Ask a Manager in the media

Here’s some coverage of Ask a Manager in the media recently:

I talked with the LA Times about talking to your boss about mental health.

I talked with the Review of Journalism about advice columns.

I talked with Vox about people who don’t do any work at their jobs.

This piece in Medium analyzed data from the Ask a Manager salary survey.

{ 69 comments… read them below }

    1. NotARealManager*

      It was especially interesting seeing that the gap in pay between men and women is largest in traditionally “female” industries like library, social work, and education.

      1. NameRequired*

        It reminds me of how cooking is considered “women’s work” but only 6% of Michelin restaurants are led by women.

        I wonder if women chefs are perceived as doing what they are “supposed to” whereas men chefs are “obviously” professionals who worked for their skills, and are therefore valued more highly.

        1. Susie*

          My guess is that men are the ones promoted to higher-paying positions. In my work in education, men are significantly overrepresented in leadership roles.

          1. NeedRain47*

            In libraries, it’s that women drop out of the executive track b/c they need time to raise their children and not have all those extra schmoozing responsibilities that upper management have. (librararianship overall is 80% women, but library leadership is 50% men.) This of course implies that their partners, who are likely men, are not helping, which as we all know is still likely, even in 2023.

            This is also where I remind everyone that Melvil Dewey insisted upon letting women into the first library school, because they could be paid less. It’s a system, not an accidental bias.

            1. Poory*

              lol I’ve been a librarian some 2008 and no women I work with are taking children cause we’re all broke as fuck with grad school debt

            2. SpaceySteph*

              Your point is well made, but I did laugh at “its a system…” because then my head went “the Actual Dewey Decimal system is misogyny.” Which is still not funny but it is kinda punny.

          2. PoolLounger*

            When I was in libraries, often men held the highest level positions—and were also much less likely to have library science degrees.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          My guess (being in another male dominated profession)?

          Are the women chefs being seen as the title of “chef” by the powers that be? Or by a “lesser” title?

          I can’t begin to understate how many times my “title” has been assumed over the years to be something that is typically administrative or accounting-related in nature, simply because I’m a woman. Nor can I guess how many times someone has attempted to push me into that role even when it isn’t, and how loudly I’ve had to say “nah, you didn’t hire me to do AR/AP, you hired me to do task ABC, and I have zero idea how to even do AR/AP” because seriously. Or “hey, how come they seated the new receptionist in with the professional llama grooming department?” ::double blink:: “Because I’m a professional llama groomer?”

        3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I think women are considered “cooks,” while men are considered “chefs.” Sort of like how women’s creative work is “crafts” while men make “art.”

        4. NeedRain47*

          I read some about this while researching cooking trend history in the US, and you are on the right track. Women obviously could cook b/c they had to. Men didn’t cook b/c it wasn’t manly, unless they *did* want, to in which case they were of course automatically better at it than women. Uuuuuuugh.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I believe in female-dominated industries such as nursing and teaching, the few men who are in the industries tend to be fast-tracked for promotion. I’m not surprised to see that in, for example, education men tend to make more money than women because men are more likely to be department heads and principals and women are more likely to be classroom teachers.

      3. Random Dice*

        Writing / editing sure seems to be a bum field for gender equality.

        I was kind of surprised about consultants, but… maybe not that surprised. The older / better paid consultants are usually male.

        “About job titles, the largest apparent gender gap is associated with Managing Editors, Technical Writers, Senior Editors, HR Managers, and Consultants.”

    2. Random Dice*

      I was surprised to see Virginia pay so low, given Northern Virginia. Unless NoVa was aggregated into DC as a “metro DC”? (No, she said it was by state field) That’s wild that rural Virginia pulls the whole state down that far, or alternatively that there are so many rural Virginians who love AAM.

      1. Virginia Sucks*

        I live in Hampton Roads, the largest urban region for the entire state, not at all cheap to live here, and the pay here is pretty abysmal across the board. I’m not surprised VA as a whole is not doing great in the pay department, especially with Youngkin and his White Boy Club openly stating they are not in support of the minimum wage increases put through by his predecessors.

        I took part in the survey, and saw to my dismay that my listing had literally the lowest pay for my extremely common job, even below people in the same position living in much lower-COL areas. :/ Same for my partner’s senior IT position: tens of thousands of dollars less than he’d be making in any other state.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Good point about how the geographical data was aggregated.

        Actually, that whole first section had my eyebrows going up quizzically with all the “and then we normalized things and filled in missing data” stuff. I know there’s a certain amount of normalization and hand-wavy stuff that has to go on to make this kind of analysis possible on any data set, but unless someone is showing their work RE the assumptions, normalization, etc it can make the findings less meaningful.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I live in NoVA, but I work in DC. When I filled out the survey, I put my job down for DC (because that’s where my company is based) rather than Virginia.

  1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Ouch. I work in Higher Ed and I already know that I could make more stocking grocery shelves, but still.

    1. Seahorse*

      Yeah, reading that piece made me question most of my life decisions. I always wonder how people around me can afford so much, and I guess now I know.

    2. Be Gneiss*

      Just saw a job posting for my local library. They require a MLS/MLIS…and they pay $2 more per hour than my teenage son makes toasting buns and making salads. That breaks my heart.

  2. Fluffy Fish*

    I worked with someone who did no work from the day he was hired. he would sit in his office with his door closed (very much not our culture – you close the door for meetings or if you really need to focus, otherwise open.)

    His boss protected him for some reason.

    He finally got the attention of people above because he was supposed to lead a project and the day before submitted exactly my old work on a similar project – no updates, nothing. And even then he wasn’t fired – he resigned.

    Genuinely baffling. I would be so freaking bored doing nothing all day every day.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        He definitely wasn’t working another job.

        COVID was the best thing that happened to him probably. He could do no work from home.

  3. Random Dice*

    Vox re people who don’t work much at their jobs:

    I think this is pretty common when one has to wait on others.

    I once had a job where I really agonized about not having enough to do, and I did tell management. I finally realized that the were paying me to ensure they had the *availability* of a trained dedicated resource when they needed it, even if that meant I had a lot of downtime. That helped with the guilt (and made my manager relieved I stopped pestering him for work).

    I did training, organized files and things at the office, read audiobooks, researched random things on the internet… but could never get myself to watch videos. That just seemed like a bridge too far.

    Also, Charlie is committing tax fraud by reporting he’s in Kentucky while living in the UK.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep, sometimes that’s the thing. There’s always little things I can be doing, but my big time consuming stuff is either EVERYTHING NOW ALL AT ONCE or everyone one of my emails will take a week to get a response and no one wants to see my face. There’s very little in between. I’ve learned to just appreciate the downtime.

    2. penny dreadful analyzer*

      I work a 40-hour-a-week 9-to-5 job and my actual workload is extremely feast or famine, and while nominally I’m supposed to use the famine times for back-burner projects or training/skills development or something… well, sometimes I read stuff related to my industry, and sometimes I read Ask A Manager, and sometimes I just read novels.

    3. AnonTodayObviously*

      For the last three years (even before the pandemic), I had very little to do. The project was -and is still – massively behind, due to inexperienced leadership setting wrong priorities, uneven levels of staffing (too many engineers, not enough techs and support staff), and a dozen other errors. I sought additional tasks, but the workload just wasn’t there. So I piddled, took long lunches, did online fluff trainings. When we went remote during the pandemic, I pretty much chilled at home. I dialed into meetings while walking the dog. I organized closets, read books, cooked nice dinners.

      Four months ago, the project finally got in gear. I now have plenty of work (yay!) and mentioned to boss that we need at least one or 2 more techs for development and test. So inept boss brings 10 staff onboard and announces that they’ll do half of my job, which wasn’t the part needing assistance. So, while I’m not as slow task-wise as I was a year ago, I’m still underemployed. I’m okay with it. One more year until retirement.

    4. many bells down*

      I’m the same, I’m in an “engaged to wait” job and some days there’s a LOT of waiting.

    5. Loose Socks*

      I think one thing that wasn’t addressed in this article is that sometimes the company is paying for them to be available during that time. For instance, my local county is having SEVERE bus driver shortages because the local government feels like they should be paying the drivers by the hour, not understanding that no one can live off of less than $14k per year, it’s a very difficult job, and the hours they are needed make it nearly impossible to hold down a second job. Plus, the hourly pay sucks as well, so at best it’s a place holder until the driver finds a better position.
      The neighboring county, however, pays their drivers a base salary of $35k with the opportunity to make more money by picking up field trips. While still not an amazing salary, in the area it is a liveable amount in a two income household. They are acknowledging the fact that their drivers will be foregoing the ability to hold down a second job, and they are paying them to be available.

  4. just wondering*

    I wish the article about people who don’t work much had mentioned demographics a bit more… it’s hard to imagine someome who wasnt an abled bodied white cishet man getting away with it, though I know I shouldn’t assume. Maybe I’m just jealous because just from the way I look I could never fly under the radar like that lol

    1. Random Dice*

      My former roommate, an Arab woman in a very male IT company, got away with it.

      Well, there was no getting away with it – the project was delayed for reasons on the client’s side, so she convinced her boss to let her work from home instead of sitting at the office idle, and then two years (!!!) went by. They didn’t want to lose her skillset.

    2. Anonymous Pie*

      My boss has been getting away with it for over a year now, and she is definitely not a white cishet man. I think Allison was spot on in the article when she said “You get managers who are either so disengaged that they truly are oblivious to the situation, they’re so disconnected from the work that they don’t have any sense of what the person is or isn’t doing or results they should be getting that they’re not getting, or you get a manager who does have a general sense of it that is so passive and nonconfrontational that they can’t bring themselves to do anything about it.” Both of these apply to my situation and it’s been extremely frustrating for me and the several other people who have brought this to Grandboss’s attention repeatedly.

      1. NeedRain47*

        I’m white and cis but not a man…. I now spend a lot of time working verrrrrrry slowwwwwwwly, mostly due to circumstances beyond me or my manager. Nobody thought through what other people would have to do in order for me to have an entire job instead of half a job, so half the time I just don’t have enough (and I refuse to do busywork, I didn’t get a masters’ degree to shelve books on a regular basis, sorry.)

      2. Hannah Lee*

        So essentially for one person to get away with not doing their job, there needs to be at least one other person who is also not doing their job, or doing it so poorly that they might as well not bother. And so on up the food chain.

  5. Purple Cat*

    That Vox article was really interesting. Unfortunately, it seems a privilege that comes with a (likely) well-compensated white-collar job, while people with blue-collar jobs have to hustle hard and often work multiple jobs to get by.

  6. raktajino*

    I wish the Medium article had unpacked the data a little more. Does the gender, age, or tenure of the distribution of respondents impact the gender gap results? When you control for industry or area, are the outlier states and industries still outliers? E.g, if higher education is the lowest paid industry, where is the highest paid place to do it? Are there potential confounds in why higher ed was lower-paid than, say, hospitality or retail, such as zip code/cost of living, age/gender of respondent or tenure in position? Why is every result “remarkable”?

    1. BeepBoop*

      YES! The “remarkable” thing stood out to me too. It felt like it was written by AI.

        1. Inkognyto*

          Well the AI is going to have a bias based on who wrote it. Which would be the Data scientist.

          This is the problem is it’s very very hard not to have bias.

          There is AI that are taught games without bias. What they do is code the rulesets.

          Then they run hundreds of thousands of games against with the same coded AI.

          All of the AI slowly learning things like a human does based on the previous data sets.

          It’s harder to do that when you want analysis as they are probing for results so it learns.

    2. math_teacher_lady*

      I’m glad someone else noticed this. I kept seeing remarkable and I was like remarkable compared to what?

      Something that is missing is also a discussion of how this is not a random sample but a convenience sample of Alison’s readership who I think tend to be female and white. So these findings are not necessarily generalizeable outside of that group and the male vs. female comparison might be relying on a pretty small number of males in some of the more female dominated fields.

      Also would have loved to see if there was any association with state after accounting for cost of living, it’s not that suprising (one could say “un-remarkable”) that people in high cost of living states like California and New York have different salaries.

  7. Random Dice*

    Mental health article – one of the things I appreciate about the shift we’ve all gone through together is how much easier it is to talk about mental health, including PTSD, in social settings.

    I had never previously even heard of EMDR trauma therapy, and now it’s just discussed widely. (Maybe not right away, there’s often a fair bit of edging up to the subject, but I’ve also talked about it with people I just met.)

    I find that strangely comforting, to hear others opening up about struggling, and normalizing this stuff that used to be treated like a dirty secret.

    That said, at work, it’s still kept very private, for good reason, if possible. You just never know what stupid ideas people will have about mental health, or how it’ll impact how they see you.

    I think about the social – work disparity in mental health openness a lot, without necessarily landing anywhere.

  8. Random Dice*

    I had never read Marlowe Granados’ “Designs for Living” in The Baffler before. And of course she has ended the column!

    But oh I will enjoy the archives. She reminds me a bit of Dear Sugar, that aching thoughtful full engagement in a question, wide ranging and lovely.

    1. Hannah Lee*

      Yes, that absolutely went into my “must read” bucket.

      That was a nice round up of a variety of advice columns.

      The one thing I felt was missing, in the “here’s how things have changed” part was an exploration of changes in how more day to day gender issues are addressed. There were the high stakes abuse/violence examples and the divorce example, but not so much about the shift in expectations around emotional labor, division of labor in relationships that is still an issue (at least for people who are carrying the burden of inequality or who care about being in a relationship with a balanced, equitable approach to that stuff) but is getting called out more and more in advice columns.

    2. Random Dice*

      I also appreciated the pointer toward Kai Cheng Thom.

      The first article I read was so empathetic and kind. It was like taking a shower in light.

  9. TechWorker*

    Have to say the vox article makes me feel that little bit less guilty about sometimes having down days where I only get 5-6 hrs work rather than 7.5 done.. I was going to say I can’t imagine it happens much at my company, but given I know some other bits of the org people have 20+ reports.. I’m sure it does. We also had some contractors who ‘worked’ for 6 months and didn’t manage to complete a training course that was intended to take 3 weeks.

  10. NeedRain47*

    Being a librarian of a certain age range, I am soooooo far down here in the gender gap… gender gulch more like.

  11. Regular Human Accountant*

    I related so much to that Vox article. In my last job I worked maybe 10-15 hours a week, and that was in a busy week. My boss was extremely averse to delegating and so she rarely gave me anything to do, despite my asking (and asking and asking and asking). I finally gave up asking and used my free time to earn my CPA license. I landed a better-paying job and now have more work than I can manage–be careful what you wish for, LOL!

    But despite the long hours I am so much happier. I felt useless and guilty at my last job, like I was stealing from them. Now I am definitely earning my paycheck!

    1. a pseudonym*

      That sounds really neat – how did you decide to get a CPA and would you recommend that path for others?

    2. Blue wall*

      I’m experiencing something similar! V light work load, manager who doesn’t delegate, so I’m getting a higher degree

  12. a pseudonym*

    I found the Vox article very relatable – I probably do about 2-3 hours of work a day at my job, and I don’t really think my current manager has the tools to evaluate how well I’m doing my work / how productive I am being. Oddly enough, though, when I (irregularly) run the hard data on results, I seem to be doing okay. I’m also scoring well on performance reviews and such. I know I could be doing better at my job if I tried harder/put more time in, but what’s the point when no one is going to notice except me? It’s not like I’m in an organization where going above and beyond is going to translate into any meaningful financial benefits for me. If my raises are going to be mediocre at best, then so is my work!

    1. beware the shoebill*

      I’m in the same boat most of the time. Other than a couple busy times a year, I get stuff done when it needs to get done, get nothing but praise from my boss and coworkers, and sit around reading and doing miscellaneous stuff on my personal laptop for 5 hours a day while wiggling my mouse every four minutes. And some professional development stuff too I guess, but not tons. Like you say, it’s not like going above and beyond will get me anything financially, so why put in the effort? But I still feel guilty and paranoid and often bored, so I’d actually prefer a more challenging job. Except when I read AAM too much and get afraid that any other job is going to be full of whakadoodles and drama…

      1. a pseudonym*

        I feel you on wishing you had a more challenging job! I *wish* I had something engaging enough that it occupied my attention for the full work day, and where I actually felt like I was doing something well and using my skills. I know this job isn’t helping me build any habits or skills that will serve me in the future – which is one of the reasons I’m searching. (Plus, compensation.)

        1. beware the shoebill*

          Exactly! I’m trying to break into a related but different field that focuses more on the less-frequently occurring aspects of my job that actually interest me (and pays better), but I’m not having any luck so far, unfortunately. In the meantime my work habits are atrophying.

  13. Hannah Lee*

    A *whoa* moment for me was the impact of education.
    While MD, PhD were in the upper compensation group, the Master’s and None being in the same range was kind of striking. (it also made me wonder about what the distinction was between the “none” vs “high school” categories)

    Also the continued existence, prevalence and size of the gender gap is depressing.

    1. raktajino*

      “None” might have just been n/a, or interpreted as post-grad degree (so the respondent had a bachelors or less).

      That graph doesn’t split by region, job, or anything like that, or anything that gives insight into what the masters are in. A master’s in social work or teaching is not going to bump you into a higher tax bracket in the way an MBA would.

  14. Random Dice*

    “Many in the advice column game have theories about why columns maintain cult followings. It could be, as Scurfield suggests, that we see ourselves reflected in other people’s problems. Green, of “Ask a Manager,” thinks it’s either that or the complete opposite. “It’s interesting when they are relatable, and it’s also interesting when they’re not at all relatable to our own experiences,” she says. “You get a glimpse into a completely different life than the one you are leading. There is something voyeuristic about it.””

    I would say the reasons I have read AAM for years and recommend it widely:

    1) The thread of consistent wisdom and kindness from Alison

    2) The way Alison teaches us how to turn knotty issues into straightforward assertion of healthy boundaries

    3) The gossip!!!

    4) The nice commentariat (due in part to Alison’s moderation)

    1. Sunshine*

      I am a very anxious person, so to me it’s soothing to read advice columns – like I’m preparing for all of the worst scenarios that could ever happen. Of course, you never know how you will react in the moment and I’m not likely to actually remember the advice in a crisis, but it’s kind of calming to read about other peoples’ problems being presented with a clear way forward.

  15. CoinPurse*

    Re the Vox article about people who do nothing at work. At my last job (15 years until my retirement) I was assigned to cover a colleague when they were out. The mandate was to fully cover the desk and keep all new work. The policy was nothing could be given back.

    The colleague’s team would bury me in work, telling me they held work waiting for the colleague to take a day off. When I had to work on existing files, I’d find nothing done, not even the basics. I pointed this out to my manager since the coverage load was so crippling I’d be working 12-14 hours a day to cover both desks. I was just told “do your best”. No action ever against the non-functioning colleague.

    The whole house of cards collapsed when I retired. But it could have been prevented.

  16. Sleeve McQueen*

    All the “funemployed” people in the Vox article are men. What a weird co-incidence. *coughs*

  17. Dmytro Iakubovskyi*

    Thank you so much for sharing my [article for Medium](, and for all your comments, much appreciated!

    Let me reply to some of those.

    First, please do not consider it as an “ultimate” source of truth, as both the data and the processing methods can be skewed (e.g., some subgroups may intentionally or unintentionally report smaller/higher compensations – I have tried to mitigate that by removing top 1% and bottom 1% of the salaries, but the more detailed approach of detecting and removing anomalies can be used instead). As a consequence, all the results are based on associations (not correlations or causes – do determine that, more data/analysis is required). Also, please feel free to experiment with the code publicly available in Kaggle, you can copy and edit the Python code and re-run it yourself.

    It seems though that the gender gap is a sad reality, not only for US (see, e.g. my previous articles [here]( and [here]( Note that SHAP values tend to reveal the apparent difference of pay per gender given other parameters (job title, location, years of experience, education) to be the same, marking the difference between male and female nurses, not between a male doctor and female nurse.

    A solution to mitigate the gender gap can be the gender-neutral machine learning model to predict the salary, see [this article]( as an example.

    Also, about the small apparent difference between “None” and “Master” educational levels – throughout the article, I have marked as “None” the responders who have not added any response, so can be a mix of those with higher education as well. Not an argument against a Master’s (that can be the difference between a Master’s and college/high school degrees).

    Finally, sorry for the writing style (I have tried to make it concise and written for Data-related audiences so the visuals can speak for them, but need to put more attention to that). Looking forward to your comments, either here, at Medium, or on my [Substack]( which contains free copies of these articles.

  18. DoPeopleUnderstandExpectations*

    I have never encountered someone who legitimately had no work they were supposed to be doing. I have seen many people who slacked off and did as little work as they could get away with, others who didn’t understand what their job entailed, a few who understood that if they didn’t do their work someone else would have to do it and therefore stuff would get done, and one or two who lacked enough self-awareness and information processing skills to understand that they weren’t doing things they knew they were supposed to do.

    Everyone I know is overworked and this has been standard everywhere among multiple industries and types of companies since the 90s. Some companies don’t care and others try to help employees manage it within the constraints in place, but it’s been true everywhere.

  19. AccommodationsRequireInformation*

    I’ve seen this once or twice before here (I think) but one thing missing from the accommodation discussion is that you will almost certainly have to provide a diagnosis and (usually) a fairly significant amount of supporting medical data. However this is supposed to be completely segregated from your other employment data and only shared with people involved in the accommodations process. I have only made a few formal requests but all required a lot of paperwork from both me and my doctors before they would evaluate whether I was eligible to have formal ADA discussions.

    Even with more informal requests – which have generally been successful – I’ve had to give specific supporting medical information. Usually it’s less information and solely comes from me, although I have had requests for a simple letter from a doctor supporting specific things I’ve indicated I can’t do.

    Note that in my experience the amount of information you’re expected to reveal has been slowly increasing over time and does vary a bit from company to company, but I’ve never encountered one where you could just say “I have a medical condition that makes it difficult to do X – Can I do Y instead?”

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