my coworker answers questions directed to me, social media post trashing a colleague, and more

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

1. My coworker interrupts to answer questions directed to me

I work as a paralegal. There are 10 of us sitting in close proximity cubicles. I’ve been here the longest (13 years) and am the “lead paralegal” and trainer.

About a year ago, I trained a new paralegal, Christy. She is very eager, which I respect. However, lately she has been a little too eager, but I wonder if I am just being overly sensitive. Just about every time someone comes to me with a question (attorneys or other paralegals), she rolls her chair out of her cubicle (about three yards from mine) and answers on my behalf even though I’m right there! She literally forces herself into my and others conversations. I find it very disrespectful. I do tend to take a slight pause before answering anything, but she is high energy and answers quickly. Just today, my coworker came and said, “Jill, I have a question,” then Christy proceeded to roll out, he asked his question, then Christy answered before I had a chance to respond.

Her answers are generally correct, but I just find this rude so I did attempt to address it with her privately. She said, “Well, you can chime in” but I said, I shouldn’t have to chime in to a question addressed to me. She can chime in after I answer. She didn’t seem to understand what the issue is and so it continues. She does it to others also. I see others noticing as they now tend to fidget when coming to me for something. I feel it takes the respect away that I worked so hard to build through the years. Should I just suck it up and let it go on as it seems somewhat petty to her or what should I say/do?

The next time she starts answering a question addressed to you, cut in and say, “Excuse me, since the question was addressed to me, I’d like to answer it.” If she says she’s just chiming in, you should say, “Please let me answer questions directed to me.”

However, I’m guessing that if you felt comfortable handling it this way, you’d already be doing it … and since you haven’t, I suspect it might feel a little aggressive to you. I want to assure you that it’s not — it’s assertive, but it’s not aggressive. (What Christy is doing is aggressive though!) I’d also bet money that the people who have come over specifically to talk to you will appreciate you asserting yourself.

It’s annoying that Christy is forcing you to be more assertive about boundaries than you should have to be, but it’s likely the only way she’ll learn to stop running roughshod over your conversations.

Keep in mind, though, that you’ll probably have to do this several times before she gets the point. But even if she never does, you’ll at least be reclaiming control of the conversation.

Read an update to this letter. 

2. My awful old coworker made a public social media post trashing a colleague

I recently saw a post on a social media site by a former colleague (“Sally”). I still work for the same company where I worked with Sally, but in a different department. After I left, a new position was created. My former boss said the person hired to this role is fantastic.

Sally’s post, which is fully public and on a social media site where she is connected with dozens of colleagues from our company, details how she cannot stand a certain person she works closely with and asks for advice dealing with her. In the comments, she makes it clear who she’s speaking about, as she says the number of months this person has been employed at the company. In that small department, it could only be one person.

Sally was, frankly, toxic. She made me miserable every time I had to work with her on anything, which was frequently. I was mostly happy working in that department, but Sally was one of the main reasons I left.

Should I anonymously report the post to my company’s HR, or mind my own business? I’m glad to be free of Sally, but hate the thought of her torturing some other innocent person.

Since you still work there and it sounds like you’re on good terms with your old boss, why not discreetly alert her to it? You could send her the link with a note that says something like, “Whoa, this is a public post and is pretty clearly about Jane. I thought you’d want to be aware.” That’s not overstepping — and it’s really something Sally’s boss should be dealing with rather than HR anyway.

3. I feel guilty about leaving my job

I am currently waiting to hear back on a job that I believe I have a fairly reasonable chance of getting, and while I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, I’m already feeling some guilt about possibly leaving.

My current manager Jane has only been in our office for about a year. I have three other coworkers: Cathy, who has been here longer than me and is good at her job; Marie, who has been here as long as I have (three years) and is not great at her job; and Dana, who has been here 5 months and is still not even doing half her workload because she still struggles with what she does do. I frequently have to help Dana and Marie.

I’m feeling guilty because I have no issues with Jane and my leaving will put her in a bind, especially since I don’t really have a backup for my position. Cathy has too much on her plate (Dana is supposed to be her backup and help, but no one seems to think she’ll get to that point), and I don’t think Jane will trust Dana or Marie to do my job.

I know this is all premature, but is it normal to feel guilt like this? I have wanted to leave for a while, and I don’t think there will ever be a “good” time.

Incredibly normal. It might be the biggest theme of all the themes in my mail. There is an epidemic of job-quitting guilt.

But look: people leave jobs. It’s inherently part of the normal course of business. More often than not, departures cause some inconvenience and it’s really common to feel that whatever time you’re contemplating leaving isn’t a good time to do it. That’s just how it goes. But it being an inconvenience or a bad time isn’t a reason not to leave, or to feel guilty about leaving. One way or another, your team will figure things out and move forward.

And for what it’s worth, Jane should have been dealing with the Marie issues long before now. It’s not your fault that she hasn’t.

4. Should I take a break from school and teach English in Taiwan?

I’m from the States, but I’m in Taiwan now. I’m nearly finished with my degree back home and came over to visit friends who are teaching EFL.

I feel pretty burned out from school — starting and stopping in Covid, online classes, NO classes, and what not. I received my Associate of the Arts degree already, but I’ve been doing some research on working over here and it seems like I could start teaching with my AA and a TEFL. I just finished and passed a TEFL class recently (yay!). Here’s my question — should I take a break from school and teach English here for a year?

All my friends who are over here already are encouraging me, especially because they can see how much I’m enjoying being out here and that a break would do me good. But I’m worried about finishing my degree. I’ve got two semesters to go. But I really feel like I need a break. How do you see things?

I’d recommend going back and finishing your degree now if it at all possible. Two semesters is not a lot, and if you take a year-long break, it can get much more difficult to go back and finish — both because it can be harder than you expect to get  back in the right frame of mind for school and because life has a tendency to throw unanticipated things at you that could get in the way later.

So if you can, I’d push yourself to finish now and get the degree out of the way. You can always go back and teach in Taiwan afterwards if you want.

5. Is this enough money to leave a job I love?

For the past two years, I have worked at a company I absolutely love. It is a large organization and, despite being fairly junior, I am well-known by many employees, including those in technical roles. I typically stroll into the office at around 9:45, my preferred start time as I love sleeping in, the co-founder knows me by name, and most of my teammates have become close friends. I also have a desirable work/life balance where I can take plenty of PTO, and almost everyone I’ve encountered is kind, hard-working, and empathetic. Above all, I feel like I can be my authentic self at work. My company and team really feel like home.

My only problem is that my manager seems to have no interest in my career growth. Despite my consistently high performance ratings, I feel like he wants to keep me as a coordinator. When I started, he claimed that if I performed well, I would be promoted into a specialist role in about a year. However, when the time came, he hired externally. I was livid because he never provided any negative feedback. When I asked him about this, he gave a very indirect answer that made no sense. I have received level promotions, which are nice, but I really want a title promotion and the salary increase that comes with it.

Recently, a recruiter from another company reached out regarding a role that would pay a whopping 30% more than I’m currently making. I make a reasonable salary, but I am a woman who is about her money, and this type of increase would be amazing and more in line with what I would expect, considering that I have a relevant Master’s Degree. It also sounds like this company has a lot of opportunities for growth. The phone screen and subsequent call with the hiring manager went very well, and I was advanced to an onsite interview. The onsite interview could have been better (my in-person interview skills are a bit rusty), and at this point, your guess is as good as mine on whether I’ll get an offer. However, this whole process has gotten me to wonder, “How much money is enough money to leave a job that you love?” Would it be foolish to leave a team and company I love just because of money? This other company seems great, and all of the perks and benefits are comparable to where I’m currently at, but there really is no way to tell if I would like it just as much without taking the plunge first. I’m just afraid that if I stay in my current role, I’ll never move up and will continue to be anchored at a lower salary.

We work for money, and 30% is a significant increase. It’s not foolish to leave a job you love for one that pays significantly more, as long as you do your due diligence on the place you’d be moving to.

You have the advantage of not needing to make the move, which means you’re in a position of strength here — you can dig around into what this company/manager/job are like (including talking to people who work there or have worked there) and think critically about whether you’re likely to be happy there. You’re not in a position where you need to leap just because you need something.

But if you do that due diligence and things seem good, you should seriously consider it.

All that said … two years is on the early side to be concluding that you’ll never move up! People don’t normally get promoted before then. But if you’re seeing indicators from your boss that your chances of moving up aren’t good (and I’d put “couldn’t explain to you what it would take to get promoted” pretty squarely in that category), it makes sense to seriously consider other jobs.

{ 363 comments… read them below }

  1. Happy meal with extra happy*

    I sometimes wish I could give some of my, for lack of a better word, selfishness to others. I know several coworkers still at a prior job who are miserable but are only half-assedly, at best, job searching because they feel bad and guilty about leaving. Like I understand feeling bad that your coworkers’ and manager’s jobs are going to be harder for a period of time if you leave, but I’ll never truly get people who take that to mean they never get to leave. I care about my work and coworkers, but I’m always going to come first.

    1. Bethany*

      Selfishness is definitely a skill that needs to be developed, especially for women who are socially conditioned to not rock the boat.

      So often when a friend is complaining to me about a work-related issue, the answer is ‘you don’t have to do that’, or ‘don’t put up with that treatment’, and ‘you need to find a new job’. But of course they feel bad about standing up for themselves, so the treatment, and the complaints, continue.

      1. Lala762*

        Would it be easier for us if we didn’t think in terms of selfishness but self-preservation?
        Sure, I could do all that is asked of me and defer my goals to continue to prop up a less-than-perfect co-worker/boss/department/company, or I could value myself/my time/my career/my life and put my needs first.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Especially for women! We are taught to put others first in so many ways. And that asking for what you want is NOT ok.

        I am struggling to word this, but asking for anything always felt like I would sound like: [stomps foot] GIVE ME A RAISE. Because asking for anything was “wrong,” I had no skills in asking.

        If you take anything from Alison, it should be that it is OK to ask, and she shows you HOW to ask for the things you want.

        My mother has literally no skills in asking for what she wants and it makes her so hard to be around! One of the lessons she taught me is, people who care about you will intuit what you want and are responsible for figuring it out because you are not allowed to ask. It is exhausting!

      3. My Useless 2 Cents*

        OMG YES. My former manager will sit at her desk and cry because of the stress but will not speak up for herself! Selfishness is not always a bad thing.

        I have fleeting feelings of guilt about my job searching but it usually passes quickly. Though, I am not looking forward to the day I will have to put in my notice. But I haven’t really had to worry too hard as burnout and a major loathing of job hunting has made my future job hunt very slow going.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I want to add, for LW3 and anyone in a similar position, that along with guilt before leaving a job being very normal, it’s also normal for that guilt to quickly dissipate as soon as you move on. You’ll be focused on your new job: meeting new coworkers, learning the ropes, adjusting to new routines that you (likely) won’t have much time to be concerned about what’s happening at your previous job.

      1. Hans Solo*

        YES! I recently left a job where I had worked for 15 years and only worked there. I didn’t really feel guilty per se, I just knew my team would miss me and that I would miss where I had been for so long, but honestly, after being gone about 8 months, I do NOT miss it. And it’s not because it was so bad, I’ve just moved on and chose a great new place to be.

    3. glitter writer*

      I think there’s a line between “selfish” and “self-interest,” and I bet we *all* know some folks who really could stand to act in their own self-interest with less guilt, when it comes to work.

    4. BethDH*

      I have been unpacking my guilt responses and realized that mine also get mixed up with worries about leaving somewhere good enough and regretting it. Working in a toxic job, even once you’re done, can leave you with the feeling that that’s the norm and your current state is the exception. And if part of a toxic job was being overworked, that can make you feel like you’re creating it for others if you leave.

    5. Calligraphy Witch*

      I was once talking to some other women about annual reviews and I talked about how I always ask for a pay rise no matter what (they were few and far between). I was astounded when they both said they had never asked for one because “they felt bad”!! I couldn’t understand it. It’s company money! It doesn’t come from your manager’s personal account!

      1. Victoria Everglot*

        This is especially strange because it’s not like they HAVE to give it to you. They can just say no if it’s not in the budget. It’s not personal!

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Then again, a woman asking for more money is often treated to “who does she think she is” or “would you believe the audacity of the woman” while a man is expected to be promoted and given pay rises.
        To wit, my former boss, who was slightly worried that the guy he interviewed to help me had asked for double my salary, because it was a lot, so the guy would have to be very productive, then again it’s a guy, of course he’ll be productive, but who threw a fit when a former intern came back to interview for the same job and said she’d be interested only if it were well-paid.
        I’m pretty sure the former intern only meant, better paid than her internship, which would not be hard given that she was paid the regulatory minimum of one third of minimum wage.
        Luckily the guy found a better-paying job elsewhere, but I had already started looking for a lawyer because having a colleague doing the same job who’s paid twice what I’m making is downright illegal.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Which doesn’t stop a lot of companies from jiggling job titles to make it happen anyway, legal or not (paying someone twice what someone else is getting).

    6. Powercycle*

      I’ve stayed in jobs a couple times longer than I should have due to a misplaced sense of loyalty, and also a sense of comfort. Looking for a new job, and then learning a new job, is stressful on its own.

    7. kiki*

      I think it’s also important to remind folks who feel bad for leaving that leadership made the decision to understaff, under-train, not prepare for departure, or whatever the situation is that means one employee leaving would make other people’s lives harder.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        This is a good point! I have felt bad for the coworkers that I have liked when I knew my departure would be hard for them. But I have never felt guilty about leaving an organization. I always feel they brought any problems on themselves.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I was literally just getting on here to say this: If Jane is left in a bind, that’s either on her for not managing her subordinates adequately or on the employer for not letting her/for understaffing. The LW cannot fix that and has no responsibility to stay to protect the company from its own bad decisions (“don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm”).

        I really love my job and my employers but if I decided to leave I’d be cool with it because they’ll replace me. They won’t let my department go understaffed, my supervisor is organized and competent enough to handle the gap, our employer hires good people, and I am not unique. They will definitely be able to find someone at least as good as I am to fill the spot.

      3. Lucy P*

        I tell myself every day. It’s not my fault that everyone else quit and they were not replaced. It’s not my fault that I’m the only FT person in the department. It’s not my fault that my boss doesn’t even think about learning some of what I do until I ask for time off. Or if I teach them something, they never take notes and completely forget that we’ve had the conversation.

        Still, that doesn’t stop me from second guessing myself when I feel like I’m at the point of…whatever…or when I have to drag myself to work in the morning. Somehow the need to always be here hasn’t gotten so ingrained.

      1. Alanna*

        I stuck out some bad times at my current job out of a sense of loyalty to my managers and my team. It was a real wake-up call when those managers (some of whom were founders of our company) left for the right opportunity or when it was the right choice for them personally. They had every right to do that, and it made clear to me that I was investing far more loyalty in them than they had to me.

        Thankfully, things are better at the company now and I’m glad I didn’t leave — but no matter how much I like my job, my team, and my boss (best boss and team I’ve ever had), I’m aware that any of them could leave tomorrow if it was the right choice for them and I should be prepared to do the same.

    8. Artemesia*

      If it is in the interest of the business to lay you off without warning, they do so, often without severance. Owing ‘loyalty’ to a business is a fools choice. There are the occasional situations where it is warranted e.g. business that kept someone on the payroll for months while they did cancer treatment i.e. a business that actually showed loyalty to you in tough times. But no matter how important you are to the job now, unless you have one of those extraordinary situations like that, always act in your best interests.

      1. MassMatt*

        It’s especially… sad? to read letters where it’s apparent that the boss/manager does not care about the employees OR the customers and the poor LW feels they are stuck working 60+ hour weeks, dealing with terrible coworkers the boss refuses to manage, etc.

        If you care more about the company than your boss does, chances are there’s something wrong with that picture.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          The French say you mustn’t be more royalist than the king, and that’s helped me a lot throughout my career.

      2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        What Artemesia said. I was at a company that showed loyalty to me during some very tough times. Said times are long past, thank goodness. And so, I was unceremoniously laid off just before the holidays.

        So yes, you may owe the company SOME loyalty, but remember that the past is the past, and the company will ultimately do what is right for THEM, so YOU get to do what is right for YOU.

        1. Allonge*

          I would say loyalty to a company is mainly owed in the sense that while you work there, be true to their principles and/or don’t act in the interest of another company. And do your level best at work (no extremes, but reasonable ok performance, the majority of time).

          Loyalty does not that mean you can never leave, or take your own needs first.

          Aaaand of course this applies in reasonable places.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I was gearing up to leave when my Dad suddenly died. I was allowed to take all the time I needed, and ended up taking a good three weeks. The first week back I was not at all productive and nobody minded. (Such a difference to the previous boss who tried to turn the incompressible two weeks that I took into paid leave from what I had accrued for the next year.) They got a few more years out of me before things took a very unpleasant turn and I ended up forcing them to lay me off with full severance instead of me resigning as I had previously intended.

    9. Dona Florinda*

      +1. Also, we should put the blame where it really belongs: on managers and companies that rely on a few good employees because they refuse to actually manage the bad ones.

      The only case I can think of people actually screwing with the company was when all the warehouse workers from Dunder Mufflin won the lottery and quit at the same time. If one person moving on (or retiring, or getting hit by bus, etc) is going to put a strain on the team, that’s on the people that should’ve thought of that a long time ago, not on the employees.

      1. Feckless Rando*

        Even with the lottery example though, it’s not like companies don’t unilaterally decide to outsource entire functions or departments ever so…

    10. Boof*

      Beyond that, the crappy jobs clearly are not returning the favor and never will as long as guilt is working better than actually improving conditions!

  2. Chairman of the Bored*

    For #4, definitely do not voluntarily get derailed 2 semesters from completing your degree. The world is full of people who “took a couple of terms off” and never went back.

    If you can, consider shifting classes around so that the first semester is heavy and the second semester is a light/easy semester. That way it almost feels like just one.

    1. Betty*

      yeah, I agree. I’m so glad I went to college right out of high school and “got it over with.” I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gone back as an adult, and if I did, it would have been harder. I wouldn’t have had the same type of moral support and financial support from my parents that I did as an 18-22 year old. And I would have had to work and go to school at the same time. I know people who have done it, but it was a lot of hard work, and the OP is so close to being finished.

      1. M*

        Not disagreeing, but I do want to offer a different perspective. I went to college straight out of high school before I had a good idea of what I wanted to do or any kind of study habits. I wasted a ton of money and dropped out. Went back to school a decade later after I’d been in the workforce and learned to be an adult, when I knew how I wanted to change my career. Absolutely crushed it that second time. I had work ethic and emotional resiliency that I didn’t have the first time.

        If you’re older and you’re thinking of going back to school, a mature perspective often makes things much easier. Finances aren’t easy, but there is additional aid available to students in this particular category (at least in Canada, YMMV).

        1. Dr. Vibrissae*

          It was similar for my spouse. They spent their first time in school in and out of academic probation. However, when they went back the second time, they crushed it.

          I think wether or not LW should finish the degree now or later really needs to be evaluated in terms of what they want to do careerwise. LW says it “seems” they could teach with only the AA and TEFL, but have they confirmed that? How would lacking the degree hinder future career growth? Is it a degree that could be finished at a slower pace (say 3 semesters) with a lighter class load or through online courses i.e. could they work on the degree while taking time in Taiwan?

          The fact that the US is preparing to evacuate Americans from Taiwan at the moment may make the teaching option moot anyways.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            TEFL is a very typical career choice for any native English speaker knocking around in foreign countries. They will possibly be hired by a “cowboy outfit” like I was, in which the inability to speak the local language is the only necessary qualification, but there are usually plenty of part-time courses if OP decides to upskill and make it their actual career.

            Taiwan is perhaps not the best option but there’s not a country in the world where you can’t teach English as a second language (well maybe not North Korea but that’s even less of an option than Taiwan).

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          “Grey-haired curve crushers” is how I’ve heard the younger students refer to this. (Paula and Sunil embodied this on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.)

          1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

            “Grey-haired curve crushers”… I like that! I’m one!

            I just got my master’s (at age 60), and wound up with a GPA of 4.78 (out of 5). I like to think I crushed the curve there.

        3. Boof*

          I think the important lesson is college/higher education is not a destination, it’s supposed to be a means to an end. Sure it’s fun/interesting/nice to be “well rounded” but that’s a heck of a lot of time/money/effort during some prime years of life to be spending on an “experience” rather than a specific goal. I really advocate for people to go into higher ed with a goal in mind, and really wish trade school/career counseling featured much earlier in the education process

          1. Quill*

            As with everything we would ideally add to public schooling, we’d have to make sure somehow that it was actually good counseling. (We had career counseling events at my high school and they were, uh, pretty bad. I also don’t remember which elective they were attached to.)

        4. bamcheeks*

          Speaking as someone who works in universities, most staff I know LOVE mature students and students who have taken a gap year (or two) and come back. Yes, a lot of them have Lots Going On, but the difference in maturity, confidence, and commitment is significant, and we all love working with them.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yes! I only taught one semester at uni (Jan 2020 was not the right time to start) but the mature students were wonderful. They knew why they were there, they had leverageable experience that meant that they could easily specialise, they showed up on time, they got the work done, they asked the most interesting questions. They didn’t need their hands held.

            In Scandinavia, most people start working immediately after school, and only enrol in university after a few years in the kind of jobs they could do without formal training.
            Of course, in Scandinavia, there are not enough poor people to fill those jobs if people went straight from school to uni.

    2. US expat formerly based in Asia*

      The world is also full of people who took a semester or two off and successfully returned to complete a degree. A good friend of mine did so to work on a presidential campaign and, after finishing his degree, got hired into the Obama administration as a political appointee. Another friend of mine took a year off to work in Asia and, after returning to finish his degree, got hired there in an excellent private equity role straight out of college.

      A lot depends on what you plan to do during the time off (teaching English is not awful, although not as much of a brand-name ticket as the above examples). Also, bear in mind that both those people were attending Ivy- or Ivy-peer colleges, so they had a lot of incentive to return.

      Another factor is the political situation in the Straits. I’m personally of the view that the US is overestimating the chance that the PRC will invade the ROC (please refer to it by that name, not “Taiwan”), but you can’t dismiss the possibility entirely, so you can’t be sure “Taiwan will be waiting” for you to finish your degree.

      Lastly, there is a very good chance that a year in Taiwan will give you greater perspective on what you want to study in the final two years of undergrad — you may decide you indeed want to orient your studies more towards Asia.

      1. MK*

        Eh, I am kind of confused by the logic behind staying in a country that is likely to be invaded by a global superpower run by an authoritarian goverment because…. you might never get the chance to go back there? Surely if invasion is a possibility, that’s all the more reason for the OP to not stay? For the slim chance that OP will become interested in studying Asia, though her post says nothing about being perticularly interested in the country she is visiting, just that she doesn’t want to return home because of burnout. (And I do wonder how she will find life there once she is living and working in the country, instead of being on vacation).

        The people you mention took time off university to take advantage of an opportunity that would ultimately benefit their careers; also they sound very priviledged. People who aren’t Ivy League stedents offered the opportunity to work in presidential campaigns are more likely to fall into the “took a couple of terms off and never went back” category than the “taking time off expanded their horizons” one.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I think the logic is roughly this (numbers are for illustration purposes only):

          OP teaches in Taiwan for the 2023-2024 school year:
          – 2% chance China invades and OP is in dangerous situation/returns to home country early
          – 98% chance OP finishes year as planned

          OP finishes bachelor’s degree in two semesters, teaches in Taiwan for the 2024-2025 school year:
          – 2% chance China has already started invasion and teaching in Taiwan is no longer an option
          – 10% chance China invades and OP is in dangerous situation/returns to home country early
          – 88% chance OP finishes year as planned

          OP finishes bachelor’s degree in four semesters (because unexpected life stuff crops up), teaches in Taiwan for the 2025-2026 school year:
          – 12% chance China has already started invasion and teaching in Taiwan is no longer an option
          – 20% chance China invades and OP is in dangerous situation/returns to home country early
          – 68% chance OP finishes year as planned

          Personally, I’m risk adverse so the 2% chance (or whatever the more accurate estimate from experts is) would be enough for me to nix Taiwan entirely. But for other people with different risk thresholds, they might be willing to accept the 2% risk now but the 10% chance next year will be too high for them.

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, at least here in Europe/in my circles, I think the fear is more that China is preparing for an invasion in a few years, not that it will happen tomorrow. So I definitely get the point of wanting to go there while it’s still possible!

          2. Elitist Semicolon*

            There are a ton of “teach abroad” programs out there, especially ones that operate in Asia. Legit programs – that is, those run by an established agency with well documented procedures and an employee in the location to provide support – will also have evacuation procedures in the event of political upheaval, serious illness, family emergency, or the like. If OP does want to teach abroad and is worried about invasion (or any of those other possibilities), I’d encourage them to do some serious research into the program/employer they are considering and make sure that this is something they offer. Some of my students were teaching English in Asia in March/spring of 2020 and their programs were extremely responsive in getting them out of the region and back in the U.S. Legit programs are highly attentive to risk.

            1. Rebelx*

              Yeah, going through an established “teach abroad” program is a good idea for the reasons you mentioned. Years ago, I was accepted in such a program, it was cancelled due to instability in the government funding which paid the teachers’ stipends, and the organization offered me the option to defer a year or switch to a similar program in one of the other countries where they operated. Even absent political or economic stability, it’s super helpful to have the support of the program with visas, housing, getting settled in a new country, any personal issues (ej if you need to go to the doctor), etc. etc.

              As for whether to take the year off, I think it depends on the letter writer. As commenters have mentioned, some people have better results after taking some time off, others never get back into it once they stop. One additional thing to take into account is that, while a lot of people who teach abroad go back home at the end of the year, there’s a not insignificant number of people who end up staying abroad longer than planned. How do I know? I had intended to teach abroad for a year and I’m still in the country more than a decade later, and I have known other people over the years with similar stories. So, like Alison said, life happens and plans can change in the course of a year.

        2. Anon Career Advisor*

          Beg to differ on your last point. If anything, non-Ivy students who take time off to work on a campaign come back with a renewed sense of why finishing up is important to their career goals.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, my college actually mandated a year either studying abroad or doing “work experience” which isn’t quite the same as what the LW is thinking about as we were still enrolled as students of our college and when we returned, it was to our 4th year, even though our 3rd year was completely off-campus.

        I worked with an afterschool project in an area of the city with a high rate of early school leaving and had a great time.

        I also worked for a year between my degree and my post-grad (which was required to teach), in this case, because I actually wanted to be a primary school teacher and there was a post-grad course that would qualify me to do that that started in January, so I wanted to have a go at applying for that before starting the one for secondary school (I think it had four times the applicants as there were places but I still intended to try). This was annoying because it felt like just putting my plans on hold because the various options before me didn’t line up neatly but it definitely wasn’t going to increase the chances of my not doing a post-grad. It probably benefited me somewhat as it meant I had a good lot of savings when I returned to college, which would have been even more beneficial had I had to pay college fees. And it really made me appreciate my career because I got an indication of how tough it is being in a job that isn’t even toxic or anything, but just isn’t what you enjoy doing.

        As college in Ireland is set up rather differently than it appears to be in the US, it’s also not uncommon for people to realise that what they are studying is not right for them and drop out mid-year, then apply (before February) for the course they want for the following year. I get the impression that in the US, you can often “change major” without dropping out (or at least that’s how it seems to work in fiction, which may or may not be accurate) but here, that is less likely to be a possibility. I would never recommend somebody starting the 2nd year of a course they hate finish it out rather than dropping out and applying for what they really want to do. (Well, OK, if it were the third time, then I might recommend finishing something because there is a point at which it begins to look like they are changing their minds as soon as a degree gets difficult but for most people, it is the right choice.)

        And yeah, I know the LW is from the States, but just saying that leaving college doesn’t necessarily mean “never getting a degree”. It really does depend on the circumstances and while it is definitely easier to go to college in your late teens/early 20s, I don’ think one year is going to make that much difference. Especially as what the LW has planned sounds in some ways, more like an extended holiday than something that she will be able to remain at for years.

        That said, there are definite arguments against this plan too. The main one I would see is that the LW has only two semesters to go. That is a really short length of time and if she can manage to keep going, she could well go and teach English abroad next year and she’d be a lot freer to stay for a second year if she wanted and wouldn’t have the worry about “what if I find it hard to get used to studying again?” (I will say this didn’t turn out to be an issue for me at all, either year I did it, but it was a worry I had.)

        I also think the possibility of invasion is more of an argument against the plan than in favour of it. I know one of our student teachers was planning to go and teach English there next year and changed her mind because of this. She is now planning to go to a different country instead (I actually can’t remember which). It’s a part of the world I would be very wary about going to at this point in time.

        Personally, I think my choice would be to finish college first and then take a year abroad teaching English, but that my be my personal biases. I always prefer to get work done first.

        I think the question of why the LW doesn’t want to return to college right now plays a part. There’s a difference between just wanting to stay longer because she is enjoying herself and feeling that she is too tired and burnt out to perform her best at college at the moment.

        1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          Yes, you raise a lot of good points. But I am going to disagree with Alison. LW#4, you are burnt out and you are in Taiwan. You’re qualified to teach. My vote is go for it. Just go for it. You can certainly finish your studies afterward. This experience may change your ideas about your field of study. And, for what it’s worth, if I interviewed a candidate for a job who had interrupted her studies to teach English in Taiwan for a year or two, I wouldn’t think any the less of her. I would think it was way cool.

          1. Mid*

            I would disagree that LW is qualified to teach English. Most of the TEFL programs are equivalent to one college course at most. An AA and quick cert does not a qualified teacher make, and it’s honestly a huge issue in Asia (especially the less strict countries like Thailand and Cambodia, but really all over) that students are paying huge amounts of money to get an education and end up with a 20 year old with no real experience “teaching English.”

            I had years working with kids in a classroom setting and had worked as a teacher’s aide and done some training in Early Childhood Education, and a TEFL, and I absolutely should not have been put in charge of a classroom like I was at 19. But because I was a white American, I was always hired over locals who were actually qualified teachers who were just as fluent in English.

        2. Jackalope*

          You are correct on the changing majors without dropping out. In the US (at least at the universities I’m familiar with) you are a student of the university as a whole, not a specific school or branch. You also are generally required to take several general classes (a certain amount of math, of science, of literature, etc.) no matter what your major is, so if you change majors you may already even have some classes towards the new major. It may take a bit longer to make it through if you’ve already taken a bunch of classes towards the old major and not many towards the new one, but you can just push through that if you want to change.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And plenty of people just put classwork from their previous major towards a minor. Which means all is not lost.

            1. Quill*

              Some people quit their major at the exact point that they can get a minor in the subject. (Hi, I’m people! Fortunately, I was already a double major so… one less major wasn’t a problem.)

        3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yes, the impression you’ve gotten from novels is correct. In most schools in the US, it’s possible to change your major right up until the point where you no longer have enough time to finish the requirements for the new degree before graduation — and even then, in plenty of schools, you can still do it as long as you’re willing to pay for the extra semesters. The expected model here is that you go to the school rather than the program — unless you’re doing something like a trade school, I would say that the majority of people don’t even know what they’re going to major in when they start (and plenty of the ones who think they do change their minds).

          To your point about the invasion, I can see arguments for school now or teaching now, depending on LW’s circumstances and personality, but I would firmly agree on avoiding somewhere that may imminently become politically unstable. I spent a year in… let’s call it Malawi… after college, and had friends on the same program who had to leave… might’ve been Bolivia?… mid-year due to, IIRC, visa issues, and it was really unfortunate for them. You’re all hyped up to spend a certain amount of time in a particular place, and have made all your plans with the expectation that you’re coming back in July, and then BAM, there you are in January with no clue what you’re doing and missing all your new friends. “Malawi” had a pretty tumultuous election while I was there, and we were really worried that things would go bad and we’d have to leave (both personally and because obviously it would be bad for the whole country). I’m so grateful everything turned out peacefully, for multiple reasons.

        4. Just Another Fed*

          I get the impression that in the US, you can often “change major” without dropping out (or at least that’s how it seems to work in fiction, which may or may not be accurate) but here, that is less likely to be a possibility. I would never recommend somebody starting the 2nd year of a course they hate finish it out rather than dropping out and applying for what they really want to do. (

          Not only can you change your major without dropping out, at many schools in the US you do not even have the ability to declare a major until you’ve completed 3-4 semesters of general coursework.

          1. amoeba*

            This has always fascinated me as a STEM person who didn’t have any other subjects at all during my Bachelor’s (or after, obviously)! It does sound cool to do stuff like, idk, French literature or history, but… how do you actually fit in all the science stuff? Doesn’t the schedule get super crowded once you decide?

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              In my experience (my whole family has STEM degrees) the list of classes required for that degree does not rule out taking other classes. The math major took French classes, the physics major took Theater Makeup (forever after useful on Hallowe’en), and so on.

              Many US schools require that you take a certain breadth of subjects even if you come in as a specific major and never deviate. Where you can’t declare a major until midway through (one kid’s school did this) the idea is that even if you think you know the exact path of your life at 17, trying some different things is valuable and an explicit role of your higher education.

              1. Quill*

                I did a STEM degree and while we could declare our major first semester (or we wouldn’t get priority and actually get PLACED in lab classes on track to finish in four years) we had plenty of other stuff mandated. Which helped a lot, because there were a lot of lab classes for my degree in particular that only existed fall semester.

              2. Eloise in Paris*

                The math major took French classes, the physics major took Theater Makeup (forever after useful on Hallowe’en), and so on.

                And then we wonder why college costs are so high in the US.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              My impression is that the transition from high school to college is a bit softer in the US, at least coursewise. It was quite abrupt here in Germany for me (both content-wise and also organisation-wise).

              That said, most universities do let you take some courses outside of your major if you want, though they won’t count for your degree. It’s more that one already has a full courseload, and not many people do it, so most students don’t think to do so. I kind of regret not just taking some random but interesting classes, or maybe a foreign language (never again in my life will language classes be so cheap and accessible).

          2. AnonToday*

            This depends heavily on the major and how much coursework is required for it and whether anything you’ve taken in the first several semesters will count towards it. A lot of science majors depend on you taking four years of specific courses that build upon one another, so you are going to be starting from scratch for everything that’s not an elective.

            1. amoeba*

              Makes sense. (Also, Bachelor’s degrees are typically three years here, so that explains as well…)

      3. Andrew*

        > the ROC (please refer to it by that name, not “Taiwan”)

        Eh? As someone who has parents from Taiwan, family living in Taiwan, has personally lived in Taipei, and speaks Mandarin, “Taiwan” is absolutely fine.

        It is literally the English name printed on the front of the country’s passport and it’s what all my Taiwanese family use when speaking in English.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          I don’t understand at all. Does this mean the commenter is pro-independent Taiwan or against an independent Taiwan?

          1. amoeba*

            Pro, I think. As officially, quoting from Washington University here, “Taiwan views itself as the legitimate government for all of China. Neither Taiwan or the People’s Republic of China, which is the formal name for Mainland China, recognize each other politically.”

            Hence the name “Republic of China”.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              But that doesn’t preclude the use of the name “Taiwan”, I wouldn’t think. (I am also confused, having known people from Taiwan who referred to it as…Taiwan.)

            2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

              I went down the rabbit hole, I had to know. ROC seems to be used by those pro-independent Taiwan, and I think also comes from the fact that Taiwan is one of two provinces of what we tend to think of as ‘Taiwan’ (Taiwan is also the name for the island; the other province is two smaller islands). The more you know!

            3. tired taiwanese-american*

              This paragraph is so wrong I don’t even know where to start. Read up on Taiwanese democratic reforms in the 1990s; turning the ROC from a Chinese-government-in-exile to a proper government of Taiwan was the work of decades of Taiwanese activism. (I have never heard that it’s offensive to say Taiwan instead of ROC, but it sounds like something straight out of the KMT’s 20th century Sinicizarion campaigns.)

      4. WellRed*

        Well, it says two semesters, not two years so not really the time change focus. And if the area is at risk of invasion all the more reason to return home.

      5. Observer*

        . I’m personally of the view that the US is overestimating the chance that the PRC will invade the ROC (please refer to it by that name, not “Taiwan”), but you can’t dismiss the possibility entirely, so you can’t be sure “Taiwan will be waiting” for you to finish your degree.

        If you are correct, that is actually another reason to NOT stay there. You can’t be sure that the place will still be there in a year, true, but you also can’t be sure that the place will be safe to stay within the year. And the downside of that is far more problematic than the downside of not getting to go back to this particular place. One is “could lose my freedom or life”, the other is “bucket list item not done”.

        1. Artemesia*

          The world changes. I am so glad that we took two significant trips to Russia a few years back as that certainly won’t be happening again in my lifetime given my age. This sounds like not ‘dropping out’ but taking a year to explore something interesting in an interesting place.

          I’d do it with some concrete plans to return and finish up the degree one way or another, but take the chance on an adventure like this while you are young. Wish I’d done more of that.

      6. Bruce*

        It’s not just the US, I was just visiting customers in the EU and the prospect of an invasion is very much a concern there…

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The other concern is that sometimes programs change, and if you take too long of a gap you may have to complete additional coursework to get your degree.

      1. Owlet101*

        Possibly, but also possibly not. Even if the program has changed. I used to do graduation audits at the university I work at. We have a policy that we would use any catalog year that the student attended. So, sometimes a student would come back and we would run an audit from one of the previous years that they attended. We had people who attended for the first time in the late 90s graduating last year because they were able to use the 90s catalog. I guess a good way of expressing it would be to say that they were grandfathered in. It would sometimes take some fiddling, knowing what classes turned into what, and course substitutions. But it was something that we did a lot.

        I’m just putting this here because if someone is the person who took a gap year that was longer than a year they may not be out of luck. Ask the Record’s/Registrar’s office what their policy is for students like that.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Where I did my undergrad, the rule was to use the program requirements for the year I started. Which made sense because it would suck to have unanticipated requirements tossed on partway through. They were pretty chill about making reasonable exceptions, though. Partway through my degree, they changed the program so that students could take math or logic. When I started, it had to be math. So I asked if I could do logic instead (which legitimately was more useful) and they put an exception in my file to allow it.

          1. Elsewise*

            Some schools will do that only if you remain enrolled, though. (Let’s say for this example LW started in the 2019-2020 school year.) So if they drop out (distinct from taking a leave of absence), takes 23-24 off, and re-enrolls in 24-25, they’ll be using the 24-25 graduation requirements rather than the 19-20. This could be to their benefit, or it could not be, and different schools have different policies on whether you can take a year off and keep your original graduation requirements.

            Long story short: I think LW should talk to their academic advisor or program advisor and make sure that taking a year off is feasible, then talk to someone from the teaching English program and make sure that they actually CAN do it with an AA, and THEN decide, based on career prospects, personal likelihood of successfully going back, and yes, political situation, whether it’s a good idea to take a year off to teach English or to go back and power through.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Totally fair point! And yeah, the best idea is to go talk to the people at their school who are in charge of this stuff.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          Yes, this is a common practice. You are subjected to the rules under which you intially enrolled, though you can request to follow the newer requirements if you like or ask for individual exceptions. Sometimes the courses that were originally required don’t exist anymore, so the university will have a plan for navigating that issue.

      2. Artemesia*

        this will be an issue with a long gap — but not a short one. They will just apply the catalogue that applies to their year in most cases. Sometimes though programs will not allow people to finish after many years have passed — but that is not a year or two, more like 5 or 10.

    4. JSPA*

      I took a semester off, and only regret that it wasn’t a year, and that I stayed in the area rather than disengaging more completely.

      This is like a semester abroad–teaching IS a learning experience, and an academic persuit, except with pay. And it’s good on a resumé. And you’d be in the one place that handled covid better than any other country.

      Why on earth would that be problematic?

      Always take the break BEFORE full burnout.

    5. Just me*

      I wonder: How burned out is LW4? If we’re taking about the kind of burnout that just makes things a little harder, yeah, finishing the degree now makes sense.

      But if we’re talking about the kind of burnout that makes flaming out a serious possibility — if LW4 has already been struggling hard with grades and/or attendance and plausibly could end up flunking out? Taking time to heal while teaching English among friends sounds like a decent idea.

        1. MK*

          Yes, my main worry about the OP’s plan is whether they will find working in Taiwan as enjoyable as vacationing there. Maybe they do need a break, but commiting to a whole year in a foreign country is risky.

          1. Em*

            Yeah, I agree. And I know so often on “should I TEFL” posts the comments are really negative and I don’t want to do that, but it is a challenging thing to move countries and find a job. It’s a decision that should be weighed carefully and ideally not committed to during a heightened state- either extremely positive or negative. That’s what I’d advise my younger self, who decided to go TEFL in the midst of my first breakup, if I could. On the other hand, we all get to be young and dumb at some point :)

      1. Simon (he/him)*

        Yeah, I flamed out of a graduate program with one semester to go because everyone kept saying “you’re so close to finishing, might as well get it over with!!” Now going back is going to be much more difficult than if I had left sooner. If the burnout is bad enough then I really think it might be worth a year doing something unrelated, even if it’s not this specific program!

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, I think this may be a “know yourself” situation for LW.

        How burned out are they, what is it they are burned out on (the program? their current path? their entire life as it is now?), what’s their state of mind right now, what has been their ‘typical’ level of resiliency before they reached this state of burnout, do they have a history of finding a way to pick things up again and plow on after a break or does “a break” typically become a way to just drop the rope on something and never go back.
        Is this potential year away going to function as a reset? Or is it an escape and a year could turn into two could turn into several years of kicking around but not really moving their own life goals, personal growth forward in a meaningful way.

        Lastly, the things that they would be away from for this year, it could be valuable to tease them out individually – the program generally, the work/pace required by the program, the individuals they interact with in the program, the career path that program is part of, their living situation (apartment, roommates, neighborhood, city, etc), their friend group, their romantic relationship, their family situation, their financial circumstances, etc etc. Because choosing the “best” path forward could look very different if LW is dealing with generalized exhaustion from workload vs just can’t stand their classmates vs starting to question whether this path is right for them.

        I’ve known people who have quit jobs or degree programs and moved out of state who later realized that what they really needed to do was just breakup with a bad boyfriend or get a new apartment away from crazy roommates or take a 2 week break someplace away instead of jettisoning their whole life. LW probably doesn’t want to be those people.

    6. Roland*

      Alternatively – if OP is in a field with heavy new grad recruitment, then it would be foolish to do a year teaching English abroad after graduation instead of before, since doing this after graduation means giving up new grad recruitment. Not applicable to all fields, and per other comments OP might not be able to teach with an AA… But with TEFL will always be there, new grad opportunities will NOT always be there.

    7. tg33*

      Alternatively, I was feeling burned out, but stuck it out, failed the year, repeated and failed again. Taking a break might have helped. Or not.

    8. Hotdog not dog*

      I took a break between getting my AA and my BA about 28 years ago. During the pandemic I finally looked into what it would take to finish, and it turns out that not a single credit from my very aged AA can transfer. I’d need to start all over. My advice is to stick it out, you’re almost at the finish line!

      1. JSPA*

        school can be a joy, not a slog. But you need to feel you are there and learning for a reason, for that to happen. If the LW can recapture hope and joy in learning–or even, be motivated by seeing what the job market reduces to, without the degree–that’s a huge win.

        The stats on dropping out and coming back (or not) are minimally-relevant, as they’re weighted towards people who leave under pressure (financial, academic, romantic, family trouble). Many, many colleges and unis actively encourage a semester or year of self-discovery either before starting or before completing college, so you have a clear view of which courses will serve you best, and you are bright- eyed and eager to launch, as you exit your undergrad. And so that you don’t find out that you love or hate working with people; teaching; solving intercultural challenges; dealing with ambiguous situations or instructions (etc) only after you take a job that quickly makes you miserable. So long as the LW has a rapid (not delayed) re-entry plan, plus backup plans (none of which involve “make and save a pile of money in Taiwan,”) I see far more upsides than downsides.

    9. ferrina*

      My default is “stick it out”.
      Yes, some people take a break and come back just fine! But even more people take a break and never return, or return later and some of their credits no longer apply so they have to retake courses. You also really need to know your working style and mindset. Is your relationship with school one where you will happily return? Or is it one where you will be dragging your feet, wishing you didn’t have to? I’m someone who did not have a good relationship with school- I hit my senior slump in kindergarten (I’m also ADHD, and school was not set up for my brain). For me, it was power through and never look back. Even if you’re ambivalent about school, think about how hard you’ll be willing to work just to get back. What if you meet the love of your life? Get a job offer? Run out of money and end up working to make ends meet?
      Not saying any of these things will happen, but it’s easier to power through school when you’re already there.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, about 2 semesters from finishing my degree, I never wanted to take another class – and that feeling has never gone away. If I hand<t stuck it out, I would never have finished.

    10. learnedthehardway*

      I tend to agree that the OP should finish their degree, in this particular case. There are arguments pro and con taking a break, but in their case, this feels more like they are running away from something than running toward something, if you know what I mean. ie. this isn’t a plan, it’s an escape.

      Also, OP, if you’re really burnt out, then taking on a very new kind of role you haven’t done before, in a different country, far from home – that has its own challenges. You don’t even have a job yet, so you’d have to do a job hunt. I know a change is supposed to be as good as a rest, but it’s not – not really.

      If I were you, I would do my best to relax and recharge this summer, get the last year done, and make plans for afterwards. If you still want to teach in Taiwan, then great. But you’ll have it planned out.

    11. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “All my friends who are over here already are encouraging me, especially because they can see how much I’m enjoying being out here and that a break would do me good.”
      Do they have their degrees? I’m betting they do.
      And that’s why they feel it’s no big deal to have a degree. You can do what they do and all have fun. Great.
      It’s like when you were a senior in high school thinking of taking a gap year and working with a bunch of friends.
      Except the stakes are higher.
      You are not a teenager.
      You are not just starting something new.
      You are finishing something.
      Honestly, it will be over before you know it. And you don’t have to have that senior year panic of “what am I going to do when I graduate?” You have a plan.
      You will teach in Taiwan….
      or where ever your friends have ended up.
      I’m saying that they are doing what they want right now because they put in the work. Even if they don’t realize it.
      You asked, so we are telling you.
      Have a great senior year.

    12. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I got my degree but with just one more semester I could of had two specialty focuses (I think I just needed 3 more classes). Oh, how I regret not staying. Now the thought of going back for additional education, even a professional certificate, is very daunting. I find there is a certain mindset when in school that is very difficult to put yourself back into once school is over. I still love to learn but assignments, grades, tests… eek!

    13. Regina*

      Hard disagree. I took a year off from grad school to work in China and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Once you are in the working world it is a lot harder to just take a year off! I think if OP2 has assurance from their school that they can definitely return (with the same level of financial aid), then it is a no-brainer to take advantage of the flexibility of student life to have a great experience. Eat some delicious food for me OP2!

    14. CAM Wreck*

      As someone who was very burned out with school, I have to say… sometimes the year off will really do a lot to de-stress and re-focus your attentions and motivate you. I understand that the 1 year off may turn into 10 (or never), but what if OP finds new purpose that doesn’t require college? I know many opportunities still require a degree, and for that reason, I agree that OP should eventually go for it, but 1 year also isn’t a long time to jump back in, if they really want it.

    15. Nonym*

      As someone who has studied abroad and taken a gap year abroad, and had to put a lot of thoughts in the timing of these experience and discussed it a lot with people considering the same (many of whom regretted not doing it before graduating), I disagree with you and Alison and want to offer a different perspective.

      Certainly, if OP isn’t confident in their ability to resume and finish their study after a gap year but wouldn’t drop out without one, OP should focus on their studies. That’s a risk to consider and I’m glad to see people bring it up.

      But if OP is, then just before your last two semesters can be an ideal timing and IMHO, is far better than right after graduating as suggested by Alison.

      In their last two semesters, students should heavily focus on preparing their entry on the job market in their chosen field. They should be networking, doing an internship, volunteering in their field, applying to jobs, etc.

      If OP takes their gap year early, they can do it, smoothly resume their life (since their occupation, accommodation, and finances should already be lined up) and then take fully advantage of their last year in school to do that and hopefully line up a job for after graduation or at least get a head start to shorten their post-graduation unemployment, just as any other student. In fact, the gap year of international work experience might even help them stand out compared to their peers, as these peers would be fellow seniors, many of whom haven’t lived or worked outside of campus.

      If OP takes the gap year after graduating, they can still attempt to network and do internship but it will be as someone who is about to take a gap year, not as a soon-to-be employable new graduate. They won’t be able to meaningfully before their return, as applying for an entry-level job from the other side of the world is extremely hard, which means that they’ll have a guaranteed period of unemployment upon their return. That’s a much less smooth landing. And in this job search, they are likely to be at a disadvantage to their peers because there will be a whole new batch of fresh graduates and many people from their class will now have a year or so of actual work experience in their field whereas OP will be someone trying to enter their field after a year long absence. This is especially true in more traditional industries (which was my situation) or fields were things evolve quickly. Employers in other sectors might not view it negatively.

      It all depends on what risk you’re more adverse to but I think it’s important to mention to OP that postponing the gap year to immediately after graduation essentially guarantees a period of unemployment.

    16. Samwise*

      A couple of my siblings took a “short break” which ended up being 5 years for one and 12 years for the other. They were finding themselves, working dead end jobs that were positive in other ways (when they left the office, work was done for the day; reasonably interesting but not difficult work; pleasant coworkers), etc.

      But that was not BAD. They went back to school and finished their bachelor degrees when they decided it was time to get a better job and they couldn’t get a better job without the degree. Working and going to school at the same time was tough, but not impossible. They have both had very successful careers, they both are glad they took time to just live and to figure out what they actually wanted to do next.

      I have another sibling who got the degree (mech engineering from a top five school), worked in the field for a couple years, hated it, taught English in Japan for a couple years. They have had an exceptionally successful business career since — have never gone back to engineering, has a gift for business. The teaching in Japan was in fact key to their subsequent career pivot.

      So I’m going against the flood of “go back to get your degree” advice. Take a year or two to teach in Taiwan. You’re young and it’s ok to explore and just DO things for awhile. Finish up your degree afterwards — in fact, you might even be able to take an online course from your college/uni each semester to chip away at it (much more likely to be able to do this now than before 2020).

      Let me also add that you don’t know what good or bad life will bring. Sometimes taking a risk that will let you learn about yourself, have a new experience, make you happy — it’s ok to do that. Don’t leave yourself with too many regrets…

  3. Filicophyta*

    OP4, I have a Master’s degree, a teaching qualification and 25+ years teaching and training and related experience in Asia and the Middle East. Without a BA or BSc, you won’t get an ESL job worth having in Taiwan. You might get hired, but it will be a dodgy company with bad conditions.
    If you get an entry-level TEFL, do CELTA, and do it in person as some countries won’t accept online ones.

    1. La Revacholiere*

      This! Please be very careful what ESL school you join; many of them do not give adequate support to their teachers. This is especially true of schools that accept adult students–it’s very common for teachers to be neglected or thrown under the bus by their schools if they’re sexually harassed by students.

      Also, you may be overestimating how easy it is to get a work visa at this stage of your education. Finishing your degree makes it much, much easier for a reputable company to sponsor your work visa to teach in Taiwan.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Yes, THIS. And, as I noted above, being able to work with a reputable program also means you have emergency support in the event of local/personal crises.

    2. Anon for this*

      Coming here to say this. I’m not sure if you can get a work visa without a BA at all, but if you can, you’ll be working at dodgy cram schools. Decent jobs require qualifications and experience.

      And I second comments above, that moving abroad for a year at this point significantly decreases your chances of finishing.

    3. Expat*


      I live in Japan right now and I’m working a job in my field after teaching English.

      However, I was only able to get that position because of my work experience pre-Japan.

      Often, people who come to teach English in Asia come straight out of college with no work experience and they get stuck in it as a result. Can’t get a job in their fields back home due to the lack of qualifications beyond the degree, can’t get a better job in the new country due to the same reasons. Teaching English here also needs no other requirements besides being a native speaker of English.

      I don’t know what it’s like in Taiwan but working conditions in Japan for English teaching are very hit and miss, and mostly it’s a miss. The pay is low, the culture shock is a struggle, and there is very little support from whatever company dispatched you to a school.

      I honestly recommend finishing school then doing at least of year of work experience before taking the plunge to teach English.

      1. US expat formerly based in Asia*

        Often, people who come to teach English in Asia come straight out of college with no work experience and they get stuck in it as a result. Can’t get a job in their fields back home due to the lack of qualifications beyond the degree, can’t get a better job in the new country due to the same reasons. Teaching English here also needs no other requirements besides being a native speaker of English.

        This would seem to me to be a very strong reason to do it as a gap year in between sophomore and junior years of undergrad. You then can interview with the usual consulting/banking firms and a have a strong story to tell about why you want to work in Asia, and you have a leg up over other applicants. You may also have decent Mandarin skills at that point. (Again, this does hinge on your school being strong enough to attract recruiters for multinational companies with a presence in Asia.)

        1. Expat*

          Unfortunately, it can’t be done as a gap year as most visa requirements need a 4-year bachelor’s degree (depending on the country. Japan definitely requires one, check for Taiwan).

          If you’re from a country that has a working holiday visa available, then great! A gap year can be taken. If you’re from the US, you’ll need a degree.

        2. Spearmint*

          I think you’re overestimating how elite of a school you have to be at to get these interviews with multinational finance/consulting companies right out of college. I’ve only heard of people getting those kinds of opportunities if they went to Ivy League or near-Ivy League schools. The vast majority of college students don’t go to schools like that.

          I studied at a flagship state university, and I don’t know anyone who got recruited to work for major finance/consulting firms out of college, even the A-students.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            I’d also say it overestimates how much of the local language people pick up teaching TEFL. I think everyone I knew who taught in TEFL programmes lived and socialised with other teachers from the programme and spoke English far more often than they spoke the language of the country they were in. They could buy groceries, but they certainly didn’t have the command of the language that would be useful in a finance setting, and most of them had lost what little they’d learned within six months (though it does tend to come back to them relatively quickly if they return).

          2. Artemesia*

            Yes the jobs that lead to riches in finance are very hard to acquire if you don’t go to one of a handful of big name schools. State department is the same way for those who want foreign service jobs.

        3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          You don’t seem to be speaking from experience. For those of us who have worked across Asia, and in larger international companies, almost every applicant has some gap year Asia experience on their resume, and it’s not usually helpful. This is epecially as one year in China will net 99% of people no useable command of Mandrin. I lived there, studied it at uni for three years before, and found that any knowledge of it professionally was completely moot as Chinese business people abroad have already mastered English years before an American decided to try a gap year.

          1. aiya*

            I agree. I think the advice is both severely underestimating how difficult it is to achieve professional level fluency of Mandarin within one year and how little impact one year of overseas ESL teaching experience will contribute to getting a career in a non-teaching related path.

            Teaching ESL overseas is great on your resume if you plan to pursue teaching as a career (either overseas or within the US), but will not make you a particularly stand out applicant in any other field since the work experience and skills are not related. I’ve seen peers within my circle struggle to get their career started after teaching abroad – if anything, it held them back (compared to their peers) since they spent one year teaching instead of working within their desired (non-teaching) career path.

            Given the low pay and its lack of ability to advance you forward in your career, I’d say only do it if you just want to experience what it’s like to work and live abroad for fun – which is totally fine if it aligns with your life situation. But I would still complete the degree first, and then teach ESL abroad (similar to how some folks like to backpack across Europe after graduation – not exactly the same comparison, but similar).

      2. US expat formerly based in Asia*

        Also: there is the potential for culture shock whenever you move to a new country. It’s a lot lower risk doing so for a gap year than for permanent employment. The gap year now will help acculturate OP to working in Asia in a more substantive role later.

    4. KH*

      So glad people are in here giving LW the reality of ESL teaching. LW, you’re gonna hate whichever company is willing to hire you with just an associate’s degree and a tefl (especially if it’s not a CELTA). I don’t know who your friends are, but I recommend getting a wider range of experiences. Go to a meetup for expats, research online forums.

      1. JSPA*

        If the friends are happy, and their company or companies are hiring people in the LW’s status, surely that’s the most up-to-date and relevant information, though???

        1. Expat*

          Just because some people are happy doing it doesn’t mean everyone will be, unfortunately.

          For example, the JET Program is the best one to go to Japan to teach English, but there are many people who are hired who ended up disliking it even if their peers are happy.

          1. KH*

            Exactly. Even if said friend is guaranteeing LW a position at the school that’s making them happy right now, none of us askamanager readers would be surprised at how fast a workplace can go to shit if management changes. Finding another job would be very unpleasant; LW is not competitive at that education level. Everything I’ve heard about esl teaching in Taiwan says you need a bachelor’s degree at the very least.

        2. linger*

          Yes, it’s very hard to make any kind of living wage teaching English as a native speaker in Japan without a postgrad degree. (At tertiary level, adjunct work generally requires an MA, and tenure generally requires a PhD and academic publications in a relevant field, and preferably also some fluency in Japanese.)

          Recommended reading:
          Eva P. Bueno & Terry Caesar (eds) 2003. I Wouldn’t Want Anyone to Know: Native English Teaching in Japan. JPGS Press.
          The title says it all. It’s a mixed bag of contributions covering a wide range of educational institutions and perspectives, but there are more hits than misses. See especially Bueno’s own chapter on “A Leading Language School” (thinly disguised as following the “Blitz method”).

        3. linger*

          N.B. It’s entirely possible some institutions were recently forced to relax some qualification requirements for native speakers of English, due to travel restrictions in the first few years of Covid causing a net exodus of NSE staff not permanently settled with local family connections. And maybe OP’s friends have benefited from that? But with those travel restrictions having been lifted, stricter enforcement of qualification requirements should now be expected.

    5. Dubious*

      Seconding this comment so hard. OP4, double and triple check the work visa requirements for foreigners (and especially foreign language instructors) in Taiwan, because I imagine chances are very high they require a 4-year college degree. And if a company waves their hands and says they can hire you on less than the legal requirements, that is a bright red flag to run away before you are scammed as badly as their students.

      Having a college/university degree gives you far more options for working overseas. College burnout is hard but you’re so, so close to being done!

    6. International Teacher*

      Seconding this! Also adding on that I don’t know what your degree will be in, but I’ve been teaching abroad for the last 10 years–but not English! I work at English-speaking international schools teaching music and I love my job! But again–a 4 year degree and teaching credentials are needed for what I do.

      Burnout is tough and real, so do what you need to do in order to keep yourself healthy. That’s important! But the long term benefits of completing a degree will help you immensely if you want to work abroad.

    7. Filicophyta*

      Furthermore, as some people mentioned, without a first degree you probably won’t get a work visa or residency and will be working on a tourist visa, making “visa runs” to a neighbouring country every three months. Do NOT work on a tourist visa. I know someone personally who spend three weeks in a Chinese jail for this.

    8. Samwise*

      And if that happens, OP is not *stuck* in Taiwan. They can then go back and finish their degree.

  4. Heidi*

    Taking a break from school is not unreasonable. The part that strikes me as odd is that it seems like the OP is equating a teaching job to “taking a break.” The OP doesn’t say whether they’ve done any teaching before, and it’s not clear how many classes they’d have to teach, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a teacher that didn’t consider it to be quite a lot of work and stressful in its own way.

    1. Melissa*

      No, but I think it’s totally legitimate to want to take a break from one thing and do something else. It doesn’t sound like he thinks it’s a vacation.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I think what makes it a “break” is the context. Teaching is definitely work, although I utterly love it, but there is a difference between making teaching your career and doing it for one year in a foreign country, knowing you have a place at college and the absolute longest you can spend at it is one year, because you have to be back to finish your degree at the end of that.

      Yeah, there will still be work and some stress but a certain amount of the pressure is off. She’s not trying to make a career in this or build a long-term reputation and she may not even be using anybody from the job as a reference in future and she knows where she is going the following year and that it is going to be utterly unrelated to this job.

      So there isn’t the same pressure as with her degree.

    3. Francie Foxglove*

      The LW would know more about this, but I would think it’s pretty expensive to live in Taiwan, it being an island. That’s something to factor in, if true.

  5. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW1, is it bad that I would want to stab Christy with a fork the next time she butted in? I mean, I know it’s bad, but oh so tempting…

    LW5, take a title/pay leap elsewhere, but maintain all those great relationships with your current colleagues. The new path for advancement is often leapfrogging to a position in another company where you can prove yourself, then coming back to a workplace you loved at a higher level.

    1. Beth*

      LW1 — you NEED to cut Christy off ASAP. She is undermining you and it will only get worse.

      Alison’s scripts are great. Use them! That will make it easier for every other person that she’s undermining — the other paralegals and the attorneys as well — to push back, which they need to do.

      1. Laura*

        #LW 1, after reading the posting about pettiness at work.

        “Christy, you’re not in training anymore. You do not need to show me that you know the answer. I expect that you know the answer. That’s why you have your own tasks. Work on those.”

      2. bunny_mf*

        I would actually say something to Christy when she rolls her chair over. Something like, “I can handle this, I’ll call you over when I need your input.” Then wait for her to go back to her desk before turning your attention back to the questioner. You might have to interrupted the person asking the question to ask if they could hold on a minute but I think cutting her off earlier is better.

    2. Nea*

      OMG, it’s not just you. Alison is, as usual, much more diplomatic and professional than I am, because I would have already snapped at Christie that I don’t need to “chime in” on my own conversations, but she needs to butt out.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I was a bit confused by #1 – OP says they take a long pause before answering, and I didn’t understand what she meant when she says she can see people starting to fidget when they ask her questions. Is there any chance the long pause is hurting her efforts here? As someone with a bad habit of interrupting (out of eagerness and enthusiasm) the hardest people to work with are those who speak … very slowly and … pondorously, with … long pauses … in conversation.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I read the “people start to fidget” like this:

        Pre-Christy, people would come to OP, ask their question, OP would answer after a slight pause, and no one would fidget.

        With Christy, people are approaching OP, fidgeting before or while asking their question (presumably because they know Christy is about to butt in), and Christy jumps in with her answer.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And the pause might be to make sure she’s giving the most nuanced answer. As the senior paralegal, my assumption is that the OP has much more institutional knowledge/experience to draw on. Christy isn’t giving the wrong answer, but people go to the OP for the best, most complete answer.

          Christy sounds annoying.

          1. Spinner of Flax*

            To me, Christy’s behavior smacks of a power play. She “eagerly” jumps in before the OP can get a word in edgewise and seizes control of the conversation. That sounds less like ignorance of professional norms and more like an attempt to give the impression that she’s smarter and more competent than the OP.

            But, while the OP should definitely address this with Christy, it would also be good if the other staff members there would stop Christy when she jumps in, eager-beaver style, to try to one-up OP. A firm “Christy, I was talking to OP, not to you. Stop butting into my discussions with other people and get back to your own work.” would go a long way towards quenching Christy’s obnoxious habit.

            Love your name, Charlotte Lucas! But are you REALLY sure you want to marry Mr. Collins? Talk about obnoxious people —!

      2. Trout*

        I think people are fidgeting because they want LW to answer a question but feel awkward about it because of her coworkers actions. Fast talking and interrupting is a cultural thing, and slow, quiet speech with pauses is common in other cultures. I find fast speakers who interrupt to be super rude, domineering and disrespectful when they encounter a slower paced speaker. Who gets to talk shouldn’t be based on how loud or quickly they talk, or how quick they are at interrupting.

        1. Observer*

          Fast talking and interrupting is a cultural thing, and slow, quiet speech with pauses is common in other cultures.

          This is true. What takes it from possibly cultural difference to rude and inappropriate in this context is two fold. Firstly, that works in a conversation where the interrupter is already part of the conversation. Even in cultures where interrupting is culturally appropriate, *interjecting yourself into a conversation* is very different.

          For another, when someone tells you that your interrupting is a problem in a particular context, you stop doing that thing, even *if* it’s generally not a problem.

      3. Observer*

        As someone with a bad habit of interrupting (out of eagerness and enthusiasm) the hardest people to work with are those who speak … very slowly and … pondorously, with … long pauses … in conversation.

        I’m not sure what you are getting at here. As you note, the habit *is* bad. And Christy has been put on explicit notice that the OP *is* perfectly capable of answering the question. The fact that someone doesn’t like the speed doesn’t give them standing to jump in and interrupt.

        Her excuse that the OP “can chime in” takes it to another level. She is knowingly taking over conversations that are not hers to get involved in, in the first place. I don’t care out “eager” or “enthusiastic” she is. It’s rude and inappropriate, edging into the obnoxious.

        “Eager” and “enthusiastic” are excuses for little children, not functioning adults, once they have been put on notice.

        PS If the pauses were a problem, Christy has lost any standing to say anything with this behavior.

      4. M*

        I’m an interrupter too and it’s on us to be self aware about it and reign it in. I grew up where that was the norm so I picked it up as the only way to be heard, but even I find it a stressful conversation style.

        I know a few people who do those pauses and the reason is a history of stuttering. That’s just my acquaintance, but it helps to remember that some people have difficulty getting the words out and interrupting them is the worst thing you can do. I think fast and talk fast! But not everybody does, and that is fine, and we need to make sure there’s room in the conversation for everyone.

        1. SwiftSunrise*

          There’s a reason why I keep a giant bag of peanut butter M&Ms handy during my Zoom book club, so I have something to SHOVE IN MY MOUTH when I know I’m talking too much, and to keep the enthusiastic interruptions to a minimum.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        It being hard for you to work with people who talk slowly is absolutely no excuse to keep interrupting after being explicitly told not to, or when someone else is addressed by name in the question. That’s just disrespect.

        I am an interrupter. My family has an overlapping conversation style exacerbated by roughly 2/3 of us having ADHD (there are even more complications than that but beside the point)

        I am also fully capable of understanding when a question was not addressed to me. Certainly, if directly asked to not step in, I can control myself.

        I get the impression the bit about fidgeting is about being uncomfortable at the interruption but not wanting to tell off someone who is earnestly trying to help, rather than at the “long” pause. Certainly, if I came to the resident senior expert to ask her, specifically, a question and it was answered by the resident “Only been here a few months” person before the expert even had the chance to speak, I’d be uncomfortable.

      6. Jill*

        To Sloanicota,
        Thanks for asking for clarity. Others may have some of the same questions. I didn’t say long pause, I said slight pause. In working with legal matters, there are times when there are several viable options to choose from and so I take a second to think about it. The pause is only 2-3 seconds long, where Christy jumps at it like the person is on fire as my mouth is open to answer. Hope that clarifies.
        Oh, and the fidgeting is bc Christy pulls out of her cube and is staring straight at them when they are making eye contact with asking their question and they’re probably wondering what she’s doing or why she’s that. In fact, one of the paralegals told me they get confused on what to do between Christy’s answer and mine. (I brought this up to Christy as well, but she didnt get it, only shrugged her shoulders).

        1. Observer*

          I brought this up to Christy as well, but she didnt get it, only shrugged her shoulders

          I suspect that she gets it but doe *not* care. People are being made uncomfortable and she shrugs? That is not eagerness to help.

    4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      100%. It sounds like there are companies that very rarely promote from within and the only way to move up there is to leave and come back when your title is higher. From the letter, it’s not clear whether that’s the case in your company, but do some digging and see if you can find out if this is a company-wide trend or something specific to your manager.

      Are there any people who have the next title up that you have a good relationship with? If so, they might be able to shed a bit of light on generally what is required of someone at that level. Obviously, I can’t say whether doing what that person says will satisfy your boss, but it couldn’t hurt.

  6. stratospherica*

    LW4, on top of agreeing with Alison’s advice about sticking it out to get your degree before going to Taiwan, I also do want to caution that visiting Taiwan is inevitably going to be very different to living in Taiwan, just like any vacation. There is always going to be a level of drudgery involved with living anywhere, and East Asia has more than its fair share of people who have moved across the world due to feeling like they’re in a rut, and realising that doing so did not get them out of it (take it from someone who moved to Japan and, despite loving it here and having lived here for 7 years and counting, still ended up having to deal with the problems I hoped to leave behind!).

    Highly recommend that you finish your degree and give teaching in Taiwan a shot with a sense of accomplishment and freedom from any personal feelings of deadlines or pressure. You’ll have a much better time! :)

    1. JSPA*

      Taiwan and Japan are very different. Would you equate Canada and Mexico? Sweden and Greece? I’m not fond of lumping countries. It’s especially a risk when someone comes from a situation of, “they looked similarly exotic from where I started” (which doesn’t change, just because you develop deep insight into one of them)– this may or may not apply in your case, but it’s broadly something to guard against.

      1. stratospherica*

        Taiwan and Japan are indeed very different countries, and I apologise for making it sound like I was conflating the two countries. I had meant to provide an anecdote to express that problems you’re having back home don’t stop existing because you’re in a new country, and that your experience living in that country is going to be fundamentally different from your experience visiting it.

        I studied Mandarin and Japanese at uni so I know a fair few people who moved to Taiwan, and from what I can tell from keeping in contact with those friends, “Person who move from a western country to East Asia to teach English hoping it’ll solve some issue, when in fact the issue ended up being inside them so they had to address it anyway” is a recurring character.

        1. JSPA*

          Oh, 100% agreement on that. But the past few years have legit been structurally problematic! I would not want to assume that the LW is trying to externalize some internal issues (common though that is).

          I’m at an age where friends are doing second careers, or a pause between careers (a short-term pseudo-sabatical / pseudo- retirement while still in good health) or actual retirement, or teaching in lieu of elderhostel / retirement. From that vantage, taiwan and Portugal seem to get similarly high marks for interest, affordability, porousness of the expat / native-born divide, minimal skeeveyness. (FWIW, while Taiwan is modestly behind much of Europe regarding LGBT issues, it has made legitimate strides, and is now one of the LGBT friendlier (and safer) places in Asia.)

          And for those who want to experience some aspects of Chinese culture without going to the PRC, it’s an obvious choice.

      2. Sorrischian*

        I think if stratospherica had made essentially the exact same comment but swapping in Sweden and Greece for Taiwan and Japan, it would be just as fine and make just as much sense, though. They’re sharing a highly relevant personal experience that happens to be in a different country than the lw’s, and “living somewhere is very different from going there on vacation” isn’t exoticising anything.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I definitely think there is validity to hearing experiences from people who have taught English abroad, even if in very different countries. Yeah, every country is different as is each person’s experience but there are some commonalities about how visiting a country is different from working there.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I didn’t read that as a comparison of the two countries, but as a comparison of the difference between holidaying somewhere and taking a job and living somewhere. The fact that a job is a job, and life admin exists, will be true in every country.

      4. Never a name*

        I think the point is that vacationing somewhere doesn’t give you an accurate idea of what living and working there will be like. I’m learning that lesson right now without leaving the US, having been lucky enough to find a job in my field in a popular tourist area that I always loved visiting. It has its perks, but is hard in many ways I hadn’t anticipated and definitely not a cure for burnout.

        1. Shandra*

          Yes. I’ve known people at three different companies, who transferred from the head office in a major city to offices in other states. They all returned within a year.

          One colleague thought having a stable job would make everything else in the new state manageable. Another had moved to be closer to family, and discovered that the family loving the area didn’t mean the colleague would. The third found that they missed their family back in head office city.

      5. Usagi*

        Come now. stratospherica is not saying those countries are similar or equivalent. This is a bad-faith read of that post.

      6. Mameshiba*

        Japan and Taiwan are incredibly similar in the manner stratospherica was describing them, which they know from actually living in one of them and visiting the other.

        Really bizarre to see someone with seemingly no connection to Asia criticize someone with explicit connections to Asia of thinking Asian countries/regions are “similarly exotic”…

    2. Lola*

      Agreed about visiting vs living and working somewhere. I moved to California for a grad school internship, and was lucky enough to find an apartment right by the beach in Santa Monica. My Midwest family was so excited for me – what a life. But I still had to get up and drive to work every day, and it ended up being one of the most professionally stressful years of my life. Sure, the beach was great, but I can’t help but associate that area and time in my life with a lot of anxiety and stress.

  7. Whirligig*

    To #4, do it. You have a plan you’re excited about, that’s achievable, that would earn you money and give you both great life experience and great career experience. What would you have after graduating that would be better than that?

    If you need a bachelors degree later, there are tons of ways to finish a degree, including taking online classes from Taiwan. Whatever degree you’re working on probably isn’t that useful anyway, if it isn’t qualifying you for a specific profession. You could have a great career and not need a degree at all. You might change your career goals and need a degree in a specific field.

    In my experience, working full time gave me a much better idea of what I wanted out of life. I went back to college a few years later with different goals and a more focused mindset. I was dumb enough to finish my original degree first, so then I had to spend more time and money on a second bachelor’s degree I’d actually use. I wasted years of my life because I was too cowardly to drop out of college when I desperately wanted to. Don’t do that. Go teach in Taiwan.

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      “What would you have after graduating that would be better than that?”

      The exact same thing, only with a bachelor’s degree too.

      1. Usagi*

        +1. This close to the finish line is not a good time to divert; you can always do this after graduating without as high a risk of it derailing something.

    2. US expat formerly based in Asia*

      I mostly second this, but OP shouldn’t do online classes from Taiwan to finish his degree. After the gap year, he’ll need to go back to the US, get accepted into as strong a college as he can get admitted to, and ideally major in something related to Asia. If it’s a lower-tier school, dual major in something related to business as well. Then apply for analyst programs, which are many notches above teaching English. If he’s at a higher-tier school and majors in something like international relations, it might also be wise to do Wall Street Prep or a similar financial modelling course.

      1. Amalfi*

        “fter the gap year, he’ll need to go back to the US, get accepted into as strong a college as he can get admitted to”

        A better route is to get an official leave-of-absence from their current university and return there after a year. They can also apply somewhere else if they feel like transferring is in their best interest, but with only a year to go, I would not transfer. It will likely result in an additional year due to mismatches in required coursework.

        I am pro take time off to teach, if you can get a job.

    3. Spearmint*

      “ Whatever degree you’re working on probably isn’t that useful anyway, if it isn’t qualifying you for a specific profession. You could have a great career and not need a degree at all.”

      Look, there are people who have successful professional white collar careers without BAs, but they’re rare. Most good white collar jobs require a BA. A BA alone won’t get you a job, but a lack of one will close a lot of doors.

      1. Firecat*

        Yeah I was coming here to say the same thing. Not only is it harder and harder to get any entry level office jobs without a bachelors degree, but even older coworkers (my FIL is 63) are getting shut out of their SME roles for not having a degree related to the role they have held for decades.

        In addition, having a Bachelors is often not enough to get into management or most mid-senior level roles anymore.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        My sense is that most undergrad degrees aren’t so much about the domain-specific knowledge/skills that you get as they are about demonstrating that you can put in the time and effort to finish. Ideally, you also learn general skills like writing, thinking things through, time management, collaboration via the dreaded group project, problem-solving, etc. There are, of course, exceptions to this, like engineering, where the domain knowledge is vital. But I think a lot of jobs that require/recommend a BA are more interested in whether you have a degree than the specific field it was in.

    4. Colette*

      A degree can open doors, even if it’s not directly relevant – we can argue whether that should be the case, but the fact is that is the case.

      If the OP was struggling with whether she had chosen the right field, I’d agree that taking some time to figure it out would be a good idea. But it doesn’t sound like she’s doubting the degree, just that she’s sick of school – and that’s unlikely to go away during a year abroad, particularly one where she’s still going to school every day.

    5. Lenora Rose*

      “Whatever degree you’re working on probably isn’t that useful anyway”

      Wow, what a strange thing to say.

    6. Mid*

      So someone who has no teaching qualifications should just go be a teacher in a foreign country because it’ll be fun and cool for them? What about the students who are stuck with a totally unqualified teacher? Do their future careers matter here? Any school that will hire someone with just an AA and a quickie TEFL certification is not a good place to work. And teaching is a difficult skill set to develop, especially teaching English as a Foreign Language. Would you tell someone to drop out of school to be an electrician for a year without training?

      1. Mid*

        Sorry, pressed enter before I finished typing!

        I think taking a gap year can be great (I did it, and it was a gap 2.5 years, and I did go back to school after and got my degree.) It’s best if there is a good plan in place for that gap year (like working with a specific program to volunteer for a year, or interning, or even just traveling the world with a plan on how to support yourself and go back to school), but plenty of people pause school just to recover for a while.

        However, we really need to stop encouraging people to treat teaching EFL as if it’s a fun little hobby that anyone can pick up and do without proper training. That does a massive disservice to the students who are paying tuition to get a quality education. It does a massive disservice to actually qualified local teachers that can’t get hired because schools want a white native English speaker instead. It does a disservice to actually trained EFL teachers. Teaching isn’t a vacation, and it shouldn’t be done lightly.

        There are ways to work abroad/take a break for a year without being a teacher. You can do remote gig work, you can do childcare (if qualified) or housesit, or work in food service, or train as a lifeguard and work on a beach, or be a camp counselor, or do AmeriCorps or ConservationCorp and cut down trees in the woods.

        And also, with only two semesters left, I’d truly try to just finish the degree. It’s so close to over. Maybe there are summer or winter classes you could take to speed up graduation. Or study abroad programs that would give you a change of pace without delaying your degree. But what ROC doesn’t need is another unqualified TEFL American wrecking havoc in a classroom.

  8. wanda*

    “You can always go back and teach in Taiwan afterwards if you want.”
    There’s an increasingly non-zero chance that Taiwan will be involved in a war in the next two years, which means that there might not be much (or any) of a free Taiwan to return to.

    That said, I would advise that the person finish the degree. A BA or BS on the resume just makes so many other opportunities possible.

    1. hardlycore*

      This is fearmongering and really not accurate. Nobody serious thinks China will invade or occupy Taiwan in at least the next five years, if not before the end of the decade; anyone who says otherwise probably has a financial interest in selling you military equipment.

      OP4, please finish your degree. The types of ESL schools abroad that hire people without bachelor’s degrees tend to be extremely sketchy and don’t treat their employees well. Contrary to the headlines, Taiwan will still be there in a year.

      1. len*

        Agreed. The pearl clutching about this apparently imminent war in these comments is bizarre and off-base.

    2. Observer*

      There’s an increasingly non-zero chance that Taiwan will be involved in a war in the next two years, which means that there might not be much (or any) of a free Taiwan to return to.

      Which also means that this might be a seriously unsafe idea *and* that it’s likely to be a lot more stressful than it would be today to live there.

  9. John Smith*

    #1, If you could get away with it, after Christy gives her answer, say to the questioner “Wow, my lips didn’t even move when I said that!” loud enough so that Christy can hear. I’ve found this works 90% of the time. For the other 10%, a direct interruption as soon as Christy starts answering (or even if she moves her chair) should work. I would get up, stand in front of her, point to her desk and politely but firmly direct her to continue to whatever she was doing. Stay there until she does so and simply repeat the instruction without getting into any conversation.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I’d be worried that would land as a little passive aggressive. I mean, Christy kind of deserves it but the problem with passive aggression is you often leave the other person feeling the negativity you’ve put out there, without clarity on why.

      It should be obvious but the LW has raised it with Christy and she didn’t even get it then, so passive aggression or sarcasm probably wouldn’t get anything across to her, and would risk making the LW look bad to others.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah it’s definitely a YMMV one; I have used it myself a lot and I definitely agree with John Smith that it certainly works; for me it works best if you have a warm friendly relationship. I do agree with you though that because Christy has already been asked not to do this it might be a bit awkward for OP pretend she’s joking after a serious conversation. It’s not impossible though – you can say “Whoa my lips didn’t even move” and then follow it up with “Christy is really keen as you can see – we were talking just the other day about how she knows all the answers to my questions!” I think it might be simpler though to just say: “Excuse me, I need to answer this”. If the OP is sure the question asker is on their side (from the body language ,it sounds like), then just say: “Oh Andrew, I’m going to interrupt here – did you need me to answer that?”

      2. JayNay*

        But Christy is already being aggressive, it’s not OP who’s “putting negativity out there”. OP has already talked to Christy about not butting in to answer questions. She’s still doing it. At that point, you kind of deserve what’s coming to you.
        FWIW, i chuckled at John Smith’s suggestion and I’m pretty sure it would do the trick.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I think the point is that the LW has nothing to gain by adding negativity, and it runs the risk of making them look snide in the eyes of the person asking the question (I think this is especially true given the LW is the most senior person and Christy is new). I think it’s better to take the high road in this case.

        2. Colette*

          Passive agression comes from a place of weakness. The OP can use her words without being passive agressive – e.g. “Thanks, Christy, I’ve got this”, “Please let me answer”, etc.

        3. GIF*

          The problem with this is that OP1 is the lead paralegal and trainer. If it was her peer constantly butting in, the sarcasm might be considered a decent tactic. But if anyone else saw this particular interaction, it would look like a boss (or at least someone at the team lead level and with more authority) snarking at a subordinate.

          From what OP has said she hasn’t actually given Christy a direct order to stop answering questions, she’s explained it essentially as a preference. If Christy’s still comfortable saying “You can chime in,” as if she’s doing OP a favor, then she doesn’t think OP1 has an actual authority over her, and she apparently doesn’t think she can get written up or experience any actual consequences. At this point Christy doesn’t have to understand or agree, she just has to stop. “Christy, stop answering questions that are directed at me. The next time you do that, [insert consequence].” I don’t know how much actual authority OP1 has over Christy, but at this point if she doesn’t stop then *someone* higher up needs to be looped in.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah the consequence could be, “I’ll have to ask (our boss) about having you moved / asking you to stop” I guess, assuming OP has no authority over Christy.

          2. learnedthehardway*

            Agreed – the OP needs to have a conversation with Christy (again), point out that this is a performance expectation, and it is rude to answer for other people. I would approach it as a coaching issue, if the OP isn’t actually her supervisor.

            If that doesn’t work, then escalate to someone who IS her manager.

          3. Momma Bear*

            I agree. This isn’t just an answer problem but that Christy doesn’t see OP as above her in any way.

            I think another thing OP can do is encourage people to cut Christy off if they want to talk to OP. “Actually, I came to talk to OP.” Or maybe reframe it and say, “OP, do you have a minute?” and they can take the conversation away from Christy. But that still means Christy isn’t reining in her own behavior.

            I think OP needs to be very firm that they don’t like it, they want it to stop, and if people are coming specifically to OP, then Christy’s input at that point is not wanted or welcome. *Christy* can chime in later but needs to give OP a chance to respond to direct questions. It may not be comfortable to tell Christy, “This was directed to me. Please let me answer it,” but I think OP needs to speak up in the moment.

            Christy may be a very smart person but her impulsivity coupled with her attitude doesn’t make her a good team player.

            Also, is there any way to move Christy farther from OP?

        4. Usagi*

          The Christy situation is one where OP unquestionably has the moral high ground and is not a two person problem, it’s a Christy problem, both in reality and in coworkers’ perception.

          Giving snark/passive aggression instead of being unfailingly professional (in stark contrast to the unprofessional Christy) is the fastest way to lose that status. Then it will be a “OP and Christy are bickering”, not “this weirdo keeps interrupting my normal coworker.”

          Snapping is the weaker response, not the more assertive one. An unamused “Sorry Christy, Trevor was asking me, actually…” and then proceed to give your own answer, rinse, repeat, is much stronger and secures your status as the professional one.

    2. JSPA*

      I kind of love this. Which may mean it’s too snarky… except that I’d even smile (and step back for a while) if I were being Christy.

      But asking people to specify more thoroughly, “LW, I’d like to hear from your lips” when asking their questions, might be useful retraining as well.

      Finally, I’d guess Christy is starved for interaction and bored with her tasks, or easily distractable, or both. Asking her what she would need, to not get distracted by the conversations around her, would be a compassionate and possibly effective option.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          I wonder if Christy is trying to assert herself into being recognized, hence all this butting into other people’s conversations.

          Seeing as being polite with Christy didn’t work, if I were “Jill,” the moment Christy starts butting into a conversation, I’d look her straight in the eyes and say “excuse me, but I don’t recall [question asker] asking you to answer this.” Then keep staring at her until she finally realizes her input is not welcome, and hopefully she’ll squirm back into her cubicle. Is this being passive-aggressive? Yes. Does Christy deserve it? Darn right!

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            As stated above, though, that runs the risk of making Jill look like the bad guy here. We have the context of all of this, but the person asking the question may not.

            1. AnonInCanada*

              I take it by now most everyone in the office has witnessed Christy’s want to put her nose in places where it doesn’t belong, and I’m sure Jill can read the room to assert the passive-aggressiveness on Christy when it’s warranted.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                We don’t know that everyone in the office has witnessed this, and even if they have it still runs the risk of making it look like a very senior person (Jill) is belittling a very junior person (Christy). Why take that chance?

            2. Certaintroublemaker*

              The legal profession is argumentative. I think a legal office might have a higher bar for directness/assertiveness.

          2. JSPA*

            it can equally be the opposite of ego. I used to do quite a bit of this, thinking all the while, “correct information is what matters, all of us are mere conduits.” And, “by speaking up, I can save my superiors from needing to disengage from their important tasks to handle this distraction.”

            Mind you, this was before (most) search engines… before most internal documents were electronic and thus searchable…and as a hyperfast reader who used to have a near-photographic memory, I’d become used to being the default resource.

            It’s a bit different now, what with most info and most documents being searchable. (And when the distrctability is ADD, it’s more often diagnosed and fruitfully addressed.)

            But even these days, it’s (still) not necessarily a power play.

          3. Sloanicota*

            That’s not passive-aggressive, direct eye contact with an order is aggressive-aggressive. Doesn’t mean it won’t work though!

      1. Observer*

        Asking her what she would need, to not get distracted by the conversations around her, would be a compassionate and possibly effective option.

        Not in this context. She needs to stop. Period.

        Now, if the OP has authority and standing to make changes to Christy’s workflow and set up, she could *separately* ask her what would work for her. But this behavior is out of line no matter how bored or distracted she might be, especially since she was called out and doubled down on how it just isn’t a problem.

    3. Boolie*

      I would love to say to Christy: Thanks, Jill! And then just call her Jill instead of Christy for eternity.

    4. AMH*

      I don’t know, I think that this runs the risk of making OP come off poorly to the person who is there to ask a question, or making them uncomfortable. A firm, direct response as advised by Alison feels the most professional way to handle this.

    5. ferrina*

      My ex was a Christy- he would literally move to stand in front of me to answer a question asked to me. When I told him to knock it off, he responded the same way as Christy- “My behavior is just fine and I’m not changing!” When someone won’t listen to reason, some passive-aggressiveness may be called for.

      Other tactics (in order of what I’d start with):
      -When Christy starts talking, loudly say: “I’ve got this, Christy.” Then start talking over her. If this tactic doesn’t work after the first couple times, start using different tactics- this can risk turning into a volume contest, which your listener won’t want to be subjected to.
      -Offer to walk and talk. Tell the question asker that you’ll walk them back to their desk, or you were about to get a cup of coffee. Physically move away from Christy. I have a suspicion she may try to follow you. React as a normal person would- be really surprised and uncomfortable. What she’s doing is weird and should be treated as such.
      -Start talking and when Christy cuts you off, stare at her in stunned silence. Simply say “Why did you do that? I’ve told you I don’t like when you answer a question directed to me that I’m happy to answer” In front of the other person. Name the thing that is happening. It doesn’t matter what her response is- the point is to create a record in the Court of Public Opinion that you have clearly stated this boundary and Christy has clearly crossed it.
      -When Christy starts talking, say: “Hey Christy, this is that thing we talked about and agreed you wouldn’t do*. Let me answer the question addressed to me; if there’s something I missed, then jump in.”
      *She won’t actually agree to this, but you can claim she did. Is it gaslighty? Yes, and I’m only recommending this because she’s acting so horribly and completely dismissing you. This tactic either forces her to pretend like she did agree to this, or say “I didn’t agree that I wouldn’t interupt you!” which makes her look really bad. She may hate you for backing her in a corner like this- though honestly, if she attacks you because you forced her to not talk over you, her priorities were already out of whack and it was only going to be a matter of time before she found something to punish you about.
      -LAST RESORT: Ask the office gossip for advice on handling this. Gently make it known that you don’t enjoy having Christy interrupt you and that she won’t stop when you reasonably talked to her. The goal here is to undermine her reputation. Either she’ll learn, or the office will help you take steps to not have her take over. This is the nuclear option, and there is definitely a chance it will backfire.
      -NO MATTER WHAT: Don’t help her save face unless she backs off. Don’t make excuses or thank her. She’s acting weirdly, and her behavior should not be normalized. Ignore her or respond to call her out- whichever makes sense in the moment. Saving face is positive reinforcement for when she backs off. If other people start treating her weirdly, don’t defend her. Let her feel the social consequences of breaking social contracts (i.e., don’t speak for someone who doesn’t want to be spoken for)

      Note that Christy will not listen to reason. You’ve already tried that. There is a much higher chance she will listen to consequences. So call her out in front of people. Let her be embarrassed. She may be trying to make herself look good and build her reputation by stealing yours; make sure she knows she looks bad when she does this. Next steps are to be direct and assertive (she may step back when you assert control of the situation). Play to the audience- this is going to play out in front of your coworkers who are asking you questions, so think about who they are and what tactic will appeal to them. Make them witnesses. Your goal is to be the calm and reasonable one who is simply trying to answer a question and confused (and maybe frustrated) by Christy acting irrationally. Don’t go BEC with Christy- you stay your professional self who is clearly facing a weird situation.

      Also- make sure you have good people in your life that can validate your experiences and POV if/when Christy starts to react. My ex was a big fan of gaslighting and playing the victim- hopefully Christy is different, but if not, having a strong support system will help immunize you to that bs.
      Good luck!

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        Farina, wow.. your ideas are probably effective, though (remarkably) even harsh for me. (if it’s spouse/ boyfriend well yeah .. and I’m writing these down).

        But my favorite take away from your post is:

        LAST RESORT: Ask the office gossip for advice on handling this.

        Ooohhh! Could be useful in many situations. ;)

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, these aren’t what I’d start with. OP already did the right first step- talking directly with Christy. The fact that Christy dismissed OP out of hand made me worried. Christy clearly doesn’t see anything wrong with what she’s doing, doesn’t care about how it’s impacting the OP and she has doubled-down on doing that. Hence the escalated tactics- she’s not going to be inclined to change unless some external force makes her, and her actions are absolutely not okay and folks like this tend to escalate over time (not always, but often).

          I’m usually a nice person (really!) but I can get dirty when I need to (i.e., self-defense). There is a time to not be nice- folks like Christy rely on reasonable people to be nice and not rock the boat (or rather- Christy is rocking the boat and relying on you to stabilize it. Don’t stabilize that boat for her. Let her face her own consequences)

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Seconding all of this. I worked with more than one Christy and one of them would literally try to push me out of the way to jump in and answer.

        Responding in these ways may seem rude, LW, but it’s not. Please realize that people are asking *you* the questions, not Christy, so those people will benefit directly from you setting Christy straight. Think of pushing back as helping everyone else in the workplace (especially people who may be avoiding asking you anything because they don’t want to deal with Christy jumping in).

      3. Observer*

        When someone won’t listen to reason, some passive-aggressiveness may be called for

        In a work context, it’s asking for trouble. But I do think that given Christy’s response to OP’s attempts to talk to her privately, some of your suggestions make a lot of sense.

    6. Rachel*

      I think these kinds of come backs are fine for social groups or family.

      For work, I favor straightforward communication. One reason is because the person asking the question is put in a position where there is obvious conflict between the two of you and for me, personally, I never EVER get involved in beef between co-workers. I would resent them letting their conflict play out in front of other people.

      I do think these scripts sound cool in your head, I get the impulse, but I don’t think it should be acted upon.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Passive-aggressiveness and snarkiness at work, no matter how satisfying, rarely reflects well. It makes Jill look like she’s unable to address a performance concern directly and professionally, which clearly isn’t the case, since she’s already spoken directly to Christy. It also makes the person witnessing it very uncomfortable and just draws Jill down to Christy’s level.

      If there is a non-attorney leadership structure above her, Jill should talk to her boss. (Most firms I’ve worked for moved away years ago from having attorneys directly supervise, well, anyone on the staff, but I know smaller firms still have attorney supervisors.) This is off-putting behavior for all involved, and, while I’d bet that Christy is trying to show off her expertise, I’m not sure she understands how poorly it reflects on her both to her fellow paralegals and whomever it is that came for an answer from the senior-most paralegal. Alternatively, if she’s stuck with attorney leadership and there is an attorney who is more influential with the staff and not totally inept with people, a brief word from them should also do the trick. The vast majority of the paralegals that I supervised would be mortified to have an attorney tell them to knock off this sort of behavior, and, if Christy’s a glory-hog, she’s not going to want attorney thinking poorly of her.

      The most effective managers on my team use the strategy that Alison typically suggests – name the problem and the issue it’s causing, ask what’s going on with it, and then state what needs to happen instead, hopefully getting their agreement/buy-in. The ones who are snarky or indirect with their team are never the high performers.

    8. Artemesia*

      Christy has to be dealt with firmly and directly. She is scooting out of her cube to intercept the OP’s business. This calls for a CTJ conversation. If the OP has not authority to deal with her and she persists, it is worth involving the boss. This drastically undermines the OP’s authority and position. And of course is as annoying as F.

    9. Recently Retired*

      It seems that Christy needs to have the basics of “Cubicle Farm Etiquette” spelled out to her.
      1. Stay in your cube and listen to the question being asked (as it’s distracting you from your work anyway).
      2. Listen to the answer that is put forward. (You might actually learn something new.)
      3. If the answer is incorrect, or you have something substantial to add, or a question about the response, then you put forward your information as you join the conversation.
      4. Return to your work when that topic is complete!

      “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

    10. She of Many Hats*

      An alternative would be in that conversation with Christy about jumping in on conversations with the LW & someone else, I would point out that if she’s constantly listening to answer questions asked of others, she is not focusing on her work the way she needs to ensure it’s done correctly or not completing it in a timely manner. That is as big of issue as the interrupting.

  10. Expat*

    To #4
    I would highly recommend finishing your degree and getting at least a year of job experience related to your career path.

    A lot of people who come to Asia, or at least in Japan where I currently live, to teach English tend to get stuck because they came right out of college and they don’t have any job experience related to what they want to do later on, so they stay stuck in English teaching where there is little growth.

    I know many people who are stuck in that cycle in Japan where they want to get a better job but continue to teach English because they don’t have any other types of work experience.

    I was able to continue my original career trajectory in Japan after teaching English only because of the work experience I had after college as well as the internships I had during college.

    Teaching English is a very short-lived career for advancement and salary, so please think about your future plans before you make any big decisions. A year of teaching English probably won’t hurt much, but several years might.

    Unless, of course, you decide you love it and continue to teach, in which case, keep on doing it if you’re happy with it! :)

  11. Shelly*

    Take the break from college, especially if you have a specific place to work in mind and are aware of the salary/conditions. Taking a break from school to teach ESL is a different experience than teaching ESL professionally. It’s the difference between backpacking and staying in hotels. Obviously you want to be safe and do your research but you aren’t looking for a career just a change of scenery and even if it sucks, you can go back home.

  12. Mackenna*

    #1 – I used to work with a guy who did that too. We were working in the gaming room of a hotel that belonged to a minor chain that his parents had an ownership stake in. He had actually lived in the hotel for a couple of years as a small child, 25+ years earlier, and despite the time lapse still considered it to be “his” hotel. Never mind the management structure which had several layers of people above him, or that role was on equal footing to mine. Every time a customer asked me a question, he would walk over and start talking. I noticed that he did not do this to any of our male co-workers, just me (a woman).

    I started by waiting until after the conversation concluded and asking him to please not do that. That did not work. I then started just answering the question as though he wasn’t standing there talking, which just meant that the poor customers couldn’t understand me, as he would just keep talking as well. I then started saying “excuse me” when he started talking. That did not work. I then started repeating “excuse me” until he stopped talking, which was often over a dozen times, at which point I would point out to him that they had asked ME, and then I would turn to the customer and answer the question (poor customers! But by this time I was too angry to be able to pretend to be professional). I complained to supervisors, who talked to him, and he ignored them. I escalated it to a complaint to management, that went nowhere.

    Meanwhile, I was becoming more enraged by it by the day. What can I say? Misogyny infuriates me. I ended up getting so angry about it that as he turned and started to walk across to where I was standing in front of the customer who had just asked me a question, I would turn to him and bellow “NO” at him, before turning to the customers and answering the question.

    You would think this would be obvious enough, wouldn’t you? An ordinary person would. He did not. One night I did it multiple times, before HE pulled me aside and attempted to tell me off for being rude. He was short on manners but, oh boy, not on audacity! I say attempted, because that conversation did not go the way he was anticipating it would. However, he did stop, for a while.

    I ended up being fired from that job a few weeks later when I made yet another complaint to the general manager of the hotel about this coworker. The interrupting and talking over me was just one of a number of infuriating and rude behaviours he had, that other coworkers at that hotel were also infuriated by. I foolishly thought that if only I could make management understand how insufferable he was, they would pull him aside and put an end to it. Instead, I found myself in a meeting room being screamed at, not only by the general manager, but also by an external consultant they had brought in specially for the occasion. I had, unfortunately, forgotten that his parents were part-owners of the holding company that owned the hotel, and were obviously of the school of thought that their child could do no wrong, no matter the amount of complaints logged and evidence to the contrary. Oops. Lesson learned.

    But at least, after I was fired, it did still mean I no longer had to put up with his insufferable rudeness any longer, so I was able to move past it quite quickly. I was in the final few weeks of my final semester at university at the time, and two months later I moved cities and industries, and have been working steadily in an entirely different field for over two decades now.

    I have recently decided to change career directions again, and move up into management. This episode is one that I have filed in my memory under ‘behaviours to not allow among staff that I manage, at all, ever’. I was not the only staff member to leave (or be fired) as a result of one poorly behaved and poorly managed individual, in fact I recall often being asked if I could do extra shifts on short notice – because, for some reason, the hotel had issues retaining staff.

    1. Owlet101*

      That person sounds horrible. Good thing they had mommy and daddy to make sure they have a job.

    2. Amalfi*

      You were also fired bc of your behavior in front of customers. Golden Boy was wrong, insufferable, and sexist. That doesn’t mean you can address things by talking at the same time so that customers don’t understand either of you or by bellowing at him in front of them.

      I always remember the letter from the person whose boyfriend had an affair with an intern, who then tried to destroy LW’s reputation: her management told her not to become a problem while they dealt with the situation. The takeaway here is, when there is a problem, don’t deal with it by becoming a problem yourself. You had a problem, and you became a problem. That’s why you were fired.

  13. Gen*

    #1 I’m ashamed to say I was the Christy at an early point in my career. I personally didn’t realise it was a problem until a coworker emailed me (at our manager’s behest) in frustration, the whole thing escalated quite unpleasantly from there. It still took me years to unlearn that just because I can answer a question quickly doesn’t make interrupting helpful. Personally it turned out (decades later) to be a neurodivergence issue, but there’s lot of reasons people can be socially awkward. OP, if you’re in a training position, could you use that as a route to addressing the issue?

    1. Miss Kubelik*

      I had to train myself out of being like that too, and I also suspect that my neurodivergence is related. I’m finding some of these comments kind of hurtful honestly, with the leaps to “it’s a power play!” and all the other reading malicious motivations into it when there are other ones possible and personally it was always just my desire to be helpful outweighing other considerations. I often get frustrated by the assumption of malicious intentions here. It can be useful to consider a lot of possibilities, including the more negative motivations, so you can be prepared for whatever may be at play when addressing the situation, but at least acting like you think there may be something more positive behind it will often get better results when confronting the person.

  14. Anon for this*

    #3, we had someone irreplaceable in our company. She had a unique combo of skills and experience. But she stopped enjoying her job. She wanted to move to a different department, but our boss wouldn’t let her because she was irreplaceable. (He’s mostly great, so this was unusual – and a sign of just how irreplaceable she was). So she quit.

    Her replacement is great.

    Go ahead and job search. The company will cope.

    1. Antilles*

      Unless your title is “CEO and President”, nobody is irreplaceable and the company will find a way to muddle through.
      And frankly, if the company *does* collapse because of the loss of a single accountant or teapot designer or mid-level manager or so forth? That company clearly was already about to fall apart anyways.

        1. The Original K.*

          Yep. They may be harder to replace than a more junior-level person, but they can be and are replaced.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is what I tell people every time I get the they’re-too-valuable argument – do you want them to quit? Because the transition from that road is going to be harder than if we still have them around to facilitate the transition and answer period questions from their successor.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        The quote I always saw was “If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.” It seems to be true.

    3. Mill Miker*

      I, apparently, actually did cause a small company to fall apart by leaving, early in my career. They couldn’t find someone to replace everything they had me doing within their budget.

      The lesson I took from that, was that if it feels like the company will collapse without specifically you, then that’s a sign it’s time to leave. That’s an incredible and unfair amount of stress to put on one person. I’m someone who’s overly prone to feeling guilty, but I still found the guilt for leaving that job dissipated fast. Even when I ran into one of the company owners at a conference and he introduced me to his date as the guy who ruined his company (okay, he was nice and called me the “only reason the company lasted as long as it did”), I couldn’t muster up any guilt.

      Either they’ll be fine without you (so don’t worry), or they’re exploiting you (and you owe them nothing).

  15. Aquamarine*

    She said, “Well, you can chime in.”
    Argh – I’m finding Christy VERY annoying!!

    1. I have RBF*

      I would probably end up snarking at her: “No, Christy, I don’t need to ‘chime in’. The question was asked of me, not you, and I will be the one to answer it. This means that you need to shut up and go back to your own work now. You are not me, you were not the one asked, so I need you to mind your own job, not try to do mine. Am I clear??”

      The type of thing she is doing is deliberately undermining the OP. It needs to be shut down hard, in no uncertain terms, every time. There comes a time when “nice” won’t get the point across, and since “nice” and “subtle” hasn’t worked it’s time for bluntness or pointed comments explicitly naming the bad behavior and saying what needs to happen instead.

  16. Siggie*

    OP1, have you asked Christy why she does this? I understand how frustrating this behaviour is, but people have different reasons for doing this, and while some of them are rude or otherwise designed to cause some mischief or undermine you, some people are just genuinely excited and eager to jump in and help.

    In my experience, I’ve had more of the latter. Some of these “helpful interrupters” have been neurodivergent like I am (meaning there are different communication styles involved, but absolutely zero malice or rudeness intended), others were only wanting to be helpful, including by jumping in because they knew I was carrying a heavy workload and was constantly being interrupted.

    Lines like, “thank you for the support, Christy, but I don’t want to interrupt you from your work. I’ve got this” usually work when delivered kindly at the point of interruption, followed by a private conversation where you emphasise that you know they want to help, and appreciate it, but you’ll give them a shout if you need to interrupt them to obtain their input.

    1. Observer*

      I understand how frustrating this behaviour is, but people have different reasons for doing this, and while some of them are rude or otherwise designed to cause some mischief or undermine you, some people are just genuinely excited and eager to jump in and help.

      I cannot think of a single acceptable reason to do this, even “eagerness to help.” And it clearly is NOT “eagerness to help”, since the OP has explicitly *told* her that it is not helpful.

    2. Samwise*

      Yep, Christy needs another 1-on-1 from the OP (in addition to Alison’s script for in the moment): Christy, I need you to listen carefully to me. Do NOT jump in to answer questions others ask me. It is rude and disrepectful to me, and it makes you look bad. It doesn’t matter WHY you are doing it. You have to stop.

      Whatever her explanation or excuse, cut it off: Your motivations don’t matter, your behavior does. Stop jumping in to answer.

    3. ferrina*

      The “why” isn’t the OP’s problem to solve.

      I’m ND as well (ADHD), and boy, I do love interrupting. But that’s not my coworker’s problem to solve- it’s mine. I’m responsible for my brain, and I’m in the best position to have insight and know successful strategies. Once they state their need, how I respond is my responsibility. I can ask for help or accommodations, but ultimate responsibility is mine.

      OP has already told Christy to knock it off. Christy has stated that she had no intention of stopping the behavior. Whether Christy’s motivations are ND or not are not OP’s job to solve.

  17. Rebecca*

    LW 4: finish your undergrad! I began my teaching career by getting on a plane and taking an ESL job in South Korea, literally weeks after finishing my undergrad and 3 weeks after I turned 22- they did a job fair at my school and I jumped at the chance. It was the best thing I ever did – that first job was a pretty awful job, but I had money and an apartment and I was in Korea.

    Finishing your undergrad first matters for two reasons:

    1. because of the quality of the jobs you will get. You don’t need a postgrad teaching degree to teach ESl abroad, but the Bachelor’s is usually necessary to get a visa. Any job that is hiring you without the Bachelor’s is probably doing dodgy things with visas, and that is not a situation you want to put yourself in. I was at a school in Thailand that didn’t end up sponsoring work visas and we were going on visa runs to Cambodia to get tourist visas and hiding when inspectors came and it was Bad News Bears.

    2. No pressure or timeline to go back. I meant to go to Korea for a year and come back and start my Real Life, and instead, when it turned out I loved it, I was free to make it my real life. I ended up travelling around for my entire 20s, in a bunch of countries – I got my teaching degree a few years later, I levelled up the kind of school and teaching I was doing, moving into International Schools – and I just kept going for a decade. If you have one more year of your undergrad hanging over you that you have to go back for, you won’t be as free to just … go and take opportunities.

    2 semesters feels like a lifetime, but it’s worth it.

  18. Grey Coder*

    LW1 — if it helps you get over the feeling that it’s rude to interrupt Christy (even though she has butted herself in), think of it as helping the person who has come to you by providing them with a form of words they can use to cut her off too.

    In fact, if you are friendly with someone who regularly comes to ask you questions, I would arrange with them that they should interrupt Christy with “I’m asking LW1, not you. Please do not eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. “

    1. No Longer Working*

      I’m really surprised LW1’s coworkers have not spoken up in the moment! If I had a question for her and Christy butt in, I would totally say “I was asking LW, not you!”… maybe nicer, maybe not. And the rest of us would be rolling our eyes at Christy and she would not be doing this more than a few times in total. I don’t get why this has continued to happen and no one has come to LW’s defense and silenced Christy.

      1. Lily Potter*

        I used to be one of LW1’s co-workers. I learned quickly to ask my questions when “my” Christy was away.

        In my case, the finance team lead was very knowledgeable but was a particularly unpleasant person, and not someone to whom one wanted to be indebted for ANY reason. Whenever I’d go down there to ask a question of one of the Lead’s team members, Lead would butt in and answer the question. I learned to ask my in-person finance questions when the Lead was at lunch, unless I needed an instant answer. Her team members were quite competent and could usually help me without “assistance” anyway.

      2. Phony Genius*

        Yes, I’ve seen this happen several times, where the question asker does exactly as you describe. Some of this is on them, in my opinion.

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      I was going to suggest this, especially since LW1 sees that people are becoming uncomfortable. If there is a trusted co-worker or two who can help reinforce what LW is doing, so much the better.

    3. Indolent Libertine*

      Perhaps LW1’s co-workers don’t feel free to object because they don’t see LW1 objecting. I’m sure they are equally annoyed, but if the most senior person in the group is appearing to tolerate Christy’s behavior, it’s hard to imagine how a more junior person would feel like they had standing to speak up about it.

  19. Quake*

    Sorry to sidetrack here but the combo of the legal field and the name Christy made me picture it was Christy from the show “Mom” doing this. I could totally picture her being the socially awkward overachiever who would commit a social faux pas like this!

    1. EngineeringFun*

      Yeah, also since you are so much senior are people coming to you to talk about her work? I often see junior employees taking significant ownership in smaller tasks. They feel it necessary to prove that the work they did was impactful to the broader context. I often have to stop junior engineers from talking about heat transfer calculations to the marketing manager, when “calcs show it will not burn people” is all that needs to be said.

  20. Just why*

    Reasons number 45241 why Alison is answering these questions and I am not is because my answer to #1 was to get a spray water bottle or start hissing or making buzzer style noises to cut off Christy

  21. bamcheeks*

    LW4, I would recommend doing a LOT more research. Get extremely clear on what the requirements are for taking a break from college, and what you would need to do to come back and finish. Do a lot more research into TEFL qualifications, and how well-respected they are. Figure out how you’d find a flat and a job in Taiwan, and pay attention to things like salary (especially based on the type of job you’d be able to get if your TEFL qualification is one of the short two-three day ones, not a full several-week course which includes lots and and lots of classroom time and observation.) Find out what kind of visa you’d need, how much it would cost, how long it would last, what happens when it runs out and so on.

    I’ve faced this decision two or three times (been living and studying outside my home country as an EU citizen, and strongly considered getting a job and not going back), and generally I found that moving into the zone of “seriously researching” really clarified the decision pretty quickly. I did get as far as applying for jobs and having interviews one time, but then my partner got a job back home and that kind of made the decision for me. Other friends made the opposite decision and have now been living in the other country for ~20 odd years now, and what started as TEFL teaching has transformed into management coaching, training, writing and editing. (And sometimes I’m super jealous!)

    Also spend some time thinking about “what if it goes wrong” for both options– what if you go back, finish your degree, and never do go and teach abroad? What if you don’t find a TEFL job, or you find one but it’s awful and you feel stuck? How will you feel and what will your back-up plan be?

    There isn’t a right or a wrong answer here, but I think if you start thinking about it seriously, you’ll figure out that staying and teaching is a lovely fantasy but not realistic– or maybe that actually, you are ready for a giant scary leap of faith and you want to do it! Go and do a LOT more research, and you’ll probably find the decision makes itself.

    1. Mameshiba*

      This is great advice!
      As someone whose taken that path, teaching in Asia can be great! But you can’t get a good job without a bachelors, and it’s very easy to get stuck–mentally, professionally, legally! So set yourself up for success with some real concrete research first.

  22. Harper the Other One*

    OP5 – have you spoken further with your manager about your interest in promotions, or was there just the one conversation when he hired externally? The vagueness may have been because he was thinking “oops, I overpromised about a year to that promotion and being called on it is uncomfortable” – not a great reaction but semi-understandable in the moment. If you have 1:1 meetings, or if you can schedule one, maybe try sitting down and explicitly discussing career growth/professional development to see how he responds. I think that would give you a better idea of whether promotions are generally unlikely there or if it was just too soon when the first position opened up.

    1. addiez*

      That was my first thought as well! It’s more than appropriate to explicitly ask what you need to do to position yourself for a promotion, or what would your manager expect to see from you before you could be promoted. Some companies have a very clear answer, some don’t, but either way it would give you more information.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I wanted to warn OP #5 that some of that casualness – strolling in at 9:45 – may be more acceptable in a junior employee; it’s also something to consider if s/he takes this new role that such a relaxed start time might not be acceptable.

  23. Teapot Wrangler*

    OP5 – the money is not the issue. I’d have a chat with your manager’s manager and say

    I understood when I joined that it was normal to be considered for promotion after a year but when a role opened, I wasn’t considered. I’ve asked my manager and he wasn’t able to give me the reasons. Are you able to share? I’d really like to work on it so I can work towards a promotion in the near future.

    You might hear something you don’t like – you have a grave flaw that your manager isn’t willing to discuss, you need to wait five years – but if it is just your manager being flaky, this should help

    1. WorkerBee (Germany)*

      Before going over the managers head, I would recommend to have that same exact conversation with the manager. 1:1 meetings are for that type of question.

    2. Boof*

      I’m going to advocate that the money can’t be ignored, especially since the OP said it was a factor, even if it’s not the only factor.
      This is one of the few situations where it’s worth presenting to your home team “I could be making this much with these opportunities over there, but I really like it here, can you match what I’m making and can we really talk about my professional development goals for the year?” (or something similar, and very tangible)

  24. Sun*

    LW1 as a (former) Christy who still has to fight my Christy tendencies, Alison’s approach is the perfect balance to cut through her interruptions respectfully.

    A former colleague used some of the nastier approaches suggested here in the comments which still make me boil with shame. I was aware of my habit but saw myself as a “team player” in a very casual and collaborative workplace and had no idea how annoying or disrespectful piping up with my contributions was.

    1. Salted caramel*

      But… Christy was told her behaviour is rude already. Also, I don’t know in what office it is considered being a ”team player” to roll out of your cubicle to answer a question asked to someone else. Repeatedly. After you’ve been asked to stop. And certainly after being told that she can ”chime in” on a conversation meant for her, OP has no obligation to be considerate to Christy or invent various innocuous reasons behind her rude behaviour. Christy should be boiling with shame, but it’s pretty clear she’s not that type of person.

  25. These tables are my livelihood!*

    OP4, I took a year off before finishing my degree. I didn’t have a real plan but had to work my language skills back up to get to level of proficiency I needed for the remaining course requirements. I had dropped the second to last class because I was worried about failing as the language instructors went from some truly awful professors who were retiring and very checked out to some very good ones who were teaching at the appropriate level. In my year off I worked retail full time and got some language tutoring.

    Going back was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Part of that was because even with the tutoring my language skills, especially my speaking skills, were lackluster, but a good part of that was because most of my friends and peer group had moved on and graduated. I was also different, having worked full time and taken the first real break in education since I started school. Additionally I didn’t feel like I had good advising support from my school, which could have impacted the decisions I made in junior year and my options later on.

    Every situation is different but do yourself a favor and make sure you have a good idea and plan of what finishing the program looks like for you before you decide to take a break.

  26. Peanut Hamper*

    We work for money


    Jeans on Friday are nice, pizza Wednesdays are nice, but I’m good at my job, corporate profits are at an all-time high, and I deserve to be paid well for what I do. If I were independently wealthy, I would not be doing this job, and if I won the lottery, I would flounce out of here without giving an intent to flounce notice.

    That said, it’s a little easy to lean into the intangibles of a job that you currently have when you’re considering leaving. But I always reflect and realize that while a lot of things are nice, they may not be as nice as I think they are.

    1. SarahKay*

      I would flounce out of here without giving an intent to flounce notice.


      Otherwise, OP5, do your due diligence as Alison says, weigh up both intangible and tangible rewards for their true value to you and good luck with whatever you decide.

  27. Anon in Canada*

    OP5 – The notion that “people typically don’t get promoted after two years” is not necessarily true in all workplaces. At my old job, it was the norm to be promoted after 12-18 months; few stayed at the bottom longer than that unless they were doing it as a part-time student job, or unless they had no intent of ever moving up. My 15+ applications for the promotion submitted between the 1 and 2 year mark all went nowhere, and no one could explain why (I had great performance ratings). So I left.

    1. doreen*

      It may not be true of all workplaces – but that doesn’t meant it’s not typical. Although I am kind of wondering what type of promotion/field you are referring to where it was normal for people to be promoted between 12-18 months – the LW says they have received level promotions ( going from Teapot Specialist 1 to Teapot Specialist 2 ) but not title promotions ( Teapot Specialist to Teapot Supervisor to Teapot Manager). There are fields where TS1 to TS 2 is considered to be a promotion ( it isn’t always) and where they all do the same work and the only difference is the money , so that every TS1 can eventually become a TS3 – but there are also fields where all promotions are into different jobs , where there is a particular ratio of say 1 Teapot Manager to 3 Senior TS’s and 7 TS’ s to each Senior TS so 14 TS’s to each Teapot Manager – and in that sort of field, not every TS will ever become a Senior TS and probably not in 2 years as there must be a vacant Senior TS position before a TS can be promoted.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Retail banking. The vast majority of people who enter it with intent to move up are promoted from teller to personal baking associate within 12-18 months. I was there for over 2 years, and there was nothing wrong with my performance ratings, yet I still got the runaround. I saw 4 or 5 coworkers who got hired after me get the promotion after around 12 months while I still languished (and no manager was willing to say why). Coworkers were basically saying that in the situation I was in, if I hadn’t been promoted after 2+ years there, there was no point in still trying so I left.

    2. doreen*

      The fact that it doesn’t work that way in one particular job/field doesn’t make it not typical, especially when the LW says they have gotten level promotions ( such as Teapot Specialist 1 to TS 2, where they both do basically the same work but TS2 handles more difficult teapots and gets paid more ) but not title promotions , such as TS to Teapot Manager, where the work is different and you must often wait for a vacant position to be promoted and many people never are.

  28. DJ Abbott*

    #4, Alison is right that it’s harder to go back to school once you stop. I never finished my bachelor’s, partly because of that.
    I *hate* that employers have been allowed to put so much emphasis on degrees, not valuing experience at all. It’s simply a way of discriminating against people who didn’t get a good start in life.
    But since you’re so close, you might as well finish. When you go back to school, be good to yourself. Get enough rest – that makes a big difference! Do fun activities with people you like, as much as possible. Get it over with and go on with your life.

  29. xylocopa*

    #1 – I used to be a Christy, and for what it’s worth it wasn’t coming from a place of disrespect, so you may want to try to step back a little from taking it that way if you can–even though, yes, what she’s doing is rude and she needs to stop. I’m just eager to answer questions. Kind of left over from school, I guess? Ooh, I know the answer to this one! I can help! (Possibly the same impulse that has us all here commenting…)

    Luckily early on in one of my jobs I had a coworker who was very forthright about telling me that it bothered her–and then was patient while I got better at fighting that Must Answer Questions! impulse. I needed a few reminders but she wasn’t passive-aggressive about it. She’d say “hey, I’ve got this one,” or something like that.

    I guess I’m just saying that yeah, Christy sounds rude and irritating and she needs to learn to butt out, but it may very well not be coming from any kind of disrespect or power play, and maybe thinking of it that way can help you communicate with her?

    1. Some words*

      The mental image of Hermione shooting her hand up at every question & calling out answers popped into my head.

      In the long run it’ll be a kindness to train this habit out of Christy.

    2. Jaydee*

      Yeah, I had some tendencies to butt into conversations when I was a baby lawyer. It was never due to lack of respect for the people who were part of the conversation! Ironically, it probably happened more with people I liked and respected.

      Occasionally I actually had something to add to the conversation. But probably 95% of the time it was a combination of my ADHD brain seeking stimulation in the form of an interesting conversation with my peers and my school-derived need to prove my intelligence. (“Look at me! Grade me! Evaluate and rank me! I’m good, good, good and oh so smart!” – Lisa Simpson).

      I was thankfully less obtuse than Christy here and worked hard to back off when a couple of people made clear they found it annoying. But I wonder if Christy is either bored/understimulated with her own work and jumps in to answer your questions because they seem more interesting to her or if she’s subconsciously trying to prove herself since she’s a relatively junior paralegal.

      I’d suggest having a conversation with her that’s separate in time from any of her interruptions where you name the behavior and explicitly ask her why she does it. “Hey Christy, I’ve noticed an increasing pattern the last few weeks/months. When people come over to ask someone else a question, you often roll out of your cube and butt in before the person who was asked even has a chance to answer. This is just so far outside of normal workplace behavior that I’m wondering – why do you do it?”

      She may not have fully thought out her motivation, and asking her to state it will kind of force that thought process to happen. Then LW can set her straight about why interrupting isn’t helpful to others, won’t make her seem smart, isn’t a good way to cope with boredom or express interest in a topic, and will give her a negative reputation she doesn’t want.

      1. xylocopa*

        “Ironically, it probably happened more with people I liked and respected. ”

        Same here! Looking back, I think I had a little mini work-crush on the coworker in question–she was so good at her job! She knew what she was doing! See, I can be helpful too!

        Like yes it’s aggravating, it’s something Christy really needs to work on, and OP maybe you’re past the point of having patience. But maybe it helps with the patience if you’re not thinking that she’s necessarily trying to get in your way or outshine you or otherwise disrespect you.

      2. Boof*

        Yes between impulsiveness and a lot of early education and jobs basically rewarding speaking up / showing off knowledge, I can see how the habit would start up; just breezily / kindly / persistently tell Chrissy you got it. If Chrissy is actually well meaning she won’t double down / behave badly with this approach (vs, if she does start to behave badly, then that tells you something very different; one way to tell socially oblivious from jerk is how they react when corrected. Someone well meaning will not want to keep doing something that is upsetting others!)

        1. Expelliarmus*

          It sounds like OP DID tell her what the issue is, though, and she didn’t correct it. Which is presumably due to being obtuse, but yeah, she is still doubling down.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, while I agree it is rude, I also don’t think it comes from a place of disrespect. If anything, I’m guessing Christy is trying to show the LW how smart and capable she is in an eagerness for approval, she just doesn’t realize how it comes off. LW would be doing her a kindness to teach her to curb that impulse.

    4. Leems*

      Well put! As a gal with Christy tendencies early in my career, I was starting to compose a similar reply while scrolling through the comments, and you beat me to it. It was very much a transition from being rewarded for being a know-it-all in school settings to minding my own biz when in a cubicle-based space and folks weren’t talking directly to me.

      1. RVA Cat*

        It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the workplace is a whole other universe than school. Adulthood is built by and for C-students and that’s not a bad thing.

    5. The OG Sleepless*

      I was thinking the same. I work with a Christy, and I was thinking as I read these responses that she doesn’t come off as pushy or aggressive, more just awkward and like Hermione Grainger going “Me! Me! I know the answer!” Everybody in my workplace seems to know that it’s just how she is. She has a lot of positives as a coworker, precisely because she does take her job so seriously and really is trying to help. I just try not to let it bug me.

    6. morethantired*

      I also think LW1 needs to be clear to Christy *why* she shouldn’t do this. It sounds like from the “well you can chime in” answer that LW didn’t explicitly say to Christy “I understand that you are trying to be helpful, but it is rude to answer a question directed at someone else and it reflects poorly on you that you do it. If I need your help, I will ask for it or refer the question to you.”
      Christy obviously needs it spelled out to her that her behavior is the opposite of helpful. My guess is that she’s either terrible at reading social cues or that this sort of behavior is common in her family/home situation, so she doesn’t realize how it’s being perceived.

    7. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I think the disrespect comes in after she has been told to stop but doesn’t. Just because she doesn’t *intend* to be disrespectful doesn’t mean she isn’t *being* disrespectful.

  30. Peanut Hamper*

    #4: Finish your degree.

    I have found from experience that once you leave college, it is really difficult to go back and complete your degree, at whatever level. Life seems to conspire against you. Get it done, and get it out of the way.

    I know teaching English in another country sounds tempting, but that’s because it’s easy. And once you start doing easy things, it’s really difficult to go back and finish up the thing you thought was difficult.

    You’re in the final stretch…that degree will be a lot more meaningful to you and your career than a year teaching English overseas.

    1. Moodbling*

      Teaching English in another country is NOT easy, and in fact very hard if you want to do it well.

  31. Dread Pirate Roberts*

    For LW4 I’m a hard disagree with Alison and some of the commenters on this one – I’d say go with what it seems like you really want to do: stay and teach in Taiwan. A degree is not a holy grail but I’d argue incredible life experiences are, especially coming out of this awful period that has burned out many student. More employers are ditching degree requirements lately, and if you do decide to go back to complete a full degree it’s not as insurmountable as some others seem to think. I say this as someone who took a one year break from university before my final year to teach English in a French-speaking area, and later took a career break to teach English in a Spanish-speaking country, which ended up leading to a career job at a newspaper. And in my unrelated-to-teaching career afterward, potential employers were far more interested in my global experience and adaptability than my degree, and did not care one bit that I didn’t have a linear career trajectory.

  32. EPLawyer*

    #1 – I think you feel you can’t be more direct with Christy because 1) she is enthusiatic and energetic and 2) her answers are correct. But you can. Part of training people is also developing the soft skills. And one of the soft skills needed is to know not everything is about you (meaning Christy). Because of 1 and 2 you were probably softer in your wording that you should be.

    You need to be very direct – Christy you cannot answer questions not directed at you. If someone comes in to ask someone a question, you cannot involve yourself unless specifically invited to the conversation. You need to stay at your desk and focus on your work. Can you do that?

    If she can’t, then you need to consider if she can continue there because as I said its also about soft skills. If she can’t follow directives and work with others instead of dominating the conversation its a problem that will only grow. Until it affects the morale of everyone. Why should I bother answering questions, Christy will just step in anyway?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Seriously this.

      I don’t know if Christy is overconfident or has low-self esteem or what and I really don’t care; it’s not my responsibility to make her feel good about knowing it all. Just tell her, “Christy, Fergus asked me. I’ve got this,” and then talk to her later, in private, about not jumping in when someone asks me a question.

  33. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, the part that would really annoy me here is the “you can chime in.” Without that, I’d assume she was just showing off a bit, trying to impress you by showing that she knew the answer or that she just had a bad habit of interrupting. Neither of these things would be OK, but they would be coachable. In the first case, I would expect her to be very embarrassed once you pointed out that it was a problem.

    But a new member of staff telling their team leader she can “chime in” on a question that was directed at her in the first place, when that team leader is correcting her behaviour on interrupting…that would really annoy me.

    Would it be worth mentioning to her that it is making her look bad? Something like, “it’s not about ‘chiming in’. The question was addressed to me and interrupting makes you look unprofessional and will lose you goodwill from colleagues who are awaiting my answer and might be annoyed at your interruption.”

    I do think it is she who is likely to lose respect and not you.

    LW5, I think this is really about what matters to you. As Alison said, we do work for money and there is nothing at all wrong with taking the opportunity to earn more and to advance in your career. There is also nothing wrong with choosing to remain in a job you enjoy even if you could get more money elsewhere. Work-life balance, being respected by coworkers and management and being able to be your authentic self are also important.

    I don’t think either choice would be foolish.

    I would add that if you are getting to a point where you are feeling livid about the lack of career growth, it is possible that this will interfere with your love of your company. I have seen that happen with one or two colleagues. We have a great culture with many of the benefits you mention – genuine friendships between colleagues, management that promotes work-life balance and actively discourages us from working long hours, many people have spoken about how they can be themselves, understanding of different needs, etc, but I have had one or two colleagues who have been turned down for promotions they hoped for on multiple and who have ended up moving on and/or opting out of the culture because they began to feel like they weren’t valued.

  34. Kelly*

    #2 We had this problem with an assistant at my last toxic job. Most of us were friends on FB (extremely small company under 15 employees) and she posted a vent that she was sick of working with such “catty b******.” HR wasn’t even a thing so we talked to the office manager about it. It went nowhere because she cried about how terrible her life is (that she created because she told us EVERYTHING). It was worth bringing up, but you might not get anywhere.

  35. RPOhno*

    LW4, I’ve been in a similar, if somewhat more ridiculous, situation. I told my boss I had an offer on the table and before I could get past the “bad” in “I feel bad leaving when xyz” he cut in and said “Don’t. You didn’t make this mess.”
    It was a pretty liberating thing to hear, so keep in mind if you feel like you’re leaving your boss with a cleanup operation that you, in all likelihood, didn’t make the mess and aren’t responsible for cleaning it up.

  36. KittenLittle*

    #1 – We have a Christy who’s been interrupting me (and others) for a decade–and she’s a jerk about it. I have always wondered…why doesn’t the person asking the question ignore the interrupter? They always seem to reward the bad behavior by giving the interrupter attention instead of just continuing the conversation with the person they were originally speaking with.

    1. MsM*

      Because if you just came in for a quick answer to something you need to get back to whatever you were working on, you either really don’t care who gives you the answer, or don’t want to touch off interpersonal drama. That’s why OP needs to find a quiet moment to talk to her other coworkers about backing her up before this happens again if they want their support. (Also, it’s not clear to me whether OP actually manages Christy or not. If they don’t, this may be a piece of feedback for her boss.)

      1. KittenLittle*

        Oh! Well, that makes sense. But when everyone in the department handles specific tasks and someone is commenting on work they aren’t involved in…that’s kind of weird and rude. Plus, it is always a kindness to give a coworker a chance to shine once in a while.

        1. MsM*

          It is weird and rude! But much like it probably feels awkward for OP to call it out firmly every single time, it’s even more awkward if you really didn’t intend to be in the middle of this and maybe aren’t sure that forcefully correcting it will be helpful to OP.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I also think it can feel rude to ignore somebody. Yes, they are the one really being rude but people have also been socialised into being polite even when somebody breaks a social rule.

      I have a colleague who even goes beyond this. She doesn’t answer the question asked, but instead interrupts to say something that is usually completely inane and irrelevant. Like once two colleagues were discussing a work issue and she interrupted them to tell them what the weather was like in Chicago (this had nothing to do with what they were talking about and we are in Ireland!). Another time, I and another colleague were just chatting and she literally came over and raised a hand to silence us and started telling us some “hilarious” story that had nothing to do with what we were talking about.

      I think the bystander effect also comes into effect. My colleague tends to address a group so there’s a feeling of “I don’t want to cut across her in case other people are interested.”

      And she does have a bit of a tendency to play the victim. Her stories sometimes involve how somebody was very rude to her, without context and I guess people don’t want her next story to be how they so rudely cut her off mid-sentence or ignored her when she was speaking to them!

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Because that’s a lot of processing to ask of someone. If you’re the one being interrupted, then you do the work of correcting the interrupter–don’t ask the questioner to do it for you.

  37. Ally McBeal*

    LW1, I used to be like Christy. I still struggle with the know-it-all impulse. For me, it comes from a place of deep insecurity and need to prove myself as a smart, well-rounded, valuable employee (graduating college directly into the 2008 recession and the subsequent years of un- and under-employment did a real number on me). Ultimately this is Christy’s problem to solve, but if there are ways to acknowledge the good work she DOES do, I imagine that could help a little.

    LW4, I nearly dropped out of college in 2007 when I had two semesters left to go. I was so burned out and tired. But hoo boy am I glad I stuck it out, because if I’d left without finishing I’d have been in an AWFUL spot when the 2008 recession hit. You never know what the future will hold, and as tired as I am of hearing doom-and-gloom economists predict another recession that never comes (literally ten years and counting), if you’re able to finish your education without overwhelming debt you are going to be better set up when the recession does eventually arrive.

    1. Susan*

      I’ve been guilty of acting like a Christy myself in my mid-thirties, when I had to accept a job with a very male-dominated employer, where many of my male coworkers were less skilled/experienced than me and yet treated me like someone much junior to them who wasn’t “allowed” to be viewed as an expert by anyone (a behavior supported by our supervisors). Even if I knew that my behavior was considered wrong, I sometimes felt like I had to chime in when someone else was being asked a question just to demonstrate that I was knowledgeable myself.

      Maybe it also helps with some Christys if you give them some topics where they are allowed to be the experts (and you also direct all questions about those topics directly to them).

  38. Sharks are Cool*

    LW #4: So… if living abroad is something you’re going to regret not doing for the rest of your life, do it. I taught in Thailand for a year and received pretty much zero support, found out I didn’t like teaching (at least under those circumstances), and dealt with depression and culture shock. I also had an amazing experience and was able to get out of the rut I’d been in back home. I kind of disagree fundamentally with the system that allowed me to teach over there with a English Degree and an online TEFL certification–those kids deserved better. But if it wasn’t me it would have been someone else, and now I don’t have to deal with feeling like a coward and a failure for not following that particular dream. I also have memories of the adventures I had and adversities I overcame to remind myself that I am capable of hard things. Obviously Thailand is a different country and should not be conflated with your prospective experience in Taiwan! But sometimes you gotta follow your heart song, y’know? Disclaimer that I am an artist/writer currently working an extremely boring and underpaid office job while trying to finish my book/start my art business, so probably listen to someone else if you’re looking for sound career advice.

    1. Boof*

      I think it sounds like something that could easily be done another year after finishing said degree, tho, and that might at least get that out of the way. I do think school degrees are either best finished off or formally abandoned, not left dangling.

  39. June First*

    OP 2– In addition to sending a link as Alison suggested, also take a screenshot. Then you have the record even if she changes the privacy settings, edits, etc.

  40. Be kind, rewind*

    #5 I can relate – I left a job/company/team I loved (and actually for less money) because of a manager that didn’t want/wasn’t able to help me grow.

    In addition to the money, you also have to consider whether you’re learning anything new at your current job or if your skills are going to start stagnating.

  41. Not a Mermaid*

    #4 Let’s fast forward 40 years. What would you rather be able to say? “Gee I am so glad I had the wonderful experience and adventure of living and working in Taiwan for a year. ” or “I really enjoyed my stressful and unhappy year finishing my degree.” This is like the old saying that nobody looks back on their life and says they wish they had spent more time at the office.

    Go to Taiwan.

    1. Lunch Ghost*

      Except they don’t know it’s going to be a wonderful experience and adventure. It could also be stressful and unhappy.

      I do agree with the thought experiment of “what will you think looking back on it”, but I think you need to do it with the worst case scenario for both cases. Do you think you’re more likely to look back and say, “Boy, finishing my degree was really stressful and unhappy, but I’m proud of myself for finishing it,” or “Boy, teaching in Taiwan turned out to be really stressful and unhappy, but I’m glad I tried it because otherwise I’d be wondering what might have been.”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Except going to Taiwan only postpones the stress, it doesn’t eliminate it. The work will just be waiting when (and if) the LW comes back.

      Finish the degree and then really, really, enjoy your year in Taiwan.

    3. Jackalope*

      This comment is phrased in a very biased way. 40 years from now it’s just as possible that the OP might be thinking, “I’m sorry I didn’t get my degree first; the only company that hired it treated its staff horribly and it was a traumatic experience,” or “I’m so glad I stuck it out with my degree; that last year was rough but it got me into this job that I’ve really loved.” Or even “I’m glad I got my degree first because I loved Taiwan so much that I decided to stay a few more years and I had nothing dragging me back to my home country.”

      The questions above are more useful for the OP. I’ve seen a lot of good thoughts about things like looking into what programs you want to get into and what their requirements are – a lot of them require a BA to get hired – and seeing about what will happen if you drop out now and then want to come back (some schools that’s fine, others you have to reapply to, and what do you do about scholarships?), etc. There are multiple possible good options here, and the OP should do some more investigating and see what the beer options for her are.

      1. Jackalope*

        *The only country that hired **without** it*, ie without a BA. Too early in the morning.

    4. Saddy Hour*

      With respect, none of us (LW4 included) can know that it will be a “wonderful experience and adventure” in Taiwan OR that continuing their degree will be an unhappy year. This is the problem with flights of fancy — when you’re at a point of fantasizing, of course one option looks fun and exciting! Because it’s a fantasy! Why would you fantasize about all the dull, aggravating, difficult parts that come with that choice?

      I have no advice one way or the other, but some of the glib suggestions to Just Do It, It’s Fun! are aggravating for me as a 30-year-old who does, already, look back on my life and regret not finishing my degree. I didn’t make that choice for Fun reasons, but my one semester off turned into a year off, turned into a full time job, turned into a totally different career path that I hate and have been trying to escape for three years. I think it’s valid to take a year off if that makes sense financially and situationally for LW4, but that’s a serious decision and should be treated like one.

      1. Saddy Hour*

        Oops – when I started writing my comment, there were no other comments. Not intending to dogpile on you!

  42. alienor*

    LW#4 – if you had just finished your first year of college and were feeling burned out, it might make sense to take a year off. It’s pretty common for people to do a year right out of high school, realize they weren’t ready or chose the wrong college or don’t really know what degree they want, and switch plans.

    But with only two semesters to go, you’re so close to the finish line that it just makes sense to get it done. Not only can life get in the way of going back, but if you do, it won’t feel the same, and not necessarily in a “yay, I’m refreshed and ready to study” sort of way. It might sound like it would be very easy to slot yourself back into your own past life and pick up where you left off, but actually doing that can be harder than it seems. Just get through those last few classes, and then you’re free forever to do whatever you please, whether that’s teaching overseas or something else.

  43. HailRobonia*

    Re #4, I taught English in Taiwan for three years after graduation – however my context was significantly different, as I was a Chinese Language & Literature major in college and spent my junior year in Taiwan and my intent was to strengthen my Mandarin skills with a plan of returning to school to pursue an advanced degree.

    I had a great time living there but as others have pointed out, many ESL jobs are pretty low-level with less than stellar pay and practically no room for advancement.

    After returning to the U.S. I ultimately did not return to academia for a variety of reasons (I wasn’t sure about returning to academia, what I wanted to do as a career, etc.)

  44. Ms. Elaneous*

    LW1 the Christy problem

    The “wow my lips didn’t even move” is a great idea.

    I also wonder if people asking questions in AAM and agony aunt columns ever print out the answer, along with the comments, and anonymously leave them on their “Christy’s” desk. Daring, but very tempting.

    And just a note: after I was diagnosed with/ treated for ADD as an adult, I stopped doing this (I don’t think I ever shouted across a room, but I’m pretty sure I was annoying). If Christy is new to the work world, she may never have needed to reign herself in from going full-blown Hermione Granger with her hand in the air.
    How would one ever address an ADD possibility at work legally and politely? I have no idea. (I might print out the column and leave it anonymously on her desk.)

    If Christy keeps doing this, I would escalate to “Christy did you change your name to Jill?” I would deliver this in my best Teacher-of-4th-graders voice. (So that it arguably sounds kind).

    Ms. Elaneous

  45. Juicebox Hero*

    LW1, reformed Christy here.

    The important thing is to start pushing back on her pushiness now, politely and calmly, before you hit your limit and explode on her. It’s actually doing her a favor, by helping her learn workplace norms, namely that you don’t step on your colleagues’ toes.

    My Christy-ness came out in high school. I was trying to get brownie points with the teachers by showing off my knowledge and quick thinking. So I’d answer questions the teachers asked other students and correct other students if I thought they were wrong. Then one day a teacher almost-shouted at me that he wasn’t talking to me (and the whole class was staring at me and I just sat there wishing a black hole would suck me clear across the universe). Naturally I stopped Christy-ing, but the source of my Christy-ness was low self-esteem, which being made into the class laughingstock did not help!

    It would have been a zillion times better if the teacher had politely corrected me earlier on, even if it took a few times for the lesson to stick.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      I feel you Juicebox hero! As per my comment below it’s really easy to get into that sort of mindset especially if for example that’s your main source of praise as a child. I still like knowing the right answer better than a lot of things! But we all have to learn that in work (and often in general) that it’s not about us, it’s about the greater good (the greater good). If the right thing happens it mostly doesn’t matter who causes it to happen; that is teamwork. Obviously credit where it is rightly due, but you know what I mean. More important that a stranded otter is rescued than who does the rescuing, and if a colleague has mustelid-handling gloves and you don’t, they’ll achieve that outcome more easily.
      I have a colleague who annoys people because she will always jump at the chance to brief important people/attend a high level meeting even though she’s not always the one with the best subject matter expertise or whatever. Because it is more important to her to have “briefed bigwigs about the thing” or “attended high level meeting to decide the other thing” on her cv/application forms than to ensure that the bigwigs understood the thing as well as they possibly could or that the decision made in the important meeting was the right one. Part of adult behaviour to my mind.

      1. Amalfi*

        “If the right thing happens it mostly doesn’t matter who causes it to happen; that is teamwork.”

        I don’t know if you meant it this way, but this can be read as “if the questioner gets the right answer to their question, then it doesn’t matter if OP answered or if Christy answered.” Which is not wrong.

        1. Madame Arcati*

          Yeah I could have worded that better – I meant, OP was asked for a reason so we assume they are best placed to answer accurately etc, which is more important than Christy feeling like she gets a gold star for effort.

    2. Aelfwynn*

      Oh my gosh this story took me back to a time in middle-school when I was (I thought) quietly messing with my flute in band practice but also low-key showing off that I could play the intro bit to the “Titanic” song (My Heart Will Go On, of course). Our band instructor snapped at me in front of the whole class to cut it out. I sank into my seat feeling like I was about two inches tall, and teared-up. So humiliating.

      Definitely a bit different than LW’s situation since Christy is an adult, but some old habits do die hard. Agree with the advice here to firmly and politely try again with Christy before you (inevitably?) losing it on her. That said, if she’s been told politely multiple times to cut it out and is ignoring this very reasonable boundary, maybe exploding is what will finally shake her out of this.

  46. All The Things*

    OP1, can you preempt her chiming in before it happens? When someone approaches and she rolls out her chair, interrupt whoever is asking you a question and ask her if she needs something. If you do this smoothly it’ll look like you’re trying to be helpful!
    If she says no, you can say “ok then!” and stare her down until she rolls back. If she says some version of “I’m just listening/seeing if I can help”, then you can thank her and tell her you’ve got this, feel free to get back to work. Do not look back to whoever is asking the question until she has retreated. Make her look like a weirdo for intruding into a private work conversation.

  47. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW#1, is there any chance that the people asking questions could be encouraged to tell Christy that they were asking you when she starts this? Or even to gently redirect the conversation. Like after Christy says something, look straight at you and ask for your opinion / if that is correct.

  48. Water Everywhere*

    #3, what your team has is a management problem. Jane needs to step up her management of Dana and Marie or she’ll lose BOTH you and overworked Cathy. Two people should not be carrying the majority of the workload for a four-person team. You sound like a conscientious person and it is commendable that you don’t want to leave your coworkers in the lurch but you are not responsible for the situation your team is currently in. That’s on management.

  49. HearTwoFour*

    OP5, it sounds like you have created a great work balance for yourself – one that you might have to give up at this new company. I can’t help but wonder about the ‘indirect’ answer your boss gave when you asked about the promotion. Is it possible, even to some degree, that he wants you to show an interest to come in before 9:45, in order to get this promotion?

    1. Silver Robin*

      We are supposed to trust LWs on their assessment of the situation. LW 5 says they have gotten plenty of praise for their work and have strong relationships with everyone. Even if coming in at 9:45 were the reason, then it is on the manager to say that out loud instead of dancing around it when LW asked why they were not given the promotion.

      1. Gyne*

        It’s entirely possible that both are true. LW is doing a fantastic job at their current role, but the expectation of moving up to a different level of work or responsibility requires a different level of performance or availability, and LW’s manager isn’t great at communicating that.

  50. Madame Arcati*

    For LW#1
    Unhelpful advice: steal the castors off her chair. Bonus points if she doesn’t realise, tries to roll into your conversation and topples onto her back like a stranded beetle

    Possibly more helpful advice: if you spoke to Christy and she didn’t uNader stand what the issue was, as you say, then it might help to break it down a bit. In her head she might be simply thinking, I want to help, I know the answer* but hasn’t realised the other implication of her comments. “Christy, interrupting is impolite generally. In matters like this, when you interrupt to answer the question I’ve been asked for you, you’re implying that I’m not competent to answer which is both likely to be untrue and somewhat insulting [which I’m sure you don’t mean] – and of course you can see why that’s rude. Next, the person asking has come to me for a reason. That reason you must assume is valid, so you need to allow me to answer it. It’s also not polite to appear to question their decision to ask me and effectively insist they were wrong and should have approached you – also likely not to be the case.” Maybe, “it’s great that you want to be helpful but the biggest help you can give is to respect your colleagues and let them do the job they are trained and capable in.”
    *it can totally be a habit/mindset from education that one gets used to the idea that knowledge = praise and getting the right answer is rewarded, end of. Perhaps Christy is like this (I can relate!) and needs your help to learn and remember that there are other things at play (politeness, professionalism, the right person for the task at hand, and the fact that you are not competing to be top of the class), and having your hand stretched as high as possible saying “oooh pick me sir I know!” is not the be-all and end-all.

    1. Silver Robin*

      +1 lots of folks do not realize the implications of their behavior and why jumping in might be rude. Coworker wanted an answer, they got one, and it is generally correct, what could the problem be? But coworkers are not interchangeable and people’s choices matter, so if somebody chooses to ask LW, Christy needs to respect that. Especially as it makes complete sense for LW, with their decades+ experience, to be the one folks come to. Christy can (and will, since she is clearly bright and a quick study!) get to LW’s level on her own, without having to force it.

  51. Parenthesis Guy*

    #5 – It sounds like you’re not leaving because of your salary, but because you have concerns about future growth. That’s a bigger challenge in my opinion.

    As always, there is no cut and dry rule for when you should leave a job. But I can say that I’ve been nervous about all my moves, and haven’t regretting any of them.

  52. OfOtherWorlds*

    >You can always go back and teach in Taiwan afterwards if you want.

    I think the concern some people have is that if they don’t get to experience living and working in Taiwan now, there won’t be a Taiwan to go back to in a few years. Obviously the island won’t sink into the Pacific, but the worry is that with China set to complete an aircraft carrier that’s (on paper) equal to the American Nimitz class, Taiwan’s days as a de facto independent country are numbered.

  53. My Useless 2 Cents*

    I’m confused on #2. Is Sally an ex coworker or is she still at the same company but now in a different department than OP? I read it as the former (“ex coworker”, “former colleague”, “where I worked with”). I get that the optics aren’t great regarding Sally’s professionalism but I don’t see a manager at another company doing anything about an employee’s social media post about a former workplace.

  54. Gyne*

    LW5, take the job if you truly don’t see room for growth at your current role, just be careful what you wish for. Moving up the ladder frequently comes with more money but also more work and less flexibility. Not always, but often. As Alison said, we work for money. You don’t usually get handed more money without more work, more responsibility, more hours, or something.

  55. DivergentStitches*

    OP #5 – I recently left a job solely because of money.

    I was working for a mid-sized midwestern company that is publicly traded – at least, that’s the only reason I can think of that the salaries are so low and the leadership continues to ignore and deflect questions about salary increases for everyone. I loved my job – the title, the work, the team, my boss – I was just severely underpaid. $55k for what was essentially a project manager role that they classified as client service in order to keep the salary subpar.

    I couldn’t afford my bills and so I reluctantly left for a 55% increase. Same industry, but a private company. The interview process didn’t answer all of my questions and it is a call-center-adjacent role, which I do not want to do due to a.) neurodivergence, b.) being older and having 20+ years of experience and just c.) not wanting to. But I am here, and I’m committed to doing my best work for a year until I can work my way into an internal transfer to the work I was doing before.

    Looking back, would I make the change? Yes, I would. The money has been a huge game changer for my family – we’re not charging things to a credit card just to get to the next paycheck.

    The downside is that trying to go to any other company would most likely be a salary reduction. And I have a weird work ethic where if I commit to a job, I don’t want to give up on it, so I’m not going to bolt like others who were hired with me who were also not told about the call center aspect. So I’m going to try to make it work.

    1. Observer*

      And I have a weird work ethic where if I commit to a job, I don’t want to give up on it, so I’m not going to bolt like others

      I’m going to take your word that there are good practical reasons to stay in this job. But *this*? No. This is not “work ethic”. It’s your personal “thing”. And your negative language about people who left on finding out that the job was different than described is really out of line. Leaving a job that is not what you were told it is, is a perfectly reasonable, rational and adult thing to do. And it’s not ducking out of some sort of (non-existent) responsibility.

  56. cosmicgorilla*

    For the Christy issue, my brain goes to something I’ve seen used with children.

    Coworker: OP, can you tell me more about the blahblahblah?

    Christy: Well, the blahblahblah…

    OP: Is your name OP?

    Christy: No, but…

    OP: The question was addressed to OP. Me.

    Repeat ad nauseaum.

    1. metadata minion*

      That’s already irritating when used for children, and really inappropriate to use for an adult.

    2. Jinni*

      I wish this were more the case. After watching fourth/fifth grade on Zoom in 2020/1, I saw these kids who butt in heavily rewarded. I could see it easily develop as a behavior – similar to the Hermione example above.

  57. kiki*

    I’ve known a lot of people who took a break on finishing their degree for various reasons. The biggest differentiator for those who end up completing their degree and those who don’t is whether or not they have a concrete plan to come back. The folks I know who left for just one year to do something specific, generally ended up completing their degree in a pretty timely manner. The folks who left saying, “Oh, I’ll do a few things and finish up the degree in a year or two” almost never finish their degree.

    So LW, if you are passionate about teaching, would very much would like to take a year to live in Taiwan, and have researched what teaching in Taiwan will realistically be like, I’d encourage you to do so. BUT make sure you have an end date and a set plan to complete your degree.

    It’s definitely possible to be successful without a BA, but it can be harder. A lot of job applications filter on having a BA/BS– a lot of them don’t even care about what, they just want you to have one. And you are SO CLOSE to having a BA under your belt. It’s simpler to finish your degree in the next year or two and then go from there then to enter the workforce and realize in 8 years that a job you want requires a BA or that you’d like to go to grad school of some sort.

  58. Olive*

    #5 – If you decide to stay, keep checking in with yourself about whether the fantastic conditions are still fantastic in 6 months, in a year, and so on.

    For several years, I stayed with a company where I liked the work, the industry, and my coworkers, but the pay and advancement opportunities weren’t the best. I knew it was a trade-off and it felt worth it. But eventually, I ended up on a team where the work was more stressful and I didn’t care for my coworkers. The stagnation of pay and promotion had gone from a little under market value to way under market value. I made the mistake of staying two more years after realizing that because I was still tied to this idea that I was making a good trade-off, even after the things I was trading for weren’t there anymore. When you’re reconsidering staying in the future, make sure that you’re looking at what’s in front of you and not getting overly tied to the past. You can still appreciate that you had good times at a past job while moving on to a new role.

  59. Not_a_Newb*

    I’m a paralegal and have a Christy too. In my case, while we have similar years of experience, I’m the “lead” because I have seniority in this company (we are in-house). The difference is that we are all remote: so in my case, my Christy is jumping in to respond to emails before I even have a chance to read them. (We are talking about minutes, not hours, of delay to be clear.) I have tried to give her some grace because she is new and likely wants to prove herself, but it has gotten so bad at points that it genuinely makes me feel insecure in my own job. I would love suggestions from readers about how to handle this when the interruptions are via email.

    1. D.C. Paralegal*

      Since you believe she’s genuinely trying to be helpful as opposed to territorial, next time she does it, I would simply reply with something like “You know, you don’t have to tackle all of these yourself. I’m happy to take my share.” And if she says something like “Oh, I don’t mind,” I kind of think you have to let it go at that point, unless you feel comfortable asserting your seniority here. After all, she’s seemingly not actually doing anything wrong, per se. If you’re worried about how your boss views only getting responses from her, maybe just casually mention that you’re also perplexed as to why she feels the need to answer every email herself.

      Two caveats: 1) If she’s giving wrong information, you definitely have standing to tell her to chill a bit. 2) If there’s an aspect of the job that’s more yours than hers (like, if you work mostly on Case X while she works more on Case Y), it’s reasonable to request that she let you handle any Case X inquiries.

      1. Not_a_Newb*

        Thank you, I do like the “you don’t have to do this all yourself” line! I think that is legitimately a bit of the problem – she came from a firm and we are in-house, so the pace is much slower and she has not adjusted to that – or the fact that she does not need to crank for billable hours now.

        This is definitely an area where being remote makes this situation more challenging than I have experienced in the past when I was in person – when it was much easier to get a “read” on people.

  60. Lily Potter*

    #5 – a few random thoughts from your letter:

    *Do you really have “close friends” at work? Are these people that you would invite to vacation with you or ask to be in your wedding party? You very likely have co-workers that are kind and friendly people, and with whom you work closely. They are not your friends, though. Chances are good that you’ll never hear from most of them again in any meaningful way once you or they leave the company. Don’t stay at a company because you work with “friends”.

    *On the other hand, you describe yourself as “junior”, so I’m assuming you’re in your 20’s or early 30’s. Do you have parenthood on the horizon in the next two years? If you do, you might consider staying where you are. FMLA protections don’t kick in until you’ve worked at a company for a year. Plus, this workplace sounds like it has flexibility with regard to start/end times, which can be really useful for new parents.

  61. Firecat*

    #2 Eh. This doesn’t rise to the level of me reporting the post to a manager personally. It doesn’t name the coworker, by OPs admission it’s not racist or sexist, and doesn’t call the target names, etc.

    it’s a lame post and the poster sounds like a lame person but I don’t think that should rise to the level of managers getting involved in someone’s personal social media (even if plenty of managers would want to jump in on this I find it to be overreaching on a one off in poor taste veiled work post).

    1. Goody*

      Except Sally is calling the coworker names (dumb b, as I recall, I’m on mobile so scrolling back to verify is a challenge), as well as using enough detail to definitively identify the targeted coworker.

  62. Lola*

    Re: teaching abroad and finishing school. LW, is there any way you can look into your university’s study abroad programs and finish up school with one of them? My sister did this. She got all of her major’s requirements done and then spent the last semester in Italy, taking classes like photography and culinary skills. For good measure, she also took Italian and Art History. She had the best time, as she had not been super happy at school, and, like you, was pretty burnt out. I think she would’ve stayed longer if she could!

  63. MagicEyes*

    My former horrible co-worker used to try to steal conversations from me. Our doors were at a right angle, so someone could stand outside the door and talk to both of us at the same time. The main thing I learned from this (and from interrupting coworkers) is that part of the responsibility is on the person who allows the interrupter to be successful at interrupting. If other people don’t listen to them, it doesn’t work. If your coworkers are decent, reasonable people, you can let them know about the problem and ask them to ignore Christy when she butts in. Or whack her on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

  64. Amalfi*


    I recommend you ask someone senior to you, maybe one of the lawyers if you are the most senior paralegal, for advice, if that is possible in the culture at your office. I would not try any of the advice on this page bc everywhere I have worked, senior people are supposed to let new people do that kind of thing so that they can develop into go-to people. I find it infuriating myself, but that’s how it is. If I tried the scripts here, I’d be the one getting a talking to.

    So, take the temperature of your office, so to speak. Find out (by asking, not by watching people fidget) how Christy is perceived and whether you should ask her to rein it in a little and let other people (ie, you) speak when they are addressed. If you find out that everyone is super impressed by the enthusiastic young paralegal, you will have to learn to reframe her interruptions and make peace with the situation.

  65. lycheetea*

    LW4, What program are you planning on teaching through? I taught English in Korea and Japan for both jobs I needed to have a college degree (I had to submit notarized copies of my diploma and send in sealed official transcripts). Also, even if the program doesn’t require a degree, you will be competing against people who do have one, which can lower your chances of getting in. So, you might want to check the education requirements for applying in the first place.

    I’d still recommend finishing school though–I went straight from undergrad to grad school because I knew I’d have a hard time getting back into school while working full time. But I had that kind of major that basically meant I needed a master’s if I was going to get anywhere career-wise…

  66. Goody*

    Yowza. Sally in #2 sounds like she’s attempting career unalivening. Writer, do please bring that up to her boss.

    As an aside, I know you said it was a public post, but are you following her account or did it hit your feed through a mutual acquaintance? I anticipate that someone will ask at some point.

  67. sofar*

    OP 4, as you can see from everyone responding here, there’s no guaranteed thing you “should” do. I think it all balances on your long-term plan. Make sure you’ve factored in how your Taiwan experience will benefit your future career — how you’re going to use it for your “story” in job interviews, applications, etc. If it’s “just” an escape, that’s not a good enough reason to delay your graduation.

    Plus make sure you have a re-entry plan mapped out on finishing your degree. Make sure you’ve worked with your school to know exactly what you need to do (paperwork and housing wise) to return to your school and finish up. Have an non-negotiable return date to the USA and to campus, and put dates on what you need to have in place to do that. Make sure you have on your calendar the dates for re-enrollment, the date for applying for campus housing, the date for figuring out your coursework upon return, the date for registering for classes, a date for looking into field-relevant part-time/internship work in the USA to make the most of your final year in school. The thing about “burnout” is the temptation to totally “table” the thing that’s stressing you out. Suddenly, your year in Taiwan is up, and the process of returning to school in the US is daunting because you’ve done no legwork, and you return to the USA without an onramp.

    Personal experience: I have several friends who opted to “delay” graduation, got bit by the travel bug and spent years teaching abroad/having adventures, etc. When they got back to the USA after Visas/money/opportunities/romantic relationship that was providing them housing in another country had run out, their family/parental support in the USA was no longer there. And they’ve had to rely on the kindness of friends (who’d graduated and spent the last couple years building careers and lives) to house them as they realize that major US cities are quite expensive with no social safety net and that “teaching, blogging and traveling, but I don’t have my degree” is not a compelling narrative to get hired at the jobs they think they deserve.

    It’s also worth noting that, with many “white collar” jobs being remote, you can scratch that travel itch by working remotely from anywhere WITH a solid paycheck. If “living somewhere else” is a priority, figure out how teaching in Taiwan now OR finishing your degree will land you a job that lets you do that.

    1. Samwise*

      I don’t understand why “just an escape” is not enough reason to delay graduation.

      If OP works til 65 and lives to 80, 1 or 2 years of “just escape” are a small fraction of their career and their life.

      And if they don’t live that long, well, will they really regret having spent a year or two just escaping?

      1. Mameshiba*

        Because your “escape” takes a lot longer to return from than planned.

        It is very very very common among expats in Asia to have their adventures and then return back with nothing professionally to show for it. They are burned out on teaching, or if not they don’t have any professional credentials to teach back home and the standards are much higher. They have no professional network, if they’ve been gone a long time they might not have a strong social network either. They’re 30 years old competing with fresh grads in the job market. The way the economy is now, that can impact their ability to get solid housing, save up for retirement, move cities, afford kids and the kind of life they want.

        So looking back from age 80, their “escape” was a fraction of their life but set them back for decades.

        A year is probably fine, if OP can even get a job without a degree. But OP should carefully read the posts here by people who have done this, vs. people who haven’t!

  68. MellowGold*

    For #4, as someone who taught abroad with TEFL certification after college, it’s not a good long-term plan. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely can be nice to “have a break” and there’s incredible value in living abroad and expanding your worldview.


    TEFL and TOEFL certifications (even in addition with a couple years of teaching experience) will still need other educational requirements to back them up for a teaching career back in the U.S. (presuming that’s where the OP is), and they often are only accepted abroad in teaching programs that are being very lax getting native speakers into classrooms to doing speaking instruction. Unless you’re envisioning staying in that role in Taiwan forever, it’d be better to keep your options open long-term by completeing your AA.

  69. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    LW#3, remember that your company can (and will) fire you at the drop of a hat. There is no need to feel guilty.

  70. Still trying to figure things out...*

    For #4, I don’t agree with the advice this time based on my family’s experience.

    My daughter faced a similar situation. Like many people during the pandemic, our family was hit hard. She approached me one day and asked my opinion about taking a year off before continuing to finish her bachelor’s. She had just finished two years and got accepted into a competitive program.

    I had a lot of reservations. Similar to the things in the advice that was given. Though after really listening to my daughter. If she continued, she probably wouldn’t do very well. We sat down and went over what it would look like. What did she want to do in the meantime (job), would the program allow a gap year, and so forth. With all this information, she made her plans and took a year off.

    This was the best thing she could have done. It gave her the time to reset after everything. She came back ready to finish her degree. There was the adjustment of getting back into classes, but she has done very well.

    With all that said, I don’t know #4’s situation. If they feel they will be struggling and afraid, they won’t be able to finish. I would recommend the person to take a break. Make sure to do as much research as you can. Try as much as you can to “plan out” what it would look like from leaving to returning to finish school. For us, the “planning” made it easier for my daughter (probably more for me). It revealed a couple of things she didn’t think of or consider.

  71. My cat is the employee of the month*

    LW1: That was happening to my co-worker, and I sat across from her and I saw it going on several times a day. She unsuccessfully tried to shut it down politely. One day she snapped “IS YOUR NAME JILL?” when the interloper wheeled over to “help,” followed by “If your name isn’t Jill, then go back to your desk. No one is talking to you.” It wasn’t professional, but it worked. I don’t recommend that approach, but I do recommend dealing with it before you snap at her.

  72. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: I may be in the minority, but I say go for it. Take a year off from school and go to Taiwan. I can’t see why you wouldn’t. I was forced to take a semester off while I was in school for reasons I won’t go into here. I moved home with my parents, got a job, did some volunteer work, and engaged in therapy. Not only did it 100% motivate me to finish my degree, but I desperately needed that break to recalibrate and refocus on what I wanted. I honestly wish I had taken a full year, but there are reasons why I couldn’t.

    Burn out is real and don’t let anyone tell you that taking a break isn’t worth it if you know you need one. School will always be there, but you need to protect your mental and physical health because they won’t. Don’t have a breakdown. A year is not a long time and it doesn’t have to derail your education plans unless you let it.

  73. penny dreadful analyzer*

    If other methods of being extremely clear and direct (and professional and not at all snarky no matter how tempting it is) to Christy about a) that her behavior is not appropriate and needs to stop, and less importantly, b) why her behavior is not appropriate and needs to stop, fail to make a dent in her “everything is a test question that I’m supposed to answer” attitude, perhaps encourage her to think of these questions she overhears as being actually two questions. Question 1 is “Who the following question addressed to?” and Question 2 is whatever the legal question is. If she gets the easy question wrong, that’s going to cancel out whatever impressiveness getting the harder question right might have.

    I’m someone who likes to Pass All the Tests and like 90% of my social interactions feel to me like tests that I want to pass. I have read a lot of advice columns and such in my life and as a result I have collected enough knowledge about social interactions to pass a reasonable amount of them. I would be mortified to beef an easy one like “Who is the question ‘[Name], can you help me with these TPS reports’ directed at?”; that’s like the freebie-est listening comprehension question I can imagine. If Christy can’t stop seeing everything as a test question, then maybe she needs to start seeing that as a test question, too.

  74. Jill*

    I sure appreciate everyone’s comments and advice. They are invaluable to me and I appreciate it.
    One of the questions came up as to why I’m not more assertive about it. Some of it adapting to a newer culture of millennials. I am almost 50 and she is 25 like many of the others so I’m trying to understand if this is a norm in their culture. That being said, no matter what that culture, many of you are correct, I have the right to feel comfortable and speak up for myself. Unfortunately, many of my coworkers are kind of “bleeding hearts” and I am sure if I am aggressive and call her out in front of everyone in earshot, she will be valued as “the victim”.
    Also, asked. Many of the questions are ones that can by answered by any of us, such as “what investigator are we currently using” or “has the mail arrived yet”. I will attempt to ask someone I’l close with to step in and say, “I’m speaking to Jill, not you Christy”. Thanks for that.

  75. Mameshiba*

    I think OP should definitely consider taking a break, but not teaching in Taiwan.

    You need a bachelor’s degree to get any decent teaching job, and even then make sure you really vet the company because often they are terrible–low pay, horrible treatment, harassment from students, no support for living in the country, social isolation due to language and culture difference, no professional development or ladder to other careers. Do your research on teaching abroad in Asia!

    Why not take a break, travel through Taiwan/other areas for a few weeks or months, and then finish your degree?
    China will not imminently invade Taiwan, and you can also teach English in mainland China… Unless you are speaking the local language and deeply engaging with the local culture, it will not make as big a difference in your experience as choosing the right company/school to sponsor you.

  76. Scott C Simmons*

    Regarding the issue LW #1 is experiencing: when someone at an old job of mine did this to my manager during a meeting, the director who was running it held up his hand and said, “She doesn’t need a lawyer.”

    I don’t know if this shutdown would be more or less effective in a law office environment.

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