there are a lot of targeted attacks against research data, not to mention bad actors targeting schools with encryption malware. Minneapolis public schools was hit earlier this year. There was also an interested Twitter spat about this a couple months ago, I think it might have been UMich?

      Linux is often less secure either because it’s not maintained or because the security firms don’t support less common versions.

  17. Cyndi*

    The other day I applied for a legal assistant job on Indeed. I read the listing very carefully, because I don’t have any experience in legal admin specifically, but they weren’t asking for any! Great! But once I submitted my resume and cover letter, I was also prompted to take a skills test–in preparing legal documents. I cheesed it as best I could on common sense, scored a Proficient (which is exactly middling, on Indeed skills tests) and later in the day was notified I’d been rejected for the job.

    I’m mildly annoyed by this, at worst–I have no way of knowing I was even rejected over the skills test. But I’m wondering if I’m off base in just plain finding it odd. If you need or strongly desire legal experience for the position, which clearly you do if you’re testing candidates on it, why not put that in the job listing to begin with? It seems like a waste of time and energy on both sides.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      That sounds like a problem with the posting. Depending on the state, being a legal assistant definitely could require actual experience and/or training. (I know a legal assistant with a 4-year degree & a post-grad certification. But in some states it doesn’t require that much.)

    2. ecnaseener*

      Maybe they were initially open to inexperienced people who scored proficient if they didn’t get many experienced applicants, but by the time you applied they already had enough stronger candidates. Or yeah, maybe someone forgot the main qualification.

    3. rayray*

      This kind of thing drives me crazy. I worked at a law firm, and basically all the legal assistants were either fresh college grads (with varying different degrees of study, from english to biology or anything in between) or just your average person who just ended up there.

      I would assume you had many of the basic skills down, and likely some transferable experience and skills. This is why I wish you didn’t always get screened out so fast simply because you don’t have x years in super specific thing. They’re missing out on good candidates. They definitely should be clear in their job ad what they want.

      1. Cyndi*

        It drives me crazy too! I have the work experience to show that I’m skilled at learning complex bureaucracy–to put it more bluntly than I do in applications–and I’ve thought for a long time that I would do well with legal work, if I could just find a position that would let me start from the ground up. But every listing wants the prior experience.

        In related news, I’m really tired of trying to come up with more positive-sounding ways to say “bureaucracy” in cover letters. It’s the most accurate word for what I’m good at, but it has such negative connotations that I feel like it sounds unprofessional.

    4. RagingADHD*

      In some places, “Legal Assistant” is the term for “Paralegal,” a certified paraprofessional role.

      And even when it’s a legal secretary job, most firms take prior legal experience so much for granted that it would not occur to anyone to put it in the job description, any more than it would occur to a dental office to put “must have dental training” on a job listing for a hygienist.

      If you want to get into legal, start with a very small firm or solo practitioner, or as a receptionist, or by temping. Larger firms are happy to make a temp permanent or promote a receptionist with good admin skills but no legal experience as long as they see them in action. But not just from an interview.

      1. J*

        See, I’d say the opposite. I think a solo or small firm is likely to expect you know what you are doing on day 1, have jargon down, and expect you to function as a hybrid paralegal/legal secretary. Whereas many mid-size firms want you to come in a little underprepared so they can teach you their way. When I switched from criminal to civil law my old firm was thrilled I had general knowledge but that I was a blank slate they could teach everything from accounting systems to Word formatting to firm hierarchy and division of labor across paralegals, partners, associates, legal support and general office workers. It helped me develop skills in a way with oversight too, something often missing from smaller offices. For anyone looking to switch fields with general transferrable skills but no legal background, mid-size with a strong HR training program is the path I’d recommend.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I think this shows there is a big variation. I have never seen such a training program anywhere. I started off with solo practitioners in a fairly small town, who were just happy to find someone with a college degree who knew how to work the computer.

        2. The Real Fran Fine*

          I had a similar experience with a mid-sized firm in the Midwest, except our firm didn’t have a formal training program. They just hired anyone with a degree, regardless of what it was in (mostly as temps first), and then had you learn on the job. The only jobs they hired for that required prior legal experience was the attorney positions, which, yeah.

        3. Glomarization, Esq.*

          FWIW my pathway to practicing law started with being hired as a legal secretary for a solo practitioner, though I had no prior law firm experience. I handled reception desk work and other general admin assistant stuff that didn’t require drafting court documents, so that the paralegal could use her own time more efficiently. After a few months I was doing paralegal work as well — while still on my sub-paralegal salary, of course, which was the boss’s goal, I think, and not unusual for small firms in that city.

  18. More anonymous than usual*

    I know some places that had mainly remote workers during the height of the pandemic are switching back to in-office 2, 3, 4, or 5 days a week now. I’ve even read some news stories of companies checking badges and disciplining employees for not coming physically into the office enough.

    My workplace has wanted us back hybrid, but they’ve also said they won’t be checking badges, and my boss won’t be policing it (and has said as much explicitly to me). Is it weird to just not come in then unless there’s a need to (e.g., collaborate in person with people who are actually there)? Most of my team is not anywhere near me, so I’d probably be in the office only to see them via video call (which I can do from home), and my commute to the office is a little under 2 hours each way.

    Anyone else in a similar situation? How have you handled it?

    1. Feral Humanist*

      This is similar to my workplace, which technically wants folks in 70% of the time but lacks the ability to enforce it. No one around me actually follows the policy at all, including my boss, and so I go in twice a week when I need to and don’t the rest of the time.

      The one thing to keep in mind is that circumstances could change at any point. They *could* start checking badges if someone decides they should. But in an reasonable organization, I doubt that they would immediately start firing people over noncompliance; I imagine there would be at least a warning first.

    2. londonedit*

      We do bend the rules a bit, in that we’re technically supposed to be in the office two days a week but generally my team is only there one day. But it’s always the same day of the week, and we coordinate with each other so we know we’ll all be in (barring sickness/holidays etc!) – the point of it, as we see it, is to have one day a week where we can all catch up face-to-face.

      No one is checking whether we’re actually coming to the office, so in theory we could just not bother, but I think the risk with that is a ‘this is why we can’t have nice things’ scenario – if the bosses get fed up with people bending the rules, those rules are probably going to become much tighter. I’d rather show willing by going to the office every Monday than risk being told right, that’s it, you’re all in Monday-Wednesday every week, no arguments. There are already a few people in our office who like to complain that not everyone is sticking to the rules of two days a week – and if it starts actively looking like some people are taking the piss with a perk, then it’s likely that perk will eventually be revoked.

    3. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      My job has a 2/3 day a week in office requirement if you live near an office. I do not, so I’m remote, as is my boss. The other person on our team does live near and office and it’s ridiculous she has to go in, because they said they were checking badges. No one in that location works with her, except for maybe two people. But they sit in Teams meetings all day. It’s utterly pointless. My boss told her to ask for an exception with HR and my boss said she’d ok it.

    4. Snow Globe*

      I was in a similar situation, and just didn’t go into the office; my manager knew and didn’t care (she works in a different state). Eventually, though, she managed to get me re-classified as fully remote, specifically due to the fact that none of my immediate coworkers are in my location anyway.

    5. Not So Little My*

      This is my situation and I don’t have an answer except to be annoyed. With my boss’s blessing I go home after lunch and finish my work day from home, and that seems to help. I think a lot of people are just not complying, given the empty garage floors I’m seeing. And some people “boomerang badge” and just go home, that I’ve heard of.

    6. Happily Home Working*

      I’m in a related scenario – management has said everyone in 2/5 days minimum, matching those two days so to maximize face time if you’re in more days, and are basing teams’ status (in, hybrid, out) to prior agreements signed at the very beginning of the pandemic.

      My team all signed hybrid way back because the beloved manger at the time said it wouldn’t be enforced but manager wanted to maintain control of office space, and hybrid would continue the spaces held for our team. We could work fully remote no matter what.

      Now, three years and a new manager later, team executes new agreements saying all remote. So allegedly HR said we can’t use those, but manager has said stay remote knowing that the administration may take away the space. I’m very happy about that but also a little worried.

      If the powers that be are upset, how will they enforce the butts in seats requirement? Threats of termination are all I can imagine, but we are a very small department and ideally suited for remote work in work terms. At this point, I’m all wait and see, keep enjoying telecommuting, but who knows?

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I know someone who goes into the office just before lunch (to avoid traffic), eats lunch, and then goes home (to avoid traffic). The whole thing seems silly.

    8. Quinalla*

      My husband’s job is strictly enforcing their hybrid in-office requirements and are starting to have serious talks that will lead to termination if folks don’t get in line. It sucks, but at least everyone knows they are actually serious.

      My job has made it explicitly known that if you get your work done, they DO NOT CARE. They love having people in the office when it makes sense and have 2-3 times a year they strongly encourage people to be in person, but even that isn’t required. It’s very clear the expectations and leadership is pushing on anyone who is pushing folks that any option is superior. We even have a design team helping us to make our office, etc. better for our remote/hybrid/in office mix.

      For your situation, I’d keep close tabs on what you the stated requirements are and what is being enforced. Keep close to your boss and watch for changes, maybe check in every 6 months and any time you think things might have changed. Sounds like for now your boss doesn’t care, but keep an eye out for favoritism – usually for folks in the office more but not always.

    9. allathian*

      My employer has a recommendation for everyone to be in office 4 days a month or about once a week. Some teams have implemented a system where everyone’s at the office on the same day, but these are small teams where everyone works from the same office and where face to face collaboration is often the most effective way to get things done.

      I’m at head office but we’re a distributed team, I have teammates in 7 regional offices, and my manager is in a different office. Granted, she lives 90 minutes away by inter-city train, so she visits head office frequently, usually 2 days every other week. I try to schedule my days at the office for the days when our manager is there. Even if she’s in meetings all day, she’s usually very happy to grab lunch with her team! Some weeks I go twice a week, and then I can go a month without going in. Our manager’s said that she’s happy if people come in “occasionally” when it makes sense to do so for work-related reasons.

      My manager’s also completely fine with her team socializing more at the office than we did before the pandemic, a big part of the reason why my employer wants people to return to the office is to foster a sense of community. We have decent systems for remote onboarding, and for me as an established employee with more than 30 years in the workforce it’s very easy to work remotely. But I do believe that new hires and especially interns benefit from being in the office at least once a week, but the benefit requires the presence of established employees to materialize.

  19. Pharmgirl*

    I asked a few weeks back what to do about a new employee taking multiple excessive breaks (6-9 breaks each 15-20 min). My own boss had spoken to him about the number of breaks which seemed to cut it down a little. The consensus here was to focus on his productivity (which wasn’t great) and HR agreed as well.

    I had a check in where I went over his goal, where he was currently, and by when I needed to see improvement. I also asked that he make sure to complete his breaks before 6pm. Crunch time for the business is 6-8 so we need all hands on deck. I explained the importance, and he seemed to have no problem with this. For context, his shift is either until 7 or 8.

    Yesterday, it’s 6:15 and I realize he’s nowhere to be found. I go looking and find him on his phone in the break room. I reminded him again that we agreed on him being done by 6 and the importance of why, and he started to argue that he had a late shift. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to work 1-2 hours max without a break (obviously quick bathroom/water/snack break <5 min is fine but not just sitting on your phone when there’s work to do). It’s not an issue we’ve ever had with other employees.

    I reminded him again that he needed to be done by 6 going forward, that was a business need we’re not going to argue about this.

    Well, he called in sick today, emailing HR that I screamed at him and clearly don’t want anyone to ever take breaks, and he asked me to review the company policy. I know I didn’t scream or even yell. I don’t even think I raised my voice, and certainly never told him not to take breaks. Our policy allows me to schedule his breaks, and my grand boss had even told me she thought I should have given him 5 as the deadline for breaks.

    My boss doesn’t think I did anything wrong and we’ll be checking in with HR today, but I don’t even know how to respond to this employee’s email. I’m planning on reminding him that I actually can schedule his breaks, and that he agreed to this, and what I expect going forward. But any suggestions on wording my response (especially the part about supposedly screaming at him and being unprofessional/ rude)?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      emailing HR that I screamed at him and clearly don’t want anyone to ever take breaks, and he asked me to review the company policy

      Are you documenting exactly when and for how long he’s taking breaks? I think he’s shown he’s going to be potentially litigious and dishonest about this.

      You mentioned shifts earlier. Is this a non-exempt/hourly position? If so, you certainly can mention productivity, but he actually has to work the hours he’s paid for.

      At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t seem at all as if he’s operating in good faith, so document, document, document.

      1. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

        Agree. Are you in a 1 party consent state? If so, record every interview with him (tell him you’re doing this) and document document document. All breaks, the time the length.

    2. JustMyImagination*

      Maybe run this by your manager because I tend to be petty…

      “Hi employee, I did review the break policy to make sure I wasn’t out of line. Because we seem to have misunderstandings over timing of breaks, it seems we need a clearer schedule. Going forward, you can take breaks at X, Y and Z time. Thank you”

      1. Some words*

        This actually seems like a logical response, even though it might sound extreme. This employee seems to have some interesting ideas about break entitlement. At my office it’s two fifteen minute breaks and one half hour for lunch. Period. Isn’t that pretty standard for U.S. office jobs?

        Of course he might be peeved the new schedule didn’t have 4 or 5 breaks.

        1. Random Bystander*

          It’s pretty standard, although I think only the lunch is actually a legal requirement.

          I do remember once working in relay (for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing–tangentially, a very fun, interesting job) with one young man recently hired who had to be let go due to excessive breaks. Our requirements had metrics about how long calls could be waiting in queue for an operator; you had scheduled breaks (literally written into your schedule), and leaving for a bio-break outside the scheduled breaks/meal was frowned on (because a missing body who was supposed to be on the floor could put the center into yellow or red due to queue wait), though you wouldn’t be denied. But this guy kept taking bio-breaks, like 3-4 in every 2 hour-ish segment–while he might have had a real health issue, it meant that he was just not a good fit for that job. Sometimes you had a single call that lasted over an hour, and while you could switch off if the call had been going for at least 10 minutes (say your scheduled break was due), it was far better for it to be the same operator uninterrupted for a given call.

        2. Chirpy*

          Two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch is pretty standard even for retail. My office job only had a 1-hour lunch, but I probably could have broken it down differently if I’d wanted to.

      2. J*

        That’s how I’d do it. One boss with a worker who kept napping on breaks (to the point of failing to return on time…or in the same hour of a 15 minute break) had to have an escalation point of signing in/out but I think that’s too much at this stage. I think enforcing a schedule is the way to go.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      Wow he’s speed running for the exit isn’t he . Lying to your face about what you did (spoke vs screamed), aiming to get you in trouble with HR, trying to act as your boss (telling you to review policy). I’d be asking my boss to transfer him to another supervisor and limiting interaction. I’d also keep cc-ing your boss or HR on his communications so you have backup. Ask around if anyone was in earshot of the breakroom, they’d have heard screaming match and can back you up with HR.

    4. Rick Tq*

      If he is that new just terminate his probation period and cut him loose. This isn’t going to get any better with time. Lying to HR justifies immediate termination IMO.

      1. TakingNotes*

        Alison (or others), would you please say more? For example, what words would you use when working with HR on progressive discipline? “Lying”? “Misrepresenting events”? “Insubordination” (for not following break instructions)? Which of his infractions in particular make this is a “need to fire” situation? Thank you!

  20. April*

    So, I’ve been looking at the stuff about “controlling your emotions to be professional”, and my question is “what do I do instead of lashing out or dealing with it on my own, when “raise the issue with someone who can help solve it” is not an option?” In the particular case I’m thinking of, I tried the usual procedure and was informed that the thing I was upset about (the fact that none of my teammates would do any of our work so I was doing it all) was not a problem, since the work was getting done, and there was no reason for me to be upset about it. I followed up by attempting to go over/around the boss who gave that ruling, and the person I went to did believe me about the problem and tried to help, but my boss overrode her a few weeks later and I suspect she got in trouble. I do not want to stop doing the work, because it’s one of those mission-driven things where we are meaningfully helping people with serious life problems, so I don’t have any means I find acceptable to “force” it to become a problem.

    My natural inclination is to just try to deal with the problem by myself, what Alison described as “letting it fester”, because that’s the one that puts the least burden on other people. I understand that this is unacceptable and inappropriate, but it’s very tempting when “I feel worse and nothing gets done” is the outcome of all the acceptable solutions too. (Public complaining works, because it lets me recruit a couple dozen co-workers who also say “yes, this is a real problem” and apparently the boss isn’t willing to tell all of us we’re making it up. I have gotten real changes that way. But that’s not an acceptable solution.)

      1. April*

        Yes, that’s why I was asking for alternate solutions. But as I said, public complaining (which I would count as a sub-category of lashing out, the bosses are very open about how it makes them feel bad when we say we’re having problems) is the only thing that has ever gotten me anywhere.

        1. ?*

          I wouldn’t put public complaining in the same category as lashing out at all! Lashing out to me implies losing control in some way. Calmly commiserating with colleagues about issues that affect all of you is different. Banding together with colleagues and approaching management with rational, fact-based complaints is perfectly professional and I wouldn’t worry about making bosses “feel bad” as long as you’re professional in your delivery.

        2. Janeric*

          Your bosses may think that making them aware that there IS a problem is violent and aggressive but that does not make that true.

    1. Danielle*

      Have you tried asking these people directly to do tasks? Like “Hey Jane, I can tackle X if you wouldn’t mind tackling Y, which isn’t something I’ll have time to do myself.” Also, what happens when you’re out sick or on vacation — does just nothing get done, or do these people step up in your absence? If it’s the latter, that’s evidence that these coworkers might just be phoning it in right now because they assume you’ll do everything — in which case it could be worth scaling your work back a bit.

      If that doesn’t work then it sounds to me like you’ve done all you can and this job is probably not going to change! If management won’t do anything about coworkers who refuse to do their assigned work, it sounds like there are some pretty serious problems with that management. My advice (and I know it sounds like it’s not what you want to hear, but I do think it’s the only option that will solve this problem) is to start applying for other positions. I know you said you believe in the mission and want to keep working on the same cause. but are there other positions in the same cause area that won’t have you working with this particular team? Could you apply internally to another department at this company, for example? Or could you take a different job, but continue helping this group in a volunteer/freelance capacity?

      1. April*

        If I’m gone, nothing happens. I was out for a week and a half with covid and had a week and a half of work to deal with when I got back.

        Switching jobs is probably the option that’ll work best, yeah. I suppose it’s easier to hear from someone else.

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      You are a person too. I know that sounds self-evident, I want to remind you of that.

      It is possible your organization has no interest in solving this problem. It sounds like your manager is perfectly content to let you solve it by sacrificing yourself. They don’t care if it is burning you out or making you miserable. They are fine with that outcome. They don’t have to actually manage the staff who doesn’t work and the work gets done anyway. It is a win-win for them.

      I understand you are a good person and you don’t want the people receiving these services to suffer. That is very noble. But you are a person too and you can’t burn yourself to the ground to help other people. You will be gone then and there will still be people in need.

      My advice here is that it doesn’t sound like you can change this situation. You have tried and no one cares. Protect yourself as much as you can. Do not overwork or take on other people’s work. And start planning your exit. Work doesn’t have to be this way. You can join an organization where people are doing what needs to be done and management acts decently. It is out there!

    3. Iris Eyes*

      Maybe it will help you to change perspective on the long term vs short term impact of the current policy. Yes you just not doing things will mean some people don’t get what they need now BUT by keeping up the status quo you are making sure that the organization will never serve as many people as they could serve and that a few people are going to be constantly overworked and get burnt out. Ultimately the organization is probably best served by being hurt in the short term so it can be more healthy in the long term.

    4. Honor Harrington*

      You care more about the job than the company does. They have zero reason to change the situation, as all the work is getting done and they don’t have to do anything. In addition, the people not doing the work are probably happy, which means the only morale problem is yours. Sadly, until you change your approach, this situation probably won’t change.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Exactly. You cannot care more about a problem than the person who owns the problem.

        Your workplace, coworkers, and bosses are not going to change and you cannot make them. Not by lashing out, not by managing up, not by asking, not by subtle by effective moves, not by praying …

        This is a hard lesson made much harder by the fact that you care so much about the mission. Does it help if you recognize that at some point, you are not going to be able to do all the work? At that point, the thing you fear will happen, you are not doing the work so no one is doing it. You cannot sustain the entire organization!

        You have two choices:
        1. do only what is reasonable for one person to do or
        2. leave the organization and find another that is helping people the way you want it to

        I’m sorry to say it so baldly! I wish you the best!

    5. Zofran*

      I think you have to stop doing the work and let your boss feel the consequences. I know you don’t want your clients to bear the brunt of that, but nothing is going to motivate your boss otherwise. <3

      You can start to be very upfront about what you can and can’t do so that gives your boss a chance to theoretically actually manage your team, but if you keep going covering everyone else, you’re going to burn out and leave and your clients are going to be stuck regardless.

      1. Quinalla*

        Yup, you have to make this your boss’s problem in a way that will either make them change or at least will document clearly that you are getting all of your work done. Stop doing all the work, tell your boss “I’ll be able to get X, Y & Z done by Friday, that leave A-F for the rest of the team!” and when A-F predictably aren’t done, then on Monday, say “Should I prioritize A-C or D-F this week or the new S, T & U?” Get answer “Great, team will pick up the rest then!” and just keep doing this over and over. If your boss doesn’t care that your team is doing nothing, you can’t make them, but at least you can make it crystal clear and then escalate to their boss if safe to do so.

        And yeah, look for a new job if this doesn’t improve after you stop doing it all. Do not keep doing it all, burning yourself out will eventually mean the clients have no one helping them or getting less quality help. If you can get your boss to see reason, then they can get the help they should be with no one burning out.

        1. Tio*

          Yeah, this is what you need to do. Don’t keep finishing all the work. Probably you need to look for a new job either way, but for now, follow the example above, because it keeps your boss in the loop so they can’t be surprised that things are falling behind. You’re going to have to stand really strong though, there’s going to be pushback on you to finish it because you have been finishing it. You just have to keep it the same – “I can’t finish all of that myself, who’s available to help me?” “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish all that, does anyone else have bandwidth?” And don’t rush through things you’re working on, take your time.

          They’re going to push back hard in part because, given you’ve been doing everyone else’s work this whole time, you’re the path of least resistance. You need to make yourself the path of MOST resistance for the above to work.

    6. Chirpy*

      I have this same problem currently, and the only solution really is to get out. The job will absolutely go down in flames without me, but at this point, I did what I could, and it’s management’s fault for not listening or backing me up.

  21. Hedgehog in a ball*

    Hi everyone,

    I hope someone on here can help with a few questions I have about changing jobs. I work in a rather niche field, so whenever I change jobs, I will almost certainly be moving to a new city and state. All the other applicants would be in the same situation. Does that change the amount of notice I ought to give at my current job? How much advance time is reasonable to ask for my start date once I’ve accepted the offer, since I will have to sell my house, buy a new one, and do all the moving? Is it reasonable or expected to ask for a moving allowance (I actually got this for my current job, but I don’t know if it’s typical anymore)?

    On a separate note, I’ve been in my current position for over 10 years (I’m in academia, so this is normal). I’ve earned more vacation days each year because of this. Would it be reasonable to ask a new job to start me somewhere above the bare minimum?

    Thank you!

    1. moving mcgee*

      Recently moved for a job. Relocation expenses can and should be discussed as part of salary negotiation/total comp. I’m not entirely sure when to bring it up first, but if you say others in your field would also be dealing with that I don’t think they’d be blindsided by the idea of it. It is still very common.

      Can’t necessary speak about the vacation days from experience, but from reading AAM my gut says that this would also be a part of salary negotiation and that unless you specifically ask for it, you’ll be getting whatever they give you.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      About negotiating for vacation days:

      I have successfully done this! When the HR recruiter called me to tell me about the verbal offer, I said most of it sounded good but I have X vacation days at my current job and would they be able to match that? HR recruiter said “I’ll check and get back to you tomorrow,” and the next day called with the new verbal offer with X vacation days (which I accepted).

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      If you’re in Academia, here’s been my experience. Relocation expenses can and should be discussed as part of salary negotiation. Start dates tend to come with more lead time, based on the assumption that you’re moving. The hiring schedules are usually tied in some way to the academic calendar, so people can be more or less flexible depending on the type of work and the class scheduling. If they need you to start in September, they may not be able to give you more than four to six weeks lead time if they offer you the job in July. Vacation days can be a tougher thing to ask for- some places are unionized and those things are part of the union contract. Some places they aren’t and they’re totally up for grabs. You can always ask.

    4. Quinalla*

      Definitely ask to brought in at a similar (or higher level) than you are currently for vacation days. Not uncommon especially when you are not coming in entry level. Not saying they will say yes, but they likely will negotiate on it and won’t be offended that you asked.

      I think there is most leeway with when you can start a job when all candidates will have to relocate, but they aren’t necessarily going to wait for you to buy a new house/sell your old/etc. They may expect you to live in an apartment temporarily, but they may also help with moving costs/temp living costs/etc. Depends on the industry, but I would ask about it once you have an offer for sure. I think one month is reasonable for most places and they may be fine with more. As far as giving more notice, you don’t have to, but if you know it is safe to do so, then since you’ve been there 10 years I would in your shoes.

  22. Clothes Make the (Wo)Man*

    Question about dress code. I’ve fielded three different comments in recent weeks about my clothing, and I want some opinions less because I’m concerned about my professional appearance and more because I’m intrigued if this is a generational thing or just some folks with weird preferences.

    My workplace is business casual, emphasis on casual. It’s not unusual for folks who don’t have any client-facing meetings that day to wear jeans and sneakers, and my boss frequently wears sweats or a track suit to the office. Several weeks ago, a female colleague who is about two decades older than me stopped me in the hallway to ask, “Oh, are we allowed to wear that?” in a particularly disapproving tone. I was confused by what she meant, and she clarified that she meant my leggings, which she thought weren’t allowed as they’re unprofessional. I was not wearing leggings – I was wearing skinny dress pants, and I clarified as such and went about my day.

    When I was at my parents’ for Easter, we were on the topic of work clothes, and I mentioned wearing a flannel shirt at the office. My mother said this was unprofessional – to me, it’s no different than wearing a patterned blouse.

    Finally, two days ago I was wearing a dress with bicycle short-esque shorts underneath to guard against chub rub. The dress was knee length and the shorts were not generally visible. My dress caught on a filing cabinet when I was walking past, briefly revealing the shorts to a (different) older female colleague, who pulled me aside later to warn me that wearing shorts under a dress was seen as unprofessional.

    In all three instances, the pure confidence with which the so-called professional norms were stated is what’s giving me pause. The kicker is that, as head of HR for my office, I’m actually in charge of enforcing the dress code, and none of these would even rise to the occasion of batting an eye, let alone think they were some kind of violation, but as I am on the younger side for this role, I’m interested to know what other folks think.

    1. April*

      I would personally put shorts under a dress in the category of underwear, honestly – not in the sense of “no one else should ever see this”, but in the sense of “rude for someone else to bring up unless there’s a major wardrobe malfunction”. In the normal course of events, I’ll never see it, it’s just part of the necessary underpinnings of the outfit. I don’t critique my co-workers’ choice of bra, I wouldn’t critique what’s under their skirts.

      If your office is casual enough that the boss is wearing sweats on days with no client meetings, I’d also feel comfortable with leggings and flannel shirts. (Probably not together, but that’s me.) Flannel shirts can look perfectly nice, and while leggings are clearly casual wear, they’re no worse than sweatpants.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Same! And I am a woman over 50.

        My office has a dress code of “dress appropriately.” I dress a little nicer than some, but that’s my choice. I would also feel comfortable in all your choices if my day allowed for them.

    2. Blarg*

      My gut says you’ve got people who want to “show up” the (younger) HR Lady by criticizing her appearance. And your mom is just not familiar with your office standards. What you’ve described to me sounds normal. And how often has this woman seen someone wearing shorts under a skirt to have gotten the opinions of others in the past? Silly!

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      The kicker is that, as head of HR for my office, I’m actually in charge of enforcing the dress code, and none of these would even rise to the occasion of batting an eye

      They’re being super annoying, but since you’re in charge of the dress code, I think you can confidently say your own dress isn’t in violation.

      but as I am on the younger side for this role, I’m interested to know what other folks think.

      I’m older, and I’m in full agreement with you.

    4. ecnaseener*

      The not-leggings thing just seems weird, how skinny do they have to be to be mistaken for leggings? I’d write that off as snootiness.

      The flannel, though, is absolutely more casual than a patterned blouse. (It might be partly generational – my grandfather refuses to believe that flannel sweatpants are anything other than pajamas – but I’m 26 and would put flannel well below blouses.)

      And calling someone out for “unprofessional” garments that weren’t supposed to be seen is again snooty and weird, ignore that one.

      1. Clothes Make the (Wo)Man*

        They weren’t even THAT skinny – certainly a more narrow leg opening than straight leg, but not skintight or anything.

        In terms of flannel shirts, the reason why I compared it to a patterned blouse is because of how it’s worn/styled. When I wear a flannel to the office, it’s tucked into dress pants, worn with dress shoes, etc. If I’m wearing a flannel at home, it’s normally over a t-shirt, untucked, probably not even fully buttoned, etc., which is I guess where I draw the distinction.

      2. Blueberry Girl*

        Personally, I wear flannel shirts to the office all the time, but they are not as formal as a patterned blouse, unless they are made of like a silky fabric and just happen to be plaid. Also, I work in Alaska, so no one here dresses up much.

        Basically, I agree with your assessments. Flannel comment might be correct, but the others feel weird.

      3. Sally Ann*

        I would have liked to say “would you prefer I wear lace panties and a garter belt so next time my dress accidentally gets caught, people have something more interesting to see? Or maybe a thong?”

        I wouldn’t really say that, but I sure would want to.

      4. Tio*

        Yeah, the bike shorts thing should not have been commented on at all.

        As far as the others, flannel, sandals, and sweats would not rise to business casual in most offices. If you want your office to be ok with those, it’s fine! The company gets to decide its fine to wear sweats, and if your boss is doing it, and your dept. is in charge of deciding dress code, sounds like its settled. Might help to clarify that with other people though, so they aren’t surprised by what seems like leggings.

    5. laser99*

      This is nonsense. There are many letters to this blog about older workers trying to police attire. It’s always about jealousy, or feeling threatened. If it doesn’t make your boss faint dead away, you’re fine.

    6. ferrina*

      Sounds like a weird week! I hate when a single week decides to focus on a single thing to needle you about (I’m having a week like that, so I feel you!)

      That said- you’re probably fine.
      Flannel is sounds just fine for your office. It’s not the same as a blouse, but it sounds like a blouse might not be completely in line with norms for your office. Flannel would be weird in a lot of offices, but not in yours. Enjoy your comfort.
      I agree with April on the bike shorts. They are not meant to be seen, were only seen due to a wardrobe malfunction, and the coworker who pulled you aside was rude. She’d rather you have bare legs to see? (regardless of your personal comfort?) When possible, have the shorts match the dress color so as not to draw attention (don’t put neon shorts under a black dress- that would be hard for others not to see)

      The skinny pants are the only maybe for me. It really depends on the cut and fabric of the pants. I’ve seen pants marketed as ‘professional’ when the only professional wearing them should be a yoga teacher, but I’ve also seen people take umbrage with any clothes that suggest that there’s a body under them. If in doubt, double check with your boss.

    7. Drago Cucina*

      As someone in her mid-60s, I think they are off base. The idea that there is something unprofessional about bike shorts under a dress doesn’t even make sense. Granted I’ve worn them for years under dresses and skirts. I like them for the exact situation you encountered (plus chub rub). I’m not flashing the office.

      It sounds more like they are taking exception to what YOU wear, rather than the clothing.

    8. Angstrom*

      I do think flannel is seen as more casual than a smooth woven patterned fabric, just as silk is seen as dressier than cotton.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        I agree, but if sweatpants or a track suit are OK, a flannel shirt is definitely OK.
        And the pretend shorts-worn-under-a-skirt rule is just silly. So long as the shorts aren’t visible under ordinary circumstances, that ought to be OK even in an office with a dressier dress code.
        Your office is definitely very casual – in fact, I’d say it’s “casual” rather than “business casual,” Clothes Make the (Wo)man, and equally clearly, these women are trying to stem the tide. But they’re too late, they’re out of line, and they need to get over it. (I’m 65, BTW.)

    9. Texan In Exile*

      The me (50something woman) of five years ago would have been right there with the “you can’t wear that to work!” crowd, but the me now says, “whatever.”

      Ignore the naysayers. The rules have changed. I can’t believe I ever thought showing a shoulder at work was something to worry about. You know your workplace and what goes.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I agree and I’m late 50s! But I still absolutely hate “cold shoulder” shirts in almost any setting! lol

    10. Cookies for Breakfast*

      I’ve always worked in business casual offices, with both people who wear a freshly pressed shirt every day, and people who wear tracksuits or even shorts in the summer. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and while working from home, everyone at my current workplace is pretty much settled on “tracksuit” anyway.

      I see what you describe as a generational thing, because the only comments I’ve ever heard about my clothes being unprofessional have always been from my parents, who are in their 70s and know nothing about current office norms.

      My mother makes fun of me in public because I only ever wear tops and dresses that don’t require ironing to be presentable, and doesn’t believe me when I say a lot of people in my age group do the same. Also, even though all my “outside” clothes are well looked after, if she spots me in anything I bought over 1-2 years ago, she will without fail comment “do you seriously wear that ratty thing to the office?”.

      It’s year 3 of me working remotely, and she still doesn’t believe that having Zoom calls in a hoodie or band t-shirt isn’t just me being contrary :)

    11. MsM*

      As head of HR, I think it would be entirely appropriate for you (after giving your boss a heads up) to send around a reminder on the dress code and what it actually excludes, since you’ve been getting questions on it.

      Ignore your mom, though. She doesn’t even go here.

    12. LadyByTheLake*

      Well, flannel is quite casual, definitely not equivalent to a patterned blouse, but it sounds like your office is really casual so flannel would be fine.

      As for the other comments, many people wear shorts/thigh-length underwear like you are describing under skirts — I can’t wear a skirt otherwise. And the leggings comment — what, are only wide-leg trousers acceptable in her mind? I can’t even.

    13. Honor Harrington*

      None of your outfits sounds the least bit unprofessional to me. It sounds like the commenters were people from an older generation with outdated expectations OR people who have a different understanding of the cultural norms in your company. If you are sure you dress is within the norms (and it sounds like they are), I’d ignore the comments except to consider whether you need to be more clear about what is acceptable in your dress code.

      1. Angstrom*

        I’m from an older generation and have outdated expectations, but I know that, and I keep any comments inside my head. :-)

    14. RagingADHD*

      I think you can see the pattern of who is giving the feedback. Women a generation older than you were policed even more heavily over clothes than nowadays, and they are used to much more formality, even in business casual.

      Their calibration is off by 20-30 years.

      Of course flannel is more casual than a blouse, but it’s not more casual than jeans or sweats. You’re fine.

    15. kiwiii*

      Skinny dress pants should be fine just about everywhere but the high end of business casual — I wore black jeans and skinny dress pants in a solidly middling business casual office and no one even noticed.

      A flannel is definitely different than a patterned blouse, though a cotton plaid button down shirt would be much closer to a patterned blouse, possibly around the same depending on the office, and material and shape of the blouse. Though if you’re in an office with sweats appearing regularly, I wouldn’t worry about the flannel at all either.

      The shorts under a dress comment is weird and your coworker is weird.

    16. Jay (no, the other one)*

      It’s both generational and obnoxious. I’m 62 and everything you describe sounds entirely appropriate to me for an office where track suits are appropriate – and your mother (who has no standing in this conversation) would probably think those are unprofessional, too. The woman who commented on the shorts was way, way, way out of line – I agree with the commenter above who said that’s equivalent to commenting on someone’s underwear.

      Before I retired, I worked for a company where the people in the office did only computer and telephone work – no patient contact (we did home visits full-time). The dress code in the office was, essentially, “wear clothes.” People wore flannel. People wore T-shirts and shorts. People wore ripped denim. When my boss had a day without visits, he wore Star Wars and Game of Thrones merch. My father would have been HORRIFIED. Dad graduated medical school in 1958, never (and I mean never) saw a patient without wearing a jacket and tie*, and would have been Very Displeased with me if he’d known I made weekend hospital rounds in jeans. Times change. Standards change.

      You seem to clearly understand the norms for your office, and those are the only professional norms that matter.

      *Dad called me one Sunday afternoon to report that he’d gone to the hospital to do some paperwork. He knew he wouldn’t be seeing patients so he didn’t wear a jacket or tie – he topped his flannel pants and button-down shirt with a cardigan instead. He was so uncomfortable that he went in the back way, locked his office door so no one would see him, and went home as soon as he could. He never did it again.

    17. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      My take is that all your outfits are ok. The only one iffy for me is the flannel shirt, which might be considered a bit too casual or outdoorsy, but again this depends on your office – if others wear similar you are ok. The comments about the skinny dress pants (not leggings) and the bike shorts under a dress are ridiculous, especially the bike shorts which provide more coverage than, you know, just underwear! Jeez!

    18. Firecat*

      At least for the dress shorts one your coworker is way off base. I literally got reprimanded for not having bike shorts on under dress when a similar dress mishap occured.

    19. MouseMouseMouse*

      If your office is casual enough to wear sweats and tracksuits, it’s *definitely* casual enough to wear flannel and leggings! Add my vote to the “these are all perfectly fine” box. Disappointing to see all these older women feeling entitled to comment on your perfectly-fine dress, but yeah, looks like it’s a clear pattern.

    20. Picard*

      I work in manufacturing but I’m in the C office as HR. I personally would not wear flannel, I WOULD wear biker shorts or whatever if I wore a dress and I agree its like pointing out underwear, and I would have to see the pants but generally, leggings no, (never) skinny pants sure. I’m also older however and probably skew more traditional/conservative in clothing.

    21. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      These sounds less like generational differences and more like you’ve been dealing with people who assume they’re always right.

      I have a growing awareness that a lot of humans haven’t realized, “Just because someone does something differently from me…doesn’t mean they’re wrong!”

    22. Strict Extension*

      I was bored and playing around with Suprise Me! on the website header here, and Alison addressed this exact situation with undershorts and a skirt and an older coworker thinking they were inappropriate (the language there was “I can see your Spanx!”). Her verdict was in alignment with everyone else here: A total non-issue and hoping maybe that coworker just blurted without thinking.

      (Personally I wear them literally every day in the months that are too warm for tights and don’t even worry about whether they show, but I’m an artsy person in an artsy workplace, so it reads as a style choice and isn’t even on the extreme side.)

    23. Quinalla*

      Leggings are now fine as pants in a casual setting, they used to very much NOT BE FINE so you’ll run into this again. Funny that you weren’t even wearing leggings, but honestly, it can be hard to tell leggings from skinny pants at this point haha.

      Flannel shirt is 100% not equal to a patterned blouse. I think it is totally fine in your casual office, but to equate the two seems extremely weird to me.

      Shorts under a dress in not unprofessional. I agree with the other poster that no one should see the shorts in normal wear – your case of a dress snag is an unusual circumstance and your coworker is weird. Anyone who has thighs that are even slightly larger than super skinny has figured out that wearing bike shorts or other lingerie that acts like it is the best for under skirt/dress to avoid a rash.

      Also, I would very much classify your office dress code as casual. Business casual means something entirely different – think slacks and polo for me and slacks/skirt and blouse/polo for women.

      Dress code is one of the funniest things during and since COVID. People in my office tend to dress up a bit when they are in the office, but are super casual when home but with cameras on. We all still dress up appropriately for our industry for client meetings. It cracks me up that everyone was just like, dress codes suck and we aren’t playing anymore.

      1. Bart*

        I agree with your assessment that flannel skirts are not equivalent to a patterned blouse. The issue is the type of material–the same way that a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt and a short-sleeved cashmere top are different despite the similarity in sleeve length.

    24. Um, No You Look Fine.*

      This does sound like a generational thing. I’m old and crabby and I actually think that most of my younger co-workers dress like slobs and are quite unprofessional in their appearance. That said, at this point in my life I would NEVER actually comment on the dress or clothing of any of my coworkers. There’s nothing to be gained by saying something. If my boss is concerned about it, she can say something.

    25. M&M Mom*

      I think I need to stop watching Sucession, because my initial reaction to this was “Oh eff off!” Which happens to be my reaction to a lot of things these days. I think you are dressing appropriately from what you describe.

    26. Quandong*

      I’m in my late 40s and from your description of the way your boss dresses, all your outfits are completely fine for your workplace.

      I think what may be happening her (as at least one other person mentioned) is the older women trying to put you in your place, as well as showing their bias against people who aren’t straight sized.

      Do you think they would make these remarks to a thin person wearing the same clothing?
      I strongly suspect anti-fat sentiment is coming through (since you wrote about preventing chub rub).

      It’s not okay for anyone to police your body through comments about what you’re wearing. This is particularly ludicrous and galling given your position at your workplace!

      But Western society is awash in fat hatred and it’s pervasive.

    27. SofiaDeo*

      I think there’s a few different elements. Some of it is likely generational, since dress codes of previous generations were not only strict but different. The concept of “business casual” is more recent, and companies are changing even what was originally accepted. So with things in flux, there’s bound to be some confusion. That being said, there also probably is some cattiness/pushback going on in addition to honest questioning. Like the “legging” question, I can see an older person not knowing exactly what a legging is. But with the snarky tone, or even the concerned ones, IMO you as HR person, need to do some educating. Whether people are jealous/catty, or disapproving at change, or have genuine concern for you. Whatever their problem is, you are the rep for what is acceptable/allowed. You have some people who need some serious teaching regarding these changes. People once confidently claimed the earth was flat. I think a warm “oh no, we are on the more casual side of Business Casual, and this is perfectly appropriate” with a relaxed manner and big smile may help teach these people faster, as well as shut down their comments.

  23. Over it*

    What do you do when you’re completely over your current job but also can’t think of anything else you want to do? I’m not depressed. I’m not burned out. I’m just … over it. I work in public health, and have been in multiple sectors (clinical, government, non profit) and … I have had enough. But I can’t figure out what else I’d want to try, and in my mid-40s, can’t afford to explore other career paths that set me back salary wise a ton.

    Chilling at home with pets and crafts is apparently not a viable option, though I would excel at it. So … what have folks done?

    1. ferrina*

      Is it your current job that you are over, or is it work? If it’s your current job, start your casual job search- maybe only apply to things that get you excited? If it’s your industry, start looking around for stretch areas- remember, you get to set the limits of your search. Where can you pivot your skills? (are you a great writer? data analyst?) Start ups can sometimes be great places to look, since they can be more flexible about interesting career paths.

      If you’re just feeling burned out in general- I’m on that ride too. I could really use a year or two to just relax and rest, but alas, that’s not in the cards. One thing that’s helped is setting myself an exercise goal- when I exercise regularly I have more energy, which helps me power through the day and explore things that I find interesting. Plus I’m ADHD, and exercise can help improve focus for me. My initial goal was small- an hour-long activity 3x per month. Now I’m up to 2-3 times per week. Maybe exercise isn’t the thing for you, but maybe you can find something that stimulates you (even if it’s not work-related). Are there any craft groups near you?

    2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I just came on here today to ask this question – same situation (minus the clinical stuff) and after another tedious week where everything sets me off I need to get out of this job (govt).

      Is there is a way to make this a part time thing but do more interesting things on the side? Im thinking specifically of someone I know who moved to working in a yarn shop and starting her own business teaching knitting 2 days a week while working 3 at her ‘normal job’ that she’d had for 15+ years. She can do what she loves while not also taking the massive salary hit. Is anything like that an option?

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I am deeply burnt in a job that I love but there’s management “issues” that I’m fairly done with.
        I have found an online community of crafters that help me re-center my focus on our nutty goals and interests and learning and whatnot. I may also offer up some time to teach some half-day classes that would keep me feeling useful and creative in a more social way.

        The job still weighs on me, but when I get home I have community to sustain a different part of me.

      2. Worn Out*

        Did I change user names and write in my sleep? Because your first paragraph is also my situation. “X more months til my pension vests,” is basically what is getting me to work in the morning. I even voluntarily scheduled a colonoscopy so I could take a day off! A bad day anywhere that isn’t a funeral is better than a good day at work these days.
        I’m trying to ramp up my side gig so maybe I can afford to take some time off in X months.
        But my boss wants to take a promotion and pull me with him, but it will mean a commitment of x+18 months. It would do good things for my pension, but …

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      There’s a I think Japanese venn diagram with like 6 categories about a fulfilling life “Ikigai venn diagram” will get you it on google. I found that really helpful for trying to address what’s missing in my life. The idea is like a job wont ever get you all the categories, but you can align your job and your downtime activities to meet your full venn.

      The outer circles are
      What do you love?
      At what are you good?
      What does the world need from you?
      For what can you get paid?

      Comfortable but empty tends to be you’ve got the good and paid filled but your missing the love and world side. So volunteering diff places until you find a volunteer site your passionate about might help for example.

    4. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’m not sure if this is helpful but I did two things in this situation:
      1. I focused on my personal life, on friends, on taking myself to lunch, crafts, the dog, family, etc.
      2. I focused on skills I wanted to learn, some coding, joined a professional org in my field but not typically joined by people in my position, etc.

      The first kept me sane, the second led to some better skills that got me the job I’m in now (and it was in a Friday good news post, I’m so happy!).

      1. RVA Cat*

        One of the things that can save your sanity is realizing it’s okay to do a mediocre job when it’s the job itself that is mediocre, not you. Act your wage. Care about your passions because the marketplace doesn’t.

  24. anon for this*

    I’m a teacher, and I’m incredibly burnt out. Every day feels like trying to bail water out of a sinking ship, and I’m not even in a part of the country where things are especially crazy.  I’ve been looking at jobs at other schools, but I’m also wondering if things are really any better anywhere else (although having a supportive admin certainly seems like it would be better), and whether it might be good to take a year or two away from teaching in general. That said, all my work experience is in teaching. I’m curious to know what career paths former teachers have pursued, what skills they found transferable and how they marketed those skills. I’m also deeply curious if people really ever actually return to teaching after a ‘break’ or if I’m kidding myself about that.

    1. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

      For various reasons, my last 5 years as a teacher was exactly as you described. You get sucked in with good benefits and the generous pension as the carrot on the stick, but it’s hard to break out and even harder to re-invent yourself when you have self doubt about “What else can I do to make as much as I am making now?”

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      That said, all my work experience is in teaching. I’m curious to know what career paths former teachers have pursued, what skills they found transferable and how they marketed those skills.

      I burned out from teaching a long time ago, and when I quit, it was very difficult to find a non-teaching job. When everything on your résumé says “teacher,” lots of hiring managers don’t have enough imagination to consider you as a viable candidate for non-teaching positions. I applied to all sorts of stuff, and I just “lucked” out getting an office job I wasn’t (on paper, at least) remotely qualified for (computer-related), because they were paying so little that anyone who had the on-paper qualifications would never take that position. That was the segue I needed to pivot, though, and I was eventually able to get my salary back (yes, I took a pay cut from teaching!).

      In terms of transferrable skills, I’d say being able to deal with multiple personality types and dealing with multiple constituencies are things you’ll have to deal with in any org, whether you’re teaching or not. Public speaking? If you were an organized teacher (and some aren’t), organization… meeting deadlines? There are tons of transferrable skills.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        That was my experience as well. I have been seriously underpaid for a long time, and am just now catching up…..and then inflation.

    3. FearNot*

      We just hired a new training and development coordinator at my job that left high school teaching for us. She’s been doing great and we all love her. She does things like give work-related HR/software/procedure training, etc. for the company. Also, I used to work for an adult outreach education arm of a state university that would have probably liked to hire a former teacher!

      1. Usagi*

        This is pretty much what I did! I now teach professional skills, like leadership, communication, and of course things like diversity & sensitivity. Much less day-to-day issues that come with working with youth, although working with adults (and in many cases, highly-paid adults) does mean that if there is an attendee of one of my trainings that decides to act out, they act out in a much more complicated way. It’s a trade off, but one that I found to be very worth it. I do miss seeing my students grow over time — I work with clients so I mostly will see people only for a few months or so — but I still get to see people “get” a concept, which is what I loved about teaching in the first place.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Have you any equivalent of “grinds”? My brother works part time for a “grind school,” which is a school that gives revision courses, takes students one-to-one if they wish to do an additional subject outside school, takes adult students who wish to/need to repeat a subject and so on. He also advertises online for his own students who he teaches, usually for an hour a week, over zoom. It’s mostly extra tuition/revision for exams and teachers usually charge about €40 an hour.

      Not sure if it’s the sort of thing you are thinking of or if ye even have an equivalent, but it’s generally self-employment, times are agreed between students and teacher and has none of the additional work of teaching – yard duty, disciplining, etc.

    5. Wordnerd*

      This might not be geographically an option for you, but a lot of non-academic work at universities/colleges is a good fit for K-12 experience. higheredjobs dot com has a robust advanced search that would allow you search by region, type, etc.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      I didn’t take a “break” for a different career but I was a SAHM for 6 years and was able to easily get back into teaching when I wanted. I think with so many people leaving the profession a lot of schools are pretty desperate, so in that sense you’re not likely to have a hard time coming back. It does depend on what’s going on in your area, though – my district is having serious budget issues because of low enrollment (HCOL area) so we’re facing layoffs now :(

    7. snacattack*

      I taught for many years, K-12 (mostly K-4). At some point along the way I started my own freelance writing business, specializing in books for kids and educational materials (textbooks, teacher guides, assessments…). I now do this full-time. You might think about something along these lines?

    8. KayDeeAye*

      My sister-in-law, who loved being a teacher but grew to despise her principal and also realized that the principal was, alas, not going away, took early retirement, and then she worked for a few years at a preschool – one that provided some academics. I don’t know how common those are. She liked it, for the most part. She’s now retired from that job, too, but she did it for several years after retiring from her public school job.

    9. former teacher*

      I taught high school for over a decade, and when I was getting ready to switch careers, the most useful advice I got was to target growing companies with 25-50 employees because they’re generally looking for smart, motivated generalists. Once companies get big enough, they stop hiring generalists and look for people with specialized skills, which (outside of education) I didn’t have.

      I was looking for a job at a tech startup, and I found that these skills transferred (and are common to every teaching job I’ve ever seen):
      – building productive working relationships with all sorts of people
      – planning backwards from a goal and executing that plan
      – handling ambiguous tasks and quickly shifting circumstances
      – learning new skills quickly
      – prioritizing—figuring out what thing is most important and getting that done
      – paying attention to detail
      – creating repeatable processes where before there was nothing
      – working independently but also fitting my work into the goals of a larger team

      I have a computer science-adjacent degree from a fancy university, which definitely helped in my job search. I worked on the operations side of things for a couple years before becoming a software engineer at the same company.

      Sometimes I think about going back into teaching, but things have only become more chaotic since I left in 2018. I like making more money, having real weekends, and I don’t ever want to guide students through an active shooter drill again.

    10. MSTeach*

      You’ve received some great ideas here! I was a middle and high school teacher for a decade at two different schools. I’ll say making the switch from one school to another was really beneficial and helped re-ignite some of the spark I was losing. If you have been at the same school for a while, I think it’s worth it to switch (& consider private or charter or a different ‘type’ of school if that sounds interesting)! There are pros and cons to all, of course, but if you know what you DO or DON’T want more of, that should help.
      When I left teaching I started working for the state’s education department–which surprisingly isn’t all former teachers! I now manage a team of about 8, and of those maybe 5-6 are former teachers. None of us are teaching now or even interacting with teachers/curriculum. Here are some of the most transferable skills (in my mind):
      –Customer service: ability to help others, explain procedures and policies
      –Writing: drafting documents/emails, handbooks, etc
      –Managing multiple important deadlines simultaneously (many competing priorities — time management)
      –Problem solving: teachers are GREAT at “if X doesn’t work, can I try Y? AA?”
      –Giving and receiving feedback: normalizing feedback makes any work culture better!

      Other people I know who have left the classroom are now working in the following: fundraising for a local library, creating a business/writing freelance, managing a small business’s schedule & invoices, working for a law office. I think if you begin to view teaching as a ‘job’ in a ‘workplace’ more than teaching in a school, you should see some transferable skills.

    11. Career After Classroom*

      I taught high school for almost 20 years, and left a couple of years ago by applying for and completing a fellowship at a K12 regional education organization. After that I was asked to stay on at the organization in a full-time permanent position. The work I’ve done here has touched a lot of different aspects of how schools are run: operations, data, project management. I’m now about to step into a strategy role at another K12 education organization. While I took a pay cut to leave teaching for the fellowship, my pay for my next role was higher than I have ever earned as a teacher, while the hours, workload, flexibility, and ability to work from home have been much better. I miss the rewarding relationships that come from teaching teenagers, and the transition from complete autonomy to office / team culture hasn’t been the smoothest, but now I have the ability to be here for my own kids without lesson planning and grading late into the night. Basically I make more money for less work, so the trade-off is worth it.
      There are several fellowships out there, and I think they’re a good way to dip your toes in the water for a short, defined time period.

  25. nonprofit drone*

    I’m the intern supervisor for my department at a small non-profit with very little staff turnover, and one of our interns starting this summer is non-binary with they/them pronouns. I don’t think it will be an issue for any of my colleagues in a broad sense, but I am worried about some members of our staff struggling with using they/them pronouns for the first time. What are the best ways I can support our intern? Should I proactively warn them that there might be an issue and tell them that they can let me know if there are problems? Should I say anything to other staff before they start? I’m relatively junior within the organization.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Personally, I would start by saying something to the staff. “As you all know, our new interns will be starting next week [or whenever]. One of the interns, [name], uses they/them pronouns, please make sure you use them.”

      I also suggest you look up the “changing pronouns at work: a success story” post from February 22, 2022 for an example of good management, and the “how to get better at using a coworker’s nonbinary pronouns” post from October 28, 2019 to see if you think that would be a good resource for your staff (I’ll link to those posts in a follow-up comment).

    2. Jen (she or they pronouns please)*

      I think some kind of “feel free to come with any questions you have, or if you run into problems” is a good idea, though I wouldn’t make it about the pronouns specifically. But certainly keep an eye open for problems yourself, it shouldn’t be your intern’s job to make sure they get called with their pronouns and not wrong ones. And if you hear of or notice issues yourself, address them directly. I guess it won’t go over with zero mistakes if you already have reason to suspect that there might be problems using they as a pronoun, but if that becomes more than an occasional “she sorry they” when someone forgets at the start, it’s a problem you need to address.

      (Not sure if that’s just me not being a native english speaker, but personally I’d have found a short grammar explanation “they used just like the plural one” helpful.)

    3. a they/them in software*

      Your intern almost certainly knows to expect (the possibility of) issues, it unfortunately comes with the territory, but I think it would be a kindness to casually let them know that you are open to hearing about/helping with any problems that do arise.

      On saying things to other staff before they start — would you be able to ask your intern directly if this is something they would like? Where I’m at now, I personally would feel awkward at best about being discussed amongst staff in this way without my knowledge/consent, but I have known other people who would be grateful for someone above them in the hierarchy to take on a bit of the emotional labour around this topic (and that could be more likely to be the case with an intern, who I’m assuming is quite young and may not have much/any experience navigating the professional world).

    4. ferrina*

      Do you include pronouns in your email signiture? If not, that’s a good idea anyways.

      If you think it will be an obstinance/”I’m don’t have issues with those people, I just don’t understand it”, get someone with authority to remind staff about your company’s non-discrimination policy before the intern starts. If it’s just the staff using they/them for the first time, keep an eye on those staff and make corrections early. Don’t let a bit of forgetfulness slide- same as you’d remind them that the interns name is “Sam”, not “Casey”. For the intern, no need to say “some people might get your pronouns wrong”- they already know. Instead, make sure all interns know what to do and feel comfortable coming to you if there are any concerns.

    5. Elsewise*

      I’d send out an intro email about the new interns and just add “they/them” after their name! (Ideally you’d have pronouns for everyone, but don’t include pronouns in the email for any interns who haven’t given you that information.) And possibly include a link to a resource like that might help anyone who’s less familiar with using they/them pronouns in conversation. (My organization links lgbtlifecenter’s page on pronouns in all of our email signatures.)

      So for example: “I’m happy to introduce our new interns! Suzy Jones is coming to us from Llama University and loves dogs and the environment. Moss Smith comes from Teapot College and is studying llama grooming. Moss uses they/them pronouns- please consult this resources if you could use practice or a refresher on the singular they. Sam Miller is a student at Wherever and yadda yadda.”

    6. Anon for this one*

      As an older person, stuck in my ways, I would not intentionally misuse someone’s gender pronouns. However, at my workplace, there is a trans woman working in another department who is quite masculine in appearance. On the rare occasions when I have to deal with her, I find myself thinking of her as a man and, unfortunately, I find it takes a bit of effort on my part to use the pronouns she prefers. I do worry that I might slip up and unintentionally misgender her at some time in the future, although it hasn’t happened so far. I hope that, in time, it will get easier to think of her as a woman.

  26. DivergentStitches*

    Is it unethical for coworkers (none of them management level, all lateral) to discuss being unhappy in their role and looking for another job?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think it’s unethical, but they should be careful whom they discuss that with, as they may potentially get booted prematurely if management does get wind.

      But many people will gripe about those things with close co-worker peers.

      Sometimes you just need to vent.

      1. ferrina*

        This. Not unethical, but not always wise.
        Occasionally can be helpful- for example, if you are planning on being references for each other or send each other leads. Don’t use company email or IM to send leads- keep that on personal accounts and devices.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          There is also a law of diminishing returns to that sort of complaining. I’ve had an open door office policy and it often invites complaints like “I am completely miserable because my coworker took an extra three minutes for lunch, life is so unfair” type complaints. Obviously I am being a bit hyperbolic because it’s hard to write it all out without knowing our company, but some people will start with legitimate complaints then go into really petty stuff over time and act as if they are of equal weight.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I don’t see any way for that to be unethical, unless they’re being really mean (about people, not about the company). It might be detrimental to the work environment if it’s super negative all the time, but that’s not an ethics thing. If they all leave around the same time, so be it.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      Unethical no. But beware making a crabs in bucket environment where you bond solely over being unhappy and overfocus on bad stuff to the point where you dont want eachother to be happy.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      General talk about their unhappiness, the status of that job they applied for doesn’t seem unethical to me.

      Things that are potentially more murky: coordinated action such as all agreeing to quit on the same day to cause max disruption to the business; running a job seeking “club” of sorts during work hours under the guise of meetings etc.

    5. Bess*

      Good replies here–to add, it’s definitely not unethical, particularly if you deal with toxic workplace dynamics, and a certain amount of it may be normal.


      Is it staying in a productive space or is it becoming corrosive? It is so, so easy for this to turn into its own source of catharsis and satisfaction and prevent you from using communication with the leadership, or, if that’s impossible, putting that energy into job-hunting. It’s also VERY easy for the negative talk to outweigh any positive energy at work and you can end up being a drain on others and making problems way worse. I’ve also definitely see people persuade others to be less happy in their jobs just so they can have some company, so you’d want to make sure you’re not pressuring people into complaining with you or getting frustrated if people don’t agree with you.

      Also, are there any newer staff or younger staff listening and participating? I’d be sensitive to the power dynamics of that, and to setting norms for them that might not be helpful.

      But not unethical in and of itself.

      1. Bess*

        To follow up a bit more specifically–I’ve worked in some toxic workplaces in the past and over time I have really, really buttoned up what I will discuss about it in a work context, and who I’ll discuss it with. The absolute most I will do now is reality check with a trusted person, pretty lightly, to see if I’m perceiving something the same way as others. Then I keep to myself and work on any conversations I might have with management, or anything softer I can do myself, or I look for other work. This is to make sure my energy is funneled into doing something about it as opposed to venting, which I used to just get caught in like quicksand.

  27. Leaving Voluntarily*

    A few months ago I left a job at a law firm voluntarily (and this was actually voluntary, I wasn’t told to resign in lieu of being fired or anything), to take some time off. This firm, along with a few others, has recently gone through some well-publicized layoffs, that the firm has publicly stated were made due to performance concerns (whether or not that is actually the case is another matter).

    My concern is that when I do start job hunting in earnest, I might be lumped in with these non-voluntary layoffs given how close in time they were to my own leaving date. Is there anything I can say on my resume to somehow indicate I left intentionally after several years in Big Law to recharge and reassess my career path? Should I be addressing this in interviews proactively somehow?

    1. CTT*

      I think that’s something for the cover letter – talking about taking time off and why you’re ready to re-enter work.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This may be field-dependent, but I do NOT see being laid-off* as a mark against a candidate.

      *I know OP wasn’t laid off, but they’re concerned they would be perceived that way.

  28. Daphne*

    I need some new job advice.

    I’m wondering if anyone has a really good method for keeping notes, especially in the first few months of a job. I’m thinking of making a table of everyone I meet with their responsibilities, what we might work on together, etc. Normally I just take notes in a word doc but I think I need something more robust–maybe a Smart Sheet/AirTable, or Notion? Ideally this would help me not just starting out but also be a useful rolodex down the line for networking.

    For reference, I understand very little of how my current company operates despite being there for 2+ years. I worked remotely for most of the time, did not really have a manager or team, and only spoke to a small # of people, which obviously was bad for networking.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I’m an avid note taker but realistically do not have the time/executive function to keep my notes as organized as I like. Because my job has us locked in to Microsoft products, I use One Note because it’s so easy to just keep everything in one place and search for what I need when my tabs and notes aren’t enough help.

      I would absolutely use Notion if I could and am excitedly anticipating Microsoft Loop, their version of Notion. It has the same searchability but also I love the updatability of linked elements for reference documents you may need to make for yourself!

      1. alannaofdoom*

        Yes, tossing in another rec for One Note. It’s as structured as you need it to be – multiple workbooks with sections and tabs and nested sub-tabs; just a big running collection of tabs that grows weekly; or anything in between, whatever works for you – and the search feature is a huge plus. Also if you use other Office products, the integration is pretty good – for example, you can save emails from Outlook into One Note, you can save links to word/excel/powerpoint/etc files in your notes… My boss introduced me to the program and at this point I literally would not be able to function without it.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’m not sure about specific note taking technology as I’m quite “old school” like that and still write on paper a lot of the time (even though I work in tech!) but I think the key to it is structuring the information properly regardless of what system that is in.

      Broadly the categories of notes are People, Systems and Processes, Company Products/Customers, History.

      People – like you say, when you meet a new person note their name, what their role is and how it relates to yours, etc.

      Systems and Processes – e.g. “time sheets – TPS system – due weekly by 6pm Friday”, “need to notify Security if you will be working weekend”, etc.

      Company Products/Customers – obviously very company specific but anything you find out about the company’s products e.g. Red teapots are bespoke for Customer X but blue and green teapots are sold via our website and only the green teapots are sold on Amazon.

      History – this is a bit of a gold mine of info as often when you get introduced to people or sit with someone for a while to talk through what they do – people throw out bits of info like “we used to make pink teapots as well but we stopped those a couple of years ago because of competitor X” which are valuable context.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Came here to say One Note.
        I like that it is a white space where I can spread out my text box notes, but it still has the familiar file structure of a computer.

  29. Pin Collector*

    Hey all, question for people who interview/anyone who’s interviewed in this situation:

    What is the general consensus on wearing a pronoun pin to an interview? I’d be buying myself something hopefully relatively mature and small (but still big enough to be read without having to really stare at my chest haha), so I’m not exactly planning on showing up with a 2″ pin covered in rainbow cartoon frogs or anything, but I worry that even like, a relatively plain and smaller metal pin might be frowned upon.

    I’m frequently misgendered, and I’d like to wear a pin to ward off at least some of the “ma’am”-ing I usually have to deal with, but I also don’t want to break some sort of interview taboo and seem unprofessional.

    (Any tangentially-related advice or tips about appropriate pins for work in general would also be appreciated! But I gotta get through interviews before I worry about that part, haha)

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m all for it, but some interviewers may be taken aback and think it’s aggressive. Would you want to work for those people, though? I guess it depends on how choosy you can be about jobs.

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      If you showed up to my interview with a pronoun pin I would take it as a sign that you share at least some of the values as my team/org and not only would I appreciate the heads up, but it would give me good vibes. I am, however, 33 and queer and in a fairly progressive org.

      There is nothing unprofessional about it, but there are plenty of folks in the working world who roll their eyes at any kind of identity talk who will have the inverse of my reaction and see it as a signal that you’re a bad culture fit. Which is probably true and you might be happier not in that job, but it depends on whether you can afford to prioritize happiness over rent.

      TL;DR You aren’t making an unprofessional misstep, but there can still be professional consequences you need to consider!

      1. ferrina*

        Totally agree with all of this. I would appreciate it, most folks in my company would appreciate it/not see it as an issue, but that’s because we also emphasize and actively value inclusion. That won’t be the case at every company (my last company would likely have screened you out), so weigh the pros and cons and what you’re looking for in a company.

      2. Blueberry Girl*

        I would 100% agree with this. It might have consequences, but that might be okay with you- if you’re looking to filter out specific types of roles.

    3. nonprofiteer*

      Are you doing in person interviews or zoom? If zoom you can put it in your name. You could also do it as part of your intro in person (my name is Pin Collector, I use he/him pronouns).

      My only concern with a pin is that it could seem a bit unprofessional and too advocate-ey, like that part of your identity is the most essential thing about you. But I could also see it being no big deal.

      1. Pin Collector*

        I imagine everything I do will be in-person, for better or worse. I don’t know anywhere near me that’s doing Zoom stuff still.

        I think part of my thinking is a pin seems less aggressive than having to say my pronouns myself, somehow? I’m curious to know why you (if I’m interpreting you correctly!) consider saying them less advocate-y than a pin? (I hope that doesn’t come across as rude! I don’t have anyone irl with any experience in this area, so knowing other people’s thoughts on everything is super helpful for me.)

        1. Sun in an Empty Room*

          Not the commenter above, but I agree that simply mentioning your pronouns during the introduction seems more natural and conversational and potentially less advocate-y. I think a pin would make more sense in a situation where you’re meeting lots of different people and might not have time to individually talk to each of them (such as in a customer service setting while working or maybe the first few days in the office.) I think that the pin might feel advocate-y because it puts one element of your identity before everything else (which is certainly a valid way to feel.) but a verbal introduction with pronouns just makes that one more data point in the conversation. And maybe I just feel pins are advocate-y bc I’m an elder millennial and pins/patches were a big part of political expression when I was in my teens.

          1. nonprofiteer*

            I’m in nonprofits and pronouns are a normal part of introductions, so it wouldn’t seem out of place to me. and i too associate pins with political expression that was part of my life as a young person…in the 1990s, so YMMV.

            in a perfect world neither would be a big deal, but for someone reason this issue causes a lot of feelings in people so it could potentially be. But as someone else said, if you have flexibility it could also be a barometer of where you do or do not want to work – if they catch feelings about a pronoun pin, maybe it isn’t a great place to spend 40 hours a week.

            1. Pin Collector*

              Thank you for expanding on that more!

              I’ve never actually had a situation in my life where anyone has introduced themselves with pronouns or asked for mine outside of the LGBT clinic I go to, so it seems so “out of the ordinary” that I never thought about that being a normal part of anything… it makes me feel hopeful reading comments saying that it’s something people just, well, do!

              I also appreciate the perspective of them reading as political or statement-y. I’m a middle-millennial, so I was too young in the 90s to have that same experience. My experience with pins has been more of them being jewelry, or collectible art things, and it’s not something that was on my radar at all. That’s a helpful thing for me to think about, since there’s a good chance I might interview with someone with a different idea of what the pins “mean” than I do.

              Thanks to everyone who’s commented, I’ve got a lot to think about and weigh pros and cons here. :)

      2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Our org’s LGBTQIA+ ERG gives out pins like this to all our staff and it’s pretty normal around here. Our highest leadership wears them on their lapels or ties or ID lanyard. We also introduce ourselves with pronouns, but the pins are a helpful visual reminder. Folks often struggle to remember the name of someone they just met and many people we work with consider it a courtesy to give them one less thing to remember.

        I am not arguing with your point; you’re right some people will have that perspective and it’s something Pin Collector should consider.

        But! I think it’s important to have reminders that it isn’t always that way because we’re so bombarded with Negative Gender News right now. :)

    4. RagingADHD*

      Are they commonly worn where you are? I don’t know the look you’re describing.

      My thought is that if it looks like jewelry, people may very well miss the message, and won’t know what it is. If it is large and obvious enough to be unmissable, it will look like “flair,” and people are likely to think it is strange because flair pins aren’t normally worn in office jobs, and isn’t the way people usually introduce themselves.