open thread – May 5-6, 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.

{ 997 comments… read them below }

  1. Flowers*

    Need suggestions for a script and other things if possible?

    Tl;dr – I relayed information poorly on 3 separate occasions and my boss was frustrated about it. When we have our check in next week, I want to say to him that I acknowledge I made my mistakes, and I am taking it seriously and want to be better at it.

    For more background – a big part of my job is to work on notices: many of them are ongoing or new issues. Some are complicated, some aren’t. My job is to find the root of the issue, communicate with the relevant authorities and relay the information to my boss. The root of the problems didn’t originate from me.

    When I first started, he would give me the exact instructions but after a few months, he said he was expecting me to take on a bigger role in this – more collaborative, more of my judgment/opinion, and less “just taking instruction” so to speak.Things were fine for a while and he was satisfied with my work. But over the last few weeks there was a specific issue with a client and he made it clear he was unhappy with how I was relaying information to him about that client.

    The most recent meeting was a bit intense, but we quickly broke that tension and had a good conversation afterwards. He’s been on vacation since then but we will be meeting next week for our regular check ins.

    This is where I’m stuck – if he asks why? I just don’t know what to say. I’ve been replaying it over and over in my head where I went wrong. I know that my mistakes stemmed from some issue in processing, interpreting and relaying the information. Carelessness? Lack of diligence? Idk. (Tbh I’m not sure how much advice I can get on here about that piece of it and I don’t think this is something I can address in my therapy sessions?)

    When I talk to him I want to relay that I am taking it seriously. I know he is trusting me to give him complete, correct, whole information and that I shouldn’t have been (cavalier? not-diligent? better?) about it. I don’t want it to seem like I’m making excuses.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Try not to overthink it (I know). Just say that you appreciate the feedback, you’re taking it seriously, and working to improve. That’s all you really need to say.

      1. Robert Smith's Hair*

        And then ACTUALLY work on it. If you find that he’s still telling you that he’s not getting what you need, then you should ask for specifics so you can improve on it. You can say, “I’ve done x and y to address your needs, but it sounds like I’m still falling short. Can you help me understand what I’m missing so I can fully address them?” That gives your boss the opportunity to correct themselves for not being clear on what they need OR helping you distill information for them. Good luck! You’ve got this.

      2. Water Lily*

        Came here to say exactly this. If I were a boss, just saying, even if it’s just at the end of the update, “by the way, I know I had some communication missteps last week. I get it, I see where I can do better, and I’ll work on it. Thanks for your patience.”

        1. Sloanicota*

          I would agree with this, but it sounds like maybe OP doesn’t quite get it yet, in terms of exactly where the slips occurred or how to fix it? Is just “paying more attention to this issue” going to be enough? I know I screwed up something this week (forgot the time of an important meeting and came late, only after my boss reminded me) and felt really bad about it. There was no one reason it happened – it was right on my calendar, I knew it was important, I intended to be there, then then just had a brain fart at the exact wrong moment. In that case, I just apologized sincerely and resolved to pay more attention (reviewing my calendar every day before work starts, as well as at the beginning of the week as I had been doing). No other remediation required. But if I wasn’t positive how to fix it, it would take more effort on my part to talk to the boss about it.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      So what steps are you going to take to stop, reflect, change course the next time a similar problem happens?

      Tell you boss that (a) you realize you weren’t doing enough of that, and (b) when (thing happens), you’ll know that you need to do the extra work.

    3. Gondorff*

      Honestly, I think you say exactly what you said in your second-to-last sentence, up until ‘and’.

      “I know you are trusting me to give you complete correct, whole information. That didn’t happen here, and I own my role in that and apologize for it. I want you to know that I am taking this seriously and will correct it moving forward.”

      You don’t need to give an excuse or a reason unless he asks. And he very well may not! Often times just the simple act of owning that it was a mistake and won’t happen again is enough, especially with something like this.

      1. Flowers*

        That’s a good point – he’s not a micromanager (which I’m *still* trying to get used to cz im used to that) and I don’t think he will ask the whys.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Try asking for boss’s advice. 1) Boss will know the ins and outs you can’t relay here so might have better incite on where to focus your efforts for improvement. 2) People generally like to be asked for their advice, it makes them feel appreciated and listened to.

      For a script, I’d try something like:
      “I was thinking about our last discussion about client X while you were out of the office. I’m having difficulty pinpointing where I started going off the rails. Could you help me figure it out so I could correct myself going forward?”

      Also, have a few of the likely issues ready so boss doesn’t feel like they have to do your job for you, something like:
      “Should I have brought issue A to you earlier?” “Did I not tackle issue B quickly enough?” “Is there something I should be looking for so issue C doesn’t blindside me again?”

      1. Aquamarine*

        I agree with asking your boss for guidance here. You don’t want to assure him you’ve got it under control and that you’ll do better next time when you’re not sure where things went wrong. You need to be able to figure that out first in order to be able to correct the problem, and your boss may be able to offer some help.

        Also, he’ll be able to see that you’re really thinking this through carefully and wanting to improve. If you’ve only recently started to work without specific instructions from him, it’s totally understandable that there is still more to learn at this point.

        1. Cj*

          exactly this. you’re obviously having a hard time identifying what went wrong, and you can’t correct if you don’t know that. the last thing you want to do is tell him that you’ve got it covered and will do better, then have the same thing happen again.

      2. Flowers*

        So in this case – he brings the issues to me since he’s the one with primary contact with clients. Usually if a client copies me I’ll take the initiative on it but for the most part he will bring it to me.

        In this case I think where I went wrong was –

        This was assigned to me back in October. Conversations/resolutions, completed. Silent for a while and it came back up. So when it comes back up I have to review everything all over again as I’ve pretty much forgotten it after months.

        For the most part we upload documentation etc but call notes and emails or verbal conversation summaries aren’t uploaded. He’s big on verbal communication and while I enjoy conversations, I tend to forget after. So I think I need to start writing everything down and putting those notes in. I should have written down and uploaded my notes to our central system. I take notes while I’m doing the task but I usually discard them once completed.

    5. Tio*

      Hm. If you’re stuck on the why, it would help to look at the before and after – what did you tell him, and what did he want to hear. Is there a pattern you can identify there? If not, you can tell him that you do not want to repeat the mistakes and ask if he has specific feedback about what he wants you to do differently, but to me it sounds a bit like he’s expecting you to know enough to make some changes. What was different about the times you communicated with no issue and the times you had issues?

    6. Anonymous Koala*

      I just wanted to let you know that this is a totally normal thing to address during therapy sessions – you can explain what happened and your therapist may be able to help you identify skills or techniques that you can use to avoid this in the future. A lot of therapists (particularly LCSWs) do this kind of work with clients all the time.

    7. connie*

      Would it help you to get issues management training to supplement what you previously learned from your boss? Some of what you say you’re doing sounds at last analogous to issues management or crisis management. Issues management is as much about internal communication as it is external, and could help you develop skills to learn how to parse what needs to be shared quickly and with whom, in forms that work for them. Do you think that suggestion would be amenable to your boss?

    8. Double A*

      I think you can also be honest if you’re struggling to understand where the disconnect is this time. Acknowledge you’re working on it, but also ask for his perspective on where you got off track and how you might address it next time. You can share your thoughts to show you’ve thought about, and then ask for his perspective.

      You can also ask him if there’s anything unique about this situation that you need to keep an eye out for in the future — maybe he has some insight about this particular client, or this process that you wouldn’t necessarily know because you’re new.

      “Can you help me understand what went wrong and what I can do better or look out for next time?” shows that you are taking this seriously and actually working on it.

    9. Yes And*

      From my perspective as a manager, when significant errors occur, I like to go to problem-solving – not just saying we’ll be more diligent/communicative/whatever in the future, but actually putting in processes to check ourselves as we go. Is there anything you can suggest, or even implement, in that regard? Not just to say you know it’s a problem, but to show that you’re taking steps to make sure it won’t happen again?

      1. RagingADHD*

        As someone who needs robust processes and actually enjoys creating them for myself, I agree.

        Could you, for example, create a notification checklist or flow chart for yourself? Or a document template you could fill out and use every time?

        You could list all of the questions that you need to ask or information items that your boss would want to know about. For example (just off the top of my head, yours of course will differ):

        -How did we discover the issue? Client raised it, someone internal raised it, regulator raised it, etc.

        -How did it impact the client? Cost, deadline, changes / additional work that needs to be done, etc.

        -Have we identified the source of the issue? Yes/no, specify.

        -Have regulators been appropriately notified? Yes/no, date, link to file of notification.

        -Has remediation begun? Yes / no, date begun, due date, who is doing the remediation?

        -Is remediation complete? Yes/no, date complete.

        -Has client been notified of remediation? Yes/no, date, link to file of notification.

        You could even use the prior sets of instructions as a basis for your template. Showing something like this to your boss, or asking for his feedback on it, would demonstrate concrete action toward change.

    10. JSPA*

      This is wordy, because I am wordy (and tired). But it’s free advice, so.
      Work to do on your own:

      1. first focus on the process and format, in case it’s partially a “how we do this” issue; there may be some things that you’d have fully described in an email, that don’t stay at the front of your mental checklist, in person.

      2. look for spots where there’s a conflict between “telling the fun stuff” and “telling the boring essentials.”

      3. look for spots where you’re over emphasising your opinions, vs the client; equally, look for spots where you are over-highlighting the few spots of disagreement (and your answer to those disagreements) over the meat of the matter.

      4. in general, make it explicit that you’re doing two jobs; one is reporting on your take, and the other is reporting, with zero spin, on what the clients said.

      5. are you broadly good on picking up on cues? especially from people with different backgrounds, who may indicate trust/distrust, enthusiasm/lack of enthusiasm, buy-in/polite non-interest differently than you do?

      6. Are there patterns in what gets lost, such that you lose track of date and money hard facts, while chasing look-and-feel or other squishier goals? Or the opposite?

      Not knowing what failed to get passed along, here are some examples.

      let’s say you have a block against discussing perceptions and emotions in person; you relay the hard facts, but not that the client seemed underwhelmed, or overwhelmed, or unsure of the direction.

      let’s say your focus on passing along your own preferences. That then blocks your ability to give equal time to the fact that the customer (for example) is not actually on board with your choices, and wants to hear other options.

      Or maybe it’s the opposite, such that when you focus on the customer’s disagreement with one small aspect (and your proposed fix) you fail to include all of the basic information about what you presented, what they agreed to, and proposed dates.

      Or maybe you are grooving on approval, and you end up blowing smoke up the boss’ ass, not because you’re trying to mislead, but because you like to be the bearer of good news. (This may also be something that works differently in person and by email.)

      Going in to the meeting:

      Your goal is to have a working hypothesis of what’s going on, besides, “hunh, guess I was a flake, and thinking about lunch.” And perhaps one or two practical tools that should keep you to a tighter standard, without the boss needing to double-back to find out what’s missing.

      “I’ve worked through the situations, and my hypothesis is that I get caught up on [type of information] (or “have some block against bringing up [type of information],” or “I may be someone who doesn’t really register [some aspect of personal interaction]”).

      “So for example, with [client A] I over-focused on topic 1, and registered but did not give appropriate airing to topic 2 and 3 and 4. Similarly, with client B, I was so glad to have worked out topic 2, that it didn’t even register that you needed to hear that we were fine as always on topic 1, but that topic 3 seemed to be going a bit off the rails…plus I didn’t really have the language to understand and sum up what was going on with that.”

      “Because I’m now aware that my focus is not as levelhanded as I believed it to be, I’m planning on entering every conversation with a literal written checklist in my pocket that I can run through before, during, and after, as needed, and it will have specific slots for [that thing I tend to overlook]. I’m thinking of emailing myself a filled-out summary based on the checklist immediately after every meeting, and cc-ing you.”

      1. RagingADHD*

        I think most of this is a really great way to look at the soft-skill or info processing aspect of it. But I disagree pretty strongly that the internal or emotional processing aspect should be part of the discussion with the boss.

        “I may be someone who doesn’t really register” or “I have a block” is great for talking to the therapist. But IMO it’s way too personal for a 1-on-1 with the boss, and more importantly it is stuff that cannot be dealt with by management. So it could come off sounding like a cop-out.

        It was supposed to happen, it didn’t happen, here’s the practical change to keep it from going wrong next time. That’s the boss’s area of concern and influence.

        1. umami*

          Yes, and I find that most of the time when my direct reports are not communicating well with me, it’s because they start in the middle of the situation and leave out ‘how we got here’. I can’t assess the situation without the relevant background information and a good summary of what has already occurred to mitigate it.

          So: summarize the issue and how it came about, what the client’s take is, what communication has already occurred, and what still needs correction/guidance for a positive outcome. Don’t overly apologize or continually revisit past mistakes

        2. JSPA*

          I’m thinking here of stuff that verges on accommodations.

          If (e.g.) you’re face blind, it can be as real a “nope, can’t just try harder” situation as being color blind. If you are unable to register sarcasm, or correctly assess facial expression, there may legitimately be blank spots that are not only blank, but you don’t even have an awareness of what’s potentially missing.

          I only brought it up in passing because Flowers seems so bamboozled over the how / what / why. If, after you go through all of the steps of self inquiry, you still don’t quite get what’s missing, sometimes it really is, “this isn’t something I can record and process, so if it’s essential, we need a work-around that doesn’t involve my brain.”

          It doesn’t necessarily feel great to find yourself there. But it’s a lot better than faking something that isn’t a brief “fake it to make it.”

          1. RagingADHD*

            I would think 1) asking the manager for help clarifying his expectations, and 2) asking the therapist if accommodations might help, would be extremely necessary precursors to the OP asking for accommodation based on self-diagnosis. Or Internet diagnosis, for that matter.

            Because I assure you, throwing out random self-diagnoses is going to do OP’s credibility absolutely no favors, particularly if the boss is already concerned about their perception of what is or is not relevant to the job at hand.

    11. theletter*

      I agree that you’re overthinking this. The best way to show that you’re taking it seriously is to take it seriously.

      His return from vacation is the perfect opportunity to do that. Prepare your update with whatever amount of diligence he expects and then continue to do that moving forward.

      Skip the apologies and assurances and just show him you can do the job.

    12. Flowers*

      Wow lots of great advice here thanks all! Will try to address some things individually when I’m back at my computer.

      But to mention quickly –

      over the meetings with him (there were about 3), I either

      1. didnt’ have enough information

      “So what’s going on with this client?
      “It’s a lot of information and I want to double check to make sure it’s correct before I come back to you.”

      2. I interpreted it incorrectly and thus relayed it incorrectly

      “The elephants are blue.”
      “But the zoo said they’re orange”
      Well yes but we know they’re blue they’re saying orange due to bad information that they have.

      3. failed to mention a detail because I assumed he already knew it. Aka the bad information that turned them orange.

      Sorry I know these are weird examples but Idk how else to explain it without laying out ALL the details about the client and their situation which I can’t share here.

      The way I see it generally – I want to keep it as short as possible but I should know the details and ready to tell them. Stick to the facts only and give my opinion (since it’s asked in this case).

      The opinion/guidance I can work on because it’s a matter of needing more experience in it. There are solid resources for that.

      I tend to to simplify things to a fault.

  2. Interviewing when voluntary unemployed*

    I am voluntary unemployed since last month as I resigned without anything lined up. I was there for only 6 months, but I was experiencing severe anxiety/depression. Partly due to the job itself (stressful job, OT without compensation) and partly due to some of things that were going on my life (which are not 100% resolved btw).
    I have been feeling better (yay!) and even have some interviews next week, but my being unemployed will surely come up and I do not want it to ruin my chances at getting a new job. Any advice on how to go about it would be welcome!
    Should I say that a) simply wanted to take a break b) previous work environment was stressful (explain the constant OT w/out comp.) and wanted to take a break and take time to choose carefully my next long-term job.
    Additional info: I’m in early 30s, prior to the recent job, I was at another one for 5 years. Someone also suggested that I tell them that I am taking a mental health break (as companies have become more understanding of this lately).

    1. ThatGirl*

      I would not say mental health break, honestly. I would say “took some time off to deal with a health issue that is now resolved” or something similar.

      1. Tina*

        +1
        My friend just did this. Never said anything about mental health, just “medical issue that is now resolved”, it was fine. .

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        ^^^ This is what I’ve used for even longer periods. It’s a good (and truthful) phrase.

        1. Me...Just Me*

          I had to use something like this to explain why I stuck with a job that was below my level of education/expertise for a few years rather than move on with my spanking new Master’s degree. “I had some health concerns that have since resolved that I needed to address and didn’t feel that it was the right time to transition to a different position.” This proved to be very effective verbiage and interviewers didn’t think twice when making offers (that I could tell, at least).

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      I left a job voluntarily around a year ago as i was about to have surgery, then took about 7-8 months off. When I started interviewing again, I told them exactly what happened and it was fine.

      That said, mental health break might land differently than hip surgery, depending on who you’re speaking with. So I’d say something more general but overall should be ok.

    3. Riot Grrrl*

      It’s been a month. That’s nothing.

      “Yes, I left my position at Mega Corp because the job turned out to focus more on market X, whereas I’m more interested in market Y, which is what you specialize in.”

      1. amoeba*

        Oh, true. I actually read over that part. The advice above is great, but for a one month break, I think it wouldn’t even be necessary/come up! If they do ask, sure. But probably they’re just going to assume you’ve been job hunting for a few week, which wouldn’t be unusual at all! Just have an explanation ready why you left your last job, and I think you’ll be good.

    4. Qwerty*

      I did this last year! It is pretty easy to simply say that you wanted a break before persuing your next opportunity, just be able to say what you did with that break (travel, spend time with family, etc).

      My explanation was that I was working 80-100hr weeks which does not allow time for job hunting, so I took some time off to recharge before looking for jobs. I wanted to make sure that I was running towards an opportunity that was a good fit rather than risk merely running away from long hours. This went over really well in interviews, plus my “what have you been doing” response involved an apartment move and exploring the city (I moved during covid so hadn’t seen anything and paired this with a quip about what new place I’d discovered that week)

      Don’t stress too much! With the massive layoffs going on, they’ll probably just assume you were laid off and might not even ask. Pick an answer that you are comfortable with – if you look stressed when responding, it can look like you are hiding something. The main reason I got asked was I was up to was because tech bros assume devs are always coding personal projects so they thought I was going to tell them about my new app rather than my hiatus from computers.

    5. Michelle Smith*

      I wouldn’t say the environment was stressful. Many environments are stressful and you don’t want them to assume that their office stress levels will be too intense for you.

      I’d find a professional sounding way to say the job ended up being different than what you initially signed up for, so you left in order to find something that more aligns with your values and goals. And I’d say what those are. Like if the reason you were stressed was unreasonable workload or an expectation you work around the clock without compensation, I might suggest stating that the work-life balance was different than what you anticipated and you’re seeking opportunities now that better align with that priority. And I’d follow it up by asking what they perceive to be the work-life balance at the company/on this team and how routine it is for people to work “overtime.”

    6. JSPA*

      No need to reference medical stuff. You have a 5-year stint on your record! That’s gold! You don’t need to explain leaving one job that was simply not as expected.

      I took some time to breathe and relax after a job with constant overtime” references the sort of “mental health break” that companies (and human beings, more generally) consider normal, good, and an example of healthy, appropriate self-care.

      I would not bring up that you stayed at the job until it (and other circumstances) pushed you into severe distress…and that this was a mental health break in the literal sense.

      Not only because of “we penalize mental health issues” (though, that too) but because it says the opposite of the above: “I don’t prioritize appropriate self-care until I start to disintegrate under the strain.” The companies who want that in a worker are not companies that you should be working for. Too much risk of setting up a bad cycle.

      Now, someone with no actual mental health issues absolutely can talk, laughingly, about taking a “mental health break,” because they can make it stick as code for, “yeah, I was starting to feel a bit dragging and burnt out, went camping for a week, doing great now.”

      It’s so much trickier if you were at the severe / severe stage. You can’t just toss off “here’s the fun healthy stuff I did to decompress” when it’s been more like, “I watched the dark patch on the wallpaper until I convinced myself the roof was leaking, then I wondered if there was black mold and spiders behind it, but after 3 days I made myself look at it with a magnifying glass, and it said “spalding” in reverse, so I realized it was a mark from where a prior renter had bounced a basketball off the wall. Then I beat myself up for having been anxious, until finally a friend called, and even though I didn’t want to see them, I didn’t have the energy to refuse when they insisted that I take a shower and join them for a walk. Plus I also ate something other than vinegar potato chips, which helped.”

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

      Don’t say anything about the previous company. That’s going to look bad, like you are bad-mouthing them or that you can’t handle stress, which all jobs have at some amount.

      You could say that you took time off for a short-term family obligation. That you were taking a long vacation or break or exploring educational opportunities.

      You could also say you left the job after 6 months because the logistics of the job did not work out or that they needed skills that you didn’t have (which is true. you didnt have the skills to work overtime unpaid!)

      Good luck!

      1. evens*

        I would suggest that lying is bad, despite the near-constant advice to do so in the comments. There was no vacation, no educational opportunities, no lacking skills (working overtime isn’t a skill). It was a health issue that is now resolved. Just stick with that.

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

          No working overtime is not a skill but the company wanted to use OP’s skill for overtime. so therefore her skills were not right being she didn’t want to use those skills for overtime.

          1. evens*

            Split hairs all you want, you suggested several lies. I would not lie in this situation, especially since the truth is perfectly acceptable.

    8. HCTZ*

      I took a year off work last year and whenever anybody professional asked, I just said “I had some family issues that required my full attention. I didn’t know how long I would need off so I decided to take a complete step back from work.” This wasn’t the reason but people get that.

    9. Interviewing when voluntary unemployed*

      These responses have been so helpful. Thank you all for replying and even sharing your own experiences.

      I am not going to mention mental health break as this is the general consensus. I think it’s better to use the ‘job was X and not Y like I wanted, so I took some time off to decompress before my next job opportunity’.

      The gap is only a month but I still resigned without anything lined up which is uncommon so I do not want the gap to become several months… fingers crossed :)

      1. Sloanicota*

        My only other comment is to triangulate a bit with what you think your last job might say on a reference call. If they’re going to say you were irritable, careless, scattered, or anything like that, it would be nice to include a sense that you’ve learned from what went wrong there and you’re confident this new opportunity wouldn’t have the same result. If they have no complaints other than that you left shortly, that’s fine.

        1. Ms Required*

          Any advice if you’re pretty sure that they’re going to say that you were irritable, scatter-brained, and not fulfulling all the expected responsibilities…?

          (I’ve just left a dream job that turned into a nightmare, and I am looking for something that is less stress but in the same field- it was my first chance in that field and while my sensible head says that it’s not going to be the end of that career, my unwell-head* says otherwise…

          *I tried to step down to a position with less responsibility in the same organisation. They accepted my resignation and cited my poor mental health as why a position of less responsibility would be inappropriate. I am aware that this is almost certainly on the wrong side of the law where I live. Also trying to work out how I wish to deal with that.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Sorry to be replying so late! Well, if you honestly feel that your own attitude at your last job was not great, that’s when it’s good to come clean and say that you were experiencing a personal health crisis or dealing with a difficult family situation, or whatever feels most accurate to you (without getting allllll into it in an interview) but that you’ve taken the time off you needed to resolve those issues and you’re back on track now. Most places will forgive past performance if you make it clear that you learned something from it and understand how to keep it from happening again. But you wouldn’t want to just say “oh, it was more admin than I thought” if the reference is likely to say “she was distracted and irritable” because the hiring manager may detect the mis-match there and not want to move forward with you.

    10. Aitch Arr*

      I was in a similar situation ~10 years ago. I left a job after 8 months. It was the worst company I had worked for. My other jobs I had held for 5+ and 8+ years, so this 8 month stint was nothing but a blip.

      After a few months’ mental health break, I started interviewing. When asked about the prior company and my short stint there, I was honest, yet diplomatic: “Unfortunately, it was not as collaborative an environment as I had hoped.”

      People read between the lines. ;)

  3. Farts*

    Well, I was told my role was eliminated this morning, as part of a layoff. Technically next Friday is my termination date, but I don’t have to work for the next week. 6 weeks severance.

    Anywho, any advice? I have 2 interviews on Monday (I’ve actually been looking for a new job for like 6 months…), how do I bring this up? Should I mention it right away? How should I word it?

    1. ThatGirl*

      You’re likely to be asked why you’re looking for a new job. At that point you can say “well, I’ve been looking for awhile because X, but as it turned out, my role was just eliminated” … or you can stick to “well, I was just informed my role was eliminated and I’ve been laid off.” Either is normal and fine.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      You don’t have to bring it up at all if you don’t want to. Of course, don’t lie if your interviewers ask about your “current” job but there’s no obligation for you to bring it up proactively.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I have a feeling like that was a question (more or less) recently? If I remember correctly, the advice was, as you say, “no need to bring it up proactively, just don’t lie”.

    3. Tio*

      Just say the company had layoffs. That’s a fairly normal thing that no one will really think is odd, and not much more needs to be said

    4. spcepickle*

      I am in team don’t bring it up at all.
      Your resume was accurate, unless you are getting a really high level security clearance they don’t need actual start and end dates of jobs.
      The only thing would be to make sure your references are all still going to give good feedback, but they also don’t need to mention the layoff.
      I doubt it will come up at all.

      Good luck with interviews!

    5. Armchair Analyst*

      could you say you are a prophet and you correctly forecast your company’s troubles and strategies and started looking for a new job and coincidentally, you are immediately available to start.

      don’t do that

      1. Trotwood*

        You could probably allude to having seen some instability in the company’s future, which prompted you to start applying elsewhere, and that you’d subsequently been laid off along with X% of the company’s workforce.

        1. I have RBF*

          I’ve actually done this – saw the handwriting on the wall, bailed, and then they laid off a bunch of others after I left. “They were having financial issues, and I found out after I left that they actually did layoffs.” is the way I phrase it if asked. Usually it never comes up, especially if it’s known that the company just did layoffs.

    6. Bird Lady*

      You’ll likely be asked why you are looking for a new job during the interview. I’d focus on the reasons you applied before this news (you are interested in working on x, have a skill that will help company with y, etc) but there’s no reason why you can’t also mention the layoffs. No employer will blink an eye at something happening daily.

    7. L. Ron Jeremy*

      take one week off between jobs. you won’t have an opportunity for awhile.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        This. I think everyone has adequately covered how to address the job hunting/layoff if it comes up, but I’ll add that it’s so easy to fall into the “I can start tomorrow” mindset and if you can give yourself a little time to just enjoy not working, do it. I know not everyone has the luxury, but if it’s available to you, TAKE it.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Oh I want this for you, OP! It’s very much a know-your-field situation. My field is not “hot” and never has been in my decade of work, so I wouldn’t delay searching and would instead try to delay the start date so I can have that break with more security – because it has always taken me forever to get a job, and I don’t want to be kicking myself for not getting started right away (I’d give myself like a day to recover but then start sending resumes – I’m going to have plenty of time to unwind in the next six months, which is how long I’d be unemployed if I got fired today). But if you’re in something in-demand and are confident you’ll be able to find something, definitely take the opportunity to recharge before you dive back in, and you’ll find yourself a better interview subject too.

      3. Aitch Arr*

        Or longer if you can just live on your severance for a while, and also assuming your severance covers health insurance.

    8. Firecat*

      I’d stick with the reasons you were looking pre-layoff.

      Sadly once layoffs are mentioned it itches the – will this person actually like this job or are they desperate – anxiety. I know this from personally being on the interview panel when a lot of laid of individuals applied for some roles.

    9. Biff*

      My biggest advice is buckle down on your financials right now. You may have already done a lot of this, but it’s worth double-checking each category to make sure you have the best chance of chugging through.

      1. Check on all of your subscriptions. You might cancel everything, but I’d strongly advise keeping one streaming service.
      2. Remember you might have Amazon subscriptions!
      3. Clean out your pantry/storage room and take stock of what you have. I’ve been eating through my pantry for 15 months now, and while it hasn’t covered all the bases, it’s certainly taken the sting out of some months!
      4. Have your mechanic do a “pre-buy” style inspection on your car. You might have some preventative maintenance you can do to stave off expensive fixes.
      5. Schedule up the dentist, the doctor…. make the most of those bennies before they run out!
      6. Personally, I don’t advise Cobra as a general rule. Really think about if it’s worth it. Remember that even if you’ve met your deductible, you start over. I didn’t know that.
      7. Unsubscribe from advertisements, content creators that push you to buy, and that sort of thing.

      1. Rosemary*

        You deductible starts over with COBRA? I did not know that. IF LW is actively looking for a new job and thinks they might have one soon, I would not sign up for COBRA right away because there is a grace period (60 days? 90 days?) If no health issues come up between now and starting a new job then the coverage wouldn’t be needed (assuming benefits at new job kick in right away). If something DOES happen within the grace period, you can sign up (you’ll just have to cover the premiums to date). COBRA does tend to be very expensive, but depending on what kinds of healthcare needs you have, it might be worth it to keep it for a few months for the continuity of care. But if you end up being unemployed for longer look into something less expensive.

        1. I have RBF*

          IMO, COBRA is expensive, yes, but comparable coverage on the exchanges is even more! Yes, I compared equivalent plans, same carrier, and COBRA was cheaper because of the group coverage thing.

          1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

            I was lucky. When I was laid off at the end of last year, my (former) employer threw in 6 months of COBRA.

      2. JSPA*

        I don’t know of any state or plan where your deductible start over with Cobra, unless you’re at the start of a new plan year, or you’re somehow opting into a different plan (which one might do, to cut costs, and then rue it).

        Google seems to agree with me, though there may be some state-specific or plan-specific differences.

        I’m thinking either someone screwed with you, Biff, or they were badly informed themselves…and if it’s not too late, you ought to follow up on it.

        1. Biff*

          Oh dear. Mine did start over, I don’t know if it was a hose up or what. I’ll look into that.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        This, and apply for unemployment benefits RIGHT NOW. They won’t start until the severance runs out, but you are better off having them waiting in case your job search takes longer than you think. Six weeks is not that long.

        I don’t want to scare you, OP, but when this exact thing happened to me at OldExjob, it took a whole year to find something. Luckily, it happened during the Obama administration, which had set up tiered benefits. Mine ran out a week before I started at Exjob. Those tiers went away during The Annoying Orange’s tenure and I don’t think they’ve come back.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          It took me 9 months to find a job 6 years ago.
          I am in Texas and my unemployment benefits run consecutive with the severance, which was a generous 26 weeks, AND the company allowed me to stay on the insurance plan without going through COBRA for the same 26 weeks.
          I disclosed the lump sum to the Workforce Committee, and they still allowed me to draw the insurance benefits. It is possible this is a state by state, and/or lump sum vs deferred payouts and/or the actual amount of the severance.

    10. JSPA*

      If it comes up, you could say, “we started to read the writing on the wall a few months ago; layoff anouncements hit my department on friday, effective this coming friday, though they’re already turfing us out. So the timing is good!”

      Like, it’s a positive: you were aware; you were proactive; you searched deliberately; you’ve been tying up loose ends; you’ll be on severance and well rested when you get the call (or alternatively, you can start tomorrow, if they need someone yesterday).

    11. theletter*

      I’m so sorry that you were laid off!

      A recruiter told me years ago that you can feign ’employed’ for a month after your layoff – as in, having your resume continue to say ‘date started-present’ until May 31.

      But I think there’s a little less stigma around layoffs these days and given that you’ve anticipated the reduction and already started looking, I think it’s ok to be honest.

      One thing I’ve learned is that the more focused you are on the current opportunity, the less the old role matters. You could say things along the lines of ‘oh I would have applied even if I didn’t think layoff were coming,’ (if true) and ‘If you’re looking for someone to start immediately, I’ve got a great update!’

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, in tech if you haven’t been laid off at least once you’re seen as a bit junior. The average tenure in tech jobs is something like two years or so. “They did/are doing layoffs, so I’m looking for my next opportunity.” is pretty standard.

  4. New Mom*

    I have a job interview for a program director at a large flagship university. This is a one-person department and the person I would be reporting to is a professor who has their own work/research/classes and would not be doing any of the operations along with me. What type of questions are good to ask about this type of role? I’ve never applied to or worked in something like this.

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

      You could clarify who is going to be training you? Your supervisor…an operations person from another department…they haven’t even thought about it? The answer may tell you how well-organized and thought out your position would be. Clarify the goals of the position…what metrics = success?

      1. Tio*

        Also what training materials are available – SOPs, handbooks, policies – and will you be able to look at past program layouts for reference? Also are they looking for this role to follow the pattern of the past, or are they looking for any changes?

        1. New Mom*

          I love that last part about pattern of the past or looking for changes. I spoke to the person who is currently in the role, but they are retiring soon.

      2. Ama*

        Yes, this. I worked in university admin for a decade (and still work with a lot of academics) and usually professors in this kind of role are really, really not in the loop on operations policies and processes at the university. It can result in some situations where they expect X to happen tomorrow and it can’t because it is either directly against university policy or could have only happened if the professor had told you they wanted X a month ago when you had time to arrange for it.

        If this role exists because the professor does not want to deal with operations, definitely find out how they expect you to learn what the university processes are.

        1. New Mom*

          Oh, I love that you have such similar experience. Since it seems unlikely that the professor would be training me, and the person currently in the role is retiring very soon so I may not have much (if any) overlap if I were to be hired, is it common for large universities to have departments that support with on-boarding? I would definitely need support just getting accustomed to the software since it’s specific to the institution so I haven’t used it before. Is this something I should expect or ask about?

          1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

            I would ask about what kind of documentation the retiring person is preparing. Is there a 30-day plan in place to get you started? A list of the trainings you need to take/access you’ll need to request?
            My institution has a center to support staff training and professional development, including a lot of training on various software … but you need to know what to sign up for!

          2. MadCatter*

            Chiming in here since before my current job I was a department administrator reporting to a faculty member. Ama is totally correct that most faculty have very little knowledge on the operational processes. I found that my job required a lot of managing faculty expectations and trying to find a way to have them do what I needed without seeming like I was forcing them.

            In my instance, I did have a mentor when I first started but there were absolutely no documents or written procedures. I worked at a large state institution. Since I left, they have eliminated the mentor process and are just having people trained by HR which is frankly a terrible idea. I would 100% recommend asking about their training and onboarding and as a one person office, how will they connect you to others in similar positions so you can bounce day to day questions off of them.

          3. Ama*

            I would definitely ask. For specific software, it’s likely there’s some kind of training class for a large university (for example, I was trained in how the university budget software worked and using the fundraising database). With policies, I find it’s less formal — the university I worked for did have a pretty good internal website that had most of the policies for finance and HR so I would start there and if I was still confused I’d email/call someone in those departments. But having other administrators who I could ask “Hey have you ever had to [ask for an advance/hire a student worker/make a catering order]? Where should I start with this?” was pretty key to succeeding my first couple of years.

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

              This is my experience as well. The university will probably have someone in IT or HR that can show you the general software and university-level policies and procedures…how to submit a timecard, access HR documents, request a parking pass…but they won’t usually be able to train you directly on your job. Even operations is going to be different from college to college, but your best source is going to be finding another Ops to answer questions. At my private university, most folks are willing to answer questions or refer someone to the right source.

        2. Newly minted higher ed*

          I did alot of admin work in between people not knowing or caring what I did, or actively looking to block it, or professors expecting magic.

          one month, I just started going to the offices I’d identified handled processes that I needed support on, laying out the issue, and asking them what we could work out to make things happen. I went to housing, registration, admissions, and the business office (the latter was less than zero help so I basically downloaded all their documents and did that myself).

          it was stressful to figure out who at first, but once I’d made connections and made clear I’d do whatever to make results happen, I didn’t actually know much about the processes, how could I make our interface easier on them, individuals were more than happy to help me and send me to the people they knew elsewhere who could help.

          and often there is an admin nearby physically who knows many mysterious things who is willing to teach. What I’m getting at, the training on processes not being set up can be worked around. hope this helps and good luck!

    2. OtterB*

      Is it a new program, or are you replacing someone?
      What are you coordinating? Is it mostly connecting with students, will you be organizing events/meetings? Since there’s nobody else in the department, what resources are available to you for, say, creating web signup sheets, managing the program’s webpage, doing graphic design on flyers, etc., etc.?
      What does the professor think the most important accomplishment for the role would be?

      1. New Mom*

        This role has been held by the same person for over a decade and they are retiring very soon.

    3. Hanani*

      I echo Pay No Attention’s suggestion of how they measure success and what success looks like. I’d also ask about what kind of administrative support the role has, if there are peer colleagues in other program/depts, who will give you ongoing feedback and support, what their longer-term vision is for the program, whether it’s a new role or an existing one (and if existing, where did the previous person go)?

      Alison’s “what’s the difference between someone who is good at the role and someone who is great at the role” has always landed well for me.

      Good luck!

      1. New Mom*

        Thank you! I don’t want to get ahead of myself but the role sounds like a good fit for my interests, and also for my current life style.

    4. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      To add to the questions above – which departments/units would you most closely work with or collaborate? Are the duties of this position fairly consistent through the academic year, or are there certain annual or semesterly tasks/projects? What software would you need access to/need to learn? What will be the professor’s role/involvement in the program? Will you be making budgetary decisions? Depending on the role and work required, is hiring a student worker to support you an option? If you are hosting events, who can you tap for support/volunteers?

    5. noncommittal pseudonym*

      I have a similar position, though it’s a small 4-person department (and I am also a faculty member).

      What startled me the most after I started was what a huge proportion of my time goes into student recruitment. Student fairs, visiting classrooms, etc. etc. You might want to ask how much of that you will be expected to do.

      Also, ask if you’ll be doing class scheduling. That’s probably my biggest nightmare – making sure classes don’t overlap if the same students want to take them, and finding rooms!

    6. baby twack*

      Hi, this has been my job(s) for the last 11 years. Ask the professor what involvement they’ve had with the role and if they expect that to change. Ask what operational support, if any, is available to you (your professor’s home department may have front office staff that you have access to). Ask how the position is funded. Ask if they have any vision for growth of the program. Ask if they take direction from a board or other advisory group. Ask if they have documented processes and procedures (a lot of time in one person departments, the answer is no!).

      The best question I asked at my last interview was: Say you’re successful in hiring your ideal person for this position. How is your life[work] better?” That told me a lot about how I could expect to interact (or not) with my potential boss. (If he’d answered “I can focus on my research” I’d know that he didn’t want to be too involved; if he’d answered “I’d have a co-conspirator” I’d know he wanted to make decisions alongside me.

      Good luck – I honestly love this model, it gives me a lot of flexibility and autonomy and has enabled me to grow a TON professionally.

    7. rainy tuedsay*

      Do you know if the position is “soft money”, ie grant funded. If so, how long do you have on the current grant, what grant(s) need to be renewed to keep your position funded, what’s his track record on those grants.

    8. New Mom*

      Thank you all so SO much, I just copied these questions into a word doc. Cross your fingers for me that not only is this job a good fit, but that they want to hire me!

  5. PoolLounger*

    Looking for PM advice for moving to tech/scrum training. Any advice on scrum master training or agile implementation that was both helpful and useful in a similar type of role? I’ve been a program manager and project manager at a large tech firm for a number of years. I’ve realized the more big sky/strategic big idea work is not for me. Working with tech teams and process related work has always been a motivator, so I am thinking a shift to a more tactical and focused role is a good career move. My challenge is while I’m familiar with agile, I do not have any experience running a scrum team or as a product owner for more than a short time. Thanks for any advice or insight!

    1. Penguinwyn*

      Hey there! I moved from the ‘hardware’ over to ‘hardware-software hybrid’ role, and we are in the process of shifting from combined agile-waterfall (which ends up just being waterfall…) over to a strict agile structure in the coming weeks.

      2 suggestions:
      1. Maybe think about if you want to focus on the PROJECT side more or the PRODUCT side more. The roles and skills needed are really different! If you like Project more, then look at Scrum Master work and training, but if you really like the Product side and consumer and value focus… then Product Owner is a better fit.

      2. I like scrum alliance. You can purchase (or get your business to purchase for you?) PO and SM training offered by a variety of folks that will let you get certified. For my PO training I did it with Scrum Bob (Bob Schatz) and I really liked it. Scrum Alliance site has a TON of free articles, training paths, etc.

      Did I say 2? I mean 3.
      3: The best way to get good at this is to DO IT. Taking a class or training or reading articles is one thing, but moving to a role where you are really doing it will be your best way to get up the curve.

      Good luck!!

      1. trilusion*

        Very much agree with “just do it”. Of course, certifications may help in getting you a job as a Product Owner or Scrum Master role, but you learn most while on the job. It will be a steep learning curve which you can complement with listening to agile-themed podcasts with titels that correspond to your actual to dos or current problems you may have, talking them out with colleagues who also work in an agile setup, reading articles, following people with these topics on linkedin etc.

        Source: Did the scrum.org certifications in 2017, never could apply much of it to work, then transitioned from IT project manager to product owner in 2019 and have now been working as a scrum master for about a year. I really learned the most while on the job, deep-diving into any challenges by discussing them with colleagues or resarching podcasts, and basically experimenting with recommended strategies in real life, finding out over time (very agile!) what works for me and/or for the team I work with.

    2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Here’s a piece of practical advice.

      Maintain control of the daily standup with an iron fist. I’m serious. It should be, “I worked on that, today I’ll be doing this, these are the impediments I’m facing.” Period. Ideally, the standup is 5 minutes (or so).

      People want to talk out some of these issues at the time. Maintain control and tell people, “We can deal with that offline” or “We can deal with that after the main standup is over.”

      It sounds harsh, but it keeps things on track, and those not directly involved in the side issues will appreciate it.

      1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        Good advice for all meetings actually. Keep focused and on track.

  6. Eric*

    This isn’t really a question but I’m wondering if I’m right to feel annoyed about this situation. We’re doing a client on-site and we’re going out to dinner with them afterwards and no one asked about dietary restrictions and they picked an Italian restaurant. I am garlic intolerant and a vegetarian and there is 1 vegetarian entree on the menu and of course it looks loaded with garlic. I told them I’d have to call the restaurant to see if they can accommodate me and the response was “oh ok.” It’s just completely thoughtless.

    1. cabbagepants*

      I think the process is working. They made a suggestion and you are giving feedback that it might not work for you. It’s best for the person with the food sensitivity to lead the investigation of whether a particular place will work.

      Research the menu of the suggested place and if it’s a no go, find and suggest a different place.

        1. JSPA*

          a) reservations can be unmade

          b) you have only looked at the menu, not talked to the restaurant, so you do not know if they can accommodate you or not. IMO, starting with pasta or risotto is a super easy way to make a decent veg dish, so any reasonable quality italian restaurant should be able to make you (e.g.) a plain pasta with olive oil, steamed veggies and/or white beans and/or a non-rennet cheese. Ask them if they can do that, with not even a trace of garlic. Or if they do risotto, they can do one without lardons, without chicken broth, and without garlic. (It’s the same process with or without the animal products, so you’re not asking for anything complicated.)

          It’s not like this is chicken-and-ribs; it’s a cuisine that easily lends itself to, “but make it veg, and hold the garlic.” So why not assume they picked the place because it’s easy to customize (and call the restaurant) unless you have a reason to think otherwise.

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

          Can you ask if they can make a reservation at another place and then give some options for places you know have menu items for you?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It’s best for the person with the food sensitivity to lead the investigation of whether a particular place will work.

        Once the person with the food sensitivity says this may be an issue, I don’t think “oh ok” is the appropriate response. Gives very “that’s a you problem” energy.

        1. cabbagepants*

          Taken at face value, Eric communicated that they were happy taking the lead. I agree that “oh ok” sounds a bit unprofessional but I don’t think it’s wrong to read Eric’s comment as genuine rather than passive aggressive.

          1. Cookie Monster*

            Where did Eric say they were ‘happy’ taking the lead? They say quite the opposite, in fact.

            1. cabbagepants*

              I meant it colloquially, that Eric was taking the lead without giving pushback.

        2. umami*

          Keep in mind, the purpose of the dinner is face time with the client, so the client’s desires likely take priority. If the client picked the restaurant, it’s fine to feel annoyed but to also understand that not every meal will cater to your individual needs. I see the ‘oh ok’ as explicit support of Eric calling to see if they can accommodate his needs, because who better?

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

            Would you say this if someone was allergic to peanuts and the client wanted to have dinner at Texas Roadhouse (which has peanuts on every table and is strewn on the floor).

            I agree that Eric should talk with the restaurant beforehand and see what can be done, but I think the bosses could be more supportive. Especially if Eric would be the only one not eating, the client may feel even worse.

            1. umami*

              That’s not the issue, though, the client picked an Italian restaurant, which should be able to accommodate a vegetarian. It’s not clear that Eric mentioned he is allergic to garlic. I assume if the restaurant was Texas Roadhouse and his allergy precludes him being around peanuts, he would have mentioned that, because that is environmental, not just an ingredient potentially in the food.

              1. Lurker*

                He also didn’t say he was *allergic* to garlic, he said he was garlic intolerant. To me, that seems like he strongly dislikes it, or maybe it gives him some sort of unpleasant side effect (e.g. heartburn, gas, etc.).

    2. kiwiii*

      I would find this annoying, too, but if the language you used was “I’ll have to call the restaurant and see if they can accommodate me,” that sort of lends to the assumption that that’s what you’re planning on doing, rather than the information that you’d prefer the venue be changed.

      If it’s not too late, I would reach out to whomever picked the restaurant and calmly but matter-of-fact say, “Hey, I have a garlic allergy and a dietary restriction that would make it nearly impossible to eat at (Location); I was hoping we could switch to (Option A) or (Option B) in that same area? Or somewhere with a more robust vegetarian section on their menu.”

      1. Tio*

        Yeah, at this stage this is what I’d go with. If they’re going to be so hands-off you’ll have to get very direct with them.

      2. JSPA*

        As someone with allergies, the person with allergies is the person who’s best placed to know the needs and pitfalls–and there’s no guarantee that the tofu egg roll won’t just happen to have garlic, that nobody mentions because it’s a flavoring in the mystery marinade, not pieces of garlic.

        If you were eating with friends, you’d call and ask; it’s the same call, and the same ask, when you’re eating with clients.

      3. umami*

        That is a much better approach than saying ‘well you picked X, so now I’ll have to call X to see if they can accommodate me. It’s much more proactive to say, ‘I checked the menu at X and it doesn’t seem to accommodate my dietary needs, would you mind if we went with Y restaurant instead, or should I call them to see if they can modify a dish to suit my needs?’ It’s not uncommon to not check with every single person invited to a dinner to ensure that all dietary needs are being met, so I personally wouldn’t be salty about this (heh). Italian is usually a safe bet for most and lends itself to simple modification.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Yeah, that’s annoying and also unfortunately fairly common. I also have a food restriction and people only ask before deciding on a restaurant some of the time.

      1. NeonFireworks*

        Yeah, I often end up at a restaurant with colleagues and quietly eat nothing because there isn’t anything safe, and then everyone talks at length about my dietary restrictions, which are not that interesting!

        1. Rainy*

          Yup. I have done this more times than I like to think about.

          My favourite was the time everyone was super excited about an authentic (regional area of Mexico) restaurant and when I started asking questions of the server I quickly realized that literally the only things the restaurant served that I could eat were the tortillas/tortilla chips (dry, as none of the sauces were safe), and some of the cocktails. And I felt lucky, because a decade previous to that when I was still violently allergic to corn, nothing in the place would have been safe except the booze.

          I had a drink and half a basket of chips, and then I went to a minimart and got some peanuts and gatorade.

    4. WellRed*

      If you’d rather they pick a different restaurant you need to say that, not drop vague hints.

    5. MsMaryMary*

      I always ask about dietary preferences/restrictions when scheduling meals with clients

      1. umami*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they did ask the clients, but it doesn’t seem like they also asked all of the staff.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      It’s a little thoughtless, but honestly, dietary restrictions simply aren’t on most people’s radar in the workplace, and whoever is planning a meal can’t read your mind. If you can adjust (read: lower) your expectations in the first place, and proactively bring it up next time (e.g., “I have a couple dietary intolerances, maybe I can help select the restaurant”), then hopefully you won’t feel so annoyed in future.

      1. Eric*

        I’m not lowering my expectations when I am required to go to a business dinner and there is literally nothing I can eat on the menu. If we want a diverse workforce this sort of thing should not be an afterthought.

        1. Maggie*

          So you called the restaurant and they said it’s impossible to make a vegetarian meal w/out garlic? I call a lot of restaurants about my allergies, it’s just part of the game of having food allergies. Yup, it’s annoying.

          1. Eric*

            Pretty much, yeah, despite the website saying “our staff is eager to accommodate any food allergy or special request” they didn’t seem super eager to me over the phone, basically shrugging and saying “gee I don’t know what you’re going to eat”. Surprise, surprise.

            1. JSPA*

              normally I call when the chef will be there (but not during the main rush) and ask to talk to the chef, and have an example of a simple dish. “I can’t do ABC and D, but rather than booking a different place for our whole team, would you be willing to make a simple plate of X with Y and Z?” almost always works.

              There’s the threat of pulling the business.

              There’s the offer of a simple answer so they don’t have to come up with one.

              There’s talking to the person who actually does the cooking. So you’re not talking to some host who has no idea what it entails.

              There’s acting collaborative instead of acting put upon (they’re not using garlic “at” you).

              Use all those things, and people will be much more eager to accommodate you than if you leave 1 or 2 of them out.

              If you legitimately do all of those things and they still shrug at you, then yes you need to escalate and insist on a different restaurant.

            2. takeachip*

              I think it’s more understandable to be annoyed at the situation than at any person at your workplace, because Italian is generally one of the “safe” options for accommodating vegetarians and the website may have led whoever organized this to assume that other types of restrictions could easily be accommodated. I’ve been in the workforce for over 30 years, and this may skew my perspective, but it is so much more complicated to plan for food these days than it ever has been due to more awareness of different needs and people’s expectations. In the 90s, if there even was a vegetarian option, it would be like a meatless lasagne or pasta primavera. Forget allergies or anything more restrictive. Now, we have to try to account for vegetarian, vegan, low carb, allergies, gluten free, etc. and it sometimes seems impossible to find something that meets such diverse needs. Factor in all the other requirements for this dinner–group size & space availability, location, etc–and it’s easier to understand how the planner(s) ended up choosing a less than ideal option for any one person. I say this as someone with one of the more restrictive dietary needs; I just chalk this kind of stuff up to complexity and fallibility and try to give feedback in a way that will make things better in the future.

            3. Nancy*

              Call and ask to talk to one of the chefs. Italian is very easy to make vegetarian. I have a friend who always orders pasta with olive oil and parmesan at Italian restaurants, regardless of whether it’s on the menu. You can ask them to add lemon as well if you want. Cacio e pepe is pasta with black pepper and cheese, very easy to make. Plenty of Italian salads can be filling and have no meat, but may not be on the menu. Eggplant is a common ingredient and can be substituted in chicken parmesan if they don’t already have it listed. Or sauté some vegetables in olive oil and put on pasta. I’d pick one or two and ask someone actually in the kitchen if they can specifically make that.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          I meant lower your expectations as to other people’s thoughtfulness.

          You were asking whether you should be annoyed or not, and I was suggesting that if you are able to change your initial mindset + take an action to help yourself, then you may not feel so annoyed.

          I saw a scenario something like this in my own office last summer. One of our summer law students was vegetarian. We had an all-hands meeting where the office catered lunch. None of the lunch items was vegetarian, except maybe the salad, and I think that had bacon bits in it. The student didn’t proactively ask ahead of time about what the lunch offerings would be, so she was out of luck at lunch. They left the office to buy themself something, and it made them a few minutes late to the all-hands meeting after lunch. I’m sure they were annoyed, but to everybody else it was not a good look. Of course it would have been great if it were on the office manager’s radar to ask about dietary restrictions. But there’s a good argument that it was up to the summer student to get out in front of the issue, advocate for themself, and offer a solution to the issue.

          TL;DR You can feel annoyed at the world or you can pre-emptively take some action for yourself.

          1. Workerbee*

            While I completely understand what you meant with your first comment, in your follow-up example, if a summer law student is at all equivalent to an intern or otherwise brand new to the workforce, how would they know to speak up and advocate for themselves, necessarily?

            And yes, that is where the office / office manager should have done its own due diligence and specified what the lunch would consist of. It’s 2023 and listing ingredients or at least basic components is, well, not new.

            That student is there to learn the norms, true, but part of that is someone coaching that student that it’s okay to advocate for themselves – and/or to step up on behalf of that student and show how!

            The scenario puts your office in far more of a bad light than the *gasp* getting to a meeting a few minutes late when it was the office’s fault to begin with, IMO.

            1. Rosemary*

              Agreed. An office manager – who I presume is often ordering meals – should by matter of course find out if there are food restrictions and/or communicate ahead of time what the meal will be. This example – in my opinion – is much worse than OP’s. Someone making a dinner reservation at a particular restaurant may have assumed that an Italian restaurant would have something that people could eat.

          2. CommanderBanana*

            Ordering a lunch menu where literally every item, including the salad, has meat in it is not a good look. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a vegetarian to assume that there would be at least one or two options – you know, like a salad – that didn’t have meat in it.

            I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat red meat or pork, and I would be extremely annoyed if I attended a lunch where everything had either pork or beef in it, including the salad!

            1. Rainy*

              I run into the opposite problem a lot, where catered lunches have a vegetarian option and a meat option, which is chicken (or turkey, if it’s sandwiches), and thus I can’t eat anything. The vegetarian option will almost always have stuff I’m allergic to in it (although the popularity of caprese sandwiches has really helped!) , and I am allergic to chicken and turkey. I’ve given up, honestly, and I assume I will always have to bring my own lunch even when lunch is provided.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                I can usually get by with constructing a meal out of the sides and salads, but I’m honestly baffled as to why someone would pick a menu where every.single.thing. had some form of meat in it? Including the salad? I do meetings for a living and it’s not that hard to get the dressing, bacon, and cheese served in separate bowls so people can add their own.

                I don’t eat cows, pigs, goats, sheep, etc. for religious and ethical reasons, so I can’t just pick the meat off of something if it’s in there. I’m working on giving up poultry too, instead of making that my default choice.

            2. fueled by coffee*

              Vegetarianism is also common enough that if I was new at an office and they said they were having a lunch and then no one asked about dietary needs, I would assume there would be *something* I could eat, even if it was just a salad. Someone above mentioned the hierarchy here, and I could also see a temporary student employee not wanting to rock the boat by sounding demanding about dietary needs: the student’s solution to go and purchase her own food when there was nothing catered that she could eat seems completely reasonable under this assumption.

              I’ve had my fair share of work meals where I’ve been told that I can just scrape the pepperoni off a pizza or the bacon bits of a salad and it really, really sucks. I agree that you can’t always anticipate everyone’s dietary needs, but if you’re in a workplace where food is regularly ordered, you really need to be asking for people’s dietary restrictions up front (as in, keeping a general list for the office rather than asking before every event).

          3. Been There*

            Asking about dietary restrictions is such a basic thing when ordering food for a group, and your office manager didn’t even order anything vegetarian. I think they’re the one who messed up, not the summer law student who probably expected at least something vegetarian would be included.

        3. My Useless 2 Cents*

          They should have checked before making the reservation but if it can’t be changed now, a competent Italian chef should be able to accommodate you fairly easily. If it’s a local, non-chain restaurant, I’d try calling the restaurant early in the day, explain the situation and that you need a vegetarian meal without garlic. They may be more accommodating if you are not trying to order off menu in the middle of dinner rush. Sucks that you have to put in the extra effort though.

          1. Maggie*

            Garlic is one of the most commonly used ingredients in cooking worldwide, so it’s something OP is just going to have to put in effort on throughout their life. I get it and have tons of food allergies, but it’s part of managing our unique health situation for allergy people. It’s annoying but if you have a food allergy effort is always going to be required to dine out no matter who it’s with.

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

              I think the OP is annoyed that the bosses didn’t think to ask anyone attending the meal if they had dietary restrictions before making a reservation. I do not think they are (as annoyed) that the restaurant may not be able to accommodate them.

              1. umami*

                I get what you’re saying, but it is still the person with the allergy being passive about waiting to be asked. He knows they are having a client dinner and he is required to attend, so why wait to mention an allergy to a very common restaurant ingredient until after reservations are made, and then be annoyed that nobody specifically asked you about your food allergies? People have to request ADA accommodation, so it seems to make sense that the employee in this case needs to be their own advocate.

              2. amoeba*

                The OP mentioned upthread that the website of the restaurant actually states that they’d be happy to help with food restrictions etc. Now, this might not actually be true, but as the one making the reservation, that would probably make me think it would be suitable for everybody as the restaurant would accommodate all kinds of needs!

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

            Yes, I would check with the restaurant and see what they can do. I would also ask if they can make a note in the reservation that there will be someone who needs accommodation. I can totally see a manager or a cook saying yes we can do X but when they come to the restaurant someone else is working and they say no because its a dinner rush and they don’t want to take the extra time. Or a crabby server who says no without checking with the chef. And being this is a business dinner the OP might not want to seem too pushy.

        4. Sylvan*

          Then you need to say that.

          When you say you’re calling the restaurant, that gives the impression that you’re willing to set up an accommodation for yourself, and you’ll get back in touch if you need to switch to a different restaurant. If you know that the restaurant can’t accommodate you already, you need to say that.

        5. JSPA*

          People normally state their needs, these days. Waiting to be asked is like waiting to be asked to dance.

        6. m2*

          Call the restaurant and see what they can do. I am a vegetarian and don’t eat much gluten or milk products (although not allergic per se, but they don’t always agree with me) and most places will accommodate. If you call early they can even be a bit more creative.
          I have eaten everywhere and have only had an issue maybe a couple times (when I didn’t call ahead or was traveling or living in a different country).

          I have a coworker with severe Celiac and we ask her where she can eat and then pick within those places. There aren’t many, but we are happy to do it. Our office has catered lunches and asks what people want and always offers vegan and gluten free options.

          I find people aren’t thoughtless, just if they don’t have a food allergy or someone close to them with one they don’t always think it is an issue. They also don’t know what you like/ what you have an intolerance to and maybe don’t want to make the wrong choice.

          You could also look at a few other restaurants and offer them up with, “there is only one dish I can eat at X, might we make a reservation at Y or Z instead?”

        7. umami*

          It’s hard to imagine that an Italian restaurant cannot provide anything at all that is safe to eat. They are usually great at modifying dishes, especially if you call ahead. I think what Glom was saying is to lower your expectations as to whether they will think about your dietary needs and be proactive in helping to select an appropriate choice. It is unhelpful to be told ‘I guess I’ll have to call the restaurant you picked to see if they can accommodate me’ because I wouldn’t know what else you would want me to do if I don’t know what you can and can’t eat.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Garlic intolerance isn’t super common, as far as I know, but having more than one vegetarian option at a restaurant should be basic etiquette.

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

          It actually is and people just don’t know. Garlic is one of the most common issues for people with IBS who have to follow a low FODMAP diet.

      3. Devo Forevo*

        I find it to be regional, or maybe field-specific. Working in California, we dropped a catering company as a vendor because they didn’t warn people about allergens (at an event or something, don’t remember details). In the midwest, unless you’re working with people who handle events (dinners, galas, etc.) you have to be the one to speak up that you have an allergy much more often. That was particularly fun after a big catered lunch for staff last December with just a plate of plain salad.

    7. Maggie*

      I sympathize but often that’s just what us food allergy folks need to do. Even when I provide my allergies they’re not always accommodated and it does suck. It seems highly likely they could remove the meat and garlic from a meal or make you plain marinara or Alfredo without garlic, steamed veggies etc. but I could be totally wrong.

    8. Becky*

      An Italian restaurant only has one vegetarian option…? Isn’t half their menu pasta? They should likely have an array of salads and whatnot as well.

      Are you able to eat food from a kitchen that uses garlic as long as it’s not in your food? If so, I would think an Italian restaurant would be pretty easily able to accommodate you.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I’m thinking maybe it’s a seafood-based Italian restaurant? Most Italian restaurants I go to offer plenty of vegetarian options.

      2. Tio*

        Depends on whether they are vegetarians who include or exclude egg and dairy. Most pasta is made with egg, and there is loads of dairy in Italian cooking. However, if this is a higher-end restaurant they may just have a very limited menu.

        1. Becky*

          Fresh pasta is made with egg, boxed pasta is not. You can order a simple pasta with red sauce if they are able to make the red sauce without garlic. You can order a pasta with oil and non-garlic seasonings. Gnocchi can be made without egg. Minestrone can easily be made vegetarian. An antipasto can be vegetarian. Not to mention salads which can be easily customized.

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

            The problem is they probably batch cook the red sauce and won’t be able to make a special sauce without garlic.
            A better option might be a garlic-free pesto. That usually can be done in small batches as it doesn’t have to cook a long time like a red sauce. Or maybe something like pasta with olive oil, herbs, and a little cheese.

        2. amoeba*

          Parmesan cheese isn’t actually vegetarian because of the rennet, which might indeed be a little problematic at an Italian place – but I’ve never heard vegetarian to exclude dairy and/or eggs, that would be vegan, wouldn’t it?

    9. Lynn*

      Are you able to find out ahead of time which restaurant was chosen so you can look at the menu

      1. Jezebella*

        She says she already did. But honesly I can’t imagine an Italian dinner entree without garlic in it.

    10. Prospect Gone Bad*

      To be fair to them, garlic intolerance seems very rare? I think people have gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance, but I don’t think that most people, even those in the know, are going to think about garlic intolerance

      1. KatCardigans*

        I wouldn’t say it’s very rare. If people are avoiding FODMAPs, garlic is one.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Fodmaps isn’t an allergy. That’s a diet for general IBS symptoms and is more of a sliding scale than a yes/no “this food makes me sick” diet

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

            The OP doesn’t have an allergy. They say they are garlic intolerant. And actually people who are low FODMAP say they are intolerant because its an easier way of explaining their diet needs. And really it is an intolerance because food intolerance is another way to say sensitivity as your gut is sensitive to certain foods.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          I’m 45 and move in the circle of gluten free and vegans and my coworker had my entire office go to a vegan restaurant. We eat all sorts of generally rare thing. Garlic allergy has never come up. I don’t think telling the OP their issue is common helps them, all it will do is perhaps fuel anger than others didn’t ask them about it

          1. Saddy Hour*

            I don’t think telling the OP that their issue is UNcommon helps them either, lol.

            Even if the issue were gluten or lactose allergies, it sounds like nobody asked about those either (because that would have given OP a chance to say “no, but”). They didn’t ask about those…for an Italian restaurant, where gluten and dairy products abound. The organizer didn’t need to suspect X Specific Allergen to confirm whether anyone involved has food restrictions, especially for a group that’s small enough to go out to a restaurant together (so it’s obviously not like it’s 200 people and too troublesome to ask).

      2. Been There*

        That’s why the person making the reservation should ask about dietary restrictions? It seems like basic common courtesy.
        I also have a coworker with a garlic allergy. Eating even a little bit can take them out for 2-3 days.

    11. librarianmom*

      Not thoughtless, exactly, maybe just not fully aware. I think that while vegetarian options is a common need, garlic intolerance would probably not be on most people’s radar. I think that you should give some grace to the situation. Go the the meal, do your best (you can always have a salad and maybe an appetizer), and just ask in the future if you could make a few suggestions for dining options.

      1. Rainy*

        So I’m not trying to be pedantic here, but “you can always have a salad” said to someone who has food allergies is first of all just not true and second, good grief, do you know how often people say to us “just have a salad”? It’s not helpful.

        Yes, I’m sure the commenter knows that they can “just have a salad”, undressed, while everyone else chows down on pasta, but have you ever been the person who went to a restaurant and sat there chewing on dry lettuce?

        Do you imagine that’s a fun experience?

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I also get very annoyed when the non-meat option is something with no protein. A smear of hummus on a roasted veggie sandwich means I’ll be hungry two hours later. I coordinate catering as part of my job, and will get bulky side dishes that include things like roasted chickpeas or beans so that they’re filling enough to be a main if you don’t want to eat the sandwich or entree options.

    12. Ahdez*

      It sounds like the issue is the way you raised the concern. Instead of saying you’d need to call the restaurant to see if they can accomodate you (which make it sound like you’re fine doing that), you could’ve said something like, “I actually can’t eat garlic, and that makes Italian restaurants tricky for me! Any chance we could change the restaurant to X or Y?” Ideally, you would provide a few options of restaurants that work for you that are nearby.

    13. AnotherLibrarian*

      I think it’s 100% fine to be annoyed (I probably would be), but the thing about annoyance is that it doesn’t actually fix the problem or solve the issue. Yes, ideally, people would ask about diet before making reservations. However, here’s the thing- Once you said “I’ll call the restaurant” you made it you problem to solve. They messed up. You offered a solution. They took you up on it. Once you offer to solve the problem for them, then it seems odd to be annoyed at them that they accepted the offer.

    14. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’ve learned that
      1. I’m going to be annoyed AF about it
      2. There’s not always anything that I can do about it (either the lack of thought on the organizers’ part OR my own annoyance) and
      3. Always pack backup food and be very “but of course, since Garlicky Italiano has said that they cannot accommodate me I’ve got a protein bar in my laptop bag”.

      More than once in my life I’ve not been able to eat a single thing at a company provided luncheon due to food allergies that I lug around epinephrine in case of accidental ingestion of said allergens. It sucks. Its a pain. Its annoying and inconsiderate on the part of the planners.

    15. L. Bennett*

      That sucks. Definitely if someone is organizing dinner for a group, they should ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions. That said, seems like a relatively minor oversight that may be fixed with directly stating your need, as others have said. If this is the only thoughtless thing they’ve done, and they find a different restaurant, etc. then it might be problem solved. You do seem to be pretty steamed about it, though, which makes me think this maybe isn’t the first thing they’ve done that has seemed thoughtless?

    16. Alice*

      Did you want them to switch restaurants this time? Did you want them to ask you about your restaurant preferences or dietary restriction next time? Because if you told me, “I’m going to have to call them to check,” I would think that you are not sure if you need a change, and I would wait for you to follow up and tell me what you decide after talking with them. If that’s not what you want, be direct.

    17. SofiaDeo*

      While it’s nice if people have been taught to be sensitive to food allergies, it’s not yet universal. Is it usual for whoever is making the reservation to ask everyone if there are food intolerances? If it’s commonly the same person, and there is some sort of company policy about it, then yes, you are right to be annoyed. If not, you aren’t. Telling “them” (who is this? Client, boss, coworker arranging things?) you are calling for an accommodation should have elicited what, in your opinion? “Oh OK” could be a thankful “omg I forgot you personally have food restrictions” or ” omg I forgot to ask about food problems in general” or perhaps was some thoughtless response from someone who knew better/should have asked. I have dietary problems and would not get annoyed unless I had spoken to any 1 person a number of times. Depending on how large the org is, are they overwhelmed? Often forgetful? If they are a clueless schmuck, I make sure to check things myself. If they are someone unfamiliar/forgetting with my needs, but otherwise a nice person I try to charmingly explain/remind that person, they are more likely to remember if they think of me as a friend.

  7. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I accidentally told my boss to check in on me more and feel awkward. Nu!Boss: is there anything I can do to help? me, talking too much: Sometimes I get mixed up on what work is the priority and might need help Nu!boss: I’ll check on you every day me: shocked Pikachu

    I usually prioritize my work by real world effect or what seems to be most important so of course tons slips through the cracks

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t understand– what did you want your boss to say? It sounds like she’s saying, “Ok, I can help you by checking in every day [and therefore help you prioritize].” She’s offering to help you make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. Do you feel awkward because she’ll be helping?

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        yes I didn’t expect her to actually attempt to help. I’m hoping it goes ok

    2. T. Wanderer*

      It sounds like you don’t want daily checkins, so you can probably offer an alternate suggestion to your boss! “I appreciate the offer of daily checkins, but I think that might be more than I need — instead of daily, could I [check in weekly on priority]/[get some general guidelines on how to prioritize certain things]/[other]?”

      1. Tio*

        This is a really good suggestion, but one thing gives me pause – from the question “so of course tons slips through the cracks”. How much stuff is being missed? Is it possible your boss views this as a bigger problem than you do, Stuck, and that’s why they’re instituting the check in as daily rather than weekly?

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          We already have weekly check in, and tbh she doesn’t actually know all the stuff I’m missing because people tell me this stuff and not her. she’s probably not worried about it, but it’s important to not do a bad job just because your boss doesn’t notice

          1. Tio*

            Oh ok, that’s good I suppose. But I think part of the problem might be, if I already had someone I was doing weekly check ins with as you mention above, and then they told me they needed more help, daily would probably be the next logical step for me. If you’re going to go back to her and try and change that, in this case I’d say come armed with an actual suggestion on what you want instead, since you’ve already (even unintentionally) signaled you wanted more help.

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

      You could suggest that a simple shared Google doc, or online project tracking system might be more efficient than daily “check ins”. It sounds like you just need a list of what you’re working on, notes about what’s been done or pending, and order them in priority. I hate meetings to discuss what could just be a list.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        yes it would be cool if I could just send an email and say I did x y and z. and the boss would say ‘ cool but the higher ups want P and Q done’ and then I’d say on my list! and then I’d do P and Q

    4. ferrina*

      Try the daily check-ins and see how that feels. Honestly, I’d have loved to get daily check-ins with a couple of my bosses. It can really help you get a sense for how their mind is working and what they want you to prioritize, and how they want you to handle things falling through the cracks.

      If that ends up being too much, adjust. Offer a solution- “The daily check-ins feel like a little much. Can we try doing check-ins twice a week?” Part of what happened in this recent conversation is that you didn’t tell your boss what you wanted, so your boss went with her best judgment. It’s super helpful for a boss if you can say what you’d like to have happen (which they may or may not agree with, but it’s a really helpful starting point and clarifies where your thinking is)

    5. Isben Takes Tea*

      Is this issue you meant to imply “I might check in with you occasionally about my priorities” and you’re embarrassed because now they might think you need handholding?

      If so, I think it’s negotiable: “I really appreciate the daily check-ins; I think we’re good with 1x/2x a week.”

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        yes. I wanted to check in so I knew what to focus on. I hope the nu! boss isn’t like ‘ but old! boss said we had a good employee!’

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          She offered to help and she gave you an option that should likely help you. It sounds like she… wants to do what she can to help. Why not take her at face value? Don’t attribute thoughts to her that you don’t know she has.

    6. NeutralJanet*

      Was this in the context of just a regular check-in, or in the context of “You aren’t performing up to standard, we need to fix this, can I do anything to help?” If it’s the first, then you probably have the standing to say that you may have overstated the problem and don’t think daily check-ins are necessary, but if it’s the second, then you’re probably stuck in daily check-ins for at least a while, until less slips through the cracks.

      (Side note, I’m not sure why prioritizing by what seems to be most important means that “of course tons” doesn’t get done, but that’s presumably something your boss knows more about than I do and is either concerned by or not. That said, I’d try to change that mindset if you can.)

  8. Ginger Cat Lady*

    My boss suggested I try presenting at one of the conferences for my profession. I want to, but have no idea how to go about doing that. If you’ve done it, what advice/tips do you have for an aspiring presenter?
    I’m good with public speaking, so it’s mostly the how to get invited to speak part I don’t know how to do.

    1. asterisk*

      I’m not sure if this is the same in every field, but in mine, it’s fairly common for the organizers of the conference to put out a “call for proposals” several months in advance of the conference, so you could be watching for that announcement. Or more proactively, I’d also look on the conference or organizer’s website to see if there’s a link to contact them or a call for proposal right there.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Ask your boss! In my field, conferences usually have an open call for speakers where you can submit a proposal for a talk. If your field works that way, figure out what time of year the call goes out and start planning. Things don’t usually change year over year, so if the conference was in October last year and the call went out in June, it’s pretty safe to assume it’ll be the same schedule this year and that the requested materials will be more or less the same. Otherwise, your boss probably has a good sense of how to get invited to speak.

    3. LadyAmalthea*

      I used to work as a Pedorthist in an orthopedic shoe store, and, for a while, was a mainstay on the senior citizen speaking circuit in Manhattan. After I had spoken to one group, the word started getting out, and other groups would contact the store for free speakers. It occasionally took a bit of research to make connections, but once you are a known quantity in an area of interest, people start asking for you.

    4. DarthVelma*

      I work in a niche part of government, so your mileage may vary. The big conferences for my type of program usually put out open calls for proposals several months prior to their conferences. You might check to see if any of the conferences for your profession do the same. You could check the conference website for information on presenting. Or even contact the organizers directly to ask how they do selection of presenters. (Most of the organizations holding conferences I attend are really helpful and very interested in helping new folks. They want fresh presenters.)

      The big thing is you’re likely going to have to do some sort of presentation proposal. The conference organizers may well have a template they expect folks to use. Or if anyone in your organization has presented, they might be able to share their proposals as examples of what to do.

    5. OtterB*

      My familiarity is with research conferences, but if it fits your field, one thing you might do is volunteer to help the program committee review proposals next time. That gives you a great education in what a good proposal looks like, for you to put into practice for the following conference.

      1. JustMyImagination*

        I’m in a regulatory role and I just did this last year. I had no idea how bad my abstracts were!

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      I was on a board for a professional organization that has an annual conference. Many conferences have a general call for presentations. I would look at the organization’s website and see if it has any info on that. If not, it might have info on who is responsible for coordinating the conference. You can contact that person and say “I’m interested in presenting at this year’s conference on the subject of X. Is there room in the schedule for a presentation on that subject?”

    7. TX_Trucker*

      I usually do three speaking engagements per year. In my industry, even though there is a “call for speakers” most of the slots are pre-filled. For us, we tend to pre-invite speakers that are involved in our professional organization. An unknown proposal would have to “wow” us, if we aren’t already familiar with either your presentation style or your company.

      I would add, that for our national conference, speakers are lined up several months in advance. Our local conference is alot more flexible in accepting proposals at the last minute. And in both cases, we may make exceptions to the agenda if there is some new regulations/technology that was not anticipated at the time the agenda was developed. My industry usually does not pay speakers doing a technical presentation, though we typically waive the conference registration fee. We will cover travel expenses for well known speakers and/or those with a specialized niche. We will usually pay a speaking fee for the “keynote” who is usually someone known at the national level.

    8. AnotherLibrarian*

      Ask your boss! This is super field dependent. In my field, there’s a call for proposals that gets put out. Folks organizing for regional and state groups are hungry for presenters (says the person at a conference recently with four talks on the same topic). So, start there if you’re nervous about being accepted.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I organise a big annual conference and a series of smaller regular seminars. We are invitation-only for our speakers, but you can definitely put the word out there that you’d like to be considered. Ask your boss which events they would recommend (and if they have any contacts on those planning committees), and look at the speakers and topics those events have had in the past – you may also be able to view videos of past speakers.

        My advice is to start with a slot at a smaller event (100 people max), a small breakout session at a larger event, or a slot on a panel discussion. Once you feel comfortable presenting and have built up a bit of a track record, target the main session slots at mid-size (100-300 people) and larger (300+ people) events. Speakers who both know their stuff and can give an interesting presentation are very valuable to conference organisers, so once you’re a known quantity, you will probably start getting invitations to speak.

        Also, make sure that you at least read all the emails you get from the conference organisers and respond to anything that needs a response. If you take 6 months to send them a simple yes or no answer about something, you will not make them inclined to invite you back!

    9. Knighthope*

      If you have never attended these conferences, try to do so. Pay close attention to what excellent presenters do. Consider starting at local, state, or regional conferences which may be easier to be selected for. Lots of great advice from others in this thread.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        Look on the website for past agendas and presentations if they post recordings. That will give you an idea of what kinds of talks are generally accepted.

        Some conferences offer a speaker guide which will give you more info, too.

        If there’s contact info, you could talk to one of the organizers. Good luck!

  9. Undecided*

    Would it look bad to future employers if I worked at a company that sells homeopathy products? Has anyone worked at a company where you didn’t believe in their products—did it make you miserable?

    There’s a well known homeopathy company that has a job posting I’m interested in, but I’m not sure if I should apply. Their products are pseudoscience (based on “like cures like” and the “law of minimum dose”). I was googling them and found a lawsuit for deceiving customers.

    I normally wouldn’t apply to this job, but I’ve been job hunting for almost a year, am desperate to leave a toxic job, and haven’t found many good jobs to apply to since the beginning of the year. The job isn’t related to customers, sales, or marketing, so I wouldn’t directly be pushing a scam on anyone. The job might be good experience.

    But I don’t know if it would look bad to work there, or if it would be bad for me personally because I don’t believe in homeopathy. (I’m an atheist and did some data entry work at a church in college, but I don’t know if that’s equivalent.)

    1. A single, solitary newt*

      I think there’s a pretty stark difference between “this is something I personally don’t believe in” and “this is active, deliberate misinformation that defrauds the public.” Plus, if it comes up in future interviews, there’s no way to frame your reasons for taking this role that don’t make you look, no offense, like a weak candidate. “I was in a horrible job and this was the only other job I could get” isn’t great.

      But to answer your actual question, yes, I have worked for an agency that at one point pitched a client whose product I strongly disagreed with: skin bleach marketed towards women of color. I had to do the pitch, and it made me sick. I did the worst job I possibly could (and they declined our agency–success!) and dramatically ramped up my job search. It’s not worth feeling like you’re perpetuating something bad in the world.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        All I can think of is Mr. Burns comparing himself to Oskar Schindler because they both made planes for the Nazis: “But mine worked, dammit!”

        Good for you.

    2. Sunshine*

      I really feel like it will eat away at your soul to work for a company you think is scammy. Even if your job isn’t directly pushing the scam, you’d be working to further the success of the people who are. I had a good job at a company run by a super gross owner and even though the job itself was harmless, I felt like I was wasting my one wild and precious life to make money for a scumbag. Just something to consider. But maybe you could do it short-term if you’re really desperate?

    3. kina lillet*

      I think that when you have to qualify “I wouldn’t direeectly be pushing a scam on anyone,” that’s pretty damning. Plenty of people work for plenty of morally reprehensible companies. But I think that you either have to justify why it’s OK to yourself (changing your moral sense temporarily or permanently) or you have to suffer the moral injury of doing something you think is wrong (toxic).

    4. FisherCat*

      I think this is a combo of personal comfort + reputation of homeopathy in your area + how in need of a job you are.

      I would be quite uncomfortable working there, but that’s just me. In France, for example, homeopathy has a better reputation than in the US. And as I’m currently employed, its easy for me to say I wouldn’t work at a homeopathy company but if I were unemployed and not getting many offers? Maybe.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Although in the US many think it’s herbal medicine not the thing where they don’t put herbs in the medicine and dilute it. I would personally not take it unless the OP was going to lose their house or something

      2. scandi*

        + how health-adjacent your field is. If you’re a receptionist or accountant or something like that – easier to explain as “needed a job and they were hiring”. If you’re a medical professional in any way? Likely to be a major problem later on.

      3. cncx*

        Came here to say that it is location and company dependent. in France, an accounting job at Boiron isn’t going to reflect horribly on someone.

    5. MissGirl*

      This is such a gray area. I had a recruiter reach out about a great job but it was for a essential oil company with an MLM arm. Had it been a straight essential oil company, I could probably could do it even thought it’s not my thing because I respect that other people like the oils.

      However, I couldn’t work for any sort of MLM company even in the back office. Also, this company had done some super sketchy things including claiming their oils heal cancer. I can work for a company that creates a product I don’t necessarily use. I can’t work for a company that’s dishonest.

      Remember, sketchy companies treat their employees in sketchy ways. Don’t jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    6. Other Alice*

      I don’t think it will look bad to future employers, necessarily. Many people work in places that are in some way reprehensible and a good hiring manager would err on the side of assuming you needed the work rather than finding it a moral flaw.

      That said, it will take a toll on your mental health. I worked for a personal loan company. I didn’t have any contact with customers, I just ran their IT and database. But I knew they were targeting vulnerable people and offering them awful terms. I had some genuinely nice coworkers, who couldn’t leave because for several reasons they didn’t have other prospects.

      I was lucky, I quit after 6 weeks and my parents supported me while I looked for another job. I don’t know your situation. You have to consider how badly you need this job vs how harmful it would be to your mental health.

    7. Cyndi*

      I won’t advise you one way or the other but I do think “atheist working for a church” is a ethically neutral mismatch in beliefs (unless the church was terrible in specific ways you didn’t mention) and therefore a very different question from “working in a field you think is fundamentally unethical,” and it’s absolutely natural to be comfortable with one of those situations but not the other.

    8. onetimethishappened*

      I think it largely depends on the company. Are they are large well know homeopathy company? Are they an MLM? I used to be a frequent customer of a certain MLM that sold essential oils. After a long time of having my doubts on the validity of the products and MLMs in general I stopped purchasing the products (and any MLMs tbh). If I saw it was a MLM based company, I may have my doubts. If it is a MLM, I really encourage to not move forward with the job application process. They can be very predatory especially towards women.

      If it was a smaller homeopathic company and you had 0 role, in marketing and product development I may look the other way.

    9. Michelle Smith*

      Working at a place that doesn’t align with your values is a horrible position to be in. I know, because I did that for many years. If you are not at risk of a serious mental health crisis or financial devastation by continuing to look for work, I strongly recommend you do so. Job searching can take time. The only time I’ve truly regretted major life choices was when I made them out of fear and/or desperation.

      That’s not to say a bridge job can’t be a thing. It absolutely can. But working at a place you know actively harms people to the point that they have sued the company to hold them accountable for that is not a place I think you should work. It sounds like “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Only you can say if that assessment is true for you. But you’re likely to still be looking for jobs anyway, as I doubt that’s a place you want to be long-term.

    10. Llama Identity Thief*

      How well do you know the culture of the homeopathy company? Because a place that has what is effectively a scam, and currently has a lawsuit for defrauding customers, probably has a higher chance of being a toxic workplace than most other businesses. Do they have Glassdoor reviews? Anyone who you can find who used to work there, but whose other work experience you respect, that you can reach out to to ask briefly about the work culture? Try to do that research – you might get information that crosses this place off of your list before getting to the ethical grey area.

    11. Panicked*

      I had a friend who worked for a very large multi-level marketing company and she couldn’t stand it. It was very hard for her to separate her views from the work. People would automatically assume she believed in the product and it worked against her in not only her professional but also her personal life. I would imagine it would be the same for most people.

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

      I think it depends on the compay and how they market their products. If it was any sort of MLM type of company it’s going to look bad on a resume, even if you are working at corporate. Also if they are out right lying like saying spring water from Tampa will cure cancer. Or if they have been in the news for anything misleading or fraud, then you will want to stay away.

      If it is a more legit homeopathy company that is not a MLM, like Aura Cacia essential oils or Boiron, it probably would be better. It also depends on what you are doing. If you are just going to be an accountant, I don’t think working at a homeopathic company is going to look bad. Everyone needs an accountant after all. But if you are in the sciences and are going to be looking at other companies or hospitals, it might look different to them.

      I think it depends on how you feel about the company and if you think that you could

      1. I have RBF*

        I use essential oils in soap. I try not to buy them from MLM companies, or people who make BS claims about them.

        Homeopathy is a bit different, IMO. Some “homeopathic” stuff actually has enough herbs in it to work, but a lot of it is a bad joke. There is an entire debate on optimal doses of stuff for the maximum effectiveness, but that’s different. Most homeopathy is just snake oil.

    13. Undecided*

      Thank you for all the responses! The company I was thinking of applying to was Boiron, which was actually mentioned in the comments.

      After reading all the responses, I decided not to apply. Going from one job I hate to one I’ll could likely end up hating since I believe in actual science and medicine and not quackery, really is a bad idea. (And as Michelle Smith posting, making decisions out of desperation can be regrettable.)

  10. Desperate to Move On*

    Any suggestions for fields/roles a licensed mental health professional can transition into that do not involve direct patient care or obtaining another degree/certificate? I’m desperate to switch career but am unsure of what I would even qualify for.

    1. Elle*

      I’ve moved into a public health role at a non profit. We hire a lot of folks with mental health backgrounds. It’s really useful in community outreach and education with professionals and the public.

    2. Earlk*

      Not sure how it works in other countries but in the UK people with clinical experience are really highly valued in the administration side, you could speak to people you work with about shadowing roles to get a wider understanding of what kind of things are out there and if you didn’t want people to know you were looking for a new career you could phrase it as professional development to aid in improvement in your current role.

      1. LadyB*

        Also highly valued in the digital teams at health providers where they are looking for people who understand clinical practice and who can ‘translate’ this into systems development specifications. Also, training on and implementing new clinical systems might be an avenue to explore.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      My wife is a licensed mental health professional, and while she still sees clients she also teaches a course at the local college where she got her degree. Not sure if that’s enough for a full time gig but could be worth looking into

    4. ThatGirl*

      I know ComPsych and similar companies hire clinicians to do assessments and phone stuff – it’s still working directly with people, but not as intensive. Also intakes at hospitals and that kind of stuff. Not sure if that’s what you’re looking for.

      Teaching and administrative work are also options, for sure.

    5. Quincy413*

      I was an intern at a suicide prevention nonprofit and a lot of the full-time folks were mental health professionals. Maybe a mental health organization would appreciate your background…

    6. Rainy*

      If you’re open to higher ed, there are a lot of admin roles in higher ed where an LPC or similar is an advantage.

    7. Anastia Beaverhousen*

      With a Master’s in either psychology or social work you can teach at a university but adjuncting can be draining and work isn’t always consistent. Looking for a management role will mean that there is not as much F2F client interaction and you would not not be doing therapy. Medical social work is a lot of paper work but there is still a lot of F2F interaction with clients and families.

    8. Michelle Smith*

      I went from a practicing attorney to consulting work last year because I was tired of direct representation and had no interest in getting another license either. I’ve been through coaching programs and worked with a career coach individually. One thing I learned is that the way you’re asking the question is the wrong approach. Rather than trying to figure out what jobs people will hire you for with your background and trying to shoehorn yourself into one of those options, it’s best to do an inventory of your interests, skills, and values and then use those as a springboard to figure out what it is that you actually want to do. Why? Because what you may find is that you want to do something that doesn’t use your background at all or something that uses your skills, but not your direct education. Something to consider.

      That being said, consulting work is something to think about. I’ve seen people with your background work with attorneys in prosecutors offices to evaluate people (based on medical records) for diversion eligibility. I’ve seen people work with attorneys in defender offices to do the same, as well as doing mitigation specialist work (preparing reports for the court that advocate for lower sentences for people accused of crimes due to things like mental health disorders or childhood trauma). There’s also private consulting, coaching, policy work, teaching or training, career advising for students in a psychology, social work, or related program, copywriting in your field of expertise, and administration just off the top of my head. Or if you’ve always wanted to manage a bakery, become a travel blogger, or design video games, pursue your dreams. Again, you are not limited to using your license and degree just because you have them. The only thing limiting you is your imagination, laws that would prevent you from doing something like brain surgery without getting more education/licensure, and your ability to communicate your value to a future employer (assuming you don’t go the entrepreneurial route).

      Final suggestion – One of the things I did when I was looking to leave legal practice was to join something called the Former Lawyer Collaborative. It’s basically a coaching program, forum, and support group rolled into one. There is also a podcast associated with it that people can access for free that has dozens upon dozens of interviews with former lawyers who went on to do an enormous variety of different careers. Google your degree and alternative careers. Google your field and former. Etc. See what’s out there on the topic and look up those people on social medias like LinkedIn. Just knowing what other people did after they left your field, even if it’s nothing you’d ever want to do, can be valuable in expanding your view of what you can actually do next in life (which is virtually anything you want).

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

      Depending on your credentials (master’s degree vs PhD) you could look at teaching at a university or college.

      Are there any programs in your area that are mental health adjacent that could use some expertise without you actually seeing patience. Like maybe the local Boy’s and Girls Club wants to start an initiative to help their kid’s mental health. You wouldn’t be a counselor but you would be helping create programs, etc.

      What about writing about mental health for newspapers etc?

      Also, (hear me out now), What type of company are you at now? Are you working in an inpatient center? A private practice? Are you wanting to leave because your company makes you see 10 people a day, you don’t get lunch and you have to do notes after hours? If you are in that type of position may I suggest a college counseling center? I can’t speak for all college counseling centers but where I work we deliberately set limits to how many clients people can see in a day (around 6). We also have built-in time throughout the week for notes and other management. We also are short-term counseling so if someone needs more long-term or in-depth we send them to community resources.
      I work (am not a counselor myself) with people who have come from really highly demanding counseling positions and they say it’s like a breath of fresh air. They don’t know what to do with themselves because its so much less pressure and work. Also, the problems are different than inpatient. Its people with test anxiety, or its an 18-year-old who misses home and is socially awkward and not sure how to make a friend. We unfortunately do get a few harder cases like self-harm, eating concerns, and substance abuse. But from my understanding, it’s not like how it is working in a hospital.

    10. AnonRN*

      My hospital (in the face of high levels of burnout and attrition among nursing staff) is really increasing their focus on employee wellness these days. This has included hiring social workers purely for staff support. I’m not sure specifically which parts of direct care you’re looking to get away from, but working in the employee health department of a large employer might be pretty different than (for example) scheduling and booking your own clients, having to maintain an office, etc… I would also imagine that there are director-level positions in employee health that do very little one-one-one work and instead focus on institution-wide initiatives or analysis.

    11. MoMac*

      You could do UR for an insurance company. Another person I knew got into the training department at a large non-profit. Another one got into clinical trials with a pharmaceutical company. Good luck!

  11. Iworkretail*

    I have a question here for everyone. I work a retail job, and my coworkers often discuss inappropriate topics whether on or off the floor and with or without customers present. These topics include sexuality, politics, and religion. I don’t feel comfortable with these topics. I researched harassment and sexual harassment under my company’s policy and talking about these topics are considered sexual harassment, whether asked or not prompted or consented. Also, the company has a policy that an associate, not required, can go to another associate and tell that person that they are uncomfortable about the topics they are discussing and to stop.

    One of my keyholders heard me discussing this with one coworker in the backroom when I was on my break and the other coworker came in for her shift. I later told two other girls, who arrived for their shift, that the topics of religion, politics, and sex shouldn’t be discussed as well as they can be written up and/or fired if someone reported it.

    My keyholder then pulled me into the backroom and told me that I shouldn’t have told these girls that those topics aren’t to be discussed, that I should’ve went to the store manager about those topics, and that I made them both uncomfortable like I’m making a laundry list of things everyone can’t discuss. My keyholder also said that I’m restricting their free speech first amendment right and that anyone can discuss politics as long as they agree and share the same views. I corrected her that free speech doesn’t apply to private employers and there’s nothing wrong with putting up boundaries. My key holder then told me that I need to keep my boundaries in for myself. I walked away from my keyholder because the discussion was getting heated. Did I do the right thing or the wrong thing?

    1. WellRed*

      I think telling coworkers not to talk about certain topics was a a bit of an overstep and telling them they could be written up or fired was a big overstep.

      1. Sunshine*

        I don’t know, I think it depends on how the conversation went. If it was a “hey, just so you know this kind of thing is against policy and I don’t want you to get in trouble,” that’s not an overstep. Going to the manager about a policy violation like that could get the associates in trouble or even fired, so I don’t blame OP for trying to handle it on their own first. It sounds like OP did something that was specifically listed as a possible approach in the handbook.

        1. Tio*

          Yeah, if it was like the above this is probably ok, although it may not make you any friends. However, now that you’ve pissed someone off who is presumably above you (keyholder) you need to either back off or go to HR (if HR is the sort who would listen. If not, you might have to let this go.)

    2. ferrina*

      Probably wrong.

      First, your definition of harassment isn’t correct. Talking about religion isn’t inherently harassment- saying “I went to church on Sunday” or “I was talking to my imam” isn’t harassment at all. Sex is generally inappropriate for work, but sexuality isn’t- if someone says “I’m gay”, that’s not harassment. Talking about politics is generally not harassment.

      Being exposed to unwanted descriptions of sex can be considered harassment. But to start, just say “Guys, I don’t want to hear that! Can you save that for later?” Most of the time that will take care of the issue (if you already have a strong working relationship with them, they will be far more likely to listen). But you came in with the “You are not allowed to talk!” approach, which is hyper-authoritarian. No one is going to enjoy that, and you’re not going to be very effective.

      The next step is to consult your manager (unless you’ve got good reason not to). Why didn’t you go to your manager? That is the person with the authority to police what can and can’t be discussed.

      You are correct on the first amendment interpretation though. But technically correct isn’t going to get your issue solved.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Talking about politics and religion is harassment? I’m not sure on that. But, yeah, talking about sex stuff at work (unless your job is actually to do with sex) is most probably sexual harassment.

      1. Iworkretail*

        Hi, everyone, thanks for your replies. The reason that I wanted to bring it up was that I got in trouble for harassment but that wasn’t harassment and got written up.

        One of my keyholders told the assistant manager that I made her uncomfortable a year prior, but she stated that it was nothing and it was in the past and not to bring it up or make it a big deal. The assistant is notorious for exaggerating claims (one time she accused two key holders of not vacuuming or swifering without checking the cameras because she freaked out when she saw one dust bunny and sent a long angry text message to the two girls). The assistant went to the store manager and told her without the other girl’s consent. Then I got called into the office, told someone complained about me that they’ve been ruminating that event since a year prior (which is a lie), was written up for harassment (even though it wasn’t harassment with a verbal as it was a one-time offense. The verbal description stated that I had an inappropriate conversation with a girl and talked about religion, politics, and sex). My store manager told me it’s best to avoid those conversations.

        I was then made to read and sign harassment note. The company’s policy for harassment is that anyone who talks about sex or sexuality is committing sexual harassment if they discuss their sexuality with someone or if asked. I knew what the other girls say all the time, so I wanted to warn them as they discuss this multiple times (like more than I can count on my fingers and toes). I didn’t want them to get written up when I shouldn’t have.
        I then went to the girl who I made uncomfortable and said I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to harass her. I said if she felt uncomfortable that she should’ve spoken up and corrected me. I then would have said sorry and said, “let’s not discuss politics, religion, and sex.”

        The girl then explained she didn’t want to make it a big deal, see above and was stunned that I got written up because she didn’t say she had been ruminating over the incident. She and the assistant manager were talking on the floor about gay rights and uncomfortable situations.
        I see why I overstepped, I’m most likely overcompensating because now that I have a write up, and I feel like a failure and stupid. I also wanted to warn them as the rules don’t just apply to me, they apply to everyone in the whole store.

        1. ferrina*

          Thanks for the added context! You’re not a failure- it sounds like there’s some weird office culture stuff going on, and that might be warping your sense of work norms. That assistant sounds awful, but I’m shocked that the manager wrote you up for something that you shouldn’t have been written up for. That’s terrible management, and it would be hard not to feel paranoid after that.

          It’s fine to warn people a couple times and even say “hey, just so you know, I got written up for XYZ”, but after that you need to let them make their own choices. Try not to let the awful assistant manager and manager warp your norms- do your best to be your professional self despite them (and maybe start thinking of an exit plan- this doesn’t sound like a healthy place long-term)

        2. Winter*

          So, did you try to tell your co-workers that they weren’t allowed to talk about gay rights because it was sexual harassment?

          If so, I’m not surprised that went over poorly.

        3. Ahhhhnon*

          Mmm, I think there’s a little more context needed. What do you mean by talking about gay rights? Was it a political conversation (going either way)?

          1. Iworkretail*

            Sorry for the confusion. I wasn’t talking about gay rights. My assistant manager and coworker were talking about gay rights and uncomfortable conversation surrounding gays. My coworker then mentioned I made her uncomfortable a year prior to the assistant manager over something that I said when I was talking politics. The assistant went to the store manager without my coworker’s consent and then stated that I harassed my coworker about politics, religion, and sex and that coworker said she had been ruminating about the incident continually since last year (which my coworker said she never said). Hope that clears it up

            1. Winter*

              It doesn’t, but regardless, you should probably stop invoking rules and policies with other employees unless you’re their boss or they are putting themselves or someone else in physical danger. That’s the right move here.

            2. Ahhhhnon*

              It doesn’t. I was asking what you meant by this because it is very vague:

              She and the assistant manager were talking on the floor about gay rights and uncomfortable situations.

              Could be taken a few ways, that’s why I asked if it was a political discussion, which I would agree would have no place on the floor. But if one of them was just talking about her own girlfriend or her brother’s boyfriend, that’s just talking, not sexual harassment.

              Ultimately, Winter is right. I’d just drop it unless they are being extremely unsavory in their talking on the floor (explicitly talking about sex, bigotry, etc.), then report it to your boss with the framing of being nervous a customer can hear them and you don’t want them to get in trouble or something.

              1. Iworkretail*

                That conversation was how I got into trouble when my coworker said to the assistant that I made her uncomfortable. The conversations, not the one between the assistant and my coworker who were talking about gay rights have been about explict things. one girl got raped by her abusive boyfriend, one girl was talking about anal, one girl was talking about how she’s bi, one girl (when she was 15 is the half-sister of the coworker who got raped) and was in bed with abusive boyfriend. These conversations happen with or without customers present including the fitting in. That’s why I wanted to warn them that I don’t recommend. It had nothing to do about gay rights at all.

                1. Ahhhhnon*

                  Yes, almost all of those are inappropriate for discussion on the floor at work, and it is actually worrying you’re getting push back when they’re talking about such things. It is terrible what some of your coworkers have gone through, but that shouldn’t be discussed with coworkers on the clock, especially if there is a chance that a customer could hear because you never know who else is dealing with such traumas.

                  The only one I don’t view as inherently inappropriate is the girl talking about how she’s bi if she was just casually mentioning it and it flowed with their small talk. If it was explicit talk about how she’s bi (details about sex), yes it would be inappropriate, but a casual mention of her sexuality is not sexual harassment.

                  Either way, if they’re talking about violent encounters or sex, bring it to your manager to deal with under the excuse of customers hearing even if there’s no customers in the store. That’s likely the only way you’ll get it taken care of. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, don’t cite rules at them, just give them the “Whoa, I don’t wanna hear about that.” or “Can we not talk about ___, it makes me super uncomfortable.” If you get push back still, I think it’s time to find a new job.

                2. ferrina*

                  Verbally identifying as bi isn’t in the same category as talking about graphic sexual acts.
                  Talking about sexual identity is not the same as talking about sexual acts.

                  These sound like traumatic conversations, but you’re also lumping in a normal conversation (or not communicating the full picture). I recommended this up thread and I’m repeating it here- I think you need to find another workplace, because I think this one has warped your sense of work norms and what is/isn’t acceptable

                3. Iworkretail*

                  I also want to say why I stated what I said, which I understand now as wrong, is that I was called into the office about this event that happened last year. I’m going to college for accounting and plan to graduate with 150 credits and sit in for the CPA exam. I’m worried if anyone talks anything explicit whether I participate in the conversation or not, that I have to memorize the conversations with my coworkers in case something comes up a year later that I have to remember. Like I got school and am studying for finals for next week. I don’t have time to remember conversations that happened verbaitin a year ago. It comes across as psycho. Like I don’t understand why management bought up this with me and wrote me up for it.

                4. To Apply or Not to Apply?*

                  How do you decide when / whether to go for a promotion? I’ve never had a job with much upward mobility before.

                  There’s an internal position about to open up in my department, and my boss encouraged me to apply. It’s something I’d be qualified for and capable of doing, although I hadn’t considered it until my boss said something. I’m not brand new, but most people in my unit been there longer than me. If I applied and didn’t get the role, I think I’d be nervous about my coworkers judging me for being un-self-aware about my own shortcomings or experience.

            3. Irish Teacher*

              Honestly, I’d kinda wonder if the assistant had some reason of her own for going to the store manager (either a valid one or a completely biased one), like that your politics were the polar opposite of her own and she wanted to get you in trouble for them.

              It seems like that was a very specific situation and doesn’t necessarily mean that others who talk about sex, politics or religion would get in trouble. The assistant lied, at least to some extent, by saying the coworker had been ruminating about it constantly, so it’s quite possible there was some other exaggeration going on.

              Of course, the rules don’t just apply to you, but this sounds like it wasn’t so much about the rule against speaking about those topics as either about the assistant manager truly believing you had said something really upsetting to your coworker, so upsetting that she was still upset about it a year later or she was trying to misrepresent the situation as your having done that for reasons of her own. It doesn’t sound so much as if those topics are generally considered to be harrassment as if, in some way, your words were misinterpreted or misrepresented as being really upsetting and the comment about it being best to avoid those topics more a way of avoiding trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong.

              I don’t really think you need to warn anybody because it does sound like that was enforced because of the specifics of the situation (and possibly because of misrepresentation, either accidental or deliberate, somewhere along the line) and isn’t something particularly likely to happen again.

        4. I have RBF*

          So, it sounds like your workplace is full of bees and your manager writes people up based on third-hand gossip and playing telephone. I’d be looking for a new gig if I were in your position. The culture there sounds cringy, where people complaining about inappropriate topics being discussed get written up for “harassment” – for complaining about inappropriate topics being discussed. That’s a no-win environment, IMO.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        First time that I’ve read that, also. I can see where and the level determines the problem. For example, if you are working the elections polls, all political talk is forbidden, which I see is good, especially since we are evenly divided by law between Democrat and Republican.

        Me sharing my experiences at a religious retreat, when asked about my trip is not harassment. Someone getting in my face about my religion or putting it down can be.

        I agree with you about sex.

    4. Seahorse*

      Talking about religion or politics is sexual harassment?

      This can be a tricky needle to thread IMO. If policy is something along the lines of “keep conversations to appropriately light / safe topics,” by whatever phrasing, you’ll get people who want to deliberately push things and play rules lawyer about what counts as acceptable.

      However, a blanket ban on sexuality, religion, and politics can very easily be weaponized against minority groups. A woman who mentions her wife in passing, a Pagan talking about their Yule plans, or a nonbinary employee *existing* could all be targeted for violating the rules.

      So… the keyholder doesn’t understand free speech or politics, but I can also see why they don’t want to lay down extensive rules banning all conversation topics that anyone might conceivable find less than comfortable. That said, they don’t seem to be expressing that thought well, so it’s hard to gauge whether their response is an instinct they can’t put into words easily, or if they just don’t want to bother managing.

      I guess my thought would be to say something to your coworkers / management if there is a specific conversation making you uncomfortable, but not to tell other people what broad topics they’re allowed to discuss.

    5. Redaktorin*

      So, unfortunately, you can’t do this. Whoever wrote the manual said to ask people to stop being inappropriate because that sounds like something that should work in theory, but in practice, because your coworkers are determined to act like total nightmares and your manager agrees with them, your choices are to put up or leave. I’m sorry!

    6. Jezebella*

      You overstepped but also the keyholder claiming that restricting certain topics in the workplace is a “restricting their free speech first amendment right” is very very wrong. Nobody on a retail floor should be talking about politics, even if the two in the conversation agree. You can’t know whether your customers agree.

      1. Goldfeesh*

        That reminds me of a visit to a big box lumberyard a couple of years ago. I was looking for construction nails and the retirement aged associate started going off on Mexicans (his word) and teaching sex ed in schools. As a white middle aged woman he was expecting me to agree with him. I argued as I did not want to give him the impression that I agreed with him, then walked off.

    7. Sherm*

      About sex: Yes, it is perfectly fine to say that talking about sex at work makes you uncomfortable. Telling them it could get them in trouble was probably accurate and might have been beneficial for them to hear, before they say something in front of the “wrong” person.

      About politics and religion: I think what the policy was getting at was that you can tell people that you’d rather not discuss a certain topic and ask them to save it for later. But that does not mean that those topics are forbidden. Now, there are cases where those topics could cross the line (like if an employee goes around telling people that they are inferior for not following a certain religion), and it wouldn’t be smart to say anything in front of customers that could alienate them, but a blanket ban may not have been what the company had in mind.

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      It doesn’t have to be harassment or objectively wrong for you to ask someone to stop! I think it would’ve been fine to just tell people you were uncomfortable (especially about sex topics, religion/politics I feel it kind of depends) but framing it as basically a threat that they’ll get in trouble was the wrong approach.

      “anyone can discuss politics as long as they agree and share the same views” made me LOL, what a weird way to address this. I feel like no one handled the situation very effectively here.

    9. Clisby*

      Is this “keyholder” your supervisor? I wasn’t familiar with the term; from a quick google search it sounds like it’s just the person responsible for opening/closing a business.

      Anyway, this has nothing to do with the First Amendment, but I tend to agree that it would have been better to report this to a supervisor (unless you actually are the supervisor of these young women.)

      Leading to my thought #3 – unless your business is hiring 12-year-olds, these are not girls. They are women.

  12. Interviewing when voluntary unemployed*

    Last month as I resigned without anything lined up. I was there for only 6 months, but I was experiencing severe anxiety/depression. Partly due to the job itself (stressful job, OT without compensation) and partly due to some of things that were going on my life (which are not 100% resolved btw).
    I have been feeling better (yay!) and even have some interviews next week, but my being unemployed will surely come up and I do not want it to ruin my chances at getting a new job. Any advice on how to go about it would be welcome!
    Should I say that a) simply wanted to take a break b) previous work environment was stressful (explain the constant OT w/out comp.) and wanted to take a break and take time to choose carefully my next long-term job.
    Additional info: I’m in early 30s, prior to the recent job, I was at another one for 5 years. And my therapist suggested that I tell them that I am taking a mental health break (as companies have become more understanding of this lately).

    1. ferrina*

      I’d go with “I had some health issues that I needed to get taken care of, but those are thankfully resolved and I’m excited to get back to work!”
      If you want, you can say “Unfortunately the work environment I was in was exacerbating the health condition. I’ve learned that I really need ABC…” but know that that will get you taken out of the running for companies that don’t offer ABC (whether that’s certain hours, etc.). That may or may not be an issue, depending on what you are looking for.

      Don’t mention what kind of health issues- while companies have been more understanding, there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health. And it just takes one person in the hiring process to shut it down or find an excuse to end your candidacy.

    2. Junior Dev*

      I would not say mental health break in an interview. Either mention a generic “health issue that is now resolved” or something more work focused like “I realized the company culture was not a good fit” (be prepared to explain what differences in culture you want in your new company).

      Unfortunately, most therapists don’t give great advice when it comes to practical work stuff. Both my therapist and psychiatrist kept telling me I should try to work part time before going back to work full time. Part time jobs don’t exist in my industry, unless you want to freelance which comes with way more stress, or weird one-off situations like a nonprofit that wants you to do anything and everything related to technology but have limited grant funding. I got a full time job and it was fine.

    3. Kes*

      I wouldn’t say taking a mental health break but I think you could say that the past company demanded constant OT and this was starting to have impacts on your health so you decided to resign, take a break to recover, and then look for a new job.

  13. MsMaryMary*

    This is kind of an AAM AITA post.

    I work in an organization that has traditionally valued sales over service. To be fair, that’s true of our entire industry. Our best sales folks have deep industry knowledge and are very involved in delivering to clients, but we also have pure salespeople/producers who have very little involvement after a sale and junior salespeople are called “consultants” despite having 1-2 years of experience.

    I’m a mid-senior person on the service side. Individual contributor, no direct reports, but A LOT of managing up on the sales folks. Twenty years of experience. I am very good at my job, my clients love me, and last year I was our office’s (statewide, let’s say Idaho) employee of the quarter (Q1) and last week it was announced I am our 2022 Idaho employee of the year.

    I found out I was Q1 employee of the year in late July, while I was on vacation, when they announced Q1 and Q2 winners at the same time. Our prize was an extra day of PTO and a lunch with the head of the Idaho office, which I later learned I was responsible to schedule. TBF, I could have scheduled lunch at a very nice restaurant and he’d be fine with it, but usually I eat lunch at my desk because I’m busy and didn’t use all my PTO even without the extra day.

    Last week we got an email naming the 2023 Q1 employee of the quarter and announcing me as 2022’s employee of the year. Nothing about another lunch, PTO, or even a plaque or something.

    Our company conference where the best sales folks were recognized *and* where the Idaho office up for branch of the year was in February. It was in Vegas, paid travel and hotel (the Venetian, I think) and one night corporate paid for Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish (Darius Rucker) to do a set. Multiple salespeople from my office, as well as my team, attended. No one from our office’s client service team was invited.

    Am I the a-hole to be salty about being employee of the year with zero financial or tangible benefits? Is it just that I am not a Words of Affirmation person? I generally don’t want to vacation with my coworkers but I’ve never been to Vegas.

    Is it weird for an established professional to put Idaho Employee of the Year on her resume?

    I don’t think “hill to die on” is exactly the situation, but assuming NTA is it worth cashing in a decent amount of institutional capital to make a fuss?

    1. ferrina*

      I understand you being salty about this- I would be. The company forgets that while sales teams are great at getting new customers through the door, repeat customers come from great work product and great customer service.

      I’d be flagging this and gently probing our senior leaders about this. Will it do anything? Probably not, it sounds like this culture comes from top down. But it’s worth putting on the radar. For extra fun, calculate the revenue that has come from any repeat clients that you’ve had and any upsells that you’ve done. I worked in a similar scenario where I was the producer and when I calculated all my repeat customers (i.e., anyone that called up my sales team and said “I want to buy more work”, pretty much no effort on the sales’ teams behalf), I had the second-highest sales from that team. So yeah, make sure they count that.

    2. T. Wanderer*

      Being salty about this seems VERY reasonably to me! I’d make at least a moderate fuss at such a clear division. (I’d also put the employee of the year on your resume — it’s a great indicator of the quality of your work, imho!)

    3. Gondorff*

      NTA for being a little salty (it’s understandable, after all!), but potentially YWBTA (you would be the a-hole) depending on what kind of fuss you intend on raising. I think it’s worth asking why it wasn’t announced sooner and thus why you weren’t recognized at the national conference (was the delay specific to your state? Did someone drop the ball? etc.), and even letting your manager or whomever you think is best know that it was fairly demoralizing to not be recognized along with your peers. Who knows, maybe they’ll feel badly enough that they’ll invite you to next year’s conference!

      As to the resume, in my field it’s not uncommon to list awards like that on resumes, but YMMV depending on your field. If you have concrete statistics to back it up (e.g. named Employee of the Year by accomplishing x, y and z metrics), it’ll look better regardless of field.

      1. Gondorff*

        Realized I read this wrong and that your role in general wouldn’t have been recognized at the conference. Still, worth perhaps breaching to your manager if you think it’ll make a difference (and it very well may not, unfortunately!).

        1. MsMaryMary*

          I’m told other service team people from other offices attended. Just none from ours

    4. Susan Calvin*

      We can be the salty, salty dead sea together.

      I think the biggest issue with making a fuss is that it will be really hard to not look petty, but if you can make a convincing case about it being a pattern, and bad for morale in general, you might get somewhere. Better yet if you can make it a business issue – sprinkle in something about customer success and how a customer that has churned once because of mediocre service is less likely to ever be a customer again, than someone who has never heard of you!

    5. Pete*

      For the employee of the quarter award, I would order lunch for myself and note belated employee of the quarter q1/ 2022 on expense/form.

      For employee of the year, order a very small cheap trophy labeled employee of the year and set it on your desk so it becomes a joke and embarrasses management. (or a very large cheap trophy depending on your level of saltiness.)

      1. MsMaryMary*

        A coworker offered to buy me a trophy and sent me a google image search of trophies with donkeys on them. Pretty sure you’ll get what she was suggesting, and I thought it was hilarious.

    6. TechWorker*

      I can see why you’re not that impressed but it also sounds like you could have taken the nice lunch and the PTO and chose not to?

      1. MsMaryMary*

        Fair on the lunch. It rubbed me the wrong way that I was supposed to schedule it. He even has an admin who schedules other things for him.

        I didn’t use like four days oF PTO, not including this one, and only three days rolled over. I’m working on being better about taking my PTO.

    7. Llama Identity Thief*

      Definitely NTA for being salty. I agree with the other comments about being careful how you make a fuss, especially because it sounds like you’d be pushing back against a very strong corporate culture of “it’s all about the sales figures, baby.” It also might be too late for you to cash in on any changes made by your fuss, but that also lends well to how you should approach it. Don’t make it about you getting the thing now, make it about how much better it would be for EotQs and EotYs in the future in terms of morale. Are there individuals you know who won the award previously, and similarly got stiffed? Maybe some who left shortly after getting the awards who you can talk to? See if you can discuss a group proposal from the group of you still with the company to make a change in the policy going forwards, and try to push it up the chain not under the guise of salt, but instead about retaining star employees. If you do this, there is at least some chance you/the entire group gains the benefit as well, but it also could do a lot to eventually increase your political capital, if “you are the person who led the group to make a really beneficial change.”

      You can put the EotY on your resume! That is a really simple, yet perfect version of the accomplishments Alison focuses on for bullet points under your job. In your case, I’d specifically put it as the last bullet point for the job – have 1 or 2 first that are more “specific things you did that directly showcase your skills,” but closing with it is an emphatic bookend to showcase just how impressive those accomplishments were.

    8. Aitch Arr*

      I absolutely get being salty. Unfortunately, in my experience, Presidents’ Club (the equivalent of the Vegas trip) is only for salespeople, not for Customer Success. It kind of sucks to be honest.

  14. SoVeryAnonForToday*

    I’m expecting a job offer (yay!) today. (They said “end of week”.) That would make my likely resignation day Monday but I’ll be traveling for work Monday -Wednesday. Is it bad form to resign while on a business trip? FWIW, my direct supervisor knows, will be on the trip with me and supports me 100%. However the grand-boss will take it as a BETRAYAL and a sign of DISLOYALTY. (Where’s the sarcasm formatting when you need it?) I can’t imagine I would be ordered home, but rational thought is not the order of the day lately.

      1. MJ*

        Or if you can’t wait, can you resign to your direct supervisor on the trip and they start things moving but not mention to your grand-boss until you are back?

    1. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

      Do you absolutely have to start your new job two weeks from Monday? Would be ideal if you could push to Thursday or Friday.

      1. SoVeryAnonForToday*

        No, I just wanted everything to line up neatly calendar-wise. I’m taking a week off in between jobs.

    2. kiwiii*

      If there’s any chance that he would make the business trip more difficult or stressful than it needs to be, I would wait to resign until you’re back and see if you can push your new start date back a week.

    3. MJ*

      Since hiring timelines often take longer than planned, they may not actually get the offer to you today, so you may be worried for no reason.

      Unless they have a new hire training session that only runs infrequently and you have to be on it – you can always ask about pushing your start date back a few days / a week.

      1. SoVeryAnonForToday*

        So true. It hasn’t arrived yet and I’m at the sweating and nail-biting stage… eek.

    4. Yes And*

      It strikes me as unlikely that you’d be ordered home from the business trip. Presumably there is some business objective to this trip that still needs to be accomplished, whether you’re in your notice period or not. Plus, if you’re flying on the trip, changing plane tickets last-minute is hugely expensive.

      Your grand-boss is going to react how they react no matter where/when you give your notice. The only reason to consider the trip in your plans, IMO, is if your role will take your full notice period to pass off to a successor. In that case, I think it would be fair to give your org the choice of whether your notice period is better spent on this trip or handing off (even if your grand-boss is a pill, which it sounds like they are).

      1. SoVeryAnonForToday*

        Yes, there is work to be done on the trip and I’m committed to doing it. (I’m leaving because of grand-boss not because of my boss or the company mission which I still totally believe in.) Cost of changing plane tickets would not be an issue if grand-boss has a fit of pique.

        There will be no successor in my notice period. My company is terrible at quick hiring – I suspect that it will take six months to figure out what the job description will even be. My boss estimated they will have to hire 2.5 FTE to replace me. I will do my best to give the high-level overview to various people in the org during my notice period, but programs will have to be shut down and projects shuttered.

  15. Lil ole me*

    I recently left a very high-stress job for a much less stressful one (this was intentional). My new job is hybrid remote with 3 days in the office and 2 days at home. Because I’m new, because I’m really efficient/fast, and maybe because of the nature of the job, I never have a full 40 hours worth of work to do every week. I probably have closer to 20-24 hours of real, active work most weeks. I’ve had these types of roles before, actually the majority of my career, and I know this is very, very common. But the work can also ebb and flow, and I travel from time to time which can be a sharp increase in work hours, so I have no interest in taking on more. I also have no interest in going to my boss and asking for more, or seeking certifications or further education. I’m not overly concerned about career growth. I’ve had many years of too much stress, and I have found a perfect situation for me – less stress, much slower pace, excellent benefits, and all without taking a pay cut. It’s amazing.

    So here’s my dilemma: right now, I’m managing the low workload by saving the bulk of my work for the days I’m in-office, because I want to look/be busy on those days. On my remote days, if I have things to do, I do them, but if nothing is urgent and I’d rather save the work for in-office days, I do. I generally stay close to my computer, and I stay available (I don’t leave the house except for maybe a quick appointment or errand). I book and attend meetings with coworkers as needed (I don’t purposely avoid meetings on remote days). Sometimes I get laundry done, I pack for work trips if needed (I do have to travel 10-20% of the time), and I just relax more. My boss has made it clear that his priority is the quality of the work and that he’s not micromanaging schedules. But I still feel guilty. Since I’m new to the hybrid work world, I guess I’d just like to know if this is normal. As long as I’m getting the work done and getting excellent performance reviews, I shouldn’t worry about this, right? How do you enjoy a light workload and more freedom without feeling guilty?

    1. Justin*

      If you don’t want to take classes, do some creative stuff or projects. You can be at your computer, and respond to emails (which counts at work by law), and there you go.

    2. Elle*

      My team has a similar set up in a hybrid office environment. We’ve asked for more work without getting any. I don’t feel guilty. It is what it is and has been very useful when I’ve had personal needs come up. Talking to friends it’s very common. When I was in the office full time I didn’t have 40 hours of work. I spent a good amount of time talking to coworkers, going out for coffee, etc.

    3. Manchmal*

      Sounds like you’re living the dream. Think of what you could be doing with that extra time? Work out, learn a language, get creative!

    4. Blue wall*

      I’ve been in a similar situation for a few years. It took a while to get over the guilt. I tell myself that I am doing excellent work (true) as soon as it arrives for me to do (true) and that this is what the organization is paying me for.

    5. Ama*

      I’m full time remote — but I am recovering from spending 2017- 2021 at my current job extremely understaffed in my department (and then half of 2022 was spent training new staff which was its own extra set of tasks). Since I finally got more coworkers and some of my job responsibilities moved off my plate, I will occasionally find myself on quieter days/weeks getting anxious about “missing something” or “not doing enough” because I was in full out mode for so long. But what I’ve come to realize is jobs really shouldn’t demand 100% of your time all the time — you need space to think about what’s coming up, organize files, or just give your brain a little bit of rest (work travel takes a LOT out of me, so I usually try to give myself a little more space in the days immediately following a trip).

      I know I’ve been a stronger performer in the last 18 months now that I have gone back to having ebbs and flows in my workload and actually have time to debrief myself after projects instead of immediately having to move on to the next thing.

    6. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Something I read from another commenter here applies. You’re not just or mostly being paid for the hours you put in; you’re being paid for bringing your skills and expertise to the job. You’vr spent the time and effort to developing the skills and expertise you need to do this job as efficiently as you are and your output matters more than the time you’re on the clock. Plus, you’re staying available and not shifting work onto others.

    7. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      I don’t have the hybrid thing but I am in a similar boat: after a few years at a high stress, high workload job, I finally left 2 months ago and made a lateral internal transfer to a department within my same org that has a much lower stress level and a much steadier workflow. If your pay is the same in a job where you are doing less work/having less stress, you have effectively gotten a raise. Now you have time and energy to do creative thinking/organization/professional development/etc! But I can also identify with how it can feel like you are cheating the system or something…I’ve been trying to remind myself that it will take time to adjust and that going from doing the work of 2-3 people to the work of 1 appropriately loaded person will of course feel wacky! I am finding I have more time and energy in my personal life to enjoy being a person, too. Just enjoy it!!

    8. Qwerty*

      How is the workload for the rest of your team? Do they seem to be struggling or are they pretty happy too? If someone gets behind or is out sick, do you offer to help out?

      Would it help to think of the travel time / long work weeks as reallocating hours from the easy work weeks? If workload + travel time = ~50hrs during week 1, then it makes sense for week 2 to be a ~30hr week.

      How is your brain power during those down periods? I used to feel weird about having days where I didn’t do much, until I realized they always followed an efficient/productive day. It’s like my brain has a switch between “supercharged” and “off” (yay ADD). Once I realized that I would probably get *less* done if I worked at a consistent pace 5 days a week, I felt a lot better.

    9. I have RBF*

      I struggle with this myself. I work remotely. Some days I barely have time for a bio break, others (like today) I’m reading a lot of AAM.

      Yes, I feel guilty when I’m not busy. The start of my working life was as a lab assistant. There was always glassware to wash and put away, surfaces to clean, or samples to organize. Then there was an assembly line, and time clocks. Then other professional stuff where there was always more work than anyone could do, so we were always busy.

      Now, I’m a senior person, and half my job is being around for people to ask questions and fix things if/when they break. I am extremely fast at what I do, so people are often surprised at how little time it takes me to fix stuff. OTOH, I’ve put in about 25 years to get to this point. But I still feel the guilt, like I’m somehow “cheating”, when I’m not – I’m available for people to ask questions of, able to keep up with my tickets, etc.

      I don’t know what to tell you, other than to make sure you are actively available to take things on when you WFH. Also, enjoy it while it lasts. Part of me really likes being a resident expert, not a widget maker.

    10. Anonymous Cat*

      I’m fully remote with a similar situation. It helps me to try to see my work and contributions from an outside perspective. My manager is very happy with my work, work is delivered on time and my reviews are great. When it’s hard to trust your own perspective (chronic overachiever here), trust instead what you are hearing from others and remind yourself of that. You are being too hard on yourself!
      Another way to look at it is that you are prioritizing your time. Your work is going to get done during your in office time, so it makes more sense to prioritize other things when you are home. It’s just that you have more options than just work of what to prioritize and do when you are home.

    11. Aggretsuko*

      This is literally what I’m doing right now. Screw it. Think of it as being “on call.” Especially if the boss doesn’t care. I’m keeping an eye out if anything else starts burning right now, but I’m saving the busy work for when I’m being watched.

  16. Avery*

    I’m a paralegal working for a small law firm since last fall. There was a brief trial period in which I worked hourly, with clear expectations regarding hours worked, but it didn’t take long before my boss called me up to tell me that I would be hired as a salaried worker. During that phone conversation (which gave me the only guidelines I had for the change in role, as there was no contract or other written exchange about it), I asked how much I should work and he assured me that I didn’t have to spend exactly eight hours at my desk each day, but that “as long as you get five billable hours in a day, you’re good.”
    The problem? I haven’t been getting five billable hours in a day. I got close at first, but these days, it’s a good day if I get in a full four hours.
    It’s not due to focusing on primarily non-billable but firm-related work, just… not staying on task. This is my first full-time job after years of dealing with physical and mental health struggles, and it’s taking a lot out of me. Some of it’s a sleep disorder limiting the hours I stay awake and alert, some of it’s ADHD making it hard to focus even then, some is frequently having to navigate obstacles in the medical system to keep my sleep disorder and ADHD as treated as they currently are, some is my parents thinking my not paying rent means I’m their live-in on-call IT person and animal caretaker… but I digress.
    My boss hasn’t mentioned the five billable hours requirement, or anything at all about billable hours, even once in the months since I became salaried. It hasn’t come up with coworkers either. My boss’ feedback on the quality of my work has been nothing but positive, and the lower amount of billable hours hasn’t led to missed deadlines, rushed work, or anything of that nature. But I know that billable hours are how the law firm gets paid, and I can’t help but worry that my not meeting the standard there is a serious problem.
    On the one hand, I don’t want to tell my boss “hey, I’m low on hours a lot, is that a problem?” and find out that it hadn’t been on his radar previously. On the other hand, I don’t want to ignore it for months just to end up facing a serious talk, PIP, outright firing, or just a mountain of billable hours that I need to cram into a short period of time.
    What should I do?

    1. BellyButton*

      I wouldn’t say anything, but you need to work towards reaching that goal. You need to really make an effort to increase by 15 minutes increments, until you reach that 5 hours. If the conversation does come up, you can say “I did notice that I wasn’t hitting that 5 hour goal, so as you can see over the past few weeks I have been striving to increase my hours to meet that goal.”

      Good luck!

      1. Avery*

        I’m definitely going to try. I’ve been using an app to set a variety of everyday goals, and for a while I had hitting that 5 billable hour mark, but I never could get there and it just made me feel bad. Just today I decided to change it to 4+ billable hours, which is a stretch but more doable, and the idea is that once that’s easily achievable for me I’ll tweak the goal upwards until it’s the full 5 hours, similar to what you’re suggesting.

        1. Tio*

          If you know you’re having issues, you need to set up each obstacle to your success and break it down. What can I do about removing the obstacles? It’ll feel hard, because it is, but there may be small ways you can start to remove them that give you that extra 15 minutes each. Checklists, timers, noise cancelling headphones, one of those programs that locks your phone for an hour, whatever can help you stay focused. And don’t feel bad about getting help from your doctor or your parents or even friends – some parents love to have a way to “help” (but you know them better than me, so you know if this would actually help or not).

        2. jess r.*

          Just a couple thoughts based on my own ADHD experiences with setting goals like this, which you can take/leave as it suits you.

          If you’re trying to push yourself to 5 billable hours, what if you set up your app so that you get X points for your 1st billable hour, X+1 for your 2nd, X+2 for your 3rd, and then break it down into points per half-hour or quarter-hour for the 4th and 5th hour? That way, you’re not setting yourself up for a binary where either you hit 5 hours or you don’t. You’re giving yourself credit for everything you do, and you get more points for the higher hours.

          In Habitica, for example, I’d set this up by listing “1st hour,” “2nd hour,” “3rd hour,” “3.5th hour,” “4th hour,” “4.5th hour,” and “5th hour” as daily tasks, and I’d list, maybe, 1st and 2nd as “easy,” 3rd and 3.5th as “medium,” then 4th, 4.5th, and 5th as “hard.”

          My other thought is that like Tio said, you might try narrowing down the obstacles you’re facing. Jessica McCabe, who runs How to ADHD, suggests something called an Issues Log (google “jessica mccabe issues log” to find a video and a link in the description) that helps you keep track of what little things derail you. One of hers was being late because she repeatedly couldn’t find clean socks — so she got more socks!

          My classic example of this is that I, a person who loves running, spent months at a certain point of my life *wanting* to run and not going running. And then I finally realized consciously that my big Obstacle was that I hated my running clothes, so I avoided them, which meant avoiding my fave workout. When I approached it as a general Motivation Problem (TM), I didn’t know how to fix that. But I could get new, better-fitting running clothes!

          This does not fix all of the things! The ADHD and the other medical issues will not go away. It is just one of many, many tools to work with your brain as it is. Good luck <3

          1. Avery*

            I like that idea! I use the app Finch, which doesn’t have different difficulty levels for goals, but I could definitely set up the individual hours as separate goals.
            And I am trying to identify specific obstacles like that, though I don’t have anything as organized as an issues log for it. One thing I’ve done recently is block one website in particular during work hours (not AAM, lol, and not anything you’d expect either) so that it wouldn’t be a distraction to me.

    2. FisherCat*

      If you like the job, is there any feasible way to work on the things you’ve ID’ed as the likely culprits (therapy/meds or changes to same for ADHD, are you able to move out from your parents or set boundaries with them, is there any new or additional treatment you could pursue for the sleep disorder)? I know none of those are quick fixes but if you like the job and no one is raising an issue with your work so far it might be a good opportunity to get on top of some of the bigger issues – plus if you’re working on them before anyone raises an issue about your work you can truthfully say you’ve ID’ed the problem and are working on it if someone later does question you.

      But to your direct question – no, I wouldn’t bring this up with your boss. In part because law is not an understanding field about mental health or personal issues and in part because you don’t want to start the seeds of doubt in your boss’ mind if he isn’t having them already.

      1. Avery*

        I’m working on some of this already, and I’m definitely contacting my doctors to see if there’s more I can do for the ADHD and/or sleep disorder. I think part of the problem might be my body getting used to one of my current medications, which is a stimulant that helps with both ADHD and my sleep disorder, so… ugh.
        Boundaries with my parents are hard, and part of the problem is that sound travels a lot in this small house, which isn’t easily fixed.
        Moving out is definitely a long-term goal of mine, but given that it’s been less than a year since I started this job, it might be tricky getting a mortgage or getting approved as a renter until I have a bit more time to show a steady income stream.

        1. Observer*

          You don’t need years of employment to be able to rent, especially if you are willing to have a room mate.

          Also, consider starting to pay your parents rent.

          Lots of luck with the sleep disorder. With everything, of course, but that’s one that seems to be really not get looked at seriously enough by a lot of doctors.

          1. Avery*

            True, but I’d rather not have a roommate, and I’d rather buy than rent if at all possible.
            And thank you. I actually just heard back from my sleep doctor that he’s willing to increase my medication dose. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that’ll fix (or at least temporarily patch up) the problem, and then possibly I could bring it up to my boss as “problem already remedied” rather than “ongoing unsolved problem” if I still wanted to come clean.

    3. Parenthesis Guy*

      I think you need to come clean.

      There’s no way your billable hours are a priority to him, but when others find out you’re only billing three hours and they will eventually, you’re going to be in trouble.

    4. Phoenix*

      A friend of mine had a bad experience with this recently — for a year, he was under the billable hours target and no one said anything. But then one day he got a call from the big boss, was put on a PIP, and they made it pretty clear he was likely to be fired at the end of it. He found a new job.

      I’d recommend really trying to get those billable hours up. If you can do it without telling your boss I’d do that, but if you realistically need someone to hold you accountable in order to be motivated to change, then I’d loop him in.

    5. Jinni*

      Do you have a specific requirement? My experience with law firms (over 20+ years) is that they only tally at the end of the fiscal year – and then the emails go out to make sure missed hours were captured or to have the discussion you’re dreading.

      Have you worked there long enough to see this cycle or how other billable folks handle it or get handled? Every firm I know generates monthly reports. Few attorneys read them.

      Can you ask another paralegal how not making hours (or exceeding if you want to frame it that way for the question) is handled?

      1. Avery*

        I wasn’t told any specific total to have by the end of the fiscal year (which I know is unusual for legal positions), and I’m not aware of whether such monthly reports exist, though I imagine generating them through the billing software we use would be fairly trivial.
        Asking another paralegal sounds like a good first step, though, and I might well follow through on that–thanks for that idea!

    6. Anonosaurus*

      I suspect your boss is not tracking your billable hours as you go along but at some point he is going to, and if you are far behind this will be a problem even if your work product has been good. However this also depends on the firm. I have worked in places where your billable hours were reviewed with management every month end and woe betide you if you were 3 hours off, and places where nobody tracked them at all and fee income was all anyone cared about. It’s essential you know what the situation is in your firm – and not just what the official procedure is, but what happens in reality. You need to reality check ASAP with a peer you trust if possible.

      I am a partner and while my staff has fee targets and not billable hours targets, one feeds the other and if someone is regularly recording less time than expected we’re going to be having a conversation about their workload, because either they don’t have enough to do (which is ultimately my responsibility) or something else is happening that we need to figure out. I have been in your position when I first transitioned to a hybrid working model and it took time to adjust my settings. I nearly got canned over that so while I don’t want to alarm you, you need to address this.

      I wasn’t sure whether you don’t have enough work or you aren’t doing the work because of the distractions. If it is the latter you need to consider the advice here and find a way to boost your productivity. I know that is hard but you are probably in a position where this really matters. If you don’t have enough work to hit your hours you need to let them know ASAP because they need to address this and the sooner they know, the less likely you are to be blamed for the shortfall.

      good luck!!

  17. Tacobelljobfair*

    Would going to apply to a job in person seem weird because their website is broken? This is for a low level/entry level job. And if they ask tell them that the website is broken and I want to work there. Will this work or does it seem strange?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If the website says to apply online, then don’t go in-person. Depending on the nature of the business, it’s possible no one would be there to help you anyway. If there’s a number to call about the website or an email, try those first, or you may just have to wait a day or two until they get their stuff together.

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      I would recommend calling the business first to see if they have an alternative method of applying. Just don’t start trying to pitch yourself as a candidate! As long as it’s a short call sticking to the question of how to apply, I think that would be fine.

    3. Rainy*

      I mean, maybe email the webmaster or the general email address and let them know the website is broken, but no, don’t go to apply in person if the instructions are to apply online. Not only would that be pretty annoying for the people who are trying to do their job and now have to figure out what to do with you, but they probably don’t even have a mechanism in place to allow people to apply in person.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      If it’s a Taco Bell or similar I think it’s fine..If it’s a more office type of business, it would be better to wait ’til the site is back up, or possibly call and if a receptionist answers they can guide you

    5. Chirpy*

      I would call first. Even many retail jobs are online only applications these days, and showing up in person will just get you redirected back to the website.

    6. Tio*

      You are likely to get redirected back to the website, and honestly even if you had a paper application, good odds it’ get lost if you went in. The only exception is maybe if this is some sort of small mom-and-pop style company with like, 10 employees or so; then you might actually get a result if the owners are in or nearby. Otherwise, no.

  18. JennyFair*

    After finishing my BS and MS at a university, I was asked by the faculty of the community college I’d attended to return as an instructor. I began teaching there winter term and I will be there through the 23-24 school year (to cover the sabbattical of a faculty member/friend) and beyond if I wish.

    I love my job and I am very good at it. It’s hard for all the usual reasons, and harder because my commute is 120 miles one way. I unexpectedly acquired a wife while away at university and she can’t move for a few years, so I’ve compressed all my classes into 3 consecutive days each week, and I just stay there rather than coming home each night. I’m not being altriuistic in taking the job, though; the town I live in now is quite small, there are no jobs within my field, and currently no room on the faculty for me at the university.

    The problem is that I am in total BEC mode with a colleague. He’s a young man, about my kids’ age, actually, and upon our first meeting he decided I must need him to bestow upon me all his knowledge and wisdom about teaching. What textbooks to use, what to have my students call me, what class format, etc. I did not ask. By the time I got home that day I had an email from him to my personal email account (he’d gotten it from someone) demanding a meeting with me so he could give me even more advice. I responded that I had already developed my teaching methods and had my materials prepared, and that I live two hours away and would not be back until the first day of the next quarter.

    I am not new to teaching. I’ve taught in various capacities for decades. I taught as a graduate student, and I taught after graduating when the university offered me a short-term job. I’ve taken classes on teaching in my discipline, including one specifically geared towards teaching at community colleges that are minority-serving institutions, which ours is.

    Since I started teaching in January his unsolicited advice has continued, even on things like how I shouldn’t buy drinks from the coffee stand because they are full of fat and sugar. Even more annoying, he uses my office when I am not in it and he finds it convenient. But most importantly, he’s a bad teacher. My students who have taken classes with him hate him. They complain that he talks about himself instead of teaching them during lectures, and that he even puts questions on his exams that ask things like how many pet rabbits he has, a question that is unfair, inequitable, and serves no purpose except to bolster his ego.

    He is tenure-track and there does not seem to be hope that he won’t continue chugging along that path. Countless student complaints have brought no change and I don’t expect that would change if I added to them. I really, really hate that he’s harming students’ chances for success, and that he’s causing students to hate a discipline that most people are already afraid of or have already had bad experiences in.

    I can’t change anything about this situation, so my question is this: how can I structure my self-talk when it comes to this dude in a way that will deter the growth of my negative feelings? I have to work with him for another year and a half, watching him do a terrible job without visible consequences, and quite often picking up the pieces of the students he’s harmed in the process. I need to position all of this in a way that validates the negative but doesn’t kill my attitude, and I haven’t found an approach so far that fits the bill. Ideas?

    1. Not my real name*

      I have found making bingo cards of the annoying behaviors to be really helpful managing my feelings about people I don’t like but must deal with. Channel your inner Elvis Costello – “I used to be disgusted, Now I try to be amused.”

      1. Not my real name*

        Also, can you lock your office? Presumably you have confidential student records in there.

        1. JennyFair*

          I do lock it, but he has a key. Adjunct faculty aren’t “owed” offices at my institution, but another instructor and I have been given an office to share that sits between two laboratories. When no adjunct instructors are assigned to these offices, instructors can use them during labs that they teach. It’s a bad practice; for safety reasons we should be in the labs with students. But he does so. When I was first assigned the office, he actually had to clear a whole lot of stuff out that he’d been keeping there for who knows how long. Now I’ll come back and find him hanging out in there. Given my situation, I end up having to store all kinds of things in my office, including my cello, on the days that I teach. I don’t like having him around my stuff. I did speak to a trusted long-time professor who told me I was within my rights to ask him not to use my office, and I will do so the next opportunity that I get. It’s the audacity and presumption that gets to me, along with having someone I dislike and have no respect for in my space among my belongings.

          1. Happy Peacock*

            “When I was first assigned the office, he actually had to clear a whole lot of stuff out that he’d been keeping there for who knows how long. ”

            If I understand correctly, it sounds like he was using before you were assigned. I wouldn’t call it audacious and presumptive that he’s still using it. He’s just continuing to do the thing he has always done. Right now, I think your mindset is causing you more grief than his actual presence in your office. Use your words, and just ask him to stop using the office.

            1. JennyFair*

              As I said, that is the plan. But per the other instructors I have asked, his behavior is not within the norm–no one else uses offices that are assigned to adjunct faculty.

              1. Happy Peacock*

                You come across as really fixated on how he is wrong. I advise examining whether that attitude is helpful to positioning things in a way that doesn’t kill your attitude. Maybe you need to let go of validating the negative.

                1. Bob-White of the Glen*

                  The guy is using OP’s office, with their stuff in it, when they already have an office of there own. The guy is a jerk whose behavior is a bit of a nightmare for OP, so they are rightly dreading any more interaction with them. Plus, they have to tolerate this low-performing jerk in spite of knowing jerk will get undeserved tenure and continue to teach badly for decades.

                  OP came here for advice and commiseration, not to be lectured at for seeing the negative in a negative situation. There are better ways to offer constructive advice/a different way of looking at things, than personally demeaning OP.

    2. Happy Peacock*

      For things like giving you unasked for teaching and coffee advice, I tell myself that this is how this person builds connection. I reframe it from “objectively annoying thing” to “thing that this person does in a way that is different from how I do it”. It helps me view the person more sympathetically, and that lessens my annoyance.

      You can’t change anything about how he teaches or what he puts on his exams. If your students complain to you, you can be a sympathetic ear who validates that they are having a reaction to his teaching. I would avoid joining in on the complaining or validating the things they say bc that could lead to a complaint from him about you. Go with words like, “that sounds tough” and “I’m sorry that’s happening”. You can try to mitigate their dislike of the discipline a little by talking about positive experiences that you have had that sparked your interest and kept you going even when an individual was getting you down.

      And I’m sorry that’s happening. :)

      1. JennyFair*

        My reply to ferrina below applies here, too. I definitely take that approach with my students! It’s my own head I’m worried about at this point.

    3. ferrina*

      He’s living in your head rent free, and you need to start charging for that space. You’ve got much, much better things to do with this brain space than think about That Guy.

      Can you mentally position this as “How can I model to my students how to deal with That Guy?” They already feel comfortable to complain to you, so what do you want them to know about dealing with That Guy once they’ve graduated? How can you model that behavior? I’ve found that many community college students are deeply invested in their education and want to talk learning wherever they can find it. Many of the lessons I learned at community college were about how to relate to the world, not just academic facts.

      1. JennyFair*

        I think that’s a good approach, insofar as my students go. I’ve tried to stick with, “I’m sorry that happened” and “that sounds frustrating,” and other relatively neutral statements. I’m not sure, though, the correct approach to take. I tend to struggle with unjust situations that I can’t change. Hence my request :)

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, I totally understand the struggle! And it’s a fine line to walk between supporting the students and undermining a colleague (especially since the students can accidentally misrepresent what you said).

          Neutral statements are fine. Personally, I tend to go with the more passive-aggressive “You’re not the first person to mention this” or “Obviously I would never speak ill of a colleague, but there are certainly some people in this world who are….not the authority figure that I would choose. I do what I can to avoid these people or quickly pass through that part of my life so I can move on to better things. Better things my classes with you- speak of which, let’s talk about your essay!”
          I also tend to embroil myself in office politics (I don’t start it, I’m just the designated player for my team), so I may not be the best person to give advice here :)

          1. JennyFair*

            LOL! I’m not sure why I’m so invested in doing this well except that I think it’s a good habit for me to practice, and of course I’ll want good references. And I recognize that my dislike for him probably colors my opinion of his actions, although I also think his actions are objectively bad. I don’t know. I’m a scientist and there’s no data I can collect for this.

        2. Double A*

          Can you frame it for students as a life lesson?

          “Unfortunately in life, you will come across teachers, bosses, coworkers, and just people in general who are not great at their job [If this is too blunt, “whose style is not compatible with yours”]. One thing you can do is learn to play their game. This is annoying when you’re here to learn about llama grooming, but playing the game the person in charge wants you to play is also a useful life skill. So what do you think you need to do to succeed in Dr. Doofus’s class? Second, you can still get something out of the content he is presenting you. What about the content are you interested in? What are you struggling with? How can you figure out what you need to know? I know this is a frustrating situation, but remember that it’s just one semester.”

          When it comes to his advice to you, I find that people can only get under my skin when I’m insecure about something. So what insecurity of yours is he needling? If you’re truly confident in your content and teaching methods, why does his stupid advice bother you? You can just brush it off with, “Thanks, I’ve got this.” (Omit the thanks if you’d like). But if he’s actually poking at something that is bothering you, that can be worth exploring.

          Then just grey rocking him and treating him as a trifling annoyance who doesn’t know what he’s talking about is the best way to go.

    4. Grogu's Mom*

      Great question. Maybe you could think of professors like him as the status quo that your students typically have to deal with (there are sadly a handful of professors like this everywhere, at least temporarily). Your job is to go in and change the status quo by being the best possible prof you can for your students, leading by example. When needing to interact with him you could either be standoffish with him (“got it handled, thanks” with a cold stare) or overly saccharine/condescending (“bless your heart” etc.) depending on your style, but don’t think twice about being rude to him because he’s already being rude to you.

      By the way, your administration is failing here by keeping him around and especially if he ends up making tenure. You mention student complaints but perhaps the types of complaints being made are not the ones that your particular administration is moved by. Maybe they need to see numerical student review numbers below a certain level. Maybe they would be influenced by a “squeaky-wheel” student who’s in their dean’s office every week making complaints in person. Maybe things would change if a student went public with the complaints in the student newspaper. Or maybe it just needs to rise to the level of him doing something undeniably inappropriate like a sexist/racist comment. I’d probably ask around a bit about what might motivate your particular administration (maybe befriend someone lower down in the administration, we have all the good gossip) and then subtly coach students who come to you on what moves might be most effective.

    5. UpstateDownstate*

      I would start giving HIM advice! Just plug his email into ChatGPT and say ‘can you help me rewrite this ..’ and cut and paste it back to him and end it with “How lovely we get to share advice! I’ve got more to share but let me just grade a few papers and I’ll send along more from my many, many, years of teaching.”

      Oh, and unhinge something in the chair in your office and take it home with you (to fix for when you return to use your office) or take one peg down from the table so it wobbles (again, putting it back for when you are in). Let him enjoy that as well.

      What a weirdo!!!

      1. JennyFair*

        Well I did consider (and dismiss) using his office someday, but these seem much more deniable! LOL

    6. Educator*

      The feedback gears grind slowly in higher ed. If you hear student complaints, I would direct them to the proper channel, both because it is a good practice for them to know how to use their voices in the system, and because it may eventually have an impact. You can do it without saying anything bad about your colleague. “Oh, I’m actually not the right person to share that feedback with—you can email Dean Smith with your concerns. Here is her contact info.”

      And I would just ignore the rest of it. You know you are a good teacher. Your students know you are a good teacher. People everywhere are bad at their jobs, even people like teachers and doctors and drivers whose mistakes can have a big impact.

  19. Amber Rose*

    Update from my anxiety about Sketch Auditor last week: he was not actually sketch, just incredibly laid back. In fact he was almost horizontal. I’ve never met anyone so relaxed. So his lack of communication mostly stemmed from just not really taking this as seriously as I do. I may be too serious admittedly. Anyway he was friendly, the audit went fine, and it all served as a good reminder to breathe, not catastrophize, and trust the process.

    Meanwhile I have booked my hotel to go audit another company next month. I’m a little nervous about the long drive and I guess I need to work with an interpreter because some of their staff don’t speak any English, so that’ll be a new experience. Also their facility is 1000% more intense than my own so I need to go shopping this weekend for ALL the PPE.

    Has anyone ever worked with an interpreter before? Is there like a best practices thing for explaining things so they can be translated clearly, particularly in an industry fond of Three Letter Acronyms?

    1. Goddess47*

      Not experienced in the translator issue but my first thought it an overt discussion with the translator, before your meeting with the client (if that’s at all possible) and make an ask about “don’t guess” and “ask about acronyms” — unless your translator is also a subject matter expert, which would be doubtful, technical translations can be tricky.

      Good luck!

    2. A Shrimp*

      Finally, my inability to not read every single word around me comes in handy! I was just at a surgery center and read a sign on the wall next to the telephone that explained how to call an interpreter and what to do next. Here are some instructions I remember: brief the interpreter before beginning, pause often, and try not to use too much industry jargon or complicated terms unless necessary (since it sounds like it’ll probably be necessary, you’ll probably have to explain things so it can be accurately interpreted. So I guess it would be helpful to explain things up front, before you’re actively in conversation). Good luck!

    3. Sparkle Llama*

      Do the staff regularly use interpreters between themselves? If so it might be good to have the English speaking staff brief you in how to use the interpreter specifically for technical jargon or acronyms.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m led to believe my interpreter will just be another staff member who is fluent in both languages. Given the high risk environment, it’s understandable they don’t have an actual like, formal interpreter. But that might also help in that the person interpreting will understand the terminology.

        1. Mameshiba*

          As someone who has been the interpreter in that situation: if you have any materials you are bringing with you to discuss with the local team, share them with the interpreter in advance (with as much notice as you can, and inform them if the materials are updated).

          Less crucial things I appreciated:
          – Direct your conversation to the people you’re speaking with, not the interpreter (or not ONLY the interpreter).
          – Please don’t have side conversations while the interpreter is speaking–it is not only distracting, now they have to listen to what you’re saying while they speak so they can interpret that next.
          – Don’t throw in regional idioms, unusual acronyms, random jargon, or terminology outside their expertise.
          – Don’t speak too quickly or too slowly–just normal speed is fine, and finish a complete sentence or thought. They are not interpreting word for word, they are interpreting your complete thought. So depending on the complexity, 3 sentences at a time is a perfectly fine pace.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      I have worked with interpreters a lot. If this is not a professional interpreter, likely it will be sequential interpretation – you speak, then the interpreter, then you, etc. In this case you may need to speak a little more slowly than usual to allow the interpreter to jot down notes, and break frequently to allow the person to translate. Think of it as speaking one sentence at a time, vs. the whole paragraph. (The alternative is a simultaneous interpreter – they will speak at the same time as you, just a few words behind. There the only thing to watch for is if you pause to take a breath, let them finish before you start speaking again.)

      If the person works there they may already know how to translate appropriate terminology, but it never hurts to give them any jargon or terms of art that you may use in advance to ensure they will know how to translate it. Ditto for acronyms – spell them out for the interpreter – they may not recognize AAM as Ask A Manager.

      And depending on the power dynamic, if you are more senior be sure the interpreter knows it is OK to ask you to speak more slowly, or louder, or to tell you to pause so they can catch up.

  20. My Useless 2 Cents*

    Try asking for boss’s advice. 1) Boss will know the ins and outs you can’t relay here so might have better incite on where to focus your efforts for improvement. 2) People generally like to be asked for their advice, it makes them feel appreciated and listened to.

    For a script, I’d try something like:
    “I was thinking about our last discussion about client X while you were out of the office. I’m having difficulty pinpointing where I started going off the rails. Could you help me figure it out so I could correct myself going forward?”

    Also, have a few of the likely issues ready so boss doesn’t feel like they have to do your job for you, something like:
    “Should I have brought issue A to you earlier?” “Did I not tackle issue B quickly enough?” “Is there something I should be looking for so issue C doesn’t blindside me again?”

  21. rayray*

    Anyone else work at a company that is just now cutting WFH perks from employees who’ve had it for over three years?

    I work on site, I always have since I was hired in July 2020. There were a couple times they talked about bringing people back full-time to the office, but since the pandemic never went away as people thought it would, it never really happened. Some jobs or full departments brought people back, but we have a couple teams in my department that have all been working remote just fine this whole time. It was just announced this week that starting June 5, everyone within a certain radius is expected to come back full time.

    I just don’t understand why companies are doing this, I’ve heard of others just recently doing the same. I think having people work at home is great, besides the benefits they personally reap like having more free time and saving on gas money and commute time among other things, it would be so good for our environment and for traffic to have fewer cars on the road. I could go on about how WFH is great for so many reasons even though I never really got to do it! I’ve always wanted to though.

    It’s also such crappy timing, literally doing it right as schools are letting out for the summer.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      “I just don’t understand why companies are doing this, I’ve heard of others just recently doing the same. I think having people work at home is great”

      I love WFH, I am a Director and not anti-employee (though that’s the usual accusation when I say anything criticizing how well WFH works). But everyone keeps repeating how great they work from home, how their productivity is up, how they don’t get interrupted, all of this stuff. The problem is, it’s just not true in many cases. I’m finding many people overstate how productive they are. Again, that does not mean I dragged everyone back to the office and called them out for it. But I am working with some people to get them back on track while working from home.
      I’m at a point where I don’t understand what people don’t understand. If you take three months to finish projects that used to take you a month, and go missing for hours every day, and aren’t helping your junior colleagues anymore – how do you not see that? I’m realizing how blind many people are to their own blind spots.

      Another huge thing is that while everyone hates “pointless” questions and interruptions, they’re integral to peoples’ jobs. If I interrupt you, you don’t know what I am going to say until I say it. I may be giving you a very important problem to fix. I’ve had the talk with employees where they complain about an interruption, and I have to explain that I have six or ten things going on, so I really need them to take one, I can’t fix ten things at once to avoid them being interrupted with a third item.

      I have had meetings with very pointed agendas and people still complain in a roundabout “so many zooms” as if we’re just having meetings to have meetings. The thing is, if people took control of some of the issues I discussed before the meeting, I wouldn’t have had the meeting.

      I also go through cycles of “this meeting could be an email” then I do the emails, no one reads them, so I revert back to meetings. I manage highly educated people who have moments of excellence so this isn’t just a matter of inexperience or low performance.
      I have found some employees to be more annoyed with interruptions during the day while WFH.

      If you want WFH to work, you need to be more receptive to calls. If not, it makes it seem like we’re disrupting your personal time, not work time.

      1. rayray*

        I think for sure it depends on the nature of your work, I definitely know many positions require some collaboration and in-person work helps substantially.

        I guess I can only speak for what I observe, which is that the people in my department working at home are at least getting their work done and are responsive and timely. I think even a hybrid model would be more reasonable.

        To be fair, this is supposedly a 90-day trial, but we will see what happens.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          And to be 100% fair to you, I think hybrid is excellent. I just feel the need to sometimes push back on all of these threads online about how uber-productive everyone is and how WFH is always the most awesome thing ever. It’s been really hard to make it work as a manager because of a variety factors and I just wish people who want to stay WFH acknowledged that.

          1. TechWorker*

            I agree, especially about the senior people who are so glad they don’t have to help junior colleagues any more.. how do you think the junior colleagues productivity and learning is going?

            1. I have RBF*

              See, I work remotely, am senior, and will help any and all junior people that come to me.

              Working remotely in a geographically dispersed team does not mean you have to skimp on communication. If anything, it needs more.

              I deliberately try to foster good communication, even with little things like:
              A) saying “good morning” when I log on, to let people know I’m here and available;
              B) letting people know when I go AFK for lunch;
              C) engaging in chit-chat with my colleagues (I cut my internet teeth on IRC and UseNet so I communicate well in text);
              D) let people know when I’m logging off for the day; and
              E) making sure people know how to get hold of me out of hours if it’s urgent.

              It helps the team be more cohesive, which makes my job easier, IMO.

              1. TechWorker*

                Yep I 100% agree it needs more – but it’s also more effort to get it right. We are hybrid and on wfh days sometimes a junior engineer will put a question in chat that 3 people respond to half heartedly inbetween soon something else; when if someone was at their desk and able to look over their shoulder they would help them more efficiently. One example being things like ‘the debug command is something like ‘x’’ or you know roughly where the file to look at is but can’t remember exactly & it’s much easier to watch exactly what they’re doing. The junior employee obviously just types what they’re given & goes ‘nope that command/file doesn’t exist’. I’m not saying it *cant* work remotely but it is more effort and some of the people on my team who were/are resistant to coming in are not putting in that effort.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I completely agree, especially about WFH damaging the ability of junior staff to learn from more experienced colleagues. With very few exceptions, an unstated responsibility of just about every job in the world is to participate in a functioning workplace ecosystem, and that means occasionally being interrupted or taking the extra time to help or teach someone. I get that senior staff just want to do their job and be done, but it’s horribly shortsighted and will kill the pipeline of future leadership within the organization, if today’s juniors can’t learn from today’s seniors and prepare to themselves be the senior employees of the future.

      3. HBJ*

        I couldn’t agree with this more. We were involved in a process (from the client side) pre-pandemic, stopped due to pandemic, and then restarted well into the pandemic – mid-2021. The process the second time was horrifically slow. We were working with people in capacities that are text book examples of things that “can be done from home.” Things that previously had taken less than day (submit paperwork, have it approved by two people and then submitted) were taking multiple days. We straight up had people say things like “I submitted it to Dave, but he’s not in the office, and I don’t think he’s seen it yet. I’ll ping him again.” The type of things that if everyone was in office, you’d just walk down the hall, stick your head on Dave’s office and say, “hey Dave, sign this off will you.”

        I don’t doubt some people legitimately do better and more productive work from home, but I don’t think it’s nearly as many as think they are.

        And before I get all kinds of comments saying, “well, maybe Dave is more productive at home without people sticking their head in the door getting him to sign things,” I’ll just say that individual Dave being more productive does not automatically equal the company as a whole being more productive.

      4. umami*

        This is so well stated! I also struggle with understanding what people don’t understand, or need to understand. It’s … a business decision. Some people and some teams might be thriving while WFH, but other people and teams are not, and many employees don’t see the larger picture as to why these business decisions are made. But, so what? Lots of decisions are made as to how a business wants to be run, it can’t really be deferred to the employees’ individual preferences. And +1 to having meetings sometimes because people don’t read their emails, or don’t read for comprehension, but also sometimes there’s nuanced information that needs to be discussed, not just shared, hence meeting, not email. The workplace can’t always be made to accommodate people’s work preferences, and people’s work preferences aren’t always going to lead to the most productive and effective output.

    2. MakeItMakeSense*

      My company is doing this. It was announced 3 days a week back in the office about a year ago and almost no one followed through. Now they are saying it again. I think colleagues are calling their bluff. Upper management is pushing but also we have a lot of hiring freezes so if people quit over this, middle managers won’t be able to rehire so they are dreading lightly on enforcement. I think C-suite just doesn’t like the idea of spending money on office space that no one is using since none of the “collaboration” reasons just hold water.

      1. MakeItMakeSense*

        Adding that I do like hybrid work but I have an issue with a specific day mandate. I wish the company would trust me to come in when my team is in or if I have colleagues/suppliers/customers in town or a new colleague to work with. In general though, I work in a very global team meaning many of my colleagues don’t work in the same time zone so I schedule early morning meetings on my work from home days.

        1. Ama*

          This is where my office currently is. I’m full time remote (I live in another state from my office), but the rest of my team is local to the office and everyone hates the required T-W-Th schedule senior staff has implemented. People feel like everything we were told about how well we were doing during the pandemic was a lie and that we are no longer trusted to get our work done.

          I was literally told, in a meeting I had with the CEO and my boss (the CEO used to be my boss and is now my boss’s boss so this wasn’t as big a deal as it sounds) that they have to have this really strict policy about what days people have to be in office because if they allow people to choose when they want to come in “some people may take advantage.” To me that sounds like unlike ProspectGoneBad upthread, they don’t want to take responsibility for managing the people who aren’t doing well working from home, so instead those of us whose teams are doing fine feel like we’re being punished (in fact my direct report’s work has gotten *worse* since she’s been on the hybrid schedule because there’s more distractions and noise in the office, and probably also because her morale is pretty much in the toilet).

        2. Piscera*

          Unfortunately, many people at FormerEmployer couldn’t be trusted to come in when they were needed. Long before Covid, the firm allowed the professionals to WFH whenever they didn’t have a need (meeting, etc.) to come into the office.

          That led to many of them never coming in at all, which was a huge problem when staff in particular had questions about projects. Covid WFH just made that mindset worse, and then for some staff as well as the professionals.

        3. TechWorker*

          We have a specific day mandate and it really works for our company – we can get meetings done on those days and know that most or all people will be there. The office feels alive and not empty. People can plan childcare and exercise around a fixed schedule. It’s not about ‘trust’…

          1. umami*

            I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to juggle multiple schedules for multiple direct reports. It’s already hard enough to keep track of who has leave time scheduled so I’m not delegating an immediate task to someone who is out that day. A lot of people who think WFH is great are likely only having to worry about their own output, not that of an entire department or division where impromptu work tasks come up regularly.

      2. rayray*

        My company also has a hiring freeze and has had many layoffs the past year, just had one a few weeks ago which axed about 5 more people from my department. The job market is tough right now, so they’re probably banking on that so that people can’t say they’d quit before coming back to the office (I am pretty sure one team did that back in 2021).

        I have wondered how much of this has to do with the amount of office space going unused. I think a lot of companies are locked into long leases, and they probably hate that. My company leased a massive building back in 2016 or 2017 I think and already 2 of the 5 floors are vacant and up for sub-lease. Even the occupied floors aren’t fully at capacity, but they may be once this forced back into office thing goes into effect.

    3. Qwerty*

      People really overstate how well working from home is going, often because they don’t have the full picture. There is a difference in how well working from home is working for an individual vs how well the company/department/team is running. I also think some people *feel* more productive at home without necessarily being more productive.

      Collaboration has really taken a hit with fully remote work and there is a ton of extra effort that goes into things that are more automatic in an office. It isn’t always the stuff that can be measured with hard data. Truly independent jobs translate easier to full remote than collaborative ones. Please note my lens is collaborative work – I’d say 80% of my company is collaborative, 10% is mixed, and 10% could be purely remote without most people noticing. I’m sharing my perspective to answer “I just don’t understand why companies are doing this”

      Having worked on bigger picture and running some teams, what I’ve seen is some individuals might perform better, but often the majority are performing worse so the benefit is lost. Team members take much longer to get fully onboarded and juniors are not getting trained as well. Everyone multi-tasks in meetings so we have to have the same meeting three times. Interpersonal skills have gone down the drain. Everyone seems to care less about other people, which is especially alarming when it comes to leadership.

      One thing I’m seeing and hearing a lot of is that covid remote went well because we took teams that already worked well together and distributed them while majorly lowering the bar so people could deal with school closures, illness, etc. However *building* something really goes a lot better with regular in-person interactions (the interval depends on the work). Now that we’re a few years later, a lot of those teams have experienced turnover, had to rebuild teams, and are starting to see the fallout from 3yrs of remote work.

      I think it is especially telling that Meta found greater productivity in the teams who worked in-person 3days a week – this is the company that literally was trying to sell everyone on the idea that we would all work remotely in a VR office, so that report is a huge blow to the entire business model that renaming Facebook to Meta was built on. Some of the biggest pro-remote people I know completely changed their tune once they became higher-level managers, or started working on cross-team items, or started encountering/solving rifts between teams or individuals.

      I am curious – when would be a good time to announce? Spring/Summer are bad because kids are out, Fall/Winter are bad because flu/cold/covid season.

      1. Alice*

        I’m an individual contributor. My boss, his boss, and her boss all said “you’re doing great” during full WFH and still say “you’re doing great” now in the hybrid period. If there are big-picture collaboration problems, they haven’t explained them to people at my level.
        I do think that the newest person on our team isn’t getting up to speed very fast. But, honestly, more work together in person is not going to help with that, since she is a lot more COVID-risk-tolerant than the other three people in our shared workspace. It’s hard to invest effort in building a convivial relationship with someone who puts my health and the health of my immunocompromised partner at risk. People say that co-location builds relationships and camaraderie, but in this case, well, you know what familiarity breeds.

        1. LuckyClover*

          “It’s hard to invest effort in building a convivial relationship with someone who puts my health and the health of my immunocompromised partner at risk”

          THIS. Working with individuals who whine about relationship and community while refusing to take any measures to ensure the safety for vulnerable individuals make me want to scream.

      2. Sloanicota*

        This conversation is so funny to me because, admittedly as a younger woman in the office, I always got the junk tasks like helping the intern or helping the new guy work the printer dumped on me, but never got much credit or recognition for it, nor was it part of my job description or evaluation – just something I was supposed to pick up in addition to my job task. Astonishing to hear how valued those tasks apparently are now! They certainly were not when I was the one doing them.

    4. NaoNao*

      > “I think having people work at home is great, besides the benefits they personally reap like having more free time and saving on gas money and commute time among other things, it would be so good for our environment and for traffic to have fewer cars on the road.”

      But those are benefits to *you* not to the office or the business. Ultimately the business doesn’t care–or reap any immediate or even short term benefits to “fewer cars on the road”. Any arguments you make to TPTB must be from a place that benefits THEM not you.

      1. I have RBF*

        Businesses don’t get any “immediate or even short term” benefits from fewer cars on the roads? Other than people who need to be in the office having shorter commutes and less stress? Everyone being able to breathe less polluted air?

        IMO, remote work, if managed correctly, can save even companies with long term leases money. They don’t have to turn up and pay for HVAC for unused space. They don’t have to buy coffee, etc. They do not need janitorial service for unused space. They don’t have to build out or reconfigure unused space. They don’t have to upgrade unused office equipment.

        Yes, managing remote people is harder than in person. In person, you can make sure that the person is present and “working”, hopefully on what you need from them. But if you aren’t still managing for results, slackers will take you to the cleaners, either in person or remote. In person, it’s very easy to micromanage and demand ad-hoc status meetings at any time. Remote meetings go better with agendas. Yes, in person you can go and make sure that they read their email, etc. But maybe holding people accountable for the content of the email would work better.

        There are some people for whom remote doesn’t work. But for me, in person is far too risky. We already have had to do a couple Covid isolation fire drills at my house to avoid infecting the immune compromised person. If I had to go in to an office I would be looking for another job, both because of Covid and the fact that my ADHD makes open plan offices hell and unproductive for me.

        1. Sloanicota*

          >>my ADHD makes open plan offices hell and unproductive for me – this is the other reason I think all the talk about “culture” from in-person offices is kind of funny; throughout my career I’ve seen companies systematically disinvest in their in-person space, not giving people offices or even quiet places to concentrate. Working in a windowless cube farm is hell on the “little people.” The decisionmakers don’t notice or care because they have offices. But it’s suddenly all about in person culture and values? … the culture and value of disrespecting my work and driving me nuts??

  22. Cafe au Lait*

    I wanted to say “Thank you” to the reader who created the cover letter template. I used it this past month and received phone screens for all three applications I submitted. Job #1 needed different skills than I had. Still waiting to hear back from Job #2. And Job #3 wanted evening hours–which is what I’m trying to get away from since I work until 8 in my current job.

    1. rayray*

      Could you link the one specifically? I think I have seen a few here but would like to see which one you used.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        Go to “topics” and choose “cover letters.” Look for the blog title that has the word template in it!

  23. Cruciatus*

    I have a really low stakes question. My coworker and I are non-exempt and work 40 hours a week. We had an event and the department tablecloth needed to be washed after it and she (sort of) jokingly asked if she’d get comp time for doing it (at home, after hours). I don’t think she plans on actually taking the time–she never asked our supervisor about it. But it got me wondering–could that constitute “working” and could that time be comped later?

    1. Elle*

      Wouldn’t that be 30 seconds of throwing it in the wash? I don’t think you can be comped unless you’re taking it to the dry cleaners or laundromat.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I dunno, my gut reaction is that if I am asked to do laundry after an event I should get something, certainly more than the 5 minutes of active work time. If I didn’t have a w/d and had to take it to a laundromat, I’d be paid for the whole washing/drying/waiting time. So what makes this different? Just because I can do it using passive time doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. What would the company have to do or pay if I didn’t have the ability to wash the tablecloth in my home?

        A lot depends on the working pay / conditions. In my real job, I am paid very well and doing a load of laundry truly would be NBD. But if I weren’t paid well, an extra “take it home with you” task would feel unreasonable.

    2. 867-5309*

      Maybe technically but… I would be pretty taken aback by that request as a manager.

      It reminds me of someone who submitted their vending snacks as part of their expense report when they traveled to the office. (This was one of the few people granted full time remote work in another state, making it even more surprising and frankly, annoying.) To be clear – of COURSE we covered travel and meals but like, the after noon soda?

      1. WellRed*

        If other people in the office have to pay for vending machine stuff, I think asking to be reimbursed is a bit much. But when I go to a work conference you better believe I’m expesnsing that $4 water.

    3. Cafe au Lait*

      Laundry is labor. She should be compensated for it. Plus if she’s washing it at home then she’s incurring extra wear and tear on her washer, plus water, detergent, fabric softener and electrical costs.

      Sure, it seems silly on the surface. But these extra nickel and dime jobs are how women remain underpaid for the amount of labor they put in.

      1. Rosemary*

        If this were a more frequent/regular ask, or if she were often being asked to do this type of “extra” task, then sure, she should be compensated for it. But once? As a favor? Demanding to be paid for it is the definition of “nickel and dime” IMO.

        1. Roland*

          I don’t think this is “as a favor”. She’s an employee doing a required work task. We have laws around these things for a reason.

      2. Mazey's Mom*

        “Sure, it seems silly on the surface. But these extra nickel and dime jobs are how women remain underpaid for the amount of labor they put in.”

        YES!!

        And it’s not just a few minutes of someone’s time. If they took it to the laundromat, they’d have to wait around for it, so I’d definitely be charging for all the time it took, including travel time. Not so cheap once you think of it. And what would happen if the tablecloth was ruined in their washer, or it caused damage to the washer? Who bears the replacement cost?

      3. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Sorry, but I appreciate my employee using her resources and utilities to wash stuff for my department, and yes, I give comp time to her. She makes half of what I do, is not exempt, and should not have to do laundry/labor after hours to help our budget by not having to get something cleaned.

        I let her go an hour early to make up for it. An hour once in a blue moon doesn’t cost me anything, and I am really surprised at some of the answers that OP’s co-worker should just suck it up and do it on her own time/resources.

        There was a lot more because this kind of elitist/sexist attitude bugs the bejeebers out of me. Do you have any idea how little non-exempt people make? And they should still be taking extra work home and not get paid for it? Or reimbursed for the expenses? Really?

  24. nightingale*

    My career is a legit mess. Due to a lot of reasons I have always had a tough time getting jobs (it’s a combination of disability + a social science degree with little experience + job gaps because of that + random jobs because at the end of the day I needed a paycheque and couldn’t be fussy + a masters that I’m using indirectly). I’m trying to salvage it and cobble together part time jobs while volunteering and obtaining training to start on a clearer path. I really want stability in my life.

    I’m looking at data analysis jobs relating to my field (for our purposes, I have social science research skills that due to the breadth my trining, includes health care and public health, education, or social services – and yes I’m trying to narrow it down with my training). A lot of the jobs want things like an undergrad in math but online I see that you can work around this with training, experience, and a portfolio. However, I’m not above trying to get a math degree, but that’s REALLY not affordable for me (re; I already have a masters, so student debt is already so real!) plus it seems wildly unnecessary to invest in a $50k degree (Canadian!) when I could just get the needed training on my own. Am I way off base here? Like I said, my career is a mess so I don’t want to invest in this only to have it blow up in my face.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I’d look more closely at the job description and the tasks and responsibilities and take your cues from there. Are they specifically asking for only a math degree? Or is it more like “degree in math, computer science, engineering, physics, or a related field” type language?

      As a hiring manager, I think that once someone has a master’s, I would find it very odd if they got another undergraduate degree.

      1. nightingale*

        It’a the latter (math engineering computer science)… but based on the job description a lot of it is stuff I can learn on my own through things on sites like Coursera.

        A lot of them also require specific knowledge of things like health processes, which is why I’m not writing it off totally because comparable jobs at places like insurance companies I’m clearly not qualified for no matter what other education I attempt to secure (re: I’m not getting a BBA or computer science degree)

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          I think it’s really going to depend on how much you have to teach yourself. Someone with some of those skills plus the subject matter expertise would be a good candidate. Someone with few/none of those required skills is not going to be a competitive candidate. I’d focus on roles that aren’t straight up analysis since they are likely to be more like statistical programming.

    2. Spearmint*

      Don’t do it. Remember that many/most job ads are describing the ideal candidate (whether or not the ad indicates that).

      Honestly, I also found that putting a skills section on your resume helps you get to the interview stage. You don’t need to be an expert in something to put it there. For example, I’ve done about 50 hours of self-directed online learning of Python. I put Python in the skills section. I didn’t lie about my level of knowledge, but didn’t go out of my way to highlight that either on my resume (I did make it clear in the interview if it came up).

    3. Mimmy*

      I don’t have any advice, but I just wanted to offer commiseration because my career is a mess for similar reasons.

    4. Anecdata*

      Data analysts jobs cover a pretty wide range, from more coding focused to more analysis focused, so I can’t speak for all of them, but in my experience the requirement for a specific degree is usually about both the knowledge of specific topics and development of skills like problem solving or applying math/stats concepts. While you could learn everything through self-study, you’d be competing against applicants with the relevant degree. In your place I’d be worried that I just wasn’t a competitive applicant, especially at a time when there is a lot of interest in the area.

      I also want to mention that while I have heard there are people in my field who used experience to compensate for less education, everyone I’ve met in that case is at least 2-3 decades into their career and I’m not sure their experience reflects the current job market. I’d try to speak with someone who did what you are trying to do but is only 3-5 years into their data analyst career to make sure it’s really a viable path.

    5. Another thing*

      You’re on the right track. I’m a data analyst with art history degrees. I got into it on the job, and once you have the experience/skills, no one cares about the education. It may help to know that I work at a university, which is a great way to be able to take classes for free if that’s available to you.

    6. rainy tuedsay*

      If you did go for another undergrad in math, you really don’t need to incur much debt if you do a co-op program. There will be minimia the hiring companies will have to pay. The co-op program is designed to both give experience and have the students finish (mostly) debt-free. Signed, fellow Cdn

  25. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

    My favourite thing about video-conferences from home is getting to see people’s furry office-mates. Does anyone want to share cute or fun stories of your pets getting involved in your work (with or without permission)?

    1. why dog why*

      It’s not cute or fun, but in March 2020 my corgi chose the middle of a Zoom staff meeting as the perfect time to express her anal glands for the first time. On my lap. While I was talking on camera.

      But other than that one really bad moment, she is a delightful coworker and I miss the days where she was able to climb up on my lap during work and say hi to everyone on Zoom, which she loved doing.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH

        My dog has small dog butt problems, and it is seriously the worst thing you’ve ever smelled. She’s only ever sprayed once when she was seriously startled by something, but it was terrible. She was horribly embarrassed and had to have a little steak to soothe her feelings.

      2. Elsewise*

        My therapist’s dog one pooped in her office right in the middle of our session.

        This was pre-Covid. I was in person.

    2. Come On Eileen*

      Most of my “cat being around during a conference call” stories involve puke, so they aren’t very fun! :-)

      1. I have RBF*

        I’ve had my cat throwing up in the background when I was talking on Zoom. We all laughed.

    3. rayray*

      I was once mid-interview on a Teams call when my cat jumped right on the desk in front of my computer, the interviewers loved it.

    4. 867-5309*

      My team member leads a cat rescue organization and frequently has newborn kittens that she shares on Teams.

      1. I have RBF*

        Eeeeeee! Oh how cute! I would love having a regular kitten fix like that.

    5. Rock Collector*

      I was on a call the other day, and one person’s cat jumped up on the couch behind him and started cleaning itself. But it was do it so erratically – legs flying all over the place, spinning around, it was hilarious. The rest of us were cracking up while this guy is trying to talk and his cat is going nuts behind him.

      Another time, I was in a call with one of our executive team, and her tuxedo cat jumped up on the desk in front of her. I always enjoy seeing this cat because he is very lovey and attention-seeking, and it’s kind of funny to watch him try to get her to snuggle while she’s on a call. But this time, she grabbed a pair of cat claw trimmers and started trimming his toes right there on camera – without missing a beat in what she was saying. The cat freaked out and ran off. I started laughing, and she said that was the best way to keep him out of her face since he hated getting his nails trimmed. :D

    6. Bird Lady*

      I have two parakeets who are used to flying free when we’re home. During Covid lockdown, we let them out while we were working, but ushered them into their cages for Zoom calls. They get into EVERYTHING and must be monitored, which can’t always be done during a Zoom meeting.

      It was the spring of 2020 and my org was deep into DEAI training and planning, just like many other non-profits. Our community partners joined us for an intra-organizational meeting and just as I was about to speak to present my org’s short term plans, one of my birds started to scream so loud no one could hear me. Thankfully our moderator jokingly said, “I guess birds have a lot of feelings about social justice too.” The participants then wanted to meet the birds, so we did some show and tell. This appeased the parakeets and I was able to continue my part of the presentation.

    7. Grace*

      During Covid lockdown, my spouse ended up making a bunch of videos walking through different math problems for his students, and one of our cats would pop into them at random. His students are still using the videos for studying purposes (some students taking other profs who don’t explain as well also use them, apparently), so he gets random comments and questions about our cat all the time.

    8. Nonnonymous*

      My cat once sent a message in the Zoom chat. Flopped on the keyboard and rolled in just the right way to type some random letters then the “enter” key. Meeting participants were delighted.

    9. Lyudie*

      It was pre-covid, but I was doing a zoom call with some classmates for grad school group project, and my clingy cat kept jumping up in my lap and then leaving (he was annoyed that I was home and yet not paying attention to him). He’d hop in my lap, I’d pet him, two minutes later he’d jump down again. Five minutes later, rinse and repeat. At the end of our hour or so call, one of my group mates told me his constant up and down had made her night.

    10. Cyndi*

      Not work Zoom, but I’m in the market for a new therapist right now (nobody’s fault–she just suddenly wasn’t in network any more) and I miss my therapist, but gosh am I also going to miss her big old man dog who used to come hang out on camera during my appointments.

    11. Hotdog not dog*

      My husky stuck his whole head in front of the camera and sang the song of his people while I was doing a Zoom interview. I did not get that job.

    12. JelloStapler*

      Mine always would come up if I was sitting on the floor at my coffee table. Yo’d just see his snout in the picture and then someone would point it out and want to see him. :)

    13. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I used to sit in a one-and-a-half butt armchair at my desk, because I made the “mistake” of letting the Ambassador (a boxer mix, now 8.5) sit in my lap all day when she was a puppy and she did not want to break the habit when she hit 50 pounds, so I got the big chair and she took her half and I had my half. When I got the Intern (a Great Dane, a year old in February) last spring, there was squabbling over the chair, so I banished the chair to the corner and raised my desk up to standing height. I have not sat to work (except occasionally on a wooden barstool) since April of last year, and the 50 pound Ambassador and the 115 pound Intern sort of take turns with the chair. The Ambassador usually gets tired of supervising the Intern and goes downstairs to supervise my husband instead, and the Intern is afraid to go down the basement stairs, so the Intern gets the chair by default.

      I tried a couple months ago lowering the desk so I could sit in a regular office style chair, but neither dog liked the desk moving, and as soon as the desk was in nose range, the Intern was trying to investigate it and I was having to wipe slobber off my everything because that’s life with jowls for days, so I raised it back up :P

  26. MissGirl*

    Union question. I started my job five months ago and they had mass layoffs a month later. Since then they’ve announced adding pay bands for regions that won’t affect current pay but could make it harder for me to get a raise later on as I’m probably overpaid according to their metrics. Honestly, having gone through this a few times before in other jobs and other recessions, I’m sadly blasé about the entire thing (but also job hunting).

    However, almost everyone else is up in arms and there are whispers of organizing a union. I’ve never heard of a union for white-collar workers outside of government. We’re a tech company. Is this something that is done? Is it ever done successfully? A coworker above said I can call them on their home number to get more details but right now my personal life is in upheaval and I just don’t have the energy to really get upset.

    1. Well...*

      I’ve vaguely heard of some unionizing campaigns for video game designers, which seems close to tech. I was in a grad student worker’s union in the US, I’m currently in an academic and research staff worker’s union abroad. These aren’t blue collar or government jobs, but they are academic jobs, which have their own flavor. Still, if you’re curious about union dynamics in these types of workplaces, those are good places to start Googling.

      The grad student worker’s union I was in was very successful (though I always wish it were stronger and better unified). They’ve got data on how much they’ve raised grad student pay, and how their university continues to up pay at faster rates than non-unionized universities.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I was in a union for engineers at a large US-based company. If you do a search for professional engineer union, you will get a number of hits that includes my previous union.

      How well does it work? It would not protect you 100% from layoffs but it makes the process more formalized. The union contracted benefits/salaries/raises are good, possibly industry-leading, and have been mostly protected while non-union positions have been seeing a gradual erosion of comparable benefits. Then again, a number of positions have been shifted from that location (where they are union roles) to non-union locations, or internationally.

      1. MissGirl*

        Interesting. We’re a small startup so I’m not sure who of us has the power.

    3. pro-union*

      I’m currently in an admin (clerical and technical) union and have seen different offices of a past work place unionize.

      I personally really love having the union as someone who tends to not be able to stand up for myself very well, since it gives me very clear cut rules to fall back on if someone is telling me to do something outside of my scope of work. Our union is good at constantly negotiating raises and increases for the different bands. It also helps with pay disparities and ensuring everyone is equal pay when they’re at the same level/tenure in the role.

    4. Anon for this*

      My last job was white-collar (media) and we unionized while I was there. I was happy with my job and wasn’t initially sure if we really needed a union, but wasn’t opposed.

      As someone who wasn’t actively involved with bargaining/the committees, I found it only minimally stressful, mostly in the stage where employees were coming together to talk about what all of our goals were. Our management was not actively hostile to the union drive and the staff was almost universally supportive, which did make a big difference and I’m not sure would be the same in tech.

      After we unionized, we managed to get a contract including guaranteed annual raises and a decent severance package, which was a huge help to people during the inevitable layoffs. It also really helped in being able to identify and exert pressure over diversity and equity issues, and just to have a way to raise issues outside of the corporate chain of command.

      Obviously this will vary a lot by individual situation, but from my perspective, 10/10, unions are great, would recommend.

      1. MissGirl*

        That’s good to know. Right now with life, I’m just going with the flow.

    5. Parakeet*

      Yep, there are lots of white-collar unions! A lot of tech worker unions are affiliated with Communications Workers of America, which has an initiative (CODE) to organize digital workers. There’s increasing numbers of nonprofit unions. And of course, say, screenwriters, have had them, for some time. Professors, adjuncts, and grad student workers, and university staff (both white-collar and blue-collar) have all been unionizing. Healthcare workers of various sorts too.

  27. nightingale*

    Does anyone have any tips for explaining a job gap specifically due to having a baby without opening themselves to bias? I am in a position where I may boy have a new job lined up pre maternity leave and I already have 2 career gaps (see my last post).

    1. kiwiii*

      I would use something along the line of “taking care of a family member.” It’s not usually used for having a child, but it definitely fits under the umbrella and is something they’ll have encountered before.

    2. Firecat*

      Not going to wade through previous posts to find yours.

      But if you will be taking mat leave soon, are visibly pregnant, and you have large gaps (thinking 6 months or more) from previous mat leave, then I would be prepared to speak to why you aren’t planning on taking an extra long leave this time.

  28. FashionablyEvil*

    I’m going back to work on Monday after a 14 week maternity leave and, ugh, I don’t want to go. I missed out on a promotion right before I went on leave (a whole ‘nother issue) and so I’m unenthusiastic about the work, my new boss, and the fact that I need to ramp up my job search.

    Any suggestions on managing the transition back?

    1. Lila*

      I recently changed jobs 3 1/2 months after returning from maternity leave. It can be done! My suggestions are just to be gentle with yourself – returning to work is an adjustment and upends your schedule, and job searching is also time consuming. If your job ramps up slowly, that may give you more time than you think to job search (it did in my case). Also, I found that once I was back for about a month, it became clear to me that nothing was going to change. I became committed to leaving and that made me care a little bit less about work/be less upset about the things I didn’t like, since I knew they were temporary. Good luck!

    2. Too Many Tabs Open*

      If working half-days for the first week (or even first couple of days) is feasible, I’d recommend that, but I recognize that this often isn’t possible.

      Assume that you’ll spend the first week or so in catch-up mode. Assume that you’ll need to lean on any executive-function aids you’ve already established (note-taking, checklists, calendar reminders, etc.), because you’re still recovering from a major physical upheaval and aren’t getting the best sleep you’ve ever had.

      If you’re pumping, don’t try to work while you’re pumping, at least for the first couple of weeks. Once you’ve got the hang of it then you can multitask if you want, but give yourself time to figure it out first.

  29. Anonymoussaka*

    I think we’ve all pondered the question “what would I do for a living if I didn’t need to worry about money?” I would like to pose a semi-related question: “what would I do for a living if I didn’t need to worry about how much it would cost to go into that field?”

    The context, which makes this question far less abstract: my mother died recently, and I was surprised to find out that she left me a rather large inheritance – the catch being that almost all of it was put into a college fund. This is despite me being in my 30s and having a Bachelor’s. Apparently she didn’t trust me not to fritter away the money on frivolities like food and housing.

    So I guess what I’m really asking is “what is the most remunerative program of post-secondary education you could take, in terms of guaranteed employment in a middle-or-higher-class job?” – but that sounds a bit craven, and I already know the answer to that is going to Harvard Law. Options beyond that are not so obvious.

    1. nightingale*

      Do you know what you want to do? Cause there’s not much point in becoming a lawyer or something like that just because you can if you’re going to hate it.

      If it were me, I might consider a math or computer science degree focused on statistics and data analysis OR a masters in public health. I know for me that other things I want are prohibitive (like I’ll never get into a medicine program).

      If I was doing purely what I wanted, I’d get a degree in fine art.

      1. Anonymoussaka*

        Thing is, I don’t have any particular desires like “I want to work with numbers” or “I want something people-oriented” or “I want to make a difference in the world” – not when it comes to my job, anyway. I want a job where I make good money, work exactly 40 hours a week, and don’t feel stressed, so I can pursue my actual passions when I’m off the clock. That’s it.

        1. rayray*

          I am 100% with you.

          I’ve been job hunting mostly because I want more money, stability, flexibility, and a positive workplace. I don’t care what I do, but so many people don’t get this when I explain it.

          I just want to survive, but I also don’t want to be miserable.

        2. Seahorsesarecute*

          Maybe you can use the money to take classes involving your actual passions. If your passion is golf, and you can use the money for golf lessons, and there’s no penalty for not getting a degree in golf, then go for it! Bonus if you’re allowed to use the money for traveling to the golf lessons in Hawaii in January. That’s worth checking into.

    2. Justin*

      I mean it’s probably Harvard Business, right?

      But I don’t know what you like to do. It’s something that would pay well that you’d also enjoy. I found my way to a solid career through adult education/professional development which few people do. It took me a while. So I’d think about what you like to do professionally first.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      If it’s a 529 plan, there are ways to roll that into a Roth IRA now.

      To your original question, though – I’d personally get a computer science degree. It’s what I originally wanted to do, but for reasons, didn’t.

    4. Lost academic*

      You should speak first to a financial advisor to find ways, if available, to transfer that account to another type. I’m sure this is far from the first time this has come up. Perhaps it’ll cost something, in taxes certainly, but otherwise it might not really have any real value. My other thought is if you have or plan to have children, seeing if it can be transferred to their name(s).

    5. Whomst*

      To answer the first question because I find it interesting: I’ve found myself more drawn to the medical field as I’ve gotten older. Between up until I was in my early 20s, I didn’t have the patience or compassion for it, though I loved science and was pretty academic. Now I realize how much I hate straight desk jobs, and have gotten a lot more used to bodies and dealing with people in distress, and I think that I would make a pretty good doctor. Unfortunately, I have a degree in an unrelated field and obligations that prevent moving cross-country, so there’s no way I’d ever be able to swing it, even if you didn’t consider the cost.

      To answer the real question, you should find some sort of finance expert and figure out if there’s any way to roll that money into a retirement account or something. Don’t go get a law or business degree just because you have the money.

      1. Angstrom*

        If I had the resources and opportunity I’d go for something like rehab engineering — using both high- and low-tech solutions to solve real problems, one person at a time.

    6. Alex*

      I mean, some of this is going to be specific to you and your strengths. I’d think something like nursing–huge demand! And quite a bit of variable job opportunities as well. But you need to be good at science and I’m definitely not. And that job has to appeal to you, and it doesn’t to everyone.

      I think I’d personally study to be a psychologist. There’s certainly a demand for qualified therapists! And I think I would enjoy that coursework and career. But definitely not the MOST guaranteed and the MOST highly compensated. So I think the answer is really personal to you. What do you picture yourself doing with your life?

    7. spcepickle*

      Do you like to be outside? Get a degree in surveying – It a job that requires a license (to be able to stamp plats) which is much easier to obtain with a degree. There is a HIGH need (my office would hire 3 in heartbeat if we could find them). You can work for a small business, a large firm, the government, or start your own business. You will most likely get to fly drones! The future of surveying looks to be be all about drones and cool software.

      While not crazy high paying in 3ish years (once you get a license) you will make 6 figures.

    8. Glomarization, Esq.*

      My advice: Don’t go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer. If your end goal is not to actually practice law as a lawyer, then it is too expensive, too stressful or even traumatic, and too much of an opportunity cost (you can’t really hold a job while you’re at law school full-time) to be worth the trouble. I can think of only two exceptions. One, people who are aiming at academia, like law school, criminology, philosophy, public policy, maybe history, etc. Or two, as your situation might be, you have enough funds to get a J.D. without taking out any loans at all, whether for tuition or cost of living.

      That said, if you don’t actually want to go back to school for anything, then don’t go back to school. You can always talk to an accountant and see what options you have about a Roth IRA rollover. Or you can decide just to take the L on the tax penalty and spend the money however you darn well please. If we’re talking Harvard Law tuition, then that’s like a cool third of a mil at this point and you lose only, what, 10% if you don’t spend it on education? BRB, googling “acheter appartement Paris prix maximum 200 000” right now and translating euro to dollars …

      1. Shy Platypus*

        Can’t help but chuckle a little bit at the thought of a 200 000 euros (or dollars for that matter) Paris flat as a luxurious, self-care investment – you’d get 15-20 sqm tops for that price!

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          No doubt, but even a tiny pied-à-terre would still be a wee little place of my own in Paris.

    9. My Brain is Exploding*

      If I didn’t need/want another career I would just go for fun stuff at the community college and learn how to drywall, do more on computers, etc. Another thought would be to learn a foreign language of you don’t know one. It might help you in your current job, or in a future job, or while traveling!

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        I know someone who spent their americorps money on a bunch of art classes at a community college. Seemed like a great idea.

    10. Ama*

      I think I’d like to learn how to restore old books and documents and things. When I was in grad school (for something else) I did a summer internship helping do an initial catalog to start an archives for a university department that had been very important in the world’s historical understanding of a certain topic and as part of that I got to visit the university’s main archives and see some of the stuff they were restoring. I really like the combination of needing to understand the historical significance of something but also doing tactile work to try to save/restore it. But that would require basically starting my education over again to get into that field, as I understand it.

    11. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t know about doing for a living, but if money were no object, I would be gunning for a PhD in the History of Medicine. (As it is, I just self-study the subject every chance I get.)

    12. Mazey's Mom*

      If you’re interested in furthering your education, do you have to use this money for a college degree, or could you use it for professional development or certificate programs? Or what about those “travel and learn” types of programs? My local college, in years past, sponsored educational trips for adults. Probably more fun than educational, but if the requirements aren’t so strict, then maybe it’ll pay for a vacation. :)

    13. Anon energy attorney*

      Look at jobs in the energy field! I work for a state energy regulatory agency and we are gearing up to increase our staff by about a third over the next 1-2 years, and the same is true for many of my contacts in related agencies, developers, utilities, etc. The energy transition is coming on FAST and everyone is trying to scale up. Hard sciences (physics, engineering) are in the highest demand but there are tons of different jobs out there.

      I’d start by looking at your state’s jobs website for the agency that regulates utilities – it may be called “public utilities commission” or “public service commission” or something like that. Also check out the jobs pages of your electric and gas utilities, local wind and solar developers, nuclear developers, etc. That will give you a feel for the types of jobs being posted and what kinds of education they commonly look for. Good luck!

    14. EMP*

      My perspective as someone with a BS and an MS in computer science is there are a lot of math/science degrees which are “foundational”, as in, it’s a foundation for the work you wind up doing but it doesn’t guarantee you a job or a well paying one, even though a lot of well paying jobs want one of those degrees.

      If you want a guarantee, I would look for something that is closer to a trade. In my view that is a more one-one degree-> job pipeline. So something anywhere from surveying to psychology, as people have mentioned. Personally I had a time where I considered going into physical therapy, but to practice as a PT you need a doctorate which takes a while. Hands on jobs are also more likely to be hourly billing, which can be easier to cut off at 40 hours/week.

      I definitely don’t think a law degree is the best guarantee here.

    15. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      If I had a whole spare lifetime, I’d do architecture, and then I’d design community centres and houses.

  30. nightingale*

    Where should I put my blog/portfolio on my resume? I just add it as a job item and I feel like this is the wrong place for it but I don’t want to eliminate it entirely from “here’s work experience” because it IS experience even if it’s Not The Same as an actual job. (Eg I’m using it demonstrate skills during a career transition)?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I’ve seen a lot of links in the header section where the candidate’s contact info goes, like:

      Name
      Address (this is often omitted nowadays)
      Email
      Phone
      Link to blog, portfolio, LinkedIn profile, whatever.

    2. Lindsey*

      I usually see people list it with their information, like email and phone number.

  31. burnt techie*

    I’m a computer scientist in government research getting burned out from the workaholic culture and I’m trying to figure out if private industry is likely to be better with work/life balance. One of my friends has been on the industry side for a few years and works longer hours than me, but he’s always been very type A, so I don’t know if it’s a true job demand or he’s driving himself. I like what I do and the pay is good, so I’d rather not change fields unless that’s the only way to save my sanity and spend time with my kids. Any advice?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Really depends on the company and the team. I work for a non-profit research company and the work life balance here is quite good in my team, but I know not all parts of the company are like that.

    2. Whomst*

      From what I (a software dev with a couple years experience) can tell, it’s very company-specific. Some companies have lots of PTO and a pretty casual culture (work smarter, not harder) and others are all about that grind, regardless of how much PTO you’ve got. So if you switch to industry and are picky in interviews, you could absolutely find a better work/life balance, but it’s not guaranteed to happen just by switching from gob research to industry.

    3. Spearmint*

      My dad is a programmer who has sought out work-life balance and had gotten it. He probably makes a bit less money (though still plenty) and (according to him) had to work on somewhat less sexy projects and companies.

      As in any field, I think you need it research the company and ask questions about work-life balance in interviews. If they balk at you asking multiple work-life balance questions, that’s good because they probably have poor work-life balance.

      Some examples of questions I’ve asked in interviews (though I’m not a programmer):

      – How often do people in this role have to work past 5pm or on weekends?

      – Am I ever expected to check email/Slack outside of business hours? If so, how often?

      – What’s a typical week like? What about a busy week?

    4. kina lillet*

      Look for an older company; that’ll have some financial trade offs and often you’ll be working with older technology, but I found it to be a pretty good heuristic. Ask about work-life balance in the interview, especially with your direct hiring manager, if you get a chance to talk with them.

      Basically when you interview, make sure you emphasize that you value work-life balance, ask what work-life balance means for the team & company, etc.

      You may need to make a mindset adjustment too. For example, if you’re sizing some task, are you sizing it for “me at my most efficient” or are you sizing it for “me at 50% efficiency?” Do you work late if others are working late, even if you don’t have much to do? How much of the workaholicness is external vs trained into you?

      1. burnt techie*

        The hours are flexible, but the work has hard deadlines and it will not get done by anyone else if I can’t manage it. Example: reviewing papers. I have to work evenings to get that done on top of my usual work. It’s seasonal but intense, and if I don’t get the reviews in I’ll be kicked off the committee. I don’t actually know what the consequences would be for that, but it’s an expected part of my job.

        1. kina lillet*

          Legit. I think it’s very possible to find industry jobs without those particular pressures. Hard deadlines: yes. Unmovable deadlines that require you to crunch: avoidable. You can generally ask about the release process as a way to discuss this, and ask whether there’s any crunch before releases. Getting a sense of how they talk about the release cadence will also help–are they like “no, we have CICD/frequent releases so we don’t generally crunch” or “well, we have CICD/frequent releases so we work hard when we need to!”

          That said I’m not in a research role in industry, I’m in engineering, and it’s definitely possible that some of those pressures could follow you if you’re planning to keep writing whitepapers and so on.

        2. marriedtothecode*

          My spouse is a research CS in industry, working mostly on gov contracts. Engineers who work on projects my spouse leads have pretty good work life balance, although there are still cruches occasionally. My spouse does not, because of grant deadlines, project deadlines, and peer review deadlines. When the engineers don’t finish the work in time, my spouse picks up the slack with long hours at the last minute. This is partly company culture and staffing issues, but I have heard competitors are similar from my spouse. IMO, CS makes publish or perish even worse with the conference/workshop model instead of journals with continuous submission.

    5. Stoppin' by to chat*

      If you’re referring to the tech industry in the United States, then don’t expect a work/life balance unless you make it happen.

  32. Susan Calvin*

    Has anyone here job hunted internationally, with the intent of moving to a country where you were conversational, but not business level fluent in the local language?

    I’m thinking about it in a 5-10-year-plan kind of way, and kind of strategizing about what kind of companies to look at. Most jobs in my line of work require more English than my local/native language anyways, so I figure it’s feasible, but it’s not necessarily a country a lot of foreigners move to for work, so maybe multilingual offices are not as common…

    Also, many larger companies in Europe will allow you to work from any of their offices within the EU nowadays, so maybe the way to go is to apply locally to a company with an office in my desired location and angle for a transfer some years down the road, but that seems very roundabout (and kinda disingenuous?)

    Thoughts, experiences, warnings?

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I moved from the UK to Germany in the 1980s knowing only 3 German words – “ja, nein, Schweinhund” – which only gets you so far in conversations.

      I had no problem finding companies in my field (via job ads) where the working language was English, because that is the usual 2nd language people learn in the EU and also India, SKorea etc.
      Even more companies like this nowadays, as so many more people in the EU speak English, not just those in professional fields.
      Depends on your field and whether companies have a lot of foreign workers; however, most richer EU countries e.g. Germany have a shortage of skilled people of youngish working age.
      I asked at interview and they said no problem using only English.
      But YMMV!

      If you have a working knowledge of the local language then that is a big plus for career progression and for your social life too.

      I recently met a couple of guys who only speak Polish, plus no more than my original 3 words of German and only “CocaCola” in English. They had both got (quite well-paid) jobs on an engineering production line at my LastJob, before leaving Poland. Unless their foreman uses sign language, I presume Polish coworkers explain what to do.

      Main issue: are you a citizen of the EU/EEA?
      If not, the employer will first have to organise a work visa for you before you can come. After 5 years residence, you have the right to permanent residence – but only in that country, not in the whole EU.
      Half my team mates at LastJob came from outside the EU; all had become permanent residents, no problem.

      Obvious issue: do you have a useful qualification/skills that employers want, to go through the visa process.

      Once abroad…..

      If you are from the USA, then you’ll see that the much better safety net is paid for by hefty monthly deductions for income tax, state pension, unemployment insurance. So, do your sums first and calculate your net income.
      Most people I’ve met in the EU had only low or no student loans, so if you still have repayments then you’ll probably have less disposable income than your coworkers.

      Usually best to register for state health insurance. Especially if you have a family, as they are often all included at no extra cost, as eg in Germany.
      Under a certain income, state insurance is usually compulsory.
      If you are moving to the UK, then NHS is automatic.

      Schooling if you have kids: expensive if they need a private English-language school. Obviously free if they are young enough to start /catch up at local schools.

      At a regular job, you would be automatically enrolled in the state pension scheme. Many firms will have their own additional pension.
      If you stay 10+ years, these can be a useful bonus in retirement, but a shorter period may not qualify you to receive anything, i.e. wasted contributions. Ask about the qualifying period.

      Any decent employer/colleagues will help you through the formalities: registering your address, tax, driving licence, finding your first place to rent etc
      However, an employer is unlikely to organise or pay for your move unless you are v high level/in demand. I was young and only moved myself and a carful of possessions. If you have a family and/or houseful of goods to move, moving countries can be expensive and a logistical pain.

    2. RayRayFahye*

      I don’t think it’s disingenuous to apply to a company where you live now with the aim of moving to an EU location – especially if they tend to do transfers or secondments. Many such companies want people to be willing to do this! It’s how I moved to the Netherlands, and I didn’t speak any Dutch prior to the move. Also hadn’t been to the country at all.

      The advantage of doing it this way is that they will pay for you & your family to move. My work didn’t pay for my pets, but otherwise all the basics were covered, including paying for a housing agent, temp housing, and settling-in allowances. If you got a “strategic” assignment, they would also pay for your children to attend international school etc.

      That said, you can’t get more specific advice without mentioning which country is your target. If it’s a place with a high unemployment rate, it will be more difficult to get sponsored for your visa. You will also need to think about the fact that you’ll be paid a local salary (in most cases), so this can make having fixed US expenses (e.g. student loans) difficult. For example, I turned down an opportunity in Poland because I can’t afford to make those payments whilst being paid in PLN.

  33. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    This is the 2nd time in the past 6 months that my immediate boss has been fired. The first time, it was understandable, as he was suffocating to us and abrasive to others and had over two years of similar behavior. This one was a bit of a surprise – she definitely was way unprofessional at times, but was mostly at the end of her rope when she snapped. Plus, she did a ton of work on top of managing our team and we all worked well together. I’m not worried about my job, and I’m not worried about my own work (I’ve been very good about setting boundaries) but I’m worried about our ability to keep a team lead without having them be over-worked and eventually snapping.

    1. nightingale*

      I wonder if something is going on with upper management and the 2nd person grated against them. What do you mean by “top managed”? Cause that sounds like what a former manager did with my team in protecting us from a toxic director… but he had a long tenure so there’s no way this director could’ve gone after him. Whereas a new manager had even minor performance problems + conflict with upper management, then, well, goodbye? I’m not saying it’s ok. I’m just speculating at possible toxic issues

      1. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

        There are almost certainly issues with upper management – and if not upper management, then definitely middle-upper management. I certainly have a more dismal view of my skip-level manager than I did when he fired the team lead the first time. I don’t want to leave, but I’m learning to be more realistic about what to expect.

        My boss didn’t really protect us from him – when I say she did a ton of work on top of being our team lead, I mean she just had a lot of IC-type projects on her plate (normal for our company and certainly for this team). But also, he does a very good job of being really really nice and seeming super reasonable to his reports’ reports, and according to my ex-boss he was really supportive when she was an IC and it changed when she got promoted to management. Though, his other leads seem to have a good opinion of him, but they all have a different function than our team, and I’m not sure his expectations of our type of work are reasonable. But it’s also not my job to worry about that, other than to push back on my workload when I’m overloaded.

    2. Ama*

      I just want to say I’ve been in your situation before. There was a point in my life at which my friends would joke about all the wild things that happened to my bosses — in addition to two consecutive bosses being fired (both for financial misconduct although one was a big, long-term, intentional embezzlement and the other was actually legitimate business expenses but was paying for contractors to do work she was claiming to do herself), I had a third boss have a serious medical crisis and be completely unavailable for almost a year.

      I totally get how even when you aren’t concerned about the safety of your own job or didn’t really like the boss(es) that were fired it can be mentally exhausting to deal with constant change and uncertainty, especially if you think there are inherent issues at the employer contributing to the issue.

      1. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

        You just figured out exactly how I’m feeling about this. It IS mentally exhausting to deal with the uncertainty, even if I’m trying really hard not to worry about it because it’s not my job to worry about it!

  34. Strict Extension*

    We’ve heard from employees agonizing over what to do when they have to give notice and their supervisor is out of the office, but what about from the other side? What do you do when as a supervisor you are about to go out on PTO, but have good reason to believe one of your reports might be getting an offer while you’re gone? Do you leave instructions for them to tell someone else? Tell them to contact you, regardless of the PTO? Just take the time off and let it sort itself?

    Happy for a general discussion, but if specifics help, I’m the supervisor, the PTO starts at the end of today and ends on 5/15, my report has been invited to a final interview for a position she would likely take, and the departmental schedule means we would absolutely need to hire a replacement ASAP.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      You’re really only out for a week, right? Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it, especially since she hasn’t even had the final interview yet, but you could mention it to whoever’s covering for you.

      But even if it does move super fast, are you really going to start drafting a job description and working to get it posted on your PTO?

    2. 867-5309*

      I would let it play out and either a.) just let the employee use their judgement when the time comes or b.) if I was that close to it, ask them to call or email me if they end up resigning.

      Personally, I would want to talk with my employee first before they notified anyone else.

    3. Happy Peacock*

      Is someone covering you while you are out? In your position, I would ask my supervisor to be my back up for this thing.

  35. Emmers*

    I asked a few weeks ago if anyone has ever submitted a group grievance about their manager to their union and it sounded like it was pretty rare. 5/7 of my team did last month and so far we have heard nothing back from either the union, manager or grandboss who we were told would be notified pretty quickly. I’d love anyone who has previous experience with this type of event to share anything, my other coworkers are pretty nervous about retaliation.

    1. Mojo021*

      Check your union contract, there should be a stipulation in the contract in regards to the grievance process and the timeline surrounding it. Also, reach out to your union rep as they responsible for negotiating on your behalf.

  36. Becky*

    I am being flown out to a job interview next week. The last time I interviewed in person was over 4 years ago, and I was also flown out then. I’m a remote worker so I haven’t even been in an office in almost a year!

    Any and all advice anyone has would be welcome. Should I carry a handbag? A “dressy” tote/laptop bag? How are we even going to fill several hours of back to back interviews?

    Hit me with everything. Thanks!

    1. Manders*

      Many years ago, before I started my current job (so, 2006) I was flown out to an interview. It was in my hometown, so they had me come in the night before, I stayed with my parents, and I had a full 8 AM to 5 PM interview day before flying back that night. How did we fill those hours? With 17, yes, 17 different interviews. Different, as in different people at the company. For me it was almost the exact same interview 17 times, including over lunch where I could barely get any food down. By the end of the day I could hardly remember if I had told that person something already and was just repeating myself. It was exhausting. So, good luck, LOL!

      Either of those options would be fine, I think. Bring some sort of nice notebook to take notes and a pen, as well.

    2. All Het Up About It*

      While it’s been a few years since I was involved in in-person interviews as well my recs/preference would be:

      – either a small-medium handbag I can wear on my shoulder and then carry my notes portfolio or the so called “dressy” tote/laptop bag (though I would not bring a laptop). If I went with option b, I would have a smaller bag I could carry if taken out to dinner, etc. and given the option of leaving the larger bag some place.
      – I would expect that you will be interviewing with different people back to back, so expect similar or identical questions. If you can prep ahead of time on who you are going to be meeting with so you can ask some specific questions, that’s always a great sign from the interviewer side.
      – Be prepared to be taken out to lunch or dinner. It might or might not happen depending, but have thought through the eventuality.
      – For the love of ravioli, wear the comfortable shoes. Unless you are one of those amazing unicorns who can run in high heels, just don’t. What if their building is huge and you have to walk during a tour for 20 minutes? What if you walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch? Just – wear the comfortable shoes.
      – Bring your own water bottle. If you are going to be talking back to back for awhile you’ll want to be sure you have water if your throat gets dry.
      – Do not be afraid to ask for a moment to “stretch your legs” / run to the restroom. A good recruiter/HR person has built in time for this during interviews, but well, as readers of this site, we all know that doesn’t always happen.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      If possible, make sure you have everything that is critical to your interview stored in a carry-on. Job interviews are anxiety laden enough as is, the last thing you want is to have lost luggage on top of it.

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      A dressy tote or laptop bag would be smart. Alternatively, a folio with a notebook and pen inside.

      Good luck and safe travels!

    5. Joielle*

      I’d say yes to dressy tote – not gigantic but something that can fit a notebook/padfolio plus your usual purse stuff. Personally, I keep a smaller clutch inside my tote that is basically a large wallet but I can fit my phone/keys/chapstick in there and carry it separately as well if needed.

      Bring a protein bar and small bottle of water just in case and be prepared to tell the same stories a dozen times to different people. Good luck!

      1. cleo*

        I originally got my dressy tote so I could carry my water bottle and snacks and still look professional. So +1 to both the dressy tote and water bottle.

        1. Dressy tote/briefcase*

          Yes to the water bottle & a snack. I had back to back interviews with no water until lunch in the company cafeteria. The only choices of beverages were caffeinated, sugar filled or strangely enough – water with dissolved fiber in it. That seemed like a dicey choice.

  37. Cochrane*

    Our senior leadership team is cracking down on the hybrid employees, pushing to enforce the three days in the office minimum. Our team is being tasked with tracking down what they call “bell-ringers”, employees who come to the office, log in for a few hours, then go home and work the rest of the day remotely.

    I’m hoping this fades since our team could be doing more productive things than try to come up with data rules to catch people logging in on site then again remotely less than 7-8 hours after the first logon. Is this a thing anywhere else or just someone’s bright idea upstairs?

    1. Workerbee*

      Oh, to be a senior leader and get paid to sit around coming up with a Bright Idea.

      What would happen if you don’t report any of the alleged bell-ringers Would the senior leaders come downstairs to investigate? (It might cut into their Important Meeting time, though!)

      1. Cochrane*

        We’ve floated that idea around, but the powers that be are apparently annoyed that sections of the office floor that should be 60% capacity (give or take) are virtual ghost towns when they walk through to the conference rooms. I find it hard to believe that this is the only metric for productivity, but I’m not senior management.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      How is that even a significant issue? Like, they’re commuting anyways, so maybe shaving a an hour or so off on either end to avoid traffic, but how many people would come in in the morning, then go back home at noon and work the rest of the day from there, without a good, presumably infrequently occurring reason?

      1. DoodleBug*

        Someone whose office environment isn’t conducive to work (no colleagues / loud open office / no windows / what have you) but who has been told to come into the office. So they do to show up, and then go work at home to actually get work done.

        Or people whose kids get home from school at 3:30 and can’t be home by themselves yet. Or whose kids are in a school-based summer program that runs from 8:30am-1:30pm (ugh!).

        If a commute is in the 30 minute range I can see this working well for some folks.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I can’t speak to how many people would do it, but this describes me. In the past, I’ve driven in, put in a couple hours onsite for face time or collaborative stuff, then come home for everything requiring concentration. Preferably missing rush hour on both ends. Honestly the only place I am fully productive is my home. (I am ASD + ADHD, lots of sensory and distraction issues.)

    3. rayray*

      This kind of thing drives me crazy. It’s like being in school and having hall monitors. They serve zero purpose and the time being spent to babysit and track people could be spent in much more valuable ways.

      1. Cochrane*

        I’m sure this is a stepping stone to getting rid of hybrid altogether. The same powers that be mandated that senior directors and above have to be in 5 days a week recently. Not much of a leap to say that hybrid is on thin ice and is being “abused” this way.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          Our company apparently tracks door swipes and logins. I was recently asked to explain myself because some report showed that my first login for the day was at home on a day I was scheduled in the office. I checked email and completed a few tasks early in the morning and then went in. Another time my first login showed at the office, but I hadn’t swiped my pass at the door. A colleague and I arrived at the same time and they held the door, which is allowed but not if the other person didn’t swipe. The expectation is that if we’re in the office, the report needs to show a swipe, then a login at the office IP address. It’s utterly ridiculous.

          1. Cochrane*

            I appreciate this comment, this is exactly the kind of thing the data would turn up for some people: a log in at home pre-work hours, a security station swipe, followed by an on-site log-in. This would definitely flag someone who is really in office but started out at home.

            This is good fuel for pushback, thank you!

  38. Did The Research*

    Advice on how to potentially “kidnap” a workplace fish? There’s gonna be a bit of fish care talk so sorry if anything is confusing.

    So, a team lead at my workplace got our office a betta fish a couple weeks ago. It’s primarily being cared for by the team lead who got it and another coworker who sits nearby. Unfortunately neither have clearly done much research on how to care for bettas. The poor guy is in a tiny bowl, probably only a gallon or two, no filter or anything, and coworker removed his substrate after insisting “it was making the water cloudy” (even though there were no problems in the week or so before the fish was put in the bowl). I was expecting him to die in a week or two, but he’s hung on, even started doing little things like make a bubble nest.

    It didn’t sit well with me just letting him like… sit miserable and stressed in there, but I’m not in any kind of position (professionally or financially) to do much at this point for a fish that isn’t mine. But I did decide – knowing that this is just me putting up money I’m not gonna get back – to get a couple things to hopefully make his bowl more comfortable (live plant, new substrate, etc.). Somewhat unfortunately this has become the mental tipping point for me to go all in on wanting to help this poor l’il guy.

    There’s already signs that coworker and team lead are not as enamored with the amount of work a small tank like this will take to keep the fish healthy (when I explained that this will need water changes almost every other day, they started trying to push it off on each other before finally suggest I “take a turn”). Any ideas/script suggestions for me just… taking this guy home someday? As much as I joke about kidnapping him, I would want to talk to the team lead who brought him. Thoughts on what might be a good time to suggest the possibility, since I suspect it may take a month or two before the novelty of office fish wears off. I had thoughts of offering to take him home on like a three-day weekend or some other extended outage where he’d need home care as a start, but… I just don’t want to misstep here and cause trouble.

    (FTR, I have hopes of giving him a full setup when home, a 5+ gallon tank with proper fixtures, live plants, etc. I’m trying my best to not get too attached to this fish but it’s already too late I’m afraid so I’m just gonna… temper my expectations as best I can from here on out. He has some sort of suitably team-spirited office culture name but he’s a very red betta doing his best to thrive in adverse conditions, and I’m a huge nerd so if I do end up getting to keep him I’m going to rename him Inuyasha)

    1. Happy Peacock*

      Start by “taking a turn”, turn that into a sole caretaker role, then take it home over a long weekend and never bring him back. If you are in the US, that fish could be yours at the end of the month (Memorial Day weekend).

      1. Did The Research*

        I was thinking about doing that sort of thing, so I’m glad your thoughts align there (and I’m actually “taking a turn” today!)

        Good point about Memorial Day, thought. I forgot how close that one is. Better get on putting the tank at home put together…

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Seconding the idea of taking him home and “forgetting” to bring him back.

        But, ugh, I’m sorry you’re having to pay for your coworkers’ neglect :(

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      OMG, been there and done this twice. Your problem is that you’re looking for a soft and indirect approach. You need to be direct and loud, or at least in no uncertain terms tell them how bad this is and give them a solution. In my case, I bought the heater and filter and gave an education on these fish. And gave the first snacks, and did water changes sometimes. If you are big enough to have HR, maybe discuss a no-office-pets rule.

      1. Did The Research*

        You’re probably right about being too soft in my approach here. Unfortunately I’m currently only a temp. Like… my position is good as it can be for where I am, everyone tells me they really really like my work and I’m at the point of just waiting for the move to perm, but I don’t have much sway to push for anything at all yet, at least with HR, and possibly with being too forceful here either.

        I can definitely work on being clear and firm with the education though, and I can do that probably while taking over as much of the fish care as I can. I’ve been getting a lot of “well I’ve always had bettas in a bowl like that” and “it’s just for [name], that’s all so much” and “maybe it’s the food,” particularly with coworker (as opposed to team lead), and only managed to stump her when I was like “He’s surviving-” and she interrupted with “Yeah he’s surviving!” and then I finished “- but he’s not going to thrive.” It’s so infuriating.

        1. Grace*

          I mean, some of it is probably that the people who thought that a betta would be fine in what they’ve put him in are feeling judged/bad for not knowing, and some people when faced with those feelings are more likely to double down and pretend it’s not a real problem rather than admit they made a mistake. It’s worth giving them a way to save face if that will result in them letting you get the fish into a better habitat.

          I mean, as a kid, I had a betta in a gallon vase with a live plant and some rocks in the bottom, and that betta lived for like 5 years. Kid me thought I was giving him everything he needed. Looking back, I really wish I (or my parents) had known that a larger space was necessary, because we definitely would’ve gotten him a tank or a much larger bowl or whatever. But if someone had come at me or my parents with “this is clearly inadequate and you’re killing this fish”, the impulse would’ve been to tell them that they’re wrong and obviously he’s great since he’s lived for years. A “this would be an even better set up, and we definitely want Betta to have the best set up we can give him” approach is much more likely to work.

    3. Bob-White of the Glen*

      Steal him late on a Friday, and leave a post-it that says “sorry about your fish. I gave him a bathroom burial.” Fish die all the time, they’ll never know. :)

      1. Did The Research*

        …. I mean. I am usually the last person in the office……. If nothing else works…

  39. Mimmy*

    Looking for a gut check. I’m asking for gentle responses please – I sometimes have difficulty accurately reading a situation and responding appropriately.

    During our weekly staff meeting this morning, I had a lapse in judgment and embarrassed one of the managers, Meredith. I take full responsibility and plan to apologize to Meredith. However, I think our director, Izzie, is slightly at fault too.

    The question I was asking was something I thought other staff might have wondered about too. I prefaced my question/comment by acknowledging that maybe this wasn’t the right time but wanted to clarify that. Izzie said I should’ve gone with my gut. However, I think Izzie should’ve requested that I contact her or Meredith privately. By answering my question during the meeting, I felt like I had the space to air my concerns.

    Again, I know I was wrong, but if I were running a meeting and a staff had a question that they weren’t sure was appropriate for the meeting, I would’ve let them ask it, but instead of answering, I would’ve asked the person to please contact me privately.

    1. Maggie*

      Maybe they exercised temporary misjudgment just as you did. Everyone does that sometimes.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      Well, once someone brings a topic to the table, I can see how Izzie might have thought it would be worse to not answer openly – that it could make them look kind of shady, or like they were trying to hide something worse than what was actually going on. It’s hard to tell without knowing the topic and more context, but also, whatever Izzie was thinking, and whether or not they were right to think it, doesn’t really make a difference for your next steps in this situation, so I wouldn’t overthink it.

    3. 867-5309*

      Can you share the question? It’s tough to offer advice or share a point of view without that?

      Generally, when someone wonders if something is appropriate for a meeting, I assume the topic is tangentially related so they aren’t sure if they want us to go down that path, not putting me or someone else uncomfortably on the spot.

    4. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      This is a little hard to judge without knowing what the question was and/or why it was embarrassing for Meredith. For example, if Meredith was behind on a task and it was holding up others in their work, I think you have more standing to ask this in a group setting, since it affects multiple people’s work. However, if it’s more like, Meredith has been out a lot, but it’s not affecting anyone work, and you’re probing into what’s going on with Meredith’s personal life, because others have been curious, too, that would not have been okay.

      Also, I think where Izzie actually erred is by letting you ask the question in the first place! Once you asked the question, I think Izzie felt she “had” to answer the question, or she would be fielding the same question from everyone else in the meeting. She probably should have asked for a general idea of what the question was about first to decide if the question was likely relevant to the meeting or not.

      1. Sunshine*

        Yes, I agree. I also don’t think it would have been awkward for Izzie to say “let me get back to you on that” or “I plan to address that at a later date” if she didn’t want to answer in the meeting.

        Also, Meredith being embarrassed doesn’t necessarily mean that the question itself was wrong. Like you said, if Meredith was holding up a process that impacted everyone’s work… well, maybe she should be a little embarrassed about that! It’s totally valid to ask about things that are affecting workflow. But it really depends on what the question was.

    5. Just Another Boss*

      Perhaps she should have put a stop to the question, perhaps there are extenuating circumstances that explain why she couldn’t/didn’t do that. Either way, I think the takeaway for you should be that next time, you should err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure if a question is appropriate for a meeting, then you know it might not be. Rather than putting your manager in the position of having to decline to answer, you should have kept it to yourself and asked privately. Especially given that the result was Meredith being embarrassed, and that you weren’t sure if it was okay to ask, my guess is that there is something about the question that makes Izzie feel you should have known better. What she needs to know is what you’re going to do to rectify it (apologize to Meredith) and what you will do to prevent it from happening again (err on the side of caution to hold a question until you can connect privately). The only reason to discuss it further than that is if you truly don’t understand why it wasn’t appropriate to ask, although admitting that to Izzie will likely not result in her opinion of you improving.

    6. MM*

      Depending on how you phrased the question, Izzie responding with see me privately, could be taken as a yes.

      So depending on how you phrased your question, you may have backed them into a corner and Izzie saw no way out other than to answer the question.

      A simple for example, asking if Meredith is pregnant. If the response was see me afterwards to discuss privately, that answer would be interpreted as a yes. Whether yes is correct or not. So if Meredith was not pregnant, Izzie would have to answer No.

      If you have even a suspicion that a question isn’t appropriate for a meeting, it’s best to not ask, then follow up later one on one with your supervisor.

    7. Mimmy*

      Thanks for the replies so far! Your perspectives were very helpful. Also, sorry for the vagueness, but I didn’t want this to be identifiable. I’ll try to add a bit more context.

      I work with a Voc Rehab training program and my question / concern related to something that wasn’t done, which I felt was a disservice to one of our students. I questioned Meredith about it and Izzie felt that I’d embarrassed Meredith. Izzie is right, I should’ve bit my tongue and asked about it privately, but I had figured the rest of the staff were wondering too.

      So now, I’m looking for a good script for when I apologize to Meredith. I reached out to her for a call, but she hasn’t responded; Izzie said I should give it time, possibly even waiting till Monday.

      Thanks again everyone.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        I’m not sure what Meredith’s role is, but I do think it is sometimes valuable to publicly question leaders on actions that are morally questionable or extremely out of line with your org’s stated mission/values.

        I can’t say if that’s true in this case and it’s NEVER something you should do without being sure of what you’re doing and thinking through potential ramifications. And it isn’t always effective or even most of the time effective. I just want to offer the point that embarrassing people above you on the ladder isn’t always bad and sometimes is both deserved and effective for your future calculations. Shame is a dangerous tool but sometimes necessary in some workplace climates.

        Again, not saying it was the right choice here. I just want to point out that it’s not a hard and fast rule that you should never publicly embarrass people.

      2. Observer*

        Izzie is right, I should’ve bit my tongue and asked about it privately, but I had figured the rest of the staff were wondering too

        That’s natural, but a really bad idea. As you realize. “People are wondering” is only something to satisfy if “wondering” includes wondering about how it is going to affect their work, what *their* next steps should be or what they should do in a related situation. It “wondering” mean “they were curious”, well you don’t need to take on the role of satisfying their curiosity.

        And, yes, in this context the answer doesn’t really seem like the most relevant piece. The question would still have been embarrassing had Izzy told you to discuss the matter later.

    8. All Het Up About It*

      So – I agree with others it’s hard to say for certain without knowing at least the question. I’m also a little confused if Izzie’s answer to your question embarrassed Meredith, or your follow-up after her answer was the embarrassing element.

      If it’s the former … maybe don’t lean too hard into the “I take full responsibility” apology. Not saying for sure don’t apologize, but I see a big difference between “I’m sorry if the conversation I started with my question in last week’s meeting caused you any discomfort, that wasn’t my intention at all, and I’ve taken Izzie’s direction the appropriateness of that type of question in a group setting to heart.” and “I’m SO sorry you were embarrassed when Izzie called you out due to my question on Friday. It’s completely my fault and I understand and I’ll never do anything to embarrass you again.” I mean, what if she WASN’T embarrassed?

      Now that I’m typing this I’m actually not sure if you mean that you embarrassed Meredith because your question lead to her being called out for not completing something or if you mean you embarrassed her because one of her employees had the audacity to ask a question in the wrong setting. If it’s door two, please consider giving yourself some grace and making sure the apology is chill and professional. Because there’s a good chance that Meredith wasn’t embarrassed, agrees with you that if Izzie thought the question inappropriate se didn’t have to answer it, or even disagrees with Izzie and is glad you asked the question.

      1. Mimmy*

        I’m also a little confused if Izzie’s answer to your question embarrassed Meredith, or your follow-up after her answer was the embarrassing element.

        Here’s the timeline: Izzie answered my question by saying they’d look into it, and I was going to leave it there, but then Meredith offered her perspective. It was my response to Meredith that was the embarrassing element.

    9. Observer*

      but if I were running a meeting and a staff had a question that they weren’t sure was appropriate for the meeting, I would’ve let them ask it, but instead of answering, I would’ve asked the person to please contact me privately.

      I don’t see how not answering helps the situation. If the question is a problem then it’s a problem regardless of the answer. Even if the question is only a problem because of the answer, then the question is a problem whether someone answers with the problematic answer or refuses to answer (because everyone in the room is going to assume that the answer is problematic.)

      You say “I take full responsibility ” but then proceed to explain how this is really also Izzy’s fault. No, you were the one who asked the question when you should, by your own account, have realized that it might not be a good idea. Instead of spending time thinking about what Izzy did wrong, use that energy to think about how to avoid this kind of mistake in the future. It won’t be perfect, but better is better. And worthwhile to try for.

  40. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Hey there! I want to thank those who shared their excellent points of view, facts and opinions when I asked about “Productivity is colonialism.” It gave me the nuances that I was looking for.

    The person who originally shared that with me later clarified to state that “productivity is white supremacy.” I think this is just a harsher way to say the same thing…but is it?

    1. Double A*

      Bumper sticker slogans aren’t that actionable; we live in capitalism, which is based on colonialism and white supremacy, but it’s also the culture we live within so what are you going to do, not be productive in some way? I mean, I used to jokingly say “Linear time is a construct of the white man” but that is actually true. But also, it’s how the world I live in is structured and I need to live within it.

      I just started reading “Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World” by Malcolm Harris, however, and it is a fascinating, thoughtful, and nuanced expansion on these ideas. It’s giving me a lot to think about; I’m only a couple of chapters in. Just understanding a greater depth of history of my state and country, especially when I’m so closely tied to the places that were at the heart the story, is fascinating and thought-provoking. He’s also an excellent and engaging writer.

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Not so much not be productive…but “we’ll make the other department’s needs fit “our” schedule…”, refuse to rush to schedule the needed meeting and then unapologetically miss a meeting that was rescheduled to fit “their” schedule.

    2. Spearmint*

      Honestly I find such statements to be a bit racist in a way, implying that PoC don’t value getting things done or being productive.

      1. Enough*

        Agree. white people to not have the exclusive on colonialism, capitalism or anything.

      2. Fishsticks*

        It’s a problem of using something trite and short because there’s no space for nuance. The western concept of productivity/what work is “worthwhile” or “valuable” is inherently a colonialist perspective! Indigenous nations had their own concepts for what needed done and when, and their own value systems especially when it comes to labor.

        An example would be, let’s say, the way teaching/educating is devalued in the United States even though educating the next generation and helping to raise them up is one of the most important and valuable things you can do to a lot of other cultures. Or the way most indigenous nations in North America, if not all of them, featured immense respect for elders in the community as a baseline of societal structure even when those elders could no longer produce/craft/hunt, where modern society considers much of our elderly to be more or less without value because they are no longer productive employees.

        To some extent, these things get personal, but there are definitely some big Cultural Things happening. A bumpster sticker slogan can’t cover it.

        1. Spearmint*

          Agreed, though this is why I’m generally averse to bringing these kinds of statements and analyses into the everyday workplace via DEI. There’s so much nuance and room for debate on these things, which is great for academics and social critics, but not very actionable or useful for the typical workplace. And I think the oversimplified versions of these ideas are often useless or sometimes been counterproductive.

          1. Spearmint*

            To be clear, I’m not against DEI, just this way do approaching it in the typical workplace.

    3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      As a message it’s really only useful to unify and energize people who already agree with it and have some understanding of what it’s really trying to say.

      What’s behind the slogan is that capitalism in the US, and the toxic work culture that was built up to support it, is inextricably linked to the slave trade and later oppressive systems designed to preserve existing stratifications at the intersections of race, class, and gender. Productivity culture, specifically the “grindset” folks, is one of the tools upholding those stratifications today. Which isn’t to say that all productivity tools or culture is bad, but it’s worth a closer look at the impact on you of others of the way you think and talk about this.

      I don’t feel like that’s an especially good or useful summation of what that slogan is trying to represent either, so I will emphasize that pithy slogans like this shouldn’t be used for education or outreach. They just aren’t effective, even if you agree with them. They can be useful for identifying and bonding with others that already share this ideology, but it’s obviously a matter of open debate on whether that good outweighs that cost of potentially alienating others from these ideas.

  41. Applesauced*

    I am looking for working/studying music suggestions!

    I prefer upbeat, modern instrumental, not stressful (The Social Network sound track feels stressful to me)

    Currently my playlist is the soundtracks to Pushing Daisies, Amelie, The French Dispatch, and songs by Jon Brion.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Does Call the Midwife count as modern? I just love the main theme song, and it’s super upbeat-sounding (even if the show itself can sometimes be less so).

    2. Cyndi*

      I think a lot of Michael Giacchino soundtracks would be great for your needs! Henry Jackman does a lot of action movie soundtracks so I’m not sure whether he’d fall on the upbeat or stressful side of the line for you, but personally I find his music pretty motivational.

      Also, as someone who’s pretty fond of stressful soundtrack music myself, I’m curious if there’s any reason you called out Trent Reznor specifically here. Is he getting recommended to you a lot?

      1. Applesauced*

        Social Network soundtrack is GREAT, don’t get me wrong. But my husband LOVES it for working music so I hear it a lot, and the song that samples Tetris stresses me out

        1. Cyndi*

          Oh no! Meanwhile I worked somewhere for three years where my boss played the Amelie soundtrack on loop all the time, so I can’t listen to it or watch the movie any more–the music just makes my teeth hurt. I guess we’re each other’s very specific counterbalances?

      2. Applesauced*

        I took your recommendation and have been listening to the Up and Inside Out soundtracks this afternoon!
        Thanks for sharing this composer!

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      If you’re at all into cello music, try Zoe Keating. I sometimes listen to her music while working – it’s deceptively simple and very beautiful too.

    4. L. Bennett*

      I actually really love the soundtracks for Bridgerton. They’re instrumental arrangements of modern pop songs so they’re really fun but easy to play in the background.

    5. Joielle*

      I like Lofi Girl on Youtube – she has a Lofi Hip Hop Radio livestream that’s my go-to when I need some background noise at work.

    6. Qwerty*

      There is a playlist on Spotify called “Upbeat Instrumental Study” that is a mix of original songs and instrumental covers of popular songs. Some of the artists include Lindsey Sterling, The Piano Guys, and Vitamin String Quartet

  42. Great Beyond*

    I work in a culture where it’s sort of a “kiss up kick down” mentality. My boss will pick on the low people on the totem pole. The managers follow and do the same.

    Besides keeping your head down and working, any advice on how to deal with a culture like this? I’m trying to find a new job and get out asap.

    1. NeutralJanet*

      Given that you know it’s a (toxic) cultural thing, can you just try not to take it personally? I know that’s easier said than done, especially when it’s widespread, but I know that I’ve had to work with people who were straight up nasty to everyone, and I just kept reminding myself that it wasn’t me, it was them, and also how much must it suck to be that nasty all the time, and it helped.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Adopt a practice of separating work you from complete you. One way people do this is by putting on a work uniform, then before heading out for the day, look in the mirror and say something to signal you are sending Work You out into the world.

      Ideas for phrases:
      “Work mode, activated.”
      “Have a good day at work, Work GB.”
      “Shields up!”

      Also, please consider removing “low person on the totem pole” from your go-to phrases; it’s origins aren’t great.

    3. L. Bennett*

      I was in a culture like this for a while. It helped to have friends on the team that I could roll my eyes to when ridiculous stuff was happening, but the most freeing thing was to just get off that team.

  43. Junior Dev*

    How do you stay in touch with former colleagues you’d been work friends with? I’m thinking about this as I had a text conversation with one last night. I had ran into him at a bar last year and found out he and his wife are into skating like me, they’re competitive level while I’m much more of a beginner. I texted him about an event last night and we chatted a bit but didn’t make any plans or anything.

    I am wondering something similar about my former boss. I know ex-boss has been having a hard time because his wife has cancer; I don’t really know how to ask him how he’s doing or see if he needs anything, or if it makes sense to do that, or ask him to ride bikes together which we did sometimes as part of a group of people from work.

    IDK, it’s not strictly necessary or anything but I like keeping in touch with people, both on a personal level, and sometimes it does make sense for networking but I don’t want people to think I only care to talk to them when I’m job hunting. Which I will be later this summer, but it’s not really the main reason I am thinking about this.

    Has anyone kept in touch in a situation like this? Obviously very different in level of seriousness of what the different ex-colleagues are going through. If you’ve had someone successfully reach out to you to stay in touch, what did they do and how did it go? What things do you even ask to do together—second guy would probably be up for a bike ride (especially with a group probably), first guy I don’t want to make him feel like he’s expected to teach me skating if we try to do that together, otherwise I’d ask if he and his wife want to go to the park and skate together.

    Also, I wish it didn’t matter, but both these guys are married and in their 40s and I’m single and in my 30s. I’m a bi woman and mostly hang out with other LGBT people and so I am aware the norms are different in different communities, and we live in a progressive city where I don’t think anyone is saying men and women can’t be friends, but I do want to make sure I don’t come off as disrespecting anyone’s marriage. I hope that makes sense—I can feel very socially awkward and would hate to accidentally make anyone think I’m being inappropriate, and I realize that mainstream straight norms about that are somewhat different from what I encounter among my queer friends.

    I am probably overthinking this. It would be nice to keep in touch though. In general, I get the sense that post 2020, people are way more open about wanting to have more social contact in their lives and appreciate having people reach out.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      How do you stay in touch with former colleagues you’d been work friends with?

      It’s funny you should ask this, because I think many of the friends I’ve made as an adult have been former co-workers. I don’t tend to want to be friends with current co-workers, just because I like to have some level of compartmentalization. I’ll be friendly but not really friends. Once we’re former co-workers, though, I usually just try to spend more time with the people I like from my former job. It’s tended to work out, for whatever reason.

      Also, I wish it didn’t matter, but both these guys are married and in their 40s and I’m single and in my 30s. I’m a bi woman and mostly hang out with other LGBT people and so I am aware the norms are different in different communities, and we live in a progressive city where I don’t think anyone is saying men and women can’t be friends, but I do want to make sure I don’t come off as disrespecting anyone’s marriage.

      Yeah, I kind of hate this, too. I’m also in a fairly progressive city, but I definitely gets this low-key vibe sometimes. Sometimes people can give off an insecure aura or people can just be super cautious (in anticipation of their spouses being insecure?) even when there’s no impropriety going on. The funny thing is—all this weirdness about “men and women can’t be friends” never actually stopped anyone from cheating.

      I am probably overthinking this.

      You aren’t overthinking this. Sometimes gender norms and societal stuff just gets in the way.

      1. Junior Dev*

        How do you hang out with them? Ask them to go for coffee/lunch/drinks? Do an activity together?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, basically. “Let’s grab lunch next week” or “Do you want to go to karaoke?” Also, doesn’t have to be one-on-one activities. You could also include the spouse if you like the spouse. And, frankly, if you don’t like the spouse, that’s going to make it even more awkward. Not saying the spouse has to be included in absolutely every interaction, but that can ease the silly weirdness around gender, marriage, and friendships.

    2. Grace*

      Honestly, I use FB or Instagram. I never friend current coworkers, but if they leave the job or I’m leaving, I’ll ask if they have FB/Insta and if I can friend them. That’s always been the easiest way for me to keep in touch. If they don’t and I still really want to keep the connection, texting sometimes works–I have one former coworker that texts funny cat photos back and forth with me.

      As for what to do, meeting up for lunch sometimes, or going to a local event/trivia night we’re both interested in are good things to do.

  44. awkward history*

    TW: CHILD DEATH

    I’ve remembered an old situation that–well, I want to say I would have brought it here if I’d known about AAM a decade ago, but even now I’m pretty ashamed to talk about it. It’s ancient history now and I’m sure I’ve forgotten specifics, but I’d like to know what if anything I could have done differently at the time.

    Ten years ago I was hunting for my first Real Job after college and failing pretty miserably. About nine months after graduation, a casual friend Jane got in touch and told me that she was going on mat leave soon from her job at a small startup, and the plan was for her to get diagonally promoted into a higher role in another team and start there when she returned from leave. Did I want to interview for her current position? God yes, did I. Jane brought me in and interviewed me for the role; her manager, who did not know me previously, interviewed me as well. It went great. I had a verbal job offer, but not (as far as I remember) a written one. And then Jane’s baby was born prematurely, and died in the NICU a few days later.

    I never followed up about the job, and no one ever followed up with me. After that I wasn’t sure how to talk to Jane about pretty much anything. I only saw her a few more times before she and her husband moved out of town a year or two later, and one of those times was at their daughter’s wake. I couldn’t see any way to follow up at all that wouldn’t be just heinously rude and self-centered, under the circumstances, where Jane’s crisis was so much worse and more immediate than mine. But it did leave me in a pretty bad position–my thin financial cushion was running out and it ultimately took another month and a half past that point to find a job–and under the circumstances I didn’t feel right saying so to anyone, even people not involved in the situation at all. I still feel guilty admitting that it impacted me.

    I’ll freely admit this hiring process may have been a bit too informal to begin with, and also that I probably wasn’t a very good friend in the aftermath. But what I want to know is, was there anything else I could have done to follow up about the job? Or was I right to quietly let the whole thing go?

    1. Sunshine*

      I think that the job probably evaporated once it was clear that Jane would likely not be taking maternity leave as planned. We don’t know if the timeline for her promotion changed, but it could be that it was going to be a few months away regardless of whether she went on leave or not. In that case she would be back to working her old job that you had applied for until the promotion was available, or maybe the promotion never happened at all. If anything, I think you could have kept your eyes open to see if her job was posted whenever she was eventually promoted, but that might be about it.

    2. Alex*

      That’s an awful situation and there was probably not a whole lot you could have done. I don’t think it would have been completely out of line to write an email to the person who had given you the offer (I assume NOT Jane, right?) and say something like, “I very much enjoyed speaking with you and would love to join the company if a role is available, but in light of this awful tragedy, I completely understand if plans have changed regarding the open position we spoke about. Best wishes to everyone at Llamas Inc.”

      Something may or may not have come of it, though.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I think, even if the offer *had* come from Jane, a HR representative would still be involved and would be a person to contact with that message (also, nice script!)

      2. Observer*

        Yeah, this is what I was thinking to.

        OP, you have nothing to be ashamed of. And CERTAINLY not that you were is a bad financial way and thus the job situation had a significant effect on you.

  45. kiki*

    I’m in a role that’s kind of leadership without authority. I’m the most recent addition to my team (joined about 6 months ago) I have an issue where someone my team really respects and admires has been doing a pretty bad job. Let’s call him Chase. He is super competent and has been in the organization for a long time. Chase just seems to have taken coasting to the next level. My function overlaps most closely with his, so I’m most aware of his shortcomings. I’m also in a position where to do my job well, I end up covering for his shortcomings. I’ve talked to my manager and his manager to clarify my expectations of his role and we’re all in agreement that I’m not expecting too much and what Chase has been delivering has been unacceptable.

    He’s been put on a PIP. Since I work closely with him, my feedback weight in heavily to whether he is successful in completing the PIP. So far, it’s not looking like Chase will pass. I want him to pass because I really don’t want to lose his knowledge of our product and I think he’s a good guy overall, I think it’s just hard to adjust back to doing a full-time job after a years of working at ~20%.

    If he is let go, my team is going to be incensed and ask me for more details. I don’t want to reveal too much because Chase deserves his privacy and dignity, but how do I handle the fact that I think his firing (if it happens) is justified when it will come as a shock to everyone else?

    1. Temperance*

      I’m honestly really confused by you referring to him as “super competent” and then describing everything that he does wrong. It honestly doesn’t sound like he is very competent if his performance is that bad.

      If he’s harming your ability to do your job, you don’t have to hide that justbecause other people are fine with it?

      1. kiki*

        When pressed, he knows exactly what to do and how to do it. He just… doesn’t do it consistently and without constant prodding. If I need advice about a path forward, he’s the guy I go to and it’s always really good, clear advice with step-by-step details. But day-to-day, he really doesn’t do anything. So, for example, as part of our work have various projects to work on. Based on our roles, he should be taking initiative, making outlines, and delivering some amount of preparation and planning that I can act on to execute further. How it has been going, though, is that he is made aware of a project, he tells me about the project, and then the rest is really up to me. Like, he’ll send me a template powerpoint where he has changed the title slide but nothing else and it’s all up to me to work through the details. Unless I rope him into a 1:1 and step through everything together, he doesn’t make any progress on the plan. He gives me no details to work off of and he’s kind of hard to pin down. But if you do pin him down, he can clearly do the job quite well.

    2. EMP*

      Ask HR if you have a script to follow but I would think something like “there were performance issues I can’t discuss and unfortunately had to let Chase go” would be vague enough but still give a reason.

      1. Educator*

        This is even more than I would reveal as a manager. When I have had to let people go for performance reasons, my script has always been “Chase is no longer working at Organization, and I really want to respect his privacy about the details, just like I would respect your privacy if you needed me to. The plan for covering his work is x, and I can help you in his absence by y.” If I were not the manager, I might swap out “respect his privacy” for “not spread any rumors when I don’t know for sure” or similar. People like gossip in the short term, but they really value discretion in the long term.

    3. SofiaDeo*

      If you aren’t his manager, why would people be coming to you to ask why he left? You can decline to gossip/speculate. It doesn’t matter if they are incensed or not. You can say things like “I can see you are upset” or “you sound upset” . If someone tries to drag you in with an “aren’t you angry” you can say a kindly “I try not to let my emotions get involved at work.” I was only a supervisor, involved in hiring/firing, but not the actual decision maker on record. So I would deflect up to my boss if people got upset/nosey, I didn’t like to gossip or even comment. “I’m not sure exactly why” along with “you’d probably have to ask Manager.”

  46. Casey*

    Any advice on how to prepare for internal interviews? A lead spot opened up on my team and my boss has strongly encouraged me to apply. I feel like I’m ready for the role and have a good track record with my team, but I’m not really sure what to expect in terms of the questions. I assume it won’t be particularly technical and more questions about my leadership style and what direction I want to take the team in, but I don’t know how to actually prepare other than just reflecting? I’m in a very technical field and have always prepared for interviews via textbook so this is new to me. Thanks!

    1. spcepickle*

      I work for state government – so this might not apply to you.
      I have done 4 internal interviews and they ask me exactly the same questions as they ask external candidates. So I sat down with the job posting and made notes about how my experience met their requirements.

      I also came up and practiced stories that could be used to answer different types of questions.
      Such as: a time I dealt with conflict (one at my level and one with a boss), a time I overcame a challenge, something at work I am really proud of, something about my work I would like the change.

      I also think in your case if you write down: why you think you are ready for a promotion and what you want to do with a team if you lead it – it would help prepare.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I would also, since you’re looking at a promotion on your same team, be ready to address if anyone asks you how you would adjust to moving into a supervisory position over people who have been your peers for however long. That’s absolutely something I asked when one of my team members applied to my open team lead position, even though I knew 100% that I wanted her for the job — I wanted to know that was something she’d thought about, because she had friends on the team, and wasn’t going to just be all hand-wavy “Oh, it’ll be FIIIIIIIINE” about it.

        And even if someone doesn’t ask you about it, still think about it for your own sake, because some of those relationships may have to change!

    2. Firecat*

      Check your intranet for management trainings and guides. I’ve frequently found lists of recommended questions for candidates as well as guidelines for how to interview.

      Team leads typically do a bit of both individual contributor and leading so be prepared for both.

      If you can talk to another lead or the old lead ask what the role entails.

  47. Hawk*

    Context first:
    – I’m neurodivergent. I have a *thing* about personal space, meaning I need a space to call my own or I feel very antsy/upset and it disrupts my routines. I’m also very messy, although I try to keep that as minimal as possible, and my messiness might look messy but it’s pretty organized. If something is disturbed my brain backfires and it’s as good as lost.
    – Everyone at work has to share computers except for managers and certain high level staff. I am not them. I’m OK with sharing computers.
    – I work for regional government so certain things have to be done in certain ways by certain people.

    Problem:
    On Wednesday, I came into work to a computer that is supposed to be shared at my desk. Not my coworker’s desk (he and I both work 20 hours a week). Not my other coworker’s desk (she’s at the office one day a week). I rarely use my desk, but a lot of stuff ends up on my desk from my day to day work. I keep my purse at my desk (I work in a public space and this is the safest place to keep it). I keep backup food at my desk. My chair is often taken for other things by volunteers. I don’t want to be seen as possessive or weird about this, but it makes me super uncomfortable.

    Question:
    Can I ask my boss if we can move the computer to the desk that my coworker that is in once a week is in? It would probably result in multiple phone calls and conversations with our tech department. How would I ask in a way that doesn’t seem weirdly possessive of my space?

    1. Overeducated*

      I am confused. If this shared computer were moved to a different desk, would you have one at your desk? Is your work not done at a computer?

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        It sounds to me like everyone has a desk but not everyone has a computer, and the shared computer is currently at Hawk’s desk (where there was no computer previously). Hawk is hoping that if the computer is moved to another desk, there will be less disruption to Hawk’s “personal” space.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I think you can ask! Just keep it simple and breezy, like: “It’s nice to have the new computer in our space, but would it be possible to move it to Jane’s desk instead of mine, since she’s only in once a week?”

      You could even add “I know I keep more stuff on my desk than some people, and I have a little bit of a ‘thing’ about people moving it around when I’m out.” (I would probably only say this second part if having this conversation in person, so you can gauge boss’s reaction to the request.)

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Agree! And this a good script. No need to get into details and context, since this will hopefully be a simple ask (despite the convoluted IT involvment…which id strange, but sounds like an IT thing).

  48. my cat is prettier than me*

    The board at my place of work voted to remove our CEO on Tuesday. She was great, so everyone was shocked. We currently have no full time leadership, just a part-time interim CTO who is a contractor. Because of this, we may not be able to get funding. If we don’t get funding, the company will shut down with no notice and no severance. I’m pretty stressed about it, to say the least.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Ugh, I’m sorry! No advice, but sorry you’re in such a stressful situation!

    2. Elsewise*

      Yikes! That sounds really stressful, I’m so sorry. I’d definitely recommend starting a job hunt now, regardless of funding.

    3. Alexander Blodgett*

      Hope everything works out…sounds like a horribly stressful situation.

  49. Lady Danbury*

    Eshakti advice! I’m looking to expand my work wardrobe and I know that it’s a fav here, so I have a few questions:
    1. Favorite items that you’ve bought for work? As specific as possible would be great!
    2. Favorite fabrics for work? It can be hard to tell whether or not a fabric is work appropriate through a computer screen. I prefer fabrics that have a little stretch (but I’m open to certain cuts without stretch) and don’t require ironing.
    3. Straight sizes versus completely custom measurements? I’ve heard pros and cons about both…

    Thanks!

    1. 867-5309*

      Check out Athleta! They have some awesome, comfy and work appropriate things even though their primary clothing is athleisure. I love with my blazer from there.

      A friend introduced me to Universal Standard. They are the first company I’ve found that starts from a sample size 18 and designs and manufactures up and down from their, so their clothing truly is intended for all body types.

    2. Anonymous 75*

      I’ve bought a few things there (2 pants and a jumpsuit) and have only done custom. I think the sizing is going to be how hard you typically have when fitting off the rack clothing. I do so that’s why I went with the custom. it wasn’t that much more and worth the peace of mind to me.
      the pants I got were 1 ankle and 1 long palazzo, so both very different. I like both of them and found them well made.

      the jumpsuit I got for a wedding I officiated and wanted to be on the same color scheme but not “dressy dressy” so it was also something I could wear to work. when I say I got more compliments on that damn jumpsuit…. seriously it feels like every time I wear it someone says something. it’s a basic cotton, navy blue, belted jumpsuit.

      so yeah I like them….

      1. Lady Danbury*

        Makes sense re straight size vs custom. I used to be able to find clothes off the rack with no issues, but it’s a little harder now that I’ve gained a few pandemic pounds.

    3. NeutralJanet*

      Just a warning that a lot of people have had problems with eShakti since the beginning of the year–I’m not sure if what’s going on behind the scenes, or if it’s a temporary problem or if the company is going under, but some orders aren’t being fulfilled and the customer service team hasn’t been super responsive.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I had an order significantly delayed with no communication, and they also took weeks to respond to my inquiries about the delays. It did all arrive, and in good condition, but I couldn’t recommend ordering from them right now. If you do, don’t be in a hurry.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I have the “pintuck pleat crepe tunic” in two different patterns and it’s beautiful. I did custom measurements but also it’s a tunic so I don’t think it really mattered, lol.

      However, the quality is really hit-or-miss (it’s literally the same top with the same measurements and the cuffs/sleeves are noticeably different). The fabric feels cheap but has held up well over months of frequent wearing and washing.

      Everything I’ve ordered differently from “as shown” on has looked terrible and I returned it. From what I can tell, they don’t actually make the garment differently when you customize it, they just alter the existing pattern. Ex: asking for a high V neck instead of a low V neck means they make a low V shirt and then just sew the V halfway shut so it’s all puckered and weird.

      Worst customer service I’ve ever encountered. My order was over a month late with zero updates, I had to call and email 5 or 6 times over the course of several weeks to eventually get ONE “sorry, it’s delayed” response with no additional details or explanation.

      1. Lady Danbury*

        I think that you all have sufficiently convinced me to skip eshakti for now… Thank you!

    5. Brownie*

      Practically my entire work wardrobe is Eshakti dresses, custom measurements. I get so many compliments on them and someone last week told me they loved my “style.” Which I’m still baffled by, but after asking a friend it turns out it’s the custom measurements option that makes everything look fitted for me instead of the obviously off the rack tent dresses (I’m US size 28). They have had issues this last winter/spring with a giant batch of fabric that had to be returned for Q&A reasons which has resulted in issues, especially with pants, but I ordered during that and my dress was only about a week later than normal and had no quality issues.

      For fabrics I go for the cotton jersey almost exclusively, wash and tumble dry and they rarely ever look wrinkled. I have a couple of the chiffon dresses and they’re a hassle to wash because they’re a two layer dress with the patterned chiffon on the outside, no stretch either. The chambray is very nice as well, medium weight, but has no stretch and shows all the wrinkles if I don’t get it out of the dryer as soon as it’s done. I sew and make patterns and while there are a couple things I’d change about their sewing it’s all nitpicky stuff no one else would notice normally. Beware the necklines if you have skinny shoulders or have bras that don’t sit out on the point of the shoulders. I’d really recommend picking a high V or small neck for the first dress you order. Sign up for the email newsletter, it’s a little spammy at one a day, but it’ll let you know when the 30%+ off sales are.

    6. OyHiOh*

      I love love love Eshakti jersey dresses, and wide leg cotton poplin pants. The dresses dress up well with a blazer.

      Make use of the custom fabric option too, if the catalog image isn’t a fabric you adore.

      For tops or bottoms, the straight sizes work well for me. For dresses, I have to do custom measurements because there’s two full clothing sizes between my shoulders and hips, plus short torso and long legs. Custom means their dresses fit beautifully. Years ago, someone told me to add an inch to all circumference measurements and that’s always worked well for me. They fit without being restrictive or tight in the wrong places.

      Oh, and garments in the “sale” category can be customized, but garments in the “overstock” category are sold precisely as you see them. I’ve had good luck in both, on occasion.

  50. OtterB*

    Does anybody have flexible policies for hybrid work that they are happy with? My organization (about 25 staff, soon to increase to 30) wants to be in the office more, but not huge amounts more and not on a required basis. Here are some points we’re considering:

    1. A required number of days or specific days in the office is a nonstarter. Most staff are fairly near the office but some of us relocated before or during the pandemic and some have been hired fully remote in the past few years. For our current hiring most of the positions say we prefer someone located in our metro area but fully remote is a possibility.

    2. We’re looking for in-person mainly for serendipity. Those of us who work closely with other staff find Slack and Zoom to work well and mostly we don’t need to be in person. But we’ve always had a problem with silos, and with our growth and some changes due to a new Big Boss, that’s likely to get worse if we don’t try to head it off. In the past, we have found casual conversation to be informative – “So what are you up to?” leads to a discussion of overlapping tasks that nobody realized.

    3. We have a staff meeting once or twice a month that local staff are encouraged to attend in person if feasible (there are a couple of people whose health or family member’s health make it not feasible). This is incentivized with lunch ordered out on the company’s dime.

    4. We’ve tried a very flexible “come in when you like, a couple of times a week,” but it’s not working. It’s resulting in people coming in and finding they’re the only one in the office – so they’ve added commute time and $ without the chance to spend time with other staff. Or they come in and lots of people are in the office but their day is back-to-back zoom meetings and calls, so they spend the whole day in one of our little “phone booth” rooms to not disturb others (it’s an open plan office layout as of a couple of years ago because we were outgrowing our space).

    5. We’re thinking about identifying a couple of days a week as suggested in-person days.

    6. We’re a little concerned that people who are remote or are staying home for health reasons will be viewed as not team players because they don’t come in. Nobody intends to do this on purpose but we don’t want to set up an out-of-sight, out-of-mind dynamic.

    Suggestions?

    1. Alex*

      What you have is a Flair problem. You want people to want to come in because they want to, not because they have to. This is always going to result in resentment due to mixed messages. “You say I don’t have to come in, but then get disappointed when I don’t.”

      My former office tried this. Almost no one came in. No amount of food incentives worked. They tried having those “in person, yay!” meetings. They just made people angry.

      Your workforce has shown you that they prefer working from home, so if you are going to get them back in, you are going to have to mandate it, and be prepared for people to be unhappy about it.

      I’d take a look at the real value of this “serendipity” and consider if it is worth removing the flexibility from your workforce. To avoid silos, better communication between managers and from the top is what is needed, not random acts of small talk.

      1. OtterB*

        I don’t think we’re having the mixed messages about “But I want you to want to come in,” though I could be wrong. We’re just really trying to find a mixed model that works for us.

        We are increasing communication between managers and from the top, but to rely on that to help with the silo problem makes things more hierarchical than we have tended to prefer.

        1. Alice*

          Re silos and increasing communication – it drives me nuts when people say “back when we all chatted at the water cooler, we knew more about what other people were doing.” Buddy, I CAN SEE in our shared drive that the you have not touched the monthly reports filed by each individual contributor on our team – interesting and quick to skim. If you want information, it’s available.
          Who knows what it’s like in your setting. And clearly, making info available to people does not necessarily translate into them accessing it. But the idea that serendipitous hallways chats are the secret to communication and collaboration just does not make sense to me.

    2. 867-5309*

      Quarterly or annual all-company meeting? Or, annual all-company and quarterly by team?

      An influencer company (IZEA) has gone fully remote and maintained a culture of closeness and collaboration. I believe, but don’t quote me!, that they do an annual all-company meeting and then teams get together in-person when and as they need to.

    3. AnneSurely*

      This feels like you are throwing things against the wall to see what might stick, instead of figuring out the root of the problem. Will a few more hours a week on site make things the way they were before? Wouldn’t it make more sense to figure out a more specific solution that will encourage more communication outside of / between silos, rather than hope that slightly more on-site time will just make it happen? Because trying to fix this by bringing people on site slightly more often and hoping it works out will be leaving out the folks who can’t be there because of health reasons, or whatever other reason they are fully remote. But if you figure out how to fix the communication challenge in a specific way that accommodates everyone, then you have a much more robust and inclusive solution.

      1. AnneSurely*

        Like, maybe there are some inter-departmental meetings that should be happening but aren’t. Or even report-outs from meetings that already occur. Maybe there needs to be a clarification of roles, and who has expertise in what, so it’s easier for folks to know who to reach out to about various problems or ideas or whatever. Heck, maybe something not specifically work related (like optional book clubs or something) could help foster some of the serendipitous connections you’re hoping to bring back.

        From my perspective, I am less likely to randomly approach someone on-site than I am via email. I am more comfortable with written communication, and I also appreciate the ability to time-shift conversations and problem solving. I think that folks who prefer working face to face don’t always consider that their favorite communication style is not the same for everyone. This is a bit of a thorn for me, because it happens where I work, too. And there is a big resistance to accepting that, even when pointed out over and over again, because the folks in leadership all have the same preferred working style. Which is probably not a coincidence.

    4. Grace*

      You want a lot of things, some of which are inherently contradictory, so it’s unlikely you’re going to get all of them with one approach. So the first thing is to decide what exactly is the most important thing to get–serendipity, non-siloing, people able to stay remote/home for health reasons still being seen as team players, flexible in-office requirements, people being in at the same time without being trapped in zoom meetings or encountering no one else in the office, etc.

      If it were me, I would try this: have one or two set days during the week that everyone who is coming in *should* come in. Not “everyone must come in” days, but “if you’re going to come in just once or twice a week, Tuesday and Wednesday are the days we’d like to see you come in”
      Make those staff meetings always fall on a day people are coming in, so the people who are all there can meet together while the remote people phone/video in. But prioritize scheduling all other meetings to NOT fall on those in office days.
      And make it clear to anyone grumbling about the remote people not being team players that they’re wrong, and everyone has different needs and accommodations because that’s what’s best for the company.

    5. spcepickle*

      It sounds like you all know that you are never going to have everyone in the office. So really really work on being okay with that and still building that cross department chatting virtually.

      Start your “in office days” with upper management. Have them pick 2 days a week that they are always in the office – set hour every week – make this widely known, it would be best if they were all in the office on the same two days. Consider making these days – no or low meeting days so you don’t have the – come into the office to spend all day on zoom calls effect.

      Be very willing to spend money on work spaces, people are going to need double equipment if they are hauling a laptop back and forth – do you provide them with enough monitors, chairs, notebooks, phones, whatever else they need to be comfortable at work AND at home.

      Make in-office work fun – for my office that means encouraging the chatting / joking and not making people feel like it is just about keeping their heads down and getting work done. However, you need to balance this perks of in-office work so the people who can’t come in don’t feel overly excluded.

    6. PX*

      As someone who works for a fully remote company with people in multiple countries that was set up that way from before the pandemic, your problem can be fixed by company culture/process WITHOUT needing in person meeting. The in-person can *help* but isnt necessarily going to solve your problem.

      The big one is fostering a good communication culture via Slack if thats your tool of choice. That means most channels are open for people to find/see (people lurking in other teams channels is where you find some of those serendipity moments). And also the right type of information sharing. What kind of meetings do you have? Who is invited? Are notes documented and widely shared? And for bonus serendibity, use an app like Donut which encourages random pairing of people to get to know each other across the company.

      If you definitely want in person meetings, just say there are mandatory in person all company meetings every quarter or 6 months, and the company pays for travel/accommodation.

      But as a few others have said, saying you dont want to force people while simultaneously really wishing/hoping they will do something they clearly dont want to is a recipe for disaster.

    7. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Can you pick one day a week that is a more mandatory in-office day? Ideally, these should coincide with the meeting days 2x per month.

      I think it reasonable to ask employees to come in on Tuesdays in person but leave it open other days.

  51. just a random teacher*

    Any thoughts on how to handle it when there’s something that “someone” on staff needs to do or be, but it’s not part of someone’s specific job, and then the person who was [thing] retires?

    Basically, we’re a very small school (5 teachers), and one of our teachers is retiring this year. He teaches a specific subject, and also happens to be both the only teacher on staff who is male, and the only teacher on staff who is bilingual in a specific language commonly spoken in our area. His replacement is a monolingual woman. This has nothing to do with her competence to teach that particular subject, but it means we have no teacher who can be the main point of contact for families most comfortable speaking [language] and we have no one who can go check on the boys bathroom without it being a bit awkward. It wouldn’t make sense to say that [subject area] has to be taught by a bilingual man specifically, but we kind of need someone in each of those niches and he was it.

    Thoughts on how to handle this sort of thing? (We don’t have any other openings right now, I’m just curious if there’s something we should have done differently.)

    1. Grace*

      The bilingual thing you could’ve at least tried to include in the replacement’s hiring, given its importance.

      Also, is there no man at all employed by your school? Because yeah, that’s not great for your male students.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Could you have listed the language along with the subject he was teaching? Like say he was a science teacher and spoke Italian, you could advertise “Science and Italian teacher wanted” or even just “Science teacher wanted. Fluency in Italian an advantage.”

      1. just a random teacher*

        Every job posting in our entire district says bilingual [other language] applicants preferred as part of the generic job description, unless it’ a job where it’s actually required, in which case they say that instead. (So do a lot of other districts around here – it’s not unknown at teacher job fairs to have a separate, shorter line at busy booths for those who can conduct their initial screening conversation in [language].) It’s just that the applicant pool of people who are bilingual and looking for work as teachers is pretty thin because they have an easier time getting hired, since it’s seen as neutral-to-positive for all teaching jobs but is required for some teaching jobs, so they have a larger pool of jobs to apply to in the first place, get actively recruited into jobs while still in teacher training, and thus spend less time on the market.

        (There are other local schools that offer regular curriculum courses taught completely in the other language, so that a student might be taking half or more of their school courses taught in it in a dual immersion school. They end up bringing in teachers from other countries on special visas to get enough people who are both trained in their subject and fluent in the language.)

        So, it’s one of those things that unless you specifically require it and won’t hire someone who can’t speak [other language], you’d have to be pretty lucky to get someone who just happens to be fully fluent. (Pretty much everyone speaks it at least a little bit, but while I can buy groceries or skim my-subject-area textbooks in it, I am not at the level where I can deal with upset parents at-speed!)

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      A female teacher can knock on a bathroom door and announce herself before stepping in. This would allow the boys a moment to prepare. What would you have done if he had been out sick that day or otherwise unavailable?

    4. Flower necklace*

      My district uses a service called Propio, where you can call and get connected to an interpreter. We also have two bilingual parent liaisons and many bilingual staff at my school, but they are often swamped. It might be out of your budget, but maybe there are other similar services you could look into?

    5. Educator*

      I worked on similar issues during my time in public administration. I would say that even at a small school, it was a big extra ask to have one teacher doing all of the family support for a noteworthy part of your student body. Intercultural communication and translation are underpaid work across the industry, so your situation is far from unique, but the answer is to hire someone whose job this is, even if it is just for .25 time or less. I’ve seen them called community liaisons or bilingual support specialists. Ideally, they are a member of the group they will be working with both linguistically and culturally.

      I also think that, when we hire in education, the goal should be to have at least some teachers who match the demographics of as many students as possible. Not always possible right now, of course, but schools are stronger when they actively create a diverse faculty where kids see themselves represented. That’s a lot bigger than checking bathrooms. I don’t think it means that the next person you hire must be a man, but it might be good to reflect on who is applying for your postings, why, and how you might attract more diverse candidates.

  52. JustaTech*

    Question about reasonable expectations for HR:
    Is HR expected to know the employment laws for every state they support?

    Long version: I live in WA, but my HR rep lives in California. When I went out on maternity leave it was really up to me to figure out everything about my state’s leave laws as our HR guy didn’t know anything. And since I’ve been back from maternity leave I’ve had to try to help other folks in my department (who were in a third state with again different laws) because our HR person didn’t actually know anything about the process.

    Then we had some people come in to work with COVID (a rant for another day) and our HR person was like “we can’t stop him because CDC says it’s fine” (no, CDC says isolate for 5 days but whatever). But our state laws say that it’s the employer’s job to tell people to stay home or insist that they wear a respirator (and not just a mask).
    The HR person is new to my company (but not the field) and I don’t know if he’s ever supported people outside California before, but is it unreasonable to expect HR folks to know the laws around employment in the states where they work?

    1. WellRed*

      Not unreasonable. If they don’t know the answer they need to find out the answer.

    2. Cyndi*

      Yes, I’d think it’s a pretty fundamental part of the role for them to either know employment law in every state they support or have a ready avenue to find out the answers.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I think HR absolutely should be aware of workplace laws, but in my experience that can’t be expected. I lived and worked in WA and still had to educate my HR on the PFMLA when I needed to take maternity leave, it was incredibly frustrating.

      1. JustaTech*

        I kind of took advantage of HR’s ignorance and just ran with it on how much leave it was (16 glorious weeks).
        I just wish I’d had someone to explain how I was supposed to file with the state. I got it figured out in the end, but it was a bit stressful.

        What I wish HR would have done was explain that, because they now offer 6 weeks +2 weeks, there isn’t any point in filing for short term disability unless you have a C-section because STD would only pay for 6 weeks, which are covered.
        But no, I spent a ton of time trying to figure out STD when I was getting maybe 3 hours of sleep in a stretch.

  53. Applicant Pool*

    Saw this in a job posting:

    “This position has been reposted to gain a larger applicant pool. All candidates must reapply in order to be considered.”

    Is that an automatic thing if not enough people apply? Or does it mean that they didn’t find enough qualified applicants in the original pool? (like there were only 1 or 2 people to interview and they want to interview at least 5 ppl). Do the original candidates get notified that they have to reapply or do they just have to hope they see the reposted job?

    It’s a gov job if that’s relevant. I haven’t run into much red tape in interview processes so I’m interested in learning more about how more structured places handle this. Most stuff I see is just keep the job posting up until you fill the role.

    1. nightingale*

      A lot of government related places require a certain number of applicants. You see this sometimes in other places, like academia, it’s often due to a union agreement, but sometimes it’s just bureaucracy.

      I think in some places, they can waive this – I know people who live in a remote area who might only get 1 applicant for a job, so government or not, I think some places have a loophole for such situations.

  54. The Update No One Asked For*

    I posted a few weeks ago in the open thread about how annoying my overly-twee coworker in her early 20’s was, and how she was super touchy-feely with men including and especially our boss. She’s the youngest in our group and made a big deal out of that, acting cutesy and high-strung, which grated on my nerves. The general sentiment was that she sounded like she might be annoying, but I needed to suck it up and there’s nothing to be done.

    Well, over the next few weeks we all noticed the weird chemistry between her and my boss and the overly-familiar way she acted around him, and the way they would do things like go out to long lunches alone and spend a lot of time in his dimly-lit office with the door closed. Someone apparently saw them out on the weekend and reported them for having a relationship. He abruptly resigned, and she apparently asked for a transfer to another branch, which was approved.

    1. ferrina*

      Whaaaaa?!

      I remember your post! I remembered thinking it was weird how insistent you were that something was wrong, but sounds like your instincts were catching something there!

      1. The Update No One Asked For*

        Haha I felt so vindicated I had to share. :P At the time I was basically accused of some internal misogyny (even from my friends IRL) and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t accurately explain myself over text or convey why I was skeeved out. To be fair, she was great at walking right up to the line and I’m sure if someone accused her outright of anything she would’ve fluttered her eyelashes and said “Who, me?” to get out of it. This was honestly the first time I was weirded out in that way from a coworker and everything she was doing was interpreted as relatively innocuous from other people, so I was also starting to doubt myself.

        1. ferrina*

          Oh, that’s the worst! It sucks when your instincts are spot on, but you can’t quite explain them and you get shot down so much you start to doubt yourself.

          Sometimes our brains are picking up stuff that we aren’t even aware of!
          I suspect your subconscious brain was picking up on clues and contexts that was raising the flags, but it wasn’t verbalizing it to the conscious brain. I’ve been there. Or when you do verbalize it, it requires so much context and it’s so word-heavy that it’s just too much monologuing and you feel dumb putting that much effort into something minor (that one happens to me a lot).

          My solution is to quietly trust my instincts and explain myself as “eh, I don’t like it.” (i.e., don’t explain, just trust myself and quietly inquire within myself to double check that it’s not some weird bias. At least, when I do it, it works- I just have trouble remembering to do this)

          I was one of those who doubted you, and I rescind my comments and offer you the benefit of saying you told me so! :D

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          Great instincts!! You’ve got super good ones for sure. Glad you were vindicated.

  55. Decidedly Me*

    I have an industry conference I’m attending in a few months and I’ve never been to one of these before. I’m assuming business casual for the outfit, but what do I bring? I was thinking of my laptop, notebook, and pen + jacket, water, snacks (I have a laptop backpack to make it easy to carry). However, I’ve been reading some things that say a laptop is a mistake? It’s during the work week, so I will be available for emergencies, but not specifically working unless something comes up.

    Anything else I should be thinking about bringing? Any tips in general for something like this?

    1. Sunshine*

      Oh my goodness, my best advice is to bring layers. I have been to conferences where the rooms were not air conditioned and I was dying in my blazer, and vice versa – rooms that were so cold my teeth were chattering! Both times I could not pay attention to the presentations at all. Make sure that whatever top you wear would look appropriate with or without a jacket/blazer/whatever and try to avoid long-sleeved tops that you wouldn’t be able to remove if needed!

    2. Rick Tq*

      I suggest leaving the laptop in your room during the day so you have one less thing to lug around (and possibly lose). If your conferences are like mine you will be moving between rooms full of chairs every hour or so, plus there is limited desk or table space to set up a laptop and work. Anything work related I can’t answer via an email from my phone waits until lunch or the evening. Depending on the arrangements you may have a long walk between your room and the conference center so you can’t just pop back for a few minutes work.

      I’d talk to any coworkers who have attended in the past for a rundown. You can get a lot of information but these multi day conferences can be exhausting. Good luck and enjoy your time.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Seconded – I never brought my laptop to sessions, it gets heavy to lug around especially if you switch rooms multiple times. IME conference sessions are usually set up with rows of chairs and zero table space so you’d be balancing the laptop on your lap. People do it, but then everyone around or behind you can see your screen which is an issue if you work on proprietary stuff (or just don’t want everyone to see you scrolling social media). I would use going back to my room to check work email as an excuse for a break from networking.

        Layers are an excellent suggestion – some rooms get really warm and others have A/C on full blast, and sometimes the same room has weird temperature pockets. Comfortable shoes, especially if it’s a large conference with a lot of walking or one where seats are filled quickly and you’ll end up standing at the back. Business casual is a good target if a dress code isn’t specifically listed – some people will wear full suits (especially if presenting), and others wear t-shirts and jeans (usually students).

        Many conferences will at least supply water for attendees and sometimes a coffee/tea station. Snacks are less reliably provided so an emergency granola bar or similar is a good idea.

    3. TX_Trucker*

      I would check with some of your co-workers or the conference organizers about the dress code. You are correct that most conferences in the USA are business casual – but not all of them! If there is a banquet, there may be an expectation to dress up. I personally hate travelling on a plane with fancy clothes, but I do it.

      Do you like to type notes? If so, I would suggest you buy a foldable bluetooth keyboard for a smart phone and leave the laptop in your hotel room. A small charging bank would be useful. But unless you hate writing by hand, I suggest a small notebook is a better choice. Y

      Are you forgetful? Then print some stickers with your name and phone number and put them on your water bottle, notebook, bag, etc with a note to call you if found. Bring a reusable water bottle if you are big on hydration. Conferences will often have free coffee and water stations – but your cup will look like all the other ones and it is easy to loose track.

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I always keep a spare neutral colored non-branded lanyard with a badge holder in my conference bag, just in case the organizers only have the badge holders that clip onto a shirt. (Most of my tops just don’t have a good place to clip a badge, and I don’t want to clip it to my jacket in case I take the jacket off.)

      Business cards, ideally ones that include your cell phone number so they’re useful to give to people for at-conference logistics as well as longer-term networking.

      If you’re committed to hauling around a backpack, some kind of folder or similar container to put papers in to keep them nice, in case you get handouts of some kind in a session. That gives you a way to not be dealing with loose papers in a backpack, which at least for me always end up getting crunched at the bottom of the bag just like my 4th grade homework did if I don’t put them in some kind of container. (If your hotel is connected to the conference center and you can get back to it easily, you may not need to haul your laptop around all day, though. At that point I’d go for a barely-large-enough-for-a-notebook+water bottle satchel or handbag to carry to the conference events and leave the “mobile office” backpack with my laptop and other work stuff back in my hotel room. In most cases, if whatever I need to do is complicated enough that it need a laptop, it probably also needs a desk and a chunk of non-interrupted time, so that means I’d be back in my hotel room anyway.)

    5. 867-5309*

      High heels are usually brutal after a couple days on carpet. If I want to wear them, I pack foldable flats to change into EOD.

      I don’t bring my laptop to conferences unless I KNOW I have to work on something specifically, though when it’s multi-day it’s of course it’s in my hotel room so I can scooch over to grab it fairly quickly, if needed.

    6. Nesprin*

      Laptops get heavy if you’re lugging around all day- I bring mine to conferences but usually leave in hotelroom.

      Moleskine/bandaids for shoe mishaps, peptobismol tablets if you are even remotely prone to stomach issues, tide pen for spills. Water bottle+ snacks+ gum/mints also a great idea.

      Business cards if you expect to network, though this is going the way of the dodo

    7. JustaTech*

      I’d recommend a business-looking tote rather than/in addition to your laptop bag, especially if you expect to get a lot of paper brochures. That’s even if your conference gives out bags, because then everyone’s got the same bag and it’s really easy to get mixed up.
      Hard seconding on the layers – I’ve never been to a conference that wasn’t freezing (though it does keep you awake). And related to that, do bring an insulated cup, because otherwise your coffee or tea will be stone cold half way through the first presentation.

      If at all possible, schedule some down time when you get home – don’t plan on going out or doing high-energy stuff the day you get back. Maybe it’s because I’m on the introverted side, but every time I’ve come home from a conference (all of which were very enjoyable!) I was so tired I cried on the flight home out of sheer exhaustion.

      If it’s a masked conference (unlikely but possible) make sure to bring your good masks, and no matter what, plenty of hand sanitizer. Con-crud isn’t only found at comic book conventions.

      Have a great time!

      1. A Person*

        Ooh good point – I’ve seen it here before but don’t use the conference bag at the conference! Too easy to get mixed up.

    8. A Person*

      I find it interesting all the people who recommend against the laptop – especially with the laptop backpack I love having my laptop with me at conferences and I use it to take notes, bookmark websites I want to find in the future, and browse askamanager on breaks.

      I also personally like being able to use my downtime to filter email and answer quick work questions so they don’t pile up – but I might avoid that if I’m supposed to be trying to find “networking” opportunities vs just learning things from the conference.

  56. Oscar OP*

    Hi AAM community, this is the Oscar OP sharing some happy news. My feature doc in production is competing in a pitching competition for production funds! We are up against some super talented ACTUAL Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmakers and could use all the support we can get in the form of your vote, and sharing the link with your family and friends. Voting closes next Thursday, May 11th. Thank you so much for considering. And thank you Alison for your support!

    Vote here: https://www.doclands.com/docpitch-coach-emily/

    Read my old post here: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/03/a-man-claiming-to-have-an-oscar-he-doesnt-offered-me-advice-on-my-field.html

  57. Jujyfruits*

    What job boards post remote jobs that list the salary? For the second time, I had an interview for a job I was excited about and the pay was below market and not something I’d consider. I’m not deep into a job search but I look around occasionally and would not leave my current role for a large pay cut. I know CA, CO, and NY require the salary listed. Indeed sometimes shows an estimate. Where else should I be looking? Thanks!

    1. Qwerty*

      Glassdoor and LinkedIn allow you to filter on salary. It dramatically reduces the results since most postings don’t include it. I think ZipRecruiter has salaries on a lot of their postings

      Glassdoor will try to give an estimate if no salary is given but I have not found the estimates to be accurate.

  58. teams*

    Is it a faux pas to ask my manager a quick career development question via instant messaging? He usually prefers meetings, but this would be less than 5 minutes.

    1. 867-5309*

      Depends on the question? Are you just asking to attend a conference then sure but if it’s much deeper than that then no.

    2. hello*

      I mean, I would. I prefer instant messaging for most things though! I had a former boss who absolutely hated it though, if you IM’d her with anything other than a super quick update to something she’d walk over to your desk or ask you to come to her haha.

    3. ferrina*

      No? But this isn’t really about a faux pas- this is about your manager’s preferred communication. If you think your manager might be prickly about an IM or might be more likely to say yes if you ask via meeting, and the issue isn’t time sensitive, just go with your manager’s preference to build good will.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I don’t think it’s a blanket faux pas — maybe acknowledge, “I think this is a quick question but if you’d rather discuss it in person let me know” etc.

  59. NaoNao*

    How much would you politely push for assistance from a prickly team when it’s a major component of success for your project? I’m 100% remote and have zero facetime with any of my coworkers other than virtual meetings. So far, everyone’s been super welcoming in my first month on this job. Until now…

    In an effort to assist someone my role services, I reached out to a product owner (director level) and asked about the possibility of troubleshooting/upgrading a test environment. I got a rather prickly email in return that left me with the impression that this team has zero interest or incentive to make the test software better.

    I backed off that ask and asked if instead we could get fresher/more up to date data/accounts and got *another* very prickly answer along the lines of “what’s wrong with the existing data?”

    Sigh. O…kay then!

    Part of me feels this is slightly justified as I don’t know the in-s and out-s of this tool and I didn’t realize it’s not designed as a training object, it’s a test product, which really changes my perception of it. But part of me is used to dealing with cranky IT and engineers who think “users” are all a big stupid lump who just live to make trouble and unreasonable requests.

    I plan on asking my boss for further guidance on how to proceed, but if my trainers can’t use the existing data because it’s out of date, to me that’s a pretty clear cut case of “what’s wrong” with the data…and honestly the product team should know that, to me.

    So how hard would you politely push back in a case like this?

    1. ferrina*

      I’d start with asking my boss. This sounds like there’s something going on that you don’t know about- either this is just the way the team is, or this team is getting flack from somewhere else and taking it out on you, or this team is super understaffed and being pushed in a different direction, or….who knows.

      Ask your boss for their take, and ask your boss’s help in planning your response tactic

    2. Anonynonybooboo*

      I don’t think you “push back” in this case; instead you present it as “I have this problem (trainers can’t use the existing data because it being out of date causes XYZ issues) and it sounds like refreshing the test environment is a big task. What are our options instead?”

      There are a ton of possible business and technical reasons refreshing the environment isn’t possible or feasible right now; so starting the conversation as a collaborative effort to solve the problem rather than a prescriptive “I need the environment refreshed” might lead to better results.

      {Full disclosure: I’m in IT and I’m sitting on a test environment with year old data I would love to refresh but cannot, because the business is stalling some code releases for non-technical reasons.}

  60. Oksana*

    Help! I started my job about a year ago, and my boss was hired a couple of months later (I didn’t have a role in the hiring process). I think she is fundamentally a good person, but she is insecure, unstable and not someone I would have chosen to work for. She frequently undermines me, gets angry if I take any initiative (I supervise four people and am director-level), and flies off the handle if anyone even comes back with a question about one of my team’s projects. Last week she started her undermining behavior toward me in the middle of a team meeting and I called her on it – this led to her having a total breakdown for like half an hour, crying and telling the whole group about her personal problems. After the meeting I had a one on one with her where she continued to seem really unwell, and I suggested it might be good if my team went elsewhere in the org just to give her some relief from all the stress she is under. I didn’t really think it would go anywhere – but now she has told her boss that I wanted to talk to her and she set up a meeting with me! My question – how do I 1) convey to my boss’s boss that I am really concerned about her well-being, 2) convey that her problems are affecting my team’s work, 3) follow up on the idea that it might be better for everyone if my team was transferred to another manager in the company?

    1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      So first – your boss is NOT acting like a good person, currently. Her actions are incredibly inappropriate and unprofessional. Whatever is going on with her, it does not excuse this behavior.
      To address your questions – start writing down as much factual info as you can! And document and future incident going forward! Write down as many examples as you can, but try to do it as if you were a third-party observer. (So, try to keep as much of your personal emotion out of it as possible. Focus on what you OBSERVE rather than any assumptions you are making.) Focus on how this is affecting your work and your colleagues’ work.
      Also, while you can speak to #1, I would suggest you spend most of your time on #2 giving examples of how your team’s work is being impacted/hindered. You may not give a say in how this is handled – I would not volunteer #3 unless specifically asked for a recommendation/suggestion.
      Also … be prepared that your manager may have given her boss a VERY different accounting of events, and she could have event implicitly or explicitly stated that YOU are the problem. All the more reason to come to the meeting with detailed, specific, factual notes – and for any incident, as best as you can recall, note the date, time, and who else was present, so that the boss’s boss can start their own investigation.

    2. 867-5309*

      I would tell them that you’ve had some concerns and focus on how the behavior is impacting work and morale, and then present it as a question – I have a couple idea for how this could be managed and want to hear what you think.

      I would not get into concerns about emotional well-being as the WHY is not really the point, nor would I five a precise solution of transferring your team, as many organizations have departments reporting based on what they make sense structurally.

    3. ferrina*

      What a cluster.

      State the facts, but let your tone convey empathy. “This is what is happening. This is how it is impacting my team. This is one of the solutions that might help- could this be feasible?”

      Be ready with examples of behavior, but don’t start by listing them. Be succinct in your initial statements, and focus on the business impact. If your grandboss is a good manager, she’ll read between the lines. It’s very possible that Grandboss has already gotten reports on Boss’s behavior (though I wouldn’t assume that- it’s equally likely she’s been isolated and doesn’t know). So you’re almost preparing for two conversations- one where you are introducing Grandboss to this issue, and one where Grandboss knows something and is having you fill in the gaps. And PrincessFlyingHedgehog has really good points- Boss may be misrepresenting the situation, so be ready for that. And definitely document and review the documentation before the meeting (don’t bring it with you, as that might look too adversarial. But know what you have).

      Good luck!

  61. Annony*

    Has anyone been in a situation where their new job has been pulled, the day before they are due to start? I might be in that now (just had a very alarming phone call, and need to wait until next week for more information), but I’m not sure where to go from here if it does end up going that way.

    I’m in the UK, and it’s entirely due to internal processes at the new company rather than anything about me. I assume there is a legal component here, as I have a signed contract and quit my old job on good faith?

    1. Bagpuss*

      CHeck with ACAS but I think if you have a contract you would likely be entitled to be paid for the notice period .

    2. PX*

      Unfortunately from a few posts I’ve seen about this, they can do this and there isnt much you can do. And even with the contract, it is likely to be structured to have a shorter notice period during probation which is what will be applied, so the payout for breaking it might only be a few weeks/1 month of pay at most I’d expect. It absolutely sucks, but unfortunately it can happen!

  62. Age of the Geek, Baby*

    So I had my first child on April 4. While I have been taking time with her—and enjoying it— I am kinda thinking of work because…my first week back my boss will be on vacation. So I guess I need a script on when to attend a meeting to check in and make sure he’s not going basically leave me out to dry while he’s galvanting in Georgia.

    1. ferrina*

      Congrats on the baby!
      You don’t need to check in before your leave is up, and I really wouldn’t. They aren’t supposed to interrupt you with work while you’re on leave. Just come back when you are scheduled to, and be ready to catch up. No one will expect you to know everything when you get back (and if they do, that’s a sign about the state of your organization). You can just say “I just got back from parental leave and am still catching up. Can you fill me in on this?”

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Assume he’ll leave notes for you. I wouldn’t contact him during your leave. Don’t let work overshadow your time with new human! If they don’t leave any notes for you, that’s on them not you. You can always spend that week catching up on emails, getting status updates on projects you worked on before you left, learning about new projects, checking for online trainings etc. Even knowing you were out you’ve probably been cc-ed on a decent number of emails, that alone will take a day.

  63. Echo*

    I just moved into my first senior leadership role from middle management. (Not VP level, but definitely “managing managers and making decisions about the business” level.) Any advice? Especially for someone who is neurodivergent and female? (I’m nonbinary but mostly present as a woman.)

    1. ferrina*

      Congrats!
      I’d say- be confident and compassionate. Have skip-level 1:1s with your direct reports’ direct reports a couple times a year. Don’t take everything at face value, but listen for patterns. You’ll need to gain trust, so be transparent about what you can be confidential about and what you can’t (i.e., “I’ll need to talk to your manager to learn more. I won’t use your name, but there’s always the possibility that they will figure it out. If you are concerned about anything, now or in the future, let me know. This likely will take a couple weeks to fully resolve.”). Oh, and read lots of AAM.
      Good luck!

  64. Chirpy*

    There is a day every week when I am the only person in my department, and it happens to be the busiest day for workload (we get a regularly scheduled double delivery). I finally got a chance to talk to my manager about it, and he finally tasked someone to help…and this week, that guy quit in the middle of the day, probably in part because he really hated working in my department. (His job involved helping multiple departments, this wasn’t much of a change other than he was supposed to focus more on my department. He was also afraid of my demanding department head, who isn’t here on that day.)

    He wasn’t a great worker, and mildly creepy, so nobody is too upset about it, but this is just getting ridiculous. We’re so short staffed that everyone is getting frustrated, so people quit, so we’re even more short staffed,corporate responds to all employee questions about cost of living raises with “we have great benefits and we’re not a big corporation like Walmart” (the benefits are bare minimum for decency, and the pay is several dollars under a living wage. Their biggest selling point over their main competitor is customer service, and they can’t provide it if everyone leaves. ) I just don’t know how to get out of here with barely any references.

    1. ferrina*

      Why wouldn’t you have any references? If any of the people who quit worked with you, they can still be a reference for you.

      1. Chirpy*

        From previous jobs. Everyone I previously worked with (almost 10 years ago before this job) has moved (or died) or moved and doesn’t use email or social media or cell phones. Or would not be a great reference because they either actively tried to get rid of me or just felt everyone working in my position was not worth much.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          First, are you applying and interviewing? I hope so, because references is one of the last steps in hiring, so you should focus on getting the process started before worrying about that.

          Second, do you have no way to contact potentially beneficial references (i.e., landline, even snail mail)? Even if they moved, you may be able to track them down via public listings, your former colleagues, etc.

          But if you really can’t find references (including senior colleagues who didn’t manage you), you can explain at that stage, “Sadly, some of my former managers have since passed away. Here is the last contact info I have for some of my other managers, but I don’t know if they are still using that contact information.”

          It’s not ideal, but it’s also not an immediate dealbreaker.

          1. Chirpy*

            I don’t want to look unprepared or be scrambling for references if I don’t have them ready, so I’ve just kind of been looking so far (also, finding jobs I’m qualified for is hard because I have an odd skill set.) I could probably track down one good supervisor, and a business owner from a summer job 10 years ago. My actual boss from one of those would probably give me a bland reference, he never really saw my work (he was just very hands off because he thought other people’s jobs were more important.) The job before that would have been useful to have a reference from skills wise as it was actually in my field of study, but I don’t think anyone there would be great if I could find them for several reasons (job ended with a person I thought was my friend lobbying to eliminate my position.) Prior to that was just fast food jobs in high school, I don’t even know those managers’ last names.

      2. Chirpy*

        The people who quit from this job would be terrible references, I wouldn’t want to ask them as they weren’t great coworkers, and they had little to do with my department anyway.

  65. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    So, I’ve been talking to my derm about having a chemical peel done to address some hyperpigmentation and scarring. I currently work remotely, but most of my work is done in small groups where the culture is very much video-on. If I got this done, I’d like likely need to take a day or two off for initial recovery, but with some of the deeper chemical peels, I might be red and peeling significantly for a week. I’d rather not take extra time off when I could start working again, but I’m also reluctant to be seen with a very red and peeling face. Admittedly, I am a little afraid of being judged for the reason I want to keep my video off for that time, and that this procedure will strike others as frivolous. Anyone else navigate something like this, or have a good script for when people say “Hey Chidi, could you turn your video on?”

    1. Sunshine*

      Could you say “My skin is having a bad reaction to a product I used, I’d rather keep my video off until it clears up!” or something like that? Or just feign technical issues?

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        Yep. “I’m in the midst of a skin reaction right now, should clear up in a few days but for now I need to keep the camera off. Thanks for understanding!”

    2. BellyButton*

      I will sometimes keep my video off when I am not feeling well and don’t want to fix my hair and makeup, so I just say “No video today, I am under the weather.” or when I got dental work and was swollen I just said “I had some dental work and don’t want to be on camera.”

      I find as long as I say something about it at the beginning of the meeting no one cares.

    3. Emma2*

      Perhaps your internet is acting up and you turn your video off to manage the bandwidth until it gets sorted?

    4. fueled by coffee*

      tbh I would just tell the truth and leave the specifics out. Maybe something like: “I’m recovering from a minor medical procedure, so I’ll need to keep my camera off in meetings this week. Thanks for understanding – looking forward to being back ‘on-camera’ soon!”

    5. Cyndi*

      This came up for a friend of mine recently and she handled it by swinging all the way in the opposite direction and leading every video call with “Hi! I’m not sunburned, I just got microneedling done!” for a day or two. But obviously this may not be everyone’s favorite solution.

    6. EMP*

      I would blame allergies or something else benign but uncomfortable. “Allergies are really acting up and I don’t look my best” or something, if you want an excuse.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      If you’re using Zoom, under the “video” part of Preferences, you can increase the “touch up my appearance” to the max and I bet it would help mask the redness a lot

  66. MissGirl*

    I’ve only been with my company for five months, but I started a casual job hunt. Unfortunately, right after I started there were mass layoffs and I’m not confident in there not being more down the road. I know Allison has talked about how to answer in an interview on why I’m leaving so quickly after starting. I started in Dec 2019 so on my resume it appears I’ve been there longer but LinkedIn has exact months.

    I’m not sure what or if I should say anything in a cover letter about why I’m leaving so soon. I’m worried I may not get to the interview stage with such a short tenure. Or, maybe I’m overthinking. My last job was 3 years and before that 2.5.

    1. ferrina*

      Eh, I don’t think it will be a big hinderance. You’re clearly not a job hopper- 3 years is a pretty average stay in my industry. This wouldn’t raise any flags for me. I’d ask you in the interview about why you were leaving, but you’d say “my company has been doing layoffs, and I’m looking for a little more long-term stability”, that would be just fine and check the box.

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

      You wouldn’t need to put anything in your coverletter IMO. That would be something you would explain in a phone interview.

    3. Elsewise*

      I was in a similar position where I left a job after 5 months after being in my previous position for 4 years. I was pleasantly surprised that not a single person I interviewed with had any questions about why I was leaving so soon. They asked the usual “why are you looking”, I gave a usual “career or whatever” answer, and no one asked anything about why it was so short.

      One thing that helped me feel a lot better about the situation was doing some research on short-term jobs. I forget the exact figure, but there was one study that said about a third of Americans have left a job in the first 90 days. A short-term job following several long-term jobs is a red flag about the job, not about you.

      Anyway, long story short, I’d leave it out of your cover letter. Just say “I’m looking for XYZ,” don’t say anything about leaving your job. If they ask in the interview, say “there’s been some layoffs recently and I’m looking for a position where I can stay long-term” or even more generally “I’m looking for something more [attribute of their company].”

  67. New Mom*

    Looking for words for a situation that has been coming up. I work at an organization that gained new leadership about a year and a half ago and there has been two (almost three) massive re-orgs that resulted in layoffs, demotions, promotions, and changes without a lot of guidance or support from the new leadership. I was on maternity leave for almost six months and when I returned a lot of my same-level teammates were either laid off or promoted. These were people that I was work friends with and respect. I’m happy for them in the sense that they are making a lot more money now, but I don’t envy the ridiculous amount of pressure that is being put on them by the new leadership. They are working really unreasonable hours, and are starting to expect that from others like me.
    I have two little kids and I did not get a promotion, so I’m not going to be doing that. I think where it gets tricky is that these are people that were work friends and were on the same level as me previously, so there was a “we’re all in this together” vibe, but that’s not the case anymore. And I feel like my new manager and her counterpart, both former peers, who got significant promotions and pay raises, still try to imply the “we’re all in this together” but it’s not the case anymore.
    I want a way to talk about it with them, when they try to push me into working unreasonable deadlines and unreasonable hours, that does not come across like sour grapes.
    I’m really happy that they got promoted, they deserve it, and hand-on-heart I do not want to be in their shoes, way too stressful. BUT, I also want a gentle way to remind them, that with these type of promotions comes new levels of expectations that can’t just be applied to me as well when I was not promoted. We still have a pretty good relationship, but I want to be delicate about how I say this, but it almost seems like they forget that we’re at different levels and with that comes different expectations.

    1. ferrina*

      A few different scripts:

      “I’m not able to do that.” (when they ask you to work late or do unreasonable deadlines)
      “I really need to focus on [priorities for your level]” (when they ask you to do stretch assignements)
      “I need help figuring out my priorities. There’s needs for Project X and Project Y, and I can’t do both. What is the team’s strategy on this?”
      This last tactic will be really helpful. Start deferring to them as the boss and asking them to solve boss-level issues. I’ve found that that can help new managers understand that they are responsible for the strategy and time allocations of a team. That’s the hidden part of managing that folks on the outside often miss- being a manager is figuring out what to do when there’s too much to do and too little time. Questions from their team can remind them that they need to provide leadership, not just work assignments.
      Bonus is that you can set them up to answer the way you want- “I was thinking that I should focus on Project X and push the deadline for Project Y for 2 weeks. What do you think? Is that what you want me to do?”

    2. DistantAudacity*

      Maybe next time it comes up, have a conversation where you decline/say next day/whatever is appropriate to the thing? Or, depending on the relationship/team vibe, is there an appropriate regular team meeting/planning session where you can bring it up?

      Include sentences along the lines of «I just want to remind you/say that I’m very happy to have remained on . I’m so thrilled for you, with the opportunities your promotions have opened up for you, but for myself, at my level, I don’t have those expectations and need to keep things at .”

  68. Cultivating Emerging Tech (previously Startup Searcher)*

    Hoping this group can help me figure out search terms for a position I’m looking for. I was networking with someone and I’d love to have a job similar to his, but don’t know how to find it. He’s keeping an eye out for me and thinks I’d be perfect for, but his role was created just for him, and his title is super generic.

    Apparently larger companies have an innovation arm where they basically spin up internal startups. I want to work in that! I’m not a person who comes up with my own idea, but I’m good at taking someone’s idea and enhancing it, helping make it fit the market better, making the mental connection to other areas in the company (we could use this to do X in our Teapot division and the Llama groomers would use it for Y).

    I keep being told I should found my own company – my search for an engineer role at early stage startups is being met with being told that I’m overqualified. In addition to being a great developer, I have skills in leadership, mentorship, product, etc. I can build the team, work with potential users to develop a product they will actually use (and pay for!), keep the big picture in mind while also drilling down to the details.

    I’m also pretty limited on location – moving is not an option and this type of role requires in-person meetings to go well.

    Not sure what to put into the search terms on LinkedIn or Indeed??? Job sites already have terrible algos (searching for developer jobs also yielded “musician”, “nurse” and many posting that don’t mention anything tech related in the literally thousands of results) Has anyone else heard of stuff like this?

    1. BellyButton*

      Try internal strategy consultant, internal business development, services development, strategic partner, development partner. Good luck!

    2. ferrina*

      You can also try “incubator”. I have a friend that works at a small business incubator where they provide trainings and support for small businesses- a lot like the innovation division you describe. It’s really fascinating work, but I don’t know where a developer would fit into it.

      1. Cultivating Emerging Tech*

        I probably wouldn’t be writing software but applying that engineering knowledge of systems to a broader field. I’ve gotten pulled off software projects to lead strategy with mechanical hardware or agriculture despite zero knowledge in either.

    3. Nesprin*

      intrapreneurship as well.

      In my institution they’d be program managers, but my institution is very weird

    4. Jinni*

      I’ve had a friend with this job at at least half a dozen startups. Two huge ones that got purchased and four where they went defunct. He was Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Product Officer, and the others were idiosyncratic titles (because startups love to create new titles that don’t cross over).

      This goes back a bit – maybe 15 years. The first job was to create a music arm for a social media company. The second was integrating municipality traffic info into a navigation app. The third was adding some kind of payment systems to a payment app. The fourth was building out some kind of car selling service. I can’t remember the others off the top of my head. (We used to have weekly dinners before we got busy with kids, etc).

      But these jobs do exist at most startups. Do you know startup/incubator people? They’d totally be able to give you leads as to what to look for now because these are ever changing as the startup/tech landscape changes.

    5. TCO*

      Our state university also has a department like this to help researchers bring their ideas to market. Here that department is called “technology commercialization.”

  69. Elenna*

    Just curious what the norms are here – if you get an invitation for a company lunch and learn, is it reasonable to assume lunch will be provided?

    More context: the focus group in charge of collaboration and such decided to have the junior staff members do presentations to each other, to get to know what other teams are doing. This was set up as lunch and learn, but it wasn’t clarified if any lunch was being provided or if it was a “bring your own lunch” sort of thing (turns out it was the latter). I’m perfectly capable of bringing or buying lunch like I would on any other day, but I do feel it’s a little annoying for them to take up our lunch hour? IDK, it’s not a huge deal because nobody will really mind if I just treat it as a regular meeting and then take a lunch break an hour later, I’m just curious about the norms.

    1. Junior Dev*

      Ask the organizer or whoever invited you. I’m sure you’re not the only one with this question, it should have been included in the invitation or event description.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      This one of those, just ask moments. Something like- “I’m so excited to attend this Lunch and Learn. Quick question, since this is my first, is lunch provided? If not, it’s no problem at all, just trying to sort out my plans. Thanks so much for thinking of inviting us.”

      However, I will say at the Lunch and Learns I have done, people brought their own lunches. They were not, however, required and were totally opt-in. So, no idea how it might be different if they were required.

    3. Aquamarine*

      When I’ve seen the phrase “lunch and learn,” it’s meant that people bring their own lunch – but presumably that’s not always the case.

    4. ferrina*

      Yep, just ask! My company does not provide lunch, but we also do very frequent lunch and learns. Usually we mean “expect people to eat at this meeting”

    5. Sloanicota*

      This isn’t your fault, it is a bit unclear! In my org we use “brown bag meeting” to mean people are invited to bring their own lunch (and generally, the topic is something not-quite-work related, as otherwise that’s just … stealing people’s lunch hour to make them attend a work meeting, haha, which wouldn’t work for most of my org since they’re non-exempt). Lunch and Learn is ambiguous to me.

    6. The New Wanderer*

      They’re very common in places I’ve worked and I’ve never been to a Lunch and Learn where lunch is provided, but it’s usually not explicitly mentioned either which can confuse new employees! The expectation is you can bring your own lunch and eat while listening, or attend and then take lunch before or after.

    7. TX_trucker*

      This will vary by company. For us. the deciding question: is it mandatory? If employees must attend, we provide lunch. If it’s optional, employees bring provide their own. lunch

  70. GythaOgden*

    I posted two weeks ago about a recruiter reaching out from my organisation and asking if I’d have a chance to discuss opportunities, but then having him go quiet for a bit. I reached out to the person who’s been helping with my professional development over the past few months and she nudged him as well.

    We spoke yesterday (he’s shorthanded at the moment, hence the delay — the org has just been through a bit of restructuring so NBD — that means there are quite a number of positions opening up though so to me it’s a good sign that they’re actively looking for people at all levels) and he’s offered to put me forward for positions he thinks would suit me. They are generally WFH with occasional days every month in their office in London, but that sounds incredible — a real step up from where I am now on a very quiet business admin reception with next to nothing to actually do because everything is so siloed. I can’t just be someone’s typist or data entry clerk if they’re in a tight spot, and to advance in facilities I’d need to be able to drive to get round to the local sites that my team manage. Today I saw the ideal delivery coordinator role on the org job site but the closing date is next Friday so I’ve got time to let the application sit so the cover letter isn’t completely incoherent.

    The alternative would be an in-office role — there’s not a huge number of bigger employers in my town (alas, Sony, who have a big site literally across the road from me, isn’t hiring :(((…they do their sports computing there and it was my late husband’s dream to work there on the team administrating the cricket version of VAR) and most of the smaller businesses want people in their offices, presumably to be closer to the manufacturing, customer base or service providers they employ who have to work in person. (I can actually sympathise with that because as an in-person worker at the moment, it can be a bit demoralising from the opposite side of the situation, particularly now the pandemic is tailing off.) It seems to be a bit all or nothing at the moment; I’d be totally open to hybrid work and that would also increase the distance I could go on in-office days, but there’s nothing going where I need it at my level of employment.

    I have had interest, but since I work in the NHS and have enjoyed working for them (and met some awesome people) I’d really like to stick with them if at all possible. And I’ve more than done my share of in-office work.

    I’m tempted to ask what the best brand of champagne is for popping open after getting a new job, but I am not quite there yet! (And I’m saving the money for a kitty-cat of my own.) I’m also posting to thank the people who gave me the confidence to prod him gently. I’m not always sure when to pester someone and when to wait, and I’m better at waiting than pestering, but it paid off. I’m also asking for good vibes and thoughts for my chances in front of internal hiring managers.

  71. Anon Ethics*

    How much does it make sense to hold one department’s bad behavior against a company?

    There a job posting that looks like a really good fit for me. The problem is, this company majorly f’ed up a while ago. The fallout with the gov only recently settled so it feels like it has been going on. The job is not related the sector where this all went down.

    Ethics are a big deal to me and this was not a mistake, but people actively lying resulting in major consequences on people’s lives.

    On the other hand, when I write software I literally put safeguards for compliance regulations into the programs. The job is in a different department, with no indication they work with the problem department at all. The government will probably watch them closely for the next decade. And if I’m honest with myself, most large companies have some form of major issue like this in the past.

    Plus I am unemployed and in need of a job. Many of the other job postings available here might have fine public images, but their local reputation is of a truly toxic corporate culture. Or if the culture is fine, the companies have recently laid off half the tech department.

    1. ferrina*

      This is something that will be different for each person. Some people will feel comfortable, others will not. I don’t think there is one right answer (usually).

      Personally, I’d usually be okay with it*. I find that I tend to apply my personal ethics to all my work, and I usually encourage folks around me to think about how they apply ethics in their work (i.e., when we make recommendations to our clients, are we honoring the dignity of their end users? Are our recommendations things that will benefit people from a wide range of life experiences, backgrounds and demographics, or are we making recommendations that only benefit certain populations or disenfranchise certain groups?). But I totally get if that’s not something you’re okay with, and you choose not to.

      *My exception is that I will not work in the firearms or tobacco industries, and I will not serve corporate clients in those industries. That’s my personal line- other folks will have a different place where they draw the line.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I agree with your thinking. It depends how large and dispersed the organization is too.

      If a department of 6000 people in Texas who maintain the Army’s stealth llamas do something underhanded, should that cast a poor light on the 2000 people in New England and the Midwest who build teapots?

      Also, given how government contractors merge, spin off, subcontract, etc all the time, there’s a strong possibility that the problematic department used to be an entity that ran on its own, and there’s a cultural/behavioral hangover effect.

      I worked for (big government contractor) in the 2000s that went through this same situation, including some really bad publicity. Other than our local management worried about press inquiries right when it broke the news, or when the court cases were going on, it didn’t affect us one iota.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      You could be describing my former company, or several that I interviewed with, or honestly, my current organization. The way I’m looking at it, I’m in a position now to be part of the solution. I know if I’m here (my role, that is), it’s because the organization as a whole wants to do better. I do have shades of “not on my watch!” in my head motivating me and my colleagues, but I see the positive impact and what it’s doing to help overcome the recent bad actions.

      There are places (like where I interviewed but didn’t get offers, which have toxic culture rumors) where I don’t think I’d have made much of a difference and in hindsight I’m glad I don’t work there.

      Because I worked for a company like you describe, I can say in my experience, it was down to a perfect storm of a few bad actors (importantly, not the ones scapegoated in the media), undue corporate pressure, complacency, and lack of transparency. Now that there’s been a massive wakeup call and increased scrutiny, things seem to be improving. If anything they would be more sensitive to ethical issues raised by the employees now vs. 5 years ago. If you have a role where ethics are important and you can bring a strong sense of ethics to the work, that matters.

    4. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, I have my limits too. Particularly if the reputation of the actual company is a poor one. I did interview with a local housing association a few weeks ago — basically a large property management company that provides affordable housing on a non-profit basis — that had grown rapidly and had a bit of a mixed reputation. They looked good on paper, but unfortunately the week before the interview they screwed a friend of mine over while he was looking for a place of his own after dealing with an abusive landlord. That soured me on them — I didn’t get the job anyway (I got flustered in the interview — I went and asked my doctor for a beta-blocker prescription after that!) but I think I rather dodged a bullet.

      I’m fairly broad-minded. The private sector provides jobs and I have no issue with it. I posted elsewhere that locally, many employers are relatively small businesses and contribute to the economy of my town in a neutral or positive way by providing services to customers and jobs for locals. Having struggled to get a job earlier in my life, being employed is better than not being employed. I’d work for small companies in a heartbeat, and I live across the road from Sony, and I’m sure I’d go there if they offered me a job. I only turned down a recent call about a reception job at AWE — the Atomic Weapons Establishment in my husband’s home town of Aldermaston — because I couldn’t get there without being a driver, and I know someone who works there and can’t take his mobile phone on the campus, which would produce acute withdrawal symptoms in me! I went for an interview a loooong time ago for a start-up developing solar panels for use in our gloomy NW European climate. I can look at them on people’s roofs now and remember how much of a rabbit-in-headlights I was at that interview! There aren’t many strip mines or tobacco farms near here and thank goodness. I actively want to stay where I am in the NHS, but I got my job in the first place by working in a private clinic in medical transcription.

      Being in a rural area I’d even be ok with guns — they’re tightly controlled in the UK but a lot of people I know are farmers and use them for one of the few legal reasons to own them — pest control. Having been around a community which sees them as a tool and with as tight a regulatory structure as we have, I’m fairly sure that we’re not in danger of another Hungerford any time soon (and that poor town, site of a brutal mass shooting in 1987 which precipitated a radical change in the UK’s gun laws, is just outside our local ‘triangle’ area between Basingstoke, Reading and Newbury). Farming is big here — my husband worked for a landscaper who had been a former farmhand and kept working gun-dogs at the office in a converted barn to get them used to a working farmyard — and so actually getting to know people who used guns for the right purposes was a fascinating insight into my own countryside.

      Sometimes you also may well consider jobs that might be important causes but not necessarily suited to your temperament or social background. I actually turned down working at a local health and social services centre in a poorer area in town. Not because they don’t do good work there — they do! But being a rather plummy white middle class woman who is also autistic and rather bookish, they needed someone in that part of town who was closer to their demographic to serve them. I struggle with my own mental and physical health and people deserve someone who has the spoons to take control and fight for them. Things like that, while important work, wouldn’t be the best thing for me to do, because they need advocacy from their own community and someone who can be robust as a representative. I would have been the wrong person, so I didn’t put myself forward for the job.

      So that’s my answer. Not a concise one, looking at my own local landscape and ruling stuff out based on a background mismatch rather than concrete ethics. You have to look after yourself in terms of company ethos as well as ensuring you’re not part of any major problems — but the answers will depend on where you live, what field you’re in and who you’re likely to get interviews with. I hope you do well whoever you’re interviewing with and find a job you can feel is worthwhile. I must say, after almost a decade in public healthcare and being a part of the NHS during the pandemic, it was awesome to be part of the war on COVID, just like my grandparents were part of the war effort 80+ years ago. If it’s important to feel like you have left the world a better place than where you found it, then definitely don’t settle.

  72. W Olive*

    For the first time in 4 years as a supervisor, I have to deny a direct report’s PTO request today and I feel horrible about it, so I just need some advice on how to go about doing this.

    My team is small. There’s 4 of us currently, me, John, Claire, and Dan—not real names; Dan is a new employee. We are planning to hire additional, but not until later this summer. Our work is client-based and we have one client whose program is really easy to work on but monetarily they’re our biggest client; Claire and I work on this program because John and Dan are not allowed to. John’s wife works for this client, so ethics-wise he shouldn’t, and Dan is not allowed to work on it until his probationary period is up in July.

    So, I’m taking PTO next month for two weeks; it’s an international trip to visit my SO’s family who I’ve never met in person. We were supposed to go in February 2023, but I ended up canceling it because Claire needed to take emergency medical leave and I needed to cover for her. When we were picking new dates to reschedule it, I talked to Claire to make sure she would be okay with me taking that time off. She was. I confirmed the dates with her over email, so I have her confirmation in writing.

    Today, she put in a PTO request for a week during the time I’m out leaving this program without coverage for 6 days (including a company holiday which is not a holiday for the client). The client is okay if there’s no coverage for a couple days, but 6 is too long.

    I have asked her about the request, trying to remind her that I was out. During that quick convo, it was evident that she thought I would be able to come in even though I was clear that I would be out of the country. I got pulled into an emergency meeting, so I wasn’t able to finish the conversation, which is why I’m here asking for help on how to approach part 2 of this convo.

    I don’t want to say no to her request entirely. She can be out a couple days, just not the entire time. How do I have this conversation with her? What do I say?

    1. Colette*

      “I was surprised to see that you requested time off during the days I’d already told you I’d be away. As we discussed, I’m not going to be available from X to Y. Is there another week you could take off? Or could you take no more than 2 of those days?”

    2. Sloanicota*

      I don’t think this is as bad a situation as I feared when I started reading. You did already talk to her about this period, and she can take some of it if needed, so I think you can just be direct. “I want to talk to you about your leave request. Unfortunately we need coverage on X project, and we’d already discussed how I need to be out on Y dates; any chance you can make Z work instead? I regret that it’s playing out this way, hopefully we can bring Dan on soon so this won’t be an issue in future.”

    3. ferrina*

      “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to grant this. We need to have coverage while I’m out. I will not be able to cover while I’m on PTO. What I can do is grant one or two days- would you like to do that?”

      Simple and factual. Don’t be sad or super apologetic- and honestly, you have nothing to apologize for. You are doing nothing wrong by taking PTO, and this is a normal business practice to ensure coverage. She needs to cover and that is a fact. The sky is also blue and whales are big.

      Also- what is up with Claire? She thought you would just come in during your PTO? That’s a really bad precedent. You might think about whether you need to have a bigger conversation around PTO expectations (like- no, we don’t ask people to come in or check email during their PTO unless it is a true emergency, like your earlier medical emergency. Of course, that was a very unusual situation, but short of that, no one should come in.)

      1. W Olive*

        Thank you!

        Yeah, I definitely need to figure out why she expects me to cancel my PTO. February was literally the only time I have ever canceled my time off to cover for someone else. I’ve been really lucky in that there have been no PTO conflicts like this before. I won’t work when I’m on PTO, so I don’t expect anyone else too.

    4. LuckySophia*

      Maybe just be as calm and factual as you can in summing up the realities:, and then asking her to solve the problem:
      — You’re traveling internationally, so no chance of you being able to cover.
      — No chance of changing your plans, as you already rescheduled the trip once to cover for Claire’s medical leave
      — The client cannot go without coverage for 6 days
      — As Claire is the only person who CAN cover the client, what are HER suggestions for the best way to accommodate both client and (some, not all) of her own wishes. (Can she work remotely on the client stuff during parts of her days off, or does she have to be physically present for client?)

    5. L. Bennett*

      Agreed with the others here who said to be clear and direct but also, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Claire knew about your PTO time, you confirmed with her that it was okay, and, HELLO, you had already changed plans to cover for her. Does she normally put things on you like this or is this unusual for her? Maybe it just slipped her mind or something? I would be really annoyed, myself.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Personally, I’d say no need to bring emotion into it – no annoyance, simply the statement of fact. It may have slipped her mind, but you’re the manager, you have all the authority here, you don’t have to feel peeved about it because you’re in charge.

        1. L. Bennett*

          Oh I agree that she should keep it direct and stick with the facts, but I think she’s allowed to privately feel peeved about it.

      2. W Olive*

        I’ve certainly never had any PTO conflicts with her, but we have had a couple—what I would call minor—conflicts over the last 4 years, but once resolved they haven’t happened again. I originally thought it had slipped her mind, but then she made that comment about how she thought I would be working while on PTO. No idea where she got that impression, so I’m going to try to get to the bottom of that.

        1. Sloanicota*

          It does seem odd. I guess I could imagine a situation where her sense of “coverage” is lower than yours, perhaps just having someone keep an eye out for any emails, and perhaps she thinks you do check email on leave (particularly if you have done so in the past) so she feels like that’s sufficient “coverage.” My old boss was routinely online during vacation, although I still wouldn’t assume he’d be able to on an international trip (but he would have haha – he once answered non-urgent emails from his honeymoon).

    6. Lbd*

      I wonder if Claire doesn’t realise that you cancelled your PTO in February, and thinks that you just covered for her while taking your PTO at the same time. If that is where her reasoning is, then it isn’t too big a jump to her thinking you could of course also do the same during this block of PTO. It might be an idea to be really clear that you cancelled your last scheduled PTO to cover during her emergency, and that this is a reschedule of that trip, which you cancelled. And that emergencies are a justification for extra inconvenience for coworkers, while just taking some time off isn’t.

  73. RagingADHD*

    Good interview vibes, please. I have a final-round peer interview this afternoon with one of my top target companies / roles. Very excited!

    HR already sent benefits info and salary range before the first round, so I have no concerns there. I’d be a dual report to 2 EVP’s and have met them. Very solid, no concerns about management style.

    I haven’t actually done a peer interview before. The interviewer would be parallel to me in the same role on a different team within the same department, and we would most likely have some coverage or workflow-overlap but not work together directly on a daily basis. I’m planning to ask:

    -About workflow/collaboration – is it in fact more of a “pitching in during a crunch time” type situation, or are there projects we’d collaborate on?

    – What was their experience like with the onboarding – is it very formal and structured, or more “jump in and do it,”

    -What’s their perspective on the ideal team member and the strengths that would compliment or balance the cohort of our parallel peers?

    -What’s their perspective on where my prospective managers need the most help or value-add to their respective teams?

    Y’all have any suggestions of what else might be good to ask?

    1. LuckySophia*